Well, we didn’t let a little inclement weather hold us from going to Shiloh last Friday and learning about this historical site and battle that took place just 90 miles from Memphis. Dr. Doug Cupples began his talk on our bus and continued most of the day. He was entertaining and enlightening as he talked about one of his favorite topics in Confederate/Union history. We stopped at the Visitors Center at Corinth before heading off to the battlefield site. We had lunch at the famous Catfish Hotel and then drove through the park, which is beautifully kept. We stopped several times and Professor Doug brought out his maps and explained the importance of the RR crossing of the Memphis & Charleston railroad to the Confederacy as well as Pittsburgh landing, which was close to the site of the two day battle. The railroad was the “spine” of the Confederate army and extremely important for maintaining supplies, so it was not just by accident that the three armies found themselves in this crucial spot. Doug had interesting stories and comments about the generals and the information they had about the location of their enemies. As it turned out, the weather was pretty much as it had been back in 1862 and the movement of the heavy artillery in sloggy conditions and the lack of munitions could be visualized without much trouble. The most famous site was the “hornet’s nest” and our group was amazed at how open it was to a constant barrage on both sides. The number of men who actually died from wounds suffered in battle will probably never be accurately known as many were buried in unmarked graves. Had General Albert Johnson of the Confederacy not been mortally wounded, the outcome of the battle might have been different, but he later died, probably from sepsis as did many others.

It was an interesting and fun trip. Sorry that Darlene and Tom Sawyer had to cancel at the last minute due to Tom’s surgery. Jane Hooker brought her grandson Gabe and two DES applicants, Estie Sheahan and Carol Perel promised to get to work on their applications. Doug has a copy of the movie that they show at the Visitor’s Center and perhaps we can meet and have an opportunity to show it. He says that it is a pretty realistic version of the battle that was taken when the participants have their Shiloh recreation every few years.

Again, thanks from all of us who went on the trip to Doug Cupples.

In other news, I noted the death of Agnes Crisci, who was a long time member. I never met her, but I’m sure that many of you knew her. I noted that she was a member of the DAR as well.

Also, you may not know that Rita Hall received her Ph.D recently. Her thesis was on the Memphis Zoo, which is certainly a timely subject. Rita has been invited to speak at our Fall Social event. A date has not been determined for this at this time.

I hope that everyone has a very pleasant summer.




The Descendants of Early Settlers enjoyed a great evening made even more enjoyable with the talk of Jane R. Hooker, Ph.D. on her research and writing about Messick High School, which has a truly historic past.  Begun by Elizabeth Messick, who was the first enrollee at the University of Chicago, and a scholar in her own right, Messick was the high school of many prominent Memphians.  Jane, who is a fount of knowledge about the school, was most  enjoyable telling stories of the events of her own twelve years at the school that were both funny and revealed a mischievous young girl just a few years ago.

President Gotten introduced three new members to those attending, Tom Sawyer, Richard Kelsey and John Feild, all of whom received their membership pin and certificates.  Mr. Gotten indicated that the club was in excellent condition with new potential members in the wings.  Registrar Darlene Sawyer receives and processes the applications.  Members must be able to show through recorded proof of their ancestry as settlers of Shelby County and the other adjoining counties prior to 1870.

Brian Kelsey, whose parents are members, dropped in to say hello to Jane, to whom he is distantly related, and to congratulate family kin, Richard Kelsey.  Brian, a Tennessee State Senator, is a candidate for the 8th Congressional District and a bright, energetic young man.  He is pictured below with Darlene Hooker Sawyer, also a distant cousin.

P1060839Tom Sawyer 2P1060844Richard Kelsey 2P1060841John Feild 2DSCF0005DSCF0007DSCF0008P1060856

The weather cooperated this time (we were snowed out 3 times in 2015) and many members of the Descendants of Early Settlers (“DES”) enjoyed a very pleasant morning at the Morton Museum in Collierville, TN.  A catered lunch from Fire House Subs was provided to those present and we had an opportunity to see the wonderful exhibit there on display “Slaves and Slaveholders of Wessyngton Plantation.”  The members heard the museum’s director, Ashley Carver, give the history of the plantation and its history, as well as seeing a power-point presentation of the items that are part of the exhibit.

After lunch and a time to see the exhibits, the members visited the ante-bellum home of the Porter family, “Porter Place” as guests of Jane Porter Feild, which is still used as a family residence of her son, John Porter.  Located on an original land grant from the Indian owners (with deed to prove it) the house is in remarkable condition and the grounds and house are enjoyed by the Jane’s  grandchildren when they visit there.

The members of the Descendants of the Early Settlers of Shelby and Adjoining Counties and their guests met Thursday evening , October 8, 2015, at Woodlands Clubhouse.  Approximately 44 people were in attendance. President William Gotten presided.

DSCF0008 DSCF0009 DSCF0010 DSCF0007 Those present were treated to an interesting and informative presentation by Carol McCarley, M.L.S., on her experience of finding, reviewing and cataloging the papers of noted author, Shelby Foote.  Mr. Foote is most famous and well known for his 3 volume set on The Civil War, which was the subject of a documentary film by Ken Burns and shown on PBS.  Mr. Foote was the principal historian who commented during the film.

Ms. McCarley noted that Shelby Foote very rarely threw anything away and kept voluminous writings and responses in his house located in Memphis.  He wrote in long hand and used pen and ink when he wrote and kept a personal diary that he wrote in daily for 30 years.  His fame increased dramatically after the PBS series and the last years of his life were filled with meeting celebrities and responding to fan mail, of which there was plenty.  He rarely autographed his works and an autographed 3 volume set has become a collector’s item.

The Society welcomed two new members, Flora Maury Bratten and Roscoe Field.  Mrs. Bratten received her membership pin and attended with her husband, David Bratten.

Mr. Field was out of town and unable to attend or be presented, but is well known to many members.  He will be presented his pin at the Winter Social in February, 2016.

A wonderful catered dinner was provided by Mike, Brenda and Vickie Vernon and was enjoyed by all.  Many compliments were expressed for the fine meal and service.

Following dinner and Ms McCarley’s talk, President Gotten reported to the membership of the events and activities during the past two years, which included the Winter, Spring and Fall Socials, and talks by Darlene Sawyer of her activities at the Cordova Historical Museum, Vincent Astor on Memphis movie theaters of the past, Michael Webster of Memphians who fought in both World Wars, Jim Lee on the Lee Steamship Company and the river boats that plied the Mississippi River.

He reported that the Society had honored Darlene Sawyer and Jane Hooker for their dedication (2014) and Walter Wills, III (2015) at the Shelby County Historical Awards dinner.  He also indicated that during this term, the Society has welcomed many new members, among whom are: Bob Kelsey, April Branch, Henry Gotten, Mike Cody, Dick Magevney, Darlene Sawyer, Jane Hooker and Betty Jack.

In addition, the new Membership Directory for 2015 listing members, addresses and other important contact information has been mailed out to members.  This directory has brought the membership rolls current.  It was noted that a number of previous members had been removed from lack of activity or failure to pay their dues for several years. He also indicated that an addendum listing new members, Flora Bratten and Roscoe Field, will be sent out to update the directory.

Mr. Gotten further indicated that a membership application had been just received from John Leake’s guest, Richard Kelsey.  Other guests present were: Madeline Faber and Emily Faber, guests of their grandmother, Joanne Moore; Dale Ivy and her parents, Jack and Carolyn Ivy, who were guests of Paul Matthews. It is expected that Dale will soon submit her own application for membership.

Also present as guests were: Jonathan Large of Memphis University School, guest of John and Georgia Harkins, Ann Broadfoot, guest of Betty Brown and Jane Williams, guest of John Fain.

Mr. Gotten, in the absence of Treasurer, Frank Stewart, Jr., reported that the balance in the bank account is $8,366.94 before paying expenses connected with the Fall Social, but that the Society has no debt and is good financial condition.  He also remarked that the Society had received a bequest of $1,000 from the estate of Betty Hughes, a long-time member.

He reported that the Board of Directors had met on Monday, October 5, 2015, at which time the board voted to increase the cost of social dinners from $25 to $28 in the future, primarily to take into consideration the increase of these functions as well as to prevent confusion with the amount of the dues of $25, which will remain the same for 2016.

Mr. Gotten thanked Pamela Gotten and Camille Gotten for the flower arrangements on the tables which added to the festive nature of the dinner.  He also thanked his officers and directors who have served this past two years and noted that there were a few persons who would be completing their service in this regard, namely Jeanne Crawford, Secretary,

Rita Hall, Register, Joe Saino, Publicity Chairman and Frank Stewart, Jr, Treasurer.  The time devoted for fulfilling the duties of these offices is greatly appreciated.

He mentioned further that he had prepared a packet of information about the Descendants that outlines the mission statement, membership requirements, organization and duties of the officers and directors.  These packets are available for any member who may have a prospective applicant to become more familiar with the activities of the Descendants.  Anyone seeking an application is welcome to contact him and one will be sent by email or regular mail.  Email is encouraged as that is the easiest and  best way for communication with the members.

Mr. Gotten then called on the chairman of the Nominating Committee, Nick Gotten, who reported that the committee had met and made the following recommendations of persons to serve for the 2016-2018 term:

President William M. Gotten

Vice-President Milton L. Knowlton

Secretary Betty Brown

Treasurer Adam Simpson

Register Darlene Sawyer

Historian Dr. John Harkins

Parliamentarian Sara Holmes

Membership Chair Dr. Nicholas Gotten, Jr.

Director at Large Ceylon Blackwell, Jr.

Director at Large Joanne C. Moore

Chaplain Kenneth Jack

Publicity ChairRita Hall

Immed. Past Pres.Joseph T. Getz

Mr. Gotten then asked if there were any other nominations for the offices to be filled and receiving none, asked for a motion that the nominations be closed, which was duly made, seconded and passed by the members present and voting.  Mr. Gotten noted for the record that a quorum was present and exceeded in that over 30% of the membership was present, a quorum being 10%.

Mr. Gotten then asked for a motion that the slate of officers and directors as read be elected by acclamation, which was duly made, seconded and passed.  These officers and directors will officially assume their duties on January 1, but they may either continue in their duties or assume their new duties, such as the Treasurer, Mr. Simpson, doing what is required to satisfy any bank requirements for the transfer of authorized signatories for the account.  Mr. Stewart will meet with Mr. Simpson to accomplish this.

It is anticipated that the Winter Social will convene at the Morton Museum in Collierville in February, 2016, weather permitting.  The Winter Social in 2015 had to be cancelled due to snow conditions making driving hazardous.  Although the meeting was rescheduled 3 times, it was finally cancelled.


To a lot of members’ great disappointment, our Mid-Winter Social box lunch scheduled and re-scheduled to be held at the Morton Museum in Collierville got snowed out and was finally cancelled altogether after being re-set three times.  We hope to hear from the director, Ashley Carver, at another time.

Members are now scheduled for our Spring Social for April 23rd, and, hopefully, Old Man Winter will have departed for this year and we expect to hold this most enjoyable dinner and program on that date.  Jim Lee of the Lee Steamship Lines family (think steamboats) will present a historical walk down the Big Muddy with pictures and riverboat stories.  Seating is limited and reservations are a must. Contact wmgotten@bellsouth.net.


     The Fall dinner meeting of the Descendents of the Early Settlers of Shelby & Adjoining Counties was held Thursday, October 23, 2014 in the Woodlands Clubhouse. President William Gotten presided and welcomed more than 50 members and guests in attendance.

     Rita Hall, Register, presented new member pins to Darlene Hooker Sawyer (husband, Tom) and Richard (Dick) Leatherman Magevney, Sr. (wife, Diane).  Another new member, Daniel Patrick, was unable to be present and will receive his pin later.  Ms. Hall also mentioned the importance of documentation when an application is submitted.

     President Gotten then thanked Pamela Gotten (husband, Nick) and Camille Gotten (husband, William) for their beautiful flower arrangements on the tables and Nick for arranging the use of the Woodlands Clubhouse.  He advised that the new Directory of Members had been completed and urged members to take a copy as they left and to advise him of any additions or corrections that members may note upon review.

     Chaplain Kenneth Jack gave the invocation and following a delicious dinner, Mr. Gotten introduced the guest speaker for the evening, Michael Webster, and gave a brief biography of Mr. Webster.  Michael’s father, Billy Webster, was in attendance as Nick Gotten’s special guest.  Mr. Webster spoke of his interest in the history of aviators from this area who had volunteered to serve in the budding aviation defenses of World War I, and the fascinating return of several of these aviators to service in the second World War when they dubbed their group “The Retreads”.

     Mr. Webster is currently researching and writing a book about these patriotic and stalwart men. His talk was extremely well-received, and members had an opportunity to review many pictures and documents that Mr Webster had gleaned from his aunt Nancy Stovall’s attic at Stovall, MS, including a very rare register of Memphis citizens dated 1830.

     Mr. Gotten then thanked our caterers, Brenda and Mike Vernon, their daughter, Vicky and server, Jeremy, who were roundly applauded for fine service and a delicious dinner.  He also urged members to seek out prospective applicants who may be eligible for membership and to encourage their application.

The meeting was adjourned with thanks for members’ attendance.

Respectfully submitted,

Jeanne Crawford, Secretary

Members and guests of The Descendants of the Early Settlers of Memphis & Shelby County met April 24, 2014, at theWoodlands clubhouse for the Spring Social dinner meeting, and were treated to a wonderful trip down memory lane by Vincent Astor, author of Memphis Movie Theaters, published by Arcadia Publishing Company (www.arcadiapublishing.com).

William Gotten, President, welcomed everyone and issued an invitation to the guests present to consider applying for membership. He reported that a new membership roster is being prepared for members and is “a work in progress” at the present time. He expressed the Society’s appreciation to Pamela Gotten for the lovely flower table arrangements that she made up personally from her garden.

The Society welcomed our newest members Elizabeth (Betty) Jack and W. J. (Mike) Cody, III. Mike has joined the Society as the descendant of James Franklin Cody, a resident of Fayette County by the year 1838 (silver pin) and Betty Jack joins as the descendant of William Alexander Somervell (Somerville), a resident of Tipton County by the year 1847 (silver pin).

Mr. Gotten also advised that new members Bob Kelsey, April Branch and Henry Gotten, Jr., had been introduced and received their pins at the Winter Social in February when members visited the Cordova Museum.and were treated to a review of Cordova history by Darlene Sawyer, the museum’s director/curator. An article in The Commercial Appeal recorded the luncheon event and the gift of George and Alma Crone of an 1858 store ledger to the museum. (2/21/14)

A moment of silence was then observed, remembering three members of the Descendants, James Russell, Gordon Mathes and Helen Tice, who have died since the first of the year. Mr. Gotten asked if those present might have an interest in a group visit to Ft. Pillow, near Henning, Tennessee, which has been in the news lately. He will follow up on a bus tour, possibly guided by historian Dr. Doug Cupples.

He noted that The Shelby Co. History event is to be held Sunday from 12 to 5 at Davies Manor, and the Early Settlers will have a table. Also, this year’s Delta Symposium at the University of Memphis is scheduled for June 5th.

Betty Jack’s husband, Kenneth Jack, gave the invocation, and following a delicious catered dinner, Mr. Gotten introduced Vincent Astor, whose slide and film presentation was a delightful, nostalgic overview and many members enjoyed seeing the many movie theaters of early Memphis.