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Get the latest stories from the Yonder directly in your inbox. Frenchburg, Ky. My family farmed, attended Baptist or Methodist churches and stayed away from politics, except to register Republican, vote for Lincoln and fight for the Union.
We were the good southerners: hardworking hillside farmers who embraced the dignity of work, not like plantation owners who shoved a hoe and a plow into the black hands of people they pretended to own. So who was John Poplin, and if he is kin to me, what was he doing in Menifee County, way up in northeast Kentucky? With this nagging question, I asked my mother if she wanted to investigate John Poplin.
I steered off I at Mt. Stering and started down US This trip, where the bluegrass is engulfed by the looming mountains, actually started 12 years ago. I was divorced, living in an apartment over a storefront in the coal town of Hazard, Kentucky, and so depressed that the only organization I could muster the courage to was the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Even then, I was so despondent that I was convinced someone as low as me could not possibly have a Revolutionary War ancestor. It turns out, I did. John Lynch Owsley of Claiborne County was a lowly private and something of a reprobate. I accepted him just the same and was proud to wear his name on my DAR ribbon. At the monthly meetings, some wore high heels, smoked pool-cue-length Benson and Hedges cigarettes, wore red lipstick, bright colors, stockings with seams up the back, coats made from the fur of endangered animals and big hair.
They railed against neighbors who violated flag etiquette. In the years that followed, searches through homemade genealogy books, closeted vaults of crumbling court records and hours glued to the Internet revealed not only one Revolutionary War ancestor, but a lot of them.
I found ancestors who fought in the War ofwho served in the Virginia House of Burgesses, who came to America on the Mayflower and who, incredibly, were surety barons on the Magna Carta. The vast majority, though, never rose above the rank of private or the role of mother, and that goes for the Union soldiers in my family: Esquire Treece who served in the 1st Tennessee Infantry, Co.
It is now the Swamp Valley Museum. Turns out, Clayton Wells was the one who knew the most about John Poplin and Clayton died a few years back. The Census records tell what Gary could not. Inthe Census showed John as a young man with his part-Cherokee wife, Pollyanna, and three little boys. Ten years later the census showed that John Poplin, Sr. I wonder about this woman, whether she was desperate and raging like Margaret Garner, who bundled up her little children and escaped from Kentucky across a frozen Ohio River, then killed her child rather than return her to slavery?
Or was she like Harriett Jacobs, the Edenton, North Carolina, slave who worked inside and was taught to read and sew.
The constant sexual advances of her master steeled her determination that even the best life a slave could have was not worth living. The county first voted against secession.How Older Women Show Attraction - The Key Signs That She Likes You
When the decision to leave the Union was finally made, though, six companies of local men volunteered to fight for the Confederates. His son, John Jr. Back at the John Poplin Museum, the main thing Gary remembered was that John Poplin was dragged out of his house one night by a bunch of men and never came home again.
His body was found near Rothwell, covered with leaves. A woman named Eliza Simpkins had something to do with his murder.
There were also stories that Gen. One expert on the Civil War in Kentucky told me Poplin could have died for any of reasons. Some of these men were bitter against any Confederate deserters and hunted them down. Home Guard Units killed suspected Confederate guerillas or solders home on leave.
The last year of the Civil War was a desperate, dangerous, complex place, especially in a border state like Kentucky. The census shows that Eliza was in her early teens when John Poplin died. And, strangely, she was buried next to him at the Poplin family cemetery on Kendrick Ridge. In this year of debate about the complexities of race and gender, there is a tendency to look back at history, even family history, for answers. Our ancestors speak to us, not about Yankees and Rebels, but about the high price of intolerance, the destructive power of sustained violence, and the danger of assumed righteousness uninformed by the truth.
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