Answering Questions Never Asked

The Research

All the stories I’ve ever heard of my family have been placed in the rural south: Alabama, South Carolina, and Georgia. I had simply never questioned that my roots could be anything but just simply southern.

This research has forced me to ask the questions I’ve never asked. Where was my family before they moved south? Where were they before then? Why did they come to the United states in the first place? How did they arrive?

I’ve found my family came from New England around 1640. This was when there was immigration of only the wealthy, elite royals and their indentured servants. My research indicates my family came as indentured servants, took fifty years to pay of their freedom dues, then moved south in hopes of better work. There has been farmland kept in my family for generations and this was likely its origin.

I started with focusing in on my family’s original roots. The English heritage I carry and how I can see that now through traditions and customs we still have. Then I began to look into southern culture in America. I looked into military service, alcohol, and food as they carry many different influences that prime the way people are in the south today. I also looked into the origins of country music and how it became so prominent in North Georgia. Finally I began to look into a micro-history of North Georgia. I looked into a historical monument, the Barnsley Mansion, that I have spent my childhood growing up around, but never questioned where it came from.

In continuing my research, I hope to thoroughly answer all the questions about my roots so I can have a greater understanding of where my family’s traditions and heritage originates. I hope to answer these questions so the knowledge can be cherished.

Downtown Rome, Georgia 1900

Contemporary Immigration in America a State-by-state Encyclopedia.

Arnold, Kathleen R. Vol. 1. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood, an Imprint of ABC-CLIO, LLC, 2015. Print.

Immigration happens in waves around the world and in waves of time. Its caused by an external force that literally forces people to move based on needs, desires, or aspirations. This force for my family in the mid-1600’s was a change in governing that started the deterioration of their human rights.In the 1628 English Charter, all immigration to New England was permitted if you were an established Christian. If the government could find proof that you would spread word of Christianity and continue the movement to convert all Native Americans to Christians, then you were welcomed aboard any vessel. Many families even requested that their non-British family members were permitted aboard and so the charter was extended to non-British as well. Though this was a great opportunity, immigration didn’t really pick up until 1629–1640 when King Charles I was appointed king.

King Charles I

King Charles made the decision to rule without Parliament. This made him an almighty ruler of sorts and allowed him to do as he pleased. England almost immediately fell to economic oppression and religious persecution due to this change. The flood of 21,000 pilgrims who came to the United States during this period created the Great Migration, my family included.

This book is organized state-by-state to show the patterns of immigration to each state and why. Because most of my family on my grandfather’s side and a significant portion of my family on my grandmother’s side is undocumented, this text was extremely helpful in filling in the blanks as far as where they likely went. Most of my family came to Massachusetts and Virginia. This is likely because they were Christian and the dominant religions in both of these states was Christianity.


Westward the Course of Destiny

Crofutt, George. 1873. Chromolithograph. Library of Congress, n.p.

Westward the Course of Destiny

The overwhelming reason for immigration to New England was to spread Christianity. They believed that they could interact with the Native Americans and ‘save’ them through Christ. People that simply wanted a fresh start to their lives even said that they would immigrate with this purpose so that the government would approve them for the move. Others came with the philosophy of Manifest Destiny which was the idea that expansion west and south was inevitable. The people came and began to domesticate the land, setting up their homes and farmland on what was one rural landscape.

This painting is a comprehensive image of westward and southern expansion from New England, specifically Virginia. Pictured in the east side of the painting is the existing civilization known as New England. It consists of trains, boats, farmland, homes, and carriages pulled by horses. The telegraph wire flows through the scape of the eastern land into the angel’s hand. This angel is the image of manifest destiny. She carries the wire, placing it through the landscape for civilization to follow. She also carries a Bible which corresponds with the other reason the pilgrims had for expansion: the spread of Christianity. Moving west in the painting, the native populations and landscape is pictured. Rolling mountainous regions, herds of animals, including buffalo, a group of Native Americans, a bear, deer, and unscathed landscape make up the image of America prior to westward expansion. With the angel being the symbol of expansion, it is clear that the immigrants believed they were clearly entitled to come to the land and cultivate it to their needs.

My family came to Virginia once they arrived from New England. It is likely that my family composed some of the immigration population that took over the Native American’s land. Because they came to the south most likely to start the farmland that was passed down generation to generation, it’s unlikely they were part of the westward expansion movement. However, this is not to say they didn’t move south with the ideas of spreading Christianity and manifest destiny in mind. Most of the native population in Georgia moved west or converted, so there was a strong influence of Christianity in the south then just as there is today.


The Chesapeake in the 17th Century: Essays on Anglo-American Society and Politics

Ammerman, David L. Barnes & Noble. N.p., n.d. 1979. Print.

Until reading this series of essays, I had not put much thought into how my family arrived. I focused more on why they came and why they went to the areas that they did. This journal gives a thorough explanation on how people arrived and how they began their lives.Most immigrants who arrived in the Chesapeake society (Maryland and Virginia) arrived as servants, really only a penny a day from being slaves. Once they arrived in the states, they had to pay their “freedom dues”, then they were free to start their own lives. Essentially it forced these servants to save every dime and give their master a collection of items including, clothing, an axe, a hoe, or barrels of corn. This could take many years depending on the salary the former master paid the servants and how well the servant could save their dues.Once their freedom was bought many servants moved South to continue their work they were familiar with. Initially tobacco was cultivated heavily in Virginia, but very quickly it was more popular to cultivate it in the more southern states. Many new freed men followed the tobacco industry south and continued their work.

“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” -Martin Luther King Jr.

This lines up perfectly with the documented emigration patterns of my family. It seems likely that we originally came as servants since the later patterns of movement line up perfectly with that of documented freed men. My family stayed in Virginia for about 50 years before moving south, which makes sense due to the amount of time it likely took for an entire family to pay of freedom dues.

I find it very interesting that the emigration patterns line up so closely with that of my family. It’s simply impossible to ignore the coincidences. Along with the patterns of emigration, my family kept farmland for generations, which is the only possession of value most freed men could pass down to their families.


The Southern Cultivator and Industrial Journal

Nesbit, Han. Vol. 53. Atlanta: n.p., 1895. Print.

A significant question that aroused from my research was why my family moved to the southern states once being settled in New England. Of course, there is no specific answer to pinpoint as to why my family moved; however, this journal describes in detail the many reasons New England residents moved south. The overwhelming issue with the influx of immigrants in New England was the lack of jobs and the lack of education to perform the jobs available. All the small-town folk who immigrated for bigger opportunities were still left with the complication that there were too many people in the city who could only do blue-collar jobs.

“I would rather be on my farm, than be emperor of the world.”-George Washington

When people started hearing of the cheap land available in the south, larger companies began to buy out properties to cultivate their own crop. This was the beginning of independence movement. New immigrants began moving south to work on the new-founded farms and in the new-founded textile cotton mils. The growing need for people to grow crops and raise animals continued to send people south in hopes of better work and prettier views than the city.

Farmland in South Carolina, 1895

I assume this is what my family did exactly. Farmland in South Carolina and Georgia was passed down generations and even though there is no documentation of the farms or workers, it makes sense that these were the original pieces of property purchased to start a new life in the south. Some of this property is located only a short 20 minutes from where my grandparents live now.


Remembering Georgia’s Confederates

Wiggins, David N. Charleston, SC: Arcadia, 2005. Print.

A military history is such a significant characteristic in a family that the desire to serve, especially in the men, is passed down generation to generation. Sons look up to their fathers as military heroes and serve themselves when they become of age. This could not be more true and proven in my maternal side of the family. Military interest mostly started in my family when my 5th great-grandfathers were drafted to fight on the confederate side of the Civil War. The only documented soldier before then was John Cobb. He fought in the Revolutionary War, but there is only minimal documentation of his connection to my family and his time served. I did, however, find that in his line Robert Cobb served in the Civil War. Robert is my 5th great-grandfather and he served in the 12th regiment of South Carolina.

Charles Martin Pitts and his father, Joel Pitts, were drafted into the 2nd Regiment of South Carolina to fight in the Civil War against the Union. Joel Pitts was actually taken as a prisoner of war in Virginia, which I found out through my grandmother’s personal research. She also found that Ozias Holden, the other Civil War soldier I found who served, had a twin brother. They were nicknamed the dirty blonde twins and they served together throughout their entire military careers. This book not only allowed me to read about how the men who served in the Civil War from the state of Georgia, but also find another soldier in my family who served. My grandmother told me how she knew in the Barrett line there was a private who served. She said she couldn’t find any documentation of him because he didn’t serve with the rest of the family out of South Carolina. She knew his name was Barrett and that he was a private, but that was all the stories told her.

Private G. R. Barrett

Here he is. This book illuminated this mystery soldier for my grandmother and for me. The book does not tell us anything other than his initials, but it also tells us he served out of Georgia’s 11th Infantry. My grandmother was so impressed I found this man. We spent over a half hour in the kitchen comparing his features to so many men related to my grandfather. Private Barrett looks very similar to my grandfather as a young man and his brother. This spark of military men did not end when the Civil War did. My grandfather, his brother, and his brother’s three sons all served or are serving their country. They take pride in the fact that they are protecting their families and friends in every way they know how. The Barrett name will forever be remembered proudly as a military name.


A Separate Civil War: Communities in Conflict in the Mountain South

Sarris, Jonathan Dean. Charlottesville, Va.: U of Virginia, 2006. Print.

The Civil War was a period of extreme moral challenges for the people of the Appalachian region in North Georgia. Being that Georgia was a part of the confederacy, the vast majority of Georgians were truly loyal to the confederate cause. Georgia was a hot spot for agricultural growth that required a significant amount of manual labor. Most farmers were slave or servant owners that helped around their properties. The fight for independence encompassed the fight to keep cheap or free manual labor around the farms, but for the people of the mountainous regions this was not a cause to fight as they did not own slaves. The Appalachian region became a region for deserters to find refuge from the Confederacy. These invaders caused a divide in loyalty for the native people of the region. Soon, there was a clear divide of people who reported deserters to the confederacy and those who helped the people leave the war behind. Most of the people loyal to the confederacy reported the deserters solely because they were taking the few jobs in the mountainous region.

“Although a soldier by profession, I have never felt any sort of fondness for war, and I have never advocated it, except as a means of peace.” -Ulysses S. Grant

This book was written from a deep analysis of two counties in North Georgia: Fannin and Lumpkin county. These two counties are less that 2 hours from where my family is from in Bartow County. The author, Sarris, explains the cultural and moral divide that became of the northern regions of Georgia due to its complicate involvement in the Civil War. He states that it was a “philosophical struggle that [explored] the issues of loyalty and motivation” to be loyal. The people in the North Georgian region were documented as more loyal to their people than the people they were grouped with in the confederacy. They cared more about protecting their jobs and family than fighting for the independence of the confederate states.

Bartow to Lumpkin County
Bartow to Fannin County

My family had a serious involvement with the Civil War. Many of my fifth great relatives (uncles or grandfathers) were drafted to fight for the confederacy. This was the start of my family’s military involvement. This book gave a unique insight as to the moral conflict that many people had as far as choosing sides of the war. Knowing that even though my family fought as confederate soldiers, they likely had vast moral struggles with it is almost relieving. Military involvement is something my family is very proud of and I am proud to know that most people of the region they came from fought to protect their families more than an ownership of slaves.


Albion’s Seed

Fischer, David Hackett. America, a Cultural History. New York: Oxford U, 1989. Print

There were four major exodus’ to the United States from England. Each of these movements were marked with very distinct characteristics of people. The waves have differences in religion, attitudes towards sex, child-raising, magic, and work. My family came in the first wave of English immigrants from 1649–1675 to Virginia. These people are marked as only Royal Elites and their indentured servants. They came with the hopes of making more money or of buying their freedom which was only possible at the time if a servant came to the states with their masters. These people are the founders of British culture in America. They are the reason we have Christianity as a dominant religion. These immigrants came with the hope to spread Christianity through the native populations. To them, the move seemed almost missionary work.

This wave of immigrants is also why we set the table the way that a traditional dinner table is set. This is a lost English tradition that most times is not credited to its origins. The desire to have place settings and fine china comes from English traditions of tea and meals at a table together. Through this in-depth culture read, I found these two traditions to be still present in my family today. Documented as far back as I could find, are marriage licenses signed by priests in traditional churches. My grandmother has old bibles that were passed down five generations to her with particular notes dating back hundreds of years ago.

A traditional English table setting

My family also takes pride in how we set the table for dinner. When my family sits together to share a meal it is always a priority to have matching dishes, silverware, and glasses around table. Each place setting is identical with a napkin folded over the dinner plate. Even the arrangement of seating is very traditional. The heads of the home sit at either end of the tables without any question. Until reading Albion’s Seed I had no idea this was a significant English tradition carried on through my family.


An Irresistible History of Southern Food: Four Centuries of Black-eyed Peas, Collard Greens & Whole Hog Barbecue

McDaniel, Rick, Polly McDaniel, Robert Lahser, and Royce W. Smith. Charleston, SC: History, 2012. Print.

The first wave of English immigrants to the United States came with their own foods and full intentions of sticking with their traditions. They came stocked with a variety of dried meats such as beef and pork, but did not plan for the drought and Indian attacks that left them without the ability to cultivate their own crop. Eventually they overcame their initial obstacles by moving farther south and picked up where they left off with their English recipes for roasted meats, fish, and puddings. They were vastly unprepared for the Indian influence there food would undertake. This influence would eventually be known as the classic southern food we eat today.

Indians soon started prominently influencing the immigrants dietary choices. The native populations showed the English how to garden according to the lay of the land. They showed them how to grow and prepare corn, beans, squash, pumpkins, and sun flowers. The first three crops, corn, beans, and squash, were so vital to survival that the Indians called them the ‘Three Sisters’ and emphasized their importance. The Englishmen began to adapt their recipes to the foods produced in their gardens and soon started to create what are still known as classic southern dishes today such as creamed corn, corn bread, country-fried ham, and grits.

This book was an interesting origin explanation of the way my family still cooks meals. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas the four dishes listed above are always served at either breakfast, lunch, or dinner. In addition to creamed corn, corn bread, country-fried ham, and grits, my family also enjoys many of the other foods that the Indians introduced to the immigrants that came to the south. In the fall my mother and grandmother always carve a pumpkin, of course, but they also save the pumpkin meat and seeds so we can enjoy pumpkin bread, pie, and roasted seeds. We also religiously serve black-eyed peas for New Years along with collard greens as a symbol for hope of prosperity and good fortune. Without the influence of the Native American population showing my original English family how to prepare such dishes, we would be lacking in all of these traditions. This novel gave me insight on just how much of a variety of influences food can have.


The Alcoholic Republic: An American Tradition

Rorabaugh, William J. Oxford: Oxford U, 1981. Print.

Beer was one of the staples to English society in the early 1600’s. It was brewed and stored so that it could not only be a leisurely drink, but also keep people alive in the absence of food. With enough calories, beer was less of an alcoholic beverage and more of a food supplement. When the English began their immigration to New England, they kept this tradition alive. Soon, with immigration from other nations as well, the American culture to enjoy an alcoholic beverage began to develop. The popularity of alcohol began its steady incline especially with the development of better distilling and brewing technology coupled with an ever-growing economic ability to sustain a drinking habit.

This book was written as an informative warning to America in the late 1800’s. The author charts a consistent increase in the popularity of alcohol and the corresponding increase in alcoholism. He warns the American people that they have surpassed any other nation with the amount of alcohol consumed yearly and that it is going to cause a significant decrease in ability to be productive. Rorabaugh recognizes that what started off as a very important staple to the diet has become a crippling habit especially in the men of the family. He states that “half of the adult males [were] drinking two-thirds of all the distilled spirits consumed.”

“Can America learn to drink intelligently?”

This consumption of alcohol started with the immigration of the English. The adults of my family have always consumed their fair share of alcohol. Never consumption close to bad alcoholism, but they have always enjoyed beer during the day and wine and liquor at night. Though the consumption of alcohol is obviously popular globally now, I thought it would be interesting to learn of the roots of alcohol consumption and how that relates to my English roots. It is interesting to see that my English family enjoys the alcoholic beverages made popular by the English. The most interesting factor is that it was most likely my family that made beer popular in the United States as they were part of that first wave of immigration that continued the English tradition.


Pickin’ on Peachtree

Daniel, Wayne W: A History of Country Music in Atlanta, Georgia. Urbana: U of Illinois, 2001. Print.

Music is a common connection between all peoples. It shows love, builds friendships, and brings people closer. Country music, most popular in the south, became popular after disaster to bring people back together. Most commonly composed of banjo, fiddle, bass, guitar, and drums, country music thrives in southern culture. Country music as a new genre (not folk music) became popular in 1913 in Atlanta. The year was plagued with crime. Robberies, kidnappings, and murders. The most heinous of which came in April. Mary Phangan, a 14-year-old from Atlanta, was found dead in the basement of her place of work. The trial was a dark cloud over Atlanta and crime began to steadily increase. The turn for better began when the Georgia Old-Time Fiddlers’ Convention was held in the city. Country musicians from around the nation came to share their music and their love with the sad city.

Georgia Old-Time Fiddlers’ Convention, 1913

This novel is an interesting outlook on the popularity of country music and why. No doubt, the genre is popular internationally because of its instrumental value, choice of lyrics, and outstanding talent, but when did it become its own genre and when did it get to be so popular in the south? Country music usually has lyrics depicting the lives of rural southerners or tell love stories of these rural southerners. It is something almost anyone in the south can relate to, especially in the early 1900’s. When the Fiddlers’ Convention came it exhibited a new wave of music for the south right in a time of need. The genre spread like wildfire through the south and has stuck for over a hundred years in rural areas especially.

My family is very musical. My brother, sister and I all play either the piano, guitar, or ukulele. My father grew up playing the piano, violin, and saxophone. My father actually even has a violin that has been passed down four generations. At every family reunion, dinner, tradition we gather at the end of the evening to play and sing songs usually around a campfire or fireplace. We play covers of pop songs, original songs, but mostly we play country music. It’s simply music we all love, music we all know, and music we all can relate to. With country music being embedded with Christian influence, my family sings these songs with passion and love. This music is a part of southern culture I will always love.


The Heritage of Floyd County, Georgia

The Committee Rome, GA 1999, 1833–1999. N.p.: Walsworth, 1999. Print.

Joyce is true to her roots and still remains and active member of with her sisters at this special church [Snow Springs Baptist Church]. It is through this family tradition that Joyce has her strong will and faith in the Lord today (412).

My great-grandmother and her husband.

Joyce is my grandfather’s mother and was the only great grandmother I knew. She really did stay at her church until she couldn’t drive herself anymore. She was the perfect picture of what it means to be southern, Christian woman. She is described perfectly in those two sentences. I always looked up to her in her ability to be faithful and I know that she is one reason my mother’s side of the family is so embedded in their Christian roots. This book is historical collection of local stories from Floyd County. They are written and submitted by the families that have lived their for countless generations. Each family wrote short stories or simply described the marriages and children of their families and submitted them to be published together as the heritage of Floyd County.

Of course, my grandmother was the member of my family who submitted the pictures and corresponding stories. She described her husband’s family as textile workers, cotton farmers, and regular church attendees. She wrote about how all the men in the family served in the army and all their sons served as well. Granny does a great, articulate job of writing a concise summary of the lives of her immediate in-law family.

Reading the description she submitted of her family was like listening to one of her stories. She talks about her mother, the woman I’m named after, just like she talks about her to me. Granny explains she loved to cook, grow flowers, and make flowers from wax and paper. You can hear the love my grandmother has for her family in her stories and the fact that she took time to write her favorite stories and submit pictures to memorialize her family proves it.

Our mother’s strong faith in God is the reason we all still love each today (413).


Barnsley Gardens: The Facts Behind the Fables

Howett, Catherine M. Barnsley Gardens: The Facts Behind the Fables 64.2 (1980): 172–89. 1978. Print.

Barnsley Gardens and Resort is a historical landmark and one of the largest attractions of Bartow county in North Georgia. Constructed in the early 1840’s, the property has seen every significant piece of history that has come through the area. It has landmarks of the Civil War, tornadoes that came through the area and destroyed acres of land, and it also shows its age by the wear on its ruins (the original mansion built for Barnsley’s wife). Barnsley came to the United States without a dime to his name and married into English royalty. He used his newfound fortune to begin construction of his dream home, gardens, and farm in Bartow County, North Georgia. He was the first to start the movement of having a “showplace farm” which would make the farm not only productive in creating produce, but also creating an environment people would pay to come visit and see the gardens. Barnsley also constructed workers’ homes around the property for those who helped out around the farm and resort.

Barnsley Gardens Resort is five miles down a winding country road from my grandparents home. My grandmother’s oldest brother, TJ, was born in one of the workers’ homes on the property and my grandfather worked as the guard gate for about 15 years until he fell ill. I grew up going to Barnsley with my family to fish, run along the trails, eat dinner at the two restaurants on property, visit the animals, and walk the ruins. The ruins are absolutely one of the most beautiful historical sites I’ve ever visited. I grew up walking around the worn buildings hearing ghost stories and learning about the history of the building along with the love for his wife that drove Mr. Barnsley to construct it.

The original Barnsley Mansion

Researching this landmark enlightened me to a bit of micro-history for Bartow County. Once the mansion was constructed all of Barnsley’s family lived on-site and most of them worked on the property as well. During the Civil War the property was ransacked by Union soldiers and they destroyed most of the gardens and stole all the valuables they could find within the mansion. Though no payment was ever made, Barnsley fought for years for restitution from the government for his lost fortune. He moved the Louisiana and died soon after leaving his family living on the property in Bartow. The family lost the last of its fortune when a tornado came through and ripped the roof off the mansion, leaving them without a home to live in. The family moved on and the mansion was left to rot as a historical gold mine. Many years later the property was again bought out and a resort was built around the ruins memorializing them for the benefit of all who visit.