Documenting my family's past for future generations. My family tree includes the Smith/Mansell families of Alabama and Oklahoma, the Castle/Day families of Kentucky and Oklahoma, the Wheat/Ming families of Texas and Oklahoma, and the Bell/Roberts families of Mississippi, Tennessee, and Oklahoma.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Genealogy on the Road: Waterloo, Alabama

My grandparents, Weaver and Fannie (Castle) Smith spent their honeymoon in Waterloo, Alabama, visiting Grandpa’s relatives there.  Ninety-five years later my brother and I visited Waterloo on their wedding anniversary, June 29.  I know my grandmother enjoyed her trip there—the only real vacation she ever took—because I heard a lot about Waterloo when I was growing up.  On our trip my brother and I remarked again and again that we wished we had just put her in the car and driven her back to Kentucky and Alabama.  She would have complained but we should have just taken her anyway. 


Ella Smith Beckham?, Fannie & Weaver Smith
Waterloo, Alabama, 1919 

Waterloo is a quiet little town with a population of about 200.  It is located on the Tennessee River in the far northwestern corner of Alabama.  It was incorporated in 1832, one of the oldest incorporated towns in Alabama.  According to a historical marker, the town was an important port on the river during the steamboat era.Following a disastrous flood in 1847, the town was moved from its location on the riverbank, now under Pickwick Lake, to present higher ground.”  


Historical marker, Waterloo, Alabama 

In the 1930s the town was affected again when the Tennessee Valley Authority built the Pickwick Landing Dam just north in Hardin County, Tennessee.  I can’t help but think of my very favorite movie ever, O Brother, Where Art Thou? when Everett says,  “The fact is, they're flooding this valley so they can hydroelectric up the whole durn state. Yes, sir, the South is gonna change.”  I wonder how much Waterloo has really changed since my grandparents were there in 1919.

Waterloo is known, if it is known at all, as the “End of the Trail of Tears.”  Another historical marker on the edge of the river tells that at Waterloo the Cherokees were put on boats to make the final leg of the Trail of Tears.  The marker says: “Thousands of Cherokee Indians passed through Waterloo in the 1830s when they were forced by the U.S. government to move West on the Trail of Tears.  Most came by boat from Tuscumbia and camped here to await transfer to larger steamboats.  During the encampment several births, deaths, and escapes occurred.”


Trail of Tears marker, Waterloo, Alabama 

My great-grandfather Smith followed his Mansell in-laws to Waterloo from Troy in Pike County, Alabama, in the 1870s.  His mother-in-law, Elizabeth Simmons, and her children were supposedly Cherokee, and it was from Waterloo, in the 1890s, that Stephen and Fannie Smith moved to Indian Territory and applied for Cherokee citizenship.  

In one of the applications Elizabeth Simmons Mansell Cotton made a deposition stating that she and her children were Cherokee.  The deposition was dated 1894 and made in Cleveland County, Oklahoma, which used to make me wonder if Elizabeth died and is buried in Oklahoma.  However, on my last trip to Waterloo some Mansell cousins showed me the place in Mount Olive Cemetery where “Granny Cotton” is said to be buried.  After a long drive out into the hills outside Waterloo, I showed my brother her purported resting place.  According to our Mansell relatives, Elizabeth may have come to Indian Territory with the Smith family then returned to Waterloo with some Mansell/Webb family members who came back to Alabama.

Elizabeth Cotton's grave?, Mount Olive Cemetery,
Waterloo, Alabama 

And, again, the Smiths were traveling from Alabama to Oklahoma.  After a stop at the Shiloh Battleground we were on our way home.

11 comments:

  1. I have Mansell/Webb lines that run through Waterloo. What is your line?

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    1. My great-grandmother Frances (Fannie) was the youngest child of Elizabeth Simmons Mansell Cotton. Frances used both Mansell and Cotton as her maiden name, but as far as I can tell, neither John Mansell nor William Cotton was her father. So I'm not sure I can actually say that I'm a Mansell, although Frances had several half-brothers who were.
      I met Laura Clemmons, who has Mansells and Webbs in her line, a couple of years ago when I was in Waterloo. Are you related to her?

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  2. I have enjoyed reading your post. My mother who's maiden name is Mansell, mentioned to me a couple of weeks ago that she did not know much about her father's family. I think( not 100%) that John Mansell would have been my g-g-g-g grandfather. My great great grandfather was Leonard Mansell. He preached at Mt. Olive church in Waterloo. My mother's father, JL died when she was 16. Over the years she lost contact with all but one aunt who remained in Waterloo. My grandmother was a Sharp from Waterloo and we have a book that was published all about the Sharp family, but it would be nice to find out more. I am goi g to look more into this book you mentioned, Pages from the Past. Thanks for sparking my interest even more.

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    1. Thanks! I wish I could prove that my great-grandmother Fannie was a Mansell. The Mansells that I have met are such nice people!

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  3. My family are the Franks and Geans Lewis and Rethal Franks were my grandpr my mom was Ella Ovajane Franks Schultz Ebright Waterloo Ala is the most beautyful place God could have made I miss Big Rock and the ICE cold water of the springs I would give anything to live the last of my day helping and living there I'm Jinna Finton My mom's second child

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  4. did you ever find the spooky place of Waterloo AL you need good hiking boots and climb up a hill that most people don't know is a cemerty tombstones have now fallen into the earth don't fall in the holes and don't go alone

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    1. I have had a secondary residence in Waterloo for years and know of several cemeteries, but not sure which one you're referring to. Mind sharing the location? Thanks
      clayton_stevenson@yahoo.com

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    2. Clay did you ever find the cemetery in Waterloo that I was talking about it's above the firestation

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  5. Very Interesting! I've enjoyed very much reading your blog. Waterloo, Al. is my home town. Kelley wrote in her 2013 posting that her grandmother was a Sharp. My great-grandmother was Flora Elizabeth Sharp (nee Robbins). She was my great grandfather's second wife, he was William Sharp. Their daughter, Mattie Pearl Sharp Vinson, was my grandmother. She married Turner Lee Vinson. I started on my family background about 6 years ago and traced the Vinsons and the Sharps all the way back to 1811 in Waterloo - long before the town was incorporated. I read about the great flood, the TVA and the terrible tornado in my great grandmother's Bible, and heard about the worst disasters when family gathered on the porch. My paternal grandparents were Green and Lilly Winsted, newcomers to Waterloo as they moved there in the early 1950's. I grew up knowing the Mansells, unfortunately I was very young and other than "Mr. and Missus Mansell" I can't remember names. I still go back to Waterloo every year and hope to one day live out my later years there. It's home on earth to me, no matter where I am.
    There's much about Waterloo to know and much to love.

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    1. Thanks for your comments. I am so glad I got to visit Waterloo, after hearing about it from my grandparents for so many years. When I think about it now, I think about how beautiful and peaceful it is there.

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  6. Turman Vinson was my great-grandma's brother her name was Ella. I have some of the family tree, there parents were Alec and Sarah (James) Vinson I noticed her name started Martha Ella Vinson Geans Johnson. Nice to meet you cous.

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