Finding Your Folks: The family of Preston and Ann Amis Herndon

Judy Fowler Kilgore's picture

This will probably be a series in several parts since I have so much information on Preston and Nell O'Shields has shared so much of his story not found in the record books. There are still a few questions which I need to pursue through those records, but there is still plenty to tell before we get there.

Preston Anderson Horn Herndon (the name found in his family Bible), eighth child of Edward and Nancy Brown Herndon (and Nell's great-grandfather), was born 13 May 1838, probably in Meriwether County as that is where his father settled after winning land in the 1827 Land Lottery. The land was located a few miles southeast of what later became the town of Alvaton and that is where the Herndon children were raised. Today this area is less than five minutes from Coweta County and about 10 minutes from Senoia going north on Ga. Hwy. 85.

According to family information passed down by descendants, Preston grew up and attended Bowdon College, where he studied education and became a schoolteacher. By 1860, he was 23 years old and was teaching school in Coweta County. As was customary in many communities, teachers boarded with a local family and Preston's landlord just happened to be Joseph Amis who had a lovely, 18-year-old daughter named Ann (more about Ann in a later column). Nell said she is certain that led to the romance between her great-grandparents and they were married 11 June 1861. Sadly, they could never have imagined the tragedies that loomed ahead.

On 19 June 1864, Ann delivered their first child, a girl they named Pearla Amis Herndon. Two years later, on 20 March 1866, she had another, a son named Walter Jackson Herndon. Sometime in February of 1868, Ann became pregnant with their third child, a girl they would name Nancy Alah (pronounced similar to "Ada") but little did she know that before Alah was born, the two little ones they loved would be gone.

On July 9, 1868, at the age of two, little Walter Jackson Herndon passed away, cause unknown. He is buried at Bethel Methodist Church Cemetery not far from Senoia. And, as if that weren't bad enough, two months later, on Sept 3, 1868, just a scant month before the baby was due, little Pearla was killed in a runaway buggy incident. Family stories say that Ann was in the buggy when the accident happened but no details are known. Preston's Bible notes say " ... Pearla Amis came to her death by accident - a mule ran away with the bugy and killed her." Pearla, only four years old, also was buried at Bethel and Preston dutifully noted in his Bible the scriptures used at their funerals - Jeremiah 31 and 15. Walter's funeral was preached by the Rev. F.W. Baggarly and Pearla's was preached by the Rev. J.H. Hall.

With the sounds of children stilled in the Herndon home, I cannot even begin to imagine the pain and sorrow suffered by the entire Herndon family and the community in which they lived. Alah was born in October and no doubt brought life back into the Herndon household.

In 1872, Preston moved from the Meriwether area to the area where he would spend the rest of his life, purchasing 198.5 acres of land in Land Lot 172 of the Fourth District of Coweta near what is now Power's Crossroads on the Heard County line (Book S, page 682). One wonders if the deaths of the two children may have prompted the move and a fresh start. Preston made several more land purchases in the same area.

Alah was followed by more children: Geter Edward, born 8 Nov. 1870; William Luther, born 10 Sept. 1872; Paul Jones, born 25 Sept. 1875; Ethel Ona, born 6 Aug. 1877; Modena Ann, born 12 May 1881; and Preston Anderson, born 31 March 1884.

In 1879, Preston and Ann suffered the death of yet another child, when Paul Jones Herndon suffocated in cottonseed. The account of his death ran in The Newnan Herald and Advertiser:

" ... ED. HERALD: This community was much shocked on the evening of the 8th inst. to learn of the sudden death of little Paul, son of Mr. and Mrs. P.A. Hearndon (sic). Soon after noon his mother missed him about the house but thought that he was in the field nearby, where the other children were picking cotton. She, in a short time, learned that he was not there. Then all of the family joined her in looking for him, except the father, who was absent from home but arrived before he was found.

"It seems that Paul had gone alone into the barn to play and there being a pile of cotton seed in there had dug several holes, such as children frequently call wells. He was found dead in one of these by his little brother, with his head down, hands up, and the cotton seed being so compact around him that he could neither extricate himself nor breathe, and thus smothered to death.

"Little Paul was an intelligent, bright boy of four summers, and has gone to meet his God, unwithered by time, untarnished by sin or any of the ills of life. His parents have the assurance from inspiration that he has met his God in peace, and that God doeth all things well.

"Death is always sad to he family circle, but it seems doubly so when its victim was so full of promise and taken away so unexpectedly.

"The community join us in tendering our sympathies to the bereft parents." The article was signed, "W.T.S., Oct. 10th, 1879."

More about Preston and his family next week.

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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