As we barreled down the narrow logging trail through tree branches and sloshed in and out of mud holes in our big green van, we finally saw it. The tall grey spire peaked out above the high grass in a sun-lit clearing. According to Mr. Henry Bryant who led us through the woods to the little cemetery, it was the grave of a “General.” Mr. Bryant had remembered the gravestone in the woods since he was a little boy. The stone did not mark the grave of a general, but the grave of a captain who served in the War of 1812. The man was Capt. Jacob Guice, my great-great-great grandfather.
This was a particularly special find for me. Jacob Guice was from my mother’s side of the family. She had always felt somewhat disconnected from her Guice family because her father, C.L. Guice had died when she was seven and her grandfather Guice had died before her parents were married. She had vague knowledge of the name of her great grandfather Guice, but that is as far back in her family tree as she knew. I began researching for her and I not only found more facts about Jacob Guice and generations before him, but I found out where he was buried — the Guice Cemetery in McNair, Mississippi not far from Natchez.
Shortly after this discovery my husband and I drove to McNair on our way home from a trip. McNair is a quaint little community of a crossroad, a store, a couple of churches and a few homes. Once there we found a church cemetery and a community cemetery, but neither fit the description of the Guice cemetery which we were trying to find. We stopped at the little store and asked the clerk if she knew of another cemetery in the area. She didn’t know of one, but she said if anybody would know it would be Henry Bryant, a lifelong resident of McNair. We soon found Mr. Bryant and after telling him my story and what I wanted to find, he said he would be glad to show me where the cemetery was. All we needed to do was follow him. Okay.
We followed his Jeep down a small paved road, then turned onto a gravel road and continued to follow him for a mile or so. We then veered onto a smaller gravel road until this “road” turned into a trail. Mr. Bryant’s jeep hadn’t slowed down a bit. He kept going farther. The trail got narrower and muddier. The branches of the small trees raked down the sides of our van and the mud holes got bigger and deeper. I can be adventurous, but by now I was having second thoughts! Where was he taking us?
Then we saw something up ahead in a clearing . A tall spire was the first thing we saw of the cemetery. I was so excited to see it — especially after that harrowing experience! As we got closer, I could see other smaller gravestones that made up the little Guice cemetery in the woods. Mr. Bryant was so proud to be able to show us this treasure.
He pulled back the tall grass and showed me the inscription on the spire and the star at the bottom. I told him the story about my great-great-great grandfather, Captain (not General) Jacob Guice, and how he had led a company of Mississippi militia to Baton Rouge during the War of 1812. Mr. Bryant’s confusion about his rank was because of the star that had been placed on the base of the grave’s spire commemorating Capt. Guice’s service in the war. It read, “General Society of the War of 1812, War of 1812 Veteran.” When Mr. Bryant was a boy hunting in these woods, he thought the “general” on the star denoted a general’s grave. The memorial spire not only had the inscription of Jacob Guice, but also the inscription for his wife, Susanna.
I also told him that Jacob’s father and the Guice clan had traveled down the Natchez Trace from Nashborough (Nashville, TN) to become some of the early settlers in the Natchez area following the Revolutionary War. Jacob’s father Jonathan and the family’s next two generations would become established in the area as cotton planters.
Mr. Bryant then lead us over to where the old Guice house had been located. He said the remains of the old home were still there when he was a little boy. I couldn’t wait to tell my mother what I had found so that she could come to see it. Mr. Bryant told me to let him know when we would be back and he would clean up the little cemetery so we wouldn’t have to wade through the tall grass. It wasn’t very long before we were back up there with my mother. And true to his word, Mr. Bryant had mowed the entire cemetery! My mother was so thrilled to finally see where her family had once lived and to see the graves of her Guice grandfather.
I often wonder that if I had waited too many more years before searching for this gravesite, I may never have found it. No one seemed to know it existed except Mr. Henry Bryant. Thank you Mr. Bryant for not only your knowledge, but your hospitality and generosity in helping us connect with a valuable piece of family history.
After this visit, my mother was able to connect with other Guices in the area and even attended a Guice family reunion before she passed away a couple of years later. I was so glad to be able to help her find the connection she had always longed for.
Jacob Guice is the grandson of Frederick Stump who is the subject of three posts on this blog site: ”Savagery in the Susquehanna,” “*a footnote to Savagery in the Susquehanna,” and “Fugitive, Fighter, and Founder.” Jacob’s son is Elbert Guice who is remembered in the post: ”A Pile of Cotton and A Lighted Pine Knot.” Jacob’s great grandson is my mother’s father and is featured in the post: “Poor boy, he had just got ready to live.” All of these posts are located in the category “Branch: Guice”.