May 8, 2011
|On Friday April 29 we drove to Jacksonville, FL for the multi-class high school reunion. It was pronounced as the last for the Class of ’54, but who knows? For a class of about 700 a turnout of a couple dozen was certainly disappointing. I’m sure that a much bigger response would have resulted had the event been held in Miami where we actually went to school. Why Jacksonville you ask? The organizer, Laura, has moved to Jacksonville and previous reunions in Miami allegedly yielded poor attendance from those still living there. Nevertheless it was a grand time and a chance to have significant face-to-face time with some of my classmates.
Following breakfast on Sunday morning it was back to Atlanta to prepare for our departure to California. After some unexpected delay the driver to pull our rig west arrived on Tuesday afternoon. With a few storm clouds in sight we helped him hitch and watched our home head off into the sunset, so to speak. In celebration, Lynda, Debra, and I enjoyed a special bottle of Claret, a gift from friends Terry and Lucille from New Brunswick, CA when they visited us in January. It was a fitting repast prior to our farewell dinner with Rick and Deb.
By eight o’clock the next morning we were on the road to Columbus, MS, birthplace of my grandfather and great grandmother. On the way through Alabama we saw numerous power company trucks leaving the scene of the horrific tornados from the previous week. Apparently, they had completed their work restoring power. Even though we drove through the outskirts of Tuscaloosa we saw minimal damage en route.
As we did last August we are staying at Lake Lowndes State Park, a lovely park about five miles from Columbus. We had reserved the same site (#28) as before, but when we decided not to pull our home to California we switched to one of the lakefront cabin – you don’t get a refund when you cancel a reservation only a credit for a year. The cabin is spacious and completely equipped but more rustic than we would like. Nevertheless, the setting is gorgeous and it has been perfectly quiet without any neighbors, at least until the weekend.
This is our third, and probably last, visit to Columbus, a pleasant town that escaped the ravages of the Civil War and home to Tennessee Williams; thus there is an intact downtown with old buildings and many historic nineteenth century homes. As I probably mentioned before, the purpose of returning is to exhaust my genealogy research, at least as far as I care to take it.
The two highlights so far as I write this entry have been visiting the plantation home of my great, great Winston grandparents and connecting with the last of my relatives still in the area who live outside of nearby Starkville, home of Mississippi State University. This afternoon we will meet with cousin Wilder Winston to exchange information about the Winston – Soady connection.
The plantation home was built for William and Rebecca Winston in the early 1830s. After her death in 1866 this home and their city home in Columbus known as Magnolia Hill were willed to daughter Maria who married Dr. Cornelius Hardy. After Maria’s death both homes passed to the Hardy family. The plantation home became the home of Thomas Hardy and has been in the Hardy family ever since. It is located several miles outside of town in the midst of the Winston’s substantial land holdings where they grew cotton. It was also the home of up to 200 slaves until emancipation.
Shortly after our arrival in Columbus I located a Thomas Hardy who I presumed was a descendent of the aforementioned Thomas. So I called his home and left a message with his housekeeper. When he called back he started the conversation with, “Who are you and where are you?” After I explained he told me his son now lives at what became known as “The Hardy Home” and said he would call and ask if it was convenient for us to have a brief visit. Promptly he called back and suggested that we go out immediately, but couldn’t promise going inside. His daughter-in-law was in the midst of collecting and organizing items for the tornado victims of Smithville, MS.
Upon our arrival we were graciously greeted by Tom’s son Will and his wife Judy. Will was about to leave for his used car business in Starkville, but Judy gave us a tour of the downstairs and a brief history of the home. As you would expect it has been modified – from the six-room, two-story home of the Winston’s - over the years by different family members.
The original home had an unattached kitchen, as was common to reduce the risk of fire. In time the kitchen was put on logs and rolled up to the main house. Since the doorways did not exactly mesh, a two-foot enclosed “breezeway” was constructed to adapt the kitchen to the main house. It now serves as a small pantry.
I asked Judy if any of the former slave dwellings still existed. Two or three can still be seen from the Hardy-Billups Road.
Our visit with Wilder Winston and his wife Cecily produced a treasure trove of information. The vast majority of it was the work of his Aunt Louise Winston Pyron before her death. As the story goes her genealogy collection of documents and photographs was stored in a barn after her death by her stepson who had no interest in the subject, as you might imagine. Unfortunately, at some point the roof leaked and a portion of her work was destroyed. Fortuitously, nephew Wilder saved several boxes that are now housed in a corner of his house. For a variety of reasons he has not yet undertaken the task to organize this family history treasure.
Luckily he was able to sort out some relevant pictures and documents for me before our arrival. Surprisingly, quite a few pertain to the Soadys, including a 1942 photo of my grandparents, Robert and Blanche. There are also some pictures of my cousin, Tony Bell’s family. As you may recall we recently visited Tony and his family in Columbia, SC.
Besides the photographs another gold nugget is the large volume entitled, “The Winstons of Hanover County, Virginia and Related Families” that goes back to 1666 and documents the linkages with James and Dolley Madison, Patrick Henry, etc. Wilder bought one of the last copies from the author’s wife. I just now got off the phone with her hoping she had more, but unfortunately there are none. There must be one for sale floating around somewhere. I realize everyone isn’t interested in my genealogy; however, it is amazing how connections over the Internet can happen when people blog a name. That is how cousins in New Zealand found me!
So Mother’s Day for me has been about entering data into Family Tree and getting photos copied. It is a busy final day here in Mississippi! For me (Lynda), I have enjoyed Tai Chi facing the lake and walking in this lovely park while Bob was slaving away. Of course ‘slaving away’ did include a few sport events on t.v. Tomorrow morning we’re on the road again. We’ll overnight in Texarkana and then make a short genealogy stop for Lynda in De Queen, AR before arriving in Oklahoma City on Tuesday or Wednesday.
We don’t think Lynda’s sister has read the blog recently since she has been under the weather. We think that as far as she and Bill know we will be parking our truck and rig in front of their house. Lynda has consciously tried to keep our recent events a secret, hoping for a surprise when we arrive in a Mercedes sans trailer. We’ll see if it works!
Oh yes, I almost forgot, our home arrived at Jojoba Hills Friday afternoon and is now parked on site 516. Hopefully everything will be working when we arrive at the end of the month. I keep remembering the question Ken and Martha asked, “What makes you think you won’t have problems when it’s parked?” So true!
Also the winning article about the fine work Billy, Chris, and David are doing in youth hockey is available online. If you haven’t already seen it log onto: Readers’ Choice: Crashing The Net Presidential-Style
That’s all for now and Happy Mothers Day for all you mothers out there.
P.S. Lynda again - I keep forgetting to stick this in somewhere and found it in my purse again. When I was car-pooling from Virginia to DC we always read license plates. Virginians are very creative and here are some I saw on our recent trip:
CAPFANS (This is David’s)
SMRTVET (on A Smart car)
TORTS (and a TORTS2)