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Home: Surnames: Kyser Family Genealogy Forum

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Re: Clarissa Harlow Kyser
Posted by: Mary Fallwell (ID *****9761) Date: November 15, 2003 at 04:14:23
In Reply to: Clarissa Harlow Kyser by Gerald Ford of 328

I am a descendent of the Kyer's Family. My Great Grandfather was Green Berry W. Bailey born 1820 in Hart, GA. My Great Grandmother was Clarissa "Clara" Elizabeth Harlow Kyser b. 17 June 1821 in Alabama or Holland and died 6 April 1904 in Panola County, Texas. She is buried in Bethlehem Cemetery, Panola County, Texas.

Their daughter, Donnie Ella Bailey was my Grandmother. Ella was born 17 June 1821 in Coffee County, AL and died 1 January 1939 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma at the home of their son Cecil E.C. Fallwell (my Dad) and Hester Hazel (Sims) Fallwell (my Mom).

Here is a story I copied from a newspaper article that you might find interesting about Clarissa Kyser Bailey:
The following is copied from an article titled “Pioneer Panola County Women” printed in The Panola Watchman on Wednesday, May 8, 1996, as one of the Panola County Sesquicentennial articles provided by the Panola County Historical Commission. This story is about Clarissa Elizabeth Harlow (Kyser) Bailey who settled in Panola County, Texas. The information was provided by Auvie Bailey and edited by Ann Morris.

Clarissa is my Great Grandmother. Her daughter, Donnie Ella (Bailey) Fallwell, is my Grandmother. Donnie Ella’s son is my father, Cecil E.C. Fallwell. This article was copied by Mary Ellen Fallwell McCoy as part of our family history.


Pointing to a picture of his mother on the wall in the Buncombe Community in 1925, Charlie B. Bailey said that his mother, Clarissa Kyser Bailey, was born in Holland. Her well-defined cheek bones and strong jaw line are facial features still evident in her descendents today. She was of “Black Dutch” descent, as her ancestors were a mix of the blond, blue-eyed, fair-complexioned people of the Netherlands and the olive-skinned, brown-eyed and dark-haired Romans, who conquered the Netherlands centuries ago. The “Black Dutch” were those whose looks resembled the Romans. In Holland, they were outcasts, married one another, and became a subculture in the area.

Clarissa was only five when her family journeyed to the United States in 1826 and settled in Orangeburg County, South Carolina. About 1834, the Kysers moved to Franklin County, Georgia, where Clarissa met Green Berry W. Bailey. They married in 1839, moved to Bibb County, Alabama, and lived beside Green Berry’s father, Wyatt Bailey. By 1841, Green Berry and Clarissa were living on a 602-acre farm on the Pea River in New Hope Community in Coffee County, Alabama, near her kinfolk.

Clarissa, being of true, study pioneer stock, bore eight children the first ten years of her marriage, and she delivered five more in the 1850’s, and two more after the Civil War, bringing the total to fifteen. Despite the size of their brood, the family fared well for themselves, probably due to good health and hard work. Their land and personal possessions were valued at $7,000. Unfortunately, the Civil War and its aftermath would erase all that they had worked to acquire. However, the loss of material good go hardly noticed by Clarissa, compared to the loss of a son.

When the Civil War broke out in April 1861, Clarissa’s oldest son, James Ernest, wasted no time in answering President Jefferson Davis’ call for volunteers. Perhaps Clarissa sought solace from a friend and neighbor, Mrs. Terry (Gilly) Presswood, who had four sons in the Confederacy. The Presswood family was also of Black Dutch descent.

In 1863, Clarissa watched as another son, William, 17, joined his brother James’ company. That same year, James E. Bailey died in the Battle of Chancellorsville in Virginia. With General Robert E. Lee calling for every able-bodied man to come and serve in the Confederate Army, in July 1853 Clarissa watched as both her husband and yet another son, John, hardly 16, signed up in the Alabama Infantry. By January 1865, Green Berry had returned to Coffee County. John and William were back home by the Fall of 1865.

The Settling of Clarissa Harlow Bailey

The war was over, but difficult times lay ahead. Military Reconstruction (1865-1877) under the Radical Republicans after Abraham Lincoln’s assassination was profoundly difficult. Taxes tripled, creating an impossible hardship on the ex-Confederates, whose lives were already devastated from the loss of the war. Like thousands of others, Clarissa and Green Berry decided to leave Alabama and sold their farm in September 1871. Two months later, Green Berry and son, William, rode horse back to Panola County, Texas, and paid for a 172-acre farm in the Buncombe Community, where Hebert Koonce lives today. Three days after they returned home to get the family, Green Berry, 52, died of pneumonia. At age 51, Clarissa was a widow in Alabama, could not read or write, had 11 dependent children, a farm in Texas many hundreds of miles away, and very little money. She knew what had to be done.

Clarissa buried her husband in the Kyser family cemetery, marked the top of the grave with a layer of carefully placed brick and a proper headstone, and then prepared to go to Texas with money given by the Pea River Lodge. Clarissa would never know that nearly a century later, the graves in the Kyser family cemetery would be bull-dozed off into a nearby gully by a landowner.

Christopher Kyser accompanied his sister and 11 of her children, the youngest being barely a toddler, to Texas. Seab Presswood, with eyes for Clarissa’s daughter, Lucinda, also went. They traveled mostly by water until they reached Jefferson, Texas, where they came on to Panola County in their wagon pulled by oxen. Christopher helped his sister get settled before returning to Alabama. Clarissa and her children provided for themselves by farming and operating a tannery in the Indian Creek bottom. Hides were sold at a leather shop in the Snap Community west of Carthage.
Life’s difficulties that year were compounded when death struck again and stole daughter Surmantha, only 24 years old. The remaining Bailey children grew into adulthood and most settled in Panola and Shelby counties.

Clarissa Elizabeth Harlow Kyser Bailey died April 6, 1904, at age 83 at the home of her daughter, Dora Graves, near the Hopewill Baptist Church in Buncombe. She is buried in Bethlehem Cemetery in Snap Community with Surmantha.
“I don’t guess it will ever be known how much Clarissa Bailey did to relieve her family of the sufferings and the hardships, but she will be held in the highest esteem by all of her Bailey and Kyser kin for the courage she must have had,” writes Auvie Bailey, great-grandson of Clarissa and avid researcher of Bailey family history.

Additional notes by Mary Ellen (Fallwell) McCoy: I never knew my great grandmother, Clarissa, but my mother, Hazel Fallwell, lived with or near my father’s parents, Leander and Donnie Ella (Bailey) Fallwell from the time she married my Daddy in 1924. Grandma Fallwell (Donnie Ella) told my mother stories about her mother, Clarissa. She said that her mother, Clarissa, was full-blood Dutch and could not speak English when she came to this country. She also said that Clarissa was about 11 years old and witnessed a brilliant display of falling stars (a large meteorite shower) along with other Alabamians on November 13, 1833. Some thought the end of the world had come. There is a song written about this called “Stars Fell on Alabama”.
From the 1880 census, Ella said that her father was born in Georgia and her mother in Alabama:
Leandor FALLWELL Self M Male W 25 TX Farmer TN TN
Ella FALLWELL Wife M Female W 17 AL Keeping House GA AL
I have a photo of Clarrissa Elizabeth Harlow Kyser Bailey if you are interested.

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