From the Garland Local History & Genealogical Society, Volume 5-Number 1, Fall 1993



Author:  Nell Walker

In February, 1993, we traveled to Lebanon, Tennessee, in search of the gold found in old worn pieces of paper, records in courthouses and old cemeteries.  Their worth is not monetary but they may be the key that unlocks a family story you have worked long hours to solve.

We had visited Lebanon before seeking information on my great-grandfather Richard B. “Dick” Corley but did not have much time for research.  His marriage to his first wife, Emma R. Robertson, dated Sept. 30, 1878, is in Tennessee Deeds, Marriages and Wills dated 1876 to 1884. This time we obtained permission to look through the old marriage licenses.  There were stacks of them and they were very dirty.  We thumbed through them until Robert hit pay dirt – the license identifying my great-grandmother and when they were married.  We did not find the marriage bond but were happy to find the license.

We did not find the death record of Emma who died when my grandfather, Owen Bates “Otis” Corley, was five years old.  He had a younger sister, Effie.  We knew my great-grandfather remarried but could not find record of the second marriage, even with the help of a local historian, Mr. Vincent Simms.

Then we decided to see if we could locate the Corley family cemetery mentioned in Wilson Co. Tennessee, Deeds-Marriages and Wills 1800-1902. In his will dated 8 August 1891, James W. Martin said he wanted to be buried in the Corley cemetery located one mile south of Hartsville at Elisha Corley’s place.  As we drove the few miles north to Hartsville, we saw rolling hills and beautiful scenery.  That area was so beautiful, I wondered why my great-grandfather wanted to come to Texas!

A cemetery about one mile south of Hartsville, within a short distance of the Cumberland River, had a huge rock wall around it.  I remembered seeing an article in a book in the Dallas Library about a rock-walled old Corley cemetery in Tennessee.  The town was closer to the cemetery and there were some new stones, but, in the middle of the cemetery, there were some very old markers and toward the back of the cemetery we found two Corley grave markers.  Some of the old markers were field stones and whatever had been inscribed had eroded away.  Other stones were dates at about the right time.  We found only the two Corley headstones and we could not be sure they tie in with our Corleys.

Upon our return home, I contacted my uncle, Albert L. Corley of Bonham, Texas, who is R.B. Corley’s grandson, asking if my grandfather or any of the family had mentioned living near the Cumberland River or Hartsville.  He replied that my grandfather had played and fished on the Cumberland River before coming to Texas when he was about eleven.  He said Grandfather told him about seeing a fish floating on the surface of the water and that he had gone into the water with a tow sack (burlap) and caught the fish.  The fish, Grandfather stated, was of good size and gave a fight but he got him out of the river.  I was elated that I had found the former home of my ancestors and possibly the old family graveyard.

Later, I found a newspaper clipping dated 1936 in my mother’s things.  It was a picture of R.B. Corley and his second wife, Mary Josephine “Josie” (Grandstaff) Corley and some of the children.  It stated that they married in Lebanon, Wilson County, Tennessee, on July 5, 1888 and in 1891 came to Texas in a covered wagon.  Richard B. and Mary Josephine “Josie” Corley are buried in the Masonic Cemetery on Garland Road.  I can remember going to his funeral when I was a child.

Richard B. Corley had twelve children in all:

Owen Bates “Otis” Corley married Mattie Agatha Pace.

Effie Corley married Bob Grandstaff.

George Willie Corley died in Tennessee as an infant.

John Jones Corley married Josey Bell Williams and Maud Sabastian.

Ethel May Corley died at age 17 in Texas.

Bertha Ruth “Bert” Corley married Ike Akers and Nat Farley.

Jess Dewey Corley married Nannie Harvey.

Ora Ola Corley married Jack Baldwin Kennedy.

Maude Mirtle Corley married Ray Morris and Luther Wright.

Cecil B. Corley married Dorothy “Dot” Painter.

Iva Lulu Corley married Virgil Powell.

Oneta May Corley married Orville C. “Bo” Merriman.

Richard B. Corley’s parents were Jones B. Corley (b. 2 Feb. 1838; d. 9 Mar. 1911) and Nancy E. (Gilmore) Corley (b. 27 Nov. 1834; d. 4 Mar. 1921).  They are buried in the KP Cemetery on Miller Road behind the Masonic Cemetery on Garland Road.  The railroad runs between the two cemeteries.

Iva Corley Powell was born Feb. 25, 1911 in Garland and married Virgil Powell in 1933.  She has one son, Richard M. Powell and daughter-in-law Tamara.  She is active in the community and the First Baptist Church of Garland as were her parents and grandparents years before.

These people helped make Garland as we know it today.  Maybe, with my telling my family’s stories, I can contribute something as well.