NOTES ON JOHN F. METHVIN MEMOIR, JAMES METHVEN AND HENRY METHVIN
By Eugene H. Methvin, 8 22 98
Through the years, by virtue of my Reader's Digest bylines and the rarity of the name of Methvin, I've attracted considerable correspondence, lore and documentation. I've tried to respond to queries, and have kept a file, now quite thick. Now that we have the Internet and Cud'n David Methvin Pierce has created a Methvin "homepage," everyone interested in this history can share the wealth.
Like everyone, I'm pressed for time, and since I have no scanner, cannot put raw documents into my computer. Doing so would inevitably involve a lot of chaff anyway. But as time permits I will try to post a few salient items in Cud'n David's marvelous archive.
This afternoon I want to add some notes on the John F. Methvin memoir, the James Methven history, and the infamous Cud'n Henry Methvin of the Bonnie and Clyde gang.
This letter explains how I first obtained the John F. Methvin memoir, and what I recall about the two graves he mentions in Dooly County—the graves of Nathan Methvin and wife. In 1987 at a University of Georgia alumni function I met John C.Bell, Jr., whose wife Deborah is the great-great grand-daughter of John F. Methvin; her mother is Barbra Holder, whom he mentions in the memoir. John tells me his wife has the original of the memoir. John's address: Bell & Bell, 619 Greene Street, Augusta, Georgia 30903-1527. We have become good friends and see each other every year or so at UGA alumni events.
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Dear Carroll Methvin,
Forgive a hasty answer as we're rushing to ready for three weeks in Europe.
I'm sure you remember your visit to Vienna in about June 1970 when you called on my mother and me. It was some time after that you sent me a copy of the John F. Methvin memoir, the first I'd heard of it. That afternoon, my mother told you, in my presence, about the existence of two Methvin graves in the church cemetery at either the Baptist or Methodist church (I forget which, but she was specific) at Drayton, the "ghost town" on the Flint River on Ga. 27 between Vienna & Americus. Both churches are located on the "river road" which runs parallel to the river in Dooly County, and both are south of Ga. 27. I remember her remark about the two graves because I was both astonished and fascinated; it was the first I had ever heard of them. Of course later in the John F. Methvin memoir I read about the two Methvins being buried "near Vienna" in Dooly County.
And coincidentally, you will see on today's Georgia Department of Transportation roadmaps a tiny circle, denominated "Methvin," on the Sumter side of the river, north of Ga. 27 on the westside "river road" just where it bends back west toward Andersonville.
But back to Drayton. Those two graves are no longer identifiable, I am reasonably certain. The greatest authority on such things was Watts Powell, Jr., who died a year or so ago. Watts authored a three-volume compilation of historical and genealogical records of Dooly County, including listings of virtually every grave in every old cemetery he could find. I asked him about the two Methvin graves at Drayton, and he said he did not know of any, and claimed he certainly would have listed them had they been there. He started his graveyard lists in 1958. Watts was maybe ten years younger than my mother, who died in 1982 three weeks after her 82d birthday. She came to the county in 1933, and when she told you those graves were there, I had the distinct impression she was telling you about something she had personally seen. I talked with her about it later, but don't recall pinning her down on that point. I would guess that Mama saw them, but by the time Watts got engrossed in such things (he was a retired mailman), the graves were obliterated. (Many of the graves in the Vienna First Baptist Church cemetery that were easily legible when I was a child are now obliterated, I discovered as I walked through it last August.)
I think I sent you a copy of the booklet on the origins of the name Methvin and history of the village and castle in Scotland. If I'm wrong, let me know.
A couple of years ago I met the husband of John F. Methvin's great granddaughter, who now apparently has the original manuscript of his memoir. She is Mrs. John Bell, and her husband is a lawyer in Augusta.
And did you ever encounter Betty Methvin Resnick of Pacific Palisades, California? She, too, was descended from Nathan and the Sumter County clan, born in Mississippi & raised there & in Louisiana, and she compiled oodles of ancestral data, all the way back to Scotland--practically to old Adam. Haven't heard from her since a Christmas card two years ago, and haven't been able to reach her, either.
Carroll A. Methvin
306 Jackie Drive
For those interested in Henry Methvin of "Bonnie and Clyde" infamy: See the Reader's Digest article, "The Man Who Trapped Bonnie and Clyde," in the May 1968 issue, page 120. I will get around to copying the article and mailing it, via "snail mail," to Cud'n David so he can scan and put it on the homepage.
For those interested in James Methven, the 1820s immigrant from Scotland, here is an excerpt from a letter I wrote several years ago:
The BRIEF HISTORY was given to me by Miss Mildred Methven, who was a career employe with the Library of Congress Division for the Blind when I came to Washington in 1958. She was from St. Paul, Minn., and later retired there; her father was one of the co-authors. I visited the son of the Scottish co-author in Scotland in 1977; he is now deceased, but we still have contact with his wife and daughter. Whether we are the slightest kin we do not know, but we enjoyed our visit and friendship. The particular Methvens whose immigration to America came in the 19th century, described in this book, were latecomers and not antecedents of most of the Methvens-Methvins, I gather, from the John F. Methvin memoir. They were Miss Mildred's immediate ancestors, however, and they settled in the northern states.
As you probably know, many Europeans took the names of the places where they lived, so it is problematical and highly doubtful that we American Methvins could claim descent from Queen Margaret of Hungary's noble companion, the original Methvin in Scotland. But it's fun to know about such ancient descent, anyway.
I've bumped into other Methvins hither and yon; even ran into a Rev. Alex Methvin, an Anglican minister, at a mutual friend's party ten or fifteen years ago. He was from Australia, whence his ancestors had emigrated from Scotland; now I understand he is a marriage counsellor here in suburban Alexandria, Va.
And then there was Henry Methvin, bank-robber, escaped convict, and member of the Bonnie & Clyde gang; you can read about him in the May 1968 Reader's Digest article, "The Man Who Trapped Bonnie and Clyde." The best that can be said about ol' Cud'n Henry is that he ended up on the side of the law. One collector of Methviniana, Betty Methvin Resnick, who was from Mississippi and Louisiana and tracked the story down, tells me that the relatives of Clyde Barrow hunted down and killed Henry and most of his family--or that they died mysterious and violent deaths, presumably at the hands of the Barrows. About 1985 I was making a speech in New Orleans and a man came up afterward and told me he'd known some Methvins in Northeast Louisiana. "You kind to any of those Methvins in North Louisiana?" he asked. It told him my father used to have a standard answer for questions like that—"With a name like Methvin, I'd have to claim kin even if they were hossthieves," he would respond. To which my New Orleans interlocutor responded. "Some of those I knew WERE. They were crooked as could be," he chuckled. I guess they must have been some of Henry's folks.END EXCERPT