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Judi Hayes' Article on Elender Riley
Elender Riley was a Catawba Indian, born to the Chief of the Catawba Nation (not just a tribe), which was located in District of Darlington, South Carolina. According to the Creek Indian Nation, the Catawba Nation had Creek ties. Elender's family resided in South Carolina, but her birth on July 24, 1813, actually occurred in Orange Co., North Carolina, probably due to a brief excursion to North Carolina by her parents.
During the mass move of Indians, Elender's parents were either taken away or killed, and Elender was left alone. John Riley, Sr. discovered the little child wandering about and took her home, where he raised her along with his other twelve children. John Riley and his wife, Mary "Polly" Whitaker adopted the child and changed her native given name from *Ethalinda, to the Christian name of Elender. It was said John Riley was very fond of his daughter Elender. Evidently it was so, as John Riley and Mary "Polly" Whitaker are buried next to their daughter Elender and her husband, John Grady Ward. The graves are located at the Old Center Methodist Church in Henry County, Alabama, just over the Dale County line. Elender died on July 18, 1895 in Echo, Alabama. The story of how John Riley, Sr. discovered little Elender is very common knowledge among the Ward family members. Through the years, Elender's descendants have relayed the story to each subsequent generation.
Elender Riley and husband, John Grady Ward, left South Carolina and relocated to Dale Co., Alabama in 1833 and resided in Echo, fourteen miles east of Ozark.
Elender and John Grady Ward had the following nine children:
1- Robert E. Ward
2- William James Ward
3- Mary Ann Ward
4- Jasper Terrell Ward
5-Martha Ann Jincey Ward
6- Zinnamon Ward
7- Eliza A. Ward
8- Sarah Jane Ward
9- Lucinda Elender Ward
Several years ago cousin Harold Dick visited our cousin, Lola Ward Riley of Echo, Alabama. Lola was the wife of Louie Daniel Riley. Lola had in her possession a vintage tin-type photo of our great grandmother, Elender Riley Ward, dressed in full Indian regalia. In the photo, she wore a long fringed native Indian dress with a long strand of beads around her neck, as well as beads on her arm. Cousin Harold commented after viewing the photo of Elender, "She was stunningly beautiful". Others in the extended family have stated they have also seen the photo of Elender dressed in Indian attire.
In addition to verification of Elender's status as a Catawba Indian by the Creek Indians, family members have personal knowledge passed down by Mollie Ward Dick, who was the grandaughter of Elender Riley Ward. Mollie resided on the family farm in Echo next door to her grandmother Elender Riley Ward, and visited with her daily. They had a close rapport with each other. Mollie was 32 years old when her
grandmother Elender died at the age of 82. Mollie spoke often of Elender's Indian heritage to her children and grandchildren. After the death of cousin Harold Dick's mother, he and little sister Frances went to live with their grandmother Mollie on the farm. As they grew up, Mollie told them related stories about Elender's Indian heritage and how she was adopted by the Riley family. Elender's grandsons, John Owen Ward and Robert Frank Ward, also often spoke of Elender's Indian heritage to their family members. Elender's husband John Grady Ward also was of Creek Indian heritage. Our Native American heritage is a well-known fact among Ward family members.
* According to the information furnished by the Creek Indian Nation from their records, they suspect Ethalinda was Elender's native Catawba given name.
Submitted by Judi Hayes, great-great-great granddaughter of Elender Riley Ward.