52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Bearded

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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Sarah Bridges Wren Letter

“I was born in Green County Ga the 19th of April 1813.”

Sarah Bridges, my great-great-great-grandmother, was born 19 April 1813 in Greene County, Georgia.  Her parents were Herod Flourney Wren and Margaret “Peggy” Ware.  When she was fifteen, Sarah married George Washington Wren in Putnam County, Georgia, where she lived until the early 1850s when several branches of the family moved from Georgia to Bienville Parish, Louisiana.

Sarah and G.W. Wren had nine children, including my great-great-grandfather, Alonzo Dossey Wren.  Dr. A.D. Wren, born in 1841, married Georgia Frances Vickers shortly after the Civil War in Minden, Webster Parish, Louisiana.  Georgia and A.D. Wren had ten children of their own.  When Georgia and A.D. Wren became grandparents, they were faced with the age-old question of what to call the grandparents.  Sarah Bridges Wren was called “Great” while Georgia Vickers Wren was called “Little Grannie”.

Late in Sarah Bridges’ life, her daughter-in-law asked her to write down a little bit of her life so that the family would have it.  After all, Sarah Bridges Wren had seen a lot of history.  I have that letter in my possession.  It’s at the top of this post.  The following is a transcript of that letter.  As near as I can tell from what the letter talks about, it must have been written in the fall of 1903.  I’m including it just as it’s written.

To Mrs. Georgia Wren

Dear Daughter I send you this little history of my life which I have hastily writen, it is short and meager but I don’t supose that any one would be interested in much that I could tell, although I have seen a good deal of this world.

With love I remain your mother Sarah Wren

I was born in Green County Ga the 19th of April 1813.

Went over into Morgan Co where we lived until I was 6 years old, when I was caried to Putnam Co wher I grew to womanhood.

Was converted and joined the Methodist church in July 1828. was maried the 4th sept the same year to GW Wren of South Carolina. We settled in Ga where we remained until 1850 when we removed to Louisiana in Jan 51 where Mr Wren died in Augt 29th 1884 and were 5 of  our 8 children have died. I was Gloriously sanctified at the Rock Springs camp meeting in  Putnam Co, Ga in 1849 which bless the good Lord I still claim and hold on to t[his] [day] [He] has always been very merciful and good to me and has given me many special answers to prayer.

My blessed Lord has watched over me now for 90 years & 6 months and nere denied me one blessing that was best for me to have. He has given me good friends every where and never permited any serious harm to befall me. I feel that his abiding care has always been with me and in me to bless and comfort me and now in my old age and infirmities he has not forsaken me, but gives me the abiding witness of his Holy Spirit to comfort and sustain me. Glory to his name.

 

The Clock

When my great-grandparents, Sam Scott Wren and Pearl Hudson were married in 1899, Sam’s parents gave them a clock as a wedding present.  It was a Welch kitchen clock, about 24 inches tall and 15 inches across, designed to sit on a shelf.  And it did.  For years and years, it sat in Sam and Pearl’s house, dutifully chiming the hours and the half.  I don’t actually remember it being in their house by the time I came along, but I was not really aware of the details, or at least I was focused on other details.

Dr. Alonzo Dossey Wren (Dr. Wren) and Georgia Frances Vickers came to southwest Arkansas the long way around.  He was born in Putnam County, Georgia in 1841, she in Thomas County, Georgia in 1849.  By the early 1850s, both of their families had migrated to the Minden area in Bienville Parish, Louisiana.  That’s where they were married in 1866, after he returned from the Civil War.  He studied medicine at the University of Louisiana Medical Department, now Tulane University, in New Orleans.  Then the family made its way to southwest Arkansas, Nevada County where they raised their family.

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Dr. Alonzo Dossey Wren and Georgia Frances Vickers Wren
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Millie Cindy Hudson and John Wesley Hudson

Pearl’s family came to Nevada County from the Atlanta area.  Her father was John Wesley Hudson, born in the Atlanta area in 1841, right at the founding of Atlanta, but that’s another story for another day.  Her mother was Millie Lucinda “Cindy” Almand.  Cindy was from the Conyers area in Rockdale County, Georgia where her family had been some of the founding families in the Salem Camp Meeting.  Generations of Almands still meet there every September for a reunion – 2nd Sunday in September at 1:00PM. Bring a dish and you’re more than welcome!  Both of these families had moved into Paulding County, Georgia after the Civil War, but I can’t find any evidence that they knew one another, or that they didn’t.  In any case, there was a large migration from Paulding County, Georgia to Nevada County, Arkansas around 1870.

Sam Scott Wren was born in Nevada County in 1879 and Pearl Hudson was born there in 1884.  They were married in 1899 and her parents wanted to give them a significant gift for their wedding.  So, the clock.  A.D. and Georgia Wren gave the newlyweds a beautiful Welch kitchen clock.

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Sam Scott Wren and Pearl Hudson Wren, daughters Norvelle, Marion, and Mildred, 1906

 

It must have broken at some point.  I don’t remember it in Grannie’s (Pearl Hudson Wren) house.  I do remember that my uncle Keith Johnson refinished it and gave it to Papaw (Hudson Wren, my grandfather) one year.   And I can always remember it in Nannie and Papaw’s house, sitting near the fireplace in the living room.  I remember thinking how loud it was when it ticked and chimed.  But then, it faded into the background and you would have to listen hard to see if it was running.  I remember hearing it chime once in the night and then not knowing if it was 1:00 or 1:30 or what time until the next chime, thirty minutes later.

After my grandparents died, Mom asked me what I would like to have from their house and I said the clock.  I think she was sort of reluctant at first to let me have it, it being so special.  But, she did.  And I have loved it.  It sits in my office and gets wound every Sunday.  Kathleen doesn’t want to wind it but doesn’t want me to forget, so she gets the key out of the clock and sets it on my chair so I never forget to wind it.

Broken FootI have had it worked on a couple of times – cleaning, bushings replaced, a new spring – but it’s the same clock that has kept on ticking since it found its new home with Sam and Pearl in 1899. The last time I had it cleaned, I slipped coming down the stairs and broke my foot, but the clock didn’t get dropped and kept on running. Interestingly, I went ahead and took it to the clock repair place.  I got a call to pick it up the day my foot came out of the cast.

So, if you are on a conference call with me and hear it in the background, and if I am working at home, you probably will hear it, now you know its story.

P.S. Notice the little clay pot to the right of the clock in the front.  My friend Bridget Kelman made these unfired, soft clay pots for our class when she and I led a Disciple III Bible study some years back. It is to remind us of 2 Corinthians 4:7, “But we have this treasure in clay pots so that the awesome power belongs to God and doesn’t come from us.