Ansley ancestors were outstanding citizens
Published 11:59 pm Friday, November 27, 2009
The Ansley surname is not a common one in Covington County, but a few current residents do wear it. One of the Ansley ancestors of note includes Thomas Ansley who served as a Methodist minister in Sumter and later Conecuh Counties. Another is Duncan McLean, oldest son of Thomas, who served in the Confederate Army during the War Between the States and resided in Covington County. There were others, but these two are of particular note.
The earliest ancestor of this family known to this writer is Abel Ansley. Abel and his wife, Lydia, were the parents of 11 children, and the above mentioned Thomas Ansley was the eighth. Thomas was born on Nov. 16, 1808, in Warren County, Ga. At the time of his father, Abel’s, death in 1822, Thomas was only 13 years of age. Abel had stipulated that his son, Thomas Ansley, was to inherit, upon the death of his mother, 100 of the 200-acre survey, on which the family was living in 1822.
On Dec. 28, 1835, when Thomas Ansley was 27 years of age, he was married in Warren County to Mary Redden. Since Thomas would not receive his inheritance for another three years at his mother’s death, it appears the couple resided on the family property.
Upon the death of his mother, Lydia Ansley, in 1838, Thomas was appointed administrator of the estate and the sale of her possessions. Records indicate he purchased the following items at the sale: barrels, feathers, a carding machine, coffee pot and measure, butcher knife, books, side of leather, a pair of shears, a sideboard, a barrel of sundry items, 10 bushels of corn, grain, a heifer and geese. It is of interest that he purchased the family bible for $1.25.
Prior to 1850, Thomas and Mary Ansley moved westward to Sumter County, where three of his brothers were residing: Isaiah, Asa, and Abel Jr. At the time, Thomas and Abel Jr. were farmers, and Isaiah and Asa were both ministers. In 1850, Mary was 31 years of age and is believed to have died within the next year or so. This left Thomas a widower at 43 years of age with six minor children, the youngest being only two or three years old.
Thomas and Mary (Redden) Ansley had the following six children before her untimely death: Duncan McLean, b. 1838, d. 1919, m. ca 1870 Margaret Jones (1847-1928); Samuel Joseph; Walter Barlow Dickson; Mary M.; Amanda; and Thomas McKay, b. 1849.
A year or two after Mary’s death, Thomas Ansley was married to Caroline Singleton on May 5, 1853. Caroline was the daughter of Rev. Mathew and Caroline Singleton of Sumter County. Caroline was a number of years younger than Thomas and just three years older than his oldest son. Needless to say, she was much help with caring for the younger children.
Thomas and Caroline (Singleton) Ansley had the following six children: James Bascom; Ellen L.; Laura A.; John Newton; Joseph Twitt; and Abel Simpson. The youngest son, Abel, was named after Thomas’s father, Abel Ansley.
A few years later before 1860, Thomas and his family migrated further west and into South Alabama. They settled in the Mount Union community near the current Town of Evergreen in Conecuh County. After making this move, Thomas became a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The date he was admitted on trial is not known at the present, but he was listed as a superannuated minister of the South Alabama Conference in November of 1886.
The following obituary appeared in the Methodist Episcopal Church General Minutes of Spring Conference, 1892: “One of the members of the Alabama Conference who has been transferred to the rapidly increasing hosts of the Church triumphant during the past conference year, was a man of God, good and true, and a workman who needed not to be ashamed. For many years he led on the faithful few who were devoted to the cause of Christ and the dear old Methodist Episcopal Church, esteeming the reproach of Christ as greater honor than the praise of Satan’s hosts. During the Reconstruction period he was ever loyal and brave, and for his loyalty suffered many persecutions and hardships which need not be recorded here. For as many of the older members of the Alabama Conference well know, language is inadequate to express the full meaning of the cruel wrongs of those days of unrequited toil and unmeasured perils. When stricken with his last illness he seemed to be fully satisfied that his work was done and his last wish gratified.”
Following Thomas’s death, his widow, Caroline, continued to live in the log cabin she had shared with her husband of 38 years. One cold morning as she was building a fire in the cabin, her nightgown ignited and engulfed her in flames. Even in later years her family could still see the charred area on the floor where she fell. This tragedy occurred on Jan. 4, 1896, when she was about 61 years of age.
Thomas’s oldest son, Duncan McLean Ansley, was born while the family was residing in Warren County, Georgia, on April 26, 1838. His paternal grandmother, Lydia Ansley, died in the fall of the same year. Duncan was nearly a teenager when the family moved to Sumter County prior to 1850, when the family appeared on the federal census of that county. After his mother’s death and when his father was married to Caroline in 1853, Duncan was only three years younger than she.
In October 1861 when he was about 23 years of age, Duncan enlisted in the Confederate Army in Montgomery. He became a private in Company E, 23rd Alabama Infantry Regiment that was being formed for Covington County. He served throughout the South in many battles and was captured as a prisoner before the Battle of Jackson, Mississippi. He survived the war and returned home to Covington County. He probably farmed some and became a schoolteacher during those years.
Duncan did not marry until he was 32 years of age circa 1870. His bride, Margaret Jones, was born on Jan. 20, 1847, and was a resident of Santa Rosa, Fla., when they married. It appears that the couple made their home in the Straughn community of Covington County. They reared two daughters: Alice, b. ca 1872, m. Franklin Augustus Clark; and Louisa, b. ca 1874, m. Charlie A. Cope. Louisa and Charlie’s son, Donald Hobson Cope, b. 1915, m. 1935 Mary Evelyn Raley. They reared two children: Norma Jean, b. 1937, m. Jimmie George Gavras; and Donald Ansley, b. 1944, m. (1) Frances Ferrell (2) Suzanne Koon.
In 1892, Duncan homesteaded 161 acres of land in the Antioch community. There is also a record of a Samuel J. Ansley homesteading 160 acres in 1881 in the Panther Creek. This would appear to be Duncan’s next youngest brother. He is probably the S.J. Ansley who was listed as a registered voter in Beat Nine of Covington County in 1867. And the 1870 census enumerated a T. J. (S.J. ?) Ansley, 30 years old, with wife, Sarah, 25, and two children, Mary, 3, and Susanah, 1.
Duncan Ansley’s grandson, Don Cope, wrote his thesis for a master’s degree in history on his ancestor’s 23rd Alabama Regiment. He also presented a brief biography of his grandfather at a memorial dedication held on March 15, 1998, at his grave site in the Mt. Zion Methodist Church Cemetery in the Straughn community. The program, coordinated by Connie Ansley, a great great niece of Duncan, included the traditional elements of a Confederate ceremony and was conducted by the Cradle of the Confederacy Camp #692, Sons of Confederate Veterans. The climax of the activities was the unveiling of a marker depicting Duncan’s Confederate service.
Sources for this writing include family records of two Ansley descendants, Donald Ansley Cope and Constance Ansley, and references from Wyley Donald Ward’s Early History of Covington County, Alabama, 1821-1871.
Anyone who might have any corrections to the above facts or additional information on this family is requested to write Curtis Thomasson at 20357 Blake Pruitt Road, Andalusia, AL 36420.
Seeking information related to Green Barrow who was born circa 1798 in North Carolina and married Tamer Pierce first and then Julia Ann Elizabeth Archilles, daughter of Charles and Mary (Barrow) Archilles/Archelius. It is believed that Green Barrow came to Covington County about 1851 from Macon County, Ga. Anyone with any related information is requested to contact Curtis Thomasson at the above addresses or Rex Barrow in Pensacola.
The Covington Rifles Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans will be hosting a meeting at 6 p.m. on Thurs., Dec. 3, in the Dixon Memorial Room of the Andalusia Public Library. Members of the local UDC chapter and friends interested in Confederate heritage are invited to join SCV members for a covered dish dinner.