As I write this, tomorrow is Thanksgiving 2018 here in the United States and Amy Johnson Crow has suggested Thankful as our them for 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.
When I started thinking about this, I found so many different directions that I wanted to go. At first, I thought about one of my very favorite Thanksgiving Dinners that I celebrated with my grandfather Robert H. Dickson, Jr. I talked about that some time back and you can see it here.
Then, I thought about pointing out that My ancestors were actually here for the First Thanksgiving in the Colonies, while Kathleen’s Mayflower ancestors were Johnny-Come-Latelys for the second one, even though they get all the credit. Folks forget that the first commemoration of Thanksgiving took place in the Virginia Colony took place at the Berkeley Plantation in 1619. My ancestor, Cicely Reynolds, was living very near to the plantation at that time and may well have been at that celebration of thanksgiving. Kathleen, on the other hand, has a number of Mayflower ancestors (John, Elinor, and Francis Billington, John Howland, Francis Eaton, Henry Samson, Degory Priest), so of course there is a Thanksgiving connection there, too.
But this last Sunday, I was preparing my Sunday School lesson and hit on what I really wanted to talk about. I am not the sort of genealogist who believes that my identity is defined or my future determined specifically by the lives of my ancestors or by my DNA. But, I do know that important values are passed down from generation to generation. I know that the experiences for good or for bad of one generation affect several to come. And for the lessons and experience of those before me, I am thankful.
One of my favorite things is to teach adult Sunday School. I am a guest speaker in a number of different classes at our church. This past Sunday and this coming Sunday, I am visiting with one of my favorite groups. This is a class where there may be members still in their seventies, but the vast majority are members of the Greatest Generation and are firmly in their mid- to late-eighties and nineties. What could I possibly have to teach them? But they are always gracious and welcome me and invite me back.
When I thought about it, I realized that I have a number of ancestors who were pastors and preachers. But I also have a lot of members of my family who have taken the more informal route of teaching and leading adult Sunday School. Mom is currently the president of her class. My brother and his wife lead classes at their church. My step-mother teaches Sunday School at her church as well as leading worship from time to time at the local county jail with my Dad. (He helps; he isn’t a resident.)
And back through the generations, many of my ancestors shared their faith and their understanding by teaching Sunday School. My maternal grandfather, Hudson Wren, led his Sunday School at the Wilson United Methodist Church in Wilson, Arkansas class for nearly 40 years. I remember every Saturday evening, when we were at his house, he would retreat into his den, close the door, and work on his lesson. We all knew not to disturb Papaw while he was working on his lesson because it was important to him. Even though he saved his notes for years, not long before his death, he cleaned out his files and destroyed years of lessons. I am thrilled to have some of the the ones that escaped. I still refer to them for my own lessons. Of course, they are often tied to the Adult Bible Study quarterlies from years and years ago and I don’t have those. But I can still guess at the direction from the notes. It’s fun to see his way of taking notes and writing and to hear his voice in them.
We recently met my great-grandfather, Charles Council Bailey. He also was called on to lead Sunday School from time to time. I’ve got a few of the talks that he gave at different times, including one done for Sunday School. I suspect that this is from the 1890s, though I don’t find a date on it. That means it was probably when they lived in Milton or Stigler in the Indian Territory. I have to say that I can identify with his comments as I lead classes full of folks who have all had long and full lives. This is part of a talk he gave to and about the Sunday School and why it is important.
In this he says “… if I should attempt to offer a word of advice or define for older and better [men] the interest we should take in this work, that they will deal lightly with me when passing upon my presumption, and with careful hands winnow the chaff from the grain, if any grain there be in what I may offer.” Sounds about right when standing in front of a group of folks who have seen far more of life than I have.
My maternal grandmother, Susan Louise Bailey Dickson, often led the devotions for the Women’s society in her church. I have a few of these and love them, too. She’s quick and to the point in what she has to say. That’s the point of these devotions that open the meetings. Here’s one of hers. I don’t know the date, but it was from late in her life.
Hey! Do You Know Who You Are?
Matthew 12:50 – Whoever does what my Father in Heaven wants him to do is my brother, my sister, and my mother.
Kirk Douglas: “Once, while I was driving to Palm Springs, CA, I picked up a hitchhiking sailor. He got into the car, took a look at me and said “Hey! Do you know who you are?” That’s a very good question. A question we all have to ask our selves.” (From The Ragman’s Son: An Autobiography)
We live in a day when it is fashionable to lament that we need to find out who we are. This was never a problem to me. As the youngest of a large family and almost the only girl, I knew I was Somebody’s Little Sister or I was Charlie & Viola’s little girl. I’ve known people who resented this identification with their family members. I never did. I do not resent one of my brothers introducing me as his “baby Sister”. The knowledge that I was an integral, indeed an important, part of this closely knit family was a security that many people have not known.
If a brother caught me misbehaving, he would draw me aside and tell me to stop it. If I argued that the other kids were doing it, they would reply “Yes, but you now better.”
Our meals were an unhurried time of sharing. We told our small triumphs or defeats, as the case may be.
It was in [Sunday School] that I learned “Jesus Loves Me”. Also God is the loving Father of us all. This did not seem strange to me for I had not yet learned that not all fathers are loving. Later in [Sunday School], Mrs Clark taught me that I was a part of the church family and that expanded to the Family of God.
As I grew up my family kept expanding. There was school and later I went to college. Then I married and we were another family unit within the larger family of mankind. I was a wife. Then a mother. many years later I became a grandmother. Then I was a teacher.
I am many things. I am still a wearer of many hats. Most important, I am a child of God – a sister of Jesus and of all who are children of the Father. This, I think is the foremost “who” that I am.
As some of you may know, I sang in one choir or another most of my life. One of my favorite anthems is an old one that is an adaptation of the 23rd Psalm, My Shepherd Will Supply My Need and ends with “Not as a stranger or a guest but as a child at home.”
I do not always do all the things that the Father would have me to do and, like Paul, I sometimes do what He would not have me do. With much prayer and effort, I strive to live so that I can say I am a true child of the Father.
Hey! Do you know who you are?Susan Louise Bailey Dickson, “Hey! Do You Know Who You Are?”
So, back to Thankful. I am so thankful that in my family, I can find examples of people that I have known and loved and that I can discover and admire who help me to see who I am. Not that they determine me, but that their influence and experience on and in each successive generation is undeniable – both for good and for bad. I am thankful that by finding my family and reflecting on who they were and are, I am able to answer Grandmother’s question more each day. Hey! Do you know who you are?
Charlie Bailey was a song collector
This week, Amy Johnson Crow, the organizer of 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks has given us a Bingo Free Space with Random Fact. To me, that means some random thing about someone in my tree.
Well, Charlie Bailey was a song collector. That’s pretty random. And it’s something you would not find in any kind of a record that you would find.
Birth, death, marriage, property, tax records. None of those sorts of record tell you much about the person. And that’s why it’s so important to get to know the family stories and to look more at your ancestors to get to know them.
Charles Council Bailey was my great-grandfather. His youngest daughter, Susan Louise Bailey, was my grandmother. Charles was born 26 July 1868 in Hackett, Sebastian County, Arkansas. He was the first child of Hume Field Bailey and Sarah Louise Council (each of them had children from a previous marriage).
Charles worked on his family farm, ultimately inheriting it. He also worked as a clerk in a grocery in Hackett and as a carpenter, framing houses. So, he was working to get by. In 1895, across the Arkansas River, in Indian Territory, Charles and Viola Tennison married. I wish I knew the story behind that. I am not sure whether they had moved there and met or whether they went across the river to marry and settle down, or what. It’s only about 30 miles from Hackett to Milton. The first of their children, Carl Everett Bailey, was born in Milton.
From there, they moved another 30 miles west, to Stigler, Indian Territory. There four more children were born. But, by 1910, they had moved back to Hackett. I suspect he moved home to run the family farm and help his mother. (Once Oklahoma gained statehood, they came back to Arkansas. Just the opposite from my ancestors in another line who moved to Oklahoma once it had gained statehood. More about that another day.)
It was a tough life on that small farm, way out in the country. It’s hard to put ourselves into that time and place and imagine what each day would be like. Not just how hard people worked, but what else filled out their lives.
I was fortunate enough to get Charles Council Bailey’s trunk from my cousin Michael Bailey and to get a lot of his other papers that my grandmother had saved. These folks were serious pack-rats. I have tax receipts going way back. I have other receipts going back to the 1840s for loans and for sale of property. All of that along with lots of letters and pictures.
But in the midst of all of that paper were about 60 poems written out, or so I thought. When I started Googling around for the verses, all of them ended up being old, old folk songs. Charlie was a song collector! These must have been some of his favorites.
Almost all of the songs have the date and the place that they were copied. Seems like a lot of them came from November of 1895, just a couple of months after Charles and Viola got married. Some where collected while the family lived in Milton in the Indian Territory. Others were done while in Hackett. There are a few that were copied by other people and say that they were done for Charles. A few, Charles notes that he copied for Viola.
There are several that appear to have come from a ledger. I don’t know whether he just used pages from the ledger, or these are just a small part of a huge collection. The pages are numbered in the 600s. If there were 600 more pages of these songs, I think we would have heard of this.
I wish I could ask my grandmother and her sister, Lucille, as well as their brothers, more about this. Did their dad play and sing at home, for fun? Did they all participate? Seems like I recall there being an old fiddle that belonged to him. Did I imagine a banjo as well? Or was that someone else? (It could have been Kathleen’s family.) Was he someone who loved to listen to others? Was it the lyrics or the tunes that really resonated with him?
Here’s the thing: don’t let this sort of thing get lost. Don’t just record the “facts” about your family. Make sure you get a good idea of the people. Remember them. When the last person who actually knows another person dies, a lot of the memories of that person are inevitably lost and they fade a bit more into the past. But, our family is our family and they are complete people, not just lists of facts.
Who knows! Maybe some of these random facts, like Charles’ love of music are passed down through the generations. I’ll close with a second random fact. C. Michael Bailey, Charles grandson, has clearly inherited that love of music. He’s a senior contributor and music critic for All About Jazz, an online community of jazz aficionados. So, I think this random bit is still shaking through the tree.
A few words for Wordless Wednesday. I’m going to start posting some pictures on Wordless Wednesday. These are great pictures that stand on their own. I will caption the pictures, but won’t stay anything else about them, at least not in that post.
The beards are back. Well, at least the beards were back. I suggested to Kathleen that I ought to grow one and she strongly encouraged me to reconsider that idea. I thought I could do a pretty fair impression of Uncle Si, since I already carry around a big glass of iced tea.
When I saw that the theme for this week was Bearded, I immediately thought of my great-great-grandfather, Dr. Alonzo Dossey Wren. He could definitely have been at home with the guys of Duck Dynasty. He even lived near their home for many years.
Alonzo Dossey Wren was born 9 August 1841 in Putnam County, Georgia. He was the sixth of George Washington Wren and Sarah Bridges Wren’s children. You may recall George Washington Wren from a previous story about him and a Bible Dictionary he owned.
In 1850, the family appears in the census of Putnam County, but they did not remain there much longer. By 1851, the family had moved to Bienville Parish, Louisiana.
For many years, there has been confusion over this family. In the 1850 Census of Putnam County, Georgia, in the household of Geo. W. and Sarah Wren, there is a 9-year-old boy enumerated as Wm. A.D. Wren. There is also an 8-year-old boy named Monroe. No other record has been found for Monroe. And Alonzo Dossey Wren never appears as William Alonzo Dossey Wren. So, there is a mystery. Is William A.D. Wren really A.D. Wren? Maybe. But W.A.D. Wren has a tombstone (placed much later) that says he died in 1867. And the IGI lists William Alonzo Dossey Wren. So, who is whom? Really don’t know. I’ve heard lots of theories. Like William A.D. Wren was somehow handicapped and the family used the name again. That seems unlikely. Or that A.D. Wren was born Monroe and took the name A.D. Wren after his brother died. But, that doesn’t hold water either since by 1867 (William’s reputed death), A.D. Wren had already served in the Civil War and had married and started to make his own records. The only actual records I have seen that include William and Monroe are the census records for 1850 Putnam County, Georgia. And I am inclined to lean toward a sloppy census taker.
In any case, we don’t find the family in the 1860 census. G.W. Wren (A.D. Wren’s father) had purchased several tracts of land in Bienville Parish and the family was clearly residing there. And the 1860 census for Bienville Parish is missing.
Minden, in Bienville Parish, is only about an hour and a half drive (at most) from West Monroe, Louisiana, the home of Duck Dynasty. So, perhaps the seeds of the beard started here.
When the War came, A.D. Wren enlisted in the Claiborne Grays – Company D, 19th Regiment of Louisiana Infantry in December 1861. He and his unit served under General Joseph Johnson. They fought at Shiloh, Missionary Ridge, Chattanooga, Chickamauga, Resacca, and Atlanta. The unit was disbanded in May 1865 in Meridian, Mississippi.
In this picture, you can see A.D. Wren with his “Arkansas Toothpick”, the long, thin knife in his belt. The original of this photo is owned by my cousin, John Gann, of England, Arkansas. He has an amazing collection of artifacts not just from the family, but also from his time flying over Europe during WWII.
But, there’s no beard! As a young man, he’s not wearing is signature whiskers.
After the War, A.D. Wren moved a bit north into southwest Arkansas. In 1866, he married Frances Georgia “Georgia” Vickers, the daughter of James Jackson Vickers and Savannah Georgia Shehee. The Vickers family were early settlers in Florida. Georgia’s mother was born in Leon County, Florida in 1823, more than 20 years prior to statehood. By 1840, the family had moved north into south Georgia, Thomas County. And by 1850, they had moved into Bienville Parish. And by 1860, they had moved into Hempstead County, Arkansas.
Alonzo went to New Orleans to study medicine at the University of Louisiana, receiving a certificate for attending lectures there in 1871 and 1872. The University of Louisiana ultimately became Tulane University in New Orleans. This is a picture of him during his studies, taken at the studio of Petty & Quinn at 151 Canal Street in New Orleans. Very dapper looking, with a nicely trimmed beard this time.
I’ve not been able to find records yet of his time in New Orleans. By the time of this certificate, at least three children would have been born to the family. The eldest, a little girl named Savannah, died as an infant. I wonder if that helped shape Alonzo’s desire to study medicine.
In any case, he worked as a physician, while still working his own farm, for the rest of life, until his death in 1915. I wish I had asked my grandfather about him. But that wasn’t even something I thought about as a 10-12 year old boy.
I have a clock that he and Georgia gave to my great-grandparents as a wedding gift in 1899. My little brother has a pocket watch that Dr. Wren received as payment from a patient at some point.
As it turns out, Dr. Wren came by his beard legitimately. On the left, below, is is father, George Washington Wren. That’s one stern looking dude with a serious beard, I would say.
On the right is George Lovich Pierce Wren, Dr. Wren’s older brother. His is much more neatly trimmed. But, then, he was in the Louisiana legislature and had to clean up a bit, I suppose. Maybe we will talk about his experience in a later entry. His diary that he kept during his time at Emory University and during his service in the Civil War is kept in the Special Collections Room of the Emory University Library.
Here’s another of Dr. Wren as a young man. The photo on the left is a large format tintype. I believe it must date from about the time he was studying in New Orleans as well. The beard is still neat and short.
But, on the right, the beard is starting to take on a life of its own. This is the look that I have seen in so many photos. The very full beard shows up in all of the pictures of Dr. Wren until the end of his life.
This is one of my favorites. Dr. A.D. Wren and his wife Georgia, taken 26 December 1900 in Prescott, Arkansas, where the family lived for generations.
On 18 January 1916, Dr. Wren died at his daughter, Carrie Camillia Wren Woodul’s home. He and Georgia had moved into town to live with their daughter just thta year on account of their health. Georgia lived until 1941, and Carrie, Mrs. J.C. Woodul, lived until 1977.
The descendants of the beards — the descendants of Dr. A.D. Wren and George Lovich Pierce (GLP) Wren — have held family reunions since at least the 1940s. So, while neither the men, nor the women, of the Wren family have as extravagant beards as their ancestors, their memory lives on. Not just the memory of the beards, but the memory of the ancestors and their lives and stories. And that’s even better.
What makes us frightened? For some, it’s a good scary movie. (Personally, I have never liked them!) I think a lot of times, we get frightened when we are placed into a situation that we don’t understand, without any context to understand what is going on and what’s going to happen next. We see people in situations that we don’t understand, that might not look like us, and that don’t behave like we expect them to behave and we get frightened.
Little kids live in a world where lots of things frighten them, or at least make them uneasy. There’s so much that is unknown and they are so much not in control of their life and their surroundings. They have to learn that many of the things that initially are frightening are really not so bad, and might even be really good. Were you scared the first time you went down a slide? What about the first time you drove on the freeway? You learn that these things are really not bad at all!
Sometimes, it’s meeting someone that is frightening.
I have only the vaguest of memories of my great-grandmother, Viola Tennison Bailey. I know lots and lots of stories about her and have dozens of photos. But memories that are actually my own are few. Viola was born 19 July 1875 in Winona, Choctaw County (now Montgomery County), Mississippi. She was the first child born to John William Biggers Tennyson and his wife Mary Susan Druscilla Deshazo. By 1880, the family had moved to Pike County, Arkansas. In 1885, when Viola was just nine years old, Bill Tennyson was killed in an accident at the sawmill he ran with his brother, Zenas. Mary remarried to J. Frank Phillips in 1888. By then, Mary and her family were living in Sebastian County.
Viola married Charles Council Bailey on 1 Sep 1895 in Milton, Indian Territory. She and Charles had ten children, starting with Carl Everett in 1896 and ending with my grandmother, Susan Louise , in 1919.
Viola died 19 August 1970 in Fort Smith, Sebastian County, Arkansas. The picture, above, was taken just a year before Viola’s death, along with her daughter, granddaughter, great-granddaughter, and great-great-granddaughter. What a wonderful picture to have!
I was just seven years old when she died It was during the summer after first grade. She was the first family member that I remember dying. I think I only met Great-Grandmother a few times. By the time I came around, she had health problems and was no longer able to live on her own. She lived in a nursing home, which was a frightening place on its own. To a five-year-old (or even younger) child, the smells and sights of a nursing home, especially in those days, were utterly foreign. I can’t remember much about Great-Grandmother. Just that she was very, very old and didn’t seem to interact that much. It’s almost lost in the mist of memory. But I remember that it was sort of frightening to be there and to be around the nursing home and all of the very old people.
Of course, that was hardly a fair picture of the character I have heard about the rest of my life. I have heard nothing but stories of spunk and strength and good humor on the part of my great-grandmother. I wish I had had more of an opportunity to get to know her either earlier in her life or later in my own.
Even though, when I knew her, she was very old and not able to do much for herself, that certainly was not always the case. She lived on the edge of the Indian Territory, sometimes the inside edge and sometimes the outside edge. In any case, she lived in a frontier area and raised her family on a hardscrabble farm. She was married for nearly forty years and then lived alone in her widowhood for another thirty-five years.
I have heard all sorts of stories about Viola. I heard one where she was living alone, in the house (above) when an animal got into the hen house and she effectively and efficiently dispatched it with her shotgun. She had her sons make sure they told folks about how handy she was with that shotgun so she wouldn’t have any trouble, being an elderly widow living alone.
I have Great-Grandmother’s butter paddle. She used it to make butter in a big bowl rather than in a churn. My grandmother assured me that her mother used the paddle to paddle more than just butter!
Once, after Viola was in the nursing home, my grandmother got a call that two men in suits where visiting Viola and the nursing home was concerned about who they were. One man was very old, himself, and the other appeared to be an attorney. Turns out it was an old man of the neighborhood who needed identification and Viola was the only one still alive who could attest to his actual birth.
I am sure that my Dad and all my Bailey cousins could fill the hours with stories of Great-Grandmother Bailey. The moral is that things and people that are frightening are often filled with love and joy and have a whole world to share with us if we have the opportunity and take the time to embrace them and hear what they have to say.