Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Memorial for David

Our ancestor, David Miller Leffel, now has a memorial.  

David Miller Leffel was one of forty Union sympathizing citizens of North Texas who were charged with disloyalty and treason against the Confederacy by a “Citizens Court” in Gainesville, Cooke County in October 1862 and then hanged in the Great Hanging at Gainesville.  After the men were hanged, their bodies were thrown into an empty warehouse building on the west side of the town square. A few of the families claimed the body of their loved one, but most were left for the court officials to bury. Some of the executed men were buried in hurriedly made coffins, but when the scrap lumber from the torn-down house was used up, the rest of the men were wrapped in old blankets and buried in shallow graves along the banks of Pecan Creek, not far from where they were hanged. It has been said that rains washed away the dirt covering some of the graves and that wild pigs dug up some graves.  One of the most disturbing aspects of the Hangings was the total disregard for the bodies of the victims following the executions, most did not have a decent burial and or a headstone.
Up until now there has been no memorial or headstone for the majority of men who died.  That changed this past month with the Dedication of the Great Hanging Monuments at the Georgia Davis Bass Memorial Park in Gainesville.

In the close-up view of the monument with the names of the men who were hanged, you will find David's name in the bottom group that were hanged on Sunday, October 19, 1862.  While we still do not know where exactly David was buried after he was hanged, we now have a memorial with his name on it.

I ordered pavers for David Miller Leffel and his wife, Susan West Leffel.  In the second photo below, you can see the placement of the pavers.

At the dedication, David Miller Leffel was well represented by his descendants. In fact, three of David's great-granddaughters were able to attend the dedication.  They are the daughters of Mabel Leffel Baldwin, who was the daughter of Charles Leffel and granddaughter of David Miller Leffel.
Great-granddaughters of David Miller Leffel

Leffel descendants looking at the pavers

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Dedication of the Gainesville "Great Hanging" Monument

The dedication of the Gainesville "Great Hanging" monument took place on Saturday, October 18, 2014, a beautiful fall day in Texas.  And, it was a memorable day for those of us who were able to attend.  
We started the event with an excellent luncheon at the Lions Field House of the North Central Texas College in Gainesville.  The luncheon was provided by the Texas State Historical Association and the Lone Star Chair in Texas History.   I was able to meet and visit with many people who previously I had only had the chance to correspond with.
After the luncheon, we attended a theatrical reading called "October Mourning" at the Center for Performing Arts on the NCTC campus.  “October Mourning” was a 45 minute theatrical reading of the events of that terrible October in 1862, by local actors portraying historical characters connected to the events of the hanging. We were able to hear the story of the Great Hanging from the perspective of those who were there.  The program helped all of us better understand the feelings, emotions, and fears of the time from both perspectives. 
Following the reading,  Dr. Richard B. McCaslin answered questions from the audience about the Hanging.   
Dr. McCaslin answering questions
After the program, everyone met at the Georgia Davis Bass Memorial Park for the monument dedication.  The monuments were covered when we arrived.   Most took the time to check out the names on the pavers that were placed next to the monuments.
Checking out pavers prior to unveiling
Master of Ceremonies was Dr. Richard "Rick" McCaslin.  Gainesville Mayor, Jim Goldsworthy, gave the welcome address and then we heard from guest speakers.  
Mayor Goldsworthy at podium
There was a reading of the names and bell ringing for all the men who died during the "Great Hanging."  

Finally, the unveiling of the Monuments

 I wish to Thank the committee for all their hard work to make the memorial a reality.

Luke and Anna Johnson Timeline

Timeline of the events in the lives of Luke and Anna Johnson

Luke and Anna (Hellums) Johnson are the great-grandparents of our Grandma Baldwin (Mabel Leffel Baldwin).  
Luke Johnson married Anna Hellums on 12 April 1819 in Cahawba County, Alabama.  They continued to live in Alabama for the next fifteen years.  During that time, Luke and Anna had 6 children that are known to present day researchers: Susan, Roenna (our 2nd great-grandma), William H., Mary Caroline, Alfonzo Sterret, and Elizabeth.   In about 1835, the Johnson family moved to Tippah County, Mississippi and lived there until Luke's death  in 1847.   After her husband's death, Anna moved her family to Calhoun County, Arkansas.  Anna Hellums Johnson died on 11 Sep 1852 in Calhoun County.  All the living Johnson children would end up moving to Texas.