10 April, 2009
Essay III, Draft IV
The marble marker that states, ďHere Sunday July 22, 1838 Indians Massacred Seven Members and a Couple of the Wildes Family. Their Bodies Were Placed in a Wagon Body and Laid to Rest In This Grave,Ē is two miles south of the city limits of Waycross, Georgia. It designates the approximate burial place of Maximillan Wildes, his wife Mary Elizabeth Wilkerson Wildes, six Wildes children, and one young Wilkerson boy, a cousin spending the night with the Wildes family. These people, my ancestors, lost their lives in the last Indian massacre in Georgia. Four Wildes children escaped: Reuben, Jesse, James, and John. Alice Wilkerson, a cousin, also escaped.
It has been 171 years since a band of Seminole Indians attacked the Wildes family of Ware County, but the story has been passed down through generations. The massacre which occurred fourteen years after Ware County was formed and thirty-six years before Waycross came into existence is considered the last tragedy of its kind in the state.
It was about daybreak, when Sarah Wildes, Maximillanís wife, went outside to gather embers from an almost-dead bonfire. She heard a bottle hit the ground and realized that Indians were nearby. Mrs. Wildes rushed inside to wake her husband. He grabbed his flint and steel rifle and headed out the front door to find that Indians were trying to set fire to the Wildesí house. Maximillan fired the first shot. The Indians, in a body of about fifty warriors, charged him, wrenched his gun from his hands, and shot him through the chest. Maximillan Wildes had come to the United States as a stowaway from Scotland at the age of twelve.
Mr. and Mrs. Wildes and seven children were killed in the massacre. News of the massacre spread, and a small company of soldiers under Captain Elias Waldron, stationed on the edge of Kettle Creek about four miles away, was alerted. The soldiers wrapped the nine bodies in saddle blankets and laid them in a cart. All nine of them were buried in the same grave.
Reuben Wildes, one of the sons who escaped, was born in 1824 and moved with his parents, Maximillan and Elizabeth Wilkerson Wildes, from Tattnall to Ware County, Georgia. They lived in a log cabin near Dubuss Bay. It is near the city limits of Waycross. The family was attacked by a band of Seminoles from the Okefenokee Swamp. Reuben, the oldest son, and three of his brothers escaped to the home of friends and told the tragedy. (The spelling of Reubenís names on military records is Reuben Wilds.) Nancy Eliza Smith was born in 1835 as the daughter of Austin and Polly Hall Smith of Waresboro, Georgia. She became his wife.
Reuben enlisted and served in the confederate army as a private in the 26th Georgia Infantry in 1861. He served for about six months and then re-enlisted for the duration of the war in 1862. Reuben had eight children. The sixth child, William McDonald, was born on March 31, 1862. William McDonald, or ďWilliam MacĒ as he was called, married Mary Ann, daughter of William and Fannie Corbitt Mercer, on December 21, 1878.
William Mac had twelve children. William and Mary Annís seventh child was Charles Alvin Wildes I. Charles Alvin was born on September 17, 1891 in Millwood, Ware County. He is my great-grandfather. Charles Alvin married Eva Avelyn Treadwell of North Carolina on August 10, 1918. They had four children named Ouida Avelyn, Charles Alvin Junior, William Osborn, and Calvin Oscar.
William Macís third child, William Osborne Wildes, is my paternal grandfather. My cousins, sister, and I all call him Papa Bill. Papa Bill was born on February 22, 1925 in Valdosta, Georgia. Papa Bill married my grandmother, Kathleen White, who was born on November 21, 1927, on October 3, 1947. Papa Bill and Nanny, Kathleen White, had six children, and my dad, William Osborne Wildes Junior (also known as Chip), was their third child and second son. Their first child and first son, William Gregory, died six days after he was born.
My father has four siblings. We have spent the most time with my Aunt Leah, my dadís sister, and Uncle Maxie, my dadís brother. Out of all five children, my dad is the only one with brown hair and hazel eyes. The rest of his siblings all have blonde hair and blue eyes; it is a little strange. Uncle Maxie says that my dad is the milkmanís son, but just as a joke. They all pretty much have the same personality: hard working, caring, loving, and of course, crazy. They are in fact crazy, but when I say that, I mean they are funny. It is always a hoot whenever they get together.
My grandparents were divorced in 1974, and we did not spend much time with them. Both of my grandparents worked for Southern Bell. My grandmother was in a managerial position at a time when women did not often get those types of jobs. My grandfather got remarried eight years ago to a woman named Hazel, and she is great. Before Hazel, Papa Bill got remarried after he and Nanny divorced. Her name was Betty and she was not a good person. One story I have been told, is that Betty moved my Aunt Leah, who is now a young fifty-two, out of her bedroom when Leah was seventeen years old. Her reasoning behind this, was to make room for her daughter Wanda, leaving Aunt Leah to fend for herself. I am not really sure how that situation ended, but it is supposedly, all water under the bridge now. Papa Bill was married for twenty-five years to Betty, and she did not like his children. This is the main reason why I never had a relationship with Papa Bill. When Hazel found out that Papa Bill had no real relationship with his kids for twenty-five years, she was astonished. Now he and Hazel come to our house for Thanksgiving almost every year.
Thanksgiving has always been a big tradition in my family. We usually end up having about thirty to forty people at the house from both my momís and dadís sides. Most, if not all, of my aunts and uncles come to the house along with my grandparents. My momís parents died when I was pretty young, so I never really got to know them that well. I do have some memories but not many.
Our family is not as close as I would like for it to be. I would love to see my aunts, uncles, and cousins more often, but it seems that there is never a convenient time for all of us to get together.
Another family tradition that our family has occurs at Christmas. We do not celebrate it on the actual day, but a few days before December 25. My family and I go to Waycross, where my Aunt Leah and Uncle Jimmy live, and eat at the most wonderful, out of this world, Wongís Palace. Wongís Palace is a great Chinese restaurant that I believe everyone needs to try at least once in their lifetime. The owner and the people who work there know us by name, and they are always excited to see us coming. We order the same thing every year. We always get the steamed vegetables, fried rice, sesame chicken, lomain, and of course, my favorite, the poo-poo platter. The poo-poo platter contains fried cheese, golden spears (chicken), egg rolls, and teriyaki beef. In the middle of the platter is a single coal burning over a little grill that is used to heat up food. It is always fun because I love to play with fire.
Even though it may seem like it, my family does get together for other occasions then just holidays. During the summer, Aunt Leah and Uncle Jimmy and my immediate family, all go to stay with Uncle Maxie, Aunt Dee, and my cousin, Eric, at their beach house in Oak Island, North Carolina. It is a great time for all of us to get together, play games, sing karaoke, which is really funny, and just hang out. Another holiday we do get together for is New Years. We all go to Fernandina Beach, Florida and stay for a week at the Hampton Inn in historic downtown. I always love going to Fernandina because it is so relaxing and there are two really cool shops downtown that I like to go to. One is called Huntís Art and Artifact; they sell actual dinosaur bones and other fossilized objects that the Huntís actually dug up themselves. The other place is a cigar and guitar shop. I go there for guitars of course. Fernandina is a place that I recommend that everyone should go to at least once in their life.
After our festive Chinese Christmas meal, the family goes back to Aunt Leahís and Uncle Jimmyís house. Every year we play dirty Santa, or some people call it ďdirty Christmas.Ē This is a present stealing game; one person picks up one present and opens it. Then, the next person can either steal that present or open a new one. It is always a fun, funny, and exciting game, because someone always gets upset about something, or someone tries to get another person to take their present, because they hate what they picked. In the end, there is yelling that is just playful, and everyone usually gets what they want. This past Christmas, I picked a chocolate fondue pot that is used for things like chocolate covered strawberries, bananas, marshmallows, and other things that I love to eat that are smothered in chocolate.
I love hearing about my past and my family came from. Being a part of my family is an experience that is one wild ride. Everything about my familiesí heritage and our traditions is always fun to be involved with and to learn about.