Author writes books on local family

UPSTATE — One of the upstate’s largest families — the Alexanders — involving hundreds of other local families who intermarried with them, is heralded in a new family history about their struggles to settle America and this area in particular.

Retired Pickens newspaper publisher Jerry Alexander always found it challenging in writing a new book. So why not just write two at the same time? Alexander has now done just that — written two new books simultaneously — containing 600 total pages, all about the earliest local Alexanders and their kin.

However, he says this proved to be “a little too challenging.”
“I’m getting a bit old and long in the tooth to ever pull that stunt again,” Alexander said, laughing, this week as his two new Alexander family books came off the press. The books can be ordered from him at P.O. Box 1233, Seneca, S.C. 29679, at $32.95 each, plus $3 shipping. He will gladly autograph each one if a note is included to that effect.

Since retiring in 2002, the 75-year-old veteran Pickens County publisher has authored seven books.

All are about local history or genealogy. His two newest works explore the huge, 5,000-member Alexander family of Pickens, Oconee, Greenville and Anderson Counties. They contain oodles of photographs of older Alexander families, deeds, plats, wills, house photos, reunion groups, churches, graveyards and all sorts of special memorabilia.

“For example, we publish an extremely rare, one-of-a-kind photo of Daniel D. Alexander, (born in 1803) a son of Micajah of Little Eastatoe and grandson of Daniel of Crow Creek,” Alexander said. “Since he was born in 1803, long before cameras — no one thought such an image even existed, but it does.”

Daniel D., with wife, Levina Rice Alexander, of Pickens County, started the huge Oconee or Little River set of Alexanders.
“They now number in the thousands of our kin,” he points out. “Numerous people from all over the South opened dusty attic trunks and contributed their rarest, earliest photos of Alexander ancestors or kinfolks who married Alexanders.”

The actual Civil War guns and sword owned by the late rebel cavalryman, John Perritt, husband of Arta Malissa Alexander Perritt of the Twelve Mile Grocery Community in the 1860s, are photographed in the book.

“You would not believe all the things in there,” Alexander said. “It is the most fantastic, cooperative effort I have ever seen over my 45 years as a writer.”

Obviously the new books are very separate in nature. His larger, 360-page work is entitled “Alexanders — Our Family Legacy in Oconee, Pickens, Greenville and Anderson Counties.” It traces in minute detail the first Alexander family from Northern Ireland, across the stormy Atlantic, through the port of Philadelphia, down the Shenandoah Valley into Henry County, Va.

After settling there for a few years, the Alexanders moved a few miles into Rockingham Co., N.C., for another decade before finally “coming home” and settling right here in northern Pickens and Oconee Counties. The book is chock-full of illustrations such as early Alexanders living in their covered wagons along the trail and after they arrived and were building their first primitive cabins.

Daniel, Elijah and Elisha, the three brothers and family patriarchs, are described in never-before-known detail, along with their children and grandchildren.

Early photos of many families who intermarried with the Alexanders are identified as well. In fact, so many upstate families married Alexanders that space will not allow us here to list them all. But a tiny sample includes Lewises, Grants, McKinneys, Hudsons, Murphrees, Cantrells, Collins, Gibsons, Galloways, Parrotts, Watsons, Crenshaws, Adams, Gilstraps, Rices and hundreds of other families whose ancestors were Pickens County Alexanders.

“Hopping Billy” is the title of Alexander’s other new book. It has more than 250 pages of stunning revelations of how an ordinary dirt farmer toiling back on Big Crow Creek, crippled for life by a horse kick and unable to do comparable hard work like other men, pulled himself up by the bootstraps. He became one of the wealthier local Alexanders before his death.

A legend in his own lifetime and listed on many official documents as “lame,” Hopping Billy owned so much land he could not walk around it in a day. He bred and raised “the finest” of matched horses so much in demand back then by aspiring families to pull their fancy buggies to church “in high fashion” every Sunday. Matched pairs were the 1800s equivalent of today’s BMWs. People were cash-strapped but had plenty of land, much freely granted them by the state.

So, Billy bartered his horses for land or took mortgages on land instead of hard cash. “Hopping Billy” had three wonderful wives and reared three subsequent families over his 84 years of life. Children of these families are well known all across Pickens and Oconee, Greenville and Anderson Counties. Many are featured in early photos. Plus, genealogy lovers will enjoy a part of this book featuring the Virginia and North Carolina origins of the Boons from which his first love and wife, Celia Boon, came.

These are rare genealogies giving insight into early Tidewater Virginia’s wealthy tobacco planters’ Boon/Harris descendents who wound up right here in Pickens and Oconee at the head of Keowee River. This book is also crammed “ plumb full” of photos of families who descend from the huge, legendary Alexander clan. As they married, Billy gave each of his children their very own large, fertile farm, some of which are still in descendants’ hands today.