Dallas County Queries | Jul-Dec 1998


I am searching for Lillian WILBURN. She was my great-aunt. Her father’s name was Milo WILBURN and her mother’s name was SARAH ANN ELIZABETH CLEMENT NORRIS WILBURN. When Sarah’s first husband died, she married Milo. They had Lillian and then divorced. When Lillian was of age, Sarah ran her off, which is the story that we have all been told. She was not heard from again. Later someone sent a picture of Lillian and her husband (we think) Leroy or Leon Johnson. I have been searching for this woman for two years and still have no leads I did find a Lillian Wilburn on the SSDI that had info stating the last know residence was Selma, AL. If there is anyone out there that can shed a little light on Aunt Lillian, I would be very grateful. 


I am searching for information on my grandfather and his ancestors. He was born Charles James Blum, October 29, 1856, in Selma, Dallas Co. Al. He was the son of Frederick and Margaretha Elizabeth Blum. They came to Selma after 1852 and had two sons, Charles James and Henry, born in Selma and maybe a daughter. I am wondering if anyone has any information on this family. I believe they eventually moved on to Pensacola, FL. Be glad to share information. 


I am looking for information on Levi Oley Martin. He was born 9-19-1882 in Central Mills Al. His parents were George Abner Martin and Annie N. Huggins. Thank You. 


My ancestor, Elmira (Mirah, Mariah) DUNN b. 1810 GA and a person I believe to be her brother, Joseph H. DUNN b. 1795 GA, arrived in Dallas Co. in 1822. Joseph bought land up near Summerfield and more northeast of Valley Grande. They both married into the Phelps HAYNES family in the 20s and moved over into Perry Co. Joseph later moved to Tallapoosa Co. and then to TX. Elmira ended up in MS. Need any family connections to Joseph H. and Elmira Dunn. 


Seeking info on descendants of Arthur Council Wingate b.1757 in NC. His wife died in 1816 in NC. In 1816 He moved to Alabama where he was appointed coroner of Dallas Co. on Feb. 23, 1818. He died in Dallas Co. in 1820. Arthur is not listed in the 1820 census of Dallas Co. Al. so we can only assume he died before it was taken. Only an Edward Wingate is listed in that census; I would also like info on him. Thank You Very Much. 


I am searching for info. on my grandmother JTAB. She is listed in the 1850 Dallas Co. census as being the 22 yr. old wife of H.S. Blackburn, a warehouse keeper from Tenn. At that time she had 2 children, W.J., a 2 yr. old male and A.A. (Adosia) a 5-month old F. I have been told that in later years Josephine either owned or ran a boarding house, but I have no proof. Any info. would be appreciated. 

Henry S.(Sherwood?) Blackburn was born in either Va or Tenn. in 1807 or 1808.  He married Josephine T. Adams in Dallas Co. on 11 July 1846.  He was involved in politics in Selma and is listed in the 1850 & 1860 Dallas Co. census.  I would like to know what the S stands for, where he was from & who his parents were.  Any help is appreciated. 


Looking for Joab Mosley/Moseley and wife Loney.  Had at least 3 children – Thomas, William (“Red Bill”), and Anne.  Joab came from the Carolinas and settled in Old Cahaba, AL where at least one child, William, was born.  Any help is appreciated. 


The main surname line I am researching is AVANT.  Francis AVANT’s widow was Elizabeth.  She remarried a LEOPARD ca. 1828 in Dallas County.  The AVANT children from her first marriage were:  Catherine M. Avant who married David D. DUMAS; Mary Avant who married James DOWNES;  Nancy Ann Avant (sometimes shown as Mary or Ann) married John G. O’NEAL;  Lucy T. Avant who married William Hall; Nathan T. Avant who married Theodocia Wilson …

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History of Gee’s Bend


Long before Gee’s Bend was ever known, it was Indian land. It is thought that, in the sixteenth century, Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto visited an Indian village on a creek in this area before he pushed on toward his death in Mississippi. Four hundred years later, “black” people live there who claim Indian blood. Some have Indian surnames. Others have Indian characteristics.

Note 1: De Soto’s Trail through the Southeast

The first recorded white resident to live in the area was Joseph Gee, a planter from Halifax, North Carolina, who came in 1816, established a plantation, and named the place for himself. Upon his death in 1824, he left 47 black slaves. Two of his North Carolina nephews, Sterling and Charles Gee, came to Alabama in the hopes of inheriting his estate. During the legal manoeuvrings, Sterling inherited a family estate back home and returned to live there. Charles became manager of the Gee’s Bend plantation. Some people say the Bend accommodated a slave-trading operation for the Gees between Alabama and North Carolina.

Note 2: Joseph Gee and 18 slaves are enumerated in the 1820 Alabama Census.

Note 3: Charles, Joseph, Sterling H. and William F. Gee original land patents on the Bureau of Land Management site. Plugin Gee as Patentee’s Last Name and select Wilcox County from the pull-down menu.

In 1845 the two Gee brothers owed $29,000 to their relative Mark H. Pettway. As a settlement, they have him Gee’s Bend. A year later, Pettway and his family moved there in a caravan with a hundred or more slaves. Except for one cook, the slaves literally walked from North Carolina toGee’s Bend.

The 10,000-acre plantation retained “Gee” for its name but the name of each of the slaves became “Pettway”, a name that has prevailed in Wilcox County until the present day. Today, if someone from Gee’s Bend is named Pettway, he or she is a descendant or married to a descendant of those Mark Pettway wagon-train slaves who walked from North Carolina.

After emancipation, the black Pettway’s remained on the land as tenants or sharecroppers.

Members of the Pettway family held the land until 1895 when they sold their 4000 acres and left.

In 1900, Attorney Adrian Sebastian VandeGraaff of Tuscaloosa acquired the land that the Pettway’s had sold to others and added another 3000 acres. For the first 16 years of ownership, a family uncle lived at Sandy Hill, the “big house” and former residence of the Pettway’s, as supervisor. After his death, other white, family-appointed overseers were in charge. The Vandegraaffs held the land as absentee landlords until 1937 when they sold all the land to the United States government.

Because of its location, 18 miles from Alberta and surrounded on three sides by the bridgeless Alabama River, Gee’s Bend was isolated. It was only 7 miles or so from the county seat of Camden but the only mode of transportation across the river was a makeshift ferry that operated when weather permitted. The road to Alberta was clouded with dust in dry weather and covered in mud in the rainy season. The land route to Alberta and then by state road to Camden was more than 40 miles one way.

Reverend Renwick Kennedy wrote stories about Gees Bend for the Christian Century in the 1930s. In 1937 he wrote: “Gee’s Bend represents not merely a geographic configuration drawn by the yellow pencil of the river. Gee’s Bend represents another civilization. Gee’s Bend is an Alabama Africa. There is no more concentrated and racially exclusive Negro population in any rural community in the South than in Gee’s Bend.”

The Depression

When the Depression hit, the price of cotton fell to 5 cents a pound so, although Benders took their crops to Camden to cover debts to the merchant who advanced them credit, the price was too low to cover the debts. The merchant continued to advance them credit for the next three years and stored the cotton in a warehouse hoping for better times and higher prices. To secure the debts, he obtained chattel liens on the possessions of 60 families. He was the only one to maintain records of …

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