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Biography of John W. and Robert J. Lancaster
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John Wilson, born August 1, 1843, and Robert Johnson, born March 6, 1852, were sons of William (born April 13, 1813, died May 8, 1903) and Pherbia Wilson Lancaster (born March 9, 1821, died April 16, 1900), and grandsons of Washington and Nancy Johnson Lancaster, who came here from Burke County and built a nice home near what is now Bembry’s Mill. Washington obtained these lands, including lot No. 388, the mill site, from William S. Lancaster, a Revolutionary soldier, who purchased the latter from Cornelia Dunahoo at the land drawing in Milledgeville, November 7, 1807. The deed to this lot was the first recorded in Pulaski County.
These early Lancasters were not far removed from the noted House of Lancaster in England, and were among the wealthiest and best educated pioneers of Pulaski. Washington’s sons, William, James, and Thomas, and his daughters, Mrs. John Atkinson, and Mrs. Miles Bembry, had the best education obtainable in those days. His brother, Wright, was one of the first pastors of the Hawkinsville Baptist Church.
The brothers of John W. and Robert Lancaster were James and Franklin, lifelong citizens of Pulaski, and their sisters, Mesdames D. M. Buchan, M. E. Baggett, D. T. Daniel, and W. 0. Betts, the latter two still citizens of Pulaski and the only surviving members of the family. John and Robert Lancaster were both consistent members of Corinth Baptist Church, John being a charter member and Robert a faithful deacon for almost fifty years.
On December 15, 1869, John W. Lancaster married Marina E. Fleming, of Pulaski County. Their two children are Ola and William Augustus. Ola, educated at G. S. C. W., Milledgeville, and Southern Female College, LaGrange, married J. H. Mullis, Sr., of Cochran, where they now live with an only son, Wilbur. William A. married Bessie Webster of Nashville, Tennessee, where they now live. Their two daughters are Elizabeth and Leola.
The following is taken from a sketch of John Lancaster’s war and public service record, written by one of his fellow soldiers of Company G, and published soon after his death: “On April 18, 1861, when only seventeen, J. W. Lancaster enlisted with Pulaski’s first company of volunteers, later becoming Company G of the Eighth Georgia Regiment.” The history of the regiment was John Lancaster’s history, from Richmond to Harper’s Ferry to Winchester, Manassas, Yorktown, Seven Days’ Battle until late afternoon, August 29, 1862, while going with his company to help Stonewall Jackson at Second Manassas, they were obstructed by the enemy at Thoroughfare Gap. They fought their way over the mountains, but John Lancaster lost his arm in the struggle. His war record was over, but he soon went to work to better prepare himself for service in civil life. He attended Penfield (Mercer) and later Oglethorpe University, and on returning home taught school.
Soon after the war closed he was elected sheriff of Pulaski County, which office he disliked, so he was later elected treasurer. Some time afterward he was made tax collector and receiver, which two offices were consolidated for a while. When the offices were separated in 1881 he remained tax collector until January 1, 1883, when he was elected clerk of the Superior Court, which office he held continuously until his death, October 10, 1914.
None deserving help, and few others, were ever denied by John Lancaster. That, perhaps, was mainly why he never accumulated a large estate. Truly may it be said that Pulaski has never produced a more gentlemanly and generous Christian citizen.
Robert J. Lancaster married Elizabeth Gainer, December 19, 1872, and settled near her mother’s pioneer home four miles east of Hawkinsville. He later purchased adjoining lands and built the home where he and his wife spent the remainder of their lives, she having died September 30, 1902, and he February 24, 1934.
They both lie buried at the old family graveyard nearby, named for her great-grandmother Powers, the first to be buried there. Following are the children reared by them: Allie, Lizzie Cratch, John Snell, Joanna, Annie Delamar, Robert Wilson, Thomas Roswell, and Ruby Grace. Allie married R. T. Bembry, and they reared the following sons at their home near Hawkinsville: John Robert, William Franklin, and Roscoe Thomas. Lizzie Cratch married M. B. Collins and lived only a few months, having died July 18, 1895. On November 14, 1899, John S. married Zella Sanders, and their children are: Elsie, John, Albert (deceased), Roy, Margaret, Joseph, Alice, Ruth, Ralph, Bob, and Grace, reared at their home near Corinth Church. Elsie, a graduate nurse from the Georgia Baptist Hospital, Atlanta, married James Wheeler of Atlanta, now of Pulaski County. Margaret married Lawton Hall. Their children are Lawton, Jr., Donald, and Doris. Roy married Beulah Cofield and has one son, Leroy. Ralph married Mary Jewel Willis and has one son, John Albert. Alice Ruth married E. G. Sparrow on July 27, 1935.
Joanna, third daughter of Robert J. Lancaster, after her mother died, gave up teaching and has devoted most of her life to her father and younger brothers and sisters. Annie Delamar, a graduate of G. S. C. W., Milledgeville, and of the Baptist Training School at Louisville, Kentucky, has been prominently connected with educational and religious work in Pulaski, in the mountain schools of Kentucky, and in North Carolina, where she is employed at present. Robert Wilson of Bellflower, California, married Helen Knight and has two children, Jean} and Bobbie. He went through the World War on the battleship New York, was mustered out of service on the West coast, and soon obtained a position with the Richfield Oil Company of California, which he has since held. Thomas R. married Maude Slade, and has three children: Thomas, Jr., Sarah, and Jerry. They reside at the old Lancaster home. He was a World War veteran, a member of Company G, Eighty-second Division, and was wounded in the Argonne Drive, September 24, 1918, remaining overseas some time after the armistice was signed. Grace married Heyward H. Wynne, a member of Company D, 307th Engineers, Eighty-second Division, who served several months overseas during the World War. They have one son, Hugh.
Robert J. Lancaster, better known as Uncle Bob, by his honesty, integrity, and exemplary Christian character, made for himself that name “rather to be chosen than great riches,” and left the heritage of a long life well spent in noble service to others.
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