Tag Archives: mann family

Raising money for my grave

Saturday I spent the day helping to raise money for the upkeep and care of my future grave. I’ve got a nice spot picked out for me and BJ on a gentle downslope of a hill—that way my head will be slightly inclined—I hate it when the blood rushes to my head—overlooking…well, farmland.

Some of you think I’m kidding (well, about the grave site), but I’m not. The cemetery is the Gravel Hill Cemetery and is located on the hilly ground of Crowley’s Ridge in St. Francis, Arkansas. St. Francis, once a bustling booming town with 5 banks, now has a population of about 250. BJ and I got the plot almost right after we were married. Hmmm, now that I think about it, I see why she was so hesitant back then! Ha. It’s only a few miles from the Civil War battlefield of Chalk Bluff, and believe it or not, has about three Yankees buried there.

Brittany doesn’t like to hear me talk about the plot, which is situated near several of names that occupy blanks on my family tree, but it doesn’t really bother me any to think about it. It’s gonna happen sooner or later if Jesus doesn’t return first, so I’ve never seen what the worry is, really.

But up in that little area of NE Arkansas, many of the small cemeteries are really in danger of losing the folks who care for them and have to worry about money. So, what the communities do is put on annual “picnics,” which are kinda like little county fairs. They have entertainment, food, beauty contests and benefit auctions, all designed to make money for the cemetery associations. Really, it’s a good thing. Further, most of the local folks make plans to spend some portion of their day at the picnics so they can spend money there to help the cemeteries—even if it’s just stopping by for a burger. It’s as much a part of life in rural NE Arkansas as Christmas or Thanksgiving.

Families who’ve been in the area for a long period of time and are well-established there like mine, tend to have people in several of the different cemeteries. So from July 4 until about Aug 4, those families are often busy trying to help raise money for several different cemeteries. Often, volunteer work is hot work. Not so much hard, but usually very hot. It’s July in the South, after all.

Out-of-towners often plan their trips to the area to coincide with the picnics and often the picnics turn into family reunions. Some of those a little further away send in donations. Heck, some of them know they’ll be buried in those same cemeteries in no time at all.

This past Saturday was a beautiful day and I’d be willing to bet it was one of the highest crowds to show up in several years. Brittany had the opportunity to perform as part of the “entertainment” and Brett spent 11 straight hours there playing without stopping. Yes, eventually I’ll be there and I sure do like the thought that someone will be there raising money so they can cut down the trees growing nearby. I don’t mind grass growing over the top of me, but I don’t like the idea of tree roots in my ears.

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Kissin’ cousins at the family reunion

Jeff Foxworthy has a funny joke where he talks about rednecks attending their family reunions to find dates. While I’m not claiming to be as funny as Mr. Foxworthy, I do have a pretty funny reunion story.

The Mann family held a reunion on Saturday, April 12, in Piggott, Arkansas. About 75 folks all related to the Mann clan were in attendance. The further one traveled all the way from Mexico, a whopping 1,500 miles.

This was the third such reunion in 6 years, the first being held in 2004. The most recent was in April of 2006. While the modern string of reunions is not the first of its kind, it is the first in recent years. We’ve got newspaper clippings of Mann reunions about 60 years ago.

These reunions have been the descendants of John Wesley Mann, b. 1855. I’m trying to convince the group to back up at least one generation to include more cousins. John Wesley’s father was a Confederate Veteran and I’d just like to go back to include all his descendants. For the confused, it is “ancestors” if you’re going back…if you’re coming forward, it’s “descendants.” So, John Wesley Mann is my ancestor…I am a descendant of John Wesley Mann.

So, in 2004, during the first of the modern reunions, as I was roaming around, reading nametags and introducing myself to people, I struck up a conversation with a fellow who looked bored. I asked him what line he belonged to and he said he didn’t, that he’d just come with his wife. I then asked him his last name. It was Seitz.

I told him we had Seitz in the family…in fact, John Wesley had married a Mary Jane Seitz. Her dad was Isaac and his dad was Abraham. His eyes lit up when I mentioned those names and I took him to the chart and showed him where I was talking about. He jumped on his cellphone and took off outside. In only a few minutes he was asking me to speak to his dad. Turns out, they were descendants of Abraham (or Isaac, I’ve forgotten now) and he’d come to his OWN family reunion after all.

Roland Mann b.1964
Son of Billy Mann b.1941
Son of Waldon Bill Mann b. 1919
Son of Robert E. Mann b. 1880
Son of John Wesley Mann b. 1855
Son of William Montgomery Mann b. 1821. Private in Co. E. 5th Arkansas Confederate Infantry.

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