Finding Your Folks: James William Byram

Judy Fowler Kilgore's picture

I'm going to be perfectly honest with you. This family has been one of the most difficult to track I have ever encountered. The main reason is the lack of records in Pike County but there's no use crying about it. They should be there but, for whatever reason, they aren't there and that's that. When that happens you have to get very creative in your research methods and think of other ways - many off the beaten path and possibly unorthodox - to reach your goal. This is going to take a lot more time than I have right now. What I want to do this week is wrap up what little information I have been able to gather, record it here, and set it aside for later.

I am going to try and discuss the only provable child of Beverly Byram, his son, James William Byram, who was named in the will. This is the ancestor of Heather Byrom Hannah of Senoia whose questions started this whole series. Heather sent me a file on Beverly Byram's family which she found on the private site for Bethel Methodist Church in Coweta. In attempting to verify the information that Heather sent, I discovered there are several errors as well as unsourced and unproven information. Correcting and checking these out takes time and I haven't had enough of that to really verify things to my satisfaction. So, I will just hit the high spots on James, and others mentioned as being a part of Beverly's family.

According to the 1850 Pike County census, James was born about 1819 in North Carolina. We can probably safely assume that "North Carolina" is Mecklenburg County, since we know that is where James' father came from about 1826 when he first appears in Pike County. The file Heather sent shows James in the census as age 37, but I double checked and he was definitely 31, not 37. James married Louisa Webster on March 20, 1837, in Pike County and they set up housekeeping in the same area where his father had lived, around Hollonville not far from Meriwether County. A check of James and Louisa's neighbors in 1850 shows many members of the Irvin family living nearby and James and Louisa are living next door to Margaret (Irvin) Rodden, age 36, the widow of James Rodden, and probably a relative of the Byrams. One of James' great-great aunts, Phoebe, had married a Rodden and moved to Mecklenburg County from Virginia with her brother, James Byram (an earlier one). Margaret (Irvin Rodden) was the daughter of Benjamin and Sarah Irvin, a prominent family of Pike County, thus the number of Irvins in the neighborhood.

Okay. You want to know how I know this Irvin stuff? One of my Boyds (Frederick G. Boyd, son of Robert H. Boyd and Chloeretta Gray) also married one of those same Irvins (Elizabeth) and I had studied the family quite rigorously. Many members of this Irvin family moved to Arkansas along with my Elizabeth, who left her husband (Frederick G. Boyd) high and dry and living with his brother, McDuffie, back in Carroll County. So much for happy marriages. At least they had no children.

Back to James and Louisa Byram. In the 1850 census, James had quite a bit of wealth ($3,000) but he also was blind. Whether this contributed in any way to his death is unknown but James died, tragically, in 1853 at the young age of 40. He left only two sons, James Beverly Byram, born 16 April 1840 and William Dawson Byram, born about 1845. Following James' death, William Pennington was appointed guardian of the two boys, and later (not very much later, though - just over a month from the date of James' death) married their mother.

Tragedy continued to plague this Byram family when one of the sons, James Beverly Byram, died at the battle of Kennesaw in Atlanta. He had married Mary S. Neill and she is said to have taken a wagon, drove to Atlanta, and claimed James' body. They are both buried at Bethel Methodist Church. Their children were Louisa E. Byram, Greenberry J. Byram and John Dawson Byram.

The other son of James William Byram, William Dawson Byram, also fought in the Civil War and is said to have walked home from Illinois three years after the war had ended. When he found out his brother had died, he moved to Blountville, Ala., married and had a family. (There they go off to Alabama again.) His children were said to be Joseph, Liza, Ophelia and James. I could not find them in any census.

Of the others said to be children of Beverly Byram (John, Mariah, Clarissa, Sara, Mary Phoebe plus one other possibility I found - Lucinda) I have absolutely no information. Clarissa Byram and Lucinda Byram have been loosely linked to Beverly through legal favors Beverly did for their husbands, both Maxeys. The John Byram in Pike County prior to Beverly's arrival may have come from Jasper County. That is given as his residence in one of the deeds. Meriwether County is given on another. Mary Phoebe, said to have married William Dingler, is on the same page as Beverly Byram in the 1840 census - another very loose link.

When there is little information out there on a particular family, I take it as a personal challenge to see if I can change that. I just didn't know what I'd come up against with the vast amount of information missing from Pike County. I will definitely keep after this family and let you know if and when I find any verification of Beverly Byram's children.

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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