Historical events become more meaningful when we realize that real people were involved. All too often, we lose our connection with our past because we focus on memorizing dates and forget that human beings were involved. Our ancestors felt the same emotions we feel, and they made choices in their lives that led to the events that we study. Understanding that they experienced the same emotions we experience – pain and joy, doubts and fears, anger and disappointment, love and hope – helps us to gain a better understanding of what happened and why.
Sometimes we can recapture that human element by studying the lives of our ancestors. Taking time to visit with our parents and grandparents can open the doors to a better understanding of our backgrounds, and eventually ourselves. Often we will hear stories that have been passed down from parent to child for generations – stories that will become lost unless we take the time to listen and learn.
These stories can become legends, and it becomes our responsibility to record and document them before they are lost.
The first time I heard the story of Georgeane Jack was when my mother was working on our family genealogy. Mom found some pages from my ancestor’s journal, and as I read them, I began to discover, and love, Gergeane’s strength and spirit.
According to the legend, when Georgeane married, she and her husband received a slave, Sarah, as a wedding present. She and her husband were abolitionists, but this was near the beginning of the Civil War, and that wasn’t a very popular view in Alabama. They offered Sarah her freedom, but she chose to stay with the young couple. Before long, Sarah and Georgeane became close friends. Together they would work in the house and garden, but when guests were seen approaching the house, they would slip into their “costumes” and Sara would play the role of servant to ensure the safety of the family.
When the Civil War broke out, Georgeane’s husband was conscripted to serve in the Confederate army, where he secretly served as a spy for the Union. Eventually, his work was discovered, and the family was forced to flee the state.
In her journal, Georgeane records a story about their flight. Sarah was driving a buckboard wagon, and Georgeane was riding alongside on a mule. They were stopped by Confederate soldiers who were looking for the infamous Captain Jack. The two women assured them that they had not seen such a villain, but the soldiers decided to search the wagon.
They unloaded and opened everything, scattering all of the family’s positions over the ground. Georgeane writes, “While they were so occupied, I acquired the possession of a shotgun.”
When the soldiers were finished and prepared to ride off, Georgeane said, “A southern gentleman would never leave a lady in such disarray,” and “encouraged” the soldiers to gather their possessions and reload the wagon.
Apparently, Georgeane’s husband was not happy about her decision to make the soldiers reload the wagon – he was hiding in a false bottom they had made and was worried about being discovered!