Educating All Parents To Ensure The Future Of Our Republic

Oak Duke Norton III, the Origin of the Name

I don't know how many times I've heard it, but on almost a daily basis it seems someone makes a comment about my name. Occasionally I get asked the follow up question about where it came from. So here's the brief story about how I finally tracked down what I think are the closest correct stories.

All my life I grew up thinking the origin of the name was along the lines of a certain story, but I couldn't identify the correct genealogical path to have the story completely make sense. I had an ancestor named Oak Staves Duke, but the problem was, he wasn't a direct ancestor and I didn't know where he fit into the picture exactly, but I knew I was named for him.

So a few years ago, I had an idea that perhaps since I'd only been able to find one reference to Oak Staves Duke in an old census, perhaps his family had liked the name enough to at least pass down Oak Duke as a name to descendants. Following that train of thought I found Oak Duke IV a direct descendant of Oak Staves Duke. I learned that he had a son Oak Duke V. Oak the IV, put me in touch with his father Douglas Duke who was the grandson of Oak Staves Duke and the son of Laurence Duke.

Oak Staves Duke and his wife Florence Ellwell had a son and named him Oak Duke Jr. but he died a short time later.

Oak's son Lawrence then decided to name a son Oak Duke III following a practice of continuing the numerical count across the generation as though Oak III was a direct descendant.

Douglas Duke, another son of Lawrence and grandson to Oak Staves Duke named his son Oak Duke IV because his brother Oak Duke III didn't have any sons to name Oak.

Oak Duke IV, the person I found in my search mentioned above, has a son named Oak Duke V and shared this first story with me about the origin of Oak Staves Duke's name.

Story #1, the more entertaining version

Oak Duke IV related that his grandfather Lawrence (son of Oak Staves Duke) loved to tell stories and that "some of the most logical, seemingly sensible stories were later proved to be fabrications, and some of the wild colorful, least credible ones were true. So since none of us were there; I should preface the story with, 'My grandfather told me the origin of the name.' And then put a footnote at the end, 'But my father didn't believe it to be true.'"

The story goes like this:

In 1869, William Duke was the owner of a lumber mill in Scio, New York. His wife had had a son and as a workaholic he had spent the last month practically living at the lumber mill and hadn't named their son. His wife finally came down to the yard one day and with some degree of anger informed him that the next two words out of his mouth were going to be what they named their son.

Just then, a worker across the yard hollered to William asking what the next shipment coming in was to be. William yelled, "Oak staves" and his wife said, "that's his name!"

William Duke and his wife Elizabeth Cockayne also had a daughter named Emmer Duke. Emmer married Lucius Emery Norton. Lucius and Emmer named their son Lucius Jr.   Lucius Jr. liked his cousin's name, Oak Staves Duke, and named his son Oak Duke Norton who is my grandfather. My father is Oak Duke Norton Jr. and I am Oak Duke Norton III.

Story #2, the more likely version

Douglas, the grandson of Oak Staves Duke, related to me that his understanding of the story was that William Duke made a lot of money on Oak barrel staves and just decided to name his son after what made him a lot of money. Not as flashy as his wife threatening him, but probably more accurate.

Story #3, a new twist

I was recently in touch with another relative of the Oak Staves Duke clan (George Duke) and he said the story he heard was that Oak got his name when William got a big contract for oak staves and he named his son in celebration for getting the contract.  He then said as to which one is true, just pick the one you like.  A day later he sent me this information:

"I have been pouring over my documentation and found substantiation to the source of your name in :

"The Blackmans of Knight's Creek: Ancestors and Descendents of George and Maria (Smith) Blackman"

Compiled by Henry James Young Of Carlisle, Pa, 1977.

I have a Xerox copy of the book that was given to "aunt Char from her niece Kandy in 1984".

This is an exhaustive genealogical work of over 200 pages.  Below is the exact excerpt.

'Oak Staves Duke, b 12 March 1869,d Dec 22 1928:  his name commemorated a notable business transaction which his father completed at the time of the boy's birth.' 

So there you have it. A business transaction. I'll leave the other stories up for historical purposes.

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