Friday, October 5, 2012

General Charles Lafayette Pearson

They called him general. General Charles Lafayette Pearson, Charles a name fit for a king who lost and won his crown, Lafayette, for a general who fought for a noble cause.

A graduate of law at the University of Alabama, he was too young to have fought for the south in the Civil War, too old to have fought in the Spanish American War. The French gave him his honorary title when he completed four years of graduate study in France, where when the debate continued over revolution and counter-revolution, church and state, and monarchy and republicanism. Young Charles, for he was perhaps in his late twenties by now, was influenced by the moderate President Jules Grévy and his brother Jules Philippe Louis Albert Grévy, who was one of his instructors.

He returned to Alabama and to his father’s farm. He married the beautiful and mysterious Zenia Blasingame, and they had nine children, unusually named and exceptionally well-educated, who, of those that survived the rigors of childhood, grew up, moved away, and lived good lives.

Charles became Brigadier-General of the Alabama State Troops, and so earned his title.

Charles, good son that he was, cared for his father and mother until their deaths. He practiced law in Tallapoosa County and oversaw a large farming operation in the red clay hills of Alabama that grew to over 42,000 acres.

The farm is gone, sold to a lumber company, and the land has reverted to pine trees and kudzu, the children are gone, what remains is a small cemetery lost in the woods, appropriately called the General Charles Lafayette Pearson cemetery.

The general died on January the 12, 1894 and his remains lay along with those of his father and mother and a few other souls.


During a time in Alabama state history when ordinary working-class citizens opposed compulsory education, he insured his children got a good education. Several of them went to Emory College in Atlanta, others to Kansas State in Manhattan. One son, James Nevels Pearson taught at Michigan State after graduating from Kansas State. Another son, Varlourd left Kansas State to enlist in the Army during World War I (He died during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive and received the Distinguished Service Medal), another son Madison Bertand Pearson, also graduated from Kansas State University and played on the World Champion Chicago Bears team in 1932.

The general's oldest surviving son was Carlos Lopez Pearson. There is little information available about him other than a draft registration for World War II that declares he was born in Hudleyville, Alabama, March 14, 1887, and was then (1942)living in Wenatchee, Washington. The name Carlos Lopez is a play on his father's name, Charles Lafayette - Carlos is Spanish for Charles and Lopez comes from Antonio López de Santa Anna, the Lafayette of Mexican independence.

I am not able to independently verify that Charles Pearson was a Brigadier General of the Alabama State Troops or to learn the exact organization referenced.

Personal note.
The General is my great great uncle.

Great great grand-daddy James Madison Pearson (1817 - 1891) was born in Monticello, Jasper County Georgia. In the 1830's, he left Georgia for the new state of Alabama, settling on land recently taken from the Creek Indians along the Coosa River,  some 12 miles north of Dadeville, in Tallapoosa County.

Read about the Creek Wars, Alabama Department of Archives.

James and wife Elizabeth Ann Brown had nine children. See O'Farrell Family. Included in this brood, was my great great grandfather Benjamin Rush Pearson, born 1849, and his younger brother Charles Lafayette Pearson, born 1854.

More sources and notes

General Charles Lafayette Pearson, courtesy of George Campbell

Two story family farm in Alabama in the Auburn University Libraries

 Find a Grave

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Wautier Pieressone 1296

My family connection to the Pearson name starts with my mother Elmire Pearson and her father James Madison Pearson. The name can be traced back for certain to Edward Peersonne, born circa 1575 in Wilmslow, Pownell Fee, Cheshire, England. Family Tree.

The ancient county of Chester, now Cheshire (like the cat), lies in the northwest of England. Cheshire borders both Wales and Scotland. For many years after the Norman invasion of 1066, it was a area of dissent. Eventually, the Anglo-Saxon were overcome by William the Conqueror's French. Then, in the 13th and 14th centuries, it was awash with battles between the Scots to the north and the English. Today, the county borders the great city of Manchester and the rivalries are on the football field.

Once upon a time...

The first recorded use of the name Pearson is Wautier Pieressone del counte de Berewyk, who signs the Ragman Rolls as a land owner in Berwickshire, 28th Aug 1296, pledging allegiance to Edward I, King of England.

Read the Ragman Rolls in PDF. Read online, Ragman Rolls.

[Note, This date, 1296, has been commonly misreported as 1226. See Ancestry. But other sites have got it right. See MacPherson. King Edward I's reign was, 1239 - 1307. It was this Edward who was known as Longshanks and the Hammer of the Scots, who was portrayed in the movie Braveheart. The Ragman's Roll spelled Pierssone using the old letter  f, similar to the German ß (called eszett (sz) or  sharp s).]

Berewyk, or modern day Berwickshire, is an ancient border county situated on the eastern coast of Scotland. It lies on the north side of the river Tweed with the English county of Northumberland to the south. The title count signifies only a chieftain or clansman, as the Ragman's Roll has many other counts of Berewyk, and the Scots tended to organize themselves around a chieftain, or family member.

The suffix wyk is Frisian and signifies a village. Read more. The first name Wautier comes from the French Waltier, and the Anglo-Saxon, Waldheri, and signifies a (powerful) warrior.

In researching the Pearson Family, keep in mind the multitudes of spellings including: Peerson, Peersonne, Piersonne, Piersone, Pierson, Pairsone, Pearsone, Peirsonde, Peirsone, Peirsound, Pesirsaunde, Persone, Peyrsoune, Peyrson, etc.. What little that can be known with certainty about the name Pearson is that it is a combination of Piers and son. Piers is French for Peter. The designation Pierson, simply means son of Peter.

The name Piers over the centuries became Peter, keeping its French spelling in Scotland, Ireland, and in some northern English counties. During the Middle Ages, Piers was commonly used throughout England. Piers Plowman, written in the later half of the 14th century by William Langland, is a well-known Middle English allegorical poem. Piers Morgan, of Scottish and Irish descent, British journalist and CNN host has resurrected interest in the name.

William Wallace from Wikipedia
What of this Warrior, son of Piers, landowner of Berwyk? We know that he was a contemporary of William Wallace, who died in 1307. But we will never know if Wautier Pieressone fought with Wallace at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297, a year after Wautier signed his oath of allegiance to Edward.

One wonders ...

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Pearson's Dragoons

Note. I have no information to directly connect Pearson's Dragoons with my family. I just wanted to get this down in case some information should turn up.

The Civil War impacted every corner of the South and Tallapoosa County was no exception. One estimate is that small rural Tallapoosa County contributed almost 3,000 soldiers to the war effort on the Confederate side, and of these almost a third perished. A Few Soldiers of Old Tallapoosa.

Campaign Flag First Alabama Cavalry Regiment

Pearson's Dragoons 

The First Alabama Cavalry Regiment was organized at Montgomery, November, 1861 under the command of Colonel James H. Clanton.

The First Alabama Cavalry Regiment fought at the battles of Shiloh and Murfreesboro. It was also part of the rear guard which protected the retreat from Tullahoma and Chattanooga, losing severely at Duck river; fought at Chickamauga, Clinton and Knoxville, and took a brilliant part in the Sequatchee raid. It was engaged in retarding Sherman's advance on Atlanta.

Read more.

Company D of the First Alabama was also known as Pearson's Dragoons. It is also called Company C and may have had other designations due to reorganizations. It was formed in Tallapoosa County. Its regimental commanders included: John G. Stokes (resigned, 25 Oct 62); Jesse W. Fitzpatrick (resigned, 26 Nov 64); Henry C. Washburn (1st Lt., paroled as Capt., Co. "D").

The company designation changed during the war due to reorganizations. Other designations include: "Co. C, 1st Alabama Cavalry; Co. D, 12th Alabama Cavalry, later 2nd Co. C". I have also seen reference to Companies C, D, and F. See following.

The 1st Alabama Cavalry Regiment surrendered at Charlotte, North Carolina, May 3, 1865. Pearson's Dragoons was then under the command of Henry C. Washburn, and designated as Company D. Seventy-two officers and men of the Alabama First Cavalry signed paroles. Re: James Henry Pitts.

Lost in all of this is the explanation for the name Pearson's Dragoons. The Pearson family lived in Tallapoosa County from shortly after the War of 1812 and the Battle with the Creeks. They owned a significant amount of land in the county. That land was located off modern Highway 280 and up Slaughter’s Crossing Road. Today, the land is owned by Kimberly Clark.

The land was passed down to General Charles Lafayette Pearson, but he was born in 1854, and would have been only six or seven at the outbreak of the Civil War. His father James Madison Pearson, born Monticello, Jasper Co., Georgia in 1817 is the more likely connection, if any, to the company name. He was an attorney and farmer, who passed the farm down to his son Charles. Family cemetery of Charles Lafayette Pearson, including his father James Madison Pearson.

There were nine children born to James Madison Pearson and his wife Mary White. My connection is to older son, Benjamin Rush Pearson, my great-grandfather, who became a doctor and practiced in Birmingham. His son, my grandfather, was also named James Madison Pearson.

My grandfather often spoke about his adventures in and around Dadeville and Tallopoosa County.