The name Gresham, according to family historians, is derived from the French (Norman) le grgese, meaning "the green", combined with the English suffix "hame" or "ham". Others state that it is the combination of "gros", meaning "great", and the suffix "ham". Whether the actual meaning of the name "Green Home" or "Great Home", it was early given to a parish in the County of Norfolk, England and was taken as a surname because of the residence there of its first bearers. Another source says the surname Grisham appears to be locational in origin and is believed to be English. Its meaning may be "One who came from or lived near Gresham (grazing farm), in Norfolk." According to dictionaries of surnames, there are many spelling variations. They include Gresham, Gressham, Grissham, sometimes with an 's' tacked on to the end. In ancient British and early American records can be found variants such as Gresholme, Greshom, Greshamo, Gressum, Gressam, and others.


We have found one ancient lineage, which shows an Edward Gresham, living in Norfolk Co., England at the time of King Edward III and King Richard II. This was late in the 14th century. His son, John, a gentleman of Norfolk had a will dated 4 Nov. 1492.

There are several English Grishams who have established a significant place for themselves in history. They include Sir Richard Grisham (Gresham) (1485-1549), descendent of the Edward Grisham above. He was an English politician who was the Sheriff of London and Middlesex in 1531; served as Lord-Mayor of London in 1537' was knighted in 1537; and initiated the design for the Royal Exchange. Thomas Grisham (Gresham) (1519-1579), son of Sir Richard, was an English financier who was a member of Queen Elizabeth's First Council in 1558, was Ambassador to the Netherlands between 1559 to 1561; served as the Crown's Financial Agent in 1574; and, founded the Royal Exchange and Gresham College in London. He was one of the most "opulent and eminent citizens of his time."

After Sir Thomas Gresham died without male issue, the succession to the head of the House of Gresham reverted to his uncle Sir John Gresham. It was later descendants of Sir John Gresham who finally came to the American colonies. John Gresham came to Maryland and Edward Gresham came to Virginia. One source says that Edward came to Virginia ca 1650, to New Kent County and that he was the ancestor of the Virginia Grishams. There were many Greshams (also Grisham or Gressum) who fought in the American Revolution.


In Duplin County, North Carolina, or in that general area, Thomas Grisham and Ann Weeks were married about 1801-2. Ann had been married before and had one son who was born about 1800 and was still living in 1882. We do not know his name or anything else about him. Ann's maiden name was weeks but we don't know her married name before she married Thomas Grisham. Thomas was born about 1770 in North Carolina and died about 1830. There is some evidence that Thomas is buried at Crafts Mill in Jones County, North Carolina. This county adjoins Duplin County. Crafts Mill no longer exists and the family does not presently know where it was located. Ann was born about 1768 and died 7 July 1853. Thomas and Ann had five children, William born 1803, Willis Peal b. 1806, Thomas b. 1808, Celia Ann born 1811 and Lewis Cullen born 1820. Sometime in the early 1800's most of Thomas's children migrated to Limestone County, Alabama and settled in what was later to be known as the Lentzville Community. It is located in the northwest part of Limestone County and named for the Lentz family members who also settled there. We don't know exactly when the Grishams migrated. The Limestone County census reports are not completely enlightening. In the 1820 census has only a Robert Grisham. The 1830 census has only James R. Gresham and John Gresham. Only in the 1840 census do we seem to find our North Carolina Grishams. We find W. W. Grisham, which is probably William Washington. Lewis Cullen and Willis Peale are nowhere to be seen but this was before Lewis and Willis married. They may have been living with other family or still in North Carolina. we do find a Wm Grisham and a Jas Grisham who is probably the James R. Gresham of the 1830 census. We do not know the relationship of these people to our Grisham family.

Celia Ann, Thomas Grisham's only known daughter, married Dr. Whitfield, probably in Alabama. They had no children and they both are buried in Lentzville Cemetery. Both are listed in the 1850 census along with an Ann Grisham, age 80. She must have been Ann, mother of Celia Ann and her brothers.

The younger Thomas came to Alabama with his brothers but he was not able to bring his sweetheart with him. He later walked back to Beulaville, N.C. and married Barbary Bishop and they had a large family. Thomas and Barbary are buried in a small family plot just a short distance north of Beaulaville. The other three Grisham brothers, William, Willis Peal and Lewis Cullen, remained in Alabama and raised families.

Lewis Cullen Grisham died in 1853 at the age of 33 years from a disease called 'flux'. It took the lives of seven of the Grisham family in one week in 1853. One was Lewis' son, William Lawson, who died the same day as his father. We don't know where Lewis Cullen and his wife Susanna Elizabeth Speagle are buried but most of this family is buried in the Lentzville cemetery. We suspect both are buried there but without markers.


Green Washington Grisham was born in Limestone County, Alabama 9 December, 1843 to Lewis Cullen Grisham and Eliza Susannah Speagle. Green grew up living close to the Lentz family, playing with their children. He and John Wesley Lentz were great friends. The beginning of their adulthood was interrupted by the onset of the Civil War, which began when Green was about 18. We can only guess at the situations that developed as the various family members debated the issues and eventually chose sides in the conflict. According to one family historian, Green and John Wesley Lentz got on a train at Athens, traveled to Nashville and joined the northern army. However, military records show that Green joined the Federal Army in Huntsville, Alabama on the 29th of August, 1962. Green served in Company K, 1st Alabama Cavalry. He was discharged on 19 July 1865 in Nashville. His discharge paper says that he was 5 ft, 9 1/2 in. tall, light complexion, blue eyes and brown hair.

We don't know whether or not Green remained in Tennessee after his discharge. We do know that on 29 Jan. 1868 he married Georgia Ann Poteete in Limestone County, Alabama. We also know that he was back in Tennessee when his first child was born. One can only imagine the division in the family cause by having one of their own serving in the Yankee forces. Maybe he thought it prudent to remain in Tennessee until hard feeling from the South's crushing defeat settled down. Still, by 1871 he was back in Alabama where Luther Grisham was born.

The family got the migration fever in the early 1880's and they moved to Faulkner County, Arkansas along with other friends and relatives. The family's division, if it had ever occurred, must have been healed by then. When the family began their cross-country trek, they went together with their Goode kinfolks. Accompanying the Green Grisham family was W. R. Goode, a confederate soldier, and his family.

It was said that when the caravan of Alabama farmers left, someone left a dog at the house where they had lived. A night or two later they stopped in Memphis, Tennessee for the night. During the night, old dog Tray arrived at the campsite. One can only imagine the desperate lope of the frantic dog as he realized that his family had deserted him. Can't you just see the flopping ears and lolling tongue as he passed food, people and resting sites to arrive with panting breaths on the banks of the Mississippi? I can imagine the joy of the children as they all hugged the tired dog.

Amazingly, the modern descendents of the family did not realize that Green Grisham was a Federal soldier. In 1983, one descendent decided to join the Daughters of the Confederacy and she began to try to trace records of Green Grisham in the Confederate army. One researcher had already found records that indicated that Green was a Union soldier but no one took it seriously. Vernon Grisham was the proud possessor of the discharge but it was rolled tightly on a stick and efforts to unroll it gave the descendants uneasy moments, afraid it would be completely destroyed in that undertaking. Finally, it was taken to the archives in Little Rock and there careful experts made the unveiling. Lo and behold he was indeed a Union soldier!!! No Daughters of the Confederacy membership there!!

Green died at Holland, Arkansas on 10 October 1914 and was buried at Oakland Cemetery. Georgia Ann was born in Limestone County, September 6, 1852. She died September 5, 1924 and she is buried next to her husband. Her mother and father were George Poteete and Sarah Ann Barber.

To Green and Georgia's union were born at least twelve children. The oldest the family knew as Aunt Fressie who was born in Tennessee on 7 July 1869. She was a teenager when the family migrated to Arkansas. She married Wylie Lewellyn in Arkansas and to this union was born three children: Effie, Velma and Virgil. Wylie died and Fressie, who had the beautiful name of Fressnello Americano, married John Garrett. To this union came Agnes, and also to this union came separation, maybe even divorce.

Martin Luther Grisham, son of Green, was born in Alabama 9 Oct. 1871 and was eleven years old when the family moved to Arkansas in covered wagons.

Arthur Burris was the third son of Green. He was born in Alabama on 27 Jan. 1874 and was only nine years old when he died 8 April 1883. He sleeps beneath the trees in Lentzville Cemetery in Limestone County, Alabama.

Simon Orestes was born in Alabama on 24 April 1876, a twin of Roseletta (Rasseta) May. He went to Arkansas and there married Elizabeth Duran, a daughter of Brother Duran [Rev. Albert Ghee Duran]. To this union one son was born and died at birth. The couple reared three children: Dennis Dean, the son of Bro. Duran and Nannie Grisham, and two McGaha sisters, Velma and Naomi. They were children of another Duran daughter. Sim is remembered as a thin old man with arthritic hands, with eyes so keen and different than most people. He died 6 March 1949.

Little Roseletta May was born 24 April 1876 in Alabama and now sleeps in a tiny grave in Lentzville cemetery. She lived to be only four months old, dying 26 Aug. 1876. She was called Little Rose.

Lewis Washington Peal was born in Alabama on 18 Oct. 1878. He married Dora Tarlton from the Holland community. They were the parents of one son, Herman. Peal is remembered as a dapper elderly man who was poised and knowledgeable in world affairs, but he didn't like Alabama. He often referred to an incident in the Alabama "backwoods" where a neighbor walked up with a gun and tired to kill one of the men sitting on the porch. He died 7 Nov. 1938. Herman lived through some major and minor disasters in California. At a very early age he showed up at Elsie Dale (nee Hinkle)'s house just as she was leaving for a party at a friend's house. When she returned she found that Herman has passed away on the couch.

Some remember another son, George born 1879, but few of the family remember anything about him. The 1880 census of Limestone County, Alabama lists him. He must have died very early in his life.

Noble Ernest was born in Alabama on 5 Sept. 1881 and he too married an Arkansas girl named Nancy Elizabeth "Lizzy" Spruce. They moved to Texas briefly, returned to Arkansas, then to Arizona and finally to Southern California and lived their lives there. They eventually celebrated 60 years of marriage. Noble died in March 1963.

We suspect the Grisham and Goode migration to Arkansas took place about 1882. Although the family was supposed to be in Arkansas, Flora Hollis was born in Texas on 5 Feb. 1884. Flora grew up in Arkansas and married Luther Lewellyn. Flora died 20 March 1949 but Luther lived on many more years.

Flora and Luther were parents of four children: Haskell, Bessie, Bernard, and Gertrude. Ava often spoke of Bessie and Gertrude and in later years. Mildred Parham got to know Bessie quite well. She and her husband, Floyd Dunn, were the parents of two boys.

In October, 1886, Green and Georgia were in Holland, Arkansas. There Edith Pearl was born on 7 Oct. 1886 and there she grew up and married Ezra Hinkle. They had three children, Virgil, Camilla and Elsie Dale.

On 13 Jan. 1890 Virgil Thomas was born to Green and Georgia. According to records, he only lived to be a little over one year old, dying on March 16, 1891. He was buried in Oakland Cemetery.

Sarah Suzanna was born September 17, 1892, in Holland, Arkansas. She grew up in the little country town and married Willie McGaha of nearby Greenbrier. She died 19 June 1973.

Rualla Edna, born 23 Aug. 1895 was the last child of Green and Georgia Ann. She married Woodson Cummins and she lived in Michigan. She died in March 1969.


Martin Luther Grisham, son of Green, was born in Alabama on 9 October, 1871 and was eleven years old when the family moved to Arkansas. He married in Arkansas to Nancy Ellen Gibbs.

One family member thinks that Green went to Texas because he was a bootlegger and got caught with whiskey buried in sacks of cow feed being shipped through the mails. Others think this was not Green, but Luther. Indications are that Luther, the postmaster, decided to make some money on the side and ordered the whiskey, concealed in the sacks. When it was mailed, it became a federal offense. Green and Luther left Arkansas and went to Texas to a place near Paris. There Estella was born to Luther and Nannie. Her name was always "Texas" to the immediate family. When the family returned from Texas, Nannie became postmistress.

Luther died on 4 March 1912 of pneumonia. He only lived to be forty-one years of age. He was the father of eleven children, the smallest, Juanita, was only a baby when he died. Ava, his oldest, was planning to marry, but his death caused her to postpone her marriage to John Parham for a month. Verona married Paul Gibbs soon thereafter. Estella(Texas) married a man from Alabama, Henry Casteel, and moved to Alabama. Nannie was left with ten young children. The story is told that Bro. Duran (Rev. Albert Ghee Duran, 28 Feb. 1851-19 Jan. 1937) told another man, as Nannie arrived at church one day in a wagon loaded with kids, "That is the woman that I wish to marry! "The story goes on to stress the pleading of the man as he tried to discourage such a great undertaking. Bro. Duran was no "young" man. Bro. Duran insisted that the lady was the only one for him. Nannie did marry Brother Duran. Mildred Parham saw him once. He was sitting on his farm house porch in a cane bottom chair. He was gray and his hoary beard came to a point almost at his waist. He must have been a hundred years old but his eyes gleamed and tears began to roll down his cheeks as he recognized the children of "Nannie". He was the father of Nannie's youngest - a son named D.D. Duran who lost his mother to a stroke when he was only an infant. The children were separated with the older sisters taking the younger children and Uncle Sim Grisham taking the baby to rear as his own.

Ted, born after Estella, was in the army and reported dead. This was a mistake and when Ted showed up the trauma seemed to be too great for Nannie. The following day she died with a stroke. Ted went by the homes of Ava and Verona and they all went to Nannie's house for the night. Ava said that the next morning she took Kenon and went home while Ted went hunting. Ava said, "You know, we even left Mama with the dishes! "Of course, we have all done that! Anyway, Carmen said that she was outside the back door and heard her mother making a strange noise. She had been to school and come home for her lunch. This was on the table waiting for the school-age children and Nannie had laid down on the bed because she didn't feel good. Carmen called someone and found that her mother had suffered a stroke - she lived only a short time. When Ted came in from the fields he fainted on the porch from the shock. Nannie died on 21 Feb. 1919. She was only 42 years old.

Verona was pregnant at the time and when her child was born a few months later, she died but the baby named Travis Gibbs lived. He was reared by his daddy and a step mother. Travis died in 1974.

Estella had moved to Alabama and when her mother died, the message was sent to her by mail. Communications took time to get long distances during that era. Ava said that she wrote Estella a letter telling of the dreadful news, and to warn her of impending tragedy, she bordered the letter with black ink.

Estella wrote to Ava and told her to never bury any more of her people without her presence at the funeral. When Verona died a few months later, Ava refused to allow the funeral to take place without Estella who still lived in Alabama. The body was brought from the residence down on the Arkansas River to be at Oakland Church at four o'clock. Estella, who had been informed of this latest tragedy, had not arrived. Five o'clock, then dark, still the Alabama folks had not arrived. Storms raged all night and the little frame church building moaned and creaked in the strong winds. Lightening cracked as the people huddled in the little church with only an oil lamp to brighten the dismal scene. A vigilance that amounted to a night long wake was kept as the hours dragged by. Morning finally dawned on a bleak community and the folks were still absent and unheard from. At about mid-afternoon the sister came in and when she walked into the church house she fainted from exhaustion, grief and shock. There just was no easy way to receive news of the death of a loved one.

The children of Luther and Nannie were Ava Vienna b. 18 Dec. 1893, Alla Verbena "Little Jo" born 4 May 1895, Alma Verona born 8 Dec. 1896, Eula Estelle "Texas" born 14 Aug. 1898, Theodore Vernon "Ted" born 28 Jan. 1901, Grady Urmond born 24 March 1903, a twin of Grady who died within a month of being born, Calvin Vesta "Dutch" born 10 May 1905, Flossie May born 30 April 1907, Carmen Opal b. 22 April 1909 and Juanita Carnell "Dink" born 12 April 1911.


  • 1. Research by Media Research Bureau, 1110 F St., Washington, DC. See also the book "The Gresham Family", pub. 1923 by The Genealogical Bureau of Virginia.
  • 2. Compendium of American Genealogy, first Families of America, Vol. IV, p.748.


Grisham Photo Album