Saturday, July 9, 2011

James Madison Pearson, 1817 - 1891

Quaker Origins

For the most part, it seems, we have been a family that likes to travel.

My earliest known ancestors came from the area around Manchester, England. At that time the name was spelled "Piersonne", a spelling that suggests a French origin, but that is mere conjecture.

Note. This needs to be revised, so don't take it for gospel. See Roots Web on Pearson.

The first Pearson came to Pennsylvania along with William Penn. Enoch Pearson, my great x 4 grandfather, was born in Bucks County Pennsylvania in 1757. But, then he moved on to North Carolina in order to marry Mary White of Granville County North Carolina before going on to South Carolina where William Head Pearson, my great great great grandfather was born. He up and went to Jasper County Georgia where my great great grandfather James Madison Pearson was born.

There is something which drives all of us on. For the Pearsons, there were many reasons - religious, war, land, inheritance, or just a plain and simple desire for change.

I have heard the phrase "roots and wings" to describe how it is that parents instill in their children both a need to be grounded in familiar principles and a hope to soar. But, I think the phrase also describes the nature of families. Some stay and continued the landed traditions. Others leave and start a new adventure.

The Pearsons of Tallapoosa County

Why James Madison Pearson left Jasper County Georgia for Alabama is unknown. Was it opportunity?

What is known from history is that, in 1814, following the Creek War, Andrew Jackson forced the Creeks to sign the Treaty of Fort Jackson. As part of the treaty, the Creek Nation ceded 23 million acres, half of Alabama and part of southern Georgia, to the United States government

Tallapoosa County was organized in 1832 with Dadeville the county seat. Courthouse records with the Registrar of Deeds first place James Madison Pearson in Dadeville around 1840.

His sons included Dr. Benjamin Rush Pearson, my great grandfather, and General Charles Lafayette Pearson, my great uncle. Dr. Benjamin Rush Pearson eventually moved to Montgomery, Alabama to practice medicine. He, however, kept up his contacts with Dadeville where my grandfather was born and spent many summers growing up. Charles Lafayette Pearson continued to live in and around Dadeville after his father's death, increasing the land holdings that his father had begun.

The Pearsons who still reside in Dadeville are descendants of Charles Lafayette Pearson.

James Madison Pearson (1817 -  1891), my great great grandfather, was born in Jasper County Georgia. In 1841 he married Elizabeth Ann Brown in Tallapoosa County, Alabama. She was then 18 years of age and he - 24. They had nine children. Elizabeth died in 1855 at the age of 32. James remarried to

Dr. Benjamin Rush Pearson (1849 - 1906) my grandfather was born in Tallapoosa. He was the forth child. He married Sallie Coleman Ferrell on the 3rd of December 1873. Dr. Rush practiced medicine in Montgomery Alabama.

James Madison Pearson (...) my grandfather was ... James Madison Pearson married Marguerite Chevallier Meine

Elmire Pearson () my mother married Arthur H. Davis, my father ...

General Charles Lafayette Pearson Cemetery

James Madison Pearson died in 1891 and is buried along with his wife, Elizabeth A. Brown, and son, Charles Lafayette Pearson, in the General Charles Lafayette Pearson cemetery. The cemetery is located to the east of Dadeville off Highway 280, a mile north and west on Slaughter Crossing. The cemetery is small. It rests on a hill deep in the piney woods, close to the railroad tracks.

The cemetery is not easy to get to as it is now on property owned by a lumber company. The road off of Slaughter Crossing is closed to traffic and it is necessary to walk the final mile or so to the cemetery location.

Since the cemetery has but few markers, I have included a listing of the markers made by Barbara Taylor here:

Turn off Hwy 280 onto Slaughter’s Crossing Road. Go .9 mi - turn left,
over RR track, take right at 1.6 ½ miles, R at 2.4
(walk to top of hill, cemetery is on the left.)
N32 degrees 49.788 minutes W 085 degrees 41.344 minutes

Gen. C. L. Pearson April 10, 1854 Jan. 12, 1940
One or two broken
James Madison Pearson 17th Oct 1817 Died 11th Nov. 1891 Age 74 yrs. 25 days.
Son of Wm. H. & Mary W. Pearson born Jasper Co, Ga.
Edward W. Pearson Nov. 21, 1860 July 31, 1862 Son of James W. and Elizabeth A. Pearson
Mrs. Elizabeth A. Pearson Wife of James M. Pearson and Daughter of James N. & Martha Brown
Born in Morgan Co., Ga. 12th of Nov. 1823 Died 9th Aug. 1861 37 yrs. 8 mos. 27 days
Amanda F. David April 12, 1834 Sept. 29, 1853
Wife of Jonathan S. David & Daughter of Wm. M. & A. K. Brawner
Jonathan S. David Born Madison Co., Ga. Dec. 6, 1819 Died Lee Co. July 26, 1871 Aged 51
Yrs. 7 mos. & ___ days CSA marker: Ala State Militia Home Gds Confederate State
Army June 6, 1819 July 2, 1871
Lucy David Consort of William David Daughter of Jessee and Elizabeth White
22 June 1786 March 22, 1857 70 yrs. _________
Henry P. David Born Madison Co., Ga. March 1st, 1818 Died Tallapoosa County, Ala.
June 9, 1860 42 yrs.3 mos. 5 days
Allen R. David Son of J. S. & M. J. David Born Tallapoosa County, Ala. Jan. 2, 1856 Died
Macon County, Alabama May 27, 1860
Hosea B. David Jan. 21, 1859 Dec. 9, 1884
John W. David Son of W. P. & M. C. David May 19, 1854 Sep. 1856 2 yrs 3 mos. 2 days
William Ritchie Son of Leman & Sarah Davis Pitts Born Madison County, Ga. Oct. 20, 1828
Died Tallapoosa Co., Ala. June 4, 1876
Margaret C. Smith Jan. 28, 1831 April 5, 1914
Charlott Frances Smith Dau. Of Robert & Nancy Smith Born Tallapoosa County, Ala Aug.3, 1837 Jan. 6, 1911
Mary Ann Smith Dau. Of Robert & Nancy Smith Born Newberry Dist., S. C. Dec. 15, 1822
Died Tallapoosa County, Ala Nov. 6, 1895
Robert Smith Born in Ireland, March 31, 1796 Died Tallapoosa County, Ala Apr. 17, 1880
Nancy Smith Wife of Robert Smith Born Newberry Dist., S. C. Nov. 13, 1798
Died Tallapoosa County, Ala. Oct. 28, 1882
Nancy J. David Dau. Of Robert & Nancy Smith Wife of Henry P. David Died Aug. 20, 1863
37 Yrs. 11 Mos. 7 days
M. Maxcy Smith June 10, 1874 June 7, 1934
Rosa H. Smith July 2, 1872 Apr. 25, 1928
James Maxcy Smith Capt Co G 34 Regt Ala Inf Confederate States Army April 19, 1832(3) Feb. 8, 1910
Sarah McCord Smith Oct 2, 1842 Feb. 18, 1924
Several Unmarked believed to be slaves graves

Friday, July 8, 2011

Booger Hollow

The problem is that the entire area around Dadeville, Alabama that James Madison Pearson (my grandfather's grandfather) and his son Charles Lafayette Pearson (my grandfather's uncle) owned back in the 1800' and 1900's is now owned by Kimberley Clark. Today, that land is good only for logging.Thick stands of pine trees cover the hills and valleys, and where there are no pine trees, then stands of sycamores, oaks and maples exist. In some places kudzu covers the scrub trees like a green blanket over the earth. Getting lost in the forest is not hard to do. The trees are thick and tall.

The directions to General Charles Lafayette Pearson's cemetery are clear and direct. Take Highway 280 east out of Dadeville for a couple of miles until you come to Slaughter Crossing. Head north on Slaughter Crossing for .9 miles, turn left, cross the railroad tracks, at 1.6 miles, turn right, at 2.4 miles turn right and go up the hill to the cemetery. The problem with the directions is that the road is closed at the first turn and a warning is posted that you are about to trespass.

Armed with my Garmin, I tried all sorts of ways to get to the spot from north, east, and west. The attempt from the west took me to a road called Booger Hollow. Yep, "booger", as in that thing we pick out of our nose, or, in this case I guess, the boogeyman. Booger can also mean a despicable, worthless person, as in, there are nothing but boogers living in Booger Hollow.

But before I descend into Booger Hollow, I need to know what exactly a "hollow" is. Technically, it is a low lying area where the water drains to.Colloquially, “down in the hollow” means “below the houses,” where the field ends and the solid woods begin. In other words, it is the edge of civilization. And yes, it is usually pronounced "hollar", as in, I am gonna' hollar if someone jumps out of the woods at me.

Before driving down Booger Hollow, I stopped to ask directions of a white gentleman weeding an old family cemetery. The cemetery was open in an open field with a pretty view of the area. Well kept houses dotted the landscaped. He was perhaps ten years older than me, but it seemed by his mannerisms that he was part of the old South. His advice was to go down Booger Hollow, but don't stop to ask directions, as there are some scary people down there. We chatted for awhile about the cemetery and how to get there from here. Somewhere back in the youth of his mind he remembered going there, but couldn't remember how. He did remember General Pearson, or at least he remembered stories of him. But the one story he wanted to tell me was that General Pearson had a "mixed family". Mixed as in he had children by a black mistress. The kindly gentleman then told me that the General had to send his kids up North to be educated.

I don't know if General Pearson had a "mixed" family. I doubt it as I know that he and his wife, Zenia Blasengame, had nine children. One of these children, Rush, had indeed gone North - to live with my grandfather James Madison Pearson. The story seemed implausible to me. The General who was born in 1854 and died in 1940, had spent time in France, was trained in law, and extremely busy in his many land deals. Judging form the land records in the Tallapoosa County Courthouse, the General must have been, like his father, one of the largest land owners in the area. But what struck me as strange, was that the conversation of race would come up at all. Go figure.

Booger Hollow was, as the gentleman warned, a bit of a scary place. Then again, I imagine that the Sleepy Hollow of upstate New York only became scary because of a great story told about a headless horseman. Beyond the fields where the woods took over, I was greeted with ramshackle houses populated with chickens and rusted out cars. Humans, if they existed, stayed pretty much indoors. Eventually, I came to a road called General Pearson, and I knew I must be on the right track. On to the logging trail marked General Pearson, I slipped and slid over the mud from a recent rain. I went for a couple of miles before I came across another human being. This one a logger, white again, all by himself covered in tattoos and sitting in his truck with nothing much to do. I asked him for directions, but he politely told me that he was not from the area. On again into the mud before it became impassable and I had to head back.

I was to find Booger Hollow again the next day, trying to get to my destination from the west. Again, the road just petered out. But along the way I saw quizzical black homeowners who must have wondered what a white guy in a Nissan Versa rental car was doing so far off the main road. Some of the owners just stared, some gave a gentle wave of the hand, you know, the kind that country folks use in Kansas to signal that they are peaceful. I of course, waved back.

Eventually, I was to find the cemetery, but it was not by going down Booger Hollow. Booger Hollow was just a strange side trip, a taste of two cultures, white and black, and the dichotomy that is Alabama.

Monday, July 4, 2011

On Cause and Effect

I need to preface my story with a warning: the relationship between cause and effect is never quite as clear as it seams. Of course, some causes and effects are apparent. For instance, a heavy rain causes a flash flood. But then things get more complicated. For instance, suppose the rain occurs at night in a public campground in Missouri. The floods sweep away dozens of tents , killing campers as they sleep. The causes of the deaths are not so one-dimensional. Sure, the floods killed the campers, but what about the attendants at the campground who failed to warn the campers. My dad was, once upon a time, a lawyer, so these kinds of questions naturally occurred to him. And I guess in a way, they bug me too.

Then again, there is the cosmic question of causality. Does God bear any responsibility in this because he/she made the rains fall from heaven? Personally, I don't like to blame God for anything. I prefer to just say thanks and be on my way.

Finally, there is the weird notion out there that given enough facts we can determine the cause of everything. I call this the "butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazon forest and a flood ensues" theory. Sure that is a mouthful, but what it boils down to is that everything affects everything in some way. You just need to follow the chain of events to see where the cause leads to. But I doubt that there is a supercomputer big enough to follow the effects of the butterfly in the Amazon. I prefer more direct causes and more direct effects.

In a way, I have to limit myself to one reality. That is that the only thing for sure about a cause and effect is that the former engenders the latter. Then again, the latter may have more than one cause. This useful fact comes into play when lawyers try to spread the blame around.

Now, on to my story.

My father has always taught me to be on my guard. And when I reached 17, got my driver's license, and began to roam the streets at night, his warnings increased. First, he would remind me that I was only 17. I hadn’t really had any hard knocks in life.He would then follow up this observation with a vague warning that you never know when life will grab you by the short hairs and give you the shock of your life. He always warned me that I drove too fast, but what parent doesn't say that to his child?

That “short hair” experience was to happen to me one summer night not long afterwards. School was out for the summer, it was shortly after midnight, and I was racing home to beat the midnight curfew, only, the race was already lost. The time was 15 minutes after midnight, and I knew my mom would be at the door. “Give me the keys,” she would say as I entered, “You’re late.” Protest that I might, that I was delayed because my two friends, who were spending the night at my house, and I had stopped for gas to make it home, the excuse would not matter. I have a friend who joined the army a month ago. He told me how he he left camp with a week’s pass to return home. Then at the last moment, a general alert was called, and he was suppose to return to base. He feigned ignorance of the alert and came home for a glorious week in Wichita. But when he got back to camp, he lost the two stripes he had earned during basic training to a drill sargeant who was not in to excuses.My mom is like my friend’s drill sargeant, demanding and unforgiving.

Anyway, that summer night, my two friends and I were in my car heading back home. We were within two blocks of home when that “hard knock ” my dad had warned me of was to reach out and slap me silly.

Ahead I saw a stop sign I had seen a thousand times before. Out of the pitch dark on my right came another car heading east. I tried to hit the brakes, but whether it was the suddenness of the unanticipated car, the lateness of the day, or my fear of mom, my foot slipped from the break to the accelerator, and I rushed headlong into the intersection. The other car did not have a stop sign. It continued apace and struck the passenger side of my car.Both cars did a 180 degree spin.

The effect of that crash was to turn my life around like the spin my car took. And worse, my carefree summer plans were totaled like the car I would never drive again.

Now I know that this story is taking more detours than my car did that fateful night. Still, as dad would say, a journey is not always a straight line. Sometimes, you stop. Sometimes you don't even make it.

What I am wondering here is what are the possible effects of such an event. After all, if this is a life learning process, I should at least contemplate how lucky I am to be alive. And I am alive as evidenced by the fact that I am writing this story. But what about all the "what ifs"? What if the other car was going faster, was bigger, my car was smaller, I had no seat belts, I had been drinking, my passengers were hurt? As you see, the effects can vary greatly depending on many variables that went into that night. What if my mom had called and told me not to worry about being late? And wonder of wonders, what if a butterfly had flown into my windshield earlier causing me to slow down and miss the accident entirely. Well, that would have been wonderful, for on such mundane events we owe our very existence. As you see, the possibilities are endless.

But in the real world effects are real. They follow from the acts we commit. And the consequences of our acts sometimes stay with us for a long time. Here is what happened to me.

The actual events are always surreal.Dreamlike in the sense that you are there but you have no control over the events that are happening around you.

The Effect of a Wave at Sandestin

On Sandestin beach a beautiful wave
Came tumbling up to me.
It tossed some shells at my feet,
Then hurried back to sea.

...Away it swiftly flowed and foamed;
Joining other waves as if in glee.
Each moment, I think, is like that wave,
Once there and then not seen.

Let me wonder as I wander,
amidst the waves at sea.
Can such a wave affect me so,
to muse on my philosophy?

Or simply said, no more, no less,
A wave is just a joy to see.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Why Do I Laugh Tonight - No Voice Will Tell

I came across this short poem by John Keats the other day, Why Do I Laugh Tonight - No Voice Will Tell. It is short, so I will repeat it without the risk of putting you, gentle reader, to sleep.

Why did I laugh tonight? No voice will tell
No God, no demon of severe response
Deigns to reply from heaven or from hell
Then to my human heart I turn at once:
Heart, thou and I are here, sad and alone,
Say, why did I laugh? O mortal pain!
O darkness! darkness! Forever must I moan
To question heaven and hell and heart in vain?
Why did I laugh? I know this being's lease
My fancy to it's utmost blisses spreads
Yet would I on this very midnight cease
And all the world's gaudy ensigns see in shreds
Verse, fame and beauty are intense indeed
But death intenser, death is life's high meed.
John Keats was a Romantic English poet who barely made it to his 25th year. He travelled to Italy because he suffered from tuberculosis. His death was rapidly aided by his doctors who treated him for this condition by starving him for a stomach condition and bleeding him to reduce the phlegm that the tuberculosis created. In part, Keats' obsession with mortality stems from the early deaths of his mother and father when Keats was 8 and 14 years of age. As a Romantic poet, Keats railed against the cynically objectivity of the Enlightenment philosophers like Voltaire. Keats died in Italy in 1821. The hope of a rational age during the Enlightenment ended with Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo in 1815. Some would argue it ended earlier when Napoleon exchanged the idea of "Liberty, Equality, and Brotherhood" for Empire. Equally culpable, was the rise of Capitalism which mad rich men richer and the poor poorer. Life, as Thomas Hobbes had remarked earlier in another century, "Short, nasty, and brutish."

In Why Do I Laugh, Keats ponders the unknowable question of God's existence. He answers  with his own cynical existentialist response - because I am here.

A cynic is often described as one who is scornfully and habitually negative. There is nothing new in cynicism.The ancient Greeks coined the phrase. Voltaire as a pre-eminent philosopher of the Enlightenment, epitomized the word, combining it with his own touch of satire. For example, his phrase "It is the best of world's and couldn't possibly be better," from Candide, is in fact a statement of the opposite. The world is utterly cruel and deprived and all within it vile and self-possessed.

John Keats might have altered the delivery of the message, but the cynicism is still there. Death is intense in its effect than greater than the laughter that short life can bring.Where does all of this leave us. Does it matter what philosophy we adopt? Is life so short and so cruel as to not matter? Perhaps the answer lies in the last lines of another of Keats' poems, Ode on a Grecian Urn. "Truth is beauty, beauty is truth, that is all ye know, and all ye need to know." Laugh because it feels good.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Road Trips

Will Davis
Professor Barrier
English 101
16 June 2011
Road Trips
            Road trips with my father are always a unique experience, and the only thing I can expect on them is the unexpected. Most drive to go to a place for vacation. For my father, I believe the drive is his vacation. Even though I complained nonstop about his constant side trips and stops, it seems like the majority of my enjoyable memories of vacation are always ones of us on the road.
            Most kids on a road trip would either sleep, play a game, or maybe stair off into space to pass the time, but my father didn’t approve of any of these activities in his car. His approved activities included writing papers for him, listening to NPR, and discussing current events, not kid’s ideal activities. Another rule of his was no eating until we were on the high way. This does not seem like a big deal, but at the time it used to infuriate my sister and me. He would hold our McDonalds breakfast hostage in the front of the car, the wonderful smell wafting to the back of the car only fueled our rage as we futilely tried to convince him to give us our food. It was these little things that I remember most about our road trips.

            One thing you could expect about my dad’s road trips was that it was never about getting from point A to point B as fast as possible.  Every trip was accompanied by about three or four side trips. Any sign that advertized some attraction was a must see in my dad’s eyes. I must admit some of the places were fun, we often would stop at lakes to swim and I loved that. But other side trips were not so fun. We often went to many deserted towns with no more than a few hundred people living in them, and they always gave me a depressed feeling. Overall my father’s little excursions gave me a better insight into how people live, those small towns harbor a different kind of lifestyle and culture that often left me feeling alienated and foreign.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Childish Things

When I was a really young child, my father would bounce me on his knee and repeat a phrase - "Ignorance is bliss." Sometimes he would add a Bible verse.

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.
St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 13:11

Growing up, this one leaves always left me a little puzzled. But then it should, for as a child I wasn't expected to know the whys and wherefores. Even now, at the age of seventeen, I am caught half way between childhood and adulthood. I half wonder what it is all about.

At my age, the best interpretation I have of the words "ignorance" and "bliss" are that my daily experiences are a fleeting glimpse of the promise and happiness of life or "not". Life now is one long blissful summer day. There is  nothing more to do than swim, lounge, eat, and play. Worry is not a part of my vocabulary. Like another passage from the Bible, Matthew 6:26, I feel and think as God sees the birds in the sky, they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and "yet the heavenly Father feeds them".

I say I am a little puzzled, should say ignorant, for it seems that St. Paul's words imply something is coming. Something is on the way and I am in for a big awakening. I picture a game show, you know the one - three curtains on the stage, you pick one. Behind one is either a million dollar prize or a trash can full of garbage. But does life's answer come down to just plain dumb luck? If that is the case, then why prepare at all for the future. Why not remain ignorant and, at the same time, blissful?

Life is a journey, dad says. But, journeys can be frightening, like in the Stephen King novella, The Girl who loved Tom Gordon.You know the kind. A teenage girl is deep in the woods of Maine - King's stomping grounds. She is with her mom and her older brother. It is a beautiful day and they are hiking through the woods. But mom and brother constantly bicker, so she lags behind and when she stops for a call of nature, she gets lost. Day becomes night and the journey becomes fraught with danger, the girl's very survival is at risk.  You can't see around the corner, you can't see in the bushes and something lurks there. Childhood's innocence ends, reality awaits.

What could this new reality be? Is it possible that I shall at some point be responsible for my own fate? Do I see that God does not always provide and that I must seek out my own fortune and fate? Is there hard work in my future? As I said, I am seventeen. For the first time in my life, I anticipate that in a year or so I will be looking for a new roof to place over my head. Whether this is at college, in the military, or somewhere else, I don't really know.

I search for direction, for guidance, fore enlightenment. At church I ask my youth leader a thousand questions, but his answers are no better than Paul's message in Corinthians  - It is coming, be prepared.

St. Paul continues his message to the Corinthians with words that are equally disheartening.

 For now we see thorough a glass darkly; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.  
1 Corinthians 13:12

I want an answer, but Paul tells me that  the truth is obscured by a glass darkly. Dark glass - I picture going down the highway in my car at night. It is raining and the bugs have splattered all over the windshield so that I can barely make out the road. Now and then a bolt of lightening arcs across the sky revealing the outlines of the landscape. Or, I picture a coke bottle, you know, the old kind that is thick and wavy. You hold it up to your eye and try to see through it but the world is distorted and vague. Either way you look at it, it is all a mystery to me.

 Let's take a slight detour here and get back to St. Paul. Here was a man of faith and that is a bit like saying "ignorance is bliss". Enough said, my dad would say. But then who was this St. Paul was and who were these Corinthians he was writing to. Those seem the better questions. We all know that  St. Paul was a Jew and that his epiphany came on the road to Damascus. Damascus is the capital of Syria, my dad explained to me not long ago. Well, anyway, St. Paul's message did not play well to the Jews and so he took to preaching on the road. He had gone to Athens, Greece, but found them not to his liking. Next he traveled east to Corinth. My dad would have me learn all about ancient Corinth, but I would think "ignorance is bliss". Still, it is helpful to know that at St. Paul's time Corinth was a major trading post. Corinthians were famous for trade and the pursuit of money that came with trade. As a trading port it was filled with Greeks, Romans, Syrians, Egyptians, and Jews. All of these people would be searching for an answer and St. Paul had one to give. Money is not the answer.

Now that I am seventeen, my dad has quit saying "ignorance is bliss". His new mantra goes something like this - "It is the question and not the answer that matters."

So, it strikes me that even if I am ignorant of the answers to life's questions, at least, I can enjoy the ride. The phrase is cliche, but apt - It is is the journey, not the end of it that matters. The pursuit of life makes living worthwhile. And as for ignorance, well that is a fact of life.