Mississippi

Moncure Conway, Southern Abolitionist

Figuring out the racial views of white southerners who opposed the Confederacy can be difficult. It is tempting, for example, to interpret white nonslaveholders’ economic resentment of slaveholders as evidence that they opposed slavery itself, but the two sentiments often did not coincide.  And, even when nonslaveholders did express hatred of slavery, one must be careful not to equate that hatred with abolitionism, since relatively few southern whites actively worked to bring about its end. Certainly, deserting the Confederacy and/or joining the Union Army only rarely indicated that a Southern soldier embraced abolitionism. 

No such ambiguity, however, clouds our understanding of Moncure Conway (1832-1907), who both detested slavery and worked to bring about its end. I have been thinking a lot about Conway, one of the South’s best-known abolitionists, ever since administrators of the Moncure Conway Foundation invited me to give a talk there this coming March on Southern women and the Civil War.*   

Speaking on behalf of the Conway Foundaton in Fredericksburg, Virginia, seems a perfect setting for the presentation since my topic includes the antislavery Wesleyan Methodist community located in the heart of North Carolina’s Quaker Belt (the Randolph-Montgomery County area).  Despite differences of class and religion, Moncure Conway and North Carolina’s Wesleyan Methodists both exemplify southern dissent against the Confederacy. 

A Wesleyan-Methodist family from the N.C. Quaker Belt: Caroline Hulin and sons. Husband and father Jesse Hulin was martyred during the Civil War for his refusal to serve the Confederacy. Photo courtesy of Elaine Reynolds.

 

They also demonstrate dissent’s various forms. Unlike my subjects, Conway was neither a yeoman farmer nor a Wesleyan Methodist (although he was raised a Methodist). Rather, he was the son of a prominent Virginia slaveholder and a deeply religious mother. Influenced by his mother’s humanitarian views, Conway was drawn to the ideas of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Transcendentalism before the age of twenty. He attended Harvard, and during the 1850s joined the Northern abolitionist movement, meeting reformers such as Theodore Parker, William Lloyd Garrison, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Wendell Phillips.  

Conway, a Unitarian minister, joined these religious radicals in rejecting contemplative intellectualism in favor of social activism and moral reform. He considered slavery to be the nation’s greatest sin, and, in 1856, he publicly denounced the institution from his Washington D.C. pulpit. As a result, he was ousted from his church, but soon found a new position in an Cincinnati ministry dedicated to abolition. 

After moving to Ohio, Moncure married Ellen Davis Dana, a Unitarian abolitionist and woman’s suffragist who shared his vision of society. Many members of his family, with the exception of his mother, were incensed by his increasingly militant views and broke ties with him. Yet, despite the profound influence of Northern intellectuals, his Harvard education, and rejection by family and friends, Conway’s Southern roots made him sensitive to the plight of the South during the Civil War. A pacifist, he initially opposed war as a means to ending slavery, but convinced himself that a “holy war” against slavery would be a just war. In his 1861 work, The Rejected Stone, he pronounced the Civil War a “revolution,” one in which God would fulfill his vision of humankind.  

Torn between his belief that slavery was inhumane and equally strong belief that war degraded all humankind, Conway soon became disenchanted with the Unionist cause. His concern for Southern society, black and white, fueled frustration with President Lincoln’s conservative half-measures in regard to emancipation, as well as with many abolitionists’ willingness to support a war that did not promise freedom to all African Americans. In late 1862, in a work entitled The Golden Hour, Conway warned that the Administration’s foot- dragging on emancipation of all slaves threatened to destroy the North’s credibility in an increasingly brutal and savage war.  

Before war’s end, Conway’s disenchantment with the Union cause was complete, as he came to believe that even Northern abolitionists were more interested in conquering the South than achieving liberty for slaves. “I for one wash my hands of it forever!” he wrote to his wife from England. Although the Conways lived for short periods of time in New York City, after the war, England (and less so, France) became their new home. 

In London, Conway became the minister of South Place Chapel, founded in 1793 as a dissenting Universalist church. Although Unitarian in name, the church embraced humanitarian free thought under Conway’s leadership. I am reminded here of Jasper Collins of the Free State of Jones, who helped to found a Universalist Church in the middle of the Mississippi piney woods. Unlike Moncure, Jasper never gave up on remaining in the society that produced him, despite his opposition to secession and the Confederacy. But he did continue to seek alternatives to conventional political and religious structures, choosing the People’s Party over the Democratic Party, and the Universalist Church over the Baptist Church. 

Jasper J. Collins, Civil War Unionist, New South Populist and Universalist. Photo courtesy of Constance Bradley.

 

The postwar lives of Jasper Collins and Moncure Conway, both of whom lived into the twentieth century,  remind us that the Civil War’s impact on the behavior of Southern dissenters reached far beyond the war itself. 

Vikki Bynum 

NOTE: For an excellent overview of Moncure Conway’s life, including a bibliography of sources, see Charles A. Howe’s “Moncure Conway,”  Dictionary of Unitarian and Universalist Biography. 

*On Sunday, 2 p.m., March 21, 2010, I will present “Defying Convention: Women, Race, and Class in the Civil War South,” at the Gari Melchers Home and Studio at Belmont, Fredericksburg, VA, a neighboring site of the Moncure Conway House (event hosted by the Moncure Conway Foundation).

35 replies »

  1. Interesting. Mississippi’s oldest active liberal Protestant church, Our Home Universalist Unitarian Church on the Ridge Road near its intersection with Highway 84 (a mile or so from my boyhood farm), is celebrating its centennial this weekend. I have many ancestors on both Mom’s (Maxey) and Dad’s side of the family buried in the cemetery there. I always wondered if they were Universalists, since nearly all contemporary relatives are Baptists. I should have asked my Mother that question before she died, as she would have surely known the answer. In my own mind, I have decided that they were Universalists -because they were probably fiercely on the side of religious (as well as “other”) freedom which would conform with the fiercely independent thinkers of the Free State of Jones. What happened to that interesting trait of our ancestors, which now apparently has been completely washed out over the last 100 years. Nowadays, people in Jones County are conformists and no different than average Mississippians or average Southerners, which makes them highly different from their ancestors. Most folks I talk to down there deny that Jones Co. was predominately Unionist during the Civil War. To them, this is heresy – it never happened, and they appear to be embarrassed that they are connected to that history (of course, in case it actually is “true”). I suppose you have given this a lot of thought and have interesting theories on the why/when/how that change took place.

    I love your website and can’t wait to read your new book. Keep up the good work, but set aside a lot of time to just kick-back and have fun in your retirement.

    • Hi Ed,

      I have always assumed that those Maxeys and Mauldins buried in the Our Home cemetery were Universalists. Would they have otherwise been buried there? The Collinses, Kirklands, and Herringtons were instrumental in founding the church.

      I too have noticed that the Universalist connections, as well as Civil War Unionism, became a source of embarrassment to many members of the younger generation as time passed. Did you know that there was also a sizable Socialist group among some of these same families? The combination of Lost Cause history, which began to reach it’s height in the early twentieth century, and the Red Scare generated by WWI, made many, though not all, of the younger generation scared and ashamed. Many of them did not understand their parents and grandparents’ political views; they only knew that politicians and newspapers regularly condemned southern Unionists as “traitors” and “cowards,” and that socialists were smeared as dangerous “Bolsheviks.” Consequently, much of Jones County’s rich and interesting history was swept under the rug.

      Thanks for your comments,
      Vikki

  2. I love the website and am looking forward to reading the new book, and hoping there will be a big Texas section.

    PHIT is toying with the idea of doing a documentary on the Freedom Colonies of Texas, and we are looking for any correlation between the presence of the colonies and support for the Union. There may not be any, but I’ll enjoy reading the book anyway.

    Richard Croxdale

  3. Hi Richard,

    Thanks for coming over to Renegade South! The new book will have quite a bit on Texas, especially in chapters 1 and 5. However, I focus primarily on jayhawkers in the Big Thicket led by Warren J. Collins, brother to the Collinses who joined the Knight Company back in Mississippi.

    The project on the Freedom Colonies and possible connections to Civil War Unionism is fascinating. I’m going to have to look further into that. Would be eager to see any possible documentary that might be made on the
    subject.

    Vikki

  4. My theory on why Jones Co. has lost its fierce independence that set it apart from the rest of the state in the Civil War era, is simple. As the County became more and more conforming to Southern/Mississippi values, the nonconformists – me being a prime example – moved to other areas of the Country. I moved to Virginia, then to California and finally Nevada, which best fits my progressive libertarian values. Seeing the beautiful wild horses roaming the uninhabited and unfenced meadows, mountains and desert (97 % of our state is uninhabited) is so spiritual and uplifting. Add to that the beautiful blue skys and snow capped high Sierra surrounding Lake Tahoe: to me, this is the ultimate manifestation of freedom. I would have fit well in the Free State of Jones with my ancestors, but now I am much more at home in Nevada.

    • Ed,

      Your description of the spiritual and uplifting qualities of the wilderness that still exists in Nevada reminds me of the motives for southern farmers’ continual migrations west from the eastern seaboard from the colonial era forward. By the 1850s, many Jones Countains had migrated to the piney woods of Texas, or to overwhelmingly rural Arkansas, ever in search of pristine forests and minimal “society.”

      Vikki

  5. This is a fascinating post. I had never heard of this man before reading your blog. Thanks for offering the information to a broad readership.

    • Thanks, Sherree. Moncure Conway is relatively–and surprisingly–unknown in comparison to the northern abolitionists with whom he labored to end slavery. I first learned of him in graduate school from George M. Fredrickson’s 1965 book, The Inner Civil War: NORTHERN Intellectuals and the Crisis of the Union (from which I drew for this post). I think Conway’s break with Northern abolitionists toward the end of the war over Republican policies–and his consequent decision to live abroad–has isolated him a bit.

      Vikki

  6. Hi!

    I’m so pleased that I found your blog! I’m working on my bachelor thesis about slavery and conflicting interpretations of Scripture in the antebellum U.S. south and I was wondering whether there were some white abolitionists in the south as well!

    If you know more about this, would you let me know?

    Kamila

    • I’m glad you found Renegade South, Kamila, and hope it helps you with your research topic. The Charles A. Howe essay on Moncure Conway, linked in the post, provides an extensive bibliography on his life and writings.

      As for Southern abolitionists in general, they were not common in the antebellum South, but they were there: Hinton Rowan Helper of N.C., Cassius Clay of Kentucky, John Aughey of Mississippi, to name a few. To learn more about Southern abolitionism, consult the works of Stanley Harrold, especially Violence and Nonviolence in Kentucky Abolitionism and The Abolitionists and the South. There’s also a great biography of Hinton Rowan Helper, Southern Outcast, by David Brown. And I devote two chapters to the Wesleyan Methodist community of North Carolina in The Long Shadow of the Civil War.

      I invite readers to contribute more names and titles of works about Southern Abolitionists.

      Vikki

  7. You will be in Virginia in March?! Fredericksburg isn’t too terribly far for a day trip!

    Incidentally, until rather recently, I never realized the number of Universalists that were in the South prior to the war. I think that the church in Savannah was abandoned by them at about the outbreak of the war.

    • I will be giving a talk on the new book in Virginia, Robert, and I hope you’ll be there! I’ll give a more formal announcement of the presentation as the month of March nears.

      I too was surprised to learn how many Universalist churches there were in the nineteenth century South. An informative master’s thesis on the subject, located by Ed Payne, is G. Wayman McCarty’s “History of the Universalist Church in the Mid-South,” Mississippi State College, 1964.

  8. Wow! This is all sooooo interesting! It certainly pays big educational dividends whenever I log onto this blog. Moncure Conway! I’m delighted to learn about one more outspoken Aboliitionist.

    Until this very moment, I had no idea that ANY Unitarian Church ever sanctioned slavery. Am I sorely disappointed to discover this? Absolutely! I vividly recall the Unitarian Church during the 1960’s as being a vanguard of the Civil Rights Movement. Each service ended with the congregation holding hands and singing, “We Shall Overcome”. No Unitarian leader ever mentioned that this had not always been the case. And if they did, it must have been when I was sleeping in. This is not the kind of information that’s easy to forget.

    Vikki, you are a font of intriguing information. And now all of this fascinating information about the life and times of humanitarian Moncure Conway.

    Thank you! Thank you!

  9. I share your fascination, Vikky; Moncure Conway is indeed an intriguing figure. He became very frustrated with mentors such as Ralph Waldo Emerson. who were unwilling to openly act on their intellectual principles, particularly in regard to slavery.

    Vikki

  10. Vikki,

    I plan to attend since it is in my neighborhood. Looking forward to meeting you. I’m bringing my copy of “The Long Shadow of the Civil War” for an autograph:)

    Jan

    **********************************************
    Upcoming Events

    Lecture

    Defying Convention: Women, Race, and Class in the Civil War South

    Given by
    Dr. Victoria Bynum

    From her first book, Unruly Women, to her most recent publication, The Long Shadow of the Civil War South, Dr. Bynum has continued to stimulate the public with her close look at Southern dissenters: women who did not behave like “ladies”; whites who crossed the color line socially and sexually; African Americans who did not follow Jim Crow rules; and families that opposed secession and the Confederacy. Her lecture will focus on these Southern dissenters living in the American South—a subject of great interest to Moncure Conway himself and directly related to many individuals living in Falmouth and Stafford during the Antebellum period and throughout the Civil War. A reception to follow.

    The Pavilion at Gari Melchers
    Home and Studio at Belmont
    224 Washington Street, Falmouth

    Sunday, March 21, 2010

    2:00 p.m.

    Sponsored by the Moncure Conway Foundation & the National Park Service

    This event is to generate attention to Falmouth’s rich historic heritage.

  11. That’s great, Jan, and I look forward to meeting you in person! Thanks also for including the announcement with all the details. I’ll publish those details again as a regular post as the event nears.

    See you soon!
    Vikki

  12. I have been researching my Moncure family history for almost two decades; most seriously since 1998. I am African American and a living example of the legacy of slavery in the US. Moncure Conway and I are related by blood and in 2002 my black family and white family met officially for the first time. Of course, there were still white family members VERY upset about that blood connection even though it was entirely out of the control of my black great great grandmother.

    My family research journey began with the intent to connect my black family because I simply did not know the huge black family that I know today. I never visited Mississippi until 2000 because my father left there as a 14 year boy and only told us that there was nothing good there.

    I have books on Moncure Conway, the abolitionist and also on John Moncure Daniel, a pro-slavery relative whose life is written about in the book – Pen of Fire by Peter Bridges.

    Searching for one’s black family history is very difficult; filled with frustrations and rewards. Looking at a Slave Census Schedule for the first time brought me to tears…no names, estimated ages, color, and sex…no way of knowing which slave might be my black great great grandmother.

    What have I learned on my journey? I’ve learned how much I do not know about the REAL history of the US and what a shame it is that my history was stolen.

    I compliment you on telling the stories.

    Pat

    • Pat,

      What a fascinating story you tell! Thank you sharing your family story on Renegade South, and for your encouraging words. The mixed lines of the South are many and quite complex.

      To your knowledge, did Moncure Conway know of and/or acknowledge his African American kinfolk? The two abolitionist sisters from South Carolina, Angelina and Sarah Grimke, publicly acknowledged and were very close to their mixed-race kin. Given Moncure’s strong abolitionist views, I wonder if he did the same.

      Vikki

  13. Hi Pat,

    Vikki’s blog indeed inspires intellectually curious people, who also write well, to post very interesting and informative comments. Your post being a prime example. (I, however, am merely a reader and not a writer.)

    That said, some months back, having just discovered Moncure Conway, I went to the genforum website checked to see if there were any postings for Moncure families and found that someone had posted a reference for a Conway Moncure who was born (reportedly) in the mid eighteenth century in one of the colonies. Forget which one. But this got me thinking…naming patterns and all. What are the odds that these two men born a century apart are not related? And I’m thinking the odds are indeed good that a consanguineous relationship exists. And in fact, someone would have to prove to me otherwise. Which of course, could be possible.

    My interest in Abolitionist history began over 44 years ago. To this day, I consider it a treat whenever I learn additional information.

    Pat, many thanks for your most interesting post. Your frustration in seeking your roots is quite understandable. I continue to have big gaps in my own ancestral database. The vast majority of my known ancestors were hardscrabble poor whites who lived in VA and KY. But because they are white, I do have this advantage of having been able to track them in VA back into the 1700’s.

    Vikky Wilburn Anders In San Diego

  14. Hi Vikki,

    I appreciate your including the work of Charles A Howe’s mini bio of Moncure Conway. And while I reviewed Howe’s work, I didn’t read anything that would show Moncure Conway having had any connection or contact with the famous Abolitionist, lawyer and Sea-farer. Richard Henry Dana 11(1815–1882). Author of ‘Two Years Before the Mast’. Still, I find it interesting that Moncure Conway married a woman named Ellen Davis DANA. (Also noted, as his kindred spirit.)

    Wikipedia reports that Richard Henry Dana’s ancestors settled into the colonies as early as 1640. Would be interesting to learn if these two Dana families shared a consanguineous relationship, and if so, just how how they were related? Would also be interesting to learn more about Ellen Davis Dana Conway.

    Anyhow, this is my thought for the day.

    Cheers EVERYONE,

    The other Vikky in San Diego. (Older too, and Alas, definitely no scholar.)

  15. Universalist convictions and honesty about race informed the thinking of descendants of Jasper Collins, who was my great great grandfather. My grandfather Joseph Melvin, whose mother was Martha Collins, despised the hypocrisy of Bible-quoting Christians who chose to ignore central Christian tenets. Admiring Jasper and his cherished Uncle Lyss, he never apologized for his free-thinking; he even boasted of a fist fight with an especially ignorant preacher who had insulted family and damned them all to hell. After leaving Jones County for dental school in Atlanta, my grandfather never again attended any religious service. Furthermore, grandfather did not shrink from discussing race. I remember with glee his provocations and the embarrassed silence of others. His pointing out that many well-known black Americans were obviously the descendants of white Southerners punctuated family conversations about events of the civil rights movement. While never a liberal, he was acutely aware that white society owed a debt to blacks and believed that equal education was the key to better lives for all Mississippians.

  16. Thanks, Cheryl! your grandfather sure fits the mold of the Collinses I’ve been researching all the way back to the American Revolution: independent thinkers with a passion for justice who often held iconoclastic political and religious views. I only wish I’d been able to interview you before Long Shadow of the Civil War was finished.

    Vikki

  17. Vikki,

    I assume that many of us descendants of Jones County renegades were brought up with a pride in our ancestors’ commitment to principles not shared by many fellow southerners. I would love to hear how other families managed to voice their pride in Jones County dissent and at the same time maintain respect for such constructs as the “southern lady.”

    Cheryl

  18. What a great suggestion, Cheryl. I think it would be so interesting to learn whether many Jones County citizens were raised to a different standard of “southernness” on account of being from an area noted for dissent. I know that some definitely were, but I’d like to hear from more.

    What about you? Did being from the Free State of Jones affect your upbringing?

    Vikki

  19. Vikki,

    Long story short, my mother was deeply conflicted. She was proud of the Collins’ family’s intelligence and integrity. She did, however, play the “southern lady” game. I was more influenced by my grandfather’s provocations and direct speech. His contempt for the ignorance and closed-mindedness of certain types often appeared in jokes. He shook his head, wondering why the most ignorant were the very people who claimed to know the mind of God. He quoted the comments he had heard throughout the 20th century: If God had wanted to drive automobiles, He wouldn’t have given us horses. If God had wanted us to fly, He would have given us wings, And so forth… With grandfather’s encouragement, we turned this sort of assertion into a family joke: If God had wanted us to be hot, he wouldn’t have given us air conditioning, and so forth. Like Jasper Collins, he had no sympathy for fundamentalists (especially Baptists) or knee-jerk southern democrats. I could go on and on, but you can imagine how appealing I found grandfather’s attitudes. No polite changing of the subject for us!

    I’ll bet that other descendants of Unionists grew up questioning THE “southern way of life.”

    I’m trying to persuade my daughter and son-in-law to name their first child Jasper. They delight in the connection to Jasper Collins but aren’t so wild about the name. Not charmed by Ulysses either.

    Best, Cheryl

  20. Jasper Collins was my GG Grandfather. You can see my G Grandmother, Frances Missouri (Fannie) Collins in the original photograph. Fannie married my G Grandfather, James Lafayette (“Fate”) Shows. Fate Shows was loyal to the Southern cause and yet was said to have loved his Father in law very dearly, though not so much that he would have considered leaving the Baptist faith in Christ. Today, people are petty and would not associate after realizing such beliefs in seemingly polar opposites. However, those early Americans had no cause to be ashamed, for there took a stand for their beliefs – this is the very essence of Southern manhood. Not which side you picked, just that you picked a side and accepted responsibility for your choices.

  21. Jamie, thanks so much for your comment. You make an important point–that at least some members of these Civil War families accepted one another’s views even when they were on opposite sides of the Confederacy and religious beliefs (though perhaps grudgingly!). I especially like your statement that the real issue was accepting responsibility for one’s choices.

    Where is the “original photo” that you mention in which your GGrandmother Fannie appears? Is it posted somewhere else on Renegade South?

    I, too, by the way, have Shows ancestors. It appears that my GGGrandfather, Daniel Monroe Shows, was the brother of your presumed ancestor, Isaac Brandon Shows, who I believe was the father of James Lafayette–am I correct?

    Vikki

  22. Vikki,

    James Lafeyette Shows (b. 1856) was the son of James Jones Shows (b. 1830), grandson of James Shows (b. 1793), and G-Grandson of Revolutionary Patriot John Shows (b.1764).
    James J. Shows, known by his middle name “Jones,” was a sergeant in the 7th MS Infantry Battalion, captured at Kennesaw Mountain, GA in the aftermath of the battle which claimed the life of Gen. Leonidas Polk. I am not sure, but I believe I read somewhere that he kept a small number of people in slavery on his farm in Jones County. Shows was a sure supporter of the Confederate cause. I never heard or read that he had a problem with his son marrying the daughter of Jasper Collins. I have always been told that Jasper even lived with his son-in-law, “Fate”, nearer to the end of his life. I know for certain that whenever you saw Jasper in Laurel, MS, you saw Fate Shows accompanying him. Perhaps a modern illustration of just how significant this was would be to imagine John McCain’s son inviting Jane Fonda to their home for supper to announce his upcoming marriage to her daughter.
    The troubles in Jones County ran a lot deeper than people could ever imagine. Many of the pioneer families of that region were torn apart because of either the issue of states rights, the issue of slavery, or some cloudy mixture of both. Jasper’s father-in-law, and my GGG-Grandfather, John Powell, were at odds with one another due to their differing beliefs on the issue of slavery and on the issue of duty – conscription was one’s answer to the other.
    John Powell, son of a Revolutionary Patriot, had migrated first from South Carolina, then from Georgia with the family of John Adam Shows to what would become Jones County. So then, for a Shows, who had long been connected with the Powell family by that time, to marry a child of Jasper Collins (who, strangely, had already married into the Powell family), people obviously must have been willing to put aside their differences to a great degree in post-war times. I guess the old maxim is true – blood is thicker than water.

    As for the photograph mentioned in my previous post, I was mistaken. There is another very similar photograph in which my Great Grandmother, Fannie Collins sits in the center of the front row while Jasper stands all the way to the right on the back row. I will be happy to email it to you if you supply me an address. Thanks for the interesting and insightful reading. That war truly tore us apart and has left wounds which may never completely heal. God bless!

    Jamie Shows
    Webster County, MS

    • Jamie,

      Thanks for the clarification of your ancestry. I found your ancestor, James Jones Shows, listed as Jasper Jones “James” Shows in Jaunice Walters’s genealogy of the J.K.P. Shows line (J.K.P. was my great-grandfather). I see that he, too, was a brother of my great-great-grandfather, Daniel Monroe Shows. I also see that he married an Anderson, as did Stacy Collins, the father of Jasper Collins. So it’s clear that these families–the Shows, Andersons, and Collinses–knew each other well before they arrived in Mississippi. Yes, indeed, they do epitomize the maxim, “blood is thicker than water.”

      It’s interesting to me that the Bynums also took stands on either side of the war. Those who intermarried with the Collinses were most likely to support the Union, but my branch, which eventually married into the Shows family, opposed the appointment of Unionists such as Vinson Collins to office during Reconstruction. I’ve never been able to gauge exactly how much the war created divisions among these Bynums, but they divide themselves into the “Calhoun” or “Ellisville” Bynums even today. Of course, part of that is geographic, but some of these Bynums also deny kinship with one another, which may hark back to divisions during the Civil War.

      Vikki

      • Vikki, I see repeats of the “Jasper” Shows error all over Ancestry.com. I think people got confused years ago when they saw muster roll sheets from the 7th MS Inf Bn with his name listed as “J.J. Shows.” Possibly, they also saw J.J. Collins muster sheets and got their wires crossed. However, Shows’ capture records spell out his first name completely. Also, the US Censuses from 1860 and later clearly show James Lafeyette Shows’ father as James, not Jasper. My personal opinion, and it is only an uneducated guess, is that his middle name “Jones” was given as the result of him being one of the first Shows children to be born in the newly formed Jones County.

        Proud to know we’re cousins. Stop by if you ever want to hear tales of Old Greensboro up here in Webster County!

        Jamie

      • Jamie,

        Your theory of how the “Jasper” Shows error came about sounds entirely plausible. I have frequently found such misreadings of names during my years of research (and made a few such errors myself!) And, yes, there are instances of children being named after new counties, so that sounds plausible, too.

        Thanks again for your contributions to this forum.

        Vikki

  23. Vikki,

    I’ll offer some commentary here regarding my thoughts about my ancestor Jasper Collins, and I hope my Jones County cousins out there can stomach it. I feel very strongly that Jasper was just as much a man, and a true gentleman, as any of my other ancestors from the Piney Woods region who sided with the Confederacy. He chose to obey his principles rather than the fickle sentiment of those in power. He obeyed conscience rather than the law of man. Though personnally I strongly and deeply believe in states rights, specifically the right of any state to leave the union at any time, I accept that he took a stand for what he believed to be a right and just cause. Martin Luther once said something to the effect that it is neither safe nor right to recant just to please men. Jasper put obedience to conscience above family, friends, community and everything else he may have held dear. Had I lived in that day, there is no doubt my personal scales would have balanced against the union – I would have donned the gray, even though I detest the very notion of slavery and human trafficking. I am just as proud of him for fighting against slavery as I am of any of my other GG Grandfathers who fought against the tyranny and intrusion of the Federal government. His descendants have no cause to be ashamed, let people say what they will. A man who will not take a stand and fight for what he believes in is not a man at all.
    Again, thank you for providing us all a great source on the history of Jones County and for thought-provoking reading. I really enjoy reading about all the different families who were in the area then and and who have left descendants there today. I have a great friend who is a Duckworth whom I think the world of. I also know one of my great uncles married an Ainsworth from around there. So interesting that all those families who influenced and shaped the character of that region of Mississippi then are still going strong there today.

    Jamie Shows
    Webster County, MS

  24. Thanks for sharing further thoughts about your ancestors, Jamie. I’m sure that Jasper Collins would be particularly pleased that he earned your respect despite his pro-Union stance during the Civil War. I’m also pleased to know that you enjoy reading Renegade South.

    Vikki

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