Charles Overton Jett in his WWI uniform.
Charles Overton Jett in his WWI uniform.

I’m not sure who wrote the poem below, but it fell out of one of Mary Eastland’s books as a handwritten document. It may have been written by a young, exuberant C. O. Jett, who studied English and was a poet, or it may have been written by Charles Eastland or one of the other Eastland boys. Based on the sole surviving letter I have seen written by Charles Eastland, my bet is that this a C. O. Jett original. Maybe the handwriting can be analyzed one day, and the mystery will be solved. But whoever wrote the poem, it raises some intriguing questions. Who is the maid of Sparta and why the prolonged farewell? Could this be Nanny (Charlie Mae Jarvis), and might this poem have been written before C.O. Jett left Sparta for a job early in his marraige? Or is this referring to some earlier romance that came to a bad end? We may never know the answers to these questions, but the poem lives on, captivating us with its dreamy, evocative language.

Maid of Sparta ere we part

Give, Oh, give me back my heart;

Or since that has left my breast.

Keep it now, and take the rest;

Hear my vow before I go,


Farewell! If ever fondest prayer

For others weal availed on high

Mine will not all be lost in air?

But waft thy name beyond the sky

Twere vain to speake, to weep, to sigh:

Oh more than tears of blood can tell,

When rang from guilt’s expiring eye,

Are in that word – farewell: Farwell!

These lips are mute, these eyes are dry

But in my breast and in my brain,

Awake the pangs that help(?) not by

The thought that never Shall sleep again

My sole nor deigns nor dares complain,

Though grief and passion there rebell;

I only know we loved in vain

I only feel Farewell; Farewell;


Bonfire of the Vanities

There’s one family picture that was nearly sacrificed on the altar of vanity.

The Howell Family, Left to right: Uncle Ira, Shela, Pappy with Lena Belle, Aunt Irene, Solly (Mammy Howell's brother), Mammy Howell and Jessie, Aunt Celia and Andy
The Howell Family, Left to right: Uncle Ira, Shela, Pappy with Lena Belle, Aunt Irene, Solly (Mammy Howell’s brother), Mammy Howell and Jessie, Aunt Celia and Andy

What a pity it would have been if this little picture had burned! It shows the whole Howell family (minus Rubye, plus Solly) at the old homeplace. Actually there was an even older homeplace at the bottom of the hill behind where this house was built (per John Michael). At the bottom of the hill there was (and I think still is) a natural spring, which would have been convenient in the days when you had to draw your own drinking (and bathing and cooking) water. For whatever reason, the Howells moved out of that house and built the one in the picture above. According to Janice, the house was unfinished when the picture was taken, and later on it was covered with horizontal planks to make it look more modern . I know the family looks pathetic (and maybe a little malnourished), but according to Janice the Howells were considered quite well to do for the area; whether you choose to believe that or not is your own business, but rest assured that pictures can and do distort reality and people in rural White County were much poorer than we can imagine.

So why was the picture almost burned? Well, first you need to understand that the Howells were a very proud people. Mammy married into the family, so we’ll except her from the general rule (and by extension Solly). But the Howell men (minus Andy), and probably most of the women were full of pride; note the picture of Pappy and his sister Dora below.

Tillman Cantrell Howell and Dora A. Howell lookin' good
Tillman Cantrell Howell and Dora A. Howell lookin’ good

Does this look like the same man in the family portrait? He looks a fair bit more…successful, no? When Pappy, Ira and Shelah looked back at that picture of the family in front of the homeplace it didn’t give them the same warm feeling it gives us. It was terribly embarassing, and when Ira learned that Aunt Jessie had kept the picture all those years, he told her to burn it so other people would never know how poor they had been in their childhood (according to Mommom). We’re lucky the picture survived that long, and we’re also lucky Jessie didn’t heed her brother’s admonishments.

A word of note about Solly. He never married, lived in a cabin, and as he grew older Uncle Ira took care of him. He was probably mildly “autistic” (or Aspy) but he may also have had some savant characteristics. He made his own violin, and Caroline Acuff remembers hearing the beautiful fiddle reels he played off in the distance when she was a young girl.

The house in the picture above survived until about 5 or 6 years ago when a couple from out of state bought it, and it burned mysteriously. Admittedly, it was probably a tinderbox, but it’s a shame we lost another piece of our heritage.

Man’s Zigzag through the Whirligig of Life Part 1

WWI pic of Roy Winston Pannell. This entry and all subsequent entries on the subject were written by my great grandfather Roy Winston Pannell.
WWI pic of Roy Winston Pannell. This entry and all subsequent entries on the subject were written by my great grandfather Roy Winston Pannell.


I stated in the Preface of this book that these stories would be about things, of particular interest to me, that I had read, heard, and seen. Under the Title, I also mentioned that the following stories were written and compiled, and I use the word compiled advisedly, as I made notes from a score or more books, from different authors, and there are many “quotes”, and much material used, particularly in the stories dealing with the inquisition, and the history of religion, and the church.

In this connection, I mention the names of only a few of the famous people – Marten [sic] Luther, Garibaldi, Thomas Paine, Madam Guyon, and others who to-gether with thousands of dedicated individuals, many of whom became martyrs, were instrumental, thru the centuries, in bringing about separation of state and church.

Here is only a fraction of the grim story as related by historians who wrote of this sordid, strange and absolute power, exercised thru a mental squint, obtuseness, hypocrisy, and spiritual dearth, by a prejudiced, and tyrannical priesthood, over the lives of men and women, thru century after century.

Everyone is impressed in varying degrees by things they have read, heard and seen. In the following “quotes” and comments, I am speaking of things that have been of particular interest to me.

What is behind human motivations? What gives men the urge to do things, and what takes it away? Will people, and nations ever learn to live in brotherly love, and by the Golden Rule? Every great religion has in its tenet, a corresponding Golden Rule…How close will civilization ever come to an El Dorado, or a Utopian life?

In reading of the lives of the great men who have come and gone, the interesting thing about it all, is: Why did they stand out? What was the impelling force in their lives? And why the select list so comparatively small, when the majority of human beings never rise above the level of mediocrity.

Why did man advance so rapidly in certain fields, and drag a leaden foot in others. Why did he in his weary and upward climb, in his attempt to become civilized, have to suffer so long under the inquisition of state and church; thru the dark ages, century after century; up to, and thru the nineteenth century? Why did he have to be fettered and shackled for so long, by the bigotry and ignorance of a tyrannical priesthood?

But fortunately for the human race; all thru these periods, there were brave and wise men who dared to become martyrs that man might have freedom.

I have quoted in the following pages many facts of history. The imputation of bigotry and intolerance ascribed to state and church in the name of religion, during the long period of the inquisition, when the absolute and supreme power was held over the lives of the people, has always been an amazing thing to me. For this reason I have quoted extensively from writers who have discussed this dark epoch of man’s history in his weary struggle for freedom. Emerson said: “If you have not been blessed with the ability to first state a great truth, then next it is important to quote it”.

Most subjects discussed are in a way unrelated except that they deal with the emotions, behavior patterns, and expressions of human beings. At most, this is a melange of subjects, discussed by a dilettante of a sort.

Every man’s life is a plan of the Creator, different from every other. Everyone’s life is a diary of work, fun, disappointments, tears, and sleep; an expression of music, feeling, and instinct; a bit of twidle dum and twidle de.

It is a colored chart; a pictured scroll of all one’s experiences as he passes over this earth.

Man’s Empirical Zigzag in The Whirligig of Life

Man must face reality. He is normally integrated person when he is able to unify and adjust himself on a high plane of self realization. He is gregarious by nature. He makes friends and acquaintances and many times acquaintances are pleasant hypocrites who sustain his illusions, for Society is mostly made possible thru a vast web of delicate evasions, veneer, polite subterfuges, and agreeable pretense.

The whirligig of time equalizes all things. Man’s journey through life is a zigzag one. Life is made up of experiences. Everyone comes to the crossroads of life when he has to make decisions.

The days of man on earth are but a passing shadow. Events that have come and gone so swiftly come back faded memories on the night winds from the dim and distant past.

All thru life men reach these places where they say: “here will we build three tabernacles”, but out of the silence comes the imperative Voice, “Arise and get thee hence for this is not thy rest”.

In the existence of every man, he weaves a portrait of his life – the woof his thoughts, its warp his deeds, but there comes a time when the roaring loom of time stops and the threads are broken, but every act of his life has been a sequence from the spindle of fate.

Frank Henry Gaines Pannell

The address for this blog is pannellfamilytree.wordpress.com, but I have yet to publish anything on the Pannell family. Let this be the first post to remedy that situation. Below is the story of my 2nd Great Grandfather Frank Henry Gaines Pannell’s life.

Portrait of Frank Henry Gaines Pannell: Picture belongs to Karen Pannell Mullendore of Nashville, TN.
Portrait of Frank Henry Gaines Pannell: Picture belongs to Karen Pannell Mullendore of Nashville, TN.

Frank Gaines Pannell Obituary:

F. G. Pannell was born in Sullivan County, Tennessee, near the Reedy Creek Campground, June 30, 1854, and departed this life August 12, 1925, in Scott County, Virginia, aged 71 years, one month, and 12 days.

His father died when he was only eight years of age, just about the close of the War Between the States. His care fell to his mother, who moved the family to Scott County, near the old Rogers place, in Poor Valley. There he lived with his mother in those trying days, doing all he could to help support the family. I have heard him on several occassions that he crossed and recrossed Clinch mountain before daybreak when sent by his mother on some errand. He was afraid, but never let his mother know it. At the age of twelve, he bound himself to the late John Necessary, of Purchase, to work for him till he was 21; then he was to receive a horse, saddle, and bridle.

Father said he soon realized his mistake, but he stood to his contract. Fortunately, Mr. Necesary and his wife were a father and mother to him, and treated him as one of their children. Mr. Necessary taught him how to work and to be thrifty. This lesson meant much to him in afterlife. He loved Mr. and Mrs. Necessary as a father and mother for the valuable training they gave him.

When twenty-one, he came to the east end of the county and lived for four years in the home of the late Edmund Minnich. Father was a great friend of Mr. Minnich and family for the great hospitality shown him. I have heard him say on more than one occasion that Mrs. Minnich was one of the best women he ever met and he loved as a mother.

At the age of twenty-five he was married to Louisa Cox, daughter of the late William Cox, and to this union were born ten children, eight boys and two girls, who still survive him.

He made his home with grandfather Cox for twelve years. During this time he worked hard providing for the necessities for his family and trying to accumulate for the future.

At the age of thirty-seven he purchased a farm on Boozy Creek from the late Jonohtan [sic] Morrell and heirs, and on this farm he spent the remaining days of his life.

Father attended school only nine months; but he determined to get an education. To do this he studied by a light made of pine wood. He borrowed all the books he could get and studied these far into the night. He had an excellent memory and was one of the best read men of his chance I ever met. Father was a great reader and student of the Bible, having read it through several times. One could scarcely mention a chapter in all the Bible that he was not familiar with and could quote a great deal from memory. He was a great believer in the Bible and always upheld its teaching against atheists and evolutionists. He read twelve chapters from this book on the day of his death.

He was a member of the Southern Methodist Church from early childhood, and was a loyal member.

Politically, he was strongly attached to the Democratic party, having always supported its nominees on a national ticket. He was a great admirer of Woodroe Wilson and William Jennings Bryan. He heard Mr. Bryan speak once, and I’ve hear him that was the greatest speech he ever heard. He respected the views of the Republicans and was a great admirer of Theodore Roosevelt.

Father worked hard all of his life, and got a great deal of pleasure out of it. He delighted in keeping his farm clean, the fences in good shape and everything looking tidy. You may visit his farm today and you will find one of the best kept in the country. I have heard his neighbors say on more than one occasion that he was the best farmer they ever saw.

Father had a sunny disposition, always looked on the bright side of things; he was kind and charitable; no one came to him for a favor, if it was in his power to grant but what he got it.

He was liked by almost all of his neighbors. He always stood ready to help them when he could.

He was very fond of little children, always getting them presents of some kind, and his friends, among them numbered by the hundreds.

Father is gone, but that noble life father advices he have men will that he lived before me and those last forever.

-R. E. Pannell

These Wintry Days

Isaac William Slusher
Isaac William Slusher

These wintery days will soon be o’er

Across the field the tractor roars;

On hill and plain you’ll hear the same,

To raise a crop of golden grain.

To feed our nation, young and old,

To keep our bodies with our soul;

They feed the world, both large and small,

The birds and flowers, they raise them all

Without this Master Mind and hand

Our nation would never last to stand;

With all our world and beauty fair,

The farmer makes it everywhere.

Old Mother Nature is fine we know,

But it takes the farmer to make it grow;

God’s Gift and beauty on every hand

Is seen on farms in every land.

Let us praise the Father and our land,

And help the farmer on every hand

Wm. Slusher, Melbourne, Florida (written about 1936)

An Oliver Twist

So I just got off the phone with one of my distant relations on the Oliver/Howell side, and it’s got me thinking about what I know (and don’t) about the Olivers. Well, we know (Great) Grandpa Saylors’ mother was an Oliver – Notie Belle Oliver; she was a beloved grandmother for those who are old enough to remember her. She’s the grandmother who went all the way out to California with a car full of children in 1946 to visit Aunt Matt and Uncle Ernie (see this video for more on that: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2XyvDpg6ZJE). Mommom has frequently remarked that Mammy Saylors “had more fun in her” and that she was a busy and energetic woman. Other than that, I don’t know a whole lot about her, except that she was a farm wife/mother and raised many outstanding children. We don’t have any pictures of Mammy Saylors when she was young, and I’ve only been able to find one picture of her father (as well as pics of a sister and brother). There is a story that Mommom remembers hearing about a sister of Mammy Saylors who moved to Texas. She came back to Sparta in the 1970s as an old woman to reconnect with some of her relations who were still living in the area. She stopped by Granny Belle and Pa Saylors’ (ie Lena Belle Howell and Wilbur Saylors) house and gave them some seeds from a plant that grew in Texas. It had white, bell-shaped flowers, and before the old house in Sparta was sold, that wizened old prairie plant was still growing and flowering. It’s a beautiful story about a gift that outlasted both the giver and the recipient.

From the trip to visit Aunt Matt and Uncle Ernie in Los Angeles. Mammy Saylors is on the right sans hat.
From the trip to visit Aunt Matt and Uncle Ernie in Los Angeles. Mammy Saylors is on the far left sans hat.

Mammy Saylors’ father John Franklin Oliver served in the Confederate Army (in what capacity, regiment, and for how long, I have not been able to discover). John Franklin was born in North Carolina on 14 Oct 1838 and married Amanda Hutson in White County on 6 Jul 1860.

"This picture from Julie Ruth Pistole and Barry Marler". I've tried tracking down Julie Ruth Pistole and Barry Marler, but they are both apparently deceased. Any help tracking this one down would be appreciated!
“This picture from Julie Ruth Pistole and Barry Marler”. I’ve tried tracking down Julie Ruth Pistole and Barry Marler, but they are both apparently deceased as are all their children. Any help tracking this one down would be appreciated!

John Franklin and Amanda had 5 children:

1. Mary Lourana Oliver (1858-1943)

2. William Alexander Oliver (1864-1945)

3. Mary Ada Oliver (1868-1943)

4. Martha “Mattie” A. Oliver (1874-1941)

5. Notie Belle Oliver (1877-1950)

Dillard Oliver was a nephew of Mammy Saylors by her brother William Alexander Oliver (married Samantha Howell)
Dillard and Manda Oliver: Dillard Oliver was a nephew of Mammy Saylors by her brother William Alexander Oliver (who married Samantha Howell)

I’m not totally sure which of these sisters was the one who went to Texas, but I’d love to find out if anyone remembers. As you can see from the dates above, none of the sisters fits the profile of the mysterious Texas relative who returned in the ’70s, so either one of the dates above is wrong or the story has been garbled and misremembered.

Why do we have a picture of this sister? Could this have been the prodigal daughter who left for Texas?
Mary Louran Oliver Briggs: Why do we have a picture of this sister? Could this have been the prodigal daughter who left for Texas?

As a widower John Franklin lived on the Saylors farm with Notie Belle and Dow until his death on 17 Mar 1914. On the 1910 Census, J.F. Oliver is listed as a “private farm laborer” on Dow’s farm (shown as a stock farm).

We do know that John Franklin’s father and mother were Alexander Oliver and Lucinda Burkhead (married about 1829 in Davidson County, NC). They moved to White County in the mid-1850s, and Alexander went from being a farmer to a tailor (at least I think that’s what the Census says). I’ve also seen some indications that he may have served as some type of lawyer (justice of the peace may be a better translation), so there are some inconsistencies or details that still need to be worked out. Also, I have not been able to trace the Oliver lineage with confidence any further back than Alexander. Alexander and Lucinda (nee Burkhead) had seven children as follows:

1. John Franklin Oliver (1838-1914)

2. Burrell Woodward Oliver (1839-1915)

3. Milton Burkhead Oliver (1842-1916)

4. Clinton Harris Oliver (1844-1860)

5. Gray Oliver (1846-1850)

6. Martha Jane Oliver (1847-1870)

7. Abagale K. Oliver (1849-?)

He certainly resembles his father Alexander Oliver.
Milton Burkhead Oliver is the old bearded man, bottom left; he certainly resembles the pic we have of Alexander Oliver.

There is a picture of Alexander Oliver. I’m not sure about the provenance of this one (though I’d like to track down the owner to get a better scan), but it seems to be authentic, since it mentions that Alexander Oliver was buried in an unmarked grave in Southard Cemetery. If anyone knows who has this one, please contact me with more info.

Caption reads "Copy for Sharon. Both buried in unmarked grave in Southard Cemetery."
Alexander Oliver: Caption reads “Copy for Sharon. Both buried in unmarked grave in Southard Cemetery.”

Since the caption says “both buried”, I’m wondering whether there might be another page to this with a picture of Lucinda Oliver (nee Burkhead). I’d love to find out!

Gertrude Saylors also did a sketch on the Oliver, McEwin, and Southard families (all of whom intermarried), but I have been able to locate only one page from her work on the McEwin line. If anyone finds a few more loose pages, let me know.

Be Fruitful and Multiply!

UPDATE 2/17/2015: Thanks to Aunt Fran for the additional relations! Also, when I was going through some of my scans, I realized Phil had a cut-out from this larger picture with Thurman, Louise, and Bill Snodgrass. Glad to know there may be multiple copies of this picture floating around somewhere. Hopefully some of those copies have edges with less distortion.

Duplicate excerpt from the Saylors pano. In the picture are Thurman, Louise, unk woman, Bill Snodgrass, and unk woman 2.
Duplicate excerpt from the Saylors pano. In the picture are Thurman, Louise, unk woman, Bill Snodgrass, and unk woman 2.

Ok, so the Saylors family was large…very large. But then again, there was no birth control in those days, and actually a surprising number of the Saylors never had children. Anyway, the picture below shows a snapshot of the Saylors Clan in about 1937 (Easter maybe?). I have no idea who most of these people are, but I would love to tag all of them (or at least all the ones whose faces I can see). So far I’ve got:

The whole Saylors family in about 1937
The whole Saylors family in about 1937

4. William “Billy” Dow Saylors

5. Shirley Howell

6. Lillian Howell (nee Saylors)

8. Bertha Saylors Hayes

9. Martha Hayes

10. Barbara Ann Jett (nee Saylors) (b. 1935)

62. William Dow Saylors (b. 1874)

63. Donald Wilbur Saylors (b. 1931)

64. Notie Belle Saylors (nee Oliver) (b. 1877)

65. Betty Saylors (Gilbert’s wife)

77. Thurman Saylors

78. Louise Saylors

79. Bill Snodgrass

89. Carl Saylors (b. 1920)

90. Gilbert Saylors

91. Wilbur Lorenzo Saylors (b. 1909)

142. Lena Belle Saylors (nee Howell) (b. 1912)

I’ll update this post as I learn more.