Harper family descendants settled in Opp circa 1850

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 24, 2015

The earlier generations of one of the Harper families, which resided in Covington County, Ala., were presented in last week’s column. Today’s writing will be a continuation of some later generations and related Harper family history. Also, an older Harper Graveyard is described.

Last week’s column ended with an outline of some of the children of George Harper and his wife, Lydia Jane (Saxon). The last paragraph before the notation of sources was a listing of children, which was stated to be those of George and Lydia Jane Harper. However, that should be corrected for the children were those of James Harper, son of George and Lydia Jane, and his wife, Malinda (Cotton).

For clarity, George and Lydia Jane Harper had the following 14 children: William Thomas, b. 1789, d. 1874, m. Matilda Russell; Elizabeth, b. 1790, d. 1865, m. William Whatley; Jane L., b. 1792, d. 1869; Mary Dunlap, b. 1792, d. 1847; Sarah, b. 1794, d. 1866; Nancy, b. 1795, d. 1854; James, b. 1797, d. 1880, m. Malinda Cotton (1804-1876); Micajah, b. 1798, d. 1877, m. Caroline Weeks ; Joseph Malone, b. 1799, d. 1850; Frances, b. 1801, d. 1857; Elvira Die, b. 1804, d. 1836; Lavinia, b. 1804, d. 1806; George R., b. 1810, d. 1877; and Lydia, b. 1811, d. 1865.

There are some differences in the various lists of James and Malinda (Cotton) Harper’s children. The following list is the best this writer could determine, so there may be some errors: Frances M., b. 1830; Mary Ann Caroline, b. 1831, d. 1905; Mary Elvira, b. 1834; Erastus Micajah, b. 1835, d. 1920; Josephine Lydia, b. 1838; Nancy B., b. 1841; Cleora Meona, b. 1442, d. 1904; and Sarah Malinda, b. 1844.

George and Lydia’s oldest daughter, Elizabeth Harper, was married to William Whatley, son of Samuel Whatley and Catherine (Anglin). The family remained in Georgia until some years after Elizabeth’s death in 1865. William later moved to Alexander City, Ala., and lived with their daughter, Mary Ann Coley. William is believed to have served in the War of 1812 and was mostly an educator during his lifetime. They reared the following children: Jones Seaborn, b. 1813, d. 1898; Jane L., b. 1817, d. 1865; Wilson, b. 1820, d. 1890, m. Mary Frances Coley; and Mary Ann, b. 1825, d. 1904, m. ? Coley. Some records suggest they had a larger family.

In addition to James Harper, another of George and Lydia Jane’s sons, William Thomas Harper, and his family were presented in last week’s column. William T. was married to his cousin, Matilda Russell in 1807 and settled in Jones County, Ga., for a few years. By 1825, they were in Dale County, Ala., where William T. became the first Probate Judge. He later moved with most of his family to the Opp area of Covington County. Some of his children will be mentioned next.

William T.’s oldest son, William George Harper, purchased 320.92 acres of land in 1854 in the Opp Township of Covington County. He is probably the William Harper who acquired 239.91 acres in 1854 in the same area. The second son, James Harper, also acquired two tracts of land, 79.97 and 235.91 acres, in Covington County, Ala., in the Opp Township in 1854. The next son, Aaron T. Harper, homesteaded 160.46 acres in 1886 in the Opp area. Also in 1854, the son, Micajah Harper, purchased 319.84 acres in Opp as well. The youngest son, David Harper, purchased 242, 25 and 80.40 acres in the Wiggins Township in 1854.

Some of William Thomas’s sons rendered service in the Confederate Army. His son, James Harper, joined Covington County Militia, which was organized in 1864 to defend the county. He became a member of Company D, 41st Alabama Infantry Regiment. James was 46 years of age and Judge of Probate for the county at the time he enlisted. Micajah Harper began his service in the Alabama Militia where he served as a Lt. Colonel for First Battalion, 60th Regiment (Covington County), 1848-1863. In 1861 his county militia of volunteers was styled as Andalusia Beauregards, and was sent to Montgomery where recruits enlisted on August 29, 1861. He was elected captain of his company, which was shortly removed to Mobile. In December the company was made Company A, 25th Alabama Infantry Regiment. Micajah was killed in April 1862 during the severe losses in the Battle of Shiloh. Micajah’s younger brother, David Harper, served as a private in Company H, 53rd Alabama Infantry Regiment and lost his life during the war in 1864.

William Thomas and Matilda (Russell) Harper’s second oldest daughter, Elizabeth “Betsy” Harper, was married in 1832 to Curtis Byrd (1809-1905). Elizabeth was born in Wilkes County, Ga, and moved with family to Dale County, Ala., where she and Curtis made their home. They had the following 14 children: Lucinda Elizabeth “Betsy,” b. 1833, d. 1905; William C., b. 1835, d. 1890; Mary Louise, b. 1836, d. 1905; Jane, b.&d. 1837; Benjamin George, b. 1839, d. 1864; David Micajah, b.1840, d. 1889; Amanda, b. 1842, d. 1869; Matilda, b. 1844, d. 1859; Isaac William, b. 1845, d. 1919; Delacey Jane, b. 1846, d. 1893; Martha L, b. 1848, d. 1919; Little Berry, b. 1853, d. 1855; Angus Birtis, b. 1855, d. 1938; and William George, b. 1857.

As mentioned earlier, there is an old abandoned cemetery located about two miles north of Opp and a mile and a half west of US Hwy 331. It was once known as the Harper Graveyard or Cemetery, but it is currently referred to as the Atkins Family Cemetery. It is believed to be quite old and most likely used by some of the earliest settlers in the area. It has been suggested that some of the early residents of Hallton, which predated Opp, most likely buried in this cemetery. There are a few headstones present at this time, but the total buried there is unknown. John P. Atkins was an early pioneer in that area and owned most of the land surrounding the cemetery. He may have been buried in the cemetery as a number of his descendants are; thus the name Atkins Cemetery. He was a Confederate Veteran, but, his date of death and place of burial is not known at this time.

John P. Atkins was married to Phariby (Faraby) Harper, daughter of William Thomas and Matilda (Russell) Harper, a prosperous family in the area. They had the following children: Susan, b. 1843; Russell H., b. 1845, m. Georgian ?; Martha J., b. 1847, m John Garrett Stanley; Lewis, b. 1849, d. 1882, m. Nancy Ann Cook; Sarah, b. 1851; Amelia “Emily,” b. 1853, single; Joel E., b. 1855; William Mack, b. 1857, d. 1953, m. Tempa P. ?; and Delilah, b. 1858. When John P. died in the late 1860s, Phariby was left a widow with several children still at home. She applied for and received a widow’s pension for John P.’s Confederate service.

There is more genealogy on this family available, so an additional column may be possible. The sources for today’s writing include the following: Ancestry.com; Gus and Ruby Bryan’s Covington County History, 1821-1976; Wyley D. Ward’s Early History of Covington County, Alabama, 1821-1871; Wyley D. Ward’s Original Land Sales and Grants in Covington County, Alabama; and Covington County Alabama People, compiled edited and additional notes by Scott R. Smith, Ed.D.

Anyone who might find any error in the above or who might have additional information on Harper families in Covington County is requested to contact Curtis Thomasson at 20357 Blake Pruitt Road, Andalusia, AL 36420; 334-804-1442; or Email: cthomasson@centurytel.net.