Henry Ellis Fowler (d. 1808) was the great grandfather of Mahala Rebecca Worthy.

Henry Ellis Fowler was the grandfather of her husband, Walter Gaines Fowler.

Husband and wife were first cousins once removed. This was only one of many marriages between “kissing cousins” in Union County, South Carolina in the 1800s. It was an accepted practice, being both convenient and practical.

Mahala Rebecca Worthy was born in Union County on November 22, 1845 to parents William Worthy and Fanny Fowler. She was mostly known as Rebecca in census records and legal documents, and sometimes as Mahala, but her family called her Becky. I shall do the same.

William Worthy (1813– after 1870) was the son of James Worthy (1760- before 1850) and wife Jane (b. 1773). James and Jane Worthy likely had many children, but I have only researched William and his brother James (1809- before 1850).

James Worthy (the son) married Winnifred Fowler (b. 1822), daughter of Ellis Fowler (1770-after 1850) and wife Mary. If you are a frequent reader of my work, you know that this Ellis Fowler was a son of Henry Ellis Fowler.

William Worthy (the other son) married Fanny Fowler (1825-1852), daughter of Ellis Fowler and Mary.

Two Worthy brothers married two Fowler sisters.

James Worthy and his Fowler wife Winnifred had four children:

  • Mary Worthy (b. 1838)
  • William Columbus Worthy (1841–1914)
  • Julia Worthy (b. 1842)
  • James F. Worthy (1842–1921)

William Worthy and his Fowler wife Fanny had four children:

  • William Columbus Worthy (b. 1843)
  • Mahala Rebecca “Becky” Worthy (1845–1925)
  • Mary “Polly” Worthy (b. 1847)
  • Nancy Elizabeth Worthy (1850–1895)

For the purposes of this article, I am going to examine the life of Becky Worthy.

From what I know about the families of 1800s Union County, SC — and I know a lot — the William Worthy family lived in the Kelly area of the county around the time Becky was born. She was the second child and the first daughter of William and Fanny. Her mother would not live much longer after the 1850 census was taken. Perhaps she died in childbirth; perhaps some other illness took her from her family.

1850 Union County SC Census

William Worthy married again after the 1852 death of Fanny. A man with four small children could not remain a widower for long. His second wife was Sarah Floyd (b. 1833). She was stepmother to Fanny’s children and had given birth to three daughters of her own before 1860. More children would follow in the coming decade.

Becky was fifteen years old when the census was taken and probably helped with household chores and the younger children, which included twin girls.

1860 Union County SC Census

Becky Worthy married her cousin Walter Gaines Fowler and had given birth to three children before 1870: Alpha Ethel Fowler, Bettie Fowler, and Walter Fowler.

Walter Gaines Fowler was the son of Big Mark Fowler (1780-1853) and Elizabeth Moseley (1782-1883). Mark Fowler was the son of Henry Ellis Fowler, and Elizabeth “Betty” Moseley was the daughter of James “High-Key” Moseley.

The Walter Gaines Fowler family is “hidden” in the 1870 census. The name Walter looks like Wallace, or Walter only if you squint. The twenty-eight year old Sarah in the household is Becky Worthy Fowler.

Four year old Susan is Alpha Ethel Fowler, two year old Caty is Bettie Fowler, and one year old Hamlet is son Walter Fowler. These are the three children of Walter Gaines Fowler and Becky Worthy.

Martha, age forty-two and deaf and dumb, is Selina Fowler–the older sister of Walter Gaines Fowler.

The only one whose name was recorded correctly was ninety-five year old Elizabeth (Moseley) Fowler, mother of Walter Gaines Fowler and Selina Fowler.

I do not know why this family used pseudonyms in the 1870 census rather than their given names. It took a while for me to figure this out.

Becky Worthy Fowler would lose both of her Walters. Her babe-in-arms would not survive infancy, and her husband would soon be in his grave. There would be no more children. Becky Worthy Fowler never remarried.

1870 Union County SC Census

In 1880, Becky Worthy Fowler lived with her two daughters Alpha and Bettie, her mother-in-law Elizabeth Moseley Fowler, and her sister-in-law Salina Fowler.

1880 Union County SC Census

I am going to take a small detour in order to add a personal note about Becky, and one of her daughter Alpha. So much of genealogy is the compilation of documented facts and not enough of the little stories that fade to dark as each generation passes on.

Minnie Lee Leonard (1884-1987) was the daughter of Robert Norris Leonard (1847–1904) and Nancy Elizabeth Worthy (1850–1895).

Robert Norris Leonard was the son of (Michael) Alex Leonard and Hulda Fowler (1813-1852). Hulda was the daughter of Big Mark Fowler and Elizabeth Moseley. Hulda was the older sister of Walter Gaines Fowler.

Nancy Elizabeth Worthy was the daughter of William Worthy and Fanny FowlerNancy was the sister of Becky Worthy Fowler.

Much of my research time is spent figuring out the complex family relationships in my Fowler family!

Minnie Lee Leonard was a family historian who wrote much about her family. She was born in 1884 and knew many of these people of whom I write about now. Minnie Lee Leonard is a treasure, and I only wish my path had crossed hers.

A letter that she wrote in 1965 contained two “snapshots” in time that related to Becky Worthy Fowler and her daughter Alpha:

Becky Worthy Fowler’s daughter Alpha had attended the 1888 unveiling of the monument dedicated to the memory of Sergeant William Jasper in Madison Square in Savannah, Georgia.

Elizabeth Moseley Fowler was related to William Jasper through her mother, Nancy Anna Jasper (1756–1832). This fact is mentioned often in research papers and was obviously a source of great pride in the family.

William Jasper is often said to be of Irish origins, but some claim that he was a German immigrant who made his way south from Philadelphia.

Regardless, William Jasper was a hero in the American Revolutionary War. His claim to valor and fame in 1776 was the act of attaching his regiment’s flag, which had fallen, to a sponge staff and raising it back into the air while under enemy fire. He was highly honored for his actions on that day in battle.

William Jasper lived to tell the tale, but he was later killed in action in 1779; ironically, he was again rescuing the flag when he was mortally wounded.

Alpha Fowler was in fine company the on the second of February, 1888 when she attended the unveiling in Savannah. President Grover Cleveland and his wife Frances were in attendance, as were the Georgia Governor John Brown Gordon, the mayor and other prominent politicians.

The statue is of William Jasper in battle holding the flag that he rescued. It is worth a drive to Savannah to see this memorial to a brave soldier. The dedication reads as follows:

To the memory of Sergeant William Jasper, who, though mortally wounded, rescued the colors of his regiment, in the assault on the British lines about the city, October 9, 1779. A century has not dimmed the glory of the Irish-American soldier whose last tribute to civil liberty was his life. 1779–1879.

The second “snapshot” is a simple one. Minnie Lee Leonard writes of her memory of hearing her mother Nancy Elizabeth Worthy Leonard and her aunt Becky Worthy Fowler singing a ballad about Sergeant William Jasper.

I have been unable to find any source for music or lyrics for a song honoring William Jasper. I can almost hear the sweet voices of the Worthy girls singing, softly and clearly, a tune reminiscing the heroic actions of their famous relative from the war of which our great country was born.

Thank you, Minnie Lee Leonard for sharing your memories of yesteryear with us of today.

The years between 1880 and 1900 brought many changes to the life of Becky Worthy Fowler.

Her mother-in-law Elizabeth Moseley Fowler died in 1883,

Her daughter Alpha Ethel Fowler married Thomas Samuel Garner (b. 1864) and gave birth to ten children over the years, many of whom did not survive.

Her younger daughter Bettie Fowler married a Mr. Jackson and had a son named Jesse in October of1893. Bettie died six months later, and her son would be raised by his grandmother Becky Worthy Fowler.

Thomas Samuel Garner, his wife Alpha Ethel Fowler Garner, their four young sons, Becky Worthy Fowler, and Bettie’s son Jesse Jackson lived in a household in Fulton County, Georgia.

1900 Fulton County GA Census

In 1910, Thomas Samuel Garner was out of the household, and the family was headed by Alpha Fowler Garner. They lived in Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia. Becky Worthy Fowler was sixty-four years old. There were three Garner sons in the home and five others listed as boarders and a servant.

It should be noted that Alpha’s husband had moved to Mississippi and married another woman, Lillian S. Cubley (1872–1963).

1910 Fulton County GA Census

Alpha Fowler Garner married John Joab Crawford (1868–1954) between the years 1910 to 1920 for they were counted in a 1920 household together with a Garner son and seventy-four year old Becky Worthy Fowler.

1920 DeKalb County GA Census

Becky Worthy Fowler died on March 9, 1925 in Scottdale, Georgia.

In 1925, Scottdale would have been a little drive out of the town of Atlanta. A hundred years of an expanding city, Scottdale is now a suburb slightly northeast of Atlanta, well within the perimeter interstate that surrounds the largest city in the south.

Becky Worthy Fowler was seventy-nine years old when she departed this world. Her death was reported by Mrs. J.J. Crawford — Alpha Ethel Fowler Garner Crawford.

Becky Worthy Fowler made one more trip. Her remains were returned to her home state of South Carolina, and she was laid to rest at Gilead Baptist Church Cemetery in Jonesville. She is among her family, for many of the Fowlers and Worthys lie there — most final resting places marked with engraved stones, but some lost to us with only a field stone, or no stone at all.

Rebecca M. Fowler

And I think of her sometimes, and I listen for her sweet voice, singing of times long past and ancestors who won battles, and sometimes I think I hear the notes floating in the breeze…….

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