Monday, December 31, 2007

The Ghosts of Christmas Past.....

I remember hearing stories from my Aunt Cousin Lizzie Neal Bagley of the Christmas' that she enjoyed in the 1920's and 30's. I call her my cousin Aunt Cousin Lizzie although she was really a cousin but she was so much older than me and it seems odd to me to refer to her sometimes as cousin when she was the first cousin of my great-grandmother, Annie Bell Johnson Green. Their mothers, Jane Green Neal and Elizabeth Green Brown were sisters.

Ironically, Aunt Cousin Lizzie Bagley referred to my great-grandmother as Cousin-Auntie Lou because she was much older than her and seemed more like a aunt than a cousin.

Anyway, back to her Christmas stories. Aunt Cousin Lizzie shared many stories with me of what Christmas was like during her childhood in rural Plain Dealing, Louisiana area. She told me how excited she and her brothers would get about the upcoming holiday.

She said that back in those days, they did not have Christmas trees like we do now. Rather, her father Ephraim Neal, Sr. would go out in the woods and cut down a holly berry tree and put it it the house with hollies still in tack. There were typically no ornaments or lights to adorn just the natural beauty of the bright red holly seeds with the decorative shaped leaves.

Her father, Ephraim would "put up" a turkey or pig, meaning that he contained in a pen about a month before Christmas and feed it only corn or grain in order to cleanse it out and make it more consumable for the upcoming holiday.

She also spoke of how my "Big Mama Anne Bell Green" who was a great cook by all accounts would come spend the whole week of Christmas with her family and cook up all these scrumptuous dishes in preparation for the big occassion.

Aunt Cousin Lizzie said that they would often smoke a turkey or ham and "Big Mama" would glaze and cook it to perfection! She would also cook collard greens, green beans, black eyed peas and other vegetables obtained from their garden. She would make up hot water cornbread and/or skillet cornbread, macoroni and cheese and a flavorful cornbread dressing that would make you want to slap your mama! But, you had better not try it, because those sisters did not play in those days!

Dessert would include her home made sweet potato and pecan pies, lemon pound cake and a 3 layer coconut cake that she beat until her arm got tired. Aunt Cousin Lizzie had me salivating so much, I ended up preparing that coconut cake myself one Christmas and it was the hit of the day!

When Christmas morning finally arrived, there would be a gift under that holly berry tree for everyone. Usually, the gifts would include one toy for child-a doll for the girls and truck for the boys and a brand new suit of clothes or shoes.

The main joy came from the presence of family and giving thanks to God for his many blessings. After dinner, they would go to Church and give thanks and praise to God for sending his Son.

What a wonderful Christmas! I will be forever grateful to my late Aunt Cousin Elizabeth(Lizzie)Neal Bagley for sharing her wonderful Christmas story and I will do my best to past it down to future generations so that they too can experience her Christmas.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Christmas 2007

Christmas has come and gone. It was a wonderful celebration. For me, it was a wonderful day. I arose early that morning to enjoy various television celebrations of Christ across the globe and a production of the Nutcracker on Ice followed by the Disney Christmas Parade.

I then proceeded to prepare the meal that was to be enjoyed later on that day. My menu included Spiral sliced ham, collard and mixed greens w/smoked turkey, cornbread dressing, macoroni and cheese, yams, corn and a green salad. This was a light dinner by past Christmas standards.

This year, I preferred a small intimate occasion and dinner rather than the big "Hoopla" that ensues most Christmas.

My son arrived in the early afternoon bearing gifts for his Mom and was most gratified by the ones he received. He has evolved into such a handsome and mature young man who has in head on straight for his age.

We later went to my mother's house for more food and dessert and to watch movies. My niece and her family joined us later in the evening and we enjoyed each other's company. We returned home in the early evening in light rain.

Christmas, this year was a time to reflect on my life in past years and of my goals and priorities for the coming year. It was also a time to celebrate the birth of Christ and remember the ultimate sacrifice that he paid for me and the world!
It was a time to count my blessings and be glad for all that God has allowed to do and see.

Christmas in this country has become so commercialized. It is sad to me that most people, especially our youth don't know the true meaning of Christmas. They do not know or remember that Christmas is meant to commemorate the birth of Christ and how God in his mercy and grace sent his only begotten son born of the virgin, Mary to save the world from sin and death.

Many do not know that Christmas is a time to remember that eternal life became possible with the birth of Christ. Instead, they think it is all about snowmen, pine trees, ornaments and gifts. They don't realize that the true Gift that lasts a lifetime and beyond is the gift of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

So that was my Christmas. A time to remember how Christ was born so that we might all have life eternally.

So Mary Christmas to you and hope your Christmas was wonderful too.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Plain Dealing, Louisiana


Plain Dealing, Louisiana is a sleepy little town nettled amongst pine and Dogwood trees. It is located about 30 miles north of Shreveport, Louisiana in Bossier Parish.

It is the not too distant ancestral home of many of both my mothers'and fathers' relatives.

It was initially occupied by the Caddo Indians which is short for "Kadohadacho." They also occupied much of the adjoining Caddo Parish along the Red River and were well known for their beautiful leather goods, pottery and clothing.

History has it that they decided to sell their land and move further into Texas. It is more likely that they were forced out because of the appeal of the area for its natural springs and abundance of livestock.

Years later my mother and my Aunt Gladys spoke of how they as children in the 1940's often found remnants/artifacts of the Caddo indians previous presence in the area such as jewelry, pots and pans, bows and arrows, clothing and such that were often unearthed by their respective fathers when plowing during the planting season. My mother kept a lot of her finds but unfortunately it all burned in 1966 with my great-grandmother Anne Bell Green's house. However, her eyes still light up in awe when she remembers how beautiful those indian relics were.

According to the official history of Plain Dealing, In 1839 it was a vast, unsettled wilderness in 1839 when the Gilmers, who were among the first settlers of North Bossier Parish, arrived. George Oglethorpe Gilmer and his oldest son, James Blair Gilmer, bought from the United States Government thousands of acres of land on both sides of the Red River. Also, George O. Gilmer bought 5,000 acres a few miles from the Red River where he found beautiful rolling hills and pure springs.

The community of Plain Dealing was, for a short time, known as Guernshein, a name of a prominent stockholder in the railroad company. The name was soon changed to Plain Dealing after the Gilmer former Virginia plantation.

The area attracted many more families, most of them wealthy Plantation Owners from other southern states who brought with them their families, live stock and slaves.

The town was chartered April 24, 1890.

The Gilmers moved to and established Plain Dealing Plantation which was as mentioned previously was which was supposedly named for their golden rule of honesty and integrity.

Most of my ancestors and relatives arrived in the area as slaves of the Plantation Owners from South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, Virginia and other slave states.

Many labored in the fields and households of these slave owners for up to 25 years after they arrived in the area until slavery ended in 1865. Most remained and worked as sharecroppers, cooks, field hands, cotton pickers and the like until the mass exodus in the 1960's when most of them relocated to the big cities in California, Michigan and Missouri.

Present Day Plain Dealing still has a small town feel. The current population is about 1,048 as of July 2006.

In this town, there is love, beauty, honor, respect and good home cooking. The people are very warm and welcoming and hospitality is second only to a love of God and family values.

The homes are cozy and inviting and situated in a rural setting with many sprawling green acres, pastures, gardens and often times livestock.

Congratulations, Cousin Kelvin Cochran

I would like to send out a hearty congratulations to my cousin, former Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran of the Shreveport Fire Department. He has accepted a new position as Fire Chief of the Atlanta Georgia Fire Department and will head a department of 37 fire stations and 1,045 employees (sworn and non-sworn) as of January 2nd, 2008.

The City of Shreveport recently gave him a wonderful celebratory send-off and the Mayor declared it, Kelvin Cochran day!

He is also First Vice President of the International Fire Chiefs Association.

I just want to say how proud we are of you Kelvin. I know all your family in Shreveport will miss you but we are all so proud of you.

Thank you for representing the Brayboy, Jefferson, Hines, Pressley lines so well!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Reverend Anderson Burney

In Memory of Reverend Anderson Burney

My great-grandfather was Reverend Anderson Burney who was born in the Brundidge/Monticello/Tennille areas of Pike County, Alabama in 1866. He was the son of former slaves Prince and Jennie Burney. His father, Prince was born in Florida and his mother in Georgia. Prince was of African and Native American ancestry. Anderson was their first free-born child. Oh what a blessing he must have been!

Rev. Anderson Burney met and married the beautiful young Caroline Knox, the daughter of former slaves William and Louisa Knox also of Pike County, Alabama.

The couple relocated in the early 1900's with their children in tow to Plain Dealing, Louisiana. Their children were Katie, David, Paul, Bessie, Tessie, William and Fred.

God spoke to Anderson and led him to become an ordained Baptist Minister and Pastor of Egypt Hill Baptist Church in Plain Dealing, Louisiana.

I can only guess why Anderson was so eager to answer God's call. After all, he like many other African Americans had a lot to be thankful for. He had narrowly escaped being a slave since slavery only ended a year before his birth. God had brought an entire nation of slaves out of bondage and Anderson chose to tell his community and the world about it. And further that through faith and belief in Christ that eternal life and freedom was also there for the asking.

My father, Jewel Burney had many fond memories of attending the soul-stirring church sermons of his grandpa Anderson. Others have recounted stories of attending church at Egypt Hill including my late cousin Elizabeth (Lizzie) Neal Bagley. She also related that they held school there back in the 1920's to 1940's.

I have also heard many stories about his first lady, Caroline Knox Burney. She is described by all as a gentle, caring and loving spirit with always a kind word to say.

I did not know my grandfather in life but his memory was kept alive by his children and grandchildren who knew and loved him and knew of his passsion and dedication to the Lord.

I never had the privilege of hearing one of his powerful Sunday sermons but I am sure that as a vessel of the Lord God Almighty he helped bring a lot of souls to eternal life through Jesus Christ and that he himself is currently is the presence of the Lord.

Reverend Anderson Burney was called to Glory in April 1952. He is buried in Caldwell Cemetery in Plain Dealing, Louisiana.

Although, we did not meet in life, grandpa, it is my prayer that we shall someday we will meet in Heaven!

1 Colossians 25-29

25 Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God;

26Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:

27To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:

28Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus:

29Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.