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.

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.

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.