IMA WHITMAN FRANKS
This account of the old table was written by the great, great granddaughter of Nancy Belcher Moore ADavis, who brought it from Georgia in 1836. The story of the table had several versions but this one was told by Martha Jane Davis Foster who lived with her son-in-law and daughter, Joseph Adam Whitman and Elizabeth Foster Whitman, from 1879 until her death in 1899. Her mind was clear and her memory as vivid as it was in the year 1836 when she traveled with her mother, Nancy Belcher Moore, and her brothers to deep Southeast Texas in a Conestoga wagon. Nancy Moore-Davis had many descendants who wish fervently that they had been the one who inherited the old heirloom in the story. This account is written to enable all of the descendants of Winfield Moore alias William M. Davis to know the real story as only the old table would be able to tell it - if only that old table could talk!
IF ONLY THAT OLD TABLE COULD TALK!
IMA WHITMAN FRANKS
It is just an old marble-topped mahogany table sitting there in the living room of Bertie Franklin McCullough's home in DeQuincy, Louisiana. But if that old table could talk, what marvelous stories it could tell! It has been around for almost two hundred years and has seen our family generations come and go. If that old table could give up it's secrets, it could tell us of the places it has been, of the things it has seen and the people it has known - if only that old table could talk!
The old heirloom has been around since Thomas Jefferson's time and has seen political figures rise and fall. It could tell us of Abraham Belcher, my great, great, great, grandfather, who fought with the North Carolina regiments in the Revolutionary War. It was there with James Belcher and his new bride, Sarah Burke, when they settled down in Burke County, Georgia around the turn of the nineteenth century. The table was a part of the dowry of their daughter, Nancy Belcher, when she married Winfield Moore. It sat in the parlor of their plantation home and was polished to shining brightness by the Moore family slaves. After the birth of their sons, Pleasant and Turner, a baby girl, Martha Jane, was born to them. The old table looked on watching Martha Jane grow and hoping that some day it would be part of her dowry.
The old antique table was there and heard his story when Winfield Moore hurriedly threw some things into a saddle bag and left the house to become a fugitive forever...a hunted man, wanted for murder of his neighbor's son. It was an accident that he never meant to happen. Winfield had been helping at a chimney daubing - neighbor helping neighbor, as was the custom in those early days. One of his neighbor's sons, Claborne Forehand, accused him of making slanderous remarks about his sister. In spite of Winfield's denial, Claborne approached him as if to do him bodily harm. One word lead to another and a fight ensued. His neighbor's whole family got into the fight, saying that they would make him eat his words. Knowing that his life was being threatened, Winfield picked up the first available object - a heavy wooden chair and swinging it wildly, knocked down several of his opponents. When Claborne failed to rise to his feet, his brothers rushed Winfield threatening an eye for an eye. Winfield then realized that they were going to kill him. Knowing his life was threatened, he managed to tear himself away and getting on his horse galloped home as quickly as possible. A friend brought him word that he was being wrongly accused of the murder of Claborne Forehand and a warrant had been issued for his arrest. Winfield knew that all of the witnesses to the altercation had been relatives of the dead man and there was no chance of his being given a fair trial. He was advised that if he didn't want to hang for a crime he had not willfully committed, he had better leave the country.
Mexico provided a suitable haven offering both free land and freedom from pursuit. Winfield had no time to dispose of his plantation and by Georgia law, Nancy had no right to sell her husband's property. Winfield promised to come back for her and kissing Nancy and the children goodbye, he rode away not knowing if he would ever see his family again.
Within a few months, Nancy received word from Texas that Winfield was now alias William M. Davis. He had been fighting with the Mexican Revolution and had been given a league of land in deep east Texas and wanted his family to join him. His wife, Nancy, with the help of a few loyal slaves, her sons and little 12-year-old Martha Jane loaded up the old mahogany table along with other favorite possessions into a Conestoga wagon. Without a backward glance at her beautiful plantation home, Nancy left a life of ease and luxury to follow her fugitive husband into Mexican territory called Texas, Atejas meaning friends.
They traveled through the Indian territory of Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi stopping only to eat and sleep and bury a small son along the way. Crossing the Mississippi River by ferry and taking the old Beef Road from Opelousas to San Antonio, when she reached Burr's Ferry on the Sabine River, Nancy knew that she was nearing her destination. She reached Texas in 1836.
William M. Davis and his Moore-Davis family settled down on David Creek which at that time was in the old Bevil District of Mexico. This area, now located in Newton County, was renamed Jasper County when Texas received her independence from Mexico. William M. Davis then received another labor of land signed by Sam Houston, Governor of the Republic of Texas. He and his family prospered and made many friends in the Davis Community in which they lived. Their children grew up and married and many of them settled down near their parents. It was in 1855 that Nancy received word that her parents had died and left a part of their estate to her.
Upon Nancy's death in 1857, William sent his good fiend, Thomas Stuart McFarland, to Georgia to settle his wife's estate and dispose of their personal property. In doing so, he gained financially but his friend inadvertently gave away information that led Georgia officials to learn of his alias and his whereabouts. He was still wanted in Georgia for the murder of his neighbor twenty-five years before.
In 1859, a warrant arrived in Newton County, Texas for the arrest of the fugitive. The sheriff, a good friend of William Davis, sent word to him to come to Newton and give himself up. After a few days when William failed to come in, the sheriff went calling on him. When William Davis saw the officer approaching, he told one of his sons to invite him in while he went to his room to get some of her personal things.
The old table sat mute in its corner and saw the agony that William endured as he pondered on his course of action. As the officer waited for William to come out and give himself up, a shot rang out. In horror, they realized that William Davis, a proud man innocent of the murder he was being accused of, had taken his own life. The Forehands had risen to prominent official positions during the intervening years in Georgia and William knew that if he returned there he would be faced with a prejudiced jury. William could not accept that and took the only way out that he knew. Only the old table saw and knew!
[Note from Kathleen: The author then goes on with a long and interesting history which I have left out here in the interest of space... if you are interested, you can read the complete story at http://www.jas.net/~newton/oral/franks.htm]
The old heirloom table was around during the days of barn raisings, log rollings, rail splittings, chimney daubings, candy pullings, barn dances, hog killing time and syrup making times and many other events that our generation has missed. The table has known poverty and prosperity, happy times and tragic times. It has known the stench of a cow pen as it held milk pails on the farm in Vernon Parish and the perfume of flowers as it sat in the parlor of the Georgia plantation home of Nancy and Winfield Moore. It was around during the time of wars, low-priced cotton, floods on the Sabine and hurricanes blowing in from the Gulf. It was there when the news came of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the surrender of Lee at Appomattox. It had held a radio when D Day came, the Batan Death March, the fall of Iwo Jima and the first news of the atomic bomb came to the American public. When the talking box that showed pictures came, it saw quietly in its corner through the CBS Evening News and witnessed the downfall of one of our Presidents. With the rest of our country, it watched the celebration of our nation's Bicentennial with fireworks and tall ships in New York Harbor.
In this day of computers when our nation's whiz kids can tap into complex national atomic laboratories and solve perplexing problems by computer, isn't it a pity that somehow that old table couldn't be wired for sound? What wonderful data I would be able to retrieve if I could only tap it's memory bank! What marvelous stories it could tell us! What words of wisdom it could give us - if only that old table could talk!
The present owner of the old table, Bertie Franklin McCullough, is now over eighty years old. Both her daughters have asked for the heirloom. Since she cannot give it to both of them, she has decided she will give it to neither. She has a lively four-year-old grandchild by the name of Melanic Genius of DeRidder, Louisiana. It is to Melanic that the old table will belong when her grandmother no longer has need of it. And with Melanie, a new generation will begin and for the old table, a new era.
Melanie adores her grandmother and she will love the old heirloom simply because it belonged to grandma. Possibly, she will read in a book about early East Texas families and about one of her forbearers who took his life in Newton County, Texas in 1859. She will probably pause for a moment and wonder what terrible circumstances brought such tragedy. And Melanie will never know the story but the old mahogany table could tell her - if only that old table could talk!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ima Elizabeth Whitman Franks was born in Beauregard Parish, Louisiana on July 10, 1913, the daughter of Lewis and Fannie Whitman. She was educated in the Beauregard Public schools, graduating from Hyatt High School in 1929. After her marriage to her childhood sweetheart, Felix Anderson Franks, the same year, they resided for a few years in Merryville, Louisiana. As the depression and World War II changed the migration patterns, Ima and Heavy, as he was called in his home town, found themselves in Shreveport, Louisiana in 1941 when our country was drawn into war.
In addition to genealogy, Ima has other hobbies and is a devout member of the Greenwood Baptist Church in Greenwood, a suburb of Shreveport.
|Given names||Surname||Sosa||Birth||Place||Death||Age||Place||Last change|
Father: Drury Forehand
Mother: Olive Nettles
June 1, 1806
Burke Co., Georgia, USA
January 8, 1834
Burke Co., Georgia, USA
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