At least not the sort where you send out invitations and print T-shirts.
Growing up, most of my mother’s relatives lived close by. I played with my cousins every day, saw aunts and uncles at church, and had a grandmother there to keep us all in line.
No reason for a “reunion.” We were already there.
When we did get together on a holiday, the only excitement — for me, at least — was anticipating the possibility that “distant” relatives from Louisiana might join us and bring their cute daughter.
On my father’s side, the brothers and sisters gathered once or twice a year, ate and drank until someone said something that made someone mad and everyone went home in a huff.
I can’t recall ever hearing the term “reunion” used to describe what we were doing.
So when my mother told me that her county historical society was going to host a reunion of the descendants of Elijah Pugh, I did not pay it much mind. Though she was one, which made me one, I figured there would be little reason for me to attend, being as I was here and the reunion was, you know, there.
My mama is not a pushy woman, but she has a way of maneuvering you into a position on her mental chess board that makes you actually believe you have some choice in the matter, when you don’t. So you “freely” make the decision she wants you to make and her expressions of gratitude warm your heart to the point that you think she thinks you are the kindest, sweetest, most considerate child, not the most maneuverable.
So it was that, after some discussion and gentle prodding, I told my mama that I would drive down and take her to a reunion of people our ties to whom depended on a man long dead.
Elijah Pugh fought in the Revolutionary War. That was his, and our, claim to fame, as well as the fact on which more than a few Daughters of the American Revolution memberships are based.
Or, at least, he served in the Revolutionary War.
Or, at least, he was a member of a militia unit in upcountry Georgia, a region known for men of shifting loyalties who shot at the British, at the Indians, at their neighbors and at each other with the conviction of combatants determined to be on the winning side.
I do not doubt Elijah Pugh’s patriotism. I simply mention that he ran with a rough crowd.
He was not the first Pugh to find himself in the company of such. In North Carolina before the Revolution, another relative, James Pugh, was an active member of a group called the Regulators, who were upset over a variety of British abuses. When their grievances were not addressed, they marched on the colonial capital. Not a good move. The British crushed the rebellion and hanged six of the leaders. One of them was James.
So James was not able to beget a long and semi-illustrious line, but Elijah was, thanks to a “pewter flask” hanging around his neck. According to family lore, that flask deflected a British ball that would have killed him. (That’s not the last time whiskey will be seen as the salvation of one of us — if whiskey was what was in the flask, as likely it was.)
After the Revolution, Elijah stayed in Georgia until he came to Alabama in 1811. He settled in Clarke County, where he and his descendants begat and begat and begat again, until there were enough for a reunion.
Now, as I said, I do not have much experience with reunions, and a reunion of people with genealogist’s inclinations is fraught with all sorts of dangers — not the least of which, being that since I am a historian, they expect me to know something about history.
(A note of caution. If you meet someone and they say they are a historian, ask them a history question. If they give you a straight answer, they aren’t. If they tell you where you can find the answer, you’ve got yourself a real one.)
So we went.
It was nice.
Mama had fun, although she admitted that it was the first time she had been around so many kinfolks that she didn’t know.
I had fun because I saw people I grew up with who I never realized were my relatives — one of the reasons I was advised to go out of the county to find a mate.
We ate, drank (water and tea), shared stories, listened to speakers, tapped toes to a bluegrass band, shared artifacts and memorabilia and went home secure in the knowledge that judging from Elijah Pugh’s progeny, the meek are not inheriting the earth.
I could get into the reunion thing.
Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is Eminent Scholar in History at Jacksonville State University and an editorial writer and columnist for The Star. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.