Monday, August 30, 2010

The Means Brothers at Horseshoe Bend

Prior to the War of 1812, Ahijah and Andrew Means, Jr. and a group of other men formed the Overton County Militia to protect their homes. The militia was commanded by Col. Stephen Copeland and was part of the 3rd Regiment, West Tennessee Militia Infantry in General Thomas Johnson’s Brigade.

As the white population increased, the Creek Indians began to divide among themselves into those who held more traditional views and those who were more assimilated through contact with whites. Tecumseh tried to unite the Native Americans in a confederacy against white Americans. Most Upper Creeks, called "Red Sticks" because of their bright red war clubs, wanted to resist white encroachment. Most Lower Creeks, more accustomed to whites, were inclined toward peace. This division led to the Creek War of 1813-14.

With the Creek already on the warpath, a war faction of the "Red Sticks" took part in a general uprising when a party of frontier settlers clashed with some native Americans at Burnt Corn, Alabama about 80 miles north of Pensacola, Florida. 250 people at Ft. Mims, just above Mobile, Alabama, were massacred and many others burned to death. When the news reached Nashville, General Andrew Jackson mobilized the Tennessee militia for a full-scale campaign.

In January 1814 Jackson launched his campaign to drive south into the heart of Red Stick country between the Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers. A deep bend in the Tallapoosa River, known as Horseshoe, enclosed one hundred acres, furrowed with gullies and covered by small timber and brush. Across the narrow neck of the peninsula the Creek had built a log breastwork. At the point was a fleet of canoes to insure an avenue of retreat. On the morning of Sunday, March 27, 1814, Jackson sent 700 mounted militia and 600 Cherokee and Lower Creek allies to cross the Tallapoosa and surround the bend. Jackson and the troops of the Thirty-Ninth U.S. Infantry and Tennessee Militia Infantry, about 2,000 men including brothers Ahijah and Andrew Means, marched into the peninsula of the Horseshoe to confront the 1,000 Red Sticks behind their barricade. Jackson warned, "Any officer or soldier who flies before the enemy without being compelled to do so by superior force...shall suffer death."

"Arrows, and spear, and balls were flying. Swords and tomahawks gleaming in the sun," said Sam Houston. Jackson’s hope was to breach the barricade. "For two hours "a brisk...galling fire" of cannon and musketry, a hail of iron shot and lead balls splintered the bark of the logs, but the "balls passed through the works without shaking the wall... Notwithstanding every shot penetrated...and carried with it death..still such was the strength of the wall that it never shook," Jackson later said.

It was Ahijah and Andrew Means and the rest of the volunteer militia's job to guard the supply wagons, pack horses and wounded. They were located behind the three main positions in front of the breastworks. Records show that some of the regiment were wounded, indicating their position was breached causing the militia men from Overton County to join in the fighting.

During a lull in the battle, a small cloud appeared. The Red Sticks, believing this was the sign they had been waiting for, fired upon the messenger of peace and resumed the battle with fury. The sign of deliverance brought only a quiet shower and the peninsula was strewed with the slain. The battle of Horseshoe Bend was over.

557 Indian dead were counted on the ground and the river held 200 more. All total, nearly 900 warriors are believed to have perished in this decisive battle. Jackson had lost 49 men and another 157 were wounded.

On August 9, 1814, Andrew Jackson forced the Creeks to sign the Treaty of Fort Jackson. Despite protest of the Creek chiefs who had fought alongside Jackson, the Creek Nation ceded 23 million acres, half of Alabama and part of southern Georgia, to the United States government. Even though the Creek War was largely a civil war between the Creeks, Andrew Jackson saw no difference between the Creeks that had fought with him and the Red Sticks that fought against him. Of the 23 million acres Jackson forced the Creeks to cede, 1.9 million acres was claimed by the Cherokee Nation who had allied with the United States. After becoming President, Jackson took the land ceded to his former allies, the Cherokees, together with other Cherokee lands in his removal of the Cherokees to the Oklahoma Territory. Chief Junaluska, the Cherokee Chief who saved the life of Jackson in battle and who led 500 Cherokees in support of Jackson at Horseshoe Bend, stated that "If I had known that Jackson would drive us from our homes, I would have killed him at Horseshoe."

The Pay Roll Records for Col. Copeland’s company showed that for the 4 months and 5 days of service, Ahijah and Andrew Means and others in the Overton County Militia received $8 a month with a $2.86 subsistence, for a total of $36.19. When the militia men returned to Overton County, both Ahijah and Andrew left their home on Obey River and moved to Missouri where they lived the rest of their days.

Ahijah and Andrew Means' brother, Benjamin, was the great-grandfather of William Ezra great-grandfather.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Threads of Life

President Dwight David Eisenhower once said, "There's no tragedy in life like the death of a child. Things never get back to the way they were." The same can also be said for grandparents.

I know so many things in my life ended with the passing of my grandparents, Cecil and Dimple Speck, in 1986. After he died, she said that she did not want to live without him and two weeks later she passed away. It was a sad time for my family. They were the cornerstone of our lives. Everything was built around them; holiday meals, love, encouragement and solid to the core advice. Suddenly all of that came to end never to be again, only remembered. I loved spending the night with them and sitting at the kitchen table listening to my grandmother tell stories from her childhood and stories of other family members. I think that is where my love for genealogy began. She would also read from the bible and would instruct us. I recall with great sadness the day she asked me why I had stopped coming to see her. You see, I had gotten older and I let things drag me away from her kitchen table. She died before I could go back there and I so sorely regret that.

I believe that no one single event ever occurs; that whenever something happens, if you look around, you will find something else has occurred related to that one event. I believe the people in our lives; our family, friends, neighbors, even strangers we meet, are there for a purpose. I believe as we get older, we are able to retain certain memories and recall certain times in our lives for a reason. Like patchwork, the threads of life are woven together to make us what we are or what we are to become. That is how a friend of mine described it and I think she is right. Life is fragile and the older I get the more aware I am of just how fragile it really is.

I read obituaries for a living and sometimes they are hard to read. The older I get, the more I know the name of the deceased. The very morning my grandfather, Cecil, died I had to read his obituary on the air. Someone commented later that they could not believe how I was able to do that. I just remember that it was hard to do. I grew up in radio and was surrounded by great men and women, who not only taught me everything about radio, but they also taught me a lot about life. I ended up writing and reading all of their obituaries and now I am carrying on without them. It isn't always easy.

Watching them, and others, live and die has taught me to enjoy life more. I want to live my life to its fullest every single day that I have left. I am not interested in when I will die. I am going to enjoy today.

I can't imagine living with someone for 50 years but I can understand why Dimple did not want to go on living after Cecil died. Laying in her hospital bed, with her children gathered around her and unable to speak, she took her finger and wrote B-U-Z-Z in the air. Buzz was my grandpa's nickname. She was telling them she wanted to go be with him. A couple of days later, she did.

After my grandpa's death, my grandma began writing a poem, but she died before she could finish it. My dad finished it for her and read it at her funeral.

Today Lord, I'm leaving my loved ones and my home
But I won't be fearing for I won't be alone
You'll be there beside me when I cross to the other shore
Home Sweet Home eternal, never to die no more

In 1843, Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard wrote "It is perfectly true, as philosophers say, that life must be understood backwards, but they forget the other proposition, that is must be lived forwards." So, forward I day at a time, weaving the threads of life as I go. I miss my friends and family who have gone on before me, especially Dolly Dimple Speck. To borrow a line from Kierkegaard, 'Of all the things I inherited from her, the mere recollection of her is more dearest to me.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Claiming Fannie Cobb

In 1794, after the destruction of the Cherokee towns of Nickajack and Running Water in the southern part of central Tennessee, a group of Chickamauga Cherokees moved west across the Mississippi River and into southeastern Missouri. In the winter of 1811-1812, the devastation of the great New Madrid Earthquake persuaded them to leave the area and move farther west into north central Arkansas between the White and Arkansas rivers.

The Western Cherokee received formal title to their land by virtue of a treaty between the United States and the Cherokee, where the Cherokee Nation ceded an area in the east Nation equal to that land occupied by the Western Cherokee in Arkansas. Under this same treaty the U.S. government began actively encouraging Native Americans to move west. It became known as the Trail of Tears. The Choctaw were the first in 1831. The Seminole were removed in 1832, the Creek in 1834, then the Chickasaw in 1837. By the early 1830's, more than 4,000 Native Americans were living west of the Mississippi.

Many Native Americans suffered from exposure, disease, and starvation while en route to their destinations, and many died. The Cherokee were the last to be removed. The U.S. Government tried to remove them in 1835, but most resisted, so they were forcibly removed. In the end, some 46,000 Native Americans had been removed from their homelands.

Between 1839 and 1846, the Indian Nation became divided over who owned the land. A third treaty, signed in August of 1846, determined that the lands occupied by the tribe belonged to all the members. At the same time, the Federal Government admitted that it had, among other things, improperly charged the Cherokee against the $5,000,000 they received for their lands back East. Three lawsuits were filed with the United States Court of Claims ruling in favor of the Cherokee. As a result, over one million dollars was awarded to the Eastern Cherokee.

The Department of Interior assigned a Mr. Guion Miller as special agent to identify those who were eligible to receive $133.18 that was given to each person. The Guion Miller Roll was made to distribute the money to all Eastern Cherokee that were alive on May 28, 1906, who could prove that they were members of the tribe at the time of the treaties of 1835, 1836 and 1845, or were descended from members of the tribe. Each applicant was asked for such information as full English and Indian name, residence, age, place of birth, name of husband or wife, names of children, place of birth and date of death of parents and grandparents, names and ages of brothers and sisters, and names of uncles and aunts. Mr. Miller released his report on May 28, 1909. Over 45,000 applications representing 90,000 individuals were filed with only 30,254 individuals being found eligible. 27,051 of those eligible lived west of the Mississippi River, with another 3,203 living east of the Mississippi River.

According to the records of the U.S. Court of Claims, over 250 of the applicants claimed to be a descendant of Fannie Cobb, a full-blooded Cherokee who lived in Fentress County, Tennessee.

Fannie Coker Cobb was my fifth great-grandmother on my mothers side. Her son, Jesse's granddaughter, Deborah, married George Boles, who was my grandfather's grandfather.

According to the book, Extract of the Rejected Applications of the Guion Miller Roll of the Eastern Cherokee, Vol. 3, (2006) by Jo Ann Curls Page, several of the descendants on my mother's side were among those applications which were denied. They included George and Deborah Boles and some of their children, including Barlow, Doll, Hige (my great-grandfather) and George's father, John Boles.

In his claim filed in 1907, Deborah's brother, Asa Smith, wrote that he was applying "for such share as may be due me of the fund appropriated in favor of the Eastern Cherokees through my grandfather Jesse Cobb. His mother was a Coker and she was a Cherokee Indian. She married a Cobb, my mother's maiden name: Fannie Cobb."  The claim was denied.

If Fannie Cobb was a full-blooded Cherokee, then one of three things happened to cause their applications to be rejecrted.  They either failed to fill out the applications correctly, failed to prove their direct relation to Fannie or they failed to prove she was a full-blooded Cherokee.  Fannie Coker Cobb died five years before the U.S. Court of Claims ruling.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Eve Of Destruction

Now, I'm not one for protesting, but when I was 10-years-old I witnessed one very big protest.  The date was Thursday, May 28, 1970.  The place was Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee.  Two of the most admired men in America were there: Billy Graham and President Richard Nixon.   

The protestors were actually standing next to where my group was. By the time Nixon rose to speak, they were chanting, "One, two, three, four, We don't want your (blank-ing) war!" I remember thinking how disrespectful it was to do that at a Billy Graham Crusade, but Nixon was there and he was the reason the protestors were there.  It was during the Vietnam War and the tragic shootings at Kent State had occured just a few days earlier.  Nixon had gone into seclusion at the white house and he saw the Graham crusade as a chance to be seen in a more positive light.  He did not count on such a major protest occuring.

The chants used by the protestors were frequent and loud, but Nixon seemed to draw strength from it.  Time magazine called his speech that night one of the greatest of his presidency. Not wanting to disrupt the religious part of the service, the protestors eventually filed out of the stadium.  I can remember some of them were singing John Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance" as they left.  It was quite the scene for a 10-year-old boy to witness.

Funny, but it does not take much to update this 1965 Barry McGuire hit to fit today's scene.

Bob Dylan once said, "The times they are a-changing."

Oh really?

The eastern world, it is exploding
Violence flarin', bullets loadin'
You're old enough to kill, but not for votin'
You don't believe in war, but what's that gun you're totin'
And even the Jordan River has bodies floatin'

Don't you understand what I'm tryin' to say
Can't you feel the fears I'm feelin' today
If the button is pushed, there's no runnin' away
There'll be no one to save, with the world in a grave
Take a look around ya boy, it's bound to scare ya boy

Yeah, my blood's so mad feels like coagulatin'
I'm sitting here just contemplatin'
I can't twist the truth, it knows no regulation
Handful of senators don't pass legislation
And marches alone can't bring integration
When human respect is disintegratin'
This whole crazy world is just too frustratin'

Think of all the hate there is in Red China
Then take a look around to Selma, Alabama
You may leave here for four days in space
But when you return, it's the same old place
The poundin' of the drums, the pride and disgrace
You can bury your dead, but don't leave a trace
Hate your next-door neighbor, but don't forget to say grace

And you tell me
Over and over and over again, my friend
You don't believe
We're on the eve of destruction


 For a more detailed story on Richard Nixon's appearance at the Billy Graham Crusade, read my Nixon's Night Out.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The World's Longest Yard Sale

They say one mans trash is another mans treasure.  If thats the case, you are sure to find lots of treasure this weekend during the the worlds longest yard sale. 

The U.S. 127 Corridor Sale stretches from Hudson, Michigan to Gadsden, Alabama, a distance of  675 miles!  The event is very popular and attracts people from all across the country.  There have even been visitors from several foreign countries.  

The original intent of the sale was to prove the back roads have something to offer, and that the interstate system was not the only mode for travel. There are tons of attractions along the route to provide enjoyment for the family. Whether it be majestic hills, beautiful scenery, river boats, railroads, toe tapping music, arts, crafts, horses, fishing, hiking, bits of Civil War or Indian History, there are many opportunities to enjoy the beauty and culture of the land along the way.

Thousands of people participate in the U.S. 127 Corridor Sale each year as vendors and people will be coming from near and far to view this spectacular event. Folks come from all across the country by car, truck, motor home or plane. Some fly in, rent a car, travel the route and ship the newfound treasures back home. Some pull a trailer behind a truck, park the trailer somewhere and run around in the truck seeking items. U.S. 127 is a two-lane highway so traffic congestion is part of the annual phenomenon to be endured, but the chance of finding a treasure lures them on. Many visitors plan their vacations around the sale event, with some traveling the entire route.  Others may opt to spend their time in a selected area, and venture off the beaten path to discover the history and charm of the land.

If you plan on traveling U.S. 127 this weekend, expect plenty of traffic. In some place, the pace may slow to that of snarled rush hour traffic. In other areas it may be bumper to bumper with everyone stretching their neck to see what is on a seller's table or in the front lawn. There will be sudden stops without warning, so drive carefully and defensively.

You say trash, I say TREASURE!  Come to U.S. 127 this weekend and see what the beaten path has to offer.

The U.S. 127 Corridor Sale has a website and you can get more information by calling 1-800-327-3945.

Long may our Land be Bright with Freedom's Holy Light

Officially, the Continental Congress declared its freedom from Great Britain on July 2, 1776, but after voting to approve it, a draft do...