Finding Your Folks: Allen Marlin McWhorter's disappearance and demise

Judy Fowler Kilgore's picture

I'm going to stay with the McWhorters this week since I recently got involved in a volley of messages on the McWhorter email list. This Allen M. McWhorter was a relative of Laura McWhorter Thompson Stowers of last week's article since he was the much younger half-brother of Laura's grandfather, Moses McWhorter and, therefore, the uncle of Laura's father, Leroy McWhorter. However, since Allen was the child of a second marriage, he (b. 1795) and his nephew, Leroy (b. 1797,) were close to the same age.

The question we were all trying to decide was, "Where did Allen die … and when?" Several stories had been circulating for decades and no one knew the answer for sure. We still don't, but we do have a little more information. And we know he was alive until 1858.

The confusion goes all the way back to the 1930s and research done by noted McWhorter researcher, Davis L. McWhorter of Bethel, N.C. In his exhaustive research, Davis reached out to McWhorters everywhere and compiled an amazing amount of information on many branches.

When Memory Aldridge Lester compiled material for his book, "Old Southern Bible Records," which contained material from several McWhorter Bibles, Davis contributed his McWhorter information, including a 1932 letter from 78-year-old Valentine Burnett, Allen's grandson (son of Elijah Harvey McWhorter), who said that not much was known of Allen's death. "He was supposedly away from home and was shot trying to escape from Yankees in 1864." Although doubt has been cast on this statement it may be true. But the question was, where was "home"?

Valentine also submitted Allen's Bible records to Davis, who in turn, submitted them to Lester. These records have become the basis for information on Allen's family … but the Bible records, accurate as far as they went, only gave one side of the story.

The families of both Leroy and Allen Marlin McWhorter lived in Carroll County near Villa Rica. Allen arrived in the south Atlanta area before Leroy, and was living in Campbell County by 1840. I believe he was in the part that later became Carroll, and even later, Douglas County.

I know by now you're saying, "Who in the heck was this guy?" Well, Allen, in a way, was responsible for the naming of a community that still exists on the Douglas-Carroll County line … the community of McWhorter. It was actually named for Allen's son, Elijah Harvey McWhorter, a Methodist minister, who lived and died in that community and is buried at Flint Hill Methodist Church there. (Source: Research by the late Joe Baggett.)

From Bible records, we know that Allen and his first wife, Elizabeth Ann Baker, were married 17 Jan. 1819 in Abbeville Dist., S.C., and had at least six children … some stayed in Georgia and some moved westward. They were Elijah Harvey (m. Narcissa Williamson and Milly Burnett), Bersheba Elizabeth (m. Michael Aderhold), James Alcorn (m. Charlotte Goodson), Egbert Beall (m. Lydia M. Tanner), Abbott Milton (m. Mahala Jane Davis), and Dionishus Wesley McWhorter (m. Mary Truitt).

What many folks didn't know, though, was that later Allen also had a second wife and two more sons. That 1840 Campbell County census was the last time we would see Allen in Georgia. The 1850 and 1860 censuses of Carroll County show Elizabeth living with her children and grandchildren. The 1850 and 1860 Alabama censuses indicate what might have happened to Allen.

In the 1850 Morgan County, Ala., census (north central part of the state), a Martina Martin is shown as head of house with eight children, all with the surname of Martin. At the bottom of the list of residents is Allen Maquirter, 50, born in Virginia. They were married the next year. Marriage records for both Morgan and Limestone counties show the marriage of Allen McWhorter and Martina Martin on 17 Dec. 1851.

The 1860 Winston County census (formerly Hancock County until 1858 and adjacent to Morgan) again shows Martina as head of house, but now her name is McWhorter and all her Martin children have taken the McWhorter name. There are two young boys, obviously Allen's, named Archibald Douglas and "Marland" McWhorter. Allen is nowhere to be found.

In 1858, two years before that 1860 census, 119-plus acres of land in what later became Cullman County, Ala., was recorded as being purchased by Allen M. McWhirter, a resident of Hancock County, Ala., and that is the last we see or hear of Allen. By 1870, Martina has taken her children and moved to Davidson County, Tenn., and many of her Martin children still have the name of McWhorter. (Man, is that going to play havoc with those researching McWhorters in Tennessee.)

Going on logic, it would appear that Allen died sometime between 1858 and 1860. If he did, and if he still owned the land when he died, there would be an estate record showing that land as property to be divided by the heirs. There may have even been a will. Although the land was later located in Cullman, that county wasn't formed until 1877. The family also lived in Morgan and Winston counties. I think I would check all three.

But what about the grandson's story of Allen's being killed by Yankees in 1864? Was that just a story started by the wife or children to cover up their embarrassment at being left behind? Or did Allen return to his first family and die in Georgia? We may never know the full facts but if those Alabama estate records exist, I think they will give us the version closest to the truth. My gut says he probably is buried somewhere in Cullman County.

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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