Friday, February 19, 2021

William “Beten” Overton

William “Beten” Overton, son of James Henry Overton and Nancy Sparks, was born in Georgia on August 31, 1871. Beten’s family lived in the Diamonds District of Lithonia, DeKalb County, Georgia in July 1870, so it’s possible he was born there but I haven’t found a record to prove that yet. As far as I can tell, there were 10 children in the Overton family—Joseph A. Y. Overton, Susan P. Overton, John Matthew Overton, Sarah Cordelia Overton, Cora Overton, Alger L. Overton, William Beten Overton, Jane Overton, Julia Overton, and one unknown child (mother Nancy’s obituary noted that she had 10 children). Beten would be my 1st cousin 3x removed with our nearest common relatives being Abijah Overton and Elizabeth Ann Rhodes, my 3rd great grandparents.

On June 18, 1880, the Overton family lived in the Philips District of DeKalb County, Georgia. His father was a miller, his mother worked at farming. Brother John and sisters Sarah, Cora, and Alger all three worked on the farm as well as attended school. At eight years old, it doesn’t appear Beten was attending school at that time with his siblings.

Overton family in the 1880 census (click to enlarge)

By the mid-1880s, the Overton family had moved to Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia. They were still living in Atlanta when the 1890s rolled around. In 1893, Beten and his family lived at 392 Decatur Avenue in Atlanta. By 1895, the family had moved to 341 E. Hunter Street. In 1896, Beten lived as a boarder at an Atlanta home located at 107 Waterhouse. During this decade, Beten worked as a trunk maker.

By June 2, 1900, Beten and his parents moved out of state and lived in Ward 1 of Little Rock, Pulaski County, Arkansas. At age 28, Beten was the only child living at home. A male boarder named Eugene Teasley lived in the home with the family. Beten continued to work as a trunk maker while his father worked as a carpenter. He and his parents were all able to read and write. His mother Nancy was enumerated as having had seven children, all of which were living. At some point, Beten moved to Charleston, Tennessee (he was living there in 1904). Beten didn’t stay in Tennessee long though. By July 1907, he was living in Dalton, Whitfield County, Georgia, where he met his future bride, Martha “Mattie” Amanda Quillian, daughter of William Quillian and Jamie Tye. On July 11, the North-Georgia Citizen published a paragraph that mentioned the couple:

A fishing party, composed of Mr. Alex Shultz and Miss Maggie Joyce, Mr. Jack Farmer and Miss Sylvester Quillian, Mr. W. B. Overton and Miss Mattie Quillian spent the fourth very pleasantly on Conasauga river.

It’s here that Beten’s timeline becomes confusing to me. I find conflicting records for the marriage of Beten and Mattie. On November 21, 1907, the North-Georgia Citizen published a story detailing their wedding in a quiet ceremony on November 14, 1907 (the article doesn’t specify the church being located in Dalton, but that was most likely the case):

North-Georgia Citizen
November 14, 1907

Last Thursday evening Cupid found his way into the parsonage of the First Methodist church and Miss Mattie Quillian and Mr. W. B. Overton were his chosen ones, for a little wedding ceremony was performed by Rev. R. A. Edmondson, and the young couple went on their way rejoicing.

The marriage was a very quiet affair, being performed in the presence of only two witnesses, Misses Lucy Quillian and Cora Felker, the former being a sister to the bride and the latter a first cousin. The young people immediately left for their future home at Fillmore. The bride is a daughter of Mr. W. F. Quillian and is much admired by a large circle of friends in this county. The groom is a young farmer of Fillmore.

Yet on April 18, 1910, the census enumerator found Beten, Mattie, and their two children, William “Willie” Nolan Overton (age 5) and Gladys O. Overton (age 12/12), living in Civil District 6 of Hamilton County, Tennessee. This census record shows Beten and Mattie had been married for eight years, which would mean they married about 1902. That makes sense with Willie being born in 1904 (in Charleston, Tennessee according to his World War II draft card), but what about the 1907 news article announcing their wedding? This is the only marriage record I’ve found so far so am not sure what to think about this. I won’t speculate on anything, just sharing what I found. Whatever the case, Beten and Mattie settled in the Fillmore community of Dalton and apparently enjoyed a circle of friends. On January 23, 1908, they threw a party at their house that was reported in the North-Georgia Citizen on January 30:

Quite a number of young people met at the home of Mr. and Mrs. W. B. Overton last Thursday night and enjoyed a party. Among those present were Misses Lucy and Sylvester Quillian, Lucy Longley, Louise Felker, and Mrs. G. G. Glenn, Messrs. George Jack and Sam Farmer, Jesse Armstrong and Henry Longley.

Overton family in the 1910 census (click to enlarge)

Sorrow entered Beten’s life when his mother Nancy died on January 17, 1910 at the age of 70 from a stroke of paralysis. Nancy had been living with Beten’s brother John in the Grove Level community of Dalton for several years. She was buried the next day at Grove Level Community Cemetery in Dalton, Whitfield County, Georgia. Her obituary noted that Beten lived in Chattanooga, Hamilton County, Tennessee at the time of her death. As noted above, it’s already known from the 1910 census record that on April 18 that Beten and his family lived in Hamilton County, Tennessee in a rented home on Jefferson Street. Beten was still working as a trunk maker for a lumber company. Both he and Mattie could read and write. In 1912, they welcomed their third child to the family, a son they named Guy Speaker Overton. Sadly, Beten would not see his son, or any of his children, grow up—he died on November 9, 1913. Beten was buried at Grove Level Community Cemetery in Dalton. The North-Georgia Citizen published the following story on November 13:

Mr. B. Overton Died at Grove Level Sunday: Deceased Was Well Known and Respected Farmer, North-Georgia Citizen, November 13, 1913. Mr. B. Overton, a well-known and highly respected farmer of the Grove Level settlement, died at his residence Sunday morning. Mr. Overton was one of the county’s good, substantial citizens, and the fact that he was in the prime of manhood when death’s summons came, causes his demise to be doubly deplored among his acquaintances and friends. Monday afternoon, the funeral was conducted at Grove Level, interment being in the cemetery there. Mr. Overton is survived by his widow and two children.

Tombstone photo by Find a Grave contributor kellison1904, no. 47303298

Unfortunately, the obituary doesn’t say what caused Beten’s death at age 42, and I don’t find any other death record for him. His obituary also noted that he had two children, vs. three who were only nine, five, and one when he died.


  • A Fishing Party, North Georgia Citizen, Dalton, Georgia, July 11, 1907
  • Atlanta, Georgia, City Directory, 1885, 1895, 1896.
  • Excellent Old Lady Died at Grove Level: Mrs. J. H. Overton Passed Away Early Monday Morning, North-Georgia Citizen, Dalton, Georgia, January 20, 1910.
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( accessed 24 January 2021), memorial page for William Beten Overton (31 Aug 1871–9 Nov 1913), Find a Grave Memorial no. 100879817, citing Grove Level Community Cemetery, Dalton, Whitfield County, Georgia, USA; maintained by kellison1904 (contributor 47303298).
  • Guy Speaker Overton, U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936–2007.
  • In Memoriam, Mrs. Nancy Overton, North-Georgia Citizen, Dalton, Georgia, March 31, 1910.
  • Move to Conyers, North-Georgia Citizen, Dalton, Georgia, February 24, 1910.
  • Mrs. J. H. Overton, Atlanta Georgian and News, Atlanta, Georgia, January 18, 1910.
  • Mrs. Will Quillian Died Last Saturday: Beloved Resident of Near Pleasant Grove Passed Away, North Georgia Citizen, Dalton, Georgia, September 20, 1917.
  • Overton-Quillian, North Georgia Citizen, Dalton, Georgia, November 21, 1907
  • Party, North-Georgia Citizen, Dalton, Georgia, January 30, 1908.
  • U.S. Federal Census, Civil District 6, Hamilton County, Tennessee, 1910.
  • U.S. Federal Census, Civil District 6, Hamilton County, Tennessee, 1910.
  • U.S. Federal Census, Conyers, Newton County, Georgia, 1860.
  • U.S. Federal Census, Lithonia, Diamonds District, DeKalb County, Georgia, 1870.
  • U.S. Federal Census, Little Rock Ward 1, Pulaski County, Arkansas, 1900.
  • U.S. Federal Census, Philips, DeKalb County, Georgia, 1880.
  • William Nolan T. Overton, U.S., World War II Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947.

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