Copyright © Janice Tracy, Cemeteries of Dancing Rabbit Creek.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Black Knight of the South

Left: Cenotaph of Alexander Keith McClung, Located in Friendship Cemetery, Columbus, Lowndes County, Mississippi

A nephew of Chief Justice John Marshall, Alexander Keith McClung was allegedly born in Virginia around the turn of the 19th century. His date of birth differs, according to the source, but an approximate date appears to be somewhere between 1809 and 1811. By all accounts, McClung arrived in Mississippi about 1832. According to most sources, McClung lived a life of reckless abandon, a man with more than a few less than desirable habits that created feelings of both admiration and fear in those who knew him. Like his uncle, McClung became a lawyer, but he seemed to have more interest in dueling and writing poetry than in studying and interpreting the law. He became somewhat of a "folk hero" after his involvement in several infamous duels in Vicksburg that left eight members of the Menifee Family of Kentucky dead. McClung's reckless bravery and often strange and somewhat morbid behavior, seem to be the basis for being referred to as "The Black Knight of the South."

McClung's reputation as a duelist and as a man who was often moody and melancholy apparently did not prevent him from being popular among the ladies. One of McClung's admirers, a Mrs. Clay, who met him while visiting her uncle in Columbus, Lowndes County, Mississippi, discusses her relationship with McClung in her memoirs. Clay describes him as "...the gallantest lover that ever knelt at a lady's feet." Almost betrothed to him as a very young woman, the writer expressed her concern about his "fitful, uncertain moods" and "....periods of deepest melancholy." Mrs. Clay further explained her fear for him when he was away by telling how McClung would "...mount his horse, named 'Rob Roy,' wild and untamable as himself, and dash to the cemetery, where he would throw himself down on a convenient grave and stare like a madman into the sky for hours." Perhaps McClung's cenotaph is located in the same cemetery referred to by Mrs. Clay in her writings.

While serving in the Mexican War, McClung's fearless disposition earned him the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the 1st Mississippi Infantry. Legend has it that McClung returned from the war with two fingers missing on his left hand, the result of being hit in the hand by a stray bullet as he charged forth carrying the American flag. McClung's service in the Mexican War was apparently later rewarded by an appointment as U. S. Representative to Bolivia between 1849 and 1851.

In 1855, Alexander Keith McClung, lawyer, poet, and a veteran of deadly duels and a war, died alone in a hotel room in Jackson, Mississippi, apparently from a self-inflicted bullet. Just as he had been drawn as a young man into a cemetery during times of distress and unrest, McClung seemed to have been drawn by his own demons into death. He is buried in Vicksbrug, Mississippi, in Cedar Hill Cemetery.

The poem below was among the deceased man's belongings when he was found.

Invocation to Death

Swiftly speed o'er the wastes of time, Spirit of Death.
In manhood's morn, in youthful prime, I woo thy breath.
For the glittering hues of hope are fled Like the dolphin's light;
And dark are the clouds above my head as the starless night.
Oh, vainly the mariner signs for the rest
Of the peaceful haven,
The pilgrim saint for the shrines of the blest,
The calm of heaven;
The galley slave for the night wind's breath,
At burning noon;
But more gladly I'd spring to thy arms, O Death,
Come soon, come soon.

Colonel Alexander Keith McClung

Died March 25, 1855

Buried in Cedar Hill Cemetery

Vicksburg, Mississippi


The Bench and Bar of the South and Southwest, by Henry S. Foote, p. 104-105 (St. Louis: Soule, Thomas & Wentworth,1878) (Buffalo, New York: William S. Hein & Co., 1994, reprint)

A Belle of the Fifties; Memoirs of Mrs. Clay, of Alabama, Covering Social and Political Life in Washington and the South, 1853-66, by Virginia Clay-Clopton, 1905

"Duel! Defenders of Honor or Shoot-on-sight Vigilantes?" by Ross Drake, Smithsonian Magazine, March 2004

Friday, February 6, 2009

Old Plank Cemetery, Carroll County, Mississippi

The Old Plank Cemetery is located near the Old Plank Church near Vaiden, Mississippi, in rural Carroll County. The cemetery is a large one with over four hundred graves. Buried in this cemetery are those with the surnames of Austin, Bingham, Briscoe, Ferguson, Greenlee, Herring, King, Minchew, Montague, Parker, Rosamond, Rucker, Scoggins, Scott, Stephens, Stewart, Varner, Vinson, and Weeks.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

John Baldridge, War of 1812 Veteran

Several months ago, I wrote a series of posts on Attala County Memories about the Baldridge family. In those posts, I discussed this family's migration from its native Ireland to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and later into Mississippi. After John Baldridge (the immigrant) died in the late 1700's, his widow and children began their migration through the colonies, living first in Orange County, North Carolina, then in Tennessee, and later, in Mississippi. Family legend has it that a few Baldridge men married women of Native American heritage during their migrations from Pennsylvania into the Mississippi Territory. Other stories about Baldridge men say they fought side by side with Native Americans during some of the Indian wars in Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi. After The Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek was signed, some of these Mississippi families moved to Indian Territory. But before leaving the state for what later became Oklahoma, many members of this family had lived in an area that eventually became Carroll County, Mississippi. My great-great-great-grandparents, Daniel Baldridge and Harriett Atwood, were among those who stayed behind. Today, very few Baldridges remain in Mississippi, while large numbers of the descendants of those who went to Indian Territory now reside in the State of Oklahoma.

The tombstone pictured above is that of my great-great-great-great-grandfather, John Baldridge, grandson of John Baldridge, the Irish immigrant who lived in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and father of Daniel Baldridge. John Baldridge was born on February 8, 1780, in Orange County, North Carolina. He married Jane Owens, his first wife, on September 20, 1804, in what later became Jefferson County, a few years after he arrived in the Mississippi Territory. The couple became the parents of 11 children. Jane died on May 14, 1830 in Yazoo County, Mississippi. On June 1, 1836, John married again, this time to Nancy Cheek Marble, in Grenada, Mississippi. Nine children were born during John's second marriage to Nancy. My Baldridge line descends from John's marriage to Nancy.

John died on February 18, 1860 in Carroll County and is buried in Enon Methodist Church Cemetery, south of Carrollton, near Coila, in Carroll County, Mississippi. As his grave stone states, John Baldridge was a veteran of the War of 1812, having served in McMath's Company of the NY Militia. Although it seems odd at first glance that someone who lived in the Mississippi Territory would have served in the New York Militia, the reason is a logical one: the Baldridge and McMath families had been related for many years through marriages that occurred in Pennsylvia, and John Baldridge simply answered a call to service from one of these relatives.

After John Baldridge's death in 1860, Nancy Cheek Marble Baldridge outlived her husband by 52 years. She died on March 7, 1908 and is buried in Madison County, Mississippi.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Eli and Mollie Eliza Jane Edwards Snow

This large zinc double grave stone in Bethlehem Cemetery near Ackerman, Choctaw County, marks the burial place of Eli Snow and his wife, Mollie Eliza Jane Edwards Snow. Eli was born on December 31, 1843 and died February 8, 1924. His widow, born on November 9, 1869, lived slightly over 42 years before her own death. Mollie Eliza Jane Edwards Snow died on July 5, 1966, just four months short of her 97th birthday.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Links to Kemper, Marshall, Neshoba, Newton and Noxubee County Cemeteries

Recently, while I was researching online, I stumbled upon Carol's House, a very nicely put together family history website maintained by a Mississippi native who now lives in another state. From her website, Carol provides links to pictures and information about her relatives who are buried in several cemeteries located in Kemper, Marshall, Neshoba, Newton, and Noxubee Counties. When writing about her deceased ancestors, Carol includes a picture of the cemetery and the gravestone, along with a profile of her deceased relative. Also on her website, Carol has provided links to historical pictures and information about people, places, and things that relate to the area around Union, Mississippi where she apparently lived at one time.

I highly recommend checking out Carol's House if you are researching family members who either lived in or migrated through any of the counties listed above.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Louisa Ward Hamiter's Lone Tombstone

Louisa Ward Hamiter, wife of David W. Hamiter, was born on November 29, 1830 in Alabama and died on May 14, 1870 in Scott County, Mississippi. She was only 40 years old. Her tombstone stands alone, with no other family members buried near her in Eastern Cemetery in Forest, Mississippi, located in Scott County. Louisa's husband, David, died on May 7, 1892, and is buried in the Houston Cemetery in Chickasaw County, Mississippi near one of their children.

Louisa and David Hamiter were likely married in Alabama, since the U. S. Census of 1850 shows Louisa, 19 years old, and her husband, David, 31, living in the Southern Division of Pickens County, Alabama. Their only child, a son, Everitt N., had been born the year before in Alabama. According to the census, Louisa was born in Georgia, and her husband had been born in South Carolina. David worked as a "warehouse keeper," and their real property was valued at $1,400. Although most of the Hamiter's neighbors were farmers by occupation, two nearby neighbors were merchants, and it is likely that David Hamiter worked for one of these individuals. By 1860, Louisa and David were parents of three children, Everitt N., 11, John W., 7, and Martha M., 2. They were still living in the Southern Division of Pickens County, and they received their mail at the Vienna, Alabama post office.

At a time I have been unable to determine, but sometime between 1860 and 1870, Louisa and David Hamiter moved their family from Pickens County, Alabama to Scott County, Mississippi. By the time the U. S. Census was taken in 1870, Louisa had already died, and her husband was living with two of their three children in the Hillsboro Community, where he worked as a schoolteacher.

I was unable to locate David W. Hamiter again on a U. S. Census, so I am uncertain if he ever remarried. I did, however, find one of the children from Louisa's marriage to David. In 1880, John W. (William) was shown on the U. S. Census taken in Lowndes County, Mississippi, as a dry goods store clerk living in Newton, Mississippi. William resided in the household of T. H. Ottenstein, a 22 year-old Bavarian-born store clerk. Because of the Hamiter family's German origin, Ottenstein may have been a cousin. The two men lived adjacent to Thomas Clark, shown on the census as a "store owner," and Clark may have been the owner of the dry goods store where the two young men were employed.

The surname of Hamiter is an uncommon one in Mississippi today. While the Hamiter family continued to increase in size in Pickens County, Alabama during the 1800s and well into the twentieth century, only a small portion of those families migrated elsewhere. The families who did move from Alabama, however, seemed to move westward into parts of Louisiana and Arkansas and further north into Indiana and Illinois.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Manda and Maggie, Wives of George F. Halford

This is a followup post to a post that appeared as Tombstone Tuesday on January 19, 2009. The triple tombstone pictured here is located in Cedar Grove Cemetery in Leake County, Mississippi, and it marks the burial places of George F. Halford and his two wives, Amanda B. Boutwell Halford and Margaret F. Nash Halford. In today's post, I have attempted to piece together the story of how these three lives and those of their children intertwined.

According to his tombstone, George F. Halford was born on April 3, 1858 in Mississippi. George's date of birth is validated by the U. S. Census of 1860, taken in Leake County, Mississippi, where George, age 2, was enumerated in the household of his parents, Owen Halford and Nice J. Halford. The post office address for the Halford family was shown as Carthage, Mississippi. According to the census, Owen, a farmer, was born in North Carolina around 1807, and in 1860, he owned real estate and personal property valued at $800. Also living in the Halford household were George's brother, Lemuel, age 13, and his three sisters named Nancey, 16, Frances 6, and Elizabeth, 3. All children were born in Mississippi." The age difference between Owen and Nice, along with a gap of over 6 years between the ages of Lemuel and Frances, raises a question of whether George's marriage to Nice may have been a second one. The census record, however, shows "Halford" as the surname for all children enumerated.

When I searched the U. S. Census of 1870, I found George F. Halford enumerated as an unmarried, white male aged 22, residing in the household of Rachel McKay in adjacent Madison County. He was not shown as a "direct relative" of Mrs. McKay, and his occupation was "farmer." Also enumerated in the McKay household was George Ramber, a farm laborer. Although Mrs. McKay may have been George's grandmother or an aunt, I found no information to establish that a blood relationship existed between the two.

I was unable to locate George F. Halford on the U. S. Census again until 1900, when I found his family enumerated in the Good Hope Community of Leake County, Mississippi. George, then 42, was shown to be living with his wife of 18 years, Manda, age 38, along with their six children, Mirtle, 16, Katie, 12, Thomas, 10, Hallie, 6, Edker, 4, and Colant, 2. It is likely that George and Manda lost a child between the births of Mirtle and Katie, as the census shows that Manda had 7 pregnancies and only 6 live births. According to her gravestone, Amanda ("Manda") B. Boutwell Halford died on May 26, 1904.

A review of the U. S. Census of 1910 shows that George, then 52 years old, was already married to Margaret, who was enumerated as "Maggie," aged 26, and they were living in Leake County. Children in the household were Tom, 20, Hal, 18, Edgar, 15, and Cullen, 12. In addition, there were three children born during George's marriage to Maggie, Owen, 4, Henry, 3, and Andrew, 2.

Twenty years later, in 1930, George and Maggie, now 73 and 45 years old, respectively, were still living in Leake County, Mississippi. Also enumerated in the household were seven of their children, Henry, 22, and six other children born between 1910 and 1930, Jack, 21, Enda, 16, Mabel, 13, Frank, 11, Fannie, 8, and Leona, 6.

George F. Halford died on January 17, 1940. Margaret F. Nash Halford, "Maggie" to her family, born on May 12, 1882, died on July 23, 1958. George was married over fifty years to the two women in his life, "Manda" and "Maggie," and both had helped raise George's children from a previous marriage, as well as children born to each of them during their own marriage to George. It seems only fitting that all three people, George, Manda, and Maggie, would be linked together, even after death, by this unusual triple gravestone.