Monday, January 28, 2013

Pierce family farm played a role in truck farming economy

The above photo is of N. B. "Bonie" Pierce (1880-1964), left, and five of his nine children.

Standing is Wilson Taft Pierce (1910-1983). The identity of the other children isn't certain, but the boy on the far right is believed to be Ralph Bailey Pierce (1917-1984). Judging by the boys' sizes, this photo was taken in the late 1920s.

Bonie’s 40-acre farm constituted part of the extensive truck-farming operations that surrounded the port city of Mobile. These truck farms took advantage of the long Gulf Coast growing season to produce fresh vegetables that were consumed locally or shipped by sea or rail to northern cities.

Eventually Bonie farmed an additional 40 acres that belonged to neighbor Ralph Bailey. (It is after this
neighbor that Bonie named his son Ralph.) Bonie grew black-eyed peas and wrapped them in bunches, held together by rubber bands Bonie had made from the innertubes of old automobile tires. He sold the bunches for 10 cents each. Bonie’s other crops included green onions, butter beans, okra, corn, sugar cane, and all sorts of fruit, but especially strawberries, a lifelong favorite. The plants here appear to be strawberries.

A one-horse mill ground sugarcane to make molasses and ground the corn for meal to feed the family and Bonie’s chickens.

Bonie marketed his produce in Mobile, a trip of about 25 miles over some roads that were unpaved at the time. He could sell his goods to the many grocers along Dauphin Street or hawk them himself, as he
sometimes did at the City Market on the ground floor of the historic Mobile City Hall on Royal Street.

Truck farming doesn't get much attention in Southern histories, but it played an important role in supplying local, regional and distant markets. Bonie only had a small family-run operation, but it helped supply local residents with a variety of vegetables and fruit.

Have you looked at how your ancestors' farm fit into the local economy? Did they farm to meet only their family's needs or to sell into the market place?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Wilmer School: 1938 Senior Class

Seniors graduating from Wilmer School in western Mobile County, Alabama, in 1938 were among the Greatest Generation who would fight World War II on battlefields and at home.

In 1938, Wilmer School graduated its senior class after the 11th grade rather than the 12th grade. That year the school had 12 seniors.

In the above photo, only the names of the three people on the bottom row are known (from left): Helen Sheld, teacher Lelia Mae Lord, and Beatrice V. Pierce (1921-1993).The teacher must have been a big influence on Beatrice because she had an unfulfilled dream to become a teacher herself.

Note the classmate who posed with the boxing gloves. Clearly he wanted to be remembered for his athletic abilities. The photo also indicates that students at Wilmer School had more to choose from than the traditional school sports of baseball and football.

Fifty years after graduation, the surviving members of the class gathered for a reunion at a restaurant in Mobile. A photograph below records that moment. Too bad we can't as easily record the stories of their lives.

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Monday, January 21, 2013

Can you help me identify a soldier in this photo?

Ralph E. Poore, left, and Army buddy

I've seen many photos of soldiers taken in pairs. I'm not sure why this was popular, but perhaps it was to split the cost of the photo or because the men were close friends or relatives.

The soldier on the left in the above photo is my father, Ralph E. Poore. I would like to know who the man on the right is.

I have some clues. Both men show corporal stripes on their shoulder sleeves.  My father was appointed corporal in April 1942. He became a sergeant in 1944. So this photo was taken between 1942 and 1944. Perhaps the  men were showing off their new corporal stripes.

Both men have buttons with crossed cannons on their lapels. That means they were both in the artillery. My father served in a forward observer unit of the 29th Field Artillery, perhaps the other man did, too.

Perhaps the unidentified man is from my dad's hometown of Laurel, Mississippi. It is unlikely he is still alive, but maybe a relative will recognize him.

My dad survived the war but died in 1976. Did the other man make it through the war?

Do you have a similar photo of soldiers in you collection? Have you had any luck discovering the identity of the other person? How did you do it?

Friday, January 18, 2013

What do your family photographs tell you about your ancestors' finances?

Four of the nine children of N.B. "Bonie" Pierce and Julia L. Moody posed for this photo about 1923. From left are: Wilson Taft Pierce (1910-1983), Velma Moree Pierce (1913-1993), the next boy is not identified but is probably George Carl Pierce (1916-1989), and Beatrice Valara Pierce (1921-1993). The car is most likely that of their father.

The car appears to be a nearly new model, possibly a Ford Model T, but it is hard to tell. Its ownership by Bonie shows that the family was doing well financial. In this time period, many farmers still got along with a horse and wagon for all of their transportation.

Like most farm equipment, the family car had to help pay its way. Bonie often loaded the car up with crates of chickens, rabbits and other critters to sell to the many ethnic and regular grocery stores on Dauphin Street in Downtown Mobile. He also sold goods at the Southern Market, then an open produce market in the courtyard of City Hall.

What do your family photographs tell you about your ancestors' finances? Have you ever found anything surprising?
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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Slave names listed in 1832 will

This is a photo of Ellen Thomas of Mobile, a former slave. She is not related to any of my family lines. I  included the photo here  because of the large kettle. A kettle such as this was in my family's possession until the 1970s. You can read Thomas' story at Slave Narratives.

Researchers looking for their African American ancestors often have a hard time finding family history records, especially names the names of their ancestors. Whenever I find I find slave info that will help other researchers, I’ll post it on Root, Branch and Twig.

Slave ownership ran in the Poore family. In the early decades of the 1800s, more than 20 slaves labored on the Lowndes County, Alabama, plantation of William Hearne, father of Sarah Hearne Poore.

Hearne was born in 1746 in Somerset County, Maryland, and died on September 21, 1832, in Lowndes County, Alabama. He was a veteran of the American Revolution. Sarah also owned slaves as did her brothers and sisters and in-laws.

Below are the names of the slaves listed in Hearne’s will. Following each name is the slave’s sex [Male (M) or Female (F)], age and additional information.

  1. Sam, M, willed to William Hearne Jr.
  2. Lindsay, M, willed to Selby Hearne
  3. Hemp, M, willed to George T. Hearne
  4. George, M, willed to Ebenezer T. Hearne
  5. Elizer, F, willed to George T.C. Hearne
  6. Candace, F, willed to Ebenezer T. Hearne
  7. Sam, M, elderly, willed to George T.C. and Ebenezer Hearne for care
  8. Lizza, F, with children willed to Tabitha Hearne Truitt
  9. Milly, F, with children willed to Abigail Hearne
  10. Saleth, F, willed to Abigail Hearne
  11. Candern, F, two children willed to William Hearne Jr.
  12. Dolly, F, two children willed to Selby Hearne
  13. Maria, F, two children willed to George T. Hearne
  14. Tom, M, youth, son of Maria willed to George T. Hearne
  15. Patience, F, three children willed to Ebenezer T. Hearne
  16. Cynthia, F, willed to Priscilla Hearne Stephens, wife of John Stephens
  17. Marsilla, F, willed to Priscilla Hearne Stephens, wife of John Stephens
  18. Unnamed, F, infant?, possibly daughter of Marsilla
  19. Nancy, F, willed to Priscilla Hearne Stephens, wife of John Stephens
  20. Squire, M, youth, possibly the son of Cynthia willed to Priscilla Hearne Stephens, wife of John Stephens

The following is a list of the above slaves as willed to each son or daughter;

William Hearne Jr.
  • Sam
  • Candern and two children

Selby Hearne
  • Lindsay
  • Dolly and two children

George T.C. Hearne
  • Sam (elderly slave bequeathed to both George T.C. and Ebenezer Hearne to care for)
  • Hemp
  • Elizer
  • Maria and two children
  • Tom (a youth, son of Maria)

Ebenezer T. Hearne
  • George
  • Candace
  • Patience and three children

Tabith Hearne Truitt
  • Lizza with children

Abagail Hearne
  • Milly with children
  • Saleth

Priscilla Hearne Stephens
  • Cynthia
  • Squire (possibly son of Cynthia)
  • Marsilla and her infant
  • Nancy

The pattern of bequeathing male, female and children perhaps suggest an effort to keep slave family members together. Since no ages are given, it is difficult to determine this with certainty.

Lizza, Milly, Cynthia and Marsilla may have had husbands who were sold or perhaps their husbands were already the slaves of their new owners. Also, the husbands of these women may have not been included in the will at the time of its writing as William Hearne speaks of “a certain portion of my negro property.”

Source: Kathleen P. Jones and Pauline J. Gandrud, compilers, Alabama Records, Vol. 214, Lowndes County. (Southern Historical Press, 1980).

School records can tell you a lot about your ancestors and their neighbors

If you are lucky enough to have or find school records, they can tell you a lot not only about your ancestor but the neighborhood of people they grew up with. That is especially true in a small farming community such as Wilmer, Alabama, where the Pierce family lived.

A Wilmer School class posed for this photo around 1920. Velma Moree Pierce (1913-1993) is number 20 in the photo.

She also identified her classmates by number (as best her handwriting can be made out): 1. Willie Ward, 2. Rufus McKenny, 3. Charles Johnson, 4. Roflow Odorn (?), 5. Louis Snow, 6. [-?-] Lowery, 7. [-?-] Helton or Hilton, 8. Johnny Killgo, 9. Larry [-?-], 10. Jermse Johson (she crossed out Johnson and re-wrote it with this spelling), 11. Lambert Mizzell, 12. Genise Clark, 13. Guy Miller, 14. Thelma Stringfellow, 15. Mary McKenny, 16. Marie Howell, 17. Dextra Lula Lee, 18. Agnes Lazette Brown, 20. Velma, 21. Gladys Meriwether, 22. Preston Howell.

The Pierce, Lowery, Stringfellow and Howell families were all related.

Have you had any luck finding school records for your family?

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Have a hard time explaining perambulating ancestors?

Some homes in the Agricola community in George County, Mississippi, are pictured above from a 1911 promotional booklet offering thousands of acres for sale.

Do you ever have trouble understanding why your ancestors changed their state of residence from census to census?

Because the farming community of Wilmer, Alabama, sits near the Mississippi state line, my Pierce families sometimes moved the short distance into the Magnolia State. So it is possible to find some ancestors in Mississippi for one census and then in Alabama for the next. Or brothers and sisters or grandparents might live just over the line in the next state.

Such is the case with N.B. "Bonie" Pierce (1880-1964). Although his parents lived in the Pierce Level area of Mobile County, Alabama, for example, Bonie was born across the state line in Agricola, Mississippi. Agricola is located east and south of Lucedale in George County. At the time of Bonie's birth it was part of Jackson County, Mississippi.

It seems likely that Bonie's mother, Rebecca Crawley, went to Agricola to have her closest female relatives and friends to help her through the birth of her fourth child. Her first son, Cornelius, whom everyone called Neil, had been born in 1874. Charles, named after his father, followed in 1876 and daughter Emma in 1878.

We don’t know what happened exactly, but we do know that this delivery did not go as planned. Rebecca died giving birth to Bonie on June 16, 1880, or shortly thereafter. As we know, her newborn boy survived.

For some reason, according to family tradition, he wasn’t given a name and his father Charles and the other children simply called him Boy. That name served until Boy reached about age 11 when he decided to give himself the rather grand name of Napoleon Bonaparte Pierce. The family almost immediately nicknamed him Bonie, which also described his slender frame.

Do you have ancestors whose perambulations you have a hard time explaining?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Poore-Gieger marriage, 1907

Ezra August Poore (1882-1963) and Niola Edith Gieger (1889-1983) posed for this photo on what was probably their wedding day, Nov. 10, 1907. The pose is typical of wedding photos. The couple was married in Laurel, Mississippi.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Pierce-Moody wedding day, 1902

Napoleon Bonaparte "Bonie" Pierce (1880-1964) and Julia Lavinia Moody (1886-1965) posed for this photo on what was probably their wedding day, October 8, 1902. The pose is typical of wedding photos. The couple was married in the Wilmer Methodist Church, Wilmer, Alabama.
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