Samuel Cenus Swilley was born in Washington County, Georgia on May 15, 1829 to Zenus Swilley and his wife, Cynthia Amans. Samuel’s great-great-great-grandparents were French Huguenots who came to Virginia in 1700 to seek refuge from religious persecution in their native land. His great-grandfather migrated to North Carolina, and his grandfather to Washington County, Georgia, where the family lived on the frontier and survived Indian attacks. In 1814, Samuel’s father, Zenas, served in the Georgia Militia and helped defend Savannah against British attack in the War of 1812.
In 1840, Samuel’s father moved his family from Washington County to a farm in Baker County, where Samuel grew to manhood. He married at least twice, maybe three times:

When the Confederacy called Samuel for service, he was living in Quincy, Florida, where he joined Co. B, 5th Battalion, Florida Calvalry on February 21, 1863. He was immediately assigned to the Quartermaster Corps in Quincy and served his entire enlistment there. It is probable that he fought in the Battle of Olustee, there in North Florida, on February 20, 1864. He was taken Prisoner of War in Tallahassee on May 18, 1865 and paroled soon afterward.

Samuel was a farmer most of his life. When he died in 1900, he owned a two hundred acre farm in Berrien County.



When I did the original research on the Swilley family, I was new to research and made many, many errors.  I had found Samuel Cenus Swilley in the 1850 Baker County, Georgia census with his father and, whom I now believe was his step-mother, Cynthia…..and I do not believe her maiden name was Amans – someone else gave me information about a completely different Zenas Swilley, which I attributed to my ancestor – I was wrong!

Then I found Samuel Cenus Swilley in the 1860 Mitchell County, Georgia, with his wife “M. J.”, whom I later found to be Mary Jane McCullars, and his mother-in-law, Mary (Maiden name unknown) McCullars, and his 1 year old daughter, Mary A. “Mollie” Swilley.

I have never found Samuel Cenus Swilley nor any of his family in the 1870 census, anywhere.  From the death certificate of Sara Jane “Jennie” Swilley Phillips Bozeman, I found the name of her parents – Samuel C. Swilley and Mary Jane McCullars.  From the 1910 Colquitt County, Georgia census, I found that Harriett Elizabeth Taylor was living with Sara Jane “Jennie” Phillips and described as “sister.”  The 1880 Berrien County, Georgia census shows Samuel Swilley as head of household; named in his family was 11 year old John Swilley (born about 1869).   Samuel was living with Nancy Parramore by 1871, for their son, William Whilfield Swilley was born that year.

After years and years of research, it is my finding that Samuel Cenus Swilley was married only twice; that his oldest 4 children – Mary A. “Mollie,” Harriett Elizabeth, Sara Jane “Jennie,” and John S. – were the children of Mary Jane McCullars; the remaining 7 children, born after 1870, were the children of Nancy A. Parramore.  Though I have found no supporting evidence, I BELIEVE that Mary Jane died soon after the birth of her 4th child in 1869 or 1870.

“Acina Bray” has never been identified, but I THEORIZE that she was the 1st wife of Zenas Swilley (1789 – after 1870) and mother of Samuel Cenus Swilley.  These are my reasons to believe that:
1)  Arentha/Arseny/Arency are names of daughters in many of those older Swilley families.  “Acina” could have easily been another spelling of that name, which took many forms.
2)  In the 1820 Washington County, Georgia census, “Senus Swilly” is shown on page 139b, line 6, age 26 to 45, with a female in the same age range; on line 7 is a Peter Bray, over age 45, with a female over age 45; on line 8 is a Benjamin Bray, between the ages of 26 – 45, and a female between the ages of 26 and 45.  Could Zenas/”Senus” Swilley have been married to the daughter of Peter Bray and the sister of Benjamin Bray?  I have never been able to find out!  The courthouse in Washington County has burned three times, since the Swilley family left there about 1838….there are NO county records for the time period the Swilleys lived there.

“Acina Bray” came into the picture because William Henry Hall gave information on his wife Mary A. “Mollie” Swilley Hall’s death certificate in 1934, that her mother was “Acina Bray.”  After further research, that was proven wrong.  William Henry Hall and Mary A. “Mollie” Swilley were 1st cousins (his mother was the sister of her father)…..he was elderly and perhaps confused, when he gave that information – could he have given the name of THEIR grandmother?  I think it is possible!

Please contact me at, if you wish to discuss this further.
Janice Newton Thurmond, Marietta, GA