I backed into an interest in genealogy by chance, as far as I knew at the time. Actually I was looking for rocks, as I have been doing for longer than I can remember. Even as a little boy I "collected rocks." Later I minored in Geology at LSU and attended Rock Camp in Colorado during the summer of my junior year. After college and the Army, I began tumbling and polishing stones, plus making jewelry out of my finished rocks.
But back to my story; at that time, when I was 15, I was looking for petrified rocks around Saline. I remembered finding some specimens while squirrel hunting a few years before with my daddy. On this day I was trying to find that same hill down near Chestnut, LA. I was about to give up when I happened on an old cemetery deep in the woods. Cemeteries have always fascinated me (am I weird?), but I also remembered that in olden days people often placed native rocks around their graves. I speculated, irreverently, that I might find some petrified wood around graves there, and that, being all alone apart from any observing eyes, I might just "lift" a bit of stone even without finding the hill I sought.
Imagine my surprise while wandering among the graves, when I happened on the tombstone of my great grandfather, Noah Cloud. I had never been interested in "old dead people" before, and probably only remembered his name because he died in 1930, the year I was born. But there he was, or at least what, if anything, was left of him. To my greater surprise, graves on both sides of him were labeled "wife of Noah Cloud." So old Noah had two wives! At the same time, I wondered? I never knew anything about his wives, let alone that he had two. The intrigue of possible bigamy in my own family, or of divorce (certainly a NoNo in any tradition I knew of) passed through my mind.
On my return, minus any petrified wood but full of wonder about my family history, I excitedly told my mother what I had discovered, asking if she knew about that. Calmly, as I recall, she simply said, "Well, of course; that is Pleasant Hill Cemetery and your great grandfather married again after his first wife died in childbirth."
I was a bit chagrined at my ignorance (I have always been embarrassed about "not knowing something" which I "think I should"), but a new interest was certainly added that day to my long time fun in collecting rocks. I was, without any clue to how deeply I would eventually become involved, a budding, new "genealogist." In time I became as diligent about "collecting ancestors (at least information about them)" as I had long been about finding stones.
I began by saying I backed in "by chance." Only later did I discover how diligent my mother had been for years in her exploration of our family roots; so perhaps it was genetics rather than chance. Maybe I was "born to explore roots" as well as rocks!
Which ever, that was 55 years ago; and since then my genealogical interests have only deepened. I still polish rocks (I have a batch going now, and am looking forward to seeing "how they will turn out"). But I spend far more time polishing up my wealth of data about family roots than I do in making stone jewelry.
Which is only an introduction to note that during these intervening years between being a collecting young 15 year old and now being a retired old man turning 70, I have gathered lots of stories about various of my ancestors to add to those I have created myself. This is a collection of some of the tales which have fascinated me and may be of more interest to my descendants than the "bare facts" of names and dates which make up so much of genealogical research.
So far as I know, they are all true. But I also know that family lore is a powerful shaper of truth as we know it. While I report these stories and events as they have come to me, many of them are as yet unsubstantiated by verifiably public records. So if they seem too far fetched, or any reader knows otherwise, so be it.
Anyway, I have enjoyed these colorful "facts" about myself and my family and record them mostly for the fun of remembering. Potential readers, welcome, if you like tales which may or may not be true.
I suppose that every family who digs deep enough comes up with some tales of buried treasures, some hope or dream of family wealth which might magically distinguish us from the masses. Mine is no exception. Two of our stories involve two of my great grandfathers:
(Father of the Jr. whose grave started this whole process)
The story goes that in the early part of the Civil War, Sam Cloud, Noah's nephew whom he had raised, and an Elkins' boy (Uncle of J.T. Elkins, Eva Elkins's father) plotted to rob Noah, who, according to tradition, "had quite a bit of money and silverware."
Mrs. Elkins, the boy's mother who lived about a mile from Noah, heard them plotting; she slipped off to Noah's house and told him about the plan. Forewarned, he put his money, we are told, in a buckskin bag and went out back toward the smokehouse to bury it. He had his daughters, Mary and Ann, and his wife, Delilah, watching for him. He came back in about 10 minutes and said that it was alright.
It is also told that he moved his buried money that night and planted a cedar bush to mark the place. The boys came to take the money as plotted, and in the skirmish, Noah was shot by Sam Cloud. He died a month later from gangrene poison without telling anyone where he buried his money.
This buried treasure has been the subject of much conversation and search since the last century. It has been suggested that it was finally buried in the bottom of a 60 foot well; another idea is that it was buried under the smokehouse. About 1908 Noah Jr. pointed out the location of the old smokehouse which was 18 by 18 feet, and said the original logs of his father's smokehouse were still there. After he marked off the spot, Lee Cloud, his son, and M.B. Evans, his son-in-law, dug 3 or 4 feet deep but did not find any money. They also dug where Noah Jr. said the cellar under the front porch was.
They found broken dishes, a piece of chain, and a spur--but no money. They and many others, including Noah Sr.'s great grandson, Buddy Evans in 1970, have dug hunting the money many times; but no one has reported finding any.
(From the Brewton Family)
Noah's daughter Ann married Sam Brewton. While I was exploring the internet for more data on the Cloud family I chanced to discover another distant cousin, descended from this daughter. We exchanged information on our two branches of the Cloud family. Among his lore was this version:
"It seems as if Samuel George Brewton and his brother-in-law Noah Cloud sold a herd of mules in Natchitoches, Louisiana, and with the money, they got into a game of poker and won about $10,000 in gold. After the game was over Samuel Brewton was talked into having a drink with the losers; the drink was supposed to have been doctored. Noah Cloud took the money back to Goldonna, Louisiana, by one route and Samuel Brewton took a different trail; but the doctored drink took effect and he fell out of the saddle and was found the next day. He was brought home where he lived for a couple of days and died. Later Noah Cloud was shot late one night in front of his home, supposedly for the same money. The men that shot Noah Cloud were never caught, however, it is believed that a man by the name of Elkins was the leader of the men." (From James P. Brewton)
John Nelson Smith was the father of my great grandfather Noah Cloud Jr.'s first wife, Mary Izora Smith. Quite apart from the buried treasure tale which I am coming to, John Nelson must have been a memorable person, a "one-er" in cross-word puzzle terminology.
On Nov. 13, 1814, John Nelson enlisted in Captain Thomas Gordon's Company of the 10th Regiment of the Tennessee Militia, at Giles County, Tenn. He fought in the Battles of Horse Shoe Bend and New Orleans in the War of 1812. When he was applying for a pension in 1873, when he was 74 years old, he wrote in his application: "While employed by a contractor who furnished cattle and hogs to the army I reached Horse Shoe Bend just at the time of the battle with the Creek Indians. I volunteered and fought in that engagement."
He also said, "When Gen. Andrew Jackson called on Tennessee my Mother state for volunteers to meet the British foe at New Orleans I responded to his call and volunteered on the 13 of Nov 1814 to then become a soldier and according to my best recollections we reached New Orleans on the 1st day of Dec 1814. Skirmishing was going on almost every day until the 8th of January 1815 when the memorable Battle was fought. NEVER NEVER (his own capitalization) shall I forget that time I was in the Ranks and in the ditch and owing to a dense and dark fog we could not see the British Troops but about 8 or 9 o'clock a little wind rose and the fog disappeared and ...Great God to my youthful eye I thought we had met a British well-armed foe to the amount of millions. I felt miserable but after a few rounds of firing I did not feel so bad."
He was discharged on the 25th of January 1815, in Nashville, Tenn. Sometime after the war, according to my grandmother, his granddaughter, Delilah Cloud, "Pres. Jackson appointed John Nelson Smith to appraise the land claimed by Indians. When they were paid off Smith bought several hundred barrels of whiskey and sold to them. They were so eager and so thirsty for the drink each came with a canteen and rushed in saying, 'Me first, me first,' until the last one was gone. The Government tried to prosecute Smith but he was too shrewd for he had gotten on a strip of unsurveyed land and the Government had no authority. As Indians were paid for their land they packed and moved." She also added: "Smith then put up first store at Memphis."
In 1836 John Nelson Smith married Mary Izora Hinkle, a wealthy widow with a son named Morgan. Thirteen years later they had a daughter, Mary Izora, who by destiny or chance was to become my great grandmother. Unfortunately her mother died at the time of her birth.
Mary Izora, who was a beautiful girl (confirmed by a picture I have of her taken shortly after my grandmother's birth), apparently became the focus of a fierce conflict between her older step-brother, Morgan Hinkle, and her father. Both wanted to keep her, but, according to my grandmother, her "father took her and a trunk of gold to a farm." Morgan had his step-father arrested but John Nelson Smith was clever and put his daughter "on a boat and sent her to Alabama to evade Hinkle." He "kept her hid and slipped her out to Louisiana" where she was kept in a convent at Natchitoches.
According to my grandmother, in 1856, when Mary Izora would have been 7 years old, "the entire Negro slaves camped at Natches Miss where he (John Nelson) treated Negroes to cider and candy for New Years" came after them. "(He) moved on in wagons and one buggy with a trunk of gold toward Black Lake (LA)." Grandma's story becomes confused at this point, but she concluded, "Billie Pierce came with a squad of Negroes and Billie Woods another. There was about 310 Negroes." Apparently his step-son, Morgan Hinkle, was still trying to get his sister away from his step-father.
Evidently Smith was able to keep her in Louisiana however, because in 1866, when she was 16 years old, she married my grandfather, Noah Cloud Jr. Her father disapproved (so what else is new for doting fathers!) of the marriage and "never liked Noah."
But after his daughter and Noah had been married about 7 years and were living at Cloud's Crossing in Natchitoches Parish, he finally gave in and decided to come visit them. He was living in New Iberia, LA, at the time, where he had become very wealthy, reportedly "owning a large portion of the town." Was he also curious about his four grandchildren by the daughter he must have loved excessively (given how possessive he had been of her)?
He came, it is said, with two servants in a surrey and brought two satchels of gold. Somewhere before reaching Cloud's Crossing, perhaps fearing, or at least not trusting, his son-in-law any more than he had his step-son, he stopped and had the servants wait while he went out and buried the gold.
During his visit, he became ill and was put to bed. As the story goes, when it seemed that his illness might be fatal, he was asked where his gold was buried. He got so mad, they say, that he spit at them, turned over, and died.
Reportedly there was much digging in the area later; but no one has, so far as I know, has ever been able to find where he buried his gold. It is said that his slaves in New Iberia kept his house open for many years, "waiting for the old man who never returned."
John Nelson Smith is buried in Pleasant Hill Cemetery, near the grave of his daughter, with no dates on his grave.
In later years some of my grandmother's sisters and their descendants have returned to
New Iberia trying to lay claim to their never-received inheritance. They found that
"he was indeed wealthy," but the statute of limitations on possession of
property had run out, and none were ever successful with their claims. On one such trip my
mother recalls my grandmother who accompanied them telling her: "They told me as we
drove through the town, 'Just think, this should all be ours.'"
So this is my second buried treasure story. I tell it as I have heard it in the family; but given that ole "Colonel Smith" was applying for a government pension in 1873, the year before his ill-fated visit to his beloved daughter, I am inclined to doubt much of what I have been told.
I and various members of our family have had occasional brushes with persons who either were then or later become celebrities in the public eye. Here are some which I know about:
John Cloud, my gggggrandfather, was said to have been a friend of Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett. In the Fall of 1835 Davy Crockett from Tennessee and Ben Milam of Kentucky, John's old stomping grounds before he headed South around 1808, heard the call of Sam Houston for troops to defend the Alamo against Mexican General, Santa Anna. They set out to meet Houston at the Prothro Mansion at St. Maurice in Winn Parish, near where John Cloud lived at the time. According to family tradition, the two fighters stopped off to visit with their friend for a week of hunting squirrels and raccoons, the latter to be used making for coon skin caps.
The last contact between John Cloud and his friend Davy Crockett was a letter mailed by
Crockett from St. Augustine, Texas, dated January 9, 1836, less than two months before
Crockett, Jim Bowie, Milam, William B. Travis, and others perished at the Alamo in Texas.
Notorious gangsters, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, were ambushed and gunned down a
few miles north of Saline, Louisiana, my home town, on May 23, 1934. Their bullet-riddled
bodies were taken to Arcadia and put on display--like lawmen's trophies, I suppose. I was
nearly 4 at the time, but I'm sure my daddy would have thought I was "too young to
see such." He, however, went to Harper's Spur, picked up my grandpa (his father), and
they went to Arcadia to "view the bodies." When I was old enough to ask, all I
can remember daddy saying was, "She was real purty." (We never said
"pretty" in Saline.)
Jimmy Davis, of You Are My Sunshine fame, is 100 years old now (2000), but when he was 44 (and I 14) he was elected Governor of Louisiana for the first time. By my good fortune he was the uncle of best friend at the time, Ted Frey. Ted managed to get us an invitation to go for a visit and stay for a week in the luxurious Governor's Mansion on North Boulevard in Baton Rouge.
It was a week I'll never forget. Mr. Davis treated us royally, providing a limousine to go where ever we wanted to. We made numerous trips to a Model Shop on Plank Road, since both of us were heavy into making model airplanes at the time. A highlight of the trip was a visit to Pontchartrain Beach in New Orleans with free passes to all the rides. What I remember most was riding the Whirley Bird and getting so sick at my stomach that I vomited right there. I was so glad to get back home to our second floor room that night.
Often at night, after Gov. and Mrs. Davis had gone to bed, Ted and I would slip out of bed and go slide down the wonderful banister on the circular staircase leading to the second floor. It was a great thrill, perhaps escalated by our knowledge that we "shouldn't be doing it" and might be punished if caught. Luckily, we never were.
Thirty five years later when I was catching a plane to deliver an address at an American Baptist Meeting in Nashville, I happened to be in line behind Mr. Davis who told me he was also going to Nashville to accept a Golden Record Award for You Are My Sunshine.
We recalled older times, and then on a whim I said, "You know, I've got a confession to make..." I proceeded to tell him about Ted's and my late night ventures in the mansion back when we were 14. He laughed and said, "Well, I'll confess to you too; before I left the mansion one of the last things I did was take a slide down that banister myself."
We had a warm laugh together as we boarded the plane and went our separate ways again.
Before Lyndon Johnson became President he was a school teacher in Cotula, Texas, where my maternal grandparents, Nina Ann Gray and William Coker operated a boarding house and café. Teacher Johnson boarded with them and took his meals at the café.
Years later when I heard this story my grandparents were dead so I asked their daughter, my Aunt Hadie (Helen Marie Coker) about it. She said, "Mama always thought he was crude." I pressed and she explained that "he used cuss words," which were, of course, a NoNo in my family.
After he became President, my Uncle Elmer Ferguson (Aunt Hadie's husband), who had
known him as a friend in Texas, flew to Washington several times to meet with him, in
quest of (all I could find out) "political favors" for some legal problem Elmer
was having at the time.
My first daughter, Melisa, took her Pomeranian and moved to California in her late teens. Among many other adventures, she married Joe Gallison, popular celebrity, Dr. Neil Curtis, on the soap opera, Days Of Our Lives. They have now traded in the earthquakes of California for the hurricanes, floods, and lately, snow storms of North Carolina.
Joe himself is a very friendly, down-to-earth, Boston-boy-done-well-in-Hollywood; but I
have never ceased to be amazed at his constant recognition wherever we have been with
them. Not being a soap opera fan, I have failed to realize how many others must be. Even
at the local Pac-A-Sac late at night, along with most other places we have been together,
fans have recognized him and requested autographs--which he has always graciously given,
when I would more likely have been bothered.
While he was still Senator from Massachusetts, JFK came to speak at a meeting in Baton Rouge at the venerable old Downtown Kiwanis Club, of which I was the youngest member at the time. Being a young preacher I was commonly invited to deliver the invocation at such political occasions.
I got there early and while sitting at a table waiting to be called to the platform, a Louisiana politician whose district apparently crossed the East/West line around Alexandria began to bemoan his current problems to me. Freely mixed with various expletives, he said, "I've got constituents from North Louisiana and from South Louisiana, and I've got two rooms here in the Capital House--one with a Bible on the table for my North Louisiana folks and another with liquor available for my drinking folks from South Louisiana. The problem is, I'm never quite sure which room to send them to."
In the middle of his story they called on the microphone," Will Dr. Evans please come to the platform." I can still see the look of chagrin on his face when he realized he had been "cussing" before the preacher.
I met John Kennedy briefly; we exchanged a few pleasantries before I was called to
pray, then he to speak. I was impressed with him; but nothing did I know then of the
historic events to follow which I can never forget.
"Uncle Earl" was stumping, I think for governor, when he came to my home town and spoke in front of the drug store, across the street from my daddy's store. I remember the excitement of watching the crowd gather and my fascination at his ease and good humor in what I would now see as "playing the crowd." He was good!
My daddy was mayor at that time, and took me to meet "Huey's brother," just as he had taken me to New Orleans to see "Huey's house" shortly after he was murdered in the State Capital Building in 1935. (About the latter trip, the main things I remember are "stealing" a root of cane from Huey P. Long's yard, which I later planted in our yard in Saline, and whose continual resurrection yet remains a bane to my aging mother, plus buying a small painted turtle in the French Quarter Market, which got lost under the seat of our car on the way home and remained a stink for days.)
But as I was telling: I don't remember any of "Uncle Earl's" political promises made at the time, but years later when he was indeed our colorful governor, following some crazy escapades centering around Blaze Starr, a stripper from New Orleans, Earl decided that he wanted to be baptized and join First Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, where I was a young assistant minister at the time. Dr. Palmer (Senior Minister) faced a true dilemma about what to do. Certainly Mr. Long's sincerity was subject to question, but he had made a request, and what Baptist preacher can turn down a potential convert? Dr. Palmer surely wanted to avoid making his baptism a political event and finally decided on a private service on Sunday afternoon. I watched with mixed emotions.
No doubt about it, we Louisianans have had some colorful governors.
Years later still, after Uncle Earl was dead and gone, I returned to Saline one Thursday afternoon to visit my mother. At the edge of town I was surprised to find the road blocked near "main street," and had to park and walk. Someone told me that Paul Newman was in town filming scenes for his upcoming movie on the life of our former colorful (aren't they all?) governor, Earl K. Long, along with his even more colorful consort, Blaze Starr. Pushing through the crowd, I was surprised to find "downtown" returned to its former glory (as seen in the eyes of a growing boy). Fake trees lined the street; old cars were parked along the way, and storefronts had been repainted as I remembered them in the past.
When I reached the front of the old store once owned by my father, where so many happy events of my childhood had occurred, I stood on the sidewalk out front, where I had delighted in riding my first tricycle whenever daddy would let me. I was further surprised to look across the street and see Paul Newman dressed as Uncle Earl, delivering a political speech in front of the drug store. Shades of the past!
I stood there getting chill bumps, remembering...
But then an actress playing Blaze Starr, probably much better looking than the real
one, came up the street; suddenly I was returned to the present (delightfully)...
LAUREN BACALL, ALAN LADD, BARBRA STREISAND, & DANNY KAYE
While in the army and stationed near New York City in 1950-51, I had chance meetings with these stars. When I met Lauren Bacall and Alan Ladd on the street I was too "discrete (afraid?)" to ask for autographs like a "common" person (My grandmother often said: "Don't be common..." I never knew exactly what she meant, but this seemed to apply).
Thanks to free tickets from the USO I once sat in the overhanging balcony just a few yards from Barbra Streisand performing her most memorable-to-me: "People who need people are the luckiest people in the world." Was I more impressed with her voice, or with her affirmation of "needing people"--a mode of dependency I was trying hard to deny at the time?
On another occasion while walking down 42 Street one evening, a white Cadillac pulled
over to me (I was "in uniform"); the driver leaned out and offered a free ticket
to Danny Kaye's current performance. I gladly accepted and found myself seated on the
front row next to the stage. At one point during his wonderful show, Danny Kaye came and
sat on the edge of the stage directly in front of me, leaned over and said, "Hi,
soldier." As a 21 year old corporal trying to act cool, I contained myself; but
inwardly I was star struck.
Caroline Dorman, noted Louisiana author, artist, and authority on iris's and other native plants, pioneered both in woman's rights and national conservation. She is credited with the formation of Kasitchie National Forest in North LA. She also corresponded with Henry Ford and contributed plants for his research in trying to find a rubber substitute for tires for his newly invented auto-mobile (Model T).
But I knew none of this back when she was "just a strange woman" who lived next to my grandparents farm in Natchitoches Parish. As a child my mother would sometimes carry me on her visits to see her and "talk about flowers." I was more impressed with her Indian artifacts and stories and the fact that she was so friendly with birds that they would come and light on her head and sit on her hand. She also had a pond with an old Indian canoe in it. My cousins and I would sometimes "slip off" and go skinny dipping there, always with fear and excitement, because we were told she would shoot anyone who trespassed on her property.
After she died and I grew up, I went back to photograph that lovely old pond, her iris
beds and the cabin in which she wrote and painted during her eventful life. Some of my
photographs of her flowers are now hanging in the museum in the Caroline Dorman Nature
Preserve created after her death.
On the "prayer circuit" again, I was once delivering the invocation at a dinner in the Belmont Hotel--the occasion I forget. When you pray as much as I did in the heyday of my "up and coming young preacher" days, it's hard to remember specifics. I had a friend on the "funeral circuit" at the time who once forget in the middle of a funeral whether the corpse was male or female. He told me later that he made a lot of neuter references to "our beloved departed," etc., and vowed to never forget again.
Anyway, the guest at that dinner I remember well. I was seated by and talked to Mr.
Eastwood throughout the meal. I forget now just what we talked about, but I was impressed
by his open, straightforward, manner, not at all like celebrities are often imagined to
be. He was as human off the set as he is professional on. I liked him a lot.
In the summer before his death in early 1965, I was lucky enough to visit with Dr. Paul Tillich, a noted German existential theologian whose work had spoken to me more than any other religious writer. I was attending his lectures at Union Seminary in New York, and had written a paper on "The Nature of Aloneness" as I found it reflected in his theology. I was most anxious to know what he thought of my analysis.
While he leaned back in the wooden chair in his small, upper floor office, with hands clasped behind his head, I outlined my ideas to him, carefully watching for his reactions as I went along. I had, I thought, translated his rather heavy and often quite abstract writing into "plain English" and was surely nervous about how he would see my simplifications. He asked a few questions along the way, all with an open but non-committal look on his face.
When I finished and waited anxiously for his response, he rocked back and forth in his chair for what seemed like an eternity, again with hands clasped behind his head, and a sober, almost pensive, expression which told me nothing. Finally, a warm smile appeared; with a twinkle in his eyes and in his ponderous German accent he said simply: "Yes, I think you get it!"
I couldn't have been more humbled and elated at the same time.
When I heard of his death the following spring, I was deeply moved recalling the rest of our conversation which I had forgotten till that time. He had gone on to explain what his theology on aloneness, as one inevitable aspect of the human condition, meant to him. He told me that in writing theology he was like an artist who paints his own death as a way of moving more easily toward it. Caught up in my awe in his presence, I had missed his prophetic awareness at that moment.
The scope of Paul Tillich's influence on my life via cold theological ideas backed by warm memories of his presence yet moves me. I am especially glad that I was graced to meet, as well as read, him and be touched by his affirmation before his artistry was ended.
Other than the theology of Paul Tillich, I think that Carlyle Marney, a brilliant theologian/minister who dared cross the difficult lines between Southern and American Baptists and the wider world of ecumenical religion in America, has been more of a father figure in my spiritual life than any other man, save my own father.
Our paths crossed many times during the difficult days of integration in the South in the late 50's and early 60's--at meetings in his Charlotte, North Carolina, Church; at Fellowship in Baton Rouge; at conferences in Green Lake, Wisconsin; in New Jersey, Texas, and best of all, in hotel rooms late at night where we were free to share more openly and honestly. Then in the 70's, after some of the segregationist heat was off, we shared a platform in Atlanta where we were both giving addresses. We enjoyed reminiscing later. But most movingly of all, I was touched by one of our meetings at his retreat on Wolf Pen Mountain in North Carolina after he retired from his church ministry.
I had just finished a manuscript which I brashly called How It Is-- to me the most succinct summary of my philosophy of life till that time, containing birthed notions whose fuller meaning yet evaded me (many of which, some 25 years later, still do). I had mailed Marney (he never liked being called "Dr." which he certainly deserved) a copy, asked for his reactions, and then gone for a first hand visit. I sat there with him, his pipe in hand and smoke circling his strong, handsome face, discussing my ideas, often looking past him to the blue wonder of those North Carolina mountains while I paused to catch my mental breath. He was non-committal at the time, saying he wanted to read more and would write and let me know what he thought.
More than any one else I have ever known he later affirmed my insights and dared me to keep on looking with these words which I later placed on the back of the published book:
I began to read you long before I met you and confirmed my expectations: that your gifts for clarity, candor, and condensation are met with a genuine awareness of Grace, and of us human beings as mediators, in Nature, of a Grace that comes from beyond us.
I read you first in '48-that long ago pristine year of my starting out in Austin-I read you last on yesterday,'77, here on Wolf Pen mountain. You grace and have graced me-in Baton Rouge, Princeton, Charlotte, New Orleans, Austin, and Wolf Pen-where we've met (underground in the 60's) and (anywhere we could in the 70's). I join all your hearer-understanders in saluting How It Is as your ripest insight so far and ask for more if there can be more.
When I learned of his death the following summer I grieved in my journal: Marney is dead...he has been my only spiritual mentor in my adult life...I feel alone. I am alone...Thank you, Marney, for living...
And I still do...
I have 11 known ancestors born in Europe before coming to America. Seven were born in England, two in Ireland, and 2 in France.
I am yet to confirm his ancestry, but my best current data indicates that my first known Evans' ancestor, gggggggrandfather "Trader" John Evans's, father came from Wales.
Sarah Batte, my ggggggrandmother, was born in England in 1673.
My gggggggrandfather, George Fickling, was born in Norfolk, England,
in 1680. His wife, Charity, was also born in England. Their son, Jeremiah Fickling, was
born in Bermuda about 1705, while they were on their way to America.
Malcolm Clark, another of my ggggggrandfathers, was born in Ireland, circa 1730. He came to America around 1770. His daughter, Mary, who married Samuel Reed and came to America in 1780, was also born in Ireland.
My oldest known direct ancestor is William Cloud, my 10th great grandfather, born about 1502 in England. It was his gggggggrandson who bore the same name who first came to America around 1700. All the wives of these Cloud ancestors from 1500-1700 were also born in England.
Eighth greatgrandfather, John Folsom, was born about 1615 in Norfolk Shire, England. His wife, Mary Gilliam, was also born in England. They came to America in 1638.
On my mother's side of my family, the first known Coker, my ggggrandfather, Jonathon Clark Coker, was born in Alabama in 1812. Best speculations to date are that the Cokers from whom I am descended first came to America from Ireland during the Potato Famine.
Eighth greatgrandfather, Pierre Cressen, was born in France in the late 1500's. His
son, also named Pierre was born Picardy, France, in 1609. Pierre's wife, Rachael, was also
born in France. They emigrated to America and died at Staten Island, NY, in 1680. Their 4th
greatgrandaughter, married Samuel Cunningham from SC. Their daughter, Dorcus, married
Thomas Gray, my oldest known Gray ancestor, in SC.
Most families must have a few juicy stories which have no point beyond their juciness. At least mine does.
I liked my Granddaddy Bill Coker. When I knew him best I was about 12 years old and he was living alone in a tiny cabin on Lake Bistineau. He would take me fishing and let me catch Cottonmouth Water Moccasins at his pier, for which he would pay me a quarter/head. Grandmother Coker, however, as I knew her, was staid, strict, religious, and wise. When I was 11 and head over heels for Imogene, I once asked her while I was lying on the floor worrying, "How will I know when I am in love?" Curtly, as I recall (only later to acknowledge her wisdom), she replied, "When you're in love you'll know it." Then she proceeded to chide me for "rocking a chair when I wasn't sitting in it." Another of her many rules I could never understand.
Imagine my surprise to learn years later, while doing genealogy research, that she had avoided marrying my horse-trading granddaddy for several years (perhaps living with him?) because she liked dancing so much, and in her books, "you couldn't dance after you got married."
Long after she was dead, I asked my Aunt Hadie (one of her daughters, then in her 80's) about her parents separation. "It was because," she said, "of Papa's drinking." She paused then, and in a lowered voice, as though she shouldn't be saying this, added: "Mama once told me that Papa could never keep anything. He not only drank too much, but would loan money to anybody who wanted it. He was so generous, she said, that he would lend out his ass hole and shit out his ear."
I still can't believe Grandmother said that! But neither can I imagine Aunt Hadie making it up.
"John Cloud had one black eye and one blue eye, never wore glasses, could see to shoot a squirrel out of those tall pine trees, when he was 114 years old, I think." Mollie Cloud Elkins, his granddaughter.
Actually John died in 1840 when he was nearing 100, but he must have been a truly colorful character, an ancestor I fancy I would have enjoyed and admired. Fascinating facts and guesses about his life include: He was born on February 5, 1740, some say in Edinburgh, Scotland, and that his mother was a "French Lady" whom his father, William, married on a return visit to Europe around 1739. They reportedly brought John to America, landed at Jamestown, Va., and settled on Cherokee Strip (or Pond), N.C. (He later attested that he was born on New Light Creek, N.C.)
He is known to have fought in the Revolutionary War in Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida. According to family tradition, he also fought as an English soldier under General Wolfe at the siege of Quebec, and kept as a souvenir a piece of the rock on which the general died after his victory over the French. They say too that he fought at Bunker Hill and that his commission was signed by General George Washington.
After the Revolutionary War, he broke with the strong Cloud Family Quaker tradition in America, and married a full-blood Cherokee Indian "Princess" named Elizabeth Lacy, by the Cumberland River in Kentucky. Then in the early 1800's, with four young sons including my gggrandfather-to-be, Noah Cloud, and several daughters, they pioneered their way to Louisiana via Mississippi, Arkansas, and Texas. His ggranddaughter, my grandmother Delilah Cloud, wrote this history: The family "came by river to Vixburg, did not like there, came on to Natches, from there to Alexandria, La., did not like there, on to Texas, did not like there, on to Ark did not like, down to Monroe, La., lived there a no of years." She also wrote, "there were 4 boys and 4 girls of the Clouds, vast heards of cattle all over the woods, made a cheese each day the Negro Cris would hitch a wagon and go to Alexandria to sell cheese, hides, etc."
In later life John lived with his son, Noah, near Cloud Crossing on Saline Creek and
died four days before his 100th birthday. He is buried south of Gansville, La. on the old
Cloud home-site (Sec. 10, T13N, R4), his tombstone noting him as the only Revolutionary
War Soldier buried in present day Winn Parish.
Gideon Evans (1783-1873), my great-grandfather's older brother, died of pneumonia after
"in true Evans spirit, at the age of 90, undeterred by a rare accumulation of snow,
he rode his horse up to visit daughter Cynthia Plunkett (about 15 miles)." He had
been a Captain in the Civil War, a Justice of Peace, Justice of the Quorum, and member of
the South Carolina State House of Representatives. His land holdings along the South
Edisto River exceeded 20,000 acres. (R. Maxcy Foxworth, Jr.; Rt 2, Box 685; Marion, SC
In addition to my European roots, I am, as best I can now tell, 1/16 Indian--1/32 Cherokee and 1/32 Choctaw. My Indian blood is from my father's side of the family. One of his great-grandfathers, John Cloud (admired above), married a Cherokee Indian named Elizabeth Lacy. Another of his great-grandfathers, Nathaniel Folsom, married a Choctaw Indian named Ai-Ne-Chi-Hoyo. Elizabeth Lacy was the mother of his grandfather, Noah Cloud, Sr., while Ai-Ne-Chi-Hoyo was the mother of his grandmother, Delitia Delilah Folsom, after whom his mother was named.
This means that two of his mother's four grandparents were ˝ Indian (Cherokee and Choctaw), making his grandfather, Noah Cloud, Sr. also ˝ Indian. Therefore his mother, Delilah Cloud, was 1/4 Indian, making my father, John Owen Evans, 1/8 Indian.
Finally then, I, having ˝ of my father's genes and ˝ of my mother''s genes, am
consequently 1/16 Indian--a mixture of Cherokee and Choctaw, along with other known
English, Irish, & Welsh blood (plus who knows what all else?).
Among my gggrandmother Delilah Folsum's 23 brothers and sisters, many were notable both in and out of the Indian Nations. Col. David Folsom, an older brother born in 1791 at Pigeon Roost, MS, commanded one of the emigration parties to the West, and was elected National Chief under the ballot system, the first to enjoy that distinction. He was noted as "more zealous and successful than any other public man of his race in advocating and advancing the cause of education and Christianity. He is considered the most outstanding figure among the Indian Folsoms."
The inscription on his headstone in the old Fort Towson Cemetery reads: "To the memory of Colonel David Folsom, the first Republican Chief of the Choctaw Nation. The promoter of industry, education, religion and morality, was born January 25, 1791, and departed this life September 24, 1847. Aged 56 years and 8 months. ''He being dead yet speaketh.''"
Among David's 13 children were one medical doctor, a Circuit Judge for 20 yrs, and a
Colonel in the Civil War in the 2nd Choctaw Regiment Calvary.
One of Delilah's nephews, Peter Pitchlynn, married her sister Rhoda Folsum, and was elected as another Choctaw Chief in 1860. He served for many years in Washington as a representative of the Choctaw Nations and was painted by artist George Catlin.
Peter's Indian name was Ha-tchoc-tuck-nee ("Snapping Turtle"). He went to school in Tennessee, first to Columbia Academy, and then to Nashville University. He returned to manage a plantation "on the outskirts of a beautiful prairie to which his name was given --The Pitchlynn Prairies, consisting of 600 acres of land which he farmed with 100 slaves."
"His career as a Choctaw citizen was truly remarkable, and but few men in the history of America were so universally loved as he was." Charles Dickens met Pitchlynn on a steamboat in the Ohio River in 1842, and gives an account of the interview in his American Notes. He describes him as a handsome man, with black hair, aquiline nose, broad cheek-bones, sunburnt complexion, and bright, keen, dark, piercing eyes.
After Peter's election as Principal Chief, he went to Washington many times "to protect the interests of his tribesmen. During the Civil War his sympathies were with the North, but three of his sons served the Confederacy. In 1865 he returned to Washington where he remained as the agent of his people until his death in 1881." He is buried in the Congressional Cemetery, Washington, D.C.
Another of Delila''s brothers, Israel, 6 years her senior, went to a mission school in
Cornwall, Conn. He became a Presbyterian minister who "in strength of faith, ardor of
hope, and zealous devotion to the cause of mans Redeemer, and unwearied labor for
the salvation of souls, had few equals in any age...He always gave one tenth of his annual
income to the church, and in his will left on tenth of his property to the church to which
he was attached. His 13 children included a medical doctor and a Captain in the Civil
ISAAC, JERRY, GEORGE, AND JOHN FOLSOM
Her brother, Isaac, was a Colonel for the Confederacy in the Civil War. Brother Jerry also attended the mission school in Cornwall, Conn., along with Israel. Brother George was a "Cumberland Presbyterian Preacher, and was the only Indian black-smith by trade the Indians have any record of." Her brother John also became a Cumberland Presbyterian Preacher.
One of her first cousins, Joseph Pitchlynn, graduated from Dartmouth in 1854 and became a teacher among his people. He wrote to the Rev. Jacob Chapman, of Exeter, N.H. that he was 1/4 white, 3/4 Choctaw, and generally passed for full blood. He married a Seneca Indian. Another first cousin, Peter Folsom, also had two wives, "but after being converted to religion he remarried. He was the first Choctaw who united with a Baptist Church, in 1829. He became a Baptist minister, established a number of churches, and developed and trained excellent pastors for them all. He was a prominent man in the councils and national affairs, and was often a delegate to Washington."
Cousin Alfred Folsom, educated at Armstrong Academy, served as First Lieutenant in the
Chickasaw Battalion during the Civil War, and was later elected representative in
Oklahoma. Cousin Julius Folsom was educated in Glastonbury Seminary, Conn. In 1861 he
"joined Green Thompsons Command of Choctaws and Chickasaws, and rendered
valiant service during the war throughout Indian Territory, Missouri and Texas."
After the war he "was Representative of Blue County, and appointed by the Council to
act as secretary for the commission sent out to negotiate a treaty of peace with the wild
Indian tribes. In 1886 he was one of six delegates from the Choctaw nation to confer with
the Five Civilized Tribes as to advisability of selling Oklahoma to the government. In
that same year he was elected Judge of Atoka County, and evinced great executive
ability as leader and statesman.'"
Many in our family have served their country in some of our nations wars. Among them were:
My ggggrandfather, John Cloud served in the South Carolina Militia during Revolutionary War from 1776-78. He is the only known Revolutionary War veteran buried in present day Winn Parish, Louisiana. I have a picture of his grave with a marker put up by the Daughters Of The American Revolution. During his various tours of duty he fought both against the British as well as Indians in Georgia.
According to family tradition, he also fought as an English soldier under General Wolfe at the siege of Quebec, and kept as a souvenir a piece of the rock on which the general died after his victory over the French. The family also says that he fought at Bunker Hill and that his commission was signed by General George Washington. After his death the commission, they say, passed into the hands of his son Noah, who eventually gave it to the heirs of his sister, Annie Cloud Villars, then living in Robeline, La. It is also said that he later fought with his son Jeremiah Cloud in the Battle of New Orleans in 1812. (I have not been able to confirm any of these latter stories, but they do make for interesting family tales, true or not.)
Traditional data not yet supported by war records also says that these other
ggggrandfathers served in the Revolutionary War: Hugh Reed; John Wheeler, Sr.; William
A distant cousin, Daniel William Cloud, said to be a nephew on my "Big John" Cloud, was born in Kentucky in 1814. He was a young lawyer (some have said he was practicing in Natchitoches) when he heard and heeded the call to join Davy Crockett's Tennessee Volunteers. Perhaps he was with Crockett when he met with Sam Houston at the Prothro Mansion in St. Maurice, La, in the Fall of 1835 (when Davy Crockett also went hunting with John Cloud), on their way to Texas.
In December of that year he wrote back to his brother in Kentucky: If we succeed, the country is ours, it is immense in extent and fertile in its soil and will amply reward all our toils. If we fail, death is the cause of liberty and humanity is not cause for shuddering. Our rifles are by our sides and choice guns they are; we know what awaits us and are prepared to meet it.
Could he have known he was to die along with Davy Crockett and all the other brave
volunteers at the Alamo on that fateful day in March, 1836? Later epitaphs described
Daniel Cloud as "a most intrepid soldier" who "died fighting like a wounded
JOHN CALHOUN EVANS
Several of my gggrandfathers served in the Civil War, all on the side of the South. John Calhoun Evans was a private in the Confederate Army serving in Company J, 2nd Regiment Artillery, of the South Carolina Volunteers. On June 28, 1862, he received a New Testament (American Bible Society, 1858 version), which I now have in my possession. This inscription, signed by J.C. Evans is in front: May the rose of happiness/Ever bloom in the /garden of thy destiny/May you never now sorrow/but may your life flow/as freely as the lilly/that grows in the/Garden of Eadon/Is the constant/wish of your friend/ J.C. Evans. In the back is this note: May the roses of happiness/ever bloom in the garden/of thy destiny, signed "Your Cousin, Mittie Corley."
In 1864 he was stationed at Fort Johnson, S.C., and on Feb 14, he sent a Valentine to Florence Levicy Fickling (later to become my gggrandmother) with this poem beginning: "It is not that my lot is low/ That bids this silent tear to flow/ It is not grief that bids me moan/ It is that I am all alone. The autumn leaf is dear? and dead/ It floats upon the waters bed/ I would not be a leaf to die/ Without recording Sorrow's Sigh. The woods and winds with sudden wail/ Tell all the same unvaried tale/ I've none to Smile, when I am free/ Or when I sigh, to sigh with me. Yet in my dreams, a form I view/ That thinks on me, and loves me too/ I start - and when the vision's flown/ I weep, that I am all alone. Signed, Respectfully your Devoted Valentine...P.S. Please write soon and oblige your famly. I am pleased to have this Valentine also.
Another poem undated but appears to be about this time: May your life flow as free as the lilly that grows in the garden of Eadon/ And may you never know sorrow but may sweet joys and pleasant dreams Ever hover over thy brow is the wish of J.C./ Fair the Well/ (I had to borry ink to back my letter.
On Sept. 8, 1864, he wrote again from James Island, Batry Zero, to Florence Levicy Fickling. Here are excerpts: James Island is a dull place but not with standing I prefer it before going to Virginia. I am sorry to see that so many of our brave boys have fallen in those last fights but alas it is nothing more than we can expect at a time of war like the present. What a sad but glorious cause. I think the cause worth the sacrifice....I feel pretty surtan that the war will close in the course of 6 months more....it is getting so very fashionable to be marrying at this time but do not expect I could stand any hand as I have been away so long and got so far behind hand with the Girls and expect soon to hear of you and Miss Lizzie being going to marry, but if so you must be shure and ask me to your weding and will come home if I af to run the Block....the Yanks continue shell the City of Sumpter and our difenst works but little affect. Sumpter is Steel a living Monument to the world with her Banners flying in defyance to the Vandals although these months She has had living streams of fire poured up on her walls....Yours as Ever Lovingly, Fair the Well.
He wrote again on October 8, 1864. Thankfully Florence saved his letters so that I can still have them today. Excerpts: ...I received yours of the 18. You can not imagine the pleasure that It afforded me on the reception...On yesterday we last a man. It was Sam Lee. He dide of brain affection dide in Horsepittle on the Island. Also we losst another member last Week. It was John Marchant he was detached in citty and dide with yellow fever. his wife also di'd a few hours before he did. the fever is verry bad over thare. I heard Col. Fedrick say that 9 out of 10 dies that takes it...We are all stopt from going over to citty not Even our Mail Boy not allowd to go. the mail is sent over to us.... We have no news on the Island. It is one of the dullest places I ever saw. I wod of been so glad to been at the Association but could not make the trip without running away and I do not approve of that. you must tell me all about it and if you say my Sweetheart thare and whose the next wedding is going to bee as it is fassionable it looks like all the Girls will marry before the War closes. You must be shure and give me a tickett to your wedding. I think I wold run the Block under such surcumstances...To day we are going to bee reviewed by General Hardee...every fellow is flying around preparing...I am lisning for good news from Generl Hood...he has gone to the ? of Shurman and taken the Rail Road. I think the war will End some time next year and If we are every whipt we will whip our Selves by the men staying out of Survis. I do not know if you can read this my ink is so bad. I must close wright soon, yours truly. I will commit your letters to the flames to rest in ashes ples do the same. J.C. (Obviously, she did not, as these letters were found after her death.)
John Calhoun Evans' youngest sister wrote that her brother ...came home in the spring of 65 limping from the wound and gave me this Ball. He was my only Brother. He was the oldest child of my parents, a family of 7 children and I the youngest and I am the only one now living this 1924. Signed Nancy Evans Peterson. This note was with a "minnie ball" which she said passed through John C. Evans thigh during the Confederate Ware.
I have this note and minnie ball framed and hanging on my study wall--with obvious
JOHN FREDERICK GRAY
John Frederick Gray, another gggrandfather on my mother's side of the family, enlisted in the Confederate Army on Jan 16, 1863, at Monroe, La. for period of "3 yrs or the war." He served as a private in Company G, 28th Regiment of the Louisiana Volunteers. On April 27 of that year he was captured as a prisoner of war at Bayou Teche, Louisiana. He was paroled at Port Hudson on May 11, 1863, after serving in Mouton's Brigade.
A book on Confederate Soldiers in the Louisiana State Archives lists: Gray, John F, Pvt. Co. G, 28th (Gray's) La Inf. En. Jan. 16, 1863, Monroe, La. Roll for Jan and Fed 1863, Present. Transfd to this Co. Feb. 4, 1863. Federal Rolls of Prisoners of War, Captured Bayou Teche, La., April 14, 1863. Paroled Port Hudson, La. May 11, 1863. Forwd to New Orleans, La., to be exchanged. Roll for July and Aug, 1863, Absent on parole.
He then returned to his family of three in Bienville Parish where his son, John
Frederick, Jr. was born in July of the next year. My grandmother, Nina Ann Gray, was the
youngest daughter of his second wife, Ann Smedley Duty, born 15 years later. Most of the
family members are buried in the Bear Creek Cemetery near Bryceland, La., where they
lived. I am pleased to have a large tattered photograph of white-bearded John Frederick
Gray on the wall of my study.
NOAH CLOUD, JR.
Noah Cloud, Jr. joined the Confederate Army on May 8th, 1862, with his friends, Columbus Hines and Samuel Brewton. The Headquarters of the La. Recruiting Office was where the Old Salt Works at Goldonna are now. His two friends later married his sisters, Ann and Mary.
A copy of his enlistment papers notes that he, "aged nineteen, voluntarily enlisted as a Soldier in the Army of the Confederate States of America, for the period of three years or THE WAR." He signed: "I do solemnly swear, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Confederate States of America, and that I will serve them honestly and faithfully against all their enemies or opposers whomsoever." The Examining Surgeon certifies that "I have minutely inspected the Soldier previously to his enlistment, and that he was entirely sober when enlisted; that to the best of my judgment and belief, he is of lawful age...The soldier has hazle eyes, aubern hair, fair (or blond?) complexion, is six feet, 1 1/2 inches high."
Noah received "FIFTY DOLLARS, being by way of bounty, for Enlisting in the Army of the Confederate States for three years or THE WAR. (SIGNED TRIPLICATES)." He is then listed as "N. Cloud, Pvt. Co A, 30 Regt, La."
Union Army Prisoner of War Records show that he was surrendered at New Orleans, by General E.K. Smith, C.S.A., to Maj. Gen. E.R.S. Canby, U.S.A., May 26, 1865, and was paroled from the Confederate Army on June 10th, 1865, at Natchitoches, LA. RECORDS OF LOUISIANA CONFEDERATE SOLDIERS, & LOUISIANA CONFEDERATE COMMANDS, VOL II, notes: "Cloud, Noah, Jr. Pvt. Co. A, 28th (Gray's) La.; Infty. En. May 8th, 1862, Monroe, LA.' Paroled at Natchitoches La, June 10th, 1865. Res. Nat. Par. La."
Noah then returned home, where he met and married 16 year old Mary Izora (Icy) Smith on May 3 of the following year.
JAMES JASPER COKER
Another of my ggrandfather's on my mother's side, James Jasper Coker, enlisted in the Confederate Army at Montgomery, Ala. for 12 months, on March 22, 1861. He was a Private in Company G, 1 Regiment, Alabama Infantry. He was present on Muster Rolls of July & August, Aug 30 -Oct. 31, Nov & Dec, 1861. "Term of enlistment extended two years, $50.00 bounty due Jan 14, 1862.
In January of 1862 he was "on furlough to his residence." Then, on April 8 of that year he was "captured at Island No 10." (Then in Co. D). Later, in 1864, James went into the Calvary. He was wounded on July 21, 1864, and captured at Port Hudson. He was paroled as Prisoner of War on June 13, 1865, from Talladega, Alabama, listed as "Pvt. Co B, 1 Regt. Ala."
Five years later he married Vivian (Viola) Annie Davis on June 26 in Millerville, Ala. They went to New Orleans on their honeymoon and sailed down the Mississippi River on a water wheel boat.
Relatives in World War I included: Sovern Reese Evans who died at age 22 at Camp Pike, Arkansas, in 1918. Freddie Herman Evans died in the Navy.
Several of my uncles served in this war: Hansford Herman Evans, one of my favorite uncles (he brought me matchfolders from all over the world), was in the Seabees.
JOE BRUCE EVANS
I was in the Quartermaster Corp of the US Army during the Korean "Conflict"from 1952-54. I had been in the ROTC at LSU, while studying Petroleum Engineering, and was due to be drafted in September. In hopes of remaining state-side, I enlisted as a Private rather than chancing being a Second Lieutenant. On the side of my safety interests, if not my patriotism, I succeeded. At a Petroleum Analysis School at Caven Point, Jersey City, I served as an instructor in chemical analysis in addition to analyzing samples of captured petroleum products. Mostly I had fun going to Broadway Plays in NYC, courtesy of the USO.
Our first daughter, Melisa, was born on Staten Island. When we later took her back at age 4 for a visit to NY she stared at the Empire State Building and said, "I came from a pretty big place." Indeed she did!
I suppose every family closet must have some, but it is always surprising to discover
them in your own. Usually you must happen on them on your own, as family members are
always reluctant to let them into the light, even when you ask directly. I have found some
of ours from distant relatives who were more willing to tell about my closer ancestors
than were those who must surely have known. For example:
I have spent countless hours researching for details about the lives of my direct ancestors, including interviewing every know relative I could find. I thought I knew about all there was to know about my great grandfathers until I got in touch, via the internet, with a distant cousin, James Brewton, living in California. He was descended from my great grandfather's younger sister, Ann Cloud, and had lots of information about her and his ancestors, including this little tid bit about her older brother. I am certain my grandmother and many others whom I had known personally knew about it, but in all their sharing of information none of them ever mentioned that their father had once been in the state penitentiary.
Here are the facts I was able to find and later confirm from my newly-found cousin:
In the Spring of 1887, my great grandfather, Noah Cloud, Jr., was tried and convicted of arson for burning Jabob's gin, then owned by Noah's business partner, L.G. Barron. He was sentenced to seven years hard labor in the penitentiary. He was 45 years old at the time, with 10 children including my grandmother, ranging in age from one to twenty. His second wife, then only 22 years old and with 8 step-children, had recently given birth to her second child. The family was not rich by any stretch of the imagination, so I can only imagine the threat of losing the main bread-winner, not to mention the humiliation associated with "daddy being put in the penn." The extent of the latter is probably evidenced by the fact that no one in my direct family ever told me of the event. When I later asked some who were still alive, they too denied ever knowing about it.
Anyway, in late June of that year, Noah Cloud, Jr., as state records confirm, was incarcerated in the Penitentiary. Little is known about the actual arson event, but on the night that the gin burned there were apparently a number of people with Noah, who left and went to Texas. When they finally returned, sympathy must have been running high for his poor family left in difficult circumstances by the loss of their father and husband.
Anyway, after they found out what had happened, several of them got together and petitioned the governor of the state for his release. I was able to obtain a copy of their petition: "To His Excellency Gov. L.D. McEvery and the Hon. Board of Pardon..." It goes on to note: "Owing to the kindly feeling we entertain for his large and helpless family and said Cloud, his previous good character and conduct in our midst as a citizen, and his physical inability and capacity to withstand and endure hard labor, We earnestly request, urge and pray for your kind consideration in his behalf and appeal to your feelings of humanity to grant said Cloud a pardon and his freedom..."
Others who signed attached affidavits testifying to Noah's good character and the needs of his large family included: Miles O. Geneter, W. E. Walker, Robert R. Rushing, Mrs. Martha H. Ingram, G.M. Walker, and W.J. Rushing. In Mr. G.M. Walker's affidavit he testified that on the day after Mr. Cloud was tried he had a conversation with Mr. Barron: "I called Barron aside down the street towards the River alone. I remarked to Barron that I suppose that Jeff Rushing and Ike Rushing will be arrested this morning (apparently he thought they were in on the burning)...Barron says to me 'tell the boys not to fear that at all. They can't hurt them. Spell Grietett? killed that Negro (who was apparently to testify against them) and I told them. So you tell them boys they can't hurt them. If I had run from this thing I would be right now where Cloud is. I came up and faced it like a man. That worked Cloud in and let me out. Cloud is innocent...
In another affidavit, Anthony D. Livingston, testified that he was himself in jail at Natchitoches at the time and that he had heard another man, H. Hill, tell that Barron had contracted with him to burn the gin, and that "Noah Cloud was not guilty...and that Noah Cloud knew nothing about the burning until it was over." He said that "after due deliberation he declined the offer that he had first accepted," and that "Barron had agreed to pay him the same amount if the said Hill would keep his mouth shut." He also testified that "L.G. Barron's wife and a Negro woman on Barron's place was the parties that did the burning."
These affidavits on record in Natchitoches from September through December, 1887, were
apparently successful and Noah was pardoned after spending a year in prison. In the 113
years since, perhaps family shame has faded enough to now let this skeleton out of the
Noah Nelson Cloud, one of my grandmother's younger brothers, a son of Noah Cloud, Jr., committed suicide. No one ever told me this either; I found out only by discovering an old newspaper clipping in some family records.
Noah Nelson Cloud came to Alexandria from DeSoto Parish about 1914 and operated a saloon until prohibition. He committed suicide in the Alexandria parish jail after killing Sheppard Anderson, a Negro, while under charge of murder. He cut his own throat after incarceration. In addition he had a stab womb just above the heart. The newspaper article was headed: CLOUD DIED OF WOUND: Cut His Throat With Pocket Knife After Shooting and Killing Negro.
Other bits of family information fascinate me, yet dont seem to fit my easier categories; so I call them: Tid-bits.
My ggggrandfather, Nathaniel Folsum, married two Indian Princesses at the same time and had 24 children by them, one of which was my gggradmother, Delilah Folsum, after whom my grandmother whom I loved so much was named.
His grandson, Noah Cloud, Jr., whose grave I "discovered," thus beginning my
fascination with genealogy, had 8 children by his first wife. When his second wife died
(both were buried beside him) two weeks after giving birth to their ninth child, my
grandmother was then nursing her third child, Hansford Evans. I am told she "went and
picked up her baby step-sister and nursed her also until other arrangements could be
Psychology became my second profession years later, but perhaps I inherited the interest from my grandmother who practiced it before it became fashionable. She once told my mother that she knew how to handle my stubborn grandpa who would "never do what she wanted him to." She said, "When I want the spring garden planted by the potato house rather than across the road by the barn, I just tell him I want it across the road this year. Then he plows it where I want it to be."
So far as I know reverse psychology hadnt been invented at that time.
Which also reminds me of what grandma told her boys when they wanted to buy her a Delco
and refrigerator. She had always kept her milk in the spring or well to keep it cool, her
meat in the smokehouse, etc., and saw no need to change to these new gadgets.
Her sons tried to convince her by explaining that the electric refrigerator would
help prevent germs. She reportedly replied, I dont believe in the
germ theory. Now how can you argue with that?
Many of my direct ancestors were slave owners. The 1860 Slave Census of Bienville Parish shows my ggrandfather, John Frederick Gray, with 10 slaves. His relatives, Henry Gray, had 52; R.F. Gray, 21; and Annie Gray, owned 15.
Gggrandfather William Johnson Fickling became a Baptist preacher. He, with 1 slave, came to Barnwell District, South Carolina where and he clerked in a store, met and married my gggrandmother, Elizabeth Jane Reed, on Valentine's Day, Feb. 14, 1824.
Gggrandfather Noah Cloud also had a number of slaves in Natchitoches Parish. He was apparently negotiating for slaves from Mississippi. In a letter from his wife's nephew, Choctaw Indian, Peter Pitchlynn, Peter writes: "In your letter to Israel Folsom (another of Delilah's brothers), you say you wish to purchase some Negroes. We have none among us that we could share. Probably your best chance would be to write on to... (part missing)...but Negroes are...very high in Mississippi from the last account I had from there. If you think proper to write to her, you can direct your letter to Plymouth, Mississippi. If there is chance of buying cattle and sheep cheap in your section of the country I.....(end missing)" (Peter himself, in later times, was said to have had 100 slaves.)
After Noah Sr. died and Noah Jr. had been living at Cloud's Crossing on Black Lake for about 2 years, according to family lore, "Noah saw a cloud of dust down the road. The slaves of his father, Noah Sr. had finally followed him from the old place. He took them in and built them cabins on the lake. One, who drove the ox team to Campti, was known as Uncle Dink. When he was over 100 years old his picture and an article about him were in the Natchitoches paper. He was white haired and sitting on the porch of his cabin. (I have a copy of this photo in my possession.)
When Noah Sr.'s younger brother William Cloud died in Bienville Parish in 1863 an
appraisal of his estate included these 12 slaves along with their appraised values:
"Sandford a man of dark complexion aged 28: 1500.00; Charles, age 26: 1200; Mariah a
woman of yellow complexion, 35 years, her children Harris, 8, Lee 6, Jimmy 4, and Alfred
2, all of yellow complexion: 2400; Catharin a girl of yellow complexion 10 yrs: 600; Ann,
a woman of dark complexion age 25, and her two children, Criss a boy of dark complexion 6
yrs old and Mise, a boy of dark complexion 2 yrs: 1800."
My mother was the first to plant grass in the yard in Saline. Tradition till that time was to keep yards "clean" of all grass. I remember my grandmother sweeping her yard with a brush broom and pulling up any weeds or grasses which happened to sprout there. (Later I figured this tradition served to make it safer to walk in the yard where chickens, not house broken, also roamed freely. In a "clean" yard, you could see where you were stepping!)
Mother was chided, she said, by some of her friends for "doing something so
strange," but was later exonerated when other neighbors began to follow suit.
My first wife was reigning Miss Louisiana when I met her in a Calculus Class at LSU.
Later, after 3 children, we attended a reunion of former Miss America Contestants in
Atlantic City. My gene eyes were in hog heaven; but I was truly surprised that after a
couple of days even grand pulchritude has its real limits in powering male imagery. I have
rediscovered this often, since then; but this was my first glimpse at the parameters of
female beauty as an instigator of male excitement.
Our family history is full of events, such as, my great grandfather John Calhoun Evans leaving South Carolina with a new wife and small child to sail in search of new land in Louisiana, shortly after returning wounded from the Civil War. He literally carved their first house from native pines, which he had himself cut. My grandfather was born there, and I have photographed their peg-built log house that was still standing after 120 years.
This and many other such stories have led me to speculate about a possible Evans Trait that could either be seen as courage or just sheer stubbornness.
When I started Fellowship Church some 100 years after my first Evans ancestors came to Louisiana I was told by the District Missionary responsible for new churches that "it couldn't be done" as I envisioned it. A church based on affirmation of life rather than on beliefs and behavior "was impossible," he warned me.
When I retired from Fellowship 34 years later, the church disbanded; but many can testify that my stubborn? nerve was not without many personal successes and advances in spiritual growth over the years.
I have heard that the movement of a butterfly wing in the Amazon may effect the ecology
of the world. That's a bit much for my imagination, but I do know that there have been
many quirky events that changed the direction of my family history. Without them, I
wouldn't be here. Among them are:
When my grandfather, Martin Bunyan Evans, was 21, attending Mt Lebanon University in Bienville Parish, he fell in love with Belle Gardner, an apparently beautiful younger sister of Francis Rebecca Gardner, his older brother's wife. I still have many of their of their love letters which miraculously survived their love affair and my grandfather's later 53 year marriage to my grandmother, Delilah Cloud.
But I get ahead of myself: After an obviously tempestuous courtship Bunyan proposed marriage to Belle, she accepted, and the wedding was scheduled. But when it came time in the ceremony to produce the marriage license for signing, my grandfather confessed that he "had forgotten to bring it." Belle got so mad at him, I am told, that she stormed out and called off the wedding. Or so goes the story; and it would not be out of character with the revelations of their surviving love letters.
But Bunyan, as he was called, also had another love which lingered from an earlier time when he had fallen, at age 16, for his high school teacher at the Line School between Natchitoches and Bienville Parishes. She was older than he, obviously, but their love letters, also still in my possession, confirm how they too fell for one another over a longer period of time.
But back to my story: After his breakup with Belle and an extended courtship with Delilah, he again proposed marriage. Delilah too accepted, and the wedding was set at a friend's house on the road between Creston and Ashland on November 20, 1895. But in the midst of the ceremony--you guessed it!, Bunyan again confessed that he had "forgotten the license." This time, however, fate was on my side: Delilah (was it the school teacher in her?) refused to be deterred by one man's typically male resistance against "tying the knot." She said she would wait; Bunyan got on his horse, rode some 10 miles back to his house, got the license, and returned for the marriage ceremony; the rest, so to speak, is history.
At least a vital turning point in mine. If Delilah, unlike Belle, hadn't been willing
to wait, I--perish the thought, would never have been!
Eighty years later I was performing a marriage ceremony at a home on Highland Road in
Baton Rouge when the groom informed us that he had forgotten his license. Suddenly this
old story popped into my mind and, remembering my debt to history, I told the bride I
could wait if she could. Are all we men the same? Probably so.
One of my ggggrandmothers, Mary Clark Reed, was born, reared, and married in Ireland. After her mother's death, her father, Malcolm Clark, and her older brother Hugh emigrated to SC prior to the Revolution and settled on the South Edisto River in old Orangeburgh District. After clearing a farm, on which they established a general trading post, Malcolm continued his work as a surveyor for which he had been trained in college and for which there was great demand in the Colony in those days. He became very prosperous and influential, and was elected Justice of the Quorum of Orangeburgh District in 1774. In 1776 he was commissioned Justice by then President Rutledge.
But he still missed his daughter back in Ireland and wanted her to join him in America. Writing back and forth, he finally convinced Mary and her husband, Samuel Reed, to come to SC with their children. The ship on which Mary and her family made the voyage was to arrive in George Town, Virginia, in the spring of 1780. Malcolm left his son Hugh in charge of the trading post and traveled to Charles Town where he took passage to George Town to meet his daughter and son-in-law again and to see his grandchildren for the first time. Ordinarily the trip was a quiet voyage of one or two days' duration, but on this occasion a terrific gale swept the coast and the small sailing vessel sank at sea, apparently killing all on board.
Bewildered to learn of her father's death, and confronted with a hazardous trip through an unknown country torn by the Revolution and much civil strife, Mary and Samuel moved slowly and carefully and did not reach their father's homestead in Orangeburgh District for almost a year. Then, to their utter consternation they found the trading post in ruins and her brother, Hugh, dead. He had been murdered several months prior to their arrival by a band of marauders, some of whom, disguised as Indians, were thought by her father's friends to have been Tories.
At this point--and here another quirk of events enabled my existence, the young couple had but one thought in mind. They wanted desperately to take their children and return to beloved Ireland. There was nothing in America for them.
But as fate would have it, chaotic conditions existing following the Revolution made it impossible to get tickets for passage to return to Ireland at that time. They were forced to remain in the Colony and unwittingly set the stage for my eventual arrival in America.
In time they became greatly attached to South Carolina and prospered on their plantation on South Edisto, where they reared a family of 9 sons and daughters, one of whom was to become my gggrandfather, Hugh Reed.
But for want of a ticket....
(Credit to D. Graham Copeland, from MANY YEARS AFTER: A Bit Of History and Some Recollections of Bamberg, p 382, for his historical data.)
Whiskey, so far as I have ever heard or been taught, has always been a No-No in my family, certainly among all the relatives I have known well or heard talk about the subject. Most of my known ancestors have been fairly strict Baptists who viewed all forms of "alcoholic beverages" as "evil." Any type of "drinking" was wrong, and the stated position has been that "the bottle" is inherently dangerous; the devil is present in even a tiny sip which may easily lead to total destruction via sinful "imbibing." Or so I have heard.
So far as I know there has never been even one instance of accepted "social drinking" at any family gathering--at least until I came along. My grandfather Bill Coker is the only relative I knew who brought "drinking into the open," and he was said to "have a drinking problem" which today might today be diagnosed as alcoholism. Even before they moved him as an old man to a cabin on Lake Bistineau "because he drank so much," I found out that he and Mr. Posey often went fishing at night, where, according to Mr. Posey's son, Eurey, who later married my Aunt Hadie, they spent most of their time "drinking and telling stories" while the boys ran the lines. But he was the exception, not the rule.
Great-grandfather, J.C. Evans, himself an active Baptist from early youth (his father Martin Evans was a deacon in Old Salem Baptist Church in SC "all his life after he was grown"), advised his son Bunyan (my grandfather) while he was away at Mt. Lebanon College to "beware of the evils of drink..." As did my grandfather my son, and my father me.
But once I began to delve into genealogy and look around behind what was preached, the family stance on whiskey, which I had been taught, and the one I found practiced were often at odds with one another. My first clue was in an old receipt I discovered in a trunk; it was for goods my gggrandfather ordered from New Orleans.
Soon after John Calhoun Evans and his wife Florence arrived in Louisiana in 1870 from
SC, they began ordering supplies by boat on the Red River from New Orleans. The second
receipt I found, dated March 10, 1871, was for goods from "I.W. Arthur & Co., 16
Tchoupitoulas St, New Orleans, via the Steamer HODGE." Among the items, to
my surprise, knowing the family as I did till that time, was this: "1 keg of 5 gall
Whiskey, $8.75..." Another receipt from 4 days later also included "1 Keg
Whiskey." So much for tee-totalers!
Again in family tradition, his son Bunyan, as he had himself been advised, also "told his boys not to drink." But later his first son, Otto, my dad's oldest brother, operated a bar in Jonesboro, and I was told he also sold liquor "in prohibition days." My father passed the same message on to me, but while "exploring" as a boy, I found a bottle of whiskey hidden in the bottom of daddy's "wardrobe." We never talked about it, but I'm sure he knew I had found it.
After my father died, I once noticed a small "vase" in my mother's kitchen which I vaguely remembered seeing on the mantle at my grandmother's house as a youth visiting her on Sundays. It was a delicate container with a beautifully tapered, mauve colored top and a picture of a lovely lady painted on the side. My mother, then 83, confirmed that Delilah had always kept whiskey in it "for medicinal purposes." She told me that she got it after grandma died; somehow it had gotten broken, but "your daddy glued it back together for me." Again surprised at this affirmation of what seemed to me like contradictions in our family messages, I asked if I could have the vase; strangely, at the time, my mother refused.
Weeks later, on another visit, I noticed that the vase was missing on the shelf. I asked about it and my mother told me, "it had gotten broken." She opened a drawer, showed me all the pieces, and said, "Now you can have it." Somehow it seemed like a sort of family icon. I gladly took the pieces and later spent several hours carefully re-gluing them together again, as I supposed my father had done before. Did he too have mixed memories about this "vase" which was probably known in his childhood too?
Symbolic of conflicting family messages, it now sits under a protective glass dome on a shelf in my study, next to an old "traveling box" which my ggrandmother, Florence Fickling, brought from SC in 1870.
I, so far as I know, was the first in the family to openly affirm the pleasures of "drinking," ("in moderation," of course). Was I only rebelling? Or was it simply time, after several generations, to escalate family honesty about this ancient chemical? I can't yet answer this question, but I can affirm that my openness has at times gotten me in trouble totally unrelated to any alcoholic effects.
During the troubling days of the integration crisis in the South (early '60s), a baby sitter in my home told someone that she "had found beer in the preacher's refrigerator." This was, paradoxically, dangerous information about a Baptist minister during those times. While we who had signed a public document supporting calmness during school integration were all being investigated by the newly formed State Sovereignty Commission, any potentially discriminating data was useful against us. One preacher friend had been "put on notice" by his deacons after someone "caught him buying beer" at a Phil-A-Sac. The President of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary at that time was also "caught buying beer" while returning to New Orleans following a revival meeting where he had preached. This "damaging information" was used against him in his dismissal from the presidency of the seminary.
So, as hard as it seems now to recall the potential "scandal" of such trivia, when I too faced conflict in the church I pastored at the time, the "beer incident" was used against me.
Years later when I was telling my daughter Sandra about the events of the period (she was one of those being "baby-sitted" at the time), she innocently replied: "Wow, I didn't know it was a problem."
How times change!
And while I'm on the subject of Baptist sins, if "drinking" was bad in our family, "gambling" must have been even worse. By the time the traditions reached me, even playing marbles "for keeps" was bad. My parents and grandparents were definitely against gambling in all forms. Later, however, while researching older relatives in South Carolina I was lucky enough to find a distant cousin who let me dig in an attic trunk for old history. Among other treasures, I found letters that my great grandfather, J.C. Evans, first of my Evans relatives to come to Louisiana (in 1870), had written back to his youngest sister, Nancy Evans Peterson.
In several of them he railed fiercely against the Louisiana Lottery. On July 14, 1890, he had written: "...We are having excitement hear over the State Lottery. the 25 year charter is out. they are asking for 25 more to be voted on. The company has offered as a Lisence to the State one million a year or 25 millions for 25 years more. they are making clear about one million a mounth. They are a monster and will Ruin our State. Ready Ruined in politicks and will soon corupt the howl Government...Louisiana is in a wors fix than dewring the radicel rain. We have this lottery to fight. It is a monster now worth 500 milions....They will Eventualy Bye Every office in the State and put up a lottery or a gambling Hell in every town...In love your Brother as ever, J.C. Evans.
Given what I knew first hand from his legacy in the family, I was not surprised to read about his position on gambling; but imagine my amazement when I also found a Louisiana Lottery Ticket with the letter dated June 17, 1890.
Well, there are many other stories, some of which I know but do not yet dare to tell, and others that probably should never be told anyway. But I have enjoyed remembering and sharing these .
Bruce Evans, March, 2000