John R. Petty married Margaret E. Thomas on 20 September 1857 in Whitfield County, Georgia, although neither of them likely lived there. Margaret’s parents, Jesse Thomas and Rebecca Baker, lived in Murray or Lumpkin County in Georgia. John R.’s father, John Petty, lived in Bradley County, Tennessee.
Margaret was born about 1836 in Georgia. In 1840 and 1860, her family lived in Murray County, Georgia, which borders Whitfield County to the east. They lived in Lumpkin County, Georgia, two counties east of Murray, in 1850. Margaret’s siblings were Mary, William, Nancy A., Oliver P., and Daniel W. Based on apparent children in Jesse’s 1840 U.S. census record, Margaret may have had another brother and two other sisters.
John R. was born about 1835 in Tennessee. His mother is unknown, but DNA evidence points to a maiden name of Rose. John R. had nine siblings, and he was the oldest son. The youngest child was born in February 1851. The family has not been found in the 1850 U.S. census when the unknown wife of the elder John should have been with him and the children. John R.’s siblings were Caroline, Charlotte, Martha J., Rash P., James, Joseph A., Angeline, Mary Elizabeth, and one unidentified sister who was one of the older children.
John R.’s middle name may have been Rubin. His grandson Luther Petty, son of Daniel, gave Rubin Petty as the name of Daniel’s father on his death certificate. No other record indicating his middle name has been found.
John R. and Margaret’s first two children—Melissa A. (born abt. 1858) and Henry Milton (born in 1860)—were born in Tennessee, likely in McMinn County where they lived in 1860. That census reports John R. as a renter whose personal estate was valued at $200. He had no real estate and was not listed on the 1860 census agriculture schedule.
They moved to Dalton in Whitfield County, Georgia, before their third child, Samantha Angeline, was born in April 1861. Two more children were born while they lived in Dalton—Mary E. in 1865 and Daniel B. in 1867.
Whitfield shares a border with Bradley County and John R. returned there to join the Confederacy with his brothers. On 13 November 1861 at Charleston, John R. and brothers James and Joseph joined Gillespie’s Regiment Volunteers, which later became the Confederate 43rd Tennessee Infantry. His remaining brother, Rash, joined the same unit at Charleston on 1 December 1862. John R.’s initial rank was 1st Corporal. By June 1862 and for the remainder of his service, he was a 5th Sergeant. The four brothers were captured on 4 July 1864 at Vicksburg, Mississippi, and released five days later after taking the oath of allegiance to the United States. Rash, James, and Joseph later joined the Union 10th Tennessee Cavalry, but no record exists of John R. doing so.
Between 1867 and 1869, John R. and Margaret moved to Logan County, Kentucky. It is possible they moved back to Tennessee from Dalton for a short time before the move to Kentucky.
Their son Joseph Bunyan, born in 1869, was likely born in Logan County. They lived in the Keysburg District at the time of the 1870 U.S. census. John R.’s occupation was listed as farmer, but he owned no real estate. His personal estate was valued at $150. Logan County tax lists for the period he was there only exist for 1869 and he was not listed.
Margaret’s mother, Rebecca Thomas, also moved to Logan County and lived nearby with her son, Daniel, and two grandsons—Mary’s son, John Echols, and one of William’s sons James Thomas. John R.’s brother Joseph married Margaret’s sister Nancy in Logan County in June 1869. John R. and Margaret’s son Oliver Perry was born in Logan County in 1871.
John R. and Margaret moved to Hopkins County, Kentucky, after Perry’s birth and before Nathaniel was born in Madisonville in 1873. Their youngest two children, John Franklin and W. O., were born in Hopkins County in 1874 and 1876.
As with the other locations where they lived, John R. did not own property in Hopkins County. He appears on the tax list in 1875, showing he owned two horses/mares, two cattle, and had 400 bushels of corn. He was not on the Hopkins County tax lists for 1870–1874 and their lists for 1876–1878 do not survive.
Their infant son W. O. died on 30 June 1876 after living less than a month. Margaret died a few weeks later on 28 July 1876 from complications of his birth. Margaret and W. O. died in Hopkins County, but their burial locations are unknown.
It is unclear if John R. still lived with Margaret and the children when she died. According to family stories, he was an alcoholic and possibly abandoned the family even before Margaret and their youngest child died. Margaret’s sister Mary took five of the six youngest children (Mary, Daniel, Joseph, Nathaniel, and John) to live with her in Forsyth County, Georgia. Perry also lived in Forsyth County but with an unrelated couple named Tribble. Samantha and Henry Milton remained in Hopkins County. Melissa’s whereabouts are unknown.
Whether John R. left before or after Margaret died, he had returned to Whitfield County, Georgia, where his father and three of his sisters lived, by 1878. He married Mary C. Bohannan there on 26 April 1878.
Mary, the daughter of Thomas Bohannan of Whitfield County, was born about 1852. When she married John R., she had a four-year-old son named James Charles Bohannan from an earlier relationship.
John R. and Mary had one son, Benjamin W., born in 1879 in Georgia, probably in Whitfield County. By 1880, Mary, Benjamin, and Mary’s older son lived with her father, Thomas Bohannan, in Whitfield County. John R. may have died by then although Mary’s marital status of widow does not rule out him living elsewhere. Mary married William Hall on 11 December 1886 in Whitfield County.
No further records for John R. have been found. The details of his death and burial are unknown.