Forgotten Trails: Downing family history reveals Scottish ancestry

Published 7:08 am Wednesday, August 22, 2007

By Staff
The Downing family was of Scottish ancestry and probably came to this country in the late 1740s. They settled, along with many of their countrymen, in North Carolina.
Data is not known of the earliest Downings but the story picks up with Wiley C. Downing, who was born in 1789 in Cook County, N.C. He was married to Sarah Mason, the daughter of Peter Mason. They along with other members of the family moved from North Carolina to southwest Alabama and northwest Florida. Wiley C. Downing and Sarah Mason had several children; George W. Downing (1826) who married Barbara Brewton, Barbara Downing, John R. Downing (1828-1871) who married Parker Pringle Brewton, William T. Downing (1830-1914) who married Louisa R. Stanton, Amelia Mildred Downing (1831-1909) who married Edward Milstead, Aaron T. Downing, Feagin Downing who married Katherine Smith, Elizabeth Downing, Robert Elijah Downing (1837-1918) who married Esther M. Ellis, Bryant Downing (1840) who married Caroline Coleman, and Wiley C. Downing Jr. (1843) who married Elizabeth Bozeman.
Both John R. Downing and Robert Elijah (Elisha) Downing became farmers and worked with and for lumbermen that were operating in the area. Later John R. Downing began lumbering on his own and Robert joined him for a while. Robert served with the Confederacy and just prior to 1860, his son, William Wiley was born.
At war's end, the Downings returned to their lumbering and in 1872, Robert Elijah established the Cedar Creek Mill, which he incorporated 13 years later. The mill was located about 18 miles east of Brewton where a settler named Mendenhall had dammed the creek and ran a grist mill and a sawmill. Downing had bought the mill that was begun by Ira Bond and later purchased by the Rev. Andrew Jay.
John R. Downing and Parker Pringle Brewton (1834-1883 in the yellow fever epidemic). They were parents to Margaret Downing who married Emanuel Brewton, Laura Downing
(1858-1916) who married A.P. Archelaus, Kizzie Downing (1861-1945) who married R.T. Ghent and Frances Downing (1964-1883 in the yellow fever epidemic).
Robert Elijah (Elisha) and Esther Ellis, who was the daughter of Charlotte Tippins and William Ellis, had the following children; William Wiley Downing (1860-1918) who married Anna Farrar of Pensacola, Julis P. Downing (1868) who married T.M. McCall, Alice D. Downing, 1869-1939) who married W.A. Hill, Minnie B. Downing (1872-1962) who married Harry Henderson, Elijah Downing Jr. (1875-1947) who married Lenna Harold, Ella P. Downing (1882-1960) who married first Dr. Mason Foshee and second, W.G. Martin and Easter M. Downing (1880-1958) who married Dan B. McKenzie.
William Wiley Downing joined his father's mill and became the general manager in the late 1890s. In 1899 Robert sold the mill to William Wiley, Thomas R. Miller and Francis C. Brent. In 1913, this mill became the current T.R. Miller Mill Company.
William Wiley Downing and Anna Farrar were the parents of Wiley A. Downing (1890-1956) who married Jennie Lee Campbell, Anna Downing (1892-1969) who married Stephen D. Sawyer, Ella Downing who married Claude Stewart Allen, Edgar E. Downing (1893-1942) who married Stella Kate Lovelace, Lillian Downing who married John Ford Moulder, Adrian Philip Downing (1902-1962) who married Marie Hamilton, Julie Downing who married Richard D. Pope, and John Riley Downing (1900-1958) who married Abbott McKinnon.
Both Adrian Phillip Downing and John Riley Downing became directors of the mill in the 1930s.Adrian was a graduate of the University of Alabama and was an active employee in the corporate offices. He became a director and, finally, the vice president of the Lumber Division following WW II. John R. Downing attended Gulf Coast Military Academy, and although he was involved with the lumber business, his career was in banking. He became the longtime president of First National Bank of Brewton.
That brings us down to more modern times. One can see that the early families in this area were connected in various ways.

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