Sunday, June 30, 2013

Losing the Land

Photograph Courtesy of Library of Congress

My folks participated in the American dream of owning land. They purchased as much land as they could afford. I think the earliest I found family members purchasing land was in 1869 when Joe Goodwin paid $500 for 80 acres in Copiah County, MS. Elizabeth Bryant and her family purchased 80 acres in 1871 for $12 and one bale of cotton in Jefferson County, MS. Many of them purchased their first acreage during the 1880s and 1890s.

Those who did not hold on to the land, lost the land for not paying taxes due to various reasons. A few members of my extended family lost their land through terror, whitecapping.

Whitecapping is the crime of threatening a person with violence. Ordinarily, members of the minority groups are the victims of whitecapping. Persons are threatened in order to stop or move them away from engaging in certain businesses or occupations.

In the South, White Cap societies were generally made up of poor white farmers, frequently sharecroppers and small landowners, who intended to control black laborers and prevent merchants from acquiring more land. These societies in the South made it their task to attempt to force a person to abandon his home or property. This racial character of whitecapping in the South is thought to have been ignited by the agricultural depression in the 1890s that occurred around the same time. With all of the attention centered on producing cotton, the South’s economy became very unbalanced. Many farmers went into debt and lost their lands to merchants through mortgage foreclosures. The merchants and their black laborers and sometimes new white tenants became quick targets for the dispossessed, who seemed to be losing everything. Racism contributed to the problem as well, prosperous black men in the South frequently faced resentment that could be expressed violently. From Wikipedia

On Amanuensis Monday, I'll share a newspaper article on Eli Hilson, a farmer in Lincoln County, Mississippi, who was murdered because he did not limit his aspirations to laboring for whites. His independence was unacceptable to "whitecaps". He was warned to leave town, but remained on his place. He was assassinated while on the way home from town alone in his buggy.

Amanuensis Monday - Eli Hilson Assassinated by Whitecaps

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Wordless Wednesday
Everyone Wears a Hat

Natchez, Mississippi
Photograph taken between 1890-1905
Stewart Photograph Collection
Credit: Courtesy of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tombstone Tuesday
Earlest Demyers

Earlest Demyers
Army Air Force
World War II
June 6 1917
June 13 1969

Earlest was the son of Thomas and Arena (Rena) Johnson Demyers
He is buried in the St John Community Cemetery.
Wesson, Copiah County, Mississippi

Earlest was my Dad's 2nd cousin once removed.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Amanuensis Monday
Courthouse at Brookhaven Burned

Lincoln County / Brookhaven Government Complex
Lincoln County Courthouse
Photograph Courtesy of Robert E Weston, Jr.

A courthouse fire can restrict a genealogy researcher because once the records are destroyed, they are lost forever. Several Mississippi courthouses were destroyed by fire, most by the hands of arsonists. Here is what was recorded concerning the Lincoln County, MS, courthouse fire in 1893.

Court House at Brookhaven Burned

The alarm of fire was sounded shortly after 2 o'clock Sunday night (09 Nov 1893), and the slumbering populace of Brookhaven who heard and responded, soon discovered that the court house was in flames. S. F. Magee, W. P. Hubert, Eugene Ree, Alice Winston and a few others who were first to reach the scene say the front and rear hall doors were open and that the fire began on the stairway or in the court room near the head of the stairs. Some of the first on the ground say the smell of coal oil was easily distinguished.

The flames spread rapidly, and the crowd which began to assemble rapidly, busied itself about saving the contents of the offices, as all hope of extinguishing the fire was vain. The only offices which it was safe to enter were the sheriff's and chancery clerk's. From these all the books and papers outside the chancery clerk's vault and the sheriff's safe with a part of the furniture were saved. Nothing whatever was saved out of the offices of the circuit clerk, county superintendent or the court room. The circuit clerk on Saturday evening had moved all the circuit court records upstairs to be ready when court convened Monday morning and these were all destroyed. All other books, indictments and legal papers were left in the fire-proof vault where until Monday afternoon, they were thought to be safely preserved.

There is, as yet, no satisfactory proof as to the origin of the fire. At first general suspicion laid it at the door of the white caps, and probably a majority are still of this opinion, but there is no more real reason for supposing that WHITE CAPS* applied the torch than some others. In fact, there were other persons equally as much interested in the destruction of certain records as any white cap could possibly have been. Many believe that some such person as this was the real criminal. Others still think the fire the result of carelessness or accident in which midnight gambling and a keg of beer or a jug of whiskey figured. Some of the Negro prisoners in jail say they heard the approach and departure of horses just before the alarm but such testimony unsupported by other evidence is not to be relied upon. The Leader mentioned these as the various theories it has heard advanced. It is hoped a full investigation by the grand jury, heartily seconded by other ministers of the law and all good citizens, may result in discovering the real cause of the fire and fixing the responsibility or guilt where it rightfully belongs.

Up to Monday afternoon it was thought all the county books and records in the brick vaults, built to be fireproof, were safe, but when the walls began to cool, they cracked and the air coming in on the smothered heat, caused the contents of the vaults to at once ignite. Every effort possible was made to extinguish the flames, but in vain, as only a limited supply of water could be had, and before dark, the whole of the splendid new county records, obtained at a cost of thousand of dollars, were in ashes.

The destroyed building was insured for $5000 and the records and furniture for $2500, the total of $7500 insurance being divided equally between the Phoenix of New York, the Aetna and the Liverpool and London and Globe. This is the second court house burned in this county in the last ten years, the other having been set on fire on the morning of Jan 1, 1884.

*White Cap societies in the South made it their task to attempt to force a person to abandon his home or property. From Wikipedia

Article from Lincoln County - Its People, Volume 1.

Mississippi Counties with Burned Courthouses - Scroll to near bottom of page.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Bertieal Garden Hunter
How is she Related to Lamar Smith

During family conversations we are told or we hear family stories about who they were, how we connect to them. Sometimes we are told when we have little interest in family history and we only maintain a snippet of what was told. Sometimes we remember what was told but because the sharer only knew snippets, it is all we know. Members of Bertieal's family referred to Lamar Smith as "Uncle Ditney." They often spoke about his murder. Bertieal's grandchildren were told Lamar Smith was related but they did not know how he was connected to their family. Family historians want to know the answer. Lynette Jones, granddaughter to Bertieal, and I researched to find the connection.

Lynette has learned through family research that her grandmother's surname was GORDON; however, Bertieal's father, David, went by GARDEN. Bertieal Garden was born 19 Feb 1923 in Brookhaven, Lincoln County, MS, to David Garden and Ora Williams Lyons, and died 04 Feb 1998 in Omaha, Nebraska. She married L T Hunter, son of William Hunter and Mary Hutson.

On August 13, 1955, civil rights activist Lamar Smith was murdered on the crowded lawn of the Lincoln County courthouse in Brookhaven, Mississippi, at close range. Lamar Smith campaigned against one of two candidates for the county Board of Supervisors. He encouraged African Americans to vote by absentee ballot. He was shot by a .38 caliber pistol under his right arm, died instantly.

Bertieal's mother Ora, was the daughter of Lizzie Clark Lyons. Lamar's wife was Annie Clark. Lizzie and Annie were sisters, thus Lamar Smith was an uncle to Bertieal.

Bertieal's husband's, L T Hunter, nephew S Q Hunter married my mother's first cousin,
Velma "China" Markham.

Photograph courtesy of Lincoln-Lawrence-Franklin Regional Public Library.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Wordless Wednesday
Barbershop - A Man Cave


Courtesy of Mississippi Department of Archives and History
Photograph likely taken in Crystal Springs, Copiah County, MS
From the Luther Hamilton Photograph Collection

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The House without a Front Door

This was the home of Medgar Evers and his family. Medgar, his wife Myrlie and their children moved into the home in 1955 after he was appointed Mississippi's first NAACP regional field secretary. He worked to end segregation and to increase voter registration among African Americans.

The neighborhood was chosen because it was Jackson, MS, first neighborhood developed by African American entrepreneurs. Medgar thought it would be a safe place to raise his family.

The house was built without a front door for safety reasons. The family would leave their vehicle through the passenger side and enter the house through the carport door.

He was assassinated in the early morning of June 12, 1963, in his driveway when returning home from an NAACP meeting. He was retrieving t-shirts out of the trunk of his car. The t-shirts read, "Jim Crow must go."

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Remembering Medgar Evers

Remembering civil rights activist Medgar Evers who worked to end segregation in Mississippi. He was assassinated 50 years ago, June 12, 1963.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Tombstone Tuesday
Clara Demyers

Daughter of Luke and Josephine Williams
Wife of Lawrence Demyers
Mother of Timothy, James, Luther, Luke, and Jimmy Dell

Buried in St John Community Cemetery
Wesson, Copiah County, MS

Clara Demyers' Obituary

Friday, June 7, 2013

Miss Mary Mack
Hand Clapping Games

Alexander High School - 1946
Brookhaven, Mississippi

This picture of high school girls doing a hand clapping game brought back memories of friends and me spending hours playing hand clapping games. I can only remember one song from those days, Miss Mary Mack, and memories of fragments of other songs.

Miss Mary Mack

Miss Mary Mack
Miss Mary Mack, Mack, Mack
All dressed in black, black, black
With silver buttons, buttons, buttons
All down her back, back, back
She asked her mother, mother, mother
For fifty cents, cents, cents
To see the elephants, elephants, elephants
Jump over the fence, fence, fence
They jumped so high, high, high
They touched the sky, sky, sky
And didn't come back, back, back
Till the fourth of July, July, July

Do you remember any hand clapping games?

Photograph courtesy of
Lincoln Lawrence Franklin Regional Library
100 South Jackson Street
Brookhaven, MS 39601

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Two Wives in the House

1900 Census, Copiah County, Mississippi

Census records can be interesting. Every now and then I come across something out of the ordinary. In 1900, two women were listed as wife in the 1900 household of Jesse Fair, Amanda and Josephine. He was married to Amanda for 22 years, married to Josephine for 13 years. He had two children with Amanda, Mary and Sam; and four with Josephine; Walter, Jesse, Hezzie and Otis. They all were born in MS as were their parents. Jesse is renting the land he farms and he says he can read and write. All others are farm laborers and only six years old Hezzie is in school.

According to Copiah County marriage records, Jesse Fair and Josephine Demyers married 10 Feb 1887. I didn't find a marriage record for Jesse and Amanda in Copiah County or any evidence they were legally married in MS but the 1900 census indicates they were married about 1878.

I went back to the 1880 Copiah County census where I found 21 one year old Jesse, and 20 years old Amanda, and their infant daughter Mary. One page over, I found 10 year old Josie Myers living in the household of her uncle and aunt, John and Emma Demyers Whitaker.

Jesse and Amanda's last child, Sam, was born about 1884. I wish the 1890 census had not been destroyed by fire to see if Amanda and Josephine were both living with Jesse. One record can not give clarity to why both women are listed in the same household as wives of Jesse.

Amanda Fair disappears from the census records after 1900. Josephine is recorded in every census with additional children, recorded as a widow in 1930 and 1940. Jesse Fair died Oct 28 1928 in Copiah County, MS. He is buried at the Mt Olive Church Cemetery.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Two Sisters

Juanita and Opal

I met the sisters in 2000 when I attended my aunt Annie Bell Shephard's funeral. They were cheerful, charming, and friendly. I understood why my aunt called them friends. The sisters are standing near the Enon Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan where the funeral was held.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Sunday's Obituary
Leroy "Buck" Shepard 1912-1995

Leroy was born in Hazlehurst, Mississippi on July 25, 1912, to the union of Jimmy Sr., and Lurany Shepard. He confessed hope in Christ at an early age and was baptized at New Zion MBC.

In 1946, Leroy relocated to Detroit, Michigan to begin building his dream. He was very talented and a "Jack of all Trades." Leroy was successful in providing for his family and contributing to the community. After 30 years, Leroy retired from Chrysler in 1978.

He remained an active member of the church and served as trustee Board member and Treasurer for many years.

Brother Shepard was a member of M.W. Unity Grand Lodge A.F.A.M., and the Wishful Master of the Rubican Lodge No. 8 and a 33rd Mason. In addition to being a Noble (Shriner), Temple of Osiris.

Late Tuesday night June 6, 1995, Leroy went home to be with the Lord

He leaves to cherish his memories: a wife Dora Shepard; one son, Jimmy Shepard Jr.; two daughters, Annie Pearl of Omaha, Nebraska and Connie Harris of Montgomery, Alabama; three sisters-in-law, Marie of Detroit, Mattie of Hazlehurst, Mississippi, and Eddie Mae of Illinois; fifteen grandchildren, twelve great grandchildren, and a host of other relatives, nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends. He also joins his beloved daughter Mary who preceded him in death.

Picture courtesy of Shelia Easley

Leroy's wife Dora Overton Shepard was my dad's 1st cousin.