52 Ancestors #23 Halloween weddings


This challenge is set forth by No Story Too Small

This weeks prompt is “Wedding.”

The one wedding date that sticks out to me is that of my 2nd great grandparents William Henry Blanks III and Martha Lettie “Mattie” Carpenter. According to the Lauderdale County, Mississippi Marriage Brides Book 1, page 430, they married October 31, 1867. He was 21 and she was 18. He had lost both of his parents before the age of thirteen, and she had lost her father in the Civil War when she was only fourteen, so I assume they had a deep connection because of that. I wonder if their parenting style was unemotionally cold or over-protective due to their own losses. There is no way they escaped losing their own parents at such young ages without carrying deep emotional scars.

blanks william henry III and mattie carpenter blanks

The reason the date sticks out in my mind is because my trophy husband and I share the same date. After losing both my father and my great grandfather on October 31, we decided we needed some good family mojo on Halloween, so that’s the date we chose. I didn’t know until years later the date was shared. Everything I had seen on William and Mattie said their wedding date was November 1st, but when I finally saw the document, it was actually October 31. I also wonder if our picture will look as awful as their picture in another one hundred forty years. 🙂

crane lori and rob kiss

52 Ancestors #22 Middle Temple


This challenge is set forth by No Story Too Small,

and this week’s challenge is “Commencement.”

middle_temple_by_thomas_shepherd_c.1830Since “commencement” has to do with school or beginnings, I chose to write about my 10th great grandfather and his brother attending a law school in London, a place called Middle Temple. The photo is a drawing by Thomas Shepherd in 1830, but my guys attended there in 1621. The Honorable Society of Middle Temple is/was a prestigious law school in England, one of the five “Inns” where the rich kids attended. There are only four today, but they still boast the exclusivity of being the places where students are trained to become barristers or lawyers.

My grandfather, John Culpepper, was admitted ‘specially’ to Middle Temple on May 7, 1621 as “Mr. John Culpeper, second son of John Culpeper of Astwood, Worcestershire, Esquire.” His brother, Thomas, was admitted the same day as “Mr. Thomas Culpeper, son and heir apparent of John Culpeper of Astwood, Esquire.” John was fifteen. Thomas was nineteen.

Thomas graduated from the school and embarked on a professional career as a lawyer, but John did not pursue law, probably to the dismay of his lawyer father. John instead purchased a ship and became a merchant. His father did not help him with financing. It was his brother who stepped up to assist him. They named the ship the Thomas and John and John ran a successful merchant business between England and the Virginia Colony. There is some evidence he also sailed to Barbados.

middle temple hall black and whiteThe Inn at the time of their schooling consisted of a group of buildings like a campus, and most of the school is the same today. The center of inn life was Temple Hall (photo that looks like Hogwarts) which was used as a dining and meeting room. Today it is used for banquets and weddings. William Shakespears’s Twelfth Night reportedly had its first performance here in 1602.

Fountain Court at Middle TempleThere is also Fountain Court (photo), Temple Library, and Temple Church which was erected by the Knights Templar in the 13th century and still stands today.

Members of the gentry class, holding British properness and manners in high esteem must have risen to the occasion, learning the art of persuasion and rhetoric and arguing. One can only imagine the verbal sparring that took place at the time in this hall and around this fountain. Their words had so much more meaning than ours do today.

52 Ancestors #14 Hays Rodgers


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.

52 Ancestors #13 Ina Inez Burke Culpepper


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

My grandmother died March 1, 1975

Meridian Star

March 4, 1975 

Mrs. Ina Culpepper

Services for Mrs. Ina Inez Culpepper, 60, were to be held at 10 a.m. today at Stephens Funeral Home Chapel, Revs. Roger Leggert and Charles Davis officiating. Burial was to be in Liberty Cemetery, Newton County.

Mrs. Culpepper died Saturday in a Meridian hospital. She was a member of First Pentecostal Holiness Church.

Survivors include her husband, Earl W. Culpepper, Meridian; two daughters, Mrs. Bobbie McQueen, Meehan, Mrs. Linda Hegwood, Utica, Mich.; two sisters, Mrs. Ellen Scarbrough, Houston, Tex., Mrs. Myrnis Howard, Meridian; three brothers, Willam Otho Burke, James Otis Burke, and E. O. Burke, all of Duffee, and four grandchildren. 


Mamaw and Papaw with grandkidsIna was my maternal grandmother. She was born in 1915 to Mary Elizabeth Howington and John Patrick “Pat” Burke. Her Howington side was English and Choctaw Indian. Her Burke side was English and Irish. She was the eldest, with four little brothers and two little sisters. One of the boys died as an infant, but the rest of her siblings outlived her and are listed in her obituary. Her mother also outlived her by two years, but for some reason, is not listed.

At the age of 21 in 1936, Ina married Earl Culpepper and had two daughters, one in 1938 and one in 1944. She worked as a seamstress at Burnley Shirt Factory in Meridian, MS and could sew anything just by looking at it in the store for a few minutes. She was a fabulous cook, a quiet woman, and she loved her four grandchildren. The little girl in the photo is me. 🙂

We always celebrated her birthday on February 9. Her tombstone says February 9. Her death certificate says February 9.

Her birth certificate says February 8. It was signed on February 8. It was filed in the state of MS on February 8.

burke Ina Inez Burke headstone

52 Ancestors #11 Thomas Weldon


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

The early 1500s in Ireland was characterized as “His Majesty’s Irish enemies.” The Irish were repressed by England, yet they managed to maintain their own language, social system, customs, and laws. Undoubtedly, life was hard five hundred years ago as many Irish lived off the land, mostly as shepherds, but if you love the land as much as I do, you might find this the luckiest of lifestyles.

Most of my ancestors hail from England, but there are a few from Ireland. One is my 14th great grandfather, Thomas Weldon, or Veldon as it was originally known. My 4th great grandpa, Jeremiah Crane, married Mary Polly Weldon who was born in Georgia. Her family came from Delaware, via Massachusetts in the early 1600s, and England in the 1500s. The Veldons originally came to Ireland with the Anglo-Normans in the 12th century and settled in “The Pale” which includes the County of Meath, just north of Dublin. Thomas was born in 1480 in Meath and died there at the age of 73 in 1553. I think that’s a considerable age considering the times. Even though his life was undeniably hard, imagine the sites, smells, and sounds he was surrounded by every single day of his life. Below are a few photos of the area as it looks today. I say Thomas Weldon was lucky indeed. 

Media,33747,enimg_0963OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


52 Ancestors #1 John Francis Burke


This challenge is set forth by No Story Too Small. I’m late in joining, but will catch up this week. The challenge for week one is “A Fresh Start.” That being said…

May I present my great great grandfather, John Francis Burke

There is no ancestor in my tree who made such a dramatic effort at a fresh start as John Francis Burke.

He was born in Dublin on February 27, 1847 in the middle of the potato blight in Ireland. One million people died of starvation and another million left the country. One can imagine how the family struggled. Not much is known about his parents or his childhood, but 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, and if I ever venture to Dublin, I should be able to find family records.

culpepper book 2 cover ideaWhen John 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, but we can imagine a 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, Robert Emmett, George Washington, Nina Virginia, Kathlene L, and David Edmond.

burke JP Burke Sr headstoneAfter 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.

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?