Vernon Raney (1911-1997)

Vernon was the first Raney to grow to adulthood in Mississippi, the rest of the Raney family settled in north Georgia as early as 1748 when Thomas Rainey, Lonsom’s grandfather was born (Lonsom would later change the spelling, dropping the “i” from the name).

The first Raney, Lonegan, a Scots-Irish immigrant, entered colonial America in 1743 at Virginia as an indentured servant. As soon as he was released from his labor, five years later, he traveled, with his pregnant wife, through the Appalachian mountains eventually settling in the north Georgia mountains.  His first son, Thomas, was born in a small log cabin in December 1748.  The Raney family always made whiskey and in fact the copper bowl still they used was brought to America by Lonegan.

Vernon made one major change in the moonshine, he began to age it in oak barrels, producing a more refined product which he sold to Memphis big shots at a premium price.  Vernon remained a bachelor until the age of 49 when he married Molly Motts, just 23 years old, and pregnant with their first son, Lonsom, or Lonnie as he was known.

gettyimages-109913282Molly Raney was an ambitious young woman, seeing that the bootlegging business was doomed as liquor laws were repealed making it easy to purchase whiskey.  She also realized that the younger generation was interested in marijuana and other recreational drugs.  Her oldest, Lonnie, became the county sheriff, the other son, Ronnie became Maggie’s right hand man in their drug distribution business.  Molly oversaw the entire distribution network as Ronnie handled the day-to-day operations.  They moved large amounts of pot and meth all through Mississippi and Memphis, with Lonnie responsible for insulating the enterprise from law enforcement.

Over the decades from 1957 through the ‘70s Vernon became more and more detached from day-to-day reality, turning a blind eye to Molly’s drug business while he continued to make small batches of his whiskey and selling a little but mainly giving it away to a group of his old friends who would gather at his old mountain cabin drinking, playing cards or dominoes; smoking cigars or spitting tobacco juice on pot-bellied stove and telling tall tales.

In the spring of 1997, at the age of 85 Vernon Raney died in his sleep after producing the last of his tobacco gold whiskey.

Mildred Motts Hooper

Mildred Motts Hooper was born in Tallulah, Louisiana in 1944, the half sister of Molly Motts Raney. Mildred married Leon Hooper and had one son, Levi Hooper, and passed away in 2014 at the age of 69 just before her 70th birthday.

Mildred liked to cook and crochet and was happy as a homemaker.  One of her favorite dishes to prepare was baked cheese grits which she would serve with breaded pork chops and homemade rolls.

She and Leon were married in 1963 shortly before Leon was shipped off to Vietnam.  When Leon returned from his tour of service they settled down in Jackson, Mississippi where Leon worked as a welder and they raised their only son, Levi, who was born in 1973.

However, Leon only lived another two years, dying in 1975, and Levi had no memories of his father.  To help make ends meet Mildred began to sell items from her home, establishing a thrift store at her residence.

Mildred passed away in 2014 after suffering a stroke.

Leon Hooper

Leon Hooper made a good living as a welder and hardly spoke of his war years.  However, he was quietly proud of his Marine service, first in the infantry in Korea later in a support unit in Vietnam, and kept in touch with his buddies from the war.  Leon did not drink hard liquor as a rule, but on those occasions when he got together with his Marine buddies, mostly those who were with him in Korea, he would have a few shots of  bourbon and turn a bright shade of red if the talk became bawdy.

Leon was born in Jackson, Mississippi and lived his entire life there with his wife, Mildred, and son, Levi.  He did not see Levi grow up, however, because Leon died in 1975 just two years after Levi was born.

Leon would repair bicycles and give them to the neighborhood kids and he also created steam powered folk art which he would roll out and run on the Fourth of July each year.

 

Mike “Sarge” Broussard

Mike “Sarge” Broussard  (1936-2014).  Great-great grandson of Coleman Broussard (1842-1910).  Born and lived entire life in Vivian, Louisiana except for the period when he was in the service (1968-1970). Served in the Vietnam War, honorably discharged with the rank of sergeant.  Owned filing station/auto repair shop in Vivian.  Has a daughter, Eva Broussard.

Mike comes from an old Louisianan Cajun family that first settled in Natchitoches, Louisiana in the late 18th century.  Later the family made its way north to Shreveport, then Vivian.  Coleman Broussard, MIke’s great-great-grandfather, was the cousin of Levi Motts who died during the Civil war, at the Battle of Mansfield, leaving behind his pregnant fiancée, Ruby Robison.  Coleman decides to ask Ruby to marry, a proposal she accepts, in order to legitimize his cousin’s child and they go on to have several more children.  These were Mike’s direct ancestors.

The Acadians, who descended from sturdy French peasant stock, originated during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in a colony known as Acadia in the present-day Canadian province of Nova Scotia. By the time Acadia fell to British control in 1713, the Acadians had become a close-knit, clannish, and culturally distinct group of French-speaking folk who had fashioned their own identity. But once the Acadians became British subjects, and for decades thereafter, they experienced continuing problems with their British overlords. In an effort to end these difficulties, Great Britain began a forced exportation program after the Acadians refused to take oaths of allegiance. The authorities relocated thousands of Acadians against their will in various colonies, including those of the Atlantic coast and the Caribbean. This mass movement, known in Acadian history as the dérangement, separated entire families.

cajun dispersion map

The migrating Acadians did not arrive in Louisiana as their initial destination, but some of them eventually found their way to the lower Mississippi from other New World colonies to which they had been exiled by the British. Thousands of Acadians arrived in Louisiana during the 1770s and 1780s. The Spanish government provided them with material assistance in establishing their farms. Most of the Acadians settled to the west of the Mississippi River in the bayou areas along the southwestern prairie. There they soon developed a unique rural lifestyle based on hunting and farming. The French inhabitants already in the colony shunned them, most likely because the Acadians appeared to them as unsophisticated and simple folk. These Acadians became the forebears of today’s Louisiana Cajuns.

Mike Broussard enlisted in the army during the Vietnam war and rose to the rank of sergeant.  He was good with cars and was assigned to the transport unit and served with distinction.  After the war he came back to Louisiana and opened a Texaco filling station and repair shop, which he ran for over forty years.

 

He had one daughter, Eva, with whom he became estranged but not because of anything he did.  However, he never knew his granddaughter.

Sarge lived a long and productive life, consistently honoring the service of military vets, dying in 2014.

D.W. Washington

Dwight Wayne Washington was born and spent his early life in Detroit, Michigan. He was drafted into the Army in 1964 when he turned 18 and was sent to Vietnam.  Eventually he was assigned to the 515th Transportation Company in Cam Ranh Bay under Sergeant Mike Broussard.  Here he learned just about all there was to know about repairing cars and motors.

D.W. Washington2

 

Instead of going back to Detroit, D.W. decided to move to Vivian and continued to work for Mike in his filling station and auto repair shop for the next 40 years.  D.W. and Mike were best friends despite D.W.’s tendency to get drunk most weekends forcing Mike to drive by his house on Monday morning and get him up for another week of work.

D.W. died in 2007 shortly before his 61st birthday from congestive heart failure.

Sonny Tate (1936-2003)

Sonny Tate (1936-2003) was born in Opalika, Alabama and displayed musical talent at an early age.  He could mimic Hank Williams from the age of eleven and would stand on his father’s bar and entertain the patrons who were delighted with the youngster’s uncanny ability.  Sonny would later go on to have something of a professional career as a country singer but never making it really big.

He performed on the Lousiana Hayride and even was invited to perform at the Opry for once when he had a Top-20 song but he he was never asked to join the Opry as a member.

After Sonny’s wife passed away, he was left to raise  his son Tully alone.  This he did despite still trying to carry on with his career as a singer.  Tully would travel with him and stand backstage as Sonny performed and was adopted by all the musicians and other performers something like a mascot.

Sonny outlived his son Tully who pre-deceased him in 1993 and is remembered as someone who could sing and sell a song but not hold his liquor. He is also remembered as a loving grandfather to Mike, Tully’s son, who lived with Sonny until 2003 when Sonny passed away and Mike moved to Nashville.

Mike inherited Sonny’ guitar and had some dreams of follwoing in Sonny’s footsteps as a country singer.

Eva Broussard

Eva Broussard was a troubled girl from a very young age.  Her parents worried about her spending long periods secluded in her room and not hearing a sound from behind her door.

They never knew about her intense love of books.  Yes, they knew she liked to read, and would take her to the library as often as she asked.  But they had no clear grasp of the kind of books she liked to read.  For example, she read and re-read Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood.”  In fact, she kept the book hidden under her bed, never returning it to the library.  She claimed that a boy threw the book out of the bus window while they were on the Red River bridge.  She saved her baby-sitting money and paid the library what they said she owed.

You could say Eva was precocious, sexually mature for her age.  She got herself pregnant before she was sixteen and decided to have the baby, a boy, whom she chose to name Colt.

Eva ran away when Colt was barely one year old, leaving the child to be raised by his grandparents, Mike and Ellen Broussard.  But after Eva’s marriage to Tully Tate, she brought the boy to live with her in Mobile, Alabama.

Eva and Tully also had twin girls a few years later.  Throughout these early years of her marriage, Eva would run off from time to time, forcing Tully to find her and bring her back, only to run off again a few weeks later.

Finally, Tully just gave up on her and let Eva go.

Tullison “Tully” Tate

Springhill, Louisiana

Tullison “Tully” Tate (1958-1993, Opelika, Alabama).

Ancestors: Jonathan Tate (1758-1833, Ulster, Ireland) Scots-Irish immigrant to colony of New York.  Joshua Tate (1828-1904, Marengo County, Alabama).  Tullison Tate (1852-1924, Marengo County, Alabama).  Hazel Tate (1886-1963, Linden, Alabama).  Joseph “Sonny” Tate (1936-2005, Opalika, Alabama).

Tully’s father was country singer Sonny Tate.  Tully married Eva Broussard (born Vivian, LA; father, Mike “Sarge” Broussard) who was an unstable woman and runs off repeatedly from the family home.   Initially after his marriage Tully and Eva lived in Mobile, Alabama but then they move with the kids to Hosston, Louisiana and he works at the Springhill pulp paper mill driving a timber truck.  Lifelong friends with the Broussard and Thibodaux families.

A good time hard-working family man, but who likes to drink and party.  His main problem in life is his marriage to Eva Broussard, who will disappear from time to time, leaving their kids unsupervised.  For years, Tully would track her down and bring her back home until finally, he gives up on her.  He continues to live in Hosston, although his job in Springhill ends when they shut down the paper mill.

Ruby Robison

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Ruby Robison (1843-1933).  Young prostitute on Fannin Street; has daughter, Pearl, with Confederate soldier Levi Motts.  After learning that Levi is killed at the Battle of Mansfield in April, 1864, Ruby marries his cousin Coleman Broussard and has four other children.

Ruby came to Shreveport during the Civil War, perhaps with Union troops up the Red River from New Orleans following the occupation of that city. Born in Ireland in 1845, her family may have been among the large numbers of Irish immigrants who sought refuge in America during the potato famines of the mid-nineteenth century.  She most likely resorted to prostitution as a means of survival.

Ruby had a room in one of the dozens of brothels in downtown Shreveport area around Fannin Street, but her life took an unexpected turn when she met Levi Motts.  Ruby and Levi began to have serious feelings for each other and Levi swore that he would find a way to get her out of the life she’d known as a prostitute.  But the war got in the way, sending Levi off to fight and die in the Battle of Mansfield.

Ruby had let Levi know of her pregnancy and she gave birth to a daughter in 1865, Pearl Robison.  Levi’s cousin, Coleman Broussard chose to marry Ruby and they had four children together.  However, Pearl would never use the name Broussard, preferring to keep Robison as her surname.

Levi Motts

levi motts

Levi Motts (1845-1864).  Young confederate soldier in love with Ruby Robison.  He fights and dies in Battle of Mansfield, April 8, 1964.

Ancestors:  Randall Motts (1752- 1821); Lucas Motts (1797-1875 ); Luther Motts (1820-1871).

Randall Motts was an Englishman who came to the Colonies in 1782, entering first at Pennsylvania and then making his way across the mountains into Alabama.  He amassed twelve sections of land planted for cotton and became quite wealthy.  His son Lucas headed west and settled in North Louisiana where he found land ideal for growing cotton and created his own large plantation.  Lucas was Levi’s grandfather.

Lucas’s son, Luther Motts, Levi’s father, was something of a ne’er-do-well.  Happy to live off his father’s largesse and not one to get his hands dirty, much less calloused, Luther spent his time playing cards, drinking and visiting the growing number of brothels in the new town of Shreveport.

Levi was nothing like his father and spent most of his time growing up being instructed by his grandfather in the ways of the world and how to conduct himself in business.  However, when the canons fired upon Fort Sumter, Levi volunteered in 1862 to fight in the Rebel cause.  Mustering out of Monroe, Louisiana in Colonel Henry Gray’s brigade, the Louisiana Gray’s, Levi eventually found his way, like his father, to the now quite busy red light district of Shreveport where he met and took up with one of the young sporting girls there, Ruby Robison.

Ruby and Levi defy the conventions of the time and begin a serious relationship with plans of marrying.  However, Levi’s company is called up to fight in the Trans-Mississippi campaign waged by the Union troops who are marching into Louisiana.  Gray’s brigrade is opne of the units in Gen. Robert Taylor’s army confronting Nathaniel Bank’s invading force at Mansfield.

While the Battle of Mansfield is a Confederate victory, Levi Motts is one a about a hundred men who died there on April 8, 1864.  As he goes into battle, Levi knows that Ruby is pregnant with their child, who is born in early 1865, a girl, Pearl who because of her illegitimate status will use the name Robison for most of her life.

Lucas Motts lives to bury both his son and grandson and watching as his the Mott family fortunes are destroyed by the war and Reconstruction.