The Terrells
Newton County,  Mississippi

By Terry Terrell Lange 

John Walton & Melinda Hailey TerrellPictures Left: John Walton & Melinda Hailey Terrell with William Aaron and Martha Ellen

The Terrells came to America from England in  about 1658, settling in Virginia, and then branching out through  North and South Carolina and on down to Georgia.

Jeremiah Terrell was born about 1738 in  Virginia. It is not proven who his parents were, and we don’t know  where in Virginia he grew up. He married Louisa Walton, daughter of  William Walton and Susanna Cobbs. Louisa was born about 1739 in  Virginia.

From Virginia, Jeremiah and Louisa moved to  North Carolina. They settled in Anson County, a backwoods area  about 90 miles long and 30 miles wide with the Pee Dee River running  through the center of the county.

About 1784 the family moved from North  Carolina to Georgia, settling in Wilkes County about 10 miles north  of Elberton near the Savannah River. Wilkes County was later  divided, and the area in which they lived became Elbert County.  This is where they lived until they died. 

Jeremiah and Louisa had seven children:  William, John, Polly, Rachel, Louisa, Roseanna, Susanna. Jeremiah  died about 1816 in Elbert County.

William Terrell, the oldest child of Jeremiah,  was born about 1762 in Virginia. About 1799 he married Martha  Taylor, born about 1782, daughter of William and Martha Taylor.

William and Martha Taylor Terrell had ten  children, all born in Elbert County, Georgia: Rebecca, John Walton  (from whom I am descended), Robert, Frances, William, Martha, Aaron,  Sarah, Tavnnah, and Jim. William died in 1850; Martha died in 1860.


John Walton Terrell was born in 1802 in Elbert  County, Georgia. He married Melinda Hailey, daughter of John Hailey  and Mary Underwood, in 1846. Melinda was 30 that year, and John was  44.

John, Melinda and the children left Elbert  County sometime between 1851 and 1860.  It is believed they traveled  to Mississippi in the company of McMullans, Clevelands, Roebucks and  others.

John was the only member of his family to move  to Mississippi. He left Georgia knowing he would likely never see  his family again.

Melinda already had relatives living in Newton  County. Her sister Peninna Hailey was the wife of James Madison  Cleveland, and they lived at Rock Branch. Her sister Ella Elizabeth  Hailey married Patrick McMullan, Jr., and they moved to Newton  County, likely in the same migration as the Terrells. Their farm,  known as Mt. Vernon Plantation was located along Highway 15 east of  Everett’s store, south of Mt. Zion Church.

Melindas nephew Isham Hailey Brown owned land  near Hickory, Mississippi. A cousin, William Rabun Hailey, also  moved to Newton County. Both her sisters and her cousin had large  families, so Melinda had quite a few relatives in Mississippi.

The caravan or wagon train from Georgia  traveled for three months to reach Newton County. All their  possessions were transported in covered wagons. Among the items  they brought with them were photographs of family members who  remained in Georgia. Melinda brought daffodil bulbs dug from her  home in Elbert County to be planted at her home in Mississippi.

The men and older boys rode horses, while the  women and children traveled in the wagons. They would travel all  day, then camp by a stream at night. The men and boys slept on the  ground, while the women and young children slept in the wagons. The  next day after breakfast they would start out again.

The first thing they did upon arriving in  Newton County was clear a garden spot. Families had to be fed.  Next, they built a temporary shelter for the family. Then the land  had to be cleared and crops planted. Finally, they would build a  permanent home.

John and Melinda located their home on the  south side of Mt. Zion Road facing north, and Melinda planted her  daffodil bulbs.[2]

Many of their neighbors were Choctaws.

John Terrell died April 8, 1891 at age 89. It  is believed that Melinda died June 12, 1890.

John and Melinda were the parents of the  following children:

  1. Martha Ellen Terrell, born April 15,  1848, Elbert County, Georgia died July 21, 1923, Decatur,  Mississippi; married William Robert McMullan, the overseer of Mt.  Vernon plantation. They were parents of nine children.
  2. John Walton Aaron (Bill) Terrell,  born August 30, 1849, Elbert County, Georgia died November 19, 1928,  Newton County, Mississippi; married Matilda Katherine (Tilda)  McElhenney. They were the children of ten children. See later.
  3. Ann Elizabeth Terrell, born February  2, 1851, Elbert County, Georgia died June 30, 1938, Newton County,  Mississippi; second wife of James Lewis Hunter, by whom she had no  issue.

Second Generation

John William Aaron Bill Terrell

John William Aaron Bill Terrell was born in  Elbert County, Georgia in 1849. The name Aaron dates back as far as  1790 in the Terrell lineage and is still in use today by descendants  of William Aaron Terrell.

Bill married Matilda Katherine Tilda  McElhenney in 1874. She was the daughter of George Washington and  Susan (Johnson) McElhenney and was born in 1854 in Elbert County,  Georgia.

Their home still stands (though in sad  disrepair) and is located on Mt. Zion Road. Constructed of heart  pine, this home has withstood the elements of nature for more than  125 years.

Bill and Tilda had ten children: George  Walton, William Lee, Robert Walker, Charlie, Emily, Lottie  Elizabeth, Annie Mae, Emma Catherine, Codie Jane, and Ebbie James.  Charlie died as a baby, and Emily died at age 6.

Bill was a good provider and a generous man.  His children received dental care when a dentist came through the  county. They owned an organ, and music lessons were provided in the  same way. Family photographs were taken when a photographer came  through. Bill donated land to the Mt. Zion Church in 1899.

John William Aaron "Bill" and Matilda Katherine "Tilda" McElhenney TerrellHe  was asked by the Thames family of Sunny Hill Road to help with a  church they wanted to build. He donated the trees for the lumber,  had his sons cut and haul them to sawmill, and had them sawed into  timber for the new church. [3] 

He was a man of character as evidenced by an  entry in a journal he kept where he offered to buy back a horse from  an individual who was not satisfied with the trade.

Tilda was known for her hospitality. A  visitor to her home could always expect to be served food might be  cookies, might be a baked sweet potato but always served with the  stipulation save some for Bill.[4]

Every fall Bill would order a barrel of salt  mackerel, which would arrive by train. Tilda would soak the  mackerel in water to remove some of the salt, then batter and fry  it. [5]

Drummers liked to finish up their day in the  vicinity of the Terrell residence because they knew they would have  a good meal. Tilda once caught a drummer stealing from them, but  Bill would not throw him out. [6]

Bill owned a sawmill. He was also a partner  in a water-driven cotton gin, which was located on a pond across the  road from where Stratton School stood in the Stratton community.

Bill sustained a crippling injury in a logging  accident. They were logging on a hillside, and  Bill was leading the team, walking on the downside of the hill.  (Proper logging technique was to walk on the uphill side of the  wagon to avoid accidents.) The bolster broke and logs and wagon  fell on him. After the accident he walked with difficulty and used  a cane.[7]

He had a horse named Spurgeon that became his  legs. Spurgeon was trained to stand beside a stump or the steps to  the porch so that Bill could reach the stirrup.  Bill would not  allow Spurgeon to be worked at the plough, but kept him in the barn  where he received special treatment.  When Bill died, his oldest son  took Spurgeon to his home and continued to care for the horse until  it died of old age. [8]

While stripping sugarcane  in the fall of 1928, a blade from a stalk of cane cut a mole on  Bills face. It became infected, and he died from the infection on  November 19, 1928 at age 79. [9]

Tilda died of internal hemorrhaging in 1935 at  age 81. Tilda and Bill and all of their children are buried at Mt.  Zion Cemetery.

George Walton Terrell, Sr.

George Walton Terrell FamilyGeorge Walton Terrell, son of William Aaron  Terrell and Matilda Katherine McElhenney, was born in 1875. He  married Ruby Gladys Cleveland, daughter of Rueben Gardner and Ann  Eliza Roebuck Cleveland. They owned an 80-acre farm located on the  south side of the Mt. Zion-Beulah Hubbard Road, and had seven  children: William Walton, Velma Zerthan, Annie Rose, Andrew Vardaman  (my father), Earl Singleton, Ruby Gladys, and George Walton, Jr.,  born in 1917, died in 1917.

Ruby died in 1917 from childbirth  complications. At age 42 George was a single parent of Walton age  13, Zerthan age 11, Annie Rose age 8, Andrew Vardaman age 6, Earl  age 4, and Gladys age 2.

For a time, the family lived with Georges  parents, Bill and Tilda.  As many as six adults and six children  would have been nearly impossible under one roof, so the older girls  went to live with Georges brothers, Walker and Lee.[10]

With the help of her aunts and her grandmother Zerthan learned to cook and keep house. When she was 14, her father  asked her if she could manage their household; she answered that she  could, and George and the children were reunited in their own home.  Zerthan (with the help of her younger sisters) did the best she  could to keep food on the table and their clothes clean.

One by one, George’s children began to drop out of school, which was held at Mt. Zion. In addition to trying to  make a living, George must have spent a good deal of time managing  the children.

All the homes were built off the ground on  piers. In the winter, the wind howled through the cracks in the  floor, around the doors and windows. The only source of heat was a  fireplace and the wood stove on which they cooked. Ceilings were  high to allow for ventilation in the summer, and the heat produced  by the wood-burning fireplace quickly rose to the ceiling, so at  floor level you could be quite cold.

During the years that followed, the annual  income of the farmer declined dramatically, as agriculture was  shifting from self-sufficiency to commercial farming. In 1927 the  average annual income of the small farmer was $548.  Electricity had  not reached the rural south, and there was no indoor plumbing.

There were no appliances to aid women; no  tractors to plow the fields. Young men who should have been in  school followed mules and used what muscles they had to keep the  plow in the ground. Child labor laws did not extend to the farmers  children, who worked from sunup until sundown.

The Great Depression began in 1928, lasting  for 10 years. There was no public relief; there was no unemployment  compensation; there were no jobs to be had. Many farmers lost their  farms to foreclosure.

When Franklin D. Roosevelt was inaugurated in  1933 he established a work relief program, one of many programs  designed to stimulate economic recovery. Known as Civil  Conservation Corp, or CCC camp, they built highways, did  construction in national parks, built lakes and other public works.  Participants were provided room and board and were paid a very  modest amount, which most sent home to their families. My father,  Andrew Vardaman Terrell, worked on the construction of Roosevelt  Lake State Park at Morton, Mississippi.[11]

Gladys attended another of Roosevelt’s work  relief programs, the National Youth Association. This program  provided for single females to attend classes two weeks out of the  month during the summer. They were taught housekeeping skills,  crafts, etiquette, etc., and in return were provided room and board  during their stay and were paid a modest amount. The program was  conducted at Newton, Mississippi. My mother, Beryl Hansford, also  attended this program.[12]

Eventually, the children married and moved  away from the homestead.

Only Earl, still single, remained at home with  George, although at different times, various members of the family  were provided shelter and sustenance under their roof. Walton came  home; Zerthan and daughter Margaret came home; Roses sons, Bobby  and Gerald lived in the home for a number of years after their  mother died. Zerthan’s son Edd also grew up in the home.

George died in 1947 from congestive heart  failure. George and Ruby and all of their deceased children are  buried at Mt. Zion Cemetery.

e e e

This brings us back to the beginning of the  Terrell legacy in Newton County. Melindas daffodils, planted  sometime in the 1850s, still bloom every spring at the site of John  and Melindas homestead on Mt. Zion Road. Life goes on.

[1] A more extensive history of this family is available at the  NCHGS Archives.
[2] Information on the trip from Georgia to Mississippi was  provided by Robert Lee Bob Terrell from his memories of  stories told to him by his grandfather, William Aaron  Terrell.
[3] Information about the music lessons and dental care provided  by Billie Carnell Herd LoCicero. Information about the  Measells came from a Journal kept by William Aaron Terrell,  now in the possession of Carol Rigdon. Information about  the Sunny Hill Church came from Thomas Aaron Jack Terrell  and his son Scott.
[4] This information was related to me by my grandmother, Camma  Arnold Hansford, who was once a neighbor of William and  Matilda Terrell.
[5] Jack Terrells memories.
[6] Jack Terrells memories.
[7] Jack Terrells memories.
[8] Bob Terrells memories.
[9] Jack Terrells memories.
[10] Information from Ruby Gladys Terrell Herd.
[12] Information provided by Beryl Hansford Terrell.


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