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From Our Past X

Faces from Gurley's Past - Part 1

In a long forgotten cedar trunk found in a long forgotten Gurley attic, there rested two leather bound photo albums containing photos of early residents of Gurley. One album was a Christmas present given to a cousin named Matilda (Matilda Gurley Walker -1854-1931) from Cousin Clara (Clara McBride). It was dated December 25, 1886. The photos are of people of all ages.

These were real people, people who lived and worked in Gurley much like we do today. But they lived in a much simpler time. It was a time without radio, television, automobiles, electrical appliances, and computers. It was a time when simply going to church or the mercantile store for a sack of flour was a chore. It required walking, horseback, or hitching up a buggy. It was a time when the family stuck together and the family unit was cherished and respected by everyone. Cooking a simple meal required a lot of preparation and time, whether on a wood or coal burning stove. Some of these people had lived and endured the terrible ordeals of a civil war and now they were content to get along with their lives, living and working quietly and peaceably in a little town called Gurley. Some of these folks worked in the pencil or bucket mill, some for the Gurley Record or Gurley Herald newspapers, others in the general mercantile store, and others were content to work their farms.

Many of these photos are identified by name but many are not. Many of these people are ancestors of current Gurley citizens. Some will be recognized by photos currently in old albums in the possession of our readers. The Gurley Website and From Our Past ask if anyone can identify some of the unknown photos, please submit their names and any other pertinent information to our website.
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The Gurley Website
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Clara McBride (left) gave one of the albums to her cousin Matilda Gurley Walker (right) on December 25, 1886. Matilda was daughter of William Rutledge Gurley and niece of Capt. Frank B.Gurley. Matilda was to marry Capt. Elijah F. Walker in 1872.

Clara McBride
Clara McBride
Capt. Elijah Walker and Matilda would have four children, Frank, William, Ruby, and Clara. The Walker family lived in the white frame house Elijah Walker built on Gate Street in 1874. Matilda comes from a long line of the Gurley family tracing back to her Grandfather and Grandmother John and Elizabeth Gurley in the 1700s. Clara McBride was a cousin to Matilda but the exact line of relationship is not known to this writer. Matilda Gurley Walker
Matilda Gurley Walker

John and Elizabeth were married in 1755 and had two known sons, Jeremiah and Lewis Gurley. Jeremiah married a lady named Francis and had five children. John (1788-1868), Elizabeth (1789-?), Mary (1792-?), Annie (1795), and James (1800-?). The first son, John Gurley, was the one considered to be the founder of Gurley and builder of Gurley's Tank. John married Matilda Tharp Rutledge on April 25, 1816 and had seven children. James Harvey (1817-?), John King (1819-1850), William Rutledge (1821-1888 father of Matilda above), Mahala Matilda (1825-?), Louisa Jan Elizabeth (1832-?), Frank Ballou (1834-1920), and Thomas D. Pickney Gurley (1840-1901). All of the children were married except Frank and Thomas who never married. William Rutledge Gurley (See From Our Past II) married Sara Ann Criner on January 11, 1844. William and Sara Ann were to have six children of which one was Matilda Gurley Walker. The other children were John, James Richard, Thomas Franklin, Joseph George and Amelia Jan who married William Bennett. Amelia Ann was known around Gurley simply as "Aunt Puss".

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Confederate President Jefferson Davis
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Winnie Davis

Two of the most interesting photos found were those of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his daughter Winnie. These were reproduced photos sent out by Dr. Harter's Medicine Co. of St. Louis, MO. Dr. Harter sold Dr. Harter's Iron Tonic. At the close of the Civil War in the South, there remained a great deal of respect for Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee and it was not uncommon to find photos and portraits of these Southern gentlemen in Southern homes. In Col. Donald H. Steenburn's book, A Man Called Gurley, he points out, in 1867 Jefferson Davis passed through Gurley's Tank and knocked on the door of twenty two old William T. Bennett, inquiring as to the location of Mrs. Virginia Clay's house. She was wife of Senator Clement Clay and an old friend of President Davis. Upon knocking on his door President Davis identified himself as "Jefferson Davis". Bennett replied "Like hell you are, get away from my door." When he finally opened the door he was shocked to find the President standing there. William Bennett and Jefferson Davis mounted some logging mules and rode over to the Clay's house where the President was able to visit with Mrs. Clay. William Bennett spent the rest of his life in Gurley and died in 1943 at the ripe old age of 96.

Other identified photos of other early Gurley citizens are pictured below. Their names were written on the front or back of the photo by Matilda Gurley Walker or other members of her family, otherwise the identities of most of these faces would be lost forever.

William Bennett
William Bennett at age 16
Alvie DeLow
Alvie DeLow
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Turk (or Tuck ?) Coats
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Rheuben Spivey
Lina Spivey
Lina Spivey
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Sara McBride

More Faces from Gurley's Past will be continued in Part 2, From Our Past XI...