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).
[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.
Joel Fowler Wilson and his wife Ellender Coker Wilson begat many children, one of his younger children being my great-grandfather William Ransom Wilson. Joel lived in Attala County, Mississippi (Kosciusko) but ventured west to Joshua, Texas (south of DFW) to visit his son Isom. His beloved wife died and is buried there. Click on photos to see them larger.
This is the text of his obituary in the May 27, 1898 issue of the Mississippi Farmer (page and article image at bottom):
- All that was mortal of this grand man was laid to rest in the city cemetery here Wednesday after the funeral service at the Baptist Church by Rev. W.H.H. Fancher of French Camp. Joel Wilson was born in Georgia 18??, married in Yellowbusha (Yalobusha) co 18??, ordained as a Baptist minister 1856. He had long resided in this county, and few men were better known and he was universally like by all denomination and people who knew him. Not only (to?) the Baptists was he a faithful minister, but the county a useful citizen. He moved to Texas a few years ago and his beloved wife was called to her heavenly home. He returned to Attala county last year and resided with his son Rev. Dixon L. Wilson near Sardis where he died Monday, May 23, 18??.
[Photo and obituary courtesy of Roy L. Wilson, Jr., 1921-2008]
A few details:
- Died in Houston, Mississippi in July 1930
- His first name is Lott. His middle name appears in other sources with various spellings (Doolin, Dulin, etc.)
- Buried in Houston’s Prospect Methodist Church cemetery among several other members of his extended family
- Children: Thompson (Tip), Mrs. Earl Trussell (Edna), Mrs. Willie Wilson (Anna Belle).
- One grandchild: Neither Tip (wife: Sabella) nor Edna (husband: Earl) had children. Anna Belle had one boy (Billy), the grandchild mentioned here, and one girl (Barbara Ann). She was 7-8 months pregnant with Barbara Ann when her beloved father died.
William Ransom Wilson
July 23, 1867 – March 12, 1912
The years are passing, friends are dying and tears are falling everywhere but we are not left comfortless, for the sweet promise of many mansions fills our mind and heart. Then, too, we have so often, so plainly been told that as the matured grain is sown in the fresh, warm earth to come forth, young and green unto another life, so these bodies, worn and tired, are sown in corruption to come forth young strong and beautifyl unto a larger, more glorious life. This is the Scriptural explination [sic] of the mystery called death, and the best yet given.
We are told that there is no suffering, we are told of the peace and love, we are told of the beauty and glory of that celestrial region, then why should we grieve when our loved ones are called to claim one of the many Mansions, and yet ever near us, though unseen, and yet the dear immortal spirits tread for all the boundless universe is life, there is no dead.
William Ransom Wilson was born in Montgomery county Miss July 23, 1867, and died March 12, 1912. He was married Dec. 16th 1885 to Leona Mitchell who with four children survive him.
Dear boys your father died young so your home will be the home of your mother, and to her may each of you be all that sons could be, filling her declining years, not only with comfort but giving her the tenderness and love so dear to ever mother.
At home he was kind and lovable, working hard even to the last days of his life for the glory of God and for the good of humanity.
After moving to Wallerville he was Superintendent of the Sunday School. Here he won the hearts of many and he it was who met friends and strangers to speak the kindly workds of “welcome,” and give them the handclasp of Christian love and fellowship.
On Tuesday, March the 12th, 1912 the Heavenly Messenger called him and surrounded by his family and friends he joyfully went to claim his mansion already prepared by a Father, whose love is unfailing and eternial.
On the morning of the 13th at his home the funeral was conducted by bros. E.L. Wesson and J.L. Boyd, and all that was mortal of William Ransom Wilson was borne to New Albany cemetery and tenderly laid to rest. His relatives adn children have the sympathy of everybody. To the dear wife so bereaved, so faithful through every change, so true through every trial, is the promise given to “I am with you always,” and her home shall be where the love of God is forever shining. — S.C. Givens
[Note: Typed from an old newspaper clipping. Typos are as they appeared.]
[And eighteen years later, his wife (pictured above) passed away…]
In Memory of Mrs. Leona Mitchell Wilson
After a brief illness of only five days, our Dear Friend and neighbor, Mrs. L.M. Wilson, passed to her better home beyond the vale of this life, last Monday, March 31st (1930), at eleven o’clock at the South Mississippi Infirmary in Hattiesbuurg, where she was carried on Friday before for a physical examination and treatment. Mrs. Wilson is survived by four sons, L.A. and Frank Wilson, of Richton; Roy Wilson, of Vicksburg, and Willie Wilson, of Greenville, and one sister, Mrs. J.W. Thornell, of Ethel, Miss.
In the death of Mrs. Wilson, I am sure that our town and community feels very keenly our loss, especially do we feel our loss in the Baptist church of which she was a most devoted member, and faithful worker. She lived a life of sacrificial service for her Lord and Master, witnessing for Him when the opportunities presented themselves, and serving anywhere He called. She carried sunshine into the sick room. She carried comfort to the sad, and encouraged those who were inclined to despair. Her persistent life of service has no doubt inspired many to greater effort in the Master’s work and service for humanity.
Grandmother Wilson (yes, you will permit me to call you by the familiar name, won’t you?) we know that you are happy in the presence of our Dear Savior today. But Oh! How we are going to miss you from our midst when we come to worship on the Lord’s Day. Then how were are going to miss those visits from you in our own home, and the homes of the sick in the field and those prayers of Faith. How they have strengthened us along the way, but we know that God knows best, and we just want to be submissive to His will.
To the family, we would say, Heaven should be more real now than ever before, for there is a Treasure there for you more precious than any earthly treasure – Mother. Weep not as those who have no hope for we know that God does not make any mistakes. — J.H. Cothen, Her Pastor.
WILLIAM RANSOM WILSON was the son of Joel Fowler Wilson and Ellender Coker Wilson. LEONA A. MITCHELL WILSON was the daughter of Confederate veteran Albert Pierce (Pearce) Mitchell and Frances Hines MItchell (later Harper). They had four boys that survived through childhood: L.A., Roy, Frank and Willie. William and Leona are buried side by side in the New Albany (MS) cemetery. Helpful links: My virtual cemetery (Wilson-Gray tombstone photos and information), and a map to New Albany Cemetery on Find-A-Grave.com. Note: From the highway intersection nearest the cemetery, these two graves are on a hill on the left side of the road.
ROY LEON WILSON died peacefully on February 8, 2008, born October 15, 1921 in Vicksburg, MS. He was predeceased by his first wife, Betty Britton and his sister, Mary Evelyn Mulaney. Beloved daughters, Patricia (Mick) Henderson and Pamela (Chip) Crawford; three granddaughters, Courtney Cahill, Kristin Smeltzer and Kim Springer all of the Columbus, OH area; two sisters, Frances Cooper of Greenville, MS and Augusta McNamara and husband, Joseph of Vicksburg, MS.
In 1975, Mr. Wilson married Dorothy McCreery and they have resided in Wheaton, MD for 33 years. He leaves three stepchildren, John (Kris) McCreery, Jane (Tom) Feeney and Lori (Doug) Perkins; he leaves a host of nieces, nephews and other relatives and friends. Memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. on February 12 in the chapel at the National Presbyterian Church, 4101 Nebraska Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20016. Memorial contributions may be made to The Library and Archieves Committee at National Presbyterian Church or to The Wheaton Silver Spring Kiwanis Club, c/o Scholarship Program, P.O. Box 1762, Wheaton, MD 20915.
[Note: Roy was an Alzheimer’s victim. His wife, Dorothy, died in October 2008, just a few months after Roy’s death. Roy was the keeper of the Wilson family history.]
Nimrod Mitchell Sr. – Revolutionary War patriot from South Carolina
Nimrod Mitchell Jr.
Albert Washington Mitchell & Susan Cone Mitchell
Albert Pierce Mitchell & Frances Hines Mitchell
Leona A. Mitchell (Wilson) and William Ransom Wilson
Roy Wilson Sr.
Roy Wilson Jr. (1921-2008)