Dear Friends of Lexington Odd Fellows Cemetery:
We are excited to announce a “Photography Contest” to showcase our newly restored LOFC. It will be judged by a renowned and celebrated photographer with Mississippi roots and family members buried at LOFC. Now that the grounds are looking quite beautiful, it is time to update our photo gallery on the website. Your talents and creativity are needed to make this happen. We hope to have many submissions in the following categories: (1) Black and White; (2) Aerial; (3) Landscape; and (4) Tombstone. For each category there will be a prize: First Prize, a $100 U. S. Savings Bond; Second Prize, a $50 U. S. Savings Bond; and Third Prize, a $25 U. S. Savings Bond.
Please submit your entry or entries no later than September 1, 2020 to LOFC, P. O. Box 1213, Lexington, MS 39095 or drop off at the Barrett Law Firm marked for the attention of Chris Hammett. Each entry should include 3 copies in an 8” X 10” size, along with your name, contact information, and the category(s) in which you are entering. If you are entering the aerial category in video format, include the video on 3 CD’s. Everyone is welcome to participate, so please help us spread the word. The photographs will not only be displayed on our website, but also may be used in an upcoming cookbook of old family recipes. All photographs and videos will become the property of LOFC.
One of the many joys of being involved in the preservation of Odd Fellows has been the opportunity to learn more about the many families buried there. As Chris Hammett and I update the records in our new computerized cemetery management system, the names of those families, many of whom are familiar, have become my “new best friends.” Perhaps it is the time in which we now live, calling upon us to shelter in place as much as possible and to avoid social gatherings that has brought me to this place. It is a good place, for it has given me and others an opportunity to share family stories, many of which date back to the settlement of Holmes County in the early 1800’s.
This month we feature such a story with information provided by Fran and Ed Thurmond in collaboration with Alyssa Ellis Killebrew, a descendant of the Doty and Ellis families and Kathie Porter Mayo, also a Doty family descendant. I reached out to Arthur Warren Doty, a direct descendant of the Doty family, who was invaluable in clarifying the Doty family history. 1 I hope you will not only enjoy it, but also will be moved to share your family stories.
The Doty/Ellis Family
While a cemetery may evoke sadness or summon forth sweet memories, it may also inspire someone to “dig up” exciting family history. With the renewed interest in LOFC, Alyssa Ellis Killebrew shared some of her “digging,” connecting one headstone with another in her family plots. After finding photos and family memorabilia buried in old trunks, Alyssa visited the Mormon Family History Library while on a business trip to Utah. She also had her DNA tested.
As a result of her research, Alyssa discovered that Edward Doty, a passenger aboard the Mayflower was her 7th great grandfather. Also known as Edward Doten, he arrived on the Mayflower as an indentured servant of Stephen Hopkins. 2 Edward Doty later became a wealthy landowner, but his argumentative nature and fierce temper caused him to be in the Plymouth court many times over the years. 3 In June 1621, he engaged in a sword and dagger duel with fellow Hopkins’ servant Edward Leister. 4 As punishment, the court sentenced them to have their head and feet bound together for a day (they were let go early because of their apparent suffering.) 5 More importantly, Edward Doty was one of 41 men of the ship’s 101 passengers – consisting of separatist Puritans fleeing from religious persecution of King James I of England, adventurers, and tradesmen – that signed the Mayflower Compact, the first governing document of Plymouth Colony. 6
Fast forward more than two centuries to September 27, 1830 to the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek. In what is now Noxubee County, the Choctaw American Indian tribe ceded more than 11 million acres of Choctaw Nation in exchange for about 15 million acres in the Indian territory of what is now Oklahoma. 7 With the availability of land, settlers rushed into the Mississippi territory and sometime after, the Doty family is found in Holmes County.
In 1862 William Henry Doty married Ella Murphy from Alabama. Interestingly, his brother James Doty married Ella’s sister, Cora Murphy. They had another brother named Lemuel Humphries Doty. William and Ella lived near Pickens and are the great grandparents of Billy Ellis and Sarabeth Ellis Rountree. James and Cora are the great grandparents of Kathie Porter Mayo, who is one of LOFC’s most active volunteers. Lemuel Humphries was the father of Dr. Arthur Doty whom many older residents remember as having practiced medicine in Lexington for more than fifty years. Dr. Doty and his family not only lived on the corner of Hillside (Tchula Road) and Old Tchula Road, but he also had his practice there. His grandson, Arthur Warren, fondly remembers visiting his grandfather in Lexington, enjoying a meal beautifully set on the table and witnessing the strong bond that his father and grandfather shared.
Dr. Doty had a nephew, Bennett Jeffries Doty, son of his brother Judge Lemuel Humphries Doty of Gulfport, Mississippi. Bennett achieved international fame or perhaps infamy. It is a fascinating story that cannot be fully told in this newsletter, so a thumbnail sketch follows. After fighting in WWI in France, Bennett enrolled in Vanderbilt University. 8 Imbued with an adventurous spirit, he left Vanderbilt and traveled to Spain where he enlisted in the newly formed Spanish Foreign Legion to fight in the Rif War. 9 After cutting his service short due to “ill treatment, poor conditions and breach of contract,” he returned to the States and attended the University of Virginia. 10 In 1925 Bennett left the University of Virginia and traveled to the French Foreign Legion recruiting office in Bordeaux, France where he enlisted in the Legion under the alias of Gilbert Claron. 11 Although he received citations in two army dispatches while on duty with the Legion fighting in Lebanon against the Druse rebels, he later deserted along with three other legionnaires due to boredom and ill treatment. 12 Arrested by Syrian police for desertion and mutiny, Bennett was shipped back to France for court martial and sentenced to death. 13
As family legend goes, 75 years prior to Bennett’s imprisonment and sentencing, his great grandfather, Attorney William Mitchell Murphy, defended an impecunious Frenchman on a murder charge in Alabama, resulting in his acquittal. After Murphy refused any compensation for the case, King Louis Phillipe of France sent him a letter of gratitude. In possession of that letter, Judge Doty parlayed the letter to save his son Bennett from execution. The French government commuted his sentence to eight years in prison and eventually released him after 17 months.
After his return to the States, Bennett wrote a memoir. 14 In 1932 he entered Tulane Law School and was admitted to the Mississippi Bar in 1936. 15 However, unable to escape his wanderlust spirit and with the onset of the Spanish Civil War, he sailed to France and crossed the Pyrenees into Spain. 16 In 1938 he was wounded in action and died from chest wounds three days later, ending the remarkable story of Bennett Jeffries Doty.17
In researching family connections further, Alyssa found to her delight a newspaper clipping noting that her great grandmother’s brother once farmed the Cooper place near Tchula (Alyssa’s husband Keath Killebrew farms that land today.)
William and Ella Doty had a daughter, Melvinia, who married William Reedy Ellis, Sr. Mr. Ellis, Sr. and his brother Tom operated a hardwood timber, grain and produce company in Goodman, Mississippi. Mr. Ellis, along with a dozen other stockholders, founded the Holmes County Bank and Trust Company. As President and later Chairman of the Board, that legacy passed to his son William Jr. and then to his grandson, William R. “Billy” Ellis, III. If you would like to learn more about the other families, or possibly your own family, buried at LOFC, please visit our website. Moreover, if you would like to make a contribution to help preserve our historic cemetery, please send a check made payable to LOFC, Post Office Box 1213, Lexington, MS 39095 or click here to make an on-line donation using a credit card.
Best wishes for a safe and healthy Fourth of July celebration.
Amanda Povall Tailyour, Editor
FN 1. Editor's Note: Arthur Warren Doty, also known as Art, was a fast, tough and talented left half-back (running back) on the storied Ole Miss football teams of 1959-1961, which achieved national championships. A direct descendant of Doty family mentioned in this newsletter and later Holmes County relations, he clearly inherited those tenacious and adventurous genes, which allowed him to be the outstanding football player that he was. Art's athleticism and adventurous spirit continues today (2020) at 81 as he cycles 25 miles a day as often as he can.
FN 14. Bennett J. Doty, The Legend of the Damned: The Adventures of Bennett J. Doty in the French Foreign Legion as Told by Himself (Bordino Books) (1928)