Friday, January 11, 2008

Black Sheep

As I mentioned, but have not bitched about nearly enough, the semester has started. The first week is buried. When I teach the first day, I do one of those lame ice breakers so we can get to know one another (and so I can try to get their names…which I still haven’t). This time I had them tell a story about their name. My story is that Renfroe is commonly misspelled by pretenders to the Renfroe moniker as Renfro or Renfrow. I tell my students that my aunt did genealogical research after marrying into a family that came over on the Pinto or something. My aunt eventually gave up in despair (finding only drunks and nobodies), but not before discovering Stephen Renfroe in a book called Stars Fell on Alabama. He was from a rough family. Became sheriff. Was the head of the town’s Ku Klux Klan (I leave this bit out for the students—that’s hard for me to bear), and most amusingly to me a horse-thief. But not a good one because he kept getting caught. His friends helped him escape jail and would leave him a mule as getaway. The problem was he’d steal the mule. So before the last posse could find Stephen Renfroe, his friends hanged him. Supposedly, the relatives that moved away changed the spelling of Renfroe to avoid connection to him and his kind. Apparently, my ancestors were fine with it.

I’ve told this story many times, but this time I happened to Google him to find the book again and ran across this magazine article in Alabama Heritage. So I ordered it.

And then, I found this other book. Which I haven't ordered yet.

My father is named Stephen Craig Renfroe. I am Stephen Craig Renfroe, Jr. I have always believed and will always believe it is coincidence. And what’s in a name, blah, blah, blah. It’s hard, though, not to worry about the sins of the fathers, genetic dispositions, and Calvin’s Elect. I’ve always feared I was doomed from the start.

This is where Stephen Renfroe met his doom. At the end of a rope, swinging from a chinaberry tree.

1 comment:

Lauren said...

Which aunt did the research? And now the people have been warned... keep the Renfroes away from their horses!!