Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Grandpa's in Jail?

Georgia was one of the first states to build a penitentiary to house their convicts and the first one was built in Milledgeville.  The reason this little fact is meaningful to me is that it is a reminder that in genealogy one never knows what one will find. In fact, if one looks far enough back they may find a convict (or two) resting comfortably on a branch of the family tree.  I found my great-grandfather (X3) living as a guest of the penitentiary from November 1, 1824 through January 25, 1826. At close to six feet tall he was a large man for the time and his crime was assault with intent to kill. The weapon of choice? A knife. This information perfectly illustrates why I love genealogy and why it is so valuable to me as a writer. There is a story here. Samuel had a daughter named Matilda, who was only three-years-old when he went to prison. Because she was the child of a convict Matilda was able to obtain land in the Georgia Land Lottery of 1827. Ironic, as family legend describes Samuel’s wife, Susannah, as being Cherokee, the very people from who the land was taken. Was this Cherokee wife the reason for the fight? Samuel fought with a knife. Hand to hand. He didn’t shoot someone in the back from long range. This was a personal, face to face confrontation. Who was the other man? What happened to him? We only know he lived because Samuel was not convicted of manslaughter. Samuel’s story does not end here. We know that in the 1840s he leaves Georgia and joins his extended family in Arkansas.  He matures, like most men do, and raises a family and farms the land. He dies at a good age and bequeaths  to his remaining children items valuable for the day: a feather bed, a couple of milk cows, some mules.  History is not made of events, it is made of stories. I love to find stories in unexpected places.  Next week I will be in Deadwoood, South Dakota. There will be a story waiting.  Peace -

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