Thursday, May 27, 2010
The Sound of a Diploma
Dorothy Graham Clements Gast
This fall my first husband died, and I relived memories of a first romance and failed marriage. The years of depression and humiliation of rejection faded with the busyness of a growing family and career. How funny that the memory of a slap of a diploma on a desk was the spur that kept me going when I felt overwhelmed and led to my greatest achievements.
In the 1950s married students in high school were the center of controversy. So many veterans of the Korean War were back in high school student marriages were becoming quite common. It was believed that they were a negative influence that might spread throughout the system and their effect was hotly debated in faculty lounges, at P. T. A. meetings, and meetings of school boards.
I was born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, but spent most of my childhood on the family farm in Romulus southwest of town surrounded by family, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Three girl cousins were born in 1936. Muriel was the pretty one, Edith was talented, and I was the smart one with glasses. I wished to trade.
My father was a mechanic for Tuscaloosa County Road and Bridge Department and worked on bulldozers, gravel trucks, and police cars. The persistent black oil under his fingernails belied the fact he could quote whole scenes of Hamlet and Julius Caesar and taught his children poems like Thanatopsis at the dinner table. Mama made us set the table with a cloth tablecloth and napkins, correct silver arrangement around cheap mismatched and chipped dishes.
They never told us we were poor even though dresses and shirts were made from the feedsacks animal feed came in. In fact people came from all over the neighborhood to use World Book encyclopedias from the apple crate bookshelves in our living room.
When I was in high school Daddy was hospitalized for a series of illnesses and off work with no workman's comp for long periods of time. Even 25 cent lunches were a luxury for our family. He did not want Mama or me to work outside the home.
In Mrs. Maxwell's tenth grade homeroom one of the most outgoing guys seemed at my elbow constantly. He bought pictures of me from my friends. This was very exciting for a girl who at Romulus the year before was voted Most Likely to be an Old Maid. By Christmas he was carrying my books from class to class and writing notes every night to slip into my books and taking me to the monthly movie in the auditorium after lunch.
In eleventh grade we were inseparable. That year his first cousin and best friend, Houston Hagler, was killed in a motorcycle accident. Frank grew more insistent about our getting married as so many of our classmates were. Crossing the Mississippi line to Columbus Mississippi, where marriage laws were less restrictive was a simple matter and anyone with a driver's license age over 21 could give permission for those under age. On June 22, 1953, we took a neighbor to give permission and drove to the Columbus, Mississippi courthouse and to a ministers' home for the ceremony.
We each returned to our separate homes with nothing changed except legal permission to sexual activity. Back then good girls DIDN"T. I got a job at Kress 5 & 10 and he worked at the Pro Shop in Tuscaloosa Country Club. I had begun spending the night with Frank's sister and doing things weekly with his family because the distance between our homes made dating difficult.
One night Frank's daddy called Frank and me and his mother into Frank's bedroom and tossed two pillows to him and said, you might as well have these. He showed us the marriage license and certificate he'd found locked in Frank's car glove compartment. The next day we drove to Romulus and told my parents. Their faces were so stricken my heart felt the betrayal of the secret marriage.
The only thing they had to give for a wedding gift was a cow to help with the cost of an extra mouth to feed at the Clements. My in-laws and their extended family were very good to me.
About the only thing Frank's parents and I disagreed on was my returning to high school for my senior year. They felt very strongly that a married woman stayed at home. Despite their objections, I got a job as a part time secretary for the Tuscaloosa County Board of Education and was surrounded by professionals who encouraged me in my school work.
There was a countywide move to purge all high schools of married students and I was able because of regular contact with school board members and administrative staff to lobby for policies to allow those students to stay in school. It worked. Frank and I graduated with our class in 1954.
The faculty drive to remove married students from Honor Society failed to materialize and I wore a maternity dress back to school for the required counseling before our principal, Col. Peterson, signed the diploma received at graduation the night before. He looked at me without a smile, took the diploma, grimly signed it, and slapped in down on the desk toward me.
When my husband deserted me 15 months later, again pregnant with a 10 month old to care for. I remembered the sound of that diploma and felt my same defiance. I will not fail, I'll get a job. I will take care of my children.
My parents made a place in their home for me and my two daughters and I was able to enroll at the University of Alabama and find jobs to pay tuition and school expenses. Thirty-five months after enrolling I received a B.S. in Elementary Education.
During those years, I had learned when college, family, and job became too much, I could remember the sound of that diploma hitting the desk and feel steel determination flow through me and give me the push to keep trying.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Assignment: The influence of the matriarch on the female descendants.
A Study of the Female
Annice Barton Graham
1. What are the ways each generation of women is like the preceeding generations?
2. What do those of the same generation have in common?
3. How do economic and sociological forces impact upon the implied and expressed values that have been passed down?
4. Are those values changes or diluted by marriage?
5. What compromises are made?
6. What are consistent themes running through the 7 generations I have known?
7. How much of this is part of “Southern” tradition and how much is family teaching?
8. What is the incidence of divorce in each generation?
9. What is the effect of newer family structures like families living together without marriage in the family patterns?
10. How do the comformists relate to the non comformists?
11. How are the cousins alike and how are they different?
Annice Deane Barton was born October 15, 1913, the eighth child in a family of nine children. In the rural community of Ralph, Alabama, her parents were known as good neighbors and neighborhood leaders. Her father served as Democratic Beat Committeeman for 65 years and as local constable almost as long. They lived on the Barton home place so other relatives came back to visit home long after the previous generation had passed away. There were always extended family- cousins, aunts, and other relatives dropping by. Mollie Cork, Annice’s widowed grandmother and her unmarried daughter had come to live on the farm as well and a small house was built for them in the side yard of the Barton house.
Annice Deane Barton and Lawrence Graham were married in 1934 during the depths of the Depression. When I was born in 1936 I was part of the first generation to be born in a hospital. My grandmother Barton had often served as midwife, but my parents wanted hospital care.
As many families trying to get by during the Depression (my parents thought of it in capital letters) we lived in multiple family groups for several years. We lived with both sets of my parents’ families according to where my father could find work.
When a job for my father opened up in Tuscaloosa, we moved to town and family members moved in with us. My father’s two single sisters, a widowed sister and her two children, and my mother’s brother were part of the family group at various times. As some married, others came to stay until they could make it on their own.
Many important social skills are learned in the crucible of necessary togetherness. Little privacy means that each member carefully respects the tiny space each other carves out. Too personal questions remain unasked, and advice and judgments are kept to a minimum to reduce conflict. When discord arises a cooling off period is followed by working out manageble coexistence. These skills are taught to succeeding generations.
In 1941 my father was hired to work in a government shipyard in the war boomtown of Pascagoula, Mississippi. Men job hungry from the depression poured into a town with little housing available. They “boarded” with local families during the week and saved precious gas for visits home on weekends. We grew up sharing our home with others. In addition to caring for her three young children, my mother cooked and did laundry for the boarders. She bought the first new washing machine in the neighborhood with her earnings and the family enjoyed new found prosperity.
In 1945 we moved back to a little frame house built from used lumber on the family farm. My father bought back part of the farm my grandfather lost when his business failed and provided his parents with the house in which they had raised their children. They were there when they died many years later.
My father worked in town and my mother handled the details for the farm while caring for her four children. She fed the animals, did the milking, chopped firewood, and did equipment and fence repairs. Her father in law who was in poor health, came down and entertained the younger children when she had to work outside.
After my first husband left me pregnant with one child I moved back in with my parents and siblings. The house was too small, but they made room. With their encouragement I went to the University of Alabama and received a B. S. in 35 months. They provided room and board and child care. I rode to Tuscaloosa with my father as he went to work and walked from downtown to the University. They have never complained about the added expense or the crowding. The only cash they paid toward my college education was the $15 for my diploma. My siblings helped, too, often buying clothes or shoes for my daughters.
My mother and her mother in law were good friends. When Grandma had a stroke, my parents left their home to live with her. Any family would have cared for her well and all did help to care for her in other ways. She was the first of four sick people my mother would care for during her middle years, after her children were gone. . She taught, ”Family takes care of family.”
Her many years of communal living showed her how to cope in many difficult circumstances. She was 62 when my father died but continued to work outside the home until she was almost 70.
It is never easy to live in multifamily homes, but there are positive aspects, too. Children have much love and support from all ages. Everyone is needed and no one feels unimportant. This background probably influenced the values and priorities within our family and still impacts the younger generations.
As long as I can remember there have been at least 3 generations living on this farm. There are now 5 generations in four households. Three of our children have lived on the farm since getting married. Some were in the house with us, temporarily, during times of difficulty.
Perhaps this is why members of our family are in contact at least weekly and with our mother more often. We take turns buying groceries, taking her to the doctor or family events, and helping keep her place up. One year for her birthday, her girls-daughters, granddaughters, and little ones, painted and redecorated her mobile home. New carpet, curtains, and furniture made it like new.
My mother has given all her property away to her family. Her home is in my sister’s name and she and my father had us all choose the area of the farm we wanted to inherit. Upon his death she deeded it to us. We honor her by providing any-thing she mentions she likes and she has no fear of being neglected. Her grand-children take her on trips and vacations. Sometimes she babysits, but only if she volunteers.
My parents totaled 16 brothers and sisters between them. Marriages averaged 48 years including widows and divorces. Several couples had more than 60 years together. In my generation 60% of cousins stay married to first spouse. In my children’s generation fewer remain with their first spouse. We think that is a remarkable record. In my grandchildren’s generation there are more divorces and one unmarried couple living together.
When an unmarried granddaughter had a baby the whole family went all out in support of the young mother and child. There were some suggestions, a little advice, but no judgments expressed. Mother and child have a mobile home next to the parents and near me.
Mama Annice, our matriarch, grows more frail in her 84th year. She lives alone a few yards from family members on each side of her. She still bakes cakes to give away and makes quilts for new babies. Our family had sixnewborns in 1996. She reads 2 or 3 books a week and can discuss Danielle Steele with granddaughters or Charles Swindoll with sons-in-law.
Her church and community call her Mama Annice and she does much of her church work through telephone contacts. She established the precedent of providing food at the church after funerals or buryings. Now it is accepted and the whole church helps out.
My sisters and I find our lives colored by the examples of our parents and grandparents. Hospitality, community service, family loyalty, and shared civic responsibility are values seen in every generation.
Our children reflect newer sociological values. Some social drinking is allowed now and different family styles are accepted, but not encouraged. Achievement in careers, education, assertiveness, and independence are mingled with traditional values passed down. The echoes of my grandparents' words are heard in my grandchildren’s methods of teaching their children. Sometimes the exact words may be heard. Half the members of the younger generation are as active in church as their parents have been. Others are less committed. here is a great deal of family pride in our young people and an unusual amount of acceptance between generations.
Outsiders say we are strong women. We are soft spoken, generally, but are not intimidated by people or circumstances. There is little tolerance for whiners or for those who do not do their share. We accept non relatives into our families and expect openness and respect in return. We are seldom disappointed.
I’M PROUD TO BE ONE OF MAMA ANNICE’S GIRLS.
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Preasha became my mother at the age of seventeen when I was only five years old. At the wedding , her brother , Ottis East, and I crawled under the house where I cried my heart out because she would be taking my place as Papa’s cook and housekeeper. Papa had only recently bought some new pots and pans and had told me I could be his cook.
I don’t remember when I first began to call Preasha “Mamma” but when Buster and Tootsy came along, I knew in my heart that she was my mamma too. Never once did I sense the idea of being just a step child.
As long as I remember, each tiny sawmill house and farm house, including the old home place in Romulus, had all the essential things in it that made a home. There was a mother’s tenderness, kindness, constancy, selfless love, and care coupled with her expertise in providing warm, pleasing, and comfortable surroundings evidenced by cool, crisp curtains at the windows; clean, smooth beds; and tasty , nutritious food on the table.
Papa added the outward affections as well as the inward love that both of them gave to the children.
Mamma was not content with a sixth grade education. She took advantage o opportunities to learn. Through reading, club work, workshops and study courses she increased her knowledge of home-making, cooking, sewing, community living, and the Bible.
Mamma saw to it that her children went to school. I had always wanted to be a teacher. When I finished seventh grade, I acquired a teacher’s certificate by taking the State Teachers Examination. I was too young to teach. I wanted to go to high school. When Tuscaloosa High School announced it could take no more out-of-town students, I was accepted by Snead Seminary in Boaz. Business was not too good then with Papa. One day I over heard him say to Mamma, “I don’t see how we can send Eula t school.” Mamma almost shouted out to him, “Yes we can! She’s going if I have to take in washing to send her.”
Papa sent me a $20.00 check each month for my board and Mamma sent me little love gifts when she cold. Once at Commencement time I wrote Mamma that I needed a party dress. I didn’t hear from her .As time drew near, I planned to borrow a dress from my best friend who lived in Boaz. On the morning of the day of the party, the beautiful white silk dress arrived. It was trimmed with Irish lace and had all the pretty under things to go with it.
Mamma and Papa where true friends to everyone. Their house was a haven to Papa’s three brothers (Tony, Charley, Jesse) whose father had died and two sisters (Mary and Grace ) whose husband had deserted them or who needed a home. Their home seemed to have room for their own children when they needed a temporary home.
Mamma Preasha was an angel of mercy to friends who were ill and needed constant care for a period of illness. I remember how she tied sacks around her feet and waded deep snow to care for Mary Lee Barton who was ill with pneumonia.
It was Papa who added the spice to our family living. He was always acting a clown, playing tricks, or contriving surprises.
During my senior year in high school in early December, papa called me to come home. He thought I might need some new clothes. With Christmas holidays less than a month away, I could not imagine why I should take such an unnecessary trip. I worried all the way home. When I arrived, I was greeted by a brand new beautiful baby sister, Sarah! I didn’t even know Mamma was expecting.
Papa was so very proud of all his children. I used to slip around, when I could, and read his letters that he often wrote to Aunt Grace in California and his cousin, George Julian, in Missouri. He never failed to mention each of the children, telling what each was doing and how he was prospering. Often he exaggerated, but it made me burst with pride to realize how much he loved us. I thank God every day for allowing me to be a part of my wonderful John Graham Family.
Eula Graham Vaughn
I am one of the most unphotogenic persons in the world! When I brought home my seventh grade school pictures, everyone looked at them without comment-that is except Grandpa. He said” Why, this is not even you; the camera made a mistake’”
Grandpa always LOVED TO ENTERTAIN CHILDREN WITH TAP DANCING AND STANDING ON HIS HEAD. The last time I remember his doing that was on June 1, 1957, after my wedding at New Hope Baptist Church. He had not been feeling well for at least a month prior so everyone was either shocked of amazed depending on age to find him standing on his head amidst some of the younger grandchildren. He was eighty years old at the time.
Edith Hulsey Livingstone
“Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies;”
Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. Favor is deceitful, and b beauty is van, but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.
The beautiful picture of a godly woman depicted in Proverbs 31 is a poem, and acrostic.. A bit of fiction. How could that person possibly be real?. Of all the Godly women that ever lived probably several have come close to this lovely ideal. I think that Grandma was one of those woman.
I remember Sundays and how she always rose, probably before dawn to cook a breakfast with homemade biscuits and all the trimmings and also a large Sunday dinner all on a wood stove. How I loved her biscuits.!
She was on her way to church by 9:30 am many times walking the half mile. She taught the adult Sunday School class for many years.
Sunday was a special day for her because she loved the LORD and because she always loved her family.. Some of her children and grandchildren always visited on Sunday. I will always remember her sweet smile and the love in her eyes.
Edith Hulsey Livingstone
Tuscaloosa County Courthouse hosted the curb market where farmers came to sell produce.
There were tall trees shading the sidewalks and the county jail was behind the courthouse forming the courtyard for the vendors.
By Dorothy Graham Gast
Saturday was curb market day. Long before daylight cars and trucks loaded with produce would travel down gravel roads to the highways and into Tuscaloosa. Behind the big gray two story courthouse there was an open plaza where tables could be rented and farm goods sold. Chickens fresh killed and packed in ice sat by trays of green onions, yellow squash, field peas, butter beans, and okra. Tomatoes and roasting ears were displayed beside Gladiolas or wild flowers.
Each month had its own ripening time and there was always something tempting. Even in winter there would be canned green beans, homemade muscadine jelly, or jars of honey with the comb intact, homemade Caramel cakes, or fried crescents filled with cooked dried apples.
In the shade of huge oak trees on the Allen and Jemison side of the courthouse along the street bordering the courthouse, itinerant preachers exhorted the crowds that flocked to the market. Their companions often strummed guitars or banjoes to the haunting invitation songs designed to rescue local sinners who wondered by. Customers would pause in their selection of watermelons or canteloupes from nearby beds of pickups to join in the singing.
Prisoners in the county jail that backed up to the market plaza looked down on the crowd below hoping for a familiar face that might be persuaded to buy cigarettes or carry news to family members. Hats hid faces that did not want to be hailed from the second story cells.
On hot summer days sellers might cross the street to Fred Robertson’s Service Station and Wrecker service to cool off in the air conditioning. There at the long dining bar they drank tall glasses of sweet tea and sprinkled hot sauce on hamburgers grilled in front of customers.
Revived, weary farmers returned to their market after a busy morning that had started at 3 am.
On an especially good day after the regular customers had made their purchases and were home cooking fresh vegetables for Sunday dinners, a seller might choose a bought lunch as a special treat. Grandma might leave her table under the watchful eye of a neighbor and walk up to Woolworth’s where the unchanging menu featured staples like meat loaf, creamed potatoes, and green beans with fluffy yeast rolls. Perhaps a club sandwich with ham and cheese, lettuce and tomato would be a new choice. A steaming slice of buttermilk chess pie completed the meal.
By 3 pm farmers were packing up for the return home. Even prosperous famers knew that nothing was to be wasted, not even time. When they got home there would be cows to milk, hogs to feed, and chickens to feed and divest of their eggs for that day. All the animals had to be seen to before the family could have hot supper and weekly all over baths to prepare for Sunday School and worship the next morning.
March 13, 2010
There was always something to eat in the old sideboard drawer in the dining room. She made jelly rolls and fruit cakes. When Wilburn was in the Navy, I went to Baltimore to be with him before he went to California. I only got to be with him on weekends.
It was Christmastime and I was lonesome for home. I had never been away from home before. Mama sent me a chicken already fried and one of her homemade fruit cakes. Boy, were they good. It was a part of home.
One time during a revival at our church, the preacher ate dinner at our house. The visiting preacher was Dr. Powhatan James, son-in-law of famed Dr. George Truett, the great evangelist. Mama had a wonderful dinner, but did not have any butter on the table. Papa asked for the butter, and Mama was embarrassed, because she had just taken it out of the churn and had not worked the milk out. It didn’t matter to Papa so she brought it out. Brother James loved it. He was real nice and he and Papa began telling jokes at the table.
By the way Mama never did know why she never had much cream on top of her milk. She didn’t find out until years later that I had skimmed the cream off the top of the milk and ate it.
When Mama had her stroke in 1963 it affected her walking and her speech. She tried so hard to talk and when we managed to understand what she was trying to say she was pleased. Tears would come into her eyes and she’d say, ”yes, yes.” Mama couldn’t walk by herself we thought , but one time she was seated across the from her bed. Annice had to go out on the porch for something and when she returned, Mama was in bed. She could pull up to do things and stand pretty good so evidently she reached from one thing to another until she reached the bed
Another time I was down there, Viola, her sitter and I were in the kitchen and heard a noise. When we reached the bedroom she was sitting on the floor against the wall. “Mama, how did you get there?’ I said. She laughed and motioned toward the bed and showed us that she had climbed over the side railsof the hospital bed. That tickled her to death. She giggled. She thought she had done something cute
. Thank goodness, she wasn’t hurt. Mama had to help “birth” babies a lot of times. Some were white, some were black. She always went and helped when she was called on. She also helped her children when their children were born. Most of her grandchildren were born in a hospital, but Mama always packed her suitcase and was ready to go home with them and help out for a week or so until the new Mama could take over.
Uncle Jesse and his family were always very close to us. Maa and Papa raised him after his parents died. When Mama died Uncle Jesse said with tears in his eyes, “She was the only mother I ever knew”/ Mama wasn’t much older than he was because she married so young. Papa had been married before and had two young children when they married. They always seemed to feel that Mama was truly their mother. She loved them as much as her own children.
We were always a big happy family and Mama and Papa were the reasons for that.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Picture by John Graham, June 2004
By Dorothy Graham Gast, on 12-04-2010 23:00
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Published in : News, Early Alabama Stories
New Land by Dorothy Graham Gast
Page 1 of 2
*Note:I reviewed documents with exact dates and places in revising this fictional story, but was not able to locate a copy of Mrs .Phillips' book which is out of print.
Dorothy Graham Gast
In the port of Larne, Ireland, John Cork and his wife Elizabeth, heavy with child, boarded the ship, “Lord Dundee” in high spirits. October 4, 1772 seemed more like summer than fall. James Gillis was the captain of the 400 ton ship that carried a group of Protestant refugees bound for America. The Bounty Act passed by the General Assembly of South Carolina on July 25, 1761, gave benefits to religious refugees to settle in that state.
Elizabeth’s tomboyish ways had made them childhood friends. As a child she could run or fight with the best of the lads and chafed against the attempts of her mother and grandmother to make a lady of her.
“I’ll never have the title of lady, why should I bear the nuisance,” she said and tossed her untamed curls in the sunlight. Her sunbonnet was a hated symbol of women’s restrictions and her golden cheeks had sprinkled freckles.
They became sweethearts and talked of the adventures the future might bring. Her mother taught her homemaking skills and her grandmother taught her to spin and weave the warm fabrics so valued in the shops of County Antrim, in the area that would later be called Northern Ireland. They had married on her 18th birthday and moved into the tiny attic room in her mother’s cottage.
Presbyterians in a Catholic land, John’s strong beliefs often led him into disputes with his neighbors. The plans to move across the North Channel to Scotland were changed when news came from the colonies in America. Young men from their village wrote glowing reports of the rich lands granted them in South Carolina.
Handbills posted at the church promised 100 acres for each single person 16 and up and 100 for each married man. Another 50 would be granted to the wife and to each child. When their little one was born they would have 200 acres to start their farm.
Two days from land the storms began. The tossing, creaking ship was filled with seasick passengers. The nausea that had touched Elizabeth in the summer was mild compared the great wrenching episode she suffered now. John felt little better although he sometimes escaped the stinking quarters below deck for a walk in the fresh salt air on deck.
“John, I don’t know whether it was your trouble getting along with the Catholics or the promise of free land that put us on the wretched voyage, but it’s a miserable journey to a strange place, if we make it.” Elizabeth said, at first teasingly, then bitterly as the terrible weather and complications of pregnancy kept her confined to the narrow bunk.
Labor began violently on a December night nearly ten weeks into the voyage. Women passengers tried to send John up on deck, but he stayed and stroked her brown and held her hand and talked about the farm they would soon carve out of the wilderness.
After dawn the baby was born, so tiny and weak the first wail sounded like a kitten. John cuddled him inside his coat while Elizabeth sipped hot broth to give her strength. The baby’s frailness, the shock of birth, and the cold were too much. He died at noon and the tiny body was tenderly wrapped and given to the sea.
John shivered in the penetrating winds and searched the western horizon. The cold was almost as painful and the last weeks had. been. Although the baby had only lived hours their grief was as great as if they had cuddled and loved and cared for it for years.
She just lies there, he thought. Her gray-green eyes have lost their fire and she is pale a s death. I hope she can get her fighting spirit back soon. We’ll need all the fight we can muster to clear land and start a crop.
Low on the western horizon the sun broke through. The ship and the mood brightened simultaneously. “Land ho,” came the long awaited call from the crow’s nest.
“Where away?” responded the officer of the deck. Bundled figures from all over the ship made their way to the rail for a first look as their new land. John hurried to tell Elizabeth the news. She had pulled herself to a sitting position when he reached her.
“Is it really true?” she asked. His embrace answered her question. He rejoiced in her first positive response in days.
“We’ve made it. We’ll start the year 1773 in our new land.” he said. They arrived December 20, 1772.
They were quarantined for fifteen days because small pox had broken out and several children had died. They went before grand court for their acreage allotment on January 6, 1773.
The farm was hardly established before the Americans began their war for independence. John Cork served as horseman for 119 days in 1781 and 1782. His records are in the Historical Commission building in Columbia. South Carolina.
John Cork was the only Cork listed in the state of South Carolina when the first census was taken in 1790. He was buried in the cemetery of Concord Presbyterian Church, the structure he had help build. His original marker was a small handmade stone with the inscription, “John Cork, died February 15, 1798, age 53 years.
1. Morrow Cousins, by Ophelia Morrow Phillips
and research by John L. Graham
By Annice Graham 1913-2001
Papa saved his prettiest corn for seed to plant the next year. Some pretty corn was saved to take to the grist meal where it was ground into meal for cooking. We would shell the smaller grains off the ends for the hogs and cows. We used the corn grinder to shell the grains off the cob and dropped the grains into a long wooden box. Mama kept a clean cloth sack to measure the corn into to take to the grist mill.
To keep rats and mice out of the corn, Papa kept a big rat snake in the crib. We weren’t afraid of it and it wasn’t afraid of us. Nobody was allowed to throw corn or anything else at it.
Papa went to town in a one horse wagon each week. He carried eggs and chickens and extra vegetables, too. Mama made butter, molded it into half pound circles, wrapped it in waxed paper, and kept it in a bucket in the well to keep it cool and fresh. It was then wrapped in quilts to keep it cool on the way to town. A trip from to Tuscaloosa in a wagon took all day. He left about 2 am and returned about 10 pm.
After he sold the produce in town he bought coffee beans. Mama would roast them and grind the coffee. Coffee was boiled in a coffee pot without a basket. She added on teaspoon for each cup and one for the pot.
We made our own syrup and found honey. When bees came to the yard for water and nectar from flowers, we watched them to see which direction they went. Then Papa and L.C., my brother would search for the bee tree. In the late summer he raided the bee trees and collected the honey and combs. We shared the honey with friends.
Papa was talented in many ways. He was a carpenter who could build a house from the ground up. He split his own shingles to roof all the buildings on the farm. Houses, barns, and sheds were built with a steep roof so that water ran off and the shingles lasted longer. He built chimneys from rocks or clay and straw.
Papa was ruptured. He built the last chimney when he was in his seventies. He was working about 8 miles from home when he had to be rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery. Although 20 inches of intestines were removed, he remained active and lived about 20 years longer.
When he was about 85 he fell and broke his hip. He recovered, walked again, and lived until he was 95. His last years were spent in Dr. Peake’s nursing home. He was hoppy there and entertained many visitors. He loved Dr. and Mrs. Peake. Lou Lackey who had married one of Papa’s nieces shared Pap’s interest in politics and carried him riding to see many of his political allies.
His mind remained clear and his memories sharp. The Friday before he died on Saturday he told daughter, Florence Quarles, “I have only enough money left to put me away so I will die soon.”
The next morning the nursing home called the family in because his heart was failing. When family members arrived he looked around at the family members and said,
“I guess this is the day I will kick the bucket. Don’t know of anything else to get so many here at one time.” He continued to joke until his breathing was difficult, and died peacefully surrounded by family.
Weeks before he had told a grandson, “Years ago when your Granny begin losing her mind, I knelt by our bed and asked God to let me live long enough to take care of her. If I’d have known I’d live this long, I wouldn’t have prayed so hard.”
When Leland Barton and Mamie Cork were married in the little Wesley Chapel Church in 1897, the bride was presented with a hand carved dough bowl the father of the groom had shaped from a huge cedar tree in his front yard.
For 65 years Mamie took the dough bowl out of the flour box in the pantry, put in two handfuls of self-rising flour, a fistful of lard, and mixed until the fat was in particles smaller than peas, added buttermilk and worked it into a moist dough. It was transferred to a cheese cloth covered with flour on the metal-topped box and rolled out for cutting biscuits. Scraps from the dough would be cycled back into smaller batch and cut again.
Biscuits were placed in the oven next to the roaring firebox. A
woman was judged by her biscuits, hot and fluffy, flat and chewy, or hard as rocks. Some were almost as big as saucers, others slightly larger than a silver dollar. They would be served with sausages from the hogs killed in freezing weather, then processed by smoking in the smokehouse. Fresh eggs were abundant and grits completed the meal with homemade jelly and molasses to add sweetness and energy for a long farm workday.
The dough bowl was each woman’s equipment for crafting biscuits, yeast rolls, or piecrusts, and was a symbol of her mastery of the womanly cooking arts. Having it made especially for her greatly increased its value.
Granny Barton died in 1963. My mother was the last surviving sibling in the Barton family and the cherished dough bowl came to her and eight years ago was passed down to me. It shows its age and there are spots where a fruit display stained the center, but it is an honored vessel. With five daughters it has been hard to me to decide who gets it next. Perhaps it will continue to have a place of honor for the next generation.
Dorothy Graham Gast January 10, 2010
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
My maternal grandparents were Mary Florence (Mamie) Cork and John Leland Barton, both born at Ralph, Alabama in 1877 and residents in that community until their deaths in 1963 and 1972 respectively. Although my family lived 8 miles away at Romulus I spent as much time as I could at my Barton grandparents’ house. As a preteen I was loaned out much of each summer to help my aging grandparents on their farm. Their farm was about one mile back in the woods behind Wesley Chapel Church at Ralph, Alabama, where they had been saved, married and enlisted to do God’s work.
Each summer we went to clean the graves of all four of their parents, a son, and a granddaughter. Nearby was the grave of Granny’s sister, Aunt Beulah, who had never married and had bought a tombstone and kept it at the foot of her bed until the time for it to be used.
The grayed clapboard house nestled between large oak trees and was framed by a weathered gray picket fence to keep dogs in the yard and chickens out. A porch deep enough for a family to sleep on pallets on a hot summer night stretched the width of the house and a huge rain barrel caught water off the steep tin roof to be stored for baths and Granny’s flowers.
Rockers of all descriptions were separated by cane bottomed straight chairs and hemmed in by a swing. Pots of flowers lined the rims of the porch and a child must water them before dark if rain had not come. Long front steps were deep, too, so that we children could sit on a lazy afternoon after a huge Sunday dinner and listen to the hum of conversation from the grown ups in the squeaking rockers.
Family trees were outlined and filled in by stories of each branch. Cousin Jim who had been dead 40 years becames as real to us as the faces now remembering his exploits. At night when the house clung to the day's heat, three hours in the moonlight were pleasant preludes. Sometimes summer lightning might be seen on the horizon and promising breezes cooled us for sleep.
A door opened to the central hallway 15 feet wide running the length of the house and enclosed at each end unlike the open dogtrots of many neighbors. It was a place for guests greeted, and small children to be contained. The parlor was on the left with a wicker settee and side chairs facing the chestnut pump organ.. Pictures of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Hunnicutt Barton, my great-grandparents, looked down so sternly that I had difficulty picturing Alabama Virginia Barton as the loving mother-in-law Granny described with great tenderness. A wood burning heater was vented through the closed fireplace making a more efficient heating source. Only the overflow of company ever went in there since most visiting was done on the porch or in the bedroom across the dogtrot.
The heart of the house was the dining room. The pine walls were dark with age and smoke and the long homemade pine board table was 12 feet long with chairs at the ends and one side and a bench for children on the other. A china cabinet held plates, cups, saucers, glasses and serving dishes. Each evening Granny and Grandpa ate side by side with their backs to the window as they talked about the day and ate warmed over dinner over the oilcloth table covering. Supper was the lighter meal so it was reheated to go with a fresh pone of cornbread and a glass of buttermilk. As I faced them across the table I thought they were like a worn pair of shoes, so well matched,yet soft and comforting.
A step down into the kitchen led to the water bucket and the aluminum dipper by the sink. Under the southern window the small metal covered table served as cooking and eating area for two or three and there we had our breakfast. The Warm Morning cook stove reigned in the space near the back door with a warming cabinet on top to store baked sweet potatoes or leftovers and had a large tank for a constant supply of hot water.
The door to the left opened to the 6 by 8 foot pantry which held the oak icebox and the flour and corn meal bins that held 50 pounds of each with a cedar dough board for making biscuits. The five gallon lard can was nearby. Smocks like the ones French painters wear in cartoons hung on pegs with the sunbonnets to protect fair skin from the bright summer sunlight. The tails of the smocks could be turned up into makeshift baskets for picking peas or fetching eggs from their nests.
On the L shaped back porch I held squirrels shot early morning in the cornfields while Grandpa skined them for a breakfast treat of squirrels in brown gravy over Granny's golden biscuits. Extra biscuits were filled with fig preserves and dripped butter when I bit into them. They let me drink the strong coffee perked in the pot always found on the back of the stove if I tamed it to beige with cream.
There were many things a child could do to make themselves useful. Water was pumped from the well for drinking, cooking or washing. Many buckets were needed to fill the big black wash pot and the tin tubs used for scrubbing clothes and for rinsing. After enduring washdays I learned to protect clothes for a second or third day to reduce the washing needed. On a hot afternoon I could take a jar of cold water to the field where Grandpa was plowing or ride old Maude the half mile to the mailbox along the gravel road..
Perhaps I was Granny's favorite. I secretly thought so. Most of the other grandchildren were grown and married or teenagers that would be bored staying away from city comforts.When I fed the chickens and filled their trays with clean water I thought It was fun to be the center of attention and given privileges granted only the single child. No annoying siblings could tease or frustrate and life was good.
Dorothy Graham Gast email@example.com
During WWII we lived in Pascagoola, Mississippi where Daddy worked in the US Corps of Engineers Boatyard, while mama took in laundry and cared for her three small children and provided lodging, food, and laundry for boarders, a common practice in a town that had too quickly outgrown space for the many workers flooding in to work at Ingall’s shipyard. The long hours and hard work were no more difficult than the life she experienced on a farm in Ralph, Alabama.
When my brother John’s asthma grew dangerous, doctors recommended that the family move back to Alabama to a dryer climate, and we returned to the home my parents had built on the Graham home place. Mama worked side by side with Daddy as they scratched a living on the farm and he worked in town.
Since our property adjoined the Romulus School property she was much involved in P. T. A. and other school support work. In the 1959 she was hired to work in the Romulus lunchroom and was made School lunch manager at Myrtlewood School at Fosters when the Ralph, Romulus and Fosters were consolidated in a new building near highway 11 at Fosters. She loved the school and the students loved her. When my children called her Mama Annice the name spread through the school and community and became her principal address at home school, and in the community.
As her children left her nest, she and Daddy enjoyed the Eastern Star, cooking for the Masonic events, church work, and working at Myrtlewood. When Grandma Graham had a stroke, she and Daddy left their home for the big Graham house to help care for Grandma. Daddy had been fighting cancer for several years, working between surgeries and convalescences. After Grandma died Mama Annice and Daddy moved in with Mr. Roy Burroughs to care for him and Billy Oliver, a patient from VA hospital who lived on the farm. Daddy and Mr. Roy enjoyed good times until Daddy’s and Mr. Roy’s deaths in 1976. A few months later Mama moved back to her home.
Her life was marked with hard work and responsibility, but she sat an example of leadership and service in her church and community. When someone died she was among the first with food and company for the grieving family. She knew how to quietly do the needed mundane tasks while families struggled with the decisions and grief a death brings. She went to stay with new mothers helping with the tiny babies as the mothers grew stronger.
When the Romulus Fire Department was established 200 yards from her front porch she gave sacrificially to provide fire protection and emergency care for the “old folks’ in the neighhood, though she was older than most. She organized bake sales, and baked many cakes herself to help raise seed money for the government grants those departments depend on.
.She started the practice of taking drinks and food to the church whenever there were funerals so the sorrowing family could have refreshment during the difficult time while the grave was closed and made ready for family viewing. When church elders voted to lock the doors when graveside services were held for nonresidents, she defied their ruling by providing hot coffee, sandwiches, and deserts to the next funeral which happened to be with a prominent family on a freezing day. There was such a positive response that immediately the policy was established that the church always provide for the grieving..
When she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at 87, she chose to come home and spend her remaining days surrounded by family. In the 27 days that followed, at least two members of family were near her hospital bed at all times. Neighbors and friends made pilgrimages to visit, and even the preschool great grandchildren were allowed to continue visiting Mama Annice. Visitors whispered that there was a special feeling about her home and atmosphere around the hospital bed. Sometimes she was in pain or cross showing the strong will that she was known for, but she chose her ways of saying goodbye, even resisting pain medicines, so she could be more aware of those around her. On her last weekend family gathered around her bed as a granddaughter and girls trio sang a concert for her and not a dry eye could be seen.
Mama Annice blessed hundreds of lives and set a high standard of Christian service for her descendents and friends.
By Dorothy Graham Gast
Mama’s hands were not beautifully manicured or white and soft. They could plant a garden, gather food for canning and make a meal for a family. Her hands could soothe a crying infant and smooth a seven year old’s cowlick
Mama’s hands washed the clothes and ironed them. . She could sew a dress from reclaimed feed sacks or piece and quilt a covering to keep out the cold Her tiny stitches held together the baby dresses we had worn .She taught us how to embroidery, and sew a straight seam, and how to adjust the sewing machine when we got it out of whack. And she showed us the tablecloth she made for her trousseaux.
Mama’s hands chopped and picked the cotton to pay for school clothes, and handed Daddy a wrench when he repaired the plumbing or a hammer when they built a fence to keep the pigs in. She carried buckets of slop to feed the hogs when Daddy worked out of town. . Her hands milked the cow after she tossed down hay with a pitchfork.
Sometimes her hands were stained with muscadine juice when she made jelly or preserves. They were scratched when she picked blackberries for a special pie. Sometimes they burned when she chopped peppers for her famous pear relish that relatives craved for Christmas gifts. She gathered peaches and made cobblers for Sunday dinner guests. Four generations learned about cooking from her busy hands.
Neighbors knew that she would come when death invaded their home and make the routines of life go on when families were stricken. Her hands brought food and comfort and help.
When she helped me with my homework her hands showed how to make a map or chart a graph.. When she read our reports, her finger pointed out the errors to be corrected. And found information in books that was just the proof we needed.
Mama’s hands could give a pat on the back or a spank a little lower if correction was needed. They could feel a fever on a child’s forehead and place a cool cloth on the face of the sick. No matter how sick you were, you always felt better when Mama got there even after you were all grown up.
Most of all the hands were open just like her heart and willing to put things right that had gone awry. They taught children to pray and to sit quietly during church service and sometimes pinched a rebellious worshiper who didn’t..
Strong and skilled, her hands signaled for workers as they followed her lead preparing school lunches, and signed the beautiful rituals of the Eastern Star while she was Worthy Matron.
No, Mama’s hands were not pretty, but they were beautiful to all of us
Dorothy Graham Gast
Our house was always full of our friends and when we were eating supper Daddy would lecture. We thought he was just talking to all of us. He must have memorized hundreds of poems and chapters of the Bible. We all thought he was the smartest man we knew. Our food would cool in front of us after someone asked, “What does that mean?" and he would explain so kids and teenagers could understand.
Last verse of Thanatopsis, by William Bryant, a poem about living well so that you do not fear death
“So live, that when thy summons comes to joinThe innumerable caravan, which movesTo that mysterious realm, where each shall takeHis chamber in the silent halls of death,Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,Scourged to his dungeon, but, sustained and soothedBy an unfaltering trust, approach thy graveLike one who wraps the drapery of his couchAbout him, and lies down to pleasant dreams. “
William Cullen Bryant
He might follow that with:
1 Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;
2 While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain:
3 In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened,
4 And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of musick shall be brought low;
5 Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets:
6 Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.
7 Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.
He explained that this is about getting old, with trembling hands, and weak legs, eyes dim, and hearing fading. He said that choosing to live life wisely when we are young leads to fewer regrets when we know longer feel all powerful and in charge. I don't know how well we listened, but it was better that the lectures parents often give. It was as if he were giving us a magic secret. The cold winter day he was buried there was not standing room in the church, and gifts in his memory remodeled our Masonic lodge.
One time when I quoted my father's interpretation of a poem in class, my teacher, Miss Pauline Nabors asked, "Is your father a professor at the University?” I answered, “No, he's a mechanic."
Dorothy Graham Gast
We were blessed to grow up next door to Grandpa and Grandma. The added wisdom of the older generations made our lives richer and fuller. John Crawford Graham was my grandpa, He was the only man I know who wore a mustache in the 1940’s. He was jolly, always joking and teasing even though he was completely deaf and communicated by reading lips. All the children at Romulus School next door knew that they had to use signs and exaggerated lip movements when they talked to him. He was a regular spectator at sports events and our greatest fan. But if he did not want to know what you were saying he would simply turn his head.
We learned about his ancestors and ours from family research by Lyman Graham, my father’s brother.
" The original Graham of our line was William Graham, who with his wife immigrated to America with a group of other Scotch-Irish in 1701 sailing from Dublin, Ireland and landing at Boston. They were descended from a Scottish clan, forcibly ejected from Scotland to North Ireland about 100 years before. The Graham family moved to NJ, Pennsylvania, and Virginia before settling in North Carolina. prior to 1769. The Compendium of American Genealogy, Vol IV states that William Graham went with his family to NC and then to Green Co., KY about 1792-95. Among his descendents was a grandson, William (Mentor) Graham, the schoolteacher who taught and befriended Abraham Lincoln at New Salem, Ill. Mrs. John Hixson, Vaneta, of Piedmont, Mo., told about the great uncle William Graham who was a Baptist preacher. He divorced his wife, a practice much frowned upon especially for a preacher. For him to marry again was unheard of, so he was called before a church council to explain. He boldly stated,” I have poor circulation and my feet get terribly cold at night. I just had to have someone to keep my feet warm.” Mrs. Hixon said “And the women in this family have had to live with that for the last hundred years- just a bunch of foot warmers.' ”
Grandpa's love for children was universal and usually grandchildren or great grandchildren followed him around. My oldest daughters, Marilyn and Donna, became his shadows. Nearly every day, he loaded the car to go to the store and buy a round of carbonated drinks ( he called them “dopes” ) for everyone. If none of the family children were available, he might stop at the home of the nearest black family and take their children down for a treat. When president Truman ordered military units desecrated, Grandpa was furious. He was sure that this would lead to the breakdown of the services. Yet - one day after a summer rain, one of the grandchildren noticed a body floundering in the muddy gravel road. A black man with no arms had fallen and was muddy from trying to get up. Grandpa carried him to the house, washed him up, put some of his own clean clothes on him, and drove him home. We learned that callous words could not hide his tender heart. Grandma often fussed at him because when the two of them had only a pension, he gave to anyone who asked him and often his pension check was gone the day he received it. Many people still thought of him as the rich employer of years before his sawmills and store went bankrupt. Birthdays were special in the Graham family. Grandma often told me when I was a child that celebrating birthdays helped keep families close and in touch. She mentioned other families who never seemed to have closeness. Grandpa loved parties, especially his own. In his last years the opening of birthday cards were highlights and he bragged for months about the money he got. In celebration he would stand on his head or dance a jig, even when he was in his 80s. On Sunday afternoon Grandma began studying the Sunday School lesson for the next week in the adult class she taught for 40 years. She would read the scriptures out loud to any of the children who were there and talk about the lesson. Then every night she would go over it before she went to bed. It gave her a chance to meditate on it all week and us a head start on our own lesson. When we helped shell peas or snap beans, she talked about the bible and its application to everyday life. Most of the time she walked the half mile to church, but Grandpa would take her if she asked or if the weather was bad. We knew she loved us, but she did not show a lot of affection. We also knew she had high standards of behavior for us and usually a look in our direction would settle down any inappropriate behavior.
We were blessed to grow up next door to Grandpa and Grandma. The added dimensions of the older generations made our lives richer and fuller. Reunions were fantastic. Kinfolks from all over came bringing baskets, boxes, and bowls of food. Kids all over the farm, the men looked for shady places to talk, and the women gathered in the kitchen to catch up on news, get the food ready and admire the newest baby. The round oak table would be extended to its fullest, then supplemented by other tables. The side board was the depository for the desserts -- chocolate cakes, pecan pies, peach cobblers, banana puddings. A kid could dream for weeks.
Dorothy Graham Gast Lawrence’s ( Buster’s) daughter
Dorothy Graham Gast
Buster Graham was a series of contradictions in a tall, lanky dreamer. He made his living by manual labor, but his life was in the beauty of a wider existence. He bought an expansive antebellum home scheduled to be torn down to make for the locks on the Warrior River only to find it reshaped as a shotgun house on the family acreage by his father-in-law who was the builder. Only the intricately carved mantelpieces with imported Italian tiles maintained the 1830s glory Daddy envisioned for his family.
In the Tuscaloosa County Road and Bridge machinery repair shop, the guys called him “Mama Graham” behind his back because of his conscientious attention for details, his proper grammar, and his refusal to use cuss words and vulgarisms. He thought he was too good to talk like regular people. He did not even own a gun and the word was out that he played the piano for fun. Why, his coveralls were as patched as everyone else’s.
He always planted 10 to 15 acres of cotton, corn, and vegetables, but also did other work projects like wiring houses or putting in bathrooms to bring in money. The whole family helped. When he wired a house, my brother would crawl through the attics hauling the wires from room to room for proper placement. I learned to connect the wires and screw on the covers for base plugs. With bathrooms, we dug the trenches for field lines from the septic tanks, and covered clay pipes with gravel before the trenches were refilled with sand, then dirt. We learned how much drop was needed in the lines so that the waste water from the kitchen and bathroom could empty underground in the sandy soil.
My friends teased me about the way he acted. He thought his children were the smartest, best looking ones in the world and he told us so, but I could look in the mirror and see truth. Even though he told us how great we were, I knew most dads would have considered that spoiling their offspring. Perhaps because he had so little money to lavish upon us, he lavished words. Words from books, or the Bible, or something heard on the radio, would be given to us as we shared what we were doing in school, at church, or with our friends.
Annice and Buster preferred that others come to our house rather than we visit, so there were always extras at our table. Sometimes kids just came to live with us a while when things were tough at theirs. We may have just had rice and gravy and cornbread, but it was willingly shared.
Occasionally pastoral students from Howard College would come to Romulus to fill in for our preachers who came twice a month. Mama would invite them to our house for lunch if no one had presented them with a better offer. I'd see daddy slip our $10 for groceries into the student’s hand upon leaving as he wished him good luck in his studies.
Lots of folks thought he was a sucker for a hard luck story, but I think he considered himself so blessed that he had to pass it on. My friends laughed at the way Mama would hear the car coming, wash her hands, straighten her hair, and open the door for him. They would hug like newly weds. Then we’d have a group hug as if he’d been gone a year instead of all day. Neighbor’s kids would roll their eyes and make faces but we knew they envied us.
It was terrible when he got on to us. Mama used a switch, but Daddy would sit us down and ask us why we did something wrong. After our downcast eyes and shrugs, he would explain why Jesus didn’t like us to do that. When we said other kids did it, he and Mama always said, “Not in our family.” Being sent off by ourselves to think was a grievous punishment.
When they had a fuss, Daddy would go riding in the car. When he returned he would open the door, toss his hat inside and wait. If Mama threw it back out, he left again and continue the cycle until she’d laugh and let him in. They said something about never letting the sun go down… Nobody back then thought of divorce unless there was drunkenness and beating involved.
When I was 16 the church appointed him to select and purchase a new piano. After making the rounds of music stories, he selected for the church a baby grand that had been used a practice piano at the university, and signed a contract for its twin to come to our house. The leaders at the church were angry and refused to pay for the church piano. They wanted a real piano like an upright box. The pianos could not go back. So Daddy spent ten years paying off the piano at the church and at our house.
Although it made hard times harder, Daddy loved the piano that took up half our living room. When he came in exhausted, he would sit down on the bench, run his fingers up and down the keyboard in a series of chords, and launch into “Alexander’s Ragtime Band”. Sometimes he’d play an hour until supper from Gershwin to Amazing Grace then would rise refreshed to ask the blessing.
Twenty years after he died, I met a man who had known him when he was in his twenties. The man said they worked together in a sawmill in Boligee, Alabama, where the railroad from Tuscaloosa County took logs to Buhl to be processed. After they had finished supper at the boarding house where they lodged, they were walking in the twilight and came upon a group of young men who were drinking and had stopped a black teenager and were teasing him about lynching. As the boy begged, the situation become serious when a rope was produced.
Daddy said, “Stop this. This is no game.” Attention was turned on Daddy and a fight started and Daddy’s friends joined the fray. The boy got away in the darkness, and there were bruises, scrapes, and black eyes before the drunks were vanquished. Daddy’s friends insisted he get on the train to Romulus before the KKK could come after him. The man said it was the most foolhardy thing he ever saw a skinny white guy do. But he still remembered sixty years later.
Yet during the 1960’s Daddy could not understand why the Kennedys would mess with matters that were the South’s business and to him the idea of biracial marriage too horrible to imagine. He despised the modern KKK, but remembered the lofty goals of the originators to protect those families of the defeated republic who were powerless, and was disappointed in the moral decline. He was often puzzled why good movements go bad.
Lawrence (Buster) Graham taught us about Alexander the Great and David the shepherd king, and Franklin Roosevelt and the Depression. When he recited Ripling’s “If” we said it, too, seeing the future when all men might doubt us, but we’d make allowance for their doubting, too. When there were long periods of illness when there was no income, we chopped cotton, and tended garden and sold off pigs and cows.
He had no money to leave us, but he left us his name. And these idealized memories are our legacy.
Dorothy Graham Gast
Published in www.albamapioneers.com
Our family has grown. Ann, Reg, and Steven Burt found us in 1996, too late for O. J. to get to know
them, but in time for the rest of us to embrace them as part of our bunch.
There are 15 grand children and some spouses, and 16 great-grandchildren. We get together at different times, for holidays, birthdays, or just to have fun.
FAMILY HISTORICAL SKETCH
By Col. L.L. (Tootsy) Graham c.1974
Submitted by niece,
Dorothy Graham Gast
Every story has to have a beginning place and time. This one begins in North Carolina just after the Revolutionary War with the birth of George William Graham in 1788. His family moved to Missouri where he grew up, married and started a family. He left Kentucky in the 1820s and appeared on the U. S. Census rolls of 1830 for Madison County, Missouri. At that time he was shown as the father of two sons in the age range of 1-20 years. One is Alfred Graham, born in Kentucky in 1823, the grandfather of John Crawford Graham.
John Crawford Graham was born in 1877 near Piedmont, Missouri, His father was Pinkney Graham, born 1847 in Missouri, and his mother was Narcissus Gross, born 1853 in Bollinger County. Her parents were Christopher Gross, born in North Carolina in 1806 and his second wife, Martha J. Jaco, Daughter of Thomas and Sara Jaco of Georgia and Virginia respectively. Christopher Gross’s father was Christian Gross of North Carolina. Christopher Gross was the youngest of 15 children and fathered 17 children himself.
Preasha Estella East was born near Fredericktown, Missouri August 1, 1888. Her father, John Dudley East was born in Missouri in1866. His parents were Joel Y. East and Mary Sensaboy, natives of Tennessee. John D. East married Sarah Ann Graham born 1842. A kinship was known to exist between John Graham and Preasha but the exact information is not available.
John Dudley and Sarah Ann east were married 1885 and had 7 children; Earnest,1886,Preasha 1888, Cynthia,1890, Lora 1896 and Ottis 1898. Two other girls, Mary and Ethel born between Cynthia and Lora died quite young. Preasha’s father died of a heart attack in 1900. Sarah Ann married a Mr. Nations, who lived only a few months. Later Sarah Ann married Frank Box, by whom she had two children, Elmer, March 3, 1902, and Thelma, March 3, 1905.
John C. worked at several sawmills around Piedmont and Williamsville, Missouri including Carter and Wheyland Lumber Company, Charles Haney Lumber Company and others. For a while he operated a cross tie mill under contract with Carter and Wheyland.
In 1898 John C. married Elizabeth N. C. Hood, daughter of Samuel Hood of Piedmont, Missouri. To this union were born Eula, 1900, Raymond Lee, 1902 and another son who died in infancy. Elizabeth died giving birth to the latter, September 24, 1904
After the death of Elizabeth, John C. had to leave Eula and Raymond in the care of relatives while he lived in sawmill towns and boarding houses. In Williamsville, Missouri he lived in a boarding house run by Sarah Ann Graham-East-Nation-Box .where he met and fell in love with Preasha East who was nearly 17 and according to him “pretty as a speckled pup under a red wagon”.
Preasha and John were married August 5, 1905. A short time later one of John’s cousins, Steve Hixson married Preasha’s sister, Cynthia, and their families were close until their children were grown and started families of their own.
After leaving Williamsville, in the spring of 1906, John and Preasha moved to McShan, Alabama where John was a sawyer for Charles Haney Lumber Company formerly of Missouri. The same year they moved to Gordo, Alabama where John was mill foremen for Albert Bell Lumber Company. Their first child, Lawrence (Buster) was born at Gordo, November 6, 1906.
In 1906-7 Albert Bell joined Drs. S.E. and W.W. Deal in a lumbering project in Buhl, Alabama. John moved to Buhl and built the mill foe Bell-Deal Lumber Company. A short time later he bought a mill and went into business for himself. Four more children, Lyman,1908, Lucille, 1910, and Lois, 1913, were born at Buhl.
It was at Buhl that Lyman almost severed Lucille’s middle finger with a hatchet by accident. Only the skin on the inside of the hand remained intact. However the finger grew back nicely and never hindered her playing the piano in later years.
Also at Buhl, Lois was stricking matches to see them burn when he dress caught fire. She suffered severe burnsover her body and one side of her face. It was necessary to cut the bandages loosa with sissers when they were changed. For several year is was necessary to cut her hair when she was asleep because she would scream when anyone came near her with sissors. She was nearly grown before she could lift her arms above her head.
In 1914 the sawmill was moved from Buhl to Romulus. Freda, 1915, Estelle 1918, and Sarah 1919 were all born at Romulus.
When Pinkney Graham, John’s father died in 1907, John went to in Missouri and brought the youngest children Grace and Jesse to his home in Alabama. Siblings, Toney and Charles followed later. About 1912 John’s sister Mary Wilkerson, very ill with tuberculosis came to live the last few months of her life so she could be cared for by family.About 1910, Sarah Ann Box with her brothers Elijah, a mill foreman, and Jim, a millwright moved from Missouri to Pickering, Lousianna where the families worked at large sawmills owned by the Pickering Land and Lumber Company. Earnest and Ottis Box, Preasha’s brothers became sawyers with highly skilled and well paid jobs.
In 1914 Lora East came from Louisiana to live with her sisters, Preasha and Cynthia. Then about 1916 Sarah Ann and Frank Box with children Elmer and Thelma came to join the rest of the family in Alabama. Frank Box worked for his son in law John Graham as Team Foreman or Woods Boss.
“By 1915 John began to get “Car fever”. There were a few in Tuscaloosa County, mostly owned by doctors or wealthy people. The Tuscaloosa News had a contest to increase circulation with the first prize being a new auto. John entered the contest, signing up all of his employees and anyone who came into his commissary if he could. When it looked as if he had a good chance to win, he would pay part of the subscription to get credit for it. He did not win the car, but he did win a piano which was second prize.
Since we had a piano a year or two old, he sold the new one for $300 and with that and a little more bought a second hand Flanders 20. It had a steering wheel on the right side, brass radiator shell and lamps which burned kerosene, a squeeze bulb horn, and gear shift and brake levers outside the car. The gear housing was aluminum and easily broken. With the roads of that time it stayed broken down most of the time. It was the first car in that part of the county and John got a big thrill out of it, even if it almost broke us to keep it going,” Preasha said
He soon found out that a fellow named Ford made cars more practical for country roads.. So did Chevrolet and others. He made lots of trips to town to keep the mill running and averaged buying a car a year as long as he was in the sawmill business..
In the summer of 1916 Eula took a teacher’s 3examination and obtained a provisional certificate which her to teach a year without completing high school, but she did not exercise this privilege until after she finished John E. Snead Seminary in Boaz, Alabama and graduated in May, 1920 The school made such an impression on the family that Lawrence, Lyman, and Lucille also finished there. Were it not for the consolidation of Tuscaloosa County Schools and accreditation of Tuscaloosa County High, together with the failure of John. C’s business, the four younger daughters would probably have gone there as well.
During times of crisis and depression years many relatives found refuge at the two story Graham house in Romulus. One of these was John’s nephew Harry Wilkerson, whose parents died quite young. Harry came to live with the Graham family in 1924. Aunt Grace, John’s sister who had no children agreed to pay his expenses at Snead Seminaryl Harry endeared himself to all of the Graham family and called himself Son number 4. He later moved to California . Others who lived in the Graham household were Toney Graham and his family of 6 and Lora and Ellis Norwood and their three children.
The lumber business was booming during World War I and for the next few years. It began to decline in 1922 and by 1925 John’s business was gone. He tried again in 1926 but didn’t have the necessary capital to make a go if it. He lost the mill and had to sell all of the musles except the ones used for plowing..
Lucille started to school at Snead Seminary in the fall of 1925, but had to work part time to pay board and tuition. She graduated in 1927 ands borrowed money to attend Livingstone Normal School long enough to get a certificate to tach. She also had to work to pay expenses that year.
During this time Eula was teaching and able to help the family some. Although she married in 1926 and had her own home. Raymond was in the navy, single and generous. Buster and Tootsy were able to help some when there was work to be found. When Lucille started teaching she helped as we… Those were hared time for the Graham family long before the Depression did not hit until 1919. In retrospect it appears that all were matured by the experience and were drawn closer together as we realized the interdependence of each member on the family group.
During World War II the family was involved in many ways. Tootsy served in the army, Raymond, Walter Cork, Kinnion Hulsey, and Wilburn Hamner, brothers in law, were in the Navy. Hoyt Cork, Freda’s husband, was a welder in the shipyards in Mobile and Buster worked for the Corps of Engineers in Pascagoula Mississippi. John and daughter Estelle worked a a box factory in Tuscaloosa making ammo boxes. Others exempt from military service were involved in products necessary for the war effort.
After the loss of his lumber business, John was unable to find steady employment because of his deafness. Preasha assumed the burden of providing for the family. She was industrious and thrifty and by keeping boards and raising an selling produce on the curb market made do with help from their children. Later after the children were gone, she got a job in the the school cafeteria and earned retirement benefits. John’s jobs during World
War II made him eligible for Social Security. After that some help was required, but was shared by the large family.
In 1952 John had a mild heart attack and was admitted to a hospital for the first time in his life at the age of 75. With medication he was able to control his hypertension for the next 10 years, although he probably took a gallon of the tiny nitroglycerine tablets..On June 7, 1962 he fell in the bathroom with another attack, was rushed to the hospital where he died the next day. New Hope Baptist Church’s planned Homecoming services for June 10 were replaced by his funeral.
Preasha suffered from high blood pressure for many years. In 1963, she had a moderate stroke which left her partially paralyzed. Her speech was affected although she understood others well. Buster and Annice moved into her house to help care for her. A companion was hired and Estelle came over every day. All family members helped to pay the sitter. She died January 6, 1966.