This new marker honors Green and Nancy Pilgrim, mill workers at Roswell, GA, arrested by General William T. Sherman and forced to go to Kentucky and Indiana during the Civil War. Photo by Al Hester
In the springtime, thoughts of many Southerners turn toward the "Lost Cause" when the Confederacy lost the long and bitter armed conflict between the North and the South. Some know of the war as The War Between the States. Others term it the Civil War. Some Northerners term it The War of the Rebellion.
With Gen. Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox , VA, in April, 1865, most of the fighting ended. What followed was mainly a mop-up operation and a long military occupation of much of the South by the victorious Yankees.
Confederate Memorial Day still draws thousands in the South to commemorate the gallantry of a rag-tag, last-stand army, fighting bravely for an independent South. The day is celebrated at various times in the South, but typically includes visits to cemeteries where the Confederate dead lie by the thousands. The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Sons of Confederate Veterans lead in the ceremonies and rituals to keep their history of the war alive and vivid. Typically, the fighting qualities of Confederate officers and enlisted men are remembered.
But south of Watkinsville, Georgia, in the well-kept Huff Family Cemetery at 3071 Colham Ferry Road, the Laura Rutherford Chapter of the UDC and other patriotic groups on April 21 honored a civilian couple—Green A. and Nancy Ann Pilgrim. The Pilgrims were residents in what was then the southern part of Clarke County, not far from the Huff Cemetery. Later that part of Clarke County would become Oconee County. Green Pilgrim was born in South Carolina. He moved to Georgia and married Nancy in 1855 in nearby Greene County. Green was born in 1818 and Nancy in 1831. By 1858, the Greens had a baby girl and named her Mary E. Pilgrim. In 1859, a son was born, Isaac Bartow Pilgrim.
In just a few years, war would turn the lives of the Pilgrim family upside down. Green was about 43 years old when the Civil War started. During the war, the Confederacy could have conscripted him for military service. Green was on the muster roll of the 16th Regiment, 2nd Brigade of the 3rd Division of the Georgia Militia. But he was exempted in 1862 from military service to work at the Roswell Mills in Roswell, GA. Nancy was also a mill worker. The mills on Vickery Creek were a big operation and made cloth for military uniforms, tents and other materials desperately needed by the Confederate troops. Basically, the Confederacy took over these mills at Roswell and mills at New Manchester, Georgia, about 15 miles west of Atlanta, and the ruins are in the Sweetwater Creek State Park.
On April 21, Confederate Memorial Day was celebrated at the Huff Cemetery, bringing together about a hundred persons. The highlight was the dedication of a large grave marker for Nancy and Green Pilgrim. On the front side is an account of what happened to them and their children in July, 1864, when they were among about 400-600 workers arrested for "treason" by Gen. William T. Sherman and forced to leave Roswell for the North for the duration of the Civil War. On the rear side of the Green's attractive grave stone are their names and dates of birth and death. Previously the only marker was a rugged field stone with Nancy's initials crudely carved on it. The Laura Rutherford Chapter of the UDC erected the tombstone. Most of the workers were women, sometimes accompanied by children. A few men also were employed because of rare skills, disabilities or old age which limited their use as soldiers.
Workers at the New Manchester Mills were similarly engaged in producing goods for the Confederate armies. All told, probably about 600 workers were mill hands at the Roswell and New Manchester establishments.
Led by General Sherman, the Union troops were on the verge of capturing Atlanta. He sent Brig. Gen. Kenner Garrard and his cavalry on a flanking movement , and Kenner burst into undefended Roswell on July 5, 1864. Mill hands had been instructed to work until the last possible moment to turn out military necessities. General Garrard saw the strategic value of the Roswell Mills. After removing workers, he burned the entire operation, with General Sherman's approval. The New Manchester mills were likewise destroyed.
General Sherman took a highly unusual step, giving orders that all the mill workers and supervisors and their families should be rounded up and arrested for treason.
"The women, their children, and the few men. . . were transported by wagon to Marietta and imprisoned in the Georgia Military Institute which had been abandoned," wrote Caroline Matheny Dillman for The Civil War in Georgia: A New Georgia Encylopedia Companion." The prisoners were then given nine days' rations, ". . . loaded into boxcars that proceeded through Chattanooga and Nashville en route to Louisville, Kentucky, the final destination for many of the workers. Others were sent across the Ohio River to Indiana," she wrote.
Thus General Sherman not only destroyed the mills but dispersed the workers so they could do no harm to Union operations. Information differs as to what exactly happened to the displaced mill employees. Some apparently were forced to be indentured servants, and some worked for farmers. None were tried for treason. But women workers were separated from their husbands fighting in the Confederate armies, and from their other family members, unless they were all herded together in the North as mill workers.
One-eyed Green Pilgrim and his wife Nancy were in the forced move, along with their children. Both Green and Nancy got small pox but survived.
"First housed and fed in a Louisville refugee hospital, the women later took what menial jobs and living arrangements could be found," said writer Dillman. "Those in Indiana struggled to survive, many settling near the [Ohio] River, where eventually mills provided employment.
Not only Southern newspapers, but also Northern publications reflected outrage against General Sherman's actions. Union General George H. Thomas had written to General Sherman about what to do with the mill employees. "The Roswell factory hands, 400 or 500 in number, have arrived in Marietta. The most of them are women. I can only order transportation to Nashville where it seems hard to turn them adrift. What had best be done with them," he asked General Sherman.
Sherman replied: "I have ordered General Webster at Nashville to dispose of them. They will be sent to Indiana."
Author Mary Deborah Petite has written a well documented book about the Roswell mill workers' ordeal, The Women Will Howl: the Union Army Capture of Roswell and New Manchester, Georgia, and the Forced Relocation of Mill Workers.
"It is difficult to rationalize the arrest and deportation of innocent women and children, but there can be no rationalization or justification for sending them to the fate that awaited them north of the Ohio River. The mill workers were not spies or traitors, nor did they pose a serious threat to the Federal army, particularly now that the mills were destroyed," she wrote.
Many of the displaced workers never made it back to Georgia, marrying in the North and bearing children there. But quite a few made their way at the end of the war. Petite's extensive research turned up a number of their names, stories and photographs. At the end of the war, the Pilgrims were fortunate to return to Marietta, Georgia, on the train, but they had to walk back to what is now Oconee County and renew normal lives. In 1866 they had a third child, George Thomas Pilgrim. Green Pilgrim took the loyalty oath to the federal government in 1866 and farmed in the county. He was a respected citizen and was elected several times as county coroner. He died in 1893, but Nancy lived until 1931, when she died at 100.
• • •
At the ceremonies in the Huff Cemetery, the Pilgrims were honored. Trumpeter James Edwin Bush, Jr. of the 37th Regiment, Washington, GA Confederates, played "Bonnie Blue Flag" and twice played "Dixie."
Presentations by members of the Roswell Mills Camp #1547, Sons of Confederate Veterans, and the Brig. Gen. T. R. R. Cobb Camp #97, Sons of Confederate Veterans were made. The colors were presented by the 18th Georgia Volunteer Army Color Guard dressed in Confederate uniforms. They led the Pledge of Allegiance, and fired a salute to honor the Pilgrim family. Elaine Collier Neal, president of the Laura Rutherford Chapter, played a leading role in organizing the unusual ceremony honoring civilians and in obtaining the memorial stone for the graves of Nancy and Green Pilgrim, survivors of the "Roswell incident." Dozens of other lovers of Civil War history helped organize the marker dedication and included cemetery officials, a minister and many members of several organizations
Participants and spectators ended the ceremony by joining hands and singing "Blest Be The Tie That Binds."
An Honor Guard fires a salute honoring the memory of Green and Nancy Pilgrim at ceremonies south of Watkinsville, GA on April 21, 2013. Photo by Al Hester
This old photo shows Nancy Ann Green on her 100th birthday in 1931. She died that year. She was a Civil War mill worker at the Roswell Mills near Atlanta. She and her husband and children were forced to go to Kentucky and Indiana, arrested, but never tried for treason, by the Union Army.
Leaders of the Laura Rutherford United Daughters of the Confederacy Chaper, Athens, GA, lead ceremonies at the Huff Family Cemetery. Photo by Al Hester
Ruins of the Roswell Mills in Roswell, GA. These mills were primer furnishers of cloth for Confederate armies. The mills were captured and burned in July, 1864.
Application for military headstone for Ulysses S. A. Hawkins, buried in Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery in Athens, GA. Pvt. Hawkins enlisted in the 9th Cavalry, a famous "Buffalo Soldiers" unit during the period of the Spanish-American War. (National Archives via Ancestry.com)
Sgt. Wakefield Brunt served in World War 1 in France and is buried in Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery, Athens, GA. His military headstone is partially obscured. A VFW post in Athens has taken his name. (Photo courtesy of the Wakefield Brunt VFW post)
Veteran Edward D. Burns of Athens, GA was killed in action in World War 2 as a member of the 92nd Infantry Division, an all-black division. Here are division members landing in 1944 at the River Arno in north Italy, where they took many casulaties. (National Archives)
Part 1 of this article explains that U. S. military veterans are entitled to a free headstone at the cemetery if they were honorably discharged and have no grave marker. At least 57 veterans' headstones are listed on applications from 1925 through 1963, indicating the headstones were ordered for placement in Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery, Athens, GA. This list is in Part 1 of this article.
The Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery is at Fourth and Bray streets in East Athens and was founded as an African-American burial place in 1882. Most of its approximately 800 identified burials took place prior to the 1960s. Although the headstone applications available on Ancestry.com are not a complete list, they do include most of the headstones erected in Gospel Pilgrim.
The headstone applications are a rich source of genealogical and historical information, including the name of the veteran, who applied for the headstone, dates of the vet's birth and death and what was his military unit and rank. There are official lists of enlistments and casualties in National Archives files. some of these files are online and give additional information about some veterans. Ancestry.com contains many of these records.
Gospel Pilgrim's headstones listed on the applications haven't all been found in Gospel Pilgrim. Some probably are hidden by undergrowth or soil. Some of the marble markers are flat markers that are easily covered with soil, leaves and plants. Not all of the nine-acre cemetery has been cleared as of 2013.
Part 2 will deal with more details about some of the veterans with military markers at Gospel Pilgrim. The markers were issued for veterans serving from the Spanish-American War period, World War 1, World War 2 and Korea. The headstone list is almost exclusively made up of male enlisted men, although one marker was given to an officer, Capt. William Walter Saphloe of Athens, of the 64th Quartermaster Battalion in World War 2.
No women veterans are in the Gospel Pilgrim headstone applications from 1925 to 1963. Capt. Saphloe's enlistment papers indicate he joined the Army in April, 1941, in New York City, although he said he was born in Georgia. He enlisted as a private. He had four years of college and was a clerk in publishing and printing. He was divorced with no dependents. A Willie W. Sapp was one of several Sapp family members living in Athens with Richard and Laura Livingston at 540 W. Hancock Ave. in the 1930 census.
Capt. Saphloe of Athens was born in 1911 and died in 1948. His headstone is in the Sapp family plot. Applicant for Capt. Saphloe's headstone was Katherine Saphloe, living at 540 W. Hancock Ave. in Athens. In the 1940 census a "Kate Sapp" is listed as a lodger at that address, but no other Saphloe is enumerated. Apparently Captain Saphloe changed his name from Sapp to Saphloe. He was not listed in the Athens, 1940 federal census. A photo of his grave is included with this blog. Capt Saphloe enlisted in New York City, and documents indicate he had four years of college and worked in publishing and printing.
We find headstone applications for two black Athenians who were killed in action and buried at Gospel Pilgrim. One was PFC Edward D. Burns. He enlisted in World War 2 in 1941 and died while fighting the Germans in Italy in November, 1944. He was in Co. D of the 371st Infantry Regiment, 92nd Infantry Division, the only African-American division seeing heavy combat during World War 2. A younger brother of PFC Burns, James L. Burns, applied for Edward's headstone in 1949. James lived at 290 Vine St. in Athens. A photo of PFC Burns' headstone may be found with this article.
A Korean War veteran from Athens, PFC Jessie Odom, was killed in action fighting as a member of Co K, the 8th Cavalry, as a light weapons infantryman. His death occurred on Oct. 4, 1951, in what is now North Korea. He was born Feb. 2, 1933. PFC Odom's headstone application was made by his older brother William Lanier Odom. His mother was Sarah Laster Odom. His military marker hasn't been found yet in Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery, although we know the marker was ordered.
Many of the veterans with headstones at Gospel Pilgrim fought in World War 1 in segregated military units. Frequently their military service involved harsh labor in support groups hauling supplies and ammunition to front lines—their work was absolutely essential in supporting combat troops.
One of the most unusual veterans receiving a headstone at Gospel Pilgrim was Ulysses S. A. Hawkins, sometimes known as Eula Hawkins. I have searched without luck to find all his military service records, but we do know he served in the famous 9th Cavalry, a regiment of the famous Buffalo Soldiers. These black soldiers fought against Indians in the West and gave a good account of themselves in the Spanish American War and the Philippine Insurrection. Hawkins was a private in Co. G of the Ninth Cavalry Regiment. Records available to me don't show whether he fought in Cuba or the Philippines or had duty elsewhere.
We do know from the May, 1902, returns of the regiment that he was discharged honorably on Valentine's Day, 1902, at Fort Walla Walla, Washington. His conduct as a soldier was evaluated as "good." His widow was Mattie M. Hawkins, who received a pension for his Cavalry services. He and his wife lived in the 500 block of Hull Street in Athens.
The military service of African Americans from Athens was seldom a matter for big stories in the local newspapers, although we occasionally do see short articles about them. For instance, Willie Ed Binns lived with his grandparents, the Lees on Hull Street, and served in World War 1. His headstone application indicatied he served as a private in the 514th Engineers. So far I haven't found his military records, other than the headstone application, and his grave in Gospel Pilgrim has not been located. We do know he was a veteran, from a story in the April 16, 1919, issue of The Athens Banner, which follows:
"Colored Discharged Soldiers Honor Wm. Ed Binns of Athens
Willie Ed Binns, a well known young colored man of this city who enlisted in the army during the war and who saw active service in France, died while enroute home on the high seas, and the funeral services were held at the Pierce Chapel Sunday morning at eleven o'clock.
Over one hundred and fifty honorably discharged colored soldiers as well as the Negro Boy Scouts under command of Captain R. E. Smith acted as an honorary escort in paying respect to this young soldier."
No cause of death on the troop ship was indicated.
A rather mysterious veteran is Wakefield C. Brunt, a sergeant in World War I, who saw service in France, according to members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Athens, named for him. An unreadable military marker is partially visible at his Gospel Pilgrim gravesite, and another plain marker is there, too. The military headstone applications for Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery veterans' markers don't list Wakefield C. Brunt. The VFW post, however, has kindly given us a photo of him in his uniform. Some persons have indicated he died in France in the war, but his non-military tombstone indicates he died in 1927, as does his death certificate. His photo is included here.
It becomes obvious that Athens African Americans fought hard to defend their country, even when the military units were segregated, as was life at home. The defense forces weren't integrated until 1948, but many thousands of African American found ways to fight the nation's wars long before that.
This marble military marker indicates PFC Edward D. Burns died in combat in 1944. His division, the 92nd Infantry Div., was the only black division to see combat as a large unit in World War 2. (Photo by Al Hester)
This flat marble marker is for Capt. William W. Saphloe, who is buried with the Sapp family members in Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery, Athens, GA. He was in a Quartermaster Battalion. (Photo by Al Hester)
An example of an Application for Headstone for an honorably discharged Spanish American War veteran from Athens, GA, from the U. S. War Dept.
By Al Hester
Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery, an African-American cemetery in Athens, Georgia, contains the graves of many black veterans who served their country from the Civil War, the Spanish-American War period, World War I, World War II to later combat periods.
More than 50 Athens African Americans are buried in Gospel Pilgrim with military markers for their honorable service in the U. S. military. Many served in the segregated armed forces before integration took place in World War II.
Gospel Pilgrim was founded as a beautiful cemetery for African Americans in 1882 and contains some 3,500 graves. Of this number about 800 or so have been identified. Most are unmarked. The cemetery is at Fourth and Bray streets in East Athens, near Springfield Baptist Church. It is under the administration of the East Athens Development Corporation, Inc., Winston Heard, director.
Ancestry.com, one of the best-known genealogical services online, now has placed on the Web the applications for military headstones between the years of about 1925 through 1963. These applications offer families trying to trace their history important information about the military service and genealogical facts of their ancestors. The nation furnishes free official military head stones to honorably discharged veterans who have no private markers on their graves. Once you find your veteran ancestor received a headstone, you can use the information to trace his military career, frequently with the name of unit served in. This can lead to finding out pension information and sometimes a wealth of service record data.
The Georgia online applications show that the marble markers were prepared at Tate, Georgia, from native Georgia marble. Although the Ancestry.com application files are not nearly complete, the records online cover the most active burial periods in Gospel Pilgrim's history. Few burials were made at Gospel Pilgrim after the 1960's. Online applications also cover the same time period for many other Athens cemeteries where headstones were furnished. For African-American families, the applications for headstones in Brooklyn Cemetery, another African-American cemetery in Athens, match Gospel Pilgrim's listings in genealogical value.
The headstone listings, however, DO NOT contain the specific location of burial in the cemetery. The author of this article has a spreadsheet of all identified graves at Gospel Pilgrim. Please, note, however, that not all veterans' graves with headstones have been found at Gospel Pilgrim. About a quarter of the cemetery is still uncleared, and other markers may have been knocked over or covered with shrubs or soil. I'll be happy to run a check for you if you want information on a grave location at Gospel Pilgrim, or if you wish to visit an ancestor's site. This information is also available online at http://www.gospelpilgrimcemetery.com/burial-records/
If you have a veteran relative who served honorably in the services, he or she may still be eligible for a beautiful government-furnished military marker. These markers come as flat marble or bronze varieties. Funeral homes or veterans' groups can give details, or look on the Web for military headstone application instructions. The markers are free.
Information on the applications include the unit of military service, birth and death dates, when the headstones were furnished and where they were to be installed. The headstones themselves give brief information including the name of the deceased veteran, type of service and a symbol of what religious affiliation the person had. The applications also give the name of the family member applying for the headstone and their address. If you want to find out whether your Athens veteran ancestor got a headstone, applications from 1925-1963 may be viewed online at http://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?db=QGHeadstoneApps&rank=1&new=1&MSAV=0&msT=1&gss=angs-d&msdpn__ftp=Athens,+Clarke,+Georgia,+USA&msdpn=18082&msdpn_PInfo=8-|0|1652393|0|2|3245|13|0|634|18082|0|&uidh=ca9&gl=&gst=&hc=50&
(The above website address was accurate as of March, 2013.) Ancestry.com furnishes service by subscription, but you can use it free at many libraries.
If you want to check on headstone applications in other areas, you can specify the cemetery location and get a listing for areas desired other than Gospel Pilgrim.
What follows is a list of the veterans buried with headstones from 1925 to 1963 at Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery, their name, date of birth and death and military unit and the war in which they served. If there is an asterisk by the name, it means the veteran's grave hasn't been found yet at Gospel Pilgrim, but the burial should have taken place there. There are a few military headstones at Gospel Pilgrim without supporting application records online. These applications may have been made outside the 1925-63 period.
Part 2 of this blog will go into detail about some of the more unusual or interesting facts obtained from studying the headstone applications at Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery. Veterans Buried with Military Headstones, Gospel Pilgrim and Hillcrest Cemetery, Athens, GA
Name Birth Death Military Unit War
Armour, Edward R.* 1909 1952 Pvt 774th AirMaterielSquadron WW2
Armour, Willie B.* 1909 1957 3707thAAF Base Unit, Army WW2Austin, Henry L. ? 1940 Pvt 157 Depot Brig. WW1
Barksdale, Andrew D. ? 1933 317 Supply Bn. WW1 Binns, William Ed* ? 1919 Pvt 514th Engrs. WW1
Bolton, Clark 1919 1950 Pvt US Army, Unassigned WW2
Bolton, Earl* 1921 1955 Tec5 4368QMBakeryCo.(Mobile) WW1
Bonner, John* 1901 1944 Pvt, CoB 2ndReserveTrainingBn WW1
Brunt, Wakefield 1893 1927 Sgt. Army (Mil. Mrkr unreadable) WW1 Burns, Edward D. 1917 1944 CoD371stInfRegt, 92InfDiv WW2Campbell, John B. 1877 1944 U.S. Volunteer Inf. WW1Campbell, Miller L. ? 1936 Pvt. 101 Hosp. Corps WW1
Collins, Isaac 1876 1927 Draft Reg. exists, no othr record WW1
Davenport, Arthe(u)r* 1916 1959 PfcCoA1813EngrsAvn Bn WW2
Davis, Clifford L*. ? 1920 Pvt 157DepotBri.,Army WW1Gilbert, Robert 1890 1953 Pvt Co C 157thDepBrig WW1Greene, Augustus C. 1909 1941 Sgt. Maj. US Army WW2
Harden, Edgar 1892 1954 Cpl. Co D 346 Svc Bn WW1Hawkins, Ulysses S. A.* 1875 1914 PvtCoG, U.S.9thCavalry Span.Amer.
Hicks, Charles [note] 1841 1916 Pvt 138thRegtCol.Troops Civil War Hill, Marion A.* 1917 1955 Tch5, Port Co,TransCor WW2 Hill, William Walter* 1882 1947 Pvt44TransBn, 157Brig.,
63rd Pioneer Inf. WW1Jordan, William P. 1914 1954 Tch5 271st PortCo Army WW1Lumpkin, Daniel ? 1927 Cpl 12thCo ForestEngrs WW1
Maddox, Frank 1896 1944 Pvt. 157th DepotBrig. WW1
Marable, John ? 1955 811th Pioneer Inf. WW1 Milner, Ellis* 1892 1962 PvtCoB403rdLaborBn WW1Mines, John, Jr.* 1917 1945 Pvt., 297PortCo TC WW2
Moore, Jesse B. 1891 1962 Cpl. CoD 315 Svc Bn WW1Morton, Charlie C. 1895 1948 MedDepBase2CampHosp WW1 Morton, Frank B.* ? 1934 Sgt, 157thDepotBrigade WW1
Milner, Ellis* 1892 1962 PvtCoB403rdLaborBn WW1
Mines, John, Jr.* 1917 1945 Pvt., 297PortCo TC WW2
Newings, John Evin 1932 1956 Pvt. US Army KoreaOdom, Jesse* 1933 1951 PFC(KIA)CoK 8thCavReg Korea
Owens, Alphonso A. 1900 1930 Pvt. SATC Meharry Med WW1
Owens, Jesse ? 1930 Pvt. 403rd Labor Bn WW1Patrick, Lyon 1907 1952 Pfc. 403rd Res Labor Bn WW1
Payne, Henry Jr.* 1919 1946 Pfc953AAFBaseUnit WW2
Pitt(s), Willie ? 1946 Pvt. 157th Depot Brig. WW1
Poyner, Thomas 1896 1967 Bugler?, 315thLaborBn WW1
Reid, Willie 1894 1938 QtrmasterCorps WW1
Rucker, Monroe ? 1919 Pvt. 530th Engrs. WW1
Sanders, Edward O.* ? 1921 Pvt. 55th Depot Brig. WW1
Saphloe, William W.* 1911 1948 Capt. 64thQMBnGermany WW2
Shanks, Otis ? 1957 Cook, 15th Depot Brig. WW1
Shaw, Willie A.* ? 1927 48thCo 157DepotBrig. WW1
Smith, Robert ? 1925? 313th Svc Bn. WW1
Stanton, Curtis W.* 1911 1956 No headstone application Korea
Stephens, Peyton S. 1911 1958 Sgt. Hq41stEngr. Regt. WW2
Stewart, Vance W.* 1906 1960 Tch5, 213PortCo. Army WW2
Stovall, Claude 1912 1949 Pfc. Qtrmstr Corps WW2
Strickland, George H. 1908 1954 Army, no headstone rec. WW2
Strickland, John A.* ? 1919 Pvt45thCo 12Bn157Dep WW1
Tate, Son* ? 1940 Pvt842ndCo845thRegt WW1
Terrell, Burnett ? 1944 Sgt. 3768 QM Trk Co. WW2
Willingham, Frank* ? 1934 PvtCoD3085Bn WW1 Winkfield, Walter P. ? 1932 Pvt. 304 Svc Bn. QMC WW1
Wood, Miles 1888 1947 Pioneer Inf. WW1
*Burial site in Gospel Pilgrim not yet found.
Hicks note: Descendants expected to apply for military marker.
General Note: A few of these burials are in Hillcrest Cem., adjacent to Gospel Pilgrim Cem., on the side by the apartment complex on 4th St.
This painting by Laura Era shows Lincoln reading the Emancipation Proclamation with members of his cabinet and Anna Ella Carroll occupying one chair. Artist Era was commissioned to re-do the original painting by Francis B. Carpenter which showed one chair empty. There is evidence that Carroll aided Lincoln in war activities. It is thought that her chair was left empty, but with an identifying map and case used by Carroll. We can speculate it would have been impolitic to show Lincoln being advised by a woman. For more on this intriguing and vital story, see information online at the Maryland Women's Hall of Fame.
The 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation is Jan. 1, 2013
As 2013 begins in Athens, Georgia, there are Watch Night church services where the Emancipation Proclamation is read and celebrated. African Americans don't forget what happened 150 years ago. Thousands commemorate the Emancipation Proclamation throughout the country. Other African Americans, however, celebrate a traditional New Year's Eve Watch Night religious service without delving into the Civil War past, preferring to look toward the future of the New Year.
As early as Fall, 1862, Athens residents black and white, knew Lincoln was moving toward an Emancipation Proclamation. The world's press carried stories about the proclamation freeing the slaves. Apparently, however, little direct mention was made about emancipation in the Athens area in white-controlled newspapers. A digitized search of the years of newspaper files immediately before and after the Emancipation Proclamation's Jan. 1, 1863, date found only a few articles discussing the Emancipation Proclamation in the Athens press. These articles seem selected to reflect disapproval of the Proclamation in various foreign and non-Georgia papers and didn't put in writing the Proclamation's contents.
A leading Athens citizen, Augustus Longstreet Hull, however, confirmed the town's knowledge about coming emancipation in his basic history, Annals of Athens, Georgia, 1801-1901. Hull treats the matter at some length and will be discussed later.
Today is the day we note Abraham Lincoln's signing and release of his Emancipation Proclamation to free Confederate slaves. With the release of the proclamation, the Civil War became unabashedly the instrument to liberate the country's four million slaves, although this process wouldn't be completed until the 13th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution went into effect in December, 1865. More than two bloody years of fighting still remained before the South surrendered. The Emancipation Proclamation could not free millions of slaves until the Union Army wrested a victory and controlled the entire South.
Lincoln, after much struggle with himself, finally realized that freeing the slaves was absolutely necessary as an action by the nation's commander-in-chief to win the war. He had delicately edged around the question of immediate and non-compensated freedom for slaves for several years, as he tried to woo the Border States and the Confederate South to give up on slavery. Finally he knew that no diplomatic or soft-handed effort was going to give him victory as commander-in-chief. He also needed African-American soldiers, and the Proclamation embraced this need. More than 200,000 black soldiers did join the ranks of the Union Army before the Civil War ended and aided greatly.
Eric Foner, a highly noted Civil War, Reconstruction and Lincoln historian, discusses Lincoln's anguish wrestling with the questions of slavery and freedom in his noteworthy book, The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery.
"One hundred and fifty years ago, on Jan. 1, 1863, Abraham Lincoln presided over the annual White House New Year's reception. Late that afternoon, he retired to his study to sign the Emancipation Proclamation," Foner wrote today in an op-ed piece in the New York Times.
"When he took up his pen, his hand was shaking from exhaustion. Briefly, he paused—'I do not want it to appear as if I hesitated,' he remarked. Then Lincoln affixed a firm signature to the document," Foner writes.
"In essence, Lincoln asked the nation to confront unblinkingly the legacy of slavery. What were the requirements of justice in the face of this reality? What would be necessary to enable former slaves and their descendants to enjoy fully the pursuit of happiness? Lincoln did not live to provide an answer. A century and a half later, we have yet to do so," he writes.
Obviously Athens residents knew that Lincoln had written a preliminary emancipation proclamation, but had not officially released it. For example, in its Oct. 29, 1862, issue, the Athens Southern Watchman without any comment passed on a story from England, relayed from the London Times but obviously quoting the foreign item with approval:
"The London Times says that the emancipation proclamation of Lincoln is a political concession of the Abolitionists, that when the Union existed the Constitution gave no right to the President or Congress to free the slaves. Emancipation was the bolt in the hands of the President to destroy the social organization of the South—a blow which Lincoln has assumed the right to launch, without the power to enforce his decrees. The North must conquer every square mile of the South before it can make the proclamation of more effect than merely a waste of paper."
In the same issue of the Southern Watchman, another item running in the London Post, was repeated: "The London Post says: It is not easy to estimate how utterly contemtible [sic] a government must have become which could sanction, with its approval, such insensate trash."
The Watchman ran a third article in its Nov. 26, 1862, issue, upholding the freedom of expression of a Missouri judge, who was arrested for questioning the wisdom of the preliminary emancipation proclamation. The Watchman showed its anger with the judge's arrest under a headline "More Specimens of Freedom under Lincoln Rule." Several articles published in the Athens papers after Jan. 1, 1863, followed the technique of quoting disapproval of the Proclamation abroad and in the North.
Hull in his Annals wrote that the preliminary emancipation proclamation, which Lincoln composed in September, 1862, after the Battle of Antietam, was not kept secret. We know that Lincoln was advised not to release the proclamation until a more opportune time. Several newspapers wrote articles about this preliminary document.
"The emancipation proclamation of Mr. Lincoln had no effect on the [Athens] negroes at the time, although they were generally told of it," Hull wrote, discussing the Jan. 1, 1863, proclamation.
As the Union Army conquered and occupied Georgia in 1864 and 1865, Georgia slaves began to exercise their freedom. They already knew that it existed on paper, but only armed might of the Union Army made possible the beginning of their emancipation. Many joined the Union army marching through Georgia.
Hull recounted the breakdown in Athens society: "After the surrender of General [Joseph] Johnston there came a brigade of Federal cavalry in search of Mr. [Jefferson] Davis. It was the signal for the disruption of the old regime." By May, 1865, federal troops occupied Athens.
Hull wrote that his father ". . . called up the hands on the plantation and told them they were now free and must take care of themselves; if they chose they might remain on the place until they should decide what to do. The effect was curious. The younger men left at once to enjoy their new-found freedom with a happy-go-lucky lack of forethought, not knowing where they were to get their suppers. The men with families remained."
The Jan. 1, 1863, Emancipation Proclamation formally proclaimed "the freedom of all slaves held in areas still in revolt," the National Archives said in opening its special 150th anniversary of the proclamation on New Year's Eve. "The issuance of this Proclamation clarified and strengthened the position of the Union government, decreased the likelihood of European support of the Confederacy and, as the Union armies extended their occupation of the southern states, brought freedom to the slaves in those states."
This rather dramatic illustration shows a black Union soldier reading the Emancipation Proclamation to an African-American family in 1863.
By Al Hester, PhD
Finding Information about ex-slaves is hard work. Many who visit this site on the Web know from personal experience that their efforts are frequently frustrating and time-consuming. The major difficulties include the lack of listing slaves' names in the U. S. federal censuses from 1790 through 1860. Between 1790 and 1840 only the white heads of households were listed by name. Beginning with the 1850 census, all white individuals as well as minorities including Chinese, Latinos, and American Indians were enumerated by name. It was only after Emancipation, that African Americans were enumerated by name. They were also counted as being "black" or "mulatto."
Some genealogical searchers are lucky enough to find slaves listed in private records, such as plantation inventories, probate documents of slave owners, or bills of sale or wills of white owners. Newspaper advertisements often included the names of runaway slaves or sales of slaves. Frequently, only the first names of slaves were mentioned.
After slaves became free, other records began mentioning them, frequently giving valuable information about African Americans after the Civil War, during the 1860's and 1870's during Reconstruction came into being. One of the most useful records giving family information about former slaves are the lists of deposit applications for African Americans wanting to start savings accounts with the Freedman's Savings Bank, a government effort to encourage saving. These records are on-line at ancestry.com, the well known genealogy and history site. See search.ancestry.com › Search
› Tax, Criminal, Land & Wills
.. It is freely available at many libraries and for a subscription fee for use by individuals at home. The ancestry.com site also has Freedmen's Bureau field office records, which contain thousands of the names of newly freed slaves (see link above). These records are also available on microfilm at the Athens Regional Library.
Tax records also are of some help in tracing the lives of former slaves and are available in the Georgia State Archives (it will be open two days a week to the public. Check the Archives site before going.) and in most Georgia counties. Marriage, probate and will records also are readily available at the court house in most counties.
But Athens area readers may also want to know where their ex-slave ancestors are buried in the local Athens area and their birth and death dates. Black cemeteries are especially sources of information inscribed on tombstones of ex-slaves. Sometimes finding out the birth dates or death dates of the African Americans you are researching can lead to finding many other pieces of information. Military records on-line at ancestry.com and elsewhere on the Web can be very helpful. Often, the entire military service records can be ordered from the National Archives in Washington, with indexes often published on-line by Ancestry. com or other genealogical sites. Some Georgia ex-slaves left slavery to enlist in the Union Army, especially as Gen. W. T. Sherman marched from Atlanta to the Sea. Hundreds of Georgia slaves also enlisted in newly formed black regiments in the wake of Union Gen. James Wilson's large, destructive cavalry raid from Atlanta to Macon in spring 1865.
In my work as history and research chairperson for the Gospel Pilgrim cemetery at Fourth and Bray Streets in East Athens, I have put together what may be a useful list for local Athens residents who are researching their ex-slave ancestors.
The cemetery was founded in 1882 as a 9-acre cemetery by the Gospel Pilgrim Society and contains graves of perhaps 3,500 African Americans. Of this number, the majority of graves are unmarked, and we don't know who is buried in these graves. The list of burials and lots was lost many years ago. There are about 800 graves of African Americans, however, which are identified by a readable marker.
Among the identified graves, or from information given to us mentioning Gospel Pilgrim as a burial site, there are more than 100 graves we know are of ex-slaves. In several cases I have been happy to help African Americans or interested white persons find the graves of a specified person in whom they were interested. We have a rough spread sheet with as much information as possible on the graves with identification at Gospel Pilgrim, and I am glad to "look up" persons sought by descendants or friends. We hope to have soon an on-line spreadsheet of the known burials—a spreadsheet which will be searchable by first or last names. When this Web site for Gospel Pilgrim goes on-line, I'll mention it and link to it on this site.
Below is the list of African Americans ex-slaves buried at Gospel Pilgrim. This list includes the best birthdates and death dates we can find. Many times, especially among ex-slaves, they simply didn't know for sure when they were born. Once you know their birthdates and death dates, you can frequently find more information, for example if these ex-slaves lived to be recorded in post-Civil War censuses, wills, deeds, or tax records.
In a handful of cases on this list, you will see an asterisk by the specific death date. This calls attention to an online image of a death certificate from the site begun by the Georgia State Archives and Secretary of State. Currently it is searchable for the years from the beginning of compulsory birth and death registrations, 1919 through about 1927. If this site is malfunctioning, this information is also available at Family Search.com on the Web. Name Born Died
Adams, Charlton 1856 or 57 ?
Adams, Obadiah, Rev. 2-13-1828 11-19-1892
Adams, Mrs. Mete? 856 or 57 3-31-1903
Allen, Gwen [Owen?] Dec. 1829 12-28-1900
Austin, Nicey 1843 1935
Bacon, Edward 12-25-1854 12-13-1906
Bacon, Marenia 10-17-1849 11-27-1917
Bacon, Mary 10-17-1849 11-27-1917
Bass, E. W. 8-23-1860 6-20-1903
Barker[?], Sam[?] 1847[?] Jan. 1927[?]
Bates, William 1865 1942
Billups, Betty McRee 1860 1938
Brown[?] 1862 1942
Brydie, Camilla 1851[?] ?
Brydie, Daniel H. 1829 1894
Carey, Fannie L. 7-8-1854 12-9-1938
Cox, Mrs. Mollie 1863 12-3-1935
Davis, C.[?] H. 7-8-1845 6-11-1895
Davis, Madison 1833 1902
Davis, Minnie H.[?] 1859 1940 or 1950?
Deadwyler, Mattie 1844 1935[?]
Derricotte, Bernard[?] 1858 1890
Derricotte, Charlotte L. 4-13-1863 11-5-1927*
Derricotte, Edward 1863 1927
Derricotte, Isaac Thomas 1860? 1951?
Derricotte, Laura B. 1865? 1951
Derricotte, Randle 3-8-1812 ?
Derricotte, Savannah 11-17-1852 9-25-1900
Dillard, William 1838? 6-7-1908
Downer, G. T. 1862 2-2-1915
Drake, Laura L. T. 1862 5-24-1905
Dukes, Mary 1833 or 1843 1908
Favors, Tom 1806 1931
Fields, Eldon 1849 1-29-1925*
Fields, Susie 1859[?] 9-29-1927*
Fisher, Lula 1859 1904
Foster, Emma Shropshire 5-20-1860 1-6-1949
Gilham, Laura 1863 1943
Harris, Elizabeth (Lizzie) 8-10-1857 1920*
Harris, Henrietta 1857 1932
Harris, Robert 1836 8-6-1914
Hawkins, Ida 5-12-1861 3-11-1909
Hawkins, S. H. 1859 1937
Heard, --et 1832? 8-28-1890
Heard, Bartlett 1832 7-26-1890
Heard, J. A.[?] 1855 1908
Heard, J. H. 6-6-1855 12-30-1908
Heard, Mattie Oct., 1865 11-13-1943
Heard, William Apr. 1865 9-26-1939
Hicks, Charles 1841 12-8-1916
Holt, Carolyn 1-21-1839 or 49 10-8-1902
Houston, Charlie 1858 10-29-1942
Hudson, Charlie 858? 10-29-1942
Hunter, Richard 1857 1929
Jackson, Alfred 10-5-1824 2-14-1884
Jackson, Louisa 12-9-1825 11-3-1895
Johnson, Alice V. 1857 4-4-1918
Johnson, W. D., Rev. 1842 4-1-1909
Jones, --- 1814 1903
Jones, Georgia 2-7-1849 12-9-1923
Jones, John W. 1832?] 1917
Jones, Louisa Beale, Mrs. 1854 10-11-1910
Jones, Luvenia 3-20-1852 9-14-1922*
Jones, Tena, Mrs. 1843 or 1848 1888
Jones, Lula, Mrs. 3-18-1859 4-3-1930
Jones, Sallie, Mrs. 1860 7-25-1885
Jones, Thomas 1825 10-13-1900
Jones, Vinnie 12-25-1825 11-7-1887
Jones, W. A. 1855 11-5-1905
Jones, W. A., Jr. 1855 1905
Jones, Willis A. Sr., Rev. 2-28-1814 3-3-1913
Lawrence, Carrie Aug. 1850 12-15-1924
Livingston, Emmaline 1828 1912
Mack, Charlotte M. or H. 1862 1933
Mack, John R. 1856 1918
Mason, Mattie Shaw Apr. 1854 ?
McCleskley, Edward 1865 1932
McClesky, James 1857 1944
McCray, Laura 6-7-1818 12-5-1913
McQueen, Amanda 3-26-1858 12-31-1916
McQueen, W. M. 11-15-1850 3-19-1905
McRee, Edward 1860 1955
Morton, Amanda 1850 1885
Morton, Elizabeth, Mrs. 1834 1885
Morton, Elizabeth 1836 1-10-1886?
Morton, Monroe B. 1855 1919*
Morton, Tallulah 1862 or 1867? 1941
Nesbitt, John 1853 10-13-1895
Owens, Isabella 1859 11-8-1919*
Pinckney, Mrs. Hopie 1862 1888
Pledger, William A. 1849 or 1850? 1-8-1904
Pope, Celie 1780? 1895
Powers, Armstead D. 11-24-1834 ?
Powers, Harriet 12-9-1837[?] ?
Pure, Mrs. Ossie 1857 1925
Randolph, Susan 1854 1929
Reid, Lorenzo W. 1863 1947
Rhodes, Bessie 1865 1935
Sanders-McGee, Sarah 1854 7-21-1934
Scott, Samuel S. 1862? ?
Sheppard, Anna M. H. 8-17-1862 4-25-1885
Smith, Candace C. Wiley 1845 1929
Smith, Martha 1864 5-30-1922*
Spaulding, Amanda McQueen 1858 1916
Stephens, Mrs. Nancy 1856 ?
Stephens, Oliver 1849 9-8-1880
Stevens, Julia 1844 1941
Virgil, Emma 1860 1944
W. J., Mr. 1855? 1932
Whitfield, W. M. 1865 1939
Williams, Harriet 10-11-1853 2-24-1930
Williams, Jane 1837 1-13-1891
Wiley, Candace 1845 1929
Young, Agnes, Mrs. March 1837 1-10-1898 114 Total slaves in G. P. + many, many more in unmarked graves or in uncleared portions of the cemetery.Dates with question marks indicate difficulties in reading the date on the tombstone.
Below is an example of the death certificate of Charlotte L. Derricotte of Athens, Georgia. In addition to date and cause of death, we also find the name of her spouse, her age, her occupation [cateress], her address where she died, where she was born, and the names of her father and mother--a rich bonanza for her descendants.
From an engraving by John Warner Barber showing the town of Athens, GA from across the Oconee River in 1861
A WONDERFUL SOURCE OF HISTORICAL AND GENEALOGICAL INFORMATION:
Prof. Robert Scott Davis
Whether you call it
researching or pleasant dabbling, hunting down information for history and genealogy questions can be a major project for thousands of Americans. A lot of their work would be a thousand times more difficult if it weren’t for the dedicated band of persons who spend tedious months and years finding, abstracting and publishing old records from local and state agencies.
Basically, the persons who meticulously work to make records public and convenient for use by hobbyists and researchers are really the “unsung heroes” in history and genealogy, especially on the local or state level. One of the top experts making this a major part of his life is Prof. Robert Scott Davis, director of the Family and Regional History Program, Wallace State Community College, Hanceville, Alabama. Professor Davis has written more than 1,000 books and articles on records and research. He carefully cites his sources and indexes the hundreds of thousands of names occurring in local records. Using one of his books of records is like successfully hunting for nuggets of gold in family history. While more and more records are becoming available on-line, there are still vast quantities not on the Web, and the collections in print are very valuable. Professor Davis doesn’t know me, and I have never met him—but I can sure tell good work and research when I see it. He has been amazingly helpful to thousands of genealogists, history buffs and others.
Clarke County and residents of the surrounding area are lucky Professor Davis has dug out many Clarke County records which otherwise would languish in musty files sometimes very difficult to find. He is a marvelous detective at sniffing out old records and saving them for easy use.
Since this is a blog about Civil War and Reconstruction period history in Clarke County, Georgia, we’ll zero-in on just one of his incredibly useful publications: Records of Clarke County, Georgia, 1801-1892, in the Georgia Department of Archives and History.
(Greenville, SC: Southern Historical Press, 1993). Not everyone can dash over to the Department of Archives and History in Morrow, Georgia, especially now that its public hours have been slashed by the state budget crunch. For those of you who want to visit, here is the location and Web listing for the Georgia Archives. Note carefully the brief times the facility is open for research: 5800 Jonesboro Road,
Morrow, GA 30260,
, Open Friday - Saturday
8:30 - 5:00,
Just one section of the rich records trove Professor Davis has dug out from the state archives concentrates on information about Confederate soldiers and their relatives. In some cases, these records involve returning veterans after the war was over. If you’re interested in tracing your Clarke Confederate ancestors, the chances are good you’ll run across mentions of them in the Clarke County records housed in the State Archives and published in Professor Davis’ Clarke County book.
Of most interest to seekers of Civil War era information about relatives and friends in Clarke County are Record Group 129-2-4 Miscellaneous, Box 2: Civil War Era Files. Professor Davis did detailed searches of this record group at the Georgia State Archives.
Here are some highlights of records he found involving Civil War and later time periods involving those with involvement in the era: Amnesty Oaths
with 358 names of Clarke and a few other area residents who swore allegiance to the federal government after the war ended in 1865. Professor Davis also notes that physical descriptions and signatures of these persons are found in Microfilm Reel 287/40-8 at the Georgia Archives. His list of oath signers contains the names and ages of the signers. Confederate Veterans Receiving Artificial Limbs in 1867 in Clarke County
: 19 names. Extensive Confederate Records, 1862-1892
: Includes: Names of Confederate widows, 27 names. Guardians or persons having charge of orphan of deceased soldier
: 29 names. Persons dependent upon deceased soldiers for support:
4 names. Soldiers crippled for life
: 1 name. Aged or infirm white persons
: 13 names. I assume these are persons dependent upon Confederate veterans. On the back of this list are 23 names of African-Americans. A long list of widows, wives and infirm persons and their families
whose service in the Confederate Army caused much hardship for the families in Clarke County. A list of persons entitled to receive salt from the Confederate government
. Salt was in tremendously short supply in the Confederate states during the war. Lists of more aged and infirm persons, persons dependent on soldiers for support, soldiers’ widows, more guardians of orphans of deceased soldiers
. A list of citizens made destitute by the war, as of April 15, 1864
. Sixty-six names of whites and 42 names of African-Americans. A long list of classes of priority for aid to families of Confederate soldiers.
These gave the reason for the priority of each case. This list contains hundreds of names, listed by militia district. Destitute Confederate Soldiers and other destitute citizens
, as of June, 1867. A long list of widows, wives and families with sons in military service
As you can see, Professor Davis’s book and the records of the Georgia Archives can be of tremendous help in tracing activities of your Civil War and Reconstruction era relatives.
If you would like to obtain this book, call the Southern Historical Press at 1-800-233-0152
to obtain prices (reasonable) and place your order. You can’t order online from this press yet, but it has hundreds of excellent books of interest to genealogists and historians.
The Franklin House, Athens, GA, photo 1936. Freedmen's Bureau Sub-District Headquarters was located here. (HABS)
Part 2 The Nitty-Gritty Operations of the Freedmen’s Bureau in Athens, Georgia
During Reconstruction, the Freedmen’s Bureau was a busy place at its Athens headquarters for overseeing a 13-county area in Northeast Georgia. The Bureau was supposed to see to it that whites and African-Americans got along in a fairly equitable manner—not an easy task soon after the Civil War.
There are records which spell out the complaints made by members of each race as they searched for some reasonable co-existence after the Civil War ended. One of the best ways to get a ringside seat on the action in a South generally still under occupation by Yankee troops is to look at the day-to-day reports, letters, contracts, etc. fashioned by the Freedmen’s Bureau. These files give in vivid detail the adjustments necessary for life to go on in the South.
The Bureau field office records for the Athens Sub-District contain literally hundreds of names and events concerning African-Americans newly freed from slavery. They also frequently furnish details of the lives and relationships of white and black Athenians.
These records can be extremely important to family historians and genealogists. The records of the Bureau are available through Ancestry.com, or as microfilm from the National Archives in Washington. The Athens Regional Library has the microfilms and also free access to Ancestry.com. A link to Letters Sent by the Athens Sub-District office during 1867-68 is as follows: A subscription to Ancestry. com is needed, unless you have free use at your library. http://search.ancestry.com/Browse/View.aspx?dbid=1105&path=Georgia.Letter.1867-1868.Letters+Sent,+Volume+1.1
See Part 1 of this article for other links to the online records.
The field records are not usually indexed very helpfully. The online search capabilities of these digitized records do not allow much key-word searching. The records are handwritten. But information from the field office records on daily operations of the Bureau is not available elsewhere. Browsing may turn up good stuff!
• • •
Looking over hundreds of letters and reports to and from the Athens area Freedmen’s Bureau office, I was hit by the dedication Brevet Major John J. Knox and his agents showed to protect ex-slaves and help them to live as free citizens. Major Knox was the assistant commissioner for the Athens Sub-District during 1867 and part of 1868. Records exist for other periods of the Freedmen’s Bureau operations in Athens, beginning in 1865 and continuing on into the 1870’s. But Major Knox and his Athens area agent Howell C. Flournoy make a good study, since they were plain-spoken in their correspondence and efficient. Knox was a Union veteran, as were many other Freedmen’s Bureau leaders. Flournoy was a Southerner who was completely loyal to the Union. Prior to the war, he had been a town commissioner of Athens. After the war he was an agent for the Freedmen’s Bureau and later a deputy postmaster of Athens.
The Freedmen’s Bureau’s office in Athens was in the old Franklin House on Broad Street—a historic building still standing and restored in downtown Athens. It was a bustling, leading hotel in Athens during the 19th Century. The Bureau’s office took up only a small portion of the brick building. A constant stream of blacks and whites trooped into the office to get the Bureau to side with them or to mediate a solution to complaints, labor contracts, education matters, and many other points of disagreement. Typically the Bureau referred many complaints to Clarke County civil authorities—the Athens intendant (Mayor), black leaders and justices of the peace. The white power structure frequently didn’t do what the Bureau wanted, but relations were generally respectful, although strained.
When push came to shove, the Bureau could call on the small garrison of Union troops in Athens to nudge recalcitrant planters and to discourage violence in the area.
• • •
So how do you begin accessing Freedmen’s Bureau field office records to see what your Athens area relatives, either white or black, were doing during Reconstruction?
The files of letters sent and received by the Bureau’s Athens Sub-District Headquarters are roughly divided chronologically. There are, however, overlaps in time periods in the digitized files, and there are several volumes of records, just on the correspondence of the Bureau in Athens. Letters Sent originate from the Bureau, and Letters Received may come from within the Bureau or from ex-slaves or white citizens. But letters received and letters sent are in different ledgers, so if you wish to see the complete correspondence you’ll have to look in both files. This correspondence filing system mirrors the traditional military record system used for generations by American military forces. It can be frustrating.
The names of the senders and receivers are on each piece of correspondence, and frequently there may be a brief summary of the subject. In some cases, registers or roughly alphabetical indices of the volumes are available, which will tell you the page number in the correspondence ledgers. But the indices don’t give you the Image Number of the digitized microfilm frame of the correspondence, which is also a key to the digitized files. Fortunately, as you browse the letters you can see the page numbers as well as the image numbers—both at the top of each page digitized.
Some of the letters paint vivid pictures of conflicts between the races or between the federal government and local citizens.
Jackson County, immediately north of Clarke County and Athens was known for its strong resistance to federal actions during Reconstruction. This was of great concern to Agent Flournoy, who warned Bvt. Brig. Gen. Sibley, assistant commissioner in Georgia for the Bureau. If you’d like to see the digitized letter from Flournoy, see the following: http://search.ancestry.com/Browse/view.aspx?dbid=1105&path=Georgia.Letter.1868.Letters+Sent+Volume+3.149&sid=&gskw=
The handwriting is somewhat difficult to read: Here is the text of the long letter written on Oct. 15, 1868:
I have the honor to call your attention to very great excitement in Jackson Co. Ga. Reports have come to me that both white and colored citizens are arming themselves. The whites say the colored citizens are arming themselves to murder all the whites at a certain time not particularly specified. This, as they pretend, has caused them to arm themselves for self-defence. On the other hand, the colored citizens contend that they are desirous of living in peace with the white people and attend to their daily work, that large bodies of armed white citizens [are] roving through the district of Newtown and Harmony Grove [now Commerce] in Jackson County, halting and hailing every colored man they see and compelling them with threats of violence and drawn weapons upon them to make them sign certain written articles of agreement which they term as an association of peace between them. The articles are nothing more or less than that they, the colored people, solemnly pledge themselves with an oath that they will vote the Democratic ticket in November, 1868! If they sign these, they are let alone with warning. If the colored people violate their pledge, death is their doom, and, if they refuse to sign, they are driven out of the county, their lives threatened and many of them have been driven from their homes. Such are the reports that reach me.
“I am daily looking for an outbreak in that section and nothing can prevent it, unless U. S. troops are sent here. The excitement appears to be intense in these two districts. I am afraid it will extend through the whole of Jackson County and the adjoining counties and this place [Athens]. No white Radicals or colored men will be allowed to vote at the next election for President unless he votes the Democratic ticket. If the government don’t give us protection we will be at the mercy of a lawless band. I have lived here for nearly fifty years. I was here during the rebellion. I was more than forty times reported for arrest for my Union sentiments. But I have never seen such times in my life as a Union man’s life was so insecure as at this time.”
Flournoy signed the letter as agent in Athens.
While I haven’t yet found General Sibley’s reply, the Nov. 2, 1868, issue of the Southern Banner
in Athens may refute the idea of violence in Athens during the election, although nothing is mentioned about Jackson County:
“As we go to press voting is progressing quietly at the Town Hall. So far as we know, it is pretty much a question of race here—all the whites, except about a half dozen, voting for Seymour & Blair, and the great mass of the negroes for Grant and Colfax.”
Georgia statewide gave Seymour and Blair 64 per cent and Grant and Colfax nearly 35 per cent.
• • •
Turning to a complaint filed by an African American in Athens, Mrs. Sarah Nesbit, alleged to the Bureau that Yankee troops posted at Athens stole her shoes. Agent Flournoy wrote their commanding officer, Major R. E. Naly[?] and complained:
I have the honor to call your attention to an outrage that was committed by some four or five of your men. Last night Mrs. Sarah Nesbit (cold [colored]) of Athens. She states that they taken from her one pair of shoes, and two shawls and threatened to blow her brains out.
Yours Very Respectfully
Howell C. Flournoy
Agt. Bureau. . .”
Showing a Freedmen’s Bureau attempt to “keep the peace” with civil authorities in Athens was this letter sent Oct. 12, 1868, by Agent Flournoy to Hon. J. D. Pittard, the Athens intendant (mayor). Flournoy wrote:
I have the honor to inform you on behalf of the (col’d [colored]) people that on Saturday next they are going to have a Republican mass meeting on the lot of Floyd Hill [a leading African-American leader and founder of Hill First Baptist Church] in rear of the Institute [Knox School or Institute]. A part of their program is to form a procession and with national flags and banners march through some of the principal Streets. I can assure you, Sir, that so far as the (col’d) people are concerned they intend no harm to any citizen of this town and have appointed some of their best men to keep order among themselves. Should you have any objections to the above, you will please state it in writing and oblige
Your Most Obt.
Howell C. Flournoy
Agent Bureau. . . .”
• • •
Finally, here is an impassioned letter sent by Columbus, Georgia, freedmen to Maj. Gen. James B. Steedman of the Union Army on Nov. 5, 1865. Although not from the Athens Sub-District, it shows the fears of ex-slaves in Georgia:
Nov. 5th, 1865
Maj. Gen’l Steadman [Maj. Gen. James B. Steedman]
We the undersigned Freedmen, having learned that the Federal Soldiers are soon to be withdrawn from Columbus, feel constrained most respectfully and request in the name of the Lord, to implore you not to leave us unprotected by Federal troops. We firmly believe that the Almighty has ordained our freedom; but at the same time, we wish to inform you that if the Federal Soldiers are withdrawn from us, we will be left in a most gloomy and helpless condition. A number of Freedmen have already been killed in this section of country; and from expressions uttered by prominent men in this community in civil life, we have every reason to fear that others will share a similar fate. We think our commander here might do better than he does. And we do know that there are men here who would protect us if they had the power.
We therefore most humbly and earnestly pray you General, not to leave us to the tender mercy of our enemies—unprotected.
S. W. Love
And 120 others (colored)
[From Records of the Assistant Commissioner for the State of Georgia, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1869, “Unbound Miscellaneous Papers,” National Archives Publication M798, Roll 36].
I hope these few examples will give readers an idea of the valuable accounts in Freedmen’s Bureau records, which could be of great help for both African Americans and white citizens tracing family history or genealogy.
Gen. James B. Steedman, Union Army. Blacks appealed to him not to remove troops in Columbus, GA in 1865.
Letter sent by Freedmen's Bureau in Athens, GA, to an attorney in Danielsville, GA, reassuring that Union troops would not be moved from Elbert County, GA.
Brevet Major John J. Knox, head of the Athens Georgia Sub-District of the Freedmen's Bureau in 1867-68
Part 1 of 2
In 1867, two years after Emancipation, slavery wasn’t dead in Athens, Georgia. It was only “lying doggo”—existing in a little-diluted manner causing untold hardships for “freed persons” and also for former slave owners.
The South—and the nation—had a lot of unfinished business. Bearing much of the brunt of this unprecedented effort at change was the formidably named federal agency, the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. It was commonly called the Freedmen’s Bureau. With its many offices throughout the South, some border states and Washington, D. C., the Bureau was ceaselessly dealing with whites and blacks. It might be considered the “oil” which tried to make the wheels turn to set up new relations between whites and former slaves. For much of its existence, the Bureau could call upon limited Union armed force against recalcitrant citizens in the occupied South. Yankee civilian workers and military men were trying to drag Southern whites by the scruff of their necks to accept ideas that African Americans were not slaves any more.
The Civil War was lost, which Southerners could reluctantly admit. But the social fabric of life hadn’t necessarily meant equality and justice for all. The idea that blacks could marry, choose their own employment, try to get an education and even vote was exceedingly difficult to understand by the many white citizens of Athens, Georgia, and elsewhere.
The field office reports of the Freedmen’s Bureau give us a ringside seat at this imperfect search for getting along between the races throughout much of the South, and specifically in the Athens Sub-District of the Bureau. The Bureau heard complaints of many former slaves, and from many whites—both sides felt they were mistreated. What assurance did blacks have their former master's would actually pay them to work? Were the ex-slaves willing to work for former masters? How could former slave owners make a buck to keep their farms or plantations alive?How would they get their crops taken care of? What kind of labor contracts could make all this possible? How did the Bureau deal with instances of physical beatings, kidnappings of black children, and even murder of the freedmen?
In Athens, a doughty brevet major, John J. Knox, was named the Athens Freedmen's Bureau Assistant Sub-Commissioner in 1867, and we have a thorough record of much of his duties with whites and blacks in 1867 and 1868. Freedmen’s Bureau operations started in Athens in 1865, but Major Knox was one of the most active sub-commissioners to hold the job. Major Knox, from Michigan, was respectful to the community, but he did not suffer fools gladly and rose to protect destitute blacks. Also, Knox’s period is one of the better-documented in existing records.
A lot of the details of this Civil War veteran’s work become plain to us in his field office reports and letters. A bantam of a man, not weighing 100 pounds, he was nearly killed in battle near Richmond, Virginia, and was seriously disabled. He was the the Union reserve officer's corps. He was naturally a likable guy, and even un-reconstructed Athens area residents had to admire his bravery in battle.
The records of the Bureau can reward the user with a detailed day-by-day account of what the Freedmen’s Bureau was trying to do in the Athens Sub-District. You can get to these records via the partnership of the National Archives in Washington, D.C. and Ancestry.com, the tremendously useful genealogical site on the Internet. Of great importance to genealogists and African-American history fans and genealogists are the thousands of names of ex-slaves and where they lived in the Athens Sub-District, as well as how they lived their lives during Reconstruction. These details are reflected in Freedmen's Bureau letters sent and received and in many reports. Thousands of these sources are available on-line.
The Athens Sub-District covered the following counties: Clarke, Jackson, Gwinnett, Walker, Hart, Franklin, Banks, Habersham, Rabun, Hall, Oglethorpe, Elbert, and Madison. Other Bureau sub-district headquarters in Georgia were at Savannah, Albany, Brunswick, Thomasville, Macon, Columbus, Augusta, Atlanta and Rome. Each sub-district employed agents at smaller towns or villages as well.
But your hunt may not be easy. There’s no decent index to these records. You have to hunt information like prospectors hunted nuggets of gold—expecting to get very little and then hitting a bonanza from time to time. Many African-Americans, however, have successfully traced their ancestors in the years immediately following the Civil War and Emancipation. They are often able to find their labor contracts with planters, their complaints about violence and unfair treatment, their depth of destitution, and even their hospitalizations and illnesses.
The field reports of Georgia and other Southern states give us tons of information including labor contracts, education efforts, court cases, and violence against freedmen. They also frequently portray actions of whites and their complaints against African Americans or the Freedmen's Bureau. Of course, we are seeing through the lens of a camera held by the Yankee bureau. Major Knox, for example, never hid his belief that the Bureau should help destitute blacks and try to make their lives better. But he proceeded with quite a bit of caution, courtesy and fairness. Several times, however, he faced death threats, although no actual assassination attempt was made.
The overall Freedmen’s Bureau site on Ancestry.com can be found at U.S., Freedmen Bureau Records of Field Offices, 1865-187, compiled by the National Archives. Records of the Field Offices for the State of Georgia, on-line are the records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1872; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M1903, 90 rolls); Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, Record Group 105; National Archives, Washington, D.C. The on-line address for Athens sub-district records is: http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=1105
Athens" specific records address includes hundreds of letters received and sent : http://search.ancestry.com/Browse/view.aspx?dbid=1105&path=Georgia.Letter.1867.Letters+Received+Entered+in+Volume+1,+A-W.1156&sid=&gskw=Record+from+U.S.,+Freedmen+Bureau+Records+of+Field+Offices,+1865-1878
If you don’t have your own access to Ancestry.com, many public libraries have it free. Or if you prefer, many libraries have the microfilm National Archives records of the bureau for their area and state. Check with the genealogy and local history departments. Sometimes it seems faster to use the microfilms to browse.
The current online records for the Bureau in other Southern and a few non-Southern locations include: Washington, D. C., Florida, Georgia, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. See ancestry.com
for further information for what records are available for individual states. The regional branches of the National Archives have all the microfilmed records. The National Archives in Washington has the original paper records of the Freedmen's Bureau. Not all have been microfilmed or placed on-line.
Here’s the microfilm listing: Alabama, M1900, 34 rolls; Arkansas, M1901, 23 rolls; District of Columbia, M1902, 21 rolls; Florida, M1869, 15 rolls; Georgia, M1903, 90 rolls; Kentucky, M1904, 133 rolls; Louisiana, M1905, 111 rolls; Maryland/Delaware, M1906, 42 rolls; Mississippi, pre-Bureau Records, M1914, 5 rolls and Freedmen’s Bureau, M1907, 65 rolls; Missouri, M1908, 24 rolls; North Carolina, M1909, 78 rolls; South Carolina, M1910, 106 rolls; Tennessee, M1912, 28 rolls; Texas, M1912, 32 rolls; and Virginia, M1913, 203 rolls.
In Part 2 of this blog article to follow soon, we’ll give specific examples of Freedmen’s Bureau records which hold high genealogical, historical and cultural interest concerning the Reconstruction period after Emancipation.
An letter sent by the Freedmen's Bureau to a private lawyer thanking him for reporting efforts to rid Elbert County, GA, of Union troops.
The dead do tell tales
And we can piece together some of these from studying records of African Americans buried in the historic Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery in Athens, Georgia. Combining information from the gravestones in this 9-acre cemetery and facts from the Georgia Secretary of State’s online death certificates from 1919 through 1927, gives clues to the lives and deaths of 236 of the African Americans buried at Gospel Pilgrim. We can make some generalizations to the entire Athens area black population from this information.
Much of the laborious work obtaining images of the death certificates and preparing a spreadsheet of the main facts was excellently done by Kenneth R. Taylor of Athens, a college history instructor.
First, a bit about Gospel Pilgrim.
The cemetery is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is also on the Georgia Historical Sites sponsored by the Georgia Historical Society. It is an important site, for not only history of African Americans in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, but for cultural, educational and touristic information. It is overseen by the East Athens Development Corp., Inc., a part of the city-county government. It’s located at Fourth and Bray Streets, next to Springfield Baptist Church in East Athens.
I am head of the history and research committee for Gospel Pilgrim.
The cemetery was founded by the Gospel Pilgrim Society, a fraternal, burial and insurance society, chartered in 1883. The Society began in the days of Reconstruction after the Civil War to help struggling ex-slaves adjust to freedom.
Athens newspaper articles indicate the Society was operating from as early as 1873 or 1879, although it didn’t get into the cemetery business until 1882, when it bought the land in East Athens. The Gospel Pilgrim Society received its charter from Clarke County Superior Court in 1883. It made available a beautiful burial ground for African Americans, along with cheap burial insurance and low-priced grave plots. Society members took care of members and others in need. Many poor people were also buried free of charge at Gospel Pilgrim. Archeologists estimate that as many as 3,000-3,500 graves are in the cemetery. It also includes the graves of many of the most important leaders in Athens’ black community in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Our most recent spreadsheet lists about 850 identified gravesites. The majority of graves, however, are not marked, or their tombstones haven’t been found. The records of Gospel Pilgrim were lost years ago, so we have no maps or lists of burial lots and the individuals buried there. Active use of Gospel Pilgrim ended in 1977 upon the death of the last head of the Society, Alfred Richardson Hill. A few burials still take place if descendants can prove they own a lot and wish to use it. They must get permission from EADC.
Grave identification has been made by volunteer ground surveys. A GPS survey was started a few years ago, but unfortunately never completed because it ran out of money.
The cemetery isn’t endowed with perpetual care, and keeping it accessible is a constant fight against encroaching underbrush and trees. Volunteers have done some cleaning, and Athens-Clarke County residents passed a special sales tax election, with Gospel Pilgrim getting funds to improve roadways and other infra-structure. None of this money can go toward repairing tombstones, since they are on private property. Volunteer help is erratic, and in some years was more active than at present.
Several organizations have made small grants to the upkeep of the cemetery, but there wasn’t enough funding to finance more improvements. About one-fourth of Gospel Pilgrim has never been cleared. This area contains many graves not reachable because of the very thick underbrush.
Two-hundred-sixty-two identified graves mark the resting places of persons who were buried in Gospel Pilgrim between 1919 and 1927. The Georgia online Death Certificates program (see http://cdm.sos.state.ga.us/cdm4/gadeaths.php
) shows 236 burials took place in Gospel Pilgrim. It would be expected that this would dovetail closely with the total number of identifiable graves for persons buried in Gospel Pilgrim from 1919 through 1927. But strangely this isn’t the case. Only 10 of the 236 in the death certificate file are among those identified for that period in Gospel Pilgrim. This seems to indicate the vast majority of the 236 who died between 1919 and 1927 were interred in graves which were never marked or in graves where we cannot find any markers.
The online death certificates give us such information as approximate date of birth, date of death, name of the deceased, names of mother and father, where the person was born, his or her occupation, and the cause of death. Unfortunately, the attending doctors’ statements as to cause of death were illegible in 15 cases. These death certificates may be very helpful in tracing family history. For periods later than 1919-1927, official copies of death certificates are available for a fee from the the Georgia Department of Public Health. Information is at http://www.health.state.ga.us/programs/vitalrecords/death.asp
Blacks who died and were buried in Gospel Pilgrim generally had menial occupations. Common laborers headed the type of employment, making up 21.2 per cent of those with occupations. Cooks made up 17 per cent of the total, Those doing housework for others accounted for 11.0 per cent; and farmers totaled 4.7 per cent. These four occupations made up 53.9 per cent of those employed. Other job classifications had less than this high-occupation group.
Only five of the dead African Americans had been teachers. Only two were ministers. Thus we can see that the vast majority of blacks in Athens-Clarke County worked at hard, ill-paying jobs with little standing.
What were the major causes of death among those African Americans in the Death Index between 1919 and 1927? Heart and stroke cases accounted for 15.8 per cent of the deaths; tuberculosis and kidney disease each caused 11.8 per cent of the deaths. Pneumonia was next, causing 9 per cent of the deaths. These categories accounted for nearly half of all the deaths of African Americans buried in Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery.
During the period, five of those to be buried in Gospel Pilgrim were murdered. “One of the most horrible and gruesome crimes ever recorded in the county” was how an Athens paper described one of these killings. The murder occurred when Mary Bennett, a 70-year-old widow, was the victim on Aug. 8, 1922, of a ferocious axe attack by her 45-year-old son who lived with her. He supposedly was trying to find her money. He was sentenced to 50 years in the state penitentiary, convicted on strong circumstantial evidence. The Athens Banner
used a Page 1 banner headline about the crime.
Mary Bennett lies somewhere in Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery in one of the many unidentified graves.
A Web site is under construction for the Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery, which will contain a spreadsheet of burials and other information. Several old Gospel Pilgrim websites can be found under “Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery” on Google or other search engines if you want more information now. If you want to find out about relatives buried in Gospel Pilgrim, please contact the EADC at 410 Mckinley Dr., #101, Athens, GA 30601 or phone EADC at (706) 208-0048. Their email address is http://www.eadcinc.com/
. Also you can contact me at my Website, http://www.alhesterauthor.com/
This leaning monument shows work to be done in Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery, Athens, GA
Neglected roadway in Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery, Athens, GA.
Paying for the Civil War: The First U. S. Income Tax
So you think you have trouble with federal taxes, come April 17, 2012?
Nothing’s new: Both Yankees and Southerners had to pay income taxes to finance the Civil War. If you had lived in the loyal states or in the portion of the Confederacy occupied by the Union Army before the Civil War ended or during Reconstruction the first years after the war you would have paid Uncle Sam your taxes.
Financing the Civil War was no easy matter. The U. S. Congress in 1861 passed legislation setting up the first income tax in the country’s history, and the tax law went into effect in 1862. Yankees had to pay the tax to support the war and other federal government debts throughout the war. The Confederate government in 1863 also resorted to income taxes. The Confederacy came up with a graduated income tax. Wages up to $1,000 were exempted. There was a 1% tax on the first $1,500 above the exemption, and then 2% on all additional income.
The U. S. Congress began taxing conquered Southern territory residents before the war ended in 1865. The Rebs ought to bear the cost of the War Against the Rebellion, the legislators felt. Already added to taxpayers’ misery south of the Mason-Dixon line were various Confederate government laws trying to collect taxes from residents of these Southern states still held by the South. The Confederate tax effort was more hit-or-miss than the federal governments, however. Collections were never enough to support the Southern war effort, nor was the sale of Confederate bonds enough to keep the financial wolf away from the door during the war.
The U. S. tax effort was much more thorough. Those taxed paid 5 per cent of their incomes if they had income less than $800 yearly. If they made above $800, they paid 10 per cent. Some sources give a lower rate of taxation, however. Also the tax efforts were rife with special taxes on specific items or businesses. If you had a gold watch, that was taxable, as was silver plate, carriages, a piano, etc.
Hotel keepers had to pay up, the tax depending upon the size and quality of their hotels. Whisky sellers, too, were taxed, as were more mundane jobs. There was even a specific category for jugglers who entertained the public.
The Fed tax collectors also hit upon the idea of making their assessments public. Your neighbors could look you up on your district’s tax lists to see if you were paying what you owed, as determined by the federal assessors.
“These lists were organized alphabetically according to surname and recorded the value, assessment, or enumeration of taxable income or items and the amount of the tax due,” according to a good explanation of the tax program explaining Ancestry.com’s “U.S. IRS Tax Assessment Lists, 1862-1918.”
An excellent article is in the National Archives’ Prologue Magazine
, in the Winter, 1986, issue, No. 4, by Cynthia Fox. You can read this article online at the following link: http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/1986/winter/civil-war-tax-records.html
. This article also discusses tax records available in portions of the 19th Century and early 20th Century.
The federal income taxes were probably even more disliked than the nation’s taxes are taxes now. Taxing citizens was a new thing in 1862. We’ve had a long time to get used to it, although there were periods in the 19th and early 20th centuries when there were no individual federal income taxes.
But the tax chore to citizens, both North and South, is the genealogist’s and historian’s gain. While not everyone was taxed, a great many of a community’s residents were. The tax assessment records furnish us with much valuable information about the occupations, income and worth of various residents and business operations. This information is especially valuable because much of it comes between census years. If you lose track of your relatives between federal or state censuses, you may stand a good chance of finding them in the Assessment Lists. The availability of these records is not uniform through the states and territories. The easiest online source to use is Ancestry.com’s the federal government’s IRS assessment lists found on the Web site. Many libraries offer free access to Ancestry.com, or you can subscribe on a yearly basis. Access to Confederate financial records is less organized. Various state archives may have some records.
Information included in the federal records is the tax collection district, name of collector, date of the tax list, instructions for the tax form, the name of the person or business being taxed, their address, the taxable period, amount reported by the collector, assessment remarks, article taxed and the taxpayer’s occupation. Businesses were also assessed.
Local historians and genealogists will find it very interesting to find such data readily available. The original tax data is available at the National Archives in its microfilm records. Some libraries also stock the National Archives microfilms for researchers. And Ancestry.com is to be commended for making much of the tax information available on its website.
So take a break from figuring your own federal income tax and see what your relatives had to pay about 150 years ago!
Here’s an example from the assessment form for taxing Clarke County, GA residents in the years immediately after the Civil War: