Archive for September 20th, 2007

Among the many family stories I remember from my childhood is that of my great-grandmother’s maternal grandparents. I think it stuck because it sounds as if it came from a screenplay: settlers moving west, family drama, death, heroism and horses. Family stories are often dismissed as something someone made up to kill time or entertain the children. There are some in the family who regularly voice that opinion. I think we view the world (including the past however inappropriate) through the lens of our own experience. Everyone loves “Lonesome Dove” but it is fiction after all, right?

Granny’s mother, Alice Martha Taylor, came from a well-to-do Arkansas family. It was reported that she claimed she was seventeen years old before she buttoned her own dress. She had a nanny to take care of her. She also claimed that she attended a finishing school in New Orleans as a young woman. Such was her station in life.

Alice’s father was Griffin Lewis Taylor from Virginia. He was the son of Richard Taylor, an early settler of Lunenburg, Kentucky. His family was purported to be of English descent, the same family that produced the former president Zachary Taylor.

Alice’s mother was Elizabeth Wardlaw. She was the daughter of William Wardlaw and a Miss Douglas. It was a large family with several daughters. The girls married men with names like Hargraves, Hickman and Jarrett.

Lewis and Elizabeth raised their family on a plantation with slaves. Alice was not an only child, she had a little brother. Unfortunately their mom, Elizabeth died leaving the children motherless. Lewis soon remarried. The step-mother was reported to be unpleasant. She and Alice did not get along at all. For this reason, Lewis decided to take the children with him on a trip to Waco, Texas. He wanted to purchase land there. He also took with him a significant amount of cash, a combination of his own funds and others’, and one of the slaves.

The trip was made on horseback and at some point, Lewis suddenly died in Texas. The cause of his death was lost to time. Making a cross country trip on horseback was fraught with danger. He could have been caught in the open during a storm and become sick. He could have been the victim of contaminated water. He could have crossed paths with the wrong people. Whatever happened, the man accompanying him took the children and the money and made his way back to their home in Arkansas. They travelled at night to avoid trouble as Texas was not the place for a black man with a bag of money and two white kids. They eventually arrived home safely.

My grandmother said that Alice and her husband-to-be, Cam met after the war. He had been away, had come of age and was off to join the army when the war ended, but that’s another story.


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