James T. Rainwater was born on 17 September 1836 in Alabama. His parentage is the source of some controversy.
To all appearances, the 1850 census suggests that he was the son of Burrell and Elizabeth Rainwater. This is disputed by researcher Kay Ohana, who notes that Jane Rainwater, Burrell and Elizabeth’s eldest daughter was “excluded from New Hopewell Baptist Church in Benton Co., AL (now Calhoun Co.) one week prior to James’ birth, August 1836 for fornication,” strongly suggesting that Jane was his mother. This is, in fact, a reasonable theory, since it would make Burrell and Elizabeth his grandparents, and would account for James’ presence in their home.
Based on the somewhat confusing census evidence, James had four siblings, John M., William Joseph, Margaret J. and Amanda. No father has been identified for any of them. In the 1870 and 1880 census, Jane gives Rash as her surname, but no marriage record to a Mr. Rash as been found, and it seems likely that she took the name as protective cover. Moreover, her sons, at least, all used Rainwater as their surname. The census evidence for her daughters is conflicting.
She is buried in Mt. Vernon Baptist Cemetery, Paulding Co., GA under a homemade concrete marker reading simply “Rainwater, Old Lady.” Local researchers have verified this as the grave of Jane Rainwater Rash.
On 3 February 1857, James married Millie Elizabeth Paris. The couple farmed in Paulding Co., Georgia and had four children: Miles, born ca 1857; John M., born Dec 1859; William James, born May 1862, and Sarah Revelou, born October 1864. Millie died shortly after Sarah’s birth, and according to family legend, Sarah was taken in and raised by her maternal grandmother.
Sometime in 1864 or 1865, James married Susie Elizabeth Paris Wilson, a widow generally believed to be Millie’s sister. They had five children: Louise F., born ca 1865, Henry D., born Oct 1867; Martha C., born May 1888; Amanda T., born ca 1874; and Olive D. Lulu, born Oct 1881.
Between 1881 and 1900, the couple moved to Holly Pond in Cullman Co., Alabama, where they spent the rest of their lives. James died on 1 March 1905, and Susie followed on 22 June 1913. Both are buried in Holly Pond Cemetery.
According to Janet B. Hewett’s “Roster of Confederate Soldiers, 1861-1865, Volume VII,” a James T. Rainwater served in the Georgia Light Artillary 9th Battalion, Companies A & E, as a Private. It’s worth noting three facts that weigh against this being the individual who is the subject of this profile. First, it’s clear that two of James’s children were born during the Civil War, which means that he was at home during at least some of those years. Second, neither James nor his second wife appear to have filed for a CSA pension. Finally and most important, the 9th Battalion of the Georgia Light Artillary was drawn primarily from Fulton, Muscogee, and Gwinnett Counties, with Companies A & E being exclusively from Fulton County.1 Paulding County is only two counties west of Fulton, but that’s a larger distance in 19th century terms than it is today and if James had volunteered, he would probably have done so in his own county. So it seems likely that the James T. of this profile is not the James T. who served in the Confederate Army.
This photograph appears to have been taken between 1850 and 1880, and was then enhanced with pencil or charcoal, in the style of the day.
Toni Parks’ branch of the family preserves the tradition that James’ middle name was Tillison, but no documentary evidence has thus far surfaced to support this claim.
1 Joseph H. Crute, Jr., Units of the Confederate States Army, Derwent Books, Midlothian Virginia, 1987
© 2018 Kay Ohana
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