Archive | May, 2013

United States Colored Troops

23 May

In recognition of the 150th anniversary of the founding of the United States Colored Troops has announced that they have finished digitizing all records related to the USCT. From May 22 to 31, the digital collection of the USCT Service Records will be free on After that, you will need a subscription to access Fold3, or you can use a computer in any National Archives facility nationwide to access these records for free.

What types of records can you find in the USCT digital collection?

Manumission Papers

Oaths of Allegiance

Proof of Ownership

Bills of Sale

Abstracts of a soldier’s service


Payrolls Records

Prison Registers and Rolls

Parole Rolls

Inspection Reports


Unique to my own family genealogy I found a record of the slaveholder who owned my family.

Major Gilliland USCT Record

Major Gilliland USCT Record

I covered this story in more detail on my other blog

So what are you waiting for? Check the records out if you know that you have a member of your family that was a member of the USCT. If you find information about previous slaveholders or even photographs please do share!


– Tiffany


Scenes from the Old Cemetery

17 May

Being the cemetery lover that I am it saddened me to make a stop by the Old Cemetery on Lake Drive in Ripley and see the poor, tragic state that it is in. The day I stopped by there was a light rain and a mist in the air and it was quite gloomy. When I looked around the cemetery I saw the graves of some of Lauderdale County’s very first citizens. The Old Cemetery was reserved for Whites, but nevertheless it is still an important part of the history of Lauderdale County. Victorian era cemeteries were places where people went to spend time with the dead. It was not unusual to see people having picnics in cemeteries during this time. At one point of time I suspect that this cemetery was beautiful, but now it is practically in ruins and looks as if it has been vandalized. Out of all the cemeteries I have visited in Lauderdale County this one appears to be in the worst shape. I would love to see this cemetery and its headstones restored.

Full view

Full view

Partially buried headstone

Partially buried headstone

Hiram Partee

Hiram Partee

Broken and moved headstones

Broken and moved headstones

Narcissa Partee Marley

Narcissa Partee Marley

Isaac Steele

Isaac Steele

Fallen headstone

Fallen headstone



– Tiffany

– Source: Photos my own

Who Were the First African Americans in Lauderdale County?

12 May

The first African Americans in Lauderdale County were brought into the area by Henry Rutherford. Henry Rutherford, the namesake of Rutherford, TN, was the land surveyor who surveyed all of the land that was to become Lauderdale County. Along with Henry Rutherford, John Rutherford, Oliver Crenshaw, George Davis, and Willis Chambers arrived with their slaves at Key Corner on September 1, 1819.

Just who were these slaves and possible first African American inhabitants of Lauderdale County, TN?

As history goes Henry Rutherford inherited the slaves he owned from his father, Griffith Rutherford, the namesake of Rutherford County, TN. I also found a source that stated that Griffith left his slaves to his wife and not Henry. According to sources Henry didn’t choose to make his slaves his primary source of income and he even taught them how to read. Doing some research on the slaves that Griffith Rutherford owned I discovered that when he settled in what is now Sumner County, Tennessee that he owned 8 slaves, but have so far been unable to find out the names of these slaves.  Griffith died in 1805. Were these 8 slaves the ones he possibly passed down to Henry that would go on to become the first African Americans in Lauderdale County?

I found a census listing for Henry Rutherford in 1820 for Franklin, Williamson County, Tennessee. On this census he owned 16 slaves. Could he have been documented on the 1820 census in Williamson County, TN because this was where his family was located prior to joining him in Lauderdale County? Further research will need to be done on the life of Henry to make sure that this is him listed on the 1820 census, but I have the feeling that it is. In 1830 Henry is found living in Dyer County, TN with 6 slaves and in 1840 Henry is found living in Lauderdale County, TN with 7 slaves. But just who were these slaves?

Unfortunately Henry’s will does not name his slaves. It just refers to his slaves in general. His wife Mary died in 1839 prior to his death and I have been unable to locate a will for her.

Henry Rutherford died May 20, 1847 and is buried at Rutherford Cemetery in Lauderdale County, TN, which was his family’s private cemetery. It is also possible that the slaves he owned are also buried here, but more than likely they would be in unmarked graves.

In order to further find the names of the first African Americans to live in Lauderdale County more research will need to be done on the men who traveled with Henry Rutherford to this area. Since they all supposedly brought their slaves with them maybe we can find the names of their slaves.


– Tiffany

Source: Goodspeed’s History of Lauderdale County, Tennessee, Sketch of Henry Rutherford (,

Mother’s Day

12 May

When I think about Mother’s Day in relation to my family in West Tennessee I think of my husband’s great-grandmother who died in 1927 at the age of 40 leaving behind 7 children, one of them only being 2. I think about all of those other nameless mothers from West Tennessee who were slaves, sharecroppers, and servants all hoping, wishing, and praying for a better life. I think about those mothers who were faced with the tough decision to let their children either go to school or work in the fields to help support the family. I think about those mothers who had no education, but tried their hardest to teach their children. I think about the happy moments with those mothers watching their children graduate, watching their children marry, and watching their grandchildren be born. I think of the mothers who had to watch their children be sold from them and I think of mothers who sadly had to bury their own children. When I think of these mothers I think of their strength, determination, and resolve. I think of my own mother in law and her stories and everything she has taught me.


Happy Mother’s Day to all of the West Tennessee Mother’s and to all of the mothers who read this blog. Lets continue to honor these mothers by telling their stories.



– Tiffany

The Gingery Mob – Who Was the Accomplice?

9 May

About a year or so ago I wrote about an event known as The Gingery Mob in which the Gingery brothers, Henry and Roger, killed a police officer and his helper because their brother Reuben was arrested for failing to be vaccinated. Henry and Roger escaped, but their brothers Reuben and Frank were killed for their crimes. In addition to this a man from Henning identified as a neighbor of the Gingery’s was also killed for being an accessory to the crime.

Just who was the accomplice from Henning?

Sometimes the answer we are looking for is right under our nose and in this case it was. I have a list of the lynchings that occurred in the West Tennessee area, of course the listing is incomplete, but it didn’t occur to me until now to check that list and see who was hung around the time of the Gingery Mob. Wouldn’t you know it? My answer was on that list.

Anderson Gause was lynched January 16, 1900 just 7 days after the Gingery brothers. Could he be the accomplice?

I went a little further to substantiate my idea and I discovered newspaper articles linking Anderson Gause to the crime. According to the papers

“Anderson Gause colored was lynched by a mob near HENNING Tenn for aiding two murderers to escape”

With my idea corroborated by published news accounts I figured that this was my guy the accomplice, but just who was Anderson Gause?

Ordinarily you would think that tracking down someone named Anderson Gause would not be that complicated, but there were a lot of people with the last name Gause in Lauderdale County at this time, Black and White. United States Census Records did not provide the best information because several people just listed themselves on the census as “A. Gause”. I then decided to check the Tennessee State Marriage records, but in those records I also found a lot of people named “A. Gause” listed. So then I decided to check to see if there was an A. Gause listed in Bethlehem Cemetery, Canaan Cemetery, or Canfield  2 places he possibly would have been buried since he was killed in Henning. I turned up no records on Find A Grave and of course no Tennessee State Death records because he died before death records became mandatory.

Just who was Anderson Gause? How did he help the Gingery brothers escape? Did he help them get onto a train? Take them by wagon to another city? Give them his horses? Did he even help them or was he just at the wrong place, at the wrong time while the community was looking to kill anyone who might have remotely had anything to do with the Gingery brothers? Who knows for sure, but as always I will be sure to share more information as it becomes available.

Anderson Gause Jan 20, 1900 - The Clifton Advocate

Anderson Gause Jan 20, 1900 – The Clifton Advocate

– Tiffany

– Sources: The Lynching Calendar:, The Clifton, Illinois Advocate Jan 20, 1900 edition

– Tiffany

Sources: 1880 US Census, State of Tennessee Marriage Records for Lauderdale County, Lauderdale County Enterprise Friday, September 24, 1926 edition

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Black Life in Ripley, TN

4 May

#3 Father of the Blues WC Handy and his band used to perform at the Annual Confederate Veteran’s Picnic in Confederate Park

WC Handy

WC Handy

WC Handy, Father of the Blues, made his way to Ripley, Tennessee in 1907 with his band to play for our Confederate Veterans at their annual reunion picnic. According to the story there used to be a park known as Confederate Park not too far from Walker’s Motel on Highway 51. Each year the local Confederate Veterans would gather here and host a barbeque picnic. The entertainment for the picnic varied, but about 1907 they were able to get WC Handy to perform. Handy and his band would go one to perform at several of these picnics in later years. What would he have played at the picnic in 1907 and after? I’m sure he would have played “Mr. Crump aka The Memphis Blues” or “The St. Louis Blues”. He might have also played “Yellow Dog Blues” or “The Beale Street Blues”.

It is interesting to note that Handy was the son of former slaves playing at a reunion picnic for Confederate Veterans. Oh the irony! Nevertheless, I am positive he put on a good show and that a good time was had by all. Was Lauderdale County’s most famous Black Confederate Veteran Louis Napoleon Nelson in attendance? I’m sure he was.

Today WC Handy is honored in Memphis with a park bearing his name. His Memphis home has been turned into a museum and is appropriately located on Beale Street.



– Tiffany

– Source: Lauderdale County from its Earliest Times by Kate Johnston Peters

West Tennessee Mysteries – Bessie Coleman Visits Memphis, TN

3 May

This is the first edition of the West Tennessee Mysteries series and it is coming to us courtesy of Memphis, TN. If you have a mystery you would like to see featured here, please feel free to contact me.

Bessie Coleman’s Memphis Visit

Bessie Coleman

Bessie Coleman

Bessie Coleman was the world’s first African American female pilot. On October 12, 1922 Bessie Coleman flew in Memphis, TN in front of a crowd at the Tri-State Fair. Coleman refused to fly for segregated crowds, so her show in Memphis had to be integrated. Thousands of people came out to see Coleman perform and the Memphis show was considered a success. A few mysteries remain about Coleman’s trip to Memphis. While at a luncheon Coleman’s trip was brought to my attention by a woman who was interested in learning more about it. She was interested in knowing where Coleman stayed, what might she have visited while in Memphis, and most importantly she was looking for a photograph from the Memphis event. The Memphis Commercial Appeal had written a short article about Coleman’s visit, but they only used a stock photograph of her and not one from the actual event.

Through looking in the 1922 Polk Memphis City Directory I was able to pull a list of hotels. This directory did not identify which hotels were for African Americans, but I recognized a few of the hotel names.

Marquette Hotel

Plaza Hotel

I also used the directory to find newspapers of this time that might have covered the story.

The Commercial Appeal

The Daily News

The Memphis Press

The News Scimitar

The Southern Sentinel

Labor Review

Progressive Farmer

The last two newspapers probably wouldn’t have carried a story on Coleman’s visit, but they were newspapers available to Memphians at the time.

It makes me wonder if any of the people from our favorite West Tennessee Towns would have made the journey to Memphis, TN to attend the Tri-State Fair and see Bessie Coleman.

So the mystery remains, where did Bessie Coleman sleep while in Memphis? Where did she keep her plane? How long was she in Memphis for the performance? What restaurants, churches, night clubs, or stores would she have visited? Will we ever be able to put together an itinerary of her visit?

I look forward to finding out more about her visit and sharing it with you all.



– Tiffany

– Source: Google Images