HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Seventy Years In Dixie: Recollections and Sayings of T. W. Caskey and Others
Author: F. D. Srygley
Illustrator: J. D. Kelley
Publisher: Guardian of Truth Foundation, republished in 2006
Related website: http://truthbooks.net (publisher)
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Teens and adults
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Srygley, F. D. Seventy Years In Dixie: Recollections and Sayings of T. W. Caskey and Others (originally published in 1891 by the Gospel Advocate Pub. Co., Nashville, TN; republished in 2006 by Guardian of Truth Foundation, P. O. Box 9670, Bowling Green, KY 42012). T. W. (Thomas Withers) Caskey (1816-1896) was born in Maury County, TN, the youngest of four children born to Thomas and Mary (nee Coffee) Caskey. His mother died in giving him birth. Young Thomas grew up in what was then known as the wild west, raised as a Presbyterian. Still in his teens, he struck out on his own, moving over to Alabama and Mississippi . In Claiborne County, MS, he met and married a young woman by the name of Lucy Jones in1837. He studied to become a Methodist minister. But becoming dissatisfied with Methodism, he left to begin his association with those in the church of Christ. For a time he pursued a career as a blacksmith. Around 1841 the family moved over into the small West Alabama settlement of Gainesboro, where Thomas worked with a group of Christians. While there Lucy with struck with an illness that ultimately took her life on October 20, 1843. For a time he also preached in Memphis, TN, and Paducah, KY. In 1845 he married Harriett Elizabeth Foreman Ferguson and in 1849 they moved to Jackson, MS.
Caskey involved himself with politics. He strongly felt that the Civil War was never a question about slavery, but about states’ rights versus the rights of the centralized government. When the war broke out in 1861, he was appointed chaplain of the Eighteenth Regiment of Mississippi Volunteers and became known as the “Fighting Parson.” After the close the Civil War, he moved to Meridian, Mississippi, working with the church there. While in Mississippi he made many trips for weeks at a time throughout Texas. He would return only for short periods of time before returning to the Lone Star state. Finally the family moved to Texas, living for a time in the city of Sherman. They lived a only few years in Sherman before moving to Fort Worth, and he preached for a church there the last few years of his life. During a trip back to Mississippi and while visiting in his old home in Meridian, Caskey got sick. One of his sons still lived in Jackson, and he went there to stay with his family until he finally slipped away on August 10, 1896.
The book Seventy Years in Dixie by F.D. (Fletcher Douglas) Srygley (1856-1900) is filled with stories written and provided for the most part by Caskey. The action is told as if Caskey himself were speaking. Srygley admits that some of the events described were added from his own experience or things told to him by others but claims that everything recorded is true. It gives a very accurate first-hand picture of social life and customs in the ante-bellum South with details about the condition of poor white, and to a degree black, people in “Dixie” especially in rural portions of Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi. One may not agree with all of Caskey’s statements and observations about slavery and the Civil War, but it should be understood that what he had to say was not written to justify these things but simply to explain what happened. He did state, “The war was a mistake and a failure” (p. 353). Caskey and Srygley were members of the churches of Christ, but little or nothing is said about what is often called “the Stone-Campbell religious heritage” in the book.