Sunday, June 19, 2011

For Father’s Day I Want a Photo of my Family Lined up in Front of a House

I wish everyone still did this.

Click to Enlarge

l to r: Elvira Lyson, who was raised by Joe and Sarah Joyner Chambers
(she married Owen Thweat, brother of Ada Thweat),
Joe Chambers and Sarah Joyner Chambers, Jesse and Sally Joyner with Jesse's son, Herman
Alfred Bunn Joyner holding Howell, and Nancy Ross Joyner (child standing died as a small child).
The family to the far right is Nancy “Nannie” Williamson standing in the back row,
Janie Williamson Williams standing in the front row, Jessie E. Williamson standing in the back row,
far right, Mai Edith Williamson Shelton is the baby and
Joe and Mary Elizabeth Joyner Williamson are the parents.
Their youngest daughter, Jo Williamson Ried, was not yet born.
Janie Williamson Williams is my great grandmother.

I love when I find a photo of a whole group of my ancestors, pre-1900s, lined up in front of their house. Of course, it’s great to see what they looked like but a photo like this one provides lots of clues about their lives.

This particular photo was taken around the mid-1890s. It was originally shared with me by my aunt, Joline Joyner Williams. The patriarch of this family, Alfred Bunn Joyner, is seated in the middle of the photo and is my third great grandfather.

You can tell by their clothing, the size of their house and the fact that they could even afford a photo that they had achieved a measure of success in life in Haywood County. Before the Civil War this family owned a number of slaves and farmed a large amount of land most likely growing cotton.

In the 1870 United States Federal Census, six years after the Civil War, the value of Alfred Joyner’s land had grown to $2,400 but the value of his property had been reduced from $9,700 to $1,000, which was likely from the loss of slaves and the destruction from the war.
Headstone of Littleton Joyner in
Providence Methodist Church Cemetery in
Madison County, TN near the
Haywood County line.

Sadly, Alfred also lost his son to the war. When the Civil War broke out, Littleton Joyner, who was studying medicine, left school to join the Confederate Army and died on Saturday, June 28, 1862. According to his headstone, he “Sickened & died in Holly Springs, MS while in the Confederate Service."

Alfred Joyner himself would die very soon after the family photo was taken.

According to an article in the "Brownsville States Graphic" on July 20, 1899:
“…Mr. Joyner, after some years, married Miss Nancy Ross, of Madison County a most practical, level-headed, considerate Christian lady; dear aunt Nan, as she was familiarly called, who, with three sons, survive their noble father. Mr. Joyner was from his youth a consistent member of the M.E. church, South, of unswerving faith to his God and Savior; his faith in himself sometimes weak. His strong temperance sentiments were conspicuous in life, and in the hour of death, when his physician gave him, toddy, he said, ‘want pure water to drink.’.

Uncle Alfred Joyner was blessed with an active, vigorous old age; though in his ninetieth, year could walk or ride horseback; his mind was clear, and he was happy in society, or with his paper or his books. The whole community sorrow with Aunt Nan and the children and grand-children of this good old man, who went peacefully to reap his reward – the reward of the faithful, in August his remains were interred at Providence cemetery; funeral by Rev. B. F. Poebles.”
Click to Enlarge

My great grandmother, Janie Williamson Williams
This little girl in the photo is my great grandmother but someone I never met because she died August 19, 1914 in Haywood County when she was just 27. Her son, my grandfather Lloyd "Bo" Williams, was just four at the time.

Where did this photo come from?

Around the time this photo was taken, rural families of the south had an occasional photograph made whenever a traveling photographer came through the community.

The Farley Brothers Traveling Studio
William Brummitt Farley and his brother, Walter, did just that and called it The Farley Brothers Traveling Studio. Their studio was a small building on wheels which was pulled around by four mules.

There is no way to know exactly who took the photo of the Joyner family but I am very glad we have it today.

You can read more about this family on the Joyner and Williamson pages of

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