The First Settlers of Holmes County --- Oates Family

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(From the book "Heart and History of Holmes County" by Anna Paget Wells (used by permission of the publisher, Sue Cronkite))  This book is chock full of pictures and what has been used within this web site is only a small about of the book.  It can still be ordered from Sue Cronkite or from the Holmes County Advertiser, 112 E Virginia Avenue, Bonifay FL 32425; phone 850-547-2270; fax 850-547-9200

Michael Oates and his wife Mary, settled in the part of Walton County that later became Holmes County. In the 1850 Census, his household consisted of a wife and Calvin, a son. A married son, Oliver and his wife, Mary Catherine Morrison Oates, and their five-month old daughter lived in the house with him. The Oates moved away from Holmes County in the 1850s to Alabama and later to Mississippi.

When the War Between the States broke out, Oliver and Mary had four children. While Oliver was fighting in the War, an epidemic of some kind broke out. Mary Catherine (Katie) and two of her four children died. The two children that survived, Michael and Christian, were brought to Florida to live with Oliver Oates’ sister, Mary Oates Douglass. She married Alexander Douglass, Katie’s uncle and brother-in-law.

In 1915 Michael Oates paid his relatives in Holmes County a visit.

He had accidentally discovered a mineral water that had great healing qualities. He and some other men were building a dam, and while they were taking break to eat lunch, a mangy dog appeared on the scene. One of the men pitched him into the excavation that contained water where they had been working – days later the dog reappeared on the scene with a healthy coat of hair. The men also noticed that if they got a scratch on their hands it healed quickly. Michael shipped this healing mineral water to Westville by the gallon. Customers would bottle it in smaller bottles and sell it for 50 cents a bottle. I remember the mineral water – if it spilled onto your clothes it had so much iron in it that it would cause a rust spot that wouldn’t come out when washed.

After his return to his home in Mississippi, Michael wrote this letter to his kin in Holmes County (my mother):

Bay Springs, Mississippi

Oct 28, 1915

My dear old Aunt,

I suppose you think I have forgotten you or the visit to old Florida and the kindness I received from your hands. I wish to say I shall never forget the visit and your kindness to me while with you all. I cannot write, neither can tongue express, the joy and satisfaction that emanated from that visit.

This visit germinated in my mind more than 50 years ago when I found that I had to leave you and return to Alabama. It grew and grew for 50 years and finally matured to my great satisfaction. I feel like it is useless for me to tell you that I enjoyed the visit – you could tell that by my action and countenance. Nothing has ever brought me so close to my dear old mother as that visit, and the greeting of my dear olds aunts. (his mother’s sisters)

I feel that God has been wonderfully good to me – to grant unto me such a pleasure. I wish I could express to you all such a pleasure so that you could feel and know the deep love that has ever been in my heart for all of you.

The cousins whom I had never met endeared themselves to me so much that there has not an hour passed since my return but that they have been upon my mind.

I hope this will not be the last time that I shall have the opportunity in this life for such a feast.

I think some of you ought and will pay us a visit this fall, or this winter. Merdic ("supposed to be Murdock") and Wallace (Cooey) have already promised me they were coming and I feel as if they told me the truth. You can leave Westville on the mid-day train and go to Mobile and get there about sundown and then you will leave Mobile 6:35 am and arrive here at 12:14, you can make the trip in about 24 hours, and when you think bout that, it is too close for us to live out our lives and never see one another. I want to say that this letter is for you all and I don’t want any to feel slighted. I want a long letter from someone or all of you as I am getting anxious to hear from you.

As I came through Pensacola, the dengue fever was raging and do you know I caught it good. I would have written sooner if I had not had a severe spell of fever.

Wife and all the children join me in sending love to all the kinfolk and inquiring friends.

With kisses and a hug to my old aunts, I will close for this time.

M Oates

His aunts were Nancy Stanley, Sarah Sellers, Abbie Cooey, Martha Morrison, Margaret Padgett and Christian Brownell.

In 1976 I found an address among my Aunt Margaret’s pictures. This sparked my interest in knowing more about the Oates family. The address was on the back of a picture of nephew Mike’s family. I know Mike would not likely be living so I addressed a letter of enquiry to a son.

For three months I heard nothing, then a letter came from the son of the man to whom I had mailed my request for information:

Dear Mrs Wells:

Your letter of Oct 26, 1976, directed to my father’s attention is hereby acknowledged.

Marvin Sr, (O M Oates Sr) my father, died in November, 1961. Mrs Annie O Massey, my aunt, died in the year 1969. Michel Oates (Mike Oates), my grandfather, died in the year 1945.

Michael Oates and wife, Martha Horne Oates, had four children including my father and aunt, namely Anne Oates (Massey), Oliver Marvin Oates, Sr, Junior Kennedy Oates (Dr J K Oates), who died in 1968, and Essie Oates (Christopher) who is still living and resides here in Bay Springs.

Mrs Annie Oates Massey was married to Dr T L Massey who died about the year 1970. They had four sons, namely Dr Jewitt Massey (deceased); Dr John Oates Massey, living in Quitman, Mississippi; Dr T O Massey, who lives in Waynesboro, Mississippi; and Dr S M Massey, who resides here in Bay Springs.

My father was first married to Miss Denson (whose father established the Town of Bay Springs), but who was killed in the tornado that struck Bay Springs in 1920. My father later married Fannye Ducker (Oates) and I am the only child of their marriage. My mother died in 1966. My father had one child by his first marriage, but this daughter was also killed in the tornado of 1920.

Dr J K Oates was married to Margaret Sumrall Oates who lives and resides in Laurel, Mississippi. Dr Oates was previously married and had one child, namely Sterling Oates, who resides in Amarillo, Texas. Dr Oates had by his second marriage two children, namely Dr J K Oates, Jr, a doctor of internal medicine, who resides and practices in the city of Jackson, Mississippi. Dr Michelle Oates (Griffin, Mrs Jerry) who resides with her husband, Dr Jerry Griffin, in Palo Alto, Calif.

Mrs Essie Oates Christopher was previously married to George Schuartz, who lives in Orlando, Florida; and Charles M Schuartz, who is one of the top officials in Union Oil of California and resides in Pasadena.


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This page was last updated on:  17 June 2002 , 08:42 PM