I lost my mother on the 1
Mama suffered from Alzheimers, and though she still remembered me—and things from the long ago—she knew or cared little about what was going on around her in the present. That included food. Never a big eater, shed recently stopped eating completely. I was in the process of getting hold of my brother (who lives out of town) to discuss whether or not we wanted to go with a feeding tube, but the morning after consulting with the nursing home regarding that option, I was wakened with a call from that facility and told Mama had been rushed to the hospital. Shed gone to sleep, and there in her dreams shed gone away. She had no intention of coming back.
Lola Mignon Gibson (Nonnie to her
family) was born on the 29
Unfortunately, and I think this is true of many of us, I did not develop a real interest in my ancestry until all the people who could talk to me about it were gone, but I have done a little research into where I came from.
Grandma Gibson, Mamas paternal grandmother, named her. Dubbing her granddaughter “Mignon” indicates a French origin—it means “small” or “petite” just like the steak. Now I know enough history to know France is a Catholic country and theres not a hint of Catholicism in our family history. But in a conversation dealing with the orgin of her name, Mama said her people (and she was talking Grandma Sallys) were French by decent. When I questioned Wooldridge not sounding very French she said it had been Anglicized. If either one of us had given it much thought at the time—and this was a lifetime ago—we’d have realized that Grandma Gibson was not a Wooldridge.
Wooldridge is actually a prolific English surname. Gibson, I have learned in my research of not only the family, but of the South and Mississippi, is a very good French Huguenot surname. The Huguenots were French Protestants primarily from Normandy, descended from the Vikings and linked to the Scots-Irish Protestants like blue eyes are linked genetically to red hair.
The Huguenots came early to the South—primarily to escape France, which was, as I stated earlier, full of Catholics—and they (in tandem with like minds among the Scots-Irish) often allied with Mother England—meaning the Brits footed the bill—in attempts to infringe on those “Catholic” Frenchmen, eyeing the lower Mississippi Valley for protection of its lucrative fur trade in the upper valley. English interest in the lower Mississippi is what drove French expansion into what is now Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. I dont know when the Gibsons arrived in Arkansas, but I do know roughly when Grandma Sally’s “distaff” side got there. This latter line, as it turns out, is particularly special to me, made all the more precious for its Mississippi link.
All my life Ive been the consummate “daddys girl”, but a few years ago I was on a quest for a Confederate ancestor. From word of mouth I knew he was back there (actually they were back there), but I had no concrete info as to who and where. I was searching the web one night for my ephemeral Confederate in Georgia where Charles Russells (Hip I called him, and he was my daddy) people hailed from. The Russells had come to the Georgia Up Country from “the Carolinas” and were characterized as happy, red-headed, blue-eyed Scotsmen. My great-grandfather, Hugh Henry (illiterate) wed Mary Price (who could read and write) in 1870 or 1871. She was quarter-blood Creek, though I have one cousin who seems to think she was Cherokee. The family passed through east Tennessee and with the Carolina connection, I wouldnt rule Cherokee out at this point, but the “Creek” information came from an aunt, which makes it one generation closer to the mix—pun intended.
My fathers mother was a “King”—her father being James Albert King. The Kings were septs (branch) of the clan McGregor, which was one of the first Highland clans removed during the Scottish clearances. Georgia was a penal colony and many Highlanders settled (or were settled) there. Im only speculating here—this branch of the family is murky, and theres little information on my branch of the Russell and King families documented on Ancestry or RootsWeb.com, but to make a long story short, on the night in question, I found hundreds of Russells and Kings in Georgias Confederate rolls, but I couldnt confirm my relationship to any one of those fine young men. Before turning off the computer for the night, I decided to take a quick look at Mamas side.
As it turned out, someone on her side had done quite a bit of research on the family (Ancestry.com). I found Sally Wooldridge and her father Hugh—I found his first wife, Grandma Sallys mother, Nancy Young—a name I had heard before. Turns out shed been born in Mississippi in 1870. Now that I hadnt heard, and as far as I know, Mama didnt know it either.
Then I found Nancys father, my great-great-grandfather, Phillip Sherrod Young, who had been born in Chester County South Carolina in November of 1840. His family immigrated to Pontotoc County Mississippi (along with a number of other Chester County residents) as pioneers in 1842 after Indian lands were opened to white settlers. He was two. In January of 1861 he wed Sarah Alabama McKeown the daughter of another such family. The Scots-Irish McKeowns had immigrated to South Carolina from County Antrim in Ulster, Northern Ireland in the early 18th century.
Sarah and Phillips first baby was born in December of 1861. Their second baby didnt arrive until March 1866—eleven months after Appomattox. Seven more babies arrived over the next 14 years—births in the case of babies number 3 and 4 occurred only 10 months after babies two and three. From that evidence, I deduced two things—there was a virile daddy and a fertile mama and they seemed to like each other. And the lack of babies between 1861 and 1866? Im sure you’ve jumped to the same conclusion I did. Daddy wasnt there.
I knew I had my Confederate, I just needed to confirm him in the rolls—which I did many weeks later, in the roster of Company G, Pontotoc County Volunteers, Third Battalion, Mississippi Infantry, Confederate States Army.
Phillip and Sarahs baby following my great grandmother was born in Arkansas in 1873. That period encompassing 1870-1873 comprises three of the darkest years of Reconstruction in Mississippi. I do not know that adverse conditions drove the family from the state, but I do know the Youngs appear to have thrived in Arkansas.
My “reputedly” handsome French Huguenot-descended granddaddy (Mamas father) disappeared during the 1927 flood, apparently hoping everyone would believe him drowned—a ruse that did not fool Grandma Sally or her daddy, Hugh Wooldridge. Fed Gibson had abandoned his wife and four daughters for another woman. Mama was three. With the help of her family—both the Wooldridges and the Gibsons, devastated by their sons betrayal—Sally Gibson raised her four daughters alone.
Despite Granddaddy Gibsons perfidy, Mignon Gibson Russell came from great stock. Combine her blood lines with those of my dads and, it turns out a microcosm of the Southern populace flows through my veins.
I am very proud of those credentials.
This past week I began Hillsdale College's second course series on the U.S. Constitution titled "The Progressive Rejection of the Founding and the Rise of Bureaucratic Despotism" also known as Constitution 201. I have a great deal of respect for Hillsdale College, an independent liberal arts college located in rural Michigan. My admiration stems from the school's rejection of all federal monies, thereby refusing to compromise its values and principles, which mirror my own. Founded in 1844, Hillsdale is an old school with, from what I've been able to ascertain from photographs, a beautiful, quaint campus and small student body. If I were to find fault, the only one I could muster to date is its admiration for Abraham Lincoln, which apparently extends back, well, to the days of Lincoln.
But I don't fault Hillsdale for that, the school is, afterall, located in Michigan; and if I displayed malice toward everyone who admired Lincoln, I'd spend my life bent out of shape. For the most part, if I can't come up with a good reason for arguing a point regarding the man (by that I mean, if I think I might actually accomplish something), I keep my mouth shut. But some injustices I simply can't ignore.
One such occurred in Hillsdale President Dr. Larry Arnn's introduction to Constitution 201. Dr. Arnn alluded to the seeds (at least some of them) of progressivism in the United States as having been sown in the Confederacy. He based this thought on two tenants of American progressivism: rejection of the nation's founding principles and the use of science as a liberal tool for the "betterment" of all mankind.
To support the argument, Dr. Arnn referenced the speech made by Confederate Vice President Alexander Stevens on March 21, 1861 in Savannah, Georgia citing the subordination of the Negro race as a corner-stone of Confederate society. Vice President Stevens stated modern science "proved" the Negro genetically inferior to the white man. I'm certainly not agreeing with Vice President Stevens or any of the other hundreds of thousands of people who agreed with that "finding" at the time. What I find umbrage with is the use of Stevens' speech defending slavery as indicative of "progressive" thought in the South.
For two hundred years before Stevens made that speech, slavery had thrived in the British colonies and had been justified using the same opinion Stevens espoused even without the "proof" of science.
More disturbing to me is the challenge that Stevens was speaking "in opposition to the equality principle of the American founding." Based on the evidence presented, opposition to the "founding" existed from the start. To add insult to injury, Dr. Arnn made no reference to the Republican Party's gross disregard for the Constitution in its subjegation of the South and its subsequent, purposeful destruction of the checks and balances critical to the survival of the Federal Republic established by our founders under said Constitution.
Now, I don't consider myself a sophisticated person. I'm not particularly well versed in political terminology, but for me the term "liberal" (synonomous with "progressive") conjurs up an individual who believes everyone should be equally successful and that government should ensure that success through regulation and wasteful expenditure of other people's money. My money. Hillsdale's introduction to Frank Goodnow's (American Political Sciences Association) paper titled "The American Conception of Liberty" echoes this concept of a liberal. The intro states, "Progressive political science was based on the assumption that society could be organized in such a way that social ills would disappear."
Now, let's think back. What is considered the great social ill on the day Vice President Stevens made that speech? Oh yes, slaveryat least it was to those not in the South. Personally, I think the "liberal" Republicans would have done well to focus that energy relieving society's ills on the North's factories, orphanages, and sweatshops, but then I don't buy the Civil War having been about slavery, either.
The equality principle referenced, of course, is found in the Declaration of Independence"...all Men are created equal,..." It didn't matter that the clause was written by a Southerner and slave owner and that the Declaration was signed by a number of slaveowners who risked their Lives, their Fortunes, and their sacred Honor so that our nation would win its independence. It doesn't take a genius to figure out there's a disconnect here and there always will be. The point I want to make is this particular "equality" principle was missing in the Constitution, and it is the Republicans'/Lincoln's bizarre adherence to the Declaration of Independence's taking precedence over the Constitution as this nation's founding document that excuses the Republicans' subsequest violations of the Constitution and destruction of the republic that to this day they are credited with saving.
I argue, as the South has for, gosh, two centuries now, that The Declaration is the document by which we informed King George we were opting out of his empire. The Constitution, written eleven years later, with the Articles of Confederation sandwiched in between, is the document, ratified by thirteen sovereign states, that formed the Federal Republic of the United States of Americaunder a limited central govenment, its powers granted by the consent of the governed through powers delegated by their sovereign states. It is the document our founders designed specifically to keep in check the anticipated growth of what would become, by its very nature, a large, all-powerful central government. Note that it is a large, all-powerful govenment that is critical for carrying out a liberal agenda. Equality, validated in the Declaration, formed one of the tenants of the Republican Partynot because it cared about each individual, but because representative government wasn't working for it. Sovereign states, which could counter the overreach of the central government, got in the way of its "liberal" agenda.
I've always heard it argued that the concessions made to the slave states during the writing of the Constitution were done so the Southern states would ratify it. Darn rightwe played the major role in writing the thing. If the Northern, non-slave holding states did not agree with the Constitution, they shouldn't have ratified it. They could have written their own Constitution, instead of desecrating ours. It was a bad marriage from the start with one partner, in bad faith, determined to change the other.
For eighty years the South was the bulwark against the proponents of strong central government and the tyranny of democracy over representative govenment. The most damaging attack made against the republic was that made to representative government 150 years ago by Lincoln's Republican Party. That's where the seeds of liberalism were sown, not in the Confederacy. That group of Republican tyrants created a fertile field, which continues to put forth its ever-increasing bounty of crop-choking weeds to this day. The party doesn't matter. What matters is the restraints are gone.
You want to promote the South for laying the foundation for "liberal progressivism"? Well, maybe we do deserve the blame. We lost the War.
Thanks for reading,