Copyright © Janice Tracy, Mississippi Memories

Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Branch Family - Eight Generations

Generation Three

Claudia Baldridge Branch
Circa 1958
Generation Four

Clark and Lelia Porter Branch, circa 1940

Generation Three
Edward Arthur Branch
Circa 1900

First Generation
According to the U.S. Census of 1850, dated September 18th, Edward Branch and "Winney" (Ragland) Branch were living in Attala County, Mississippi, and three children were included in the enumeration of their household. Their oldest son, E. T., Jr., apparently was already out of the household. The children included in the household were John T., age 15 years, Arthur J., age 12 years, and Sara T., age 8 years. My family is descended from "Arthur J.", whose full name was Arthur Joseph Branch.

Second Generation
The U. S. Census taken in 1860, shows Arthur Joseph Branch and his wife, "Melly", born in South Carolina, living in the Newport Community of Attala County, Misssissippi. Also in the household at the time the census was taken was Winney, age 60 (likely visiting) and their only child, Edward Arthur Branch, or "Eddy", as he was called. I have found no information about Joseph's wife, Melly, her parents' names, where and when they were married, or when she came to Mississippi from South Carolina. She must have died before Joseph, however, since the U.S. Census taken in 1910 shows Joseph living with Ed and Claudie (see below.) Family stories I heard as a child were that Joseph was blind as an adult, but I have found no information that addresses the cause of blindness or exactly how long he had been blind prior to his death.

Third Generation
Edward Arthur Branch, known as Ed or E.A. Branch as an adult, married Claudia Baldridge, daughter of Martin Baldridge and Huldy Catherine Smith, in 1886 in Madison County, Mississippi. Ed and "Claudie", as she was known throughout her life, had four daughters and one son. Their daughters were named Ezma, Catherine, Stella, and Laura. Their only son, Clark Commander Branch, was born in Attala County, Mississippi, near the McAdams community on August 9, 1899. Clark attended school in McAdams until his father died in a hospital in Jackson, Mississippi when he was 14 years old. Almost overnight, Clark became head of the household and responsible for the welfare of a widowed mother and four sisters. Farm life in rural Mississippi must have been difficult, particularly in Attala County, where trees had to be cut to allow for planting and where spring flooding by the Big Black River was an almost annual event. Since there are no letters or other personal documents to tell me what happened, I can only imagine that Clark and his family's life must have been difficult during those years, especially with a World War and the Great Depression just around the corner. A copy of the U. S. Census taken in 1920 shows Clark Branch, his mother and two sisters were living in the same household in the Newport community in Attala County. Apparently, his two oldest sisters, Ezma and Catherine, were already married by that time. Ezma and Catherine each married men with the last name of McDaniel.

Fourth Generation
On December 8, 1922, Clark Commander Branch married Lelia Belle Porter, born July 17, 1904. She was the daughter of Margaret Susanna Merriweather Porter and James Joseph ("J. J.") Porter, who were married in Attala County on March 5, 1893. In 1930, Clark and Lelia Branch are shown on the U. S. Census record as living in Beat 4, Attala County, Mississippi. Their young son, James is also shown in the household. It appears that Clark's third sister, Stella, must have married her husband, Woodard Young, about the same time as Clark and Lelia, since that same census shows Clark's mother and his youngest sister, Laura, who later married Chipley Jones, living in the household of a relative near Greenwood in Leflore County, Mississippi. One day after Clark and Lelia Branch celebrated their first wedding anniversary, their first (and only) child was born on December 9, 1923. They named him James for his mother's brother, James Porter, who was named for both his father and his grandfather. It became a long-standing family joke that my grandparents married on December 8th, and my father was born on December 9th. Although today it seems that many births happen less than nine months after marriages occur, if a marriage now does indeed occur, it probably would not have happened in the same way in 1923 in Attala County.

Fifth Generation
James Leroy Branch spent his early years living in Attala County with his parents, Clark and Lelia Branch, and near his grandparents, until his parents moved to the Mississippi Delta during the late 1930's where the depression had made a huge mark, but where Cotton was still "King." The family lived in the Caile Community, between the two small towns of Inverness and Isola, Mississippi. As a teenager in high school, James played basketball and learned to play the harmonica. His favorites were blues pieces that reflected a popular music form that he heard in the Mississippi Delta during those days. James graduated from Isola High School in 1941, just months before Pearl Harbor was bombed, and like most of the young men his age, he volunteered to serve in the military. He volunteered to serve in the U.S. Navy, but most of his wartime years were spent working stateside as a civilian at Delta Shipyards in New Orleans at later, at the Oak Ridge Plant, operated by the Atomic Energy Commission, located in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. During late May of 1945, twenty-two year old James met almost nineteen year old Alma Eileen Netherland just after she graduated from high school in Holmes County, Mississippi. Eileen was the daughter of Rosa Mae Pettus Netherland Parsons and Ralph Ernest Netherland,o f Coxburg and Ebenezer. It must have been "love at first sight" for James and Eileen, because they were married on August 14, 1945, just barely three months after they met. Although James was the only son of an only son, he and Eileen became the parents of five children, three sons and two daughters.

Generations Sixth through Eight
The five children, 16 grandchildren, and 23 great-grandchildren of James and Eileen Branch who were born in Mississippi make up the the sixth, seventh, and eighth generations. Little did Edward Tillman Branch and Winiford Ragland Branch know that when they married in 1830 in Hinds County, Mississippi, they would become the progenitors of such a long lineage of proud Mississippians who are named BRANCH

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