Second Biennial Booker and Southern Kin Reunion Held in Repton

Published 11:34 pm Thursday, December 16, 2021

The second Booker and Southern Kin reunion was held Oct. 22, and Oct. 23 at Beulah Campground in Repton, Ala. There were 21 family surnames represented at the reunion of which several have connections to Crenshaw County.

The 21 surnames that those in attendance came to pay honor to and learn about were Andrews, Anthony, Brooks, Booker, Cater, Champion, Dees, Ellis, Griffin, Hawkins, Hardee, Harper, McClammy, McPherson, Pipkin, Riley, Skinner, Salter, Snowden, Stuckey and Waters.

The very active Booker and Southern Kin Facebook page, which was a catalyst for the reunion, came to be when in early 2016, Caryl Booker of Ohio came across Linda Luster Strickland’s name while doing some research on findagrave.com and he reached out to her with some genealogy questions. Strickland was raised by her grandparents, Edward Melvin Booker and Maggie Texana Stuckey Booker, who were both from Pine Orchard in Monroe County. Although Strickland lived in Ft. Benning, Georgia growing up, where her grandparents retired after her grandfather’s 20-year army career, she spent every holiday in Pine Orchard visiting with the family still living in Monroe County. Her association with family in the area remains firm. Thus, she was able to connect Booker with relatives and help him fill in some genealogical blanks.

Booker’s grandfather, Frank Melton Booker was living in Midway during 1911 when he heard from a cousin that there were very high paying jobs available in Ohio. Very few opportunities were available in south Alabama during that time, so Frank Booker hopped on the back of a train and hoboed his way to Ohio where he began working with Firestone, manufacturing tires. Eventually Frank Booker began taking yearly trips to Alabama on his shiny Cadillac that he purchased brand-new and loved to show off. Eventually three of his sisters, Minnie, Texanna, and Viola and one brother, Andrew Jackson Booker, joined him in Ohio where they all were able to make a very good living.

After a few weeks of Strickland and Booker working together on research, Booker suggested they create a Facebook page where cousins and those connected to the Bookers and/or Salters could facilitate discussions, collaborate, learn from each other, and most importantly, capture knowledge of ancestors before being lost forever. The group was created in May 2016 and is now 838 members strong and consists of people from all over the country as well as members from Australia, Canada and Spain.

According to Linda Luster Strickland of Niceville, Florida, from whom the idea of the reunion originated, the Booker and Salter families are what she refers to as the group’s founding families.

“Our Facebook group, Booker and Southern Kin, began by focusing on the Booker and Salter families, but Caryl Booker and I quickly realized that the Bookers and Salters that he and I are connected to from Pine Orchard, and Burnt Corn, had a bit of intermarriage as most families did way back when due to the lack of transportation 100 plus years ago. You can’t just pull one family out and toss it aside. All of the clans represented at the reunion have some kind of connection to the Booker or Salter name,” Strickland said.

Linda Strickland was the organizer for the reunion and said she has always been very interested in family lore. The life of Strickland’s 4 times great-grandfather, Trustin Stuckey, and where he came from has always been a mystery, a mystery that she said caused her intrigue in genealogy and family history to grow.

“Trustin Stuckey was a bit of a mystic character. He died before I was born, but one of my uncles and a few other people in the family remember him. They say he was very tall and had horrible scars all over his back, perhaps from a whipping or a knife fight. He married a Native American woman that was a Delaware native, and they lived in South Carolina before coming to Alabama. It has always been an interesting story and made me want to learn as much as I could. I really believe that God picks at least one person from each generation of a family, to be the keeper of family history and the teller of family stories,” Strickland said.

Strickland’s grandfather, Edward Melvin Booker, said just before he died that he did not want to be forgotten. He told Strickland that he hoped his family would mention his name on occasion so he would be remembered. Strickland is proud to hold up her end of the deal and thoroughly enjoys sharing her family’s lineage.

As a retired middle school teacher, Strickland used genealogy to help children that were struggling with various issues to see their connection to the world. According to Strickland, research has shown that children familiar with how they fit into a family or community, have a lower chance of getting involved with gangs or participating in other destructive activities that may create an artificial and harmful substitute for family.

“We are all broken pieces in this not always so friendly world. I think it is a beautiful thing when humans discover a little bit about how they contribute to the whole picture of life. Whether that is through finding new cousins or unearthing details of their family’s biography, or even settling into a purposeful career– I think it is healing, and reunions are a way in this fast and crazy world to stop and remember that we do indeed fit into something bigger than ourselves. So many people put in so much hard work on this reunion, and I am forever thankful for those that made this possible and I hope they enjoy and benefit from the reunions as much as I do,” Strickland said.

Marc Strickland and Maggie Jernigan discussing genealogy. Maggie’s grandfather is Walter Brewer of Dozier. Photo by Haley Mitchell Godwin

Pam Salter of Luverne said that she enjoys reading about the past and learning about how people lived long ago. She has been interested in family history for most of her life and is making plans to attend the 2023 reunion.

“I have done a good bit of research on my Salter family, and I also hired someone to help me with it a few years ago. There were still many blanks that we could not fill in. I am hoping that I can go to the next reunion and get some of these mysteries solved with the information that will be available there,” Salter said.

Salter said that her mother, Sammie Phelps Salter, spoke more often about Phelps family history than her father did about the Salters. This is one reason she feels a stronger need to research that side of her family tree. Pam’s daughter knew her great-grandparents on the Phelps side, but her Salter great-grandparents, T.J. Salter and Inez Pouncy Salter, died before she was born and Salter wants her daughter to know more about them.

“It is really great to know who your ancestors were, even knowing just the names of your 3 or 4 times great-grandparents, or beyond, is a special thing. Learning about who they really were, how they lived and where they came from is amazing. It also helps put things in perspective. It is hard to believe the differences in how my ancestors lived and how me and my family live. My mom told me that when she was a child, for Christmas she always got apples and oranges, and maybe a piece of candy. On a very few occasions, she got a babydoll. Now kids get everything in the store. The differences don’t end there though, and it is just hard to fathom,” Salter said.

Salter said she only knows small bits and pieces of her Salter family history and wishes she could go back and write down some of the things her father, and grandfather said. She encourages everyone, especially young people, to write down any family information they are told. She advises to ask questions about family history and to go to reunions when possible.

The Oct. 22 and Oct. 23 Booker and Southern Kin reunion was a catered event with fried catfish, chicken tenders, and various sides served Friday night and Roasted chicken with sides Saturday night. There was a flat $5.00 per person reunion fee and  meals were $15.00 per person. Love offerings were accepted each night to give to Beulah Church for their providing use of the building.

Linda Luster Stickland provided guests with a gift bag containing various educational publications on history of the areas in which the ancestors of the attendees lived. Door prizes were given out at the end of each evening.

All attendees were given a name tag that had been prepared in advance. The tags also identified which families the wearer was connected to with a color-coded system. Colored dots on the name tags signified which families represented at the reunion, each person was connected to.

Those in attendance could participate in various field trips held on both Friday and Saturday. The outings included sightseeing in Burnt Corn where many ancestors of those on the trip lived- led by a native of the area, Butch Salter. A tour of the Monroe County Courthouse Museum, and cemetery tours of Ramah Baptist Church, Old Booker Cemetery, Lonestar ,Midway Baptist Church and Mt. Pleasant Methodist in Skinnerton were also among the field trips.

Lowery Store in downtown Burnt Corn was one of the field trip stops-taken by Jodie Brewer Jernigan

On Friday, Caryl Booker gave a history of the Bookers from England and Stephanie Salter gave a living history presentation where she was in character as an ancestor that was one of the pioneers of the Burnt Corn area. Salter had in her possession the journal of this ancestor. Sherry Johnston, retired librarian from Evergreen, spoke about migration patterns of the pioneers from the East Coast into Alabama. She discussed the Federal Hwy and the Wolf trail that many ancestors took. There was a clan call where attendees stood when the surname they were associated with was called.

Stephanie Salter presented the second part of her demonstration Saturday evening and later those in attendance  viewed the many photographs and documents on display, mingled, made connections and enjoyed fellowship. Saturday evening Butch Salter sang a song he wrote about his grandfather and played the guitar. A clan call was once again made.

On Sunday, the option to attend church services where ancestors attended was available.

 

This year’s reunion averaged 67 in attendance each night, down from 110 in 2019.

The money raised via the reunion is used to repair graves and headstones. Fundraising activities included a silent auction, raffle of a log cabin quilt done in batiks, made and donated by Renee Walls Scharning, and the sale of t-shirts commemorating the reunion. This year, $2,318.63 was raised, enough for 5 headstones. During the reunion, attendees could nominate graves to be repaired. The graves chosen to be honored and repaired this year were 1 infant grave at Lone Star, 1 infant grave at Mt. Pleasant, and 2 Adult Anthony graves at Mt Pleasant. Details of name and birth/death dates are being determined and will be shared on the Facebook page.

Planning is already underway for the 2023 reunion and graves that need work are being identified as several very remote and neglected cemeteries have been discovered. New field trips will be added and a cousin, Sherry Scott, who is a muralist, will be offering an art class.

Anyone with ties to the families listed above wanting to attend future reunions or interested in genealogy can look up Booker and Southern Kin on Facebook. Formation of committees for the 2023 reunion has begun. If interested in being on a committee, contact the Facebook page.