Second Biennial Booker and Southern Kin Reunion Held in Repton
Published 9:15 pm Saturday, December 25, 2021
The second Booker and Southern Kin reunion was held Oct. 22, and Oct. 23 at Beulah Campground in Repton,AL. There were 21 family surnames represented at the reunion of which several have connections to Lowndes County.
The 21 surnames that those in attendance came to pay honor to and learn about were Andrews, Anthony, Brooks, Booker, Cater, Champion, Dees, Ellis, Griffin, Hawkins, Hardee, Harper, McClammy, McPherson, Pipkin, Riley, Skinner, Salter, Snowden, Stuckey and Waters.
The very active Booker and Southern Kin Facebook page, which was a catalyst for the reunion, came to be when in early 2016, Caryl Booker of Ohio came across Linda Luster Strickland’s name while doing some research on findagrave.com and he reached out to her with some genealogy questions. Strickland was raised by her grandparents, Edward Melvin Booker and Maggie Texana Stuckey Booker, who were both from Pine Orchard in Monroe County. Although Strickland lived in Ft. Benning, Georgia growing up, where her grandparents retired after her grandfather’s 20-year army career, she spent every holiday in Pine Orchard visiting with the family still living in Monroe County. Her association with family in the area remains firm. Thus, she was able to connect Booker with relatives and help him fill in some genealogical blanks.
Booker’s grandfather, Frank Melton Booker was living in Midway during 1911 when he heard from a cousin that there were very high paying jobs available in Ohio. Very few opportunities were available in south Alabama during that time, so Frank Booker hopped on the back of a train and hoboed his way to Ohio where he began working with Firestone, manufacturing tires. Eventually Frank Booker began taking yearly trips to Alabama on his shiny Cadillac that he purchased brand-new and loved to show off. Eventually three of his sisters, Minnie, Texanna, and Viola and one brother, Andrew Jackson Booker, joined him in Ohio where they all were able to make a very good living.
After a few weeks of Strickland and Booker working together on research, Booker suggested they create a Facebook page where cousins and those connected to the Bookers and/or Salters could facilitate discussions, collaborate, learn from each other, and most importantly, capture knowledge of ancestors before being lost forever. The group was created in May 2016 and is now 838 members strong and consists of people from all over the country as well as members from Australia, Canada and Spain.
According to Linda Luster Strickland of Niceville, Florida, from whom the idea of the reunion originated, the Booker and Salter families are what she refers to as the group’s founding families.
“Our Facebook group, Booker and Southern Kin, began by focusing on the Booker and Salter families, but Caryl Booker and I quickly realized that the Bookers and Salters that he and I are connected to from Pine Orchard, and Burnt Corn, had a bit of intermarriage as most families did way back when due to the lack of transportation 100 plus years ago. You can’t just pull one family out and toss it aside. All of the clans represented at the reunion have some kind of connection to the Booker or Salter name,” Strickland said.
Linda Strickland was the organizer for the reunion and said she has always been very interested in family lore. The life of Strickland’s 4 times great-grandfather, Trustin Stuckey, and where he came from has always been a mystery, a mystery that she said caused her intrigue in genealogy and family history to grow.
“Trustin Stuckey was a bit of a mystic character. He died before I was born, but one of my uncles and a few other people in the family remember him. They say he was very tall and had horrible scars all over his back, perhaps from a whipping or a knife fight. He married a Native American woman that was a Delaware native, and they lived in South Carolina before coming to Alabama. It has always been an interesting story and made me want to learn as much as I could. I really believe that God picks at least one person from each generation of a family, to be the keeper of family history and the teller of family stories,” Strickland said.
Strickland’s grandfather, Edward Melvin Booker, said just before he died that he did not want to be forgotten. He told Strickland that he hoped his family would mention his name on occasion so he would be remembered. Strickland is proud to hold up her end of the deal and thoroughly enjoys sharing her family’s lineage.
As a retired middle school teacher, Strickland used genealogy to help children that were struggling with various issues to see their connection to the world. According to Strickland, research has shown that children familiar with how they fit into a family or community, have a lower chance of getting involved with gangs or participating in other destructive activities that may create an artificial and harmful substitute for family.
“We are all broken pieces in this not always so friendly world. I think it is a beautiful thing when humans discover a little bit about how they contribute to the whole picture of life. Whether that is through finding new cousins or unearthing details of their family’s biography, or even settling into a purposeful career– I think it is healing, and reunions are a way in this fast and crazy world to stop and remember that we do indeed fit into something bigger than ourselves. So many people put in so much hard work on this reunion, and I am forever thankful for those that made this possible and I hope they enjoy and benefit from the reunions as much as I do,” Strickland said.
The Oct. 22 and Oct. 23 Booker and Southern Kin reunion was a catered event with fried catfish, chicken tenders, and various sides served Friday night and Roasted chicken with sides Saturday night. There was a flat $5.00 per person reunion fee and meals were $15.00 per person. Love offerings were accepted each night to give to Beulah Church for their providing use of the building.
Linda Luster Stickland, provided guests with a gift bag containing various educational publications on history of the areas in which the ancestors of the attendees lived. Door prizes were given out at the end of each evening.
All attendees were given a name tag that had been prepared in advance. The tags also identified which families the wearer was connected to with a color-coded system. Colored dots on the name tags signified which families represented at the reunion, each person was connected to.
Michele Champion Rogers, of Hayneville, hopes to attend the reunion in the future as she said it is important to know about those that came before us and pathed the way. She is connected in a couple ways. Her paternal grandmother was a McClammy from Lonestar and her mother was a Booker. Rogers’s Booker grandfather grew strawberries and they moved often in search of good soil, and they lived a few places in Conecuh County. She does not recall very much about family history and said that her Booker grandparents did not keep many records or even put names on the back of pictures.
“My Grandmother Booker died when I was 12. Before she passed, we would visit her in Lonestar almost every week. After she died, we rarely went, and I just can’t remember anything much she told me about the family. On occasion I will see a Booker mentioned on the Booker and Southern Kin Facebook page, whose name I recognize and even that small bit of familiarity is nice.I do wish I had names to some of the pictures my grandparents had but I am grateful to have found a picture of my McClammy grandmother on the page that I had never seen,”Rogers said.
Roger’s is expecting her first grandchild soon. She has been helping every weekend to try and complete the renovation of her daughter’s home before the baby arrives and could not make the reunion. However, she is grateful that there are people working to preserve her family history, in case her grandchildren one day become interested.
Those in attendance of the reunion could participate in various field trips held on both Friday and Saturday. The outings included sightseeing in Burnt Corn where many ancestors of those on the trip lived- led by a native of the area, Butch Salter. A tour of the Monroe County Courthouse Museum, and cemetery tours of Ramah Baptist Church, Old Booker Cemetery, Lonestar ,Midway Baptist Church and Mt. Pleasant Methodist in Skinnerton were also among the field trips.
On Friday, Caryl Booker gave a history of the Bookers from England and Stephanie Salter gave a living history presentation where she was in character as an ancestor that was one of the pioneers of the Burnt Corn area. Salter had in her possession the journal of this ancestor. Sherry Johnston, retired librarian from Evergreen, spoke about migration patterns of the pioneers from the East Coast into Alabama. She discussed the Federal Hwy and the Wolf trail that many ancestors took. There was a clan call where attendees stood when the surname they were associated with was called.
Stephanie Salter presented the second part of her demonstration Saturday evening and later those in attendance viewed the many photographs and documents on display, mingled, made connections and enjoyed fellowship. Saturday evening Butch Salter sang a song he wrote about his grandfather and played the guitar. A clan call was once again made.
On Sunday, the option to attend church services where ancestors attended was available.
This year’s reunion averaged 67 in attendance each night, down from 110 in 2019.
The money raised via the reunion is used to repair graves and headstones. Fundraising activities included a silent auction, raffle of a log cabin quilt done in batiks, made and donated by Renee Walls Scharning, and the sale of t-shirts commemorating the reunion. This year, $2,318.63 was raised, enough for 5 headstones. During the reunion, attendees could nominate graves to be repaired. The graves chosen to be honored and repaired this year were 1 infant grave at Lone Star, 1 infant grave at Mt. Pleasant, and 2 Adult Anthony graves at Mt Pleasant. Details of name and birth/death dates are being determined and will be shared on the Facebook page.
Planning is already underway for the 2023 reunion and graves that need work are being identified as several very remote and neglected cemeteries have been discovered. New field trips will be added and a cousin, Sherry Scott, who is a muralist, will be offering an art class.
Anyone with ties to the families listed above wanting to attend future reunions or interested in genealogy can look up Booker and Southern Kin on Facebook. Formation of committees for the 2023 reunion has begun. If interested in being on a committee, contact the Facebook page.