A Life Well Lived

Columbus Augustus Stevens

I have written about my second great-grandfather on my paternal side, Columbus Augustus “Gus” Stevens, before.  However, I do not think I went through his biography, until today.  I came across his death certificate and thought you should know about the life he lived for 84 years.

Gus was born on 26 June 1844 in Oglethorpe County, Georgia.  His parents were Obadiah Stevens and Martha Patsy Watkins.  Gus was born and raised in Oglethorpe County.  His father was a Farmer in Oglethorpe.  When you are trying to research a person in our distant past, we lean on records to help build the frame of the person.  Oftentimes, researches only have the basic census data.  I am lucky enough to have had my ancestors that were our family historians.  These records can help sketch in the details of the character of that person.  I have been fortunate that some records came from the family homes directly.

Here is the story about Gus: Plantar, Veteran, Believer, and Citizen.

Upbringing

Columbus Augustus Stevens was born in rural Georgia (Oglethorpe County) with his three brothers and his parents.  Gus first appears on the 1850 Census.  Gus was 6 years old; he lived with his parents, and his three brothers.  His father was a farmer and had listed $3000 of real estate.  His family was like others in rural Georgia.  The family owned slaves.  According to the 1850 Census, Obadiah had about 15 slaves.

By the 1860 Census, Gus was sixteen.  He lived with his parents and his grandmother, Martha Stevens.  His father, Obadiah, had $5000 in real estate and $20,500 in Personal Estate Value.

South Carolina seceded from the Union on 20 December 1860. The following year, several other states joined, including Gus’s State of Georgia.  On 12 April 1861, the first shots at Fort Sumter indicated the beginning of the War Between the States.  Gus was just 16 years old at the beginning of the War Between the States.

Civil War

Records indicate that Gus enlisted March 1862 at Lexington, Georgia into Echols Artillery.  He was not quite eighteen years old.  He remained a soldier until the surrender in April 1865.  He went to war with his brother William and his cousin, John Cylvanus Gibson Stevens (JCG).  In fact, if you look at this regiments roster, you would see many familial names including Whitehead, Mathews, Faust, etc.

Martha Whitehead (Gus’s granddaughter) wrote short episodes of certain things she remembered or had heard.  We are fortunate enough that she shared them with her family.  She went to live with her Grandfather, Gus, when her mother became bedridden due to a serious case of rheumatoid arthritis.  [Below is an excerpt from her stories.  While this is a true story, it also reflects the time-period and is not politically correct by today standards.]

An Afro-American looks after a confederate soldier by Martha Whitehead Moore:

“As I said, Grandpa was just 18 when he enlisted. Obadiah thought he and Cousin John Stevens (JCG) needed someone to go along with them to look after them. So one of Cuz John’s freed Afros went with the two whites to SC. He was Ab (short for Abner) Stevens and was an excellent cook. He also did the laundry for Grandpa and Cuz. John. Most important of all, he was a “good chicken thief”. He made food available, even for the Yanks who were “prisoners of war.”

History tells us that the life of a Confederate Soldier was challenging at best.  Aside from the war itself, many Confederate soldiers were constantly hungry and sick.  Troops went months without pay.  Therefore, the fact that he came from a wealthy family meant he was able to get food and supplies.

Gus’s brother William Walter, died during the Civil War.  It is unclear if he was a casualty of a weapon or a disease.  Assigned to the Tiller’s Company, Georgia Light Artillery (Echols Light Artillery) like his brother and cousins.

According to the war records, Gus was paroled (surrender) at Greensboro, North Carolina on 28 April 1865.  According to North Carolina History, the troops assembled at Greensboro to disarm themselves and return home (Kickler, 2005).

statement of service

Statement of Service

I can only imagine the experiences that Gus had to endure during the War Between the States.  However, to have your older brother killed in battle and then to surrender to the Union must have unnerved a young man.

 

After the War

After the War, Gus returned home to Oglethorpe County. On 4 July 1867, Gus signed the Qualified Voters and Reconstruction Oath Book.  This indicates that he is living in Election District 236 of Oglethorpe County and has signed his allegiance back to the United States of America.  I can only imagine what these men thought about signing this document after losing this War along with the bloodshed of their brethren.

 

According to the Ancestry website:

“The Reconstruction Acts of 1867 required Southern states to ratify the 14th Amendment, draft new state constitutions, and register voters, both black and white. In order to vote, men had to swear an oath of allegiance to the United States, and some were disqualified for their participation in Confederate government posts. This database contains books recording those oaths of allegiance and returns listing qualified voters registered in Georgia in 1867. It includes both black and white citizens (Ancestry).

 

CA stevens oath of allegiance

Oath of Allegiance

Gus married Martha Jane Witcher four years after the war on 29 April 1869.  They set up house in Oglethorpe County within his parents’ home.  He was 24 years old.  Gus would work with his father on the land as a plantar and farmer.

The following year, 1870, the United States held its Decennial Census.  The census indicated that Gus and his wife had a baby and the family of three are living with his parents.  Their first-born child Ambrose Pope was a listed as one month old.

In the 1880 Census, Gus and his growing family are still living with his parents.  According to the census, their children Ambrose, Luna, Asa, Cynnie and Pellie, are all under ten years old.

The infamous 1890 US Census was burned, so we do not have that information.  Nevertheless, we know that Gus’s father died in 1891.

According to the 1900 Census, Gus is Head of Household.  Gus lives with his wife, Martha, and their son Asa, and his wife Lester.  Asa is now helping to run the farm.  Gus’s daughters Cynnie, Pellie, Fannie and Martha Obie reside in the home.  His youngest son, Joe Augustus, 11 years old is living at home as well.

On 19 May 1909, Gus’s wife Martha Jane dies.  They had been married for more than forty years.

In the 1910 Census, Gus was Head of House, his daughters Cynnie and Pellie still live with him.  Martha Ann Whitehead is listed as a “Stevens” on this census.  However, we know the true family history of how little Martha went to live there because her mother was bedridden.  Martha’s mom, Luna May, had her two maiden sisters help care for little Martha.

Grandpa Gus and Martha v3

Martha Ann Whitehead with her grandfather Gus Stevens

By the 1920 Census, Gus is living with his two maiden daughters, Cynnie and Pellie, his grandson Joseph A Stevens (31 years old) and his granddaughter Martha Ann Whitehead (15 years old).

Marge Walter E Mae Pellie Gus or George W Cynnie Fred

L-R: Margaret Whitehead, Walter Whitehead, Mae (in arms) Cynnie or Pellie Stevens (in hat), Gus Stevens, Cynnie or Pellie, Fred Whitehead

Civic Life

After establishing himself as a plantar and merchant, Gus set his sights on public service.  According to the Oglethorpe Echo, Gus served one term as a Representative in the House of Representatives (1892-93).  He additionally served one term in the Georgia Senate (1902-1904) for the 30th District.  He was a member of the Masonic Order.  He was also on the County Board of Education for a few years (Oglethorpe Echo, 1929).

Merchant

Gus, his brother, John Reese and his first cousin, JCG Stevens along with Robert Huff, started a general store in 1885 in the Village of Sandy Cross, Stevens Huff and Company.  Additional stores and properties were added later.  In fact, at one point they had two stores and 5 cotton gins covering Madison and Oglethorpe County.  The company survived two World Wars and a Great Depression but ultimately dissolved voluntarily in 1963 (Stevens, 1973).  [I did a general post about it here: Mercantile Business]

stevensmartinstore

Circa 1903

Believer

Gus loved God and Country as we have seen.  Most community activities centered on the church in these days.  According to the obituary written in the Oglethorpe Echo, Gus joined Clouds Creek Baptist Church around the same time he married Martha, 1869.  He became an ordained deacon on 5 October 1877.  On 9 September 1906, a new Church was chartered in Oglethorpe County.  The church, Sandy Cross Baptist Church was established from members of both Clouds Creek and Bethany Baptist Church.  My second great grandfather was one of the founding members.  He was one of the Deacons.  I found an article written about the church and it lists several of my ancestors.  In death, he bequeathed a house and property (4 acres) to Sandy Cross Baptist Church.

ca stevens article in newspaper

Article about Sandy Cross Baptist Church written by family friend and Minister Faust

 

His Death Certificate indicates that he died of hypostatic pneumonia.  However, he had incurred a hip fracture just 5 days earlier when he fell.  The local newspaper, the Oglethorpe Echo, published a snippet this nice tribute following his death.

 

In May 2015, I took my sister and cousin Susan to Georgia for a genealogy trip.  Aunt Leah met us there and we were fortunate enough to visit Miss Kitty.  She still resides in the Steven’s family home.

While preparing for this piece, I wrote to my cousins for their input.  Cousin Lynn, daughter of Miss Kitty, shared this story:

The Stevenses killed a “hawg” on the first frozen day of the year, everyone who participated got a share of the meat.  There was a GIANT cement pit, like we would see now in an oil-change shop, where they did some part of the process.  And there were GIANT cast-iron pots, as large as a bathtub but semi-spherical, where (I think) they boiled water to help scrape the wiry hairs off the skin.

She also shared this about the main house:  I believe the Oglethorpe County Tax Assessor shows that the house was built in 1901.  But there are tales about the kitchen being a separate building during the Civil War, and it was eventually jacked onto logs and ROLLED up to the main house.  This certainly ties into the differing floor levels between the dining room, the butler’s pantry, and the kitchen itself!

Inside Stevens Homeplace7

There is so much more to say about Gus, but it will have to wait for another day.  If you have memories, please share them here!

Until later, I will be exploring backwards.

Source:

Ancestry.com. Georgia, Returns of Qualified Voters and Reconstruction Oath Books, 1867-1869 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012.  Original data:  Georgia, Office of the Governor. Returns of qualified voters under the Reconstruction Act, 1867. Georgia State Archives, Morrow, Georgia.

Compiled Service Records of Conferate Soldiers who served in Organizations from the State of Georga., NARA, Publication Number M266.

NorthCarolinahistory.org: An Online Encyclopedia, “Lunsford Lane” (by Troy Kickler), http://northcarolina.org (accessed 5/31/2019).

Oglethorpe Echo, March 8, 1929. Article about CA Stevens Death

Stevens, Claude G., 1973.  The Stevens Family, John Stevens Line, Commercial Printing Company, Inc. Toccoa, Georgia.

Isaac Littleberry Mathews

My adventurous cousin Charlie went and found us the cemetery to our fourth great grandfather, Littleberry Mathews.  I have written about his son on this blog.  You can find it HERE.  I had previously done research on the Mathews line, but I hadn’t really reviewed the information that I had on Littleberry until Charlie’s field trip.  While doing so today, I learned that his given name was “Isaac Littleberry Mathews.” He went by the name Berry or Littleberry.  He was the son of William Mathews and Mary Miller.  He was born on 27 May 1786.  There is some information that indicates he was either born in North Carolina or Georgia.

While researching, I found this descendant chart online that shows the descendants of Gwaethvded Vawr (Lea, 2019).  This is unbelievable that someone has traced their lineage back to the year 1025.  This descendant chart has some citations to lead to one’s credibility.  Today, I just want to focus on my fourth great grandfather.

Berry’s parents had about 8 children.  It appears that Berry was the third child to be born to William and Mary Mathews.  We will look at the parents at a later time.  Berry married Jerusha Hopper on 6 April 1807 in Oglethorpe County, Georgia.  He was 20 yeas old.

In his will, I found online, it appears he had more children than I had previously thought.  I will have to do some more research.  According to his will, he had the following sons: Rolley (Raleigh, my 3rd great-grandfather), Charles, William, Uel, Berry, Pressley, Fleming, Richmond, and Newton.  We also learn that his daughter Patsy (Martha Patsy) married Moses Jones, and his daughter Frankey (Francis) married William Jones.

It is written that Berry and his wife Jerusha were buried on their home place in Glade.  So, the place that cousin Charlie visited was steps away from the homeplace of Berry Mathews family.

Cousin Charlie sent me a few words on his exploration of the cemetery:

At Point Peter, GA a.k.a. the Glade community you take the North Point Peter Road going east between the Baptist Church and the Masonic Lodge.  Two roads go east out of the Glade.  This would be the southernmost road.  Go a little lover 100 yards east and take the first drive to the right.  There is a metal gate but almost never closed.  Go down the lane about 500 feet and you see an old quarry site that has been converted to a gigantic swimming pool.

The Little Berry Mathews cemetery is about 400 yards SE of the quarry in the woods.  There is a clear lane and [the owner] is very receptive to having visitors if you let her know you are coming.  The cemetery is on a little hill and just to the west of the cemetery is another little rise where the old Mathews home-place house was.  Nothing is left now but the chimney ruins.

The three graves are about 12 feet apart. Each is actually a single crude mausoleum made of very heavy solid granite hand quarried slabs.  On two of them the top cover slabs have been moved somewhat leaving an opening and the end stone is out of one of them.  They would remind you of a sarcophagus and I cannot overemphasize the mass of the stones.  There may have been a possibility that the coffins were above ground but I doubt it.  However, the interior of each individual mausoleum is large enough for that to have been possible.  For the times this was done and the early construction based on the crudeness of the engraving on the stones, this would have been the top of the line grave marker (Snelling, 2019).

Here is another description by another grave explorer:

The top, sides and ends are thus enclosed and are in very good repair.  The tombs read as follows: First tomb: L.B. Mathews Born May 27 1786 Decd. Feb 13, 1845; Second tomb: Richmond Mathews Born Feb 24 1825 Decd. July 29 1846; Third Tomb: Jerusha M. Born May 1, 1790 Decd. Oct 5 1848. A fourth tomb was found but it was not as elaborate as the above ones were as it was only a head stone with the initials J M cut on it. Assume it would belong to the young son Jordan (Lea, 2019).

We can try to trace Isaac Littleberry “Berry” Mathews, Sr through the US Census and other records.  The First US Census was mandated by Article 1, Section 2 of the United States Constitution.  It was first taken in 1790.  However, census records posed difficulties due to lack of concrete information.  It would stand to reason that we would look for Berry in his father’s (William Mathews) census records for the year 1790 and 1800.  However, I have not yet found any records that are verifiable.

I was able to find a notation that Littleberry Mathews was allowed to sell spirituous liquor on 5 August 1822 in Oglethorpe County.  Unfortunately, I found this record before I was skilled in my citation skills.

I catch up to Berry in the 1830 Census.  Berry Mathews lived in Captain Pass District, Oglethorpe County, Georgia.  Living in the household were 13 “Free White Persons” and 2 “Slaves.”  A closer look at the census reveals, nine children and 2 female slaves.

In the 1840 Census, Berry is listed to be living in District 237, Oglethorpe County, Georgia.  We can assert that these two locations were likely one in the same, and just the names of the districts changed.  He now has 7 “Free White Persons” and “6 Slaves.”

Isaac Littleberry Mathews dies on 13 February 1845, he is just 58 years old.  His wife dies just 3 years later.  Also buried in the cemetery is Littleberry’s son Richmond.

Until later, I will be exploring backwards.

 

Source:

Lea, Jenny, found online at Descendants of Gwaethvded Vawr, 2019.

Snelling, Charlie, 2019, email correspondence

Lawlessness Condemned

That headline grabbed the attention of my cousin Charlie while he was doing some research on our family in the Oglethorpe Echo.  The Oglethorpe Echo was the local paper in Oglethorpe County.  Now since our family is from the Deep South this could mean anything.  We have made peace with the different times that our ancestors lived in.  We have learned that our family was not immune to some of the atrocities of the era.  To judge them through the lens of modern times is to do a grave injustice to how the path of America and our ancestors have evolved into the America we know and love today.

Before I reveal the members of my family that listed in this newspaper article, I wanted to give a short history of White Caps.  In the simplest of terms, White Caps were the predecessor of the Ku Klux Klan.

White Caps were citizens of their community that were disgruntled by the immoral behaviors and actions of both whites and blacks in their community and instead of working with the justice system; they took matter into their own hands and ruled with terror and violence.  They would write a notice demanding the so-called violators to leave the community, and post the sign in the cover of night.  They would sign the notice “White Caps” and they would leave a bundle of hickory switches as a warning.  Some of the earliest White Caps were women.

 

                                The wives of the community, angry that their menfolk’s attention

had turned away from the hearth, formed a mob to protect their

families and homes. Urged on by several men, the women went to

the dwelling of each prostitute one night and laid bundles of hickory

switches at the front doors with a note telling the occupants to leave

the neighborhood or suffer a beating during a later visit. The messages

were signed “White Caps.”

(Source: Cummings, William)

In the summer of 1890, the small community of Sandy Cross experienced violence from the White Caps.  This group threatened white and black folks in the area with their terrorism.  Some of the community leaders of Sandy Cross met at Burt’s Chapel. Together they decided among themselves to condemn these actions formally.  The images below are from the paper.  Most of these men had actually fought in the civil war, yet here they were stating formally they believe the rights granted in Constitution were to be applied to whites and blacks alike.  I can’t help but think about the impact these community leaders had on openly condemning this behavior by having it published for all to see.  The whole community would know definitively how they felt about the violence and terrorism these groups imposed and how they would not tolerate that in their community.

 

I am very much aware that things were not all rosy during this time period; but it is nice to see that my ancestors took a stand in regards to the rights of those around them.

Let me introduce you to the key players.

C.A. Stevens, Columbus Augustus Stevens, my second great-grandfather, he was definitely the patriarch of the Stevens Family.

F.M. Mathews, Francis Marion Mathews, my third great uncle, he married Henrietta Tiller.

J.C.G. Stevens, John Cylanus Gibson Stevens, 1st cousin 4 times removed.

Calvin Mathews, this may be my third great uncle, Francis brother, James Calvin Mathews, I am not able to prove that link.

W.M. Tiller, William M. Tiller was the brother of Henrietta.

W.E.Faust, I know he was related by marriage somehow because C.A. Stevens daughter Obie married a Faust.

 

I know it has been awhile since I have explored backwards, but I had to get a new laptop and some new software.  My resolution this year is to get back at it.  I want to thank my cousin Charlie for the progress he has made and sharing the fruits of his labors.

 

Until later, I will be exploring backwards.

 

 

Sources:

https://timeline.com/whitecappers-racist-vigilantes-battled-d39324c024f6

Volume 12 UGA Archives, Oglethorpe Echo, Russell Special Collections Library, P. 285.

Cummings, William Joseph, “Community, Violence, and the Nature of Change: Whitecapping in Sevier County, Tennessee, During the 1890’s. ” Master’s Thesis, University of Tennessee, 1988.

https://trace.tennessee.edu/utk_gradthes/8