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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Searching for Scandinavia

I finally did it! I had my DNA done for my ancestry quest. I knew most of it.

 Europe West 24%
 Scandinavia 21%
 Ireland/Scotland/Wales 20%
 Great Britain 14%
 Europe East 9%
 Iberian Peninsula 6%
Most of the family I’ve traced hail from England, Scotland, Ireland, and I assume a few snuck in there from France and Spain way back in the day, hence that small percentage from the Iberian Peninsula. But 21% Scandinavian?? I have no idea where that came from. Norway, Sweden, Denmark? No clue. Though “Viking Princess” suits me. 🙂
scandinavian woman
While I was searching, I ran across a new line I didn’t know I had. Apparently these folks were from Switzerland. Really? Where does that fit in?
swiss
A great great grandmother on my mother’s side was a Spencer, and a few generations before that, one of the Spencer wives was a Flournoy. I had never heard of these Flournoys and traced them back to their first entrance into the U.S. in the early 1700s.
My 8th great grandfather was Jean Jacques Fleurnois – in American – John James Flournoy. He came to Virginia in 1705 before sending for his family in 1717.
Name: Jacques Flournoy
Arrival Year: 1705
Arrival Place: Virginia
Source Publication Code: 613
Primary Immigrant: Flournoy, Jacques
Source Bibliography: BOCKSTRUCK, LLOYD DEWITT. “Naturalizations and Denizations in Colonial Virginia.” In National Genealogical Society Quarterly, vol. 73:2 (June 1985), pp. 109-116.
Page: 111
His son, my 7th great, John James Jr, was born in Geneva on 17 Nov 1686. He would have been about thirty years old when he arrived on the Virginia shores in 1717. He was son of Jacques Flournoy of Geneva and Julia Eyraud. He settled in Williamsburg where in 1720 he married Mary Elizabeth Williams, daughter of James Williams and widow of Orlando Jones. They set up house in Henrico County, VA and over the next nineteen years, they had about eleven children. Records say John James Jr. died in Henrico Co in 1739 at the age of 52.
He had a son named John born 1726 and died 1825, so the record below must have been his grandson and namesake. This would not be one of my direct ancestors but interesting none-the-less. The following is on file in the Archives Dept. State Library in Virginia.

Point of Fork, 18 Aug., 1783. I do certify that Jean Jacques Flournoy enlisted with me the first of Oct., 1782, in the Va. Contl. line, to serve three years, and was in actual service until the 22 of August following, at which time he died, and that he received only four months pay. Signed, Jacob Brown, Lieut. Quartermaster and Paymaster of the 1st Va. Regiment.

Thank you for your service, Sir, for our freedom, and for your ultimate sacrifice.

This an interesting web that will require more research.

Still haven’t found the Scandinavians!

Egocentric Genealogy

 

Me.-Center-of-the-Universe-T-ShirtsEgocentric: regarding the self as the center of all things.

As with most people tracing their ancestry, my research and conclusions always revolve around me. How far back? How many generations? Where did my family migrate to and when, and how did I get here?

A few years ago, I had trouble tracing past my maternal great grandmother. (Keep that maternal word in mind for a moment.) She lived in the back hills of Mississippi and didn’t leave a paperwork trail. No census. No education. No land grants. Her family lived on the same land since the 1830s, or maybe even before as there is a Choctaw Indian connection. Members of my family still live on the land today.

A few years ago I found her brother, whom we called Uncle Sug (as in Sugar), and the family opened up. He left a paper trail. I could trace him. I didn’t realize (or care) who he was in my childhood, but now, he became extremely important to my research. He married Aunt Zeffie in 1918. He was 18, she was 13. I imagine him marrying such a young girl because of his raging hormones. He was always a flirt, a sweet-talker, a ladies man, traits I’m sure he didn’t create in his sixties. He was probably always like that.

Okay, stay with me here. The reason I found him was he was listed on my paternal great grandmother’s obituary. Yep, here’s where my family tree stops forking. He was listed as her son-in-law. Aunt Zeffie was my grandfather’s sister. Uncle Sug was my grandmother’s uncle. (This is the point where I had to explain to my mother that her Uncle Sug was also her mother’s Uncle Sug. Welcome to Mississippi.)

Here’s where the egocentric part comes in

Upon finding that info, I always assumed Uncle Sug and Aunt Zeffie met because of my grandparents. I pictured them having cocktails at family gatherings, since my relationship with my grandparents was peppered with numerous family gatherings at their country house. I pondered if other members of the family questioned their attraction. Wouldn’t you wonder why your sister liked some distant relative? I wondered if anyone on either side disavowed their marriage.

This morning, my egocentric view swiftly collapsed into a smoldering pile all around my feet.

I found out Uncle Sug and Aunt Zeffie got married (as stated above) in 1918. Never before have I questioned the years, but my grandparents were both born in 1914. They were both four years old at the time of the wedding.

earl culpepper and ina burkePhoto: In my mind, these are not and have never been little kids. —>>>

The thought of my grandparents knowing each other as children blew my mind. I have always pictured marriage beginning with a young couple meeting in their teens and falling in love. Must be the romantic fairy tales pounded into my brain as a young girl. I can’t emotionally comprehend that more-often-than-not people simply married the best person they could find in their small town. My grandparents had known each other for fifteen years before they got married. Did they like each other the whole time, or did they settle for the best person available? I wish I could ask them, but they’ve long been dead.

My egocentric view of my grandparents being the cause of Uncle Sug and Aunt Zeffie’s marriage is totally and completely wrong. As a matter of fact, since my grandparents probably met because of Uncle Sug and Aunt Zeffie, I think that makes me the product of my Uncle Sug’s 18-year-old testosterone. How strange… and a little creepy.

Samuel Dawson Grimes – oldest citizen of the county at 110?

My 4th great grandfather was Samuel Dawson Grimes. The line from me to him is my father Andy Crane, my grandfather Frank Crane, my great Amos Crane, my 2nd great Jack Crane, and my 3rd greats Jeremiah Crane and Sarah Frances Grimes.

I haven’t researched my Crane side very much, and certainly haven’t ventured into the wives on that side of the family, but today I found something pretty interesting.

Grandpa Grimes was born around 1757 in North Carolina. There are a few records indicating he participated in the American Revolution, but I haven’t been able to verify that (yet). He married Darcass Wall in 1788 and the two had seven children. At some point, the family moved to Brundidge, Pike County, Alabama, where he died in 1857.

brundidge_al

Since I don’t know his exact birth date, I find the following interesting. It’s from Find A Grave.

A newspaper article from the Troy Independent American, published on 22 April 1857, as transcribed by Susie K. Senn in her book “Newspaper Abstracts from Pike County, Alabama 1855-1861”:

The Oldest Man in Pike – Samuel D. Grimes, aged 110 years, and the oldest citizen of this county, died a few days since at his residence. Mr. Grimes enjoyed almost uninterrupted health up to a year or so before his death. For a great part of his life he was a member of the Baptist Church, and died as he lived, an honest, upright citizen and Christian. 

110??? Wow! That’s pretty considerable for the times.

I also found his probate records – all thirty hard-to-read handwritten pages. He seemed to be in debt to various local gentlemen, including the local merchant for the purchase of a pair of shoes, a handkerchief, five yards of cotton, and eight yards of calico for $3.45, which was used to “spruce up” his negro woman. His indebtedness was just over $1100.00, and his belongings were auctioned off for $98.00, most being bought by his grown children including his rifle for $1.30. There must have also been a sizable amount of land, as the debtors were paid and there was still plenty to leave to his children and his twenty grandchildren.

The 1840 census shows two adults in his household who couldn’t read or write. It also shows one slave, whom I assume is the “negro woman” mentioned above.

The 1850 census mentions that he is currently 93 years old, living with his daughter, so I think when he died in 1857 he was only 100, but the reporter from the Troy Independent American wasn’t very good at “cipherin’.”

union springsGrandpa Grimes is laid to rest in Union Spring Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery in Brundidge, Pike County, Alabama, where the 2010 census says the population is just over 2000 people, 33% living below the poverty line. I can imagine how small and poor it was in the 1800s when Grandpa Grimes lived there.

Ina Inez Burke’s birthday?

earl culpepper and ina burkeMy grandmother, Ina Inez Burke Culpepper, was a warm and wonderful woman. We always celebrated her birthday on February 9, her death certificate lists her birth as February 9, her tombstone is chiseled February 9. Imagine my surprise when I received her birth certificate stating she was born at 10:00 pm on February 8!

ina burke birth cert

She was born in Mississippi in 1915 to John Patrick “Pat” Burke and Mary Howington Burke. She was the eldest of seven children, one dying as an infant. She grew up with three brothers and two sisters.

marriage license earl culpepper and ina burke

She married Earl Culpepper at the age of 21 on 1 Aug 1936. The union produced two daughters and four grandchildren. (The little girl is me!)

earl, ina, and grandchildren

Ina was a great cook and a professional seamstress, working at Meridian’s Burnley Shirt Factory. She spent many hours teaching me to sew when I was small. I was too young to get under her feet in the kitchen and still regret not being able to make biscuits as good as hers.

She died in 1975 of complications of aortic valve replacement. I always thought she died at the age of 59, but now I wonder if she was only 58.

She is laid to rest at Liberty Baptist Church Cemetery in Newton County, Mississippi, not far from where she was born.

burke Ina Inez Burke headstone

 

 

Happy 223rd Birthday!

Rodgers Hays Sr

Hays Rodgers Sr was my 4th great grandfather. He was born in Greene Co, Tennessee in February of 1793 to James Rodgers and Elizabeth “Elly” Hays. (Elly was the heroine of my book “Elly Hays.”) Hays was Elly’s eldest son and he had at least ten siblings. Just before the War of 1812 began, the family moved from Tennessee to the Mississippi Territory, today known as Clarke Co, Alabama. Alabama didn’t become as state until 1819.

Page 11814 – When Hays was 19, he and his brother, Absolom, signed up for the Mississippi Militia and were assigned to Captain Evan Austill’s company of volunteers in Major Sam Dale’s Battalion to fight against the hostile Creek Indians. Hays remained in the Militia until October 1818, but was only called out once for a two-month tour. Today, I am a member of the United States Daughters of 1812 under his patriotism.

On December 11, 1816, he married Marey Ann Scott, who was from Georgia.

Winter of 1818, following the end of his military service, Hays, Marey, and first-born Lewis, moved to Copiah Co, MS (what later became Simpson, MS). He started buying land and farming. Over the next two decades, the couple had a total of 14 children. Some died young, but the final tally of grandchildren was 71!

In 1834, the US Government began selling off land it had obtained from the Choctaw Indians in the 1830 signing of Dancing Rabbit Creek. Hays went to Pine Springs in Lauderdale County before the land was surveyed and built a small cabin overlooking Rogers Creek bottom so he could claim the land the moment it went up for sale. He was a squatter for all purposes.

September 26, 1836 – A deed was recorded for 80 acres in Pine Springs which he bought from the government.

October 1836 – He bought 160 acres next to his 80 acres from John Calhoun. Mr. Calhoun moved to the Martin Community to open a leather tannery.

1839 – He bought 80 acres from Alex McMullen and 80 acres from Jeremiah Howell. He also began buying slaves and producing cotton.

1856 – He was granted public land adjoining his plantation from the US gov’t in payment for his military service.

MS Cemetery 0761857 – He built the “Ole Stennis House” at the age of 61. I took this photo in 2012 when I visited the house.

In 1860, the U.S. Census states Hays owned 13 slaves, a 640 acre (square mile) plantation, 2 horses, 3 mules, 10 cows, 4 oxen, 16 sheep, 60 swine, and $600 in farming instruments, for a total worth of $8400. A person’s total worth did not include the price of the slaves they owned, and most of his wealth was tied up in slaves that were worth more than $1000 each – that’s probably a million bucks in today’s money.

dec 2012 3881862 – When the Civil War began, Hays sent four of his sons to fight. Three never returned. Also, during the winter of that year, a typhoid epidemic hit his family, killing the only son who didn’t go off to war. Fortunately, Hays was not around to witness the deaths of his sons as he was the first in the family to died of typhoid that winter in December of 1862. He was 66 years old. His wife died shortly after him in March of 1863, also of typhoid.

Upon his death in December 1862, he owned 690 acres of land and stock in the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, which sat unattended until the end of the war, and then for more time as they awaited the boys return at the close of the war in 1865. The boys didn’t return. Finally, the property went to probate in 1869 and was sold at public auction on the steps of the Meridian Courthouse to Major Adam T Stennis, hence the name “Ole Stennis House.” The home remained in the Stennis family for 100 years until 1970 when it was bought by the Hover family.

The story of the time of war and Hays’ death is told through his daughter, Mary Ann’s, eyes in my book “Okatibbee Creek.”

Interesting note: The only son to return home from the war was Hays Jr, albeit with an injured, useless arm and a wilted spirit. Since he no longer had a large family in Mississippi, Hays Jr. sold his farm and moved to Alabama to be near his wife’s family. He sold his farm to a man named Tom Stennis. Tom Stennis was a former slave to Major Adam T Stennis.

This story is brought to you courtesy of “On This Day: A Perpetual Calendar for Family Genealogy.”