The Hembree Gene Pool

The best stories are those written by our genealogy.

In Honor of My Dad.

My first love… I remember telling you that when I grew up I would marry you.

My best critic… when you would tell me I had BO (and to go take a bath).

My standard for a gentleman… always holding the door for me, treating me with respect, and teaching me how to choose a good man. (I think I got that lesson right!)

My idea of a clean house… how to make a bed (‘but why do I have to make it, I’m just getting back in it again tonight!’), clean the bathroom, and wash dishes (‘waddya mean I can’t wash each dish separately with its own glob of dish soap?’ ‘I hafta wash the outside of the pan, too?!?’). There is still hope for these lessons to stick! (And yes, I have on more than one occasion cleaned my refrigerator before your visits!)

My first checking account and checkbook… (well, we really don’t have to go there, do we?)

My understanding of unconditional love and a glimpse of the face of my Heavenly Father… my first car, Mint Springs, VA, $2000+ in repairs… Oh,  and all the other times you forgave me and came through for me anyway!

From the bottom of my heart, thank you! I only hope I have been able to be as good a parent to my children as you are to me!

To Sam Hembree, my dad, Happy Father’s Day, 2017!

Sam Hembree
Sam Hembree, daughter in law Shannon and her husband, youngest son, Glenn Hembree
Sam Hembree (center) with his mother, Kathleen Lassater Hembree, and his dad, John Gordan Nrown Hembree, better known as Nanny and Pappaw!
Sam Hembree and Aunt Emmaline Couch
Dad. Blue jeans. Work. You had to be there! Lol!
L to R: Ike Hembree and wife Gail, William ‘Bill’ Hembree, Sam Hembree and wife Dee, around the table at his Country House, in Hogjaw Valley, AL
L to R: The Hembree boys: Ike, Bill, John, and Sam
Top, L to R: Ike and Sam Hembree; Bottom, L to R: their twin sisters, Sue and Ann.
If not pickin’, then definitely grinning! Nice hats! L to R: John, Sam, Ike and Bill Hembree, aka the Hembree boys!
These men, all of whom are wonderful fathers, from L to R: brothers John Hembree, William ‘Bill’ Hembree, Sam Hembree, and Ike Hembree.

Decoration Day at Harris Chapel Cemetery

Saturday, May 20, 2017

There is a cemetery on a hill in a place called HogJaw Valley. It is the repository of members of multiple families that have lived, loved, fought, and died in that place. It is a place where loved ones have been brought home, after death, to rest for eternity. It is a beautiful, flower and stone filled place, that is cared for by a dedicated group of individuals who want to honor the seven -plus generations of families who are buried there. Its name is Harris Chapel Cemetery in Jackson County, Alabama.

This past Saturday, family groups met at the cemetery to clean graves, place bright new bouquets on old and new grave markers, and gather for some of the best eating you could want: the potluck lunch at the pavilion!

Honoring the Morgan Family

Each year, the Harris Chapel Cemetery group honors a family that has members buried in the quiet hill. This year, it was the Morgan family. We heard from two sisters, whose mother, father, uncle and aunt had been laid to rest together on the hill.

They talked about their grandmother’s growing up, how she was traded by her dad, at 13, to a much older man, a whiskey maker up on Sand Mountain, for a jug of whiskey. This event began a life of hard work and hardship. She had three children before that first husband passed, two boys and a girl. She then remarried, another hard man, who, unfortunately was not the loving stepfather they might have wished for.

After one particularly bad day, they told how their uncle – the oldest child and still a young man – took a rifle and attempted to kill the stepfather, but received a head wound so grievous, he was never the same. He was sent to a sanitarium across the state. For years, his remaining sister, the mother of the two speakers, would provide clothing and small supplies, but because of the great distance, would be unable to visit her dear brother.

The two ladies gave their mom credit for realizing, as she raised her own five children, that she wanted better for her children.


This daughter was also placed in an arranged marriage. Her two daughters told us about the five children before turning twenty-five, the generous gift from another family of a wringer washer which became a treasured possession, the friendship of neighbors and churchgoers, and the strong support their mom gave each of them to get far away from this beautiful, but not prosperous, valley.

The girls did find a way to go to college, to leave the area, and settle in another city in Alabama. They report of prosperity and better times. Eventually they were able to bring their momma to live with them, but she insisted she wouldn’t go without that ringer washer! When the request came from the sanatorium for more clothing and supplies for their mom’s brother, they arranged for her to deliver the items in person. She was able to see her brother for the first time in 27 years. They would later bring their uncle to live with them until his death several years later.

These stories bring such life to the stones that mark the graves. It softens the rough hewn edges and makes even the bare and stony red ground seem more welcoming. There are many babies buried here, and mothers who didn’t live thru childbirth. There are sons buried long before their time, beloved and mourned. There are patriarchs and matriarchs – men and women who founded dynasties just a surely as any well known king. Then there are the soldiers. The cemetery holds the graves of unnamed and unknown confederate soldiers who died protecting something they felt sure of. We will forever honor these men who died fighting in a war, far from their homes. The realization that the names carved on these stones belonged to flesh and blood people who ate and drank, who married and bore children and raised sons and daughters, and mourned their losses, helps me to feel a connection to these souls; many of whom I never met here on earth. For a complete list, click here.

The Hembree clan met later for our annual meeting. We brought everyone up to date on the house, the lands, including walnut and pine trees, and maintenance still to be done. We’ll get together again soon to maintain our presence in the valley! In caring for and remembering our dead, it seems to make our time with the living that much sweeter!

Strawberry Pie: Food, Family, and… Dishes?!?

I made strawberry pie today. It’s been such a long time, I pulled out my old recipe card, to confirm the ingredients. That card was written by me over 40 years ago. My handwriting that of a young woman, I remember sitting with my mom, Phyllis Ann Allen Hembree, as she listed the ingredients. This was her recipe, and the recipe of her mother, my dear grandmother, Elizabeth Ann Allen. I have made it many times, both with my mom, and by myself. As good as this pie is (and it’s really, really good!*) the memories of cooking together, eating it ice cold and smothered with whipped cream, with a soft, crumbly crust, after a big family meal, makes it so much more satisfying than just a great strawberry pie.

That got me thinking about all of the wonderful memories made in and around the kitchen.

There was sitting around on hot summer afternoons ‘hulling’ peas, fingers turning green or purple, depending on the variety. Listening to the adults talk, watching the dented metal washpan become full of what would soon be cooked for supper, and watching the pile of ‘leavings’, empty hulls, strings from beans, snapped off ends, again depending on the variety, and the odors, of living plants, sweet earth, and hard work.

After dinner, of course, there were the dishes. To us children, the dirty dishes appeared to cover every surface, piled high like a fantastic scene out of some of the kitchens in Disney cartoons. No automatic dishwashers then, just the many hands of the various and sundry grandkids. From age six on, we would all take turns. I wasn’t very tall, so I would stand on a chair at the white porcelain covered sink cabinet. The soapy water was in that same dented metal pan that had been used earlier to hold freshly hulled peas or beans. Next to the sink was another washpan that held clear water for rinsing. That water got changed as it became too soapy. Dishtowels, thin, printed sacking material, were wielded by the drying crew. Dishes that weren’t clean were sent back to the hapless dishwasher, fingertips pruny and back sore from bending over the sink. Just when the crew thought we were done, the pots and pans would begin marching toward the sink, much harder to wash, scrubbed over and over ’til they shone. ‘Put a little elbow grease into it,” my dad would say. Then he would point out a spot I missed.

Recently, I wanted to recreate a little of the feeling of a family dinner, vegetables cooked fresh, homemade casseroles, roast beast (Sunday dinner beef roast), garden fresh sliced tomatoes, biscuits, homemade preserves and jellies, farm butter, and homemade desserts: chocolate cake, sweet potato pie, pecan pie, and cookies. While adults sat around snapping green beans, kids ran through the house, and the newest grandchild, my great-nephew John Luke Styes, played on a blanket on the floor. We hosted a houseful: cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents and grand babies. The next generation sat around the table, piled on the porch, scattered across furniture in every room, and chowed down. It felt wonderful.

Dirty pans, not so much…

And the dishes? Well, now there’s an automatic dishwasher, and paper plates and plastic cutlery. We used multiple crockpots, so dirty pans, not so much. The kids and grandkids did do some of the dishes. But then we sent them off on a scavenger hunt. We are starting some new traditions, making some new memories. Like the cauliflower cheese casserole**, instead of traditional mac and cheese (which everybody LOVED! At least, they all wanted the recipe!)

My Dad, Sam Hembree, was there (and no, he didn’t make me rewash anything!) but Mom wasn’t (we lost her on June 9, 2014), and strawberries weren’t in season, so dessert wasn’t strawberry pie, but it still echoed with the history of family gatherings, and the promise of a future with many more. 

*Mom’s Strawberry Pie

Quart of strawberries, rinsed and hulled.

2 tablespoons arrowroot (or cornstarch)

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

1 3oz box strawberry gelatin (regular OR sugar free works fine)

2 pie crusts, pre-cooked


While the pie crusts bake, mix up and cook the filling:

Combine arrowroot (or cornstarch), sugar, and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until it thickens and becomes silky looking. Add the strawberry gelatin, stirring rapidly. The mixture will begin to become glossy and clear.

Place the berries bottom up in the two pie shells. Cut up the smaller berries to fill in between the larger berries. Pour the glaze across the berries slowly, and make sure to divide the sauce evenly across the two pies!

Chill for at least an hour, slice, smother with whipped cream, and enjoy!❤️

**Cauliflower ‘Mock Mac’ and Cheese

Kosher salt, as needed, plus 1/2 teaspoon

1 large head cauliflower, cut into small florets

Coconut oil (to oil the dish)

1 can coconut milk (or heavy cream)

3 ounces cream cheese, cut into small pieces

1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 cup finely diced red onion (or Vidalia onion)

2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar, plus 1/2 cup for topping the casserole

1/4 c real bacon pieces, optional

1 teaspoon paprika or chili powder

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

How to combine:

Steam the cauliflower and drain. Set aside.

In a saucepan over medium heat, whisk the coconut milk (or heavy cream), cream cheese, Dijon mustard until combined and simmering. Add the garlic powder.  Add the cheese and stir until melted and smooth. Stir in the onions, bacon bits, and paprika (or chili powder), and pepper. Add the mixture to the cauliflower.

Use the coconut oil to oil a 9×12 casserole dish. Pour the cauliflower cheese mixture in the pan. Top with the 1/2 cup of reserved cheese. Dust with a little bit of paprika. Bake in a 350 oven for about 10-25 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Use Google Forms to collect family information!

It’s time to update the family book! 

Sending letters is so old fashioned, and most members don’t want to sit down and write out names, birthdays, babies, marriages…. THEN have to mail it back. (I know I put it aside and forget, too!!!)

Next time you want to collect updates and anecdotes, send out your request with a link to a google survey. (Then you can cut and paste the info, too!) Here’s a link to mine- you will need to make a copy before you can edit and use.

Steps to using my Google survey:

When you click on my document link, you will need to make a copy to use it. Depending on your device, look for three vertical dots. Clicking on that will give you a list of options. Choose copy. This will put a fully functional copy on your google drive that you can rename, edit, or use as is!

There are some great tutorials out there for creating and using Google forms. 

Once the information starts coming in, you will want to collect it in a spreadsheet. Google forms gives you the option of looking at the information from the survey itself (with neat graphs and categories) or you can collect it in a simple spreadsheet, so you can see the individual responses in columns under each question ( you can sort your information, copy/upload the information into other programs, stuff like that).

To put it into its own spreadsheet, you will need to complete one more step.

Once you’ve copied the file into your own google drive, and opened the survey, notice the area right above the name of the form. There are two tabs there. One says ‘questions’ and one says ‘responses’. Choose ‘responses’, then, you guessed it, those three little dots! 

Choose Responses, then select the three dots for the next menu.

Choose ‘select response destination’ and then make sure that you type in a name for your spreadsheet… I usually name it after the survey, with the date I started using it. 

Next, choose ‘select response destination’.

Click create, and your ready to share the form with your family members! 

After you type in a title, choose ‘Create’ to save your choices.

If you want to change the spreadsheet, the tutorial for that is here.

The last step is to share. 

I’ve been collecting emails for my relatives, so my first step will be to send an email to ‘share’ the google form link. In the email, I’ll ask those relatives to share the link with their relatives. Like ripples in a pond, the doc spreads and your family tree grows.

This is the ‘share’ icon. You start here to send emails, or to get the URL shortlink.
You can share directly from the google doc, if you have everybody’s email. You can type each email, or (the easy way!) simply cut and paste from other group emails you may have already sent or received about other family events!

You can also get a link right from the google survey that you copy and paste into a regular email, message, or other communication to family members – even in a good, old fashioned letter! (They will need access to a computer to complete the document, tho’, unless you print out a questionnaire….. )

To get a link: 1) choose the link icon; 2) check the box for a short link name; 3) copy the link.

Hembree Family Farm in Hogjaw Valley: GeoCaching Scavenger Hunt Weekend Event, Nov. 19-20, 2016

The Hembrees of Hogjaw Valley (Bryant, Jackson County, AL) are having a little get together!

All Hembree Cousins and Relations are cordially invited!

1st: if you haven’t ordered your Shirts, there is still time. We told them we would need at least 20 shirts. Deadline Oct. 29. Click here to order a shirt.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Bright and Early! Project Water Tank: replace the rotting wood under the tank. 

For over 100 years, the Hembree Farm White House has been served by a natural spring with the best, sweetest water in the valley. 

photo of the spout, Hembree Farm, Hogjaw Valley photo credit: Gail Hembree

Way back ‘when’, when my dad, Sam Hembree, was in college, he cleaned out an old metal tank and hauled it up the hill, about halfway between the spring and the house to gather water and help with the flow. After many years, the metal tank (which is a story in itself! ) was replaced by a new one. Now, the wooden support under the tank needs replacing. Teamwork will make short work of this task, so we are calling all hands on board to help! 

I would encourage you to bring some clean jugs to fill with this sweet water, which you can take home and enjoy once the work is done!

Where there are Hembrees, there is food! 

After the work is done, there will be a home-cooked farmhouse style lunch. The location  will be announced once we know how many are coming. There may be a minimal cost for lunch, to help defray the cost.

 Geocaching Scavenger Hunt

After the work and the food, there will be some fun! Hogjaw Valley is a beautiful place, and Fall in the Valley is made to be outside! To celebrate and get everybody out exploring, we are hosting a special Geo-caching Scavenger Hunt.

For those of you who are not familiar with geocaching, this activity involves using map coordinates (GPS, anyone?) to find specific ‘caches’ and locations. We want everyone to have an opportunity to visit various areas of the property. There will be items to collect, certain locations will only be revealed once a cache is located, and there will be assignments to bring back either items or pictures. 

We will leave everyone to their own devices for supper and breakfast. Sunday, after breakfast, we’ll gather and produce the results of the scavenger hunt. There will be prizes and surprises. As always, stories will be told, pictures will be taken, and laughter and good times will be shared! 

Bring your genealogical info!

We also want to share our connections, so bring pictures, stories, and genealogies!
Here’s where you come in: even if you are not attending…. SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT OUR FAMILY EVENT to other Hembree relations, share the Tshirt link, and share my email, , so everyone can let me know if they plan to attend!

I am currently using WikiTree for the family tree, a site that is dedicated to one link per person. Read more about this at

The Hembree’s have lived in and around the area for over seven generations. photo credit: Gail Hembree

See you in November!

Clara Hembree Maxcy

None of them measured up to Kathleen….

I remember asking my Pappaw, John B. Gordon Hembree, why he never remarried after Nanny -my grandmother, Kathleen Lasater Hembree – died. We were sitting outside, on the old metal porch chairs. He was cleaning the tobacco out of his pipe. As he reached two fingers into the bag of cherry tobacco I’d brought for his birthday, I began to gently tease him about all the ladies in the valley, and how they must’ve brought casseroles, offered to help out, and generally eyed him as an eligible bachelor. He continued to mess with his pipe, as he allowed as how there were several women that offered comfort during the years that followed her passing.

She could have had any suitor she wanted…

He told me that my grandmother was ‘right pretty’, and that she had several ‘beaus’. He said that she was from a good family over in Bridgeport, and that she could have chosen any of those ‘fellas’ she wanted. “But she chose me over all them others.” He just looked a little bemused. Then he continued, and shared with me the reason he never remarried, “None of those women were your grandmother,” he said, as he began gently repacking his pipe.

image  image

Thanks, Pappaw. I love you, and I miss you and Nanny, very much.

When the twins were born…

More wood for the fire. More wood. The room was so very warm. But the older boys kept bringing in wood to stoke the fire, and go back outside to split more. They couldn’t afford to let the temperature drop. The twin girls, born about a month premature, had to be kept warm to survive.

My dad, Sam Hembree, has told me this story more than once. The twin girls were his little sisters, Ann and Sue. They were very tiny, born at home in the big White House in Hog  Jaw Valley on September 25. Dad was only seven, so he mostly remembers the bustling about and the visitors; lots of people coming and going. It was his older brothers, Bill and John who had the hard work of bringing down the trees and splitting the wood to keep the fires going.

It happened during the night. Ann was born first, and Kathleen sent Gordon for Mrs. Metcalf, the closest neighbor, and the midwife, Mrs.Hulvey. As he left, Kathleen began to care for her tiny newborn. Then, she felt another set of contractions. The second baby came out, cold and lifeless.

By that time, Mrs.Metcalf had arrived and called for the boys to build up the fire in the room’s fireplace. The house was heated only by wood stoves and fireplaces. While September days weren’t yet cold, nights were chilly, especially up against the shadow of the mountain where the house sat. The fire soon warmed the cold room.

Mrs. Metcalf held the tiny second baby, at barely a few pounds, and sat as close as she dared to the fire. She had to keep the child warm, for her to live. She felt the heat singing her arm hairs, as she massaged the body of the little girl, urging her to keep fighting, to breathe and live. The boys kept bringing in wood, keeping the room as hot as possible.

They named the little girl Sue.

This is a photo taken of Ann and Sue with two of their brothers, Ike on the left and Sam on the right.
This is a photo taken of Ann and Sue with two of their brothers, Ike on the left and Sam on the right.
Having children has always been a risky business. When I think of all the ‘modern’ accoutrements of birth – moms-to-be know ahead of time about twins, triplets, physical problems, through ultra-sound, monthly and weekly Doctor visits – I am solidly impressed with the acceptance and strength of the mothers who bore our ancestors: our aunts and uncles and grandparents and cousins – both the babies who made it, and the babies, and some of the moms, who didn’t.

These two girls survived and thrived. I am proud to have them as my aunts. They have each shown me, throughout their lives and the challenges they’ve faced, how to live with grace and courage. Perhaps in those very challenges of their beginnings, they found the strength for their futures.

God has a plan. #liveloved

For more details of this event, read the book, Kathleen by William Lasater Hembree, published by McKnaughton and Gunn.

Our ancestors came here to be free from ….what?

The constitution says that we have certain “unalienable” -that is, can’t be separated from – rights. The men (and the woman who raised them, married them, were their sisters and friends) who framed ourconstitution knew something about the people who settled this nation. They understood the forces that drive them to leave: England or Ireland, or Spain or France, Armenia, Bulgaria, Germany, or Poland… They understood because they were raised by those refugees. Yes. They were refugees. From oppression, poverty, persecution, a disgust with class distinctions, a disgust of haves and have nots, leaders who cared more about their own comforts than about the people they served. They came for freedom. The American Dream isn’t, I believe, so much about being rich (although that’s part of it), it’s about being master of ones’ own destiny. 

Our forebears came here for a fierce desire, which they pursued, and raised their children to pursue. They forged a nation, and in doing so, forged US; the children of that nation.

What legacy do I see from the Hembrees in my past? I see Faith, with a capital F. I see a deep belief in land. I see a desire to run things. (Bossy, proud, always right- yeah, that kind of desire to run things!) I also see a deep love of kin. Pride of a family name that runs deep, that sets certain expectations for standards of behavior. With faith in God the cornerstone.

Do you know your DNA? What descendants of native Americans should know to protect your health!

Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author, and museum exhibit designer. He is also considered one of the leading experts on Southeastern Indians. I I want to share his recent post


It isn’t just about alcohol. It is about the metabolic reasons that Native American descendants should carefully consider what they eat, in order to maintain optimum opportunity for health. You might even see yourself in these words

“Most Native Americans outside the Lower Southeast and Lower Southwest lack the genes, which enable bodies to metabolize simple carbohydrates efficiently. ” (Richards, 2016)

Did you know, 

“The Pueblo Peoples of the Southwest and the Muskogeans of the Southeast generally … do carry an intolerance to siliac, which is a chemical found in wheat, oats and barley. In the most severe form, Muskogeans can be intolerant to most chemicals found in wheat, oats and barley. Descendants of hunter-gatherer tribes also frequently carry siliac intolerance, but not at the level of Muskogeans.”(Richards, 2016)

Why is this important?

“Wheat intolerance is the primary reason that most Creek women today must have their gall bladder removed by age 40. If they continue to eat white bread and wheat products regularly, they can expect their entire digestive system to atrophy.” (Richards, 2016)

Richards has more to say about the effects of this disease, including colon removal, beer gut, and shorter life spans. I encourage you to read the full article and continue your own research into your family background!

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