At the Courthouse – Sheriff Mark Washington Wimpee

One of the best parts of genealogy (for me anyway) is traveling all over the U.S. and abroad to research in person! I also prefer to research locally rather than on the state level unless I have multiple counties to cover in a short trip, and in many cases, especially in the south, this means going through records at the local courthouse. While I could highlight interesting records I have found there, I instead want to highlight an ancestor who spent a lot of time at the courthouse as his position as the sheriff: Mark Washington Wimpee.

In a previous post, I introduced Mark Washington Wimpee as the father of my great great grandmother, Maud Melissa Wimpee. Mark was one of 16 children (yikes!) born to Mark Ragan and Mary Ann (Jester) Wimpee. Six of Mark’s siblings died young, and I do not know the names of any of them. His remaining siblings were: Melissa, Francis, Martha, Sarah, George, Benjamin, Cora, John, and Riley. Mark R. Wimpee was a carriage and wagon maker, and he and his large family moved around through the years, presumably as Mark R. looked for work. Around Mark W.’s birth in 1859, they were living in Polk County. In 1870, they were living in Warren County, Kentucky, and by 1880, they were living in Dirt Town, Chattooga County, Georgia. This is where he married Amanda Alice Scoggins on 13 March 1881.

Like his father, Mark W. moved his family around for better opportunities. He farmed in Chattooga County for a while, and in 1896 he purchased 160 acres near Huntsville, Alabama. By 1900, he had returned to Georgia, putting down roots in Trion where he worked as a blacksmith at the Trion Cotton Mill.

Sheriff of Chattooga County

The earliest evidence that I have found of Mark W. serving as the sheriff of Chattooga County is in a newspaper article concerning an accidental wound he sustained while sheriff. Soon after the incident, a rumor spread that the Deputy Sheriff J. W. Alexander, and one of Mark’s close friends, shot him, and to out an end of this rumor, D.S.  placed the following in the newspaper:

30 November 1913 in The Atlanta Constitution

After he placed his denial in the paper, Alexander was relieved of his position, and Sheriff Mark placed his version of the story in the paper, which was also supported by witnesses:

7 December 1913 in The Atlanta Constitution

This conflict seems to have driven the two men apart, and in January 1914, both men announced that they were running for Sheriff:

17 January 1914 in The Atlanta Constitution

Fortunately for Mark, he won re-election as Sheriff of Chattooga County, despite the problems between him and his former deputy and running mate.

Interesting Cases

Sheriff Mark was involved in some interesting cases during his tenure as sheriff. One concerned Frank Matthews, a Texas man who robbed the Lyerly Bank and whose trial was held at the Summerville County Courthouse. Sheriff Mark was in charge of moving Matthews from Fulton County to Chattooga County, but as can be read in the following article, somehow Matthews left the train when it pulled into Rome and Sheriff Mark failed to stop him. Matthews did arrive in Summerville for trial, but his “escape” became a point of contention during the 1914 sheriff race.

5 April 1914 in The Atlanta Constitution

Another notable case was the Floyd-Anderson murder, and the details can be found the in following article. It seems that Mrs. Floyd and Mrs. Anderson began the argument, and it ended with William Anderson fatally shooting Rob Floyd, which he claimed was self defense.

9 November 1914 in The Atlanta Constitution

Anderson turned himself in to Sheriff Mark, who promptly escorted him to jail. Luckily, Sheriff Mark did not lose this prisoner.

Retirement

The Anderson-Floyd case was likely the last major one of Sheriff Mark’s career. Just a few weeks later, Mark was forced to resign because he was suffering from some health problems. J. W. Anderson was likely thrilled, as he became sheriff upon Mark’s resignation.

13 December 1914 in The Atlanta Constitution

Post-Retirement

At the end of 1914, Mark was in ill health, but likely so was his wife, Amanda. She died in August of 1915 and was buried in Trion.

I have yet to locate Mark in the 1920 census, but by the late 1920s, he had remarried and was living in Mobile, Alabama. He died on 2 May 1932 in Mobile at the age of 72, leaving his second wife a middle-aged widow.

Although Mark only spent a few years as sheriff, they were quite eventful in and out of the courthouse.

Next to Last – William J. Kimbell

This was a difficult post because it took some searching in my tree to figure out who or what might fit! I finally found that my 3rd great grandfather, William J. Kimbell, was the next to last child born to his parents, Robert Kimbell and Sarah Hinton. This is maybe not the most creative interpretation of this prompt, but it works!

Parents and Siblings

Robert Kimbell was born about 1794 in North Carolina, and when he married Sarah Hinton, daughter of Thomas Hinton and Rachel Hightower, on 8 February 1824, he was living in Clarke County, Georgia.

The first census in which I have found Robert and his family is 1840 when they were living in Cherokee County, Alabama. The census lists a man between 40 and 49, which must be Robert who was about 46 years old at the time, as well as a woman between 30 and 39, which must be Sarah aged about 35. There is also an unidentified male between 30 and 39 living in the household, possible a brother of either Robert or Sarah.

Also living in the house were 8 children 14 years or younger.

2 girls between 10 – 14

1 boy between 10-14

2 boys 5-9

2 boys under 5

1 girl under 5

From the 1850 census, I can determine who some of these children are:

Thomas Kimbell, born 1840, and John Kimbell, born 1838, were likely the two boys under 5.

Elizabeth Kimbell, born 1845, was likely the girl under 5.

Henry Kimbell, born 1833, and Robert Kimbell, born 1832, were likely the two boys between 5 and 9.

That leaves 3 children unaccounted for: 2 girls and 1 boys between 10 and 14 years old. I have seen some compelling evidence than an Ann Kimbell who married Joseph Weaver in Chattooga County, GA in 1842 is one of those 2 girls. The Kimbell family was living in Chattooga County by that time, and Ann and her husband moved to Cherokee, AL where they lived their entire lives, a place where Robert Kimbell and his family lived in 1840. She died in 1914, and her death certificate (which I do not have) might shed some light on her parents.

I have seen other researchers put forth a Melissa Sue Kimbell as the other daughter, which is definitely a possibility. Melissa Kimbell married Joseph DeLawne (Delong) in Chattooga County in 1847.

The other boy is still a mystery.

Birth and Early Life

Robert and Sarah’s last two children, William J. and Joseph, were born in 1843 and 1846 respectively. My ancestor is William J., the next to last child. He was born on 6 May 1843 in Chattooga County, Georgia. In the 1850 census he was seven years old and living in Chattooga County with his parents Robert and Sarah, and siblings Robert, Henry, Elizabeth, John, Thomas, and Joseph. His father was a farmer but owned no land, or at least no value was attributed to his land. (I need to do some more research here).

1850 Census showing William J. Kimbell as the next to last child.

10 years later, William is still living at home with both parents as well as his older sister Elizabeth and younger brother Joseph. He was recorded as 17 years old and a farmer. His father’s land was valued at $1,200, and William was likely helping his father farm that property. This is the last census in which Robert Kimbell appears, indicating that he died between 1860 and 1870.

Civil War and Marriage

William enlisted as a Corporal in the Confederate Army, 6th Regiment Georgia Calvary, Company H, in 1862. He served from his enlistment date until the Confederate surrender at Greensboro, North Carolina in 1865 and was discharged in May. According to his wife, he was never taken prisoner. Some of this information came from his widow’s pension application which was made in 1910.

Three months after his discharge, William married Martha Caroline Murphy in 28 August 1865 near Summerville, Chattooga County, Georgia. She was the daughter of Jeremiah Murphy and Jane Dorsett. The couple continued to live with William’s widowed mother, Sarah, now aged 63, his older sister Elizabeth, and her son John. Elizabeth was unmarried, and John’s father is still not known. William and Martha’s oldest child, Alice, was born in 1866, and she was enumerated with them as their only living child.

1880 Census

1880 Census

The 1880 census shows that William and Martha are living in their home with only their children. William’s mother Sarah is no longer there, and his sister Elizabeth and nephew John are enumerated in a separate dwelling next door. By this time, William and Martha have five children: Elizabeth (recorded as Alice in 1870), Joseph F., Ulenna, James A., and John L.

Death and Issues with Date

William’s tombstone shows that he died on 28 February 1882, but I am now questioning whether that date is correct. On the 1900 census, Martha was living in Chattooga County, widowed, with several of her children: James, John, William, and Lula. William was born in October 1882, which could still be possible if his father died in February 1882, but Lula was born in March 1887! She is listed as Martha’s daughter, and Martha only married one time. It was also reported to the census taker that Martha had 12 children, although only 7 were living at the time. Lula, along with the other children named on the census records, make up 7 exactly.

The date, 18-2, is difficult to read in Martha’s pension application.

In Martha’s Confederate widow’s pension application, she stated that her husband died in 18-2. The 3rd number is very difficult to read. It seems that it was interpreted as an 8, but, based on Lula’s birth, it has to be a 9. It would only make sense that their daughter Lula was born in 1887 if her father died in 1892 and not 1882. Lula died in 1963, and hopefully her death certificate lists her parents’ names. If William is listed as her father, than his death date is certainly incorrect on his tombstone.

William Kimbell’s tombstone in Lyerly, Georgia.

It is possible that Lula is Martha’s daughter but not William’s. William does not appear in tax records after 1882, which is consistent with the 1882 death date. At that time, he was only 39, so there is no reason why he wouldn’t be paying taxes. This supports the theory that Lula was not William’s daughter, but perhaps a daughter from another relationship but not a second marriage. That would have been quite the scandal!

After William’s death, Martha applied for a widow’s pension, for which she was approved, but did not receive the money. After her death in 1922, her son, John, also attempted to get the $105 owed by the state of Georgia. It is her pension application that contains so much useful information, including their marriage date and William’s death date.

The Lesson

Writing about William J. Kimbell has taught me another valuable lesson: tombstones are not always correct, especially if they were put up years after someone’s death, which was the case for William. It seems that the death year is possibly incorrect, yet this is the date that is found on everyone’s family tree, including my own. It seems that the death certificate of Martha’s daughter, Lula, might shed some truthfulness on this situation.

Oldest – Maude Melissa Wimpee Kimbell

Being the oldest sibling comes with a lot of responsibility. Parents rely on you, and your younger siblings look up to you. I’m the oldest sibling myself, and I can only imagine what it would be like to be the oldest of 11 siblings! My 2nd great grandmother, Maude Melissa Wimpee, was in just that position.

Maude Melissa Wimpee Kimbell

Maude was born on 17 January 1882 in Chattooga County, Georgia to Mark Washington Wimpee and Amanda Alice Scoggins. Mark was a farmer and blacksmith, and Amanda was the daughter of a Civil War veteran. They married on 13 March 1881, and their oldest child, Maude, was born almost 10 months to the day later.

Unfortunately, I do not know the names of all of Maude’s 11 siblings. The siblings whose names I do know include: Pearl (b. 1885), Martha (b. 1889), Mary (b. 1890), Winnie (b. 1893), Walter (b. 1895), Jessie Irene (b. 1899), and Ernest William (b. 1902). Martha, Winnie, and Walter all died as children, and the other three unnamed children must have died young as well, between Mark and Amanda’s marriage and 1900.

Maude, standing back left, and her parents and siblings.

By 1900, Maude, her parents, her 5 living siblings – Pearl, Martha, Mary, Winnie, and Jessie – and her grandfather Harrison Scoggins were living in Trion, Georgia.

Trion Cotton Mill ca. 1895

The biggest employer in Trion was the Trion Factory, a cotton mill, which opened in 1845. It had the distinction of being the first cotton mill in northern Georgia. Trion existed because of the mill; the company built and owned most of the houses and established the school. The Wimpee family, like most of their neighbors, worked for the mill and rented a house in town from the company.  Mark worked as a blacksmith at the mill, and his three oldest daughters followed him there. Maude was 18 years old at the time, working as a weaver. Her younger sisters Pearl, aged 15, and Martha, aged 11, worked as spinners. In the past year, Maude worked 10 months with mechanized looms, a difficult and dangerous job. She likely worked six days a week, upwards 12 hours a day for a weekly pay of around $5. More men than women worked as weavers, so it was a little more unusual for Maude to hold that position. Maude had probably worked at the mill for a long time, as children under the age of 10 often worked to help out their parents. Spinning was an entry level job, one that was perfect for children under 16 like Pearl and Martha. There were also health risks for cotton mill workers, besides losing fingers in the machinery. Mill workers breathed in air filled with cotton particles, which would lodge in their lungs and cause byssinosis, or brown lung. Symptoms included coughing, wheezing, and sometimes death if the respiratory system failed.

By 1910, Maude and her older siblings were married and all escaped the cotton mill. Her father, Mark, was still working at the mill as a blacksmith, but her sister Jessie, though 11 years old, was not recorded as working, unlike Martha 10 years earlier. Either Mark was more financially stable with only four people living at home or Jessie’s employment was not recorded accurately.

On 11 November 1901, Maude married John Luther Kimbell also of Chattooga County. They ultimately had a large family of 9 children: Lula, Maggie, Jennie, Nellie, William, Pearl, Jimmie, Martha, Clara, and Ernest. John was a blacksmith like Maude’s father, though in their early married life they farmed rented land in Lyerly, Georgia. However, by 1920, Maude and John were living in Trion and Maude found herself living in rented, company housing just like where she, her parents, and siblings lived when she was a girl. John worked as a blacksmith for Mount Vernon Mill, and his oldest daughter, 17 year old Lula May, worked as an inspector in the cloth room.

By 1930, Maude and John owned their home in Chattooga County, but they were still very involved in the cotton mill. John was working as a welder for the mill, 18 year old son Bill was working in the south room doing an unspecified job, and 16 year old Berel was working as a spinner. 10 years later, John was no longer working for the mill. Maude and John’s 32 year old single daughter, Jennie Lee, was working as an inspector at the mill, and their married daughter Pearl was employed at the Trion Glove Mill as a sewer.

Trion Glove Mill employees in the 1940s. Pearl might be in this photograph.

Like most families living in a mill town, it seems that Maude’s life revolved around the mill. Three generations of her family worked there, and I found it very interesting that the sibling who worked in the cotton mills as children had a higher chance of marrying men who worked in the mills and finding employment for their children in the mills as well. The younger siblings who didn’t work in the mills as children didn’t work in them as adults, didn’t marry people who worked in them, and their children found other employment. For example:

Pearl Wimpee Jackson Crisp – Pearl and her second husband, Felix, lived on a farm in 1920, but by 1930, they were living in Trion again. They rented a house for $5.00 in a mill company neighborhood. Felix worked at the cotton mill as a napper, and their 20 year old son Clinton worked there as a weaver. In 1940, Pearl and her family had moved to Walker County, Georgia, where Felix now worked on a farm, but their oldest son Clinton still worked in a cotton mill as a doffer.

Martha Wimpee – She worked in the mills as a child and died sometime between the 1900 and 1910 census. I wonder if she died from complications from working at the cotton mills.

Mary Wimpee Philips – She married Albert Philips, a farmer. She didn’t work in the mill as a child, unless it went unrecorded, and she, her husband, and children did not work in the mills.

Winnie Wimpee – The census did not record that she ever worked in the cotton mill, but she, like Martha, also died sometime between the 1900 and 1910 census.

Jessie Wimpee Kearsey –  She married Claude Kearsey, and they moved around during their marriage. Claude worked in different capacities over the years, but according to the census records, not in the cotton mills.

Ernest William Wimpee  – He worked contracting jobs during his adult life, and as far as I can tell, never worked in the mills unless it went unrecorded in the census.

Of the 5 Wimpee children who lived to adulthood – Maude, Pearl, Mary, Jessie, and Ernest – Maude died first. She lived to be 80 years old and was well loved by her family. I can only imagine that being the oldest sibling in such a large family and working in a cotton mill as a child and young woman must have had quite an impact on her and her actions throughout her life.