Saturday Snippet of An Orphan’s Heart

AOH%20cover_webThe second book in the Okatibbee Creek Series is the tale of one of the orphans lost in the shuffle in Okatibbee Creek, Martha Ellen Rodgers Meek, simply known as Ellen. In An Orphan’s Heart, nine-year-old Ellen’s family has been decimated by the civil war and a typhoid epidemic that swept through the county. She and her siblings are now forced to live with other family members, and Ellen finds herself longing for the love of her mother. She is relocated from Mississippi to Alabama, and upon reaching maturity, she decides to go back to Mississippi. Things are certainly not the same as they were in her childhood. She eventually travels to the great plains of Texas to visit her brothers, and immediately upon her arrival, she meets the man of her dreams and plans for a bright future – but has everything torn from her in a shattering turn of events.

An Orphan’s Heart is based on a true story. The names are real. The events are real. The story is told in first person, present tense. The photo at the bottom of this page is the real Martha Ellen Rodgers Meek, taken sometime around 1880.

Below is a snippet of when Ellen met handsome Sam Meek. The electricity was evident from the first moment.

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The inside of the house is as charming as the outside. A blazing fire warms the room, and the air smells of freshly made coffee. Mollie introduces me to their daughters: Minnie, who is five, and Willie Jo, who is two. What cute little girls! Judging by their nightdresses, they were about to go to bed. They both run up and wrap their arms around my neck as I bend down to say hello.

“Aunt Ellen, how long did it take you to get here?” Minnie asks.

“A couple of days. I traveled on three different trains.”

“Did you bring us any presents?” Willie Jo asks.

I laugh. I didn’t even consider doing so, but I pull two pieces of candy from my bag and they’re happy with that.

I’m so wrapped up in the little girls, I don’t even notice him sitting quietly at the table.

“Ellen, I’d like to introduce you to my brother. This is Sam Meek.”

The man rises from the table to greet me, and I’m immediately taken aback by his rugged good looks and warm smile. Our eyes meet and lock. Suddenly I feel as if I’m drowning in a pool of green—the richest green of a mountainside, the darkest green of the deepest water. Everyone and everything else disappears.

He offers me his hand as I rise from the floor. “It’s very nice to meet you.”

“And you, sir.” I take his hand and feel electricity flow through every vein in my body. I pull my hand away, and just as quickly regret the action. I wish to feel that sensation again, but there is no way to touch him again now. I glance down and admire his tan forearm, half covered by his rolled-up sleeve. “I am very sorry about the loss of your mother,” I offer as I try to compose myself.

He doesn’t respond for a moment, and stares deeply into my eyes. “Thank you. It’s very sad for all of us.” He doesn’t pull his eyes away.

Mollie brings some coffee to the table, breaking the spell Sam Meek has created, and she motions for us to have a seat.

“Would you like something to eat?” she asks.

“No, thank you.” I shake my head, finding it hard to look away from the exquisite creature in front of me.

“Sam?”

“No, I’m fine, but thank you,” he says, not breaking our gaze. “I’ll have to get to sleep in a little bit. I’m exhausted.”

I sink into the chair but have no idea if I’m actually sitting. The thought of him leaving the room is disheartening, and I’m surprised a man I just met is having this kind of effect on me.

“So, how was your trip?” He turns toward his coffee cup as Mollie fills it.

“It was amazing. When I was younger, I traveled through a small town in Alabama that had a train station. I was so enchanted by the women in their fancy hats coming and going, I vowed to myself I would someday travel on a train to a distant place.” I smile. “And here I am.”

“Sounds nice.” He takes a sip of his coffee, watching me over the brim of his steaming cup. His voice sounds like silk.

I watch the way he sips. I watch his strong, callused hands place the cup back down on the table. I watch his tongue lick a stray drop from his lips. I watch his tanned throat as he swallows.

“Did you sleep on the train or did you stop somewhere?”

“I spent the night in Mobile and New Orleans, but the rest of the trip was on a sleeper train that had bunks. The rocking motion of the train was actually very soothing.” I sip the strong, bitter coffee, then glance at him as I place the cup back on the table.

“Well, I’m glad you had a good journey.” He stands. “I’m sorry to interrupt our coffee and conversation, but I really need to get some sleep. I can hardly keep my eyes open. It’s going to be a long day tomorrow with the funeral and all.” He grabs his hat from the side table. “Relatives have been coming into town all day.” He nods to me. “It was a pleasure to meet you, ma’am. I’d love to speak with you more about your journey, and I’ll see you again tomorrow.”

“Nice to meet you, too, Mr. Meek.” His movements are like a stallion running through a field, like an eagle catching its prey, like a…

“Please, call me Sam.” He grins, showing the slightest dimple under his dark stubble. His eyes sparkle in the firelight.

I nod and smile. I can’t stop staring at him.

He bids a good evening to Mollie and Willie, and just as instantly as he appeared, he is gone.

My heart is pounding in my ears. My palms are sweating. I can’t seem to catch my breath. I wish I could follow him. I look down at my coffee cup and shake my head. When I look up, Mollie and Willie are both staring at me, and I blush.

************

James daughter Martha Ellen Rodgers MeekAn Orphan’s Heart is available in paperback and Kindle at Amazon.

An Orphan’s Heart was a finalist in the 2014 Eric Hoffer Awards. The cover was also named a top-ten finalist in the 2013 Authorsdb Book Cover Contest. It was also awarded a Five-Star Review at Readers’ Favorite. It is the second book in the Okatibbee Creek Series. The first book is Okatibbee Creek. The third is Elly Hays.

52 Ancestors #32 – 32

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This challenge is set forth by No Story Too Small and this week’s theme is “32.”

For those of you don’t do genealogy, you have 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great grandparents, 16 2nd great-grandparents, and 32 3rd great-grandparents. The family tree grows exponentially.

This generation of 32 people in my past have been on my mind a lot lately due to the feeding frenzy of liberals trying to erase the history of the Confederacy. Personally, I don’t have a problem with the Confederate flag, but I understand that hate groups have adopted it and it may no longer represent the South throughout the rest of the United States. Perhaps it is time for a discussion about where it should and should not be flown.

I do, however, have a problem with the hatred that these history-erasing people, including some of my very own friends, are spewing and the way vandals are destroying flags, graves, statues, and monuments. You’ll see why in a moment. I’ve decided to not write about only one of my 32 grandmas and grandpas, but all of them.

Jeremiah William Crane, born 1828 Alabama

Sarah Frances Grimes, born 1824 Alabama

Amos Windham Mercer, born 1799 South Carolina

Amanda Merron, born 1829 Florida

Archibald White, born 1808 North Carolina

Elizabeth B Farrish, born 1824 Alabama

Leonard H Morrow, born 1812 Tennessee

Silvia Truss, born 1814 North Carolina

Robert Theodore Pickett, born 1836 Mississippi

Lucy Ann Rackley, born 1834 Alabama

William Thomas Fisher, born 1819 Alabama*

Elizabeth Ann Butler, born 1834 North Carolina

Green Keene, born 1834 South Carolina

Sarah Tabitha unknown, born 1833 Alabama

William Lafayette Brown, born 1836 Mississippi*

Sarah Ann Elvira Dollar, born 1836 Alabama

Rev. Joseph M. Culpepper, born 1822 Georgia**

Nancy Yarbrough, born 1822 Georgia

William Henry Blanks II, born 1800 Georgia

Nancy Narcissus Young, born 1800 North Carolina

Rice Benjamin Carpenter, born 1828 Alabama**

Mary Ann Rodgers, born 1828 Mississippi

George Washington Spencer, born 1829 Alabama*

Nancy Virginia “Ginny” Holdcroft, born 1839 Mississippi

James C Howington, born 1823 North Carolina*

Amelia Ann Elizabeth Smith, born 1827 Alabama

Of the six missing names; two were in Dublin, Ireland, their son (my 2nd great) arrived on the shores of Florida in 1861; two were Choctaw Indians in the Choctaw Territory of Mississippi but I don’t know their names; and the final two are unaccounted for as I have not been able to trace them, but their daughter (my 2nd great), was born in Alabama in 1848, so they certainly lived in the South.

Notice anything?? Yes, 26 (28 if you count the Choctaws, 30 if you count the folks living in Alabama) of my 32 3rd great-grandparents were born in the Confederate States, and EVERY ONE of my 16 2nd greats lived there also. From the records I have: six of the men above fought with the Confederacy (noted by *) – two died in battle (noted by **). Three of my 2nd greats (sons of the above) fought with the Confederacy, not to mention the countless brothers and other sons who served and sometimes died. Mary Ann Rodgers named above lost three brothers, three brothers-in-law, and her husband.

Off the top of my head, eight to ten of these families were in America during the Revolution, fighting for freedom – the freedom to say and do as you please. You have the freedom to be “offended” by the Confederate flag. It was given to you by MY ancestors who have been struggling since the 1600s to build a great country, even before it was a country.

Here’s where I have a problem. You don’t have the freedom nor the “right” to desecrate Confederate graves, statues, monuments, Confederate cemeteries, or the flags within their boundaries, and you certainly don’t have the freedom to take away my heritage. You will never accomplish that. You will never change how I feel about the men who fought in the Confederate Army. They are AMERICAN soldiers. They will always have my deepest respect for being willing to die for what they believed in, whether you agree with their cause or not. My heritage will not be erased. It will not disappear. Do you want to know why? Because I will fight to keep it alive in my family, my community, my descendants, and my heart. I will fight with the same veracity shown by my grandparents when they fought for their freedom. After all, their blood runs in my veins, too.

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Saturday Snippet of Okatibbee Creek

okatibbee creek cover front JPEGOkatibbee Creek is the story of Mary Ann Rodgers Carpenter Jolly and her trials and tribulations in Mississippi during the Civil War. As her brothers and husband went off to war, a devastating typhoid epidemic swept through the county and decimated what was left of her family. Following the loss of so many loved ones, including both parents, she took in her orphaned nieces and nephews and focused on survival. When the war finally ended, she had to pick up the pieces of her shattered life and begin anew. But how?

Okatibbee Creek is a real place. The characters are real. The events are real. The book will leave you crying and cheering. It is written in first person, present tense, diary-style, allowing you to see inside of Mary Ann’s heart and experience every emotion she felt.

The following is a snippet of the scene when Mary Ann received word that her husband had been killed in the war.

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When I reach the bottom of the stairs, I see him. I do not recognize his face, but I recognize his clothing. He is a Confederate soldier. He is standing in the open doorway of the store with the gray, cloudy sky at his back. He is dressed in a wrinkled gray uniform with a dirty yellow cummerbund. His trousers have holes in them, with mud caked around the bottoms of his pant legs. His jacket is missing some buttons, and he looks quite thin and weary. He is wearing shoes that are covered in red Mississippi mud and probably have no soles on the bottom. He is holding his tattered hat and a piece of paper in his dirty hands.

“Hello, sir, what can I do for you?” I ask as I approach.

“Hello, ma’am.” He nods. “Are you Mrs. Carpenter?”

“Yes, I am. And who are you, may I ask?”

“Private Joseph Brown, ma’am. Captain asked me to deliver the latest casualty list to you in person.” He holds the folded piece of paper toward me and looks down at the floor, like a child in trouble for doing something wrong.

“Why are you delivering this? It usually comes by a mail carrier,” I ask as I reach for the paper. I look at the boy’s face. He nervously avoids my eyes and keeps staring at the floor.

“Why are you delivering this to me?” I repeat.

“I promised I would. I’m sorry, ma’am. Goodbye, ma’am,” he murmurs, and backs out the open door.

I look at the piece of paper in my hand for a long time, wondering if I can open it. I don’t know whose names are on this paper, but I suspect the worst, and I don’t want to read it. My eyes sting with tears as I dread a simple piece of paper. I try to unfold it, but my hands are shaking, so I stop and hold it to my chest. I take a deep breath.

Martha Jane stands behind me, not saying a word or making a sound.

“Martha Jane, will you please go upstairs and mind the children for a few minutes?” I ask her.

She nods and quietly heads up the stairs.

I walk outside across the wooden porch and down the two stone steps onto the ground. I walk across the dirt road that is now filled with puddles of red mud from the rain. I keep walking straight ahead. I walk into the overgrown field across the road. I walk with purpose, with determination, like I have somewhere important to go. I want to run. I want to run away and never come back. I keep walking.

In the middle of the field, the thunder sounds above my head. I stop and look up at the ominous clouds that are almost as threatening as the piece of paper I hold in my hand. My hands are shaking as I slowly unfold it and smooth it open. My stomach feels like it has a hole in it. My eyes fill with tears. My hands are now trembling so violently, I almost can’t read it. The name at the top is the only name I see.

“Carpenter, Rice Benjamin: killed in battle 31 December, 41st Mississippi Infantry, Co C.”

Drops of water fall onto the page, but I can’t tell if they are raindrops or teardrops. Even God Himself is crying.

*********

Rodgers, Mary Ann Rodgers Carpenter JollyOkatibbee Creek is available in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook at Amazon. CLICK HERE. It is the first of three Okatibbee Creek Series books, but they are stand-alone stories. The second is An Orphan’s Heart. The third is Elly Hays.

Okatibbee Creek was the bronze medal winner of the 2013 eLit Book Awards in literary fiction. It also received honorable mention in the 2013 Great Midwest Book Festival for regional fiction and was a nominee in the 2013 Global eBook Awards for historical fiction. It was also awarded Five-Stars at Readers’ Favorite.

Amazon sale rumor, snippet, and a FREE book!

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Word on the street is Amazon will celebrate its 20th anniversary on July 12 and will kick off a mega sale sometime during the week. I’ve heard they have asked for overtime by their staff, hired some temps, and notified their carriers that the volume of packages will double.

Update: Amazon has confirmed a huge one-day sale called Prime Day on July 15. Lightning Deals, seven Deals of the Day, and according to Amazon, more deals than black Friday.

Well…cool! 7,305 days we’ve been together and I still love you, Amazon!

I’d like to take you back in time to the War of 1812 with a snippet of my book ELLY HAYS. Elly’s husband has decided to move the family from Tennessee to the Mississippi Territory, the land we know today as Alabama. He wants to get his family out of the way of the coming war. Little does he know, the Creek Indians living in the place he wants to go are in the middle of a civil war, so he is completely wrong about the family’s safety. Too bad they won’t find that out until they get there.

I’d like to offer you a FREE Kindle copy of ELLY HAYS while your shopping the sale at Amazon July 12-16. Click here to visit the ELLY HAYS Amazon page and bookmark it so you can return July 12-16 and get your FREE copy.

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41n6zHpRqRL._UY250_War is Coming

“So, what are you saying, James? You want to pack all of our belongings, our animals, and our children, leave Tennessee, and move to some wild Indian territory that’s not yet settled?”

He sipped his coffee and nodded. “Yes, that’s exactly what I want to do.”

“What about the children? What about their school?”

“We’ll do what we have to do, Elly. We’ll school them ourselves if that’s what it takes. This is a great opportunity, and the timing couldn’t be better. The government is selling that land for next to nothing, and we’ll have twice the property we have here. Our farm will be twice as large, earning twice the money. And honestly, with what’s going on in the North, I don’t think we should stay here any longer. It looks as if we’re going to declare war upon the British. They’re already fighting up there, and I’m afraid the fighting is going to move its way down here. I would rather school the children myself than to take a chance on them living in the middle of a conflict, or worse, dying in it.”

She looked at him in disbelief and didn’t know what to say. He had a tendency to exaggerate, so she didn’t know if he was being truthful or purposefully saying shocking things about the children’s welfare to get her to agree to move.

He continued. “During the revolution, my father was too old to fight, but he housed many soldiers who related vile tales of death and destruction. He told me stories of the horrors. Men who weren’t killed or injured in battle often starved and died anyway. Women and children were often caught in the crossfire. I don’t want to sit here and watch history repeat itself. The revolution gave us our independence, but the British are still dominating and oppressing us. We still don’t have the freedom we desire. That’s what they’re fighting for in the north—freedom. I agree with what they’re doing, but I don’t want my wife and children caught in the middle. I think there’s going to be a second revolution. After what my father told me about the first one, I can’t help but be fearful that this one is destined to be the same.”

“Yes, I know the stories. I’ve heard them myself. But I don’t know about moving, James.” She shook her head as she lifted her skirt to stand. She walked away from the table and placed her coffee cup on the counter. “I don’t know how to pack all of our things and start all over. It seems impossible.”

He sipped his coffee again and grimaced. It had grown cold. He placed the cup down on the table and looked at her. “I don’t think we have a choice, Elly. The war is coming. We have a good opportunity right in front of us to avoid the whole situation, to start fresh, and to keep the children safe.”

She leaned her back against the counter and placed her hands on her hips. “What about Indians? Aren’t there Indians there?”

“Yes, there are, but I’m sure they won’t be any problem. Other people live amongst them. And besides, we’ll be buying the land from the government, not from the Indians. It will be our land, fair and square. At least we won’t find ourselves caught in the crossfire because the Indians don’t have guns. From what I’ve heard, they live off the land and keep to themselves.”

She sighed, knowing he would not let this go. He wanted an answer right now, but she couldn’t give him the one he wanted. She looked across the room and stared out the wavy glass of the window for a few minutes, trying to decide what to say. After a while, she folded her arms and looked at her husband. “All right, I’ll make you a deal. You go and look at the land, and if it’s nice and there are no Indians, I’ll agree to move there.”

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ELLY HAYS is FREE at Amazon July 12-16.

52 Ancestors – #28 Elly Hays

52ancestors-2015

This challenge is set forth by No Story Too Small and this week’s theme is Road Trip.

Marriage document James Rodgers and Elizabeth Hays GreeneCoTN1790Elly Hays was sixteen when she married James Rodgers in Tennessee on 20 Dec 1790. The document to the left is their marriage license. She birthed twelve children.

In 1811, the family packed up and moved to the eastern Mississippi Territory – a place now called Alabama, which wouldn’t become a state until 1819.

You know how difficult it is going on a road trip with little kids in the car? Imagine being on a covered wagon for two months with a dozen of the little rug rats and not a McDonalds in sight.

ban-mcdonalds

This was a time in history when the U. S. was flexing its political muscle and tensions were escalating, leading up to the War of 1812. And little did the Rodgers family know, they were moving into Creek territory. Not only were the Creek Indians fighting the U.S. Government, they had also broken into two factions and were fighting among themselves in a civil war called the Red Stick War. The Rodgers family moved into the middle of a hornet’s nest. They were harassed for years by the marauding Indians, who taunted them and stole their livestock, and the final straw, burnt down their home.

Eventually, in 1818 the family took another long road trip and moved west to Lauderdale County, Mississippi, to the land of the friendly Choctaw Indians.

James died in Mississippi eight years later, and Elly moved back to Clarke County, Alabama and probably lived with her daughter. She died in the 1830s in her 60s in Grove Hill, Alabama. The exact date of her death is unknown. Her burial place is unknown.

Her story is told in detail in my book Elly Hays available at Amazon.

Saturday Snippet of An Orphan’s Heart

Eric-Hoffer-Finalist-BannerI’ve spent so much time on the Culpeppers lately, I’ve grown a little weary of them. I’ve been writing a four-book series since August, which is itching to become a five-book series. Sigh. I need something a little different. I thought I’d bring back an old story this week. An Orphan’s Heart was a finalist in the 2014 Eric Hoffer Awards. I’m so glad someone else thought it was a good story besides me. 🙂

Our heroine, Ellen, is a young woman in post-civil-war Mississippi, the only female traveling on a wagon train, and I’m sure she’s not used to being treated so harshly. It’s a good thing handsome Luke is somewhat of a hero, because piss-drunk Floyd has grabbed Ellen by the wrist.

If you like the snippet, the Kindle is on sale July 4-6 for $0.99. Pick it up at Amazon HERE.

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AOH%20cover_webLuke looks past me, over my shoulder. He nods, then there is a sudden noise behind me, and Luke grabs my wrist and says, “Come on!”

“Hey!” Floyd hollers at us as we pull away.

“That’s enough, Floyd!” Buck yells, appearing from the woods behind us.

Floyd turns toward Buck, and moves faster than his inebriated body should be able to. As Floyd loosens his hold on me, Luke yanks me toward the wagon and shoves me in. Buck grabs Floyd by his outstretched arm, spins him around, and puts the knife up to Floyd’s throat. Floyd curses, demanding Buck let him go. I assume Buck refused, for they’re soon having an all-out brawl. I hear the whiskey jug hit the ground, but I don’t know if Floyd threw it or dropped it. I also hear fists making contact with flesh. I can’t imagine Floyd is in any shape to fight off a man like Buck.

I jump when I hear a gunshot. Everything is abruptly silent. Even the bullfrogs stop croaking, and it seems as if time is standing still. I look wide-eyed at Luke, wondering if Floyd has been shot.

“It’s all right,” he says, shaking his head in answer to my unspoken question.

“Are you sure?” I whisper.

He nods. “Yes. I’m sorry. We were hoping Floyd would stay sober, especially with a lady around.”

I hear Buck order Floyd to lie down right where he is and sleep it off, and I breathe a sigh of relief that Floyd is still alive. I don’t hear another word from either man, so I assume Floyd did as he was told.

Luke leaves the back of the wagon. I don’t move. After a few minutes that seem like an hour, he comes back and says, “Floyd has passed out by the fire. You’re safe now.”

“Thank you. I didn’t know I wasn’t safe before,” I mumble to him.

52 Ancestors – #25 Ole Stennis House

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This challenge is set forth by No Story Too Small and this week’s theme is “The Old Homestead.”

There is a house in Lauderdale County, Mississippi that I would give anything to own. It was built in 1857 by sixty-one-year-old Hays Rodgers Sr (photo). According to the 1860 census, it looks like he had the help of thirteen slaves. It was the first plank house built in the area. Hays was my fourth great grandfather.

Rodgers Hays Sr

He died of typhoid December 1863, so he didn’t enjoy the house for long, and his wife died the following March. The children were grown and gone, most of the boys lost to the Civil War, so the house sat empty until well after the close of the war. In 1869 it was sold at auction on the steps of the Meridian Courthouse to Major Adam T Stennis (hence the name Ole Stennis House). It remained in the Stennis family for one hundred years but was abandoned and covered in vines toward the end of their ownership.

In 1970, the Hover family bought it and restored it. Mr. Hover told me the only thing he really needed to replace was the rotted front porch. The rest of the house was in good shape. I stopped by there in 2012 and he showed me all around. I didn’t feel comfortable taking pictures of the inside, but I snapped some photos as we left.

MS Cemetery 076

If he ever sells that house, I would love to own it.

52 Ancestors #19 Martha Ellen Rodgers

52ancestors-2015

This challenge is set forth by No Story Too Small,

and this week’s challenge is “There’s a Way” which I’ve translated into “travel.”

Years ago I came across a cousin born 4 April 1853. Her father and my 3rd great-grandma were siblings. She was the middle child of five born to James Rodgers and Martha Sanderford in Lauderdale County, Mississippi. When the Civil War began in ’62, her father was too old to serve, so he safely stayed home with her. Yet, things don’t always turn out for the best. The winter of ’62/63 saw a typhoid epidemic in the county and her parents died within days of each other. She was nine. Her name was Martha Ellen Rodgers, known simply as Ellen.

James daughter Martha Ellen Rodgers Meek

Due to all of her uncles fighting the war, she and her siblings moved in with her aunt Mary. Mary had four children of her own and her husband had just been killed in the war 31 December 1862. I can imagine how devastated the family was at that time, and probably hungry and scared.

When the war ended, Ellen was transferred to the custody of her only surviving uncle, Hays Rodgers, who packed up the family and moved to Alabama. The journey there would have been by ox-pulled wagons and would have taken a week. For someone who had never been more than a mile from her childhood home, this must have been quite an adventure. There was also another aunt living in Alabama at the time, Elizabeth, and at some point, Ellen moved in with her.

When I found Ellen had returned to Mississippi alone in 1875, I didn’t understand why, but soon found out that Aunt Elizabeth died that year at the young age of 36. I assume Ellen returned home to stay with her aunt Mary, as she was only 22 years old. The only way to travel from AL to MS at the time was by wagon train as most of the railroad lines were still under repair from their destruction by Sherman’s army. Traveling alone with a bunch of people in a wagon train must have been quite an experience.

The next record of Ellen is found ten years later in 1885. She appears in Texas and is married to Sam Houston Meek. How did she end up there? I found her two brothers had moved there at the end of the war with some other family members (apparently the children were separated), and she probably went out to visit them. One of her brothers was married to Sam’s sister, which explains how she met Sam. From my research, I found the travel from MS to TX would have involved three trains and about ten days. Imagine a young woman traveling alone on three different trains across the 1800s wild west.

Ellen and Sam were only married five years. She died in childbirth at the age of 37. She is buried at Pleasantville Cemetery in Nolanville, Bell County, Texas.

Her story is told in detail in my book An Orphan’s Heart.

rodgers martha ellen rodgers meek, dau of james rodgers

52 Ancestors #18 James Rodgers Sr.

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This challenge is set forth by No Story Too Small,

and this week’s challenge is “Where there’s a will.”

I find it interesting that in the case of wills left by men, they always contain land, money, and sometimes slaves. When we see a will left by a woman, it contains things more intimate in nature – books, sheets, dishes. The following are wills left by my 6th great-grandparents, James Rodgers Sr (1734 MA – 1794 TN) and his wife, Margaret Woods Rodgers (1746 VA – 1811 TN). I highlighted the items so you don’t have to read the whole things. 🙂

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Will of James Rodgers

In the Name of God, Amen. I, James Rodgers Junr. of Green County and Western Territory south of the Ohio, being very sick and weak in body but of perfect mind and memory, thanks be given unto God, calling unto mind the mortality of my body and knowing that it is appointed for all men once to die, do make and ordain this my last Will and Testament. That is to say, principally, and first of all, I give and recommend my soul into the hand of Almighty God that gave it, and my body I recommend to the Earth, to be buried in a decent Christian manner at the discretion of my Executors. And as touching such wordly estate wherewith it hath pleased God in bless me in this life, I give and dispose of the same in the following manner, Viz, after defraying funeral expenses and discharging all just debts, I will bequeath unto my dearly beloved wife Margaret, a Negro girl named Esther, one sorrel mare seven or eight years old with saddle and bridle, two cows, one bed and beddings, wit the third of all my movable property, to her, her heirs and assignees forever. I likewise will that she shall have the use of the Plantation I now live on during her widowhood, for the support of her and her children, with all necessary farming utensils. 


Item. I likewise will and bequeath to my son Joseph one hundred and fifty acres of land to be cut of the upper end of my Plantation with five pounds of Virginia currency to be paid in cash.

Item. I will and bequeath to my son John, and my son Samuel, the plantation I now live on in the following manner, and my son John to have upper end joining my son Joseph, and my son Samuel the lower end, to be divided equally betwixt them in quantity and quality, not withstanding should my son John, or my son Samuel, or either of them, come of age during my wife’s widowhood, that they then shall have liberty of improving the woodland belonging to their part as they think proper.

Item. I will and bequeath to my son James and Thomas, the sum of fifty pounds Virginia currency each, to be paid by my sons John and Samuel two years after full possession of their land each paying an equal part.

Item. I will and bequeath to my daughter Sarah one sorrel mare three or four years old with saddle and bridle.

Item. I will and bequeath to my daughter Margaret the sum of fifteen pounds Virginia currency to purchase a horse at her discretion with her saddle and bridle.

Item. I will and bequeath to my daughter Jean, one Negro girl named Hannah, to be her property during said Jean’s life and at her death my executors to sell said Negro and after paying the person who had the care of her during her life, what they think sufficient for their trouble, that then the remainder to be divided equally amongst my Legatees. I likewise constitute and appoint my loving wife Margaret my executrix and my Trusty Friends David Fleming and Samuel Froesure my executors to this my Last Will and Testament and I do hereby utterly disallow, revoke and dismal all and every other former Testaments, Wills, Legacies, Bequeasts and Executors by me, in any ways before named, willed and bequeathed; Ratifying and confirming this and no other to be my Last Will and Testament in witness whereof I have herein to set my hand and seal this fifth day of July, in this year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and ninety four.

Will of Margaret Rodgers

Margaret Rodgers dec’d (Min. 6 P. 155)
Tuesday 29th January 1811. This execution of the last will and testament of Margaret Rodgers dec’d was duly proven by the oath of Jacob Kilo and Margaret Campbell, late Margaret Rodgers Jr., their subscribing witnesses, and ordered to be recorded and is as follows. In the name of God Amen.

I Margaret Rodgers Senior of the County of Green and State of Tennessee, being weak and indisposed in body, but of sound, mind and judgemen, do make and ordain this to be my last will and testament. First I will that my funeral expenses be paid by me executors hereafter named and that all lawful debts be paid. Likewise I will and bequeath to my three daughter (viz) Sarah, Margaret, and Jane all four sheets and table linen, to be equally divided between them. Likewise I will and bequeath to my two daughters Sarah and Margaret, my two dishes and puter plates to be equally divided between them. Likewise, I will and bequeath to my daughter Margaret on three year old heifer spotted red and white, and one young sow. Likewise, I will and bequeath to my daughter Jane one new twilled feather bed, two good sheets, three good blankets, one rug, one red, blue and white coverlid, one calico and a linen quilt, one bolster, two pillows with proper cases and bedstead. And likewise all my new seven hundred linen. Also one hundred and fifty dollars to be let to intrust for her use, and if she the said Jane should decease before said money is for her lawful maintenance, then and in that case the money all or in part (as the case may be) shall be divided equally amongst the rest of my heirs. Also one good hog one cow and calf, one set of bed hanglings. It is likewise my earnest request that my daughter, Sarah Kelly, shall keep and nurse my said daughter Jane and it is my will that said Sarah get all the said Jane’s clothes, bed and furniture at her decease. I likewise bequeath to my daughter Margaret, one blue and white coverlid. Likewise I wil and bequeath my fowls of all kinds to my son John Rodgers’ wife, Jane, my daughters Sarah and Margaret. Likewise I will and bequeath one margin Bible to my son James Rodgers. Likewise I give to my daughter Margaret one pocket Bible. Likewise I will and bequeath to my sons Thomas John and Samuel Rodgers and likewise my daughter Sarah each one school Bible. The rest of my estate to be sold and divided equally amongst all my heirs. Likewise or ordain and appoint my son John Rodgers and William Kelly executors of this my last will and testament. Witness my hand and seal this first day of September one thousand eight hundred and nine. 
Signed and acknowledged in presence of
Jacob (his mark) Kilo

Margaret (her mark) Rodgers 

Coddicil to this will. Whereas my son Samuel Rodgers hath some time past purchased a horse from me for which he was to pay me the sum of twenty pounds Virginia currency and have never paid the same, this is therefore to will that the said twenty pounds be added to the dividend of my estate and be reducted out of his part.

52 Ancestors #14 Hays Rodgers

52ancestors-2015

This challenge is set forth by No Story Too Small,

and this week’s theme is “Favorite Photo.”

No, doubt about it, this is the one.

Rodgers Hays Sr

Hays Rodgers Sr was my 4th great grandfather. He was born in Greene Co, Tennessee in February of 1793 to James Rodgers and Elizabeth “Elly” Hays. He was the eldest son and had at least ten siblings. Just before the War of 1812 began, his family moved from Tennessee to the Mississippi Territory, today known as Clarke Co, Alabama. Alabama didn’t become as state until 1819.

military record 11814 – When Hays was 19, he and his brother, Absolom, signed up for the Mississippi Militia and were assigned to Captain Evan Austill’s company of volunteers in Major Sam Dale’s Battalion to fight against the hostile Creek Indians. Hays remained in the Militia until October 1818, but was only called out once for a two-month tour. Today, I am a member of the United States Daughters of 1812 under his patriotism.

On December 11, 1816, he married Marey Ann Scott, who was from Georgia.

In 1818, following the end of his military service, Hays, Marey, and first-born Lewis, moved to Copiah Co, MS (what later became Simpson, MS). He started buying land and farming. Over the next two decades, the couple had a total of 14 children.

In 1834, the US Government began selling off land it had obtained from the Choctaw Indians in the 1830 signing of Dancing Rabbit Creek. Hays went to Pine Springs in Lauderdale County before the land was surveyed and built a small cabin overlooking Rogers Creek bottom so he could claim the land the moment it went up for sale. He was a squatter for all purposes.

September 26, 1836 – A deed was recorded for 80 acres in Pine Springs which he bought from government.

October 1836 – He bought 160 acres next to his 80 acres from John Calhoun. Mr. Calhoun moved to the Martin Community to open a leather tannery.

1839 – He bought 80 acres from Alex McMullen and 80 acres from Jeremiah Howell. He also began buying slaves and producing cotton.

1856 – He was granted public land adjoining his plantation from the US Gov’t in payment for his military service.

MS Cemetery 0761857 – He built the “Ole Stennis House” (photo) at the age of 61.

In 1860, the U.S. Census states Hays owned 13 slaves, a 640 acre (square mile) plantation, 2 horses, 3 mules, 10 cows, 4 oxen, 16 sheep, 60 swine, and $600 in farming instruments, for a total worth of $8400. A person’s total worth did not include the price of the slaves they owned, and most of his wealth was tied up in slaves that were worth more than $1000 each – that’s probably a million bucks in today’s money.

1862 – When the Civil War began, Hays sent four of his sons to fight. Three never returned. Also, during the winter of that year, a typhoid epidemic hit his family, killing the only son who didn’t go to war. Fortunately, Hays was not around to witness the deaths of his sons as he was the first in the family to died of typhoid that winter in December of 1862. He was 66 years old. His wife died shortly after him in March of 1863, also of typhoid.

Upon his death in December 1862, he owned 690 acres of land and stock in the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, which sat unattended until the end of the war, and then for more time as they awaited the boys return at the close of the war in 1865. The boys didn’t return. Finally, the property went to probate in 1869 and was sold at public auction on the steps of the Meridian Courthouse to Major Adam T Stennis, hence the name “Ole Stennis House.” The home remained in the Stennis family for 100 years until 1970 when it was bought by the Hover family.

Interesting note: The only son to return from the war was Hays Jr, albeit with an injured, useless arm and a wilted spirit. Since he no longer had family in Mississippi, Hays Jr. sold his farm and moved to Alabama to be near his wife’s family. He sold his farm to a man named Tom Stennis. Tom Stennis was a former slave to Major Adam T Stennis.