SUBMITTED BY: Elizabeth Smith (researched and written by Cheri Todd Molter)
Note from Elizabeth Smith: My great-grandfather was Dr. Francis Hamilton Conoly, and Cheri found the records that brought him and his family members to life for me. She gave me knowledge of my history-my people-and wrote this story, my great-grandfather’s story…
Author’s Note: You’ll see that “Conoly” is spelled a number of different ways in the genealogical records and even in this story. I spelled the last name of each individual the way each of them spelled it, based on the information in their own personal records and on their gravestones. For example, Francis spelled his surname “Conoly,” while his father and his younger brother, Thomas, spelled it “Conoley.”
The Story of Dr. Francis Hamilton Conoly
On October 4, 1839, Francis Hamilton Conoly was born to his parents, James and Mary Currie Conoley, of Robeson County, North Carolina. Francis’ father, James, was born in Robeson County on May 7, 1798. Francis’ mother, Mary Currie Conoley, was the daughter of Randall and Nelly Johnson [also spelled ‘Johnston’] Currie. Randall Currie was a prosperous landowner and postmaster, establishing the homestead “Randallsville,” which was also designated as a post office in Robeson County. The wills of Randall and Nelly Currie reveal that Mary came from a prosperous household, and James maintained a similar lifestyle for he and his family for the duration of his life. According to the 1850 U.S. Census, James Conoley was a farmer with $900 worth of real estate, and he and Mary had ten children: Nelly, Henry, Hiram, Calvin, Burder, Jane, Eliza, Francis, Harriet, and Thomas. By 1860, James owned a plantation valued at $6,000 and quite a number of enslaved individuals. His personal property was valued at $7,025. At that same time, seven of his children were still living at home (1860 U.S. Census, Robeson County, North Carolina). Francis was one of those seven children, and he was 20 years old.
When the Civil War started, four of James’ and Mary’s sons served in the Confederate Army. John Calvin and Francis were the first two to join the Confederacy, both traveling to Crossroads (N.C.) together to enlist on March 8, 1862. They were both privates and served in Company D of the 51st Infantry (North Carolina).
John Calvin Conoly [also spelled “Conley” in his records] was a thirty-year-old carpenter who was living in Robeson County at the time of his enlistment. As noted above, he and his brother Francis both served in Company D, 51st Infantry (North Carolina). According to his military records, John Calvin was wounded on May 16, 1864 at Drewry’s Bluff, Virginia. He took some time to recover from his injury and returned to serve on Sept. 1, 1864. John Calvin survived his war experiences and returned home to North Carolina afterward.
Francis Hamilton Conoly [also spelled Connelly] was a twenty-two-year-old farmer who still lived at his parent’s home when he enlisted in the Confederate Army. Serving in the same company as his older brother, Francis was promoted to Corporal (Full, Vol) on July 1, 1862. On December 17, 1862, Francis was wounded at Goldsboro, North Carolina. On January 5, he was discharged due to the sustained injury at Goldsboro.
The youngest son of James and Mary, Thomas J. Conoley [also spelled Conley in his records], enlisted at New Hanover County on Dec. 15, 1862, just a couple of days before Francis was wounded in Goldsboro, N.C. Thomas also served in Company D of the 51st Infantry (North Carolina) with his brothers. On May 16, 1864, he was wounded at Drewry’s Bluff, Virginia and taken prisoner by the Union forces. According to his military records, Thomas was hospitalized at Fort Monroe, Virginia, then paroled and exchanged. He was hospitalized again a year later, on March 16, 1865, at Richmond, Virginia. Thomas was “transferred on March 17, 1865,” then there’s “no further record” of his service. Thomas did return home to Robeson County after the war. He died in 1877 and was buried at Conoley Cemetery in Red Springs, North Carolina.
James and Mary’s oldest son to join the Confederate Army, Hiram Conoly, was also the last of their sons to enlist. Hiram enlisted on April 22, 1863 when he was almost thirty-three years old. He served in Company C of the 1st Battalion HA (North Carolina). On Jan. 13, 1864, he was transferred from Company C to Company D. Hiram returned home to North Carolina after the war. He was married to Mary Ann McLean and the two had a family.
All four of James and Mary’s sons who served survived. John Calvin, Thomas, and Hiram all returned to live the remainder of their lives in North Carolina. Francis Hamilton moved to South Carolina after the war and became a doctor. James Conoley died March 9, 1872 (aged 73) He was buried at Conoley Cemetery in Red Springs, Robeson County, North Carolina.
Much can be learned about Francis Hamilton Conoly’s life in his obituary, which was published in The Dillon Herald on April 14, 1904. It states:
“Dr. Francis H. Conoly, a member of Acacia Lodge No. 167 A. F. M., has been called to his eternal reward at a period of ripe and vigorous manhood, having reached his sixty-fifth year. He was born October 4, 1839 and died January 31, 1904. He secured the advantages of the common schools of his native community in Robeson county [sic], North Carolina, finishing his educational career at Reedy Creek Academy near New Holly Church in Marion county [sic], S.C., after the Civil War. He was a Confederate soldier serving through the horrors of that period. After completing his academic course[s] he entered in the Medical College of Dr. McLain, from which he graduated in a due course of time.
After his graduation he [moved to] Mullins S. C. and married Miss Alice Smith, daughter of Samuel Smith, and settled on Buck Swamp and practiced his profession and farmed until his death. He was initiated, passed and raised to the sublime degree of a Master mason in Demascus Lodge No. 169 A. F. M. Our brother Dr. F. H. Conoly had many noble traits of character and believed in masonry and was a member of the Presbyterian Church at Dunbartan. The widow and three children survive him.” Dr. Francis Hamilton and Alice Smith Conoly had three children: James “Frank” Conoly (born 1869), Thomas M. Conoly (b. 1871), and Mary A. Conoly (b. 1873).