#14 Mary Ann Harllee ~ My Favorite Ancestor {52 Ancestors}

This week I want to share with you my favorite ancestor.  I know it may seem weird to have a favorite dead ancestor, but I just love her.  Her name was Mary Ann Harllee and she was my 3rd great grandmother on my mom’s side.

 photo maryann.jpg

Mary Ann Harllee was born in Cheraw, South Carolina on August 23, 1829, her parents were Colonel David Stuart Harllee and Harriet Pope Barnes.

Fortunately the book Kinfolks has a wonderful write up about Mary Ann by her son Francis, who was the brother to my great, great grandfather Edward.

In 1847, she married Benjamin Hamilton Covington (1812-1866) he was 34 years old and she was just 18 years old.  I will write more about her husband in a future post.  After their marriage they lived in Rockingham, SC and had their first 4 children on their plantation there which was called Elmdale.  After the death of Mary Ann’s father and later her mother, Benjamin bought her parents’ plantation in Marlboro, SC I 1858, which was 1670 acres.  This area was very isolated and did not appeal to Mary Ann who preferred to be surrounded by people.  In 1862 they moved back to Rockingham where Benjamin built a beautiful Gothic style home that Mary Ann called Golden Spring.

As written by Francis Covington: “So you will note that there was a difference of over 17 years in their ages.  There were differences other than the matter of age between them.  That was the matter of temperament.  So great was that difference that one would wonder how they ever lived amicably together, if one did not remember and believe the old saying that opposites attract.

“My mother had a buoyant optimistic disposition, a lively imagination and was a brilliant conversationalist.  Oftentimes in my life I have met people who knew my mother when there were young speak of how crowds of young people would gather around her and be enthralled be her conversation and the wonderful stories with which she would entertain them.

“My father was a placid, equable temperament, never highly elated or deeply depressed.  He was a good business man, industrious and economical.  My mother seemed to be utterly without a business sense.  I know you children will exclaim, “That was the Harllee in her.”  It has been noticed that the Harllees, or those that had a preponderance of Harllee blood in their veins had a much greater talent for spending money than for accumulating it.

“While she was not a finished pianist, as her training on the piano was limited to her training at Floral College which she attended, yet she was a composer of music.  She composed a piece for each one of us children, at least for three or four of us, each of which she said represented our peculiar dispositions.  I remember one day she called us together at the piano and said, “Come here, children, I want to tell you a dream I had last night and play you a piece I heard in that dream.”  She told us that she dreamed she was walking on a winding road in a beautiful forest and at one of the turns in the pathway she saw a castle all lighted up (for it was night) and out of that castle there proceeded the strains of beautiful music.  She said she had never heard that piece of music, and that she listened awhile and woke up, and that the music made such an impression on her that she got up and went to the piano to reproduce it and that she believed that in the main she did so.  “And now,” she said, “I am going to play it for you.” Then she played a weird but beautiful piece which I had never her heard her play before, but which she played often afterwards.”

This is one of the reasons that Mary Ann is my favorite ancestor.  I see so much of myself in her and even notice a similarity between her husband and mine.  Although we are only 4 years apart in age.  I am a children’s librarian and therefor am often surrounded by children at my storytimes and programs. and while I am not quite the optimistic type I do have a pretty good imagination!  I also play piano, and while I don’t make up songs on the piano for my kids, I do make up and sing songs for them and about them, or change the words to favorite songs.  I also do not have great money sense and have to work really hard to save, whereas my husband has always naturally had the disposition to be more frugal, even as a very small child.  He is also of a very even temperament!


In 1876 at the age of 47, Mary Ann died at the house of a neighbor.  She had been ailing for sometime and when she was called away on business (even though she was very ill) she stopped at the neighbor’s house and there passed away.  Her husband Benjamin had passed away 10 years before.

My scrapbook page for her:
 photo mary-covingtons.jpg

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9 thoughts on “#14 Mary Ann Harllee ~ My Favorite Ancestor {52 Ancestors}

  1. Jonathan Covington

    Hello, cousin Aichele! This is Jonathan Covington, and Mary Ann is my third-great grandmother, too (I believe that makes us fourth cousins). I’m descended from your great, great grandfather’s brother Benjamin.

    Naturally, Mary Ann is also a favorite of mine! I too love telling stories and making up songs about anyone dear, changing the words to some familiar tune – – – or perhaps just letting the melody find its own way.

    My father would joke so much that often we couldn’t tell whether what he was saying was going to be serious or not. One of his games was to make up acronyms that had something to do with whatever was going on at the moment. They were usually pretty easy to guess. Another was to imagine the purpose of some unknown object. I remember what was in fact the cage for a light bulb (the kind you used to see in basketball gyms) that he told us was a helmet for pygmies who kept elephants. You could just never tell what was coming!

    Enjoyed your site. Keep up the good work!


    • mvillhauer

      Great to hear from you! Mary Ann definitely seems to have had a strong influence on subsequent generations. I love the story about your father making up funny stories too, there’s a definite light hardheartedness from this side of the family. Singing and music is a big part of our family. My girls both make up their own tunes or change the words to familiar songs as well. I’m so glad you took the time to comment. We’re super busy in the summer here but I do hope to get back into this blog in the fall/winter months. I have so many more ancestors who’s stories I want to share 🙂

      • Jonathan Covington

        Fantastic! Keep the kids singing.

        Incidentally, I reckoned wrong (silly me). I’m one generation closer to Mary Ann (she’s my great, great grandmother), so you and I are third cousins once removed. I’m delighted to hear that my third cousins twice removed have the song-and-story gene!

        [sung to the tune of My Country, Tis of Thee] “Isn’t it fun to sing? We’ll sing most anything. Come on, join in …”

        OK. When you get back to these blogs, I’ll be interested in what you may have found about Mary Ann’s grandfather Jacob James Barnes. From Harriet Pope’s portrait and a list of surnames, I’d wager that Jacob James is of Lumbee lineage, having had English ancestors rescued from Sir Walter Raleigh’s Lost Colony on Roanoke Island by kind-hearted indigenous Croatoan ancestors.

        Fascinating, huh? (Incidentally, Bucky Covington – the country singer – may well be our cousin, too.)

        Enjoy your summer, Aichele and family.

  2. mvillhauer

    Wow, that’s really interesting about the Roanoke colony. I hadn’t heard anything about that yet. I started looking into this some and am guessing that the possible Roanoke ancestor of Jacob James Barnes would be Dennis Barnes. I’m really curious about this and would love to hear what you have discovered! Thank you so much for the insight into this branch!

    • Jonathan Covington

      You’re ahead of me here, Aichele. I haven’t discovered Dennis Barnes yet. There perhaps may be a manifest for one of the ships that made the voyage in 1585. Might they possibly be on record somewhere?

      There would still remain a lot of speculation between the original colonists and Dennis himself.

      Here’s a crazy idea – farfetched, but nevertheless possible. What if a descendant in England were to compare DNA with one of us here? That would even reveal the indigenous part of us. Imagine that!

  3. mvillhauer

    Yeah, it’s really interesting for sure! I don’t have a family link from Jacob James Barnes to Dennis Barnes. I did find several websites that list names of those on the voyage including this one: http://www.lost-colony.com/namelist.html -and they all list Dennis Barnes in the 1585-86 run. The area is certainly right too as it sounds like many descendants of the Lumbee tribe live in Robeson Co, NC which is where the Barnes family in our tree is from.

    I have done my DNA test through ancestry.com and there is this site where it looks like you can upload your raw DNA to the test and Dennis Barnes is listed there too. I’ve started looking into how to submit my DNA to this site. Once the school year starts I’ll have more time to figure it all out and will certainly do this! I’m not sure if it would tell me anything definitively but it’s certainly worth a try. The website is here: https://www.familytreedna.com/public/LumbeeTribe/default.aspx?section=ycolorized

    Lots to think about for sure! This is really fascinating and a part of history I’m not super familiar with. I’d known about Roanoke and the possibility that the colonists were taken in by Native Americans but I didn’t know really anything beyond that. I’ll really start to focus on researching Jacob James Barnes’ family line now that’s for sure!

  4. Linda Wilson

    With what group did your Barns YDNA match? Ours is Group 9, and we have several Dennis Barnes in our line though none this far back.

    • mvillhauer

      I haven’t gotten that far yet. Did you do yours through the Lumbee Tribe section of Family Tree DNA?

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