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Sign Me Up For Dead Files, My Ancestor Is Still Here!

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I’m serious.  No, really.  I am.

I have recently secured top secret information that my 4th Great-Grandfather is haunting the residents of Jackson County, Florida, and is known as “The Ghost of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church”.

Ok, it’s not really top secret, any google search for Francis Tyler Allen, aged 76, who died at the Battle of Marianna, in Jackson Co., Florida on the 27th day of September, in the year of our Lord 1864, will tell you that he was burned alive in a church by Union soldiers and that he still haunts the area.

I wrote a while back about my unusual attachment to the dead, I never dreamed when I wrote that a couple of years ago that I would actually, maybe, not really, but I should, call in some people to send gramps to the other side.

I mean, really, how can I leave him out there floating around in despair?

I’m sure you would really like some clarification of the actual events, and I will do my best to relay what I have found. First, here is my link to Frank Allen.

Lineage from Susie to Frank Allen

Lineage from Susie to Frank Allen

First, I had this bible record, of my 3rd great-grandfather, John James Triggs.  He was married to Nancy Allen, my 3rd great-grandmother and the daughter of Frank Allen.  In this bible record, recording the date of his wife’s birth, John Triggs writes, “Nancy Allen was born in Columbia County, Georgia September 21, 1821.  She was the daughter of Francis T. Allen and Jane Allen”

Then I found Frank’s headstone on Find A Grave.

Frank Allen Headstone

Frank Allen Headstone


So I thought, ‘Battle of Marianna? Let me just see what I can find out about that.’ Which led me to the website of “The West Florida War” by Dale A. Cox.  He states the following regarding Frank Allen:

Allen, Francis “Frank.” A senior deacon and Sunday School leader at the Greenwood Baptist Church, the 76-year-old Allen was the oldest man killed in the Battle of Marianna. His body was burned beyond recognition in St. Luke’s Church.

NO WAY!!!!!  I’m not going to lie, I cried.  What a horrible way to go.  My gramps must have suffered something horrible.  To further my pain in this situation, I ordered Dale’s book, “The Battle of Marianna, Florida” to which I found this account by Armstrong Purdee, an eight year old boy who watched the scene from horseback.

All of the soldiers were off their horses.  Orders were given to fire the church.  Three men, two with long poles, and one with what seemed to me to be a can, threw something up on the church and the other two having something on the end of their poles, seemed to rub it high as the poles would reach, after which something like twisted paper was lighted and placed to whatever was put on the church and it blazed up.  Men were shot down as they came out of the building.

Only Frank Allen didn’t run out of the building, he stayed inside.  Along with three other men, John Carter, Littleton Myrick, and Woodbury Nickels.

According to the West Florida News, on October 3, 1864, Frank and John Carter were “only recognized by articles on their persons, or the parts of their bodies not entirely consumed.”

How horrific!!!  There is greater detail of this battle and of the firing of the church inside Dale Cox’s book.  It’s an interesting read, but tragic for me.  My poor gramps.  What a hero!  The sacrifice he made that day, is the reason I am here today, and I will forever be grateful for that.  I’ve reached out to Dale Cox, and I hope I hear back from him.  I would love to know if Mr. Cox can shed more light on this whole situation for me, and give me more information on Frank.

Now let’s get to the root of this blog post, according to another one of Dale Cox’s books, “The Ghost of Bellamy Bridge“, Frank is still hanging around as the “Ghost of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church”.  Here’s a small clip from Dale’s very interesting book:

According to accounts given by several elderly members of the church in the 1980’s, St. Luke’s was said to be haunted by the shadowy figure of a Confederate soldier.  He supposedly frequented the lower levels of the church and could be seen there at night, drifting along and apparently oblivious to those who witnessed him.  The figure was invariably described as an “old man, with a long beard.”  He carried a musket and never spoke or otherwise recognized that he was appearing to the people in a time other than his own.

Of the two men found inside the ruins of the church (after the burning in 1864, John Carter age 22 and Frank Allen age 76), only Francis Allen would match the description of the elderly ghost.  At age 76, he was one of the oldest men to fight in the battle.  Since the ghost is described as an elderly man with a long beard, it seems likely that it represents Mr. Allen, although no photograph or portrait of him is known to survive.

Nooooooo.  Say it isn’t so.  Now I’m going to have to find Steve Di Schiavi and Amy Allen (Wait, what?  What if Frank is her ancestor too??) and see if they can put gramps to rest.  I don’t know how much I believe in all that ghost stuff for real, but if there is any chance my gramps is hanging around reliving the most horrible day of his life, and his death, that’s got to stop.

If this doesn’t work, who you gonna call?  Ghost Busters!!  Sorry, I had too.  I’m an 80’s girl and with the recent remake of the movie, which I LOVED, I just had to go there.

Either way, maybe next summer I’ll have an opportunity to take a road trip down to Jackson County, Florida and see if I can get gramps put to rest.  I would say after 152 years, it’s time he got a well deserved break.

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Osa Alexander Sloan

Two years ago when I started working on my father’s side of my family history, the first thing I did was write my Aunt Jane (Lou Jane Higginbotham Starks) a letter and ask her what she knew about the family.  She wrote me back that she had Big Mama’s (Mollie Davis Harris) bible and I could come and get it the next time I came to town.

I did, and took the bible over to Nedra (Harris) Turney’s where we went through the bible and found a letter that was from Osa to Big Mama (Mollie).

Osa Alexander Sloan Letter

Osa Alexander Sloan Letter

I didn’t know who Osa was, and neither did Nedra, but her letter tore us apart.  I was shocked to hear of the troubles that she suffered and wrote about.  Before I share the letter with you, I would like to tell you a little about Osa and what I have discovered about her since finding the letter.

This is Osa and her husband Walter J. Sloan.

Walter and Osa Alexander Sloan

Walter and Osa Alexander Sloan

Her parents, James Arthur Alexander and Maggie Isabell Davis Alexander, are seen here holding Osa’s oldest brother Willie.  Osa also had another brother, Arthur Douglas “Doug” Alexander.

Maggie James A and Willie Alexander

Maggie Davis Alexander was the oldest daughter of William Lynn Davis and Sarah Robertson Davis.  She died on 25 Jul 1900, just four days after giving birth to an infant that was born and died on 21 Jul 1900.  Osa was only two years old at this time when her mother died.

Osa (standing), is pictured with her mother Maggie’s youngest sister Nora Davis Bull.

Osa Alexander Sloan standing and Nora Davis Bull sitting

This family photo shows Osa with her brother Doug Alexander, her Aunt Nora Davis Bull, her grandparents, Lynn and Sallie Davis and her Aunt Mittie Davis Grigson McBride.

Doug Alexander Osa Alexander Nora Sarah Lynn Mittie Davis

I would much imagine that with Osa’s mother gone, her Aunt’s and grandparent’s stepped in and did what they could for her.  I suppose this is why her letter to her Aunt Mollie was so frank about her situation.

The letter was not dated but I think the letter was written between the time of the 1930 census and 1932.

On the 1930 census, she and husband Walter are living in Waco, Texas with their children, and her father.

1930 Census Sloan and Alexander Waco Texas

In 1932, I found Walter and Osa listed in the Waco, Texas – City Directory. I did NOT find a listing for James A Alexander in the directory.

1932 Waco City Directory Walter and Osa Sloan

I realize this doesn’t mean that her father wasn’t living with them, but it’s possible.  From the way this letter reads, Osa had no family with her during this crisis, and she was in a bad way without them.

Read for yourself:

Osa Letter Cover and Page 1

Osa Letter Cover and Page 1

Hello Aunt Mollie

I sure was proud to hear from you.  You all can’t possibly get as lonesome as I do because you have one another  you have sisters and brothers and a phone you can talk to your own blood kin, that is lots of difference to strangers.  Walter got out of work and stayed out about 6 months and you know any boddy in town like we are has to pay rent, watter, buy wood or gass and when you haven got        over

Osa Letter Pages 2 and 3

Osa Letter Pages 2 and 3

any money to pay with the rent man say get out, the gass man cuts off gass the watter is cut off so there you are and no money to get food with if you go to your next door nabor they will hand you 1 cup of beans for a family of 7 to eat on all day long if you go some where for something to eat for super they ask you 1 thousand questions before they hand you 2 or 3 potatoes they ask if I had any kin folks and Grandma taught me not to tell a story

I tried to tell the truth while she lived and now she has passed on but that don’t mean I half to start lying so when people I was forced to ask food from ask me if I had any kin folks I said yes I have 2 bros. and some aunts & uncles and a father well they got where they would tell me they was sorry they didn’t have anything and ask why I didn’t write to my people and have them send for me                    Over

Osa Letters Pages 4 and 5

Osa Letters Pages 4 and 5

Well I knew my kin folks was just like me hard up try to get by and I knew Walter would find work some time and at least we had a better chance finding work here than any where else so we just suffered a long and when some one would bring us something to eat or we would get some our selves it would be so so little they baby marrie would look at me and say mama I’m hungry can I have your beans or potatoes which ever it was and something in my heart ached oh! you will never know how I felt eather I had to eat to care for the children you know attend to them and

Watch over them or I would get sick my self but my heart hurt to think that my child was so hungry that it was forced to ask for its mothers food because what people were handing us was so little until we had to cook it and divide it out and then tell them that was all they could have. Well the out come was after 6 months of this (not day or weeks but months) I got weaker and weaker and every day the sherrif would come and say I am sorry

Osa Letter Pages 6 & 7

Osa Letter Pages 6 & 7

Mrs. Sloan but the man that owns this house is pushing us and we are going to half to sit you all out in the street well I am human like every body else and I could not help worring over all that if I had of had plenty for my children to eat that would not have worried me so bad but all of it to gether was more I guess than I could stand I was so weak until I went back wards every time I would start to walk and I call a Doc and he would not come made some excuse of corse it was because we had no money

And every day walter would say sure to goodness I ‘ll run into something to do to morrow, so one day I told Maggie to call me when diner time come I told her I believe I would lay down 3 or 4 hours and see if I would not feel better well I layed down and the next thing I knew was I was crying loud and hard and what made me mad at my self was I couldn’t stop I cryed and cryed some one sent for the city doc – and he said I had a nervious break down well Walter or any of the children did not know how to handle a case of that kind all you need is to be real

Osa letter pages 8 & 9

Osa Letter Pages 8 and 9

Quite not ask questions to make me talk so I could not get up for 4 weeks but I tryed to and I would take spells laughing if some of them said something funnie instead of me laughing a little bit if it was not much to laugh about well I would laugh as much over nothing as would over a whole lot because my nerves had broke you see and I could not control them I did not want to laugh hard but I was ignorant of how to hand a case like this my self so when the children would say something that would make any boddy else smile it

would make me shake the bed laughing and then I was all ways worse after that but I could not help it unless I had of had money to get a nurce and doc. And the nurce could have avoded lots of these laughs and crying spells and I would have been better but as you see it takes money to make things run smooth and we didn’t have one piny so that called for suffering on my part well not long after I got up Walter found the job he has now just enough to pay rent by food and pay gass and watter not a

Osa Letter Pages 10 and 11

Osa Letter Pages 10 and 11

Piny for cloths or any thing else but you don’t know how thankful we are to know that we can do that and not have to ask it of some one else you see Waco is a small town to what new York is or other places but in any town where there are so many people and no work you see we was not the only ones at that time or now that was out of work people next door to us out of work across the streets or 3 blocks away well by the time you cover the whole town like New York there were thousands of people out of work and they had to eat so it is in a city worse than

In the country where it is 9 or 10 mabe you here of so when thousands of people in one place are saying the same thing it get to where to other people is sounds like a song we got out of work because hauling was scarce no boddy wanting anything hauled and when we could not meet payments on the trucks so one day while Walter was out of them right in broad day light the company had there man to get them  Walter had a lot of tools in them and we couldn’t

Osa Letter Pages 12 and 13

Osa Letter Pages 12 and 13

get them back of course if we had of had some money to fight with but what was we by the side of a big truck company so Walter was out and so many people were out before that and at that time, so it was just hunt and hope and I am geting stronger every day I can see fine better than I ever could wash Irion sew scrub and any thing that needs to be done have not had any medician to take for 2 years no money to buy any so if God is not watching over us and helps us who does?  those that are

able wont because they love the dollar more that human and those that would cant so from the very fact that I am living to day after what I have just experienced teaches me that God lives also so there is my hope and trust is in God I sure would like to have been down there to Dougs and Grandpas birthday but you see how it was tell every boddy to please write to me and you write as often as you can so by and be sweet from your niece Osa.

The first time I read this letter, I was reading it out loud to Nedra (Harris) Turney, and we had to stop.  We couldn’t even finish it.  We came back to it later and finished it, but our hearts were broken for Walter and Osa.

It certainly put my whining into perspective. I’ve never even come close to having to make the choices they had to make.

When I look at this picture of Osa holding her oldest daughter, Maggie Sloan all I can think about is her heartache on trying to decide whether she should feed herself or her children.

maggie sloan and osa alexander sloan

Osa Alexander Sloan holding daughter Maggie Sloan

It really saddens me to know that Osa probably never got over this.  Her letter states how sick she was and had no medicine for two years.   It was very upsetting when I found her headstone in Sylverino Cemetery, directly behind that of her parents.

She died in 1933, only 34 years old.  I haven’t found a death certificate to know what she died of for sure, but I imagine it had everything to do with what she described in her letter.  Doing without food for long periods of time can do great damage to your body and maybe she just never recovered.

Osa Lee Alexander Sloan Headstone

Osa Lee Alexander Sloan Headstone

I haven’t found her father on the 1940 Census, but his headstone says he died in 1951.  I found Walter, Osa’s husband on the 1940 Census living in Houston, remarried to Ruby Mae Williams and living with a mix of his and Osa’s children and Ruby’s children from her previous marriage.  I believe they later had two children together.

I’m so sad for Osa.  Sad for her children that they lost their mother, just as she had.  Sad for Walter that he had to handle all this and pick up the pieces for his children.  It seems he did and I hope and pray their lives got better after this.  I imagine that would change a man forever so I was glad to see he had remarried.

This is how I relate to Osa. Relationship Chart Susie to Osa

Thank you to Nedra for always being there with me when we discover our families’ stories.  It’s never to late to tell them!!

Thank you to Marilyn Metcalf Huber, for sharing these pictures of Osa and her family with me.

While my Aunt Jane is no longer with us, I thank her too for sharing what she had with me!  We wouldn’t know at all about Osa’s struggles without her.

Most importantly though, thank you to Osa for sharing this story with Big Mama (Mollie).  It must have been very dear to her to have put it in her bible and saved it.  I can only imagine how she must have felt upon reading this letter.

Did Big Mama want to go get Osa?

Was it too late??

Will we ever find out???

If you are a descendant of Walter and Osa, I would love so much to hear from you.


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Rev. John James Triggs – A Voice From the Past

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Have you ever wondered what your ancestors would say to you if you could sit down and chat with them?

I have.

Many times.

I’ve thought about all the questions I would ask them if I could just have even a few minutes.

Luckily for me, I have had a chance to hear from Rev. John J. Triggs in his own words.

While I have been researching the Rev. Triggs, my 3rd great-grandfather I have come across his name listed in many books.  There is quite a bit of information out there about him.  He was one of the first Methodist Circuit Riders to ride over 400 miles by horseback, into Indian Territory to spread the gospel.

I’m pretty sure that any whining I could do about “my phone has no signal or being stuck in traffic (while sitting in cushy car with a/c)” would be seriously frowned upon by Rev. Triggs considering the things that he went through to deliver his sermons.

There could hardly be any comparison.

I found a letter that he wrote to the Chattahoochee Mission dated June 11, 1823 in the book “A History of Methodism in Alabama” by Anson West, published in 1893 and Rev. Triggs states “yet through the warmth of the weather, excessive rides, and other difficulties peculiar to the country, our horses are both blind; but, supported by grace, and animated with the prospect of promoting the happiness of our fellow-men, we persevere, sometimes riding and sometimes walking over the bogs and through the mud singing: 

‘In hope of that immortal crown,

We now the cross sustain;

And gladly wander up and down,

And smile at toil and pain.’

He goes on to say, “I hope, my dear brother, you do no forget to pray for us, who labor in the wilderness, for I am sure none need the prayers of God’s people more than your humble servant, John J. Triggs”

Here is the whole letter should you like to read it.

Rev John J. Triggs letter to Chattahoochee Mission

When I first found out that John J. Triggs was a Methodist Circuit Rider, I read all up on what they did and what they went through, but to hear it from his own words, 189 years later, is truly amazing.

Not only that, but he wrote two books and I located copies of them at the University of Georgia in the rare books section.

Yes, oh Yes, I got copies of most of the pages of both books.  Thanks to Julie Hardaway, who kindly went to the library and made copies of the pages she thought would interest me.

A Treatise on Christian Baptism by Rev John J TriggsAnd this one:

A Review of the Controversy on Baptism by Rev John J TriggsWho knew right?  I didn’t.  I would have never believed that I could read a book that an ancestor wrote back in 1842 and 1843.  I feel as though I actually got to sit through a couple of his sermons, and that was a great feeling!

Over the next few days, I will be adding copies of the pages that I do have to my website in case anyone else would like to read them.  I’ll let you know when I get them up.

They are really interesting reading!  Thanks again Julie, for bringing my Ancestor’s voice back from the past.  It’s truly a treasure!

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The Five R’s of Tommy Stanley

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Guest post by my 3rd cousin 1 x removed, Kookie Hemperley.

In this age of “going green” I would like to share how my brother, Tommy Stanley, has given new meaning to the words, recycle, repurpose, re-gift, redesign and rewards. I’m sure as you see his creations you will agree he has given these words new meanings. But before we get into that, let me introduce you to Tommy.

Tommy was the second child of six born to Mamie Martin and Clyde Stanley. In a family that large, we all wore hand-me-downs and didn’t have too many toys. Sometimes if you wanted a new toy you had to use your imagination and “recycle” a worn out bicycle wheel into a rim that you rolled around with a stick. Or a bottle became the forerunner of “Hot Wheels”. Or empty cans became airborne toys when you played “kick the can”. It was creativity to the max and we were happy with what we had. Thus, the birth of “recycling” for Tommy.

Tommy worked most of his adult life as a body shop man in several Ford dealerships throughout East Texas. One day, when work was slow, he was talking to one of his co-workers who had lost everything in a house fire. Everything but one lone spur. Tommy took the spur back to the body shop, polished it out and had the reward of seeing his co-worker’s surprise of the beauty of the only object salvaged from his loss.

That day set Tommy thinking. As a child he had seen a pair of brass spurs our Uncle Ray Martin had bought on a trip to Mexico before he entered World War II. (Ray was killed in Tunisia, North Africa on March 29, 1943.) That day he decided he would replicate them even though he had never attempted to make a pair of spurs.

He took a pair of ordinary horse shoes, straightened them into bars and then bent the horse shoes the opposite direction. That became the portion of the spur that would fit around a boot heel. He shaped, curved, filed, polished and refined it even more. When finished, he sent them out to be chromed. Once chromed, he took them to a leather shop owned and operated by a Mexican gentleman. As soon as the man saw them he said, “Chee-Wa-Wa”, which he went on to explain was style of spurs made in Chihuahua, Mexico. Could Uncle Ray have visited “Chee-Wa-Wa” when he bought his? Tommy then added a gold-plated rowel and the finished product is shown below.

Since that first pair was created, Tommy now makes spurs for bull riders, ropers, and pleasure riders. He says the most rewarding pair he made was for an insurance agent near Tyler. The man was a competing Western pleasure rider who’d had an auto accident, leaving his right arm and leg incapable of giving the horse the proper cues. He was in need of spurs that could be modified and realigned and contacted Tommy. Tommy went to his ranch, put the man on the horse, took measurements and went home to build the new spurs. Once finished, the man was able to once again ride competitively.

Pictured below are some of the spurs and branding irons Tommy custom builds.

This pair has brass inlays.

Work spurs made from horseshoes with branding iron.

Dressy in black leather and chrome.

Most recently Tommy has begun to “recycle” and “repurpose” silverware into jewelry. Spoons are used for rings, bracelets, and pendants. He also “recycles” estate costume from estate sales, garage sales, friends, and family into jewelry. My niece had a friend with some silver flatware from her grandmother that she wanted to use but didn’t know exactly what she wanted. Tommy designed a ring, earrings, and a bracelet. Now, it is worn daily and keeps fond memories of her grandmother near.

Recently he restrung pearls into a necklace, bracelet and earring that will be worn by a soon to be bride.

Here are some of his latest creations:

Arrowhead earrings.

Cross made from spoons but he also makes bookmarks and key chains.

Redesigned turquoise.

Spoon acorn and oak leaf.

Hair barrette from a belt with spoon holder.

Shell pendant made from slotted serving spoon that has hammered ribs and filed outer edges.

An assortment of crosses made from horse shoe nails and stainless.

Since Tommy’s retirement his workshop is located in his garage in Mineola, Texas. When asked where he gets his patterns, he replied, “In my head.” He is also quick to point out that he has no laser cutter, nor computer for designing. Each design is his own creation and each piece is handcrafted using adapted hand saws, files and hammers. I would add they are also crafted with a lot of patience, skill and pride. I’m sure our great-grandfather, Thomas Jefferson Stanley, who worked on horse farms and had a blacksmith shop, would certainly agree!


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The Old Barn is Gone

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This is my mother when she was a little girl riding her horse Czar.  Notice the barn behind her?

Well, that barn is gone now.  It burned down Sunday, May 27, 2012 according to this news clipping that my Mom’s long time friend Jo Gwen Phillips sent her.  My mother received it in the mail today and came over to my house crying.

This is John T. Parks.

He built the barn, and lived there on the property. My grandparents Bill (William J.) and Mary Parks, and my mother also lived there with him. Granddad Parks sold the place to Arch W. Smith when my mother started first grade so they could move into town and she wouldn’t have to ride the school bus.  They moved downtown to 406 Walnut St. That house is still standing and in fact my mother and I were able to take a tour of it thanks to the nice lawyers that currently own it.

Reading this article highly upset my mother. You see, my mother has Alzheimer’s and there aren’t a lot of things she remembers.  However, anything involving her grandfather  J.T. Parks, she remembers vividly.

As a double whammy to her, when we were in Texarkana back in February for my Aunt Jane’s funeral we tried to find the old farm where the barn was, and sadly she couldn’t remember where it was.  Now it’s gone and so is the opportunity for her to visit it one last time.

This is Granddad Parks riding at the farm.  Notice the people at the fence?  I guess it was a gathering place!

Here’s another photo that shows quite a few people hanging around the fence.

This photo shows the inside of the barn.

I’m not sure who the man in this photo is, but you can see some of the barn.

I don’t have a good picture of the barn, but I think I’ll look up Lynn Smith and see what he has. I’m thankful he wrote this article and that we came across it. I’m just sorry my Mom is taking it so hard, and I’m sorry I didn’t get to see the barn standing.  I bet it was really something to see!


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