Wilson-Mitchell-Gray-Thompson families from Attala & Chickasaw Counties in Mississippi

Category Archives: Attala County


Eulah Mitchell Adams (photo posted by Jim Fullilove)

I’ve stared for a good 15 minutes at this photo I found on the internet. Oh to know the stories behind those eyes. Eula died in 1937 when she was 78 years old, so this photo was likely taken in the 1930s.

She was born on a farm near Burkettsville, Mississippi to Whitman William Mitchell and his wife Alice Jane Davis Mitchell on July 19, 1860, assuming her tombstone is correct (they aren’t always).  It was a Thursday, and probably close to 92 degrees, the average temperature for Attala County in July. Seemingly she was their first and only child for Whitman, a 29-year-old Confederate corporal, was killed in the Battle of Murphreesboro on December 31, 1862 after coming to the aid of his younger brother (and my great-great grandfather) Albert Pierce Mitchell. (more info; see below for family connection)

By 1870, 9-year-old Eula and her mother Alice were living with Whitman’s brother George and his wife Nancy, Alice’s own sister. Alice is listed on the 1880 census as being a teacher.

Sometime after the 1880 census was taken, 50-something Alice married Confederate veteran David Lewis Brown, a widower with two children.

In 1885, Eulah married William Smith “Sonny” Adams. They had four daughters – Willie, Mae Allie, Julia Ann, and Brownie – and one son,  named Whitman William Adams after the father Eulah really never knew. Like his grandfather, Whitman was a war hero. He earned a silver star  in World War I for going behind enemy lines in France to bring back someone he thought was wounded.  He went on to name his son Whitman William too.

Miss Eula is buried in Shady Grove Methodist Church Cemetery,  the same burial location of her mother, her stepfather, her paternal grandparents, Albert Washington Mitchell and Susan Cone Mitchell, her daughter Brownie Cone Adams Carson, and several other members of her extended family.

I think she looks like actor Chaz Palminteri, don’t you?

I found a photo of her mother. She’s quite the stylish lady.

Alice Jane Davis Mitchell Brown

Alice Jane Davis Mitchell Brown (1830-1907)

Family connection: Willie Arnold Wilson (1902-1948) was the son of Leona Mitchell Wilson (1868-1903). Eulah was Leona’s first cousin; their fathers, Whitman William Mitchell and Albert Pierce Mitchell, respectively, were brothers.


Cornelia Bethany Mitchell Ratliff (1841-1942)

Cornelia Bethany Mitchell Ratliff (1841-1942)

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.

Cornelia Mitchell Ratliff, ca. 1940

Cornelia Mitchell Ratliff, ca. 1940

Lucy Mitchell Duncan Galloway (1837-1918)

Lucy Mitchell Duncan Galloway (1837-1918)

W.P. Ratliff obituary

W.P. Ratliff obituary

* These photos were posted on Ancestry.com in 2008 by Ed Ratliff (Cornelia) and in 2010 by Stopwatch (Lucy).

Newsflash 1: Yesterday I discovered that there is another Mitchell brother — John A. Mitchell, son of Albert Washington Mitchell and Susan Cone Mitchell. He was their 4th child. He died in 1859 at the age of 19. He is also buried in Attala County, Mississippi but not in the Shady Grove Methodist Church cemetery with his parents. John is buried in the Liberty Chapel Cemetery (Methodist) in Ethel, Mississippi (see his Findagrave record).

Newsflash 2: This Mitchell family — parents Albert W. and Susan Cone Mitchell — lived in Henry County, Georgia before moving west to the Kosciusko, Mississippi area. The majority of the offspring of Albert (born in South Carolina) and Susan (born in New York) were born Henry County, which is south of Atlanta:

  • Whitman William Mitchell (1833-1862) – killed 31 December 1862 during the Battle at Murfreesboro, TN.  He was hit by a cannon ball while attempting to aid his younger brother Albert Pierce Mitchell who had been severely injured. He was 29 years old.
  • George Fellows Mitchell  (1835-1914)
  • Lucy A. Mitchell (1837-1918)
  • John A. Mitchell (1840-1859)
  • Albert Pierce (or Pearce) Mitchell (1842-?) — maternal grandfather of L.A., Roy Sr, Frank and Willie Wilson
  • Benjamin Franklin Mitchell (1846-1864) — killed during the fighting around Atlanta in August 1864 and may be buried in Atlanta’s beautiful Oakland Cemetery.
  • Charles Robert Mitchell (1848-1895)

Their last child, Cornelia B. Mitchell, was born in Pontotoc County, Mississippi in 1851. So sometime between 1848 and 1851 the family traveled about 350 miles west, a trip that likely took 10 days or more.

Now to find out why they left Georgia, why they chose Mississippi, and the route they likely traveled.

This Wilson-Gray family has been in the United States for about 300 years. Most of our ancestors were farmers in South Carolina, North Carolina or Virginia in pre-Revolutionary War times. The most recent immigrant member of the family that I’m aware of is Lucy Granville Penn (1673-1719). Lucy was born in  Gloucestershire in southwest England, near Wales. Lucy is the grandmother of John Penn, our cousin who signed the Declaration of Independence (see earlier post). Specifically:

Leona Mitchell Wilson (1868-1930), mother of brothers L.A., Frank, Roy and Willie, was the daughter of Albert Pierce Mitchell (1844-?), the son of Albert Washington Mitchell (1810-1881), the son of Nimrod Mitchell Jr (1779-1837), the son of Mary Elizabeth Penn Mitchell (1746-1818), the daughter of Joseph Penn (1717-1774), the son of Lucy Granville Penn (1673-1719). I don’t know when or how she came to Colonial America…yet.

If you are a member of this Wilson family you are related to a signer of the Declaration of Independence, albeit a bit indirectly.

How are we related? It’s a long story:

I’ll begin with Wilson brothers L.A. (1890-1962), Roy (1894-1968) , Frank (1899-1981) and Willie (1902-1948).

Roy, Wm Ransom, Lemuel Albert (L.A.) and Leona Mitchell Wilson (ca. 1898)

Their mother was Leona A. Mitchell Wilson (1868-1930), pictured above.

Leona’s father was Confederate veteran Albert Pierce Mitchell (1844-?) of Attala County, MS.

Pierce’s father was Albert Washington Mitchell (1810-1881), born in Laurens District, SC.

Albert’s father was Nimrod Mitchell Jr. (1779-1837) of the Abbeville District, SC.

Nimrod’s mother was Mary Elizabeth Penn (1746-1818) of Caroline County, VA.

Mary Elizabeth’s father was Joseph Penn (1717-1774). Joseph’s brother Moses Penn (1712-1759)  and wife Catherine Taylor Penn were the parents of John Penn (1740-1788), a representative to the Continental Congress for North Carolina.

So this signer of the Declaration of Independence is your great-great-great-great-grandmother’s first cousin, give or take a ‘great’ or two.

[Ruby Thompson Woodruff was the great-aunt of Anna Belle Gray Wilson. When Anna came to live in her grandparents’ household as an infant due to the illness and eventual death of her mother, Alice Madora Thompson Gray, Ruby would have been about 10 years old.]

I am Ruby Thompson’s oldest grandaughter. She married James (Richard) Wayne Woodruff and they migrated to the Central Valley in California in the early 1930’s. Eventually, not being able to conceive, they adopted an eleven month-old baby girl, whom they named Patricia Lorraine. “Patty” was to be their only child, as they were in their mid-thirties when she was adopted, and they were deemed too old to be able to adopt any more children. Patty grew-up and married and had 3 daughters. Grandmother and Grandfather could not have possibly spoiled us more!

Wayne and Ruby eventually built a “Sears house” (ordered from the Sears Catalogue!) in Corcoran, California. Their home was small, but always emaculate and their yard was the envy of (and source of “starts” for) the entire town. At some point of which I was too little to remember, they donated a huge, blue spruce out of their yard to become the city Christmas tree.

Grandmother worked as a telephone operater for the phone company and Grandfather worked as a lineman for the power company. Ruby and Wayne were also very active in the Methodist Church for many years. I remember Grandmother having so many knacks: for sewing, knitting, crochetting, cooking, canning, baking, playing Bridge, Canasta, and playing DoubleSolitare and Chinese Checkers with me for hours on end. Her rose garden began the Corcoran Hospital’s rose garden when the hospital expanded. Her camillia bushes grew taller than their one-story roof top.

Both of Grandfather’s thumbs were green as well. He grew vegetables and fruits all over their back and side yards. This included the big, tall, beautiful, watermelon-red poppies. They were actually community favorites, decorating weddings, funerals and whatever else the Ladie’s Auxillary at the Methodist Church had in mind. Everyone was so sad when the County Shariff had to ask Grandfather to stop growing them.

Grandfather died in Corcoran and my mother sold their house and moved Grandmother to a very nice retirement home in Fresno, where she was then living. All of them are now buried in the Corcoran Cemetery. I hope that we will be able to keep in touch! cdq…

[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.

Your Ma,

E.C. Wilson”

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.

EC Wilson obituary

Joel Fowler Wilson sm

Ellender's husband, Joel Fowler Wilson

Ellender and Joel's eldest son, Rev. Dixon Lewis Wilson

Ellender and Joel's eldest son, Rev. Dixon Lewis Wilson

MANY thanks to my now-deceased second cousin Roy L. Wilson Jr. for sharing his work on the Wilson family history with me.