“Had a family once.” (Revisited)

In my blog post on June 18, 2018 “Had a family once.”, I wrote about the opening line of the prologue to Right Behind You, by Lisa Gardner:  “Had a family once.”

Central American Refugees – “Had a family once.”

I can’t get that line out of my head. “Had a family once,” must be how the refugees at the US-Mexico border feel. Children have been separated from parents and there was, obviously, no plan in place for the uniting of those families. What a logistical nightmare now, and all the result of an ill-conceived change in US Government policy. “Had a family once.”

Young soccer team and coach in Thailand

As I write this, the world is watching and holding its collective breath as valiant attempts are being made to rescue a dozen young soccer players and their coach from a flooded cave in Thailand. Those boys, their parents, and their coach must have spent many hours in the past two weeks thinking, “Had a family once,” and praying they’ll still have their families intact when this ordeal and rescue is over.

African Slaves in America – “Had a family once.”

My interest in genealogy and local history recently led me on a fascinating trek into the lives of some people of African descent who were slaves in Cabarrus County, North Carolina in the 1800s. That sounds like a long time ago, but it really isn’t when you think in terms of a person’s lifespan and generations within families.

“Had a family once.”

Caroline had a family once.

In the records of Rocky River Presbyterian Church, Caroline, infant daughter of slaves Nat and Marie owned by R. Biggers, was baptized on August 16, 1835. Caroline, a slave of George Leroy Morrison, joined the church April 29, 1859. Was this the same Caroline?

Yes, she was! There is a bill of sale dated October 30, 1856 in which a 22-year-old woman named Caroline and her two children (Robert, aged about four years and an unnamed infant about three months old were sold by Rebecca Biggers to George Leroy Morrison.

The idea of slavery is repulsive, but seeing an actual bill of sale makes me physically ill. Having this information, I owed Caroline a few hours of my time to try to determine if she survived to be free after the American Civil War. What I was able to piece together was surprising and thrilling.

1863 Cabarrus Tax Assessment

In 2004, I compiled a list of the records of the more than 900 slaves who were baptized at and/or joined Rocky River Presbyterian Church between around 1820 and the end of the Civil War in 1865. The 1863 Cabarrus County Tax Assessment List gave details about some of those slaves such as age, physical condition, and monetary value.

George Leroy Morrison died May 6, 1860. The 1863 Cabarrus County Tax Assessment states that his brother, Q.C. Morrison was guardian of four slaves:  Abram, aged 45 and valued at $1,100; Caroline, aged 26 and valued at $1,400; Robert, aged 9 and valued at $900; and Matt [name was probably Nat] aged 1 and valued at $100. Q.C. Morrison died in the Civil War on August 7, 1863.

According to the 1863 Cabarrus County Tax Assessment, Rebecca Biggers had a 55-year-old slave named Nathaniel. He was valued at $100 with the notation, “cripple.) Rebecca did not have a slave named Marie at that time, but we know from church records that Nat and Marie were Caroline’s parents.

Armed with that information, I wanted to know more. I wanted Caroline to survive the War, gain her freedom, and have a life. She’d “had a family once.” Did she have that same family after the War?

Yes, she did!

The 1870 US Census of Cabarrus County, Township One finds Caroline, wife of Albert Morrison, along with children Robert, Nathaniel, Edward, and Albert.

According to the agriculture schedule of the 1870 Census, Albert and Caroline Morrison owned 40 acres of improved land valued at $200 along with farm machinery valued at $15. They owned livestock valued at $100 and reported how many bushels of wheat, Indian corn, and corn they had raised in 1869.

And, by the way, Albert Morrison was one of the five elders elected at the founding and organizational meeting of the African-American church that was formed by former slaves who had been members of Rocky River Presbyterian Church. Originally called Rocky River Colored Presbyterian Church, it soon became Bellefonte Presbyterian Church and is still going strong in Harrisburg, NC.

The next record of Caroline

The next time we find a record of Caroline Morrison is in the Cabarrus County, NC Wills and Estate Papers. “The widow Caroline Morrison & family” of seven children received a one year’s dower on March 30, 1876.

1880 US Census

Caroline Morrison is the head of a household in Township One in Cabarrus County, NC when the 1880 federal census is taken. Sons Edward, Albert, Eugene Mc., and John are in the household along with Caroline’s granddaughter, Harriet.

Summary of my research

I won’t go into all the details of the rest of my research into the life of Caroline Morrison. Suffice it to say that I found marriage licenses for her sons, Nathaniel A. and Albert. Albert (Jr.) and his wife and children are in the 1900 US Census. I even found a 1925 death certificate for Albert (Sr.) and Caroline’s son, Robert. He was employed at the Southern Railway Railroad Shop in Forsyth County, NC.

Did Caroline have a family? Yes, she most certainly did!

Until my next blog post

There’s no telling what interesting history tidbits I’ll uncover. I love this stuff!

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading Educated:  A Memoir, by Tara Westover and several other small nonfiction books.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time. I didn’t work on my novel last week, but I had a rewarding time researching Caroline Morrison and writing about my findings.

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog. I appreciate it!

Janet

No Place for Preacher’s Son?

Today’s blog post is an edited local history newspaper column I wrote for the August 23, 2006 edition of Harrisburg Horizons newspaper, Harrisburg, North Carolina. Appearing in the newspaper as “Pioneer Mills:  No Place for a Preacher’s Son,” it paints a picture of the Rocky River and Pioneer Mills communities in Cabarrus County in the 1870s.

Manse wasn’t ready!

The Rev. Joseph B. Mack came from Charleston, South Carolina in 1871 to be the pastor of Rocky River Presbyterian Church. When he and his family arrived, the manse the congregation was building for his family to live in was not completed.

Church members Robert Harvey Morrison and his wife, the former Mary Ann Stuart, moved their family into a tenant house and gave the new minister’s family their home in the Pioneer Mills community. This was no small sacrifice because the manse was not completed until 1873! The Morrisons’s two youngest children, an 18-year-old daughter and a 16-year-old son were still in the household, and Mr. and Mrs. Morrison were in their 50s.

Robert Harvey Morrison House
Robert Harvey Morrison Home, built circa 1846. (Photograph taken by Janet Morrison, May 3, 2008.)

The Robert Harvey Morrison home was built as early as 1846 when he inherited the land from his father. The house and its numerous out-buildings have been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1990.

In case you’re wondering

Robert Harvey Morrison was a relative of mine but not a direct ancestor. In the 1800s my part of the family didn’t live in grand houses like the one pictured. Gold was never found on the property my part of the family owned. There was a gold mine on the land that Robert Harvey Morrison inherited from his father.

Pioneer Mills was a gold-mining boom town in the early- to mid-19th century. It was apparently still a rip-roarin’ place in 1871.

Dr. William Mack’s memories in 1912

A special homecoming was held at the church on August 12, 1912. Rev. Mack’s son, Dr. William Mack, was unable to attend. He sent his regrets from New York and put some of his childhood memories on paper. Fortunately for us, his letter to homecoming master of ceremonies Mr. Morrison Caldwell was printed in the Concord newspapers the following week.

Dr. Mack wrote, “My first Rocky River recollection is of getting off the train at Harris Depot [now, Harrisburg, NC] and going in the dark to the home of Uncle Solomon Harris.” I don’t believe Dr. Mack was related to Mr. Harris. This was probably a term of endearment and respect.

He continued, “There we met Ed and ‘Little Jim’ (to distinguish him from ‘Big Jim,’ the son of Mr. McKamie Harris.) Uncle Solomon had the biggest fire-place I ever saw; it seemed as big as a barn door.

“Shortly afterwards we went to Pioneer Mills….  There… was the old Gold mine, Barnhardt’s store and McAnulty’s shoemaker shop…. While there I decided to become either a merchant or shoemaker, for Barnhardt’s store and McAnulty’s shop kindled young ambitions; better to ‘keep store’ or ‘mend shoes,’ than as a preacher’s son to be moving around from place to place.

“But Pioneer Mills was ‘no place for a preacher’s son.’ Soon we moved again; this time to the brand new brick parsonage, close by the church. We used to go to church in a big closed carriage drawn by two mules; now, every Sunday, we walked to church, going down a steep hill, across a branch, and through the grove to the famous old house of worship.”

Dr. Mack’s letter also read, “Those were happy years; happy in springtime with its apple blossoms, song birds, morning-glories and Tish McKinley’s Sassafras tea; happy in the summertime, with its blackberries and plums, its bob-whites in the wheat fields, its lightning and thunder storms, its bare-footed boys and girls, and its bitter quinine to keep off third-day chills; happy in the autumn time, with its white fields of unpicked cotton and its beautiful trees with leaves of myriad hues; and happy in the wintertime, with its snows, its big hickory back-logs, its boys in boots red-topped and toes brass-tipped, its red-cheeked girls in wraps and ‘choke rags,’ and its Christmas Holidays and turkeys.”

Dr. Mack’s colorful memories paint an idyllic picture of life in Township One in Cabarrus County in the early 1870s. I hope the children growing up here in the 21st century will have equally-as-fond memories of this place.

My sources

My sources for this blog post were the following:  The Presbyterian Congregation on Rocky River, by Thomas Hugh Spence, Jr, 1954; The Concord Daily Tribune, August 16, 1912; The Concord Times, August 19, 1912; http://www.hpo.ncdcr.gov/nr/CA0498.pdf (photocopy of the National Register of Historic Places Registration Form for Robert Harvey Morrison Farm and Pioneer Mills Gold Mine); and Descendants of James & Jennet Morrison of Rocky River, by Alice Marie Morrison and Janet Sue Morrison.

Until my next blog post

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I hope you have a good book to read. If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

Janet

 

N is for Newspaper Column

Today is the 14th day of the 2017 A to Z Blog Challenge, so the featured letter is “N.” I wrote a local history column for a weekly newspaper, Harrisburg Horizons, in Harrisburg, North Carolina for six and a half years.

My freelance “job” with the newspaper took me in many unexpected directions. One of my first columns (July 12, 2006) was titled, “Native American Projectile Points.” The following is a slightly revised version of that column. Some of the wording has been changed and all the photographs have been added to this blog post.

Do you think Harrisburg’s history began with the earliest European settlers, or even with the coming of the railroad in the 1850s? Today, I invite you to join me on a journey into prehistoric Harrisburg in the southern piedmont section of North Carolina.

Schiele Museum, Gastonia, NC

I recently made an appointment to take my collection of Indian arrowheads to Dr. Alan May, staff archaeologist at the Schiele Museum in Gastonia, NC. The first thing I learned was that I didn’t have a collection of Indian arrowheads!  The proper term is “projectile point,” which includes spear points and arrowheads.

I proudly opened the box containing my small collection. Dr. May examined each piece. I held my breath and waited for him to gasp upon spying a rare and valuable piece. He did not gasp.

My collection turned out to be mundane and of no particular interest to an archaeologist; however, the insight Dr. May shared that day gave me much to think about and opened a window on prehistoric Harrisburg.

I expected Dr. May to tell me that my projectile points dated back to the 1600s or possibly a little earlier than that. I expected him to tell me that the points were typical of the Catawba or perhaps even the Cherokee. That’s not what he said.

Middle Archaic – Morrow Mountain

Two of my projectile points are called “Morrow Mountain” pieces. They are from the Middle Archaic period which ended around 3000 B.C. (or B.C.E., if you prefer.)

Base of a projectile, Morrow Mtn., Middle Archaic
Base of projectile, Middle Archaic, Morrow Mountain.
Arrowheads, Tools, & Rocks 012
Middle Archaic (2,000 to 3,000 B.C.E.) Morrow Mountain Projectile Point

Middle Archaic Guilford

Two other pieces are of the “Guilford” style and also date to the Middle Archaic period when Native Americans hunted bison in North Carolina.

Broken example of Middle Archaic - Guilford
Broken example of Middle Archaic – Guilford projectile point.
Middle Archaic - Guilford
Middle Archaic, Guilford projectile point.

Late Archaic

Several of the projectile points in my collection are “Savannah River Stemmed “ points from the Late Archaic period, 1000 to 3000 B.C. This period was cooler than Middle Archaic. Deer, rabbits, and raccoons were hunted for food.

Late Archaic. Flagstone or field stone argilite, probably like what's coming out of the quarry nearby.
Late Archaic. Flagstone or field stone, probably like rock that is currently being mined from a nearby quarry.
Late Archaic. Thin bioface straight-sided projectile broken in use or when re-sharpened. Good material.
Thin biface straight-sided Late Archaic projectile point. Broken either by use or when re-sharpened.

Ancient Tool:  Anvil

I was certain that Dr. May would identify one of the smooth rocks I took him as an early Native American tool. He said it was just a rock that had been smoothed by water. Another rock, which hadn’t seemed as interesting to me, turned out to be an anvil.

This is an anvil. Notice the slight depression in roughness in middle on one side.
This is a stone anvil.

Some rocks I took to the museum were magnetic, which wasn’t a surprise; our red clay soil is rich in iron. One piece that appeared to be a rock was identified as slag hammered by a blacksmith. That made sense, because my father told me that there used to be a blacksmith’s shop in what is now my front yard.

Gold?

The rock I hoped he would say held flecks of gold, held flecks of worthless pyrite instead. I can see why it’s called “fool’s gold.”

pyrite and flecks of gold and lead. Dr. Alan May at Schiele thought this was a neat piece.
Lead with pyrite and flecks of gold. Dr. May thought this was an interesting piece.

Dr. May recommended that I send a detailed report about my collection to the Office of State Archaeology in Raleigh. The State has a form called “North Carolina Amateur Archaeological Site Form.” Dr. May said they will pinpoint my yard on a map and keep a record of my findings.

My visit with Dr. May brought surprises, both good ones and disappointing ones. I came home knowing that 5,000 years ago as the Egyptians developed hieroglyphic writing and the darkness was first lighted by candles, Native Americans were hunting deer and bison in my yard. Wow!

That was the end of my July 12, 2006 newspaper column. For now, it’s the end of the story. When I read the column last night for the first time in many years, I realized that I never followed through with Dr. May’s recommendation that I send a detailed report to the Office of State Archaeology in Raleigh. I’ve added that report to my “to-do” list, but writing must still come first.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. (I’m reading a nonfiction book, In Order to Live:  A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom, by Yeonmi Park with Maryanne Vollers. It was published in 2015, but I’m finding it particularly interesting as I read it during rising tension between North Korea and the United States. I highly recommend it!)

If you are a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

Janet

Trains Crash in Harrisburg, 1897

My blog post on February 7, 2017 Two Lines I Like from a Margaret Maron Novel was about train whistles. I quoted a couple of lines from Long Upon the Land, by Margaret Maron and reminisced about train whistles in my hometown of Harrisburg, North Carolina. Today’s blog post is an edited version of a two-part article I wrote for my “Did You Know?” local history newspaper column in Harrisburg Horizons weekly newspaper on April 4 and April 13, 2007.

nc-transportation-museum-6-19-10-010
Steam locomotive at the NC Transportation Museum, Spencer, NC.

Head-On Collision!

Did you know that the Sunday morning tranquility in Harrisburg was shattered on April 11, 1897, by the head-on collision of two steam trains?

North-bound Southern “fast mail” train No. 36 had orders to wait at Harrisburg until 11:15 for the south-bound local passenger train No. 11. The passenger train from the nearby town of Concord was running behind schedule. As No. 36 approached Harrisburg, engineer W.B. Tunstall of Danville, Virginia, expected to see No. 11 sitting in the siding.

Seeing no waiting train, Tunstall steamed ahead at 45 miles per hour. By the time the No. 11 came into view, there was nothing Tunstall could do but apply the brakes and jump out of the locomotive.

Newspaper accounts indicate that some Harrisburg residents saw what was going to happen but were helpless to do anything. The crash was heard for miles around and was likened to “a sharp crack of thunder.”  The engine of No. 11 ran over the engine of No. 36. The boiler of No. 36 rested on the floor of No. 11’s postal car.

An express car of No. 36 derailed and landed 150 feet from the track. Another car, hauling strawberries and fresh vegetables, was torn to pieces. Produce was strewn over the area. Train parts were thrown as far as seventy-five yards away.

None of the 96 passengers on No. 36 were injured. They immediately exited the train to see what had happened and, subsequently, did what they could to help the injured train and postal employees.

Less than three minutes after the collision, with its headlight up in the telegraph wires, No. 11’s postal car burst into flames. If not for the quick action of one of the train’s postal clerks, John Hill Carter, both trains probably would have burned, but newspaper accounts do not tell how he extinguished the fire. Mr. Carter was praised for risking his life to put out the fire and save others.

Casualties

The accounts of the agony suffered by the employees who were killed or injured in the wreck are given in great detail in the newspaper accounts of the day. Some were pinned under the wreckage, while others were badly burned by the steam from the boilers. Passengers formed a bucket brigade to throw cold water on one of the trapped men to help relieve his suffering from the steam.

Capt. Tunstall was found unconscious and badly scalded on an embankment. The conductor of No. 11, James Lovell of Richmond, Virginia, was cut on the face. Fitzhugh Lee, a porter on No. 11, was pinned in from the knees down. William Clemmens of East Durham, North Carolina, and R.E. Gallagher, an express messenger, were also injured.

The impact itself and the resulting release of steam caused four deaths and a number of serious injuries.

Those who were killed in the wreck or died immediately after were as follows:  Postal clerk T. Clingman Benton of Monroe, NC and Charlotte; John or Titus Eudy of Forest Hills in Concord; No. 36 fireman Will Donaldson of Lynchburg, Virginia; and J.C. Kinney of Thomasville, NC. Capt. Kinney was badly scalded. It was thought that he also inhaled steam which caused internal misery.

First Responders and Thrill Seekers

News of the collision was immediately telegraphed to the train depot in Charlotte. In less than forty-five minutes, a rescue train was dispatched from that city. It transported a Dr. McCombs and Dr. E.M. Brevard. Cots were taken for transporting the wounded and dead to Charlotte. Mr. Eudy survived the crash but died en route to Charlotte.

The citizens of Harrisburg were praised in the newspaper accounts for helping to clear the wreckage. Engines pulled from both directions to clear the track. Debris removal continued through the night, while another work crew laid a temporary track around the wreck. That track was in place by that night when the No. 35 fast mail train gingerly made its way through Harrisburg.

On April 12, 1897, The Charlotte Observer reported that hundreds of thrill seekers “on wheels, horseback and in buggies were flying toward Harrisburg. At 2 o’clock a horse could not be had in any of the stables for love or money.”  Many other people gathered at the train depot in Charlotte to await the arrival of the rescue train at 4 p.m.

That same newspaper account reported that one of the No. 36 passengers, Charles Bitterman of New Orleans, belonged to “The Riverside Wheelmen” cyclist club and was on his way to a bicycle race in New York. The article stated that Bitterman belonged “to National Circuit and will be here later with the professional men.” (Cycling clubs were all the rage in America and Europe in the 1890s.)

As I edit this article in 2017, the at-grade railroad crossings in Harrisburg have been closed and replaced by bridges in order to make way for the new high-speed rail. I have crossed that railroad thousands of times, and after learning about the 1897 train wreck in 2007 I was often reminded of the gory details of that fateful day when mangled and splintered train cars, bodies, and fresh produce were scattered in the nearby fields. It must have been an awful sight along with the screams of the injured who were in agony.

The train wreck of 1897 was, no doubt, long-remembered by Harrisburg and surrounding residents. When I interviewed Harrisburg resident and retired railway employee Harry R. Higgins on January 21, 2007, he remembered that Floyd Smith often came to the train depot in Concord when Mr. Higgins worked there. Mr. Higgins heard him tell about a block office employee who let a train into a block by mistake when another train was coming. The man realized his mistake and left in guilt because he knew what was about to happen. Mr. Higgins did not know if this was referring to the 1897 wreck in Harrisburg or not.

At the end of my article I asked for anyone who knew of a first-hand written account or oral history of the accident to please share that information with me, but no one offered additional details.

My Stint as a Newspaper Columnist

I am glad I had the opportunity to write a local history column in Harrisburg Horizons for six years. It gave me a reason to visit many of the older members of the community and take notes about their memories. Local newspapers preserved on microfilm sometimes provided a topic for me. I found it surprising that I had never heard about this horrific steam train head-on collision until I stumbled upon it in the microfilmed newspaper records. Mr. Harry R. Higgins has died since I asked him about the train wreck. He followed in his father’s footsteps as a railroad employee.

A Call to Action

If you have an interest in the local history where you live, I hope you talk to the older residents and record their memories. This is especially important if you live in a rural area or a small town that has never had a newspaper. That was the case here in Harrisburg. The town did not have a newspaper until 2006 and, unfortunately, it ceased publication in 2012.

Until my next blog post

Until my next blog post, I hope you have a good book to read. If you are a writer, I hope you have productive writing time. Please help me get the word out about my writing and my blog by clicking on the social media icons below or by the old-fashioned way – word of mouth. I appreciate it!

Janet

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What I read in January

My last blog post was about some of the books I read during the last quarter of 2015, and I promised my next post would be about my reading so far this year. Actually, this post will just cover four books I read in January.

After enjoying Allen Eskens’ debut novel, The Life We Bury, in 2014, I looked forward to his second book. I read The Guise of Another in January. It had more violence than I thought necessary, but perhaps I was just still in the Christmas spirit. It was an intriguing story and a page turner like his first book. I hope he keeps writing novels.

Somehow I failed to read David Ignatius’ The Director, when it was released last May. I remedied that oversight in January. I’m a big David Ignatius fan, and The Director did not disappoint.

Michael Eury is the author of several local history books here in Cabarrus County, NC. His latest rendering, Legendary Locals of Cabarrus County is a delightful collection of the life stories of Cabarrus Countians who have made a lasting mark on the southern piedmont of NC. Michael asked me to make recommendations for the people from Harrisburg that he should include in the book. I was thrilled to have a hand in that. The book turned out great!

My name finally rose to the top of the public library’s waitlist for Janet Evanovich’s Tricky Twenty-Two. Fans of Ms. Evanovich eagerly await the next installment of this chronologically-numbered Stephanie Plum series every fall. I try to get on the waitlist at the library as soon as her annual release is on order. When I need a laugh out loud book to read, give me Stephanie Plum!

As a writer, I want people to support their local independent bookstore. As a writer, I also want people to support their local public library system. No matter how you choose to get your books, just get them!

Happy reading! (Now, I need to get back to The Guilty, by David Baldacci!)

First Author Event Scheduled!

My first author event/book signing for The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina will be held at the public library in Harrisburg at 5:30 p.m., Thursday, September 11th. This is exciting and a bit intimidating. Author events at the other three public libraries in Cabarrus County are in the works, but no dates have been selected.

I’ve tried for two weeks to arrange author events in the three public libraries in one of the counties in the foothills of North Carolina to no avail. It is disappointing. I really want to show my support for public libraries. I will turn my attention to the next county on my list and keep you posted.

Getting back to research

For those of you who follow my local history column in Harrisburg Horizons newspaper every other week, my article was omitted last Sunday. It should be in the paper on October 7.

I neglected research for my local history column for a few weeks while I spent time making items to sell on Saturday, October 6 at the Harvest Fest at Harrisburg United Methodist Church. This is my first craft fair, so I’m eager to see how it goes. Variety is the spice of life, so I have enjoyed this recent diversion.

Monday will find me concentrating on my local history research and putting my fingers to the keyboard. Reading microfilmed records is tedious but full of surprises. I must psyche myself up to do more of that this winter.

Writing the newspaper column since May of 2006 has been a blessing to me, and I’m thrilled when people tell me how much they enjoy and look forward to my articles. I have enjoyed writing my “Did You Know?” column more than any other job I’ve ever had.

I plan to start blogging a couple of times a week to let you know what I’m working on and what I’m reading. Stay tuned.