52 Ancestors #42 – On This Day in 1865 – Benjamin John Carpenter

On This Day in 1865, Benjamin John Carpenter died.

He was my 4th great grandfather, and though the year may look as if he died in the war, he was 75 years old, so probably not.

Benjamin Carpenter was born 9 Feb 1790 in Franklin City, NC to John Carpenter and Elizabeth Upchurch. He was one of an unbelievable 14 children. He was a descendant of Captain William Vincent Carpenter who came to America from England in the early 1600s.

At the age of 19 in 1809, he married Nancy Rice. Miss Rice was the daughter of a Revolutionary War hero and came from a well-to-do NC family with tons of land and many slaves. Benjamin had some work to do to keep Miss Rice in the style she was accustomed to.

In 1810 at the age of twenty, Benjamin’s mother died, and shortly after that, his wife gave him his first daughter. Over the next twenty years, they would have a total of ten children. The first five were born in NC. In 1820, they moved to Greene County, Alabama where the last five were born, including my 3rd great grandfather Rice Carpenter. (Notice how they used mom’s maiden name as the son’s first name. Southern tradition.) In 1836, they migrated west on a wagon train with other local families (Richardsons, Sanderfords, Tutts) to Lauderdale County, Mississippi.

fellowship baptist church signIn 1838, they organized the first church in the area called Fellowship Baptist Church. They met in a gumlog cabin that was on the property when they bought it. The church has been moved and rebuilt, but is still active today.

In 1840, Benjamin was elected the county tax assessor and collector. The 1860 census shows he owned quite a bit of land and 18 slaves. The family was doing quite well, but something was going on between Benjamin and Nancy, as she was living with one of her daughters, not with her husband. We’ll never know.

In 1861, the civil war started and the bottom fell out.

31 Dec 1862, his son Rice was killed in the war at the battle of Murfreesboro, TN. There was also a typhoid epidemic that came through his town. A month later, 30 Jan 1863, two of his daughters died of typhoid. Feb 1863, his one-year-old grandson died of typhoid. July 1864, a second son died in the war.

He died 16 Oct 1865 at the age of 75. His wife died five years later in 1870. I don’t know for certain, but I would assume they are buried in unmarked graves on the grounds of Fellowship Baptist Church.


52 Ancestors #41 – On This Day in 1904 – Lucy Ann Rackley Pickett

On This Day in 1904 Lucy Ann Rackley Pickett died at the age of 70.

pickett lucy ann rackley obeliskLucy was my 3rd great grandmother on my dad’s side. She was born in Choctaw, Alabama 6 Aug 1834 to Anthony Rackley and Julia Johnson. She was the baby of six children, with three sisters and two brothers.

She gave birth to a daughter in 1859 and another in 1860, but the records I have say she didn’t marry until 1860. It wasn’t unusual for the time to only have a ceremony when a traveling minister came through town, or it could have been that the wedding certificate wasn’t filed until 1860. Either way, she married Robert Theodore Pickett and the two had four girls followed by five boys in Alabama, one being my 2nd great grandfather Joseph Lawson Pickett. Sometime after the 1880 census, the family moved to Mississippi. Lucy’s mother had died in 1860 and her father lived with her until his death in 1880. That may have been the tipping point of leaving Alabama. The family was in MS by 1891 when the youngest daughter married there.

Lucy died in Mississippi 8 Oct 1904 at the age of 70. Her husband died a year later 17 Aug 1905.

They are laid to rest at Pleasant Hill United Methodist Cemetery in Zero, Lauderdale County, MS.

pickett lucy ann rackley

52 Ancestors #40 – On This Day – James Otis Burke

I’ve been participating in the “52 Ancestor” challenge all year, following along with the weekly themes and having a great time. BUT…I work out of the country for months at a time and generally write and schedule the blogs in advance. APPARENTLY, someone has dropped the ball in getting the October themes posted. As I type this in the real word today is Sept 24 and I leave for the month of October on Sep 26. I have today and tomorrow to write and schedule October’s ancestry blogs. SO, I’m forced to blog without themes.

I also write a blog called “On This Day,” which takes place on the day of the birth/death/anniversary/etc. of an ancestor, BUT I’ve not posted many “On This Day” blogs this year because I’ve been doing “52 Ancestors.”

Guess we’ll have to combine the two for the month of October.

James Otis Burke and son Jerry BurkeTHEREFORE, I present to you “52 Ancestors” “On This Day in 2003”

James Otis Burke

James Otis Burke (photo with infant son), whom we loving called Uncle Otis died on this day in 2003. He was my grandmother’s younger brother, my great uncle, born 14 Feb 1922 to John Patrick Burke and Mary Elizabeth Howington. He was the middle child of seven children, one who died as an infant. He was born and raised in Little Rock, Newton County, MS. There’s not much in Newton County but farmland, but the city of Meridian isn’t far away.

In 1941 at the age of 19, he served in the United States Army during WWII.

When he returned from the war, he married Luna Marie Arledge and they had three children. One boy and two girls. I remember my mother speaking of her cousins so lovingly. They were products of the 50s generation. I’m sure they spent many nights at the drive-in in town, and I picture them hanging out together just like the “Happy Days” TV show.

Uncle Otis buried his wife in 1990. She died at the age of 66. He never remarried.

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He died on October 1, 2003 at the age of 81 and is buried with his wife at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church Cemetery in Newton County.

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52 Ancestors #39 Unusual Names


This challenge is set forth by No Story Too Small, and this week’s theme is “Unusual.”

Now that I’ve been singing Tom Jones’s “It’s Not Unusual” for the last week, I may have come up with an idea for this theme. I’ve decided to look at some unusual names and where they came from.

eula and benMy aunt’s name is Ouida, pronounced WEE-da. I found out her grandmother was Eula Ouida Keene 1899-1981 (photo with husband).






blanks bates marie louise bates and grandmother martha carpenter blanksMy 2nd great grandmother Martha Lettie Carpenter 1848-1933 (photo with granddaughter) was named after her 2nd great grandmother Lettie Potts 1735-?.









culpepper Joel B CulpepperMy 5th great grandmother was Elizabeth Bluett 1798-1856. After she married a Culpepper, there has been a Bluett or Bluitt in nearly every generation, including my 3rd great grandpa Joel Bluett Culpepper 1845-1911 (photo) and my great uncle Andrew Bluitt Culpepper 1882-1954.


My 4th great grandmother Elizabeth Rice 1791-1870 named her son Rice Carpenter 1828-1862, who happened to be Martha Lettie Carpenter’s father.


Rodgers Hays SrMy 5th great grandmother Elizabeth Hays 1774-1839 named her son Hays Rodgers 1793-1862 (photo), who happened to be Rice Carpenter’s father-in-law.



My favorite name from the olden days was not a relative, but the name has stuck with me for a long time. It’s Pinkney Jeeter. Oh, how I love that! 🙂



52 Ancestors #38 Favorite Place


This challenge is set forth by No Story Too Small and this week’s theme is “Favorite Place.”

Eula Keene Pickett with Howard and AzaleaMy favorite place was my great grandmother’s house. She lived in Zero, Mississippi, just south of Meridian. This photo, courtesy of my cousin P. Grayson, is around 1925. She is with her son Howard and her daughter Azalea, my grandmother.

Grandma Pickett’s home wasn’t grand, but it was awesome. She had chickens who used to peck at my toes when I went out to collect the eggs. She had a cow that appeared as a calf each spring and disappeared each winter. I supposed we had lots of roasts because of that, but I never thought to ask what happened to the cows. I seem to remember a horse or two. I also remember five little ceramic pigs that held seasonings, salt, and pepper. They sat on the shelf above the kitchen sink. The house always smelled like sweet tea and green beans. My cousins lived next door, and I would run back and forth between playing with them and spending time with my great grandmother. Eula Ouida Keene Pickett 1899-1981 spent a lot of her time sewing quilts. I never thought much of it, but she was always in her chair, working on a new quilt with her glasses resting on the end of her nose.

IMG_20150908_180218183_HDRWhen I turned sixteen, Grandma Pickett gave me one of those quilts, just as she did for each of her six great-grandchildren. The pink one was for my birthday. The blue one was given to me later, just before she died. I was seventeen years old. I still use the quilts in our guest rooms and think of her every time I make the beds.


52 Ancestors #37 Seventy-one Grandchildren!!


This challenge is set forth by No Story Too Small, and this week’s prompt is “Large Family.”

Hays Rodgers and Marey A Scott Rodgers

 14 children 

71 grandchildren!


  1. Lewis Rodgers 1817-1890 m. Nancy Powell Ward, nine children
  2. James Rodgers 1818-1862 m. Martha A Sanderford, five children
  3. Allen Rodgers 1820-1894 m. Judith Walker McGehee, seven children, m. Nancy Abigail Chatham, six children
  4. Jackson Rodgers 1821- unknown
  5. Susannah Rodgers 1822-1904 m. Elijah Jackson Chatham, twelve children
  6. Stephen Rodgers 1824-1834 died young
  7. William Hays Rodgers 1826-1834 died young
  8. Mary Ann Rodgers 1828-1898 m. Rice Benjamin Carpenter, five children, m. William Eades Jolly, three children
  9. Timothy Rodgers 1830-1862
  10. Hays Rodgers Jr 1832-1913 m. Lucinda Graham, ten children
  11. Wilson Rodgers 1834-1864 m. Sarah Jane Graham, one child
  12. John W Rodgers 1836-1864
  13. Elizabeth Rodgers 1839-1875 m. George Malon Graham, ten children
  14. Martha Jane Rodgers 1844-1880 m. Martin V Warren, m. James Knox Meeks, m. Adam James Edgar, three children

Hays and Marey were my 4th great grandparents. #8 Mary Ann and Rice were my 3rd great grandparents.

1840810882_Thanksgiving20Dinner_xlargeOne can only imagine what Christmas would look in a house like this. After a while, the birth of a new child would be common place, and one might even have to decide which birth to attend and which one to not attend. There must have been a lot of love and a lot of chaos, but large families also have the potential for great tragedy. Hays and his large family lived in Mississippi, and when the Civil War broke out in 1862, they had no idea what was to come.

#9, #10, #11, and #12 served in the Confederacy. Only #10 returned home, and he came home with a useless arm that had taken a mini ball.

#8, #13, and #14 had husbands who served. As a matter of fact, #14 had two husbands who served. The only one who came home was #13’s. #14 was twice widowed by the age of twenty.

#5 had an eldest son who served. He was the first-born grandson in the family. He died at the age of 18 of illness at the training camp, one of the first casualties of the war.

If losing seven men in a single family wasn’t bad enough, typhoid also swept through the county the winter of 1862/63. During that terrible winter, Hays and Marey died within months of each other. Others lost to the disease were #2 and his wife within days of each other, leaving five orphans. #8’s infant son was also lost.

Looking at it from #8’s perspective. She lost three brothers, three brothers-in-law (one being her husband’s brother), four sisters-in-law (three were her husband’s sisters), an 18-year-old nephew, her husband, her infant son, and both parents within a seventeen month period. FIFTEEN PEOPLE! It turns my stomach to think about it.

Mary Ann seemed to be the one who held the family together after the tragedy. She was an amazing woman who had no idea how capable she was. Not only did she see the family through the tragedy, she came out on the other side a strong woman with an amazing story. Her story is detailed in my book Okatibbee Creek. 

Rodgers, Mary Ann Rodgers Carpenter Jolly

52 Ancestors #36 Working for a Living


This challenge is set forth by No Story Too Small and this week’s prompt is Workin’ for a Living.

I have at least six nurses, one doctor, two cops, a seamstress, a school teacher, and a bunch of farmers in my family, but the one that comes to mind is my 2nd great grandfather, the treasurer of Lauderdale County, Mississippi 1904-1907, Thomas Gilbert Lafayette Keene.

plaque in Lauderdale Co Court House in MeridianTGL Keene was born 20 Apr 1859. It took me years to find information about his family and I had to piece it together through other family names, but the 1860 census shows TGL living with his father Green, his mother Sarah, his aunt Elizabeth (dad’s sister), his other aunt Catherine (dad’s other sister) and his seventy-year-old grandpa Gilbert Keene. TGL’s older siblings include John, Martha, Minerva Ellen, and Mary. TGL was the baby at only a year or so old.

Sometime before the 1870 census, his mom and dad died. The 1870 census shows Minerva Ellen, Mary, and TGL (now 11) living with their 50-year-old aunt Elizabeth. Not only are his parents noticeably absent, but grandpa isn’t listed either.

The 1880 census shows TGL at the age of 21 living with his eldest sister Martha and her husband Charles Pierce and their children and working as an assistant on their farm. I assume old aunt Elizabeth was dead by this time. This poor boy just keeps losing the adults in his life.

In Aug 1890, TGL married Sarah Elizabeth “Bettie” Brown, and over the next ten years, they had seven children, one being my great grandmother Eula Ouida Keene Pickett, whom I loved dearly. Too bad she never spoke to me of her family. All of TGL’s children survived him except for a boy who died as an infant.

Records show TGL worked in the county system since at least 1900, becoming the county treasurer 1904-1907, and the marble plaque above still stands in the Lauderdale County Courthouse in Meridian, Mississippi. In 1910, TGL was listed on the census as a Justice of the Peace. In 1918, he returned to his roots and is listed in the Mississippi census as a farmer. Upon his death in 1921 at the age of 62, he was a member of the Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors.

TGL Keene death certStrangely, with all of his public service, there are very few records of him, and his parents are not listed on his death certificate. Perhaps the Keene family never spoke of those who came before. Or perhaps, TGL was a private man. How could his wife and his grown children not know the names of his parents to list on the certificate? His wife outlived him by five years, and they are both buried at Oak Grove Baptist Cemetery in the Bonita Community, Lauderdale County, Mississippi.

t g l keene headstone


52 Ancestors #35 School Days with George Washington Spencer


This challenge is set forth by No Story Too Small and this week’s challenge is “School Days.”

geo wash spencer

My 3rd great grand-father became a Confederate soldier in 1862, but in 1860, he was listed on the U.S. Census as a school teacher in Newton County, Mississippi.

church of rev william saladin spencerGeorge Washington Spencer was born in Alabama in June 1829, the son of preacher William Saladin Spencer and his wife Martha Didama Gross. GW grew up around the Shake Rag Church (photo) in Tuscaloosa, AL as one of eleven children. His last sibling was born in 1835, his father died in 1841, and his mother died in 1867 all in Alabama, but at some point GW moved west to Mississippi. At the age of 29 in 1858, he married Nancy Virginia “Jenny” Holdcroft, and in 1859, they had their first child, my 2nd great grand-mother Nancy Didama Spencer. (She was followed by six siblings.)

The Spencers made their home in Newton County, MS, and with a wife and a baby at home, GW needed a job, so he became a school teacher. There was no organized education at the time, so communities and churches usually gathered up some money and asked someone to educated their children. Teachers were generally left to their own devices to create a curriculum, and classrooms usually held children of all ages in one room. But the good news is that twelve-year-old children at the time were educated with books we would consider college level today. GW spent his days with the local kids, expanding the minds of the next generation.

Then the war began.

He enlisted 1 Mar 1862 at Scooba, Mississippi with Co.B 35th Mississippi Infantry. According to family members, he was sick most of the war from a leg infection and was medically discharged 10 Jan 1864. Rosters show him in Confederate hospitals in Jackson, Marion, and Lauderdale Springs, Mississippi. The passed-down family story is that his wife went by horse and wagon to pick him up from a Confederate hospital to bring him home. This was just before General Sherman’s march from Vicksburg to Meridian in Feb 1864.

Following the war, he is listed on all census records as a farmer until his death 22 Jul 1901. His career in education was a short-lived one.

GW and his wife Jenny are buried in unmarked graves at Hickory Cemetery, Newton County, Mississippi.

(photos courtesy of my cousin M. Baucum)

52 Ancestors # 34 Alma Saterfiel


This challenge is brought forth by No Story Too Small and this week’s challenge is “Non-population.”

Non-population refers to using a schedule that is not a populating-counting survey, such as an agricultural schedule. I’ve searched and searched, but all of the information I possess about my ancestors besides their personal records or land records involves them being counted for something. So… I’ve decided to forego the real meaning and twist the challenge into something I can do. I’ve decided to write about someone who created no population – someone who either never had children or perhaps died young – I’ve opted for Alma Saterfiel.

alma saterfiel

Alma was born to Mary Eudora Culpepper and William Bartley Saterfiel on 28 Jul 1907 in Lauderdale County, Mississippi. (Eudora was my great grandfather’s sister.) Alma was the last child of Eudora and William’s union, following two girls and three boys. She died at the age of four on Valentine’s Day 1912. She is laid to rest at Zion Cemetery in Kemper County, Mississippi with her father and her grandparents.

Her family is pictured below in a photograph taken in 1909.

Front row left to right: Dewey Oliver Saterfiel 1901-1968, Will B Saterfiel 1862-1925, Mary Eudora Culpepper Saterfiel 1871-1950, Alma 1907-1912, grandfather Joel B Culpepper 1848-1911.

Back row left to right: Evie Mae Saterfiel 891-1957, Indeola Saterfiel 1893-1956, Willie Carlos Saterfiel 1898-1955, Adie Joseph Saterfiel 1895-1954.

Joel B, Will B and baby Alma are buried at Zion Cemetery, Kemper Co, MS. All others are buried at Pine Grove Cemetery in Lauderdale, MS.

culpepper mary eudora culpepper saterfiel family

52 Ancestors – Defective, Dependent, & Delinquent


This challenge is set forth by No Story Too Small and this week’s theme is “Defective, Dependent, & Delinquent.”

According to No Story Too Small:  In 1880, there was a special census schedule for “Defective, Dependent, and Delinquent Classes” — the blind, deaf, paupers, homeless children, prisoners, insane, and idiotic.

I don’t have a direct ancestor listed on this special census (that I’ve found), but I have an aunt, the sister of my great grandmother, who went through quite an ordeal, one that ultimately led to her demise.

ora blanks bates

Ora Alice Blanks was born in 1889 to William Henry Blanks III and Martha Lettie “Mattie” Carpenter. She was the second youngest of six girls. To understand her fragile state, one must understand her parents.

Her father was born in 1846. By the age of thirteen, his mother and father had both died. He served in the Civil War 1861-1865 and after the war, at the age of 21, he married Mattie. Mattie’s childhood was even worse. She was fourteen when her father was killed in the war. Typhoid swept through her family at the same time, killing her baby brother, her maternal grandparents, and a host of aunts, uncles, and cousins. She lost seventeen family members in that year. Yes, you read that right. Seventeen. In one year. I imagine the trauma of losing loved ones at such young ages was hard on both William and Mattie and may have been the bond that united them, but how do you think they functioned as emotionally-damaged parents?

blanks ora blanks shellie bates family 1917Ora and her sisters grew up in Mississippi, and at the young age of sixteen in 1905, Ora married Shelly Houston Bates. A year into the marriage, they had a son. Four years later, another son. And four years after that, a daughter. Two years later in July 1916, they had their fourth child, William Lenard Bates. This is a photo of the family just before disaster struck.

On 29 May 1917, ten-month-old baby William died of enterocolitis, an inflammation of the digestive tract and intestines.

The family moved to Alabama to get a new start because Ora was taking the death so hard. She was seen by a physician. I don’t know what kind of medication was prescribed in 1917, but it may have hastened Ora’s decline. She died 2 Sept 1917, just over three months after her baby, and her death certificate states she died of acute melancholia and convulsions.

Her obituary is as follows:

LAUREL DAILY LEADER September 5, 1917

Death of Mrs. Bates Mourned in Laurel–

The heads of many relatives and friends are bowed in grief at the news of the death of Mrs. Ora Bates of this city. This sad occurrence took place Sunday morning at 8 o’clock, following a nervous breakdown. Three months ago she was taken to Selma, Ala., where all hoped that the change would be of benefit to her. It was in this city that the sad end came, bringing sorrow to her husband, Mr. S. H. Bates, and her three small children, besides a multitude of relatives and friends. The kindness of the Selma Grove of the Woodmen Circle, No. 48, was generously tendered and was appreciated beyond words, Mrs. Bates being a prominent member of the Laurel Grove. Her body was brought to Laurel on Monday afternoon and was met by a devoted delegation of the Laurel Grove of the Woodmen Circle. These ladies accompanied the remains of their much loved member to the Bates home and did all in their power to be of help and comfort at this time when it was so needed. The funeral services followed yesterday afternoon at 4 o’clock, with the interment at the Hickory Grove cemetery. Deepest sympathy is extended especially to Mr. Bates in the loss of his lovely young wife, who was only 26 years of age.

Ora Blanks Bates headstone