Spell: Earliest Known
Our dearly beloved Patriarch, William Frederick Spell, fondly known as “Bill”, was born out of wedlock to Joanna Louisa Spell, on October 6, 1838, in Rankin County, Mississippi. There is no record of any Spell owning land in Rankin County in the 1830’s.
The 1830 census record for Rankin County, Mississippi, lists Joel Spell, and that he has a wife, one daughter, three sons, and one male slave. South Carolina is listed as their place of birth.
There is on file in Rankin County, Mississippi, a deed of a gift to the heirs of Joel Spell and Keziah Spell on June 20, 1830. The deed gave 16 head of cattle to the minor children of Joel Spell and Keziah Spell. The children were: Joanna Spell, Charles Spell, Thomas Spell, and John Spell. Thomas Bird is listed as the executor of the deed.
Joanna’s middle name is sometimes said to be “Letha”, however, it is listed as “Louisa” on her cemetery marker, and will be listed in these papers as “Louisa”. Joanna was spelled differently, but the earliest found spelling, “Joanna”, will be used.
Joanna was seventeen years old when she gave birth to William Frederick Spell. The only story that the family members were ever told about his father, was that a “drummer” (traveling salesman) was passing through, and had stayed near Joanna’s house for several days. The day that the drummer moved on, she watched until he was out of sight, knowing that he would never return for her, and that she would never see him again, and that he would never see his child.
It is not known how she got to Smith County and met Frederick Sullivan, the tenth child of the notorious Tom Sullivan. Joanna married Frederick Sullivan and they had eleven more children.
Frederick Sullivan applied for a homestead of forty acres of land in Smith County, Mississippi, on August 26, 1838, for $1.25 per acre, for a total of $50.14. The “Joe Molly” Sullivan house now stands on the Frederick Sullivan house site.
The 1850 Smith County, Mississippi. census lists that Joanna’s brother, Thomas Spell, and Frederick’s brother, Jefferson Sullivan, were living in their household. By 1860, they had moved out and Thomas spell was working as a farm laborer for Calvin Little, and John Spell had moved in with Joanna and Frederick Sullivan, as a farmer.
John Spell married Mary Ann Sullivan, a sister to Frederick Sullivan. John and Mary Ann’s children were: Charity Ellen, who married William Dave Darden; William Luther, who married Mary Elizabeth Sullivan; John Alexander, who never married; Samuel Loten, who married Fannie Elizabeth Dickerson; Joanna Eliza, who married Willie Harvey; and Alexandria, who never married.
John and Mary Ann Spell are buried in the Zion Hill Church Cemetery in Smith County, Mississippi. It is not known if Thomas Spell or Charles Spell ever married, or where they are buried. Frederick Spell and Joanna Louisa Spell Sullivan are buried in the Alex Sullivan Cemetery, near Mize, in Smith County, Mississippi. The epitaph on Joanna’s cemetery marker reads: “Lord, she was Thine and not my own, Thou hast not done me wrong”. The epitaph on Frederick Sullivan’s cemetery marker reads: “His many virtues form the noblest monument to his memory.”
Both Spell and Sullivan family stories relate as to how Frederick Sullivan was a ‘kind’ man, always ‘good’, and never showed any partiality between his step-son, W. F. Spell, and his own children. The Sullivan relatives referred to him as “Uncle Will”.