By Myra Vanderpool Gormley
I want to create more than a genealogy — something other than hatched, matched and dispatched facts and genealogical charts. I want to create a family history that incorporates some of the genealogy along with stories, photographs and I want to include some historical facts and settings. After all it was being aware that one of my great-grandmothers (Elizabeth Connally) was a teenager living near Atlanta when General William Tecumseh Sherman took the city and then made his famous march to the sea in 1864 which launched me on the genealogical trail to learn about my ancestors and see if I could sort facts from family lore.
Is it possible to do so without creating a monster-size tome that will never be read or valued by my family? I’m not sure of my organizational abilities to create such a work and at this point I do not have a master plan for such a creation — just an idea. My goal this winter of 2011 is to write some more memoirs about those I actually knew and to write about some of the characters in my family tree and see where this all leads.
A good story almost always starts with an interesting character and I certainly have uncovered a few during my research. Let’s start with one of my 2-great-grandfathers — Randle Hensley.
Randle Hensley went to the courthouse that warm spring morning in Alabama in 1875, but his heart was heavy. He was going to mortgage his 40 acres in order to post the $500 federal bond to get his son Francis Marion out of jail.
Times were tough in northeast Alabama. But he and his wife, Clementine, had survived tough times before. They had been married 45 years. Randle was 68 years of age and ten of their 15 children were still living. However, their son Francis Marion had had one trouble after another, it seemed. He served in the Confederate cavalry and survived the Civil War as well as time as a prisoner of war in Maryland. He had walked home from North Carolina after the war ended — looking like a skeleton when he showed up on their Georgia farm.
Francis Marion’s first marriage to a neighbor gal ended when his wife (Nancy Catherine Pruitt) and their second son died out on the prairie in Kansas where he had gone to find some free land to homestead, but it turned out the land was only for Union veterans. So Francis Marion and his young son, Lee, had removed to Etowah County, Alabama where Randle was farming, having given up on their devastated land in Cherokee County, Georgia.
Just three years ago Francis Marion had fallen in love with and married the dark and feisty Araminta Awtrey. Now Francis Marion was in trouble again arrested on the Coosa River while tending a still — for his father-in-law.