Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Samuel and Permelia McKay

This photograph has been around for a while, and I don't know why I haven't thought about posting it before now.  My husband Mike obtained it long before I started doing genealogy research, and the couple was identified to him as Samuel and Permelia McKay, his GGG grandparents.  The younger man standing behind Samuel and Permelia was identified as their son Bill.   Lucretia Scott, a McKay descendant from Oklahoma who is now deceased, shared the photograph with my husband several years ago.

The McKays moved to northern Mississippi from South Carolina, probably sometime between 1840 and 1845.  Samuel, who was the son of William and Jane McKay, was born about 1826 in South Carolina.   Just where in South Carolina is unknown at this point.  Samuel's father William was born about 1788 in Ireland while his mother Jane, maiden name unknown, was born about 1794 in South Carolina.

Samuel McKay married Permelia Caroline Ables on January 21, 1847 in Itawamba County.  Permelia was the daughter of Joseph Ables and Mary Patton, and she was an Alabama native, born about 1827.  Her sister, Mahala, married Michael McKay, an older brother of Samuel.   The Ables surname can be found as Abels, Abel and Able.  It is thought that Joseph was born in Abbeville District, South Carolina and was the son of William, born 1781.   Joseph and Mary left Itawamba County and moved to Winn Parish, Louisiana along with others of their family, and several of their descendants can be found there.

Samuel received a land patent issued July 22, 1851 for 159 acres located in the Southwest Quarter of Section 27, Township 7, Range 10 East.  Interestingly, this is very close to where his descendant Vera Mae Mills Holcomb lives today in  the hills of northeastern Itawamba County.    The 1850 census indicates that Samuel and Permelia were living next door to her parents and that Samuel owned real estate valued at $80.  His occupation was listed as "miller."   The family apparently moved from this location because ten years later, in the 1860 census, Samuel and Permelia with their six children were enumerated as being part of a district that included the post office at Guntown in what was then still Itawamba County.  Likely, they were living near Marietta in present-day Prentiss County.  

Children listed in the 1860 household of Samuel and Permelia were:

William F., age 12
Joseph, age 10
Talitha C., age 8
Martha J., age 6
Mary E., age 3
Minerva C., age 7 mos.

As far as I know, these were the only children of Samuel and Permelia.

By 1870, the McKay family were living in Posey County, Indiana.  Yes, Indiana!   It is thought that perhaps the McKays did not support the Confederate cause and moved to a neutral territory to avoid the conflict.  Posey County is located at the southernmost tip of Indiana, just across from the Kentucky state line, and it would have been one of the closest areas to reach if one was wanting to get out of the Confederate South.   Many families of Northeast Miss. and Northwest Ala. believed that succession from the United States was unnecessary and thus did not support the subsequent war; those that felt this way were often harassed (or worse!) by supporters of the Confederancy.   Additionally, Samuel and Permelia had two sons that could have been conscripted into the Confederate army if they had stayed in Mississippi.   

The area around Marietta, where the McKays were most likely living before the Civil War and where they returned to after the war, was a hotbed of activity during the war.  Corinth fell into the hands of Union troops in the fall of 1862 after being under siege since April when the Battle of Shiloh was fought a few miles away.  The retreating Confederate army had troops scattered throughout northeastern Mississippi, and the towns of Marietta and nearby Baldwyn received a lot of traffic as troops moved between Confederate bases at Ripley and Iuka.  In addition to the Confederate troops who took needed supplies from the local residents, Union soldiers also made scavenging raids down from Corinth and Tennessee.  It was an awful time in our region's history.

Whatever the reason for Samuel and Permelia's move to Indiana, the decision was an important one, genealogically speaking, for Indiana is where their daughter Talitha met her future husband, William Orville Mills.

Several years ago when my husband began asking his great-uncles about the Mills ancestry, he found out that his great-great grandfather "Arvil" Mills was from "Wabash" in Illinois and rode a "flatboat of logs" to Mississippi.  When I picked up with the story a few years ago, this was all we knew.  Imagine our surprise to find a 24 year old "Orville" Mills living with the Samuel McKay family in the 1870 census of Posey County, Indiana.   They were living just a stone's throw across the Wabash River from Illinois and only a few miles from the Ohio River across from the state of Kentucky.  You can probably surmise that the trip to Mississippi two or three years later involved a log flatboat.   Amazing where bits and pieces of family lore can lead you!

The McKay family, along with Orville Mills, returned "home" to Mississippi around 1876, settling again in the area around Marietta.  The 1880 census shows Samuel and Permelia with a five year old grandson, Thomas, born in Indiana, in their household in Itawamba County.  In 1889, at the age of 67, Samuel moved again, with all of his children -- except Talitha McKay Mills who remained with her husband and family in Mississippi -- to Texas.  A wagon train of several families in the Marietta area made the trip, including Adairs, Shuberts, Tablers, Gatlins, and others.  Descendants of the McKay families that moved west indicate that Samuel and Permelia went to Caldwell County in southern Texas where they lived for only a couple of years before moving yet again, this time to Indian Territory in what is now Love County, Oklahoma, over three hundred miles away.

In the History of Love County, Oklahoma Lucretia Scott wrote that "Sam" and Permelia died in Thackerville, Love County.  Sam died after an apparent heart attack following a round of cutting wood, sometime between 1894 and 1900.  He was supposedly the first person buried in Mt. Zion Cemetery, located across the road from his wood-cutting activities.  Permelia was later buried beside him.  Neither of their graves are marked with tombstones.  The cemetery has been described as having a beautiful  country setting, atop a hill, surrounded with the sounds of cows mooing and birds singing.   Seems like a peaceful and well-deserved resting place for a couple with South Carolina roots, an Itawamba County marriage, and eventful lives that took them from Mississippi to Indiana, back to Mississippi, and then west to Texas and finally,  Oklahoma.

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