I wasn't born in Alabama, but it wasn't my fault. Five generations before me had
been born there, but it fell to me to be the first born in Lower Alabama. It was wartime
and there was work to be had at the Wainwright Shipyard in Panama City, Florida. At peak
production in June 1943, there were over 15,000 employees working there, but by October 1945, nearly
all production had been stopped and the workers laid off. The work gone, my family moved back to
Geneva County briefly before returning to West Florida and ultimately migrating farther south.
My cousins who still live in West Florida don't really identify with the popular concept of "Florida."
Their side of the state has long been known jokingly as "L.A.," for Lower Alabama. When they travel to the
peninsula, they speak of going "down to Florida." You might still hear someone there say, "My
cousin moved off down to Florida."
Holmes County, Florida, and Geneva County, Alabama, are like Siamese twins joined at the
heart. Their people moved back and forth with no thought of boundaries, and left descendants on
both sides of the line. The same might be said for all of South Alabama and West Florida.
Settlers from Butler, Barbour and Pike counties routinely inched southward, following the lumber and
turpentine industries and farming when they could. Many ended up in the sawmill towns of Bagdad,
West Bay and Millville or the farming communities of Hurricane Creek and Westville.
Thirty years of loving labor have gone into tracking these elusive people.
They have not been easy to document, as most of the relevant courthouses burned at some point.
In the beginning, I knew nothing about any of them beyond my grandparents, and very little about
Discoveries along the way led to new understanding of why many families jettisoned the
past and gladly moved on without it. After the passage of so many years,
it is all reduced to an abstraction, the people unreal and almost mythical in their deeds and misdeeds, with
no more bearing on our lives today than Zeus' antics on Olympus.
The intent was to publish a traditional book about them to record the chain that links us,
even if only mythically. However, the advent of newer technology made me decide to publish
this book electronically -- it weighs a lot less, you don't have to ship it and it can be updated
easily as new facts are discovered. This website will eventually include all the chapters.
A large amount of the data here is the product of my own research, but many people over the years
have been kind enough to share their families' history with me. Memories are not perfect, so
it is only reasonable to expect some measure of inaccuracy in legends handed down. Also, in some
cases, I have relied on the published findings of other researchers on some lines. For some claims,
I have found corroborating census or other records, but others have not been verified. In all cases,
the reader should remember never to accept anything as gospel until you have verified and documented
it for yourself. In spite of careful editing and painstaking proofing, errors of various types
manage to creep in. This researcher will appreciate being notified of any typos or anomalies.
Note: Some of the PDF files on this site are quite large. Unless you have broadband, expect
Note: Items in this color on the descendant lists have been added or updated since
the list was generated and may not be reflected in the corresponding family report.
Photo legend, clockwise from upper left: Derlie Clemmons Murphy, abt 1912; Etta Gray Owens and sister Hattie Gray
Nicholson in the cornpatch, early 1950s; Derlie Clemmons Murphy and children Leola, on lap, and Ambers, standing, on porch at
31 Catawba Ave, Florala, Alabama, abt 1912; Ambers and Bertie Owens Murphy, abt 1929; John Richard
Owens, abt 1940?; George Murphy in car, right, abt 1905? (person on left unknown).
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