Monday, May 30, 2016

Where have all the flowers gone?

Irvin Walker died of illness a few months after he "joined"
      Since Memorial Day originally started out as Decoration Day to remember those who died in the Civil War, I thought maybe I should mention some of my ancestors who fought in that war.
      Most of my relatives who served in the Union Army survived. My mother's grandfather,Granville Coleman, was born in Virginia but his family moved to Missouri when he was a child. He joined the Missouri Cavalry when he was 16 and fought at the Battle of Pilot Knob, the opening engagement of Gen. Sterling Price's raid on Missouri in 1864. Granville fell off his horse and was dragged along the ground. He was hospitalized for much of the remainder of the war.
     Granville's father-in-law, William Nicholas Rogers, was a lead miner from England. He served in the Missouri Infantry. They were fighting in Louisiana in  February, 1863, when Nick developed such severe lung disease that he was transported by ambulance boat up the Mississippi to St. Louis. Although Nick and Granville both received small pensions for their ailments, they lived well into the 20th Century.
      Robert B. Walker, my father's great-grandfather, went to Springfield, Ill., in February, 1864, to join the Illinois Infantry, although he was most likely rounded up in Missouri by Union soldiers and forced to join.  He survived the war but died in 1877, the same year his daughter, Dad's grandmother, was born. She was orphaned five years later when her mother died as well.
        Robert's brother, Irvin B.Walker, was 36 and planning to sit this one out when he was "recruited" in  the fall of 1864 to serve in the 48th Missouri Infantry guarding the railroad from Rolla to St. Louis. He became sick at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis and died in January, 1865, about three months after he joined. He was one of 120 in the regiment to die of illness that winter.
       Even more of the Confederate cousins died. The Coleman relatives who stayed behind in Virginia joined the Confederacy. John was killed at Richmond in 1862. Brothers Joseph and Thomas were wounded at Gettysburg and became prisoners of war.
        Andrew Tullock, one of my mother's gggreat uncles, lost his legs in the war, came back and lived with his brother but died a few years later. Another uncle Andrew J. Tullock died as a Confederate soldier at the Battle of Pea Ridge in Arkansas in 1862. His brother Samuel was killed in battle a year later.
       Oh the futility of it all! I can't help thinking about that '60s folk song, "Where have all the Flowers Gone?"  If you are out decorating graves today, sing  a verse for me.

"...when will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?"

Monday, May 23, 2016

Tale of two cousins

Kit Carson
Last week I told you about my gggreat uncle James Jamison who was considered an outlaw during the Civil War but became one of the most famous lawmen in Texas. This week I'll tell you about his cousin who was also praised and scorned. Perhaps you've heard of him: Kit Carson.
         Actually Jim and Kit were third cousins. They shared the same great-great grandfather: Moses Carson. And since Jim's sister, Anna, was my grandmother's grandmother, I suppose I'm a distant cousin of Kit Carson too.
         But fame, I've come to understand, is something you want to touch with a long pole.
         Carson was born in Kentucky but moved to Missouri when he was just a baby. His parents settled near Boone's Lick in the middle of the state and were friends with the sons of Daniel Boone. Kit's father died when he was 8 and Kit was apprenticed to a saddle-maker in nearby Franklin.
          Now Franklin is a town where less than a hundred people live today, but in 1821 when Missouri became a state, Franklin was one of the most popular cities. That's where the Santa Fe trail began. People stopped by the saddle shop on their way West. It wasn't long before 16-year-old Kit joined a wagon train full of trappers.
          He supposedly killed his first Indian when he was 19 and became known for his ability to hunt and kill Indians who had attacked settlers or stolen their horses.
          In the 1840s John C. Fremont hired him as a guide for his expeditions mapping the Oregon Trail  and California. Fremont's reports brought national fame to Kit Carson. By 1847 exaggerated versions of Carson's adventures filled dime novels that everyone read.
            Carson served in the Mexican-American War and led New Mexico's Union troops during the Civil War. Since there weren't many Confederates to fight in New Mexico, Carson spent most of the war fighting Apaches and Navajo.
             Carson served as an Indian agent for the Utes and one of his final acts was to accompany Ute chiefs to Washington so they could plead their case to President Johnson. He died in Colorado in 1868 of an aortic aneurysm.        
          In the 20th Century,  many historians criticized Carson's participation the military's slaughter of whole Indian villages during the Civil War era.  Tales of his early Indian fighting years also show an over-eagerness to kill Indians whether they were a threat or not.
          Fame is a fickle thing. The same public opinion that calls you a hero can turn into hatred and blame. Cousin Jim would understand.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Genuinely scary

       They called him Genuine Jim, the real thing. But as I sort through reports of my most notorious ancestor, I have a devil of a time deciding what is real and what is legend.
         I can't even tell you for sure when he was born. His tombstone in Yoakum, Texas, says he was born in 1841 yet on the 1850 census he was listed as age 6. Other age reports conflict as well.
          About all we know for sure is Jim Jamison was a healthy young man in the unhealthy state of Missouri during the Civil War. Imagine if you took all the political disagreements of today and tried to solve them by shooting anyone who held an opposing view. That was Missouri in the 1860s!
           According to his widow's pension application, Jim served as a Confederate soldier from 1862 to the end of the war. But even that service is in dispute. Some say he spent the entire war in prison. Some say he wasn't an official soldier but a "Bushwhacker" who rode with the likes of Bill Wilson and Quantrill's Raiders.  The most frightening tales come from the memoirs of a former Union soldier, Col. William Monks, who describes Jamison as terrorizing southern Missouri in the years after the war, slaughtering returning Union soldiers for no reason.
          By 1870 Genuine Jim moved to Texas where his gun-slinging ability was appreciated. He served as a deputy or marshal in several Texas towns -- Halletsville, Luling, Flatonia, Schulenberg, Gonzales. Even those records don't always agree on his title and jurisdiction.He supposedly killed about 20 people during his lifetime, and was wounded at least that many times.
        When he died of pneumonia in 1906, an obituary called him "one of the best known peace officers in the state of Texas... He never knew what fear was and handled the toughest desperadoes with a facility and fearlessness that caused his very name to strike fear to the hearts of lawless people."
           Evidently Genuine Jim still has the ability to be pretty scary.
           Lavaca County Attorney John Stuart Fryer keeps a picture of Jamison on his office wall in the courthouse. Even in black and white, Jamison's icy blue eyes are so menacing that Fryer said one visitor commented that he looked like he was going to kill him.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

A Crane in the family

        The Indians called him The Crane. Historians call him a mountain man, a contemporary of William Sublette and Jim Bridger. I call him Uncle Sam.
         Samuel Tullock was one of the six sons of widow Jemima Tullock. She moved her boys to the Missouri territory in 1814 when Sam was 13. A decade later, Sam was a trapper and fur trader for the American Fur Company. He injured his wrist in a brawl at the fur traders' rendezvous in Idaho in 1827 and lived with a permanently withered hand. Didn't slow him down much. He slugged a  Frenchman named Bray who teased him about his hand at a Wyoming rendezvous in 1829. Bray never got up again.
         Sam built two forts in Montana for the American Fur Company: Ft. Cass in 1832 and Ft. Van Buren in 1835. Both forts were on the Yellowstone River, near the Big Horn River, in the middle of Crow country. He traded with the Indians: seven fur robes for a flint-lock gun, six robes for a red blanket.
         Sam returned to Missouri in 1839, married an Irish immigrant and raised seven kids. He served as a county judge in Iron County, Mo., from 1858-1860 and lived to be almost 80.
         But he left his name in Montana where Tullock Creek still flows into the Big Horn River less than a mile from where the Big Horn empties into the Yellowstone River.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Anna's eyes

I recognize those eyes, deep-set like mine. But the eyes of Margaret Anna Jamison saw much horror in her short life.
       Anna -- she went by her middle name just as I do -- was my grandmother's grandmother. Grandma, by the way, had those deep-set eyes too.
       Ten years before the Civil War, when Anna was 17, she married Coatsworth Pinkney Tharp. He had been the husband of her sister Jane who died in childbirth. Anna married a ready-made family with her sister's three-year-old daughter, Eliza Jane.
        In the 1850s, C.P. acquired 420 acres in the southern Missouri hills of the newly formed Dent County. As the farm grew, so did the family. By the time Lincoln was elected president in 1860, they had five children.
        But as the country fell apart, so did their lives. Missouri was a border state. Most of the people didn't want to secede,  but they didn't support the war either. As a result, Union soldiers marched across the state and treated everyone as the enemy. They attacked farmers, took their livestock, burned their homes.
        Anna's brother, James Jamison, was arrested for defending his home against the soldiers. He escaped from the federal prison and rode with the "bushwhackers" like Bill Wilson and Quantrill's Raiders.
         Family tradition says the soldiers invaded Anna's farm too, and hung C.P. Anna cut down her husband, and he survived. But her babies didn't do as well. Two infant daughters died during the war years. But Edwin, born in 1862, survived. He was Grandma's father.
         Anna's last baby, Evaline, was born in 1866. The war was over, but all the fight had gone out of Anna. She died two months after Evaline was born.
         Anna was only 32.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Stuck on single ply?

Toilet paper is so taxing! Which is the better buy? Eight mega rolls or sixteen super rolls?. Both packages claim to be equal to 32 regular rolls, and neither package is small enough to fit under the bathroom sink.Take your pick for $10. That's a lot of green for the ultimate throw-away.  But wait. Here's a package that claims to be equal to 32 regular rolls and it's only $6.
            I was debating these high finance options in the grocery store the other day when a woman I didn't know joined me with the same lament. We compared inches and centimeters; claims of softness and strength. Then we spotted the truth. The $6 option was "single ply."
             In other words, not enough thickness to keep your hand dry.
             "I've worked too many years to save money on single ply," I said, tossing the $10 package of mega rolls into my cart.
             The other woman sighed and settled for the  $6 option. "Once the kids move out maybe I can splurge on double ply."

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Don't be coy, Koi

A small square pond behind the Audubon House in  Key West boasts some of the biggest Koi I've ever seen. The flashy orange and white fish  almost burst out of the space.
      Somehow it seems appropriate for a house that naturalist painter John James Audubon never entered. In fact, when Audubon visited Florida in the 1830s, the house wasn't even built yet. The house that was on the property at that time was destroyed by a hurricane in the 1840s, and the current house built to replace it. Turns out, the only connection to the famous painter is that he used a plant from the property as the background for his painting of the White Crowned Pigeon.
       But the legend that a famous person had something to do with the house saved it from destruction in the 1950s and inspired a lovely restoration of the home of Capt.  John Geiger, including three floors of Audubon prints and a lush tropical garden.
       If it was called the Geiger house, however, it wouldn't attract nearly as many visitors. In the end, what difference does it make if an 1830s painter sat in the parlor or painted on the porch or never set foot on the property? The restoration is well done, the tour guides informative, and the visit well worth the time.
         The lesson here is to crow about yourself. Take that claim to fame even if it is a thin thread. Don't be coy, be Koi.