Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Mulkey Gap: A Memorial to early settler William R. Mulkey

Place names sometimes derive from the look of the place, like Blue Ridges for our beloved mountain area. Or a legend exists about a place, like Blood Mountain, where it is held that in battles between the Cherokee and Creek Indians centuries ago the streams flowed blood-red because of so much bloodshed. Or places retain the names given by Indians, like my beloved community, Choestoe, “The place where rabbits dance.” Arkaquah and Walasiyi and even Nottley River are Indian derivative names. A plethora of owl calls were heard in the vicinity, and the name Owltown resulted.

Then there are places named for people, early settlers to an area that bear the name of prominent families that owned acreage and made their homes in the vicinity. These are numerous: Youngstown, Cooper’s Creek, Gaddistown, Helton Creek, Woody Gap, Mulkey Gap, to name a few.

I began thinking about Mulkey Gap, Mulkey Gap Road, and Mulkey Creek, and did a little digging to find the first Mulkey settlers who came to Union County. I found these place names to be a tribute to the William R. Mulkey family who in the 1834 census was the family here by that name. His household consisted of one male and two females in that first enumeration. By 1840, only the William Mulkey family (whose middle name, I found, was Ritch) was listed. By then he and his wife had four children I was disappointed that I could find not a single Mulkey family in the 1850 census. Since that census was the first to list names of spouse and children, I did not have a name for his wife. The non-listing in 1850 could have been for two reasons. First, the Mulkey residence could have been completely overlooked by the census taker and thus no 1850 listing was made. Or the family could have moved from the vicinity by then. A bit more probing was needed, so I proceeded to pursue several resources available to seek out why a mountain gap, a road, and a creek would have been named for a family that might have moved out of the area by 1850.

What I found was that many of the descendants of William Ritch Mulkey, who was born March 30, 1807 in Franklin County, Georgia, and his first wife, Anna Prater Mulkey, born in Georgia April 10, 1809 did remain in Georgia until after Anna’s death which occurred January 1, 1854. William and Anna married October 14, 1831 and had a large family of sixteen children. Her parents were John Prater and Susannah Rice Prater (1777-1845). His parents were Isaac Mulkey (b. March 4, 1777) and Mary Elizabeth Taylor Mulkey (b. April 10, 1776). Mulkey is an Irish (character) name derived from O’Maolcatha, meaning “stubborn,” or “like a bull.” Its spelling is sometimes Malcahy and Mulky, or, as we know it, Mulkey. William Ritch and Anna Prater Mulkey migrated from Franklin County to Habersham, and then to the area that became Union in 1832.

The list of their sixteen children was found in a family Bible, and recorded from that to Mulkey family listings. The Bible was in the possession of a grandson, John Preston Mulkey, a son of William’s son John Posey Mulkey. Dates had not been given for the earlier children’s births. Here are William Ritch and Anna Prater Mulkey’s sixteen children, not necessarily in order of birth:

(1) A daughter Mulkey (Could this child whose name was not listed be the Morgan T. Mulkey who married George Lewis in Union County on December 6, 1857, and whose ceremony was performed by the Rev. Elisha Hedden, noted preacher of that time?)
(2) Isaac Van Buren Mulkey
(3) William Lafayette Mulkey
(4) Rebecca Catherine Mulkey
(5) Sarah Caroline Mulkey
(6) Irwin P. Mulkey
(7) Martha May Mulkey, b. May 29, 1833, married A. Burton Cook on April 12, 1854, with the Rev. Alfred Corn, noted minister of the mountains at the time, officiating.
(8) Mary Ann Mulkey, b. September 24, 1834
(9) John Posey Mulkey, b. March 4, 1836, married Nancy C. Lewis on August 26, 1858, with the Rev. David Meadows officiating.
(10) Leander Hansel Mulkey, b. July 3, 1839, was a private in Company B, 23rd Regiment, Georgia Volunteer Infantry, enlisted August 31, 1861, Confederate Army; discharged in Yorktown, VA due to deafness.
(11) Jacob Belgalee Mulkey, b. 1841
(12) Vetland Elizabeth Mulkey, b. July 26, 1844, d. April 8, 1919, married Pinkney Marion Bell (1845-Oct. 10, 1928) in Cherokee County, NC in 1845, son of David and Alzira Williams Bell. Pinkney worked at the copper mines in Isabella, Polk County, Tennessee and died in Polk County October 10, 1928.
(13) Susan Mulkey, b. January 1, 1846, married William H. Jory (b. 1855 in England). He worked at the copper mines in Polk County, Tennessee.
(14) David Franklin Mulkey, b. 1847.
(15) Caleb Caradine Mulkey, b. June 27, 1848, married Martha Sims on July 22, 1866 in Cherokee County, NC. They moved to Colorado and then on to Mehoma, Marion County, Oregon.
(16) Infant Daughter Mulkey, died January 14, 1854. This was Anna’s last-born child. Could it be that the baby was born January 1, 1854 and Anna died in childbirth, with the baby living only fourteen days? This seems possible.

In other information gleaned about William Ritch Mulkey, we learn that he was a farmer and a Baptist preacher. William and Anna Mulkey were listed as members of Choestoe Baptist Church where he was elected church clerk on September 12, 1835. As a minister of the gospel, William R. Mulkey was present at the organizational meeting of Pleasant Grove Baptist Church established May 25, 1844 as an arm of Choestoe Baptist Church.

Mulkey family members were buried at the Harkins Cemetery in Coopers Creek District, several in unmarked graves and with three Mulkey stones marked. These are of Audrey P., 1910-1964, Ella Jane, ? – 1944, and Frank W., 1912-1987. Records show that Mulkey children attended the Corinth School in Coopers Creek District.

William Ritch Mulkey married, second, to Lucy Clements in Union County on October 15, 1854 with Rev. J. W. Thurman performing their ceremony. She was born September 28, 1825. Her husband was sixteen years her senior. Genealogy records state that William and Lucy had eight children. Only seven are listed. The other, counted, may have been her daughter Lucy brought to live in the household when she and William married. Her name was Martha Clements. Since names of only seven were found for Lucy and William, I will list her daughter as number one—her child brought to the marriage:

(1) Martha Clements, b. July 25, 1845, d. August 4, 1918, married E. W. Shelton of Fannin County, Georgia. Known children of William and Lucy:
(2) Hannah Jane Mulkey (b. about 1855)
(3) George Washington Mulkey (b. about 1856)
(4) Louisa Burnette Mulkey, b. November 22, 1857
(5) Zelpha Adaline Mulkey, b. September 11, 1859
(6) Lucy Adelaide Mulkey, b. September 20, 1863.
(7) Margaret J. Mulkey, b. August 10, 1865, Cherokee Co. NC
(8) Joseph A. Mulkey, b. July 13, 1867, Cherokee Co., NC
William Ritch Mulkey and his wife Lucy migrated to Denver, Colorado, probably because some of his older children went west. William died in Denver, Colorado on November 24, 1886. He was buried in the historic Riverside Cemetery in Denver where even today his marked grave can be found in Lot 113, block 21. After William’s death, his widow Lucy returned to Georgia and lived with her daughter, Martha Clements Shelton in Fannin County where Lucy died December 21, 1914. She was interred in the Shelton Family Cemetery in that county.

The next time you traverse Mulkey Gap Road, cross Mulkey Gap or see the clear waters of Mulkey Creek, think of William Ritch Mulkey, his first wife Anna and his second wife Lucy and the large family of 23 children William reared. These places were named in their honor.

c 2010 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Sept. 2, 2010 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


  1. I am a direct descendant of this man/family. Her name is shown at as "Hannah Mulkey." thank you for this informative article. I will send it to my daughter, who is compiling a family tree for her son.
    Sharida Cox, Daughter of Harry Ray Mulkey, son of Ernest and Josephine Mulkey

  2. I believe I'm a direct decendant of William Lafayette Mulkey, whom is buried poss. At shoal Creek Baptist Church in dawsonville, ga
    His son would be Jesse James Mulkey
    Daughter Clara Mulkey ( now Cochran)
    Daughter Sandra Ray ( now Maxie)
    Daughter Jennifer cowart (me, which I am now a Burnett)
    This is not all of the line just from great great grandpa to me!!