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.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: In the Census

This week I would like to highlight two people in my family tree who I was surprised to find “in the census” for different reasons. The first is Martha Fulcher (abt. 1775 to aft. 1850), and the second is Elisha Harrison Scoggins (abt. 1824 to 1901).

Two Heads of One Household

Martha Sargent was born about 1775 in Virginia to William and Patsy Sargent. She married Jesse Fulcher on 12 April 1809 who, according to family stories, emigrated from Ireland. She and Jesse had moved to Robertson County, Tennessee by 1830, if not earlier. In 1830, the Fulcher household was tallied in the census. Jesse was not the only person listed as the head of the household, but Martha was as well! In fact, Martha’s name appears first. I have never seen a census record prior to 1850 that names two people, particularly a husband and wife, as both the head of one household. I have not thoroughly researched this branch of the family, so I do not know what circumstances could have resulted in this anomaly. Perhaps it was a mistake by a census taker who gathered the information from Martha, and he put her name down and then had to squeeze in Jesse’s.  Maybe they both insisted that they were the head of the household. Whatever the circumstances, it does show that both Martha and Jesse were living at the time and that they were the oldest male and female in the household.

This census record taught me to always be prepared for the unexpected. It also served as a reminder that women can appear in public records even when I assume they shouldn’t be there.

Enumerated Twice

Elisha Harrison Scoggins was born in Georgia to Gresham and Winnie (Watson) Scoggins and lived most of his life in Chattooga County. In 1845, he married Martha Barron and they had a large family of children. On June 9, 1900, Elisha was enumerated in Trion, Chattooga County living with his daughter Amanda Wimpee and his son-in-law Mark Wimpee and their children. He was 77 years old and had no occupation, and although his wife was already deceased, the enumerator mistakenly recorded that he was married rather than a widower. The census record showing his residence in Trion is shown to the right.

After I found this record, I did not look for another census record, especially as I knew that he died in 1901. What I did not know, however, was that Elisha purchased a farm in Dutton, Jackson County, Alabama in 1896. When I began to research his children other than the daughter (Amanda Wimpee) who was my direct ancestress, and I found several of Amanda’s unmarried siblings living in Dutton with Elisha as the head of the household! The census was taken on June 5, 1900, just four days before he was enumerated in Trion. His personal information varied slightly between the two census records, and it turned out that the information supplied in the Dutton census was correct. I am assuming that most likely Elisha was the informant for the Dutton enumeration, and either Mark or Amanda was the informant in Trion.

Elisha was enumerated in the 1900 census twice within a week in two different states. This taught me a valuable lesson: to always research laterally not just lineally. Without researching great aunts and uncles, I would not have found Elisha in a second census schedule and I would not have known that he ever lived in or purchased land in Alabama.