Copyright © Janice Tracy, Mississippi Memories

Monday, August 11, 2008

James M. Porter and His Two Families

James M. Porter and Eliza Jane Walker
If you have been following my posts about the Porter family, you may recall that one of Samuel and Mary Middleton Porter's children was "James M," and he was 18 years old on the U.S. Census conducted in 1850. He was shown as a "farmer" and was living in the household with his parents in Attala County, MS. I have been unable to locate this particular James M. Porter in Attala County on either the U.S. Census of 1860 or 1870. However, I did find "J. M. Porter" on the U.S. Census of 1880. My grandmother's Bible shows that James M. Porter was born on October 28, 1832 in Alabama. He was married first to Eliza Jane Walker, but I have been unable to find a record of that marriage. It was during this first marriage that my grandmother's father, John James (J. J.) Porter was born. According to family stories, Eliza died and James married again, this time to Elizabeth Pinkston.

James M. Porter's Second Marriage to Elizabeth Pinkston
According to the U. S. Census of 1880, J. M. Porter was 49 years old, was born in Mississippi, and he was living in "Beat #4 Newport Dist." Also living in the household was Elizabeth Porter, his second wife, age 36.
Mississippi marriage records show that J. M. Porter married "Miss L. A. Pinkston" on May 14, 1870. Since "Liza" was a common nickname for Elizabeth, it is likely that the "L." was an abbreviation for "Liza", short for Elizabeth. My grandmother's Bible shows Elizabeth as "E. A. Pinkston," born on September 4, 1844 in Yazoo County, MS. Children shown in the household with James M. and Elizabeth were: Clifton, a son, age 6, a daughter Lueddia, age 1, and Anna, age 11, shown as step-daughter. I am unsure if Anna was Elizabeth's daughter from a previous marriage or if she was a daughter of James M. Porter. Jim Carson, a non-relative, was also enumerated in the household and was shown as "working in the fields." My grandmother's Bible shows that James M. Porter had a total of eight (8) children from his two marriages:

John James Porter, b. 9/3/1866, d. 3/27/40 (her father and my great-grandfather)
W. R. (Bud)Porter
Clifton (Cliff)

Although my grandmother's Bible shows that James M. Porter was born in Alabama, the 1880 U. S. Census record shows that each member of the J. M. Porter household was born in Mississippi. Although there is no way to know for certain, it is likely that James M. Porter was born in Mississippi rather than Alabama.

Cliff Porter

Clifton Porter, born during James M. Porter's marriage to Elizabeth Pinkston, eventually had a son also named Clifton. Clifton (2), also known as "Cliff," lived most of his life in Fort Worth with his only wife, until she died in the 1980's. Since Cliff and his wife were unable to have children of their own, they adopted a son whom they named David. Cliff retired from the railroad sometime during the 1960's. I located Clifton Porter (2) in late 1997 and met with him to discuss what he might know or have been told about the Porter family in Attala County. The most amazing thing happened when I met Cliff at his front door. The Porter family resemblance was amazing. He looked just like so many other Porter male relatives that I had known, particularly my grandmother's brothers. Even at Cliff's age, he had those bright blue Porter eyes, and he had similar physical characteristics. It was during my visit with Cliff in 1997, less than a year before he died, that he told me the story of how his family ended up in Texas.

James M. Porter's Death

James M. Porter died on October 17, 1885 and was buried in Fellowship Cemetery, near the Shrock Community in Attala County, Mississippi. After his death, Cliff's grandmother, Elizabeth A. Pinkston Porter, left Attala County with several children in a wagon, headed for Jackson. Cliff said his grandmother had family near Cleburne, Texas who were willing to "take her and the children in." He explained that since Elizabeth was James M. Porter's second wife, she had no claim to property in Attala County and had to give the property belonging to her husband to his offspring from his first marriage. My great-grandfather, J. J. Porter was one of those children who inherited the property belonging to his father, James M. Porter.

Headed for Texas
Cliff recalls his grandmother told how she and the children, including his father, left Attala County in a wagon with all their belongings. They headed for Jackson, Mississippi, where they planned to board a train that would eventually take them to Cleburne, Texas, where one of Elizabeth's relatives had gone to work for the railroad. On the way to the Illinois Central Railroad Station in Jackson, Elizabeth's wagon got stuck in the mud and broke down. Eventually, someone came along who took the family on to Jackson, but they had to abandon most of their personal belongings that were in the wagon. Elizabeth and her family ended up getting off the train by mistake in Fort Worth, rather than Cleburne, approximately 30 miles farther south. The family eventually made it to Cleburne, and when Cliff was older, he went to work for the railroad, later moving to Fort Worth. As they say, timing in life is everything, including when and where one gets off a train. Elizabeth Pinkston Porter lived the remainder of her life in Texas and died on October 13, 1906 in Johnson County, near Cleburne.

Is the "M" in James M. for "Monroe" or "Mabry"?
According to what family information I have, James M. Porter's middle initial stood for "Monroe". At least one non-family member has told me it stood for "Mabry." Either name is a logical one, based on the time, the place, and the proximity of the Porter family to the Mabry family in nearby Attala County. I have no proof that either of these names is correct. Maybe someone who reads this post may know.

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