Monday, October 20, 2008
Roots in Roxie
I could have been born in the South. It's interesting how I've always had an affinity for that region. It began when I was quite young, after learning that my paternal grandfather grew up in a place called Roxie, Mississippi. I would watch movies like "Gone With the Wind," and wonder what it would have been like being a southern belle. =)
My father was born later in life to his parents; they were in their forties when he bounced into mortal mode. As such, my siblings and I almost skip a generation when we begin looking back toward our ancestors. This means that two of my paternal second-great-grandfathers fought in the Civil War. I'll leave it to your imagination to guess which side. ;)
In the fall of 2006, my husband and I embarked on a trip of a lifetime, spending two wonderful weeks in New Orleans. It was a business trip and each day, while my husband took care of said business, I studied maps and learned all I could of the surrounding area. Then when Kennon was done for the day, we would explore the highlights of this beautiful location.
When we caught on that he would have a couple of days to sight see, and I realized how close we were to my grandfather's old stomping grounds, I contacted a cousin who had been to Roxie, Mississippi and learned the necessary facts and contacts to see Grandpa Jackson's homeland.
It took us a few hours to reach Roxie, and along the way, we saw places like Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Natchez, Mississippi. We stopped for lunch in Natchez for two reasons:
1) It was lunch time and we were starved.
2) One of my second-great-grandfathers is buried in the Civil War section of a cemetery located in Natchez.
Silent tears threatened to descend when we found this grandfather's grave. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to put into words what it felt like to see this site in person. That feeling would increase as the day progressed.
Before I say much about Roxie, I should explain something. There is a reason why a southern boy of 15 left his home and journeyed all the way across the nation to a small town in Idaho known as Lewisville. My grandfather had been primed to become a Baptist minister by his family. At the tender age of 15, he met a couple of Mormon missionaries and began to have stimulating gospel discussions with them. In time, he realized he was hearing truth and he embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ with religious fervor.
This excitement was not shared by his family. Long story short: my grandfather was asked to choose between joining the LDS Church, or his family. This was a decision that would tear him apart, but my grandfather made his choice and found himself disowned when he was baptized. Since one of the elders was about to return home to Idaho, he invited my grandfather to travel with him, and my grandfather agreed. And that is how Thomas William Jackson Sr. (my father would eventually be named Jr.) ended up living in Lewisville where he would meet and later marry my grandmother, Elsie Clement.
Grandpa didn't talk much about his life in the South. He went home once, shortly after his wedding. It wasn't a pleasant visit. He learned of the death of his mother and saw how his family had fallen apart. As such, Grandpa brought his youngest brother home to Idaho where he lived with my grandparents until he was old enough to be on his own.
Once in a while my grandfather would comment on how much easier it was to grow things in Mississippi than in the deserty realm of Idaho, but that was about all he would say about Roxie.
Grandpa was right. To see how green and lush Roxie was for myself was quite an experience. It is gorgeous. I contacted a cousin who still lives there and he took us on a tour. As we traveled in the back hills of Roxie, I fell in love with this area. At one point, my newly found cousin carved my initials on a tree, telling me that it would forever record my visit to Roxie.
Among other treasured sites we saw that day, we were shown where my grandfather's boyhood home once stood. Elation collided with tears as I walked around, trying to memorize what I was seeing. I experienced a sense of peace I hadn't expected, all things considered.
A few years ago, I stood proxy for my great-grandmother, Susan Beach Jackson as important temple work took place. From the joy I experienced that day, I sensed she accepted this work with delight. I've felt a closeness to her since that time. She was a woman of remarkable courage and strength. She protested my grandfather's dismissal from the family, but my great-grandfather wouldn't listen to reason. Soon after my grandfather left for Idaho, one of his brothers left Mississippi and joined the Foreign Legion. He later died during a battle fought overseas. Three of Susan's babies died at an early age. Life for her was heartbreaking, and it became worse. My great-grandfather didn't like it when she disagreed with him. As such, he locked her away in a sanitarium where she spent the remainder of her days.
We found a record written by a doctor that stated Susan was perfectly sane and that she had spent the rest of her life caring for patients who weren't. You can understand why my family holds her in such high esteem. She is an elect lady who endured more than any one person ever should. One of these days, I will write her story to preserve it for her posterity.
My Jackson cousin showed us a private family cemetery where Susan's father and her babies are buried. We spent several minutes in silent reverie, then reluctantly left to explore the rest of the mountain.
Along the way we came across wild turkeys who ran for all they were worth down the hillside. I managed to get a shot of them before they disappeared. We also saw a dirt road named after my family. =) I'm still wondering if that's an honor? ;)
It was a remarkable experience to visit Roxie and to see firsthand the beauty that exists in this location. As the saying goes: "Time heals all wounds." I sensed during that visit that my grandfather's family has healed. Grandpa grew up during the final days of the reconstruction era that took place in the South after the Civil War. I believe that same process has occurred with his family on the other side of the veil, and I look forward to meeting them all some day.