Category: Wilcox County Alabama Roots

Finding Eliza

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By , November 22, 2017 8:41 am

This is the 1874 guardianship document that made the orphaned 13 year old Robert Norris a ward of Jasper C. Mixon, the nephew of his former slave owner. This is where I discovered that Robert’s mother was named Eliza Mixon. Aunt Jean always said that Robert was “given away” but she thought it was to someone named Norris and that’s how he got his name. She had the essence of the story right but not the facts.



Here’s the transcript of the guardianship papers (see image above) for Robert Norris that names Eliza Mixon as his mother. Becky (Becca) Mixon who was raising him and died is probably his aunt and Henry Mixon (Small) is probably his 1st cousin.

The State of Alabama ~~ Wilcox County.

KNOW ALL MEN BY THESE PRESENTS, That we Jasper C. Mixon, James C. Gross and T.W. Price are held and firmly bound unto John T. Cook, Judge of the Probate Court of said county, and his successors in office, in the penal sum of One Hundred Dollars, for the due and faithful performance of which sum, well and truly to be made, we bind ourselves, our Heirs, Executors and Administrators, jointly and severally, firmly by the Presents.

Sealed with our Seals, and dated this 25th day of February A.D. 1874 (1874)

THE CONDITION of the above Obligation is such; That, Whereas, the above bound Jasper C. Mixon has been duly appointed Guardian of the person of Tom Mixon over the age of fourteen years, and Henry and Robert Mixon. (Henry the son of Becky Mixon and Robert the son of Eliza Mixon) The said Henry and Robert being under fourteen years of age.

NOW, THEREFORE, Should the said Jasper C. Mixon we and truly do and perform all the duties which are or may be required of him by law as such Guardian of the three boys as aforesaid then this obligation to be void, else to be and remain in full force and effect.

Approved, this 27th day of February 1874
John T. Cook
Judge of Probate

Jasper C. Mixon
James C. Gross
T.W. Price

The Mystery Surrounding William Young Norris

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By , February 26, 2015 2:18 pm

I was searching for something a few nights ago and chanced upon two letters dated March 9, 1868 from a woman named Mollie A. Armstrong to Isabelle Donoho Norris and to William Young Norris among the Donoho family papers at the UA Library. Mollie Armstrong didn’t ring a bell right away but the Norris name made me stop in my tracks. I read the letters.

Mollie, aka Mary Ann Norris Armstrong, was my GF Robert Norris’ aunt and William was his uncle (or maybe even his father) and Isabelle was William’s wife. I’ve been trying to find out what happened to William for years, he just dropped off the radar screen after the Civil War. I came across Isabelle Donoho and William Young Norris before but they lived in a county I didn’t associate with my Norris family and there was nothing else to corroborate that Isabelle’s William was my William.

Until these letters! Mollie wrote to Isabelle and her brother asking about his health and urging him to come back to Camden to visit with his family. It seems that he died maybe not long after but certainly before 1870 and Isabelle remarried. That’s why I could never find him again. Mystery solved!

From the notes to the guide to the papers: “The Donoho family lived in and around Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in the early and mid nineteenth century. Charles Mitchell Dohono (1809-1856) married Rebecca Trowbridge Whitcomb (1817-1846) and had two children: Henry Seymour and Isabelle (1842-1915). Rebecca Dohono died 30 March 1846, leaving Charles with the two young children. An aunt, Mrs. A. M. Peek, cared for the children.

Henry served in the Alabama 2nd Battalion Light Artillery, Company F, Lumsden’s Company; he enlisted on 21 February 1861 as a private. His cousin, Charles Donoho, enlisted on 29 November 1861, also as a private. Henry was captured on 15 December 1864, near Nashville, Tennessee, and spent the remainder of the war in various prisoner of war camps in Kentucky and Illinois. Charles was also captured in Tuscaloosa, on 18 May 1865.

Isabelle married twice, first to William Young Norris around 1867, and second to Samuel Lowrie Robertson. She and Samuel had eight children.”

The Donoho family papers were purchased from an antiquarian book dealer in Lancaster, PA, in 2013. I don’t know how long the images have been online but they were in the right place at the right time for me to find them. Serendipity!

Here are photos of my GF Robert Norris and his aunt, Mary Ann “Mollie” Norris Armstrong. Do you see a family resemblance?

Robert Norris - Mollie A. Armstrong

Source: Republished from Facebook on February 26, 2016:

Revisiting the McMillans

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By , November 21, 2014 1:50 am

Ding, ding, ding. Little bells are going off in my head this morning. Don’t know why it has taken me so long to put this together. The clues have been there all along. Cousins in my generation will remember that our parents always told us that Papa’s father was a Mr. McMillan. Well, that was called into question by my research a long time ago and finally put to rest with DNA results that proved that Papa’s father was a Norris. But the McMillan connection was still nagging at me. There were white McMillans living nearby when Papa was a child and he farmed land owned by Lee McMillan. Papa also named his son Earl Lee after the middle names of Lee McMillan’s two sons, Emmet Earl and Edwin Lee. Why? Ding, ding, ding. He obviously had a close personal relationship with the man in addition to the business one.

This morning I was looking at the ancestors of Robert’s firstborn James Henry Norris’ wife, Susie Mixon. Susie was the daughter of Charley Mixon and Charley was the son of Sam Mixon. Well, there were a lot of Mixons in the area and a lot of Sams and Charlie Mixons so I was spending a little time sorting them out. I have known for a long time that In the 20-30 years following Emancipation when black folks were still trying to decide what they wanted their surname to be, that Susie’s grandfather Sam and one of her uncles, Jim, were sometimes recorded as Mixon in the census and sometimes as McMillan. Also, in 1880 when he was 19 years old, Robert lived with Jim Mixon/McMillan. After staring at these names over and over, I remembered two things: (1) our cousin C. George Mixon (actually a Dawson but his step-grandfather who raised him was a Mixon) told me once that Robert’s children were their own cousins (through the Mixons), and (2) when Dad and I visited Wilcox County in the late 90s, our guide Mr. Shaw told us that Robert could go behind the counter at the general store and help himself to whatever he wanted (Lee McMillan was a merchant on the 1910 census) and that whites treated Robert differently than other blacks because everyone knew that he was “related to the folks around here.” Hmmm.

So here’s my breakthrough this morning . . . . we know that Robert’s father was not a McMillan but what if his maternal GRANDFATHER was a Mr. McMillan! That’s right, what IF his MOTHER’s (who we know absolutely nothing about) father was a McMillan. So this is my homework this weekend (and my assistant researcher Arianna Cydney-Laurel Williams’s too) to find the connection between Robert’s mother – who must have died in childbirth or when he was very young – and the McMillans of Wilcox County, AL. Lesson learned: listen to the family stories. The facts might not be exactly right but there’s always a kernel of truth in there somewhere.

A Family Finder Match

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By , June 23, 2014 7:49 pm

After being stalled in the search for my GF’s parents for so long, the floodgates have been opened! On Sunday, I sent out queries to five of my father’s 2nd-4th cousin matches on Family Finder. Everyone answered quickly with as much information as they could provide but I was unable to make any immediate connections except to one person who turned out to be a great grandson of Missouri Shields Priest, the lady in the photo I compared with my GF’s. I’m overwhelmed! It was just a few days ago that I was able to establish the paper trail and now I have the DNA evidence proving my GF’s Shields ancestry. This also helped answer another vexing question, i.e., whether one of Josiah Norris’ sons, or Josiah himself, fathered my GF. Since Josiah’s wife, Mary Ann Norris, was the Shields descendant, I am now pretty certain that one of her three oldest sons, James, John or William Norris, was Robert’s father. That means that Missouri Shields and Robert Norris were first cousins, 2x removed and shared about 3% of their autosomal DNA. That is, unless, my GF had DOUBLE Shields ancestry through his mother. So, big question, where do I go from here to look next for Robert’s Norris’ enslaved mother?

Flanagan, Hayes, Kelley, Jones, Brooks, Edwards, Strother

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By , June 17, 1999 7:27 pm

Need leads on Flanagan, Hayes, Kelley, Jones, Brooks, Edwards and Strother in Wilcox and Marengo counties. Possibly also in Dallas or Perry counties.

Hi folks. After another long hard period of researching my g-grandparents and gg-grandparents (I work in bouts until I plateau), I found what looked to be info on them only to discover yet anther surname that needs to be followed. In addition I’m interested where they lived just after emancipation and who the land belonged to (they were slaves then tenant farmers their entire lives). I’m hoping that armed with this info I can find the names of their last slaveowners.

Although I’m not asking for anyone to do my work for me, I’d like to hear from anyone researching the lines mentioned below. I need help to make sense of all this conflicting data so that I can do as directed and focused research as possible.

So!, here’s where I am right now on this line:

While researching my paternal grandmother’s THOMAS-EDWARDS line (Julia Thomas Norris, Clark Thomas – Caroline ?, Mary ? m. Philip Jones – Calvin Edwards m. Susie ?), I found what appears to be my g-grandparents’ marriage license dated 10 Nov 1867 in the Wilcox County Colored Marriages 1868-1869, p.14-15: “…between Clark Thomas a freedman and Miss Caroline Brooks”. This is the first time I’ve ever come across the surname Brooks. Had previously thought my g-grandmother’s maiden name was Edwards. Tried to verify Brooks so looked for a record of her mother’s marriage to her last known husband. Found nothing in the Colored Marriage records but while searching the index of what was labelled White marriages, I came across: Philip Jones and Mrs. Mary Brooks on p.27 who were married “…at the Flanagan Plantation” on 11 July 1868.

Everything but race seemed to fit and when I checked the 1860 Census to see whether there was a Flanagan Plantation in the area where I know my grands and g-grands last lived, I found the household of Bennett Flanagan. What’s more, it was listed just before the household of W.S.W. Hayes.

This is significant because on g-grandma Caroline Thomas’s death certificate, it says she was buried on the old Hayes place! That was circa 1930 but today that land including the little African American cemetery belongs to a Black Shaw family, and before that it was owned by White Strothers.

This land is in the Catherine-Boiling Spring-Consul area, on either side of Hwy 28 (the road to Consul and Thomaston) and straddles the Marengo-Wilcox county line and borders Perry and Dallas counties. Three Black churches closely associated with my ancestors are situated on these properties: Bethel AME on Boiling Spring Rd in Catherine, Boiling Spring Baptist on Hwy 28, and Sidney Chapel AME in Consul. Boiling Spring Baptist was originally located on the road to Gastonburg.

Other landowners in this area whose names have popped up from time to time in my research are Kelley, as in the old Kelley place (which today is next to the Shaw place) on Hwy 28, and Jones.

ANY, ANY leads beyond the census enumeration appreciated. Especially interested in land, property and slave records and inventories. Will be researching in Wilcox, Marengo and Dallas counties this summer. My goal is to find these ancestors listed in some record prior to 1870 and to find the families that brought them from South Carolina (and possibly Georgia) circa 1830-1860.

Thanks for reading this far,

B.J. Smothers

Source: Reposted 6/15/2014 from ALDALLAS-L Archives:

A (modest) Success Story — at last!

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By , October 22, 1998 7:55 pm

Whenever someone on the list reports an advance in their research, no matter how minor, I’m so happy for them and encouraged. My own research has been stalled for years but reading about the success of others after similarly long periods of drought keeps me plugging away. I also admit to feeling just a little twinge of envy (along with joy for them) while reading their reports and having to fight the overwhelming urge to abandon what sometimes seems a futile pursuit. That little voice in my head keeps telling me to get a life! (I’m sure y’all know exactly what I mean).

Last week, though, I had a few days to waste so went to Selma, AL to do a some digging in the Dallas and Wilcox County libraries and dragged my dad along hoping that just being in Selma and the Wilcox County countryside would jog his memory and he could fill in some blanks. Dad is 81 but was the baby of his family and have to say that he couldn’t remember very much that I didn’t already know (I think it was probably more frustrating for him than for me). Was also disappointed that his 88 year old cousin who lives in Selma and who had been our guide in the past was suffering health problems that prevented his accompanying us “down to the country” this time. Needless to say I wasn’t expecting much.

But, I’m thrilled to report, I found my g-grandmother’s grave site (which I’ve been seeking for a while) and those of two of her daughters, AND, after all this time, I actually discovered something new that’s set me off in a different (and potentially productive) direction in the search for my paternal ancestors’ slaveholders.

We already knew that ggrandma Caroline’s grave wasn’t in the cemetery of her church, Bethel AME Church in Boiling Spring (Catherine), but was back in the woods someplace. She died in the ’30s and the few relatives who could remember her funeral couldn’t recall exactly how to get to the grave site. What I can’t understand is that NOBODY told us that a wonderful gentleman named Elijah Shaw who’d been superintendent at Bethel for the past 58 years lived on the grounds and knew where EVERYTHING concerning black folk in that part of the county was!

Mr. Shaw took us onto a farm some miles down the road from the church, then a mile or two along a dirt path on the property, through a barbed wire gate (which looked like a solid fence if you didn’t know where the opening was), another half mile or so through tall grass, across a stream, then left then right and a half mile through woods and then up a hill. The little cemetery was at the top!

You should have heard me a-whoopin’ and a-hollerin’ when after looking around for a while we found a well preserved narrow cement marker partly buried and hidden by weeds that read:

In Memory
Of Sister
Carolion (sic)

Born April
The 8, 1842

Died Aug.
The 19, 1933

My dad dug it out and laid it alongside the larger headstone of one of her daughters (I have mixed feelings about his having moved it but it probably wasn’t originally where we found it anyway).

Afterward, Mr. Shaw took us to another cemetery just over the Marengo County line (who’d a thunk!) and showed us where another of Caroline’s daughters and her whole family were buried (Sidney Chapel AME Zion Church in Consul). Then we visited Boiling Spring Baptist Church down the road from Bethel which was Caroline’s mother and my gggrandmother Mary Jones’ church. She wasn’t buried in the cemetery on the grounds but Mr. Shaw said the church had been moved from its original location when the road we were on was blacktopped and the old dirt road through town fell out of use. He told us that we could find the old site by taking the dirt road through the village of Gastonburg and past the Fluker Pond. Didn’t have time to before nightfall but will on next trip.

While were riding from place to place Mr. Shaw kept up a steady stream of chatter. (And, no, I DID NOT have a tape recorder! Take heed folks: be prepared for anything! My poor daughter was busily scribbling as fast as she could trying to get some of his recollections on paper.) In passing he pointed to a knoll in the distance and mentioned that one of Caroline’s sons had lived in the old “Kelly House” over there. My dad perked up then and said that he remembered that the house was “enormous”. Mr. Shaw added that it was because it was the “big house”. At that point my jaw dropped to my lap and I almost lost control of the car turning to look! But the more I queried him about it, the less he was able to tell me so I just shut up and listened.

My grandmother’s people were named THOMAS, EDWARDS, HODGES and JONES and these were the slaveholders’ names I’d been researching. KELLY! Never would have gone there! Sure enough, back at home, I found white Kellys living cheek by jowl with my ancestors in the 1870 census. Don’t know why I never thought to pursue it before but I will now!

Well, that’s my success story this past week. Even if I come across nothing else for a while these finds are enough to sustain me for a bit. And even though I didn’t bring a tape recorder I did have my camera and took lots of pictures. Had the camcorder too but neither my father or daughter could operate it while I drove!

Have a couple of suggestions for other things to keep in your car “just in case”: a GOOD map of the area — DOT county maps are the best; lots of film and more film; old shoes or sneakers and heavy socks or, better yet, boots; a small shovel, pruning shears and a pair of work gloves; band aids and insect repellant; newsprint and charcoal to make rubbings.

Thanks for indulging me and wishing everyone a Mr. Shaw and some modest successes,

B.J. Smothers

Source: Reposted 6/15/2014 from AfriGeneas List Archives:

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