Day before yesterday I went in search of another ancestor. This one is my great-great grandmother Emma Leana Scott who married William Thomas Boland the son of John Wesley Boland. John Wesley’s grave, if you’ll remember, was the first one we searched for on our way north to the conference. It was located on the military base at Fort Benning, Georgia. Emma Leana was John Wesley’s daughter-in-law. She was my grandmother Annis Wilkerson Hamrick’s grandmother, who Annis never knew because Emma Leana died almost 19 years before Grandma was born.
Emma Leana was born in Georgia just before the Civil War in 1856. She married William Thomas in 1872 at the age of 16, and she died March 1, 1891 at the age of 35 after giving birth to ten children.
In the 1880 census the family is shown as living in Muskogee County near Columbus. Using the census records, I believe it was in the vicinity of the Midway Methodist Church where her father-in-law John Wesley had been a minister. This is now where the military base is. Since we did not have the 1890 census (this is the one that was destroyed) we didn’t know where the family went from there. For the longest time all we knew was that William had remarried and had a child in 1893 by his second wife. We found this in the 1900 census. We assumed correctly that Emma Leana had passed away sometime between 1880 and 1900.
Finally in 2010 a very kind lady from Alexander City, Alabama took the time to walk through cemeteries in her area and record what was written on the tombstones. Her information on FindAGrave.com is how we learned that Emma Leana Scott Boland had died and was buried in Goodwater, Alabama.
So yesterday I spent my time in the Goodwater, Alabama library and in the graveyard where I finally found Emma’s tombstone. There was no photo of the grave on FindAGrave.com nor was there an address for the cemetery. I came here to find the church, cemetery and grave; and I also came here to learn more about why they moved here and if there were any clues as to who her parents were or where in Georgia she was born.
Goodwater is a railroad town in Coosa County, and I learned that the railroad came here about 1876. Because the town was the only Railroad stop between Columbus and Birmingham,where the railroad could refuel with coal, this town became a boom town overnight. Passengers got off the train here long enough to freshen up and have a bite to eat before moving on.
I also felt certain that this was why the family moved to Goodwater. I felt the move had something to do with the railroad. Since Columbus was also a railroad city, I thought that they came here by railroad rather than by wagon. The picture below is what Goodwater looked like in the late 1800’s, when Emma Leana and William Thomas lived there.
Today the old depot is a community center, the railroad hotel has been torn down, and the streets like so many tiny rural agricultural towns have a lot of businesses abandoned. I ate lunch at Meme’s Cafe, since it was the only place I found in town. What I found was a good old home-style country cooking buffet. The food was great and was even better at $6 a plate. Her spicy grilled catfish was better than Cracker Barrel’s. Below is how Goodwater looks today.
Finally, it was time to find Emma Leanna’s grave. The church sits on Main Street and was easy to find It was hot, humid, and threatened to rain any minute. I found out while researching that this graveyard has over 400 graves. I expected a long afternoon, especially since shrubs covered some of the markers.
Because she was buried before 1900 I decided to look first in the oldest part of the graveyard, and I was lucky. I found her in about 30 minutes. In the picture below her grave is located on the ground in front of the nearest obelisk.
I was also lucky certainly not because the grave had fallen over and broken into three pieces and the grass had almost grown over the grave stones, but because the grass had not completely covered the stones. I felt like I had to do something before I left, because in a short time the grave stones would be lost forever under the sod.
Thankfully, I keep a short small shovel in the car, a trowel, and a whisk broom. I took all three and worked at digging up the stones and placing them so that they will not be lost anytime soon. When I tried to lift one of the stones, I had to push the tip of the shovel under it and raise it using my foot to apply pressure on the handle so I could get some leverage. I slipped my fingers under the stone it several inches up but could not keep my grip. The stone slammed back to the earth catching the tip of the shovel and cartwheeling it back toward me slamming its handle into my left hand. I howled and said, “Well, thank you Emma!” But this voice in my head said, “Well, don’t blame me just because you tried to use a child’s shovel for a man’s job.” I smiled, because that wasn’t Emma’s voice, it was Johnelle’s. I seem to always hear my mama’s voice when I get upset.
I tried to place the stones upright, especially to get a better picture; but couldn’t. So I carefully placed them on the ground and took lots of good pictures so that I would know how to find it in the future. Chuck and I talked about it last night, and we feel that we need to come back and hire someone to repair the grave and set it back up.
As far as I can tell there is no one else in the graveyard to whom she was kin. I did find lots of Scott’s while in the library. Several of the Scott family moved to this area in the 1850s. There is a chance that she and William and their children moved here because she already had family in the area. I’m just not sure, and I’ll need to do more research later. I found no other Bolands in the area.
Because she is listed on the grave as Emma L Boland I believe that most people called her Emma. The graveyard is the Goodwater United Methodist Church Cemetery, and it is located right at the edge of town. I found a picture of the church that she attended which burned in the early 1900s and was replaced by the church currently standing.
As you may remember her father-in-law John Wesley Boland was a Methodist minister, and I’m certain she followed the church of her husband. I noticed that all of the Scotts in Goodwater were Baptists, so that is probably why there were none buried in this church yard with her.
We know that Emma and William Thomas lived here at least until 1891. While researching, I ran across this picture below. Under the photo it explained that although they didn’t know the date of the photograph, they were certain that it was taken before 1892 because one of the students in the picture became principal of the school later and graduated in 1892. He is one of the older students on the top row. There is a good chance that Emma and William’s daughter Lena Victoria is in this picture. Lena Victoria is my great grandmother. She was 15 in 1891 when her mother died.
Knowing what I do about Lena Victoria Boland and Emma’s mother-in-law Elizabeth Durden Boland, I’ve noticed a three-generation long pattern. All three of these women died young and were buried and left behind.
I grew up reading and watching movies about the pioneers who often times had to leave behind a lonely grave in the woods by a trail or on the prairie. It made me sad that they were left there by themselves forever with no family members beside them. Until lately, I had no idea how common this was in my own family.
Emma’s husband William Thomas remarried, moved away, and finally passed away in Ocala, Florida where he was laid to rest beside his second wife. The husband of Lena Victoria Boland, my Great-Grandfather, buried her in Blountstown, Florida, remarried, and is buried beside his second wife in Winter Haven, Florida. John Wesley Boland buried my great-great-great grandmother Elizabeth Durdan Boland in Cusseta Georgia, remarried, and was buried with his second wife in Ft. Benning.
I’m glad I found Emma and was able to visit her grave. The next time I come, I’ll bring her flowers.