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The Daily Picayune
New Orleans, December 17 1905
"Writing a History of Pike County"
"Luke W. Conerly is Preparing a Valuable Historical Work"
The history of Pike County, which I am preparing and will soon have ready for the publishers, will embrace, first, a compendium outline of the origin of Mississippi from the advent of Hernando De Soto in 1540 to its formation into a territorial government by act of Congress in 1798.
Here I begin the immigration from South Carolina and other States of men and women into that region subsequently designated by the boundaries of Marion County, from which territory the County of Pike was formed in 1815.
I am giving the names of those pioneer, both men and women, who their parents were, where they were from, how they came through the deep forest wilderness hundreds of miles afoot, on horseback or in cars drawn by an ox or cow, with her calf toddling by her side, pulling their little water millstones all the way with axles and shafts fastened to them, carlike, from South Carolina; where they settled on the different water courses, who their children were and who they married, the industries established, the constitution of schools and churches and leading men of that period. The makers of the carding machines, the reels, the spinning wheels and looms, household furniture and water mills; the hardy life on the farm, making them self-sustaining and fitting them for the future, which has been written with some of the best blood of their descendants.
I will give the territorial civil officers of Pike County, which are not on record at the State Capitol; the establishment of the county seat of justice, civil officers after admission in the Union in 1817 and on down legislative and judicial, to the war period, embodying interesting events, noted men, charming women, fandangos and spiritual revivals; good fiddlers and dancers, good preachers and Sunday school teachers; ‘possum hunts', deer drives and bear fights and negro slavery as it prevailed then.
Also a history of the original constitution of the New Orleans, Jackson and Great Northern Railroad from its first convention in New Orleans in 1847, why it took the route it did, and where it began in that city.
Also events connected with the coming struggle in 1800 and 1861, the organization of the military companies, the war period, including the names of the officers and men forming these military companies, the struggles of the people left at home for self-preservation, the results of the great conflict as concerned Pike County, her chivalric sons, her matchless women, her sacrifices in blood upholding the starry cross and the “Bonnie Blue Flag.”
All the newspapers of Pike County will come in- who where their founders and editors- from the first one established in Holmesville in 1842 by Henry Smith Bonney, contemporaneous with the little Picayune, the Bee and Commercial Bulletin.
My object has been to preserve the names of the Confederate soldiers of Pike County and leave to posterity the names of the ancestry. If such could be done by some one in each county of the State of Mississippi, it should be encouraged.
I expect to close the main features of my book with the close of the Tilden campaign in 1876. Every man, woman and child whose ancestry belonged to the pioneer of Pike County, or who were citizens of the county prior to the Civil War, or who may be any way connected with more than 1,000 soldiers who served in the Confederate Armies, going out with the companies organized there, will have a personal, as well as friendly interest in this book.
From Valley Forge and Ticonderoga, from Yorktown and Kings Mountain, from the Cowpens and the Talapoosa, from Chalmette and Chepultepec, heroic blood came to Pike County, and from Buena Vista to Fort Gregg a halo of glory enshrines her people of the century that has passed and gone.
Some years after the close of the Civil War I conceived the idea of writing a history of Pike County and compiled some valuable records from the clerks offices at Holmesville and at Columbia in Marion County. After this the records of Pike County were destroyed by fire at the burning of the recently built Courthouse in Magnolia. Not a marriage license nor certificate was saved, but my book will tell thousands who their great-grandfathers and great-grandmothers were and whence they came. From Scotland’s rugged crags and England’s foggy shores, from Ireland’s green fields and Switzerland’s romantic heights and the Kaiser’s realms, the chivalrous and the good came and planted their seed in the pine woods of Pike County along with those established there. “If such a book should be appreciated by the living of today, I shall feel that my work has not been in vain.“
Luke W. Conerly
Luke Ward Conerly
"Historian, Newspaper Editor, Attorney, Southern Patriot"
Compiled and Edited by Lee Jackson
Luke Ward Conerly was born February 3rd 1841 on a cotton plantation, owned by his grand uncle after whom he took his name, in the vicinity of China Grove, MS. He was a son of Owen Conerly Jr and grandson of Owen Conerly Sr, one of the pioneers of Pike County from North Carolina, who settled in Pike County in 1823. His mother was Ann Louisa Stephens of New Orleans, a daughter of Ann Lawn of England, and Robert James Stephens, of Irish nativity. In his early childhood, his father attended a mill on Magees Creek erected in 1817 by Ralph Stovall and later known as Bishops' Mill. He went to school at China Grove and in the early fifties his father moved to Holmesville, where he attended the schools taught by Samuel F. Gard, Edward Carruth and Thomas R. Stockdale. In 1859 he was a clerk in the store of Dr. George Nicholson and later was with William M. and James Conerly in the town of Holmesville. In 1860, he began the study of law under H.E. Weathersby, which was discontinued on account of the death of his father, necessitating his presence on the plantation with his mother to manage the slaves and the farm business.
Luke W. Conerly c.1860's
At age 20, Luke became a member of the Quitman Guards Infantry of Mississippi, organized and tutored by Capt. Preston Brent. Later that year the company was called out by the state after it had passed the ordinance of Secession and was mustered into the Confederate Army on May 27th 1861 as a 5th Sgt. The Quitman Guards became Company E of the 16th Mississippi Infantry, part of the Army of Northern Virginia. He was wounded two times, in the hip at the Battle of Antietam near Sharpsburg, MD September 17th 1862 and in the leg at the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, VA at Bloody Angle May 12th 1864.
Antietam was the Bloodiest one day battle in American history. 23,000 soldiers were killed, wounded or missing after twelve hours of combat.
Bloody Angle at the Battle of Spotsylvania was the longest sustained intense fight of the Civil War. For up to 20 hours men were engaged in a hand-to-hand and close in fight. A 22-inch oak tree was whittled in two by musket fire.
He was captured in the Shenandoah Valley near Strasburg, Virginia on June 27 1862 and held prisoner by the Union forces at the old Capital Prison in Washington, D.C. for 40 days before being released on August 5th 1862 at Aiken landing James River, Virginia in a prisoner swap. He then returned to his unit. He was again captured towards the end of the war on January 27th 1865 at Petersburg, VA. and was confined on March 14th 1865 at Knoxville, TN and sent to Chattanooga, TN. Luke again took the Oath of Allegiance at Louisville, KY on March 18th 1865, after which he was paroled by the Federal Army to remain north of the Ohio River for the rest of the war. Luke was again in the hands of the Federal Army at the time of the final surrender in 1865 of the Confederate Army. He was released and returned home to Pike County walking most of the way on foot. Company E of the 16th Infantry Regiment of Mississippi was also in the battles at Cross Key, Mechanicsville, Cold Harbor, Second Battle of Manassas, Harpers Ferry, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg , Bristoe Station, Mine Run, Shady Grove, Petersburg, Hatcher's Run, and Fort Gregg.
In 1866, within a year after the close of the War for Southern Independence, he was admitted to the bar at Monticello, in Lawrence County, in Judge C. McNain's Court.
In 1867 Luke married Emma Eoline Quin, daughter of Judge H. Murray Quin of Holmesville and they had 13 children. Judge H. Murray Quin was grandson of Peter Quin Sr. (1750-1824) who was a Revolutionary Soldier and in the group of men who created the town of Holmesville.
He subsequently moved to Louisiana. He always had a talent and fondness for writing and drifted out of law into the newspaper business. He became the editor of the Amite City Democrat in Amite City, Tangipahoa Parish, La. And in 1875 was urged by his friends in Pike County to establish a partisan campaign paper at Magnolia, MS to aid in the defeat of the Republican regime. He bought an old newspaper outfit at Ponchatoula, La, and shipped it to Magnolia. September 17, 1875 the first issues of the Magnolia Herald were printed. Luke continued as the editor until 1878 when he sold it to Henry C. Capell and Charlie Lee.
In 1876 he took a leading part in the Tilden campaign in Pike County. He was the correspondent for the New Orleans Delta during the lottery campaign in Louisiana and was Senate reporter for the Shreveport Caucasian during the Foster incumbency.
His wife Emma died March 19, 1901 during childbirth while living on the Conerly farm near Pride, LA. After Emma's death he relocated to Gulfport, MS and began writing his book on the history of Pike County which was published in 1909. That same year he married his second wife Ida Mae Farmer May 4th, 1909 and she died four years later on September 14, 1913. She was the daughter of Zachary T Farmer and Mary J Byars.
While doing research for his book he discovered that an Unknown Soldier from the War of 1812 had been buried in Pike County. In 1908 he corresponded with the War Department about the Unknown Soldier from Tennessee with General Carroll's Division that was buried about 11 miles east of Magnolia near the banks of Love's Creek on the Brumfield family property. The family there had maintained the grave about 93 years marking it with a slab of yellow pine. The US government funded the remains to be exhumed and relocated to the Chalmette Cemetery. Luke and Superintendent O'Shea of the Chalmette Cemetery were led to the grave by Henry S. Brumfield a grandson of the original owner of the Brumfield plantation. The pine slab marking the soldiers grave had rotted and the inscription of the name could not be identified. Two brass buttons were found with the remains and fragments of a blue uniform. The remains were taken by train to the Chalmette Cemetery and buried with military honors. Upon his tomb is engraved "Unknown Soldier U.S.A. War of 1812."
Luke W. Conerly 1907
Luke practiced law on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and on May 4th 1912 he founded the Society of Mississippi Choctaw whose chief council was located in Gulfport MS. This was a historical society with a membership spread over Alabama, Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi. He became a claims agent for the Mississippi Choctaw Indians and in 1914 traveled to Washington DC to represent them before Congress. He appeared before the committee of Indian affairs in support of the MS Choctaw's claim on the distribution of $3,500,000 to be given to the tribe. The money was held up pending a decision by Congress as to the rights of the Mississippi Indians who claimed title to a share of the money under the treaty of 1830, awarding citizenship. The Choctaws of Oklahoma opposed having the Mississippians placed on tribal rolls and the house rejected the proposal.
Society of Mississippi Choctaw pin circa 1912
Luke remarried a third time April 17th 1915 to Georgia E. McNair(1874-1951). They had no children together but Georgia did have a son from a previous marriage who lived with them.
He became ill and June 10, 1921 was moved into Beauvoir in Biloxi, MS. Beauvior at the time was converted to house Confederate Veterans. Barracks and other buildings on the property including a hospital were destroyed by several hurricanes with major damage during Hurricane Katrina. The main house survived and has been beautifully restored. A Jefferson Davis Presidential Library and Museum is being constructed adjacent to Beauvior and is set to open August 2011.
Luke W. Conerly died at 4:45 a.m on Thursday March 9th 1922 at age 81 while living in the barracks at Beauvior Old Soldiers Home. He is buried in Mississippi City Cemetery a few miles west of Beauvoir off Pass Rd and H Ave next to his 2nd wife Ida Mae Farmer at his request. He was a member of the Masons and was buried with Masonic honor. The Sons of Confederate Veterans placed a new headstone at his grave August 2nd 2008 with a rifle and cannon salute. Many of his descendants attended the ceremony including three granddaughters, four great grand-children, four great great grandchildren, and five great great great grandchildren and host of friends and family.
Luke, while living in the barracks of the old soldier's home next to Beauvoir, the last home of Jefferson Davis, placed a copy of his book "Pike County Mississippi" in the Jefferson Davis Library. The book has remained there all these years. It survived hurricane Katrina and is in good shape, even though the library was destroyed. It will again be placed in the new Jefferson Davis Library at Beauvoir when it is completed.