Copyright © Janice Tracy, Mississippi Memories

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Pettus Family of Holmes County, Mississippi

A few months ago on Attala County Memories, I wrote a post about the Pettus family that migrated from Norwich, England to Virginia. Although I did include some information in that post about my maternal grandmother, Rosa Mae Pettus Netherland, who lived in Holmes County, Mississippi, I did not include anything about other Pettus family members who lived in Mississippi.

My Grandmother, Mother, and Me, Lexington, MS
Photographed by my father in late 1946

The fact is that I knew very little growing up about this side of my family. One reason for this was that my Pettus great-grandparents died when I was very young, and my mother and her mother seemed to known very little about the family's history. But thanks to two of my readers, Robby Pettus and R. E. Harthcock, newly discovered cousins in Mississippi, I now have some of that information. Interestingly, Robby's great-grandfather and mine were brothers.

Based on available family information, the Pettus family in Mississippi may have migrated from Virginia, via South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama . Verified information about my branch of the Pettus family, however, begins in 1830, when William Spencer Pettus, was born in Holmes County, Mississipi, on June 30th of that year. On an unverified date in 1867, William Spencer married Martha M. Thomas, in Holmes County. The daughter of Patrick Boyd Thomas, Sr. and Mary Frances, whose surname is unknown, Martha M. Thomas was born on October 30, 1847. According to the 1870 U. S. Census taken in Holmes County, Mississippi, William Spencer and Martha M. Thomas were living near Tchula, Mississippi. In 1880, the U. S. Census taken that year listed the family, now with three children, as residents of Beat 4, Holmes County, Mississippi. William's occupation was shown as "carpenter."

The marriage of William Spencer and Mary M. Thomas Pettus ultimately produced seven children. Their oldest child,
John Dabney Pettus, was born in 1881 in Holmes County. When he was about 27 years old, John Dabney Pettus married Evie Lena McLean on November 2, 1907, also in Holmes County. Evie McLean, the daughter of Edward Dudley McLean and Adeline Cecilia Ferrell, was born on February 24, 1890, in Attala County, Mississippi. John Dabney Pettus died in 1909, and Evie McLean Pettus did on February 26, 1960 in Holmes County. During their marriage, Evie gave birth to 2 children, John Pettus and Charley Pettus.

Another of their sons, William Elza Pettus, my maternal great-grandfather, was born on June 1, 1876 in Holmes County. I was able to locate William Elza on census records only once, in 1900, when he was shown as a "Boarder" in the Thornton, Mississippi home of Molly Malone, a widowed mother of three children. Later that year, William Elza Pettus married Lucy Lula Trigleth in Holmes County. Lucy Lula was born in 1881 near Brozville, Holmes County, Mississippi, and was the daughter of George Walter Trigleth, Sr. and Susan Elizabeth Elviney Coggins. Lucy died in 1951 and was buried in Coxburg Cemetery in Holmes County. William Elza Pettus died the next year, on December 15, 1952, and was buried along with other Pettus relatives in Holmes County. During their marriage, William Elza Pettus and Lucy Lula Trigleth had four children, Mary Sue, William O., Rosa Mae, and Eloise.

Their oldest child, Mary Sue Pettus was born on September 9, 1903 in Holmes County. Mary Pettus married Robert Autry Chisolm on December 29, 1920, also in Holmes County. On January 19, 1961, Mary Sue Pettus Chisolm died, and she is buried in Coxburg Cemetery, Coxburg, Holmes County, MS.

William O. Pettus, the couple's only son, was born on October 17, 1904, in Holmes County, MS, and died on January 12, 1968, also in Holmes County, MS.

Rosa Mae Pettus, my maternal grandmother, was born on August 18, 1908, in Holmes County. She married Ralph Ernest Netherland, my grandfather, and they divorced around 1940, when my mother was 14 years old and her brother was around 10. A few years later, Rosa Mae remarried, but she became a widow in the early 1950's. After her second husband's death, Rosa Mae moved from Holmes County to Jackson, where she worked as a nurse at St. Dominic's Hospital until she retired. After Rosa Mae retired, she settled near Yazoo City and lived there until her death on January 4, 1986. My grandmother is buried in Coxburg Cemetery, Coxburg, Holmes County, MS, just miles from where she was born, grew up, and married my grandfather.

The couple's youngest child, Eloise Pettus, was born on August 18, 1910 in Holmes County. She married Joseph Elijah Gilmore about 1929, also in Holmes County. Eloise (pronounced "Eloyce") died on November 12, 1996 and is buried in Holmes County, as well.

In addition to John Dabney Pettus and William Elza Pettus, William Spencer Pettus and Mary Frances Thomas Pettus had five other children, Mansfield, born about 1868, James, born June 1870, Alice born circa 1875, Tildon, born June 1878, and Elmer, born on June 16, 1880. Elmer died on October 10, 1934. Like their brothers, John Dabney Pettus and William Elza Pettus, all five of these children were born in Holmes County, Mississippi.

According to my new cousins, most of our Pettus ancestors are buried in Oak Grove Cemetery in Holmes County, Mississippi. Others are buried in Coxburg Cemetery and in nearby cemeteries. Later this spring, I plan to post pictures of their gravestones on Cemeteries of Dancing Rabbit Creek, my cemetery blog, and I hope you will stop by.


  1. That's wonderful, Janice. Don't you just love meeting new "cousins" out of the blue?

  2. The Name Dabney is family name. Re: the family marriages of Saunders, Dabey and Pettus of Virginia via England.
    Mary Lee Saunders

  3. Janice, I am related to the Pettus family thru marriage on the McLean side. A few years ago I gave Larry a book about the family after finding the name John Dabney Pettus in the book. It contained a section with some genealogy on the Pettus family.

    Another article here that really fascinates me is the "Lady In Red". My great grandmother who lived at Sidon just up from Cruger died during the floods on year. They couldn't bury her because the water was too high, so they put her in a boat and floated down a few miles to find some drier land and they buried her in the area but we don't know location. Course with all the water she couldn't be buried in the cemetery, and they had to preserve the body somehow until the water went down and they could carry her on a boat. She was petite lady about 26 yrs. old with reddish brown hair...sound familiar?...we never knew where the grave was. I found her mother not far away in a field of crops out from Yazoo City. It's my biggest fantasy that I could get a DNA sample and prove who that Lady really is.

  4. While browsing at this website, I noticed that you mention John Dabney Pettus to whom you are related. That name tells me that your earliest American ancestors lived in Virginia, beginning with the immigrant, Thomas Pettus from Norwich, England, and continuing with his son TP II, and grandson Stephen, who married Mary Dabney around 1700. I have documented everything I know about the Pettus family of England and Virginia in two large volumes based upon research I conducted over a period of 40 years. I have personally visited courthouses and record offices in Virginia and England and an archive in Holland, where I found TP II's signature (1687). If want to know more, please contact William Pettus at You may be eligible for membership in the Jamestowne Society.