A to Z – G is for GW Spencer

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G is for George Washington Spencer

GW was my 3rd great grandfather. He was a Confederate soldier in 1862, but in the 1860 census, he was listed as a school teacher.

He was born in June of 1829 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama to Rev. William Saladin Spencer and Martha Didama Gross. He was the 10th of 11 children, with only 1 girl in the bunch. His father died in 1841 when GW was only 12 years old.

geo wash spencerIn 1858, he married Nancy Virginia “Jenny” Holdcroft in Kemper, Mississippi, and the union produced 7 children, 5 girls and 2 boys. They made their home in Newton County, MS.

There was no organized education at the time, so communities usually gathered money and asked someone to educate their children. GW stepped up to the challenge for a moment.

When the war began, he enlisted 1 Mar 1862 with Co. B 35th MS Infantry. He was sick most of the war due to a leg infection and was medically discharged 10 Jan 1864. The family story is that his wife went by horse and wagon to pick him up from a Confederate hospital.

Following the war, he didn’t go back to teaching. He is listed on census records as a farmer until his death 22 Jul 1901. He is buried with his wife in unmarked graves at Hickory Cemetery in Newton County, Mississippi.

A to Z – F is for WT Fisher

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F is for WT Fisher

WT stands for William Thomas Fisher. He was my 3rd great grandpa. He was born 5 Jun 1819 in Alabama to Southy Fisher and Elizabeth Butler. It seems he was the only boy with three younger sisters. His sisters were all born in Mississippi quite a while after he was born, so there may have been some unrecorded children who died young in the family.

 

William T. and Ann Eliza (Butler) FisherIn 1846, WT was involved in a shoot out at the Brickyard, which was a mustering point for soldiers in the Mexican-American War. The owner of the Brickyard was a man named Shumate and his wife Muggie. There was a disagreement with WT’s dad, Southy, over the ownership of the Brickyard.

There were many incidences between the men at the Brickyard, but on this particular occasion, the Fisher boys came around armed and ready for a fight. It wouldn’t be a quick fight as each was armed with a Flintlock single-shot weapon that took time to load and fire.

When the Fishers made their presence known, Shumate and Muggie loaded their guns and came out of the house. Shumate had a single gun. Muggie had two.

Muggie was the first to fire and took down Southy. WT shot back and missed. Muggie tossed away her empty gun and fired at WT with her second gun, taking him down. Neither of the Fishers were dead, only injured. Shumate, frightened by the gunfire, dropped his weapon and ran. Muggie grabbed his discarded gun and fired at her coward husband, killing him instantly. This perhaps wasn’t the best move as Southy still had a loaded weapon. He fired at Muggie, killing her before she could reload.

Obviously, the Fisher clan wasn’t one to mess with.

1858 was a year of change. WT was 38 at the time. His mother died 19 April and his father died 24 July. I can’t imagine losing both parents so closely together. His father left everything to him in his will, only leaving the daughters $5 each, but leaving WT the farm, the animals, the numerous slaves, everything.

Shortly after the death of his parents, the family story is that he rode to North Carolina where his family was originally from, and he brought back a bride. Ann Eliza Butler rode back to MS with WT on horseback. She was 15 years his junior. Since his mother’s name was also Butler, I feel they may have been cousins or something, but I haven’t been able to make the connection.

I guess there wasn’t enough help at the farm and shortly after the marriage, WT went to Mobile to buy a slave to help Ann in the kitchen. While he was there, he noticed a small black boy with light patches of skin. He asked the slave traders what they were going to do with the boy, who was about 5 years old. The traders said they would throw him to the sharks on their way back. WT brought the boy home and raised him. The boy’s name was Charlie “Fisher” and he stayed at WT’s side even through the Civil War. Charlie drew a pension from the war until his death in 1928.

At the end of the Civil War, WT not only freed Charlie, but also gave him 80 acres of family land on Fisher Road in Zero, Lauderdale County, Mississippi, where Charlie’s descendants live to this day.

In 1860, before the war began, WT was imprisoned at Mississippi State Prison in Jackson, Mississippi for killing a man named McGinnis in his corn crib. The story is that McGinnis was caught stealing, but the belief is that it was a card game gone wrong and WT caught McGinnis cheating and shot him. WT was forced to sell off a lot of land to pay off the judge and lawyers to try and stay out of jail, but he served time anyway. When the war began, he was release to serve in the Confederate army and joined as a Captain.

During and following the war, WT and Ann had 11 children, 5 girls and 6 boys.

fisher william thomas headstone, callies fatherWT died at the age of 62 on 13 May 1882. He is buried in the family cemetery on Zero Rd.

His wife Ann died in 1910 at the age of 75 and is laid to rest next to her husband.

A to Z – E is for Elizabeth “Elly” Hays

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E is for Elizabeth “Elly” Hays

Elly was born in North Carolina in 1774 to Nicholas Hays and Ally Steele. It’s been very difficult finding a paper trail of her young years. The first I’ve found is her marriage certificate 20 Dec 1790 to James Rodgers Jr, which is signed by her brother Samuel Hays. This is in Greene, Tennessee. All of the family records bounce back and forth between Tennessee and North Carolina, so I suspect the state border was blurred at that time.

Once she married, the paper trail becomes clearer.

She gave birth to Elizabeth in 1791, Hays in 1793, a female who is listed in James’s will as “my deceased daughter” in 1974, Absolom in 1796, Margaret Peggy in 1797, Susannah in 1799, Harvey in 1800, Martha Ellen “Ellie” in 1801, Polly in 1806, Napoleon Bonapart in 1808, and Andrew Jackson in 1810, and finally, Lavenia in 1819.

clarke-in-alabamaIn 1811, the family, yes, all thirteen of them (Lavenia wasn’t born yet), moved by wagon from Tennessee to Clarke County, Alabama. At the time, Alabama was part of the Mississippi Territory as Alabama did not become a state until 1819. The area was a wild frontier, filled with the Creek Indians who were causing all the mischief and death they could to keep the white man from encroaching on their land. This was also a few months before the War of 1812 began. In the south, the war was between the Americans and the Indians, who were armed by the British.

The family suffered through serious harassment by the Creek Indians. Their livestock was raided and it is reported their home was burned to the ground. This was at the time both of her older sons, Hays and Absolom, were off serving in the Mississippi Militia and were not home to help.

When the boys were discharged in 1818, Elly packed her family and moved west to Lauderdale County, Mississippi, to the land of the gentle Choctaw Indians.

Following her husband’s death in Mississippi in 1826, Elly moved back to Alabama and lived with her eldest daughter, Elizabeth.

An abstract of her husband’s will is as follows:

WILL OF JAMES RODGERS

Copiah County, Mississippi, August 7, 1826 – Page 180

Orphans Court.

In the name of God Amen, I James Rodgers, doth find myself weak and infirm in bodily health, though strong in recollections and understanding doth therefore recommend my soul to God, my body to the Grave and my worldly effects to be deposed as follows–

 To my dearly beloved wife Elly Rodgers

 My oldest daughter Elizabeth Matlock

 My Eldest son Hays Rodgers

 William H. Wilson, the husband of my daughter and deceased, I give $1.00,

 My son Abslum Rodgers

 My daughter Peggy Rodgers

 My daughter Susanah Rodgers

 My daughter Ellie Kirk

 My son Harvey Rodgers

 My daughter Lavina Rodgers

 My daughter Polly Hendricks

 My son Bonapart Rodgers

 My son Jackson Rodgers

Lastly I, constitute and appoint my son Hays Rodgers and John Deaton, Executors.

 

 

Elly died in Grove Hill, Clarke County, Alabama in 1839.

The exact date of her death is unknown. Her burial place is unknown.

Elly is my 5th great grandmother.

41n6zHpRqRLI wrote a book about her called “Elly Hays.”

It’s available at Amazon. Click here. 

A to Z – B is for Benjamin Berry Pickett

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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 1852

A quiet life. An almost uneventful life. A nondescript life.

On this day in 1852, Martha Jane “Mattie” Mercer was born to Amos Windham Mercer and Amanda Sylvester. She was somewhere in the middle of a dozen kids, 8 boys and 4 girls. Her father was 52 years of age when she was born. Her mother was 23. Hmmm. The family made their home in Clarke County, Mississippi, and Mattie lived her entire life there.

At the age of 21, she married Andrew Jackson “Jack” Crane on 4 Dec 1873 and had three children: Ella Jane 1874, Minnie Lee 1878, and my great grandpa Amos Bolivar 1881.

There is nothing outstanding in the genealogy records – no loss of large numbers of family members due to war or disease, no records of still-born infants, no legal records of incarceration, no newspaper clippings, no higher education, nothing out of the ordinary. It seems she lived a quiet life in the same small town she was born into.

After 32 years of marriage, her husband died in 1905 at the age of 53. The subsequent census records show she lived with her daughter Ella, where she remained for the rest of her life. She never remarried. She died at the age of 93 on 28 Nov 1945.

She is laid to rest at McGowan Chapel Cemetery in Clarke County, Mississippi, just down the road from her home. Even her tombstone is nondescript, only referring to her at Mrs. A. J. Crane.

Rest in peace, Grandma Mattie.

mercer martha jane mattie mercer

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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

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On This Day in 1828

On This Day in 1828, my 3rd great grandpa Jeremiah William Crane Jr was born.

He was born March 17 to Jeremiah William Crane Sr and Mary “Polly” Weldon in Alabama. He was the last of eight children who were born between 1798 and 1828. And, yes, they were celebrating St Patrick’s day around the world on that day. Places like New York and Boston were already hosting parades.

But, I stray from the story…

ted-states-1812-05-1812-06.pngDuring the turn of the century in Alabama, the Creek Indians were in the middle of a civil war, as well as fighting off the white men who were encroaching on Indian territory. The War of 1812 in the North was a fight between the British and the Americans, battling over waterways and trade routes. The War of 1812 in the South was between the Americans trying to expand their newly formed nation and the Indians who were armed by the British. The Mississippi Militia was formed across the Mississippi Territory to battle the Indians. At the time the Mississippi Territory encompassed all of Mississippi and Alabama. Alabama didn’t become a state until 1819.

In 1830, the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek was signed and was the first step in the removal of the Indians from the area. The American government began selling parcels of land quickly to get the area settled, and people soon began moving west from Alabama into Mississippi. At the time of the treaty, Jeremiah was only two, but his family had certainly witnessed great war and great change before he came along. His father had actually enlisted and served in Carson’s Regiment in the Mississippi Militia in 1814, but he only served for two months.

I assume things in the area calmed down a bit by the time Jeremiah became a man. I don’t have an official record of his marriage, but he was married to Sarah Frances Grimes, who was about four years his senior. They had their first child, a daughter whom they named Francis, in Alabama in 1847. Jeremiah was 18.

The whole family moved across the border into Mississippi during the next year, and this is where Jeremiah and Sarah’s second daughter, Emily, was born in 1848. Their third child was a son, George William Crane, in 1850, and all were residents of Clarke County, Mississippi in the 1850 census.

In 1852, they had my 2nd great grandfather Andrew Jackson “Jack” Crane, and in 1856, a daughter, Jerry Elizabeth.

After the birth of Jerry Elizabeth, there are no further records of Jeremiah.

The 1860 census shows Sarah living alone with the children- Francis, Emily, GW, Jack, and Jerry, but there is no husband listed. Above and below their names on the census are many of Jeremiah’s brothers with wives and families, and Jeremiah’s parents. They are all listed as farmers. Next to Sarah’s name, the occupation space is blank.

I don’t know what happened to Jeremiah, but he died somewhere between the ages of 28 and 32. The 1860 census states his wife was now 36 and his children were between the ages of 4 and 13.

Whatever happened to him, I hope he’s resting in peace.

Happy birthday, Grandpa Jeremiah William Crane!

forgetmenots

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