Thoughts on the 4th of July

Thursday, July 04, 2013
This is a photo of Wesley Paul McBurnett. He would have been a great Uncle of my fathers. I never knew him, I never really knew any of them. My dad was not raised by his birth father and had almost no contact with any of them. But in my genealogy research I've been able to know the family a little, probably better than he ever did. Paul served and died in WW I, doing what he thought was the best for his country.

I'm not sure how he would have felt about his country. His family had been large landowners in what is now Carrollton Georgia. The family patriarch had ties to the Revolutionary War and the family was given land in Georgia after his service and death.

The family was large and productive. They had been slave owners though it seems as if the later generations moved away from that somewhat. But they were prominent citizens, with many children and extended family living all round them on prosperous farms.

Until the Civil War. When Sherman marched through Georgia there wasn't much left of their family land, and almost every single young man in the family was dead. The few who remained were wounded and had nothing left.

A lot of the remaining family went to Texas to start over. Some ended up in Arkansas, Oklahoma. Some did quite well for themselves, starting over. Others, not so much.

Paul's parents ended up in Oklahoma. I'm not sure how prosperous they were, but they lived out a life of relative peace after the horrors they witnessed in their youth.

Photo: Harrison Wardlow McBurnett and Margaret Brown McBurnett
(parents of Paul)

Their daughter Dovie, (Paul's sister) didn't fare quite as well. She married many times, (8 that we know of), and her first marriage ended when she was 27 and had two small children to care for. Her history indicates she was unusual, quirky and a little eccentric. Her son Delbert, my grandfather, didn't leave a memorable legacy behind.

What I suppose is interesting to me, in reflecting on the 4th of July, is that this one branch of my family tree- who lived through the beginnings of our country, the migration west and the growing pains associated with that: they never did lose faith that this country offered them an opportunity to begin again. That anything was possible, that hard work would be rewarded, and that service was important. If anyone had the right to be disillusioned it would have been Harrison and Paul. The stories told 'round their dinner table would have been tragic and devastating, but Paul still grew up and wanted to serve his country- giving the ultimate sacrifice.

I told madpoet this morning I was feeling 'over' the 4th of July. In my recent experiences it's been about fireworks and noise and parties. It hasn't really been anything about celebrating our independence, though I suppose the fact we give most everyone a paid day of to bbq, drink and shoot off fireworks means we are pretty independent. I'm not always proud of our country- but the last month with the end of DOMA and the hope of Immigration reform, I have moments of hope.  Maybe that is the lesson I can take from the McBurnetts: that no matter what life throws at you- you keep moving forward with hope that tomorrow could be better.

Delbert Eugene (Gene) Hall, my grandfather.
U.S. Army WW II

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