My father’s maternal grandparents, Thomas Leander “Lee” Hankins and Samantha Angeline Petty, lived in Hopkins County, Kentucky. Daddy was not yet three years old when Lee died, but he had one vivid memory of him. He remembered seeing his grandfather propped up in bed by a straight-back chair turned over to make a wedge and covered in pillows. He did not talk much about his grandmother, but several of his sisters and their Uncle Jimmy called her strict.
Lee, born on 13 June 1858 in Hopkins County, was son of Albert Hankins and Isabella Jane Goodloe. His siblings, two brothers and one sister, were John H., James W., and Mollie. Albert died when Lee and his siblings were children. The exact date of Albert’s death is unknown, but Lee was probably seven or eight years old. The family lived near Albert’s parents, Houston and Mary Hankins, prior to his death. Isabella Jane and the children moved near her father, John Emerson Goodloe, by 1870. She remarried twice—first in 1874 when Lee was fifteen years old and second in 1879 when he was twenty-one.
Unlike Lee, Samantha lived in several locations during her childhood. She was born on 3 April 1861 in Dalton, Whitfield County, Georgia, to John R. Petty and Margaret E. Thomas. After the Civil War ended, the family moved back to Tennessee where they had lived before Samantha was born. They likely went to Bradley County, where John’s family lived, or neighboring McMinn County where they had previously lived. By 1870, they lived in Logan County, Kentucky, and a few years later moved to nearby Hopkins County. Samantha was the third of John and Margaret’s ten children. Her siblings were Melissa A., Henry Milton, Mary, Daniel, Joseph, Oliver Perry, Nathaniel, John, and W. O.
Margaret died in Hopkins County on 28 July 1876 of complications from giving birth to her tenth child, who also died. Samantha was fifteen years old when her mother died, and she lost her father about the same time. According to family stories, John was an alcoholic and possibly abandoned the family even before Margaret and their youngest child died. Whether John left before or after Margaret died, he had returned to Whitfield County, Georgia, where his father and some of his sisters lived, by 1878 when he remarried. It is doubtful Samantha or her siblings ever saw him again.
Samantha and her older brother, Henry Milton, stayed in Hopkins County, but the six younger children went to live in Forsyth County, Georgia. Five of them lived with Margaret’s sister, Mary Thomas Echols, in Coal Mountain and one lived with a Tribble family in Cumming. Where and with whom Samantha lived during the nearly three years between her mother’s death and her marriage is unknown. The fate of Samantha’s oldest sister, Melissa, after 1870, is also unknown.
Lee and Samantha married on 14 May 1879 at the Hopkins County Courthouse in Madisonville. The County Court named J. E. Day as Samantha’s guardian on that day, probably because someone had to give permission for her to marry since she was not twenty-one years old. John Day, likely the same man, acted as surety for Lee and Samantha’s marriage bond. Any further connection to Day beyond this remains unknown.
Lee and Samantha started their marriage in Earlington but lived in several towns and communities in Hopkins County. They lived in Earlington when Samantha gave birth to their first child, Thomas Richard, in 1880. By 1882, when son Albert Elvie was born, they lived in Dalton—a community in Hopkins County, not Samantha’s birthplace in Georgia. Their other five children, all born while they lived in Dalton, were—Verda Waller (1884), Aggie Lee (1889), John Corum (1893), William Perry (1898), and James Bailey (1901).
The family returned to Earlington in 1903 but moved to Daniel Boone in 1905. In 1908, they moved to Grapevine. At some point between 1912 and 1920, they returned to Earlington and lived on McEuen Avenue.
Death hit Lee and Samantha’s family hard. Three of their children died young—Aggie Lee at only twenty months old, Perry at 24 years, and John at 29 years. Thirteen-month-old grandson Herbert, son of Elvie and his first wife, Ella, died in 1908. Dick’s first wife, Bettie, and their younger daughter, Roxie, died in 1909 leaving Dick with three-year-old Garah. Lee and Samantha and Bettie’s parents, Robert A. and Amanda Smith, shared responsibility for Garah. John and his wife’s second child, William Perry, died in 1916, before he was three months old. Less than two years after John died in 1923, his widow, Gertie, died, leaving their two young children orphaned. Lee and Samantha took Helen and Jewel to live with them. In 1933, a third grandchild Ralph Raymond McCauley (son of their daughter Verda) died as an infant. Samantha was still living when their daughter, Verda, died at age 57 in 1942.
Lee worked most of his life as a farmer, but he also spent years as a General Baptist minister. He organized the Union Grove Church in Hopkins County in 1895 and Frederick’s Chapel Church in neighboring Webster County in 1904. Lee served as minister for the 1st General Baptist Church of Tildon in Webster County, Union Temple General Baptist Church in Hopkins County, and Concord Church in Hopkins County. He became the minister at Earlington General Baptist Church in April 1903 but had also preached there in 1897.
In August 1926, Lee and Samantha made their final move, which was to 704 West Broadway in Madisonville. Their daughter-in-law Gertie bought that house in 1923, two years before she died. In the settlement of her estate, the property was sold at public auction and purchased by Lee and Samantha. This is the only property Lee and Samantha ever owned except for a one-fourth interest with his siblings in property they inherited from their mother’s estate and sold.
Lee died on 23 April 1929 at their home in Madisonville of complications from diabetes which had kept him bedridden for some time. Rev. W. D. Rich, pastor of the Earlington General Baptist Church where Lee had served as pastor, officiated his funeral at Grapevine Church the next day. Burial followed in the Grapevine Cemetery. Lee belonged to the Beulah and Dalton Masonic lodges and the Earlington Masons conducted Masonic rites at the cemetery.
Lee’s obituary, published in the Madisonville Messenger on 23 April, has several errors. It lists “surviving descendants” as four children and three grandchildren. Of those seven people, four of the names are wrong. Plus, Lee had fifteen, not three, living grandchildren at the time of his death. Son Albert Elvie was listed at A. G. Hankins, daughter Verda as Virgie, and granddaughters Garah and Helen as Vera and Ella. The three grandchildren listed were the ones Lee and Samantha helped raise, but they had other grandchildren. Dick and Perry each had a son, Elvie had a daughter, and Verda had nine children at that time. A second obituary, published the next day, did not name the children and grandchildren but did reference the same erroneous numbers.
About 1941, Samantha visited two of her nieces in Atlanta, and the story made the newspapers in Georgia and back home in Madisonville. The nieces took Samantha sight-seeing, including a visit to the Cyclorama, an Atlanta museum. Samantha was surprised to see “The Texas,” a Civil War locomotive, on display there. She told her nieces about seeing the famous locomotive as a child during the war.
Samantha explained that when she was “a tot of five” a man came to their house and told her mother to hurry and take the children down to the railroad tracks. She said her father was away at the time fighting for the south. The man told her mother that “The Texas” was making a triumphant run through Dalton after re-capturing another Confederate locomotive, “The General,” which had been taken by a band of Yankees. Samantha said they walked a half-mile to the station, and she remembered the crowd lined up as far as she could see on both sides of the track.
Some of Samantha’s memories about this event were a bit off. The Texas recaptured The General on 12 April 1862. Samantha was only one year old, not a tot of five. Whether she remembered this happening or had simply heard the story often as a child, she clearly enjoyed seeing the old locomotive and even climbed up on it to pose for a picture for The Journal photographer.
At age 80, Samantha could read and thread a needle without glasses but wore them for “dress up” and to keep the wind out of her eyes. She still lived alone and did her own cooking, canning, and housework. Claiming three meals a day were too many, she had two—one at 9 a.m. and one at 3 p.m.
Samantha died on 7 January 1944 of influenza at the Hopkins County Hospital in Madisonville. She had outlived all her siblings, four of her children, four of her grandchildren, and her husband. Samantha was buried next to Lee in Grapevine Cemetery, following a funeral service officiated by Oscar L. Duncan at Barnett Funeral Home.