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Friday, May 27, 2011

A Proem For Their Yesterdays

Published in Dallas Trees blog on May 27, 2011.

As I have dedicated most of my spare time of late to genealogical research, I decided I wanted a common place of vision from which to stand to reflect back on my forest of ancestors.  Hey, I like trees. I cannot judge them as a people who had displaced and made war against native people, or even their own brothers and cousins. I cannot judge some of them individually for the enslavement of others. I did not know these people. I cannot judge them for how they viewed the world, ignorant of some realities or choosing not to see others. It's not my place. It's my place to learn and grow from their experiences and help make my own part of the world a better place. 

My family came from places like Howards Mill, Kentucky, Spring Creek, Nebraska, or Ward's Grove, Illinois. They lived in small communities like Mount Holly, Brandywine, Fair Play, Oswego, Stamford, Ripley, Mississippi, and Rupert, Vermont. I needed a simple perspective from which to view their world as they might have taught their children - on their farms, in their towns, in their small country schools, and in their churches. These people only knew of family, community, and survival in harsh conditions, and at times, against the odds. They knew how to do much that was handed down to them through previous generations and supportive families. Much of that is lost to most of us, but still hang on in the skills and fortune of a few. However, their experiences were not mine.  I am in a period of relearning all that I have unlearned or had never inherited from centuries of growth.  I recently remembered an old book on my shelf and I thought that to know the past, I need to read from it.

Harold Bell Wright is most recognized today for his novel, The Shepherd of the Hills. However, in the early 20th Century, he wrote other novels, including Their Yesterdays, which was more a grouping of essays than an actual novel. But publishing companies, being as they are, sold it as another great romantic novel from this writing pastor.  Their Yesterdays is available online and in various formats.  I have read it from a hardback book that was shared by someone who held it in their hands a hundred years ago.  Wright had reason to hate the world from his youth, but he found a different perspective and published it.  These are the common themes that stay in my mind as I look back to my yesterdays.

"There was a man.

And it happened--as such things often so happen--that this man went back into his days that were gone. Again and again and again he went back. Even as every man, even as you and I, so this man went back into his Yesterdays.

Then--why then there was a woman.

And it happened--as such things sometimes so happen--that this woman also went back into her days that were gone. Again and again and again she went back. Even as every woman, even as you and I, so this woman went back into her Yesterdays.

So it happened--as such things do happen--that the Yesterdays of this man and the Yesterdays of this woman became Their Yesterdays, and that they went back, then, no more alone but always together.

Even as one, they, forever after, went back.

What They Found in Their Yesterdays

And the man and the woman who went back into Their Yesterdays found there the Thirteen Truly Great Things of Life. Just as they found these things in their grown up days, even unto the end, so they found them in Their Yesterdays.

Thirteen Truly Great Things of Life there are. No life can have less. No life can have more. All of life is in them. No life is without them all.

Dreams, Occupation, Knowledge, Ignorance, Religion, Tradition, Temptation, Life, Death, Failure, Success, Love, Memories: these are the Thirteen Truly Great Things of Life--found by the man and the woman in their grown up days--found by them in Their Yesterdays--and they found no others.

It does not matter where this man and this woman lived, nor who they were, nor what they did. It does not matter when or how many times they went back into Their Yesterdays. These things are all that they found. And they found these things even as every man and woman finds them, even as you and I find them, in our days that are and in our days that were--in our grown up days and in our Yesterdays.

And it is so that in all of these Thirteen Truly Great Things of Life there is a man and there is a woman."



from Their Yesterdays, by Harold Bell Wright, 1912

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sol Street's Demise

The story of Solomon Street in the Civil War is one of those interesting footnotes that came out of the South. Solomon was the brother of my great-great-great grandfather, Jim Street. As it was for most families of the South, most of the young men had journeyed off to war - or soon would - as the call to arms rang out. The Street families of Tippah County, Mississippi were no exception.  Jim Street would join two of his sons in one regiment while Solomon would eventually lead other Streets in his 2nd Mississippi Reserve Cavalry, Company A: The Citizen's Guards of Tippah County.

Well, the historians can speak to the war time activities of Captain Sol Street and his regiment.  There is an excellent history written by Andrew Brown for the Journal of Mississippi History from 1959. This story, however, is about a young man named Robert Galloway and how the career of Sol Street came to an end in Bolivar, Tennessee in 1864.  

The story was posted in Footnote under Interesting Civil War Stories by submitter 'bgill' on May 13, 2007.

View Street in a larger map

"Sol Street was one of 18 children born to Anderson and Keziah McBride Street, one of the earliest settlers of Tippah Co. Miss. Sol was a carpenter by trade and enlisted early in the war (1861) in the Magnolia Guards which later was merged into the 2nd Miss. Infantry. He served at First Manassas, Seven Pines, and the Seven Days Battles. After North Miss. was invaded in 1862 he hired a substitute under the provisions of the Conscription Act and returned home.
Street next is on record as having been made a captain in the Citizen's Guards of Tippah Co. Technically he was under Gen. Chalmers' command but was able to detach himself from the Gen.'s command so that he could harass the Federals along the Memphis and Charleston Railroad between Memphis and Corinth.
Street establish headquarters of sorts in an inpenetrable bottom of Tippah Creek, from which he operated an efficient and unorthodox intelligence system which served him well in his military activities. By 1863, Street had earned the enviable description of "noted Guerilla" and the unsubstantiated title of Colonel.
Finally, Street saw that his days as the leader of an independent group of hit-and-run fighters were numbered. He evaded (regular) Confederate service for the last time by moving into the extreme southwest section of Tenn.
Street's military career reached its peak while he was serving as a Major in the 15th Tn., a battalion under the command of Gen. N.B. Forrest.
After the engagement at Ft. Pillow, Tenn., the following account details Street's last days, which were spent in the Bolivar, Tn. area.
In Dec. 1862 William Galloway, a Saulsbury, Tn. farmer had an altercation with Street over the sale of cotton. Street killed Galloway without provocation.
Galloway had a son named Robert who swore he would avenge his father's death, sending word far and wide that he would kill Street on sight. Robert was not quite 17 but enlisted in Capt. Higgs' Independent Scouts and bided his time.
It was over a year before he ran across the man he had sworn to kill. On May 2, 1864, just after Forrest's command, numbering about 200 all told, had had a brush with over 1,000 Federal troops near Bolivar, Higgs' Scouts camped with Forrest's troops at Bolivar and there Robert met Maj. Street. True to his word, he avenged his father's death.
Shooting a Major of his command was to Forrest an unpardonable crime and young Galloway was placed in charge of a guard of ten men with the cheering information that as sure as the sun rose in the morning he would be shot, and admonished him to make his peace with his God. The guards were instructed to "bind him fast and have him forthcoming when called for, or their lives should answer for his escape." Forrest also ordered that he should be tied with a rope and two men at a time should stand guard over him, one of whom should "hold on to the rope." Accordingly, his hands were tied, a long rope was placed around his neck, which one of the guards held in his hand.
The first two to have charge of him were John W. Key of Washington, D.C. and L.H. Russ. Russ was about 16 years old and not much bigger than a piece of chalk--and for that reason was called the "baby of Forrest's escort." From the first his sympathies were enlisted on the side of the prisoner. Getting into conversation with Galloway, he got the entire story of the killing, talked it over with the guards, and won over the most of them to the idea of letting him get away. Russ stayed awake the whole night, and every 2 hours when the relief was changed, he asked, "is he still there?" hoping to that each succeeding relief would give him a chance to "skip".
Later Key and Russ were on duty guarding the prisoner in the corner of a rail fence and the two begin talking in a way to let Galloway know he had better untied himself and make his get-away. "That fellow is a fool to stay here and get shot," said Ross. "If he tries to get away I shall shoot at him--but I won't hit him," replied Key. "If I was in his place, I'd make a break for our horses over there and take one and ride like the devil," said Russ, "and I would not care if he got mine." Key was holding the rope and Russ laid down across it between Key and the prisoner, and Galloway worked around, got his knife out of his pocket, cut his bonds and stole away quietly to the horses. He perferred to leave on foot rather than give them any chance to track him, as they would be able to do had he taken a horse. Revellie was sounded just as he disappeared in the woods.
Waiting a sufficient time to give Galloway a chance to make his escape, the two guards began shooting their revolvers and running in an opposite direction from that taken by the prisoner. "Boots and Saddles" was sounded at once, the escort formed in lines and in two minutes Forrest put in an appearance, supposing the Federals were about to attack them.
On learning that the prisoner had escaped, and none of the guards being able to tell how it happened, the dashing cavalry leader began cursing the guard, damning them individually, collectively, in detail and by sections; damned his whole escort from the highest officer in it to the cook--not one escaped his wrath--and after cursing all of the State of Tenn. in general and Bolivar in particular he order the guard under arrest, with the statement that he was about to march to Tupelo, Miss., and on arrival there he "intended to shoot every damned one of the ten guards." They were ordered to fall in the rear of the escort and the march began.
On the way to Tupelo, the guards were all dishartened at the prospect of being shot except the "baby" who kept saying "Don't worry boys, Forrest won't shoot ten of his escort--good men are too scarce to kill 'em that way."
Arriving at Tupelo, Forrest put the guard in a little old shanty in which a number of goats had been housed for a year, again telling them he would shoot the whole ten of them at sunrise. They were kept there for a week or more, when Russ one day climbed up the old fashioned chimney while some of his companions engaged the attention of the guard, climbed down the roof made his way to his company quarters and got Capt. Jackson and Maj. Strong to interced with Forrest for their release.
Russ made his way back to the goat pen the same way he got out, and Forrest, who had somewhat cooled down by this time released all except Sgt. Sims, who was Sgt. of the guard, declaring he would court-martial and shoot him. Sims stayed in the goat pen a week longer, when he was tried by court-martial and there being no evidence to convict, he went free. Sims never knew till long after the war who turned the prisoner loose.
Many years later Galloway was visiting the Masonic Library during the meeting of the grand bodies and on looking over the register saw Russ' name. They had not met but each had a letter from the other. Galloway immediately went up to the lodge room, walked in, closely scrutinized every face and at last saw the features of the boy who 39 years before, snatched him from the jaws of death and gave him life and freedom. Going out into the anteroom, he had the Grand Sentinel call Russ out of the chapter room, and when he came Galloway found that he had faithfully remembered the features of the "baby of Forrest's escort."
Then, of course, that fearful night was reconstructed. The writer through a friend met the two and had the story told for his edification. It is no fairy tale, but an actual incident of the war. When Galloway was asked how he could remember the face of Russ so well, he remarked that the features of his preserver were burned into his very soul, and that he could never forget him. He added: "As long as I live that boy shall never want for anything and I have told my wife that, if I died before she does, she must share her last crust with him if he needs it, and you can safely bet that she will cheerfully do so."
Both are Masons and this cemented the bond of friendship between them. Cal Street, a brother* of the man Galloway killed was also a Mason. They are firm friends, but the killing has never been mentioned between them and probably never will be.
Shortly after Galloway had returned to Saulsbury, after the war, some of Maj. Street's friends went quietly to work to have him tried by civil authority for the killing of Maj. Street. The Sheriff put a quietus to it, saying: "Boys, Bob Galloway has more friends in this country than Steet ever had and if anything more is done toward trying him for what he did during the war, there will be a heap more dead men lying around lose in this neighborhood than you ever saw--and they will be those who stir up this matter too."
Here ends the account of how Robert Galloway was saved from the grave by L.H. Russ, a boy who took chances of being shot himself to save a total stranger. The two are fast friends and will be while life lasts."
* - Calvin Columbus Street was born in 1867 to Jim Street and was Solomon's nephew. I have no reference of a brother named 'Cal'.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

James Anderson Warhurst and Rufina Vincent

Our first narrative for our family history comes from the lineage of the Howard family. It was posted on the Warhurst Family Genealogy Forum on July 8, 2001.  James and Rufina Warhurst were the parents of Helen Warhurst, the wife of David Jackson Howard and grandmother of Monroe Howard of Logan, Oklahoma.

James was born in 1828 in Chariton, Missouri to Archibald and Martha Warhurst. Rufina was born in 1834 in Kentucky. Her parents, Zachariah and Elizabeth Vincent, died in 1840 at Chariton, Missouri, leaving Rufina  and her five brothers and sisters orphaned.

Contributed by Virginia Warhurst, 1631 Ardath, Wichita Falls Texas 76301, 25 March 1974, from information collected by Harry Warhurst; sent to Patricia Johnsen Hicks, Weaverville, California.
retyped by Pat Hicks July 8, 2001.  A special greetings goes to a distant cousin Stephanie Bradshaw (through Rufina's brother William) who shared this story on her web site.


"Many, many years ago, dark haired Rufina Vincent, a girl of 14, and James A. Warhurst, a stalwart youth of 21 summers, were married in a little church in Missouri. After a few short, happy years of life in Missouri, during which chubby Gus and tiny Bell were born to them, they decided to move to the territory of Kansas.

"Having sold their property and collected their possessions, they bought an unblemished team of young horses, a new wagon and harness, and clothing and cloth enough to clothe them for a year. They also bought a year's supply of flour, meat, sugar, coffee, and other provisions. They stored their supplies in their home.
"The evening before the day they planned to start was rather sad, for it was not easy for such young people as Rufina and Jim to say good-bye to their relatives and friends and go to live in such a lonely, uninhabited place.
On returning home this particular evening, they backed the wagon up to the door and put the harness under the wagon in order that they might be ready to load early the next morning. After turning the horses in their pen, they retired for the night.

"During the night they were awakened by fire falling in their faces. They snatched up the children and barely escaped with their lives. Their only belongings which were not destroyed by fire were their night clothes and their horses, as the crumbling house fell on the wagon and destroyed both it and their harness.

"Undaunted by such a hard blow, they sold their horses, bought a yoke of oxen, a wagon, and what supplies they could, and started on their journey to Kansas. They crossed the Missouri river at Iowa Point into Kansas, and began looking for a favorable location. They arrived in Kansas two years before it was open for settlement.

"They drove in a northwest direction across what was later Doniphan County, Kansas, and into what is Brown County, Irving township, and settled at a place. When it was surveyed, several years later, it proved to be the southwest quarter of section 21, township 1, range 18, east.

How did they happen to stop at this particular spot?

They were driving along the divide one day, hot, thirsty, and tired. The children were exceptionally cross and the oxen in great need of water. Suddenly the oxen smelled the water in the creek north of them, which was later called Cottonwood Creek, and in the creek which they were approaching, known as Roy's creek. Suddenly they (the oxen) took the matter of location into their own hands, and turned north, left the trail, and ran away, making for water. Jim ran beside the frenzied animals, whipping them over the head, but to no avail. After he had become winded, he jumped back into the wagon, and shortly after, the oxen plunged over a high bank into Roy's Creek, the water of which came into the wagon box.

"Rufina carried the children to the north side of the creek, climbed the steep bank, and said smilingly as she stood wringing the water from her skirts, "Now, Jim, that's a pretty mess," at which he smiled grimly. After she had the children as dry as possible, and he had led the oxen (now quite tame) out and tied them to a tree, they realized that all their earthly possessions were soaking in creek water. So, with no great amount of clothing, they proceeded to carry their goods and trappings out and spread them on the bank to dry.
"While Jim was occupied with the oxen, hauling the wagon out a piece at a time, Rufina took the babies and walked west, perhaps a hundred yards. She noticed water seeping out of a bank, and, with the aid of a stick, she soon had a nice little spring running and had it dug out enough so that one could dip water from it with a cup. Very enthusiastically, she ran to where Jim was and told him she had found water - a good place to camp. They later moved their belongings to the spring and camped.

"There was an abundance of grass near the creek, and on a flat west of the spring, the grass was higher than the oxen's backs. They decided that since nobody seemed to be near to have a claim, this was the very spot upon which to build their home. So they cut logs and dragged them across the creek and built a house near the spring. They laid claim to the creek bottom, staked out their claim, cleared the brush from a bend in the creek and plowed it, ready to plant a crop in the following spring.

"Spring came at last and Jim planted every kind of seed which he had brought from their home in Missouri: including corn, potatoes, squash, pumpkins, turnips, beans, etc. The year proved to be a very favorable one. Although they had more corn than they needed and all the hay they could cut with a scythe, and an abundance of everything, they could not sell a wagon load of their produce for 50 cents, because the only people near them were Indians who were always hungry, but never had any money to buy with.

"Rufina and Jim could not turn the Indians away, as they were in reality trespassers on Indian lands, and so they had to endure a great deal. While they had plenty to eat, they had no neighbors, no money, and could not sell anything they had. Consequently, they made trips to Missouri to work to get provisions and clothing. Later, they purchased a flock of sheep, and Rufina helped shear them. She then scoured, carded, spul and wove the wool into cloth from which she made the clothing for the family.

"In later years when the country was open to settlement and surveyed, the Warhurst place proved to be mostly rolling plains instead of bottom land as they had hoped. Their house was only 50 yards from the Brown county line. Shortly after their land was surveyed, their house burned and they built another higher up on the hill. They had lived on this place for over 35 years when Rufina died at the age of 50 years. Jim, broken hearted, sold the place and went to Oklahoma where he spent the rest of his life with his devoted daughter, Bell. Both Rufina and Jim were buried one-half mile from the place where their first house stood."

Grave site of James and Rufina Warhurst
Pleasant Hill Cemetery, near Hiawatha, Kansas - Find A Grave

Historic Map Works link (county map). See township link embedded in story.

View Howard in a larger map
Iowa Point is to the east along the Missouri River. 

Sunday, May 15, 2011


In this first post of the Plains Holly Tree, I bid you welcome you to this little family history blog and its companion website.  As music has always been an important aspect of the passing of generations, I thought it most fitting that we begin our journey together - through the stories and chapters of my distant family - with a song.  This song will become the anthem of this site.  In my view, it is a piece of Americana that holds in its heart the yearning of our pioneer fathers who moved continuously westward and remembered those they left behind.

This song, and this rendition by Bryn Terfel, seems so exquisitely appropriate and fitting of the lives of the people I will share in the coming months. It is reflective of their Scotch-Irish heritage and the deep yearning that drove them to move ever westward and the remembrances of those they left behind.  The grass was greener just over that horizon. There were opportunities, but there were also many extended risks.

A more formal introduction to this blog and to the website is pending.  But for now, know that the website is small as of today, but as any young sapling, it will grow with its own character, as I am joined by cousins and others to help provide a part of the story of the family. I am hopeful that this will become a collaboration of my family and the cousins I have never known. Chapter by chapter, and generation by generation, we will read my family book back to its immigrant beginnings - and beyond.

We will start chapter one soon.