Introduction

Many wouldn’t know the middle name of singer-songwriter-Music Hall-of-Famer- James Taylor is Vernon.   I discovered this gem several years ago as I was pulling together a story of my family’s mind-bending connections with James and his music—a story I’m positive he has never seen.

I was particularly pleased with this rather obscure fact because my name is Vernon, although I’ve always gone by Casey.  James’ younger brother Livingston Taylor doesn’t have a middle name, as far as I know.  Nor did his uncle, Livingston Vernon.

I’m named after my grandfather Vernon Drury Case.  Vern descended from Scots and was a bigger-than-life California native who left home at the age of 14 after completing the 8th grade and founded one of the most successful deep foundation construction companies in the world.  Despite extensive research, I have come across no other ancestor in my clan with the name “Vernon.”

Vern Case (1897-1977)

In case you didn’t know, Elvis Presley’s father is Vernon Elvis Presley. 

Thanks to Ancestry DNA, a few years ago we discovered we have another “Vernon” and our very own rock-star in the family: our nephew, Jeffery Vernon Pehrson.   Born in 1967 and raised in Oakland, California, he co-founded Box Set in 1987 with Jim Brunberg and toured the world for the next 20 years.  He then joined another Bay-area favorite band, Furthur, founded by former Grateful Dead bandmates Phil Lesh and Bob Weir.  Our reunion with Jeff is worthy of its own story.  

As I was updating the Dreams Guitars story I became curious: ‘How was Taylor anointed with the middle name Vernon?’    In addition to finding previously unknown family members, Ancestry.com, GenealogyBank.com, FamilySearch.com and other genealogy sites are great resources for figuring out stuff like this.  I quickly learned the Taylor and Vernon clans are two of the oldest and most prominent families in Scotland and England, and their families became deeply entwined across multiple generations in North Carolina over 100 years ago.   Their families are synonymous with the town of Morganton, and the development and delivery of mental health care to North Carolina.

JAMES TAYLOR-Long Ago and Far Away; His Life and Music (Omnibus Press 2001)

In 2001, Timothy White, with the support of James Taylor and the family, wrote James’ biography.   The first three chapters contain an exquisite, thoroughly researched summary of the origins of the Taylor clan and its roots in Scotland going back to 1600.  I will not retread on White’s well-travelled ground. 

In summary, the clan was powerful, enterprising, rich, and influential throughout Scotland and England, accumulated vast landholdings in Eastern Scotland, were among the early seafarers and merchants that plied the markets in the Caribbean, and in 1790 brought that same energy and entrepreneurial spirit to the newly independent American colonies. The early generations of Taylors highly valued education, and their descendants continued the tradition. 

Neither will this story delve into the members of the Taylor clan—the famous and not so famous—who are still with us. White and others have written much about them.    

Rather, this story is about and for the Vernons, from whence they originated and how they intersected and combined with the Taylors over the last 110 years.  Unlike their Scottish relatives, the Vernons are English to the core and can reliably be traced back to at least the 16th century.  Members of their clan began to arrive on the shores of colonial America 100 years before the Taylors.  Their heritage and ancestry are detailed at the end of this story, which includes a Vernon Family Tree.

Note: James, Livingston and their siblings born to Isaac Montrose Taylor and Gertrude “Trudy” Woodard are sometimes referred to as the “Taylor siblings.”

[Disclaimer:  The author has not spoken with any member of the Taylor or Vernon families for this story.   All of the facts and photos, except for the noted references to White’s book, “James Taylor,” are sourced from information available on Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.com and otherwise in the public domain.]

Before the Vernons

To set the stage, we begin with the Taylor siblings’ 3rd great-grandfather, Isaac Taylor (1763-1846).  Isaac and his younger brother James (1766-1796) were born, raised and very successful merchants and farmers in Montrose, Angus County, Scotland.  In 1790 they sailed their sloop up the Neuse River from the coast of North Carolina and pretty much single-handedly established the City of New Bern.  Isaac married Hannah Justice in New Bern in 1792.

As White details so well in his book, Isaac was an extremely successful farmer, merchant, politician and businessman, had the biggest house in town, and accumulated large holdings of farm and ranch land in the town of New Bern and its environs.   Isaac also acquired several slaves.  Per an 1820 census, he owned 18 slaves. At his death in 1846, he owned 75.

The Taylor siblings’ 2nd great-grandfather Alexander Taylor (1814-1859) was Isaac’s only son among six daughters: four older and two younger. Alexander was not mentioned in his father’s will and that omission, reputedly, was intentional.   All of Isaac’s considerable estate including his slaves was divided among his wife and daughters.

Isaac M. Taylore’s signature to his will

Alexander studied medicine, became a doctor (which turned into somewhat of a family tradition) and established his practice in New Bern. At the age of 40, he married Sarah Ann Cole in November of 1854.   Sarah was the second oldest of five siblings.  Her father, James Carney Cole, was a prominent farmer in the New Bern area.

Dr. Taylor and Sarah had two sons:  James Cole born in 1855, and the Taylor siblings’ great-grandfather, Dr. Isaac Montrose Taylor, born two years later in 1857.   As Timothy White explained, the town of Montrose in Scotland was the birthplace of many Taylor ancestors and worked its way into the names of some progeny. 

Alexander died in October of 1859 at the young age of 44 leaving behind his widow and two young sons.  Sarah and her boys, 4 and 2, moved back to her childhood home in New Bern to live with her parents and younger siblings.  Dr. Taylor died intestate, which means he did not leave a will.   This could suggest his death was unexpected and he did not have time to put his affairs in order.   Sarah assembled for the probate court a list of Dr. Taylor’s assets which included eight slaves and $4,000 worth of stock in the Bank of New York and Merchants Bank of New Bern in which his father had also invested.  There was a substantial list of accounts receivable from 40 plus individuals which indicates Dr. Taylor had a thriving medical practice albeit comprised of some who could not pay their bills.  The public records include court orders appointing guardians for the boys and approving payment of the family’s living expenses. 

The next five years were extraordinarily devastating for North Carolina.   Illinois’ Abraham Lincoln was elected the 16th President of the United States at the end of 1860 and campaigned hard for the abolition of slavery.  The American Civil War broke out in April of 1861, and North Carolina seceded from the Union one month later.

Battle of New Burn, Harper’s Weekly, April 5, 1862

The Union Army invaded New Bern in March of 1862 and laid siege to the town.  Most of the white population fled to the west.  According to White’s book, Sarah Taylor elected to remain in New Bern, took care of captured Confederate soldiers and, earning the trust of the Union Army officers, also spied on them for the Confederacy.

138,000 North Carolinians served in the Confederate Army, and 40,500 perished—6% of the State’s free population, including several Taylors. An additional 8,000 served with the Union Army: 5,000 African Americans, and 3,000 whites.  North Carolina was a battlefront state and bore the brunt of many bloody fights on its soil incurring significant losses of property in addition to soldiers and civilians.  The rich state also emptied its coffers of cash, food and supplies to support the Confederate war effort.

Slavery officially ended in North Carolina when the State ratified the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution in December of 1865.

It’s unknown if her young boys remained in New Bern with her, or for how long, but by 1870, Sarah, James (14) and Isaac (12) had relocated to Chapel Hill to live with her older sisters Mary and Harriet (“Hattie”) Cole.  James and Isaac both attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  James graduated in 1877 with a Bachelor of Science, and Isaac graduated two years later with a degree in science.

Over the next 40 years, James Cole continued to live with his aunts in Chapel Hill and worked as a chemist and bank cashier, among other endeavors. He never married and had no children.  He died on a trip to Shanghai, China in 1925 from pneumonia leading to heart failure.   Per his will, his modest estate was divided primarily among his nieces and nephews. 

James Cole Taylor Passport Photo 1925

After UNC, Isaac attended the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in New York, graduating in 1882.  Dr. Taylor practiced medicine in China Grove, Rowan County, North Carolina, and in 1884 moved to Morganton NC shortly after the opening there of the State hospital for the insane.

For the next 17 years he was the assistant physician and surgeon under the hospital’s original superintendent, Dr. Patrick Livingston Murphy.  It was a huge facility spread over 330 acres.   It quickly grew from 250 patients at opening, to 500 two years later, and then to over 1,000, serving 50 counties in the western half of the State.

Broughton Hospital Main Building, Morganton, NC

In 1901, Dr. Taylor and his colleagues Drs. John McCampbell and Felix Scroggs opened Broakoaks Hospital and Sanitorium on Valdese Avenue in Morganton. It was a privately owned asylum for the treatment of nervous and mental disorders. Dr. Taylor became the sole owner in 1903 and ran the hospital until his death in 1921.

Dr. Taylor married Susan Murphy Evans of Fayetteville, NC in 1889.  Miss Evans was the niece of Dr. Murphy who ran the sanitorium in Morganton.   They had seven children, two boys and five girls: Alexander (b.1884), Susanna (b.1891), Sara Cole (b. 1894), Erasmus Hervey Evans (b. 1896), Elizabeth Masley (b. 1898), and Harriote Cole (b. 1903).   Their eldest, Alexander Taylor, is the Taylor siblings’ grandfather.


The First Vernon Enters the Taylor Picture and Family

James William Vernon

James William Vernon (“Jamie”) was born in Bushy Fork, Person County, North Carolina on July 21, 1886, to Charles Robertson Vernon (1854-1911) and Corinna Josephine Henry (1854-1935).  Bushy Fork is a small, rural town in north-central North Carolina.  Jamie was the second oldest of six siblings.  They grew up in the house originally built by their grandfather, James Alfred Vernon.  It is known today as the Henry-Vernon house and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.   Charles Robertson was a tobacco farmer.

Wake Forest University Medical School, 1907. Jamie is standing in the second row, on the right, holding “bones”

Jamie was educated at Wake Forest College in Winston-New Salem, and Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia.  In 1910, Dr. Vernon joined the staff of Broadoaks Sanatorium and worked under Dr. Isaac Taylor.  Dr. Vernon took over as superintendent following Dr. Taylor’s death in 1921 and held that position until his own passing in 1955.  Dr. Taylor’s younger son, Dr. Erasmus Hervey Taylor, took over operations at Broadoaks until the Taylor-Vernon family elected to close the facility in 1959. In 1918-1919, Jamie served in the Army Medical Corps during World War I with the American Expeditionary Force in France as well as stateside postings. He achieved the rank of Major.

After the War, Jamie married Dr. Isaac Taylor’s second-oldest daughter, Sarah Cole (1894-1984) in Morganton. 

Jamie was a respected physician and psychiatrist.  His many professional affiliations and honors included President of the North Carolina State Medical Society, President of the State Board of Medical Examiners, a diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and President of the North Carolina Neuropsychiatric Society.  He authored numerous medical articles and served as a consultant to several health agencies.

Jamie was also the first Vernon elected Mayor of Morganton in 1933 and served for four years.

In the 1930’s, Jamie and Sarah built a vacation cabin in Yancey County in the Black Mountains on the South Toe River.  It was known as “Sandy Bottom.” Sandy Bottom became the go-to get-away destination for succeeding generations of Taylors and Vernons.   It was there, on July 16, 1955, Jamie died sitting on his porch talking with family members.  He had been in failing health for several years due to a heart condition.   He was 68 years old.

The Vernon Cabin at Sandy Bottom

Jamie Vernon’s Brothers

John Henry Vernon- Super Lawyer.  The oldest, John Henry, was born in Bushy Fork (all the siblings were born there) in 1883.   He attended Wake Forest Academy (1899-1900), and Wake Forest College graduating with an A.B. degree in 1905.  He was good on his feet, captained the debate team, won the Senior Orator’s Medal and was the graduation speaker.  John continued at Wake Forest, earned his law degree in 1906, was President of his Law Class and got his license to practice law in the State.

John Henry Vernon, Wake Forest College of Law, 1906

John practiced law in Parson County for a couple of years and married Sallie Belle Cates in December of 1909.   They moved to her hometown of Burlington, NC, and John hit the ground running.   He opened the Vernon & Coulter law practice and was the City Attorney for Burlington and the Alamance County Attorney for several years.  He was Chairman of the Democratic Couty Executive Committee, and in 1915 he represented Alamance County in the State legislature.

John was also very involved with the First Baptist Church where he was a member of the choir and ran the Sunday School.  He was remembered “as one of Burlington’s best-known citizens…When any public meeting was called looking into the betterment of the City, John Vernon was there.

In 1918, as the bloody World War I was grinding to a close, the United States and the world were in the grips of the Spanish Flu Epidemic which claimed the lives of millions of souls in addition to the millions killed in the trenches in France and Belgium.  Tragically, John Henry Vernon was one of them.  He first contracted the deadly disease in mid-December of 1918.  The influenza turned into pneumonia and, despite his valiant efforts, he succumbed on January 5, of the new year.  He was 35 years old.

He left behind his wife Sallie and two young children: John Henry Jr., age 7 (born 1911), and Sara Elizabeth, age 4 (b 1914).   He did not leave a will, which fellow lawyers liken to “the cobbler’s children having no shoes,” but his modest estate was turned over to his wife and children.

Charles Taylor Vernon was born in 1888. Charles—known as Charlie—became a doctor.  He followed in brother Jamie’s footsteps to Wake Forest where he graduated in 1910 with a Bachelor of Science degree, and then to Jefferson Medical College where he earned his medical degree in 1913. 

Charles Taylor Vernon, Wake Forest University, 1910

He practiced medicine in Pittsburgh and then New York City where he was also an insurance executive. He died in Brooklyn, New York in 1969 at the age of 80. Charlie served stateside as a medical officer in the Army Medical Corps during World War I between 1918 and 1919.   He married Clara Ester Kesling by 1918, or perhaps even earlier.

Their first child, Charles Taylor Vernon, Jr. was born February 25, 1915, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Charlie was 27 and Clara was 18. Their baby tragically died 18 days later due to complications from birth.

Two daughters followed:  Betty Clara (1919-1973) and Corrinna Josephine (1920-1993).  Betty attended Meredith College where she excelled in multiple sports.   She married Harold Ernst in 1941 in Connecticut and they had two children.

Betty Clara Vernon, Meredith College, 1940
Corrine Josephine Vernon

Joseph Boyce Vernon (1891-1973)-A Diplomat and Educator

Joseph Boyce Vernon, Wake Forest College, 1911

Joseph Boyce Vernon was born in Bushy Fork in 1891.  He also attended Wake Forest College where he excelled in academics, debate and sports.  Boyce intended to become a lawyer and he got a taste when he was selected by the student body to become a member of the of the inaugural Honor Committee whose purpose was to handle cases of students accused of cheating on exams.  

Wake Forest College Honor Committee, 1911. Boyce Vernon is in the back row on the left

When Boyce registered for service in World War I in 1917 at the age of 26, he was teaching economics at the University of Illinois in Urbana.   He requested an exemption from service because he was partially supporting his mother, Corinna, and a sister.   His career took an interesting twist. 

By 1920, Boyce was working for the United States State Department serving as Vice-Consul and clerk at the US Embassy in Canada stationed in Quebec. A year later, he applied for a passport to visit virtually every country in Central and South America.  The stated purpose was “Recreation and Study.” 

J. Boyce Vernon 1921 Passport Application

A couple of years later Boyce was in the Philippines, at the time a U.S. protectorate, serving as the Assistant Director of Education in the Islands.

Boyce and Agnes Johnson Vernon on their wedding day, 1924, Manilla

It was in Manila that he married Agnes Doran Johnson in 1924. Agnes was a very accomplished and highly educated woman.  She was a graduate of Randolph Macon Women’s College and earned a Master’s Degree from Columbia University in 1914. Agnes also worked for the State Department and focused on children’s education.   She was a recipient of a Humanitarian Fellowship Award by the Save The Children Federation.

Boyce continued to work for the U.S. government in education.  In the early 1930’s they were in Santa Fe, New Mexico where Boyce was the principal of the U.S. Indian School; in the 1940’s they were living in Pawnee, Oklahoma where Boyce worked for the Pawnee Indian Agency; and in 1950 Boyce was serving as Principal of the Rosebud Indian Reservation school in Todd, South Dakota.

In 1973, Boyce and Agnes were in Lexington, Virginia, where he was working as a visiting teacher to the county schools. It was there Boyce died from congestive heart failure.   He was 82 years old.

Boyce and Agnes had three children, Agnes, Joanne and Johnson Vernon, all of whom are deceased. 

The Taylor and Vernon families became even more entwined following another tragic death in 1921

Alexander Taylor, Isaac and Susan Taylor’s oldest child, was born November 21, 1889, in Morganton.  He attended Davidson College and studied engineering.  In August of 1917, he enlisted with the U.S. Army Engineers Corps. His registration card listed him as tall and slender, with blue eyes and light hair.  In addition to stateside duty with the 105th Engineers Company, he spent a year overseas from 1918 to 1919 in the killing fields of Ypres, Belgium and Somme, France.  First Lt. Taylor was awarded a Silver Star which is the third highest medal given for valor during combat.

On June 20, 1920, Alexander married Theodosia “Dosia” Haynes in Springfield, Massachusetts.  Dosia was the daughter of Stanford Lyman Haynes (who passed away the month before the wedding) and Emily Roxanna Leonard.   Dosia was born March 25, 1896, in Springfield and was the middle child between older brother Laurence Stanford (b. 1893) and sister Emily Leonard “Winkie” (b. 1900).   Dosia and Sarah Cole Taylor, Alexander’s younger sister, were best friends and roommates at Shipley School and Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania.  It was on a visit by Dosia to Morganton to see Sarah that she met her brother Alexander. 

Theodosia Haynes, Bryn Mawr College

Alexander and Dosia returned to Morganton, and on June 15, 1921, Dosia gave birth to their son Isaac Montrose “Ike” Taylor.  Baby Ike was delivered by Sarah’s father, Dr. Isaac Taylor, who reputedly hadn’t delivered a baby in 50 years. Within eight days of giving birth, Dosia became seriously ill, and she tragically died.   She was 25 years old.  Dr. James Vernon signed Dosia’s Certificate of Death which listed the causes as pneumonia and tuberculosis.

Theodosia Haynes Taylor Certificate of Death, 1921

As confirmed in White’s book, it came out later that the actual cause of Dosia’s death was “childbirth fever—basically a uterine infection—after her incautious and inadequately sterilized father-in-law went in after the placenta.

As James Taylor recalled the sad demise of his grandmother, “Theodosia’s death was a tragedy, and killed my great-grandfather, the delivering physician, who died about two months later.”

Dosia Haynes

James’ great-grandfather, Dr. Taylor, died at his home five months later on November 26, 1921. The Certificate of Death listed his address as “House-on-the-Hill,” Morganton.   The handwritten cause is barely decipherable but appears to indicate disease of the heart. The Certificate was signed by Dr. James W. Vernon.

Pursuant to Dosia’s wishes on her death bed, little Ike was sent to live with her friend Sarah and Dr. James Vernon.

Five months after Ike Taylor moved in with Sarah and Dr. Vernon, they welcomed their own first child, James Taylor Vernon, on November 9, 1921.   Two more boys followed:  Livingston (no middle name, November 17, 1922), and Charles “Charlie” Robertson (August 21, 1926).    Although Ike Taylor was never officially adopted by the Vernon’s, he was raised by them into adulthood in Morganton, and was treated as a son and brother.

Isaac Montrose “Ike” Taylor

What Happened to Ike’s father, Alexander Taylor?

After the death of Dosia, Alexander Taylor remained in Morganton until his passing in 1957 at the age of 67. Per the 1930 and 1940 Censuses he was living with his mother Susan and, at least for a time, engaged in the practice of civil engineering.  By 1950, he had moved in with his younger brother, Dr. Erasmus Taylor, whose wife, Julia Barber, had died by suicide in 1940 at the age of 44. 

Alexander died at Grace Hospital in Morganton on August 1 having been in declining health for several years. Per his Certificate of Death, he was treated for over 2 ½ years for lung disease by Dr. James Collett, and his occupation was listed as retired ice plant manager.  Dr. James Taylor Vernon was the informant on the COD.   Alexander’s son, Ike, was named executor of his will.

The Vernon-Taylor Brothers

Livingston Vernon, Ike Taylor, Charlie and Taylor Vernon, Morganton NC (Courtesy of the Burke County Library)

As mentioned, James Taylor Vernon was born in 1921.   He went by “Taylor.”  He attended the University of North Carolina as an undergrad where he was President of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity as well as the German Club. It was at UNC as an undergrad that Taylor met his fellow classmate and future wife, Florence Franklin Royal.  Taylor continued at UNC for medical school and then attended the Medical School of Washington University in St. Louis Missouri followed by an internship at Tulane Hospital in New Orleans. He was fond of saying, “one of the most important things he learned at Tulane was to let the nurses (who knew how) deliver the babies and have the interns sign the papers—a respect for nurses that was lifelong.”

Between 1943 and 1946 during World War II, Taylor served as a physician stateside in the U.S. Army Air Corps.  During his stint in the service, he and Miss Royal were married in July of 1945 in Morehead City, NC.    His cousin/brother, Ike, was his best man.

James Vernon Taylor and Florence Royal, University of North Carolina, 1943 Yackety Yack Yearbook

Florence was from Morehead, situated on the Atlantic coast about 50 miles south of New Bern.  Her father, Dr. Benjamin Royal, attended UNC, was a surgeon and respected physician in Morehead and was trustee of the UNC Medical School for sixteen years as well as President of the North Carolina Medical Society. 

Florence attended Greensboro College before attending and graduating from the Women’s College at the University of North Carolina. 

Psychiatry was the Vernon-Taylor Family Business

Taylor and Florence returned to Morganton after his father suffered a heart attack that limited his ability to manage the family-owned Broadoaks Sanitorium.  Two years later Taylor, Florence and baby daughter Sara moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he did his post-graduate study in psychiatry at Harvard University from 1948 to 1951. The family (including another daughter, Anne) returned to Morganton and Taylor worked side-by-side with his father at Broadoaks.

Broadoaks Sanitorium, Morganton, NC, prior to 1924

When the family decided to close Broakoaks in 1959, Taylor became director of the outpatient clinic at Broughton Hospital which his grandfather, Dr. Isaac Taylor, helped grow from 1884 to 1901.   Taylor’s uncle, Dr. Erasmus Taylor (1896-1978), also practiced at Broadoaks and was assistant superintendent at Broughton.

Erasmus Henry Evans Taylor, Wake Forest College, about 1920

Florence and Taylor had three children:  Sara Adams (1947); Anne Taylor (1949); and Benjamin Royal (1953) named after Florence’s father. In 1968, Ben was tragically and instantly killed when the car in which he was a passenger struck a utility pole near the family’s vacation home, at Sandy Bottom.  Ben was 15 years old. 

This is from Taylor Vernon’s obituary:

“Always devoted to community mental health, he helped establish the Foothills Area Mental Health Program in 1971, and he worked there until his retirement in 1987.  Although he closed his private practice in 1989, he never gave up his interest in psychiatry and warm relationships with former patients.

“From boyhood, he had an attachment to Yancey County, Mt. Mitchell, and the Black Mountains, first at summer camp at the foot of Mt. Mitchell before the age of ten, and then as an every-summer resident at Sandy Bottom, a cabin this his parents built in the 1930’s near Celo on the South Toe River.  Retirement afforded him the opportunity to continue and expand his life-long attachments to reading and birdwatching, including habitat and species conservation, and indulge a new avocation: nurturing, spoiling, teaching and amusing his grandchildren, who by then were spread from North Carolina to California.”

Florence passed away in 1982, and Taylor remarried Janice Branch in 1985.  

Taylor died at home on November 10, 2005, the day after his 84th birthday.

Judge Livingston Vernon—Another super lawyer

Livingston Vernon, University of North Carolina, Yackety Yack yearbook, 1942

Livingston (no middle name) Vernon was born in 1922 a shade over one year after Taylor.   Livingston followed Taylor to the University of North Carolina where he was also a member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity. Livingston and Ike were in the same pledge class.  By his sophomore year World War II had broken out and, at age 19, he registered for service.   His Registration Card described him as a tall and lean 6 feet, 145 pounds, with brown hair and eyes and a freckled complexion.   After graduating in 1943 he joined the U.S. Navy.

Before heading overseas, Ensign Vernon married a Morganton girl, Ann Elizabeth Walker.   She too graduated from the UNC Women’s College with a B.S. in Secretarial Administration.   They married in Morganton in November of 1943.  They were both 21.

Ann Elizabeth Walker, University of North Carolina, Yackety Yack yearbook, 1943

Shortly after the wedding, Ensign Vernon shipped overseas to the South Pacific.  He was promoted to 1st Lieutenant in command of an LCI.  LCI stood for Landing Craft Infantry and was designed to transport soldiers from the huge troop ships to the beaches of the islands where the American soldiers were fighting the embedded Japanese army.  An LCI could carry between 100 to 300 men.  

LCI Troop Transport World War II

Another LCI officer, Lt. David Phair, described the job in the Solomon Islands: “I piloted small landing craft ferrying soldiers to the shores of the islands being attacked. I’d drop off 100 to 200 men on the beach and by the time I came back with another load of soldiers, the bodies of half the men I had dropped off 15 minutes earlier were floating out to sea.”

After the war, Livingston enrolled at UNC’s law school and earned his law degree.   He returned to Morganton and, like his uncle John Henry Vernon did in Burlington, became a super-lawyer and community powerhouse.  In 1952, he was elected to the first of two terms in the North Carolina General Assembly.  He served as Judge of the Burke County Criminal Court for four years, and District Court Judge of the 25th District from 1969-1970, and 1974 to 1986. He was later appointed emergency District Court Judge for the State until his retirement in 1997.

In November 1997, Judge Vernon was admitted into the Order of the Long Leaf Pine Society, the highest honor given by a Governor of North Carolina to a citizen for exemplary service and dedication to the State.

He and Ann had three children, two daughters and a son, who were living in Morganton at the time of his death in 1999.  Ann preceded him in death in 1980.   In addition to his three kids, he was known by generations in Morganton as “FATHER.”

Charles Robertson Vernon-Another eminent contributor to the family psychiatry legacy

Charles Robertson “Charlie” Vernon

Charles Robertson Vernon was born in 1926 in Morganton.  He was the youngest of the Vernon-Taylor brothers.   It is believed Charlie and Taylor were the first third-generation psychiatrists in North Carolina, following in the footsteps of their father, Dr. James W. Vernon, and their grandfather, Dr. Isaac Taylor.

Charlie went to the prestigious McCallie college prep school in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and then University of North Carolina where he was a member of the Kappa Sig fraternity like his brothers before him.   While attending UNC Medical School he met and married Nancy Maliss Loyd in August of 1950.  Charlie then attended Case Western Reserve School of Medicine, graduating in 1952.

Nancy Maliss Loyd, University of North Carolina, 1945

Charlie’s internship and residency training in psychiatry were completed at North Carolina Hospital where he was inducted into the Alpha Omega Honorary Medical Fraternity.  For several years he was on the UNC medical school faculty. He became Director of the North Carolina Community Mental Health Services in 1963, and Deputy Director of the North Carolina Mental Health Region in 1969. During the 1960’s he traveled to all 100 of the State’s counties, meeting with local officials and setting up what would become the state’s first network of regional and community mental health centers.

Charlie was the psychiatrists’ psychiatrist.  He had private practices in Chapel Hill and Durham before relocating to Wilmington near the North Carolina coast in 1968. He was also a member and leader of numerous professional organizations in the field of psychiatry.  In 1979, in recognition of his dedication to and success in the promotion of Community Mental Health, Charlie, like his older brother Livingston before him in 1997, was admitted to The Order of the Long Leaf Pine Society.

Charlie and Nancy had three children, and he and his second wife, Laura Harris Head, had two more.

Laura MacNair Harriss, New Hanover HS, Wilmington, NC, 1949

As it was for the other Taylor-Vernon family members, Sandy Bottom was Charlie’s favorite place to vacation and relax.  He spent time there nearly every summer of his life, swimming and tubing the South Toe River, hiking the mountains, and studying the wildflowers.

Charles Robertson Vernon, MD

The Origins of the Vernon Clan

Vernon Coat of Arms Cheshire England

The Vernon of Cheshire family is one of the most ancient in England dating from the Roman Conquest.  The “Vernon Family” story begins around 888-906 AD when the Vikings invaded and conquered Normandy including the ancient town of Vernon.  Vernon-sur-Seine dates back to Gallo-Roman times and is located in a valley straddling the Seine River, thirty miles northwest of Paris.

By 1050, William the Bastard, later and better known as William the Conqueror, became Duke of Normandy.  Richard de Reviers, as a reward for his service as an officer under William the Bastard, was given the town of Vernon. de Reviers changed his name to Richard de Vernon, and his descendants also took the name of the town as their name.

William the Conqueror invaded England in 1066 and at least two of his high-ranking officers were Vernon’s.  Richard de Vernon and other members of the family took part in the invasion. For their service, more estates in Normandy and England were granted and several Vernon’s became Barons and Knights.  Richard de Vernon received lands in the Palatine Earldom of Cheshire, England.  Cheshire is a county in Northwest England near Manchester and Liverpool.   It became home to many members of the Vernon clan and early Quakers.

Fast forward to 1682

James Vernon (1604-?) of Cheshire had three sons: Thomas; Randall; and Robert Edward (1641-1709).  The Taylor siblings descend from Robert Edward Vernon.  The brothers belonged to the Society of Friends that became more widely known as Quakers.  William Penn (1644-1718), one of the most famous early American colonists, was very active with the Quakers in Cheshire.  Quakers were at odds with the Church of England and heavily persecuted for their contrarian beliefs.  

King Charles II was deeply indebted to the Penn family and settled the obligation by granting the Penns an enormous tract of land in the new American colonies that became Pennsylvania.

William Penn

The Quaker Vernon’s were not only friends of William Penn but related to him through marriage.  Thomas Vernon made the surveying voyage to Pennsylvania with Penn in 1681 and returned later that year to England.  In July,1682, the three Vernon brothers and their families sailed from Liverpool to America and settled in an area known as Nether Providence of Chester close to Philadelphia.

A ship similar to the Friendship that sailed from Liverpool to Pennsylvania carrying the Vernon’s in 1682
Liverpool about 1680

Robert Vernon made the crossing with his wife, Elinor Minshall, and three of their children:  Alice, John and Jacob.

The Vernon brothers were among the first to buy property in the new colony of Pennsylvania.  Robert and Thomas each purchased 625 acres and Robert purchased another 330 acres in 1684.

Robert and Elinor had at least two more children born in Pennsylvania:  Isaac (1682-1757); and Thomas (1686-1759).   The Taylor siblings descend from Thomas Vernon. 

By the early 1700’s Pennsylvania Quakers were moving out of Pennsylvania, and several Vernon’s relocated to Virginia, Georgia, and the Carolinas.  

At the end of the 18th century, Isaac Vernon (1779-1850) [Thomas Vernon’s great-grandson] was living in Rockingham County in south-central North Carolina. Isaac and his wife, Martha Massa Goudy (1780-1847), had seven children, all born in Rockingham.   Their youngest, James Alfred Vernon (1817-1899), became a beloved and respected citizen over his 82 years in his hometown. James married a Rockingham girl, Frances Glenn, in 1845, and they had seven children.  After Frances died in 1870, James married Manerva Jane Lewellyn and they had a son, Thomas Lewellyn in 1876. At the time of his death, James had forty grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren.

Although he didn’t have the benefit of a college education, James taught school for most of his life.  With an abundance of practical knowledge and common sense, he served as a court magistrate in Rockingham for over 50 years and as county commissioner.  W.H. Wilson observed in the obituary he wrote for his good friend, “He knew as much law as one half the lawyers in town.  He lived eighteen miles from the courthouse and, through choice, he generally walked. A lawyer who visited his home and talked with him not long before his death, remarked that he had a mind capable of filling any place of honor.”

However, James was probably as well known and admired for his years of dedication as a minister and officer of the Baptist Church. He joined the Madison Baptist church in 1855 and was clerk for over nine years.  He and fellow church members received permission to start their own church, Beaver Island, of which he was clerk until his death.  As Wilson wrote, “No man was ever more loyal to his church than he was.”

Three of James’ sons themselves became Baptist ministers:  John Henry Vernon (1846-1917), Thomas Lewellyn Vernon (1876-1932), and James Taylor Vernon(1850-1891). 

James’ other son mentioned earlier, Charles Robertson Vernon, was a successful farmer in Person County and in 1882 married Corinna Josephine Henry (1854-1935). 


Charles (“C.R.”) and Corinna were the parents of Dr. James William Vernon, Ike Taylor’s foster father. They were members of the Clement Baptist Church in Person County.   After C.R. died in Bushy Fork in 1911, Corinna moved to Burlington to live with her son, the power-lawyer, John Henry.  She was an active member of the First Baptist Church there until her passing.

James Taylor Vernon (1850-1891)

Not much has been found by the author about James Taylor Vernon, Dr. James Vernon’s uncle. Based on Census records, he lived his entire life in Rockingham, NC and was a Baptist minister.  He married Mary J. Suttenfield who was originally from Henry County, Virginia.  They had six children, 4 boys and 2 girls.  

Mary Jane Suttenfield Vernon

Rev. Taylor died in 1891 at age 41 and Mary passed the next year at the age of 35. They left behind four kids in their teens.  Their two youngest, James Henry was 12, and Charles Rufus Eugene was 9, when orphaned.  Per the 1900 census, James and Eugene, still in their teens, were living as boarders with other families in North Carolina and working as farm laborers.

All of Rev. Taylor’s and Mary’s six children grew to adulthood, married and brought into the world 26 children born after their parents’ passing. 

Postscript

There may be some argument about who, in fact, singer James Vernon Taylor is named after.  In his book, “James Taylor”, White wrote the boy born “March 12, 1948—“Jamie” or “Jamus” for short—a quiet, self-contained baby, [was] named for the uncle who’d raised Ike when his father could not.” That would be Dr. James William Vernon who also went by “Jamie.” 

But what about Dr. Vernon’s son, Ike’s cousin/brother, James Taylor Vernon born in 1921?  Isn’t he an even more likely candidate? 

And then there’s his great-grand uncle, the Baptist preacher, the Rev. James Taylor Vernon, born in 1850.  

It’s crystal clear who James’ younger brother, Livingston, is named after: Livingston Vernon.

As one Taylor-Vernon family member observed, “The clan all named themselves with the same names over and over again.”   Their family tree certainly supports this.

And why wouldn’t they?   The Taylor and Vernon clans have much to be proud of.  They were powerful families in England and Scotland for hundreds of years.  They were also adventurers and risktakers, among the earliest settlers of young America in Pennsylvania and North Carolina.  The Taylor-Vernon clans fought in most of this country’s great wars: the American Revolution, War of 1812, Civil War, World Wars I and II, and Korean War.   They were exceptionally involved in the shaping and implementation of mental health care in North Carolina and other states. 

There were stumbles and tragedy. No family has ever been spared those. Their accomplishments far surpass them, and their imprint upon the history of Great Britain and the United States is nothing short of extraordinary.   

And their music ain’t bad, either.

VERNON FAMILY TREE

Appendix

Many members of the Vernon-Taylor clans attended Wake Forest and University of North Carolina.  Here’s some background information about these institutions.

Wake Forest College/University

Wake Forest University was originally started on a plantation owned by Dr.  Calvin Jones in a forest in the county of Wake called the “Forest of Wake.” It’s in central North Carolina just north of Raleigh.  Dr. Jones, who had become postmaster for the area, began heading his letters with Wake Forest and the region permanently became known as Wake Forest. Dr. Jones sold the 615-acre plantation to the North Carolina Baptist Convention in 1832, which contained 3 schools and 2 meeting houses, which were used primarily for religious meeting of Baptists and Methodists. On this site, Wake Forest Manual Labour Institute was founded in 1834 and rechartered as Wake Forest College in 1838, making it one of the oldest institutions in North Carolina.

In 1952, construction began on a new campus 100 miles away in Winston-Salem on land gifted by the RJ Reynolds family. The main Reynolds Campus was completed in 1956 and Wake Forest College moved to the new location, which in 1967 was designated Wake Forest University. The main Reynolds Campus has maintained the look of the original 14 Georgian style buildings. The university has grown to include graduate schools in Law, Business Administration, Medicine, Arts and Sciences and Divinity.

On April 27, 1962, Wake Forest admitted Edward Reynolds, a native of Ghana, as the first black full-time undergraduate at the school.  Reynolds became the first black graduate of the university in 1964, when he earned a bachelor’s degree in history. He went on to earn masters degrees at Ohio University and Yale Divinity School, and a PhD in African history from the University of London in 1972. Dr. Reynolds became a professor of history at the University of California, San Diego, and the author of several history books.

University of North Carolina

The University of North Carolina was the first public university in the nation. In 1789, William Richardson Davie wrote the act that established the University. In 1793, he and fellow trustees laid the cornerstone of the first building, Old East. Students arrived in 1795, and UNC became the only public university to award degrees in the 18th century.

A friendly debate rages between the University of Georgia and the University of North Carolina concerning which school can accurately claim the distinction of first state university. The University of Georgia claims the title based on the fact that it received its charter before the University of North Carolina. UNC claims to be first because it was the first to open.

In the 1880s, when UNC teams began competing in intercollegiate sports, they needed a nickname. They were then, and have always been, Tar Heels, a term which comes from workers who produced tar and pitch for the naval industry during the 18th and 19th centuries. Workers often went barefoot during the hot summers and collected tar on their heels. While “tar heel” originally suggested lowly origins, North Carolina soldiers during the Civil War, turned “Tar Heel” into an expression of state pride.

Law and custom restricted non-white students at the University until the second half of the 20th century. State laws that prohibited racially integrated education prevented the admittance of African Americans and Native Americans. The admittance of Henry Owl, a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, to graduate school in 1939 was a rare exception.

The Author’s Closest Brush With Taylor Fame

As embellished in my Dreams, Guitars and Highways story, I’ve been a huge admirer of James Vernon Taylor ever since he released his monster album, Sweet Baby James in 1970. I’ve entertained myself and a few others with my covers of many of his songs on guitar and piano for over 50 years.  I’m in awe of his talent and energy to continue to churn out great music and tour well into his 8th decade. 

I’m also a little jealous of my Swiss nephew, Leo Butie.   In Dreams Guitars I open with the story of Leo’s gift-back to me of the guitar I had given him the year before, but now bearing the signature of James Taylor.  Leo told the story:

Vernon Casey Gauntt with the guitar nephew Leo had James Taylor sign in Switzerland

That was in 2008.  Our son James, “Jimmy,” summed it up well at the time: “That took a lot of balls.”

Leo actually spoke with James Taylor!   They had a conversation.  They shook hands!

My close encounter with a Taylor took place twenty years earlier.  

With his younger brother, Livingston Taylor.

I’ve been as big an admirer of Livingston’s work, also born in 1950 like me, as I am of his older brother’s.   One of my all-time favorites is “Going Round One More Time,” that appeared on Livingston’s “Three Way Mirror” album released in 1978.    I’ve sung that song at least 1,000 times.   I even sang it acapella in 2015 on the stage of a packed house at the amphitheater in Ephesus Turkey built in the 3rd Century B.C.  “Packed” if you count the 50 or so Chinese tourists who wandered into the near-empty venue, curious what this tall, pale, white, old man was singing at the top of his lungs.   I did get a standing ovation, mainly because they never sat down. 

Ephesus Ampitheatre in Turkey

My wife Hilary and our touring friends were slightly embarrassed.  I say “slightly” because they’ve seen this “show” before.  

In August of 1988, we read that Livingston was going to perform at the Belly Up Tavern, a small, intimate venue in our hometown of Solana Beach.   Of course we had to go.   Livingston was very relaxed and engaging with the 200 or so in the audience.  He played some songs on the piano, including another one of my favorites, “Longing For Your Loving Arms Again.”

2018-03-19 – MPN Research Foundation Fundraiser. With Gin Blossoms & The SALTLICKERS, at the Belly Up, 143 S Cedros Ave, Solana Beach, CA 92075.

Switching to acoustic guitar, Livingston played other hits including “Carolina On My Mind,” “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” and “One of the Things I Do So Well.”  He then launched into “Going Round One More Time.”   For some reason, he left out a verse and a refrain of the chorus.  As far as what happened next, John D’Augustino, a writer for the San Diego Union Tribune who attended the show, had this to say.  

“Another indication of Taylor’s egoless style came when his abbreviated rendition of a song brought a protest from a male fan who loudly demanded the complete version.

“’Why don’t you sing it?’ teased a grinning Taylor as he began to finger-pick the chords.  To everyone’s surprise, the man—still seated in the audience—sang two verses and the choruses and got one of the biggest ovations of the night for his trouble. 

“’The wrong man’s been recording my albums,’ laughed a sheepish Taylor.”

Soon after I started singing, Livingston joined in—and propped me up—and we sang the entire song together with him laying in some really nice harmonies.

A lifetime memory for sure.  

Here is a link to Livingston performing “Going Round One More Time” on his podcast a few years ago.   My version is much faster, I use a fraction of the chords and thumb-pluck the strings.


As I was researching and writing For the Vernons I came across his “There You Are Again” album released in 2006 that I had entirely overlooked.   It was his first album in nine years, and I have to say, I think it’s his best.   It includes 12 original compositions ranging from country, heartbreak, to gospel.   His beautiful duet with his sister-in-law Carly Simon, “Best of Friends,” is a treasure.  I’ve listened to the album probably 50 times—so far.   “Highly recommend,” isn’t strong enough. There You Are Again – Livingston Taylor – Albums

I just need to figure which song Livingston and I should do next.  

About the Author

Vernon Case “Casey” Gauntt retired in 2018 from 43 years of practicing corporate and real estate law in San Diego to pursue his next career as an author and grief advisor.  Admittedly, his secret aspiration was to be a rock star.  In 2016 he co-wrote with his son, James Tedrow “Jimmy” Gauntt, Suffering Is the Only Honest Work. When the Veil Comes Down was released in 2021.  A life-long passion for family history led to a third book, The Gauntt-Case Clans, a compilation of stories about Casey’s colorful ancestors. In 2023, Casey wrote the first biography of Harvey Slocum-Best Dam Man in the World. The colorful friend of Casey’s grandparents built 20 of the world’s biggest dams between 1918 and 1961.  

Casey and Hilary, his wife and best friend of over 53 years, live in Solana Beach, California.  Their daughter Brittany, her husband Ryan, and three grandchildren live close by. 

Please visit Casey’s websites, CaseyGauntt.com and WriteMeSomethingBeautiful.com, and Hilary’s popular food blog, HeronEarth.com.  Casey may be contacted at casey.gauntt1@gmail.com

References

Before the Vernons

Timothy White, James Taylor-Long Ago and Far Away (Omnibus Press, 2001), 27, 32, 33
Isaac was apparently concerned about his son’s abuse of alcohol.
American Battlefield Trust, “North Carolina in the Civil War,” [Online]  Available: https://www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/north-carolina-civil-war
1880, 1910, 1920 U.S. Census records

The Western North Carolina Insane Asylum changed its name to the State Hospital at Morganton in 1890. This name was retained until 1959, when it was changed to Broughton Hospital after then Governor J. Melville Broughton. Wikipedia, “Broughton Hospital” [Online]. Available: Broughton Hospital – Wikipedia
“Dr. Isaac Taylor Dies in Home in Morganton,” The Western Sentinel (Winston-Salem, North Carolina), November 29, 1921

Hickory Daily Record, “Doctors Open Private Sanitorium,” April 8, 2012 [Online].  Available: Doctors open private sanitorium (hickoryrecord.com)

The First Vernon Enters the Taylor Picture and Family

 “Dr. J.W. Vernon, 68, Dies,” The News and Observer (Raleigh NC), July 18, 1955

Jamie Vernon’s Brothers

 “History of John Henry Vernon,” The Twice-a-Week Dispatch (Burlington, NC), March 19, 1915

“Funeral of Mr. Vernon Will Be Held Today,” Greensboro Daily News (Greensboro, NC), January 7, 1919

Certificate of Death, dated January 7, 1919

Alamance County, NC, Probate Records, January 10, 1919

It’s not known to the author if the Vernon’s already had some connection to some strain of the Taylor family, or if Charles’ middle name was chosen at random.  As noted above, the first known connection of the immediate Taylor-Vernon families is when brother James came to Morganton to work with Dr. Taylor at Broadoaks

The Taylor and Vernon families became even more entwined following another tragic death in 1921

U.S. Censuses for 1930, 1940 and 1950

1930 U.S. Census; Army Registration Card, dated August, 1917; “Alexander Taylor Dies in Hospital,” Greensboro Daily News (Greensboro, North Carolina), August 3, 1957

White, James Taylor, 38.

 “Mrs. Alexander Taylor Died Last Thursday-Death of Young Wife and Mother Brought Sadness to Many,” The News-Herald (Morganton, North Carolina), June 30, 1921

White, “James Taylor, 38.  It was said Ike’s father became inconsolable and incapacitated by whisky-aggravated grief.

Each of the U.S. Censuses for 1930 and 1940, list Isaac M. Taylor as a “son” of Dr. James Vernon.   The author believes Ike’s affection for the family that raised him can be inferred from the fact he named two of his own sons after his “brothers” James Taylor and Livingston Vernon.  Ike was best man in the wedding of James Taylor Vernon in 1945.

The Vernon-Taylor Brothers

“James Taylor Vernon” obituary, The News-Herald (Morganton), November 13, 2005

“Vernon-Royal Vows Spoken in Formal Church Ceremony,” The News and Observer (Raleigh, North Carolina), July 8, 1945.

“James Taylor Vernon,” The News-Herald (Morganton, North Carolina), November 13, 2005

“Judge Livingston Vernon,” The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, North Carolina). June 26, 1999

“Charles Vernon Obituary,” The News and Observer (Raleigh NC), March 24, 2013

“Longtime psychiatrist, Charles Vernon Dies,” Star News (Wilmington NC), March 13, 2013

The Origins of the Vernon Clan

“The Vernon Family,” North American Family Histories (1500-2000), 386

Rootsweb.com, “History of the Vernon Family,” Available Online: https://freepages.rootsweb.com/

The three Vernon brothers came to America, arriving on a Liverpool ship, the “Friendship,” piloted by Robert Crossman, Master, which is presumed to have arrived 14 August 1682 at Upland, Pennsylvania. The Friendship was one of the 24 known ships that sailed from England, arriving between December,1681 and December, 1682 to establish William Penn’s “Holy Experiment” in Pennsylvania. 

History of Chester, Pennsylvania. 68

W.H. Wilson, “Vernon,” Beaver Island Baptist Church, 1899

“Mrs. Corrinna Vernon,” The News and Observer (Raleigh, North Carolina), January 12, 1935

The 1890 Census records were destroyed by fire and unfortunately created a 20 year data void until the 1900 census.  It was not unusual at that time for teenage girls and boys, especially of families of lesser means, to leave home and go to work or get married.

White, “James Taylor,” 39, 51

Thank-you to Perry Hayes for compiling the historical research on Wake Forest College and University of North Carolina in spite of the resultant pain of being an alumnus of University of South Carolina

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Author Bios

Write Me Something Beautiful Authors - Casey and Jimmy Gauntt

Casey Gauntt

is a retired attorney and former senior executive of a major San Diego real estate company. He lives in Solana Beach, California, with his wife, Hilary. Casey grew up in Itasca, Illinois, graduated Lake Park High School in 1968, and received B.S., JD and MBA degrees from the University of Southern California.

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Jimmy Gauntt

was born and raised in Solana Beach and graduated from Torrey Pines High School in 2002.   A prestigious Trustee Scholar at the University of Southern California, he majored in English and Spanish. He authored six plays, five screenplays, and a multitude of poems and short stories. Beginning in 2010, the USC English Department annually bestows the Jimmy Gauntt Memorial Award—aka “The Jimmy”—to the top graduates in English.  Jimmy passed over to the other side in 2008 at age 24.

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