Friday, October 21, 2016

Henry T. Burnette (104-2016)

Henry T. Burnette, son of Thomas Terrell Burnette and Elizabeth Jones, was born on May 11, 1908 in Greene County, Georgia. He was the 10th child of 13—Luther Terrell Burnette, Eva Drucilla Burnette, Floria Mae Burnette, Jesse Burnette, twin to Jesse, Willie Loyd Burnette, Prince Albert Burnette, Claudia Burnette (twin), Maudie Burnette (twin), Henry T. Burnette, Eleanor Estelle Burnette, Samuel A. Burnette, and Julia Virginia Burnette. His material grandfather and great-grandfather were both named Henry so it’s a good chance he was named for one or both of them. It’s also a good chance his middle name was Thomas or Terrell after his father but I haven’t been able to find any record that lists anything other than the initial. Henry was my great uncle.

About 1908, Henry and his family attended the Henry Jones family reunion in Walton County. He is number five in the reunion photo—sitting on his mother’s lap.

Henry Jones family reunion -- Henry is #5

Thomas Terrell Burnette family photo taken at the Jones family reunion.
Henry is sitting in his mother's lap. My grandmother Floria is standing to the left behind her mother.
On April 28, 1910, Henry and his family lived in Greshamville, Greene County, Georgia. His father was a farmer. The enumerator recorded his mother as having had 10 children, 8 of which were living. She had lost a set of twins—one I know was a boy. Unfortunately, I don’t know the sex of the other child who had already died by the time the census record was taken.

By February 13, 1920, Henry’s family had moved to the Walkers District of Greene County where they would stay. His father was farming on a general farm; his mother was enumerated as Lizzie. There were 10 children living in the home. Henry’s paternal grandfather, Samuel Pride Burnette, 78 years old and widowed, had moved into the home after the death of Henry’s grandmother. Henry’s brother Luther and his wife Etta Belle lived next door.

On April 14, 1930, the family still lived in the Walkers District. Only three of children were living in the home now—Henry, Sam, and Julia. Everyone in the house was able to read and write. Luther and his family still lived next door and had added two daughters to their family—Hazel and Francis. Henry’s father was still farming and now had Henry as a helper.

Henry’s father died at age 71 in Greensboro, Greene County, Georgia on February 6, 1940. He was buried at Walker United Methodist Church Cemetery in Greensboro. His death certificate listed the cause of death as chronic myocarditis, an inflammation of heart muscle. On April 26, 1940, Henry, his widowed mother, and his sister Julia lived on Veazey Road in the Walkers District. His mother wasn’t working but both Henry and Julia were laborers on a farm. Sometime in the early 1940s, Henry left Greene County and moved to Putnam County, Georgia.

I haven’t found a marriage record yet but sometime after March 1944, Henry married Mattie Bell Lankford, daughter of George Washington Lankford Sr. and Jessie Burton, and a native of Greene County. Mattie had previously been married to James Homer Mull, son of Horace and Vista Mull. Mattie and Homer had at least four children between 1925 and 1939—James Mull, Julius Yancey Mull, Dorothy Mull, and Eugene Mull. On March 15, 1944, Mattie and Homer were involved in a car-bus accident in Putnam County. Homer was killed instantly. Mattie survived but suffered serious injuries to her forehead and arm and was taken to Macon Hospital. To my knowledge, Henry and Mattie never had children of their own.

Photo by Patty Shreve - Find A Grave Memorial# 79323026
On New Year’s Eve, December 31, 1955, Henry and a “companion” named John W. Welch, were hunting in Putnam County when Henry was accidentally killed by a .22 rifle. According to a news article published on the front page of The Eatonton Messenger on January 5, 1956, Henry and John were squirrel hunting when John heard a gunshot. John called to Henry but received no response so climbed out of the tree he was in to check on Henry. John found Henry, who had been shot in the head “just above his left ear,” lying on the ground, already dead. Two men from Jasper County were fishing nearby in Murder Creek and helped John carry Henry out of the woods. John reported that he didn’t know what caused the gun to shoot. The Eatonton Messenger wrote that Henry was Putnam County’s “first hunting fatality of the year on the last day of 1955.” Mr. I. A. Carter, the local coroner, held a jury inquest at the Vining Funeral Home where they ruled Henry’s death an accident. Henry was buried at Pine Grove Cemetery in Eatonton after a service held at Oak Street Baptist Church. He was working at the local aluminum plant at the time of his death. On January 5, 1956, Mattie published a “Card of Thanks” in The Eatonton Messenger which was signed "Mrs. H. T. Burnette and The Mull Family.

I didn’t know much about Henry when I started writing this blog post but that’s part of the fun of doing genealogy research. I’d been told that Henry had lived and was buried in Putnam County, that he was married to a woman (name unknown) who was either widowed or divorced, and that she had a son (name unknown) who was with Henry on a hunting trip when he was killed. Because I knew so little about Henry, I had a lot of questions:

  • What was his actual birthdate?
  • When did he move from Greene County to Putnam County?
  • Who was his wife?
  • Did he have children of his own? 
  • When did he die?
  • Was he really killed in a hunting accident?

Well, it took a lot of digging but I finally figured it all out. And, I got a surprise connection to the Lankford family in the process.

Finding the Eatonton Messenger news article reporting Henry’s death got the ball rolling and confirmed that he was in fact killed in a hunting accident. But now I had more questions:

  • Who was John Welch?
  • Was he Henry’s stepson?
  • Who was the Mull family mentioned in the “card of thanks?”

I looked in my family tree file to see if I had anyone with the Welch or Mull last names. I didn’t. I then checked census records for those families but couldn’t make a connection to Henry. I searched the Eatonton newspapers again to see if there were other articles that might shed some light on these people. Still nothing. I finally found the social security record that listed Mattie Bell Lankford and all of her last names (maiden and two married names) as well as the names of both of her parents. Bingo! Her parents were George Lankford and Jessie Burton—two names I immediately recognized. I went back to my family tree file and there she was—a daughter named Mattie Bell Lankford. I later found Mattie’s obituary that listed her full name as Mattie Bell Lankford Mull Burnette. The 1940 census record listed Mattie’s son as Julius Y. Mull. Another news article connected Julius to his mother—Mrs. Henry Burnette. And finally, Julius’ obituary listed his sister as Mrs. Dorothy Welch. So there was the Welch connection. It all started to fall into place and was making sense now.

The Lankford connection was Mattie’s grandfather—Curtis Caldwell Lankford—who was the brother of my third great-grandfather, James Meriweather Lankford.

Although Henry’s life story had a sad ending, it was fun to research. My thanks to the Digital Library of Georgia for sharing the newspaper archives via the Uncle Remus Regional Library System with the world. I wouldn’t have been able to figure this out without this resource.

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