For the last six years, I have been digging into my family roots in an attempt to learn more about who I am now that I am retired. It might seem a little late in life to really do that type of wondering about who you are but it has become a passion in my life to find out how deep my American Roots really go. In the process of doing my research, I have found really interesting history and personalities. People who shaped our nation and who shaped the state I live in, including the towns and cities. For instance, I grew up not really knowing my grandfather whom I am named for. He passed from this life when I was just four years old. I guess my parents and my grandmother did not really think I would ever be interested in what this one man accomplished in his life time. I always knew he was an architect but I only knew about four of his projects. Those projects stand out among some of the best architecture in city where I was born, Fort Worth. It wasn’t until I really started digging into old family papers that I realized how much of an impact he actually had on not just Fort Worth, but the whole northern one-half of Texas. That was the start of digging deeper into my ancestral roots in our great nation!
I developed a fascination along the way for my paternal great grandmother on my mother’s side of the family. When digging in family photos, I came across old photos of her and it was quickly apparent she was no simple country girl, even though she was born in a double log cabin on a farm at the start of the Civil War. She dressed different. She posed differently for photos. She never smiles and always had the same expression. She was outstandingly beautiful. And she had to have been tough as nails being the oldest sibling and only girl in a family that had six younger boys. A search of the internet found a story by a relative about the oldest brother who became a physician who helped established the standards Texas uses to license physicians. He wrote of Indian raids on the full moon nights and problems with slaves. He described cooking for the family as “cooking Indian style”. My great grand mother was definitely Texas strong! The most interesting thing I found out about her was she was a natural artist who never took a lesson in her life. As I dug around in closets I found beautiful oil paintings that she had painted and my mother had preserved. A week ago, I was visiting the town where my great grandparents had lived, Rockdale, Texas, and accidentally came across an outstanding oil painting in the town library. It has been on display there for many years. You can see the known surviving artworks @http://www.clarksons.org/Ancestry/Annie_Artist.htm.
What has kept me pushing and digging, though, is the desire to get as much information on my roots in the history of our nation and, at the same time, learn more about why I am the way I am today. I have very strong views about many things that are well known to many of my friends. Most know that I am strongly patriotic and strongly conservative in my views. Some might say that those come from your father and mother, and, while some of that may be true, I am of the opinion that genes from ancestors play a big role in how a person thinks, even reaching centuries into the future and those traits can be seen in your grandparents of centuries past. So my search has been to find and learn about grandparents who lived in times of historical importance such as 1776, 1861, and 1620. I have been looking to see how the men were employed, their politics, the women they married, and especially stories of their accomplishments, when available. I have been very successful, thanks to modern technology coupled with the ongoing searches of others who want the same thing. I have found I come from strongly patriotic men in the American Revolution. More than forty of my grandfathers are documented as fighting for or support publically supporting the American Revolution. I found strongly religious men as far back as 1620 who came to Ameica on the Mayflower. Men who came to America looking for religious freedom. Many of my ancestors were ministers. I have found men who put high value on fighting for what they truly believed in, even when their side lost in 1865, and a modern historical climate makes them out to be bad men for fighting for what they believed in. They went on to reestablish themselves and push forward in the building of America. I also found strong women who supported their men. Some of those stories ae just simply fascinating! Life was not near as easy as many television shows portray it to be. War is hell for everyone. Life on a frontier is tough! It is even tougher on women, wives, and children. I lost grandfathers in the American Revolution, one who was killed in action after the Treaty of Paris was signed. Another grandfather, who fought in some of the worst battles of the Civil War, would eventually leave his wife and family and seek to live with other Confederate Civil War veterans in Biloxi Mississippi, being the apparent victim of PTSD from the horrors of the battles. He is buried in the Confederate Cemetery on the home ground of Jefferson Davis, the only President of the Confederacy. I also learned how many children died early in life. It was, in some cases, most of some families (lucky for me it wasn’t my grandparents!). And yet the wives continued to have children. The sorrow they must have felt each time a child passed away cannot be accurately described. I found heroes in every war my family was involved in but their stories just don’t get told in the history books. One of those heroes was Captain Samuel Johnson, who fought numerous battles with Indians and British during the Revolution. He led a charge up Kings Mountain, a major battle of the war. Captain Johnson was critically wounded but would not leave the mountain until he was sure the British leader of the fight, Ferguson, was dead. Another was my great, great grandfather who was in charged of the Confederate Sharpshooters who defended Fort Sumter during the 2nd battle of Sumter. Capt. William Clarkson, was wounded in the battle but fought until the battle was over.
I have definitely found very deep roots in our American soil with so much historical treasure that no value can be set on what it might be worth! I have also found that I understand myself a little better. It’s in the genes! If you don’t know about your roots, take the time to learn, even if you think it is only for a couple of generations back! Roots go much deeper than most people think!