Anabel March McLemore (1796-1832)

Anabel March was a Tennessee girl who married Owen McLemore in 1812.  She knew she had some Indian blood in her, and this is how she described her background:

“My great-grandma Macum, Dilsey, was half Indian and half white and my grandma told me how it happened, just as her mamma had told her.   Back when the Macums had just come to Carlina from Pennsylvania they were living out on Bear Creek.  They had built a kind of lean-to under an overhang they had kind of framed up with poles and mud.  Well, while the men was buildin’ a real house, my great-great-grandmamma went out with a basket hoping to find some chestnuts in the woods.  She was about fourteen years old and while she was out there by herself she was grabbed by two Indians and taken off to Kentucky.”

Eventually Dilsey got away but was already about six months pregnant.  When she showed up back at her family’s place, she told them what happened and her brothers think they got the Indian who took her. Anyway, a few weeks later she gave birth to the child, who was Anabel’s great-grandmother, Beatrice Macum.

Anabel used to say, “I got the Indian look from my Pa’s side. And it is true I have his black eyes and hair. But I got Ma’s fair skin and features.”  By the time Anabel had come around, the March family had crossed the mountain from North Carolina to East Tennessee.  After her mother died Anabel pretty much raised her brothers and acted as the woman of the house from the time she was around ten.

The McLemores had the neighboring farm and Owen, who was older, began courting Anabel when she was around 15 and soon after they married. Anabel gave birth to seven children, all boys, by the time she was 36, but the last was a difficult birth.  She died during the delivery and the child was sickly, and lived but two years.  Owen grieved bitterly for his wife and left Tennessee taking his six remaining sons to Texas right after the youngest had died (see songs “My Anabel” and “Blinkin’ Back a Tear“).  He never re-married.

Anabel once described herself like this, “people always said I went my own way, and that much I’ll admit. Some said it was because Mama died when I was young, and I never had nobody to show me how a girl ought to be.  I turned out to be sort of stubborn more like my Pa and brothers than any woman around here. Others said it was the revival meetings that got me all mixed up and queer. And still others said it was because I read too many books. But I did love to read books, and always have, when ever I can.”

 

“My Anabel”

The memory of his wife, Anabel, is kindled by an old friend’s letter that Owen McLemore has kept all these years.  Alone and peering into the West Texas prairie he relives the grief of his wife’s passing, and friends and a life lost to time.

My Anabel
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

It’s a cold December day
The light is slowly sinkin’ away
What I feel I can’t hardly tell
Oh Anabel, my Anabel

Holdin’ a letter from an old friend
Golden leaves dance in the wind
Somethin’ broke in me, aw hell
Oh Anabel, my Anabel

Piece of paper creased and soft
Watery lines almost worn off
Raindrops spittin’ in an empty well
Oh Anabel, my Anabel

That dusty road is still the same
The prairie wind still carries a name
The tolling of a distant steeple’s knell
Oh Anabel, my Anabel

© 2018 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP)

“Crossin’ the Edmund Pettus Bridge “

In 1844 Celsie Monroe was born into slavery; in 1865 she was freed.  One hundred years later her great-grandson, Willie Harper, was one of those who joined the Selma March.

Crossin’ the Edmund Pettus Bridge

WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

Named for a Confederate general
Who has all but faded from history
That bridge is a landmark of a struggle
Where slave descendants took a step towards victory

It’s only fifty miles from Selma to Montgomery
But that’s not really how far it is
It was a hundred year long journey
Crossin’ the Edmund Pettus Bridge

Celsie Monroe was a slave woman
Her great-grandson was William Crawford Harper
He was just a few miles from that plantation
When he stood with the hundreds of other marchers

It’s only fifty miles from Selma to Montgomery …

Four girls were bombed in Birmingham
“The eagle stirs her nest”
Jimmy Lee Jackson shot down in Marion
Willie Harper was on that bridge for justice

It’s only fifty miles from Selma to Montgomery …

© 2018 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP)

William Crawford Harper (1942-2001)

William Crawford Harper was the great-grandson of a woman born into slavery, Celsie Crawford Monroe (1844-1936 ).   Willie Harper would grow up just a few miles from the former plantation where Celsie lived,  however he would join one of the landmark events of the civil rights era, the march from Selma to Montgomery (see song “Crossin’ the Edmund Pettus Bridge“).

William served in the Marines during the Vietnam War but came home and used his training to start an electronics business.  He married Corinne Morgan and they had one son, Morgan Harper. Morgan married Rosa Blanton, and they had three children, including one son Crawford Harper (1987).

Willie Harper always knew that his great-grandmother, Celsie, was half-white, and had given birth to a son Tully Tate in 1866 from her common law marriage to a white man, Joshua Tate.  Tully Tate married the illegitimate daughter (Pearl Robison) of a Louisiana prostitute (Ruby Robison) and Confederate soldier (Levi Motts) (see songs “Levi Motts is My Name” and “Fannin Street“).

The Harpers had lost track of the Tate side of the family.  But Willie Harper’s grandson, Crawford Harper, would end up coming into to contact with descendants from the white side of the family, Vernon and Donald Raney, in Meridian Mississippi, which is just across the state line from Demopolis, Alabama, where Crawford was living in 2007.

Unfortunately the Raneys were not exactly upstanding individuals.  Their family had  been involved in making moonshine, bootlegging and later drug distribution ever since Lonsom Raney established his copper pot still in the early 19th century in north Georgia.  Later members of the family moved to Mississippi (see songs “Lonsom Raney 1828” and “’57 Fleetwood to Memphis“).

Crawford and the Raney brothers would join up for a period of time which would have greatly disturbed Willie Harper, who had tried to instill only the highest values in his children and grandchildren.  However, Willie never lived to see how his grandson turned out, dying in 2001 from a heart attack.

Celsie Crawford Monroe (1844-1936)

Celsie Crawford Monroe (1844-1936) was born into slavery but was freed by Will Monroe, a wealthy white planter and her father, in 1863 as a result of Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

Celsie’s mother, Jessie Crawford (1828-1905), was a slave from a neighboring plantation of whom Will Monroe had grown quite fond. Monroe made sure Jessie was provided for and also insisted that she be freed in 1863 by paying off her owner Carson Crawford.

Celsie was what was called a “yellow gal”, and quite beautiful.  Once she was freed at age 19, Celsie began seeing a white man, Joshua Tate (1828-1867), and their relationship developed into a common law marriage, although the possibility of such a union was denied at the time.

The Tates were a wealthy Alabama family held in high regard and Joshua’s indiscretion was of course never openly acknowledged by the family and surrounding community, although everyone knew of it and the child it eventually produced.

Joshua was nominally a lawyer handling cotton trades and other mercantile business for the planters. But as was the custom for sons of his class, his hours were at his own instigation. Although he made a daily trip to town, he might only spend an hour or two in the afternoon in his office, often asleep on the leather couch sitting against the wall, next to the large hearth fire.

After the War, Republican “carpetbaggers” entered the former Confederacy and worked to overturn every vestige of slavery and the old ways at every turn; Alabama was no exception.  These men were hated since they were seen as enemy outsiders, and interlopers and exploiters who added insult to the injury of losing the war.  It was during this turbulent period that Joshua Tate was murdered in 1867 in his second floor office by a man with a three barreled derringer pistol, while Joshua was relaxing on the couch with a volume of Homer.

Some said the motivation behind the killing was Tate’s relationship with Celsie Monroe; others said he was killed because of his covert support of the Republicans.  Still a few others said he was killed by a carpetbagger.  However, no one was ever accused much less arrested and convicted of Josh Tate’s murder.

Tate lingered for two days before dying, leaving Celsie with a son, Tullison Monroe Tate (1866-1948). Tully Tate was one-quarter African-American, light-skinned and who would marry a white woman and whose descendants would all be considered white, Tully’s blood becoming less and less present with each successive generation.

In 1872 Celsie’s first official marriage was to a African-American man, Jesse Harper (1850-1922), and Celsie and Jesse enjoyed a long and happy union, raising four children, seven grandchildren, and many great-grandchildren. However, Celsie’s oldest child, Tully, was raised by his spinster Aunt Ruth, his father’s sister.

One of Celsie’s great-grandchildren, William Crawford Harper (1942-2001), marched from Selma to Montgomery in 1965 (see song “Crossin’ the Edmund Pettus Bridge“). Willie Harper lived to see most of the Jim Crow laws reversed even as the stubborn stain of racism remained.

“Out on Cross Lake”

Mike Broussard and Jake McLemore were friends with D.W. Washington.  Today they are out at Cross Lake, just outside Shreveport, drinking, fishing, and remembering D.W. after burying their friend earlier that same day.

Out on Cross Lake
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

Out on Cross Lake rain is fallin’ down
Out on Cross Lake rain is fallin’ down
Today we laid D.W. in the ground
Out on Cross Lake rain is fallin’ down

Ol’ D.W. was a pretty good guy
Ol’ D.W. was a pretty good guy
No one can tell me why he had to die
Ol’ D.W. was a pretty good guy

Out on Cross Lake passin’ a bottle around
Out on Cross Lake passin’ a bottle around
Today we laid D.W. in the ground
Out on Cross Lake passin’ a bottle around

D.W. worked for Mike forty year
D.W. worked for Mike forty year
Mike’s lookin’ in the tub for another beer
D.W. worked for Mike forty year

Out on Cross Lake th’ sun is goin’ down
Out on Cross Lake th’ sun is goin’ down
Today we laid D.W. in the ground
Out on Cross Lake th’ sun is goin’ down

Now D.W. was a good ol’ boy
Yeah D.W. was a good ol’ boy
Even if he was born in Detroit
D.W. was a good ol’ boy

Out on Cross Lake rain is startin’ to pour
Out on Cross Lake rain is startin’ to pour
Might as well go in, they ain’ bitin’ no more
Out on Cross Lake rain is startin’ to pour

© 2018 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP)

Cole Lucas Broussard (1946-1965)

Cole Lucas “Luke” Broussard was the older brother of Mike Broussard, and both were born in Vivian, Louisiana; Luke two years older than Mike. Luke and Mike were descendants of Confederate soldier Coleman Broussard (1842-1910).

Although they were born in Vivian their father moved the family moved to the “big city” of Shreveport in 1953, and one of the first things their father did was buy a new car, a Studebaker Champion.

Studebaker

As soon as he could, Luke learned to drive that car and he would drive around Shreveport, often taking his younger brother Mike along. Coming from Vivian, Shreveport offered what seemed to them a world of exciting things to do, and Luke introduced most of them to Mike (see song “Shreveport, 1963“).

Things like going to the Cub drive-through liquor store and buying some whiskey which they’d put in a Coke. I guess the Cub’s management figured if you were old enough to drive, then you were old enough to drink.  However, in Shreveport in 1963, a sixteen year old was old enough to drive.

Luke and Mike would also cross the Red River and go to the Bossier strip because of all the bars and clubs.  Places like the Orbit Lounge, the Kickapoo, the Shindig, Sak’s Whisk-A-Go-Go, and many offered exotic dancers.  During the ’50s and ’60s it was a little Las Vegas.

One of the milder things they’d do was play pool, their favorite game was “cutthroat”.  Cutthroat involves three players who each divide up the balls 1-5, 6-10, 11-15 and the first to sink the other two player’s balls, while keeping his on the table, wins.  They got pretty good at hustling guys from Barksdale Air Force base, who never seemed to catch on to the fact that Mike and Luke were brothers, playing two against one.

They also loved eating the local foods, onion rings at the Kokomo, Strawn’s strawberry icebox pie and Southern Maid donuts.

If they had nothing else to do they would park out at the airport and watch the planes take off and land, and if they were really bored they’d drive to Longview, Texas, late at night.  Mike loved it when out of nowhere they’d see the Eastman chemical refinery all lit up like a magical city, reflected in the reservoir water.

Both Luke and Mike served in Vietnam, Luke received his induction notice shortly after turning eighteen.  He had been dating a girl, Cherie Shnexnaidre, but they had not married yet.  Just before reporting Luke and Cherie visited a justice of the peace and tied the knot. Cherie had gotten pregnant and they wanted to be married when she gave birth.  A son, Cody Cole, was born in 1965 just before Cherie got the telegram informing her of Luke’s death.

Mike was also drafted two years later, but he came back unharmed and lived a long life back in Vivian where he operated a Texaco gas station and repair shop. Mike took up the role of surrogate father to Cody Cole and later, when Cody was around sixteen, hired him to work at the filling station (see the song “Sarge“).

Mike never forgot those Shreveport summers and that was how he chose to remember his big brother Luke.

“Shreveport, 1963”

Mike Broussard recalls how he and his brother Luke spent summers in Shreveport during the 1960s.  Mike was 15 and Luke was 17, a few years before each would go off to fight in Vietnam.

Shreveport, 1963
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

Twenty-five cent a gallon gasoline
’53 Studebaker, three on the tree
The Kokomo drive-in onion rings
Shreveport, 1963

Strawberry icebox pie at Strawn’s
My big brother Luke and me
Southern Maid donuts at dawn
Shreveport, 1963

The radio dial was set to KEEL or KOKA
Windows down, crusin’ the streets
“Louie, Louie” and “Surfin’ USA”
Shreveport, 1963

The Cub drive-through liquor store
A couple of Coke’s and a pint of Jim Beam
Watchin’ the planes at the airport
Shreveport, 1963

My brother Luke died in ‘Nam
Time seemed to stop for me
No matter where I am
It’s Shreveport, 1963

The radio dial was set to KEEL or KOKA
Windows down, crusin’ the streets
“Louie, Louie” and “Surfin’ USA”
Shreveport, 1963

© 2018 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP)

Clara Sprague Robison (1911-1993)

Clara Sprague Robison was born in the mountains of north Georgia, in early 1911.  Her father was a sustenance farmer but after a series of deaths from influenza in the early 1920s, first her younger brother then her father, the family fell on hard times. Eventually, a fellow from off the mountain heard about their situation and stopped by their farm one day on his way back after delivering a piece of furniture to offer this help.  This was Johnny Campbell, a local carpenter and general handyman who lived in the valley.

There was an attraction felt immediately between Clara and Johnny but they did nothing to act on what they both felt, initially somewhat scared of the power of the emotions.  It wasn’t until he came to her mountain church, a not insignificant journey, did Clara allow her feelings to grow into love (see song “A River Running Wild“).

Clara and Johnny would soon marry and have three children, Marcus, Nora and Emily before Johnny is killed in WWII.

Clara is the great-grandaunt of Pearl Robison.

“A River Runnin’ Wild”

This story takes place in Conyers, Georgia, early 1933.  Clara Sprague Robison (1911-1993) sees her future husband, Johnny Campbell (1905-1944), at church one Sunday.  Clara had met Johnny before, but only briefly, and she knew he lived off the mountain. The fact that he came to her church as opposed to the one he regularly attended was significant to her, letting her know that he made the trip specifically to see her.  Clara is the great-grandaunt of Pearl Robison. Clara and Johnny would have three children, Marcus, Nora and Emily before Johnny is killed in WWII.

A River Busting Free
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

Johnny came to our church that Sunday,
Him on the mountain was a surprise
I’d have to walk right past him
Lord I thought I might die

I seen the look in his eye
Like there was no one but him and me
Something rose up in my heart
Like a river runnin’ wild busting free

Johnny touched his new wool cap
As I hurried past him up the steps
All through the preachin’ I felt his eyes
On the back of my neck

I seen the look in his eye …

Soon as the service was over
Goin’ outside filled me with dread
Johnny took my hand, we started walkin’
I couldn’t tell you a word of what we said

I seen the look in his eye …

© 2018 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP)