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 the same year of the bloody shoot-out with the revenuer, but I’m not sure if that incident happened before or after her infant and her sister died. I’d hate to think of Eula enduring those tragedies without her husband by her side. I know he was eventually released from prison and came home, but I’m not sure if he was home by 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 1836

On This Day in 1836 my 3rd great grandmother Sarah Ann Elvira Dollar was born.

Don’t you find the name “Dollar” to be a little strange? Well, her father was Ambrose Dollar, her grandfather was Reuben Dollar who came to America from Wales and fought in the Revolution, and her great grandfather was Edward Dolier – probably French Doh-lee-AY or Irish D’Olier. Either one of those makes more sense than Dollar.

Sarah Ann’s mother was Jemima Clearman, whose father was Jacob Van Clearman, whose father was John William Clearman from Germany.

Well, that’s just a crazy European mix, isn’t it?

Let’s go back to her dad’s side for just a moment. This is the transcription of the sworn statement of Dr. J.M. Dollar, the great grandson of Reuben Dollar.

betsy-ross-flag-usa-united-states-of-america-americaGause Texas, August 4th 1913
This is to certify that my great grandfather Reuben Dollar told me of fighting in the Revolutionary War when I was a boy. He came from Wales and fought in the war. He returned to Wales and was disinherited by his father for having fought against the British Crown. After which he returned to America and settled in Edgefield S.C. He died in Miss. in 1858 at the age of 113 years.
Signed J.M Dollar
State of Texas:
County Of Milam:
subscribed and sworn to before me this August 4th. 1913
J.R. Fraim, Notary Public, Milam co. Texas

I find these old records fascinating!!

Anyway, back to Sarah Ann…

pickensShe was the 6th born of 8 children, half boys, half girls. She was born March 11, 1836 in Pickens County, Alabama. Pickens County is right on the Mississippi border, and at some point between 1840 and 1850, the family moved west to Mississippi. At the age of 17, on October 6, 1853, she married William Lafayette Brown, Jr. in Lauderdale County, Mississippi. Keep in mind, the above Patriot grandfather was still alive until 1858 and died in Lauderdale County, Mississippi, so he might have been living with them. If not living with Sarah Ann and her husband, at least with a nearby family member.

Sarah Ann gave birth to her first child at the age of 18, James Floyd Brown in 1854. He was followed by John Ambus Brown in 1857, Angeline Brown in 1859, William Harrison Brown in 1860,  Sarah Elizabeth “Bettie” Brown in 1862, Warren Brown in 1865, Franklin Carlton Brown in 1867, Charles Berry Brown in 1871, Pinkney Earlie Brown in 1874, and Martha Catherine Brown in 1877.

Do you notice anything strange about those birth dates?

Page 1When the Civil War broke out in 1861, her husband was about 25 years old. Yes, he went to fight for the Confederacy. As a matter of fact, he was a sniper who guarded Mississippi bridges in the area. At one point, he was captured by the Union. He escaped. He went back and allowed himself to be captured again to help others escape, which he/they did. After that, he had a bounty on his head for the rest of the war.

It doesn’t look like the war or the captures between 1861 and 1865 stopped him from visiting home at least a few times. Obviously he stopped by the house long enough for some hanky panky. The girl born in 1862 was my second great grandmother. Her birthday is the same day as mine, November 19.

One thing for sure, these people didn’t back down from a challenge! I look forward to doing more research on the Dollars and Clearmans very soon.

Sarah Ann died in Mississippi July 18, 1915 at the age of 79.

Happy birthday, Grandma Sarah Ann!!

brown william L and Sarah A at goodwater cemetery

This post brought to you by “On This Day,” a perpetual calendar for family genealogy.

My Family Tree Held Together with Tape

I’ve been talking for years and years about painting a cool family tree in my house and putting family member’s pictures on it. I’ve researched trees, both stick-on vinyl types and painted ones. I’ve looked at wallpaper. I’ve investigated some artists. I’ve counted the number of ancestors I have pictures of and realized it needs to be a pretty big tree and will cost an arm and a leg to buy that many frames. I also realized that that many frames probably won’t fit on one wall. And for clarity, the pictures probably need to be all different sizes. I don’t know how to make this look good.

Planning how to put it together, I couldn’t make heads or tails of how to display the pictures. Mom’s family on one side and dad’s on the other? That’s logical. But we’re not just talking immediate family. I want to put most of the pictures I have, and that goes back to my 4th greats, not to mention the paintings of my family in the 1600s in England. Do I put grandparents lower and greats higher and so on? What if I have more on mom’s side than dad’s side? Also, I’m from Mississippi, so some of mom’s side intertwines with some of dad’s side. LOL.

After a whole year of staring at the blank wall in my office, one day I just grabbed a quart of paint, a handful of paintbrushes, and started painting.


tree 1The tree is about a foot wide at the bottom, so I started with a big, fat paint brush and some really scary black paint. I aimed for the middle of the wall, fighting with the corner of my desk that was too heavy for me to move. Next, I grabbed the next size smaller brush and started painting random branches. This is the point where my trophy husband came home from work, walked into the office, stared at the wall for a minute, shook his head, and walked out. Yeah, I know it doesn’t look that great, but just wait! I’m an artist. You have to trust me. Then again, he’s been here before. Poor guy.






tree 2Step two. I used a smaller paint brush to extend the branches and then another smaller one. Starting to look like a tree, no? A little skimpy, but still, a tree! It’s going to need to be a lot bigger than this for all my pictures. I’m thinking taking it all the way to the ceiling and as wide as it’ll go.









tree 3Step three. I used even smaller brushes. The tree’s getting bigger. Of course I’m climbing across my desk and standing on a chair to reach this high, so I have to keep getting down and backing up to make sure it’s symmetrical. I don’t want it perfect, but I do want it to at least look like a healthy tree. My knees may be getting a little tired. Trophy husband’s also asking about dinner. Umm, I’m in the middle, you’ll have to order a pizza. Poor guy. But in my defense, he already knew we were having pizza when he came home and saw the beginning of the tree.







tree 4Step four is a smaller brush and a smaller brush. Need. More. Branches. My arm is getting tired now.












tree 5Step five is the smallest brush I could find, like one of those out of a paint-by-number box. I’m not sure the branches go as small as I want, but my next step would be to use a Sharpie. I don’t think trophy husband would approve, and I’m not sure you can re-paint over a Sharpie. Sounds like that might be a problem if this thing doesn’t turn out.

I stared at it for a while, wondering if I should make it even bigger, maybe take it across the ceiling. For art, that would be cool, but for a family tree, I don’t know how I’d put pictures up there. I decided to stick with the wall.





tree 6Step six. The next day, I randomly taped pictures to the wall to figure out how I wanted to display the photos I have. It’s kind of looking cool just doing it randomly.














tree finishedStep seven. After living with it for a couple days, I decided to stay random. I also decided to not frame anything. I like the freedom to add and move the pictures as needed. I used two rolls of cellophane tape.

So, there it is.

My family tree.

Painted by hand and held together with tape. That seems fairly philosophical.

There are over 9000 people in my family tree. Thankfully, most of them weren’t photographed.


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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MLK Day and the Fiery Cross

We must meet hate with love.” ~Martin Luther King Jr.


(photo of MLK removing a burnt cross from his yard in Atlanta, Georgia 1960)

If I found this symbol of hatred in my front yard, I would probably call anyone who would listen, post it all over social media, get the police involved, and generally throw a fit. Then, I would pack and move, which is exactly what the haters wanted to happen.

MLK didn’t do any of those things. Look at his body language. He doesn’t show hatred, anger, or fear. He seems very calm, though undoubtedly very perturbed. He hasn’t even told his small boy to “go back into the house,” as he refused to cower from the danger that obviously existed.

Though we all know MLK was quite an incredible man, my thoughts on the photo revolve more around history. What does religion, Jesus, crosses have to do with racism? Where and when did cross burning start?

The first recorded instance I could find is in the poem The Lady of the Lake by Sir Walter Scott, published in 1810.

In the third part of the poem, a burnt cross was used to summon Scottish clans to rise up against King James. In the poem, the chieftain made a cross of wood and lit it on fire. He then killed a goat and extinguished the fire with the goat’s blood. The burnt cross was then carried by a messenger to a nearby village. The messenger spoke only one word, the place to meet. The village would then send a messenger to the next village and so on. Any man who failed to show up at the appointed battle was to meet the same fate as the goat and cross.

This, however, wasn’t something new the author created. Using a “fiery cross” or a “bidding stick” was the common way to rally people to an assembly as far back as the 1500s, and commonly in the 1700s to rally Scottish clan members to arms. It was even used with Scottish settlers in Canada during the War of 1812. All of the above examples were never a form of racism, only of communication.

The burning cross became a symbol of the Ku Klux Klan when this public way of rallying supporters was adapted by them in the 1915 film The Birth of a Nation. They used cross burning as a rallying cry, but this time, it was not to stand up against monarchs or battling neighbors. This time it was accompanied by hymn singing and prayer and was used to rally supporters to create/maintain white supremacy. It became an anti-Catholic, anti-Jew, anti-immigrant, prohibition symbol.

By the 1950s, the Klan and its burning cross was more focused on an anti-black rhetoric. This is where they lost me. I hate to leave you here, dear reader, without the answers, but I have yet to find why this symbol was used to show hatred by placing it on black people’s lawns.

Please let me know what you think.


Historic Stuckey’s Bridge to get fresh coat of paint

An historic wooden bridge spanning the Chunky River in Clarke County is getting a fresh coat of paint Saturday because of recent vandalism.

Source: Historic Stuckey’s Bridge to get fresh coat of paint

Stuckey's cover_webThis above story is the bridge featured in my book, “The Legend of Stuckey’s Bridge.” 

Girls Can’t Run Marathons! Oh, Yeah?


Girls can’t run marathons. Girls can’t do much of anything. They’re just…girls.

Young women today need to realize that women have not always been equals in the world, and in many ways, we still aren’t. We’ve only had the right to vote for the last 94 years. Think about that, ladies. Your great grandmother and perhaps your grandmother couldn’t vote for the next president, a privilege you take for granted. Up until fifty years ago, a woman couldn’t get a loan or open a bank account without her husband’s signature (and permission).

One woman who bravely and boldly paved the way for us is Katherine Switzer.


At the age of nineteen, Ms. Switzer decided she wanted to run the Boston Marathon. Guess what? Sorry, it’s a boy’s club. You can’t run.

She did it anyway. I don’t know how she got past the registration desk, but somehow, she got her number, pinned it on her sweatshirt, and started the race. She got many kind acknowledgements from the male runners, but at some point during the race, reporters got wind of a woman running and caught up with her, asking her stupid questions like, “Are you going to run the whole race?” and “What are you trying to prove?” Eventually, a man tried to grab her and throw her out of the race. He turned out to be the race manager. He is the guy pictured below in the dress shoes behind her. Fortunately, he was tossed to the side of the road by Ms. Switzer’s boyfriend.

boston marathon race organizers attempt to stop kathrine switzer from running 1967. she finished the race

At that point, Ms. Switzer realized she needed to finish the race – for all women. If she quit or allowed them to throw her out of the race, it would be a blow to all women who desired to compete, and she would become a joke, a tabloid headline. At the time, there were no intercollegiate sports for women, no scholarships, no prize money. Women competing physically was almost unheard of.

In the freezing rain and frigid temperatures on April 19, 1967, Katherine Switzer finished the Boston Marathon in four hours and twenty minutes, forever changing the face of sports opportunities for women.

If you’d like to read more about Ms. Switzer and the Boston Marathon event in her own words, you can find it on her webpage HERE.