I’m thankful to the many people from the past that have encouraged me to write this story, beginning with my first-cousin Donnie Willis. He planted the first seed in my mind to write about our fourth great-grandfather Joseph Willis. Our sainted grandmother, Lillie Hanks Willis, had a treasure chest of stories about Joseph, and insisted I write them down.
Our Willis family has been blessed with storytellers. My cousin Kimberly Willis Holt is an example of that. Her books have inspired me. I have used her grandfather and my Uncle Howard Willis’s arsenal of stories all my life, including in this book.
My cousin, and maternal great-grandson of Joseph, Dr. Greene Wallace Strother gave me all of his vast research. His uncle, Polk Willis, tended to Joseph in his final years, and shared all that he said to Dr. Strother.
My fellow historian and friend, Dr. Sue Eakin asks me to help her with her research on William Prince Ford. I learned much about William Prince Ford and Solomon Northup from her. All of them, except Donnie and Kimberly, are in Heaven now.
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Karon McCartney, Archivist at the Louisiana Baptist Convention, has provided much help in organizing, cataloging, and protecting my research for decades, at the Louisiana Baptist Building in Alexandria.
Dr. D. "Pete" Royer Richardson (Associate Professor of Theater with Louisiana College), provided invaluable help with the Cajun French recipes in the novel. She also helped with the costumes used in the photographs for the novel. Jeff Young (Assistant Professor of Media Production with Louisiana College), coordinated the Louisiana College students that were photographed at Melrose Plantation. Jeff and the students trekked to Melrose Plantation, in costume, to participate in the photo shoot. The students were: Grace Carson, Connor Chaffin, Jesse Gallegos, Alex Newell, Rose Smoak, and Brandon Watkins.
The cover for the novel was created by Jacob Jolibois. He is a photographer, designer, and writer based out of Baton Rouge.
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I would like to thank Melrose Plantation, and the Association for the Preservation of Historic Natchitoches’ Board of Directors for their hospitality and allowing the use of the image of their beautiful house museum for this novel. Scenes on the cover and website were photographed at Melrose Plantation. It is an Antebellum historic house, museum, and complex of nine buildings located in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana. It is a National Historic Landmark, owned and operated by the Association for the Preservation of Historic Natchitoches, a non-profit organization. In visiting Melrose, you will discover the rich two-hundred year history of the Plantation. You will learn how the family of a former slave became the legacy of the Cane River Creole community that is still vibrant today. You will also see the impact of the American Civil War on it. You can explore the wonders of the early 20th Century Melrose Artists’ Retreat founded by Carmelite “Cammie” Garrett Henry and follow the discovery of Clementine Hunter, one-time Melrose cook, as she emerged to become Louisiana’s most celebrated folk artist. To learn more or plan your visit please visit melroseplantation.org or call 318-379-0055.
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above photo: My great-grandfather Daniel Hubbard Willis Jr. in 1861.
Great-grandson of Joseph Willis. Enlisted September 29,1861,Camp Moore, Louisiana, Confederate Army, Pvt. 5th. Company Battalion, Washington Artillery of Louisiana. March 16, 1864, Raxdale's Company E, 16th Louisiana Regiment, Gibson's Brigade, Army of Tennessee. Promoted to 2nd Sergeant, March 5, 1865. Captured and made a prisoner of war. Paroled at Meridian, Mississippi on May 14, 1865.
Fought at Shiloh, Perryville, Chickamauga, Murfreesboro, Nashville, Franklin, Missionary Ridge, others.
Named youngest son, Randall Lee Willis after Brigadier General Randall Lee Gibson. I was named after my grandfather.