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There are people of our nation's past whose demonstrated courage and fortitude can serve as examples to the so-called greatest Americans living today. The stories of their sacrifices for their family, neighbors and  country would—or should, anyway—moisten the eyes and soften the heart of even the toughest old reprobate. The young student isn’t likely to find the names of these folks in school-house history books, yet they were a part of many of the deeds recorded in those volumes. No statues have been, or ever will be, erected to them. No holidays have ever been named in their honor. No one ever painted their portraits or wrote worshipful biographies in their memory. Such acts of adoration are generally left for the memorializing of national leaders, political theorizers and pontificators of all types, not small-time dirt-farmers who died with the young nation’s soil under their fingernails. While no monuments, other than a few simple gravestones, exist to remind us of their existence it was their calloused hands, their sturdy backs and their sharp, if uneducated, minds that actually built the America we know and love.

In truth, a large percentage of Americans today, if they properly knew their family's history, could put names to such good people of the past and proudly claim them as their very own ancestors and, in so doing, the history of our nation would become something very personal to them. I know of what I speak, for such sturdy folks of the past as these were my own ancestors.

The people from whom I descend were not wealthy nor were they people of any high social station. Rather they were simple men and women of toil. They were just average folks. Where they are recorded in the nation's decennial census they are most often listed as being simple farmers. Occasionally, they were small-time merchants and some were blacksmiths or purveyors of other simple, but necessary, trades. Indeed, such professions were how they made their living. But such occupational titles do not properly define or describe who these good folks really were, for in reality their true vocation--both men and women, adult and child--was that of pioneer.

When new lands in America opened up to the west, as was the nation's wont, these folks followed the early trail-blazers and laid the foundations for civilization.  It was they who built the first homes, put up the fences, tilled the virgin soil and turned the wildernesses of North America into communities. These communities would later be the foundations of the towns and cities of America today. . .

Zilphy was just a little girl, really; only thirteen years old at the time of her first marriage to John Mackey. She was the middle-daughter and the middle-child of James Harder and Elizabeth Pitt Harder. Zilphy was born in Tennessee, probably in Sumner County, on July 30, 1814 and when she was young, perhaps just an infant, the family moved to Alabama. While we know nothing of her younger life in particular, we can surmise that she grew up like other children did of a similar culture, time and place.

Zilphy would have played outside barefoot as a toddler and as a growing child. She would have learned the feminine arts of cooking a nourishing meal over a fire, baking bread in a dutch-oven and keeping house in circumstances where things—house and clothing alike—could never really be made clean. The house she grew up in was probably a small log-building or similar modest structure that her father could have built from the native materials. 

The life of Zilphy’s family was no doubt one of working the fields in the daytime six days a week, spending the evenings together as a family enjoying what activities could be performed by dim candlelight and the glow of a fire in the fireplace. Sundays were always spent in church.

Like other girls her age she learned from observation that the goal of every young girl was to marry and have children of her own and that the rest of her life would be spent supporting that husband of her youth and caring for their off-spring: changing their diapers, picking them up when they fell down and just generally loving and caring for them, even as adults, all her days.

The family and neighbors were Zilphy’s world and there was no television, radio, paper-back books or similar media intrusions into that world. There were no fads to follow, no celebrities to emulate.

Zilphy’s world was also a time and place of a high infant-mortality rate and diseases took many-a boy before he could become a man and many-a girl before she herself knew the joy of motherhood. It was not unusual for women to die early after bearing sometimes as many as fifteen or more babies, their young, delicate bodies simply worn out

The doctors of the day understood very little about disease and knew nothing of the germs and viruses that caused them. There were no nearby hospitals, no clinics. Any surgery was more likely to do harm to the patient than to help.

It was a time and place where there was no social structure other than the one that families and neighbors created together. It was not the government’s place to provide social services. Taking the elderly parent into one’s own modest home that could barely contain one’s own off-spring was the norm, and the expectation, of the day. Making room for a newly married couple who could not yet afford a place of their own was also commonly done. For their own survival, families had to love each other and did. Likewise, communities had to be concerned for one another and they were. Such was the world in which Zilphy was born and reared.
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[The above is from Zilphy's Children: the Story of an American Family  by Michael Mackey (c) 2008]

Little Zilphy Harder was born in Tennessee in the year 1814 the child of James Harder and Elizabeth Pitt Harder and was one of six siblings. Raised in the new state of Tennessee as a toddler and then moved to the northwest corner of Alabama as a child, she married John Mackey when she was but thirteen years of age. The third of six children, her siblings were John who married Sallie Lindsey, Henrietta who married Josiah Lindsey, Mary who married Jeremiah Job, James who married Mary Ann Cranshaw and Elizabeth who married David Evans. John and his family stayed in Mississippi after the Civil War and James and his family moved to Missouri and then to Arkansas before the Civil War settling in Sevier County. All four of the girls, however, ultimately traveled with their families and settled in Texas. Elizabeth Evans, or Bettie, actually ended up moving on to Rush Springs, Oklahoma and living there the final years of her life.

Zilphy and her first husband, John Mackey, had three children together before he passed away. Those children were: Mary Elizabeth Mackey, who married William Carroll Thigpen and then after his death, David Stovall; Tibitha Catherine Mackey, who married James Monroe Lindsey; and James Tyre Mackey, who married Martha Stovall and then after her death, Nancy Tellis.

Zilphy's marriage to Mackey took place in Lauderdale County, Alabama and after his death she moved to Itawamba County, Mississippi where her parents had moved. There she met and married Robert Rice with whom she had five children: Martha Ann who married C C Clayton, Joseph Josiah who married Mollie McDonald, Henrietta Emaline who married Mark Allen, Hill who never married, and Sarah Christian who married James Edward LaRoe.

During the war her two older sons, JT and Joe, both served in the military, as did her husband, Robert.
Three of her then, or future, sons-in-law also served the Confederacy during the war.

Following the Civil War Zilphy, her sisters and their families were part of the large migration that took place from Itawamba County to eastern Texas, largely the area of Kaufman County.

The story of Zilphy's Children is constantly being uncovered as we continue to learn and continue to share the history of the family. You are welcome to read and view all we lay out here. If you are a member of Zilphy's family or the family of one of her siblings, please contact Mike Mackey at mackey@ inbox.com and share the information that you have about your family and its history. It would be greatly appreciated.

Those who came before us deserve to be remembered

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