Friday, December 8, 2017

DNA Discoveries: Hiram Abiff Boaz's Parents -- A Description

I discovered the interesting life of Hiram Abiff Boaz, my 4th cousin three times removed and great great grandfather of one of my brother's DNA matches. Solving the common shared ancestor enabled me to "meet" Bishop Boaz.

Wikipedia profile: Hiram Abiff Boaz
Texas State Historical Association biography: Hiram Abiff Boaz

Hiram Abiff Boaz was licensed to preach in 1889 by the quarterly conference of the First Church (Methodist); taught at several universities, was president of Southern Methodist University, elected Bishop in the Methodist Church, served in the Far East several times before retiring. Much has been written about Bishop Boaz so I will not repeat that information in detail.

However, I learned Bishop Boaz wrote an autobiography entitled, "Eight-four Golden Years: Autobiograph of Bishop Hiram Abiff Boaz." I found the book at a used book store through Amazon.com and wanted to share with his descendants that he was a genealogist and knew quite a bit about his family history.

A word of caution, you will likely find the description of his parents difficult to read because of its attitude towards slavery and the ownership of human beings, as well as the assumption that a well-cared-for slave is a happy slave. I chose to include the information because Bishop Boaz was no racist bigot from everything I have read. He was a worldly, well- educated and traveled man. The view he espoused in 1951 when his autobiography was written was not atypical for a Southern gentleman of the era. So for all the prejudices our fellow African-Americans still experience, we have come a long, long way from the beliefs of 1951. I found that to be a positive message the more I reflected upon its meaning. 

From Chapter I: Ancestry, Childhood and Early Youth:

"I was born in Murray, Kentucky, on December 18, 1866, soon after the close of the War Between the States. I was the sixth in a family of eight children. I was well born. My father and mother were sound in mind and body. There were in the prime of life when I made my appearance. Neither had any physical handicap or mental peculiarity. Both were physically strong, mentally alert and morally sound. For this rich inheritance I thank God and my parents.

Home of Peter Maddox Boaz in Calloway County, Kentucky; from
Eighty-four Golden Years: Autobiography of Bishop Hiram Abiff Boaz

Peter Maddox Boaz was my father. He was born in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, January 19, 1819, and there grew to manhood. He moved from Virginia to Concord County, Kentucky, about 1849, and remained there until 1852, when he moved again, this time to Calloway County, where he remained until 1873. He was six feet in height and weighed one hundred eight pounds. He was strong and robust. He had a clear gray eye with a bluish tinge. Being a man with unusual mental and physical qualities he became very successful in business. He was the owner of a large plantation near Murray, Kentucky. He was also a grower and manufacturer of tobacco and the owner of quite a few slaves. These slaves worked around the home, on the farm and in the tobacco factory. There homes were not far from the "Big House" and were well suited for their comfort. They enjoyed every consideration at the hands of my father who was always kind to them and their children. They held him in high esteem and were devoted to him and his family. When given their freedom by proclamation of President Lincoln they hesitated long before accepting their liberty. Some of them remained with him as hired servants for some time. One of them, 'Cupe' by name, came with him to Texas and remained with him to the day of his death, as a hired servant, of course.[1] Thus my father demonstrated the kindness of his great heart.

Peter Maddox Boaz; from Eighty-four Golden Years:
Autobiography of Bishop Hirman Abiff Boaz

Being a good citizen and fearless in the discharge of his duty, he was elected sheriff of his county and served in that capacity for several years. When the War Between the States broke out, he was one of the most successful businessmen of his county and one of its most useful citizens. He lived in a beautiful colonial home, surrounded by large and stately trees on the outskirts of Murray. He and his family and his slaves were happy and prosperous, living in peace and plenty.

When the war closed his slaves were freed, his business disorganized and his fortune swept away. Being prosperous and kindhearted he had signed security notes for his friends in financial distress and had many of those notes to pay when the war was over. The federal army confiscated his livestock used on the farm and took his tobacco from the barnes. The war left father without slaves, without business and broken in spirit. That is what war does for millions.

In the early spring of 1873 he sold his home and all that was left by the war and in March moved to Tarrant County, Texas, settling near Birdville, about seven miles east from what is now the city of Fort Worth. From the severe shock of the war, he never recovered his fortune or his spirit. He was a broken and bruised reed to the end of his life.

My mother, Louisa Ann Ryan, was born March 5, 1836, at Lynchburg, Virginia. Her parents were Virginians and belonged to the well-to-do class of planters of that State. She was a first cousin to Thomas Fortune Ryan, the New York multimillionaire. She inherited many fine qualities from those Virginia parents. Her great-grandfather, James Wills, fought in the French and Indian Wars. She was five feet and five inches in height and did not weigh more than one hundred twenty pounds. Her eyes were blue, her voice soft and sweet. She was endowed with remarkable energy and her powers of endurance were almost beyond limit. In the days of her prosperity she had slaves to look after the children, slaves to do all the work around her lovely home. I am told that these faithful slaves adored their "Mistress." To me this is no wonder for all her children adored her. She was the idol of our hearts.

Louisa Ann (Ryan) Boaz; from Eighty-four Golden Years;
Autobiography of Bishop Hiram Abiff Boaz

She presided over her home with grace and poise. She never lost her patience. She seamed never to tire in her labors of love and mercy. In the days of her prosperity she was modest and unassuming. In the days of adversity she toiled with untiring energy to keep her household in order and to look after all the interests of the entire family. After cooking and cleaning house all day she worked many times until midnight to keep her children in suitable clothes. She never complained of hardships in those days of poverty, but was always cheerful and optimistic. Perhaps this was because of her sublime faith in God and His never failing mercies. She was devoutly religious. As a child I believed in God because my mother believed in Him and I believed in my mother. This faith in God was held in my youth because of my faith in my mother. When I went away to college I had to find an independent faith of my own, an individual experience of God, but faith in my mother was an anchor that never failed and held me true to God.

To me my mother was a beautiful woman. It was not the beauty of rosy cheeks and sparkling eyes but the beauty of a saintly life. The beauty of serenity and peace was hers. Her lovely spirit, her motherly devotion to her children, her supreme confidence in the goodness of God made her beautiful to all her children. By example and precept she tried to lead all her children into the higher and nobler life. She instilled the principles of absolute honesty at all times. She taught us to tell the truth on all occasions regardless of the result to us, to deal fairly with all men at all times in spite of what others might do to us. Many tines have I heard her say, 'Have a place for everything and everything in its place.' 'Two wrongs never make a right.' 'Do right and you will win in the end.' She taught us to honor God in all things and to keep His commandments, and she set the example in her own life. I never saw her do anything that I thought was wrong. Her sublime faith in God and her beautiful Christian life have wonderfully influenced my entire career. To her I owe more than I can ever repay.

She maintained her home in Benbrook to the end of her life, although she spent much of her time in our home during her later days. She often said that she kept that home of her own so that if she tired of living in the homes of her children she would have a home of her own to which she could retire in peace and quiet. In this she was wise as in so many other ways.

In her eighty-second year while residing in my home, she fell and broker her hip and became bedfast. She suffered no pain but gradually failed in strength. Frequently when asked how she felt she would reply that she was in no pain but 'very tired.' On the night of November 27, 1917, she quietly took her departure for the world beyond the skies. There was no pain, no struggle, and her immortal spirit took its flight to the God who gave it. She had lived a marvelous life and died a triumphant death to enter on that life beyond the grave that is richer, fuller and infinitely more glorious than this life. Today the memory of her voice is like the memory of sweet toned bells, the memory of her beautiful sprit is like the memory of fragrant flowers. She is singing around the Throne of God today. Some day I shall join her and what a meeting that will be!"

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[1] "Cupe, the former slave and servant to Peter Maddox Boaz has been released on the Slave Name Roll Project.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Deadlier than War

Little Birdie Dawson died on 26 October 1918 at the age of 14 years, 2 months and 17 days of epidemic influenza, which claimed the lives of between 30 and 100 million people worldwide between 1918 and 1919. She was really just a blip in the statistics and died after being treated by a physician at home for two days. She was also my second cousin once removed.

Before the pandemic came to Virginia, people were focused on the war across the Atlantic. Young men and women were leaving to serve as soldiers and nurses and citizens at home made sacrifices for the war effort and bought Liberty bonds.

And then influenza came to Virginia. There were two main outbreaks in 1918 -- the fall outbreak between September and October and the second outbreak, in December. It attacked the most productive members of society, those between 20 and 40 years of age, tested all levels of government and a the medical community weakened by the war effort.

Women wearing masks to protect them from influenza; courtesy of Helena
as She Was, an open history resource

The first outbreak began in Virginia in Army camps set up to train recruits to fight in Europe. One 13 September a newly arrived soldier had an "acute respiratory infection." Three days later there were over 500 influenza cases at the camp. In total, 48,000 soldiers died in Camp Lee, about 130 east of Bedford County where Birdie lived. It didn't take long before the flu spread to the civilian population and Birdie was dead little more than a month after that first case at Camp Lee. She was one of 84 people who died in Bedford of Spanish influenza that year.

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Birdie Loren Dawson was born on 8 August 1904 in Bedford County to Whiston Robert Dawson and Ada Deliah Burks. She was their eldest child. Her father was the grandson of my two times great grandfather Powhatan Perrow Jennings.