Week 33: August 16, 2014
Louise “Alma” Wilson Little-Gossett
Louise “Alma” Wilson was my great grandmother – mother of Evelyn Little Bryan – my grandmother. Unfortunately Alma is one of my brick walls. I know very little information on her, her father, or her first husband, or even how many siblings she had. As I began my search, I remembered that I never heard my grandmother speak of her mother; she died twenty-three years before I was born. My father has been gone for thirty-one years and I still speak about him today to my children. Funny how people speak more about family today than years ago. Maybe there was a reason.
What I do know about Alma is that she was born in 1886 in Georgia; my only account of her birth at this time is from her death certificate. It saddens me that not even an exact date of birth was given – even worse than that – there is no name listed for her mother either. There is only the name of John Wilson listed as her father. with his birthplace as Virginia. On the mother’s maiden name line – “don’t know” was written – again, very sad. Alma’s birthplace is listed as Milton County, GA., so we might assume that her father, John Wilson, was a farmer living in this rich fertile county.
Milton County ceased to exist in 1932 when it was merged into Fulton County. It was one of only two Georgia counties to be abolished; the other was Campbell County, south of Atlanta. Milton County seemed to have been a rich farming county where cotton was king and grown for most of its seventy-five years of existence.
I’ve searched and researched on Ancestry and have not found my Alma Wilson with a parent in 1900 or with her first husband, Eugene Little, and daughter in 1910. I was hoping to find her listed with parents so I had her mothers first name – she would have only been fourteen years of age in 1900. By age eighteen, she must have married as she had a child in 1906. I know she married an Eugene Little, presumably before 1906, who is the father of my grandmother Evelyn Little Bryan who was born October 14, 1906 in Chatooga County, Georgia (death certificate). They soon divorced after the birth of Evelyn; he died shortly after, within the year, as its said that Evelyn was still a baby. Alma had an older brother named James D. Wilson and she went to live with him after her divorce.
I’ve found two conflicting stories on the death of Eugene Little, Alma’s first husband – one that he died while daughter Evelyn was a baby and another written record stating he died when she was about ten years of age. Never finding him on any census through Ancestry almost makes me want to ask – was he ever alive? Usually you can find at least one record on an individual. The 1920 Oglethorpe Co. census lists Evelyn’s father as born in North Carolina; that census with her second husband and children is the only one I’ve found of Alma listed. She listed my grandmother as a Gossett and not a Little – probably just more out of convenience of easier explaining to the census taker.
My first census search in Milton County, Ga. was in 1880, six years before she was born; I found a John P. Wilson, age 42, born N.C. with a wife Mary E., age 35, born Ga. with children John R. age 14, and Laura W. age 12. If this is my Alma’s family, her mother would have been age 48 having her; I’m thinking this is not the right family. Supposedly she had an older brother named James Wilson; I do not see him listed here, but I suppose he could have been older and already out of the household. This family is a definite possibility as the father was born in N.C. as stated by Alma on a later census, mother born Georgia and Alma could be born into this family six years later. (In 2016, I discovered that this is the correct family.)
No census records exist for 1890 due to a fire in January of 1921 in Washington, DC destroying most of the census for that specific year. Less than 1 percent survived, totaling 6,160 names from only two counties – Columbus and Muscogee County.
In 1900, on the Snellville, Gwinnette Co., Ga. I found a Margrette E. Wilson, widow, with a daughter named Alma b. 1886 – the exact year. Margrette’s occupation was listed as a farm laborer but also on same line was written U.S. Pension – did that mean she collected a pension from her late husband John Wilson? There were four of seven living children at home, plus one grandson, five months old? Who’s son was he? Alma was only fourteen years of age. It was written that Margrette had seven living children and as only four showed living at home, there’s a possibility that Alma’s older brother James D. Wilson was out of the household. I’m still up against that brick wall – where is John Wilson? Is this Margrette E. Wilson the mother of Alma? Why was Margrette drawing a U.S. Pension? I”m also curious about Margrette’s middle initial of E., did it stand for Evelyn – could that be why Alma named her first daughter Evelyn? So many questions – and so few answers.
Alma’s first husband Eugene Little, died before 1909; supposedly he died in Blairsville, Ga. and Alma went to live with her brother James D. Wilson in Oglethorpe County. We might assume she met John William Gossett Sr. there as she soon married him and their first child Buella Gossett was born in 1909 in Alabama, Jocie in 1912 and Louise (Walker-Fouche) in 1913, all in Alabama. By 1920 they were found back in Georgia in Oglethorpe County. On that census it listed Eugene Little, father of my Evelyn Little Bryan, to have been born in Alabama and her mother Alma, born in Georgia. I know that their son John William Gossett Jr. was born on Dec. 15, 1919 in Crawford, Ga. (d. Mar. 10, 2013) so that pinpoints their return back to Georgia.
The 1920 Beaverdam, Oglethorpe County, GA census also shows that John William Gossett Sr.’s parents were both born in Alabama. That could be the reason of why they moved to Alabama – if he had met her in Oglethorpe County while she was living with her brother James. I can’t imagine a young woman with a baby going to Alabama alone.
In letters from my grandmothers half-sisters, they mentioned they had thought my grandmother (Evelyn) was born in Alabama – the confusion was that they were born there and I guess they assumed their older sister was also. I never knew her half sisters were born in Alabama until I found Alma with her second husband on the 1920 Oglethorpe County census.
Alma’s marriage to her second husband seemed to have not been a happy marriage. Shortly before 1929 he left her and moved to Ohio to live with a woman that he had been dating while married to Alma. This pained Alma and left her in a state of depression to the point that she took her own life. She shot herself on February 28th, 1929 and died on March 1st, 1929.
I can’t even imagine how this affected her children still living at home. Her youngest, John William was only ten years of age. Two of the girls were 15 and 16, so I assume they also still lived at home. It’s said all the children went to Ohio with their father but they couldn’t have stayed very long as John William Gossett Sr. died the following year, 1930. He is buried in the Wisteria Cemetery in Union Point alongside Alma.
Evelyn, being the oldest and married, must have provided a home to whomever was still living with their father at his death. I only know that she took in John William Jr., being the youngest, for a short time. He later joined the Army as soon as he was old enough, which might have been at age sixteen, not wanting to be a burden on his sister; Evelyn had been married for six years when her mother died and already had two sons – she now was raising two, possibly three more.
I never remember hearing my grandmother talk about her mother or even knew that she raised her brother from such a young age. I remember him always coming at Christmas to her house, but never knew all these details until recently. I never knew he had no where else to go for holidays, and that was the reason he always came; he wasn’t married until much later in life.
Most of my information was gathered from family, the death certificate of Alma L. Wilson, and a social history on her daughter Evelyn Little Bryan upon admittance to the nursing home.
Photo Credit to Samuel Taylor Geer at Find a Grave
Since writing this post in 2014, I have since found Alma’s parents (2016); I had actually found them while writing this post, but did not know at the time. Click to read about John P. Wilson. I also found the parents of John – Robert C. Wilson and Jemimah Hines.