Family Histories

Family Histories for the Rose and Kirkpatrick Families

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Black Sheep Sunday -Elmira Johnson

Elmira Johnson was the second wife of Peter Colwell, born about 1804 in Georgia (probably in Oglethorpe County).  Peter Colwell's first wife, Sarah Curry, had died shortly after giving birth to their 9th child, George Warren Caldwell, in May of 1825. (The spelling of the family name seems to have changed from Cowell to Caldwell some time in the mid-1800's.)   Three years later, Peter married Elmira Johnson in Morgan County.  From family accounts, Elmira was not thrilled to become a stepmother to Sarah Curry's children and was unkind to them.  Family stories say that Elmira "kindly dropped off" her stepchildren to be raised by others.   ("Kindly" being a southernism for "kind of;" she simply found other places for the children to live.)  In 1830, her seven-year-old twin stepdaughters drowned near the home they had been placed in.  Her stepson William Barnes Colwell apparently never forgave his stepmother for giving the children away and blamed her for the death of his little sisters and .  His grandson, Jack Caldwell, said that "Grandpa laid out in the potato patch for three weeks every night, hoping that she (Elmira) would come out of the house, but she never poked her head out after sundown, so he told Uncle George that he was leaving and would not be back, and the old bitch was not worth killing."  William moved to Morgan County and later he and his wife Lena and their children moved to Harrison, Texas, where he died in 1900.
William Barnes Colwell

Lena Peoples Colwell

Peter Colwell died in 1849.  Some time in 1858 or 1859, Elmira moved to Randolph County, Alabama. On January 19, 1859, she purchased 40 and 8/100ths of an acre at $.50 an acre, totalling $20.00 in Range 12, Township 21, Randolph County.  In February she purchaed anoher 79 and 22/100ths of an acre in the Southeast Section No 36 in Township 20 of Range 12.

According to an affidavit Elmira signed, she states that she is 48 years old, a widow and head of her family and is residing in Randolph County.  She says that she is so afflicted and physically diseased that she was unable to attend in person at the land office.  She also states that she has been residing in Randolph County since January 19, 1859, that she has a dwelling house, a corn crib and eight acres of land in cultivation.  On October 12, 1859, Robert Leverett signs as a witness for Elmira Colwell, saying that he is well acquainted with her.  The last date of a land sale to Elmira is on February 1, 1860.  She is listed on the 1866 Alabama state census in Randolph County, the last record I have found for her.


  1. Very interesting story. It belongs in the annals of Black Sheep Sunday. Also follow you on Pinterest. :-)

  2. Hi, interesting story. Would appreciate it if you posted references to documentation supporting the following: "Peter Colwell died in 1849" and "She (Elmira Johnson Colwell) is listed on the 1866 Alabama state census in Randolph County". Our search through the 1866 Census listed only R.A. Coldwell (who may have been one of her step-sons). Thanks much.