Memories on tape preserve tale of family

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By Linda Hanabarger

First off, I would like to thank all those who read this column and share with me their enjoyment of the stories that are told here. Many times, more facets of the stories I share come forward and become, as one popular commentator put it, "the rest of the story."
Dale Reeves, a local man, is one of the people I turn to on the subject of the Civil War. In a recent conversation with Dale, he mentioned that he had a cassette tape made by his mother’s uncle, Joe Havron, which included events in the life of Joe’s father, Stephen T. Havron, a veteran of the Civil War.
Dale loaned me the cassette tape, and with the permission of Dale and his mother,  Marylee Reeves Whitten, I am pleased to share some of these stories with you.
Stephen was one of 960 men mustered into Co. I of the 122nd Illinois Infantry, on Sept. 4, 1862, at Staunton. This was a three-year enlistment, and he was discharged on March 29, 1865.
Joe Havron begins, “One story I remember grandma telling us was about grandpa on sentry duty. He was walking up and down the creek, and on the other side was a rebel soldier on sentry duty – they passed close enough to see and yell at one another.
“One time when they passed, the Southern soldier said, “Have you any coffee, Yank?” and grandpa responded “Yes, have you any tobacco?” They agreed that after dark they would meet in the middle of the creek, and trade coffee and tobacco. The next day, they were firing at each other.
“Another story I recall was grandpa and another fellow soldier stole a small pig from a farmer nearby, and then they had problems of how to cook it, as they were allowed no fire, especially at night.
“So, they built a barricade around the place where they were going to build a fire and cook it, and set up a spit. But the flame reflected up, and the rebels started cannon fire at it – finally, one ball hit the fire and that was all of the pig and all of their barbecued supper. They did not get into trouble, as an officer was in on the whole thing.
“Grandpa didn’t tell much about the fighting, but I know they were all in the thick of it. Some of them survived the battle, the cold, exposure and hunger, and I supposed they would have liked to forget the bloody parts of the war.
“I am sure grandma told many stories of the war, but I was just a little guy and only remember so much.
“I remember after the last battle, when the South was defeated, they just turned the soldiers loose and told them to go home.  Grandpa and two other men walked all the way from Gettysburg to Sorento. In passing through one town in the East somewhere,  they broke into a factory and each stole shoes, for theirs were worn out.
“I do not know how long it took them to get home, but I suppose it was many weeks, as they walked all the way.
“By the time grandpa arrived home, he had been away several years, and by this time, grandma was 16 years old. One day,  when grandpa was walking down a dusty road, he met grandma walking toward him barefooted. They renewed their acquaintance, and I believe grandma said they were married three days later.
“Both of them were from poor farm families. I don’t know grandma’s maiden name.  I know that I’ve heard it, but I can’t remember it and I don’t have a record of it.
“They set up housekeeping in a two-room house, and soon started a family. There were eight children and one stillborn. The children were Henry, Jesse, Walter, Addison (Ad), George, Mary (May), Tillie and Steve.
“I don’t have accounts of their birth, but I know that when my dad was 7 years old, with a team of mules, covered wagon {and] with their cow tied on the back, they headed west. Grandpa tied logs to the sides of the wagon, put grandma on the driver’s seat, and at low water time took the lead line in his teeth, and they forded the Mississippi River.
“Grandpa swam ahead of the team and guided them across. Grandma was so frightened that she lost her voice and didn’t speak again for, I believe, two or three years. I don’t know how long it took them, but they moved to Texas where Grandpa was told he would gain back his health. He had what they called TB of the bowels.
“Several things happened to them on the way, and I will tell them as I remember grandma recounting the stories.
“When they were in Missouri, they were told that a large number of Negroes were camped on both sides of the trail up ahead,  and that they had axes, corn knives and clubs, and were holding up single wagons and robbing them of their food and supplies. They had been turned loose from their former masters and were starving.
“Grandpa decided to go on, and when he got close to their camp, he placed guns out from under the wagon cover sticking out with a child behind each gun.  He walked in front of the wagon with his musket,  with grandma driving the team. They drove through the encampment with only shouts by the Negroes, and the Negroes made no effort to harm them.
“They went on their way, the Negroes saw only guns and some faces behind them peeking from under the wagon cover. Further on their trip, I believe it was in Oklahoma, a group of Indians on a hunting party joined grandma and grandpa. They were friendly,  and traveled several days with them. They hunted and kept fresh meat in the camp, and grandma cooked for them.
“Aunt May was a small child with blonde hair and blue eyes, and the leader of the Indian hunting party took a fancy to her, and tried to barter grandpa out of her. He wanted to keep her as his daughter. He started out by offering one of his horses in trade for her, and, of course, grandpa had refused. So, each day he would approach grandpa – with two horses on the second day, three horses on the third day and after offering four horses, they rode away without any problem. Grandpa expected some trouble, but there was none.
“They continued on their journey, and ended up in Texas, I believe near Del Rio. The cow had walked behind the wagon all the way, and furnished milk and a calf, which was butchered for meat.
“Grandpa’s health did not improve, and I’m not sure, but I think they stayed in Texas about three years – all this time grandma had not spoken, and they decided to go back to Illinois. So they started with a new wagon and a new team of mules, tied the same cow on the back and headed for home.
“I don’t remember grandma telling any of their accounts of their journey back, but when they made their river crossing. Somewhere in Illinois, grandma got her voice back and the old cow that had walked all the way back to Illinois had another calf.
“After returning to Illinois, they moved onto a little farm near Sorento, where they lived and raised their children. I believe grandma and grandpa lived there until grandpa passed on. They all grew up in a small country house, I believe four rooms.”
Further research turned up the name of Grandma Havron – she was Elizabeth Jane Finley, and she and Stephen were married on June 10, 1866, in Montgomery County.