This page last updated March 17, 2002.
Willie Jefferson Whitten was born about March 1861 to Littleton "Gus" Whitten and Lucinda Pearlee Whitten. Family tradition holds that Willie J. was born in Pontotoc County, Mississippi, but on the 1900 census of Winston County, Mississippi, Willie was listed as being born in May 1859 in Arkansas. Finding his parents on the 1860 census could potentially clarify the question of date/location of his birth, but I have not yet been able to find them in 1860. The fact that his place of birth was listed as Arkansas is also a source of interest and controversy. Recent discoveries of land deeds to a Littleton Whitten in Arkansas circa 1865 have made descendants of this family question the long-held story that Littleton died in the Civil War. Willie's birthplace being listed in Arkansas has served to fuel that speculation.
Frances Lucinda "Fannie" Cummings was born in March 1866, probably in Attala County, Mississippi, to Willis W. Cummings and Lucinda Turner. The Cummings (or Cummins) family was a large, extended family of many siblings, cousins, and descendants who settled predominantly in Attala County, Mississippi around 1853. Fannie and Willie J. Whitten married sometime around 1883 (their first child was born in July 1884), and family tradition says that they were married in Attala County. However, the Attala County courthouse burned about 1893 so no marriage records exist for that time.
Cemetery records at Doty Springs Cemetery in Attala County show that Willie J. and Fannie lost three of their first five children. Their first baby, Joel, was born in July 1884 and died barely a year later in September 1885. Another baby, daughter Willie Fanny (nicknamed Sugar) was born in September 1887 or 1888 but only lived until 1890. Daughter Harriet, the first child to survive, was born either in May 1888 or 1891. Son Henry, the first son to survive, was born in November 1892. Another son, Willis, was born in November 1894 but only lived until age 5, dying in April 1899. The remaining six children born to this family all survived to adulthood.
Willie and Fannie moved their family several times between Winston and Attala Counties. As were most farming families of that era, their family was poor and often struggled to make ends meets. Fortunately, Willie had a close relationship with his brother, Reverend H.M. Whitten of Attala and Choctaw Counties. According to a story shared by H.M. with his grandson W.A. Whitten, Jr., during one occasion when Willie found himself in dire financial straits, H.M. allowed Willie and his family to live in a sharecropper's house on H.M.'s land. According to Willie's daughter Viola Steed, Willie J. was both a well-digger and a railroad worker, in addition to being a farmer. Viola said that Willie even moved to Louisiana in 1923 to find work.
Willie died in May 1928. I don't know the location of his death, but Viola told me Willie died in the Mississippi Delta. In fact, several of Willie and Fannie's children also moved to the Mississippi Delta. I am not sure how many of their children may have moved to the Delta and returned to the "hills" of Attala County, but their daughter Viola Steed and son Foster Whitten made their homes there. Foster and his wife Alma Jennings made their home in Shaw, Bolivar County, Mississippi. Viola and her husband Swinon Steed made their home just a few miles down the road in Doddsville, Sunflower County, Mississippi. In fact, it was at Viola's house in Doddsville that her mother Fannie Whitten died in September 1956. Willie J. and Fannie were buried in Doty Springs Cemetery in Attala County, Mississippi, alongside their three children lost at an early age and near their daughter Harriet Steed, Fannie's parents, and most of Fannie's siblings.
On a personal note for me, it was this cemetery that got me started in genealogy at the tender age of nine. Buried in this one cemetery is my grandfather (Parkes Whitten), my great-grandparents (Felbert Whitten and Emma Tanksley), Felbert's parents (Willie J. Whitten and Fannie Cummings), Fannie's siblings and parents (Willis Cummings and Lucinda Turner), Emma Tanksley's parents (J.L. Tanksley and Roanna Gwines), Roanna's mother (Elizabeth Mccool), and Elizabeth's parents (Thomas McCool and Rena Carroll). Five generations are all in one place, and each year from as early as I can remember until I moved away as an adult, my parents and grandparents would take me to this cemetery on the third weekend in May (Homecoming Weekend at Doty Springs Baptist Church) and would point out the locations of all my ancestors. Thus began my hobby of genealogy. Thanks.
Willie Jefferson Whitten
Born: March 27, 1861 in Pontotoc County, Mississippi
Married: About 1884 in probably Attala County, Mississippi
Died: May 18, 1928 in Mississippi Delta
Burial: Doty Springs Cemetery, Attala County, Mississippi
Father: Littleton Augustus Whitten
Mother: Lucinda Pearlee (Paralee) Whitten
Francis Lucinda Cummings
Born: March 26, 1866 in Attala County, Mississippi?
Died: September 9, 1956 in Doddsville, Sunflower, Mississippi
Burial: Doty Springs Cemetery, Attala County, Mississippi
Father: Willis W. Cummings
Mother: Lucinda Turner
Harriet and Hillman had four children: two daughters named Coy (married a Mangrum) and Eva (married a Ray) and two sons named Aaron and Maron. Harriet was afflicted with rheumatoid arthritis.
Foster and Alma made their home in Shaw, Bolivar County, Mississippi, just a few miles away from his sister Viola. They had six children: Allene (died 1992), Guyton (died 1984), Hilda, Helen, Joyce, and Imogene. Foster and Viola said they never knew who was the older and had argued about it all of their lives. Finally, about 1991, I discovered by reading the 1900 census for Winston County, Mississippi that Foster was born in 1897. This date corresponds to the date listed on a note found in Felbert Whitten's papers. It was my pleasure to solve this mystery for Aunt Viola before she died; unfortunately, Uncle Foster died before I could tell him the news.
Viola and Swinton made their home in Doddsville, Sunflower County, Mississippi. It was at Viola's house in Doddsville that her mother Fannie died. Viola and Swinon had four children: Talmadge (died after 1987), Albert Earl, Clariss (died at 18 months), and Milton (died 1978). Swinton and Viola were enumerated in Bolivar County, Mississippi on the 1920 census.
According to oral history, Ernest suffered a head injury as a very small child--perhaps in the form of a blow to the head by a garden hoe. As a probable result of this injury, Ernest suffered mental instability as a child and as an adult. Although no one knows for sure why, sometime around 1928, Ernest and his wife Claudie separated. Girtha Whitten, daughter of Ernest's brother Felbert, told me that Claudie took their two children, Irene (then about 4) and James (still a toddler), to Felbert Whitten's house, gave the children to Felbert and his wife Emma, and left. She was never heard from again. Girtha said she remembered that James cried for his mother days. Then in 1929, Felbert adopted the children as his own. Ernest never remarried, but he did go on to father two more illegitimate children with local women. In his older years, Ernest went to live with Felbert full time. I remember as a small child visiting Felbert and his second wife, Maggie, that Uncle Ernest was always in their spare bedroom, and I was afraid of him. He would often walk off down the road to an abandoned house and stay gone all day, presumably to "suck eggs", as Aunt Maggie put it. Ernest was eventually placed in the Winston County Nursing Home in Louisville, Mississippi, where he died.
I don't know very much at all about Phillip's family. My grandmother Girtha and her two sisters told me that Phillip and Louise had three children: two sons (one named James) and a daughter. Phillip's tomb at Clarkson Cemetery states "Phillip Whitten, husband of Louise Garnder Whitten". Perhaps Louise's family was from the Webster County area? Phillip's tombstone also shows a birthdate of April 23, 1909. The birthdate shown above of July 1903 came from Viola Steed's Bible.
Like Phillip, I know very little about Vertis Whitten Spears. Aunt Viola told me that Vertis married Camel Spears, but I don't know where their family lived. My grandmother and her sisters told me that Vertis and Camel had two sons: James and Billy Wade. Vertis was buried at Doty Springs, but Camel was not. Aunt Viola told me that Camel died in Greenwood, Leflore County, Mississippi, but I do not know where he was buried.
1900 Winston County, Mississippi Census: Enum Dist 103 T14 R11 B5
June 19, 1900 -- Dwelling 215, Family 218, Sheet 13B, Line 72
Whitten, William -- Head, born Mar 1859, age 41, married 16 yrs, born AR, Parents born TN/TN
Whitten, Lucinda F. -- Wife, born Mar 1865, age 35, Mother 7 children/4 living, born MS, Parents born AL/AL
Whitten, Harriet -- Dau, born May 1891, age 9
Whitten, Henry -- Son, born Nov 1892, age 7
Whitten, Falbert -- Son, born Sept 1895, age 4
Whitten, Foster -- Son, born June 1897, age 2
1910 Attala County, Mississippi Census: (per W.A. Whitten)
Whitten, Joel W.
Whitten, Lucinda F.
Whitten, William F., age 13
Whitten, Jack F., age 11
Whitten, Viola, age 8
Whitten, Marion E., age 7
Whitten, Letha B., age 3
Whitten, Phillip, age 11/12
Whitten, Henry L.
Note found in possessions of Felbert Whitten after his wife Maggie died:
Copied June 23, 1989 by Mary K. White
Author of note unknown.
Location of note now unknown.
(QUOTE)This is like I have got.
Joel Wase Born July 20, 1884
Suger ""   ""   Sept 7, 1887
Harritt ""   ""   May 30, 1891
Hinry   ""   ""   Nov 25, 1892
Filbert  ""   ""   Sept. 1896
Foster Wase Born June 1897
Viola   ""   ""   Sept. 1899
Ernest Wase Born July 1902
Filbert This is like I found--it wase so dim to you can harly see it. But I no it what was on the other paper. (END QUOTE)
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