Copyright © Janice Tracy, Mississippi Memories

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Restoration of a Cemetery: Conner Cemetery in Attala County, Mississippi

Thanks to Jane Swanson, a Conner descendant who lives in Texas, it is possible for me to write this post about the restoration and dedication of Conner Cemetery, one of Attala County's historic cemeteries. During the past few weeks, I have written posts here and on Cemeteries of Dancing Rabbit Creek, that included photos provided by Jane of Conner family members, along with information about the Conner family cemetery located north of Kosciusko. But what I did not know until a few days ago was the vital role that Jane played in the restoration of her ancestors' cemetery. Below is an excerpt of how the cemetery's restoration came about a number of years ago, as Jane related it to me:

"Along about the year 2000 I became very interested in genealogy. Stopping by Kosciusko, Ms on a return trip from Atlanta to Houston, I tried to find where the Conner (my ancestors) property use to be, since I had heard that there was a family cemetery. I located a book, on local cemeteries, at the library in Kosciusko, and met an older gentleman who actually gave us directions. I had to laugh. He told us to go down through the “hollow”. I had no idea what a hollow was!

I was very disappointed in the condition of the cemetery. Most of the tombstones were blackened, broken, falling over and trees down everywhere. After returning (home) I couldn’t get it out of my mind. Upon further investigation I found several relatives on internet genealogy sites. There was one posting from a Sonny Cade (descended from Boley’s daughter Lucy) calling all descendants of Boley Conner. He was disturbed at the condition of the family cemetery, following yet another storm; and was asking for help. So, over the next few months, several of us banded together: Ramona Winer (descended from Boley’s son William) Sarah Childress (descended from son Thomas) Nancy Bradford, Suzanne Dougherty and myself Jane Swanson (sisters, and descendants from daughter Julia)

To make a long story shorter. We appealed to all descendants of Boley and Ann Conner to make donations to restore the cemetery. We also wanted to have the cemetery declared a historical site. The historical marker was fairly expensive, and it became apparent we were barely collecting enough money to pay for it. Romona contacted the Sons of the Confederacy, since there were Civil War veterans buried in the Conner cemetery. They took on the cost of most of the restorations as their club project. The monies we collected, paying for the marker.

On Nov. 2nd 2002 we had a re-dedication ceremony at the cemetery. It started with a lunch at the Kosciusko library. There were about twenty five Conner descendants in attendance, along with members of the sons of the Confederacy and their families all in full civil war regalia. We later all trekked to the cemetery where a musket salute was done, a toast and a poem that was written and read by Dr. Patrick McGraw (descendant of daughter Julia). Romona Winer placing a stone bench beside Williams’s twin’s grave (he is buried elsewhere) it was a beautiful day and we felt such pride at what together we had accomplished."

Jane wanted me to be certain to give credit to others for the restoration of the Conner Cemetery. In an email to me, she stated, " was truly an effort of distant cousins (and my sisters).....Romona Winer doing much to the research we needed for the marker, and of course distant relatives who trusted us enough to send a donation."

(Photo courtesy of Jane Swanson)

A few days ago, Jane emailed me this photo of an item made for her by Sonny Cade, a Conner descendant mentioned in her story above. Made of wood in the shape of the State of Mississippi, Cade presented the keepsake gift to Jane and other Conner cousins as a reminder of the successful completion of the cemetery's restoration. An explanation of the keepsake, in Jane's words, appears below:

"Even though I only met Sonny Cade for a few mins. the day of the cemetery dedication. Sonny was the one who got the ball rolling with his plea for help. He brought a gift for me,as a thank you, and I believe the other cousins who worked so hard to get the cemetery restored. In one of those pictures I sent you, it showed our gg-grandfathers tombstone (Boley Conner) toppled by a huge tree. Sonny cut that tree up and made little paper weights in the shape of the state of Mississippi. He etched into each one a map of how to get to the Conner Cemetery. I am not sure what kind of wood came from that tree. But he polished it up and it is such a nice keepsake. I can't help thinking that that tree was once small and maybe was planted near (actually too close) to his grave when he was buried in 1898. Amazing that a piece of that tree now sits on my desk in Texas....."

Although the restoration of Conner Cemetery is no longer "new" news in Attala County, it was the first time I had heard the story. Thank you, Jane, for sharing this amazing story with me and for allowing me to post about it here on this blog.

Note: Watch for other posts about the Conner family including more photos, here on this blog.

Copyright © by Janice Tracy

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Felix All Grown Up

Source: Digital Photo Collection (2009) - Privately owned by Janice Tracy

Friday, November 20, 2009

"One Night of Madness" by Stokes McMillan Has Been Published

Yesterday, The Star Herald published the third of four installments of Stokes McMillan's book, "One Night of Madness." The long-awaited book about a real-life event in Attala County, Mississippi, has now been published and can be purchased at, or by contacting the author at

According to Stokes, he will be signing books in mid-December, beginning with the Kosciusko Library on December 14, 2009, from 3 - 6 p.m. The next day, December 15th, he will sign books at the Durant, Mississippi Library from 10 - 12 Noon and at the Goodman Library from 2:30 - 5:00 p.m. On December 16, 2009, the author will travel to Jackson, Mississippi for a book signing at one of my favorite book stores, Lemuria Books, located at 4465 I-55 North.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Uriah Conner and His Descendants

Remember how I wrote in a post published earlier this week about how wonderful my readers are? You may recall that I also mentioned in that post about how a descendant of Colonel James Drane contacted me and provided detailed family information and photos that enabled me to write a post about the Drane family.

Well, today, I have a similar story to tell.

Several weeks ago, a reader of my blog who lives in Houston, Texas, discovered a post I had written months ago about the Conner Cemetery in Attala County, Mississippi. This particular cemetery is now marked by a Mississippi historical marker. The reader is a descendant of the Conner Family, and she sent photos and some amazing family information about her ancestors who lived in the Attala County area. One of the photos attached to her email was that of Uriah Conner, Jr. and his son, John Lewis Conner.

John Lewis Conner (left in photo), b. Dec. 28, 1825
Uriah Conner, Jr. (right in photo), b. March 2, 1783

(Photo courtesy of Jane Swanson)

According to the readers' facts obtained from Conner family documents, Uriah Conner, Jr. and his family settled in Mississippi in the early 1800s. Uriah Conner, Jr. was born on March 2, 1783 in North Carolina, the son of Uriah Conner and Margaret Johnston Conner. John Lewis Conner, who appears with his father in the photo shown here, was the son of Uriah Conner, Jr. and his wife, Rebecca Chappalear Conner. John was born on December 28, 1825 in Pickens County, Alabama.

Watch for additional posts with more details about the Conner family in Mississippi, a family that like so many others, migrated westward to occupy lands in newly formed counties that had once been part of the Choctaw Nation. I hope you will join me to read more about these early Mississippi settlers.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Drane Family of French Camp, Mississippi

My readers are absolutely wonderful, and many continue to share information and photos of their ancestors with me. Sharing of information was something I had hoped for when I began this blog, and I have never been disappointed. Several months ago, a reader contacted me about a post I had written about one of her ancestors, Colonel James Drane. But before I go any further with this story, I need to provide some background.

Earlier this year, I wrote a post about Colonel James Drane, who lived near French Camp on the Natchez Trace. The post came about as a result of a name that appeared on the marriage record that I had found on file in Yalobusha County, Mississippi a few years earlier for my great-great-grandmother. The document named "Jim Drane" as the individual who had posted a bond for the marriage of "Mrs. M.V. Merriweather to her second husband, Newell Autry Felts. Since I had very little information at the time about Melvertie Merriweather Felts, I wondered if Jim Drane might be a relative, and began a search for Drane family information. Some time later, I found that "Jim Drane" on the marriage record was the son of Colonel James Drane. And later, I wrote a brief post about Colonel Drane and what I believed to be his burial place.

The reader who contacted me a couple of weeks ago is a great-great-great-granddaughter of Colonel James Drane, descending through Colonel Drane's son, Virgil. She was kind enough to tell me the full story of how Colonel Drane's grave monument, along with the monument that marked the grave of Matilda, his wife, had been re-located to French Camp and how new grave stones now mark the sites where the bodies are actually buried. She also included photos of the original Drane grave monuments and of the new grave stones. The new stones, located near where the old Drane house once stood, are inscribed with the same words that were on the old stones.

A new grave stone now marks the grave of Colonel Drane near the old home site.

New grave stone that marks the grave of Matilda Drane, wife of Colonel Drane, who is also buried near the old Drane home site.

The photo of the plaque on this fence was also supplied by my reader, who told me the story of the grave sites of approximately 25 slaves buried along the fence and a nearby tree line. Although objections were raised by some, the rough-hewn gray stones that marked these old graves were moved by the new owner after the sale of the land where the old Drane home site was located. A new house now stands near where the old Drane house once stood.

This is a photo of the original grave monuments that marked the actual graves of Colonel Drane and Matilda Drane near the old Drane home site. The Drane House and the original grave monuments were removed from the old home site around 1981 and are now located in French Camp on the Natchez Trace.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Surname Saturday: Gibson

One of the blogs that I read each week is We Tree, written by Amy Lenertz Coffin. In her post published today, Amy mentions that some bloggers are writing posts on Saturdays about surnames they are researching. This idea falls in line with other regular topics posted by some bloggers, who, like me, are members of the group known as Geneabloggers. For instance, there are suggested topics for particular days of the week, including Monday Madness, Tombstone Tuesday, Wordless Wednesday, and Treasure Box Thursday. You may have seen one of these posts on this blog or on Mississippi Memories's sister blog, Cemeteries of Dancing Rabbit Creek.

Now you know the background of my post here today about the surname "Gibson." For almost 50 years, I had never knew that I had ancestors named Gibson. Nor did my father. When I asked him if he knew his maternal great-great-grandparents' names, he answered that he had only heard them referred to in conversations with his mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, all who were still living when he was growing up, as "Grandma" and "Grandpa." Of course, he never asked for more information. And I never asked my grandmother, his mother, about her ancestors while she was alive. At that point in my young life, I did not realize the importance of family history. Although my grandmother never mentioned the Gibson name when she talked to me about her family, which she often did, I am certain that she would have told me what she knew about her great-grandparents, if I had ever asked.

I did have one piece of information that was commonly known throughout my father's family: his great-grandmother's given name was Melvertie. I knew this because my great-aunt, Vertie Porter, had been named for her. It was an unusual name, but without a surname, further searching was impossible.

Over ten years ago now, with everyone already deceased who might know the name of my father's great-great-grandparents, I began my own personal quest for the information. Since my great-grandmother was born in 1874 and had never worked under Social Security, she had never requested nor been assigned a number. But since she was still living when Medicare was passed and became eligible for coverage, she was required to apply for a Social Security number.

The fact that my great-grandmother had completed an SS-5 was a very lucky break for me. I knew that the application for a Social Security number would contain her mother's maiden name, so I requested a copy. I made the request online, it cost around ten dollars (fairly inexpensive compared to the cost in 2009), and I received a copy of the document in less than three weeks.

The result was invaluable. This small investment of time and money provided me with a name that I would never have found otherwise, Melvertie Gibson, the full name of my paternal great-great-grandmother. Beginning with this one name, one that included a rather uncommon given name, I searched U. S. Census records for Mississippi. I began with the U. S. Census of 1850, but I found nothing. But when I searched the census record for 1860, I found the names of an entire Gibson family in Calhoun County, Mississippi that included a young female named "Malverda." Because the name "Melvertie" and "Malverda" are so similar, I knew instantly that I had found the right family, a family headed by John P. Gibson and his wife, Margaret J. Gibson. That was the day I broke down a brick wall and danced the so-called "happy dance."

According to the census, John P. Gibson was born about 1799 in South Carolina, and his occupation was that of "blacksmith." I continued to search and found the family again on the U. S. Census of 1870, recorded for Calhoun County. In 1880, I found nothing. Nor did I find a record for Melvertie, who had already met my great-great-grandfather, William Jefferson ("Will") Merriweather and had given birth to my great-grandmother, Margaret Susanna Merriweather.

Later, I discovered a record of John P. Gibson's marriage to Margaret J. Williams on January 3, 1843, in Monroe County, Mississippi, but I have been unable to find the names of John P. Gibson's parents, or the names of Margaret's parents. According to the marriage record, Joseph P. Gibson posted a $500 marriage bond before John married Margaret.

But Joseph's relationship to John is still a mystery. Although I have read Joseph P. Gibson's extensive and long-contested will that is on file in the Monroe County courthouse in Aberdeen, Mississippi, I did not find John's name included in any of the documents.

Based on the provisions of the will, Joseph and John were not father and son, nor were they brothers. Were they perhaps cousins? And why was such a large bond required before John and Margaret could marry? Since John was 44 years old when he married Margaret, it is likely that he had been married at least once before. What was his first wife's name, and did they have children? The questions are endless, and all are still unanswered.

But my search has not ended, and someday I will break down yet another brick wall....just wait and see.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Star-Herald Runs Second Excerpt from "One Night of Madness"

Today, The Star-Herald, Kosciusko, Mississippi's newspaper, ran a second excerpt from Stokes McMillan's soon to be released book, "One Night of Madness." The initial excerpt appeared in the November 5, 2009 edition of the paper.

A link to the second excerpt as it appeared in the November 12, 2009 edition of the paper can be accessed by clicking here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Mabry Households in Attala County, MS - 1870

In 1870, according to the U. S. Census conducted in Attala County, Mississippi, all individuals who lived in the county, with the exception of two, G. A. and B. H. Mabry, resided in Beat 4. Names of the individuals, along with the information captured on the 1870 census, appear below:

Enumerated in Beat 4, Post Office: Kosciusko, MS

Matilda (H), 35 y/o, b MS, f/black
Wesley, 18 y/o, b MS, m/mulatto
Cynthia, 16 y/o, b MS, f/mulatto
Bettie, 14 y/o, b MS, f/mulatto
Silas, 10 y/o, b MS, m/black
Amagiat, 8 y/o, b MS, m/mulatto
Charity, 2 y/o, b MS, f/mulatto

Minerva Mabry (H) - 44 y/o, b MS, w/f ((R/E value $1200; personal property value $600)
Mary C. Mabry - 16 y/o, b MS, w/f
Bettie Mabry - 12 y/o, b MS, w/f
Walter Ann Mabry - 7 y/o, b MS, w/f

V. A. Mabry (H) - 43 y/o, b AL, w/m (Farmer, R/E value $1200; personal prop. value $600)
M. C. Mabry - 24 y/o, b MS, w/f
N. J. Mabry - 20 y/o, b. MS, w/f
C. L. Mabry - 18 y/o, b. MS, w/f
Bettie Mabry - 16 y/o, b. MS w/f
C. B. Mabry - 14 y/o, b. MS w/f

Wm. G. Mabry (H), 28 y/o, b. MS, w/m (Farmer, R/E value $650; personal property $250)
Frances Mabry, 19 y/o, b. MS, w/f
Mary C. Mabry, 1 y/o, b. MS, w/f

John Mabry (H), 35 y/o, m/mulatto
Mary Mabry, 17 y/o, f/mulatto
Sarah Mabry, 8 y/o, f/mulatto
Francesco Mabry, 2 y/o, male/black

Amelia Mabry (H), 25 y/o, female/black
Saunders Mabry, 10 y/o, m/mulatto
Dudley Mabry, 2 y/o, m/mulatto

Phillis Mabry, 11 y/o, b MS, f/mulatto
(Enumerated in the h/hold of Anderson and Louisa Mann)

Nancy Mabry, 10 y/0, b MS, female/black
(Enumerated in the h/hold of Rachel Kane)

G. L. Mabry (H), 29 y/o, w/m (Farmer, R/E value $3800; personal property value $1800)
S. M. Mabry, 24 y/o, b MS, w/f
Asenath Mabry, 9 y/o, b MS, w/f
F. A. Mabry, 3 y/o, b MS, w/m
F. E. Mabry, 1 y/o, b MS, w/m

Source Citation: Year: 1870; Census Place: Beat 4, Attala County, Mississippi; Roll M593_722.

Monday, November 9, 2009

"One Night of Madness" by Stokes McMillan

Several weeks ago, I wrote a post about Stokes McMillan's soon-to-be-published book, "One Night of Madness." According to one of my readers and also a distant cousin, Kosciusko's newspaper, the Star Herald, recently published an article about McMillan's book.

To read the article, containing the first of four excerpts from the book, click on the link provided here.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Mabry Family in Attala County, Mississippi

According to the U. S. Census recorded in Mississippi in 1860, over one hundred individuals with the surname of Mabry were living in the state. Two households, headed by Walter Mabry and his wife Manerva, and by Alexander Mabry and his wife Clorinda, were enumerated in Attalaville, in Attala County. The names of children who lived in the household with Walter and Manerva, along with their ages at the time the census was taken, were Irving, 17, Roling M., 13, Bethena, 10, Mary C., 7, James S., 5, Sarah E., 3, and Samantha, age 3 months. Living in the household with Alexander and Clorinda Mabry were children named G. S., 19, T. D., 17, James, 15, J. W., 13, W. S., 11, and E. J., age 9.

Walter Mabry, 38 years old, born in Alabama, was a farmer who owned real estate valued at $4,000 and whose personal property was valued at $6,200. Also a farmer, Alexander Mabry had been born in Georgia, and according to the census, he owned real estate valued at $25,000 and personal property with a value of $75,000. Although Walter Mabry's holdings were substantial, by 1860's standards, Alexander Mabry was a very wealthy man. In fact, if the figures on the census record were accurate, the value of Alexander Mabry's real estate and personal property exceeded that of any other resident of Attalaville, Mississippi in 1860. Although the U. S. Census of 1860, Slave Schedule, shows that Walker (sic) Mabry owned six slaves, three males, ages 40, 50, and 58, and three females, ages 14, 20, and 65, Alexander Mabry's name does not appear as an owner on the same schedule.

Others who lived in Attalaville, Mississippi in 1860 were male heads of households identified as Robert Campbell, James Burrell, Jesse Armstrong, Joseph K. Shrock, John Clowers, William Martin, James Martin, J. C. Bryan, J. A. Dixon, William C. Hearst, John B. Luster, Obadiah Dumas, Thomas Cotton, Mathew Roby, Robert Dowling, William Simmons, Berry McMillan, A. Horton, William Burrell, Thomas W. Evans, and Jackson Ousley.

Next: Mabry Family in Mississippi - Post Civil War

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Mabry Family Beginnings

Most Mabry family researchers have determined they are descended from Francis Maybury and Elizabeth Gilliam of Surry, England and acknowledge various early spellings of the surname, which include Mayberry, Maybury, Maberay, Mabery, and the most common spelling, Mabry. Although early settlers of this family arrived in Virginia and first lived in Henrico, Surry, Brunswick and Lunenburg counties, some Mabry family members began a southward migration that took them into Fairfield County, South Carolina, Wilkes County, Georgia, Pickens District of Alabama, and later into several counties in Mississippi. Some of those who first settled in Mississippi later moved westward, including several areas in Texas.

According to the U. S. Census of 1850,
69 men, women, and children with the surname Mabry fesided that year in the State of Mississippi. These sixty-nine individuals lived in households that included a dozen couples named Easton and Ursula (Chickasaw County), James T. and Affa (Attala County), John and Sarah (Itawamba County), Jesse and Nancy (Madison County), Michael and Mary (Pontotoc County), Alexander and Clarinda (Attala County), Joel and Jane (Oktibbeha County), Frank B. and Mary E. (Desoto County), Benjamin T. E. and Lucy (Madison County), J. S. and Martha (Marshall County), William O. and Elizabeth M. (Desoto County), and Valentine and Ann L. (Attala County). Forty-five children lived in these twelve households.

Four adults with surnames other than Mabry were residents in two households.
These names included J. C. Culbertson, Walter Bernard, Mary W. Logan, and Margaret V. Logan. Since the 1850 census does not specify relationships, it is impossible to determine how these four individuals were related to other members of the same household.

Of the twelve couples, four lived in Attala and Madison Counties.

Next: Mabry families in Attala and Madison Counties