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My Life As I Remember It

My Life As I Remember It

by Billy D. Smith

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In writing my book I tried, to the best of my memory (and with the help of a lot of people), to relate and have a true story about the things that we did as children and adults... about growing up and living in a small town in Alabama. Even though times were hard then, I feel very fortunate to have grown up during that time and in that place. I believe that my life


In writing my book I tried, to the best of my memory (and with the help of a lot of people), to relate and have a true story about the things that we did as children and adults... about growing up and living in a small town in Alabama. Even though times were hard then, I feel very fortunate to have grown up during that time and in that place. I believe that my life has been guided and protected by a "Higher Being" and I thank God for looking after me and guiding my life. I also had some great teachers which I am thankful for knowing. Most of our teachers loved us and tried to help, when they could, to prepare for our future. All this gave me confidence to go into adult life and knew that I had my future in my hand and could make my life and that I alone am responsible for my actions. I believe that growing up in Roanoke gave me the knowledge and background to have a great life, for which I am thankful, and I hope for many more good years.

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My Life as I Remember It

Growing Up in Alabama
By Billy D. Smith


Copyright © 2009 Billy D. Smith
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4490-2398-0

Chapter One

The Beginning

I suppose almost everyone has at one time or another thought or said they wish they knew more about their heritage and what made them who they are and how they got to be at this place. Most Americans have a history of ancestors coming from some other country. Most of the information is out there somewhere, but the trick is to find it ... like the proverbial needle in the haystack. You just have to move one straw at a time and eventually you will find something that will lead you to the next step. When you find that one nugget of information, it is like a gift or a prize. With the help of a lot of people you can piece together some form of history as to where you came from. I am fortunate to have other members of the family who have put a lot of time, knowledge, and effort into doing research and have shared with me the information they have found. When you find the information, always be willing to share this information with other members of the family. With this basic information, and sometimes using my imagination and knowledge about that period of time, I have tried to weave together the history of what it might have been like living during those times when our forefathers lived. This is my genealogy, but many people could puttheir name in the place that I have my name as our beginnings are very similar and our heritage came from a path that is the same. Your genealogy is like a large spider web. When you see one in the morning with the dew on it, the center has a woven pattern. There isn't another one just like yours. Each web is an individual: but very similar to every other web. The center is the focal point, and the start of the line. This will be the furthest back in history of the information that can be found. Somewhere on the web will be your family but tied to all the generations before and after and they are all tied together by thin but strong lines on the web.

Louis Graben

Ludwig (Louis) Graben, my great, great grandfather, was born at Prussia (near Berlin) Germany, June 27, 1829. His family was of means in the textile industries or had a manufacturing plant of some type. Louis was an apprentice weaver, and was probably well-educated for that period of time, and may have had some knowledge of English, being near the shipping area. Germany was having a civil disturbance because of the treatment of the working class people by the upper class people. Germany had a compulsory military draft. When Louis was twenty-five years old, he did not want to be conscripted into the Prussian army. He ran away, probably with the help of his family, and boarded the ship "Anna" which sailed out of Bremerhaven or Hamburg for the United States. He was looking for a better way of life and was trying to make a new start in a country he only knew about through stories he had heard, probably from merchants traveling through his country buying merchandise to ship to the United States. The manifest of the ship showed him with a woman Auguste and girl Caroline, who were either relatives or more likely his wife and daughter. The trip took 46 long, hard days to cross. Louis worked on the ship during the voyage to help pay his fare. This was not one of the better liners. It was a dirty cargo ship of some type, and may have even been a cattle ship. Living quarters were just bearable and the food only enough to sustain them through the trip.

The ship "Anna," that Louis, Auguste and Caroline were on, docked in New York September 15, 1854. There was no more mention of Auguste and Caroline. The slums around the area where the ship docked were full of disease. 1855 was an epidemic year for typhoid and malaria, and the Eastern coast was rampant with the disease; many immigrants died from the sickness. Finding it hard to get work to make a living and being able to speak only a little English, Louis wanted to go to Baltimore where there were many factories and textile industries. He would have been a journeyman in the work there and would have earned very little pay. After a short time in New York, Louis heard of the opportunities and cheap land in the South. Louis started making his way south. He was traveling with another family that he had become acquainted with and became friends, and they reached Charleston, South Carolina. There he started working with the railroad, blasting passages through the mountains.

While working on the railroad, Louis became friends with John Kimbrel. John was probably a foreman or someone in charge of the work force. Louis was strong and short in statue, being five feet four inches tall, and was a hard worker; and John took a liking to Louis. In South Carolina Louis married Mary Diana (Polly) Kimbrel, John's oldest daughter. They worked their way with the railroad to Georgia. October 25, 1856, Joseph Graben (my Great Grand dad) was born during the time his parents were working in Georgia. It was easy to become a naturalized citizen. After living five years in the country, a person would just go to the local court house and swear an oath and receive their papers. The papers he received when he landed at Ellis Island would be proof of when he arrived in the United States. The records have been lost as to where Louis actually received his naturalization papers.

John, Louis, and their family came to Alabama; it is not clear where he received his papers in Alabama or Georgia. Most likely it was in Alabama so that he could buy some land. The 1859 census had John owning 120 acres farm; later the census had Louis owning 159 acres farm. The next records of the1860 censuses show them in Lineville. Most likely John and his family -Louis, Polly and Joseph- came to Lineville and purchased the land and started farming. John probably helped Louis with the buying of his property because Louis couldn't have made very much money working on the railroad.

Louis volunteered to join the Army for the Confederacy during the Civil War. He enlisted at Wedowee April 1, 1862 (Lineville was part of Randolph County. Clay County was not designated as a county until Dec. 6, 1866, and he was inducted into services at Lineville on April 5, 1862. He appears on the muster-in roll at Camp Goldthwaite near Talladega, Alabama, May 8, 1862. It had his age as 32 years old, and stated that he had joined at Randolph County. He did his basic training at Fort Goldthwaite (there are several spellings of the camp name; the muster-in roll spelling is almost illegible. It was signed by Captain West), and then he was assigned duty with the Alabama 31st, assigned to the Pettus Brigade; their Commanding officer was Col. Hundley. A missing-in-action form was signed, sighting the dates May 16 to June 13 for Louis. He was captured at Champion Hill near Vicksburg, Mississippi, and was a prisoner of war at Delaware Prison; a prisoner exchange was issued on July 4, 1863. After his release from prison by a prisoner exchange between the North and the South, he returned to his unit and later he was wounded at Resaca, Georgia. He remained with the Alabama 31st until the end of the war. He was paroled by the United States Army at Salisbury, N.C., May 2, 1865. In 1901 Louis Graben applied for Veterans' assistance based on his military service. The application showed Louis's farm valued at one hundred and fifty-nine dollars, or one dollar per acre.

Grand Pa Smith was a blacksmith and very strong. The people would tell that once he got a horse's leg to shoe, the horse wouldn't or couldn't move. Ma told us that one July day she and Pa Smith were walking in the field when all of a sudden a dove flew over and lit on Grandpa's shoulder. This was very unusual because doves are very skittish birds. She didn't say what they thought about it but within a couple of weeks Pa Smith died. Ma always thought the dove was an angel or an omen telling them that something bad was going to happen. Ma told us that Grand Pa was very sick and no one knew what his sickness was. Ma would try to use whatever she could to get him better. He told Ma, "I have to go, let me go." She insisted on trying to help him but he kept saying, "I have to go, let me go." Ma finally gave up and Grand Pa Charles W. Smith died from typhoid fever after drinking stagnant water in his blacksmith shop and died, July 17, 1912.

One of the superstitions of that day was that if a wild bird lit on a person's shoulder he would die. If a bird tried to get into a house by flying up to the window and holding on to the window, someone in the house would die. If an owl lit on your porch and hooted, someone in the house was going to die.

William & Catherine Taylor

Most of the information that I can find about William and Catherine Taylor comes from Rollie Taylor, Walt Taylor, and other family members who put a lot of work into researching them. William was born in 1786; his family probably came from England. I had one report that Catherine's father may have served in the American Revolution. Catherine Cornwell was born in 1796 in North Carolina.

William and Catharine owned a farm in Troup County, Georgia. They had eight sons and two daughters. My great, great grandfather Stokley Morgan Taylor was the fourth son, born in 1820 at Troup County, Georgia.

My mother, Sallie Mae (Taylor) Smith has told me the story of the slave, a colored girl named Katy whose name was sometimes spelled as "Caty". The story told to me by Mom was that as a child she was mentally slow and became Catharine's worker in the house. William bought Katy when she was approximately eight years old. One document that is available shows the sale of some property which had Caty Taylor as a witness.

Katy died and a doctor signed the death paper that she had been beaten with a club and starved to death. A warrant was issued for the arrest of William and Catharine Taylor with a reward for $300 to anyone who apprehends them and turned them over to the Sheriff of Troup County, Georgia, by the state of Georgia. The copy of the transcript was given to me by Rollie Taylor with permission to use it, and it had it that William and Catherine presented themselves to the court and asked for a continuance because a witness that knew the truth was not available and couldn't be subpoenaed as a witness. I am not sure if the witnesses were not available or if they just didn't want to be called as a witness. The court refused to allow a continuance and ordered a quick court case. At this time a person was tried within a short time after an incident. Caty died March 15, 1836; the trial took place August 1837.

William was reported to have gone to visit a relative in De Kalb County, Georgia, to purchase some property. I believe it was then that he went to Randolph County, Alabama, and bought some property near Roanoke. History has it that High Pine was burned by the Indians in 1836 and when the town was rebuilt the name was changed to Roanoke. After William tried to get a continuance because a witness couldn't be subpoenaed, William, Catharine and the family moved to Roanoke and started a farm there; this was just out of reach of the Georgia Law enforcement.

After a short time, William and Catharine prepared themselves to prove their innocence hired a lawyer, and returned to Georgia. At the Grand Jury trial they proved by witnesses Hugh Wilson, Caty's (Katy) original owner, that Caty was not beaten by William and Catharine, but rather by the original owner. He found her disobedient, said that she lied, and said that she would steal things. He had tried to sell her but no one would buy her. He would beat her, and one time after he had beaten her she ran away and tried to drown herself in a river. He said she was slow and had a tendency to have fits. William offered to buy her; she was approximately eight years old. She lived in the Taylor's house for eighteen to twenty years. Caty would have been born between the years 1808 to 1810 and she would have been 26 to 28 years old at her death. The scars on her body were made by the original owner. Another man testified that just before she died, Katy had run away and he found her and she had been out in the cold weather for several days. A different doctor testified that the injury that killed the girl was most likely the result of her having a fit and she fell and hit her head on the ground. The fall tore the scalp from the skull and she suffered a concussion. There was no injury to the skull; no one realized this and she died as a result of the concussion. William and Catherine had tried to feed her but she wouldn't even acknowledge them. They were found not guilty and the case was dismissed and no further action was taken. The Taylor family remained in Roanoke.

Catherine may not have known how to write. Every place in the transcript where she was to sign, it had her mark, instead of a signature.

The family remained in Alabama. Stokley Morgan Taylor was born in 1820 Troup County Georgia and married Lovicy D. Cantrell who was from Tennessee and she was born August 1829. Stokley Morgan and Lovicy D. Cantrell Taylor had eight children who were Nancy, Mary L., Tilghman (my great grandfather), James Olander, Lovicy Addie, George N., Lizzie E. and William F.

Tilghman married Sara Ellen Wood and they had five children: Walter Brigintine (my grandfather), Edgar Davis, Myrtie Will, Albert Morgan, and George Barnes. Walter B. married Lena Viola Lane and they had four children, Herbert Dewey, Audrey Dell, Jack Earnest Hoyt and Sallie Mae (my mom, sometimes spelled it Sally Mae). Sallie Mae married Charles Perry Smith and they had three children, Charles P. Smith Jr., Betty June and Billy D. Smith (myself).

Dr. John Taylor

This is a story that has been around a long time, I have heard the story many times from Mom, and also Walt Taylor sent me some information. One evening Uncle Herbert (Mom's brother and Walt's Dad) had driven them to the cemetery. Walt was a young child. Their car motor died just as they drove into the cemetery and he couldn't get it restarted. It was dark while they were at the cemetery. Then his dad told them the story. Walt was the one who gave me the girl's name.

Dr. John Taylor, a first cousin to Walter B. Taylor, had returned to Roanoke after attending Atlanta Medical School March 31, 1897. He set up his office and started practicing medicine around the area that is now called Taylor's crossroads, which is a few miles from Roanoke. The period of time was around late 1897. Dr. Taylor practiced medicine out of his home and visited the homes and farms which were scattered around the area. He had to go to their homes when medical needs dictated; he would hook up his horse and buggy to visit the people to make his rounds. He would have to travel past the Lebanon Church and Cemetery; at some point he would see a woman standing by the road. He would stop and say, "Hello Sal, you going with me today?" She would get into the buggy and continue with Doc Taylor. They would talk as he rode (nobody ever said that Sal talked to Dr. Taylor) and when he arrived at the church she would get out of the buggy and Dr. Taylor would continue on with his rounds.

The name of the woman was Sarah Greer; she was born February 18, 1797, and died March 2, 1880.

History of Roanoke Local Legend

I guess almost every area has its old legends. Our area also has one; it is the story of Louina and it has been around for some time. There are several versions of the story. If you have heard a different version or some difference that is perfectly all right but this is the one that I have heard and read about.

Louina was a Creek Indian squaw. "The Randolph Leader" (originally named "The Roanoke Leader" which has been the local newspaper since 1892) ran an article in June of 2000 about her and it said she may have been a princess and she may have been married by an arranged marriage.


Excerpted from My Life as I Remember It by Billy D. Smith Copyright © 2009 by Billy D. Smith. Excerpted by permission.
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