I never thought of my ancesters as being pioneers. That’s a term I associate with the American West, and my people lived mostly in the East and South. When I identified my great-great grandfather’s parents, I learned that, indeed, they did blaze a new trail, right here in Northwest Florida.
Let’s start with my great-great grandfather, Isaac Pittman. Boy, was he a tough nut to crack. My mother remembered his name, and her grandmother, Mollie Pittman Stevens, had a framed portrait of him. We did not know who his parents were or where he was born.
In researching his wife, Mosella Elizabeth Thompson Pittman, I had found some U.S. Census records with a little bit of information. Trouble is, it was contradictory.
The 1880 Census, when Isaac and Mosella were living with her family in Alabama, says Isaac was born in Mississippi. So were his parents.
In the 1930 Census, his daughter Mollie (my great-grandmother) said her father was born in Alabama. Her brother Cleve (short for Grover Cleveland) reported the same thing.
I started asking myself if I’d somehow made a mistake.
Then, I finally found the 1900 Census, the last one while Isaac was living. It was mis-indexed under Patman instead of Pittman. That one says Isaac was born in Florida.
I had to make an educated guess. In 1880, he was living with his in-laws. I don’t know who was giving the census taker the information but Isaac might not have been home. His children may have assumed he was born in Alabama because that’s where they were born. But in 1900, he was the head of the household, and probably he or his wife were giving the information. Therefore, it had to be the most accurate.
Turns out, that was the right choice.
When I started looking in Florida, I found a 9-year-old Isaac Pitman in the 1850 Census. He was living in the newly-formed (as of 1848) Holmes County with his parents, Thomas E. and Elizabeth. Thomas E. Pittman was, indeed, listed as born in South Carolina (although Elizabeth was born in Georgia). I still felt I was on the right track, because Isaac named one of his sons Thomas E. Another of his children is Nancy Charity, just like his sister. It appears to show Thomas the elder’s parents living with them; their names are Isaac and Rutha.
By 1860, most of the family had moved to South Alabama. Thomas’s son George Washington Pittman stayed in the Hurricane Creek area, according to a Holmes County Heritage Book, and was quite prosperous. Isaac the younger married Elizabeth Thompson (see my previous post for more on that), and after his death, the family returned to Florida, this time to Escambia County, where some of his descendants still live.
I found a couple more interesting documents for the pioneering family. One is a land grant to Isaac Pittman for property in what is now Holmes County.
The other document is the voter rolls from Florida’s first election in 1845 listing Thomas Pittman on line number 28.
The final piece in the puzzle came via email from my cousin, who has Mollie Stevens’ Bible in her possession. A note at the top of the page says it’s copied from her husband’s family Bible. It confirms that Isaac’s mother was born Elizabeth Thompson. It lists two children who died very young, one named W.O. after her father, the other named Ruthia after Isaac’s grandmother. Their names never appeared on a census, but in 1900, Elizabeth Thompson Pittman reported that she’d had nine children and seven were living.
I’m now searching for additional documents to confirm the chain from Isaac Pittman, born 1967, down to me, in order to apply for Florida Pioneer Status. My ancestors deserve to be recognized for their part in Florida’s road to statehood.
*Map courtesy FCIT.