01 July 2014

#26-52 Ancestors: Unmarked Graves

Unmarked Graves
Pyrene (Christian) Connally 1808-1891, Murray County, Georgia

“Someday I will buy a tombstone for him so he will not be forgotten,” my maternal grandmother use to tell me. She and I went to the local cemetery when I was child, placing flowers on the graves of ancestors and relatives. Back then it was called Decoration Day — now it is Memorial Day — and grandmother told me about each person on whose grave we placed flowers. She certainly gave me a head-start as a family historian for her side of the family and for her in-laws who were buried in that location.

My tough Indian Territory-pioneer granny, undaunted by snakes, wasps, rats and tornadoes, always cried when we came to that unmarked plot for Francis Porter Fricks, her two-year-old son, who died of the croup in 1909. Losing a child has to be one of the most painful things a mother has to bear. I have discovered many of my ancestors’ histories are rife with information about their children who died young — many victims of childhood diseases — and others who died in accidents and wars.

Pyrene Christian and Samuel Connally who lived in Murray County, Georgia, had six sons. They lost their son, Drewry, when he was about 21 in 1853 (the reason is unknown). In the 1860 federal population schedule, Samuel and Pyrene are listed with four sons, ages 13 to 24 at home and nearby is their recently married 31-year-old son, Thomas Connally with his wife, Mary, and a baby daughter, Pyrene (obviously named for her paternal grandmother). Then came the Civil War.

They lost their sons Thomas, Francis M., David and Samuel fighting for the Confederacy in Mississippi, Tennessee and Virginia and then on 24 July 1864, their next-to-youngest son, John W. Connally, age 20, was captured by the Yankees not far from the family farm. Taken to a graveyard near Jasper in Pickens County, along with other captured Confederate soldiers, he was shot and killed. His death was recorded in the Southern Watchman (a weekly newspaper published in Athens, Georgia) on 17 August 1864.

“The prisoners, disdaining the idea of being shot in the back, tore blindfolds from their eyes and about faced, opened their breasts to them, and in a few minutes were in eternity.”

Within four years, five of Samuel and Pyerene’s sons were dead from disease or battle injuries.
Samuel Connally died in 1878 and Pyrene lived on until 1891. They are buried in the Mount Zion Methodist Church Cemetery in Murray County, along with their son, Drewry, their only daughter-in-law, and her three-year-old child by her second husband.

Like the grave of my grandmother’s son, there are no markers for these five young men who died during the Civil War, and one can only imagine the pain and grief that Pyrene must have borne all those years because none of those sons came home and none of them were properly laid to rest with the rest of that family.

Pyrene (Christian) Connally, 1808-1891 -- thanks to the kind permission of Don Gresh.
Mt. Zion Methodist Church Cemetery, Murray County, Georgia

Connally family stones in Mt. Zion Methodist Church Cemetery
Thanks to the kind permission of Don Gresh (Find-a-Grave)
Murray County,Georgia

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