Where Neville Came From: An Introduction

The ancestry of my wife, Neville Frierson Bryan (b. 1936), is remarkably similar to my own. We are both descended from British immigrants who came to the American colonies in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries from England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales (see page 10).

Both Neville’s and my immigrant forefathers were Anglicans (Church of England), Presbyterians (Church of Scotland), and Nonconformists (other Christian Protestants such as Quakers). Most of these ancestors became Baptists and Methodists in the nineteenth century in America.

Despite the homogeneity of our ethnic and religious backgrounds, there is one notable difference in our recent ancestral heritage. My male ancestors, like most Southerners, were primarily farmers and laborers. In contrast, Neville’s nineteenth- and twentieth-century forebears were principally lawyers, doctors, and ministers. This, in part, explains the unusual fact that Neville has seven direct male antecedents who were combatants in the American Civil War (1861–65). Their experiences are an important subject in this book.

Neville’s only Christian name is pronounced “Nuh-VILLE,” with the accent on “VILLE.” Her maiden name, Frierson, is an English occupational surname that literally means “son of a friar.” Frierson is a somewhat anomalous name, for friars take vows of chastity and thus should have no sons. The word friar is said to derive from the French word for brother (frère). This gives credence to the belief that the Friersons are descended from French Protestants (called Huguenots) who fled to Britain because of persecution in Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

We have located thirty-one ancestral lines that represent much of Neville’s British heritage. These lines have been traced to individuals who originated in England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. They are documented with dates ranging from 1390 to 1740 (see maps on pages 12 and 13).During the colonial period in America (1607–1776), most of Neville’s immigrant ancestors arrived in Virginia and the Carolinas (see maps on pages 14 and 15).

All of Neville’s ancestral lines migrated west and south in the years after the American Revolutionary War (1775–83). Between 1826 and 1843, her ancestors were living in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, and Missouri (see map on page 16). Between 1841 and 1871, all of Neville’s ancestor families (with one exception) came to the state of Mississippi (see map on page 17).

fromNeville’s major and lasting heritage is in the state of Arkansas. Her ancestors arrived there between 1854 and 1896 (see map on page 18). Her antecedents lived and died there over a period of 119 years, from 1854 to 1973. Since 1883 Neville’s ancestors and members of her family have lived in the town of Jonesboro in northeast Arkansas (see map on page 19).

For the past 133 years, Neville’s antecedents and relatives have lived and worked in downtown Jonesboro (see map on page 21). Jonesboro is located on Crowley’s Ridge, in Craighead County, in the Delta area of northeastern Arkansas. Extraordinarily, Neville has eleven direct ancestors buried in two cemeteries located on Matthews Avenue in Jonesboro. This fact testifies to the depth and extent of her heritage in Jonesboro.

Neville’s paternal grandparents, Charles Davis Frierson Sr. (1877–1947) and Charlotte Martin Gallaway (1878–1968), married in Fayetteville, Arkansas, in 1901. Subsequently, they moved to Jonesboro, where they lived for the rest of their lives. Neville’s maternal grandparents, Stanley Neville Purifoy (1879–1942) and Ola Frank Gillespie (1881–1934), married in Jonesboro in 1904 and also lived there for the rest of their lives. Neville’s parents, Charles Davis Frierson Jr. (1907–1970) and Margaret Alice Purifoy (1908–1973), were born and died in Jonesboro.

Neville’s father had only one sister, Margaret Frierson (1912–1990). Neville’s mother had no siblings. Thus, Neville had only one aunt and only three first cousins.

Neville’s grandparents had a total of twenty-three siblings, eighteen of whom lived to maturity and are recorded. They are her great-aunts and great-uncles. Neville recalls only about six of them. It appears that Neville’s great-aunts and great-uncles produced at least eighty-three second cousins, fourteen from her father’s family and sixty-nine from her mother’s family. Neville has met only a few of her second cousins over the years, and less than half of them are recorded in this volume. In the process of searching for Neville’s second cousins, I came across a newspaper column written by Andy Rooney (1919–2011), a satirical writer and television personality during my time. Like most people, Rooney did not know how to “do cousins.” However, it really is quite easy once you learn it.