Brenda Bunch Flagg of Manila had no idea a search of her family heritage would result in finding relatives she would never have known existed if not for her research. She and her husband, Larry Flagg, opened their home on May 23 with 39 descendants from the Hector, Gardner and Bunch family attending. They are all one big family with ties dating back to the late 1800s to early 1900s when their family settled in the area.
Mrs. Flagg has always had an interest in history and family. She started her search about a year ago and it has led her to many courthouses, cemeteries, libraries, and to the homes of distant cousins.
Mrs. Flagg's great-grandfather, S.W. (Samuel Walter) Bunch, came to this area from Tennessee. He was a distiller and dealer, as well as an avid hunter. He married Melissa Ann Hector.
Mrs. Flagg has the papers certifying him as a distiller and dealer, dated in 1901.
"The things I have gathered would be junk to a lot of people but it is priceless to me," Mrs. Flagg said.
She has the original marriage license of her grandmother Sarah Gardner Bunch Hill in 1904. Mrs. Flagg's grandfather, Thomas Andrew Bunch, was killed when her dad was about two years old. Her grandmother then married Joseph Hill.
Mrs. Flagg is the daughter of the late Pinky and Gracie Bunch. Her dad was a long time barber in Manila. She also has his license from barber school dated in 1925. He cut hair in Manila for almost 50 years.
She has the original hand-written ingredients her grandfather Bunch passed down to her dad for home remedies, hand cream for hands and salves. She is not sure where the ingredients were passed down from but since her dad was raised among the Indians at Big Lake when he was a young boy, some of them could very well have come from them.
"I have the papers where my Dad applied for Indian Status through the Guinn Miller Roll. I don't know if he ever received it. He died in 1974. I do know his Indian name was Chickalee.
Mrs. Flagg knew there was a family connection to the Hectors, early settlers of the area, and wanted to go back to discover how the family all came together.
The Hectors, like many Indians who were being forced to march to Oklahoma across what is now known as the Trail of Tears, made a decision to go in a different direction.
"When they crossed at the Mississippi River, many Indians just left," she said. "The soldier did not want to chase them down so they just listed them as dead."
Mrs. Flagg's family came up through Cape Girardeau. There was a large tribe of Indians in Kennett. They left Kennett and moved to Hornersville before coming to the Big Lake area. William Hector, father of Sam Hector, was one fourth Cherokee. William Hector came into Chilletecaux (now known as Kennett in Dunklin County, Mo.). The tribe of Indians at Chilletecaux consisted of about 300 Indians and only two white families.
Mrs. Flagg discovered Sam Hector lived close to the Little River Ditch, where the Rose Plantation is now located. After the Civil War he sold some land to a Mr. Driver in Osceola and to his daughter, Matilda, and her husband, John Perry. She has the papers from the sale of land to John and Matilda Perry. Some of the land was lost to Carpet Baggers following the war.
Sam Hector married Elizabeth Bellona Rice and they had two daughters, Melissa and Matilda.
Mrs. Flagg discovered in her research Melissa Hector married S.W. Bunch.
"My mother had saved an old newspaper article on Fred Hector, son of Harvey Hector, and second great-grandson of Sam Hector. He was a Memphis police officer who was injured in a chase in 1977. Mrs. Flagg's sisters made contact with Fred and put Mrs. Flagg in touch with him about three months ago.
"I've learned so much about the family," Mrs. Flagg said. "Fred has put me in touch with many family members and we have shared family information."
She has visited three Hector brothers, Vernon, Charlie and Freddie, and their sister, Cynthia Darmstaedter.
The Hector Township was located in the Dell area and later was included in the Chickasawba Township at Blytheville.
Their first reunion was a great success and everyone wants to make it an annual event. Guests were from Oakland, Tenn., Millington, Tenn., Ash Flat, Pocahontas, Ozark, Mo., Oklahoma City, Manford, Tenn., Burlison, Tenn., and Rector.
She is compiling all of the information and plans on making a family book. She hopes to have it ready by the next reunion.
"Everyone has been very generous sharing family information, photographs, and documents," Mrs. Flagg said. "The book should be a great source of our family history."
She works on it every day and said when it is completed every family member will have a copy.
"I had everyone here check information I had and make corrections and additions from each family."
She said she has had a lot of fun with it. She has the papers showing one of her relatives, James E. East, was a prisoner of war during the Civil War from 1861-1865.
"The book will never be complete," she said. "There is always more information to gather and add. I'm putting the pages in a three-ring binder type book so we can add pages."
Mrs. Flagg has old cotton receipts, coal orders, lots of census data, marriage licenses, family obituaries, old pictures of Manila, old bridges, items from her Dad's barber shop and much more.
"It is all part of my family history," she said. "To some people it would not be of much interest but I enjoy it."
She has a book, written by Wayne Capooth M.D., "The Golden Age of Waterfowling." It has information on Big Lake and a picture of her great-grandfather S.W. Bunch and the fish brought to his dock and weighed. The fish were then placed in barrels with ice and shipped to St. Louis, Chicago, and some even went as far as New York.
Mrs. Flagg will continue her search for more information about her roots. It has already led her to so many nice people she is proud to call her relatives. She is looking forward to the reunion next year and meeting more family members.