This page updated September 12, 2009.
William Felbert Whitten was born in September 1896 in Attala County, Mississippi, the sixth child of Willie J. Whitten and Frances Cummings. Felbert grew up in both Winston and Attala Counties in the "hills" of central Mississippi.
Emma Mattie Lee Tanksley was born in June 1892, the oldest child of John L. Tanksley and Roanna Guynes. Her father, the Reverend J.L. Tanksley, was a minister (Baptist?) at both Doty Springs and Minnow Springs churches in Attala County, Mississippi. The Tanksley family lived most of the time in Attala County near the communities of Doty Springs and Minnow Springs, but they did live for a while around 1910 in eastern Winston County.
Felbert Whitten and Emma Tanksley married in 1914 in Attala County, Mississippi. Their application for marriage is interesting. Book L Page 638 of the Attala County, Mississippi marriage records shows that W.F. Whitten [Felbert] and H.L. Whitten [his brother Henry] appeared before the Circuit Clerk of Attala County on September 4, 1914 to apply for a marriage license for W.F. to marry "Miss Emma Tankersley". W.F. and H.L. signed the affidavit swearing that W.F. had "arrived at the age of twenty-one years, and [Emma] at at the age of eighteen years." According to census and cemetery records, Emma (born in 1892) would have been 22 years old at the time of their marriage. However, Felbert (born in 1896) would only have been 18 years old. It would appear that Felbert "misspoke" his age in order to receive his marriage license! Regardless, the Rites of Matrimony were celebrated between Felbert and Emma on September 7, 1914 by E.L. Taylor, Minister of God.
Felbert and Emma had three girls, Earline, Girvis, and Girtha, but their house was home to more than just the five of them. According to Girtha, Emma's sister Maggie lived with them for most of her adult life. The story goes that when Maggie was in her late teens (probably around 1920), Maggie and her father had a terrible argument, and Maggie went to live with her sister Emma for a while. She stayed. In fact, many years later, after Emma died in 1950, Felbert remarried to Maggie in 1951. The only great-grandmother I ever knew on my mother's side was "Aunt Maggie"! Took me a few years as a child to understand that strange relationship.
But in addition to Maggie, Felbert and Emma's household also included Felbert's niece and nephew. Felbert's brother, Ernest Whitten, married Claudia Simms in 1923, but sometime around 1928, Ernest and Claudie separated. According to Felbert's daughter Girtha, Claudie took her two children, Irene (then about 4) and James (still a toddler), to Felbert and Emma's house, gave the children to them, and left. She was never heard from again. Girtha said she remembered that James cried for his mother for days. In 1929, Felbert legally adopted the children as his own.
Felbert and Emma reared their family in both Attala and Winston County, Mississippi. Eventually they homesteaded some Sixteenth Section land in the Shiloh community of Winston County. Felbert often leased some of his farm land to sharecroppers, and my mother Louise, Felbert's granddaughter, remembers Felbert asking her as a child of nine to help him calculate the sharecroppers' end-of-the-year tabs owed to him for rent and supplies. He also served as constable for a while in the Shiloh community of Winston County.
Emma died in February 1950 from complications of breast cancer. She was buried in Doty Springs Cemetery near her parents. Felbert died in June 1974 and was buried beside Emma, also at Doty Springs. Maggie, Felbert's second wife and Emma's sister, lived at the "old home place" in the Shiloh community until her health failed about 1980. At that time, the homestead was leased (and later sold) to a farmer neighbor, and Maggie was moved to town. Maggie died in May 1984, but honoring her last wishes, she was buried beside her long-time friends and neighbors in the cemetery at Shiloh Church in Winston County instead of with Emma and her husband Felbert at Doty Springs Cemetery in Attala County.
William Felbert Whitten
Born: September 18, 1896 in Attala County, Mississippi
Married: (1) September 07, 1914 in Attala County, Mississippi
Died: June 03, 1974 in Jackson, Hinds County, Mississippi
Buried: Doty Springs Cemetery, Attala County, Mississippi
Father: Willie Jefferson Whitten
Mother: Frances Lucinda Cummings
Married: (2) April 28, 1951 in Louisville, Winston County, Mississippi
Spouse: (2) Maggie Leona Tanksley (no children from this marriage)
Emma Mattie Lee Tanksley
Born: June 18, 1892 in Attala County, Mississippi
Died: February 26, 1950 in Louisville, Winston County, Mississippi
Buried: Doty Springs Cemetery, Attala County, Mississippi
Father: John Limeul Tanksley
Mother: Roanna Guynes
Edgar and Earline reared their family in the Shiloh community of Winston County, Mississippi. They had six children: James Felbert (died in 1953), Cornelia, Duane, Bobby (died in 1979), Peggy and Linda. Earline was widely known for her famous coconut cake. She always laughed that it looked like "a cow stepped in it", but it was considered to be the best in the community. Fortunately, I've been told she passed her recipe on to her granddaughters!
Kirby and Girvis made their home in the Flower Ridge community in Winston County, Mississippi. They had three sons: Paul (a minister, died in 1986) and twins Hoyle and Doyle (Doyle died shortly after birth). Kirby died in 1999. I believe he was also buried at Memorial Park Cemetery.
The story of the day Girtha and Parkes married is a humorous one. Parkes' family of Whittens lived in northern Winston County and were no relation to Girtha's set of Whittens (click HERE for more information on Parkes' family). However, Parkes' grandmother Sue Whitten was a Mayo, and her two brothers Charlie and Bill Mayo settled in the Shiloh community near Girtha's parents. Felbert had warned Girtha not to "mess with that Parkes Whitten" because he was 14 years her senior, but on a dare from her aunt Maggie, Girtha began dating Parkes. Felbert, of course, disapproved of their relationship, so they decided they had to elope if they intended to marry. Girtha said it was cold, rainy, and maybe even sleeting, that day in April when they decided to elope. Girtha confided in her sister Girvis that she was getting married, and Girvis reportedly ran to her father's house to tell him what was going on. Girtha said Parkes' car (or the one he had borrowed) ran out of gas, and they had to walk several miles to get to the minister's house. For their wedding night, Parkes took his new bride to his parent's house located deep within the "hollers" of northern Winston County. Girtha could remember the road down the hill to her inlaw's house was very muddy. Rainsoaked and cold when they arrived at the house, Girtha greeted her new inlaws upon arriving then went straight to the fireplace and began stoking the fire. Parkes' mother Martha remarked that Girtha was already making herself at home!
Parkes and Girtha alternated between living with/near his parents, Jack and Martha Whitten, and near her parents, Felbert and Emma. Parkes was a cotton sharecropper, so he moved his family frequently, usually with the change of seasons and with the planting/harvesting of the crops. Girtha said she had moved thirteen times in her life! Parkes finally quit farming and moved his family "to town" in Louisville around 1958. He and Girtha had three children: Charles (who died in 1959), Louise (my mother), and Garvin. Parkes died in December 1982 and was buried beside his son Charles at Doty Springs Cemetery in Attala County, Mississippi.
W.F. Whitten bought land from M. and F. Bank March 16, 1916. Attala County, Mississippi Land Records Bk 34 Pg 533
Winston County, Mississippi Probate Records -- Chancery Clerk, Louisville, Mississipi
"Chancery Docket 4 "
Whitten, WF -- Expetition to adopt children #3639 -- OB of WF Whitten et al to adopt minor children named in bill filed September 20, 1928. Amended bill filed February 16, 1929. Nonresident publication issued February 16, 1929 to Claudie Whitten whose post office and st. address is unknown. Proof of publication filed March 27, 1929 (EMB 6 P 214)
"Chancery Court Minutes Book 6 Nov. 20, 1924 - Oct. 27, 1934"
Cause 3639 -- Whitten, W.F., Earnest Whitten, adults and Irene Whitten and James Whitten, minors, by their father Earnest Whitten as next friend vs Claudie Whitten: adoption of Irene and James by W.F. Whitten as his children and heirs. Granted March 27, 1929.
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