James Edmunds: The Man and The Legend

Written by Edna Liggin
Submitted by Molly Liggin Rankin

The Bernice News Journal
October 4, 1979

James Edmunds was a man who traveled many miles going from Georgia to Alabama as a young man, then perhaps back to Georgia as a married man. He brought his family to Union Parish in the mid 1840’s. He bought cheaply much land across Cornie and the Shiloh area.

So perhaps the highway east of Shiloh, now going down a modified Sutton Hill, represents the legend of James Edmunds. It crosses Edmunds Creek. When James Edmunds walked here the road was slippery, rutted, steep and narrow. Today two beautiful cattle ranches are on either side of this highway.

Yet though he once owned much land, James Edmunds died with scarcely an acre. As he did not have a son to live to be grown, none of his many descendants living today bear the name Edmunds.

What about this name? Edmund is of Anglo-Saxon origin, used by kinds, and finally becoming synonomous with the dukedom of Kent.  As James Edmunds was not the only member of his family to come to North Louisiana, the name is still found in other areas.

Who were the known members of his immediate family? Besides James, John and Roscoe, there was a sister, Martha, married to Dr. John Clark. Roscoe’s widow and family came to Shiloh before the Civil War. Dr. Clark was the first doctor in the village of Shiloh in the 1850’s.


Old police jury records reveal James Edmunds was in Union Parish in the mid 1849’s. He was assigned to help review out a road, going by his place, believed to have been near a Cornie Creek landing or crossing. This road was the old Famerville-Claiborne road. Nearby began the stream known as Edmunds Creek, so that the ownership of land by James Edmunds probably followed the creek.

James Edmunds is reputed by old timers to have lived also back of the White place, on a hill now in the Dr. Borders ranch, and near the old Jim Lee place. He may have made several moves as he bought land in the 1840’s and 1850’s.

In December of 1847 he bought 370 acres from Phillip May for $400.00. When Phillip May died two years later he left 1,000 acres between Cornie and D’Arbonne so the 370 was probably in this vicinity. That year 1849, found James Edmunds commissioned to review out a road commencing at the Farmerville crossing of Cornie Creek, going by the plantations of Solomon Feazel and James Edmunds, to Claiborne line, in the most direct course to Homer, La. Working with James Edmunds were George W. Moore, W. B. Bailey, W. C. Heard, B. Tubbs, F. M. Linder, Allen Carr, and M. W. Laurence.

When the 1850 census was taken James Edmunds was recorded as 39, born in Georgia, his wife, Ann, 37, Catherine was 17, Mary, 15, Susan, 12. Two little boys, James and Thomas were 8 and 3 years of age. Unaccounted for or yet to be born were Martha, Nancy, Penniah and Matilda.

Sometime before 1820, James Edmunds had left his home in Georgia and gone to Perry County, Alabama. His name is found in an old record book of that county. Then in another Perry County marriage record book is listed the marriage Feb 27, 1829 of James Edmunds to Grizzell Ann Hays, daughter of David Hayes. The succession record of David Hayes list Grizzell Ann Hayes, as well as a sister, Sarah.

In the early 1850’s James Edmunds continued to buy land from J. G. Fuller, William Hopkins and W. C. Heard, paying $2500.00 and $1500.00 sums. From John Knott he bought 160 acres. He was involved in land deeds with W. A. Milner, Thomas Pearson and James Sutton.


Records have not been found of the marriages of all the Edmunds girls, though Catherine’s marriage to a Fitzgerald. She was probably the first. She was probably dead by 1870 as her 14 year old son, William Clay Fitzgerald, was listed in the 1870 census of the household of James Edmunds.

On December 4, 1852 the Reverend Jesse Tubb married Mary Edmunds to George W. Tabor, son of Elijah and Susan Sims Tabor. On the same day were married John B. Robinson and Frances Bilberry from Meridian community. Years later the Elijah Tabor home at Shiloh was to be lived in by this Robinson family- the only two families to ever live in the  house.

Elijah Tabor and his family had come to Shiloh in the 1850’s from Louisville, Mississippi. After Elijah Tabor’s death in 1865, the children of the widow Mary Edmunds Tabor were to be heirs to a portion of estate of Elijah Tabor.

Meantime, as his daughters married, James Edmunds gave land to them, recording in the land conveyance deeds the esteem in which he held the two sons-in-laws, George Tabor and Jonathan Milner. His daughter Susan had married a young preacher, Jonathan Milner, later to fight in the Civil War. In 1870 the Milners left for Texas.

Meantime, the young couple, George and Mary, lived on land a few miles east of Shiloh, in a house at the top of Sutton Hill, very steep. This is probably the land James Edmunds bought in 1853 from James Sutton, witnesses David Sutton and Henry Hamilton. The highway today goes over the well that was located at the barn.

Not too many years ago, this house, owned by Mr. and Mrs. Pat Goodrum, was torn down. It had been put together with pegs, mortises, stout beams and without nails. A well here, as enduring as Jacob’s well, had furnished water for those who lived in this house for a hundred years.

The marriage of George and Mary was to last perhaps ten years, with five children born, then he with his brothers, left home to fight for the South. He was to die in Holly Springs, Mississippi. Only three children survived through adulthood, and these were John Burl, James Elijah and Molly. Susan died young and Euphamia died of a fever just before her marriage.


Many legends have been handed down in the family of the descendants of James Edmunds. The story is told that Mary Edmunds Tabor dreamed she saw her husband, George, dead in a coffin. The dream was repeated . In three days time she received word he was dead of disease in Holly Springs.

Another legend is that George’s father, Elijah, went to Mississippi in a wagon and brought the body back to Shiloh for burial. In doing so, he caught a cold and death came to him. As the war records state George Tabor died in 1863 and Elijah Tabor’s succession record in the courthouse states he died in 1865, this legend is probably not true. The war record of Jonathan Milner, another son-in-law to James Edmunds, affirms he went back and forth to the war, as he had sickness in his family.

How many homes did James Edmunds have after he came to Union Parish? It is believed that James Edmunds lived during the war years, he and his wife Grizzelle Ann, in a substantial house, two stories as old tales of the family include as upstairs. The news item in 1912 newspaper of the burning of the new home of Jim Lee mentions previously had burned on the same site an old home built before the Civil War. Was this the home of Jim Lee’s grandfather, James Edmunds?

James and Ann Edmunds had at home during the war years three young daughters, Nancy, Matilda and Penniah, as well as the grandson, William Clay Fitzgerald.

Then the war was over and in 1865 Elijah Tabor died and his will named as heirs, the children of Mary and George Tabor. The story is told that in these years the widow Mary Tabor kept a boarding house and thus met a young man from the North, Dan Lee, who became her second husband. He came either from Ohio or New York, the latter indicated on census records.

Three children were born to this marriage, James, Tom and Ellen Lee. It was a short lived marriage with Dan Lee disappearing from his hotel room while on a business trip to Monroe, presumably meeting with foul play. In 1873 Dan Lee was declared legally dead, his property listed as value of $613.00. James Edmunds was appointed tutor for the minor children.

James Elijah Tabor, Mary’s firstborn, was born December 13, 1853. He died in Texas in 1936. His descendants live today in that state. John Burl Tabor was born September 17, 1859, dying March 28, 1930. Mary (Molly) Tabor born March 6, 1862, married Gib Butler, and also lived until her death in Texas. Two other Tabor children died young.

To Dan and Mary Tabor Lee were born three children. James William, born November 3, 1867, Ellen Lee in 1869 and Tom Lee on May 3, 1871. Tom Lee died June 18, 1925 and was buried at Shiloh. His mother Mary Lee was buried there the next year, dying January 22, 1926. Jim Lee died May 4, 1950 and was buried at Mt. Patrick. Ellen Lee married John Shaw September 6, 1885.

In her later years, Mary Lee gained a reputation for doctoring and healing. She was sent for when serious illness struck down a member of a neighbor family. At other times she walked at night without fear between the homes of her sons, Jim Lee and John Burl Tabor. She had always read for her grandchildren a ghostly tale or two. She carried books in a sack when she rode a horse to visit Mrs. Sallie Porter.


What about the sisters of Mary Edmunds Tabor Lee? Susan had married the preacher-soldier Jonathan Milner that James Edmunds praised when he deeded them land. After pastoring Shiloh Baptist church for a few years, the Rev. Milner with his wife, Susan, to preach and establish a Baptist church in Commance County, Texas. A daughter-in-law, Mrs. Jane Milner, is remembered as living years ago in Bernice. Jonathan and Susan are buried in Texas.

Nancy Edmunds married the widower, John C. B. White in 1870. He was a Civil War veteran, and first married to Nancy Tubb Pollock who had a son, Eugene. There were also White children when J. C. B White married Nancy Edmunds.

John C. B. White had a town house at Shiloh as well as outlying farm. He had bought the Shiloh house from his brother-in-law. John Knott. James Edmunds, “out of affection and filial duty” had donated land to Nancy when she married.

The marriage lasted thirteen years. During these years Nancy worked hard, managing her own property or plantation, and giving birth to five children. When she died she was in debt, and owed among other things for a headstone for a child,  so one of her children must have died. By this time John C. B. White was old and feeble. James Edmunds helped settle the estate and became tutor for the minor children.

It is not known when Martha Edmunds married John C. Knott. She is believed to be one of the older girls. They lived at Shiloh for a while, then moved to Arkansas. John Knott was postmaster at Shiloh from 1854 to 1856, and was appointed patrol captain in 1854. One son, William Hardy Knott married Sallie Shaw, daughter of Joseph Shaw, Jr.

Penniah (Tiny) Edmunds married Andrew Buckley January 16, 1871 at the age of 19. The Buckley family were to be part of Shiloh for many years to come, owning land, having a store, active in Shiloh church. Five children were born to Andrew and Penniah —- Jim, Joseph and Eugene, and daughters, Emma and Annie.

When Jim (James) married Genie Sterling, old newspapers carried a write-up of the event of the wedding at Shiloh church with the choir singing. Emma married Willie McLaurin and moved to Ruston. Annie married a Smith. Most of them are buried at Shiloh.

Matilda, youngest daughter of James Edmunds, also married in 1871, taking for her husband, W. H. Elliott, with Shiloh’s pastor, W. P. Smith performing the ceremony. Matilda was only 17 years of age. Witnesses were W. S. Liggin and M. A. Edmunds.


Edmunds have been in America for over three centuries, with the first one probably starving to death. An old book of Virginia settlers list as dying Feb. 23, 1623 one John Edmunds came over in 1635. Perhaps he fared better.

A book of English coat of arms list three for Edmunds and eight for Edmonds.

After the American Revolution, Elias Edmunds was awarded 6,000 acres of land in Virginia for his services as a Lieutenant Colonel.

Daniel Edmunds lived in Warren, Virginia. In Surry Co. three generations of Edmunds, Howell, Nicholas and Thomas gave public serve as magistrate–captain, sheriff, and member of the house of delegates.

Some of the Edmunds who came to Louisiana settled in Claiborne Parish, and are buried in Rocky Springs cemetery. An excerpt from an old diary kept by Leonaidas P. Spyker of Morehouse Parish relates he moved his family from Bossier Parish in the 1850’s, mentioning he stopped at Shiloh and also spent nights in two Edmunds home.

John and Roscoe Edmunds married sisters back in Georgia…Sarah Caroline and Nancy Bagby. John bought land in both Union and Claiborne Parishes. Sarah Caroline Edmunds was a member of Shiloh Church until she died in 1880. John Edmunds, her husband died in 1872. His succession record lists daughters married to a Glover, E. A. Givens and A. L.  Harper. A bequest was made to a granddaughter, Martha Clark, also granddaughter to the late Dr. John Clark.

The 1850 census lists Roscoe Edmunds as 37, with nine children. His will was made in 1853 in Spaulding Co., Ga. He died in 1856, with his widow, Nancy, and children soon coming to Shiloh. She bought much land and was a member of Shiloh Church until 1895.


Who was the father of James Edmunds? Georgia Will Book 1 contains the last will and testament of William Edmunds sworn to in open court May 4th, 1840. The will lists as children: Francis Edmunds, Williams Edmunds, James Edmunds, John Edmunds, Roscoe Edmunds, and Martha Clark (youngest child). Roscoe was next youngest, then James. No mention is made of a wife, so she may be presumed to be dead.

Was this the William Edmunds who is recorded as married to Catherine Cole, June 19, 1806 in Wilkes Co., Georgia? If so, then James Edmunds named his oldest daughter, Catherine, for her grandmother.

Who was the father of the above William Edmunds? Was he the Francis Edmunds whose will is found in Early Records of Georgia, Wilkes Co. Vol. I.  This Francis Edmunds deeded land to his wife, Rachel, and to one of his sons, William Edmunds. Mention is made of other children named: Catherine, Richard, Dolly, Eloi, Ann, Sally, and Elizabeth. The will was probated July 9, 1799.

Wilkes Co. Georgia was originally St. Paul Parish, then before that known as “Ceded Lands”. The county of Wilkes was formed by constitution in 1777, then later divided into the counties of Wilkes, Elbert, Lincoln,Taliaferro, Madison and Warren.




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