Not a Brilliant Man 

The travails and controversies that plagued the earlier Lattimores continue with John Lee Lattimore, the eldest of the seven children of Samuel and Franny (Compere) Lattimore. He was born in 1836 in Benton, Yazoo County, Mississippi. Like his father, John Lee became a Baptist minister. And like his father and grandfather, his preaching was controversial. Perhaps because of that, he and Franny, never stayed anywhere very long. Each of their children was born in a different town in Mississippi or Alabama. 

One early event may be an indication of his tenacity. While a boy in Macon, Mississippi, he was “furiously attacked by a large dog, and while the animal was tearing his flesh in a shocking manner, he succeeded in killing him with his pocket knife”. Now, that’s a story to hand down to the grand kids.

While attending Howard College in Marion, Alabama, John Lee met and married Sarah Catherine Shivers in 1860. Sarah Catherine was the great granddaughter of Jesse B. Shivers, Sr who served in the Revolutionary War for two years as a musician with Capt. Child’s Company, Col. Hogan’s 10th North Carolina Regiment. He never saw battle (as a musician, he wouldn’t even have a musket) but he was granted a pension in 1819 anyway.

Sarah Catherine’s father was a veteran of the Texas War of Independence. In 1836, Orlando (Offa) Lunsford Shivers had just received his medical degree from Transylvania Medical College in Lexington, Kentucky, when he answered the call for volunteers to enlist in the sacred cause of Texas. He joined Captain Love’s Company in the 1st Regiment, 1st Brigade of the Texas Volunteers on June 4, 1­836 as a lieutenant under General Sam Houston. On that day he was put into temporary command of the unit due to the absence of Captain Love, who was on leave. He also served as a medical officer. After the war he returned east to find that his family believed him to be dead. 

After returning from Texas, Offa Lunsford taught at the Memphis Medical College and practiced medicine in Marion, Alabama. In 1837, Offa Shivers married Catherine Obedience Woodfin and they had nine children. Catherine Obedience was the daughter of James Woodfin and Catherine Steger.  who has a vary interesting family history which takes us all the way back to Jamestown. But I will leave that for the next essay. This one is long enough. 

Little is known about James Woodfin, except his birth, marriage and death. He was probably a planter because in 1850, he claimed 20 slaves. His father, however, was well known in Virginia Colony.  Rev Samuel Woodfin Sr (b 1722) was a blacksmith and a pastor at one of the earliest Baptist churches, Muddy Creek from 1784 to 1832 (48 years). “If father Woodfin had foibles, they were perhaps more conspicuous to himself than others, yet he had enemies disposed to magnify them”. There is no clarification of this. He died in 1832 at the age of 110.

Catherine Obedience Shivers was also a Daughter of the American Revolution, three or four times, I’m losing count. Her ancestry is fascinating, but even this abbreviated account is a bit complicated. Her mother, Catherine McLaurine, comes from a long line of McLaurines with roots in Scotland. The McLaurines can be traced back to the 12th century in Scotland. There are many different spellings. These are not typos. 

The early MacLaurines appear in the book Scots and Scot’s Descendants, published in 1917. The Maclaurins were distinguished in the Middle Ages by their military exploits, but the family was ultimately overcome by more powerful foes and henceforth devoted itself mainly to intellectual pursuits.  The clan McLaren, sometimes called McLaurin, occupied the lands in Balquhidder and Strathearn since the 12th Century, where they were the predominant clan. This land was bordered by the McGregors of Glengyle. One of the earliest records of the Clan Laurin was in 1558 when a massacre took place in a feud between the McGregors and the McLaurins. A monument was erected in the churchyard of Balquidder in 1868 by Daniel McLaurin, bearing the inscription:

In memory of the Clan Laurin, anciently the allodian inhabitants of Balquidder and Strathcairn; the chief of whom in the decrepitude of old age, together with his aged and infirm adherents, their wives and children, the widows of their departed kindred – all were destroyed in the silent mid-night hour, by fire and sword by the hands of banditti of incendiarists from Clendeehart, A,D. 1558.

In modern times the most famous of its members was John Maclaurin, one of the leading divines. His son, Colin Maclaurin, the friend of Newton and the most famous of Scottish mathematicians.” However, my ancestor is not the brilliant Colin, but his brother, John, Jr. Again with the brothers.

The Rev. John Maclaurin, minister at Kilmodan, was a “faithful and zealous evangelical pastor.” As one writer says, “He not only distinguished himself by all the virtues of a faithful and diligent pastor, but has left in the records of his provincial synod lasting monuments of his talents for business, and of public spirit.” He also supervised the completed the version of the Psalms into the Gaelic language, which is still used in Highland churches. John died in 1698. There is a memorial plaque at Kilmodan Church in honor of John McLaren and his sons, John and Colin. The plaque is very hard to read. You can just make out the names: John MacLaurin, son John MacLaurin and son Colin MacLaurin.

John’s son, Rev. John MacLaurin, Jr, has been described as “the most profound and eloquent Scottish theologian of that century.” He was instrumental in the building of Glasgow’s Hospital in 1733, for the “mentally afflicted”. From this sprang the Glasgow Royal Asylum, and all the Asylums in Scotland. Those crazy Scots. So highly valued were his services by the magistrates of Glasgow that at his death in 1754 the Town Council voted the sum of £100 to his daughter. However, this wealthy daughter is not my ancestor, but the son, Robert McLaurine.

In 1750, the Rev. Robert McLarine was sent to Virginia Colony by the Church of England as Episcopal minister. From 1751 until his death in 1773, he was in charge of St. James Southam Parish, Episcopal Church in Petersville, Virginia. The following text is from a history of old Virginia churches published in 1861.

Of Mr. McClaurine, other favorable accounts of his piety and great benevolence have come to me. He preached at Tar Wallett, Manakin, and Peterville Churches: beneath the chancel-floor of the latter he was buried.He was the first of his name in Virginia. He left three sons and three daughters, two of whom lived and died in Cumberland, and the third at Norfolk, during the last war. Of the daughters, one married a Hobson, another a Swann, and a third a Steger. Their mother was Miss Blakely, from the Eastern Shore of Virginia.

Robert married Elizabeth Blaikley, whose family is interesting in their own right. Her mother, Catherine Kaidyee Blaikley, lived in Williamsburg, Virginia and was an “eminent Midwife” who delivered “upwards of three Thousand Children,” presumably white and black, slave and free. Her husband was merchant William Blaikley, who died in 1736. During her 35-year widowhood, Mrs. Blaikley lived in the house now called the Blaikely-Durfey House on Duke of Gloucester Street.

Blakeley-Durfey House

Robert McLaurine and his wife, Elizabeth, were the first to occupy the St. James Southam parish farm purchased in 1762 to support and house the minister. Somehow, however, McLaurine gradually acquired land for a second farm, totaling 633 acres. A house was built for Elizabeth McLaurine in about 1775, after Robert’s death, to serve as a home for her young family. Sorry, no pictures for this house. Elizabeth McLaurine is shown in the 1783 census as the head of the family of five, with twenty-five taxable slaves. In 1790, Elizabeth was listed with seven blacks over 16, one over twelve, and two horses. Apparently, the twenty-five slaves recorded there in the 1783 census had been distributed to Robert McLaurine’s heirs. 

Robert and Elizabeth’s son James McLaurine was born in Powhatan, Virginia in 1758. In 1789, James married Catherine Steger, the girl next door. The beginning of a family tradition. They set up home across the road from his mother, Elizabeth, in the house he called Edgemont. Catherine was the daughter of another Revolutionary War soldier, Hans Steger. But the most interesting story about her is about her grandmother, Ann Perrat Steger. The following story is from Sarah Catherine Shivers Lattimore through Aunt Polly. “The first Ann Perratt we know of was the daughter of wealthy parents in England. She ran away and married her father’s coachman, Francis George Steger. She was disinherited, but a year after, the young couple was bidden to come home. They married again with parental sanction, then were sent to America in a ship fitted with everything thought to be needed in the New World. When the father and mother died in England their wealth, reputed to be fifteen million dollars, reverted to the Crown as there were no other heirs, and the American ones, being blessed with much wealth, did not care to take the long journey back to England.” 

In February, 1777, James McLaurine enlisted in the Seventh Virginia Regiment of the continental line (infantry). The regiment marched during the winter from Fredericksburg, Virginia to Philadelphia, often sleeping in the snow. At Philadelphia, the regiment was inoculated for small pox (remember the scene in the movie “John Adams”?) and James came down with small pox, which was always a danger. Even still, he marched on to Middleboro, New Jersey, where he was discharged as unfit for duty. Family tradition has it that he wintered with Washington at Valley Forge, but I think that would have killed him and then where would we all be?

For the son of a preacher, James accumulated a lot of land. James believed in voting early and often.  In early days it was the Virginia law that a man could vote in as many counties as he owned property. When he was 80 years old James rode on horseback and voted in several counties, among them Cumberland, Powhatan and Buckingham.

James McLaurine not only broke the long line of McLaurine ministers, but he became a Methodist and burned the barrel of sermons (Episcopalian) that his father had left him to read and have published.  James married Catherine Steger and their daughter, Catherine Obedience McLaurine, married James Woodfin in 1811. Their daughter, Catherine Obedience Woodfin, married Offa Lunsford Shivers in 1837 in Maringo, Alabama. Their daughter, Sarah Catherine Shivers, married John Lee Lattimore, bringing all the names together. 

Catherine Obedience Woodfin Shivers and Sarah Catherine

The following is from a letter from their daughter Nannie E. Shivers Boggess (February 1934) to a Miss Kirtley who was researching families connected with the early days of the Judson Institute for Women in Marion, Alabama.

My father (Offa Lunsford Shivers) moved to Marion in 1841. “With a wife, two babies and a moon-eyed horse”….When he moved to Marion he had just completed his medical studies at a school in Forsyth, Ga. The School I think has not been in existence for many years. My sister, Sarah Catherine [Shivers Lattimore], called then by her full name, was a brilliant and faithful student, a great Christian and a wonderful woman all the days of her life. She was valedictorian of the class of 1857. My father and his family moved to the Judson Institute in the Autumn of ’64, when the Confederacy was tottering to its fall. I have many hazy memories of that time.

Nanny Shivers Boggess

Before the Civil War, Offa Lunsford Shiver was a slave holder. This snippet is from the 1850 U.S. Federal Census – Slaveholders. The columns are the number, age, sex and finally “colour”. There is another column for the “number manumitted”, which was zero for that page. In 1860, Offa Shivers claimed 20 slaves. It’s difficult to imagine why a physician would need so many slaves.

1850 Slave Schedule

Although he looks prosperous in this family portrait, after the war, Offa Shivers appears to have fallen on hard times. That was the case with many southerners after the war. With six of his children and his wife to care for, he seems to have taken in a number of boarders. The 1870 census lists three servants, four clerks and four railroad workers. Two of their children died as infants and Sarah Catherine had married John Lee Lattimore.

Offa Lunsford Shiver and Family

However, since John Lee is of the same generation as Edmond J. Gifford and Porter Wallace Roundy, the outbreak of the Civil War interrupted his life as well. He enlisted as a private in the confederate army and was promoted to 2nd Sargent of Company B, 37th Mississippi Infantry Regiment. The 37th Mississippi was under the command of Brigadier General Louis Hébert, who had fought at Wilson’s Creek against the 1st Iowa Infantry, Edmond J. Gifford’s unit.

The muster roll of the 37th Mississippi says that John Lee was captured at Vicksburg on July 4, 1863, the day the city fell, and then released in a prisoner exchange. Vicksburg was the last bastion of the Confederacy on the Mississippi River. Its loss would give the Union army control of the river. Grant’s siege of Vicksburg began in May 17th and ended on July 4th, 1863. On the evening of May 19, 1863, Federal artillery fire began and continued for forty-eight days and nights. The Confederate batteries in front of the Thirty-seventh Regiment were repeatedly attacked. The batteries held, but the assaults continued, inflicting heavy losses. The men served continuously in the trenches, exposed to the scorching midsummer sun and often to chilling nights. There were no troops to relieve them and afford them an opportunity to rest.

Caves of Vicksburg

The siege lasted so long that the citizens of Vicksburg took to digging caves into the hillsides facing away from the Union line in order to escape the bombardment. One resident had to stay awake to keep starving soldiers out of his vegetable garden. By June, half the Confederate soldiers were sick with malaria, dysentery and scurvy.

Then, on July 4th, 48 days after the attack began, the Confederates surrendered. In accordance with the terms of capitulation, the brigade stacked their arms in front of the battle lines, evacuated the trenches and were marched to bivouac in the rear of the works. They were then taken to a camp in Enterprise, Mississippi, where they were paroled and exchanged. It seems that it is more costly to keep prisoners, than to exchange them to fight again. However, with fewer arms, less food and thoroughly exhausted many parolees just went back home.

In November and December, John Lee is listed as “Absent without leave”. His commanding officer Hébert had also been captured, so there was no one to serve. One account that I read said he served until the end of the war. Many paroled officers went right back into battle. There is also an indication that he served as a Chaplain of the 46th Mississippi Regiment.

The following is from a letter written by Nannie E. (Shivers) Boggess, Sarah Catherine’s sister describing how John Lee came home to the Shivers’ house after being exchanged as a prisoner after Vicksburg.

My brother-in-law, Rev. J. L. Lattimore, went into the Confederate Service immediately after the war began. They were married in 1860 and the young wife came to live with her parents [Dr. and Mrs. O. L. Shivers, at Judson College] while he was away in the war. I am not familiar with the Judson buildings now, but the building in which my parents lived was the ‘New Building’. There were only two, the old building…and a two story building containing sick rooms above, a matron’s room and President’s Office on the 1st. The Dining room was in the basement of the new building. My parents’ rooms were on the first floor as was their parlor and the reception room for the school also. My sister’s room in which Judge Lattimore [ John Lee and Sarah Catherine’s second child] was born in 1865, was the 2nd room from the back porch on the south side of the hall, and the kitchen and servant houses were small brick buildings immediately in the rear. Into one of these small houses in the rear, my brother-in-law, Rev. J. L. Lattimore, when he came home after being exchanged after the siege of Vicksburg, was taken, subjected to scrubbings and hair cutting, all his clothing burned, before he was allowed to come into the house. Yes my sister had eight children all of whom grew to manhood and womanhood.

Nanny Shivers Boggess

After the war, John Lee returned to Alabama and he and his wife, Sarah Catherine, lived with his widowed mother, Franny, to help with the care of his two younger brothers, who continued to live with John Lee for some time. One of his obituaries describes how John Lee was persecuted at two points in his life for preaching “all the council of God” concerning baptism and communion. I don’t know what this means, but John Lee must have continued the Lattimore tradition of pissing off the officials of the Baptist church.

John Lee’s controversial sermons forced him to move frequently, eventually arriving in Falls County, Texas in 1874. This is how Sarah Catherine described their life together.

We began our married life in Enterprise, Mississippi, as teachers. The war ended that venture. In 1865 we went to Garlandsville, Mississippi, and taught there. Mr. Lattimore and Cousin Shelby preached much together during the years we lived in Garlandsville and Hickory. In 1868 we moved to Moulton, Alabama and lived there until 1874, when we came to Texas, to Marlin, where Cousin Shelby and Mary were. After living on Blue Ridge at Stranger, Falls County; and Decatur in Wise County; and Alexander in Erath County; we came to Dublin where Mr. Lattimore died on December 1887. He was pastor of the Baptist Church in Dublin when he died. He was a man of great firmness, of unalterable devotion to duty, of pure heart, uniformly courteous and unselfish. Not a brilliant man, but a thoroughly consecrated Christian in every way, inviting love and confidence. He was literally “Sans Pour, Sans Reproache”.

Sarah Catherine Shivers Lattimore


It’s interesting that they began their lives in Enterprise, the location of the parole camp after Vicksburg.

In 1874, John Lee and Sarah Catherine moved to Falls County, Texas. The last three of their eight children, including Bertha Woodfin Lattimore, were born there. But John Lee’s health started to fail. A physician friend of his was traveling to Florida and suggested that John Lee come along to see if a better climate would improve his health. But the travel so exhausted him that, before reaching his destination, he died in a sleeping coach on December 12, 1887.

After John Lee’s death, Sarah Catherine moved in with their daughter, Carrie Foust, in Dublin, Erath County, Texas. In a biographical essay of Sarah Catherine Lattimore, there is this accounting of her children:

From this happy and congenial union were born eight children – Prof. J. C. Lattimore, who was for several years a member of the faculty of Baylor University, and was seventeen years superintendent of the Public Schools of Waco; Senator O. S. Lattimore, of Fort Worth, well known in legal, political and religious circles throughout Texas; Samuel H. Lattimore, a strong and cultured young attorney of Muskogee, Oklahoma; Mrs. R. B. Spencer of Waco; Mrs. J. G. Purvis, of Proctor; Mrs. J. M. Higginbotham, Mrs. C. G. Foust, of Dublin, and Mrs. George C. Butte, of Austin.

The Texas Women’s Hall of Fame By Sinclair Moreland

You’ll recognize the last appendage, Mrs. George C. Butte, of Austin. Mrs. George C. Butte is Bertha Woodfin Lattimore, John Lee and Sarah Catherine’s youngest daughter. She will marry George Charles Butte. Woodfin was Sarah Catherine’s mother’s maiden name and it was carried down through the Butte generations to my cousin Woody. It is sad that even as this essay extols the accomplishments of a woman, it treats her daughters as unnamed appendages of their husbands. What’s even sadder is that this was probably true. At least Sarah Catherine was a writer of modest repute. In 1914, Incidents in the history of Dublin, gathered from participants and eye-witnesses, by Sarah Catherine Lattimore, was published.

Sarah Catherine Shivers Lattimore and children

Sarah Catherine is in the center of this picture. Bertha Woodfin Lattimore is seated on the right.

Bertha was born in 1878 in Blue Ridge, Falls County, Texas. After George Charles Butte made his way from California to Texas at the age of 10, he and Bertha Woodfin Lattimore were wed in 1898 in Erath, Texas where Bertha’s widowed mother, Sarah Catherine Lattimore, still lived with the family of her other daughter, Carrie Lattimore Foust. Sarah Catherine died in 1917, at age 76.

Before leaving the Lattimores, I have one more tale to tell, although there is disagreement over the veracity of one critical link. But I can’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.

9 thoughts on “Not a Brilliant Man ”

      1. Hi Shari. Really enjoy finding this site. My maternal grandparents were Woody Butte and Patricia McMurray Butte. And since my middle name is Lattimore I’ve always been interested in the genealogy for that name. Lots of fascinating stories here!


      2. Hello, Roger. I remember your grandfather Woody. I had quite a crush oh him when we were young. I’m so glad that you enjoyed the essay.


  1. Hi I really enjoyed reading this article, as I have also researched the McLaurins in Scotland. As it turns out the MacLaurin Ministers that you refer and their Kindred never lived in Balquhidder. They are of the Argyll Clan MacLaurin, whose Clan Chief was John MacLaurin, Lord Dreghorn in 1781. This MacLaurin Kindred trace their roots to the Isle of Tiree, not Balquhidder. I should also relay that modern Scottish Historians Dr. D.C. McWhannell, Ronnie and Mairi Black, Peter Lawrie, Dr. Bruce McAndrew among others have clearly shown that the 19th century readings of Manuscript 1467 and the Ragman Rolls placing McLarens in Perthshire before 1512, were incorrect. Cordially Hilton


  2. Bertha Woodfin Lattimore Butte was my great-grandmother. Her daughter Sarah Pauline Butte Dawson was my mother Paula Butte Dawson Bondurant’s mother.I am also Sarah Pauline. Thank you for this lovely narrative!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I should also add, my mother’s sister is Catherine McLaurin (neé) Dawson; her daughter and granddaughter are also Catherine, so the name has changed in spelling from Catharine McLaurine but is still in use today. ☺️

    Liked by 1 person

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