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Genealogy can take you places

Story by Kevin McKinley | All Things Southern

Many farm families moved to South Alabama during the early days of the last century. The “Big Cut” was going on in regards to the virgin forests of the area and the vast acres of clear cut provided extremely cheap farmland for those with a good back and a little money.

During this era, Mr. C.C. Huxford established a mill at a place called Local, Alabama. The community was later renamed Huxford and thereby the modern community we know today came into existence. Churches, schools, businesses and cemeteries were set up in the burgeoning hamlet. Mr. Huxford had connections to Brewton as well as Huxford, Alabama.

Among the families moving into the Huxford area in this time period was the family of William Thomas Kirby. According to an email posted on rootsweb back in 2002 by Mr. Buck Gohagan; William Thomas Kirby was born on August 8, 1855 and moved to Escambia County from Randolph County around 1896. Kirby was a railroad man and a preacher. His oldest son Jesse Kirby died from either drowning or from falling off of a horse.

According to the email there are several Kirby’s buried at the Huxford Baptist Cemetery.  Several members of the Kirby, Driskell and Parker families married during the era. Among them was Charles Ransom Kirby and Ida Emmanitis Driskell or “Eid” as she was called (pronounced as “I’d.”)

Ida’s parents were W.D. Driskell and Donnie Bumpers Driskell. Mr. and Mrs. Driskell were married in Clarke County Alabama in November of 1884 by Rev. DeWitt and afterwards moved to the McCullough, Alabama area where the Driskell family farmed.

Ida and Charles Ransom Kirby (usually called “Ransom” by members of his family), married on October 10, 1910 (10/10/10) and shortly thereafter moved to Mississippi where Mr. Kirby took a job on the Gulf Mobile and Ohio Railroad (pronounced GEM-N-O by locals along its routes).

On April 14, 1913, W.D. Driskell died while plowing his field near his home. This is according to a statement made by his son Allen Driskell many years later and thereafter told to Allen’s son Gene. Allen Driskell and his sister Florence were thereafter tasked with helping their mother with much of the rearing for the several other children in the family which included “Bud,” Charlie Driskell, Andy Driskell and Burlene Driskell. Allen Driskell also took on a lot of the farm work.

Back in Mississippi, Charles Ransom Kirby moved up the latter in his career with the GM and O Railroad and became a section boss, supervising a number of men along a section of the railroad. His brother in law Andy would later become a section boss on the L&N in this area.

Ida and Charles had one child, a daughter and the family lived in Bay Springs, Miss. It is unknown how much contact Ida was able to maintain with her siblings back home because she could not read or write (a not uncommon occurrence in an era when people had to work so very hard to stay alive; an education often came in second place). However, it is known that her brother, Andy did make the trip to see her at least once and occasional correspondences back home were exchanged.

The daughter of Ida and Charles grew up and married a railroad man as well and had one child, Jeanette who later married a Grantham. They reside in Laurel, Miss. where she is retired after many years of teaching in the public school system. She was also a school principal for several years in that town.

Ida died in 1963. She suffered from kidney problems but was known for her keen sense of humor even to the end of her life. Charles Ransom Kirby died in 1970, it has been said that he suffered from what today would have been considered dementia or Alzheimer’s. 

What made this story such a draw to write about for me is that in an old photo album, which was passed down by my grandfather, Allen Driskell to my mother, Helen McKinley, there is a holiday greeting postcard with an elderly couple’s picture.

On the back of the postcard is the faded scribbled pencil inscription “Id and Ransom.” My mother told me many years ago that Id was her aunt and that she lived in “Bay Saint Louis,” Miss., or so she thought. She had no further information on the couple.

While home on an extended Christmas break I did a little research and found Mr. Gohagan’s email on line which mentioned Ida’s granddaughter who was still alive in Laurel. Soon Sondra and I were off on a quest to Laurel where we met my mother’s first cousin once removed, Mrs. Grantham, who just days before she didn’t even know existed.

After meeting Mrs. Grantham and her husband, who were both very wonderful people to take time to visit with two weary travelers from the far away Canoe, Alabama area, we were on our way to Bay Springs, Mississippi, the town where Ida and Ransom lived.

It was a 30 mile trip north but in a sense it was like traveling back into time, and learning about the lives of relatives whose existence I had scarcely been aware of for most of my life. We found the graves of Ida and Ransom at the Bay Springs, Cemetery. Bay Springs, Miss. is a town similar in size to Flomaton.

While walking the cemetery in Bay Springs it was easy to imagine what this great uncle and great aunt may have been like and what they may have seen during the years of their lives which stretched across two world wars and men landing on the moon.

I tell this story to illustrate how fascinating genealogy can be and how you never know when or where you’ll find answers to age old questions.