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I don’t even know where, or how, to begin a post about one of the most amazing trips I’ve ever taken in my life. Two years ago, I began planning a genealogy trip and then Covid hit. I thought I was postponing to the Fall of that year, I guess I should have specified which Fall. But this trip was planned for different reasons, and expectations, than my trip 2 years ago. Like I said, it was one of the most amazing trips of my life-even with all the alterations on the fly. For now I’ll start with some of the basics. Yes, it’s long, I think worth it.
My first stop was barely out of Texas to visit the headstone of the brother of my great grandfather in Texarkana. On the Arkansas side. It wasn’t till my return trip that I was reminded my great grandfather and this brother were close, he being the next of kin contact on his WWI registration as well as the family story about my ggf owning a restaurant there for a short time-before moving to Vicksburg. The rain was relentless as soon as I dropped my dogs off at the sitter until the next day, almost all the way to the Tennessee state line.
My next stop was for my maternal grandmother’s line-a trek up to El Dorado, Arkansas which is Union county. My plan was to hop to the cemetery my 2ggm was buried, snap a pic, pay my respects and maybe find her house and church. First, OnStar failed me in a major way! But just before sundown, I finally found the Cemtery and had to wait till morning based on the advice from the nice policeman I flagged down for directions. I never did find her gravesite, despite the mayor’s office, parks department and several other people including Stephanie and Jane (❤️❤️❤️) who went out of their way to help me. The El Dorado leg of my trip deserves a post of its own. Man, I never can do anything without a story to go with it!
So after admitting temporary defeat, I continued onto my next stop: Leachville, Arkansas where my great grands lived a short time after turn of 1900s. My ggf, now a WWI veteran, having been gassed with Mustard gas (debilitating him for the remainder of his life), was building railroads as a line foreman, according to my great aunt. My hope was to find his eldest daughter’s gravesite, my great aunt Alma, who died at just 8 years old but again, rain and cold plagued me. (I also just found out tonight she’s buried in Blytheville anyway LOL …:smacks forehead:) By this time I had cut my Greenville, Washington, MS leg of the trip and it wouldn’t be the only one before I was done.
Back on the road I had high hopes to stop in Marshall Co, MS to find Howard’s gravesite but, as my wise-cousin told me, I would not make it before sundown. He was right. I was wrong! Soooo, that leg cut and now direct into Tupelo was my goal. I made it before 8pm but the sun was long down. I don’t like driving in areas I’m not familiar after dark. Hotel (read: bed) here I come!
First thing in the morning was a visit to my beloved cousin (whose visits I will keep private but was my primary reason for my being there). After, I met up with cousin Diane, who I’ve talked to for 4 years and finally got to meet in person. We went to Itawamba Historical Society in Mantachie. From there we went to Bishop’s in Mooreville for BBQ (HEY Miss Anna. It’s the cousin from Dallas! ❤️ U!). Then we popped over to the Itawamba County Courthouse and then the Library. We hit some pay dirt in the courthouse-marriage licenses-but not much after. So then we thought we’d fly over to Franklin Co (Alabama) to Pleasant Site Cemetery. Wait- Lower Pleasant Site Cemetery, aka Winchester Cemetry. OnStar, you failed me again! Grrrr 😖
After feeling like I was living my 2nd horror movie, thanks OnStar, with Buchanan determination I checked Google for directions and found we were close by. My nerves were beyond rattled but hey-if I was gonna die this time, at least cousin Diane was with me lol. I walked the cemetery, covered in leaves, ant hills and spider webs but most of the headstones were illegible. I was determined to find my 2nd ggm’s headstone who is transcribed as being buried here. But again, daylight wasn’t my friend and we still had to go back to Mantachie for her car. 🎶 On the road again 🎶
The day got off to a rocky start-and ended up delaying all my day’s schedule by over 3 hours. I never imagined a sold-out hotel, let alone town, but little did I know Hank Williams Jr was in town- so I went out for my 730 am morning coffee and came back to needing to swap hotels at the last minute. I went from the fancy bar to a suite, with full fridge and dishwasher! Brand new hotel mind you but I missed the first hotel! Note to self: make reservations next time! 😂 This was the day cousin Lynda came from Birmingham. Oh I was so thrilled to meet her. We sat and talked for several hours about all kinds of things. Just adore her!
Saturday cousin Jim showed up from Tennessee! We hit the ground running. The Longs were our primary goal so off in search of John R down towards Pickens County. First, it was a Saturday. Next, this is a new lead/angle we have so what we really were hoping to find was a shot in the dark. In short, it was very dark- a bust!
We decided to back track so we went to Franklin Co, AL looking for his Long ggf, perhaps my 3ggm or their sisters. Even tried up in Colbert Co for John’s burial site. No luck. But we built a great system for walking cemeteries with 2 of us -split up and yell out! We were able to find one of John and Catharine’s son’s headstones, although we almost didn’t and then one of John’s daughters from his 2nd marriage (with Sarah). We retraced Lower Pleasant Site again with daylight, which did make a difference, but I still didn’t find little Lydia and the infant daughter she died giving birth to. What we did do was exhaust ourselves silly. A lot of walking. A lot of brushing headstones. Next time I’m taking D/2 biological cleaner (watch here) (used by the Federal Govt for all National (military) cemeteries across the country), a bucket, brushes and bottles of water! Maybe a few brooms, little hand tools for trimming grass etc. I took notes! But fighting against the end of sunlight, we headed back to the hotel, directly into the sun …again!
Hey Jim, Cemetery! Slow Down! (As he never takes his foot off the gas). I just want to see the name of it! 😂😂
In the meantime I had located someone on Ancestry, Mr David T, who is in his own right a historian of Franklin and Colbert Counties. He and I had been communicating back and forth and he gave me some amazing suggestions-all of which we tried. Except the grapes. I didn’t make it to the grapes. (Next time for sure, in season of course). He is truly a treasure! Beyond grateful to him!! Thank you David!
The next morning had a list of quick stops so trying to maximize time and locales, we hit Huddle House in Fulton (think iHop or Denny’s meets WaffleHouse…amazing Pecan Waffle!!!) as we were meeting cousin Lynda later so she could meet Jim and Diane. We ate there and then went up the hill to Mt Pleasant (a tip from Itawamba Historical Society) and walked that cemetery. The church was beautiful, bells ringing songs as we walked the well maintained hollowed grounds. It was truly a beautiful moment. Then off to cousin Lynda and a whole slew of unexpected cousins, including BOB! (Only if you know me do you know how E X C I T E D, and honored, I was to meet him! I literally almost leapt over 2 cars when he pulled up!). It was almost a family reunion in one meeting. I can’t tell you again how wonderful it was to meet this particular group of cousins! I’ve known one of them (who resides in another state) for years (her daughter & I met online 20 years ago over Howard) and yet I met her cousins before her. Hehehe But it was her who introduced me to Lynda, and it was Lynda who made this day possible, and I’m truly beyond grateful! (Next time Lynda! Kicking and screaming if need be! Hehe-wink (private joke)).
Jim and Diane had to leave and I was onto my next meeting, a Buchanan cousin from the newly connected and found Pontotoc Buchanans. They are descendants of my 4gg William & Malissa Buchanan. Oh I have met my twin! We are genealogy geeks and I can already see my next visit needs a month just with her! She took me around to her family areas, land, churches, old homes. I was so honored. Yes, we walked a few cemeteries together too. Then we went to dinner with her lovely husband and son. What a day! I could say so much more about her and our trip but just know she is AMAZING! I adored her like 10 mins after we met. I’m so excited to see what our work and futures have in store! I don’t want to share any photos as it might give her away, but I can say we had quite the fun with several dogs. Three at the cemetery (one who looked much like my little boy), another one at a different cemetery who decided to literally bite my tires as I was driving, then race to the front of my car (T E R R I F I E D I would hit it), and then the big ole white one with big black eyes who looked like a baby seal in a Great Pyrenees body laying just off the roadside. At least it wasn’t like the one with cousin Jim, where the dog was literally laying in the middle of the road- I thought dead (& yes, I was covering my eyes and having a fit) only to find it was laying in the road SUNNING ITSELF! Wasn’t dead at all!
Well, my original plans were I wasn’t to leave for another 3 days, and that morning I was heading to Anniston, Alabama to meet my cousins who were driving 1/2 way from Georgia to meet me! I woke up not feeling well and 630am I had to cancel (which STILL breaks my heart!) and then by end of day, knew my only choice was to go home early. After sleeping until almost 3pm, I made one more ditch effort to drive to cemeteries closest to me and even though I was running a fever, I still got out and tried to find more Buchanans. I was successful on a few and sadly unable to find one for cousins I work with. All I know is I am coming back. Soon. And this time I won’t get sick!
So the next morning I went to say my sad farewells to my beloved cousin & spouse, and then started down the road. Yes, I’m still running a fever, my infection just doubled in intensity and yet I mapped how to find Howard’s cemetery. 🤦🏼♀️ I was able to see Potts Camp where he lived and once had a cobbler shop, and the church he is reportedly buried at but again, even though it’s a smaller grounds, I still wasn’t able to find him and his 2d wife Nancy. So back on the road. I was just miserable and even a small cemetery was more than my body could endure.
I thought I’d try again to Leachville but diverted to Blytheville before, and at least found my 2d ggm’s headstone there. RIP Jennie. Then to Leachville and now the sun is setting even an hour earlier than when I started my trip the week before. So my goal was to get to Little Rock, which I did. Even a little passed it before I pulled off for the night. Suns up earlier so on the road….. nope. Dense fog advisory so that stopped me till after 7, and then finding the Starbucks was like 10 miles out of the way but I found it. Now I was on my way home. I made it after 1pm, dropped my luggage off and back to pick up my dogs who were super excited to see Mama.
There will be more posts, pics and stories from this amazing trip. And to all those who came out to meet me, spent time carrying me around, showing me the local fare, sharing knowledge or listening to me babble about our family history. I LOVE YOU! You are so amazing! I love the places you call home and can see why even more our ancestors chose this part of Mississippi and Alabama to call home over 170 years ago. It is amazing and I truly fell in love with it. I keep trying to talk myself into moving there! Who knows!? But this I promise you-I WILL be back!
…and S O O N!
TRIP Series of Posts will be updated at the end of each of the posts, as well as tagged so you can locate them. Each of the titles begin with TRIP.
TRIP overview, a first must read.
Weatherbee Cemetery, Franklin County, AR
Potts Camp & Bethlehem Church Cemetery, Outside Potts Camp, MS
Trees of the cemetery: a combination of sites