The Questionable End of Armant Plantation

The Armant Brothers were like other antebellum plantation owners along the Mississippi River. They loved a good bet. Endowed with the recent inheritance of their father, Jean Baptiste Armant’s plantation, in 1858, the Armant Brothers had money with which to gamble.  Their profitable 1150-acre sugarcane plantation was located on the Mississippi River between present-day Oak Alley and Laura Plantations in Vacherie, Louisiana.  Before the Civil War, it was the neighboring plantation to Valcour Aime’s plantation — La Petite Versailles.

All of the wealthy planters along the river had a variety of ways in which to compete and gain the monetary upper-hand of their peers.

A popular trick card game called “Boston” was often played in private clubs.  (One of these clubs in New Orleans occasionally had visitors from the city of Boston, Massechusetts attempt entry assuming it was a private club for Bostonians.)  In that club, one of the wealthiest planters on the River, Duncan Kenner, was said to have lost $20,000 ($485,000 today) on one game of Boston and was still not considered a plunger.

Horse racing was another exciting way to win money, or lose one’s money in the antebellum south.  The gaming Mr. Kenner also loved racing his thoroughbreds — so much so that he built a track and stables at his home Ashland Belle Helene near Darrow, LA.

John Burnside, the Sugar King of Houmas House plantation, was also passionate about racing horses.  Once he stabled a champion thoroughbred in his billiard room in order to keep it hidden until a race at Kenner’s track.  Did Burnside win?  Yes, he did.


Map of Armant Plantation in Houmas House

I learned of the latter story while on tour of Houmas House plantation. On this same tour, I noticed a map of the Armant Plantation hanging on the wall in the billiard room. This map was of particular interest to me since it is the plantation of one of my ancestors, my 5th great-grandfather Jean Baptiste Armant  who inherited it from his father.  I thought it was strange to have a map of a neighboring plantation in the home so I inquired about why it was there.  The tour guide told me that the Armant Brothers, who had inherited that plantation, wagered it in a bet and lost it to John Burnside in a horse race.  A whole plantation lost in a horse race? I had to know more.

If this story is true, I am appalled that my ancestor cousins were so careless as to bet their inheritance on something as fleeting as a horse race.  If false, I wanted to clear the name and reputation of my Armant kin.  So I began my own investigation to determine the details of this story.

It is true that John Burnside began acquiring plantations soon after he bought Houmas House in 1857.  In fact, he purchased 12 more plantations before, during, and after the Civil War — sometimes for pennies on the dollar.  Could he have acquired some of them through bets?  The evidence of the gambling habits of the local planters did give credence to this possibility.

I first inquired of Dr. Kevin Kelly, present owner of Houmas House, to find out how he discovered this story. He said the story was told by a descendant of the Miles family — former owners of Houmas House.  The descendent, Dr. Henry Miles, who was born in Houmas House in 1901, died around 2005 and I was told that he was the lone historian of the Miles family.  Therefore I was not able to verify this story directly.

I decided to go to the St. James Parish courthouse to see if I could find any property records that had to do with the transfer of the plantation from the Armant Brothers to John Burnside.  The old documents I found were fascinating — some written in French,and others in English — with handwriting and signatures written with a flare seldom seen today.

Final page of the document of the purchase of Armant Plantation in January of 1860

Final page of the document of the purchase of Armant Plantation in January of 1860

I did find a document of the property transfer containing the signatures of one Armant brother, the signature of John Burnside, and others, but it was on a document of the purchase of Armant plantation, not a transfer of ownership without payment.

Most of the plantations that Burnside owned were acquired during or after the war, but this one was purchased before the war in January of 1860 — six years after the death of their father. Armant Plantation was ordered by the court in September of 1859 to be auctioned on January 12, 1860 to settle inheritance and succession issues.  The land was divided into 31 sections and sold individually.  John Burnside bought 29 of the sections including Armant’s French-style plantation home on the river. He purchased the homestead for $25,000 ($630,000 today) and the sections of land for $68,102.77 ($1,700,000 today).

Victor Armant, one of the brothers, bought two sections of land for $23,681.10 ($597,000 today) that held some of the plantation buildings, possibly used for sugar manufacturing.  The final section of land was purchased by another individual.Victor Armant Sig168

Stories, even those that can’t be proven true, often have a grain of truth to them.  So I wondered if possibly Victor may have lost his portion later by gambling it away — maybe in hopes of winning back his beloved home.  I went back to the St. James courthouse to see what I could find.  And once again I found another document stating that John Burnside bought Victor’s portion in 1866, a year after the war ended for $3500 ($54,000 today) — a fraction of what Victor paid for it.

I don’t know all of the possible nuggets of truth that have caused this story to survive, but as former U.S. President John Adams once said,”facts are stubborn things.” The facts I have discovered so far show that Armant Plantation was purchased by John Burnside. Could he have won another of his plantations in a horse race?  That could be an interesting investigation. But I am satisfied knowing that my ancestors were not the type of people who would needlessly squander their inheritance.  Jean Baptiste Armant’s family reputation can be held in high regard once again.

Jean Baptiste Armant, Sr. and Rose Carmelite Cantrelle Armant are my 5th great-grandparents.  They are also the grandparents of my 3rd great-grandmother whose story is told in “Of Plantations and Hurricanes.”

© 2013 Melinda Holloway All Rights Reserved


A Picture is Worth More Than a Thousand Words

SONY DSCImages of our ancestors are the golden nuggets of family history.  Often we are not able to find an image of an ancestor, but when we do, even when the image is small and faded, it gives life to their name and dates.  When you look into the eyes of people who lived so long ago, who are your own flesh and blood, it is an ethereal experience that connects you to your past.

SONY DSCOne set of pictures I have in my collection of family images is in an old, red, velvet-covered album of the Broom(e) family.  Besides my loved ones, this album is one thing I would grab in case of a fire.  Most of the photos in this album are from 1880-1900, but some daguerreotypes are from before the Civil War. All except a few are labeled, which is invaluable!  Also in my family history collection I have the Broome Family Bible listing many of  their important dates and events.

John Thomas Broom

John Thomas Broom

Aletris Ellen Morgan Broome

Aletris Ellen Morgan Broom

The patriarch of this family is John Thomas Broom who was a farmer from Utica, Mississippi.  (The “e” was added to the family name around the turn of the century according to Bible records.)   The year before the Civil War began he married his young sweetheart Aletris Ellen Morgan on October 7, 1860.  He was 24 and she was 13.  They married in Richmond, Louisiana (near Tallulah, LA) which was burned completely by Gen. Ulysses S. Grant before the siege of Vicksburg, MS in 1863.

Born in 1836 John Thomas was the prime age of 26 for military service in the Civil War. John served for more than one year in the Confederate Army as part of the 36th Mississippi Infantry.  He enlisted in March 1862 for 12 months of service, but in April 1862 a Confederate conscription act, or draft order, went into effect that forced men ages 18-35 to serve for at least three years.  In September of 1862 the conscription age was increased to 45.  But a year and two months after his enlistment date, when the 36th Mississippi was ordered to leave Snyder’s Bluff north of Vicksburg and take up defenses in Vicksburg, John deserted and went home.  Maybe he sensed the inevitable defeat by the Union Army because of the advances they were making around Mississippi.  But there were other reasons why many Confederate soldiers deserted their army around this time in the war.

One was the enactment of  the conscription acts which they felt infringed on their rights by their government — which was why they were fighting this war against the Union in the first place.  In addition to this was the 20 slave exemption added to the conscription acts in October of 1862.  This exemption meant that those who owned 20 slaves could go home to help prevent possible slave uprisings.  The slave-owner could then hire someone to fight in his stead. Any man who could afford the $300 price could hire a substitute to fight for them. Therefore the war in the Confederacy by this time had become known as “a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight.”

John Thomas and Aletris had their first child on August 30, 1861, a few months after the start of the war.  They named him Thomas Sanders Broom after Aletris’ father Thomas Sanders Morgan.  After John Thomas returned home from the war he and Aletris had 9 more children, six of whom lived to adulthood.

Thomas Sanders Broome

Thomas Sanders Broom

Thomas Sanders Broom, Ella Anderson Broom and their children

Thomas Sanders Broom and his wife Ella Anderson Broom with their children

When Thomas grew up, he converted from his family’s Protestant faith to Mormonism.  His father then disowned him.

Eva May Broom

Eva May Broom

John Thomas Broom returned home by August of 1863 and the following spring on May 30, 1864, Eva May Broom was born. She grew up and married Craven P. Fairchild on the 10th of December 1884.

The Broom’s second daughter Louisa Broom, died the day she was born on September 11, 1866.

Catherine Octavia Broom was born in Jan of 1869 and died at the age of three.

Their next child was a son, Willy.

John William "Willy" Brooome

John William “Willy” Broome

John William “Willy” Broom was born in December of 1870.  Sadly at the age of 7, he was killed when he was hit by a wagon.

The Broom’s third son Andrew Jackson Broom, born May 3, 1872, was named after Alestris’ brother Andrew Jackson Morgan (who was killed in the Battle of Seven Pines at the age of 16).  He moved to Llano, Texas where he was a border patrol agent.

Andrew Jackson Broom

Andrew Jackson Broom

Andrew Jackson Broome

Andrew Jackson Broom

Andrew Jackson Broome's family

Andrew Jackson Broom and his wife Lily Mayo Broom and their children

Annie Theodosia Broom was born January 27, 1876.  She married Andrew J. Harvey on the 4th of July 1899.

Annie Theodosia Broom

Annie Theodosia Broom

Luther Dudley “Dutchy” Broom was their eighth child and fourth son who was born on June 16, 1877.  He was my great grandfather.

Luther Dudley Broom

Luther Dudley Broom

Luther Dudley Broom

Luther Dudley Broome


Anna Daisy Jacob Broome

He married Anna Daisy Jacob from Reserve on the German Coast in south Louisiana.  They were married in Baton Rouge on 28 Dec 1904.  He was Baptist and she was Catholic, so they were married by a Methodist minister.  He worked for Standard Oil Company (now Exxon) in Baton Rouge.

Clarence Franklin Broom

Clarence Franklin Broom

Clarence Franklin Broome

Clarence Franklin Broome

Albia Jones Broome

Albia Jones Broome

Clarence Franklin Broom was born April 25, 1879.  He married Albia Jones December 23, 1903.

Mary Jane Broome

Mary Jane Broom

Aletris Broom had their last child when she was 42 years old.  She had a girl born September 13, 1881 whom they named Mary Jane Broom. Something happened to Mary Jane causing her to pass away at the age of 7.  All that is written in the family Bible is the date she died and the time of day: “quarter to four P.M. Sunday eve”.

The old Broom family album contains many more interesting photos of members of Aletris’ family and John Thomas’ families.  But those photos will appear in a future post.

John Thomas and Aletris lived a rich life full of joy, hardship, happiness, and sadness.  Most of the handwriting in the family Bible appears to be hers.  But on the day she died, at age 58, in a shaky handwriting typical of old age, John inscribes her death information in the old Bible: “Aletris E. Broome the wife of J. T. Broome.  Died on the 19 of April 1905 about 8 in the eaving was born 11 of March 1847”.  All other dates after her death were written by him until he died.

john_thomas_broome Aletris Ellen Morgan Broome

John Thomas Broome Aletris Morgan Broome025

John Thomas and Aletris with a grandchild

John Thomas and Aletris with grandchild Sammy Harvey

John Thomas Broome with Luther Dudley's children (L to R) Marcia (my grandmother), John Denis, and Katie (taken about 1913)

John Thomas Broome with Luther Dudley Broome’s children (L to R) Marcia (my grandmother), John Denis, and Katie (taken about 1913)

St. David’s Church – Standing Guard

The old white sentinel stands resolutely over the many silent headstones that surround its 241-year-old wooden frame.  It has witnessed years of war interspersed with years of peace and both have shaped its colorful history in Cheraw, South Carolina.

Having been commissioned in 1768 and built in 1770, St. David’s Church saw the tumult and rumblings of dissension early in the American Revolutionary War for Independence. In fact St. David’s Parish was the last Anglican parish to be established under the British King George III. This parish was named after the patron saint of Wales because of the large Welsh population in the area.

Interior of St. David’s

Not only was St. David’s Church present during the Revolutionary War, it also played roles for both American and British armies.  It was used as quarters for the South Carolina militia and later in 1780, it was used as quarters and a hospital for a regiment of  the British Army.  These soldiers were in a regiment called the Highlanders and were under the command of Maj. McArthur in Lord Cornwallis’ Army.  While quartering there many of the Highlander soldiers became sick and died, probably from smallpox. They are buried in a mass grave in front of the church. Several British officers are also buried on the church grounds.

After the war, the Anglican Church was dis-established due to its connection with England, but over the years St. David’s Church would continue to be used as a faithful dwelling for other denominations including Baptists and Presbyterians. But the Episcopal Church, the “American” Anglican church, would reclaim the building by 1819.

‘Rebel ordnance captured at Cheraw, S.C., On the 3D March, By the 17th Corps, which occupied the town on that day – Sketched by our special artist, Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, April 8, 1865.

After years of peace the church building would once again be called into service during war time.  Union and Confederate soldiers used the sanctuary as a hospital.  When Gen. Wm. T. Sherman made his burning march to the sea through Georgia and South Carolina, he occupied Cheraw and burned many buildings in the town as well as outlying plantations punishing them for their role in being the first town to secede from the Union. There was a large accidental munitions explosion during the Union occupation in Cheraw that damaged the church building, but orders were never given to burn St. David’s Church.

Over the years the grounds around the church have become an expansive cemetery. Resting in peace are soldiers from both armies of the Revolutionary War, Confederate and Union soldiers from the Civil War and soldiers from every other war in which America has fought. Members of the local community from every denomination are also buried there including Catholic citizens which is very unusual in a Protestant cemetery.

This church is near and dear to my family because my husband’s sixth great-grandfather was a member of the Vestry of St. David’s Parish and one of the commissioners who organized the building of St. David’s Church.  He was Capt. Thomas Ellerbe, a respected member of Cheraw, SC. He was also a patriot who served as a captain under General Francis Marion during the Revolutionary War in South Carolina.

The Curious Civil War Photo

The well-worn, crimson-colored velvet album of the Broome family contains many family photos from the turn of the century as well as some photos and tintypes from the Civil War era.  But one curious photo loosely stashed alongside other less curious photos in the back of the album caught my attention.

The photo, small and faded, pictures a scaffold which holds several hanged men — their coffins awaiting them on the ground.  The handwritten inscription on the back of the photo reads, “Scaffold on which 9 negroes were hanged. (1861)” The name of John T. Broome, my great, great grandfather, was also handwritten on the back. The photo was taken by Joslyn, Smith & Co., Washington Gallery, Vicksburg, Miss. 

The photo is morbid at best, but I could not help wondering why this photo had been saved in the family album.  That concern is still only answerable by speculation, but I did go on a search for the story behind the photo.  What I found was a saga that revealed the ravages and the horrors of enemy occupation and examples of human nature at its lowest and highest points.

The hanging of nine African-American Union soldiers took place in 1865 during the occupation of Vicksburg. They were hanged after being found guilty of the murder of Mrs. Minerva Cook of Hardtimes Plantation that was located seven miles east of Vicksburg.

Wide-spread harassment of citizens and the looting of their property had occurred consistently during the Union occupation of the city and the surrounding area. Three civilian murders by Union soldiers had already occurred in Vicksburg since the occupation began in the summer of 1863, but General Henry Slocum, the Union general in charge at that time did nothing about the crimes.  But in late 1864 a no-nonsense major general by the name of Napoleon Jackson Tecumseh Dana assumed command.

Before Gen. Ulysses Grant was transferred from Vicksburg, Union and Confederate officials agreed on a neutral zone three miles wide along the railroad between Vicksburg and the Big Black River.   Hardtimes Plantation, owned by Jared Reese Cook was within this neutral zone.  No hostilities or weapons were allowed within this zone.  Gen. Grant even gave to the Cooks  a paper guaranteeing their safety and protection from further harassment.

But one night in early April 1865, some Union soldiers left their Vicksburg camp unauthorized after the evening roll call “to go catch some Rebels.”  What began as another looting spree of a plantation home, ended with the murder of Mrs. Cook and the attempted murder of Mr. Cook.

Mrs. Minerva Cook – from Gordon Cotton’s article in the Vicksburg Post

It was nine o’clock and the Cooks and their three sons had gone to bed when Mr. Cook heard voices outside.  Soon the men were demanding entrance into the home to take the Cook’s silver of which they had no more.  The soldiers stuck lit candles into the barrels of their guns to be able to search the dark house.  The soldiers were very demanding, even going into the children’s rooms and tossing the boys out of their beds to search the mattresses.

When the soldiers could not find what they were looking for, they became angry and wreckless, threatening the Cooks.  One of the soldiers pleaded with his cohorts not to fire their weapons on the family because that is not what they came there to do.  But anger won out and shots rang out.  Mrs. Cook fell to the floor.

After she was shot, more shots rang out and Mr. Cook was shot in the shoulder knocking him to the floor. Presuming Minerva dead, Mr. Cook grabbed one of their sons who was standing close by and escaped through a window running to a neighbor’s home.  Mrs. Cook lay bleeding on the floor.  The soldiers ran back to camp carrying their plunder.  Mrs. Cook was found later still alive with her other children weeping over her.  She was able to identify her assailants saying she had been “shot by negroes dressed in uniform.”  Mrs. Minerva Cook died later that morning.

When the murder became known, Major General Dana offered a reward of $500 for “the apprehension of the guilty.” Thirteen arrests were made and the court martial began May 1, 1865 in the courthouse.  It continued and on May 4th moved to the scene of the crime.  After the case was heard, nine of the men were found guilty.  The sentence was read by judge Gen. Jasper A. Maltby, “To be hanged by the neck until dead, at such time and place as the Major General commanding may direct.”  For three of the 13 men there was a stay of execution and their sentence was converted to five years in the penitentiary.  One soldier was found not guilty of murder because he tried to stop the other soldiers.  He was returned to his regiment for duty. The condemned men were kept in the tall brick-walled jail located across from the courthouse.

Each day family, friends and gracious citizens went to visit the inmates.  Sister Mary de Sales, Reverend Mother of the Sisters of Mercy came to tend the spiritual needs of the men and also to extend friendship and guidance. One of the condemned men, a former carriage driver for the Cooks, made his confession to the Sister and was baptized.

A large sturdy scaffold was built by military authorities in O’Neals Bottom, a grassy area located between Harrison, 1st, and South Streets.  On May 26, the day before Gen. Dana would retire from the military, the condemned men rode from the jail house to the site of the execution — each in the back of a wagon sitting atop his coffin.

As the men took their places on the gallows, but before the nooses were placed around their necks, Pvt. Henry Johnson, the soldier who was baptized by the Reverend Mother, made a final statement: “I hope my sins are washed away by the precious blood of the Savior.” Moments later Federal soldiers sprang the traps and the murder of Minerva Cook was avenged.

John T. Broome 1836-1916

My great, great grandfather valued this photo enough to inscribe his name on it and to stow it away in the back of his family album.  As a Mississippi native and a Confederate soldier, he may have kept it because it gave him some sort of satisfaction, or he may have been present at the execution. I may never know…

For a detailed account of this event read the book by Gordon A. Cotton entitled “The Murder of Minerva Cook.” I am grateful for the help of Mr. Terrence Winchell and Dr. David Slay at the Vicksburg National Military Park, the book by author and past curator of the Vicksburg Old Courthouse Museum Gordon A. Cotton, and current curator, George Bolm for their assistance in helping me discover the mystery behind this curious photo.

© 2011 Melinda Holloway All Rights Reserved

A Pile of Cotton and a Lighted Pine Knot

Angeline was out behind her house stirring the family’s clothes in the hot, soapy water in her iron washtub.  Suddenly 54-year-old Jeremiah*, one of her most trusted slaves, came running up the path toward her.

“Union soldiers are coming up the bayou!” he shouted, nearly out of breath.  Jeremiah had discovered that a runaway slave had gone over to the Union Army to reveal that the Guice plantation had large amounts of ginned, unbaled cotton. The Guices had been unable to sell it since the beginning of the war because of the Confederate embargo and Union blockades.

Elbert and Angeline Guice, 1862

And it wasn’t long until a boat drew up to a landing on Brushley Bayou near her home.  The Union officer and several soldiers stepped out of the boat — they had come to take her cotton.

It was the spring of 1864 and Union troops were making their way through Louisiana. One objective of the Union Army’s new Red River Campaign was to secure large quantities of Louisiana and Texas cotton for northern mills. The year before, several Union gunboats had attempted to make it up the Ouachita (wash-i-taw) River but were turned back at Fort Beauregard in Catahoula Parish, not far from the Guice Plantation.

Cornelia Anna Guice

Elbert Guice, Angeline’s husband, was away from home carrying out his duties as a paymaster for the Confederate troops. She had been doing what she could to maintain some semblance of order around their plantation since the war began, but it was getting increasingly difficult to do with Elbert away. Cornelia, the Guice’s oldest child, was well-educated and helped conduct classes for her nine younger sisters and brothers.

Before the war the Guices owned 30 slaves — half of which were 15 or older in 1860. Many of their slaves had run away after Pres. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, but Jeremiah and 27-year-old “Aunt Hester” stayed and helped the family.

As the officer walked over to the wooden structure housing the loose cotton, Angeline laid down her washing pole, wiped the sweat from her brow, and walked resolutely toward the officer.  As she approached him he said, “Ma’am, we have come to take your cotton.”

She calmly, but adamantly said, “I will never let you have a lock of it to make gun-wadding for killing our people.”

“I will take what I have come for despite your protests,” stated the officer.

With that she asked Jeremiah to hand her a lighted pine-knot.  Without taking her eyes off the face of the Union officer, she threw the flaming pine-knot into the pile of cotton.  It gave a “whoof” and was on fire immediately.

The officer was furious.  With disdain he looked at Angeline and said, “Well Ma’am, since you like a fire, I’ll make one, too.”  He made everyone get out of her house and then ordered his soldiers to set it on fire.

She and her children stood helplessly by and watched their home burn to the ground.  All of their possessions went up in flames before their eyes. Oh how she wished Elbert was with them!

After the soldiers left, the family searched the smoldering rubble for anything of use or value.  All they could redeem was a plate or two and some pieces of pottery.  Neighbors gave them what they could each could spare, but at this point in the war no one had much.

The family planned to make a home in the overseer’s cabin until Elbert came back home.  But Elbert would not be coming home. He died of a sudden illness on December 9, 1864 while on his way to Army headquarters. He was found days later in a warped old cabin in Red Chute, LA near Shreveport with his horse waiting outside.  His body was taken home for burial.

Charles Guice

Living in the damp and cramped overseer’s cabin took its toll on the family as well.  Ten days after Elbert died, 10-year-old Charles died.  Angeline had lost her home, her husband, and her son in a matter of months. Such sadness and heartache is hard to imagine.

When the war ended in April of 1865 and Cornelia’s newlywed husband Benjamin Kitchen came home from the service, he found the family still living in the overseer’s cabin.

Benjamin took on much of the responsibility of providing for the family and became tutor for the children as well.  But the post-war Reconstruction years were very difficult so they decided to move to Union Church, MS to live with relatives.

After several years, believing they could make a better life in Texas, they loaded a wagon and made stops in Natchez, MS and back in Harrisonburg, LA to visit relatives before moving on.  They even made a stop in the little town of Red Chute, LA where Elbert had been found in the cabin.

Hester Robinson

“Aunt Hester” Robinson and her husband eventually moved to Texas and lived near them because she grieved for “the folks.”

In 1877, twelve years after their move from their war-torn home place, Angeline died from an accidental overdose of morphine which the druggist had mislabeled as quinine.  Angeline Jones Guice, born in Tennessee, is buried in the Elmo Cemetery near Terrell, Texas.

Elbert Hampton Guice and Angeline Jones Guice are my great-great grandparents.

*The name Jeremiah is a fictional name given to a devoted slave of the Guices.

© 2011 Melinda Holloway All Rights Reserved

Ashley, Ashley, Ashley….

Gravestones of Ashley Sanders and his wife Sybil in the cemetery across the street from the First Baptist Church in Crowville, LA

Sometimes a family name takes on a life of its own. In the Holloway family the name is Ashley.  It has found its way into every generation of our Holloway family beginning with its original possessor born in 1830. Oddly enough, this Ashley was never a blood relative of the Holloway family.

The name originally belonged to Ashley Appleton Sanders.  As far as we know he and his wife never had any children of their own. But he has a legacy none the less!

He became a member of the Holloway family when his mother married a Holloway after his father passed away.  He went with his new family as they moved as a clan from Mississippi to Louisiana in the mid-1800’s.

By all accounts, Ashley Sanders was a gracious and honorable man, offering his home as the site for the wedding ceremony of his uncle Archibald Holloway and Miss Margaret O. Graves. And in 1861, when the call to arms sounded in his home of Franklin Parish, Louisiana, he was ready to enlist as a soldier in the 31st Louisiana Infantry, CSA.    His regiment fought at Milliken’s Bend, LA near Vicksburg, MS, Jackson, MS, Port Gibson, MS and they endured the six-week siege at Vicksburg. After Vicksburg surrendered, his regiment was captured and later paroled by Union troops. The regiment reorganized in A. Thomas’ Brigade in the Trans-Mississippi Department and fought in more conflicts in Louisiana.

Three years after the war, his step-uncle Archibald Holloway died, leaving a family of a wife and six children. In keeping with his character, thirty-eight year old Ashley and his wife Sybil took in one of Archibald’s young children, William Willis Holloway, and raised him as their own. Ashley appeared to have had a great impact on William.  He stood as a witness in William’s wedding and later William named his first child Ashley Sanders Holloway.

Ashley Sanders Holloway grew up, married, and named his first son Ashley Snyder Holloway.  Several of Ashley Sanders Holloway’s grandchildren bear the name Ashley, one being my husband with Ashley as his middle name.  And it hasn’t stopped there.  One of our daughters has Ashley as her middle name. At present there are at least ten namesakes of Ashley Appleton Sanders in our extended Holloway family.

For a man who had no children of his own, but instead shared his love with those around him, he has gained a lasting legacy.

© 2011 Melinda Holloway All Rights Reserved

The Woman Wore Black

Mary Mariah Louisa Currie Morgan (1824-1900)

As Mary sat down in the firm wooden chair in front of the large boxy camera in the photographer’s studio in Hazlehurst, Mississippi, she called her little great grand-daughter, Olivette, to come over to her.  Mary held her tightly just as she had done so many times with her own children. While the photographer adjusted the camera, her thoughts drifted with sadness to the faces of her children and husband who were no longer with her.  Only three of her eight children had survived to this day in 1898.

Elizabeth, her first child, was born only a couple of months after her first year of marriage to her husband Thomas Sanders Morgan. Mary was 18 when she married him in January of 1843. He was 23.  Together they made their home in Hazlehurst.  But before Elizabeth reached 3 months of age, her sweet little life was over.

Within six months Mary and Thomas were expecting their second child.  Joy and hesitancy filled Mary’s heart.  Would she see this child grow up or would this baby be taken from her as well?  But she would not let herself think about that possibility.  On October 21, 1845, Andrew Jackson Morgan was born.  What a fine healthy baby boy he was!

Within a year and a half, on March 11, 1847, Aletris Ellen Morgan made her appearance in their family.  Then Robert Polk Morgan was born two years later. Almost exactly two years after Robert, Katherine Belmont Morgan was born. Mary would become pregnant again and in December of 1853, she gave birth to Thomas Edwin Morgan.

With Andrew, now 8 years of age and able to begin helping his father in the family business in town and Aletris, 6, able to help with her little brother Robert, 4, and Katherine, 3, this allowed Mary time to spend with her newest little one. Soon Mary became pregnant again and in September of 1855, at age 31, Mary Lenora Morgan, her namesake, was born.  But there were other things occupying her and Thomas’ thoughts. Business was difficult and the political climate within the Union was becoming more volatile everyday.

In late 1857, her son Albert C. Morgan was born.  He was a sickly child, but survived despite the odds. Andrew was now 12, Aletris 10, Robert 8, Katherine 4, Thomas 3 and Mary 2.  Her husband, Thomas, was working hard at the store everyday. She worked hard at home tending the house and children. They were living life, but both were becoming more conscious of the fact, with the political rumblings they heard, that the union of the nation was precarious.  If the individual states in the Union could not work out their differences, there would be a division of the nation that would not happen without great cost.

Before Albert’s first birthday, in October of 1858, Thomas had to be away on business in Gallatin, Tennessee.  But before he returned home her beloved husband died unexpectedly.  He was 39. Mary’s husband of 15 years, gone! What would she do?  There was so much uncertainty for her family, the business, her beloved Mississippi, and her nation. She found someone to operate the business and she began working as a hotel housekeeper in town. She decided she would also take in boarders to make ends meet since she had so many young mouths to feed.

Aletris Ellen Morgan

John Thomas Broome

By 1860, life was difficult for the family without her husband’s presence and provision.  Andrew now almost 15, helped in any way he could.  And for reasons uncertain, maybe to ease the burden on her mother, Aletris, 13, went with her beau, John Thomas Broome, 25, across the Mississippi River into Richmond, Louisiana (now Tallulah, LA) to be married. This town would be completely burned by Union troops within two years.

Civil war broke out the next year and 15-year-old Andrew, joined the Confederate troops that were mustering in Hazelhurst.  Son-in-law John Broome also enlisted in a Mississippi regiment.  But by June of 1862, her dear son, Andrew Jackson Morgan, 16, was killed in the Battle of Seven Pines in Virginia.

For the rest of the war she was without a husband or other man of any age to help her or comfort her while the war was raging nearby. She was only 40 miles from General Ulysses Grant’s troops when they marched through her beloved Mississippi to lay siege to Vicksburg in 1863.

After the war, her sorrow would not end.  In 1872, her son Thomas would die at the age of 18. In 1876, Robert would die at the age of 26.  Albert, her youngest child, would succumb to sickness at age 35 in 1893.

Mary’s three daughters would be her only children to accompany her through the rest of her life.

That is why the woman wore black.  Death had become part of her life.

Mary Currie Morgan is my third great-grandmother and John and Aletris Broome are my great-great grandparents.

© 2011 Melinda Holloway All Rights Reserved