Ephraim Watkins seems to be the folk lore of our family's history. Some say
they like the folk lore better than the truth but the truth does need to be told. He
was born in Giles County, Tennessee on 11 Oct 1841, but raised in Limestone
Alabama in the Ardmore area. He was the son of David Watkins born is South
Carolina and Rhonda Myers Galipen (a widow) born in North Carolina and
grandson to John Watkins who came to Giles County about 1811.
Ephraim served in the CSA joining in Athens Alabama in 1861. He was captured
in 1862 in the battle of Island #10 in the middle of the Mississippi River. Now
folk lore has it Ephraim befriended a young Federalist who let him escape one
night swimming the Mississippi River with his shoes in hand. He lost his shoes
swimming the river and had to walk home barefooted. He is said to have traveled
at night with fear of being recaptured. The Federal soldier had given Ephraim a
compass so he could find his way home, so by moon light Ephraim headed south
though Kentucky he met a Man Newton Hodges who had a daughter Mary Jane.
Ephraim fell in love, but continued his journey home. In the early part of 1864
Ephraim is said to have returned to Kentucky and married Mary Jane.
Now the true story of Ephraim. He was captured in 1862 on Island #10, but in
1863 he was swapped as a pow in Vicksburg Mississippi. Returning home he
married Mary Jane Hodges born in Limestone County, Alabama and his first child
was born on 16 Oct. 1864 Lankin Boston Watkins (Boss Watkins).
In 1870 you find Ephraim in Lincoln County, Tennessee living next to his brother
Wilson listed as a Mill helper, probably on the Elk River. You find in the Census
of 1870 Ephraim his wife and two children, Lankin and Willie Geer.
In 1880 he has returned to Limestone County and his family has grown adding
four more children Jasper born in 1870, Rault born in 74 and twins Vela and
Virgie born in 1877.
In the latter part of that year Ephraim went to the western side of Giles County
to a place that was then called Hawkins Mill on Sugar Creek on the Lawrence
County line. There he acquired a Damn made of wood from a Mr. Hawkins and 305
acres in Giles County with the help of a widow named Mrs. Lillian Lanier. While
entering the name of his land and mill in Lawrence County and Giles he was ask
the name, He said he would call his mill he called it Peach Rolling Mills, The
name Peach is still there today for the area. There in 1884 another child was
born Verlie Magmary Watkins.
In 1896 Lankin B. who was married and had a wife with child was shot in the back
on his mule going to a still, as legend tells it, by a Federal Deputy Marshal Clarke.
Now family folk lore has it that this Federal Marshall was at a bar in Minor Hill
bragging about the raid on this still and that he had killed Boss Watkins, some
one told him to get out of town before Ephraim heard he was there or the odds
against him living until sunup was slim. Family stories go on to tell he lefttown
that night asking for a transfer and it was granted to Arkansas. Ephraim disappeared
for a few weeks and upon his return home and the people around town heard the
Federal Marshall was found floating face down in the Arkansas River. A good story
some say but all folk lore.
Now what really happened was Ephraim went to Florence Alabama since that
is in the County where the shooting took place filed murder charges against
the Marshall and he was prosecuted in Birmingham Alabama on Federal charges
of murder. The Marshall was actually acquitted I have in my possession the
original transcript which in his on defense the Marshall stated, "Yes I shot
Boss Watkins in the back but I did it in the line of duty."
Family history tells us Ephraim was an honest man but also one of business.
He seemed hard to deal with as he stuck by his ways. In 1891 his wife died
and in 1892 he remarried to Sarah Ann Bass the daughter of a preacher.
Ephraim and Sarah had three children, Jerry born in 1892, Rose in 1893 and
Logan in 1894 only one living to adulthood. Rose died at birth and Jerry was
accidentally killed with a pick axe to the head on the Norwood farm near
Peach 1917 at age 17.
Ephraim died in 1898 and is buried at Mt. Zion Cemetery just across the Giles
County line in Lawrence County, Tennessee. Family folk lore tells us Ephraim
buried a lot of Gold on his land although not a coin has ever been found.
His second wife Sarah raised Logan to adult hood and she died in 1935. Logan
Cal Watkins married Clara Mai Petty and raise 4 children to adult hood in
the house Ephraim built in 1884. The oldest my father Marlin Edward Watkins
The mill is gone at Peach along with the General Store run by William
Hammonds and others, along with the Blacksmith Shop run by Jesse Forsyth,
but the home that Ephraim built in 1884 still stands and in use and
owned by the Watkins family. The only other home in the area in use is
one owned by Ephraim's daughter and her husband, Mr. & Mrs. Clyde Green.
The memories of Peach go through me though every time I return home to
where I was born in 1949.
Ephraim Watkins home
Built Around 1884
By Michael E. Watkins
© This is copyrighted material, displayed with the permission of the author.