Cawthon descendants become prominent in Andalusia

Published 12:11 am Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Cawthon family of South Alabama was introduced in last week’s column. New information on the family allows an update with some corrections and clarifications of what was written then. There is no record of the ancestor that migrated to Henry County, Alabama, Josiah Dabney Cawthon, ever marrying Nancy Sylvester, but they had seven children together. These children only began using the Cawthon name after Josiah’s death. One of these, Susan, was married first to Martin Harden Grace and second to James O. Watson. The other children listed last week appear to be as correct as information permits.

Josiah’s brother, William Cawthon, whose place in Henry County became Cawthon Cowpens and Dothan later, moved to Walton County, Florida, circa 1838. There is an historical marker commemorating William’s place behind the Dothan Civic Center.

William’s first wife, Sarah, died before 1826 in Henry County. Afterwards he was married to Elizabeth O’Neal in the same county. Some years later a dispute arose between William and Elizabeth over his having Nancy Langston Fountain as a mistress. They were divorced, but before this occurrence, William and Elizabeth had six children: William Josiah Dabney “W.J.D.;” Martha, m. Dr. Troutman; Stephen Ashley; Achsah Jane, m. William Taylor Ball; Murray Andrews; Elizabeth Eliza Ann Eugenia, m. Augustus Hutchison.

Although William was never married to Nancy Langston Fountain, he moved her with him to Walton County. They had the following eight children; William Jefferson, m. Charlotte McSwain; Sarah Elizabeth, m. Louis Miller; Lafayette, m. Nancy McSwain; Nancy, m. Alexander McSwain; Susan, m. Morris Walton; Mary Ballou, m. (1) Francis Gordon (2) Alexander McSwain; Judah “Judy,” m. Joseph Walden; and Hosea Ballou, m. Clara Brown.

All total, William had a total of 22 children. At his death he was buried near Basin Bayou, and his grave is a couple of miles from the bay on Eglin Air Force Reservation in Walton County.

Eventually, some descendants of this family lived in Andalusia and a number of them lived in Florala and northwest Florida. Several of these will be presented at this point.

There are a number of different spellings of the name Cawthon—Cawthorn, Cauthun, Cauthen, Cauthorne, Cothern, etc. This family as a whole seemed to have a high degree of feeling for their clan and relatives. As they migrated from South Carolina across Georgia to Alabama, from 1780s to 1920s, they traveled and settled in large family groups, which included several allied families as well.

At this point, a further look is taken at some of the experiences of the William Cawthon who moved his family to Walton County circa 1837 at a site just south of Lake Jackson in Florala. Therefore, his settlement became a part of Florala, and many of his descendants resided in that vicinity.

Upon arriving is that area, he returned to Georgia and purchased a set of mill rocks, which he brought home and installed on the little creek near his home. This site was where the future Florala Sawmill Company built their huge mill. William had his slaves to saw out lumber with a whipsaw, the only method of hewing lumber in those days, with which he built the first frame house in that section.

After his gristmill was operating well, he added machinery to it for cleaning rice and wheat. William’s mill was important to the area and became one of the community gathering places around Florala for many years. A descendant, W.J. Cawthon and his son operated a market in Florala in 1902 called W.J. Cawthon & Company. In 1912, C.P. Cawthon operated his plumbing, heating and sewerage business. That year, Miss Missouri Cawthon taught at the Florala Middle School.

Four Ghent brothers arrived in Florala very early and about the time of William Cawthon’s arrival. The Ghents were master craftsmen at fine woodworking and as silversmiths and goldsmiths. One of these, John Ghent, married Mary Cawthon, daughter of William Cawthon. John kept the Paxton Post Office on a high hill south of Lake Jackson. He also operated a gristmill, and was associated with Isaac Welch, his brother-in-law who had married Martha Ann Cawthon.Another son-in-law of William Cawthon was Allen H. Hart, who was married to Elizabeth Cawthon in Escambia County, Florida. Allen was the son of Reubin Hart, and his family was listed as living next door to his father in 1850 in Covington County. Allen was a farmer, and he and Elizabeth, had four children at the time: William, 7; and Sarah, 5; Nancy, 4; and Mary, 1.

Another Cawthon descendant, Simon I.S. Cawthon, was born in Georgia, but he moved with family to Henry County. The identity of his parents is not clear, but records reveal his father was prosperous and had a large number of slaves. This means Simon had significant advantages as a child, which would have included a good education even to the level of becoming a medical doctor.

Simon was married in 1859 to Lydia Elizabeth Pynes, daughter of Fair Pynes (ca 1804-1854) and his wife, Maryanna Creech (ca 1810-after 1860). Simon and Lydia came to Andalusia between 1876 and 1878. They were the parents of several children including the following: Joseph S.W., m. Willie Lloyd; and W.C.W., m. Mary Alice Barron (1870-1941).

When the 1900 census was taken in Covington County, Simon and Lydia were residing in Andalusia in the home of their son, W.C.W. Cawthon. W.C.W. was head of the household at 40 years of age with his wife, Mary Alice, who was 30. At the time they had two children, Sam K., 2; and an infant, one month. His parents, Simon and Lydia, were both 65 years old. Mary Alice (1870-1941) was the daughter of Samford P. and Susan (Darby) Barron of Pike County who moved to Andalusia circa 1875.

In an article published in Sound Doctrine, a religious publication, in 1941, Bro. Tip Grider, an evangelist in Covington County, paid tribute to the evangelistic work of Simon Cawthon. Even though Simon was a trained medical doctor, he chose to devote his life to preaching the gospel in Andalusia and throughout South Alabama. When he arrived in Andalusia circa 1876, he worked with another preacher, Samford P. Barron, to build the first congregation of the church of Christ in the county. The town was small and quite sparsely populated at the time. Even the courthouse and the few buildings in Andalusia were of wooden structure at the time.

Simon Cawthon loved the cause of Christ so much that he was willing to travel far and near by horseback, road cart and later by horse and buggy. There were few sections in South Alabama where he did not preach the gospel. He made converts through gospel meetings as well as in private homes where he would visit. The meetings were held in homes, schoolhouses, and brush arbors and anywhere people might gather. No crowd was too small or too large for him to address.

Hundreds learned the truth of the gospel from the lips of Simon Cawthon. His fervent zeal and earnest sacrifices in life made a great impression on his listeners. Once he conducted a series of sermons at Hamilton’s Crossroads for 40 days using the same subject, “Preach the Word.” He was also a splendid writer and able debater. While some may not have appreciated his devotion to evangelism and his firm stand, those who knew him best loved and admired him for his great determination to place the “whole truth before the world.”

Additional information is needed on Simon and Lydia’s family, but as stated earlier, in 1900 they were residing in the home of their son, W.C. W. Cawthon. Possibly a grandson, Jimmy Cawthon, was married to Johnnie Kate Locklier (1901-1970). This couple lived in Birmingham and reared three children: Billy; Katharine, m. ? Bailey; and Frances Ruth, m. ? Gilchrist.

W.C.W. Cawthon became a successful businessman in Andalusia. He operated a store in town and lived in a fine house located then on the River Falls Road. As the streets were developed, this one became Church Street, and the site of his house was where the two-story house is at the corner of Church and Snowden Drive. For a long time it was known as the Anderson Home, and it is currently owned by Howard and Vela Walden. W.C.W. served as a city councilman when Henry Opp was mayor between 1899 and 1906. There is currently a Cawthon Street running perpendicular to Snowden Drive, which was probably named for W.C. W. Cawthon. Also, the Cawthon Hotel once stood a short distance from the town square on the north side of East Three-Notch Street. Thus, the Cawthon family left had quite an impact on the early days of Andalusia and the surrounding area.

The sources for today’s writing include family records of Sarah McSwain and Linda Clark, History of Henry County by Mrs. Marvin Scott, early issues of newspapers in Covington County and the October 10, 1941, issue of Sound Doctrine.

Anyone who might have any corrections to the above or additional information on the Cawthon family is requested to contact Curtis Thomasson at 20357 Blake Pruitt Road, Andalusia, AL 36420; 334-222-6467; or E-mail:

FAMILY REUNION: The Franklins of Covington County, AL are planning a reunion for 2010 and are working on updating the family contact list. For more information see the notice at or contact Lisa Franklin at 13719 Grosvenor Street, Houston, TX 77034 or by email at