Since my father, Clarence Williams was born in September, I felt compelled to dedicate the first detailed post about Daddy during the month of his birth. To Giles and Leliar Sheard Williams, he was born on New Orleans Street in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, the sixteenth day of September in 1906.
Even as a child, I realized that (in comparison to other fathers) there was something very different and special about Daddy. His tread was light, but his influence was GREAT! I never feared him, but always respected and adored him. HE HAD THE PATIENCE OF JOB and exhibited it in all situations, small and large. He was quite witty and even-tempered, which belied his booming bass voice. Daddy NEVER said, “I’m too busy.” or “I don’t have time, come back later”. (My parents had been married 19 years when I was born! 19 YEARS!) Perhaps it was because I was his 48th “birthday present”, his LAST child born, or maybe it was just “how he was wired”. He was always available to talk or listen to us, as the situation dictated.
If he detected even an inkling of trouble or sadness, he would sit at the foot of his (and our mother’s) bed and pat the empty space beside him saying, “Come on sit over here and talk to Daddy about it'”. For every crisis, question or quandary, Daddy was always “at the ready” to provide an example, a parable or a joke relevant to the situation.
His deep voice, attention and calming presence were soothing agent even into my adulthood. Whatever the problem, Daddy could fix it. His oft used saying was,” Well, Sissy, there are several ways to look at this thing.” Once I heard that familiar statement, the “beast was slain”! My dilemma was disabled to increase its intensity and gather steam. We would talk it out, discuss options and select the road to travel. In the end, gargantuan problems would suddenly appear minuscule after talking things over with Daddy! He was a great father to all of us and a perfect match for our fiery mother, Lucy Mae. Daddy was simply the best!!!
With stoic conviction, Mama would ALWAYS say, “My children LOVE their Daddy, they just TOLERATE me!” She pretended to believe and resent this assessment, but we all knew it was just a show. Our mother valued the rich relationship that we children had with Daddy.
Next Post: Images from Daddy’s Scrapbook:
Subject: Emmett Till 1955 Newspaper Articles
I love this letter! For an individual to have the wherewithal to sit and WRITE A LETTER OF SYMPATHY speaks volumes about “who the writer is”. Additionally, the tone and content clearly show the writer’s deep feelings for the intended recipient.
Great Uncle C.S. Williams wrote this 1951 letter to “Mayble (aka Cudn’ Hattie) to express his condolences upon the death notification of her husband, Theodore (Ted) Wallace. It is my all time favorite of the letters Uncle C.S. wrote to Hattie Maybell. It evokes deep feelings of sympathy which still remain poignant and pertinent in 2014, sixty-three years later. I can actually feel the empathy the letter exudes.
Featured images in POST #20 will introduce you to my paternal Great Uncle Clarence S. (C.S.) Williams (1884-1953). I make no claim to objectivity, therefore I unabashedly assert that Uncle Clarence is one fine looking gentleman! Yes he is! Uncle C.S. was born Mississippi to Randall and Lucy Williams (my Great-Grandparents). He was one of six children; Ada, Armilda, Sophronia, Harriet and Giles. He is enumerated in five U.S. censuses, 1900-1940.
C.S. married the former Lula B. Hayes (1883-1966) and they were the parents of three children, Fred (who died in infancy), Minnie and Leander.
He appeared to have spent his life working hard, to no avail. His heart-wrenching letters indicate that he not only lost his property but was also the was the defendant in a court case of some type. C.S.’s letters (and those in which he was mentioned) clearly illustrate that “he was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief”. Still, he “shines through” as a fair and conscientious man of solid character. Cudn’ Minnie, his daughter often talked about what a wonderful father he was. She asserted that her daddy was so “sweet and nice” and continued to be mild mannered even when he became old and infirm. Cudn’ Minnie said, “He was so kind and sweet even when he was in pain”. She said, “People don’t GET old and hellish, they was young and hellish…they was hellish when they was young”. That was one of her favorite sayings. Cudn’ Minnie never gave her mother glowing reviews and made it somewhat obvious that she wasn’t too fond of her mother, Aunt Lula. (That’s another story as well.)
His 1932 letter to Cudn’ Hattie is insightful and reflective, and also rather troubling. There are several letters in Cudn’ Hattie’s collection penned by Uncle Clarence. In my opinion, he has a talent for writing. (Consistent with other writers in the “Hattie Collection”, C.S. did not use punctuation.) His letters are very detailed and descriptive… and the penmanship, simply beautiful! The script itself says a lot about this gentleman. Take notice of the letter closing where he displays his fancy signature.
(I have no idea of the level of education Uncle C. S. achieved or if he had the opportunity to attend high school. Prior to the founding of the historic Piney Woods School in 1909, I doubt if Simpson County provided a high school for children of color.)
Dear Niece with much pleasure I lay aside all and write to you to let you know I received your kind and welcum letter found all verry well and injoying life Seam like this life I hope I will see a happy day som where but it wont be in this life I dont know I dont know but i do know I am going to live until I die I has worked So hard I am no count
2) My health is no good much but I go on well you ask me about Charley and that timber would I testify that he cut the timber of coars (course) and undoubtly he would not try to deny cuting the timber and of so you can get all the witnesses you want here white and colored its not Right for hem to cut it and give you no satisfaction a bout it Some how I would halv did that Before I cut it I had Decided to not say any thing more to Hem but I am going to ask hem to write or come to see you in the next 3 or 4 days
3) I will See hem today and tell hem what to do he dont know I got this last letter from you I will see what I can do with hem in order to keep it out of law if I can that will Save Both of you all money and I will writ you again the middle of next week of he dont and if he write then you write and tell me what he Say Say So nothing new Wife and Children Sends love to you I Remain Your Uncle As Ever C. S. Williams R1. B 24 Mendenhall Miss
Next Post: More mail from Uncle C.S.
…Why in the world would he make such a statement? Take note of “C.S.'”s fancy signature. I can’t help but wonder how and where he learned to write in such lovely cursive.
For the record, Great Uncle Clarence S. Williams was born in Mississippi on April 17, 1884 and died August 23, 1952. He is interred at Zion Hill Baptist Church Cemetery in Simpson County, Mississippi. C.S.’s mother, Lucy Harrison Williams (b. 1861-1941) predeceased him. He was only 19 when her bought her the Bible, therefore his inscription that implored her to think of him when he is dead shall remain a mystery.
(C.S.’s birth and death dates were generously provided to me by Simpson County resident and genealogist, Belinda Malcolm who has done extensive research at Zion Hill.)
My paternal Great Uncle C.S. purchased this Bible as a gift for his mother, The March 24, 1903 inscription is well preserved and legible. The Bible was passed down to me about ten years ago by my cousin, Carnie A. Hayes, Jr. His father, Carnie Hayes, Sr. and my father, Clarence G. Williams were first cousins, two brothers’ children. Carnie Jr.’s mother, Hallie Lenoir Hayes had the foresight to leave a detailed note. It was handwritten on a brown paper grocery bag (so quaint and precious) which remains in my possession. In the note, she instructed her son that upon her death, he was to acquire it or give the Bible to me (if the several others on the list were already deceased.) Though the Bible initially went to Carnie Jr., he decided to present it to me, the family historian. I owe a debt of gratitude to Cousin Hallie (never referred to as “Cudn” since she was a teacher) and her son, Cousin Carnie Jr. for entrusting this heirloom to me. It shall be treasured always.
Next post: A letter to Cudn’ Hattie from her Uncle C.S. Williams.
Dated JUNE 14, 1917 – Postmarked JUNE 16, 1917
The featured postcard from “B Craft” is addressed Miss Hattie Eptin. Followers of this site are well acquainted with the aforementioned parties. However, I will risk being redundant to familiarize new readers. This card provides an important shred of information, in that it appears to indicate that my great-grandfather, Randall Williams (b. 1851) was still alive in 1917. He would have been about 66 years of age. To date, I am been unable to verify the date of his death.
June 16, 1917
Miss Hattie Eptin RFD 1 Box 8 Menden Hall Miss Kirbyville, tx Miss
Hattie Eptin Dir One i will rite you a few lind to let you here from me i am very well to Day trust you are the same i resive your letter all ok more than prade (proud) to here from you so give my best regard to all tell mama and pa hidy (howdy) for me so by by B Craft
I am sure that Cudn’ Hattie was still living with her grandparents, Lucy and Randall Williams at the age of 19. Mail addressed to her in Mendenhall as “Miss Hattie Eptin verifies this claim.
Beginning in the early 1920’s, her mail was being received in Laurel, MS and was addressed to Mrs. Hattie Hays. She saved many letters sent to her in Laurel and selected items in that series will be shared in future posts.
Cudn’ Hattie also saved two ledgers from the 1930’s that recorded the meeting minutes of the Rosebud Social Club. The members paid weekly dues and the total amount normally collected will amuse post readers to no end.
The Maybell Postcard Series will end for now as other family members are clamoring for attention on the soldfor35cents blog.
It’s high time to feature a few of the men in the family. (Lucy Mae needs to reappear as well). Don’t touch that dial!
Postmarked FEB 17, 1915 OAKDALE & KIRBYVILLE LA
The sender of this 99 year old postcard card is Burnham Craft, the stepfather of Hattie Maybell. She was 16 years of age at the time of this correspondence. Although most of the postcard wording penned by Mr. Craft tends to begin and end identically, there is always some new information imparted, albeit clipped and brief. This time, the message notifies “Cudn’ Hattie” of his impending visit “to spend a few hot dayes” Mendenhall some time during that summer of 1915.
Note: Cudn’ Hattie used several variations of her name(s), therefore I will attempt to honor them all. These names and the possible reasoning for the variations were mentioned in a previous post.
Feb 1915 Postcard from Burnham Craft to Hattie Maybell
Oakdale,and Kirbyville LA- FEB 17, 1915 (postmark)
Oakdale, La 2-14-15 (Written on Valentine’s Day)
Hellow Hattie Dir How are you this leaves me felling Just so But i trust that these few lindes will finds you the same i will Bee out to spend a few hot dayes with you all from Yours truly your father
As always, he conveys affection Hattie her in some manner. For example, he refers to her as “dir” (dear) in the postcard. May I mention that the myth of the crude, backwards, “unaffectionate” southern Black man (of this era) is definitely challenged (by Mr. Craft’s obvious affection for Hattie)? I submit to you that Mr. Craft was not an oddity. I firmly believe that there were many Black men like Mr. Craft. There isn’t necessarily surviving tangible evidence to prove this claim. Still, I contend that southern black men of this era, did not hesitate to express their affection for their children and other loved ones. Included in this list are Cudn’ Hattie’s husband (Theodore L. Wallace) and two great uncles (Clarence S. Williams and Giles Williams) who wrote very affectionate letters to her. These letters will eventually be published in future posts.
Personally, I am impressed with Mr. Craft’s literacy and am interested in when and how he was able to attend school. I also admire his tenacity for correspondence. He did not forsake, the daughter of Ada Williams Epting Craft (his deceased wife). The record proves that after the death of Hattie Maybell’s mother, he was determined to stay in contact with his young “daughter”. At some point he remarried and traveled quite a bit for work with the railroad company (evidenced by the various different postmark locales). Mr. Craft not only resided in a different town, but also in a different state, Texas!
Information gleaned from other letter indicated that Mr. Craft was decidedly human, which will be subsequently shared. His missteps and flaws are documented in the several letters to Cudn’ (written by him and other relatives) and explained to me in detail by Cudn’ Minnie (1912-2002).
How unfortunate because I was ready to rush out and have him fitted for wings AND a halo.
As always, stay tuned…The next soon- to- be published postcard is dated 1917. It will refer my paternal great-grandfather and great grandmother. Thanks for reading.
Miss Hattie Eptin
Rout 1 Box 8
Hellow Hattie How are you to day this leaves me all ok But i am at work on the 4th of July i dont like that so much all what kind of fouth did you all have Bee shore and look for me in August for I has (?) sent for my pass so at this i will close from Your father Bob Craft Kirbyville tex
Nov the 11/9-12
Hellow Hattie How are you to day this leaves me all ok But I has Ben a little sick But not so bad I will send you a pair of shoes on the 17 so at this no more By By from Yo Father
Miss Hattie Eptin
Menden Hall Miss
Rout 1 Box 8
On November 11, 1912, this postcard was mailed to Mendenhall, Mississippi to Hattie Eptin by her stepfather, Mr. Burnham Craft. The location of the postmark is Kirbyville, Texas. Hattie Maybell, referred to as Cudn’ Hattie, received this card when at the age of 14. One can only imagine how excited she was in anticipation of the new shoes coming all the way from TEXAS!
Well into her 90th year, she would not hesitate to buy something new whenever she had a “notion” to. Her closets were a treasure trove of vintage outfits and semi-modern ones as well. After many decades of domestic service, specifically cooking, Maybell retired in Jellico, Tennessee during the mid-1960’s and decided to purchase herself a retirement gift. While both of us were residing in Chicago, she told me the following story.
“Well-l-l-l-, I’d always wanted me a nice diamond ring, so when I retired, I decided I was going to get me one. I was going to buy myself something special. So when I went down to the jewelry store, I couldn’t decide on the solitaire or the cluster, I liked both of them. So-o-o-o-o-o-o since I couldn’t decide which one I like the best, I bought both of them.”
Both rings were exceptionally lovely and definitely expensive. The cluster was given to me by Cudn’ Minnie (Minnie Williams Watkins) in 1993 after the death of Cudn’ Hattie. Cudn’ Minnie said she wanted to “keep the ring in the family”. Just as Hattie Maybell did, I actually wear the ring everyday! It will be passed down again “in the family”.
The postcard from Mr. Craft is short, but sweet. He was only married to Cudn’ Hattie’s mother, Ada Williams Craft for four years and five months. (She married him on July 24, 1904 died on and December 29, 1908.) Cudn’ Hattie was ten in 1908 when her mother died. The first postcard from her step-father was dated 1911, thus Mr. Craft obviously moved to Texas after the death of his wife. His seemingly unfailing devotion to his deceased wife’s daughter is admirable.
Front of vintage postcard November 11, 1912
I wish I could thank Cudn’ Hattie Maybell for being both a paper and junk collector. Her “paper junk” is now my treasure!