I’m so excited about my new book, Witch Dance! It’s in the final stages of editing and will be available for pre-orders very soon for only $0.99. I’ll post the link here as soon as it goes live. The official release date is September 15th and will be available in ebook and paperback at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Create Space, Kobo, Sony, iBooks, and other online retailers. There will also be a blog tour and a Facebook release party, so stay tuned.
Just south of Tupelo, Mississippi on the Natchez Trace lies a place of mystery called Witch Dance.
When Thomas and Margaret Speedwell took their twins to Witch Dance for a weekend camping trip, they never imagined they would be pulled into a vortex of witchcraft, tragedy, and karma. One of the girls goes missing; the other won’t say what happened on the other side of the hill.
The tragedy pulls together a cast of characters from Margaret’s childhood and beyond – Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians, Toltec ancestors, the extinct Hopewell tribe.
With the help of a childhood friend, a concerned newspaper reporter, and visions by a strange old woman, a two thousand year old mystery begins to unfold, uncovering missing children throughout generations. Who is taking them? Could it be the infamous witches of Witch Dance?
A to Z Blog Challenge
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.
In 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 Blog Challenge
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.
In 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.
WT 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 Blog Challenge
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.
In 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
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.
I wrote a book about her called “Elly Hays.”
It’s available at Amazon. Click here.
A 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.
In 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.
During 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.
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.
This story brought to you by On This Day: A Perpetual Calendar for Family Genealogy