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A Pioneer and Free-Thinker (This Time It's Personal)

[I decided to celebrate Freethinkers Day by bringing up a post I wrote a couple of years ago for the 100th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy. It's about a freethinker in my own family, Gideon Lincecum.]

Every family has at least one -- the radical, the revolutionary, the trailblazer, the pioneer, the free-thinker. In my family, the most documented individual these words describe is Gideon Lincecum. Gideon (1793-1874) was my first cousin, seven times removed, and he's the closest thing I have to a directly connected celebrity. [That is, if you don't count Tim Lincecum, famed pitcher for the San Francisco Giants. While I'm sure we are at least cousins, I can't yet prove it.]

Much has been written about the life of Gideon Lincecum. Google him and see for yourself. A Wikipedia article begins this way: "Gideon Lincecum was an American pioneer, historian, physician, philosopher, and naturalist. Lincecum is known for his exploration and settlement of what are now the U.S. states of Alabama, Mississippi and Texas, which was then beyond the western borders of the Thirteen Colonies. Lincecum had good relations with American Indians as he explored the wilderness in the American Deep South...Lincecum was self-educated. He spent his boyhood principally in the company of Muskogees. After successive moves, he and his wife, the former Sarah Bryan, moved in 1818 with his parents and siblings to the Tombigbee River above the site of present Columbus, Mississippi."

The Handbook of Texas Online continues with, "From there in January 1835 Lincecum joined an exploring expedition to Texas. In 1848, after years of practicing medicine with herbal remedies learned from Indians and trading with the Indians on the Tombigbee, he moved to Texas. He purchased 1,828 acres of the fertile prairie land he had seen on his Texas visit thirteen years before. Lincecum, Sarah, and their surviving ten children, a number of grandchildren, and ten slaves arrived in Long Point on his fifty-fifth birthday."

Aside from his much documented and highly respected work as a naturalist, Gideon was a friend to the Native American Indians when few were. He befriended them, learned from them, and chronicled their culture and traditions.

Something else Gideon was that is not always focused on is this: he was a free-thinker. "Freethought" is a philosophical viewpoint that holds that opinions should be formed on the basis of science, logic, and reason, and should not be influenced by authority, tradition, or any religious dogma. Gideon was not fond of organized religion, and I am quite sure his opinions were controversial in his day. In fact, many would find them just as much so today. If Gideon were still with us, I believe he would definitely be a blogger -- with some dedicated followers and just as many or more haters.

Here is a sampling of Gideon's "free thoughts:"

Free thought? Oh, yes, holy free thought, I have cherished ye a long lifetime and I promise myself and the world that all my efforts either in word or deed shall be on "that side of the blanket" so long as this old heart throbs. GID

Now if there could be born an honest, liberty-loving leader who would take things in hand, concentrate the Indian forces, capture all the praying white races and their allies, the mixed-blood cut throats, and chop off their damn heads, there would remain the most innocent, law-abiding people on earth -- the pure Indian. GID

I owe no man anything beyond common civility. GID

It is a painful thing to know that the grand hope which I so fondly cherished during the minor ages of my children has ultimated in utter failure. Not one of them will leave a mark that will not be obliterated by the first rude blast that passes after they have left the mundane stage. GID

[The following by Gideon at age 75]

When I was a very young man I read Dr. Franklin's works. He advised early marriage and that advice, agreeing with unchecked and misdirected amativeness, it was an easy matter for me to fall in with the old sage's directions. Accordingly, I sought out a companion and was engineering the matrimonial machinery before I was 21 years of age. The result is ten families of grown-up men and women, with their children, numbering together 61. I do not repine or regret anything about it, but I cannot avoid the recollection of the fact that in rearing this numerous brood, who average only from ordinary to middling, I lost 38 years of a life that could have been better employed. For the world is as full as it can hold of precisely the same sort of folks and there was no use in adding my brood to the already overdone business.

To beget and born children in the name of the Lord has not and cannot improve the intellectual developments of our species -- it must be done scientifically and philosophically before there can be any intellectual and moral advancement.

[The following is on the marriage of 1 of his grandchildren]

G. W. Lincecum is married. Society, if she knew her rights and had the courage to maintain them, would never permit such conjugal unions as that. What part of your society compact will he and that Seed gal ornament? Who will feed them?

Ignorance is such a terrible, stubborn, throat-cutting thing. GID

[Following on how to be an infidel and a respectful neighbor]

Stick to the truth in all things, keep sober and freely perform your share in all necessary public works and there is no danger. I know, for I have tried it through a long life and declare positively to you that I never had a man to make use of a rough angry word to me in my life...I have always expressed myself freely and openly on all and any subject, particularly on the subject of religion, its gods, devils, holy ghosts and the whole of the ghost family...We may speak freely of doctrine and principles, avoiding personalities...and we shall seldom offend a man whose friendship is worth cultivating.

[Following on the clergy]

The poor fellows have no sense -- just propound him a few questions in natural history -- in zoology, geology, botany, astronomy or any branch of science and you will find him a perfect goose -- ninny. Yet he can tell all about the unseen country and you must believe or go to hell!...they know but little about the world they inhabit, they have not positively made themselves acquainted with the rules of common decency and reciprocal politeness which is manifested in their manner of slandering you if you chance to differ with them in any of their views or religious dogmas...they are incapable of hearing the words of righteousness and truth...

It would be no difficult matter to establish the doctrine of the superiority of the white race were it not for the occasional occurrence of distorted deviations of white manhood. GID

How little people see of the things they are daily trampling over. GID

The embecility of old age is a dreadful thing and I have no desire to live that long, though it may be that I have already reached that point and am not aware of it. GID

Gideon Lincecum died at the age of 81. News of his death was published in the New York Times under DEATH OF AN ABLE AND ECCENTRIC MAN. He "was buried by the side of his good companion in the old Mount Zion Cemetery near the Lincecum home in Washington County, Texas. Sharing his grave, at his request, was his precious old black violin.

Here, in a neglected graveyard covered with shinnery, Gideon rested for sixty-two years, forgotten but in peace. In 1936, the year of the Centennial of Texas' Independence from Mexico, there was a wholesale disinterment in commemoration of the event.

Gideon Lincecum was one of the victims.

The remains of his body and his old violin were removed to the lovely little State Cemetery in Austin, Texas, and placed in a grave in Row One of the Austin plot, so called because it is dominated by the grave of the Father of Texas.

Lincecum's grave overlooks those of some of Texas' greatest men. The Texas granite tombstone bears the official Texas Centennial emblem, and an erroneous death date -- November 28, 1873. Lincecum died one year later." [Lois Burkhalter, author of Gideon Lincecum, 1793-1874]

In spite of his controversial beliefs, Gideon Lincecum was regarded as a man of honor dedicated to the betterment of society. Though there are many "questionable" quotes above, I could also show you examples of Gideon's love for his family and community. His lasting legacy lives on to this day.

Written for the 100th edition of the Carnival
of Genealogy. Furthermore, this post is
 dedicated to the memory of Terry Thornton.


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