Woman fights for recognition for father who fought in Civil War
Mattie Clyburn Rice has dedicated her life to making sure her father’s legacy was recognized.
And the effort’s finally paid off.
Her father, Weary Clyburn, has his name memorialized in stone in front of the Union County Courthouse as part of the county’s Pensioners of Color.
Weary was a slave born in Lancaster County, S.C., around 1841. Raised on the Clyburn plantation, he ran away with his master, Thomas Frank Clyburn, to fight on the Confederate side of the Civil War.
But getting him the recognition that he deserved was a tough job for Rice.
Her father was 74 years old when she was born, so she spent a lot of time with him when she was younger. She said she can remember sitting around and listening to the conversations her father had with other soldiers.
“I always say that I guess they thought I was playing, but I was listening,” Rice said. “It was fascinating to me how they lived a different life from me. I couldn’t figure out why they were slaves and why they had to do all this fighting. I said to myself that if I ever get old enough and have enough money, I’m going to find out where these people went and what they did.”
Rice, 90, said it took her 55 years to find her father’s pension record.
“I got a job working for the government, and when I got paid, I got a green check,” Rice said. “I remember going to the bank with my father and him cashing a green check, so I started searching to see where that check came from.”
Curiosity piqued, Rice went to Monroe and found her father’s old pension record in the old courthouse. That piece of paper, she said, allowed her to get further documentation on her father.
“He went into the service with his master’s son. His master’s son was wounded, and he went on the battlefield and brought him back. Pulled him safely off the battlefield and got him back to South Carolina,” Rice said.
Rice said Weary and Thomas were friends, having grown up together on the plantation.
“I was just a good listener. I have been a good listener all my life,” Rice said. “I guess that is what made me remember some of the these things. I was really too young for them to talk to me about some of the things that were happening at that time.”
Rice, who has six children, would use her vacation time to take trips to St. Louis, the Pentagon and Gettysburg in search of documentation that could lead her towards her father
“To me I, think it’s something everyone should know about because of the things that my father told me,” Rice said. “I keep talking about it and telling everybody who I knew about him. I would write letters and go to the archives and libraries.”
She said she can remember going to a library in South Carolina and looking up everything she could on the Clyburn Plantation.
“They gave a copy of everything in that library that they had about the Clyburns,” Rice said. “I got wills, marriage records and found out that they came from England.”
Rice did not stop with her good old-fashioned footwork. It was while she was traveling around that she found out that all the military records were kept in St. Louis at the time.
“I wrote to St. Louis and they could not find any records of my father,” Rice said. “Nobody could tell me anything about Weary Clyburn, but I was just so determined. So I kept going to the archives in Washington, D.C. One of the people there told me that if I found Frank, I would be able to find my father’s record.”
Rice said she remembered who her father said he went into the service with and immediately began looking up records for Thomas Frank.
“When I found that person, I found my father,” Rice said. “I found all of the places that Frank fought in. I was so determined to let the world know how important he is.”
Rice, now a lifetime member of the United Daughters of Confederacy, has visited the Clyburn plantation. She now has a good relationship with Frank Clyburn’s granddaughter, Melanie C. Craig.
“We are very good friends,” Rice said. “She has taken us to the plantation and showed us around.”
Rice’s daughter Valeria Hall said she is proud her mother worked more than 60 years to get her grandfather recognized.
“Her father told her a lot, and she remembered a lot. The most profound thing about it that she knew he was great, and she wanted him recognized. Her love for her father touches me more than anything.”
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