Thursday, January 19, 2006

Charlie Milam Pinkston, my Great Grandfather

Charlie Milam Pinkston was born June 3rd, 1851 in Dothan, Alabama. He was my Great Grandfather. In 1861 he would have been 10 years old, and in 1864 13 years old. Since his father was called up to serve in the Alabama 45th Infantry Regiment in early 1864, it would appear he , Charlie, never even served as a drummer boy. Indeed, once his father , Henry B. Pinkston, was called up, he would be the eldest male in his family, so that would probably explain why he was not called.

Back in the 1850s, Dothan was then called Poplar Head, and was a small pioneer settlement located near a spring. Settlers back then made a living by cutting down pines for lumber, growing cotton and corn, keeping pigs and other livestock.

So he grew up most likely as a farm boy, in an area of southeast Alabama which along with parts of southern Georgia is known as Wiregrass Country. Wiregrass is a tall grass, which in this area among other things can harbor a good number of rattlesnakes.

In the 1860 Census for Macon County, Alabama, Charlie shows up as an 8 year old, with parents Henry and Melissa Pinkston and with 3 siblings. At this time period it would likely be two brothers and one sister.

Sometime after the Civil War ended, and before the census of 1870, the whole family must have moved to Winn Parish , Louisiana, as that is where the entire family is listed in 1870. Specifically, they are listed as being in the town of Winnfield, in Winn Parish.

This time period was one of turmoil in the South, as Reconstruction was still in effect, and the South was still trying to recover from four years of warfare.

Why would Henry B. Pinkston and family head here during this time? Well, here is what S.Harper in an 1936 article about Winn Parish says about this time: "As I have already stated the Civil War left this country in a demoralized condition. Thousands of families abandoned their homes and went west, and on account of such a vast amount of public land, upon which a man could build himself a house, clear land for cultivation, and avoid paying any taxes, land really had no value. The hundred of thousands of acres of land that had been entered before the Civil War and abandoned after the war, had been adjudicated to the state for taxes. Thousands of families moved on such adjudicated land, built homes, cleared land, and thereupon lived. "

So clearly the vast amount of public land, freely available would have been an attraction. In a second article from 1939 Mr. Harper goes on to recount: " Now, I wish to give a little history of the advantages the pioneers and youth of the old days gone by had over the youth of today. In those pioneer days the range was good the whole year around. The cane covered not only the swamps but the hills as well. This certainly was a fine stock country. Fat beef was plentiful during the winter months as well as summer. The hog range was excellent. Beef was considered second class meat instead of first class as now. Home made pork sausage could be found in nearly every smoke house. Venison was a very common meat, for deer were killed to get rid of them rather than for meat. Squirrels, likewise, were killed to get rid of them. No one thought of game laws, posting of anyone's land, or hunting license. Fish were plentiful. No limit to number of deer, ducks, squirrels, turkeys or fish one might kill or catch. One of the best things for the pioneer family was a tract of land for a home. At the beginning one could settle on a tract of land, blaze it out and then enter it for $ 1.25 per acre from the United States Government. One could enter as much as he wished if he had the money. Later, the homestead law was passed when one could homestead 160 acres for $ 15, live on it as many as seven years before having to prove settlement which could cost some $ 15 more which made total cost of 160 acres about $ 30. There were no taxes on a homestead 'till patent was issued. If one could find a tract of state land he could get 160 acres of state land for twelve and one-half cents an acre, thereby become the owner of 320 acres for not more than $ 55.00. "

In the same year 1870, the Winn Parish census indicates a young Ida Goff was living with her step-father William Henderson Smith, and her Mom, Columbia Goff who had remarried after her husband James L. Goff of the 31st La. Inf. Rgt, had died from disease in July 1862, shortly after joining in May 1862. Within a few years young Ida,(b. 25 Mar 1858) whom according to family legend had red hair, would go on to marry Charlie Milam at a young age.

From Charlie’s Masonic lodge obituary we find that he married in Mississippi. Ida’s parents were originally from there, so that may have something to do with this. At any rate by 1874 , Ida and him must have married and been busy because their first child, Alonzo (Lonnie) was born on the 25th of June, 1874. Charlie would have been 23 that year, and Ida would have been 16 years old. The age of consent would have been much lower back then. So maybe she married when she was 15. Hard to say until marriage records from the 1870s become available someday.

Quite likely they had a farm and homestead there in Winn Parish. The next child they had Atticus Lafayette Pinkston was my paternal Grandfather. He was born April 1, 1878. Family legend also says the Ida was of French descent, so that, along with living in Louisiana may account for the “Lafayette” middle name. They would go on to have four more children together, Grover, Ida, Ella, and Charlie Milam Jr.

The 1880 census shows them as being a household in Winnfield. But by then, Charlie’s father Henry B., is shown for 1880 as being over in Panola County, Texas.

By 1886 , Charlie M. shows up on a Tax record for Shelby county, so by that time he must have moved from Louisiana, to Texas. Then in 1887, Jan. 2, 1887 to be precise, Henry B. died. A few months later his wife, Cattomie "Kate" Pinkston died on the 11th of March in 1887. She was only 44 at the time, and her youngest child with Henry B., Pearl, was just 5. This must have been a stressful time for both families.

Since the 1890 census does not exist it is hard to say much about these years, except from other papers , there is indication that Charlie, and Ida owned the Logansport ferry which crossed the Sabine River at a place just east of Joaquin, Texas.

Then on the 21st of February 1891, Ida died. She was just short of being 33. According to my father, this was very hard on Atticus who was 13 at the time. When Charlie went on to remarry to Mattie Wagstaff on Nov. 5, 1893, Atticus could just not get along with his new stepmother. He eventually went to live with a Doctor Lock in Center, Texas.

Charlie, and Mattie together, had a son David Douglas on April 26, 1896. However, Mattie then died 4 days later on May 1, 1896. One can speculate that it may have had something to do with an after effect of the childbirth. She was only about 22 years old.

Nine years later on May 5, 1905, Charlie would marry for the third and final time, to Mollie Baker, who was originally from Bear Creek, MO. She would have been 29 at the time, and he was 54.

However, in the 1910 census Charlie is shown living in the household of his daughter Ida, who by then was married to William David Whiddon . Mollie is not listed as being there, so presumably they were no longer together. In this census he is listed as a fisherman.

At this point I will go ahead and insert further information from the Masonic Obituary of Sept. 8, 1920. :

“He joined the Baptist Church when he was a young man but later in life united with the Christian church, of which he was a member until his death. Uncle Charlie, as he was familiarly known by his friends, was made a Mason at an age when most men are in their dotage, yet such was his rugged health and powers of endurance that until he was stricken with the malady which caused his death, he was mentally and physically fit, able to do a hard days work and feel none the worst for it.

He died at the home of his daughter, Mrs. A.J. Truitt of Joaquin, Texas, June 18, 1920, aged seventy years and fifteen days.”

Charlie’s life then, spanned an interesting period of the American South. He was 10 when the Civil War began, and undoubtedly saw the effects of the war in Alabama, and his father returning on parole in May of 1865, after having had become a prisoner of the Union forces. He would have experienced the Reconstruction period in Louisiana, and then the technical progress of the Gilded Age while living in Texas. In all he had 5 sons, and two daughters. And he must have known much heartbreak after seeing two wives of his die, while they were still quite young.

About his schooling, or what he may have read, or any letters, that is unknown to me his Great Grandson. This has been a reconstructed biography using what facts and knowledge of circumstances I could obtain. May he rest in Peace, and of course his ancestors are thankful for his efforts.

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