Charles Nathan Riles & Landrum Cheek Ryals: Tracing Cousins for Clues About My Great-Grandparents

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


My great-grandfather John Thomas Horne lived with his grandparents John Johnston and Malinda McCauley Johnston for a majority of his life. His first cousins, once removed Charles Nathan Riles and Landrum Cheek Ryals also lived in his grandparents’ household and seemed to have remained nearby throughout several moves around Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas.

I know very little about John Thomas Horne and his wife Georgia Smart after 1900. Therefore, I’ve examined records for Charles and Landrum more closely to see if their movements can shed any light on my mysterious great-grandparents.

Charles Nathan Riles and Landrum Cheek Ryals were sons of J. J. Ryals and Martha Ann McCauley.¹ (Note: I default to the surname spellings each son used on a majority of their records — most of which were generated in adulthood.) They were probably born in Meridian, Lauderdale County, Mississippi;² Charles in 1873,³ and Landrum on December 30, 1875.⁴

Sometime around Landrum’s birth, J. J. disappeared, and his family presumed him dead.⁵ (Years later, his children learned he’d actually deserted them, establishing a whole second family in Arkansas — but that’s a different story.⁶) The fatherless children soon lost their mother, too. Martha Ann McCauley Ryals died in a house fire in June 1876.⁷ Older sister Martha Jane went to live with another family, and the boys went with their maternal aunt Malinda McCauley Johnston.⁸

Charles and Landrum appear on the 1880 census in the household of John and Malinda Johnston in Winn Parish, Louisiana.⁹ My great-grandfather John Thomas Horne was also living with them.¹⁰ Twenty years later Charles appears again with the family on the 1900 census in Sunflower County, Mississippi — the household now led by John Thomas Horne but still containing Charles’s elderly aunt Malinda.¹¹ Charles appears one final time near my great-grandmother Georgia Smart Horne — John Thomas’s widow — and her sons on the 1910 census for Veasey Township, Drew County, Arkansas.¹² Charles and his family were listed just a few households above Georgia.

But what happened between these censuses? I’ve exhausted all records for my great-grandparents, but did Charles or Landrum leave any documents that could be clues about my family? Using Phyllis McCauley Fisher’s book One Man’s Family: John McCauley from 1796 to 1978 as a guide, I’ve found records for Charles and Landrum and constructed timelines for their lives:

Charles Nathan Riles

  • 1873 – born most likely in Meridian, Lauderdale County, Mississippi¹³
  • June 1876 – mother Martha Ann McCauley Ryals died in house fire;¹⁴ he and brother Landrum are placed in the care of his maternal aunt Malinda McCauley Johnston and her husband John.¹⁵
  • 1880 – appears on census in household of John Johnston in Winn Parish, Louisiana, along with John Thomas Horne¹⁶
  • 1900 – appears on census in household of John Thomas Horne in Sunflower County, Mississippi¹⁷
  • 21 Apr 1906 – married Martha Johnston, a distant relative of his uncle John Johnston, in Franklin Parish, Louisiana¹⁸
  • 28 Jan 1908 – son Jesse James Riles born in Franklin Parish, Louisiana¹⁹
  • 6 Jan 1910 – son Herman Riles born in Franklin Parish, Louisiana²⁰
  • 1910 – appears with his family on census in Veasey Township, Drew County, Arkansas;²¹ John Thomas Horne’s widow Georgia is a few households away with her sons²²
  • 1912 – son Ernest Riles born in Smith Place, Arkansas²³
  • 1913 – son Ernest Riles died²⁴
  • 1 May 1914 – son Donnie Riles born in Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee²⁵
  • 28 May 1916 – son Donnie Riles died in Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee²⁶
  • before 25 Nov 1916 – divorced from wife Martha Johnston Riles²⁷
  • 1920 – appears on census in Richland Township, Desha County, Arkansas, near brother Landrum’s family²⁸
  • 29 Nov 1923 – died at Saint Joseph Hospital in Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee²⁹

Landrum Cheek Ryals

  • 30 Dec 1875 – born most likely in Meridian, Lauderdale County, Mississippi³⁰
  • June 1876 – mother Martha Ann McCauley Ryals died in house fire;³¹ he and brother Landrum are placed in the care of his maternal aunt Malinda McCauley Johnston and her husband John.³²
  • 1880 – appears on census in household of John Johnston in Winn Parish, Louisiana, along with John Thomas Horne³³
  • 16 Aug 1894 – daughter Martha A Riles born in Winn Parish, Louisiana;³⁴ mother’s identity unconfirmed
  • 1905 – married Mary Alice Williams in unknown location³⁴
  • 12 Jan 1906 – son Willie J Ryals born in Midnight, then in Yazoo County, Mississippi³⁴
  • 18 Oct 1907 – daughter Eunice Eliza “Eula Lee” Ryals born³⁵
  • 1 Dec 1909 – son Lester Eugene Ryals born in Mississippi³⁶
  • 1910 – appears on census in Sharkey County, Mississippi³⁷
  • 1 Nov 1911 – daughter Lorene born in Richey, Sharkey County, Mississippi³⁸
  • 21 Oct 1914 – son Felix Wilson Ryals born in Terry, West Carroll Parish, Louisiana³⁹
  • 10 May 1916 – son Otis Ryals born in Arkansas⁴⁰
  • 12 Sep 1918 – completed draft card in Arkansas City, Desha County, Arkansas⁴¹
  • 23 Dec 1918 – daughter Johnnie Lucille Ryals born⁴²
  • 1920 – appears on census in Richland, Desha County, Arkansas; brother Charles is a close neighbor⁴³
  • 30 Jul 1928 – daughter Sarah Allene Ryals born in Rowher, Desha County, Arkansas⁴⁴
  • 1930 – appears on census in Carlton, Chicot County, Arkansas⁴⁵
  • 1940 – appears on census in Carlton, Chicot County, Arkansas⁴⁶
  • 27 Sep 1955 – died in Arkansas City, Desha County, Arkansas⁴⁷

A review of these two timelines indicate Charles stayed nearest to my great-grandparents over several decades. Family oral history says Georgia Smart Horne left Sunflower County, Mississippi, and went to Arkansas, after John Thomas Horne was murdered. The draft registration of her youngest son Charles Horne — perhaps named after Charles Riles? — supports this legend by indicating he was born in Arkansas. But did Georgia go straight to Drew County, where she was located on the 1910 census? I’m not so sure anymore. Charles Riles may have separated from Georgia’s migration path at some point, as he married and his two oldest children were born in Franklin Parish between 1905 and 1910. His aunt Malinda McCauley Johnston also appears in Franklin Parish during this time. She filed an application for a Civil War widow’s pension on January 22, 1906, but it was denied for her not meeting the one-year residency requirement. Is it possible Malinda went with Georgia to Arkansas for awhile, then moved to Louisiana with Charles? Or did Georgia come too? Malinda died before the 1910 census — could that have been the reason Charles moved his family around this time? The timeline narrows Charles’s move date to Drew County to a very short window. It was sometime after the birth of son Herman on January 6, 1910, and before the census date of April 15, 1910. The census enumerator visited the Riles and Horne families on April 19 — even more proof Charles Riles physically moved sometime in this three-month span. Yet I still wonder if Georgia and her family was the anchor that brought Charles to Arkansas, or if they came together.

Unfortunately, creating a timeline for these two cousins has only added more questions instead of answering those I had about my great-grandparents’ movements. But pinpointing key events in Charles and Landrum’s lives is part of the deep dive I continue for Georgia Smart Horne’s “FAN” — friends/family, associates, neighbors — club.


¹Phyllis McCauley Fisher, One Man’s Family: John McCauley from 1796 until 1978 (unidentified: unidentified, 1978), 162.

²Fisher, One Man’s Family, 168-170.

³Birthdate from earliest census with Charles listed:
1880 U.S. Census, Winn Parish, Louisiana, population schedule, 3rd Ward, (1st enumeration), enumeration district (ED) 54, p. 53A (penned), p. 612 (stamped), dwelling 1, family 1, John Johnston household; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/6742/4241440-00731 : accessed 11 May 2019), citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 474.

⁴Birth month and date from grave marker:
Ancestry, Find A Grave, database with images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/8445110/landrum-cheek-ryals : accessed 22 Sep 2019), memorial 8445110, Landrum Cheek Ryals (1870-1955), Lake Village Cemetery, Lake Village, Chicot County, Arkansas.

Birth year from earliest census with Landrum listed:
1880 U.S. Census, Winn Parish, LA, pop. sch., 3rd Ward, (1st enumeration), enumeration district (ED) 54, p. 53A (penned), p. 612 (stamped), dwelli. 1, fam. 1, John Johnston household.

⁵Fisher, One Man’s Family, 162.

Ibid.

⁷Ancestry, Find A Grave, database with images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/86465694/martha_ann-cobb_ryals : accessed 22 Sep 2019), memorial 86465694, Martha Ann McCauley Cobb Ryals (1839-1876), Woodlawn Cemetery, Summit, Pike County, Mississippi.

⁸Fisher, One Man’s Family, 162.

⁹1880 U.S. Census, Winn Parish, LA, pop. sch., 3rd Ward, (1st enumeration), enumeration district (ED) 54, p. 53A (penned), p. 612 (stamped), dwell. 1, fam. 1, John Johnston household.

¹⁰Ibid.

¹¹1900 U.S. Census, Sunflower County, MS, population schedule, Beat 1, enumeration district (ED) 48, p. 997 (penned), dwelling 239, family 244; John T Horn household; digital image,  Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7602/4120349_00098/36072954 : accessed 17 Aug 2018); citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 31077_4120349. 

¹²1910 U.S. Census, Drew County, AR, population schedule, Veasey Township, enumeration district (ED) 55, p. 2A (penned and stamped), dwelling 31, family 31, Charlie Rials household; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7884/31111_4327239-00796/181039048 : accessed 17 Aug 2018); citing NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 49.

¹³Fisher, One Man’s Family, 168.

¹⁴Fisher, One Man’s Family, 162.

¹⁵Ibid.

¹⁶ 1880 U.S. Census, Winn Parish, LA, pop. sch., 3rd Ward, (1st enumeration), enumeration district (ED) 54, p. 53A (penned), p. 612 (stamped), dwell. 1, fam. 1, John Johnston household.

¹⁷1900 U.S. Census, Sunflower County, MS, pop. sch., Beat 1, enumeration district (ED) 48, p. 997 (penned), dwell. 239, fam. 244; John T Horn household. 

¹⁸Franklin Parish, Louisiana, “Marriage License Book G,” p. 174, Charles Riles and Martha Johnson; Franklin Parish Clerk of Court, Winnsboro.

¹⁹”Illinois, Cook County Deaths, 1878-1994,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QV9K-N3QN : accessed 22 Sep 2019), Jesse James Riles, 17 Aug 1987; citing Chicago, Cook, Illinois, entry 615996.

²⁰U.S. World War II Draft Cards, Young Men, 1940-1947, Cook County, IL, Registration Card for Herman Riles; database, Ancestry.com ( https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/ymdraftcardswwii/  : accessed 22 Sep 2019); citing Records of the Selective Service System, NARA record group 147.

²¹1910 U.S. Census, Drew County, AR, population schedule, Veasey Township, enumeration district (ED) 55, p. 2A (penned and stamped), dwell. 31, fam. 31, Charlie Rials household.

²²1910 U.S. Census, Drew County, AR, population schedule, Veasey Township, enumeration district (ED) 55, p. 2A (penned and stamped), dwell. 33, fam. 33, Georgia Horn household.

²³Fisher, One Man’s Family, 170.

²⁴Ibid.

²⁵”Tennessee Deaths, 1914-1966,” Donnie Riles, 28 May 1916; death, Memphis, Shelby, Tennessee; digital image,  FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QPC9-DCVX : accessed 22 Sep 2019); citing Tennessee State Library and Archives, Nashville.

²⁶Ibid.

²⁷”Tennessee, County Marriages, 1790-1950,” Theodore Dickerson and Martha Riles, 25 Nov 1916; digital image, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QKH9-HZHN : accessed 22 Sep 2019); citing Tennessee State Library and Archives, Nashville and county clerk offices from various counties.

²⁸1920 U.S. census, Desha County, Arkansas, Richland/Rohwer Township, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 45, sheet 1-A, dwelling 10, family 12, Charlie Ryals; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/6061/4294410-00664/2095471 : accessed 22 Sep 2019); citing NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 61.

²⁹”Tennessee Deaths, 1914-1966,” Chas. Ryals, 29 Nov 1923, death, Memphis, Shelby, Tennessee; digital image, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NSVF-NXD : 26 August 2019); citing Tennessee State Library and Archives, Nashville.

³⁰Fisher, One Man’s Family, 168.

³¹Fisher, One Man’s Family, 162.

³²Ibid.

³³1880 U.S. Census, Winn Parish, LA, pop. sch., 3rd Ward, (1st enumeration), enumeration district (ED) 54, p. 53A (penned), p. 612 (stamped), dwell. 1, fam. 1, John Johnston household.

³⁴Fisher, One Man’s Family, 170.

Ancestry, Find A Grave, database with images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/37227443/martha-a_-antley : accessed 22 Sep 2019), memorial 37227443, Martha A. Riles Antley (1894-1978), Sharon Cemetery, Sikes, Winn Parish, Louisiana.

³⁴Fisher, One Man’s Family, 170.

³⁴”Arkansas First Draft Registration Cards, 1940-1945,” Willie J Ryals; digital image,  FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KLQ5-GHL : accessed 22 Sep 2019); citing NARA Record Group 147.

³⁵Fisher, One Man’s Family, 171.

³⁶”Texas Deaths, 1890-1976,” Lester E Ryals, 28 Jul 1969; digital image, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K7DH-4CT : accessed 22 Sep 2019); citing certificate number 49515, State Registrar Office, Austin.

³⁷1910 U.S. census, Sharkey County, Mississippi, population schedule, Beat 5, enumeration district (ED) 87, p. 1A (penned), dwelling 17, family 17, Landrum Ryles household; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7884/31111_4330332-00505/13834789 : accessed 22 Sep 2019); citing NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 749.

³⁸”Texas Deaths, 1890-1976,” Lorine Ellison, 31 Aug 1964; digital image, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KSBH-LBB : accessed 22 Sep 2019; citing certificate number 57675, State Registrar Office, Austin.

³⁹”Arkansas First Draft Registration Cards, 1940-1945,” Felix Wilson Ryals; digital image, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KLQ5-G4H : accessed 22 Sep 2019); citing NARA Record Group 147.

⁴⁰”Texas Deaths, 1977-1986,” Otis Ryals, 23 Dec 1978; digital image, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KS8T-23T : accessed 22 Sep 2019); citing record 101487, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Austin.

⁴¹”United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918″, Landrum Cheeks Ryals, digital image, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K3PB-CT8 : accessed 22 Sep 2019).

⁴²Ancestry, Find A Grave, database with images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/117012368/johnnie-lucille-paddeck : accessed 22 Sep 2019), memorial 117012368, Johnnie Lucille Ryals Paddeck (1918-1990), Lake Village Cemetery, Lake Village, Chicot County, Arkansas.

⁴³1920 U.S. census, Desha County, Arkansas, Richland/Rohwer Township, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 45, sheet 1-B, dwelling 24, family 26, Landrum C Ryals; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/6061/4294410-00665/2095512 : accessed 22 Sep 2019); citing NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 61.

⁴⁴Griffin-Culpepper Funeral Service, In Memory of Sarah Allene Jacobs (https://griffinculpepper.com/book-of-memories/2963324/jacobs-sarah/obituary.php : accessed 22 Sep 2019), “Obituary for Sarah Allene Jacobs (Ryals).”

⁴⁵1930 U.S. census, Chicot County, Arkansas, Carlton Township, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 9, sheet 10-B, dwelling 232, family 232, Landrum C Ryals; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/6224/4532425_00237/86009910 : accessed 22 Sep 2019); citing NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 67.

⁴⁶1940 U.S. census, Chicot County, Arkansas, Carlotn Township, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 9-10, sheet 17-B, household 339, L C Ryals; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/2442/M-T0627-00122-00341/105322941 : accessed 22 Sep 2019); citing NARA microfilm publication T627, roll 122.

⁴⁷Ancestry, Find A Grave, database with images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/8445110/ry : accessed 22 Sep 2019), memorial 8445110, Landrum Cheek Ryals (1870-1955), Lake Village Cemetery, Lake Village, Chicot County, Arkansas.

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