Tri-City Ledger -

By Kevin McKinley
Guest Writer 

Local tied to the Bermuda Triangle


August 23, 2018

Pinkney McKinley's grave at Antioch Primitive Baptist Cemetery in Conecuh

On a recent trip to Conecuh County I found myself with a few minutes to spare so I stopped by the library in Evergreen to do some light research on a McKinley ancestor who had lived in Conecuh in the early 1900s but about which I knew little else about the gentleman.

Ms. Sherry Johnston, who is always a wealth of information on the area, gave me some valuable information on Mr. Pinkney McKinley and I greatly enjoyed my visit with her and Ms. Mattie McMillan from Newton, Mississippi who were in the genealogy room doing research on some of her ancestors.

People have often asked how I get the ideas or concepts for various articles. Many of them start the same way as this article started. Researching some relatively small thread of information leads to a bigger story and such was the case with Pinkney McKinley. Eventually, tracking down Pinkney McKinley would lead to a bigger story on Booker's Mill in next week's column.

Pinkney McKinley was born in 1864 in Monroe County, Alabama. He was the youngest brother to Isham B. McKinley, who fought in the War Between the States, Isham was captured in Tennessee by the Yankees and later in life delivered mail by sailboat in the Dauphin Island area.

Pinkney eventually married and moved to Conecuh County in the area near Booker's Mill. He is listed on the 1910 census as living at Gravella (Owassa) and having two children Thomas J. and James S. McKinley. He is also listed as being a widower.

Pinkney served in the area as a justice of the peace as well as a county commissioner for District 4, comprising of Beats 8-10, 14 and 16 of Conecuh County. He was a long serving commissioner having announced his initial candidacy on February 10, 1904 in the Evergreen Courant and continued to have been elected at least as late as 1924.

He later married Eliza J., who was his wife at the time of his death. His son Thomas J. McKinley joined the US Navy on June 29, 1917 during World War I. He soon found himself on the USS Cyclops. In the spring of 1918 the Cyclops went down in the Bermuda Triangle without a trace.

The Troy Messenger newspaper noted that several Alabama boys were on the ship and that there was no sign of enemy attack or explosion. Pinkney McKinley was notified by telegram of his son's disappearance. Some months later a false report surfaced that the ship had turned up in German custody somewhere in the European area, but this proved to be false. To this day the Cyclops is held as the largest US Naval loss of life not directly connected to combat in that more than 200 men and the ship disappeared without a trace.

Pinkney died August 25, 1936 and is buried at the Antioch Primitive Baptist Cemetery in Conecuh County near the Booker's Mill and Owassa area. His surviving son James S. McKinley went on to become an L&N Railroad foreman in the Birmingham area.

During a break in the monsoon like rains of Saturday August 19, 2018 Sondra and I made a trip to find his grave. Following this discovery, we went to Booker's Mill and found an interesting story all its own which will be recounted next week.

The book Shadows and Dust III: Legacies is now available for purchase. The hidden history of our area is documented through ten years of All Things Southern articles. Shadows and Dust III is available online at Lulu or by sending $35 (this includes shipping-the book cost without shipping is $30) to Kevin McKinley at PO Box 579 Atmore, AL 36054. Also available: Shadows and Dust I and II and Canoe: History of A Southern Town Shadows and Dust I and II and the Canoe book are available for $20 each.


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