Rufus Joseph Tillman, Sr. was born on January 10, 1897 to William Henry Tillman and Henrietta (née Glover) Tillman. William and Henrietta were married in 1889.
In 1900, Rufus lived in White, GA in Jones County. This was also referred to as Militia District 360. The census enumerator estimated he was about three years of age, but recorded his relationship to the head of household as “daughter.”
Rufus lived with this family in a rented home on a farm. His siblings in the home were: Mathis/Matthew (age 10), Roberta (age 7), and Emma (age 5). Mathis and Robert were attending school at the time of this census.
Ten years later, Rufus was the age of 13 and still residing in White, Jones County, GA. The family still lives in a rented house of a farm. It is recorded in the 1910 Census that Rufus was able to read and write and was earning a wage as a laborer on the farm. The siblings in the home with him in 1910 were: Matthew/Mathis (age 19), Roberta (age 17), and Emma (age 15).
Rufus Tillman, Sr. registered for the WWI draft on June 5, 1918. He was 21 years old. The registration form indicates that Rufus was born and lived in Round Oak, GA. Though both are in Jones County, it’s different from what the census records report.
On December 23, 1924, Rufus Tillman married Bessie Carter in Polkville, NC. Rufus was 27 years old and Bessie was 19 years old. The ceremony was officiated by D.H. Hearse and witnessed by Jessie M. Grigg and Morris Milson(?).
In the 1930 Census, Rufus was head of his own household with four children: Rufus, Jr. (age 4), Murrell(sic) (age 3), Ethelene (age 2), Lucile(sic) (age 2 months). He and Bessie had been married for almost six years.
The census enumerator recorded Rufus’ age as 29 years, but I estimate that he was probably about 33 years old at the time. He and Bessie lived on a farm in a house that they owned on Cap Jackson Road in Mountain, Walton County, GA. He is listed as a Veteran of WWI and working on his “own account” in the farming industry as a farmer.
The 1940 Census has Rufus Tillman’s age recorded as 38 years, but my estimation is that he should have been about 43 years old. He and Bessie still live in the same residence noted in the previous census. Rufus is still working on his “own account” and earned a total of $200 in 1939. This census also notes that Rufus Tillman completed the 8th grade.
He and Bessie had been married for about 16 years in 1940 and have eight children: Rufus, Jr. (age 14), Mary(sic) Bertha (age 12), Ethelene (age 11), Loucile(sic) (age 10), Jeraldine(sic) (age 8), Almia(sic) Lee (age 5), McKinley (age 3), L.O.(sic) Dennis (age 2).
In total, Rufus and Bessie had 13 children: Rufus, Jr. (1925-2006), Merrell Bertha (1927), Ethelene (1928-1964), Lucille (1930-2015), Geraldine (1931), Mathis Duelon (1933-1938), Arlonia (1935), McKinley (1936), Ello Dennis (1938), William Garland (1940-2008), Lauravene (1942), Emma Lizzie (1944), and Bessie Jean (1946). Rufus remained married to Bessie until her death on February 18, 1946.
Rufus J. Tillman, Sr. died on April 12, 1972 in Lancaster, SC. His first funeral was held at the church he pastored in South Carolina. His second funeral was held at Prospect AME Zion Church in Monroe, GA. He is buried in Prospect AME Zion Church cemetery.
EDIT 5/31/2016: Oral history from my grandmother, Merrell Bertha, states that Rufus Joseph Tillman, Jr., my great-grandfather had cancer. He suffered a seizure in the ambulance and died on the way to the hospital.