While browsing on Ancestry.com, I found this wonderful story by Maxine Elliott Gilliam. jdhardin originally posed this story on the Hardin family tree. (1) It’s always a happy moment when we find the work of other family researchers. To this post with the story from Mrs. Gilliam, I’ve added pictures of our shared Elliott ancestors. The captions with the pictures are mine, as are any errors in the posting.
With a Google search, the only Maxine Gilliam located had recently passed away. However, another cousin gave me the correct email address for our Maxine Elliott Gilliam, who is still working on genealogy. This story is used with her permission.
James Monroe Elliott and Margaret Eoff met and married in Tennessee, then moved to Izard County, Arkansas. He was 45 years old, when he enlisted with the Confederate Army, leaving Margaret at home with 11-12 children. They went on to have 15 children. James had at least one child with another woman before he married Margaret. See my earlier blog for details on his war service.
Home Front Solider. Margaret didn’t have a military uniform. She wore a faded print dress covered by a stained, faded apron as she performed her duties. She may or may not have had shoes on her feet and if she had them they were not stylish. She served at home in the remote, rocky mountains of north central Arkansas while Monroe was away fighting the Civil War. She was home alone with eleven or twelve children to care for.
Cooking and Washing. She cooked on a wood stove, did laundry with a rub board and a black wash pot, and ironed with sad irons. Her fate was no different than thousands of other women of her day. Their water was carried in buckets from a creek or spring. She was no doubt several miles from the nearest store which probably was not a major inconvenience since there were little goods to be bought even if she happened to have the cash. Their food was what they raised and ate fresh and canned, dried and salted down what they could.
Food. Salt was a very scarce item and that was the only way they had to preserve fish, wild game, pork and beef. I can imagine her sending the two oldest boys, the twins William and James, into the woods to kill turkeys, rabbits, deer, quail and other wild game for their food supply. She must have waited anxiously for their return since they were only 14 years old and there was “fightin’ in them thar hills”. The girls had to walk through woods to get to the creek for water. There were many outlaws and bandits raiding homes and taking what they wanted, besides the Union soldiers. When game or domestic animals were killed, they had to be butchered and preserved which is no small chore.
Clothing. Their clothing was made at home either with or without a very primitive sewing machine. They raised the flax and cotton, spun the yarn and wove the fabrics that became their clothing.
Home and Homelife. The winters were very cold and wet. Their house, of course, was not insulated and probably had large cracks in the walls. Their heat was from wood. The summers were miserably hot and storms occurred very frequently. Can you imagine her fear and that of the children when they saw strangers approaching? If they ever went anyplace it was to church or to visit a neighbor and both probably happened infrequently.
Health Care: There were no doctors available so when she or one of the children were sick or injured Margaret had the responsibility of taking care of them. Modern medicines of course were not available so she had to depend on old home remedies that had been passed down from generation to generation. In her day every mother had her “good” needle and a spool of white silk thread so she could sew up the cuts that required stitches. I wonder how many sleepless nights she had with sick children and then assumed her regular duties with the rising of the sun.
Travel: All travel was done by horseback or horse and wagon on rough rocky narrow roads winding through the mountains. During the winter there was snow and ice on those roads on many occasions.
Isolation: Can you imagine how dark the nights were with no streetlights and so many trees around to cast shadows even when there was moonlight? How quiet the nights were with no auto traffic, trains, etc. to break the silence. The sounds of wild animals (some of them frightening) were the only night sounds. There were bears, mountain lions and wolves to break the dead silence of night.
Communication: Communication with the outside world was not a common occurrence. The mail was very slow and infrequent. Of course, there were no newspapers thrown in the front yard every morning, no radios, no TVs, no telephones and no e-mail. News, even where it was heard, had to be evaluated since there are always lots of rumors in war time to frighten people or to help carry out military plans.
Children: The children had a rough childhood compared to children of our day. They had a lot to overcome in growing up. This is bound to have affected their personalities for the rest of their lifetime.
Heroine: Margaret will not be written up in any history book as a heroine, but she and thousands of other women of her day deserve our respect, admiration and understanding. Let us give her honor!
And let’s give honor to Maxine Elliott Gilliam for her genealogy work, much appreciated by the current and future generations of researchers.
Source: http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/3552949/story/e7e26028-a91c-45f7-a5a2-36f9c24e4b0c, accessed May 4, 2013. Those with an Ancestry.com account, follow this link to see the original posting.
copyright © 2013 by Andrea Musgrove Perisho