Archive for the ‘Genealogy’ Category

I never really knew my paternal grandfather, Samuel Anderson Matteson, even though I visited him a few times while growing up. Nor, as I think about it now, did he seem to give much thought to me. He was not the hugging kind of man. I wonder if he even knew my name, although it was an echo of his own. (I was informed years later that I was not named in his honor but rather for my maternal great grandfather Samuel Hilburn Holland.) Perhaps we, the Sams Matteson, could both be forgiven our reciprocal and mutual ignorance because he had over 30 second-generation progeny who were my paternal first cousins, born of his nine surviving children, my Dad and my eight Matteson aunts and uncles. Our encounters were infrequent in part, too, because his estranged son, the seventh child, Lewis, my Dad, lived over 800 miles away.

There Were Other Reasons

My grandmother, Octa Dell Cooley Matteson, had died when Lew was a few months shy of his 18th birthday, nearly the same age as I was the last time I saw Grandpa Sam. Soon after she died in 1937, her son moved out of the house, Dad told me. Indeed, Lewis E. Matteson at age 20 is not found in the 1940 census living on the Matteson farm near Dudley Township in Hardin County, Ohio, but rather appears as a boarder in the Elizabeth Webster household in Claiborne, Union county 20 miles distant. Dad had intimated to me that as soon as he could he worked as a “day hand” at other farms, living on his own. Soon after his sister Daisy married Robert “Bob” White and moved, in late 1940, to Mt. Victory, the future site of family reunions, Lew headed south to Brookley Field Air Force Base in Mobile, Alabama and to a future career as an aircraft mechanic. There he met and married after the end of the war a cute clerk Audrey Moates, who had also moved from a farming community but located in Dothan, Alabama to the port city to do her part in the war effort in the Maritime Commission Office.

During my childhood my immediate Alabama family comprising my parents, me, my sister “Cindy Lou” 20 months my junior and “Baby Dale”—just short of 4 years younger than I—rarely ventured out on the arduous road trip to Ohio for the family reunion. In 1956 (when I was nine) we made one such trip and someone of our party took snap shots. Below are two colorized images of Grandpa Sam from that traditional gathering at the Painter Creek (pronounced “Crick” in central “Ohi-yah”) Grange Hall.

Sam A. Matteson (1889-1969) picture (colorized) taken 11 Aug 1956 at Matteson family reunion, Mt. Victory, Ohio age 67.

In the summer of 1964, (probably August) we again drove north.  Thus, I had another opportunity to become acquainted with the patriarch of my family. But, I, at age 17 and as self-absorbed as any other teenager whose thoughts and anxieties are preoccupied with his future, was unaware that this casual meeting would be his last chance to ever get to know in the flesh his ancestor.

Lew E. Matteson (age 38) and Sam A. Matteson (age 67) 11 Aug 1956, Matteson Family Reunion Mt. Victory, Ohio. [Colorized]

My memories of those few minutes (it must have been less than an awkward and uncomfortable hour) are fuzzy at best, although I was not a child this time and could have stored away more details if I had paid closer attention. What I do recall are evanescent images: we climbed a set of narrow stairs to a small apartment. The Old Farmers’ Almanac for the area records that the maximum temperature was about 90°F with about 50% relative humidity and dew point of 69°F. Such conditions might have been uncomfortable to Yankees but were standard fare for us swamp rats from the coast. Still, his small airless apartment was stifling. I sat with my siblings beside me on his twin bed, our backs against the wall, while he sat—as I recall it—in a straight-backed chair across from my parents. Cindy tells me that she does not remember my images, although, as usual, she can accurately recount the season and date. Dale tells me that he remembers the apartment and Grandpa Sam brought out a stack of photographs. I would not have recognized anybody, I am sure. But more than anything else he sensed a feeling of sad loneliness that surrounded our grandfather.

Reality Checks Confirm and Correct Our Memories

When memories are vague I have found it reassuring to research what physical or documentary evidence persists that can confirm or correct my impressions. I discovered in a newspaper filler in the personal section of the 1945 Marion Star that Sam resided in the Milner hotel, formerly known as the Pilgrim Inn on N. Main Street, Marion, Ohio. Notably, this is about the time that Jacob Matteson, his son, with whom he was living in 1940, had settled in Albuquerque, New Mexico after serving in the army there. New Mexico is where he met and married Frances Tarazon of Deming, N.M.  Apparently, Sam Matteson the senior began to live alone during the war in the residential hotel that was built by Robert Kerr in the 1870s. I purchased a vintage postcard (shown below) of the landmark hotel, a card that was posted in about 1909. The charming message reads [quoting verbatim] “Dear Sis, We are having a swell time. We was up to town this morning and the wind nearly blowed us away. Mary” It is addressed to Mrs. Nye Smith, Ashley, Ohio [town and state only]. The hotel was still there in 1964 in its final iteration as the Taft Hotel retirement residence. It was soon acquired by the county and razed to the ground for a new building in the late 1960s. It is a parking lot next to the county offices today. When I saw the post card, I thought that I recognized the building, since I had seen it across the street from Grandpa’s residence 58 years earlier.

Pilgrim Inn, Marion, Ohio [Postcard image owned by author] about 1909.

The 1950 Census reveals that Samuel Matteson age 58 had in the interim moved on; he then resided across the street to 153½ N. Main St and was working as a “cleanup man” at a “Refrigerator Manufacturer,” that is, Tecumseh Products Cooler Division. His apartment number is not recorded but is sandwiched between apt #6 and apt #14.  In his 1969 obituary (where he is misidentified as Samuel L. Matteson) his address is still listed as 153½ N. Main St., Marion, Ohio. Thus, he lived alone at the same address, possibility in the same apartment for nearly twenty years. A search of the business addresses on Main Street identified the Acme Bar and Grill at 153 N. Main as the first floor occupant of the building.  Below is a snap shot from the 1950s of the west side of north Main Street. (Provided by and used with permmission of Tom Photo.) We can make out the sign for Acme Grill, an establishment that appears periodically in the newspaper for liquor license violations. It was a tough neighborhood. The Marion Heating and Air Condition next door had been Pete’s Pool Hall that had been raided in a gambling crack down years earlier. During Sam’s tenure the space was occupied by yet another notorious bar called “The Elbow Room.” Several assaults, thefts, and knife fights were reported over the years on the block.  In January 2000 the building was finally knocked down to make way for the drive through for the Fahey Bank. The spot is a paved driveway today.

View of west side of North Main Street, Marion, Ohio looking southward. A stairwell just one door north of Acme Grill led to the efficiency apartments upstairs. You can barely make out a stone step at the bottom of the photo. The building called the Lust Block was built originally as the home of the J. F. Lust Candy company in 1894 (see next photo).[Image used by permission of Tom Photo]

While researching the details of the neighborhood, I joined a Facebook group “The Good Old Days in Marion” and put out a plea for information about the building and its occupants. I told how I had visited my grandfather Samuel A. Matteson in 1964. A member of the group, Morita Matteson Wolbert, responded with a memory of “Uncle Sam.” I found her in my Ancestry.com family tree, my 2nd cousin, the daughter of Morris Kimball Matteson, son of Joseph Lewis Matteson, Grandpa Sam’s brother.  Joseph Lewis was my father’s uncle and the proximal source of Dad’s given name. Morita recounted how her father would, every year, pick up Sam to take him to the family reunion “at Prospect,” which is near Mt. Victory. She remembers always seeing him waiting on the stairs, smoking a cigar.

The J. F. Lust Block 131-161 N. Main St, Marion Ohio. The Marion Star Marion, Ohio 15 Jun 1895, Sat page 6.

All that I learned reinforced my hazy memories. The photographs and her verbal picture takes me back to that summer when we came calling. I can imagine I remember the scent of cigar smoke mingling with the yeasty aroma of beer. It might have been wafting upward from the smoky bar at the bottom of the stairs or it could be a false memory recovered from imagination. What I am convinced I did witness was a small efficiency apartment illuminated by a single bare 40 watt bulb dangling overhead and activated by a cotton pull string.  On the wall above the heads of the Matteson kids hung a small pin-up calendar sporting a voluptuous woman clad only in a short denim bib overall. She adored the hood of a tractor sold by a local implement store. Of course, I, a teenage boy, took proper notice of the wall art! I also wondered if passion still stirred in a 75 year-old man. I—now a 75 year-old man myself—can now attest that it does. When I shared my memory with a trusted peer he reminded me of an observation that I had shared with him, “The best way to make a dirty old man is to start with a dirty young man and let him grow old.”

I only recall snippets of the conversation that passed between my parents and my grandfather. We “children” were seen but not heard. When my father apparently expressed some concern about his father’s safety, Sam retorted. “I can take care of myself. A Mexican tried to roll me out by the railroad tracks,” he said motioning with a thumb jerking over his shoulder toward the Chesapeake and Ohio tracks that crossed Main Street at the end of the block. “I beat the tar out of ‘em” he continued by punching the air with a big, bony fist. “No. I can take care of myself.”

I believed him.

He lived in a dangerous world but with a fierce pride, he survived for another five years to the age of 80. As if underlining his tenacity, I read how just two days before my grandfather perished in the hospital, a younger neighbor, one Peter Napper age 61, fell down the stairs leading to the apartments and died. Circumstantial evidence suggests to me that alcohol might have played a role. Samuel Anderson Matteson had fared better.

What We Learn in Recalling

Sam had lived as a widower for 32 years, the last twenty-five years alone. He was a tough man. But his defiant independence came at the cost of tenderness and emotional investment as I assess his character. On the other hand, this conclusion may be uncharitable, based on so small a sample of experience and so little first-hand knowledge. Nevertheless, I see in myself at times the same belligerence and self-preoccupation that I discerned in my grandfather. Yet, I cannot blame him however, even if it is an inherited predisposition. It is my responsibility to give control to my better impulses and love unconditionally with kindness and generosity.

I can only hope that my grandchildren will know me better than I did their great-great grandfather. May they know me as I know them and know that I love them.  I am resolved to do what I can to make it so.

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Andenken [souvenir] of first Holy Communion of Peter Faust 1976, Tieffenbach, Alsace, France

Some treasured objects are more than sentimental heirlooms. These items transcend their quaint decorative appearance. They stand proud above mere tchotchkes, knickknacks, or bric-a-brac that sit on a shelf, collecting dust. Some relics call to mind individuals and stories associated with them that are worthy of remembering, when we are fully informed of the provenance and history of the material artifact.

When I married my wife, I married into an extensive family—the Family Faust—whose roots run deep into the black waxy clay lying beneath Dallas, Texas and its twentieth century concrete. As part of my bride’s dowry, in addition to the family dog, we became custodians of a gilt-framed ornate certificate in German bearing the title “Andenken” [Souvenir]. My limited Sprachfähigkeit allowed me to infer only that this document commemorated a first holy communion for one Peter Faust, an event that occurred on Sunday, 23 April 1876. (See photo) From my dear mother-in-law Alice Louise Faust Rhodes, I learned that Peter Faust was her grandfather, “Big Papa.” This Grossvater [literally “Big Papa” but meaning “grandfather”] was the first of a line of several generations of north Texas butchers and grocers who populated Big D, beginning in the 19th century, who ultimately produced my spouse of over fifty years, the butcher’s daughter.

The Andenken decorated the walls of a succession of our homes and apartments until curiosity and opportunity converged to prompt me to send a copy of the text to my Germanophile colleague and friend Dr. Chris Littler. He, in turn, shared it with our native-speaking colleague, Dr. Tilo Reinhardt of Leipzig, who—in addition to his expertise in accelerator physics—understood the intricacies of archaic gothic script. Below I share (for the record) the transcription of a portion of the relevant text along with Prof. Reinhardt’s translation.

Den 23ten April im Jahre 1876 habe ich Petrus Faust von Tieffenbach zum ersten Male die heilige Kommunion empfangen in der Pfarrkirche zu Tieffenbach aus der Hand des Herrn Pfarrers Debes

On the 23rd of April in the year 1876 I Petrus Faust of Tieffenbach [Deepcreek] have received for the first time Holy Communion in the parish church by hand of Pastor Debes

An on-line search for Tieffenbach, France revealed the location of the village in northeast France, about forty miles away from Strasburg in the Department Bas-Rhin of Alsace-Lorraine. In the map below (used by permission) the red dot marks the location of the municipality.

Link: https://www.map-france.com/town-map/67/67491/mini-map-Tieffenbach.jpg The “Old Country” home town of the Faust family,
Tieffenbach, is marked with a red dot.

Upon learning of the reality of the European patrimony of the Faust family, I continued searching on-line and stumbled on images of the parish church, Église Saint-Barthélemy de Tieffenbach [St.Barthélemy’s Church of Tieffenbach], where Peter probably took religious instruction. The graphics below display respectively a 19th century etching (left) and a contemporary photograph of the church (right). The continued existence of the Kirche/ Église contributes an even more intense sense of reality to the knowledge of the meaning of the Andenken.

The parish church in Tieffenbach, Bas-Rhin, Alsace, France. On the left is a 19th century etching of the Église Saint-Barthélemy de Tieffenbach, (left) before the vestibule and bell tower were added. On the right a contemporary photograph of the church where Peter Faust probably took his first communion.

What is more, the church archives have been digitized, I discovered. Interested genealogists can access the data at https://www.paulridenour.com/german.htm. What we learn is that on 15 September 1862 (appearing as 15.09.1862) Peter was born to Jacob Faust (born about 1826 or 1827) a bricklayer and farmer and his wife Catharina Derie Faust (born about 1827 or 1828).

Familie bedeutet . . .

A perennial maxim of the Deutsches Volk runs “Familie bedeutet dass niemand zurückgelassen order vergessen wird” [Family means that nobody is left behind or forgotten].  Family lore holds that when Peter Faust immigrated to the North Texas region of the United States in the late 19th century, family was here to greet him. Indeed, I found him listed as “Pierre Faust” on a passenger manifest for the Steam Ship SS Amerique that arrived from Le Havre in New York bound for Port Arthur and Galveston, Texas in December 1879. He was 17 years old and traveled alone in steerage class. The family story that I have heard numerous times recounts how Peter (or Pierre) “rode shank’s mare,” that is, walked, the approximately 400 miles from the Gulf coast to Sherman, Texas to the ranch of his Aunt and Uncle Michael “Mike” Derie and Ann Winkler Derie. According to a story told by their granddaughter Eunice Derie Cline, the Deries (the family of Peter’s maternal aunt and uncle) had arrived only a few months before, entering the US themselves via the port of New Orleans. Thus, together the Derie family and Peter Faust appear in the US Census in June 1880 in Grayson County, Texas.

SS Amerique, the vessel that brought Peter Faust to the United States in 1879. Passenger manifest: “Pierre Faust.” Male, Age 17, born 1862, Alsace, Germany, origin Le Havre, France, final destination Texas.”

If he could have afforded a ticket, the teenager Pierre (or Peter) might have availed himself of a train ride on the Houston and Texas Central that already ran from Galveston to Sherman via Dallas before 1879. Fares in that day were limited by law in Texas to less than 3¢ per mile for first class and were as low as 2¢ per mile. However, even at the most uncomfortable “emigrant” class, the fare was over $8. This is equivalent to nearly $200 in today’s currency and was over a week’s wages for a common laborer. It is therefore doubtful that Peter rode the train, although the railway right of way may have provided a convenient and certain path from town to town as the map below illustrates.

A map of the Houston and Texas Central Railroad, about 1880 with stops along the way. Image from Texas Transportation Archive—  https://www.ttarchive.com/Library/Maps/Houston-Texas-Central_1906_Official-Guide.htm

We cannot overstate what an audacious enterprise the teenager Peter Faust undertook in trekking 400 miles across Texas by foot. He probably walked from town to town moving ever northward, stopping day after day, to earn a meal and night’s lodging in a barn on the way. It would have taken about 134 hours of hiking (according to Google maps) to stroll this distance.  If Peter averaged twenty miles every second day after stopping to work, he could have traversed the distance in about three to four weeks. He would have passed through countryside studded with farms belonging to German-speaking farmers (see http://www.lonestargenealogy.com/courses/texas/germanset.html). Texans were not unfamiliar with German-speaking immigrants like Peter since the great migration had begun in the 1830s and continued until the new century. His odyssey probably led him through the town of Dallas City. Perhaps here he became acquainted with and received help from individuals of the thriving Dallas German community that he would later know intimately. Whatever the unrecorded story, it must have been a life-changing experience that would forever inspire confidence and self-reliance in him for his whole life.

Eunice Cline, granddaughter of Michael and Ann Wigner Derie, who showed great kindness to us, her cousins and thus also family, when we visited her in Arkansas in about 1999, had told the story of his family and was posted on-line at ancestry.com where I found it. According to Eunice, Mike Derie was a novice stockman who tried his hand at ranching in the 1880s in Grayson County, Texas until rustlers cleaned him out. The newspapers of the time are filled with stories of cattle thieves and fence cutters. In 1883 the cattle market went bust, as well. What is more, two devastating blizzards produced a great die-off in 1886, but by then the Derie family was already on its way north and east. We are tempted to speculate that it was on the ranch in Grayson County that Peter first learned the craft of meat cutting in addition to cow punching. Wherever he apprenticed, he was ready when the Family Derie headed north toward friends in Illinois but instead settled in Arkansas when their money ran out. Peter, meanwhile said goodbye to his nearest family and headed on his own to Dallas about 65 miles south of the ranch.

Das Glück hilft den Kühnen

“Fortune aids the audacious” is a German proverb that describes the experience of Peter Faust, who at the age of 24, transitioned from a country cowboy into an urban clerk. Th record hints at the wilkommen he received when he presented himself to the Germanic community of Dallas.

While the first Dallas trace of Peter Faust appears in the City Directory of 1886, (There was no directory published in 1885) he probably came to the metropolis in 1885.  The Deries had already reached Arkansas by March of that year, in time for the birth of Michael Derie, Jr.  Meanwhile, Peter wasted no time. He made ‘86 a red letter year for himself, a 24-year-old upstart Alsatian.  Peter made real the proverb “Selbst ist der Mann,” The self [alone] is the man [who must get the job done]. The records show the following actions: he rented a home at 507 Cedar (Springs) Avenue a block north of the meat market where he probably labored (identified by a red dot and the letter A on the 1900 map); he married Fraulein Louise (always pronounced in the family “Lou-EE-sa”) Lempke/Lembke/Lemke (spelling fluid and ambivalent), who had been born among the German colonizers of Venezuela and who had come to the United States with her brother Johann in 1883; Peter secured work from Henry William Emgard at one of his meat markets, probably the one on McKinney Ave between Alamo and Caroline (red dot labeled M). Key to the first two achievements was his employment, an event that came, in part, by accident. According to a newspaper report, Mr. Henry William Emgard, the prominent Dallas butcher, suffered a gunshot wound to his right hand in October 1884 and was presumably recuperating in 1885. It was, for Faust, contrary to Herr Emgard, a lucky accident. Indeed, he was ein Glückspilz, one lucky-mushroom, as the Deutsch say.

The Nachbarschaft [neighborhood] of Peter Faust and family 1885 to 1915. The red dot labeled A is the location of the first home of Peter Faust and Louise (507 Cedar); it was the birth place of Katie Faust Thacker and John P. Faust, the eldest children. The filled dot labeled B is the site of the home purchased later by the Faust family (523 N. Harwood St.) where Victor Babe and Jacob Faust (thee younger boys) were born. The open circle nearby is the estimated location of the home previously rented from Mr. Emgard after moving from Cedar St. The red dot labeled M marks the location of the Peter Faust Meat Market and later (after 1891) on McKinney at Caroline.

Peter may have begun well by accident, but his continued success took more than Glück to achieve over the next five years. By about 1890 Peter (age 28) had prospered enough to purchase the franchise from Mr. Emgard and his partner Mr, Hamm. Below is a precious image from those early days (probably around 1890).

Image of Peter Faust (center) standing proudly before his market on McKinney that had been the location of Hamm and Emgard Meat Market. The gentleman on the left is probably his brother Victor Faust who also worked as a butcher in the business. Note that there is a building to the right that suggests that it was on the northeastern side of Caroline and McKinney, rather than the later site on the opposite (southwestern) corner. (See map in next figure.)

In the 1890s, the structures on McKinney Avenue were surveyed and appeared on the 1896 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map available from the Library of Congress. When Peter began work he worked for Hamm and Emgard, located on the “ne corner of McKinney and Caroline” according to the City Directory of 1888.  On the map the Hamm and Emgard building is identified as a grocery (“GRO.”) at 143 McKinney Avenue. (Note that the number is in fact 143, despite the unusual handwritten typography.) Later, in 1891, Peter moved the business to the corner over Caroline to 137 McKinney (see Peter Faust Market advertisement from 1891-92 City Directory) that had bee,n a Hay and Feed store. At the time this part of Dallas was on the outskirts of town. Alamo and Caroline Streets were unpaved and McKinney Avenue had only recently paved with wooden blocks according, to the Sanborn maps.

Section of Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from 1896 showing structures with addresses in the McKinney-Alamo-Caroline area.
Advertisement from 1891-92 City Directory for Peter Faust Market in their new location, 45 years later the site of the Luna Tortilla Factory.

From the details of the location of the market we can deduce something about the business acumen of Herr Faust. Peter saw an opportunity to expand by moving the shop across the street to larger quarters that were formerly occupied by a Hay and Feed store, according to the Sanborn map. In addition, at about that time Peter’s Brother Victor Faust immigrated to Dallas from Tieffenbach, in what has been called “chain immigration.” Victor later (1900) recalled it as about 1888. In 1891 after the birth of two of Peter’s children. Moreover, Peter moved his family to larger quarters on N. Harwood where Victor joined his family. Then Peter purchased a house up the block where two more children were added to his household. He continued to prosper apparently, since he obtained (according to the tax rolls) a cart and two draft animals that he had to stable and provide livery for on his property.

Victor lived with Peter’s family until in 1894 Victor married Stella Florence Williamson and moved next door to Peter and Louise on Harwood. Meanwhile, Peter and Louise took in her sister Christina Lembke White and her husband Joseph along with their daughter Mary. Victor continued to be part of the family business even as he began his own family. Things began to change for Peter Faust when Louise died in 1902, however, leaving him with four orphaned children, ages 15, 13, 11, and 8. We can only imagine the trauma the loss of their mother wrought in the hearts of her children. Perhaps Christina filled the gap temporarily by providing emotional support during this troubling time. There are no family stories that have come down to us from that time that I have heard.

Hints of family friction lie in events of this period. In 1903 Uncle Victor became a driver for Peter Faust (a possible demotion from butcher), and the next year Victor founded his own market on Cedar Springs only a block northwest of the Peter Faust Market. Therefore, the two Faust markets went into competition and began to share the pool of potential customers. Fortunately, the influx of immigrants to Dallas continued so that there was no dearth of hungry patrons. Among the customers of the Peter Faust Market one woman caught widower Faust’s eye: Fraulein Ella Naumann, daughter of the successful carpenter and builder C. A. (Carl/Charles) Naumann. We infer that “Miss” Naumann had been married briefly (for about two years) to William Enfield, an English émigré pharmacist whose shop lay just up McKinney on the corner with Highland St. Moreover, since 1900 when the Enfeild-Naumann marriage must had been annulled, Ella lived on Maston St, sometimes rooming at the Greer Hotel, sometimes residing with her parents a few doors away from the Faust home. Both residences were less than two blocks from the Faust household. Whatever the form of the courtship, Peter and Ella did not marry until after William Enfield died in 1908.

A word is appropriate regarding how we came to these conclusions regarding Peter’s second wife: (1) Ella appears in the 1900 census in the C. A. Naumann household on Maston as “Tella Enfield” having the same birthday as Ella and having been married for two years but with no children. (2) Meanwhile William Enfield lived nearby, listed as married for three years but without a spouse in residence. (3) The same year (1900) Ella appears in the City Directory as resident at the Greer Hotel address but as “Miss Ella Naumann.”  From these scraps we can stitch together a coherent story of a short-lived failed union.

Dallas has boomed over the century and a half since Peter came to town. Few of the structures have survived the wrecking ball. But in a curious turn of events, the spot where the (Second) Peter Faust Market stood on the southwest corner of McKinney and Caroline, has taken on other special historical significance for my family. In 1937 the Luna Family, who emigrated from Mexico in the 1920s during the second wave of immigration, built a fine Spanish Colonial style building on the site to house their tortilla factory that remains today. Early on in my marriage, I did not fully appreciate the special bond that my Mother-in-law Alice Louise Faust Rhodes had for the Lunas and for the Martinez Family, who had earleir launched El Fenix Tex-Mex Restaurant down the block in 1917. The restaurant occupies the site of an 1890s saloon adjacent to the k=location of the Luna property. My wife’s family faithfully patronized the businesses of these citizens of “Little Mexico” who were Louise Faust Rhodes’s schoolmates and the successors to her grandfather’s stewardship of the properties. Every time I ate the Martinez’s delicious Tex-Mex cuisine, I felt a connection to my spousal family’s past.  It is one of the closest places I know to what the Celts called a “thin place,” where we, the living, experience the spirit of our ancestors. Of course, I had to expose my grandchildren to this place.

Recently, I inquired of one of my teenage granddaughters, Joanna, if she remembered our meal together there over a decade ago. “I will never forget it. Didn’t they serve sugar-coated fried bread shaped like little people?”

“’Sopa-people’ they called them.” I replied, “it’s a pun on the Spanish word sopapilla.” She marveled as I filled her in on the history that transpired in the neighborhood. Such is the nature of an Andeken in any language.

El Fenix Restaurant at the corner of Alamo and McKinney where stood a saloon in 1896 nearby the Peter Faust Market. Image source:https://www.onlyinyourstate.com/texas/dallas-fort-worth/the-oldest-restaurant-in-dallas-fort-worth/
The historic Luna Tortilla Factory built in about 1937 on the site of the (second) Peter Faust Meat Market (1891 to 1913), now the home of Meso Maya Restaurant.

Gott gibt, aber der Mensch muss seine Hände öffnen [God gives, but a man must open his hand]

The second marriage of Peter and Ella apparently was not met with universal enthusiasm if stories originating from Victor Babe Faust, my wife’s grandfather and Peter’s son, are to be believed. Ella was seldom mentioned in family discourse. One story, however, came down to my wife, Carolyn, who shared it with me. Victor B disparaged Ella’s care of her children in a tale in which she sent then out of the house with an “Oat meal sandwich,” consisting of two slices of white bread cradling a ladle of cold porridge. Victor B considered it a scandal worthy of a charge of child abuse. But at the time of Peter and Ella’s marriage, her step-children were nearly grown; Victor Babe was 17; Jacob, the youngest, was about age 14. On the other hand. when Peter wed their step-mother, things did change. Peter and Ella soon sold the home on Harwood and moved into a rental home. The children, one-by-one, left home, perhaps willingly. By 1910 Victor was rooming with another family next door to the Peter Faust Meat Market. He never lived at home again. Elder sister Katie Faust-Thacker was already married in 1904 and out of the house before Ella joined the family. John P, on the other hand, married Myrtle Byrd two years after becoming Ella’s step son. Jacob, the youngest. only lived off-and-on with his father and stepmother for the next several years. It seems that very soon after Peter and Ella wed, they began disconnecting from their Dallas entanglements, so much so that after a few years of living in various short-term rentals and boarding houses, they closed the doors of Peter Faust Market and headed west to San Diego, California. It was in about 1913.

Dallas skyline 1912, the year before Peter Faust and Ella headed west.

Jacob accompanied the Fausts, as did Ella’s brother and sister-in-law, Paul A. Naumann, he quitting his job as a clerk at Sanger Brothers and reinventing himself as a real estate agent.  Peter soon found employment as a butcher and sausage maker with Kuhlen and Weber. After about a year and a half, Peter and Ella made news in the Chula Vista area paper by taking a trip back to Dallas in 1916 to visit family and, in particular, Victor Babe Faust’s grandchildren Peter Carl and Alice Louise, who had been born to Victor and Alta in the interim.

At about the same time son Jacob Faust returned to Dallas to enlist in the National Guard (Jun 1916). He was discharged a few months later only to be inducted into the regular Army. He was honorably discharged within a few months, however, 75% disabled. {Presumably his disability involved his vision. My wife recalls her great uncle’s very thick glasses.) Over the rest of his life he alternately lived in Texas and the west coast, where he had fallen in love with southern California. In the censuses and city directories in this period of his life he is often identified as a waiter.

Apparently, the Faust family mended fences because a few years after their visit back in Dallas (in about 1921) Victor and Alta traveled to San Diego for a visit, as is documented in the montage of family photographs of Alta and Louise Faust with Peter. By all accounts Big Papa doted on his granddaughter who later became my dear mother-in-law forty years later.

Vintage photograph of Peter Faust (left) in the early 1920s standing before his home at 2228 Imperial Avenue, San Diego, California. On the right is a photograph of the remodeled structure from about 2020.

These are Andenkenen of a different sort. Such artifacts speak to the reality of Peter’s continued audacious spirit.

Peter Faust (Big Papa) with Alta Cadwallader Faust and Alice Louise Faust Rhodes (born 1915) in San Diego, California about 1921, based on an estimated age (6) of granddaughter Louise.

After a few years working for Kuhlen and Weber, the Alsatian-Texan butcher joined the staff of the flamboyant grocery mogul Charles S. Hardy. In the early 1920s Hardy gathered his complete meat department staff of Bay City Market for a group picture. The City Directory lists Peter as a “Chief Clerk.”  Indeed, in the group photo we can identify a single gray-haired gentleman in an apron, the figure looks very much like other photographs of Big Papa, who would have been 60 years old in 1922, a venerable mentor meat cutter.

The staff of Charles S. Hardy’s Bay City Market. The gray haired gentleman indicated by the red box and in the blowup is very probably Peter Faust, chef clerk, Note that Mr. Faust has a pronounced tan line where his ubiquitous hat would have protected his head from the sun.

During this time Peter welcomed his mother-in-law to his home, moving her with Ella, into the Imperial Avenue bungalow where Mrs. Naumann lived until 1920 when she died. Five years later in 1925, Ella also passed away, at the age of 51.  Peter remained in San Diego until in 1928 at 66 he retired from Bay City Market and returned to Dallas.

Not long before his relocation, his son-in-law Frank Thacker expired. Big Papa moved in with Katie, Peter’s eldest child and her son, Frank, junior and his wife Hazel at their home on Bowser Avenue. In the decades since that home has been obliterated to make way for progress and the construction of modern apartment buildings. Soon after Peter returned to Dallas, the Great Depression began with the stock market crash in October 1929.

Intermittently over the final fifteen years of his life, Peter lived with daughter Katie, son Victor Babe, and granddaughter Louise Faust Rhodes. Peter worked for a time at Victor’s market; Victor Babe had taken up the mantle of the family business after Uncle Victor had died in 1924. Peter settled into his role as patriarch. He, fortunately, had avoided much of the financial losses of the crash. Big Papa reportedly loaned Victor B. and Alta money to help build a house in the depths of the depression. Indeed, he lived with Victor, Alta, and their children at 1306 Ann Arbor Avenue.. During this time Louise Faust (ultimately, my mother-in-law) formed sweet and indelible memories there.  

Ich bin ein Franzose

One memory my Mother-in-law shared with me. Louise nee Faust Rhodes recounted how that as tensions in Europe rose in the 1930s and 40s, Peter—in a heavy German accent—would insist, “I am French![Ich bin ein Franzose!] Indeed, he was accurate since when he was born (Alsace in 1862), his home was in French hands. By 1871 and the end of the Franco-Prussian War his hometown had become part of the new German Empire.  Soon afterward an economic contraction, called initially the “Great Depression,” but later renamed “The Long Depression” prompted the teenage Herr Faust to cross an ocean. Then after his retirement he experienced the second “Great Depression.” Perhaps memories of Peter’s early days of austerity prompted him often, at the conclusion of br eakfast, to ask “Vaht vie goin’ ta have fur zupper?” I can imagine him pushing back from the table then stroking his ample stomach. The Ann Arbor residence still stands. It is the nexus of many good memories for my wife and her siblings. In the photo we see Victor and Alta in the backyard shown beside a Google Maps street-view image of their home.

1306 Ann Arbor Avenue, Dallas, Texas, home (right) of Victor Babe and Alta Cadwallader Faust (left). This was the home of Louise Faust Rhodes’s parents. Louise is the author’s mother-in-law.”Big Papa” Peter Faustl lived here in the 1930s.

Subsequently, Peter resided again with Katherine Faust Thacker at 3512 Douglas St. a structure that still stands in testimony of the reality of his life. In the final years of his life Peter Faust lived with his granddaughter Alice Louise Faust Rhodes. That their home on Carpenter Avenue did not survive until today underscores how precious any material object is that commemorates a life, be it a certificate or a house.

Some Andeken do not fit on a self or in a frame

3512 Douglas Street, Dallas, Texas, the home in the 1930s and 40s of Katie Faust Thacker, Peter’s eldest child, who took him in a second time after earlier sharing her home when he returned to Dallas in 1928. Her husband Frank Thacker  had died in 1927. The instructions regarding the location that appeared in the City Directory were “go around back, up the stairs.”
A vacant lot is all that remains of 2649 Carpenter Avenue, Dallas, Texas the home of the John Rhodes family in 1940 that included Peter Faust (1862-1943).

“Sentimental” attachments cynics call them, as if emotion and memory were somehow lacking in value. In response, I argue that I wear a golden band on my left ring finger both as a reminder of the promises I made on the last day of May 1968 and as a continuing declaration of my fidelity and love for my mate. The worth of this ornament far outstrips its fair market value as a material object. So it is with many mementos, souvenirs, and Andenken. That a word exists in Latin, French, and German for the same concept hints at the universality of the appreciation of objects evocative of memories. It is the memory, the story, the association that suffuses an inanimate object with meaning. In the process the object becomes precious and accretes almost mystical power, or at the very least, psychological power to connect us to people and events we are apt to forget. In the gospel story of Jesus of Nazareth we see this reality as well.

On the night before he was betrayed Jesus took simple objects—unleavened bread and wine—and instituted a modest ritual to commemorate his life and ministry. Image source: http://www.crossroadsinitiative.com

Zu meinen Gedächtnis

In 1 Corinthians 11:24 The Apostle Paul recounts how that Jesus Christ instituted a simple ritual, now celebrated as a memorial meal—Holy Communion—to be shared by his followers. Luther translates the words in the Corinthian letter as “zu meinen Gedächtnis” [to my memory]. So the practice of Andenken and simple memorial rituals have a divine affirmation.  How appropriate that the certificate that first led me to pursue the story of Big Papa is an Andeken of his first celebration of the great Andeken that Herr Jesu instituted!

In 2014, Emily Edington, Peter’s 3x great granddaughter shared his story with her sixth grade classmates, complete with costume. Her interest was sparked by his audacious journey to America. Indeed, the life of Peter Faust was characterized by audacity, by diligence, and by family. I have realized as a result of this study that it is the story that gives these objects their meaning. So in a strange way, this post—that tells his story and gives us a glimpse into his character as judged by his actions—is itself a commemoration of him. So, in a very real sense, this document becomes for us a virtual Andenken.

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Nil Nisi Bonum

“Speak no ill of the dead,” a maxim I inherited from antiquity, came down to me via my more immediate ancestors.  The sentiment is ancient; indeed, its origin is attributed to the Spartan Philosopher Chilon, that subsequently the Romans—appropriated in typical Imperial fashion—promulgated in Latin as De mortis nil nisi bonum (Of the dead [speak] nothing but good). And since I also was taught in the Southern American tradition that if I could say nothing good I should say nothing at all, there were some things about which we never spoke . . . ever. Such is the case of the tragic events surrounding the lives of my namesake Samuel Hilburn Holland (1862-1915) and his son Samuel Britt Holland (1896-1975). My mother named me intentionally in honor of her grandfather Samuel, of whom I knew little, and only incidentally for her uncle Sam Britt, of whom I knew nothing whatsoever as I was growing up. So I have always wondered about my namesake, my great grandfather Sam and what he was like. Of my forgotten granduncle I thought nothing at all.

Who was Samuel H. Holland, My Namesake?

What I did know about my mother’s grandfather consisted of a single fact: he died a violent death at the hands of a “black man.”  I resolved that when I took up the task of unraveling my family history and genealogy I would uncover all I could about this horrific—and legendary— event that had reverberated down the generations, albeit silently, more as a tremulous existential vibration than in any audible story.

My mother Audrey was born the eighth of nine children to Katie Roberta “Bertia” Holland Moates, ten years and some months after her grandfather’s murder.  When his death happened on 18 Dec 1915, her mother, “Ma Bertie”—as I knew her—at age 27, was already married eight years to my “Pa” and had four children of her own, my elder aunts and uncles. By the time I came around in the 1950s and 60s and began to form memories of my maternal grandmother, her Dad—Great-Grandpa Samuel—lay buried in Dothan, Alabama already for forty or so years. Still, I detected (and she admitted to a fellow grandchild)—I suspected because of his death—a spiritual struggle with a deep-seated and persistent animus in my devout Ma Bertie, directed reflexively toward all people of color. She once remarked how you might not like black people “if your father had been murdered by one.”

If anyone ever had reason for such a feeling of perpetual animosity, she did. That being said, another grandchild corrected my implication that our mutual grandmother shared the animus of our segregationist Southern society. My cousin stated “She loved people who were poverty stricken, financially wealthy, healthy, sickly, black, white or brown- never even seeing the difference.” Nonetheless, in the early 1960s, I and all those I knew shared no expressed sympathy for the grievances we heard voiced in the civil rights movement. News of the alarming rhetoric and civil non-violent disobedience was met with distrust, fear, and outrage, or most often. with complicit silence. I wondered and never fully understood whether this subversive hatred was actually due to a generalized prejudice arising from any private legacy of trauma or was the result of absorption of the racial bigotry that pervaded the Jim Crow society of southeastern Alabama and northwest Florida that, like the unnoticed but ever-present salt dust born of the gulf shore surf, spread far-and-wide over the land as if carried by on-shore breezes. Such a compound is subversively corrosive to all that is exposed to it.  I concluded finally, too, that we all may imbibe the ethos of a society but pay it no mind, and like fish in water do, we gulp it down uncritically as “just the natural order of things.” I have come to realize also that no event happens in isolation and the repercussions are never felt by a single individual alone. The metaphor of ripples and waves on the sea is much used because it mirrors reality. Life and history are also, in fact, a tangle of cause and effect as much as are the roots of the tidal wetlands of palmetto and mangrove where the surf spends itself after traversing the wide gulf. My mother’s grandmother whom all called “Sweet Mama” endured unbelievable heartache, apparently with little complaint. She gave birth to ten children, but between 1900 and 1902 (before my grandmother was a teenager) Sweet Mama, Mary Cornelia Arnold Holland, buried three of her sweet infants. Thus, by age six the toddler Sam Britt Holland was left as the youngest surviving baby of the family. I can only imagine the anguish Mary endured. No one ever mentioned it to me in my family, not my mother nor my grandmother—no one.  Below are reproductions of photographs of those women, (left to right) my mother Audrey Moates Matteson (1926-1998), her mother “Bertia” Holland Moates (1888-1966), and my great grandmother Mary Cornelia Arnold Holland (1868-1923). These three women passed down other stories and attitudes to me, but nothing spoke of the sadness of Sweet Mama’s life.

The author’s maternal Moates-Holland-Arnold line. (Left to right) Mother, Audrey Bell Moates Matteson (age about 18); Grandmother Katie Robertia “Bertia” Holland Moates (age about 19); Great Grandmother Mary Cornelia Arnold Holland (age about 32).

What “Sweet Mama” Suffered

I learned from documents that Mary Cornelia began her life with Samuel Hilburn Holland on 16 Nov 1884 in Headland, Alabama when they were married. Below is a rare photograph of the couple early in their marriage, perhaps before 1890. The unsmiling couple do not appear happy, but it may have only been the customary serious formality of early portrait photography.

 Samuel Hilburn Holland (1862-1915) and Mary Cornelia Arnold Holland (1868-1923) in about 1910.

I infer from an advertisement for a farm implement in the Dothan Eagle the regional newspaper that Sam enjoyed a reputation as a hard working farmer who provided for his family on their place a few miles from Dothan and Headland out Route 1 near Abbeville in southeastern Alabama.  Piecing together the record of their residences I have deduced that the Holland family, that began in the area north of Dothan, migrated slowly southward, ultimately relocating from south of Dothan in about 1913 to the Dekle Plantation near Greenwood, Florida. There Samuel may have worked as a foreman/overseer or a field hand. No physical record remains of his rank. The Dekles were prominent land owners in northwest Florida in the early 1900s.  Below is a reproduction of a contemporaneous newspaper photograph of the experimental alfalfa fields of the M. L. Dekle farm. M.L. and his son E.N. Dekle farmed over 1000 acres in the region.

Despite claims in the Pensacola Journal boasting of an extremely low crime rate in Jackson County, the newspapers of the period are rife with salacious stories of violence and murder; for example, at about the time Sam Holland and Mary with their son Sam Britt were moving to the area, a smoldering grudge erupted in nearby Blountsville, Florida.  Mr. W. L. Spivey, the overseer of M. L. Dekle’s farm was dispatched with a blow from a monkey wrench wielded by Jimmie Lee Fields. The late Mr. Spivey had, likewise, emigrated to west Florida from Alabama. Apparently Mr. Fields eluded the law and was never brought to justice.

Samuel Hilburn Holland similarly met his end in a violent interlude on the Dekle “Plantation.” December 18 was a Saturday, a Sabbath day, a week before Christmas. It was then that Samuel H. Holland had an altercation with a field worker over a pair of shoes that Sam had sold the man, according to the fragmentary, whispered family story. The worker complained that the shoes were too small and he wanted his money back. Sam refused, remarking that he could not resell them if they had been worn (presumably because the man was a “Negro”). Details are sketchy but the outcome is clear from newspaper accounts: the nameless man (called only “a Negro”) killed my great grandfather with two blasts from a shot gun.

Two of several newspaper accounts of the murder of Samuel H. Holland, 18 Dec 1915. The Dothan Eagle (above) and the Montgomery Advertiser (below).

The news of the homicide spread quickly, recounted in numerous journals. Initial reports were that the unnamed assailant was apprehended, but later reports were that he had eluded the Sheriff and would soon be found by the posse. One of my contemporary historical correspondents suggested that the newspaper reports in this age of “yellow journalism” were more “aspirational” rather than factual. The absence of any subsequent mention of a hearing or trial further suggests that the “Negro” evaded capture and prosecution. If the individual had indeed been jailed he had been released, apparently without charge. We are left guessing as to what transpired that Saturday near Greenwood, Florida.

Early Twentieth Century Alabama/Florida: An Age of Violence

It seems odd to me that such a relatively minor disagreement would turn deadly. Thus, I continued searching more broadly, looking over a wider time period in hope of getting a sense of the times. What my search brought to my attention was a newspaper article in the 19 July 1895 Boston Globe. The story shocked me. The lede told that Sam H. Holland of Abbeville, Alabama “drew a long knife and stabbed Manley [actually J. C. Money] to death” in an argument. I then read several other accounts, the gist of which was that J. C. Money and Samuel H. Holland had partnered in the purchase of a seine with which to net fish. Mr. Money showed up at the Holland farm on 16 July 1895 with his son to claim the net for his anticipated outing. Unfortunately, Sam had planned an excursion on that same Tuesday afternoon. The two farmers exchanged heated words and the situation escalated when Mr. Money slapped Mr. Holland, who then proceeded to stab Mr. Money in the chest “to the hollow” and cut Money’s son when the young man tried to intervene. Mr. Holland fled the scene, convinced that he had mortally wounded his friend. Fortunately, Money recovered from his wounds and even outlived by many years his knife-wielding former partner.

Newspaper clippings that recount the violent attack of Saamuel H. Holland on J. C. Money in 1895.

No charges were ever filed.  Nobody in my family ever mentioned the event either . . . that I know of.

 Clearly, my great grandfather Sam was given to violence. The incident suggests an “impulsivity and dis-inhibition” characteristic of mental illness. The stabbing occurred while my grandmother lived at home (age about 7), surely old enough to remember the event but young enough to fail to comprehend what transpired. I wonder, however, about other events that might have occurred that were left unreported.  Such violent behavior is rarely an isolated event. On his tombstone Sam is lauded by an epitaph reading “His words were kindness/ His deeds were love/ His spirit humble/ He rests above.” My cynical mind replies:  Nil nisi bonum.

I wondered if other factors might have contributed to the volatile mix that led to Sam’s assault in 1895 and his death in 1915. A 1909 editorial praises Sam for seeing the error of his ways “a short time ago” and coming out in favor of prohibition, joining his brother Thomas Holland in support of the 18th amendment prohibiting the manufacture, distribution, and sale of alcoholic beverages. We might surmise that alcohol had been a major part of Sam’s life up until that time. His other, older brother Britt Holland, however, was both the town Marshall and a saloon keeper in neighboring Columbia, Alabama and had a very different view of things. Sam may have struggled with alcoholism, being torn between his two brother’s divergent points of view. But such things are rarely spoken of.

These foregoing revelations cast a different light on the drama that might have played out in Greenwood in 1915. If Sam’s disagreement with the farm hand over a pair of unsatisfactory shoes had grown too rancorous, it would not be surprising to see Sam Holland pull a knife to exact satisfaction for an insult as he had done two decades earlier, especially if his judgement was impaired due to inebriation. It could have been that he brought a proverbial knife to a gun fight and his unnamed assailant fired the lethal shots in self-defense. This scenario would account for no charges ever being filed. But we do not know. The record is silent.

The Sins of the Father

Whatever the details were, the outcome was profound. Mrs. Mary Cornelia Holland was suddenly widowed miles from family with a teenage son (18) just spreading his wings while suddenly bereft of the steadying hand of a father. Samuel Britt Holland soon began to appear in the newspapers himself.

Samuel Britt Holland (1898-1975) shown here in his sartorial splendor in about 1919. Photo courtesy of his great granddaughter Tracy York Weaver.

In my search of the newspapers (using the collection and search engine at newspapers.com) for “Sam Holland” I stumbled upon the story (5 June 1916) of a bail jumping young Sam Holland “of Ozark,” Alabama. The papers report that young Sam Holland was apprehended by the Sheriff in Pensacola. A careful reading of the several stories that followed his case establishes that it is indeed the Sam Holland whose father died just a few months earlier. The younger Samuel, at first, spun a tale that he had been kidnapped by his fellow co-conspirators in a meat stealing caper (to which he had confessed) but later admitted that he had paid them to take him to Escambia County, Florida so that he could “join the Navy.” He hoped, I surmise, that by joining the military he would evade having to rat out his partners in larceny. Apparently, the 18-year-old delinquent did indeed weasel out of any charges and escaped prosecution by joining the Alabama National Guard about two weeks later. Very soon the 1st Infantry of the Alabama Guard was sent to Nogales, Arizona. He is listed proudly in the local newspaper among the county boys who joined up. The young recruit was deployed outside of the jurisdiction of the Alabama authorities in support of General Pershing’s pursuit of Poncho Villa into Mexico. If his mother Mary had hoped her wayward son would learn some disciple in the army, she was soon to be disappointed. His new associates were rather shady and prone to dissolution. Many of the recruits in his unit were young men who had never before had any money nor been out from under the watchful gaze of their families. In Nogales the Alabama National Guardsmen earned a reputation for prodigality, drunkenness, brawling, and frequenting the bordellos on the border. Gen. Edward H. Plummer remarked of these boys, “In time of war, send me all the Alabamians you can get, but in time of peace, for Lord’s sake, send them to somebody else!”

After about a year on the border, Pvt. Holland was discharged (2 May 1917) because of his dependent relatives (probably his widowed mother.) Another Alabama guardsman was discharged at the same time who would play an important part in his future, Sam Cotton of Ozark, Alabama. Pvt. Cotton had a sister Ann Marie Cotton who would become Mrs. Sam Holland a few years later. But civilian life was not for Samuel Britt when a war was raging and there was a chance for adventure. While his former unit was mobilized and absorbed into the 31st “Dixie” Division of the U/S. Army, Holland enlisted on 26 April 1918 in the newly formed 48th Infantry, a mechanized infantry unit of the regular Army. There he may have received training in automotive repair and maintenance that he would exploit later.

Camp Sevier, South Carolina where the 48th Infantry was posted in late 1918.

According to regimental history and roster reports listing Samuel B. Holland (Service Number 814232), the 48th was posted to New York to perform guard duty. Soon he was promoted to the rank of Corporal in June but was transferred to Camp Sevier, South Carolina for training. A few months later his rank was reduced again for unknown reasons. It appears that his training was not complete before the armistice on 11 Nov 1918 and he did not transport to France as he expected. Private Holland was honorably discharged on 22 January 1919.

 We can infer that Sam Holland and Ann Marie Cotton married after his return from the Army sometime in the spring of 1919 since, 38 weeks later, their child Charles Wimberley Holland was born (8 Jan 1920) just in time for the trio to appear in the 1920 census, living next door to Ann Marie’s parents and Sam Holland’s comrade from Nogales, Sam Cotton.

Bad Choices Beget Bad Consequences

Sam B. Holland found work in Panama City, Florida in a garage associated with an automobile dealership. It was there that he developed an acquaintance with a young man recently released from the notorious Alabama Industrial School for Boys. It was an unfortunate choice of pal for Sam. I have pieced together from contemporary newspaper accounts and other documents the tale of the shocking events that transpired in 1920.

Leslie Lammon appears from reports to have been a “hard case.” He had been arrested and incarcerated several times for grand larceny as well as for manslaughter. This freckled faced youth of 19 (in 1920) belied the evil influence he apparently exerted on the older (21-year-old) Holland.  These two auto mechanics were fired in mid-May 1920, possibly for some larcenous plan gone awry. Stranded in Panama City, Florida, the pair hatched an impulsive and ill-conceived scheme to steal an automobile and drive home to Dale County, Alabama. A person in his right mind would have seen that such an escapade would not end well. The newspapers tell how the two partners in crime appeared one rainy Sunday evening (possibly inebriated) on the doorstep of Alice Canty’s boarding house east of downtown Panama City in the predominantly black Millville district. Widow Canty was an Afro-American entrepreneur who had recently purchased a fine new vehicle. Perhaps they knew of her through their contact in the car repair and maintenance business where they worked. The boys spun a yarn to the sympathetic matron about being stuck a few mile out of Millville. They asked to “borrow” her new vehicle, a 1920 Sullivan Salient 6 similar to the vintage model in the photograph to retrieve the ladies they had left alone in the fictional auto.

1920 Model Sullivan Salient 6. Photo courtesy of Oldtimers.com. Lammon sat in the front seat beside the victim who drove, while Holland rode in the rear seat with the chaperone who survived.

Mrs. Canty declined to loan her vehicle, but her daughter volunteered to chauffer the white boys back to their vehicle and pull them out of the hole they claimed to be stuck in. Rosa Canty Kirkland was 23 and a professional driver as was her mother Alice, according to the 1920 Census. As a nod to propriety, Mrs. Bessie King, a boarder, volunteered to ride along as chaperone.

What we can glean from various published accounts, a few miles north of town, Rosa began to get suspicious and threatened to turn back. At that point Lammon pulled out a pistol and threatened her. Rosa lept from the seat and ran. Lammon fired at her retreating figure. The bullet grazed Rosa’s skull and she pitched forward. Leslie D. Lammon fell upon her, violently stabbing Mrs. Kirkland’s unconscious body. When Bessie tried to stop him, Lammon cut her as well. Then he turned on her. Bessie later reported according to the Bay County Sheriff that, at that point, Holland intervened, chivalrously putting himself between the injured Bessie and her assailant; thus, Sam sustained wounds also from the hand of Leslie. Apparently Sam was able to calm Lammon enough that the trio with the—now deceased—Mrs. Kirkland’s body in tow climbed back into the car and drove north. At some point Sam persuaded Lammon to try to get Bessie medical attention. Sam had an Uncle Sterling Price Holland living near Dothan who was a physician. Sam is reported to have suggested they head there to seek triage for Bessie, who was bleeding severely. They proceeded north toward Columbia, Alabama, perhaps passing through Greenwood, Florida near where Sam’s father met his end just five years earlier. About halfway to Columbia the vehicle crossed Cowart’s Creek. The two men pulled the corpse from the backseat and tossed it into the creek bed.  Failing to find Dr. Holland at home, they left Miss King in the care of some “colored” neighbors and continued north. That family, of course, notified the Sheriff, who soon apprehended Lammon and Holland in Columbia.

The pair were indicted and brought to trial in Panama City, Florida, but not before they made a jail break and went on the lam. That escapade lasted only a few hours before the jail birds were re-captured. In November the perpetrators of the “most heinous crime in recent memory” as the newspapers opined were to come to trial. In a last-ditch effort to subvert justice some compatriots of Holland and Lammon set fire to the Bay Count Courthouse. The building was gutted by the arson but the trial was not delayed. Instead the court moved down the street to the theater, where the arguments were heard and the two were convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to life in prison, 19 Nov 1920.

The partners in crime rode—manacled—to the Florida State Penitentiary in Raiford, Florida. The prison is legendary for the “chain gangs” that worked the prison farm. After two years, Sam petitioned for a pardon from the Board of Pardon and Parole according to the Tampa Times newspaper. Apparently it was denied since his name was not among those granted release in a follow-up story a few days later. Perhaps it was galling to Sam that in 1925, Leslie D. Lammon was more successful when he was pardoned “because of his youth at the time of the crime.” We deduce, however, that Leslie did not escape prison unscathed. Years later when he registered for the draft, his paralysis was noted. Ultimately he died of a stroke but only after living as a free man with his father and mother, Archie and Lula Lammon, for years. He continued working as an auto mechanic in Montgomery, Alabama it appears. He returned briefly to a life of crime (along with his brother Olin) in the late 1930s, serving a few months for auto thief. Nevertheless, he survived until 1961, when he died in Houston, Texas at the age of 60.

Sam, meanwhile, was tortured by misfortune. His beloved mother, Mary Cornelia died in early November, 1923, likely from injuries she sustained in a sensational train wreck the month before in which she was (erroneously) reported to have died along with a cousin Fanny Holland, whom he may have been close to; we surmise this relationship because he listed a Fanny Holland as a “sister” on his draft registration. The railroad accident resulted from an L&N colliding with a sight-seeing excursion train near Greenwood, Florida. The irony is sobering in that Mary Cornelia was injured in an accident occurring near the site of the murder of her husband, less than nine years earlier. One report reveals that she was occupied by a small child. It could have been Charles W. Holland who would have been about three at the time. Charles’ granddaughter claimed that he was Sweet Mama’s “pick” of her grandchildren. A few weeks later Sam was transferred from prison to the care of the psychiatric of the Veterans Hospital in Fayetteville, Arkansas according to military records. The following May 1924, Marie Holland sued Sam B Holland for divorce. A story shared with the author by one of Sam Holland’s great grandchildren confirmed that Marie Cotton (Holland) Pouncey remained estranged from her ex-husband until her death. Indeed, the family story is that the former Mrs. Holland instructed the black nanny of her child, Charles Wimberley Holland, that the “mammy” should hide the child from Sam if he ever came around. Charles’ granddaughter surmised that her great grandmother’s stipulation arose out of a fear that, due to Sam’s alleged bad character and mental health issues, he might harm the child, physically or psychologically.

I have learned from one of Charles’ granddaughters that ultimately Sam did reach out to re-connect with his grown son later in life, possibly in the 1940s and 50s. The granddaughter reported that her granddad Charles retold her fantastical-sounding tales that seemed dubious to her: stories of World War I exploits on the border with Mexico [true]; membership in the French Foreign Legion [probably a hyperbolic extrapolation of service in the France-bound 48th Infantry of US Army]; an arrest for stealing meat and jumping bail [true]; a conviction for murder [true]; incarceration in prison [true]; his commitment to the insane asylum in the VA Hospital [true]; a second family with a “Mexican lady” [probably a confabulation arising from Sam’s exploits in Arizona or an actual second unconfirmed marriage].   When I shared the documentary evidence with my correspondent, she was flabbergasted at the veracity of much she had completely discounted as tall tales. Still some stories beggar belief.

His story was not fully told, however, since the 1940 US Census lists Samuel Britt Holland as an “inmate” in the VA Hospital in North Little Rock, Arkansas. It further identified him as “married,” apparently not to Marie Cotton, however. This may be an error or wishful exaggeration or may suggest an unidentified spouse. While, it is possible that sometime between about 1930 and 1940, Sam did indeed meet and marry a “Mexican lady,” whose identity currently eludes us. A recent interview with Sam’s great niece who knew him in his final years undermines this idea, however. According to William Edward Holland’s (Sam’s brother’s) granddaughter, Sam remained true to Marie Ann Cotton the rest of his life. She knew of no other family except his ex-wife Marie Cotton and Charles W.  Holland. On the other hand she recalls calling Charles’ sister “in Texas,” a fact that suggests that Charless’ had at least one half-sibling. If any additional information comes to light we will amend this essay with any revelations. l

As our knowledge stands at the present, Sam only appears in documents in the period from 1940 until 1975 mentioned in the aforementioned census of 1940 of the VA Hospital in North Little Rock, Arkansas and as a survivor in two obituaries of siblings as “in the Veterans Hospital” (1952) or residing in “Tuscaloosa” (presumably at the VA Hospital in 1966).  The latter inference is consistent with Sam’s grandniece’s account that he had lived in the VA Hospital in Tuscaloosa “for years.” In fact, she recounted how she had to “move heaven and earth” to get the VA to release him to the private nursing home Oakview Manor in Ozark, Alabama, the VA-approved nursing home nearest to her residence at the time. She visited him often and showed great kindness to him. As she told the story, Sam said that he had sustained a gunshot wound to his head during the war and had a plate up there, a statement she took at face value and never checked out. When he was wounded—he told her—he was at first presumed dead. He told how he had been thrown on the charnel wagon where he languished for over twenty-four hours among the corpses. Later his comrades were alerted by his moans and rescued him. According to her “Uncle Sam Holland” he had been in hospital ever since that day. However, based on Sam’s military records that report that he was not wounded in action, not disabled, and never served abroad, this story appears to be a fabrication designed to arouse sympathy and compassion in his caregivers. Or it could have been a fantasy that Sam truly believed, a product of a faulty memory. Apparently, the ruse was believable, because my correspondent was shocked and incredulous when I reported what I had uncovered of his early life. She dismissed at first what my research had uncovered as “trash” and malicious lies. The facts that I shared she derided as surely being those of another Sam Holland, not her beloved Great Uncle.  Thus, it became clear to me that I risk causing great offense among some of my family by shining a light into the dark corners of our family history and reporting what I find there, especially if it contradicts long-held, tender memories of a person. Nil nisi bonum,indeed.

Some might suggest that my dark biographies are slanderous and unfair, since the subject is powerless to defend himself. Although one cannot be held liable by Common Law for slandering the dead, I–nevertheless–hope to report accurately the facts. What is certain is the man my cousin knew in his sixties and seventies was a broken man but still a kind gentleman. He told her (and the VA reported to her, as she shared with to me) that he had been continuously under the care of the VA since he first entered the hospital.  Moreover, her anecdotes confirmed to me that he suffered from the effects of past trauma. Once when she and her father, Sam’s nephew, took the old veteran on an excursion to Ft. Rucker for the July 4th fireworks, he became extremely upset when the explosions began.  It seemed as if he were reliving some horrible, presumably wartime, experience in the concussions of the aerial display. Today we would describe what she recounted as PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. But I wonder if it was the stress of his war experiences (real or imagined) or of the tragic events that led to his imprisonment and the hardships of prison life that rendered Sam incapable of living in society?  In any case, Samuel Britt Holland was subject to a true life sentence of institutional incarceration (at least intermittently) beginning in about 1920 until the day he died in 1975. His was a life sentence without possibility of parole.

During our inquiry we were able to acquire a copy of Samuel Britt Holland’s death certificate that reveals that he spent his last years (at least from the spring of 1974) in the Oakview Manor Nursing Home of Ozark, Alabama, succumbing at last to congestive heart failure possibly as a consequent of Alcohol Dependence Syndrome (i.e. Alcoholism) in his youth or a genetic predisposition to the disease that also resulted in his dotage in Arteriosclerosis and Cardio-Vascular-Renal Disease complicated further in the end by pneumonia and uremia. Sam breathed his last at 10:40 a.m. on 15 Jan 1975 at age 76 in the Dale County Hospital in Ozark, Alabama only a few miles from my relatives in Dothan.  At the time I was in Texas laboring away in graduate school and was oblivious to my great uncle’s troubles or even his existence.  Mercifully, he did know some kindness at the hands of my second cousins.

But Wait! There’s more

I thought that I might have reached the end of Samuel Britt Holland’s sad story, but when I searched more widely among newspaper articles, I ultimately came across three other men with the same name as my great uncle, a Sam Sr, a Sam Jr, and a Sam III.  I was surprised to discover these individuals who shared the identical moniker with my relative. Who might these individuals be? I pursued the connection until I uncovered that they are indeed my 3rd cousins, descendants of one James Otho Holland (1888-1982), a 1st cousin to my grandmother (their fathers were brothers); James was born in 16 Nov 1888 in Abbeville, Alabama, just four months after and 18 miles away from the site of my maternal grandmother’s nativity. The two cousins surely were acquainted. James must have known his Uncles Samuel Hilburn Holland (also of Abbeville, Alabama) and Britt Holland (Samuel Britt’s uncle of Columbia,, Alabama) both of whom died the same pre-Christmas week in 1915, one by homicide and the other by illness. My Great Uncle Samuel Britt was apparently named both in honor of his father (as was I) and his Uncle Britt. Cousin James was very likely also aware of his Sam Holland’s exploits and misadventures.  Sam’s troubles were widely reported and were also probably the subject of family gossip. From accounts of his grandfather James Otho, I learned that James the cousin was of a like-mind and spirit as my grandmother’s brother, fond of strong drink and given to impulsive violence and often devoid of inhibition.

From newspaper accounts I confirmed that James Holland exhibited a violent impulsiveness and disinhibition, especially when inebriated. On one occasion, an article reported, at the age of 81, he suffered a broken shoulder blade and cuts to his face and ear (from his own knife in the hands of the alleged assailant) when he instigated a drunken altercation with another patron of a bar. In addition, James’ grandson told me the story that his father had told him of Grandpa Holland’s excessive alcohol use and his violence. Once, as he (allegedly) chanced to see a neighbor pass on the sidewalk outside, he dashed from the house shouting “I am going to kill that woman!”  Reputedly a Dixie cup half-filled with grain alcohol was an essential part of his morning wakeup ritual. In 1920, about the time of Sam Holland and Leslie Lammon’s trial, James Otho Holland lived in Noma, Florida, sixty miles and about one to two hour’s drive from the Bay County Courthouse in Panama City. James Otho Holland seems capable of arson, although no physical evidence has ever come to light that he was among the friends of my Great Uncle Samuel Britt Holland who ignited the courthouse. Such a suspicion is consistent with a tale from James’ youth in which he reputedly built a fire around a stubborn ox intending to rouse the brute to rising to pull a cart but that, instead, resulted in the beast’s immolation. Whatever his culpability, clearly, James admired his cousin, for in 1961 he named a son in honor of his still-living relative who resided in the VA hospital in Tuscaloosa, as well as for his two long-deceased uncles, Samuel Hilburn and Britt Holland.

These salacious anecdotes of our ancestors may cause us embarrassment and some discomfort. In fact, the truth may have been obscured. Samuel Britt Holland (1898) exhibited from time to time a cavalier approach to reality. Recall how he implicated his coconspirators in a false kidnap plot when he was a youth. Later, he lied to Mrs. Canty to get access to her fine automobile. (Unfortunately for all, events did not go to plan.) The tall tales that Sam told his son strained the truth and the listener’s credibility. So we should not be surprised to hear that Uncle Sam repainted his past with a more flattering brush than brutal honesty would. Of course, we feel at least a tinge of shame at their outrageous behavior.  Revisionist memories are much easier to live with.

Things Unspoken

In every family there are things that are not discussed or are whispered. So it is in my family. These stories are the proverbial skeletons in the closet, I suppose. Nevertheless, I believe that we do better not to suppress knowledge of past unpleasant events in our family histories or airbrush the imperfections of our antecedents. If we are not clear eyed and honest, we risk preserving memories that border on hagiography which render our patriarchs as paper saints rather than the real broken, but precious people they were. While imperfect humans, they are our ancestors to whom we are beholden. Furthermore, we risk missing the lessons of the cautionary tales of their lives. Alcoholism and mental illness are as heritable as a propensity for heart disease, I have read. Genetics accounts for 30 to 70 percent of a predisposition to such diseases. Hopefully we view, nowadays, these traits more as disabilities rather than as moral failings. On the other hand, we are not fated by our genes to anti-social behavior or an inevitable coronary. Our early life experiences and our intentional choices are also significant in our development.

As I have examined the circumstances of the lives of my forebears, I have become slower to judge than I was before. Samuel Hilburn Holland and his son, Samuel Britt Holland were born into an age of violence. They experienced loss and struggles that I do not know. What is more, they each probably inherited a strong propensity for substance dependence and for impulsive and disinhibited behavior that manifested in aggressiveness and belligerence.  Of course, as one wag has noted, “a tendency to violent aggressiveness in obviously genetic since the majority of violent offenders have a Y chromosome,” that is they are male and subject to the hormone testosterone. But forewarned is fore-prepared. I have observed a high incidence of substance dependence (alcoholism and psychotropic drug dependence) in a significant fraction of my relatives who are also descendants of Thomas Holland and Emeline Holland nee Holland. (Yes, they were half first cousins, sharing Moses Holland as a grandfather, but with different grandmothers. This is a co-sanguinity which was common in the 19th century but evoked an “Eewwww!” from my granddaughters when they heard of it.) Thomas and Emeline were grandparents of both James Otho Holland and of my grandmother. Whether this is relevant is unclear, but it is a fact.

Knowing what I now know, I am both saddened and grateful. I grieve the pain my ancestors endured and inflicted on others. I cannot excuse their guilt but I can better understand what led them down a path to destruction. At the same time I can forgive them their broken humanity and say “except by the grace of God there go I.” Thus, I am grateful for all those who endured and survived to give life to their offspring. I resolve not to let the lesson of their struggles be in vain. I resolve to be wiser and kinder and repudiate hatred and dissolution. I take heart at something Anne Lamott, the motivational writer, frequently reminds us: “Grace bats last.” As I completed this essay, I heard an addendum from my cousin who was Uncle Sam’s last familial caregiver; it is something of a benediction. She told me that near the end, she shared her faith in God and invited Uncle Sam to seek God’s forgiveness. He did so, privately confessing “his many sins.” I hope that it brought him comfort as he faced the darkness.

As a consequence of my investigations, too, I have been inspired to propose a new, replacement motto: Nil nisi verum, [Of the dead speak] nothing but the truth. Thus, we will truly honor their memory and really know them, perhaps for the first time.

The tombstone marking Samuel Britt Holland’s grave in Dothan, Alabama.


I would be remiss if I did not express my appreciation and gratitude for several individuals who generously shared their recollections of their grandparents and the stories that they have preserved about Samuel Britt Holland. To preserve their privacy I will not name them but I acknowledge my indebtedness to them, nonetheless. Their memories are their own; on the other hand, the conclusions I draw in this essay, however accurate or erroneous, are the responsibility of the author alone.

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OBE: Overtaken by Events

I do not like to admit it, but I was wrong—not wrong about everything but incorrect in one particular: the identification of my 2x great grandmother. I had (along with several other genealogists) said she was Elizabeth Williams. In fact, in a previous post I had spun a beautiful story of unfulfilled love that fit the data I had at the time, viz. Thomas Spenser Dew, my 2x great grandfather, was married to a woman named Elizabeth, born about 1816, in Georgia. (This is established fact, documented by the 1850 and 1860 US Population Censuses.) I erred in my mistaken hypothesis, however, because I accepted two misleading bits of evidence (1) the existence of a marriage bond made in Granville County, North Carolina.for Thomas “Due” and Elizabeth Williams signed in 1832 (when our Elizabeth of Burke County, Georgia would have been 16 years of age and three years before Thomas Spenser headed to Georgia in late 1835); and (2) the absence of any documentary evidence of an Elizabeth Atkinson, as our ancestor. Of course, Miss Atkinson had been rumored to be Thomas’ wife in family lore (viz. the recollections of my Mother Audrey and of Ruth Dew “Aunt Sister” Moates, my eldest maternal aunt. See figure 1). Then I laid my hands on the church record of the Little Buck Head Baptist Church (hereafter abbreviated LBHBC) via Interlibrary Loan from the archives at Mercer University. In the process, I re-confirmed the adage “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,” much to my embarrassment.

From family Bible given to my Ma Bertia by my mother Audrey Moates Matteson in 1958.
 Figure 1—The notes of my Aunt Ruth called “Sister” and my mother Audrey that identify their grandmother as Elizabeth Adkinson
and Martha Atkinson, respectively.

What I saw in the image on the microfilm reader as I sat in the Nashville Public Library Special Collections excited my imagination. On the flyleaf of the minutes book was the signature of Thomas S. Dew among the other church clerks who had possession of the book during their tenure. My grandfather’s grandfather was indeed a man of import in the Burke County, Georgia church and was a literate, educated individual. Furthermore, in the early pages of the record that began on July 4, 1835 at the establishment of the congregation, I found that in the meeting of 12 Aug 1837 Thomas Dew joined LBHBC in the company of kinsmen Mills Peel and Mill’s son Levi Peel. These gentlemen were Thomas’ suspected Uncle and 1st Cousin, respectively, who had also relocated from Edgecombe County, North Carolina in late 1835-early 1836 as did Thomas.

Elizabeth Atkinson Found!

Then I saw a name that stunned me! The minutes of the 7 Oct 1837 meeting, not quite two months later, recorded the fact that two ladies joined the congregation: Elizabeth Atkinson and Harriet Atkinson.  I believe them to be sisters and the daughters of Sarah Atkinson, whom I have subsequently deduced to be the widow of Jeremiah John Atkinson. Moreover, Sarah was born a Brinson, sharing a surname with many in the congregation.  I had encountered Harriet earlier in my research. She married Levi Peel in July 1838. Is it possible that this is the Elizabeth, her sister, whom Thomas would marry on 28 February the same year as well?  If so, then Harriet would be both his cousin by marriage and his sister-in-law, as well. We also note that the girls’ mother Sarah Atkinson was a founding member #10 of the church.

It is a very real possibility. When Thomas prepared to leave the church to remove to Alabama, after he had been licensed and ordained, he requested a letter of dismissal (6 Dec 1847) for “Thos. Dew and his wife.” Thus, his wife “Elizabeth” was clearly also a member of the church. There is no specific mention of any marriage ceremony, nor the joining of a Mrs. Dew or any other Dew in the congregation. Thus, we must look to the membership list to find the most likely Elizabeth who had joined as a single adult under her maiden name. In the Baptist faith tradition, each individual may enter the covenantal family of the church by their statement of faith, or—following baptism by immersion as an adult—a letter of dismissal in good standing from their former congregation. See figure 2 for a facsimile and transcription of the first page of the membership list. Thomas S. Dew appears as number 41 in the company of Mills and Levi Peel, respectively his uncle and first cousin.  Two months later (according to the minutes of the church) Elizabeth Atkinson became member number 54 with her sister Harriet.

Portion of membership list (in chronological order) of Little Buck Head Baptist Church, Burke County Georgia (1835-1855) with a transcription in which Thomas S. Dew (member #41) and Elizabeth Atkinson (#54) are highlighted in red. The super/subscripts dist or dead or Excomm were added later to indicate the ultimate disposition of the member, namely (1) dismissed in good standing by “letter,” (2) died or was (3) excommunicated in church discipline, respectively. No notation suggests that he individual was still a member in 1855 when the minutes were closed.

A careful accounting of the membership by comparing the list with the minutes of each meeting that notes who “came forward” reveals that six women named Elizabeth joined Little Buck Head Baptist Church in this period. The “Elizabeths” of LBHBC are as follows:

Elizabeth Atkinson #53 joined 7 Oct 1837 dis’d       [as Mrs Dew?]
Elizabeth Wallace #76 joined 11 Aug 1838 [presumably a member until after 1855]
Elizabeth Williams #97 joined 11 Dec 1841             [Williams! But not our Elizabeth, joined after
Thomas married Elizabeth Atkinson 1838]
Elizabeth Brinson #30/#116 joined 11 Jun 1836/dis’d 9 Apr 1842 [rejoined post 1844]
Elizabeth Forehand #163 joined post 1844 [presumed wife of William C. Forehand #162]
Elizabeth Thorn #172 joined post 1844 [Unmarried in 1850, daughter of Middleton Thorn]

There is no Elizabeth, save Miss Atkinson, who joined before the date of Thomas S. Dew’s and Elizabeth’s marriage in February 1838 with the exception of Elizabeth Brinson, the later of whom was dismissed in 1842 under her maiden name and rejoined after 1844. Thus, it is highly likely that this Elizabeth Atkinson was the bride of the North Carolinian émigré.

Occam’s Razor to the Rescue

There is a principle of decision theory called Occam’s razor which holds that when choosing the preferred hypothesis between two theories that fit the data, the simpler of the pair is most often the closer to the truth. In my previous post I had attempted to account for Elizabeth of the 1850 and 1860 censuses being born in 1816 and claiming Georgia as her birth place and having the maiden name of Williams. Thus, I concocted what I now consider an elaborate fiction. The less convoluted narrative is that the “Thomas Due” and Elizabeth Williams of Granville County, North Carolina of the marriage bond were a different couple than Thomas S. Dew of Edgecombe County, North Carolina and Elizabeth Atkinson of Burke County, Georgia, who are, thus, my ancestors. I was duped by a case of mistaken identity. What is more, our Thomas Spenser Dew was very literate and was particular about the spelling of his name. Here are several examples of his signature from about the time in question. (See figure below).

Exemplars of the signature of Thomas Spenser Dew. The first from the fly leaf of the church records dated “1842 Dec the 10 [th] day” when he took possession of the book as church clerk. The next three are samples from the minutes that he habitually signed at the end of each entry. The final two are from his personal testimony, written in his own hand over several years.

The marriage bond made in 1832 between “Thomas (X) Due” and his bride Elizabeth Williams is signed only with “His mark.” Thus, the X in our designation of him. (See next figure.) This Thomas was most probably illiterate and could not write or spell his name. In a subsequent post I will attempt to identify this Thomas. In any case, he is NOT Thomas S. Dew, I now believe, not only because of the advanced state of Rev Dew’s literacy but also because of the awkward timeline of the matrimonies. It seems implausible that Thomas S. Dew would have married Elizabeth Williams in 1832 only to relocate to Georgia alone over 300 miles away three years later and marry another Elizabeth so soon. Indeed, Thomas S. was apparently single when he joined LBHBC in 1837 as there is no record of a “Sister Dew” at that time. It is more likely that Thomas (X) Due/Dew married an Elizabeth Williams (of unknown age). We will explore their potential identities in a subsequent post. In any case, it now seems much more likely that Thomas Spenser Dew did NOT marry Elizabeth Williams.

The signature of Thomas (x) Due/Dew on the marriage with Elizabeth Williams. Incidentally, note that Anderson Bailey, Penny Bailey Haswell Dew’s cousin was literate and could sign his name.

Therefore, I owe my mother and aunt an apology for my rather out-of-hand dismissal of their communications. The family story, however, is not without error. My 2x great grandmother’s name was indeed Elizabeth (not “Martha” as my mother reported) with a maiden name of Atkinson (not “Adkinson” as my aunt reported).

Moreover, I have deduced that the Elizabeth of Georgia was the child of Sarah Brinson Atkinson and Jeremiah John Atkinson of Burke County, based on a wide range of admittedly circumstantial evidence. For example, the Dews had an affinity for the families Atkinson and Brinson as is often the case among rural ancestral communities. Elizabeth also had other close relations in the church, if my deductions are accurate: for example, her aforementioned sister Harriet Drusilla Atkinson Peel; brothers Alexander W. Atkinson and John Atkinson, the latter of whom I believe sheltered the couple in 1840.

Thomas S and Elizabeth Dew May Have Lived with Brother John Atkinson in 1840

Interestingly, in the 1840 census no Dew family appears on the enumeration for Burke County, Georgia. Thomas reported in his witness that his house burned in January of that year and subsequently he worked for John Atkinson. An examination of the 1830 census reveals John Atkinson living alone, but in 1840 he shared his home, in addition to his wife “Mahuldah” aka Huldah (known from the membership list of LBHBC and the 1850 and subsequent censuses), with another man and woman of ages consistent with those of Thomas (b. 1808) and Elizabeth (b. 1816). In 1850 the guests (presumably the Dew family) had moved on, showing up in the census of Ozark, Dale County, Alabama, with three daughters: Sarah Ann and Ruth Ann, both born in Georgia, and Martha A., an infant born in Alabama the year before.

Recently, two documents have come to my attention that place Thomas S. Dew in Burke County, Georgia until the beginning of 1849, namely a survey order and a deed for about 100 acres near Millen on the Burke County-Screven County line adjacent to the land of Daniel Brinson, probably one of Elizabeth’s maternal cousins. Why the Dew family departed Georgia and moved southwest to Dale County, Alabama is unclear at this time. But in the census next year Thomas had real estate listed at a value of $500, presumably the parcel southeast of Millen, Georgia.

A More Straightforward Tale

While I confess by chagrin at having put forth what turns out to be an elaborate conspiracy theory, I acknowledge it that has been a way of life for me as a scientist over the decades of my professional career: propose a hypothesis that explains the data, one that is falsifiable and then proceed with it until it is OBE (Overtaken By Events), that is, until it is shown to be contrary to reality. Taking the new data into account and applying Occam’s razor we are led to the conclusion that the narrative in this part of Thomas Spenser Dew’s life is much more straightforward than I reported earlier.

In late 1835, after the death of his mother Sarah Peel Dew, Thomas, age 27 relocated with his Uncle and family to the rich farmer land of Burke County, Georgia. Soon after arriving Thomas met Elizabeth Atkinson, daughter of the family of the widow Sarah Atkinson, perhaps as a consequence of his employment by Elizabeth’s brother John in 1837.  Their attendance at the new church (Little Buck Head Baptist Church) without doubt gave them opportunity to see each other and to begin courting. At the same time Thomas’ cousin Levi Peel began courting Harriet, Elizabeth’s sister. In February 1838, after Thomas had secured a job as a clerk in a shop in town (possibly Millen) the couple was married, followed a few months later by Levi and Harriet’s nuptials. The Dews settled into married life in their own (rented) home until January 1840 when their house caught fire and burned all they had. With the support and care of family the two were able to weather the disaster, however, and rebuild their fortunes, adding daughters Sarah in 1842 and Ruth (my great grandmother) in 1846. Apparently, Thomas prospered as a farmer since he was able within a few years to homestead his own 100 acre place. At the same time his involvement in the affairs of the congregation on Little Buck Head Creek grew as did his skill as an orator. In 1842 he became the Clerk of the church, often called upon to represent the church with other brothers in the association meetings. Within five years he “heard the call” and was licensed to preach, and on 9 May 1847 he was ordained by the congregation a minister of the gospel. The church house remains from those days as a monument to the piety of the saints Thomas knew. (See contemporary photographs of the Buck Head Baptist Church meeting house and interior built in 1855 on the site of the previous church house.)

Exterior of Buck Head Baptist Church, Jenkins (ealier Burke) County, Georgia built 1855.
Recent photographs of the exterior and interior of the historic Buck Head Church in Jenkins (formerly Burke) County, Georgia. The building was constructed in 1855, after the Dews had departed the area. It was Thomas S. Dew who stood in meeting i1n the 1840s to propose that the church become incorporated.

I can imagine how that, in 1849, Thomas heard the “Macedonian Call: Come over and help us!” Perhaps the call came from an itinerant preacher who brought word of the need for preachers in the developing frontier of Alabama; perhaps it came as a letter from a friend. For example, the town of Newton had been founded less than five years earlier and lay just south of the settlement then known as “Woodshop” later renamed “Ozark.” In this spot the Dews planted their growing family, . This was an actual frontier of development, and opportunity, both in commerce and in evangelism. Whatever the precise details, it is clear that Thomas uprooted his family from the comfortable surroundings of Burke County where Elizabeth had grown up and transplanted them to Dale County just in time for Martha to be born an Alabamian.

There the Dew family labored in the vineyard of the Lord for a decade, leaving a legacy in the Ozark Baptist Church that is still remembered, until in 1860 they moved again to the fateful locale of Eucheeanna in Walton County, Florida. There my great grandparents (James Marion Moates and Ruth Ann Dew) would meet and later marry as I have detailed in a previous post.

A New Family Tree and New Cousins

Because I have been properly chastened by new-found information, I now offer humbly a revised identification of Elizabeth Atkinson as Thomas’ spouse. Subsequently, I constructed a more accurate family tree in Ancestry.com. As a consequence, scores of fourth, fifth, and sixth cousins have popped up among my DNA Matches, individuals who are related to me and my family via the ancestors of Sarah Brinson Atkinson and Jeremiah John Atkinson. I believe that we have—at last—solved the mystery of Thomas Spenser Dew’s wives. Thomas only had two mates: Elizabeth Atkinson (m 1838- d. about 1865) and Caroline Slay Dew (m. 1870-d. 1872). Penny Bailey Haswell Dew and Elizabeth “Betsie” Williams Dew were the wives of another Thomas Dew/Due whose identity I will explore in a subsequent post.

I am grateful that I had the opportunity to view the original documents and capture a sense of Rev Dew, a man previously shrouded in the mists of vague family legend. Like a fresh breeze clears the fog, new information has permitted me to catch a clearer glimpse of who this man really was and to come to know him as a real person, not merely as an ephemeral collection of pixels in an heirloom on-line image. In the same way, I hope that you, dear reader, will see him. I believe that then it will have been worth the effort—despite my embarrassing missteps—to find him and my long unknown great great grandmother Elizabeth Atkinson Dew. She was herself also a person of remarkable resilience and courage, who followed her peripatetic husband like the patriarch Abraham’s wife Sarah, moving always to the unknown frontier from her comfortable and familiar circle of home and kin.

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