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Saturday, April 4, 2015


My husband and I spent years going to his old home state areas of Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC.  Every time that we passed Surrattsville, MD.  He would share the story that his Granddaddy Charles Conrad Cator Jr. often told: Surrattsville is important to our family.  Remember that. 

My husband's great grandfather Charles Sr. was born in 1863, smack in the middle of the Civil War. It was years before we realized that my husband's great grandmother, Sarah F Stephenson, married his great grandfather, Charles Conrad Cator Sr. and they resided there for a while and had children in Surrattsvile.  Sarah was Irish.  Cator is thought to be Scots-Irish.

In the 1700s Surrattsville was named Surratt's Villa, and ultimately would become today's Clinton, MD.  The Villa was simply a crossroads and a few buildings.  By the 1800s it was calls Surrattsville and had its own post office, a voting place, and a tavern. Mary Surratt, famed from the days of Abraham Lincoln, owned a home there and in DC. 

Charles and Sarah F. married on the 4th of  December 1890 in DC per the record of their marriage. Since Sarah was born in 1871, she was but 19 years old to Charles 27 years of age.  Charles and Sarah had a baby boy who lived 5 months; he died 25 Apr 1892.  Before she died at the age of 27 in 1898, she had two living children, Granddaddy - my husband's grandfather who raised my husband. Granddaddy was Charles Conrad Cator, Jr. born 1895.  Their other living child was Aunt Mabel Estelle Cator (born 1893).  Granddaddy was just 2 when Sarah died; Mabel just 4. 

Charles Conrad Cator Sr now married Rachel Lurania Clifton as his second wife.  She is the sister of Charity and Joseph Clifton.  This is important as Charity married into another line (Belle Cator's line).  When Sarah Stephenson Cator died, leaving Charles Sr. to take care of his two living children, he was likely guided to marry the single Lurania to help raise his children.  Perhaps he loved her dearly, but the stories in the family do not support this.  Lurania is not fondly remembered our family.  She was mean-spirited and would punish the children in a myriad of ways, including hours in iced bath water.  Charges were actually brought against her for abuse of the children.  The charges were dropped, but not forgotten by our family.  This was likely a story 27 year marriage, at best.  She died first; he outlived Lurania by 15 years.  Peace.  The coming of the dreadful Lurania as stepmom within the ame year that Sara died, 1898, was ultimately harsh for the children.  By the 1900 census, Lurania's brother Joseph Clifton was living with them.  He was a 23 year old unmarried milkman and I hope he was good to Mabel and Charlie Jr.

By 1910, Joseph Clifton had moved on, but the teenagers Charlie and Mabel now had their granddad living with them, Thomas Cator, age 75 as a "boarder" who had his own income.  Charles Sr. was a furnace man at the Navy Yard in DC.  Lurania never had any of her own children.  A good thing.  

When Charles Sr. died he had chosen to be buried with his first wife Sarah when he passed away, rather than with Lurania who lies alone further back in the same cemetery.

Interestingly, Charles Jr and Ruth Ridgeway eloped while under the reins of Lurania.  This is an interesting story as Lurania was continuously on the prowl! Charles Sr was not opposed, though it implied he was.   See the full story at


William McKinley was president the year before Sarah died.  She may or may not have lived long enough to realize that the USS Maine exploded in Cuba in February of 1898.  And she may not have lived long enough to see Wyoming and Idaho become new states (43, 44) nor to know that Hawaii was annexed by the USA in mid 1898. 

In 1881 she and Charles were well aware that their President James Garfield was shot and died.  And, think of it!  They lived at the very time of the OK Corral gunfights in Tombstone, AZ in that same year when the Earp Brothers and Doc Holliday tried to disarm Billy Clanton and Frank McLaury.  Billy, Frank and Tom died.  And electricity was generated to 85 customers in NYC on September 4, 1884, and a year later the Statue of Liberty was delivered.