Monday, May 6, 2013

'Ole Taylor Trunks

A recent appeal to our Taylor cousins for tales about the old trunks that have been passed down through generations produced a few pictures and stories.  Undoubtedly, there are more out there.  Other stories can easily be added. 

If you have a family heirloom such as a trunk, or know someone who has one,  you understand the sense of  history that is felt when you look at it.  Just thinking about our ancestors who opened the trunk to add their keepsakes gives us a sense of connection.  Old trunks were not decorator pieces in days gone by!  Indeed, they were important storage places, or used as luggage to carry things from one  place to another.

Trunk belonging to
Pachie Taylor Stevens
The first Taylor trunk is one that belonged to Pachie Taylor Stevens, daughter of William Carroll & Sarah Sephronia Taylor.  It was passed down to Pachie's younger son, Verbon Stevens.  The family story is told that Pachie and her husband, John, along with their two sons traveled in a covered wagon from Winston County to Lawrence County, Tennessee about 1920 where they made their home. This trunk, no doubt, made that trip.

When Verbon brought the trunk home from his parent's home place, the condition of the trunk was very rough.  Years of use left it in a very tattered condition. Verbon took the trunk to a local antique dealer in his hometown to inquire about restoration.  The shop owner sent it away for "renewal." The expert restored the exterior of the trunk, while the interior was relined by Verbon and his wife. 

Interior tray of Pachie's trunk
Today the trunk is in the possession of Pachie's granddaughter.  As her grandmother did so many years ago, she also keeps special items in it. Her granddaughter continued her own mother's tradition of saving the newspaper on the day her two children were born.  Among other special things, those newspapers along with the one saved by her mother on the day of her own birth are tucked away inside the trunk for safe-keeping. 

Trunk belonging to
Newman Oliver Taylor

The second trunk, belonging to Newman Oliver Taylor son of Alonzo & Margaret Taylor, was passed down to Newman's son.  This dome trunk contains several interior compartments and a tray system, including a drop down compartment.   These were designed for hats, shirts and perhaps documents. 

Interior Compartments of Taylor trunk
The type of trunks that were built varied over the years.  There were steamer, domed-top, flat-top, Jenny Lind, Saratoga trunks, as well as others.  Antique trunks were originally used as luggage for trips.  Surely this trunk has traveled!

A trunk kept by Margaret Stephens Taylor, wife of Alonzo, held a host of newspaper clippings Margaret collected about Winston County World War II soldiers.  Neatly cut out of the newspaper, Margaret saved the articles about the men from Winston who were serving their country.  Many articles included the soldier's picture in military uniform.  In October 2012, these treasured clippings were given to the Winston County Archives in Double Springs, Alabama so that others could enjoy the history.  Margaret never knew how her commitment to the soldiers would be seen by others...over 60 years later.

Another treasured item kept in Margaret's trunk was the original record book of Liberty Grove Baptist Church in Winston County.  Margaret's husband, Alonzo, was the son of William Carroll Taylor--a founding member of the church.  As church clerk, Carroll kept and used the book.  He passed it down to his son, Alonzo. The book held the handwritten church records beginning in 1881 through about 1919.  The files have been preserved by the Samford University Manuscripts Department in Birmingham, Alabama.  The original book has been returned to Liberty Grove. 

Trunks are special family treasures...they represent a connection to the rich history of our family!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

War Hero's Reward and Deadly Choices

At the 2012 Taylor Family Reunion held in Double Springs, Alabama, the following story was shared.  It is a tragic story--one that details the too-soon ending of a young Taylor man's life.

Charles Washington Taylor, the son of David Vernon and Gertrude (Roberts) Taylor, was born in Polk County, Georgia in July, 1922  Charles's grandfather, George Washington Taylor, was the son of Francis Marion Taylor (Sr.)  His grandfather's family lived in Cherokee County, Alabama--right across the state line from Polk County, Georgia.  When Charles was 14 years old, his family moved to Rome, Georgia where he lived most of his life.

In 1942, Charles answered the call of service to his country and enlisted in the United States Army.  He was Private First Class with the 175th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division.  After his induction into the army, he trained at Fort Hancock, N.J., Camp Upton, N.Y., and Camp Pickett, Va. Charles' unit served in the European Theater during World War II.  He was stationed in England until the invasion of France.  His unit participated in the invasion at Normandy and landed on Omaha Beach on June 7, 1944.  The soldiers continued the hard-fought battle, pushing inland over the next several weeks until they reached St-Lo, France where Charles received his battle wounds.

PFC Charles Washington
On August 9, his mother received a telegram informing her of her son's serious injury during the war.  The telegram stated he was evacuated to a hospital. Charles was seriously wounded at St. Lo, France.  His leg, shredded by shrapnel, had to be amputated above the right knee. For his wounds, Charles was awarded a Purple Heart.  A monument was erected in the town of St-Lo in honor of the American sacrifices that were made to liberate France from German Nazi occupation.

Charles was discharged from the Army on March 27, 1946.  When he returned to Georgia, he was the first amputee awarded a free 1947 Oldsmobile automobile by the Veterans Administration in Floyd County.  This wonderful tribute to a soldier who had given so much during the war would lead to his tragic death when a deadly choice was made.

On November 24, 1948 Charles and three friends were riding in his new car on U. S. Highway 27 about four miles north of Cedartown, Georgia.  Charles was not driving--a friend was.  His friends told State Troopers that a few seconds before the accident, Charles commented..."You are going 90 miles an hour, hope you know what you're doing--do you think you can hold it?" About the time the last word left his mouth, the car hit the shoulder and skidded 78 yards, finally hitting a guard rail.  Charles was thrown from the car and hurled 27 yards.  He was killed instantly.  His three friends were unhurt.

The driver faced three charges by troopers--reckless driving, driving under the influence of alcohol and speeding.  Indeed, this was a deadly mixture that ended in the tragic death of a friend.  Three choices resulted in the death of a man that survived the dreadful battles in World War II.

Charles was buried at East View Cemetery in Rome, Georgia.  He was survived by his mother, Gertrude, and brother Joe.  Sadly, two years prior to his death, Charles' father, David Vernon Taylor, was killed while walking on a road when he was struck by a pickup truck. His death was ruled unavoidable by authorities.  Ironically, David was also a World War I and World War II veteran.

What was true in 1948 is still  true today.  Driving while drinking is deadly.  May we all remember the lesson.   Friends don't let friends drive while drinking.  Never.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Taylors Go To Missouri

When I started my Genealogy research some 30 years ago, I did not have much to go on. I started working on our Family History shortly after my father passed away in 1988.
From one of my uncles I got a listing of all of my Dad’s siblings and their parents. Since my Grandfather’s name is the same as his Grandfather, our progenitor John Henry Taylor, I spent some time running in circles trying to get things figured out. After a little while I was able to separate the two John Henry’s and get started on the rest of our Family History. I really know very little about my Grandfather and have not been able to gather a lot of details.
This is all I have been able to find:
My grandfather, John Henry Taylor was born in Winston County on Febrary 1, 1886. He married Lydia Ann King on January 20, 1907 in Winston County. They had a total of 13 children--12 of them lived past childbirth.
John Henry Taylor, the second son of William Carroll Taylor, left Winston County with his father, William Carroll, and siblings to farm/sharecrop in Tennessee around 1919. Before they moved to Tennessee, John Henry and Lydia had 5 children: William Olis, Carl Lee, Olin Birtis, Ettis Vera and Lois Pauline.  They were all born in Winston county. James, Nola Virginia, and William Henry were born after the family moved to Tennessee. Around 1923 they moved back to Morgan County, Alabama where Earl Washington was born. Sometime between 1924 and 1927 they moved back to Lawrence County, Tennessee. where Willa Mae was born in 1927.
By 1930 the family had moved to New Madrid, Missouri to continue sharecropping/farming. Their youngest two sons, J.C. Taylor and Edward Ray, were born in New Madrid.
John Henry died December 1, 1932 from influenza.
Written by John Taylor,
Grandson of John Henry Taylor 1886-1932
Both John Henry and Lydia Ann King Taylor are buried in Evergreen Cemetery, New Madrid, Missouri. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Francis Marion Taylor, 7th Child of John & Eliza

Francis Marion Taylor, seventh child of John & Eliza, was born on the first day of January, 1843.  His name first appears on the 1850 Federal Census for Hancock County, later Winston County, as Frances Taylor, 8 years old.

At the age of 25, he married Elizabeth A. Smith, daughter of James M. and Martha Smith. Elizabeth was the sister of J. D. Smith, who was the second husband of Mary Mollie Taylor.  So 2 children from John Taylor's family married 2 children from James Smith's family.  Francis and Elizabeth were married in 1868, according to the census recording in 1900.

Francis Marion and Elizabeth were the parents of 9 children, according to the 1900 census.  Names of the seven known children are as follows:

  • John Christopher Taylor, married Mary "Mollie" Logan, buried Old Bethel Cemetery, Winston County, Alabama
  • James Taylor
  • George Washington Taylor. married Cora Larkin Ferguson, buried Arrington Chapel Methodist, Cherokee County, Alabama
  • Francis Marion Taylor, married Lula Thackerson, buried Williams Community (Ohatchee #2), Calhoun County, Alabama
  • Roxana Taylor, married William Newton Davis, buried Pleasant Gap Cemetery, Cherokee County
  • Sarrah "Sallie" Elephair Taylor, married Arthur Gordon Hardin, buried Polk Memory Gardens, Cedartown, Polk, Georgia
  • Charles Alexander, married (1st) Luna Hyde and (2nd) Antha Ellen Cagle, buried Liberty Grove Baptist Cemetery, Winston County
By the age of 37, Francis Marion was the Probate Judge of Winston County.  This occupation is listed on the 1880 Federal census record. His name appears on scores of documents from the county during that time.  Unfortunately, a newspaper article from the Lamar News on June 3, 1886 details a scandal for Taylor and the county.

F.M. Taylor, Probate Judge of Winston County, 
 plead guilty of embezzlement charge and removed
 F.M. Taylor, Probate Judge of Winston County, whose whereabouts have been a mystery for some time, appeared before the Supreme Court and plead guilty to the charge of embezzlement which had been brought against him, and the judgment of the lower court removing him from office was affirmed.
F. M. Taylor,
Liberty Grove Baptist Cemetery
By 1900, Francis Marion and Elizabeth, along with their 3 youngest children, were living in Tecumseh, Cherokee County, Alabama.  His occupation was farmer.   Next door to Francis was his son, George Washington Taylor and family. Ten years later, Francis Marion was living with his youngest son, Charles Alexander and family, in the Ashridge community of Winston County. He was listed as divorced.

On September 7, 1913, Francis Marion married Eliza Evans Pittman.  Eliza was the daughter of Leverett and Sarah (Brown) Evans.  Her first husband was Squire Pittman. Eliza was the sister of Sarah Sephronia Evans, who married William Carroll Taylor, brother of Francis Marion.  So two sons of John Taylor married two Evans sisters. 

At the age of 76, Francis Marion died on March 2, 1919.  He is buried at Liberty Grove Baptist Cemetery in Winston.  After Francis Marion's death, his widow Eliza lived with her brother, George Milton Evans, and family in the Arley area. The location of the grave of Francis Marion's first wife has not been found.   His second wife, Eliza Evans Taylor, is buried at Mount Hope Cemetery, Arley, Alabama.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Children of Alonzo and Emma: William Wansley "Willie" and Mary Taylor

Children of Alonzo & Emma:
William Wansley and Mary Sephronia Taylor
William Wansley Taylor, son of Alonzo Grant Taylor and his first wife Emma Elliott, was born on September 30, 1892 in Winston County.  He was the first born to Alonzo and Emma.  Following his birth were Henry and Mary Sephronia.  Henry, born on May, 24, 1894, died before he was a year old.  Mary Sephronia was born on December 12, 1895. 

William, known to most as "Willie," and Mary grew up in Winston County.  The Taylor  home was very near the present location of Liberty Grove Baptist.  Their mother died when Willie was 5 years old and Mary Sephronia was 2. Emma is buried at Liberty Grove Baptist Cemetery. 

About 3 months after Emma's death, Willie's father married Margaret Derusha Stevens, daughter of John Benjamin and Lucinda (Brown) Stevens. The family continued to grow, with the birth of seven more brothers and sisters for Willie and Mary.

Willie and Bertha
When Willie was 21 years old, he married his bride--Bertha Caledonia Comer, daughter of Daniel Patrick and Ollie F. (Ezell) Comer. The wedding was performed on January 11, 1914 in Lawrence County, Tennessee by Willie's great uncle, James Knox Polk Taylor, Minister of the Gospel.  The signature of B. F. Curtis (Benjamin Franklin) appears on the wedding record also.  Curtis was the son of Mary Jane Curtis, daughter of Mary Mollie Taylor.

Willie and Bertha were the parents of 10 children: Mitchell Edward, Carlos Cleo, Lester Alonzo, Ruby Estelle, Selma Virgie, Lola Mae, Verda Dee, Mary Fleda, William Gene and Betty Jean. The family lived in the Liberty Grove community, four miles south of Loretto, Lawrence County, Tennessee.

Willie and Bertha

Willie died on July 17, 1961.  He and his wife, Bertha, are buried at Restview Cemetery, Loretto.

Mary Sephronia Taylor
At the age of 16, Mary Sephronia Taylor, Willie's sister, married Harvey Berry on September 19, 1912. The wedding took place at the home of W. T. King. The couple had seven children: Alta, Ronnell, Russell, Ozie, Alpha Omega, Helen and Eula Mae.

Sometime during the 1920's, Harvey left the family and was not located until the children were grown. Mary worked hard to provide for her children.  On the 1930 census, Mary is listed as divorced from Harvey.  Her occupation was general farmer. She and her six children were living in the household. James F. Tittle, widowed, was living next door to their home.   Before the 1940 federal census, Mary married Mr. Tittle. 

Mary died on July 17, 1966 in Winston County.  Inscribed on her tombstone is "Mother's love will show us the way," a loving tribute to their mother. Mary Sephronia and J. F. Tittle are both buried at Macedonia Cemetery, Winston.


Sunday, August 5, 2012

William Verpo Taylor

William Verpo Taylor
William Verpo Taylor, son of Charles Alexander and Louisa Jane (Curtis) Taylor, was born March 30, 1880 in Winston County, Alabama.   His given name "William Verpo" suggests that he was named after William Verpo Curtis, one of nine sons born to Solomon Curtis.  The Taylor and Curtis families had several connections throughout the years.

William Verpo married Sarah Elizabeth James, daughter of James Henry and Mexor Evelyn (Walker) James.

They had the following children:

Sarah Elizabeth
"Lizzie" (James) Taylor
  • Charles Raymond
  • Gladys Evelyn
  • James Edward, married Lillie Annie Petruzela, buried Yoakum Restland Cemetery, Yoakum, Texas
  • Ruby Jay
  • Edna Ruth
  • Joyce Irene, married James Painter
William Verpo and Lizzie made their home in Saint Clair County, Alabama.  He died of pulmonary tuberculosis at the age of 61 on May 9, 1941 in Ashville, Alabama.  William Verpo and Sarah Elizabeth Taylor are buried at Hopewell Cemetery, Ashville.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Sacred Harp Singing--Fasola and our Taylors

Haunting, fierce and lovely harmonies, beautiful, sacred, uplifting, soul soothing, all-day singing .... these are words that have been used to describe Sacred Harp singing.  Our Taylor ancestors living in Alabama surely knew about Sacred Harp, and many sang it.  The tradition lives on today as well!

The lyrics to one of the favorite songs of many Sacred Harp singings is written below. The words speak for themselves.

Wondrous Love

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this
That caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul!
When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down
Beneath God’s righteous frown,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul for my soul,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul.

To God and to the Lamb I will sing, I will sing;
To God and to the Lamb I will sing;
To God and to the Lamb,
Who is the great I AM,
While millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing,
While millions join the theme, I will sing.
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.
And when from death I’m free
I’ll sing His love for me,
And through eternity I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
And through eternity I’ll sing on.
The singings brought rural country folks together, who often lived miles apart.  Both adults and young people attended Singing Schools where they learned the rudiments of music and practiced the songs.  

The human voice, the instrument we were given at birth, is the only instrument used in Sacred Harp singing, also known as Fasola singing.  A tradition that dates back to colonial times in America, Sacred Harp singings are still alive and prosper today around the country. 

Singers sit facing each other, forming a hollow square, with each singing part--treble, alto, tenor and bass--sitting in the four sections.  Singers take turns leading the group.  Standing in the middle of the square, the leader calls the song by page number as the Sacred Harp book is held in one hand, and the beat is kept with the other hand.  The singers begin by singing the appropriate notes using Fa So La Me.  Then they immediately begin singing the song using the words.

Also known as shape note singing, the music is written in the books using shapes to help the singer easily identify the tone:  Triangle is the shape for "Fa," oval is the shape for "Sol," rectangle is the shape for "La," and diamond is the shape for "Me."

From "Original Sacred Harp" (Denson Revision) Standard Melodies, Page 1, Rudiments of Music,
Published by Sacred Harp Publishing Company, Inc., Haleyville, Alabama

Singing Conventions were annual gatherings of singers.  In Winston County,  conventions date back to the The Clear Creek Mountain Home Singing Association of Winston County, formed in 1874. Then in 1896, the Bear Creek Sacred Harp Memorial Singings of Winston County was organized.  Neighboring Alabama counties also held conventions. 

The following accounts of family links to Sacred Harp singing have been shared by Taylor descendants:

I remember my grandmother, Sarah Elizabeth (James) Taylor, saying that my grandfather, William Verpo Taylor, loved fasola singing.  He became a Christian and began attending church regularly later in his life.  I'm not sure how long he did this or exactly where, but they lived near the Hopewell community between Ashville and Gadsten Alabama for many years and I always assumed it was there.
William Alexander (Bill) Taylor
Kyle, Texas

In the Minutes of the Sacred Harp Centennial Celebration held in Double Springs, Alabama September 18-24, 1944, several Taylors are listed as singers: Mr. and Mrs. J. F. Taylor, Columbus Taylor, Helen Taylor, Sulu Taylor, Theodore Taylor, Mrs. O. H. (Oscar Harrison) Taylor, Mr. and Mrs. Lonnie Taylor, Harrison Taylor, W. M. Taylor and Eugene Taylor.  At this same centennial celebration, the monument that sits on the grounds of the Winston County courthouse to honor Seaborn M. Denson and Thomas J. Denson was dedicated. The talented Denson brothers were well known for their work in writing Sacred Harp music, singing and teaching others to sing.

Memorial to Seaborn M. Denson and Thomas J. Denson,
Erected Summer 1944 during  the Centennial Celebration of Sacred Harp music
Winston County Courthouse, Double Springs, Alabama
Ada Taylor Godsey, daughter of George Washington and Lucinda (Swims) Taylor, was highlighted in an issue of Country Home magazine, June 1995, Page 58: 

Ada Godsey, 87, also of Double Springs, remembers going to all-day singings in a horse and buggy around 1919.  More often, she walked the mile from her home to the Pleasant Ridge (Hill)  Primitive Baptist Church.
"My family couldn't all fit in the buggy," she explains.  Her father once organized a singing school at the church and brought in Tom Denson, one of the best teachers the tradition has ever produced."
"Papa hitched Molly to the buggy and drove twenty miles to Haleyville to meet him at the train," Ada says.  When the 10-day singing school ended, Denson taught another one 5 miles away in the community of Posey's Mill. "For ten days we walked there (Posey's Mill) through the woods, sang all day, and then walked home again,"  Ada recalls.
Shared by Kay Wojack,
Descendant of Columbus Taylor

Daddy used to talk about fasola singing when we were growing up.  He liked it.  I don't know if he sang it or not, but he talked about it.  (Daddy is Hosey Stevens, oldest son of Pachie Taylor Stevens.  This family moved from Winston to Lawrence County, Tennessee in 1920).
Ann Stevens Rohling
Lawrenceburg, Tennessee

At the close of the Centennial Celebration of Sacred Harp music held in 1944, the minutes of the event denoted a special song that is still often chosen to end each gathering of singers:
"The great body of singers and listeners joined in singing page 62, "Parting Hand" and mid smiles and tears, they bade each other a loving farewell; some to meet again soon, to sing again these songs of Zion; some to meet in that Land where there'll be no sad parting; where we'll sing, forever, a song of Moses and the Lamb, with our loved ones who are watching and waiting for us." Page 24 
L.O. Odem President
Ruth Denson Edwards, Secretary 

Page 62, "Parting Hand"
From "Original Sacred Harp" (Denson Revision) Standard Melodies,
Published by Sacred Harp Publishing Company, Inc., Haleyville, Alabama