Maury County’s Worst Christmas

This is where I live…right in my back yard. This Christmas day, we are blessed.

Historic Maury County

Maury County has seen many joyous Christmas seasons since its founding in 1807. With so many cheerful tales of Christmases past, it would be hard to single one year out as the best Christmas in local history.

But, one year is agreed upon as the worst Christmas Maury County has ever seen—Christmas 1864.

Frank H. Smith, in a special December 1904 edition of the Columbia Herald, wrote, “At this, the most prosperous Christmas tide that Maury County has ever known, it may be interesting to recall some incidents of this season forty years ago, the gloomiest and most depressing holidays our country ever had.”

SmithPhoto2 Frank H. Smith (third from the left) sits on the front porch of the Athenaeum Rectory with his siblings.

Why was this the “gloomiest and most depressing” Christmas? Simply, the Civil War was the cause of this county-wide depression.

After the fall of Atlanta, Confederate…

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A to Z – United Daughters of the Confederacy

A2Z-BADGE_[2016]April A to Z Challenge – I’m writing about history.

U is for United Daughters of the Confederacy

 

 

 

 

udc2The UDC, without the name, began before the civil war as quilting circles and hospital associations that aided the soldiers throughout the war. After the war, they continued their work in cemeteries, veteran’s homes, and other such organizations.

Today’s UDC was officially founded in Nashville, TN in 1894 by Caroline Goodlett and Lucian Raines and grew out of the original sewing circles.

The organization finally incorporated in 1919, and its bylaws state its objectives are historical, benevolent, educational, memorial and patriotic. Its goals are as follows:

  1. To honor the memory of those who served and those who fell in the service of the Confederate States.
  2. To protect, preserve, and mark the places made historic by Confederate valor.
  3. To collect and preserve the material for a truthful history of the War Between the States.
  4. To record the part taken by Southern women in patient endurance of hardship and patriotic devotion during the struggle and in untiring efforts after the War during the reconstruction of the South.
  5. To fulfill the sacred duty of benevolence toward the survivors and toward those dependent upon them.
  6. To assist descendants of worthy Confederates in securing proper education.
  7. To cherish the ties of friendship among the members of the Organization.

 

culpepper Joel B CulpepperI joined the UDC in Meridian, MS under the service of my great, great grandfather, Joel Bluett Culpepper (photo). He is only one of eight (that I’m aware of) of my grandfathers who served. The others were 2nd great William Henry Blanks III, 3rd great Rice Benjamin Carpenter, 3rd great Rev. Joseph M Culpepper, 3rd great William Thomas Fisher, 3rd great William Lafayette Brown Jr, 3rd great George Washington Spencer, 3rd great James C Howington. I am very proud of the Confederate blood that runs through my veins and always will be.

 

A to Z – Okatibbee Creek

A2Z-BADGE_[2016]April 2016 A to Z Challenge – I’m writing about history.

O is for Okatibbee Creek. I’ve written about Okatibbee Creek (pronounced oh-kuh-TIB-be) many times as it is the title of a book in my bibliography, but Okatibbee Creek was and is a real place with real people and real history. Here’s one of the stories.

 

 

Rodgers, Mary Ann Rodgers Carpenter Jolly

She was just a name in my family tree. Mary Ann Rodgers Carpenter Jolly. My third great grandmother. 1828-1898. I visited her grave at Bethel Cemetery in Lauderdale County, Mississippi in 2012, and my husband asked, “Now, who is this again?” We sat at the foot of her grave and I told him her story.

She lost her husband, Rice Carpenter, in the Civil War in 1862. How sad to lose the one you love, but hey, it’s war, people die. After he died, she remarried in 1864.

The 1870 census said she married William Jolly and was living with his children, her children, and three children they had together. It was a house-full! But at least their three children were proof they must have liked each other, right? That’s good. So, who was this William Jolly? I looked at his 1860 census. In 1860, he was living with his wife Harriet, their four children, and a woman named Nancy Carpenter who was 69 years of age.

Carpenter? Nancy Carpenter? The only Nancy Carpenter I know is Rice’s mother. Why was Mary Ann’s mother-in-law living with her future husband in 1860?? Were they neighbors? Was Nancy the cleaning lady? I clicked on Nancy Carpenter and saw her relationship to the “head of house” was listed as “mother-in-law.” She was William’s mother-in-law? What??

So, I went back and looked at Rice’s family, and sure enough, his sister Harriet was married to William. Rice died in the war 31 Dec 1862 and Harriet died a month later of typhoid on 30 Jan 1863. Their spouses, Mary Ann and William, brother-in-law/sister-in-law, married in 1864. Well of course they did. They had known each other for many years, hadn’t they?

The more I looked at the Rodgers and Carpenter families, the more I was amazed by the sheer number of family members they lost to war and typhoid. At the time of my research, I remember counting SEVENTEEN, but I’m sure there were many more I missed. I couldn’t wrap my head around that kind of heartache and quickly became impressed with Mary Ann’s strength. Not only was she raising her children alone before she married William, but her brother and sister-in-law died (within days of each other, also of typhoid) and she was raising their five kids. She owned a general store that was probably losing money and customers by the day. The Confederate dollar was shrinking with inflation. There were no men to harvest the farms. Food was short. Hope was shrinking. In October, her father died of typhoid, then her husband in December, in February her infant son died, followed by her mother a month later. How would you react if you lost two or three family members this year? You would probably need Prozac. How would you respond if you lost a dozen? I wouldn’t even be able to get out of bed. Seventeen in one year? I can’t even fathom that.

51-lUHhsD7L._UY250_This is our heritage. These are the strong women we come from. We are the living proof of their strength. We are the survivors. I dug deep down in my heart and soul to tell her story, a story she would be proud of. I wanted her to know that she didn’t endure all of that heartache in vain. I am here. I am her legacy. Her story has been written down to help us realize our own strength. We are the products of our ancestors fortitude and integrity. We are the children our grandmothers fought so hard for, and I want Mary Ann to be as proud of me as I am of her.

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Lori Crane is a bestselling and award-winning author of historical fiction and the occasional thriller. Her books have climbed to the Kindle Top 100 lists many times, including “Elly Hays” which debuted at #1 in Native American stories. She has also enjoyed a place among her peers in the Top 100 historical fiction authors on Amazon, climbing to #23. She resides in greater Nashville and is a professional musician by night – an indie author by day. Okatibbee Creek  was the bronze medal winner in literary fiction in the 2013 eLit Book Awards. It was also named as honorable mention in historical fiction at the 2013 Midwest Book Festival.

Lori’s books are available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

A to Z – Jefferson Davis

A2Z-BADGE_[2016]April 2016 A to Z Challenge – I’m blogging about history.

J is for Jefferson Davis

 

 

 

 

jefferson davisMost everyone knows Jefferson Davis was the President of the Confederate States during the Civil War. Here are some interesting facts you may not know. (photo www.biography.com)

Jefferson Davis served in the U.S. Army for a time. While there, he fell in love with his commander’s daughter, Sarah Taylor, daughter of future president Zachary Taylor.

Ole Zach wouldn’t give them permission to marry for he thought being a wife in an army post was too hard a life for his little girl. Jeff was depressed by the judgment, though he understood Zach’s stance. He traveled south to talk to his brother Joseph Davis about it. Joe had also been in the army and had resigned to move south and start a plantation. The brothers came to the conclusion that being in the army wasn’t such a great life. Jeff made a decision to leave the army. On June 17, 1935, he married Sarah, and on June 30th, he resigned his position.

Jeff and Sarah moved south to help his brother with the plantation. Joe gave Jeff a portion of the land that was covered with briers and bushes. To escape the summer heat, Jeff and Sarah traveled south to the coast to visit his sister in Louisiana. Sarah contracted malaria, yellow fever as it was known at the time, and she died only three months after they were married.

brierfieldFor years following his bride’s death, he was a recluse. He spent his time developing a 1000-acre plantation on his brother’s land and he called it Brierfield. (photo http://mshistorynow.mdah.state.ms.us)

In 1944, he eventually remarried. By this time, his plantation was successful and he had over 100 slaves. He spent the next decade being placed in various offices by the governor of Mississippi. When Mississippi succeeded from the union, Jeff was acting as the state senator. He was very saddened by the news of succession and delivered his farewell address to the Senate and returned to Mississippi. He was soon appointed commander in chief of the Confederate armies, then appointed President. He was not happy about the war. He certainly did not want the job as President.

Upon leaving the Senate, he returned to Brierfield for a short time before moving to Montgomery, Alabama which was the capitol of the Confederacy.

What I find interesting about the story is that when Sherman started his campaign in Vicksburg, MS, he burnt down Hurricane Plantation, Joe’s home. He didn’t burn Brierfield Plantation next door. He used it instead as a supply post for the Union army. Coincidence? I doubt it. Imagine how angry Jeff was after spending his mourning time building it. It was almost a shrine to Sarah. Now it was in the hands of the enemy.

After the Confederates surrendered to the Union in 1865, Jeff was imprisoned as a traitor for a while, but released after two years. He returned to Brierfield but found it unlivable.

Joe had never given Jeff the title to the land, and while Jeff was in jail, Joe had sold Brierfield to their former slaves. After Joe died, the new owners defaulted on the payments. Joe’s grandchildren claimed ownership of the land, but Jeff took them to court and won Brierfield back. For the very first time, after forty years, it was legally his. While he lived in Biloxi at Beauvoir, he tried to make Brierfield profitable again. He was working on the property in the fall of 1889 when he contracted pneumonia. He died a few weeks later.

His surviving family never lived at Brierfield.

The house was destroyed by fire in 1931.

A to Z – Gettysburg Address

A2Z-BADGE_[2016]April 2016 A to Z Challenge. I’m participating by writing blogs about history.

G is for Gettysburg Address

 

 

 

dec 2012 388Perhaps, no other moment in the history of the United States is as touching or as memorable as President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

July 1863 marked the bloodiest battle of the civil war. Union and Confederate soldiers clashed at Gettysburg, marking the end of thousands of lives. 45,000 soldiers were killed, injured, captured, or went missing. It was left to Pennsylvania’s governor to take care of the fallen soldier’s remains. In October, seventeen acres were purchased and the Union soldiers killed in the battle were re-buried in a formal cemetery. Almost as an after-thought, two weeks before the dedication ceremony, President Lincoln was asked to give a speech, setting the cemetery apart as sacred land. This battle was recognized as a major turning point of the war for the north, so I would think the President thought it a fine opportunity to spread a little positive encouragement to a war-weary Union.

November 19, 1863, on the way to the Gettysburg cemetery grounds, President Lincoln told his companions that he felt weak and dizzy. During his speech, it was noted that he looked “a ghastly color.” On the return train trip to Washington D.C., the President became ill with fever and a headache. It was determined later that he suffered from a mild case of small pox. Feeling sick and feverish, I can’t imagine how he sat through a long and most likely boring event, keeping in mind it was a bitterly freezing day in November in Pennsylvania.

The ceremony began with music played by a band, a prayer by a reverend, more music, and a two-hour speech by Edward Everett. It continued with more music, a hymn, a song by the Baltimore Glee Club, and finally… the speech by President Lincoln. It concluded with a song sung by a choir and a benediction.

Lincoln’s short speech has gone down in history. It was met with mixed feelings at the time, but has now become the most articulate version of our vision for democracy. For those of you who don’t do math, the ‘Four score and seven years ago’ is referring to 1776, the beginning of the American Revolution.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the President of the United States.

lincoln method studios

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

A to Z – Decoration Day

A2Z-BADGE_[2016]April 2016 A to Z Challenge. I’m participating by writing blogs about history.

D is for Decoration Day.

I should get two points for that. 🙂

 

 

 

Graves_at_Arlington_on_Memorial_DayIn 1868 following the American Civil War, the head of a Union veterans organization established Decoration Day as a time to decorate the graves of those killed in the war. However, this was certainly not a new idea, as those in the South had been doing this in family graveyards for years, well before the war. Families would gather on a Sunday in early summer at the cemetery grounds for a religious service and a picnic and place flowers on the graves of their loved ones.

There is another claim that black Americans actually invented the celebration/commemoration in Charleston, South Carolina at the close of the war in 1865, when 10,000 men, black and white, proclaimed to the world what the war was really about and celebrated the end of the war and freedom from slavery.

By the 20th century, the conflicting traditions merged to become one – Memorial Day.

Towns in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Mississippi, and Illinois have all claimed the creation of Memorial Day, and if that isn’t confusing enough, in 1966, President Johnson signed a proclamation declaring Waterloo, NY as the birthplace of Memorial Day. Seems to me they’re all about 100 years too late, and I’m not the only one who thinks so. The 89th Congress recognized that the observance of Memorial Day happened 100 years prior to the presidential proclamation.

When the first observance in 1868 was planned, it is said May 30 was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any civil war battle. The White House, in typical form, says it was chosen “as an optimal date for flowers to be in bloom.” Seriously, why do we elect these people??

The earliest observances mixed religion and nationalism together to provided a way for people to make sense of their history in terms of sacrifice for a better nation. I wish people today would understand and honor that instead of trying to erase it, but that’s a-whole-nother blog. To properly honor Memorial Day, you raise your flag to the top of the staff, then lower it to half staff until noon, when you raise it again. Memorial Day is about death, sacrifice, and rebirth. Perhaps we should commemorate it more than once per year.

Just in case you go on Jeopardy: The longest continually running Memorial Day Parade has been held every year since 1868 in Ironton, Ohio.

 

in memory

 

The backstory behind Okatibbee Creek

I wrote Okatibbee Creek in 2012. It has become an award-winning book and a story many people seem to treasure. I’m often asked where the story came from…so here ya go.

Rodgers, Mary Ann Rodgers Carpenter Jolly

She was just a name in my family tree. Mary Ann Rodgers Carpenter Jolly. My third great grandmother. 1828-1898. I visited her grave at Bethel Cemetery in Mississippi in 2012, and my husband asked, “Now, who is this again?” I sat with him at the foot of her grave and told him her story.

I first discovered she lost her husband, Rice Carpenter, in the Civil War in 1862. How sad to lose the one you love, but hey, it’s war, people die. After he died, she remarried in 1864.

I looked at the 1870 census and found she married William Jolly and was living with his children, her children, and three children they had together. It was a house-full! But at least their three children were proof they must have liked each other, right? That’s good. I was interested in where William came from, so I traced him back and looked at his 1860 census. In 1860, he was living with his wife Harriet, their four children, and a woman named Nancy Carpenter who was 69 years of age.

Nancy Carpenter? The only Nancy Carpenter I know is Rice’s mother. Why was Mary Ann’s mother-in-law living with her future husband in 1860?? Were they neighbors? Was Nancy the cleaning lady? I clicked on Nancy Carpenter and saw her relationship to the “head of house” was listed as “mother-in-law.” She was William’s mother-in-law? What?? She was Harriet’s mother?

So, I went back and looked at Rice’s family, and sure enough, his sister Harriet was married to William. Rice died 31 Dec 1862 and Harriet died a month later of typhoid on 30 Jan 1863. Their spouses, Mary Ann and William, brother-in-law/sister-in-law, married in 1864. Well of course they did. They had known each other for many years, hadn’t they?

The more I looked at the Rodgers and Carpenter families, the more I was amazed by the sheer number of family members they lost to war and typhoid. At the time of my research, I remember counting SEVENTEEN, but I’m sure there were many more I missed. I couldn’t wrap my head around that kind of heartache and quickly became impressed with Mary Ann’s strength. How would you react if you lost two or three family members this year? You would probably need Prozac. How would you respond if you lost a dozen? I wouldn’t even be able to get out of bed. Seventeen in one year? I can’t even fathom that.

okatibbee creek cover front JPEGWe all come from these strong women. We are the living proof of their strength. If the boat sank, the story would be over. But it didn’t, and we know that because we are here. We are the survivors. I dug deep down in my heart and soul and decided to tell her story, a story she would be proud of. I wanted her to know that she didn’t endure all of that heartache in vain. I am here. I am her legacy. Her story has been told to make us see the strength in our own hearts. We are the products of strength, fortitude, and integrity, as well as tears, heartache, and pain. We are the children our grandmothers fought so hard for, and I want Mary Ann to be as proud of me as I am of her.

Okatibbee Creek is available on Kindle at Amazon for only $0.99 March 4-8. You may also want to pick up a box of Kleenex.