Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day - Lest We Forget

My father at Meuse-Argonne Cemetery

During my father's military service in France in the mid-1950s, he and my mother were fortunate enough to tour the area around St. Mihiel where they lived, as well as take a few trips outside of the area to Paris, Nice and to Italy. Daddy was stationed at an army base at Sampigny which was a couple of miles from St. Mihiel. This area of France, known as the Alsace-Lorraine region, see-sawed back and forth between Germany and France for centuries. During World War I, the region was held by Germany but for three hundred years before, it was part of France. Following the war, the area reverted back to French rule. Many ruins and memorials dotted the region when my parents lived there, none from World War II though ,as the area escaped major action during the second war.

The United States didn't enter World War I until April 1917, and it took several months to draft, organize and train troops, as well as to produce the necessary war equipment and supplies; thus it wasn't until 1918 that the U.S. actually sent troops to Europe to aid the Allies in their fight against the German army. By the Spring of 1918, when French and British troops had been depleted and the outlook was bleak, General John J. Pershing's American troops brought much needed support and strength to the Allies. The American troops took the lead in several offensive attacks in the Alsace-Lorraine region, and by September the German troops were in retreat.

My mother took the above picture of Daddy standing over the graves of fallen American soldiers at the Meuse-Argonne Cemetery. The Battle of Meuse-Argonne was, at the time, the largest battle ever fought by U.S. troops in American history. Fought between the Meuse River and the Argonne Forrest, over one million American soldiers participated in this battle, which lasted nearly two months and eventually resulted in an armistice with Germany on November 11th. Originally, this day was celebrated and remembered in the U.S. as Armistice Day but in 1954 the day became known as Veterans Day to honor all veterans. Memorial Day is a similar holiday, a day set aside to to commemorate U.S. men and women who died in military service to our country. It used to be a tradition to observe the Memorial Day holiday by visiting cemeteries and memorials, but most folks these days view the day as part of a three-day holiday weekend.

The Meuse-Argonne Cemetery is the largest American cemetery in Europe. Its 130 acres hold the graves of 14,246 American soldiers who died during this great battle. Each Cross or Star of David is engraved with the name of a fallen soldier along with his unit and state of residence. The names of an additional 954 soldiers whose bodies were never recovered or identified are engraved on a monument within the cemetery.

St. Mihiel, where my parents lived during their stay in France, also was the site of a major offensive during World War I, and it too has an American cemetery honoring the dead soldiers from that battle.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Evans-Dunn families

The trip to Georgia didn't really turn up any new information on the Evans and Dunn families. Of course, only a small bit of time was devoted to searching for information on these families as the main point of the trip was research for the book on the Dulaney family. However, in researching the Dulaney family of Onslow County, North Carolina for a possible connection to Daniel Dulaney of Pendleton District, South Carolina, I came across some familiar looking names.

When Henry Dunn died in Hancock County in 1799, John Hix (sic) was appointed administrator of his estate. Probate records indicate that following a sale of Henry's personal property, accounts (debts) were paid to "Hinchier Lary" and "Danby Lary". The Onslow, North Carolina records contain a deed dated 1778 to "Darby Lary" that was witnessed by "John Hicks". There is also a 1786 record of a Henry Dunn purchasing 170 acres on the southwest branch of New River in Onslow County, and in 1798 Henry Dunn apparently sells the same 170 acres, probably in anticipation of the move to Georgia. Whether this is "my" Henry Dunn or not, I don't know right now but I am encouraged, especially since the same names - John Hicks and Darby Lary - show up in both Onslow County and in Hancock County in Henry Dunn's estate records.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Follow-up on the trip to Georgia

Well, Cousin Don and I made it back from Georgia safe and sound. Two days at the Georgia State Archives in Morrow were followed by a stay with Cousins Bobby Gene and Vivian Pennington who live just south of Macon. Macon's public library has an outstanding genealogy and archives section, and Don and I made good use of it while we were staying at the lovely Pennington home. Bobby, Vivian and Kyra were wonderful hosts who spoiled us tremendously - thank you so much for inviting us into your home.

After the days spent at the Georgia Archives and at Macon's genealogy library, you would think we had gathered enough information to do us for a while. You would be wrong. On our way back home, we stopped at the library in Anniston, Alabama in Calhoun County where some of the Dulaneys lived, then at the Birmingham Public Library for a few hours before finally turning the car toward Mississippi late Tuesday afternoon.

Don't know about Cousin Don, but I've been plumb tuckered out since getting back home. In addition to getting caught up with house and yard work, I've been sorting through the information we collected, trying to get it organized before starting the analytical process. We got some great stuff for the book on the Dulaney family, but there is still a lot of work to be done if we hope to find out the parents of Daniel Dulaney of Pendleton District, South Carolina. Thankfully, we picked up some new leads to follow, and Cousin Bobby Gene said to come back any time!

Monday, May 24, 2010

William Evans- Madison County, Georgia

The above image came from microfilm of the records of the Madison County, Georgia Poor School Fund for 1833. William Evans, parent, had three children enrolled in the pubic schools for Madison County: William, age 15; Sarah, age 11; and David, age 8. I feel certain that the fifteen year old William is William M. Evans, my great-great-great grandfather who died in Itawamba County in 1896.

Georgia was one of the first states in the South to establish funds for public school education. In 1822, the Georgia legislature established the "Poor School Fund" which became the state's first step toward a free public school system. Prior to the establishment of this fund, schools were funded primarily by tuition fees paid by the students. Although the "Poor School Fund" was a good idea, the benefits were limited and eventually the legislature discontinued funding. Not all counties took advantage of the funds, but Madison County did and thus William M. Evans received a public school education which served him well in his business dealings in Itawamba County. The 1891 edition of Goodspeed's Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Mississippi stated that William was "given the advantages of a common-school education in his native state" and indeed, he was.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

'Airship' is a no-show

December 3, 1931
Local Happenings

A few weeks ago there was a man came to Fulton and arranged with several here to return later with an airship to entertain a large crowd of people who would be here to see and to ride the plane. He collected one or two dollars for advertising space from each individual or firm who went in with him, then after collecting in advance he headed east and has not been seen or heard from since. He had arranged with Sheriff Pearce for a landing field and all matters had been arranged, but he paid no money out. He received several dollars and that was the last of him. He was in a Whippet car and limped when he walked on what he claimed to be a cork leg.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Evans family, continued

As I left yesterday's post, I was moaning over the difficulty of sorting through all of the Henry Dunns and William Evanses in early Georgia. Cela Dunn Evans' father, Henry, left a personal estate valued at nearly $1,000 in 1800, including cash of $309. In 1804, William Evans signed a receipt to the administrator of Henry Dunn's estate in Hancock County, Georgia, saying that on behalf of his wife he had received $128.48, the amount of her "legacy."

Hancock County was formed in 1793 and was adjacent to lands that formerly were held by Wilkes County. Following the Revolutionary War, there was a period of rapid growth in Georgia as settlers poured in from the Carolinas, Virginia, Maryland and other states. Counties and boundaries were in constant change. In 1811, Madison County was formed from several counties that at one time had been part of lands in Wilkes and Franklin Counties. It is in Madison County that I found the next record for William Evans and his wife Cela.

There are several land records for Thomas, William and David Evans in Madison County. From these records, it appears that our William Evans lived on land along Fork Creek and Holly Creek in the southeastern corner of Madison County. That corner was pulled from Elbert County which previously was part of Wilkes County. It is so important when researching family history to know how the boundaries changed from one period to the next since records can be found in several places.

Also important is knowing the who the neighbors of your ancestors were because these neighbors represented a marriage pool for your family; they often attended church together, sold land to each other, and even migrated to new lands together. Researching these neighbors can often provide clues to your own ancestor's past. Neighbors found near the Evans families in southeastern Madison County were Griffith, Eberhart, McCurdy, Adair, Allen and others.

In 1823, William Evans sold 88 acres on the "waters of Fork Creek" to James L. Griffith, and the deed was witnessed by David Evans, Thomas Evans and John Griffith. The deed abstract indicates that "Celia Evans, wife of William Evans, relinquishes her dower" which means that she was a willing party to the transaction and gave up her wife's interest in the land. I believe that "Celia" was actually "Cela" who was the daughter of Henry Dunn. Other researchers, however, claim the Celia was the daughter of John Leverett whose 1811 will in Wilkes County references his son-in-law, William Evans. I've found no mention of Celia as the name of the daughter of John Leverett and believe that this is a wrong conclusion.

Probable son of William Evans and Cela Dunn, Henry D(unn?) Evans, married Nancy Griffith, daughter of David Hannah Griffith and Nancy Eberthart. Henry named one of his daughters Cela Daymond Dunn, obviously after his mother. He also named his first two sons Charles Thomas Evans and William David Evans.

My great-great-great grandfather, William M. Evans, indicated that his parents were William Evans and Sela Dunn. He named a daughter Sela, a son John Thomas (my ancestor) and a son William. William's brother, Thomas, named a daughter Sela and a son William.

Another clue was found in the Paulding County History & Biography publication. The biography of Henry Bone indicates that his mother was Nancy Evans, daughter of William and "Celia" Evans of Madison County, Georgia. Nancy married Bailey Bone in 1826 in Madison County, and they moved to Carroll County, then Paulding County, Georgia. Paulding is where my William Evans and his brother, Thomas, were both married. A third possible sibling is Caroline Evans, who married James Lee Adair, son of Bozeman Adair, in Madison County in 1838 and moved to Paulding County, Georgia. The ages of these possible siblings all fit the census records for William Evans of Madison County.

The last census record for William Evans of Madison County is 1830. It would seem that he and Cela died before 1840. The young male in their household, under age 5, appears to show up in the 1840 household of his brother, Thomas Evans, as a male age 10-15 years old. Thomas was only recently married, in 1838, and thus this could not be his son. Enumerated next to Thomas "Evens" was his brother and my ancestor, William Evens, as the single occupant of his household. Neighbors of Thomas and William Evans in this 1840 census were William Bone, William Adair, W.S. Adair, and others. William Adair was also a neighbor of William and Cela Evans back in Madison County in 1830.

Evans brothers, William and Thomas, moved to Itawamba County, Mississippi not long after 1840, settling on lands near present-day Tremont and close to the border with Alabama. William died in 1896 and was buried in the old Asbury (Evans-Gilmore) Church Cemetery, now on private land. From what I've been told, the old Asbury Methodist Church burned and a new one was built that now sits on Highway 23 south of Tremont. Thomas moved on to Texas where he died in Itasca in Hill County where many of his children migrated.

Although I am fairly confidant that the wife of William Evans of Madison County, Georgia was Cela Dunn, daughter of Henry Dunn, more research needs to be done. Whether her name was Cela, Sela, Selah or Celia, she must have been a special person for there were many grandchildren and great-grandchildren named after her. Hopefully, some answers will lie in the Georgia State Archives, and if they do, I'll let you know.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Evans Family

There were at least three sets of Evans families in early Itawamba County. In addition to my own William M. Evans family, I've counted at least two more: the Parrott Evans family who lived near Tilden (actually a bit south of there) and the John Evans/Meeky Crawford family who lived in the northern part of our county, up near Mud Creek and Sandy Springs. John and Meeky are my husband's great-great-great-great grandparents, through their granddaughter, Betty Griffin Thornton.

William M. Evans, and wife Sarah A. Pearce, were both Georgia natives. According to William's biography, which appeared in the 1891 edition of Goodspeed's Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Mississippi, he was born in 1818, the son of William Evans and Sela Dunn. Sarah was the daughter of John Madison Woods Pearce and Elizabeth "Betsey" Skinner. William and Sarah married in Paulding County, Georgia about 1844, according to the biographical sketch in Goodspeed's, and they had seven children together, five reaching adulthood. Unfortunately, Sarah died in 1863 at the young age of 39, probably after giving birth to her last child, William D. Evans (I suspect the middle initial stood for "Dunn" but cannot say for sure). William did not remarry after Sarah's untimely death but instead raised their children by himself.

The land deed records of Itawamba County, as well as scraps of information gleaned from Marion County (that courthouse had several fires, the last one in 1887, with all old records destroyed), indicate that William was a large landowner, and Goodspeed's stated that he owned nearly 5,000 acres in 1891, five years before his death, "the largest amount owned by any one man in the southern part of the county." His in-laws, the Pearces, owned quite a bit of land as well. Sarah's father established Pearce's Mill in eastern Marion County, and her younger brother James Pizarro "Jim" Pearce owned over 30,000 acres at his death in 1915.

William was a self-made man, arriving in Itawamba County around 1846, and it has long puzzled me as to his early beginnings. Working from the only clue I had, the name of his parents given in the Goodspeed's biographical sketch, I've spent a lot of time trying to learn more about him and the rest of the earlier Evans family. William didn't come to Itawamba County alone - his older brother (by seven years), Thomas was actually here first, arriving by 1844 when he purchased a 160 acre tract of land jointly with Jacob Floyd Martin, his wife's brother-in-law and a minister who is generally credited with the founding of Mt. Pleasant Methodist Church near Tremont. Thomas married Henrietta Adair Clayton, daughter of Middleton Clayton, on June 11, 1838 in Paulding County, Georgia. After Henrietta's death sometime before 1873, Thomas moved to Itasca in Hill County, Texas where he died about 1889.

In addition to William and Thomas, I've identified at least one other brother, Henry D. Evans, who remained in Georgia and raised a family in Walton County. Henry's middle initial "D" is undoubtedly for "Dunn", and he named sons William and Thomas, and named a daughter Cela Dunn Evans. Henry's wife was Nancy Griffith, daughter of David Hannah Griffith and Sarah Eberhart. By researching Henry and his family, I've been able to pinpoint other clues as to the heritage of William M. Evans.

An important discovery was made when I found estate records for Henry Dunn in Hancock County, Georgia. Henry died without a will on January 30, 1800, and his personal estate was sold the following month for support of his widow, Nancy, and for division among his heirs. In neighboring Wilkes County in May 1800, "Celia Dunn, orphan of Henry Dunn, dec'd" requested that Purnal Truett be appointed her guardian. Sometime between 1800 and 1804, Celia, or Cela, married William Evans for in August 1804, William Evans signed a receipt for his wife's "legacy, being one of the heirs" of Henry Dunn, deceased. Other heirs were Susannah Dunn, who later married Athelston Gupton in 1818; William Dunn, possibly married to Rhoda Ransom; and Henry Dunn, Jr. of which nothing is known.

The difficulty in researching the Evans and Dunn families in this area, during this period of time, is that there were several with the same name..... numerous William Evans and several Henry Dunns.... and it is hard to keep them straight, especially when fellow researchers have claimed this William or that Henry as "their own" when records might not necessarily support their "claim."

Part Two continued tomorrow....

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

More fish tales

Beck Pennington with friend Frances McNeese
May 1969

Fessie considered himself guardian of the fishing holes in the Tombigbee River bottom near his house and farm in Peaceful Valley. Woe to anyone he caught "telephoning" for fish, and I believe he would have killed anybody he caught using cotton poison to kill and catch fish. Horrible to think of poisoning fish, especially in today's "greener" consciousness, but it happened.

For a while, Fessie suspected that someone was telephoning for fish in the river. Highly illegal, telephoning involved using the wires of an old timey wooden telephone box to shock fish. This caused them to float to the top of the water where they could be scooped up in nets. After putting the telephone wires into the water, the old hand crank would then be wound up, causing electrical currents that stunned whatever fish that were nearby in the water. This horrible practice was ruining Fessie's trotline fishing, and he was determined to catch the folks responsible.

Hearing a boat motor one day, Fessie took off for the river and paddled up to the Big Hole. Sure enough, there were the lawbreakers with their telephone and boat full of fish. Although Fessie yelled and cussed at them, they ignored him and went about their business. After all, Fessie was much older than they were and appeared harmless. Fessie put the word out in the community that he was going to put an end to the telephoning of fish in the Tombigbee River.

The summer went one and telephoning of fish continued. Again one day, Fessie heard the boat motor and again he went to the river. This time, along the way, he cut down a twelve foot sapling, stripping it of its limbs and sat down to wait by the edge of the river. When the boat full of men and fish came roaring down the river, Fessie yelled at them to stop. As in the past, he was ignored. This time, Fessie suddenly stood up with his twelve foot sapling pole, swung it, and cleared the boat of its occupants. One of the men swam to the other side of the river, getting away, but the other two were collared by Fessie and dragged to the house where the game warden was called to come get them.

Two or three days and miserable nights later, the other fella finally came out of the woods. He was eat up with mosquito bites and glad to turn himself in, and Fessie gladly obliged. That was the end of telephoning for fish in Peaceful Valley. Word got out that there was a crotchety old man that nobody wanted to fool with. His name was Fessie Pennington.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The one that got away....

This one didn't get away!
Fessie and Beck with a monster fish

Continuing with the theme from yesterday's post about Fessie and his trotlines, here is a real, true-to-life story, as told by Fessie to my husband, Mike. Honest.

A young Fessie Pennington was working his lines in the Tombigbee River, hoping to find a big flathead. The line seemed particularly heavy this morning, and Fessie thought it might be caught on a limb since there was very little give to the line. He kept pulling and pulling on that line, but it wasn't budging. Since this particular trotline had been a very good one, producing lots of fish for Beck to fry, Fessie didn't want to cut the line. Without thinking twice, he stripped off his overalls and dove into the murky river, which was about eight feet deep or so, to unhook his line from the limb.

A surprise met Fessie at the bottom of the river. A monster fish was on his line. When Fessie tugged the line, the fish exploded into action, thrashing about in the water and trying to get free. The flathead shot up from the bottom of the hole, and as it came up so did Fessie and the trotline, with the next hook on the trotline catching Fessie in his hand. Up to the surface Fessie and the fish came, long enough for Fessie to catch some air, then down they went again. Fessie went up and down with that fish, the hook tearing at his hand with each pull of the line, but he was not about to let that fish go, even if he wasn't hooked to the trotline with it!

After several battles, and Fessie nearly drowning, the giant catfish got loose and swam off, its tail fin splashing goodbye at Fessie. Completely worn out by the encounter, Fessie managed to pull himself and the line, still attached by the hook embedded in his hand, back to the boat where he fished around in his discarded overalls to find his pocketknife. Opening the knife with his teeth, Fessie cut the hook out of his hand and released the trotline back into the river.

Fessie spent the next fifty years trying to catch that monster catfish, which he claimed was as big as he was. His son-in-law, and my father, PeeWee Robinson, claimed to have seen the fish himself, and he also spent many years trying to catch it. Needless to say, the fish has not been caught.

The scar on Fessie's hand was a source for much discussion and conversation. Fessie told his tale to all that would listen, including my husband who remembers both the scar and the story to this day. Mike spent many hours on the middle seat of Fessie's boat, having the honor of handing Fessie the bait. Fessie didn't trust him to bait the line! Thankfully for us, Mike remembers the story of the one that got away.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Monster catfish in the old river bottom

A monster catch in the 40's

"too heavy to hold" Fessie said
They weighed 15 & 16 pounds

Fessie Pennington knew the Tombigbee River bottom like the back of his hand. He knew the best fishing holes and where the biggest catfish resided. He knew that the best fishing was when the river was low, generally in early summer or early fall.

Many types of catfish could be found in the Tombigbee River, but Fessie was always after the flatheads because they were the monsters of the river and the goal of every fisherman. They have a mouth as big as a mop bucket and can be easily identified because flatheads are the only catfish whose lower jaw is longer than its upper jaw. In the early years, Fessie also fished for food for his family's table and would come home with channel cats as well, which didn't get as large as flatheads but were more abundant and thus easily caught. Since the Tombigbee River at Peaceful Valley was muddy, blue cats weren't usually found, with their preference being for clearer water. Since the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway was built, and as farming practices have changed (or gone away completely), the water of the old Tombigbee River has become clearer and blue cats have become more numerous.

But Fessie was always after the flatheads, the bigger the better. See, whoever caught the biggest fish had bragging rights in Peaceful Valley until bested by somebody else.

Fessie had a long pole with an iron hook on end of it. In his boat, Fessie would cross the river at various points until he found gravel at the bottom using his pole and hook. The river had seams of gravel along its bottom, and this is where the flatheads liked to spawn. Fessie would run his trotlines along these gravel shoals.

A trotline, for the uninitiated, consists of a heavy fishing line with baited hooks attached at intervals along the line. These Fessie made his own trotlines, but these days you can buy them at Wal-Mart. As my husband Mike remembers, from his many fishing trips with Fessie, Fessie used #3 hooks (about the size of your finger) for his trotlines, about every eighteen inches, and he added old timey drapery weights to the line as his sinkers. The trotline would stretch across the river, tied off on each end onto a strong sapling or perhaps the roots of a tree, and would lie on the bottom of the river bed without interfering with any river traffic.

Fessie wanted his trotline to rest on the bottom of the riverbed because that is where the flatheads could be found. The only bait he used were live pool perch caught in a nearby pond. Fessie preferred his perch to be about 3 fingers high with a topfin belly, and he would hook that belly on the trotline just enough to keep the perch alive and trying to swim upstream. Flatheads love that live bait.

Fessie liked to check his lines right at sunrise when the mist was coming off the river. It would be just a big foggy as he pulled his boat across the river, a small paddle in one hand and the trotline in the other as he checked his line. If he pulled up the trotline and saw it jerking, maybe moving upstream, he knew he had a fish hooked.

Sometimes there would be a jack fish on the line, or maybe even a gar. A jack fish had scissor sharp, little bitty teeth and a jaw about 18 inches long, and they would tear up line. Mike said that sometimes on his fishing trips with Fessie, they would catch a catfish that weighed 15-20 lbs that had been swallowed by another fish. The bigger fish would have chewed up the smaller one but couldn't get it unhooked and would have to let it go.

After getting home with their catch, Mike said Fessie would take a hammer to the head of a catfish, killing it, before skinning and gutting it. Then he would take a dry towel to rub the inside of the fish to get rid of a thin, gray inner skin. This, he said, would take the wild taste out of the fish.

The big fish are still in the ole river bottom at Peaceful Valley except these days there is a new generation learning the secrets of the big hole. Just look at the catch from this past weekend, fish caught by Fessie's great-grandson Chip Mills and his friends. Chip took the picture below of the "monster catch" of the weekend, a 20 pound flathead. The bottom picture includes the head of the monster flathead on a table with the rest of the weekend's catch. You can spot some channel cat along with a few blues and another big flathead. Now that's a mess of fish.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Sawmilling in Itawamba County

Mrs. Mary Alice Welch Bowen shared this photograph of several men at a sawmilling operation who stopped long enough to have their picture snapped. Mrs. Bowen's father, Jesse Ellis Welch, is among those pictured but unfortunately with her eyesight she couldn't identify him to me.

Jesse Ellis Welch was the son of William Thomas Welch and Mollie Sanford, Fayette County, Alabama residents who moved to Tilden in Itawamba County around 1900. Ellis Welch married Annie Estelle McFadden and had five daughters and one son.

Mrs. Mary Bowen lives on Bowen Road in Itawamba County, doing quite well for her age, and is a delight to visit. She was married to Erie Young Bowen, son of Henderson Roberts Bowen. Erie was the nephew of my great-great grandmother Martha A. Bowen Clayton.

Friday, May 14, 2010

W.D.D. Bowen of Mt. Pisgah

Fulton News Beacon

July 2, 1931

Mr. W. D. D. Bowen, who lived for many years near Pisgah church, died at Amory first of the week, and his body was brought to Pisgah Monday and buried beside relatives who had preceded him. Mr. Bowen will be remembered by many people because he could not walk but used a chair which he propelled with his hands and arms. Rev. G. A. Senter conducted the funeral services.

* * *

W.D.D. Bowen was the son of W.D.S. Bowen and Mary D. Collins. My notes indicate that he was not married. His uncle, John Henderson Bowen, was my great-great-grandfather. W.D.D. Bowen's tombstone only gives his initials, but his full name, as given in the will of this father, was William David Dulaney Bowen. His father was William Darden S. Bowen (don't know what the "S" stood for his in name) who was born in 1825 in Virginia. W.D.D. was his youngest child, born in 1871 when his father was 46 years old.

Where did the middle name of "Dulaney" come from? W.D.D. Bowen's cousin, Nancy Victoria Bowen, who was the daughter of John Henderson Bowen, married Alfred Elias Dulaney. There must have been some high regard for this Dulaney, son of Rev. Thomas Dulaney and Eliza Minerva Horn, who moved from Itawamba County to Sevier County, Arkansas. Long-time researcher, Mildred Dulaney, indicated that Alfred - who went by "Ab" - moved to Arkansas with his father when he was fourteen years old. He came back to Itawamba County, married Victoria Bowen and returned to Arkansas where they made their family. Ab and Victoria were nearly twenty years older than W.D.D. Bowen.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Hog Killing Time at the Sloans

Hog killing time in Itawamba County created a lot of work for a family, but it was an exciting occasion since they knew that soon they would have fresh meat. Chickens and wild game provided most of the meat for the country table, although meatless meals were also common. Cows were generally used to provide milk, but when the occasional slaughter did occur, the beef could not be kept as long as smoked or cured pork due to lack of refrigeration or the ability to freeze meat for later consumption. In that case, a family usually would share their fresh beef with family and friends to avoid it spoiling and going to waste.

Hog killings took place in the late fall when a stretch of cold weather was usually guaranteed. The cold weather was needed to keep the slaughtered hogs from spoiling during the process, plus the curing of the meat took several days and if a warm spell came along then your meat could spoil. Better safe to wait for true cold weather although the anticipation of fresh meat sometimes overruled common sense.

Since it was usually a day-long, laborious event, the entire family participated along with perhaps some cousins, aunts and uncles from down the road. Back then, everyone helped everyone else out. If there was a particularly good butcher in the neighborhood or family, then he or she might be on hand to use their expertise in carving up the pork. Before the actual hog-killing day arrived, the hog or hogs would be put into a separate pen for about a month in order to fatten them up with a special diet of corn and other food. A fatter hog meant more meat, but it also meant more lard. The importance of lard to a farm family cannot be understated.

Preparations had to be made for the hog-killing day. Knives had to be sharpened, pots cleaned out, a table set up. A scaffold of sorts was built, upon which the hog was hoisted, head down so that when its throat was slit, the blood would run down and quickly drain from the body. This was an important process that kept the meat from spoiling, much like deer hunters do with their kill today.

It was the men's job to to kill the hog, scrap and gut it, but once a hog was gutted the women took over. In the above picture, the Gainey Sloan family had just killed a hog and the women were going about the business of turning it into food for the family. After being butchered for its ham, bacon, chops etc. the fat of the hog would be collected and rendered into lard.

Above, you can spot a ham on the table just in front of the washtub, and there are mounds of fat on the right side of the table. Fat was collected, cut up, and put into a pot where it became lard once melted. The guts of the hog had to be very carefully stripped of fat; some people threw the guts away because of the trouble involved in stripping them, but the Sloan family wasted not one part of the hog. The fat-turned-lard was a kitchen staple, used much like shortening and vegetable oil today. Although I have no memories of hog-killing days at the Pennington farm, I do remember that my grandmother Beck kept a tub of store-bought lard for making her biscuits and for melting to fry up her delicious chicken. Lard also was used in making soap and could be used in preparing salves and ointments.

On hog-killing day, there usually was a test batch of sausage cooked, something everyone looked forward to. Fat and seasonings such as salt, pepper and sage were added to ground-up, lean pork and then fried - usually over coals outside to avoid having to start up a fire in the wood-burning stove inside. If the first batch didn't quite have the right proportions, another batch would be prepared and fried until just right. The fresh sausage would keep a while but not as long as the other smoked and cured items. You can spot the sausage grinder on the table behind the little girl on the right.

Gail Newton Carter, granddaughter of John Gainey Sloan and Dora Belle Ridings shared this wonderful picture, such an unusual glimpse into an important occasion on the Itawamba County farm. Since I had not written down the names of those pictured, Aunt Tootsie identified them for me. She thinks that the two children standing in front are Gail, daughter of Una Sloan Newton, and Snooky, daughter of Grace Sloan Devall. Behind the table are Dorothy, Una, Gracie, Mrs. Willie Maude Newton, Aunt Dora Ridings Sloan, and Afton. Dorothy, Una, Grace and Afton were daughters of Aunt Dora and Uncle John Gainey Sloan. Miz Maude was the wife of James Elonzo Newton and daughter of Morgan Spears Bourland and Ollie Booth. She also was the mother-in-law of two Sloan siblings: Johnnie Ridings Sloan, who married Troy Newton; and Una Ione Sloan, who married William Forrest Newton.

Thank you, Gail, for sharing this photograph with us, and I appreciate also Aunt Tootsie - who was first cousin to these Sloans - for sharing her recollections of hog-killing day with me.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Two-fer: mules and a car!

As photography became available locally to the residents of Itawamba County (and became affordable!) families gathered for photographs of themselves. Sometimes, like the picture of my husband's great-great grandfather, Orville Mills, and his family, there will be a family dog posing with the family. In these early photographs, families are usually posed against the backdrop of their home, either on the porch, just off the porch, or with the home in the distance. As time went on, it became more common for the photos to become less formal, or maybe that is just the way it appears to be because many of the later photos include the family's mule or mules. The importance of mules to the families of Itawamba County cannot be overstated. They were the workhorses of the farm, and although there would be a mean one every now and then (and there are stories still circulating to prove it!), mules were just as much a part of the family as dogs (and cats) are to us today. As mules began to be displaced by tractors, their importance gradually played out, and the family car took the mule's place in family photographs. In the photograph above, we actually get a two-fer! Mules and the car!

Posed above with their two mules are Porter Gainsville Dulaney with his wife, Arvilla Omega Johnson, and their son Olun Dulaney.

Gainsville was the son of Thomas Aron "Bunt" Dulaney and Alice Moxley while Arvilla was the daughter of Napolian A. "Poley" Johnson and Mary Elizabeth Lester. My mother-in-law remembers that when she got married, her great-uncle Gainsville lived at Cobb Stump. He walked to town to buy her a set of pillow cases, then walked to her home about a mile behind White Church (now East Fulton Baptist Church) to deliver them before returning to his home.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Harbor siblings

The late Ross Robison, of Tremont and Hernando, shared this photograph of his mother and her siblings. The Harbor family was a prominent one in Tremont's early history. Thomas Harbour/Harbor moved his large family from Perry County, Alabama to Itawamba County, Mississippi around 1840, and suffice to say, most every Tremont native could probably trace their ancestry back to this Harbor family. Although I do not have direct kinship to the Harbors, there are plenty of connections as members of my Evans, Cofield and Robinson families intermarried with the Harbors. E. A. "Rip" Harbor was my grandmother Cofield's surrogate father who raised her and her two sisters after the death of my Cofield great-grandparents; he was known as "Granddaddy Harbor" by my own father even though he was actually an uncle by marriage.

Rip Harbor is pictured on the back right, and his sister, Mary Myrtle Harbor Robison, is seated immediately to his right (our left). I believe the other brother is the photograph is actually a half-brother to the rest: James B. Harbor. The two other sisters are Effie Lee Harbor and Darthula Harbor, and I'm taking a stab at who's who in this picture, based on other photographs I have, but I think that Effie is probably seated front left with Darthula on the far right.

These siblings were the children of Talmon Harbor, and great-grandchildren of Thomas Harbor and Mary Green, the earliest Itawamba Harbor settlers. Talmon Harbor married, first to M. A. Lyle, the mother of James B. "Jim" Harbor. Jim was married to, Selina Elmira Stone, the niece of my great-great grandfather, George Emerson Robinson. Selina's parents were Carroll M. Stone and Moran Parthenia Robinson.

Jim Harbor's mother, of whom we have only her initials - no first name, died when he was just three years old, and his father Talmon remarried to Martha "Mat" Evans, the sister of my great-great grandfather, John Thomas Evans. Talmon and Martha's four children - Rip, Myrtle, Effie and Darthula - would thus be my first cousins three times removed, except Rip, who also was my great-great uncle by marrying Vannah Cofield, but served more like a great-great grandfather. Confused? Hey, this is Tremont!!

Mary Myrtle Harbor married Carlton McKindrey Robison, brother of my great-great grandfather George Emerson Robinson. Her sister Effie Lee Harbor married Earnest Nox McFadden, and the raised their family in Itawamba County. Darthula was married to Bunyan Hartsell, and they moved to Texas with their daughter Chlois sometime before 1930. "Thula" made many trips back home to see her family however.

It has been said that Talmon Harbor, who was named after his great-grandfather Talmon Wright Harbour, a Virginia native, owned several acres of land which he divided among his children. Today, you can see this land as you drive east of Tremont along old Highway 78 . Look on the left, and you can spot old cedar trees leading away from the old highway. Each of Talmon's children received close to 200 acres each for their own homeplace. I imagine the above photograph was likely taken on one of the sloping hills that can be seen from the old highway. Rip was a professional photographer and could have set this one up.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Thanks to Mom

"For the pins you pinned --
The clothes you fixed
For the beds you made --
The cakes you mixed
Here's a great big Thanks --
Dear Mom, to you"

The Itawamba County Times, published May 9, 1946 for Mother's Day

Saturday, May 8, 2010

”Com’ on in en Shut da door, Yer letin skitters in”

Cousin Don speaks some more......

Ms. Mona obliged me the opportunity to expand on the”Dog Trot” picture, belonging to Mr. & Mrs. George Whestley West. After a few hours' journey, we arrive at the West home on a Sunday evening, and as would be common-place of the times, we spend the night. Adjacent to the “Dog Trot” is a wonderful old porch facing one of Itawamba County’s earliest dirt roads that leads to the Dulaney Settlement. The front yard, or grounds around the home-place, is clean of grass and recently swept with a “Brush Broom” made of sagebrush or corn husk tied to a Hickory stick. Unlike today, grass in a yard was not welcome because it supplied a hiding spot for snakes and other critters. We find Ole George cooling in the evening shade on the front porch swing, one foot on the ground and one propped up on the swing’s arm, head resting on the other arm and tilted forward. His chin is tucked tight to his breast and his hands united under his chin

There are rags twisted tight and soaked in coal oil, lit, smothered out and dropped on the ground at each end of the porch. Such tactics were a common defense in a constant fight with the Mississippi mosquitoes and pesky house flies. Approaching the porch I see a big red combed rooster chasing a Dominecker hen, and they hurdle a pine log that has been stripped of its bark and thrown under the porch to capture ticks and flees. The fowl not only supplied eggs and meat for the supper table but was another form of pest control, keeping ticks and other insects picked clean from around the homestead.

George tilts his head and greets us with, “What yuns doin?”. I have a seat on an upside down lard can instead of choosing a sea-grass bottom chair or Coke crate. I notice two of the West knot-heads, Mittie Dell and Rhome, pulling a grey tick off the old sooner hound at the other end of the porch. I hear the screen door squeak just before a loud thud sounds as it slams shut. Mary inquires “have yaw et yet?”, and it provides us a chance to go in and see the West family's living room. So as Mary would probably say,”Com’ on in en Shut da door, Yer letin skitters in."

Mr. George’s wife” Mary” is Alfred’s daughter, of the original “Dulaney Brothers”: John, Alfred & Gilbert. Alfred’s wife is Rachel McNeese, believed to be the daughter of Henry & Mary McNeese, who were also early Itawamba Settlers. George is the son of John W. West & Elizabeth Robbins.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Grand Ole Opry House ....

... has been hard hit by flooding from the Cumberland River. Water levels rose above the stage, which has been used by the Grand Ole Opry since the move from its former home at the Ryman Auditorium in 1974 to the Grand Ole Opry House. Shows this weekend are to be held back at the old Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville, where the above picture of Beck Pennington was snapped sometime in the late 1970s. Beck and Fessie were huge fans of the Opry show. A Saturday night stay at their home in Peaceful Valley always included listening to the Grand Ole Opry on the transistor radio, at night, with the lights turned off, the window box fan gently roaring, and the sound of whippoorwills and crickets just outside in the country darkness.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Penningtons Win in "Plant-to-Prosper"

Uncle Jury Pennington is pictured center,
with Roy F. Robinson, left, of the FHA (and a Tremont native)
and Henry Holland, right, county agent

Aunt Bess, right, is showing off a just-finished quilt to one of the committee members
who called at the Pennington home between Cardsville and Peaceful Valley
to tell them of the award

These pictures and an accompanying article appeared in the December 12, 1946 issue of the Itawamba County Times newspaper. For two years in a row, the Jury Pennington family won both the local county competition, as well as placed second in the state, of the "Plant-to-Prosper" competition.

To quote from an article that appeared in the Times on October 31, when the Penningtons won the county competition, "The record of the Penningtons is exemplary: They showed a total income of $3,499.71 for the year from 8 sources, and realized a net profit after all farm expenses were allowed of $1,923.21. This was done on an 80 acre farm with 45 acres in cultivation and 15 acres in pasture. Another must be kept in mind, too - the Penningtons completely lost 12 acres of their corn due to Spring and Summer rains and overflows."

"The Penningtons said in their record book: 'The Plant-to-Prosper has caused us to make improvements that we would not have made which are beneficial. Whether we win a prize or not, we have received enough benefits from our improvements to compensate for our time and trouble.' The Penningtons have two children, Mildred and Bessie, now living at home."

In December, when the newspaper reported the state-wide award, the article indicated that Uncle Jury and Aunt Bess received a cash prize of $75, awarded by the Commercial Appeal newspaper out of Memphis.

The Plant-to-Prosper program was for small farmers throughout the Commercial Appeal's circulation area in the Midsouth. At the time the newspaper initiated program in 1934, during the middle of the Great Depression, there was a huge surplus of cotton which impacted the prices farmers were getting for their cotton crop. Roosevelt's New Deal program was attempting to cut back farmers' cotton production and promote diversification of their crops, and the Commercial Appeal's Plant-to-Prosper campaign fell right in line with the New Deal program.

Several thousand families from across the Midsouth participated in the eighteen-year long campaign by the Memphis newspaper to encourage farmers to develop crop diversification and crop rotation, practice soil conservation, and generally be more productive in their farming practices. The Itawamba County Times, with its owner-editor Delmus Harden, was a supporter of the Plant-to-Prosper program and encouraged local farmers to participate.

Belated congratulations go to Uncle Jury and Aunt Bess for being innovative farmers!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Cousin Don speaks.....

I recently asked Cousin Mona for the opportunity to share some of my favorite Itawamba county related photos with the followers of Itawamba Connections. I wanted the opportunity to give the readers a true feeling of the daily lives the people of Itawamba have been blessed with. These vivid stories are best told through a series of pictures I have collected of Old Itawamba County Home Places. When Ms. Mona graciously allowed me access to this blog, I started searching my collection for the perfect photo that would capture the true character of a people, the land, and the 175 year romance between them.

However, I soon discovered that these true southern stories are best told in a series. When I first started researching the “Dulaneys of Itawamba County” and their extended families, I was quick to discount a home place if it did not present a good vision of the original structure. As I became a more seasoned researcher, I came to understand the importance of every single clue and the light it could shed on the mysteries of the past. I then made the snakes and spiders move over, started digging in the ruins, and soon developed a passion for the story each dwelling has to offer.

Similar to the Chickasaw before them, early settlers used the rich soil of Itawamba to develop a “seed corn of life” enriched with deep morals, a strong faith in God, and a character developed by the sweat of their brow, as well as, decades of scorching Mississippi blisters upon their back. Through years of harvesting the bounties of Itawamba County, we find in ourselves a strong resemblance to the past. So I decided to start my stories with one of the pleasures Mona and I enjoy in doing research. At first glance the picture above does not seem like much, but it speaks volumes about the life of the George West(1855-1937) and Mary Elizabeth Dulaney West(1857-1913).

First let's talk about a common feature of the old house, which is the "Dog Trot" or "Breezeway" if you like. The dogtrot is believed to originated in the Appalachian area. So what does it tell me about Mary and George? They had air-conditioning! Yes, air-conditioning. A yellow pine door that gave entrance to the kitchen was on one side of the dogtrot, and on the other side was a bedroom that also served as a sitting room. Open a window in each, and a slow draft is created and cooled by our "breeze way".

The sitting room usually had one or more beds and straight back chairs circled in front of a sandstone fire place. The interior furnishings of both rooms, as well as its inhabitants, smelled of smoke. Burning a split piece of rich red oak wood, started with a splinter off of a cedar or pine starter knot, gave heat to the fireplace and wood burning stove. The ole fire place usually had a pine or oak mantle complete with the coal oil lamp and perhaps some hickory twigs used for brushing their teeth or used for a dipper for their Dental snuff. The soot from the chimney made good tooth paste at the time, not to mention a glisten of a shine. The snuff glasses made good drinking glasses and often could be found on the mantel, full of buttons, old coins or other necessities.

I can just see ole Mary with one foot on the hearth, pushed back on the two back legs of a straight back chair, a needle pinched between her chapped lips, listening to George tell how "Dulaney Branch is solid enuff to walk over"as he throws a back stick on the fire and pokes the fire up. Add a Sears Catalog -- it not only serves as a fire starter, but good reading in the sitting room and essential in the outhouse if corncobs were scarce. I could go on, as the picture of this old house "speaks" to me even more, but I'll stop here.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Other Mississippi Dulaneys

It is probably no secret that Cousin Don and I are compiling information for a book on the Dulaneys of Itawamba County and their associated families. We've talked about it for a couple of years now, and have started full-force writing and researching since January. The Itawamba Dulaneys can trace their ancestry back to Daniel Dulaney of Pendleton District, South Carolina with fair certainty, but after Daniel the family line pretty much disappears.

Many earlier researchers such as Mildred Dulaney, Melba Lambert Staigis, Arlander D. DuLaney, Vecil Dulany and others, have tried without success to get beyond Daniel of Pendleton. We owe these devoted Dulaney family researchers a huge debt of gratitude. Individually and collaboratively, they accumulated a treasure trove of genealogical information. Don and I will use that information as a foundation and build upon it, hopefully providing a finished product that will give an in depth look at the Dulaneys, and associated families, that helped settle Itawamba County.

Currently, our story begins with Daniel Dulaney of Pendleton, but it is our hope that we will be able to positively identify Daniel's ancestors before publication of the book. Today's internet technology and increased availability and digitalization of information has given us an advantage that the earlier Dulaney family researchers didn't have. Keep your figures crossed for us that we can put the pieces of the puzzle together.

To that end, I've been immersed in the Dulaneys of old Virginia and Maryland since that is where all fingers seem to point. You can blame this weekend's lack of posts on the intense focus on these families. In his 1936 family history, Arlander Denson DuLaney, grandson of Alfred Dulaney and wife Rachel McNiece, he compiled a list of possible Dulaney ancestors. His research included information about another set of Mississippi Dulaneys who lived in the Delta. Intrigued, I set out to learn more about this family.

A. D. DuLaney (as he spelled his surname) compiled information about a Dr. John William Dulaney of Rosedale, in Bolivar County, as well as Greenwood, in Leflore County, and his father Dr. William Johnson Dulaney of Madison County, Mississippi. Dr. William J. Dulaney was born in 1813 in Virginia and his biographical sketch published in Volume II of Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Mississippi indicates that he was the son of William Dulaney of Orange County, Virginia. Some researchers show William Dulaney as the great-great grandson of Thomas Dulaney, the Immigrant, from Ireland. From Thomas the Immigrant comes the many Dulaneys found in Virginia and Maryland, and it is very likely that Daniel Dulaney of Pendleton can lay claim to one of them.

Although William Johnson Dulaney and John William Dulaney were both physicians (William graduated from University of Virginia in 1833, and John from Louisiana State University in 1875), the third generation, and subsequent generations, chose law as their profession. This is probably the reason that A. D. DuLaney was particularly interested in this set of Mississippi Dulaneys - A. D. was a lawyer himself, graduating from the University of Arkansas Law School before 1900. His brother, John Jefferson Dulaney, also was a lawyer. A. D. DuLaney also served as Arkansas's Insurance Commissioner for several years in the 1930s.

Maybe one day we can figure out just how A. D. Dulaney is related to John William Dulaney, Jr. I think they both would be pleased.