Elizabeth Jane Waldrip Casey Gray

Contributed by Wanda Ridge. 2021

The Saga of Aunt Bettie Gray – Unraveling her story

I still hear my dear friend, my cousin and my research colleague, the late Robert Waldrip, say, “I wonder what happened to Aunt Bettie Gray.” Robert possessed the only known picture of the lady in question, and passed away without knowing the answer to his question.

Early in my research of the Waldrip, Smart and Freeman families of Marshall, Tate and Lafayette counties in Mississippi , I became acquainted with Robert and Joyce Waldrip of Coldwater, MS. Both were instrumental researching these family lines and were the source of much of my Mississippi family data. Although two generation apart, Robert and I shared Waldrip great grandparents. His grandfather first married the sister of my great grandmother Tabitha Freeman before marrying Robert’s grandmother, so we felt we had a double bond.

The Waldrips were easy to research. They left lots of paper trails. Lots of records. Their descendants are many. A number of descendants of this fine old family line still live in the Lafayette Co., MS area and all have been so willing to share information. But as in any family research, there are also brick walls. Our wall was Aunt Bettie Waldrip, or Aunt Bettie Gray. Robert and Joyce Waldrip are not here to share the breaking of this brick wall, and I feel this story needs to be told.

Elizabeth Jane Waldrip, daughter of Stephen G. and Martha Jane Smart Waldrip, was born 19 April 1849 in Lauderdale Co., AL. She married James E. Casey 17 December 1866 in Marshall Co., MS. They were enumerated in the 1870 Lafayette Co., MS census. This was all the information we had on Elizabeth J. Waldrip Casey, other than family references to “Bettie Gray” and a letter written in 1889 signed “Bettie Gray.” References in other letters led us to believe a widowed Elizabeth Casey had married after 1870 to a John Gray, probably from the Lee or St. Francis Co., Arkansas area, where her parents had moved in the 1870’s. All the other Waldrips left tracks, records, documents. Not this lady. It was as if Bettie Waldrip Gray had dropped off the face of the earth.

Years passed with no success in finding what happened to Elizabeth Waldrip but I never ceased to search. While browsing the 1880 Federal Population Census which came online about 2002, I found an entry in Fort Worth, Tarrant Co., TX which showed a John H. Gray, wife Elisabeth J., son John H., and step-daughter Nettie Casey. This had to be our Elizabeth. There were references to a Nettie Casey in old family correspondence but we didn’t know who Nettie was. Now it appears Elizabeth and James Casey had a daughter Nettie, and that Elizabeth and Johnny Gray had a son, John Jr. But in Tarrant Co., TX? That still remains a mystery. Sadly, Robert and Joyce were not longer alive and could not share this wonderful find.

Research on this family stymied until last year when, on a whim, I began browsing online death and cemetery records, as well as the 1900 online census. A census record for a J. H. Gray in Sumterville, Sumter Co., FL caught my eye. Could it be? Was this our long lost Elizabeth J. Waldrip and her family in Florida? The story that follows is the result of my search for this family and an eventual connection to descendants of Elizabeth Waldrip Casey Gray.

The 1900 Sumter Co., FL federal population census shows a household headed by J. T. Brown, wife Susan, born 1884 in Arkansas, brother J. H. Gray, born 1880 in Texas, and mother E. J. Gray, born in 1852 in Alabama.

Apparently there was a child, Susan, who was born to Elizabeth and Johnny Gray in Arkansas in 1884 but without the 1890 census her name does not show up in a census until 1900. But the story takes more turns.

Cemetery records for Sumterville, FL tell more of the story:

BROWN, Infant Son of J. T. & S. A. Brown, b. unknown - d. Oct. 6, 1899, "He Is Safe In Heaven"

BROWN, James T., b. Feb. 28,1870 - d. Mar. 31, 1908, "There Are No Partings In Heaven" At the top of the headstone: "WOODMEN OF THE WORLD MEMORIAL, DUM TACET CLAMAT" (“Though silent, he speaks”)

GRAY, Elizabeth J., b. April 9, 1849 - d. Oct. 31, 1908, "Loved In Life Remembered In Death"

GRAY, J. H., b. Mar. 28,1880 - d. Aug. 3, 1905, " Son Of J. H. & E. J. Gray" "Why Should We Sleep When The Weary Can Rest In The Bosom Of Jesus. Supreme In Mansions Of Glory Prepared For The Blest For Death Is Only A Dream."

CASEY, Nettie V., b. unknown - d. June 9, 1896, Aged 21 Yr., 3 Mo, & 4 Days. "Wife Of J. A. Anderson" "Asleep in Jesus, Blessed Sleep From Which None Ever Makes - Note: The rest of sentence was illegible.

From the cemetery records we surmise Susan and James T. Brown married prior to 1899, as an infant child’s death is recorded in this cemetery in 1899. James T. Brown died at age 38, in 1908. No record of his death was found, other than the grave marker, and no marriage for Susan and J. T. Brown has been found.

Nettie Casey apparently married a J. A. Anderson. She died at age 21. No further records for J. A. Anderson were found. We do not know if there was issue from this marriage.

From one grave marker date, it seems the John Gray family was in Sumter Co., FL prior to 1896 but just when they made the move is unknown. We do not know if Elizabeth’s husband died prior to the move or after the move to Florida.

John H. Gray Jr. apparently died unmarried and without issue.

Pictures of these grave markers were so kindly sent to me by a volunteer.

The 1910 Sumter Co., FL census shows a Susie married to E. A. Weatherly. It is her second marriage and step-children named Ollie, Nettie and Willie Brown are in the household. The date of this census enumeration was 22 April 1910. No marriage record was found for a Susie Brown to a Weatherly but this is clearly our widowed Susan Gray Brown who has made a second marriage.

An interesting turn was finding the same family enumerated in the 1910 Sumter Co., SC census, enumeration date 6 May 1910. It appears that between April 22nd and May 6th, this family moved from Sumter Co., FL to Sumter Co., SC and were enumerated in both counties. This SC census shows Alexandre Weatherly as head of the household with wife Susie, and children who fit the Sumter Co. FL census.

This family is enumerated in the 1920 and 1930 Sumter Co., SC census along with many other Weatherly families. Both Susan Weatherly and her husband were still living in 1930. A search of the Social Security Death Index gave a death date of 6 November 1968 for Susan Weatherly, born in Arkansas.

A call to the Sumter Co., SC public library resulted in the following obituary:

Mrs. Susie Weatherly (The Sumter Daily Item, Wednesday, Nov. 6, 1968
Mrs. Susie A. Weatherly, 84, died early this morning at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Arrie Bartlette, Rt. 5, 1315 Howard St. Born in Wheatley, Ark., she was a daughter of the late John Henry and Elizabeth Jane Waldrop Gray.
Mrs. Weatherly was a member of the Salem Ave. Baptist Church. She was twice married, first to the late James Thornton Brown and after his death to the late Erasmus A. Weatherly. Surviving are five daughters, Mrs. Nettie B. Weatherly of Sumter; Mrs. Harry (Vivian) Brannon of Tacoma, Wash; Mrs. Myles (Susie) Thames; Mrs. Arrie (Carlette) Bartlette; and Mrs. Edison (Ruby) Floyd, all of Sumter; one step-daughter, Mrs. Elizabeth Mathis of Sumter; one son, Walter Weatherly of Sumter; three step-sons, Eddie B. Weatherly, Erasmus A. Weatherly and Archie Weatherly all of Sumter; a number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren and nieces and nephews.
Funeral services will be conducted at 4 o'clock Thursday afternoon from the Chapel of the Shelley-Brunson Funeral Home by the Rev. Woodrow Spencer assisted by the Rev. Frank W. Monroe. Interment will follow in the Sumter Cemetery. Six grandsons will serve as pallbearers. The Deacons of the Salem Avenue Baptist Church will serve as Honorary Pallbearers. The family will be at 1315 Howard St. on Rt. 5.

What a wonderful obituary!! This is the confirmation needed to connect Susie Weatherly to John and Elizabeth Gray.

The story does not end here. A few telephone calls to Weatherlys in Sumter Co., SC, and soon I was corresponding with the granddaughter of Nettie Brown, the daughter of Susie and a granddaughter of our elusive Elizabeth J. Waldrip Casey Gray.

To date, the Brown/Weatherly descendants have been able to add little early information for this family. We have shared pictures of the grave markers from the Sumterville, FL cemetery, as well as a copy of the only known picture of Elizabeth Waldrip. We have much more Waldrip information for sharing, if and when they are ready. As for now, I know Robert is looking down on us, smiling. We may never know what led her family from Lafayette Co., MS, to Wheatley, AR to Tarrant Co., TX, to Sumter Co., FL and on the Sumter Co., SC, but we do know where she was laid to rest. Now we can rest. We know what happened to Aunt Bettie Gray.

Quick Links:


GenWeb Contacts:

Tell Us About It!

If you have questions or problems with this site, email the TCGS Coordinator, Ms. Carrie Davison, or the Webmaster, Ms. Debra Hosey.

Please do not ask for specific research on your family here. Use the Research Help page instead.