Finding Your Folks: Southside Ballengers, Whites, Norrises and more

Judy Fowler Kilgore's picture

I'm sort of cheating this week. The deal here has always been, "… if you don't write me about your families, then you have to hear about mine." Well, nobody sent anything on his or her families so here we go on mine.

These are not exactly "my" families (with the exception of the Norrises), but they all tie together at some point and they all tie into my Fowlers … either before or after they moved to Cleburne County, Ala. That is one thing all these families have in common … they all started in Georgia - actually all on the south side of Atlanta - and ended up in Cleburne. Many are buried in the same cemetery (Ranburne Baptist Church, probably less than a mile from the Georgia state line).

I have never really researched any of them to any great depth and the Johnson family who married into the Norris family continues to elude me. I hoped that maybe digging a little deeper would bring in someone out there who could give me some more information. Also, the research may help someone else who is related to these families.

The connections are, briefly … the Ballenger married a Walden and the White married a Suggs. Walden and White died and the Ballenger married the Suggs-White. Two Whites married into the Norris family and two Fowlers married two Norris girls. A Fowler also married into the Ballenger family. Most of these went to Cleburne County, Ala. about 1878-1880, except the Ballenger who got a very early start and moved to Randolph County, Ala. before it became Cleburne in 1866.

Let's start there, with Albert Ballenger (also spelled Balenger, Ballinger and Balinger), born 22 Oct. 1827 in Georgia, who married Mary Elizabeth Walden in Fayette County 22 Dec. 1850. She was born about 1830, the daughter of Elisha Walden and Elizabeth Hill who married in Jasper County and moved to Fayette by 1850 with their very large family. According to the Fayette census that year, Mary Elizabeth Walden had nine siblings: Martha, John, Sarah, Elijah G., Daniel, Francis, Thomas B., George W. and Nancy J. Walden.

Now married, Mary Elizabeth and Albert Ballenger didn't sit still very long because the 1860 census finds them in the northern division of Randolph County, Ala., with four children: L.E. (female), Thomas D., Sarah J. and John B. Ballenger. More came … Eliza, Elijah and George Ballenger appear by 1880.

Mary Elizabeth died about 1894 and Albert remarried. But here we have to go back and pick up another story: Henry Alan White and Elmina Suggs.

Part of the White story I have been able to verify but some of it relies heavily on family lore and tradition which I am always reluctant to accept as fact. One of the grandmothers in this line lived to a very old age and was able to pass on some wonderful stories to her granddaughters who, in turn, passed them on to the world. Some of it fits and some doesn't but I'll share it all and let you decide for yourself.

Henry Alan White is said to have been born about 1832 in England and came to America, settling in Campbell County by 1880. This is the family story. However, in the 1880 Campbell census - the only one I can find Henry in - he says he was born in Georgia, as was his mother, and his father was born in Alabama. We all know that censuses can be wrong and we don't know who gave that information to the census taker so we just have to say that the information conflicts.

Henry married Elmina Suggs sometime before 1855 and they had three known children: William Christopher, Alan, and Nancy (Nannie) White. Elmina Suggs was the daughter of McKinley and Nancy Suggs of Upson County and had at least six siblings as shown by the 1850 Upson County census: Sarah, Louisa, Elijah, Elisha, Lovett and Mary Suggs. McKinley and Nancy Suggs also moved to Alabama, settling by 1860 in Bluff Springs, Talladega County, with two of their children, Lovett and Mary.

Elmina and Henry remained in Campbell County, where Henry died about 1880. Neighbors shown in the 1880 census (Oakley, Milam, Speer) indicate they lived near Bethany. Henry is said to be buried at Shadnor Baptist Church cemetery in Union City (the same cemetery where my John Fowler is said to be buried). Shadnor is right across the railroad tracks from U.S. Hwy. 29 in the heart of Union City.

At the same time the Whites were living in Campbell, another family made their presence there, having moved from Walton and Gwinnett counties sometime before 1860. John "Jethro" and Mary Johnson Norris also lived in the Bethany Community and two of their children later married two of the children of Henry White and Elmina Suggs: Reuben Norris married Nancy White about 1876 and lived in Palmetto with their son, Walter Norris; and Mary Catherine Norris married William Christopher White about the same time, later becoming one of the families who moved to Cleburne. Two other Norris girls married Fowler boys: Sarah Ann Norris married John Fowler (my GG grandfather) in 1847 and Lucy Ann Norris married John's brother, Zephaniah Fowler, in 1853 (both marriages in Gwinnett). To further complicate things, John Fowler's son, Joel Fowler, married Eliza Ballenger, daughter of Albert Ballenger and Mary Elizabeth Walden.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself. That didn't happen until they got to Alabama. Albert and Mary Elizabeth Ballenger moved to Randolph by 1860, remember? The rest were still in Campbell.

Gosh! I'm at the end of my space. We'll have to continue this twisty, tangly story next week.

Stories about your families who lived on Atlanta's south side are always welcome. Send stories 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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