On This Day in 1911

On This Day in 1911, Amos Bolivar Crane Jr. was born to Amos Sr. and Minnie White Crane in Mississippi. He had three older siblings: Frank 8 (my grandfather), Horace 6, and Evelyn 1. There would be two more children to follow: Tommy and Minnie Ellen.

seated from left Tommy, Amos Sr, Minnie, Amos Jr, Minnie Ellen. Standing Toots Peterson, Evelyn, Horace, Horace wife, Frank, WillieAmos is seated to the right of his mother in the front row. The names left to right front row: Tommy, Amos Sr. Minnie, grandchild in lap, Amos Jr, Minnie Ellen. Left to right back row: Friend of Evelyn’s, Evelyn, Horace, Horace’s wife, Frank (my grandfather), Frank’s 1st wife Willie.

baaef72c-9c81-4cc3-9ee6-213bca036f0fcrane, amos bolivar jrAmos was in the United States Navy. This photo was taken in the 1930s at the San Diego Naval Training Center. He died at the young age of 29 on 22 Nov 1941 and is buried at Pleasant Hill Cemetery, Zero, Lauderdale County, MS with his siblings. His parents are buried at McGowan Chapel Cemetery in Harmony, MS. He married Ardessa Pierce in 1939. They were only married two years before he was killed in a car accident. They had no children.

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On This Day in 1921

Burying children used to be a more common occurrence than it is today.

On This Day in 1921, Fleta Marie “Clarice” Pickett was born in Lauderdale County, Mississippi to Benjamin Berry Pickett and Eula Ouida Keene Pickett (my great grandparents). She had two older siblings: Howard who was four and Margaret Azalea (my grandmother) who was two. She was named after her mother’s older sister, Fleta. Months before, Fleta had given birth to a daughter and named her Eula. The two sisters, though fourteen years apart, were obviously very close.

Clarice was born into a large family as her father had five siblings and her mother had seven who all lived nearby. Her father’s mother was from the Fisher family, and the Picketts, Keenes, and Fishers were numerous in the area, and still are today. So much so, that they have their own family cemetery on Zero Road called Fisher Cemetery. Even though family cemeteries fell out of vogue in the early 1900s in favor of community cemeteries, Fisher Cemetery is still used today.

At one year and five months, Clarice succumbed to pneumonia. Note in her obituary that the family held the funeral in their living room as was custom in those days. Before the mid-1900s, the family of the deceased prepared, dressed, and displayed their loved ones, and following the funeral, the body was carried out of the house head first. Clarice’s obituary reads as follows:

pickett fleta clarise pickett death certFleta Marie “Clarice” Pickett Born: December 1, 1921 in Lauderdale County, MS
Died: May 8, 1923 in Lauderdale County, MS 

Fleta Marie “Clarice” Pickett, 17-month-old daughter of Ben Berry and Eula Keene Pickett, who reside near Zero, MS, passed away this morning at 4 o’clock. Funeral services will be held from the residence Wednesday morning at 10 o’clock. Interment is to follow in Fisher Cemetery.


pickett fleta clarise headstoneRest in peace, little one.

You have not been forgotten.

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On This Day in 1864

carrie mcgavock portrait

Yesterday, November 29, 1864, Carrie McGavock sat on the front porch of her Tennessee home, the Carnton Plantation, enjoying a warm afternoon of Indian summer. Suddenly, she witnessed thousands of Confederate troops marching across her 1400 acres, heading directly toward her home. The troops told her a battle was coming and asked if they could use her house as a hospital, and by nightfall, surgeons and medics had arrived and started moving her furniture against the walls to make way for the injured. They took the doors off her outbuildings to be used as cots and operating tables. I can only imagine how nervous she felt, dreading the unknown that was to come.



carnton house







On This Day, November 30, 1864

back of Carnton HouseAt 3:30 p.m. the five-hour battle began. Cannon fire shook the house. Bullets drilled holes into the walls of the outbuildings. By the time night fell and the battle was over, hundreds of wounded, bleeding, and dying men had been carried into her home and placed throughout the rooms, in the hallways, on the staircase. Four dead generals lay covered on this back porch. 150 soldiers died in her home that night. The wooden floors are still stained with their blood. The outbuildings still show the bullet holes.


The next morning, December 1, 1864

cemetery 1At the first light of dawn, the 750 residents of Franklin, TN began tending the nearly 10,000 Union and Confederate soldiers lying all over McGavock’s property, some dead, some wounded, moaning and crying out for help. Forty-four private homes in Franklin were converted into temporary hospitals.

By 1866, the McGavock’s had seen numerous bodies that had been buried in shallow graves all over the battlefield become unearthed by the elements and the woodland animals. The McGavocks donated two acres of their land to be used as a Confederate Cemetery and properly re-interred the soldiers. Carrie’s husband, John McGavock, and the townspeople cataloged and buried 1500 Confederate soldiers, 500 of whom they could not identify. The Union soldiers were moved to the National Cemetery in Murfreesboro, TN.



mcgavock confererate cemeteryCarrie McGavock cared for the Confederate cemetery until her death in 1905, at which time it was turned over to the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

On This Day in 1877

Annie Blanks CulpepperOn This Day in 1877, a beautiful woman was born. On November 10, 1877, my great grandmother, Josephine Annie Blanks Culpepper, was born in Kemper County, Mississippi to William Henry Blanks III and Martha Lettie “Mattie” Carpenter. She was in the middle of seven children, six of them being girls. Her father was a teenager when the Civil War took place and fought as a private in the 2nd Mississippi Infantry Company H. Her mother was a young lady of fourteen when she lost her own father at the Battle of Stones River on December 31, 1862. I can imagine as parents, they did their best to keep the peace in the household, but there is a distinct possibility they both had emotional scars from the trauma each had seen and faced during the war.

Annie grew up on a farm in Daleville, Mississippi, and with eleven aunts and uncles in the area, one must assume she had plenty of cousins to play with. She witnessed amazing technological changes as home comforts such as indoor plumbing and electricity moved from the nearby city of Meridian to the country, and paved roads reached homes throughout the area at the turn of the century before the Model T made its first appearance in 1908.

culpepper Sam CulpepperIn 1899, she met handsome William Samuel “Sam” Culpepper, and they married when she was 21. She said about him, “Sam was really a handsome man with rosy cheeks, dark curly hair, and teeth as white as pearls.” Sam was described as a kind fellow who always had a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face. He loved fishing, squirrel hunting, and playing the family’s old pump organ. He was a sawyer by trade and followed the sawmill business, often being gone for weeks at a time. Fortunately Annie and Sam had five boys and four girls between 1900 and 1921, and the boys were taught to run the farm in their father’s absence. He was said to have been a strict but loving father.

culpepper Sam and Annie CulpepperAfter their youngest child married and moved out in 1938, one would have expected they lived out their retirement in comfort, but sadly, Sam suffered from high blood pressure, and his life was cut short by a stroke at the age of 66, on December 10, 1939. Annie never remarried. In her later years, she moved to Mobile, Alabama and lived with their sons who had relocated there.

She passed away at the age of 84 on November 15, 1961. She is laid to rest next to her husband at Mt. Nebo Cemetery in Kemper County, Mississippi.


culpepper annie j blanks headstoneHer obituary is as follows:

Funeral arrangements were being completed today for Mrs. Anne Blanks Culpepper, 84 of Mobile, a former resident of the Martin community who died yesterday at Mobile.

Mrs. Culpepper was a member of the Duffee Baptist Church and had been active in its various organizations until she suffered a broken hip three years ago. Her two daughters are Mrs. Mae Howington of Meridian and Mrs. Aaron Spears of Enterprise. She is also survived by five sons, Joe Culpepper of Susqualena; Earl and Clinton Culpepper, Meridian; Fred and Frank Culpepper, Mobile; and two sisters, Mrs. Woodie Logan and Miss Velma Blanks of Laurel.

The body was to arrive in Meridian this afternoon and will be at Stephen’s. The service will be held at 2 o’clock tomorrow at the Mt. Nebo Baptist Church with Rev. Herman Pilgrim in charge, assisted by the Rev. Vernon Blackburn. Interment will be in the Mt. Nebo Cemetery.

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On This Day in 1800

On This Day in 1800, my 3rd great grandfather, William Henry Blanks II, was born in Greene County, Georgia.

downloadIt’s pretty easy to trace your great grandfathers when your 2nd is WHB III, your 3rd is WHB II, and your 4th is WHB I. Sadly, I don’t usually give the middle grandfather much thought. I have photos of the Civil War soldier 2nd great, and the 4th great was a Revolutionary War soldier, so I have lots of info on him. Somewhere in the middle, my poor 3rd great doesn’t get much attention, Well, today on his birthday, let’s show him some love.

William Henry Blanks II was born October 12, 1800 (Same day as my daughter’s birthday!) in Greene County, Georgia. In 1800, Greene County was in the middle of the northern part of the state and was right on the border of the Creek Indian Territory to the west. Keep in mind, the War of 1812 in the north was fought between the Americans and the British, but the war in the south, particularly Alabama and Georgia, was fought between the Americans and the Creek Indians who had been armed by the British. This was the edge of the frontier in 1800.

William Henry’s father had been previously married to Mariah Robertson and had two girls and a boy – Mary Polly, Littleberry, and Nancy – in Virginia. Sometime between 1795 (last child’s birth in VA) and 1799 (wife’s death in GA), the family had moved south to Georgia. Following Mariah’s death, WHB I immediately married Jane Hill. They had five children – two boys and three girls  – William Henry, Matilda, William Ezekiel, Martha, and Seleba. William Henry’s mother died in 1817 and his father in 1823.

At the age of 19 in 1819, William Henry married Nancy Narcissus Young, and over the next twenty-five years, they had five boys and three girls  – James Lafayette, Thomas Young, Jefferson Franklin, female who died, Richard Lane, Martha Ellen, Nancy Ann, and William Henry III. The female who died at birth was the twin of Richard Lane. The last child was born in 1846 in Georgia, and the 1850 census shows the family living in Lauderdale County, Mississippi. I don’t know why they moved. His wife died in 1857. William Henry died September 9, 1859. I do not know where they are buried.

Will of William Henry Blanks II – Note: His wife is already dead, so he leaves everything to his two youngest children – Nancy 16 and William 13.

last-will-and-testamentThe Last Will and Testament of William H Blanks… State of Mississippi Lauderdale County August 18,1859.

Know all persons by these present that I do this day bequeath to my daughter Nancey & son William the sum total of my Estate being in consideration of my parental affection and love for them. My sons James, Thomas, Jefferson, and Richard I do give unto one dollar a peice also my daughter Martha English I give the same one dollar to be by each and all of them held in peas for life. My daughter Nancey and son William are by the Law of the Land old enough to choose their own guardians. Let them choose who they please their money is to be for their education and rasing to be laid out on them at the will of their Guardian he to give Securtiy for his management of the same, all of the above do request as the Last Will on Earth hoping the same may be satisfactory to all people on Earth in Testimony on which setting my hand and Seal Witness by undersigned. W H Blanks

W J Brown, P H Higgins

Jas F Ginnen                                                                  

   P. S. It is my wish for Nancey & William to have their brother Thomas to hold their business in charge.

Will Book 1, Page 17 Lauderdale County Courthouse, Meridian, Mississippi.


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On This Day in 1882

culpepper ora wedgeworth wife of Joseph FloydOn This Day in 1882, my great great aunt, Ora Wedgeworth Culpepper was born to Howell Joel “Hobby” Wedgeworth and Martha Morrow in Lauderdale County, Mississippi. She was the youngest of eight children with only one other girl, the eldest.



wedgeworth howell joel hobby and martha morrow, par of ora wedgeworth culpepperPrior to Hobby marrying Martha, he had been previously married to Elvira Hughens. They had one daughter in 1858, and Elvira died in 1860. I don’t know who raised the girl after that, as Hobby went off to fight with the 5th Mississippi Infantry Company K and was captured by Union soldiers at the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee (where I currently live) on November 30, 1864. He spent the last six months of the war at Camp Douglas, Illinois as a prisoner of war. His father, Rev. Joel Walker Wedgeworth, went to pick him up after the war ended, and it was said his father didn’t even recognize him because he was so thin. One can tell just by looking at this photo of Hobby and Martha, they were very strict parents.

culpepper joseph floyd

On November 2, 1904, Ora married Joseph Floyd Culpepper, my great grandpa Sam Culpepper’s brother, and between 1905 and 1926, they had eight children, five girls and three boys.



culpepper joseph floyd and ora wedgeworthOra lost her husband to pneumonia on August 1, 1951. She never remarried. She died May 15, 1966 at the age of 83. They are buried at Memorial Park Cemetery, Winston County, Mississippi.


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On This Day in 1905

On This Day in 1905, my 2nd great grandfather, Andrew Jackson Crane, died.

Jack, as he was known, was born January 8, 1852 to Jeremiah William Crane and Sarah Frances Grimes in Clarke County, Mississippi. He had one brother and three sisters. When he was 21, on December 4, 1873, he married Martha Jane “Mattie” Mercer in Clarke County and had three children: Ella Jane, Minnie Lee, and my great grandpa, Amos Bolivar.

To understand his generation, one must remember Abraham Lincoln was elected President in 1860, Mississippi seceded from the Union in 1861, and the country went to war. election1860mapJack was an impressionable youth during this period and probably watched many of his neighbors go off to fight with the 37th Mississippi Infantry. One must wonder if he was a frightened young boy, hiding behind his mother’s hooped skirts, or a feisty lad, anxious to grow up and go too. As with most of the South, cotton was the main economy of the area, and railroads had been built during the 1850s to transport it, but in 1864, General Sherman’s troops marched through the area and destroyed nearly everything, including the railroad tracks. Once the war was over, the tracks were repaired, but the farmers no longer had slaves to work the fields and cotton harvests diminished. Somehow, through the next 40 years of reconstruction, the economy grew quickly. Homes began adding electricity, running water, and paved streets. People weren’t driving automobiles yet, as the Model T wasn’t introduced until 1908, but the wagon riders were now subjected to less dust, and the roads didn’t wash away with heavy rains. The population of nearby Meridian tripled from 1870 to 1885, doubled again by 1898, and doubled again by 1906. Jack lived through a horrific childhood of war and change, but in his later years, he witnessed amazing growth and technology. I wonder if the electricity reached his house before he died.

crane a j and wife obeliskJack passed away at the young age of 53 on August 25, 1905 and is laid to rest near his home at McGowan Chapel Cemetery in Harmony, Mississippi. His wife, Mattie, didn’t die until November 28, 1945 at the age of 93. She never remarried.

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On This Day in 1891

On This Day in 1891

My great great grandparents, Joseph Lawson Pickett and Caledonia D Fisher, were married in Lauderdale County, Mississippi.

pickett, joseph lawson sr, son of rt and lucyJoe Lawson was born Jan 1866, son of Robert Theodore Pickett and Lucy Ann Rackley in Alabama. He had four older sisters and four younger brothers, all born in Alabama. Sometime between 1880 and 1890, the family moved to Mississippi. At age 25, he married 21-year-old Callie. They had five boys and one girl: Benjamin Berry (1893-1973 my great grandpa), Robert Elbert (1897-1978), Joseph Lawson Jr (1901-1928), Florence (1902-1990), Mark Joshua (1905-1949), and Clyde (1907-1993). From the stories passed down of the four boys, including moonshine stills, shootouts with local authorities, going to prison for murder, and young Joe Jr. being shot by law enforcement at the age of 27, they were obviously a wild bunch. I don’t know if the parents didn’t discipline the children or if the boys were just uncontrollable. Joe Lawson died at the age of 44 in 1910. The exact date of his death is unknown at this time, but it was after the 1910 census was taken which was April 20th. Callie never remarried.

pickett, caledonia d fisher, wf of joe lawson srCallie was born 12 Jul 1870 to William Thomas Fisher and Ann Eliza Butler in Mississippi. She had six older siblings and four younger ones, totaling six boys and five girls. Her father was a Civil War soldier and owned quite a bit of land in the Zero Community near Meridian. He was just as much a character at those Pickett boys. Perhaps that’s why Callie liked Joe so much. Callie’s father was in jail at the start of the Civil War for shooting a man over a poker game, but they released him so he could go fight. Having children born in 1860, 62, 63, and 65, I’m not sure when or where he actually fought. A portion of Fisher land was designated as Fisher Cemetery, holding the remains of many Fisher and Pickett descendants, but Joe and Callie are both laid to rest down the road at Pleasant Hill Cemetery in Meridian. She died 26 Aug 1931. Her obituary in the Meridian Star Newspaper is as follows, but notice the marriage year is different, probably told to the paper by a member of the family. I have the Lauderdale County Marriage Records transcribed which say, “1891, Marriage Book 2, page 368.”

Mrs. Caledonia Fisher Pickett, 61, died Wednesday at 4:30 a.m. at her home on Rt. 3. She was born and raised in Lauderdale County and in 1889 was married to the late Lawson Pickett. She was a member of the Zero Methodist Church. She is survived by one daughter, Mrs. Florence Harper; four sons; Ben, Elbert, Mark, and Clyde Pickett; one sister, Mrs. Ada Purvis; three brothers, Thomas, Jeff, and Jim Fisher. Funeral services will be held from Pleasant Hill Methodist Church Thursday at 3:30 p.m., the Revs. J.W. Ramsey and Ed Grayson officiating. Interment to follow in the Pleasant Hill Cemetery. Active Pallbearers: Lester Walker, Earl Dawes, George Gay, Charlie Molpus, Dan Covington, and Dan Rolling. Honorary: Martin Miller, C.S. Dearman, John Robinson, Ed Culpepper, Elmer Brown, and Monroe Sims.  ~Meridian Star

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On This Day in 1909

On This Day in 1909, John Francis Burke, passed away. He was 62 years old. He was my great great grandfather.

1847 Ireland

imagesI can’t post a photo to go with this story. The images are too horrific.

In 1847, the great famine in Ireland was in full swing. Food prices had skyrocketed and those who needed food the most, couldn’t afford any. The summer’s crop of potatoes survived, but the crop was inadequate to feed the masses because everyone was afraid to plant. The British Relief Association raised money throughout America and Europe to send assistance. Soup kitchens opened, and people actually collapse and died of starvation trying to get to them. People poured onto ships bound for Canada and America. One shipwreck in April, killed 250 emigrants. In May, one sailed to Canada and was the cause of a typhus epidemic. When all was said and done, between 1845 and 1852, one million people died of starvation and another one million emigrated from Ireland.

This was the atmosphere John Francis Burke was born into. He was born in Dublin on February 27, 1847. One can imagine that his parents were very resourceful, perhaps with the negative connotations of that trait: stingy, tight-fisted, and ungenerous. They spent years struggling to feed their children, and when the potato blight was over, they probably didn’t break the cycle of struggle, just in case it should happen again.

merchant ship replicaNot much is known about his parents or his childhood. A family member told me his sibling had the same names as his children, so I expect there was a Patrick, Robert, Emmett, Nina, Virginia, Kathleen, David, and/or an Edmond somewhere in the bunch. When he was a young lad of 15, he snuck down to the shipyard and stowed away on an American-bound ship. After they set sail, the captain found him en route and told him the ship couldn’t take him back home. He replied to the captain, “If I wanted to go home, I wouldn’t have stowed away.” We don’t know the relationship or lack of one he had with his parents and siblings, but we can imagine his mother searching for her fifteen-year-old son and being heartbroken. I don’t know if he ever contacted his family after leaving Dublin.

The ship dropped him off in Miami, Florida in 1862. Yes, 1862, during the middle of the Civil War. Confederate War Records show a couple men with similar names that could be him serving in Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi. The 1870 census shows a couple names that could be him: one in Florida and one in Alabama. He finally shows up in the 1880 census as being a “ditcher” and living with his new in-laws, the Spencer family.

On December 10, 1879, at the age of 32, he married Nancy Didama Spencer in Lauderdale County, Mississippi. Over the next fourteen years, they had six children: John Patrick 1880, Robert Emmett 1883, George Washington 1886, Nina Virginia 1889, Kathlene L 1892, and David Edmond 1894. These children prove John and Nancy must have liked each other a little bit, but a new snag appears in 1900.

burke JP Burke Sr headstone 2The 1900 census shows Nancy living at home with all the children and listed as a “widow.” I didn’t understand this because John’s headstone clearly says he died in 1909. Finally a cousin told me Nancy did not believe in divorce, but she and John lived in the same house and did not speak to each other for the last fifteen years of their marriage. This also explains why they are buried in different rows at the cemetery. From a psychological standpoint, I wonder if he left Dublin because of his father’s personality and then became just like the man, causing his wife to dislike him. What could someone do that was so bad to tell a census taker he was dead? After John’s death August 18, 1909, the 1910 census shows Nancy as a widow with five children still at home. John is laid to rest at Liberty Baptist Church Cemetery in Duffee, Mississippi, among children and grandchildren.

On a lighter note, I know his son John Patrick “Pat” (my great grandfather) was a fiddle player on the weekends at barn dances. I wonder if Pat learned to play from his father. Playing the fiddle is such an Irish thing to do, don’t you think?

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On This Day in 1828

On This Day 1828

August 15, 1828 was the birthday of my 3rd great grandfather, Rice Benjamin Carpenter.

Rice was born to Benjamin Carpenter and Nancy Rice. He was the eighth of ten children, the first five born in North Carolina, and the last five born in Mississippi. When he was 17 years old in 1846, he married my 3rd great grandmother, Mary Ann Rodgers. The Carpenter and Rogers families lived near each other and Rice and Mary Ann had grown up together.

Jolly family bible pg2Rice and Mary Ann had five children: Martha Lettie (my 2nd great grandmother 1848-1933), Benjamin Hays (1850-1929), William Travis (1854-1856), Charles Clinton (1858-1890), and a son with the initials MF (1862-1863). As you can see by the dates, William Travis died at the age of two, and MF died as an infant. His full name is not known, but his initials are written in the family Bible, as you can see on the bottom of the first column in the photo.

Rice and Mary Ann set up house on land they got from Mary Ann’s father, but sometime around 1860, they sold the land and moved to the town of Marion Station in Lauderdale County, Mississippi, to open a general store. Abandoning the farm so Rice could become a merchant was probably their way of starting over after losing their first son. The excitement of a new life was not long-lived, however. In February of 1862, with Mary Ann eight months pregnant, Rice signed up for the 41st Infantry Regiment, the Cole Guards, and prepared to fight in the Civil War.

port-hudsonOn 31 December 1862, his company found themselves in Murfreesboro, Tennessee (only 25 miles from my house) where they met the Union troops head-on at the Battle of Stones River. As you can see in the Port Hudson News, the newspapers were reporting a successful campaign for the Rebels, but Rice was not so lucky. He was killed in the very first charge. Rice’s son MF had been born March 12, 1862. In February of that year, Rice had signed up to fight, but is shown as absent until May. Perhaps he did get to spend time with his youngest son.

On the 150th anniversary of the battle, 31 December 2012, I visited the Stones River National Battlefield in Murfreesboro. The man there told me the battle that took place on 31 December actually happened about two miles up the road in what is now a golf course.

dec 2012 407The Confederate Circle was established at Evergreen Cemetery in Murfreesboro in 1890, and in 1891 all of the remains of soldiers from local areas were re-interred in a mass grave there. Of the 2000 soldiers buried in the Circle, about 90% are unknown or not recorded in the records – one being Rice Benjamin Carpenter. He left behind a grieving widow and three children ages 14, 12, and 4.

Rest in Peace, Grandpa Rice.

Shameless plugs:

Mary Ann’s story is told in my book Okatibbee Creek.

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