My Wicker Family History: Shiloh Remembered

By Duane Helweg
(Great-grandson to Mary Lucrecia Wicker/Strawn/Montgomery)

Somewhere back in the trails of Tennessee time, there was a Wicker family who lived in Lincoln County. Theretofore, they came from North Carolina where one Flora Buchanan had married Lewis Wicker in Chatham County in about 1824. Both of them were born there in about 1806. His parent’s names were Matthew and Fannie (Riddle) Wicker.

What brought Lewis to Tennessee remains unknown to this writer as of now. As we’ll see shortly, it was not bounty land given for his service in either the military or some war. Perhaps it was that great westward quest for more “elbow room” that we’ve all learned about in the annals of our American history. They were in Lincoln County, Tennessee as late as August of 1843, where their youngest daughter, Elzina was born. The year was indicated on her Confederate widow’s pension, filed for on October 19, 1906. As a point of reference for now, we can also deduce her husband was dead prior to the October 1906 date. I will detail that later in this history.

The Wicker’s came to Tennessee by 1830, as Lewis Wicker is in the Lincoln County census. He is also in the 1840 census there and all the ages and genders (which are all that’s recorded in that census) match his crew. Also, their fourth child and first girl, Parthena Wicker, was born there by 1830. Prior to her, three sons issued into this family: Joseph Calvin Wicker, born February 5, 1825 in North Carolina, Alvis Mathis Wicker, born March 5, 1826 in North Carolina and then my predecessor, Roderick Gaines “Roddie” Wicker, born about 1827, also in North Carolina. All of these birth states are verified through subsequent census records stating such. We may presume they all were born in Chatham County, until proven otherwise. We may also assume the remaining Wicker children were born in Lincoln County, since Elzina was the youngest.

These other children include Matthew born about 1833, Andrew Jackson born about 1834, Lewis Jasper born about 1836, son Francis M. born about 1838, Sarah A. born about 1840, Mary Elizabeth born about 1841 and finally Elzina or “Zina” on August 1, 1843. She will become a principal in this history later. Meanwhile, let’s go on to Hardin County, Tennessee for the Wicker family’s next stop.

In speaking about the development of Hardin County, history states as follows:

While most of these early settlements were on the east side of the river, a survey of land titles reveals that the area now within the boundaries of Shiloh National Military Park was first settled around 1828, although the bulk of settlement occurred in the period 1843 to 1851.

I know that Lewis and family (except son Alvis) had moved to Hardin County on the west side of the Tennessee River sometime after the 1843 birth of their last known living child. Also some of the tax records available from Lincoln happen to cover 1846 through 1850. Lewis “W.” Wicker shows up there in 1846 through 1848 but not 1849-1850. They also came to Hardin before his oldest son, Joseph, married a Hagy girl there in 1849, and, before the October 1850 census. Son Alvis shows up as still being in Lincoln County in 1850 as a laborer to a farmer. Apparently he stayed when they left but also goes there soon, as he marries a Hardin gal and they have their first child by December of 1851.

In the 1850 census, the 10th Civil District was south of Snake Creek and west of the Tennessee River. Lewis Wicker and family were undoubtedly in the cabin that he built near what is today’s entrance to Shiloh National Military Park. That cabin will famously survive the battle later and will be bought and moved afterwards to its present location.

Lewis and family was the first dwelling house to be visited by the census taker in that district, a fact I will further address later. It indicates the first four in Lewis’s household could read or write. I say “or” because Lewis made only his mark (an “X”) on both his deed transactions. Son Joseph and wife were the second dwelling visited, both as follows:

Wicker Lewis 47 M Farmer 937 NC
Wicker Flora 46 F NC
Wicker Roderick S 22 M Laborer NC
Wicker Parthena 20 F TN
Wicker Matthew 17 M Laborer TN
Wicker Andrew J. 16 M Laborer TN
Wicker Lewis J. 14 M TN
Wicker Francis M. 12 M TN
Wicker Sarah A. 10 F TN
Wicker Elizabeth 9 F TN
Wicker Elzina 6 F TN
Wicker Joseph C. 25 M Farmer NC
Wicker Barbara C. 22 F TN

Lewis then has his first recorded deed transaction in 1851. He sold 22 acres then to John J. Ellis (neighbor censused 4th in 1850), who in turn later sold the same acres to James Perry that I will address later. Then near the end of 1853, Wicker sold 378 acres to Allen Kendrick. Altogether, Lewis originally owned a 400-acre parcel.

He was either the first purchase owner or an assignee of those 400 acres he eventually sold as first recorded transactions in Hardin County deeds. Following are two e-mails received from the Tennessee State Library and Archives in answer to a query as to Lewis Wicker having any grants:

The index to Tennessee Land Grants does not list a grant, neither a North Carolina nor a general grant, for Lewis Wicker…Most land grants in Tennessee were purchased grants and were, in fact, first ownership of the land. After that all land transactions should show up in the county records.

Lewis was not found at the library records with a purchase grant. Therefore he could have been an assignee, as the following 2nd e-mail indicates:

An assignee is the individual who obtains the land, not necessarily the person who has an entry for the land. Sometimes the individual who has an entry has no desire for the land but holds it for a period so the price will go up…Lewis Wicker could very likely be the assignee….

Future personal research at the Tennessee State Library and Archives uncovered that he was, indeed, an “assignee” of the land. Sometimes as a writer, personal connections you make over time in doing research, uncovers the unconnected. Such is the case in finding the microfilmed land records for Lewis Wicker. In purchasing books about Shiloh on a previous trip there, one had been bought called, Shiloh’s House of Peace, The Church That Named the Battle, by Dr. Ronnie Fullwood. In it he indicated his grandmother lived in the cabin in 1905. Naturally he was contacted for more information and that led to an invitation for this author to speak to the Shiloh Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp.

In doing so, connections with people at that meeting would become instrumental in this updated history. The first is Larry DeBerry, who does Shiloh tours, and provided family histories of neighbors to the cabin at its present location. Then a Wicker family member at the meeting, Hurshell Tillman (ancestors spelled it ‘Tilghman’), the next day provided a letter written in 1999, from the park, in response to an inquiry about his ancestor’s park lands. It stated that the “G. W. Tilghman tract is part of the original Lewis Wicker Land Grant (November 24, 1847)…Entry No. 1723, in the name of Lewis Wicker….” Thus this author was off to Nashville seeking details unfound in the two above responses from the Tennessee State Library and Archives.

There, found in Entry Number 1723 on microfilm roll 50 of the Hardin County Tennessee Survey Books, Volume 5, covering years 1842 to 1853, was the following:

State of Tennessee Hardin County; Lewis Wicker assignee of Joseph Crownover & Austin Hatty Entry 400 acres of land in accordance with an act of the General Assembly of Said State passed the 2nd of November 1847 on the waters of Snake Creek in Range 6 & Section 2 & 3 Beginning on the Southwest Corner of Entry No 1829 in the name of Joseph Crownover, Thence East 207 poles, Thence North 88 poles, Thence East 12 poles, North 236 poles, West 136 poles, South 42 poles, West 83 poles, South 252 poles to the beginning – 6 November 1848

Lewis Wicker [Recorder’s initials ‘SC’ entered]

Thereafter, both of Lewis’s initial land sales showed up in Hardin County records. Although the 22 acres he sold to Ellis in December 1851 may have contained a “Wicker cabin,” Lewis and family did not leave yet for the future “Wicker Field,” until, or, sometime after, he sold the 378 acres two years later in November of 1853. I say this because that deed states the land as “being the farm on which the said Wicker now lives.”

Both Ellis and Mr. Perry, who bought the 22 acres from Ellis in January of 1853, may have allowed the Wicker’s to either stay on or use the land. However, as stated the cabin was on the piece Lewis sold to Kendrick in 1853, who then sold it to Perry in 1855. Lewis may have just needed the money from the 22-acre sale to live on. Then, he may not have liked his 378 acres, some of which is bottom land, near where Owl Creek joins Snake Creek and is subject to flooding. According to park contour maps, the highest part of his land dropped over eighty feet towards the confluence of the two creeks, at the point Lewis’s land ended. We can know this because when Kendrick later sold what the deed referred to as “the Wicker place” (the 378 acres) to the same Mr. Perry, that deed stated the land was “about the mouth of Owl Creek and on Snake Creek.”

Based on the timing and wording of all the above, it is assumed that sometime after the sale of his remaining land in November of 1853, Lewis and family (but maybe not Alvis) vacated his now famous cabin. They then built new ones and occupied what was to become known, in Civil War infamy, and, in today’s Shiloh National Military Park, as “Wicker Field.” By the 1860 census, five Wicker families lived there. More on that later.

Cabins, Civil War Days…Sunday Shiloh

In order for the known Wicker history to fall into place, I must digress from direct family history and explain what I know of the Wicker’s in the remaining pre, active and post Civil War days with regard to today’s Shiloh National Military Park and its history. Based on my knowledge of the above tax/deed transactions and documented or oral history in the park as conveyed by park rangers, Lewis Wicker built a cabin sometime between 1848 and 1849 on his 400 acres, eventually sold to Perry. The cabin itself apparently remained in Wicker’s ownership. Park history maintains that this cabin is the only private structure, within the battlefield proper, to survive the Battle of Shiloh, 1862.

Families suffered the loss of their homes in the battle due either to burning, bullets or cannon fire or all three. All of the Wicker’s of the 15th Civil District would have lost theirs, together with most of their personal possessions, save anything carried out before the battle started. The only exception would be if a family member was living in the old cabin that survived (Alvis was in that district and censused in the cabin area?). One thinks of the loss of life and limb in the course of the battle but for those soldiers who survived, they still had homes to go to, somewhere, while the Wickers had none, save family and friends in the 11th Civil District north of Snake Creek. Flora had two sons and a married daughter living north in that adjacent district; Roderick and family, Mary Elizabeth Strawn and family, plus Jasper and wife. Francis M. and Andrew J. are not at Shiloh?

Wherever the Wicker survivors were, hearts would have been heavy, certainly over the loss of their homes, but more importantly, over the loss of sons, husbands and fathers. Apparently Roderick died in the conflict. Since Matthew disappears after 1860 and his military record shows him sick and a prisoner of war, he apparently dies, also. The same could hold true for daughter Parthena’s husband, William C. Barnes, whose last record he was “present” at, was for his Mar-Apr, 1862 muster roll call, after Shiloh. They and their children all disappear after the 1860 census?

While Roddie and William’s losses would have been tragic, the two children of already widower Matthew would now be orphans. In the 1870 census, Widow Flora is keeping his daughter, Susan, age 14, while his son, Lewis, also shown as 14 (?), is working as a farm hand for neighbor Joseph Barlow. An age 12, Thomas Wicker (?), is also with Flora. Additionally in that census, Roddie’s wife, Emersley Catherine (Catherine on the census), was living alone with three children. The reason we believe Roddie died in the battle is because my mother told me so, and, from the following oral story from one of our family members. Roddie and a young neighbor, John Strawn, joined Phillips’s Light Artillery Company for the war (As did William Edwards, Sarah Wicker’s husband). Here’s the Strawn history as passed down through time, with my comments in brackets:

As the story goes, Strawn [John] and Wicker [R.G.]…fought together as Confederate "Flag Bearers" in the Civil War Battle of Shiloh [their unit was supposedly not there but those two may have returned to defend home and family] which was fought on their property [other Wicker family, but near Strawns]. Wicker was shot; fell, and Strawn grabbed the flag to hold it upright. Wicker asked Strawn to take care of his wife and children. Strawn replied that with Wicker's permission, he would marry the daughter (Mary Lucrese), and take care of the family, as best he could. Wicker agreed just before dying.

In this update, from my book it appears their unit could have been at Shiloh, plus, I’ve learned there were flagmen or “wigwags” used in the artillery. When the artillery needed to move, flagmen were sent out to wave a unit’s flag on a pole to show where to move.

I obtained the war record of my Roddie (or R. G. “Wickar”) from the National Archives in Washington. To my surprise, his only muster roll record showed him “deserted” as of April 30, 1862. If the above story is true, and we believe it is as my great-grandmother, Mary Lucrecia Wicker, at age fifteen did marry John Strawn in 1868, then Roddie “deserted” because he was dead as of April 7th and thereafter buried in a mass Confederate grave on the battlefield at Shiloh. John and Mary named their firstborn son Loyd in 1869 with Roddie’s middle name, “Gaines.” That middle name was previously used for Roddie’s last and namesake son born in 1862. “Junior” was at best only a few months old or yet unborn at battle time and never knew his father. In 1870 he’s “Roddy” age eight, and in 1880 at age eighteen in Hopkins Co., Texas, he’s “Rodrick G. Wicker.”

An irony sad in it’s telling…two women, mother and oldest daughter, expecting at the time of the loss of their husbands. Six years after surviving the war, John Strawn was accidentally killed by his own shotgun as recounted by the same family member before… “Strawn went out in a buckboard, with a loaded shotgun propped up by his leg, looking for some rabbits to shoot. The wagon hit a half-buried rock, the gun fell, discharged, and Strawn bled to death from the leg wound.” So, widows Emersley Catherine (Hooker) Wicker, with her remaining children at home, and daughter Mary Lucrecia (Wicker) Strawn and her two youngsters, went to Texas in 1874 with Emersley’s parents from McNairy County, John and Mary Hooker. This I found out from a Strawn who lived at Michie, TN who was at Ledbetter Cemetery one day I happened to visit there. He took me to his “old home place” to see the first of two Strawn histories done (I had the 2nd).

I also met Nor Hagy, descendant relative of Barbra (Hagy) Wicker at the cemetery as local people were meeting to discuss creating a trust for Ledbetter Cemetery. His family is involved in the Catfish Hotel, just outside the park; a restaurant started years ago after the Hagy’s landed there on the Tennessee River. Subsequent visitors over the years “put in there” as they say, or landed for the night, and the catfish meals the Hagy’s prepared for them soon turned into today’s establishment!

In Texas, my Mary Lucrecia Wicker/Strawn married Pleasant Lafayette Montgomery in 1876 and they had several children, including my grandfather, thus creates my Wicker connection. Also ironically, later in life, Pleasant was shot in the shoulder accidentally while hunting. According to Wanda (Montgomery) Helweg, my 92 year-old mother, his wife Mary, who acted as a nurse for her Dr. father-in-law, tended Pleasant night and day, never even stopping to change her clothes, until he was healed. No doubt she wasn’t going to lose a second husband the same way as the first!

Their oldest Montgomery was a daughter, Ida. Her mother Mary, who was known to some in Texas as “Crece,” told Ida stories about Shiloh, who shared it with her granddaughter, my cousin, Cindy Mclaughlin. With my bracketed inserts, Cindy wrote:

Did I ever make it clear that Lewis and Flora Wicker (Crece's paternal grandparents) lived on a farm that is now part of the Shiloh Battlefield itself? Originally there was a group of about four cabins/houses in a compound, with barns and outbuildings. After the War, Widow Flora sold at least one of them, which was moved to another property and still exists [the George cabin]. Roddy and E. C. lived a little further east [and north], closer to the McNairy Co. border.

Ida used to say that her Mother could remember the sounds and smells of the Battle of Shiloh. She was 8 years old at the time. She said that for two days they could not leave the cabin, and sometimes had to lie on the floor to avoid stray bullets. Crece would also say that some of her uncles never came back from the war, and that the family never knew what happened to them. [Three disappear?]
Crece told Ida that the family came to TX via the Mississippi River and the Port of Indianola, then overland to Hopkins [County in Texas].

Cindy also uncovered a wonderful Shiloh love story about Lewis and Flora’s youngest daughter, Elzina (or Eliza). A Jordan-named kin of Irish-born, Dennis Green, shares this:

My uncle told me that D. Green was with some troops, and that they found Eliza and three other children hiding on the bank of the Owl Creek and that they gave them a pass to leave the field before the battle. And that after the war was over, D. Green came back and married Eliza.

I say this eventually promoted “Sergeant Green,” offered or gave them a safe passage through, I presume, military lines. However, he apparently was awestruck by the teenager, Elzina. So much so that he returned after the war and married her in Hardin County, Tennessee as a June bride named as “Eliza” on the marriage record, the eighth day of June, 1865. The war had ended on April 9th, two months earlier.

Dennis wasted no time in returning to court the now older “lass,” no doubt his shining ray of hope each waking day, in surviving the war. According to his military records he was a prisoner of war in 1862, exchanged that year and became a Sergeant by November, 1863. Then, according to his pension record I obtained from the Tennessee State Library and Archives, Dennis was wounded twice. Once at Perryville, KY in the foot and again at Peach Tree Creek, GA in the elbow, so in recovery he no doubt thought long and often upon the face of the young girl he helped to safety before the Battle of Shiloh.

A few months after the battle in 1862, a Mr. William Manse George (neighbor in 1860 to Lewis), whose cabin would have been destroyed, bought the surviving cabin possibly from Widow Flora Wicker. He moved it from what is known today as Perry Field, near the park entrance, to its present location today, next to the Peach Orchard. Wicker Field, in the park today, is adjacent to Bloody Pond, which is next to the orchard. Mr. George was a neighbor to Lewis and Flora and to Sara Bell’s orchard there in the 1860 census. However, all neighboring structures in this area and the battleground proper were destroyed, save the “War Cabin” as it’s also called, or, the “W. Manse George Cabin.”

As Wicker descendants, we would all do well to call it the “Wicker Cabin,” as Lewis built it and Flora may have sold it as a widow sometime after the battle. Lewis was alive in the 1860 census but did he die before the battle in 1862 or during the battle trying to protect his family and personal items? It remains to be proven whether the “widow” moniker Flora bears in the written and oral park history today was assumed before the battle, but probably is true. If so, Lewis is possibly buried at Ledbetter Cemetery.

Nonetheless, how many families today can claim a log cabin, built at least over 150 years ago by an ancestor, surviving a major battle of the Civil War and with some restoration and additions, still existing today in a public park? We can! The cabin has a loft that encompasses the whole upper ceiling area, save a small opening to allow one to climb up into it. At 6’ 3” tall, I personally cannot fully stand up inside. In 1962 park personnel added the front porch before the 100th battle anniversary. Of course there may have been a porch attached before Mr. George bought it from Flora (?) on Perry Field and moved it to its present park location. In 2003, the park restored the crumbling chimney and re-did the cabin. Of course that part of the cabin would not have been moved either in 1862. Bullet holes are still evident in the cabin today, a reminder of its history and survival.

Although through fate, and nothing of their own volition, the Wicker's are historically tied to the Battle of Shiloh, and, the military park. They apparently even lost some sons to the cause. Even after the battle and war, a John W. Wicker, son of Alvis, owned the plot of land the cabin is on today, buying it in 1885 from a Mr. Cantrell (another owner name known from the battle) and then selling it in 1896 to a Mr. Chambers. He in turn sold it to the USA in 1899. Wicker Field, which is adjacent to Bloody Pond and the Peach Orchard and cabin area, was sold by another battle name, a Mr. Fraley, to the USA in 1898.

The John W. Wicker mentioned above was interviewed in 1934 by a local teacher, now park person, working under the WPA during the Great Depression, who was writing a research paper on how cabins in the war era were built and how they could be restored.

According to the 1930 Hardin County census, his son living at home, Herbert, worked at the National Cemetery at the park. No doubt that contact led to the interview. John W., who was born in 1852 and probably visited the cabin in his youth before the battle, had purchased the land and cabin in 1885, where it resides today, possibly out of some sentimental ties. He indicated in the paper it was built by his grandfather, “Louis” (as spelled in the paper). John also owned a portion of the Peach Orchard land and about three-fourth’s of Bloody Pond and his property line bordered Mr. Fraley's, which is Wicker Field today. John’s ownership is all the more reason to call it, “Wicker Cabin.”

Return to Censuses…

I will return now to what we know of the Wicker history in Hardin County and specifically the battleground. The next census, 1860, shows Lewis and Flora now in the 15th Civil District, apparently on today’s Wicker Field, as their neighbors from the census taker’s household numbers were: Mr. George, Widow Sara Bell, the Hargroves, Cantrell’s, Duncan’s, Barne’s and McCuller’s…some are well known names documented in the battle history and thereafter. These private names, and others, were used after the battle to identify the various military locations that set up and changed during the two-day battle itself. “Wicker Field” and “Widow Wicker” are named in historical accounts.

For Lewis and Flora, only teenager Elzina remained at home but the next dwelling the census taker visited was with their then widower son Matthew and his two children, five-year-old Susana and three-year-old Lewis L. Wicker. We can speculate that Matthew’s wife may have died during or after childbirth, either with young Lewis or a third child.

Then the census listed two Wicker daughters, Sarah and Parthena, each married to a William, one surnamed Edwards and another Barnes, respectively, in two other households. Sarah A. and her husband had only seven-month-old, Louisa J. Edwards, then Parthena and her husband had a four-year-old young William, a two year old boy, Caswell, and also a seven-month-old, Mary C. Barnes. Finally, oldest son Joseph C. and wife “Barbry” (Hagy) Wicker were enumerated, along with their three children. They were: nine-year-old Joseph H., four-year-old Sarah A. and two-year-old John M. Wicker. This Sarah A. will someday fondly become “Aunt Sack.” It is worthy to note that a Barnes family were neighbors to Lewis and his Parthena may have married their son.

Flora and Lewis’s next oldest son, Alvis Wicker, was living north and west of them near Owl Creek with wife Susan and children John W. age eight, Emary E. age six, William F. age three, and, one-year-old Martha J. Wicker. My ancestor, and third son to Lewis and Flora, Roderick Wicker, lived even further north, in District 11 above Snake Creek. His wife was Emersley Catherine and they had at that time, Mary L. age six, Martha E., age four and two-year-old Samuel D. Wicker. Another of Lewis and Flora’s son’s, Lewis J., is known as Jasper in the 1860 census and he and Mahaly live to the north near Roderick. So does their sister, Mary Elizabeth, married to C. C. (Christopher Columbus) Strawn, with two children; Poretha J. (Jasper) age two, and, year-old, “Loyed” (Lloyd) Strawn.

Initially, the census whereabouts in 1860 of two other Wicker sons, Francis M. and Andrew J., documented in the 1850 Hardin County census, was unknown. In this update, Francis M. remains unfound and is presumed dead by the 1860 census. However, an Andrew Jackson Wicker was found through a living descendant. He was in Greene Co., Arkansas in 1860 as A. J. Wicker, married with two children; more on him later.

No doubt, youngsters John W. Wicker and my Mary Lucrecia, who were about the same age, had visited all the above Wicker cabins in pre-battle days. These two, plus other Wicker children in the area could have been out with Elzina along Owl Creek at battle time. Based on 1860 Hardin County census records, there were at least six Wicker homes, either within what is now the park, or without, in Civil District’s 15 or 11, near which this could have occurred. Four of these six Wicker homes may have produced the other three children with her. They include the John W. and Mary Lucrecia, mentioned above, and, Joseph H., all about age nine, or, younger girls, Susana and Emary E. Wicker. Upper-teenaged Elzina, as the oldest, may have actually had them in her care.

I believe it is possible that son Alvis Wicker was living in his father’s old cabin on Perry Field in the 1860 census. He shows only personal worth and his census number is in the north part of today’s park near the Hagy’s and Perry’s number. Where the cabin survived the battle was in Perry Field near today’s park entrance, as stated earlier. That may doubly be why Alvis son, John W. Wicker, was inspired to buy the land where the cabin was moved by Mr. George after the battle. John’s grandfather built it and then John possibly lived in it in his youth and then again as an adult with his own family in the mid-1880’s. As you recall, he was also the one interviewed in the 1930’s about it. However, Alvis is apparently still on Perry Field in the 1870 census.

The remainder of Wicker’s censused in Civil District 15 in 1860 did not own any real estate except Lewis and his was minor, valued at $150, perhaps only his cabin. Everyone had personal estate figures and Lewis figure there was quite high. Of course he sold considerable land in 1853. His several “Wicker boys” may have been good shots and brought in game, not only for themselves, but also with which to barter with neighbors.

After the census there in late October of 1860 and the soon impending Civil War, life was about to dramatically change for the Wicker families. April 6th of 1862 would truly become a “Black Sunday.” Travail was just beginning for some Wicker households.

Wicker Warrior’s - some did not return…1870 census

The first sign of impending doom may have been the enrollment of husband’s, father’s and son’s into various Confederate/Union regiments beginning in 1861.

"There is a terrible war coming, and these young men who have never seen war cannot wait for it to happen, but I tell you, I wish that I owned every slave in the South, for I would free them all to avoid this war." - Robert E. Lee

Soldier Name Side Function Regiment Name
Wicker, Joseph Confederate Infantry 34th Regiment, Tennessee Infantry
Wicker, A.M. Confederate Infantry 23rd Battalion, Tennessee Infantry (Newman's)
Wickar, R.G. Confederate Artillery Phillip's Company, Tennessee Light Artillery
Wicker, Mathew Confederate Infantry 34th Regiment, Tennessee Infantry
Wicker, Jasper Union Cavalry 6th Regiment, Tennessee Cavalry
Barnes, William C. Confederate Infantry 34th Regiment, Tennessee Infantry
Edwards, William Confederate Artillery Phillip's Company, Tennessee Light Artillery
Strawn, C.C. Confederate Cavalry 16th Regiment, Tennessee Cavalry
Green, Dennis Confederate Infantry 31st Regiment, Tennessee Infantry
Strawn, John Confederate Artillery Phillip's Company, Tennessee Light Artillery

Then in early 1862 the blue cloud of the Union Army swept down upon the 15th Civil District residents. Shortly, the rest is history, as they say. The daily lives and by-products of their living were dismantled and lost. Recovery was still possible, however, as life goes on. Homes were rebuilt, livestock reacquired, fields planted. Even wild game would return to the woods, with flora slowly growing back, even overgrowing the signs of what had occurred those two historical days in and around Shiloh Church. Faith endured and life continued for the Wicker families.

As mentioned earlier, by the 1870 census, the “Widow Wicker,” our Flora, was living next to daughter Elzina and son-in-law D. B. Green, whose occupation is shown as “ditcher” (DIKEMAN - hedger or ditcher). Their children were, John, age 3, Thomas, age 2, and, five-month-old, Ella. Living with them was a twenty-one-year-old peddler born in Ireland. They were all apparently back on what was now known as Wicker Field, the written annals of the battle there, now referring to it, and, Flora’s widow moniker. Mr. George was next door in she and Lewis and family’s old cabin and the Bell family was still in the infamous Peach Orchard. The McCullers and Hargroves were also still nearby.

How long did it take for what was now referred to as “Bloody Pond” between them, to become drinkable water again? Stained red by the blood of wounded soldiers and horses, from both sides, who had walked or dragged themselves there to drink, only to quench their fiery thirst for the last time before life’s breath left their bodies bleeding as openly as the pond’s surface itself. No doubt daily reminders were still around in 1870, and farming practices may have uncovered them for years to come; buttons, bullets and brads.

Names like Fraley, Howell, Hagy, Sowell, House, Davis, Pickens and Jones were also still around. Also even more Wickers; Alvis was still to the north and his sister Sarah and husband William Edwards have not rebuilt on Wicker Field and are next door, both apparently on Perry Field. Alvis and Susan had; John, age 17, Mary 15, William 12, Martha 10, Alvis (Jr.) age 5, Julia 3, and Charles, under a year. Sarah and William had; Josephine, age 12, “Luis” 10, Dixie 6, “Barbary” age 4 and “Milley” age one.

And to the north of them, having now moved above Snake Creek into District 11, were “Calvin” and “Catherine” (or Joseph and Barbara) with their three children, Joseph, Sarah and John. Why they chose to give their middle names to the census taker is unknown. Was it just a lark for the couple or was the federal census in 1870 perceived as a “Yankee” thing and bitter feelings from the war still ran deep? The eastside of Hardin County, east of the Tennessee River at Savannah, had been some Union rather than Confederate during the fray. Savannah is where Union General Grant headquartered.

Also in District 11 were Jasper and family (Caladona and Lenora), Mary Elizabeth Strawn and family (John, Arminta and Mary), as both Poretha and Lloyd have died, plus two others, Margaret and William. Roderick’s widow Catherine is also there, raising Martha and Samuel, with her youngest named after his father, Roderick Gaines Wicker. Potentially born in a two month window from the battle date of his father’s death, April of 1962, until the only two censuses he shows up next, in July of 1870 and June of 1880, when he is eight and eighteen, respectively. Catherine’s oldest, Mary Lucrecia, is now married to John Strawn, living nearby with young son, Loyd Gaines, named after his Strawn and Wicker grandfathers’ middle names. A. J. Wicker is in Stoddard Co., MO.

Into the 1870’s, tragedy was to continue to strike the Wicker households. Mary E. lost seven-year-old son, John, only two months after the 1870 census. Then, John Strawn’s accidental shooting and death in 1871, plus Bill Edwards, Sarah’s husband, who apparently had an occupation on the river as a rafter or runner, drowns in the Tennessee River, circa 1873-1875, as reported by a family branch. Survive Shiloh, then guns and rivers get you anyway…life flows on, and spreads for the Wickers in the 1880’s.

Perhaps these tragedies were still reminders of the battle, as the following poem depicts:

If you stand soft and silent
In the night’s early chill,
You can still hear the cannon
Roar across “Shiloh Hill.”

-Mark Putnam

1880 Census…Flora is Gone

Apparently, family matriarch Flora has died after 1870 as she is not found in the 1880 census. Does she lie in Ledbetter Cemetery beside her life’s traveler and love, Lewis? There are no markers, no family history that I can find that says “where” for either. Perhaps they rest in secret, like the sons or daughters that disease or Shiloh or other fate in life took from them along the way; Francis M., Roderick G., Matthew, Parthena and her husband William C. Barnes and children. Likewise, little Lewis L. the farm laborer, and the Thomas with Flora disappear in that census as well. Perhaps young Susan, who was also with Flora, made it to the marriage alter, thus we lose her for now as well, hopefully to that union in life, and not death.

In 1880, oldest son Joseph and wife Barbara remain in Hardin in District 11, north of Snake Creek. Living with them is daughter Sarah A. who apparently never marries. Their two sons who did marry are recorded next door, Joseph H. and John M. and their families. Joseph Henry and Susan A. had Thomas M., age 5, Roxanne E., age 4, Henry L., age 2 and Robert O. was under a year old. Next door, John M. and Sarah C., had William C., age 2 and Victoria A., also under a year old.

Alvis and family have moved to nearby McNairy County in the 1880 census. With he and Susan by then were; William F. age 22, Alvis M. 15, Julia A. 12, Charles R. 10, Horace G. 8, Robert J. 5 and James T., age 2. I also previously noted that Alvis second child Emary, or maybe “Mary,” who was born in about 1854, is reported in the 1860 and 1870 censuses as being born in Missouri? Their first child was born in 1851 and the next child born after Mary was in about 1857 and those two show Tennessee as a birth state. Either Alvis and his wife adopted, or, lived in Missouri sometime between 1851 and 1857 where Mary was born. Alvis is not through moving yet and starting in 1850, until his last stop to be reported later, he may have had some “Wicker wanderlust.”

Alvis oldest son, John W., who is censused with wife Martha in 1880 in Hardin County, raises another interesting question. Boarding with them on June 4th is a “Wiliam” Wicker, age twenty-three. Is this his brother “William F., ” noted a week later with Alvis?

As reported earlier, Roddie’s widow, Emersley Catherine, now lives in Hopkins County, Texas and in 1880 is head-of-household and has eighteen-year old “Roderick, Jr.” there, plus his sister Martha and her young son, Edgar D. Scott, and, elderly Mary Hooker, mother to Catherine. Her other son, Samuel David Wicker is married and living there while oldest widowed daughter, my Mary Lucrecia, has remarried my great-grandfather in 1876, Pleasant Lafayette Montgomery, in Lampasas County. Their whereabouts in 1880 remains unknown but he was last taxed in Palo Pinto County, although they married in Lampasas County, as stated. Pleasant is raising her two, Loyd and Margaret, and he and Mary have added two of their own by 1880, Hiram Adrian and Ida Elizabeth Montgomery. Eleven-year-old Loyd Strawn will soon handle a chuck wagon on a cattle drive up the Chisholm Trail, with his step-uncle, trail driver Henry Montgomery.

Andrew J. is now in Howell Co., Missouri with wife Martha and seven children; while Lewis Jasper was still in Hardin Co., TN in District 11 in 1880. He and “Mahaly” have added to their family that now has; Caledonia, age 14, Lorena 12, Andrew J. 10, Thomas 5, Susan 2 and Ella, three months old. Also still in District 11 are Mary E. and husband C. C. Strawn with the following children at home; “Mintie” age 15, Mary age 12, Andrew age 10, another son with an unclear name that should be “Tecoa Walter” (T. W.?) age 8, “Elvira” (Eliza?) age 6, daughter Arizona age 4 and Viola, one year old. Mary and C. C. have lost five of their six kids by the 1880 census, no doubt to illnesses.

Living in the adjacent county, McNairy, in 1880 is the known remnants of Sarah (Wicker) Edward’s family. Sarah has disappeared unless living with daughter Dixie who cannot be found either. Or, did Sarah remarry after William’s tragic death? Family info shows “Dixie” as “Anna B.” and she married James Henry Thacker on October 19, 1881.

However, oldest daughter Sarah J. (or Josephine or “Josie” in later censuses), married David Green Sowell on December 20, 1876. They have two children of their own, Daisy J., age 4 and David S., six months old. With them are two Edwards sisters, Barbra C. and Augusta E., ages 15 and 10, respectively. Where are their mother and sister?

Back in Hardin County, the youngest of Lewis and Flora’s children, Elzina, is still apparently living on Wicker Field in 1880 with husband D. B. Greeny (another use of “y”?). Another reason I believe they are still on the field is that living four dwelling units away is an O. H. P. Cantrell, who sells the land where the cabin is, to John W. Wicker in another five years, 1885. Apparently Mr. Cantrell was living on the cabin site. Bloody Pond is next door to Wicker Field, and then you come to the cabin site, then the famous Peach Orchard. Dennis is shown as a farmer in this census. He and Elzina have the following kids, with names as spelled by the census taker; John, age 13, Mitchel 12, Ella 10, Intarnisa 7, Clerce 4 and year-old Manzil. “Mitchel” is “Thomas” from 1870 census.

Missing Census, More Wicker History…

Sometime between this census and the one in 1900 (the 1890 one was mostly destroyed by fire in Washington, D. C.), Elzina and Dennis and family vacated Wicker Field. As I reported earlier, J. J. Fraley sold the land where Wicker Field is located to the USA in 1898. He had purchased it earlier from a Nancy Kendrick, widowed wife of Allen Kendrick, who bought Lewis’s 378 acres way back in 1853. I have transcribed the deed and plotted that original 400 acres, as near as possible. Since Lewis was listed first on the 1850 census in Civil District 10 (south of Snake Creek), that reinforces the following.

Based on where the cabin was, the beginning of his acreage was at the southeast corner of today’s park entrance, known as Perry Field, and runs west for about ¾ mile, then north for about a mile (to near the creeks), then east ¾ mile and south to the beginning. Actually, a more “descriptive” description is when Kendrick sells the “Wicker place,” as the deed refers to it, and another piece, in 1855 to James A. Perry and it refers to a range and section. It also states in the beginning, referring to the “two certain tracts of land,” that they are “about the mouth of Owl Creek and on Snake Creek.” Where the second piece lies relative to the creeks and the Wicker’s place is unknown.

It is difficult to reconcile that land location and what is known today as Wicker Field? I do have a theory, however, based on what I know or what seems to be. The Mr. Kendrick lived south in the next district in 1850 and is shown to be a “C of C clergyman” per the 1850 census. He has considerable wealth and holdings for those days. Lewis was getting older and his boys were potentially leaving home to marry. I believe when Lewis sold his acreage he struck a deal either by handshake, or even written, to have Kendrick allow Lewis’s family to move onto some of Kendrick’s holding’s further south, as in the future “Wicker Field,” since Kendrick’s widow sold it to Fraley later, as mentioned. The Wicker’s may have simply become tenant’s and in turn agreed to share part of anything produced there, or, as described earlier, the boys may have provided wild game for Kendrick’s table. Even if such were in writing, it would not ordinarily be recorded.

Thus we move on past the 1880 census, but the next two decades, before we have another census to research, are still filled with some Wicker history. My deed research and family history deductions provide some window into the Wicker’s as we close out the century.

Park History and the 1890’s…

As stated previously, Alvis son, John W. Wicker, buys land next to Wicker field in 1885, maybe even when the Greens are still living on the field since we only know they left by the end of the century as the park development began to occur. Following is that history:

Between 1890 and 1899 the Congress of the United States went well beyond the concept of monuments and authorized the establishment of four major battlefields of the Civil War as national military parks. In so doing, it laid one of several foundation stones for the national historic preservation policy and program we have today. These four battlefields were Chickamauga and Chattanooga authorized in 1890, Shiloh in 1894, Gettysburg in 1895, and Vicksburg in 1899.

Since its creation in 1916, the National Park Service has been charged with promoting and regulating the use of areas within the National Park System….Originally established under the War Department in 1894, Shiloh National Military Park was transferred to the administration of the NPS in 1933….For two thirds of its length, Shiloh Battlefield’s 1894 authorized boundary line follows the watercourses around “Shiloh Hill,” a rolling plateau rising above the surrounding Tennessee River bottomlands. A strong defensive position, Shiloh Hill became the campsite for General Grant’s forces in March 1862, and thus the focus of the Confederate attack on April 6th & 7th. The park’s authorized boundary encloses about 6000 acres, of which two-thirds are currently in Federal ownership.

The USA (initially War Dept.) began buying land in the 1890’s per the above. At the time of park inception, 1894, our John W. Wicker still owned the cabin and land thereon. An early USA park map of ownership showed what John owned. It is in the shape of today’s state of Oklahoma. The bulk of it included about ¾ of Bloody Pond, the land where the cabin stands, and, some of the Peach Orchard. A narrow strip forms the panhandle.

As land began to be purchased for the park, persons living there could remain for their lifetimes if they chose. This strung out the possession process for the War Department until those living there either moved of their own volition or died. Thus the development process spanned over several decades and even until the NPS took over in 1933 as indicated above. The physical development began where it could, especially after 1900.

Upon a first visit to Shiloh and inquiry about the Wicker’s, in the year 2000, an older park ranger at the Visitor Center desk told of a feud between the Wicker’s and Joneses. Apparently a Wicker boy had shot a Jones man. The government was afraid the two families might wipe each other out before they could get them paid and moved off the park lands. The incident occurred right next to the old cabin and involves one of Alvis Wicker’s sons, James Wicker, and Perry Clark Jones and his son, Charles Perry Jones.

In Ranger Tim Smith’s book on administrative history he chronicles the story, apparently from park records. Here’s what he wrote:

There was even a murder when, on January 14, 1899, Perry Jones, a park employee, got into a family disturbance with “one of the Wicker boys.” Wicker shot and killed Jones, whereupon Perry Jones’s son stabbed Wicker four times. Atwell Thompson reported, “I presume that some of the Wicker relations will kill young Jones, and the two families [will be] ‘wiped out’ before they get through.”

This author disagrees with some of the park’s reporting, on both the sequence and what happened, per research of court records and family input. Based on who went to trial (James Wicker) and the charge (1st degree murder), the incident apparently follows more family history reporting. That states James Wicker confronted both Joneses at the elder one’s home. Both Joneses stabbed Wicker and he in turn shot the older Jones. Charles Jones never stood trial for his part, that could be found, and that, together with the fact Wicker received a ‘not guilty’ verdict, begs of self-defense. There was a “killing” but not a “murder,” as reported, which requires malice aforethought. If you recall, the older Jones was the one who helped the George’s move the cabin logs in 1862.

This author has made a connection here in Texas with a cousin named Nina (Wicker) Anderson. She told some of the story as it was her uncle, James, who was involved. Also, she provided a picture of Union School in this same era, located just up the road, north, from the old cabin. James may have lived with the old cabins owner, who was his oldest brother, John, or, next door with their father, Alvis, on Wicker Field.

The Joneses were neighbors there next door, per 1890’s park maps and a Jones son was the teacher, and another a student, along with two Wicker students. Interestingly, the faces of both Joneses have been obliterated in the school picture, due to the incident. Charlie Jones was the teacher and bad blood apparently started earlier over the romance and subsequent secret marriage in October of 1898 between him and an older Alvis Wicker daughter, Julia. It’s an almost “Hatfield-McCoy” type of feud. Following is the detailed story from an interview of James son, plus input from other family members:

Charlie taught James and there was a confrontation at school. James was eating nuts and getting hulls on the floor and when teacher Jones objected and confronted him about it, fisticuffs ensued. In some later timeframe, Rufus (Nina’s father), went by wagon to the Jones home to retrieve some corn from Perry Jones (who had a grist mill).

He was refused the corn and was upset and went home in tears. James got the gun, returned by the mule-drawn wagon and both Joneses were there. After a confrontation about the corn, James picked up the un-ground corn, slung it over his shoulder and started back to the wagon.

He heard footsteps, turned and faced Perry Jones who was wielding a knife in one hand and a rock in the other. He threw the rock, striking James in the head. James dropped the corn and reached in his overall pocket for the gun. Son Charlie, in the meantime, had circled around, came from behind, and he, also, began stabbing him. Perry grabbed both James shoulders and tried to cut the arm holding the gun. James put the gun against Perry and fired. The bullet lodged in a ball of wax, (thought the wax was used on twine?) in Mr. Jones pocket, he fired once again, and that killed him on this January 14, 1899. Then James fell to the ground bleeding from his knife cuts. Charlie then fled either to the Wickers to get Julia, or from within his house and they left for Texas (but returned later).

After recovering enough later to speak, James reported to his family members that after the shooting, Perry’s wife came out of the house, knelt down next to his and her husband’s bodies, placed her mate’s head on her lap and said, “I’ve picked you up all these years, and now I’ll pick you up for the last time.”

Someone, perhaps Mrs. Jones and offspring, then put James in the wagon, untied the mules and they came home on their own, with James blood dripping from the back of the wagon. A doctor came and treated him, but told them he wouldn’t live as he had lost too much blood. An elderly black former slave lady, who helped Mrs. Wicker in the home, came and said she would stay with the Wickers, as she had a name for nursing people back to health. James son said she fed him chicken soup and “rot-gut” whiskey and would have him taken outside (weather permitting) on a mattress to lie in the sunshine. Others in the family, who provided information, said she had some “weird stuff” she cooked and James ate.

It took many months to recover (delayed the trial), according to James son. He said later on, Rufus was plowing and James was bringing him a drink of water when someone (Charlie suspected) tried to shoot James. He got hit by buckshot in the shoulder (one remained against his shoulder blade), one went thru his hat, and another through an ear. James tried to run on a lame leg as best he could to cut off the perpetrator but Rufus ran and tackled his brother to keep him from getting killed. After that, James was given a permit to carry a gun. Charlie and Julia supposedly left everything there, and came to Texas. [However, if they did, they had returned before May of 1899 as indicated below. They did go to Texas, once, before permanently settling there, based on their children’s birthplaces.]

In a letter of December 1902, postmarked “Hamburg, Tennessee,” Noel Durbin wrote the Wickers in Texas. He was James friend and a former neighbor’s son in Tennessee to the Wickers, per the 1900 census (and is Lear Durbin’s brother).

In that letter he asked of James, “Did he ever get stout, and did he ever get over that lameness in his leg?” James had a bad limp the rest of his life because of the incident. Julia was not welcomed by the “Wicker boys,” at Rufus funeral in Texas in 1937. They just could not forgive and forget….

Much of this story holds up from research and obtaining the circuit court minutes in Volume K & L, Feb. 1900 – Mar. 1907, from the case in the county seat of Savannah, Tennessee. It was Case No. 9, State of Tennessee vs. James Wicker on a charge of murder in the 1st degree. On October 13, 1900, in a trial by jury, James Wicker was found “Not Guilty” (or “No-billed,” per James son). Also found on microfilm was a chancery court case from May of 1899 to resolve the estate of Perry Clark Jones, who died intestate (without a will) on January 14, 1899. His son C. P. Jones was the administrator and complainant against family members and others named as defendants. The deceased Jones ran a cotton gin and grist mill in partnership with a neighbor, J. R. Washburn. This holds to the above story about the corn. The gun used in the incident remains with a family descendant in Texas.

This story is included in the cabin history as it witnessed some of the incidents therein. In fact, whoever was in the now presumably restored cabin would have heard the gunshots. Maybe Alvis lived in the renovated cabin as he and John are one dwelling number apart in the June, 1900 census? John W., either lived on the property where the old cabin still remained, or, he and his father were occupying the two cabins now vacated next door on Wicker Field. The old cabin property was bordered mostly on the west side by the Jones property and bordered mostly on the north side by Wicker Field (‘Fraley’ on map), thus lay on land occupied by, or in between, the two feuding families. Even though the Jones property abutted the cabins, access to the Jones property was from a road west of the Hamburg-Savannah one where the cabin property and Wicker Field had access.

Although both John’s property and Wicker Field had been sold by 1900 to the USA, apparently the occupants remained as tenants. This fits the ranger’s original feud description given. Alvis may have remained a tenant until he moved to Texas after James trial that October or at least by December 1902, as the letter referenced previously is dated. John may have actually remained a tenant there until through at least the 1930 census, detailed later, on the same land as the old cabin, or, next door on Wicker Field.

Although this author disapproves of the shooting incident, one must also confess to another improper family event that occurred near the old cabin. Some of the “Wicker boys” were responsible for taking bark from the tree (there were two separately identified) near where Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston died. The boys in turn sold the bark as a souvenir to willing buyers, probably at times right in front of or out of the old cabin. At some point, as time passed and the trees eventually were stripped (before the park fenced them), the bark sold may not have even been from those trees. Neither tree exists today, but Johnston’s death place is located just south, and across the Hamburg-Savannah Road, not far from the old cabin, as stated.

The “Wicker boys,” which would include Alvis youngest sons, plus some of his oldest son, John W. Wicker’s, oldest boys, as occupants and/or neighbors to the old cabin, use to cut firewood in their growing up years there near it, long after the battle but even into the park years. One time they saved a piece of wood containing a musket or Minnie ball imbedded in it. Eventually taken to Texas, it was placed on a plaque with a description of its history and displayed at Dallas during the 1936 Texas Centennial. Another example of, “near-the-old-cabin-history,” that was taken elsewhere.

According to James Wicker’s son, once again while on one of the boy’s wood cutting trips into the forest near the old cabin at Shiloh, they also found a ramrod that had been shot into a tree. Ramrod was “a rod for ramming home the charge in a muzzle-loading firearm.” Did the muzzle-loader belong to a Rebel, since most of the Yankees had better guns and what was the outcome of any lives in a potential confrontation?

The New Century, 1900, and the Census…

Although, as stated earlier, there is no 1890 census today for us to read, however it did initially record the continuing marriages, life’s and deaths, in the Wicker families. In 1893, Joseph C. Wicker’s wife Barbara died. The following year their oldest son Joseph Henry died and a week later his daughter Roxanne died as well. As I recall from a family cousin, those two had some fever of the day that took their lives.

By 1900 my Catherine in Texas, Roddie’s widow, has died, probably in Hopkins County, Texas and son Roderick Gaines Wicker also disappears. Three of Sarah (Wicker) Edward’s daughters marry in the 1880’s. Two of them marry Thacker boys. Anna B “Dixie” marries James Edward Thacker and Barbra Cathrin marries William Riley Thacker. Later, not long before the 1890’s, Augusta Emily weds Forrest Lee Rogers. Mary Elizabeth (Wicker) Strawn has six of her children marry in the late 1880’s, early 1890’s. Elzina and Dennis’s lives are continuing in this era on Wicker Field, up until some point, as mentioned, but other than two kids still living with them by 1900, not much is known of them until thereafter. Daughter “Nishie” marries James Jordan in 1893.

By the 1900 census, oldest Wicker son, widower Joseph, has daughter Sarah A. living with him, still north of Snake Creek. He is known to grandkids as “Grand Pap.” His widowed daughter-in-law, Susan A., is living not far away with children Lee, Armintha, Enos and Frank. Son Osborn is a boarder elsewhere. On January 1st, 1901, nineteen-year-old, Armintha, began keeping a diary, a beautiful picture window into rural life at the turn of the century. Following is the first page transcription excerpt:

January 1, 1901 thru June 16, 1902

Jan. 1, 1901, Tuesday
We killed hogs. Will Hagy, Grand Pap, Aunt Sack and Uncle John came. Ma went in the kitchen for the second time since Nov. 1900.

Jan. 2, 1901, Wednesday
Aunt Kate and myself cooked up the lard and sausage. Lee went to Crump and got a barrel of Sault. I went to Grand Paps. Aunt Sallie came and brought a bucket of soap home. Henry come and got the sausage mill. Enos and Frank are going to school to Mr. Osborn Barlow.

Jan. 3, 1901, Thursday
I washed, Enos and Frank went to school Lee went to Grand Paps. Uncle John come. Him and Lee, Oshorn and Calvin went to the Savannah bottom hunting tonight.

Jan. 4, 1901, Friday
I spun Ma some knitting thread, Enos and Frank went to school, Calvin come this evening to get some Laudanum to put in this mouth where he had a tooth pulled.

Jan. 5, 1901, Saturday
I ironed and washed off the kitchen floor, Aunt Kate cooked the hogs heads and feet and made Sause out of them. Lee, Enos and Frank got wood till dinner. This evening Lee went to Adamsville, Enos and Frank hawled the wood. Mr. Alonzo Blanton came this evening to buy a mule.

Jan. 6, 1901, Sunday
Henry come and we all went to Sunday School except Lee he went to Grand Paps. This evening Henry came by going to New Hope. Cletus Finger came and spent the evening with me. Oshorn went to Adamsville. Frank went to Martins. Henry stopped and invited us to the singing at Mr. Kierleys tonight, as he went home.

Jan. 7, 1901, Monday
I fixed one of my dresses Aunt Kate spun some knitting thread, Lee helped Mr. Lawder get wood. Osborn hawled wood for Martin- Frank went to school- Enos stayed home with a bad cold.

Jan. 8, 1901, Tuesday
I spun Ma some knitting thread. Lee went to town and got Enos some medicine, then went to the Church and paid his and Ma’s tax. Frank went to school. Osborn went and cut cord wood for Mr. Tom Phillips. I went to Aunt Sallie McDaniels….

Continuing now with the 1900 census, we find Alvis back in Hardin with wife and sons at home; Horace, Robert, James and Rufus. James is the son that was involved with the Jones described earlier. I have connected here in Texas with a wonderful niece of his named Vera Nina (Wicker) Anderson. Nina told me some of the story. After fighting, a Jones stabbed James several times and James shot him in self-defense. There was a trial and obviously he was absolved as he went to Texas but Nina said he always limped.

Roddie’s descendants are in Hopkins and Runnels Counties, Texas in 1900. Jasper and Mahaly are still in Hardin on the 1900 census but both are deceased in 1903, he on April 15th, she December 15th and both are at Phillips Cemetery. Mary is censused in 1900 in Hardin by her middle name, Elizabeth, with husband C. C. and seventeen-year-old Portie. Elzina and Dennis are in McNairy with sons Monsel and Hoyt at home with them. Andrew is shown as “Jack” Wicker still in Howell, MO having grandchildren with him.

By the time the 1910 census rolls around, the eldest of Lewis and Flora’s offspring is gone, as son Joseph Calvin Wicker dies in 1908. Already, Lewis Jasper Wicker was lost in April 1903, as stated earlier, with his wife Mahaly, perhaps “pining” for her Jasper, joining him before Christmas that year. Alvis has made a final move by 1910, going to Collin County, Texas. Living with he and Susan there are four sons, Horace G., Robert J., Rufus H. and James T. along with his wife, Geneva and their year-old, Bertha.

In this update of the history, it is now known that Alvis niece, Ella (Green) Moore, Elzina’s oldest daughter, has moved by April of 1902 to Delta Co., Texas. Maggie Dovie Moore is born there in Cooper, Texas by that date. This comes from a direct descendant of Maggie’s. Also, another descendant of Delbert Green reports he was in Texas at one time near Mt. Pleasant. A daughter, Lillie Green, shows born in Texas in 1915. Andrew J. is now widowed and living with married daughter, Florence Long, in Ozark, Missouri.

In 1910 my Wicker descendants from Roderick are in Concho County, Texas living on the same name river. They had amassed enough money in the decade since 1900 to buy acreage with irrigation steam engines on them along the river, a necessity for successful farming in dry West Texas. My grandfather, David Montgomery, helped his father and mother, Pleasant and Mary (Wicker) Montgomery run a livery stable in Talpa, Texas. A son ran the local hotel where you could stay for 25 cents a day! Thought to be a going concern, the railroad decided to move elsewhere and the community began to die, so the Montgomery’s sold out, pulled up stakes and went further west to the river, as mentioned.

C. C. and Mary Elizabeth (Wicker) Strawn are living alone in 1910, still in Hardin County. By 1910 Elzina had lost Dennis, apparently in about 1906, as I ordered and received their Confederate pension applications and she applied in October of that year.

Dennis had applied for his on April Fool’s Day, 1901. The application actually shows him as “D. B. Greeny,” an alternate name also shown on his online military record (He was a Sergeant). He said he was a resident of Pebble in McNairy County and indicated where he was born, “Ireland in 1828, August 1st.” He was wounded twice as mentioned earlier and was cause for his need for a pension. Living at home was his wife and one son, age 13 (?), and he said of his other sons, “all that are able to work are in Texas….” In late June of 1906 a letter from the Tennessee Board of Pension Examiners was sent to the McNairy County Court Clerk indicating the Board had not received a voucher from him since February requesting payment. Apparently Dennis was deceased by that time.

Elzina then applied in October of 1906, and as said early in this history, she stated she was born in “Lincoln County, Tennessee in 1843” and her maiden name was “Elzina Wicker.” She said Esquire William Perkins married her and D. B. Green near Crumps Landing, Hardin Co., Tennessee on June 8, 1865. When asked what property she had, Elzina said she had one milk cow and some bedding. She stated, “I live near one of my sons to myself,” as he was on rented land. Two who signed an affidavit of acquaintance for Elzina were David Pickens and C. C. Strawn, her brother-in-law (Mary Elizabeth’s husband), who both stated they had known Elzina Wicker since she was a young girl. I discovered that by 1910 she was living next to her son, Delzert, his wife Tara, with their son Virgil, age 4, and a four-month old “not named” daughter, per the census. Elzina’s son, Hoyt, age 23, was living with her. Also in Hardin were son Monsel and wife, May, with boys Everette, Odell and Arbie Green. However, Odell shows born in Texas (1904).

In an irony of all ironies, all three of Dennis and Elzina’s sons censused here were…working at Shiloh National Military Park! Nine men in all on the two census pages copied with the Green’s, were working there. Development was in full swing. Someone told me (either Park Ranger Tim Smith, or a Wicker cousin in the 2003 reunion), that a Wicker had a team of mules and helped unload monuments from the ships on the Tennessee River at Pittsburg Landing and pull statues into place in the park.

It was the Shiloh battle itself that first caused Elzina and Dennis to cross paths, near Owl Creek. His regiment was recruited from McNairy, and Dennis went on to war but obviously never forgot the chance encounter before the battle. Appomattox occurred in April 1865 and Dennis indicated his unit disbanded “at Corinth, Mississippi.” Did the twice-wounded Sgt. Greene come straight up the road, before continuing to McNairy, to what was to be “Wicker Field,” to find the face that fueled him every waking day in the war? Apparently so, and he must have returned often, as they were married that June.

In 1911 Mary Elizabeth passed away and then Alvis in 1913, leaving Andrew and Elzina as the sole surviving children of Lewis and Flora Wicker. Andrew J. is living as a boarder and is back in Howell Co., MO in 1920 but dies by 1921. “Zina,” as some called her, would live on until 1929. The 1920 census showed her son Hoyt now married to a Mary and living in Arkansas with son Glenn, almost three, and daughter Dorothy, almost one. Elzina is censused then in McNairy County as a boarder with a Letha Baker. After Elzina’s death, son Monsel is still in McNairy in the 1930 census, with wife May. He is shown as a carpenter and had three daughters at home, Jewell, Maggie M. and Bonnie R., ages eighteen, fifteen and nine. They may be three that placed a gravestone in Pebble Hill Cemetery near Michie, Tennessee, on the grave that said, “Grandmother.” Otherwise it reads “Zina (Wicker) Green,” with birth and death years, and the loving word from her grandchildren. In this update, her son Hoyt is in Memphis in 1930 as a Conductor on the Street Railway with wife Mary B. (Mary Bell, as on his WWI registration) and children, Glenn A., Dorothy and Fred H. Green.

Thus ends a generation that spans from North Carolina to Tennessee. The Wickers were fruitful and multiplied, as the Bible says. Apparently most of the Wickers were Methodist like mine, and some may have attended Shiloh Church, while others living north, went to New Hope. Stories of the battle that shaped many of their lives and changed destinies were carried to places like, Texas, where I became a bright-eyed listener, hearing my mother recount what she had heard from her grandmother…the sounds of Shiloh.

Mother conveyed a story, which I shall contribute to the spunkiness of one young Mary Lucrecia Wicker, my great-grandmother, at wartime. Perhaps it was her part Iroquois blood from her mother’s side that not only gave her beauty but backbone as well. She had spunk that carried her through the loss of a husband while pregnant with child and through days in Texas where she helped as a nurse for her “saddlebag” doctor father-in-law. Then finding time to home school, not only her two children by John Strawn in Tennessee, plus eight more in Texas with husband Pleasant Montgomery, but she also taught the black children whose parents worked on the farms the Montgomery’s owned or lived on. That was something probably not popular in post-Civil War Texas. The story goes that in the Civil War, perhaps before or after Shiloh, the Union soldiers came to find food. My “Crece” peeked from behind her mother’s long skirt and apron and proudly announced, “You won’t find our food ‘cause we hid it under the floor!”
Wicker wherewithal, wanderlust, war, wounds, wildness, witness and the Word…

The Lewis and Flora Wicker family started in Chatham County, North Carolina, then to Lincoln County, Tennessee, then Hardin, then some went to nearby McNairy, then bold strides for others to Texas. Their descendants have spread across America, still seeking that same opportunity, looking for “elbow room,” settling like a spreading flood. But home for all our Wickers should always be that little cabin on the battleground, close to the pond, where drops of rain have now replaced the blood of life, that once fell upon it …at Sunday Shiloh remembered.

Duane Helweg
Memorial Day, 2005
Updated, Feb 2011

Bits and Pieces of Me

Every place I visit, where my ancestors belie,
There locked into memory, is where I do lie.
I am them and they too are, bits and pieces of me,
Those who lay interred in earth, at a silent cemetery.

I am the one who walked among the highland hills of Scotland,
The one who tilled the rich dark soil in old Bavarialand.
I stood and died on Shiloh’s hill in a battle on the Tennessee,
‘Twas me who o’er looked a Texas prairie, as far an eye can see.

Farm and toil, travail and task, they are bits and pieces of me,
That lie at rest in shadowed graves, in a lonely cemetery.
There, stones grow old and weather away, fading with each day,
And beneath them are the tales of life that now have slipped away.

They speak no more, they see no more, they lie in silent death,
Although the wind does blow around, in them there is no breath.
I stand upon the hallowed ground, their living testimony,
As I am them and they too are, bits and pieces of me.

Original version printed in The Chisholm Trail, Volume 21, No. 2, Fall 2001
This version printed in Lone Survivor At Shiloh

Historically yours,

Duane Helweg
Author of: Lone Survivor At Shiloh
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