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Rev. John Wright Carlton

By Spessard Stone



John Wright Carlton, a pioneer settler of Mt. Pisgah, Florida, was a Methodist minister and farmer.

John Wright Carlton was born February 23, 1818 in Sampson County, North Carolina. (His tombstone is difficult to read and may be Feb. 28.) With his parents, John Carlton and Nancy Ann (Alderman) Carlton, Wright, as he was generally known, moved in the early 1820s to Georgia, settling in Bulloch County, then Thomas County about 1825.

John Wright Carlton moved to Madison County, Florida, probably in the mid-1840s. In Madison County on November 15, 1855, he married Mrs. Susan Lee (Cason) Murphy, born October 20, 1830 in Lowndes County, Georgia, daughter of Silas and Abigail (Langford) Cason and the widow of Arnold Murphy, who died in 1855. By her first marriage Susan had a son Garrett Murphy (1850-1934), who became a successful cattle rancher in Myakka, Florida and later a prominent Bradenton, Florida businessman and civic leader.

Silas Cason, son of Dennis Cason, was born December 17, 1799 and died July 13, 1862 in Madison County, Florida, with burial in Old San Pedro Cemetery. His wife, Abigail (Langford) Cason, was born 1804 and died October 29, 1870. In 1830, the couple was living in Lowndes County, Georgia, where they were members of the Primitive Baptist Church. In the 1830s, they resettled in Madison County, Florida. Of their eight children, three eventually settled in South Florida: Susan Lee at Mt. Pisgah, Martha Jane (Mrs. John Sales Carlton) at Fort Green, and Dennis Marion Cason at Wauchula.

A Methodist minister, J. W. Carlton was admitted February 9, 1846 to the Florida Conference of the Methodist Church at its second session (the first was Feb 6, 1845 at Tallahassee) at Monticello. In the third conference, convened in Quincy, J. W. Carlton, "a man of feeble health and fervent piety," was discontinued. At the sixth conference at Madison in 1850, John W. Carlton was admitted. It is believed J. W. Carlton and John W. Carlton were the same.

Rev. Carlton, according to Mrs. Ruby Cason Iliff, reared his children "around the family altar where they heard the gospel songs and reading of the holy scriptures and where very earnest prayers ascended to God."

After the death of his parents, John Wright joined the exodus of others of his family to South Florida and settled in Polk County in the Mt. Pisgah community, east of (now) Bowling Green. Polk County marriage records show that the Rev. Carlton performed his first marriage in that county to William J. Altman and Mary Kendrick on December 30, 1869, with many more following in the years to come.

June Freeman Beadle, former librarian of the Polk County Historical and Genealogical Library, in "The Peas Creek Camp Ground (Mother of South Florida Methodism)" in the December 1988 issue of the Polk County Historical Quarterly gave an interesting account of the Camp Ground which was located on forty acres along Camp Ground Branch, about two miles southeast of Homeland:

"They came by every road and they brought their strong backs, stalwart sons, hardworking wives and daughters, their spinning wheels, guns, axles and catch dogs, their creaking wagons, long cracking whips and cow herds, their collard and turnip seeds, corn and sweet potato slips, their Sacred Harp songbooks, Methodist hymnals and Bibles, and their own particular brand of frontier religion-democratic, free, non-liturgical, redemptive and exuberant."

Mrs. Beadle quoted Charles L. Wilson, who first came there in 1873 when ten years old, later reminisced in part that among the preachers who gathered to preach was the Rev. Wright Carlton, who lived near Bowling Green. He also cited the Rev. Wright Carlton, who lived at Pisgah in Polk County near Bowling Green, being among those who brought their families who housed them in temporary large tents stretched annually.

Susan Lee Carlton died September 9, 1888. Rev. John Wright Carlton died January 13, 1894. They are buried in Mt. Pisgah Cemetery.

Issue of Rev. John Wright and Susan Lee (Cason) Murphy Carlton:

1. Joseph Bascom Carlton, born November 8, 1857; died July 3, 1945; married (1) January 26, 1879, Martha Ann Peeples; (2) Mrs. Louella Ford.
2. Gabriella Julia Carlton, born September 18, 1859; died 1940; buried Mt. Pisgah Cemetery; married on February 20, 1884, James Allen Durrance, son of William Hutto Durrance and Sarah Harriet (Robertson) Durrance.
3. Peter Jones Carlton, born September 29, 1861; died 1947; married on September 21, 1881(?), Ann Albritton, daughter of Thomas H. Albritton and Frances (Waldron) Albritton.
4. Lydia Lenora Carlton, born 1863; died 1865.
5. Lydia Mozelle Carlton, born April 1867(?); died November 30, 1952; married on March 20, 1884 Joseph Lemuel Durrance, son of John Rufus Durrance and Sarah (Williams) Durrance.
6. Marion Postell Carlton, born April 8, 1871; died January 27, 1953; married March 6, 1890 Ellen Ophelia Hancock, daughter of Shadrach Hancock and Sarah Jane (Knight) Hancock.
7. Martha Adeline Carlton, born July 16, 1873; died September 15, 1921; married May 5, 1887 Thomas J. Bryan.

References not cited: Milton D. Wilson, Descendants of Thomas Carlton, R.S.,Polk County Historical Commission; John C. Ley, Fifty-Two Years In Florida,1899; Ruby Cason Iliff.

This profile is adapted from The Herald-Advocate (Wauchula, Fla.) of May 3, 1990 and Lineage of John Carlton, 1998.

February 15, 2001, October 16, 2001, February 19, 2011