Thursday, April 30, 2009

Spring Renovations

Many generations have stopped to refresh themselves with a drink from the cold waters of the natural spring at Fessie and Beck's. After the farm got electricity in the 1950s, a pump was added to the spring to allow the water to be pumped into the Pennington household. When Fessie and Beck visited us in Greenville, they always brought jugs of water from the spring with them, saying that they just couldn't stand to drink the tap water provided by the city of Greenville. Years later, the spring got a reputation for its amazing powers of fertility. Rumor was that a drink or two of the spring water would cause women to become pregnant.

Other than a regular cleansing of the well, usually on the hottest day of the year when some unlucky person got the honor of descending into the cold water to remove any debris, the spring has remained pretty much the same throughout the years. Until recently. Last fall, Chip Mills undertook a renovation of the environs of the spring and made several improvements. The top photo was taken a few years ago while the bottom two photos were recently made and show the improvements. The well cistern is located behind the white door (the door will be sporting a stained glass window once the right one is found) and a copper tube funnels the water into the trough which is lined with bricks. The water from the tubing spills onto a grist mill stone salvaged from the nearby English Branch ("the creek") over thirty years ago. As Chip will tell you, it is still a work in progress. WWFS? What Would Fessie Say!

Happy Birthday, Chip! Thanks for your passion!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Fessie and Beck visit the USS Alabama

In 1966, Fessie and Beck Pennington toured the USS Alabama during a visit to the Alabama and Mississippi coast. If you haven't read about Fessie's adventures aboard the USS Reno during World War II, you can start here to read about Fessie's first adventure in the Pacific. Subsequent posts about Fessie and the USS Reno can be found here (kamikaze attack), here (torpedo attack) and here (riding out a typhoon in a crow's nest).

Unlike the Reno, which was a light cruiser, the USS Alabama was a battleship. However, both war ships participated in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Since the Reno was sold for scrap in 1962, touring the Alabama was the next best thing for Fessie.

Fessie visited the USS Alabama once again before he died, this time during the 1980s in the company of his son-in-law, grandson, and my husband. He enjoyed retelling the tales of his adventures, showing everyone the bunks in the sleeping quarters, the mess halls, the brig etc. I don't think he climbed up into the crow's nest, however, to relive his typhoon adventure!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

John A. Dulaney and Willie Lee Woodard

John Alfred Dulaney married Willie Lee Woodard on November 30, 1883.

John Alfred was named after his two grandfathers: John Dulaney and Alfred Aven Senter. His parents were James M. Dulaney and Mary Elizabeth "Bettie" Senter.

Willie Lee can be found in the 1870 census as a three year old female "Lee" in the household of Jesse Woodard. The 1880 census indicates that twelve year old "Willie L." was the granddaughter of Jesse Woodard. Her parents are not known to me, but perhaps someone can help me out as to her family. Jesse, Willie's grandfather, was born about 1808 in North Carolina.

John and Willie had four children, but only two lived to adulthood, Clifford and Earnest.

1910 Census
Itawamba County, Mississippi
Beat 5, Fulton-Tupelo Road
John A. Dulaney 49 MS SC MS, married 27 years
Willie L. 44 MS MS MS, 4 children, 2 living
Earnest J. 21 MS son
next door:
Clifford A. Dulaney 23 MS MS MS
Hassie M. 21 MS MS MS

Photo courtesy of Kenneth Adams.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Pick-Up Trucks

Here are three pictures of at least three of the pick-up trucks owned by James "Pee Wee" Robinson through the years. In the first photograph, my brother Kirk and I have just gotten off the school bus in the spring of 1970. The green pick-up may have belonged to my grandfather before he died, or maybe Daddy bought the pick-up truck after we moved to Fulton from Greenville. The next photo is of Ole Red from the 1980s. Looks like there was quite a snow that winter, probably 1988. The last photograph is of an Orange Datsun pick-up, and you can just see the William Winter bumper sticker attached to the bumper so this dates the truck to the late 1970s and early 1980s. The Datsun wound up in the hands of my grandfather Fessie Pennington after his own pick-up trunk was run over by a train, but that's a story for another day.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Clem Conwill grave

Clem Conwil
was Bornd
Jan. 19, 1892
June 9, 1893

As you may be aware by now, I have a penchant for homemade grave markers. Pictured above is a homemade marker located in Burnt Fields Cemetery in Itawamba County. The Itawamba genforum site indicates that Clem Conwill was the son of Jasper Lafayette Conwill and Mary Ann Fowler. Most of Clem's family are buried at Salem Cemetery.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Baltimore, Maryland

Although most of my kinfolk stayed in the South, not all did. My grandmother, Pearl Cofield Robinson, had a brother who went North and stayed. John Louis Cofield joined the army in the 1920s, and his service took him to the Baltimore area where he met his future bride, Christine Wittkouski. Their son, Richard, indicated to me that he thought his father also spent time in Canada and Detroit, Michigan.

The photo above was taken in the early 1950s from the Cofield family's apartment on Lombard Street in Baltimore. Richard still lives in Baltimore, and his parents are buried there in Louden Park Cemetery.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Rachel Mills and Hoyle Bennett

Rachel was the daughter of Jesse Mills and Onady Randolph. She was born July 20, 1908 near the Marietta community along the Itawamba-Prentiss border and was likely named for her grandmother, Onady's mother, Rachel, who died when Onady was a young girl. Rachel married Hoyle Bennett about 1929, and they had nine children. Rachel and Hoyle are buried in Jones Chapel Cemetery outside of Nettleton, both died in 1986 within months of each other.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

School Days 1947

In 1947, James "PeeWee" Robinson completed his coursework at Fulton Grammar School and was promoted to the high school. Note the date on his certificate - April 10th - school let out early in those days. Of course, they probably didn't start school the first week of August either! Click on the Class Roll for a larger image.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Jerome Wilemon's funeral

Jerome Will Wilemon
buried Mt. Pleasant Baptist Cemetery
Itawamba County, Mississippi

Monday, April 20, 2009

Thomas J. Mitchell, casualty of World War II

Tom and Lizzie Lee

Photo of Tom Mitchell, 1942, taken during basic training at Camp Adair in Oregon

Thomas J. Mitchell was 27 years old when he was killed on the island of Okinawa in 1945. A yellowed clipping from the Memphis Commercial Appeal newspaper indicates that Sergeant Mitchell was killed during combat on April 6, 1945 in Okinawa, having fought and survived in the Battle of Philippines in 1944. He was a tank fighter. Tom was the husband of my great-aunt, Lizzie Lee Davis, and the son of Charles L. and Annie Mitchell. Tom and Lizzie Lee had one son, James Charles Mitchell, who makes his home in Itawamba County.

The publication Itawamba's Fighting Men indicates that Tom was killed by Japanese machine fire and was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart for his service.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Henry Davis Dulaney

You just know that this photo has a story to go along with it. Unfortunately, I don't know the story. Wish I did, but I don't. That's they way it is with several old photos in my collection, yours too I'm sure.

What are the crowd of spectators on the porch looking at, besides the man and his horse (mule?)? Is that a hat the man is holding above the animal's ears? Was the man heading somewhere, or just getting back? He is obviously dressed in nice clothes, not work-day clothes. Perhaps this is a Sunday afternoon gathering? A special occasion?

One thing that we do know is that the man is Henry Davis Dulaney. Dorothy Lauderdale Wilemon shared this photo of her grandfather recently with Don Dulaney.

Henry Davis Dulaney was married to Minnie Mae Whitehead in 1894 in Itawamba County, and they had nine children. In addition to their own children, Henry and Minnie raised the three sons of Henry's sister, Effie Dulaney Robinson, who died in 1911.

Itawamba County, Mississippi
Beat 5, Fulton precinct
Henry D. Dulaney 58 MS AL MS farmer
Minnie Dulaney 42 MS MS MS
Charlie Dulaney 21 MS son
Will Robinson 19 MS foster son
Walter Dulaney 14 MS son
Noonan Dulaney 12 MS son
Bessie 8 MS daughter
Nina 6 MS daughter
Birgis 5 MS son
Coy 3 MS daughter

Not listed in the above census record were daughters Sarah and Janie Etress who were married and in their own households in 1920. Also not included were Edward and Henry Robinson, foster sons, who were living nearby with their families.

Henry was the son of Henry Dulaney and Mary Jane Priddy, and the grandson of early Itawamba settlers Alfred Dulaney and Rachel McNiece.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Itawambians by the Mighty Mississippi

When we lived in Greenville, Mississippi during the 1960s, family would occasionally cross the state from Itawamba County for a visit. The above photo was taken during one such visit. Pictured in front of the Mississippi River are Jo Ann Pennington Frederick, Betty Jean Pennington Robinson, and Rebecca Davis Pennington. The little girl in the photo is my favorite female cousin Vicky Lynn Cowley.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Spring 1943

James Mitchell is perched atop a mule at his grandfather J.K. Davis's farm in Spring 1943. James is the son of Lizzie Lee Davis and Tom Mitchell.

At the time this photograph was made, James Kelly and Queenie V. Davis were living at the old Burdine place in Peaceful Valley.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

English Branch

Growing up, my brother and I looked forward to visits during the summer to our Pennington grandparents' home in Peaceful Valley. Their farm provided us with many opportunities for interesting play, not the least of which was the creek that ran through the Pennington homestead. The cold, clear waters of the shallow creek was an invitation for us, along with our cousins, to splash and play. We spent many hours digging and damming the waters of the creek, all under the watchful eye of Mamaw Beck. It wasn't until recently that I became aware that "the creek" actually had a name.

English Branch is the formal name for our little creek, named after the English family who were early settlers of the area, Samuel Lewis English, and his wife Hannah Hall English, pictured below. This image of the couple was found in the files at the Itawamba County Historical Society.

This past Easter Sunday the remains of an old grist mill, established by Mr. English along the waters of the creek that bears his name, were discovered by a couple of persistent and determined Pennington descendants, Chip Mills and Steve Wardlaw. It was nearly thirty years ago, in a project overseen by Fessie Pennington, that a grist mill stone was pulled out of the creek not far from where the remains of the mill were found. It took a John Deere tractor and a lot of effort to get the stone out of the creek that summer day, but the location of the actual mill continued to remain a mystery until Easter Sunday.

Below: wooden boards and pegs used in the construction of the mill.

Above: Chip (left) and Steve examine the remains of the mill. It is believed that yellow poplar may have been used to construct the mill. The logs appear to have been hewn with an adze, a tool similar to a hoe, that was commonly used to square up logs. One of the logs had been bowled out, likely used to catch corn meal.

My father is pictured above in a photo taken with the grist mill stone that was found and removed from the creek about thirty years ago. The stone is three feet across and about fifteen inches thick. And very heavy. Today, the stone has been incorporated, courtesy of Chip Mills, into the waters of a natural spring that flows out of a nearby hillside.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Easter in the Valley

Peaceful Valley, that is. We spent Easter Sunday with extended family at the Pennington homestead in Itawamba County. Our family is in that in-between stage. The most recent crop of children have grown up, well past the egg-hunting stage, and no little children have come along to take their place. Since we have no young children in the family (yet), egg hunting and other Easter games have been put on hold for a while, however, that didn't keep a couple of the older "children" from playing in the creek.

I have to say that it was a productive afternoon playing in the creek. About three o'clock, we were summoned to a location in the creek about 300 yards behind the house. You can tune in tomorrow to find out what was discovered!

In the meantime, here are some photographs from the day.

We even had an Easter-decorated coconut cake compliments of Aunt Jo. It was nice to see the family tradition continue, and I'm hopeful that one of the younger generation will keep it up. Pictured above are Beck's three daughters, Brenda, Jean and Jo.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Moxley Schoolhouse c1922

Moxley Schoolhouse was located in northeastern Itawamba County, and although I don't know much about the school, I believe that it was started by Henry T. Moxley, my husband's GGGgrandfather, in the late 1800s. If there is anyone that has more information about the schoolhouse or the Moxley family, I would be interested in hearing from them. Henry T. Moxley was born in 1845 in what was then Fayette County, Alabama. The 1850 census indicates that Henry's father, Austin S. Moxley, was a schoolteacher.

I appreciate Ricky Beasley sharing the above photo with Don Dulaney.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Charity H. Loyd, Family Matriarch

Happy Birthday, Charity!

Regular readers of this blog may remember previous posts about the Loyd family. The matriarch of the Alabama and Mississippi Loyds was Charity Loyd who was newly widowed when she packed up her nine children and her worldly possessions in Tennessee and left for Alabama, settling around 1842 in the Pine Springs community of what was then Marion County. Quite an amazing thing for her to do, in my opinion, considering she left behind the safety net of her mother and several brothers. I believe that Charity must have been a strong woman, well-loved and well-respected by her family. Many of her descendants were named after her, but beyond her name as a legacy she also left her descendants with a can-do spirit and attitude. From my research of this family of Loyds, I've discovered that they were an adventuresome lot with many interesting characters. The females particularly were ahead of their time, serving as postmasters, teachers, and 'sales ladies' in the early 1900s.

Charity's mother, also named Charity, was an independent woman as well. Like her daughter, Charity Payne was widowed at a young age. Land deed records in Lincoln County, Tennessee indicate she purchased a couple of tracts of land there, a 54 acre tract in 1823 and a 10 acre tract in 1833. In addition, the probate records include references to Charity Payne buying items at estate sales such as "17 head geese and ganders" and "1 spinning wheel."

Old records tell wonderful stories, but sometimes you have to 'listen' carefully to what they are telling you and look beyond your direct lines to gather a 'feel' for the family.

Charity Loyd died in 1858 in Alabama, one year before her mother Charity Payne died in Tennessee. Wonder if the two ever saw each other again after daughter Charity moved away? Wonder if they have any idea of the impact they had on later generations of Loyds? Wonder what they would think of their great-great-great granddaughters today? Wonder if the Charities would have been professors or accountants or lawyers today?

Charity Loyd is buried in the Pine Springs Cemetery in Lamar County. Her grave marker, pictured above, was made by one of her potter sons. At some point, the pottery marker was encased in concrete to provide protection and stability. The verse on the marker reads:

A Mother reposes underneath this sod,
A Mother to memory dear, and dear to God,
Rejoice, yet shed a sympathizing tear,
Our Angel Mother, lies buried here.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter

Fessie and Beck
Easter c1965
Miss you and your cakes

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Beck's Special Easter Cakes

Beck was known for her coconut cakes, and they were among her most-requested desserts. Easter just wasn't Easter without one of Beck's decorated coconut cakes., and when the family gathered at her house to celebrate the holiday with food and egg hunts, you could be sure that she would have one - or two - of the cakes on hand to please the crowd. Children especially loved the decorated cakes but grown men have been known to break line for their slice of Beck's moist cake.

Above: Jelly beans and a chocolate Easter bunny were favorite decorations for Beck's Easter coconut cakes.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Ironwood Bluff Bridge

The current iron bridge over the Old Tombigbee River at Ironwood Bluff dates back to 1922 and is one of our county's architectural treasures. A contract was awarded in October 1921 for the bridge's construction with a deadline given of June 1, 1922 for its completion. The Vincennes Bridge Company of Indiana was the lowest and best bidder (and only bidder!) with a grand sum of $11,640.

The bridge at Ironwood Bluff was authorized by a special act of Congress in February 1911 as part of legislation aimed at bridging and protecting navigable waters of the United States. Why was Ironwood Bluff selected as the site for the bridge in Itawamba County? I do not know and can only speculate. The bridge over the Tombigbee River at Fulton was finished in 1907, and I imagine that there was a push to locate a bridge in the southern part of the county. Such a bridge would provide the residents in southern Itawamba County and northern Monroe County better access to the emerging markets as well as the railroad in Tupelo.

Ironwood Bluff was a community established along the Tombigbee River in the days before there were roads and settlers depended upon the river for travel and commerce. Although Ironwood Bluff never really developed into an important trade center like its northern counterpart, Van Buren, the area was once home to several large farms and even had a boarding school located there, Henry Stegall's "Ironwood Bluff Young Ladies Boarding School." William Price Standifer built a large antebellum mansion at Ironwood Bluff.

It is believed that the present bridge over the Old Tombigbee River at Ironwood Bluff is the only bridge ever built at the site. This point in the river was not very deep and thus easily forded. If there was ever a ferry in existence, it probably wasn't a regular one.

View of bridge from the north

Underneath bridge, view from northeast shore

South side of bridge, eastern approach

View of truss from eastern end

The photographs above were found on the Library of Congress website and are part of the Historic American Engineering Record collection at the Library of Congress. [Bridges of the Upper Tombigbee River Valley, Tombigbee Valley vicinity; Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, HAER MS, 44-COLUM.V,3] The photographs were noted to have been taken by Sarcone Photograph, Columbus, Miss., September 1978.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Three Friends on the Porch

Rebecca Davis Pennington is pictured to the right in the above photo with her sister-in-law, Grace Brasfield Pennington, and her cousin, Billy Davis.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

John Denton Green, M.D.

John Denton Green was the son of Elizabeth Caroline Robinson and her husband, Jacob Green. He was an Itawamba native who practiced medicine at Smithville in Monroe County and Brooksville in Noxubee County, Missisippi. After his death in 1947, his body was brought back to Itawamba County and buried at Mt. Pleasant Methodist Church near where he was born.

John married Verna Cowden, daughter of William C. Cowden and Mattie A. Harmon. They raised one daughter, Mattie E.

World War I Draft Registration Card
September 12, 1918
Dr. John Denton Green
Brooksville, Noxubee County, Mississippi
DOB: October 18, 1879
Occupation: Physician, self-employed
Nearest relative: Mrs. Verna Green
Physical description: Medium height, slender build, brown eyes, dark hair

1930 Census
Noxubee County, Mississippi
John D. Green 50 MS AL AL physician, gen. practice age at first marriage: 25
Vernia 45 MS MS MS age at first marriage: 20
Mattie E. 5 MS MS MS

John's mother, Elizabeth Caroline Green, was my great-grandfather's sister. If anyone has photos of Elizabeth or any of her family, I would love to hear from you. John's siblings were Sarah Jane, Texanna, Rachael, Moorman, and Mary Maud.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Leonard Napoleon Robinson family

The Leonard Robison family Roy, Leonard, Jetta, Evie and Etma

Leonard was the brother of Gideon, my great-grandfather. There were three Robinson sons born to George Emerson Robinson and his wife Charlotte A. Purnell before her untimely death in 1873, with Leonard being the youngest son, born in 1871.

The Robinson surname has been found spelled variously as Robison, Roberson and Robertson - all from the same common ancestor. Leonard spelled his last name as Robison, but his brothers' and father's graves indicate a spelling of Robinson. His brother Floyd's first wife's tombstone indicates that she was the wife of F. M. "Roberson." In my great-grandfather's Bible, his surname was spelled Robison. Spelling matters not however, as we are all kinfolk.

Leonard married Evie Trulove Spearman, daughter of John Franklin Spearman and Nancy Emeline Stone, on August 4, 1894 in Itawamba County. They had four children:

Eva, born 1895 and died in 1897;
Jetta, born 1897 and died 1985, married (1) Claude Reynolds and (2) Fletcher Knox Bethay;
Etma, born 1902 and died 1991, marrid Sam S. Cooper; and
Roy Orman, born 1904 and died 1988, married Vera Smith.

1910 Census
Itawamba County, Mississippi
Leonard N. Robison 39 MS AL AL farmer, married 15 years
Evvy T. 34 AL TN AL 4 children, 3 living
Jetta 12 MS
Etma 8 MS
Roy 6 MS

Monday, April 6, 2009

Easter Past

Ma Davis is pictured on the porch
of her house with two of her great-grandchildren.
Looks like Tim and Vicky are getting ready
to go hunting for Easter eggs.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Napoleon Bonaparte Johnson - the rest of the story

Napoleon Bonaparte Johnson died an early, tragic death in 1931 when his foot became tangled in his mule's gear, dragging him about a mile. A previous post appeared on this blog last month about Bonie Johnson and his wife Texie. The accompanying article to the right, provided by Itawamba historian Bob Franks, indicates that Bonie - as he was called - returned to the field to plow following dinner one June evening. He rode his mule back to the field, and when he jumped from the mule his foot became tangled in the mule's gear. This frightened the mule who immediately took off, dragging Bonie along with him.

In a moving tribute to her deceased husband a year later, Texie Wheeler Johnson wrote "his precious form is now smoldering beneath the clay near the little church he loved so well, but his memory will ever be alive to me." She continued, "He left the children at their work, telling them he would soon return. Little did he dream that he would never see them again. Our little boy, Hubert, says the last thing papa said to him was, 'Plow good son.'"

Dear Bonie's face we'll see here no more
But when the toils of this life are o''er,
We all shall meet on that bright shore.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

John T. Thornton and Nancy Elizabeth Griffin

John T. Thornton married Bettie Griffin a couple of days before Christmas in 1874 . They had been married 64 years to the day when he died on December 23, 1938 at his home in the Sandy Springs community. Their daughter Nora was my husband's great-grandmother and bride of Fisher Johnson.

John's father was Green B. Thornton, a Civil War veteran who moved his family to the area along the Prentiss-Itawamba county line after the war. I've been unable to locate Green's parents, and his name has alternately been found as Greenberry and Greenbriar. Complicating matters further, there are only two census records for Green and they both give conflicting information as to his place of birth - one indicates Georgia while the other shows that he was born in Alabama.

Nancy Elizabeth Griffin was the daughter of James C. Griffin and Sarah E. "Sallie" Evans. James and Sallie were both South Carolina natives who lived near Sandy Springs in northern Itawamba County.

After their marriage, John and Bettie lived in Prentiss County, but sometime before 1887 they moved across the head waters of the Tombigbee River to the Mud Creek area of Itawamba County. This was rather a short move in terms of distance, but the swampy area that separated the two locations created a a natural barrier to travel. It was because of this move that daughter Nora became acquainted with her future husband, Fisher Johnson, son of John Norman "Jack" Johnson and Angeline Amandaville Bowen.

John and Bettie raised thirteen natural children:

James L.
Martha F.
Carrie Lee
Charles Oscar
Mary Madeline
William Paskel
Thomas J.
Lillie Mae
Ira Green

In addition to the thirteen children listed above, John and Bettie raised a foster daughter, Dewdrop.

John died in 1938. Bettie died in 1952 and was buried next to her husband in the Sandy Springs Cemetery. Bettie was 96 years old at her death. Her mother, Sallie Evans Griffin, lived to be 90 years old, and her daughter, Nora Thornton Johnson, lived to be 88 years old. Together, those three women's lives spanned 145 years, from 1834 to 1979.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Clayton Sisters

Ma and her sisters
Left to right: Queenie Victoria, Amanda Jane, and Fannie Bell

These three sisters were the daughters of Nathaniel Merida Clayton and Martha A. Bowen. They lived most of their lives south of Fulton around Tilden, and all three of them are buried along with their husbands in Union Grove Cemetery at Tilden.

Amanda Jane, or Mandy, was the oldest daughter. She married Holley Newton Gray, a farmer and justice of the peace, and they had two daughters. Mandy was 85 years old when she died in 1960.

Fannie Bell was the next oldest daughter, and she married Adolphus Riggs. They had nine children. She died in 1962 when she was 84 years old.

Queenie, my great-grandmother, married James Kelly Davis, and they had eight children including my grandmother Rebecca Davis Pennington. Queenie died in 1974 at the age of 90.

Other sisters included Emma who married first, B. F. Umfress, and second, Jim Williams; Nancy who married Nathan Welch; and Annie who married Walter C. Jamison. These three sisters moved away from Itawamba County. Emma died in Winfield, Alabama while Nancy died in Chattanooga, Tennessee and Annie in Hill County, Texas. Two other daughters of Nathaniel and Martha - Minerva and Alta - died at an early age.

In addition, there were a couple of half-sisters, Elzora and Jeannette, who were daughters of Nathaniel and his second wife, Mattie Reed. Jeannette died at a young age, but Elzora married Guy Clifton and lived to be 96 years old.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Romance, Arkansas

A favorite pasttime of mine, as you might have guessed, is visiting cemeteries. While visiting cemeteries close to home can be fun and rewarding, the real challenge is in seeking out and finding cemeteries in another state or in an area that you are not familiar with. Mike and I have traipsed from the Carolinas to Georgia and across to Tennessee and Arkansas in the past several years in search of burial grounds of our ancestors.

On the way home from a family reunion a couple of years, we detoured through to Romance, Arkansas in search of some McKay family members who were buried there. Mike's great-great grandmother was Talitha McKay Mills. In the 1880s several McKay families left Itawamba County and headed west, crossing the Mississippi River by ferry boat at Helena, Arkansas, and working at farms along the way. Talitha's parents and brothers were among those that left Itawamba and eventually wound up in Love County, Oklahoma. Talitha's uncle, John Archie McKay, made it as far as Romance in White County, Arkansas, where he and his sons settled.

The Romance Cemetery can be seen in the distance. Although the
cemetery is fairly large, there is not much left to the town of Romance today.

John Archie McKay died about 1920 and was buried in Romance Cemetery, his grave marked with a field stone. His wife Belinda was buried there as well, her grave marked with a white cross-shaped rock that was hauled up by wagon from the creek that runs behind the cemetery. Other McKays are buried in the cemetery as well, with conventional markers.

John McKay and Belinda Conner were married in Itawamba County in February 1870. Belinda was the daughter of William and Martha Conner whose family is found living at Ryans Well in the 1860 census. Both John and Belinda had previous marriages, John to Margaret Montgomery and Belinda to Elias M. Lynn.

Belinda Conner McKay's gravemarker

Romance Cemetery sign - note name of Harvey McKay on sign!

You never know where you will find an Itawamba connection! There were quite a few in Romance, Arkansas.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Agnes Robinson Gray

Agnes Mae Robinson was the daughter of George Emerson Robinson and his second wife, Virginia Ann Downum. Agnes was my great-great aunt, half-sister to my great-grandfather Gideon.

Agnes was born September 29, 1881 in Itawamba County. She was married to George E. Gray, and they had two sons: Edwin Eugene Gray and George Casey Gray.

I found George and Agnes in the 1910 census living on Columbus Road in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama where George's occupation was given as "teamster at saw mill." They also lived for a time in Florida. Although my great-grandfather wanted to move to Texas, my great-grandmother Thusie countered with wanting to move to Florida after listening to her sister-in-law Agnes talk glowingly about that state. Thankfully, Gid and Thusie stayed put in Itawamba County. And eventually, Agnes and George returned to their home county which is where I found them in the 1930 census, living on Bankhead Highway.

Agnes died in 1945 and was buried at Mt. Pleasant Methodist Cemetery near Tremont in Itawamba County. This photograph of Agnes was among similar treasures found in Thusie's trunk.