Thomas Leonard Smith & Lillie Modena Ingram: Large Blended Family

This entry is part of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks series.  This week’s prompt is LARGE FAMILY.  To see other posts in this series, view my 52 Ancestors in 2019 index


Large families seem to run in my Smith genes. My mother was the oldest of 11 children, and my ancestors Lot Smith and Elizabeth Loving had sixteen!

My great-grandparents Thomas Leonard Smith and Lillie Modena Ingram also had a large family, but it was a blended brood of his, hers, and theirs. They were kind of like a 1920s version of the Brady Bunch — with an unfortunate mix of the Bible’s book of Job, too.

Thomas Leonard Smith — known as “Leo” — was born August 3, 1882, in Lincoln County, Mississippi, to parents Leonard Smith and Jemima Carrie Guess.¹ The family moved to Catahoula Parish, Louisiana, between 1895 and 1900.² Leo married Johanna Willbanks on August 28, 1902, at the home of her parents David and Julia Willbanks.³

Marriage Certificate for T. L. Smith and Miss J. I. Willbanks

Leo and Johanna probably knew one another as neighbors, as their families owned land near one another in the Nickel community.⁴ The couple established their home near Johanna’s family, and Leo obtained a land patent for property bordering his father-in-law on April 10, 1910, in newly-formed LaSalle Parish.⁵

Leo and Johanna had the following known children:

  • Louvenia Smith, born 1905⁶
  • Christina Smith, born about 1907⁷
  • William Smith, born about 1908⁸
  • Robert Smith, born about 1910⁹
  • Meddie C. Smith, born 6 Jan 1913¹⁰

Sometime after Leo obtained the land patent, he and Johanna moved their family to the Liddieville community in Franklin Parish. They likely made this move with Johanna’s family, as they are listed as living in the same household in the 1910 census.¹¹

Sadly, tragedy struck the Smith household in 1913. According to Wanda Davis Collins, daughter of Leo and Johanna’s youngest child Meddie, sickness swept through the Smith family.¹² Johanna and children Christina, William, and Robert died — possibly of yellow fever or malaria — and Leo was left with daughters Louvenia, age 8, and Meddie, eight months old.¹³ Because the state of Louisiana did not require parishes to keep death records until 1914, no known documentation of the deaths exist. Johanna and the children were supposedly buried in nearby Ogden Cemetery, but the graves are unmarked.¹⁴

The widowed Leo then cared for his two young daughters with the help of Johanna’s parents.¹⁵


Lillie Modena Ingram — known as “Dena” — was born August 26, 1885, most likely in Calhoun County, Mississippi, to parents Joshaway Purtiman Ingram and Martha Elizabeth Meredith.¹⁶ The family moved to Winn Parish, Louisiana, sometime between 1890 and 1893.¹⁷ Dena married Ibzan Porter, Jr. on October 23, 1902.¹⁸

Marriage License for Ibson Porter, Jr. and Miss Denna Ingram

Dena and Ibzan had the following known children:

  • Luther H. Porter, born 4 Aug 1904¹⁹
  • Mack David Porter, born 16 Sep 1905²⁰
  • Otis Joshua Porter, born 17 Aug 1907²¹
  • Joseph I. Porter, born 7 Jan 1910²²

Dena and Ibzan’s second child, Mack David, died on May 27, 1907; he was just a few months shy of his second birthday.²³ Another tragedy followed after their fourth son was born — Ibzan passed away on December 10, 1910.²⁴ Alone with three young sons, Dena likely returned to her parents’ household who were living in Liddieville, Franklin Parish, by 1910.²⁵


And that’s where Leo and Dena’s stories merge. Somehow the young widow and widower met and decided to make their own, blended family: Leo and his girls, Dena and her boys. The couple was issued a marriage license in Franklin Parish on August 25, 1914.²⁶

Statistical Record and Marriage License for Thos. L. Smith and Mrs. Dena Porter

Strangely, my great-grandparents — or maybe their officiant — never returned to the courthouse to record the marriage. But Leo and Dena reported themselves as married on each subsequent census, and they quickly began adding to their family. In total, the couple made a home for 11 children — two his; three hers, and six theirs together:

  • Louvenia Smith
  • Meddie C. Smith
  • Luther H. Porter
  • Otis Joshua Porter
  • Joseph I Porter
  • Aulton Eugene Smith²⁷
  • Thomas Leonard Smith, Jr.²⁸
  • Juanita Elizabeth Smith²⁹
  • Irene Smith³⁰
  • James Paul Smith (my grandfather)³¹
  • Jeannette Smith³²

All except Louvenia lived into adulthood; she died on February 9, 1919.³³

Leo and Dena raised all these children in their farmhouse on Smith Hill. It’s the same home in which my grandparents raised their 11 children.
What a full and lively home they must have enjoyed! After so much loss, both deserved the happiness of each other and many children.

Smith Hill, home of Leo and Dena Smith, c. 1995, shortly before its demolition³⁴
Leo and Dena Smith, late 1940s³⁵

Leo died May 30, 1949, at the age of 66.³⁶ Dena lived with my grandfather and his family until her death on March 6, 1961, at age 75.³⁷ Leo and Dena are buried across the road from their farm in Ogden Cemetery.³⁸

Gravestone of Thomas L. and Dena I. Smith, Ogden Cemetery, Liddieville, Franklin Parish, Louisiana; photo by Ron Manley³⁹

¹ Birthdate from grave marker:
Ancestry, Find A Grave, database with images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/12939381/thomas-leonard-smith : accessed 14 Mar 2019), memorial 12939381, Thomas Leonard Smith, Sr. (1882-1949), Ogden Cemetery, Liddieville, Franklin Parish, Louisiana. 

Birth location from previous census:
1880 U.S. census, Copiah County, MS, population schedule (1st enumeration), enumeration district (ED) 22, p. 13 (penned), p. 165A (stamped), dwelling 117, family 117, Leonard Smith household; image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/6742/4241986-00713 : accessed 9 Mar 2019); citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 645.

² Years based on 1900 census location and birth year and location of Mattie:
1900 U.S. Census, Catahoula Parish, LA, population schedule, Ward 4, enumeration district (ED) 7, p. 378 (penned), dwelling 638, family 638; Leonard Smith household; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7602/4120176_00687 : accessed 14 Mar 2019); citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 561.

³ “Marriages, 1846-1918,” database with images; FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/78178 : accessed 14 Mar 2019); citing Catahoula Parish, Louisiana, “Marriages, vol. D-E, 1897-1904,” p. 214, for “T.L. Smith and Miss J.I. Willbanks,” Catahoula Parish Clerk of Court, Harrisonburg.

⁴ Bureau of Land Management, “Land Patent Search,” database, General Land Office Records (https://glorecords.blm.gov/details/patent/default.aspx?accession=LA1470__.177&docClass=STA&sid=bd1asfbg.htw : accessed 14 Mar 2019), entry for Leonard Smith, LaSalle Parish, Louisiana, no. 9190. 

Bureau of Land Management, “Land Patent Search,” database, General Land Office Records (https://glorecords.blm.gov/details/patent/default.aspx?accession=LA1510__.311&docClass=STA&sid=sxmaxjbo.0ud : accessed 14 Mar 2019), entry for David Willbanks, LaSalle Parish, Louisiana, no. 10794.

⁵ Bureau of Land Management, “Land Patent Search,” database, General Land Office Records (https://glorecords.blm.gov/details/patent/default.aspx?accession=126955&docClass=SER&sid=4qlrlxsg.dap : accessed 14 Mar 2019), entry for Thomas Leonard Smith, LaSalle Parish, Louisiana, no. 0877.

⁶ 1910 U.S. census, Franklin Parish, Louisiana, population schedule, Ward 8, p. 1654 (penned), enumeration district (ED) 52, sheet 25-B, dwelling 447, family 447, Loe Smith family in household of David Willbanks; image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7884/31111_4329976-00745 : accessed 14 Mar 2019); citing NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 514.

Ibid.

Ibid.

⁹ Wanda Davis Collins, Haughton, Louisiana [EMAIL ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] to Jessica Horne Collins, email, 16 Sep 2015, “Smith Ancestry Search”; privately held by Jessica Horne Collins [EMAIL AND STREET ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Houston, Texas.

¹⁰ Ancestry, Find A Grave, database with images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/13923305/meddie-c_-davis : accessed 14 Mar 2019), memorial 13923305 , Meddie C. Smith Davis (1913-1999), Ogden Cemetery, Liddieville, Franklin Parish, Louisiana.
 
¹¹ 1910 U.S. census, Franklin Parish, Louisiana, population schedule, Ward 8, p. 1654 (penned), enumeration district (ED) 52, sheet 25-B, dwelling 447, family 447, Loe Smith family in household of David Willbanks; image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7884/31111_4329976-00745 : accessed 14 Mar 2019); citing NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 514.

¹² Wanda Davis Collins to Jessica Horne Collins, email, 16 Sep 2015.

¹³ Ibid.

¹⁴ Ibid.

¹⁵ Ibid.

¹⁶ Birthdate from grave marker:
Ancestry, Find A Grave, database with images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/12939361/dena-smith : accessed 14 Mar 2019), memorial 12939361 , Dena Ingram Smith (1885-1961), Ogden Cemetery, Liddieville, Franklin Parish, Louisiana.

Birth location from previous census:
1880 U.S. census, Calhoun County, MS, population schedule (1st enumeration), enumeration district (ED) 16, p. 25 (penned), p. 613 (stamped), dwelling 216, family 216, Joshua Ingram household; image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/6742/4241983-00384 : accessed 14 Mar 2019); citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 642.

¹⁷ Dates estimated from birth date and location of Ida on 1900 census and Joshua Ingram land patent:

1900 U.S. Census, Winn Parish, LA, population schedule, Ward 2, enumeration district (ED) 114, p. 2144 (penned), dwelling 85, family 87; Joshaway P Ingram household; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7602/4119813_01015 : accessed 14 Mar 2019); citing NARA microfilm publication T623.

Bureau of Land Management, “Land Patent Search,” database, General Land Office Records (https://glorecords.blm.gov/details/patent/default.aspx?accession=LA1490__.434&docClass=STA&sid=kb0saad2.c23 : accessed 14 Mar 2019), entry for Joshua P Ingram, Winn Parish, Louisiana, no. 10078.

¹⁸ “Marriages, 1886-1916; marriage index 1886-1971,” database with images; FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/294007 : accessed 9 Mar 2019); citing Winn Parish, Louisiana, “Marriages, vol. C, 1898-1906,” p. 423, for “Ibson Porter, Jr. and Miss Dena Ingram,” Winn Parish Clerk of Court, Winnfield.

¹⁹ Ancestry, Find A Grave, database with images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/13170805/luther-h_-porter : accessed 14 Mar 2019), memorial 13170805, Luther H. Porter (1904-1933), Ogden Cemetery, Liddieville, Franklin Parish, Louisiana.

²⁰ Ancestry, Find A Grave, database with images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/35076668/mack-david-porter : accessed 14 Mar 2019), memorial 35076668, Mack David Porter (1905-1907), Union Cemetery, Joyce, Winn Parish, Louisiana.

²¹ Ancestry, Find A Grave, database with images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/13172589/otis-joshua-porter : accessed 14 Mar 2019), memorial 13172589, Otis Joshua Porter (1907-1962), Ogden Cemetery, Liddieville, Franklin Parish, Louisiana.

²² Ancestry, Find A Grave, database with images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/13172706/joseph-i_-porter : accessed 14 Mar 2019), memorial 13172706 , Joseph I. Porter (1910-1981), Ogden Cemetery, Liddieville, Franklin Parish, Louisiana.

²³ Ancestry, Find A Grave, database with images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/35076668/mack-david-porter : accessed 14 Mar 2019), memorial 35076668, Mack David Porter (1905-1907), Union Cemetery, Joyce, Winn Parish, Louisiana.

²⁴ Ancestry, Find A Grave, database with images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/35072151/ibzan-porter : accessed 14 Mar 2019), memorial 35072151 , Ibzan Porter, Jr. (1877-1910), Union Cemetery, Joyce, Winn Parish, Louisiana.

²⁵ 1910 U.S. census, Franklin Parish, Louisiana, population schedule, Ward 8, p. 1466 (penned), enumeration district (ED) 52, sheet 23-B, dwelling 417, family 417, Joshaway Ingram household; image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7884/31111_4329976-00741 : accessed 14 Mar 2019); citing NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 514.

²⁶ “Marriage records, 1843-1917; general index to marriages, 1843-1972,” database with images; FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/357925 : accessed 9 Mar 2019); citing Franklin Parish, Louisiana, “Marriages, vol. I, 1912-1917,” p. 205, for “Thos. L. Smith and Mrs. Dena Porter,” Franklin Parish Clerk of Court, Winnsboro.

²⁷ Ancestry, Find A Grave, database with images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/34618865/aulton-eugene-smith : accessed 18 Mar 2019), memorial 34618865, Aulton Eugene “Skinny” Smith (1915-1994), Providence Memorial Park Cemetery, Winnsboro, Franklin Parish, Louisiana.

²⁸ Ancestry, Find A Grave, database with images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/12939381/thomas-leonard-smith : accessed 14 Mar 2019), memorial 12939381, Thomas Leonard Smith, Sr. (1882-1949), Ogden Cemetery, Liddieville, Franklin Parish, Louisiana. 

²⁹ Ancestry, Find A Grave, database with images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/9986163/juanita-e-lovell : accessed 18 Mar 2019), memorial 9986163, Juanita E. Lovell (1919-2001), Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery, Dallas, Dallas County, Texas.
 
³⁰ Ancestry, Find A Grave, database with images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/25374561/irene-wiggins : accessed 18 Mar 2019), memorial 25374561, Irene Smith Wiggins (1922-2008), Ogden Cemetery, Liddieville, Franklin Parish, Louisiana.

³¹ Ancestry, Find A Grave, database with images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/13934559/james-paul-smith : accessed 18 Feb 2019), memorial 
13934559, James Paul “Hossy” Smith, Sr. (1925-2006), Ogden Cemetery, Liddieville, Franklin Parish, Louisiana

³² Ancestry, Find A Grave, database with images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/96418497/jeannette-neal : accessed 18 Mar 2019), memorial 96418497, Jeannette Smith Neal (1930-2012), Ogden Cemetery, Liddieville, Franklin Parish, Louisiana.

³³ Louisiana Death Records, database (https://www.sos.la.gov/HistoricalResources/ResearchHistoricalRecords/LocateHistoricalRecords/Pages/LouisianaDeathRecords.aspx : accessed 14 Mar 2018), entry for Louvenia Smith, Louisiana Secretary of State, Division of Archives, Records Management, and History, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

³⁴ Smith Hill House. Photograph. ca. 1995. Digital image privately held by Jessica Horne Collins [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE], Houston, Texas, 2013. 

³⁵ Leo and Dena Smith. Photograph. ca. late 1940s. Digital image privately held by Jessica Horne Collins [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE], Houston, Texas, 2013. 

³⁶ Ancestry, Find A Grave, database with images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/12939381/thomas-leonard-smith : accessed 14 Mar 2019), memorial 12939381, Thomas Leonard Smith, Sr. (1882-1949), Ogden Cemetery, Liddieville, Franklin Parish, Louisiana.
 
³⁷ Ancestry, Find A Grave, database with images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/12939361/dena-smith : accessed 14 Mar 2019), memorial 12939361 , Dena Ingram Smith (1885-1961), Ogden Cemetery, Liddieville, Franklin Parish, Louisiana.

³⁸ Ibid.

³⁹ Ancestry, Find A Grave, database with images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/12939381/thomas-leonard-smith : accessed 14 Mar 2019), memorial 12939381, Thomas Leonard Smith, Sr. (1882-1949), Ogden Cemetery, Liddieville, Franklin Parish, Louisiana, gravestone photo by Ron Manley.

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