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The overall mission statement of this blog is to share many unique topics of this blogger's interest; promoting though education the uniquely positive values of Southern history, heritage, and cultural identity. Topics include (but are not limited to):
Southern Cultural History & Confederate Heritage Awareness, Symbols Of Southern-American Identity & Their Moral Defense, Nature & Wildlife Preservation, Science & Science Fiction, Astronomy & Planetary Photography, Literacy & Writing, Travel & Local Places Of Interest, Southern Cuisine, South Carolina Upstate History, Popular Culture & Philosophy, Local History of the South Carolina Upstate ....as well as various other topics explained from the blogger's point of view. The following website contains the UNCENSORED thoughts and opinions of a Southern-born country writer from upstate South Carolina - the living, beating heart of the great American Southland! Please enjoy and feel free to post comments, or contribute to this blog in any meaningful way.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Female Black Confederate Pensioner of Color and Descendants Honored By SC Legislature

From left to right: SC Representative Bill Hixon, R-North Augusta; SC Senator Tom Young, Jr., R-Aiken; Toretha Corley-Wright, great-granddaughter; Linda Seawright, Robert L. Seawright, great-great-grandson; Dr. Walter B. Curry, Jr., great-great-great-grandson; Pastor Virgin Bynem of Harvest of Love Ministries in Salley, SC; SC Senator Nikki Setzler, D-Lexington; Authur Seawright, great-great-grandson; Brandon Seawright, great-great-great-grandson; and Alphonso Thompson, great-grandnephew.
(Photo courtesy of the Aiken Standard.)

Black Confederate Veterans themselves -- as previously mentioned on this blog -- are rare. Female veterans of the War Between The States on either side are even more so. An African-American female who served in a Confederate unit and was recognized as a veteran for the Southern armies, well folks, that is about as rare as it gets. 

On Tuesday, February 21st, the South Carolina Senate and members of the SC Division Sons of Confederate Veterans (SC SCV) and SC United Daughters of the Confederacy (SC UDC) presented a resolution to the family of Lavinia Corley Thompson, of Salley, SC. 

The South Carolina Divisions of The Sons and Daughters of Confederate Veterans supported the resolution along with the S.C. African-American Chamber of Commerce, he added. The Chamber's President Stephen Gilchrist also supported the resolution. 

According to research conducted by the Old Edgefield District Genealogical Society, Corley Thompson is currently the only known female Black Confederate Veteran and "Pensioner of Color" in the State of South Carolina. 

The resolution recognizing Thompson's service was presented to SC State Senator Nikki Setzler, D-Lexington by Dr. Walkter Curry of Columbia, Thompson's great-great-great-grandson who was conducting research on the woman he called "Grandma Viney." He said after learning more about her life, he and other family members found her story to be remarkable and also believed that Thompson's service deserved recognition. 

He is correct on both counts. 

Lavinia Thompson was born on June 3, 1844 to Robert Staley and Phillis Corley, according to information provided by the Old Edgefield District Genealogical Society. 

Thompson served as a cook attached to one Sam Webb who was attached to Company A, 1st Regiment SC Reserves. Thompson served as the cook and possibly a forager for a unit of Co. A from September 1, 1863 till the end of the war in April 1865. 

Even if her service was in camp, it could have been treacherous because of possible cannon fire coming from the other side. Such positions were sometimes just as much in the line of fire as if they were on the battlefield itself. She is believed to have possibly helped tend to wounded members of Company A and served as a nurse in the field hospital. Such duties were usual for those Black Confederates who were an integral part of many Confederate units throughout the War Between the States. Many of these even joined into battle along with their Confederate unit on occasions after picking up a fallen rifle. Some cooks and foragers were usually armed with pistols for hunting game for the stew pot. 

There is no indication that Miss Thompson actually took up a fallen weapon against the Union, though the rest of her service as a cook and nurse would have qualified her for a Confederate pension after the war. 

"We're actively collecting information about all of the African-Americans we can find that served in the war in any capacity, because we consider them to be Confederate veterans," said Tonya Guy of the Old Edgefield District Genealogical Society. "We have all these fabulous stories that come out of the war. It is an unsung part of our heritage that we would really like to explore and make known that these people are heroes in our eyes."

Although South Carolina provided a short-lived disability compensation in 1866 and pension relief for formally enlisted Confederate soldiers in 1887, the State did not recognize the service of African-American Confederate Veterans for a long time.

The legislation known as "An Act to Provide for the Pensions for certain faithful Negroes who were engaged in the service of the State in the War between the States" (Act 63)[1] was finally approved on March 16, 1923, nearly 58 years after the end of the war. By this time many many of these Black Confederates were long dead. 

A year later in 1924, the act was amended to include only those South Carolina residents who served at least six months in a Confederate unit as "cooks, servants, or attendants" excluding laborers, teamsters, and those who served from other Southern States, and laborers impressed or hired for work on the fortifications. This disqualified a large number of applicants.

Remember that during the War, black laborers (both slaves and free men of color) were hired or impressed to build the fortifications around Charleston, South Carolina, and other strategically important places. Their service was just as dangerous as any done by Confederate soldiers (whites or otherwise) who stood in a line of battle as they were under constant bombardment from Union cannon fire at time. Many died preforming these services. Excluding them from being able to apply for pensions -- especially those wounded in action for this service -- was a disgrace, as well as an ugly sign of the times for African-Americans during that time period in South Carolina and American history. 

Other former Confederate States, particularly the State of Tennessee, recognized the services of these Black Confederate Veterans and laborers and provided them compensation and pensions along with other Confederate Veterans after Reconstruction ended in 1876.  

Still, several hundred of these former Black Confederate Veterans from South Carolina began to receive pensions and recognition for their services, including Miss Thompson -- a sharecropper at the time with ten children -- who applied for her pension in 1923 and was approved. 

Confederate pension of Miss Lavinia Thompson.
(Photo courtesy of the
SC Dept. of Archives.)

Thompson died at the age of 84 on June 4, 1928 in Aiken County, Tabernacle Township and was buried at an unmarked grave at Smyrna Baptist Church in the same community. There are currently efforts underway by the SC SCV and others to locate her burial site and to get a Confederate tombstone for her grave.

Pictured back row, from left, are Pastor Virgil Bynem of Harvest of Love Ministries, Sailey, SC; Robert L. Seawright, great-grandson; Arthur L. Seawright, great-grandson; Reginal Miller, SC Division Sons of Confederate Veterans; and Brandon Seawright, great-great-great-grandson.
Pictured front row, from left, are SC Representative Bill Hixon, R-North Augusta; Toretha Corley-Wright, great-granddaughter; Ann Shugart, State President SC United Daughters of the Confederacy; Linda Seawright; Dr. Walter B. Curry Jr. great-great-great-grandson; Judy McCardle, 3rd VP SC Division UDC; Mary M. Bailey, registrar of the SC Division UDC; and Alphonso Thompson, great-grandnephew.
(Photo courtesy of the Aiken Standard.)

The services of Southern veterans like Lavinia Thompson and the thousands of other African-Americans who served in the Confederate military in service capacities -- and sometimes unofficially as soldiers -- deserve to be remembered honorably. The families of these men and women also deserve recognition as descendants of Confederate Veterans no different than any other. 

Until recently the stories of African-Americans and their important contributions to American society as a whole had been largely overlooked. Since the late 1970s, the stories of these Black Confederate Veterans have slowly been coming to public and national light, where before they were known only to close-knit communities and on a local level. 

This is why I am proud to call myself a member of the SC Sons of Confederate Veterans and a proud Confederate descendant. I am proud to be among those who understand today the old military motto: "No man get left behind." Nor should the memory of anyone who served honorably in defense of home and family ever be forgotten. To overlook one is to diminish the services of every one of these men and boys....and yes, women too. 

[1] South Carolina's African American Confederate Pensioners 1923-1925 by Alexia Jones Helsley, South Carolina Dept. of Archives and History. Pg. 7. ISBN#1-880067-46-1 

POST UPDATE!!! 03-24-2017

The following is the resolution passed by the SC General Assembly formally recognizing the service of Miss Lavinia Thompson as a Confederate Veteran: 

South Carolina General Assembly
122nd Session 2017-18
Senate Resolution S.329
Adopted January 31, 2017 


Whereas, the finding of Lavinia Thompson, an African-American female Confederate Veteran, was a remarkable discovery, and Betsy R. Bloomer was extremely generous to share her research and bringing the story to light; and 

Whereas, Livinia Thompson was born June 3, 1844 in Aiken County, South Carolina, daughter to Robert Staley and Phyllis Corley. In the census data, her name was spelled a variety of different ways and, at times, was also shortened to a nickname, such as Viney or Elviny; and

Whereas, census date generally concludes that Lavinia married Logan, a farmer, and kept a household with him of ten children to include daughter, Dora; daughter, Della; daughter, Carey; son, Willie; son, Robert "Free"; and Oscar; son, Governor; and daughter, Queen; and 

Whereas, after her husband died, Lavinia took on the role of farmer. Although she lived alone at this time, her sons, Governor, Robert "Free", and Oscar lived nearby with their families; and 

Whereas, Lavinia Thompson served the State of South Carolina as a cook in the Civil War, under Sam Webb, who was in Co. A, 1st Regiment, South Carolina Reserves. She served continuously from September 1, 1863 to the end of the War in 1865; and 

Whereas, Lavinia died at the venerable age of eighty-four on June 8, 1928 in Aiken County, Tabernacle Township and was buried in an unmarked grave at Smyrna Church. It is hoped that her final resting place will be found and a Confederate marker placed on it to mark where this remarkable and unique woman lies; and 

Whereas, although Lavinia Thompson may not have taken up arms, her life was placed in jeopardy, and she suffered the same hardships as all of the soldiers. Her story and her life deserve commemoration. Now, therefore, 

Be it resolved by the Senate this 31st Day of January, 2017. 

Visiting The Schiele Museum of Natural History and Planetarium

While we were in Gastonia following the Rally To The Colors, we decided to take the opportunity to visit one of the best points of interest in the area and indulge in my personal love for natural history and science.  

The Schiele Museum of Natural History was built in 1961 and founded by Mr. Randolph "Bud" Schiele and his wife Lily Hobbs Schiele, both of them naturalists and worldwide collectors of animal and mineral specimens. 

Because it is located about a mile from Interstate 85, over 100,000 visitors from all over the United States and North America visit The Schiele Museum every year. This blogger highly recommends that anyone planning a trip that goes near Gastonia to take the time to stop over for an hour or so and visit, especially if you have children who love Dinosaurs -- the very first thing someone sees going into the entrance is a massive T-Rex skeleton! 

The "Wankel Rex" or "Devil Rex" was discovered in Hell Creek sediments on an island in the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge in 1988 by Montana rancher Kathy Wankel. At the time it was the largest discovered species of Tyrannosaurus rex

The skeleton on display at The Schiele Museum is one of the casts made of the original skeleton owned by the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana. Other casts of the Wankel Rex are on display at: The University of California Museum of Paleontology in Berkley,  The National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, and The Australian Fossil and Mineral Museum in Bathurst, New South Wales

Interesting note: it was determined by paleontologists that the Wankel Rex was only 18 years old when it died -- an adult but not fully grown! WOW!

In addition to the impressive Wankel Rex skeleton, The Schiele Museum also houses thousands of specimens of stuff and living creatures from across North America and the world, as well as the natural history from the Piedmont area of North Carolina. 

There are many permanent exhibits that tell the stories of not only the natural history of the North Carolina Piedmont, but also the biodiversity of North America from the tundra of Alaska to the Sonora Desert of the Southwestern US and Mexico. Also featured is a hall of Native American history featuring a great exhibit of Native American artifacts, a North Carolina hall that displays the various regions of North Carolina, and a huge wildlife of North America gallery.  

The Schiele Museum is also home to the James H. Lynn Planetarium which updated projection equipment that provides an immersive, high-definition visual experience. The planetarium itself features various visual shows, educational films, as well as impressive views of the stars and constellations in the night sky. This experience is truly worth the extra price in the 156 seat domed planetarium. 

Finally, no trip to The Schiele Museum is complete without a walk along the 0.7 mile nature trail that features several interesting natural and historical and Southern cultural heritage of the North Carolina Piedmont. This includes an outstanding replica Catawba Indian village that interprets 400 years of history from pre-European colonial times, to the 19th century from prehistoric bark-covered huts to log cabins. A Stone Age heritage display site complete with standing stones, stone circles, earthen burial mound, rock cairn and petroglyphs. An 18th century backcountry farm complete with gristmill, which on certain days of the year features local Revolutionary War era living history re-enactors depicting everyday life for European settlers.  

There is even a pond with a park for the kids, a gazebo to relax under, and even a Little Free Library and benches for children and adults who want to read outdoors.  

The following are the photos taken by this blogger and my brother Roy "Sharky" Wallen during our visit to The Schiele Museum. 

A beautifully depicted Native-American themed statue "Aspiration To Flight" greets visitors near the entrance to The Schiele Museum.
The king of the dinosaurs!
Yours truly standing next to the fossilized femur of the famous
Sauropod Apatosaurs a native of North America during
the Late Jurassic Period about 152 million years ago (mya)
....er, give or take a few centuries.
The Learning Center.
A bronze display of some of my favorite local critters.
My brother Roy meets a new friend.
Roy standing at the display featuring the life of Mr. Randolph "Bud" Schiele
one of the founders of the museum.
The Schiele Museum has an outstanding gift shop.
Entrance to the James H. Lynn Planetarium.
A very artistic tabletop just outside the entrance.
A Little Free Library stands near the decorative benches by the playground
and pond area for both children and their parents alike to enjoy.

Overall a very rewarding and educational couple hours, well worth the trip and the time to stop and look. 

I hope that y'all enjoyed taking this trip with me and my brother, but I would encourage any of you traveling in the area of Gastonia, North Carolina to stop over and visit The Schiele Museum for yourselves and see these and other wonderful things.  

The Schiele Museum of Natural History is located at 1500 E. Garrison Blvd. in downtown Gastonia. Click on the link at the top of this blog post to visit their website. 

Please leave a comment below about this post, or any question you may have about anything mentioned here. 

Y'all have a great day.