Finding Your Folks: Some Herndon puzzles

Judy Fowler Kilgore's picture

I spent a delightful day with Nell O'Shields last Wednesday, going over her collection of Herndon information and photos - what treasures she has! However, when we put our information together, we came across several questions which are going to take some time to figure out.

One such question concerns the maiden name of Preston Herndon's wife, Ann, who was raised in the home of Joseph and Elizabeth Amis. Nell's grandmother, Ona Herndon Gullatt, stated that Ann was "adopted" by the Amis couple, who, according to census information, had no children other than Ann. In Preston's Bible, directly following the entry of his marriage information, he wrote " ... Ann Jones was born ..." and then struck through the entire line. Since the entry was in pen and ink, he couldn't have erased it and I suppose his only choice was the strike through it. Later, in the early 1900s, Preston's son's obituary stated that he was the son of Preston and Ann Jones Herndon. So ... who were Ann's parents, what happened to them, and why was she raised by the Amises?

Nell and I figured that the answers might lie in courthouse records either in Coweta, Meriwether, Pike, or even Fayette counties, since that was the general area in which these families resided. If we could find any guardianship records, they might answer our questions.

We spent several hours in the Probate Office of the Coweta County Courthouse going over the Ordinary Court Minutes beginning in 1840 (when Ann was born) to see if Joseph Amis may have been appointed her guardian. We narrowed our search to between 1840 and 1850 since Ann appeared in the 1850 Coweta census with her "adoptive" parents.

I had already checked the probate index for any "Jones" who may have died during that time and none fit the bill. It was slow going since we had to read every page and check every name. The old handwriting in the court books is not something you can skim over.

We made it through about 1845 and came up with nothing that would answer our questions but we did find two references to Joseph Amis being guardian of other children. In one reference they were "Price" and in the other "Pierce" but it was obvious they were the same children: John W. and Sherman James Price (or Pierce), orphans of William Price (or Pierce). Their original guardian was William Strong, appointed in 1840, who posted $10,000 bond with Caleb Cook and Miles Jones as sureties. Joseph Amis was appointed in 1841 (it didn't say why the guardianship changed), also posted a $10,000 bond, and, in 1843, requested the court's permission to hire out the slaves owned by his "wards," John and James S. Price, minors of William Price, deceased. Permission was granted.

Time ran out on us and we got no further so our search for answers to Ann's heritage will have to be completed on another day.

Another question which popped up was that of the location of Preston's land, said to be in the fourth district of Coweta. Reference to his living in this district is stated in both deeds and in newspaper accounts of his family, i,e., " ... P.A. Herndon of the fourth district ..." I had copied all the references to Herndon grantors and grantees in both Meriwether and Coweta counties (there are more in Coweta than in Meriwether) and was singling out Preston's purchases and sales, trying to put them in chronological order so I could track his movements from the Senoia area to the Powers Crossroads area.

Noting the land lot numbers, I searched for the lots on a map of Coweta which showed all the land lots and districts. Strange ... the lot numbers of the lots Preston owned were not in the fourth district. Indeed, they were not on the map at all. If they existed, they would be in the next county which would be Heard or maybe Carroll. These lot numbers include lots 172 (198.5 acres), 171 (22 acres), 204 (50 acres), and 103 (25 acres. In addition, Preston's wife, Ann, purchased 41.5 acres in land lot 172 in 1902, after Preston died in 1901.

Nell had mentioned that Preston's home was on a road that went northward directly across from the open field where the Powers Crossroads Fair was held. Finding this on the map I tracked the land lots and, lo and behold, discovered that they are not in the fourth district at all. They are in the third. I checked and double-checked, then went over the map again when Nell arrived. Sure enough. Preston lived in the third district, not the fourth. Granted, the lots were almost on the line separating the two districts, but they were definitely in the third district. That means all those deed references in the court books are in error. I wonder how one would go about correcting something like that?

Speaking of Preston's home, it's still there and Nell and I have plans to ride out that way in the near future. She generously gave me a photo of the home, taken probably in the early 1900s, with Preston's entire family seated in front of the picket fence. It is so much easier to write about people when you have faces to go with the names and dates.

Nell also gave me a photo of Ann (Jones-Amis) Herndon taken (probably) right after her marriage when Preston went right off to fight for the Confederacy. There is an amusing story about a letter he wrote to her toward the end of the war. But we'll save that for next time.

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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