Saturday, February 24, 2018

Lula Arterberry Jackson

Lula Arterberry Jackson, my Great Grandmother

I've waited a long time to write this post about my Great Grandmother Lula Arterberry Jackson, mostly because I wanted to make sure I had more than just her obituary as reference material. In addition to doing research, I sat with her memory for a few years, and I also painted her portrait. I did what I could to understand more about who she was, since I only had one photo of her, and an obituary.

Lula was born January 1st, 1871 in Smith County, Texas. Her parents were Harrison and Saphronia Whisnant. In 1889 she married Jefferson Arterberry, and they had 11 children: Samuel, Morris, Lucille, Fletcher, Lillie, John, Lorenza, Callie, Nancy, Reuben, and one more whose name I'm still trying to track down. Lula was very active in her church, Spring Chapel C.M.E. in Arp, Texas, as well as in the community. Here's my favorite anecdote from her obituary in The Tyler Leader:
"Beginning back in 1912, she and her late husband Jefferson Arterberry would travel to and fro by wagon transporting farm products to Texas College to help their children and others. Mrs. Jackson was one of the old pioneer builders of Texas College,  which continued to educate her children through the [19]30's."

Jefferson Arterberry passed away in August of 1916, and Lula later remarried to James E. Jackson. Both Jefferson and James have "farmer" listed as their occupation in census documents. Lula owned land in Overton, Texas, and according to some family members, she was also a midwife.

It's fortunate that my family's Texas roots are in Smith County, because there are some very active genealogists in the area documenting and sharing a lot of the history. I recently found this TXGENWEB Project  site with many resources related to African American life in Smith County. I'm grateful to the volunteers who've worked so hard to put all that information together. I'd eventually like to visit Smith County to do some more research.

My Great Grandmother was a prominent figure in her community, so her life was well documented. Tracking down information on her parents Harrison and Saphronia Whisnant has been much harder. Saphronia (in some records her name is spelled Sophrona) was born in South Carolina,  and her  maiden name was Sophrona Elmira Tally. In some records her birthplace is listed as "Indian Nation," and Google searches of her name always lead me to lengthy roll lists of names for members of the Cherokee Nation, but so far I haven't found her name on any of the rolls. Lula's father Harrison Whisnant was born in Alabama sometime between 1846 and 1851. It was common during slavery to not have exact records of when people were born, and sometimes approximate dates are the only information available. One of the most helpful resources I've found for tracing this branch of my family tree is the Whisnant Surname Center. Raymond Whisnant has extensively researched and documented this surname and all its variations. If you're tracing the Whisnants, make sure to go to Raymond's site and document what you need, because the site is going offline July 4th, 2018.

I'm still at the very beginning of learning about my paternal family history, so I'm glad this side of the family has some amazing genealogists who have paved the way for me.