Owen McLaurin (1844-1869): A Life Defined by War

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Duncan McLaurin’s nephew Owen was probably the most like him in curiosity and in his enjoyment of books. The first of ten letters penned by Owen that survive in the Duncan McLaurin papers is enough evidence.

Imagine the seventeen-year-old Owen writing to his Uncle Duncan on 9 May 1860 from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania just as he is finishing a term of school. At age 17 he will earn his diploma by the 22nd of the month and wishes to confirm his travel arrangements home to Laurel Hill, NC. He will not return home via Charleston since his family wishes him to avoid that place. However, he will come home by way of Washington D.C. if the Japanese are there. The Bay Line Steamer would allow him a comfortable rest. The steamer will take him by Cheraw in Marlboro, SC from which he can walk home to Laurel Hill.

Owen’s interest in seeing the Japanese delegation, on a mission to ratify a Treaty of Friendship, Commerce, and Navigation, is reminiscent of his Uncle Duncan’s eagerness to witness the Burmese missionary preach in his own language at Fayetteville, NC in 1834. The sermon would be translated by the Reverend Jonathan Wade. The Baptist Rev. Wade and his wife Deborah Lapham were on furlough that year in America from their mission in Burma, teaching Burmese to new missionaries. Evidently, they had brought a Burmese Christian to America, where he could probably best learn English. Though Duncan could not attend, he made his brother John promise to see them and give him a detailed account. No evidence exists that Owen got his chance to see the Japanese in the nation’s capital, but the same intellectual curiosity appears to have resided in the characters of both uncle and nephew.

In addition, Owen has had the good luck to be in Philadelphia in early May of 1860 for what was probably a local election. In 1860 Mayor Alexander Henry of Philadelphia was a staunch Republican, who suppressed secessionist sympathies. Even local elections across the nation likely reflected national politics in which a sectional party, the Republican Party, would soon prevail. The election of Abraham Lincoln in November of 1860 would become a catalyst for the war that was about to change the course of Owen’s life:

Not much news of interest since the election

which passed of [off] very quietly in the day time

but night was made hideous by the howls

of the Politicians rejoicing in their election

and disappointed ones mourning over their unsuccess. — Owen McLaurin

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The Heenan and Sayers fight at Farnborough, Hampshire, England. Photo from The Guardian online.

Owen describes the “all-absorbing” topic in the city — the Heenan and Sayers fight. This boxing match evidently created the most excitement. Owen claims to have purchased a “bogus extra” newspaper for 5 cents, “containing full particulars of the fight before it came off.” The Heenan and Sayers fight was the first ever international boxing match and was held at Farnborough, Hampshire England on April 17, 1860. The contenders were the famous Tom Sayers of England and the much taller John Carmel Heenan from San Francisco. The illegal fight was broken up by police after about two hours and 27 minutes. Afterward, the two men shared winnings of 400 pounds.

Owen’s newsy letter includes also an account of a fire near his boarding house that “destroyed about $25,000 Dollars worth of property.” Just finishing his dinner, the ever-curious young man walked to the scene of the livery stable fire, “in which were 43 horses as the loft was filled with hay the fire spread with astonishing rapidity.” According to Owen, 15 of the horses were saved, but he is horrified at the sight of the burning stable containing, “28 of as fine horses as were in the city and no means to save them from the devouring element, it was truly an awful sight.” Though the wind blew, the surrounding houses were saved. Evidently, a dozen of the firemen got into a fight after the fire was out but were not arrested, being a “privileged class.” Benjamin Franklin had established the first “bucket brigade” in Philadelphia over a century before. The remainder of Owen’s letters in the Duncan McLaurin Papers, were written between 1861 and 1864 during his participation in the Civil War.

Owen’s Family

The voyage in 1790 that brought sixteen McLaurin related families from Argyll, Scotland to North Carolina included the Hugh and Catherine Calhoun McLaurin family. Among the voyagers in Hugh McLaurin’s family were four year old Duncan and his brother John, an infant. As his young family grew, Hugh would establish a successful farm at Laurel Hill, NC near Gum Swamp. He would use enslaved labor on his farm and school his sons in managing his property, which he would leave to them upon his death in 1846. Duncan and John probably shared management of the property until John married. While Duncan was also an educator, postmaster, legislator, and civic leader; John was the farmer. Duncan, who never married, provided a home in his father’s house for his unmarried sisters, Effy and Mary. In about 1847 he would become legal guardian of another sister, Isabella Patterson, and her three sons.

Owen McLaurin was born on November 30, 1844 in Richmond County, NC to John McLaurin and Effy Stalker. The couple had married March 28, 1842. Owen was born, probably following the loss of an infant child. The family would welcome siblings Elizabeth on May 31, 1846 and Catharine on April 27, 1848.

Two letters reference John and Effy’s marriage. On March 4, 1842 Christian Calhoun, having heard news of the wedding from Duncan, writes from Alabama her thanks that Duncan has written information from home, “particularly your brother John marrying in a good honest family.” In April of 1842 Duncan McKenzie writes from MS, “we saw in the Fayetteville Observer an notice of John’s marriage to Miss Effie Stalker.”

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“Also Infant Son of John & Effy McLaurin.” Headstone of Mary McLaurin and her unnamed nephew in Stewartsville Cemetery, Laurinburg, NC. Photo by B. Lane

In a letter dated February of 1844 Duncan Calhoun mentions the birth of John’s infant son who died. Later, in an 1845 letter, Duncan Calhoun references the birth of John’s son, “Owin.” Apparently, Effy’s second pregnancy followed soon after her newborn infant perished. Owen was born in November of 1844. To confirm there was likely a fourth sibling, the Stewartsville Cemetery headstone of Mary McLaurin, John and Duncan’s sister who died in 1868, also includes the “infant son of John and Effie McLaurin.” Since no name appears on the headstone, it is likely the child was stillborn or died very soon after his birth.

Duncan McLaurin lived very near his brother John’s family, his sister Jeannette McCall’s family, and from about 1847 was legal guardian of his sister Isabella Patterson and her three sons. His two other married sisters lived in South Carolina (Duncan and Sarah Douglas family) and Mississippi (Duncan and Barbara McKenzie family). Proximity was not the only reason Duncan may have, at first, planned making Owen part of his will. Owen would be the sole bearer of Hugh McLaurin’s surname. I am speculating that this was important to Duncan, in addition to the kindred spirit affinity between the two. As fate would have it, Duncan outlived Owen by about three years and in his own will, Owen directed his uncle to leave any property meant for him to Hugh McCall. With the death of Owen, the McLaurin surname “daughtered out” in Hugh’s family line. Hugh McLaurin’s family line is designated the “F” family in Banks McLaurin’s genealogy published in the Clan McLaren Society Quarterly.

“The Scotch Boys”: Owen’s 1861-1862 Civil War Letters

Owen could not have been home from his Philadelphia school very many months when South Carolina seceded from the Union on 20 December 1860. His native North Carolina was the last state to adopt articles of secession, 20 May 1861. Very little in this collection of letters reveals Owen’s political persuasion. Despite owning slaves, his Uncle Duncan was politically inclined to be Southern Whig during the 1840s. He, along with many, probably reluctantly supported secession. Few, no matter what their political stripes, entertained the vision of a war as lengthy and destructive as the American Civil War would be. This is apparent in the correspondence written by Owen McLaurin and his McKenzie cousins in Mississippi.

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A list of the soldiers in the same company with Owen McLaurin. Most of them were probably local people. Clipping from the Fayetteville Weekly Observer 24 June 1861.

Thus, Owen readily joined the Richmond County “Scotch Boys,” Company F of the 18th North Carolina Infantry Regiment. He was enrolled as Fourth Corporal on June 1, 1861 by Captain Charles Malloy and mustered into service on June 15, 1861 at Wilmington, NC for one year’s service. Owen was 18 years old, a farmer, and 5’9” tall, just a tad above the average height of a Confederate soldier and just within the average age range of 18-29.  Nearly a year later on June 16, 1862, he entered the hospital at Camp Winder, Virginia with diarrhea. He returned to duty June 19, 1862 and was discharged from duty on the same date, “for disability.”

During his first year of service, Owen wrote four letters that survive in the Duncan McLaurin Papers. Two letters are addressed from Camp Stevens in South Carolina and two are addressed from Hanover, VA and Richmond, VA. The first of these letters reveals very little anxiety about his life as a soldier. On December 15 of 1861, Owen wrote from Camp Stevens that he is doing well, though the death of comrade in arms Gib McKinnon has saddened the “Scotch Boys.” More than likely McKinnon died of an illness. Coming from very rural areas, many were exposed to a variety of diseases for the first time during the first year of war. Owen continues to lament that D. Stuart is ill, though he is expected to recover.

Owen continues in his usual newsy style to offer his opinion on the “great fire in Charleston.” He blames spies. He writes glowingly of their new general, a native of Pennsylvania and 1833 graduate of West Point, John C. Pemberton. Pemberton has them “digging trenches and throwing up embankments.” He says that since the Yankees took Beaufort they had only once tried any aggression. That action was under cover of their artillery when they burned a sentinel box and destroyed some rifle pits. In rather lighthearted fashion he tells of an encounter between SC pickets and a group of Yankees. Three shots each were fired before the South Carolinians fled, “faster than the Yankees did from Bull Run or Manassus.”As for an imminent fight, Owen says there is very little danger:

“as the Yankees

are afraid that their, ‘on to Charleston and

Savannah’ may turn out as their on to

Richmond did. I believe Sherman and Dupont

are not desirous of relinquishing the laurels they

won in the Port Royal affair which they will

without a doubt loose if they try a land route

to either place. — Owen McLaurin

The wife of one of the Captains stays in camp with them in her own tent. The noncommissioned officers are, “being instructed on the Zouave style of fencing with the Bayonet.” He says it is their most difficult drill yet and after an hour a day they are so tired they, “can hardly walk.” Though they are in the winter season, their weather has been pleasant enough to see a few mosquitoes.

His Uncle Duncan was well-acquainted with Owen’s company leader, Captain Charles Malloy. Owen says his Uncle can hear all the camp gossip directly from Malloy as he is going home for a visit the first of January. Owen reports Captain Malloy was blamed unjustly for the death of John F. Gilchrist. Others in the company have had some “false report” against them. Owen has been blamed for stealing sugar from officers when they were at Ft. Fisher in NC. He calls it a “base lie.” He ends his letter with love and the return address of “Co. F 18th Regt. N.C.V.; care H. P. Russell & Co.; Charleston, SoCa.”

Owen’s letter dated 5 March 1862 seems a bit more serious regarding the war but still hopeful. He says he will not reenlist after his first year is up. He begins by saying the health of the “Scotch Boys” is excellent, though they have been issued, “an extra supply of vinegar,” to combat sore tongue and mouth. A comrade, W. H. Gibson, is ill but not seriously.

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The tragic death of James S. Highsmith is reported in the Fayetteville Semi-Weekly Observer 13 March 1862.

On a starker note he tells the story of a young man from Company E, by the surname of Highsmith, who attempted suicide, “by cutting his throat.” While hospitalized he tried to remove the bandages and jump from a window but was prevented in time — all of this, “becuse his lady love gave him the mitten,” which may have contributed to the mental stress of this poor soldier. The Fayetteville Semi-Weekly Observer reports on 10 March 1862 the death at Camp Stephens, SC of, “James S. Highsmith of the New Hanover Moore’s Creek Rifles, Co. E, 18th Reg’t.”

Owen tells of a fight after Sunday services among some of the German company members. Here he probably refers to recent immigrants or persons of German descent. The arrival of the paymaster must have lifted their spirits and put an end to the conflict.

On the day Owen writes his March 5th letter, the regiment will assemble to discover who will reenlist. Owen says of himself, “I for one will not volunteer and should I be drafted before getting home they will hardly get me at all.” Apparently, the great rush to serve has been tempered by actual service. Owen implies that reenlistment would be more common if furloughs home had been more fairly issued, “few will go in until the go home.” However, the government having just received thousands of dollars worth of arms on a steamer and the purchase of “three first class war steamers,” has encouraged him. He feels the blockade will surely be broken and they would receive more “necessaries.” At the top of the list of necessaries is coffee, for which they have been using, “parched meal, sassafras &c as substitutes.” He ends with, “the Captain sends his respects to you,” and the same return address as his last letter in Charleston, SC.

On the 25th of May 1862, Owen writes that D. Blue and J. M. Fairly will leave for home. Owen says he was ill when the rest of his company, “took their tramp to Blue Ridge,” but he is well now. It rained uncomfortably their train trip from Gordonsville. At Gordonsville they learned the Yankees possessed the railroad between them and Richmond, leaving the Fredericksburg Road the only access. He is anticipating a fight for Richmond, though since their company is on the extreme left wing, they may not see the brunt of it. Yesterday some, “Yankee horsemen coming in about two miles on a stealing trip,” caused the guns to be loaded and, “the whole brigade under arms.” Owen has heard that the people of Richmond are not worried about the coming battle, for they are filled with confidence about the outcome.

The remainder of this missive explores the prospect of Owen finding an alternative to his military duty of the past year. The eager young man, who marched off to his adventure a year before, spends the rest of his service writing home desperate pleas for his family to help him find a way out of it. Apparently, he believes Neil Smith would leave home on Wednesday to take his place for a month. However, Owen says this is useless because he cannot get off, “for not period less than 12 months.” If Neil is well enough to take his place, then he is liable for the Conscription Act. Apparently, Neil has a medical discharge, and if an examination by surgeons finds him fit for duty, he loses his discharge.

The next option Owen mentions may involve a substitute:

Fathers present plan to get one under

18 is the best and if he does not succeed

in getting the one he now has his eye on

I have another plan in view not for getting

out of service but to get some government office

by being detached from the Regiment. — Owen McLaurin

Owen says he would need a recommendation from one of the older community leaders in his home county, men of influence, who could get it signed by his Captain and Colonel. Owen is aware that his father and uncle both have these connections. In a cryptic closing Owen hopes that his father will find a substitute, “as I have not been anxious to leave until now my reasons I will communicate at another time or perhaps not until I see you.” According to Fold 3 records, Owen is discharged for disability on June 19, 1862.

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Owen’s first year’s service is documented in this record from Fold 3 online.

In his last letter of 1862, written on scraps from old letters, Owen is still suggesting the government appointment as a last resort. His plea is more urgent because, “it is reported we leave this place this evening where to or how no one knows.” This letter is signed General Branch’s Brigade — Richmond, VA.

It is likely that Owen is referring to his company’s participation in the defense of Richmond, VA. In the late spring, about the time Owen pens this last 1862 letter, the Federal General McClellan brought his troops to the tip of the peninsula at the mouth of the James River in Virginia. McClellan worked his way up the peninsula from Ft. Monroe towards Richmond but was ultimately blocked at Drewry’s Bluff on May 15 and at the Battle of Seven Pines on May 31 and June 1. It is probable that Owen may have participated in these battles.

Confederate Conscription

In April of 1862 the Confederate lawmaking body passed the first conscription law in U.S. history. On September 27 it extended the age of service to age 45. By October 11 it had passed the controversial portion of the law that exempted from service the owners of twenty or more slaves. This supposedly because so many larger plantations were left without any white male person to run them.

Owen explains clearly in his correspondence how these laws affect him. In December of 1863 the chances of his escaping further service, as the war became more deadly, decreased when the practice of hiring substitutes officially ended. According to Owen’s letters, John McLaurin was considering hiring a substitute as Owen’s first year of service ended. By February of 1864 the draft age had been increased to ages 17-50. We must speculate the details of how Owen spent his time from June 1862 until he appears in the service records of the 20th Regiment, South Carolina Infantry as a private in the summer of 1863. Clearly, he was unable to escape service altogether. Apparently, Owen joined a company of the South Carolina 20th Infantry from nearby Marlboro County, where his Uncle Duncan and father had many, many connections with both friends and family.

“Palmetto Battery” January 1864 – December 1864: 20th South Carolina Infantry

and the CSS Fredericksburg

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Owen’s service in the 20th South Carolina Infantry is documented in this Fold 3 online reference.

On 26 January 1864, Owen writes a letter to his uncle with the greeting from the “Palmetto Battery.” Evidently, Owen did not return to his North Carolina regiment, but mustered into service of Company N South Carolina Infantry out of nearby Marlboro, NC. Owen’s Aunt Sarah and Uncle Duncan Douglas had lived in that county for many years. Their son John, several decades Owen’s senior, was in the cavalry of the 20th. Owen begins his letter by noting his own good health. He mentions that he has written to his sister that their cousin John Douglas would probably go home over the weekend. Douglas was being furloughed due to illness. Owen comments, “I doubt his final recovery although they may improve his health.” John Douglas would soon succumb to “consumption,” better known today as tuberculosis, on 6 March 1864. Sadly, his sister dies of the same illness on the 18th day of March 1864. Tuberculosis was rampant during the Civil War, especially among closely confined soldiers. These soldiers likely brought this contagious disease home with them on visits, unaware that they were spreading disease. The incubation period for tuberculosis can sometimes be lengthy, causing the disease to spread easily. 

The good news is that their rations have increased since, “some of the troops on Sullivan’s and also on James (River) mutinied for want of provision but it was a small affair. They are now enjoying the pleasures of close confinement.” Owen feels that he is unlikely to suffer much in his current environment but notes the discontent of many. Some of the troops, whose terms of service expired, refused to do their duty. Many were being placed under arrest. He relates a report from Fort Moultrie that Regulars attempted to, “spike the guns, and run up a white flag.” The plot was discovered in time to stop it. He expresses the feeling among many of the soldiers at this point in the war but adds that he is, “willing to serve,” and that now is the time to be steadfast and loyal. However, many believe the following:

the war was brought on by designing men

to gratify their ambition and they do not

seem willing to continue in the army &

fight, when the good of our country is not

the main object in view it appears

that the fires of Patriotism are burning low — Owen McLaurin

Owen begins and ends this letter by referring to his sister. He approves of her teaching at a school that has given her an offer. His sister had written that Owen’s father wanted to visit him, but Owen replies that his father would only be detained in Charleston. He is more specific about his location:

The Yanks are reported to be dredging the

channel at Drewry’s Bluff which is just

opposite to us at St. Helena at any rate

the authorities will have obstructions

placed there in a short time.

We are doing well on St. Helene now

as we have a stove and the weather

is pleasant. — Owen McLaurin

In closing this letter, Owen asks to be remembered to his friends, family, and to his cousin Kenneth McKenzie, who has been staying with Duncan. Kenneth had made his way from Mississippi after mustering out of the 8th MS Infantry. Kenneth’s objective was to answer his elderly Uncle Duncan’s request for assistance in his old age, but he also helped on John McLaurin’s farm.

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Obituaries for John McLaurin, John Douglas, and Catharine Douglas appeared in the Fayetteville Semi-Weekly Observer on 14 April 1864.

A few months later, 23 March 1864, Owen’s father, John, would be dead. The Fayetteville Observer would publish his obituary under “Died.” Duncan likely composed his brother’s obituary: “At his residence…on the 23rd of March 1864, after a short attack of pleurisy, Mr John McLaurin in his 74th year. in all his unobtrusive relations in life he was much esteemed…From his early boyhood up to his death he had an undoubting confidence in the Providence of God and was seldom or never disappointed.” Pleurisy is the 19th century term associated with pneumonia. The same obituary column lists John Douglas and his sister, both dead of consumption.

The death of John McLaurin, a tragedy for the family, presents difficulties since Effy and her daughters are now the managers of the farm. According to Duncan, Effy assumes ownership of the property as if she had inherited it. Duncan insists that John had a will, likely leaving the property to Owen, but it is never found. If Owen, however, is to inherit the property, the likelihood of his keeping it in the event of a Union victory is slim.

Less than a month after his father’s death, Owen writes on April 10, 1864 that his company, “along with 9 others,” will be disbanded. They are ordered to report to Columbia, SC. He says that General Beauregard is trying to have the order “countermanded” but will likely not succeed. According to Fold 3 records, J. A. Peterkin’s Company had been organized, “without proper authority.” At this point the men were ordered to “report to the Commandant of Conscripts at Columbia, South Carolina.” Owen was evidently in one of the ten companies of infantry that composed this regiment. Owen declares in his letter that he will not report to Columbia: “There is one thing certain, I am not going to Columbia.” Owen gives his uncle contact information for his superiors, General R. S. Ripley, whose address is Charleston. Meanwhile, Owen will talk to Colonel Keitt, who will assume command of Mt. Pleasant. Evidently, Col. Keitt organized the 20th SC Volunteer Regiment in 1862. He was later promoted to the rank of brigadier general and died after being wounded on June 4, 1864.

Aboard the ironclad C.S.S. Fredericksburg

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From the online Naval Encyclopedia online cited in Sources.

Owen may have spoken to Keitt, who likely told him that his chances of getting home at this point in the war were slim. Owen writes his next letter dated 22 November 1864 from aboard the C.S.S. Fredericksburg of the James River Squadron. The Fredericksburg was an ironclad steamer launched by the Confederate Navy yard at Rocketts on the James River, VA in June of 1863. However, it would be some time before it was fully functional due to a shortage of iron at the Tredegar ironworks. The Union blockade had been taking its toll. Also, flooding on the James River in the spring of 1864 delayed progress. In March of 1864 the steamer was still having trouble getting her guns, and by April 1864 the difficulty of manning the Fredericksburg caused the Confederate Navy to commandeer troops from the infantry to finish out the crew.

According to John M. Coski, author of Capital Navy: The Men, Ships, and Operations of the James River Squadron, “Adjutant General Samuel Cooper, on March 22, 1864, sent instructions to nine Confederate generals throughout the Confederacy ordering the immediate transfer of a total of 1,200 men.” Some several hundred of those men were destined for the James River Squadron. Among those soldiers was Owen McLaurin. Captain John Kirkwood Mitchell assumed command of all the active James River naval vessels and Commander Thomas R. Rootes was given first command of the Fredericksburg. At this point in the war less attention was paid a conscript’s aptitude for naval service, and the number of transfers had increased. Indeed, imprisoned soldiers and civilians were given shortened sentences if they would transfer to the navy.

Though the food is better and more abundant in the navy, Owen says, “I am very much dissatisfied here & trust that you and Uncle John (Stalker) will use every endeavor to have me transferred to Wilmington.” Once again he names local people with connections who could write to Commander Rootes about a transfer. His language is quite desperate:

Dear Uncle I beg of you all to re-

member me in your prayers, where

one like myself is exposed to both

the missiles of the enemy & all kinds

of wickedness among those with whom

I am thrown — Owen McLaurin

Owen’s sentiments are supported by another infantryman turned sailor that is quoted by Coski. Oliver Hamilton, a transfer from the North Carolina 38th Infantry, wrote home to his father. This letter collection is held at the North Carolina State Archives. In one letter Hamilton describes the crew as, “very much mixed up — about half of us here just came from the army — and the others are all seamen some are English, some Irish some Dutch and I don’t know what all — Some are very wicked too.” To add to the diversity of the crew, enslaved servants of officers were allowed and enslaved labor was hired for menial tasks. Hamilton says the general consensus is that the infantry conscripts are not very good soldiers and are, “kicked around.” Evidently, a prejudice existed on the part of experienced seamen and the untrained conscripts.

Coski in Capital Navy supports with evidence the crowded conditions on the ironclads of the James River Squadron. The ironclads were notoriously uncomfortable, cold in winter and like ovens in the summer. Hamilton mentions to his father, “There are about 150 men in this steamer and we are very much crowded.” Close quarters made these vessels incubators for disease. Frequently in the summer, sleeping quarters might be found on barges with tarps for shelter or as young Hamilton mentions “a Scooner brought along side.” The boiler room brought warmth in the winter. However, sickness and desertion would become rampant in the James River Squadron during the last months of the war. In November of 1864, despite his desperation to be transferred, Owen says his health is good, though he has lost weight. Owen tries to convey the sentiments aboard the vessel regarding the war:

There appears to be

a strong peace feeling in Congress

& on board this ship There are

numbers of men who are for peace

on any terms, I am sorry to

write it but it is the truth — Owen McLaurin

At the end of November 1864, Owen writes another letter revealing that he is much better since having taken, “a few doses of quinine.” He says that shelling continues at Dutch Gap and he foresees an engagement if “the canal” is opened. Owen quotes the price of gold in Richmond as forty to forty-five dollars for one. He begins to share his ideas of what must become of the enslaved people on the farm. It is unclear whether Owen is referring to his Uncle’s property, his father’s property, or both. In any case, the goal is to make sure they lose as little of their investment in human chattel as possible. He says if he could go home on furlough he could suggest a plan. Since that won’t happen, he makes this suggestion:

hire out all those of the negroes even

those as small as Charles or Darling,

if you could get their victuals &

clothes for them, I would not sell one

except those for which you would

have to pay for the feeding of, and

those I sold I would not receive confed

erate Currency but notes with

the most approved security and at

long dates … with

the interest payable annually — Owen McLaurin

Apparently, Owen is suggesting that the enslaved people on the farm be hired out for the cost of their upkeep. If that cannot be managed, they should be sold without accepting Confederate currency. However, the not so distant future would settle things to an extent for Owen’s household. William T. Sherman and his troops would drive directly through Richmond County, destroying property as they went, while dispersing both animals and people. Owen’s household would be one of the lucky ones. They would even be spared a portion of their cotton on hand. Evidence exists in Owen’s probate hearing that at least one formerly enslaved person remained on the farm. Life as they had known it before would be virtually over.

The financial disaster that is about to befall them must have preyed upon Owen’s mind during a daily struggle to maintain his health and positive outlook. His anxiety is palpable, not only for his family’s situation but for his own. Owen wishes to hear from them often, “and do your best to get me away from here.” Again, his letter ends with a plea for prayers, “Dear Uncle I beg of you to pray for me.”

The James River Squadron

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The Battle of Trent’s Reach. From the Naval Encyclopedia: the first online warship museum, cited below in Sources.

After the first Union attempt to take Richmond in 1862 failed, the James River Squadron had seen little action, though the blockade running continued throughout the war. The navy yards along the James River were active in building and experimenting. The Confederates experimented with torpedoes, which were actually mines. They also would launch the first primitive submarine in the United States from this area. The James River in Virginia is particularly winding, so it was easy for the Navy to fall into a defensive position by obstructing Federal passage up the James to Richmond. By May of 1864, General Grant had begun his campaign to capture Richmond. At this point the Fredericksburg, was captained by Lt. Francis E. Shepperd. Grant, engaged in the Siege of Petersburg, placed his supply base at City Point on the James River.

That winter of 1865, the James River Squadron Commander, Captain John K. Mitchell, was ordered to engage the enemy. Mitchell felt it too risky. The best they could do was help the land batteries keep the Union forces from crossing the river behind Confederate lines. Most soldiers probably realized this situation could not last forever. As Owen expected, engagement came the night of January 23-24, 1865 in the Battle of Trent’s Reach.

On January 15, 1865 Confederate Secretary of the Navy Stephen R. Mallory had received a report that the obstructions in the James River at Trent’s Reach had partially washed away. With Grant’s supplies concentrated at City Point on the James, Mallory saw an opportunity to finally put the James River Squadron on the offensive. The goal was to send the squadron down river, passing the newly opened channel to attack City Point under cover of night.

Commander Mitchell, felt any engagement with the Federal Navy would probably be disastrous to the Confederacy. For this reason Mitchell procrastinated until  January 23 and 24, when high water and washed obstructions presented an undeniable opportunity of allowing the squadron to pass and attack City Point.

Wooden vessels were lashed to the ironclads. The Fredericksburg led the flotilla with the gunboat Hampton and torpedo boat Hornet lashed to it. The Confederate Navy had mined the river with torpedoes which could be identified by coded stakes. They traveled in complete darkness and silence under the Federal pickets, adding to the precariousness of the venture. Soon the Federals discovered and fired upon them. The Confederate land batteries retaliated. The flotilla was plagued with vessels becoming stuck and having to be rescued. At 1:30 am on January 24, the Fredericksburg passed the Federal obstructions, having endured fire from shore. However, Commander Sheppard had the ship pass through too hastily. Both of the lashed torpedo outriggers were torn away. In addition, the ship struck something below the waterline that caused a slow leak. The Fredericksburg anchored below Dutch Gap Canal and the Hampton followed. That is where they waited for the rest of the flotilla, but it never came. The flagship, Virginia II, had grounded. Time was consumed getting the Virginia II up and running again. The first attempt to attack City Point never happened; the Fredericksburg and Hampton were recalled.

As the sun rose, Federal gunners at Battery Parsons fired and destroyed the Drewry in dramatic fashion by a direct hit to its magazine. The Fredericksburg crew endured the explosion of the Drewry and constant shelling barrage before sheltering under cover of Battery Dantzler. General Grant saw an opportunity to destroy the Confederate Navy, but hesitation on the part of the Federal Navy that had been left to guard the James River lost the chance.

Meanwhile, the James River Squadron attempted the attack on City Point a second time. The Federals trained a Drummond light on the river, making sitting ducks of the squadron. Suffering even more damage, the flotilla returned to Chaffin’s bluff under fire. The opportunity to impede Grant’s attempt at taking Richmond was lost. The Fredericksburg had a hole in its port side and was leaking two to three inches per hour.

Rear Admiral Raphael Semmes replaced Mitchell as James River Squadron commander on February 18, 1865. According to Coski, in Semmes’s 1869 memoir he describes the state of the squadron personnel as mostly from the army and very demoralized. He said they lived in close, crowded conditions in uncomfortable quarters with little opportunity for exercise. They were, at this point, reduced to half rations and little change of clothing. They were begging him for leaves of absence due to destitute families. The end result of these conditions was rampant desertion. Thus, accurate Confederate information was passed to the Federals by deserters. Semmes said, “Sometimes an entire boat’s crew would run off.” Soldiers and sailors understood that the Confederacy was near collapse, and illness had decimated their numbers.

Owen’s last surviving letter to his uncle is dated December of 1864. Because he was a member of the Masonic Lochlomand Lodge No. 242, it is likely he was true to his word and remained, though reluctantly, a faithful soldier until the end of the war. Perhaps he surrendered with Admiral Semmes. Whether he returned directly home immediately after the war is questionable. Owen spent time after the war with his cousin Duncan McEachin in Canada.

While Owen was still attached to the Fredericksburg his home of Laurel Hill came under the assault of foragers among the troops of General William T. Sherman, who was leading the Federals from Georgia through the Carolinas on his way to meet General Grant at Richmond, Virginia. In the North Carolina Encyclopedia online (www.ncpedia.org), John G. Barrett writes, “By March 1865 Sherman’s entire army was on North Carolina soil in the vicinity of Laurel Hill Presbyterian Church.” Foragers looted and burned much of the property at Laurel Hill. Livestock was scattered and crops destroyed, though the Owen McLaurin family probably suffered less than others in what became known locally as, “the raid.” According to Owen’s probate record, Effy and her two daughters were lucky enough to have their house and furniture saved as well as six bales of cotton stored in the lumber shed. They would also recover some livestock.

On April 2 Semmes received news that General Lee had advised the government to leave Richmond. Semmes ordered the remaining ships of the squadron destroyed rather than have them fall into federal hands. When the order was given to abandon ship, men scurried to gather possessions and find something to carry them in. Remaining provisions were given out. They unlashed their hammocks and rolled blankets tightly. With water for travel, they met at the Danville Depot, but not before their final duty.

Instead of sinking the vessels where they were, Semmes moved them to the Drewry’s Bluff obstructions. After disembarking, crews set the ships ablaze.

Where was Owen at this historic moment? It is probable that he was one of the soldiers who gathered his possessions and met Semmes at the depot, boarded the train for Danville, and perhaps made it there. Every time the train stopped or slowed, soldiers whose families lived near enough, would jump off and head home. According to Coski, by the time Semmes reached Danville, his force of men totaled 250. General Joseph E. Johnston, with whom Semmes was supposed to meet, had already surrendered to General Sherman, and on May 1 Semmes did the same.

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Aftermath of the War

Whether or not Owen met Semmes at the Depot and returned home is unclear, for testimony at his probate hearing reveals he was in Canada visiting his cousin Duncan McEachin until late August or early September of 1865. Duncan McEachin was the son of Effy Stalker McLaurin’s sister — McEachin was Owen’s maternal first cousin. While in Ontario, Canada, Owen promised to marry Jennie McKay. Sadly, Owen would die of tuberculosis on November 28, 1869. His will would also direct his mother to leave, “all of her personal property, to my intended wife, Jennie McKay of Elgin County Ontario.” 

Apparently, Owen borrowed a substantial amount from his cousin Duncan McEachin, mostly for his return home to Laurel Hill, NC. In testimony at his probate hearing, we learn Owen’s probable reason for his extended Canadian visit. Owen feared confiscation of his recently deceased father’s land by the U.S. government. Kenneth McKenzie, Owen’s paternal first cousin, claims that at first Owen offered the land to him with the understanding that it would be returned when the Federals no longer occupied the state, and Owen could safely keep it again. Kenneth said that Owen was under the impression that he was an, “anti-war man,” when he made the offer. However, Kenneth had volunteered and served in the Confederate Army also and could not have held the land any better than Owen.

In his will, Owen officially leaves his property to his cousin Duncan McEachin. He stipulates that Duncan share the property with his McEachin siblings: Archibald, Catherine, and Ann. In addition, he tasks his cousin with placing tombstones on the graves of his father, sisters, and his own grave. His own gravestone should bear a Masonic emblem, “chosen by the Worshipful Master and Wardens of LochLomand Lodge, No. 242.” He also leaves one hundred dollars to this lodge.

Owen makes it clear in his will that none of his property, “shall ever come to any of my relations on my Fathers side.” He stipulates that any property his Uncle Duncan may have intended for him should go to his cousin Hugh McCall, “and his heirs, as he and children are worthy of his regard.” The McCall family would own and occupy the home of Duncan McLaurin for the next hundred years or more. It is made very clear, through the testimony of Daniel Middleton at John McLaurin’s probate hearing in October of 1872, that Owen and his Uncle Duncan McLaurin were on very good terms despite the language in Owen’s will. Middleton explains the family trouble between Duncan McLaurin and some of his nephews. Kenneth McKenzie and the three Patterson nephews had brought law suits against Duncan McLaurin regarding property claims. All of them had failed. Letters in the Duncan McLaurin Papers support that Isabella Patterson’s sons were quite resentful of their Uncle Duncan. According to Middleton the ill will remained so that Owen likely felt McLaurin property should not fall into their hands:

“In conversation with Owen I heard him say, speaking of some of his relatives on his father’s side, that they would not get any part of his property, or that he did not want them to have it. There was an ill feeling existing between some of the nephews of Duncan McLaurin …, and I think it was on this account that Owen McLaurin made use of such expressions, and not on account of any ill feeling Owen had towards his Uncle Duncan McLaurin. I think they were on the best terms.” — Daniel Middleton

The property that McEachin inherited was surveyed by him according to probate testimony. The deed included 950 acres in all. The property ran along the Stage Road and the railroad.

Apparently, Owen also engaged in a business upon returning to his home. He and friend Gilbert Morrison began hauling railroad ties. Testimony also shows that they may have made a small profit on this business until Owen could no longer work due to his illness — about the last fourteen months of his life. In probate hearing testimony, L. Ross Hardin claims to have sold to Owen in 1867 a pair of mules and a wagon, or rather the running gear of a wagon, in order to carry on this business. Owen paid with drafts on the railroad and on Mr. Moffitt, a businessman, of Wilmington.

Samuel Gibson added that Owen also purchased a horse for the farm with his mother’s money. Evidently, Owen was overseeing the farm for his mother and using hired labor after the war. In the words of close neighbor, Samuel Gibson, “They (Owen and his mother) were not very good farmers.” He claims that from 1865 to 1872 they had probably made “150-175 bushels of corn and four bags of cotton weighing 400 pounds.” Gibson suggests that all of the profits from the farm were needed for the family’s support. This support became increasingly dire as both of Owen’s sisters suffered from tuberculosis. Owen’s illness too was an expense to the family. Effy estimates that she spent over $800 dollars on his medical care alone.

Included in the property that McEachin inherited was the dower of Effy Stalker. In the 19th century a dower included real estate that had been officially set aside for a widow. Evidently, Effy was living on her dower after Owen died and after the estate passed to McEachin, who allowed his aunt to reside on the property. After losing all of her immediate family, Effy Stalker McLaurin, born in Argyll, Scotland would live until 1881.

It would be October 17, 1872 before Owen’s father’s estate was probated.The Richmond County civil government was in disarray due to the raid during Sherman’s march through North Carolina, not so long after John’s death in 1864. In 1867 military authority began in North Carolina, which lasted officially until 1877. However, the state had less of a military presence after 1868. On July 4, 1868, after ratifying the 14th Amendment, North Carolina was readmitted and became part of the United States again. This served to eventually bring some normalcy to state and local civil affairs.

That fall of 1872, as the weather cooled and the leaves began falling from the trees at Laurel Hill, Plaintiff Duncan McLaurin, along with other creditors, contested his brother’s estate in probate court. It would be Duncan’s last effort, for he would be dead from cancer by December. His contention was that neither John’s estate nor Owen’s estate had been handled properly. He was openly hostile in his writing towards his brother’s wife, Effy, and her brother John Stalker. He accused them of claiming less property than the estates were actually worth in order to filch creditors of the estate. How much Duncan’s illness exacerbated his bitterness is difficult to gauge.

Much of the testimony in the legal accounts of these two probate hearings involves who was actually in charge of the farm after John’s death. A great deal of testimony itemizes property on the farm before and after the “raid.” It rankled Duncan that Effy had simply taken unofficial charge of the property immediately in Owen’s absence. Duncan always claimed John left a will while Effy claimed none could be found. Duncan, owning more property than he or the McCalls were equipped to handle during the changing times, likely had no designs on the property himself. However, it was, in part, the land that his father Hugh had deeded to his son in John’s youth.

Effy Stalker McLaurin, Murdock Morrison, Samuel J. Gibson, Daniel Middleton, John McLean, and John Stalker gave testimony during this hearing. According to Effy’s testimony, she is residing on her dower in 1872 on one side of Gum Swamp, “and on both sides of the railroad.” Effy also admits that after the raid a Yankee officer gave her two mules and a mare. She itemizes property, other than land, owned by John McLaurin just before Sherman’s army raided the area:

“Two mules and a mare and colt. I suppose there were at least 12 head of cattle, four milk cows … about 20 head of sheep. There was enough corn to feed 3 horses and 17 to 20 persons in the family. (This must have included enslaved people.) There was enough fodder to feed all the horses and mules; enough bacon to last the family and no corn or bacon left over that year, about enough wheat for that year. There was an excellent four horse wagon, a cart and a one-horse Rockaway. There was a mill and fixtures on the farm and about enough farming implements to run a three-horse-farm.” — Effy Stalker McLaurin testimony

She also names her three now deceased children, adding that her husband left no will. Effy says that she, “overseed the farm, and applied the proceeds to the support of family.” They consumed everything they made, “I made two crops without Owen. Owen came home in the fall of 1865.” Effy claims to have supported Owen when he was in Canada. Ultimately, from 1865 until just before his death, Owen was in charge of the farm: “Owen conducted the farm as my overseer.” Effy claims that every cent she, “got hold of,” was paid Owen. She follows this claim with a brief characterization of her son, “Owen would have spent as much more in books and papers if he could have got it.” At this point books and papers must have seemed a bit superfluous to Effy, though they must have meant a great deal to Owen.

OwenMcLProbateHearingIdentification1873

 

During Owen’s probate hearing, which occurred after Duncan McLaurin died in December of 1872, Kenneth McKenzie gives testimony as to what remained on the farm after the Yankee raid. His reason for knowing about the farm was that, “it was mostly my home,” from 1863 when he came from Mississippi to North Carolina to help his aging uncle Duncan McLaurin conduct his affairs until he re-enlisted in the Confederate Army in September of 1864. He was also on John’s farm after April of 1865, though he was no longer employed by his Uncle Duncan: “I was there a great deal after the raid up to Owens death.” The following is Kenneth’s enumerated list:

 

 

“There was a lot of cattle of fifteen — or more.

there were four breeding sows, (and other hogs.) one was killed

in the latter end of 1865 or the beginning of 1866.

There were four feather beds including bedstead quilt counter pane, the beds and

furniture —I cant say how much — farming implements

plows, hoes &c I can’t say how much I suppose there were

a dozen chains. one wagon,

there was a safe, dining table four

small tables two common bedsteads. one grindstone

there was corn there cant say how much some fodder

Six Bales of cotton, 2 mattresses belonged on the

common bedsteads — some blankets in a box two were

shown me there seemed to be more. There were some kitchen furniture. these a large

pot, and a large boiler each of which would hold about 40

gallons. — Kenneth McKenzie

He also enumerates items left on the farm after Owen’s death:

“There were fifteen cattle at least there after the

death of Owen, part of them the cattle

enumerated as belonging to the Estate of John

McLaurin, the balance I supposed to be the increase,

I suppose there were 10 of the old cattle that

I knew as belonging to the estate of John McLaurin, worth about $20 a head the

others were worth I suppose, about $10 or $12

the Sows three of which were left were worth $*. I reckon a piece, the 12

chairs I suppose were worth 75 cents to $1.00 — the

safe I suppose was worth $10. The dining

table I suppose was worth $2, or $2.50

the small tables I reckon were worth $6 a piece

I would suppose the beds were worth $50

each with their furniture the common Bedsteads were worth $100

or $150 and the Mattress (2) were worth about

$4.00 each the Blankets were worth a

dollar a yd 10 or 12 yds in a Blanket

worth say $10 there were two — three I think

The grindstone was worth $3. The pots or pot

and boiler were there after Owens death

and worth (the lightest would weigh 75 lbs

and the heaviest 100 lbs) the pot was worth $5

and the Boiler $6. I know of some cotton

sold after the raid at 40 cents per lb — Kenneth McKenzie

Apparently, the six bales of cotton that survived burning in the raid were held in what Kenneth referenced as the “lumber house.” He noted the cotton because he made an offer to buy it from Owen at fifteen cents a pound but Owen sold to someone else, probably receiving a much better profit.

The marking of the cattle is an interesting point. During the testimony of several people we learn that people living where John McLaurin’s farm was located did not generally mark their stock. However, Kenneth said he was directed to mark the stock by John and Effy McLaurin. Kenneth says he remembers them better by their flesh marks than ear marks. This was important because during the raid much of the livestock property was wandering loosely and had to be retrieved. Having no marks as evidence of ownership, many people collected more than they had before, and some were unable to collect all that they had before.

Another interesting testimony in Owen’s probate hearing comes from a former slave, Lydia Leak, who may also be known as Lydia Gibson. Lydia, if not born on the farm, was “raised on the farm,” during John McLaurin’s lifetime and ownership. Evidently, she was still working on the farm after the war as a free laborer. In her short testimony, she claims to have driven home some of the McLaurin cows after the raid. She also says there was a little corn and meat on the farm, but she could not attest to how many farming implements were left or the amount of household and kitchen furniture left. Her testimony was very brief and was not cross-examined.

The probate suit against John Stalker by the creditors of Owen McLaurin concluded with an admonishment for Stalker to pay what was owed. Stalker’s refusal to pay the full amount to creditors and choosing to go into further debt in court costs won him disfavor in the court’s decision.

Owen’s sad story, the wasting of youthful promise in pursuit of war, is a timeless one and recounted in the letters home of many soldiers, both Federal and Confederate, during the Civil War. Owen and others like him have left us a cautionary tale.

Sources

Account written by Duncan McLaurin of Laurel Hill, Richmond County, NC regarding his relationship with John Stalker of Richmond County, NC, brother of Effie Stalker McLaurin and uncle of Owen McLaurin. Written some time after Owen’s death in November of 1869 and before Duncan’s death in December of 1872. Box 1. Duncan McLaurin Papers. David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Duke University.

Barrett, John G. “Sherman’s March.” NCpedia. https://www.ncpedia.org/shermans-march. 2006. Accessed 8 March 2020.

Bridges, Myrtle N. Estate Records 1772-1933 Richmond County North Carolina Hardy-Meekins Book II. “John McLaurin – 1864.” Genealogy Publishing Service: Angier, NC. 2001. Brandon Genealogy Room copied by Harold Johnson. 

“Collection Overview.” Eli Spinks Hamilton Papers, 1861-1864, #3226, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Referenced in Coski.

“Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of North Carolina.” M270. NARA. 586957. Roll 0264. Eighteenth Infantry. Owen McLaurin. 1861-1862. https://www.fold3.com/images35901289, 35901301, 35901306,35901317,35901326, 35901329, 35901336, 35901340, 35901346. Accessed 29 Dec 2019.

“Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of South Carolina.” M267. NARA. 586957. Roll l0314. Twentieth Infantry. Owen McLaurin. 1863. https://www.fold3.com/images85977739, 85977742, 85977744, 85977745, 85977747. Accessed 2 February 2020.

Coski, John M. Capital Navy: The Men, Ships and Operations of the James River Squadron. Savas Beatie LLC: New York. 1996. 81, 85,153, 154, 156, 159, 167, 172, 175, 176, 177, 178, 179, 180, 181. Chapter 6 “No Advance, No Retreat: The Battle of Trent’s Reach & the Final Months of the James River Squadron.” 203, 210, 221, 222.

Coski, John M. “James River Squadron.” Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, 4 Mar. 2011. Web. 29 Dec. 2019. First published: December 16, 2009. Last modified: March 4, 2011.

“Death of James S. Highsmith Co. E. 18th Regiment SC Vols from Camp Stephens S.C.” Wilmington Journal. Wilmington, NC. 13 Mar 1862, Thursday. 1. newspapers.com. Accessed 6 February 2020.

“Death of Soldiers March 1862.” Fayetteville Semi-Weekly Observer. Fayetteville, NC. 10 Mar 1862. Monday. 3. newspapers.com. Accessed 6 February 2020.

DreadnaughtZ666. Naval Encyclopedia : the first online warship museum.  19 June 2018. “Confederate Navy.” <https://www.naval-encyclopedia.com/secession-war/css-fredericksburg&gt; Accessed 29 December 2019.

Keating, Frank. “Heenan v Sayers: The fight that changed boxing forever.” The Guardian. 13 April 2020. Tuesday. https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2010/apr/14/john-heenan-tom-sayers-boxing. Accessed 5 March 2020.

“Keitt, Laurence Massillon.” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress 1774-Present. https://bioguideretro.congress.gov/Home/MemberDetails?memIndex=K000054. Accessed 4 February 2020.

Letter from Christian Calhoun to Duncan McLaurin. 4 March 1842. Boxes 1 and 2. Duncan McLaurin Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Letter from Duncan Calhoun to Duncan McLaurin. 15 February 1844 and 13 July 1845. Boxes 1 and 2. Duncan McLaurin papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Letter from Kenneth McKenzie to Duncan McLaurin. April 1843. Boxes 1 and 2. Duncan McLaurin Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Letters from Owen McLaurin to Duncan McLaurin. 9 May 1860, 15 December 1861, 5 March 1862, 25 May 1862, about May or June 1862, 20 January 1864, 10 April 1864, 22 November 1864, 29 November 1864, 18 December 1864. Boxes 1 and 2. Duncan McLaurin Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Duke University.

“McLaurin, Douglas Deaths March 1864.” Fayetteville Semi-Weekly Observer. Fayetteville, NC. 14 Apr 1864, Thursday. 3. newspapers.com. Accessed 17 February 2020.

McPherson, James M. and Patricia R. Lamson of the Gettysburg: The Civil War Letters of Lieutenant Roswell H. Lamson, U.S. Navy. Oxford University Press: New York. 1997. 159.

National Archives and Records Administration (NARA, Washington, D.C.; Non-population Census Schedules for North Carolina, 1850-1880: Mortality and Manufacturing; Archive Collection: M1805; Archive Roll Number: 3; Census Year: 1869; Census Place: Luarel Hill, Richmond North Carolina; Page: 595. Accessed ancestry.com on 30 December 2019.

“Scottish Boys Nortons and Pates.” Fayetteville Weekly Observer. Fayetteville, NC. 24 June 1861. Monday. 2. newspapers.com. Accessed by tjthomps on 26 March 2015. Accessed 25 September 2019.

“Tribute of Respect for Wm. Snead and Gilbert M. McKinnon of “Scotch Boys.” Fayetteville Semi-Weekly Observer. Fayetteville, NC. 23 Dec 1861. Monday. 3. newspapers.com. Accessed 6 February 2020.

United States Federal Census. Year: 1850; Census Place: Laurel Hill, Richmond, North Carolina; Roll: M432_642; Page: 2675; Image: 35. Accessed ancestry.com on 30 December 2019.

United States Federal Census. Year: 1860; Census Place; Williamson, Richmond, North Carolina; Roll; M653_911; Page:387; Family History Library Film: 803911. Accessed ancestry.com on 30 December 2019.

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. Accessed 30 December 2019.

Wills, 1663-1978; Estate Papers, 1772-1933 (Richmond County); Author: North Carolina. Division of Archives and History; Probate Place: Richmond, North Carolina. Accessed ancestry.com on 12 April 2018.

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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.