America’s genealogical search began in earnest about 1995 when widespread Internet information became available. Before that time people had to go to genealogical libraries, visit the Mormon’s vast information base either through local Microfiche or by going to Salt Lake City. However at this point in time, most Internet researchers have found most of the people that are findable. What’s happening now is that people are starting to look for and post information of a personal nature about their ancestors. Such information takes more digging than just using a search engine to find someone. It takes looking at letters and journals and books and Bibles and even interviewing older relatives to discover the stories that go with the people. This part of the search is also a lot of fun and very interesting. It is also helpful to others, because genealogists of the amateur variety like me have been the ones who found all the information in the first place and who are now connecting families. Without that individual research, Ancestry.com could not exist!
After finding 42,500 living or dead relatives, the “looking for stories” is where I am now.
Doing this hobby has brought many interesting people into my life. I’ve found out about a step-grandmother I never knew I had, as well as an aunt and a slew of cousins that came with her! They’ve traveled from the West Coast to come to see me, and their visit was a grand time. I’ve recently had a visit from yet another second cousin that I would not have known had it not been for my genealogical search on the Internet.
Because relatives know of my interests, I’ve become the repository for old Bibles and newspaper articles, photographs, and letters. There’s nothing more exciting (well almost nothing) than seeing an actual photograph of one’s great grandfather and grandmother or a great great grandfather and grandmother, or learning of a chapel at Valley Forge where there’s a plaque with my fourth great grandfather’s name on it honoring his service as a Revolutionary War soldier from Rhode Island. Without the Internet, I would never have been able to see these pictures or know the stories.
Most important, though, is finding out what’s in my genes because the traits over time are obvious and display themselves from generation to generation.
My purpose here is to share some of the stories of my family.
I am related to the Ames family through my father’s grandmother, Elizabeth Walker Ames. The Ames family is an old, revered family from Massachusetts. Probably the most famous members are Nathaniel Ames and Fisher Ames.
My father actually knew my Great Grandmother Elizabeth Walker Ames Carlisle and told us about her many times. Unfortunately memories fade, and all I can remember is that in her old age, she was blind. I’m guessing she probably had cataracts. Elizabeth came from a distinguished family. Her father, John Lee Ames, who was married to Charlotte Hardaway Watson, was a Methodist minister and a tanner. He had grown up in Ohio, and he married a Southern girl. When the Civil War came along, he moved his family to Alabama and then Mississippi. Legend has it that he was still a Yankee sympathizer and moved to the South so that he could use his talents as a tanner to help the Union soldiers by making them shoes, as well as help to establish the Underground Railroad in Mississippi.
That story might seem far fetched, but if one learns about John Lee’s ancestors, one finds that his grandfather, about whom his family was very proud, had served in the American Revolution. He was a true patriot. For those of you who have never thought about the meaning of the word patriot, it designates someone who puts his Country above all other countries showing respect, dedication and love for it. Here is Sylvanus Ames’ story:
Sylvanus Ames, Patriot
In 1777, my fourth great grandfather, Sylvanus Ames, joined the Revolutionary War by serving as a chaplain, or so the story goes.
However, there’s a mystery here. Sylvanus Ames (1742-1778) attended Harvard and graduated in 1767 with a Bachelor’s degree. Everyone who went to Harvard in those days “majored” in religion, and specifically the Episcopal religion. As was tradition, if one became a minister as Sylvanus did, he also received at the end of the third year in the ministry, his Master’s from Harvard. Ministers in those days were the center of the community–the best educated, and the ones who interpreted and provided a frame of reference of life’s events for the people.
After that initial service, the recipient of those degrees could stay in the ministry or go into some other field. Sylvanus Ames, decided to stay in the ministry and was the Rector Emeritus of the Trinity Episcopal Church in Taunton, Massachusetts. (Unfortunately, I can find no record of the church building at the present time.) He served from 1767 until he joined the Army of the Revolution. A reasonable conclusion would be that Sylvanus was a chaplain in Washington’s army.
There is a mystery, though, concerning the fact that Sylvanus’s role as a “chaplain” is questioned by the Daughters of the American Revolution.
I recently was admitted to that organization, and they are careful about the lineage of their members. I circumvented my lineage to him by choosing another for my DAR “patriot” because I did not want to create problems for my application process. It’s tedious enough as it is.
When I saw that questioning statement in the DAR database regarding his service as a chaplain, I went back to look at all the facts about Sylvanus.
First of all Sylvanus Ames was from a very prestigious family. The Ames were all over the place in Massachusetts, and Ames’ family members, as well as their wives’ male family members, were almost all officers in the military services. Familiar names such as Watson, Hayward, Packard, Cheney, Lee, Johnson, Willis, and so on were part of his heritage. All were very much involved both militarily as well as philosophically in seeking freedom of religion and a break with England. His cousin, Fisher Ames, for example, is given credit for penning the “First Amendment” to the Constitution later on.
In 1777 in the late winter, Sylvanus is with George Washington and all the other patriots of that time at Valley Forge. He is not, however, where I expected him to be with the regiments of Massachusetts and serving as a staff officer. He is instead with the Rhode Island Regiment serving as a private and then a corporal. Chaplains were never anything but officers.
The puzzling aspects of Sylvanus going to Rhode Island to join one of their regiments instead of one where he had always lived called for more research. Sylvanus Ames was born in West Bridgewater, Massachusetts. He went to Harvard in Boston. He was a rector at the church in Taunton. (A rector is in charge of the church in a Protestant Episcopalian Church.) Nothing of record places him in Rhode Island. His family members all lived in Massachusetts. He had a wife and four children at home in Taunton. His father-in-law, Isaac Johnson, Sr. was a major in a Massachusetts Regiment.
And yet, at the overwintering stronghold of General George Washington and his troops, there he is living in the crudely built cabins of Valley Forge with little or no clothing, no shoes, no blankets, and no food– as an enlisted private then corporal, and subject to, and eventually getting a disease, probably the flu, and dying from it just before the Continental troops left to engage the British at the end of spring in 1778.
My husband and I visited Valley Forge a few years ago. We searched for Sylvanus’ name on the chapel there and somehow couldn’t find it, but I have seen a picture of his plaque since then. I had mistakenly looked for him with the Massachusetts soldiers. He was, instead, with those from Rhode Island.
The visit to Valley Forge was revealing to me concerning this particular ancestor, or so I thought at the time. I could envision him ministering to those young soldiers who were cold and hungry, away from their families, and probably scared.
But it appears that he played no such role in the way that I imagined.
In any event, I was looking for information about that winter at Valley Forge, and found two books, Writings from the Valley Forge Encampment of the Continental Army (December 19,1777 – June 19, 1778 collected by Joseph Lee Boyle as well as his newest endeavor, Death Seemed to Stare. The “writings” are mostly letters written by the officers at the Valley Forge encampment.
If one visits the Valley Forge site, the portrayal of the winter is not nearly as severe as it actually appears to have been. Stories about the cooks preparing bread in the afternoons as the troops returned home as a welcoming gesture cannot be true. This encampment hardly had enough food (flour, meat, etc.) to keep these men alive for most of the winter much less be used as an aromatic scent to welcome home the troops! And mostly they were inside those cabins trying to keep warm until the Spring when they could once again engage with the British who were sleeping warmly at night in nearby Philadelphia and taking comfort from those who still supported the British.
Regiments were particularly beholden to their own states for providing these necessities, and Rhode Island seems to have been terribly remiss in taking care of their soldiers! That’s another question that I had, and for which there is a sad answer.
In reading the letters, mostly written by officers from the various states, there are several allusions in those letters to family members at home, to General Washington, or to the Quartermasters who should have been sending food to the troops, and to the fact that the Rhode Island regiment was in great need of clothing, blankets and food, and which was suffering badly because they didn’t have those things.
Sylvanus’ death date is May 15, 1778 just days before all the troops moved out to face the British. His death is noted on that date because he didn’t show up for roll call that morning–a sort of unceremonious end for one who had accomplished so much in the prior years of his life. He is buried in a mass grave containing other such souls nearby to the encampment at Valley Forge. It is said that Washington had soldiers who were ill removed to a hospital so that their illnesses would not spread and so that they would not cause the others to be depressed. I think that did not happen to Sylvanus. It would not have been noted that he “did not show up for roll call” if he had been moved to a hospital.
By all that’s true for the times described here, Sylvanus should have been one of the officers, (whose living conditions were much better than those of a private), but instead, he suffered with all the others, and not among friends, and receiving no special favors. At the very least, he should have been serving as a chaplain in the cabin where he resided.
As a descendant of this young man (he was only 34 that year), I have to wonder at his predicament. At first I thought there was no way to know why he did what he did. I had guessed, based upon what I knew of him, that he served in that capacity because his religion spoke to him and caused him to help where he thought he was needed. After reading the two books mentioned above, it appears that my guesses about Sylvanus Ames were on the right track. The two books mentioned above reveal the fact that the First Rhode Island Regiment was composed of “blacks and Indians and a few whites.”
The underlying truth is that Rhode Island passed a law in the late 1770’s that created the First Rhode Island Regiment as a mostly Black regiment. The motivation would have been that while the Continental Congress demanded that States send troops, they did not say who had to serve, and so giving freedom to those who did not have it (Blacks and Indians) in exchange for military service seemed to appeal to the Rhode Island legislators! It also provided a way for Rhode Island Whites to skip such service.
These facts also explain Rhode Island’s reticence in sending food, clothing, blankets and other supplies for their troops at Valley Forge which directly resulted in their extraordinary levels of disease which killed a great many of them.
Sylvanus Ames was simply making a statement about slavery and its consequences when he decided to pitch his fate with those of the “freed” Blacks and Indians in those cold cabins of Valley Forge.
When he “didn’t show up for roll call” on May 15, 1778, he left a wife and four young children to survive him.
Of interest to me as well, is the fact that Rhode Island historians fail to mention this blotch on their heritage as patriots! To have shunted their obligation to serve in the Army of the Revolution on those who had no stake in the game, just to avoid military service is unconscionable. Their State has much shame to bear even if it remains unacknowledged.
Sylvanus’ family took his message to heart. Many of his grandchildren embraced his cause. Edward Raymond Ames, a Methodist Bishop in the 1860’s, was sent by Abraham Lincoln to the South during the Civil War to make certain that the message delivered by Methodist churches was in keeping with the philosophy of the North. Such action brought much criticism to Ames because it appeared to be an infringement by the government on religion, and I’m guessing that Edward carried out the order because of how he had been raised to abhor slavery.
Charles Bingley Ames, who had moved to the South (Macon, Mississippi) before the war and who had married General James Longstreet’s sister, Sarah Jane Longstreet, served in the Civil War and owned two slaves, but within weeks of the end of the war, he had applied for amnesty and a pardon from the President of the United States.
John Lee Ames, my great great grandfather and another brother in this family, also moved to Mississippi and lived in the next county over from his brother Charles Bingley Ames. He was a tanner, and allegedly he made shoes for the Union soldiers—which would have been an act of treason–aiding and abetting the enemy. He also allegedly ran the Underground Railroad from Mississippi to Neosho, Missouri (the place from whence he came just before the War.) Another location for an Underground Railroad outlet in the North was in Athens, Ohio, the place where all of these grandchildren were born.
It’s a question of following the dots, so to speak.
From this vantage point, it is not relevant to judge or second guess motivations of these grandchildren if one did not live in their shoes and in the places where they lived, but it IS appropriate I think to say that the actions of their grandfather, greatly influenced their lives.
There is no higher calling than to die for that which one believes, and the life he led certainly makes Sylvanus Ames a hero and a patriot.
Knowing about his grandfather’s plight, one can then easily understand why John Lee would have positioned himself near the fighting in the South so as to help those in whom he believed.
In all the recent discussion about our founders and what they did to create this nation, one of the things I learned that I didn’t realize before, was that while all the Revolutionary soldiers were over-wintering in the severe cold at Valley Forge, there were all kinds of people living in their warm homes and farms very close by who could have helped them but chose not to! There are parallels to our current time that are mind-boggling.
John Lee’s siblings included Hector Revere Ames (who was named after the Ames’ family friend, Paul Revere), Lucy Willis Ames Bates, Elizabeth Johnson Ames Dawes (whose husband’s grandfather was William Dawes who rode with Paul Revere), Edward Raymond Ames who became a Methodist Bishop, Charles Bingley Ames (who was married to Sarah Jane Longstreet–the sister of Southern General James Longstreet, and Laura Watson Ames de Steiguer.
John Lee’s parents were Sylvanus Ames II and Abigail Nabby Lee Johnson Ames. The fathers of these two were college friends. As mentioned earlier, they attended Harvard together and graduated at the same time in 1767. Nabby Lee’s father, Daniel Lee Johnson, III, also died early in his life while he was the pastor of the Harvard City, Massachusetts Christian Church. He served as a staff officer in the Revolution as a chaplain to Col. John Crane and Colonel Nicholas Dike and Colonels Gates and Timothy Bigelow. His grave is prominent in the square of this quaint town (Harvard City) as it has a full body marker over the grave site and a brass placard at the entry to the cemetery noting that he is buried there. I visited this site in the Spring of 2010. Hard to describe how I felt about being there and seeing his grave, so I won’t.
Daniel Lee Johnson III’s father was Judge Daniel Lee Johnson and his parents were Isaac Johnson and Betty Latham. Betty Latham’s parents were James Latham and Deliverance Alger and James parents were Robert Latham and Susannah Winslow, and Susannah’s parents were John Winslow and Mary Chilton. Mary and her parents were passengers on the Mayflower. Her father, James Chilton was the oldest person on the Mayflower. He signed the Mayflower Compact and then died while still on board the ship. His wife died soon after, and Mary was left an orphan. She is said to have been brought up by the families of Miles Standish or John Alden. There is a legend that says that Mary Chilton was the first female European to set foot on American soil. She was on the small boat that landed at Plymouth Rock and is said to have run ahead of everyone and jumped ashore to be the first. I like to think that spunk is part of my genetic heritage!
When visiting the Plymouth Plantation and Plymouth Rock and the Mayflower recently, I asked the National Parks Service guide how many Mayflower descendants there are. She gave a one word answer, “Millions!” “But the thing is,” she said, “most of them don’t know it!” I can tell you that it’s sort of neat to realize that eleven or so generations back, my ancestors were among those who fled religious persecution in England to come to America to find religious freedom.
Texas (DODSON/CAMPSEY) Ancestors
My great great grandfather, William Pinckney Dodson, came to Texas from Kentucky in 1855. He and his wife, Rachel Green Dunn, settled in Flat which is near Gatesville in Coryell County. The site is now part of Ft. Hood. They lived there for about twenty-four years. William was a County Commissioner four times from 1864 to 1878. He also served for 21 days in the Confederate Army and returned home with a bad knee. He also served in Co. A. of the 16th Texas Infantry/Granberry’s Texas Brigade about 1865.
William moved his family to Concho County in Central Texas in 1879 where he was a cattle rancher. He served as the first County Judge for two terms in Concho County, and a contemporary said that “he attained this office by being recognized as a man of unquestioned character and sincere honesty.” He was able to move there in 1879 because the Comanche Indians had finally been defeated by the Union Army.
His name is on the cornerstone of the Court House that still stands in Paint Rock, Texas. His picture still hangs on the wall inside the Court House.
I went to a Dodson reunion a few years ago, and the current County Judge had all of us to the Court House and pointed out the picture and the cornerstone. The Court House was still being used in spite of its age. The air-conditioning was dependent upon huge windows on each side of the rather large courtroom being opened as wide as they could be opened! It was a good feeling to think about William presiding over the Commissioner’s Court in that very room where we sat.
The Dodson reunion was held at a summer home built on the Dodson land that is still held by a member of the family. The home is on the Concho River. The old homestead is still there also, but is in disrepair.
As one of two genealogists at the reunion, I was able to tell one of the stories that I had been told about Rachel Dodson, my great great grandmother. In 1857, while still living in Flat, one day when her husband, William, had gone into town, the house caught fire. Rachel was at home with three young children and was pregnant with my great grandfather. She got out with one child, but the other two children were burned to death. Rachel herself was burned over most of her body. Telling this story to a room full of descendants, I pointed out that none of us would have been there had Rachel not recovered from her wounds!
Dodson Family inside the Concho County Courthouse
I am sitting in the second row on the left on the aisle.
Picture of the outside of the Concho County Courthouse
I guess the fact that one’s very existence is totally dependent upon the existence of every single ancestor is the most startling realization that I have had with this hobby. It is said, that for every one child who didn’t live to adulthood in 1800, there are 1,000 people who aren’t here now!
The Dodson family is traced back to the settlers of Jamestown and to John Dods and Jane Eagle Plume. “Jane,” and I’m guessing that was a name given by her husband, was the daughter of Chief Eagle Plume, chief of the Iroquois Nation and brother of Chief Powhatan. [I’m not sure I believe that and have found no proof, but it’s a good story!]
My great grandfather, Jesse Pinckney Dodson married Emma Jessie Campsey. It is not clear if Emma came to Texas before the rest of her family or not. She was pretty young to be traipsing off to Texas from her home in Ohio by herself.
In any event, I’m proud to have an ancestor who was a Texas school teacher in 1876. Here’s a copy of her teaching contract:
Emma Jessie Campsey’s contract to teach school
Page 1 of Emma Jessie Campsey’s contract to teach school in Cleburne, Johnson County, Texas in 1876. She would have been eighteen years old.
The contract reads:
County of Johnson
The State of Texas
The undersigned proposes to teach a literary school at the School house known as the Quilmiller Schoolhouse. Said school to continue for the term of 2 months in which she proposes to give instructions in the following branches:
Orthography, Reading, Writing, Eng. Grammar, Geography, U. S. History and arithmetic for the sum of $2.00 per scholar per month.
E. J. Campsey
After carefully reading this proposition and felling [sic] willing to accept its terms we propose to pay to E. J. Campsey the sum of ($2.00) two dollars per month for each Scholar sent or subscribed by us in Witness whereof we set our hand and seal.
On the second page are listed the people who gathered to hire her:
C. R. Jackson
W. G. Davis
J. M Thomason
W. C. Drennan
W. H. Job
J. T. Blackwell
J. T. (Not readable)
C. C. Arnold
Picture of Emma Jessie Campsey and her husband Jesse Pinckney Dodson whom she married in 1878. No way to know how old she was in this picture. But note that it was taken in Caldwell, Texas.
My Knight ancestors begin with my father, Clark Knight. My dad was born in Mt. Ida, Arkansas. He took a lot of kidding about that as there was a cartoon character in the 1950’s who hailed from “Mt Idy.” The perception was one of hicks. The Knights were all dirt farmers and didn’t ever have much. Abner Knight, my grandfather, married Missouri Alice Carlisle. Missouri’s mother was an Ames, but unless one were an Ames in Massachusetts, that and a nickel….. The recent Knights came from Walker County, Alabama. My grandfather’s father, Thomas Knight, ran a sawmill/grain mill on the Caddo River in Arkansas after the family moved there. The site is the spot where the Rip Torn camp for kids now stands. Thomas’ wife was Octavia Maddox. Other surnames in this line are Earnest, Bonner, Shynn, Calhoun, Rowan, and Watson. My great great grandfather, also an Abner Knight, fought in the War Between the States. He was a cotton farmer, but he owned no slaves. He and his wife and sons picked the cotton, and his wife picked it along with their children when he was off fighting in the war. The Knights came from South Carolina to settle in Alabama. The Maddox’ family came from Virginia and before that, Maryland. The Maddox family had a plantation called Northport. Not much there now except the family burial ground. The Knights were honest, hard-working, and smart, and those traits were conveyed to their descendants.
One of these folks, perhaps Octavia, had a bad temper, and that was conveyed too. Perhaps it manifested itself most clearly in Coach Bobby Knight, who shares my great grandfather and great grandmother. I’m always quick to defend Coach Knight, who, for all his perceived faults, always made certain his players graduated from college, and he probably has the best record for that of any college coach. Anyone who has ever sat and listened to him speak knows how smart he is. He also caused his teams to win a heck of a lot of basketball games too!
Being partial, I’ll also give him credit for showing up at just the right time to garner support for Donald J. Trump in his run for the presidency. Without Bobby Knight’s support, he might not have won!
Abner B. Knight, Sr. lived with his wife, Nancy Catherine Earnest, in Oakman, Walker County, Alabama. He was not wealthy. He, his wife, and his children (he already had six before the war, and then he had three more after the war) picked the cotton on their farm. When the War Between the States erupted, he left his young wife and family home alone and went off to war. The following is an accounting of his travails and travels during the war written by a cousin, Tim Steadman.
Pioneer, Farmer, Teacher, Confederate Soldier, Southern Patriot
Abner Knight epitomizes the best qualities of the Confederate soldier during
the war of northern aggression against the just cause of Southern
independence. Like the vast majority of Confederate soldiers, he was not
wealthy and owned no slaves. At the time of the war he was a common farmer
trying to scratch a living out of the dirt in his native Walker County. He
made the difficult decision to leave his wife and young family to fight in
defense of his homeland and for the right to have a country and government
that represented the Southern people and their interpretation of the
Constitution. Unfortunately, time and politics have distorted the history
and true story of the Confederacy. Southern heritage as a whole has been
under attack for decades. The Confederate Battle Flag, the banner our
ancestors fought under has been allowed to be misused and dishonored by
racist groups. The truth about the Confederacy and its history is no longer
taught in our schools. Historical monuments have been allowed to fall into
disrepair as an excuse to remove them. School children have been suspended
for displaying a Confederate flag on their books or on their person. All
because it is no longer politically correct to be proud of one’s Southern
heritage. For this reason the story of the brave sacrifices of our ancestor
Abner, and men like him, are slowly being erased from history.
Abner Knight is a part of the Southern heritage of our combined families, and
our Southern heritage is something to proclaim and be proud of.
Abner Knight, the son of Charner and Sarah Davis Knight was born on
December 31, 1830 in Laurens, South Carolina. Sometime before 1850, he moved
to Walker County Alabama. (There was a large migration of people into
Alabama from the Carolinas around this time) The Knights are listed as some
of the earliest white settlers in Walker County. (The Steadmans, also
migrated to Walker County from South Carolina around this time.)
On July 28, 1850, Abner married Nancy Catherine Earnest. Their union would
produce nine children. Their sixth child was born during the war, and their
fifth child died during the war. Abner was away fighting the yankees during
both events and since news traveled slowly during that time, he probably was
unaware of either event until well after it had occurred. The ninth and last
child Thaddeus Bisky Knight, born in 1875, is our direct ancestor.
At the beginning of the war of northern aggression, both sides thought the
war would be over quickly. By the first part of 1862, it was apparent that
this was not the case, and the ranks of the Southern armies were starting to
thin. The time period of the first enlistments was up, and a lot of the men
were going home. (It was also time to get the crops started for the next
growing season) The Confederate government issued a call for all available
Southern men to take up arms against the northern aggressor, and it was
during this time that Abner began his service with the Confederate Army.
In May of 1862, Abner joined a group of men from Walker County and traveled
to Tuscaloosa to answer a recruiting call for the 43rd Alabama Infantry. (Known
as Gracie’s brigade) He enlisted on May 14, 1862 for a period of three years
or the duration of the war. This must have been a very difficult decision
since he had five children at the time (the oldest was ten), and his wife
Nancy was four months pregnant with their sixth child.
Abner must have been looked upon as an able leader since he was elected the
Sergeant of Company K. (A great many of the junior officers and
non-commissioned officers in the Confederate Army were elected by their
Abner and the 43rd went by train from Tuscaloosa to Mobile for a brief
period of training. By the first half of June 1862, Abner and the 43rd were
in Chattanooga, Tennessee where they got their first look at the enemy.
Abner’s first battle was on August 15, 1862 at Huntsville, Tennessee where
Col. Archibald Gracie and two companies of the 43rd Alabama captured Fort
Clift, a yankee outpost garrisoned by four hundred men. This first victory
established the reputation of Col. Gracie and the 43rd Alabama as a hard
fighting unit. It also propelled Col. Gracie to the next rank of Brigadier
Abner and the 43rd Alabama spent most of 1863 assisting with the
Confederate occupation of Kentucky. The Confederates were unsuccessful in
their attempts to hold Kentucky, and the 43rd had to retreat back to
Tennessee. In September of 1863, Abner and the 43rd found themselves
participants in the Battle of Chickamauga (just outside of Chattanooga,
Tennessee). This was one of the bloodiest battles of the war. The
Confederate battle report states that the 43rd Alabama took a yankee
position with heavy losses and held it until it ran out of ammunition. The
Battle of Chickamauga was a resounding Confederate victory. The entire
yankee army was in retreat and the Confederates could have won the war had
the overall Confederate commander Gen. Bragg followed up on this victory.
(The Chickamauga battlefield site is well preserved and marked. To this day
you can walk on the hallowed ground exactly where our ancestors fought and
won a great victory.)
Abner and the 43rd next participated in the failed siege of Knoxville,
Tennessee from November 17 to December 4, 1863. It appears that Abner was
granted a leave of absence from November 29 to December 14, 1863. The 43rd
Alabama participated in a battle at a place called Bean’s Station on
December 14, 1863, and it is unclear from the records if Abner was involved
in this fight.
After spending a bitter winter in east Tennessee, Abner and the 43rd
Alabama were sent to Richmond, Virginia in April of 1864. Under the command
of General P.T. Beauregard, they were part of the defense of the Confederate
capital. Abner was in a battle at a place called Halfway House on May 10,
1864. He was again in combat at a place called Gooche’s Farm on May 12,
Abners luck ran out on May 16, 1864. On this day, he fought in a battle at
Drewry’s Bluff, Virginia. It was in this battle that he was severely wounded.
The Confederate records list him as having been shot in the left hand and
side. Drewry’s Bluff was a Confederate stronghold on the James River and was
part of the main defensive works protecting Richmond. The yankees attacked
Drewry’s Bluff with infantry on land and with gunboats on the river. Abner’s
regiment is recorded as having captured a stand of yankee colors (flags) as
well as a yankee general and four hundred men during this battle. Drewry’s
Bluff was a Confederate victory, so Abner’s injury was not in vain. (An
interesting footnote to this battle is that during a previous attack earlier
in the war, the yankee gunboats, including the infamous Monitor, were
defeated on the river because they could not elevate their guns high enough
to shell the Confederate stronghold on the bluff and were easy targets for
our boys in grey.)
Abner’s hospital records from this injury are as follows: Admitted to
Howard’s Grove General Hospital May 16, 1864, shot in left hand and side,
transferred to Danville General Hospital, Danville, Virginia, May 18, 1864,
transferred to Pettigrew General Hospital No.13 on May 23,1864. He was
furloughed from Pettigrew General Hospital on May 26, 1864 and apparently
was sent home because he next appears on a roster of injured soldiers for
The General Hospital in Tuscaloosa, Alabama on June 1,1864.
It is truly amazing that he survived this experience. The practice of
medicine at the time was almost barbaric, and the hospital was as much a
place to go and die as it was a place to heal. Since there were no
antibiotics in those days, [and no chloroform in the South]infection was rampant
and most men with severe
battlefield wounds died from it. Abner must have been one tough fellow to
have lived through this!
Abner returned to the Confederate Army on August 31,1864. He rejoined the
43rd Alabama in the defensive trenches around Petersburg, Virginia. Much has
been written about the siege of Petersburg. The conditions for the
Confederate soldier in the trenches were miserable. They lived in the mud
and in holes in the ground, food was scarce and was barely adequate to keep
one alive. The soldiers were often dressed in rags and were likely to be
barefooted; in the winter a new coat usually came from a dead yankee. From
August of 1864 until April 1865 it appears that Abner fought almost
continuously. He was elected a 2nd Junior Lieutenant sometime during this
period. The records also show that he was granted furlough by order of
General Lee on March 3, 1865 although it is not clear for what or for how
long. It must not have been for long because he was injured again and shown
on a hospital roll on April 8, 1865.
On April 9, 1865, being overwhelmed in numbers and lacking the materials
and supplies of his enemy, General Robert E. Lee decided to end the
bloodshed and reluctantly surrendered his army. The war was over. It is
interesting to note that the official records show that Abner’s unit had
just driven back a line of yankee troops and captured a cannon battery when
the surrender was announced. It is pleasant to think that our ancestor was
part of a unit that fought and attacked the yankees to the end!
Abner is listed on the official rolls as being among those that surrendered
with General Lee at Appomattox, Virginia. He is listed as being part of the
11th Alabama Regiment,
Army of Northern Virginia. Abner is shown as being a prisoner of war paroled
by the yankees at Talledega, Alabama on June 20, 1865. Like most paroled
Confederate soldiers, he probably had to walk home.
After the war, Abner returned to farming and took up the part time
occupation of schoolteacher. There was a Knight schoolhouse where Abner
taught school for eight weeks out of the year in July and August. This was a
very important occupation at the time because the yankees didn’t allow white
southern children to go to school during much of the so-called
“reconstruction” that followed the war.
It seems that Abner’s war wounds did not affect his ability to sire children,
for he and his wife Nancy had three more after he returned from the war.
Abner Knight died on October 23, 1902 at the then ripe old age of 72. He is
buried in Liberty Hill Cemetery in Walker County Alabama under a tombstone
that proudly and forever states that he was a Confederate soldier in Company
K, 43rd Alabama Infantry CSA.
My Smith ancestors begin with Henry and Elizabeth Smith who were around in 1640 or thereabouts. Their son is Joseph Joshua Smith (Mary Peck), then Alin Smith, then Joseph Smith (Katherine Sarah Gwyn), then Thomas Smith (Mary Hickman), John Pilson Smith (Elizabeth Hurt), then William Patton Smyth (Elizabeth Betsy Massie Massey), and then James Jeams Smith and Sarah Sallie Counts. They were living in Russell County, Virginia in the 1780’s. Their son, James Massie Smith and Sarah Sally Artrip lived in the same place, mostly around Cleveland, Virginia, and their son, Henry Clinton Smith and his wife Rachel Almira Cook are my great grandparents. (A Cook ancestor goes back to Squire Boone, father of Daniel Boone.) (A Smith ancestor goes back to John Milton, who was known as a champion of liberty. As a Protestant, Milton believed that the individual reader should interpret the Bible. He is mainly famous for his epic poem, Paradise Lost and for his defense of uncensored publication of one’s writings.)
Their son, Stafford George Smith and his wife Jessie Arta Dodson, are my grandparents. Stafford was a quiet man and most of his time was spent with his work as a Railway Express Agent at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, and with his Masonic work. The following is an article of interest regarding his association with Gene Autry.
SERVICES PLANNED FOR S. G. SMITH, 58
Services for Stafford G. Smith, 58, Frisco Railway employee for 38 years, have been set for 3 P. M. Wednesday at the Centenary Methodist Church.
The Rev. Forrest A. Fields, pastor, will officiate. He will be assisted by the Rev. Oren C. Reid, pastor of the First Baptist Church.
Mr. Smith died at 10:35 p. m. Monday at his home, 706 Arlington. He had been ill since last August when he underwent a serious operation. He died of prostate cancer.
Mr. Smith started work with the Frisco Railway in 1906 as a telegrapher in Lawton. He served in this capacity at Olustee and Altus and in 1908 was sent to Wheatland as an agent. In 1909 he became agent at Fletcher, a position he held until 1923. He then served as agent at Chandler, Wetumka and Fort Sill and in 1937 was made agent yardmaster in Lawton.
Mr. Smith was prominent in Masonic work here and in the other communities in which he lived. He became a Master Mason in 1911 at Fletcher, and had since served as worshipful master of lodges at Fletcher, Wetumka and the Lawton Blue Lodge No. 183 in 1939. He was also a member of the Order of Eastern Star.
The following is an article about my Grandfather Smith that appeared in the Daily Oklahoman on July 14, 1940.
The one thing that’s not mentioned is that Gene Autry lived with the Smith family for a while. We have two autographed pictures that he sent to my mother as she used to accompany him on the piano. AND, also working at the same railway station in Wetumka were Fewell Knight (grandfather to Coach Bobby Knight and my great uncle on my father’s side of the family.)
OKLAHOMA’S SINGING COWBOY
A little smashup had occurred on the station platform at Wetumka, and the assistant superintendent who dropped off the train there one summer day in 1925 was all set to fire somebody.
He soon learned the details. The second truck operator, a young sprout named Gene Autry, had pulled his baggage truck alongside an incoming passenger train so as to lose no time in unloading mail, baggage and express.
A heavy mail pouch thrown from the train knocked the truck tongue from the operator’s hands. The wagon veered into the side of the moving train, collided with some other trucks and smashed things up beautifully.
The agent in charge of the Wetumka station, however, was convinced the accident was more or less unavoidable. He interceded with the truculent assistant superintendent, and Gene Autry continued in the railroad business.
That circumstance leads directly into another story several years later. Autry was still an employee for the Frisco. This time he was working the night shift at Chelsea, and time was passing slowly. Around midnight, he was plunking his guitar in the dim recesses of the empty station, singing in a mellow tenor some cowboy ballads and songs of the range.
A stranger stepped quietly through the door, listened intently until the song was finished.
Then he said, “You’re pretty good, boy, keep at it and try your hand on the stage some time.”
The stranger left a telegram to be wired, collect, to New York and slipped out before Autry read through the whole thing. By the time he got to the signature, which was Will Rogers, the stranger had disappeared.
Anyhow, it made a distinct impression on Autry. What had been more or less of a hobby to pass the time became a serious business with him and his guitar was ever present thereafter. It has gone along ever since and has been no small factor in the rise of Gene Autry to theatrical fame and fortune.
S. G. Smith, now the Frisco agent at Lawton, was the agent at Wetumka who saved Autry’s job. Smith and many another railroader along the Frisco lines remembers the young operator vividly.
“Funny the way I first met Gene,” says Smith. “I’d wired in for a relief operator, but the train which should have brought him had gone, and nobody got off except a kid with a guitar. In a minute or two that kid came into the office and introduced himself as Gene Autry, the new operator.
“He kept that battered old guitar in the office all the time. When he wasn’t busy otherwise, he was always banging the thing and singing.”
“The fellows around the office enjoyed his singing, all right, but I’m afraid we didn’t appreciate him then as we did later. However, he was improving all the time, and we believed that with opportunity he should go far.”
Smith still keeps an old seniority list of operators on the Frisco’s southwestern division, which lists the singer as “O. G. Autry,” showing that he began railroad work June 16, 1925.
Gene had been lugging that guitar around since he was 10 years old. It dated back to the time he spent two months singing with a traveling medicine show that came through Gene’s home town, Ravia. The 10-year-old boy was one of a quartet. The others were grown men. Gene didn’t think much of their unaccompanied renditions, so he got the old guitar and taught himself to play it. It has been in every telegraph office where he worked.
Somewhere along the Frisco, he met Jimmy Long, another railroad man who also loved to sing. By this time Gene was expert on the guitar, and he and Long were in great demand at local entertainments. Together they wrote many western ballads.
In 1929, at the insistence of his friend Long, Gene went to New York for an audition by a recording company. The venture was discouraging. The late Jimmy Rogers was tops in the ballad field and a beginner’s chance was slim, so Autry came back to the railroad and in spare time appeared on various radio programs. He spent six months on KVOO, Tulsa, being known as the “Oklahoma Yodeling Cowboy.”
In October, 1930, he received an offer from the Victor Phonograph Co., and made his first recording for them. He recorded in quick succession for all the leading companies, and went to WLS, Chicago, as featured singer on a national barndance program. That put him on his way.
But when his contract with WLS expired, it wasn’t renewed. He made the rounds and thought he was through.
But the era of musical westerns was beginning in Hollywood and Republic Studios were looking for a handsome young “cowboy singer” who could ride. Gene went out and took his voice and screen test.
While waiting for Hollywood to decide on giving him a chance in pictures, he went back to the railroad, and again he filled in on small radio stations, among them the now discontinued KOCW at Chickasha. Snyder is one place where he worked for the railroad, but most of his Frisco experience was farther east along the Red river subdivision.
Late in 1934, a shift was open at Bristow and the young operator was there when Hollywood’s lightning finally struck. He left soon to begin his motion picture career, was immediately successful and became known as the outstanding cowboy singer of the screen. His income from pictures, records, song-writing, radio program and indorsements (sic) of dozens of merchandise articles is in Hollywood’s upper brackets.
Friends along the Frisco in Oklahoma wondered what Gene Autry would be like after his whirlwind success. Would he be the same modest, likeable (sic) young fellow they knew, or had he changed?
They found out when Autry made a personal appearance tour through Oklahoma. Mobs came to the theaters merely to see him.
One day Agent Smith, then at the Ft. Sill station–was busy in his office. Autry walked in with a lusty greeting and sat down to talk. Soon he was busy at the telegraph key, calling old friends along the line–as friendly and unaffected as ever.
Railroaders have no time for softies and swell-heads–fakes don’t get far with them. But Autry as a beginning railroader was “okay” with them–and he is “aces” with them now.
Autry was born in Tioga, Texas, and spent his early years in the hills of that cattle country. He learned to ride almost before he could walk, and began singing about the time he learned to talk. When he was quite small, Gene’s family moved to a farm near Ravia, in Johnston county. There he grew up and got into the railroad business.
At the top of this article is this notice:
AUTRY ON MILK AND ICE FUND SHOW MONDAY
Because he lived for a long time in this state and because he still considers it more or less his home, Gene Autry has always had a lively interest in Oklahoma. Even with the pressure of his success in Hollywood, he has kept his contacts in this state and has come back to renew acquaintances at every opportunity. Monday, he returns again, this time to put on a show. He is giving his service without cost for an entertainment sponsored by the Oklahoman and Times for the benefit of the Milk and Ice fund. Every cent of the proceeds goes to the fund. The time is Monday night, 8:15 p.m. The place: Municipal Auditorium. The prices: 15 cents for children 12 – years of age and under, 50 cents for all others. No reserved seats; first come first served.
My Carlisle line begins with William Carlisle. His son is Richard Carlisle (Mary Tatum). His son is William Carlisle (Sarah Bell). His son is Robert Rudolph Carlisle (Sarah Coleman). His son is Coleman Robert Carlisle (Hannah Thompson Glenn). His son is James Glenn Carlisle (Nancy Hawker Selby). His son is Hawker Owen Carlisle (Elizabeth Walker Ames). His daughter is Missouri Alice Carlisle (Abner B. Knight). Her son is Clark Knight (Clarice Emma Smith). Their daughter is me.
Robert Rudolph Carlisle is a Revolutionary War Patriot rendering public service in the state of North Carolina.
Coleman Robert Carlisle was a Methodist minister. He was probably one of the first to serve the Winston-Salem Church as a circuit rider.
James Glenn Carlisle James was the son of Rev. Coleman Carlisle and Hannah Thompson Glenn. He married Nancy Hawker Selby on September 9, 1824 in Laurens Co, South Carolina. James was twenty-three and Nancy was twenty-five when they married.
James was baptized in 1829 and was ordained a Methodist minister in Tennessee in 1832. He moved as the church sent him, serving in Tennessee and Alabama before coming to Kosciusko Mississippi about 1846, where he was their first Methodist minister. He often rode into the rural areas, starting local churches, Liberty Hill Methodist being one of them. Over the years, he served in Attala, Holmes, Leflore, Oktibbeha, and Winston counties till about 1870 when they settled in Attala Co, Mississippi.
The 1850 census revealed they lived in South Carolina until after their third son was born in 1830. They lived in Tennessee where two more children were born by 1835. They lived in Alabama where two more children were born by 1840 then moved to Oktibbeha Co, Mississippi before their last child was born in 1844. James was a Methodist Preacher and their estate value was $960. All four of his sons were farmers. All of their children were still living at home.
The 1860 census revealed James was a farmer and his real estate value was $1400 and his personal estate value was $4170. They were living in Attala County, Mississippi and their youngest child was living with them. Their son, Dr. James and wife lived next door.
Hawker Owen Carlisle was married to Elizabeth Walker Ames. They had twelve children, and my grandmother was the youngest child. Hawker was a farmer and is noted to have been very religious and strict. A grandchild noted that he “might as well have been a preacher.”
Missouri Alice Carlisle Knight married Abner B. Knight. They had seven children, two of whom died in childbirth. I believe Missouri may have died when the last child was born. She died when my father was just six years old while they were living in Oklahoma in the area that is now Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. My father searched many times for where she had been buried so that he could move her remains to Tulsa where her husband was buried, but he never could locate them.
My Mayflower ancestors include James Chilton, his wife, and his daughter Mary Chilton.
James Chilton is my 10th great grandfather.
The following appeared on the Houston Chronicle’s Editorial Page on November 22, 2012. It describes those who drew up the Mayflower Compact stating that “it is widely regarded as a foundation of the U. S. Constitution.” I am proud that my 10th great grandfather was one of the 42 signers of that document.
This most American of holidays is rooted in history that we ignore at our nation’s peril.
Long before this country was mesmerized by the mantra of “hip and cool” and came to worship at the altars of popular culture and celebrity, Americans proudly answered to the labels “striving, God-fearing and humble.”
Most of us still do. That is one reason why Thanksgiving remains our nation’s most popular holiday, according to public opinion surveys.
Turkey Day, as we refer to it colloquially, is our annual reminder to give thanks for the bounty of opportunities America still offers, to affirm the centrality of family and community in our national life and to serve those in lesser circumstances.
It is, in short, the most American of holidays. May it ever be so. May it never become simply the day before Black Friday.
In the aftermath of a divisive national election, Thanksgiving 2012 also offers a moment for reflection on the blessings of our imperfect, often-cussed system of conducting the public business. We the People speak through our ballots. No bullets are fired. No monarchs need apply.
On November 6, President Barack Obama was peacefully elected to a second term in the people’s house at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Red or blue by political inclination, we can all offer thanks for the continuity of that process.
It is an irony that the role of those who celebrated the nation’s original thanksgiving, the band of Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts in 1620, is often caricatured or even derided.
For all of their human frailties and peculiar customs, these 101 souls were heroes, risking their lives in the Mayflower’s hazardous passage to worship God in freedom in a new and inhospitable land.
Between feasts and football-watching, Thanksgiving should be a day to spend a moment also reflecting upon the Mayflower Compact, the document that guided the Pilgrim fathers (all the signers were men) as they organized into a community.
Brief and utterly lacking in the rhetorical flourishes, The Mayflower Compact is an accurate reflection of the simple faith and beliefs of the Pilgrims.
While not graced with the elegant prose of the Declaration of Independence or Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, it is widely regarded as a foundation of the U. S. Constitution. As such, it has rightly earned a place as one of the significant documents of human freedom that traces back to the Magna Carta, first published in England in 1215.
No original copy of the Mayflower Compact survives, but three early copies exist. They call for the document’s 42 signers to “covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic…for the general good of the colony.”
For many years, the Houston Chronicle has reprinted the Declaration of Independence on the Fourth of July Outlook page. To honor Thanksgiving and memorialize its roots in history, we publish the Mayflower Compact in today’s editorial column.
A blessed Thanksgiving to all.
The text of the Mayflower Compact:
In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God of Great Britain, France, and Ireland King, Defender of the Faith, etc.
Having undertaken for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith and Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the First Colony in the Northern Parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and one of another, Covenant and Combine ourselves together in a Civil Body Politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute and frame such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cape Cod, the 11th of November, in the year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France and Ireland the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Domini 1620.
John Carver Edward Tilly Digery Priest
William Bradford John Tilly Thomas Williams
Edward Winslow Francis Cooke Gilbert Winslow
William Brewster Thomas Rogers Edmund Margeson
Isaac Allerton Thomas Tinker Peter Brown
Miles Standish John Rigdale Richard Bitteridge
John Alden Edward Fuller George Soule
Samuel Fuller John Turner Richard Clark
Christopher Martin Francis Eaton Richard Gardiner
William Mullins James Chilton John Allerton
William White John Craxton Thomas English
Richard Warren John Billington Edward Doten
John Howland Moses Fletcher Edward Leister
Stephen Hopkins John Goodman
Gedcom (Access by Invitation Only)
My basic Knight Tree is on Ancestry.com