Friday, January 22, 2021

Julia Pope McWhorter

Julia Pope McWhorter, daughter of Robert Ligon McWhorter and Nancy Pope Thurman, was born in Georgia (most likely Greene County) on July 20, 1860. Her father, Robert, was first married to Nancy Winifred Janes, daughter of Absalom Janes and Cordelia Callaway. Robert and Nancy had one child in 1846, a son they named Robert Ligon McWhorter Jr. Nancy lost a second child in 1847 and died herself shortly thereafter. In December 1848, Robert (age 29) married Nancy Pope Thurman (age 16) after a short courtship. Robert and Nancy had five children together—James Vason McWhorter, John Alexander McWhorter, Hamilton McWhorter, Julia Pope McWhorter, and an infant son who died in infancy. Julia is the stepdaughter of my 2nd great grand aunt, Nancy Winifred Janes McWhorter. 

Robert McWhorter was a wealthy planter and politician in Greene County. He was a member of the Georgia House of Representatives, including Speaker of the House for one term. 

On August 3, 1860, the census enumerator visited the McWhorter family but for some reason, did not list Julia with the family when counting the household. Julia would have been two weeks old at the time so, where was she?

1860 Penfield, Greene County, Georgia census record for the McWhorter family
(click to enlarge)

During the Civil War, Julia’s father organized and led Greene County’s Company C (Dawson Grays), Third Georgia Infantry Regiment. Her mother, who years later would be named the “Mother of the Third Georgia Regiment,” often spent time, including most winters in Virginia, with the Dawson Grays. One of Julia’s “McWhorter” grand uncles took care of the children while Nancy was away at camp. It was noted that “They were well taken care of, too, for the faithful old family servants helped him look after them.” 

On June 9, 1870, Julia and her family lived in Penfield, Greene County, Georgia. Julia’s father was a farmer, Nancy was keeping house, brothers James and John were both in college, and Hamilton and Julia were in school. There was a 10-year-old girl named Jessie McWhorter living in the home as well. I found a Jessie McWhorter who lived in Woodville, Greene County, Georgia around the same age and who attended college with Julia. Jessie’s father, William Penn McWhorter, was a nephew of Julia’s father Robert. 

1870 Penfield, Greene County, Georgia census record for the McWhorter family
(click to enlarge)

On July 27, 1875, Julia attended Mercer High School’s commencement in Penfield where she won the prize for readings. After high school, Julia (and Jessie McWhorter) attended Southern Female College in LaGrange, Troup County, Georgia, graduating in 1877. Commencement exercises were held in LaGrange in June 1877 with Julia being 1 of 11 graduates who read an essay which was published by The Christian Index a little over a year later, on July 11, 1878:

There is Rest Enough in the Grave. With most people there is a craving for rest; even with the young, there are times when the feet are weary and the heart grows faint, but, as they advance in life, the weariness becomes more frequent and more intense; often there is an earnest, passionate longing for rest, a fearfully painful temptation to turn from the labor which duty has imposed and recline for a time in the bowers of ease. Then we would turn a deaf ear to the monitor who speaks to us of what we owe ourselves and the world; we would gladly sit in dreamy listlessness and watch the ripples of life’s great stream, oblivious of the fact that we have an interest in the scene. We would bid Care and her train speed far away and leave us with nothing for the heart to sigh for, nor the hands to do.

But such are not the promptings of our better teachers. From the realm of Nature, wherever we may look, the lesson is of action, not of rest. Gaze we away to the nightly vault where the bands of Orion are glittering in splendor, and the Pleiades are shedding their sweet influences, and we read the signs of unceasing motion. Look we abroad when the day star comes as a bridegroom from his chamber, and from speeding light and rustling breeze, we learn the same fact of unceasing motion. In the swelling bud and expanding leaf, in opening flower and ripening fruit we perceive there is constant action, constant labor. In the animated creation beneath us we discern no undue pining for rest; no efforts to evade the tasks which the Creator has imposed. The bee is early in the wing; the lark bathes his pinions in morning air that he may salute the rising sun; and the lamb and the fawn are cropping the grass while the dew yet sparkles on its blades. By all these are we taught the lesson of action, motion, labor.

If, however, we consider ourselves and our race, we need not read sermons in stones, nor books in running brooks, in order that we may learn our duty. In whatever direction we may turn our eyes, we see there is much to be done. There is much to do that these bodies of ours may be sustained and rendered comfortable. That the earth may yield of her wealth to fill storehouse and barn, there must be patient and unremitted toil. The furrow must be run, the seed sown, the tender plant nurtured and the harvest reaped. These things require not the hand alone, but the brain must work, that what is done may be done with skill and judgment. It has been said that he who makes two spears of grass grow where only one had previously grown, deserves to be rated as a public benefactor. How far above all the mighty captains whose occupation it has been to devaste and destroy, should be enrolled him who converts a barren, stony waste into a scene of fruitfulness and beauty. Everyone who does something towards providing food and raiment for the world’s teeming millions, performs a noble duty. This is a task in which the great mass of mankind must be employed, and from which they dare not rest. There is no room here for rest. It is a decree of Heaven which we can neither resist nor evade, that if we would live we must labor.

But it is written “Man shall not live by bread alone.” If we do no more than gain sustenance for our physical frames in what are we better than the brute creation? God has endowed us with intellects, and it becomes us not to feed for a season and then die leaving no trace behind us, no impress for good to those who are to come after us. These intellects must be cultivated and thus supplied with that pabulum which that cultivation requires. The powers of the mind must be prepared to understand and enjoy the beauty and order which the Creator has spread around us. There is still a vast unknown, whose hidden mysteries must be explored and the laws which govern its workings made known. We cannot believe that God has thrown an unremovable veil over any of His works; He doubtless, designs that they shall be traced out by man, and be employed by him for the accomplishment of his purposes. But this is a result that can be brought about only by study and labor; not by idly reclining on downy couches and in sweet dreams passing life away did they of the past make electricity and light obedient servants, which have more strength than the human arm, more delicacy than the human hand. For those who labor in the world of thought, there is much, very much to do; there is a great deal to learn and a great deal to teach; every day some new fact may be discovered—every day some new truth may be enforced. If one would rise to the full measure of duty, he must scorn ease and live laborious days. “No time to rest,” is the motto in the world of mind as much as in the realm of matter.

After all, however, this life is but a scene of preparation for another life, and whether that other shall be a higher, depends upon our efforts here. What a vast field for labor here opens before us! The millions of earth are groping their way in darkness; how shall they be enlightened save by the exertions of those to whom the lamp of life has been given. Oh! there is really no time for rest here. The issues are too fearfully momentous; the work to be performed is too vast to admit of any delay, or any cessation of effort. Ye who would dry the flow of human tears or check the course of human guilt, must not conceive that in indolence or self-indulgence you can achieve these high aims, and thus push forward the moral and intellectual march of the world, until knowledge shall have extended its benign influences over the earth and religion shall usher in the day of millennial glory.

Julia’s life took an unexpected and sad turn in the fall of 1877. In what should have been a happy, exciting time in her life at 17 years of age and just a few months from graduation, she was overtaken by consumption and died on September 16, most likely at her home in Greene County. Julia’s family buried her at Woodville Cemetery in Woodville, Greene County, Georgia. The Greensboro Herald reported her death on September 20, 1877:

Deaths. … It is our painful duty, also, to announce the death of Miss Julia P., only daughter of Hon. Robt. L. McWhorter, of Penfield. All who knew her, say that Miss McWhorter was proverbially amenable and a devout Christian, and the afflictions of the family are mitigated by the fact that their daughter and sister is in the home of the pure. 

A second story ran in The Greensboro Herald on September 27, 1877 that provided a detailed and very moving description of her death:

Julia Pope McWhorter. The shadows of a deep grief rest upon our community. The Death Angel has spread his broad wings here and driven his ice cold blasts against a fair and lovely one. Today we mourn the absence of her who was the light and joy of her home; yet in the midst of our grief and sorry, we are cheered by the bright hopes which filled her soul and lit up with rapturous delight her countenance as she passed over the “dark river.”

Julie Pope McWhorter, only daughter of Maj. And Mrs. R. L. McWhorter, of Penfield, Ga., died on the 16th inst. She made a professional of faith in Christ and was baptized by Rev. [unreadable] of 1874.

But a few short weeks ago, she returned home from LaGrange, where she had completed her College course, and was apparently in blooming health. She had just passed her seventeenth birthday, when Consumption in its most acute and active form marked her for his own. She was confined to her bed but a few days. She was a most patient sufferer. Not a murmur, nor a complaint escaped her lips during her illness. As the disease preyed so rapidly upon her system, her friends became anxious to know whether or not she fully appreciated the fact that her end was near. They forbore to question her, fearing that it might hasten her death. She frequently spoke of what she would do when she should be well again, and up to a very few hours before her death was impressed with the idea that she would recover. On the evening of her death, she said to her old nurse, who stood at her bedside, that she wished to talk with her pastor, Mr. Strickland. He came and had a brief conversation with her—asking her as to her faith and trust in the Saviour. She replied that “He was precious to her, that her whole trust was in Him, and on Him she wholly depended for life and salvation.” After this conversation she turned to her mother and said, “I feel a great heaviness in my breast, do you think I shall get well?” The mother, though moved by the deepest anguish of heart, replied calmly, “we fear not my daughter.”—She then asked, “do you think I can live till morning?” Her mother said, “don’t be alarmed, but I think not.”—She then raised her eyes and seemed engaged in prayer, after which she called for each member of the family separately, not forgetting the servants, and addressed parting counsel and admonition suited to each, following with a prayer that they might accept it and meet her in heaven. God gave her strength of voice and flow of word that enabled her to talk as one inspired.

She addressed herself to many around the bedside, and seemed to feel great concern for those of her schoolmates who were not believers, and begged that they be sought after and urged to turn from their sinful ways. The earnest appeals made to each of her brothers were especially touching. She prayed that her passage from earth might be made easy, and her last utterance was a prayer for “father, mother, brothers, sister and little Robert”—then placing herself on her pillow, with her hands upon her breast, she said more than once, “Clip the thread,” and without a struggle or a moan, she passed through death unto life.

“It was good to be there.” That death chamber had all its gloom dispelled by the visions of glory that opened to her eyes as she neared the shining shore. Her countenance all beaming and radiant with joy and words, uttered as if by lips touched by the hallowed fire, attest the truth and power of Christianity. She lived not and died not in vain.

Never! no, never!! can they who were there that Sabbath night, forget that death-bed scene, and the peaceful, happy and triumphant death of the loved and loving Julia.

A tribute by the Mercer Lodge was published in The Greensboro Herald on November 1, 1877:

Tribute to the Memory of Julia P. McWhorter, by Mercer Lodge, I.O.O.T., Penfield. How inscrutable are the ways of Providence! “His ways are high above our ways. We cannot lay searching find them out.” “He moves in a mysterious way. His wonders to perform.” In some of the dispensation of Providence, how hard it is to reconcile it to our poor, frail human nature that God is just. A little innocent rattling infant, just budding into life—the loving joy of its parents, is suddenly snatched away in the cold embrace of death—How hard it is to bear! How keenly it cuts the heartstrings to gaze upon its lifeless form clad in the habiliments of the grave. The soul sinks within itself and instinctively feels disposed to murmur and ask why is it so?

A lovely daughter of the sweet age of seventeen has returned from boarding school. How the hearts of the doting father and mother thrill with delight! Home is again made happy. The home circle is again complete.—Father, mother, brothers—all look upon her lovely form with gushing pride. The sweet tones of her silvery voice, as she utters words of love and kindness, or as she sings a sweet song, accompanied with the notes of the soft-toned Piano, fall so pleasantly on the ear.—The cheerful smile, as it plays on her face, the many little sets of loving-kindness done—all are silken cords which bind her to the family heart. The dear friends and associates of the village circle look brighter and feel happier as they meet and mingle in the social gathering. All are joyous and happy. The musical festival, the Church, the Good [unreadable] all are occasions where her presence is felt and enjoyed. A smiling Providence blesses all. Such a happy picture.

A change comes. The rosy-dimpled cheek of the sweet girl who was so fair to look upon, is tinted with the hectic flush. The insatiate Archer has marked her for his own. Death with his sickle keen stands at the door. Father, mother, brothers, friends surround the emaciated form of the angelic girl who is so soon to leave them. Death with his icy hand touches the lovely, blooming flower; it withers, droops and dies. The spirit wings its way to God who gave it. The once lovely form is consigned to its narrow house of clay. The home circle is broken, and friends are shocked by the doings of “the dread messenger.” It is a mysterious dispensation of Providence. With hopes blighted and hearts crushed who can read it?

Thus passed away on the 16th of September, 1877, Julia Pope McWhorter, only daughter of Major and Mrs. R. L. McWhorter, of Penfield, Ga.

No more shall family and friends be gladdened by her presence here. Yet we will not murmur or complain.—With crushed and bleeding hearts we humbly bow to this sad dispensation of Providence. The scenes of the dying chamber will ever live in memory. With heartstrings broken, with eyes a fountain of tears, oh! Is there no balm of Gilead! Is there no relief? Thanks, be to God who giveth us the victory in the Christian’s home in glory. Then “death is robbed of its sting and the grave of its victory.”

It was sad to see dear Julie die; but even to this dark cloud there was a silver lining. She had made a profession of faith in Christ. Through the dark valley of the shadow of death He lighted up her pathway. Her last moments were not moments of gloom. As she neared the shining shore, doubtless her ransomed spirit was welcomed with the rapturous shouts of the dear ones who had gone before.

Father, mother, brothers, friends, would you unglorify that saint? would you

“Her unruffled bliss

        Disturb, and pluck the crown from off her brow?

        To bring her back to earth?”

No! no! At the bidding of her precious Saviour she has gone where sickness and sorrow, pain and death can never come. May we all be prepared to meet her in that blessed abode where parting will be no more.

As a daughter she was obedient, dutiful and lovely—as a sister she was loving and kind—as a Good Templar she was an ornament to the order—as a Christian she lived and as a Christian she died.

Therefore, Resolved 1. That the foregoing be sent to the Greenesboro’ Herald and Templars’ Advocate, with a request to publish; and that a copy of the same be presented to the bereaved family with the assurance that they have our profound sympathy.

Resolved 2. That a blank page in our minutes be inscribed to the memory of our departed sister.

Resolved 3. That our Lodge room be draped in mourning for the term of thirty days.

W. S. Williams, Ch’n, Mary S. Champion, Zorah J. Landrum, Jos. O. Boswell, V. T. Sanford, Committee.

A second tribute was published by The Penfield Sunday School in The Christian Index on November 8, 1877:

Tribute of Respect. To the Memory of Julia P. McWhorter. By Penfield Sunday School. September 30th was the saddest day that ever dawned on our Sunday-school at Penfield. Six years our Heavenly Father has permitted us to meet again and again, in unbroken numbers, at the dear old chapel. Faces have changed, new ones have come, old ones have entered various paths in the wide world, but, today was the first time we met after God had appeared in our midst to claim one of His own.

Sadly, tearfully we entered the chapel and gathered around the organ. The very air seemed filled with our sorrow. The hushed greeting, warmer pressure of the hand, and sympathetic cadence of the voice, all whispered how much we missed Julia McWhorter. Yes, strange the thought! And, though we repeat it over again, our hearts refuse to realize the fact that never more, on earth, her sweet presence will gladden our gatherings.

‘Twas sad for the school, but the saddest of all was our class—her class. Every heart quivered with pain as we drew near together, and each boy and girl felt more acutely the dread reality—our circle had lost forever one of its brightest ornaments.

Since her earliest childhood, she was one of our school. Quietly, modestly, unassumingly, she moved among us, fondly loved by her friends, adored by her household.

God’s ways are inscrutable. Hearts lowered down by deepest grief fail to see the mission of this fair, young life—just seventeen, in her rare beauty—to be borne away by angels! But, in the years that are coming, we, perhaps, will recognize the tender love of our Father, even for us, in this decree of His will. Remembering her mother, father, brothers, and ourselves, the prayer rises—

“Thou, O, most compassionate!

Who did’st stoop to our estate,

Drinking of the cup we drain,

Treading in our path of pain—

Through the doubt and mystery,

Grant to us, Thy steps to see,

And the grace to draw from thence

Larger hope and confidence.”

When we think now of our school mate, our classmate, our scholar, it is with joy unspeakable. We know, while we must bear the Cross, she wears a crown in “radiancy of glory, in bliss beyond compare.”

Few of God’s children are so blest in their dying moments as Julia. With composure most marvelous she acknowledged the presence of death, with perfect trust in her Saviour, she left us for the better home beyond. Her first prayer was sublimely eloquent in its earnest demand for Jesus’ pardon and presence. Nothing could have been more touching than her affectionate, loving farewell to each member of her family. Four hours her very soul was lifted up in supplication for the dear ones at home, and friends, too, beyond the home-circle, until her comprehensive love included the world in its vastness. She prayed “that all might meet her in that better land, “where moth and rust do not corrupt, nor thieves break through and steal,” in that “house not made with hands, eternal in the Heavens.”

Her death was a poem beyond words! More eloquent than the grandest strains of oratory!

We felt the eyes so fast closing to mortal vision had already pierced beyond the vail.

“Jerusalem the golden,

All jubilant with song,

Bright with many an angel

And all the martyr throng—” 

was hers now, forever; and henceforth, among seraphic millions, her voice would join the chorus “Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever.”

The committee appointed by the Penfield Sunday school to make an expression of their sympathy and sorrow with reference to the death of Julia McWhorter, ask leave to report as follows:

Whereas, It has pleased our Father in Heaven to remove our school mate and loved friend from her earthly home.

Resolved, First. That the tribute above the offered as a token of our regard for her memory.

Second, That we implore God to enable us by the example given in the life of Julia, to live closer to our Saviour, making His will own .

Third, That a copy of the foregoing be sent to The Index, and Kind Words, for publication, and a copy be tendered to the bereaved family, as an evidence of our Christian sympathy.

Marian Sanders, S. L. Arrington, Della Sanford, Zora J. Landrum, Cora S. Stakely, Committee.

Even though only 17 years old, Julia left an estate behind. Her father Robert, the administrator, was tasked with advertising to sell what may been the only inventory in Julia’s estate—stock in the Georgia Railroad. After filing a $2000 bond with Ordinary Joel Thornton in March 1878, Robert began running a notice in The Greensboro Herald in March 1878:

Georgia—Greene County. Robert L. McWhorter, Administrator of the Estate of Miss Julia P. McWhorter, deceased, applied for leave to sell all the Georgia Railroad stock of said deceased, and an order to that effect will be granted on the first Monday in April next, unless good objections are filed. — Joel F. Thornton, Ord’y, March 4th, 1878.

Administrator bond for Robert Ligon McWhorter

Estate notice, The Greensboro Herald, Greensboro, Georgia, March 28, 1878

It’s appears Robert was winding down with Julia’s estate during the summer of 1879, publishing a notice applying for Letters of Dismission in The Greensboro Herald on August 21, 1879:

Georgia—Greene County. Robert L. McWhorter, Administrator of the Estate of Miss Julia P. McWhorter applies for Letters of Dismission and such Letters will be granted on the first Monday in August next unless good objections are filed. Given under my hand and official signature this May 5th, 1879. — Joel F. Thornton, Ord’y.

By all accounts, Julia was loved in her community. How sad that her life ended at such a young age.



  1. So much info. My McWhorters moved from PA across to IA. Enjoyed learning about related families.The 1870 census was based on all those who lived in each household on June 1 1870 only. Julia did not qualify for that census.

  2. I've been doing research over 20 years and did not know that about the 1870 census! It's probably in the fine print which I didn't read. Thanks for sharing that piece of information. Thanks for reading.