Why sit for a photo with an expression like this on your face? What thoughts were swirling around in her head? Why does she looks so angry and hard?
As the saying goes, “A picture is worth 1000 words.” Since I came upon this photo* a few days ago I’ve been pondering what some of those 1000 words might be.
I have so many questions! Here is what I know about her.
Her maiden name was Cornelia Bethany Mitchell, the 8th child of Albert Washington Mitchell and his wife Susan (Cone), both in their early 40s. At Cordelia’s birth in Attala county, Mississippi in 1841, her siblings ranged in age from 3-18 years old. She had only one sister, Lucy (Lucy Ann Mitchell Duncan Galloway). A photo of an elderly Lucy shows a similar facial expression (see below).
If you are directly related to me, we are kin to Cordelia on the Wilson side. Cornelia’s brother, Albert Pierce Mitchell (1842-?), fathered Leona Mitchell Wilson (1868-1930), who was the mother of Frank, L.A., Roy and Willie Wilson (1902-1948), husband of Annabelle Gray Wilson (1907-2002) and father of Billy & Barbara Ann.
At least four of her brothers fought in the Civil War as part of the 30th Mississippi Infantry, Company D “Dixie Heroes”. Whitman and George were corporals; Pierce and Franklin were privates. Only George and Pierce returned home. (Details in another post). She would have been about 11 when they went off to war.
After the war (1868), Cornelia married William Pinkney Ratliff. He was 21. She was 17 with an 8th grade education.
Their first child was stillborn the following year (1869) and apparently was not given a name. Their second child was born in early 1871. Sadly, Willie F. Ratliff died 19 months later. They are buried in Liberty Chapel Cemetery in Ethel (Attala county), Mississippi.
Cornelia had 11 more children over the next twenty years; 6 girls, 5 boys. They all survived to adulthood. It appears that one of her sons, Paul Grady Ratliff, learned to fly in Pensacola, Florida in 1917 and became a member of the Royal Air Force during World War I.
By 1920, she was listed as a 68-year-old widow living with son Albert, a 32-year-old bachelor farmer, in Cherokee, Texas, pop. 250. Interesting, because her husband William didn’t die until 1927. Also, William is shown as a divorced farmer of 72 living in Arkansas. It seems they divorced sometime between 1910 and 1920.
In May 1927, Cornelia’s husband died in Arkansas and was brought back to Mississippi for burial. Cornelia is not listed in his obituary (below).
In 1940, she was 88 and living with her daughter Sudie and her family. She died two years later, in 1942, and was buried next to her ex-husband in the Springdale Cemetery in the McAdams community of Attala county, Mississippi.
And lest we think Cornelia was just having a bad day when the above picture was taken, the photo below proves otherwise. That’s her sister, Lucy, on the right.
* These photos were posted on Ancestry.com in 2008 by Ed Ratliff (Cornelia) and in 2010 by Stopwatch (Lucy).
Robert Cowan Hughes was 10 when his mother passed away.
He was 19 and a merchant, perhaps with his older brother James, when he and his 60-year-old father, Singleton, enlisted in the Calhoun Rifles (Co. E) of the 2nd Mississippi Infantry. The date was May 1, 1861, about two weeks after the attack on Fort Sumter. He was mustered in Lynchburg, Virginia on May 10, 1861.
Update: He was discharged on July 8, 1861 due to “protracted sickness & constitutional weakness.”
Update: Robert reenlisted on March 22, 1862 at Guntown, Mississippi, just three days before his older brother Thomas Singleton Hughes was killed in battle. Thomas is buried in the Confederate plot of Crown Hill cemetery in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Robert was 21 when he was wounded and captured at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863.
And Robert was just 22 when he died died eight months later (March 1, 1864), one of 12,000 prisoners at Fort Delaware, probably as a result of the harsh winter conditions at the island camp. Update: Hospital records show that he died of hepatic disease (liver disease) and dropsy (abnormal collection of fluid in the tissues or body cavities causing severe swelling).
He is buried in Finn’s Point National Cemetery near Salem, NJ, one of the over 2,500 prisoners who died while imprisoned at Fort Delaware. [Read about the harsh conditions at this camp: http://www.destateparks.com/park/fort-delaware/civil-war/camp-trail/index.asp]
His brother James had died of typhoid at age 39 two years before (1861). He was a merchant before the war. James is buried in the Old Bethel Cemetery in Bethany, Lee County, Mississippi.
Sadly, Singleton Hughes outlived all of his sons and two of his three wives. He lived to be 80-something.
Note: If you are a descendant of Annabelle Gray Wilson (1907-2002), Robert Cowan is a your 2nd/3rd/4th great uncle.
His sister is Mary Francis Hughes Gordon (1831-1919; dressed in black and sitting in the photo below)
the mother of Anna Harriet Gordon Thompson (1859-1915),
the mother of Alice Madora Thompson Gray (1880-1907),
the mother of
Annabelle Gray Wilson.
Fort Delaware Society – http://www.fortdelaware.org
Constitution Society – http://www.constitution.org/csa/ordinances_secession.htm
Second Mississippi Infantry Regiment – http://www.2ndmississippi.org/2nd_miss_part_1/CoE/CoE13.html
Smithsonian’s Civil War timeline – http://www.civilwar.si.edu/timeline.html
2nd Mississippi Infantry wiki by FamilySearch – https://www.familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/2nd_Regiment,_Mississippi_Infantry
[Many thanks to the unnamed person who shared this information with me on Ancestry.com. Now I know why many of Coleman’s children went to Hill County, Texas]
Demaris Doolin Gray died March 17, 1870 in Anderson County, SC.
If you would like further information on the family at that time, there is a file in the Anderson (SC) Courthouse of a dispute between son Hezekiah H. Gray, who was her heir, and her other children. Of particular interest is the testimony of Edna Jane Gray who stayed with her brother Hezekiah after all the other siblings went to Texas. I don’t know when Coleman and other brothers went to Mississippi.
The dispute seems to be that the others who were away wanted the court to revisit the settlement (in the 1880’s). Edna said that H.H.Gray had had to stay with his mother Demaris when all the others left, so Demaris wanted him to have whatever she had. The court found in H.H. Gray’s favor.
Demaris is listed as “Mary” Gray in the 1860 census (Anderson County, SC). Rebecca Caroline Gray, widow of William Hunter, went to Irene, Texas (Hill County) with her 4 children. You can find her in the 1880 census. She died on October 16, 1890 and is buried at the Salem-Irene Cemetery in Hill County. It is shown online. Hezekiah died October 31, 1920. He was born 18 May 1842. Edna Jane Gray who married Robert Adams Gray, a cousin, (grandfather of Wil Lou Gray) late in life; lived a bit after HH died. She was born April 17, 1839.
Thompson Everett “Tip” Gray was born on a Tuesday the week before spring in 1905 in Chickasaw County, Mississippi. He was the second child and only son of Lott Dulan (sp) Gray and his wife Alice Madora Thompson Gray. His mother died a few months after giving birth to his younger sister Anna Belle (Annabelle Gray Wilson). Tip was 2 years old and his older sister Edna (Nancy Edna Gray Trussell) had recently turned 6.
During Alice’s illness or perhaps upon her death, Tip and Edna and their father moved in with one of his older sisters, Belle Gray Houston, and her family. Baby Anna Belle was taken in by her mother’s parents, who still had several children at home. The siblings would live in separate households for seven years until their father married Lessie Baine, a stepmother they did not remember fondly.
In 1985, Tip died several weeks before his 80th birthday. His ashes were scattered beneath the Turner Oak in Greenwood Memorial Park, Fort Worth, Texas. [During the Civil War, early Fort Worth settler Charles Turner buried gold under this tree on his farm rather than purchasing Confederate notes. This gold was later used to provide financial aid to Fort Worth during the reconstruction period.]
Tip’s widow, Sabella, kindly sent me a letter about 10 years ago about her beloved husband (transcribed below):
I met Tip in Corpus Christi Texas in late summer of 1937 – He was manager of coffee co that territory, seemed lonely, and we fell in love. Just before our planned wedding date the company transferred him to West Virginia. He stayed there about a week, quit his job and returned. we married March 26, 1938. We went to Houston, Tx and he started working for Real Silk Hosiery Mills out of Indiana – direct selling – men and women clothing. The coffee co offered him a good deal and we moved to Tyler, Texas in 1941.
He again went back with Real Silk, transferred to Texarkana with them as manager. Within a year he was transferred to Harlingen, Texas and we stayed there until he went to the Navy in Dec 1942 – to boot camp in San Diego and then to Aviation Mechanics school in Norman, Oklahoma. Then Olathe, Kansas. Then Miami, Florida – then Kingsville, Texas. All the while he worked on Navy plane. He never went to sea. We bought a small mobile home, and I was able to be with him the whole time.
After war he went back to work for Real Silk as manager of Ft Worth Tex territory. There we stayed until his death in 1985. He was cremated and ashes scattered in a garden at Greenwood Cemetery in Ft Worth.
His hobbies = He loved golf, cards, hated the beach, we traveled a a lot in the U.S., took cruises, and enjoyed life and each other.
His favorite food – seafood – and apple pie = He was very patient until I learned to cook.
Never lost his temper – very gentle, shy in a way. Loved selling – loved me and I still miss him…'”
Mollie Gray was the oldest daughter of Coleman C. Gray and Nancy Moorhead/Morehead Gray. She was born in Chickasaw County, Mississippi and died of acute indigestion in February 1929 while living with her younger brother Robert Benton Gray in northeast Texas. (Click here for more about Mollie’s siblings)
Her younger brother Lott Dulin Gray, father of Annabelle Gray Wilson, would pass away the following year.
Sadly there is no tombstone for Mollie, perhaps a sign of the time (Depression). Amazingly, a metal marker still stands. She is buried in the Itasca Cemetery in Itasca, Texas.
[Source: Our Wilson Ancestors and Relatives, a typed document given to me by Roy L. Wilson, Jr. Author unknown although he wrote “From M.F. Gordon” on the corner.]
…When [the] Civil War came, Joel Fowler Wilson was 31 years old and the father of 7 children. Three more were born during the war. Ministers were exempt from military duty but many volunteered as soldiers, Chaplains, and hospital commissioners. Those who did not go to war had to support themselves by farming or teaching. Many were destitute but did what they could to minister to the sorrowful and suffering. Our ancestor was numbered with those who stayed at home and served in that capacity.
During the reconstruction years the Wilson family lived through a time of deprivation, hardship and struggle common to all of Mississippi and the south. By the year 1870 the population of the county of 14,776 persons. The farm census for then and for ten years later revealed that most farmers relied on oxen and mules as beasts of burden and the idea of a tractor has not as much as entered the mind. Little was known of erosion control, rotation of crops, or even fertilization so gradually the top soil washed away and the land became less and less profitable. Thus many people moved on to Texas looking for better opportunities, including some of the older children of Joel Fowler Wilson.
In about 1895, because of Ellender’s health [his wife, Ellender Caroline Coker Wilson], our ancestors also moved to Texas . the move proved to be an unfortunate one for Ellender had tuberculous (sic) and she did not improve. The following is the last letter she wrote to her daugher (sic) (this writer’s paternal grandmother), Victoria Wilson Patterson. [Transcribed as typed, except I added paragraph breaks for easier reading]
My dear child; I will try to answer your dear letter received yesterday. Oh Victory you dont know how glad I was to here from you but ______ you was not well. i never do feel a well hour. My health has ben so bad I could not write atall. i am so nervous at times i cant hold anything long at a time. I am alone. Your Pa [Joel Fowler Wilson] has ben preaching over three weeks. I am not able to go with him. He comes home twice a week to see how I am.
i was very sorry Walter [Victoria’s oldest son] was suffering so bad with risings [boils]. Jimmie [James Bennett Wilson, who later married and was divorced from his brother William’s widow Leona] and family has ben here and staid two weeks. Lelia’s [Jimmie’s wife] is some better than it was. Willie [William Ransom Wilson] and Leona and Alvy Griffin [possibly Albert, son of Isabella Wilson Griffin] is gone to Fannin County. Ben gone too weeks. Went through the country about one hundred and twenty miles. They went to Sister Nancy. Alvy has not stade with me any. He has been working with the boy on the farm. We didn’t have anything for him to do.
i can get someone every night to stay with me. Sometimes the children comes but they have a bad chance. Bobby [Robert Best] was here yesterday, said Sue [Susan Ann] was coming one day this week. i don’t think they will ever go back to Mississippi. Bob did get dissatisfied a while. It rained so much they lost all their oats and part of their cotton. It ruined them. It made them all feel bad. They say there never was more corn maid and cotton is a great deal better than they expected and they are all getting along very well.
I got a letter from Lizzy [Elizabeth Vashti Wilson] last week. They was all well except Pearl. Her health is not good and has not been all the year. i hope to get better now. i have a new medicine that has helpt me more than anything i have taken but Victory nothing will ever cure me. i have the worse cough you ever saw anyone in your life have.
Well you asked me if Pa was coming back to Mississippi. He cat leave me and my health is so bad i cant go. i will let you know if i get worse off. Some of the children will write to you. Tell Walter to write to me. You write often. Fairwell dear child.
Ellender Coker Wilson died in Joshua, Texas on April 11, 1896 and was buried in the Caddo Cemetary (sic). Following is a copy of her obituary written by her son, Rev. Dixon Lewis Wilson — Kosciusko Star Herald, April 20, 1896. [See photo below]
…After his wife’s death Joel Fowler Wilson returned to Attala County, Mississippi where he remained active in church live until a short while before his death. He died on May 24, 1898 at the age of 68.
MANY thanks to my now-deceased second cousin Roy L. Wilson Jr. for sharing his work on the Wilson family history with me.
I’ve started a virtual cemetery on find-a-grave.com that contain photos, transcriptions, locations, etc. of the Wilson-Gray family graves.
- Prospect Methodist Church Cemetery (Houston, MS) — including, Coleman C. Gray and his wife Nancy Morehead (Moorehead) Gray, their children Lott Dulan Gray, Belle Gray Houston, and Lenore Gray Sims, and Lott’s first wife Alice Madora Thompson Gray.
- Bethel Baptist Church Cemetery (Houston, MS) – including John F. “Jack” Thompson and his wife Anna Gordon Thompson, and their 10 year old daughter Annie Pearl, plus what is likely his first wife and their daughter Mary.
- New Albany (MS) Cemetery – William Ransom Wilson and his wife Leona A. Mitchell Wilson.
- Oakridge Cemetery (Clarksdale, MS) – Willie A. Wilson and his wife Annabelle Gray Wilson.
- Shady Grove Church Cemetery (Kosciusko, MS) – Albert Washington Mitchell and his wife Susan Cone Mitchell.
- Kosciusko (MS) City Cemetery (old section) – including Joel Fowler Wilson and his sons Dixon and Lemuel, also Frances Hines Mitchell Harper.
- Lee Memorial Park (Tupelo, MS) — Nancy Edna Gray Trussell and her husband James Earl Trussell.
- Caddo Cemetery (Joshua, TX) — Ellender Coker Wilson, wife of Joel Fowler Wilson, her son Isom Alexander Wilson.
- Greenwood Memorial Park (Fort Worth, TX) – Thompson Everett “Tip” Gray. Note: Tip was cremated and his ashes were scattered beneath the Turner Oak; there is no marker.
- Rose Hill Cemetery (Fort Worth, TX) – John Coleman Gray
- Masonic Cemetery (Pilot Point, TX) – Joseph Quitman Gray
- Ridge Park Cemetery (Itasca, TX) – Robert Benton Gray
- Itasca Cemetery (Itasca, TX) – Mollie Gray (metal marker)