Finding Your Folks: Ballengers, Whites, Norrises, Fowlers and Walkers

Judy Fowler Kilgore's picture

We're continuing this week with the twisting connections of these families, with two more added … my Fowlers who had moved from Gwinnett County to the Fayette-Campbell area sometime after 1860, and the Walker family who made the trek to Cleburne and became an integral part of that community.

In last week's installment we brought the Ballengers through Fayette and Campbell, and then traveled with them over the state line into Randolph County, Ala., by 1860, into an area that later would become Cleburne County. The Whites were nowhere to be found until 1880, except for a short glimpse of Elmina Suggs (later White) and her parents and siblings in Upson County in 1850. The Norrises and Fowlers were in Fayette/Campbell County.

I say that because the county line between Fayette and Campbell shifted with the wind, I have been told. Sometimes it was up into Fairburn, then it would shift back south to the Bethany area. It is also said that some people who lived in that "gray" area paid taxes in both counties.

But let's go back to Gwinnett, shortly before 1860, when Nathan Fowler, the patriarch of my Fowler family, and his wife, Elizabeth Peppers Fowler, both died and the children began to scatter. Family stories say that the oldest son, John (my ancestor) and his younger brother, Zephaniah (both had married Norris sisters, Sarah Ann and Lucy Ann, respectively) decided to head west, and Zeph made it as far as the south side of Atlanta (with his wife and in-laws, John "Jethro" and Mary Johnson Norris) when the Civil War erupted. Both boys joined the Confederacy … John in Jackson and later Gwinnett, and Zeph in Campbell County. Zeph later died tragically in Tennessee and is buried there.

Although it is only theory, I believe that Sarah Ann, John's wife, moved from Gwinnett as soon as John left. She was pregnant with her last child (Joel) and her parents, her married sister, and all her other siblings had moved to Fayette County. I believe Sarah Ann left Gwinnett and joined them. The next census (1870) finds her with John and the children, living in the Fairburn area next to sister Lucy and her new husband, and a family story tells of the "baby" (Joel) and his first sighting of his father when he was four years old (1865) … a "raggedy, tattered man" who came home from the war, walked through the door and nearly scared Joel to death.

The Fowlers did not fare well after the war and apparently lost everything. The diary of Henry Newton Cochran, which we ran several years ago, related that he and John Fowler were working on the farm of a Mr. Hudson when Henry met Matilda Chatfield Owens, the sister of one of John's daughters-in-law, and married her. John's son, William Jethro Fowler (my ancestor) had married Lucinda Caroline Owens, the daughter of Martin and Martha Kennedy/Kanady Owens, in Meriwether County in 1866. Martin died in 1852 and Martha and the children moved from Meriwether to Fayette, then to Campbell, and thus occurred the happenstance meeting of the Martin and Fowler children, and the resulting marriage.

They were all there in Campbell in 1870, these future neighbors who would later live in Hightower, Ala. Many would end up buried in the same cemetery in the nearby town of Ranburne.

There were the Fowler children … Nancy Elizabeth who married John Pierce Walker (see below), William Jethro and Lucinda (Lula) Owens Fowler, George Wilson Fowler and Samantha Hornsby Fowler (the Hornsbys also moved to Alabama), Mary Kate Fowler who would marry A.J. "Jack" White in Cleburne County, and young Joel who would later marry Eliza Ballenger, daughter of Albert Ballenger and Mary Elizabeth Walden.

John Fowler died tragically in 1878 with consumption and his wife, Sarah, made the trip to Hightower with all her children. John is said to be buried at Shadnor Baptist Church Cemetery in Union City, but if he is, the grave is not marked.

The Walkers joined the group about 1868, as far as I can tell, when Nancy Elizabeth Fowler married John Pierce Walker, son of the Rev. Bartlett Walker and Mary Abercrombie. Later, Bartlett performed the marriage ceremony uniting Lucy Norris Fowler with her second husband, Green B. McFalls. Most of the Walker family moved on to Cleburne with the other families in this group.

There were the Norris children, Sarah Norris Fowler's siblings, who, except one, would remain in Georgia: James Norris who married Mary Herndon and lived in Cobb County; Joel Crawford Norris who married Amanda King and who fathered Arthur Leland Norris, future founder of the Norris Candy Company in Atlanta; Lucy Ann Norris who remarried Green B. McFalls and lived in Douglas County; Lucinda Matilda Norris who married Solomon Cochran and lived in northeastern Coweta County; Reuben Norris who married Nancy White and remained in Palmetto; and Mary Catherine Norris who married Nancy's brother, William Christopher White, and moved to Cleburne, settling in Hightower. The Norris children who were "lost" to me after 1870 were William J., Temperance, John, Henry Tidwell and Lindsey Norris.

And I am really curious as to how and why the Tidwell name slipped into this family.

And there were the White children (who didn't show up in Campbell until 1880) … William Christopher, Alan and Nancy, mentioned above, and their mother, Elmina Suggs White who became a widow shortly after 1880 when Henry Allan White died. Henry was buried, like John Fowler, at Shadnor. Elmina made the trip to Hightower with her children, and later met up with and married Albert Ballenger who was, by the mid 1890s, a widower.

Drat! I'm out of space again. More 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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