Friday, June 29, 2012

Bishop C.H. Mason and the Church of God in Christ

Born near Memphis, Tennessee, on September 8, 1866, Charles Harrison Mason was the son of former slaves. Converted at a young age, Mason began preaching in Arkansas. A Baptist, he briefly attended the Arkansas Baptist College, and then “returned to the streets and to every pulpit that was opened to him.” As a result of his adherence to the doctrine of "Holiness," however, he soon found that many Baptist churches were no longer willing to open their doors to him or his followers, including Charles Price Jones, another Baptist preacher.

In 1896, Mason and Jones, along with other ”militant gospel preachers,” held a large revival in Jackson, Mississippi. As a result of their Pentecostal preaching style, both men were expelled by the local Baptist Association. Subsequently, C. P. Jones led a group of followers from the Mt. Helm Baptist Church in Jackson, to form the Christ Temple Church. The next year, Charles Mason (right) moved to Lexington, MIssissippi, where he continued the revival on the steps of the Holmes County Courthouse. Moving to a private home and later to an abandoned gin, Mason established a church in Lexington in 1897, naming it St. Paul. As more churches were established under Mason’s leadership, St. Paul was soon recognized as the “Mother Church” of a new denomination. Initially calling it the "Church of God," a fairly common name for a number of other "Holiness" denominations established during this period, Mason searched for a more distinctive name. While in Little Rock, he settled on the name "Church of God in Christ," believing it to be divinely inspired. To lead the denomination, C.P. Jones became General Overseer, while Mason was in charge of the churches in Tennessee. The denomination quickly grew.

Around the turn of the century, a new doctrine involving "speaking in tongues" was making its way into many "Holiness" churches, and was heavily influenced by a years-long revival in Los Angeles known as the Azusa Street Revival. To investigate this new phenomenon of "speaking in tongues," Jones sent a committee of three ministers, one of whom was Mason, to Los Angeles. During the revival in 1906, Mason started "speaking in tongues," and upon his return to Tennessee began preaching the new doctrine. This apparently didn't find much favor with C.P. Jones (left). At the general convocation in Jackson the next year, Jones publicly rejected Mason's teaching on "speaking in tongues," After much debate, Mason was expelled from the church he helped establish. Later that same year, Mason reorganized the Church of God in Christ (also known as C.O.G.I.C.) in Memphis. Thus, there were now two denominations with the same name! After years of litigation, Mason's group was finally awarded the name, and those who followed Jones became known as the Church of Christ (Holiness) U.S.A. In the "new"  C.O.G.I.C., Charles Mason was unanimously chosen "General Overseer and Chief Apostle." He would remain at the head of the church for the next fifty-four years.

After establishing the church's headquarters in Memphis, Bishop Mason traveled throughout the nation preaching and establishing  C.O.G.I.C. churches. Because the church was legally incorporated, many unaffiliated Pentecostal ministers joined the organization, both white and black, many of whom would later become leaders in other Pentecostal denominations. Although the first General Secretary of  C.O.G.I.C. was a white minister named William B. Holt, it was difficult for whites to remain in the church in the segregated South. In 1914, when the Assemblies of God was founded, most of the white ministers trained by the  C.O.G.I.C. (approximately 350) joined the new denomination, and since the 1930s, the Church of God in Christ has been largely an African American church.

Bishop Charles Harrison Mason died on November 17, 1961, at the age of 95. He was buried in the church he founded in Memphis, a 5,000 seat building known as Mason Temple, dedicated in 1945. The photo above is of the interior of the historic church, which serves as the world headquarters for C/O.G.I.C. On April 3, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech from this church. It was the last message delivered by Dr. King.

Today, the Church of God in Christ has nearly five million members and 12,000 congregations in the United States, and is the fifth largest Christian church in the U.S. Around the world, C.O.G.I.C. churches have been established in more than sixty countries. Lexington, Mississippi, in still recognized as the birthplace of the denomination.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Battle of Oakland, Part II

Thursday, December 3, 1862, was a “cool pleasant day” according Miss Emma Moore, a resident of Oakland. After days of torrential rain, the sun had finally started to break through the clouds. Unfortunately for the little village of Oakland, it would also be a day of battle, and Moore and the other folks in Oakland scurried for cover.

Confederate Col. John Summerfield Griffith (left), hoping to block the progress of a large Union raid moving from Mitchell’s Crossroads toward Oakland, had positioned his small cavalry brigade across a road junction just west of town. North of the road, Griffith placed the 3rd Texas Cavalry, while the 6th Texas, commanded by Capt. Jack Wharton, a cattleman by trade, defended the road to Charleston. Across the road junction itself, Griffith placed the 27th Texas Cavalry. With approximately 1,200 men under his command, Col. Griffith waited on the Federals to arrive.

The first shots of the battle of Oakland occurred when men from the 1st Indiana Cavalry ran into Confederate pickets from the 27th Texas. Hearing the firing up ahead, the rest of the Texas regiment rushed forward and pushed Washburn's advance unit back some 200 yards. Facing a vicious attack from the Texans, the commander of the 1st Indiana called for help and soon got it. With reinforcements stabilizing the front, Washburn decided to bring up some mountain howitzers (small artillery pieces), and with these guns the Federals hammered away at the Confederate line (due to the road conditions, Confederate artillery had been left behind). Col. Griffith wrote in his report that the fire from the howitzers "excelled anything I ever saw before." To counter the threat, Griffith ordered the 27th Texas to charge. When they did, the Indianans scattered, leaving behind the two mountain howitzers.

Now faced with a bad situation, Gen. Washburn brought up two more howitzers and again began blasting away at the Confederates. Griffith now ordered the 6th Texas to dismount and charge these guns. The attack never occurred, however, as Griffith realized his force was in danger of being flanked by the growing Union line. As such, Griffith withdrew the two regiments and recalled the 3rd Texas and retreated through Oakland. They were only able to withdraw one of the captured guns, however. Setting up a defensive line two miles east of town, the little battle of Oakland was finished. At the end of the day, neither side lost any men killed, although twenty-eight were wounded (ten Federals and eight Confederates).  After the fighting ended, Union soldiers briefly occupied the own of Oakland, much to the dismay of Miss Moore. As battles go, though, Oakland was really little more than a skirmish, but it had big consequences. As a result of Washburn's raid, Pemberton decided to fall back behind the Yalobusha River and into Grenada. Combined with later events, this likely protracted by several months the campaign to take Vicksburg. As for Washburn and Hovey, they returned to the landing at Delta and participated in the rest of the Vicksburg Campaign, which finally ended seven months later.

As with much of history, the people involved in events are often more interesting than the event itself. In this case, two of the principal actors in the battle of Oakland have interesting stories. Alvin P. Hovey, who commanded the Union infantry during the expedition, served throughout the Vicksburg Campaign and briefly during the Atlanta Campaign, but returned to Indiana in 1864 to command the military district there. Back home, Hovey investigated what he considered to be a group of spies and disloyal persons operating in the state, imagining a network of Southern sympathizers in league with the Sons of Liberty and the Knights of the Golden Circle, whose "Cross and Bones" symbol is seen here. To combat this perceived threat, Hovey rounded up dozens of suspects and dragged them before military tribunals, who were then sentenced to hang. Although they would later be given life sentences, one of the accused took his case to the Supreme Court. In Ex Parte Milligan, the Court ruled that the military trials were unconstitutional because there were civilian courts available. The decision was a narrow 5-4 vote, however, and only applied in states who supported "constitutional authority" (i.e., not in the Reconstruction South). Hovey would later serve as U.S. Minister to Peru and as governor of Indiana, but the Milligan case stands as a landmark constitutional issue, and is still being debated in the modern political world. The lead attorney arguing for the military tribunals was none other than Benjamin F. "Spoons" Butler.

As for  Cadwallader C. Washburn, the leader of the expedition, he would became one of the most successful businessmen in the nation. Prior to the war, Washburn had been involved in the lumber and mining industry in Wisconsin, but in 1866 he opened his own flour mill operation in Minneapolis. A huge complex known as Washburn "B" Mill, it was considered too large to turn a profit, but Washburn did and then built a second one known as Washburn "A" Mill, which was even larger. In 1878, the "A" mill exploded, killing eighteen workers in the process. Washburn (right) rebuilt the mill and made it even more successful, despite suffering from epilepsy and having a wife whose mental illness required commitment to an asylum. By the time of his death in 1882, C.C. Washburn had built his milling operation and other business interests into a huge corporation, eventually known as General Mills. Today, General Mills is an American Fortune 500 company headquartered in Golden Valley, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis, and includes many well-known brands such as Betty Crocker, Yoplait, Totinos, Pillsbury, Green Giant, Häagen-Dazs, Cheerios, and Lucky Charms.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Battle of Oakland

In the winter of 1862, Confederate Lt. Gen. John C. Pembertons army was secure behind a line of fortifications south of the Tallahatchie River in north Mississippi. Pemberton was waiting on an expected Union move down the Mississippi Central Railroad.  Toward the end of November, however, the Confederates abandoned these earthworks and moved further south to Grenada to a line of earthworks behind the Yalobusha River. The reason for the change in plans was a little-known but important raid led by Union Brig. Gen. C.C. Washburn. 

Cadwallader Colden Washburn (1818-1882) was born in Maine. In 1839, he moved to Iowa, where he worked with the states geological survey. He then moved to Illinois to study law, and was elected surveyor of Rock Island County. In 1842, he moved yet again to Wisconsin and established a law practice. Washburn ran for Congress in 1854 and served three terms. When the Civil War erupted, he enlisted with the 2nd Wisconsin Cavalry, and was elected colonel. Washburn (right) was promoted to brigadier general in July, 1862. By that time, he had developed into a trusted cavalry commander.

As Grant's army moved down the Mississippi Central Railroad, the Union high command decided to send a raiding force across the Mississippi Delta toward Grenada, effectively aiming for Pembertons unguarded left flank, and Washburn was selected to lead the expedition. His cavalry would be supported by infantry under Brig. Gen. Alvin P. Hovey (left). Hovey (1821-1891) was from Indiana. Despite being orphaned at age fifteen and growing up in extreme poverty, Hovey managed to accomplish a great deal before the Civil War. Studying to become a lawyer while working as a bricklayer, Hovey managed not only to become a lawyer but to serve in the state's constitutional convention and on the Indiana Supreme Court. He was also appointed by President Buchanan as a U.S. attorney, all by age forty. He would accomplish a great deal more after the war, including election as governor of Indiana and as minister to Peru. In the winter of 1862, however, he found himself in the Mississippi Delta commanding the infantry support for Washburns cavalry raid. Landing at the little village of Delta, Mississippi, on November 27, 1862, the combined force began moving east toward Grenada. All totaled, the Union force numbered about 10,000 men.

After crossing the Coldwater and Tallahatchie Rivers, Washburns force reached a place called Mitchells Cross Roads on November 29. At the crossroads, roads ran north to Panola (present-day Batesville) and south to Charleston and Grenada. Turning south, the Yankees reached Preston (near present day Scobey) on the morning of the 30th, about four miles west of the railroad. Still some distance from Grenada, Washburn was informed that heavy Confederate reinforcements were moving his way and he decided to abandon a move to Grenada itself and planned instead to aim for Coffeeville. In the meantime, he sent wrecking parties out to tear up the railroad as much as possible, sending troops to Hardy Station to the south and to Panola. 
While Pemberton's army was in fact beginning to move to Grenada, the only troops immediately available to deal with Washburn and Hovey was a brigade of Confederate cavalry under Col. John S. Griffith. To counter the Union raid, Griffith had three regiments of cavalry, all Texas units, and one four-gun artillery battery from Arkansas, totaling just 1,200 men. While few in number, these Confederates were hard western troops, like the soldier below, who served in the 3rd Texas Cavalry. With such a disparity in numbers, however, Griffith's best hope was to delay the Federal column long enough for Confederate infantry to arrive in Grenada.

Rather than wait on Washburns men to attack him, Griffith went in search of the Federals, determined to attack and harass them. The weather was atrocious. Days of pouring rain had turned the roads into quagmires. In fact, the roads were in such horrible condition that Griffith decided to leave his artillery behind and move on with just his cavalry. Finding that the enemy was back at Mitchells Crossroads and about to move toward Oakland, Griffith decided to move to that place and set up a defensive line just west of town. There, Confederates waited on the Yankees to appear. 

Oakland, Mississippi, was established in 1848. When the railroad came through in 1860, it missed the town by a short distance, so the town picked up and moved to the railroad, stores and all. The towns most famous son is Dunbar Rowland (left), perhaps Mississippis greatest historian and the first director of the Department of Archives and History. Rowland was born in Oakland during the Civil War, but not until 1864. By then, the battle of Oakland was itself a part of history. 

Back at Mitchells Crossroads, the Union cavalry prepared to advance toward Coffeeville, accompanied by the 30th Iowa Infantry and a section of artillery. Slogging along the muddy road toward Oakland at daybreak, the men were cheered when the sun finally broke through the heavy clouds. With the cavalry in the lead, things looked promising for Washburns men, although the roads were still caked with mud and the going was slow. With no Confederates in sight, however, it looked to be a good day. 


Photo and Image Sources:

(1) Washburn:

(2) Hovey: 
(3) Griffith: 
(4) Cavalry:  
(5) 3rd Texas soldier:
(6) Rowland: 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Kudzu: The Miracle Vine

If you've ever travelled anywhere in the South, you already know that a significant part of the landscape is a fast-growing vine with the strange name of kudzu. With the ability to overwhelm and cover almost everything in its path, kudzu looks like a green blanket sprawled on top of the earth, and its growing each and every day. But it has not always been this way. This plant, and especially the alien landscapes it creates, would be unknown to anyone in the South prior to the 1920s.

Kudzu was actually brought to the United States in 1876, making its debut at the Centennial International Exhibition of 1876 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Attended by approximately ten million people, including President Grant, the Centennial Exhibition was the first World's Fair held in the United States. Located in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park, the fair was a huge success despite sweltering temperatures through June and July. Visitors making the trek got to see some amazing products for the very first time, including Alexander Graham Bell's telephone, a Remington typewriter, Heinz Ketchup, the precursor to the electric light and Hires Root Beer. The right arm of the Statue of Liberty was also on display and used as a fundraiser to complete the statue. Among the international exhibits, the Japanese pavilion (above)  included a garden filled with native Japanese plants. One of the plants, kudzu, was a hit with American gardeners, who saw the leafy vine with sweet-smelling blossoms as an ornamental plant.

Kudzu continued to be shown at subsequent world fairs in Chicago and New Orleans. In Chicago, two enterprising nursery owners from Chipley, Florida (located in the Florida panhandle), saw kudzu and decided to try and grow it at their nursery. And grow it did. In the process, Charles Earl (C.E.) and Lillie Pleas discovered that farm animals really liked to eat the plant (which is related to a variety of beans) and decided to market kudzu as forage and as a solution for land conservation in the 1920s rather than an ornamental plant. The Pleas (right), who were transplanted Quakers from Indiana, were early environmentalists and saw kudzu as beneficial to the land in many ways. The couple sold kudzu seedlings by mail order; at the same time, they petitioned the federal government to certify the plants nutritional value as fodder. When the U.S. Department of Agriculture finally decided they were right, it looked like the Pleas' crusade on behalf of kudzu would finally pay off. Unfortunately, they were unable to purchase the required performance bond for the government contract, and others ultimately benefitted financially from the Pleas' work. Even so, the Glen Arden Nursery is "created" as the source of kudzu in the South.

In the 1930s, during the height of the Great Depression, the U.S. Soil Conservation Service promoted kudzu for erosion control and hired hundreds of men to plant kudzu through the Civilian Conservation Corps. In addition, farmers were paid up to $8.00 per acre to plant kudzu fields in the 1940s. Between 1935 and 1942, 100,000,000 kudzu seedlings were distributed across the southeast by the Soil Conservation Service. In the photo to the left, CCC workers are planting kudzu on a farm in Newberry County, South Carolina. In the 1940s, kudzu's biggest champion was Channing Cope, an agricultural columnist for the Atlanta Constitution, who grew kudzu on his farm southeast of Atlanta. Calling kudzu the "miracle vine," Cope organized the Kudzu Club of America, which was dedicated to planting it whenever and wherever the opportunity presented itself. By 1945, an estimated 500,000 acres in the South were planted in kudzu.

As the vine continued to grow at a more rapid pace than anyone apparently ever imagined, however, enthusiasm for the miracle vine started to fade. For one thing, kudzu started smothering pine trees and interfered with the construction and maintenance of roads, telephone poles, etc. In other words, kudzu was just too much of a good thing. So, after promoting its value as a conservation tool and use as a forge crop for years (and spreading it far and wide), the federal government decided to take kudzu off its list of acceptable cover crops in 1953, and in 1972 reclassified the plant as a "weed." In 1993, a Congressional study estimated that kudzu was responsible for $50 million in lost timber and agricultural production. And yet, kudzu, as everyone knows, is here to stay. There are folks still promoting kudzu for a variety of purposes, including use as basket-making material, as an alternative to hay, as a cure for alcoholism, and as food for humans. On this front, there are a variety of recipes out there for kudzu, including kudzu quiche, kudzu jelly and (my favorite) fried kudzu chips!

Photo and Image Sources
(1) Kudzu #1:
(2) Japanese pavilion:
(3) C.E. and Lillie Pleas:
(4) CCC workers: from wikipedia
(5) Kudzu #2:
(6) Kudzu jelly:

Friday, June 22, 2012

The International Checker Hall of Fame

The game of checkers, or some form of it, has been around for quite a long time. A game similar to checkers dates to about 3,000 B.C.E. from the Middle East, and forms of the game have been found at ancient Egyptian sites.  The modern version of checkers came along in the 12th Century or thereabouts. “Draughts,” an English form of the game, dates to the 1400s and has been a part of the American landscape since the colonists arrived. The game acquired the name "checkers" only after it came to this continent. Regardless of what it is called or the various rules of play that have changed through the centuries, the basic game of checkers has remained a popular pastime. And, for a time, the focus of the “checker world” was centered right here in Mississippi in the little town of Petal at the International Checker Hall of Fame.

The International Checker Hall of Fame (ICHOF) opened in 1979, and was the brainchild of Charles Clendell Walker (left). Born in 1934, Walker was a millionaire who made his money in the nursing home and insurance business, but his real passion was checkers. Thoroughly dedicated to the promotion of the game, Walker served as secretary of the American Checker Federation, as editor of Checkers Magazine and as president of the World Checker Draught Federation. In the checker world, he is perhaps best known for playing 306 games at one time while losing only one, a feat recognized by the Guiness Book of Records. While not playing checkers, he also founded the "International Christian Church," though it apparently only consisted of Walker, his wife, and his daughter.

Walker operated the ICHOF from a 32,000-square-foot, Tudor-style house known as "Chateau Walker," complete with a seven-story tower, a tournament room with 24-foot-high ceilings and the two largest checkerboards in the world. The Hall of Fame included a library of checkers-related historic materials from the 1700s to the present, checkers artifacts and a $10,000+ statue of checkers grand champion Marion Tinsley (above). A Baptist minister, Tinsley (1927-1995) once claimed to have spent approximately ten thousand hours studying checkers while in graduate school, and is considered the greatest checkers player to have ever lived. According to a newspaper article written in 1980, Walker's fascination with checkers extended beyond the Hall of Fame itself and was found throughout his house. According to the article, Walker's house included checker-board tables, walls and floors, a bed canopy in the shape of a crown, and, of course, a dog named Checkers.

The International Checker Hall of Fame was not just a museum and research facility, but was also the site of the World Checker Championship and other tournaments. In 2006, for example, the World GAYP (“Go As You Please”) Title Match was held at Chateau Walker between Ron “Suki” King of Barbados (left) and Jim Morison of Kentucky. The winner that year was King, who was the defending champion. Unfortunately, it was the last year that the ICHOF would host such an event, as the whole thing literally came crashing down around Walker.

In 2003, Charles Walker was charged with some irregularities involving his “church” and the purchase of eight motor homes. Two years later, he was caught in a sting operation and accused of using the church and the International Checker Hall of Fame to launder $6 million in drug money proceeds. Walker pleaded guilty, and awaited sentencing, which was delayed because of Hurricane Katrina. Even though he had been convicted, the ICHOF remained open for match play and championship tournaments. When he was sentenced to serve five years in a federal prison, the Hall of Fame finally shut its doors, although his family continued to live in "Chateau Walker." Then, on September 29, 2007, an unexplained fire started in the tower and consumed the entire Hall of Fame, including the giant checkerboards, the library, and the statue of Marion Tinsley.

All is not lost for the world of checkers, however. Having served his prison term, Charles Walker is reopening the International Checker Hall of Fame. In June 2011, approximately fifty people attended the Mississippi Open Checker Tournament in the refurbished Great Hall of the ICHOF. Despite Walker's checkered past, Petal may soon rise, Phoenix-like, from the ashes to once again become the checkers capital of the world.

Photo and Image Sources:
(1) Checker players:
(2) Walker:
(3) Tinsley:
(4) ICHOF:
(5) King:
(6) Fire:

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Kate Freeman Clark

Holly Springs, Mississippi, is rightfully known for its antebellum architecture and for Earl Van Dorn's raid in December 1862. Less well known, perhaps, Holly Springs is also the home of an incredible collection of paintings by an artist whose talent and achievements largely went unnoticed by her fellow citizens until after her death. 

Kate Freeman Clark (right) was born in 1875, the daughter of Edward Clark, a Vicksburg attorney, and Cary Freeman Clark, a descendant of the Walthall family of Holly Springs (and the grand-niece of Confederate General Edward Cary Walthall). After her father died in 1885, she and her mother moved into the Walthall house in Holly Springs, known as the "Freeman Place." In 1891, Kate’s mother enrolled her in the Gardiner Institute (a school for girls) in Memphis in order to broaden Kate's education.  It was during the 1893 World Columbian Exposition in Chicago, however, where Kate viewed the art exhibits, that she found inspiration and decided to pursue an art career. 

Kate enrolled in the Arts Students League in New York City, where she studied under John H. Twachtman and William Merritt Chase, both highly regarded Impressionist painters. The Arts Students League was founded in 1875, and was somewhat unusual at the time because the school accepted women as students. In 1892, the League moved into its new headquarters on West 57th Street, a location still in use by the League. At the school, it was William Merritt Chase, in particular, who influenced Kate Freeman Clark. Chase (right) was a contemporary and colleague of Winslow Homer and Augustus Saint Gaudens, among others, and is considered by many to be the greatest American Impressionist. In New York City, he was also known for his eccentricities and flamboyance in an era prone to such extravagance. In particular, his studio was as much an attraction as his paintings, as it was filled with lavish furnishings, oriental carpets, stuffed birds, and other assorted oddities. In this sense, he was perhaps the model for the fashionable members of the New York City art world of the late 19th century. The portrait above is of Kate Freeman Clark, and painted by Chase.

Beginning in 1896, Kate attended six consecutive outdoor summer courses taught by Chase at Shinnecock Hills in Long Island (Chase was an advocate of European-inspired "open air" art). It was during these sessions in New York that Kate began to develop her own style of painting, although her technique was heavily influenced by Chase. Encouraged by her teacher, Kate began submitting her paintings to art exhibitions. To disguise her gender, however, she used the name "Freeman Clark.” Over the course of the next twenty years, Clark was recognized by the art world for her talents, and her works were shown in some of the finest galleries, including The Corcoran, The Carnegie Institute, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and The New York School of Art. Unfortunately, several devastating losses would soon put an end to her career. To the right are two of Clark's works. At the top is "Return from the Shore" (1896) and, below, "Work-out in Mississippi Grove," (1890) completed before she went to New York. At top left is Kate Clark in her studio.

In 1916, William Merritt Chase died in his New York townhouse at age 67, leaving behind his wife, their eight children and his many devoted followers. Devastated by the loss of her mentor and perhaps sensing a change in artistic styles (specifically the growing influence of Cubism), Clark's art career, once so promising, collapsed. After losing her grandmother in 1919 and her mother in 1922, Kate gave up painting entirely and put her completed works in storage and moved back to Holly Springs, never again to return to her beloved New York. Moving back into the old Walthall house, Katie resumed the life of a small town Southern lady, and adapted herself so well to her environment that many never knew about her art career. She never married.

In her will, Kate Freeman Clark gave both her home and several hundred of her paintings and drawings to the town of Holly Springs. When she died in 1957 at the age of 81, many of her neighbors were surprised by the gift of her paintings to the city of Holly Springs, as few realized her level of accomplishment as an artist. In addition to the house and the artwork, she also left enough money to build a museum to house her collection. Today, the Kate Freeman Clark Gallery is located next to her family home. With more than 1,000 of her paintings, it is believed to be the largest collection of paintings by a single artist in the world. 

Kate Freeman Clark is buried in the Hillcrest Cemetery in Holly Springs.

Photo and Image Sources:
(1) Kate Clark photo:
(2) Kate Clark portrait:
(3) William Merritt Chase:
(4) Clark in studio:
(5) (6) Clark paintings:
(7) Art gallery:

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The USS Kemper County

During World War II and in America’s other conflicts in the 20th Century (i.e., Korea and Vietnam), naval power was essential in delivering the troops and equipment necessary to do the job at hand. Among the most under-appreciated but necessary components of any amphibious operation, especially in the Pacific Theater during World War II, was the Landing Ship, Tank, or LST. Created during WWII, these ships were capable of carrying vast amounts of cargo, vehicles and troops right to the shoreline. Among the LSTs which saw extensive service in World War II and beyond was LST-854, later designated the USS Kemper County.

LST-854 was laid down by the Chicago Bridge & Iron Company in Seneca, Illinois, in August 1944, and launched on November 20, with Lieutenant E. J. Robeson in command. The ship departed for the Pacific from New Orleans in January 1945. By April 1, she was off the coast of Ulithi in the Caroline Islands, amid preparations for the invasion of Okinawa. With an Army Aviation Engineer Battalion on board, LST-854 arrived at Okinawa on April 18, and despite heavy Japanese air raids successfully unloaded the troops and equipment. From then until the end of the war, LST-854 operated between the Philippines and the Okinawa. At the end of the war, the ship was used to move Navy and Marine Corps personnel to various ports in the Pacific until 1949, when the ship returned to the United States and was decommissioned at Puget Sound Navy Yard.

With the outbreak of the Korean War, LST-854 was brought back into service on November 20, 1950, just a year after being mothballed. After training for her crew in San Diego, she moved to the theater of war and was used to transport prisoners-of-war and participated in other logistical operations. The image above is LST-854 at Taeyonpyong, Korea, in 1952. In January, 1952, LST-854 was involved in the landing of the 40th Division at Inchon and, later on in the conflict, shuttled U.N. forces to various points in the region. With the truce that ended active fighting in Korea, the ship was again used to transport prisoners-of-war for exchange.

Returning to San Diego in October 1953, LST-854 was renamed the USS Kemper County on July 1, 1955, the only United States ship bearing that name. For the next five years, the Kemper County was involved in amphibious training exercises in California and Hawaii and for transport. This photo (right) was taken by am American serviceman from the deck of the ship as his unit was on the way to Japan in 1959.

In 1965, she would once again be called into action, this time in support of operations along the coast of Vietnam. Arriving in Da Nang in November 1965, the Kemper County would spend the rest of the war in riverine operations in the Mekong Delta. Four times, the Kemper County ascended enemy-controlled waters as far as 90 miles inland to deliver supplies to South Vietnamese troops, and in March 1966, she came to the assistance of a burning tanker, the SS Paloma, which had been seriously damaged during a Viet Cong attack on the Saigon River. After reaching the Paloma, the Kemper County shelled the riverbank while assisting the burning tanker. In the photo below, the Kemper County is seen in Vietnam alongside an Australian barge.

With the end of the war in Vietnam, the Kemper County was decommissioned for the last time on May 28, 1969. She was transferred to to the government of Barbados in July 1975 and renamed Northpoint and later sold to Panama and renamed again El Gato Blanco. There is no further information on her disposition.

Although not a battleship, destroyer or aircraft carrier, the LST-854 / Kemper County served well in three American wars. For her actions, LST-854 received one battle star for service in World War II, five battle stars for her actions in the Korean War and one Navy Unit Commendation and six campaign stars for her service in Vietnam.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

"Your unfortunate Brother:" The Hanging of L.H. Musgrove

In 1868, a Mississippi-born outlaw met his maker at the hands of an angry mob in far-off Colorado. It was perhaps a fitting end for a man who spent much of his life on the wrong side of the law.

Lee H. Musgrove, better known as "L.H.," was born in Como, Mississippi, in Panola County, possibly in the early 1840s. Like many, Musgrove left Mississippi in search of gold and headed for California, where he settled in the Napa Valley. While there, he earned a reputation as a gunfighter and was forced to leave his adopted state after killing a man who reportedly insulted his Southern heritage. Musgrove, who was described as a "man of large stature, of shapely physique, piercing eye and steady nerve," killed two more men in Nevada and another man in the Idaho territory. From Idaho, he fled to the Wyoming Territory, where he organized a gang of cattle rustlers and horse thieves. The Musgrove gang was ultimately credited with stealing horses and cattle from Texas to Kansas, and may have killed at least a dozen men in the process. The photo above is a period image of men identified as cattle thieves, considered by citizens at the time no less a crime than murder.

In 1868, L.H. Musgrove and his gang was operating primarily in southern Wyoming and northern Colorado. Five years earlier, Musgrove had been arrested and charged with murder at Fort Halleck (now located in Wyoming). Taken to Denver for trial, he was released on a technicality. Unfortunately, he did not change his ways and instead began preying on government wagons and outposts along the Overland Trail. The success of the Musgrove gang in stealing horses and cattle called for action by the authorities, and the man selected for the job was Dave Cook.

David J. Cook (right) was born in Indiana but, like Musgrove, moved west looking for gold in 1859. In 1861, he enlisted in the 1st Colorado Cavalry and spent much of the war hunting 'Confederate spies.' In 1866, Cook became the city marshal in Denver, and later founded the "Rocky Mountain Detective Association," which brought him cases throughout the west. In 1867, he began tracking down the members of the Musgrove Gang. In 1868, Abner Loomis (left), a prominent citizen, local political figure and president of the Poudre Valley Bank in Fort Collins, arranged to meet with Musgrove. For whatever reason, the outlaw considered Loomis a friend. It was a setup, however. While visiting with Loomis, Musgrove was seized by Cook and arrested. Taken to Denver in handcuffs, Musgrove was thrown into the Larimer Street prison. One of the reasons Musgrove was taken to Denver was to lure other members of his gang to Denver, and it worked. A man named Ed Franklin, one of his most infamous lieutenants, was gunned down by Cook in a Denver hotel.

In prison, Musgrove bragged that he would escape, no doubt convinced that his gang would soon be able to free him. His bravado outraged the citizens of Denver, though, and on November 23, 1868, a vigilante group composed of fifty of Denver's citizens, some of them prominent men, removed Musgrove from prison with the intent to hang him. Taken to the Larimer street bridge across Cherry Creek (the photo to the right shows the bridge site during a flood in 1864), Musgrove was placed on a wagon under the bridge footing with a noose around his neck. Never once begging for mercy, he asked that he be allowed to write to his brother and his wife. Handed a pencil, the mostly illiterate Musgrove scribbled two notes. To his brother back in Como, Mississippi, he wrote:

                                                                                               Denver November 23rd, 1868

My Dear Brother
I am to be hung to-day on false charges by a mob my children is in Napa Valley Cal - will you go and get them & care of them for me godd Knows that I am innocent pray for me but I was here when the mob took me. Brother good by for Ever take care of my pore little children I remain your unfortunate Brother
                     good by
                                                 L.H. Musgrove 

To his wife, he wrote a similar message, saying "Before this reaches you I will bee no more." Soon after writing the notes, Musgrove was allowed to finish his cigarette, which he "did in the most nonchalant manner." Then, as the wagon was moved from underneath him, Musgrove's time was up. He died instantly with a broken neck. *

One of the people present to observe Musgrove's final moments was Alexander Proctor. A Canadian by birth, Proctor was an budding young artist (he was only eight years old at the time) and sketched what he saw that day. As he grew older, Proctor focused his attention on wildlife and natural scenes of the Western frontier. An avid hunter, he made detailed records of all sorts of animals he encountered in the Rocky Mountains. With his knowledge and artistic abilities, Proctor went on to become a prominent sculptor, especially of animals. Studying in New York and Paris, Proctor worked with other well-known artists like Augustus Saint Gaudens to create numerous monuments and statues. Among Proctor's many works are equestrian statues of William T. Sherman in New York and General John Logan in Chicago's Grant Park (for these, he sculpted only the horses). Seen here is his  “Bucking Bronco” statue in Denver, along with his painted self-portrait. Alexander Phimister Proctor lived a long and colorful life. In 1947, he shot a bear during a hunting expedition to Alaska, seventy years after shooting his first bear. He died in Palo Alto, California, in 1950, just days shy of his ninetieth birthday. 

As with many tales from the old West, the characters in this little drama seem bigger than life. Yet, there is much I do not yet know about L.H. Musgrove. I hope to discover, for example, who his parents were, the identity of his wife and brother, and a photograph of him, if one exists. And, of course, I’d also like to know if there is a family connection to Ronnie Musgrove, who was elected Governor of Mississippi in 2000. Governor Musgrove is also a native of Panola County.

* Some of the details of the hanging comes from an 1882 memoir written by Dave Cook. Titled Hands Up! or Twenty Years of Detective Work in the Mountains and on the Plains, the book highlights Cook's exploits as a lawman. The illustration of the hanging is from the book.

Photo and image sources:
Cattle rustlers: 
Cherry Creek: