By 1860, Joel and his presumed older brother, Caleb Herndon, William Fry Sr., Peter Weaver Jr., and even Dabner Elliott moved to Winston County, Alabama, just before the Southern states rebelled and the Civil War began. Winston County, in the mountainous northern area of the state, was known as the Free State of Winston, because it supported the United States and refused to join the Confederacy. So during the late 1850s and early 1860s, Southerners came from all over to escape the torment they endured for supporting America over slavery.
These people of the rocky regions of the South tended to be Jacksonian, still revering past President Andrew Jackson who once told arrogant plantation owners in South Carolina that they could expect him to crush any rebellion they might try. As long as Jackson was president, no rebellion was attempted, but after Jackson left office the wealthy pro-slavery supporters made life miserable in the South for those who would never vote to weaken America.
Willis Barton of Hall County married Jonathan Martin’s daughter, Margaret, in the mid 1820s, and also moved to Winston before the Civil War. They were soon joined by Margaret’s brother, Solomon Martin, and his family. Margaret and Solomon were siblings of Peter Martin of Forsyth County. The Bartons remained in Winston after the war, but Solomon and his family returned to Hall. Solomon died five years later of liver disease.
Some in the families of these one-time southern neighbors fought for America, and many fought for the Confederacy. Peter Martin’s son, Peter Burdine Martin, served in Company E of the 43rd Georgia Infantry. He died of Typhoid Fever in Atlanta in 1864 near the end of the war and was buried in Oakland Cemetery. His brother Alfred Webb Martin served the same company, and was wounded in the battle of Reseca and captured at Vicksburg. Many other Georgia cousins survived the war, including the sons of Peter’s brother Alex, who settled in Murray County, Georgia.
Five of Margaret Barton's sons fought for the Union, all serving in Company L of the 1st Alabama Cavalry. Her son William was taken prisoner at the battle of Vincent's Cross Roads in Alabama, and died in Andersonville prison. Thomas Fry Jr. (son of Margaret Denning’s daughter Margaret) and James M. Herndon (son of Sarah Denning) also fought for the Union in the First Alabama Cavalry. Margaret Martin Barton remained close to Sarah Denning Herndon in Winston long after the war, and some of Sarah's living descendants believed they were sisters, but they were actually cousins.
All of these soldiers who fought and died and survived both sides of the Civil War were all related to Margaret Martin Finn Denning. She continued to live in Forsyth County until her death in August of 1866. One story passed down to descendants claims she lived for part of her remaining life alone in a cave.
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