Mahalia Hunley: The Tender One

This is the story of my great grand aunt, Mahalia Hunley. While researching the siblings of my great grandfather Harrison, I was instantly drawn to Mahalia’s unusual name. Apparently, Mahalia means the “tender one” in Hebrew.

Mahalia, who went by “Haley,” was born in September 1889 in Lawrence County, Kentucky. On November 12, 1908, at the age of 19, Haley married George Albert Miller. According to Haley’s daughter Roxie, Haley’s brothers did not approve of George and sent him on a “wild goose chase” from which he sickened and never returned. George died of tuberculosis in April 1911, one week before Roxie was born.

In addition to Roxie, Haley had a son named Kelly Miller, also known as “Dolly.” After her husband’s death, Haley worked in a restaurant in Louisa, Lawrence County, Kentucky. She would bring food to Roxie and Kelly that the restaurant customers left on their plates. On September 29, 1914, at the age of 25, Haley died of a hemorrhage.

After Haley’s death, Roxie and Kelly lived with my great grandfather Harrison in Betsy Layne, Floyd County, Kentucky. However, Harrison had been injured in the coal mines and was unable to keep them. Therefore, Roxie and Kelly were raised by their uncle, George Mullins and his wife Mindy.


My great, great grandfather Silas Hunley and his grandson Kelly Miller. 


Kelly (center) and Roxie Miller (right) as adults. Hazel Daniels, the woman on the left, is Kelly and Roxie’s half-sister. She was raised in Virginia.


Kelly Miller, his wife Myrtle Burke, and their daughters.

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