Duke family descendants resided in Searight, Andalusia

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 18, 2014

Although the name Duke is not a very common one in this area, there are some descendants who wear the name and still reside in Covington and surrounding counties. Connie Bozeman of Searight is a descendant who has compiled considerable data related to this family.

It appears that the ancestors in the family moved from South Carolina to Alabama at some point. There were several families enumerated in South Carolina in the 1800 Federal Census. At that time most were using the Dukes spelling of the name. These included the households of two Williams, Tho, Michael, Stephen, and Mark. There was also a Mary Duke listed.

The earliest ancestor identified by Connie Bozeman is William Duke, but he was probably too young at the age of 16 years to have been one of the above. This William was born in 1784 somewhere in South Carolina. It appears that he was first married to Polly Harris, a native of Macon County, Ga. William’s five children were most likely by Polly, but the 1850 census shows him with a wife named Alice Duke.  Some other record showed him to also have a wife by the name of Liama, which may be another name for Mary. William’s children included the following: Edna J., b. 1830; Ransom, b. 1833; James, b. 1834; Wilson, b. 1836; and Mary, b. 1836. If he had others, they have not been located.

The oldest son, Ransom Duke, was born in 1833 in Lowndes County, Ala., and he died at the age of 79 in either Crenshaw or Lowndes County, Ala. He was married in 1852 in Pike County, Ala., to his first wife, Penelope Martin (1835-1896), daughter of John C. and Anna Martin. All of his children were most likely born to Penelope. In 1896, he was married to his second wife, Frances Emma Rillis Wren. At their deaths, Ransom and Penelope were buried in the Smith’s Chapel-Petry Cemetery located in Petry.

Ransom Duke volunteered for service in the Confederate Army at Greenville, Ala. in August 1872 and was assigned to the 4th Battalion, Hilliard’s Legion. He later re-enlisted in September 1863 in Knoxville, Tenn., and was assigned to Company H, 59th Alabama Infantry Regiment as a private. He was captured near Petersburg, Va., and he was discharged in May 1965. In May 1972, Ransom’s second wife, Rillis Duke, was drawing a Confederate Soldier’s pension. No service record was found for Ransom’s brothers, James and Wilson, but they probably rendered service as well if they were still alive at the time.

Ransom was a farmer, and Penelope was a homemaker. They reared the following eight children: Emily Elizabeth, b. 1855; Susannah, b. 1857; Bryant, b. 1860, d. 1870; William Ransom, b. 1862, d. 1925, m. Elizabeth Missouri Tucker (1863-1942); Sarah Penelope, b. 1867; Ann Cordelia, b. 1871, m. Hilliard Tucker; John Henry, b. 1873, d. 1934, m. Epsie or Epsy Lou Golden; and Ida, b. 1878. One of the daughters was married to a Mr. Stokes. When the 1880 census was enumerated, the family was residing in Beat Three of Crenshaw County.
Following the death of his first wife, Ransom was married to a much younger Frances Emma Rillis Wren (1872-1962), daughter of Henry Wren. They had the following children: Furmon, b. 1898; Homer Lee, b. 1900, d. ca 1985, m. Margaret ?; and Jewel, b. 1905, m. Alry Burch Wagnon (1904-1978). Rillis was 91 years old when she died at her home in Lapine, Ala. She was buried in the Rocky Mount Cemetery.

Ransom’s youngest son by Penelope, John Henry Duke, was married in 1895 to Epsie Golden (1872-1951). When the 1910 census was taken, this family resided in Beat One, Andalusia, Ala. John Henry was a bricklayer, and Epsie was a homemaker. They had at that time the following four children with them and had lost one: Arie Alto, 13; Minnie May, 11; Zonie, 8; and Bessie Lou, 2. John Henry, Epsie and two sons, Arie Alto and Frederick Ray, are buried in the Magnolia Cemetery in Andalusia.

John Henry and Epsie Duke had the following children: Ary or Arie Alto, b. 1896, d. 1918, single; Minnie Mae, b. 1898, d. 1979 Beaumont, Cal.; Zonnie Gertrude, b. 1901, d. 1982 Akron, OH., m. (1) Sim O. Straughn (2) Roy ? (3) Herman Gammage; Frederick Ray “Freddie,” b. 1904, d. 1906, buried Goodhope Cemetery, North Covington Co.; Bessie Lou, b. 1907, d. 1987, m. Morris D. Bozeman; and John Roger, b. 1910, m. Gladys Mae Johns.

John Henry’s obituary states that he was a former resident of Andalusia and died at his home in Searight. It appears he came to Andalusia circa 1900 when the railroad was completed. A number of business men from Searight moved to the new, bustling town of Andalusia about that time. He was a brick mason by profession and worked on many of the early buildings in Andalusia. He also worked on the police force and was associated with the sheriff’s office during John Wesley Livings administration. He served as a county marshal after 1903 and in this role was responsible for seeing after the roads and collecting taxes.

The oldest son, Ary Alton Duke, died while serving as a private during World War I in Souian, France. He was only 21 years young when he died on July 16, 1918. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism while in action. The American Legion Post in Luverne, Ala., was named The Ary Alto Duke Post, Post 10, but it is reported to be inactive at this time. The Gold Star Mothers recognized his mother, Epsie Lou (Golden) Duke, due to his service. He was not married, so he has no descendants.

The oldest daughter, Minnie Mae Duke, was married circa 1914 to Leland Parker. She was living in Beaumont, Cal., when she died in 1979. She and Leland had one child, Homer Alvin Parker, who was born circa 1915 and died during his first year and was buried in the Magnolia Cemetery in Andalusia. In 1918, Minnie Mae was married second to Burie Straughn (1897-1964. The had the following three children: Burie Straughn Jr., Norma Jean Straughn Tracy, and Bob Straughn. Even later, Minnie Mae was married third to George Heldt in Beaumont, Cal. She did not have any children with him.

The next daughter, Zonnie Gertrude Duke, was married 1916 to Sim O. Straughn (1896-1967). At his death, Sim was buried in the Zion Hill Baptist Church Cemetery near Straughn. They had a son that died young; Elene, and Bessie Straughn, who appears to have died young. She did not have any children with her second husband, Roy, nor with her third, Herman Gammage (1914-1979) who is buried at the Good Hope Cemetery.

The next daughter, Bessie Lou Duke, was married in 1923 to Morris D. Bozeman (1903-1976). They reared the following children: Wynette, b.&d. 1924; Betty Jane, m. Johnny Grady Vann; and Suannee Duke, b. 1932, m. Rex Lewis Kimbro.

The youngest son, John Roger or Rogie Duke, was married in 1933 to Gladys Mae Johns. Roger was born and reared in Andalusia, but he left and moved to Dothan for more than a year. He then moved to Dozier and eventually circa 1918 to Searight to the family home place.

Roger and Gladys had the following children: Henry Wayne, b. 1934, m. Emma Phyllis Hill; Connie Levator, b. 1942, m. Barba Fagon Bozeman; Lynda Sharlene, b. 1946, m. David Andrew Lawson.

There are quite a number of descendants of this Duke family who reside in the surrounding area. Appreciation is expressed to one of these, Connie (Duke) Bozeman, for sharing the genealogical data, which she has compiled for her family, especially her two daughters and their families. Her work is the source for this writing.

Anyone who might have any correction to the above material is requested to contact this writer, Curtis Thomasson, at 20357 Blake Pruitt Road, Andalusia, AL 34620; 334-222-6467; or Email: cthomasson@centurytel.net.