Thomasson-Knowles families lived in Mobley Creek Community

Published 6:32 pm Friday, January 31, 2020

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The family of Callie Susan Thomasson and William Nathaniel Knowles is featured in today’s story. Callie was the daughter of Cornelius Starr Thomasson and Susannah Henley. She was born in Covington County, Ala., in 1875 and was given the name Susan for her mother and grandmother, and she appeared to have inherited more physical features of her maternal Henley family. Her mother, Susannah, was called Susie, and her grandmother was called Sooky. However, her parents chose to call this daughter Callie.

Callie, like her sisters, was given special keepsake gifts by her father, Cornelius S. Thomasson, such as the gold earrings and $20 gold piece. A most valuable gift was the land he gave her and her new husband as a wedding present.

Callie grew up in the rural community of Fairfield where her father farmed and ran a general store. One of the neighboring families was that of George Washington Knowles. The children of the two families went to Hopewell Baptist Church and school together, so it is natural that they became good friends. It was no surprise that Callie Susan Thomasson and William Nathaniel Knowles developed a special relationship and were married in 1895 at their church. William Nathaniel “Billy” Knowles was the son of George Washington Knowles and Drucilla J. Dupree.

The Knowles family descends from Thomas Knowles who was born circa 1770 in Sussex County, Del. When the State of Georgia opened up the Indian territory for settlement in the land lotteries of 1805 and 1807, a large number of Knowles relatives moved from Delaware to Green County, Ga. Thomas Knowles served in the Indian Wars and became a successful farmer there in Green County. By 1830, he owned 16 slaves which indicates his wealth and a sizable plantation. Around 1835, he moved his wife and two youngest sons, Allen and Richard, to Pike County, Ala., and settled near Clay Hill, where he lived until his death in 1840.

Thomas’s youngest son, Richard Knowles, was born in Georgia and moved with the family to Pike County, Ala. There he met and was married to Martha Jane Oliver. Soon after their marriage, they moved south to Enterprise in Coffee County where they reared a large family of four sons and six daughters. One of the sons was George Washing Knowles who was born in 1847.

George W. Knowles met and was married in Enterprise to Drucilla J. Dupree, daughter of Jacob and Amanda Dupree. The newly wed couple moved to the Fairfield community in Covington County from George to work with his brother, William T. Knowles, in the timber business for about 10 years. During that time, he and Drucilla had three children born to them by 1880. During the early 1880s, George left home and never returned with the family having no knowledge of his where-a-bouts. Thus, Drucilla was left to rear their three children as best she could. When the 1900 census was taken, she and the youngest son, Greenberry, were living in Loango in Covington County. She stated she was a widow with three living children, and she owned her own farm.

William Nathaniel “Billy” Knowles, born in 1872, was the oldest son of George Washington Knowles and Drucilla Dupree; therefore, he would have been only about eight years of age when his father left the family. His youngest brother, Greenberry Knowles, born in 1800 was about three months old. The identity of the third child in this family is not known to this writer. Their mother worked hard to rear and provide for them.

After their marriage, Billy and Callie Knowles, established their home in the Fairfield community on land given to them by Callie’s father as a wedding gift. They work extremely hard farming with Billy clearing more land for crops and raising livestock, cattle and hogs. During the fall after the crops were laid by, Billy would raft timber down the Conecuh River to Pensacola for earning extra money. Callie always assisted him in the farming as well as maintaining a nice house.  Just like her sisters and relatives, she kept her yard unusually clean by using a brush broom, which she had made probably from gall berry bushes.

During the winter of 1902, the weather turned very cold with much rain. During this weather, Billy was running a raft of timber and developed a really bad cold. He came home with chills and fever which quickly developed into pneumonia. One morning when the fever was at its highest, Billy sent word to George Thomasson, Callie’s brother, to come at once. When George arrived and approached Billy’s bed, Billy said, “George, the reason I sent for you is because I know I’m going to die. It’s going to be up to you, John and Mr. Thomasson to look after Callie and these little children for me. They’re going to need somebody, and I’ve no one to turn to but you.”

Billy died soon afterwards in 1902 and was buried in the Hopewell Cemetery. After the funeral, Callie’s father told his son, George, to go get Callie and the children and bring them home, which he did that very day. They lived in Cornelius Thomasson’s home until the children were half-grown. This caused these grandchildren to be very close to their grandparents. When Neil moved to the Conecuh River community with his sons, George and John, they established homes next to each other, and Callie continued to live with her aged parents. She was strong and farmed right along with her brothers who were generous in helping her.

Billy and Callie were the parents of four children born during their seven years of marriage: Bertie Lee, b. 1896, d. 1973, m. Effie Mae Moody; Everett Clawson, b. 1898, d. 1966, m. Mary Ellen Ralls; Eurie Durie, b. 1899, m. Ruby Cecil Ward; and Nora Inez, b. 1902, m. 1919 William Amos Ward.

The oldest son, Bertie Lee Knowles, grew up helping his mother farm and caring for the younger children. He attended the one-room school at the Conecuh River Baptist Church along with his Thomasson cousins. When WW I broke out, he enlisted for service in 1918 and was assigned to Co. I, 151st Infantry. He was sent overseas after boot camp and was stationed in France where he soon contracted mumps, which kept him out of combat. He returned to the U.S. in October 1919 and continued helping his mother with the farming. In 1934, he was married in Covington County to Effie Mae Moody, daughter of Solomon T. Moody and Martha Catherine Brooks.

The couple lived with Bertie’s mother for a short time before he had the old house removed and a new one constructed on the site. His mother lived in the new home and had her own private room. The house has been renovated and is occupied currently by a granddaughter, Lisa Williamson. Bertie and Effie had one daughter, Bertie Mae, b. 1938, m. Jimmie Roger Smith.

The second son, Everett Clawson Knowles, was born in 1898 and was only three years old when his father died. He grew up mostly in his grandparents’ home and was influenced significantly by them. He learned farming early through helping his widowed mother work hard on the farm to provide for her four children. Everett was always ready to perform any needed work, and he maintained an optimistic attitude. After finishing at Conecuh River Church School, he traveled 10 miles each day to attend Andalusia High School. With a good mind for business, he became a successful merchant in Andalusia, and in 1928, he moved his business to the Town of Brooklyn. He first worked out of the Masonic Building, but he soon built his own store with living quarters in the rear.

In 1931, Everett was married to Mary Ellen Ralls, daughter of Luke Edward Ralls and Bessie Parker of Brooklyn. They lived first in the Brewer house, but they later moved into the apartment in the rear of the store. They operated their business together and became quite successful. In addition, he farmed and invested heavily in timber land. He enjoyed hunting and visiting his relatives where he could relate family history and tales as he was a talented storyteller. Everett died in 1966 of a heart attack and was buried in the Brooklyn Baptist Church Cemetery. He and Mary Ellen did not have any children.

The third son, Eurie Durie Knowles, was born in 1899 and was only two years old when his father died. Thus, he grew up with his mother and Thomasson grandparents. He learned farming and helped his mother as he aged. He enjoyed hunting very much and passed that interest on to his six sons. When he was about 17, he found rafting timber down the Conecuh River to be a good side job, so he did this several years to earn extra income. Log rollings were popular and provided an opportunity to help neighbors and enjoy good recreation. Eurie worked in the shipyards in Mobile during WW II but returned to Covington County after the war ended.

In 1934, Eurie was married to Ruby Cecil Ward, daughter of John Ward and Frances Almeter Lunsford whose families were early settlers in Covington County. They became the parents of eight children: John Dewey, b. 1935, m. (1) Valrie Schindler (2) Somjit Supprasert; Gordon Clawson, b. 1937, m. Martha Kendall; William Everett, b. 1939, m. Virginia Armstrong; Glendon Clawson, b. 1941, m. Madalyn Knight; James Stewart, b. 1943, d. 2019, m. Rebecca Lynn Cooper; David, b. 1944, m. Mittie (Stokes) Castleberry; Betty Gray, b. 1948, m. Ronald Earl Parker; and Alma Susian, b. 1951, single.

The last child and only daughter, Nora Inez Knowles, was born in 1902 and was only three months old when her father died. She like her three brothers was reared in her grandparents’ home and spent much time with them. She learned to hunt as her brothers did and enjoyed this for many years. In 1919, she married Amos Ward, brother of her sister-in-law. Amos purchased land across the road from Inez’s mother in the Mobley Creek community. He farmed, and Inez worked for many years at Alatex in Andalusia. Unfortunately, Amos died of cancer in 1941 after they had 21 years of marriage.

Nora and William A. Ward were the parents of three children: Vera Mae, b. 1923, m. Claude Stokes; William Nathaniel “Buster,” b. 1926, m. June Wright; and Doris Delane, b. 1939, m. (1) Ellison Chavers (2) William Scott Haslam. After marriage, all three children moved to Orlando, Fla. Although their mother remained in her home until the last period of her life, they looked after her until her death in 1994.

These families have been prominent in the areas from Brooklyn to Andalusia. They have many descendants who continue to reside in the same area.

The source for today’s story is Thomasson Traces—Lineages, Vol. I and Thomasson Traces—Narrative, Vol. II, written by Margie B. Malloy and Curtis H. Thomasson. Anyone who finds an error in the above or has a question related to it is requested to contact Curtis Thomasson at 20357 Blake Pruitt Road, Andalusia, AL 36420; 334-804-1442; or Email: