Mancil-Thomasson marriage produced successful descendants

Published 6:04 pm Friday, December 27, 2019

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Today’s column will feature Erastus Melvin Thomasson who was a brother to the matriarch, Tempie Caroline Thomasson, wife of Frank Anderson, who was the subject of last week’s column. Erastus Melvin and Tempie were two of the children of Cornelius Starr Thomasson and Susannah Henley of the Fairfield community.

Erastus Melvin was born in September 1866, the first child born after Cornelius Thomasson’s return from the War Between the States. At the time of his birth, the family was living on the old Possum Trot Road in the Burnout community in the northeast corner of Covington County. They next moved to Red Level where they resided for a few years before moving in 1872 to the Fairfield community in the southwest area of the county. Melvin was about six years old at the time. It appears his father may have moved there to open a general store.

After receiving the education available at the time, Melvin chose to become a businessman in his father’s store rather than pursing farming as most did at the time. Eventually his father changed the name of the store to C.S. Thomasson & Son with Melvin being the son. They sold dry good, clothing, shoes, boots and hats as well as groceries and hardware—the inventory of a typical country store of the time. By 1890, Melvin’s brother, Cornelius Granville Thomasson had joined him, so the store became Thomasson Brothers.

Two years earlier in February 1888, Melvin was married to Lillie Rebecca Mancil at the Mancil home in Mason, Ala. She was the daughter of Henry and Mary (Parker) Mancil of Escambia County, Ala. The Mancil ancestors migrated from South Carolina circa 1820 when they came to Conecuh County. William and Elsey Mancil settled in the Boykin community which is in the area that became Escambia County. Melvin’s bride, Lillie, has been described as a sweet, docile person who was a devoted wife and mother to her eight children.

Throughout their married life, Melvin and Lillian lived in several locations. They lived first in the Fairfield community where he farmed and worked at Thomasson Brothers Store. They later moved to Falco, Ala., a booming sawmill town where he became a salesman with the Berman Mercantile Store. When the sawmill began to decline, so did the economy of the town. Berman closed his store, so Melvin returned to Covington County and farmed for some three years. Then a Berman’s Store was opened in Andalusia, so Melvin sought employment there. Later he became an agent for the American Insurance Company of Newark, N.J., and sold fire insurance from the Andalusia Office. He worked here until his health began to fail in 1929. As his health worsened, he and Lillie moved to Montgomery for health care and lived with their daughters there.

Melvin and Lillie Thomasson were the parents of the following children: Oscar Henry, b. 1889, d. 1975, m. 1914 Mittie Florence Speller; Daisy Mae, b. 1891, d. 1969, m. 1910 Samuel Esaias Harsey; Ethel Rae, b. 1894, m. 1918 Lee Hillary Lunsford; Osborne Cornelius, b. 1897, d. 1973, m. 1919 Alice Vashti Richards; Jewel Stein, b. 1899, m. 1918 Millard Filmore Hicks; Male Infant, b.&d. 1902; James Alton, b. 1903, m. 1936 Prudy Ida Ryals; Mary Lillian, b. 1906, d. 1994, m. 1927, James Samuel Kelly; and Willie Maria, b. 1909, d. 1910.

The oldest son, Oscar Henry Thomasson, finished school in Falco where he was introduced to the sawmill and timber industry. He began working in it at 15 years of age, and by the time he was grown, he was a timber stacker. By 1920, he had worked with several timber companies in West Florida and was a timber inspector, sawyer and assistant mill foreman. In 1924, he moved to Crestview and opened the Crescent Hotel and opened Crestview Lumber Supply Company, which later became O.H. Thomasson Builder’s Supplies, Inc. His businesses thrived, and Oscar maintained an active career is all aspects of the timber industry and participation in professional forestry associations.

Oscar was married in 1914 to Mittie Florence Speller, daughter of Thomas Ezekiel Speller and Sarah Jane Cumbie of Dale County. They became the parents of two children: Sarah Rebecca, b. 1915, m. (1) 1936 Hugh Anthony Gonsoulin (2) 1963 Theodore “Ted” Leo Shivik; and Oscar Henry Jr.

The oldest of five daughters, Daisy Mae Thomasson, was living in Falco with the family when a traveling photographer, Samuel Esaias “Say” Harsey, came by the Thomasson home. Say was so attracted to Daisy Mae, and they were soon married. Say (1882-1956) was the son of John W. Harsey and Mabell Goodwin of South Carolina. After marriage, the couple soon moved to Panama City where Say went into the towing business pulling barges and commercial boats on the waterways. When this business waned, he returned to Millville and opened a gas and oil company which he operated until he retired. He and Daisy were the parents of three children: Hulon Esaias, b.&d. 1912; Vera Mae, b. 1913, m. Sam Austin Perry; and Lillian Mabel, b. 1917, d. 1956.

The second daughter, Ethel Mae Thomasson, was married to Myrick Lee Hillery Lunsford, son of Seaborn Auston Lunsford and Emily Hortense Chesser. Hillery went into the logging business and eventually owned his own business as an independent logger for various sawmills in the area. He and Ethel were the parents of three children: Malcolm Bernice, b. 1920, m. 1945 Trudy Connally; Byron Jay, b. 1922, m. 1948 Louise Railey; and Mary Louise, b. 1925, m. 1944 Steve Hise.

The second son, Osborne Cornelius Thomasson, was born in 1897 in the Hopewell community where he grew to manhood. When WW I commenced, He enlisted in the U.S. Army at Montgomery in 1918. He was assigned to the 22nd Company, 20th Engineers and was sent to France after boot camp where he served 10 months before being discharged July 1919. He went to work for the St. Andrew Bay Lumber Company near Panama City, Fla. There he met Alice Vashti Richards, daughter of Charles Norman Richards and Sara Jane Maddox, and they were married December 19, 1919. He built them a house in Wewahitchka, where they lived and reared their children. During those years, Osborne became an insurance agent.

Osborne and Allie were the parents of four children: Jonnie Neil, b. 1921, m. James Kurtis Clements; Albert Mitchell, b. 1923, m. Norma Alice Stephenson; Sarah Alice, b. 1926, m. Frank Stevens Rigell; and Osborne Richards, b. 1928, m. Muriel Irene Grunewald.

The next daughter, Jewel Stein Thomasson, was born in 1899 in Covington County. She married a local man, Millard Filmore Hicks, son of James Asbury Hicks and Buna Vista Stokes. Upon returning from service during WW I, Millard worked on a spur of the A. & M. Railroad at Vinegar Bend until it was discontinued, and then he was elected to serve as City Clerk. Later, he purchased a farm outside of Leakesville, Miss., where they reared their children. They were the parents of the following children: Mildred Elizabeth, b. 1919, m. 1945 James Luther Dietz; James Melvin, b. 1923, m. 1953 Mary Geneva Reese; Roy Gene, b. 1925, m. 1947 Garnet Palmetto Hillman; Julia Ann, b. 1937; and Lyndel Rebecca, b. 1939, m. 1963 Louie Thomas McKay.

The next son, James “Jamie” Alton Thomasson, was born in 1903 at Rome, Ala. When he reached the age to seek employment, he wandered from job to job in different places. He settled down in 1936 when he met and married Prudie Ina Ryals, daughter of John Ryals and Ada Jean Bryant, in Phenix City, Ala. He then engaged in electrical work which he had taught himself. During WW II, he worked as an electrician at Maxwell Field. After the war ended, he moved to Eglin Field near Crestview, Fla. There, he and Prudie reared two children: Milton Ray, b. 1937, m. 1958 Eileen Daniels; and Lillie Jean, b. 1942, m. 1962 David Gerald Hall.

The youngest surviving daughter, Mary Lillian Thomasson, was born in 1906 in Falco. She married James Samuel Kelly, son of James C. Kelly and Carrie B. Law of Elmore County. They both attended business college in Montgomery. Even as a student, James worked part-time at the First National Bank of Montgomery, and he continued to work with it for four months shy of 50 years. James and Mary Lillian resided in Montgomery where they reared their four children: Betty Sue, b. 1929, m. (1) 1950 Charles Spurgeon Faris (2) Gene Cowger; Barbara June, b. 1934, m. 1952 Thomas Renfroe Porter; Beverly Ann, b. 1938, m. 1957 Bob E. Collier; and Mary Jim, b. 1942, m. 1950 Donnie Tucker.

Many of the descendants of this family continued to make Covington County their home, but many moved to other states to work and rear their families. Most of them were very successful in their careers.

The source for today’s story was the family history entitled Thomasson Traces—Narrative, Vol. II written by Margie B. Malloy and Curtis Thomasson. Anyone who might find an error is requested to contact Curtis Thomasson at 20357 Blake Pruitt Road, Andalusia, AL 36420; 334-804-1442; or Email: