Why I wrote the Free State of Jones

Portrait of Newt Knight by Vikki Bynum

I wrote the book Free State of Jones for professional and personal reasons. As both a historian and an individual, I am on the hunt for ordinary people who commit extraordinary acts. I am especially drawn to those who confront systems of power in unlikely ways alongside unlikely allies. In Civil War Jones County, Mississippi, deep in the so-called “solid” South, some 100 ordinary white farmers banded together to fight against the Confederate Army (a few of my distant kin were among them). Doing so earned them the label of outlaws. But outlaw means different things to different people. To pro-Confederate Mississippians, these were cowardly deserters. The core members of the Knight band, however, viewed themselves as principled Unionists. 

In my book, I struggled against writing a “Great Man” history; I did not want to portray Newt Knight as the “Rambo” of Jones County dissent. Rather, I dug deep into historical records from NC, SC, GA, and MS, to uncover the cultural and class roots of those families who contributed the greatest number of participants in the Jones County uprising. I emphasized how earlier historical events–for example, the American Revolution and the opening of the Southwestern frontier–shaped attitudes toward authority and government among these plain folks of the Old South.

The Civil War constituted a crisis of authority for many such Southerners, especially those who lived outside the plantation belt. Newt Knight did not singlehandedly create the Knight band, although he became its charismatic leader. By his own admission, the Civil War transformed his life and his character. Would Newt have developed an open relationship with his grandfather’s former slave, Rachel, one that led to creation of a mixed-race community that thrives today, had the war not erupted? Would he have become a New South Republican after the war? Like all important figures of history, Newt was as much shaped by his times as he in turn shaped them.  I hope that you are as fascinated by the history of this renegade county as I am. On Newt Knight, see also the post, “Did Jones County Secede From the Confederacy?”

Vikki Bynum

49 replies »

  1. Read the book. Thoroughly enjoyed. We are finally getting to the 2nd Revision of Southern History that will hopefully put right some of the damage done to it by the Lost Causers.

  2. Just recieved a copy of The Free State of Jones for my birthday. I’m looking forward to reading it. In Appendix 7, the Descendants of the Welch Family, it shows Judith Welch married to James Knight. Is this James Knight, Newt’s brother?

  3. Hi Alice,

    Hope you like the book!

    According to my notes, yes, that Judith Welch (Juda) is the Juda Welch who married James Knight, Newt Knight’s brother. In the 1880 census she is a widow living with two of their children: Henry, age 20, and James, age 18. Martha Welch, age 40, also lived with her.

    Vikki

  4. I just started reading the Jenkens/Stauffer book and am quite disappointed.
    The authors missed so many basic facts, that I found myself wondering how much I could believe. For example: they described the muskets as weighing 18 lbs! (maybe two with 40 cartridges might weigh that) On another page, they described the sound of musket hammers falling on gunpowder. On the standard muskets used by both sides, the hammers fell on percussion caps producing a sharp snap, not the pfft they claimed.

    I finally gave up when Knight (maybe) kills McLemore, and the authors claimed the others in the room had eyes filled with cordite smoke. Cordite was a smokeless propellant invented in England a quarter of a century after the end of the Civil War.

    They lost all credibility at about page 134.

    I am ordering a copy of your book from my local bookstore, and am looking forward to reading it.

  5. David,

    Thank you for your careful reading of Stauffer and Jenkins’s State of Jones, and for sharing your observations here.

    In appreciation,
    Vikki

    • Thanks for visiting Renegade South, James. That East Tennessee region eventually links up with the NC Piedmont in terms of anti-Confederate attitudes; many of the same factors at work as well.

      Vikki

  6. Thanks,
    I’ve posted on the Shelton Laurel Massacre on the Southern Unionist Forum and also told the story of my Morrow ancestors in a TN Mounted Infantry unit.

  7. Dear Vicki,

    I have been working on my family genealogy for quite some time and I am happy to say that I just got “The Free State of Jones” yesterday and could hardly put it down.

    My wife is a Lyon and the 3rd Great Granddaughter of Jasper Collins. She also has connections with the Welborn, Anderson, and Powell families. I am intrigued with the events of Jones and Jasper counties during the time of the Civil War and Reconstruction.

    My selfish interest however, is with trying to understand the events surrounding the murder of my Great Great Grandfather, Frederick Marshall Bethier “Marsh” Cook. He was born on his father’s plantation in 1846 and was a white republican in Jasper County. He was shot down by several men while campaigning as the Republican nominee for the constitutional convention in 1890.

    Marsh’s son John H. Cook (US Attorney) wrote in his memoirs about his father trying to keep the peace while helping the blacks vote on voting days after the Civil War. I can only wonder if he knew Newt Knight and Jasper Collins.

    I had to ask if you have run across any information about this in your research. I was appalled when I read the Clarion Ledger newspaper article that “congratulated” the people of Jasper County on the “killing of cook.” The newspaper article from Ellisville gave a much more complementary account of Marsh’s character and gave condolences from the Farmers Alliance. It is no wonder that Marsh’s family moved to Ellisville soon after the murder.

    The only other hint that I could find that may tie Marsh to the Collins and Lyon families during that time was the fact that after the murder the man that accompanied Marsh’s brother (Dr. John H. Cook, Jr.) to Gov. Stone’s office was Elijah W. Lyon of Jasper. The men told the governor that they knew who had committed the deed and requested that the case be moved to the US court for fear of injustice. The venue change was not granted and no one was ever convicted for the crime.

    I have not been able to research Elijah Lyon very much yet but I do know that he is buried in Evergreen/Ebenezer Cemetery in Jasper Co. and has a Union Army Headstone. I believe he was known as the Union Confederate.

    Thanks for any incite that you may have,

    Robert Cook, Jr.

  8. Dear Robert,

    I’m delighted to hear that you enjoyed my book, Free State of Jones. Your own stories are fascinating; thanks for writing!

    In regard to your wife’s family line, I have written a good deal about the Collins (and Lyon) families in my new book, The Long Shadow of the Civil War. In it, I devote an entire chapter to Jasper Collins and his brother, Warren J. Collins’s participation in populist and third party politics from 1895-1910. Jasper and his son Loren founded Ellisville’s only populist newspaper in 1895.

    I’m not familar with the Cook family of Jasper County, but will check my files to see if I might have material on any of them in my notes. I know that an Isaac Cook joined the Union Army in New Orleans from the research of Ed Payne.

    It appears that you and your wife come from families that likely were closely aligned politically–and probably did know one another. I’ll post again if I find relevant material in my files.

    Vikki

  9. Dear Vikki,
    I too am a distant relative of the Knight family. Newt was my g,g,g.g uncle. I have read your book and I LOVED it! It really doesn’t mention too much about his siblings. Do you know what was his relationship with his brother John? You also mentioned the possibility of Mary Mason being of African decent wouldn’t that make Newt & his siblings mulatto? Also, what line does Ethel Knight fit into?

    Thank you,
    Charlotte Fawcett

  10. Charlotte,

    Thanks for your kind words about my book. I don’t know a lot about Newt Knight’s siblings, but his one and only surviving letter, written in 1887, was to his brother John, then living in Arkansas.

    It was actually the author James Street who suggested that Mary Mason Knight was of African descent, but he shrouded that suggestion in a work of fiction. It seems to have been a rumor that he worked into his novel Tap Roots. Since no one has produced documentation of Mary Mason’s ancestry, it remains a rumor.

    Ethel Knight was descended from James Knight, son of John “Jackie” and Keziah Knight, and the uncle of Newt Knight. She also married a Knight. Her husband, Sydney Knight, was descended from Daniel and Elizabeth Coleman Knight. Daniel Knight, too, was a son of Jackie and Keziah Knight.

    Vikki

    • Vikki, I am trying to find info on my G Grandmother Mary Mason Knight Valentine ,who was James Morgan Knight 2 nd wife. He is my G Grandfather. My Grandmother is Laveda Valentine Knight.who was married to Wyatt Davis Knight. Also I have a direct line from Miles Jesse Knight.John “Jackie” Knight. Jefferson Davis Knight,George Baylis ( Clean Neck ) Knight. Wyatt Davis (Squier) Knight.Ollis Knight Roney. I am her daughter Betty Roney Anderson Saye..I have been reading your writings about the Newt Knight Family and enjoyed it so much.i had heard about Newt in my childhood. But,never knew the whole line until I recently started to search. You are so knowledgeable . Hope you know something about Mary Mason Knight Valentine. From your research ,found out James Morgan Valentine was 1st Lt. of Newt Knight.. So interesting .. Thank you.

  11. Ms. Vikki,

    Oh how I wish I even knew how to work my question into words. I am trying to determine my relation, if any, to this line of “Knights.” I am Candie Dianne Knight Ryals. My difficulty lies in that both my Father (C.M. Knight), my Mother, my Grandfather Knight, his wife, all of my Uncles (ie. their children) are dead. I have recently come in contact with someone here in AK, who is also a Knight and from Mississippi. He suggested I look into your book. I have yet to located a copy here in Alaska that I can purchase. I know that my family hails from Mississippi, and I was raised in Vicksburg. Most of our family is from Union, Decatur, or around the Hattisburg area. It is more important to me than one might imagine to have some thread of reality to men and women of my family that my children will never know this side of Heaven. How on earth would I go about determining such? I have a handful of names but only those of my father, his brothers, and my grandparents. Would you have any thoughts or guidance in this area?

    Thank you kindly!
    Warmly, from the very cold state of Alaska,
    Candie Knight Ryals

    • Hi Candie,

      Please write again and supply this site with all the family names and their relationships to one another that you are able. With your Hattiesburg connection, there’s an excellent chance that you are connected to the Knights of Jones County. If I can’t find connections in my files, there’s still a good chance that readers of Renegade South can. We have some great researchers and genealogists who check in regularly!

      p.s. Free State of Jones can be purchased online through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or directly from the University of North Carolina Press.

      Good luck,
      Vikki

  12. Thank you kindly, Ms. Vikki,

    Do you, or any of the other readers, recommend a site for developing & researching your family tree? The names and relations I have are below. I know they are not many and there are none living to ask. So much lost and so sad to me.

    Me: Candie Knight Ryals (I have a younger sister, Kelley Knight Clark)

    My Father: Connie Mac “Butch” Knight (also called C.M. “Butch” Knight)
    I know he was born Dec 25 1949. I am not sure if he was born in Chunky, MS or Union, MS. He died on July 9, 1996. He was the youngest son to:

    My Grandfather: Edwin Garfield Knight (no idea on his birth or death date)
    He was married to my Grandmother: Mary Ruth Cleveland Knight

    My Uncles: They had three sons: Leonard Knight, Terry Knight and my Father, Connie Mac “Butch” Knight

    My Great Grandparents: I know nothing of my Grandfather “Ed” Knight’s parents. I don’t think my dad knew his grandfather, but I recall him saying his grandmother (Ed Knight’s mother) chewed tobacco and scared him.

    My Cousin: I do know that there is one cousin who is my second cousin…my Father’s first cousin who knew my father. His name is Jackie Knight and he is the sheriff of Newton County in Mississippi.

    I know my Grandfather Ed Knight was principal of many schools and went to University of Southern Mississippi for further education to move to superintendent of schools. They moved a lot: Union, Chunky, Jackson, Ridgeland. I also knew growing up that USM in Hattisburg was the “home.” This was more than cheering for a football team. To choose some place outside Southern was to go against the family, so to speak.

    Also, my father went into the ministry later in my life and was a preacher at Rocky Springs United Methodist Church and then the pastor at Redwood United Methodist Church..and Eagle Lake United Methodist Church. He died while pastor of that church, which they name the new wing of the church after him as he had designed the wing himself. Eagle Lake now has the “KNIGHT WING” for those interested to know such.

    I feel honored and indebted to anyone who takes any amount of time to advise.

    Much appreciated,
    Candie Knight Ryals

    • Thanks, Candie. I’ll check my files for any references to the names you’ve supplied, and I especially hope some of the Knight researchers who read this blog will do the same.

      As for sites of family research, Ancestry.com is a good place to visit, as is Rootsweb.

      Any suggestions from readers?

      Vikki

    • Candie,

      I have checked my Knight files and found no references to the members of your family that you have named. By no means does that negate the possibility that they are part of the family line, as my files are incomplete genealogically. (I collected them for the purpose of writing my histories of the Free State of Jones, and they are therefore selective in their focus.)

      Unless a Knight researcher comes forward on Renegade South, your best bet in my view is to visit the genealogical sites online, especially “Genforum.” Ancestry.com has a wealth of information, but you do have to pay a rather hefty subscription fee to access all their records.

      Good luck; wish I could be more helpful.

      Vikki

      • Hi Vikki:
        Its been a long time. Seems we are related to the same Collins line. My ancestor Dempsey Dyess was married to Martha Collins. I’m just getting back into research. We have previously talked about Newt Knight and William Morgan while you were in the process of finishing your book the last time.

    • To Pamela Mann: Thanks for your comment. I do indeed remember our email conversations about the Dyess connection to the Collinses, and most especially our discussions of William Morgan, and the mystery about which Wm. Morgan married Newt Knight’s sister and was allegedly murdered by Newt during the war. If you make any new discoveries now that you’ve returned to your research, please let us know here on Renegade South!

      Vikki

  13. Thank you for all you have done, Ms. Vikki. I look forward to connecting some of the missing pieces on the recommended resources above.

    Blessings,
    Candie Knight Ryals

  14. I’m a direct decendant of Riley Collins, Jasper’s brother. One of my cousin’s brags that he has more Collins in him. His mother, grandmother and great grandmother were all Collins. He is a Walters from Jones County. The Knight’s are all cousins, too. And we are, also.

    • All too true, Robert! And BTW, Renegade South’s popular blogger, Ed Payne, has both Collins and Walters kinship, too. I myself am cousin to all those Collinses whose ancestors intermarried with Bynums (Vinson, Margaret, and Simeon).

  15. Vikki,

    Thank you for researching and telling as much of the true story as possible: good, bad and downright ugly. Without your hard work starting nearly 20 years ago, I fear some of us would be left with Ethel Knight’s unsubstantiated, racist indictment of the Jones County C.S.A. insurgents, or counter-rebels, as the primary account of this fascinating sub-chapter of Civil War history.

    I have purchased and read both your book, “The Free State of Jones: Mississippi’s Longest Civil War,” and The State of Jones. My maternal great-grandmother was a Knight from the Jones County Knight family. I also grew up in Jones County, but came there in 1973 at 8 via my Dad’s job transfer–with no other relative besides my long-since-gone great-grandmother ever having lived there.

    In the late 1970s (I believe) my mom and dad took my grandmother to a Knight family reunion–the one and only time. The only thing I recall about that is my Dad coming home with a copy of Ethel Knight’s “Echo of the Black Horn.” I never read it. From all accounts, I’m glad I did not, as a then somewhat impressionable 13-year-old. I’m now a civil litigator in Mobile, Alabama and would like to read it from the perspective of staring down my South’s sick past.

    I have been trying to determine the Knight from which I descended on your Jackie Knight family tree. Appx. I, p. 192-193. I have hit a wall for my online research abilities. I found that my great-grandmother Alice Knight was born in 1889 or 1890 in Jones County, was married to AC (or Claude a/k/a A Feland) Stringer in December 1908, then my grandmother (Irma Lee Stringer) was born in 1915.

    The only clue I have to a possible ancestor is what Ethel Knight told my Dad in the late 70’s–that Alice Knight’s father or grandfather was the Dan Thomas Knight referenced on page 113 of “Echo”:

    “At first the men in hiding were approached by relatives who insisted that they come out and return to the Confederate army, or at least, to protect the good name of their kinsmen, join the Union forces in an honorable manner. Three of the first to contact Newt by volunteering to do this service were cousins of the Deserter. One of this group was Alpheus Knight. The other two were Dan Thomas Knight and John Knight”

    Do you have any suggestions on where else I might look? Either on the internet or in public records. I am planning on taking trips in the coming months to Laurel, Hattiesburg and Jackson to look at some of the unpublished source materials listed in your bibliography.

    Thank you again for the education and enlightenment.

    Sincerely,

    W. Perry Hall

    • Dear Cousin Perry Hall, I am a novice at genealogy. My Aunt Irma Lee Stringer Edmondson was raised by Amos CLAUDE Stringer and his second wife Virgie. Virgie had been a school teacher. Claude was a share cropper, mechanic, mailman and at one time a bus driver in Hattisburg. His first wife, Alice M. Knight, my grandmother, died of septicemia shortly after child birth to a son in 1921. Alices’ sister took and tried to raise the enfant but it died within months of birth. My mother, Loray India Stringer Dengler, b.1919- d. 2012 told many stories about her Grandmaw, India Alice Warren Knight. Grandma received a civil war pension. One of my earliest memories was visiting my mothers Aunt Lanney on the Knight family homestead in rural Miss. My mothers paternal half sister, Nelda is alive and well in Mobile, Ala. At present I am trying to figure out if my great grandfather, Daniel T. Knight was the same Knight that fathered four illigitamate children by his Grandfather, John Jackie Knights’ slave girl, Harriet Carter Ward.
      .Hope this helps with your research. Respectfully, Your Cousin, John Franklin Dengler (Jdengler47@comcast.net)

      • Thank you, John Dengler, for your thoughtful reply to W. Perry Hall! I’m sure he’ll find the information useful.

        Vikki

  16. W. Perry Hall,

    Thank you for taking the time to write to Renegade South, and I truly appreciate your kind words about my research and my book, The Free State of Jones.

    Daniel Thomas Knight was the son of James “Dry” Knight and Harriet Youngblood. He was the grandson of John “Jackie” Knight and Keziah Davis. He was a first cousin to Newt Knight.

    Your great-grandmother, Alice Knight Stringer, was the daughter of Daniel Thomas Knight and his second wife, India Warren. There is quite a bit on this branch, including a portrait of Dan Thomas and India (p. 186), and a 1914 family reunion group portrait (p. 189) that includes your great-grandmother, Alice, in the book, THE FAMILY OF JOHN “JACKIE” KNIGHT AND KEZIAH DAVIS KNIGHT, jointly written by Winnie Knight thomas, Earle W. Knight, Lavada Knight Dykes, and Martha Kaye Dykes Lowery. Although this book is no longer in print, you will find it on the shelves at the Laurel Public Library.

    In addition to visiting the collections that I referenced in my book, I recommend that you contact the Jones County Genealogical Association when you visit Jones County.

    I share your criticisms of Ethel Knight’s rendering of the story of the Free State of Jones, but, like you, I also appreciate the many stories that she saved from oblivion when she wrote ECHO OF THE BLACK HORN. That book will always be an important starting place for historians, alongside Tom Knight’s memoir of his father’s life.

    Best of luck with your research, and let me know if I can answer any more questions. I also invite all descendants of the Dan Thomas Knight line to respond to your post with insights and research of their own.

    Vikki
    Moderator

  17. Vikki,

    Just finished the book and I just wanted to tell you how much I thoroughly enjoyed it. It provided me with a wealth of knowledge.

    As a descendant of many of the families you discuss in the book, the insight you provide into their lives as they made their way in early Mississippi is invaluable and, sometimes, extremely sobering. My sixth great-grandfather was Williams Duckworth (through his son George Washington Duckworth, born about 1820) and, in addition, I am descended from Sumralls as well (though I’m not sure quite where the line goes…my fourth great-grandfather was named Green Berry Sumrall, born about 1833).

    In addition, as a librarian and as a history buff, your book provided hours of entertainment and education.
    Again, thank you so much for writing the book.

    Brandon Shoumaker, MLIS
    Lake Charles, La.

  18. Loved the book, am reading it again. Allen Valentine was my 2nd great grandfather. I looked at the picture of him and Cinthia Welch in my granny’s hall for years and now I have a story to go with the faces.. Thanks for making him come to life for me. Emily Fairley Rouse, Great granddaughter of Warren “Tug” Valentine…

    • I so appreciate your taking the time to comment, Emily. It gives me great satisfaction to know that the book helped bring your ancestors’ lives into closer view.

      Vikki

      • Thanks for this blog! I’m a great grand daughter of Rufus U. Lyon, youngest son of Nicholas Lyon. I’ve been researching Elijah W. Lyon today to get his conflicting Civil War story straight. All the comments on your blog are very helpful and I will follow up by reading your book. Elijah W. Lyon enlisted in the 27th Regiment of the Mississippi Infantry Co H CSA. He was captured and sent to Camp Chase Ohio. On 3rd June 1863 he enlisted in Co F 11th Ohil Cavalry, a unit of 36 Union soldiers and 67 CSA POWs. His subsequent service with this unit was on the Overland Trail into Dakota Territory. Family stories indicate that he arrived home in Jasper County MS in chains. Some records indicate that he was a medical doctor, not a dentist. He did not invent Dr. Lyons toothpowder; that was the invention of Dr.Israel Whitney Lyon of Needham MA 1827-1907, who made a fortune from this product.

        If you ever visit Jasper Co, do stop at Evergreen/Ebenezer Cemetery to the west of Heidelberg. It is on Co Rd 8 in Barton Green’s pasture. This was the cemetery for Ebenezer Baptist Church, rebuilt closer to town on HWY8. The little cemetery is lovely with wildflowers among the graves. Google it! Elijah’s grave always has a US flag so someone still knows about him. His son Rufus ordered his stone from the US govt in the 1930’s. And by the way, Nicholas Lyon was killed by Indians as he rode by the old Ebenezer church in 1858. Again, thanks for opening some new avenues of research.

        Judi Robertson

  19. I am a great great granddaughter of Matt Kilgore (mostly legally known as M.T.G. Kilgore), the sheriff/deputy sheriff shown in your book. A lot of the names in your book show up in my family tree somewhere. I am attempting to wade through the book for the second time, and although it is a struggle, I appreciate your attention to detail and the fact that you have sourced your findings. I currently have the book in print as well as downloaded to Kindle, my phone, and my tablet so that I have it with me for reference when I am doing other searches in Jones County.

    • Hi Dorthy,

      How nice to hear from you, and I’m so glad that you are finding information on your family in Free State of Jones! Every time I include a story in one of my books or articles about a particular person, I find myself hoping that perhaps their descendants will learn something new about their ancestors. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment here, and I’m just delighted that you are enjoying your own research so much.

      Best of luck,
      Vikki

  20. A set of Edgefield Co SC deeds adds a generation to the Summerall family of Jones Co MS, and also suggests the parentage of Patsy Summerlin.

    Edgefield Co SC Deed Book 11, pp. 11-14. 23 Jan 1793: Power of Atttorney, Thomas Sumerlin of the Creek Nation, Yeoman, here unto moving…appoint John Weldon of Fairfield County, Yeoman, to sell two tracts of land. S/ Thomas (X) Sumerlin, Executed before Alexander McGillivray of Creek Nation.
    27 May 1794: before Joseph Hightower, J.P. appeared Benjamin Derant [sic: Durant, husband of Sophia McGillivray] who duly swore that the said Derant now lives on the Allabama River when at home near the intersection of Talapoocy & Coosey Rivers in the Creek Indian Nation that about one year ago he heard Thomas Summerall otherwise called Thomas Summerlin said he lived heretofore on Horns Creek in Ninety Six Dist. & that he had employed John Weldon of Fairfield Co, in Camden Dist., SC to sell lands belonging to said Sumerall, which lay on Horns in Ninety Six Dist. He further states that he married a sister of Alexander McGelvery who appears as a Subscribing witness to the deed & he is acquainted with the handwriting of said Alexander McGilvery, Federal Brigadier General & he further sayeth that the said Alexander McGilvery is dead. S/ Benj. Derant.
    10 Jun 1794: before Joseph Hightower, J.P. appeared John Weldon of Fairfield Co. SC & made oath concerning the power of attorney given him…Rcd. 10 Jan 1794.
    pp. 14-21. 22 May 1794. John Weldon, Yeoman of Fairfield Co. SC, Camden Dist. SC, attorney of Thomas Summerlin, Hunter, of the Alabama River in the Creek Nation in the State of Georgia, to John Rainford, Planter of Edgefield Co SC for 40 pounds, is & shall be discharged by & with one gilding [gelding] worth 35 pounds & one rifle worth 5 pounds, sold 100 acres liable to the right of dower of An [Ann] Summerall, Widow of Jacob Summerall, dec’d., being on Horns Creek & originally granted 3 Nov 1770 unto Jacob Summerall, Senr., dec’d., & sold by said Jacob Summerall, Senr. to his son, Thomas Summerall. S/ John Weldon. Wit: Richard Withington, John Hall, who swore by oath 28 May before Joseph Hightower. Rcd. 10 Jun 1794.

    Edgefield Co SC Deed Book 11, ppl. 204-211. 9 Jun 1776: Jacob Summerall Planter, & Nancy, his wife of Granville Co. SC to Jesse Summerall, Planter of same place for 100 pounds, sold 400 acres originally granted 25 Apr 1765 to Henry Summerall, Senr., dec’d., father of said Jacob Summerall, on Savannah River, Granville Co. adj. John Grant. S/ Jacob Summerall, Ann (A) Summerall. Wit: G.W. Clemm, Sanders (x) Colson.

    Additional deeds show Jesse Summerall to be brother of Jacob, both sons of Henry (Sr.). Jesse’s wife is Sarah, the couple resident in Orangeburg Dist (Winton/Barnwell Co) in 1784.

    I have no (known) ancestors in Jones Co MS, but the tax collector and Rev. William H. Fairchild, killed by the Knight Company, was a cousin….

    Harriet Imrey

  21. I am desperately searching for information on my 3x great grandfather and his family. His name was jesse b deen he was married to amanda turner rankin. I’ve read about chanie deen in your other posts. Our oral history tells that there were children born into slavery. I found a chanie deen in his household she had a daughter named pink deen listed as mulatto. If you could email me that would be amazing I will get lost trying to find this thread again. Also how are the deens/knights intertwined or are they

  22. Can you handle one more twist in all this? My great great grandfather is said to be William Fayette Whitehead, born in MS in 1854. Our family tree indicates he married a “Lydia Knight”. My research has led me to believe he is the son of either Emerson or one of the other brothers that were hung. Additionally, William has a brother, Daniel Whitehead, born in MS in abt. 1861.

    I have documentation and Whitehead photos, looking for answers to my theory!

    PS: Vikki I also went to Chico St! I live just south of Sacramento

  23. Hi Kory; enjoyed your comment!

    I spent many hours researching the Whitehead family while writing Free State of Jones, so it’s great learning even more about them. I’m not familiar with the name William Fayette Whitehead. With a birthdate of 1854, he might indeed be the son of Emerson (born circa 1832). The other brothers (Noel, b. 1837, John Thomas, b. 1842, Daniel, b. 1845, and George, b. 1852) appear too young to have been his father.

    William Fayette’s marriage to Lydia Knight is also new information for me. I perused my Knight files, and didn’t find her, but I plan to search a few other records as well.

    As I’m sure you’re well aware, the Whiteheads and the Knights have a long history together. The mother of Emerson, et al, was Mary Ann Knight, b. about 1810 in GA, who married their father, John Whitehead, b. about 1805. It appears to me that the Knights and the Whiteheads may have known each other back in Georgia.

    For those who may not know it, Mary Ann Knight Whitehead was the daughter of John “Jackie” Knight, who migrated to Mississippi from Georgia shortly following the War of 1812. One of Mary Ann’s brothers, Albert, was the father of Newt Knight, her nephew. Three of Mary Ann’s sons were executed for their opposition to the Confederacy, and for joining Newt Knight’s guerrilla band.

    Back to the Whiteheads. It appears to me that three Whitehead brothers–John (b. in GA about 1805), William (b. about 1809), and Riley (b. in SC(?) about 1810) came to Mississippi with their father, Daniel Whitehead, who was b. about 1775.

    Daniel Whitehead and Lucretia Whitehead (Daniel’s likely wife) joined the Leaf River Baptist Church along with Jackie and Keziah Knight around 1829-1830, so if the families didn’t know each other already, this may be where they met.

    Thank you so much for adding new material to the Whitehead story!

    Vikki

    BTW, so far there are five Jones County descendants that I know of who attended Chico State University: my brother and me; Frances Gandy-Walsh, Ed Mauldin, and now you. It’s a long way away from Jones County . . . .

  24. Well I just got my copy of “Free Sate of Jones” today and I look forward to learning more. I wanted to add that I am just beginning my search into the lives of the Whitehead’s from Smith/Jones/Covington counties. As mentioned by Bynum, the John and Mary Ann Whitehead family lost (4) sons. One of these sons, Emerson (E.D.) Whitehead, was KIA during the Civil War at the Battle of Iuka Sept. 1862. The other three, John Thomas (T.J or J.T), Noel and Daniel were killed during Lowry’s raid in Apr 1864.

    What many don’t know is that Emerson Whitehead had a wife, Elizabeth, and at least (4) children, when he died. Two of his son’s, William and Daniel (yes this Whitehead lineage is easy to spot) migrated west, eventually putting roots down in Colorado. William and his wife Lydia had several children, one of whom is my great grandfather, Charles Edward, who in turn married and gave birth to my AMAZING grandma, Thelma Whitehead.

    I encourage any of the “Free State of Jones” family descendants to contact me. I authorize Vikki Bynum to forward you my email address and I hope to hear from the associated families. God Bless

    • Thanks for your latest post, Kory, and especially for sharing new Whitehead information for other descendants who may be seeking answers. I will indeed send your contact information to any of them who request it.

      Vikki
      Moderator

    • Hi Ralph,

      I just saw your repost of Jeff Giambrone’s blog–and commented on it–about 15 minutes before I saw your comment here! It’s a great piece and I encourage my readers to click on your link and read it themselves! (Maybe there are some folks who’ll recognize their own ancestors.)

      Vikki

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