Celebrating March--Women's History Month

Women's History Month | National Women's History Museum

Recognition of women's contribution to history has grown from a week in 1980 to the entire month of March beginning in 1987.  For the next four weeks, this blog will feature stories and pictures of our society members' women ancestors and their historical experiences.  Some of the stories are short remembrances with pictures.

Elizabeth Barrett Gunnell (1822-1907) 

Smiles Amidst Tears

 Created out of different journal entries by Elizabeth Barrett Murray File (1893-1994)

"When they moved from Virginia to Kentucky they left a set of glass goblets on the table as they had no room to take them. I always wished that I could have gone in and got them.

"One time when they were short on food Grandma’s mother went to the mill to buy meal on credit and the miller wouldn’t let her have it. So she came home and threw herself across the bed and cried. I always wondered what the family did."

A little background on her: My grandmother Elizabeth Barrett Murray (1893-1994) wrote these little memories about her grandmother, Elizabeth Barrett Gunnell (1822-1907) third wife of John Henry Smith (1809-1871). Their daughter Mary Lena Smith (1862-1929) married Guy Rupert Murray (1863-1934).  


My grandmother Elizabeth (who wrote these memories in "Smiles Amidst Tears") married Claude E File in Missouri. They had 13 children, one of whom died as a toddler. In the mid-1920s they moved to Illinois and in 1938 or so moved to the Puyallup Valley. My grandfather had apparently always had a dream to homestead in Alaska so went to the Tacoma library to learn how to build a boat. He built the "Walloping Windowblind" and in 1941 put 10 of the children on it and they took it to Alaska. 

Submitted by Rebecca Dare

Martha 'Jennie' Rogers MacPherson, born 1863

The Baby in the Cradle

It was 1863 in a very rural county of north Georgia, and “The War”, as my relatives called it, was intruding more and more into the life of civilians.

As the day ended, the lanterns were lit in that little cabin. Were there any warning sounds? Did the family sense something wrong seconds before the door shoved in? And then the room was filled with a band of raiders – guerrillas or deserters from one warring side or the other; it didn’t really matter. Everyone froze.

The raiding party ran their sabers through the women’s skirts hoping to hear the sound of valuables or food, routinely hidden in the women’s petticoats in these time. They roughly rummaged for what few valuables the family had and then one of the raiders spotted HER – the baby in the cradle, my great-grandmother Martha “Jennie” Rogers, born earlier in the year in January.

One of the raiders reached down and picked Jennie up. Everyone looked on as he held her in his arms and commented, “This little dolly was made just for me”. Did her mother, my 2nd-great—grandmother choke back tears? Did Jennie whimper just a little or did she smile at her admirer? Time stood still. And then…the raider placed Jennie gently back in her cradle, and leading the other raiders, he walked back out into the night leaving the family and few goods intact. They had survived another day.

We of course will never know what the raiders were thinking as they looked at Jennie. But I fancy that for a few moments the sight of a baby in a family setting reminded them of their homes and families and of more peaceful times.

You may wonder…did no one think to offer resistance? Probably not a good idea when you are dealing with raiders; but even so, my 2nd great-grandfather was disabled. The work fell on his wife and, over time, their 12 children. Stories record that John L. Rogers had what was called “white swelling” in his legs - his legs would swell and then burst and ooze. Because of this, he was unable to fight in the Civil War or do hard work. White swelling was extremely painful and the only painkiller available was alcohol – and John is recorded as making use of it. Today this disease is called bone tuberculosis or Mycobacterium tuberculosis. See also: https://csidixie.org/numbers/mortality-census/graveyard-old-diseases

Joe and Jennie Rogers MacPherson

How do you validate a family story?

I concentrated on witnesses and historical framework and dates.

1. My great-aunt Bess McPherson Hill, who shared this story, was Jennie’s daughter. Jennie heard the stories not only from her mother Sarah Lee Rogers, who didn’t die until 1928, but also from her mother’s brother Wesley A.J. Lee and his wife Mary Mariah Rogers Lee, who lived next door during the war and nearby in later years. Those two didn’t die until the late 1920s. Additionally, another part of the family through Jennie’s sister Ana Lou recorded family stories as well.

2. From a date standpoint, the Civil War is well documented. So I sought resources on the War in Georgia. Among the items consulted is the online New Georgia Encyclopedia, Civil War in Georgia: Overview. I quote the following under the Fair Use of copyrighted material clause which includes the use of protected materials for noncommercial educational purposes:

“Adding to the chaos of the home front was the growing presence of Confederate deserters who, after 1863, hid in remote areas of the state, from the mountains in the north to the swamps and piney woods in the southeast. Equally harsh, Confederate and Unionist guerrillas of north Georgia made a hellish existence for many civilians.”

Jennie was born in January 12, 1863. If she only spent 9-10 months in a cradle (which is common today, but may have been longer then), until late 1863, the story fits within the timeframe discussed in this article. There are many other materials documenting how raiders/guerrillas/deserters made life “hellish” for war-torn communities in many states, including Georgia. My mother’s people lived in the direct patch of Sherman’s March to the Sea.

Source: Online New Georgia Encyclopedia, Civil War in Georgia: Overview, Original entry by John D. Fowler, Dalton State College, 07/03/2010; Last edited by NGE Staff on 08/24/2020. See: https://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/history-archaeology/civil-war-georgia-overview


Alexis Hacker Scholz, March 2021



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