Christmas Child Abuse

© 2019  Bill Murphy

It’s been said that truth is found somewhere between what you believe and what I believe.  Perhaps sometimes it is, but not always.  The following is about perceived Christmas child abuse inflicted upon me – and that which I inflicted upon my own children.  

My paternal grandparents lived in Carthage, MS, located just over fifty miles northeast of our home in Jackson.  We made that trip at least one a month.

That traumatic year I must have been around four, for at the time, I was still an only child.  It was Christmas time.  Dad had several reason to make that Christmas Eve trip:  He wanted to be with his parents;  It was his and mom’s wedding anniversary;  He had a couple of days off from work;  and did I say that he wanted to be with his parents for Christmas Eve AND Christmas Day.

I didn’t understand.  My four year old focus was not on Dad’s desires, but upon my NEEDS.  How would Santa KNOW where I was Christmas Eve Night?  Could anyone GUARANTEE that the great bearer of gifts would REALLY find me when I was so far from home?  My Christmas cheer was kaput, replaced with dread, fear, and worry.  Yes, I felt, well, abused

Not to leave you dangling, Santa DID find me that night far from home, so as they say, all was well because it ended well.  Now, let’s fast forward around thirty years, to when I was a father.

Our family was a member of a rather ‘fundamentalist’ church at the time.  It would seem that the emphasis was more on the ‘thou shalt nots’ than on the ‘thou shalts.’  Our family strived to get with and be with the program.  Our thinking, colored by what we were now learning, was strictly ‘accent the spiritual, eliminate the secular.’  And Christmas was rife with secular, carnal, humanistic influence.  Just to say “Put Christ back into Christmas,” was not enough… that year we strove to not only put Him first, but also make Him the ONLY persona representing Christmas.

Frosty was out, as well as the Grinch, Tiny Tim, Rudolph, and of course, the jolly ole usurper of the true Christmas… the jolly ole elf himself… Santa!

I remember that our only concession was a small tree, but it remained undecorated, and of course, unlighted… no snow, no tinsel, no popcorn… nothing.  But under the tree, we placed a large nativity set! 

Carol and I gave the kids presents of course, but it was understood that they were from us, not some fat guy in a red suit.  He didn’t visit our home that year. 

The kids had a difficult time understanding this, even though there was no open rebellion.  But I’m sure they were thinking, “What are you folks thinking?  We’re not Jewish, or Jehovah Witnesses… we’re supposed to be THE Christians in town, and y’all are locking a Merry Christmas out of our home!” 

Yes, I’m sure they felt, well, abused

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FAIRCHILD FAMILY HISTORY

Yours truly with my older cousin Mack Fairchild and Grandpa Pat Fairchild

   The Fairchild’s of my family descended from five Fairchild brother’s who came to Mississippi in the early 1800s from the Carolinas.

    We’re all a blending of two families.  In my case, that’s Murphy and Fairchild.  My mother was born to Patrick Henry and Emma Fairchild

   One of those brothers was Robert Fairchild, and the first record of him being in MS comes from land records dated 1820.  After moving around in the state for a bit, they mostly settled in the Jones County area.  One of Robert Fairchild’s children was William H. Fairchild, (1810-1864).  The date of his death is significant.

    William had a son, James Amous Fairchild (12/14/1850 to 8/23/1913).  He was an interesting fellow.  He was successful, and was at one time the mayor of Moselle, MS in Jones County.  His ‘quirk’ in life was that he took (shall we say) family to the extreme!  

     His young wife had a sister, and the sister-in-law’s husband was tragically killed.  James had built a ‘dog-trot’ for he and his wife and their growing family.  A dog-trot was like one huge long rectangular floor, with two rectangular ‘living areas’ with an open breezeway/walk-through in the middle, and all covered by one large roof.  The idea was that one side could be the messy family area, and the other the cleaner and cooler entertaining area.  The sister-in law moved in with them after William had converted one side for her.  The 3 lived there until the day they all died… and William raised 7 children with his wife… and 3 with his wife’s sister, all happily under one roof!  No, they weren’t Mormon, but Southern Baptist. One of the seven was Patrick Henry Fairchild, my mother’s railroading father!  As a small child, I was taken to see this original homestead while it was still standing.   

   If that were not interesting enough, let’s go back to the son of one of the 5 ‘original’ Fairchild’s… William H., the one who I said his date of death was significant.  It was during the years of the Civil War.

   All of this happened in Jones County, MS., and Jones County is noted as being a fairly singular ‘hotbed’ of RESISTANCE to the Southern Confederacy.  A large portion of the county, mainly due to economic reasons, rebelled against the new Confederate authority.  Most of this rebellion came from the poor working class, who were heavily, and unfairly taxed by the Confederate authorities.  The state had passed what was known as the ‘Twenty Rule,’ meaning that for every 20 slaves a land owner had, one member of his family was exempt from military service.  The poor had a saying for this, “It’s a rich man’s war, but a poor man’s battle.”  

   A fellow by the name of Newton Knight rose up in open rebellion against the Confederacy.

He organized a rag-tag bunch of poor farmers and Confederate deserters, and waged all out war on the southern troops.  In 1916 a movie was released about this unique piece of Mississippi history, entitled THE FREE STATE OF JONES, starring Matthew McConaughey. See photo above.  It bombed at the box-office, only making back 1/2 of the production costs.

    Now, back to my ancestor’s.  William H. was appointed by the Confederates as a dreaded tax-collector.  Recorded show that on the same date in 1864, not only was he murdered, but also the Sheriff of Jones County.  We don’t know if they were together at the time, but it makes sense to think that they must have been.  It’s also assumed that Newton Knight was behind it.

   So there.  That’s my newly discovered little piece of family history that you probably never saw in the movie or read in the book!  

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