Sunday, November 27, 2016

Free Kindle Book - Giving Tuesday

"It is the early 1900’s in rural Mississippi along Cohay Creek, where people are scarce and stately virgin pine timber is plentiful.

Caleb Smitherlin, a talented blacksmith, has a wife dying of cancer and a teenage son who tries every way possible to please his critical father. Caleb is torn. On the one hand, he loves Mathilda with every bone in his body, but on the other, he needs the company o
f another woman.

The Gypsies he allows to camp on his land near Cohay Creek receive hate and distrust from the people of Taylorsburg. Walthere, the Gypsy leader, and Rosalie, his wife, become close friends of the Smitherlin family, even though Gypsies rarely mix with people outside their clan and especially not gentiles.

Esmeralda, the Gypsy fortune teller, encourages Red Felty’s idea that his wife Ruby and Caleb Smitherlin are having an affair." .............

Would you like to read more about this?

This is just an excerpt from "Travelers in Painted Wagons on Cohay Creek".....written by Mary Lou Cheatham and Sarah Walker Gorrell.

It's what we call "factual fiction" (borrowed that from another author). It can be downloaded from Amazon, for FREE, on Giving Tuesday!!  (Our Christmas you!!)

#GivingTuesday #FreeKindleBook #TravelersinPaintedWagonsonCohayCreek #Free  #Download

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Cemeteries hold the key.....

Anyone who knows me knows anything about me, or has read anything I’ve written knows that I love country roads, cemeteries, genealogy, cemeteries, family, cemeteries, travel, cemeteries……you’ve got the idea!

This past Saturday, at the Historical Society Meeting in Raleigh (if you have any interest in your family lineage and/or Smith County, we’d love to have you join us!), one of the members, who is also a distant relative, mentioned that one of my Allen ancestors (a ggg- aunt) had been confined to the Mental Hospital in Meridian and was buried in that cemetery. (My Granny Walker’s mother was an Allen.)

This ggg-aunt was born in 1829 and lived, per census records, most of her life with her parents. In the Smith County census of 1880, she was still living with my ggg-grandmother. She was approximately 50 years of age and my ggg-grandmother, a widow, was 78.

In 1882, legislation was passed establishing the East Mississippi State Insane Asylum and in 1885, the hospital opened 2 miles west of Meridian. I am assuming that ggg-grandma Allen died sometime between 1880 and 1885, hence the reason the “insane” ggg-aunt had to go to a Mental Hospital.

Again, anyone who knows me understands that this is a mystery to be unraveled. Even though there was a heat advisory, on Sunday, I just HAD to go find this grave. I coerced cousin, Pam Walker, to ride along with me. After all, I had already located the other Allen grave in the cemetery at the Ellisville State School. I have to admit, this was beginning to be a little unnerving ……all these ancestors ending up in mental facilities! (Bob had always laughed and commented that everyone in Smith County was so related, he didn’t know how we could “walk and chew gum, at the same time.”)  I miss him, terribly, but I think this was one time I was glad he wasn’t around!

The directions to the East Central Mississippi State Hospital, also known as Cedar Haven, stated that the cemetery was at the west end of 22nd Street. Have you ever tried to find anything in Meridian? The streets start and stop. We’d be on 22nd and it would end and we’d have to zig and zag until we found it, again. We stopped at a convenience store to ask directions, and the two female clerks spoke absolutely NO English!!

We got to the end of 22nd street, in the absolute worst part of town and there was no cemetery. Everyone we stopped to ask, shrugged their shoulders…..they had no idea where the “old cemetery for the insane” was located. We were already hot and tired and probably looking pretty scary!

Finally, we decided to use Pam’s GPS, on her phone!! Maybe we needed to be in that hospital. We had driven around for an hour – why didn’t we think of this sooner?
We located the East Central Mississippi State Hospital on Highland Street. It’s a huge facility that seems to be in the process of growing. Are they expecting that many more people? Anyway, we got directions from a very nice young security guard …..who had no idea there was a cemetery ……but she made a phone call, got and gave excellent directions.

After following her directions, suddenly we were, again, at the end of 22nd Street (in another block)…..and there was the cemetery with a locked gate!  The optimist cousin Pam  said, “we can crawl under.” I looked at the bottom of the locked gate….and the ground…..and wondered how badly I wanted to find this woman’s grave (on this very hot day.)

I’m not sure why the gate was locked ….unless it was thought that someone might steal a body. There was ample (well, not really ample) room between the locked gate and the post to which it was attached…..we were able to squeeze (literally) through.

We walked the cemetery, checking each tombstone. Again, as in the Ellisville State School cemetery, most stones were state issued and were small with name and dates of birth and death. Unlike Ellisville, most of these stones were set above the ground. In the older section, the stones were of concrete and only contained a number …..etched into the stone….probably the “Inmates ID” number.

I’m not sure how many acres the cemetery covered. After all the makeup on my face had melted into my eyes, and I began to feel like I couldn’t breathe, it felt like 100! (I think it was probably 5 acres.)

Unfortunately, we didn’t find the ggg-aunt, but I did take a photo of a tombstone with a familiar last name – Hosey. When I got home and began checking, I discovered that he’s my 1st cousin twice removed (his mother was an Allen.) 

Can I say that now I’m just a little more than concerned.  All these family members in a Mental Institution. Yep, it’s probably a good thing Bob Gorrell isn’t around right now. 

Cemeteries hold the key to our past - and possibly - to our future!! 
#Cemeteries #Hosey #Allen #EastMississippiStateInsaneAsylum #Meridian

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

It's the Small Things.......

Sometimes, it’s the smallest of things that brightens one’s day or makes one smile.

I’ve been tracing various families, in my trees, for a number of years. Recently, the focus has been on the Allen family. My grandmother, or Granny, as we all called her was Annie Catherine (Gibson) Walker. Her mother, my great grandmother, was Courtney Alice Allen. For the most part, the Allens were a great bunch of people – with the exception of Grandma Courtney’s brother, Matt.

Matt Allen had a farm over in Jasper County and his mother, great-great grandma Permelia Allen lived with him after great-great grandpa Hardy Allen (great grandma Courtney’s father) died. Two of gg grandpa Hardy’s and gg grandma Permelia’s daughters had died and left orphans (Pete Hosey, age 10, and Little Jimmy Bethea, age 24 who was mentally challenged).Gg grandma Permelia and her two orphan grandsons lived with her son Matt.

Matt had a farm with cattle but he was also a bootlegger. Because Little Jimmy Bethea was mentally challenged, his Uncle Matt was very abusive to him. Old newspaper articles mention how Little Jimmy was starved and beaten. I’ve often wondered where gg grandma Permelia was when this was going on. Was she afraid of her son, Matt? Is that why she didn’t speak up?

Apparently, Little Jimmy told someone that his Uncle Matt had a Moonshine Still, and Matt beat him, to death. There was a trial, in Jasper County, back in the spring of 1924 and Matt was sentenced to life behind bars, in Parchman.

Money talked back then, just as it does today. Matt sold his cattle and was able to accumulate enough money to buy his way out of prison. He was sent to live, for the remainder of his life, in the Ellisville State School.

I’m not sure why I cared, but I wanted to find his grave. (It’s just one of those things that genealogists do.)  I searched online on Find A Grave and in old Jones County Cemetery books, to no avail. Susan Blakeney, the expert on Genealogy at the Library in Laurel suggested that Matt might have been buried in Ellisville, at the State School.

It was the day before July 4th and I had taken my cousin, Hilda Grace Craft Bynum, in search of a vehicle – in Ellisville. After looking at the car, I decided to go to the Ellisville State School and search through their cemetery, if there was one!

The state of Minnesota always talks about “Minnesota Nice”….but Mississippi has that, too! I was so impressed with both the young men who helped me that hot afternoon. Nathan Fayard, the young policeman who led us to the oldest of the two cemeteries at Ellisville, walked through with us as Hilda Grace and I looked for Matt Allen’s grave.

The gravestones, supplied by the state of Mississippi, were buried flat in the ground. I was surprised how far apart the graves were spaced. They could have buried two people in the space where they only allowed one.

I had no idea that I would locate his grave. Imagine my surprise when suddenly, there it was!! I had found him on the 1940 Census of Jones County, still in Ellisville School as an inmate, and I had no idea when he died. There was his gravestone with the dates 1881 – 1958. He had lived until he was 77 years of age, and had been sent there when he was 43. He had lived 35 years of his life in the Ellisville State School. Had he gone to Parchman, he might have suffered for abusing a child. I wondered, did that also happened at Ellisville?

By his gravestone was a small figurine of a dog, that had been there for awhile. Someone had visited the grave. He had no wife and no children, so who?

Finally, I was able to close the book on this horrible story. I didn’t like Matt Allen but I could put him to rest.  Now, if only I could find out where Little Jimmy Bethea was buried!! 

Thank you to wonderful Ellisville State employees who went out of their way to be so helpful. It’s the small things that count!!
#MattAllenGrave #EllisvilleStateSchoolCemetery #JimmyBethea #PermeliaWindhamAllen