This essay pertains to William Troup, Adeline, and Charity Ann Witcher, and their relationship to the Ammon and Young families of early Polk County, Georgia.
William Troup Witcher was apparently born around 1844 and was one of three sons born to James and Gilley Witcher. This man was elected to serve as county clerk of Polk County, Georgia, and as such he signed many documents as “WT Witcher.” Troup Witcher also served in the Confederate Army. He died sometime between late 1868 and 1870, probably childless, and probably as a result of disabilities due to his service in the army.
Adeline Witcher was born to James and Gilley Witcher on July 7, 1814. My records indicate she was born in Pittsylvania County, Virginia. She married Jesse Ammons on February 16, 1834, in Meriwether County, Georgia. She died in Polk County, Georgia, on July 11, 1885, at age 70. It was Jesse and Adeline (Witcher) Ammons’ daughter, Emaline Edla Ammons, who married James Young. Letters written by Emaline will be transcripted and analyzed in this essay.
Charity Ann Witcher was born in Surry County, North Carolina, on February 22, 1838. Her parents were William J Witcher and Julina Burch. Both parents died while Charity was a teenager, so before she married Robert L. Young, she was housed in the Polk County, Georgia, residence of L.H.Walthall. This man (L.H.Walthall) was a very prosperous and prominent individual in early Polk County.
The Ammon and Young families were also very prominent, and they too were founding citizens of Polk County, Georgia. The two families neighbored each other in Polk County, and their land holdings numbered in the thousands of acres. The Witchers and their descendents intermarried into these two influential families.
Not long after the conclusion of the Civil War, people in the post-war south desperately struggled to recover. The devastation was widespread. Poverty had reduced most merchants and plantation owners to rags. Such was the plight of families in Polk County, Georgia.
From a biography of the Young family, written in 1953, by Mrs. Wiley Phillips Hand, I have provided a transcript of two letters written by Mrs. Emaline (Ammons) Young. Many thanks to Mrs. Ellen Speranza for forwarding copies to me. These two letters preserved valuable memories of the Witcher and Young families as well as insight into the struggles and aspirations of those living in post-Civil War Georgia in the late 1860s. The complete text of these letters is provided later in the body of this write-up.
Within Emaline (Ammons) Young’s two letters, it is revealed that her “Uncle Troup Witcher” was very ill. The first one was undated, but from the letter’s chronology of events, we know it was written before July 27, 1868, which is the date of the second letter.
From the first letter we know that her “Uncle Troup” was so sick that he had not walked in two years. The second letter, dated July 27, 1868, reveals that Emaline (Ammon) Young’s mother was, “…having an awful time now. Uncle Troup Witcher is on her hands. He is the greatest trouble you ever knew. He has been set up with every night for seven months. The light has not been out in her house. It takes from two to three hands to nurse him all the time. He is a perfect skeleton. I could carry him a mile.”
To better understand the narration of these two letters, we need to remember that Emaline (Ammons) Young’s mother was Adeline (Witcher) Ammons, who had married Jesse Ammons in Meriwether County, Georgia, on February 16, 1834. Mrs. Mollie Young Irwin (one of Adeline’s granddaughters) wrote in 1939 that, “My grandmother [Adeline] was a very delicate woman, and as the result of these visits to Cedar Valley [in Polk County, Georgia], there was great improvement to her health.” Out of concern and love for his wife, Jesse Ammons bought Adeline a limestone spring in the area and subsequently moved to that location. Keep in mind that the parents of Adeline (Witcher) Ammons were James Witcher and Gilley (Edwards) Witcher.
James Witcher was a prosperous plantation owner, who was at times involved in local politics and militia duties. Aside from Adeline (who married Jesse Ammons), the other children of James and Gilley Witcher were daughters Agnes and Harriet J., and sons Hezekiah, Benjamin, and William Troup Witcher. Click here to read more about James and Gilley Witcher and the tragic Civil War death of their son, Surgeon Hezekiah Witcher.
As the letters written by Emaline (Ammons) Young reveal, her uncle (Troup Witcher) was an invalid after the Civil War. By July of 1868, he was being cared for by his sister, Adeline, whose was widowed by this time, her husband Jesse Ammons having died some ten years previous, in 1858. It’s my belief that Troup Witcher was convalescing as a result of his soldiering in the Confederate Army.
Georgia records and old family letters confirm that Troup Witcher served in the Confederate Army. One account comes from Mollie Young Irwin, who was Troup’s great niece. She wrote in 1939 that her, “… great-uncle William Troup Witcher was clerk of the Polk County Court at that period. He enlisted and fought with Stonewall Jackson. Before leaving for the front, he deputized Molly Ammons to serve in his place, thinking as all southerners did, that the Yankees would be whipped in a very short time.”
It is my belief that WT Witcher was captain of a company of Polk County militiamen, and it was he whom Surgeon Hezekiah Witcher was referring to in a certain 1861 letter, addressed to Georgia Governor Brown. “WT” Witcher of Polk County should not be confused with another “WT” Witcher who was mustered during the Civil War out of the Oglethorpe County region of Georgia, that man being William Thomas Witcher, son of Ambrose and Polly (Olive) Witcher. Click here to read about William Thomas Witcher.
In his letter to the governor, Doctor Hezekiah Witcher practically begged to be assigned to WT’s company, a request which would quickly prove deadly, as Hezekiah was killed a few months after his deployment, in a cavalry charge on enemy lines. A minie ball killed Hezekiah instantly. The sadness of loss is amplified by the fact that WT Witcher was certainly the younger brother of Surgeon Hezekiah Witcher. Both men were sons of James and Gilley Witcher and brothers to Adeline Ammons.
I have provided a transcript of this letter from Hezekiah Witcher, in which he requests to be attached to the brigade in which WT Witcher’s company was serving.
Cedartown Ga, Dec. 1st, 1861
James Deaver esq:
Dear Sir—I have written to Gov Brown, making application for a position as Surgeon, & have heard nothing from him in reference to the matter—I am quite anxious now to get such a position, in any Regiment composing Gen?? Caper’s Brigade, as Capt. W.T. Witcher will probably report to him, as he expects to go in Col Nunnerly’s Battalion, or Regiment, if extended to a Regiment. I would be much gratified to get a place in that Regiment, on his & many of my friends from this county, but I would gladly receive it—in any of the Regiments of that Brigade—and if you & your friends can aid me in securing the place, I will receive it—as a very great favor indeed—I feel that I can render good & efficient service, & will make every effort to render myself competent & faithful to the trust—Please try to work this thing for me & oblige yours
Very respectfully H. Witcher M.D.
Try first for surgeon & then assistant surgeon Please as I am anxious to go—in haste H.W.
As we noted, Mollie Young Irwin wrote in 1839 that William Troup Witcher had deputized Molly Ammons to serve in his place as county clerk, before WT then left for the warfront. This, as it turns out, was a genius move. Mrs. Irwin wrote, “As Sherman approached nearer the deep south, these [court] records were carried and carefully stored in the Ammons home. And when his march began on Georgia soil, they were carried up into Dugdown Mountains to the cabin home of Mr. Richards. The courthouse was burned, but our records are here, due to the thought and effort of a lovely southern woman. Up to this time, as far as I know, she was the first woman to successfully fill a public office in our state.”
However, from the book, “Polk County, Georgia, The First Hundred Years,” written by Larry D. Carter, we will obtain a slightly different perspective of how Polk County records were saved from Sherman’s troops. On page 271, the historian writes, “Polk County’s leaders took action to save courthouse records and historical documents, many of which where saved by Adeline Ammons [daughter of James and Gilley Witcher]. Some of the records were from Paulding County, where Ammon’s brother, Troupe Witcher, was the county clerk during the war. The tricky Ammons had a box the size of a bed built, and then she fitted it out as such. She then sent it to Jonathan Richard’s home, south of Cedartown. For three years, the Richardses slept in the bed that had the records.”
Considering that Mollie Ammons (a daughter of Adeline Ammons) was around seventeen years of age in 1861, I suspect it indeed was Adeline, not Mollie, who replaced Troup Witcher as county clerk. In other words, Troup Witcher probably deputized his forty-seven year old sister, Adeline (Witcher) Ammons, to replace him, not his seventeen year old niece, Mollie Ammons, the daughter of Adeline (Witcher) Ammons. I suppose the contradictory reports of which woman served as court clerk would be easily solved if one reviewed Polk (or Paulding) County, Georgia, Civil-War-era records.
At the bottom of this essay, I have provided an image of the beautiful signature of “Wm Troup Witcher,” dated July 31, 1857. This signature is found on the last page of a Polk County, Georgia deed book.
As previously noted, Adeline Witcher, the daughter of James and Gilley Witcher, married Jesse Ammons. The children of Jesse and Adeline were daughters Lucy, Emaline, Elizabeth, Mollie, and Mildred, and a son named Sterling, who apparently died at age three.
Emaline Ammons (daughter of Jesse and Adeline Ammons) married James Young. The children of James and Emaline (Ammons) Young were daughters Ida, Molly, Katherine, and Lucy, and the sons were Augustine and James Sterling Young.
The parents of James Young (husband of Emaline) were Augustin and Katherine Young, and his siblings were sisters Minerva and Mary Ann, and brothers William, Robert Young (who married Charity Ann Witcher), and Russell (who married “Mahaley” Ballenger).
I have taken time to itemize these names and relationships, as this will help us understand the transcript of the two letters written in the late 1860s by Emaline (Ammons) Young to her brother-in-law, Russell Young, who was then living in Rusk County, Texas.
In the first letter (part of the top page is missing) Emaline wrote her brother and sister-in-law about local affairs in post-Civil War Polk County, Georgia. For example, she informs Russell Young that his father (Augustin Young) is “trying to make his second fortune,” but also stated that, “a great many people are moving from here. William Hightower and a good many others starting Wednesday.” It is interesting to note that the 1860 federal census does list the household of William Hightower as living next door to the household of James and “Emaline Young.” Also, as I have previously mentioned, “Uncle Troup” is said to have been crippled at that time. Emaline (Ammons) Young also wrote, “My old grand father and grand mother are living yet.” The grandparents she was referring to were undoubtedly James and Gilley Witcher.
The second letter, dated July 27, 1868, indicates James Young wanted Emaline to write Russell Young. It seems that day was the perfect time to do so, as it was raining very hard, a wonderful relief since the region was in “drouth.” The letter was concerning the liquidation of Russell’s father’s estate, as Augustin and Katherine Young had both died earlier that year, in February, and apparently on the same day.
In this second letter, Emaline discusses home-life, and the schooling of her four children, as well as the extra attention needed to care for daughters. Her oldest son James Sterling is mentioned in relationship to his younger sister (Ida), who was then around ten years of age in 1868. Her son, Augustine (Gus), was set to begin school in “two weeks.” Russell Young’s wife, “Mahaley,” is referred to several times, and “Uncle Troup Witcher” and his serious personal demands on the family were again discussed, and lamented.
The Native American’s called the written text, “talking leaves,” and indeed they are! Emaline (Ammons) Young had unwittingly time-capsuled the events of her community, the weather conditions of that moment, and the fact that her “gal” has just “awoke” and needed her attention. That young baby was no doubt Emaline and James’ youngest daughter, Lucy Young, who as then less than a year old and probably wanted her diaper changed and to be fed. It all was just another day of life in reconstruction period of Polk County, Georgia.
For research and your reading pleasure, I have provided the transcript of these two letters, which are published in a book called, “A Georgia Pioneer and Some of His Descendents,” written in 1953 by Mrs Wiley Phillips Hand. Again, special thanks to Mrs. Ellen Speranza for forwarding information from this book to me.
The original text for each letter was block-paragraphed. However, I have inserted paragraphs (to ease the reading) but have not made grammatical changes.
The above essay was written by Wayne Witcher. 1-11-17
Please contact me at wawitcher @ windstream. net, or ask to be facebooked in our Witcher Genealogy facebook page.
Letter written to Russell (DOCK) Young of Rusk County, Texas, during the reconstruction days by Emaline Ammons Young
(Part of the letter is missing)
Mr Lewis has worked very hard this year and made a sorry crop I am sorry he met with such poor success.
George Morgan is going to school in Stilesboro. Sister’s other boys go from home.
My children have not been going to any school this year that has done them any good. I am trying to teach Sterling arithmetic at night when I am knitting.
Your mother told me to tell you that Mollie stayed with her yet, and she would not give her up for one thousand dollars in gold. She almost idolizes the little fat lamb. Matilda Morris lives with her.
Gus has never forgotten you. Dock, excuse me for bragging on him a little. I never saw a more promising chap.
You named your boy Jim. I shall send him a present the first opportunity. I hope he will make such a man as his Uncle Jim.
Then a great many people are moving from here. William Hightower and a good many others starting Wednesday.
My old grand father and grand mother are living yet.
Uncle Troup has not walked a step in two years. I think it is now something about your colored kin.
Tom is in bad health, he had a fever in August, his wife Mary, Jack and Harriet also had it. Tom is the same old Tom yet.
Your father is trying to make his second fortune. He is having a screw built, having wells dug and houses built. We will soon have a town, I am going to call it Youngville.
The people are marrying considerably, especially widows. There is a wedding every week.
There has been no deaths you would know anything of.
I will close. Excuse me for writing with a pencil, and my paper also. I know you are tired of me now. Mr. Young request you to write to him about hiring hands, whether there is anything to be made or not. Elizabeth writes to your mother occasionally. Have you got friendly?
Your sister [sister-in-law]
Give my best love to Mahaley. My children send howda to your children. Huntington is the man Mishie married. He is well thought of generally. Was never in the Yankee army.
Original letter in possession of Mrs. E. D. Turner, Cedartown, Ga.., 1952
Letter Written to Russell (DOCK) Young after the death of his father
At Home Cedar Valley, Georgia
July 27th, 1868
Mr. Russell Young,
Dear Brother [brother-in-law],
It is very wet today
indeed Mr. Young has been speaking of writing to you for several days, and as it has been several months since I have written to you myself, I embrace the present opportunity. In the first place, I will write whatever he wishes written and then I will write a short letter to you and Mahaley.
He thinks you had better start before the middle of September as the sale comes off the first Tuesday in October – says for you to get off at Haden Pryor’s place and John Pryor of David Hill will send you out here. The cars will be running from Selma, Ala. to Cave Spring.
He has between one thousand and twelve hundred dollars on hand for you now. He says that John’s guardian has to be appointed and given a power of attorney to some to receive his money, before he can pay it over. Be sure to remind him of it.
The other children can appoint any one they wish – He says also that there will have to be another sale after this. The present crop will have to be sold, which cannot be done before Christmas, and the solvent notes have to be collected.
I believe that is about all he told me to write, if not when he returns I will insert it.
We are all well, no news of interest. The connection all well as far as I know. I am indeed glad you are coming, not withstanding I regret the cause. I know you can’t enjoy yourself with us as you have, for sorrows that are but partially healed will be opened afresh when you return to the home of your boyhood and witness the change.
We are all anxious to see you and make you enjoy yourself, whilst with us.
We have had a very dry summer, but it is raining very hard today. Crops are very good considering the drouth. I have had a good garden, plenty of fruit this year.
Four of my children are going to school and will start Gus in two weeks. I have a hard time, three of them girls, I know Mahaley will sympathize with me when I tell her girls are much more expensive than boys, it takes three times the work in every respect. Some of these are getting large enough to be some help, if they did not go to school.
We had an examination day before yesterday and an exhibition at night. We had a nice time indeed. Sterling and Ida were examined through the arithmetic and grammar and did finely. It pushes Sterling to keep up with Ida.
I wish you lived in this country. I think you three brothers could enjoy yourselves so much together.
I think this country is going to improve rapidly. Everyone is trying to educate his children and we will soon have good schools all through the country. There is some talk of a railroad being built through here.
I have not written anything about my people.
My mother is having an awful time now. Uncle Troup Witcher is on her hands. He is the greatest trouble you ever knew. He has been set up with every night for seven months. The light has not been out in her house. It takes from two to three hands to nurse him all the time. He is a perfect skeleton. I could carry him a mile.
Sister Mollie is living in the house with her and is a perfect invalid. She has no health since she married. It makes me feel horrible to go there.
Sister Lou and family are well.
Mary Ann’s health has been bad for sometime, but not seriously so.
Sister Minerva’s health is good, Matilda Moris that lived with your mother lives with her.
I have a cooking stove and am well pleased with it. I am going to have a sewing machine, and then I think I can do finely. If Mahaley has no stove, you must get her one when you move to this country. Cooking is so much easier on it.
My baby has awoke, but Alas it is a “gal”.
Mahaley I would be glad to receive a letter from you. Write me soon.
Your sister [sister-in-law]
Emaline E. Young
The original letter is in possession of Mrs. E. D. Turner, 1952.
A Witcher Family Genealogy
William Troup Witcher
-b- c.a. 1844
-d- c.a. 1869