Copyright © Janice Tracy, Mississippi Memories

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Pettus Family of Holmes County, Mississippi

A few months ago on Attala County Memories, I wrote a post about the Pettus family that migrated from Norwich, England to Virginia. Although I did include some information in that post about my maternal grandmother, Rosa Mae Pettus Netherland, who lived in Holmes County, Mississippi, I did not include anything about other Pettus family members who lived in Mississippi.

My Grandmother, Mother, and Me, Lexington, MS
Photographed by my father in late 1946

The fact is that I knew very little growing up about this side of my family. One reason for this was that my Pettus great-grandparents died when I was very young, and my mother and her mother seemed to known very little about the family's history. But thanks to two of my readers, Robby Pettus and R. E. Harthcock, newly discovered cousins in Mississippi, I now have some of that information. Interestingly, Robby's great-grandfather and mine were brothers.

Based on available family information, the Pettus family in Mississippi may have migrated from Virginia, via South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama . Verified information about my branch of the Pettus family, however, begins in 1830, when William Spencer Pettus, was born in Holmes County, Mississipi, on June 30th of that year. On an unverified date in 1867, William Spencer married Martha M. Thomas, in Holmes County. The daughter of Patrick Boyd Thomas, Sr. and Mary Frances, whose surname is unknown, Martha M. Thomas was born on October 30, 1847. According to the 1870 U. S. Census taken in Holmes County, Mississippi, William Spencer and Martha M. Thomas were living near Tchula, Mississippi. In 1880, the U. S. Census taken that year listed the family, now with three children, as residents of Beat 4, Holmes County, Mississippi. William's occupation was shown as "carpenter."

The marriage of William Spencer and Mary M. Thomas Pettus ultimately produced seven children. Their oldest child,
John Dabney Pettus, was born in 1881 in Holmes County. When he was about 27 years old, John Dabney Pettus married Evie Lena McLean on November 2, 1907, also in Holmes County. Evie McLean, the daughter of Edward Dudley McLean and Adeline Cecilia Ferrell, was born on February 24, 1890, in Attala County, Mississippi. John Dabney Pettus died in 1909, and Evie McLean Pettus did on February 26, 1960 in Holmes County. During their marriage, Evie gave birth to 2 children, John Pettus and Charley Pettus.

Another of their sons, William Elza Pettus, my maternal great-grandfather, was born on June 1, 1876 in Holmes County. I was able to locate William Elza on census records only once, in 1900, when he was shown as a "Boarder" in the Thornton, Mississippi home of Molly Malone, a widowed mother of three children. Later that year, William Elza Pettus married Lucy Lula Trigleth in Holmes County. Lucy Lula was born in 1881 near Brozville, Holmes County, Mississippi, and was the daughter of George Walter Trigleth, Sr. and Susan Elizabeth Elviney Coggins. Lucy died in 1951 and was buried in Coxburg Cemetery in Holmes County. William Elza Pettus died the next year, on December 15, 1952, and was buried along with other Pettus relatives in Holmes County. During their marriage, William Elza Pettus and Lucy Lula Trigleth had four children, Mary Sue, William O., Rosa Mae, and Eloise.

Their oldest child, Mary Sue Pettus was born on September 9, 1903 in Holmes County. Mary Pettus married Robert Autry Chisolm on December 29, 1920, also in Holmes County. On January 19, 1961, Mary Sue Pettus Chisolm died, and she is buried in Coxburg Cemetery, Coxburg, Holmes County, MS.

William O. Pettus, the couple's only son, was born on October 17, 1904, in Holmes County, MS, and died on January 12, 1968, also in Holmes County, MS.

Rosa Mae Pettus, my maternal grandmother, was born on August 18, 1908, in Holmes County. She married Ralph Ernest Netherland, my grandfather, and they divorced around 1940, when my mother was 14 years old and her brother was around 10. A few years later, Rosa Mae remarried, but she became a widow in the early 1950's. After her second husband's death, Rosa Mae moved from Holmes County to Jackson, where she worked as a nurse at St. Dominic's Hospital until she retired. After Rosa Mae retired, she settled near Yazoo City and lived there until her death on January 4, 1986. My grandmother is buried in Coxburg Cemetery, Coxburg, Holmes County, MS, just miles from where she was born, grew up, and married my grandfather.

The couple's youngest child, Eloise Pettus, was born on August 18, 1910 in Holmes County. She married Joseph Elijah Gilmore about 1929, also in Holmes County. Eloise (pronounced "Eloyce") died on November 12, 1996 and is buried in Holmes County, as well.

In addition to John Dabney Pettus and William Elza Pettus, William Spencer Pettus and Mary Frances Thomas Pettus had five other children, Mansfield, born about 1868, James, born June 1870, Alice born circa 1875, Tildon, born June 1878, and Elmer, born on June 16, 1880. Elmer died on October 10, 1934. Like their brothers, John Dabney Pettus and William Elza Pettus, all five of these children were born in Holmes County, Mississippi.

According to my new cousins, most of our Pettus ancestors are buried in Oak Grove Cemetery in Holmes County, Mississippi. Others are buried in Coxburg Cemetery and in nearby cemeteries. Later this spring, I plan to post pictures of their gravestones on Cemeteries of Dancing Rabbit Creek, my cemetery blog, and I hope you will stop by.


  1. That's wonderful, Janice. Don't you just love meeting new "cousins" out of the blue?

  2. The Name Dabney is family name. Re: the family marriages of Saunders, Dabey and Pettus of Virginia via England.
    Mary Lee Saunders