Dr. Andrew Jackson Preston served FBC of Andalusia

Published 11:02 am Monday, November 4, 2013

Although the Preston name is not a familiar one to most people in Covington County, there was a notable descendant of this family who came to Andalusia in 1914. Dr. Andrew Jackson Preston, arrived with his family at that time to become the preacher for the First Baptist Church. This included his wife, Ella Dora (Herring), and their two teenage daughters, Lucille and Inez.

Andrew Jackson Preston was born in Delta, Clay County, Ala., on December 5, 1858. He was the fifth son born to William Gay Preston and Delania “Dillie” (Smith) who were both natives of Georgia. William G. was born in 1813 in Jasper, Ga., and Delania was born in 1823 in Monroe, Georgia. He died in 1900 in Clay County, Ala., and she, in 1910 in Fox Creek, Clay County. Delania was the daughter of Archibald Gilliam Smith (1791-1870) and Sarah Wilson (Tolleson) (1795-1870).

Information was also found on two earlier generations of the Preston ancestors. William Gay was the son of Gilliam Preston and Sarah (Floyd), daughter of John and Mourning (Mayo) Floyd. Gilliam was born in 1784 in Brunswick, Va., and Mourning was born in1783 in the same area. He died in 1852, and she, in 1853 in Jackson, Butts County, Ga. Gilliam and Sarah also had a son named Gilliam H. Preston, who served in Company B., 22nd Alabama Infantry Regiment of the Confederate Army. Gilliam H. was born in 1827 and died in 1894. He was married to Elizabeth Smith. At his death he was buried in Jones County, Tex.

Gilliam Preston was the son of Thomas Preston and Mary (Harrison). Thomas was born in 1754 in Brunswick, Va., and died in 1836 in Walton, Ga. Mary was born in 1762 in Walton, Ga. And died in 1842 in Good Hope, Walton County, Ga. No information on earlier generations was found at this time.

William Gay Preston and Sarah Foloy were married in 1802 in Jackson, Butler County, Ga. They reared the following children: Jefferson James, b. 1841, d. 1862; William Hulon, b. 1842, d. 1918; Sarah Frances “Fannie,” b. 1845, d. 1913; Archibald Gilliam, b. 1847, d. 1904 (1929 ?), m. (1) Martha Ann Mayo (2) Mattie A. Rosser (3) Dixie Winfield Carter; Georgia Ann , b. 1849, d. 1908; Tabitha E., b. 1850; Nancy Victoria, b. 1851, d. 1923; ? Preston, b. 1853; John W., b. 1856, d. 1892; Andrew Jackson, b. 1858, d. 1944; Benjamin Franklin, b. 1862, d. 1888.

Of the above children, the Confederate service of at two is known. William Hulon Preston served in Company I, 30th Georgia Infantry Regiment. Archibald Gilliam Preston rendered service in Company F, 62nd Alabama Infantry Regiment. Since Jefferson James Preston died during the war in 1862, it is likely that he was in the Confederate Army along with his brothers. These men and many of their relatives are buried in the Mount Moriah Cemetery in Clay County, Ala.

Andrew Jackson Preston would have been too young to serve in the Confederate Army. Members of his family have noted that the effects of that war thrust him into an independent state at the early age of 16. Through the hardships the family experienced, Andrew managed to work his way through school at Marion Military Academy, Howard College (Samford University) and all the way to one quarter shy of an earned doctorate degree at Southern Seminary in Louisville, Ky. He left the seminary to work off his debts and had plans to return afterwards; however, he was too busy and too dedicated to his calling to preach to ever take time to return. Very appropriately, Howard College conferred the Doctor of Divinity degree to Dr. Pearson in June 1917. He served this alma mater as a member of the board of trustees for several years.

At the time Andrew Preston left the seminary he was preaching in Springville, Ala. During that tenure, he met and fell in love with the pianist, Ella Dora Herring. After their marriage in June 1890, Ella wrote that they found a wonderful place to board and stable their horse for only 10 dollars a month. The family described Ella as a wonderful musician, hostess and helpmate to Andrew throughout his ministry.

Before arriving in Andalusia, Dr. Preston had served churches in Jasper, Russellville, Decatur, Mobile, Prattville, Ala. and Tupelo, Miss. He served as preacher for the First Baptist Church in Andalusia for nine years before moving for service in DeFuniak Springs and Madison, Fla. He was serving in Headland, Ala. when he was about 70 years of age and thinking about retiring to Andalusia, the home of his daughters. At that time he was called back to Central Baptist Church in Mobile, where he served for nine rewarding years during which he led that church in a building and expansion program. In 1938, the Prestons retired to Andalusia and took up residence in the Riley home, which was called the “Big House.” Their daughter, Inez, had married John Daniel Riley who inherited the Riley house. There they enjoyed several happy years with Dr. Preston able to serve some rural churches, enjoy family, reading and fishing, which had been a life-long love.

Dr. Andrew J. Preston and his wife, Ella Dora, had the following three daughters: Lucille, b. 1894, d. 1928, m. Marcus Fletcher, son of James H. and Molly (Whaley) Fletcher; Inez Herring, b. 1895, d. 1986, m. John Daniel Riley (1888-1981); and Ina, b. 1896. The oldest two daughters were reared in Andalusia and married there. Inez Herring (Preston) and her husband, John Daniel Riley became prominent citizens and contributed significantly to the community. They moved into the Judge Malachi and Anna Riley home during the 1830s to live with John D.’s mother “Miss Anna” Riley.

The Riley House was one of the most stately to ever be built in Andalusia. It was located on the site of the former I.G.A. grocery store and the current Cost Plus Food Outlet, which is on the north side of East Three Notch Street between Covington County Bank and the First Methodist Church. When the I.G.A. shopping strip was created, the house was rolled back to a site behind the stores. Years later a granddaughter, Peggy (Riley) Graves lived in the house before it was finally sold around 1990. It was moved again to face Opp Avenue, but the planned renovation was never completed and it was finally dismantled. It has been reported that at the time of his death, Judge Malachi Riley owned approximately 100 acres along East Three Notch Street. Family lore claims that “Miss Anna” sold the lot where the current City Hall stands and the earlier city schools for a horse and buggy.

Inez (Preston) and husband, John Daniel Riley, reared the following three daughters in Andalusia: Inez, m. Paul G. Moss; Anna Dora “Peggy,” b. 1925, d. 2008, m. Harry Graves; and Johnnie D., b. 1936, d. 1988, m. Ted Little. These daughters and their descendants have done much to preserve their family heritage.

Sources for this writing included a family story written by a great grandson, Paul Grady Moss, Ancestry.com and The Heritage of Covington County, Alabama. Paul Moss concluded his article by stating that he never knew his great grandparents, but he felt their presence as long as he could remember. He recalled how he slept in their huge, tall bed and loved their furniture, some of which he later inherited to continue to enjoy.

Anyone who might find any error in the above information is requested to contact this writer, Curtis Thomasson, at 20357 Blake Pruitt Road, Andalusia, AL 36420; 334-222-6467; or email: cthomasson@centurytel.net.

HISTORICAL MEETING: The Covington Rifles Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans will be meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Thurs., Nov. 7, in the Dixon Memorial Room of the Andalusia Public Library. Hank Roberts will be speaking on the last battles in Southwest Alabama. Guests are welcome.