Copyright © Janice Tracy, Mississippi Memories

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Story of Elizabeth Walters (Taylor) Bottoms

Recently, I was contacted by a reader in Texas who shared a story with me about one of his ancestors, Elizabeth Walters. The story he related is one of romance, mystery, and intrigue, one that began in Mississippi and tragically ended in Texas years later. With my reader's permission, today's post contains Elizabeth's story.

Elizabeth Walters was born in 1814, in a part of the Mississippi Territory that later became Madison County, Alabama. She was the only daughter of eight children born to Moses Walters and Elizabeth Cawthon. Moses later moved his family to Shelby County, Alabama, and from that location, the Walters family migrated to a newly created county in Mississippi known as Attala.

According to my reader, while living in Attala County, Elizabeth began a relationship with a married man whose surname was "Taylor," a man the Walters family believes may have been "William Taylor." My reader stated that records show William Taylor served in the War of 1812, under the command of General Louis Durant. Later, General Durant, for whom the town of Durant, Mississippi was named, became Taylor's father-in-law when he married the General's daughter, Syllan. My reader believes that Syllan Durant was William Taylor's wife at the time he and Elizabeth Walters maintained a relationship. Other records, my reader wrote, show that in 1831, William Taylor was registered as a white man, and his household consisted of 7 persons, including one male child over 16, and four other children under 16. The family lived in Oakchia, meaning "a place to get water," in Leflore's District of the Choctaw Nation.

In 1835, William Taylor was listed in Mississippi's Court of Claims (No. 14742, page 78) as having claimed Choctaw Lands located in the Sections 12, 13, 14, 15, and 23, and showed that he was living in a portion of newly-formed Holmes County that had previously been Yazoo County. Early Holmes County, Mississippi records show that in 1833, William Taylor served on the Board of Police of Holmes County, a governmental entity similar to the present day County Board of Supervisors.

As a result of her relationship with Mr. Taylor, Elizabeth gave birth to two children. Their first child was a son, William Jasper Taylor, born in Attala County in 1834. A second child, Lavina Taylor, was born in 1836 in Texas, shortly after Elizabeth had moved there with extended members of the Walters family. Elizabeth's descendants have found no evidence to indicate that Taylor accompanied Elizabeth and her family on their move to Texas or that he was present when Lavina was born. In fact, by 1835, Mississippi records indicate William Taylor had separated from Syllan and had sold lands that he owned. Walters family research found no further mention of William Taylor in Mississippi records and have been unable to determine where he later lived and when and where he died.

After living for three years in Texas with her family and her two small children, Elizabeth Walters (Taylor) married Zachariah W. Bottoms on December 24, 1838, in Cherokee County, Texas. Zach Bottoms was born on September 26, 1812, in Giles County, Tennessee, to William Bottoms and his wife, Ann Witt and as a young man, lived in the Old Doaksville area of the Mississippi Territory. The Walters family believes Bottoms was part Choctaw Indian and had traveled west with his father and others on the "Trail of Tears," arriving in 1831 in Nacogdoches County, Mexican Territory.

In 1836, in Nacogdoches County, Bottoms had enlisted as as a soldier in the army that secured Texas from the Mexican government. Initially, Bottoms served in Captain Mike Cosley's Company commanded by General Sam Houston, and in 1837, he served in a company commanded by Captain Jack Todd, known as Todd's Spy Company, a company that was attached to Colonel Carter's Regiment of General Rusk's Brigade. The next year, Bottoms served in companies that were commanded by Captain Hiram Stevens, Captain Daniel Wilks, and Captain J. Medford. A search of Texas land records, according to my reader, found that Bottoms purchased a tract of land in 1842 from his father-in-law, Moses Walters.

Elizabeth's marriage to Zach Bottoms produced eight children, Nancy, Anna, Smith, Mary J., William, Alexander, Lucinda, and Elizabeth, all of whom were born in Texas. Tragically, Elizabeth Walters (Taylor) Bottoms apparently died as a result of childbirth when Elizabeth was born in 1852. Although he cannot prove it, my reader believes Elizabeth's death occurred near Douglass, Texas, where she lived with her husband. Although no headstone for Elizabeth has been found, the Walters family believes it is almost certain that Elizabeth was buried in the Walters Family Cemetery. Now known as Redland Cemetery, the cemetery is located on land that was owned by Robert Walters, a son of Moses Walters.

During the late 1860's, still a widower, Zachariah Bottoms moved to Van Zandt County, Texas, and in the late 1870s, he moved again, this time to the community of Dexter, in Cooke County, Texas. According to my contact, one of Zachariah's descendants, George M. Atwood, has in his possession a copy of a letter written by Zachariah Bottoms while he was a resident of Dexter, Texas. The letter was written to Chief Peter Pitchlynn, then Chief of the Choctaw Tribe. Family records have established that sometime after the letter was written, Zachariah Bottoms moved to the Choctaw Nation in Indian Terrritory, where he died near Paul's Valley (now Paul's Valley, Oklahoma), at the home of his son-in-law, Thomas W. Seagroves.

The story of Elizabeth's early life is a fascinating one, a life in which she and William Taylor apparently defied society's conventions of the time. But her story is also one that illustrates how living in remote areas during pioneer times likely was not conventional at all.

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