Wednesday, February 28, 2018

William Evert Franklin, a soldier and a scholar

  William Evert  Franklin

1912  -  2004

  Friday, March 29, 1912 was a day to be remembered and celebrated -  not only because it was Fred and Queen Franklin's first wedding anniversary and Queen's 21st birthday, but it was the day when their first child, William Evert, was born.  

18 year old Queen Dickerson
in 1909
19 year old Fred Franklin
in 1899
    In today's world, William Frederick Franklin (aka Fred), who had no formal education and  often  moved from farm to farm looking for work, would probably be considered a migrant worker.  On the other hand, his wife, Queen Rebecca (aka Queen), had been a teacher before her marriage but was expected to set her books aside in order to tend the house, plant and weed a vegetable garden, milk the cows and care for whatever children they might have. 
    In her later years, Queen enjoyed telling the story of their first child's birth, but only after she had assured herself that there were no young children "with big ears" lurking nearby. (After growing up, some of those same children wondered whether the story was actually true, but never had the nerve to ask).   

     As a heavily pregnant West Virginia girl living with her husband near Osgood, Indiana, Queen was "celebrating" their first wedding anniversary - and her birthday - alone.  This wasn't unexpected because normally Fred worked on Fridays either as a stone cutter in the Osgood stone quarry or, if there was no work for him, would earn some money tilling the neighbors' frozen fields in preparation for spring planting.
     What Queen hadn't expected that morning as she kissed Fred goodbye was that she would go into labor while she was all alone and – ready or not - would soon be sharing her 21st birthday with an infant.  As the contractions increased in intensity, she hurried onto the porch and started waving a sheet back and forth in the direction of the farm where Fred was working since she had no other way to communicate with him.  Miraculously, he did see the sheet and upon deciphering her frantic message, borrowed a mule from the neighbor and hurried to Osgood in the hope of finding a doctor.

     In the meantime, while waiting for help to come, Queen had little choice but to retreat to her bed where she discovered that the pain lessened as she rolled from one side of the bed to the other.  As a matter of fact, it was during one of those maneuvers that her baby boy emerged on his own.  (Imagine Fred and the doctor's surprise when, upon finally arriving at the cabin, they found  both Queen and her baby cleaned up and peacefully sleeping!

     The child was named William Evert for his father, William Frederick, and in memory of Queen's deceased father, the Rev. William Vincent Dickerson, who had died when she was only 3 years old. Perhaps because there were already so many Williams in the family, their son was normally called  Evert by his family and William or Bill by his business associates. 
Queen and Fred with Evert & Edna 1913
Evert looking on with disdain as
 Edna  tends her baby brothers
      Following Evert's birth,  the small family moved to Holden, Missouri in Fred's never-ending search for work.  It was there that 15 month old Evert became “big brother" to Edna Bethel (a misnomer since he never grew taller than either Edna or his brothers who were born a few years later). 

     Four years after Edna's birth, the family moved once more - this time to Ritman, Ohio where Fred finally found a  job in a box board factory which paid enough for them to finally be able to buy a home of their own.  It was also  a special place for Edna because, with the birth of Paul Keith in 1918 and Carthel Floyd in 1920 she became a  "Big Sister" (although she never got taller than 5'1-1/2).
Evert, (5) & Edna (4)
     What the Franklins didn't learn until after they had moved into the house was that it had been built outside the school bus route which could only be expanded if  there were two or more children to be picked up at one time.  Since Fred was working in a different part of town and none of their neighbors had school-age children, the Franklins were forced to hold their bright, verbal 5 year old back from school until his 4 year old sister had turned 5 and could join him in first grade - and on the bus. 
8th grade graduation
      Thanks to that transportation restriction, Evert and Edna moved together through every grade in elementary school and high school, until finally completing their second year of college.  However, they  never stopped competing against each other for the highest grades, most class honors and, in later years, winning every game (including croquet, horseshoes, bridge, hearts, canasta and rook). 
     If  Edna had stayed in college, the competition might have become even more intense, but after earning her teaching certificate from Hanover College, she headed back home to New Marion, Indiana, where she accepted a teaching position in the school she had attended as a teen. 

5/23/36  Hayward wedding
Rev. Hughes,Evert, Harold,  Edna,
Inez Snedeker
     It was while visiting some friends in Chicago one weekend that she agreed to go on a blind date and met Harold Hayward,  thus changing her life - and his - forever.  After their wedding at her parents' farm, they returned to Chicago where they raised their three daughters and had full and productive lives.
     In the meantime, Evert earned advanced degrees from Hanover College, DePauw University and Indiana University and, for the next five years, combined his knowledge of the Spanish language with his teaching skills  while traveling through Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Puerto Rico.  (Years later, in response to his daughter's question about why he had been in Nicaragua, he answered with his usual dry sense of humor that he had planned to“become a banana king”. ) 
 But all plans came to a screeching halt on December 7, 1941 when Japanese bombers released their bombs on an unsuspecting and unprepared populace. Within months of that world-changing event, Fred and Queen closed down their farm and moved to Chicago to work in the war industries while Evert signed up for the Army Signal Corps, Paul enlisted in the Army Air Corps (although he eventually had to drop out because of health problems),  Carthel joined the Coast Guard and Edna's husband, Harold, became heavily involved in Civil Defense activities in Chicago. 
November 14, 1942

      Despite all the fear and anxiety blanketing the nation, love still bloomed.  Shortly after Evert arrived in Chicago for basic training, his  brother, Carthel, arranged a blind date for him with Evelyn Sylvester, a friend and co-worker of  Carthel's girlfriend, Lorraine Bouver. With the country gearing up for war, there was no time for long romances so Evert and Evelyn married only five months after meeting, thus beating  Carthel and Lorraine to the altar by a week.  
      However, their honeymoon had to wait, thanks to his being shipped out to Australia where he joined the 419th Signal Company (Aviation) which had been charged with protecting and maintaining  a radio station installed near the town of Archerfield.  This station had been converted into a radio teletype system and was desperately needed in order to coordinate the efforts of the Fifth Air Force.
             Recently, Evert and Evelyn's daughter discovered his separation papers which had been packed away and, although she always did think her dad was a hero, she discovered that the United States had officially declared him one. Those papers revealed that he had earned combat medals for his actions during battles in New Guinea, Bismark, the Archipelago, Southern Philippines, Luzon and China. In addition, he had earned a Good Conduct Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Theater Ribbon, a Unit Citation, a Philippine Liberation Ribbon with a  star, and 3 overseas service bars (Despite rumors to the contrary there is no evidence that he was ever a prisoner of war.)
Evert, Paul, Carthel in Chicago

      What a relief and joy it must have been when, in 1945, Fred and Queen learned that their "boys" had survived the war and were coming home. A year later, in 1946, the family almost doubled its size when Evert and Evelyn had their first child, a boy; Edna and Harold had their third baby girl, and Carthel and Lorraine welcomed a little girl. (Paul didn't marry until 1961 when Helen Camp Duncan , a widow with two sons, came into his life.  A year later they added a boy to the family).
    During the years following the war:    

      Family farm in Indiana
       Artist: Queen Franklin
            * Fred and Queen  returned to New Marion to re-open their farm which had fallen into disrepair,  Soon Queen discovered that despite having arthritic hands, she could hold a paint brush, and soon became a very well known artist who was featured in a number of art shows. Fred and Queen eventually sold the farm and  moved to Indianapolis to be closer to their family.  Fred died in 1967 at age 86 and Queen in 1998 at age 107.

           * Evert and Evelyn also returned to Indiana where he stepped back into the teaching career he had begun in the South Pacific.  Within a few short years, he became principal in a high school and then district superintendent of schools in Ripley County, where he unexpectedly became (in)famous for firing a beloved Milan High School basketball coach and replacing him with a young, unknown and fairly inexperienced coach (who justified Evert's decision by taking the team to a surprising state championship.)  Ironically, by that time he and Evelyn had moved their 3 children back to Indianapolis, where he not only accepted an offer to become  administrator of the Indiana State Teachers' Association but also became a highly successful real estate broker.  Evert died in Florida in 2004 at age 91 and Evelyn died back in Indiana in 2013 at age 99.

           *   Edna, who had also been educated to be a teacher, taught only briefly before marrying Harold and having three daughters who benefited greatly from her teaching skills.  But she did attain her insurance broker's license, learned how to type on a manual typewriter and worked hand in hand with her husband in building a successful insurance business around the corner from Carthel's real estate office on the North side of Chicago.  Edna died in 2004 at age 90 and Harold died in 1993 at age 78.

            *   After leaving Purdue, Paul worked as an audio engineer for several well known radio and television programs which included  "Don McNeill's Breakfast Club",  a long running morning variety show originating in Chicago.  After returning to Indianapolis, he not only started writing music, but  bought a small plane in which he would often show off the city to his guests or buzz the farm so that someone would pick him up at the nearby airport.  At age 43, he married Helen Duncan, a widow with two sons, and a few years later, they added another boy to the family.  Paul died in 1997 at age 89.

          *  Shortly after being  released from the Coast Guard  in San Diego, Carthel and Lorraine returned to Chicago where he discovered that he had a talent for real estate sales.  Like his brother, Paul, he also developed a love of flying and, after earning his instructor's license, was listed in "Who's Who in American Aviation" .  He and Lorraine were thrilled when their daughter was born after the war ended, but their marriage eventually fell apart and he spent the rest of his life in Florida with his wife, NoVelle.    Carthel died in 2016 at age 95.  

           It's not surprising to anyone knowing their history, that after all their children had been raised and they had retired from their successful careers, Evert, Edna, Paul and Carthel did what they had done all their lives -  little by little they sold their homes in the north and migrated  to Venice, Florida, where the weather was warm all year long and the beaches yielded beautiful sea shells. 

      Queen at age 106
      Enjoying Carthel's house in Florida
          Never wanting to be left behind, Queen, at age 100, finally convinced her family to move her to Florida too.  She never regretted making the move.  For several years she lived in a modular home until after Harold died, when she went to live with Edna.  She especially enjoyed bowling until her "kids" made her retire from the sport after she turned 103.  She lived a full life until dying in 1998 at age 107 with all her children by her side. 

          Even in death, Evert and Edna remained close - and competitive -  with Evert dying in 2004 at age 91 after an automobile accident on the way to visit Edna in the hospital, and Edna, who never could imagine a world without her brother, died just four months later at age 90.  Their "baby brothers" lived on for a few more years until Paul died at age 88 in 2007 and Carthel turned 95 before he died in 2006.  What a family!  The world just doesn't seem the same without them!!

      Hayward wedding day 5/23/1936
      Front from left: Evert, Paul, Carthel
      Back row: Harold, Edna, Queen, Fred

       Special thanks to Evert's daughter who - in response to my plea -  searched through old boxes and found long forgotten stories about Evert's service in the Army Signal Corps. Thanks also to my late mom who kept the family alive by her stewardship of the huge photo album she eventually passed on to me, and my grandmother, Queen, who loved to tell family stories even when no one wanted to hear them.
      Fred & Queen Franklin's 50th anniversary celebration 3/29 1961
      Paul, Edna, Fred, Queen, Evert, Carthel

      Friday, October 27, 2017

      Daniel Llewellyn, a knight and militia captain - 1600 - 1663

      and his wife
      Anne Baker Price Hallom Llewellyn (1603 - 1666)
      Daniel Llewellyn Sr1  Daniel Llewellyn Jr.2  Elizabeth Angelica Llewellyn 3,  Llewellyn Epps4, Ann Eppes 5 Reuben Nance 6  Sarah Nance 7 Enos Philpott 8  Rebecca Philpott 9  Lula Jane Johnson 10  Charles Mabry Copeland  11 Charles Thomas Copeland, Sr. 12 Charles Thomas Copeland, Jr. 13

             He was born in Chelmsford, a small but thriving town in Essex, England with seemingly its only claim to fame being that King Henry VIII had built Beaulieu Palace nearby for his second wife, Anne Boleyn,  who had eventually lost both his favor - and her head. 

                  Although record keeping during the late 16th century wasn't always accurate, whatever records there were confirmed that Daniel was the child of Sir John Llewellyn (a knight of the realm who died when the boy was only 15 years old), and Lady Carole Larson (who died at age 50).  This all resulted in a very young Daniel inheriting both the estate and his title as a knight (an honor passed down through the male Llewellyn line).

            While managing the estate and caring for his mother, Sir Daniel probably dreamed of the day when he would be financially able to experience the world outside his tiny home town. Although his daily expenses were probably covered through selling or trading cattle and produce from his properties, the only real cash he had was a stipend he earned as the Sheriff of Chelmsford.  In fact, it wasn't until three years after his mother's death that he was finally in a position to turn his plans for making the long trip across the sea into reality.  Those plans included recruiting neighbors and relatives to manage the estate while he changed hats from lord of the manor in England to an indentured slave in America.
          Finally after all the necessary arrangements and plans had been made, 33 year old Daniel signed a life-changing contract with the captain of a ship preparing to sail to America. The contract stated that in return for his passage, he would allow himself to be sold to Captain William Perry, a former indentured servant himself, for a specified period of time.
      The trip itself was long and arduous, but it was only after he reached his destination that his dreams crashed into an even worse reality!  How could this former lord of a manor have ever imagined that he would be marched off a ship in chains and pushed into a line being formed to march to Buckland Plantation in Gates County, North Carolina (the aging and deteriorating mansion still stands today)?

      oldest surviving tombstone in Virginia

           And so it was that Daniel Llewellyn began his new life in a new country -  not as Sir Daniel,  but as a slave, or "headright" (a system created to deal with the constant demand for workers to tend the newly emerging tobacco fields. Although, it was often considered a form of slavery, it also provided hope for desperate people who had arrived in America with no resources, while addressing the growing labor crisis.)
      Buckland Plantation
          It was only four years after arriving at Buckland that Captain Perry died and his son, Henry, became Daniel's new master.  During his years with the Perrys, one has to assume that he used his time wisely by taking every opportunity to learn about the advantages of settling in Virginia vs North Carolina and  best vs worst planting methods.

          Now that he was in his early forties, Daniel realized that time was not his friend.  So, after finally completing his obligation to the Perrys and acquiring both the patents for 856 acres of land and money owed him, he was free to head north to Virginia where he believed endless opportunities awaited him.
      Shirley Plantation
           The area he chose was located near the Shirley Plantation on the "upper branch of Turkey Island Creek" in Charles "Shire", Virginia (a term created by King Charles 1 of England, who ordered that eight "shires" be created to serve as a system of governance in the colony.  After proving their effectiveness, the "shires" eventually became self-governing "counties" and - many years later - the foundation for what is now the United States.

             During those first years in Virginia,  Daniel had come to treasure his deep friendship with Robert Hallom, a man who had also begun his life in America as an indentured servant and who, by 1636, had acquired 1,000 acres of fertile land.  Ironically, that acreage was adjacent to land already being cultivated by John Price, whose wife, 21 year old Anne, and their three children had traveled to America on the same ship as Robert Hallom in 1620.
           Since Robert was considerably  older than Anne, she probably had felt comfortable talking with him and accepting his non-threatening friendship during that long voyage. He might have even assured her that since he would be living nearby, he would be there for her if she ever needed help.  Neither of them could have known that only four years later, her husband would die and she would be forced to call on Robert's friendship and support.  Especially scary for 25 year old Anne must have been the realization that if she failed to maintain what her husband had started, she would be forced to sell everything and return to England.

            The next few years had to have been  arduous and, at times, scary for the  widow and her children.  But she wasn't totally alone.  She had her neighbor and long-time friend, Robert Hallom, who always came through when she needed him.  Despite their age difference, they had a deep and lasting friendship which eventually led to marriage and three more children. 

          But tragically, the couple had very little time together before 41 year old Robert's health began to deteriorate, thus forcing him to spend most of his time in bed and unable to care for either his family or their property.  Although he and Anne did have a son,  all their children were too young to do much more than play with their toys (as a matter of fact, their son, Robert Jr., was sent to England to live with his aunt and her husband after his father's death).
      Upon learning about how desperate life had gotten for Robert
      Turkey Island Creek
      and Anne,
      Sir Daniel Llewellyn made an offer the Halloms couldn't – and wouldn't – refuse.  He offered to take over the management of both the Hallom and Price properties which were located near Turkey Island Creek in Henrico "Shire". They probably didn't have to think very hard before accepting his generous offer, since he had already proven himself over the years to be a capable, responsible and honest man -  and the alternative was a complete loss of everything for which they had worked and sacrificed.

           It probably came as no surprise to anyone in the neighborhood that only a couple of years after Robert's death, Daniel and Anne married and added three children to the six that Anne had given birth to in her previous marriages.  Probably life on three plantations instead of one didn't change all that much for Daniel who continued to manage not only the plantations in Charles City County and Henrico County, but also the Virginia interests of a number of  Halloms  till living in England.

      Adding to those responsibilities, this man who originally had answered to the name Sir Daniel Llewellyn, eventually became known as Sir Captain Daniel Llewellyn, thanks to his service in the militia. No one would have ever claimed that he was lazy, especially after reviewing his resume which showed that he had served as a:

      • justice of the peace with the authority to handle minor civil and criminal cases, as well as administering the local government on behalf of the English Crown;
      • member of the local militia which was often called upon to defend the local population from Indian attacks
      • member of the House of Burgesses (the first legislative assembly in the American colonies in which only white men who owned a specific amount of property were eligible to vote during its sessions); first serving in Henrico County (where his wife's property was located) from l642 to 1644; and then Charles City County in 1646, 1652, 1654, 1655 and, finally, December, 1656.
      • sheriff of Charles City who was appointed to the position on April 3, 1656.

           Although seeming to have had a very full life in America, Daniel would occasionally return to Chelmsford, England to check out his family home, see old friends and deal with any problems that had arisen during his prolonged absences. One can't help but wonder if his robust health was already beginning to fail at that time and, although he might have kept his suspicions to himself, he had been driven to put his estates located in England and Virginia in order. 

           It was during one of those trips that he sickened and died at age 64, leaving behind a very detailed will which granted specific sums of money and treasures to family and old friends. Some of the specific bequests in the will directed that:

      • Upon his death, his wife, Anne, would become the sole owner of his extensive properties in Virginia;
      • His son, Daniel, Jr., was to care for his mother, Anne, until her death when he would take ownership of all the Virginia. properties. In addition, he was to be given several of his father's personal treasures, which included – among other items - his best hat which featured a silver hat band;
      • His and Anne's daughter, Martha Jones, was to be given two of his prime servants;
      • His other daughter, Margaret, and her husband were to be given enough money to buy special rings which were to be worn in memory of her father;
      • He also granted money to Robert Hallam, Jr., whom he listed as a son-in-law but was probably his step-son.(there was no other mention of his wife's children by her first marriages).

      Chelmsford Cathedral
      The will went on to request that the funeral service be held in the Chelmsford Cathedral (already 400 years old when Daniel was born) and that his body was to be interred in the chancel area near "the reading desk". (Because of damages to the church incurred during its 800 year history - including the roof falling in on one section - it is impossible to identify specifically where Daniel's body was buried. However, it is possible that the "reading desk" could have been moved from the chancel area to the upper floor which now houses a renowned library containing medieval theological books and beautifully decorated manuscripts which had been donated to the church about 10 years after Daniel's death in 1677).


      • Daniel's wife, Anne, died two years after her husband at age 63 and was buried in Virginia.
      • Daniel's son, who carried his father's name and died in 1712, re-patented the land originally patented to his father after he had completed his period of indenture in 1666. His will was less generous than his father's and only mentioned one grandson, Lewellen Eppes, and Richard Jones, his sister Martha's son.
      • Daniel's daughter, Martha, was married to Pastor Richard Jones of Charles City County. Her son, Richard Jones, Jr. was both a captain in the militia and an Indian trader.    
      • Daniel's daughter, Margaret,  married Captain James Crews of Henrico County, a participant in the famous Bacon's Rebellion (which involved local men trying to defend the colony against Indian attacks despite orders to desist issued by the Governor). For his actions he was singled out at a court-martial hearing as a "most notorious Actor and Assistor in the Rebellion", and hung for treason against the king. 
      For more detailed information about this fascinating couple, you might enjoy checking out:  

      Tuesday, August 22, 2017

      Queen Dickerson Franklin - Part III - memories of a very long life

      Part III 
      (Family lineage: Queen Rebecca Dickerson1; Edna Bethel Franklin2; Judith Ann Hayward3)
      1891 – 1998

      Nellie Ferguson Baker, Oliver Baker and Queen Dickerson 
      1910 in West Fork, AR

      As noted in the two previous posts detailing her life,  this woman could not be crammed into only one post (actually this is the third of 3 parts and was previously published in April of 2014). Her natural talents were many, including oil painting, poetry, a  prestigious memory and story-telling ability.

      Some of those memories were captured in her autobiography written on September 23, 1985 when she was "only" 94 years old  and entitled “Life as lived on Greenbrier Creek – My West Virginia Childhood Home”.   

      A year later, she recruited one of her granddaughters to help her move from Indianapolis to Venice, Florida so she could be closer to her adult  “kids”. She never regretted that move.  For the rest of her long life she was surrounded by her family, enjoyed the warm Florida weather, and loved to watch the oranges grow from seedlings on her daughter's fruit trees.

      It is impossible to include all the poems and stories she wrote over the years or show even a small percentage of her paintings.  But the following is  a sampling of her artistic talents before she became what she called “too old to remember” (that never happened!).  

      The following poem set the stage for her  autobiography:

      Summer is past, October's here; the loveliest month of all the year.
      Bumblebees, daubers and other pests – - like weeds and grasshoppers have gone to rest.
      Likewise, Spring, Summer, and gorgeous Fall - must come to each of us – one and all;

      Spring season, to me, is like childhood - with tears and laughter, bad and good.
      Summer, like youth, unresponsive and gay - with Fall, we've traveled three-fourths of the way.
      Have our lives been - as Winter draws nigh – useless like weeds which live and die?

      May we live as seasons come and go – lives useful and clean, like pure white snow.
      We cannot travel this way "a-gain" -  let us leave a “mark but not a stain”.
      Queen R. Franklin 

       She continued to philosophize as she described the reason for her various paintings.

      "Boys only" swimming hole in a hollow tree
      "The idea for my painting of a fire in a hollow tree came from memories of my childhood when the boys would go 'possum hunting and build fires in trees – as hunters of earlier times had done. The technique of girding or burning  trees was taught by the Indians and involved cutting a shallow ring around the tree with an ax.  After the sap was cut off, the tree would die. I have linked  imagination with love and a paint brush, which works wonders!"
      Queen's painting of the family farm
      When I was a small child, most of our neighbors would let their livestock run free. Fencing was only erected around the fields which were tilled. The cows and sheep wore bells and knew where to go for milking or feeding. We children had the task of rounding up our particular family's cows by listening for different bell tones."
      Queen's painting of a sorghum mill with mother Emarine and children working
      "Threshing machines were hauled from one farm to another on flat-bed wagons drawn by horses or mules, as were sorghum mills.  After processing the cane, the machines were moved over mountains, with the men walking on the ground above while holding rope rings to prevent the equipment from flipping over. The roads zigzagged up the steep mountain-sides, always climbing upward until the summit of the mountain was reached or crossed.  Then the men changed sides as they started back downhill.  If a farm couldn't be reached by this method, the grain was hauled by sled to a pen which was made of poles or logs. Underneath the floor was placed canvas to catch the grain as it fell through the cracks."
      I have one horrible memory of sorghum making.  I was only six years old when I heard
      my ten year old brother, Boyd, who was feeding cane into the grinder, cry out in pain. Men ran to him and backed the horse up to reverse the mill and free Boyd's hand. The men carried him to the house; and his twin, Floyd, jumped onto a horse and rode across two mountains to get the doctor.  His hand was saved but Boyd's thumb remained stiff at the joint for the rest of his life."
      "After my sister and one of my brothers bought some sheep and brought them home, my mother sheared them of their wool.  Later that year, we all sat around the fire in the evening with papers on our laps to catch the falling dirt and burrs as we picked the wool apart little by little - until it was free of loose dirt.

      Then Mother carefully washed the wool in warm sudsy water to make it white and fluffy, followed by gently combing the fibers until they were straightened. The wool was then shaped into rolls which were piled into a huge basket.  The rolls were spun into yarn threads about the size of a course sewing thread and wound onto “shuttles” ready to be woven into blankets."
      Emarine Bartram Dickerson
      "I was 13 when I was finally allowed to sit on the rear of the loom and hand Mother threads one by one, until there were enough to make blanket material one-yard wide. I still have one of the blankets. I treasure it more than I did when I was so tired from handling those threads. Some of the wool was spun into heavier threads which Mother knitted into stockings and mittens. Knitting was always done at night or while resting from heavier work.”
      Queen's autobiography continued to tell the stories of her life, including her life after meeting and marrying Fred Franklin. 

      She lived fully and well, with plenty of twists and turns along the way. She may have been tiny but she was strong - so strong in fact that she bowled until she was 103 and lived 107 years before dying in Venice, Florida with her daughter, Edna, and sons Evert, Paul and Carthel around her bed.

      Sadly there is no record of the person who typed up Queen's story as she dictated it, but my thanks to whomever you are - it was quite a project, but well worth the effort and very much appreciated!


      If you'd like to learn more about the Dickerson family you might enjoy reading the Legends of the Family posts featuring Hiram Dickerson, William Smith Dickerson, Emarine Bartram Dickerson,  Sarah Mounts, Anne Sapcote, William David Stewart and two more stories about Queen Rebecca Dickerson's life

      Sunday, August 13, 2017

      Mary Ramage Dillard - wife, mother and soldier in the Revolution


      1757 - 1795

      Granddaughter of Joseph Adair, Sr. (featured in earlier post), daughter of Jean Adair Ramage, wife of James Dillard
      "Sarah Dillard's Ride: A Story of the Carolinas in 1780" by James Otis
           According to stories passed from generation to generation,  Mary Ramage Dillard was petite, beautiful - and very brave.  Not only did she live up to everything expected of a woman of that time (i.e. raising her children and tending the home), but she could well have won an award for persistence and bravery even today.  

           By the time she reached the age of 23 in 1780, she had been married for six years to James Dillard, a captain in the Little River Militia Regiment, whose duties often took him away from home, and was the mother of two toddlers (the oldest of whom was 4 year old John who usually accompanied his mother wherever she went).  Her answer to dealing with her husband's frequent absences was to join him on almost every campaign, bivouac, drill and battle including King's Mountain, Cowpens and the Siege of Ninety Six.
           Despite their travels, James and Mary somehow managed to find time to  build a large home, across the Enoree River from the Musgrove Mill Plantation where British troops under the command of General Banastre Tarleton were bivouacked and preparing for war. 

             Little did she know that on November 18, 1780,  her life would change forever, thanks to being unable to accompany James on his mission for some reason. 

      Colonel Elijah Clark
            Early that day, Colonel Elijah Clark and his troops had stopped by the Dillard's home on their way to Blackstock's Plantation.  It wasn't a social call!  His troops had left their homes before dawn and badly needed something to eat and a little rest before continuing on their way Mary welcomed them but explained she could only feed them milk and potatoes, which they gladly accepted.  A short time later they were on their way again.
           But her day had only just begun!  Before she could clean up the dregs of the previous meal, General Tarleton, the dreaded commander of the British Light Cavalry, and his officers, Commanders Ferguson and Dunlop, spotted the large house with its expansive grounds and thought it would be an ideal place for their troops to take a break before attacking General Thomas Sumter at Blackstock's. 

         As they barged into the house, they couldn't help but notice the telltale signs of recent guests and demanded that she tell them exactly how many she had fed, who they were, when they had left and where they were going. 

           Understanding that she could easily get caught out in a lie if she denied having had visitors, she explained that she had indeed fed some folks who had stopped by the house earlier.  However, they hadn't stayed very long and she had been too busy cooking and taking care of her children to listen to their talk.

           She must have been a good actress because, after hearing her report, the British commanders decided it would be safe to stop off there for a brief rest and a meal.  During the next few hours, the officers made themselves comfortable in the house and ate whatever food she had left, even giving the remaining slabs of bacon she had been saving for her family to their soldiers.

            While discussing their plans, they didn't worry about being overheard.  After all, Mary was “just a woman” who, they were sure, wouldn't understand anything they were discussing.  And even if she did, what difference would it make since they "knew" that a mother would never leave her children  at home alone, and even if she did, she wouldn't be able to handle a fast moving horse on rough roads in the dead of night.  
           They couldn't have been more wrong!   Mary might have been
      physically small, but nobody had ever said she was dumb or cowardly!  While moving among the diners, she had been absorbing everything being said,  and had come to the reluctant realization that she was probably the only American who could stop the massacre scheduled to take place before dawn the next day.  But she had to act quickly!

           One of her biggest challenges was figuring out what to do with her children. She was pretty sure that the worse thing that could happen to the baby would be a nasty diaper, but her little boy, John, was a whole different story since she knew she could neither take him with her nor trust that he would be OK alone in the house.   

      Her remedy was creative, to say the least. After placing the sleeping child on the floor, she managed somehow to lift up her bed and then lowered one of the heavy bedposts onto  her son's nightgown, thus guaranteeing that even if he awoke, he wouldn't be able to get hurt or into mischief while she was gone.

           With night rapidly approaching, her uninvited guests finally left the house – taking their plans and secrets with them. Now that she knew what devastation was awaiting the patriots who were planning for the upcoming battle to be waged at the wrong time, she slipped into the stable, bridled a young horse (but was in too much of a hurry to lift and strap a saddle onto his back) and managed to mount up.
           After checking to make sure the road was clear, Mary and her steed raced the 20 miles to Blackstock's Plantation without being spotted. Her arrival must have shocked General Thomas Sumter and his aide, Colonel Clark, who had been preparing for the battle they erroneously believed wouldn't begin until the next day.

      It wasn't until after the war ended that Mary admitted that despite the

      action she took that night, she had been very sure that the
      enemy would be too strong for her friends and they would lose badly.  She had simply hoped that her warning would give enough time to General Sumter and Colonel Clark to get their soldiers into hiding  before the enemy struck. 
            You can imagine how she must have felt when she saw 200 mounted English soldiers approaching the plantation under cover of darkness that night.  Thankfully she had already informed General Sumter of the British plans she had overheard, one of which was to use mounted soldiers as decoys in order to keep the Americans distracted until the rest of Tarleton's troops arrived by foot. 
           Early in the battle, General Sumter had been badly injured by a musket ball which passed through his right shoulder and into his backbone. 

           But instead of giving up after their commander was injured, his troops seemed to gain new life and energy.  As a result, the English troops not only suffered serious physical injuries but their morale was severely wounded as well, since they could no longer justify their belief that the British army had a firm hold on South Carolina.

            Interestingly, not long after the battle ended, previously unbeaten General Tarleton was heard to comment  that he had seen "a woman on horseback riding among the trees bordering his march and he believed she had reported him to Sumter." Perhaps the most bitter pill Tarleton was forced to swallow was that he wasn't omnipotent after all.

             Ironically, General Sumter was given the title "Carolina Gamecock" because of his fierce fighting tactics which weren't affected by his injuries.  As a matter of fact, even General Tarleton was heard to comment that Sumter "fought like a gamecock" and, years later, General Cornwallis commented that the "Gamecock was his greatest plague". 

           But Mary Dillard's bravery didn't end with her long ride that night. As the battle heated up, the British were forced to concentrate their efforts on fighting and beating the Americans - not on the young woman who was calming down their horses which  had been tethered to a long rope strung between two tall trees.  

           They certainly didn't notice until it was too late that she had somehow managed to slice the rope and was boldly leading her charges across the river and into the eager hands of a Virginia militia unit, most of whom - until then - had to fight the enemy on foot. As a result, after the British soldiers lost both the battle and most of their horses, they were forced to retreat on foot, leaving behind their canons, supply and munitions wagons, tents, etc. - all of which proved to be treasures for the previously under-equipped Americans.   

         Mary's family also had to pay a price for her actions. Before she had returned home, the retreating angry soldiers broke into her house and - after freeing screaming little John from under the bedpost - took the children to the neighbors and then set fire to the house. One can only imagine the horror Mary felt when she first saw that her lovely home was no more. But - even worse - until she was assured that they were safe, believed that she had also lost her children. 

            But the story of Mary's bravery didn't end there. A few months later, after having settled into their second home, the young wife and mother couldn't help but notice all the British activity taking place on the road running in front of her house. So, being Mary, she immediately started counting how many units of soldiers were passing and then figured how many soldiers there were in each unit. Not surprisingly the troops didn't pay much attention to the little woman who was perhaps even waving at them as they passed by.
            As soon as she had all the information she needed,  she managed to get it to James, who immediately took it to the commander of his local militia.  Thanks to learning exactly how many enemy soldiers were heading his way, the commander was then able to plan his counter-attack much more accurately. 

        The only "reward" the Dillards received for that action was having their second home burned to the ground by the angry, frustrated Tories!  (But her efforts did earn her a special place in history.  In fact, she is listed in the South Carolina Archives as having received seven pay stubs which verified that she had earned a private's salary during the war.)

            Mary Ramage Dillard was only 38 years old in 1795 when she gave birth to her 7th child - a daughter - and died shortly thereafter.  Three years later, her widower, who had been promoted to a major in his militia, married another Mary, with whom he had seven more children.

           Documentation of Mary's adventures even after death has been both interesting and confusing.  First, the date of death carved on her headstone is 1797, but should have been 1795.  However, that pales when compared to the fact that her headstone was placed in the Pleasant Hill Baptist Cemetery in Pickens County, SC over the grave of James' second wife, Mary Puckett Dillard, who had died 45 years later in 1842.

          Possibly the confusion arose because James did not differentiate between the two Marys when telling stories.  Or perhaps few people even realized  he had been married before, and assumed that the Mary they knew was the woman who  had fought beside him during the Revolution.


          And there is the possibility that Mary Ramage Dillard's headstone memorializing her service wasn't engraved until long after the war ended because there were so many that had to be carved and placed. More troubling was the fact that after the discovery was made of the mix-up, the hero soldier's casket was never found.

                After discovering the mix-up,  James' children (including the ones raised by Mary Puckett after their mother died) agreed to have Mary Ramage Dillard's headstone moved to its proper place in the Duncan Creek Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Laurens County, SC.  It was there where she was finally honored for her service to her country as she joined her fellow Revolutionary soldiers (and many relatives named Copeland, Blakely,Adair and Ramage).   
      James and Mary Puckett Dillard graves
           At the same time, the correct tombstones for Mary Puckett Dillard and James Dillard and Mary Puckett were placed next to each other in the Pleasant Hill Cemetery where - altough somewhat tilted - they remain to this day.

             Although Mary Ramage's  coffin has never been discovered, her  monument honoring her life and service to her country still stand with the inscription reading: 

      "Mary Ramage D'illard hero of  Blackstock's Plantation 
      and a lady of grace from a grateful nation."

         Duncan Creek Presbyterian 
      Cemetery,  Clinton, SC

      For more information on this fascinating woman be sure to check out:

      "Genealogy of Mary Ramage Dillard's Family (Life Story)"  https//"
      "Honoring a Revolutionary War Heroine", Stanley A. Evans, Sr., Former Vice President General, South Atlantic District (1996-97) SAR Magazine Magazine
       "Adair: History and Genealogy, Chapter XVI, page 267, American Adairs, Mrs. Adair",

      If you'd like to know more about the fascinating Adair family, you might enjoy reading the Family Legends featuring Joseph Alexander Adair, Sr. and Patrick Adair