John McKenzie (1833-1865): Son, Father, and Casualty of War

My family home in Vicksburg, Mississippi during the 1950s and 1960s was within about six blocks of the National Military Park, where the Civil War struggle for control of the Mississippi River occurred. The park was established in 1899 on the bluffs of the river to preserve the battlefield and became part of the National Park Service in 1933. During my childhood and youth, the battlefield could be accessed free of charge. We grew up hiking, biking, then driving through the park. Many times we visited the monuments that commemorate a conflict, the true horrors of which I could scarcely fathom in my youth. Nor is it easy now to conjure the truth of what happened there, veiled as it is today by the peaceful natural beauty of its rolling hills.

VburgMParkPrint copy
Information solicited and immediately given on a visit to the Vicksburg National Military Park in 2016.

In addition to the participating state monuments, red and blue markers orient the visitor as to whether they are viewing the battlefield from Confederate or Union lines. Stone markers reveal the state infantry that fought at a particular site. Just beyond Fort Hill on the tour, the visitor passes the Mississippi 46th Infantry marker. I must have passed this place many times over the years, perhaps even stopped to read words on a marker and tried to imagine a group of soldiers. For me, about four years past, the significance of this place grew; it is the place where my great grandfather’s youngest brother survived typhoid fever and the Siege of Vicksburg. Though two of his older brothers and his father-in-law visited John there before the siege, they were powerless to control his fate. After signing a loyalty oath upon surrender to the Union at Vicksburg in 1863, he rejoined the 46th, and was captured at Nashville. John died of smallpox January 30, 1865. His death was only a few weeks after his young wife, Susan, gave birth to his third son. Such was the fate of many families both Union and Confederate.

John is the first member of his immediate family to have been born in Mississippi. His birth event occurs during the first year his father, Duncan McKenzie, is listed on the Covington County Tax Rolls. The family arrived in Covington County in January of 1833 when Barbara McLaurin McKenzie was pregnant with John. He had two sisters: Catharine, who died at around age twelve in NC and Mary Catharine, also born in MS but in 1838. She lived only one year. His older brothers, who all survived to adulthood, were born in Richmond County, NC: Kenneth (1820-after 1872), Hugh (1822-1867), Daniel (1823-1860), Duncan “Dunk” (1826-1878), and Allen (1831-1910). John’s parents were first generation born to Scottish immigrant parents. In the old world no hope existed of their owning land, but in America this was possible. A yeoman farmer trying to grow a market crop such as cotton would probably own a small number of enslaved people. Duncan McKenzie owned eight people in 1841. What lured John’s parents from North Carolina to Mississippi was affordable land and the prospect of making a comfortable living off of growing a staple crop.

The community of Williamsburg, in Covington County, Mississippi near the McKenzie property, was motivated to provide an education for their children as much as was possible. Indeed, Duncan McKenzie claims to have chosen property because of its proximity to a school. The community provided facilities and was able to enlist teachers, who were compensated in tuition fees. In 1838, a family friend, Malcolm Carmichael, “Squire John’s son,” was in charge of a school, “near my house. Dunk, Allen and Johny, are going to him,” according to their father, Duncan McKenzie. By 1840, when John McKenzie is about seven, a new teacher had charge of the education of the three younger McKenzie brothers:

We have a school

in our neigh borhood taught by a Mr. Jones from

Philladelphia (PA), he is not a much learnd man

but in reality he brings the children on the best

and fastest of any teacher that I have Seen …

John Boy will ere long be able to write you

a letter he fancys he has seen you —Duncan McKenzie

By 1841, Duncan writes to his brother-in-law and cousin Duncan McLaurin in North Carolina about his younger sons:

I think

Danl & myself will get through the corn in an

other week Allan & the two oldest of the black

children are hoing a little after us …

and Johnny,, pains to know

as much about his Uncle Duncan & Carolina as

anyone on the place — Duncan McKenzie

During this year Duncan also writes that Norman Cameron, another family acquaintance from North Carolina, is teaching the three younger McKenzies. Norman has a brother named Peter, also teaching at a school in nearby Jones County. Duncan wishes he could keep Norman and suggests that a letter of recommendation from Duncan McLaurin to the community would help keep him. In North Carolina, Duncan McLaurin, a teacher himself, had educated many of these people in their youths.

Even as John has access to education, at age twelve in 1845, his health has become an issue in the family. Duncan writes in March of that year that John has been “apparently the subject of disease for some time in fact his health has been quite delicate for two years.” John seems to have suffered from chronic chills and fever, though he looks “tolerably well.” By 1847 John has had an attack of “billious fever,” but he seems to have recovered without calling a doctor.

Aside from swamp drives with the dogs and the gun that Uncle John sent to them from North Carolina, the McKenzie boys worked regularly on their father’s farm alongside people enslaved on the farm to grow cotton and corn for market. In 1846 their father explains that they have been, “burning the bricks,” they made last fall. Duncan himself carried the bricks to the mason who would put up their chimneys.

John was thirteen years old in 1847 when his father, Duncan McKenzie, passed away in Covington County at the age of about fifty-two. His older brother, Daniel, is away participating in the Mexican War, increasing the anxiety of the family. At the same time, the illness to which Duncan succumbed also killed an enslaved youth on the farm, Hannah’s oldest son. John had probably grown up playing beside this youth under the watchful eye of Barbara McKenzie and later worked alongside him on the farm. An older enslaved person on their farm, Ely Lytch from North Carolina, also perished of an illness that winter.

By the 1850 Federal Census, John is seventeen and living with his four brothers and his mother, who is the head of household. Kenneth is not listed on the 1850 census but was living nearby, if not on the farm. John is listed as a farmer in occupation but he has also attended school within the past year. Kenneth, thirteen years older than John, remarks in 1851 that “John is grown weighs near as much as I do.” However, the year 1855 brings new tragedy to the family with the illness of Barbara. Barbara suffers horribly from mouth sores in spite of the care given by her son Daniel, who has begun practicing as a doctor. John is the faithful son who tends bedside vigil in hopes of giving his mother comfort. Her mouth cancer is ultimately fatal.

In 1859, it is clear the McKenzies have succeeded in either selling or renting their Covington County property to “share” interest in Smith County property that Daniel has encouraged them to purchase. Daniel, who married Sarah Blackwell, has himself purchased property in Smith County. After the brothers settle there, Hugh writes that the neighbors say Daniel and Dunk will “never give Allen John and myself an equal interest with them in the place.” Hugh reveals that he is suspicious about how this rumor got around. Possibly the discord among the brothers had its source in older brother Kenneth. Though John seems more respectful of his older brother, evidently Dunk and Kenneth may have spent the rest of their days in a state of estrangement.

In 1860, Kenneth writes to his uncle, “John is married to a sister of Duncans wife, your nephews are marrying smartly.” By 1860, according to the Federal Census for Smith County, John and wife, Susan Duckworth age sixteen, are living with his brother Dunk McKenzie and his family. The family includes Dunk’s wife Martha, sister to Susan. Martha and Susan also have a sister, Sarah who married John’s brother Hugh, her second husband.

John and Susan’s first child is yet to be born. John is farming and worth two thousand dollars in real estate and two thousand five hundred in personal estate. They are living very near in-laws Robert Cooper Duckworth. Robert Cooper is forty-nine and his wife Elizabeth is forty-seven. Their sons Benjamin, Robert, Wilson, and Joseph live with them. The situation for all of these families is about to change cataclysmically with the coming of the Civil War.

LoyaltyOathJohnMcKenzie
John McKenzie’s loyalty oath dated the tenth of July 1863 under the aegis of Dix-Hill prisoner exchange agreement. Accessed from Fold3.

Early in the Civil War at Enterprise, MS, after Allen, Kenneth, and the Smith County “Yankee Terrors” battle the measles there, John is attaching himself to the 46th Infantry that will soon place him in Vicksburg. His rank is listed as sergeant in Company H from Smith County, “The Raleigh Farmers.” The 46th Infantry was created in 1862 when four other companies attached themselves to the 6th Infantry. He probably mustered with the 46th at Meridian, but was soon on his way by train to Vicksburg. After Vicksburg the 46th would participate in the Atlanta Campaign, with Hood in Tennessee, and in defense of Mobile.  Hugh would join a cavalry unit later in the war. Dunk, as neighborhood Postmaster, would be exempt from serving.

John writes to his Uncle Duncan McLaurin from Vicksburg in July of 1862 about the historic event he is experiencing. John has never seen or met his Uncle Duncan. However, according to letters written by his father, as a young child John enjoyed listening to letters from his Uncle Duncan read aloud. His uncle often related tales translated from his father’s diary. Likely, Hugh McLaurin’s early life in the western highlands of Scotland figured prominently in these stories. This fireside entertainment conceivably led John to form a vicarious attachment with his relative, his mother’s beloved brother. He may have had some encouragement to write his uncle from his oldest brother Kenneth, who well knew how interested in these events Duncan McLaurin would be. Almost a year before Pemberton surrenders to Grant at Vicksburg, John begins his letter from that place to his uncle: “Having a leisure hour I seat myself to pen you a line to inform you where I am … we are stationed five miles north East of Vicksburg … there is a considerable bombarding going on the river this morning.”

In this letter dated 13 July 1862, John notes the poor state of the corn on his travels by train from Meridian as troops gather to defend Vicksburg. John describes his first impression of the city of Vicksburg as the 46th Mississippi deploys there:

Vicksburg is on

the hilliest ground I ever saw there is scarce room

of level ground on any hill or in a hollow for

a house the houses are set up on posts

the other side sunk in the side of the hills the

citizens have left the town moved off

every thing they could get off …

the ho(u)ses are torn smartly by

shells and shots the women and children all

over the country here liveng in tents …

the hills are so steep that they dig them

down for roads to pass through them we are now

camped in a very good place except it is in a hollow

we are surrounded by the highest kind of hills

there is a very pretty grove of walnut trees here

and the best water said to be in Warren County — John McKenzie

John also addresses the movement of gunboats on the river in this same letter, which was written about ten months before the siege began and almost a year before the surrender at Vicksburg on July 4, 1863:

I have

understood since writing the above that it is our

gunboats have run down out yazo river

The yankies have a good fleet I do not Know

how many boats they have …

our Capt came in from Vicksburg this evening and

says that the boat arkansas from yazo river it

came down under cover of our Bateries and comenced

firing the YKs firing on her for some time she sunk one

and burned another the Yks are firing on the town trying

to burn it … Direct your letter to Vicksburg Miss Company H In care

of Capt. McAlpin 6th Miss Battalion.  — John McKenzie

The ironclad CSS Arkansas had been built at Memphis. Since April of 1862, it had been at Greenwood, MS on the Yazoo River as Memphis had fallen to the Union forces. The vessel was completed at Greenwood. John mentions the Arkansas’s moment of glory. After steaming down the Yazoo River, she broke through the Union naval fleet at Vicksburg. The Arkansas engaged with and disabled the USS Carondelet but did not sink any vessels, contrary to John’s information. However, the Arkansas plagued the Union vessels enough to reduce the number of their crews and cause them to constantly steam during the hot summer. She was moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, though her engines were in need of repair. The engines failed in August of 1862 during an engagement there. On the sixth the Arkansas was abandoned and burned by her crew to keep her out of Union hands. In March of 2019 a plaque was set at Soldier’s Rest in Cedar Hills Cemetery in Vicksburg, MS that lists these who lost their lives while engaged in service aboard the CSS Arkansas.

Just before the siege begins in May of 1863, John’s father-in-law R. C. Duckworth traveled to Vicksburg on horseback. He is determined to see his son Rob in Company H with John. Rob is suffering from typhoid fever. There he finds both Rob and John dreadfully ill and leaves, hoping to find nourishment for them. Before he can return, the siege has begun. R.C. is captured by Union soldiers and not allowed to return home nor cross Union lines. Apparently Duckworth lodges in someone’s home during the entirety of the siege. He never sees his son alive again.

John, at the end of the siege in 1863 is captured, having survived the illness that killed his brother-in-law. He signs a loyalty oath to the Federal Government of the U.S. and is released. During his time at home, John wrote a second letter addressed to his brother Kenneth, who by September of 1863 was living with or near his Uncle Duncan McLaurin at the McLaurin family home, Ballachulish, in Laurel Hill, NC. John writes in September of 1863:

I must Send

you word that I am yet a scratch

ing grabble I am so glad I am

alive I want every boddy to

know it I and Rob were taken

sick about the 15th of april with

Typhoid pneumonia Rob Died

the 22nd of May Ben and his Father

got there about the 15th of May

on the 18th the place was besieged

the old man R. C. went out into

the country after something

for myself and Rob to eat – the Yks come

upon him and would not let

him come back turned him

loose out Side our lines but

wouldn’t let him into Vicks

burg nor out home So he had

to stay with the Feds about

50 days, it was lucky for him

as he could get vegetables to eat

he stayed at a private house … — John McKenzie

John explains in this letter that he reached home after the siege on the 16th of July but was very weak, not having completely recovered from his illness. By early September when he writes this letter, he has returned to health, “I am now in tolerable good health when I left Vicksburg I dont think I would have weighed 100 lbs.” In another 1863 letter, brother Hugh addresses John’s health as, “slowly improving since the fall of Vicksburg though I fear he will not be able to make an efficient soldier if ever he does his constitution is not very good at best.” 

In his letter addressed to Kenneth, John also describes the ten days he spent at the breast works, “the minnie balls Shells and solid Shot flew in every direction.” He gives the following account of the surrender:

It was 47 days from

the comencement of the siege till

the surender the place was suren

dared on the 4th of July, Stacked arms at

11 o’clock and every man was re-

lieved from duty on the 10th we soon

paroled and left the valiant

city of the hills with many a

new made grave … we borrowed Some

horses inside the Fedl lines and

made it home on the 16th with

much more ease than I at first

expected. — John McKenzie

Both letters convey the uncertainty of war and a survivor’s readiness to bluster about the leaders who failed. In the first letter of July 1862, apparently John entertains the strong hope that the Yankees will soon give up and leave Vicksburg. In his second letter after the siege, John has harsh words against Pemberton for surrendering, calling him “a traitor or a fool”. Yet after Vicksburg, the young soldier knows how fortunate he is to be alive and home. As happened with most soldiers, John was again mustered into service for the Confederacy and captured again at the Battle of Nashville. By now, on both sides of the conflict, the captured soldier’s fate was generally sealed as prisoner exchanges had officially ended. Soldiers both North and South would not have the benefit of swearing upon release not to fight the enemy but returning to the battlefield. Ironically, exchanges would not resume until February of 1865 upon General Grant’s orders.

The end of prisoner exchanges may have done its part to finish the conflict sooner, but the move meant almost certain death from disease and starvation for many forced into unprepared, vastly overcrowded, and hastily formed prisons. From Nashville, John is sent to confinement in Louisville, KY. Early in January, he is taken from Louisville to Camp Chase in Columbus, Ohio, to be imprisoned there. However, by January 30 of 1865 John is dead of smallpox. Longing for his family and home rather than passion for “the glorious cause” likely occupied him on his deathbed at Camp Chase. No evidence has been found that he was able to communicate with his family and Susan.  His youngest son Allen, born the same month of John’s death, would live to be ninety-six, have no surviving children, and reside much of his life in Jones County, MS.

Prisoner exchanges during the Civil War were given some structure by the Dix-Hill Cartel accomplished in Virginia in July of 1862 by Union Major General John A. Dix and Confederate Major General D. H. Hill. According to this agreement, a decided upon number of captured officers would be exchanged for a decided number of captured enlisted men. Agents were assigned to conduct exchanges. John’s experience at Vicksburg was under the aegis of Dix-Hill. However, after the Emancipation Proclamation and the Union deployment of African-American soldiers, the climate for Dix-Hill changed. Lincoln, hoping to force the Confederacy to treat black and white captured Union soldiers equally, ended the agreement when the Confederacy insisted upon treating black Union soldiers as fugitive slaves. By the time the Confederacy relented, Grant complained that exchanging or paroling the huge number of imprisoned Confederate soldiers would replenish the Confederate army and extend the war. General Grant is quoted as saying, “Every man we hold, when released on parole or otherwise, becomes an active soldier against us … if a system of exchange liberates all prisoners taken, we will have to fight on until the whole South is exterminated.”

John probably died not knowing of Allen’s birth on January 9 just twenty-one days before his own death and about a month before exchanges resumed. John’s resting place can be found in a marked grave at the remaining Camp Chase Cemetery, headstone 970. The Camp Chase property was purchased by the federal government in 1879. The original wooden grave markers were replaced with stone during the 1890s when, during a national spirit of unity, attention was drawn to the deteriorating burial grounds of Confederate soldiers in Union territory.

JohnMcKhdstn2 copy
John McKenzie’s headstone at Camp Chase Confederate Cemetery in Columbus, Ohio. Photo by B. Lane

The restoration efforts at the end of the 19th century in Columbus, Ohio were spearheaded by a Union veteran named William H. Knauss. Knauss and those who supported him faced criticism at first from local Union families whose loved ones had been lost at Andersonville or on the battlefields of the South. For a time annual ceremonies at Camp Chase took place beginning in 1895. As many cemetery soldiers’ families as possible were invited to attend the dedication ceremonies. Whether any of John’s relatives attended is unknown, for Susan had married George Risher and was living out her days in Laurel, MS where she died in 1907.

On May 24, 1868, John’s father-in-law R.C. Duckworth from Jasper Co., MS wrote a letter to his nephew Samuel Duckworth in Bastrop, TX. R. C. sums up the losses the family endured as a result of the war:

We lost two sons during the war Robert & Cooper. Robert died at Vicksburg during the siege. Cooper was killed at Missionary Ridge, Ga … we also lost two sons in law John McKenzie who married Susan, was captured at Nashville, Tenn. and we can never hear directly from him by any of his friends Hugh McKenzie married Sarah Margaret, and Died in Dec. after the Surrender, leaving Both the girls widows and the children on my hands there was property enough to have Supported them Hansomely if they could have retained it. Martha Ann married another Brother, Duncan McKenzie and is living near us. — R. C. Duckworth

John’s brother, Dunk, writes in 1866 to his uncle regarding the fate of family members. Duncan erroneously wrote that Camp Chase was in Illinois. He mentions John’s sons and that he had never seen his youngest. Dunk poignantly adds, “Poor John I trust he is in a better world than this where there is no war, nor troubles never come, John was not only respected but loved by all who knew him.”

Together Susan and John had three surviving sons within their short five years of marriage: Daniel C. McKenzie (1860-1902), John Duncan McKenzie (1862-1950), and Allen McKenzie (1865-1961). Susan was a young woman with three sons at the end of the Civil War. The 1870 Federal Census for Jasper County MS has her living as head of household when she is thirty. She lived near her father and sisters in Jasper County with her three sons.

According to the 1880 Federal Census for Jasper County, by age forty Susan had married  George E. Risher. Children are listed as J age 22, a daughter; G F age 19, a son; A age 11, a daughter; J W age 9, a son; J K age 1, a son; J D McKenzie, a stepson to G. E. Risher age 18; and A a stepson to G. E. Risher age 16. They are living in Jasper County. Daniel C. McKenzie, John and Susan’s oldest son, is not listed. He would have been about twenty and likely living on his own.

The 1900 Federal Census for Jones County, Laurel, MS lists George Risher as head of a household of one other, his wife Susan. George is 69 and Susan is 59. Living near them are John D. McKenzie and his wife Florence Massey, ages thirty-seven and thirty-one respectively. They have a son Alan L, twelve; a daughter Sallie, nine; a son Earnest, seven; and a daughter Annie, five.

John and Susan’s firstborn, Daniel C. McKenzie, married Mary E. “Minnie” Weeks in 1894. Before he died on July 26, 1902 in Laurel, MS, they had four children: John Travis McKenzie (1897-1954), Susan B. McKenzie (1899-?), George Sylvester McKenzie (1896-1917), and Allen B. McKenzie (1902-1934). The 1900 Census shows Daniel working as a carpenter in Jones County. Minnie married again in 1911 to John W. Hester. Daniel C. is buried in Hickory Grove Cemetery in Laurel, MS.

Though I have no marriage record and little to document the following information, a Daniel C. McKenzie with the same birth and death dates appears in other family trees to have married Hettie Duckworth Anderson (1863-1940). Their children are listed as John David McKenzie (1886-1962), Eva Jane McKenzie(Walker) (1888-1980), and Minnie Mae McKenzie (1887-1980). If so, the marriage must have ended in divorce because Hettie and children are still living when Daniel marries Minnie Weeks in 1894.

The middle son of John and Susan, John Duncan, spent the last fifty years of his life living in Laurel, MS in Jones County. The family lived on West 10th Street there. John Duncan is buried near his mother and other members of the family in Hickory Grove Cemetery in Laurel. He spent his life working as a contractor and builder. His obituary in the Clarion-Ledger describes his impact on the community: “He supervised the construction of many of Laurel’s earliest business houses and public buildings and was active in civic affairs.”

John Duncan married Florence Massey (1868-1904) who died, leaving John D. with their children: Allan Lee McKenzie born (1888-1962), Sallie McKenzie (1891-1966), Earnest McKenzie (1892-1967), Annie Dora McKenzie (1894-1957), and Thelma Ada (1901-1991). An undocumented source suggests a second wife who was probably childless. His third wife, Ollie English (1875-1964) gave birth to George Dewey McKenzie about 1906. The 1910 U.S. Census lists John Duncan’s wife as “Allie” McKenzie. This is likely a corruption of “Ollie.”John Duncan’s obituary in 1950 lists surviving children: “three daughters, Mrs. George Baldwin, McLeansboro, Ill., Mrs. John Batton, Missouri, and Miss Annie McKenzie, Laurel: three sons, Lee McKenzie, Meridian, Ernest McKenzie, Jackson, and Dewey McKenzie, Evergreen, Ala.” 

A compelling memoir titled The Spirit’s Journey written by John’s great grandson, Dave McKenzie, connects George Dewey McKenzie’s family with John McKenzie. Dewey McKenzie married Jewell Currence. They lived in Alabama. Dewey and his son David both enjoyed a love of aviation and automobiles that spanned the twentieth century, which is the main theme of Dave McKenzie’s memoir. He claims in his memoir that John Duncan McKenzie fathered two children by his first wife and three children by his second wife. His account also maintains that Duncan and Barbara McKenzie settled in Jasper County. Other sources confirm the family’s arrival in nearby Covington County, though Dunk and Martha as well as Susan and children lived in Jasper County after the war. Another discrepancy for which I can find no source is that John and Susan also had two daughters in addition to their three sons. Unfortunately, though his memoir is quite interesting, Dave McKenzie shared no documentation for information in his book.

John and Susans’ third son, Allen, was born on January 9, 1865 when John was thirty-two and Susan was twenty-four. Allen died on December 29, 1961, at the age of ninety-six. According to 1900 census records, an Allen McKenzie was boarding in Harris County, Texas and teaching school. If so, he returned to Jones County, MS. Allen was married first to Sarah Elizabeth “Bettie” Hosey (1878-1902). In 1910 he was living in Jones County, MS and married Jeannette Florence Kirkwood (1870-1949) on September 29, 1912. He lived in Laurel, MS for the rest of his long life.

John’s Resting Place, Camp Chase Confederate Veteran Cemetery in Columbus, Ohio:

CampChase5
This photo of the monument at Camp Chase Cemetery in Columbus Ohio was taken on an overcast day in 2016 by B. Lane.

According to an article in Confederate Veteran magazine (Vol IV, p 246, 1896), after the war the federal Camp Chase and prison on the outskirts of Columbus, Ohio was torn down. Lumber from the barracks was used to fence the cemetery, where today over 2000 men who fought for the Confederacy are buried. In time the cemetery was neglected and became overgrown. Wooden fence and markers rotted. Eventually,  the cemetery was cleaned and wood plank markers replaced the old. As governor of Ohio (1868-1872), Rutherford B. Hayes charged Mr. H. Briggs, a neighborhood farmer, with caring for the cemetery. Briggs did so and planted a number of trees.  Payments to Briggs for his services stopped when the opposing political party came into power. Later, at the request of Governor J. B. Foraker (1885-1889), the U.S. government had an iron fence erected around the cemetery and a stone wall around the entire property. Briggs moved to the cemetery a large boulder upon which is carved, “2260 Confederate Soldiers of the war 1861-1865 buried in this enclosure.” Stone markers were provided for the graves. Later an archway was built over the boulder that reads, “Americans,” topped by the statue of a soldier with his rifle.

Around 1895 in a climate of sectional reconciliation, Col. William H. Knauss, a Union veteran from Columbus, took charge of refurbishing the cemetery and organizing a dedication ceremony. Over the years the city of Columbus grew around the Camp Chase property, and today the cemetery is entirely surrounded by businesses in an inner city neighborhood instead of farm land. A branch of the public library is across the street. In 2017 vandals toppled the soldier statue, breaking the head and hat off. The vandals disappeared with the head and have not been found. Since then, the statue has been repaired and reinstalled. Except for the height of the statue, it exudes no particular sense of power or support for the “cause.” However, today the tall statue in the cemetery visible over the fence and situated near the heart of a diverse neighborhood. A more fitting memorial might be to place the statue on the ground and striding among his fellow fallen comrades rather than towering imposingly over the cemetery fence.

Still, it is a pity that these men, if given the choice, would likely have abandoned any ideology they may have held to have been returned to their families to live out their lives. May their suffering and sorrow never be used to promote racism or anyone’s divisive agenda in the present day. Though salvaging the cemetery was symbolic of reconciliation between sections of the country, the same period was known for iconic white supremacy all over the nation.

In 1906 William H. Knauss published a book, The Story of Camp Chase, on the history of Camp Chase and the cemetery restoration effort. A memorial edition was printed in 1994. Knauss describes very little about the prison conditions in this book, but he does use some primary sources from prisoners. In the Appendix, he lists the Confederate dead at Camp Chase, Columbus City Cemetery, Camp Dennison in Ohio, Johnson’s Island in Ohio, Frederick County in Maryland, at Shepherdstown, and Antietam. John is listed on page 370. Today Camp Chase Cemetery is on the National Register of Historic Places and federally protected.

On pages 258 and 259, the diary entries of a Captain A. S. McNeil of the 45th Virginia Regiment, who spent nine months at Camp Chase, describe the prison. The following entries are from the month of January 1865, including the weeks John was alive and confined there, where smallpox had been raging since October:

1865. Sunday, January 7 — Snowed all night; eight inches deep; drifted in places four and five feet deep. Drew molasses for the first time since being a prisoner. Rations short again.

Tuesday, 17th. — Looks like all of Hood’s army was coming here.

Thursday, 26th. — There are upward of five thousand men in this prison now. Thirty-four men died in the last twenty-four hours. — Captain A. S. McNeil

        

Quotations from Letters referencing John McKenzie:

1838-3DMcKDMcL– Danl has once more commenced the study of Latin under the instruction of a Mr Strong late principal of the Clinton Academy Hinds Co. Mi Joshua White and others of the neighborhood Succeeded in getting a school for Strong in 4 miles of me I procurd  a pony for Danl to ride, he is in class with Lachlin youngest Sone of Danl McLaurin and Brother to Dr Hugh Fayetteville of your acquaintance of yours ——– Danl the 3 years from that study appears to have retained it tollerable well — Malcolm Carmichael, Squire Johns sone has a small school near my house Dunk Allan and Johny are going to him, he Malcolm came here early in January and took a small school worth say $20 per month —

1840-4DMcKDMcL – We have a school in our neighborhood taught by a Mr. Jones from Philadelphia, he is not a much learnd man but in reality he brings the children on the best and fastest of any teacher that I have seen, Allan reads well and writes a very fair hand for a boy of his age, John Boy will ere long be able to write you a letter he fancys he has seen you ——– Yours Duncan McKenzie

1841-6DMcKDMcL     I think Danl and myself will get through the corn in another week Allan and the two oldest of the black children are going a little after us we leave it perfectly clean, and Johny,, is Sowin pease ahead of the plows he Johny,, pains to know as much about his Uncle Duncan and Carolina as anyone on the place ———— Norman Camerons school is out he only engaged to teach three months he is as yet in the neighborhood also his brother John who has been Sick of chilling fevers, Peter has a school in Jones County he has also been sick of chills and fevers, I wish I could keep Norman as a teacher in our neighborhood, and perhaps the few remarks made in your letter may keep him

1842-12DMcKDMcL   The times are hard as to money but the boys will have their fun they have just come in from a swamp drive in which they caught a large wild boar the dogs captured him with ease

1845-3DMcKDMcL – Our youngest son John has been apparently the subject of disease for some time in fact his health has been quite delicate for two years he was sick last fall of fever after which he was taken with chills and fever which continued occasionally every other day till of late in fact I am not sure that the cause is entirely removed as yet tho he looks tolerably well

1846-2DMcKDMcL – on reaching home the boys were burning the bricks they made last fall the bricks being burnt I became head carryer to an old brick mason who has put up … of the chimneys and has the other in fair progress the boys are progressing slowly preparing for the coming crop

1847-9KennethMcKDMcL – John has had an attack of billious fever, tho he is now out of danger we called no Doctor

1849-5KennethMcKDMcL    Daniel is teaching school, stays at home, profitable business a great deal moreso than farming Duncan has taken to the farm and Allen they are able and strong plenty Hugh was down on the Bay of St. Louis tho now at home, he made some money, he thinks to return soon I am at nothing much yet what perhaps I am best fit for John is working away in the crop I had the blues like the D — C

1851-4KennethMcKDMcL   Daniel is teaching school has a tolerable good one I believe Mother enjoys perhaps better health than usual tho age and cares have left indelible marks on her general features John is grown weighs near as much as I do Daniel is the smallest of the tribe Allen is the largest strongest and swiftest.

1853-6HughLMcKDMcL    It is certainly a mark of some smartness that John McKenzie has managed to get a wife of some sort and particularly so If she is smart as for our relations on the other side I mean the McColls the Douglasses and the other McKenzies I wish John good luck in his new sphere. Hugh McColl has a better prospect for the future.

1855-4KMcKDMcL  It is in anticipation of a painful future that I write this so soon after a letter written a short time since Mother is declining fast and from present appearances must soon be no more.her words are generally inarticulate. The sore on her mouth is progressing rapidly she is verry low, Miss Barbara Stewart was staying with her but went home to prepare for Presbytery held at Zion Seminary and has not returned since. John stays with her constantly using every effort to soothe her suffering Neighbors are generally kind in visiting

1856-12KMcKDMcL –  By the solicitations of Allen and John and in compliance with the spirit of my own feelings I in response take my pen as the most interesting part of relatives letters is the intelligence of the condition of health I can say the family are all well Daniel not being heard from within the last week as perhaps you have learned lives in Rauleigh in an adjoining county was also well a few days ago … It being more expensive to keep two houses than one, the family consisting of the farming portions of the McKenzies, have moved together where I expect our house will be the home of all until a separation will take place by a marriage of some number of the family or until death will suspend terrestrial action.

1858-3DMcKuncleDMcL    we are all at home this year that is Hugh, Allen, John, myself Kenneth is at work at the carpentering business how long he will continue I cant say I expect you have heard about the trouble he gave to Daniel in setting up the estate which is now wound up or nearly so — Daniel is living in Raleigh Smith County where he has been for some time, but is now living to himself keeping House I have seen him and Sarah his wife several times Since they were married and am glad to say when I get there I feel that I have as near a sister as I could have in a brothers wife there are a large conexion of the Blackwell family …  we have ofered our land for sale last winter at about $4 per acre there is about 960 acres in all but did not find any purchasers our land here is good enough and enough of it for us yet for some time but we cannot divide it agreeable if we can sell our land here we can get new land at a reasonable price in Smith County Daniel is very anxious for us to sell here and buy in Smith he has land enough for all of us for a while he bought 600 acres last fall for 2300 dollars and could sell it now for 3000

1859-9HughLMcKDMcL    We shall be hard pressed for money this winter owing to the high price of corn during the summer but if the price of cotton keeps up I think perhaps we can get through without much difficulty if we try, Daniel and Dunk trade too much and are both bad hands to collect, I will not trade on a credit nor collect for them if they never collect anything that is due them The country is generaly healthy consequently Daniel does very little practice although he done $5000 worth last year …  We have five hundred and fifty acres beside 94 that Daniel owns individually I will send you the plot of it there is about 40 acres in the hills the rest is all in Leaf River Swamp and not five acres but may be cultivated with very little draining we have about 50 acres cut and piled since we finished laying bye our crop that with the 40 acres that we cleared last spring is enough of open land for Daniel and Dunk the neighbors say they will never give Allen John and myself an equal interest with them in the place how they know I know not but time will determine the correctness of their Prophecy the Title was made to them by Damron. Say nothing about this land matter if anything is wrong I shall inform you

1859-12HughLMcKDMcL   Daniels little boy has been verry low with Typhoid Numonia but has nearly recovered his usual health … We have bought the place Taylorville from Daniel and his father in law for which we gave $5.00.00 It contains 2 acres of land a large and good store house grocery lot and stables cribs we then invoyesed the goods at New orleans cost for $2200,00 and I am now selling goods we have bought in Mobile $2000 00 worth more making in all over $4000 worth of goods and I am selling over $ 50 00 worth per day, how long it will I know not if it does last and we can collect we can make money … If Daniel and his wife is lucky there will be another added to their family shortly, and not long after that time Dunk may look for some additions in his family … Day after tomorrow John will find his lost rib in the person of a Miss Susan Duckworth and sister to Dunks wife I think though she is poor, John does very well, they Dunks wife and Johns intended has done all they could for Allen and myself, but it is no go I cannot marry any woman that will marry me because she can do no better how Allens case is I know not I think the same

1860-1KMcKDMcL    John is married to a sister of Duncans wife, your nephews are marrying smartly, Hugh Allen and myself still holds on I do not know how it is with Hugh and Allen tho as for myself my future is hidden in obliviousness

1862-7DMcKuncleDMcL   it appears that Miss, is a subject for the Yankees to prey upon or has been for some time past and even now they are in large numbers on the Miss, River congregating in the vicinity of Vicksburg I am afraid to hear from them for fear that they will have to surrender the hill city of Mississippi to the vandal Hordes of Lincolns Hirlings there was great preparations making and made to defend the place and I really hope it will be done to the destruction of every house and everything else valuable on the soil of Mississippi John and Allen is both there I suppose from what I hear John joined a company some time since and was stationed at Meridian Miss, on the Mobile and Ohio RR about 65 miles from home, Allen has been in the service since last August and his time being near out he thot he would be beter satisfied to be in the same company with John and at the reorganization of the company he would not suffer his name to be run for the office which he held, it being third lieutenant, he got a dismissal and came home and remained a short time and went to the company which John was in as a private I heard yesterday the regiment had left Meridian and gone to Vicksburg we will hear in a day or two the certainty of it

1862-7JMcKDMcLVburg     I got a letter from home a few days ago all were well Hugh Dunk and Allen are at home Kenneth is in Alabama near Pollard which is on the state line between Ala and Fla I heard from him a few days ago he was well, we are stationed five miles north East of Vicksburg … I would be glad to see Susan and my little boy Daniel we named him after Brother give him his full name the little fellow cried after when I left home he will be 2 years old the 26th of October you mus remember me Susan and my little boy in your prayers although we have never seen you I close for the present

1863-1DMcKuncleDMcL       Kennith returned from the same Reg some time about the first December last with a Discharge from the Confederate Service and did not remain only long enough to settle up some business when he returned to go to Vicksburg where John is John was well when last heard from he John has had a verry severe attack of fever he was sick some three months in camp before he could get leave of absence or a furlough he succeeded by the interference of friends and came home and finely recovered good health …. I hear Kenneth has returned from Vicksburg and brings news that John was a little sick, I hope not much I will not see Kenneth till I get Home the Yankees have commenced bombarding again at that place but no damage done yet

1863-5DMcKuncleDMcL     John is still at Vicksburg and was on the 5th just verry sick we heard with Typhoid fever we have sent to know of his illness and to try and get him home on furlough, whether we will succeed or not I cannot tell but will inform you if I hear anything before this is mailed … for the past few days the enemy is advancing on every side the general supposition is that Miss will surrender in a short time the Miss River will be opened and Vicksburg evacuated as it is the only strong hold we have in the state the Yankee fleet or at least a portion of it passed down by Vicksburg and in fact they have been passing down for some time but now they have a force below sufficient to subdue Grand Gulf Port Gibson and I fear Port Hudson also, since writing the above I have heard by a courier that the Yankees are advancing in large force on Jackson how they will succeed a few days will determine probably they will fall back to their gun Boats if not a fight will decide the fate of Mississippi, Great God, uncle what an age we live in did I think I should ever live to witness such Slaughter and Blood Shed,the planters on the river are moving their negroes East there has been not less than five hundred passed here in the last two or three days with a few white families for protection, there is a company meeting here today to go on to Jackson and help defend the Capitol of our state this company is composed of citizens, the fight which is now pending it is the general supposition will decide the fate of the state

1863-9HughLMcKDMcL     I came to old RCs and found John writing to K We will send both in one envelop … Johns health is slowly improving since the fall of Vicksburg though I fear he will not be able to make an efficient soldier if ever he does his constitution is not very good at best

1864-6DMcKuncleDMcL     Kenneth left I certainly think there must be something wrong, by misrepresentation or some thing which I canot unravel you have never been so long without letting us hear from you and I fear it is on Kenneth as he went away from here angry with me and Martha, of which he had no right if he would consider the matter justly, you need not believe everything you hear him say about his brothers and their families if he talks in your neighborhood and to you as he talked to some of the neighbors here before he left, I do cincerely hope that no tongue can be so false as to inspire the blood of one so near as I consider you to treat me with silent contempt and you so far away and not knowing anything of my disposition of yourself only in my infancy my relations are few but friends are many as I have listed in the last two years as no position or favor which I have asked my neighbors or county people for which has not been granted freely, I must think you are in great trouble or not in existence or you would have written me before this Kenneth promised to write to me about the last words he spoke to me I told him I would take a pleasure in answering his letters but not a scratch of a pen have I from him since he left being some seven or eight months I heard from him through John some time since … we received a letter form Hugh a few days since he wrote from Blue Mountain in north Alabama he is in a cavalry Regiment he was well when he wrote but knew nothing of the fight at Aalton (Altoona) or Richmond only they were fighting I wish to hear from Allen and John and I fear we will hear bad news from some of the boys, may the kind ruler of the universe protect them and save them in Eternity

1866-9DunkMcKDMcL       You have no doubt learned ere, this reaches you that Brother John never returned from the war, he was captured at Nashville, Tenns carried to Camp Chase, in Illinois (Ohio) and died there. From the best information we could get he died the 30th day of January 1865. He left a wife and three children all boys names as follows Daniel, John, and Allen, the youngest he never had Seen, poor John, I trust he is in a better world than this where there is no war, nor troubles never come, John was not only respected but loved by all who knew him … I attached myself to the Baptist Church in May 1863. John was also a member of the same church, and if I may judge a worthy one at least in my estimation, but he has gone the way of all the world. I hope I may be as well prepared for my exit as I think and hope that he was, may we meet on heaven’s happy shore,

Letters to Duncan McLaurin. Boxes 1 and 2. Duncan McLaurin Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Duke University. Including John McKenzie’s letter to Duncan McLaurin 13 July 1862 and to his brother, Kenneth, 2 September 1863.

Other Sources:

“Allen McKenzie.” Year: 1900; Census Place: Houston Ward 3, Harris, Texas; Page: 7; Enumeration District: 0075; FHL microfilm: 1241642

“Allen McKenzie.” <ancestry.com> U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995. Laurel, Mississippi, City Directory, 1947.

Allen McKenzie and John D. McKenzie.” <ancestry.com> U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995. Laurel, Mississippi, City Directory, 1928.

Calhoun, S. W. Constantine Rea and the 46th Regiment, Mississippi Volunteers in the War for Southern Independence. Lauderdale Dept. of Archives and History: Meridian, MS. 2001.

“Camp Chase Confederate Dead.” Cunningham, S. A. ed. Confederate Veteran. Nashville,, TN. January 1896. Vol IV. 246.

Cloyd, Benjamin D. Haunted By Atrocity: Civil War Prisons in American Memory. Louisiana State University Press: Baton Rouge. 94,98.

County Tax Rolls, 1818-1902, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, accessed June 20, 2017, http://www.mdah.ms.gov/arrec/digital_archives/taxrolls/

“Daniel C. McKenzie.” Year: 1900; Census Place: Laurel, Jones, Mississippi; Page: 24; Enumeration District: 0059; FHL microfilm: 1240813

Faust, Patricia L. ed. Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War. Harper Perennial: 1986. 22, 603, 604.

“Forty-sixth Regiment, Mississippi Infantry.” 25 Jan. 2018. <https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/46th_Regiment_Mississippi_Infantry> accessed 9 Sept. 2019.

“In an Ohio Cemetery.” The Daily Herald. Delphos, OH. 5 Feb. 1900, Monday. 2. Accessed 7 Nov 2017 on <newspapers.com>.

“Jeanette Florence Kirkwood Obituary.” Clarion-Ledger. Jackson, MS. 9 Feb. 1949. 7. Accessed 14 Dec 2019. <newspapers.com>.

“John McKenzie.”< ancestry.com> Year: 1850; Census Place: Covington, Mississippi; Roll: M432_371; Page: 309B; Image: 207

“John McKenzie.”< ancestry.com> Year: 1860; Census Place: Smith, Mississippi; Roll: M653_591; Page: 243; Family History Library Film: 803591

“John McKenzie.” Loyalty Oath at Vicksburg, MS. 10 July 1863. Fold 3. Compiled Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served the State of Mississippi.

“John McKenzie, Report of Interment.” ancestry.com. U. S. National Cemetery Interment Control Forms, 1928-1962 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA; Original data: Interment Control Forms, A1 2110-B. Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, 1774-1985 Record Group 92. The National Archives at College Park, College Park, Maryland.

“John D. McKenzie Obituary.” Clarion-Ledger. Jackson, MS 11 May 1950.3. Accessed 14 Dec 2019. <newspapers.com>.

Knauss, William H. The Story of Camp Chase. Publishing House of the Methodist Episcopal Church: Nashville, TN and Dallas TX. 1906. 258,259.

“Mary E. ‘Minnie’ Weeks.” Year: 1910; Census Place: Mobile Ward 5, Mobile, Alabama; Roll: T624_27; Page: 5A; Enumeration District: 0093; FHL microfilm: 1374040.

“Mr. Dewey McKenzie Marries Miss Jewel Currence.” Our Southern Home. Livigston, AL. 9 May 1934. 5. <newspapers.com>. Accessed 16 Dec 2019.

R. C. Duckworth to Samuel Duckworth, May 24, 1868, Duckworth-Smith-McPherson Family Papers, Center for the Study of American History, University of Texas, Austin. Accessed on <ancestry.com>.

“Soldiers of the 46th Mississippi Infantry Regiment.” Mississippi Genealogy and History Network, Lauderdale County, Mississippi. 2011. <lauderdalecoms.com/military/civilwar/fortysixth/companyhofthe46th.html> Accessed 9 Sept 2019.

Strickland, Jean, Edwards, Patricia, and Marjorie Baxter. Who Married Whom: Jasper Co. MS. Book 2. L-Z. 1994.

“Susan McKenzie.” Year: 1870; Census Place: South West Beat, Jasper, Mississippi; Roll: M593_732; Page: 626B; Family History Library Film: 552231

“Susan Risher.” Year: 1880; Census Place: Jasper, Mississippi; Roll: 651; Page: 120C; Enumeration District: 164

“Susan Risher.” Year: 1900; Census Place: Laurel, Jones, Mississippi; Page: 18; Enumeration District: 0059; FHL microfilm: 1240813

Allen McKenzie: Hoeing Behind the Plow

Allen McKenzie (April 25, 1831 – January 22, 1910)

The child hoeing behind the plow, the young man taking out his frustrations on his brother, the adult marching off to war — this is a man who probably felt himself a Mississippian first, though he had been born in Richmond County, North Carolina three years before his family migrated over the Fall Line and Federal Roads to settle in Covington County, MS. Allen McKenzie was born on April 25, 1831, on a Richmond County North Carolina farm to thirty-eight year old Duncan and his wife Barbara McLaurin McKenzie. The family had close ties to the immigrant Scots community of Stewartsville, NC. Allen’s grandparents lived and are buried there as well as numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins. However, it is unlikely that Allen ever visited relatives in NC. Though all of his brothers wrote at least a few letters to their Uncle Duncan, Allen may not have communicated with his uncle.

AllenMcKenzie2 copy 2
Allen McKenzie (1831-1910)

Following the death of his oldest sibling, a sister Catherine, Allen joined the family of four older brothers also born in North Carolina: Kenneth McKenzie (1820-after 1873), Hugh McKenzie (1822-1866), Daniel McKenzie (1823-1860) and Duncan McKenzie (1826-1878). A younger brother, John (1833-1865) would be welcomed into the family in Mississippi. Little Mary Catherine born in 1838, would survive for only a year. Allen’s oldest sibling rests among close relatives in Stewartsville Cemetery near Laurinburg, NC, probably near her grandmother Mary McLaurin McKenzie, whose headstone survives.

The family arrived in Mississippi January 18,1833, when many people were seeking to stake out claims in the fertile farmland of the state, recently ceded from its native inhabitants. Duncan McKenzie rented a share of property with fellow NC migrants, Allan Johnson and Duncan McBryde. As early as 1833, Duncan appears in the Covington County tax records, although he does not own a substantial amount of land until 1841. By 1846 Duncan McKenzie owned fifteen head of cattle, eight slaves, and enough land on which to grow cotton, corn, oats, peas, and potatoes. The family worked alongside the black men, women, and children enslaved on their farm. Allen would move behind the plow hoeing with the older black children.  In childhood Allen also shared the responsibility of helping his mother care for and entertain his young brother John and several black children on the plantation, those too young to work.

Though the family property was chosen because of its nearness to a school, in general, formal education was not a consistent opportunity. However, residents of Covington County were successful in their effort to maintain local tuition schools. Apparently, one persistent challenge was keeping a satisfactory teacher for very long. During 1838, the younger sons in the family attend a school run by Malcolm Carmichael, likely the son of a friend of Duncan McLaurin’s in North Carolina. In 1840 Allan and John attended school conducted by Mr. Reese Jones, a young man from Philadelphia. He is less learned than he is talented according to Duncan. In the end, Duncan decides the boys are learning well under him and writes to his brother-in-law Duncan McLaurin:

We have a school

in our neighborhood taught by a Mr. Jones from

Philadelphia, he is not a much learnd man

but in reality he brings the children on the best

and fastest of any teacher that I have seen, Allan

reads well and writes a very fair hand for a boy of

his age, John Boy will ere long be able to write you

a letter he fancys he has seen you ——– Yours Duncan McKenzie. (Mr. R. Jones would later marry one of Stepmother’s daughters when she arrives in Covington County. He and Stepmother would both perish in the yellow fever epidemic of 1847 in Mobile, AL.)

The first anecdotal mention of Allen in the Duncan McLaurin Papers appears in June of 1841. Duncan McKenzie writes, “I think Danl and myself will get through the corn in another week Allan and the two oldest of the black children are going a little after us we leave it perfectly clean, and Johny,, is Sowin pease ahead of the plows.” Allen would have been about ten, an age at which many sons of yeoman farmers would have been expected to seriously help with the crops. At ages seven and ten, the white youngsters on the farm are also expected to get an education as far as the family could afford.Mississippi had been unsuccessful in providing a statewide system of public education during the first half of the nineteenth century. Generally, those who could not afford tuition did not receive instruction beyond what was provided in the home. In this particular year, they are attending a school run by Norman Cameron at a location provided by the community and for which each family paid tuition. Evidently, Norman had been a pupil of Duncan McLaurin’s in North Carolina, for McKenzie hopes Cameron will remain as teacher on the recommendation McLaurin has provided in his 1841 letter.

From descriptions in their father’s letters, we can surmise the McKenzie sons enjoy their time in the Mississippi pine woods hunting critters that must have remained somewhat plentiful in the first half of the 19th century. Indeed, Duncan, Sr. relates the story of riding down the road and hearing his son Kenneth with the dogs flushing out a critter. When the critter suddenly bursts from the forest, Duncan shoots. It turns out to be a panther, though Duncan refers to it as a tiger that looked him directly in the eyes. Soon steam power and railroads would contribute considerably to the final destruction of the old growth forests, rendering panthers, wild boars, and other critters very rare. Duncan remarks on the fact that despite the economic hard times around Christmas of 1842, his sons amuse themselves: “The times are hard as to money but the boys will have their fun they have just come in from a swamp drive in which they caught a large wild boar the dogs captured him with ease.”

By 1841, young Hugh and Kenneth, the oldest, had been given the responsibility of working their own land along the Bowie River in Covington County. Their father, Duncan, had promised them land if they worked hard and performed well on developing his property. Kenneth had his own property that was not part of the entered property. He would have to make the land productive for a period of time before he was given the option of entering it or letting it go to someone else. Incentives for enslaved workers on this small farm were based merely on the need to survive. Though economic depression would impede their progress temporarily, by 1846 the family included eight enslaved people on the farm, a farm that became comparatively productive in the face of the vicissitudes of weather and disease.

Allen would have been sixteen when his father, Duncan Sr., died February 28, 1847 of what the family called typhus. He had spent the last fourteen years of his life building  a reasonably profitable small farm. Not so terribly far away another disease would ravage the neighboring state of Alabama, yellow fever. Duncan’s stepmother and her son-in-law, Reese H. Jones would perish in a Mobile outbreak the same year.

The McKenzie family’s grieving for Duncan was, for a while, heavier as they anxiously awaited the return of Daniel and the Covington County Boys from the Mexican War. To their relief Daniel showed up unexpectedly early. Not being regular soldiers in the U.S. Army but volunteers, the group of young men were allowed to return home after illness struck and after one of their number died from a wound received in a skirmish at Vera Cruz. While in New Orleans, Daniel purchased a rifle, which his brothers called Daniel’s “Spaniard gun.” Kenneth writes to his Uncle Duncan, “tell Uncle John that I shot Daniels Spaniard gun and Duncans shot beat Buchannan I beat him I believe I am the best shot Allen killed a fine buck a few weeks since and a few days ago he killed a turkey over 200 yards.” Though they probably did not consider it at the time, perhaps Kenneth and Allens’ hunting skills would benefit them in the turbulent future.

Duncan’s wife, Barbara McLaurin McKenzie appears as the head of household in the 1850 census.  Hugh was twenty-eight and farming, Daniel was twenty-six and teaching school. The other three boys were also farming: Duncan twenty-four, Allen nineteen, and John seventeen. The family owned one thousand two hundred and seventy dollars worth of real estate. John and  Allen both had been attending school intermittently, though only John is in school in 1850. By 1855 Barbara had succumbed to a horrific death from mouth cancer. She was tended lovingly by her sons, especially Daniel — at the time a practicing physician — and her youngest John, who most often stayed by her side.

By the federal census of 1860, the family had drastically changed with the death of Barbara McLaurin McKenzie. When Daniel marries and buys property in Smith County, he encourages the rest of the family to rent the property in Covington County and purchase property in Smith. Smith County forms the northern borders of Covington and Jones Counties. Daniel  McKenzie is thirty-seven and a physician worth one thousand two hundred dollars in real estate and seven thousand two hundred and sixty five in personal estate. In August of 1857, according to Kenneth McKenzie, Daniel married Sarah M. Blackwell, “from a family of high character and well to do.” By 1860 they have two children: John Duncan, two, and Mary Isabelle, about four months old. They live in Raleigh, MS. Allen at twenty-eight is living in Daniel’s household and working as a saddler.

As stated in an 1857 letter written by his brother Kenneth, Allen began learning the saddler trade with a man named J. Isler, who was described as a good man, who generously allowed Allen half the profits. Allen’s real estate is worth two thousand dollars and his personal estate is three thousand five hundred in 1860. This same census year, Allen’s brother Dunk writes, “Allen has been living at Raleigh since we moved to Smith Co he has a trade if you have heard he is a sadler he has been at that business for four years and makes some money at it.”

Saddlery was a skill important to every community, large or small rural or urban, in the 19th century. Although Allan’s skill and access to the most modern tools perhaps did not reach the standards of expectation in larger communities, a good local saddler was essential and would soon be vital to both Union and Confederate military endeavors. Engaging in a trade to supplement their farming income also was important: Hugh would delve into merchandising while Kenneth trained in carpentry, leaving Duncan and John the only brothers focused entirely on farming. The brothers shared interest in what they considered family property, though Duncan was the primary farmer, until they married and became part of their wives’ property concerns. Dunk would avoid military service through his job as postmaster, which would enable him to maintain the family farm. Perhaps the brothers were visionary enough to imagine what they were risking in going to war. Most likely, however, they reassured each other that a physical conflict, if it came, might quickly end due to economic dependence on cotton. After all, about seventy percent of the world’s cotton in 1860 came from the southern United States of America. Few probably imagined that cotton producers in other parts of the world might threaten the US South’s market dominance.

Allen enlisted into state service in the Confederacy at Raleigh, MS in Smith County on June 8, 1861 under Captain William Watkins. He served in the 8th Mississippi Regiment, Infantry Company A, Yankee Terrors. It is one of those names touted at the beginning of wars during the glory days before the reality of the devastation sets in. The name probably appealed very much to the “lost cause” sympathizers after the war. Everyone enlisted for one year’s service at the outset of the war but later were required to sign on for three years or the duration. By 1862 the Confederacy had instituted a draft for men ages 18-35, which was later expanded to the ages of 17-50. Allen McKenzie mustered in as Third Lieutenant with First Lieutenant Benjamin Duckworth and Second Lieutenant James T. Martin but paroled at the end of the war as 2nd Lieutenant, according to Civil War records found on the fold3 military website. In the beginning of the war Mississippi officer ranks were not earned but were the result of popular vote — competence would soon become a necessary qualification for rank. Many years later after Allen’s death, his wife Julia A. Flowers McKenzie applied for a Civil War veteran’s widow’s pension and reported the same information. Older brother Kenneth also served in the 8th Regiment, but transferred from Company C, the True Confederates, to Company A in his first year of service. According to H. Grady Howell’s company listing in For Dixie Land, I’ll Take My Stand, two A. McKenzies were part of the 8th Regiment Infantry: “McKenzie, A. S.; pvt.; C; 8th Regt. Infan.” and “McKenzie, Allen; 3rd, 2nd Lieut.; A; 8th Regt. Infan.” Of the twenty or more entries under Allen McKenzie in the fold3 records, at least one is the record of an A. McKenzie who enlisted in an Alabama regiment.  Kenneth writes his uncle, “Allen is a Lieutenant in Company A in the same Regiment that I am.”

AMcKEnterprise
fold3 image

In letters to their uncle, both Duncan and Kenneth allude to the measles outbreak at Enterprise, MS, where all of the companies of the 8th Infantry would organize. Enterprise was an important muster ground, for it was located on the Mobile & Ohio Railroad. The measles, from which Kenneth and Allen were safely immune, took a number of lives in this outbreak. Their brother Duncan, however, emphasizes the army’s lack of weapons  and claims to have made a number of bowie knives with scabbards for them.

This lack of weapons would not last long. The Chief of the Confederate Ordnance Bureau, Josiah Gorgas of Alabama, would soon organize eighteen arsenals within the Confederacy. He also managed to obtain weapons from Europe through blockade running. Gorgas promoted such military efficiency as collecting weapons left behind on battlefields. Civilians were asked to contribute, or have confiscated, copper from stills and church bell bronze for guns. Citizens were called upon to conserve and donate the contents of chamber pots for making gun powder. Civil War arsenals would also make equipment for the horse cavalry and movement of large artillery. This would require innovative leadership and an array of skilled laborers, including saddlers and harness-makers as the equipment needs and availability of materials evolved over the course of the war.

Kenneth and Allen were apparently in the same places after their first duty together at Enterprise until the end of their first year of service. Duncan writes, “I am agent for the Yankee Terrors, the company which Allen is in from the beginning.” In February of 1862 Dunk would write  that he had received letters dated January 5, 1862 from Allen and Kenneth at Warrington and Pensacola, Florida, “they were tolerable well Kenneth was complaining of severe cold and cough Allen appears to stand the camp life pretty well.” Indeed, the 8th Regiment camped near Pensacola opposite Ft. Pickens, which was held at that time by the Union Army. The 8th Regiment was part of General Braxton Bragg’s forces. By May of 1862, they were on their way to Mobile, AL. At Chattanooga,TN they became part of General J. K. Jackson’s Brigade. In October of 1862 the 8th Regiment was stationed at Knoxville, TN. However, by July of 1862 Allen had served his year’s enlistment but did not immediately re-enlist in the 8th. According to Dunk’s letter of the same month, Allen was intending to join his younger brother John in the 46th Mississippi Regiment:

John joined a company (the 46th MS infantry) some

time since and was stationed at Meridian

Miss, on the Mobile & Ohio RR about 65

miles from home, Allen … thot he would

be better satisfied to be in the same

company with John and at the reorganization

of the company (8th) he would not suffer his name

to be run for the office which he held, it being third

Lieutenant, he … came

home and remained a short time and went

to the company which John was in as a private

I heard yesterday the Regiment had left

Meridian and gone to Vicksburg we will hear

in a day or two the certainty of it — Duncan McKenzie

Apparently, Allen either did not or could not join the 46th but returned to the 8th Regiment. I could find no records of his having been in the 46th. The next reference to Allen is in January of 1863. Dunk writes that Allen was not very well when he wrote on the third of December, just after the Battle of Murfreesboro, TN also known as Stones River, “he was not in the fight owing to ill health his company were engaged and out of 35 men who went into the fight there were five killed and seventeen wounded.” By the 14th of May 1863, Allen’s health had returned, “I received letters from Allen yesterday of different dates the latest date was April 28th he was well when he wrote and was expecting some lively times in that quarter before many days he wrote from Tullahoma, TN…” Meanwhile, Kenneth had been discharged from the Confederate Army, came home, and went directly to see John at Vicksburg. John was in ill health suffering from typhoid fever. He would recover to write his own account to his uncle of service at the Siege of Vicksburg during 1863.

According to fold3 records and a letter written by Dunk to his Uncle Duncan McLaurin in NC in 1866, Allen’s younger brother John, member of the Mississippi 46th Company H, was taken prisoner at the end of the siege of Vicksburg in 1863 but released after signing a loyalty oath. In spite of the oath, he returned to service in the Confederate forces and was captured again in 1864 at the Battle of Nashville. Since by this time prisoner exchanges had ended, he was held in prison at Louisville, Kentucky for a while but transferred to Federal Prison at Camp Chase, Ohio on January 2, 1865. By January 30 of 1865 he was dead of smallpox, pestilence being the greatest killer in the Civil War, especially in prisons. Dead despite the protective instincts of his older brothers, he is buried in the POW Cemetery with a marked headstone at the site of Camp Chase in Columbus, Ohio.

AMcKMurfprison
fold3 image

Several fold3 records indicate that Allen was on a list of prisoners taken after the Battle of Murfreesboro and paroled. However, a later record includes a note at the bottom cancelling the entry because his name did not appear “in the column of signatures.” The records also indicate that he was on the roster of Jackson’s Brigade in the Army of Tennessee, 8th Regiment of Mississippi Volunteers under General Braxton Bragg. The 8th participated in campaigns from Murfreesboro to Atlanta. Allen likely participated in the Battles of Tullahoma in June of 1863, Chicamauga in September of 1863 and the Chattanooga Siege in September and November of 1863. The 8th Regiment also served in the Battle of Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge after which they retreated towards Dalton, Georgia. At Dalton General Bragg relinquished command, and Jefferson Davis appointed Joseph E. Johnston to command the Army of Tennessee in the Atlanta campaign.

Confederate Veteran magazine in 1894 published a short account by Thomas Owens of Carlisle, KY. The account reveals the harsh punishments for desertion in the Confederate Army. Desertion had become rampant during 1864. Thomas says that at Dalton, GA he witnessed the execution of sixteen men, after being forced to parade before a gathering of their comrades. They were then tied to a cross at the head of their graves, blindfolded, and shot as examples. Commentary on the article implies that the execution account resembled one that happened earlier in the war at Jackson, MS just after the Siege of Vicksburg. It goes on to suggest that Joseph E. Johnston, beloved by his men, was only ever disparaged because he put men in uncomfortable stocks for long periods of time as discipline. The turn of the 19th to the twentieth century was a period of reconciliation between northern and southern whites, but publications of the period sometimes lent themselves to revisionist history.

AMcKEnterprise
fold3 image

By 1862 a substantial Confederate arsenal in Atlanta had been created from the Nashville facilities and by its workers after it was clear that Nashville, TN would fall into Union hands. The new arsenal was large enough to employ about five thousand workers. However, during the summer of 1864, General W.T. Sherman advanced on Atlanta. As Sherman approached, the arsenal was disbursed this time to Macon and Columbus, GA. “A. McKenzie” also appears on a Report showing “the disposition made of the Detailed Soldiers employed at Atlanta Arsenal upon the removal of same from Atlanta, taken from the return of hired men for July, 1864; Occupation Harness Maker; by whom detailed Gen. Johnston; Where and to whom transferred Retained Columbus, GA.” I don’t know how much time Allen spent at the arsenal in Columbus, GA, but I can speculate that serving in the arsenal would likely have been preferable to Allen than battlefield service and certainly an excellent reason for his surviving the war. He was by the outset of the war a skilled saddler and harness-maker. I have no evidence that he was engaged at Franklin or Nashville, but that is where the 8th Mississippi Regiment would deploy after the fall of Atlanta, by then under the command of General Hood. The 8th Mississippi Infantry surrendered at Greensboro, NC and was paroled on 26 April 1865.

The Army of Tennessee would have been divided into a number of increasingly smaller groups: corps, division, brigades. The regiments, smaller groups of men such as the 8th, would have been assigned to a brigade and so on. Evidence from fold3 records indicates Allen was on the roster, “of the Eighth Regiment of Mississippi Volunteers, Jackson’s Brigade, Walker’s Division, Hardee’s Corps, Army of Tennessee.” The loss of soldiers from disease or killed during a battle meant that one company might be absorbed by another in a different brigade. In the absence of direct evidence, it is impossible to do more than suggest where Allen most probably would have been during a particular moment of the war. The 8th Mississippi was present at the following conflicts: Murfreesboro (31 Dec 1862-3 Jan 1863), Tullahoma (June 1863), Chickamauga (19,20 Sept 1863), Chattanooga Siege (Sep-Nov 1863), Chattanooga (Nov 23-25, 1863) Atlanta Campaign (May-Sept 1864), Peach Tree Creek (20 July 1864) Atlanta (22 July 1864), Franklin (30 Nov 1864), Nashville (15-26 Dec 1864), Carolinas Campaign (Feb-April 1865) Bentonville (19-21 March 1865).

Allen Julia Mc Wed copy

Dunk writes his uncle in July of 1864, “I wish to hear from Allen & John and I fear we will hear bad news from some of the boys, may the kind ruler of the universe protect them and save them in eternity.” In six months, at the end of January 1865, John would be dead. Perhaps Dunk considered his prayers answered when Allen straggled home. Duncan describes his brother’s return in an 1866 letter, “worn down by hardships and ill health to almost a mere skeliton.” Allen did not waste time recovering. Home only months — perhaps even weeks — he married Julia A. Flowers in the house of her father on the 25th day of June 1865. The ceremony was performed by the Reverend Harvey Johnson. According to Dunk’s 1866 letter to his uncle, Allen was once again working successfully as a saddler and harness maker while holding an interest in his father-in-law’s property. At that time he and his wife were the parents of a newborn son, John Lafayette. Apparently, the same survivor instinct, luck, or having mastered a useful skill that kept Allen from harm during the war, served him well afterwards. He seems to have moved on to take control of his future.

JuliaFlowersMcK copy
Julia A. Flowers McKenzie (1843-1934)

By 1870, according to the Federal Census, Allen was farming in Copiah County in Townships 1 and 2 West of Rr. He is thirty-six and the value of real estate owned is five hundred dollars. His wife, Julia, is twenty-seven and keeping house. Their three children are John Lafayette age 4, Annie age 2 (She would live to be 98.), and Mary Etta “Mamie” barely a year old. They are living in the same area as Julia’s parents, Hardy L Flowers, who is farming, and wife Mary Ann Sharbrough Flowers. Hardy and Mary Ann’s daughter Martha J. is twenty and living at home. Living nearby is William Sharbrough age twenty-three, who is also farming.

Another relative likely living in the Hinds County area was George Augusta Sharbrough, a brother to Allen’s mother-in-law, Allen’s wife’s uncle. According to newspaper accounts, on January 25, 1877, G. A. Sharbrough had an encounter with Hardy L. Flowers and his son, Dr. Wiggins Flowers. Hardy L. Flowers was killed right away and Dr. Wiggins Flowers mortally wounded. Both victims are buried under the same headstone in Cayuga Cemetery in Hinds County, MS located just off the Natchez Trace. Allen’s wife’s uncle and perpetrator of this crime apparently died the same year and may have been buried in Bethesda Presbyterian Cemetery in Hinds County, MS, though no headstone remains. No known records or family stories have have surfaced among McKenzie or Flowers descendants, beyond the newspaper reports, that would shed light on the nature of the conflict or the circumstances of Sharbrough’s death. Neither news account gives any more detail about the incident, though reference to a cut on one of G. A.’s fingers might indicate a knife as the weapon.

FlowersMurder1877
“Proclamation.” The Clarion-Ledger. Jackson,MS.28 March 1877, Wednesday. 4. Newspapers.com. Accessed 27 August 2019.

A description of Sharbrough appeared in The Clarion-Ledger on Wednesday, March 28, 1877: “George A. Sharbrough is about 37 years of age; 5 feet, 9 inches high; light hair; small brown eyes; narrow between the eyes; long thin, bridge nose; thin, red beard; weighs about 135 pounds; florid complexion; small cut on middle finger of right or left hand.” This description, as did so many newspaper descriptions of 19th century criminals, probably emphasized features of the perp that would make him appear more sinister and dangerous. In reality, Sharbrough was a Civil War veteran, having been wounded in the leg during the war. Toward the end of the war, after surviving the horrific Battle of Franklin, TN, he was taken prisoner. From there he was sent to Louisville, KY then by January, according to fold3, on to Ft. Delaware, where he would have been incarcerated from January to June of 1865. A somewhat contradictory description of Sharbrough, from twelve years earlier, appears on his Oath of Allegiance upon his release from Ft. Delaware on June 14, 1865: “Place of residence Jasper Miss. Complexion light; hair dark Eyes grey; height 5 ft. 10 in. Remarks: Released June 14, 1865.” A note at the bottom of this document reads, “Name appears in Column of names as Geo A Sharbrough.”

It is likely that Allen knew G. A. Sharbrough very well. He was at Enterprise MS with the 8th Mississippi Regiment, Company D, at the same time Allen and Kenneth were deployed there. He must have fought in some of the same bloody battles as Allen, maybe more. Having no sound evidence of the root cause of his criminal behavior, we may speculate that, just as veterans today are sometimes afflicted with post traumatic stress syndrome, Civil War veterans must have been too and less likely to find treatment for it — even a decade later. Pain in his wounded leg may have driven him to drug dependency. Wiggins Flowers was by then a practicing physician and may have had those drugs at hand. Upon Sharbrough’s death he left a wife and children.

The murder of Allen’s father-in-law in 1877, widowed Mary Ann Sharbrough Flowers. Allen may have moved the family from Copiah County to the Cayuga property in Hinds County. According to the Federal Census of 1880, the Allen McKenzie family is living at Cayuga in Hinds County: Allen is forty-nine, wife Julia is thirty-seven, John Lafayette is thirteen, Annie is twelve, Mary Etta is eleven, Mattie is seven, Julia Flowers (Birdie) is four, and Hardy Duncan is two. Born the year of the 1880 census, Hugh Allen, youngest of Allen’s children, is not listed. This census also shows that Allen was born in North Carolina and Julia in Mississippi. It attests that both of Allen’s parents were of Scottish descent.

Julia McKenzie, Allen’s wife, would write many years later with gratitude that all of her children grew to adulthood. However, her two older sons would not reach their fortieth year and Hugh Allen would die at age sixty. By the 1900 Federal Census, Allen is sixty-nine, Julia is fifty-nine, Mattie is twenty-seven, Birdie is twenty-five, and Hugh Allen “Huey” is nineteen. The older children are not listed in the household. Allen is farming and Hugh Allen is working as a farm laborer. Mattie is a dressmaker and Birdie is in school. They are living in Hinds County Beat 3, Township 14 near Albert Stout, who is married to Mary Etta “Mamie” McKenzie; Albert and Mamie have children: Eliza Mae is eight, Ambrose L. is seven, Albert M. is five,Thomas H. is three, and Eunice B. is only three months. Albert and Mamies’ older children are at school and Ambrose is farming. Both Allen and Albert own their homes without mortgages. Annie is living in Utica, MS with her husband Charles Hubbard, Hardy Duncan is either attending business school in New Orleans or working as a merchant in Louisiana. John Lafayette, their firstborn, died in 1893.

A newspaper clipping of Cayuga news appearing in a Jackson newspaper in 1908 announces that Allen and Julia have recently returned from visiting their daughter Mamie Stout in Vicksburg. At some point after the 1908 clipping; Allen, Julia, and Birdie move to Warren County, Mississippi, where they are living in Vicksburg, likely on Farmer Street. Allen dies on January 22, 1910, only a few weeks after his son Hardy Duncan passes. Hardy Duncan dies in Vicksburg but has been living just across the Mississippi River in East Carol Parish, Louisiana operating a business. Hugh Allen travels to Louisiana to settle H.D.’s hand-written will in probate court. Though the illness that took both family members is unknown, the Vicksburg newspaper reports that Allen’s youngest son, Hugh Allen, is in from Louisiana and staying at a local hotel during the family illness and deaths. The Allen McKenzie family publishes a message of thanks for help and concern of neighbors in a March Hinds County newspaper after the January deaths. It is signed by Julia A., Birdie, and Hugh Allen.

Following this family tragedy, Hugh Allen helps his mother Julia buy a home at 1230 Second North Street, where she lives with her daughter Birdie until Julia’s death on August 1, 1934. The choice to stay in Warren County was probably precipitated by Mamie’s residence there as well as Julia’s sister Martha’s Flowers Lewis and family. Both Allen and Julia are buried in Hinds County at Cayuga Cemetery along with John Lafayette, Hardy Duncan, Mattie Hackler and her daughter Lucille (died in Paducah, KY), and Julia Flowers McKenzie “Birdie.” Julia’s parents, Hardy L. Flowers and Mary Ann Sharbrough and their son Wiggins, are also buried there as well as a few of Julia’s siblings.

Birdie lived until 1957, taking on boarders at the house on Second North Street from time to time. She worked as a seamstress at home. Her first cousin, Mary Lewis, boarded with her for about twenty years. During those years Mary Lewis worked as both a gift wrapper and a laundress. Birdie never married but enjoyed her brother Hugh Allen’s family who always seemed to be nearby. Following WWII Hugh Allen’s grown children Junius Ward and for a time Hardy Lee lived in Vicksburg. His son and namesake, Hugh Allen, Jr., lived in Vicksburg for a while and later located with his family to nearby Hinds County.

Mary Etta (Mamie) McKenzie Stout is buried in Cedar Hills Cemetery high on the hill a distance from Hugh Allen and his family but in the same cemetery. Annie McKenzie Hubbard, who was living an active life at age 96,  is buried with her family in Utica Cemetery. Allen’s daughter, Mattie, married Martin Hackler, who died in 1929. Martin and Mattie’s son Murray Alec Hackler, “Mike”, was working in Paducah, KY as a machinist in the busy Illinois Central Railroad Shop. Mattie and her grown daughter, Lucille, relocated to Paducah in the early nineteen-thirties, where the three resided until their deaths. Their first home there was an apartment on the 700 block of Jefferson Street where Mattie was step grandmother to Louise Lynn, whose mother, Lillian, had married Mike Hackler. Lucille worked at the Illinois Central Hospital in Paducah. Mattie died in 1946 at age seventy-four, Murray Alec in 1950 at age forty-six, and Lucille died in 1951 at forty-nine. Lillian provided the death certificate information at Lucille’s death. Both Mattie and Lucille were buried in the family burial plot at Cayuga, MS. Mike rests alone in the Maple Grove Cemetery in Paducah, not far from where he spent much of his adult life. His stepdaughter, Louise, gained local notoriety when she became one of the first group of military wives to be allowed to live in postwar occupied Japan with their husbands after WWII.

Allen’s youngest child, Hugh Allen “Huey” McKenzie, married Eddie Lou Lee of Canton, MS. Their children were Hardy Lee “HL”, Hugh Allen, Jr., Junius Ward “JW”, and Mae Louise, all buried at Cedar Hills Cemetery in Vicksburg with the exception of Hardy Lee, who is buried with his wife Edna Laminack in Greenlawn Memorial Gardens in Greenville, MS.  According to information dictated by JW McKenzie to his wife Emma Gene Haley, Hugh Allen, Sr.’s family had lived in a variety of places in and near Mississippi. Hugh Allen’s major work was farming, sometimes as a plantation supervisor. They lived in Panther Burn near Tribbett, MS when JW was born. In Rolling Fork they lived near the highway bridge on a high mound. The older boys enjoyed pushing JW down the hill in his baby buggy. Arcola, Mississippi; Alteimer, Arkansas; and Bourbon, Mississippi were other locations as well as New Gascony, Arkansas. The boys attended a private school at Lake Dick in Jefferson County, Arkansas.

In 1940 Huey died suddenly and the family relocated to Cleveland, MS, where Eddie Lou ran a boarding house. The three boys had been driving trucks and described driving through the Ozarks reportedly dropping cigarettes along the mountainous roads to a brother below. Despite the fact that the Prohibition amendment was not repealed officially in Mississippi until the 1960s, they hauled whiskey for their Uncle Johnny Lee, who had a store in Indianola, Mississippi. This trucking involved some risk. Once the truck was hijacked around Haiti, Missouri. Luckily, they were able to recover the empty truck the next day.

When WWII began the three brothers enlisted, each in a different branch of service: Hugh in the Army, HL in the Army Air Corps, and JW in the Marine Corps. All returned safely home at the end of the war, though this was a particularly trying time for Eddie Lou, having so recently lost her husband. The close family relationship is revealed in war letters home from JW and Hugh. After WWII and his recuperation at Charity Hospital from a tropical illness contracted during service in the South Pacific, JW first worked in construction but later became a member of the Vicksburg Police Department. His wife Emma Gene worked as a Registered Nurse. Middle brother Hugh Allen worked in road construction and at the same time became an astute and beloved horse trainer. His wife Joyce “Jackie” Haley worked for and retired from McRae’s Department Store. Hardy Lee became involved in Civil Defense activities, worked as a body shop mechanic, and later as an insurance appraiser and his wife Edna worked for the Bell Telephone Company as a switchboard operator. After retirement she indulged in her superb homemaking skills. Having served in the Army Air Corps, H.L. held a lifelong interest in aircraft. Mae Louise married Rex M. Anderson in the early nineteen-sixties, her second marriage. Mae Louise worked for a time alongside her mother and sister-in-law at the Vicksburg Infirmary. Rex and Louise Anderson had one child.

After Birdie’s death in July of 1957, JW renovated the house at 1230 Second North Street and moved in with his family in May of 1958. Moving day for me consisted of walking multiple loads of my possessions three houses down the street. Our family had lived at 1206, with my grandmother since about 1951. We lived joyfully and gratefully in “Aunt Birdie’s House” until 1968 when it was sold. Two of JW’s children currently reside in Vicksburg with their families. HL and his wife Edna Laminack lived in Vicksburg on Harrison Street before moving in the early sixties to Greenville, MS where they lived happily on Garden Drive until their deaths. Their daughter, who lived in Greenville for most of her life, resides today in Knoxville, Tennessee near her daughter and family. Hugh and his wife, Jackie Haley, and son lived in Jackson, Hinds County. Hugh passed in 1966 and Jackie in 2018. Hugh Allen, Jr.’s son remains in Hinds County with his family. His mother Jackie is also buried in Cayuga Cemetery. He has purchased burial plots in this cemetery and repaired Aunt Birdie’s headstone, ensuring the care of the cemetery, where his great grandfather Allen rests, for years to come.

I never knew my grandfather Hugh Allen but treasured two books given first to his daughter, Mae Louise, and then passed to me: The Story of the Trojan Horse and a book of Alfred Lord Tennyson poems appealing to children. My grandmother Eddie Lou McKenzie would, on some years, recall her husband’s death on Christmas Day of 1940. At those times she never quite enjoyed the holiday as much as the rest of us, though she threw herself into preparing excellent family dinners and a joyous gathering – always for her grandchildren.

The following are excerpts from letters written by the Duncan and Barbara McKenzie family to Barbara’s brother Duncan McLaurin in Laurel Hill, Richmond County, NC. The excerpts contain insights into the life of Allen McKenzie. According to his brothers, Allen wrote letters, but none of the letters he may have written to his Uncle Duncan have survived in the Duncan McLaurin Papers.

Quotations from letters referencing Allen McKenzie

1838-3DMcKDMcL – Danl has once more commenced the study of Latin under the instruction of a Mr Strong late principal of the Clinton Academy Hinds Co. Mi Joshua White and others of the neighborhood Succeeded in getting a school for Strong in 4 miles of me I procurd  a pony for Danl to ride, he is in class with Lachlin youngest Sone of Danl McLaurin and Brother to Dr Hugh Fayetteville of your acquaintance of yours ——– Danl tho 3 years from that study appears to have retained it tollerable well — Malcolm Carmichael, Squire Johns sone has a small school near my house Dunk Allan and Johny are going to him, he Malcolm came here early in January and took a small school worth say $20 per month —

1840-4DMcKDMcL – We have a school in our neighborhood taught by a Mr. Jones from Philadelphia, he is not a much learnd man but in reality he brings the children on the best and fastest of any teacher that I have seen, Allan reads well and writes a very fair hand for a boy of his age, John Boy will ere long be able to write you a letter he fancys he has seen you ——– Yours Duncan McKenzie

1841-6DMcKDMcL     I think Danl and myself will get through the corn in another week Allan and the two oldest of the black children are going a little after us we leave it perfectly clean, and Johny,, is Sowin pease ahead of the plows he Johny,, pains to know as much about his Uncle Duncan and Carolina as anyone on the place ———— Norman Camerons school is out he only engaged to teach three months he is as yet in the neighborhood also his brother John who has been Sick of chilling fevers, Peter has a school in Jones County he has also been sick of chills and fevers, I wish I could keep Norman as a teacher in our neighborhood, and perhaps the few remarks made in your letter may keep him

1842-12DMcKDMcL   The times are hard as to money but the boys will have their fun they have just come in from a swamp drive in which they caught a large wild boar the dogs captured him with ease

1845-3DMcKDMcL     In the next place Hugh, Dunk, Allan and the rest of us were busily engaged in getting off the cotton and finishing ginning this being done by the 8th Feby then preparation for the crop was necessary this being in progress and advancing    One day when we were busily engaged in log rooling your old Friend judge Duncan McLaurin came I was not surprised at seeing him as he is in the habit of visiting us occasionally but in the course of some time the old man remarked that he must now tell his business which was that he had come after one of the boys I told him they were scarce enough for myself now but the judge insisted I finally told him that there they were on which he turnd his address to Hugh who bluffd him at once he then addressd Dunk who askd him what he proposed giving the judge told him he could not promise him money but would give him eight Bales cotton on which they agreed Dunk will no doubt have a hard task to keep between 45 to 50 hands at work this the old man told me that he and his sone John would help Dunk all they could — Kenneth and Dunk being out of the crop Hugh Allan and the ballance of the folks will be at least busily engaged, we do not intend planting cotton this year but will try to make a bountiful crop of corn at least we will plant plentifully this will enable Hugh to devote some time to waggoning it being his favorite occupation and one by which he can make more than at anything else in the same length of

time

1846-2DMcKDMcL    on reaching home the boys were burning the bricks they made last fall the bricks being burnt I became head carryer to an old brick mason who has put up … of the chimneys and has the other in fair progress the boys are progressing slowly preparing for the coming crop

1847-9KennethMcKDMcL – tell Uncle John that I shot Daniels Spaniard gun and Duncans shot beat Buchannan I beat him I believe I am the best shot Allen killed a fine buck a few weeks since and a few days ago he killed a turkey over 200 yards then with gun

1849-5KennethMcKDMcL    Daniel is teaching school, stays at home, profitable business a great deal moreso than farming Duncan has taken to the farm and Allen they are able and strong plenty Hugh was down on the Bay of St. Louis tho now at home, he made some money, he thinks to return soon I am at nothing much yet what perhaps I am best fit for John is working away in the crop I had the blues like the D — C

1851-4KennethMcKDMcL     Daniel is teaching school has a tolerable good one I believe Mother enjoys perhaps better health than usual tho age and cares have left indelible marks on her general features John is grown weighs near as much as I do Daniel is the smallest of the tribe Allen is the largest strongest and swiftest.

1855-4KMcKDMcL  It is in anticipation of a painful future that I write this so soon after a letter written a short time since Mother is declining fast and from present appearances must soon be no more.her words are generally inarticulate. The sore on her mouth is progressing rapidly she is verry low, Miss Barbara Stewart was staying with her but went home to prepare for Presbytery held at Zion Seminary and has not returned since. John stays with her constantly using every effort to soothe her suffering Neighbors are generally kind in visiting — (Death of Barbara McLaurin McKenzie, Allen’s mother)

1856-12KMcKDMcL   By the solicitations of Allen and John and in compliance with the spirit of my own feelings I in response take my pen as the most interesting part of relatives letters is the intelligence of the condition of health I can say the family are all well Daniel not being heard from within the last week as perhaps you have learned lives in Rauleigh in an adjoining county was also well a few days ago… It being more expensive to keep two houses than one, the family consisting of the farming portions of the McKenzies, have moved together where I expect our house will be the home of all until a separation will take place by a marriage of some number of the family or until death will suspend terrestrial action.

1857-9KMcKDMcL     Allen is working at the saddlers trade with a young man named Isler giving him a decided advantage over him by giving him half the profit of their labour Isler is a good workman and an agreeable man, and Allen knew but little about work of that kind

1857-11KMcKDMcL     I have sold some land I was in need of some active capital to enable me to meet the demands and enable me to have a surplus to catch tricks with tho not enough to catch many if I go to Mexico I shall carry perhaps a thousand dollars which according to the statement of Morgan and Jesse Lott will buy from sixty to 75 horses or perhaps 100 head … This sheet appears soiled this morning I was at the lot gate looking at some sows and pigs all in peace and harmony when Allen came there and said that I had to gather up my ponies and leave a damned loafer I made him some evasive and perhaps insulting answer when he caught me by the hair and struck me several blows before I could extricate myself from him I have given him no reason for this abuse … I shall have him arrested I will not be treated in any such manner by him or any one else.

1858-3DMcKuncleDMcL    we are all at home this year that is Hugh, Allen, John, myself Kenneth is at work at the carpentering business how long he will continue I cant say I expect you have heard about the trouble he gave to Daniel in setting up the estate which is now wound up or nearly so — Daniel is living in Raleigh Smith County where he has been for some time, but is now living to himself keeping House I have seen him and Sarah his wife several times Since they were married and am glad to say when I get there I feel that I have as near a sister as I could have in a brothers wife there are a large conexion of the Blackwell family …  we have ofered our land for sale last winter at about $4 per acre there is about 960 acres in all but did not find any purchasers our land here is good enough and enough of it for us yet for some time but we cannot divide it agreeable if we can sell our land here we can get new land at a reasonable price in Smith County Daniel is very anxious for us to sell here and buy in Smith he has land enough for all of us for a while he bought 600 acres last fall for 2300 dollars and could sell it now for 3000 … I expect to go in a few days to New Orleans where I have never been yet, we are carrying on a sadler shop which gives us trouble to collect the material to work and we cannot get it here in the country and by going there I can get such things as we need at low rates

1858-5-16DMcKuncleDMcL    Allen got very badly hurt yesterday we were very busy in the field and Allen went to mill with the wagon and two yoke of oxen it was warm and the oxen contrary and fretful run the wheel over a log he was seting up on the sloop and fell off I fear fractured his hip joint he canot walk nor stand only on one foot,

1858-7DMcKuncleDMcL     Allen has got over his fall from the wagon I believe I told you how it happened

1859-9HughLMcKDMcL    We shall be hard pressed for money this winter owing to the high price of corn during the summer but if the price of cotton keeps up I think perhaps we can get through without much difficulty if we try, Daniel and Dunk trade too much and are both bad hands to collect, I will not trade on a credit nor collect for them if they never collect anything that is due them The country is generaly healthy consequently Daniel does very little practice although he done $5000 worth last year …  We have five hundred and fifty acres beside 94 that Daniel owns individually I will send you the plot of it there is about 40 acres in the hills the rest is all in Leaf River Swamp and not five acres but may be cultivated with very little draining we have about 50 acres cut and piled since we finished laying bye our crop that with the 40 acres that we cleared last spring is enough of open land for Daniel and Dunk the neighbors say they will never give Allen John and myself an equal interest with them in the place how they know I know not but time will determine the correctness of their Prophecy the Title was made to them by Damron. Say nothing about this land matter if anything is wrong I shall inform you

1859-12HughLMcKDMcL   Daniels little boy has been verry low with Typhoid Numonia but has nearly recovered his usual health … We have bought the place Taylorville from Daniel and his father in law for which we gave $5.00.00 It contains 2 acres of land a large and good store house grocery lot and stables cribs we then invoyesed the goods at New orleans cost for $2200,00 and I am now selling goods we have bought in Mobile $2000 00 worth more making in all over $4000 worth of goods and I am selling over $ 50 00 worth per day, how long it will I know not if it does last and we can collect we can make money … If Daniel and his wife is lucky there will be another added to their family shortly, and not long after that time Dunk may look for some additions in his family … Day after tomorrow John will find his lost rib in the person of a Miss Susan Duckworth and sister to Dunks wife I think though she is poor, John does very well, they Dunks wife and Johns intended has done all they could for Allen and myself, but it is no go I cannot marry any woman that will marry me because she can do no better how Allens case is I know not I think the same

1860-1KMcKDMcL    John is married to a sister of Duncans wife, your nephews are marrying smartly, Hugh Allen and myself still holds on I do not know how it is with Hugh and Allen tho as for myself my future is hidden in obliviousness

1860-8DMcKuncleDMcL      Daniels widow and children are well and bear their loss with Christian fortitude, I have been at her place but twice since Daniels death, Sarah came home with me and staid with us near two weeks and apeared to be verry cheerful, Allen has been living at Raleigh Since we moved to Smith Co he has a trade if you have heard he is a Sadler he has been at that business for four years and makes some money at it, Sarah has ample means to support her self and children with a little atention of her friends, Daniels business was very much scatered owing to his profession he never would push a settlement with any man and consequently he has many long standing claims tho mostly on good men … August the 25th On Sunday the 26th Rev A R Graves will preach the funeral of our deceased Brother at Raleigh which is 16 miles from Taylorsville I and probably all the family will be there, Parson Graves preached mothers funeral as I expect you heard

1861-9DMcKuncleDMcL    Allen and Kenneth is at Enterprise on the Mobile and Ohio RR about fifty miles from here and was on last accounts well with their friends from Smith County all generally well except the measles a greater portion of them have had before they left Home if the mail brings any news I will write again

1861-10DMcKuncleDMcL   I have just received a letter from Allen he says he is well but there is considerable sickness in the army where he is measles and camp fever is the disease which prey upon the poor soldiers mostly, it appears there is a scarcity of arms in this state particularly the Brigade which Allen is a member of has been in camps two months and they have not a single gun yet altho they have some knives Swords and pistols which was on hand and have been made by their friends and given to them, which I myself have made about fifteen good available knives and finished them of which cases Belts and c and given them to the soldiers others who could make has given or sold to them also, I write with ink which Martha made me out of some berries Shoe make berries I believe it does not write good

1861-10KMcKDMcL   I have for some time anticipated writing to you but an opportunity equal with the present not offering I have deferred to the present having embarked on the 30th day of July last as a private in a Company called True Confederates, and since the Regiment has been organized designated by the letter D which takes the 3rd position from Company A or the head of the regiment company B or the 2nd company take the extreme left, Company C the right Center and Company D the position on the right wing, the Brigade was formed and transferred on the 18th Inst to the Confederate Service containing near 1800 men of whom Eight have died Since the time of our encampment here, the measles have Scourged the citizen Soldiery heavily but all are now on the recovery, tho some linger yet, Allen and myself are well and have been with that exception incidental to a change into Camp life both of us having had measles years ago …  Allen is a Lieutenant in Company A in the same Regiment that I am

1862-2DMcKuncleDMcL     I am agent for the Yankee Terrors the company which Allen is in from the begining and now Kenneth has a transfer from the true confederates to the same company and I am also the agent for the Destitute wives of Volunteers comissioned by the Board Police which is a great trouble and not much profit to me or in fact I do know what alowance will be made for my services be it much or litle I think it a duty which some one has to attend to and I had as well do it as any one else there is a good many in this county women and children who are in a destitute condition as to Eatables and they must be suplied with enough to sustain life the legislature has thought proper to assess and colect 30 per cent on the state and county tax for the purpose of supporting the destitute women and children

1862-7DMcKuncleDMcL   it appears that Miss, is a subject for the Yankees to prey upon or has been for some time past and even now they are in large numbers on the Miss, River congregating in the vicinity of Vicksburg I am afraid to hear from them for fear that they will have to surrender the hill city of Mississippi to the vandal Hordes of Lincolns Hirlings there was great preparations making and made to defend the place and I really hope it will be done to the destruction of every house and everything else valuable on the soil of Mississippi John and Allen is both there I suppose from what I hear John joined a company some time since and was stationed at Meridian Miss, on the Mobile and Ohio RR about 65 miles from home, Allen has been in the service since last August and his time being near out he thot he would be beter satisfied to be in the same company with John and at the reorganization of the company he would not suffer his name to be run for the office which he held, it being third lieutenant, he got a dismissal and came home and remained a short time and went to the company which John was in as a privateI heard yesterday the regiment had left Meridian and gone to Vicksburg we will hear in a day or two the certainty of it

1862-7JMcKDMcLVburg     I got a letter from home a few days ago all were well Hugh Dunk and Allen are at home Kenneth is in Alabama near Pollard which is on the state line between Ala and Fla I heard from him a few days ago he was well, we are stationed five miles north East of Vicksburg

1863-1DMcKuncleDMcL     Allen was not verry well when last heard from on the 3rd Just after the Battle of Murfreesboro Tenn he was not in the fight owing to ill health his company were engaged and out of 35 men who went into the fight there were five killed and seventeen wounded, and of the 8th miss Reg 244 men went into the fight there was 25 killed and 121 wounded Some of them seriously and some slight, the Col which was a gentleman and well beliked in the Regiment was also wounded and I hear since dead He was the son of old Allen Wilkinson I think of your state

1863-5DMcKuncleDMcL      I received letters from Allen yesterday of different dates the latest was expecting some lively times in that quarter before many days he wrote from Tullahoma Ten

1864-6DMcKuncleDMcL    we received a letter from Hugh a few days since he wrote from Blue Mountain in north Alabama he is in a cavalry Regiment he was well when he wrote but knew nothing of the fight at Aalton (Altoona) or Richmond only they were fighting I wish to hear from Allen and John and I fear we will hear bad news from some of the boys, may the kind ruler of the universe protect them and save them in Eternity

1866-9DunkMcKDMcL    Allen returned home from the war worn down by hardships and ill health to almost a mere skeleton, but has married since the surrender and has a fine boy two months old he is living about 12 miles distant from me, he is carrying on his trade as Sadler and Harness Maker also has an interest in his father in law’s farm.

1867-2DMcKuncleDMcL     Allen and I have been separate with our interest about 14 months or nearly so and on making a final settlement on the 1st day of March we agreed to blend our little concerns again together and try our luck as here to fore as we have passed the best and happiest and youthful days together and have succeeded in making an honest living we have, thot, we still could do so, it is a pleasure for me to think that our fathers estate was subject and in my hands from the time of his death which has been twenty years and twenty-five days and when a brother wishes to draw out he was satisfied with my account, you know the number in family at first and last, and as there is only myself and Allan who can see each other we will live nearby again, I should have excepted K as he is odd and not like the others I hope he, K, will do well and do beter than to return to Mississippi, if Kenneth would do like a brethren should do, I would like to see him but I know him so well that the feeling which should always be in a Brothers Bosom vanishes from his verry often he has always claimed after an arbitration a balance portion of all other effects which was left.

1867-4DMcKuncleDMcL       Allen received a letter from Kenneth a short time since which I have not seen but suppose he, K, is not doing very well he stated he is out of money and out of employment but he is young with a young wife consequently he need not fear as all young people has to make a beginning and now is his time for Honey Moon, he will live on the interest of his lawsuits if he could be his own Judge Court and Jury he would yet be vastly rich, but it would have to come very fast, or it would be spent as fast as gained

Letters written from Mississippi to Duncan McLaurin in Richmond County, NC. Boxes 1 and 2. Duncan McLaurin Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscripts Library, Duke University. Transcribed by Betty McKenzie Lane.

Other Sources:

“A Card of Thanks.” Hinds County Gazette. Raymond, MS. 4 March 1910, Friday. 2. Accessed 5 March 2017. newspapers.com.

Allen McKenzie and Julia Flowers Marriage Certificate. 25 June 1865.

“Application for Pension: Allen McKenzie by Julia A. Flowers McKenzie.” Form #3a. Mississippi Office of the State Auditor Series 1201: Confederate Pension Applications, 1889-1932. Mississippi Department of Archives and History. 243, 244, 246.

Bridges, Myrtle N. Estate Records 1772-1933 Richmond County North Carolina. Hardy-Meekins. Book II. “Effy McLaurin will – October 1861. Brandon, MS Genealogy Room.

Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Mississippi. NARA M269. National Archives 586957. Record Group 109. Roll 0171. Eighth Infantry, L-O. Allen McKenzie. 29. 1861. Accessed 23 May 2016. https://www.fold3.com/image/72253862, 72253865, 72253868, 72253871, 72253875, 72253878, 72253881, 72253889, 72253892, 72253895, 72253897, 72253900, 72253903, 72253906, 72253908, 72253911, 72253915, 72253924, 72253927, 72253930, 72253934, 72253938. George Augusta Sharbrough 70190409, 70190340, 70190361.

“Cayuga.” Hinds County Gazette. Raymond, MS. 19 June 1908, Friday. 5. Accessed 31 May 2017. newspapers.com.

County Tax Rolls, 1818-1902, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, accessed June 20, 2017, http://www.mdah.ms.gov/arrec/digital_archives/taxrolls/

“Eighth Regiment, Mississippi Infantry.” Family Search Wiki. https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/8th_Regiment,_Mississippi_Infantry. Accessed 25 August 2019. Updated 1 September 2018.

Faust, Patricia L. ed. et. al. “Gorgas, Josiah.” Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War. Harper Perennial. 1986. 316.

Graham, David. “History of the 8th Mississippi Infantry Regiment.” 2008-2019. Wikitree. https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Space:8th_Mississippi_Infantry_Regiment. Accessed 26 August 2019.

“Hardy L. Flowers’ Murderer Escapes.” “Proclamation.” The Clarion Ledger. Jackson, Mississippi. 28 March 1877, Wednesday. 4. Accessed 16 September 2017. newspapers.com.

Howell, H. Grady, Jr. For Dixie Land I’ll Take My Stand!: A Muster Listing of All Known Mississippi Confederate Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines. [Madison, Miss]: Chickasaw Bayou Press, 1998.

Landin, Mary Collins. “Cayuga Cemetery” and “Bethesda Presbyterian Church Cemetery.” The Old Cemeteries of Hinds County, Mississippi From 1811 to the Present. Hinds History Books: Utica, MS. 1988. 186-192.

Johnson, Robert Underwood. Battles and Leaders of the Civil War: Retreat with Honor Vol IV. Castle: Secaucus, NJ. 1889. 290. “The Struggle for Atlanta.” 293-344.

McPherson, James M. Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. Oxford University Press: New York. 1988. 319.

“Murder of Hardy L. and Wiggins Flowers.” The Yazoo Herald. Yazoo City, MS. 2 Feb 1877, Friday. 2. Accessed 21 July 2019. newspapers.com.

National Park Service. U.S. Civil War Soldiers, 1861-1865 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2007. Original data: National Park Service, Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System, online <>, acquired 2007. Year: 1850; Census Place: Covington, Mississippi; Roll: M432_371; Page: 309B; Image: 207. https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&db=1850usfedcenancestry&h=3391941.

“Ninety-six Years Young.” Clarion-Ledger. Jackson, MS. 17 March 1964, Tuesday. 14. Accessed 3 June 2017. newspapers.com.

“Overview: Horse equipment in the Civil War.” confederatesaddles.com. Updated 13 January 2018. Accessed 12 September 2019.

“Penalties For Desertion.” Confederate Veteran. Volume II. 1894. 235.

United States Federal Census. Year: 1850; Census Place: Covington, Mississippi; Roll: M432_371; Page: 309B; Image: 207. Allen McKenzie

United States Federal Census. Year: 1860; Census Place: Smith, Mississippi; Roll: M653_591; Page: 353; Family History Library Film: 803591. Allen McKenzie

U.S. IRS Tax Assessment Lists, 1862-1918 for Allen McKenzie. ancestry.com. U.S. IRS Tax Assessment Lists, 1862-1918 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008. Original data: Records of the Internal Revenue Service. Record Group 58. The National Archives at Washington, DC.

Sheehan-Dean, Aaron. Concise Historical Atlas of the U.S. Civil War. Oxford University Press: New York. 2009. 66-67.

Sifakis, Stewart. Compendium of the Confederate Armies. FactsOnFile. “160. Mississippi 8th Regiment Infantry.” Index of soldier’s rank, regiment, and company.

Thayer, Bill. “Atlanta Arsenal: History.” Last modified by John Stanton 16 April 2019. Accessed 12 September 2019. http://www.fortwiki.com/Atlanta_Arsenal.

United States Federal Census. Year: 1870; Census Place: Townships 1 and 2 west of RR, Copiah Mississippi; Roll: M593_727; Page: 212A; Family History Library Film: 552226. Allen McKenzie.

United States Federal Census. Year: 1880; Census Place: Cayuga, Hinds, Mississippi; Roll: 648; Page: 255B; Enumeration District: 010. Allen McKenzie.

United States Federal Census. Year: 1900; Census Place: Beat 3, Hinds, Mississippi; Page: 16; Enumeration District: 0064; FHL microfilm: 1240809. Allen McKenzie

U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995. Vicksburg, Mississippi, 1929. Ancestry.com.U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: ancestry.com Operations, Inc, 2011. Julia McKenzie (wid Allen) h1230 2d N.

Wert, Jeffry D. “Arming the Confederacy.” Historynet. accessed 25 August 2019. https://www.historynet.com/arming-the-confederacy.htm. Originally published in the January 2007 issue of Civil War Times.

Year: 1860; Census Place: Smith, Mississippi; Roll: M653_591; Page: 353; Family History Library Film: 803591. https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll? indiv=1&db=1860usfedcenancestry&h=38861910.

Duncan C. McKenzie (1826-1878): Nineteenth Century Mississippi Farmer

DuncanMcKLoyaltytoUSGovt
Duncan C. McKenzie signed a loyalty oath to the United States government in August of 1865, very soon after the Civil War ended.

During the Civil War in May of 1863 as federal troops are weeks away from the Siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi, Duncan McKenzie writes to his Uncle Duncan:

I have heard by a courier

that the Yankees are advancing in large force on Jackson

how they will succeed a few days will determine probably

they will fall back to their gun Boats if not a fight

will decided the fate of Mississippi, Great God, uncle

what an age we live in did I think I should ever

live to witness Such Slaughter and Blood Shed,

the planters on the River are moving their negroes East

there has been not less than five hundred passed here in the

last two or three days with a few white families for protection — Duncan C. McKenzie

In his letters Duncan evokes optimism at the beginning of the war that transitions into despair and dread as his youngest brother and other family members endure the fighting at Vicksburg. Though his job as Postmaster at Taylorsville in Smith County protected him from service in the Confederate Army, he would witness war horrors in his community and during the Reconstruction period, all the while evolving into a representation of the embittered southerner of the postwar years. The legacy of this too-common bitterness continues into the 21st century.

Duncan McKenzie, fourth son of thirty-three year old Barbara McLaurin and Duncan McKenzie, was born in 1826. At the time of his birth the family was farming on property near the Pee Dee River in North Carolina within visiting distance of Barbara’s family. His older brothers were Kenneth, Hugh, and Daniel. His younger brothers were Allen and John, the only brother to have been born in Mississippi. Duncan had an older sister Catharine, who died at age twelve in Richmond County, North Carolina and a younger sister who was born and died in Mississippi at a year of age.

Perhaps having read for years of the rich fertile Mississippi Territory, a state since 1817, and now completely opened to white settlers after the Native American removal under President Andrew Jackson, the family left their farm in North Carolina. They arrived in Covington County in January of 1833 after a forty-five day journey. Young Dunk’s father may have not only read the local news of opportunities in the West, but had likely heard success stories from family and friends, earlier migrants. That first year Duncan McKenzie, Sr., Duncan’s father, shared rental property with Duncan McBryde and Allen Johnson, who arrived in Covington County, MS at the same time. The families were welcomed by long-time friend, Allen Stewart, and rented property very near the Stewart farm.

By 1836 Dunk’s father requested brother-in-law, John McLaurin, in NC to choose a good, large rifle from a reputable dealer to send for his boys to use. The boys spent a great deal of time in the pine forests of the area. However, their father worries that he will not be able to educate his children. Hugh Trawick, their guide on the road from North Carolina to Mississippi, becomes their first teacher in their new home. The community provided a simple structure in a convenient location to serve as a schoolhouse. Though a teacher could not be counted on to stay permanently, the boys managed to acquire literacy. Duncan was nearly eight when the family arrived in Mississippi, so he may have had some formal schooling under his uncle’s tutelage in North Carolina. By 1838 an acquaintance, Malcolm Carmichael had a small school nearby, which the youngest boys, including Duncan, attended. Duncan would not seek further education as did his brother Daniel. Managing a farm became Duncan’s life.

By 1838 the family paid taxes on land at Dry Creek that increased in acreage and value through 1843. In 1841, according to the Covington County Tax Rolls, Duncan’s father had entered land ownership in Township 9-N Range 17-W, near Williamsburg, though they used the Jaynesville Post Office or Dry Creek as an address. The family seemed to work as hard as anyone on the place raising corn, potatoes, oats, wheat, peas, and cotton. Young Dunk was not the largest of the six McKenzie boys but made up for it in energy, stamina, and competitive will. His father bragged on his ability to pick more cotton than anyone on the farm. In 1840 when Duncan is about fourteen, his father brags, “Dunk when in good humor can pick out 250 lbs (cotton) per day.” Several years later he says again, “Dunk can pick verry fast when in good order he can pick as much as any other if the other will be by him.” By 1846 the family owned eight slaves, one by the name of Ely Lytch (Leitch or Leech), who may have come with them from North Carolina or might have been sent later. Evidence exists that Dunk’s NC uncle knew Ely Lytch by another name. Though work on the smaller farms was probably shared by everyone on the place, the enslaved workers surely had little investment in the success of the farm beyond their own survival. Of all the boys, Dunk is rarely mentioned as being “out of the fields” unless he is working in someone else’s.

Apparently, Dunk’s father was a cautious man when it came to overextending himself financially. For this reason, he probably did not seek to purchase any more human chattel than he needed on the farm. A small farm such as the McKenzie’s was worked with a large amount of shared labor and only eight enslaved people; whereas, a plantation such as that of their close neighbor, Judge Duncan McLaurin of Simpson County, worked forty or more slaves and probably required more organization and task management skill. It is possible that on the smaller farm relationships between enslaved people and owners were much more familiar and perhaps more congenial, to the extent that was possible in a master-slave relationship. When, in 1845, Judge Duncan visits the McKenzies looking for one of the McKenzie brothers to help oversee his plantation, Hugh knows at once he is not interested. On the other hand, nineteen-year-old Dunk likes the prospect of earning eight bales of cotton for his services. Judge Duncan and his son John promise to help Dunk. His father describes the encounter:

the old man (Judge Duncan McLaurin), remarked that he must

now tell his business which was that he had come after one

of the boys I told him they were scarce enough for myself now

but the judge insisted I finally told him that there they were

on which he turnd his address to Hugh who bluffd him at once

he then addressd Dunk who askd him what he proposed giving

the judge told him he could not promise him money but

would give him eight Bales cotton on which they agreed

Dunk will no doubt have a hard task to keep between

45 to 50 hands at work this the old man told me that he

and his sone John would help Dunk all they could — Duncan McKenzie, Sr.

Dunk was probably ill-prepared for the problems he would face on the much larger farm and with a much larger labor force. His time at Judge Duncan’s did not work out well. It seems two of the laborers gave Dunk some trouble. The Judge’s son shot one of the enslaved people, probably “rendering him useless.” He also shot at another, but the man ducked out of the way just in time. Dunk was advised to quit his job there since his life could be in danger. This must have been quite a lesson for Dunk. Even after he was ultimately in charge of running a farm on his own, he never managed more than nine enslaved people and some of them were children. His father expresses some relief at Dunk’s quitting this venture.

Duncan’s father passed in1847 during an epidemic of typhus, which also took the life of two enslaved people on the farm. Kenneth writes,“at the time of his (Duncan McKenzie’s) dissolution Jonas the oldest of Hannahs children was lying dead in the house he died on the same night at 9 o’clock on the 15th of January Ely, the negro Father bot of John C. McLaurin, known to you as Archd Lytch died.” Their father’s death comes while Dunk’s brother Daniel is away with General Quitman and the Covington County Boys at the Battle of Vera Cruz in the Mexican War. One Covington County member of the group dies, William Lott. Others are injured but not seriously; all endure illness. An account of the experience of the Covington County Boys can be found in Daniel’s letter to Duncan McLaurin from the Duncan McLaurin Papers cited in the post, “Daniel McKenzie and the Mexican War.”

It must have been left to Duncan and his brothers to maintain the Covington County property in a kind of shared ownership after their father’s death in 1847. Likely it was Duncan, Hugh, and Allen who did most of the farm work as Daniel spent much of his time teaching and Kenneth dabbled in politics, other trades, and ventures. Kenneth owned and lived on his own property according to the 1850 Federal Census for Covington County. In the same census, Duncan is working as a farmer and living in the household of his mother Barbara McLaurin McKenzie. His youngest brother John was only seventeen that census year and had attended school within the year.

The family dynamic had drastically changed after Duncan’s mother, Barbara, passed in 1855. By 1857 Barbara’s sons had purchased, probably for the first time on their own, an enslaved man then exchanged him for a nine year old boy. Kenneth reports that this exchange has earned them one hundred dollars. Kenneth also comments upon his “Fathers stock,” letting us know that those enslaved persons held by his father at his death, remain with the family. This includes “Cely the woman he brot from Carolina” and her child who is old enough to be ploughboy; Miles, one of Hannahs children; and Elly’s children — Isaac, Ivy, and Caroline. Within a year, Cely has become ill and is not expected to recover. In March of 1858, Duncan writes his uncle that they will sell their land in Covington, County in order to purchase land in Smith County:

we have ofered our

land for sale last winter at about

$4 per acre there is about 960 acres in all

but did not find any purchasers our land

here is good enough and enough of it for us

yet for some time but we canot divide

it agreeable if we can sell our land here

we can get new land at a reasonable price

in Smith County — Duncan C. McKenzie

Duncan is also involved in mule speculation. He explains to his uncle that, “a Texas mule drover came along about the first of February.” Duncan and a neighbor bought 14 three-year-old mules for 70 dollars each. They sold five of them for $570 dollars and hope to sell the others for about $95 dollars each. Duncan also ordered a gold pen from New Orleans. These are signs that the family is becoming a bit more successful, or is at least taking greater risks to achieve success, before the outbreak of war.

It was after Daniel’s marriage into the well-propertied Blackwell family of Smith County in 1858 that the remaining brothers are encouraged by Daniel to sell the Covington land and purchase property in Smith County near Daniel. In the 1860 Census for Smith County, MS, Duncan was the head of household and had one child, Barbara E., four months old. His brothers Hugh and John were living with him, John with his wife Susan, sister to Duncan’s wife Martha Duckworth. A farm laborer from Alabama, Malvary Johnson, is also listed in the household. Duncan has real estate worth two thousand dollars and personal property worth two thousand five hundred.

On the eve of the Civil War, Hugh is a merchant and living and working on the property his wife’s deceased husband had left; Kenneth, unmarried, is living with a friend and working at carpentry; Allen is single and a saddler; John is married to Susan, the younger sister of Dunk’s and Hugh’s wives respectively Martha Duckworth and Sarah Duckworth Keys. Duncan had been elected Postmaster at Smith County. Possibly this was a calculated move, so that one person would be home to tend the farm for the duration of the war – Postmasters were exempt from conscription.

Duncan and John had joined the Baptist Church by the time the Civil War began. Daniel and Sarah Blackwell McKenzie were members of the Methodist Church. Dunk’s uncle is sending him copies of the North Carolina Presbyterian publication, which he appreciates very much:

I received the North Carolina Pres

-byterian which I find verry interesting

reading in those leters from Scotland

is first looked after, on the receipt of

the paper, I think it probable there will be

some new subscribers from this neighborhood — Duncan C. McKenzie

Dunk comments later that he has been to hear preaching about two miles away by the Presbyterian preacher, Reverend Mr. King. Dunk gave Mr. King two copies of the North Carolina Presbyterian to look over. Reverend King enjoyed the magazine very much but was already taking a number of other religious papers. Dunk continues by commenting on the papers he and his brothers read, “I like to peruse it (North Carolina Presbyterian) very well as I do not take any paper tho there is two or three sheets comes to the other boys.” Dunk’s opinion of the Presbyterian magazine is likely improved by the fact that a distant relative of his edits the paper from Fayetteville, NC. The relative is John McLaurin (B family), son of Neill McLaurin. Neill was a cousin of his uncle’s who came to America on the same ship in 1790 — Uncle Duncan age four, Cousin Neill about age seven.

By 1858 the railroads, initially brought about by the timber industry, have become a common method of transportation and valuable to farming and merchandising families in the area. Dunk tells of a trip he took with Daniel’s father-in-law, R. G. Blackwell. Evidently, the two families are growing closer since the birth of Sarah and Daniels’ son, John Duncan. Dunk and R. G. Blackwell take a buggy to the train depot  at Brookhaven to catch the train to New Orleans. The horse founders, so they exchange it for one of Dunk’s horses. All is well until their return trip when the buggy strikes a stump sending the horse in a panic carrying the broken buggy. Luckily, no one was badly hurt. Dunk also mentions a wagon accident in which Allen is injured. Though the injury to his leg at first appears significant, he soon recovers.

CattleDisease
Vicksburg Whig 15 September 1858

Duncan also reports in each letter the condition of their crops and the impact of the weather. In the fall of 1858 the cattle and deer are dying of the same disease, which he names Black Tongue. He says the buzzards are also dying from eating the carcasses. This Black Tongue event in Mississippi is well-documented in the local Mississippi newspapers of 1858.

The summer of 1860 brought dry weather that damaged crops in south Mississippi. In the midst of the drought, Dunk’s older brother Daniel, weakened by previous illness, did not survive his fight against typhoid fever. He died on July 13, 1860, leaving his wife Sarah, a son, and an infant daughter. In August Dunk reassures his uncle that Daniel’s wife Sarah is able to take care of herself and children since she has extensive family connections. Still, Daniel has not been efficient at collecting his physician debts, though Dunk says the people who owe him are reliable. He mentions that his McLaurin cousins from Hinds and Rankin Counties have not visited. The Reverend A. R. Graves of Zion Seminary preaches Daniel’s funeral as he had Barbara’s. Daniel had been a teacher at the school for a short time. Apparently Dunk’s uncle had been visited by A. R. Graves on a trip to North Carolina. Dunk says Graves is not one to distribute community news, “he is not a man to get much information from concerning neighborhood news Politicks Religion and Rail Roads is his theme.”

GSIRR
This article appeared in the January 9, 1861 issue of the Vicksburg Whig, apparently just in time for the outbreak of war, ending the venture for some years. It would be 1887 before actual work on the railroad would become a reality. The line eventually ran through nearby Jones County. Duncan would not live to see the existence of this much anticipated GSIRR railroad line.

Dunk himself is optimistic about the building of the Gulf and Ship Island railroad through their section of Mississippi. The war will intervene, but evidently Dunk and many others are less concerned that a long and costly war will soon transform their lives:

Directors are making

much noise about it (the railroad) Holding meetings and

Barbacues and Speakings, there is about 300,000

Dollars subscribed and as soon as they get

200,000 more the work will be commenced So they

Say, I have not much doubt but we will in

five years from this date Hear the iron Horse

neighing through these fine forests it will be

a great thing if it will civilize some of our

citizens — Duncan C. McKenzie

The “uncivilized citizens” Dunk references here is explained in the letter. Dunk tells the story of a man, probably not a property owner, that he hired without contract to sink a well. When the work was done, Dunk offered him two dollars a day and provisions from his store. The man said he was in need and Dunk’s prices were too high. Dunk called him a liar and not to repeat the insult, but he did. He “gathered his gun” and continued the abusive language, but Dunk produced his own weapon. The incident ended in a standoff during which apparently no one acted foolishly. Dunk says, “Dear Uncle I never want to be placed in such a situation again for why I did not kill him I know not or he kill me there was no one near us that I know of … I have tried to live at peace with the world and in the fear of an allwise being which Directs my hand.” Dunk’s father also expressed this prejudice against an unpropertied class of whites — that they were not generally reliable workers because they worked as “Hirelings” or for someone else. Dunk would use the expression “Lincoln’s Hirelings” during the coming war in reference to federal troops, many of whom he assumed did not work the land.

On the 9th of January 1861, Mississippi became the second state to secede from the Union, citing slavery as the cause: “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery — the greatest material interest of the world.” Ft. Sumter was surrendered to the Confederates on April 13, 1861. Though not every Mississippian had supported secession, war had begun.

Dunk remembers little of his Aunt Effy except that she was his mother’s favorite sister. Effy, who never married, died on July 31,1861, leaving her property to Barbara’s living children and Daniel’s two. Her property is in the form of slaves, people who are sold to provide monetary inheritance. There is no evidence that anyone but Kenneth ever receives the monetary inheritance. However, the record of her will is evidence today of the family connection.

By September of 1861 the drought that abated that season in Mississippi has come to North Carolina. Dunk describes a wind and rain that leaves the cotton dirty and difficult to clean but other crops are doing quite well, especially the peas they planted in their recently cleared Leaf River Swamp land. In spite of the Yankees coming into possession of Ship Island when General Twiggs of Mexican War fame gave it up due to his lack of “guns of long range,” Dunk maintains his optimism, especially since their crops are thriving:

So I think Lincoln will have to wait for another dry year before

he starves the people of Southern

States with his pretending Blockade and

Hordes of Hirelings, — Duncan C. McKenzie

Early in the war when weapons for the soldiers were few and manufactured goods from northern factories were scarce, Duncan made knives and leather scabbards for his brothers and other soldiers. Martha cleverly made ink from berries with which Duncan wrote some of his letters. In September of 1861 Allen and Kenneth were both deployed to Enterprise, MS with the “Yankee Terrors” and “True Confederates” from Smith County respectively. At Enterprise many in their encampment were ill and dying, especially of the measles. Both of Dunk’s brothers and a number from Smith were safe from the disease having survived it as a childhood infection. Since childhood illnesses did not spread as quickly in remote and rural areas, many remained susceptible to the disease. When gathered in close quarters in large numbers under stressful conditions, vulnerable soldiers were doomed to perish of disease in the course of the war.

By October Duncan, as Postmaster in Smith, does not appear to worry about the cost rise on letters traveling over five hundred miles that has been imposed by the Confederate government. At this moment in the war, Hugh and John remain on the farm. Hugh is working land that once belonged to his wife Sarah’s deceased husband. John works the property the family purchased in Smith along with Duncan. In this first year of the war, Duncan remains optimistic about the railroad too:

Hugh is on his farm and has a tract of valuable

land which he came in possession of by marriage

John is on the farm which we bought when

we moved from Covington Co., it certainly is

worth as much as any land in this Section

of the country and Sales have been made and

is now making for $12.50cents per acre John Allen &

myself has near 600 acres of that quality of

land and Hugh has four eights of about the

same quality besides we have 440 acres in Cov

Co yet which lies on the Survey of the Gulph and

Ship Island Railroad we have our hands

full at this time we owe some money. — Duncan C. McKenzie

The fact that they owe money will be Dunk’s financial downfall at the end of the war and a significant source of his deep bitterness. Even though he signs a loyalty oath to the United States government at the end of the war, he is never able to overcome his debts, admittedly and mostly from the purchase of slaves, to make a real profit on farming under the Reconstruction government or after.

Duncan is also telling his uncle that no one is able to meet his request for one of the nephews to come to North Carolina to help him carry on his business and care for his family in his old age. Though Dunk says he will if he can wind up business, he would rather have his Uncle live with them in Mississippi, for there is plenty of room. Of course, his uncle has much too much family responsibility and business in North Carolina to ever leave.

Once more Dunk reveals optimism regarding the war news, which he apparently gets from the telegraph that may be installed at the Post Office. Once again Dunk appears to discount the loss of the Confederate hold on Ship Island:

the war is progressing very well

for our Side or at least it apears so from rumor

and publications, we have another splendid victory

at leesburg stated confederate loss 300 federal

loss 300 killed and 300 drowned in crossing the potomac

according to Telegraphic statements, before this you

have heard of the route (rout) of the yankee Blockading

Squadron at the mouth of the Mississippi

river it was a complete surprise on their part — Duncan C. McKenzie

In January of 1862 Dunk writes his uncle with some trepidation since he has not heard from him in a while. He mentions the scarcity of essentials, “we all are scarce of meats coffee & salt as for the mater of sugar and molases it is not so high priced here as you speak of with you.” Goods such as sugar, processed nearby, can be obtained from the source, avoiding speculator’s prices. However, bacon and pork that are raised nearby carry a hefty price. The weather is unusually warm for January and unfavorable for storing meat. Dunk was able to get a quantity of leather before the speculators bought it all. A trip to Jackson is planned, where he will purchase not only sugar and molasses but factory thread for low cost at the penitentiary. The penitentiary at Jackson, known as “The Walls,” opened in 1840 on the site of the present day new Capitol Building. The prison had become a manufacturer of “course-cotton fabrics, bale rope and hemp, and cotton bagging for mechanical trades.”  Dunk says, “I will get it (thread) out of the penitentiary if it has not risen at $1.00 one dollar for Bunch.”

With a good new gin the family is selling cotton as the only way they can pay their debts. Dunk hints at the presence of subversive forces in the area, “Keeping it (cotton) even in the seed on the account of fire, one cant tell who is his friend in such times as these.” This is the first allusion perhaps to the Confederate deserters, whose numbers would grow. Deserters and people who had escaped slavery would eventually hide out in nearby Leaf River swamp very near the McKenzie property. Slaveholders’ property would become a target of much mischief.

Apparently, enslaved people in North Carolina are being hired or “let” without any compensation to the owner except that food and clothing are provided by the one hiring. The hiring out of people by owners had been an element of slavery for a century or more, and it continued during the Civil War. For example, Stephen V. Ashe writes an account in A Year in the South: 1865 of one Louis Hughes and his wife, enslaved people from the McGehee Plantation in Missississippi who are hired to work as a butler and cook for Benjamin Woolsey at the Salt Works in Clarke County, Alabama in 1863. The account is taken from plantation records, correspondence, and Louis Hughes’s own account. Many enslaved people were hired out as laborers in the Clarke County salt works, important to the Confederacy. Slave renting from plantation to plantation was common. During the war Dunk says he wishes he could find labor in Mississippi at only the cost of their upkeep:

you speak of negroes being hired or let for their

victuals and clothes I wish I could get some in

that way negroes is hiring here for from $75 to

$200 Dollars victualed clothed and tax and

Doctorbill paid thus a farmer canot make

the money by his or their labor to pay for

them making cotton and corn but not with stan-

ding they for the sake of a negro to wait on them

will promise unreasonable amounts — Duncan C. McKenzie

Dunk references a class prejudice here held by the struggling small farmer, whose laborers were all needed in the field against those who had been able to pay high prices for household laborers.

In his war news Duncan also alludes to a diplomatic crisis now known as the Trent Affair. The U.S. took into custody two Confederate diplomats, John Slidell and James M. Mason, from aboard the RMS Trent. The two were aboard the British vessel on a diplomatic mission to the United Kingdom and France seeking support for the Confederacy. A rupture in relations between the United States and the United Kingdom was averted after a few weeks when the U. S. government released the two to continue their mission. The Confederate mission failed. The United States maintained their friendly status with the United Kingdom, and no European country ever recognized the Confederacy. However, at first the event gave the South some reason to hope as Dunk expresses, “Queen Victoria has issued her proclamation for the confederate commissioners to be placed on the deck of a British vessel and ample apologies for the seizure of Meason and Slidell or we (the UK) will Blockade their Ports verry soon may it be so.” It wasn’t so.

Duncan begins a February letter describing the call in Mississippi for ten thousand new recruits to serve for sixty days. Those who answered the call were sent to Bowling Green, KY but returned home without a fight. Typhoid fever then took its toll on the recruits, “12 out of 64 which left this place … were put out of the trouble and tumult of this time of trouble.” Another call for twenty companies to serve a year did not bring enough volunteers to make a company, and Duncan fears a draft. Allen and Kenneth are well and in Warrenton and Pensacola, Florida with their companies.

Duncan reports little fighting in Mississippi, though he does relate an incident that happened on the coast, a revealing story about enslaved people taking refuge with the Union Army. Evidently, the owner and three enslaved people were moving some cattle on the mainland near Ship Island, which was controlled by the Union Army. The three enslaved people managed to find some sort of small boat and escaped to Ship Island, where the Union soldiers told an envoy sent by the slaveholder that the men could leave if they wanted but they were free as long as they were in Union controlled territory. In the end the escapees stayed with the army, the envoy was unsuccessful, and the owner lost his property. Duncan concludes, “the Yankees told the messenger if the negroes wanted to go back they might go but could not be forced they were free if they stayed there they stayed and the poor fellow lost his reward and the other his negroes.” Early in the war, the Union forces were obligated to return enslaved people when they sought refuge. However, as the Confederacy began employing slaves to support their military cause, the Union military began calling slave refugees “contraband of war.” By the end of 1861 enslaved people fleeing to Union lines were being employed as laborers. Nevertheless, Duncan apparently grasps at every rumor in the newspapers about foreign nations recognizing the Confederacy. Though he maintains his optimism of foreign support, the reality was not what he hoped.

The taxable property the McKenzie family owns in February of 1862 includes, “9 negroes averaging $600.00 apiece and on 1,000 and 10 acres of land … notes drawing interest at ten per cent … other taxable property merchandise.” Dunk continues to explain that the war tax alone on this amount of taxable property will reach over seventy-four dollars. They have purchased cotton and added it to their own, selling in order to pay the taxes. At this writing he is confident he can manage his debts.

Theft of the mail is another aberration of the times. Dunk relates an account of a mail robbery, “two weeks in succession.” Both times the mail rider, aware that the Postmaster at Enterprise, MS had put money in the mail bags, broke into the bags and destroyed the mail.

By July of 1862 Dunk has lost some of his optimism about the war. He realizes the gathering of Union and Confederate troops at Vicksburg portends the great possibility of defeat, “they (Yankees) are in large numbers on the Miss, River congregating in the vicinity of Vicksburg I am afraid to hear from them for fear that they will have to surrender the hill city of Mississippi to the vandal Hordes of Lincolns Hirlings.” In addition, he suspects John and Allen are there. Dunk is also concerned that the rules of electing officers have been changed. Rank in the militias  of Mississippi will now be determined by the highest ranking officers rather than democratically elected as in the past. It appears Mississippi has decided that recognizable skill and judgement are more valuable on the battlefield than popularity and loyalty. In the face of this perceived outrage, Duncan decides he would sooner be under one tyrant as another, “… and it looks verry much like we are to be placed under anarchy tyrany or even in a worse condition if we survive this struggle.” The reality of their situation in Mississippi appears to be taking hold.

Allen is in Mufreesboro, Tennessee with the Smith County soldiers in January of 1863. Kenneth has been discharged from Confederate service, comes home for a short time, and sets out to visit John at Vicksburg, where the Yankees have commenced bombardment. John has been ill once and able to recover at home, but he is rumored to be ill again. Hugh is captain of a militia in Smith County that has been ordered out several times but returned home. By May Kenneth and Hugh have joined the cavalry; John, at Vicksburg, is ill again with typhoid fever; and Allen has written from Tullahoma, TN. The Siege of Vicksburg begins May 18 of 1863 and lasts until July 4, 1863. John will survive his illness to participate in the fighting at Vicksburg. After receiving a federal pardon, he would come home to recover in order to fight again at Nashville in 1864.

Duncan says his crops of the season will be enough to feed the family. He is using pea vines, rice straws, and even potato vines as fodder. Duncan and Martha appear to be quite resourceful when pressed. He also uses his January 1863 letter to list the price of necessities in Smith County and to explain his bit of speculating in leather:

Corn is selling at 3 to 3 1/2 dollars per bushel

Pork at 25 to 30 cts per lbs flour cannot be had

for less than 55 or 60 dollars per BBL (barrel) sugar in

this county is worth or at least selling for

25cts per lb molases at one dollar per

gal cotton cards at $30 per pr Woolen cloth

will bring Plain $2 home made Kersey (coarse and cheap ribbed woolen cloth) $2.50cts

and jeans from $3 to $5 per yd cotton shirting

cannot be had for less than 75 cts $1 per yd

and the article of shoes and leather canot

be had scarcely at any price I was in time

for the later I bought 80 sides of unfinished

leather at $2.50 per side and then gave 80 cts

a side to a tanner to finish it for me I sold

all but 20 sides getting the money back

which I paid and a nice proffit making

the amount which I kept clear for which

I can get $8 dollars per pr for comon shoes

Salt is selling at from 40 to 50 cents per lbs

and scarce at that I sent my wagon down

to the sea coast and procured 1,000 lbs which

cost me $25 I divided it out among the neigh

bors at about cost and freight — Duncan C. McKenzie

In May Duncan reports that white families along with hundreds of slaves are fleeing east from Vicksburg, and that, Jackson is destroyed to the amount of 5,000,000 so estimated.” He adds, “they have been fighting at Vicksburg for seven or eight days the news is varied and from all kinds of sources.”

Years before, in February of 1862, Duncan mentions the plight of non-slaveholding families living near him during the war. Smith to the north and Jones counties share a border and the Leaf River. The Jones County population included fewer slaveholders than counties in the rest of Mississippi. He writes:

I am agent (in Smith County) for the Destitute wives of Volunteers comissioned

by the Board Police which is a great Trouble and not

much profit to me …

there is a good many in this county women and

children who are in a destitute condition as

to Eatables and they must be suplied with enough to

sustain life The Legislature has thought proper

to assess and colect 30 per cent on the state and

county Tax for the purpose of supporting the Destitute

women and children … — Duncan C. McKenzie

Though Dunk appears to sympathize with these families, changes in the Conscription Act will affect him directly. The first Conscription Act came about in April of 1862. All white males between eighteen and thirty five would be drafted into military service. By October of 1862 the Twenty-Slave Law was passed by the Confederate Congress that allowed the owners of twenty slaves or more to be exempt from conscription. The Twenty-Slave Law was directly related to the fear of slave rebellion incited by the Emancipation Proclamation. This fear manifested itself among larger plantation owners who felt their families threatened. They preferred to be home to protect their property. By January of 1863 Duncan writes:

our cause is much injured

by dissatisfaction growing out of the exemption laws

where men were exempt by owning or controlling

twenty or more slaves which is the bone and

sinew of dissatisfaction among the soldiers

I hope it will be repealed and place all on an

equality for some to be exempt because they

are rich to stay at home and make more riches

it is not just I know men who are exempt

and are at home receiving the benefits of that

law who should be in the army, they are the

men who with a verry few exceptions have the

provision and a soldiers wife nor child cannot

get a bushel of corn or pound of meat for less

thru prices and then not without the cash

when at the same time they cannot bear the

idea of being refused credit them selves — Duncan C. McKenzie

By May of 1863 the Twenty-Slave Law was made more specific. It would apply to only overseers on plantations owned by underage persons, mentally disabled persons, a single woman, or a person away from home in service of the Confederacy. However, by this time the harm had been done, for Confederate deserters had begun appearing in many places across the south but particular to this story in Jones County, Mississippi.

Before the changes in the Twenty-Slave Law, Duncan remarks on the appearance of deserters from the Confederate Army:

There has a great many Deserted from

the army in the last two months the cavalry were sent

through the country picking up all who were absent

from their commands, they carried off a good many men

from this Section some are lying out in the Swamps

to Shun them, I understand below here in the next county

south of us (Jones) the deserters were banded together and bid

difiyance to the confederate authorities how they will

succeed I do not know, our cause is much injured

by dissatisfaction growing out of the exemption laws

the Senator from Miss Honl E. Barksdale petitioned

Congress to repeal that portion of the exemption Bill

… I hope it will be repealed and place all on an

equality — Duncan C. McKenzie

According to James R. Kelly, Jr. in a Mississippi Historical Society summary  entitled, “Newton Knight and the Legend of the Free State of Jones,” early in the war many non-slaveholders in Jones County had joined the Confederate Army. Included among these were Newton Knight and his friend Jasper Collins. When the Twenty-Slave Law was effected, many across the seceded states began to question its fairness as Dunk had in his 1863 letter. In fact Kelly quotes Collins saying that the law had created a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight. Newt Knight left the Army without permission when he heard that  the Confederates under the tax-in-kind system had confiscated his family’s horses. Many non-slaveholders from Jasper, Smith, and Jones counties were conscripted and their families left behind completely impoverished during the war with little means of sustaining their existence without aid. The aid did not come. Accounts illustrating the cruelty and insensitivity of Confederate troops confiscating crops and livestock abound.

After Vicksburg many Confederates had signed loyalty oaths to the US military, promising not to return to the Confederate Army. Some decided to live by that oath. During the late summer of 1863 Confederate Major Amos McLemore was first tasked with returning the deserters to the Army in and around Jones County, but in October he was shot to death in Ellisville, MS at Amos Deason’s home, which still stands today. Some contend he was shot by deserter Newton Knight. Jones County became a haven for Unionists and deserters, causing Lt. General Leonidas Polk to appoint Major Robert Lowry, future governor of Mississippi, to undertake a special operation intended to rout the deserters from the swamps of the Leaf River. Lowry’s task was made more difficult by the local women and escaped slaves who provided food, news, and protection to the deserters. Newton Knight became the leader of about 125 men from Jones and surrounding counties. Knight would later father children by the enslaved woman, Rachel, who helped keep the Knight Company alive as did Newt’s wife, Serena. Sympathizers with the deserters were purported to blow on cow horns as a warning that trouble was afoot. In April of 1863 Lowry and his troops, armed with sharpshooters and bloodhounds, routed a portion of the deserters. Some were injured and mauled, but a number of the Knight Company were hanged and left there in the village of Gitano as a warning. Duncan McKenzie, after having his farm vandalized by the deserters, witnessed the hanging:

we have had our share of the war here in this interior country

until a few weeks past Killing robing burning and every other

kind of malicious depredations were perpetrated on the citizens by

bands of deserters which would go prowling about at night

taking such things as they needed my house was visited by

the raid and they robed me of Sixteen pr cotton cards

which Stood me in $75 — per pr they also made another raid

and burned my bridge which Stood me in $800 dollars besides

other mischief such as killing stock &c they got to such a desperate

rate that the authorities of the govt were caused to know the

condition of the country and two Regiments were sent in here

to put a stop to the proceedings and well did they do it

they hung nine and killed two by shooting and lost three

of their own men I was present when four of them were

put up on one pole they were two and two brothers Whiteheads

and Ates was the names, there has been a good many hung in

this state from all accounts for outrages against the Govt — Duncan C. McKenzie

Lowry succeeded in forcing many back into the army, but the Knight Company continued for the duration of the war with the ever-elusive Newton Knight as its head, hiding out in the Leaf River swamp. Some of the deserters were able to escape to New Orleans, where they joined the occupying forces of the US Army. Of those forced back into the Confederate forces, the Jasper County 7th Battalion would be part of Colonel Hood’s futile slaughter of troops at the Battle of Franklin in November of 1864 as the war was nearing its end. However, Major Lowry, relentless pursuer of deserters, would miraculously survive. 

Two of Lowry’s men would express concern about the Confederacy cracking down on deserters. Though Colonel William N. Brown would agree that the hangings might have been justified, he emphasized the destitution of the soldiers’ families. The government had confiscated any property needed for their survival and had forced women and children to face this struggle alone. According to the text of The State of Jones, Brown apparently believed that if the Confederate government had been generous enough to send “a load of corn to the conscripts’ wives and children” the desertion problem might have been diminished. Another officer, Walter Rorer, while listening to military court-martial cases, lamented the “meanness” and the “mismanagement” in the Army. Both of these men would fight at Franklin, Rorer would not survive and Brown would be wounded, their fates indicative of large numbers of Mississippians at Franklin.

On April 9, 1865 the Civil War ended, leaving the country to face the overwhelming problem of how to reconstruct the South socially, economically, and physically. By 1866, Duncan has come to grips with his situation enough to respond to his uncle’s last letter. Dunk expresses sorrow at the deaths of so many family members in North Carolina: his Uncle John, Aunt Isabella, and cousins — John Douglass, Solomon McCall, and Sandy McKenzie. Dunk also reports the loss of his youngest brother, John, who had been captured at the Battle of Nashville. He died of illness on January 30, 1865 as a POW at Camp Chase in Columbus, Ohio. Dunk describes Allen’s 1865 return home in ill health, “a mere skeliton.” Though he declares Hugh “well”, his older brother would be dead of illness by the end of the year. Kenneth had made his way during the war to North Carolina, where he spent a short time at his Uncle Duncan’s home. Dunk describes conditions at home:

the condition of our country is almost awful to think

of the destitution, and dependence on what has been so

lately our avowed enemy for the Staff of life in the

matter of Bread and meat which has to come in a great

measure from the northern States, and no money to Send

to buy it with the mass of the citizens overwhelmed

in debt with out credit without representation or

even civil law with Taxation insurmountable, with

poverty and famine in store for us — Duncan C. McKenzie

In her book, The Free State of Jones: Mississippi’s Longest Civil War, Victoria E. Bynum references the initial attitudes of many Mississippians: “In the first years of peace, few people used terms like ‘noble,’ or ‘lost cause’ to describe the war. Citing the deaths of numerous Duckworth men to a Texas relative, R. C. Duckworth complained that ‘the war was certainly [sic] a curse on the American People.’ ”

Many of Duncan’s neighbors have been selling out and leaving for Texas, though this is not Duncan’s choice. His brother Hugh considered going but stayed. Their crops are not doing very well due to drought conditions and the transition from slave to hired labor. These are his words:

the hirelings will I fear not be able

to remunerate me the advance I made them, I hired hands

furnished everything necessary for making the crop and give

the hands the 1/3 of what was made on the place, the mater will

be determined in the course of two months, it has been

raining nearly all day. what of the cotton the drought

did not ruin I fear the wet will. — Duncan C. McKenzie

Duncan has become more religious over the course of the war. He practices the Baptist faith, which probably sustains him in his loss, but it does little to diminish his bitterness. He is contemplating a move to a place about fifteen miles from where he lives to have the advantage of a nearby school for his growing family: Barbara Elizabeth (Bettie) and Sarah Virginia (Sally) and a young son John Lafayette, which he calls a “strange name for a Scotch man.” He and Martha had also lost an infant son during the war.

Dunk’s financial situation is tenuous. They have not bought or sold any land since the war. At the end of the war they still had a few bales of cotton, a few mules and horses, some cattle and hogs, and their land — unusually good circumstances for a Smith countian at the end of the war. However, he adds, “I am involved as security to a considerable amount which and or … we cannot pay, if the Sheriff sells everything I have left.” He makes the untenable suggestion that perhaps, “they will levy on and Sell Free Negros, which the debts were contracted for, … I am now sued for a considerable amount.” Although he takes a loyalty oath to the United States government, he is unable to get out from under this debt, which ruins him financially for all practical purposes. He writes in September of 1866 concerning the problems he has with the Freedman’s Bureau, an agency that perhaps Duncan did not realize was making some progress in stabilizing a community of freedmen, especially by providing them with an education, which many desired. However, it did not appear to be doing him any good:

I suppose you have the same that is the county court or

Freedman’s court, there is a petition going round recommending

or instructing our representative to abolish or appeal the

the Freedman’s court in this county, as it is a verry Great

expense … with out much good arising from

it, the expense of the county court alone will reach on the

average about or near $150.00 per month which has to be

raised by Taxation, the people cannot support themselves and

pay such taxes — Duncan C. McKenzie

North Carolina’s experience of Reconstruction differed considerably from that of Mississippi, whose freed community consisted of at least fifty-five percent of the population. Mississippi’s people experienced violence, and some used extreme tactics to achieve political white supremacy in the decades following the war. Following the war through the end of the Reconstruction period, freedmen vied for land to support themselves with the farming skills they had, but found their condition little improved and the federal government ultimately opposed to any form of land redistribution. What the freedmen wanted most was land and education. According to Eric Foner in his book, Reconstruction, many freedmen felt justified in calling for redistribution of confiscated land, which they had worked at the whim of the “lazy” white man. For small farmers like Dunk, this argument rang most hollow. In the end political expediency took precedence over a sense of justice toward freedmen. The surviving owners of large plantations needed a labor force they could control. Few whites were willing to work alongside blacks in industrial jobs. Racial separation would prevail. Segregation and repressive Jim Crow laws, sometimes enforced by terrorism, would last for another century.

In September of 1865 Duncan applied for a presidential pardon, the text of which can be found in Confederate Applications for Presidential Pardons, 1865-1867 on ancestry.com. According to a list of pardons granted appearing in The Daily Clarion of Meridian, MS on Wednesday, January 3, 1866, Duncan was requested to call or send for this official document at the office of Col. W. T. Withers, perhaps of the military government overseeing Reconstruction in that vicinity. Likely, this pardon gave Duncan some hope of maintaining control of the land he could afford to keep.

SarahVMcKenzieThigpin copy
Sarah Virginia McKenzie Thigpen is shown here in her declining years. Born in the first year of the Civil War, she would spend the last of them with her daughter Zara Thigpen in Texas. Her death came in the early days of WWII, September 1942.

By 1867 he and family are living at Taylorsville then move to Etahoma in Jasper County. Daughter, Bettie, almost seven, dies after a short illness, devastating her parents. In a letter to his uncle, Duncan reveals the deep loss felt by the family. He also conveys the news of Hugh’s death of typhoid fever. The 1870 Federal Census of Jasper County, MS, lists Duncan as forty-six, Martha thirty, Sarah V. nine, and Joseph L. four. The Duckworth family situation is summarized in a letter written by Robert Crocker Duckworth, Dunk’s father-in-law, to his nephew, Sam, in Bastrop, Texas.  Susan and Sarah, John and Hugh’s widows, had moved back into his home with the children. Duckworth writes that there was “property enough between the girls to support them but they were unable to retain it.” R. C. Duckworth was living in Jasper County. He had lost his son-in-law John and two sons, Robert and Cooper, during the Civil War.

Though Duncan had grown up working right along side the small group of slaves on the family farm, his rantings in letters to his uncle are characteristic of an outright white supremacist. He complains of the wrongheadedness and futility of the Freedman’s Bureau and that God had marked the Negro as inferior. He suggests that if he pays wages to Negro farm workers, he doesn’t get value for his money, but when he won’t hire them, they steal from him: “if we have anything to do with the Freedmen we sink money and if we have nothing to do with them nor hire them they will steal everything they can lay hands on. I sincerely wish I was able to go to Brazil or Honduras or some other govt.” The vileness of his attitude increases as he contemplates the release of Jefferson Davis, who he believes since the beginning of the war, “has been living like a Prince.” He wonders how that benefits himself now that they are subjugated by their enemies who, “try to raise to superiority the poor ignorant stinking negro, who god himself has placed the mark of distinction upon.” Following this white supremacist rant, Duncan more calmly observes to his uncle that southerners were all mislead in their “boasted pride and strength to maintain ourselves and establish a new government on as weak a basis as was ours.” Perhaps Duncan never acted upon his bitter and noxious feelings of resentment towards his conquerers and the former enslaved people in his community, but he assuredly was encouraged by others in that resentment and probably passed it on to future generations. An irony exists in this sense of victimization, which would lead to the “lost and glorious” cause narrative. Thus, a century and a half later we find ourselves, a more scientifically and socially enlightened generation, still grappling with systemic problems of race and class inequality.

RCMcKJPCandidate
Hattiesburg American 23 May 1947

By the close of their lives in 1878 and 1880 Duncan and Martha had six children: Barbara E McKenzie (b.1860  d.1867), Sara V McKenzie (b.1861), Joseph L McKenzie (b.1865), Robert C McKenzie (b. 1871), Frank Hugh McKenzie (b.1872), and Martha Leola McKenzie (b.1878). Duncan died when he was fifty-two years old and Martha when she was forty. After their deaths, the youngest children were evidently sent to live with relatives. According to family Bible records submitted on ancestry.com by C. Todd Young, Joseph L McKenzie was raised by relatives Wilson and Mary Duckworth and their own five sons. Joseph died in 1899 in Forrest County, MS at age 33. Robert C. McKenzie also died there in 1968 at age 97. R.C. was recognized in 1960 for being one of two surviving members of the 1916 Board of Aldermen in Hattiesburg, MS. By 1900 Frank Hugh McKenzie was living in Hattiesburg, MS, where he enjoyed a career as a police officer along with the vicissitudes of politics. Over the years Frank served as sheriff, tax collector, and justice of the peace. The 1900 U. S. Census shows Martha Leola living with the family of her older sister Sarah Virginia Thigpen. Martha Leola McKenzie died of the Spanish influenza in 1918 near San Antonio, Texas not far from a WWI military base.

Duncan and Marthas’ oldest child, Sarah Virginia, married John Thigpen in 1882. According to direct descendent Kenneth Foster, his second great grandfather John Thigpen was a photographer. Daughter Ethel, Kenneth’s grandmother, traveled with her father and assisted him in his photography work. Ethel and her sister Zara “Aunt Zabe” were both born in Mississippi. Their next sibling was born in Deming, New Mexico. Apparently, Sarah Virginia McKenzie Thigpen suffered from an illness, perhaps asthma. The family moved to New Mexico hoping that the climate would be better for her. Her suffering was not alleviated, so they finally settled in Texas. Sarah died in Hidalgo in 1942 of cancer at age eighty-one.

Zara and Inez Thigpen copy
Zara Virginia Thigpen, left, and her sister Inez are shown here in their younger years.

Perhaps Dunk had been simply venting his spleen to Uncle Duncan rather than burden his family, because Sarah Virginia must have absorbed some optimism during the troubled atmosphere of her childhood during the Civil War and Reconstruction years. She must have passed on a heavy dose of optimism to a selfless and curiosity-driven daughter, Zara. Dunk would have been very proud of the granddaughter he never knew, whose attitude towards life departed easily and significantly from his own deep postwar bitterness.  Zara Thigpen was born on June 23, 1888 in Sylvarena, MS in Smith County. She and her sister Ethel never knew their grandparents. By 1900 her family had moved to Nueces,Texas. She began her life as an educator in September of 1918 when she moved to McAllen, Texas. According to an article in The Monitor of McAllen, Zara had turned down a more lucrative and sought-after position as bookkeeper at the Alamo National Bank in San Antonio in order to come to McAllen to teach. During her long life there she would teach two generations of Latin-American students and become a fluent bilingual speaker of Spanish and English. A talented teacher, she cared deeply about the welfare of her students. Her humanitarian efforts included the availability of free lunches for hungry children in McAllen schools, launching a welfare project in 1936, providing soup kitchens in Roosevelt and Sam Houston schools, helping to clothe children and find work for parents. Troubled juveniles were sometimes paroled into her care. She was one of two local delegates to the Pan-American Round Table in 1938 in Mexico City, the first conference of Anglo and Latin American women ever held. She was a member of the Altar Society of Our Lady of Sorrows Church and served on the McAllen Relief Committee. She also presented book reviews at the McAllen Study Club. The highlight of her career came in 1948 when a new McAllen elementary school was named after her, by unanimous request. Zara cared for Sara Virginia until her death. Zara’s own death came in on February 22, 1978 in a McAllen nursing home. She is buried in Roselawn Cemetery in McAllen. Her Thigpen parents and Martha Leola McKenzie are buried in the cemetery at Alice, TX. Dunk’s Uncle Duncan McLaurin would not have been disappointed in Zara. “Aunt Zabe,” as she was known to nieces and nephews, embodied his own civic-mindedness, intellectual curiosity, and family loyalty.

A Note About Mississippi’s Governor Lowry and Justice

Robert Lowry had advanced to the rank of Brigadier General in the Confederate Army by the end of the Civil War. He had successfully routed the deserters in the area of Jones County. He had sent many of them to their deaths on the battlefield rather than dying at the end of a rope, as had the four brothers Ates and Whitehead whose hanging Duncan had witnessed. By 1882 Lowry was Governor of Mississippi, creating a political structure and atmosphere for a century of Jim Crow.

Mississippi had been characterized by frontier violence, but the level of savagery in the state during Reconstruction and after was unprecedented. Justice was not always served when it came to the newly freed people. A decade after the war ended, Reconstruction too was nearing its close. The Ku Klux Klan and other terrorist groups were active in effectively suppressing the freedmen’s vote. An illustrative example of racial violence occurred in Madison County, MS in the spring of 1875 that would involve Governor Lowry and exemplify the systemic denial of justice for blacks that prevailed in the state. When the federal government did not respond to stop the violence prevalent in Mississippi in 1875, the period of Reconstruction had come to an end.

On Tuesday April 13, 1875 at eleven o’clock at night a seventeen-year-old white youth climbed the porch of the home of Lewis (Louis) Tanner, “Colored.” Lewis Tanner and his family were freedmen, who lived and worked on the Beal Place in Madison County. The occupants  heard a voice call out for Lewis Tanner to come outside. Henderson Parrott wanted to talk to him. The two had had an earlier disagreement over some hogs. As Tanner opened the front door, a double barreled shotgun went off killing him instantly. The next morning a friend of Tanner’s went to the sheriff’s office and accused Parrott of the murder. When Parrott was brought before Justice Beauchamp he plead not guilty. Parrott had an alibi, his family had seen him asleep at his home.

AssassinationLouisTanner
The Weekly Mississippi Pilot of Jackson, 24 April 1875

It was discovered that the use of the Parrott name had been a ruse to get Tanner to come to the door, where a reportedly “weak-minded” seventeen-year-old youth killed him. After committing this brutal murder, the youth had run to Mr. Thompson’s house and confessed to the killing, saying he did it because Tanner had threatened to kill him. The youth then ran away, a fugitive. By April Sheriff Ross of Madison County had arrested the youth in Vicksburg and Justice Pitchford held him on a six thousand dollar bond. The youth was probably confined in the newly constructed jail at Canton, which stands today. The accused murderer was brought to trial on Tuesday, April 21st and sentenced to the penitentiary for ten years. The state’s attorney was Robert Powell and the defense attorney was Col. O. R. Singleton, Civil War veteran.

MadCoJail3 copy
The Old Madison Jail, 1870, was newly constructed when the youthful murderer was likely incarcerated here during his trial.

Upon his admission to the penitentiary, the youthful murderer is listed as prisoner number 330 age 18, 5’7” tall, complexion fair, hair and eyes black, an anchor tattooed on his right arm, and both knees scarred from disease. His occupation is listed as laborer. His crime, manslaughter. On August 30, 1877 the youth was part of a convict work crew on board a steamer headed for a plantation on the Mississippi River. In an unlikely turn of events the youth escaped by jumping into the water and swimming to shore.

Disappearing into the woods, the youth, was not seen again until six years later on November 10, 1883 when he gave himself up. For six years this “weak-minded” youth had managed to elude authorities, supposedly on his own. What is yet more incredible is that the very day he turned himself in, he was pardoned by none other than the newly elected Governor of Mississippi, Robert Lowry of deserter hanging fame.

Prison records are some of the most well-kept and accurate. If a pardon was given, a reason for it existed in the records. Unbelievably, for this youthful murderer’s pardon, no justification from Governor Lowry exists in the record.

In this corrupt manner, justice for blacks in Mississippi would not exist for yet another century. Lowry, however, knew never to return to Jones County. According to Victoria E. Bynum, in 1904 Jasper Collins, deserter friend of Newton Knight, “told Goode Montgomery that he would ‘get up on the coldest night he ever saw to kill Lowry if he knew he was passing through Jones County’”

SOURCES:

“A Brief History of the Mississippi Department of Corrections.” Mississippi Department of Corrections. https://www.mdoc.ms.gov/About/Pages/Brief-History.aspx. 2019. Accessed 9 March 2019.

Ash, Stephen V. A Year in the South 1865: The True Story of Four Ordinary People Who Lived Through the Most Tumultuous Twelve Months in American History. Palgrave Macmillan: New York, NY. 2004. 19-28.

“Assassination.” The Weekly Mississippi Pilot. Jackson, MS. 24 April 1875. Saturday. 2. newspapers.com Accessed 4 March 2019.

“Bible Record of R C Ducwoths (Duckworth’s) Family.” https://www.ancestry.com/mediaui-viewer/collection/1030/tree/28360441/person/27130952980/media/b1047f4a-2f4b-454c-b9db-5f342cd158d2?_phsrc=wqU941&usePUBJs=tr… Originally shared 25 August 2013.

Bynum, Victoria E. The Free State of Jones: Mississippi’s Longest Civil War. The University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill. 2001. 128 – 129.

“Cattle Disease.” Vicksburg Whig. Warren, MS, 15 Sept 1858, Wed. 3. newspapers.com. Accessed 20 February 2019.

County Tax Rolls, 1818-1902, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, accessed June 20, 2017, http://www.mdah.ms.gov/arrec/digital_archives/taxrolls/

“Duncan McKenzie Civil War Pardon.” The Daily Clarion. 3 January 1866. Wednesday. 2. newspapers.com. Accessed 20 May 2017.

Foner, Eric. A Short History of Reconstruction. Harper & Row, Publishers: New York. 1990. 47-48.

Foner, Eric. Forever Free: The Story of Emancipation and Reconstruction. Vintage Books: New York. 2005. 44-45.

Foster, Kenneth. email information and photos.

“Frank H. McKenzie Dies In Hattiesburg.” Clarion-Ledger. Jackson, MS. 31 March 1954. Wednesday. 19. newspapers.com. Accessed 12 February 2019.

“Gen. Cornelius McLaurin & Gulf Ship Island RR 1861.” Vicksburg Whig. Warren County, MS. 9 January 1861. Wednesday. newspapers.com. Accessed 11 March 2019.

Jenkins, Sally and John Stauffer. The State of Jones: The Small Southern County That Seceded From the Confederacy. Anchor Books: New York. 2009. 205-208.

Kelly, James R. Jr. “Newton Knight and the Legend of the Free State of Jones.” Mississippi History Now: An online publication of the Mississippi Historical Society. http://mshistory now.mdah.state.ms.us/articles/309/newton-knight-and-the-legend-of-the-free-state-of-jones. Posted April 2009. Accessed 10 February 2019.

“Killing of Lewis Tanner, Col.” The Canton Mail. Canton, MS. 17 April 1875. LOC. chroniclingamerica.org.

Lee, Susanna Michele. “Twenty-Slave Law.” Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities. https://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/Twenty-Slave_Law#start_entry. Last Modified 31 May 2012. Accessed 24 February 2019.

Letters from Duncan McKenzie to his Uncle Duncan McLaurin. November 1855, 21 March 1858, 16 May 1858, 11 July 1858, 10 October 1858, 21 July 1860, 24 August 1860, 21 September 1861, 29 October 1861, 4 January 1862, 12 February 1862, 5 July 1862, 28 January 1863, 14 May 1863, 20 June 1864, 9 and 10 September 1866, 25 February 1867, 20 July 1867. Boxes 1 & 2. Duncan McLaurin Papers. David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Duke University.

Letters from Duncan McKenzie, Sr. to Duncan McLaurin. September 1840, December 1842, March 1845, April 1845. Boxes 1&2. Duncan McLaurin Papers. David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Duke University.

Letter from Kenneth McKenzie to his Uncle Duncan McLaurin. December 1856. Boxes 1&2. Duncan McLaurin Papers. David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Duke University.

“New School Here is Named for Zara Thigpen, Veteran Teacher.” The Monitor. McAllen, Hidalgo, TX. 10 August 1948. Tuesday. 1. newspapers.com. Accessed 12 February 2019.

Olsen, Christopher. “Secessionist Movement.” The Mississippi Encyclopedia. Ed. Ownby, Ted and Charles Reagan Wilson. University of Mississippi Press: Jackson, MS. 2017. 1120-1121.

“Penitentiary Convicts.” Roll 13785 Book D. Index to D 37006. Mississippi State Department of Archives and History.

“R.C. McKenzie A Candidate For J. P.” Hattiesburg American. Hattiesburg, MS. 23 May 1947. Friday. 1. newspapers.com. Accessed 14 February 2019.

“R.C. McKenzie Surviving Member of 1916 Board of Aldermen.” Hattiesburg American. Hattiesburg, MS. 4 June 1960. Saturday. 7. newspapers.com. Accessed 14 February 2019.

“Recurring to the killing of Louis Tanner.” The Canton Mail. Canton, MS. 17 April 1875. Saturday. 2. newspapers.com. Accessed 4 March 2019.

“Register Mississippi State Penitentiary.” 187. No. 330. Roll 13785 Book D. Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

R. C. Duckworth to Samuel Duckworth, May 24, 1868, Duckworth-Smith-McPherson Family Papers, Center for the Study of American History, University of Texas, Austin. Accessed on ancestry.com.

“Sheriff Ross.” The Canton Mail. Canton, MS. 24 April 1875. LOC. chroniclingamerica.org.

Texas, Death Certificates, 1903-1982. Mailha L. McKenzie (Martha Leola McKenzie). [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA” ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013.

“We learn that Leonard Lee.” The American Citizen. Canton, MS. 5 January 1878. LOC. chroniclingamerica.org.

Year: 1850; Census Place: Covington, Mississippi; Roll: M432_371; Page: 309B; Image: 207. https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&db=1850usfedcenancestry&h=3391941.

Year: 1860; Census Place: Smith, Mississippi; Roll: M653_591; Page: 353; Family History Library Film: 803591. https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&db=1860usfedcenancestry&h=38861910.

Year: 1870; Census Place: South West Beat, Jasper, Mississippi; Roll: M593_732; Page: 622B; Family History Library Film: 552231. https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&db=1870usfedcen&h=36589602.

Daniel C. McKenzie : Farmer, Teacher, Doctor

DanielMcKHS copy
Daniel’s great grandchildren, visited Smith County and found Daniel’s grave, his headstone broken by time and wear. Daniel’s grandchild, Mittie McKenzie Geeslin, who lived to be 101 years old, had the marker replaced with the exact wording as the original. Information generously contributed by Paula Harvey, Daniel’s direct descendant.

In an 1851 letter, Daniel’s brother Kenneth describes him physically as the smallest one of the “tribe,” perhaps one reason he was inclined toward pursuits that required some education. Duncan McKenzie would also describe Daniel as “reserved” in nature.

After his experience in the Mexican War, he may have become more cautious. He hesitates for some years before practicing medicine because he is weighing the risks of having to make a life or death decision. His lack of formal education in this profession undoubtedly gave him pause.

By the time Daniel C. McKenzie’s parents, Duncan and Barbara (McLaurin) McKenzie arrived in Covington County, MS in 1833, they had already provided their older children with educational opportunities better than many. Barbara’s brother, Duncan McLaurin, was a respected educator in Richmond County. His own school records show that he taught the oldest children of Duncan McKenzie and the children of Duncan’s brother, John. Daniel’s Uncle Duncan was an inspiring teacher for many of his students, evidenced by the number who corresponded with him as adults even from distant places. Of the six McKenzie brothers, Daniel was most inspired to further his education.

Daniel was born on 9 August 1823 when his parents were both about thirty years old and farming on property in Richmond County, NC. Daniel’s McLaurin grandparents, a number of unmarried aunts, and Uncles Duncan and John McLaurin were living within visiting distance at Gum Swamp. His grandfather, Hugh McLaurin, had named his new residence Ballachulish after the home in Scotland he had left in 1790. Until about 1832, paternal grandparents Kenneth McKenzie and Mary (McLaurin) McKenzie also lived near. Mary died in 1825. Kenneth would leave Richmond County around six years later. Duncan McKenzie, likely responding to the siren call of abundant land and cotton wealth, would follow a number of relatives and friends, who were successfully making money farming in Mississippi. Daniel was probably about ten when the family arrived in Covington County, MS near Williamsburg.

Farming would occupy everyone living on the place. For some time the farm land in North Carolina had become increasingly overworked, and a farmer with five sons would be desirous of establishing an inheritance for them. The prospect of making a fortune growing cotton on fertile land newly opened by Native American removal is what likely drew them to migrate. However, Duncan McKenzie admits after about a decade that any success is hard won. The family probably remained of the yeoman class. The vicissitudes of economic trends, the currency and banking problems that plagued the nation, challenged the family. What ultimately concerns Duncan about having migrated is the diminished prospect of educating his children. Duncan, as most Mississippi small farm families, would depend upon locally operated tuition schools. Teachers did not often remain in one place for very long. He laments in his letters to his brother-in-law that, though he is satisfied with his move, a satisfactory formal education for his children is elusive. Daniel in particular is most desirous of an education and has benefited from an early emphasis on such in the place of his birth.

In an 1838 letter Duncan McKenzie considers sending Daniel, and perhaps his younger brother Duncan, back to North Carolina for schooling. The departure of a mutual friend, Gilchrist, for a visit to North Carolina has tempted Duncan to send them with this responsible person:

I am almost tempted to send Danl with

Gilchrist to your school, his youth will for the present

Save him the ride, Should you continue teaching for any

length of time equal to that which would be necessary

for the complition of his education, let me know the cost

of board books & tuition anually in your next, I may

Send him or per haps both Danl & Dunk, it is not

an easy matter to educate them here — Duncan McKenzie

Of course, Daniel never makes the trip to North Carolina for his education. In the end it is too expensive, and every person is needed on the farm.

A year later, Duncan is somewhat appeased when the community near Williamsburg is able to persuade a Mr. Strong of Clinton Academy to conduct a school near them in which Latin will be taught. Duncan even finds Daniel a pony to ride the four miles it will take to get him back and forth from school:

Danl has once more commenced the studdy of Lattin under

the instruction of a Mr Strong late principal of the

clinton Academy Hinds Co. Mr Joshua White and others

of the neighborhood Succeeded in getting a School for

Strong in 4 miles of me I procurd a pony for Danl

to ride, he is in class with Lachlin youngest Sone of

Danl McLaurin of your acquaintance of yore and Brother to Dr Hugh Fayetteville —

Danl tho 3 years from that studdy appears to have retained

it tollerable well — Malcolm Carmichael, Squire

Johns sone has a small School near my house Dunk

Allan and Johny are going to him, he Malcolm came

here early in Janry and took a Small school worth

Say $20 per month — Duncan C. McKenzie

Duncan ends this March 1838 letter by describing Daniel’s hurry to be off to school. On the way to school, he will be mailing the letter Duncan has just finished at the designated Post Office in Williamsburg.

By 1839, Daniel’s father is present at a school examination and was not pleased with the progress of the students, though Daniel and a friend, James L. Shannon, appear to have been the best in the class, according to his father.  He tells Duncan McLaurin that if he had them for a year, he “would not be ashamed of them.” By 1841 Daniel is crushed when his friend and classmate James Shannon leaves to attend St. Mary’s Catholic College in Kentucky. Earlier another classmate, Lachlan McLaurin, had also quit the local school. Despite the loss of his companions to other pursuits, Daniel appears to have maintained his desire for an education.

Daniel likely joins in with his brothers hunting in the forests near their home and engaging in what they call “swamp drives,” attempts to flush out a wild boar. In 1839 Duncan reports that Daniel had an accident pricking his foot on a rusty nail. In the 19th century this would be the cause for some concern, because the chance of infection was great with no antibiotics available. Evidently, the wound was kept clean so that infection was avoided.   

At his uncle’s request in July of 1843, Daniel composes his first letter to former teacher Uncle Duncan McLaurin at Laurel Hill, NC. Daniel would have been about twenty years old when writing, with some justifiable pride, about his first teaching position. Clearly, the language of the letter is carefully constructed to impress upon his uncle that he has been a worthy recipient of Duncan’s early tutelage. His use of literary allusion, Latin phrase, and political reference reveals an intimate knowledge of his audience. Perhaps Duncan McKenzie, long time correspondent with Duncan McLaurin, hovers nearby offering suggestions to his son as to content. Daniel authors only five letters that survive in the Duncan McLaurin Papers, but each one attests to historical events and personal landmarks in his own lifetime.

He begins this first letter by admitting that his father has told all of the interesting news already, “which renders one almost barefoot in commencing.” However, he commences by describing his teaching position. It is a small school about seven miles from their home in Covington, County. He teaches about twenty five students at one dollar and fifty cents per month. The tuition is two dollars and fifty cents for teaching Latin. Daniel is boarding with a Revolutionary War veteran, John Baskin. Baskin, “comfortably wealthy,” lives with an aging daughter and orphaned grandson. Baskin’s library includes books that are meant to improve the mind of the young, and Baskin’s storytelling pleases Daniel very much. He relishes the quiet as well — likely the kind of peace after a long day only a teacher could appreciate. Daniel describes Baskin’s stories as “history to me they are interesting and entertaining he considers an hour occasionally is not ill spent when devoted to Politics.” I can imagine Duncan McLaurin settling in to read this letter with earnest at the mention of politics. Daniel explains that Baskin’s opinion rests somewhere between that of John C. Calhoun and Thomas Jefferson. Daniel explains with literary allusion:

he is cherished

in principle like Paul at the feet of Gamaliel between

the contrasted feet of Calhoun & Jefferson this stripe

in his political garment he says is truly Republican

but in reality it seems to me to be of rather a different

cast more like the gown of the old woman Otway

if you will allow me to make such

comparisons — Daniel C. McKenzie

Gamaliel was a Jewish teacher and Christian Saint, a person admired by both Christians and Jews. The “old woman Otway” is a dramatic character created by the 17th century English dramatist Thomas Otway. Otway casts a beautiful woman as a catalyst for war. Apparently, during the nineteenth century the plays of Thomas Otway were receiving somewhat of a revival.

Daniel continues in this first letter to express a desire for further education but says he will be patient since he is of an age now that he must be getting on with his adult life. In a political vein, he also mentions that his employers are preparing a barbecue at or near the schoolhouse, “intending to celebrate the day hard as the times are.” This barbecue is held in conjunction also with an election for a representative, “to attend the call session of the legislature.” He ends this letter offering his best to his grandfather, Hugh McLaurin of “Ballachulish”.

In October of 1843 Duncan McKenzie writes of Daniel’s devotion to his students. Apparently, Daniel has been grieved by the death of two of his young charges, the funeral of one from which he has just returned. In the coming years Daniel would teach in Laurence County. By 1845 Daniel would encourage his brother Kenneth to teach as well, though Kenneth’s attempt to do this work does not last very long. Daniel would teach in Garlandsville in Jasper County, where he enjoyed, “the rise if 30 scholars his rates are $1 1/2 to 3 per month.” In Garlandsville he is boarding with a Dr. Watkins, whose library he uses to study medicine. Apparently, Dr. Watkins is a physician of some respect in the community. Unfortunately, the school becomes overcrowded. Likely, a study regime in addition to teaching a large school was a challenge. His father describes him as having lost some weight by the time he returns from Garlandsville.

Whether Daniel will follow teaching as his life’s career is still an open question to his father. Daniel evidently is still yearning for more schooling, likely towards becoming a physician. His father writes in 1845 regarding his difficulty in reading Daniel’s intentions:

Danl has not at any time reveald to me directly his intentions in

regard to his future plans or intentions in fact it is a matter of common

remark that he is distant and reservd and very difficult to become

acquainted with I think he seldom tells anyone what he intends

doing until he is engaged in it — Duncan McKenzie

While Daniel is fighting in a Vera Cruz skirmish during the Mexican War, his own father is at home dying. Daniel’s next letter to his uncle is written after his return from serving briefly as a volunteer in the war with the “Covington County Boys” and after his father’s death. Daniel opens his August 1847 letter by saying that he had been home more than a week. Daniel had been one of eight Covington County men, who voluntarily served as amateurs in the war with Mexico. They were “enrolled in Captain Davis’s company, Georgia Regiment, under Gen. Quitman,” according to the article, “From Tampico and the Island of Lobos,” published in The Weekly Mississippian from Jackson, 19 March 1847.

Daniel explains that the group was sent home after one of them, Thomas H. Lott, died after a skirmish at Vera Cruz. The injury to his thigh was not lethal until it became infected — the only casualty of the eight. Many soldiers in this war died of diseases such as malaria, typhoid fever, or dysentery. Another of the group, Cornelius McLaurin, was very ill during the skirmish at Vera Cruz. Indeed, all of the group were ill of dysentery at one point or another. Their return was expedited after Daniel receives news of his father’s death and the general ill health of families in Covington County. Upon return he found their health improving:

I was at the gate before I was recognized, tho

at midday — They had heard here that we had gone to

ward Jalapa (Xalapa), a town in the interior, by was of Cerra Gordon (Sierra Gorda)

and of course was not expecting me. — Daniel C. McKenzie

While in Mexico, Daniel is impressed enough with the Castle San Juan de Cellos to attempt a description in his letter. Situated over a half mile into the sea, large ships are able to anchor very near the walls. Daniel illustrates in the following words:

This castle, worthy of the

name too, covers ten acres of ground on water the wall in

the highest place is seventy feet being eight feet through at

the top and thirty where the sea water comes up to it. I should

judge forty feet through at the base The wall is built of coral

stone the light house out of the same is as much larger

than the one at the Balize (La Balize, LA) of the Miss River, which is a

large one, as the latter is larger than a camson brick

chimney on the walls of this castle were … 300 heavy

pieces of cannon which were kept warm from the morning

of the 10th to the 27th March tho they did but little damage — Daniel C. McKenzie

Daniel admonishes his uncle to tell Uncle John McLaurin that he had purchased a new gun in New Orleans. His brother Kenneth refers to this gun as “Daniels Spaniard gun.” Daniel says that he paid forty-five dollars for the gun, “which will hold up — 300 yards I shot Mexicans at 100 yards distance with it — I will put it to better use and kill birds and squirrels.”

Two references in Daniel’s letter are indicative of racial attitudes at the time. He refers to his Mexican enemies as “the tawny creatures.” Toward the end of his letter he complains, I think in a lighthearted manner, that his ink is pale and a “rascally nigger young rumpled the paper about the time I was finishing.” Although this last comment was perhaps even affectionately made, it was based in the general belief of the superiority of the white race. The child to whom Daniel refers was the very young daughter of one of the female enslaved persons on the farm. According to her husband Duncan McKenzie, Barbara had developed a special relationship to this female child. Both of Barbara’s daughters had died, probably leaving her quite open to having a close relationship with a female child. Part of Barbara’s daily task on the farm was to have charge of the enslaved children too young to work. Today we understand from the science of the human genome that differences among the people of the earth have little to do with skin color. The differences we have from one another cannot scientifically be used to indicate racial superiority. However, Daniel, his mother, and her favored enslaved child were living in a 19th century world.

Daniel is farming with the family but admits that he has, “taken up my medical books again.” These two pursuits occupy Daniel’s time. He knows he is needed on the farm now more than before his father’s death and reassures his uncle that their crops will likely sustain them this season. One battlefield experience for Daniel was apparently enough. He considers returning to fight in the military but quickly decides his absence in a war would increase his mother’s grief. After his Mexican War experience, Daniel would commit himself to farming, teaching, and studying to be a physician, a lifelong dream.

As far as becoming a practicing physician, Daniel admits to some hesitancy. In his letter of November 1851, he has apparently been considering it seriously. Traveling in Mississippi has occupied much of his time. Since October he has  traveled over, “some dozen counties or more in the upper part of the state.” Franklin County, Mississippi near Natchez was another destination. While there he stopped to visit John Patrick Stewart, son of Allan Stewart and a friend of his uncle’s. Daniel, decades younger than Stewart, describes him as “again elected clerk in that County (Franklin) I was in Meadville and found the contented old Bachelor with fiddle in hand trying to learn to play some sacred songs on that instrument.” In addition, Daniel discovers that Dr. Lachlin McLaurin has enjoyed a successful medical practice in Franklin county. In the end, Daniel tells his uncle, “I prefer school teaching for a little to jeopardizing the lives of fellow creatures for mere money.” Evidently, he still lacks the confidence that a formal education and licensing program may have given him. Mississippi had declared its attempt at medical licensing requirements unconstitutional some years earlier. However, many physicians left the state for a medical education. One such person, and likely a distant relative of Daniel’s, was Dr. Hugh C. McLaurin of Brandon, MS. Hugh would have been a bit older than Daniel, but his family had the means to send him to Pennsylvania to study medicine. According to Duncan McKenzie, in 1846 while teaching school Daniel reads from some of Hugh’s medical books. (Hugh is of the B family of McLaurins and Daniel from the F family. Ancestors of these two family lines came to America in 1790 aboard the same ship. A number of descendants migrated to Mississippi from the Carolinas.)

In the 1850 census Daniel is listed as living with his mother, who is head of household. He is twenty-seven when he travels over parts of the state considering his future. Between his travels he manages to be at home in order to vote in the elections. Duncan McKenzie had been a southern Whig and his sons at first follow in that political tradition. Daniel and his brothers at this point are Unionists and do not want to see the Democrats, or Locofocos, as they are called, control state politics. It appears that in early 1850s Mississippi at least the idea of breaking up the Union over slavery remains a partisan issue. Daniel writes,

The political contest in Mississippi is over

and though the waves still run high the storm

has moderated to a gentle breeze. Foot has gained

the day by a few feet about 1500 votes as I hear …

Brown in this the 9th district has succeeded in beating

our Union Candidate Dawson by a considerable

majority In this part of the state the people

are so tied up in the fetters of Locofocoism

that nothing is too dear to sacrifice for its

promotion. — Daniel C. McKenzie

The “Foot” he references is Henry S. Foote, Whig candidate and winner of the election for governor of Mississippi in 1851. He explains that Democrat former Governor Albert Gallatin Brown’s hue and cry was that keeping the Union in tact was a “Whig trick.” Daniel knows that his Uncle Duncan would be interested in the political success of another relative: “John R. McLaurin son of Neill of Lauderdale County who prides himself in being called a, descendant, of Glen Appin is elected to the Legislature from that county Disunion of course.” John R. McLaurin is Daniel’s second great Aunt Catherine of Glasgow’s grandson from the D family of McLaurins.

In this letter, Daniel mentions a McKenzie relative, his Uncle John McKenzie’s son, who has apparently been overcome with religious zeal to the point that he has been declared insane. This begs the question at what point religious enthusiasm crosses that fine line from fervent piety to mania. Daniel writes his opinion on the matter: “though the cause which he advocates is much assuredly the one and only thing needful yet certainly so much zeal as to destroy that better part which he wished to save and which survives the grave was not at all necessary.” He expresses hope that time will restore his cousin’s reason.

Daniel ends his 1851 letter saying that the talk of Covington County is “money and marrying” and starting for Texas.

In the middle of the 1850s, tragedy strikes the McKenzie family with the suffering of Barbara McKenzie. Daniel reveals in a December 1854 letter to his uncle that his mother Barbara appears to be afflicted with a cancer of the mouth from which she is finding no relief. Daniel has been working as a physician and has been treating his mother’s illness since July when the sore in her mouth and glands in her neck began to enlarge. At first he used available treatments for a non-cancerous ulcer but fears he may have made the malignancy worse. He has had several other physicians look at the growth, and they concur that it is what was called then a Gelatinform cancer. Daniel writes, “The sore in her mouth continues to enlarge it now covers nearly all the roof of her mouth affecting the glands of her neck on the right side.”

During Barbara’s horrific illness Daniel says that Miss Barbara Stewart, daughter of Allan Stewart, has been staying with his mother. Barbara Stewart, has been living with the family of her brother-in-law by the surname Davis. She has also been working at the Seminary School founded by Rev. A. R. Graves. However, at this point she has left Barbara’s side. John, the youngest McKenzie son, regularly sits with his mother, and Daniel says he will stay with his mother for a while. The community has been plagued with “scarlatina” and the mumps. His brother Kenneth has contracted the mumps, and has had to stay away from the house for fear his mother might contract them. By April of 1855 Barbara was forced to give up her struggle. Reverend A. R. Graves preached her funeral service. More than likely she was buried on the family property near her husband and infant daughter in Covington County.

Apparently, Daniel begins his work as a physician in 1853 at Augusta, MS, according to his brother Hugh. As for the success of his work as a physician, Daniel says that his net profits for 1854 would not “amount to but little more than a cipher. I have not collected and am in debt for board and expense.” Daniel ends his letter with a comparison of the medicine and politics. He has found that he no longer supports the Whigs or the Democrats but is finding himself in line with the Know Nothing Party. He says in medicine and politics, “there has been and is yet many vague theories.” He also ads that if one enshrouds anything with mystery and secrecy it draws the attention of the curious, who must then, “see analyze and understand.” With that he says he really knows nothing about the new Know Nothing party but advocates most of the published principles. In simple terms he is probably leaning towards that party while still considering his political stance.

SarahMBlackwellMck copy
Sarah M. Blackwell. Photo courtesy of Paula Harvey.

In 1856 Kenneth writes that Daniel is living in Raleigh, Smith County, MS. Daniel had married eighteen-year-old Sarah M. Blackwell of Smith County, MS in 1857. Their son John Duncan was born there on June 2, 1858. Mary “Mollie” Isabelle was born on February 29, 1860 in Raleigh in Smith County. According to the 1860 census, Allen Mckenzie, Daniel’s brother, was living in their household and working as a saddler. Since about May of 1853 Daniel had been practicing medicine. He is working in 1860 as a physician with real estate valued at one thousand two hundred dollars and a personal estate of seven thousand two hundred sixty-five dollars. Apparently, Daniel purchased property from his father-in-law, John G. Blackwell, who is a successful Smith County farmer. Before 1860, Daniel has persuaded his brothers to sell their parents’ Covington County property in order to purchase in Smith County. According to their correspondence, they are living on property along the Leaf River: “I have bargained for a track of land in this County 480 acres which is considered the best in the Co. for which I am to give $1000 … I want them to sell in Cov and pay the $1000 and take this.” It is possible that the land in Smith had not yet been entered in their names, for these McKenzie brothers are not listed in Boyd’s Family Maps of Smith County, Mississippi. However, their fathers-in-law are listed as owning Smith County property in 1860: John Blackwell and R.C. Duckworth.

John G. Blackwell (1819-1890) and Mary Thornton (1820-1892) were Sarah’s parents. According to Smith County, MS and Its Families, “John was a merchant and before the War between the States owned a vast amount of land.” In 1858, Daniel’s brother Duncan describes a trip to New Orleans with John Blackwell, likely on a merchandising trip. The two decided to drive a one-horse buggy to Brookhaven in order to save money by only boarding one horse while they took the train to New Orleans. Blackwell’s horse foundered early in the trip, so they substituted with one of Duncan’s horses. All went as planned until about fifteen miles from home:

he (Duncan’s horse) did well untill we got within about 15 miles

of home on our return when the wheel

Struck a Stump the axle tree broke

the horse scared ran with broken Buggy

a short distance when the Buggy turned

over hurting my side verry much so it has

not entirely got well yet tho not serious

like I thot it was  — Duncan C. McKenzie

During the few years before the Civil War begins, Duncan McKenzie becomes the primary farmer on the Smith County property. Hugh is working as a merchant in a store on the property. Kenneth is working as a carpenter and Allen as a saddler. John, now married to Susan Duckworth is farming with his father-in-law. Daniel and his wife have their own property. Daniel is working as a physician when he decides to give up medicine for merchandising with John G. Blackwell. In November of 1858 he writes:

My health has been very bad since about the middle

of Sept. I had an attack of Typhoid Dysentery from

which I recovered very slowly. I was able to ride about

the first of this month. I rode several nights successively

a good distance. I now have Bronchitis in spite of my

efforts and those of another physician. The inflammation

was not arrested in its acute stage it is assuming

a chronic form, which I dread very much — Daniel C. McKenzie

Daniel continues to speak of his family:

My wife and child are well, my child, John Duncan,

is five months old remarkably large of his age,

Since I came to this place my professional ambition

has been fully gratified. When able I have had generally

about as much to do as I could. Collections have been

slow. I have determined to quit even if I fully regain

my health. I am engaged in merchandizing with

my father-in-law, John G. Blackwell …

If my life is spared and I gain sufficient health to attend

to anything I shall devote my time to this business. you may

see me next summer perhaps we will be getting our goods in N. York.

… If I am spared I will write again.   — Daniel C. McKenzie

Unfortunately, he cannot be spared. Daniel dies in 1860 of typhoid fever on July 13 at home. He is buried in the older portion of the Raleigh Cemetery. According to his brothers Dunk and Kenneth, he was ill for nineteen days and was aware of his condition until the last three days. He told them he was probably going to die unless he rested easy on the 17th and 18th days of his illness. Dunk describes his death as follows:

On the morning of the day before he

died aparently not conscious of what

he was doing or Saying he wished to

be raised up in the bed, and Sarah

his wife told him he was geting beter

his answer was I am going home to serve

my Savior, and reached out his hand

to her, after he was laid back on the bed

he was conscious no more — Duncan C. McKenzie

According to MS Cemetery and Bible Records Volume XIII: A Publication of the Mississippi Genealogical Society, Daniel’s headstone can be found at Raleigh, MS Cemetery: Sacred to the Memory of Dr. D. C. McKenzie/ b. Richmond County, N. C./Aug. 9, 1823/ d. July 12, 1860.

Daniel’s Children

JohnDuncanMcKsonofDanielC copy
Daniel’s son John Duncan McKenzie in Texas. Photo courtesy of Paula Harvey.

Daniel’s Aunt Effy McLaurin, his mother’s favorite sister, died about a year after Daniel. In her will she acknowledges all of Barbara’s living children and Daniel’s two children, John Duncan and “Mollie” Isabelle. A direct descendant of Daniel said that her mother and brother, Daniel’s great grandchildren, visited Smith County and found Daniel’s grave, his headstone broken by time and wear. Daniel’s grandchild, Mittie McKenzie Geeslin, who lived to be 101 years old, had the marker replaced with the exact wording as the original. Sarah M Blackwell died on August 25, 1884, in Mississippi, when she was forty-four years old, having never remarried. Sarah is buried with her parents and several siblings in Forest County, MS. Her great granddaughter replaced Sarah’s gravestone.

Daniel’s daughter, Mary “Mollie” Isabelle McKenzie, married Samuel H. Woody. On June 12, 1936 in Travis County, Texas, at the age of seventy-six Mary “Mollie” Isabelle died. The 1930 census names her as a patient in the Austin State Hospital. According to her death certificate, her residence was in Mills County, city of Goldthwaite. She is buried in North Brown Cemetery, Mills County, Texas. Never having children of her own, Mollie raised Helen, Orbal, and Willie P., her three stepchildren. Helen’s mother was Sam’s first wife Lelia. Lelia’s sister Elizabeth, Sam’s second wife, was the mother of Orbal and Willie. According to the 1900 Federal Census, Samuel H. Woody worked as a merchant in Goldthwaite. The photo of Mollie McKenzie and her “Aunt Lizzie” Elizabeth Blackwell, five years older, was originally submitted to Ancestry by a direct descendant.

John Duncan, Daniel’s son, was born on 2 June 1858 and married Mildred Parshanie “Shanie” Risher in 1886. Her parents were Hezekiah S. Risher and Mary Elizabeth Duckworth Richer. Mildred had eighteen half siblings. In 1900 the Federal Census shows John Duncan working as a dentist in Mills County, Texas, though he also farmed. He died on March 28, 1931 in Goldthwaite, Texas at the age of 72 and is buried there. His son Hugh was born in March of 1892, his daughter Mollie was born in May 1894, and his daughter Mittie was born in October 1898. According to the 1910 Federal Census, he also had a son Anse (known as Dutch) born about 1901, a son Ben born about 1904, a daughter Elsie born about 1904, Allen and Allie are listed as having just been born in 1910. Five of John Duncan’s children died in childhood: daughters Una and Sarah and sons J.D. and Allen.

MaryMollieIsabelleMcK copy
Mary “Mollie” Isabelle, with her “Aunt Lizzie” Elizabeth Blackwell, five years older. Photo courtesy of Paula Harvey. 

According to a direct descendant, John Duncan and Mary “Molly” Isabelle left Smith County, MS for Texas probably after their mother’s passing in 1884. One of the family stories is that “Auntie Woody” came to Texas by train via New Orleans and attended the 1884 New Orleans, LA Cotton Exposition. She had a ring made from a gold piece at the Exposition which is still in the family’s possession. It is also likely that John Duncan and “Auntie Woody” made this trip together.

Susan and her Blackwell family would have to take the credit for raising John Duncan and Mollie. Daniel and Susan would have taken great pride in the adult lives of their children. Daniel would have taken particular pride in his granddaughter, Mittie McKenzie Geeslin. She taught in a one-room schoolhouse before her marriage and sought to further her education through lifelong reading.

Naming Daniel C. McKenzie

Duncan and Barbara McLaurin McKenzie, first generation Americans, attempted to follow the rules of Scottish naming. Their first daughter Catharine is named after her maternal grandmother, first son Kenneth is named after his paternal grandfather, second son Hugh is named after his maternal grandfather. According to the rules, the third son should have been named after the father or the father’s father’s father. However, his parents seem to have taken the opportunity of Daniel’s birth to make an homage to his second great Uncle Dr. Donald (Daniel) C. Stewart. Donald and Daniel are used interchangeably. Also, Daniel may not have been the third son. According to her husband, Barbara had eleven pregnancies. We can account for only eight, so there could have been an intervening child, who died very young.

Daniel is first mentioned in the Duncan McLaurin Papers in April of 1827 when he was about five years old. Donald (or Daniel) C. Stewart (d. 1830) of Greensboro, Guilford County, NC writes to his nephew and Daniel’s grandfather, Kenneth McKenzie (abt. 1768 – abt. 1834). Stewart offers his belated sympathy on the death of Kenneth’s wife. According to The Greensboro Patriot newspaper of this time period, Donald Stewart is an influential supporter of the Greensboro Academy. In this letter he also mentions Daniel:

I am glad to hear that my little

namesake is so healthy, and grows so well

I requested Mr. McLaurin (Duncan) to bring him up

the next trip he makes to this county;

if the little fellow should possess a capa=

=city, or turn for it, I will educate him — Donald C. Stewart

Unfortunately, Daniel never benefits from his second great uncle’s offer to pay for his education. According to The Greensboro Patriot of Wednesday, January 6, 1830, Dr. Donald Stewart dies “Wednesday last at 7 o’clock P.M.” Kenneth mentions “Dr. Donald Stewart” in his 1832 Power of Attorney when he leaves Richmond County, NC. During the probate hearing of Dr. Stewart’s will, it becomes clear that his extensive property has been exhausted in paying off creditors. Kenneth had hoped to inherit a portion of this property. Some believed at the time that the administrator of the estate since Stewart’s death had mismanaged and sold off some of the property to his own advantage. This, however, is never proved.

If Daniel inherits his second great uncle’s name in its entirety, it may be possible to discover what the middle initial C represents. The problem is that even in the Duncan McLaurin Correspondence, not many use their middle names in signatures, though they may use middle initials. Donald Stewart’s middle initial does not appear in a letter written to him by a relative, Dugald Stewart, from Ballachulish, Argyllshire in 1825. This letter is referenced on page 275 of Sketches of North Carolina by Rev. W. H. Foote. It describes the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in the American Revolution. Captain Dugald Stewart participated in this conflict with the 71st Frazier’s Highlanders under Lord Cornwallis.

Since Daniel’s middle initial likely derived from the Stewart family, it might not have stood for Calhoun. Calhoun may have been his younger brother Duncan C. McKenzie’s middle name, though that too is speculation. A few years after Daniel’s death, his brother John writes from the battlefield at Vicksburg to his Uncle Duncan that he has named his firstborn after Daniel, “I would be glad to see Susan and my little boy Daniel we named him after Brother give him his full name.” Since John dies in the Civil War, the C in his son’s name may have eventually come to stand for “Cooper,” a Duckworth family name. It would be gratifying to find the entire name listed in a family Bible.

Special thanks are here given to Paula Harvey for her generous contribution to this post.

Sources

Boyd, Gregory A., J.D. Family Maps of Smith County, Mississippi. Arphax Publishing Co.: Norman, Oklahoma. www.arphax.com. 2010.

Foote, Rev. William Henry. Sketches of North Carolina Historical and Biographical Illustrative of the Principles of a Portion of Her Early Settlers. Robert Carter: New York. 275.

Harvey, Paula. Photograph of Sarah Blackwell. Photograph of Sarah Blackwell and Mary “Mollie” Isabel McKenzie. Photograph of John Duncan McKenzie. Family Stories. via ancestry.com and email. 2016 – 2018.

Letters from Daniel C. McKenzie to his Uncle Duncan McLaurin. 3 July 1843, August 1847, 11 November 1851, 8 December 1854, 25 November 1858. Boxes 1 & 2. Duncan McLaurin Papers. David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Duke University.

Letters from Duncan C. McKenzie to his Uncle Duncan McLaurin. 11 July 1858, 21 July 1860. Boxes 1 & 2. Duncan McLaurin Papers. David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Duke University.

Letter from Duncan McKenzie to Duncan McLaurin. February 1844, March 1845, April 1845, July 1845, January 1846, June 1846. Boxes 1 & 2. Duncan McLaurin Papers. David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Duke University.

Letter from John McKenzie to Duncan McLaurin. 13 July 1862. Boxes 1 & 2. Duncan McLaurin Papers. David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Duke University.

Mississippi Genealogical Society. Mississippi Cemetery & Bible Records. University of Virginia. 1954.

Original data: Texas Department of State Health Services. Texas Death Certificates, 1903-1982. Austin, Texas. USA. ancestry.com. Texas, Death Certificates, 1903-1982 [database on-line]. Provo, Ut, USA: ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013.

Smith County, Mississippi and its Families 1833-2003. Compiled and published by Smith County Genealogical Society, P.O. Box 356, Raleigh, Mississippi 39153. 2003. 77.

Wade, Nicholas. Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors. The Penguin Press: New York. 2006. 18.

Year: 1850; Census Place: Covington, Mississippi; Roll: M432_371; Page: 309B; Image: 207. https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&db=1850usfedcenancestry&h=3391938

Year: 1860; Census Place: Smith, Mississippi; Roll: M653_591; Page: 353; Family History Library Film: 803591. https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&db=1860usfedcenancestry&h=38861910

Year: 1900; Census Place: Goldthwaite, Mills, Texas; Page: 5; Enumeration District: 0111; FHL microfilm: 1241659. https;//search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&db=1900usfedcen&h=54391200

Hugh McKenzie: Kind in His Family and to His Friends

Hugh L. McKenzie (1822-1866)

4c Carting Cotton Bales
“Hauling Cotton to the River,” from Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, March 1854. Vol. 8 Issue 46. p. 460

Hugh McKenzie can be imagined as a kind, sure, and calm man, perhaps as “unobtrusive” as his spinster Aunt Mary McLaurin – possibly a family trait, for the word is inscribed on Mary’s tombstone in Stewartsville Cemetery. Early in life Hugh engaged in driving a wagon, perhaps a large flatbed wagon, stacked with 400 to 500 pound cotton bales. Hugh may have sat atop these bales or they may have towered behind the youth as he sat on the buckboard. Alone under a canopy of night stars with only the mules for immediate companionship on his long journeys, the sense of solitude and escape from his daily farming routine must have been stunning. Perhaps he felt, at first at least, that this was an improvement over the back-breaking farm labor he had done for most of his life.

He was a boy of eleven in 1833 when the family arrived in Covington County, MS after a forty-five day journey from Richmond County, NC. Hugh was old enough to have significant responsibilities on the farm. Though times were hard the boys enjoyed running free in the dwindling old growth forests, hunting for wild critters like the boar and bear and panther that would soon disappear from the Mississippi landscape. At sixteen when he makes his first “waggoning” run to Mobile he is likely among a small caravan of wagons with other drivers from the Covington County area: young Duncan McLaurin, son of Daniel McLaurin, and a Mr. Lee. Meanwhile an anxious Duncan and Barbara McKenzie await their son’s return. Though  encountering unsavory characters on the road was likely a justified concern, and inclement weather an unpredictable hazard, they need not have worried so much in the case of Hugh’s sense of responsibility, for he was probably as steady and grounded a young man as any one of their six sons would be.

DraymenOilPants1860
Perhaps some sort of weather protection was around during the 1840s and 1850s when Hugh enjoyed his occupation as drayman, hauling baled cotton to distant markets. This advertisement appeared in the Vicksburg Daily Whig 4 January 1860.

On this first trip from Covington County, MS to Mobile, Alabama to haul a neighbor’s cotton, he would have absorbed unfamiliar surroundings. The bustle  of a large port city must have been thrilling for the youth, perhaps posing temptations, but leaving him with a sense of accomplishment to have fulfilled such a significant task. Duncan McKenzie, Hugh’s father, is at first proud that his son has taken an interest in this occupation but later worries that it is not safe. Often he could be found riding out to meet the wagon on the return route. Their Covington County home was not ten miles from the Williamsburg court house, which was right on the Mobile road . After Hugh’s first successful trip as a drayman, Duncan says he will allow Hugh to go on a waggoning trip once a year if he likes it. He did. Though still residing with his parents, Hugh would be at times away from the farm, driving wagons as far as Covington, LA near New Orleans.

Hugh’s father describes the first waggoning trip: “the load that Hugh took to Mobile was not ours, he took it for Old Danl McLaurin on freight, … I would prefer selling in the seed and taking freight of the land to go down and get our supplies of groceries and all heavy articles.” He specifies the goods they were able to procure for the return trip: “all are well Their cotton sold at 13 cts They gave 25 per sack for salt 11 1/2 cts for sugar, 18 cts for coffee, 8 cts for grain Hugh likes waggoning very well.”  By 1842 Duncan says of  his son’s wagon trips: “Hugh is now from home and is expected to return to night from Covington Louisiana whither he went with the 3rd load of cotton this fall the distance is about 100 miles he will require to go at least three more before all is sent off thus you find he will necessaryly travil 1200 miles in hawling off say the amount of 30 bales of cotton.” Duncan laments that the family has not profited well in the current economic climate by making cotton their primary crop. Though Hugh’s labor is probably missed considerably on the farm, their father describes his sons Daniel and Hugh as the worst cotton pickers in the labor force, picking only about one hundred pounds a day.

Hugh L. McKenzie was born in 1822 in Richmond County, North Carolina to Duncan McKenzie and Barbara McLaurin McKenzie, both twenty-nine. When he was born the family was farming there. After migrating to Covington County, MS, they paid a dollar in property taxes, sharing rent for land adjacent to Allan Stewart’s farm with Allan Johnson and Duncan McBryde. They moved onto cleared land, though their shelter was probably an early yeoman farmer house on stilts for which they may or may not have had a chimney. In a later home on nearby purchased property, they would need to bake their own bricks to provide an indoor chimney for cooking. By 1838 Hugh’s father had accrued property at Dry Creek near Williamsburg, enough to have paid one dollar and eighty-two cents in taxes, and in 1841 owned six hundred and forty dollars worth of land at Dry Creek. Son Hugh owned one hundred and twenty acres worth one hundred and sixty-three dollars on the Bowie River for which he paid ninety cents in taxes. His father writes that he has given the responsibility of making a tract of land productive to his oldest two sons, Hugh and Kenneth.  The family is listed as owning eight slaves by 1846, though the tax rolls show the family owning none in 1833, when they arrived in Covington County. However, an impression from the correspondence is that one enslaved person may have traveled with the family. It is possible a number of people for slave labor were purchased very soon from North Carolina, as John McLaurin writes of a contingent of slaves being taken west to Mississippi. In addition, Duncan McKenzie reports back to Duncan McLaurin in a letter that a particular enslaved person has defied her reputation and given him no trouble. Likely it was more advantageous to a small farmer to know the background of the people with whom the family would be working very closely on the farm.

By the Federal Census of 1850, Hugh’s father had died (1847 of typhus), but Hugh was still living with his mother, who is listed as head of the household. He was twenty-eight years old and working as a farmer. The value of Barbara McKenzie’s property was one thousand two hundred and seventy dollars. With the death of Barbara in 1855, the fabric that had held the brothers in a shared farming relationship probably began to fray. It would be only natural that the brothers would eventually create families of their own. However, their prosperity had always depended on each other as part of the workforce on a farm. A few years later Hugh’s brother Daniel married Sarah Blackwell of Smith County. Daniel, having his own income from years of teaching, owns property there. He encourages his brothers to leave the Covington County farm and purchase in Smith County. They do. Since their father’s death, any attempt to settle up a division of property interests on the Covington County farm has met with difficulty, so an alternative would have been to sell their father’s farm. Hugh writes the following in December of 1859 to his Uncle Duncan McLaurin in North Carolina:

We have bought the place Taylorville

from Daniel and his father in law (John Blackwell) for

which we gave $5.00.00 It contains 2 acres of land

a large and good store house grocery lot and

stables cribs we then invoyesed the goods at

New orleans cost for $2200,00 and I am now

selling goods we have bought in Mobile

$2000 00 worth more making in all over

$4000 worth of goods and I am selling over

$ 50 00 worth per day, how long it will

I know not if it does last and we can

collect we can make money … — Hugh McKenzie

On the verge of the the cataclysm that would change everything for Hugh and his family, the Civil War, the 1860 census shows H L, Hugh, at thirty-seven years old. He is working as a merchant in Smith County. His real estate is worth two thousand dollars and his personal estate worth two thousand five hundred. The records reveal Hugh is part of a large household that of his younger brother Duncan, listed in the census as a farmer. The household includes also Duncan’s wife Martha Ann Duckworth McKenzie and their four month old daughter Barbara Elizabeth, known as Bettie. Also in the household are listed younger brother John, twenty-seven and farming as well as his wife, sixteen-year-old Susan Duckworth McKenzie. Another household member is twenty-four-year old Malvary Johnson from Alabama working as a farm laborer. At some point after this census, Hugh also marries into the Duckworth family and sets up his own household. He marries Sarah, Martha’s sister, who already has three children from a previous marriage: R. C., Susan, and Laura Keyes or Keys. What must have been a short time before his marriage, he writes in 1859 regarding the marriage of his youngest brother, John:

Day after tomorrow John will

find his lost rib in the person of a

Miss Susan Duckworth and sister to Dunks

wife I think though she is poor, John

does very well, they Dunks wife and

Johns intended has done all they could

for Allen and myself, but it is no go

I cannot marry any woman that will marry

me because she can do no better

how Allens case is I know not I think the same — Hugh McKenzie

Evidently, it did not take much time for Hugh to change his mind. He and Sarah were probably married by 1862 because he is the father of three children born during the Civil War: Mollie C., James C. and Daniel F. McKenzie.

Hugh was literate thanks to his North Carolina teacher Uncle Duncan McLaurin. In adulthood, Hugh pens a number of the letters in the Duncan McLaurin collection. When he becomes a merchant in 1859 from Smith County, he writes his Uncle Duncan a revealing letter describing the store. He is a merchant before he marries and is lamenting his lonely life, except when the business of the store draws a congregation of local people, likely most of them male. Merchandizing allows him a great deal of social contact that he seems to find rewarding in a job that could often be solitary. It is possible that due to his quiet nature Hugh did a great deal of listening when customers congregated at the store. Having been raised by parents who did not tolerate alcoholic beverages, he may not have sold them at his store or done much drinking himself, though his customers might have. The following account from a letter written to his uncle in 1859 may or may not have happened at or near his store. He surely heard the story there:

Sometimes I feel lonesome

by myself then crowds come in

and keep me all day from my dinner

and sometimes late in the night

We have some fighting a Mr.

Powers a member of the Presbyterian

Church loaded a pistol and said he

intended to kill a Mr. Little Powers

went to Little and told him if he would

come out of the house he would beat

him to death Little came out and

powers drew the pistol and shot at Little

but missed Little picked up a sick (stick)

and began beating Powers

and Powers running until L beat him

to the ground Powers is badly hurt

and Littles ear is powder burnt

some booth are respectable men — Hugh McKenizie

War loomed on the horizon and none of their lives would ever be the same. Hugh’s brothers John, Allen, and Kenneth all joined infantry regiments from Smith County during the Civil War. Hugh, according to his own account and his brother Dunk’s, served as Captain in a Cavalry Unit that was not called into action until around the time of the Siege of Vicksburg. H. L. McKenzie is listed in a database of Civil War Soldiers with the 12th Mississippi Cavalry Regiment, Company H. He enters as a private and ranks out as a sergeant. In September of 1863, Hugh writes, “I must take my chances with the rest or take the bushes with the deserters which I do not expect to do for a while.” Dunk remains on the farm for the duration of the Civil War, serving as Postmaster. The Postmaster position likely kept Duncan from conscription, since owning less than twenty slaves rendered you subject to conscription by the Confederate Army. At home Dunk would have to deal with Confederate deserters hiding out in the woods very near his Leaf River farm but in Jones County. They would steal his cotton cards and burn his newly built bridge.  At the outbreak of the war, the family had become more successful and may have purchased more than the original eight slaves their father owned in the 1840s. Still they would have been yeoman farmer status, and may have been expanding their farm or labor force on credit. After the Civil War ended, Hugh intended to leave Mississippi with his family and migrate to Texas, where some of his wife’s Duckworth relatives had migrated. However, he would never leave.

Perhaps he stayed after his own health began to deteriorate. His brother Duncan writes in 1866 that Hugh is doing very well. Possibly Hugh’s health had been compromised by the extreme deprivations endured by soldiers on the battlefields of the Civil War. Duncan could not have foreseen that his brother would be dead before the year was out. Hugh died on the 14th of December 1866 of typhoid fever leaving Sarah Duckworth McKenzie a widow for the second time but with six children now. Her three oldest children are from a previous marriage. According to the 1870 Federal Census, the rest of Hugh’s family is surviving. Sarah is thirty-seven and has personal property worth four hundred dollars. She is head of the household in Jasper County, MS, which includes “Robert C – 17, Susan – 15, Laura – 12, Mollie – 8, James C – 6, and Ella – 4”. Sarah has no other occupation listed other than keeping house, which was probably the employment status of many war widows. She lives near her younger sister, Susan, the widow of John McKenzie, Hugh’s youngest brother. Susan is also keeping house with personal property worth three hundred dollars. Susan lives with her three children: “Daniel – 10, John Duncan – 8, and Allen – 6”. A decade later according to the 1880 Census, Hugh’s widow Sarah continues to live in Jasper County with all of her children except Susan, who has likely married.

On the cusp of war in 1860 the forty-nine year old father of Martha, Sarah, and Susan McKenzie, R C (Robert Cooper) Duckworth, lived in neighboring Jasper County with his forty-seven year old wife Elizabeth. The Duckworth household also included Benjamin, twenty-three; Elizabeth, fourteen; Robert G, twelve; Wilson, ten;  and Joseph, six. R. C. Duckworth farmed with real estate worth one thousand eight hundred dollars and personal property worth seven thousand dollars. His son Benjamin worked as a clerk. Duckworth and his wife had migrated much earlier from South Carolina to Mississippi with a large contingent of relatives. Robert Duckworth would die during the siege of Vicksburg and another son, Cooper, would be killed at Missionary Ridge, GA. Benjamin would be wounded at Vicksburg but recover. John McKenzie recovers from the typhoid fever he suffers while at Vicksburg during the siege but is captured at Nashville in 1864 and died at POW Camp Chase in Ohio. After the war R.C. Duckworth writes to a nephew in Bastrop, Texas, describing the family losses during the war: “Hugh McKenzie Married Sarah Margaret, and Died in Dec. after the Surrender, leaving Both the girls (Susan and Sarah) widows and the children on my hands there was property enough to have Supported them Hansomely if they could have retained it .”

Hugh and Sarah’s son James Cooper McKenzie, born in 1863, married Ella Josephine Wilson b. 1875. James Iived out his life in Jasper County, where he was working as a farmer in 1900. He died in 1906 and was buried in Bay Springs, MS Cemetery. James Cooper and Ella had five children: Bernice was born in 1896, James L. in 1899, William Oma in 1901, Grace T in 1903, and James C in 1905. James C. McKenzie’s widow Ella McKenzie married James A. Erwin to whom were born three children.

Hugh’s brother, Duncan McKenzie, writes poignantly about family deaths in a letter dated February 25, 1867. Following Hugh’s death, Duncan’s oldest daughter died of a brief illness. The loss of his daughter Bettie, age seven, has compounded his grief. Still he writes of his brother: “Hugh also is gone, on the 14th December he breathed his last of Typhoid Fever Hugh was a good man and kind in his family and to friends.” What greater tribute than to have been remembered as a good and kind man by one who knew him well.

Hugh’s Letters to his Uncle Duncan McLaurin

1853 — During this year Hugh is prompted to open correspondence with his uncle by receiving a number of postage stamps from him. In his May 1853 letter Hugh writes, “I received the stamps you sent me and only had to regret it was not something that I could keep as a keepsake to your memory.” Hugh’s uncle was not only a relative for whom he had close childhood memories, he was Hugh’s childhood teacher and a former postmaster at Laurel Hill, NC. The stamps Hugh receives were some of the first ever issued after 1847, George Washington three cent stamps. One remains to this day attached to an archived letter in this collection.

Hugh tries to interest his Uncle by offering sensational stories about several murder cases, one involving a husband ordering his wife to kill their child. The accused has died before the judge could sentence him to hang. In another case character witnesses for the accused were discovered apparently in deceiving the court. One only has to peruse southern newspapers of the 1850s decade to recognize evidence of the general violence and fear growing among southerners over slavery. Hugh relates a story from Lawrence County Mississippi of two young men in pursuit of a runaway Negro:

(They) found him in an ale house the Negro finding

himself hemmed rushed out at the door

and after he passed sufficient not

to endanger each other both fired on the

negro the negro was gone some days and

came in with three Buckshot in his back

one above his sholder blade and one each

side of his back bone between the

Sholder Blade he is geting well — Hugh McKenzie

Another of Hugh’s brothers completes a letter begun by Hugh but does not sign his name. It is likely Duncan or Kenneth. This person relates two more criminal incidents. In Simpson County a mulatto belonging to a Thomas Hubbard was executed after being sentenced, escaping to Mobile, being re-sentenced, and finally hung. A white man in the same county accused of murder under “very plain” circumstantial evidence escaped sentencing by having the case dismissed. The jury deliberated for fourteen hours and could not reach a verdict.

Hugh reports that the family is well except his brother Kenneth has been suffering from his usual chronic rheumatic illness. However, in the next month’s letter he reports that the flu and measles are making the rounds. Hugh offers his opinion on the practice of medicine, concluding that “without the assistance of nature (it) is all of no use.”  It is with pleasure that he remarks upon his Aunt Isabella’s return to sanity. Unfortunately, Isabella relapses and in 1857 will be admitted to the first North Carolina Insane Asylum, later known as the Dorothea Dix Hospital. His brother Daniel will begin fulfilling his lifelong dream of practicing as a physician in a few days. Hugh also remarks on the marriage of Cousin John McKenzie in North Carolina to Sarah Ann Hasty and mentions his McCall and Douglas cousins. The brother who finishes one of Hugh’s letters adds that he has visited the “hatter John McNair,” an acquaintance of his uncle’s. He writes, “When I informed him that I was a grand son of Hugh Balchellish (Ballachulish), his eyes appeared to Sparkle with the full vigor of youth.” McNair then clasped his hand and said, “I loved Balchellish I love Duncan, I love them all.”

Their crops are a bit late but they have a great deal of corn since they planted an extra fifty acres in land they rented for a dollar an acre. By the next month, Hugh is lamenting the lack of rain.

As for politics, Hugh says Governor Foote has been trying to unite the unionists and secessionists in the state. Hugh reveals his propensity for casual listening without getting involved when he remarks on the political ignorance in an overheard conversation. The conversants cannot see why Andrew Jackson had to be “turned out of the office of the President and if he is not qualified any longer why not put Governor Brown of Miss in his place.” Though there were no term limits for the Presidency, Andrew Jackson had been dead for the better part of a decade. Hugh continues to comment that, “You may think this is all burlesque but I heard the conversation between two Locos.” Locos, short for Locofocos is a pre-Civl War political moniker Whigs often used for the Democratic party.

1855: This year the family farm has experienced drought. It has been a scattered drought affecting the McKenzies and neighbors Duncan McLaurin, a Mr. Gray, and Duncan B. Easterling. Their Irish potatoes did not grow, though cotton sold for 10 to 12 1/2 cents per lb. Their returns are at Columbia, though they have not been there to receive them due to a smallpox outbreak in the area. The birds, squirrels, and raccoons are, “devouring our corn the worst I ever saw.” The brothers hunt the raccoons at night. Daniel shoots at birds and squirrels during the day.

In politics Kenneth has switched from Whig to Democrat. Senator Brown has embraced the Locofoco platform and calls it democracy. Hugh says, “the fleece and not the flock is the object of Senator Brown’s words.”

Some neighbors in Covington county are intending to sell out. Hugh mentions that Duncan McLaurin will relocate to Hinds County and his brother Daniel will migrate to Texas. It would make Hugh happy if his Uncle Duncan would move to Mississippi and settle on newly vacated Duncan McLaurin place. Hugh’s brother Daniel intends to relocate to Raleigh in Smith County.

Education in Mississippi is improving and Hugh knows his uncle’s interest in that subject. He mentions there are 145 students this session at Zion Seminary in Covington county under the supervision of Reverend A. R. Graves. In Marshall county Oxford University is run by Methodists and Baptists and ranks as one of the best in the country in Hugh’s opinion. One Professor Longstreet, author of Georgia Scenes, is President. Hugh promises to send a published letter by Longstreet to his uncle.

1856: This April letter is a short one and begins with Hugh expressing his uneasiness to hear from his Uncle when he does not write regularly. However, Hugh himself does not appear to write regularly. He reassures his uncle that his remaining unmarried is not due to the example of a number of his life-long bachelor relatives. He says to tell his McCall and Douglas cousins that it is time for them to step up and marry. Some of the McKenzie brothers are evidently courting during these years. Earlier Hugh had written to his uncle that a marriage might be in the future for someone in the McKenzie family but that is, “entirely broke up.” His Uncle Duncan has perhaps been lamenting the fact that he has few, if any, great nieces and nephews. A little over a decade later, Duncan would outlive the only nieces and one nephew, all childless, that might have carried the surname of Hugh McLaurin of Ballachulish.

Hugh reports the death of one of Duncan’s acquaintances, Alexander McDonald. He died in his field after appearing fine at breakfast. Plowing his field for about an hour, he complained of a headache. He tried to sit on a log but missed, sitting on the ground instead. His youngest son Neill came to him asking if he was sick. He replied that he thought he might be dying. Neill sent to the house but his father never spoke again after that. Alexander McDonald was buried at Charles McNair’s in Simpson County where his mother-in-law was buried.

1859: September of this year finds the family on their new place in Smith County. Hugh writes, “their is so much to do that we hardly know which to do first.” Their crop was planted, “too rough and too late,” to be very productive. They will be, “hard pressed for money,” during the winter since the price of corn was up during the summer. It is typical of Mississippians during these years to depend on cotton to save them. Hugh writes, “if the price of cotton keeps up I think perhaps we can get through without much difficulty if we try.” He continues to explain that they are still clearing their land, building houses, and picking cotton. Hugh continues by describing their land:

We have five hundred and fifty

acres beside 94 that Daniel owns

individually I will send you the plot

of it there is about 40 acres in the

hills the rest is all in Leaf River

Swamp and not five acres but

may be cultivated with very

little draining we have about

50 acres cut and piled since we

finished laying bye our crop

that with the 40 acres that we

cleared last spring is enough of

open land for Daniel and Dunk

the neighbors say they will never

give Allen John and myself

an equal interest with them in

the place how they know I know not but time will determine

the correctness of their Prophecy — Hugh McKenzie

The last few lines regarding their brothers not sharing equal interest proved not to be true. At least the war would soon intervene to make the “prophecy” irrelevant. Possibly the source of this rumor about the brothers was the same as earlier rumors — Kenneth. He may have spread rumors which had sewn discord among the brothers and once caused Allen to become physically violent with Kenneth. Hugh also criticizes his brothers, Daniel and Dunk, for trading too much. He says they are “bowth bad hands to collect,” and he will not trade on a credit or collect for them. He says they never collect anything that is due them. Duncan will later confirm this tendency regarding his brother Daniel’s work as a physician.

Hugh mentions that Daniel does not do much practice as a physician, but he did “$5000 worth last year.” Whether or not he collected that much, Hugh does not say. He does also mention that the country is generally healthy. Daniel and his wife have joined the Methodist Church in Smith County. According to Hugh they, “joined .. last Sunday week under the eloquence of a Drumkin Irishman I hope they will do better than their pastor.” He says that Dunk’s wife has, “joined the Babtists last spring.” Later Dunk will write to his uncle that he also has joined the Baptist faith. Hugh sends his love to his Uncle John and all of his aunts.

By December of 1859 Hugh writes that they have purchased the Taylorville place from Daniel and his father-in-law, John Blackwell. The purchase is two acres of land upon which there is a, “large and good store house grocery lot and stables cribs.” This is when he begins his merchandising. They are looking at “promising crops.” Perhaps this will serve to hold them over for at least the early years of the war. They will have to haul bricks twenty miles to build a chimney for the store.

According to Hugh, John married Susan Duckworth on the 15th of December. In the same letter Hugh mentions that Daniel and his wife are expecting another child. Also, Dunk and Martha are expecting their first child.

1863: Hugh begins this wartime letter by reassuring his uncle that they are all relatively well and have plenty to eat, though that is through lucky escape:

Yet Lincolns thieves have not molested us

but how soon they will I cant tell there is

nothing to hinder them as Johnsons army

is all gone from the state with the exception

of three cavalry Brigades and Lorings Division

of Infantry We have some state troops

just enough to be an expence to the state

and no proffit I  had a company of state

cavalry and was conscripted I then obtained an

order to rais a company to wait on the conscript

Branscough what next I know not but

I cannot keep out of the army any longer  — Hugh McKenzie

On his way to mail the last letter Hugh will write to his uncle, he stops by John’s place.  John is finishing up a letter to Kenneth, who has survived his trip to North Carolina to visit his uncle. Hugh and John combine their letters to send in one envelope to their uncle’s address at Laurel Hill, NC. Hugh writes that John’s health is improving since the Siege of Vicksburg, though he worries that, “he will not be able to make an efficient soldier … his constitution is not verry good at best.” John’s inability to recover his former health is likely the reason he does not survive the pestilential conditions as a prisoner of war in 1865.

In 1861 their Aunt Effy, Barbara’s favorite sister and childhood companion died a spinster. Her property of enslaved people is sold and a small portion of the proceeds are inherited by Barbara’s children and grandchildren. Hugh kindly tells his uncle to keep his portion since, in his old age, his uncle may need it more. He remarks upon what his uncle likely knows that any amount in Confederate money will probably be worthless soon. Hugh also says that beef drivers from Texas to Covington county have rumored that “France will interfere on our behalf to save the Mexican teritory.” Hugh remarks that if France does “interfere” on behalf of the South, it will either prolong the war or may be a means of saving the Confederacy. His opinion probably leans toward prolonging the war as he comments about any secessionist or unionist who has not been sobered by this war:

All the consolation that I can have is

in Saying to the un cowed that I hope they

will get a full gorge of Secession and

that any sane man could see that the

democratic wagon was going down to the

abolitionists it has been the wrath of the

Democratic party to rule or ruin the fairest

Government that ever did exist but it is

now gone hopelessly gone and the

innocent has to suffer if we conquer

a peace on any terms we are ruined in

fact I see nothing but ruin let the

conflict end as it may — Hugh McKenzie

At age 41, three years before his death, Hugh poignantly ends this last epistle to his uncle by asking Kenneth to share with him descriptions of people and places they remember from childhood in NC. He jokingly asks Kenneth about paying a long-held childhood debt to a Mrs. Mayfield — if he has not, Hugh would pay.

Ask Kenneth to write to me

I think he could if he would …

tell him to give me his

impressions from childhood about

persons and places a recollect — Hugh McKenzie

SOURCES:

Bynum, Victoria E. The Free State of Jones: Mississippi’s Longest Civil War. The University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill. 2001. 32, 76, 41, 64, 128.

Covington County Tax Rolls, 1818-1902, MDAH, accessed June 20, 2017, http://www.mdah.ms.gov/arrec/digital_archives/tax rolls/

Fox-Genovese, Elizabeth. Within the Plantation Household: Black and White Women of the Old South. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1988.

Letter from R.C. Duckworth to his nephew Sam Duckworth of Bastrop, TX. 24 May 1868. Duckworth-Smith-McPherson Family Papers, 1838-1885, 1940, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Letters from Duncan McKenzie to Duncan McLaurin. 29 January 1833, 7 November 1838, 9 December 1842, 6 June 1843, 28 December 1845, . Boxes 1 and 2. Duncan McLaurin Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Letters from Duncan McKenzie to Uncle Duncan McLaurin. 25 February 1867, 4 April 1867. Boxes 1 & 2. Duncan McLaurin Papers. David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Duke University.

Letters from Hugh McKenzie to Uncle Duncan McLaurin. 4 May 1853, 16 June 1853, 24 July 1855, 17 April 1856, 11 September 1859, 13 December 1859, 2 September 1863. Boxes 1 and 2. Duncan McLaurin Papers. David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Duke University.

Letters from Kenneth McKenzie to his Uncle Duncan McLaurin in Richmond County, North Carolina. 19 April 1855, 15 September 1857. Boxes 1,2. Duncan McLaurin Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Duke University.

National Park Service. U.S. Civil War Soldiers, 1861-1865 [database on-line]. Provo, U, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2007. Original data: National Park Service, Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System, online <>, acquired 2007.

“Oil Jackets and Pants.” Vicksburg Daily Whig. 4 January 1860. 4. Accessed 24 December 2018. newspapers.com.

U.S. Federal Census 1850; Covington, Mississippi; M432_371; 309B; 207. Family Search (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M4LC-38N:accessed 16 September 2015.. citing family 305, NARA microfilm publication M432(Washington, D.C.:National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

US Federal Census 1860; Smith County, Mississippi; Roll: M653_591; Page: 243; Family History Library Film: 803591.

US Federal Census 1870. Jasper County, MS. South West Beat. Roll: M593_732; Page: 626B; Family History Library Film: 552231.

Land of His Infancy — Kenneth McKenzie b. 1820

KMcKReceiptforInheritance1863
Barbara McKenzie’s favorite sister, Effy McLaurin, died in 1861. She remembered Barbara’s children and grandchildren in her will. Kenneth was likely the only one of Barbara’s sons to actually receive this small inheritance. The date on the receipt, 14 August 1863, may mark as near as we can tell the actual arrival of Kenneth in North Carolina.

Kenneth McKenzie in 1880, working at his carpenter’s bench in Stewartsville, NC, would have been sixty years old. Estranged from his Mississippi family and having outlived his parents and all of his brothers save one, he may have had little inclination to return to Mississippi. Kenneth left that state for North Carolina in 1863 in the midst of the Civil War. Born in North Carolina in 1820, Kenneth revealed in the Duncan McLaurin correspondence an inclination to consider the land of his infancy his real home. On the other hand there must have been warmer if not joyful Mississippi memories: hunting in the pinewoods; political barbecues and counting votes at elections; the warmth and security provided by his hardworking parents, attentive caregivers during his chronic bouts of rheumatic illness; the family at a fireside reading from the long-awaited correspondence of their Uncle Duncan at Laurel Hill.

He may have felt himself entitled to former McLaurin property, since by 1873 he was involved in a failed property lawsuit against his beloved and aging teacher, his Uncle Duncan. The evidence of this is found in the probate hearing for his cousin Owen McLaurin. Over a decade later in 1885, one Kenneth McKenzie purchases land very near the property once owned by his Uncle Duncan in Richmond County, NC near Laurel Hill. Only a very single-minded person would have been motivated in his sixties to recover what he may have thought to be a rightful inheritance.

On the other hand, it is possible that Kenneth may have married and raised a family. His brother, Dunk, writes in 1867, “…he is young with a young wife,” having learned this information from his brother, Allen to whom Kenneth has written a letter. No evidence of his having a wife or children exists. It is strange that Duncan would speak of Kenneth as “young.” In 1867 he would have been forty-seven.

Kenneth working as a carpenter and purchasing land near his mother’s ancestral home in North Carolina is speculation based on evidence that cannot at this time be proved as our Kenneth’s. However, references to Kenneth in the Duncan McLaurin Papers leads one to believe the last decades of his life may have passed as a solitary man. His testimony at the will probate hearing of his cousin Owen McLaurin is revealing. He may have harbored a determination to connect with a tangible manifestation of what he considered his rightful inheritance and home or perhaps a sense of faded youth and family connections.

Civil War Years

KMcKConfArmyDisharge1862

Probate records following the death of his cousin Owen McLaurin place Kenneth in Richmond County, NC in the early 1870s. Evidence from correspondence and Civil War military records show that he left Smith County, MS in 1863 after mustering out of the Confederate Army. Probate testimony reveals that he joined a North Carolina regiment late in the war.

In October of 1861, Kenneth writes to his Uncle from Enterprise, MS on the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, where the Smith County soldiers have deployed, “having embarked on the 30th day of July last as a private in a Company called True Confederates.” Kenneth says he is in Company D. His younger brother Allen is a Lieutenant in Company A, “Yankee Terrors,” of the same regiment, also at Enterprise. An outbreak of measles rapidly depletes the regiment. Having suffered measles in their youth and childhoods, the two McKenzie brothers are safe: “The measles have scourged the citizen soldiery heavily but all are now on the recovery, tho some linger yet, Allen and myself are well … both of us having had measles years ago.” For once Kenneth has managed to remain healthy without a recurrence of his chronic rheumatic condition. After expressing condolences on the death of his mother’s favorite sister, Effy, who has remembered the brothers in her will, Kenneth describes military life at Enterprise:

The roll of the drum the glittering bayonet the Keen

crack of the Mississippi rifle the multiplicity

of Buoie Knives and Colts Repeating pistols Show

that the boys are in for Strife or right we have

received a portion of our pay Each private

at eleven Dollars per month have received

ten Dollars in State or Confederate bonds

What will be the results of our efforts is all unknown

to us at this time tho I will Keep you informed as

much as possible at intervals without any

attention to receipts from you, as the guide to

my correspondence. — Kenneth McKenzie

It is possible Kenneth is waxing poetic regarding the rifles and Colts, since the Confederate Army in 1861 was desperately in need of weapons. So great was the need for weapons, that their brother Dunk had made a number of Bowie knives with leather scabbards and sent them to Enterprise. The “multiplicity of Buoie Knives” is probably accurate since they were easier to come by locally. Following this description, Kenneth adds that he would like to visit North Carolina again, “Should I live to be released from my present responsibilities I shall return to the land of my nativity and mingle with the friends of my childhood.”

Kenneth’s brother John writes from his deployment at Vicksburg in July of 1862 that all were at home except for Kenneth, who was deployed in Alabama near Pollard, on the border of Alabama and Florida. Kenneth is well and perhaps learning, through force, that he can survive traveling long distances under difficult conditions. Heretofore, he has set out on multiple journeys only to return home with either illness or lack of funds as an excuse. By 1862 Kenneth is over forty years old. In an undated letter Kenneth writes that he has been appointed an assistant surgeon to the company, where he will, “use my endeavors to maintain myself or act as not to be censured deservedly.” Evidently, this military life has become a trial for him. Within the Smith County regiment, he transfers from Company D to Company A and then to Company C. In 1863 Dunk writes that Kenneth has, “joined a company of Cavalry for the defense of the state.” Apparently, Kenneth never joined or found a way out of this service, for in 1863 John McKenzie, having survived the siege of Vicksburg, addresses a letter to Kenneth at Uncle Duncan’s in NC.

Brotherly Estrangement and Politics

It appears that in the face of war, Kenneth has begun to mend some of the recent fractures between himself and his brothers. The familial rift appears to have begun with negative reaction to some of Kenneth’s financial endeavors. Kenneth has evidently not always carried his weight on the farm due to chronic illness, but his livelihood appears to have come from the shared family interests in the farm. He also owned his own tract of land in Covington County. By 1860 Kenneth writes that he is living with a friend, James McGill and family.  He describes this situation to his uncle:

I am now living

with James McGill I appreciate the

respect with which I am treated by

himself and family, my health has

been good since the coming in of Septr

last, previously I had a severe attact

of fever from which I have not regained

my standard weight … as

for my self my future is hidden in oblive

iousness and will continue mystified

through life I fear oblivious curtain hides

the future. — Kenneth McKenzie

Earlier in November of 1857, Kenneth sums up some of his financial activities. He has been interested in the railroads that are being built in the state. In August he made a trip to New Orleans and marvels at the speed of the train, “the distance being made in seven hours including the time that was taken in taking the mail at each station, there being 13, if the country was filled up with railroads there would be little use for carriages or any such vihicles … and the travel would be cheaper as the speed is so much greater.” His Uncle Duncan had been involved in bringing the railroad through Richmond County in North Carolina. For these reasons Kenneth expresses an interest in supporting a proposed Brandon and Ship Island railroad. He claims, “If justice is done by the surveying engineer under the present charter the road will come directly through this county.” He follows this speculation with news that he has, “subscribed,” one thousand dollars if it (the railroad), “runs in a certain limit.” This rail line is not built until after the war and did not follow the exact route Kenneth had hoped.

Kenneth probably obtained the thousand dollar railroad investment from selling land, buying Spanish horses, and reselling them. Evidently Kenneth was drawn into the horse trading deal by others in Covington County.

I have bot and sold some Spanish horses

they are noted for durability I have made

some money by it, I have it in mind to

take a trip to Western Texas and procure

Spanish mares and mules two of my

neighbors boys both Brothers named Lott

have made the first trip ever made to this

country from Goliad on the San antone River

with a … of 36 Horses part of which

I bought and sold all but two which I

have yet on hand they are severe in their

disposition until tamed and conquered a

man alone cannot make more than a lively hood

by labour  — Kenneth McKenzie

This last line regarding “Labour” is revealing and likely what worries Kenneth’s brothers. Kenneth says he has sold land to enable himself, “to have a surplus to catch tricks with tho not enough to catch many if I go to mexico I shall carry perhaps a thousand dollars which according to the statement of Morgan and Jesse Lott will buy from sixty to 75 Horses or perhaps 100 head.” For all of their adult lives until they marry, the McKenzie brothers have shared the financial vicissitudes of farming. Apparently in the late 1850s Kenneth breaks with this tradition.

It seems that Kenneth’s taking financial risks is not sanctioned by his brothers, although he appears not to have made the trip to Mexico or even Texas. Another brother writes that Kenneth has been spreading rumors about the family. These family conflicts come to a head in November of 1857 when Allen, who Kenneth has described as “the biggest and strongest,” seeks Kenneth out and accosts him.

this morning I was at the lot

gate looking at some sows and pigs all in

peace and harmony when Allen came there

and said that I had to gather up my ponies

and leave a damned loafer I made him

some evasive and perhaps insulting answer

when he caught me by the hair and struck me

several blows before I could extricate myself

from him I have given him no reason for this abuse to me

I shall have him arrested I will not be treated in any such

manner by him or any one else — Kenneth McKenzie

By March of 1858 Kenneth’s brother, Duncan, writes to his uncle that Kenneth is in the carpentering business, but he does not know how long he will continue at that. That carpentering experience could have served Kenneth well in the end, for he may have spent some time working with Hugh McCall’s carpentering business in Laurel Hill, North Carolina.

This rift between brothers was not a sudden thing. It had likely been brewing for many years, even as children. Their father, Duncan McKenzie, remarks that more work is done in the fields when they feel that they have an opportunity to best another. Kenneth himself brags about the times he has outdone his brother Duncan. In 1847 he writes, “tell Uncle John that I shot Daniels Spaniard gun and Duncans shot beat Buchannan I beat him I believe I am the best shot.” Kenneth’s brother Hugh writes that this competitiveness with his brothers reaches into his political opinions as well, “Kenneth has turned Locofoco with all his might and main down on the true American platform and particularly so on his best friends and the McLaurins … Kenneth is a Democrat because Daniel and Duncan are Whigs he does a great injury to the intelligent part of this county.” In addition, Kenneth appears to have given his brother Daniel some conflict as Daniel tried to settle up his father’s estate so that they could sell the property. Duncan writes, “you have heard about the trouble he (Kenneth) gave to Daniel in setting up the estate which is now wound up or nearly so.” No more detailed explanation of this “trouble” exists in the correspondence.

Competitiveness  does not quite explain Kenneth’s attitude fully. Possibly some jealousy enters into the equation. In a moment of deep bitterness during Barbara’s excruciating battle with the oral cancer, Kenneth writes resentfully and without mercy of his more successful McLaurin relatives:

Neighbors are generally kind in visiting tho some being close

born are not neighbors for instance the agust McLaurins

who compose the aristocracy of this county and are

amenable to the presbyterian order but they dwell more

on money finances than the immortality of the Soul

… the world they are aiming

to arrive at is flowing with gold and negroes and fine cotton

and comely pairs of fine animals with gaudy decorations …

uncle they do not come to see mother since she has

been afflicted Before then when she was able to trudge

round and prepare fine dinners they were con

stantly on a visiting expedition … — Kenneth McKenzie

Unsuccessful in relationships with family, he also felt thwarted in romantic relationships. Several times Kenneth refers to his attempts to engage in a courtship, but he seems to always come up short. In 1858 his brother Duncan writes that Kenneth has been too indecisive in engaging a Miss Malloy and has lost her to Alexander Magee. Duncan writes, “In regard to Miss MaLoys K says to tell you he is like Jethrew Robins was, Robins was sitting on the fence at the time of the marriage shedding tears on being asked what was the mater he replied Oh she’s gone and I wanted her …” It may have been that later in life Kenneth did marry, though he would have been closer to fifty years old.

During the 1850s Kenneth’s political attitudes are developing but cannot be explained altogether as sibling rivalry. He also readily takes note of the local fear of slave insurrection. If he were becoming Democratic, he probably supported the idea of slavery as a positive good. His brothers were Whigs, who generally justified slavery as a necessary evil. He is quick to report to his uncle the fearful incidents about which he reads or hears rumored. In 1851 he tells the story of a Mrs. Dixon, an acquaintance, and her child of Jasper County, MS who were, “murdered by a Negro man she fell victim to insult from the bestial being, and died defending her virtues and the life of her child.” In a racially charged incident such as this, no innocent-until-proven-guilty or justice-under-the-law existed for enslaved people. Kenneth goes on to report that, “The negro was burned by the citizens on the spot which the crime was perpetrated.” He continues to relate Negro crimes: one attempt to cut the throat of a white man, two negroes engage in murderous conflict. He follows this with the opinion that the “North has become conscience stricken at the servitude of the Ethiopian,” but that has little influence in the South except perhaps to incite slave insurrection. He writes that abolitionism has “implanted in the bosom of Southern people a feeling of contempt and disgust which if not eradicated by generous sentiment and feeling, will terminate in strife and bloodshed.” It would be a decade of this attitude that would culminate in war. In fact, Kenneth returns to this topic in an 1860 letter when he announces that the Governor of Mississippi has requisitioned all organized militia to come to rendezvous at the Capitol because he fears a copy cat John Brown type insurrection. Kenneth contends this:

It would be madness in the extreme

in any Patriotic heart to wish to blast

the foundation of a government

like this, but the intriguing demagogues

and fanatics leaders now in power

as has been the case for years past have

been by degrees undermining the prin

ciples of power which they cannot

reestablish — Kenneth McKenzie

Loss of Barbara McKenzie

In 1855, Kenneth had taken up the task of writing that his mother, Barbara, is ill and near death from what was probably oral cancer. He wrote touchingly of his youngest brother, John, keeping vigil at his mother’s deathbed. It may be that she had been troubled with this cancer for some years as a result of tobacco use. About four years earlier Kenneth wrote that he had tried to quit using tobacco. He had chewed for thirteen years, beginning about a year after the family moved to Mississippi. Ultimately, he failed in his attempt during 1849 but may have been forced to quit during the time of his war service. He describes his early attempt to quit:

I threw the chew I had in my mouth

out taking in no other for over 2 months,

inflammation seized my stomach and lungs

I used every precaution to shun …

and I am now nearly well in the time my

mind became touched or rather lit up quicker

and more sensitive than usual or at

least I imagined this to be the case, my Eyes

have been very sore for several weeks, in fact

some of the time I could scarcely see, they

are better now I hope on the mend — Kenneth McKenzie

After this description and the hopeful news that he is feeling better, he writes in the left margin before mailing the letter, “I have commenced using tobacco which perhaps I shall continue I fear to undertake to quit.” It is possible that service in the Confederate Army during the Civil War may have cured him of this habit, since I imagine chewing tobacco was scarce.

During the near decade since the death of their father in 1847, the McKenzie brothers had remained together supporting their mother on the farm. With Barbara’s loss, the brothers began slowly to follow their own paths. Kenneth seems to have been the brother for whom Barbara’s loss was probably most acute. Anchor-less, without the subtle direction in the presence of a parent, Kenneth’s inability to focus on his future likely intensified up until the outbreak of war, which temporarily settled his future.

Young Adult Years

In May of 1849 at nearly age thirty, Kenneth reveals his lack of focus particularly his indecisiveness about employment. He mentions that Daniel is busy teaching school, Duncan and Allen are strong and able farm workers, Hugh enjoys his wagoning and John is also working in the crop. As for himself he says, “I am at nothing much yet what perhaps I am best fit for.” He follows this with a decision not to join the rush for gold in California because he is looking for something less “laborious” and “arduous.” His Uncle Duncan has suggested  a mercantile business. Kenneth’s excuse is a lack of capital and that he does not wish to work for another. Kenneth grew up on a distaste for what his father disparagingly called “wage working.” Kenneth concludes that, “I am necessarily bound to kick along the best I can,” as if his own actions and decisions had little to do with the matter.

In spite of competition from migrants from the northeastern states anxious to engage in the occupation of teaching in the South, in 1845 Daniel proposed to Kenneth that he try teaching school. Kenneth does but soon quits. Their father assesses the difference between his third son Daniel and Kenneth, the oldest. Daniel, he says, has some experience dealing with people out in the world, but Kenneth reveals himself as, “downright candid plain and honest in sentiment and but little acquainted with the wiley ways of the world but he must learn.” By April of the same year Duncan McKenzie writes, “Kenneth has abandoned his profession of school teaching having served three months, he alleged that it did not agree with him and has come on home to follow the plow.”

When Kenneth turned twenty-one and his younger brother, Hugh, turned nineteen, their father saw fit to give them title to some of his property, anticipating that the young men might prove themselves worthy of making the land prosperous. Duncan McKenzie writes in June of 1841, “Kenneth and Hugh are to have the title of the lower place on condition of their good performance.” It is possible that they did well enough, for land near Duncan’s is in Kenneth McKenzie’s name in 1841. Another parcel of land in Covington County is owned by a Kenneth McKenzie in 1859.

Kenneth was about thirteen when the family moved to Mississippi from North Carolina. Much of his youth then was spent working hard on the farm in between bouts of what his father called Kenneth’s, “rheumatic affection.” From time to time this would keep him out of the fields, though he managed likely to pull his weight and enjoy the pleasures of hunting on the farm. It is Kenneth in June of 1843 who flushes the “tiger” out of the woods that Duncan shoots. Duncan encounters the animal, likely a panther, after he, “heard Kenneth encouraging the dogs smartly.” Kenneth, as mentioned before, took pride in his ability to shoot.

If Kenneth’s life in Mississippi seemed unhappy to him, it was likely due to his own attitude and lack of direction. The war years do not appear to have given him greater direction in his life but perhaps the experience mellowed his outlook.

Kenneth’s Revelatory Testimony at Owen McLaurin’s Will Probate

Among Kenneth’s many first cousins in Richmond County, NC, both McKenzie and McLaurin, his interactions with his cousin Owen McLaurin offer the most revealing factual evidence that exists of Kenneth’s life there. By 1873 at fifty-three years old, he had been in the state for ten years. He had been helping his Uncle Duncan McLaurin with some of his business, living on his Uncle John McLaurin’s farm, where he helped out as well. His Uncle John unexpectedly died in 1864. John’s death was followed by the deaths of all of his children, two daughters in 1867 and his son Owen in 1869. 

On February 14, 1873 Kenneth receives a subpoena signed by Daniel Stewart, Clerk of the Superior Court (CSC). Kenneth is called to appear before the CSC in Rockingham, NC in the lawsuit brought by Duncan McLaurin before his death against John Stalker and his sister Effie Stalker McLaurin, executor and executrix for the will of Owen McLaurin, Effie and Johns’ son. Kenneth’s presence on the farm and the knowledge he might have had about the financial status of the farm at Owen’s death is the reason he was deposed.

Kenneth was not the only person on the written subpoena. It is also addressed to a Lydia Gibson, known in the testimony as Lydia Leak. Evidently, she had been a slave on the McLaurin farm for all or most of her life. She claimed in the testimony to have been “raised” by John McLaurin.

We have access to Duncan McLaurin’s reason for contesting the Stalkers’ execution of Owen’s will. An account written by Duncan McLaurin exists in the Duncan McLaurin Papers. He titles this account, “A true statement of the feigned friendship of John Stalker the Brother in law of my Brother John McLaurin so far as regards his pretended assiduity to my Interest is concerned.” In this document Duncan McLaurin accuses John Stalker and his sister of taking possession of John McLaurin’s property after his death and denying that John had ever made a will. He also accuses the same of usurping property Owen had purchased after he returned home.

In addition, it was generally believed and written in Owen’s will that Owen sold his father’s land to keep it from being confiscated by U.S. federal authorities. When the war ended shortly after the death of his father, Owen did not come directly home. He had been in the service of the Confederate military and feared confiscation of his deceased father’s property, so he elected to live for a time with his McEachin cousin in Canada. Duncan McLaurin’s account confirms that Owen had sold property for three thousand dollars to his cousin Duncan McEachin, who lived in Ontario, Canada.

Owen returned from Canada some time around 1865 and began overseeing his family property. In addition to farming the property, he was involved in the business of hauling cross-ties for the railroad, purchasing wagon gear, two mules, and a horse for this purpose. Some of this property, Duncan claims, has also been assumed by John Stalker. Owen owed Duncan McLaurin one hundred dollars but was only reimbursed half of that supposedly because Owen did not leave enough property to fully cover his debts. Owen also leaves his personal effects to his mother to do with what she will with a stipulation to send the value of some of his personal property to the woman he intended to marry in Ontario, Canada, Jennie McKay. Duncan accuses the Stalkers of using the small value of Owen’s personal effects as the greater evidence of the value of the property. Also the Stalkers apparently  attempt to use Sherman’s raid through the area to make it appear that the property was worth less than it was. By March of 1865 Union General William T. Sherman had captured Savannah, Georgia and had begun burning his way to Fayetteville, NC on his way to capture Richmond, VA. The area of Laurel Hill near Gum Swamp, NC did not escape Sherman’s path. Much property was burned including large amounts of cotton. However, some was saved, this included six bales on the Owen McLaurin’s family farm.

In his will Owen specifically requests that his Uncle Duncan leave any property intended for him to his cousin Hugh McCall, for he is most deserving of it. The story behind this request is that Owen wished, along with his uncle, for the McLaurin family farm known as Ballachulish to stay out of the hands of certain relatives. Some of Owen’s cousin’s had been openly ungrateful for the sacrifices their Uncle Duncan had made for them. This might have included Kenneth but more likely included Isabella Patterson’s sons, who had been openly ungrateful for their Uncle’s sacrifices. It is likely that Owen knew the history of this conflict.

Kenneth’s testimony in the Owen McLaurin probate hearing in the Superior Court of NC begins on October 21, 1872 after “being duly sworn.”

The first question asked of Kenneth is what property remained on the John McLaurin farm after Sherman’s raid swept through. He is also asked how he came to know this information.  Kenneth responds that, “It was mostly my home up to September 1864.” September 1864 is evidently when Kenneth joins the Confederate military again but in North Carolina. After April of 1865, Kenneth had returned from his short time in the military. April would have been the month after the raid, so he was able to describe what was lost. Kenneth continues to list in some detail the property still on the farm including livestock, farm equipment, household items, and corn and cotton that could still be sold.

Question three asks Kenneth to explain how he was so closely acquainted with John McLaurin’s property before and after the raid. Kenneth answers:

I come on a visit to the country. My

Uncles John & Duncan McLaurin wished

me to stay here in this country. John Mc-

Laurin offered to board me while I would

stay and superintend Duncan McLaurins

business. I took up their offer. This is

the reason I was so intimately acquainted

with the property after I quit living at Johns I frequently went there

and staid as long as I pleased and attended

to the stock and made myself as useful as I

could there were nobody but women there when

Owen was gone. — Kenneth McKenzie

John McLaurin and Effie Stalker McLaurin had three living children in 1863 when Kenneth arrived in North Carolina. It is interesting to note here that Duncan McLaurin, during the late 1850s, had been writing to his relatives in Mississippi requesting that someone, perhaps one of his unmarried nephews, might be available to come to NC to help him manage his affairs in his old age. Kenneth’s Aunt Effy McLaurin, unmarried and living with her brother, had died in 1861 and remembered Barbara’s progeny in her will. A receipt found among the Duncan McLaurin Papers is evidence that in 1863, Kenneth received his portion.

In answer to what he knew about Owen deeding his land to his cousin Duncan McEachin in Canada, Kenneth replies that Owen’s purpose in conveying the land to his cousin was to avoid confiscation. Kenneth continues to reveal that Owen had made an offer to Kenneth. His impression was that he would “hold” the land until the danger of confiscation was over. Owen, according to Kenneth, must have been under the impression that Kenneth was an “ante-war man.” That, of course was not the case. The land in Kenneth’s hands would have been just as much in danger of confiscation.

Other information we learn about Kenneth in his testimony is that he went into the Confederate Army from NC, “about the first of September 1864. He also reveals that when he realized baled cotton remained on the farm, he made an offer to Owen to buy the cotton at fifteen cents a pound. Evidently, Kenneth was receiving income from some endeavor. However, Owen sold the cotton to someone else. Kenneth appears to have been keeping up with the price of cotton because he is ready with an answer when asked. He admits seeing the evidence of the Yankee raid and the “heap of cotton” burned but was also cognizant that some property escaped burning. When asked how long he had stayed at the McLaurin farm, Kenneth replies, “I staid under this arrangement during his (John McLaurin’s) life time from Dec 1863 to Sept 1864. I was there a great deal after the raid up to Owen’s death.”

When asked if his Uncle Duncan had talked with him about the pending probate hearing of Owen’s will, Kenneth replied that he had. However, when asked if his Uncle Duncan had offered him anything if he was able to recover something from the estate, Kenneth readily stated, “He did not He didn’t fulfill the promises already made to me.” When asked about earlier promises Kenneth replied, “He promised to give me a tract of land that he didn’t give me.” This answer was followed by asking if Kenneth had sued his uncle in Superior Court for the property worth fifteen hundred dollars. He replied that he had, that he was the only witness on his own behalf, and that he had received nothing from the litigation.

Under cross examination Kenneth is asked again under what terms he was working for his uncle. Kenneth replies that he, “was to take charge, make a support for Uncle Duncan and Aunt Polly (Mary) and I was to have the balance that was made.” Kenneth adds that he never received the “balance,” and that was the subject of his lawsuit.

Evidently, Duncan McEachin visited the area and left in the fall of 1867. This was about the time Owen was talking to Kenneth about preventing confiscation of his land. It is important to note that Kenneth was honest about his inability to hold the land due to his own service in the Confederacy. To have family land in his possession would have meant a great deal to Kenneth.

Lydia Leak’s testimony at the litigation is very short and is not consistently recorded word for word. Others who testified as to Owen’s property were L. Ross Hardin, who sold Owen the wagon gear, mules, and horse for the cross-ties hauling, a business that Owen shared with Gilbert M. Morrison. Owen’s cousin Hugh McCall, who inherited Duncan McLaurin’s Ballachulish property, also testified at the hearing and stood in for his Uncle’s interest. McCall’s testimony provides the larger portion of the information. In the end it was found that John Stalker and his sister had inherited enough property to pay all of Owen’s debts, and John Stalker was required to do so.

JohnFairlyProbate1887
A lost deed calls into question the transfer of a tract of land from Duncan McLaurin. This has resulted in a dispute over ownership, which requires the possible heirs of Duncan McLaurin to be notified. Listed here are his nephews, nieces, and some of the children of those deceased by 1887. Kenneth is listed here, indicating that he may have been still living in 1887.

Though the testimony Kenneth gave at this hearing outlines Kenneth’s activities from the time he left Mississippi in 1863, it does little to reveal whether or not he is the carpenter living alone in the 1880 census or whether he finally did purchase land at Gum Swamp.

JFairlyProbate1887
Advertisement for the John Fairly property hearing in 1887, which lists Allen as the only living of Duncan McLaurin’s McKenzie nephews. Kenneth is not listed here, though his name appears in the actual report of the litigation.

The last information I have found regarding Kenneth is his being listed in a probate hearing of the estate of John Fairly, to whom Duncan McLaurin had sold some property. Evidently, a lost deed had caused some contention over who actually owned this tract of land. The estate record in North Carolina Superior Court of September 1887 lists all of Duncan McLaurin’s heirs who might have an interest in the property. All of the living descendants of Duncan McLaurin’s married sisters are listed. The list includes Kenneth and his brother Allen, though the heirs of their deceased brothers were listed with “names and places of residence unknown.” Daniel had died in 1861, John in 1865, Hugh in 1866, and Duncan in 1878. However, the news clipping in the Fayetteville Observer announcing this same Superior Court hearing does not include Kenneth’s name. Unfortunately, we are left wondering if he was alive or deceased in 1887.

 

 

 

SOURCES

Barrett, John.”Sherman’s March.” NCpedia.2006. Accessed 11 December 2018. https://www.ncpedia.org/shermans-march.

Bridges, Myrtle N. Estate Records 1772-1933 Richmond County North Carolina Hardy – Meekins Book II. Brandon, MS Genealogy Room. “Duncan McLaurin – 1872,” “Effy McLaurin -1861,” “John McLaurin – 1864.” Franklin, NC Genealogy Publishing Service: Angier, NC. 2001.

Bridges, Myrtle N. Estate Records 1772-1933 Richmond County, NC Adams – Harbert Book I. Tennessee State Archives. “John L. Fairley – 1862.” Franklin, NC Genealogy Publishing Service: Angier, NC. 2001. 412, 413.

Census Record Year: 1880; Census Place: Stewartsville, Richmond, North Carolina; Roll: 979; Family History Film: 1254979; Page: 406A; Enumeration District: 173; Image: 0295. Kenneth McKenzie.

“KMcKenzie.” Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Serve in Organizations from the State of Mississippi. Fold3. https://www.fold3.com/image/72254105. Accessed online 23 May 2016. Original Source: National Archives.

Letters from Kenneth McKenzie to his Uncle Duncan McLaurin. 29 April 1847, May 1847, 17 September 1847, 16 December 1847, 14 October 1848, 11 December 1848, 1 May 1849, 29 July 1849, 14 September 1849, 13 April 1851, 19 April 1855, 29 December 1856, 15 September 1857, 1 November 1857, 1 January 1860, 11 July 1860, 23 October 1861, Undated Letter probably 1861 or after. Boxes 1 & 2. Duncan McLaurin Papers. David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Duke University.

Letters from Duncan McKenzie to Duncan McLaurin. April 1837, June 1839, March 1842, December 1842, June 1843, February 1844, March 1845,  April 1845, November 1845, January 1846, February 1846.  Boxes 1 and 2. Duncan Mclaurin Papers. David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Duke University.

Letters from Hugh L. McKenzie to his Uncle Duncan McLaurin. 5 April 1853, July 1855, September 1859, December 1859, September 1863. Boxes 1 & 2. Duncan McLaurin Papers. David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Duke University.

Letters from Duncan McKenzie to his Uncle Duncan McLaurin. November 1855, March 1858, October 1858, September 1861, February 1862, January 1863, May 1863, June 1864, February 1867, April 1867. Boxes 1 & 2. Duncan McLaurin Papers. David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Duke University.

Letter from John McKenzie to his Uncle Duncan McLaurin. July 1862. Boxes 1 & 2. Duncan McLaurin Papers. David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Duke University.

Letter from John McKenzie to his brother Kenneth McKenzie in care of his Uncle Duncan McLaurin. September 1863. Duncan McLaurin Papers. David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Duke University.

North Carolina Superior Court Richmond County. Spirit of the South. Rockingham, NC. 17 December 1887. Saturday. 2. Accessed from newspapers.com 7 March 2017.

Wills, 1663-1978; Estate Papers, 1772-1933 (Richmond County); Author: North Carolina. Division of Archives and History; Probate Place: Richmond, North Carolina. Accessed 4 December 2018. Ancestry.com.

Mississippi Politics of the 1840s: Two Whigs

SouthernReformer
Newspapers were the “arm of democracy,” highly partisan, and intended to spread political messages throughout the United States. Until the 1845 Postal Act the Postal Service considered the spread of democratic ideas and politics their mission. This 1845 Southern Reformer from Hinds County, MS clearly promotes its Democratic party logo at the top of the page in its 1845 publication.

Canal and railroad building, turnpikes and road improvement, steamboats plying waterways, manufacturing growth — all a backdrop to U.S. national politics during the 1840s. Political issues of this decade distracted from and would, late in the decade, fuel what would eventually become the most divisive issue in the nation, the issue of slavery. The decade began with the nation struggling to recover from the Panic of 1837. Banking, tariffs, and territorial expansion dominated political rhetoric. The major political parties of the era were the Whigs and the Democrats. The Whig Party formed during the 1830s, organizing in opposition to Andrew Jackson’s closing of the National Bank. Still, Whig “culture” involved much more than economic ideology. Whigs sought to make society function in an orderly and progressive fashion by promoting commercial enterprises, improved infrastructure, public education, temperance, and an instructive national literature. In general the party supporters were of British heritage and Protestant. Though the abolitionist movement became associated with Whig culture, it would not prevent some southern slaveholders from promoting Whig ideals. Two correspondents in the Duncan McLaurin Papers are Mississippi pro-slavery southerners who call themselves Whigs: John P. Stewart of Franklin County and Duncan McKenzie of Covington, County.  

Resolved
The Tippecanoe Club was a local Whig gathering in Franklin County, MS. Whigs had also taken up the Harrison/Tyler campaign slogan, “Old Tippecanoe and Tyler too.” William Henry Harrison was a hero of the Battle of Tippecanoe, a battle between the U.S. government and Native Americans in the Indiana Territory. Image from newspapers.com.

   

The Whig “Log Cabin” candidate, William Henry Harrison, was nominated for the office of the Presidency of the United States in the summer of 1840. His opponents had dubbed him so in order to convey the image of a man who would rather sit in his log cabin and drink hard cider than work to meet the needs of the people of the U.S. Harrison and his running mate, John Tyler usurped this negative image created by the opposition and made it work for them. In fact, in July of 1840 a Mississippian born in North Carolina, John P. Stewart, writes to his former school teacher and friend, Duncan McLaurin, describing the election fervor in Mississippi. He describes a “Log Cabin Raising” in the Western counties near Natchez. Stewart writes that folks are predicting a close race between the Whig Harrison and his opponent, the incumbent President Martin Van Buren, upon whom the Whigs placed blame for the Panic of 1837. The ensuing depression in Mississippi brought down the price of cotton and had a detrimental effect on property sales. It also spurred migration from that state by those who could not pay their debts when loans were called by the state banks. Though the Whigs have been called the party of the wealthier property owners in the South, Stewart and Duncan McKenzie would not have been classified as such. Their early 1840s letters indicate a decidedly Whig political inclination. John P. Stewart describes the summer of the election of 1840 in Mississippi:

The presidential Election is the all absorbing topic

of conversation and discussion amongst us — Log Cabin Raising

is the order of the day in the Western counties — there is to be

a raising today within 7 miles of Natchez at which there

will be a considerable turn out and display — a cabin is

to be erected on the bluff at Natchez on the 15th proximo

Both parties are organizing in the State for the contest in

November next the battle will be a close one both parties claim

the ascendancy Our Whig Brethren appear to be confident of

carrying the State — But I am of opinion that it will be

doubtful — You know a great many persons can see but one

Side of the question — We have unquestionably gained several

Several hundred to our Ranks but we may also have lost some – John P. Stewart

Duncan McKenzie offers his opinion on the prospects of Whig candidate William Henry Harrison in a July 1840 letter. He says, “I hope Mi — will build her log cabin ere long — There are many old hard headed demos bending under the roof of the hard cider & log cabin candidate.” Evidently, the banking issue and economy in Mississippi is changing perspectives. Mississippi had heretofore predominately voted Democrats into office. 

Coon1840
According to this post, a live raccoon was an attraction at the Nashville Convention. The opinion in The Weekly Mississippian at Jackson in October of 1840 heralds the drowning of Tip the raccoon after the convention. Whether or not the poor raccoon experienced a metaphorical or physical death is unclear.

Apparently, when the Whigs embraced the negative use of the log cabin image, they also usurped the western image of the coonskin cap by making the raccoon a symbol of Whiggery. However, as early as 1834 the word coon was being used to refer to blacks. The source supposedly came from the word barracoon, the name of the holding pens for slaves. The term “coon” would maintain an increasingly racial connotation even after the Whig party, inclusive of abolitionism, disappeared. On the other hand the rooster as the Democratic party symbol has generally been replaced by the donkey or “Jackass.” In the same way, the Democrats of the 1840s usurped the negative Whig description of one of its speakers “crowing” by using the rooster symbol. 

RoosterCoon
On the left the raccoon in the moonlight is clearly touting a positive message for Henry Clay. On the left the raccoon appears to be frustrated that the Democrat Rooster will not crow. John P. Stewart references a political rally during which the Whigs, “threw down the gauntlet,” but the Democrats, “refused to take it up.” from Google Images.

 

Stewart and McKenzie offer some evidence of the growth of political party structure in Mississippi that was rather loose during the early years of statehood. The Whig party, which began around 1834 in opposition to the Jacksonian Democrats closing the Second Bank of the United States, had philosophically shunned party structure, though it was inevitably evolving.

Whigs nationwide had been coalescing in support of a national bank that could regulate currency and tariffs that would raise prices on imported foreign manufactured goods. The idea was to have credit available to start businesses through the banks issuing paper money. This included buying land for commercial farms. In addition, farmers needed credit to put in crops that would not come to fruition for many months. Whigs believed that manufacturers in the North and commercial farmers in the South would benefit from a national bank to encourage banking regulation. Whigs also supported foreign tariffs that would allow domestic manufacturers to compete for the sale of their products. Tariffs would also be a source of revenue to support government infrastructure such as transportation and programs like public schools. In contrast, Southern Democrats were decidedly against tariffs that raised the price on imported manufactured goods. Imports tended to be cheaper without a tariff and sold to a ready market in the rural, less industrial South. Other Whig supported issues did find a following in the south. Among them were temperance, availability of mental health institutions, public education, and transportation improvements. The abolition of slavery, supported by the national Whig party, would not significantly divide southern from northern Whigs for another decade or more.

Democrats also were generally inclined nationwide to follow Andrew Jackson’s negative attitude toward a national bank. Democratic President Andrew Jackson issued his Specie Circular executive order in 1836 to combat inflation caused by land speculation and easy credit in purchasing land in the new western states, including Mississippi. According to Christopher Olsen, “President Jackson’s Specie Circular and the Deposit Act leveled the state’s (Mississippi’s) financial house of paper.” The Specie Circular required metallic currency in payment for federal land, and the Deposit Act distributed money made from federal land purchases to the states. However, the amount Mississippi received of this federal money was insufficient to cover the amount the banks had loaned. As a result the state banks were forced to call in loans. Panic followed when state banks began demanding that loan payments be made in metallic currency. Upon issuance of the circular, people also began hoarding metallic currency, eventually making it scarce. In addition, with scarce sources of metallic wealth, the amount of actual gold and silver on hand in the United States would have difficulty covering the demand nationwide. When people could not pay back their loans, banks failed. Depression followed.

Until the early 1830s, about the time Duncan McKenzie migrated from North Carolina to Mississippi, the state had one bank. The number had grown to around fourteen by the Panic of 1837, according to Clifford Thies author of “Repudiation in Antebellum Mississippi.” In 1837 the Brandon Bank and in 1838 the Mississippi Union Bank were created to stabilize Mississippi’s economy. The Union bank had been authorized by the Democrat Governor A. G. McNutt, who gave the bank authority to issue five million dollars in bonds. When the price of cotton did not rise as expected, the state tried to render the bonds worthless and stopped interest payments. McNutt preferred repudiation of the state bonds, but others in the state fought to make payment. The issue of whether or not the state would “repudiate” its debt at first enjoyed some party fluidity with elements of bond-payers and anti-bonders in both parties. In their correspondence Mississippians Duncan McKenzie and John P. Stewart appear to have supported bond payment as a moral matter that placed the state’s reputation on the line.

WhyRepudiate
The Natchez Weekly Courier in 1843 published this decidedly Whig opinion of why many favored repudiation of the Union Bank’s debt. Notice that Hanson Alsbury is “now a citizen of Texas.”

This was the issue that enthralled Mississippians in the first half of the 1840s. It was argued on one side that repudiation of the debt was the only answer since the people of Mississippi would never support the taxation needed to pay off the bonds. In contrast, others argued that repudiation was morally inept and would ruin the economic reputation of the state if their creditors, both domestic and foreign, went unpaid. The repudiation argument crossed party lines and did not cause any significant partisan divide between Whigs and Democrats. By the mid-1840s the question of Mexico would, for a time, unite the people of the state against a common enemy. However, the term Locofoco begins to appear in the Stewart and McKenzie correspondence during the early 1840s. The moniker referred first to a Democratic party faction in New York City that was anti-Tammany Hall. In Mississippi the term seems to be used more loosely in the correspondence as a more derogatory term for Democrats in general.

John P. Stewart in July of 1840 describes the effects of the banking and Specie Circular difficulties in Mississippi. He says the people of Mississippi in general do not wish to have an exclusive metallic currency. He explains, “if the Bank paper was driven entirely from circulation I do not believe (whether) one half of its Citizens could pay its debts.” Stewart deems it reasonable and justified by his own experience, “That the same policy that would suit a poor man would suit nineteen twentieths of the people of all classes.” He goes on to explain that “an exclusive Metallic Currency would suit only rich men that are out of debt, an animal in this State properly classed as rare aira (rare air).” The Democrats, or what he calls, “the illegitimate offspring of democracy called Locofocoism,” in his view simply do not understand the economic problems.

In September of 1840 Duncan McKenzie mentions an upcoming “Whig barbecue on the 9th of next month at which there will be some speech making &c.” Evidently the Whigs are getting much more support in the state. In December, after the Whig candidate William Henry Harrison defeated Martin Van Buren in the presidential election, McKenzie says, “There appears to be a stimulant in all kind of business and trade, whether attributable to the overthrow of Vanburenism, we suppose it is.” He disparages that his home state of North Carolina has been, “led by the childish whims of John C. Calhoun who has veered to every point in the compass save that which was right.” McKenzie appears to relish Democratic disappointment: “the locofocos here (in MS) hang their lips and look as if all was not well with them.”

However, Whig glory of prevailing in the presidential election was short-lived, for Harrison died of pneumonia about a month after his inauguration. His successor was Vice-President John Tyler, setting the precedent of vice-presidential succession. Tyler found favor with neither Whig nor Democrat. The president at first appeared to support Whig interests except for Henry Clay’s national banking act. Clay, known politically as “Harry of the West,” was a centrist. Duncan McKenzie takes a shot at Tyler in June of 1841 when he writes, “I hear an ill omen, it is this that President Tyler has placed his veto (of) the Bank which if true has blasted the hopes of the American people.” It had been the hope of the Whigs that Harrison’s administration would be able to create a new national bank. McKenzie goes on to predict that Tyler will betray southern Whigs by allying himself with the abolitionist faction of the party. In October of 1841 McKenzie writes, “The present President has done more to break down the Whig cause in Miss — than all the Presidents that preceded him, query is he a knave or a fool or is he tinctured with both.”

In December of 1841 John P. Stewart writes that the anti-bond party (Democrats – the party of A. G. McNutt) won the election with a large majority, giving them a majority in both branches of the Mississippi legislature. Whigs, however, were able to elect a Secretary of State. Stewart also accuses and disparages some Democrats of changing their positions from bond-payers to repudiators when they felt the political wind blowing against them. In contrast, Stewart praises the Democratic nominee for governor, who favored payment of the bonds. His party’s lack of support did not inspire this particular nominee to change his politics. Instead he declined to run if his party would not support him. As a result of his political honesty and authenticity, this candidate had been voted into the legislature as a bond payer.

Stewart continues to explain which socioeconomic groups were bond-payers or were repudiators, “It is a singular fact that all the large taxpayers were almost universally in favor of the payment.” On the other hand, he continues, the people who were not taxpayers were, “almost unanimously opposed to it.” At this point Stewart is hopeful that the bonds will be paid despite the anti-bond majority in the legislature. According to Stewart, the Mississippi legislature led by the Democrats passed, “a string of Resolutions denouncing the Bankrupt Bill the Distribution bill the loan bill and approved the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions.” He explains that the Whigs wanted a separate vote on each bill and walked out when this did not happen. The legislature did not put the Union Bank into liquidation.

Economic conditions in Mississippi declined after the banks in New Orleans failed. John P. Stewart writes, “We have arrived at an exclusive Specie currency in this state since the fall of the New Orleans Banks.” Some he says that were opposed to banks issuing paper currency now believe that paper is better than no currency at all. Specie was rare in the state, and Stewart quips that folks are saying, “By Jones … Specie is good but Divil a bit of it can we get & it is better to have even Brandon money than no money at all.” The Brandon Bank, the Mississippi & Alabama RR and Banking Company at Brandon, MS, was supposed to improve transportation infrastructure by building a railroad from Jackson east to Alabama. In the end the bank became too overwhelmed with loans to planters when the price of cotton failed to recover. The Bank’s cashier had “Gone to Texas.”

RogueBentonsMintDrops
“Rogue Benton’s Mint Drops”

Mississippians during these years resorted to bartering goods rather than using currency since any type was very scarce. Duncan McKenzie writes in July of 1842 that, “all the Banks of Miss are dead long since … and specie is not sufficient in circulation to pay postage and a fair specimen of Rogue Bentons Mint drops.” “Rogue Bentons mint drops” likely refers to Missouri U.S. Senator Thomas Hart Benton’s proposal of the use of metallic currency instead of paper money. Common metal tokens were unofficially circulated in mockery of the use of specie. John P. Stewart says of specie that it, “has mostly fallen into old Stockings and Misers chests and will there remain without doing any service to the owners or any person else.” Stewart continues to describe the prices of property and hiring:

We have no fixed value for property amongst us — property

generally has fallen fifty per cent in price within the last year

the prices of Negroes is nominal they will not even sell on a

credit to punctual men — I am apprehensive that the worst times

have not yet come — White laborers can now be hired at about six dollars

per month only half of the wages they could get at the hardest

times for getting money before this season. – John P. Stewart

Perhaps due to prevalent hard times caused by Democratic administrations both local and national, the Whig party maintained a Mississippi contingent. Since the Whig party supported the interests of business, it received strong support in the Natchez District, the home of a number of plantation owners. These wealthy men not only had an interest in the business of growing and exporting cotton, but often had other northern business interests as well such as manufacturing or shipping. Thus, John P. Stewart mentions a Whig publication in Natchez, The Natchez Courier. The opposing Democrat leaning paper in the area was The Mississippi Free Trader. By July of 1840 and likely due to the depressed economy, the newspaper that supported the Democratic cause was out of business in Natchez. The Whig Natchez Courier just barely hung on, though it managed to survive:

The Natchez Courier a Whig paper published in the hot bed

of Aristocratic Whiggery had a hard struggle for its life at the

time of death of its opponent they were so hard run for printers

that the Editor although not a practical printer had to put his own

Shoulder to the wheel. – John P. Stewart

Duncan McKenzie, in 1840, also mentions a small newspaper called The Snag Boat that was printed in the office of The Raymond Times. Evidently Duncan reads the Times as he describes its editors as, “the best Whig writers of the county.” A. K. McClung is singled out of this group by McKenzie.

Repudiation of the state debts was front and center in the 1843 Mississippi governor’s election. Stewart indicates that three candidates for governor were an anti-bond Democrat, a bond paying democrat and a Whig. The anti-bond candidate and the Whig were campaigning together. Stewart claims the Democratic party was divided into three factions: one that seeks to repudiate all state bonds, a second in favor of repudiating the Union Bank and the Planters Bank bonds, and the third is in favor of paying both. McKenzie, in a letter of the same year, agrees with Stewart’s assessment. Stewart accuses the repudiating candidates of ignoring the state bond question and campaigning on national issues, though the bond payers apparently will not leave the issue alone. He reports that a Democratic repudiating editor was killed by one of his own party. Apparently, Stewart is referring to Dr. James Hagan, editor of The Vicksburg Sentinal, who supported Governor McNutt and the Democrats. The young man who shot Hagan was tried and acquitted on a claim of self-defense. Stewart also writes that a, “repudiating State Treasurer ran off last spring with some $54,000 of the dear peoples money.” He probably refers here to Mississippi Treasurer Richard S. Graves, who was impeached and arrested for accepting federal funds in his own name that were meant for the state. He was jailed for this but escaped disguised as his visiting wife. His wife later joined him in Canada but returned to deliver treasury warrants, treasury notes, and gold to Governor Tucker. The amount Stewart references here is likely the part Graves did not return. Years later R. S. Graves and his wife were denied a forgiveness request to return to Mississippi.

During 1843, Duncan McKenzie’s letters continually bash the “Locofocos” and praise the Whigs as the morally superior party. In a much more dramatic rhetoric than Stewart, McKenzie writes the following:

you congratulate me on the prospect of our states throwing

off the shackles of dishonesty which she fastened on to …

by her repudiation. query will an acknowledgement at

this late hour wipe off the infamy from the vile party whoes

measure it was, in fact it is only a drop from the buckit

when compared with the mass of corruption nursed and

Cherished by the same foul sordid Locofoco party, …

it is true there are many a sordid wretch in the whig ranks and

occasionally we promote a treacherous one but I am proud

to say that as a party their measures are honest and will

bear the test of experience … god save the state and curse the demagogues.

-Duncan McKenzie

Regarding Mississippi politics, in 1844 Duncan McKenzie offers another reason that the Whig party continued to receive support in the South. Temperance is one of the Whig cultural values that apparently survived the party into the twentieth century. McKenzie also references the perceived moral superiority of his political inclinations when he says in partisan rhetoric, “you also know that the Locos are fond of liquor … you know they (Locos) call the Whigs the decency party and of course they claim the opposite to which they are welcome and I verily think entitled.” As for Mississippi’s temperance politics, he also mentions that Locofoco H. S. Foote is going to make a political speech nearby. Foote is the former author of the Gallon Law, a law restricting alcohol consumption. McKenzie points out that Foote was a Whig when the law passed but is now a Loco, supporting its repeal. During the summer of 1845 McKenzie says, “Temperance meetings and speeches even barbecue are frequent and many are signing the pledges, in fact dram drinking is becoming quite unpopular throughout this region of country.” This did not, however, indicate that the Whig political party was prevailing in the state. According to Daniel Walker Howe, author of The Political Culture of the American Whigs, “there is a striking contrast between the brief life of their party and the lasting influence of their culture.” It was a culture that promoted an educated, moral, and religious populace capable of promoting business, economic stability, and justice in the nation.

In national politics of 1843 the Whigs in Mississippi, “with very few exceptions are in favor of Harry of the West (Henry Clay),” writes John P. Stewart. However, he also indicates that opinions on particular issues sometimes cross party lines, “Some few of the Free Trade Whigs I believe would support Calhoun but there are more National Bank Democrats than Calhoun Whigs.” As regards the 1843 election of Judges of the Court of Appeals, Stewart laments that Mississippi in its Constitution of 1832 required the election of members of the judicial branch:

Many of those formerly in favor of elect(ing) the

Judges by the people have become convinced that the system will not answer

it will not do to have Judges dependant on the will of the people for their offices —

Many of them electioneer whilst on the bench I have seen them do it

– John P. Stewart

John P. Stewart was elected Circuit Clerk of Franklin County, MS for multiple terms of office and would likely have had the opportunity to observe judicial activity. Not only did the electioneering of judges distract from from deciding issues based on the law, but the banking situation in the state might have been more efficiently regulated and dealt with had public political pressure to support repudiation or not been taken out of the equation. Judges then would be free to focus on the letter of the law. Stewart’s inclination to distrust an elected judiciary is shared by writer Clifford Thies in “Repudiation in Antebellum Mississippi.” Thies also says that in the end Mississippi was the only state in the Union that repudiated its debts, though others may have had similar or worse debt resulting from the nationwide economic depression.

During the summer of 1845, John P. Stewart spent about a month in Tennessee and Kentucky and was present at the Whig convention in Nashville. He comments, “I could hear of nothing but politics and political meetings wherever I went.” He considered himself, “a pretty strong Whig,” but was glad to leave the excitement. He comments on the inability of the Whigs to get the “Locos” to engage in debate, “The gauntlet was thrown down constantly by the Whigs but never taken up.” In Mississippi and Louisiana the Whigs were charging the Democrats with illegal voting, “There were about 5 to 6000 votes more poled in this state in 1844 than 1843 when there was a larger vote poled than ever was before — the increase was greater than either the natural increase or the increase by immigration.”

President James K. Polk, Democrat, took office in March of 1845. John P. Stewart writes of Polk’s nomination, “Davy Crockett first gave him notoriety when chairman of the committee of the Ways and Means by comparing the committee to a gimlet handle big in the middle and little at both ends.” Stewart goes on to say that Polk’s nomination was probably the best of the Democratic candidates and expresses amazement that the North, even some abolitionists, supported the Texas platform. As the depression waned in Mississippi towards the latter part of the decade, the annexation of Texas as a United States territory was a political issue that would serve to awaken the controversy over slavery in the territories. Generally, Whigs were opposed to the annexation of Texas because of the slavery question, but southern Whigs may have opposed it for other reasons. Duncan McKenzie and his Louisiana cousin Duncan Calhoun expressed opposition because they feared that distant states would be difficult to govern, that federal authority would be stretched too far. Some of them likely followed Clay’s argument that Texas should be acquired without war. Nevertheless, after Polk was elected and war inevitable, Mississippians, Whig or Democrat, tended to support the war. The number of recruits willing to fight far exceeded the quota allowed Mississippi by the federal government. Known as “The Great Compromiser,” Henry Clay was opposed to the Mexican War from the beginning and suspicious of the grounds for it. His own son lost his life in the war.

McKenzie, in 1846, writes his opposition to the annexation of Texas: “… in the first place the annexation of Texas to this Union was positively inconsistent with the laws of honor, and secondly our claim on oregon to the 49th line of No Latitude is presumption unparalleled in the history of free government.” He continues to express the cowardly compromise with the British over the Oregon territory and the bullying war instigated with a weak country like Mexico:

The glorious compromise on the Oregon

dispute is in reality the cause of much thanksgiving … but

I ask in the name of common sense where is the cause of such puffing is it in our cringing

before British power … when we saw the old

lyon raise his mane we next expected to hear him roar which would paralyze our nerve

to avoid which we made the inglorious compromise …

Mexico is only responded to by the roar of our cannon, such is the glory of our age to bow to the strong and crush the weak – Duncan McKenzie

In 1848 John P. Stewart writes of the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo ending the Mexican War. He says it, “has been ratified by the Mexican Congress and that cotton has advanced a cent per pound in consequence thereof.”

War or no war, no matter what the political news of the first half of the nineteenth century, it traveled at much less than twenty-first century speeds. In 1845 Stewart had mentioned a change in the postal rates. Prior to 1845, letter rates had been high, but newspapers could be sent through the mail at little cost. Conceivably, if you could get away with sending your letter tucked in a periodical, the postage cost was very little. Evidently, by 1848 the mail service had not improved in Mississippi and the classification of postal rates for periodicals had not hastened their journey. Stewart writes in a conversation about receiving their copies of the Whig Washington D.C. based newspaper, The National Intelligencer:

You complain in your

last of the time you receive your National Intelligencer — Why my

dear Sir you have no right to complain — I have taken the Triweekly

Intelligencer for the last twelve years or more and I have not received

more than a dozen numbering all that time in a less time than

two weeks and very frequently three weeks or a month after they

are printed We have only weekly mail and it is frequently the case

that I do not receive an Intelligencer by a mail and again sometimes

a dozen – John P. Stewart

Increasingly, during the 1830s, provocative abolitionist literature mailed to southerners was being censored in states such as South Carolina, though the federal government outlawed censorship. The original purpose of the Post Office was to promote democracy through dissemination of political information in newspapers and periodicals. Thus, from the beginning, those items enjoyed lower rates. The higher rates for letters, averaging around twenty-five cents per letter, subsidized the postal service. This all changed with the passage of the Postal Act of 1845. Letter rates were lowered and periodicals were classified and rated accordingly. The purpose of the postal service was becoming oriented toward general correspondence.

Stewart continues to describe the new telegraph lines that he believes will be “very little advantage to us although there will be four stations in less than fifty miles from us — the nearest one will be twenty five miles.” He mentions that the newspapers are full of the controversies among rival telegraph companies: “The O’Reily lines and the Morse or Kendall & Smith line — both of which will pass through Jackson our Capital Natchez and Vicksburg … both parties claim to be the real Simon pure and to have the best batteries.” Such was the status of the arms of national political news near the end of the decade of the 1840s.

Notwithstanding the difficulties of the mail, by 1848 Mississippi Whigs are still organized, though John P. Stewart indicates even his own inclination to give some support to John C. Calhoun. Perhaps this change in the political winds is a result of the rising temperature of the debate over slavery, a national storm which would continue to escalate into the next decade. With Mississippi’s cotton economy beginning to make the recovery that would continue up until the Civil War, the state would lean more decidedly Democrat and pro-slavery. Nationally, Whigs supporters would generally support the Republican Party.

In 1848 John P. Stewart takes measure of his Mississippi Whig party, writing that, “The whigs of this state are at present divided in opinion although a majority are in favour of Gen Taylor … Old Harry of the West still has his friends but he has been beaten so often that a majority of the Whigs … are disposed to rub him off the track.” The next line Stewart writes may be indicative of the waning Whig party in the state, “So far as I am concerned I would be perfectly willing to run old Cal again did I believe there would be a prospect of his success.” It is Calhoun’s pro-slavery, state’s rights stance that was becoming increasingly a part of the antebellum Democratic party. In 1848 Stewart is of the opinion that “there are at least twenty Whigs in the United States,” who would be preferable to Mr. Henry Clay, perhaps indicating a move away from Clay’s centrist positions. Nationally, the Whig party would elect Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore to the presidency of the United States before it was done.

During 1848 John P. Stewart traveled to know the country and gauge politics. Anticipating the national election, Stewart made the trip to Ohio and Kentucky to partake in the political activities. He was in Louisville, KY at the time of the election of the Democrat Governor John J. Crittenden. According to Stewart, Crittenden favored the nomination of Zachary Taylor over Kentucky native Henry Clay on the Whig ticket. Nevertheless, Crittenden won the governorship as a Whig and would use his bully pulpit as governor and as a congressman to denounce talk of secession. Indicative of the political divide in Kentucky, one of his sons would eventually serve the Union and another the Confederacy during the Civil War.

On this same 1848 trip Stewart traveled to Ohio, there he apparently encountered an array of political forces including, “Taylor whigs, (Lewis) Cass Democrats, Van Buren free soil democrats. free soil whigs, Abolitionists National reformers or the doctrine of any man voting himself a farm &c.” The Free Soil party formed after the Mexican War and the failure of the Wilmot Proviso over the issue of slavery in the territories acquired in the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo. Free Soilers supported what they saw as the more ethical and economically more feasible system of free rather than slave labor in the West. Evidently, Stewart listens to an “itinerant free soil lecturer.” According to Stewart, the speaker “abused” Zachary Taylor, the Whig nominee for President; Lewis Cass, a Democratic contender; and “John C. Calhoun came in for a large share of his abuse.” The speaker also disparaged “honest John Davis of Massachusetts,” accusing him of being pro-slavery and defeating the Wilmot Proviso. This speaker also accused northern Whigs of, “having formed a coalition with the Southern dealers in human flesh.” Perhaps this Free Soiler was emphasizing the shared economic interests of pro-slavery, cotton-producing southerners and manufacturers and shippers in the north. Stewart continues by describing this Free Soiler’s opinion of the balance of power in Congress:

He charged that a Southern Slave holder owning

five hundred Slaves exercised as much influence in the government

of National affairs as three hundred and one white men. – John P. Stewart

This may have been an exaggeration of numbers on the Free Soiler’s part, but his argument had some basis. Before the Civil War, the “three-fifths compromise” in the U. S. Constitution allowed slaves to be counted as three-fifths of a person in figuring representation in the House of Representatives. This had for decades given the South an edge in Congressional power. Stewart continues by attempting an argument against this point. Stewart says that the Free Soiler forgot to mention that “free Negroes” in the Northern States are counted in figuring representation even though they have, “no more political rights in his own and all the Western free states than our slaves.” Perhaps John P. Stewart was unaware of the small number of free Blacks in the North compared to the overwhelming number of slaves in the South.

General Taylor, in spite of the Free Soilers and other factions, would probably receive Ohio’s vote, according to Stewart. The free states are, “almost unanimously opposed to the extension of slavery in the territories.” After Stewart’s return to Franklin County, Mississippi, he expected that General Zachary Taylor would in all likelihood get the Franklin County vote. Franklin County borders Adams County and would probably have had a Whig majority of voters, since it is in the Natchez area. Indeed, Whig Zachary Taylor was elected and took office on March 4, 1849. Whiggery would by the mid-1850s be absorbed into the Republican Party that elected former Whig Abraham Lincoln.

In the last surviving letter John P. Stewart writes to Duncan McLaurin in 1848, he reveals his own opinion on the slavery issue. His particular stance on slavery as a necessary evil allowed him to remain supportive of the Whigs. Unfortunately, Stewart died in May of 1858. Any correspondence he might have written to Duncan McLaurin after 1848 has not survived in this collection. It is likely that he would have been a Unionist as many more prominent Whigs were in 1860. His opinion, however, does not seem to stray far from what was probably the opinion of many southern Unionists, Republicans, and even many abolitionists in the United States in 1860.

In 1848, according to Stewart, political opinions in his state ran the gamut. Apparently attitudes did not seem as polarized as they would become a decade later. Stewart contends, “We have men here of almost of every class of politics — We have ultra pro slavery men Some few opposed entirely to slavery some acknowledging it an irremediable evil &c … Henry Clay was denounced as an abolitionist and so was every man that would acknowledge Slavery an evil.” He goes on to describe the opinions of one political speaker: “every man was an abolitionist that would not agree with him that Slavery was instituted by our Creator for the benefit of the African that by Slavery the African was civilized and Christianized That the African race is inferior to the white in intellect.” Stewart cannot fathom this position and continues to explain his own attitude towards slavery as an evil but a necessary one. He acknowledges that slave labor is not profitable in the newest states, but says this is a small portion of the nation. Stewart also believes that if a master takes his slave into free state, he must abide by the laws of that state that would consider him free. He says, “It is true the Constitution of the United States and the laws passed under it tolerate the institution (of slavery) but never have established it.” Stewart believes that the issue should be decided according to “local laws.” His opinion is further explained in the following excerpt from his 1848 correspondence:

For myself I consider slavery an evil but would consider it

a greater evil to free them and leave them amongst us — They would not then have

more political privileges than they now have as slaves and would have no protection

It is true some few would rise above this but such would be the case with the greater

portion of them — The races cannot exist together as equal one must be subservient

to the other and of course I am in favor of mine maintaining this ascendancy.

I have no conscientious scruples against  holding them in bondage and my only

reason of favoring the sending them out of the country would be the benefit of the

whites. – John P. Stewart

Two issues manifest themselves here: one is slavery and the other is racism. Stewart is arguing that slavery is evil but necessary. Though he may believe that the dark-skinned African people are capable human beings deserving of freedom, he does not believe in the amalgamation of the races. Apparently, he has bought into the 19th century common fear of “the other.” He sees the black man as a threat to white ascendancy, believing that one “must be subservient” to the other. The American Colonization Society was founded upon this fear of the amalgamation of the races. A large portion of the nation’s white people would continue a century and more beyond to “love people from a distance” as long as they were not a threat to racial purity or political power.

Evidence exists that other Whigs in Mississippi held similar views, though McKenzie and Stewart differed in socio-economic status from the stereotype of the “Wealthy Whig.” Stephen Duncan, a prominent Natchez Planter of the Whig Party was the founder of the Mississippi Colonization Society. Duncan became one of the wealthiest planters in the state after migrating from his birthplace of Pennsylvania to Mississippi in 1800. He eventually left his medical practice for the more lucrative prospects of cotton planter with interests in northeastern shipping and railroads. In addition, he was a president of the Bank of the State of Mississippi and founder of an Agricultural Bank. According to Martha Jane Brazy writing in The Mississippi Encyclopedia, “By the eve of the Civil War, Duncan enslaved more than twenty-two hundred men, women, and children on more than fifteen cotton and sugar plantations in Mississippi and Louisiana.” He supported the colonization of African-Americans in Liberia because he believed in gradual emancipation. This, he reasoned would allay the fear of many southern whites about the growing slave population and also limit crop overproduction. No documentation exists that he ever freed any of the enslaved people he owned. He was a Unionist against secession, blaming the South for starting the war. In 1863 he left Mississippi for New York and never returned. William K. Scarborough writes in The Mississippi Encyclopedia that Stephen Duncan billed the Confederate government for $185,000 dollars in losses.

From the correspondence of Duncan McKenzie and John P. Stewart, we recognize thoughtful and informed voters of the nineteenth century. Perhaps McKenzie’s words expressed a bit more passion in contrast to Stewart’s more reasoned tone. However, their words illustrate the conclusion of author Daniel Walker Howe: “What people felt is an important part of what happened to them, and unless we understand how they felt, we will not understand what happened.”

Sources

Brazy, Martha Jane. “Duncan, Stephen.” The Mississippi Encyclopedia. ed. Ownby, Ted and Charles Reagan Wilson. University Press of Mississippi: Jackson. 2017. 368-369.

“The Coon Are Dead.” The Weekly Mississippian. Jackson. 16 October 1840. 1. Accessed at newspapers.com. 1 November 2018.

“Democratic Motto.” Southern Reformer. Jackson, MS. 29 November 1845. 3. Accessed at newspapers.com. 1 November 2018.

“Franklin County Returns.” Natchez Daily Courier. 12 November 1853. 2. newspapers.com.

Henkin, David M. “An Excerpt from The Postal Age: The Emergence of Modern Communications in Nineteenth-Century America.” University of Chicago Press: Chicago. 2006. 15-14. Accessed on 1 November 2018 at https://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/327205.html

Howe, Daniel Walker. The Political Culture of the American Whigs. The University of Chicago Press: Chicago. 1979. 3-5, 7, 10.

“John C. Calhoun 1843.” The Guard. Holly Springs, MS. 30 August 1843. 3. Accessed at newspapers.com. 1 November 2018.

Letters from Duncan McKenzie to Duncan McLaurin. 4 July 1840, 24 September 1840, 15 June 1841, 8 September 1841, 26 October 1841, 24 July 1842, 29 August 1842, 6 August 1843, 23 September 1843, 10 February 1844, 20 August 1844, 5 July 1845, 16 June 1846, 24 August 1846. Boxes 1&2. Duncan McLaurin Papers. David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Duke University.

Letters from John P. Stewart to Duncan McLaurin. 30 July 1840, 22 July 1841, 10 December 1841, 24 March 1842, 31 August 1842, 9 August 1843, 11 July 1845, 8 June 1848, 14 September 1848, 30 November 1848. Boxes 1&2. Duncan McLaurin Papers. David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Duke University.

Olsen, Christopher J. Political Culture and Secession in Mississippi: Masculinity, Honor, and the Antiparty Tradition, 1830-1860. Oxford University Press: Oxford. 2000. 34.

“Resolved.” The Natchez Daily Courier. 7 July 1840. 3. accessed 22 March 2017. newspapers.com.

Scarborough, William K. “Natchez Nabobs.” The Mississippi Encyclopedia. ed. Ownby, Ted and Charles Reagan Wilson. University Press of Mississippi: Jackson. 2017. 912-913.

“Senator Thomas Hart Benton.” Necessary Facts. https://necessaryfacts.blogspot.com/2018/03/senator-thomas-hart-benton.html. 11 March 2018. Accessed 3 November 2018.

Thies, Clifford. “Repudiation in Antebellum Mississippi.” The Independent Review, v. 19, n. 2, Fall 2014, ISSN 1086-1653. 2014. 191-208.

“Why They Repudiate.” The Natchez Weekly Courier. 23 August 1843. 4. accessed 24 June 2017. newspapers.com.

“Word Origin and History for Coon.” dictionary.com. Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper. 2010. Accessed at https://www.dictionary.com/browse/coon. 3 November 2018.