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3 Widowed Sisters Take Me from Macon, Georgia to Eufaula, Alabama

No, it was not some crazy girls' getaway, though I'm sure it would have been fun. Instead, it was a several hours long research trip back in time.

It all started quite innocently. A quick and simple census check to verify my hunch that two women buried next to each other in Rose Hill Cemetery; Macon, Bibb County, Georgia were in fact mother and daughter. Here is the census entry (the two women in question are Emma and Annie B. Phelts):
1900 U.S. Federal Census (June 8th)
Macon, Bibb, Georgia
ED #28, Sheet 12A
House #1070, Dwelling 211, Family 250, lines 32-35
MOULTHROP, Sarah A. (hoh) b. Dec 1840 - wd - 1 child - GAx3 *owns home free and clear
WOODWARD, Isabella V. (sister) b. May 1844 - wd - GAx3 - dress maker
PHELTS, Emma (sister) b. June 1857 - wd - 1 child - GAx3 - dress maker
PHELTS, Annie B. (niece) b. June 1880 - GAx3
I also found Emma and Annie in the same location in 1910. In the 1920 Macon, Bibb, GA federal census they were still living in the same house at 1070 Walnut Street. This time Annie B. Phelts was listed as the head of household. She was a 35 year old public school teacher. Her mother Emma C., aged 54 and widowed, was also listed. Listed last was Sarah A. Moulthrop, Annie's aunt. Sarah was 79 and widowed.

It could have ended there. That was enough for me to say Emma Carter Phelts (10 June 1857 - 7 January 1939) was the mother of Annibel Lamar Phelts (28 June 1880 - 7 May 1924). Enter the information into my Rose Hill Cemetery database and move along. But nope, I couldn't leave well enough alone. I wanted to learn just a little more about the three widowed sisters.

First, I wanted to know what degree of "sister-ness" was involved. Did all three have the same parents, or were one or more of them in-laws? I went to the website and did a search on the lot in which Emma and Annibel were interred. The owner of the lot was M. A. Daniel, and the known burials were 4 non-identified; C. C. Daniel; Emma Carter Phelts; and Annibel Lamar Phelts. Maybe, just maybe, Emma's maiden name was Daniel. And! If C. C. was a parent to all three, maybe the other two were part of the "non-identified."

I searched the website again using the surnames of Moulthrop and Woodward. Nothing for Moulthrop, but a burial record for Mrs. I. V. Woodward was there. The location of her burial within the cemetery is unknown. OK! I think I'm on the right track to possibly identifying two additional burials and locations in the cemetery. Woo Hoo!

I performed a search of the 1860 US Federal Census and hit pay dirt:
1860 U.S. Federal Census (18th June)
Sandersville, Washington, Georgia
Pg 49, Dwelling 372, Family 364, Lines 4-10
Chestley C. Daniel - age 42 - Proprietor of Hotel - b. GA
Ann Daniel - age 42 - b. GA
Sarah A. Daniel - age 17 - b. GA
Isabella V. Daniel - age 15 - b. GA
Mary A. Daniel - age 13 - b. GA
Ella C. Daniel - age 8 - b. GA
Emma C. Daniel - age 3 - b. GA
It's official! All three sisters were the daughters of C. C. Daniel. Now I need to find something that indicates Sarah A. was laid to rest in Rose Hill before I move forward with my theory.

I was unable to locate marriages with the records I have access to from home. A search of old newspapers provided me with an obituary for John Robert Woodward, only child of Dr. J. J. and Isabella V. Woodward. He passed away in Houston County, Georgia the 23rd of June 1863, aged two years. I also found a blurb in an 1883 edition of the Macon Weekly Telegraph about S. A. Moulthrop and her son, Robert, Jr.

I went back to the census records to try to get more details. On 9 June 1870, "Jenny" Woodward is listed with her mother Ann Daniel in the Macon, Bibb, GA Federal Census. Twenty days later she is in a household with her sister Sarah:
1870 U.S. Federal Census (29th June)
Eufaula, Barbour, Alabama
Pg 17, Dwelling 133, Family 150
Moulthrop, Robert - age 33 - Brick Manufacturer - b. Connecticut
Moulthrop, Sarah - age 30 - Keeping House - b. GA
Moulthrop, Robert H. - age 5 - b. GA
Woodward, Virginia - age 26 - b. GA
This same family can be found in the same location in 1880, with Robert, Jr. being a brick maker like his father. Though it's not specified, I'm starting to think Isabella Virginia "Jenny" Daniel was married to Dr. J. J. Woodward, had a son named John Robert, lost her son two years later, and also lost her husband all in between the years of 1860 and 1870. Ouch. That had to be a tough, heart-wrenching decade.

Since I'm still trying to locate some death and burial information for Sarah A. Daniel Moulthrop, who seems to have been widowed sometime between 1880 and 1900, I keep searching for records pertaining to her and/or her husband Robert. The next place I find Sarah is in Maloney's Macon Miscellaneous Directory for 1897. Her residence is 1070 Walnut Street, and she is noted as being the widow of Robert. So shave a few years off the time frame of Robert's death.

I then locate Robert Moulthrop on page 33 of the History of Barbour County, Alabama by Mattie Thomas Thompson, © 1939:
"The nearest railroad to Barbour County, until the early fifties, was the Southwestern Railroad, which had a depot eight miles on the Georgia side coming from Macon, Georgia, to that point and a stage coach ran from there to Eufaula...In 1862 Mr. Robert Moulthrop came from North Haven, Connecticut to work on a river bridge the railroad was building across the Chattahoochee river to run their trains into Barbour County. He had only been here a short time when the railroad turned down the contractor, and the bridge was turned over to him. He manufactured the brick for the piers and completed the bridge in late 1865, and Barbour County's first train rolled across into Eufaula."
That was neat entry to find, as it suggests Robert would likely have had reason to come to Macon and possibly met his future wife on one of those trips.

That same book also had some other information that I found quite confusing. In a biography about Robert H. Moulthrop, son of Robert and Sarah, a bit of back information was given about Robert, Sr. It seems he was married a second time -- to Sallie Bullock Dobbins, and they had a son named Albert. What? Huh? I thought Robert died as the husband of Sarah Daniel. If not, did Sarah go around pretending to be a widow, or was it easier to just let people think that? Or is this even true?

Another article found in the 20 September 1883 Macon Weekly Telegraph is a letter to the editor: "In Defense of Young Moulthrop - Editors Telegraph and Messenger: In your issue of the 18th instant, you publish a statement from Mrs. S. A. Moulthrop which is calculated to injure the business interest and reflect on the social worth of Robert H. Moulthrop, (sometimes called Robert, Jr.) of this city..." The letter goes on to describe Robert, Jr. and his business in a glowing manner. The writer signed his letter as "Friend to Young Bob, Eufaula, Ala."

Now it seems there's a bit of tension between Sarah and her son. Hmmm... is this because he chose to stay in Eufaula with his father? In an 1888 Alabama newspaper I found "Robert Moulthrop and his son Robert have just returned from Decatur, Alabama." Further suggesting young Robert stood by his father's side.

I kept poking around and finally found what I was looking for -- a reference to the death and burial location of Sarah A. Moulthrop. In Barbour County, Alabama Tombstone Inscriptions, I find a listing for Fairview Cemetery in Eufaula. In one section of the cemetery I find young Robert, his wife, and his mother (these three are also on FindAGrave):

- Robert Moulthrop (29 Apr 1865 - 6 Feb 1925)
- Kate Moss Moulthrop (2 Feb 1865 - 27 Apr 1939)
- Sarah A. Moulthrop (14 Dec 1838 - 23 June 1923)

Do you think I stopped there? Not a chance! I had to figure out if indeed Robert, Sr. had a second marriage.

In the same book, in a different part of the same cemetery, I found Robert, Sr. and his supposed other family:

- Robert Moulthrop (1837 - 1900)
- Sallie C. Bullock Moulthrop (1855 - 1929)
- Albert Moulthrop (1885 - 1945)
- Mary Foy Pitts Moulthrop (1889 - 1958)

And one final record for your perusal:
1900 U.S. Federal Census (11th June)
Eufaula, Barbour, Alabama
ED #9
VanBuren St.
Moulthrop, R. (hoh) b. Mch 1847 - m. 15 yrs - ConnX3 - Brick Manufacturer
Moulthrop, S. C. (wife) b. Mch 1854 - m. 15 yrs - AL - RI - SC
Moultrhop, Albert C. (son) b. Oct 1885 - AL - Conn - AL
I'll let you decide what happened between Robert Moulthrop and his first wife, Sarah Daniel.

My theory of three widowed sisters being buried in the same lot, two sisters being listed as unidentified, turns out not to be true. I still contend, however, that it is a possibility I have identified one of the unidentified as Isabella V. Woodward. And furthermore, I just took a pretty interesting trip back in time. You never know what secrets might be uncovered when doing a little "digging!"


Gale Wall said…
I loved being caught up in your case study. I grew up in Columbus, GA and we went to Eufaula often on picnics and to enjoy the lakes. Not many piney woods out here in Kansas. Thanks for sharing!
Jim said…
Another interesting coincidence and maybe a connection is that my great-grandfather's sisters, Sudie Bass and Sallie Bass, married Philip Clayton Priest and Coney Clinton Daniel. Sudie moved to Eufala, AL soon after they were married and live a long life there until she died in 1978. Sudie Bass Daniel, died in Macon 1964. C C Daniel died in 1954 in Twiggs County. I cant help but think there is a relation to your story.

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