Preston S. Thomasson was youngest of 11 children in family

Published 7:28 pm Friday, June 26, 2020

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Preston Sylvanus Thomasson was the youngest child of Jefferson Sylvanus Thomasson and Rebecah Butler. He was born in 1892 at the Thomasson homeplace in the Burnout community and was the eleventh child in the family. He was described as being a pretty infant who grew into a handsome young man to whom the young ladies were attracted.

As a young boy, he was called “Dobbie,” but he later insisted on being called by his nickname, Pres. Growing up on the family farm, Pres developed a special interest and love for animals as well as gardening. He loved all the animals, horses and cattle, and enjoyed caring for them. He could always be found listening in when there was any stock trading going on around the farm. He readily learned how to recognize good breeding in a horse and could hold his own in the trading field. As far as gardening, the entire family was involved, and Pres learned how to grow the various types of vegetables as well as doing some experimenting.

As the youngest boy among several older brothers, he learned to hunt and fish at an early age. He developed considerable skill in trapping small animals and learned to expertly condition the furs for pelts. Of course, he was always available to kill game animals for food even as an adult.

Another talent Pres perfected was singing and whistling as he was always practicing them. His good humor supported this pastime for him. He was also popular with the young ladies and often double dated with his older brothers. They would ride together in a buggy on those occasions, but on other occasions Pres would ride his horse or walk. 

Pres was called into service during World War I. While his surviving family members do not recall the nature of his assignments nor the period of his enlistment, it is known that he was hospitalized at some point with pneumonia. When some of his relatives visited to check on him, he had been rolled out in a hall used for those who were not expected to survive. The family was shaken, but they were allowed to take him home were his compassionate mother nursed him back to good health.

About a year later, he was married to an attractive young lady whom he had known all his life. She was Lokie Cornelia Sasser (1901-1967), daughter of Thomas Sasser and Mary Ella (Bailey) Eiland. He as the youngest in the family was married in a double wedding ceremony with his brother, Bud Thomasson, who was the oldest child. Bud had remained a bachelor until he was near 50 years of age. Their wives were friends, so they arranged for the memorable wedding which occurred in Elba, Ala., in 1920.

Pres and Lokie made their home in a house located on the Houston place in Sanford. When his father, Syl Thomasson, married the Widow Houston, he purchased her farm, so the house was available. Sadly, the couple lost their first two infants, an unnamed daughter born in 1921 and a son, James Jefferson, born in 1922. They were blessed following this sorrowful time with two daughters and two sons being born to them. They were the parents of the following children: The two infants mentioned above; Gracie D., b. 1924, d. 2012 , m. Holland Lee “Bus” Davis; Maudie Ina, b. 1926, d. 1957, m. (1) George Barney Chambley (2) John Wayne “J.W.” VanArsdall; David Bernard, b. 1929, m. Audrey Jean (Terry) Johnson; Daniel Tyler, b. 1931, d. 2016, m. Doris Gertrude Seifert; and an infant son, b.&d. 1933. 

The oldest surviving daughter, Gracie D. Thomasson, was born in 1924 in Covington County. She later added the D initial to her name since she did not have a middle one. In 1941, she was married in the Pine Level community of Coffee County to Holland Lee “Bus” Davis, son of John Lawrence Davis and Rebecca Bay McCart. Although they maintained a home in Pine Level, they lived for many years in Opp where they worked at Opp Micolas Mills. Gracie D. is remembered as a fantastic cook and one who enjoyed serving and entertaining others. She loved the history of her family, enjoyed exploring old cemeteries and was a devoted member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

Gracie D. and Bus Davis were the parents of the following children: John Wilkie, b. 1942, m. 1967 Betty Sue Armstead; Rebecca Jane, b. 1944, d. 2012, m. (1) 1961 Charles Elbert Beck Jr. (2) 1968 James Edward Anderson; Bobbye Joyce, b. 1946, d. 2002, m. 1968 Ronald Terry Henderson; Terrisellers, b. 1950, m. 1971 David Ronald Inman; and Dwan Thomasson, b. 1954, m. 1981 Susan Renee Kelley. In addition, they helped rear Gracie’s nephew, John Wayne VanArsdall Jr., following the death of his mother, who was Gracie’s sister, and his grandmother.

The next daughter, Maudie Ina Thomasson, was born in 1926 in Covington County and died at a young age in 1957 in Panama City, Fla. She was first married in 1944 in Muscogee County, Ga., to George Barney Chambley. She was later married to John Wayne “J.W.” VanArsdall Sr., a native of Kentucky who was stationed at Tyndall Air Force Base, in Panama City, Fla.  She and her first husband had a son, George Barney Chambley Jr., b. 1945, m. 1965 Patricia Ann Smartt. Maudie also had a son by her second husband who was named John Wayne VanArsdall Jr., b. 1955, m. 1981 Malita Quinella Gordon, daughter of James Albert Gordon and Ida Williamson. When Maudie died at 31 years of age, her youngest son went to live with his Grandmother Lokie Thomasson. At her death in 1967, he first went for a short time to his older half-brother’s home. He soon returned to Covington County to live with his aunt and uncle, Gracie D. and Bus Davis in Opp. He was a young teenager at that time.

The oldest surviving son, David Bernard Thomasson, was born in 1929 in the Sanford community of Covington County. He was reared on his father’s farm, and upon finishing high school, he joined the U.S. Army. He rendered service during the Viet Nam War and liked it there so well he re-enlisted for more service. In 1955, he was married to Audrey Jean (Terry) Johnson. Audrey was previously married to Ronald Johnson of Ponce DeLeon, Fla., and they were the parents of two children: Ronald Lee Johnson, b. 1951; and Donna Jean Johnson, b. 1954, who became the step-children of David Bernard. David retired from the military and eventually settled in the Phenix City, Ala., area.

The youngest son, Daniel Tyler Thomasson, was born in 1931 in Covington County. Upon being graduated from high school, he left the farm and joined the U.S. Army as his older brother had. He rendered service during the Korean and Viet Nam Wars. He was stationed for a period of time in Germany where he met his future wife. He was married in Aschaffenburg, Germany, to Doris Gertrude Seifert circa 1953. They were the parents of three children: Cleo Glenn, b. 1955, d. 2014, m. 1979 Huntsville, Tex., Helen Hopson, daughter of Gayle Hopson and LaRue Whitsenhunt; Daniel Dean, b. 1957; and Vera Ellen, b. 1962. Cleo Glenn and Vera Ellen were born in Germany, but Daniel Dean was born at Ft. Bragg, N.C. 

With Preston Sylvanus (Sylvania ?) Thomasson being the youngest child of Jefferson Sylvanus Thomasson and Rebecah Butler, this review of his life ends the series on that family. There are many descendants and relatives of his family who currently reside in Covington County and who are proud of their ancestry.

The source for today’s story were the Thomasson Traces—Lineages, Vol. I and Thomasson Traces—Narrative, Vol. II. Anyone with questions is requested to contact this writer, Curtis Thomasson, at 20357 Blake Pruitt Road, Andalusia, AL 36420; 334-804-1442; or Email: