Claude Reese

Claude Reese

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The Baptist Church Cemetery

This plot was used by the Bryan family for burials before the Baptist Church moved to this location. We are dealing with the "old" part of the cemetery which is on the north side of the building.

In the overall view the tallest monument is a tribute to Elijah, the father of the clan. He died at the age of 59 in 1852. His wife Elizabeth Penelope died at the age of 62 in 1870. Her grave is by his marker. They married in Jan 1824. She was 44 years of age when he died. She bore 14 children by the time of his death. The last, Elizabeth (Lizzie) was born in 1852. She married Mr. E.T.C. Dickenson. Their home was built in 1882 and is directly across the street from the cemetery.

As we go nearer to the beginning point of the grave yard we see the next tallest marker which is dedicated to Hamilton and his wife Christiana M. Barnes. The slab covering his grave indicates Hamilton died in Eminence, KY. In the foreground are slabs identifying some of their children and their spouses.

Here we are at the very beginning just to the left of Hamilton's grave. Little Tom was the first to be buried. His is the round top stone on the right. Notice the wood foot marker. It is sound and solidly implanted. I believe it is of virgin pine and is the original marker as the virgin pine can withstand the weather for a very long time.

The marker reads:

Thomas Barnes the only child of H.G. and C.M. Bryan
Born Feb 18, 1858 Died April 4, 1859
The broken marker reads:
Infant Son of H.G. and C.M. Bryan
Born Nov 4, 1862 Died Jan 4, 1863

The second burial was of
Rev. J.H. Wombwell.
He was born Sept 27, 1822 and died July 18, 1859. (Left)
We conclude with J.M.F. Erwin and his wives, both of whom were daughters of Elijah and Elizabeth Bryan. Next week we will visit their home.

I have chosen these pictures to show how important these people considered their heritage to be and also to give the historical development of the cemetery. It is an interesting place to visit, especially if you are interested in genealogy.

Antebellum Greenwood - The Baptist Church

The marker tells of the beginning. The picture is of the present building.

It appears the founders were good students of the Bible and were very positive in practing their belief. They took their responsibilities seriously in spreading the gospel, holding to the truth and exercising discipline on unrepentant sinners.
Union Academy was a school located on the east side of present Hwy 71 just north of Mt. Tabor Road.

The following are excerpts taken from Jackson County, Florida – A History written by Jerrell Shofner, Professor of History at the University of Central Florida. It was published in 1985 by the Jackson County Heritage Association. It is a available at the Chamber of Commerce in Marianna.

The records of the Union Academy Church, which became Greenwood Baptist in 1855, have frequent references to its black membership, including punishments meted out for misbehavior on the plantation. Blacks were admitted to membership as soon as the church was organized in 1845. Winnie, belonging to Richard Long was the first slave to join the church. During the next nine years, however, at least 22 other blacks became members. Typical of them were Mary, the servant of Elijah Bryan, Charles, the servant of Nicholas Long, Austin, servant of Martha Pittman, and Sarah, the servant of Ethelred Philips, all of whom were "received by experience." Apparently the blacks simply joined the whites in their Sunday worship until July, 1854. Then, M.T. Embry, "with as many white males as present, was authorized to hold conferences regularly for the benefit of the black members." The blacks had church on the third Sunday of each month after that. Whether they were still allowed to attend other services is not clear, but the third Sundays were reserved for them with the supervision of Embry and the other "white males." New members were still received at the regular services, however. On May 18, 1856, the pastor "opened the door for reception of blacks and received George," slave of W. L. Martin, Tom, belonging to "Sister" Gammon, and Nathan who was John Bryan's slave. Baptisms were held at Bellamy's Bridge and they were apparently segregated. In May, 1858, the minutes refer to the "colored members baptized at Bellamy's Bridge." Regardless of color all members were obliged to obey the same rules of behavior. In April, 1850, the deacons heard the case of Mary, the slave of J. Harvey, and "she was restored to full fellowship." Four years later, charges were brought against Nelson, the slave of D. Grey, for "fighting and falsehood." In 1857, A.J. Sims preferred charges against Tom and Mary, "colored members belonging to Mrs. Elijah Bryan." The charges were found to be true but the errant members were "penitent." Penitence notwithstanding, they were excluded. On the same day Stephen and Lizze (property of Thomas Barnes) admitted the charges against them and they were also excluded. Ellick, belonging to William Jennings, was excluded for striking J. Bevis in March, 1862.
At times there were almost as many slaves belonging as there were whites, but they sat in segregated places during the early years and later met on different days. Experiencing difficulty in retaining ministers, Union Academy frequently sent large delegations to the association meetings which were often held at Bethlehem and Sardis, and it postponed services once in 1852 "on account of the Methodist Quarterly meeting" at Greenwood. In 1853, a committee composed of Thomas Barnes, W. Hartsfield, Adam McNealy, James Drummond, William Sorey and C.H. Hartsfield was appointed for the "purpose of a new house of worship." Elijah Bryan sold them a site for one dollar. The new building was finished and furniture was purchased in 1855. At that time it became Greenwood Baptist Church. In the same year the congregation voted to "extend an arm of this church to the Marianna conference to be held when occasions may require." Perhaps it was in recognition of its recent accomplishments that Greenwood Baptist Church was selected as the site of the 1855 state convention. A.J. Sims, W. Hartsfield, as the committee on accommodations, had the responsibility of finding enough private dwellings in which to house the visiting delegates. It was probably not a difficult chore, since communities usually welcomed these festive occasions with their mixtures of religious services and social affairs.
A serious incident occurred in late 1854 when a committee was appointed to "investigate certain doctrinal opinions of Adam McNealy." Perhaps with reluctance the committee reported that "McNealy does not believe in the Eternal punishment" and was unanimously excluded from membership. Apparently the organization of the Sons of temperance in Marianna in the 1840s had been with good reason, but it had not been wholly successful. In the late 1855 the Greenwood Baptist congregation declared that "any member who in anyway aids in the sale of intoxicating liquor shall be guilty of unchristian conduct." T.M. Stribling disregarded the caveat and was charged in 1857 for being intoxicated. When he admitted his guilt and begged for forgiveness, his merciful brethren dismissed the case. Mercy was also shown to Judson Hollingsworth who was involved in "an affray and swore." When he was penitent he was forgiven. But there were limits. "Brother Ducker" denied charges of stealing but unfortunately for him he had been found guilty in a court of law and was excluded. L.W. Connor was equally unfortunate. Found guilty of "grossly immoral conduct" – "lewdness, swearing, and drunkenness" – he was ousted.
The Greenwood church extended an arm to the people near Minchin's school in 1870 and did the same at Marianna in 1877. The latter was in response to "Brother Asherst [who] requested an extension of an arm of the church at Marianna with powers to exercise all the privileges of an ordained minister." In 1881, M.L. Dekle and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. W.J. Daniel, Mrs. Allie Richardson, Mrs. W.W. McKay, and Rev. R.C.B. Lawrence met at the Dekle home and organized the First Baptist Church of Marianna. [Insertion by Claude Reese: The Dekle home is still located on the northwest corner of Green and Broad Street.] Lawrence was the first pastor, although Rev. T.E. Langley, who was pastor at Greenwood, and other churches of the West Florida Baptist Association, preached at Marianna several times under the auspices of the Greenwood church. Baptist services were held in the courthouse or in the Presbyterian Church until the Baptists erected their own house of worship. Dekle donated land and the congregation raised $1,600 to build a wooden structure which was finally dedicated in late 1890. Rev. J.P. Smith was the minister from 1891 through 1894.The Rev. S.B. Rogers served from 1896 until 1903. The church had some 42 members during the 1890s and, like its Greenwood neighbor, was occasionally obliged to dismiss a member for unacceptable conduct. The Greenwood church also extended its arm to the Baptists at Bascom in the early 1890s. A meeting was held there in September, 1894, with a view to establishing a church. The work was perfected in 1898 when Bascom Baptist Church was organized. Founding members were W.W. Bevis, Sue Bevis, A.N. Bevis, C.A. Boone, Mattie Lou Boone, Ada Parramore, Thomas L. Bevis, Lon Bevis, Harmon Stewart, and Martha Stewart. In 1899 a similar gesture was responsible for the organization of a church at Wolf Pond. When Rev. S.L. Loudermilk had received 14 members of the church at that place, they organized their church.

After the war was over the blacks began to leave. The Mt. Tabor Church on Popular Springs Road began at that time and is a large thriving church today. It has an extensive cemetery where many of that exodus are buried.


Antebellum Greenwood - Plantation Life

I have a copy of a letter written in Greenwood in 1858. The handwriting is very beautiful, but we do not believe it will reproduce very well on newsprint, so we are giving you a typed copy. Please pay close attention to the grammar and phraseology.

Greenwood Jackson Co. Fla. Nov. 1st, 1858
Dear Brother Willis,
I wrote to Sister Emily Saturday telling of our journey, and arrival in Florida; but Father insists on having a letter written directly to you.
I have no doubt but you are quite lonesome; perhaps a letter will do no harm. Monday morning finds us all quite well; we have been here just one week tonight, and although it has been raining nearly all the time, we have spent the week pleasantly. Three of our horses, Tobe, Nelly Bly, and Clem, foundered at different times after we left Uncle Jims; they were hardly able to travel, but Father & Brother coaxed them along, so that we made the trip in seven days as we expected. I believe they are perfectly sound again; I saw them running around this morning at 240 rate*. Mother's health has improved very much, her leg appears to be nearly well. Alley looks well and fleshy as you ever saw her; she came very near killing herself eating Sugar Cane & Goobers Saturday. There is such a quantity here, that we all eat from morning 'til night. I often wish the children at Home had some. Uncle Billie expects to grind his cane as soon as there comes a light frost. We will have a grand time boiling syrup and eating candy. I think I will carry some home for you. There are more Goobers in one field here than I ever saw before. The Hogs are fattening on them now. Cousin Charles has given me permission to go down and eat with his hogs, whenever I feel like it.
We had a fishing party on Chipola River Saturday. There were fifty persons present, and fish enough for all, of course it was very pleasant. We had wine plenty, a pack of cards and a Banjo, but no Bran to dance on. Something new to me, you know I did not play there.
Father tells me to say to you that Uncle Billie has more cotton than he can pick before Christmas. He is gathering corn now; has enough to fill every crib and two or three bins. On the whole he has an excellent crop.
Uncle Billie, Father, Cousin Charles, & Brother have gone to Marianna this morning. They have been there once before to look at Negroes for sale. Brother finds plenty in the market, but has yet purchased any. From along so many he will doubtless find some to please him.
Little Pellie has grown so much you would hardly know her. She and Cousin Charles'es little boys go to school to Miss Lizzie Bangs, who boards here. Their teacher has been sick and is not yet able to teach, so that they have been out of school several weeks. Pellie is taking music lessons; plays right well for one of her size. If we go to the Bay I hope we will be able to bring you all as much fish as you can eat. I know you will have no objection to that. Brother promised a young lady in the Valley, to send her a Barrel of fish from Florida. He says he will certainly do so if he has any success in catching. I could write you much more but haven't time just now. I hope you will get on smoothly at home. Since Father is compelled to be at home the 6th of Dec. be expects to start the 22nd of Nov.
Much Love to all. Your aff Sister Lizzie.

* 240 rate refers to a mile in two minutes and forty seconds at the trot, or 22.5 mph. This is a good speed and suggests the horse should be a Standardbred. "Jingle Bells" was written in 1857 and in one verse the bob tailed bay's speed was two forty.

After Elijah Bryan died his assets were listed. Here's page one of three. This lists his slaves and their values.

Here is an excerpt from our Declaration of Independence.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Our founders did not all practice what they preached. Even the scribe, Thomas Jefferson, fathered mixed race children.


The Smith Family

As mentioned in a previous article Louis H. Smith, a William and Mary graduate came to Greenwood to tutor the Bryan children.

He was born in North Carolina in 1836, so he was 24 years old when he came here. In 1869, he married Emily Bryan. Emily was born in Greenwood in 1842, so she was 27 years old and he 32 when they married. She was educated at St. Mary's Knoll in Burlington, N.J.

 They had four sons. Louis B. was born in 1869. He spent his life in Greenwood. He was an officer in the Bank of Greenwood. He and Dr. R.A. Willis and others started the Greenwood Investment Company. They dealt in real estate, brought a railroad into town, built a grain elevator and a peanut shelling plant. It was known as the Greenwood Product Company. It was sold and transferred to Graceville where it became the world's largest peanut shelling plant. A peanut mill is still right here in Greenwood. Shelling is no longer done here, but the peanuts are bought here, stored and then shipped out for processing. They are primarily bought by Hershey's, Reese's, and Mars Candy Company. Louis B. Smith's first son, Louis H. worked for the peanut company here and in Graceville for over 20 years. He is the Smith from whom we bought the house. The information I'm giving you was prepared for a family reunion by Orren Smith, son of Louis H. and Mozells Smith. The reunion was held at Great Oaks June 21, 1980.

The second son of Louis and Emily was Hamilton Allen. He was born here on January 18, 1871. He received a West Point appointment in 1889 and received his army commission in 1893. In 1896 he married Josephine Hale. They had five children. He had various stations in the states. He fought in the Spanish American War in Cuba. He went up San Juan Hill with Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders. In World War One he commanded the 26th Infantry, 1st Division. He was a full Colonel at that time and was killed July 22, 1918 in France. He was buried there, but his body was moved to Arlington May 12, 1921. Several of his descendants attended the June reunion.

The third son of Louis and Emily was Winter Elijah Bryan Smith. He joined the family December 15, 1875 in Blakely, Georgia where his father was teaching. He was in the academy at Young Harris, Georgia at the age of 17. (Young Harris College is still in operation in the village of Young Harris, Georgia. Former Georgia Governor and U.S. Senator Zell Miller teaches history and political science there). Winter Elijah Bryan married Eudora Wilson, whose father was a physician in Chipley. Winter practiced law in Marianna, served as its Mayor and in 1909 was elected to the legislature.

Emily gave birth to Hugh, their last son in Arlington, Georgia, November 23, 1880. He attended Florida Military Academy in Bartow and later earned a bachelors degree from the University of Florida. He married Susie Liddon, daughter of former Florida Chief Justice Benjamin S. Liddon.

They had three children and settled in the Dothan area. He was a successful real estate developer in the 1920's. The depression of the 1930's was very hard on him. He was a chain smoker and developed cancer of the larynx to which he succumbed in 1939.

His wife Susie began her real estate business after his death. She was successful in this and continued it until her retirement in the 1960's.

The Smith family probably lived at Great Oaks longer than any other family. Some of them were here most of the time from 1860 to 1951. Louis H. and Mozelle moved in here in 1927 and lived here until 1951, except when they moved out in 1940 to permit the use of the house for a school. Now we will see how the innards of their home looked. The house was known longest simply as the Bryans Place, then as the Smith House. We named it Great Oaks because of the tremendous live oaks around it. The two large trees near the house were old when the house was built. Last year I calculated one to be 292 years old, the other was 288. The Smith reunion information says the row of oaks along the street were planted about the time of the house was under construction.

This is the Northwest bedroom as it appeared when we bought the house. Notice the cracks in the plaster and the fact that the room had never been painted. Keep in mind the war started about the time the house was finished and probably for this reason, the room was left unfinished.

This is same room after the plaster has been removed and the wood lath is exposed. The dark streaks are where the heat escaped through the cracks seen above. As the heat escaped it took some soot with it which caused the stain. The mantel is still used. Notice the chimney is built of the soft lime rock which was hand sawn from local quarries. The Marianna City hall and most of the business buildings on the north side of Lafayette Street are made of these blocks.

There were three quarries along Highway 71 in the Hartsfield property just below the Caverns Road. They were filled in the last few years. We had three chimneys. We tore them all down and rebuilt two of them with brick. Each chimney contains 10,000 bricks. The chimneys are about 40 feet tall. We originally had nine fire places. We now have five. At one of our Christmas parties we had fires in all five of the fireplaces.

The corners of the chimneys below the first floor were rounded on about a 6" radius. The foundation piers were made of brick. These corners were rounded on about a two inch radius. My opinion is this rounding was done by hogs rubbing against them.

Here we are looking from the South East bedroom into the upstairs hall. Note the door has molding around the panels. Also, the door frame was installed before the plastering was done. The lath was nailed on with 3D cut nails.

This is the middle of the west wall of the downstairs cross hall. The big timber is a 4x10. Lath has been removed from the near side. It is still on the far side of the ceiling. You can see how the braces are mortised in to the 4x10 and held by tree nails. (Wooden pegs). The entire house is framed like this. (No nails in the framing).

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