Finding Your Folks: The family of Marshall and Anna Kempson Herndon

Judy Fowler Kilgore's picture

I was finally able to get down to the Coweta Superior Court to check out land records and was quite surprised at the number of transactions by Herndons. Although there were no very early transactions as there were in Meriwether, I found an impressive number of them in the mid 1800s and early 1900s. I also found two Herndons unknown to me in very early land transactions - Jeremiah Herndon (land in the 2nd District filed 1828) and John P. Herndon (land in the 6th District filed 1864). Don't have a clue as to who those guys might be.

Another thing that surprised me was the number of land transactions - both purchasing and selling - by William O. Herndon, son of Marshall and Anna Christina Kempson Herndon. William made his way back to Coweta after being spirited away by his mother and taken first to Illinois and then to Arkansas sometime before 1870.

I might as well jump into this thing right here since I've been hinting at it for a couple of weeks. And that is the matter of Anna Kempson Herndon and Wilkins Stone who ran off together. Apparently, they neglected to tell Wilkins' wife they were leaving.

Three years ago, when we first ran this mysterious story, we knew Wilkins had a (second) wife or girlfriend named Anna, but we didn't know she was Anna Kempson Herndon. And there are all kinds of mistakes in the records which will lead you down the wrong path.

One is the marriage record in Meriwether (30 Dec. 1852) which gives Marshall Herndon's surname as "Herrington" and Anna Christina's name as "Campson." Man. Talk about starting off on the wrong foot. Anna was actually the sister of Elizabeth Kempson who married Joel J. Herndon, Marshall's brother. Both were daughters of Benjamin Kempson and Elizabeth Long.

The first clue that these surnames are mistakes (Herrington and Campson) comes with the 1860 census, showing Marshall and "Christina" Herndon with three children, Walter H., William O. (age 2) and James B. Herndon.

The second clue appears in Marshall's estate papers filed in 1863, which gives the administrator as Anna and her father, Benjamin Kempson as one of the securities on her $5,000 bond. The other security is Wilkins Stone, a married man with several children who lived in Meriwether County. Later, Anna was given leave to sell some of the land owned by her and her husband and one sale was to John T. Stone, Wilkins' oldest son.

The story was told by family members that Wilkins just disappeared one night and was never heard from again. They apparently didn't know that Wilkins was living another life - with Anna, the lovely young widow of Marshall Herndon.

By 1870, census records reveal that Wilkins (W.H. Stone) and Anna are in Marion County, Illinois, with two of Anna's three children (Walter H. and William O.) and another which appears to be Anna's and Wilkins' son, Augustus. Although Anna's sons are listed as "Stone" children, the ages and names from the 1860 Meriwether census leave little doubt that these are the children of Marshall and Anna Herndon. The youngest Herndon son, James B. from 1860, is not in the household and it is assumed that he died.

By 1880, Anna and Wilkins are in Benton County, Ark. with their own children. The Herndon children are no longer living in the household. Although one source on Rootsweb states that Wilkins and his wife were divorced and another states that Anna and Wilkins were married, I have found no such records. If someone has found these, I would dearly love to know where they are.

I don't know what happened to Walter, Marshall and Anna's oldest son, but William O. Herndon made his way back to Georgia and by 27 Feb. 1884 his name appears on a deed (W.O. Herndon, et. al.) selling a store and half-acre lot in Haralson to Bass Bros. W.O.'s purchases and sales skyrocket from there and it appears he owned a great deal of the town of Haralson and several generous parcels of land in Senoia. He suffered a bankruptcy in 1916 but appears to have rallied, making more land purchases and sales after that. In 1918, he sold lots 14 and 15 in the town of Senoia to C.F. Hallberg. He also sold slightly more than an acre to the Haralson Baptist Church and gave right-of-way through lot 239 in the First District to the A.B.& A. railroad company.

It appears that William was married twice, first to Lizzie McCauley and second to Ophelia Emma Burns. Ophelia's name appears on many land records in Coweta in the early 1900s. I found many clues to names of spouses in these records.

William's first wife died in 1887 at the young age of 31 and is buried at Haralson Baptist Church in Coweta County. There is no record of children. William himself died in 1927 and is also buried at Haralson Baptist, along with his second wife, Emma Ophelia Burns Herndon, who died in 1935.
Haralson Baptist Church cemetery records show that William and Ophelia had one child, an unnamed infant daughter, who was born and died 7 June 1892.

Wilkins Stone's wife, Sarah Walton Stone, remained in the Rocky Mount area of Meriwether County until her death in 1892 of consumption. She is buried at the Baptist Church there. Wilkins is said (but I haven't confirmed it) to have died in 1897 in Benton County, Ark. and Anna is said to have died in 1928 in Wheeler County, Texas (this has not been confirmed either). I welcome further information on this family.

Next week we'll discuss other children of Edward and Nancy Brown Herndon.
Stories and family histories about your ancestors who lived on Atlanta's south side are always welcome. Send them to or Mail to The Citizen, P.O. Drawer 1719, Fayetteville, GA 30214. All letters and e-mails I receive are subject to being used in the column.

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