#52Ancestors in 52 Weeks: In the City

My 3rd great-grandmother Mary Ann Delaney Pippin was born, according to family records, in Montgomery County, Alabama. Not in the city of Montgomery, which was created from two smaller communities in 1819, six years before Mary Ann’s birth, but in the southern part of the county in a small rural community called Ramer. It’s about 30 miles from Ramer to the Alabama State Capitol.

Sometime between the birth of my 2nd great-grandmother, Ary Loper, in 1857, and the U.S. Census in 1860, Mary Ann and her husband William Hamilton Loper moved about 140 miles south, and settled in Milton, Santa Rosa County, Florida.

Today, Milton is not the largest city in the Florida panhandle, but just before the Civil War, Santa Rosa County was the richest county in Florida, and Milton’s economy was booming.1

Unfortunately, the Lopers’ arrival in the big city would be followed by devastation during and after the war. Much of the damage was caused by Confederate troops, who didn’t want to leave anything of value that could be used by Union troops.2

In the 1860 Census, William Hamilton Loper was listed as a laborer, with no value listed for personal property or real estate. By 1870, Mary Ann is the head of the household, and she appears to be doing all right. The form lists $200 in real estate and $500 in personal property, which is the most of anyone on that Census page. Her occupation is given as “Ret Grocer” – or at least that’s how I read it. Several others on the page are listed with that occupation. I don’t know if that meant she had a store or a stall, or if she worked for someone else.

1870 Census record listing Mary Loper and her children William, Arkansas, Addie, and George.
“United States Census, 1870”, database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MNZJ-PTX : 28 May 2021), Mary Soper, 1870.

In the 1880s, railroads proliferated in the area, bringing a new boom to industry around Milton.3 The prosperity would be tempered by disaster. The downtown area burned three times within 30 years – in 1885, 1892, and 1909.

In those days, Milton was pretty much like a port city.4 It’s well inland, but it sits on the Blackwater River, which connects to Escambia Bay which flows into Pensacola Bay, which connects to the Gulf of Mexico. There were no bridges over the bays in those days; the first one between Milton and Escambia County – the Highway 90 bridge – opened in 1926, to great fanfare, according to coverage in the Pensacola newspaper. It was a game changer for the area.

My searches haven’t found Mary Ann Delaney Loper after the 1870 Census. Someone on FamilySearch entered a death date of March 8, 1914, though I’ve found no evidence to support that. Perhaps she remarried or lived with one of her children for whom I haven’t filled in the descendancy. Certainly, she did have children who saw the continued growth of Milton and Pensacola into the 20th Century.

References

1 & 2 – Northwest Florida History

3 – City of Milton

4 – Santa Rosa Historical Markers

About Taminar

When I grow up, I want to make movies and write books. Now in my 50s, I wonder if I'll ever really accomplish the dreams of my youth. I have made two short films, one for a college film-making class, the other for an MTV-sponsored contest. I have written short plays that have been produced, and a few short stories and reviews that have been published. I also perform and direct for community theatre. My working life has included stints in local TV news, public relations, retail management and cashier, and for a couple of years, I made the rides go at Walt Disney World. I have two cats and a husband.
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