Infamous Cousins

It seems my great great great great grandfather had a grandson. Judge George Bruce Gerald was the grandson of Gabriel Gerald, my great great great great grandfather and the first of my line of Geralds to move to Mississippi. Judge Gerald was the son of George Gerald, and George’s brother William was my grandfather’s great grandfather.

Excuse me while I attempt to get this straight in my own head. Gabriel was the father of 14 children (even now I think it would be appropriate to say a prayer for his poor wife), among them William and George. William was the father of Sumpter, who was the father of Albert, who was the father of Claudie, who was the father of Billy, who is the father of Sharon. That’s how I find my way back to this tenuous connection to Judge George Bruce Gerald, who has a marker in his name in Waco, Texas because he shot two men cold dead and then got himself reelected afterwards.

You can read the story here and here.

I stumbled across all of this last night because I was reading Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin. This novel is set in the fictional location of Gerald County, Mississippi. I thought that was hilarious. We Mississippi Geralds are now Tom Franklin’s own personal breed of Snopeses. Somebody has to be, I suppose, and we probably fit the part as well as anyone’s family.

I got so distracted by the words Gerald County that I couldn’t keep reading the book. Instead I Googled Gerald County, Mississippi even though I knew it wasn’t a real place. What I found was this article from Ancestry.com about Gabriel Gerald and his descendents.

Note the description of Gabriel:

(1) Gabriel Gerald was a Baptist Minister of Irish descent. His Father’s name was Fitz-Gerald, an Irish Patriot who, being sought by the British, emigrated to America and settled in North Carolina. To avoid detection (The colonies were still under British rule) he dropped the “Fitz” part of his name and was known as Gerald, which has since been the Family name.
His Mother was of Irish descent but American born. His wife, (2)Elizabeth White was of Welch descent, her ancestors having some to this country from Wales in 1670. Rev. Gabriel Gerald moved his wife and other members of his family by covered wagon from North Carolina to “Amite County, Mississippi in 1810.
He resided about five miles south-east of Centerville, Mississippi where the Old Family burial ground is located.
My source says that his wife and sons. Drs. Robert H. Gerald and Samuel Gerald, along with other members of his family, are buried there. Although it does not say, I assume he is also.
Gabriel Gerald had advanced ideas regarding Christian observance of the Sabbath. For putting into practice some of these ideas, he was tried by Church Officials and temporarily silenced from preaching. He also published a pamphlet on his views, which no doubt did not help his case.
There were 13 children born to them:
(A)Benjamin – 2/23/1774
(B)Gabriel Jr.- 1/13/1775
(C)William – 7/10/1776
(D)Elizabeth R. -12/ 22/1777
(E)Richard L. -3/ 25/1779
(F)Mildred -1780
(G)James – 12/25/1781
(H)Jessie -6/ 30/ 1783
(I)Samual- 1/ 2/ 1785
(J)Charles-11/ 18/ 1786
(K)George 11/18/1786
(L)John- 5/ 21/1788
(M)Robert H -10/ 23/1791
(N)John G -10/ 23/1797

The part about him being a Baptist preacher of Irish descent does not surprise me. I knew that already. I also knew about changing the name from Fitzgerald to Gerald. I didn’t know about the 14 children. I’ve copied the list of their names over just so my nieces can enjoy gawking at the rate of these births and wondering how on earth. The part that really tickled me, however, was “Gabriel Gerald had advanced ideas regarding Christian observance of the Sabbath.”

My great great great great grandfather was a radical. Who knew? I wish I knew just what his ideas were. I wish I could see the contents of one of his pamphlets. I’d also love to know how it came to be that Gabriel Gerald, the rebellious Baptist preacher, had a grandson who ended up as a Judge in Waco, Texas, and who wrote a pamphlet supporting a newspaper called The Iconoclast, that, as far as I can tell, existed to irritate the Baptists.

It’s doubtful that a whole lot of records exist for Great Great Great Great Grandaddy Gabriel. He was an obscure Baptist preacher in an obscure Baptist town. Cousin Judge George Bruce is another matter. He was an infamous public official with practically a blog of his own (note the handbills he passed out when he got angry with people).

So it’s in that spirit that I’ve dug up this gem of an obituary written by Judge Gerald for his friend Brann the Iconoclast. If he were alive today, I would link to his blog. I would be his Facebook friend. I would vote him back into office after he shot someone cold dead in the town square. I think he was brilliant even if possibly slightly insane.

That’s how we like them here. Welcome to Gerald County.

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PS — I’ve also just located this book of poetry by Florence Gerald, Judge GB Gerald’s daughter. It was originally published in 1880 and has recently been reprinted for its “cultural significance,” something I can tell you no poet would ever expect to happen.