Contributed by Wanda Ridge. 2018

John Henderson Freeman was a young boy of 8 or 9 when he, along with his parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts, moved from Rolesville, Wake County, North Carolina with Marshall Co., Mississippi as their target area. Their exact route is unknown but we know they traveled through Alabama and southern Mississippi. Grandfather, Wiley Freeman, was awarded 79 7/10 acres of land in Greene Co., AL in 1837. The same year, Elizabeth Freeman, daughter of Wiley, married in Greene Co. to a Samuel Patrick.

From Greene Co, Al, the family migrated to Kemper Co., MS where Wiley was enumerated in the 1840 federal census. By 1850, a number of Freemans along with the Watkins, Aikens, Patricks, Hunters and Jones, all with North Carolina ties, were enumerated in the Northern Division of Marshall Co., MS.

John Henderson’s father, Levington Allen Freeman, died 30 November, 1846, in Tyro, Marshall County, a young man of 35, death proven by estate notice in the Holly Springs (Mississippi) Gazette. Although there is a lengthy probate file in the Marshall Co., Mississippi, archives, little is known about Levington Allen. Lack of records have made it impossible to indisputably prove that Levington Allen was the son of Wiley Freeman; however there is an abundance of circumstantial evidence that Wiley and Mary Hollingsworth Freeman were his parents.

Wiley and Mary “Polly” Hollingsworth married 18 Sept, 1809, in Wake Co., North Carolina. Wiley was the son of Joseph Freeman and Aggy Freeman. Joseph’s obituary appeared in the Raleigh, North Carolina Star in 1828 and read: “DIED: At his residence in this county, on the 1st instant, Mr. Joseph Freeman, a Revolutionary soldier, in the 70th year of his age. He had been a member of the Baptist Church upwards of forty years and his piety and exemplary conduct as a Christian stand as a shining example to his friends and acquaintances. Communicated.” It was after the death of Joseph that Wiley and his family began their travel toward their final destination of Marshall County, Mississippi.

In addition to Levington Allen, researchers have determined Wiley and Mary Freeman’s family consisted of daughters Elizabeth (married Samuel D. Patrick), Agnes (married James A. Steward), Susanna (married William Carmichael), and sons Peter, Robert and William. All but John Henderson, son of Levington Allen, lived their lives in the Tyro, Mashall/Tate County areas. Again, there is no absolute proof of these relationships; family connections based on abundance of circumstantial evidence.

Levington Allen married Tabitha Watkins in 1832 before leaving North Carolina. Tabitha’s father, John Watkins, died in 1848, at which time and after Levington Allen died, Tabitha bought 160 acres of land which bordered the Marshall and now Tate County lines. She named her children in the real estate transaction: John Henderson, Mary Ann Rebecca, Martha Ann Tabitha, Jacob Warren, Joseph Allen and Emily Bracher. All but John Henderson stayed in the Mississippi Delta area.

In 1859 John Henderson married Mary Francis Waldrip, daughter of Stephen G. and Martha Jane Smart of DeSoto County.

Left fatherless at age 16, and although his mother Tabitha had remarried to Robert Freeman, John Henderson took up the mantle of head of household until the Civil War came to Mississippi. He enlisted in Co. I, 34 Mississippi Infantry, CSA on May 1, 1862, serving before capture as Corporal. Military records show that John H. Freeman was captured at Lookout Mountain, November 24, 1863. He was sent to Rock Island Barracks in December, and transferred for exchange March 13, 1865 and paroled in May of 1865 in Memphis, Tennessee.

From the day John H., “Henderson”, Freeman enlisted in the Confederate Army, he kept a daily diary in which he recorded company travels as well as wrote about events in the lives of his fellow soldiers. Many from the Holly Springs area, a number of them being family. The death of his step-father, Robert Freeman was recorded:

March 17 and 18th R. Freeman died 3 1/4 o,clk this morning. buried very well as warm and plesent. Wrote letters and sent home by Capt. Miris of 10th Miss. Reg. to care of Mr. Baxley.

Tribute of Respect. Robt Freeman was taken Sunday morning, March 15 with aching limbs and back severely. About hour by sun he was taken with a chill, lasted till near 12 o,clock m. then followed a fever. He was very restless and slept but little during the night, complained good deal. Up early 16th by day, vomited. I asked him if he was any better. Said his head and back ached (wood kill him). He then lay down. At morning report call he told the O. Sargent he would not go to Dr., did not feel able to walk there. Shortly after, the Dr. came to see him and he was out of his mind, both senseless and speechless. appeared easy not appearing to try to talk or notice anyone at all. He would not take medicine. And at 6 o,clock he would keep getting up. and kept scratching himself and appeared to be uneasy turning over, poor bark. About 2 o/clk p.m. we left for Camp Autry near Shelbyville. It will be remembered the Reg. was out on pickett at the time. I helped put him in waggen. It was warm beautiful day. He lay still while in waggen to camp. I helped take him out of waggen and put him in tent on good dry straw and blanket. He became very restless, would not lay still but little and we had to hold him from getting up until morning of 17th, when the Dr. gave him medicine to make him easy and lay still. He lay still the most of the day, sleeping most of the time from affect of medicine.

18th About midnight he got worse off and commenced to having spasms and continued to have them till he died. Had very hard ones on till he died at qr. past 8 o,clock morning of 18th. He died off very easy while before he died he livened up and looked like he was going to speak and looked very natural. And he wore a smile when a corps. We combed his hair and put clean clothes on him and put him in a nice poplar coffin and buried him on hill south of Shelbyville, 1 mi. in an old field in good deep grave, very nicely, evening 3p.m. It ended the career of one of the true southern soldiers of 34th Miss. Regt, Co. II Bowen Rebbels. Peace be to his remains.
J. H. Freeman. He left $83.50 Confederate money.

John H. Freeman made many notations in his diary of letters received from home, letters written from home, and letters he read and wrote for soldiers. It is ironic, but providential, that three days before being captured John H. Freeman sent his diary home for safe keeping. After his return from the war, he picked up the diary and recorded daily purchases, receipts and farming information for most of his remaining life.

“Henderson” Freeman remained loyal to his service to the South. He attended a number of Confederate Veterans Reunions, some as far away as Memphis and Little Rock, and as late as 1911.

Tabitha Watkins Freeman died in March 1874 and was buried in an old family cemetery on family property in Marshall County. Also in that family cemetery were buried Levington Allen Freeman, Wiley Freeman and Mary Polly Hollingsworth Freeman. There is evidence of other burials, yet unknown.

The Civil War took a toll from the Tyro, Marshall County, area. Holly Springs was the site of 62 skirmishes during the war period. Prospects for farming were so poor that John Henderson Freeman left his widowed mother and grandfather Wiley for Arkansas. Journal entry read: “1873 Nov 27 Left Panola Co Mississippi Nov 27th Arrived at our place in Lea Co Ark December 2nd 1873".

We are not sure who precipitated the move to Arkansas, but along with John H. and wife Mary Francis were her parents and siblings, Stephen G. and Martha Jane Waldrip, Henry L. Waldrip, James M. Waldrip, widowed Elizabeth Jane Casey and Dr. William B. Waldrip. The family settled in the corner area where St. Francis, Lee and Monroe counties interconnect. At any given time their residences were called by any one of these counties. Stephen G. and Martha Jane Waldrip died and were buried in that area. Henry L. and James M. eventually returned to the Tate County, Mississippi area. Elizabeth Casey married John Gray and eventually died in Sumter County, Florida. Dr. William B. Waldrip remained in the area where his descendants still live.

When John H. Freeman's first wife's father, S. G. Waldrip, died in Wheatley, family story is that S. G. told the family while on his death bed that he had buried his money by an old tree. When his sons tried to find the money, it was gone. They always thought Henderson Freeman got the money, which Freeman denied. This caused a rift in the family, and James M. and Henry went back to Tate Co., Mississippi. In Freeman’s defense, in 1910 Freeman and his wife sold what was known as the Waldrip lot. The deed read: "All our undivided interest in the following lands in St. Francis Co., commencing at a point at the intersection of the west side of Memphis avenue and the South side of Main Street, in the town of Wheatley, ………... This land being in NW 1/4 S4 T3N R1W, known as the Waldrup lot. We reserve from the above the treasure that is supposed to be buried on said lands."

Mary Francis “Fanny” Freeman died in 1885 and was buried in the Wheatley area. John Henderson then married Matilda Falkner from Tate County, Mississippi. She died in 1901. John Henderson sold the family property and moved to Hunter, Woodruff County, Arkansas where several of his sons lived. He became very active in the Masonic Lodge in both Woodruff and Monroe counties, and also served as assistant postmaster to his son, William Louis.

From the BRINKLEY ARGUS Jan 14, 1910: “Local news: J. H. Freeman, one of the honored Masons of this city reports a very enjoyable trip to Hunter where he went to attend a convocation of the Hunter Masonic Lodge in their new hall on Jan. 1sst. He had the honor of installing their first Worshipful Master and Warden and took a part in the initiation of a candidate in the mysteries of ancient craft Masonry. He reports the new hall as a commodious, two story frame. The good ladies served a sumptuous supper on the night of the installation and the brethren made some felicitous speeches and suggestions.”

Excerpt from BRINKLEY ARGUS, January 1910: "VISITS WHEATLEY Our clever friend and esteemed citizen, J. H. Freeman and good wife were in Wheatley Wednesday on a visit to his old home place and surroundings and reports many a change in that enterprising city. Commenting on his visit Mr. Freeman said: "Land that I purchased for $2.00 per acre and sold a short while ago at more than fifty times that amount, was resold by the party I sold to at nearly double the price he paid to me." "You can tell from this that things are picking up at and around Wheatley. This is in marked contrast to the times when only a few years ago I saw the deer and wild animals in charge of the prairies which are now the great teeming rice ranches, producing small fortunes each year for their owners." Mr. and Mrs. Freeman were visitors while in Wheatley at the home of his daughter, Mrs. C. W. Brownlee, who together with their family recently moved to Wheatley from Monroe, Ark. Mr. Brownlee is now engaged in the restaurant business at Wheatley."

John Henderson later married Mrs. Hessie Cox of Brinkley, Monroe County, and moved to Brinkley where he died on 23 June 1913.

The Brinkley Argus, Thursday, June 27, 1913
J. H. Freeman Died Monday Afternoon
At the family residence on North New York Avenue on Monday afternoon about 6:30 o'clock, J. H. Freeman passed to his long home after a short illness. Mr. Freeman was ripe in years, being 81 years of age. He had lived in St. Francis and Woodruff Counties and quite a number of his old friends and relatives attended his funeral at the residence Tuesday afternoon. The Wheatley Masonic Lodge of which he was an honored member conducted the funeral services while Rev. Dana Terry was officiating minister. Mr. Freeman is survived by a loving wife and several sons and daughters. He was buried in Oaklawn Cemetery with an imposing grave marker which reads, “He lived as he died, a Christian.”

Children of John H. and Mary Francis Waldrip Freeman were Stephen Robert (married Alice Cook then Mary Ann Justina Cook), John Henderson Jr. (married Ophelia Acre), Lucy Adline (married Charles Wooten Brownlee), William Louis (married Annie Smith Russell), Buddy (died young), Tabitha Jane (died young), James Francis (married Mary Elizabeth Sieber), Edward Levington (died young), Ada Lorine (married Tom Smith), and Mattie Bracher (married Frankie Sieber).

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