Winter – 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

I was surprised that a blog post on winter was as hard to come by as it ended up being.  I am certain that I remember a set of photos from the late 1940s when my father and his family traveled to Niagara Falls.  The pictures show the falls frozen and lots of snow.  But, I can’t find them anywhere.  Maybe Dad will know where they are.

But I found some pictures that were just as interesting and tell a story of a “big snow”, at least for Fort Smith, Arkansas.  I have talked about my granddad, Robert H. Dickson, Jr., previously.  Granddad took a lot of photos with his old camera (I think Dad still has that camera).  And Granddad did his own developing back in the day.  I guess he didn’t have an enlarger, or maybe only had a small one, because so many of his photos are 2″ x 2″ and maybe a bit grainy.  But, they are great fun to see, since so many of them are really candid and completely unstaged.

So, I found a few pictures that Grandmother (Susan Louise Bailey Dickson) had captioned “Robert H. Dickson Jr. in that big snow of 1940”  Digging around in climatology history web sites, it looks like there was a snowstorm that dropped 9.4 inches of snow on Fort Smith, Arkansas in January of 1940.  Looks like Granddad and, I guess, Grandmother took the opportunity to go out in the snow.  I am betting that Grandmother took these photos.

Robert H. Dickson Jr. in the snow of January 1940

It doesn’t look like 9.4 inches in this picture, but it does look like Granddad needs a jacket!  I am only guessing that Grandmother took these photos.  Robert and Susan met in June 1938 and been dating for a year and a half by this point.  They got married just a month later on 23 Feb 1940.  It’s fun to see Granddad so young.  He looks so skinny.  And the paralysis on his face sort of gives him a scowl.  Kathleen thought that he looked mean in these pictures.

But, how could you think of him as mean when you see him out in the snow in his bare feet!  His pants are up around his knees and he’s barefoot in the snow here.

Robert H. Dickson, barefoot in the 1940 snow

The last of the pictures that I found was a fun one of the house that Granddad grew up in.  I find my great-grandparents, Robert H. Dickson, Sr., and Ethel Garner Dickson, in their house at 2230 N. 14th St., Fort Smith, Arkansas by 1925.  They lived there until Robert Sr’s death.  After that Grandmother Dickson lived there for at least a couple of years before moving.  I have never heard the reason that Fort Smith decided to renumber their streets.  North 14th St. became North 29th St., but the family didn’t move.  Grandmother notes that that’s her future father-in-law, Robert Sr., on the front porch.

Robert H. Dickson, Sr. on his porch at 2230 N. 14th St., 1940

So, even back in the day, wintertime could be a good time for our ancestors.  They could be excited by unusual snows.  They could go out to play in the snow.  And they could do goofy things in the cold, just because.  That’s the kind of thing that makes sure we remember that our ancestors were all real people just like we are.


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Next to Last – 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

I am glad to find that I am not alone in having a hard time figuring out what or who to write about for this week with the prompt “Next to Last”.  Jamie Gates over at Applegate Genealogy talked about having a little bit of a writer’s block with this topic as well. 

“Next to Last” is a funny thing.  Often, you don’t know until considerably after something has happened that it even was the Next to Last.  You don’t know that a child is the next to last until it’s completely clear that there are no more children coming to the family.  You often don’t know that something is the next to last time that you do something or that you see someone until much later.  And usually that means that it wasn’t planned as the next to last.

On the other hand, next to last can be wrapped in anticipation or at least a sense of waiting for something.  Remember the next to last final exam at college.  Or the next to last day before you were married.  We use this as a marker to move toward something.

None of that has anything to do with my topic this week.  I was looking at a pedigree chart and wondered how far back my maternal line went.  Well, I didn’t have to click far to get that answer.  I have only found my maternal ancestors (my mother’s mother’s mother’s mother, and so forth) back about six generations.  So, I decided to introduce you to my next to last ancestor on my maternal line.  Hopefully I will be able to make this post incorrect before too long and take things back another generation.

Sarah Vincent, often called Sallie, was my great-great-great grandmother on my maternal line.  I can only get one more generation beyond her on the maternal line.  Seems to me that that’s not terribly far back.  Tracking the women is unfortunately difficult, and doing it in the frontier country of western North Carolina and east and middle Tennessee is an added difficulty.  But, here’s my line as I know it:

  • My grandmother – Mary “Mary Jim” Higgs, b. 1906, DeQueen, Arkansas, d. 1988, Memphis, Tennessee
    • My great-grandmother – Eliza Johnson “Lida” Cason, b. 1868, Carrollton, Pickens County, Alabama, d. 1941, Dallas, Texas
      • My great-great-grandmother – Elizabeth “Bettie” Cooper, b. 1834, Bedford County, Tennessee, d. 1901, Van Buren, Crawford County, Arkansas
        • My great-great-great-grandmother – Sarah A. “Sallie” Vincent, b. 1809, Rutherford County (?), Tennessee, d. 1864, Bedford County, Tennessee
          • My great-great-great-great-grandmother – Elizabeth Adcock, b. 1789, Granville County, North Carolina, d. 1848, Murfreesboro, Rutherford County, Tennessee

It seems so strange to me that some folks get so caught up in their name line – their paternal line.  The family tree is a huge thing with many ancestors.  To focus so pointedly on the left edge of the tree ignores so much.  If you have found your paternal line eight generations back , to your 6th-great-grandfather, you have 510 ancestors in your tree.  Of those, 502 of them are not your paternal grandfathers.  (By the way, the same thing holds for following the strictly maternal line, too.)  There’s so much in the middle of the tree that’s exciting to research.

But, that’s a bit off-topic.  Sallie Vincent was born in 1809 in Tennessee.  While I have not found a record of exactly where she was born, her father had purchased land in Rutherford County, Tennessee by 1820 and appeared in the 1810 Rutherford County census.  So, I think she was probably born in Rutherford County, or nearby. 

Her parents were Henry Vincent (b. 1781, Granville County, North Carolina, d. 1841, Rutherford County, Tennessee) and Elizabeth Adcock (b. abt 1789, Granville County, North Carolina, d. before 1837, Rutherford County, Tennessee).  Henry and Elizabeth married 30 Sep 1805 in Granville County.  So, they moved to Tennessee as a young family.  Admittedly, I have not researched this family very thoroughly, but they appear to have had at least five children and at least one was already born before the move to Tennessee.  While Granville County, North Carolina was not a big city, they moved into the Tennessee frontier, barely ten years after statehood.

It does not appear that Sallie grew up on a “plantation” by any means.  Her father purchased land in Rutherford County and appears to have been a farmer.  In the 1820 census, he appears to have one slave.  In the 1830 census he is enumerated as having two slaves.  I need to search the tax lists to get a better idea of how much land they had.

When she was twenty years old, Sallie married Micajah Thomas Cooper in Rutherford County on 31 March 1829.  Micajah was from Rowan County, North Carolina, born there in 1806.  He was the son of Henry L. Cooper and Rebecca Hollis.  It appears that the family moved to Tennessee somewhere around 1808-1815.  Micajah’s grandfather, John Hollis, was already in Rutherford County in time to be enumerated in the 1810 Rutherford County census.

Through the years, Sallie & Micajah moved around Middle Tennessee, from Rutherford County to Coffee County to Bedford County.  They ultimately settled around Wartrace in Bedford County by 1834.  There, 10 of their 12 children were born (including Bettie, who went to Africa as a missionary in 1856.)

While Sallie was still in her thirties, she lost her mother and her father remarried.  She lost her father not many years after that.  She saw several of her children die young. 

Ultimately, Sallie, herself, died on 22 May 1864 in Wartrace.  She was buried at the New Hope Baptist Church in Fairfield, Tennessee.  She shares a grave plot with Micajah and some of her children.  It’s located immediately in front of the church, right on the driveway, so it’s hard to miss.

So, there you have it.  At least for now, Sarah Vincent is the next-to-last in my known maternal line.  Hopefully, this won’t be the case forever.  I hope to find out more about her and her ancestors.  I encourage all of my fellow researchers to take the extra effort to meet and get to know their female ancestor as well as their ancestors from difficult places (like the Carolinas).

Until next time,
–SCott

Thankful – 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

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.

Hudson Wren’s Sunday School Lesson on Christian Maturity, 13 July 1975

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.

Charles Council Bailey talk on Sunday School

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?

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Bearded

dd

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.

wren-0462-f-v00-AD-CivilWar

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.

wren-0461-f-v00-AD-and-GeorgiaWren

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.

wren-docs-0233-f-v00-nm-060-DrADWren-obit-1916

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.

 

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Cause of Death

koeze-mortality-31Last week, we looked at conflicts that we find in our family tree.   These might be things that  we, ourselves, have experienced.  They might be stories with recent memory.  Or they might be far in the past.  But one thing that they all point out to us is that the people we are researching are real people.  They had real lives – real joys, real sorrows, real hardships, real experiences.  Sometimes in our haste to find our next ancestor, we treat the people in our tree as anonymous names and collections of facts to be discovered rather than the members of our family that they are.

Perhaps this becomes most clear as we look at causes of death, the theme for this week.  Every time we look at a tombstone or stand at a grave, it’s a reminder that someone’s life ended.  That person was born, lived, and then died.  Someone took the time to bury them.  Most of the time, there is a monument or tombstone to remember the person.  Were there a lot of people gathered there for the burial and funeral?  Or was it an anonymous burial in a potter’s field with no one in attendance?

How did the person live, we wonder?  What kind of person were they?  Were they joyful and fun to be around?  Or were they the one to freeze the joy out of a room and regard everyone with a stern and disapproving look?  Were they surrounded by people who loved them during their last days and hours, or did they die alone?  What caused their death?  Did they die at a young age from some disease we would regard as highly treatable today?  Or did they die from something that still kills many today?

cemetery-Arkansas-Vinita-0043-f-v01

The tombstone and the grave probably don’t tell us a lot about this.  I have seen a stone in Mississippi County, Arkansas that claims what a loving father a man was, when I know for a fact that that wasn’t quite true.  Maybe when he was sober, but not when he drank.  When he was sober, he looked after folks.  For fun, he would teach me big words.  But, when he drank, which was more and more frequently late in life, he was mean.  He even tried to shoot his wife one Christmas.  But that’s another story for another time.

Texas Death Certificate - Grace Clowdis HiggsSo, we look at death certificates.  They probably give us immediate and contributing causes of death.  This is good as we try to build a health history, to see if certain diseases run in our family.  But, there’s still a lot more to the story, and to the person and their experiences than we see in that little box on the form.

This week, we are going to meet two different people who had fairly similar paths near the end of their lives.  In the last months, we have seen several high profile celebrities who chose to end their own lives.  Notably, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, both committed suicide this year.  There have been others in the media, but these two particularly shook a lot of people.   When one person I know heard about Anthony Bourdain, they talked about what a shock it was since everything seemed to be going well for him – he had a great career on TV and writing, he had a family that he loved and that loved him, he was sober for a number of years from the drugs that he battled in the past.  But something was really wrong for him.  Depression made him believe that there was no way out.  So, he ended his life.

And I think that’s the thread that joins the lives of Bill Bailey and Cecil Dickson.  Both of these men, in desperate times, saw no way out for themselves.

Cecil Noyle Dickson was born 20 Aug 1876 in Mississippi, probably in Tate County.  He was the eldest child of John H. Dickson and Martha A. Taylor and the older brother to my great-grandfather, Robert Harrison Dickson, Sr.   The family was a family of farmers, as much of my family in those days was.  They moved from Mississippi to Prairie County, Arkansas by the time of the 1880 census.  Eventually, John H. Dickson died and Martha remarried to Jack A. Jones.  By then, the family was living in Crawford County, Arkansas, north of Fort Smith, in a small town called Rudy.  The family story was that Jack Jones was mean to his step-children so Cecil and his brother Robert left home while still young.

Apparently, Cecil didn’t go far because in August of 1895, Cecil married his step-sister (by Jack Jones first wife) Elzenia Mildred “Zenia” Jones.  They had at least ten children, though I think they lost at least one along the way.  The 1900 census shows him as a laborer.  In 1910, he is a farmer on rented land.  In 1920, he is a farmer, but he owns his own farm.  Likewise in 1930.  Of course, by then Great Depression had begun and I am sure that things began to get tough. And for some, it got very tough, indeed.

According to some Dickson cousins,

Cecil was a kind man, who worried a lot. Apparently, Cecil had mortgaged the farm at Citizen Bank. Due to the depression at the time (1931) and possibly a crop failure, he could not make the payment on the mortgage. This upset Cecil very much. One morning, he went into Rudy and some men there were razzing him about the bank taking the farm. This upset him very much. Cecil went back home and ate dinner. Then he got his 22 rifle to go squirrel hunting. Along in the late afternoon when he had not returned, Zenia decided to send the boys to look for him. When they returned without finding him, she thought for a little while and told one of the boys “I know where he is. Go look in the old house.” This old house was to the left and up on the hill from the house they lived in. They went there and looked in the window. There sat Cecil against the wall, with the gun braced on a stick of wood. He had shot himself, the 10th of November 1931 and he died. He was buried in the Mt. McCurry Cemetery which was not very far from his home. The farm that Cecil mortgaged was known at the time as the old Jones place. It had apparently belonged to Zenia’s family. The next generation called it the old Dickson place. It is a pretty valley.  The banker who repossessed the farm allowed Zenia and the children to continue to live there.  Joe was still at home and he ran the farm. They still had their chickens, cows, pigs, and horses, as these were not mortgaged. Their family did pretty well and did not go hungry. They were as prosperous as the other families in that area at the time. I do not know Cecil’s parents names.  Cecil’s occupation was apparently farmer, but the family also picked cotton as did all the other families in the fall.  It was extra money for all.

This happened far too often during the Great Depression.  The perfect storm of a personal depression and financial failure and an inability to provide for his family was more than he could endure.

I think things might not have been so different for Bill Bailey.  James William “Bill” Bailey was born 23 Sep 1875 in Hackett, Sebastian County, Arkansas.  His parents were Hume Field Bailey and Sarah Louise Council Brewer BaileyWe’ve met some of that family and their farm previously.  It was a hardscrabble life on that farm along the Oklahoma border.

In 1908, Bill married Loda Scott.  Bill was working as a clerk in a grocery store in Sebastian County.  In 1920, he owned his own home and was the Top Boss at the coal mine.  In 1930, both Bill and Loda were working in the grocery store again, Bill as the manager and Loda as a sales clerk.   Now, they rent their house rather than own it.

My grandmother said that Bill was always a cut-up.  He loved novelty photos.  She had some where he was shaking his own hand, or was the both the bride and the groom in a wedding photo.  Seems like a happy person.

bailey-docs-0091-f3-v02Loda and Bill moved to California during the Great Depression.  With no children, it was just the two of them.  I guess that they went there in search of jobs and escape from the business and farm failures in Arkansas and search for a better life.

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He worked in a grocery and a service station with his brother-in-law, Loda’s brother.  But apparently, they were having no success in that business either.  Financial failures combined with failing health were more than he could take.  On Christmas evening in 1933, Bill took his own life.

So, what to take away from all of this?  I guess a couple of things.

First, remember that our ancestors were real people with real lives.  We honor them by looking beyond the dates and places and facts on a family group sheet.  We honor them by remembering their lives, their joys, and their struggles.

Second, and more importantly, as we look at the causes of death we find for our ancestors, we have to look at ourselves, our friends, and our families.  Suicide is real.  Too many people are overwhelmed by a sense of failure, a sense of uselessness, a sense of hopelessness.  Take the time to listen, to be aware of the people around you.  Listen to your loved ones when they talk to you.  If they are having a hard time, talk to them and then listen.  Be there for them.  It’s such a hard thing to get our minds around, wanting to end your own life.  I don’t understand it.  But, I can do my best to listen and empathize and ask those that are hurting how I can help.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Conflict

One of the hardest, but certainly the most satisfying, aspects of this disease called genealogy is trying to find the people behind the documents.  All of the facts that we collect show us when someone is born, when and who they marry, whether or not they have children, have a home, work for a living, and ultimately when they die and are buried.  In between the facts are the real people.

Instead of just looking at the facts, we try to figure out who the people involved in the facts really were.  Most of the time this is a job for the imagination.  We have to think about how we would react to a similar situation.  Sometimes the documents give us a brief glimpse behind the veil to understand more about how people interacted,

Sometimes we see hints of love and devotion between friends and family  members. And sometimes we see examples of conflict.

dickson-0390-f-v00I suppose every family has some kind of conflict in it.  There are those that would call the afternoon when I locked my little brother in the dog house (with a really large spider, he says) an example of family conflict.  But if that’s as bad as it gets, things are pretty good.

I think that as I look at the various branches of my family, I don’t see a lot of family rifts, of branches of the family isolating themselves from other parts of the family.  At least, I have not found them.  But, when you keep looking, you can find things that must have been great sources of conflict within a family.

Faver Cason
Faver Cason – Courtesy of Merritt Graves

Meet Faver Cason.  You have already met his brother, Jeremiah H. Cason, and heard a little bit about him.  Faver and Jere were two of the sons of Jeremiah Cason (b. 19 Sep 1800, Abbeville Co., South Carolina, d. 22 Jul 1866, Simmons Bluff, Wilson County, Tennessee) and Elizabeth “Bettie” Faver (b. 29 Mar 1795, Culpepper Co., Virginia, d. 24 Mar 1867, Simmons Bluff, Wilson County, Tennessee).

Faver was Jere and Bettie’s first child, born 19 December 1826, in Limestone County, Alabama.  Shortly after his birth, the family moved into Wilson County, Tennessee.  Faver’s older sister, Fanny, was born in Wilson County in June 1828.

As a young man, Faver enlisted in the U.S. Army and was a part of the Mexican War.  On 8 May 1846, he mustered into Co. B, 1st Tennessee Mounted Infantry of the U.S. Army and was bound for Mexico.  His unit was primarily guarding wagon trains and participating in guerilla skirmishes while in Mexico.  On 10 November 1846, he was accidentally shot with a shotgun by members of his own company.  He received a glancing shot to the face and neck.  In his pension file at the National Archives in Washington, DC, there are notes that express some doubt about whether the men in camp were screwing around when he got shot.  Maybe so.  In any case, later in life, he reported that parts of the shot were still in the left side of his face and that he had pain from this from time to time.  At the end of May 1847, Faver mustered out of the Army in New Orleans, his term of service having expired.

Once he was out of the Army, Faver headed back to Tennessee, living in Rutherford and Wilson Counties.  Faver married Mary Helen Tharp on 23 Mar 1848 in Cainsville, Wilson County, Tennessee.  In 1850, we find Faver and Mary in Wilson County farming, with five slaves.  In 1860, they are still in Wilson County, their economic lot having improved.  Now they owned eleven slaves.

By mid-1863, the war Civil War had reached Middle Tennessee.  I suppose Faver saw the writing on the wall and decided to side with who he thought would be the winners.  In September 1863, Faver re-enlisted in the 5th Regiment Tennessee Volunteer Cavalry, a unit of the U.S. Army – the Yankees.  He entered service as a Captain and was promoted to Major in June 1865 as he was leaving the service.  The 5th Regiment was a part of action throughout Middle Tennessee.  Interestingly, this unit lost 175 men to disease and 68 to the battle itself during its history.

Faver was injured again during his service.  He was thrown from a horse and injured in his back and legs.  He was carried to hospital and treated.  He also felt like he developed an asthma-like problem while in the Army, living in the field.

What kind of internal conflict went on with Faver as he decided to re-enlist?  Was he committed to the cause of the Union?  Seems odd as a slaveholder, and the son and grandson of a slaveholder.  Or was it loyalty to the United States that led him to enlist both the first time and the second?  I am sure he heard stories from his mother’s father, John Favor, a Revolutionary War veteran who served in Virginia.  Was he conflicted over this choice?  Did he decide that he had to enlist to evade local raiders?  I have other ancestors in Arkansas who appear to have done this.  Or was it a cynical move to position himself better for the future?

How did this go over with his family?  Remember Jeremiah H. Cason, his brother?  Well, J. H. Cason was passionate in his own right.  Not having so much property as his older brother, he was still committed to the cause of the South.  He enlisted as a chaplain (being a Baptist preacher) early in the war.  Shortly, he resigned and re-enlisted as a fighting soldier.  He quickly rose to the rank of Captain in the 41st Alabama Infantry.  And in December of 1863, while Faver was with his unit in Middle Tennessee, J.H. Cason was at the Battle of Bean’s Station in East Tennessee, where he lost his left arm.

What kind of Thanksgiving dinners went on in their family after the war?  Two officers, each serving on a different side.  One, suffering a serious, life-threatening injury but finding himself on the losing side.  The other, a slave-holder and Southern property owner who served with the North.  His wounds were superficial and possibly the result of carelessness.  But, since he was on the winning side, he was receiving a pension as he aged.

After the war, Faver was able to parlay his wartime service into a seat in the Tennessee legislature as both a State Representative and a State Senator.  He was a Radical Republican and reconstructionist.  Certainly this caused additional conflict through the latter part of the 19th century.  This is the land where Nathan Bedford Forrest established the Ku Klux Klan, after all.  I wonder how he was regarded by his family, his neighbors, and his constituents.

By the 1890s, he applied for an invalid pension due to his wartime injuries and his inability to work.  Several times, he applied for increases in his pension.  In December 1909, a private bill (H.R. 10288) was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to grant an increase in pension to Faver Cason; this bill was referred to the Committee on War Claims by the Committee on Invalid Pensions.   One conflict, he avoided.  In some of his pension depositions, he states that he waited to claim a pension from his Mexican War service because his father felt it was unseemly for him to claim a pension when he was not actually in need.  Instead, he waited until his father had died to apply for his pension.  He makes the case that he is in desperate need, his only asset being a small farm that he rents out since he is unable to farm it, due to his war wounds.

So, who knows what goes on in families.  And who knows what’s behind all of the records that we find.  As genealogists, we have to follow what the records say and what they prove for us.  But, we also have to try to figure out what’s lying between the lines and the letters to tell us who these people really were. After all, they are our ancestors.  We owe it to them and to ourselves to make them to be real people.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Sport

Sport?!  Those who know me know that I have not got a single sport gene in my body.  I tried playing baseball, football, and soccer as a kid.  When it came time for basketball season, I figured out that I could score the games and they wouldn’t make me play on the school team. (It was a very small school.)  So, I was a bit at a loss looking at this topic.

I’ve never really thought a lot about my ancestors and sports.  However, I know that my grandfather, Hudson Wren, was a football letterman at the University of Arkansas in the 1920s.  So, let’s meet him and his career there.

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Some of you may recall meeting Hudson Wren in previous posts (here, and here).  He was born in 1906 in Nevada County, Arkansas.  He attended Prescott High School, where he played football for the Prescott Curly Wolves.

After graduation, Hudson went to the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville to study Agriculture, having been raised on a farm.  He arrived in Fayetteville in 1925 as a freshman and joined the freshman football squad.  The Arkansas Razorback annual tracks his career during his years in Fayetteville.  It sounds like his freshman year was successful, since he earned his number for the varsity squad that year.

After his freshman year, Hudson met a cute young transfer student from Southern Methodist University, Mary Higgs (always called Mary Jim by almost everyone).  She was active in athletics, to a degree, herself.  She participated in the Women’s Athletic Association, both at SMU and at Arkansas.  The W.A.A. promoted intramural sports activities among the women at the university.  A whole host of sports were represented, including women’s football.  I have not been able to find out which sports she played, though.  As you might expect, the 1920s were not a time when women’s sports got the same billing as the men’s teams.

I am not sure why Mary Jim (Nannie) transferred from SMU to Arkansas.  Her mother and she lived in Dallas at the time.  Her mother may have moved with her brother around that time (have to check further) so she was going to move somewhere.  Why Arkansas?  Don’t know.  I had heard that she sat out for a time from SMU after a diving accident, but I could have made that up, too.

In the both the 1927-1928 and 1928-1929 seasons, Hudson lettered in football.  He played tackle, predominantly.  Remember this was in the days when the men played both sides of the ball – offense and defense.  The squad wasn’t that large and the starters, especially on the line, just kept playing.  It was also the days of leather helmets and far less protective gear than we see today.  I remember Papaw saying that often by half-time, he would barely know where he was.

In addition to playing football, Hudson was active as a part of both the Arkansas Booster Club and the Varsity Club, promoting interest in athletics and other student activities.  He was in the Press Club, different fraternities both on and off campus, and lead the Agri Days at the University.

After graduation with degrees in agriculture and home economics respectively, Hudson and Mary married and set out on careers.  They started as teachers in the Portland High School in Portland Arkansas.  Take a look at these previous posts  (here, and here) to see more about Hudson’s career in agriculture.  And visit the site of Wilson, Arkansas, to see more about the town birthed by the farm that he helped lead for many years.

For as long as they lived, Hudson and Mary Jim remained staunch supporters of Arkansas football.  They contributed generously to the program and maintained really good season ticket seats at mid-field in War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock (one of two homes of the Razorbacks).

I guess I never heard Papaw let go with a hog call, but something tells me he could get a pretty good” Woooooooo Pig Sooiee!  Razorbacks!” going when he wanted to.