A to Z – B is for Benjamin Berry Pickett

a2z-h-smallA to Z Blog Challenge

B is for Benjamin Berry Pickett

Ben was born November 15, 1893 in Lauderdale County, Mississippi. He was the second of six children born to Joseph Lawson Pickett and Caledonia “Callie” Fisher. Five boys and one girl. Joseph died in 1910, leaving Callie with young children between the ages of 6 and 13. There wasn’t much money. Their home had no ceiling, only the Cyprus shingles above their heads. The floors had cracks in the wood where one could see the chickens running under the house. They were, in a word, poor.

moonshineIn 1919, the entire nation had gone dry when prohibition was passed, and the boys needed a way to make money. There was no better way in that south than by making moonshine.

All of the boys, Robert Elbert “Ebb”, Ben, Joe Jr, Mark, and Clyde had moonshine stills. By this time, the three older boys had their own homes and families but came back to the family farm to run their stills.

On July 10, 1924, a Federal Prohibition agent with an itchy trigger finger, Dan Cleveland, bought some ammo at a local store and said to the clerk, “I’m going to start me a Pickett cemetery.” He blackmailed one of the local boys who had been running moonshine for the Picketts to show him the locations of the stills.

That morning, all of the boys except Mark were there. Fifteen-year-old Clyde had a pistol and twenty-year-old Ben had a shotgun. The others were unarmed. When the revenuer approached the scene, he aimed at Ben and yelled, “Put your guns down!” After that, it was mayhem.

At the end of the bloody gunfight, Cleveland was dead, Ben was shot in the shoulder, and the boys high-tailed it out of there in Ben’s Packard.

It had been raining all day and the tire tracks were easy to follow. By nightfall, the boys were taken into custody and placed in the local jail.

parchman-1200x695During the trial, witnesses testified that Cleveland was heard to say he was going out to kill Picketts, and that he had no intention of going out to simply shut down stills. Ben also testified that Cleveland shot first. The State didn’t waiver. Both Ben and Clyde were sentenced to life in Parchman Penitentiary. Ebb and Joe were convicted of distilling and both received short sentences. They resumed moon-shining upon their release.

In October of 1928, Joe was hauling some pure alcohol up from New Orleans and ran into a Mississippi police barricade. His car was riddle with bullets and he died at the scene.

In Spring of 1933, Ben and Clyde were released on good behavior.

Ben was my great grandfather. He was married to Eula Keene. Read her story here.

ben and eula

On This Day in 1899

On This Day in 1899, this cute little girl was born to Thomas Gilbert Lafayette Keene and Sarah Elizabeth “Bettie” Brown. I’ve written about her before as she was one of my favorite people in the whole world. She was my great grandmother, and I had her in my life until I was eighteen years old.

Earl Vandorn and Eula KeeneEula Ouida (WEE-duh) Keene Pickett was born in Lauderdale County, Mississippi and lived there her whole life. She had an older 1/2 sister from her mother’s first marriage and two older biological sisters. She also had two older brothers and one younger brother (shown in the photo), and she had a brother who died as an infant before she was born.

At the age of 17, she married Benjamin Berry Pickett. The Pickett clan was a wild bunch, caught up in moonshine stills, run-ins with local law enforcement, as well as a shoot-out with a revenuer (tax collector) over a moonshine still that landed her husband in jail for a time.

 

 

I didn’t know much about her life when she was alive – the Keenes didn’t speak much of the past – more on that later – but as I started looking at that side of the family through ancestry research, I found her to be quite fascinating. She had a son at the age of 18 and a daughter at the age of 19 (my grandmother). Life seemed to be going along as expected.

At the age of 22, things began to turn sour.

In September of 1921, he father died. She was six months pregnant with her third child. In December she gave birth to a daughter and named the child Fleta Clarice after her 1/2 sister. Though fourteen years apart, the two sisters must have had a great relationship, as a few months before, Fleta had a daughter and named her Eula.

Seventeen months later, Fleta Clarice died of pneumonia. They held the funeral in their living room.

pickett fleta clarise headstoneThe Meridian Star, May 8, 1923

 Fleta Marie (Clarice) Pickett Born: December 1, 1921 in Lauderdale County, MS 

Died: May 8, 1923 in Lauderdale County, MS 

Fleta Marie (Clarice) Pickett Fleta Marie Pickett, 17-month-old daughter of Ben Berry and Eula Keene Pickett, who reside near Zero, MS., passed away this morning at 4 o’clock. Funeral services will be held from the residence Wednesday morning at 10 o’clock. Interment is to follow in Fisher Cemetery. 

A month later, Eula’s sister Fleta died at the age of 38.

This was just before the bloody shoot-out with the revenuer which landed Ben in jail from 1924 to somewhere around 1933. I’m glad Eula didn’t endure those tragedies without her husband by her side, but he certainly wasn’t home in 1926 when Eula’s mother passed away.

These tragedies helped me to understand why she was such a woman of faith. Sometimes you just don’t have anything else to hang on to.

Okay, I promised some family background on the Keenes. In 1859, her father was the last born to Green Keene and Sarah Tabitha. He had an older brother and three older sisters. In the 1860 census, the Keens also had grandpa Gilbert Keene and aunt Elizabeth Keene living with them. By the 1870 census, Thomas was eleven and living with his aunt Elizabeth and two of his sisters. Somewhere between the 1860 and 1870 censuses, his parents and his grandfather had died. In the 1880 census, he was living with his married sister Martha, her husband, and their three children, as aunt Elizabeth had died. In 1887, his sister Martha died. I always found it interesting the Keenes didn’t discuss the past, but in Thomas’s case, he may have been too young to remember his parents or his grandfather. It seems every adult who took care of him died, so maybe he didn’t see any point in dwelling on the past or the sadness. I’m thinking Eula inherited that trait from her father.

In September of 1936, she received the phone call every parent dreads. Her son had been involved in an automobile accident and on the verge of death. He was nineteen.

Eula Keene Pickett with Howard and AzaleaThe Meridian Star, September 5, 1936

Howard Benjamin Pickett 

Born: November 19, 1917 in Lauderdale County, MS 

Died: September 3, 1936 in Newton, MS 

Howard Benjamin Pickett, 19, son of Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Berry Pickett of Meridian, who was injured in an automobile crash near Newton on Highway 80, died in a Newton hospital late Thursday. Miss Hazel Brasfield, 15, also of Meridian, remained in a critical condition Friday morning. Pickett, who was said to have been driving the automobile when it crashed at 5 a.m., received internal injuries. He never regained consciousness. Miss Brasfield is suffering from a crushed thigh. Other occupants of the machine were Jim Edwards, Billy White, Neva Ezell, Jack Ward, and Geneva Burt, all of Meridian. All were slightly injured but were able to return to Meridian soon after the accident. Pickett is said to have rented the automobile from a 630 taxi driver at 7 a.m. Wednesday, stating he intended to go to Jackson. The crash occurred when a tire blew out, causing the machine to leave the highway, overturning several times before striking a stump. Funeral services will be held at 4 p.m. Friday from the Eight Avenue Baptist Church. Surviving are his parents: Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Berry Pickett and one sister, Azelea Pickett, all of Meridian. The Rev. Ed Grayson and Rev. Blanding Vaughan will officiate at the funeral. Interment will follow in Fisher Cemetery.

While Eula’s family grew to include a son-in-law, two grandchildren, and eventually six great grandchildren, over the years, she lost everyone from her youth. Her brothers died in 1939, 1947, and 1960. Her sisters died in 1964 and March of 1981. Her husband died in 1973.

She died 3 Oct 1981 and is laid to rest in the Fisher family cemetery in Zero, Mississippi with her husband and her children.

Happy birthday, Grandma! ♥

Pickett Ben and Eula Pickett

This post brought to you by On This Day: A Perpetual Calendar for Family Genealogy

52 Ancestors #41 – On This Day in 1904 – Lucy Ann Rackley Pickett

On This Day in 1904 Lucy Ann Rackley Pickett died at the age of 70.

pickett lucy ann rackley obeliskLucy was my 3rd great grandmother on my dad’s side. She was born in Choctaw, Alabama 6 Aug 1834 to Anthony Rackley and Julia Johnson. She was the baby of six children, with three sisters and two brothers.

She gave birth to a daughter in 1859 and another in 1860, but the records I have say she didn’t marry until 1860. It wasn’t unusual for the time to only have a ceremony when a traveling minister came through town, or it could have been that the wedding certificate wasn’t filed until 1860. Either way, she married Robert Theodore Pickett and the two had four girls followed by five boys in Alabama, one being my 2nd great grandfather Joseph Lawson Pickett. Sometime after the 1880 census, the family moved to Mississippi. Lucy’s mother had died in 1860 and her father lived with her until his death in 1880. That may have been the tipping point of leaving Alabama. The family was in MS by 1891 when the youngest daughter married there.

Lucy died in Mississippi 8 Oct 1904 at the age of 70. Her husband died a year later 17 Aug 1905.

They are laid to rest at Pleasant Hill United Methodist Cemetery in Zero, Lauderdale County, MS.

pickett lucy ann rackley

52 Ancestors #38 Favorite Place

52ancestors-2015

This challenge is set forth by No Story Too Small and this week’s theme is “Favorite Place.”

Eula Keene Pickett with Howard and AzaleaMy favorite place was my great grandmother’s house. She lived in Zero, Mississippi, just south of Meridian. This photo, courtesy of my cousin P. Grayson, is around 1925. She is with her son Howard and her daughter Azalea, my grandmother.

Grandma Pickett’s home wasn’t grand, but it was awesome. She had chickens who used to peck at my toes when I went out to collect the eggs. She had a cow that appeared as a calf each spring and disappeared each winter. I supposed we had lots of roasts because of that, but I never thought to ask what happened to the cows. I seem to remember a horse or two. I also remember five little ceramic pigs that held seasonings, salt, and pepper. They sat on the shelf above the kitchen sink. The house always smelled like sweet tea and green beans. My cousins lived next door, and I would run back and forth between playing with them and spending time with my great grandmother. Eula Ouida Keene Pickett 1899-1981 spent a lot of her time sewing quilts. I never thought much of it, but she was always in her chair, working on a new quilt with her glasses resting on the end of her nose.

IMG_20150908_180218183_HDRWhen I turned sixteen, Grandma Pickett gave me one of those quilts, just as she did for each of her six great-grandchildren. The pink one was for my birthday. The blue one was given to me later, just before she died. I was seventeen years old. I still use the quilts in our guest rooms and think of her every time I make the beds.

IMG_20150908_180223409_HDR

52 Ancestors #32 – 32

52ancestors-2015

This challenge is set forth by No Story Too Small and this week’s theme is “32.”

For those of you don’t do genealogy, you have 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great grandparents, 16 2nd great-grandparents, and 32 3rd great-grandparents. The family tree grows exponentially.

This generation of 32 people in my past have been on my mind a lot lately due to the feeding frenzy of liberals trying to erase the history of the Confederacy. Personally, I don’t have a problem with the Confederate flag, but I understand that hate groups have adopted it and it may no longer represent the South throughout the rest of the United States. Perhaps it is time for a discussion about where it should and should not be flown.

I do, however, have a problem with the hatred that these history-erasing people, including some of my very own friends, are spewing and the way vandals are destroying flags, graves, statues, and monuments. You’ll see why in a moment. I’ve decided to not write about only one of my 32 grandmas and grandpas, but all of them.

Jeremiah William Crane, born 1828 Alabama

Sarah Frances Grimes, born 1824 Alabama

Amos Windham Mercer, born 1799 South Carolina

Amanda Merron, born 1829 Florida

Archibald White, born 1808 North Carolina

Elizabeth B Farrish, born 1824 Alabama

Leonard H Morrow, born 1812 Tennessee

Silvia Truss, born 1814 North Carolina

Robert Theodore Pickett, born 1836 Mississippi

Lucy Ann Rackley, born 1834 Alabama

William Thomas Fisher, born 1819 Alabama*

Elizabeth Ann Butler, born 1834 North Carolina

Green Keene, born 1834 South Carolina

Sarah Tabitha unknown, born 1833 Alabama

William Lafayette Brown, born 1836 Mississippi*

Sarah Ann Elvira Dollar, born 1836 Alabama

Rev. Joseph M. Culpepper, born 1822 Georgia**

Nancy Yarbrough, born 1822 Georgia

William Henry Blanks II, born 1800 Georgia

Nancy Narcissus Young, born 1800 North Carolina

Rice Benjamin Carpenter, born 1828 Alabama**

Mary Ann Rodgers, born 1828 Mississippi

George Washington Spencer, born 1829 Alabama*

Nancy Virginia “Ginny” Holdcroft, born 1839 Mississippi

James C Howington, born 1823 North Carolina*

Amelia Ann Elizabeth Smith, born 1827 Alabama

Of the six missing names; two were in Dublin, Ireland, their son (my 2nd great) arrived on the shores of Florida in 1861; two were Choctaw Indians in the Choctaw Territory of Mississippi but I don’t know their names; and the final two are unaccounted for as I have not been able to trace them, but their daughter (my 2nd great), was born in Alabama in 1848, so they certainly lived in the South.

Notice anything?? Yes, 26 (28 if you count the Choctaws, 30 if you count the folks living in Alabama) of my 32 3rd great-grandparents were born in the Confederate States, and EVERY ONE of my 16 2nd greats lived there also. From the records I have: six of the men above fought with the Confederacy (noted by *) – two died in battle (noted by **). Three of my 2nd greats (sons of the above) fought with the Confederacy, not to mention the countless brothers and other sons who served and sometimes died. Mary Ann Rodgers named above lost three brothers, three brothers-in-law, and her husband.

Off the top of my head, eight to ten of these families were in America during the Revolution, fighting for freedom – the freedom to say and do as you please. You have the freedom to be “offended” by the Confederate flag. It was given to you by MY ancestors who have been struggling since the 1600s to build a great country, even before it was a country.

Here’s where I have a problem. You don’t have the freedom nor the “right” to desecrate Confederate graves, statues, monuments, Confederate cemeteries, or the flags within their boundaries, and you certainly don’t have the freedom to take away my heritage. You will never accomplish that. You will never change how I feel about the men who fought in the Confederate Army. They are AMERICAN soldiers. They will always have my deepest respect for being willing to die for what they believed in, whether you agree with their cause or not. My heritage will not be erased. It will not disappear. Do you want to know why? Because I will fight to keep it alive in my family, my community, my descendants, and my heart. I will fight with the same veracity shown by my grandparents when they fought for their freedom. After all, their blood runs in my veins, too.

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On This Day in 1921

Burying children used to be a more common occurrence than it is today.

On This Day in 1921, Fleta Marie “Clarice” Pickett was born in Lauderdale County, Mississippi to Benjamin Berry Pickett and Eula Ouida Keene Pickett (my great grandparents). She had two older siblings: Howard who was four and Margaret Azalea (my grandmother) who was two. She was named after her mother’s older sister, Fleta. Months before, Fleta had given birth to a daughter and named her Eula. The two sisters, though fourteen years apart, were obviously very close.

Clarice was born into a large family as her father had five siblings and her mother had seven who all lived nearby. Her father’s mother was from the Fisher family, and the Picketts, Keenes, and Fishers were numerous in the area, and still are today. So much so, that they have their own family cemetery on Zero Road called Fisher Cemetery. Even though family cemeteries fell out of vogue in the early 1900s in favor of community cemeteries, Fisher Cemetery is still used today.

At one year and five months, Clarice succumbed to pneumonia. Note in her obituary that the family held the funeral in their living room as was custom in those days. Before the mid-1900s, the family of the deceased prepared, dressed, and displayed their loved ones, and following the funeral, the body was carried out of the house head first. Clarice’s obituary reads as follows:

pickett fleta clarise pickett death certFleta Marie “Clarice” Pickett Born: December 1, 1921 in Lauderdale County, MS
Died: May 8, 1923 in Lauderdale County, MS 

Fleta Marie “Clarice” Pickett, 17-month-old daughter of Ben Berry and Eula Keene Pickett, who reside near Zero, MS, passed away this morning at 4 o’clock. Funeral services will be held from the residence Wednesday morning at 10 o’clock. Interment is to follow in Fisher Cemetery.

 

pickett fleta clarise headstoneRest in peace, little one.

You have not been forgotten.

This post brought to you by On This Day.

 

 

On This Day in 1936

On This Day in 1936, my great uncle Howard Benjamin Pickett died following a car crash at the age of 19.

Eula Keene Pickett with Howard and AzaleaHoward was born November 19, 1917 to Benjamin Berry Pickett and Eula Ouida Keene in Lauderdale County, Mississippi. He was the eldest of three children. A sister Margaret Azalea (my grandmother) was born in 1919, and a sister Fleta Clarise was born in 1921. Fleta Clarise died of pneumonia in 1923. Howard was six. Here he is pictured with his mother and sister.

Meridian Star
Howard Benjamin Pickett, 19, son of Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Berry Pickett of 308 Fifth avenue, Meridian, who was injured in an automobile crash near Newton on Highway 80, died in a Newton hospital late Thursday. Miss Hazel Brasfield, 15, also of Meridian, remained in a critical condition Friday morning. Pickett, who was said to have been driving the automobile when it crashed at 5 a.m., received internal injuries. He never regained consciousness. Miss Brasfield is suffering from a crushed thigh. Other occupants of the machine were Jim Edwards, Billy White, Neva Ezell, Jack Ward, and Geneva Burt, all of Meridian. All were slightly injured but were able to return to Meridian soon after the accident. Pickett is said to have rented the automobile from a 630 taxi driver at 7 a.m. Wednesday, stating he intended to go to Jackson. The crash occured when a tire blew out, causing the machine to leave the highway, overturning several times before striking a stump. Funeral services will be held at 4 p.m. Friday from the Eight Avenue Baptist Church. Surviving are his parents: Mr and Mrs. Benjamin Berry Pickett and one sister, Azelea Pickett, all of Meridian. The Revs. Ed Grayson and Rev. Blanding Vaughan will officiate at the funeral. Interment will follow in Fisher Cemetery. Active pallbearers: Maurice Covington, Torris Brand, Billie White, Purvis Taylor, Jack Elkin, and Selbie Snellgrove. Honary pallbearers: A.L. Talbert, Mr. Keaten, Mr. Snider, Ermer Brown, J.B. Brown, Grady Brand, Mr. Lawerence, H.C. Webb, Edwin Cochran, Mr. Mitchell, Mr. Connell, Howard Meyers, Jamie Harden, Marion W. Reiley, G.L. Walker. James F. Webb Funeral Home in charge. 

pickett howard benjamin headstoneHoward and I share the birthday of November 19th, along with his maternal grandmother (my 2nd great), Sarah Elizabeth “Betty” Brown Keene. His dad’s mother was a Fisher, and he is laid to rest with his parents and siblings in the Fisher Family Cemetery in Meridian, Mississippi.

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