Lester Shea

M, b. 20 August 1877, d. 13 April 1958
     Lester was born on 20 August 1877 at Pender, North Carolina, United States. He was the son of Christopher Columbus Palmer Woodcock and Eliza Jane Rooks. He married Nettie Mamie G. Brannen, daughter of Malcolm Samuel Brannen and Agnes Rebecca Bass, on 13 August 1916 at Madison, Madison, Florida, United States.1 Lester died on 13 April 1958 at Madison, Madison, Florida, United States, at age 80. His body was buried at Evergreen Cemetery, Madison, Florida, United States.
     Biography of Lester Shea:
Information from: Cleve Jacobs Patterson GA GG Nephew

     The following Information provided by Howard and Mary White:

     Luther C. Woodcock was born on either August 19, 1876 or August 20, 1877, in Pender County, North Carolina.

     Luther was listed as living with his parents Columbus P. Woodcock and Eliza Jane in 1880. He was 2 years old according to the 1880 Census. The years between 1880 and 1900 are unclear, except for his family stories. He grew up near Burgaw, Pender County, NC on the Cape Fear River. He had sisters, Carrie, Bertha, Lessie, Lizzie, Ruth and Mary Libby, but no brothers. He attended school and learned the trades of carpentering and saw milling from his father and some shoe repairing skills from his grandfather Rooks. Luther could also make barrels (coopering).

     Sometime in 1890, C.P. moved to Browntown, which is located between Hortense and Brunswick, Georgia.

     Christopher Columbus Palmer Woodcock moved to Pierce County, Georgia, and rented a complete farm (to include cows) in 1896. Based on Census Records, it appears that other members of C.P.'s family also moved to Pierce County, as well as some members of Eliza Jane's family.

     There was a story that Luther had some problem regarding the honor of his sister, Bertha, in the late 1890's and left home to join Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders. We have been unable to find records to substantiate this; however, at the time of the 1900 Census, he was living in Pierce County, Ga, and had married the daughter of John Archibald Hall, a well to do business man on April 18, 1900. ("Archie" owned the grist mill, saw mill and cotton gin. He sold these between 1900 and 1910 and bought a general merchandise store.) Luther's wife, Alice, was either 14 or 16 at the time of the marriage. The 1900 Census shows her age as 16, the 1910 Census as 24. Later in the year of 1900, Luther's sister, Bertha, married John Archibald Hall (his father in law). The marriage records show that John Archibald married someone else thirteen months after he married Bertha.

     1900 Census, P. 322, Pierce County, GA Columbus C. Woodcock, M, 51, NC, Married 29 years (1871) Eliza J., F, Born 1853, NC (Mother of ten - 6 living) Eliza R., F, Born 1881, NC Lessie, F, Born 1884, NC Lizzie, F, Born 1886, NC Mary L., F, Born 1889, NC Luther C., M, Born 1877, NC Alice, F, Born 1884, Daughter in Law, GA

     After 1900, Luther became a railroad switch repairer for Stevens Railroad. He and Alice had four living children in 1910.

     1910 - Georgia, Pierce Co, ED 82, Sheet 10, Line 73, Near Patterson

     Luther Woodcock, Born NC, 33 years old, Occupation Signal Repairman, Stevens RR

     Alice, wife, 24 years old, Born GA Thelma Mae Grace, F, 9 (6 Children, 4 living) Curtis, M, 8 Lola, F, 4 Pomell, M, 6 Mo. old Columbus, M, 61, Farmer

     Between 1910 and 1920 due to personal problems, Luther Woodcock left home and did not return. Luther was forced to leave the area. Family relatives living in 1998, who knew of the story, said that Christopher Palmer could have stepped in and helped resolve the problem. However, he chose not to intervene. Luther left and there is no further census record of Luther.

     In the 1920 Census, his children Lola and Pomell are living with their Grandfather, John Archibald Hall. There is no record of Alice and Curtis or Luther. Thelma Mae Grace is living in Fulton County, GA, with an aunt, Martha Carter, and is employed in an overall factory near Atlanta. Later, we found that in the 1920 Florida Census That Curtis was living and working in Florida.

     Based on the above, it can only be surmised that Luther did change his name.

     We think that Luther C. Woodcock moved to Taylor County between 1911 and 1916 and changed his name to Lester NMI Shea and married Nettie Mae Brannen. He was 39 and she was 17. They had twelve children, nine that lived. All of the family used the name Shea. Luther was accomplished in a number of professions. He worked for a railroad for a while, he also worked a wood cruiser, a carpenter, a commissary operator for the sawmill and a farmer at various times during his career.

     In the late 1920's, he and Nettie bought a 140 acre farm at Greenville, Madison County, Florida, and he built a home. He lived there until his death from cancer in 1958.

     After they moved to the farm in Greenville, Lester continued to work outside the farm. Lester helped to build the Women's Club in Greenville, Florida during the 1920s or 1930s.

     The primary cash crop raised on the farm was tobacco; however, they also raised corn, watermelons, cows, hogs, and a little cotton. Actually, the farm was almost self sustaining: corn and meal were taken to the grist mill, animals were butchered and the meat was smoked in the smoke house and a large garden was always grown. Lester was noted for the wonderful cane syrup he made and people would come to the farm to buy it.

     Lester deeded each of his three older daughters an acre of land for them to build a home on and built the house for Jimmie; however, none of them remained on the land he gave them. They sold the houses they built and with their families moved to areas where their husbands could be more gainfully employed.

     All three of the older boys: Malcolm Lester (M.L.), Oswald Paul (Mutt), and George Wilbur (Bill) were in the Second World War. Malcolm Lester was in the Army Air Force, Mutt was in the Marines, and Bill was in the Navy. Fortunately, none of them lost their lives; however, Mutt was shot while serving in the Phillipines. He remained in the hospital recuperating for a very long time.

     Lester was 65 years old when his youngest daughter, Mary Lou, was born. As he had become disabled by the time he was 70, he spent many hours with her. He taught her to read, to write and her multiplication tables. He was strict and stern with everyone else, but he spoiled her. He used to say, "You look just like my sister, Mary Libby. She married a Wainwright, you know." When Mary was about 14, and Lester was 79, he asked her to write Mary Libby Wainwright in Wilmington, N.C., but the letter came back "unknown". When he had her write the letter, he had begun to become senile.

     Luther also said that he came from a family of ten children and that he was the only boy. He would name his sisters: Carrie, Bertha, Lizzie, Ruth, Lessie, Lydia (I have found no record of her), and Mary Libby. In the 1900 Census, Eliza Jane states that she had 10 children and six are living.

     Lester died when Mary was 16, but before he died, he told his son, Thomas, that he had changed his name--that he was named Woodcock. The family had always known that his father was named Christopher Palmer and that his mother was a Rook(s)--that was no secret, but the fact that he had been a Woodcock and that his legal name was Woodcock was a shock. For thirty years, nothing was done with this information, because most of the family thought it was the ramblings of a tired and confused mind. However, in 1994 Mary and her husband, Howard White, began researching and wrote a book about Howard's family. The book was entitled, "John L, White Descendants, 1800 to 1998." Once this book was published, Mary and Howard decided to research the Shea Family.

     Mary and Howard began to look for Lester Shea and Christopher Palmer Shea, but with no success. They went to Pender County, North Carolina and New Hanover County, North Carolina, and researched the records, but they could find no Sheas that fit the description of Lester's family. There were lots of Woodcocks and Rooks in Pender County. Consequently, Mary and Howard began to make notes on various Woodcocks that were listed in the Censuses. While researching at the Gadsden City Library, Gadsden, Alabama they found a Columbus P. Woodcock in the 1880 Census with a daughter named Carrie and a son named Luther, 2 years old. Lester was supposed to have been born in 1876, so he would have been four. They wrote down the information, but did not proceed with investigating it.

     At the 1997 Shea Family Reunion, Mary's oldest sister, Del Ray, stated that grandma Rook(s) was buried near Waycross, Georgia in an old church cemetery. So on a rainy Monday, November 19, 1998, Howard announced to Mary that he was going to find her grandfather. Mary replied, "Ha! Good Luck!" He came back with the 1990 Pierce County, Georgia Census of Christopher Palmer Woodcock married to an Eliza Jane and the names of the sisters that Lester had described so thoroughly to Mary. (Pierce County joins Ware County (Waycross, GA).

     From the World Wide Family Tree Maker, they acquired Vol. 6 which listed Christopher Palmer Woodcock and his family. Howard and Mary remained unconvinced as to whether this was the family of Lester; however, when Luther's birthday came up so very close to Lester's and further research revealed that he had worked as a railroad switch repairer (the same occupation that Lester had said he did as a young man),and that Christopher Columbus Palmer's wife's name had been Rooks, they had to admit that the possibility that Lester Shea was indeed Luther Woodcock should be seriously entertained.

     December 1, 1998, Howard and Mary decided to go to Pierce County and see what they could discover in the records and cemeteries mentioned in Vol 6 of the Family Tree Maker. They found marriage records, deeds, grave sites, etc; but, there was nothing to tie Mary directly to the Woodcock Family. They were saddened to see the deterioration of Christopher Palmer's and Eliza Jane's tombstones.

     On December 2, 1998, Howard suggested that Mary call Cleve Jacobs, who was listed as the source of the information that was submitted to the Family Tree Maker. Mrs. Jacobs stated that they had not submitted the information, but, they had furnished the information to a cousin who had probably submitted it. When they questioned her about Mary Libby Wainwright and Luther Woodcock, she said that Lizzie Emma Woodcock was her mother in law's mother. When she asked Mary about her interest in the family, Mary had to admit that she suspected that Luther might be her father. Mrs. Jacobs agreed that it could be possible, since he had disappeared and no one had ever heard from him again, except one visit from an old man who claimed to be Luther Woodcock sometime during the 1950s. Mary's father, Lester, had taken a six week trip during the 1950s, about 1951 to 1953, so it was possible that he could have gone back to see his sister, Lizzie.

     Mrs. Jacobs agreed to meet with Howard and Mary on December 3, to exchange information and to show them old pictures of the family and Luther. From the Jacobs, they were able to obtain pictures of some of the family. Fortunately, Christopher Palmer had lots of pictures taken and even some pastels drawn, even though it was a time when most people did not have the money to have frequent pictures taken or to having drawings made. [Mary Shea White]

Children of Lester Shea and Nettie Mamie G. Brannen


  1. [S391] Mary Lou Shea White, "Shea Family Records."

Nettie Mamie G. Brannen

F, b. 14 July 1899, d. August 1988
Great-granddaughter of Thomas Brannen
Member of:
Brannen Family of Florida
Thomas Brannen (1794-1865) of Florida Tree
     Nettie was born on 14 July 1899 at Shady Grove, Madison, Florida, United States.1 She was the daughter of Malcolm Samuel Brannen and Agnes Rebecca Bass. She married Lester Shea, son of Christopher Columbus Palmer Woodcock and Eliza Jane Rooks, on 13 August 1916 at Madison, Madison, Florida, United States.1 Nettie died in August 1988 at Valdosta, Lowndes, Georgia, United States, at age 89. Her body was buried at Evergreen Cemetery, Madison, Florida, United States.
     Biography of Nettie Mamie G. Brannen:

     How can one describe a paragon? Nettie grew up before her time. She was born in 1899 in Shady Grove, Florida. Her mother, Agnes, who was frequently ill, burdened her with cooking, care of younger children and other chores at the very young age of seven. Her father was a farmer and Nettie was expected to help with that, too.

     Nettie had an astute mind, at the age of 16 taught school in the one room school house in Shady Grove. Soon thereafter, she met a switchman for the railroad by the name of Lester Shea in Perry, Florida, and they were married. Her family objected as he was 23 years older than she, but she married him in spite of their objections. Lester stopped working for the railroad and took a job scaling timber.

     Soon children began to come, first M. L., then Oswald Paul, Delray and Joseph, who died after one year of dysentery.

     Nettie and Lester bought 140 acres of land outside Greenville, Madison County, Florida, and Lester built a four bedroom house, with a very large dining room. He was an excellent builder. He constructed the Women's Club Building in Greenville, Florida.

     Lester worked at building and farming and Nettie continued to have children. In all they had twelve, but three of the boys died.

     Life during the depression was hard, but they worked the farm and managed to live fairly well. The boys soon grew big enough to help with the chores. They raised cows, hogs, corn, tobacco, peanuts, watermelons and cotton. However, tobacco was their main cash crop.

     When Lester was 65, they had their last child, Mary. Shortly thereafter, Lester's health began to deteriorate. He suffered from hardening of the arteries and cancer. When Mary was 16, he died at the age of 82.

     In view of all her life's ups and down, Nettie remained jovial and maintained a wonderful sense of humor. She could do the work of three modern day women--raised nine children, kept an immaculate home and yard and directed the work on the farm after Lester became disabled. She was an excellent manager.

     Nettie was a devoted member of the Church of Christ and walked 3 miles to church each Sunday and 3 miles back. She endeavored to instill Christian values in all her children. It took with some--with some, it didn't. However, the work ethic she subscribed to was passed on to all, even though some chose easier careers than had been her lot.

     After Lester's death, she worked as a nurse for the McLeod family in Greenville, Florida, until the deaths of Mr. and Mrs. McLeod. Then, as Mary moved to Beaufort, South Carolina in 1963, she went to live with her and helped raise Mary"s son, Kenneth.

     After Mary's divorce in 1972, her mother stayed with her until about 1978, when she returned to the Greenville, Florida area and at first lived with various other members of the family. Eventually, she purchased a manufactured home and lived close to her son, Bill, until sugar diabetes forced her to a nursing home.

     At the nursing home, she was still her happy self and soon had a boy friend. Her boy friend and her son, Mutt, preceded her in death by six months. [Mary Shea White]

Children of Nettie Mamie G. Brannen and Lester Shea


  1. [S391] Mary Lou Shea White, "Shea Family Records."