Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with James Folsom, December 28, 1974. Interview A-0319. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Family history and ancestral migration from New England to the American South

Folsom discusses his family ancestry, explaining that his family first arrived in North America in 1638 when they landed in Massachusetts. Folsom goes on to explain how his ancestors migrated from New England to the South, specifically Elba, Alabama, where he was raised. Throughout, he focuses on his ancestral network and how his family fit into the broader framework of American history.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with James Folsom, December 28, 1974. Interview A-0319. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

We thought that we might begin by getting you to talk some about your background and what you remember and what you have been told about where your people came from, and about growing up in south Alabama.
Well, of course, my Folsom people, they originally landed in Boston. My Folsom forebearer and his wife and his wife's family, along with several families, left Hingham, England . . . I guess a port near Hingham, over some difference in the church. They got stood up in the church and they left in 1638 and landed in Boston the same year. They are pretty well scattered over New England, they are pretty dominant in New Hampshire now. His wife's name . . . I forget their name, but it is a very prominent one in New England. His wife's name . . . from 1638, there would be a lot of hand-down from now, you see.
How did your family come South?
I imagine . . . the Folsom family history is full of Revolutionary Folsoms in there, and I imagine that there was a lot of them that came down and had land granted to them on account of their war service and so forth. And my great-grandaddy, he come to Georgia. He was in the Revolutionary War, a veteran. He came after the war and then his family spread on out . . . He had a brother, I think, that settled somewhere else. But they started scattering out from New Hampshire and Massachusetts a long time before the Revolution.
Well, how did you all get settled around Elba, Alabama?
Well, you see, Georgia was a state and the state of Georgia extended to the Mississippi River. And then they set up the Mississippi Territory and there was a big fuss about that. The Yazoo Fraud, they called it. My great-granddaddy operated a ferry boat over there between Alabama and Georgia, as I understand it, right across from Abbeville, Alabama. And he raised three boys. One was named Thomas Jefferson Folsom, the other one was named David Something Folsom and the other was named Elisha Folsom. That's who I'm named after. I am named after my granddaddy, Elisha Folsom. But there were three of them and their daddy had run off with one of the Indian maids, as I understand it, to Oklahoma, when they shipped them to Oklahoma. I don't know about that, I know that the Oklahoma Indians in about 1914, I believe it was, or '15. Before my first grade . . . it was when a Packard automobile was the automobile. Now, you don't remember that far back. But back in 1915, '16, '17, the automobile. There just wasn't no such thing as a Cadillac, we never heard of one. And the first time that I remember any of them coming to Alabama was with a group of Indians who had three Packard automobiles and they stopped in front of the house. Pa was in the courthouse. And of course, being Indians . . . part-Indians, I guess that they felt it was best to walk over to the courthouse rather than to ride. And they stopped in front of the house and I got to know them all. I mean, I got to play with them while . . . strange to me though, they were Indians. They went on to the courthouse and then come on back and I imagine that they were going over to the old homeplace. When Indians come back there, they like to do that. They came from around Macon, Georgia originally. He commanded a company of Cherokee Indians during the Civil War. I mean, during the War of 1812. I don't know whether he was a Revolutionary or not. Either his daddy was or he was or one or the other. But he commanded a . . . my great-granddaddy did . . .
Your father was a tax collector for several years, wasn't he?
Yeah. Three times. County Commissioner one terms or two terms, I don't know which, and his brother was sheriff. My Pa was deputy sheriff. And my granddaddy on the other side, I know more about him than I do about my Folsom people. His name was Dunavent. I thought that it was Irish, but it's not. It's bound to be Dutch. He got into some of the mix-ups whenever the Spanish had charge of the Dutch. I don't know, but he got to America and he was in the first class of William and Mary. He and his grandsons were in on Benedict Arnold's courtmartial. I don't know what position they played, but they served on the courtmartial. I don't know what they did, but that's . . . then my granddaddy come to Alabama and he is descended from that bunch. That's how I got to be in Alabama and got to be Governor of Alabama.