Posts Tagged ‘SC’

The Breeler Field Cemetery

December 23, 2013

After taking a photograph of every.single.marker in Solomons Cemetery, we got back in the van and drove further along the lane to find Breeler Field.


Breeler Field is big, so only a few photos were taken for Reader Maureen, who is researching the Beckett family.





























And because Mama Florrie’s father was a Gant, I took a photo of the only Gant I saw, not knowing if/how this Gant fits into Mama Florrie’s family.

That’s Breeler Field. Easy to find, and full of stories.

In Search Of Transpine

November 23, 2013

Sugar’s ancestor was Colonel Alexander James Lawton.  He’s found several references to where the Colonel is referred to as “Alex”, like in the papers of Benjamin Spicer Stafford.  Every time we’ve talked about him, we’ve always called him Alexander James.  Like at the family reunions, the organizers divide the attendants up into groups depending what child of Joseph and Sarah Robert Lawton they descend from.  There’s only one other family that descends from Alexander James, and they descend through his youngest child, Edward Payson Lawton.  In the papers of Benjamin Spicer Stafford, he refers to this person as “Ned”.

I love this so much, this finding of these little facts that personalize these long-deceased people.  “Alex”.  “Ned”.  I. Love. This.

There are other references that we’ve found that refer to Transpine Plantation  being part of the larger Mulberry Grove Plantation.  I don’t know why one plantation would be part of another one.

Which brings us back to the enormous oak that we saw.  Live oaks mean something here.  Many times they define an allee, or lane, to a house, like a driveway.  A lone oak?  I don’t know specifically.  But it means that someone was there.  It brings a humanness to the spot.  We’ve seen one other oak that was bigger, and that’s the Angel Oak.

In some of his reference materials, Sugar saw where Alex Lawton had a small house, basically cabin sized, built for his mother Sarah Robert Lawton to live in during her later years, and it was built at Transpine.  The enormous oak we saw was next to a little house, and he wondered if that would be the location of Sarah’s house.

We wiggled all week in anticipation of going back to see the tree up close and to measure the house.


We drove past, and saw yet something else that we had missed in all our previous passes.



It’s less than 20 feet from the dirt lane.  What is it?


We wore our rubber boots because we have no idea what we might step into.



This building is all cattywampus. I told him not to go in there because it was going to fall down around his ears. I wouldn’t go in at the same time in case it collapsed. Somebody would need to be able to call 911.



To the right of the door.



To the left of the door. Perhaps this was an old store.


I’m leaning in the door at approximately the same angle as the left wall. This place is scaring the bejesus out of me.



The left side of the building.



Part of the support system holding up the front porch.

We walked along the left side of the building, and Sugar said, “Don’t step on that skull.”  I said “huh”, and looked down and saw that I was indeed stepping on a skull.  Just a skull, no skeleton.




The back wall has completely fallen away from the building. See the sunlight coming THROUGH the building?
My apologies for being to antsy to allow the camera to focus clearly before I made this shot.


I manned up, and skittered inside the building to get a detail of the wall support.



And when I turned, I saw a chimney suspended in the air.

I skittered back out, and we decide to get back in the van to head toward the enormous live oak.

But first.  The morning sun slants through the trees.  We are facing south, and there’s a half-allee of live oaks on our right.





Further along this lane is the enormous live oak.  I was still jittery about the ambiance at the old building, and I didn’t have my wits about me to remember to take a photo of the tree with a real-life frame-of-reference, like a person.


But see that tiny building to the left of the tree? That’s about 22′ wide by 34′ long.
Are you getting a sense of how big this tree is?





This long horizontal branch has broken away from the tree, although it is still attached.

We turn onto the field lane, which is between the house and the field, and stop to have a bite of early lunch.



That mass of greenery is the house.



This is a zoom shot of the previous view. See the walls of the house under all the greenery?




Sugar brought his machete because of all the vines. He’s chopping and whacking a path for us.




Dear God, that’s a widow-maker hanging over his head. I was as jumpy as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs, but he wasn’t worried.
















The house is not the right dimensions to be Sarah’s house at Transpine, but perhaps it was here once.  Regardless, Sugar named the live oak “TransOak”.

Then onward past what we believe to be the original location of the house at Mulberry Grove which was burned by Sherman.  There’s a lane which is marked No Trespassing, but the road map shows that it is a public road.

Yes, we did drive along it.  And took photos out the driver’s side window.  Some are zoomy, some are not.









The gate to the driveway to the house.



Further along the lane, we come to more fields.





Peanuts!  My father used to plant peanuts.

Sugar agreed to go again to the Lawton Cemetery so I could take some photos of headstones to confirm that this was indeed the Lawton Cemetery that Mama Florrie said it was.

And that’s another blog post.  (Spoiler:  she was right.)


Frieda Rauers Cunningham Swain, 1892-1974

October 26, 2013

All the conversations about Lawtons, and Cunninghams, and Rauers, caused Sugar to dredge up a memory.

There was a woman in his hometown who wasn’t seen very much.  Every small town, and certainly big ones, too, have people who keep to themselves.  So much so, that they became known as recluses.  (If I didn’t have to leave my spot on the couch, I’d be good with that.  I’m a recluse in training.)

Some recluses have become that way because of personal tragedy, or embarrassment, or painful shyness.  Sugar remembers that sometimes his mother, who was reclusive, would mention that she “saw Frieda today”.

Sugar and his mother didn’t talk very much, like lots of parents and children.  I don’t remember having very many real conversations with my parents.  Everything was understood and already said.

To me, for him to remember that his mother mentioned seeing Frieda was of some importance, some significance, in her appearing in public.  We wondered if we could find out more about her.  He found a bit about her husband in one of his books, and I went in search of her on the internet.

I found her on findagrave.    This meant we had to go to Bluffton.


Sugar grew up in Bluffton.  Yet he had never been to the Bluffton Cemetery, because his people were most recently from Savannah.  We had no idea where to start, so we parked along the drive into the cemetery, and wandered about.  I was happy that I had my rubber boots in the car, what with all the rain.

And somehow, Sugar wandered right up to her gravestone.  She shared it with her husband, William Moseley Swain.






And, as is my way, I circled around the plot taking photos.




It’s an old graveyard.  There are many nice trees and plantings.




Sugar saw some folks he knew.


Imogene Fripp Lowden



Enid Fripp Duncan



Kirk was a childhood friend of Sugar’s.




Harry Oliver “Ollie” Lowden, Jr.


Then I took a photo of this small headstone, just because.



And on the opposite side….


Gone to be an angel

I don’t know who Jane Hope is, but her headstone was all alone, so let’s remember her here.



The Van Duyn family had a bulb farm. Sugar remembers it.



Most of these plots are not fenced off.  The next one was, although overgrown, and I had to keep pushing branches out of the way in order to get the next photos.



The Martin family is an old name in this area.  And there’s Ole Yeller, faithfully waiting at yet another graveyard.




So it was a good outing.  We found what we were after, Sugar found some old friends, I found some interesting markers, and no one was arrested for trespassing.

Patience Taylor, Born 1868, Died December 11, 1917

October 2, 2013

A few posts ago, while looking for Colonel Lawton Cemetery, Sugar and I were at Bostick Cemetery in the area outside the fence.

And after we found Colonel Lawton Cemetery, about a week ago, I had the bright idea that I would start a new blog.  You see, I started browsing through the South Carolina Death Records on and found many, MANY death certificates for people that had no headstones in Colonel Lawton Cemetery.

That’s right, *no* markers of any kind.  Nothing physical to show any visitors that anyone was there except the depressions on the ground.

I decided to start a new blog just using the death certificates and/or the photos of the headstones.

Reader Sharon contributed the name “Certifiable Presence“.  LOVE the name.

Today I was scrolling through 1917 and found a death certificate for Patience Taylor in Bostick Cemetery, which rang a bell.  It turns out that I took a photo of her headstone, but didn’t transcribe it.

I have learned that if you don’t put the words out there, search engines cannot find you.  So in remembrance of Patience Taylor, here is her marker and death certificate.

Patience Taylor, wife of Stephen Taylor

Patience Taylor, wife of Stephen Taylor

Notice that the death date and her age on the headstone and the death date and her age on the death certificate do not match.

SouthCarolinaDeathRecords1821-1955 (63)

“Faithful to her trust,

Even unto Death”

The Citizen’s Free Library

September 26, 2013

When Sugar bought the grooming-and-boarding business two years ago, he signed a three-year lease on the building.  We considered that now that the lease is almost up, perhaps we should look at other properties, even though we don’t think that there will be anything available.

We looked at buildings that were for rent or sale in our little town.  We didn’t actually tour any, we just looked at the outside and considered if it was large enough and what renovations it would need.

One of the buildings was the old Coca-Cola building.


It was a patchwork-looking affairs, and had several additions to it.  It probably wouldn’t work, but we drove around the building anyway….

…and found the Citizen’s Free Library.



And because Sugar is a book collector, of sorts, we had to get out and take a look.



I didn’t even want to touch them.  They were dusty, and warped, and some were mildewed, and they smelled bad.




I said, “Oh, my gosh, this is just ridiculous.  Why are you looking at these?  These are just disgusting, and don’t even think of taking any of these books, and ohIhavetohavethisone.  It’s Sam Levinson!”




There were embroidery hoops, and old stuffed animals, and Yarn!


Sam Levinson wrote the first adult book I ever read.  I was probably in the fourth grade, and I was standing in front of the children’s section in the church library, trying to decide which book I was going to read – again – and the librarian said, “Let me show you this one.”  And she went to the next bookshelf (it was a very small library that had maybe four bookcases), and she pulled off Sam Levenson’s “Everything But Money”.  I protested that it would be too hard for me, and she said that it wouldn’t.  I was worried that I was going to get in trouble for reading a too-hard book, but I was taught to obey figures of authority, so I was stuck.

It was the best book ever.

And now, thanks to the Citizen’s Free Library, I have my very own Sam Levenson book, “In One Era and Out the Other”.


Thanks, Citizen’s Free Library!  No late fees!

Where Is Colonel Lawton Cemetery? (Part 3)

September 23, 2013

I stand corrected.

There is a marvelous book of cemeteries and the burial inscriptions.  I went to the local library today to take a look.

What I’m calling Colonel Lawton Cemetery is both right and wrong.  According to the cemetery book, Colonel Lawton Cemetery is the one on the left side.  That’s the overgrown one with some home-made headstones and unmarked depressions in the ground.  Murphy Cemetery is on the right.  It’s the well-kept, well-marked one.

But the death certificate for Wesley Eugene Murphy says that he is buried in Colonel Lawton Cemetery.  His headstone, linked to my finding his death certificate, was my first physical clue that confirmed that this was indeed the right cemetery.

It appears that over time the Murphy family was buried on one side, and the name gradually became known as Murphy Cemetery.  At least that’s the way it looks to me.

The inscriptions that the book gives for Colonel Lawton Cemetery are pretty much what we gathered yesterday.  The book indicates that there are many unmarked graves.

Reader Sharon says to call the new blog “Passing Through” or “Certifiable Presence”.

Now we need a subtitle for the heading.  Like “The documented burials in Colonel Lawton Cemetery”.  You get the idea.

Where Is Lawton Cemetery? In Which I Ask Miz Florrie

September 20, 2013

One day I’m at the Laundromat, and while I’m waiting for the clothes to dry, I call Mama Florrie to say hello.  She said, “When are you coming?”

When your mama calls, you should go.  I had the rest of the day off, and I stuttered in surprise that I could be there in two hours.

If you use to search for South Carolina Death Records, like I do, you can find some old certificates that show the deceased is buried in Lawton Cemetery or Col. Lawton’s Cemetery or Lawton Pl. Cemetery.

Where is that, exactly?  There’s no Lawton Cemetery on the map.  Don’t confuse it with Lawtonville Cemetery, which I’ve already written about.

Lawtonville is west of Estill.  It’s a well-kept cemetery, and seems to be predominantly white.  If there are black folks buried there, I don’t know about it.

There are several cemeteries in this area that are divided by race.  Black on one side of the highway, white on the other.  White inside the fence, black outside the fence.  The cemetery that I want to find is black.

So I asked Mama Florrie, in a little interview of sorts.

I had several people to ask her about, with the last names that were the same as her mother’s and father’s and husband’s families.  There were some people that she said she did not know.  I’m always puzzled by that for in my world it seems that she should know everyone and their dog in that little town.  I don’t know if it means that she knew them once but forgot them, or really just doesn’t know of them, like I didn’t know about a cousin in my little town because we are related so far back that we didn’t know of the connection until I found it earlier this year.

I asked her where Lawton Cemetery was.

She told me, and Lordy, I have a hard time understanding her.  She didn’t have her teeth in, and I don’t hear very well, plus she speaks with a lowcountry brogue that I can’t translate very well.

She said, in her low voice, “Yoo goo to tha foork in tha rood.”

YoursTruly:  “The fork in the road?  Where’s that?”

Mama:  “It’s ovuh there.”

YoursTruly:  “Goodman Road?”

Mama:  “Noo, not Goodman Road.  The foork in tha rood.”

YoursTruly:  “Where’s that?  Robertville?”

Mama (becoming exasperated):  “Nooo!  Not Rohbertville!”

I look to her daughter Rose for help.

Rose:  “Mama, what fork in the road?”

Mama (starting over):  “You goo tord Rohbertville, and turn at the foork in the road.”  Here she raised her left hand, and placed it near her right shoulder, as though she were preparing to say the pledge of allegiance by placing her left hand over her right shoulder.  The problem with this is that she was pointing north, and Robertville was south of where we were.

YoursTruly:  “Miz Florrie, I’m lost.  I don’t know a fork in the road.”

Mama:  “You goo too the foork in the rood, and turn there.  It’s between the house and the rood.”

YoursTruly:  “There’s a cemetery at Pleasant HIll where Rose and Miss Yvonne and Sugar and I went a few years ago, but that’s not Lawton land.”

Mama & Rose (excitedly):  “Yes, that’s it!”

YoursTruly:  “But that was Robert land.  It’s across from Black Swamp Plantation.”

Mama & Rose:  “No, that was Lawton land.”

YoursTruly:  “Okay.”

Rose:  “Mama, that house not there any more.  It was torn down.  Anna Marie used to live there.”

Mama:  “That’s right.”

(Note:  I have never seen a house on that property.  It must have been years and years ago, and according to some old records, it was where Henry Martyn Robert grew up.)

After a few more questions, I went on my way.  The cemetery in question just happened to be on my way home.  We’d had a lot of rain for days, and there was so much muck in the lane into the property that I had to turn back.  I was afraid Ole Yeller would get stuck, and there’s spotty cell phone reception.


Sugar and I decided to see for ourselves.

A few days later, we went on a mission.

We found the cemetery we’d been to before.  There’s no sign, and it appears to be on private property, but still, here we go.


Does anyone see anything wrong with this photo?  I knew that something was not right, but didn’t figure it out for a few more photos.



I have it on a “fish-eye” setting.  Someday perhaps, I will learn to check the setting before I start snapping photos.


Sugar was going along, very efficient-like, because he had other things he wanted to accomplish that day, like go to the Bostick Cemetery and go see Richard, who we heard bought a house.  An old house, but a house, nonetheless.



I’m muttering right about here, because I can’t figure out what is wrong with the camera.  The image looks completely wrong, and I still haven’t discovered that, once again, it’s the operator and not the equipment.



OK, now here we go.  Wrongs are righted.


There’s a family tradition that says that there’s a McPherson link to Miz Florrie’s family, but I haven’t seen proof of that.  Here’s a few McPhersons just because.









Now that I’ve gone back and looked at these photos again, I realize that I didn’t get any of the old headstones.  If I had gotten a name and a death date before 1955, I could go to and compare them to the actual death certificates and see where that burial place is.  But I didn’t, so I can’t, and I’ll need to go back.  I should do that right now, but other things are calling me, so perhaps I can go tomorrow.  But tomorrow is the 3rd Saturday, and Georgia Historical Society is open.  Decisions, decisions.

We managed to get out of that cemetery without seeing snakes or poison ivy, and we headed over to Bostick Cemetery.


A few years ago, Richard’s wife Wanda died.  There was no where to bury her.  I had never considered that that would be an issue, not having a place to go.  It seems that all the local cemeteries in that area were on private land, and you need permission to  bury someone there.

Richard secured a spot for her at the Bostick Cemetery, outside the fence.

The first time that we went to Bostick Cemetery, we were surprised to see that there was another burial area down a lane next to the cemetery, outside the fence.  We roamed around the area, and Sugar found a headstone dedicated to someone named Charles, a faithful servant of B. R. Bostick.  I got some good photos then, which were later lost in a computer meltdown, because at that time I didn’t back up anything.  The headstone for Charles seems to be the farthest headstone to the left, back in the left corner as you are facing the cemetery.  At the time, Sugar supposed that this was a black burial ground.

On another occasion, Mama Florrie told me that her mother Alice was buried at Bostick, but she didn’t know where.  Alice doesn’t have a headstone.



We pull into the lane at Bostick, and I stop the van to take a photo of the fenced cemetery.

Here's a photo of the plaque at the Bostick Gate.  I took this years ago, perhaps around 2008.  I'll have to check on that.

Here’s a photo of the plaque at the Bostick Gate. I took this years ago, perhaps around 2008. I’ll have to check on that.

Now we look left of the cemetery to little lane that leads to the area outside the fence.



When we get to the area outside the fence, we are surprised to see that someone has installed a chain link fence along the lane side.  Just one side is fenced, not the entire cemetery.  I park at the end of the chain link.  Something that strikes me odd is that the headstones face AWAY from the approach to the cemetery and the fence.  I believe for the most part they are facing east.

I start taking photos, and while I did not get all of the headstones, I got a great many that seemed relevant to Mama Florrie’s family.  Some are not relevant at all to me, but that’s perhaps because I don’t know of possible family connections.  It is said that everyone in the village is related, and I suppose that’s highly possible.




Here is the headstone for Charles.  It’s much more discolored than it was the last time I photographed it, and I can’t make out all the inscription.  I suppose I will have to go back when Sugar is not so twitchy, and do a rubbing.


















I rotated this image until the headstone appears upright and on a hillside. It’s not that way in real life.






I think this is Peter Eady.




This is Mama Florrie’s aunt Daisy who was married to William. There are no dates of birth or death on her marker. Perhaps no one knew.


And this is William, Mama Florrie’s uncle. She lived with him and Daisy after her grandmother died.



This name is obliterated.


A homemade marker for a child.


This is Davis Eady. Mama Florrie said his name was “David” not “Davis”, yet this is what his marker says. He’s listed as Davis on the census, so is this just a local pronounciation? I don’t know, either.






Sugar is not kicking this headstone. That’s his thoughtful pose in the background while he’s contemplating another marker. Often when I’m photographing headstones, and I later look at the images, he’s in the background. The photo thief that took my images from and posted them to as his own has some with Sugar and Mama Florrie’s daughter Rose in the background. I’d like to hear him explain who they are and how they got into “his” photos.


At another back corner is Richard’s wife Wanda.  The cemetery starts to slope away at this point into a swampy area.  I’m at the farthest point away from the van on a diagonal like across the cemetery.


This is Richard’s wife Wanda.








And when we get back to the van, there’s a most unusual insect on the gatepost.  I’ve never seen one like this.  He (She?) is very colorful and vibrant-looking.



So that’s our day in the cemeteries.  I can’t say as we solved anything.  We still don’t know where Lawton Cemetery is, or at least we can’t confirm that Mama Florrie is right, and really, why wouldn’t she be?

All the images that are imprinted with are posted to under Bostick Cemetery in Hampton County.  I created memorials for all of them except Calvin Eady, so I added his headstone photo to the existing memorial.

Where’s Lawton Cemetery?  Anyone?

I saw on that a person had added name to a cemetery named “Lawton”.  When I contacted that person to find out where the cemetery is, she gave me GPS coordinates which led me to an area way west of Garnett on Augusta Stagecoach Road.  Way, way, far away from the village, so who would choose to be buried out in the middle of nowhere?  I looked at the satellite images online and it doesn’t appear to be a graveyard.  When I contacted her again online for driving directions, she said that she had not been there, but hoped to find it when she got to SC again.

Oh no.  Don’t believe what you read on the internet, and don’t follow someone’s GPS coordinates off into the swamp.

Now where to look??


The Plantation Journal of Alexander James Lawton

September 17, 2013

As promised a few posts ago, here’s a transcription of relevant pages for you Lawton family researchers.  I know who you are, even when you’re not wearing the T-shirt…



June 15                 Began 4 hoeing

June 25                 Saw Cotton blossoms in both fields, red & white

July 9                     Began 5 hoeing –

July 26                   Began 6 hoeing –

Aug 7                     Finish’d 6th & last hoeing.  Planted 26

acres & made 11155 weight seed cotton &

sold it 505 $

May 19                 Planted ½ acre Rice made about 2 Bushels

June 6 & 7           Planted Peas in (faded)

Sept 13th              Had 742th Cotton p (faded)

Decr. 30                                Adaline, our (faded) was born 15 (faded)

2 Oclock in the (faded)  it was on (faded)

Bad Season this (faded)

Commenced work on Parsonage House, I am

to build it in a plain manner with shed to

it; the whole house & lumber to be completed

for 400 Dollars –

house 32 feet long –

18 feet wide

shed 12 feet wide

had fathers negroes Preston & Martin to work

on it; Christmas Carted Lumber –  They worked

in all put together 90 ½ days at 50 cents

per day amt. $45. 25/100



Feby. 14               I forgot to mention that on this day

my Brothers Joseph & Benjn. & Sister

Thirza Polhill set off with their

Families for the Mississippi Territory.

Oct. 28 & 29        Dug slips in, made three good Banks out

of 2 ½ Tasks they were very good.

Made out of the 27 acres planted as a

crop 12000 seed cotton & out of a piece

I got of W. A. Lawton 1000 more making

for my crop of cotton this year in all

13000 which I sold to Messrs R. Richardson & Co.

for Thos. D. Jaudon; on acct. noges.

Beverley bout. of him & at ten cents

when gin’d & pack’d amounting to about

three hundred & seventy five Dollars –

Nov. 1                   About this time dug Potatoes made Seven

good banks of Roots & three of slips-

Decr 24                 Finished picking cotton-


Jany 1                    This year I have agreed to put my hands

with my father & work in Co. at the follow-

ing Rates to wit.  I am to have five

shares in the crop & he to have nine count-

ing all the hands as fourteen – he is to (end of page)



Jan.y                      My Father & self plant together as last

year; we plant for 19 hands, & I draw

one third of everything; in other re-

spects our agreement as last year.  We

planted this year in due time the follow-

ing, to wit 60 acres corn, in Barn field

Brickkiln fields big hand 80 acres

Cotton – 50 of which is new ground, the

rest in grave yard field & field by

Washing Branch – 9 acres Rice-

10 acres Potatoes – in poor land  This

has been the worst year for making

crops, I have experienced since I have

been planting- I shall make but a

sorry crop; there was a very serious

drought and in the fall excessive rains;

on the 12 & 14th days of October had

a frost which stopt the growth of cotton.

On the 13 June I marched for a tour of

duty in Beaufort in a Military way:  to

command in the rank of first Lieutenant.

I remained in camp of Charleston sitting

on a Court Martial until 28 August-

19 March, in this year my Brothers Joseph

I Lawton & Benjn. T. D. Lawton & Sister

Thirza Polhill’s bereav’d Daughters re-

turned from the western country, after a


                                disasterous journey to that country

for the purpose of settling there –

they calculate they sunk about 1500

Dollars each.  My poor sister Thirza

died in that country 3 Decr. 1811

Decr. 21                                This day finished picking cotton.

The proceeds of the crop this year are

seed cotton                        24.000

5 stacks rice equal to         1.500


Bushels corn                             450

20 banks eatable potatoes

equal in corn to                        150


besides feeding negroes 5

weeks before they were dug



This year my Father & self plant in Co.

as usual, with 18 ¾ hands, out of

which I draw 1/3 of every thing – This

was a good year for crops, the best I

have experienced since a planter-

Planted Barn field 14 ½ acres

made lbs —                                        11703

(Gate field transp 17                          9224

(Field by R. Cole 16                             9416

(Middle field 18 ½                               9250

(New ground 10 ½                              4670

(76 ½ acres -                       lbs.          44263

equal to an average 580 per acre all at Transpine



                                Planted 75 acres corn made 850


29 Sept had pickd. 3100 lbs. Cotton

finishd picking 23 Jany. 1815



This year I planted with my Father

as usual, we planted with nineteen hands

besides the driver, out of which I draw

Eight shares  We planted this year 64

acres corn- 3 acres of Potatoes – 2

acres Rice & 90 acres of cotton the

last all at Transpine-

5 March                This year the 5 March – my hon’d &

affectionate Father departed this life,

after an uncommonly severe inflammatory

attack of four years duration in his

62nd. year of life – he evinced great

religious firmness, which he had pro-

fessed many years; & no doubt he has

exchanged this for a better world-

this was a very bad year for crops

the second worse I have known since a


Sept. 12                Commenced picking cotton

Sept. 15                had picked                          3000 lbs

Oct. 1                    had pick’d                           12000 lb



                                …than good seasons required -  My Uncle

John Robert, now 74 years old, told me

he never saw so much rain in one year

before-  We were visited by the black

rot also, which destroy’d from one fourth

to one half of the planters crops of green

seed cotton; it did not affect black seed

cotton.  I & my Mother were more favor’d

as to crops than our neighbors it is allow-

ed by them all that we made the best crop

in the neighborhood, of cotton – but this

to myself, was the most awful year I have

yet experienced in sickness – out of about

fifty sould, white & black on the plantat-

ion not one escaped the fever, and I lost

my lovely & interesting daughter Thirza

about five years old & two likely young

negroes, one a young wench, who died in

child bed with her first child, the other

a boy eight years old – Phillis & Monday

Sister & Brother – So awfully dreadful

was the yellow & bilious fever in Beau-

fort, that it is said one Sixth (1/6) of

the population of whites died this year,

& 200 persons died in Savannah in the

month October –




Of DNA and Such

September 6, 2013

I’ve written about Mama Florrie before.  You can use the search bar thingy in the right-hand sidebar to search for her on the blog, simply by entering “Florrie”, or you can click on her name “Miz Florrie” in the tag cloud. If you don’t have a sidebar, go to the heading “Ruthrawls’s Blog”, and left click on it. That will take you to a new page with the most recent post and a sidebar.

A little bit of back history:  a few years ago, Miz Florrie told me that her father was “kin to the Lawtons”.  Nothing more.  She will not elaborate as to which Lawton is her father’s father.  Does she know, or doesn’t she, and if she knows, why won’t she say?  Is she protecting someone?   I mean, she’s *one hundred years old*, and all those folks are dead.  She won’t tell me, she won’t tell her family.

So her grand-daughter submitted a DNA sample through, and she has been matched, 96%, with some white folks.  But her tree doesn’t have a link to white folks, and the white folk’s tree doesn’t have any black folks in it.  Because in genealogy, you have to have proof and documentation.  At least, you should have proof and documentation.  This doesn’t mean that you completely rule out stories told by elderly people, because many times within the story is a grain of truth, if you can find that tiny grain, and you build on it.

Which brings us to African-American genealogy.  It’s complicated.  It’s aggravating.  It’s full of brick walls.  Like breaking through the 1870 brick wall.  1870 was the first time that enslaved people of color were documented on the census.  Well, more correctly, they were documented by name.  In 1850 and 1860, they were documented on a slave schedule by sex and age under the slave owner’s name.

Alexander James Lawton, Sugar’s g-g-grandfather, kept a plantation journal in which he recorded details of plantation life.  His records are exacting.  He records, among myriad other things, the names of the slaves belonging to him and his mother.

His plantation journal is at the Georgia Historical Society in the Sarah Alexander Cunningham collection, MS194.  I was able to make a few photos of the journal before I ran out of time again.

For example, In 1818, he writes:

30 May                 commenced third hoing of cotton.

1 Sept.                  had picked 7009 with field hands –

house neg. 1453

The following negroes had new baskets this

year – in all 14

Old Toney














Later he mentions “Brister” and “Little Toney”.

Then, in 1820:

Planting 1820

This year my mother & myself plant at

plantation as usual

We work in all 21 hands

A. J. Lawton’s hands

Paul       1

Lavinia  1

Will         2

Milly      2

Sam       3

Phillis     3

Charles 4

Juny       6

Peggy    6

Sirah      7

Aberdeen, Dido, Reuben             1. ¾

11. ¾

My Mother’s hands

Brister   ½

Christmas            1

Jack        1

Tony      1

Richd.     1

Ned       1

Jenny    1

Nanny   1

Toney, Lucy        1 ¼

Then, in 1821:

This year my Mother & self plant at plantat-

ion as usual

I work   Will         1

Tom       1

Paul       1

Jimmy   1

Charles 1

Peggy    1

Linah     1

Lavina   1

Milly      1

Phillis     1

Mariah  1

Aberdeen, Dido, Reuben             1 ½

12 ½

Mother works Brister Driver ½

Christmas            1

Jack                        1

Toney                   1

Richard                 1

Ned                       1

Will                         ½

Jenny                    1

Nanny                   1

Old Toney, Lucy, Daniel 1 ½

9 ½

25 Negroes         whole hands      22

Then, in 1825:

Planting acct. for 1825

This year Mother & myself work our hands

at the plantation conjointly as usual

Alex. J. Lawton’s hands are















Thaddeus, Butler, & Dido

14 ¾

Mother’s hands











Old Toney


10 /4

25 ½

I do not count Brister’s work this year –

Mother has many more cattle than I, that cause

more work to be lost out of the field than

mine, & moreover I have ever viewed it unjust

that I should pay for half of his work as a

field hand, when Mother loses nothing by his

attending to my hand with her’s, & I have never

charged her one cent for more than ten years

attention to her business.  I cannot allow it

in future; it is unjust; my family in increasing….


I suppose there were house slaves as well as field slaves, tending to the cooking and cleaning and laundry, among other things.  Now go back and re-read “Our Grandmother”, and see if you get a different mental picture.  I know I do.

“Our Grandmother”: Sarah Robert Lawton, 1755-1839

September 2, 2013

Sarah Alexander Cunningham donated a collection of family papers to the Georgia Historical Society in Savannah. If you are interested in viewed the papers, which have lots of Lawton stuff, you’ll need to request MS194.

This next article comes from Sarah Alexander Cunningham’s mother’s scrapbook.  Her mother was Nora Lawton who married Henry Cumming Cunningham.


     The following letter written me by my cousin,

Rev. Jos. T. Robert, D.D., of Augusta, Ga.  I

publish in THE INDEX, hoping that it may in-

spire in the hearts of mothers of the present day,

an earnest desire to emulate the Christian vir-

tues of one who has long since gone to that

blissful home where all is joy and all is peace.

I thank God for such a grandmother.

     The dinner occasion of which Dr. R speaks is

fresh in my memory, though I was a boy only

ten years old.    Grandmother’s birthday-dinner

at old “Mulberry Grove” will never be effaced

from my memory as long as I retain my reason.

I wrote Dr. Robert and requested him to give me

some facts in relation to our grandmother’s birth

and death, and more particularly some account

of her birthday-dinner, as he was, perhaps, bet-

ter posted than any one now living.  I cannot

refrain from publishing his letter to me in full.

     “Mulberry Grove” was the birth place of my

own father and the father of Gen. A. R. Lawton.

(Gen. L’s father died a few years ago at the ripe

age of eighty-six.)  The house is still standing, and

is owned by Gen. A.R. Lawton, now of Savannah,

which was also his birth place.  It may not be

necessary for me to apologize for publishing

this letter, as I do it with the hope of benefitting

those who may peruse its contents.  J.S.L.


     Dr. J. S. Lawton — Dear Cousin:  Our grand-

mother, Mrs. Sarah Lawton, was the second

daughter of Jacques Robert, who was a grand son

of Rev. Pierre Robert, the first minister of the

Gospel that came to South Carolina among the

Huguenots in 1646(?).  Her father was a man of cul-

ture, well educated, and fond of scientific re-

searches, as we learn from records of philosophi-

cal (?) belonging to this family.  His chil-

dren were brought up intelligent and influential

members of society.

     Sarah Robert was born February 6, 1755, and

was married to Joseph Lawton at about her

eighteenth year of age.  In March, 1783(?), her el-

der brother, John Robert, and her husband, with

their families, removed from Stono Creek, near

Beaufort, and settled plantations near where

now is Robertville, in formerly Beaufort district,

now Hampton county.  Both families, pre-

viously Episcopal, had embraced Baptist sen-

timents, and together were the founders of the

Baptist church at Robertville, and the chief

supporters of it during their lives.

     By the death of her husband, March 5, 1815,

grandmother was left a widow when sixty years

of age.  She was very intelligent, fond of read-

ing, hospitable, and eminently pious and exem-

plary.  She honored God in all her ways, and He

honored her with long life and the warm affect-

tion of numerous pious descendants, and the

respectful esteem of all her acquaintances.

     In 1831, when she was seventy-six years old,

she determined to invite all her children and

grandchildren then living, to meet together at

her residence at Mulberry Grove, and spend a

day with her once more as a family in social en-

joyment.  The interview was very affecting.  The

proceedings on the occasion were such as a lov-

ing Christian heart might well dictate.  Eighty-

five of her regular descendants were present.

Of her four sons living, two were ministers, and

the other two deacons in the Baptist Church;

and two of the grandsons, also, were Baptist


     Soon after their arrival and mutual greetings,

all gathered together and united in a song of

praise to the Giver of every good and perfect

gift.  Her oldest son, a minister, then read se-

lected Scriptures, gave an affectionate address of

welcome to the company, and led in prayer,

thanking God for blessings past, and suppli-

cating his continued merciful kindness to us as

a family.  After this introductory exercise,

kindred mingled with kindred in a delightful so-

cial converse, or pleasant promenade, or sportive

amusement, as age, or sex, or taste might direct.

At dinner, forty-four of her children and grand-

children arrived at maturity, sat at the same

table; and of this number, forty-three were

members of the Church upon profession of

faith in Jesus Christ.

     The afternoon was spent, as the morning, in

pleasant intercourse.  Towards its close, the

venerated parent, calling her children around

her, gave them affectionate counsel, and be-

stowed upon them her parting blessing.  Her

youngest son, being a minister, then concluded

the interview with appropriate religious exer-

cises, and kindred bade adieu to kindred, long to

cherish the memory of that day spent at Mul-

berry Grove.

     Mrs. Sarah Lawton lived eight years after

this event, and at her decease, (October 6, 1839)

she left one hundred and fifteen lineal descend-

ants, in which large number there was not to be

found a profane swearer nor a drunkard.

     This narrative shows the power of a mother’s

influence.  She leaves a deep and indelible im-

press of her character upon her progeny.  Mrs.

Lawton was trained piously, and she reared her

offspring in the fear of God, and won their

hearts to the love and service of Christ.  Nearly

a half century has passed away since that mem-

orable gathering of her descendants, and very

many who were then present are now gathered

together in the assembly of the redeemed above,

but I shall ever recall the fond memories of

that day as among the most delightful expe-

rience of my life.              JOSEPH THOMAS ROBERT.

Augusta, Ga., May 10, 1878.


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