|Back row: Alma, Alice, Lizzie and Lela
Front row: Mariah Rainwater Barnwell, James, Louvina Cheatwood Barnwell, Harvey, Lola,
William R., John Thomas
I love to study old pictures. Although I realize that people always looked solemn in old photos, I nevertheless find myself always hoping that they were happier than they appeared. This picture is no exception. William Robert Barnwell, along with his wife Louvinia Cheatwood, his eight children and his mother, Mariah Rainwater Barnwell, all posed for the camera and there’s not one smile in the bunch. I find it interesting that even though it looks as though they put on their “Sunday best” for the picture, putting on their best didn’t always necessarily include shoes. Notice the two little boys all dressed up and yet they are shoe-less.
While the only known picture of Mariah’s sister, Olivia, is very faded, I still feel that there is a resemblance between the two. (A picture of John Monroe Ganus and Olivia Rainwater is on the main page.) Mariah Rainwater b. 1826 in South Carolina was the second oldest as well as the second daughter of Joshua and Polly (Peterson) Rainwater. She was five years older than her younger sister, Olivia, my 2nd great grandmother. On December 21st, 1843, when Mariah was a young girl of seventeen, she and William Barnwell married in Carroll County, Georgia. They soon ventured out on their own, settling in Benton County Alabama. In 1845, William began buying land in Alabama and it was there that their first child, John T was born, also about 1845. According to the 1900 census, seven children blessed William and Mariah’s home although only 4 were still living at that time. In addition to John T., they had Francis Marion born about1847, Mary Elizabeth born about 1858, William Robert born about 1862 and Margaret Helen born about 1863. Their other children are unknown to me at the present. It is also unknown exactly when William died, but it is assumed to have been before 1900 because in that year, Mariah appears on the census as a widow and living with their son William R, his wife Louvinia Cheatwood and their eight children in Hampton, Polk County, Georgia. It makes sense to me that the above picture was taken while Mariah lived with them. I find it interesting that when she died just three years later in 1903, she was buried back in Alabama. A rather new headstone for “Maria Rainwater Barnwell” (name misspelled) exists in Oak Hill Cemetery in Talladega, Talladega County, Alabama. You can view the headstone on findagrave here.
Pictures add so much to our research and I am always so grateful to have a picture to go with a name. I find myself often looking at a picture and asking myself what it tells me about them. Can I see any family traits that have been handed down? Do they look like their parents or siblings? Do I look like them in any way? What does the picture tell me about their lifestyle, their economic status, their family life? If they can afford a nice outfit, why not shoes? As always, many questions remain unanswered, but I am always grateful for the additional clues a picture can provide. While I am not sure how long Mariah lived in Georgia with her son, I am so glad that she was there the day they had their picture taken.