The Joel W. Womack Story

The Joel W. Womack Story

Farris Wade Womack

April 2001
Revised January

Corrections, additions and suggestions should be directed to: [email protected]
Joel W. Womack was born in Georgia about 1811-1812.  The exact location of his birth has not been determined but it was probably Oglethorpe County.  He reported on the 1850, 1860 and 1870 Censuses that his birth place was Georgia but we have not found a specific location.  Current scholarship suggests that his father was Bird Womack, a native of Virginia who had migrated to Georgia before 1810.  Bird Womack and his wife, Ann, surname unknown, were living in Nottoway County, Virginia as late as 1807.  He and Ann, along with Bird's mother, Keziah, were grantors of a deed to William Franklin in Nottoway County on the 16th of February.   Joel's oldest brother, Thomas, was born in Georgia in 1808 so the move to Georgia must have occured during the late 1807 or early 1808 period.  Bird lived in Oglethorpe County, then moved to Greene, and then Gwinnett, DeKalb, Cobb, and finally Stewart County where he most likely died after 1840. 

Joel Womack was living in Stewart County, Georgia at the time of the 1840 Census.  The record shows a "Joel Warnock" with two children the correct age of the older children, Martha and William,  but there were two additional males and one female whose origin and circumstances cannot be determined.  One of the males was between 50-60 and could have been the father of Joel or his wife.  The other individuals, a male and female were between 20-30 and they could be relatives but that is pure speculation.

The first record of Joel Womack currently available shows that he was a successful claimant in the 1832 land lottery and there are records of land transactions in Stewart County until 1843.  Joel W. Womack married Sarah Ann Mathis in 1838 in Stewart County and a copy of the marriage license can be viewed by clicking here.  There is a record of his having claimed Lucinda Bumgarner as a legal child for inheritance purposes in 1843.  Lucinda appears to be the illegitimate child of Joel W. Womack and Nancy Bumgarner.  The first records in Alabama are the Land Patents provided by the Bureau of Land Management.  Those data show that Joel acquired land in Tallapoosa County, Alabama in 1849.  But it was common for Patentees to have lived on the land and made improvements for a number of years before the actual Patent was granted.  Land Patents were issued by the United States to citizens who then took the Patents to the local County Court House where the County official responsible for the recording of deeds issued the Patentee a warrantee deed.  The abstract of title chain begins with the grant from the United States.  A plat of the five parcels shows that they were all contiguous even though the last one was in an adjoining section.

Land Patents obtained by Joel Womack
Month Day Year Acres Part Sect Township Range State County
5 1 1849 39.82   NWSW  20 24-N   23-E  AL TALLAPOOSA
6 1 1849 39.82   SENW  20 24-N   23-E  AL TALLAPOOSA
5 1 1850 39.82   NESW 20 24-N   23-E  AL TALLAPOOSA
10 1 1851 39.82   SWSW 20 24-N   23-E  AL TALLAPOOSA
6 15 1854 39.9025   NENE 30 24-N   23-E  AL TALLAPOOSA

Click here to view a map of Tallapoosa County, Alabama which displays Township and Range numbers.  By using these coordinates, Joel W. Womack's land can be seen in relationship to the surrounding area.

Joel Womack and his family  were living in Stewart County when they decided to move to Alabama and they must have known that they would face rather serious obstacles in getting to their new home site.  The Chattahoochee River formed the Georgia/Alabama border and crossing it would have meant either a ferry or finding a fjord.  The odds were that they crossed on a ferry around the present day site of Columbus and proceed on the then existing wagon trails/roads to near the town of  Goldville.  Wagon roads in 1840’s were little more than horse trails and the need to stop to clear a tree or get over a stump would have been frequent.  Although the actual mileage as the crow flies from Columbus to Goldville is quite short, the family probably needed several days to make the journey.

The time of year when the move was undertaken remains a question but it was probably in the fall after the harvesting time had been completed.  Migrations often took place in the late fall so as to provide time for the harvest to be completed and the necessary arrangements made for the journey.  Moreover, the new home would be hardly more than a place to stop because the land had only recently been made available for settlement and there surely were no houses to be rented. 

Joel Womack would have needed to cut logs and build a crude shelter before the winter weather made the work all but impossible.  Many pioneer families spent their first winter in cabins so small that it seems virtually impossible by current standards.  Moreover, Joel would have had to do the work himself because his children were too young to be of much help.  Perhaps other pioneers would have lent a hand but most of the work would have been his to do.  Then there was the matter of clearing enough acreage for a crop in the spring.  Surely staying busy was not hard to achieve.

A little known but interesting fact concerning the juxtaposition of this property lies in its proximity to several gold mines.  Joe Waters has written extensively about the history of gold mining in Tallapoosa County and the following narrative appears on his web site.  Goldville was located a few miles north of New Site, the Post Office of record for Joel Womack.

Goldville District

In 1842, gold was discovered in Northeast Tallapoosa County. The news spread fast and furiously in the same manner as the 1849 strike in California. It brought all kinds of people with the same lust for riches. The population of Goldville quickly reached 3,500. Almost overnight Goldville became one of the largest towns in Alabama.

In the "Goldville District", gold veins were rich. The gold was there, but the methods of obtaining it were crude. There also was free gold, concentrated at the surface by weathering which made it possible to work with a shovel and pan in some places. Gold was worked down to water level. A great amount of work was done as indicated by the trenches, pits, and shafts that can still be found.

There were at least fourteen merchants, seven saloons, and two hotels that served the miners needs. Most of the miners lived in tents. There is not any evidence of a church in the gold rush days. The town of Goldville was born and died between the census of 1840 and 1850.The amount of gold taken from the mines and pits will never be known. Most of the miners were gone before 1850. When news of the California gold strike reached Goldville, the miners packed up and left not even taking time to put out their campfires.

The first mine in the Goldville District was the Birdsong Pits (S4,T24N,R23E) owned and operated by Edward Birdsong who between 1840 and 1850 carried on mining operations with negro labor(slaves). Other mines included the Jones Pits (S5,T24N,R23E) which is one of the oldest mines in the county. The Log Pits (S24,T24N,R23E) which was one of the richest operations ($30,000.00 in gold and a small amount of silver).

The Ulrich Pits, later called Dutch Bend or Romanoff Mine (S8,T23N,R22E) were located on the east bank of Hillabee creek about eight miles from Alexander City. Dr. Ulrich, a German, found gold here while digging a wine cellar. As late as 1906 a stamp-mill was operating on this property. The mining equipment here included a 20 stamp-mill and a cyanide plant. The Ulrich Pits were acquired by Robert A. Russell of Alexander City, who operated these mines till 1934.

Other mines that operated in the Goldville District mostly before 1900 were the Early Pits (SW1/4S26,T24N,R22E), Stone pits (S34,T24N,R22E), the Chisolm prospect (S9,T23N,R22E), the Duncan prospect (S16,T23N,R22E), the Mahan Pits (S4,T23N,R22E), the Croft Pits (S34,T24N,R22E), the Tallapoosa Mine (Sw1/4S26,T24N,R22E), the Tine Burnett Lode (SE1/4S24,T24n,R22E), the Houston Pits (S18,T24N,R23E), the Hawthorne Mine (S8,T24N,R23E), the Goldville Pits (S8,T24N, R23E), the Germany Pits (NW1/4NE1/4S9,T24N,R23E), and the Lowe Mine (NW1/4NE1/4S9,T24N,R23E). There were numerous other pits that were worked and abandoned.

Men in the financial capital of the United States were aware of the gold in Tallapoosa County. A letter to Colonel Dean from E.M. Morgan of R.A. Ammons and Company, bankers and brokers of #2 Wall Street, New York dated December 2, 1887 states " Regarding that Birdsong and Jones property. Mr. Roudebush leaves tomorrow for London and from cables and letters which we have received we are confident that the property will be taken by some people over there." There were many similar inquiries.


Many of these mines were located within a mile or two of Joel Womack's land.  Whether or not Joel and his family were engaged in prospecting is not known nor is it known whether or not gold and the search for it might have played any role in his coming to Tallapoosa County.  He listed his occupation on each of the extant Census records as "Farmer" and that occupation seems to be the more likely one.

The 1850 Census for Tallapoosa County, Alabama listed Joel Womack in Township 24.  The Census Index recorded his name as "Joel Warrick" but a closer examination of the actual microfilm shows that the last name was more likely spelled "Wamick" by the Census taker.  The serious researcher has learned to accept and compensate for the vagaries of the Census takers, many of whom could hardly read and write themselves and very often the subjects of the Census were unsure of their age, place of birth or the spelling of their name.  Nevertheless, in every instance when Joel or his known descendants signed or otherwise provided their name as an official record, it was always spelled "Womack". Furthermore, the 1850 Census presents an interesting case in another respect.  It appears that the actual census was taken in January of 1851 rather than the summer of 1850.  On the form, the Census Marshall has struck through the 0 in 1850 and substituted a 1.  That fact helps to compensate somewhat for the age variances between the 1850 and 1860 Census for Joel and his family

1850 Census for Tallapoosa County, Alabama - 10 January 1851
Eli T. Pouncy-Enumerator
Page Dwell# Fam# Name Age Sex Color Occup Value BP Mwy Sch Read/Write
125 1851 1851 Joel Wamick 40 M - Farmer 350 Georgia - - -
- - - Sarah 30 F - - - Georgia - - NO
- - - Martha A. 11 F - - - Georgia - Yes -
- - - John S. 10 M - - - Georgia - Yes -
- - - William H. 9 M - - - Georgia - - -
- - - Mary A. 8 F - - - Alabama - - -
- - - Elizabeth 7 F - - - Alabama - - -
- - - Darcus 6 F - - - Alabama - - -
- - - Francis 5 F - - - Alabama - - --
- - - William 4 M - - - Alabama - - -

The birth of Mary A. in Alabama in about 1842 establishes the approximate time of the move to Alabama and presumably Tallapoosa County, however, Mary reported on the next Census that she had been born in Georgia.  The difference in the ages of Joel and Sarah may suggest that she was not his first wife but that is speculation and not a shred of evidence exists to support it.  She would have been old enough to have given birth to Martha A. in 1838-39 and more likely than not she was the first wife.  The last child, nee William, raises interesting questions.  Why would Joel and Sarah name a second child, William.  He does not appear on subsequent Census records.  William H. is shown at age 9 and one year younger than John.  As we shall see, the next Census in 1860 reverses that order.

1860 Census for Tallapoosa County, Alabama - New Site - 23 August 1860 - G. T. Strickland
Page Dwell# Fam# Name Age Sex Color Occup Real Pers BP
332 931 931 Joel W. Warmack 48 M - Farmer 1200 970 Georgia
- - - Sarah 38 F - - - - Georgia
- - - William 20 M - - - - Georgia
- - - Mary 17 F - - - - Georgia
- - - John 19 M - - - - Georgia
- - - Elizabeth 13 F - - - - Alabama
- - - Darcass 14 F - - - - Alabama
- - - Mesouru 12 F - - - - Alabama
- - - Melvina 11 F - - - - Alabama
- - - Georgia A.  9 F - - - - Alabama
- - - Evaline  6 F - - - - Alabama
- - - Franklin  1 M - - - - Alabama

All of the ages listed were, to some extent, at odds with the ages given in the 1850 Census but a part of the difference can be explained by the dates each of the two censuses were actually taken.  The instructions for both Census calls for the age of the individual as of June 1.  Clearly, the ages given in 1860 are not exactly 10 years greater than they were in 1850 but such is often the case.  Martha and the younger William are the two children not repeated.  Their whereabouts are unknown although Martha could have married.  William H. and John have their ages and places in the line up reversed.  Mary reported that she was born in Georgia while she had reported 10 years before that her birth place was Alabama.  Four additional children show up on this census.

1870 Census for Tallapoosa County, Alabama - New Site - 9 August 1870 - James M. Holley
Pg Dwell# Fam# Name Age Sex Color Occup Real Pers BP Read/Write
65 64 64 Joel Wammock 59 M W Farmer 350 300 Georgia NO
- - - Sarah 50 F W Keeping House - - Georgia NO
- - - Frances 21 F W Assistant - - Alabama NO
- - - Elvira 19 F W - - - Alabama NO
- - - Georgia 17 F W - - - Alabama -
- - - Evilene 15 F W - - - Alabama -
- - - Joel 12 M W - - - Alabama -
- - - Susan  8 F W - - - Alabama -

By 1870, all of the children who had been born in Georgia were gone from home and only one additional child, Susan,  had been born during the decade.  Susan was born when Joel was 51 and Sarah was 42-3.  After taking into consideration the extenuating circumstances surrounding each of these Census, it appears that Joel and Sarah were the parents of thirteen children, nine girls and four boys,  in the following order.  Some of the names of the children have been obtained from other records, primarily marriage bonds.


Descendants of Joel W. Womack

1 [1] Joel W. Womack b: Bet. 1810 - 1811 in Georgia d: Aft. 1876 in Probably Tallapoosa Co.,AL
.. +Sarah LNU b: Bet. 1820 - 1822 in Georgia m: Bef. 1839 in Georgia d: Bef. 1876 in Probably Tallapoosa Co.,AL
. 2 Martha A. Womack b: 1839 in Georgia
. 2 William Harrison Womack, Sr. b: March 1, 1840 in Probably Stewart Co.,GA-Georgia d: August 4, 1905 in Independence Co., AR Burial: August 5, 1905 Mt. Zion Cemetery
..... +Harriet Euline Smith b: July 4, 1840 in Georgia m: November 13, 1860 in Tallapoosa Co.,AL d: December 24, 1916 in Faulkner Co., AR Burial: Republican
. 2 John S. Womack b: 1841 in Prob Stewart Co.,GA-Georgia
. 2 Mary Ann Womack b: 1842 in Probably Tallapoosa Co.,AL
..... +Lemuel P. Smith b: Bet. 1836 - 1837 in Georgia m: December 18, 1860 in Tallapoosa Co.,AL
. 2 Nancy Elizabeth Womack b: 1843 in Probably Tallapoosa Co.,AL
..... +William J. Galloway m: December 15, 1868 in Tallapoosa Co.,AL
. 2 Missouri Francis Womack b: Bet. 1845 - 1848 in Probably Tallapoosa County, AL
..... +Willoughby H. Carter m: January 9, 1874 in Tallapoosa Co.,AL
. 2 William Womack b: 1846 in Alabama d: Bef. 1860 in Probably Tallapoosa County, AL
. 2 Mary Darcus(Dorcus) Womack b: September 4, 1846 in Tallapoosa Co.,AL-Dadesville d: June 26, 1913 in Tallapoosa Co.,AL Burial: Old Concord Cem.
..... +Drewry Morgan Eathan Brewer b: December 3, 1846 in Tallapoosa Co.,AL-Dadesville m: March 3, 1868 in Tallapoosa Co.,AL-one record shows 2-26-1868 d: October 10, 1920 in Tallapoosa Co.,AL Burial: Old Concord, Cem.
. 2 Melvina Womack b: Bet. 1849 - 1850 in Probably Tallapoosa County, AL
. 2 Georgeanna America Womack b: August 2, 1852 in Probably Tallapoosa County, AL d: Aft. 1910 in Probably Pike Co.,AR
..... +Eli Jasper Foshee b: February 28, 1850 in Alabama m: December 14, 1871 in Tallapoosa Co.,AL d: April 3, 1917 in Pike Co.,AR
. 2 Amanda Evaline Womack b: November 26, 1854 in Probably Tallapoosa County, AL d: November 2, 1919 in Tallapoosa Co.,AL Burial: Dillard's Cemetery near Hackneyville
..... +George E. McKelvey b: 1852 in Alabama m: December 16, 1873 in Tallapoosa Co.,AL d: 1934 in Tallapoosa Co.,AL Burial: Dillard's Cemetery near Hackneyville
. 2 Joel Franklin Womack b: November 1859 in Probably Tallapoosa County, AL d: 1928 in Clark Co.,AR Burial: Jones Cemetery
..... +Lucinda Walls b: December 28, 1857 in Alabama m: December 19, 1878 in Clay Co.,AL d: 1961 in Clark Co.,AR Burial: Jones Cemetery
. 2 Susan Carillar Womack b: January 6, 1862 in Probably Tallapoosa County, AL d: August 3, 1918 in McIntosh Co.,OK Burial: Hitchita Lackey Cemetery, Hitchita
..... +Henry Clay Walls b: February 14, 1858 in Alabama m: December 19, 1878 in Tallapoosa Co.,AL d: June 4, 1942 in McIntosh Co.,OK Burial: Aft. June 4, 1942 Hitchita Lackey Cemetery, Hitchita
*2nd Wife of [1] Joel W. Womack:
.. +Emily Childers m: August 1, 1876 in Tallapoosa Co.,AL

There are a number of interesting facts and suppositions to be drawn from the three Census records shown above,  It seems certain that Joel and Sarah lived on the same place during all this period of time.  While he may not have owned all of the parcels of land shown during all that time, the likelihood is that he did.  Accordingly, the variation in the value of the real estate merits noting.  In 1850, he reported that the value was $350.00 but by 1860 that value had risen to $1,200.00, an increase of 243%, more than 13% per year during the decade.  But then the Civil War intervened and by 1870, Joel reported that his real estate was worth $350.00 again, a decline of 71%.  What a wild ride he had seen in the value of his property!  Perhaps that was a forerunner of the volatility that his descendants would come to expect from the 21st century economy.

Whether or not Joel served in the Civil War has not been determined; he would have been old enough not to be drafted but many older men did fight.  His son, William Harrison, did serve and it is quite likely that his son, John, also served although the record has not been found.  William, in fact,  served the entire conflict and one of the interesting side bars to his service was that he joined the 3rd Georgia Cavalry rather than joining a unit from Tallapoosa County.  Tallapoosa contributed more than 2800 men to the Confederacy and more that a quarter of them never returned. 

The children of Joel and Sarah grew to adulthood in Tallapoosa County and most, if not all, of them married there and began their own families.  At least four of his children made their way westward to Arkansas; William Harrison moving to the Ozark foothills while Georgeanna, Joel Franklin, and Susan moved in 1881 to Pike County, Arkansas.  For a more complete story of some of the children of Joel W. and Sarah, the reader should click here.  

Current scholarship has failed to determine the date and place of death for Joel and Sarah.  The Tallapoosa County records contain a marriage bond between a Joel W. Wommock and Emily Childers date 8-1-1876.  It is possible that this was a second marriage for Joel and would suggest that Sarah had died sometime between 1870 and 1876.  A cursory examination of the 1880 Census for Tallapoosa did not disclose a Joel Womack.