Family visits Andalusia to explore heritage

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 20, 2012

One of the joys of working with genealogy is meeting others who are interested in the same hobby. It is especially rewarding to share in their discoveries as they learn more about their family heritage.

This very thing occurred recently when I became associated with Kenneth Cadenhead. He and his brother Ellis Phelps Cadenhead made a well-planned trip to Andalusia to document and further research their Phelps family.

Since Kenneth’s detailed account of the excursion lends valuable ideas that may assist others in their quests, his story is presented in his own words as he wrote it recently.

On Nov. 10, 1943, Ellis Phelps Cadenhead was born in Troup County, Ga.

We can be reasonably certain that his parents, Roy and Omie Cadenhead, did not know that his great grandfather, David Phelps and his wife Martha, lived in Troup County as early as 1860 and remained in O’Neal’s Mill District until at least 1880. Ellis was named for the doctor who delivered him, Dr. William Phelps Ellis.

We do not know the link between Dr. Ellis and the Phelps family, although we can assume there was a family connection.

We can be sure of Ellis’ link with the Phelps name since it was his paternal grandmother Nancy’s maiden name. She was eight years old in 1870 and listed along with brothers: Robert, 13; John, 11; Americus, 10; Anderson, 8; and Irene, 4. The purpose of this writing is to explore and share information about John W. Phelps, report on a trip to Andalusia where he lived until his death in 1953, and present some interesting linkages that provide subjects for further exploration.

John William Phelps was born in Troup County, Ga., April 17, 1858, to David and Martha (McAllister) Phelps.

His parents were living in the O’Neal’s Mill District where they remained until at least 1880. In 1870, John was living with his parents and was listed as 11 years old. There were five siblings in the household, including Nancy, our grandmother, who later married James A. Cadenhead. By 1880, John had left home, and he was living with the Jackson Sturdivant family in the Rough Edge District in Troup County where he was listed as a farmer. His older brother Robert married Tommie Sturdivant in 1879.

By 1898, John had moved to Tallapoosa County where he married Effie David Golden Nov. 14 of that year.

Effie, born Dec. 11, 1879, was the daughter of Elijah Golden and Sarah (Coan) Golden and lived in Tallapoosa County.

According to the 1900 Census, John and Effie were living in Walnut Hill, Tallapoosa County and had their first child, William, who was 4 years old at the time the census was taken.

Sometime between 1900 and 1910, John and Effie moved to Covington County, where they settled in the Loango community.

Remain-ing in the same area, they by 1910, had added the following children to the family: James L , Walter, Jewel, and Arthur. By 1920, L. L (Lonzie), M. A. , Cora, and Sally were added to the family. The 1930 census shows Arthur, Cora, Sally, and at that time Pearl had joined them. According to one listing on the Internet, there was one child named John Eugene who lived only two years, between 1910 and 1912.

John W., a retired farmer, died April 19, 1953, at the age of 95. According to his obituary, he had been ill for several months and died at his residence on Railroad Avenue. He was survived by his wife, Effie, and nine of his 11 children. The funeral service was held in the Congregational Church on Dunson Street, and interment was in Andalusia Memorial Cemetery.

Music was provided by the church choir, and was accompanied by Mrs. Carmen Tyndall. Foreman Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements. According to the 1959 Andalusia City Directory, Effie was still living on Railroad Avenue. She died Nov. 14, 1973.

As written by Kenneth Cadenehead:

Preparation for the trip to Andalusia

In the early 1950s, Daddy, Mother, Ellis and Anne made at least two trips to Andalusia to visit the Phelps relatives. For quite some time, Ellis has wanted to return to the city to see if we could locate any relatives and to recognize any of the places he saw when he was less than 10 years old.

Anne had photographs that were made when they visited, but there were no names on the reverse side of the pictures. It was not difficult to identify John and Effie, but the many others in the photographs were unknown. We knew no living descendants of John and Effie. We recalled that Wynelle Phelps visited our family in Georgia, and we also remembered that she gave Fran and me a wedding gift when we married in 1951. This very limited information made me wonder how much we would be able to see when we arrived in the city.

The rich resources of the Internet and patience in searching added interest as we made our plans for the trip. The records on the Internet are subject to error, and we acknowledge that some of our information might be inaccurate. We hope that if this is the case, corrections will be made through further contact with people who knew the Phelps or we see primary source material. As we searched on the Internet, I was reminded of the stark contrast with the years of searching in courthouse basements, archives and cemeteries prior to publishing Southern Cadenheads. I still prefer the latter way of searching; however, information can be collected much quicker using the Internet, followed by documentation through other sources.

In an email from Curtis Thomasson on May 5, I learned that Cora is still living, and that her sister Pearl is in Mobile. All of their siblings are now deceased. This was very helpful information and led to my phoning Cora’s residence.

I learned that Cora has had a stroke and it would not be possible for me to talk to her. However, I was given the name of her daughter, Betty Kendrick, in Albany, Ga. Betty then gave me the phone number of a cousin, Linda Scott, who still lives in the Loango area. Unfortunately, Linda said she was very young when John W. died, and she knew very little about the family. Pearl has Alzheimer’s and I could not seek her help.

I wrote letters to the editor at the Dothan Eagle and Andalusia Star-News explaining that we wanted to visit, and we invited anyone to respond who could help us. I received two emails and two telephone calls, and this was encouraging. There was no specific information on the Phelps family; however, there were good suggestions concerning how we might proceed. One suggested that we go to the courthouse to try to locate property in the Loango area. Another suggested that we contact the genealogy librarian at the city library to see if there were family records available. I had checked the White Pages web site for telephone numbers, and made a few calls; however, there were no links.

There was a breakthrough when I found John W.’s obituary on the Internet. It provided the name of his place of residence at the time of his death: Railroad Ave.

It also stated that he was interred in Andalusia Memorial Cemetery. The inclusion of the funeral home in charge of arrangements was also very helpful.

I sent an email to Foreman Funeral Home, inquiring if their records would indicate where in the cemetery John and Effie were buried.

In response, I was told that they had the record of the funeral, but I would have to contact Parks and Recreation Department to request assistance in locating the grave. A telephone call to the Parks and Recreation Department put me in touch with a very helpful person—Ernestine — who checked the records and gave me the “cemetery address” of the graves: B— 01— 11. She followed by saying this would not mean anything to me, so when we were on our way to Andalusia, I should phone the office and someone from the Parks and Recreation Department would meet us at the cemetery and help us locate the graves. Such hospitality made us anticipate the trip even more!

Note: Kenneth Cadenhead’s narrative is long enough that the remainder will be covered in next week’s column.

Anyone who might have any question or further information on the Phelps family is requested to contact Curts Thomasson at 20357 Blake Pruitt Road, Andalusia, AL 36420; 334-222-6467; or email:

HISTORICAL MEETING: The Covington Historical Society will be meeting at 7 p.m. on Thurs., Oct. 25, in the Dixon Memorial Room of the Andalusia Public Library. Guests are welcome.