Finding Your Folks: From Campbell to Cleburne

Judy Fowler Kilgore's picture

I hope to be able to wrap up these family stories this week, concluding with their move from Campbell County to Hightower, Ala., just across the Georgia State line near Carroll County.

I also want to mention that I got a "hit" last week on one of the families - the Norrises. Pat Vermeer wrote and said she had been looking for James Norris and Mary Herndon and had hit a brick wall. I hope to use her letter next week.

But let's get to this big move to Alabama.

The drive to Ranburne, the first town you come to when you drive over to Cleburne County, isn't a bad one today. I head west out of Newnan, drive about 30 minutes to Hwy. 166 in Carrollton, hang a left, go to the end and hang another left. If I go straight on, slowing down a bit when I pass through Bowdon, I'm in Ranburne in another 10 minutes. That's where most of these folks and their children are buried … either at the Ranburne Baptist Church or Union Hill Baptist Church just about a mile or two farther north.

Try to imagine that same trip with not much more than oxcarts and horse-drawn wagons to carry everything you own. Pulling up roots must have been hard too. Most of these folks had been in the Campbell-Fayette area nearly 20 years.

The countryside is beautiful over there … Ranburne is in a little valley surrounded by low mountains and the main road (Hwy. 46) goes straight through on its way to Heflin. A left at Union Hill Church starts you up into those mountains and, about three or so miles ahead, is the stop sign that marks what's left of Hightower. What was once a bustling little town is now just a crossroads. Mountain roads go straight ahead and left and right, past weathered dwellings and what used to be stores, barns and businesses. This is where our families from Campbell County settled … the Fowlers, Whites and Walkers (the Ballengers had already been there 20 years when the rest of them came). And two were Norris girls … Sarah Ann Norris Fowler and Mary Catherine Norris White. In fact, they all settled within a stone's throw of that crossroads.

William Christopher White built a lovely little cottage for his wife, Mollie Catherine Norris, and their large family just a few hundred yards from the Hightower Crossroads. Years ago I had occasion to visit a descendant of this family and she had a painting of the house William built. William and Mollie had nine children: Lula Ninnon (Copeland), Roxie Exer Eugenia (Hanson), Robert E. (m. Louvena Pullens), William James (m. Emma Baughn and Julia Hanson), Henry Tidwell, Mary Clelia (Jackson), Sarah Edith (Lovvorn), Elsie Ivora (Snow), and Arnold Madison White (m. Mildred LNU).

Bartlett and Mary Abercrombie Walker's son, John Pierce Walker, married Nancy Elizabeth (Lizzie) Fowler, and had 13 children. They lived a few hundred yards to the left of the crossroads. Children were Dora Annie (Wiggins), Sarah Amanda (Spruell), Mary Felecia (Wiggins), John Emmett (m. Jerusha Amelia Bradberry), Avarilla (Brown), William Edgar (m. Etta Buchanan), Gregory Otis (m. Jessie Beam), Green Hurst (m. Izola Baughn), Joe L. (m. Alice Traylor), twins Lena (unmarried) and  Lola (McElroy), Samantha (Lovvorn), and Nancy Piercie (Thomas). John's wife, Lizzie, died in 1908 with consumption and John remarried another Lizzie, Mrs. Lizzie Farlow, who brought her 18-year-old son, Eddie, to the marriage.

Mary Kate Fowler and Jack White, newlyweds, lived with Mary Kate's mother, Sarah Ann Norris Fowler, widow of John, in Hightower in 1880. Sarah Ann's youngest son, Joel, also lived there. Joel would be gone in a few months as he married Eliza Ballenger, daughter of Albert and Mary Walden Ballenger, on Christmas Eve of that year. Mary Kate Fowler White died in 1887, Eliza Ballenger died in 1894, and Sarah Ann Norris Fowler died in 1896. All are buried at Ranburne Baptist.

Sarah Ann Fowler's other two sons, William Jethro and George Wilson Fowler, also lived in Hightower not far from the crossroads. William had two wives and a very large family. His first wife, Lucinda Caroline Owens, died in 1886, leaving him with seven children: Oscar, Mattie (Gay), John (m. Eliza Vaughan and Eunice Bradberry), Lula (Johnson), Cecil Mary (Hand), Walter (m. Ruby Johnson) and Luther (m. Lula Gadsey Blake), the youngest only nine months old (my grandfather, Luther Fowler). William remarried to Sarah Margaret (Maggie) Vaughan Hart, daughter of the Rev. Frederick Vaughan and widow of Wilson Hart, who had two children of her own, Tom and Lela Hart. Maggie gave William five more children (Sarah Roseanne (Hurst), Warner, George Fred (m. Essie Hurst), and Lee Fowler (m. Lizzie Buchanan), and Inez who died in infancy.

George Wilson Fowler and his wife, Samantha Hornsby, had four living children: Joel Wilson (m. Lela Cosper, Flora Blake, and Glennie Augusta Young), Sarah Cora (Mitchell), Mary Kate (m. Bud Blake, brother of Lula Gadsey Blake, above), and Samantha Elizabeth (Howle).

Most of these families remained in Cleburne until the early 1900s when farming was no longer profitable. Many moved to Atlanta and worked for the railroad. And some are still there.

My own family (my grandparents and their three children) moved from Hightower back to Atlanta about 1917, splitting the automobile trip into two days, with an overnight stay in Bowdon. It was winter and they had to heat rocks and put them under blankets to keep warm. They drove from Hightower to Hapeville and moved in temporarily with my Uncle Walter and Aunt Ruby Johnson Fowler. 

I guess that's how I came to be raised in East Point.

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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