Celebrating Chattanooga’s Suffragette From 100 Years Ago

Abby Was Lost, But Now She’s Found

Wednesday, August 12, 2020 - by Marilyn M. Long

One hundred years ago on August 18, 1920 Abby Crawford Milton (1881–1991) from Chattanooga played a prominent role in the passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. She was one of five Tennessee suffragettes celebrated for making Tennessee the “Perfect 36”. At that time, thirty- six states were required to pass an Amendment to the Constitution. There is a statue of the five women in Nashville. Abby was also the first President of the Tennessee League of Women Voters.

In doing research for Chickamauga Chapter NSDAR’s 125th Anniversary celebration, I found her. She is probably Chickamauga’s most famous member. She is definitely the only member who has her own Historic Marker in the city, located at the intersection of Georgia Ave. and McCallie. As time and memory had passed, she had been forgotten and no one in the chapter knew who she was or that she was a Chickamauga member. Abby was lost but now she’s found.

While doing that research for the 125th, the graves of all fourteen of the seventeen Charter Members buried at Forest Hills Cemetery in St. Elmo were visited. Forest Hills Cemetery Records list Mrs. George Fort Milton as buried there, and she is, but Abby is not there. The Mrs. Milton there is Caroline “Carrie” McCall Milton who was a Chickamauga charter member and the wife of George Fort Milton. Carrie died in 1897 of the complications of a miscarriage at the tender age of twenty-seven. Abby was George’s second wife and she was definitely not in Forest Hills. It has been printed widely and repeatedly, even on the Find a Grave Website, that Abby was there but I assure you she is not. So, the search began - Where Was Abby?

Her husband, George, died suddenly in 1924 at age fifty-five in Murfreesboro while attending a democratic campaign rally for William McAdoo. He had been the editor and owner of the “Chattanooga News”. Much to her credit Abby buried him next to his first wife. Abby was only forty-three at the time, but went on to help run and edit the newspaper with her stepson, George Fort Milton, Jr., the son of Carrie and George until the paper was sold in 1939. With the help of our chapter Registrar, Lynne Hill, we found that Abby had moved to Clearwater, Florida in 1950 to be near two of her three daughters transferring to the Clearwater DAR chapter. She wrote poetry books which sold well. After searching all the cemeteries in the area and having no success, I again turned to help from Lynne. Lynne has an internet site that I do not have and found the obituary for Abby who had lived to 110 years old in the Tampa-Tribune Times. Abby is buried at Sylvan Abbey Memorial Park, founded in 1853, in Clearwater between her two daughters, Frances Walker and Corinne Moore.

While in Florida on July 30th, my husband and I drove up from Longboat Key to visit Abby’s grave. We were very happy to find the cemetery a beautiful, well kept place. There are no tombstones, just flat markers. The graceful old trees covered with Spanish moss were a special setting. I brought a small bouquet of yellow roses, the symbol of the suffragettes, to lay on her grave. I had a little talk with her and apologized for having lost her, but now she wouldn’t need to worry because we had found her and she would be remembered for all her good and amazing accomplishments. Look for Abby on the internet she was a beautiful woman who truly put the Ten in Tennessee.

There is a stone and the Milton family monument in Forest Hills Cemetery for George Fort Milton, Jr. but he is not buried there either. He fought in World War I and when he died in 1955 at age 60, his second wife had him buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Even gravestones have errors.

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Marilyn M. Long   
Chickamauga Chapter NSDAR Archive and 125th
 Anniversary Chairman


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