Thursday, August 18, 2011

Emily C. Sims Moxley Sturkey

When Austin Smith Moxley died in 1855, he left a widow and five children in what was then Fayette County, Alabama but now is part of Lamar County.   His widow, Emily C. Sims, apparently was one tough lady, based on tales passed down by her great-grandchildren and others.  She is pictured above with two of her sons, Henry T. Moxley and Joseph D. Moxley, and some of her grandchildren.  The photograph was a wonderful find in the book by James J. Steward "A Crown Awaits", a biography about Luther A. Moxley, Henry's youngest son and Emily's grandson, who was a well-known leader in the Church of God of Prophecy from the 1920's until his death in 1979.

Based on the estimated ages of the young boys in the photograph, I'd say the photo was made about 1901 or 1902.   Henry's wife, Martha Arminta ("Mint" or "Mitz") Sibley, died August 13, 1900 of typhoid, and she is not pictured in the photograph.  Luther A. Moxley was born in 1893, and he doesn't appear to be over ten years old here.

 The head piece that Emily is wearing is one occasionally found in photographs of really old women.  I know nothing about fashion history, but I think these sort of hats or head coverings were popular a long time before this photograph was made!   Emily's great-grandchildren remember seeing both this photograph and their great-grandmother wearing the head covering, which they described as sort of a scarf with a bow right up on top.

Emily C. Sims (unknown at this time what the "C" stands for) was born in June 1826 in Alabama.  Her parents are not known, but she is connected in some way to Drury W. Sims who was in the area at the same time.   Emily's husband Austin had extended credit to Drury W. Sims, as indicated in probate proceedings.    Drury was born c 1800 so he would have been of the right age to be Emily's father, or perhaps he was a much older brother.  It should be noted that Emily named one of her sons Drury.   Emily consistently indicated in censuses that her parents were born in South Carolina, and census records for Drury W. Smith and his wife Elizabeth consistently indicate they were born in South Carolina.

After Emily was widowed in 1855, at the age of 29, she moved her children to Franklin County, Alabama, possibly to be near her family.   Drury W. Sims was enumerated in Franklin County in the 1840 census and in neighboring Marion County in the 1850 census.    Strangely enough, in the 1860 census, Emily "Moxley" was listed in the household of John A. "Stuckey" along with her five children.  Emily and John were not married - they did not marry until 1866 in Madison County, Tennessee.  John was a couple of years younger than Emily but apparently Emily outlived him by over twenty years.   His date and place of death are not known.   His last name has been found as both Stuckey and Sturkey, but Emily's grandchildren and great-grandchildren called her Grandma Sturkey.

Emily was apparently quite a character.    One of descendants was quoted as saying the "meanness" came from the Sturkeys - meaning her!

A story about Emily has been passed down in the family.   One of her sons (not known which one) was in trouble with the law for killing a man over in Freedom Hills near Russellville in Franklin County, Alabama.   When men came to her house looking for her son, they hid out underneath the house to eavesdrop.  Emily could hear the men under the floor boards and see them through the cracks in the floor.  Casually, she put on a kettle of water to boil as if to make coffee or tea.   When the water came to a boil, she took the kettle and poured it on the floor above where the men were hiding.  The men left and never came back.

I've looked long and hard for Emily and her husband in the 1870 census but without result.  In 1880, they are living in Cross County, Arkansas with her son Drury Moxley and granddaughter E. C. Haley.  By 1890, Emily was apparently widowed.  She was shown on the 1890 Itawamba County Tax List, Fulton voting precinct, Mrs. E. C. Sturkey.  In the 1900 census, Emily was living with her son, Henry, in the area of Bounds Crossroads; she was 73 years old and widowed.   In the 1910 census, Emily continued to be shown living in Henry's household.  

Moxley graves at Bounds Cemetery
Emily died between 1914 and 1920.  Her great grandchildren have recalled her death, remembering the loud breathing, heard all over the house, and then the silence when she died "in her sleep."   One referred to her loud breathing as a "death rattle."    

No grave marker has been found for Emily C. Sims Moxley Sturkey, but her great grandchildren, who remember when she died, tell us that she is buried at the cemetery at  "Bounds Crossroads" next to their Grandpa Henry.   The Moxley graves at Bounds Cemetery are surrounded by a brick border, but there is only one headstone within the plot, that of Henry and Martha Moxley that has the inscription "They were the sunshine of our home."  Others known to be buried in the Moxley family plot are Henry and Martha's sons, Granville, Addison and Melvin.

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