I have a little family secret. My maternal great-grandfather was father to my grandfather, but was also my grandfather's brother-in-law. My mother's grandmother was also her aunt.
Welcome to the South, right? Where family genealogy lines overlap and curve around much like a kudzu patch.
Before I get too far into this and you begin to wonder why I don't have a third eye in the middle of my forehead let me explain that the reason why my grandparents and great-grandparents have these dual titles is that two sisters married a widowed father and his son.
But, it is true that some of our family trees can get very confusing mainly due to the habit some families have of using the same name or combination of names over and over and oh, my goodness, over!
Let's throw in a habit some families had of marrying second cousins, and well, my job becomes a little frustrating to the point I have to draw family trees in my notes, and by the end of the day I require a stiff drink.
Let's take the Benjamin Ichabod Camp family of old Campbell County, for example. The family goes back in this area to a time when the words Campbell County were still wet on the parchment for the act that created it, and our history is littered with Camp family members who have played important roles across Southern history. They also loved to name each other after those who had gone before, and I know of at least twice where second cousins married.
I've written about Benjamin Ichabod Camp before. Most recently, I related a story here in my column regarding Camp family interactions with Union soldiers along the Chattahoochee during the Civil War and Mr. Camp's role in the Indian Wars during the 1830s at my website (http://lisalandcooper.com).
Within the last few days I've run across a letter Benjamin wrote in 1828 to his wife-to-be, Winifred Washington (Arnold) Camp, that was published in a Greenville, South Carolina newspaper in 1930 by a great-great granddaughter named Jane McAulay.
In my line of work scholarly articles, newspaper articles, legal documents such as wills and deeds, and written histories are all necessary tools-of-the-trade, but a letter? A letter is the Holy Grail for me mainly because letters give me insight to someone's thoughts and hints at their personality. Letters can aide me greatly in my quest to bring a historical figure alive and make the dash between their birth and death dates come alive.
Benjamin Camp's letter to Winifred is dated Oct. 28, 1828, and indicates he wrote it while in Walton County, Georgia. He opens with, "It is with great pleasure that I embrace the present opportunity of informing you of my health at present. This letter leaves me well and I trust upon the reception of this letter, it will find you enjoying every earthly blessing that heaven can bestow on you… My business will call me home about Christmas, so I think it most prudent to marry about the first of December and get home before Christmas. Send me a letter by Grandfather and state when you think you can be ready to come to Georgia."
We know that Benjamin's father, Thomas Camp, moved to the Jackson-Walton County area near the Apalachee River in 1799 according to the book Joseph Camp, Benjamin's brother, wrote in 1882 titled "An Insight into an Asylum." Later, Thomas Camp would follow his son Benjamin to Campbell County.
The grandfather Benjamin makes reference to is the grandfather he and Winifred both shared because the two were second cousins. To confuse things even more Benjamin's mother and father were second cousins as well.
It's obvious Benjamin cared for Winifred deeply as close to the letter's end he says, "My dear, the time will drag very slowly on. It appears to have been twelve months since I saw you, but my dear, that silken cord which binds human affections together is still entwined about my heart, so nothing can tear it loose. My dear, I long to see the time when I can embrace you in my arms as my spouse, which time, I trust will shortly arrive."
The time was short as the plans in the letter were sped up because Benjamin Ichabod Camp and Winifred Washington (Arnold) Camp were married on Nov. 2, 1828, just five days after the letter was written.
Great-great granddaughter Jane McAulay published in 1930 that Benjamin showed up in South Carolina to claim his bride accompanied on horseback by his best man as well as his 71-year-old grandfather, Benjamin Alston Camp, a former Revolutionary War soldier who had fought at King's Mountain and Cowpens.
The newlyweds lived in the Laurens District of South Carolina a bit before relocating permanently to property along the Chattahoochee River in Campbell County. Benjamin and Winifred Camp were together for 40 years only separated by Winifred's death in 1868. They shared 12 children who all made their mark on our local history.
Lisa Cooper writes the amazing stories of Douglas County each Sunday. You can find her new book "Every Now and Then: The Amazing Stories of Douglas County" online at Amazon, print and Kindle versions. Locally, her book can be found at the Douglas County Museum of History and Art and the Douglasville Welcome Center located at O'Neal Plaza in the former Douglasville Banking Company building.