Search billions of records on

Miss Lizzie's Trunk 



William T. Thornton 

            In September 2003 my son and daughter-in-law, Jim and Charlena Thornton, bought an antique humped-backed trunk at a shop near Monticello, Kentucky.  Too large to fit into their small car for the return to their home in Mississippi, they stored the trunk at my house in Tennessee until they could make arrangements to bring it to Hattiesburg.  Of course they opened the trunk before they bought it and discussed the trove of papers within it with the owner of the antique shop.  The antique dealer stated that he had removed two quilts from the trunk and left everything else in it -- that the remaining contents went with the trunk.

            Before they left the trunk with me, Jim and Charlena examined the fragile old papers more carefully and found within them several buttons, a tiny sea-shell, the bodice of a much-patched dress, and part of a sheer curtain.  The papers consisted of check registers, cancelled checks, receipts, contracts, deeds, guarantees, and other papers from as early as the 1890s to as recent as the 1940s.    Many of the papers were unreadable because of damage done them by silverfish and other insects. 

After a more thorough study of the papers, however, it appears that the trunk belonged to Mrs. Lizzie Wall, wife of Ellis G. Wall of McKinney, Lincoln County, Kentucky.  The shape of the trunk and the interior of the trunk clearly indicate that it was a woman's trunk -- and it is assumed that it indeed belonged to Lizzie Wall at one time.

            [Note:  The surname Wall is spelled Walls on some of the papers.  Even the gravemarkers for various members of the family have both spellings.  Wall, however, seems to be the preferred spelling by the family of Ellis and Lizzie Wall.]

1895 Map of Lincoln County, Kentucky

            Present-day McKinney  is located between the cities of Somerset and Danville; McKinney lies about half-way between Highways 127 and 27 in south-central Kentucky.  The trunk of Miss Lizzie didn't travel far from home to the antique store located near Monticello which is just a few miles south from Somerset.

            The 1895 map of Lincoln County above shows the location of McKinney and of South Fork.  The map does not show that McKinney was served by a railroad in 1895; Ellis and Lizzie Wall's farm was served by the rail station at South Fork according to one document within the trunk, an order for grain from Cincinnati, Ohio.  Further, the map above does not show that prior to railroads,  Lincoln County was linked to the rest of the nation by two important roads -- the "Wilderness Trail" and the "Cumberland Trace," the latter having its origin in Stanford, the county seat of Lincoln County.

            Stanford, Kentucky, began as Fort Logan.  The important north-south road, the Cumberland Trace, started at Fort Logan and ran south to Nashville.    In Nashville, north-south travel could be continued on the Natchez Trace and thus on to New Orleans.  Also served by the Wilderness Road, Fort Logan was early on recognized as a vital outpost in the development of the Kentucky Territory of Virginia.  Some of the first permanent government functions east of the mountains began at Fort Logan.

            The first reference to Lizzie Walls on the papers within the trunk is on a 1910 deed dated March 11 between Ellis Walls and "his wife Lizzie Walls" in a transfer of land to William B. Carpenter.  A receipt dated November 3, 1920, for $ 20.00 for X-ray treatments by Drs. Keith and Keith, Louisville, Kentucky for a Mrs. E. Wall, McKinney, Kentucky is the second direct reference to Mrs. Wall.  The third reference to her is on a bill from Dr. J. B. Smith -- the bill is made to Mr. Ellis G. Wall and makes reference to his "wife" for treatment, medicine, and tissue examination for a total of $ 10.50 in October and December, 1920. 

The fourth and final direct reference to a person named "Lizzie" is on a contract in early 1924 for a gravemarker for $ 25.00 to be provided by Bivin and Morris of McKinney for Lizzie Wall who was born January 10, 1881 and who died November 6, 1923 (see Page 26 for a copy of this contact).  The blue marble stone was to have "To Die is Gain" inscribed upon it and the word "Mother" was to be incised at the top of the stone.  There are no other direct references to Miss Lizzie in the papers found in the trunk.

The present-day grave-marker at the McKinney Cemetery is a joint stone for Ellis G. Wall and Elizabeth Wall.  It appears that the stone ordered in 1924 for "Lizzie" has been replaced by this newer stone that was erected after Ellis' death in 1945.

            No date can be determined from the documents for Miss Lizzie's marriage to Ellis Wall -- nor do the trunk papers offer any suggestion of her maiden name.  With a birth-date of January 1881, however, she was married probably prior to 1900.  Nor can it be determined if Ellis had been married prior to his marriage to Lizzie.  According to the 1930 Census, he remarried after her death.  The trunk papers show that he survived more than twenty years after Lizzie's death and the joint grave-marker indicates that he lived for twenty-two years after Lizzie died.

            The 1920 Lincoln County, Kentucky Census shows the household of Ellis Wall contained Ellis age 50, Lizzie age 39, daughters Clara (21), Mary ? (9), Nettie (7); sons Raymond (16), Ned ? (14),  ? (12), James (2 5/12th), and ? age 5/12th; Tabitha Wall, Ellis' mother who was 79 years old lived with them.

            Assuming that Clara is the daughter of Lizzie, then Lizzie and Ellis married about 1898 -- Clara was born about 1899 -- and she was 21 years old by the 1920 Census.  The only reference to Clara in the trunk documents is on a check.

            According to an electronic message posted to the author by Margaret Walls on the Walls Family Genealogy Forum (Message 1770, October 27, 2003,, Lizzie was Elizabeth Ryan and she married Ellis in July 1898.  

            The only references in the trunk documents to Raymond or "Ray" Wall is on several checks made payable to him.  An unnamed son is mentioned on the bill from a medical doctor in 1920 who provided medicine on October 9 (see Page 24 for a copy of that bill). 

            Tabitha Wall, mother of Ellis, was the wife of John Wall.  John is buried at McKinney Cemetery and he is also mentioned in one of the trunk documents.  His headmarker and the one for "Tabbitha Reed Wall" are shown below.


            The dates for John F. Walls appear to read: Born April 22, 1831, Died October 30, 1903.  Tabbitha Reed Wall was born in 1838 and died in 1920.  It is interesting to note that the headstone ordered for Lizzie Wall was to have been inscribed with the word "Mother" across the top and the verse "To die is gain" across the bottom.  Her original marker was patterned upon the one for her mother-in-law which has the same inscriptions.

            The 1930 Lincoln County Census shows that Ellis Wall's household included Ellis age 60; wife Anna age 47; daughter Nellie age 17; son James age 15; and son Lester ? age 10.  Ellis' wife Lizzie died in 1923; he remarried sometime between 1923 and 1930.

            Ellis Wall, Lizzie's husband, was appointed as surveyor of roads for his precinct in August 1903 (See Page 14).  There are deeds and notes for land acquisitions in 1900, 1905, 1912, and 1923 and others for Ellis.  The cancelled checks span the years from 1903 through 1944.  Those checks and receipts, however, prior to Miss Lizzie's death in 1923 indicate that Ellis and Lizzie lived a full and interesting life in Lincoln County, Kentucky.

            Besides the checks and receipts for the expected seed, fertilizer, wire, labor, and such for operating a farm, in 1909 is a series of receipts for the purchase of a "Putnam Organ, style 650 No 46211" for $ 65.00 from R. J. Bowen and Brother, Pianos and Organs, Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  Paying $ 10.00 down and agreeing to pay $ 15.00 every three months, the Walls bought and paid for the Putnam Organ.  All of the original contracts and receipts were within the trunk -- by February 23, 1911, the organ was paid in full by the Walls, having paid a total of $ 67.30 for it (See Page 17).

            Another interesting purchase the Walls made and paid for by check in March 1918 was $ 73.00 for "furnature" they bought from Pence and Hill.  That same month, Ellis Wall wrote a check for $ 8.25 to J. A. Allen for "300 feet of siding" and later paid a local store, Cocking and True, $ 3.00 for nails.

            In June 1918 was a check written to T. W. Pennington on the 27th for $ 15.00 with the notation for "Clara's dental work."  Little mention of the children of Ellis and Lizzie Wall could be found within the trunk.   Several checks, however, were written over the years to various persons named Wall/Walls that could have been sums paid to children, especially son Raymond.

 The only other Wall child named directly in the trunk documents is probably a younger brother of Ellis', Irvin Lee Walls.  There was a small rectangular piece of paper with reverse printing (more of a negative) that appears to be the copy of what funeral homes used to place as a temporary marker at a gravesite.  The document reads "In Loving Remembrance of Dear Son Irvin Lee Walls.  Born Sept. 26, 1876, Died Aug 14, 1886, aged 9 years 10 months 18 days" (See Page 8).  At first it was thought that Irvin was the son of Ellis and Lizzie but then the gravemarker contract for Lizzie's grave was discovered; she was not born until 1881 so Irvin is not her child.

At the cemetery, a tombstone for Ervin Walls was found -- it is assumed that the grave-marker and the paper death-notice are for the same person even though the given name is spelled differently.  Irvin/Ervin may be a son of John and Tabbitha Walls -- and thus a brother to Ellis.

            The Singer Sewing Machine Company was paid $ 49.00 on March 19, 1919, for a "sewing machine."  It is not known if the sewing machine was for Miss Lizzie or not -- but it is assumed that it was.  The dress fragment found within the trunk was a "store-bought" dress -- but the bodice of the dress had been patched and repaired so many times that it appeared hand-made.  It is possible that Miss Lizzie repaired her dress on her new Singer Sewing Machine.

            On March 1, 1919, a check was given to C. C. Singleton for $ 5.25 for "chairs."  In April 1919, a check was written for $ 2.00 for wallpaper.

            Taken together, these receipts and cancelled checks and others from the trunk indicate that Ellis and Lizzie Wall were prosperous farmers -- they bought and sold land; they bought livestock and feed and fencing materials; they bought materials and supplies for maintaining a household; and they kept records of their spending which indicates that they were good managers of money. 

They even filed and saved the guarantee from D. T. Bohon, Harrodsburg, Kentucky dated June 1918 for a new "vehicle" they bought.  The D. T. Bohon company guarantee reads:  "We hereby guarantee our No. 971 vehicle purchased by Ellis Wall on the 8th day of June 1918 to be absolutely free in every way from every defect or imperfection in both workmanship and material.  If a wheel, spring, axle, body, seat, gear, top or shaft ever proves imperfect, at any time, we will repair or replace it free of charge.  We do not agree to repair or replace breakages caused by runaways or other accidents. . ."  The D. T. Bohon Company of Harrodsburg sold wagons and buggies (See Page 21).

            The amounts the Walls paid for livestock is of interest.  In August 1916, a

$ 40.00 check was given to W. F. Jones in return for "one cow" and in October 1916, "one sow and nine pigs" were bought from W. C. Snow for $ 20.00.  S. B. Stanaford received a check for $ 45.00 in December 1917 for "two calfs."  "Turkeys" were bought