"Ragsdale" to Ragsdell...


The Ragsdell family name was not always spelled ‘Ragsdell’.

The story goes back to before the Civil War…

During the 1850’s the United States was embroiled in a bitter fraternal struggle about the future of slavery in this country. Harsh political battles were being waged over the future of U.S. Territories acquired from the Louisiana Purchase and the Mexican War of 1846; The issue here was primarily whether or not States carved from these Territories were to be admitted to the Union as free States or slave holding States. Emotions across the country ran so high that violence was not uncommon in states such as Kansas and Missouri. In the Southern States, these emotions ran extremely high, dividing families and friends.

The Ragsdale family resided in Northwest Alabama during these times (1850’s).  The family quarreled extensively over slavery… whether or not to support it.   The quarrels became so severe that the anti-slavery branch of the family split off and moved to Missouri, changing their spelling of the family name from ‘Ragsdale’ to ‘Ragsdell’ in order to distance themselves from the pro-slavery side of the family. Eventually, some Ragsdells moved on to Oklahoma from Missouri, where Papaw was born in 1912… and then to Texarkana in East Texas where Alice was born in 1951.

In discussing this history, Papaw was fairly certain that his anti-slavery great-grandparents moved specifically to Missouri because of the changing slavery issue there; They somehow wanted to be associated with that.   The supporting history is, that Missouri at the time was a slave state (Missouri Compromise of 1820); However, the recently passed Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which allowed the question of slavery to be left entirely to "popular sovereignty", re-opened the possibility of abolishing slavery in Missouri. Perhaps the Ragsdells wanted to add their support to that “popular sovereignty”?

Oral History, provided by Phillip Virgil Ragsdell (Papaw) during the many wonderful nights we set at his kitchen table, drinking coffee, and talking about things he had seen over his lifetime.  P.V. Ragsdell is Alice’s Father.