Monday, May 5, 2008

"The rest of that story right in front of me"

Ever since North Across the River was published, it has been gratifying to learn from time to time how the book helped one family or another piece together "the rest of that story" about a family member who was deported by Yankees during the Civil War. Often, family stories have been handed down, but not a complete picture.

Back in April, I pulled an envelope from my post office box with a postmark from Bellmead, Texas. Inside was a wonderful letter from the great granddaughter of Elizabeth Sauls Scoggins, who is pictured here with her husband James in 1895. The picture may have been taken in Rome, Georgia.

"When just a little girl," the letter began, "I would listen for hours as my daddy would tell me stories of when he was a little boy. One such story was about his grandmother who had been kidnapped by the Yankees and taken up North. She would have been about twelve years old at that time. All my life these words haunted me. Why would they kidnap a little bitty thing like her who could have hardly been a threat to the huge Northern army? This simply did not make sense to me."

Kd Wade did some research and found that her great grandmother, Elizabeth Sauls, was one of six children born to Elizabeth Sewell and William Sauls of Jackson County, Georgia. When difficult times came and the family could not stay together, the children were sent to Marietta to live with various relatives. Ellizabeth lived with a family named Sorrell in Marietta. In 1869 she married James Scoggins (Scroggins), the son of a Marietta carpenter. The Scoggins family migrated to Texas in 1895.

Kd Wade learned that, after the chaos of the Civil War, Elizabeth had no idea what had happened to her siblings. Eventually, through a chance meeting with a doctor who had visited Atlanta, she was reunited with at least one of her brothers before her death in 1933.

Still, none of this information answered the question about the Yankee kidnapping story. Kd Wade traveled to Marietta, Georgia in 1999 to see what she could find out. At the Marietta Museum, no one could shed light on the Sauls family and what had happened to them.

"During our seemingly pointless conversation," Kd Wade wrote in her letter to me, "my eyes kept wandering back to a book displayed on the counter, North Across the River. At some point, I remember stopping abruptly in my questioning as the rest of the title hit home. 'A Civil War Trail of Tears.' As I began to leaf through, I could not believe what I held in my hands. Not only was I standing in the very spot that Granny had been taken by railcar to Louisville, but I had the rest of that story right in front of me. I could not put the book down the whole trip back to Texas."

Kd Wade noted that the story of Synthia Catherine Stewart Boyd, told in North Across the River, could easily have been the story of Elizabeth Sauls, too.

The letter ended with the information that Kd Wade's mother is 95 and loves history. The two of them are reading the book again and wanted me to know how much it has meant to them.

"Thank you for uncovering the information and making it available," Kd wrote. "I have no doubt that Divine Providence needed this story told."

I hope Kd Wade knows how much her letter has meant to me!

No comments: