Friday, April 25, 2008

Hello Again Everyone

Hello again everyone.

Yes, we are still here; it's just been one of those months.

First off, nothing much has happened with the house at all. SWMBO and I have been busy with a lot of other items, especially outside - getting the yard ready for spring and summer.

Also, a week ago today I, along with my older brother and father, had to make an emergency trip to Georgia. It was a 22 hour drive straight through.

"Why didn't you fly?" I hear you asking...simple, dad did not want to fly. Not sure why, he just didn't.

Anyway, April 16th, my Aunt Lindy (dad's little sister) died. All we know is that she died of either a heart attack or a stoke. The bad part, other than her death, was when and where she died.

She and my uncle own a set of businesses that deal with autos. As part of the business they would travel to auto auctions in Florida (they live in south central GA) and would transport the autos back. She died while driving a truck hauling another vehicle. She careened across 5 lanes of traffic and ran into the front driver's side of a dump truck at full speed. We do know that she was already gone when it happened. We are just thankful that no one else was hurt (especially with it being that large of a highway). We were told that the accident had been reported on on the national news because it was so unusual.

What I find the most sad is that Aunt Lindy had planned a trip to visit us in February with her daughter. They had to put it off but decided to make the trip this June or July.

Just goes to show - live your life as if it could be your last day - do not put off things you want to do!

For the three of us this was our first trip back to Georgia since 1975 - I was 9 y/o at the time. The last time we were there was for my grandmother's (dad's mother) funeral. Dad was born and raised in the area and my brother was born there as well.

After we got back to Kansas I just didn't feel like doing much of anything, so I've just been piddling in the yard and the red barn. I really didn't want to mess with the blog or the internet.

Following are some pictures from the trip.

I'm not sure if this is a 'Southern thing' or not, but I've never seen this done before and I worked in the funeral business for over a year.

There were two of these, one at each of the two corners of my aunt's property where it was against the road.

They were supplied by the funeral home.

I can honestly tell you that people did slow down and went as quiet as they could when they went by the house.

My aunt and uncle had a discussion less than a month ago about death and funeral plans. They decided that they wanted to be buried on their own property. For those of you who do not know it, some states (Kansas included) are allowing families to have their own cemeteries on their own property as long as it meets the acreage requirement.

So, my uncle ended up having to push through the paperwork and have a new family cemetery declared on their property. Funny, while in Georgia I could not help but notice the dozens of tiny cemeteries all over the country side.

Here is the spot where she will be (has been) laid to rest. Another funny thing is is as soon as they decided to create a family plot they bought the statue, they just didn't finish the paperwork - they thought they had time.

Here is a general view of the family plot.

The pine trees there are awesome.

We even brought some saplings home to plant, but it will be a miracle if they survive.

If we try to look for bright side to this tragic ordeal we can find it in the simple fact that we got to get reacquainted with our relatives. With the exception of Aunt Lindy, we have not seen any of these relatives since 1975. Now that we have 'rediscovered' each other I want to make sure we keep in touch. It would be nice to take Annette down to Georgia so she could see where my family comes from and meet those relatives she's only heard us talk about.

Funny how you can meet someone again for the first time in 33 years, spend less than two days with them, and then miss them terribly.

Now for a change of mood & scenery.

I'm sure you have all heard of the world famous Vidalia onion. It grows in only one small part of the world and my father grew up in that spot. Our family still lives in the area.

Here is a field of onions behind my cousin’s house (my dad's little brother's daughter).

There are about 170,000 onions per acre (IIRC) in this field and they will be shipped all over the world.

Another view of the same field. From this point it almost looks like a field of wheat.

The day of the funeral we got up early and went to the ancestral Simpson/McDilda family plot. There are three families that make up this plot and I think we are all intermarried in one way or another. The Simpsons, McDildas, and Andersons are the families that founded the small town my father grew up in.

Now, this isn't the first family plot but the second that I'm aware of.

There is another one (so I'm told) that's about 75 miles away (I think) and contains the remains of those who died before 1890 (not 100% sure about this).

Unfortunately there was just not enough time to go visit that one.

It would be nice to be buried in the family plot, but that just isn't going to happen. There are too many other family members (mom's side and Annette's side) that are buried in Kansas.

I never knew there were so many of use.

Do you see the two flags? They were set out for memorial day, and yes, that is a Confederate battle flag.

This is one of the few graves where the person is not directly related, but he had fought in the Civil War.

I had four ancestors on my father's side who fought in the Confederate army; three died and one survived.

So yes, I am a proud descendent of a Confederate veteran.

BTW - I have two ancestors on my mother's side who fought for the North. Because of this I'm what's called a 'Dual National' when it comes to Civil War ancestry.

After this we decided to go by and see dad's old home town (what's left of it) on our way to see the old home place.

Here it is - the sign at least.

Ohoopee GA - population somewhere around 460 people. If you blink you'll miss it.

Dad was sad to see that what was there when he was growing up (some of which was still there in'75) was all gone! There was NOTHING left of the old town. It was as if someone mowed it all down and replaced it with new.

I really wanted to go in the middle of the night and swipe the sign, but like I said, their just wasn't enough time.

Okay, once we left Ohoopee we went to go see the family home place. Before we get to those pics, let me give you a little of the back history. For those of my family who read this, let me know what I get wrong.

My family has never been big on history, especially family history. Not sure why, they just aren't. However, back in '75 I had the chance to listen to one of my father's aunts tell the family history. Lots of it has yet to be confirmed, but lots of it has (does that make sense?).

Anyway, here it is, from what I can remember and what I have learned from research and others.

My father's side is from Georgia. They actually started out in the Viginia area in the mid 1600s but migrated to Georgia when it was formed in the early 1700s (this part is unconfirmed, but matches family oral history). Dad's family had a large farm/plantation and grew cotton, rice, and tobacco.

The house dad was born in was enormous. The house is long gone, but as a kid (back in '75) we visited the spot where the house stood. Two rooms are left of it - a formal parlor and a little room that went off the side of it. The parlor was the size of our first house! The fireplace was so massive that a cow could be cooked in it. This part of the house was actually across the road from where it originally sat, back in '75 we could still see the layout where it stood.

Anyway, we were shown the area of the property the slaves had lived. Most of the quarters were still there, in one form or another, back in '75. At the time of the Civil War dad's ancestors had over 200 field slaves alone.

After the war most of them stayed on - they knew no other home or family. My ancestors paid them and gave them the 'quarters' they had been living in. Dad's ancestors also helped them improve the quarters and even gave them parcels of land. The first Christmas after the war, dad's family started a new tradition - they gave each ex-slave family a whole hog, half a beef cow, and several chickens. Dad remembers doing this as a child.

Dad's ancestors took care of the slaves and treated them better than most. The fact that most stayed on after the war shows this to be true. Most of them still have descendants that live in the area to this day.

Unfortunately, during the height of the depression, one of the relatives got upset that my grandfather would not give him cash right out and wanted him to work for the money. So in the middle of the night he, his father, and several of his friends, set fire to all the storage barns, and out buildings, that contained the harvested crops.

They also set fire to the barns that contained all the riding horses, work animals, a cows killing them. Keep in mind that this was at a time when most people did not have insurance.

The only way the family could pay the depts owed was by selling off the land. Eventually things got worse and they had to sell the house off as well. The house was so large that five smaller houses were carved out of it and moved to other locations (we got to see some of those back in '75). One of my father's oldest memories is of his black nanny throwing him over her shoulder and running from the house for fear that they would burn it too.

Shortly after the fire the relative who was responsible for the destruction stood in front of the area and committed suicide with a gun shot to the head.

Now nothing remains. The last of the house is gone; the footprint of the original house location is gone; and all the old servant quarters are gone. They were done away with in order to make room for tree farming and other farming endeavors.

Two good things were learned on this trip though.

1) We found out that one of dad's relatives (a cousin) has been able to buy up most of the original property.

2) I found out what the name of the property was - "Pepper Head". Don't ask me why it was named this or what it means - no one I spoke to has a clue about it.

Well, for what it's worth, here are some pictures of "Pepper Head" (perhaps we should name our house this in memoriam).

Here is where the remains of the house stood.

Just some trees on the property.

I'm not 100% sure but I think this is the spot where the guy committed suicide.

More trees.....

When I asked dad how much land the family had before it all went away he said he wasn't sure, but it took a long time to get from one end to the other.

He has often told us about needing to drop out of school at an extremely early age to help work on what was left of the farm. He remembers using a team of mules to help till the fields.

Here is where the house stood. The slave/servant quarters stood off to the back, right hand side of the picture just over the ridge.

And even more trees...

These are the trees that are the new 'cash' crop for Georgia and are planted all over the place.

They are genetically altered so they can be harvested quickly and they are EVERYWHERE!!!!

Well, I guess that about does it for now. I never really knew just how much I miss the old home place and my cousins there. All I do know is that when I was there it felt 'right'.

One other thing that happened during the trip was the realization that I'm tired of hiding my Confederate heritage. From now on I will not hide the fact that I have ancestors who fought and died for what they believed in. For them it was not necessarily about the right to own slaves but the right to govern themselves - the same reason we started the Revolution. This is one reason the Civil War is also known as the "Second American Revolution".

Unfortunately, a lot of people hide their Confederate heritage due to the fact the some people equate it with 'hate' and 'racism'. To me, when it comes to my family's slave holding past I think back to something I learned in Sunday school - "hate the sin, but love the sinner'. It was a different world back then and that is not me, nor my family, today.

For me, I plan to honor these ancestors by petitioning for enrolment into the 'Sons of Confederate Veterans'. I wonder if there is an equivalent for those who’s ancestors fought for the North?

Till next time....

Larry ~


Sandy said...

Wow! How sad about your Aunt. I am truly sorry. The pictures were beautiful. I didn't know that about Vidalia onions. Reading about your family and the land took me right there. Great post.

Sandy said...

p.s. Welcome back!

Larry said...

Thanks Sandy!!

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry about your aunt Lindy. thank you for sharing her story. I'm so impressed with their property, and the fact that you can be buried in your own land. What a source of comfort that must be for your family.

Jennifer said...

Sorry to hear about your aunt... but thanks for sharing. What a neat trip back through time.

It's so neat to see family histories unfold.. my husband's aunt and grandmother have done intensive research on that side of the family, and we have several large albums of photos, newspaper clippings, birth and death records, etc. Very neat.

It sounds like you have a great view of the past, and of your family. I know there were things in my husband's family tree that no one was proud of today, but back then it was what was done. You wouldn't have the full picture if you sanitized it for the sake of "politically correct". Whatever that is anyway.

Larry said...

Wise words Jennifer.

Your family is lucky to have all those pics and such. Keep them safe and cherish them.