Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The First Tennesseeans: Noah Sellers (1819-1894) & Timmie Ellen Parsons (1817-1899)

My great-great-great-grandfather, Noah Sellers, is mostly a mystery. No photos of him exist, that I know of, just a grainy, spooky photo of his headstone.

Noah Sellers was born on September 2nd, 1819 in Chesterfield County, South Carolina (birthday not confirmed) to  William "Old Frozen Bill" Sellers (1800-1844) and Gilly Eddins (dates unknown). Both his parents were natives of Chesterfield County, the Sellers clan having populated that area of South Carolina for generations, particularly since the late 1700's when the earliest known Sellers ancestor, Hardy Sellers, settled there from North Carolina between 1780-1799.

When Noah was a boy growing up in South Carolina, his father owned one slave, a female between the age of 14 and 26. They were a farming family, and must have been relatively modest in their crops. Eventually their farm grew, proven by the fact that in 1830 they had 4 slaves total: 2 males 10-23, 1 girl under the age of 10, and 1 female over the age of 55. Painful and embarrassing to know this.

According to the 1830 census, William, Noah's father, had 10 white people living in the house, so they must have had more than 3 children. Also in Chesterfield in 1830, there were 10 Sellers' homesteads, all related--proving the early families were close-knit.

By 1840, Noah's father was down to 3 slaves, all females of various ages. William had 7 children living in the house with he and Gilly. Besides Sarah, William, and Noah, the other names are not known at this time. Unlike later censuses, names of spouses and children were not listed, which is both sad and frustrating.


Timmie Ellen Parsons was born on 2 September, 1817, exactly 2 years to the day younger than her future husband. She was born in Anson, North Carolina to William Abington Parsons (1790-1826) and Sally Mary Cupp (1800-?). They didn't live in North Carolina long, as the 1820 census finds them in Chesterfield, South Carolina, 16 miles south.

Not much is known about William Abington Parsons at this time. He died very young, leaving his wife Mary with 5 children at the age of 26. They owned 1 slave at the time.

Timmie marries Noah about 1840 in Anson. She was 19.

Their life together:

1841 Timmie and Noah have their first child, James Calhoun while still living in Anson. A year later, William A.
1844,  July, Noah's father William dies at the age of 54.
In October, my great-great grandfather Thomas E. Sellers was born.
1846 Andrew Jackson Sellers was born

At some point during these next years, they move to Carroll County, Tennessee, a distance of nearly 600 miles, making them some of the first pioneers of the Sellers family in generations. They might have chosen Carroll County because Noah's uncle, John Sellers (1772-1844), had moved out there prior to 1830. It is also possible Timmie had an uncle and a cousin who had moved to Carroll County as well. It's possible Noah had cousins living in the area.

Going with Noah and Timmie were their children, of course, and also Noah's brother William, and his wife Elizabeth Parsons, the younger sister of Timmie. Timmie and Elizabeth had married Sellers brothers.

According to an interview with William and Elizabeth's son, Andrew Washington Sellers, conducted by Nellie Bristow and published in the Florence Morning News on April 7th, 1932,  several families moved from South Carolina to Carroll County, Tennessee at that time. So far, I've found evidence of the following families making the move:

Noah and Timmie (Parsons) Sellers, with their first four children
William and Elizabeth (Parsons) Sellers, with their three boys
Abraham and Mary Sellers, with their six children
Raymond and Alice Parsons, with their two children
Perhaps Thomas Parsons also went, but he was not yet married
And Frances Sellers and his wife Zilpha

All of these are proven to be living in Carroll County, Tennessee by the 1850 census.

In Carroll County, they were farmers. Between 1850-1860, they had more children: Susannah, Mary, Josiah. In 1854, Noah's brother, William, dies while raising the roof of a church (family lore). Elizabeth moves with her children back to South Carolina.

In the same interview, Andrew Washington Sellers confirms that his father died in Carroll County, and that when an uncle came out from South Carolina to visit them, his mother Elizabeth and her children went back with him to Chesterfield to work the Sellers farm run by Gilly Eddins Sellers.

In 1855, George Washington was born to Noah and Timmie. He would die in 1859 at the age of 4.

Before 1860, Noah and Timmie migrate 25 miles south to Henderson County. In the 1860 census, Noah was listed as a farmer and a mechanic. Susannah, Mary, and Josiah were healthy and living. After 1860, it's unknown what happened to them. It's possible there were two more daughters born. In the 1880 census, it shows there was a Susan Ann born 1858 and a Mary born 1860, but they are not listed in the 1860 census. I bet that it is Susannah and Mary in the 1880 census, their ages are just wrong.

The 1870 census isn't available.

I do know through other researchers that Noah and Timmie's eldest son James Calhoun Sellers went west to Texas with Sam Manley, his third wife's brother. They worked for the railroad and raised cotton in Ellis County.

In 1880, Noah and Timney now lived further west in Madison County, with just their daughters Susannah and Mary, as well as a granddaughter, 8-year-old Lillia, who must have been Noah and Timney's first son's daughter (James Calhoun Sellers). His second wife Ainsley would die before 1880, and Lillia would have gone to live with her grandparents to be raised by her aunts. James was still living in Texas. Timney and Noah were still farming, Susannah and Mary working on the farm.

1894, Noah dies at the age of 75. He is buried in Cotton Grove Cemetery in Madison County, Tennessee. After his death, Timmie must have gone West to live with their son William and his wife Eppie. She died on Christmas Eve, 1899 in Ellis County, Texas, only an hour's drive from where I am currently living.

Timmie and Noah's legacy:

James Calhoun Sellers (1841-1901) was married 4 times and had a total of 13 children. Settled and died in Texas.
William A. Sellers (1842-1932) was married twice. He had a total of 7 children. Settled and died in Texas.
Thomas E. Sellers (1844-1918) was married to Mary Emiline Bradford. They had 11 children.
Andrew Jackson Sellers (1846-1905) was married to Sara Amanda Alexander. They had 7 children. Settled and died in Oklahoma.
Susannah (1850-?) Never married. Was mentally ill (family lore).
Mary Annettie (1851-?) Unknown if she married. She was forced to sell the 48 acres she purchased with her sister and niece in 1899 in Fannin, TX. It is not known what happened to her after that.
George Washington Sellers (1855-1859) died at age 4.
Josiah Sellers (1857-?) No sign of Josiah in the 1880 census, but he could have been off on his own by then. There is a Josiah Sellers found in Monterey, California around this time period, but there is no way to tell if this is the same person at this point.


Besides the hard facts, it is always most interesting to me to wonder what these people were like. Through the generosity of a cousin and fellow researcher, Linda, we have this small gem. In a 1975 interview conducted with Charles Sellers, one of James Calhoun Sellers' sons, he had this to say about his grandmother Timmie:

 "She had come to Texas with the family after granddad (Noah) died in Tennessee. She was a sickly woman, don't recall her ever being well. I remember seeing her in bed crying when Will (he probably meant Jody, since he was James Calhoun Sellers' infant son who died in 1897. Will died after she did.) Dad (James Calhoun) and Uncle Andrew (Jackson) took her to Ellis county to Uncle Will (William A Sellers). (This must have been from Fannin to Ellis County, which is further south.) Lillie May Sellers couldn't take care of her, and Aunt Mary couldn't care for her. Aunt Susanne was
mentally ill and couldn't care for her. Grandma Sellers died in Ellis County."
Keep in mind, Charles Sellers would have been 5 years old when his grandmother died, so his memories of her might have been distorted through the eyes of a young child, but he would have been close to the source of information.

Susannah's mental illness is illuminating. It is also important to note that Noah's sons broke up and sold off the Sellers' homestead after his death, which is why Timmie and her spinster daughters and granddaughter Lillie moved down to Texas. It appears perhaps Susannah and Mary bought a house on 48 acres with the money they might have received from their inheritance, but lost that 5 years later. As Timmie grew more ill and frail, she was moved to her son William's house, where she died and is buried. A trip to visit the cemetery and town is in the works.

Much thanks to Charlie Purvis, Linda Berford, and Sheila Sellers Murley for their help with this information.


  1. You should read this article:

    Interview with Andrew Washington Sellers, Confederate Veteran (conducted by Nellie Bristow, Florence Morning News, reprinted Chesterfield Advertiser, April 7, 1932)