Thursday, October 27, 2005

Kathy Davis thoughts on Daddy Mat

My memories of Daddy Mat and Granny are getting more vague (along with wisdom comes memory lapses), so it is good that George started this project to preserve some of our family history.

First of all, I think I have to take credit for the name Daddy Mat. My mom said that when I was little, I heard my grandmother call him Mat and my mother called him Daddy, thus Daddy Mat. Fortunately, I had sense enough to put the two in the right order and it just stuck.

Growing up, going to Chapel Hill was always special. We looked forward to our summers at Daddy Mat's and Granny's even though there was no television. There didn't need to be because they always provided hours of entertainment for all of us. I learned most of the games I know from them. Bridge, hearts, pinochle, cribbage, chess, checkers and our Sunday poker games. Daddy Mat believed that card games were a great way to teach children to think and do math. He taught us young and he taught us that we didn't win unless we actually earned it. He never just let us win.... So when I finally did win a game from him, it really meant something. Daddy Mat used to take me to play duplicate bridge with his friends from the age of about 12 - even though I was not very good, I never felt inferior to the others because he never made me feel as though I was less skilled than anyone else.

Daddy Mat was also our only source of income in those days. He would take us out to find soda bottles (especially after football games) so that we could return them for the 2 cents a bottle we could make. He would drive us out all over town to collect those bottles for hours. We didn't have to cut him in on a share of our profits either. In those days, it was a pretty lucrative living because North Carolina was dry and the police force was very vigilant so the drink of choice was in those returnable deposit bottles.

Daddy Mat also taught us to drive. Before my feet could even touch the pedals, he used to let us "steer" and then when we were older he taught to drive on our own. They were building a highway around Chapel Hill and he would take us out on the paved stretches of highway before they were opened and let us drive around. It was because of him and his Ford Fairlane that I learned to drive a shift (four on the column). He had infinite patience. One of the scariest parts of the driving was going down the hill to his house. I broke out in a cold sweat every time we got to that point especially if we had to go down hill from his house.

I will also remember him because he never treated the girls differently from the boys. I was allowed to help out in the workshop when he was woodworking and I remember him telling us that we should go into accounting or pharmacy because those were two fields where there was not much discrimination for women. He was probably the first enlightened man of his day.

I loved going down to his room downstairs with all the pictures of the famous generals he had known and all the books. I remember one summer working for a long time to memorize Poe's The Raven just to earn the quarter he was going to give us for being able to recite it from memory. We were also assigned at least one story from the Harvard Classics to read.

I also learned a lot from my grandmother. She taught me to cook - éclairs and ice box cake, and to knit and crochet. She also helped me with my French. It is true what they say of the French, "Unless you are born to the language, you will never get the accent right." I would spend hours just trying to pronounce one word.

She also played bridge with us when she wasn't working around the house, and I can remember her Parkinson's getting worse because her hand that she held the cards with shook when she wasn't paying attention. I also remember the terraced garden of flowers in the back. She would let me help with the gardening. I also remember the chicken coup that was in the yard before it had to go because of the dogs. Fresh eggs from the hen house and milk delivered in bottles with heavy cream on the top. Originally, the
downstairs where Daddy Mat had his room was given to the dogs. I think they had around ten dogs at one time. Even at my young age, I can remember the place smelled like dogs. One of the dogs, a black cocker spaniel, was granny's favorite but he wasn't very friendly. I think it eventually bit someone one too many times and had to be put to sleep.

Daddy Mat was a great entertainer. He believed in offering his guests a "libation" to be sociable. It is not that he was a drinker, it was just what you did to be a good host. I can remember that he always offered by fraternal grandmother a libation when she would come to visit. She being a good Southern Methodist would always refuse. Southern Methodists do not drink or play cards; however, she did break the card-playing rule and agree to canasta. (She never said anything about our Sunday poker games, but come
to think of it, I don't think we played poker when she was there.) I remember that finally after years of refusing a drink, she did accept a small sherry; however, it never touched her lips but then neither of them ever said anything about having to drink it.

I can also remember Daddy Mat being written up in the local paper as an upstanding Catholic because he would drive some of the nuns around to various functions. At that time, he was actually still a Baptist.

Daddy Mat also told me a story about Granny. My recollections are somewhat fuzzy, but as the story went, Daddy Mat had asked Granny to write to Mamie Eisenhower and invite them to stay with them when they were in town. Daddy Mat was a little perturbed at her response which was a definite "No". She apparently didn't think much of Mamie.

-Kathy Davis

Friday, October 21, 2005

Two Young Coosada Braves

In 1819 Wyatt A. Bibb of Coosada, Alabama, was elected the first Governor of the state of Alabama. He had served two years as the first territorial governor. Coosada was an Indian Settlement in Elmore County on the Alabama River and a landing station for the steamboats that plied their trade between Mobile and Wetumpka.

Governor Bibb's home was on a plantation two miles from the river and one mile from the B and N Railroad Station between Montgomery and Birmingham. It was known as "Auburn Hill".
While in office as governor, Governor Bibb was killed by being thrown from a horse. He was buried on his home place in a country cemetery a few hundred yards east of the home. The graves of about one hundred of the early settlers of Elmore County are in this cemetery, including the graves of Governor and Mrs. Bibb. The tombstones among the many shade trees in the cemetery always created a rather ominous impression on my childhood mind. I'll confess a cowardly fear of the dark as a boy which I attribute largely to the weird ghost tales that so many old people hatched up and seemed to enjoy. They frightened old and young alike by supposedly true experiences with ghosts and haunted houses. In those days, for the lack of other forms of amusements, most men folk became practical jokers and resorted to jokes on their friends that sometimes were truly unmerciful and cruel on the victims.

After Governor Bibb's death, my maternal grandfather, Col. Washington Lary, purchased the Bibb estate. A few years after mother and father married, they moved from Montgomery into the old home in Coosada -just twelve miles from Montgomery. We lived there many years until the old home burned to the ground in 1898. Three of their children, Vallie, Ed and Claude Ferrell were born in that house. Emma Mae, the oldest was born in Montgomery before they moved to Coosada. Father had a country store, a sawmill and cotton gin at the L and N Railroad Station and farmed the home place (mostly cotton).

We had many relatives in Montgomery on both father's and mother's side, the boys and girls of the Montgomery families spent lots of time with us every summer. Mamie and Warren Hall spent more time with us than they did at their own home and we considered them brother and sister. Our summer guests were not confined to the children by any means - we had a continuous house party every summer. We spent many happy times with our close relatives. In those days families were closer, they looked forward to their visits with each other as they had no cars to travel as we do today. Horse and buggies and a few trains were our only mode of travel. A trip into Montgomery by train on the L and N was a real adventure to us, we had more fun then.

In 1897 our Uncle Lonnie Ferrell, who had a select boy's school in New Orleans, and our Cousin Willie Tullis and our Uncle Sapp Jackson, a doctor of Union Springs were visiting us at Coosada for a couple of weeks. All three were practical jokers of the breed I mentioned. My first cousin, Mat Pearson, who became General Pearson of World War I and World War II (and was a career Army Officer during his lifetime), lived in Montgomery and spent most of every summer at Coosada with us. At that time in 1897, I was seven years old and Mat was eleven years old. These three men could hardly wait to seize the opportunity of testing the bravery of Mat and me. Mat was the typical leader - into every devilment that could be conceived. He was leader of the Dexter Avenue Gang in Montgomery. They ruled the town and as the old saying goes, Mat wasn't afraid of a circular saw.

So as my story goes, after considerable conniving, these "Three Wise Men with Uncle Lonnie as spokesman came up with a proposition for Mat and me.- a get rich quick scheme. They offered each of us five silver dollars if we would sleep on the edge of the cemetery all night, agreeing that Mother would furnish us two quilts and a pillow to assure us comfort for sleeping. At that time, neither of us had seen five silver dollars, much less own such a fortune. I doubt seriously that the three would have made such an offer had they felt they would have to pay it. Five dollars was a lot of money, needless to say, Mat and I were so excited the thought of the price we were to pay didn't enter our minds. It was agreed we could go to Montgomery and spend all that money just as we desired. The offer was quickly accepted and dreams of the big times ahead overwhelmed us. We lost no time in getting our quilts and pillows from Mother and made our pallets at the cemetery.

No thoughts entered our minds except the acquirement of the five dollars. That noon at the dinner table, the "three wise men" talked among themselves very excitedly about some ghost experiences they had heard over the years and many that had happened in our very cemetery. These remarks were for our ears but not directed to us. Uncle Lonnie told about how Governor Bibb's ghost had come out of his grave a few months before and had gone to the lot where he had been killed - he rode one of the horses all over the fields to get even with the horse for killing him. His ghost was constantly chasing every horse he saw. Uncle Sapp told about his seeing several ghosts in the cotton field near the cemetery playing leap frog. Before dinner was over, my enthusiasm had cooled considerably but I managed to keep quiet.

The three girls, Emma Mae, Mamie and Vallie, were left out of the deal. Vallie couldn't see why we two boys were making that kind of money and asked if they wouldn't let her sleep at the cemetery too. The ghost tales didn't seem to score with her one bit for that kind of money. It was finally agreed that Vallie could sleep between two apple trees in the field halfway from the house and the cemetery. She got her pillow and quilts laid out in that spot.

Every possible moment from dinner on, the three in ear shot of us kept up a continual, well-conducted, scare conversation. Believe me, it sounded mighty real as all three of them were good actors and the way they told things, no one could possibly help but believe them. As each hour passed that afternoon, my spirits sank lower and lower and lower. I was a mental wreck, as the sun went down and night approached, I threw in the sponge and declared that I didn't want to make the money.

These three were brutal and had me crying, accusing me of being a coward (which of course I was) and a disgrace to our entire ancestry. I was the first to ever be proven a coward, inconceivable they said. But the more they talked, the further I was away from the job. Finally they accepted my resignation and said they were glad that Mat and Vallie would make their easy money. Mat had been quiet for sometime, after their reproach to me, he meekly said, "If Ed ain't going, I ain't going either". Evidently his 'bravo' didn't cover the dark or ghosts. They could not shame him into the job as he had me for an excuse. They worked on us unmercifully but finally had to tell us to go bring our quilts in from the cemetery. It was about good dark, we tried to get them to let us get them in the morning but Mother even was embarrassed that we were so cowardly and said we must get the quilts. Mat called me aside and said if I'd go with him, he would go with me. During all the excitement Vallie hadn't wilted in the least and said she was going through with the deal.

Mat and I got over the yard fence and slowly walked across the cotton patch to the cemetery. I was scared to death after hearing all those tales about the ghosts and Governor Bibb and the cemetery. We were twenty feet away from the quilts on the edge of the cemetery, when suddenly - a ghost began to rise from behind one of the head stones and came right towards us. We were petrified, it seemed ages as the ghost got closer and I couldn't move I was so scared. I finally managed to turn my head to see Mat - he was fifty yards away running to the house. With the help of the Lord, I began to run and ran as fast as he was running. I got hung on the wire fence and almost tore my clothes off, Mat ran for a big basket that was kept under the steps and they could not even find him for quite sometime. Of course it turned out that Uncle Lonnie was the ghost, Mother said she would never have allowed things to go that far if she had known what they were going to do.

Believe it or not, after all that terror, Vallie did not budge from the deal. Our Uncles couldn't believe she would try to sleep outside. They insisted Mother let them see if she would really go through with it as they admired her bravery. Mother consented only that she could stay out under the apple trees for an hour to prove she would go through with it. Mother sent Mary Jackson out with a chair to sit in the field about fifty yards away. After an hour they called to Vallie to come in. She called back, "Send me the five silver dollars and I will". They sent the money.

Written April 22, 1970 by Edgar Dawson Ferrell on request of Gloria Dalton Sorenson.

Incidentally, Mat Pearson fought all through World War One and Two in the Infantry. He was decorated for bravery with several medals but on the battlefield of Coosada Cemetery - he was a failure.

General James Madison Pearson. U.S. Army by Ed Ferrell

Sometime ago, my nieces Mrs. Gloria Sorenson and Caro Marquis, having enjoyed some stories I had told them of our childhood days in Coosada, Alabama and in Valdosta, Georgia, many years ago, urged me to write some of these stories for them. So, I consented to do so if they enjoyed them so much as they seem to. My first story for them was "Two Coosda Braves" telling about how three of our Uncles while visiting us in the summer in 1896 at Coosada, enticed my first Cousin Mat Pearson and me to agree to sleep on the edge of the Country Cemetery on our old home place, where the first Governor of Alabama and his wife, Gov and Mrs. Wyatt A Bibb are buried. These three Pranksters, Uncle Lonnie Ferrell of New Orleans, Uncle Sape Jackson of Union Springs, Ala and Cousin Willie Tullis of Montgomery, offered us the big sum of five dollars to sleep at the cemetery. My story recounted how Mat and I were scared to death by a Ghost in the Cemetery.

At that time I was 6 years old and Mat Pearson was 11, and this Biography in brief of General Pearson is the same Mat Pearson, the "Coosda Brave" as a child. Our Ghost Experience at Coosda left no doubt that both Mat and I were Cowards of the first degree when it came to Ghosts.

After knowing of Mat Pearson's brilliant and decorated War Records in the World War I and being wounded three times seriously, and being highly decorated for Bravery in combat, I have concluded that beyond any doubt, Mat had all the Fear that any one could possess scared completely out of him at that early age in Coosda, as his War Records proved him fearless in his later years as a soldier. He was scared so badly at Coosda there wasn't any Fear left in him it seams.

After Gloria and Caro were amused at our story, they circulated copies of the story to some of the other 35 Dalton Grandchildren & my grandchildren, and several others of these wrote me to please write then some more of our childhood experiences. I am glad to do so if it gives you all any pleasure.

I believe you will be interested in the Life story of this Mat Pearson, our cousin from Montgomery, as we all can pint with pride to his Life-story, and the fact that he lived in Valdosta for two years can be of interest to you who have lived in Valdosta. His Army career was indeed unique and his success was earned in the "Hard Way" & rarely achieved in the way he earned it.

Mat Pearson (James Madison Pearson) was the son of my Fathers eldest of his four sisters, Sally Ferrell of Montgomery, Alabama who married "Dr. Benjamin Rush Pearson of Montgomery. They had three children, the oldest Dr. Ferrell Pearson, the second a daughter Annie who married Billie Letcher of a very prominent Kentucky family, and the youngest James Madison (Mat). Pearson.

Mat's ambition from early teen age was to attend West Point Military Academy and to become a career Officer in the United States Army. Ferrell and Annie Pearson were afforded the opportunity of a fine College Education, and both took advantage of this very capably. Mat attended and graduated from Stark's Preparatory School in Montgomery. Starke's School had an outstanding reputation for strictness in every way and a Starke graduate was accepted in any college without examination. Mat had hoped to get an appointment for West Point, and was terribly disappointed in missing out on the appointment, by another applicant. This was a severe blow to his plans, and to make matters worse, he was unable to enter college, as both his Mother and Father had been stricken with Tuberculosis and after three years of expensive hospitals and Health resorts, were not in financial, position to send Mat to college and he had to go to work instead. Both his parents died a year later.

A year after Mat graduated from Starke's in Montgomery, in 1902 my father opened the" New Valdes Hotel at Valdosta, Ga. and employed Mat Pearson as one of the first clerks of the Valdes. In early 1905 the new Suwannee Hotel at Live Oak, Florida was completed and Mat Pearson and his brother-in-law Billie Letcher leased the Suwannee in partnership as Proprietors, but the partnership was short lived, as Mat still had the Army bug in his veins, and was determined to make the Army his career, and after a year at Live Oak, he sold his interest in the Suwannee Hotel to his partner Billie Letcher, and of all things joined the U.S. Army as a buck private.

A Private in the Army was an honorable profession, but by no means as ambitious or glamorous as an Army Officer. This was during Peace times and West Point was turning out all the Officers the Army needed, and while it was possible, it was a rare achievement for a Private to work himself for a Commission in the Army from the ranks. This required an education comparable with the four strict years at West Point, to be acquired by self discipline and self-taught Education with full knowledge of Army regulations, which education was unmatched in any college in the World. A West Point graduate received a commission as Second Lieutenant and was recognized as being as highly educated as possible. A West Point graduate was also recognized socially by all Crown Heads throughout the World.

When Mat joined the Army as a private it was with the sole determination of becoming an Officer, and he immediately set in to study on the side and acquire the necessary requirements to receive a commission as an Officer. This was a rare achievement, and only a small number ever received a commission from the ranks during peace times. Suffice it to say that in four years time Mat had applied for an examination for a commission. He passed this and was commissioned as Lieut James Madison Pearson in the United States Army. His career was launched.

Promotions during Peace Times were very slow, but when the 1st World War in 1916 started, Mat had worked up as Major Pearson and went over seas with the very first Regiments to enter the war zone. He fought with his Regiment throughout the entire War in actual combat. He was seriously wounded three times in combat and recovered sufficiently to return to his Regiment each time. When he was wounded the third time he was billeted in the home of a fine French family near the front line trenches. Marguerite, the lovely daughter of this family nursed Mat and some other injured American boys. During his several weeks in this home, Mat and his charming nurse fell in love with each other, and the very first day after the Armistice was signed to end the War, they were married.

Mat received a commission as Lieut Colonel, a few months after the war started, and at the end of the War was commissioned a Full Colonel. A few years later he was promoted to Brigadier General, and served in the Army until 1948 when he retired after 30, years Service. The family spent most of their Army years as Commanding Officer at various Army posts, his last Command being as Commanding General of Fort Dix, N.J. He was Adjutant General on the Staff in Washington several years. They had three lovely daughters. After Mat's retirement he was a Professor at the University of North Carolina for several years, and as a result of his War injuries his health became bad for the last three years of his life. He died in 1968. A finer and more Patriotic American never lived.

Ed Ferrell

Thursday, October 20, 2005

New Pictures added

I have added new pictures. You can find them >>Here<<

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Stories of Madison Pearson

Lt. Col Madison Pearson Madison & Margurite Pearson are the common bond that all the Davis', Gallaghers and Campbells have. There are many wonderful stories that have not been told between these three families due to distance and the busy lives that we lead.

Please post any stories that you can share with each other so that we may preserve Daddy Mat and Granny's memory. I am in the precess of scanning all photos, letters, newspaper articles and the like to a digital format that we can all share. I will be posting more here as I am able. You are welcome to post here and add comments to posts.

If you have any photos or any other items that you can share you may do so here or email them to me at Posted by Picasa