Copyright © Janice Tracy, Mississippi Memories

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Netherland Family Reunion


















Pictured here is the family of William Bailey Netherland. He is seated near the center of the picture, with his wife Mary Elizabeth Garrard Netherland. His son, my grandfather, Ralph Ernest Netherland, is pictured standing in the back row, also wearing a bow tie. The picture is dated circa 1925, and is said to have been taken in Coxburg, Mississippi at the Netherland family home. Earlier this month, I wrote a post about the Netherland Family Reunion, stating that my mother didn't think she would be attending this year. Well, I was wrong. She felt well enough to attend, and she and my father drove to Coxburg today. She looks forward to this event and to seeing her brother and his family and many of their cousins and their extended families. Yesterday, when I talked to my mother, she had already made her delicious pina colada cake, and it was in the refrigerator, ready to take to the reunion's lunch today at the Community Center in Coxburg, Mississippi. I am so glad that she felt well enough to go. This family reunion is an annual event, usually on the last Sunday in August, when the Netherland family and its connections get together in Holmes County, Mississippi. According to my mother, the reunion is actually known now as the "Netherland-Spencer" reunion. Spencer was the married name of one of the Netherland daughters.

According to my mother, several Netherland family members who have attended the reunion in the past, have purchased copies of the book written by Gena Ayres Walls about her husband's connections to the Neatherlin and Leatherlin families. (These are earlier versions of the Netherland family name.) Some family members often bring the books with them to the reunion, hoping to fill in some of the missing branches on a few family trees. I hope this year's reunion was successful, with a lot of food and good fun, and I know that my mother's cake dish was likely empty when she took it back home.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

John Baldrige of Lancaster County, PA

One of the earliest records available about the Baldridge family is the will of John Baldrige, dated July 15, 1766, in Martic Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. According to Martic Township records, "Baldrige" was the early spelling of the surname "Baldridge," and he owned property that was referred to in the will as a "plantation." The will also refers to John Baldrige's occupation as "yeoman," an early name for "farmer." Other research found that Rebecca, who is referred to as his wife in the will, was Rebecca Clark, and the executors of the will are shown as Michael Baldrige and Thomas Clark, his brother and brother-in-law, respectively. John apparently died soon after the will was written, since it was probated on July 31, 1766. A transcription of the will appears below.
IN THE NAME OF GOD AMEN, this fifteenth day of July, 1766, Whereas I John Baldrige of Martick Township and County of Lancaster being very weak and sickly in body; but in perfect mind and memory; thanks be to God, Therefore calling into mind the Mortality of my body and knowing that it is appointed for all men once to Die.

Do make and ordain this my last Will and Testament, that is to say principally and first of all, I give and Recommend my Soul unto the hands of God that give it; and for my body, I Recommend it to the Earth to be buried in a Christian and Decent manner at the Discretion of my executors, nothing Doubting but at the general Resurrection I shall receive the same again by the mighty power of God.

And as touching such Worldly wealth wherewith it hath pleased God to bless me with in this life, I give and bequeath and Dispose of the Same in the following manner and form as follows viz: Rebecca Baldrige.

Imprimis that is first of all I allow ordain and appoint (after my Debts are paid) ten pounds to be levied out of my estate and paid unto my well beloved wife.

Item I also allow ordain and appoint fifteen pounds to be levied out of my Estate and paid unto my well beloved son William Baldrige.


Item I allow and appoint thirty pounds of my estate to be Divided amongst my Children at the Discretion of my executors according as they see them Deserving.

Item I ordain appoint and allow the Remainder of my estate to be equally divided amongst my well beloved Wife and Children.

Item If it should please God to Remove any of my Children by Death; that are not come of age before or after the Dividing of my estate I allow order and appoint their part to be equally Divided between my Wife and Children.

Item I allow my plantation not to be sold while my wife continues a Widow, except my executors see it more proper to dispose of it before then.

Item I order allow and appoint that part of my father's estate left to me to be equally Divided betwixt my wife and children.

Item I Nominate Constitute ordain and appoint my well beloved Friends Michael Baldrige and Thomas Clark to be sole executors of this my last will and testament. In witness whereof I have hereunto set my Hand and Seal, the Day and Year above written.

John Baldrige (Seal)

Signed, sealed, acknowledged, and declared
In the presence of us

Edward McFarland
Ferguson McElwaine
James Howe

Lancaster County SS

On the thirty first Day of July Anno Domini, 1766, before me the Subscriber personally appeared Ferguson McElwaine one of the Subscribing Witnesses to the within will and on his Corporal Oath did depose and say that he was present and saw and heard John Baldrige, the Testator within named Sign, Seal, Publish pronounce and declare the within Writing as and for his Last Will and Testament and that at the doing thereof he was of sound and good disposing Mind Memory and Understanding to the best of his Knowledge observation and belief.

Edwd Shippen R.
DR

Lancaster County SS

On the thirty first day of July in the year of our Lord 1766 before me the Subscriber personally appeared James Howe one of the Subscribing Witnesses to the within Will, and on his Solemn Affirmation did declare and say that he was present and saw and heard John Baldrige, The Testator within named, Sign Seal Publish pronounce and declare the within Writing as and for his Last Will and Testament and that at the doing thereof he was of sound and good disposing Mind Memory and Understanding to the best of his Knowledge Observation and Belief.

Edwd Shippen R.
DR

Be it remembered that on the thirty first Day of July Anno Domini, 1766, the Last Will and Testament of John Baldrige late of Martick Township in the County of Lancaster Yoeman deceased was proved in due form of Law and Letters Testamentary were granted to Michael Baldrige and Thomas Clark the Executors therein Named, they being first duly Qualifed well and truly to Administer the Estate of the said decedent and to exhibit a true and perfect inventory thereof unto the registers Office at Lancaster on or before the thirty first day of August next, and to render a true and just Account of their Administration of the said Estate when thereto lawfully required. Given under the Seal of Said Office by me

Edwd Shippen R.
DR

Friday, August 29, 2008

Baldridge Family - Ireland>PA>NC>TN>MS


This is a picture of my great-grandmother, Claudia Mae Baldridge Branch, and one of her grandsons, my father, James Branch. The picture was taken by his parents, Lelia and Clark Branch, after he had driven them over from the Delta in his 1936 Ford Coupe. He apparently was showing off his first car to his grandmother. Grandsons showing off new cars to grandmothers will never change. It is a rite of passage from grandson, the child, to grandson, the adult.

This is the oldest picture I have of one of my Baldridge family relatives. I do not know the names of Claudia's brothers and sisters. By the time this picture was taken, most of them had either moved out of the State of Mississippi, or they were deceased. Claudia Mae Baldridge was born in Madison County, Mississippi, the daughter of Martin Van Buren Baldridge and Huldy Catherine Smith.

Claudia Mae Baldridge and Edward Arthur Branch, my paternal great-grandparents, were married in Madison County, Mississippi, on December 21, 1896. They had five children, including four daughters, Ezma, Catherine, Stella, and Laura, and one son, my grandfather, Clark Commander Branch, born August 8, 1899. After their marriage, "Ed" and "Claudie" lived in the Newport area of Attala County, Mississippi, where their children attended McAdams schools. Ed farmed and was a wife, mother, and housekeeper. For a time, Ed's widowed father, who was blind, lived with the family. When my grandfather was only 15 years, his father died, and he became the "head of the household" for his widowed mother and four sisters. Farming was the only livelihood he would know for many, many years.

Baldridge Family - Ireland>PA>NC>TN>MS


This is a picture of my great-grandmother, Claudia Mae Baldridge Branch, and one of her grandsons, my father, James Branch. The picture was taken by his parents, Lelia and Clark Branch, after he had driven them over from the Delta in his 1936 Ford Coupe. He apparently was showing off his first car to his grandmother. Grandsons showing off new cars to grandmothers will never change. It is a rite of passage from grandson, the child, to grandson, the adult.

This is the oldest picture I have of one of my Baldridge family relatives. I do not know the names of Claudia's brothers and sisters. By the time this picture was taken, most of them had either moved out of the State of Mississippi, or they were deceased. Claudia Mae Baldridge was born in Madison County, Mississippi, the daughter of Martin Baldridge and Huldy Catherine Smith.

Claudia Mae Baldridge and Edward Arthur Branch, my paternal great-grandparents, were married in Madison County, Mississippi, on December 21, 1896. They had five children, including four daughters, Ezma, Catherine, Stella, and Laura, and one son, my grandfather, Clark Commander Branch, born August 8, 1899. After their marriage, "Ed" and "Claudie" lived in the Newport area of Attala County, Mississippi, where their children attended McAdams schools. Ed farmed,  and Claudy, as she was called, was a wife, mother, and housekeeper. For a time, Ed's widowed father, who was blind, lived with the family. When my grandfather was only 15 years, his father died, and he became the "head of the household" for his widowed mother and four sisters. Farming was the only livelihood he would know for many, many years.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Finding the Gibson Family - A Mixed Racial History

This week, I decided to seriously search for the evasive Gibson family connection. But first I decided to review, once again, the information that I already have. For actual documents, all I really have are two U.S. Census records and a marriage certificate.

But what I have found written in other sources is so much more.

When I first started this search, I had little to go on. My father didn't know his grandmother's maiden name, so that led to the request for information to the Social Security Administration. Please keep in mind the only reason I received this information is that my great-grandmother, Margaret Susanna Meriwether Porter just happened to be old enough to be eligible for Medicare when the law was passed about 1960. She was too old to be eligible for Social Security payments, however, so she had to apply for a Social Security number before she could be eligible for Medicare benefits.


But that request made a world of difference in my research, because the copy of her application for a Social Security number provided me with the maiden name of my great-greatgrandmother, Malverda Gibson, and this bit of information unlocked the door to the past. My initial reaction was "Malverda won't be difficult to find, and I was right about that, but finding the Gibson family proved to be much more difficult.

I found Malverda Gibson the first time I searched U. S. Census records for persons living in Mississippi. According to the U. S. Census of 1860, taken in Calhoun County, Mississippi, Malverda Gibson was living with her family in the Cherry Hill community. Her father and her mother were shown to be "J. P. Gibson" and "Margaret J. Gibson." J. P. Gibson's occupation was shown as "blacksmith." Other children in the household were sisters named Elvira, Mary, Martha, and Becky. Other male household members were brothers named Asberry and Francis. When I saw the names of Malverda's two brothers, I decided on the spot the family must have been Methodists, since it appeared they had named two sons for the well-known early Bishop of the Methodist Church, Francis Asbury. I also found the family enumerated again on the U. S. Census of 1870, this time in Carroll County, in the Duck Hill community.

During the same timeframe that I located the census records, the LDS church had posted all their family history records online at
www.familysearch.org. One search on the new LDS website, and I had the marriage date for a John P. Gibson and Martha J. Williams. They were married on January 3, 1843, in Aberdeen, Monroe County, Mississippi. Now I had something that might reveal names for the next generation back, parents' names for John and Margaret.


The next day, I called the Monroe County, Mississippi County Clerk in Aberdeen, Mississippi and requested a copy of the marriage record. A very friendly and helpful person in the clerk's office there located the document, and about a week later, I received a copy of the marriage license and a marriage bond posted in the amount of $500 by someone named "Joseph Gibson." My first thought was that Joseph must have been John's father, but that would have been too good to be true, and as it turned out, it was not true. Sometime later, I located a copy of Joseph Gibson's will, probated in Monroe County, Mississippi, and that information, combined with some recent research efforts, has established that Joseph and John were likely not brothers, but possibly cousins, instead.

The next source of information came to me entirely by accident. I was doing some online searching for the name Gibson and South Carolina and happened across a reference to a PBS Frontline presentation entitled "Blurred Racial Lines." One of the families profiled was the Gibson Family of South Carolina, along with a short list of other names with similar racial backgrounds. This information is available at www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/secret/famous/

Accidentally, I had stumbled onto something that paved the way to further research about the Gibson family and other persons like them who were called at that time "free persons of color." Some of these individuals, including Gideon Gibson, were specifically referred to as "mullatos."

About that same time, I found that Winthrop Jordan had written a book, entitled "White Over Black" that included similar information about the racial background of the Gibson family in South Carolina.
Recently, I have read other references to the Gibson family's history in several historical publications, including "Children of Perdition: Melungeons and the Struggle for Mixed America" by Tim Hershaw, "Unification of a Slave State" by Rachel Klein, and "Black Slaveowners - Free Black Slave Masters in SC, 1790 - 1860", by Larry Koger. All three publications include numerous references to the Gibson Family, as well as some of their South Carolina relatives and neighbors, the Bunch, Sweat(t) and Murph families. Previews of these books are available online at
www.books.google.com.

Several members of the Gibson Family in Mississippi and Louisiana have been well-chronicled. Port Gibson, Mississippi, one of Mississippi's historic towns, was named for Samuel Gibson, an early settler in the old Natchez District, before Mississippi attained statehood. The old Presbyterian Church, with its steeple containing a hand pointing toward Heaven, is a landmark in Port Gibson, along with Chamberlain-Hunt Military Academy, and several houses and other buildings with historical significance. Tobias Gibson was born near Warrenton, Mississippi, and his involvement with the Methodist Church in Mississippi is documented in a book written about the history of Methodism in the state. Randall Lee Gibson, son of Tobias, is well-known for his rise from a private to Brigadier General during his service in the Civil War, and later for his service to the State of Louisiana during several terms in Congress. Randall Lee Gibson is also particularly remembered for his support of the founding of Tulane University by Paul Tulane, a former resident of Louisiana. Information about Randall Lee Gibson can be found at
http://www.tulanelink.com.

Earlier this week, I located copies of the transcriptions of two letters written in the late 1800's. One is from a daughter of Randall Lee Gibson's, living near her mother's family in Kentucky at the time, and another from a minister in Adams Co., MS, who had known the Gibson Family well. Both individuals shared personal information about Gibson family members and how their family could be traced back to Gideon Gibson and the Gibson Family of South Carolina.

Ironically, nothing is mentioned in either letter about the mixed racial background of the Gibson family.

Finding the Gibson Family - A Mixed Racial History

This week, I decided to seriously search for the evasive Gibson family connection. But first I decided to review, once again, the information that I already have. For actual documents, all I really have are two U.S. Census records and a marriage certificate.

But what I have found written in other sources is so much more.

When I first started this search, I had little to go on. My father didn't know his grandmother's maiden name, so that led to the request for information to the Social Security Administration. Please keep in mind the only reason I received this information is that my great-grandmother, Margaret Susanna Meriwether Porter just happened to be old enough to be eligible for Medicare when the law was passed about 1960. She was too old to be eligible for Social Security payments, however, so she had to apply for a Social Security number before she could be eligible for Medicare benefits.


But that request made a world of difference in my research, because the copy of her application for a Social Security number provided me with the maiden name of my great-greatgrandmother, Malverda Gibson, and this bit of information unlocked the door to the past. My initial reaction was "Malverda won't be difficult to find, and I was right about that, but finding the Gibson family proved to be much more difficult.

I found Malverda Gibson the first time I searched U. S. Census records for persons living in Mississippi. According to the U. S. Census of 1860, taken in Calhoun County, Mississippi, Malverda Gibson was living with her family in the Cherry Hill community. Her father and her mother were shown to be "J. P. Gibson" and "Margaret J. Gibson." J. P. Gibson's occupation was shown as "blacksmith." Other children in the household were sisters named Elvira, Mary, Martha, and Becky. Other male household members were brothers named Asberry and Francis. When I saw the names of Malverda's two brothers, I decided on the spot the family must have been Methodists, since it appeared they had named two sons for the well-known early Bishop of the Methodist Church, Francis Asbury. I also found the family enumerated again on the U. S. Census of 1870, this time in Carroll County, in the Duck Hill community.

During the same timeframe that I located the census records, the LDS church had posted all their family history records online at
www.familysearch.org. One search on the new LDS website, and I had the marriage date for a John P. Gibson and Martha J. Williams. They were married on January 3, 1843, in Aberdeen, Monroe County, Mississippi. Now I had something that might reveal names for the next generation back, parents' names for John and Margaret.


The next day, I called the Monroe County, Mississippi County Clerk in Aberdeen, Mississippi and requested a copy of the marriage record. A very friendly and helpful person in the clerk's office there located the document, and about a week later, I received a copy of the marriage license and a marriage bond posted in the amount of $500 by someone named "Joseph Gibson." My first thought was that Joseph must have been John's father, but that would have been too good to be true, and as it turned out, it was not true. Sometime later, I located a copy of Joseph Gibson's will, probated in Monroe County, Mississippi, and that information, combined with some recent research efforts, has established that Joseph and John were likely not brothers, but possibly cousins, instead.

The next source of information came to me entirely by accident. I was doing some online searching for the name Gibson and South Carolina and happened across a reference to a PBS Frontline presentation entitled "Blurred Racial Lines." One of the families profiled was the Gibson Family of South Carolina, along with a short list of other names with similar racial backgrounds. This information is available at www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/secret/famous/

Accidentally, I had stumbled onto something that paved the way to further research about the Gibson family and other persons like them who were called at that time "free persons of color." Some of these individuals, including Gideon Gibson, were specifically referred to as "mullatos."

About that same time, I found that Winthrop Jordan had written a book, entitled "White Over Black" that included similar information about the racial background of the Gibson family in South Carolina.
Recently, I have read other references to the Gibson family's history in several historical publications, including "Children of Perdition: Melungeons and the Struggle for Mixed America" by Tim Hershaw, "Unification of a Slave State" by Rachel Klein, and "Black Slaveowners - Free Black Slave Masters in SC, 1790 - 1860", by Larry Koger. All three publications include numerous references to the Gibson Family, as well as some of their South Carolina relatives and neighbors, the Bunch, Sweat(t) and Murph families. Previews of these books are available online at
www.books.google.com.

Several members of the Gibson Family in Mississippi and Louisiana have been well-chronicled. Port Gibson, Mississippi, one of Mississippi's historic towns, was named for Samuel Gibson, an early settler in the old Natchez District, before Mississippi attained statehood. The old Presbyterian Church, with its steeple containing a hand pointing toward Heaven, is a landmark in Port Gibson, along with Chamberlain-Hunt Military Academy, and several houses and other buildings with historical significance. Tobias Gibson was born near Warrenton, Mississippi, and his involvement with the Methodist Church in Mississippi is documented in a book written about the history of Methodism in the state. Randall Lee Gibson, son of Tobias, is well-known for his rise from a private to Brigadier General during his service in the Civil War, and later for his service to the State of Louisiana during several terms in Congress. Randall Lee Gibson is also particularly remembered for his support of the founding of Tulane University by Paul Tulane, a former resident of Louisiana. Information about Randall Lee Gibson can be found at
http://www.tulanelink.com.

Earlier this week, I located copies of the transcriptions of two letters written in the late 1800's. One is from a daughter of Randall Lee Gibson's, living near her mother's family in Kentucky at the time, and another from a minister in Adams Co., MS, who had known the Gibson Family well. Both individuals shared personal information about Gibson family members and how their family could be traced back to Gideon Gibson and the Gibson Family of South Carolina.

Ironically, nothing is mentioned in either letter about the mixed racial background of the Gibson family.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Could this Picture Be the Meriwether or Gibson Family?





Yesterday, I found another picture in my grandmother's album that I am unable to identify.

The picture is very small and is apparently a "family picture." I have no idea which family group this picture represents. The picture was apparently taken outside in an are that had fairly tall pine trees, Attala County or somewhere near, perhaps, and the people in it appear to be dressed in clothing that was worn in the late 1800's, or no later than the very early 1900's.



There is a small lady standing in the very back row, with her face barely visible, who vaguely resembles my great-grandmother, Margaret Susanna Meriwether Porter. For this reason only, I believe the picture may be of the Meriwether or Gibson family.



The individuals in the picture appear to be dressed in their Sunday-best, and the photograph itself appears to have been posed and taken by a hired photographer, possibly one who traveled through rural areas in those days. The older women, maybe a woman and her daughters (or sisters), are sitting in the front rows. The men all appear to be standing.



On the left side of the picture, in the very front, is a man, who is standing somewhat separate from the rest of that row and seems to be looking at the group, rather than being photographed with the group. This man appears to be darker-skinned, and somewhat taller and larger than the rest of the men visible in the picture. The back of this picture bears the marking "Avery Company, Memphis, Tenn."



Maybe someone will recognize a face (or faces) in this pictures. I sincerely hope so.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Attala County - August 26, 1931

I found the newspaper article contained in today's post while organizing some of my genealogical research, and I thought it might provide an interesting snapshot of life in Attala County, Mississippi, as it was 77 years ago. Ironically, the article bears today's date.

On August 26, 1931, the following article was published in the Star-Herald, Kosciusko's newspaper:

"Attala Equalizes Personality Rolls, 1930 Rolls Show Total Valuation of $1,359,465; Tax 9,366 Articles - The board of supervisors have equalized the tax rolls of Attala county of the personal property as of January 1, 1931, by L. B. Milner, tax assessor of this county, with the estimate by the official as follows:

Poll tax, white mailes, 2725; white females, 912; negro males, 549; negro females, 10. Total 4,196.

The following valuations have been filed:
Horses, 964, $29,880; mules, 3,825, $156,495; oxen, 20, $500.

Automobiles, 1,682, $149,385; wagons, 1,985, $16,650.

Gasoline, oil and kerosene storage tanks, 17, $4,755.

Electric refrigerators, 24, $2,350, radio receiving sets, 107, $3,250; pianos, 99, $5,610; phonographs and other instruments, 72, $1,120; guns and pistols, 16, $155; watches and clocks, 34, $385.

Total number of things taxes: Diamonds and jewelry, $75; household furniture, $2,920; heating, lighting and water systems, $675; gasoline, filling station equipment and fixtures, $6,385.

Hotel, cafe and restaurant fixtures and equipment, $5,855; office and store fixtures, $22,615; merchandize and all stocks of goods and materials, $262,200; machinery, tools, implements and equipments, $143,195; manufactured products, $38,550; raw materials for manufacturing purposes, $22,900; private railroad line and equipment, telephone, gas, water line, $10."

Monday, August 25, 2008

Gideon Gibson Moves to Mississippi

Early colonial land records show Gideon Gibson (2) migrated from Virginia first to North Carolina and then on to South Carolina. It was in South Carolina that Gideon settled with his wife, Mary Martha O'Connell, in the Sandy Bluff area, near the Pee Dee River, in what was then Marion County, South Carolina. This area of South Carolina was called the "backcountry," and it was actually part of the hunting grounds of the Cherokee. Colonial land records show that Gideon owned many acres of land and was likely one of the wealthiest men in the area. It was also here that he, along with neighbors and relatives, were involved in the infamous "regulator" incident.

Gideon (2) and Martha had a large family that included six daughters and three sons. Eventually, Gideon and Martha, moved their family to Adams County, Mississippi. Their last child, Reverend Randall Gibson, was born in Adams County in 1766, and his lineage includes Tobias Gibson and his son, Randall Lee Gibson, a Louisiana sugar plantation owner and well-known legislator. Gideon Gibson died in 1792 in Adams County, Mississippi.

My great-great-greatgrandfather, John P. Gibson, according to the U. S. Census records taken in Mississippi in 1860 and 1870, was born about 1799 in South Carolina. Since Gideon and Martha Gibson were married in 1749, had their last child in 1766, and Gideon died in 1792, it is apparent that John P. Gibson was not one of their children. It is possible, however, that John P. Gibson could have been a grandchild, born to a son who may not have moved to Mississippi with the rest of the family.

My search will continue.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Gideon Gibson, b. circa 1730 in Virginia

Gideon Gibson was not hard to find. The Gibson Family in early Virginia, North and South Carolina, and later in Mississippi and Louisiana are fairly well-documented. In addition to the PBS Frontline special: "Frontline: Gibson," The Blurred Racial Lines of Famous Families," aired approximately 10 years ago, G. Lloyd Johnson wrote an article entitled "Gideon Gibson, the 'Regulator", available online at http://campbell.edu/, which documents the history of the Regulator Movement in South Carolina.

The "Regulators" were a semi-vigilante group that took law and order into their own hands and eventually ended up in legal actions in the South Carolina courts. But some of the best genealogical information about the Gibson Family actually appears at http://www.tulanelink.com/, where the lineage and family history of Randall Lee Gibson, a founder of Tulane University, is detailed.

According to that information, Gideon Gibson was a "mulatto," born about 1730 in Virginia. His father, also named Gideon, was born in 1695 and was a British subject who worked as a carpenter. Gideon (1) emigrated to Virginia to North Carolina about 1720 and married a white woman named Mary Brown in 1728. According to Virginia marriage records, in 1749, Gideon (2)married a white woman from England, Mary Martha O'Connell. Sometime after the marriage, Gideon (2) and Mary resettled in South Carolina, along with many immigrants from Ireland, Scotland, and Wales who had settled on land received as a result of the British government's land policy.


Problems in tracing Gibson family lines has been, in part, due to the similarity of names throughout the generations. Several names appear repeatedly, and the history of the Gibson family in South Carolina seems to revolve around the names Gideon, Jordan, John, Joseph, Stephen, and Tobias.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Gibson Family - VA>SC>MS


The Gibson family has been my most difficult genealogy challenge. I can't seem to get any further back than John P. Gibson, b. circa 1799 in South Carolina. One thing for certain is that he married Margarett J. Williams in Monroe County, Mississippi, and one of their children was Malverda Gibson, who became my great-great-grandmother. I also know that John P. Gibson, according to the U. S. Census taken in 1860, was living in Calhoun County, Mississippi, and he was shown with the occupation of "blacksmith."

My first efforts to find information about the Gibson name resulted in many references to the Gibson Family in South Carolina, as well as the parts of that Gibson family who ended up in Mississippi. The Gibson family in South Carolina, specifically Gideon Gibson and his sons, were notorious because of their involvement in the "Regulator Movement," which I plan to write about later. Gibson family members became well-known in Mississippi because of their early involvement in the Methodist Church and the subsequent naming of the city of Port Gibson, Mississippi after the family name. Tobias Gibson, a descendant of the South Carolina Gibson family, is known as the founder, or father, of Methodism in Mississippi.

Also, early on in my research, I found references to the Gibson family's colorful history in South Carolina, when Gideon Gibson's race became an issue during his trial as a "Regulator." A PBS FRONTLINE special entitled Famous Families discussed "blurred racial lines" that exist in a number of well-known American families, and one of the families profiled was the Gibson Family of South Carolina. This special detailed the Gibson families who immigrated to South Carolina from Virginia in the 18th century, and who moved on to Mississippi in the early 19th century. Predominant names among the male members of these families were Gideon, John, Joseph, Jacob, Jordan, and Stephen.

According to the research, one of these men, the Rev. Jacob Gibson was the pastor of the Broad River Baptist Church in Fairfield County South Carolina in 1771. Joseph and Jacob were two of his sons.

Joseph Gibson, son of Rev. Jacob Gibson, may have been the same Joseph Gibson who posted the bond for the marriage between my John P. Gibson and Margarett J. Williams.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Mirlitons, Maypops, and Mustard Greens











I am still writing about memories, not about Attala County this time, however, but about Hinds County, where I spent most of my years growing up. We lived on the north side of Jackson, Mississippi, in a small subdivision of houses built during the early 1950's. Mine was a typical 1950's neighborhood, with an elementary school, a Methodist church with a parsonage across the street, and a nicely wooded area that was a city park with the usual playground equipment. Unlike larger cities today, there were no strip shopping centers nearby with "big box stores," pizza shops, nail salons, or dry cleaners. Neighborhood children could play safely outside, even at the park, without parents' eyes watching them. Burleson's Grocery Store was the nearest "convenience" store, and as we grew old enough to venture outside of our immediate neighborhood, my brothers and I would either walk or ride bicycles there to buy soft drinks or candy, occasionally without our mother's permission. We were typical kids growing up, having fun, and not worrying about anything. In fact, there really wasn't much to worry about at that time and in that place.

My life growing up was very different from my own children's lives and the lives of other children growing up in larger cities in recent years. Corporate relocations have been and still are a way of life for many modern American families, and sometimes teenagers have already lived in several states (and maybe a foreign country) before they even graduate from high school. I can only remember living in three houses, and the second house was only temporary until we moved into the third and final place that I would live as a non-adult.

My parents loved gardening, especially my mother. I have always said she has a handful of green thumbs, because she can grow anything. Because of my parents' love for gardening, we always had the prettiest yard on the street, with the most lush St. Augustine grass around. Our front yard had lovely green pine trees, and the needles were used to mulch the azaleas and gardenias that bloomed so beautifully. The fence around our front yard was covered with climbing roses that bloomed profusely every May, and their scent filled the night time air that came in through windows left open day and night. Like so many other 1950's families, we had no air conditioning, and an attic fan was used to cool the house in the summer.

We had a deep backyard that went slightly downhill near the rear. In that part of the backyard, my parents had planted real fruit-bearing peach and plum trees that had lovely, scented blossoms each spring. My mother used the peaches from the peach trees to make wonderful cobblers and fried pies, and she made homemade plum jelly with the juice of the juicy ripe plums. As children, we were warned that green plums were not to be eaten, or the green plum eater would suffer a severe stomach ache. I was never willing to break the rule, but my brothers and their friends tested my parents' advice and swore that nothing happened. I think my parents probably wanted to ensure that enough plums remained on the trees to ripen and make some jelly.

One of the things I remember most about the back yard were some vines, with large white blooms that, that grew on our backyard fence. After each bloom dropped off, a small "fruit" remained that resembled a bell pepper, but it was a yellowish-green instead of the rich bright green of the bell pepper. My mother referred to the "fruit" as a "maypop." Sometimes, my brothers and their friends used the fruits for weapons, throwing them at each other as they chased one another around the yard. I haven't seen a "maypop" since I moved from my childhood home many years ago. I didn't actually know if a "maypop" was a wild vine that had grown on its own, or something that my parents planted. We never ate the fruit, and knew of no use for the vine except that its flowers were quite pretty. When the vine started turning brown, my parents stripped it off the fence, along with honeysuckle vines and any other unwanted vegetation. And it reappeared the following year on its own.

So I looked up the word "maypop" in the dictionary. According to Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition, published in 1996, the word "maypop" didn't exist. My first thought was that I must need to "update" my dictionary, since I hadn't bothered to replace it in over ten years. But I didn't give up searching just yet, and my efforts paid off when I found the word "May apple" on the same page where "maypop" didn't exist. The word "May apple" is a "North American herb of the barberry family with a poisonous root stock, one or two-lobed peltate leaves, and a single large white flower, followed by a yellow egged-shaped edible fruit."

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Another type of vine that grew on our fence did not grow there by accident. My parents planted it from seed that came out of the fruits that we had picked and had eaten the year before. The name of the plant was "mirliton." My mother also called the fruit of this plant a "vegetable pear," and she used the cooked "pear" to make a dish that contained onion, bell pepper, tomatoes, and ground beef. The dish certainly didn't taste as if it contained a "pear." Instead, it tasted something like an eggplant casserole, only better. When I later lived for a time in Louisiana, I saw mirlitons for sale in the produce sections of most grocery stores, and I had neighbors, friends, and co-workers, usually native Louisianans, who bought the vegetable pear regularly when it was in season.

When I looked up "mirliton" in the dictionary, I was cross-referred to the word "chayote", pronounced just like the animal "coyote," where I found the following definition:
" a fruit of a West Indian annual vine of the gourd family that is widely cultivated as a vegetable." Apparently, this plant, like many others that are more well-known, had been imported into the south from the West Indies. I had no idea that I had ever eaten a "gourd," or I probably would never have tasted the casserole my mother had made. I had seen gourds growing at my relatives' houses in rural areas, but they were grown for making Thanksgiving table arrangements, birdhouses, and other decorative uses.....but never food.

Along with growing mirlitons and maypops, we had a rather strange plant situation that occurred in our backyard a few years after we moved there. My parents were still trying to get grass growing in the downhill portion of the backyard, and erosion control was an issue. My dad decided to take things "in his own hands," literally, when he stopped by the "seed" store one afternoon on the way home from work and bought red clover seed to plant in the lower part of the yard. He carefully scattered the seed and watered it religiously over the next few days, and eventually the seed sprouted and grew. He was so proud of his handiwork! Over the next few weeks, the new plants grew on their own. But instead of producing red "flowers," the plants began blooming "white flowers." My mother was concerned and carefully scrutinized the plants and the blooms and came to a "gardener's conclusion." We did not have red clover growing in our backyard.....we had "mustard greens!" She delivered the revelation to my dad when he came home from work that day, and he was both stunned and surprised. My parents turned the "mustard green" situation into a success story, as anyone from the south who likes fresh vegetables would do....we ate mustard greens and turnips, along with my mother's delicious cornbread and sweetened ice tea!

Years later, I wonder how I would have reacted if I had found that my own backyard had been seeded with mustard seed. Instead, the builder sodded our yard last fall with a combination of fescue, perennial rye, and bermuda grass. Little did we know the sod had "scatterings" of Johnson grass, and it has plagued us since early spring.

At least my dad's mistake was edible.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Netherland Family Reunion - Coxburg, Mississippi, Sunday, August 31, 2008


The Netherland Family Annual Reunion will be this Sunday, August 31, 2008, at the Coxburg Community Center, Coxburg, Mississippi. But my mother and father will not be attending this year. My mother and father have always enjoyed meeting up with my mother's Netherland family relatives each year who come from several states and from as far away as New York City. Each person or couple attending the reunion bring a covered dish and share an afternoon together catching up on the latest family happenings since the past year. My mother's mind and her memory are miraculous, but her mobility is limited by osteoarthritis to such an extent this year that she and my father have decided they will not drive to Coxburg for the reunion. Her decision marks a specific point in her life, and in that of her family, because this was the once a year trip that symbolized the tie to her Netherland family and her roots in Holmes County, Mississippi.
My mother's father was Ralph Ernest Netherland, and her mother was Rosa Mae Pettus. Rosa Mae was born in 1908, and she was not even 18 years old when she married, Ralph, who was twenty-three years her senior. They had two children, my mother, who was born on October 8, 1926, and her only sibling, a brother, Reuben Netherland, born four years later.
Ralph Ernest Netherland was one of nine children born to William Bailey Netherland and Martha Elizabeth Garrard. According to the U. S. Census Record of 1850, William Bailey Netherland was born in Scotland. This explains the red hair that was so prominent on the Netherland side of the family.
Rosa Mae Pettus was born in Holmes County, Mississippi, the daughter of William Elza Pettus and Lucy Lula Trigleth. Ralph and Rosa Mae were divorced when my mother was 14 years old. A divorce in 1940 was almost unheard of and must have been traumatic for all family members involved, especially two children who were about 10 and 14 years of age. Rosa Mae Pettus Netherland remarried a few years later, and that husband died about 1953. Ralph Netherland never remarried and died in 1959 of stomach cancer. I saw him only once as a child just before he died of stomach cancer. Ironically, 6 of the 9 children, including Ralph, who were born to William Bailey Netherland and Martha Elizabeth Garrard, died of stomach cancer. A few died during their young adult years.
The stomach cancer information was unknown to many Netherland family members, including my mother, until a book entitled The Neatherlin, Leatherlin Connections and their Allied Families, was written by Gena Ayres Walls, who lives with her husband, a Netherland descendant, near Houston, Texas. Gena has written a genealogy column for her local newspaper for a number of years, and she used her very good research skills, coupled with her writing experience to compile the Netherland book. The book is complete with photocopies of actual documents, including death certificates for some of the family members who died of stomach cancer. Publication of the book was funded, in part, by Clarence Netherland, one of my mother's distant cousins.
I met Clarence Netherland because of the book. I discovered a copy of the Netherland book in the Erikkson Public Library in Dallas, Texas, where it had been donated by Clarence, and I later contacted him and asked if I could buy a copy of the book. Clarence owned Netherland Engineering in Dallas, Texas, until his death earlier this year. I purchased a copy of the book for my mother, and it was one of only three copies remaining at the time.
Now a quick plug for the Erikkson Public Library: it has one of the best, if not THE best genealogy collections of a modern public library, with almost an entire floor devoted to books, microfilm, and other types of publications. A bank of computers is available to access other documents contained in online collections. Paid staff, as well as many volunteers from the very active Dallas County Historical Society are on hand daily to assist researchers.
It makes me sad that my mother will be unable to attend the reunion this year. But time goes on, people get older, and things change.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Descriptive Register of Men in Attala County, Mississippi - Post-Civil War


Several years ago, while going through some microfilmed records at the LDS Family History Center, I located a copy of a transcription of the "Descriptive Register" of men living in Attala County during the period 1864-65. I was lucky enough to find James M. Porter, my paternal great-great-grandfather, on that list. The list contained each man's name, age, height, color of his hair, eyes, his skin color, birthplace, and his occupation in the county. Skin colors appearing on the list included "fair," "sallow," "tan," "red," and "dark."

According to the "Descriptive Register, " James M. Porter's height was 6 feet, and he was shown to have black hair and hazel eyes. He was born in Mississippi, his occupation was "farmer," and his skin color was shown as "dark." My first thought was this physical description of James M. Porter might very well have been that of one of my great-uncles, my brothers, or even one of my sons.

Interesting little document! But who prepared this list? What was its purpose? How did it become a "historical" document? Common sense told me the list was prepared during the time period directly following the end of the Civil War. Did the register have anything to do with the end of the war? Or was someone attempting to record racial differences in that particular place and at that particular time?

I began searching for online information about "descriptive registers" and immediately found the document contained on the microfilm at the LDS Family History Center included on a number of widely-used (and very helpful, I might add) Attala County, Mississippi genealogy websites.

What I did not find was information that explained the purpose of the list or its intended use. I found it fascinating, to say the least, that someone in 1864 and 1865 was interested in developing a list that included a person's "skin color." It was not until the U.S. Census of 1870 was taken that an individual's "race" was included on a federal census record. The available categories on the census were "Black", "White", "Mulatto", "Indian" or "Chinese" and the designation on the 1870 U. S. Census may have been decided by the census taker based on physical characteristics rather than having been provided by the individual or a relative. I was both puzzled and intrigued by this "descriptive register", so I kept on searching for an explanation.

But I have never found a valid reason to explain the list. The best explanation to date, is actually second-hand information. By that, I mean that other people have offered explanations to me or I have read explanations of others about what they think was the purpose of the "descriptive register."

I have read for myself that amnesty agreement terms, signed by both sides at the end of the Civil War, included a requirement that each military unit that fought for the South prepare a list of its members. These lists or "descriptive registers" would provide the Federal government with records of those who fought for the South and against the Federal Union. This requirement sounds like a "military" record to me. The "descriptive register" I viewed on microfilm, and which I copied for my own records, contains nothing about military unit name or number or the rank or length of service of the men included on the list.

The Attala County "descriptive register" appears to be a list of civilians. In fact, the list contains no military affiliation or reference to the military at all. I cannot imagine this list would be a comprehensive list of men from Attala County who served in the Civil War. I have researched my family's history in other counties in the State of Mississippi and in several other southern states, but I have never encountered a list similar to the "descriptive register" containing these names of Attala County men in 1864-65.

Will I ever find the answers to my questions about the "descriptive register?" At this point, I don't know.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Index to Attala County Deeds 1858 - 1900 (Porter as Grantee and Grantor)

Examination of various types of land transactions involving the Porter family has revealed not only the names of other family members and their relationships, but it has given me insight into the livelihoods of my ancestors, as well. When I researched Attala County, Mississippi deeds showing the name "Porter", I found the following deeds and deeds of trust filed for record between 1858 and 1900:

Porter, Emanuel to Shrock & Sons, Book A, Page 140, Trust Deed

Porter, J. M. and Wife to J. G. Gilliland, Book A, Page 590, Deed

Porter, John M. from State of Mississippi, Book A, Page 591, Deed of Trust

Porter, P.M. to E. A. Kelley, Book B, Page 423, Deed of Trust

Porter, Samuel to A. Mabry Adams, Book C, Page 466, Deed

Porter, Samuel from Wm. E. Pugh, Book C, Page 568, Deed

Porter, James M. to E. W. Jordan, Book F, Page 240, Deed

Porter, J. M. to R. B. Webb, Circuit Clerk Book J, Page 173, Deed

Porter, J. M. from R. B. Webb, Book J, Page 173, Deed

Porter, P. M. to W. J. Sills, Book K, Page 198, Trust Deed

Porter, J. M. to Charley Winters, Book M, Page 346, Trust Deed

Porter, Emanuel to J. K. Shrock, Book M, Page 536, Trust Deed

Porter, P. M. to G. E. Ratliff, Book O, Page 406, Trust Deed

Porter, J. M. to Wesley Winters, Book O, Page 574, Trust Deed

Porter, Perry M. to W. J. Sills, Book P, Page 106, Trust Deed

Porter, P. M. to W. J. Sills, Book P, Page 155, Trust Deed

Porter, P. M. to Exie Ratliff, Book R, Page 214, Deed of Trust

Porter, P. M. to J. W. Kimbrough, Book S, Page 518, Deed of Trust

Porter, Archibald and P. M. Porter to Daniel Musselwhite, Book T, Page 70, Deed of Trust

Porter, Archibald and P. M. Porter to Daniel Musselwhite, Book T, Page 70, Deed of Trust

Porter, David to S. P. Rimmer and Son, Book T, Page 425, Deed of Trust

Porter, J. M. to C. S. Dickerson, Book Y, Page 98, Deed

Porter, J. M. to W. G. Mabry, Book Y, Page 187, Deed

Porter, J. M. to Lula Elvington, Book Y, Page 185, Deed

Porter, Archibald to J. W. Bain, Book AA, Page 66

Porter, Archibald to J. S. Bain, Book AA, Page 100, Deed of Trust

Porter, Archie to M. T. Duncan, Book BB, Page 436, Deed of Trust

Porter, Archie to J. M. Clark, Sr., Book BB, Page 437, Deed of Trust

Porter, Archie to Alex Winters and Wife, Book DD, Page 210, Deed of Trust

Porter, Archie to Alex Winters, Book DD, Page 298, Deed

Porter, P. M. to Archibald Porter, Book GG, Page 116, Deed

Porter, P. M. to Archibald Porter, Book GG, Page 125

Porter, P. M. to Archie Porter, Book GG, Page 541

Porter, Archie to J. A. Clark, Book GG, Page 542

Porter, Joseph and Sallie from W. S. and M. A. Donald, Book XX, Page 252, September 6, 1899

Porter, Joseph and Sallie from B. F. Nelson, Book XX, Page 253, dated September 6, 1899

Monday, August 18, 2008

Can you Identify These People?














Pictures, as they say, can say a thousand words. And old pictures can be fascinating from a variety of standpoints. Sometimes, it is just interesting to see family resemblances and how totally remarkable they can be, even throughout several generations. I think what I like best about family pictures is to see how the people dressed and wore their hair, both men and women. And did you ever wonder why so many photographs were made with relatives standing beside or on a horse, in front of the house or a barn, or beside a tractor or an automobile? It must have been because these things were such a vital part of living an agricultural-based life, and they were proud of these things. They worked very hard for what they had. Finally owning an automobile must have been like a dream come true, after they had walked, ridden a horse, or had driven a wagon or buggy everywhere they went.

My paternal grandmother, Lelia Porter Branch, left a wonderful album of photographs she collected throughout her lifetime. They span several generations of our family and are valuable records of what her life was like growing in Attala County, Mississippi. Included in the album were some photos and old picture postcards (postcards with “real photos” that could actually be mailed.) The problem is that I don’t know how the people in the photos and those pictured on the postcards are related to our family.

I thought I would post these pictures here and hope that someone who reads this may be able to identify the people in the pictures. Maybe someone will find a lost ancestor or maybe see a picture of an ancestor for the first time. I really hope so. I have included here a brief description of each picture, its markings, and any other significant information that I may know.

Three of the four pictures here are actually real “picture postcards.” One is of a couple, dressed in their best clothes, perhaps, identified in beautiful handwriting, written with a “fountain pen” having a fine point, as “Mr and Mrs Moreau, Clebourne, Texas.” Maybe one of these two people were related to Elizabeth Porter’s family in Texas, since Cleburne, Texas is where she went to live after James M. Porter’s death. I am not related to anyone that I know with the surname of Moreau.

Another second picture postcard contains the photograph of five men, dressed in their Sunday-best and wearing hats. It appears the men were photographed by a professional photographer. These names are written on the back of the postcard as they appear here: David Blair, Paytor (is almost illegible, so the spelling here is in question) Porter, Hall Hart, David Porter, and John Shearfield. It appears the postcard was never mailed, but it contains the handwritten phrase, “From Ellie to Vertie Helena, Ark” in the address portion of the card on the reverse side of the picture. There is no doubt in my mind the two Porter men are somehow related to my Porter family…I just don’t know how. I know that some of the Porter families did move to the Phillips County, Arkansas area after the Civil War, and US Highway 49, where it runs through Helena, Arkansas is also called "Porter Street." The other names surnames in the picture are unfamiliar.

Yet Another picture postcard is of a man in what looks to be a Marine uniform, possibly from World War I. He is wearing a fairly large cross, apparently some type of military medal. Some people who have seen this picture say the medal looks like a “Navy Cross.” The background of the picture appears to be the inside of a beautiful old building, with fine-looking wood and heavy draperies and could be somewhere in Europe. The postcard contains “Mrs J. J. Porter” in handwriting opposite the address area. Again, it appears the postcard was never mailed, unless it was included inside a letter. I suspect this picture may have been Maggy Porter’s only brother, Lewis Meriwether.

The fourth picture posted here is an actual photograph of three men and a mule or a small horse. The men's names are handwritten on the back of the picture: "Mr. Lominick, Dr. Williams, and Mr. Ray Hall. I would be delighted if someone responded to this post and told me they are related to one of the people in the pictures and they would like to have a copy. I really would like to give the very nice original picture of "Mr. and Mrs. Moreau" who lived in "Clebourne, Texas" at one time, to their descendants. But until that someone responds, the old photographs will remain exactly where they have been for a very long time........tucked away carefully in my grandmother's photo album.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

How Many Relatives Do You Have?

The following article contains a sprinkling of philosophy and some unique math. It was written by the Rev. Gene Britton of East Point, GA, and was printed in "The Southside Sun," a Virginia newspaper.

"Next time you're feeling rather important, try a little arithmetic trick based on the undebatable fact that it took two people, your parents, to get you here. Each of your parents has two parents, so in the generation just prior to that of your mother and father, there were four people whose pairing off and sharing love contributed to your existence. You are the product of eight great-grandparents, 16 great-great-grandparents, 32 great-great-great-grandparents, etc. Keep multiplying the number by two. If you figure an average of about 25 years between each generation, you'll discover that a scant 500 years ago, there were 1,048,576 people on this planet beginning in the production of you!"

Looks like I need to do more research, because I haven't made my numbers yet.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Meriwether Society



Census and Marriage Records - 1830 - 1860

I initially began a search for the Meriwether surname, with only two names of known relatives......Margaret Susanna Meriwether and her father, Wilds Meriwether. I searched for all of the variations in the spelling of the name. During my review of available census and marriage records in Mississippi, Alabama, and Arkansas for the period between 1830 and 1860, I found this information:


Meriwether, Francis - U. S. Census 1830 - Chicot Co., AR


Meriwether, India - U. S. Census 1850 - born in VA and lived in Jefferson (Carroll County) MS

Meriwether, John N. - Tallahatchie County, MS marriage record


Merriwether, John T. - U. S. Census 1850 - Monroe County, MS


Merriweather, Judith - U. S. Census 1850 - Carroll County, Northern Dist., MS


Merriwether, Nicholas - U. S. Census 1850 - Carroll County, Southern Dist., MS


Meriwether, R. C. - U. S. Census 1840 - Pike County, MS


Meriwether, Robert - U. S. Census 1830 - Greene County, AL


(Note: It is a well-documented fact that many families migrated to MS, and specifically to Attala County, MS from Greene Co., AL. Sometimes several families migrated together.)


Meriweather, Robert E. - U. S. Census 1850; 1841 and 1845 MS State Census -living in Carroll County, Mississippi at the time each census was taken


Merriwether, V. H. - U. S. Census 1850 - DeSoto County, Southern Dist., MS


Based on this review of names, it appeared that I should focus my research on Carroll County, Mississippi. I was not surprised to find a number of Meriwether family members living in Carroll County, since my grandmother, Lelia Porter Branch, had told me stories as a little girl that her grandmother grew up around "Black Hawk", a community in Carroll County.


And then I discovered the existence of The Meriwether Society. Finding the society during a simple internet search was a revelation to me. I was amazed to find the group had been established since 1898, and at the time of my discovery, members of the group had been researching their family lines for over 100 years. The society has a number of different family groups working on their own specific "lines", and the entire society meets annually in a location that is significant to the history of the Meriwether family. Members of the society pay small annual dues and participate voluntarily in ongoing society-planned research projects. These projects have now resulted in several books documenting the Meriwether family's migration path from its immigration from England to western Virginia (later Kentucky,) down through the Carolinas into Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and back into Kentucky. Since I have known about the society, it has had annual meetings in Williamsburg, VA, Louisville, KY, and Nashville, TN. Apparently, many members of the early Meriwether family lived in or near all of those locations.

Interestingly, the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee, was actually built by a member of the Meriwether family member.

I also found that a number of Meriwether family members moved from Mississippi back to Shelbyville and Ballard County, near Louisville, Kentucky, where other relatives already lived, during the mid-late 1800's. Some of the information I found indicated that many Meriwether families left Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi before the Civil War broke out and moved farther north.

Based on the information I have found, I believe the family story of of how Wilds Meriwether left Mississippi with his family when they migrated back to Kentucky may be true. Or at least, Wilds may have left to re-join his family after they relocated there.

But the big question still remains. Why would he leave without Malverda and their two children?




Finding Wilds Meriweather and Melvertie Gibson

The Meriwether family name has been a difficult one to research in Mississippi. First there is the problem of how the name has been and continues to be spelled. The original English spelling, and still the most common, is "Meriwether." It has also been spelled "Merriwether", "Meriweather", and "Merryweather." These versions do not include the mispelled versions of the name, such as "Morsiweathers" as it was actually spelled on my great-grandparent's marriage license. Each time I searched in a particular group of records, I had to use each spelling to ensure I didn't miss the right one.

When I was growing up, the only other person I had ever heard with the name of "Meriwether", was Meriwether Lewis of Lewis and Clark fame. I never even considered that my great-grandmother might be related to this person. He was an important historical figure, and my great-grandmother was, well...you know....my great-grandmother. As I became older and television, newspapers, and magazines made me aware of others in the world who had the surname of "Meriwether", I heard about Margaret Meriwether Post, the Washington socialite/heiress and Lee Meriwether, the actress. I still didn't even think about possible family relationships, particularly since my grandmother had told me that her mother's maiden name was spelled "Merriweather", and she would know the correct spelling. Today, I am not so sure that everyone used the correct spelling, and in some instances, different families may have spelled the name differently to set themselves apart from others. In this post, I will use the original spelling of the name, unless I am referring to an actual document that uses a variant spelling.

I had always heard that my great-grandmother Porter's father was named "Will Merriweather." I took this as gospel until I started this research about ten years ago and asked my father if he knew his great-grandmother's last name (Maggy Merriweather's mother.) He told me he did not and that he had only heard her called "Grandma." I had to know great-grandmother Porter's mother's maiden name, or I couldn't go back any further with my research. I was facing a "brick wall," as genealogy researchers say.

There was no one alive who knew the answer to my question. So I pondered about what type of record I could find that would provide me with my great-grandmother Porter's mother's maiden name. The answer was actually an easy one. Medicare law was passed in 1960, and great-grandmother Porter was old enough in 1960 to be eligible for Medicare coverage. This meant that if she didn't already have a number, she would have been required to apply for a number in order to obtain coverage. I knew that I could request a copy of her SS-5, or "Application for a Social Security Number" and that it would contain very valuable genealogy information, including her date of birth, place of birth, and the name of her parents, including the maiden name of her mother. A copy of the document can be obtained for a small fee, but for security reasons that are obvious, the information is available only after the number holder is deceased. I requested the document and received a surprise.

The SS-5 verified my great-grandmother's birthday and showed that her full name was Margaret Susanna Merriweather Porter, and she was born in Calhoun City, Calhoun County, Mississippi. Her father was "Wilds" Merriweather, and her mother was Melvertie Gibson. I had never even heard the name "Gibson" mentioned in our family and had no idea we had relatives who had that name.

Although I believed that I now had the correct name for my great-grandmother's father, I still didn't know the names of Wilds' parents, where he was born, where he died, or anything else about his family. I still wondered why he allegedly had deserted his wife and children. And now I had even another question: who was this Melvertie Gibson? who were her parents? where was she born? and where did she die?

Where would I search first?

Tomorrow: A Quest to Find the Meriwethers and the Gibsons.

Friday, August 15, 2008

John James Porter and Margaret Susanna Meriwether Porter






Top Left: Maggie Porter, circa 1920, Above: Porter Children and Grandchildren, circa 1940. Right: J. J. Porter and Maggy Porter, circa 1930. Below: J. J. Porter, Alice Porter, and Lelia Porter Branch, my paternal grandmother, circa 1925. All pictures taken in Attala Co., MS




Since J. J. Porter died in the 1940s,knew him except through pictures and stories about him from family members. He was a farmer all of his life, just like many of his neighbors and like all the other Porter men before him. His mother, Eliza Jane Walker Porter, died when he was a small child, and his father, James M. Porter, had also died when J. J. was still quite young. He and Maggy lived on land they farmed in Attala County, Mississippi, near Sallis, the same land that other Porter family members had lived on and used for farming, raising cattle, and cutting timber for many years before them. At one time, J. J. Porter's land amounted to about 300 acres and was bordered by the Big Black River. Much of it was heavily wooded and some of it was "bottom land." Others parts had been cleared for pasture land. A clear creek with a sandy bottom known by locals as "Jordan's Creek", flowed through the property and provided a swimming hole for the children. Some portions of the land were made of red dirt and clay, and cultivation was difficult in those places. But pine trees loved to grow in this soil, and wood was needed for wood stoves for cooking and heating and to burn in fireplaces in the winter. The trees were also sold for timber, likely to a sawmill that was nearby in the Shrock community.

Maggy was one of two children born during her mother's first marriage to Wilds Meriwether. The Meriwether Family in England and the United States has been well-researched, and I will discuss my family's Meriwether connections in a later post. According to census records with information likely provided by her parents, John P. and Margarett J. Williams Gibson, Maggie's mother was shown as "Malverda." In other records, I have seen her name spelled as "Malvertie" and "Melverda." A marriage record from Monroe County, Mississippi, shows that Malverda's mother, Margarett J. Williams and her father, John P. Gibson, were married on January 3, 1843 in Aberdeen, Monroe County, Mississippi. Joseph Gibson, likely a relative not yet proven, put up the marriage bond of five hundred dollars ($500.) The John P. Gibson family was enumerated on the U.S. Census for Calhoun County, Mississippi conducted in 1860. They were living in the Cherry Hill community, and John's occupation was "Blacksmith." Children shown in the Gibson household were Malverda, Elvira, Asberry, Francis, Mary, Martha, and Becky.

Melverda Gibson later married Wilds Meriwether, and they had two children, Margaret Susanna (Maggy, my great-grandmother), and a son named Lewis. Wilds Meriwether was the son of Robert Emmit and Susan Terrell Meriwether, who lived for a time in Carroll County, Mississippi,, near Carrollton . I have never been able to find a record of a marriage between Malverda and Wilds. Family stories throughout the years told how Malverda gave birth to a third child that was "stillborn", and after he and Melverda buried the baby, Wilds left her and the other children and moved to Kentucky with his childhood family, who had already moved there from Mississippi. I did find a record of a Meriwether infant shown on the 1880 Mortality Index, with "iniation" as the cause of death. Iniation was medical terminology that actually meant "stillborn." This record may establish the time period during which my great-great-grandfather Wilds Meriwether left Mississippi.

Maggie was born in Calhoun City, Calhoun County, in On September 4, 1876, and she would have been about four years old when her father allegedly deserted his family. On September 20, 1886, according to Yalobusha County, Mississippi marriage records, "Mrs. M.V. Merryweather" married Newell Autry Felts. I feel quite certain that "M.V." is Melverda Meriwether, as the next sentence will tell. J. J. and Maggy Porter later gave one of their own sons the name, Newell Autry Porter. Maggie must have respected her stepfather well enough to honor him by naming one of her sons for him.John James and Maggy Porter became the parents of seven living children. Etta, Vertie, and my grandmother, Lelia, were their three daughters. Clarence, Newell, James, and Charles were their four sons. According to records that I have seen, J. J. and Maggy may have lost at least two children at very young ages due to childhood illnesses. One of those children was named Walter.

My great-grandmother was a very petite woman , weighing barely ninety pounds, who wore her long, dark hair in a bun on the back of her head. Her looks really didn't change much over the almost twenty years I knew her. She was almost totally deaf, and I do not recall that she ever wore a hearing aid. I feel that I know very little about her family, and if she had been better able to hear during the years that I was old enough to talk to her and ask questions, I would certainly know more than I do about her Meriwether, Gibson, and Williams families. I think about all the family history I could have learned firsthand from her. Maggy lived longer than any of my other relatives that I knew growing up. She was 93 years old when she died in 1969. She and J. J. Porter are buried in Hillcrest Cemetery in Goodman, along with several other Porter relatives, including two of their sons and my paternal grandparents, Clark C. and Lelia Porter Branch.