Richard M. Sellars

Richard M. Sellars (1916)

Richard M. Sellars was Richard White's great grandfather.

Richard M.1 Sellars was my father's mother's father.  I was named after him.

Richard M. Sellars' discharge from Confederate military service indicates that he was born in Hiawassee, Towns County2, Georgia (near the Georgia border with North Carolina and Tennessee).  Initially I had no idea what county or counties to look for his family in, could not find them in censuses, and presumed that this information on the discharge document was true and correct.  However, it appears after many years of  searching for records and slowly tracing the movements of his parents, that this information was flawed.  This record would have been based on an oral statement of the soldier (R. M. Sellars) to the Confederate surgeon.  Apparently what was said was that he was born in "Towns"... but the place had to actually be the Towns District of Calhoun County, Georgia, not Towns County.3

As he often was in later life, he was called "R. M. Sellars" in a "Militia Enrollment List as Required by the Act of December 14th, 1863", for the 975th Georgia Military District of Lee County, Georgia.   Since this list was basically the roll of Lee County's "home guard", those too young, too old, or too infirm to be on active military service; and since his gravestone identifies his birth date as 17 October 1846 making him barely 17 years of age at that time, it might be presumed that he was too young to serve.   But the Confederate draft age was 16, and actually he was a disabled, discharged veteran.  He had served with the army of General Thomas Jonathan ("Stonewall") Jackson during at least the latter part of the Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1862 and afterward when Jackson joined Lee in the Seven Days Battles.

When his service began is not known because no record of R. M. Sellars' enrollment is contained in the Compiled Confederate Service Records.   He first appears in those records as a private in the Confederate Army, on a receipt roll of Company B of the 11th Georgia Volunteer Infantry Regiment, for "Commutation of Rations" during the period of 7 to 24 May 1862.  This may have been reimbursement for meals purchased while traveling from Georgia where he enlisted, to Virginia where the 11th Georgia Infantry Regiment was already posted.  He was admitted to Chimborazo Hospital No. 3 in Richmond, Virginia, on 2 July 1862, with typhoid fever.  He was released from the hospital and discharged for disability from the Confederate Army on 19 August 1862.  His discharge certificate states that he was enrolled at Hawkinsville, Georgia, but gives no date.  It also states that he was 14 years old at the time of discharge.  This age does not entirely comport with the birth date shown on his gravestone, which would have made him 15 years old when he was discharged.  The surgeon who signed the discharge certificate stated that he was too debilitated by the typhoid for further military service.

Family oral history indicates that R. M. Sellars ran away from home and enlisted in the Confederate Army and that his father died in the War, with an implied connection between those two events.  It has taken many years of research but I have finally been able to partially confirm that story through research.  R. M. Sellars' father was Jacob Benjamin Sellers and his mother was Georgia Ann Joiner who was born at Camilla (Mitchell County) Georgia when it was still Creek Indian Lands.  I have found that Jacob and Georgia Ann were married in Pulaski County (of which Hawkinsville is the county seat) on 11 September 1838.  Jacob B. Sellers was enrolled in the 51st Georgia Infantry Regiment, Company E (Pocitila Guard), on 4 March 1862 and his name was recorded only once more after that, on 20 May 1862, on the Post Register at Albany, Georgia.  My best guess is that mention in the Post Register is actualy the record of his death or burial.  His oldest son, George W. Sellers was also enrolled in the 51st Georgia Infantry Regiment, Company E, on 1 May 1862... and R. M. Sellars must have been enrolled in the 11th Georgia Infantry Regiment, Company B, at approximately the same time.

Oral history from my father indicated that R. M. Sellars did not return home during the War or after, never saw his mother again, and that his brother "Alford", who was working as a traveling stove repairman found him some years later where he had settled near Cairo, in Thomas (later Grady) County, Georgia.  It turns out that "Alford" must have actually Alfred Jefferson Joiner, a son of Asa Jefferson Joiner who was a second cousin of R.M.'s mother with whom R.M.'s oldest brother George W. Sellers is shown as living in the household of, at Camilla, Mitchell County, in 1860.  A legal affidavit in the Confederate service record of George W. Sellers, filed on behalf of (his father's?) sister-in-law Susan Sellers after George W. Sellers died in 1864, indicates that their mother, Georgia Ann Joiner Sellers, was also dead by that time.

R. M. Sellars married Mary Ann Haven, youngest daughter of John Shepard Haven and Martha Ann ("Patsy") Welch.  John Shepard Haven took his second allotment of Bounty Land for Second Seminole War service in Bainbridge, Decatur County, Georgia, and by 1860 he (shown as "John Having") and his family lived in the Blowing Cave District of Decatur County, which was very close to Thomas County, but by 1870 the Haven family were living in the part of Thomas County "West of the Ocklochonee".  Mary Ann Haven and R.M. must have met while the Haven family was living in one or both of those places, because they soon moved on to Madison County, Florida.  Mary Ann died in 1892, and R. M. Sellars remarried. The second marriage was a disaster.   The second wife, Missouri Lester West, widow of Levi Harper, reputedly gave preferential treatment to her children and discriminated against his.  He divorced her, and got in trouble with the law as a consequence of a subsequent dispute with her.

Although R. M. Sellars never learned to read, he was an astute businessman and moderately well to do for the times and locality.  He bought a part interest in a grist mill and used money from that and other business ventures to buy farm land.  I am not certain, but I believe that grist mill must have been the one that my half great uncle James H. Carter and his sister Martha J. Carter Jordan inherited from their grandfather, Herring Carter, as that mill was on Tired Creek as was the one great grandpa owned an interest in.  R. M. Sellars eventually ended up owning several mills and over a thousand acres of land.  Some 18 "sharecropper" tenant farmers cultivated it in partnership with him, and lived on the land.

I have oral history to the effect that R.M. Sellars was a deacon and the treasurer of Long Branch Baptist Church, north of Cairo in what Thomas County till 1906 but is now Grady County, Georgia, and that as a result of the dispute with his ex-wife, he was asked to resign from the deaconry... but he was also asked to remain on as treasurer and did.  If that was the case, it was apparently but a temporary situation.  Long Branch Baptist Church records do not name deacons, but do show acceptance into membership and expulsions from the church.  The breakup of the unhappy couple is reflected in church records as follows:

 Dec. 1912  Fellow acknowledgments:  When brother R.M. Sellars reported that him and his wife was separated and asked that the case be brought before the church and that he be justified.  After an explanation by Brother Sellers the church declared non fellowship against sister Sellers and on charges was brought against sister Sellers namely for absenting herself from her husband without a scriptural cause and on motion was expelled from the church for said charge.
However, those records also reflect the following final entry in a chapter of R.M. Sellars' life during which he had represented the church as a delegate at many Association and Union meetings in South Georgia and North Florida over the years since he had become a member "by experience" in 1893.
July 13, 1918  When the doors of the church were opened for members and Mrs. M.L. Sellers presented herself for restoration and a committee consisting of W.M. Prince, D.L. Barber, J.J. Brown, J.B. Brown, J.W. Rich, J. I. Merritt, J. L. Layton and G.B. Willis to try to bring about a reconciliation between Brother and sister Sellars and Thursday the Committee brought in their report stating that they could not accomplish any good results and the report was received and the application rejected and committee relieved, then the chairman of the committee, Brother Rich, brought charges against Brother Sellars for contempt of the church and under said charges the church withdrew fellowship from Brother Sellars.
R. M. Sellars died on 15 January 1926.  He and his first wife, Mary Ann Haven, are buried together at Long Branch Baptist Church cemetery.  Although their grave stone is above average in size, in a final testimony to ways of uncommon thrift, they are buried head to head, a single stone bearing inscriptions to each on opposite sides... which is an arrangement that I do not recall having seen elsewhere.

My father recently mentioned that the most characteristic thing he remembered of his grandfather Sellars was a habit, when not being obeyed immediately, of making a little whooshing noise through his lips and teeth, followed by the words "Like I say..." and a reiteration of whatever it was he had said.

The photograph of R.M. Sellars at the top of the page was taken at a family reunion at his home on 20 February 1916.  The photograph of the original Long Branch Baptist Church building (demolished in 1963) was copied from a commemorative dinner plate.  I helped carry the coffin of my grandfather White down the steps seen on the right (west) side of the church and into a waiting hearse when I was 12 years old.  I was supposed to be an honorary pallbearer, but some of the old men who served as pallbearers did not seem to grasp that concept.  The photo below was first e-mailed to me in October of 2001 by Suzianne Braddy Pruett.  It is of Richard M. Sellars and Missouri Lester West Harper Sellars, and was probably taken while they were married (between 1898 and 1912).  The identity of Missouri was confirmed for me on 14 February 2003 by Mrs. Josie Miller, who said that she remembered Missouri very well and that Missouri had bought her first pair of leather shoes.



1. I have not found his middle name in writing anywhere and even if I did I'm not sure that would conclusively indicate how it should be spelled.  His grandson Freeman Maze Sellars was apparently named after him, but in her typewritten "Story of My Life" my grandmother Martha Bama Sellars White stated that her father (R. M. Sellars) could not spell his own name.  My belief is that his middle name was the family name, "Mays", but I have nothing to substantiate that belief.  R.M.'s descendants have always made a point of spelling their last name "Sellars" in distinction to other families in the immediate area and there is some indication that R.M.'s brother George W. Sellars may have used that spelling, but frankly their father's last name seems generally to appear as "Sellers" and usage back before R.M.'s children fixed on the "Sellars" spelling seems so varied as to make no case for either spelling over the other in family history going back before their time.  UPDATE SEPTEMBER 2005:  I recently discovered that R. M. Sellars' grandfather William Sellers, from Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, had, besides a number of children who stayed in Georgia, two sons who went on to Alabama.  From their descendants who had further ties with the Moye family, I learned that William's wife was Nancy Moye.  Now that I know this, I believe that R. M.'s middle name was actually supposed to be Moye.

2. Towns county did not exist when R. M. Sellars was born.  It was created from parts of Union and Rabun Counties in 1856.

3.  Such Sellers family history as I have been able to glean can be found here.

I thank Mrs. Latrelle Gilliard for typescript excerpts from the Long Branch Baptist Church records.  Long Branch Baptist Church was in Thomas County prior to the creation of Grady County from parts of Thomas and Decatur counties, effective 1 January 1906, as was R. M. Sellars' home, several miles to the east.


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This page was created by Richard White on 4 October 1997.
Changes to this page were last made by Richard White on  24 October 2005.