Who Do You Think You Are? (2010) s06e07 Episode Script

Bill Paxton

1 On this episode, Bill Paxton uncovers a war hero Very intriguing.
A spy.
a bloody battle God, he was right there.
- He was right in the thick of it.
- Whew.
and a shocking truth about his ancestor.
That's a -- that's a tough one there.
Boy.
Ah, ah, ah, ah ah, ah, ah, ah ah, ah, ah, ah Celebrated actor and director Bill Paxton boasts an outstanding career that already spans four decades.
He's starred in some of the most celebrated films of all time, including "Apollo 13" and "Titanic.
" Bill has also conquered the small screen, shining in the HBO drama "Big Love" and the award-winning miniseries "Hatfields & McCoys," where his portrayal of patriarch Randall McCoy earned him an Emmy nomination.
Mr.
Paxton! Bill and his wife, Louise, live in Southern California where they raise their two children, James and Lydia.
Hey, Lydia.
What's happening? My given name was William Paxton.
I was born in Fort Worth, Texas.
My mom's name is Mary Lou Gray, and my dad's name was John Paxton.
My dad passed -- it'll be three years ago.
I was lucky to have a close relationship with my dad -- not to say that I'm not close to my mother.
It's just a different relationship because I am my father's son in a lot of ways.
My dad and I have a lot of the same interests.
Obviously, I was influenced growing up in his house.
Certainly theater and books and movies and history.
Whenever I talk about my dad, I think I smile.
He was a very colorful individual.
He had a natural curiosity, and he was -- I really feel like any success that I've acquired in my life, I really owe a lot of that to my dad.
So, I'm -- I guess I'm naturally a little more curious about my paternal side.
I know a little bit.
I know about the great-great grandfather who was the Confederate general.
I know that my great-grandfather was a prominent attorney in Independence, Missouri.
Beyond that, it's all kind of vague.
So selfishly, I wanted to find out things that maybe I didn't know about my family tree because the more I can find out, probably the more strength I can gather from it.
So I'd like to find out some -- you know, some -- there must be some savory bits in there.
So, I'm headed to the Los Angeles Central Library to meet professional genealogist Kyle Betit to see if I can find out what roles that my family played in history.
- Nice to meet you.
- Pleasure.
I have some information to show you.
Wonderful.
So, in preparation for our meeting, I've done some initial digging for you.
Excellent.
So I have prepared a tree for you.
This is very exciting.
You get to do the unwrapping.
All right.
Oh, my gosh.
This is fantastic, man.
It's pretty impressive.
I mean, as a genealogist, it was fun to map this out for you.
Oh, my gosh.
On your father's side, your ancestors go back quite far in American history.
Okay.
You're down here at the bottom.
Okay.
All right.
Here we go.
There's my dad.
John Lane Paxton.
You know, my father was everything to me.
He was a lot of things, but he was most of all my best friend.
He passed -- it'll be three years next month, but I've never seen the dates like that.
And then we're going up here to Frank, my grandfather.
And we go to his dad, John Gallatin Paxton.
He was the attorney in Independence.
And then here's my great great grandfather, Elisha Franklin Paxton.
That's the general.
- He served in the Civil War.
- Okay.
Okay.
Then we have another Elisha Paxton, my three times-great-grandfather.
William, my four times-great-grandfather.
And all the way back to John Paxton, my five times-great-grandfather.
I know a lot about the civil war through the letters and just through the history of Elisha Franklin Paxton, but I would love to find out about my family's connection to the American Revolution.
We have William Paxton, born 1733.
We have Frank Wyatt, born 1757.
We have Benjamin Sharp, born 1762.
And they would be my great-great- great-great-grandfathers.
- That's right.
- Benjamin Sharp.
Hannah Fulkerson.
Right.
Hannah is Benjamin's wife, yes.
So, I'm excited to see that my paternal tree branches out to three four-times-great-grandfathers who were all alive during the American Revolution between 1775 and 1783.
Now I'm hoping Kyle can help me find out if any one of them served in the Revolutionary War.
One of the best ways that we can try to find out is through the ancestor search of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Ah, yes, yes, yes.
The D.
A.
R.
is primarily a women's service organization.
Out of Washington, D.
C.
- Correct.
- Mmhmm.
But they have also been collecting records, documentation about Revolutionary War Patriots and soldiers since 1890.
Shall we try to do a search for the Revolutionary War generation and see if we can find anyone there? All right.
Terrific.
Let's take a look for the three direct ancestors - All right.
Okay.
- In the D.
A.
R.
database.
So, there you go.
You can put "William Paxton" in there now.
Let's put William in there.
- Your his namesake, I should say.
- I am.
Paxton.
We know he was born in 1733.
So let's -- let's go.
Okay, so -- "No ancestor records found.
" So do I go back to click to refine the search? I don't know if we can.
Let's just go back and try another ancestor.
So, I guess we go to Frank Wyatt.
Yeah.
All right, let's see.
So, that's Frank.
"No ancestor records found.
" One more time.
Let's, uh Right.
Let's try Benjamin Sharp.
I'm gonna close my eyes and blast off.
Aha! Ooh.
Wow.
Benjamin Sharp.
Service -- Virginia.
Rank -- Private.
Spy.
Ah, ah, ah, ah Bill Paxton is in Los Angeles researching his paternal lineage.
He's just discovered a record that shows his four-times-great-grandfather Benjamin Sharp served as a spy in the American Revolution.
Now he wants to hunt down the details of his ancestor's life as a soldier.
Ooh.
Death -- 1842 in Warren County, Missouri.
Missouri.
Huh.
That's where my dad and his family were from.
So, where do I go next? I recommend that you go now to the actual library of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
They should be able to help you find some more documents regarding Benjamin's life and service and a bit about what does the spy reference mean.
The spy thing is very intriguing.
Fantastic.
Thanks a lot, Kyle.
This is a great thing to have.
I knew that my family on my father's side of the family, on the Paxton side, goes back to being in this country from the late 17th century, which means that I knew that I had heritage that was alive during the Revolutionary War, but I didn't know about this figure named Benjamin Sharp.
So now I'm really intrigued as to who this guy was and who was he spying for.
So, I'm on my way to Washington, D.
C.
, to the D.
A.
R.
library.
I love being in Washington.
I first came here with my dad in 1968, and he had some big, big sedan, and he had me sit in the backseat.
And we'd pull up some place, and he'd jump out and open the door as if I was some diplomat's son.
We had a lot of laughs.
The D.
A.
R.
holds one of the world's largest collections of genealogical documentation related to American Patriots.
So I'm here meeting historian Jake Ruddiman, who I'm hoping will be able to shed some light on the life of the spy Benjamin Sharp, who was my four-times-great-grandfather.
I searched for Benjamin Sharp, and we found this.
Oh, my gosh.
Something that he wrote.
Oh, wow.
"State of Missouri on the 7th of May, 1833.
Benjamin Sharp, a resident of said county of Warren.
Aged 71 years.
" So, okay, help me out here.
This is his deposition that he is presenting to create a legal record about his military service.
Wow.
Very, very cool.
Now, the British started arriving when? So, the war between the Patriots and the British starts in the spring of 1775.
"In the month of June or July 1776, I then resided in Washington County, Virginia.
I volunteered and entered the service under the command of Captain Andrew Colville and did duty at Black's Fort.
I was then about 14 years of age.
" - God.
Geez.
Wow.
- Yeah.
He's serving with the militia.
He's serving with his -- with his family members, with his kin and neighbors in a way that's different from the Continental Army.
The Continental Army is the army that's led by George Washington, and that main army fights the British armies wherever they have to.
The militia is local.
It's in your town.
It's in your county.
It's to defend your home.
When the war comes to your region, the militia will come out and support and fight alongside the Continental Army.
Now, let's see here.
"Sometime after the above service performed, but what year I cannot call to mind, we went to the Glade Hollows Fort.
I was employed in this service perhaps six weeks or more either guarding the fort or ranging.
I served part of the time as a spy.
" Ah, this is the spy part.
Okay.
It sounds to me like he's a scout or a ranger.
Yeah.
Ranging, yeah.
And so, he's out in the woods, keeping an eye on the roads and the trails, trying to keep track of enemy movements, 'cause if they're surprised, people will die.
So he's out there on his own.
And he was so young when he served.
Yeah.
The other component, of course, is he's not married.
He's not -- he doesn't have a farm.
He doesn't have kids.
So if he dies in the woods, it's tragic for his family, but it's not disruptive to the community.
Mm.
Mm.
Mm.
He's expendable.
"In the year either 1778 or 1779, where detachments were constantly sent out in search of Tories, a good many of whom we took.
" And the Tories being the colonists who were loyal to the Crown, to the British Crown.
Yes, yes.
"A good many of whom we took.
" So, they would go and -- God.
How did they know they were Tories? I think that's -- that's the question.
And how did they -- and how did they get that information? - At the point of a sword or - Yeah.
They're going house to house, and they're roughing people up, if necessary.
"In the year 1780, as I believe, Colonel McDowel of North Carolina fled over the mountains, being driven thence by a large body of British and Tories.
I then volunteered, I think, early in September, and we marched for the Carolinas.
We overtook the British and the Tories in South Carolina on Kings Mountain.
I was in the battle.
" Starting from Virginia, Patriot militia marched over 200 miles for nearly 2 weeks by foot and on horseback to South Carolina.
In the final 24 hours, the troops, including Benjamin Sharp, trudged through rain with no food or sleep as they approached Kings Mountain in October of 1780.
So, in 1780, he's 17 years old.
This is really interesting.
Kings Mountain is a pivotal turning point - in the Revolution in the South.
- Kings Mountain.
Where is Kings Mountain? It's in South Carolina.
The site of the battle is preserved at a national military park.
Well, this is great.
This is fantastic.
Wow.
I didn't realize we'd find something so specific.
It's impressive stuff.
It's really cool stuff.
Kings Mountain.
You need to get to Kings Mountain.
Well, wonderful.
- Thank you, sir.
- Thank you, Bill.
Pleasure.
Take care.
I wish my dad was here because he would really have enjoyed being here today to hear this.
It's kind of mind-blowing to find this firsthand account of this ancestor who was in the Revolutionary War, Benjamin Sharp, of -- what he experienced is incredible.
It's like he's speaking to me across time, and you just think, "gosh, he's out there.
I don't think he's really thinking about, can he do it? He has to do it.
" People's lives are at stake.
Family members.
People he cares about.
So, I'm hoping to find out more details of the battle.
How long was the engagement? How did it start? How did it end? How many casualties there were.
And I guess we're gonna have to go to the Carolinas to find out.
So, I'm heading to Blacksburg, South Carolina, home of the Kings Mountain National Military Park.
"Welcome.
Enjoy your visit.
" I will.
I had a relative who was here.
Good morning, sir.
- Chris Revels.
- Yes, sir.
- Pleasure to meet you.
- Pleasure to meet you.
I was just taking in this illustration here.
If you'd like, I can show you the battlefield.
Thank you.
And where was this battle in relationship to the war itself? The war had been going on for a few years.
You have to remember that it was very brutal at this point in the war.
After a string of defeats in the northern colonies, the British turned their focus in the South, where they recruited American loyalists to strengthen their forces.
The Crown rebounded, winning significant victories against the Patriots and decimating the Continental Army in the South.
British Major Patrick Ferguson, leading a group of Southern loyalists, threatened to attack Frontier Patriots if they refused to lay down their weapons.
In response, Southern Patriot leaders amassed a powerful force and planned their own attack.
This band of local militia, including Benjamin Sharp, met Ferguson at Kings Mountain in a battle that would change the course of the war.
So, the Americans were actually fighting other Americans here.
They were all Tory militia, all Americans.
There was about 1,000 on each side.
It was this country's first civil war.
I understand that Benjamin Sharp would have traveled here from Virginia.
They traveled from Virginia, about 220 miles.
We're at the very crest of the ridge, and off to our right here is the location where Colonel Campbell and Benjamin Sharp would have actually come up the ridgetop.
- Right here? - Right here on this ridge.
Wow.
We are standing on the exact spot.
The Americans are charging up.
Tories are on top here, and you can see how steep the ground is.
It must be tough to try to mount a charge uphill.
The Americans had made three charges up the hill.
Wow.
So, it was a bloody, bloody conflict.
So, I have a firsthand account about this particular battle, if you'd like to take a look at that.
I'd love to take a look at it.
"American Pioneer -- Battle of Kings Mountain.
" Oh, my God.
This is Benjamin Sharp's recollection of this battle.
Ah, ah, ah, ah Bill Paxton is in South Carolina on the same ground where his four-times-great-grandfather fought in the critical battle at Kings Mountain during the Revolutionary War.
Bill is reading his ancestor's own firsthand account of his experience in the bloody fight.
This is crazy.
So amazing.
But at the time of this writing, Benjamin Sharp was 80 years old.
Ah.
He says, "About 12:00, it cleared off with a fine, cool breeze.
We considered ourselves equal in numbers, or at least a match for the enemy and eager to bring them to battle.
And as we approached the mountain, the roll of the British drum informed us that we had something to do.
" Phew.
That's putting it mildly.
"In front of us, the ascent was rather abrupt, and to the right was a low gap through which the road passed.
" - That's the road we came up.
- That's the road we came up.
Mm, gosh.
"The different regiments were directed by guides to the ground they were to occupy so as to surround the eminence on which the British were encamped.
" So they surrounded them? They surrounded the entire battlefield here, which was the plan.
And here it is.
"Thus, the British major found himself attacked on all sides at once and so situated as to receive a galling fire from all parts of our lines.
" God, he was right there.
He was right in the thick of it.
Phew.
Gosh.
Sharp's militia actually led the charge.
They were up against Ferguson's best-trained.
"And Ferguson, seeing that all was lost, determined not to survive the disgrace.
He broke his sword and spurred his horse into the thickest of our ranks and fell covered with wounds.
And shortly after, his whole army surrendered at discretion.
The action lasted about an hour and for most of the time was fierce and bloody.
" It's amazing to read a firsthand account, and to have this man have been a relative of mine brings it all right to life here in front of us.
"The battle closed not far from sundown so that we had to encamp on the ground with the dead and wounded and pass the night among groans and lamentations.
" Whew.
Wow.
Mm.
How many did you say died here? On the Patriot side, there was about 28 killed, and there were 225 on the Tory side.
Wow.
So this battle was considered the turning point of the American Revolution in the South.
Thomas Jefferson has said it was the turn of the tide of success for the American Revolution.
It's really something.
Gosh, I mean, to have these letters.
"Very respectfully yours, Benjamin Sharp.
" So, Benjamin Sharp survived this battle, and so I'd love to find out what his life was.
He's 18 years old, so he's got a lot of life yet.
I think you can probably find the answers that you're looking for at the Library of Virginia, where they hold the state archives to learn Mr.
Sharp's future after the battle of Kings Mountain.
This is amazing.
This is absolutely amazing.
- Where is this place? - Richmond, Virginia.
Richmond, Virginia.
Okay, I think I'm off to Richmond, Virginia.
- All righty.
- Thank you again.
It's been a pleasure having you.
Oh, it's been my pleasure.
It's kind of emotional to be here, to have this moment.
It's a lot to take in.
I'm very proud to learn I had an ancestor that had such bravery.
I think my dad would have been proud, as well.
He would have also been fascinated like I am.
Benjamin Sharp was only 18 here, and my son, James, is 20.
You know, I can't even fathom the idea of my son, James, charging up this hill with a bayonet, killing at close range, fighting to stay alive.
But at the same time, it must be really kind of life-affirming to survive something like this, to have proven yourself.
This is really bringing the whole American Revolution alive for me in a completely new way.
And I'm already kind of holding on to Benjamin Sharp.
He's there with me now.
I want to find out what he did with his life.
So, you guessed it.
I'm off to Richmond, Virginia.
The more I learn about Benjamin Sharp, this ancestor line, the more I want to learn.
To have such a remarkable life by 18, I think his life, I bet, continued to be remarkable.
Library of Virginia.
This is the place.
Let's see what I can find out here.
Excuse me.
Gregg Kimball.
- Bill Paxton.
- Good to meet you.
Pleasure to meet you.
- So, have a seat.
- Thank you.
Let's take a look at some things.
Sounds good.
So, I did a little work and figured out that he was down in the southwestern part of our state.
So, let me show you a piece that we found in the executive papers of James Monroe, who was the governor of Virginia and eventually the president of the United States.
James Monroe, sure.
These are -- these are original? These are original documents.
There it is -- Ben Sharp.
Looks like there must be at least 60 names here.
What is -- what is this I'm looking at? This is a list of commissioners that were appointed to oversee the election of 1800.
This is for the presidential election? - That's correct.
- And who were the candidates? The candidates are Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.
Boy.
So, let's see.
So now how old is he? He's He's 38 years old.
So we've jumped a few years, but, gosh.
He's 38 years old.
He's still a young -- a fairly young man, and he's in a -- I would say a prestigious position.
Yeah.
So, they would sign off on the ballots? They would sign off on the ballots, make sure that the election went off without a hitch.
Benjamin, he's moving to the state level of politics now, where now someone like a James Monroe knows who Benjamin Sharp is.
Mm.
Well, this is an amazing thing to find out.
Really incredible.
So, we took another look at our state records, and I have one other piece I want to show you.
So, this is an attendance book from 1804 and 1805.
Wow, look at this thing here.
Geez.
All right, I'll be very careful.
This is obviously the genuine article.
What am I looking at here? So, this would be by county, so if you just flip through the book and go to Lee.
Okay, here's Lee County.
Here's Benjamin Sharp.
Esquire.
Oh, Esquire.
Ah.
Mm, yes.
Benjamin Sharp, Esquire.
So let's see.
That makes him 42, I believe.
This is actually the attendance book for the Virginia General Assembly.
So this is for the House of Delegates, which is our lower house.
Wow.
He has moved up in the world.
Yeah, he definitely has.
The state level legislatures dealt with all kinds of issues.
They would have dealt with creating new counties.
He would also be dealing with really basic things -- building roads.
So he's moved up.
He's probably an independent landholder and become a man of some means and wealth.
There would be nobody in this assembly who didn't -- was not a property owner, and probably a pretty substantial property owner.
Do you have any records of land transactions that he made, or do you have a record of his personal property? We do.
We have tax records.
And we'd be happy to show that to you.
- Great.
- All right.
And what year are we going for? We want to go to 1804, the year that he was in the Assembly.
So we've got a little ways to go.
- 1803.
- 1803.
Almost there.
- Okay.
- Perfect.
Okay.
So, let's look at the very first couple pages.
So, these are the categories you want to remember, because then when we get to his name, we'll see what property he owned in each one of those categories.
All right, so it says number of white males.
Number of blacks would refer to slaves.
Mm-hmm.
Mm-hmm.
Why would there be a difference between 12 and 16? They were taxed at a different rate, children versus adults.
I know.
God.
This is unbelievable.
All right, now, horses, mares, and mules.
Mm-hmm.
So, now we're ready to go find Benjamin.
So we'll move forward, and we can look at the list of names.
Okay, all right.
There he is, Benjamin Sharp.
Okay, so what have we learned from this document? In 1804, Benjamin Sharp, there are two - would that be including him, number of white males above 16? It would.
And it says number of blacks above 12, there's 1.
And then the number of blacks above 16, it indicates 4.
Mmhmm.
So would this mean that he -- he had slaves in his household? Yes.
Unbelievable.
Ah, ah, ah, ah Bill Paxton is in Richmond, Virginia, where he has just uncovered an 1804 property record that reveals his four-times-great-grandfather owned slaves.
He had five, and, of course, there could have been slaves who were younger, as well as there could have been female slaves, - but they weren't taxed.
- Right.
And Well, that's unfortunate.
It's kind of disappointing, you know, from a contemporary perspective.
You look back, and you're kind of like, "Oh, geez, you know.
" You think, "gosh.
" 'Cause you read -- we read this great account of this man, but it's just -- again, your history.
Good and bad, it's your history.
Okay.
So, where do we go from here? I guess he spent a lot of his life in Virginia.
I know from the deposition that he did in, I guess, it was 18-- I forgot.
He was 71.
So that was in Missouri.
I think it was called Warren -- I think Warren County is where he's from.
So something tells me I'm going to Missouri now.
I think that may be the direction.
This is very cool.
Thank you.
- Super.
- Thank you so much.
- This has been great.
- It's great to meet you.
Pleasure, pleasure.
My father used to say, "All idols have feet of clay.
" No matter who you look up to, just know that they have their foibles.
To find out Benjamin owned slaves, I just haven't had a chance to process it.
So, I guess I've got to go to Missouri to find out the rest of the story.
It feels good to be in Missouri.
Land of my father, his father, and his father.
I didn't realize I had a great-grandfather four times removed that had come to Missouri.
And now here we are in the town where he spent the last of his life.
So, I'm wondering what we're gonna find here.
I'm meeting with historian Gary Kremer, who told me he's found a significant document concerning my four-times-great-grandfather.
Good to see you.
Come in.
Thanks for taking the time here.
All right.
One of the greatest social history documents available to researchers are the probate records.
- Wills.
- Sure.
That sort of thing.
So, we found Benjamin Sharp's probate will, his will.
This is the original in his handwriting.
Oh, my gosh.
"Benjamin Sharp's Last Will.
" It's beautiful handwriting.
God, it's very, you know, small, though.
I can make this out pretty well.
"Here unto subscribe my name and affix my seal this 19th day of June in the year of Our Lord 1845.
" Yeah, it's actually written just a little before he dies.
So he lived to be 83.
Right.
"I, Benjamin Sharp, do make and ordain this, my last will and testament.
All the residue of my estate, not hereafter otherwise provided for shall be equally divided among my children.
" Oh.
So, he really wants to make sure that it's absolutely fair.
"My faithful servants, Bill and Judy, shall not be separated, but shall be left in the possession of all the livestock that may belong to them.
" Mm, he's very concerned that they don't end up being separated.
Right.
Benjamin still believes in slavery as an institution, but he's also wanting to protect Bill and Judy.
"It shall be at his opinion either to settle on 20 acres of land I bought and improve and cultivate for himself or to settle by someone of my children whom he may choose who will furnish him a piece of ground to make his bread on and give him their protection.
And I charge it upon my executor, and, indeed, upon all my descendants to see that he is protected in his rights.
" That is an interesting statement.
"None of the slaves of whom I may die possess shall be sold against their will to strangers, but shall be disposed among my children, with whom they were raised and with whom they are acquainted.
And I enjoin it upon my descendants who have or may inherit slaves by me to treat them with humanity and make their lives as comfortable and happy as the nature of master and servant will admit.
" Phew.
That's a -- that's a tough one there.
Boy.
Ah, ah, ah, ah Bill Paxton is in Warren County, Missouri, reading the will of his four-times-great-grandfather.
Although Benjamin Sharp wanted to provide for his slaves, Bill is struggling with the fact that his ancestor owned human beings.
I'm not an apologist.
To find this out is not that much of a surprise.
It's just hard, you know.
It's -- it just seems that they were completely blind.
But isn't that a description of much of 19th-century America? Mm-hmm, yeah.
And think about Thomas Jefferson, one of the most enlightened men of the period of the late 18th and early 19th century -- a slave owner.
The Age of Enlightenment.
Exactly.
A slave owner.
I guess George Washington was probably a slave owner.
He was.
This is all leading up to what's gonna split the country in half.
Slavery's gonna be one of the main things that causes the Civil War.
- Yeah.
- This is quite a document.
So, what else can you tell me about this time of his life? Is this all you've been able to find, or -- yes, but I think it might be possible to trace Bill and Judy.
That would be amazing.
So, maybe if we look at the 1850 census, which is now several years after Benjamin has died, perhaps we can find Bill and Judy and see what their status is.
Do we have -- we don't have their last names.
It's very likely -- not a certainty, but it's very likely that they might have taken -- - the Sharp name? - Yeah.
And how would I look that up? We can look it up on ancestry.
com.
Oh.
Oh, okay.
Let's take a look.
Let's see what ancestry.
Com has got for us.
Let's type in his name.
William Sharp.
We'll use the family name.
- Location would be -- - Warren County.
Warren county.
And then hit return.
Let's see what we get.
All right, here we go.
These are the hits for Sharps in the county.
We got a James F.
Sharp.
There's William Sharp.
And that's about the -- and he's from Virginia, and about -- that would be about his age, about 1790.
Click right there.
- And then the original record.
- View the original record.
There it is -- William Sharp, age 60.
And Judith Sharp, age 58.
Farmer, and they were both from Virginia.
It would indicate they came out with the Sharp family.
But the significant thing about what we found is, this is the census of the free people.
Wow, this is amazing.
By 1850, Benjamin's been dead a couple of years, and you would hope that the sons of Benjamin are fulfilling their father's mandate, that they are, in fact, providing some protection and watching over Bill and Judith.
Mm-hmm, and it seems like they did.
Free Inhabitants.
Free Inhabitants.
So, by 1850, he's free.
That's amazing.
That's an incredible document.
Mm.
What else can you tell me? You're holding out on me.
I can tell you that Benjamin Sharp is buried within about 20 miles of here.
- Oh.
- It's on private property, on land that he owned, which was very common in this time period.
And the landowner has given permission for you to visit the grave if you would like.
I'd love to see that.
Well, this is fantastic.
Well, thank you so much for your time and sharing this information that you found.
I really -- I really appreciate it.
- Thank you.
- It's been my pleasure.
Well, that was an amazing thing, to hold my ancestor's last will and testament To see that he was a very fair man and concerned with -- with the livelihood of the people in his life.
This has been quite a journey to get this far.
So it'll be something for me to actually stand on his grave tomorrow on land where he once stood and contemplated things.
I'm looking forward to that.
Ah, ah, ah, ah Bill Paxton is in his father's home state of Missouri following the trail of his ancestor.
He's on his way to visit Benjamin Sharp's final resting place on the land his four-times-great-grandfather once owned.
This is some great country.
I love the hills and the forests.
Land of our fathers.
Well, it's only fitting that I should be coming out to the grave site to pay my respects.
Wow.
It really is in the woods.
This is -- this is really something here.
"Major Benjamin Sharp.
Died January 1846.
" This is really something, to end up in this forest in Missouri at the grave site of my great-great- great-great-grandfather, Benjamin Sharp.
This journey has definitely given me a lot of food for thought in my own life and at the time of the life I'm in right now.
This must be Hannah, his wife.
Well, it's fitting they're buried together in these beautiful woods.
I've been following the story of Benjamin Sharp all week, but to see the gravestones of him and his wife It just made it -- it just brought it all home.
It suddenly was so real.
These stones from the Kings Mountain battlefield.
Thought I would put them here.
In memory of your valiant deeds at that battle.
I think we get so caught up in contemporary life and in our own lives that we forget these people that blazed the trail before us, that they're there to point us in the right direction.
You are not forgotten.
I'll make sure my children know.
It's really humbling to find this and come out here and see this after the week.
Hmm.
My father always taught me that prejudice was predicated on fear and ignorance, and so, I want my children to learn this history.
And one of the main reasons I wanted to take this trip is, I feel I've been remiss in teaching my son and daughter about their family tree.
I want them to know all of it.
We have a tendency to want to kind of hide the bad parts of our history, but we have to shine a light on all of it in order to understand who we are.
So, your history's just your history.
It's -- it's not what your forefathers did with their lives, but, really, what are you gonna do with your life? How are you gonna make a difference during your existence on Earth? Are you gonna leave it a better place than you found it? Are you gonna try to add some kindness to a hard world? I'd like to think I would do that.