In the words of the immortal Russell Case (Randy Quaid) in Independence Day, “Hello Boys! I’m baaaack!” Or at least I hope so.
Amy Johnson Crow has started a new year of her 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks project. After a good start in the 2nd half of 2018, I did well through the first half of 2019. But then, life and 160 nights in hotels as I traveled for work got in the way and I fell to the wayside.
I also posted a long list at the start of 2019 of my genealogical goals. I got a good start on a lot of that, but again, fell away as the year went on.
I think the key is to be more modest and realistic.
Anyway, the theme for this first week of 2020 is Fresh Start. I’ll tell you how I am trying to get a fresh start on my research, and therefore on my writing.
I have been at this family history game for a long time, since the late 1980s. And even though I did moderately well documenting what I found early on, once I found birth, marriage, death records and who the parents where, I moved on up the tree. So some parts of my tree are pretty thin and leggy, lacking in anything that tells me about that person.
My fresh start is to step back and start filling in the branches. Mostly the thinness happens at the tips of the tree. So, I have started with the terminal families in the tree, on each line, that I feel pretty confident about, and am going back to find all I can about them. I want to mail down where they lived year by year, where they moved, when they really had children, got married, etc.
I am a huge fan of tax lists and deed records so I am looking for these. Tax lists are pretty much a year by year census. You can tell when men (primarily) moved into an area, came of age, got older, and rose or fell economically. Deed records show you where they lived, but maybe more importantly, who they are interacting with. Often the witnesses when a man sold land were related to his wife, to protect her interests.
I am also working to do this same sort of research of all of the children in that level of the tree. After all, these people are the brothers and sisters of my ancestor.
So far, I’ve started back on my family of George Wren (b. 1760 in Virginia, d. abt. 1832 in Lancaster Co., South Carolina) and his wife Alletha Dossey (b. in Maryland and d. before 1810 in Lancaster Co., South Carolina), and the family of Lewis Deshazo (b. abt. 1755, King and Queen Co., Virginia, d. 1818 in Eatonton, Putnam Co., Georgia) and his wife Nancy King (b. Virginia, d. before Lewis, probably in Georgia).
My goal is to work across each of these tips of the tree limbs. After all, paying attention to the tips, doing a little pruning here and there, in the garden, gives you more flowers.
Already, I am finding some interesting things.
I found in a tax list last night that two of my ancestors on completely different parts of the tree were neighbors in 1813. Herod Bridges, my 4-great-grandfather (Mom -> H. Hudson Wren -> Sam Scott Wren -> Alonzo Dossey Wren -> Sarah Bridges -> Herod Bridges), was listed just 3 or 4 lines above Lewis Deshazo, my 5-great-grandfather (Dad -> Susan Louise Bailey -> Viola Tennison -> Mary Susan Druscilla Deshazo -> Rev. John W. Deshazo -> Larkin Deshazo -> Lewis Deshazo) on the 1813 Putnam County, Georgia tax list. Amazing! And John Tomlinson was captain of the district. He, no doubt, was related to Sarah Bridges mother-in-law, Mary Tomlinson.
Happy New Year to all and a Happy Fresh Start to your research and your writing.
Summertime seems to be the time for family reunions. For every family that has a reunion, there’s a different look and a different set of traditions. Some are gatherings of a group of siblings and their families for a cookout or a vacation. Others are grand productions of many generations that have been going on for many, many years.
I usually attend a reunion of the Almand family each September. It’s held in Conyers, Georgia and represents the descendants of Thomas and Nancy David Almand. I’m already seven generations separated from them, but it’s a good time. However, over the twenty years I have been attending, so many of the elders have passed on, many of the younger generations have moved or haven’t stuck around, and there’s not as much to keep things going. We’ve dwindled from well over a hundred folks being there and a day-long affair to around thirty and a nice lunch, home before supper.
Likewise for a Hollis reunion I used to attend. I’m even more distant from that line and it was dwindling when I started.
When reunions fade, it makes me sad. Sad that there’s no one to pick things up and keep it going. Sad that those who used to do it either are no longer able or are no longer around.
But there are still lots of reunions that are going strong or are trying to get off the ground.
My Wren family (my mother’s family) first started its reunion in 1949. The descendants of Dr. Alonzo D. Wren and George Lovick Pierce Wren are a great example. These two brothers were sons of George Washington Wren and Sarah Bridges Wren. They were for the most part based in southwest Arkansas (Dr. Wren) or around Minden, Louisiana (GLP Wren).
Starting in 1949, these families began to meet each summer. There was a pretty typical pattern to the reunions. Everyone brings food. People take pictures. There’s lots of visiting going on. People get reacquainted with their cousins. Little kids run around. Teenagers whine about having to come. Everyone goes home at the end of the day so full that they can’t move. And they all look forward to the next time they can get together.
But, there’s more. Whether you realize it or not, at a reunion, there’s a strengthening of the family connections. Stories are shared not only of who’s had babies and who is getting married, but of who is sick and could no longer attend, and who has died since the last time they gathered. People pass around pictures, both of close family and the historical family. For a genealogist, this is a great time to talk to the older folks in the family.
Usually, the head of each family introduces their family. Those who are the oldest and youngest and those who traveled the greatest distance are all recognized.
The folks who have been coming the longest seem to be the ones who have the strongest connection. It’s so nice to be able to sit down together and reconnect and see how the family has grown and grown up.
Wren Reunions have alternated between Minden, Louisiana or Nevada County, Arkansas. Truthfully, living so far away, and never having lived near the rest of this part of the family, I am not even certain that the reunion continues. If you know, please let me know! Last I heard, it was more or less every two years and had gotten a breath of fresh air from some of the younger generations. I hope so.
Reunions are a great time to remember the family history and to recognize the eldest members of the family. When the reunion started in 1949, there were five children (out of 19) children of Dr. A.D. Wren and G.L.P. Wren alive and in attendance. Now, I’m not even sure that there are any grandchildren of those patriarchs still with us.
If you are researching a family, look for newspaper articles about reunions. Even now, these might appear in local newspapers. Often, there will be a list of all of the attendees and maybe even where they came from.
And if you have a chance to attend a reunion, even of a family where you are just a distant cousin, go. Make the family connections. And if your family doesn’t have a reunion, think hard about trying to start one. Start with a Facebook group. Share pictures and stories there. You’ll find some folks who might be your partners in crime to start thinking about getting together. Pick a place and a date. Give people plenty of leadtime, especially if travel is required. It’s not unreasonable to schedule a year out. And then start getting folks excited. You’ll probably start small. Be sure to include both young and old.
Don’t be the one who lets the family connections die out.
I have many, many family photos. Most have names. Some have dates and places. Some don’t have either. Some of the names and places only exist in memory rather than in labels. Clearly, there’s room for improvement here.
There are many, many pictures of when I was little (I was the eldest). And many, many of when my father was little (so, was he). Fewer of my brother and of my uncle. I think the same thing seems to hold for my mom and her older sister. I actually have photos of all of my grandparents, all of my great-grandparents, and fourteen of my sixteen great-great-grandparents.
That means lots of carte de visite, tintypes, photo postcards and the like.
But, the earliest of all of these is an ambrotype. Ambrotypes were positive image photos, taken on glass. Since there was no negative created, each picture was unique. Since they were created on glass, they were fragile. While earlier ambrotypes exist, in the US, these were most popular starting around 1854-1855. And while later examples exist, they were quickly replaced by the less fragile and easier to reproduce tintype by the late 1860s. That means it’s pretty easy to narrow down a time when an ambrotype was made.
Dr. John W. Tennyson was born in 1809 in Green County, Kentucky. His family first landed in Maryland long before the Revolution. However, by the 1790s, the family seemed to get a bug for moving. First, they moved into North Carolina and then on into Kentucky. (Legend has is that they were neighbors to Daniel Boone’s wife’s family.)
Dr. John married Ann Malinda Biggers in Kentucky in about 1824. Still looking for proof of that marriage. It confuses me since the Biggers arrived in coastal South Carolina and I can’t quite figure out why she would be in Kentucky.
At any rate, the family continued to move. By about 1838, they had moved into Lauderdale County, Alabama. That’s the county along the very north-central border of Alabama, between the Tennessee River and the Tennessee line. (I certainly seem to have a lot of northern Alabama ancestors through this time. Maybe that’s a place I need to study more.)
Probably, after Dr. John’s father, John B. Tennison, died in 1857, Dr. John and his family moved into Mississippi, to Pontotoc County.
He was a physician and a farmer his whole life. Even late in life, he was licensed as a doctor. On his license application, he says that he was born in Green County, Kentucky and that he has practiced medicine for forty-one years.
Back to the early photo. Look again at that photo. First, like I said, it’s an ambrotype and printed on glass. The glass photo is set into a hinged case. Inside the case is a velvet lining. The photo itself can slip in and out (though I never do this – it’s too fragile).
When you take the picture out of the case, it appears like a negative, since it doesn’t have any kind of background to provide contrast. The picture on the left, above, is the actual glass photo. If you invert it so that it’s a negative, you can begin to see the image. And when you put it in the case, against the dark background, it appears as a normal photo.
So, when was this taken? I don’t know for sure. How old do you think Dr. Tennyson looks in this picture? We know he was born in 1809 and ambrotypes were primarily used from about 1855-1867. That puts him at about 50-55 for this picture. Does that look reasonable to you?
No matter what, being an ambrotype at any age, this is my earliest photo. And as my great-great-great-grandfather, he’s one of the earliest ancestors that I have in a photograph. I’ve only got about ten of my thirty-two great-great-great-grandparents in photos. (Is that humble-bragging?)
Nearly every family has some sort of legend. There’s the Indian Princess legend. We’ve got that. Busted! There’s the legend of the three immigrant brothers who went north, south, and west. We’ve got that several times. Also busted! There’s the legend of grandpa getting his name changed at Ellis Island. Not so much for us, since my folks all came before that and all came into the southern Colonies.
Some families have legends around food or recipes. Some have legends around things that get passed down. For us, we wrap both of those together. We have “the rolling pin”. This rolling pin has come down through the family for over two hundred fifty years.
My grandmother, Susan Louise Bailey Dickson, told me that it was made before 1760 out of a single piece of apple wood. It’s clearly hand carved, uneven and imperfect. It’s not the sort of rolling pin that has an axle. It’s solid and you roll the whole thing. But it’s also not like some rolling pins used for fancy bread that lack handles.
I thought that it had come down through Grandmother’s Bailey family, but she corrected me and said that it came down through the family of her grandmother Sarah Louise Council. (There’s another story about why Grandmother and her grandmother shared a middle name, but that’s for another day.)
So, could the legend of the rolling pin coming down through this family be true? If it were, where would it have come from? I don’t see any reason to believe it could not be that old. It’s clearly old. And if Grandmother’s grandmother said it came down through her family, then it certainly went at least back 150 years.
Sarah Louise Council was born in 1837 in Alabama, probably in Jackson County, between Huntsville and the Georgia border. She was the daughter of Uriah Allison Council and Louisa Anna Green. Louisa has remained a mystery to me, but I have recently been trying to find out more about Uriah and his family.
Uriah Allison Council was born in 1807 in Knox County, Tennessee. Tracing out the deeds, tax lists, and other court records, we find that he stayed in Knox County until about 1833 when he moved to the next county over, Roane County. By 1840, he is in Jackson County, Alabama and by 1842 is a Justice of the Peace there. By 1850, he had moved to the next county west, Madison, and is a school teacher. FindaGrave says that he died in 1851. I have not found a good record for either his death or Louisa’s death. But by 1860, the three surviving children are all in Sebastian County, Arkansas and there is no sign of Uriah or Louisa. This is another place to go research. My guess is Louisa had family in Arkansas and went to them after her husband died.
We believe, as have many Council researchers, that Uriah Allison Council was the son of Isaac Council and Susan Allison. To date, I have not found any solid documentary evidence. But, there is a lot of circumstantial evidence: Isaac and Uriah lived next door to each other for a lot time. When Uriah moved to Roane, Isaac bought his land. Susan Allison (Uriah’s supposed mother) had a brother named Uriah Allison. Plus a whole lot more. This is something that I need to write up.
Isaac was born in 1785 in North Carolina. That’s not quite 1760 yet, so we really need another generation for this legend to completely ring true. We are not sure where in North Carolina he came from or who his parents were. Digging through the tax lists and deeds of Knox and Roane Counties, my current hypothesis is that Jesse Council is the father of Isaac, John, Matthew, Hodges. I think his father was likely Hodges as well. If this is the case, this Jesse was likely born in Virginia and served in the Revolutionary War. I’m working hard right now to figure out and prove what I can about Jesse and the other Councils in East Tennessee.
But, it seems to me that the legend of the rolling pin has a lot of truth to it.
But that’s not really what I remember about the rolling pin. To me, the legend that I tell about the rolling pin is of having breakfast at my grandparents’ house. We would often have breakfast at the dining room table. There, she could pull the toaster oven right up to the table. As we ate biscuits, Grandmother would roll out a few more with the rolling pin and pop them into the toaster oven. We would eat fresh, hot biscuits with real butter and strawberry freezer preserves until we could hold no more or until she ran out. Grandmother believed that the rolling pin ought to be used. No reason to have a dead legend when it can continue to have a life and a story. (The only reason my wife and I don’t use it is that she’s vegan and it has 250 years of lard rolled into it.)
My big challenge is how to make sure that the legend does not end with me and that it has a story in my Bailey family after me. My cousin, who had it for several years, passed it to me because he had no biological children. But, neither do we. My task is to find the next steward of the rolling pin so its legend continues for another 250 years.
The War for Independence had already been underway for over fourteen months when the Declaration was signed. Men (mostly) across the colonies had been mobilized to join the battle. There were strong mixed feelings. Some were all for tossing the British out. Others were all for reconciliation. And a large number could not be bothered – someone else’s problems, someone else’s battle.
Fortunately, there were not enough of the last to go around.
With or without photos, I have found an awful lot of Revolutionary Patriots within my ancestry. While none of them had quite as critical a role as Russell Casse, all were committed to the cause of the new nation. Or at least to the cause of their family, friends, and neighbors. There are some parts of the county (like parts of North Carolina), where it seems like you really had two choices – serve or leave.
I actually think this list is incomplete. Once I get a bit more research done on some of these lines, I know there will be many more who show up. And unlike the Civil War, where there were people who served on both sides, so far I have not found any Loyalists.
But for this week, I want to just do a “Thank you for your service” and make sure that I list all of those in my family tree that I know served in the American Revolution.
Not every diary is a record of the monumental things that happen in our lives. Some just keep track of the every day things. But, even the simplest can be amazing windows into people in our family – whether we actually know them nor not.
Of course, not many people just hand over their diaries for others to read. Usually, we only see them after they are gone. So, we have to imagine a lot of the details and things that went on around the notes that are written in the diaries.
My great-aunts Norvelle Wren and Mildred Wren Whitten both kept diaries for years and years. Sometimes, they used a desk calendar and sometimes they just made notes on the wall calendars about the events of the day. I have a few of these and my mother has many, many more. I suspect that they go back pretty far since neither Mildred nor Norvelle were ones to throw that sort of thing out.
Mildred always had a lot more to say in her’s than Norvelle did. But, they both talked about the things that mattered in their day to day lives: crops and cows, family and friends, gardens and flowers, trips to church and the beauty parlor.
Of course, the key events of the day were recorded, like my first birthday. Norvelle also recorded the comings and goings of her family and friends. On my birthday, my aunt, Jennie, headed home to South Carolina from her parents’ house.
There were lots of notes about their gardens. Both Mildred and Norvelle, who lived immediately across the street from each other, on their respective home places with pastures and fields, had a garden. And from those gardens, some of the very best vegetables ever produced came.
Their diaries kept track of all of the calves born each year. I think that they shared in which ones belonged to whom so that they could split the income. The cows had names and they knew (mostly) which calves came from which cows.
Once in a while, you come across a really amusing entry. Looks like Grannie (Pearl Hudson Wren) would from time to time add things to the record of the day. Like this time in March 1964 when Grannie noted that she and Norvelle drove down to Texarkana to purchase “cosmetics, foundation garments, and shoes.”
Both Mildred and Norvelle noted when friends and family (and they, themselves) were sick, in the hospital or nursing home, or home from the hospital. They marked births, marriages, funerals, and burials.
It’s fun to see how they refer to each other as Sister and both refer to my grandfather as Brother. In 1976, he went to the hospital for surgery and you can find a day by day account of his health in Mildred’s diary.
You can see through the difficult times in their lives, when they took care of each other. Mildred notes that they placed the stone on Henry, her husband’s, grave, the stone that had all but her death date already filled in. She also tells that Norvelle finally felt well enough for Mildred to sleep at her own house rather than with Norvelle. Mildred was skeptical, but Norvelle was (as you would expect if you knew her) insistent.
In spite of everything, through good times and bad, both Norvelle and Mildred are just so matter-of-fact about everything. Take a look at Norvelle’s account of May 1982. Went to church. Made tea. Got a permanent. Cloudy, rainy, colder, rainy. Taken to the hospital and had to say for four days. Came home to bees inside the house around the chimney. Could not make it to church, but Horace came to see me.
And through thick and thin, while feeling well or sick, in hot weather or cold, very little could keep them from their hair appointments. Permanents apparently were a real thing for these ladies. November 1982 clearly started out with a bang. Permanents all around – Norvelle, Mildred, and their cousin Julia all got permanents the same week. I mean, it’s one thing to keep track of your own hair, but to keep track of you cousin’s hair is real devotion.
I love the fact that we have these diaries, even if they don’t provide new “genealogical” facts. They help us to remember these people that were so special to us. They help us to see how they went through their lives, day by day, especially when we only got to see them occasionally. So, scour the house. Look in all the drawers. If there’s a little pad of paper, read through it. Don’t just assume an appointment book isn’t filled with life and love. You never know what you’re going to find or to find out.
Seems like just last week that I was talking about old J.H. Cason and here we go again. I keep track of these stories and really do try to keep from repeating, but there are just so many times that the Casons and their kin are just exactly the right people with the best stories.
The Reverend Jeremiah H. Cason could be a tough old bird. My grandmother said that when her grandfather came to visit, the whole house was turned upside down. Everything was his way, with no discussion or dissension. He had gone to Africa as a missionary in the 1850s and to war in the 1860s and had preached his way across the south ever since then and knew how to be tough. Discipline and rules were important to who he was, to his view of the world, and to his faith. But, he also knew how to be tender and clearly had a soft side that came out from time to time.
On the day that her grandfather heard of her birth, J.H. Cason, that crusty old guy, sat down and wrote a tender letter to her to welcome her to the world and to the family, to tell her about those who went before her, and to share some wishes for her future. It’s an amazingly touching letter for someone who could be so gruff and crusty.
My dear little darling, I have this morning heard of your safe arrival on Nov 26th, 1903. Upon our National Thanksgiving Day. Your coming among us makes the Thankgiving Day more sacred and fixes it upon the tablet of our hearts and fixes it upon the register of our memories. We are glad to welcome you to a share in our cares and burdens and to a place in our hearts and to the joys of our holy religion.
Then, he goes on to explain to Bettie how important her name is. He tells her about her grandmother
You may be curious to know why the name of Bettie was given to you. Your grand mother Cason was named before her marriage Elizabeth (Bettie) Cooper. The name Elizabeth (Bettie) has long been a family name in the Cooper and Cason families.
Grandpa Cason goes on, then to spend two pages mapping out her parents, grandparents, and ancestors for five or six generations! For the most part, these would have been people that Jere Cason would have known or would have well known about. What a gift! On top of that, since this was a letter to an infant, Bettie’s mother, Lida Cason Higgs, annotated the letter over the years. And she added a touching postscript:
My precious child, God was good to you in giving you these two noble people as grand parents. May you be worthy of them. Mother.
Bettie isn’t a rare or uncommon name. Certainly not in those days. But, it’s interesting that in every generation going back, Bettie Higgs had a grandmother or aunt with whom she shared a name, going back at least 150 years in both directions.
Grandpa Cason finishes his letter encouraging Bettie in her faith. He assures her that, since he is already getting old, that they may not have a chance to know each other well. But they will certainly meet again in heaven if she embraces her faith. He clearly misses and grieves for his wife, Bettie Cooper Cason, who died just two years before. The old preacher makes sure that Bettie knows not only that he loves her, but that Jesus does as well.
No precious darling, if you never see or remember your grand papa you must know that he loves you and has prayed to the Lord for you. It was easy for the Lord to take care of me seventy one years, infancy, childhood, youth, and manhood down to old age. He can take care of you, as easy as he has your grand papa. Only love Him and trust Him and you will meet all the good people where Jesus lives.
What a wonderful was to greet a baby, even though it may be years and years before they grow to appreciate it. J.H. Cason probably greeted all of his grandchildren with a letter. I have seen several and can only assume that he made a point of doing this for all of them.
But, only in this one, did he lay out the history of the infant’s name. You can feel how much he misses his Bettie and how much he hopes and prays for the future for this Bettie. I am sure that she did not disappoint him. She was something special.
Jere Will Higgs was on the move again. This time, he was moving from Texas to California for a job. It wasn’t going to be a forever move. Just about six months. But too long to leave his son behind this time. So, the whole family was going to take an adventure and make a roadtrip.
Jere Will had moved before. A number of times. He was born in 1893 in Alma, Crawford County, Arkansas to John William “Will” Higgs and Eliza Johnson “Lida” Cason. From there, his family moved to Van Buren, Arkansas and then to DeQueen, Arkansas. By the time the family was moving to Idabel, McCurtain County, Oklahoma, Jere Will had enrolled at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, Arkansas. He graduated (I think) in 1914 with a degree in Civil Engineering, one of several engineers that this family produced.
Jere Will took a job with the Kansas City & Southern Railroad in 1914. This certainly put him on the move. When the Great War broke out and the US became engaged, he enlisted in the Field Artillery and went to France. In 1919, he as discharged and returned home to Idabel, Oklahoma.
In 1926, Jere Will married Grace Clowdis. They had a son, Jere Will Higgs, Jr. (called Jere) in August of 1927. Grace died just days afterward, leaving Jere Will with a baby and a job on the road. His mom, Lida Cason Higgs, and his sister, Mary Higgs, pitched in to help. Lida even moved to Dallas to help take care of her grandson.
I am sure that Jere Will felt fortunate to have a steady job as a professional person during the height of the depression. So, when his job was to take him out west visiting some of his company’s plants and then staying in California for a time, I have no reason to believe that he hesitated. But, what about Jere? Well, what if Grandma came, too? And so she did.
On April 12, 1933, Jere Will Higgs, his mother Lida Higgs, his son Jere, and Jere’s dog Bob piled into a car pulling a trailer in Dallas, Texas and headed west. Their destination was Bodie, Mono County, California. That’s the middle of mining country. I think Jere Will worked as an engineer in mining and mineral exploration. His brother Morton certainly did. And his cousin Griff C. Lee was world renown as a petroleum engineer.
I can see Lida opening up her little notebook as they got ready to pull out of the driveway and make her first notes in her diary of the trip. She recorded her observations of the trip as they headed out on the road, where they stopped, what kind of places they stayed. That little notebook came down to my mother from her mother, who got it from Jere Will’s (her brother) wife Florence after he had died.
After a good start, things went south pretty quickly:
Apr 12, 1933
Left Dallas 11 A.M. Blow out in trainer 10 miles west of Ft. Worth. Jere & I stayed with trailer 2 hrs while Jere Will went to Ft. Worth for tires.Good lunch at Ft. Worth.3 miles E of Strawn, trailer came uncoupled. A complete wreck. Sold new tires & all for $12.00. Wrecker carried what was not broken of our effects to a tourist camp in Strawn. Repacked to fullest capacity big good box & shipped it. With great difficulty put rest of suitcases &c in car. Had to raise back seat & filled the back of car & made a bed for Jere & Bob on top. Jere Will much more philosophical than I would have expected. He had taken great pride in traveling in an empty car.
How frustrating! Many of their possessions destroyed on the first day on the road. Sounds like The Grapes of Wrath from the outset. And as a family historian, I can only selfishly wonder what was lost when the trailer overturned.
Lida, for the most part, just kept a record of the progress of their travels – where they stopped, what they spent, what sort of places they stayed. But it wasn’t all ledger-faire. I know I might be reluctant to jump into the car with a young boy and his dog for a long trip like this, but …
This first day out Bob proved himself a good traveler. Took the pillow from Jere Will at every chance, barked when he needed to get out a minute and was just as little trouble as a dog could be, but was lots of company for Jere.
And she talked about the people that they met along the way.
Visited Kiser home. Very interesting collection of mounted animals, birds, &c collected in their hunts. A very happy couple though she looked not more than 25 and he about 70.
And she talked about the fun that they had along the road.
But such a wonderful day – of mountain scenery, gorges, also vast stretches of desert lands.Great variety of cacti -wonderful roads – stopped at Coolidge Dam, a marvelous structure
Apr 19 Gila Bend to Los Angeles by San Diego, Long Beach mountains & valleys & snow. Wonderful scenery. First view of ocean at San Diego. Saw part of U.S. Pacific Fleet. Earthquake ruins at Long Beach very evident.
April 20 Jere Will wanted to take us on world famous cruise to Catalina Island. Just had time to catch train to Wilmington where we embarked on the Catalina. A most wonderful day for him & me. First time on ship – town beautiful & picturesque. Lunch looking at ocean – seafood. Trip around island to see herd of seals. Never to be forgotten.
To round out day in a wildly extravagant way he could not afford, Jere Will took us to dinner at ______ . Everything suggested fishing occupation. Nets on wall, little light houses for light fixtures – clam chowder served in shells for bowls. Oars for wall decorations, wonderful service. Women in evening dress. Wonderful aquarium display at door. Jere could hardly be persuaded to leave. His Daddy had explored & explained every inch of vessel open to public. U.S. Navy ship in harbor also many others & a day never to be forgotten by Jere & me.
After ten days on the road, Jere Will, Lida, Jere, and Bob reached their destination: Bodie, California. They had stayed in Strawn, Texas, Pecos, Texas, Demming, New Mexico, Geronimo, Arizona, Gila Bend, Arizona, Los Angeles, California, and ultimately arrived in Bodie.
For six months, Jere Will worked in Bodie. And in September, they turned around and headed back home. This time, by a more northern route. In her ledger this time, Lida spent more time describing their lodging, whether they had water and a stove for her to prepare meals, how far they traveled, and how much it cost.
This time, their travels took them through Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Arkansas, and finally into Oklahoma to visit a bit on the way home. Lida’s daughter, Bettie, was living in Idabel, Oklahoma with her family
It was clearly with a sigh of relief that they pulled into Bettie’s driveway that Monday evening, 2 October 1933.
Reached Idabel about 5:30. Words can hardly tell the luxurious felling of seeing & using again the usual utilities & conveniences of life which we take for granted.
And after visiting for a couple of weeks, Jere Will came back up to Idabel from Dallas, collected his mom and his son (and his dog) and headed for home in Dallas.
A six month adventure had come to an end. And as Lida said, it was “never to be forgotten.”
As I look back into my family, the influence of worship and my ancestors’ Christian faith is unmistakable. Sometimes (well, actually, pretty frequently), I might take issue with some of their methods of sharing their faith or some of the things that they believed. But, in no way can I doubt their devotion to the central mystery of faith – Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.
I find many, many ancestors who were pastors, or were active lay people and Christian educators. Some lines were staunchly Baptist and others just as staunchly Methodist. Kathleen’s family even has Puritans and Pilgrims.
This is a short story about the Reverend John Walker Deshazo. J.W. Deshazo was born 11 Nov 1837 (or 1835) in Alabama to Larkin Deshazo and Lecy Lewis Deshazo. His parents had moved to Alabama by 1832, when they married, he from South Carolina and she from Tennessee. By 1850, the family had moved on to Choctaw County, Mississippi.
There has been some debate about John’s middle name. He signed things J.W. or John W. Deshazo. Some folks have claimed that the W was for Wesley since he (and the family) were Methodists. This was a pretty common thing. Others say Walker, since so many of his descendants have a middle name of Walker. The documents tend toward Walker when they say anything at all.
In 1855, John married Mary Phelps, the first of his three wives and my third-great-grandmother. He and Mary had at least seven children, including Mary Susan Druscilla Deshazo, my great-great-grandmother.
Mary Phelps Deshazo died by 1872, when John W. married Mary V. Redden, his second wife. They had no children that I know of. Mary died in 1889.
In 1890, John married Fannie Cole, his third wife. He and Fannie had another four children.
Side note: Here’s a point of research I need to pursue. In the 1910 Census, Fannie is listed as his second wife, not his third. Moreover, there is a J.W. Deshazo married to a Mary in Tennessee in the 1880 census that looks suspiciously like I may have a spurious marriage here. It makes sense for there to be a longer period between Mary and Fanny since John was an itinerant preacher during those years. Most circuit riders were not married, due to their being on the road pretty much continuously. I think I will dig into this and see what’s the truth.
I’ve always been fascinated that he appears to have heard the call to ministry during the War. According to his service records, he was, himself, in and out of the hospital throughout the war, the last time, with blood poisoning in August 1864.
After the war, he entered the itinerant ministry of the Methodist Protestant church. The Methodist Protestant church had split in 1830 from the Methodist Episcopal church, primarily over the role of the laity in the governance of the church, the election of bishops, and of the presiding Elders (District Superintendents as the rest of Methodism called them).
John’s preaching took him across Mississippi, Tennessee, and Arkansas. He spent five years as the Presiding Elder over the state of Mississippi. Ultimately, late in life, he “located” and left the itinerant ministry. Basically, that means that he retired. He set up a small farm, but it appears that this was hard. I get the impression that his health was poor and that made both the itinerancy and locating and farming really hard on him.
By 1900, they are living in Crawford County, Arkansas and times appear to be difficult. I am not certain exactly when this letter was written. Apparently, in an effort to continue his ministry and to ensure a position for himself, J.W. Deshazo lobbied members of the Arkansas legislature to appoint him as the Chaplain to the Lower House of the Legislature. He got many of the notable men of Crawford County to vouch for him in hopes of securing this position. There’s no evidence that this succeeded. It seems that he and Fannie ended up moving back to Tennessee to be with their children. There, he and she both died and were buried.
What do I learn from J.W. Deshazo? I think the big thing is that he found his call and his moments of worship in the midst of terrible things. Both on the battlefield and in the field hospitals, he would have seen things that caused many men to lose their faith. Instead, he found his call to reach out to his fellow soldiers and to take care of those who were sick and wounded. I think that there, he found his true worship.
It’s funny how this thing about discovering and sharing our family stories goes. I so much appreciate the prompting that Amy Johnson Crow gives us each week with a topic to write about. Sometimes, it grabs me right away and I immediately know who or what to write about. Other times, life gets in the way and there’s not an immediate connection, or there’s not a time to write, so I linger.
This week was more the latter than the former. Too much business travel and no real idea about who was “Out of Place” made me procrastinate. Until this morning. I realized that there are lots of ways to be out of place. And one of those was to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. That’s just exactly what happened to Ira Thomas Higgs.
Ira most likely was born in Alabama, Tuscumbia by most reports, in 1865, shortly before the family headed to southwest Arkansas. By 1870, he and his family are living in Washington, Hempstead County, Arkansas. Thomas is working as a shoemaker there. By 1880, Thomas (Ira’s father) has died and left Will and Ira to make their way. At 15, in the 1880 census, Ira is working as a printer with his older brother who has gotten into the printing and newspaper business.
Ira must have been a real up-and-comer in his early twenties. When he and Hattie Nash married in Texarkana, Arkansas in February 1888 (the newspaper misprinted this. It was actually reported in the Feb 9, 1888 edition), it made the front page of the Daily Arkansas Gazette in Little Rock, Arkansas
Sticking to the western part of the state, Ira and Hattie moved at least a couple of times – Mineral Springs, Texarkana, Hot Springs, and Alma. Sometimes this put him in the wrong place at the wrong time. Like in September 1891 when Ira got mugged while visiting nearby Fort Smith. Interestingly, that was first reported in the Weekly Argus published by Ira’s brother, Will.
By 1902, Ira and Hattie had settled in Van Buren, Crawford County, Arkansas. In addition to his business dealings, Ira became the county coroner in 1902.
It appears that sometimes his temper got away from him, like in this account of a fist-fight in 1903. Sounds like this had an affect on his business, whether from lost business, lost reputation, or lost money from fines. Don’t know the cause of the fight, but someone must have been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Ultimately, Ira’s life ended in a case of being out of place, in the wrong place at the wrong time. On the 18th of March, 1914, Ira had come over to Fort Smith from Van Buren. The two cities are only separated by the Arkansas River, so there’s a lot of business back and forth between the two.
Apparently, he headed out to catch a street car home in the evening. He saw that the car that was coming wasn’t the one he wanted and headed back. But for some reason, he turned around quickly and headed back across the street and was hit by the street car. His leg was severed and his head was seriously injured. He died some hours later in a local hospital.
Perhaps due to the severity of his head injury or perhaps due to his being out of his regular element, Ira was not immediately identified as the coroner in the next county, just across the river, until after his death.
Ira’s death was covered across the state, not just in the large newspapers, but also in small papers in areas where he had connection – Washington, the town of his childhood, and Nashville, where he had lived, in particular.
I’ve always wondered what really happened here. How did he step in front of the street car he just chose not to board? Was someone calling to him? Was someone warning him not to step in front of something else? Was he, maybe, somewhere he should not have been and wasn’t fully in control of his faculties? (That’s a nice way to ask whether he had been drinking?) Who knows. But, lying in the street and then in the hospital as a John Doe is certainly out of place.
Interestingly, the newspaper in Nashville, Arkansas reinforced the DNA connection we found last week. It says that Bob Dennison is a cousin of Ira Higgs. Bob Dennison is a descendant of Susannah Sartain, sister of Ira’s mother.
After his death, Ira found his way back across the river and home. His burial was reported in the Fort Smith Daily Herald and Elevator. It seems like there were a number of noted citizens present for his service.
So, maybe even though he was out of place on that fateful day in March 1914, and even though a funeral for a forty-eight year old father and husband in the prime of his life is out of place, perhaps Ira had been living actually right where he was supposed to be .