“J. F. Petty of Harrisburg was reunited last week with his brother, Perry Petty, of Atlanta, Ga., whom he had not seen in 44 years. Cobden relatives joined in the celebration which was held in Harrisburg Sunday.
J. F. and Perry were the sons of a Confederate soldier who was disabled by wounds he received in the Cixil (sic) War. Due to his illness and the death of their mother, the boys were separated making their homes with relatives.
J. F. Petty went to Madisonville, Ky, 44 years ago from Atlanta, Ga., to live with his oldest sister, Mrs. S. A. Hankins, who is now 73 years of age. A few days ago his son, C. L. Petty, was in Madisonville and went to see his aunt, Mrs. Hankins, who was ill.
Here he met his uncle, whom he had never seen, and brought him and Mrs. Hankins to Harrisburg to bring about the reunion of the brothers. Frank Petty of Cobden, son of J. F. Petty, was notified of the arrival of his uncle and with his wife and baby joined in the happy reunion at Harrisburg Sunday.” 1
This newspaper clipping arrived in my inbox Saturday. It came from a 3rd cousin who recently found me because of a series of posts I did last year about our shared 2rd great-grandfather, John R. Petty. John R.’s three children mentioned in the article were John Franklin Petty, Oliver Perry Petty and Samantha Angeline Petty Hankins. John Franklin was the cousin’s great-grandfather; Samantha was my great-grandmother.
I’m very happy to have this article but I’m greedy—I so wish it told a little (or a great deal) more of the story.
The name of the newspaper and the date of the article are unknown but it was surely from a Harrisburg, Illinois paper. The approximate date is a little less definite. Samantha said she was born in April, 1861 so if she was 73, this reunion was about 1934 and the brothers hadn’t seen each other since about 1890 when John was 16 and Perry 21. The tone of the article seems to imply that they were younger when they were separated
The Petty children’s mother, Margaret Thomas Petty, died in Hopkins County, Kentucky on 28 Jul 1876. By 1880, Samantha was married and still living in Hopkins County. An older brother, Henry Milton, also lived in Hopkins County. John Franklin and four of their other siblings were living in Coal Mountain, Forsyth County, Georgia with Margaret’s sister, Mary, and her husband, James M. Echols. Oliver Perry was also living in Forsyth County but in Cumming with James and Angeline Tribble, listed as Oliver P. Tribble, adopted son. From all indications, Perry always went by Petty (at least as an adult), so it is unlikely there was a legal adoption. I have no idea why Perry was living with the Tribbles instead of with his aunt, uncle and siblings, but he apparently had a long-term relationship with them as one of his sons was living with the Tribbles in 1900 after the death of Perry’s first wife.
At any rate, we know that John and Perry were in the same county in Georgia in 1880. At some point, John returned to Hopkins County, Kentucky to live with Samantha and her family. That was definitely before 1897 when he married Lizzie Givens there and based on this article was no later than 1890.
And then there are the questions this article raises.
- It says “the boys were separated making their homes with relatives” but I haven’t found any connection to the Tribbles. Were they somehow related?
- Had it been 44 years or even longer since Samantha had seen Perry?
- Did the siblings who lived in Georgia remain close as adults?
- Did Samantha and John ever see any of the other children after they were separated?
- Did any of them have contact with their father after he left Hopkins County?
- Did they know about their half-brother who was born after their father re-married in 1878?
No matter what you find, it just leads to more questions.
Special thanks to Todd Johnson for scanning the clipping and sending it along with several photos. Email me for a copy of the clipping.
- “Brothers Reunited After 44 Years; Cobden Relatives Celebrate,” undated clipping, ca. 1934, from unidentified newspaper; Petty Family Papers, privately held by Steve Petty, 2012. ↩