Tuesday, May 3, 2016

It's been a while and I've had a lot going on, but I thought folks might be interested in another family who lived in Steele about 100 years ago.  There's an interesting connection to someone whose name might be familiar to you, but I'll save that for the end of the story.

James Benjamin Stovall was a Presbyterian minister and his family lived in Steele at the time of the 1900 census.  He was originally from Odenville and was married to Effie Elizabeth Fowler.  By 1910 the family had moved to Brent in Bibb County where J.B. continued to minister and to teach.  Education and ministry would be continuing areas of focus for this family, as seen in the lives of his daughters in particular.

There were six children in the family:
Samuel Drewry Stovall  1897 - 1961
Chamintney (Mittie) E. Stovall 1899 - 1979
Zeila Jeanette Stovall  1901 - 1993
Willard Isadora Stovall  1905 - 1994
Katyleene Stovall  1908 - 2007
Ada Ruth Stovall 1913 - 2008

All of the children were born in St. Clair County and the two oldest stated on records that they were born in Steele.  In 1917 at age 49, J.B. was thrown from a wagon in which he was riding and he was instantly killed.  As you can see from the ages of his children, this left Effie with young children at home and no income.  Records from the same year indicate that Samuel Drewry Stovall was working as a gatehouseman at a TCI mine in Wylam.  He would continue to work for the company as a clerk, timekeeper, and accountant even after moving to Russellville.

Somehow in a day when a college education was terribly out of reach for most people in Alabama, Effie was able to see that all five of her daughters attended college.  Mittie and Zeila went to Maryville College in Tennessee.  Willard, Katyleene, and Ruth attended the University of Montevallo.  Mittie, a teacher, would marry Ralph Cage Thomas, who became Superintendent of Education in Franklin County.  Zeila, a music teacher, married Frank Pettus Steele from St. Clair County, who sold hardware in Tuscaloosa.  Willard was a welfare worker and married Thomas P. Lee and moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas where he worked for the soil conservation service.  Katyleene married Ralph Jones Kendall, an episcopal minister from Chicago.  They lived in Eutaw, Alabama.  And finally Ada Ruth remained unmarried and taught home economics.  J.B. and Effie, along with some of their children, are buried at Liberty Cemetery in Odenville.

Now for the "celebrity" connection:  Recently I came across a letter that Mrs. Vivian Qualls had received, thanking her for the autographed copy of her Steele History.  The writer mentioned that Steele was important to him because it was his mother's birthplace.  The letter was written by Joab Thomas, president of Penn State University, North Carolina State University, and the University of Alabama.  He was the son of Mittie Stovall Thomas.  Some of you may have known about this already, but I had no clue.  It's just another one of those interesting things you find when you dig up old roots.


Ada Ruth


  1. Sharon, the Stovall's were a big part of my family. Willard was my Aunt. She married my Uncle Pete (Thomas Pete Lee). We always felt close to all of Aunt Willard's family. Thanks for sharing.
    Liz Yarbrough Sorrell

  2. Liz, I didn't know about your connection to this family! I'm so glad that you let me know.