- Valerie Jane married James Hart and had four children.
- Mary Jane married first Barney Johnson and had two daughters and a son. After Barney’s death, she married William Lester Munroe and had nine more children.
- Frances Elizabeth married George Darling Pond and had five children, only one of whom lived to adulthood.
- Thomas Jabe married a younger sister of George D. Pond, Narcissus Jane Pond, and they had eight children.
Valerie Jane Whittenton HartValerie Jane Whittenton was born in March probably in 1851 on her father’s farm in District 17 of Madison County, Tennessee. She probably did not get much schooling and was never very accurate about her true age, tending to say she was older than she probably really was.
When she was a girl of about 10, the Civil War started. How it affected her in particular we do not know, but her father’s farm was reduced during the war to about half its original size. Probably Valerie, as the eldest, was responsible early in life for looking after her seven younger siblings and helping her mother with all the work around the house and garden. They made butter and cheese and other milk products from their milk cows, and perhaps Valerie learned early to do the milking and other chores.
While Valerie was growing up, her next sibling, William, died, and also her youngest sister, Jos Laney. Their father died in 1874 when Valerie would have been about 23 years old. She must have been helping her mother after that, but on May 15, 1879 she married James M. Hart in Madison County and moved away to Henderson County, next door to Madison County. She was probably 27 or 28 years old.
James M. Hart was a farmer born in Tennessee to North Carolina-born parents. His birthday was in August 1850, so he was probably just a little older than Valerie, although in various censuses she described herself as older than he was. They had five children:
- William Solomon Hart, born September 18, 1880
- Mary Ann Hart, born October 1881
- Martha Elizabeth Hart, born April 1884
- Elzie L Hart, a son, born September 1887
- Nancy Catherine Hart, born April 1895
By the time the 1910 Census was taken, Valerie’s husband, James, and children Mary Ann and Elzie were dead. In addition, daughter Martha’s husband died right before the census was taken in 1910 and she was left with four little children, and right after the same census, William’s wife died and he was left with three children.
William Solomon (who went by the name Bill) had been the first of the children to marry. He married a woman named Nora on May 17, 1901 in Henderson County, Tennessee. They had three daughters: Eula Mae (1902–1973), Essie Pearl (1905–1996), and Edna Daisy (1908–1988). Unfortunately for Bill and the girls, Nora died in late 1910.
Meanwhile, Bill’s sister Martha had married a man surnamed Williams and had borne a daughter and two sons: Lula (1904), Sam (1906), and Robert (1907). When the census was taken in April 1910, she was a widow, and her son Clyde was born just after that, so probably her husband had died just a few months before the census, but no records have come to light to say exactly who he was. There were plenty of Williams families living in the same area. It is a bit difficult to find the right family, because a black woman named Martha Hart married a black man named Allen Williams around the same time. There is a record of a Martha Hart in Henderson County marrying a man named D.A. Williams on July 12, 1903 that could be our family, but it could instead be the black family. If more records come to light, we might be able to figure out what our Martha’s husband’s name was.
Meanwhile, Bill married Susan Ella Petty on September 22, 1912. They had four children together: Felix Ray Hart (1912–1992), Joe Hart (1915–1920), Mary Sue Hart (1917–2000), and Rachel Elizabeth Hart (1925–1999). From the evidence of his first three daughters naming some of their children after their stepmother, Susie must have been good to Bill’s little girls.
The youngest of Valerie’s children, Nancy Catherine Hart, went by the name Nancy when she was young but changed to Cathy as she grew older. She was living with her mother when the 1910 census found them next door to Martha and her children. At that time Cathy was 15 years old. She married James M. Pollard on December 23, 1914 when she was 19 years old. He was a farm laborer who never owned his own farm. They may have had three children; if so, all three died between 1920 and 1930. James died July 23, 1932. Cathy went back to living with her sister Martha and their mother, Valerie.
In 1935 Valerie and her two daughters were all living with Martha’s son Clyde Williams and his family. Valerie Whittenton Hart died suddenly on April 27, 1936. She was 87 years old.
Bill died August 30, 1963 about two weeks away from his 83rd birthday. We don’t know when Martha died. Cathy died in January 1971 at the age of 75.
Frances Elizabeth Whittenton PondFrances Elizabeth Whittenton was born on her father’s farm in District 17 of Madison County, Tennessee in May 1855. She was named after her paternal grandmother, Frances (Maynard) Whittington, and perhaps also after her paternal aunts-by-marriage: her uncles Gibson and George were both married to women named Elizabeth.
Frances’ older siblings were Valerie (age 4), William (age 2), and MaryAnn (age 1). When she was 3, her sister Mary Jane was born, and when Frances was 5, her sister Jos Laney came along. Frances was 6 when her brother Thomas Jabe arrived, and she was 9 when the last brother, Bedford Forrest, was born. The Civil War had been raging during that time, and Frances would have been aware that her uncle Quince Whittenton was fighting under the command of General Nathan Bedford Forrest.
The family did not suffer as many bereavements due to the war as some families did, for Quince came home safely, as did uncle Cason Coley down in Texas. She may have heard, though, that her cousin James Whitenton, uncle Weston’s son down in Texas, had died in a battle in Louisiana, and her cousin John Peebles Whittington, uncle Richard’s son back in North Carolina, had also lost his life during the war.
During that decade Frances’ older brother, William, and her younger sister Jos Laney both died, but we don’t know exactly when. After the war was over, the family was not as wealthy as they had been, but they didn’t want for much either, except from the effects of the sad accidents or illnesses that took their siblings from them.
When Frances was 19, her father died in the fall of 1874. She and her mother and siblings kept their farm going for a number of years after that. Frances apparently went out to work, for she was not living at home with her mother and siblings when the 1880 census was taken. She met George Darling Pond, a native of Tennessee who was about 8 years younger than she, being born in March 1863. They were married October 16, 1886 in Madison County. Sadly for Frances, her mother died in December 1886, right after Frances’ marriage.
Frances and George had five children, but four of them are unknown, for they had died before 1900. George may have initially been a farm worker, but the budding photography industry was booming, and by 1900 he was a photographer with his own studio in Saline, Lonoke County, Arkansas. George took photographs of Frances’ sister Mary Jane’s family in Arkansas.
When the 1900 Census was taken, only their son Luther was living. Luther was born August 15, 1887 in Jackson, Tennessee, so he was probably their eldest child. George died in Lonoke County, Arkansas, in 1903, and Frances died there in early 1910.
Luther was working in 1910 as a bottler in a factory in Gum Woods, Lonoke County when the next census was taken. He was boarding there with the Joe J. Warren family. Later that summer, he married Miss Ethel Adams on August 17, 1910 in Lonoke County. They did not have any children. By the time Luther had to register for the draft during World War I, he was working as a night supervisor at the Pine Bluff Cotton Oil Company. His draft card described him as 5'11" tall, slender with brown eyes and hair, and a crippled right hand. Luther died in the world-wide influenza epidemic on October 13, 1918 in Pine Bluff, Jefferson County, Arkansas.
Mary Jane Whittenton Johnson Munroe
|Mary Jane Munro, about 1898|
She was four years old when the Civil War started and about eight when it ended. She probably saw soldiers marching along the roads near the farm, and if the family went into Jackson, she certainly saw them there. She would have known that her uncles Quince and Cason Coley fought in the war, and maybe she was told her cousins John Peebles Whittington and James William Whittenton had died during their service in the War. She would have known the South lost the War, and she may or may not have cared about that. Her father may have been bitter about losing half his farm during that time, for the family became poorer as a result, or perhaps Solomon was a philosophical man with a cheerful disposition in the face of adversity.
Mary Jane grew up on the farm and probably learned a lot about the chores of that kind of life. She would have helped with the family production of butter, which they made from the milk of their three cows and sold around the neighborhood or even in Jackson. They had a lot of hogs too, so perhaps she learned to take care of them, being careful not to fall inside their pen as she fed them over the fence. Her mother would have needed help in the house too, with ten in the family and sometimes a worker living in as well. There would have been the food to prepare and cook, the dishes to wash, floors to scrub, and clothes to wash, hang, and iron using a flat iron heated in the fire or on the stove. The mending and sewing would have seemed never-ending. She might even have learned to help plant, hoe, and harvest cotton, and to chop wood and milk the cows, for her older brother, William, surely could not have done everything, and the other boys were little. Perhaps before the war her father might have hired slaves from neighbors to help with the harder work, but during the war things got a lot harder and hiring workers became a lot more expensive.
Then William and the youngest sister, Jos Laney, died sometime before 1874. These deaths must have been hard for her and the rest of her family, but it was surely far worse when her father died in the fall of 1874. Mary Jane was 17; her older sisters Valerie, Mary Ann, and Frances were 23, 20, and 19; her brothers Jabe and Bedford were 13 and 10. The older sisters and their mother shouldered all the burdens of the farm and kept it going. Valerie and Frances went out to work, probably sending money home to help their mother.
A little over a year later, on May 2, 1876, Mary Jane married a neighbor boy, Barney S. Johnson. Barney was a farmer, 22 years old. The Johnsons had been farming land in Madison County for decades, and Barney probably was kin to one of their families, if he wasn’t actually a neighbor already. Looking for better opportunities, they moved immediately to White County, Arkansas. There Mary Jane and Barney had two daughters:
- Emma, born in 1877
- Annie Sophronia, born in October 1879
The next we know of Mary Jane, she was getting married again. William Lester Munroe (also spelled Munro before 1920) had moved down to Arkansas from Michigan. Lester, as he was called, had been born April 21, 1858 at New London, Waupaca County, Wisconsin, to William Orlando Munro and Ann Charlotte Flanders Munro. He had grown up in Wisconsin in a family that moved often. His younger brother and his mother died when he was around 10, and the family was broken up and the children lived with various relatives. Then his older sister died. Lester never got over the breakup of his family and looked for stability in his own. He had been working odd jobs in Wisconsin and Michigan when he moved to Arkansas to find work as a carpenter, and there he met Mary Jane.
But to Mary Jane’s neighbors and kin, Lester Munroe was little better than the carpetbaggers of 15 years before. He was unquestionably a Northerner, and he had Yankee roots in New York to boot. He was looking for opportunities, looking to make money. He was very poor and became poorer still in Arkansas. He was never highly educated. It is highly likely that he was never really accepted in the communities of Arkansas where he tried to live for twenty years.
But Mrs. Mary Jane Johnson ignored her neighbors and kinsfolk’s criticisms, and she and Lester Munro got their marriage license on May 29 and were married June 1, 1884 by a man named Ben H. Lumpkin in White County.
Lester Munro worked as a carpenter and cabinet maker, but when times were hard he did any kind of work he could find. He was never a steady worker, and the family became extremely poor. They lived in rural areas in White and Newton Counties and moved to Little Rock later. Their nine children were:
- John William Munro, born May 8, 1885 in Bald Knob, White County, Arkansas.
- Flora Munro, a twin, born June 14, 1886 in White County.
- Florence Munro, a twin, born June 14, 1886 in White County.
- Agnes Telitha Munro, born February 29, 1888 in Newton County.
- Allie May Munro, born May 11, 1889 in Newton County.
- Claude S Munro, born April 19, 1891 in Newton County.
- Lillie Belle Munro, born September 13, 1892 in Newton County.
- Jessie Jane Munro, born May 28, 1894 in Newkirk, Kay, Oklahoma.
- Medora A Munro, born December 25, 1895 in Little Rock, Pulaski County, Arkansas.
Mary Jane and Lester moved their family back to Arkansas, settling this time in Newton County. They lived there for about five years, and then they tried something new. In 1893 the Cherokee nation sold land along the top border of Oklahoma to the U.S. Government, and on September 16, 1893 the land was opened to white settlers, first come, first served. Over 100,000 people, including Mary Jane and Lester, raced to claim plots of land. The Munros chose land near Newkirk, Kay County, Oklahoma, where their eighth child was born. But whatever they tried there did not work out, and they went back to Arkansas within a year. About this time Mary Jane’s son Sam ran away to Georgia.
|Munro Sisters, about 1898|
Uncle George’s son, their cousin Luther, was a favorite with his little cousin Lillie. She never understood why he did not stay in touch after she and her family moved to Oregon. She did not know he lost all his own family and died himself in the 1918 ’flu epidemic.
One memory daughter May had was that her mother, Mary Jane, was addicted to snuff. She would send the girls out into the fields in the rural area where they lived to gather a particular kind of weed twig that she used to make a snuff dipper. Snuff is smokeless tobacco, made from pulverized tobacco leaves. It can be sniffed into the nose and absorbed through the mucous membranes, giving the user a quick nicotine fix, but since Mary Jane is remembered as using a twig dipper, she probably put it inside her cheek instead of sniffing it. This type of use of tobacco does not produce lung cancer, but it can contribute to tooth loss, cancers of the mouth or throat, and other problems.
Lester’s father, William Orlando Munro, came and lived with the family around that time. He had been a carpenter and had been little more successful than his son. In his late 60s he had retired and had been living with one son and then another. But perhaps it was not a good idea to have moved to Arkansas, for death stalked the family. On January 26, 1897 little Claudy died, age five. Lillie remembered playing with her brother Claudy and remembered how she missed him when he died. A year later, grandfather William Orlando Munro died at the age of 71. Then on March 3, 1899, the disaster happened when Mary Jane herself died at the early age of about 42, leaving Lester with seven children to take care of as well as to provide for.
Mary Jane’s death certificate said she died “for want of care.” The harsh words are heartless, but they reflect the reality of the Munro family’s poverty. They could not afford to call a doctor no matter how serious the illness; the death certificate says that the doctor did not see Mary Jane during her illness at all. Certainly with her elder daughter age 19, and younger daughters ages 11 and 12 and little girls from 3 to 7, she would have had children who would have tried to wait on their sick mother, but we don’t know if the children were also sick themselves. We do know that around this time John contracted scarlet fever and was left blind to the degree that he was enrolled at the Arkansas School for the Blind in Little Rock. He later recovered much of his sight. All of this evidence draws a grim picture of the Munro family’s condition when their mother died.
One ironic note is that within a few years Lester left Arkansas and took all his children to Oregon. After everything he had experienced himself and had determined not to repeat in breaking up brothers and sisters, he left his stepchildren behind and moved almost as far away as he could get. The Whittenton in-laws did not keep in touch with Lester nor with any of his children. The one exception is Annie Frona Johnson, Mary Jane’s daughter, who married Clint Cusick in June 1902 and who wrote letters to her sisters in Oregon until she died in 1957.
Thomas Jabe WhittentonThomas Jabe Whittenton was born in September 1861, the seventh child of Solomon Yancy Whittenton and Mary A Hogins Whittenton. His elder siblings were Valerie (age 10), William (age 8), Mary Ann (age 7), Frances (age 6), Mary Jane (age 4), and JosLane (age 1). The Civil War had just started, so Jabe (as he was called) probably didn’t remember much of it, but as he grew up, he would have been warned about soldiers and told especially to stay away from the Yankee soldiers who were just a mile away holding the town of Jackson. He would also have been warned against forming any childish friendships with African American children, whom his parents called “darkies,” avoiding the more pejorative terms common among the whites of that time and place. It was a time of great social turmoil, with the white population desperate to maintain the fiction of their own superiority over the minority races.
Jabe’s brother William and sister JosLane died sometime before 1874, perhaps while he was still quite a young child. Then his father died when Jabe was just 13, leaving him as the “man of the house,” so to speak. He would have helped his mother and sisters all he could to do the farming work, but it wasn’t enough. He hired himself out to work for neighbors as much as possible, as did his younger brother, Bedford Forrest Whittenton. The 1880 Census found him living with his mother on their farm still, with siblings Mary Ann and Bedford. But within seven years his mother, sister, and brother all had died. He and his other sisters had married—Mary Jane in 1876, Valerie in 1879, and he and Frances in the fall of 1886.
That summer he and Frances were planning their weddings to siblings George D. and Narcissus Jane Pond. Their sister Mary Jane had come from Arkansas with her daughter and son and newborn twin girls, born in June. Thomas Jabe Whittenton and Narcissus Jane Pond were married on September 23, 1886, and Frances Elizabeth Whittenton and George Darling Pond were married the middle of the next month. There may have been some sickness in the air, for the twins died within two weeks of each other at the end of October and beginning of November. They were followed by the death of their grandmother Mary A. Hogins Whittenton in December. Perhaps there was some kind of contagious disease going around that will be found to also have caused the deaths of Bedford and Mary Ann at the same time.
Jabe and Narcissus set up housekeeping and had a son the next spring whom they named after Jabe’s two brothers. William Forrest Whittenton was born in Madison County, Tennessee, on May 15, 1887. He died young in 1901, age 14, and was buried in Rocky Springs Cemetery in Madison County, Tennessee.
Their second child, Ernest L Whitenton, was born in March 1890. Ernest married Cora Lee Horton in 1909. They had a son, Elmer Cosett, in 1910, and a son, Lawrence, in 1914. Soon after that they were divorced. Ernest died in the ‘flu epidemic on 13 December 1918 while serving in the U.S. Army.
Their third child, Thomas Arthur Whittington, was born March 19, 1894. He married Annie Stacy Jennings in Mississippi and they had a son, Arvie Thomas, in 1916; a daughter, Lettie Jane, in 1918; and sons Elbert E in 1920 and Roy Reese in 1928. Thomas Arthur died November 25, 1967 and was buried in Tupelo, Mississippi. His wife, Annie, died in 1968.
Their fourth child, Hubert Solomon Whittington, was born 11 June 1896. He married Daisy E. on April 29, 1916. They had a daughter, Helen, born May 27, 1917 who lived until 1994. They lived in Mississippi. Hubert died July 2, 1985, and Daisy died September 30, 1984.
The fifth child, Luther Plez Whitenton, was born April 15, 1899. He married Lula Velma Anderson and lived in Tupelo, Mississippi. He died there August 30, 1961. Lula died in 1986.
Their sixth child, Robert Whittenton, was born in 1901 in Tennessee. Nothing is known of him after he was listed on the 1920 Census living with his mother in Tupelo, Mississippi and working as a plumber.
Their seventh and eighth children were twins, Roy and Ruby, born October 13, 1903 in Mississippi. Roy lived in Shelby, Tennessee and died in May 1979. Ruby married Lawrence Mack Clark and lived in Mississippi. She died August 15, 1990.
Jabe and Narcissus Whittenton made their living farming in Madison County, Tennessee until 1901. After burying their son William, they moved to Tupelo, Mississippi, where they lived the remainder of their lives. Jabe must have suffered bad health, because at age 50 when the 1910 Census was taken, he was reported to have no occupation, and he died later that year. Meanwhile, his sons were working in the cotton mill. Nothing further is known of Narcissus Jane Pond Whittenton after the 1920 Census was taken in January, when she and her children Robert, Roy, and Ruby were living in Tupelo.
A Summary of Cousins1. Emma Johnson, born in 1877
2. Annie Sophronia Johnson, born October 1879
3. William Solomon Hart, born September 18, 1880
4. James Samuel Johnson, born January 14, 1881
5. Mary Ann Hart, born October 1881
6. Martha Elizabeth Hart, born April 1884
7. John William Munro, born May 8, 1885
8. Flora Munro, a twin, born June 14, 1886
9. Florence Munro, a twin, born June 14, 1886
10. William Forrest Whittenton, born May 15, 1887
11. Luther Pond, born August 15, 1887
12. Elzie L Hart, a son, born September 1887
13. Agnes Telitha Munro, born February 29, 1888
14. Allie May Munro, born May 11, 1889
15. Unknown Pond #2 of Frances and George Pond, born about 1889
16. Ernest L Whitenton, born March 1890
17. Claudy S. Munro, born April 19, 1891
18. Unknown Pond #3 of Frances and George Pond, born about 1891
19. Lillie Belle Munro, born September 13, 1892
20. Thomas Arthur Whitenton, born March 19, 1894
21. Jessie Jane Munro, born May 28, 1894
22. Unknown Pond #4 of Frances and George Pond, born about 1894
23. Nancy Catherine Hart, born April 1895
24. Medora A Munro, born December 25, 1895
25. Unknown Pond #5 of Frances and George Pond, born about 1896
26. Hubert Solomon Whittington, born June 11, 1896
27. Luther Plez Whitenton, born April 15, 1899
28. Robert Whittenton, born 1901
29. Roy Whittenton, born October 13, 1903
30. Ruby Whittenton, born October 13, 1903