Tuesday, August 16, 2011

John Pinckney Willis

John Pinckney Willis was born on February 1, 1866 in Calhoun County, Florida to Joseph Buck Willis and Lucinda Richards Willis.

His mother was the great granddaughter of George Richards (1726-1818), who served with the 23 year-old George Washington in 1755 in what became known as Braddock’s Defeat during the French and Indian War. George Richards also served with his sons during the American Revolution.

John is shown to be four years old on the 1870 Calhoun County, Florida census. He is listed with a brother, James (12) and a sister, Nannie (3). His father is listed as a farmer and his mother keeps house.

During this time Calhoun County extended down to the Gulf of Mexico and was separated from Alabama by Jackson County. According to the 1870 census Marianna (which is in Jackson County) was the post office for area where the Willis family lived. Also, at the time of the 1870 census the population of Calhoun County was only 998.

Calhoun County was created in 1838 and as you can see in the map above is situated in the Florida Panhandle. Today the only incorporated towns are Altha and the county seat, Blountstown. There are many unincorporated communities, and two that appear on census records for the Willis, Streetman and Cook families are Chipola and Willis. However, I have not seen any modern references to Pippins Mill.

I have been unable to find John P. Willis on the 1880 census, but will continue to look. As for the 1890 those records were destroyed in a fire.

John married Lucy Jane Lamb, daughter of John Lamb and Elmira Peacock Lamb. They were married in the home of the bride on December 22, 1887 by Charles S. Fuss. Below is a copy of the marriage certificate.

By the time the 1900 census was taken there were 5, 132 people living in Calhoun County. The population increased by over 4,000 in just thirty years.

The 1900 census tells us that John was a farmer; he lived on his own land and owned his own house. He was 34 years old and Lucy was 31.

The children listed are as follows:

John J. (John Joseph Willis 1888-1927)
Mary A. (Mary Almira Willis Streetman 1891-1970)

William J. (William Jefferson Willis 1892-1939)
Alice L. (Alice Lucinda Willis Gray 1893-1980)
Jesse L. (Jesse Loyd Willis 1895-1936)
Callie V. (Ceclia Viola Willis Smith 1897-1965)
Charles D. (Charles Dewey Willis 1898-1919)

Sometime after the census was taken the second child of John and Lucy was born. George Washington Willis was born in 1890 but later died in 1893. I believe he was buried in Bailey’s Cemetery in Calhoun County.

Here is a photo of the house where John and Lucy lived in Pippins Mill. This photo is believed to have been taken around 1905.

Below is the 1900 census for Pippins Mill, Calhoun County; the Willis family begins at the bottom of page one and continues on page two.

You’ll notice that on page two Charlie Mack Streetman and family are next door neighbors. My great-grandfather, Ancil (incorrectly identified as “Ansen”), is 12 years old and living next door to 9 year old Mary. Both families eventually relocated to Texas and Ancil and Mary are later married to each other.

Also living in the Charlie Mack home is his 14 year old daughter, Lela (seen as “Lilla” on the census). Lela and Mary corresponded regularly with one another after the Streetmans moved to Houston County, Texas. Below is a copy I made of the original post card sent by Mary Willis that is postmarked in Graceville, Jackson County, Florida, dated December 7, 1908 and received in Grapeland, Houston County, Texas December 10, 1908.

The card reads:

Dear Leila: -- Your nice card came some time ago, and of course I was glad to hear from you again. Papa came home last night (Sat.). We was glad to see him. You know, he says he likes Texas fine and is going when he sells out,

Dec. 6. 1908
We are all very anxious to go. Think we would like it fine. Write again.
Your friend Mary

The Willis family wasted no time in moving to Texas! The January 19, 1909 edition of the Grapeland Messenger posted a notice that read “C.M. Streetman and Mrs. (sic) Artie Streetman returned Saturday from Florida where they had been visiting relatives. They were accompanied home by a Mr. Willis and family who will make this their future home, Mr. Willis hoving (sic) purchased property in the Antrim community.”

The following year shows the Willis clan living in Pct. #5, Houston County. Included are several more children:

Ludie (Ludie Valonia Willis Journeay 1900-1968)
Marvin (Marvin Rivey Willis 1902-1977)
Purley (Purley Gratan Willis 1904-1943)
Guy (Guy Clifford Willis 1906-1971)
Alton (Alton Jackson Willis 1908-1963)

(*note- after the census was taken the last child was born, Lois Inez Willis Payne 1910-1981)

I believe this picture was taken around 1907 while the family was still living in Florida. I have digitally edited the photo to remove the numbers that were written near each person.

Here is the copy with the numbers; I have tried to identify each person as best that I could.

1. John P. Willis
2. Lucy Jane Lamb Willis
3. John Joseph Willis
4. Mary Almira Willis Streetman
5. William Jefferson Willis
6. Alice Lucinda Willis Gray
7. Jesse Loyd Willis
8. Cecilia Viola Willis Smith
9. Charles Dewey Willis
10. Ludie Valonia Willis Journeay
11. Marvin R. Willis
12. Purley Gratan Willis
13. Guy Clifford Willis

Almost two years after arriving in Texas sadness would fall upon the Willis family. John Pinckney Willis died from pneumonia, or as the paper put it, “the sickness”. He would leave Lucy Jane behind to take care of a large family, nearly all under the age of 20.

John was buried in the Antrim Cemetery, not too far from his home. His son Charles Dewey would be buried near him in 1919 and Lucy would follow in 1945. Many others that migrated from Florida during that time period would also be buried there, including Mary Elizabeth Cook, who would eventually be connected to the Willis family when Ancil Streetman and Mary Willis were married (Ancil’s mother was her daughter, and was Charlie Mack’s first wife; see previous story).