Richard Thornton | Jun 3, 2017 | 15
Mami T – Charity A. Taylor McDuffie
When I first began trying to write this short story several years ago about my great, great grandmother Charity A. Taylor McDuffie, who was known to our family as Mami T, I only had the stories about her that my dad had told us many times while I was growing up to write her story with.
I am quite sure that these stories were handed down from older family members who knew her quite well. Daddy was born in 1915 in the Whitewater Community, and she died in 1917. But even though he was so young he remembered her vividly, and admired her greatly!
My dad was a great story-teller and spinner of yarns; he could tell such a great story that it made the listener feel as though you were there too. And in my mind she became a powerful and living memory; so much so that I always felt as though I knew her personally, even though she died long before I was born.
I was so intrigued by the stories he told us about her because she was such a strong woman that she seemed larger than life to me. I was born and grew up in an era when southern women were subservient to men. But she was not; she was always her own person; which was very unusual to say the least.
She became my hero, I know that heroine is the correct term for female, but I think if I am able to convey to the reader her true character, you will understand why I admired her as my hero!
Daddy described her as being a tiny woman, four feet eleven inches tall, and she had long jet black hair. He said, “She was not afraid of anything that walked, neither man nor beast, she was a free-thinking woman way ahead of her time.”
She lived in an era when females were ‘Chattel’ or property of their father or husband, and women and children were subservient to males. But no man ruled her!
This might be a little difficult for some in today’s world to even imagine how it was back then, but for me it was not so difficult; things had not changed all that much from the period of time when she lived in the Panhandle to the time when I was born and raised.
She spent much time alone with her three small children in the wilderness of the sparsely settled Florida Panhandle, and she needed to be able to think for herself. Daddy said, “She was feisty, a scrapper if need be, and she smoked a corn-cob pipe and cussed worse than any sailor you ever heard.”
For many years I had thought that she was my great grandmother, and that William H. (Tony) McDuffie was my great grandfather, because when Daddy spoke of them it was always in the same context. So I just assumed they were husband and wife instead of mother and son.
I mentioned this in conversation with another family member quite a number of years ago, and she corrected me, and gave me the right connection. This sparked my interest even more about Mami T.
Then I wondered why my Dad had never mentioned my great, great grandfather, and it was only after I began doing some research (I use this term loosely, I am a novice at researching), and began to come across records that I could even think about piecing together a more complete story about Mami T; the tiny woman who cast a giant shadow; which spanned several generations!
I consider myself to have been very blessed that another family member, Sharon Tibbits Grant, had been doing research for many years; and she has very graciously and generously shared her files with me; all of the files that she had been working on for many years collecting and compiling about our family and its various connections; which are many.
Her file was and is a treasure trove of information to me, especially the information I gleaned about Mami T. I began trying to write a short story about this wonderful woman with strength of steel back then, and as I learned more I had to re-write it several times, and now I have decided to just begin a new one.
Daddy always referred to her as Mami T, and I always assumed it was spelled Mammy T. But somewhere in someone’s writings I came across this present spelling which is now the name of her story.
In the files that were shared with me by Sharon Tibbits Grant there is a note which stated that Mami T was a Cherokee Indian. This information had been shared with Sharon, by whom I do not know. However this information has never been verified or documented that Sharon nor I have been able to find, and Sharon is a researcher who is now retired.
If Mami T was Native American I would be more inclined to think she was of Creek descent rather than Cherokee. Also if she was Native American this would explain why she was not subservient to males. In most clans or tribes females are equal, and in most; the lineage is through the female, and they are highly honored as the givers of life.
Her father’s name was James Taylor, and he was born in 1800 in Beaufort, South Carolina. The Native Americans I found there are listed as Cusabo Creeks, and I also find they are listed as an extinct clan or tribe. I have since received information that they are not extinct; they were absorbed by other tribes.
I have found Taylor’s on both Creek and Cherokee rolls, but I have never found his name on any of the rolls that I’ve looked at, and I have never discovered the names of his parent’s in any census records or any other source.
On the entire census records that I have looked at they were listed as white. But this was at a time in history when many Native Americans were deliberately trying to hide their identity by passing for white if their skin was light enough, if not then Black Irish or Black Dutch or maybe even Mulatto, anything except Native American!
I have found the migration route that he traveled from South Carolina to the place they migrated to and settled in what eventually became Holmes County, Florida which was located on the Choctawhatchee River.
I checked with a friend Richard Thorton, who is a Native American Architect, Historian and researcher, and he told me this route was a Creek migration route, and the area where they settled on the River was where many Creeks and other Native American’s came to and settled in those days, and those who were not captured and removed to the Indian Territories or killed; were eventually absorbed into the white population.
In order to avoid capture and survive they had to deny who they actually were and live in secrecy for the remainder of their lives. And so many never talked about their true identities, not even to their descendents, it was too dangerous, even through several generations! And this has only changed in the recent past.
So much has been lost of their culture and their records; a tremendous injustice to say the very least; has been done to the Native American by the influx of those who came to take their lands from them in the name of greed! Instead of trying to live in peace among them as guests in their homeland, they slaughtered them by the thousands, and drove them from their homes and took their lands!
I have not been able to nail down yet the exact year that he left South Carolina, but I did find some records in Thomas County Georgia, where James lived for several years before migrating on down to North West Florida.
In an 1850 census of Holmes County, Florida it gives his age as 50 years old, the census was taken in Division 3, Holmes Florida.
His wife is listed as Evelina, 34 years old. My gg grandmother Charity (Mami T) is 19 years old and living at home. Jasper the oldest Son is 17, Henry is 15, Nancy is 13, Wilson is 11, Emily is 8 years, and Zachariah is a 7 month old baby.
I thought at the time when I first looked at this census record that Evelina was the mother of Charity (Mami T). And then I received an email from a lady who was also doing research on the same Family, and she told me that she thought that James had been married to a woman by the name of Tempe Faircloth before he married Evelina.
I checked some census records in Thomas County, Georgia and I found James Taylor listed on a census there, and if I am not mistaken the year was 1840. There were some small children in the household. Only the head of the households were listed by name in those early census records.
I searched the old marriage records of Georgia and found a marriage record for James Taylor married Tempe Faircloth March 30, 1828 in Thomas County, Georgia. There are no other records that I have been able to find about Tempe, but I believe that she is the mother of Charity, Jasper, Henry and Nancy.
I do not know what became of Tempe, but most likely she died, and was buried in Thomas County although I have found no record of that. It is quite possible that she died in childbirth when Nancy was born in 1837 or soon after. But since I have found no records to that effect I am just guessing.
There is another marriage record for James Taylor married Aveline Faircloth October 04, 1838. The lady that I had corresponded with told me that in her Family Bible Records her name is spelled Evelina. The spelling of her name is different on each census record, and it is believed by the family that she was the younger sister of Tempe.
I am also not sure of the exact time they left Thomas County and migrated on down to the Florida Territory which this area became Holmes County, Florida, and I am not exactly sure of the date of their arrival, but I am pretty sure it was in May of 1842. I will explain later in the story the reason I feel certain this was the time when they arrived.
Wilson was born in 1839 in Thomas County, and Emily was the first child born in Holmes County, Florida. And Florida was still a Territory at this time.
I have not as yet found the date of Emily’s birth, but she was born in 1842 in the Florida Territory. Also listed on the 1850 census is Zachariah Jack who is seven months old. Later there were two other children born, Sarah and Rachel Taylor.
For a long time I did not know where they lived after they came to Holmes County. I had overheard my Dad say in conversations with others that they had lived way down yonder on Wrights Creek. I came across a census record where the Post Office listed for them was Cerro Gordo, which is on the west side of the Choctawhatchee River.
Cerro Gordo was at one time many years ago the County seat of Holmes County. And Wrights Creek is a beautiful clear water creek which empties into the Choctawhatchee River south of Cerro Gordo. I am still not sure of the exact location of where they lived, but it was in this area.
According to historical records this area was where Creeks and other Native Americans gathered after being chased out of Alabama and Georgia. Holmes County, Holmes Creek and Holmes Valley are named after Creek Chief Holmes who came to this area after the Creeks were defeated at Horseshoe Bend in 1814.
Sometime after November 28, 1842 ~ a Creek village was found and wiped out by the local militia somewhere on Wrights Creek. They killed twenty-two Creeks and took no prisoners. It was considered a massacre even by the local white settlers. Very little was written about it.
The Taylor’s lived on Wright’s Creek for quite some time for about 15 years; before James acquired land, the first land purchased was 120.04 acres somewhere near what is now known as Millers Crossroads on December 01, 1857. And in April 1860 he purchased an additional 199.95 acres.
I am not sure either of where and how Mami T and my gg grandfather William H. McDuffie met, but I would certainly love to know that story! She and William were married in November of 1851 in Bonifay, Florida according to the papers I have. I do not have their marriage record; I only have the sworn affidavit paperwork that she filed at a much later date.
After they married they too acquired land which was also located near Miller’s Crossroads. One of my cousins who still lives in the area knows where their house was located she remembers seeing it when she was a little girl. She told me the next time I am up that way she will show me where it stood.
In trying to find the location of the property I called the Courthouse in Bonifay. The lady I spoke with told me that even though I had, and gave her the legal description; she could not give me the exact location unless I know the names of the present owners, but she could give me a general location. I ordered a map of Holmes County and she was kind enough to mark the general location on the map for me.
On some of the paperwork their Post Office was given as Potolo Florida, and even though I was born and raised in Holmes County this one caused me to scratch my head. I had never heard of it, I was able to find it on an 1885 map of the Panhandle!
I have since spoken with a man, Mr. James Williams who lives in Bonifay, and he told me exactly where it was located. His great grandparents John J. and Elizabeth Whitaker Perkins were the Postmaster and Postmistress of the Potolo Post Office. It was located in their home and is about three or four miles southeast of Millers Crossroads.
I am certain that the land they purchased would have had to be cleared before they could even think about farming it, because in those days it was primarily a wilderness.
Most likely the garden spot was the first to be cleared. Mami T worked alongside William to build a home and farm the land. They had been married ten years and had three children before he enlisted in the CSA and left to fight in the Civil War.
Their first child was a daughter named Rhoda Ann, born in 1853, but she was always called Rody. Their second child was William Henry born in 1857 and he was called by several names; aliases that he called himself, that he became known to others by. The third child was another daughter, and she was named Emily Margaret, born in 1860; she was named after Mami T’s sister Emily.
I learned during my search that William had also been involved in a long term and on-going relationship with another woman; her name was Candace French, and she was the daughter of Robert Emanuel and Elizabeth Leavins French, who were married in Thomas County, Georgia. Candace was born March 20, 1820 in Georgia.
I was thinking that since both women in William’s life had been born in Thomas County, Georgia, that maybe I could find him in Thomas County, as well. But sadly as of this date I have not found him on any census records except the 1860 Holmes County, record. I only have a three year window of his life to show that he had ever lived.
In the French family record shared with me by a descendent of their family it states that Candace had an on-going relationship with William H. McDuffie, and that they never married, and their children were, Samuel French born March 04, 1848, and Richard French born Febuary 22, 1855. Their relationship is also recorded in the McDuffie Family records.
It had been common knowledge by all who knew them, and it was recorded in the histories of the families, so I assume it was an acceptable relationship for all concerned.
William enlisted in the CSA January 17, 1861 at Pensacola, Florida. He left behind two women who loved him, and between the two of them he left behind three sons and two daughters.
Mami T received information from a source that is yet unidentified that he was killed in December of 1861 in Port Hudson, Louisiana. Many years later I discovered that most of the information she had been given by others was wrong.
She filed an application for a Widow’s Pension in 1904. I ordered a copy of her application from Tallahassee, Florida, and at the same time I asked for a copy of William’s service record.
The day I received the copy of her application in the mail I was so excited I was beside myself! As I was reading her sworn affidavit I saw her mark, an X on all of the pages, and I realized that she could not read or write; this was something that I had never even thought about before.
The papers were so clear they looked like originals, but I knew they were copies, I reached out and touched her mark with one finger, and it became a spiritual experience for me, suddenly in that moment it seemed as if all the years just slipped away, and I was actually touching the hand of my gg grandmother; I began to weep.
I saw it so clearly in my mind’s eye. And in that moment I had such an ache in my heart, and I mourned the loss of her for the first time in my life.
It was so real to me, I had loved and admired her all of my life, and I had at just this moment come to realize the fact that I had never known her personally at all, but I felt such a peace wash through me; it seemed to me as if I had actually touched her hand. And I believe that I did in the spiritual realm.
Afterwards I read her application and all of the information she had at the time she filed. She stated that William was in 1st Alabama Company A, and that he was killed in Port Hudson, La. December 08, of 1861, and that his Captain had been William Truett.
Not having much information about my gg grandfather I began to search and dig. In the beginning I only had the 1860 Holmes County census record. His name on the census was spelled William McDuffee born September 1827, Georgia. There was no other information.
I then realized this was why my dad had never talked about him; he had never known him, and you never think or talk about people that you have never known.
William left for the War and he was never heard from again by any family members. This was long before my granddaddy Boss or my dad was even born.
On the very last page of the paperwork I had received from Tallahassee there was a small form from the War Department. It confused me because it sounded as though there had been two William McDuffie’s in 1st Alabama.
I contacted ADAH (Alabama Department of Archives and History) I spoke with two of their researchers via email.
And there had been two, one was William A. McDuffie and he had been in 1st Alabama Old Company B. and he was from Eufaula, Alabama and their Unit was called ‘Eufaula Rifles’, he was an officer, and he was black.
The other was my gg grandfather William and his last name had been spelled McDuffey. He was in 1st Alabama Company I his Unit was called ‘Dale Avengers’ and his Captain had been William Pruitt, and he was a private.
I learned from the ADAH researchers that he had not been killed in December of 1861, because there were Union records of his having been captured at Island 10, in April 1862. And I have those records.
He was a prisoner of War, and there are records of roll calls where his name is listed. He was exchanged in November 1862 at Aiken’s Landing near Vicksburg, Virginia.
He returned to his Company in Port Hudson, La. And there the trail goes cold. There is no record of his death in any manner, no hospital record, and no record of burial. No other records at all!
The fact is I have no idea of what happened to him. I did later find a discharge record for William McDuffey 1st Alabama Company I, Private.
Even though neither I nor the two Civil War researchers could find any record of his death; it had to have been accepted by the War Department that he had died somewhere, because Mami T began drawing a pension in 1909, at the rate of $120.00 per annum.
He never returned and was never heard from or about by the family again. I did ask the researchers how Mami T would have been notified and they told me that most likely it would have been word of mouth.
On her sworn affidavit which was filed in 1904 there was a place that she had to swear as to how long she had lived in Florida. The date that was typewritten in was May 15, 1824.
Since this could not even possibly have been a correct date, because she was born May 15, 1830; my thoughts are that whoever typed the paper up wrote the year in as 1824 where it should have been written May 15, 1842. I am sure it was a typo error!
And I believe that because she could nor read or write, and no one read it back to her that she was not aware that a mistake had been made before she made her mark. May 15, 1842 would have been her twelfth birthday and she most certainly would have remembered arriving in the Florida Territory on that date.
If this is correct; this then would make the Taylor family Florida pioneer’s; however no papers have ever been filed for a Pioneer Certificate by anyone in our family that I am aware of. Florida was still a Territory, and did not become a State until sometime in 1843.
Can any of you imagine being left as she was in the mid 1800’s? Think about it, she was left a widow in the wilderness with three small children, no education, no job, no money, no welfare assistance, no Medicaid, and no food stamps; she was left with absolutely nothing except her children, her home and her land.
I am sure that she mourned the loss of her husband just as most any woman would, and I am certain she spent many long and lonely nights longing for the comfort of his arms holding her, in the night seasons. As long as she knew that he was alive there was hope that he would return. But as soon as she received word of his death; that hope was gone!
Suddenly she was forced by circumstances far beyond her control to become the head of her household. She did not have much of a choice, she either had to give in to the circumstances, and she and her children would slowly starve to death. Or bite the bullet and become a survivor.
She had a warrior spirit, and did not wallow in self pity; she chose to deal with the hand that had been dealt to her by life, with grit, guts and fierce determination, and a tremendous amount of back breaking work!
She chose to do what she already knew how to do, and that was to farm her land herself with only her small children to help. A gigantic undertaking! Her father was a farmer, and she had grown up working in the fields, and so had her husband been a farmer and she had worked with him for many years. She raised her children alone on her farm.
I am sure that her family helped as much as possible, but they had their own farms to work. Having been raised on a farm I can relate somewhat with the job she had on her hands, it is hard physical labor, and it is a job that is never finished.
One of the stories Daddy told about her was that she had to walk into the settlement to get supplies every so often. I think the settlement that she walked to back then; in time eventually became Graceville, Florida.
There were no baby sitters available in those days, and she could not take her children with her. The distance which was five to eight or ten miles was much too far, and she had to ford one or two creeks on the way to and from.
There were also the wild animals she had to consider that might be encountered along the way; black bear, alligator, panther, wild cats, wild hogs, diamond-back rattle snakes, etc. all were plentiful in the Panhandle in those days, and in order to make the trip she had to devise another plan to deal with this situation.
I hesitated for a bit about writing this story because there are some today who might consider the way she solved her situation to be child abuse. No matter what others think; I consider what she did to have been great wisdom on her part; in order for her and her children to survive in this raw harsh land and time; she did what she had to do!
And for those who might criticize; just remember this was light years (150 years ago), away; from the instant world that you live in today.
When she and William had built their house they had also dug a root cellar underneath the kitchen, and walled it in with logs; to store fruits and vegetables in, and it was quite spacious and had center posts to support the kitchen floor above. There was a trap door and steps from the kitchen down into the root cellar.
She would leave the children in the root cellar with plenty of food and water, and a thunder mug for nature calls. Rody being the oldest was in charge till Mami T returned.
After she closed the trap door she rolled a big rock that was kept in the kitchen for this purpose over the door as an added measure of protection for her children; in case wild animals came to raid for food while she was gone.
I figure it took her quite possibly seven to eight or 10 hours at the very least to make the trip there and back.
She had made a knap sack with a shoulder strap that she wore crossed over one shoulder and around her neck to carry her supplies in.
Women in those days did not wear pants or shorts; they wore long dresses with large bib aprons. When she arrived at the creek she would take off her apron and turn it around and tie the sash in front, and then bend over and reach through her legs and grasp the tail of the apron and bring it up and through and tucked it into the sash tied at her waist. Instant shorts!
Daddy told us that she was very frugal and hated to waste anything, especially time. As she walked along on her journey in to the settlement she would usually knit.
She raised sheep on her farm as well as chickens, hogs, and milk cows. And she had the mules for plowing the field. She saved the wool needed for her family when the sheep were sheared; then she sold the rest. She had a spinning wheel for spinning her own yarn.
In addition to farming she still had to cook the meals which were cooked on a wood burning stove. She also had to do laundry by hand, harvest and prepare, can and preserve the food. She also made her own lye soap which was the cleaning product of that time, and it was usually made from left over grease and lye or pot ash made from ashes.
I don’t remember the recipe or the process, but I know my Mother made it every so often in the old cast iron wash-pot when I was a little girl. And I would imagine that Mami T made it much in the same way.
There were cows to milk, chickens and livestock to feed, gather the eggs, chop the wood and bring it in, this was a chore she did herself till Tony was big enough to wield an axe.
And when the weather got cold the hogs were butchered, and the meat had to be processed and hung in the smokehouse to be cured. The work was a never ending process, day in and day out, every day, and it was year after year.
I am quite sure she arranged her work schedule according to the seasons and the weather at the time. I know from daddies stories that when she plowed in the field she had to harness the mules, and she took the children to the field with her.
Emily was placed on a quilt pallet nearby and William H. (Tony) watched and tended her while Mami T plowed and Rody walked behind her and dropped the seeds as she plowed the rows. The others helped as soon as they were big enough to help.
In my mind’s eye I can see her plowing in the fields, dressed in the long dress and a bib apron, and she is wearing a sun bonnet and brogans. Most southern women who worked in the fields with their husband’s; and most did; also made these bonnets to wear; to shade their eyes, and protect their hair and skin, especially the skin on the back of their necks; from becoming sun-burned.
For those of you who might not know what brogans are; they are high-top shoes made of good leather, which lace up with either leather or string or possibly twine. They are heavy-duty shoes that wear like iron. There was no such thing as sneakers in those days!
Daddy always told us this next story with great pride and tremendous admiration; for her courage! And sometimes he laughed such deep belly laughs; and it would take two or three tries before he got the story told.
One moonlight night she had just blown out the lamp and crawled into bed. She heard the sound of a wagon coming down the wagon trail that passed by her house. Mules pulling a wagon make a lot of noise while it is moving and there is no mistaking the sound.
Her house and barn was not out by the wagon trail, but was set back in a bit. As she listened she heard the wagon stop, and then she realized it was backing into her place. She figured they were headed to the barn to steal something.
Very quickly she arose and grabbed her double-barrel shot gun. She slipped out to the barn and inside without them seeing her, she hid in the dark and was in position when they stopped completely.
They had backed the wagon into the barn and stopped in front of the corn crib. There were two men in the wagon, and she recognized one of the men. As he swung his leg over one side to step down out of the wagon, she stepped out of the dark and into the moonlight streaming into the barn; so that they could see that she had a gun pointed at them.
She called the man by name and said, “Ye sorry sonamabitch if ye step down off that wagon it’ll be the last damn step ye’ll ever take in this world, cause I’m gonna blow ye to hell, now ye git outta here, and don’t ye come back if ye want to stay alive!”
They were happy to oblige her, and they got out of there as quickly as they could, and they never came back! I am very sure the word was passed around that she was a woman to be reckoned with if you tried to steal from her.
A wagon load of corn back in those days compared to today’s monetary value would be worth enough that this amount now would probably be considered grand larceny.
But even more than the money it would have been worth; it was a life-line to her till next year’s crop came in; it was food for her and her children, and food for the livestock. And it was also the seed for next year’s crop.
She had great courage, true grit, and backbone! She was a strong woman, a fierce protector of what belonged to her! The stories daddy told us about her made such an impact on my life, and I felt my life would not be complete if I didn’t at least attempt to tell her story. My descendents will have the story of her life as best I know it!
Another little story told to me by a cousin, Rex McDonald who was Aunt Ludie’s youngest son. Aunt Ludie was Mami T’s youngest granddaughter.
She had an old yard dog that she loved dearly. One morning a neighbor from up the road a ways came riding by on his horse, he was on his way into the settlement. She was in the barn and he did not see her, but she saw him. He threw a biscuit into the yard and rode on by. She walked over and picked up the biscuit before the dog got it, and put it in her apron pocket.
She finished her chores in the barn and walked into the house. She got her trusty old shot gun and filled her pipe, she returned to the porch, and sat down in her rocking chair. She rocked and smoked her pipe and waited! She didn’t want to miss him as he would be passing by again on his way home.
He had been complaining that her dog had killed some of his sheep; she had told him this was not true, and that her dog did not leave her yard, and had never bothered her sheep. But he insisted he was right. She figured he had put poison in the biscuit to kill her dog.
When he approached on his way back home she yelled to him, “Hold up there, I want to talk to ye”! He stopped and waited till she walked out to the fence. She handed him the biscuit and at gun point said, “Now ye eat it”, and at gun point he did!
Whether the biscuit had poison on it we will never know, and I don’t know the final outcome of the story. But I do know he did not bother her with complaints about her old dog anymore. I would love to have been a fly on the fence post to have seen and heard this story unfold!
I don’t have any idea about what happened to Rody and Emily. Records are skimpy about them, the last mention that I find is in the 1870 census, and in this census Mami T is listed as a farmer on the line for occupation.
There is however a lot of mention of my g granddaddy William H. (Tony or Tang) McDuffie. According to my daddy he loved women, licker and gambling, and did almost nothing else except satisfy his passions.
He was reported to have been a very handsome man. And he was a real braggart about his conquests, my mother heard him brag once that he had bedded over 200 women.
This is not a lot by today’s comparisons, but this was in a sparsely settled area, and the mode of transportation was on foot or horseback, or mules and wagon. We will never know if this was the truth or not because he was also a great liar, according to the family, he told big whoppers! He was born April 30, 1857, and died October 06, 1936.
He married Mary Caroline McCroan, his first wife in 1881. Caroline was born August 16, 1861 and she died April 18, 1908. And she is my great grandmother. During her lifetime she bore him nine children and their names are as follows:
- Mary Magdalene McDuffie, born November 24, 1883 died in 1944
- Henry McDuffie, born July 25, 1885 died August 05, 1885
- William Benjamin McDuffie, born March 06, 1886 died June 13, 1971
- James (Boss) McDuffie, born January 09, 1889 died September 17, 1963 1962
- John Daniel McDuffie, born May 07, 1890 died August 14, 1944
- Edward Lee McDuffie, born February 27, 1894 died January 28, 1977
- Julia Ludie McDuffie, born March 27, 1896 died July 09, 1981
- Joseph Harvey (Harve) McDuffie, born September 01, 1899 died June 18, 1977
- Samuel H. (Sam) McDuffie, born December 02, 1901 died October 20, 1958
These are Mami T’s grandchildren that we know about. If there are others they are unknown to our family. Mami T helped Caroline raise them until Caroline died, and then she had sole care of them.
According to daddy, Tony was much too busy gadding about playing the dandy and high roller to be much help to his women folk at home. I know very little about my g grandmother Caroline, but it was said by those who did know her that she had a very sweet and precious nature.
It must have been her true nature; to have had a husband like Tony McDuffie, and still have a sweet precious nature. I think she should have been nominated for sainthood, and I would love to have known her!
After Caroline died in 1908 Tony married again, he married Mary Ellen Woodall or Woodell September 15, 1918, and they were married under the names of W. H. McDuffie and M. E. Faircloth.
When she died she was buried in the Mount Olive Cemetery under the name of M.E. Faircloth. After she died there was talk in the family that Tony was accused of murder. It is quite possible that he was accused, but as of this present date no official record has been found to verify this.
However there is a file in State Criminal Record’s where assault with intent to commit rape was filed in 1916 against him. Who filed those charges I do not know, and neither do I know the out come of the process. The notes were in the files shared with me.
This man was quite a rascal, the anguish and heartache that he caused to others; there is no excuse! First to his mother; the extra burden he put upon her, and next his wife and children.
Caroline knew of his escapades with other women, it was common knowledge and he was very vocal about it, how it must have hurt her! Her entire married life with this man was lived with this kind of behavior from him.
And lastly his children, it is sad but true they are always the ones that are hurt the most. They survived in spite of his shenanigans, and I believe they survived because Mami T was the matriarch of the family; she was the glue that held them together!
I believe the love Charity had for William was a deep love. She was 31 years old when he died or disappeared and she never remarried. I like to think it was the love of her husband and family that kept her going so strongly, day in and day out, never breaking under the heavy load of responsibility that she carried on her shoulders daily!
Love is the greatest force in the universe! Love is what will hold us to the grindstone of life, and love brings us through it! Even her name ~ Charity means love!
At some point in time she purchased more land and Tony purchased some too. I do not know how much acreage was involved, but it was down near the Choctawhatchee River.
She moved to the Whitewater Community, and of course Tony always lived with her. She taught her son and all of her grandsons how to run a farm; although Tony was not around to be of much help to her.
According to daddy Tony eventually gambled away all of the land they had owned except for the small piece they lived on in the Whitewater Community.
As her grandsons grew up they were a lot of help and they were all very good farmers as she had taught them to be. In later years some of them turned to other occupations.
Her knowledge was passed on to her great grandsons who were farmers too, her love and knowledge of working the soil was passed down through several generations.
I certainly love digging in the dirt, planting the seed and watching it grow to harvest or bloom, and my greatest love of gardening is the propagation of the plants.
One of my sisters; who is also her gg granddaughter, Bettie, is a Landscape Gardener, and so is one of my nieces’ Shellie who is a ggg granddaughter of Mami T. One of her ggg grandson’s Tim McDuffie majored in Agriculture at the University of Florida.
This next story happened after she moved to the Whitewater Community, and I am not sure of the year. She was called to testify to an incident she had been an eye witness to, and it had happened in the Whitewater Community, and this is the reason I am fairly sure she was living here at the time.
I do remember seeing this home place when I was a little girl, some of the family still lived here long after she had died. This house is no longer standing now, and neither is the one near Miller’s Crossroads.
She was called to the witness stand on the morning the trial began; to testify as to what she had seen and heard concerning the case. She was sworn in and testified, and excused from the witness box, but was subject for recall later.
After the lunch break she was recalled to the stand. The prosecutor was a man by the name of Emmitt Mathis if I’m not mistaken. He said to her, “Now Aunt T didn’t I understand you to say?”, and then spoke whatever it was he thought she had said.
She was sitting in the witness stand with her right leg crossed over her left knee. She leaned forward and placed her right elbow on her knee with her right hand underneath her chin.
She looked him dead in the eye and answered, “Hell no, Emmitt Mathis you didn’t understand me to say no sich a damned thing!” The judge spoke very quickly and sharply to her and said, “Now Aunt T you watch your mouth or I’ll have to hold you in contempt of court!”
She leaned back and gave him a dark look also and replied, “Contempt ah court be damned, he ain’t gonna make me out no liar, him nur no other sonamabitch; he knows what I said, and I ain’t gonna repeat it neither!”
The man was found ‘Not Guilty’ because of her testimony.
She was never intimidated by those who were of a different station in life. She always spoke her mind in every situation she was faced with. She was comfortable in her own skin, and knew who she was.
This is something many of us are just beginning to understand about ourselves after years of living and some never do realize who they really are or what their purpose in life is.
Daddy said, “In her later years she wore glasses. She would sometimes walk around in the house moving stuff, muttering, and someone would ask her what she was looking for. And she would answer; “I can’t find my pipe nur my glasses.” And they would tell her, “Mami T your glasses are on top of your head and your pipe is in your mouth.”
She died April 17, 1917 at the age of 87 years. I never knew where she had been buried till a few years ago when I had gone up to Holmes County to the funeral service of a close family member. If I had ever heard, I did not remember, and I am sure I would have remembered anything that concerned her!
After the service we drove to a few other cemeteries visiting ancestor’s graves and recalling memories of them. We stopped by the Union Hill Cemetery to visit Uncle John and Uncle Sam McDuffie’s graves. Afterwards I was walking around reading other headstone inscriptions and I stumbled upon her gravesite.
I cannot even begin to convey to you how elated I was to find her final resting place; this awesome woman, my gg grandmother who had always been my hero! Her son Tony is buried between her and Caroline, my g grandmother.
Her story did not end when they laid her body to rest in Union Hill Cemetery in this small piece of earth and placed a headstone on her grave, nor does her story end here. You might never see her name in a history book, but her story will live on through the pages of time, and she will be remembered by me and my descendents.
I have written her story for them so that they will know about their ancestor. I wish I could tell you so much more about her. But there are still many blank spaces. I wish I had a picture of her to share, but I don’t. I have only the one I carry in my mind, which I formed in my imagination, and it comes from daddy’s description of her.
I wish that I could tell many more stories of the things that she said and did, but I can’t they would be made up. I think that I have shared enough so that you can know her too.
She was one of life’s greatest characters!
She had no formal education, but tremendous wisdom! She was a great teacher because she had a good understanding of life and she taught by example of telling, showing and doing. And it was learned by all who knew her except her only son.
She had great courage, and grit, she was never intimidated and spoke her mind freely. She was fiercely loyal to her family, and the glue that held them together.
She was so many things to so many people for so many years. She cast a giant shadow that spanned several generations in a very positive way; by just being herself. Are you beginning to understand why I think of her as my hero?
It is my hope that I have been able to convey to the reader, the greatness of this tiny Florida pioneer woman who could not read or write; who left her mark X on paper to be witnessed others; who could read and write.
But this was not the only mark she made; she made her mark in the lives of her children, her grandchildren, her great grandchildren, her great, great grandchildren, and the lives of future generations.
She certainly made her mark in my heart! Her genes still flow strong in the bloodline of this family. We bear witness of her life and we rise up, and call her; blessed!