|History of the Isaac Whitsett family of Lauderdale County, Alabama whose grandson William Isaac Whitsett went to Sebastian County, Arkansas. William Isaac was Isaac's only surviving descendant after the Civil War.|
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Isaac Whitsett of Waterloo, Lauderdale County, Alabama is the ancestor of my wife, Carolyn Sue Whitsett Wall. Only one descendant, grandson of Isaac, survived after 1870 to carry on the family name. Today, our Whitsett family members, all descended from the grandson William Isaac Whitsett, reside in or are from western Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma.
Isaac was born in 1812 in Tennessee. Family tradition of another branch says the Whitsett's were from Giles County, Tennessee; however, I believe that Isaac was probably born in Maury County. There is no concrete evidence for the names of the parents of Isaac and his brothers. Based on circumstantial evidence, I believe there is a very strong case that the father was Adam Whitsett who came to the Waterloo area of Lauderdale County probably in the spring of 1824 and died the following year on February 17, 1825. The is no evidence at all to suggest the name of the mother.
After the death of their father, four of the sons - Wilson, Isaac, Joe and John, were taken in by Benjamin Price and his wife Jane Eliza (Simpson) Price. When the 1830 census was collected in Lauderdale County Isaac was probably still living at home with the Price family. He was about eighteen years old at the time and there is one male of about that age in the Price household. Isaac's older brother Wilson had married Elizabeth Price (daughter of Ben and Jane Price) and was living nearby. Brothers Joe and John are not reflected, as far as I can tell, on the Lauderdale County census, but they may have been living in Giles County, Tennessee with a relative.
Isaac married Elizabeth Wilson on July 20, 1837 in Lauderdale County. Elizabeth was the daughter of James W. Wilson of Lauderdale County. Philip Wilson was probably her brother. At the time of their marriage Isaac was about twenty-five and Elizabeth was twenty-one. She was born in Tennessee. The Wilson family probably came to Lauderdale County about the same time as the Whitsett family.
According to estate records, Isaac Whitsett owned a farm of 340 acres, a portion of which was located in Whitsett Hollow along Beech Branch in Section 11 T2R15W. This location is a short distance southwest of Waterloo. Today most of this area is under the water of Pickwick Lake of the Tennessee River. According to the 1860 Agricultural Census of Lauderdale County Isaac had 80 acres improved or under cultivation. This location may have been unfortunate for the family during the Civil War, because it was on the north end of the ferry to Franklin County (now Colbert County). This transportation corridor was the subject of great interest to the Union Army during the war. Isaac Whitsett died on June 14, 1865. The circumstances of his death are unknown. When Isaac died, his only living heirs were his wife Betty, sons Philip and Owen and grandson William Isaac. This is a family plagued with tragedy. Three sons dead as children prior to 1860, one teenage son dead and one son murdered during the war, and the rest of the immediate family all dead before the end of 1870. It seems a miracle that this blood line was continued by the fortunate birth before the Civil War of grandchild William Isaac Whitsett, son of William Wallace Whitsett.
William Wallace Whitsett
We have only a little information on the elder son William Wallace Whitsett. He was born in 1838 probably at the home of his parents near Waterloo. On November 19, 1856 he married Mary Ann Hopson, daughter of William and Jane (Shelton) Hopson. Both were eighteen years old. When the 1860 census was taken in Lauderdale County William and Mary were the family next door to his parents Isaac and Bettie Whitsett. In Isaac's household Philip, age 17, James, age 12 and Owen age 9 were the only children listed in the family group. In William and Mary's household is one child, William, age eleven months.
For years I suspected that William Sr. had died as a result of the Civil War. In the late 1970's and early 1980's I researched the Civil War records, both Union and Confederate, at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. At the time I was stationed with the Air Force at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland and on weekends when I had some time, I visited the Library of Congress, the National Archives and other genealogy resources in D.C. I found several William Whitsett names on Confederate muster rolls but I could not identify any as being from Alabama. Out of the few I found there was only one I could not place with some degree of certainty in any of the several Whitsett families I was researching. He enlisted in Memphis in April or May 1861 in the 2nd Regiment Volunteers of Tennessee Infantry as William Wallace Whitsett and was also listed as Wallace Whitsett and W. W. Whitsett. There was nothing in the muster rolls about his home state. At the time I had no idea of our William's middle name. All of the Lauderdale County records I possessed referred to him as William or William W. Whitsett. Luckily, I copied down the information - just in case.
A few years ago Maida Whitten, who has been a great help with my research, sent me a photocopy of a hand written note. Her great uncle James Edward Whitsett of Weatherford, Texas had scribbled down a few things that he knew about the family in Lauderdale County. Among other things, the note said that Isaac Whitsett had two sons, Philip and "Wallace W." who was "killed by a Yankee" near Wright, Alabama. Now the puzzle came together. This simple statement, taken in context of the events around Waterloo during the war, is a pretty good indication that he was probably captured and executed while trying to visit his family. In 1863 through 1865 the Federals took draconian measures to subjugate the residents of Lauderdale County. Union soldiers would execute any Confederate soldier found in the county. This fact is recounted in the history of Camilla (Whitsett) and her husband Harvey Rousseau (Camilla was the daughter of Wilson Whitsett) and in stories told by Sarah P. IWhitsett) web to her granddaughters. This brutal policy is detailed in a letter by one of Sarah's granddaughters to a niece in a letter dated March 1993.
Why would Wallace Whitsett travel all the way to Memphis from Waterloo to enlist? I cannot answer this question. Although, it would not have been a difficult journey. He would probably have taken a steamer up the Tennessee River from Waterloo - a major port on the river in 1861 - to Savannah, Tennessee east of Memphis, then taken a stage to the city. A total of about 125 miles, the journey probably would have been less than three days. Perhaps he went to Memphis because he thought he could remain closer to home with a unit from West Tennessee. The 9th Regiment of Alabama Infantry, formed in Lauderdale County in which his brother Philip joined in May 1861, was being sent to Richmond, Virginia to join with Robert E. Lee's Army. The 2nd Regiment Volunteers of Tennessee Infantry formed in Memphis was to remain in West Tennessee.
The following was taken from the "Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System" web site which lists regimental histories and rosters, and in the Consolidated Service Records for William Wallace Whitsett from the National Archives which I have now obtained. In April or early May 1861, Wallace Whitsett enlisted for a period of three years in Memphis, Tennessee in Company E , 2nd Regiment (Robinson's) Volunteers of Tennessee Infantry. There were actually two elements of the 2nd Tennessee Infantry Regiment. One, known as Walker's Legion, was organized in Nashville in May 1861, as part of the Army of Virginia and Robinson's Regiment from Memphis. In July with 541 combat able men, Robinson's Regiment moved to Fort Pillow. The fort overlooked he Mississippi River about forty miles north of Memphis. In early November 1861, Robinson's regiment, including Wallace Whitsett, crossed the Mississippi to Belmont, Missouri from Columbus, Kentucky with other Confederate units . At about the same time General Ulysses S. Grant left Cairo, Illinois by steamers and two gunboats with the intention to raid Columbus, Kentucky. The next morning, Grant learned that Confederates from Kentucky had crossed the Mississippi into Missouri intending to intercept two Union detachments Grant had sent in pursuit of Confederate General Jeff Thompson. Later, the Confederates were to join General Sterling Price's campaign in Missouri. Grant landed on the Missouri shore a mile above Belmont. Early the next morning the two armies met. The Federals routed the Confederates and destroyed the supplies and equipment the Rebels had left behind. However, the scattered Confederate forces regrouped. They also received reinforcements from Columbus. The Rebels counterattacked forcing the Union soldiers to withdraw. Grant returned to Cairo to prepare for his next campaign into Tennessee. Robinson's Regiment reported 18 killed, 64 wounded, and 33 missing at Belmont. It is not entirely clear from the regimental history that I read, but sometime after Belmont, Robinson's Regiment may have joined Walker's when Walker returned to Tennessee from Virginia. The two units formed the 2nd Consolidated Regiment of Tennessee Infantry. What ever the case, the two forces were together at the battle of Shiloh.
Fort Henry and Fort Donelson fell to General Grant's Army of Tennessee in February 1862. Confederate General Albert Johnston was forced to retreat, leaving Kentucky and much of West and Middle Tennessee to Grant. Johnston moved his troops to the major rail hub at Corinth, Mississippi and began planning an offensive against Grant's Army of the Tennessee before the Army of the Ohio, under General Don Carlos Buell, could reinforce it. At the same time Grant, with about 40,000 men began an offensive along the Tennessee River marching toward Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee. There he received orders to await Buell’s Army. The Federals set up camp near a church named the Shiloh Meeting House. Shiloh, meaning peace, gave its name to one of the deadliest battles of the war. Wallace Whitsett would find himself in the thick of it.
Grant set about drilling his men, many of whom were raw recruits. Johnston began attacking the Union troops on the morning of April 6th, surprising the Federals causing many to panic and run. However, some of the Union soldiers made a determined stand and by afternoon, they had established a battle line at a sunken road that became known as the “Hornets Nest.” Repeated Rebel attacks failed to carry the Hornets Nest, but Confederate artillery fire turned the tide. The Rebels surrounded the Union troops and captured, killed, or wounded most of them. General Johnston was mortally wounded earlier in the day and his second in command, General P.G.T. Beauregard, took over. The Union soldiers established another line covering Pittsburg Landing, supported with artillery. They were reinforced by Buell’s men who finally began to arrive and take up positions. Fighting continued until after dark, but the Federals held. By the next morning, the combined Federal forces numbered about 40,000, outnumbering the Confederates who had less than 30,000. Beauregard was unaware of the arrival of Buell’s army and launched a counterattack in response to a two-mile advance by a division of Buell’s army. At first the Rebel counterattack was successful, but Union resistance stiffened and forced the Confederates back. Beauregard ordered another counterattack, which stopped the Union advance but did not break its battle line. At this point, Beauregard realized he had suffered too many casualties and could not win. The Rebels retired from the field and started back to Corinth. On the 8th, Grant sent General William T. Sherman with two brigades, and General Thomas Wood with his division after Beauregard. Sherman ran into Confederate Cavalry commanded by Colonel Nathan Bedford Forrest camped at a place that became known as Fallen Timbers (near Chambers, Tennessee). Forrest's men had felled large trees across the road to Corinth to slow the Union pursuit, hence the name. Forrest’s aggressive tactics influenced the Union troops to give up the pursuit and return to Pittsburg Landing. For the number of troops engaged and the length of the battle, Shiloh was one of the bloodiest fights of the Civil War with approximately 24,000 casualties, almost one in every five soldiers killed or wounded. The Confederate dead and wounded numbered 10,699 a staggering number for a single battle in any war. Although the Union considered the battle a victory, they lost almost 14,000 dead and wounded.
Whitsett's unit, the 2nd Infantry Regiment Volunteers suffered heavy casualties at Shiloh. Later the unit was consolidated into four companies and merged first into the 4th and then combined under one command with Smith's 5th Confederate Infantry Regiment; however, they retained their designation as the 4th Regiment. I am not certain in which campaigns the 4th Infantry participated before the Battle of Chickamauga in September 1863; however, the 4th and 5th Regiments were apparently part of the Battle of Perryville, Kentucky in October 1862.
Confederate General Braxton Bragg invaded Kentucky in the autumn of 1862. Bragg reached the outskirts of Louisville and Cincinnati, but resistance by the Federals forced him to retreat and regroup. On October 7, Union General Buell with nearly 55,000 troops converged on the small town of Perryville, Kentucky. The Union soldiers first skirmished with Rebel cavalry on the Springfield Pike before the fighting became more general as Confederate infantry units arrived. At dawn on the 8th fighting began around Peters Hill as a Union division advanced up the pike, halting just before the Confederate line and paused. Shortly after noon, a Confederate division struck the Union left flank and forced it to fall back. When more Confederate divisions joined the fray, the Union line made a stubborn stand, counterattacked, but finally fell back with some troops routed. Reinforced Union troops on the left flank stabilized their line, and the Rebel attack sputtered to a halt. Later, a Rebel brigade assaulted the Union division on the Springfield Pike but was repulsed and fell back into Perryville. The Yankees pursued, and fighting occurred in the streets of Perryville. That night, Bragg, short of men and supplies, withdrew and retreated by way of Cumberland Gap into East Tennessee. The Confederate offensive was over, and the Union controlled Kentucky (Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System 2nd Regiment of Tennessee Infantry).
In the summer of 1863, Union General William Rosecrans drove Bragg and his army across the state of Tennessee to the city of Chattanooga, a vital objective for both armies. Wallace Whitsett and his unit were with Bragg’s army. Seizing Chattanooga would provide a base for a Federal assault on the heartland of the South. President Abraham Lincoln declared, "whomever controls Chattanooga will win the war." On August 16, 1863, Rosecrans began an attack on the Confederate supply lines to the south of the city. Union Colonel John Wilder moved his brigade to near Chattanooga and bombarded the city with artillery for two weeks, fooling Bragg as to the direction of the Union advance. Meanwhile, The Confederate high command ordered a division from Mississippi under General Hiram T. Walker to reinforce Bragg, and General Robert E. Lee dispatched an entire corps under General James Longstreet from Virginia. On September 8, after learning that Rosecrans had crossed into his rear, Bragg evacuated Chattanooga and moved his army south along the La Fayette Road toward La Fayette, Georgia. Wallace Whitsett was about to experience another battle as bloody as Shiloh. This time he probably did not come away unscathed.
Rosecrans was convinced that the Confederates were fleeing south deep into Georgia. Instead, Bragg's Army of Tennessee, including Wallace Whitsett's unit, was encamped at La Fayette, only some 20 miles south of Chattanooga. Rosecrans ordered the Cavalry to swing across Lookout Mountain and break Bragg's railroad supply line. General Crittenden was to take Chattanooga and then turn south in pursuit of Bragg. On the morning of September 18, Bragg decided to hit Crittenden and cut the Union supply line from their base at Chattanooga. On the morning of September 19, four Union divisions were spread out north of Crittenden's position. That same morning, the corps from Virginia joined the Rebel forces. The Rebels then attacked General Thomas, who believed he was fighting only a small force of Nathan Bedford Forrest's cavalry to his front. The fight expanded and lasted throughout the day as Bragg engaged more and more of his force. He made repeated frontal attacks, without success, and the fighting subsided after dark.
That night, Thomas erected log breastworks around Kelly Field on his left flank, and Rosecrans rearranged his divisions to form a more compact defensive line. At the same time, Bragg was reorganizing his army into two wings, commanded by Generals Polk and Longstreet. At 9:30 the next morning on September 20, Confederate General D.H. Hill began an assault the Union right flank. Shortly after Hill's attack commenced, a division under General Francis Lowe and cavalry under Nathan Bedford Forrest attacked Thomas' left flank and penetrated the interior of the lines. By 10:15 a.m., part of General James Negley's division, which had been held in reserve, pushed north and repulsed an assault by a Union division. The Confederate attack on Kelly Field was stopped by fire from the breastworks. Bragg was concerned about the failure of his attacks and ordered a general assault along the entire line, changing his strategy from a flanking attack to a full frontal assault. At 11 a.m., assaults by Confederate Generals Stewart and Walker were repulsed. Longstreet attacked at 11:30 a.m. and achieved some success.
Thomas requested reinforcements and Rosecrans began shifting units to react to the initial attacks on his flank. At about 11 a.m., Rosecrans ordered General Wood to pull out of the line. This inadvertently opened a gap in the center. When Longstreet's army arrived, they were able to use the gap and struck columns of Union soldiers as they moved. The Union troops began to retreat, carrying Rosecrans along with them, and other commands soon followed. By 1 p.m., Thomas was the sole commander left on the battlefield. He received word from Rosecrans to withdraw to Rossville, Georgia, a few miles to the north in the direction of Chattanooga, but Thomas was too heavily engaged to move and began consolidating his forces on Horseshoe Ridge and Snodgrass Hill. The Union Reserve Corps commander General Gordon Granger, who was north of the battlefield at MacAfee's Church, heard the firing to the south, and on his own initiative sent General James B. Steedman to support Thomas. Steedman arrived about 2:30 p.m., just in time to stop Longstreet's attempt to envelop Thomas. At about 4 p.m. Longstreet made one final effort, but could not break the stubborn Union defense.
That night Thomas withdrew to Rossville. His heroic stand that day earned him the nickname The Rock of Chickamauga. His troops fought valiantly and his personal determination saved the Union army from disaster. On September 21, Rosecrans's army withdrew to the city of Chattanooga. The Rebels occupied the heights surrounding Chattanooga and laid siege upon the Union forces. Unable to break the siege, Rosecrans was relieved of his command of the Army of the Cumberland on October 19. It would take the relief forces of Generals Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman and the Battle of Chattanooga that November to break Bragg's grip on the city. Considered a Confederate victory for halting the Union advance, the Battle of Chickamauga was another costly one. It claimed an estimated 34,624 casualties, 16,170 for the Union; 18,454 for the Confederates (Battle of Chickamauga - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia).
In October 1863 William W. Whitsett is in an Army Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. This is probably because of wounds received during the Battle of Chickamauga in September 1863. A copy of an original requisition for clothing dated October 23, 1863 has his name and signature. He is also listed on pay registers for October and November 1863. These registers are in lieu of the normal Company Muster Rolls which usually recorded payments. I believe he was in the hospital at least through November 1863. On these records his rank is given as Private, but I believe this is wrong and his rank should have been listed as Corporal. He may have rejoined his company in November 1863. He is listed on the company's musters for November 1863 through April 1864. His enlistment expired in April or May 1864 and these are the last occasions his name appears on any muster roll. There seems to be no record of his discharge. It is likely that he simply returned home to Lauderdale County and was captured and executed by Union soldiers when they discovered that he was an ex-Confederate soldier. If he was captured while on his way home, he would still have been in his Confederate uniform.
The last military record we have of William Wallace Whitsett is contained in the WAR OF REBELLION (Series I, Vol. 30, Part II, pg. 540, General Orders #64 Richmond, Va. Aug. 10, 1864, Adjutant and Inspector General's Office, Battle of Chickamauga Roll of Honor). The Roll of Honor lists Private Wallace Whitsett, Co. E, Fourth Regiment of Infantry, Tennessee (the 2nd was consolidated with the 4th). The date is almost a year after the battle. I suspect that he is on this roll partly because he was seriously wounded during the battle.
Family tradition says that Wallace Whitsett was killed by a Yankee near Wright, Alabama in Lauderdale County, date unknown. As mentioned before, Lauderdale County was occupied by various units of the Union Army, some with reputations for practices that would now be considered war crimes. There was a draconian policy of executing Confederate soldiers found in the county. Young men known or suspected of being Confederate soldiers were usually shot or hung on the spot when captured by Federal soldiers.
If William Wallace Whitsett intended to serve his country close to home, he mostly succeeded. The Battle of Shiloh occurred only about twenty miles northwest of Waterloo. The cannons from the battle could probably be heard in the northwestern part of the County. The Battle of Chickamauga was less than 160 miles east of Waterloo. During the war, he was probably never more than 200 miles from Lauderdale County.
I have not found a record of it, but sometime after Wallace's death his widow remarried to a man with the last name Terry. I have tried every avenue I can think of to find a record of Mary Ann Terry, other than the Isaac Whitsett estate records where her name appears, but have been unsuccessful.
Philip W. Whitsett
Wallace Whitsett's brother, Philip Whitsett was born about 1843. Confederate Army records indicate that he enlisted as a private in Company D, 9th Regiment, Alabama Infantry at Oakland, Lauderdale County, Alabama on May 27, 1861. He was 18 years old and single. HIs unit was known as the Lauderdale Rifles. Philip was present for several major battles with the Army of Virginia from 1862 through 1863. In January 1864, he was listed first as AWOL and then as a deserter. In early 1864, Philip would not have been the only Southern son of Lauderdale County to receive a gut wrenching letter from home detailing the desperate condition of the family there and pleading for him to come home. By 1864, it was becoming increasingly evident that the South was losing the war.
Philip was captured in Tennessee by Federal troops while attempting to return home and sent to the POW camp near Nashville, Tennessee. The U.S. Army Rolls of deserters from the rebel army states that Philip Whitsett was discharged at Nashville on February 4, 1865. He swore an Oath of Allegiance to the U.S. (on January 27, 1865) and was released on the condition he remained north of Ohio River. The U.S. Army POW records give the following information about Philip (Head Quarters, Provost Marshal General, U.S. Army, Department of the Cumberland, Nashville, Tennessee; Roll no. 672, Sheet 10).
Between May 1861, and January 1864, Philip saw plenty of action with the Confederate Army. The Ninth Alabama Infantry Regiment was integrated into the Army of Virginia at Richmond in May 1861, and moved to Winchester several weeks later. There it was under the command of General Kirby Smith of Florida. It was unable to participate in the first Battle of Manassas because it could not reach the battlefield due to a railroad accident. For the remainder of 1861 until March 1862, the regiment lay at Manassas Centerville, and then it marched to Yorktown. The regiment was under fire at Yorktown in April 1862, with only minor losses. Muster rolls for the 9th show that Philip was in the Chimborazo Hospital No. 3, Richmond, Virginia between March 7 and April 4, 1862 and missed the Battle of Yorktown. On May 5, 1862, he was again with his unit when it participated in the battle of Williamsburg, Virginia. Again, it incurred only minor losses. At Seven Pines on June 1st, the 9th Alabama was held in reserve and suffered no losses. However, three weeks later at Gaines' Mill on June 27, 1862, it sustained heavy casualties and three days later was ravaged by the wall of fire at Frazier's Farm. After Frazier's Farm it took up the line of march with the Army of Virginia to Maryland, and was under fire but not actively engaged at the second Battle of Manassas. From Harper's Ferry, it rushed to the battlefield at Sharpsburg, where it lost 8 killed, 42 wounded, and 9 missing. For some reason Philip was absent on furlough during this battle. The Ninth wintered on the Rappahannock, and was under fire, with few casualties, at Fredericksburg on December 13, 1862. Its greatest glory was won at Salem Church in May 1863, where it bore the brunt of a successful assault on the Federals and suffered heavy losses. Next, the regiment moved into Pennsylvania and on to Gettysburg. Again, it sustained severe casualties at Gettysburg on July 2nd and 3rd as part of the brigade that had 781 killed and wounded. The fall and winter of 1863 were passed in camp near Orange Court House. On January 15, 1864, Philip deserted the army. Of 1138 men on the rolls of the 9th Alabama Infantry, about 200 fell in battle, more than 175 died of disease and 208 were discharged or transferred to other units. (Alabama Department of Archives & History, 624 Washington Ave., Montgomery, AL 36130).
If Philip remained "north of the Ohio River," after his parole as ordered, he did not remain there long. He was back home in Lauderdale County by October, 1865. His father, Isaac, had died on June 14, 1865 and on October 23, 1865, Philip was appointed administrator of his father's estate. He was twenty-one years old by then. His petition to be named administrator and the subsequent Court order names as heirs the widow Elizabeth, Philip and Owen Whitsett as sons, and William Isaac Whitsett as grandson of Isaac. Thomas McCorkle, P.H. Cunningham and Philip Howell appraised the estate and they listed three cows and a calf, one yoke of oxen, an ox wagon and 20 head of hogs, all of which was set aside for the widow. Another yoke of oxen and a heifer were appraised at $110. Apparently, the land and furniture was not appraised because it was all deemed to belong to the widow. (Lauderdale County, Alabama Estate Records, Probate Court Minutes Book C, pg. 385; Inventory Book D, pg. 659; Inventory Book E, pg. 63, Oct. 23, 1865; Nov. 25, 1865; May 7, 1866).
The 1866 tax list of Lauderdale County lists the widow Elizabeth and her son Philip W. Whitsett. The 1866 Alabama State Census lists Elizabeth with two males in her household. According to the age groups on the census, Owen and Philip were living at home with their mother. Some time before 1870, both Philip and his mother Elizabeth had also died. James H. Witherspoon, a Lauderdale County lawyer, was named administrator for both the estate of Isaac and Philip. Owen must have died in 1870 because he is on the 1870 census in September, but by late November, the records indicate the only surviving heir of Isaac was grandson William Isaac. The Court records index shows several box files of probate records for Isaac, Philip and Owen Whitsett for the period 1868 to 1881; however, my researcher in Florence only looked at or copied those she felt were helpful in building the family tree for William Isaac. While those documents may not have given us any genealogical information we did not already have (except probably the dates that Philip and Owen died), they certainly would have added to our knowledge of the family history - always a good thing for genealogists. (Lauderdale County, Alabama Estate Records, Inventory Book F, Philip Whitsett, pp. 242, 252, 294, 583, 595).
The 1870 U.S. Census of Lauderdale County, dated September 26, 1870 lists Owen Whitsett, age 19, in the household of J. M. (Josiah) and Kissiah Whitsett (also in the household is Josiah's grandson Josiah Lucas, age 11). There are some troubling aspects of this particular census of western Lauderdale County, but it, combined with probate court records (see below), seem to indicate that Owen died between late September and the middle of November, 1870. Strangely, I cannot find William Isaac Whitsett on the 1870 census. I assume that at the time the Lauderdale County census was taken he was living with his mother Mary Ann Terry apparently somewhere other than Lauderdale County.
William Isaac Whitsett
Most of the probate records for Isaac Whitsett's estate involve his grandson, William Isaac. Born on September 11, 1859, he was only two years old when his father enlisted in the army. He was probably around four when his father was murdered. It is unlikely that he had any memory of his father. His mother, as mentioned earlier, remarried to a man named Terry. From the evidence in the probate records, you have to wonder if young William Isaac lived with his mother and stepfather, or if another relative was taking care of him.
On September 27, 1870, Mary Ann Terry petitioned the Lauderdale County Probate Court to be made the legal guardian of William Isaac Whitsett. The court issued the letters of guardianship to her the same day. Her bond was a small one, only one hundred dollars (compared to the $5000 bond Philip had to make to be named administrator of his Father's estate). Two months later on November 17th, she files several petitions pertaining to the estates of Isaac and Philip Whitsett. In the petitions, she states that her ward, William Isaac Whitsett, is the sole surviving heir of the estate. She requests the court to cite James H. Witherspoon, administrator of both estates to make a final settlement. The court issued a citation to Witherspoon and set a date of December 15th for him to appear in court and present his account and vouchers.
Back in 1981, my researcher in Florence wrote to me that Witherspoon, a lawyer, was apparently involved in some shady dealings with some estates he was administering. Mary Ann's petitions and the subsequent court orders to Witherspoon seem to substantiate that. In December Witherspoon filed his accounts and receipts with the court. The court then set a date of January 15, 1871, to audit his account. I do not have any papers from that audit, if it ever occurred. Something apparently happened during that process because subsequent events show that the estate was not settled. In fact, the final settlement did not occur until 1881 after William Isaac turned twenty-one.
A receipt in the Probate Court records shows that Josiah M. Whitsett took over from James Witherspoon as administrator of the estate in November, 1873. Witherspoon turned over $300 in cash to Josiah who was by then guardian of William Isaac Whitsett. It seems obvious that Mary Ann died sometime between December 1870 and November 1873. Josiah signed his name on the Witherspoon receipt as J. M. Whitsett. His signature seems to indicate someone who was not proficient at writing. The same signature appears on the account Josiah filed with the court in 1881 when the estate of Isaac Whitsett was finally settled.
Another receipt dated simply 1874 shows that "Joseph" Whitsett paid William Hopson $67.00 that year for the board of Isaac Whitsett. William Hopson was William Isaac's grandfather. This receipt is important to our research because it is evidence that Josiah and Joseph Whitsett were the same person. A third receipt dated at the end of March 1878, to "Joseph" Whitsett is for payment to teacher George Waters for Isaac Whitsett's tuition for the school year 1877.
Nothing can tear a family apart faster than a dispute over money. The first evidence of trouble between William Isaac and his uncle Josiah is a court order dated April 3, 1875. This order appointed T. L. Chisholm guardian ad litem to William Isaac Whitsett. Chisholm's role was to protect young Isaac's interest in a law suit brought by Josiah Whitsett against the teenager. I do not have the records to show what this was about. It had something to do with the estate of Isaac Whitsett Sr. since it was filed in with other estate papers. Clifford Whitsett, son of William Isaac, told me in 1980 that his father said he was cheated out of his inheritance "by relatives." The suit by Josiah may have contributed to that perception.
When the 1880 census of Lauderdale County was taken in June, 1880 young William Isaac, age twenty, was living in the household of his grandfather, William Hopson near Waterloo. On the same census is the family of James and Mary McDaniel living in the Spains District of Lauderdale County. Four daughters are listed in the family; Fannie, age 18; Lizzie, age 13, Susan, age 8; Ann, age 6. All of the girls were born in Mississippi. On October 28, 1880 William Isaac Whitsett and Fannie Bell McDaniel were married at the home of James McDaniel in Lauderdale County by Minister of the Gospel W. J. Webb.
That November 1st, James H. Witherspoon, as administrator de bonis non (without pay) of the Isaac Whitsett estate sold a tract of land in the east quarter of the west half of Section 11, Township 2, Range 15 to Wesley Williams. My researcher, Mrs. Corinne King Murphy, wrote, "A total of $2353.17 was collected from the sale of which Witherspoon claimed $2,209.04 was stilled owed to him. Robbed by Witherspoon, Ed. A. O'Neal with possible help from Joshua M. Whitsett." This was her assessment from looking at the probate court records she did not copy for me.
William Isaac reached his majority sometime before March 2, 1881 and sued for an accounting and settlement of his grandfather's estate. Josiah M. Whitsett as guardian of Isaac Whitsett Jr. filed his account and vouchers, which were audited by the probate judge in June 1881. The audit shows that Josiah received $435 from James H. Witherspoon in two payments in 1873, which had accumulated $266 in interest by May, 1881. Josiah's account lists income and expenses; income included money from corn sold to several individuals including [Wilson] Whitsett and [Jane] Simpson. Expenses showed taxes paid (on land) from 1875 through 1879 plus various accounts with merchants, presumably for clothing or supplies for his ward William Isaac. There is also a note (loan) made by Wilson Whitsett for $300. The audit shows that the account balance at the time of the audit was $350.
Soon after the audit was completed, William Isaac sued to recover property (no specifics given) from Josiah M. Whitsett. On September 30, 1882, an alias was issued to summons Josiah M. Whitsett and his securities, William G. Lucas, Wilson Whitsett and O. B. Sullivan. I am not certain of the meaning of this since I only received a brief extract of the document, but perhaps the "alias" was for Joseph Whitsett and the summons concerned assets of the estate. The outcome of this summons is not known. This is the last document or extract in my possession concerning the years long wrangling over the estate of Isaac Whitsett Sr. There is no doubt about the origin of the family tradition that William Isaac was cheated out of his inheritance"by relatives." Although we do not know all of the results of this legal feud, we can assume that if William Isaac realized anything from his grandfather's estate after his marriage, it was far less than what he was expecting.
William Isaac and Fannie moved to Mississippi by 1884. I have been unable to find any data on the family in Mississippi. They may have lived for a short period in Tennessee because son William's birthplace is reported as Tennessee on the 1910 and 1920 censuses. About 1895 the family moved to Huntington, Sebastian County, Arkansas. The 1900 census of Huntington lists the entire family. In 1910 the family was living in Potter Township of Polk County, Arkansas. When the census was taken in April, Fannie's parents James and Mary McDaniel were living next door to William Isaac and Fannie Whitsett (this census also gives some conflicting information about the birthplaces of the children). In 1920 William Isaac and Fannie were living in Upper Township of the City of Fort Smith, Sebastian County, Arkansas. Also in the household is son William H., age 29 and single, son Clifford and wife Bertha, and the family of son-in-law Joe Walpole. Walpole was the husband of daughter Lula who died in 1918 and is buried near William Isaac's grave at the Oak Cemetery in Fort Smith. Before 1927 William and Fannie apparently moved to the community of Figure Five in Jasper Township, Crawford County, Arkansas. He died there on December 7, 1927 from chronic hepatitis. He is buried in the historic Oak Cemetery in Fort Smith, Arkansas.
After William Isaac's death during the depression, son Clifford and his second wife Nora moved to Detroit, Michigan looking for work. They took along with them Clifford's mother Fannie. She died in Detroit on July 18, 1943. I tried to obtain a death certificate for her but officials in Detroit were unable to locate it. Clifford and Nora lived off and on in Detroit and Huntington, Arkansas. Clifford died on May 16, 1980 and is buried next to his father in the Oak Cemetery in Fort Smith. Clifford and Nora had two sons, Willard and Clifford Jr. Clifford's wife Nora was the widow of E. B. Plunkett and had a daughter Sybil Irene and a son John when she married Clifford.
Ronald N. Wall
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Revised: 29 MAY 2011