Happy 223rd Birthday!

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. (Elly was the heroine of my book “Elly Hays.”) Hays was Elly’s eldest son and he had at least ten siblings. Just before the War of 1812 began, the family moved from Tennessee to the Mississippi Territory, today known as Clarke Co, Alabama. Alabama didn’t become as state until 1819.

Page 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.

Winter of 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. Some died young, but the final tally of grandchildren was 71!

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 the 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” at the age of 61. I took this photo in 2012 when I visited the house.

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.

dec 2012 3881862 – 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 off 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.

The story of the time of war and Hays’ death is told through his daughter, Mary Ann’s, eyes in my book “Okatibbee Creek.”

Interesting note: The only son to return home from the war was Hays Jr, albeit with an injured, useless arm and a wilted spirit. Since he no longer had a large 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.

This story is brought to you courtesy of “On This Day: A Perpetual Calendar for Family Genealogy.”

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