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.

PhotoELF Edits: 2009:11:10 --- JPG Compressed 96 % YUV444 EXIF --- gamma; despeckle; resize

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.

PhotoELF Edits:2009:11:10 --- JPG Compressed 95 % YUV444 EXIF --- resize


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 #23 Florence J Smith Howington


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

john thomas howington florence j smith marriage recordThe most challenging ancestor for me to trace is not only challenging and frustrating, but darned near impossible.

Florence J Smith Howington was my 2nd great-grandmother. The only thing I know for sure is she married John Thomas Howington in Newton County, Mississippi on 1 Aug 1892. The marriage record (photo, click to enlarge) says she was sixteen years old, making her birth around 1876, although the 1900 U.S. census says she’s white and 28. The 1910 census says she’s 36. Her husband was married previously in 1880 to Ellen Raynor who died in 1891. There is no record of any children. Once John and Florence married, they had eight children between 1893 and 1910, the eldest being my great grandmother Mary Elizabeth Howington.

howington, john thomasJohn Thomas Howington died in 1913 and Florence never remarried. She died at the age of 93 in 1969. There is a blank spot in the Pine Grove Cemetery in Collinsville, Mississippi next to John’s headstone (photo). If Florence is buried there, she has no marker.

The frustrating thing about tracing her is that I was always told I had a grandmother who was of Choctaw Indian descent, and if that’s true, she has to be the one. The Choctaw were run out of Mississippi at the signing of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek in the 1830s. They migrated to Oklahoma. The ones who stayed changed their names to assimilate into the white European culture. Of course, there would be no prior record of them, and seeing as they probably couldn’t read or write English, there wouldn’t be a record of their name change.

There are a lot of Smiths listed in the Choctaw registries in Mississippi from 1847-1933, but I haven’t been able to trace Florence without knowing at least one of her parent’s names. There are also census records of Choctaw families residing east of the Mississippi River and in the states of Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama. One such record is a census called the “Cooper Roll,” made by Douglas H. Cooper, US Agent for Choctaws, in conformity with the order of  the Commissioner of Indian Affairs dated 23 May 1855.

The following is part of the Cooper Roll naming the Chunkee Clan (Chunky is the town in Newton County, Mississippi where Florence lived.) Obviously the names were spelled phonetically. I have no clue which one, if any, could be Florence’s family, but seeing that the list was made twenty years before her birth, I wonder if one of the names is her grandfather.

Alsh-fra-sa-hubbee (?)
Hit h-la-ho-ka
Tak-lam-bee (or Tok-lam-bee)
Anah-chi-hat-tah Co-chin-tubbee
Eah-hoka-tubbe e
Emah note:..and off hunting about 20 families; and about the same number living near Harrisons who refused to give their names.

52 Ancestors – #28 Elly Hays


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.


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.

52 Ancestors – #27 Joseph B Culpepper, Patriot


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


I guess there is no better example of Independent than one of my grandfathers who fought for American independence in the American Revolution.

Page 2Joseph B. Culpepper Jr. was a fourth generation American and the third Joseph in the line of fathers and sons. His 3rd great grandfather, John Culpepper, immigrated to America from Kent, England following the English civil war in 1650, though the man was a merchant between Virginia and England and had been to the country countless times before.

The information I have of Joseph shows him born in Anson, North Carolina around 1760-1765, and even though I’m sure that is slightly off, he was still just a kid when he enlisted in the 3rd South Carolina Regiment 03 Aug 1776. His parents were Joseph Culpepper and Piety Gibson. The records I have say that Piety died around 1764, so you can see how the dates are a little off. I bet his father must have been beside himself with worry as Joseph’s brother Benjamin Culpepper also signed up. Benjamin served as Lieutenant under Capt. Peter Burns, Col. Wade Hampton and Gen. Sumter. AA 1683A: M228, DAR SC Roster pg 223. I assume Joseph wasn’t far away, perhaps serving under the same captain. I belong to the DAR under his patriotic service. A028466.

What I find amazing about the history is that my great, great grandfather Joel B Culpepper fought in the American civil war. Joel’s great grandfather was Joseph, our patriot named above. Joseph’s great grandfather was Robert Culpepper, who is the five year old in my latest book, John Culpepper Esquire. Even though the story I wrote, taking place in the 1600s, seem so many generations away, they are really so much closer than we imagine.

Joseph died 05 May 1816. He left behind his father, his wife Nancy Pickett, four sons, and three daughters.

Rest well, soldier.


52 Ancestors #21 Sharpshooters and Soldiers


This challenge is set forth by No Story Too Small,

and this week’s challenge is “Military.”


I can’t only honor one of my ancestors. I need to honor all of them.

My grandfathers who served in the United States military

An * denotes he died in service.

Joel Bluett Culpepper – Confederate Army

William Thomas Fisher – Confederate Army

William Lafayette Brown Jr – Confederate Army

Rev. Joseph M Culpepper – Confederate Army *

Rice Benjamin Carpenter – Confederate Army *

George Washington Spencer – Confederate Army

James C Howington – Confederate Army

William Henry Blanks III – Confederate Army

Hays Rodgers – War of 1812

William Henry Blanks I – American Revolution

Joseph Culpepper Jr – American Revolution

Thomas Young – American Revolution

John B Rice – American Revolution

James Rodgers Sr – American Revolution

Captain Jacob Prickett – American Revolution

My uncles who served in the United States military

George M Graham – Confederate Army

Timothy Rodgers – Confederate Army *

Wilson Rodgers – Confederate Army *

Hays Rodgers Jr – Confederate Army

John W Rodgers – Confederate Army *

Howell Joel “Hobby” Wedgeworth – Confederate Army

Benjamin M Culpepper – Confederate Army

Hilliard Carpenter – Confederate Army *

James Monroe Chatham – Confederate Army *

Rev. James Lafayette Blanks – Confederate Army

Richard Lane Blanks – Confederate Army

John Henry Brown – Confederate Army

Absolom Rodgers – War of 1812

…and so very many more. Sleep well, soldiers. Your job is done.