Catoe family settled in Pleasant Home Community

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 10, 2002

It was the turpentine industry that attracted the Catoe ancestor to Covington County around the turn of the century. During the 1890s, James Wiley "Jim" Catoe journeyed to Stillman, Ga., and later to Andalusia searching for areas to establish turpentine operations. In the last weeks of 1899, Jim and 40 other people boarded the train in Kershaw, S.C., for Andalusia to establish a turpentine operation for the Ashe Carson Company. The group arrived on New Year's Day of 1900.

Jim had purchased shares of stock in the company and was a leader in setting up the new business. The location chosen for the turpentine camp was Chalk Springs, located 14 miles south of Andalusia near Hall's Hill on U.S. 29 south. A store was erected where the group slept until shanties could be constructed. While the distillery and the housing were being built, Jim was leasing pine timber from the area settlers. He could walk over a forest of trees and accurately estimate the number of trees, which would yield turpentine.

Jim, born Feb. 29, 1868, was the youngest of six children born to his parents in Kershaw County, S.C. His father is believed to have been Tom Catoe, and his mother, Eliza Jean, was a mid-wife who rode horseback to attend to her much-needed duties. Unfortunately, she died of pneumonia in the mid-1890s.

Jim met his future wife, Martha Rebecca Gregory, at a church service in Taxahaw, S. C. Martha, a blue-eyed, red-haired lass was the daughter of Confederate Veteran Owen "Pap" and Emma Jean (Hinson) Gregory. Pap had become a school teacher after the war. Jim and Martha's descendants recalled that Pap and Emma would come from South Carolina to visit their daughter and family at Pleasant Home. In fact, during their later years when they were in poor health, their son brought them down for an extended stay. During that time, Pap died and was buried in the Pleasant Home Cemetery.

Jim and Martha reared the following children: Warnetta Estelle, b. 1891, d. 1917, m. 1910 Sidney Baker Prestwood; Bessie Beulah, b. 1892, d. 1957, m. William Isaac Cross; Daisy Bell, b. 1894, d. 1976, m. Luther B. Clanton; Vance Jackson, b. 1897, d. 1977, m. Lillie Beck; and Emma Jane, b. 1898, d. 1901 of diphtheria.

Jim build a new house for his family when they moved from South Carolina. It was the typical one-room building with a lean-to kitchen. Later, he was able to add additional rooms to make the family more comfortable.

Although he had little formal education, Jim had a great respect for education. He helped construct a schoolhouse for the camp children. When Pleasant Home School was established, Jim was one of the school's trustees. He and Martha sent their three daughters to a girls' school in Newton.

Following the depression and the decline of the turpentine industry in the 1930s, Jim and Martha built a country store on U.S. 29 in the heart of Pleasant Home. The front room with its dirt floor housed the store, and the rooms behind this became Jim and Martha's home. The store's inventory included such items as soft drinks, tobacco products, candy, gasoline, and staple groceries.

When Jim was 87 years of age, circa 1955, a young man came into the store one afternoon and pulled a pistol demanding money. Jim gave him all the money in the cash register -- a sum total of $15. Fortunately, Jim was not harmed, and he and Martha continued to operate the store until his death in 1961. He, along with Martha, who died a year later, is buried in the Pleasant Home Baptist Church Cemetery beside the grave of their infant daughter, Emma.

Estelle and Sidney Prestwood lived in the Pleasant Home Community and had the following children before Estelle's untimely death in 1917 after the birth of their fifth child: Jack Catoe, b. 1911, m. (1) Retta ? (2) Etha ? (3) Thelma ?; Earl Franklin, b. 1913, d. 1990, m. Mary Hall; Sidney Owen, b. 1914, d. 1986, m. Mavvis Colvin; male infant, b.&d. 1916; and male infant, b.&d. 1917.

Bessie and William Cross also resided in the Pleasant Home Community and reared the following three children: Juanita, m. Louie Franklin; William Harold, b. 1925, m. Mae Arneson; and Nelda, b. 1936, m. Robert Hathcock.

Daisy and Luther Clanton reared the following two children: Lloyd B., b. 1917, m. Mary Lou Meranda; and Hilda, b. 1923, m. Earnest B. Nuckols.

Vance and Lillie, residents of Pleasant Home, reared the following five children: Mildred, b. 1917, m. Kimbel Clements; Martha, b. 1919, d. 2000, m. Abner Smith; James Vance, b. 1921, d. 1994, m. Dixie Prestwood; Thomas Fefferson "Tillis," b. 1923, m. Alene McCurley; and Mary Frances, b. 1925, m. Mike Slanski.

The next generation included the grandchildren of Estelle and Sidney Prestwood. Their son, Jack, did not have any children. Earl and Mary lived at Pleasant Home where they reared four children: Donald Gene, b. ca 1937, m. Ann Taylor; James Troy, b. 1941, m. Martha Crystell Stokes; Nelda Diane, b. 1944, m. Richard C. "Buddy" Harper; and Nancy Ann, b. 1947, m. Drew McDowell. Sidney Owen and Mavvis, also residents of Pleasant Home, reared two children: Kathryn "Kay," b. 1945, m. Wallace Brooks "Joe" Bush; and Thomas Owen, b. 1948, d. 2001, m. Gwindle Faye "Gwin" McGlaun.

The grandchildren of Vance and Lillie included the children of Tillis and Alene: Linda Sue, b. 1947, m. Billy Kelley; Judy Ann, b. 1950, m. Mike Bowman; and Cathy Alene, b. 1958, single.

Appreciation is expressed to a descendant, Kay (Prestwood) Bush, for sharing her family's history for this column. Kay is a teacher at Pleasant Home School and her husband, Joe, is a human resources director.

Anyone who has a correction or an addition to the above history is requested to contact Curtis Thomasson at Route 9, Box 97, Andalusia, AL 36420 or Email: