Monday, August 20, 2012

The 5 Wives of Philmore Carpenter

Marry me was a phrase Philmore Carpenter had no trouble saying. No tellings how many times he asked the question, but we know he obtained 5 yes'es over the course of his long life.

Sarah Elizabeth "Sallie" Gaddy was his first victim.

Sarah Catherine Gaddy was born March 3, 1858. She was the Dawson "Dorsey" Gaddy and Martha "Patsey" Pilcher in Anson County, North Carolina. She was known by her nickname "Sallie". Sallie Gaddy was the first wife of Gilliam Philmore Carpenter, a character of Anson County fame, from north of the river, in Stanly County, son of  John and Louisa Hooks Carpenter, and he was her first husband. They were married on March 25, 1876. Philmore was 27 years old and Sallie just 18. It began his preference for younger women. Philmore and Sallie would bring 12 children into the world in the course of 20 years. But there were signs that things were souring far before those 20 years  were up. The children born in this marriage were sons first, and then a trail of daughters. A son named  Philmore was born first, but died young.  John Dorsey Carpenter, known as "Doss" and named for his maternal grandfather was born in 1878 and would become the oldest son of the family, closely followed by Alfred Pinkston Carpenter, known as "Bung" in 1879. The daughters would come in a regular sucession: Rosa Ann "Rose" in 1882, Martha Louisa "Lula or Lou" in 1884, Margaret Ella "Ella" in 1885, Arrie Elizabeth "Lizzie" in 1888 and Emma Eugenia "Jean" in 1889. Another son, Gilliam Philmore Carpenter, Jr, would be born in 1891 and the youngest daughter, Lucy Maybell in 1893. A stillborn infant had been born between Doss and Bung.

The house that Philmore and Sallie was married at in 1876 was known as the James Bennett house. It is a beautiful historical site and very romantic. The house had a part in the Civil War, with the then owner being shot while on the porch by a Yankee soldier. It was built in 1835 and went through a series of owners after the Bennetts, Dunlaps, Hedricks, Huntleys and Oaks. It would have been owned by J.J. Dunlap, Sr. when Philmore and Sallie married there. It's main claim to fame was being used as a set in the movie "The Color Purple", in which several scenes were shot in Anson County.

For such a romantic start, the end of Sallie and Philmore marriage was anything but romantic. In 1896, Sallie was pregnant with her twelth child. Philmore not only had a mistress, he had moved that mistress, named Mollie Braswell, into the family home. I have looked into the identity of Mollie Braswell and found 3  ladies by this name in the general area during this time. Mary Ellen Braswell, daughter of John and Elvira Braswell was born in 1867 in Goose Creek in neighboring Union County, very close to Anson. However, in 1888, she was married to W. E. Simpson, so this would rule her out. Then there was Mary Elizabeth Braswell born to Hiram Brown and Mary Jane Boyette Braswell in 1868 in Anson County. She married an E. E. Myers in 1900 and lived and died in neighboring Montgomery County after that. Then there is Mary Braswell, of Wadesboro, wife of a Peter Braswell, who had a large household of children, with the first being born in 1893. Mary C Braswell, born in 1868 daughter of Church and Eve Braswell of Morningstar community in Mecklenburg County, was living with her parents in 1900. Mary Etta Braswell, daughter of John and Lucy Braswell of  Burnsville, in Anson was born in 1858 and she disappears after 1870. She may have married. I believe our mystery Mollie to either be the daughter of Hiram and Mary Jane or the daughter of John and Lucy. I intend to edit this post as I come across more information.

According to the 1896 article, in the April 4 edition of the Anson County Record, Philmore sold everything he could liquidate and loaded up the buckboard with his pregnant wife, 8 children and all they  could carry and relocated quickly to Danville, Virginia, where he put his children to work in the mill and after a time, sold the buckboard and the mules, took his two oldest boys, Doss and Bung and a 'lady of ill repute', and returned to Anson County, North Carolina, leaving Sallie and the 6 younger children stranded in Danville.

According to the Public Record and Family Recollections of  Ollie Deese Thomas, a granddaughter of the Carpenters, in the Anson County Heritage, Mollie Braswell had accompanied them on the trip to Danville. At some point along the way, they crossed a river by ferry. Mollie "stayed in the center of the ferry because she was afraid Alfred and Doss was planning to throw her overboard. Sallie had plans to poison Molly but never found the right time to do it."

The family arrived in Danville and rented a house and the girls went to work at the mill. It was on February 6, 1896 that Philmore again liquidated his assets and abandoned Sallie and the girls. According to both accounts, Mrs. Thomas and the Anson Record, some good Samaritans in Danville learned of Sallie's plight and raised the money to put her and the children on a train to Charlotte, North Carolina. In Charlotte, they were able to find transportation to Wadesboro.

After they arrived in Wadesboro, Sallie went to the home of Robert Carpenter, one of Philmore's brothers. Mrs. Thomas recounts, "She knocked and Philmore came to the door. Philmore told her they could not come in because everyone had the measles. Sallie's reply was 'measles or not, we're coming in.' There stood Mollie in the corner afraid to be seen. Philmore and Sallie argued all night."

That was the end of the marriage of Philmore and Sallie.

Sallie's sister Harriett Gaddy Talent was suffering from malaria and needed help taking care of her children. Sallie and her girls moved in with the Talents. Hattie Talent and her husband Will had 3 children, Carrie, William Dosiert Talent, Jr. and Robert Jesse Talent.

In 1896, Sallie gave birth to daughter Bessie Mae, her last child. I've seen Bessie Mae listed as a Talent and as a Carpenter. It seems pretty sure that she was a Carpenter, as Sallie was pregnant before the separation. At any rate, Bessie Mae died as an infant. Hattie Gaddy Talent also died, sometime between 1897 and 1898. The baby may have caught the malaria she was exposed to.

Sallie obtained her divorce from Philmore on November 5, 1898. On March 18, 1899 she married William Dosier Talent. It was purportedly from necessity and not from love. Sallie was needing to provide a roof over the heads of her children.

Sallie had jumped from the proverbial frying pan into the fire. Bill Talent was an alcoholic and the Carpenter children did not like him. Mrs. Thomas tells the story of how the girls provided him with a drink after he woke up from a drunk once and they repeated this each time he regained consciousness, and he kept passing out. There may have been hopes of alcohol poisoning.

This marriage was short-lived. Sallie obtained her second divorce, during an era when divorce was rare, from William Dosier Talent on Oct 6, 1906. She was 48 years old. The following spring, along with most of her children, Sallie moved to Whitmire, South Carolina where she would spend the rest of her life.

She and her children would visit Anson county family as often as they could and all of the children would reunite for visits and reunions for the rest of their lives.


Philmore Carpenter was married for the second time on the 9th of February in 1899, three months after his divorce from Sallie and a month before Sallie married Bill Talent. This lady was 35 years old and her name was Martha Hunsucker and they were married in Wadesboro. She could only stay in his presence for about 2 months and then Martha left. Philmore would never admit to the reason and seemed to not understand it, according to his children. Martha never showed up in court to contest or approve the divorce, but one was granted to Philmore in October of 1903. I saw in accounts that Martha may have had a child by Philmore, at what point during the course of their relationship, I do not know. As I find out more about these ladies from records, I will be adding to this post.

While Philmore was waiting for his divorce, between 1899 and 1903, after Martha left, he was said to have been living in Richmond County, in the Spring Hill community. Spring Hill would later become part of Scotland County. At this time, it is reported that his youngest son Gilliam had chosen to live with his father. Possibly, it was because his stepfather, Bill Talent, was purported to be abusive. By the time of his divorce from Martha, Philmore and Gilliam had relocated back to Anson County. There, Philmore would meet his third wife, Hattie Privette.

Hattie Privette was a young woman of 29, who had 3 children already, James Douglas Privette, Mary M Privette and Elijah I Privette. They were married on October 21, 1903. It appears that Hattie was not previously married and her three older children bore her maiden name. She and Philmore would add 7 sons to the Carpenter fold. When Bennett Franklin Carpenter arrived 11 months  after the wedding, he joined 10 year old Elijah, 14 year old Mary and 16 year old Doug. David Hampton Carpenter would arrive a year later in 1905, Robert Filmore in 1908, Lester Washington Carpenter in 1909, Ellison in 1911, Roman Joseph Carpenter in 1913, and the last son James Lockhart Carpenter in 1915.  Philmore was 67 when this last son was born. That made 19 children in all, with 16 living. Little Ellison would not live long, however. In January 1919, he was playing too close to a fire when his clothing caught fire. His brother were said to try to put it out, but Ellison died the next day, January 25, 1919 at the age of 8.

Hattie Privette Carpenter, who was said to be a small, industrious lady, died on November 22, 1923. She was buried in the Bethel cemetary.

Philmore had married Hattie immediately upon divorcing Martha. His fourth wife was married 3 months after the death of Hattie. He was apparently a man who didn't like to live alone and he wasted no time. He married Annie Bell Banks on the 13th of February in 1924 in Stewart County, Georgia. It is said that his stepson, Elijah had moved there after he got married and came across Miss Annie. She was a widow looking for a husband and Philmore was a widower looking for a wife. They maintained a long distance relationship for an obviously brief time, writing letters back and forth. Philmore proposed and Annie Bell, sight unseen, accepted.

Seventy-six year old Philmore again liquidated his assets. He sold his crops and animals and bought a car to drive to Georgia in. A brand new Model T from the Ford Company.
The agreement was for Philmore to live with Annie Bell in Georgia for one year, then the couple was to relocate to Wadesboro, North Carolina, where most of Philmore's family was. I do not know if Annie Bell had any children or not. I haven't been able to locate with any certainty, records of her family. I will update the post when I find out more about her.

Philmore held to his part of the deal, and a year later, in 1925, they hop in the Model T and move to Anson County.  Philmore was satified to be back on his home turf, but his wife became severely homesick. She did not like Anson and goes into a deep depression or either a fit of stubborness. It is said that she would not perform any wifely duties, she would not cook, clean or perform any household chores. She did not get along with Philmore's children. So Philmore drives her back to Georgia and leaves her there.

Granddaughter Dessie Carpenter Mullis reports that on his back from Georgia, Philmore stops in Whitmire, South Carolina to visit his first wife Sallie, who he has apparently not gotten over. He offers her a bribe of an entire five bucks to return to Anson with him. He thens reveals his motives. He needs help to finish raising the children he had late in life with Hattie. Sallie declines the offer, and lets him know in no uncertain terms that she had raised their children the best that she could in the circumstances he laid upon her and she was finished. She was not raising anymore children. He was on his own.

Philmore did not give up. He must have been blessed with a great deal of charm, because while still in South Carolina, he drove through Chesterfield County and met his fifth and final wife. Philmore married Miss Dollie Eddins on March 6, 1926. He was 76 years old and a bigamist. He had not yet divorced Annie Bell.

Like Martha and Annie Bell before her, Dollie was a woman who grew tired of Philmore's antics after a short period of time. The marriage was again short-lived and Dollie moved back home to South Carolina. Philmore was alone again. This time, an octogenarian, he gave up on love.

Philmore spent his last days in Rockingham, in Richmond County, North Carolina, living with his son Bung, or Alfred. He was finished with marrying, but not with living. At 99 years old, the man who had experienced the years of the Civil War in his early teens, lived through Reconstruction and both World Wars, took his first airplane ride. He enjoyed it so much, he celebrated again on his 100th birthday by enjoying another flight.

Philmore died in Rockingham on August 21, 1952. He was 104 years, 3 months and 5 days old. He joined his wife Hattie in the Bethel Cemetary in Anson County.

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