Buried in the orchard or the church yard? Winnie/Winifred (Winkle?) Reagan (ca 1822 – 1886) Sevier County, Tennessee and Bartow County, Georgia


The following is an interesting example of how a family tradition can morph over time and also how there is very often a grain of truth in the tradition that research can use to verify or correct the record.

There is no evidence (to date) for the maiden name of the woman who married John Derias Reagan about 1840-41 in Tennessee,1 possibly Sevier County. Some say Winkle and some say Phillips. The family moved to Cass (now Bartow) County, Georgia, by 18502 where they were enumerated in the 12th Division.

Winnie died in 1886, it is said, in the midst of a terrible winter with so much snow on the ground that the family could not travel to the nearby Hays Cemetery, the usual family burying ground. So, she was buried in the orchard on the home place (Land Lot 79 of District 6, Section 3).

A church history for the Pleasant Valley Baptist Church,3 published in observance of Old Fashion Day, September 10, 1972, states land for the church was donated by John and Winnie Reagan and that a log cabin church was built there about 1865. John and Winnie may have lived on the land in 1865, but they did not own it until 1869 when John purchased the entire 160 acre land lot from D. T. Collins.4 He did not deed any acreage to the church until 1872, when he donated two acres “off the southwest corner” of Lot 79.5

The church history says services were held in the original church on Reagan land until 1890, at which time W. G. Edwards donated land across the road and a new frame church was built. The deed is dated 09 September 1901.6 Deed Book JJ, page 479.

So, in 1886 a church was present on the two acres deeded by John D. Reagan in 1872. Rather than the land being given to the church to use as a cemetery after Winnie was buried “in the orchard,” as passed down in family tradition, it appears most likely she was buried “in the church yard” in 1886, and the two acres were used exclusively for burials after the new church building was constructed across the road from its first location.

There is a grave marker for Winnie, installed by the Pleasant Valley Baptist Church group “Willing Workers.” Unfortunately, her birth year is inscribed as 1846, four years after the birth of her first child. Her findagrave.com memorial is no. 39076968.7 Her name is inscribed “Winnie P. Reagan.” Perhaps the “P” is a clue to her maiden name.

JDReagan_LL 79, D6, S3_2_annotated_b&w




  1. Yates Publishing, “U.S. and International Marriage Records, 1560-1900,” digital index, Ancestry.com (http://ancestry.com : accessed 17 May 2014), John D. Reagan and Winnifred Winkle (1840) Tennessee; Original data: This unique collection of records was extracted from a variety of sources including family group sheets and electronic databases. Originally, the information was derived from an array of materials including pedigree charts, family history articles, queries; records extracted from many undocumented sources. [bmw note: use with caution.]
  2. 1850 U. S. Census, population census, Georgia, Cass County, (Division 12); Page 212, Line 40, Dwelling 1570, Family 1582, J. D. Ragan [Reagan] family, M432, 63, Microfilm, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D. C.
  3. Church Members, compilers, Pleasant Valley Missionary Baptist Church (10 September 1972), digital images of print version via email from Joe Cook 22 July 2017 to Blanche M. Wallace, (Bartow County, Georgia: Pleasant Valley Missionary Baptist Church, 10 September 1972), p. 5.
  4. Bartow County, Georgia, Deed Book, R: pp.319-320, D. T. Collins to John D. Reagan, 2 September 1869; Bartow County Superior Court, Cartersville.
  5. Bartow County, Georgia, Deed Book, W: 583, J. D. Reagan to Baptist Church of Christ, Pleasant Valley, 25 May 1872; Bartow County Superior Court, Cartersville.
  6. Bartow County, Georgia, Deed Book, JJ: 379, W. G. Edwards to Pleasant Valley Baptist Church, 09 September 1901; Bartow County Superior Court, Cartersville. [Details taken from transcribed deed in 1972 Pleasant Valley Baptist Church history booklet. Verify with recorded deed.]
  7. Jim Tipton, Creator, “Find A Grave database and images,” grave marker photograph and/or memorial, FindAGrave.com (http://www.findagrave.com : accessed 19 July 2017), Winnie P. Reagan, memorial no. 39076968; created by Gail Dessez.