Who Was Amanda M. Miller?

February 18, 2017

Sugar is working on a plan. 

This plan involves going to a graveyard with a tape measure and a smartphone. 


Because a smartphone has a camera. 


And said camera takes remarkably clear photos. 


These photos which show measurements are needed for a memorial for someone who doesn’t have one. I’ve written about him before. 



Dr. George Mosse and his wife Phoebe Norton had SEVEN daughters. Three of these daughters married three Lawton brothers. One set belongs to Sugar. 

We were then looking at the tombs of his particular set: Alexander James Lawton and Martha Mosse Lawton. We realized that there was another tomb that we had consistently overlooked.  She’s right there in the line with Alexander and Martha. 

She was Amanda M. Miller. But who was she?

No more confined to groveling scenes of night, 

No more a tenant pent in mortal clay; 

Now should we rather hail thy glorious flight, 

And trace thy journey to the realms of day.

She is the daughter of Alexander and Martha, and she died in her early twenties. (Thank you, clever Reader Leo, for confirmation!) Childbirth, perhaps? One on-line tree says she had an infant son that also died. But where is the baby? 

Good-night, friends. We are thinking of you. 

A Cat Named Georgia 

February 11, 2017

Georgia lives here at the Swamped! Plantation. 

She decided to plonk herself on me because she wanted a nap. 

That’s how it is with Georgia. She only does what she wants, and she doesn’t care who she needs to walk on to get it. 

In this case, she made for some good close-ups. 


Georgia has lived here longer than any of the other cats. She arrived with some neighbors when they moved down the road with their *twelve* cats. It had turned into an unintentional hoarding situation when some strays adopted them, and nobody had the money for spay/neuter. I took in Georgia and her sister, and found homes for 2 kittens, after I had them all vaccinated and spayed. (That was back in the day when I had a much larger disposable income.)

Georgia has a direct personality and she is exceptionally nosy. If you come to visit and leave your car windows open, she will go home with you. 

She has always been brought back. 

Because the photo below? Is also the face of Georgia. 

In Which Sugar and I Are Not Related

February 7, 2017

Well, that’s a relief. 

I mean, he’s related to everyone.

When I first started working on his tree, over ten years ago, I knew of some other of his family’s researchers. They seemed to do the same kinds of things that I do, like make trees on ancestryDOTcom, and post memorials and photos to findagraveDOTcom. 

One fellow sent me a message about Sugar’s tree because he couldn’t find where I fit onto the tree and how he and I were related. I explained as vaguely as possible that I wouldn’t be in his tree, because we were not related, I was not a Lawton, and Sugar and I were friends. 

This exchange must have been about 2009. Recently I took an AncestryDNA test, and I found I have over 20K cousins on Ancestry alone. 

I loaded my raw data to gedmatch, and found several thousand more cousins there. 

I found a few folks that I had corresponded with in the past, so it was good to see that the DNA bore out what the paper records showed. 

I found one fellow that graduated from high school a few years before I did. He shares the African ancestry, which was interesting to see, because that helped me narrow down which line that was on, and it wasn’t the line I would have guessed. 

Gedmatch has a spreadsheet format, and one of the fields is for username. Lots of people don’t use a name; they use some kind of code, like Aunt Lou or Chicken Dinner or Cat Lover. These codes are not helpful, and in the case of Chicken Dinner, they only serve to make me hungry. 

So I’m scrolling down the list of usernames. Dozens, hundreds, of usernames. And I see it. I see *Him*. 

Boyce Mendenhall Lawton. Sugar’s cousin who wanted to know how we were related, and I told him we were not. 



I’m related to Boyce on Boyce’s mother’s side, and Sugar is related to Boyce on Boyce’s father’s side, but Sugar and I are not related. 

Now I want a chicken dinner. 

FlowerFest 2016: On To Robertville 

February 6, 2017

We had too many grave sites to visit to get it all done in one day. For the second year in a row, the FlowerFest needs two weekends.

Sugar and I headed for Robertville.

It was a quiet Sunday, and we thought we’d arrive after church had let out, and all had gone home. Not today, a few cars were still parked at the church.

This is a private time for us, this FlowerFesting gig, even though I photograph and write about it. Sugar is very serious about the ritual. You can probably see how intense he is when he marches across each cemetery, and places each plant *just so*, and tweaks the placement of each pot.

He didn’t want to hang about, so he hustled to get the job done. He can be so hustle-y, I can’t catch up.


So I just zoom in, camera-wise.




We found that last year’s poinsettia pot was still on the ground.

I stopped to photograph Edward Payson Lawton’s marker. He was killed at Fredericksburg.

I’ve been listening to Irish music on Pandora. One song in particular, “Clear the Way”, has a line that always gives me chills.

At Fredericksburg, we rose to meet them,

Though we knew the price we’d pay….

The song is sung from the viewpoint of a man who served with the Irish brigade for the Union.

In the cold grey light of morning,

after the deal had gone down,

I awoke and shook all over –

hoping a dram would bring me round.
Well, I stared at the sight all around me;

busted blue and faded grey.

Men in heaps were scattered;

men who fought and died the other day.
Well, I lived my youth in Connemara,

roving from town to town.

I shipped on board of the Amelia,

to New York City I was bound.
Not for honor, nor for country;

we killed for three square meals a day.

Off the boat and pack on shoulder,

gun in hand we’re here to stay.
Chorus:

At Fredericksburg we rose to meet them,

though we knew the price we’d pay.

But the Irish Brigade will not surrender –

Fag an bealach! Clear the way!
General Meagher, he gave the order,

”Up Mary’s Heights, charge away.”

The hills were rife with blood and murder

as we gouged and tore our way.
McMillan’s rebels, they fired upon us –

shot and shell, buck and ball.

Their green flag rose high above them

as ours fell on the battle wall.
Well, hand to hand and face to face there

a young rebel he charged me in the fray.

I turned around and my blade went through him;

I did the devil’s work that day.
For I saw my face there before me

in the boy that I hew down.

He could have been a friend or brother;

another exile from my town.
Three thousand strong rose to fight them

in Antietam’s ripening corn,

but Fredericksburg was our undoing.

Three hundred left to weep and mourn.

*****

Sadly, our FlowerFest is almost over. We head over to the Robert Cemetery, near Mulberry Grove Plantation, to finish the job.

Elizabeth Dixon Robert and John Robert.

That’s our Christmas FlowerFest 2016! We’ll see you in 2017!

FlowerFest 2016: A Parallel Universe

February 3, 2017

Unbeknownst to us, while we were starting our FlowerFest at the Bateson plot in Laurel Grove, another Bateson FlowerFest was happening at almost exactly the same time in another state. 


Two of Sugar’s grandchildren are at Sugar’s father’s grave in Virginia. 


Rather amazing the way life circles us together. 

FlowerFest 2016: On To Bonaventure 

February 1, 2017


Annnnd our yearly hello to Dr. and Mrs. Tucker. Dr. Tucker christened Sugar at Christ Church years ago. 

Dr. and Mrs. Tucker are buried in the same lot as Albert Sidney Lawton. We don’t know the connection. 


I have no clue where the minister who christened me is buried. Now, that is devotion on Sugar’s part. 


Albert Sidney Lawton and his wife Tayloe Corbin Lawton.


Further along, we stop at the Basinger plot, which is across from the Starr plot. 

Y’all know these people. I’ve written about them every year, plus there are all the Civil War letters that William Starr Basinger wrote home to Savannah. 


Across the lane are the older generations of the Basinger family: the Starrs, more Basingers, and Anne Pearson who married William Starr. (Her sister “Polly” Densler is buried in Laurel Grove.) Connections surround us. 

See the “caution” tape along the left rear of the photo? The tape marks out hurricane damage still in evidence.






Our last stop at Bonaventure is the final resting place of Alexander Robert Lawton, his wife Sarah, and their descendants. 

A popular monument is Corinne Elliott Lawton. I talked, months ago, to a tour guide over the phone about some of the false stories that are still being told about these families. When I mentioned that Sugar and I feel like we have a special connection to this family, and that we’ve placed flowers for close to a decade, she said that she had wondered who was doing that. 



There’s an enormous old Sago palm which almost prevents my obtaining a photo. 






FlowerFesting is hard work. Pilgrims need food and drink. So off to The Distillery. 


We’re done for the day, but we are not done with the FlowerFest. There’s still more to be done in Robertville, which will have to happen the following week…

FlowerFest 2016: Visiting the Batesons at Laurel Grove

January 21, 2017

The first stop of the day is at Laurel Grove to see the Batesons. You might remember that Thomas and Christopher had their graves marked in June 2016. 



The Densler Mausoleum is not far away, so we stroll over to see Aunt Polly and her people, who are not related to the Bateson people at all. 

It is always dark at the Denslers because of the huge old trees. So dark today, that the reflective markers on Sugar’s shoes show up in the photo in broad daylight. 


We find a large downed cherry laurel with a hollow cavity. This casualty is probably from Hurricane Matthew. 


A good portion of it has been cleared away, and Sugar spots the mistletoe. 


Over the years, the list of poinsettia memorials has changed a little. Today, we realize that we have an extra poinsettia, and we are close to Alexander family. This is a very old family out of Sunbury, Georgia, and the link is Sarah Alexander who married Alexander Robert Lawton. 

Edward Porter Alexander. Look him up. He’s quite famous.


Louisa Porter, a local benefactor.


Dr. Adam Alexander is in the foreground. There are also Houstons, Reads, and Cummings.


Across the lane is Jeremy and Louisa Fredericka Gilmer. 


Now over to the other side of Laurel Grove. 


We’ve always come to the Jones-Lawton Mausoleum to bring flowers. Augustus Seaborn Jones’s daughter Elizabeth married William Seabrook Lawton, and they are Sugar’s great-grandparents. 

We’re in for a surprise today. Sugar sees it first at the back of the mausoleum. 


Our best guess is that the hurricane rain ran behind the veneer and separated it enough that the veneer’s weight went over in one motion. 

The back of several pieces had identifying writing, like “7th course”, which was probably the original writing when the pieces were made in Italy, well over 100 years ago. Grease marker, perhaps?  



The night before had been down to freezing. This accounts for why the poinsettias looked a little bedraggled today. We console ourselves with”it’s the thought that counts”, and we head across Savannah to Bonaventure. 

FlowerFest 2016

January 19, 2017


Y’all know what time it is. We had actually planned our FlowerFest for the week prior, but changed our dates when we decided that we needed to see Mama Florrie instead. So glad we did, and got to see her one last time. 

If you have followed along in our past FlowerFests, then seriously, you could probably skip this series of blog posts. It’s pretty much the same, yet each year has its quirks. 

Like this year, we scored some awesome mistletoe from a tree that was blown down by Hurricane Matthew in Laurel Grove. 

Annnnnd we’re off…

In Which Mama Florrie Says Good-Bye: Part Three

January 15, 2017

The service at Mt. Zion has finished, and we have caravaned to the graveyard at Bethel where Mama Florrie will be laid to rest next to her husband George.

When I say “laid to rest”, I mean just that.

There was a funeral tent with chairs for the family. There was also some equipment that I couldn’t identify. A lot of the photos that I have taken of grave sites are of a concrete slab with the name inset into the top. I suppose that slab is for a number of reasons: to prevent the grave from being disturbed, whether by man, animal, or natural causes. One of the rigs had a concrete slab, and I realized that her grave was going to be covered over today.

I had noticed a couple of fellows off in the background who were not dressed up, and were instead wearing workmen’s clothes. Did y’all know who they were?

At the funerals I’ve been to, there is a service, then everyone disperses, and the funeral workers finalize the ceremony after everyone leaves by lowering the coffin and covering it over.

There was a little service, then the pallbearers carried the casket from the hearse to a framework of pulleys and strapping, and rested her casket into the framework. The gears were activated and the casket lowered into the ground into a crypt.

That framework was removed, and the rigging with the concrete slab was wheeled over, and the slab was lowered into place. The top of the slab was protected with synthetic grass carpeting, and the gravediggers shoveled the dirt from the nearby mound, and packed it down around the edges of the slab. Then they broke open a bag of cement mix and put that around the edges, then they put more dirt on top of the cement.

I’ve only seen caskets lowered into the ground in the movies. Today was a very real finalization of her death.

Something else happened that I’ve never seen before. I don’t know if this is a custom in the black community in general or is part of the ceremony of this particular funeral home. Each and every floral offering was presented to the gathering, and the card was read to the group, and then the flowers were placed on her grave.

Poinsettias by Sugar

The minister invited everyone back to Mt. Zion for the repast.

I’ve never heard anyone say repast before. I’ve only seen it in a book. Rose invited me again to make sure I understood.

So we returned to the church, and had ham, fried chicken, greens, corn, macaroni and cheese, rice, cornbread, cake, and sweet potato pie. It is almost 3 o’clock in the afternoon. I headed home.

*****

I’m driving along, talking to Sugar of the phone, and I approach the crossroad before I turn left to my Swamped! Plantation. Suddenly I see something on my right at the crossroads, up on the embankment, and I mumble out loud while wondering what I am seeing.

I shout into the phone, “It’s a Great Blue Heron! I’ve got to go!”, and the Great Blue looked at me and hopped off the embankment down into the ditch, and she headed away from me.

Instead of turning left to go home, I turn right to follow her, and she picked her way determinedly. I rolled down the window, and took her photo, again and again. I made a clicking sound to her, like I do when I call the animals, but she didn’t respond. She wasn’t afraid, even when another car swished by from the opposite direction.

She kept going.

I let her go.




Good-night, Mama Florrie. We’re thinking of you.

In Which Mama Florrie Says Good-Bye: Part Two

January 14, 2017

I got the call that morning that she wasn’t doing well and it wouldn’t be much longer. A few hours after that, Rose called to say that Mama Florrie was gone. 

The viewing was at Bostick Funeral Home on Friday, December 9, 2016. I met Sugar there after work. We were the only white folks there. I already knew a lot of the people, but it’s a big family, and there were more to meet. 

It was an open casket, and she looked beautiful. You wouldn’t have known that she was almost 104. She was wearing a peachy-pink dress with pearl earrings and necklace. Her hair was arranged in a short gray Afro. She looked peaceful. 

*****

The next day was the funeral. Sugar was pretty sure he couldn’t go. He said that black funerals can be an all-day affair, and that would be a lot of social time for a recluse. I felt like I should go. 

I made the mistake of not allowing enough driving time. I got there a few minutes after 11 and had to park way down the road at the end of all the other parked cars and walk. 


When I reached the front door of the church, I could hear the music. It sounded like a band was inside, and I joined the line of folks filing in. 

We were about to have a celebration. 

White folks say that: celebration of life. We have no clue. 

I found a seat on the back row. The service had started. There were surely 125 people there, and all the programs were given out. Prayers were offered in jubilation. Songs were lifted up in spirit and praise.

One gentleman, a vocalist, gave testimony that Mama Florrie had called him to come to the nursing home to sing for her. When he got there, he told her that he was planning to sing a song for her, and she told him he was going to sing what she wanted to hear, not what he wanted to sing. He asked her what she wanted to hear, and she told him, “God’s Been Good to Me”. He said that was exactly what he was planning on singing. He shared that song with the congregation, and bit by bit, everyone stood and joined him. The church was full of music and joy. 

The music was provided by two musicians, one with a keyboard and one with a drum set. They used no sheet music, and when someone stood to sing, the keyboardist waited for the singer to start in their own natural key, and he found their key and joined them. It was nothing short of magical. 

I recorded a bit of one of the songs. I hoped that I wouldn’t get ejected for being disrespectful, but I had seen other folks taking photos. No one said, “No, you can’t do that here.” No one asked me who I was and what business I had there. 

The minister spoke of her long life. How she lived through segregation, Jim Crow, civil rights. How she and others like her had to use the back door, and separate water fountains and bathrooms. And how she was of a generation that helped each other, how they shared what they had from their gardens or their pantries if a neighbor or a friend needed a cup of rice or sugar or flour, and how we need to help each other again. 

The rejoicing and singing and preaching lasted about 2 hours. The casket was closed the entire time, until the Final Glimpse. 

Y’all, this is not how white people do it. We have our “Celebration of Life”, and we have some kind of speech by a family member or friend, and there are some songs or hymns offered, but we do not get lifted up in the joy that these mourners had for their Mother Miller. 

It’s been my experience that there is a viewing, and it is generally before or after the service, but not always a part of the ceremony. The casket today was opened near the end of the service at the direction of the funeral directors, and everyone in the entire church filed past. Everyone. It was one of the most inclusive things I had ever seen. The line started with the folks in the pews at the back of the church and worked its way to the front, so that the family members at the front pews were the last to view her. 

Then family members gathered around her casket. No, they huddled around her casket, like players on a team gathering around their fallen leader, arms around each other, swaying and singing to the music that filled the church to bursting. 

Then the recessional, because we are not done. We are going to the graveyard at another church where she will be buried next to her husband George.  The ceremony was at her home church, but she will be buried with George at his home church. 

Y’all, when we got to the graveyard, once again I saw: this is not how white people do it. 


(To be continued)