I've posted quite a bit in recent weeks about the Bowen family, in large part due to a recent connection made with some fellow Bowen descendants and cousins. Thanks to them, I've been able to fill in gaps in my family database and learn some very interesting information.
Many of you are familiar with the fact that Elvis Presley, although born in Lee County, has several generations of ancestry in Itawamba County. Lots of Itawamba folks claim kin, and are kin, to Elvis. My husband is related to Elvis through two families (four if you count the maternal lines, and you should) - the Hoods and the Warrens. Minnie Mae Hood (Elvis' grandmother) was a second cousin to Pearl Johnson Dulaney, Mike's grandmother. Minnie Mae, who married Jessie "Dee" Presley, and Grandma Pearl shared a common ancestor in Joshua H. Hood, and his wife Margaret Johnson, who came to Itawamba County after 1850 from St. Clair County, Alabama. The other shared connection with Elvis is via the Warren family, through S. John Warren as the common ancestor. Just through the Hoods and Warrens alone, many Itawambians can claim kinship to Elvis.
Some of you are familiar with the fact that Rosella Presley, Elvis' great-grandmother, never married, yet had nine children. (Odd to think about it, but Elvis really has (had?!) no Presley Y-DNA. Many believe his Y-DNA would show that he was a Wallace.) Here is the rest of the story about Rosella, and my connection to her, and thus to Elvis.
Rosella and her sister, Rosalinda, were the daughters of Dunnan (sometimes found Dunnam or Dunning) Presley and his wife, Martha Jane Wesson, whom he married in August 1861 in Itawamba County. Some folks say that Dunnan had another wife and family in Tennessee. When the Civil War broke out, Dunnan enlisted but subsequently deserted both his unit and his family. He apparently never returned to the area, and his family was left to fend for themselves. Martha Jane remarried in 1868, to William Marion Steele, but unfortunately for her small daughters, Martha Jane died before 1870. For a time, Rosella and Rosalinda lived with their step-father, but upon his remarriage, they went to live with their grandmother, Millie Bowen Wesson.
Martha Wesson Presley was the daughter of Edward Wesson and Emily "Millie" Bowen, and I'm related to both of her parents. Emily Bowen was the sister of my GGG grandfather, John Henderson Bowen, while Edward Clanton Wesson was the much younger brother of my GGGGG grandmother, Nancy Wesson. Here is where is gets interesting.
Nancy Wesson, my GGGGG grandmother, who was Martha Wesson Presley's aunt, apparently had three children out of wedlock: Nancy Jr., William, and Rose (possibly the namesake for Rosella). Nancy Jr. married Elias C. Putman, and their daughter Zinny married John Henderson Bowen, my GGG grandfather. The Wessons, Putmans and Bowens were all very connected in North Carolina, and later Itawamba County, along with the Lyles, Roberts and Bookout families. Siblings Edward Clanton Wesson and Nancy Wesson had a sister, Rebecca Pearson Wesson, who was the common law wife of William Bowen, the father of John Henderson Bowen. You may remember reading about Rebecca and Martha in an earlier post to this blog. Rebecca Wesson moved to Itawamba County with William Bowen and their five children around 1848, and William's children with Martha followed shortly thereafter, after Martha died in North Carolina.
Nancy, Edward, and Rebecca were the children of James Wesson and Ann Clary, Virginia natives who died in North Carolina. Other siblings were Henry, Patsy, Clara/Clarymon, Luke and William. We know their names from the 1815 will of their father James, whose will was recorded in 1826 in Rutherford County, North Carolina. From the will, we learn that James Wesson had a nice estate for his time: several tracts of land, and enough cash to leave adult daughters Patsy and Nancy $30 each. Money was directed to be set aside for the education of his younger children, Rebecca, William and Luke. In addition to Rebecca and Nancy, their sisters Patsy (Martha was her real name, Patsy her nickname) and Clara also had children out of wedlock.
What was it about this family? It couldn't have been poverty, as evidenced by the will of James Wesson. It doesn't appear to be lack of education, since his will mentions the continued education of his younger, school-age children. This was a family that obviously valued education. It is a puzzle to me. I suppose that the stigma of having out-of-wedlock children was lessened somewhat when it was a generational family practice! Those Wesson women must have been something else! And now you know the rest of the story about Rosella Presley and her nine, out-of-wedlock children. Many thanks to Marilyn Dickson who provided much information and helped me sort through these families.