Jesse McBride outlived predictions on longevity

By Murphy J. Barr
Journal Historian

Jesse Edward McBride was the son of James Louis McBride and Frances Edward McBride, who were living on a farm near Lexington, Mississippi. Jesse was born there on January 29, 1845. His mother died giving birth to Jesse.

The baby was not expected to live. His widowed father placed the child in care of his grandmother, and she dedicated herself to taking care of Jesse. He was a sickly child. His grandmother gave him good care in a time of primitive medicine when childhood deaths were expected. After two years his father married again and Jesse returned to him, but the family did not believe he would live to see his teen years. Jesse not only survived but farm work seemed to have a positive effect on his health.

In 1854, James Louis McBride and his brother William went to Louisiana in search of land. They made their way to Jackson Parish, where each one purchased 320 acres in the area of Center Point community, also known as Nine Pines. James Louis returned to Mississippi and the next year led a wagon train west from Holmes County to North Louisiana.

In the train was James' brother John McBride and his family, his sister Frances and her husband John Wigley, and several other families. The wagon train left in mid-December, hoping to arrive in time to clear new ground and put in a crop.

Jesse was 11 years old at the time, and recalled the wagons crossing the Mississippi River on a ferry. On Christmas Eve night they camped near Lake Providence. Christmas day was marred by the theft of one of his father's mules during the night, which they did not find. Jesse later noted that the mule was the sorriest one of the team anyway. John McBride decided to make a home near Lake Providence. John Wigley and Frances continued on to the Center Point community, located about three miles east of Jonesboro, Louisiana. William McBride was not married, and went to work as the overseer of the plantation owned by the widow of Hiram Hardy Hargrove, Ann Amelia Scarborough Hargrove. Her husband died as a young man and left her with a large plantation with slaves and three small children to care for. In time William and Ann Amelia were married. He became a Baptist minister and preached at Ebenezer Baptist Church and other churches in North Central Louisiana. Later in life he lived with his family in Gansville in Winn Parish. He and his wife are buried at the church cemetery there.

Jesse lived on his father's farm at Center Point. He was 16 years old when the Civil War came about. At 17, he joined the Confederate Army and was assigned to a Jackson Parish Company in the 12th Louisiana Infantry Regiment. He fought in the bloody battle of Corinth and in Tennessee and Kentucky.

When Jesse's father came back from the Civil War, he wrote in his Bible, "I have come home from the War. John is home, but Jesse has not been heard from."

When James Louis McBride wrote those words in his Bible at the end of the Civil War, he assumed his son Jesse would not be coming home, since he had not been heard from for two years.

During the Civil War Jesse was in Kentucky and the Rebel Army was in retreat when he and several of his comrades fell ill, probably with dysentery. Sixteen Rebel soldiers were on sick call and were left behind. They were captured by a company of Federal cavalry, and Jesse was among the prisoners.

He described his treatment by the Union soldiers as good. A cavalry unit on the move did not have time to deal with prisoners, so the Union officer paroled the rebels and gave them four days food rations. He also warned them to be on the lookout for Jayhawkers, a roving band of outlaws who roamed the country pillaging homes and murdering anyone they perceived to be sympathetic to the Southern cause. Kentucky being a border state was sharply divided between Union supporters and those who sided with the South.

The men were stranded behind enemy lines, with the ground covered in snow, They had to decide whether they should stay put or try to make it cross the mountains to Tennessee. Jesse and five other men decided to cross the mountains. During the crossing, Jesse's strength gave out. He told the other men to leave him and save themselves.

Alone in the wilderness, he slowly gained his strength. He found a trail that led him to a remote mountain cabin. The elderly occupant told him there was a gang of Jayhawkers in the area and it was too dangerous for him to remain there. Jesse was too ill to walk. He was placed on a mule and the old man led him across the mountain to the home of James and Katie Kirby. They took him in and began nursing him back to health.

Not long after his arrival in the Kirby home, news came that a band of Jayhawkers had killed five Confederate soldiers in the mountains. Later news came that they had captured another group of rebels and hanged them in the front yard of the house where they were living.

One day several Jayhawkers arrived at the Kirby house. The leader said he had heard there was a Southern boy staying there. Jim Kirby, standing in the door with a six gun in hand, denied it. Katie Kirby stood behind him with a pot of scalding water. The Jayhawker rode away.

Jesse's health slowly improved but he dared not leave the protection of the Kirby home. He met a young girl in the neighborhood. Her name was Lucinda Hatcher. Jesse fell in love with her and they were married May 19, 1864, while the war continued in the far South battlefields. The war ended and Jesse was finally able to communicate with his Louisiana family.

It was four years after the war when Jesse was able to save enough money to take his family to Louisiana. They said goodbye to Uncle Jimmy and Aunt Katie Kirby, as he called the couple that saved him.

The McBrides boarded s steam ship that took them down the Mississippi River to Simmesport on the Louisiana side. There they board a boat to Trenton on the Ouachita River in West Monroe.

Jesse left his family at a boarding house and went to his father's farm to borrow a wagon and oxen to haul his possessions and family from Trenton to Jackson Parish. There was a great family and community celebration when they arrived home.

Jesse became interested in government. He served on several boards and commissions and was a leader in the progress of Jackson Parish.

Jesse and Lucinda were parents of five sons and one daughter. Three of them were born in Kentucky before coming to Jackson parish.

Lucinda died in 1923. Jesse, the baby who was supposed to die, the boy they thought would never make it to his teens, the sickly soldier left to die in the mountains, lived well past 100. He and Lucinda left nearly 150 descendants, many of who remain in Jackson parish.