Friday, March 31, 2017

Emma S. Lankford

Emma Lankford Wilson's grave
at Penfield Cemetery
Emma S. Lankford, daughter of James Meriweather Lankford and Caroline B. Hobbs, was born in 1852 in Georgia, most likely Greene County. She was the third child of seven—Mary F. Lankford, James C. Lankford, Emma S. Lankford, Emerette R. Lankford, Nathan Lankford, Laura J. Lankford, and Marion Lankford. Emma would be my 2nd great grand aunt.

On July 21, 1860, Emma and her family lived in Woodville, Greene County, Georgia. Her father was a stock trader with real estate valued at $1500 and a personal estate valued at $4000. By the time the census enumerator came around, the family was complete with all seven children having been born. The book How Curious a Land: Conflict and Change in Greene County, Georgia, 1850–1885 by Jonathan M. Bryant states “… James Lankford made a good living trading livestock and by 1860 had accumulated more than $5,000 worth of property …” This probably means that Emma and her family were living a comfortable life at the time.

1860 Greene County, Georgia census for the James M. Lankford family

April 12, 1861 brought the beginning of the American Civil War. Emma’s father James joined the Confederate cause and enlisted in Penfield, Greene County, Georgia on April 24 as a private in Company C of the Third Regiment Georgia Infantry, or the Dawson Grays, C.S.A. James left home and mustered into service at Augusta, Richmond County, Georgia on May 3, 1861. He was discharged on July 15, 1862 in Portsmouth, Virginia, leaving a substitute in his place and then began serving in Company C of the Georgia Troops in November 1862. Sherman and his troops marched to Savannah during the months of November and December 1864. They would have come awful close to Greene County so this must have been a frightening time for Emma, her mother, and siblings home alone in Penfield. James was with his company in Augusta when the command surrendered in May 1865 and finally came home.

On July 6, 1869, Emma’s mother Caroline filed for and received a plot of land in Penfield under the Homestead Act, a federal law enacted to help with Reconstruction after the Civil War ended. The plot contained four acres and was bounded by lands of Robinson and Mercer University, belonging to Emma’s father James. Caroline claimed that she was the head of a family consisting of herself and five children, one of which was Emma.

Emma married James L. Wilson, son of Silas A. Wilson and Sarah A. Fambrough on May 22, 1870 in Greene County, Georgia and began their life together in Penfield. Together they had two children—Walter Lewis Wilson and Julius C. Wilson.

Emma Lankford and James Wilson's marriage certificate

On June 8, 1870, the census enumerator recorded newlyweds James and Emma in Penfield. James was a butcher and Emma was keeping house. They lived next door to James’ parents, Silas and Sarah Wilson. Emma’s brother (and my 2nd great-grandfather) James C. Lankford and his wife Mary (Wilson) lived four doors away. James Lankford was also a butcher. Their first son Walter was born in Georgia about 1871 or 1872. Their second son, Julius, was born in Georgia on June 1, 1873. I haven’t found documentation yet but assume both were born in Greene County.

1870 Penfield, Greene County, Georgia census record for James and Emma Wilson

Sometime after June 1873 and before December 1879, it appears that Emma died of unknown causes. I find no mention of her in any type of record after the birth of her son Julius in June 1873. Her husband James married Laura Emma Mobley on December 26, 1879. James, Laura, and his two sons (Emma’s children Walter and Julius) were living in Skull Shoals, Greene County, Georgia on June 24, 1880. Emma would have been in her 20s at the time of her death—still a young woman. I found Emma’s grave on my last visit to Penfield Cemetery. The stone lay flat on the ground beside the grave of Mary Lankford Hobbs, Emma’s grandmother and my 4th great grandmother. Unfortunately, no dates are inscribed on Emma’s stone—only her name. I hope to someday find out what happened to Emma. I hate to leave her story hanging.

Mary Lankford Hobbs' grave beside Emma Lankford Wilson's grave
at Penfield Cemetery

On a side note, as I wrote this post, it dawned on me that people reading this blog may not know anything about Woodville and Penfield, so I share the information below describing these small towns in Georgia. It appears that both were thriving communities during the time that Emma was alive.

The book History of Greene County, Georgia by Rice and Williams describes Woodville as … “This village was located five miles north of Union Point on the Athens branch of the Georgia railroad. This was once a prosperous village of 300 people, a bank and large stores. It is said to have been given that name because here the trains loaded up with wood. Before it was called Woodville it was called Beeman for a man who owned a large store there. After the railroad was built the name was changed. … Woodville was a good trading point. This village was 10 miles from Greensboro. In 1887 they shipped 3,500 bales of cotton. There were two ginneries, three stores, and dairy-farming. …”

The New Georgia Encyclopedia writes that Penfield, a village in Greene County located approximately 73 miles from Atlanta, “was named after Josiah Penfield of Savannah, who bequeathed $2,500 to the Georgia Baptist Convention in 1829 to help fund education. Using Penfield’s donation, the church purchased 450 acres of land north of Greensboro and in 1833 founded a literary and theological school, which was named Mercer Institute after a prominent Baptist pastor, Jesse Mercer. In 1837 the school began calling itself Mercer University, and the following year its trustees were granted the authority to govern the village surrounding the school. Penfield became a center of culture in Greene County, vying with Greensboro for social dominance. But when Mercer University moved from Penfield to Macon in 1871, Penfield gradually lost its population, ultimately being subsumed by Union Point. …” Wikipedia further notes that the American Civil War brought hard times to the village of Penfield and after Mercer University moved to Macon, “the village of Penfield survived on the strength of the cotton industry.”

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