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African American Lives 2 -- Hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
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Bernice Pelham South Carolina & Florida 1800s Tampa, Florida Family Oral History

African American, Julia Ann Emanuel Miller Pelham Gaither was born about 1813 in the Wadmalaw Island area of Charleston, South Carolina, and died in 1930 in Melrose, (Putnam County) Florida. During her early years she washed clothes to make her living in South Carolina while raising her children and keeping track of her relatives brought in as slaves from the area of Senegal in West Africa.

Her first husband was Charles Miller from whom she took the name that she was known by for most of her life by children and descendants who called her Juland Miller. It’s not known for sure but she had about 19 children. Her first child was Michael Days who was named in information about two of her accounts in the Freedman Bank. Michael was recruited in Charleston, South Carolina and served with the U.S. Colored Troops of the Union Army after the Civil War.

When Charles Miller died she met and married James (Jim) Pelham who was born in North Carolina and she moved with James to the town of Banana in northern Florida which later became Melrose, near Gainesville. In 1880 James Pelham purchased 47 acres of land in Putnam County, Florida for $100. James’ move to Florida was sponsored by a wealthy white South Carolina businessman and veteran of the Mexican wars from Greenville, SC named Elias Earle, who had formed and headed an African American militia unit in South Carolina. Elias Earle was given the rank of General in the South Carolina militia by the governor of South Carolina, and was known as “The General,” in Florida, where he established a hamlet known as Earletown.

When James Pelham passed Julia Ann married Peter Gaither in 1888 thus forming the nexus for the present Pelham-Gaither family. At her advanced age she bore Peter Gaither two sons, Fred and Peter Jr. Only Fred survived to maturity. The Pelham’s intermarried with the descendants of Ezekiel Payne (my great grandfather - possibly born in Mississippi), who moved to Florida from South Carolina at the age of about 76 and was married to Leah Holly Timmons by the white Rev. E.B. Timmons of Eliam Baptist Church in 1870, thus forming the foundation of the Pelham-Gaither family still centered in Melrose, Florida.

Some bits of the family history as well as a picture of Julia Ann appear in the book Bonnie Melrose by Zonirah Hunter-Tolles.

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