Monday, June 6, 2016

Family Trees by Gail Roughton

I've never been one to think knowing the names of one's great-great-great grandparents or the dates of their birth, or the name of the ship they left their ports of origin on made any family's lineage one bit better than the next.  After all, everybody has two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, sixteen great-great parents, thirty-two great-great-great grandparents, etcetera etcetera all the way back to Moses, whether they know all their names or not, now don't they?  

But don't get me wrong--I think family trees are fascinating and I applaud all who have the patience and fortitude to research their own. I don't. The names and dates start running together about the next generation back, especially when I hit the 1800's and big families were the norm, even up to those with fifteen and sixteen children. I know, because a few weeks ago, my husband got curious about a family legend passed down through one line of his family tree and was lucky enough to actually find some records which didn't provide any proof at all the family legend was true, but certainly established that one of his great-great (or was there another great thrown in?) grandmothers had sixteen kids in twenty-five years, bless her heart, and that's the southern bless your heart meaning "Oh, my Lord! That poor, poor woman!"

He didn't last all that long before his eyes started crossing, and just for the heck of it, I asked him to google my paternal grandfather's name because--you guessed it--my family'd passed down a story about that man and his two brothers. It seems that my grandfather (I'd always thought his name was Charlie William, but it turns out it was Charlie Wayne) and one of his brothers were walking into town to arrange for the funeral of another brother who'd just died when they were both electrocuted in a freak accident involving a downed power line, thereby necessitating three funerals instead of one.  Now, that's a story a writer'd never use in a novel 'cause they'd be afraid readers would consider it just too unbelievable.  I found it unbelievable myself, simply because realistically speaking, just how many power lines were up in rural Alabama in 1918 to get knocked down?! Surely all that story couldn't be true.  But that story, dear friends, that story's the absolute truth and nothing but the truth. And nobody's as surprised as me to make that discovery. Some kind soul, undoubtedly a relative of mine in some form or fashion, had kindly posted his obituary online, along with a picture that sits up on one of my bookcases, right  by my father's.  

Birth: Feb. 14, 1882
Death: Jan. 11, 1918

January 16, 1918 LaFayette Sun
Tragedy at Shawmut

Two brothers, Charlie and Abesco Roughton, of Shawmut, were instantly killed last Friday when they stepped into a pool of water which had been charged by a fallen electric wire carrying 55,000 volts. The young men were on their way to West Point to make arrangements for the funeral of their brother, John Roughton, who had just died of pneumonia. All three of the brothers were buried in the same grave at Shawmut.

Corrections: Abesco Roughton is Jacob Sebastian Roughton. Raughton is spelled Raughton, Roughton and Rotton. Sebastian's headstone does not list Jacob in his name and he was known by family as simply Sebastian. Jacob is listed on his life insurance policy.

John T Raughton may have died of TB rather than pneumonia. Family oral history indicates a rain storm was in progress as Charlie and Sebastian left to make the funeral arrangement, planning on walking to West Point from Shawmut. One of the brothers stepped into a pool of water and was being electrocuted and the other brother tried to rescue him and both were killed.

They are not buried in the same grave but next to each other. The headstones have a Masonic emblem. I was told that one or two of the brothers were Masons but due to the circumstance of their death, all were given a Masonic funeral.

This old article from The LaFayette Sun was under the obituary.

January 23, 1918 issue of The LaFayette Sun
Resolutions of Shawmut Lodge No. 798 A.F. & A. M.

Whereas, our Heavenly Father in his infinite wisdom has removed to the life beyond, two of our beloved friends and co-workers, Brother John T. Raughton, Worship Master and Charles W. Raughton, Junior Warden of Shawmut Lodge No. 798 A.F. & A.M. As husbands and fathers they were affectionate and true, as Masons, they were loyal and true to the principles and tenets of our order, and in their removal to the Celestial Lodge above we realize the great loss which we have sustained and our hearts are greatly moved; therefore be it resolved:

First - That although having sustained an irreparable loss we bow in humble submission to God, whom we know makes no mistakes.

Second - That in their death we have lost two noble men, two generous friends, two genial companions, men of true, sound judgment, prompt in action and faithful in matters of trust.

Third - That we reserve the memory of their useful lives and commend their examples worthy of emulation.

Fourth - That we extend to their sorrowing loved ones our heartfelt sympathy, beseeching the Father in Heaven to grant them consolation which they so much need, and which He alone can give.

Fifth - That a copy of these resolutions be spread on the records of our Lodge, and a copy be presented to the families, and a copy sent to the LaFayette Sun and to the Chattahoochee Valley Times for publication.

L. A. Cleveland, J. S. Wallis, C. H. Cole, Jr., Committee 

The links in that online article also provided me with pictures of my great-grandparents, Georgia Ann Anderson Raughton and Alonzo A. Raughton, and my great-uncle John T. Raughton. (I guess you noticed nobody in my family thought consistency in spelling was all that important.)

 I've actually seen all those graves, as well a few more, but that was way back in my younger days, when my daddy was alive and nothing was better than a day spent just driving around on Alabama country backroads, exploring old abandoned farmhouses and even older cemeteries. Certainly I'd never noticed/didn't remember/probably didn't even know that my grandfather and great uncles had Masonic headstones and for sure I didn't know the significance of that. There wasn't a picture of my grandmother, but there was a picture of her headstone. 

These little nuggets of family history are especially sweet since not only did I never know my paternal grandparents, for all intents and purposes my Daddy didn't either.  Charlie Wayne Roughton died three weeks before my father was born, and my grandmother died when Daddy was five, leaving him to be raised by his older sisters.  Mostly though, my Daddy raised himself in that Alabama Valley where men were either textile mill workers or sharecroppers and usually both, and he grew up fast. When he was twelve, he walked into one of those mills and worked one whole day. He swore at the end of that day he'd never set foot in another mill and he never did. He got a job as a carpenter's assistant and learned the construction trade. I'd say that decision qualified that twelve year old boy a man, wouldn't you?  He joined the Army during WWII and ended up in Macon, Georgia as a prison guard at Camp Wheeler. He never moved his family back to Alabama other than to visit.  When I was small, he supervised the construction of many buildings and facilities that still stand in Macon, and even today, passing by one of the sites where he oversaw construction makes my heart sing.  Had he had the chance for higher education, I've no doubt he'd have been one top-notch architect. Country roots are strong, sure, and they run deep. I'm from a long line of country, just like my Daddy. And country roots go deep. Speaking of which....

Small town Southern
Coming Soon

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