The Jackson Purchase region of Kentucky is comprised of the eight westernmost counties - Ballard, Calloway, Carlisle, Fulton, Graves, Hickman, Marshall and McCracken. It is bordered on the west by the Mississippi River, on the north by the Ohio River, on the east by the Tennessee River and the state of Tennessee to the south. By Kentuckians it is generally referred to simply as "the Purchase".

Andrew Jackson and Isaac Shelby purchased the land lying west of the Tennessee River from the Chickasaw tribe and opened the area for settlement around 1820. Within the next few years, my grandfather's ancestors came there from Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee - the Beadles, Clapps, Pryors and Wingos settled in Graves County with the Reeves and Halls in neighboring Ballard County.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Reeves-Hall Family Bible

Yesterday, I received a wonderful surprise in the form of an email from my Kentucky cousin Donald J. Stewart.  I had asked him some months ago if he knew who currently had possession of the family bible kept by Perlina Hall Reeves, wife of Sidney Preston Reeves of Ballard County.  I knew the bible existed because many years ago, before the availability of copy machines and scanners, my mother had seen it and transcribed some of the information.  At that time the bible was in the possession of Donald's aunt Bonita Reeves Hutcherson.

The bible had descended through Donald's family because the terms of Sidney Preston Reeves' 1881 Ballard County will left the home place and all household goods to his youngest son, David Walter Reeves, Donald's ancestor.  What a benefit to family genealogy that those household goods included the bible and were left to a family member who continued to live in Ballard County.
Perlina Hall Reeves & Sidney Preston Reeves
The bequest to David Walter Reeves is as follows "provided my youngest son David Walter Reeves lives with me during my natural life then at my death I give to him all of my personal property after my just debts all paid provided further that if I should die before my wife Pollina Ann Reeves if my son David Walter Reeves lives with and takes care of his mother Pollina Ann Reeves during her natural life then at her death in addition to the personal property heretofore given him I give him the said David Walter Reeves the homestead containing one hundred & twenty five acres of land heretofore devised to my wife Pollina Ann Reeves during her natural life."  

Dates of birth for Perlina Hall Reeves' siblings are also recorded in the bible in addition to Reeves' family members.  Ballard County's Charles Morgan Hall was a brother to Perlina and is named.

Although the birth dates of Perlina and Sidney Preston Reeves are recorded in the bible, the birthdates of the members of their family begin with their oldest son George Adam Reeves, born February 1, 1840.  

Thanks so much to my cousin Donald for searching for the bible and scanning its pages to share with me.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

An Originator of San Antonio's Fiesta

James Luther Slayden was the son of Letitia Ellison Beadles and Thomas Allison Slayden of Graves County.  After the Civil War, he attended Washington and Lee University in Virginia where he met and later married Ellen Maury.  He served as a U.S. Congressman from Texas from 1897 until 1919 and made his home in San Antonio. In that position, his wife was involved in many of the fetes and social functions of the privileged class in the San Antonio area. The Slaydens had no children and Ellen worked as a society editor of the San Antonio Express.

In 1891, inspired by the flower parades of Spain, Ellen Maury Slayden suggested that San Antonio stage a fete on April 21st, in memory of the fallen heroes of the Alamo and Battle of San Jacinto.  With the help of other ladies of her social circle, the idea gained the support of the San Antonio Club, a prominent all-male organization, which was the beginning of the Battle of Flowers Association.

The first year the unpredictable Texas weather caused a delay of the inaugural Battle of Flowers Parade for three days. In spite of that, the event was considered a great success and has continued expanding to become the current 10 day Fiesta celebration with numerous parades and activities celebrating Texas independence as well as its diverse cultures.

2016 was the 125th anniversary of the Battle of Flowers Parade and the Fiesta as we now know it.  The floats are now decorated with artificial flowers unlike those early days when fresh flowers were used although there are occasional floats using the original concept of fresh flowers.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Col. Harry Ripley Melton, Jr.

U.S. Military Academy at
West Point - 1936 Yearbook
Harry Ripley Melton, Jr. was the son of Col. Harry Ripley Melton, M.D. a native of Ballard County, Kentucky.  Harry Melton, Sr. was the son of Nannette "Nettie" Hall and French Montcalm Melton. His maternal grandparents were Charles Morgan Hall and Mary Elizabeth Wingo and his paternal grandparents were Henry P. Melton and Mary Ann Sams, all of Ballard County. 

Harry R. Melton, Sr. married Anne Given Rothroth in McCracken County on July 17th, 1909 and their son Harry Ripley Melton, Jr. was born in Ballard County in 1911.

Harry, Jr. was a cadet at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, graduating in 1936. He initially entered the cavalry but later took pilots' training at Randolph and Kelly Fields in San Antonio, Texas and transferred to the Army Air Corps. While living in San Antonio, he met and married Lavonia Smith and had a daughter, Anne, born October 2, 1938. The couple later divorced and Harry took custody of his daughter Anne. On June 23, 1941 he married Natalie Jean Wilson of St. Petersburg, FL.

During World War II, Col. Harry R. Melton, Jr. was the Commanding Officer of the 311th Fighter-Bomber Group (311th FBG). During his service, he flew the A-36 Apache and later the P-51A Mustang on dive bombing and escort missions over Burma.  On the 25th of November 1943, Harry took off, piloting a P-51A Mustang on a mission to escort bombers over Rangoon in Burma.

Col. Melton fired on and scored three hits on a Ki-43 Oscar piloted by Lt. Yohei Hinoki then performed a split-s maneuver, exposing his belly to Hinoki who opened fire damaging his aircraft. Afterwards, Hinoki broke off his attack to aid his comrades. When leaving the target area, Harry's aircraft began trailing black smoke and lost air speed. Another P-51A piloted by 2nd Lt. Everett Briggs observed him bailing out at 1,000 ft. above the ground then disappeared roughly 100 miles northwest of Rangoon and twenty miles east of the Bay of Bengal. When he failed to return, Col. Melton was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA).

Missing Air Crew Report
He was immediately captured by the Japanese and became a Prisoner Of War (POW). After he was captured, Lt. Hinoki received a telephone call, telling him that they caught a colonel, and asked if he was interested in meeting him, but Hinoki declined although he remembered the name “Melton” and wrote the story in his postwar memoir.

Harry was detained at Burma #5, Moulmein & Rangoon Jail. Later, he was moved to Singapore to be transported aboard a ship to Japan. He was one of 2,200 British and Australian prisoners loaded aboard the Rakuyo Maru departing Singapore on September 6, 1944 bound for Japan. On September 12, 1944 while in the South China Sea off Hainan Island, the ship was torpedoed by the USS Sealion (SS-315) after which she became unable to make way and began to sink. On September 14, 1944, he was in a lifeboat with other POWs when a Japanese destroyer machine gunned everyone in the life boat, including Harry Melton, Jr..

Japanese author and researcher Henry Sakaida who was in contact with Lt. Hinoki recalled that "Hinoki-san was truly saddened by the way Melton died, and politely asked me to see if I could locate the widow. I thought it was a worthy challenge and I accepted. He composed a letter of sympathy and asked that I deliver it. Hinoki-san died in January 1991 of cancer, but I continued my search for 30 years until I located her daughter, Kip, to whom I delivered his letter."

The citation accompanying the posthumous award of the Distinguished Flying Cross to Colonel Melton read as follows:
For extraordinary achievement in aerial flight between 16 October 1943 and 23 November 1943. During this period, Colonel Melton, Commanding Officer of the 311th Fighter Bomber Group, distinguished himself by participating, as pilot, in numerous combat missions over enemy occupied Burma. These flights, consisting of bombing, offensive reconnaissance, ground strafing and escort far over enemy territory, have resulted in the destruction of such enemy material and installations. On one of a series of important missions over Rangoon, the enemy succeeded in destroying Colonel Melton's plane, but it was only when the plane started to burn that he abandoned it deep in enemy territory. That Colonel Melton ordered his wing pilot to join the main formation, instead of following the parachute down, is indicative of the spirit that distinguished him as a flier and as a leader. His activities have constituted an outstanding example of leadership to the pilots and personnel under his command and reflect great credit upon himself and the entire military service.

Col. Harry R. Melton, Sr. was my grandfather's "double cousin". They were related through both the Wingo and the Hall families and grew up together in Ballard County. Col. Melton and Aunt Annie retired in San Antonio and we took my grandfather to see them whenever he visited here. They were lovely and I have very special memories of them.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Pryor Family & Friends, Part 3

Census records list James Brock Pryor's occupation as barber. The "X" appears to indicate that the second barber in this picture is James. The barber shop was in Memphis.

Alberta Cullins Lawrence

Alberta was James' granddaughter and is shown in Part 2 at younger ages. This photograph isn't marked well, having only the word Cullins written on the reverse but since it appears to have been taken around the late 1920's or early 30's, it is most likely Alberta.


Opie Lawrence
Miss Donald
Opie's 1st Grade Teacher

Opie was the son and only child of Alberta Cullins and Marion Lawrence of Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee. The reverse of the photo above names the lady pictured as Opie's first grade teacher, Miss Donald.

Other Family & Friends

Harper Sisters

I believe the ladies above are the sisters of James Brock Pryor's wife Nancy Margaret Harper. "For Aunt Nan" is written on the reverse along with the names - Aunt Susan, Mamma (Nancy Harper Pryor) and Aunt Mat. Graves County census records list both a Susan and a Martha "Mattie" among the children of James Byrd Harper and Margaret Minerva Cargill, siblings of Nancy Harper Pryor.

Lola Allison
Unknown Child

Lola Allison was the daughter of Louanna Pryor and Henry Clay Allison of Graves County, Kentucky. Louanna was the first cousin of James Brock Pryor, daughter of John S. Pryor and Susan Cargill.

Rube Dosset

The writing on the photo materials says "Rube Dossett, Mayfield, Kentucky". After a little research, I find that Rube was Rupert O. Dossett, Jr., son of R. O. Dossett, Sr. and Anna Mae Harper. Rube's mother Anna Mae Harper was the daughter of Thomas Harper and a niece of Nancy Margaret Harper Pryor. Additionally, Anna Mae's mother was Arramissa Pryor, daughter of Jeremiah Pryor and first cousin to James Brock Pryor. In the brief time I spent doing this research, I found numerous connections between the Pryor and Harper families.

Once again, I would like to extend my thanks to Diane Walker who so graciously went out of her way to see that these photos made their way home to their Pryor relatives.

Thanks also to Vanessa Wood of the Tennessee Pryors website for all of her help and for sharing information about these photos on their Facebook page.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

James Brock Pryor Family Photos - Part 2

James Brock Pryor
James Brock Pryor was born in Graves County, Kentucky on the 25th of July, 1844. He was the son of William Pryor and grandson of Jonathan Pryor who settled in the Jackson Purchase shortly after the land west of the Tennessee River was acquired by President Jackson from the local indian tribes and opened for settlement around 1825.

James married Nancy Margaret Harper in Graves County around 1868 but the marriage record appears to have been lost when the Graves County Courthouse burned in 1886. Sometime before 1880, they joined James' parents and other family members moving to northern Texas where they are recorded in Grayson County in the 1880 U.S. census. After William Pryor's death there in 1890, the family returned to the area east of the Mississippi River, settling in Memphis where James was a barber.

There are no childhood photos of James' older daughter such as those included in Part 1 of his youngest daughter Esther. In fact, the only mention of her was an Effa Pryor born in Kentucky circa 1874 listed in the 1880 census. There are no other census with this child listed but she is found as Miss Myrtle Pryor in the 1898 Memphis City Directory in James Pryor's home. These photographs, such as the one below which identifies her as Esther's sister with her husband finally solved the mystery of her existence. The Wahl family lived and raised their children in Paducah, Kentucky.

Myrtle Pryor & Albert C. Wahl

Albert C. Wahl, Jr.
Mildred Wahl

Katherine Wahl with her cousin
Alberta Cullins

Lillian Alberta Cullins

Alberta was the granddaughter of James Brock Pryor. Born on the 10th of October, 1904 to Esther Lillian Pryor and her husband Opie Reid Cullins.

Alberta Cullins - age 7
Alberta on Looney St.

Alberta Cullins

One more post to come with the balance of the photos from this album. Part 3 - Friends & Family of James Brock Pryor will be coming soon.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Family of James Brock Pryor

Recently I was contacted by someone who purchased a quantity of photographs that appeared to have come from a family album for Pryor individuals who descend from the Graves County family. She had purchased the pictures at a flea market in Hardy, Arkansas and was anxious to return them to some member of their family. The individuals in the pictures all appear to belong to the family of James Brock Pryor who was the son of William Pryor and Carolyn Lochridge originally of Graves County. William was the youngest son of Jonathan Pryor for whom Pryorsburg was named and one of the earliest settlers to the Jackson Purchase area.

This lovely lady just wanted to get the pictures back to a Pryor relative. Since it wasn't my direct line, I was hesitant to accept them. William Pryor was the brother of my third great grandmother Eustacia "Stacy" Pryor, so after some discussion, I agreed to accept the pictures and share them here.

James Brock Pryor and Nancy Margret Harper Pryor had five children - Robert E. Lee Pryor, (Effa) Myrtle Pryor, John B. Pryor, James L. Pryor and Esther Lillian Pryor born between 1869 and 1884. These photos appear to have come from an album containing family photos belonging to Esther Pryor Cullins or her daughter Alberta.

James Brock Pryor
Nancy Margaret Harper

Lady with cow is probably Nancy Harper Pryor

The Family Car

Esther, Thomas Douglas and
 Mrs. Nancy Pryor
Aunt Maggie

Esther Lillian Pryor

Esther Pryor
baby picture
Esther Pryor

Esther Pryor

Parents of James Brock Pryor

William Pryor & Carolyn Lockridge

This is only the first of several posts showcasing these great photographs of James Brock Pryor's family. The families of Esther Pryor Cullins and her sister Myrtle Pryor Wahl are next to come.

Many thanks to Diane Walker for these photos and her desire for them to be shared by Pryor family members.