The Mary Ann Womack Story

The Mary Ann Womack Story

Farris Wade Womack
June 2001

Mary Ann Womack, the fourth child of Joel W. Womack and his wife, Sarah Ann Matthews, was born 10 October 1842, probably in Alabama although, on at least one record, she was listed as having been born in Georgia.  Whether her birthplace was Georgia or Alabama, it is clear that she entered the family circle during a period of significant transition.  Joel and Sarah were living in Georgia in 1840, probably Stewart County although that conclusion is based upon limited circumstantial evidence.  Mary Ann's older sister, Martha, was born in Georgia about 1839, William was born in Georgia in 1840, and John was born in 1841, also in Georgia.  Mary Ann's arrival brought to the family four children, none of whom were older than four.

On other pages in this series and on this web site, the life and times of the Womack children have been reported, at least, they have been the subject of speculation because the actual number of facts based upon hard evidence is small.  Mary Ann's life was no different from that of hundreds of other children who grew up in the wilderness of Alabama in those interesting times before the Civil War.  She grew to be an adult in one of the most turbulent periods in American history and watched the events unfold that proved to be prelude to the Civil War.  The primary means of making a living was farming and Joel Womack and his family were busily engaged in that pursuit.  There may have been a school but that is not certain although it appears that all the Womack children learned to read and write.  Community activities were limited and most families were too busy trying to earn a livelihood from the small farms they operated to have much time for anything else.  A few gold mines existed in the area but none amounted to much and soon the craze moved on to more promising finds.

For many years, the Mary Ann Womack story was concealed by the difficulty that researchers experienced in finding any record for her other than the decennial Census.  But then, a strange and interesting thing occurred.  The author made a trip to Tallapoosa County, Alabama to view the actual records in the Court House at Dadeville.  While searching for all Womacks and Smiths-Harriett Smith married William Harrison Womack-it was discovered that the transcribers and indexers had mistakenly entered her name as Mary Hammock.  Indeed, one researcher had listed a marriage for one Mary Hammock and Lemuel P. Smith.  An examination of the official record revealed that the actual name began with a "W" and not an "H".  Moreover, the bondsman for the marriage license was William Womack, her brother, and Lemuel P. Smith was the brother of Harriett..

Lemuel P. Smith had served as bondsman when his sister, Harriett,  married William Womack, in November 1860 and now, one month later, William Womack was serving as the bondsman for the marriage of HIS sister, Mary Ann, to Lemuel P. Smith.  The revelation, while astonishing, showed once again the importance of seeing the actual record rather than a transcription because not matter how careful the indexer may be, errors occur.

Lemuel P. Smith was working as an overseer on the farm of Mary Pearson in August 1860.  He was quite likely in that same job when he married Mary Ann a week before Christmas in 1860.  Within a few months of their marriage, the Civil War had begun with the April 1861 firing upon Fort Sumter near Charleston, South Carolina and the procession of southern states lining up to secede from the United States began to pick up steam.  Alabama's secession occurred on 11 January 1861 three months before the firing upon Fort Sumter and within a few days of the marriage of Mary Ann and Lemuel.. 

South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union on December 20, 1860. South Carolina asked the other slave states to join together in forming a new nation. By February 1861 six other states from the lower south followed South Carolina. They were Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas.

These seven states formed a new union called the Confederate States of America. The South gave three reasons for leaving the Union:

  1. The Confederate States felt the United States thought they had broken the Constitution.
  2. The Confederacy argued that the United States had failed to enforce the Fugitive Slave Laws.
  3. The government would not allow slavery in the new territories.

The upper southern states remained with the Union. Virginia said that if the North decided to fight they would fight against them. Lincoln said they would not use force to get the states back into the Union. He hoped they would do so on their own.  The Confederate States began taking over the forts on their land from the federal soldiers. There was no fighting. Only two federal forts were left in the South. They were Fort Pickens in Florida and Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina. Both of the forts were surrounded by Confederate troops.  Virginia voted to leave the Union a few days later in April 1861. North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas followed shortly after Virginia. The slave states of Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware remained loyal to the Union. Western Virginia formed a new state, West Virginia, for those who wanted to be a free state.

Such were the tumultuous times that attended the marriage of Lemuel P. Smith and Mary Ann Womack.  By the Spring of 1862, forces were being amassed and troops assembled.  It appears that Lemuel Smith joined the Confederate Army and was assigned to the 37th Alabama.  Sadly, within weeks of his enlistment, he was dead, probably from disease in the camps, a condition which exacted a terrible toll on the ranks long before any had faced a single Yank!  Lemuel died in June 1862 and was buried at Mobile.  Mary Ann, a young widow of 20 was left to fend for herself.  Her whereabouts for the remainder of the Civil War are not known but more than likely she returned to live with her father and mother on the family farm near New Site, Alabama.  She was childless and young but the number of suitors was severely restricted by the demands of the War which continued to go badly for the beleaguered Southerners.

How she might have met Jesse Thompson Epperson is not known but on 19 March 1865 she was married to Jesse in Chambers County, Alabama.  Jesse was a 40 year old widower with six children, the youngest little more than a baby not yet three years of age.  Where they lived and how they lived are subjects for speculation but within 15 months of their marriage their first child was born and they named him, John Lemuel Epperson,  in memory or honor of Mary Ann's first husband, Lemuel Smith.  Who said that the age of enlightenment began after 1960!  Each two years from then until 1878, a new baby arrived in the family.  The family relocated to Russell County, Alabama and settled in the village of Uchee, a distance of about 70 miles from northern Tallapoosa County.  The family was listed on the 1870 Census under the surname Apperson and the spelling of Mary Ann's name leaves something to the imagination.  The children from Jesse's first marriage are all still at home and there are two children, John Lemuel and Jesse, the sons of Mary Ann and Jesse T. Epperson.  The Family Bible records and the 1880 Census provide the source for listing the births during the next decade.  Mary Ann died in the spring before the 1880 Census.

Descendants of Mary Ann Womack and Jesse Thompson Epperson

1 [1] Mary Ann Womack b: 10 Oct 1842 in Stewart Co.,GA/Tallapoosa Co.,AL d: 14 Apr 1880 in Russell Co.,AL
.. +Lemuel P. Smith b: 16 Aug 1836 in Georgia m: 18 Dec 1860 in Tallapoosa Co.,AL d: 24 Jun 1862 in Mobile, AL - Confederate Rest, Magnolia Cemetery
*2nd Husband of [1] Mary Ann Womack:
.. +Jesse Thompson Epperson b: 24 Jan 1825 in Georgia m: 19 Mar 1865 in Chambers Co.,AL d: 1890 in Alabama
. 2 John Lemuel Epperson b: 13 Sep 1866 in Russell Co.,AL d: 14 Aug 1932 in Mobile Co.,AL
..... +Jane "Jennie" Lamar Vaughan b: 27 Dec 1870 in Barbour Co.,AL, Comer m: 17 Oct 1893 in Alabama d: 13 Apr 1947 in Mobile Co.,AL
. 2 Lucy G./C./W. Epperson b: 20 Jan 1868 in Russell Co.,AL d: 06 Feb 1868 in Russell Co.,AL
. 2 Jesse Thornton Epperson b: 23 Feb 1870 in Russell Co.,AL d: 08 Jan 1909 in New Orleans, LA
..... +Cora Vaughan b: 20 Sep 1877 in Barbour Co.,AL m: 12 Nov 1896 in Midway, AL d: 06 Mar 1955 in Barbour Co.,AL-Union Springs, AL
. 2 Virgil Montgomery Epperson b: 12 Mar 1872 in Alabama d: 15 Jan 1939
..... +Mary F. "Fannie" Braswell b: 1879 in Alabama m: 1905
. 2 Sarah "Sallie" Tommie Epperson b: 24 May 1876 in Alabama
..... +Jake A. Screws b: Mar 1871 in Georgia m: 1895
. 2 Joel Franklin Epperson b: 15 Oct 1876 in Alabama d: 01 Jan 1937
..... +Mary Louise Adams b: 20 Oct 1889 in Mobile Co.,AL m: 01 Jan 1917
 2 Susan Katherine "Katie" Epperson b: 13 Sep 1878 in Alabama d: Jun 1879 in Alabama

Mary Ann Womack helped Jessie rear the six children from his first marriage and the seven children from their marriage.  They were serious citizens of Alabama who struggled mightily to rear their children in one of the most difficult times in American history.  After having lost their first spouses during the Civil War, they were married in 1865 as that epic struggle was coming to a bitter end.  No one could have predicted the harsh and vindictive measures that were to follow.  A recitation of the ruthlessness, cruelty, and heartlessness of Reconstruction is beyond the scope of this piece but we can infer that its awful effects did not spare the Epperson family but their indomitable spirit was sufficiently strong and vibrant to insure their survival and their ultimate success.  Mary Ann Womack died in 1880 at the age of 38 in Russell Co., Alabama and was laid to rest there, probably in the Ramah Church Cemetery.  Her descendants bear testimony to the strength of character that so characterized the life of this southern woman who endured hardships for most of her short life but whose behavior rose above the economic shortcomings that she faced.


The records in the Womack database can be searched by clicking on: WOMACK