James B. Petty of Tennessee and Texas

a correction to an error in Pettys in America, by Irene Petty Watt

material compiled by Carol Butler Todd


The Stephen Petty/Sarah Carr Family


Author Irene Petty Watt states that, in the year before she finished her book, Pettys in America, she met descendants of Stephen Petty’s son, Joseph, who gave her most of the data on that particular branch of the family. She incorporated this information, which she obtained from Joseph’s daughter-in-law, Mrs. Reginald M. (Pat) Petty, of Clovis, NM, in the book. The details are sketchy on the descendants of all of Stephen Petty’s children except Joseph. In fact, Stephen’s son, James, is omitted entirely, except for a referral to “James Winship.” Mrs. Watt wrote: “James Winship PETTY born about 1843 married Becky BUTLER. They had at least seven children: 1-Floyd, 2- Myrtle, 3- Doyle, 4- Arvin, 5- Mettie, 6-Willie and 7-Oscar PETTY.” I believe this to be an error, and that Winship and James were two separate people. It was James, rather than Winship, that married Becky Butler and had these seven children.


Stephen Petty’s son, Joseph (above), is the same Joseph Petty who emigrated to the small community of Cedar Bayou, Chambers County, TX sometime in the late 19th century; the census shows him to be there in 1900. Cedar Bayou is also where my great-grandfather, James B. Petty, served as Justice of the Peace in the 1890’s and early 1900’s, and, with his wife, Rebecca Ann Butler, had children named Oscar Joseph, William Silas, Mettie Bell, Henry Arvin, Robert Doyle, Myrtle Elizabeth., and Floyd Schilling Petty. (Note the exact reverse order as compared to Mrs. Watt’s list.)


Census records show both a Winship (b. ca. 1843), and a James (b. ca. 1860) in Stephen Petty’s household. I think what has happened here is a simple case of comma omission. Mrs. Watt does not list Stephen Petty’s children in exact chronological order, so Winship’s and James’s names could well have been originally listed next to each other. If the comma were left out, anyone could easily assume the name to be “James Winship.” A quick census check would confirm that Winship was indeed Stephen’s son, so one might simply assume his first name to be James. The actual James could easily be missed, since he was apparently the youngest of Stephen’s children, born in December of 1860, and did not appear on the census until 1870, by which time Winship was no longer living with the family. (Note: I had thought that if I could trace Winship that I might be able to shed a little more light on the confusion. But I have not been able to find this particular Winship in later censuses, which would be very difficult to explain if he, in fact, married and had the seven children mentioned above.)


Census records


1850 census, Smith Co., TN p 237 shows the following Pettys:


Stephen            38

Sarah               35

William             13

Martha J           11

Henry               09

Winship            07

Joseph              06

John H             01

In the next household are:

William             67

Larina?             68 (probably Lavinia) Stephen’s parents were William Petty and Lavinia Dillard


1860 census, Smith Co., Pettey (sic), with ages


Stephen            45

Sarah               43

Henry               17

Wm                  16

Jesse                15

Mary                10

Calvin               03

Two households below are:

William             23 (Stephen’s son, William, was 13 in the 1850 census)

Emeline            17

Note: the names and ages differ considerably on this census. It is possible that Jesse is Joseph, Wm (age 13) is Winship; Calvin is either daughter Carolyn or daughter Malvina, etc. Perhaps someone other than an immediate family member supplied the data, or perhaps the census taker had particularly bad handwriting or bad hearing, or both!  This is the only Stephen I can find in Smith Co. in 1860. James, born in December, 1860, would have been born after the census was taken.


1870 census, Smith Co., Petty


Stephen            58

John H.            20

James               10

plus a farm hand and a housekeeper.


1880 census, Smith Co., Petty


Stephen            65

James               19        son

Hannah             57        servant

Ransom            55        servant



Irene Petty Watt has listed Stephen’s son Joseph, b. April, 1845, as having been married 1) to Alabama Hughes, with daughter Minnie Belle Petty, and 2) to Emma Eliza Wilson. Emma Eliza and Joseph had children Arthur James Petty (b. 1880, d. 1886), Fred Benton Petty (b. 24 Oct 1882, d. 1965), Ernest Petty (b. 1885, d. 1886), and Mattie Edna Petty (b. 22 Sep 1891).


According to the 1900 census of Chambers County, TX, there was a Joseph Petty family listed in Precinct 5 with the following members (image smudged and hard to read in places):


Petty, Joseph    Head    b. Apr  1845, age 55, married 21 years, b. TN, both parents b. TN, farmer     

Petty, E____?  Wife     b. Mch 18__ , age 44? Married 21 years, 5 children, 2 living, b. TN, both parents b. TN

Petty, ___d B.  son       b. Oct              18__, age 17? , single, b. TN, both parents b. TN, farm laborer

Petty, Mattie     dau       b. Sep  18__, age 7, single, b. TN, both parents b. TN


James B. Petty and his family also lived in Precinct 5.



James B. Petty      


According to family records and to the1900 census, James B. (a descendant gives his middle name as Bell) Petty was born in Tennessee on December 21, 1860. He probably moved to Texas as a young man, between the ages of 19 and 25, when he married widowed Rebecca Ann Butler, then Rebecca Reid, in Erath County. Eight children were born of that marriage (Emma, Oscar Joseph, William Silas, Mettie Bell, Henry Arvin, Robert Doyle, Myrtle L., and Floyd Schilling Petty); there was also an older daughter, Hettie Edna Reid, almost surely Rebecca’s child from her earlier marriage. By 1894, the family was in Chambers County, where “Jim” Petty served as constable. J. B. Petty was elected Justice of Peace for Precinct 5, Chambers County, on Nov. 3, 1896. He was elected again, on Nov. 8, 1904, with his residence described as J. B. Petty, Cedar Bayou, Precinct 5.[i] He died May 19, 1908. His death record at the courthouse at Anahuac reads:

Name: J. B. Petty

Race: White

Place of Birth: American

Gender: Male

Age: 47 years

Residence: Cedar Bayou, Texas

Place of Death: Cedar Bayou, Texas

Date of Death: May 19, 1908; 5:30 P.M.

Citizen or Foreigner: Citizen

Cause of Death: Tuberculosis of bowels and lungs, Grippe, Measles, Dysentery and Typhoid fever

Physician: N. Schilling, M.D., Cedar Bayou, Tex.

Date of Filing: June 17, 1908

By Whom Filed: N. Schilling[ii]


Family data as written (by Floyd Schilling Petty?) in Family Record Pages[iii]


Names & Births:


J. B. Petty, Dec. 21, 1860

R. A. Petty, Aug. 19, 1866

Hettie Edna Reid, (no month) 1881 (Note: this is Rebecca’s daughter by a previous marriage.)

Emma Petty, Aug. 15, 1886

Oscar Joseph Petty, April 7, 1888

William Silas Petty, Feb. 19, 1890

Mettie R. Bell Petty, July 28, 1896

Henery (sic) Arvin Petty, Dec. 8, 1897

Robert Doyle Petty, Oct. 31, 1899

Myrtle Elizebth (sic) Petty, Sept. 26, 1902

Floyd Schilling Petty, March 11, 1904 (Note: Floyd was probably named Schilling after the doctor who delivered him[iv]).




J. B. & R. A., October 22, 1885

Edna, July 15, 1906

Oscar, June 29, 1913

Mettie, Dec. 30, 1913

Willie, April 11, 1914

Myrtle, Dec. 5, 1920

Arvin, Oct. 26, 1922

Doyle, Mar.? 14?, 1922 (blurred)


Deaths (as written – no names are given for the first two dates)

May 19, 1908 (This would be J. B. Petty)

Aug 14, 1916 (This is Rebecca)


W. S. Petty, May 13, 1937

Mettie and Joe, June 5, 1933


Temple Dunaway of Baytown has supplied the information that James and Rebecca Petty are buried in Harris County in the Cedar Bayou Methodist Cemetery.


1900 census information

Precinct 5, Chambers County, TX

(note: some of the birth dates are incorrect.)

Petty, James B., head of household, age 39, b. Dec., 1860, married 13 years, born TN, both parents born TN, farmer, can read, write, speak English, owns farm free and clear, farm schedule 153

wife Rebecca, age 29, b. Feb. 1871 (actually, she was born in 1866), married 13 years, 6 children, all living (There are 7 children in the household; from their ages, I deduce that she and James had 6 children together at this time), born TX, father born AL, mother born TX, can read, write, speak English

children (all can read, write, speak English):

daughter, Edna, age 18, born Jan., 1882 (Rebecca was previously married to Edward Reid. This daughter’s full name, as recorded by Rebecca, was Hettie Edna Reid.), birthplace of Edna’s father somewhat unclear, could be TN, mother born TX.

daughter, Emma, age 13, b. Jan, 1887, at school,

son, Oscar, age 12, b. Feb. 1888 (census looks like 1878, so copy error), at school

son, Willie, age 11, b. Apr. 1889 (census looks like 1879, so copy error), at school

daughter, Mettie, age 5, b. Jan. 1895

son Arvin, age 2, b. Apr. 1898

son Hobson, 11 mo., b. Jun, 1899 (This seems to be the Robert D. of the 1910 census. Why was he recorded as Hobson?)


1910 census information

Precinct 5, Chambers County, TX

James had died May 19, 1908, and Rebecca is noted as being a widow.

Names, as they appear. Note that some of the ages do not agree with the 1900 census.

Oscar J., head of household, age 22, single, owns farm

Rebecca A., mother, age 43, widow, 9 children, all living (This would be correct if you include Edna and Emma, who were no longer in the household)

Willie S., brother, age 20, single

Mettie B., sister, age 13

Henry A., brother, age 11

Robert D., brother, age 10

Myrtle L., sister, age 8

Floyd S., brother, age 6

Butler, Silas M., grandfather, 84, widower, born Alabama, father and mother born United States (no state named) Note: This is Rebecca’s father.

Note: Rebecca’s age is correct in this census.


                                                                                                                                                                        Carol Todd

                                                                                                                                                                        1906 Cresthaven Dr.

                                                                                                                                                                        Austin, TX 78704



[i] Harry, Jewel Horace, B. S.; A History of Chambers County, Thesis for the Degree of Master of Arts. Presented to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Texas, August, 1940. Partial: Barbers Hill, Hankamer, Mont Belvieu; Wallisville Heritage Park.

[ii] Chambers County, Texas; Register of Deaths, Volume 1, p. 11; Chambers County Courthouse; Anahuac, TX

[iii] Family Record Pages, photostat from ShaLeah Whitmore/Harper

[iv] Fleischman, Flavia Stubbs; Old River Country, A History of West Chambers County; 1999 Memorial Edition, published for the Wallisville Heritage Park, p. 35.