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The Narrative of George Russell of Golf Hill: Autobiography

THE NARRATIVE OF GEORGE RUSSELL OF GOLF HILL

1. AUTOBIOGRAPHY

The Narrative of George Russell of Golf Hill is a nineteenth-century autobiography, a colonial memoir supported by seven volumes of Clyde Company Papers. George Russell's 'privileged position' as a Western District squatter 'writing history' will be challenged by contemporary reports from The Age newspaper covering the Delegates' Convention on Land Reform (Melbourne, 1857). The aim is to reveal that which the narrator does not, can not, or will not, say about his experiences in the tumultuous period after the Gold Rush.

In writing their own histories, autobiographers determine what the reader is made aware of concerning their past, and even how those events are to be interpreted. In an historical setting, where alternative views may not be readily available, this creates an imbalance of power in favour of the author.

While The Narrative of George Russell of Golf Hill is the story of a successful and weal…

American Story: New Century

AMERICAN STORY

New Century

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the United States was well on its way to becoming an economic and political powerhouse. The benefits of democracy and industrialisation were not so apparent in Alabama however. In fact, when the Southern Democrats swept the board in the 1900 election, the State took the opportunity to turn 180 degrees backwards.

It is obvious now that stalling the aspirations of half its population because they were black was counter-productive. It makes no sense for a society to limit the expansion of its tax base, to discourage more of its people from becoming contributors to its institutions.

However the priority for white Alabaman voters in 1900 was what one newspaper called, "the perplexing, menacing problem of negro suffrage". The solution, it seemed, was a new constitution, because "the present one is out of date, imperfect and unfitted to present circumstances.

From its inception, the Constitution of the State of A…

American Story: Lynch Law

AMERICAN STORY

Lynch Law

Camp Springs Cemetery and Church is a well-tended sanctuary. To the west, behind the screen of mature trees surrounding the church, miles of natural regrowth stretch to the wetlands of Okatuppa Creek, and to the uplands of Piney Ridge beyond. On the edge of wilderness, apparently unfenced and unfarmed, it seems a suitable resting place for the generations of Boykins that are buried there.

Among these graves are two of Burrell's boys, the Confederate veterans Henry Clark and Solomon (spelled Solomin on his headstone). With them are Henry H., WWI Alabama Pvt. Field Artillery; Andrew, WWI Alabama Pvt. Infantry; Lester Earl, WWII TEC4 US Army; and Burnice, WWII SI US Navy.

The Boykins were certainly patriotic Americans. If the service of Solomon Jr. in the War of Independence and Burwell in the War of 1812 are recalled, then the family were represented in every significant conflict that involved the American military between 1775 and 1945.

Neither of the family pat…

American Story: Night Riders

AMERICAN STORY

Night Riders

As Confederate soldiers returned to Alabama in 1865, they found a very different set of circumstances to those they had left.

They had lost the War.
They had lost thousands of comrades to battle and disease.
They had lost the use of slave labour to work their land.

They soon resented martial law under Union garrisons - funded by the seizure of cotton reserves grown before and during the War.
They soon loathed the Freedman Bureau's program of providing new schools and churches for negroes - funded by poll taxes they could barely pay.
They soon hated the Loyalty Leagues of freed black slaves that agitated locally for the redistribution of white owned land - "40 acres and a mule".

These men had lost the institution of slavery. This loss they begrudgingly accepted because they did not have the power to alter it. But they were damned if they were going to lose their farms as well.

The most publicised of Veterans' postwar responses in the South was pseudo…

American Story: Burel's Boys

AMERICAN STORY

Burel's Boys

Burwell Boykin's sons were Christopher (1823-1905), Alexander (1825-...), Burwell Jr (1828-...), Jesse (1833-...), Solomon (1835-1918), Franklin (1836-...), and Henry Clark (1837-1928). All seven were born in the Mississippi Territory / Choctaw County, Alabama, and raised on the Boykin 'plantation' at Camp Springs. By the time of the 1850 Census, the three eldest were married with children of their own, but still living and working on the family farm for their father.

In 1860, the year of Burwell's sudden death at the hands of an angry slave, the prospect of war was already heavy in the air. In that year the old man's 'quiver-full of straight arrows' were aged 37, 35, 33, 27, 25, 24, and 22 years. Five of these men were to don the grey uniform of the Confederate Armies and go off to fight in the Civil War. Enlisting in 1862, 1863, and 1864, none of them were to return until war's end in 1865.

It is difficult now to comprehend…

American Story: Burwell Boykin

AMERICAN STORY

Burwell Boykin

A legendary figure in this line of Boykin men, Burwell was born the fourth son of Solomon Jr and Judith X on 25 December 1787 in Burke County Georgia. In 1803/1804 he moved with his parents to their 502 acre 'plantation' on Bassett's Creek, Washington County, Mississippi Territory. At some stage Burwell married Margaret McCann from neighbouring Wayne County, but he did not become head of his own household until after his military service in the War of 1812.

This conflict is sometimes called the Second Revolutionary War because at first it was fought against the British. However it soon devolved into an Indian War against the Creek Nation and fighting continued for another couple of years. Burwell was a Private in Captain Josiah Watts' Company of Mounted Gunmen, Carson's Regiment, Mississippi Territory Militia for 1812. He was also mentioned as a member of the Mississippi Infantry Volunteers in 1814/1815.

Burwell is later listed as being el…

American Story: Great Trek South

AMERICAN STORY

GREAT TREK SOUTH

In commercial  terms, Edward Boykin Sr (1000 acres VA) and Edward Boykin Jr (1000 acres VA, 1000 acres NC) were seriously successful settlers. The next two generations, Solomon Boykin Sr and Solomon Boykin Jr, were not as wealthy, but they were certainly mobile. They saw their fortunes over the next big river or line of hills, on the next frontier.

They were part of a great move south by white farmers and black slaves, leaving the settled lands of Virginia, the 'Old Dominion', for new country in Georgia and the Mississippi Territories, the 'Old Southwest'. In their case, the journey was made in two stages.

Their story begins with Solomon Boykin (1708-1771) marrying Ester Kinchin (1770-1790) in Northampton County, North Carolina. It continues with their son Solomon Boykin (1743-1821) marrying Judith .... (....-1794) in Burke County, Georgia. In 1796 Solomon married again to Delilah McCann, but the male line being followed here is through his …