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.

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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

 

When Cotton Was King

“When Cotton Was King” is the title to a painting by Jack Deloney. This painting hangs with pride in the Carlton home.  This should also be the title to my father’s paternal lineage.  Having southern ancestors I have learned about the historical times in which they lived.  But to truly understand a family you have to understand the occupations and the stories of them as individuals as well.  My family not only farmed they ran successful mercantile businesses and cotton gins.

 

When Cotton was King

When Cotton was King

 

My Cousin Sara encouraged me to look at the price of cotton in a historical sense to gain an understanding of the life and times of our ancestors. The image below is a time from the website Tradingeconomics.com. I just wanted to focus on the period 1912-1940. You can tell by this graph that cotton was about $35.00/pound in 1919 and at $5.66 at its historical low in 1931. Think about all the money it takes to farm a crop and you are getting less than six dollars a pound!

 

Cotton Prices 1912-1940

Cotton Prices 1912-1940

 

What does mean? Well, there are a few things we need to understand about this time period. Share cropping became the business model for many large land owners after the Civil War throughout the south. Share cropping was essentially the system in which “black families would rent small plots of land, or shares, to work themselves; in return, they would give a portion of their crop to the landowner at the end of the year (“Sharecropping”, 2010). While this system was not what the recently freed slaves would have wanted, it was the way things were.  Many of the newly freedman expected more in return from the Federal government, but it did not happen.

 

Though the system (sharecropping) developed from immediate postwar contingencies, it defined the agricultural system in rural Georgia for close to 100 years. By 1880, 32 percent of the state’s farms were operated by sharecroppers; this figure would increase in the fifty years following. By 1910 sharecroppers operated 37 percent of the state’s 291,027 farms (Giesen, 2007).

I have found some property Tax Records for my ancestors. George Wiley Whitehead and Columbus Augustus Stevens two of my great-grandfathers and they both owned quite a bit of land. I have been able to locate some of the older land records as they have been made available on-line. The records that they kept for taxes were pretty basic. Number of polls for a poll tax, how many workers were employed (Hands); acres owned; value of acres; value of household furniture, livestock, and agriculture “crops” value. These records are very interesting but hard to determine the time period.

Property Tax Digests, 1793-1892

Roughly, George Wiley had between 500-1500 acres during the 1870’s. He also reported between 9-20 “hands” that worked his property. These “hands” would be what we call sharecroppers. Cousin Charlie told us during our most recent visit that the sharecroppers in our family were provided all the tools and live stock and they would work the land. The families would go to the Stevens & Martin store and make necessary purchases on credit until the crops came in. Miss Kitty recollected that the Stevens’ family had 2 white families that were sharecroppers.

 

Through the course of my blogs, I have “met” online a person who has a familial connection to mine. I will call her Ms. Sheila. She wrote on blog many years ago that her family was owned by my family. This statement gave me pause. I know slavery is part of our historical past. Many times as I explore backwards, I find myself bewildered by our country’s past mistakes. But then I realize country’s make mistakes like people do, so I can only hope that we learn from our past mistakes. So, if you have these blemishes in your family, it is better to acknowledge it straight on and focus on how your family dealt with them. In my case, Ms. Sheila stated that our family did not employ overseers. I didn’t quite know what to make of this at first. I have come to realize that since our family lived on or near the property they were farming, they did not have to employ others to be the supervisors. Ms. Sheila and I have exchanged a few emails and she later told me that some of her family then became sharecroppers. I plan to talk to them so I can get more information.

 

Until later, I will be exploring backwards

 


 

Resources:

Cotton Chart, Trading Economics, retrieved 6/2/15 from http://www.tradingeconomics.com/commodity/cotton

James, Giesen, “Sharecropping” Georgia Encyclopedia, retrieved on 6/19/15 from http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/history-archaeology/sharecropping

Sharecropping, 2010, History.com, retrieved on 6/19/15 from http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/sharecropping

 

The Family Mercantile Business

My sister, cousin and I recently visited one of the old mercantile buildings that my family operated for many, many years. We visited the building that once housed the Stevens, Martin and Company Store in Carlton, Madison County. It was hard to see the store through all of the junk that was in there now. It is now an antique/junk store.

When my great-grandfather Walter joined the firm in Sandy Cross, Oglethorpe County, he was a junior partner and given a store manager position (Sara Baldwin, 2015). At some point, Walter and Ambrose Pope Stevens were sent to Carlton to open that branch. It is believed that both men were bachelors and lived above the store. Both Walter and Ambrose Pope built homes in the Carlton area to be close to the store. In 1894, Walter married Luna May Stevens (Ambrose’s older sister) and Ambrose Pope married Sally Hartsfield. “Ambrose P. Stevens was the bookkeeper for the firm and of course there were no adding machines in those days so he had to total figures in his head (Stevens, 1973, p.61).”

Circa 1903

Circa 1903

The original building in Carlton (above) burned down (date unknown). The firm purchased the brick building below and used this until the company dissolved. This is the building we visited. The two buildings were inter-connected by a large door. The second building was previously a bank as there was a safe built within.  Cousin Sara stated that in Carlton’s prime there were 3 banks in town.  Cousin Charlie stated there was even a car dealership.  It is hard to imagine a sleepy little town like Carlton once was ever a bustling place.

Circa 1940

Circa 1940

Walter Joe decided to join the family business, sometime after WWI, and he became an integral part of its operation. He took over the book-keeping responsibilities. According to Cousin Sara, the family used the company like a bank. They would shop or spend money in Athens and elsewhere, but the bills would show up at the store for Joe to pay. Ultimately, Joe shut down the corporation part and paid off the shareholders.

Cousin Jim recalls there were a lot of cool things for an 8 year-old to mess with, but he was scared of getting locked in the vault!

Cousin Sara recalls that there was a pot belly stove in the store and her “Joe Daddy and Uncle Pope” would gather around it and tell stories.

Cousin Lynn recalls the Carlton store. She stated “it was so DIM inside …and it smelled like a library-that musty, vaguely sweet smell of old books and papers.”

Here is a rough timeline of the business as best I can determine. I owe a huge debt to my late 1st cousin 2x removed, Claude Gibson Stevens whose book The Stevens Family John Stevens Line is an invaluable resource.

Partners: C.A. Stevens (Columbus Augustus), R.W. Huff (Robert Washington), John C. G. Stevens (Cylvanus Gibson), A.P. Stevens (Ambrose Pope), J.E. Stevens, J.C. Martin and W.E. Whitehead (Walter Everett)

  • 1885-   Stevens and Company established. “Gus” Stevens and his brother J.R Stevens along with first cousin Robert Huff started the general store, cotton gin and grist mill in the Village of Sandy Cross. John C.G. Stevens already had a store, but took on partners and expanded. (p. 59).
  • Unknown Date:           Name was changed to Stevens, Huff and Company
  • 1887-   30 December, name change-Stevens, Martin and Company (p. 78)
  • 1892-   Ambrose Pope Stevens became a partner (p.61)
  • 1897-   Assets of Stevens, Huff and Company were merged with the new store Stevens, Martin and Company. (p. 61)
  • 1908-   JCG Stevens sold his interest in the store and land to Walter M. Martin (brother of J.C. Martin). (p. 78)
  • 1917-   Walter Joe “Joe Daddy” Whitehead joined the firm and remained until its closure.
  • 1963-   Voluntary dissolution of company and assets. (p.59)
June 2015

June 2015

5-IMG_1019

Inside Bank Vault

View from second level

View from second level

Inside Store

If you have any additional memories, please feel free to share them here.

Memorial Day 2015

Memorial Day was not always Memorial Day. It started out as Decoration Day. A day dedicated to decorating the graves of the civil war dead.

“We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke; but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue.”

– James A. Garfield, May 30, 1868 Arlington National Cemetery

(Source: http://www.pbs.org/national-memorial-day-concert/memorial-day/history/)

At least three of my Great-Grandfathers fought in the Civil War, George Wiley Whitehead, Columbus Augustus Stevens and George Bland Sublett. Two other Great Grandfathers were German and not in the US at the time. I still have to do some research on the other three, but since they lived in Virginia during the Civil War, I am thinking maybe they did as well. However, I will try to refrain from searching for that now, and focus on this blog. I had several others fight in both the Great World Wars.

My Grand Uncle, George Stevens Whitehead, was a Rhodes Scholar, and left the United States in 1916 for Balliol College, in Oxford England. He and many others left school in 1917 in order to join cause. In fact, when we were visiting our Georgia relatives last week, we read a series of letters written to Papa (Walter Everett) by George. One of them included a message from King George V, about the great duty they had to their country.

While thinking about the great sacrifices my ancestors made so that we could live in a free and democratic society, I am engulfed in patriotism. I am deeply humbled by their acts of courage. I honor them by paying tribute to these brave individuals. Today, we raised our flag and bowed our heads for those brave soldiers and their families that made the ultimate sacrifice. I write this blog and think about the individuals in my family that have given so freely of themselves so that I can be free.

Therefore, whether you raised a flag, run in a Memorial Day run, or wear poppy red, we will remember the valor of the dead. 

Below are the men in my family that have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. 

Larry Whitehead

Larry Whitehead


Fred Whitehead

Fred Whitehead


Walter E. Whitehead

Walter E. Whitehead

 

 

Traveling to the past

 

If you think about it “exploring backwards” day after day is akin to traveling. I am traveling back in time as I research my ancestors. I take you, the reader, along for the ride. Recently, I have spent a good portion of my time focusing on my paternal side. The reason for this concentration has been in preparation of my upcoming travels to Georgia. I want to be sure that I use this time wisely. Is there something online that I do not need to focus on? Is there something in Georgia that I can only do in Georgia? These are the questions that I have had to answer.

You see, I have gathered my Aunt, a cousin and my sister and we are going to explore the homeland. Well, it is not the original homeland of the family, it is rural Georgia. When I think of it, I think of red clay, Swamp Guinea and the old white homeplace with the separate staircase. This is the place where my family has been since my fourth great grand-father; Samuel Whitehead (1760-1844) migrated from North Carolina to Oglethorpe County about 1785-1789.

I am super excited because I will meet in person some distant cousins that have become more tangible in recent years. Over the course of my explorations, I have made contact and corresponded with them. My cousin Sara, she and her brother own some of the key pieces of family property. Miss Kitty, my distant cousin’s mother still lives in the Steven’s family home. My other second cousin Charles seems to know where everyone is buried. I will write more when I return.

 

Until then, I will be exploring backwards.

 

 

 

 

 

George Stevens Whitehead (Part 2)

In honor of Veteran’s Day 2014.

George Stevens Whitehead, Part II

I have been pondering something for a while. I discussed in an earlier post that George Stevens was a recipient of the Rhodes scholarship. My second cousin, Joe, recently sent me an email about some research he had discovered about George’s time at Oxford. So, I thought I would look into it a bit further.

The Scholarship was formed in 1903 by the will of Cecil Rhodes for the education of “future leaders for the world who would be committed to service in the public good, and whose interactions in Oxford would promote international understanding.” Since its inception, there have only been 7,603 Rhodes scholarship recipients (Rhodeshouse, 2014). This low number makes this award one of the most prestigious collegiate award in history.

George Stevens Whitehead (passport picture)

George Stevens Whitehead (passport picture)

Essentially, George Stevens was admitted to Balliol College in Oxford, England in 1916. However, shortly after arriving, the United States of America joins the war (WWI). George sails home to join in the conflict. I found his name on the Baltic’s ship manifest. He departs Liverpool and arrives home to the United States at Ellis Island on July 1, 1917. George was making his passage alongside passengers that were immigrating to the United States. I wonder what was going through his young brilliant mind, as he traveled back to the United States to take up arms, like his father and his ancestors did. Was he angry that this conflict was interrupting his studies? Was he glad to have a chance to fight? Did he feel pressure from his father? (Walter Everett was such a patriotic man having fought in the Spanish-American War previously and also served his country in both World Wars.)

George returned home on the Baltic

George returned home on the Baltic

George joined the United States Army and became a 2nd Lieutenant in the 313rd Field Artillery with the 80th Division. His service card also indicates that he started with the 87th Division and 335th Machine Gun Artillery. He served overseas from 24 August 1918 to 13th July 1919.  He fought at Argonne and St. Mihiel to name a few.

 

When the war was over, he went back to Oxford to finish his studies. He took a special short degree in Literature and Humanities. After graduating he returned to the United States. He went to California for his health. Apparently he suffered from the same debilitating arthritis that claimed his mother. He was an associate professor at the University of California in the Public Speaking department from 1922-1926. He then became a lawyer and practiced law in San Mateo County California.

In 1942, George was treated at the US Veteran’s Facility in Whipple, Arizona. In fact, his World War II draft card indicates he was a patient at the facility. He was listed as 5’ 9” tall and only 108 pounds. According to the record, George was too ill to contact. The facility completed the document on 28 April 1942.

In July 1944 he moved to a military hospital in Bay Pines, Florida. He subsequently died on 24 January 1946. I wanted to know what he died of at such an early age. I sent away to the Florida Department of Vital Statistics. I was shocked to see that he spent 551 days at the Bay Pines Veteran’s Hospital.

The cause of death was listed as Myocardial degeneration with dilation, Arthritis deformans with secondary anemia (Florida Vital Records).

Essentially he died from a dilated weakened heart muscle. The hospital had performed a surgery on his sinuses but they were unable to control the bleeding afterwards. George also suffered from Rheumatoid Arthritis like his mother, however back in the 1940’s they called it Arthritis Deformans.

His body was removed and sent home to Georgia to be buried with the family in the Stevens Family Cemetery at Sandy Cross, Oglethorpe County, Georgia.

Below is the obituary that was published:

Danielsville Monitor, 1 February 1946

SERVICES HELD LAST FRIDAY FOR GEORGE S. WHITEHEAD

 George Stevens Whitehead, 50, former resident of Carlton, died last Thursday

at the Veterans Facility in Bay Pines, Florida. Services were conducted from

the Carlton Baptist Church last Sunday afternoon at 2:00 o’clock.

 Mr. Whitehead is survived by his father, Walter E. Whitehead; two brothers,

Joe Whitehead, Chicago, IL; sister, Miss Martha Whitehead, Carlton; five

nieces and nephews.  (You notice that the obituary has errors.  His brother Fred was from Chicago, and his brother Walter Joe was from Carlton).

    He was born January 26, 1896 and attended Gordon Institute in Barnesville

before entering the University of Georgia in 1912, where he was such a

brilliant student it is doubtful if his scholastic achievements have ever been

equaled. He completed the Bachelor of Arts degree course in three years and

graduated in 1915. The next year he completed work for, and received his

Master of Arts degree.

  While at the University he was a leader, not only in scholastic attainments

but also in various campus and student activities, being especially

outstanding in public speaking.

    He was one of the most popular students in his class. Mr. Whitehead was a

member of Phi Beta Kappa national honorary scholastic fraternity, and went to

England as a Rhodes Scholar, studying at Balliol College, Oxford University.

    He also held a teachers diploma from the University of California and an

LLB from LaSalle Extension University.

    During 1917 – 1919 he served in the armed forces of the nation in the First

World War with distinction as a Second Lieutenant. Later he was an Associate

in the Department of Public Speaking at the University of California and in

1927 took up the practice of law in Burlingame California, where he resided at

the time he became ill (Usgwarchives).

 

 

George Stevens Whitehead (Stevens Cemetery at Sandy Cross)

George Stevens Whitehead (Stevens Cemetery at Sandy Cross)

 

Sources:

Rhodeshouse, 2014 retrieved on 10/25/14 at http://www.rhodeshouse.ox.ac.uk

Florida Vital Records

US Archives, retrieved on 8/21/2009 at http://files.usgwarchives.net/ga/madison/obits/w/whitehea5570gob.txt