Some Portis Family History

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John R Portis (1863–1903)

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Dora Alice Smith (1871–1961)

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Sons: Walter (1899–1988), Henry (1891–1963), Claude (1894–1939), & possibly Jeff (1899–1971)

Information on this page was compiled from various sources by Archie R Portis Jr. I would appreciate notification of any errors. I have extensive information on our ancestors that I am willing to share. I also would appreciate any family pictures and additional information that you would be willing to share. Family information about living people, not publicly available (census, websites, etc), is not presented. I can be contacted at . Thanks!

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Henry Robertson (1891–1963) & Ada Martin (1896–1979) Portis Family


(which son is missing?)


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Walter Taylor Portis (1899–1988) Family

Not pictured:

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Daughters of Walter Taylor Portis:

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Walter & Myrtle Alice Spicer (1901–1992) with first child Brooksie (1921–1923)

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Robert William Portis (1868–1920) Family (brother of John R)

A short history of our direct Portis line

John Portis (abt 1638 – abt 1707)
born in Newbattle Scotland; several sources indicate that he came over with several brothers named Porteous to Isle of Wight, VA. One source indicates a marriage to Jane Exum in 1665. He is mentioned in several land transfers in the Isle of Wight and he left a will mentioning wife, Jane, and children Thomas, Susannah, and George.
George Portis (1685 – 1775)
at some date moved to Edgecomb Co NC (before subdivision and the formation of Nash and other counties) and left a will naming children Ann, William and John. Son John also left a will that was challenged in court by his son Ira. About 1818 Ira moved to Clarke Co Alabama and helped found the town of Suggsville. Ira had a large family with many sons of note. Some of Ira's sons moved to Texas.
James Parnell Portis (abt 1755 – abt 1845)
There are no extant historical documents showing his father, but DNA evidence establishes that he is a descendant of George as it links our line with two other descendants of George Portis. The spelling of his middle name varies. James Portis listed in the1790 (Chatham, NC as Pourtis), 1800 (Hillsboro, Randolph, NC), 1810 (Greensboro, Guilford, NC) and 1820 census (Surry, NC). In the1830 census, James and son Allen are listed together in Surry Co.
Allen Portis (1795 – 1880)
listed in 1840 census in Surry, NC. Other Portis heads of families listed are William and Ira and based on their ages, they are likely all brothers. 1850 is the first census that lists all family members. In the 1850, 1860, and 1870 Census he is in Patrick, VA. In 1822, a Marriage Bond was made in Surry Co between Allen and Anny Reed; also naming Isaac Reed (presumed father). Anna's headstone listing birth and death dates , husband Allen, and marriage date is in an abandoned cemetery off of Nurse Rd, in Surry Co. At least four other unidentified graves are located there. Dec 25, 1850 a Marriage Bond between Allen Portis and Sarah Jones was made in Surry Co.
James Allen? Portis (1834 – aft 1900)
listed in 1850 Census with Allen and in 1860 Census living with Allen and Sarah. He is also in the 1870 (with wife Julia A), 1880 and 1900 Census – all in Patrick Co, VA. There is no clear documentation of Allen as his middle name. The Portis Family Cemetery in Patrick Co was created from part of his homestead.
John R Portis (1863 – 1903)
listed in 1900 Patrick Co census with wife Dora A, sons Henry, Floyd S (actually Claude!), Walter and half sister Zina B Smith. Patrick Co Marriage certificate (02 Dec 1886) lists the parents and James & Julia Portis, Texana Smith. In the 1880 Census, he is listed with younger brothers and sisters: James L, Annie J, Robert W, Mary F, Sarah M, Rufus M and Cusie L. No documentation of his full middle name has been found as yet.

Portis, Kansas

Portis Kansas was named after Thomas Jefferson Portis (1827-1899), a railroad VP and lawyer with the Missouri Pacific railroad (St Louis). There is a Portis Avenue in St Louis. Thomas J is the son of Thomas Portis (b. abt 1795, Nash, NC – d. 1840 Clarke, AL).

From The St. Louis Street Index:

Portis Avenue (N-S).
Commemorates Thomas J. Portis, an attorney for the Missouri Pacific Railroad in the 1880s. His son, Thomas G. Portis, married Sue Russell, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Charles S. Russell, and eventually became a partner in the Parker-Russell Mining and Manufacturing Company. Originated in the Gartside’s Subdivision of the Prairie des Noyers in 1889. Between Arsenal and Connecticut streets, it was Neggeman Avenue until 1891.

From Wikipedia:


Portis is located on the north fork of the Solomon River. Since 1871 it has been an ideal trading point because of its location. When it first became a town in May 1879 it was named Bethany. The Central Branch Railroad made Bethany one of its stations, but years later, when they sold it to the Missouri Pacific Railroad it made for a second Bethany along the same railroad. Because the Missouri Pacific was embarrassed by having two stops with the same name along the same route, they wanted to change one of the town's names. By mutual consent, they decided to change the name of Bethany to Portis rather than changing the Bethany, Missouri stop. They renamed it Portis after the Vice-President of the Missouri Pacific.

Cultural references

A memorial was put up in this small city in honor of Melvin “Tubby” Millar. Millar was the animator of the Looney Tunes cartoon character, Porky Pig. The Millar Memorial reads: “In memory of Melvin Tubby Millar, animator for Looney Tunes Porky Pig cartoons and assistant to Friz Freleng, creator of Porky Pig.” Millar included his hometown name into many of his cartoon episodes, including:

  1. In Porky's Pet (King, 1936) the train station has a poster in the background reading “When in Portis, Stop at Millar Manor”.
  2. In Bingo Crosbyana (Freleng, 1936) there is a matchbox with the name “Portis Matches” and a wine glass with the label saying “90 percent Portis”.
  3. A crate in the episode Porky of the North Woods (Tashlin, 1936) reads “#2 Portis Kan”. It is apparent by the label that the word “Kansas” did not get finished, thus ending with just “Kan” and half of an “S”.

Cartoon stills from the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies Hidden Gag Site:

A poster stating “When in Portis, Stop at Millar Manor” in Porky’s Pet (King, 1936)
Portis matches in Bingo Crosbyana (Freleng, 1936)
”90 percent Portis” wine in Bingo Crosbyana (Freleng, 1936)
A crate reading “#2 Portis Kan” in Porky of the North Woods (Tashlin, 1936)

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A sign reading “Portis, 208 miles” in Porky's Road Race (Tash, 1937)
A book entitled “Portis” in Sniffles and the Bookworm (Jones, 1939)

Portis Hats

Founded by Jacob C Portis an immigrant from Lithuania via Canada circa 1876. Upon immigration he had changed his name to Portis. He can be found in the 1910 Census, Cook Co IL. Various sons, including some of the founders of the hat company can be found in the Social Security Death Index and the 1920 Census in the Chicago area.

From Time Magazine:

MANUFACTURING: Five Peaceful Hatters

On Chicago’s South Side 60 years ago Jacob Portis proved better at raising a family than at selling real estate: his eight boys had to sell newspapers. Milton Portis, the eldest (now 62), worked his way through medical school. The two youngest, Bernard and Sidney (now 42 and 45), were put through by their older brothers. Three others, Isadore, Arnold and Theodore, went to work for a hat firm and in 1914 they and the remaining two brothers, Lyon and Henry, set up Portis Brothers Hat Co. They had $23,000 to start with, half borrowed from Dr. Milton, half from, others. Came the War. First their business dwindled, then they got established. Today Portis Brothers makes about 1,000,000 hats a year, ranks about tenth in the industry. Last week at its 25th annual meeting Treasurer Henry Portis announced that its capital stood at $400,000, its surplus at $100,000, its 1938 net at $39,000. Its profits do not make Portis Brothers Hat Co. big business, but its management is unique. Soon after the five Portis boys formed their firm, they decided to run the company on the basis of all for one, one for all. For 25 years, they have drawn identical salaries. Each took a title for the sake of convention, but each has an equal voice in the management. Today they are as indistinguishable as five hats on a closet shelf. All are stocky, all about five feet ten. Not only the five hatters but their three doctor brothers, 82-year-old mother and three sisters live within eight blocks of each other. Six of the Portis clan drive Buicks. All have bridge and golf as hobbies. The four who work in the Chicago plant drive there together, arriving sharply at 8:15. Seven of the brothers have two children apiece. One has three. In 25 years they have hardly ever disagreed. Says Henry proudly: “We put business ahead of profits and it worked.”

From a website hornoring Alan Mark Portis (1926–2010), an American solid-state physicist decended from Jacob:

Portis Patents

Patent numberPublication dateInventorDescriptionExample image
311,362 Jan 27, 1885 James W (William) Portis (1842–1931), Calhouns, LA Mechanical Power Movement Device
463,546 Nov 17, 1891 Silas Portis (1873–1933), Monrovia, IN Gate-Worker, a mechanical device in which a carriage wheel is used to open a gate, which then closes on the other side.

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551,337 Dec 10, 1895 Thomas G Portis (1855–1939), St. Louis, MO Improved carbon arc for use in lamps – has increased lifetime.
744,608 Nov 17, 1903 John W (Wylie) Portis (1850–1918), Buies Creek, NC Electric Program-Clock to ring vibrating electrical bells at various points and various intervals for schools, factories, etc.

Charles McColl Portis

From Wikipedia:

Charles McColl Portis (born December 28, 1933) is an American author best known for his novels Norwood (1966) and the 1968 classic Western novel True Grit (1968), both adapted as films. The latter also inspired a film sequel and made-for-TV movie sequel. A new film adaptation of True Grit was released in 2010.

Charles Portis was born in 1933 to Samuel Palmer and Alice Waddell Portis in El Dorado, Arkansas. He was raised and educated in various towns in southern Arkansas, including Hamburg.

During the Korean War, Portis enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and reached the rank of sergeant. After receiving his discharge in 1955, he enrolled in the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. He graduated with a degree in journalism in 1958.

Charles Portis' ancestors are:

David Y Portis

Married Rebecca Cummings (previously engaged to William Barrett Travis of Alamo Fame). There is no evidence of any children.

From The Texas State Historical Association (article by Julia L Vivian):

PORTIS, DAVID Y. (ca. 1813–1883). David Portis, attorney and public official, was born around 1813 in North Carolina and probably moved to Texas after the Texas Revolution. He practiced law with John W. Portis in Houston in 1839 and in 1840 or 1841 moved to Austin County. He replaced James H. Kuykendall, who had resigned, as representative from Austin County in the House of the called session of the Sixth Congress in 1842 and was reelected to the Seventh Congress. On December 28, 1843, he married Rebecca Cumings, daughter of the Rebekah Cumings who was one of Stephen F. Austin’s Old Three Hundred colonists. In January 1845 Portis was chairman of an annexation meeting at San Felipe. He represented the Seventeenth District, comprising Austin, Colorado, Fort Bend, Lavaca, and Wharton counties, in the Senate of the Third Legislature, 1849–50, and in 1853 served as a delegate to the state Democratic party convention at Washington-on-the-Brazos. The United States Census of 1860 listed Portis as owning seventeen slaves and over 35,000 acres with real property valued at $100,000 and personal property valued at $20,000. He represented Austin County in the Secession Convention of 1861. Portis seems to have lived the remainder of his life in Austin County and to have died there in February 1883.


Texas House of Representatives, Biographical Directory of the Texan Conventions and Congresses, 1832–1845 (Austin: Book Exchange, 1941). Ralph A. Wooster, “An Analysis of the Membership of the Texas Secession Convention,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly 62 (January 1959).

David Y and John Wesley Portis (1818–1902) were brothers. John became a wealthy lawyer, land and slave owner in Suggsville, Clarke Co AL. In the Civil War, he rose to the rank of Colonel of the 42nd Alabama Infantry Regiment.

A new gravesite marker for relatives of David Y Portis, in the Odd Fellows Cemetery in San Antonio, TX. The cemetary’s books indicate that wife Rebecca and a few others are buried in this plot — but not David.