“Big Wheel Keep On Turning!” Giles Williams (b. 1881) “At School” at the turn of the century in his U.S. Census Debut!

 1900 Mississippi Census – Giles is 18 years of age

Paternal Grandfather, Giles Williams is listed in the U.S. Census Records for the first time in 1900 due to two circumstances.

  • Number one, he was born one year after the 1880 U.S. Census
  • Number two, the 1890 census, the first census in which he was eligible for enumeration was destroyed in a fire and thus, is unavailable.

1900 U,S. Census.  Giles Williams  (b. 1881) at 18  years old.  Mary Williams (b. 1828)  at 72 years old.

1900 U,S. Census. Giles Williams
(b. 1881) at 18 years old. Mary Williams (b. 1828) at 72 years old.

 At the age of 18, Giles is still attending school! I was overcome with joy upon this discovery.  Here is my grandfather, one generation removed from slavery, living on a farm in the deep south and his parents are “allowing” him to be behind a desk rather than behind a MULE!  I had previously marveled over the widespread post emancipation examples of literacy evident within the Williams family. Seeing documentation of his enrollment in school at an age and in an era when most  black men were already regarded as “grown” leaves me in deep awe. Many people living in the rural south often had to choose between bringing in the crop and educating the children, boys especially.

According to census records Giles’ father, Randall was literate. Unfortunately, Giles’ mother (who was Randall’s wife Lucy) was not literate, although she was the the progeny of a prominent white slave owner. There are several letters in the Hattie Maybell Collection “from” Great Grandmother Lucy actually penned by her daughter, Harriet.  It is clear that the Williams family valued education.  

Details:

Giles is accurately listed as 18 years of age and living with his parents and siblings, all of whom are in school except for one adult sister. His sister, Ada the mother of Cudn’ Hattie was married and living in Smith County. 

  • Randall Williams  (b. April 1858) His given name is misspelled in the record. He was a landowner and worked as a farmer
  • Lucy Williams (b. August  1861) – She was not employed outside the home

Also living in the home are siblings:

  • Armilda  (b. Nov. 1867)  – She is listed as a “servant” at age 22.
  • Clarence  (b. April 1886) – The record  incorrectly lists him as 16 , rather than correctly, as 14 years old.
  • Harriet  (b. February 1887 ) – Her name is misspelled.)
  • Sophronia (b. December  1889) – A shortened version of her name, “Fronie” was listed.

Interesting Fact:

Giles’ paternal grandmother, Mary Williams is 72 years of age which indicates that she had lived enslaved for about  36 years.  She was middle aged when slaves were freed! 

On Line # 41, Mary Williams is listed.  Her month and year of birth are listed as January 1828. (The year of her is corroborated on her headstone and in the 1870 census record as well.)  Her grave remains intact and marked at New Zion Cemetery in Simpson County, Mississippi. (A future post will feature paternal Great-Great Grandmother Mary Williams.)

 Next Post:  Giles Williams  in the 1910 Census

 

 

 

 

“My Dear Neece” – Introducing Grandfather Giles Williams’ via his Letter to “Mabel” (1926)

GILES WILLIAMS

(1881-abt. 1940)

 Paternal Grandfather

Giles Williams formal photo

Mr. Giles Williams – Formal photo at the age of 21 in 1902 – Photo given to Saundra Williams Blackman by Hattie Maybell Wallace

This is the letter that alerted me that I had definitely “struck gold”…genealogically speaking.  While sifting through the contents of Cudn’ Hattie’s steamer trunk (several years after she died) there it lay scattered among numerous pieces of mail…the total lot apparently vintage…somewhat yellowed, but thankfully intact and wonderfully legible.   I HAD NEVER met my grandfather nor had I ever seen his handwriting.  Grandfather Giles died more than a decade prior to my birth he remained somewhat of a mystery to me.  I WAS OVERJOYED TO HAVE DISCOVERED THE LETTER.  I experienced a genuine, “OH, MY GOD MOMENT!”

Understand that,  I was not the least bit disappointed that Cudn’ Hattie’s “treasure trunk” held only ONE LETTER from my grandfather.  I was too grateful to have the one in my possession.  Prior to her death (obviously), she had personally passed along to me Grandfather Giles’ photograph featured in this post. Again, “THANK YOU CUDN’ HATTIE”!  

While she was living in Chicago (as was I)  she also entrusted to  me a piece of his jewelry.  One day, she nonchalantly  said to me, “This was my Uncle Giles’ gold stickpen” that he bought when he was a young man.” Sautered onto the needle-like stickpin is  a horseshoe shaped insignia. Then embedded into the crescent are  many very tiny pearls of graduated sizes.  Although I’m sure that she poured out every detail, I regret that I am unable to recall how she said she came into possession of this heirloom. It is a lovely piece!

When he wrote this letter on August 1, 1926 paternal Grandfather Giles Williams (b. 1881) was 44 years of age. He sent it  from Chicago, Illinois to his niece Mabel (b. 1898). Mabel was days from celebrating her 28th birthday and was then residing in Laurel, Mississippi.  As indicated in previous posts, she “went by” several variations of her name, Hattie Maybell.  She is currently being addressed as Mabel by her maternal Uncle Giles.  Hattie Maybell’s mother was Ada Williams Epting Craft (b. Sept. 18, 1879 – d. December 29, 1908).  Ada was the  older sister of Giles Williams.   Therefore, he was corresponding with his deceased sister’s only child.

Envelope 1926 Giles Williams (Chicago) to Mabel Hayes (Laurel, MS)

Envelope 1926 Giles Williams (Chicago) to Mabel Hayes (Laurel, MS)

 

Chicago Ill

8-1-1926

 Miss Mable Hayes

My dear neece I will lay a side all to compliment you with a few lines to let you hear from me this leaves me all ok at this time and I hope that this will find you the same and I all so reseav your kind and most well com letter and who is dead glad to hear from you and would bee glad to have you to come to visit me at any and all times and I will look to see you at any time is short and my telfone no is doglas 1829 and let me know where you are staying at and I will call you up and come a rond to see you but it is cold up hear for the time of year so at this time I will close for this time write soon to your uncle as ever Giles Williams 3740 Langley Ave

Letter to Mabel from my Grandfather, Giles Williams - August 1, 1936

Letter to Mabel from my Grandfather,
Giles Williams – August 1, 1926

 

GILES WMS LETTER 1929ScanStation-19-21-46-PM0002

1926 Letter to Mable from Giles Williams

“Who Was I To Tell Remus He was EATING Cat Food?” – Daddy’s devilish sense of humor

Clarence Giles Williams  –  Our father was a talented storyteller unmatched by anyone!

Our Parents - Clarence and Lucy Mae Williams in the late 1980's.  Partners in crime!

Our Parents – Clarence and Lucy Mae Williams in the late 1980’s. Married 56 years and  partners in everything, including crime!

Clarence Giles Williams’ talent for storytelling!

Listening to Daddy’s hilarious stories was almost as entertaining as watching our ONE CHANNEL TELEVISION!

As a child, our family had one television and you know it was not “in living color”, rather it was in “living black and white”!  We were thrilled to have our television.  It had two stations actually, OFF and ON!  Seriously, we really did have ONE CHANNEL and we enjoyed it immensely.  As youngsters, we had nothing with which to compare it,  therefore contentment was our steady companion.

We lived in what was considered a large town and we were fortunate to have other forms of entertainment, one of them being out father’s storytelling sessions.  I have no memory of living at our home at 114 May Avenue, Hattiesburg, Mississippi without Daddy’s stories and jokes.  Although Daddy’s face almost always wore “the shadow of a smile”… still in appearance, Daddy exuded an aura of seriousness.  Despite his serious countenance, I suppose he ordinarily  presented as quietly and secretly amused about  a sliver of information that he alone was privy to.

My sister, Leliar Ann (aka, Lee Ann) would frequently plead with him, “Daddy, come on and tell us the joke about the (colored) angels, or some other classic that Daddy had told “leventy-dozen”  times.  Rest assured, most jokes involved black people versus white people in some manner. They were never mean spirited, just plain ol’ funny!

Our mother, Lucy Mae  would say, “Aw-w-w,  pu-l-ee-ease Clarence, nobody wants to hear those old “worn out” jokes. I’ve been hearing those same old jokes ever since I first met you. “They’re not even funny”, she’d say…all the while gradually revealing her beautiful smile, ” two teeth at a time”.  She’d chide, even sternly warn him, “Clance (not Clarence, when she wanted his attention) , don’t you tell these children those old jokes AGAIN!  And, like I said… they’re not even funny!”

Of course, Mama’s chastisement did not deter Daddy in the least, as he would methodically begin his “pre-performance” warm up.  My sister would always chime in , “Tell it again Daddy!”  Then Daddy would get cranked up, all the while chortling over his very own soon-to-be-retold  joke.  He would segue into his craft and  stretch a 2 minute story into a 20 or 30 minute saga.  He would knead it, massage it, coax it and “bring in the punchline” when he  got good and ready. Daddy could stretch out a story like it was “hot taffy”.

(Although I was the youngest in the group, I can clearly recall my sister’s banter with Daddy.  It actually would last into our adulthood.)

Enjoy one of my favorite ‘true” stories. I believed it to be true then and I still do believe!

“Well,  I was in Palmer’s Crossing (a small mostly black settlement in the “county”, defined as not within the city limits) one day and stopped by Hudson’s.  While I was in the store,  I spotted one of my old friends, a fellow named Remus.  I hadn’t seen him in a long while and was happy to run in to the old gentleman.  He was quite a bit older than I was, so he didn’t get around too much anymore. He said, Hey there Clarence, I was just in here getting myself a few groceries, kinda stocking up. Okay, I’d already seen him with several cases of can goods stacked up in his buggy.  I said, “Yeah, I see you’ve already have a stack of cans in there.”  Remus said, “Yeah Clarence I had to come back down here and get some more of this TUNA FISH.  It sho’ is good.  I fixed it up with eggs,  onions, pickles and mayonnaise, I’ve been eating it all week!  You should buy you few cases too, it’s jus’ ten cents a can.

Just to make sure,  I leaned over and took a closer look, Remus had three cases of CAT FOOD in that buggy! I said, Remus, is this what you’ve been eating?”  He was so proud and was just grinning, “Yessir, this is the SAME kind I bought last week jus’ to try it out out.  I couldn’t believe it was just a dime.  I hurried up and came back down here before it was sold out and  all gone.”

Even though we knew the answer, we couldn’t restrain ourselves from asking for the hundredth time. All of us asked, “Daddy, what did you do, did you tell him what it really was? Daddy said,”No, I just couldn’t tell him it was NOT TUNA and rain on his parade.  Who was I to tell him he was eating CAT FOOD?”

As could be counted on, Mama shot him a sharp glance of convincing, but fake disgust!  “Clarence, you ought to be ashamed of yourself, letting that poor old fellow eat cat food!”  Daddy would say, “BUT HE LIKED IT!”

We would all “roll”, except for Mama who tried her best to keep a straight face. Her lower lip would quiver and her face would transform into a perfect blend of  a smirk and a snicker…a “smicker”! In retrospect,  Mama was most definitely complicit in Daddy’s story telling shenanigans!  As children, we could not have possibly realized that Mama was an accomplice (not unwitting, but perhaps slightly unwilling).

He was never a clown, but was sure enough funny! With Daddy as the featured attraction,  The Williams Crew had plenty of laughs… GOOD CLEAN FUN!

Future posts will introduce Paternal Grandfather, Giles Williams.

“We Don’t Allow Our Niggers to Wear Neckties”- Jim Crow In the Flesh : Daddy’s Close Encounter with Laurel, (Jones County) Mississippi Police

“Ya’ll Niggers Must Be From Forrest County”

 

“There is no way that white people can really believe that the way the way treat the Negro is right. If they actually believe what they do is right, I truly feel sorry for them.  They are really sad!”

“You know a man  can do wrong for so long, ’til wrong starts looking like right.”

(Words of Clarence Giles Williams 1906-1992)

As stated in previous posts, I admired my father a great deal for many reasons, including his deterination to rise above the “hate” while living in the Jim Crow South . (I will share later his Chicago encounters with racism, which he opined were even worse.)  He refused to bow, but he also refused to hate the oppressor. He felt that he was better off than they because he was decent and honorable and would do no harm to any man.  Daddy always knew who he was and was never a risk of relinquishing his “personhood” to anyone.  He was sure that there were good and bad people of all races, but he said he had only met a few white people that he thought were “good” people. The “not so good” whites  might be referred to as “crackers or peckerwoods”  if he thought their actions deserved such a slight.

 The incident occurred in Laurel,  (Jones County) Mississippi. This is the ancestral home of the famous soprano Miss Leontyne Price.  It was also home ot Mr. Vernon Dahmer who was murdered in 1966 by the Ku Klux Klan for trying to register Black people to vote.  This is one of his oft told Jim Crow experiences.

“I don’t like Jones County at all.  I don’t want any of you fooling around in Laurel (30 miles from our home in Hattiesburg) for any reason. I’ll  tell you why.  Those white people in Jones County are some mean ‘crackers’ and they don’t think nothing of killing a Negro.  They’re all just a bunch of Klu Kluckers!

One Sunday afternoon in the early 1930’s, I was riding in a car in Jones County with a fellow, a friend of mine.  We were just out riding, on the way to visit some people we knew and doing nothing out of order. Well then, a policeman decided to pull us over for no reason. (I’m fairly certain that all cops in Mississippi were white unless they were in Mound Bayou, which is an all Black town.) 

He said to us, “Ya’ll ain’t from Jones County is you?  Ya’ll NIGGERS must be from Hattiesburg, ya’ll gotta be from Forrest County…cause OUR NIGGERS know better!  Jones County NIGGERS know better than to be riding in a new car on a Sunday evening, wearin’ a suit and a tie! They know better, we don’t low (allow) it!  Then that ‘cracker’ leaned over and took my necktie, grabbed it right below the knot, drew his knife and cut the tie completely off !  He then repeated the same with my friend the driver.  After he cut off the other fellow’s tie, he said (likely drawled and sneered),  ‘Ahm a let ya’ll  go this time, but if I catch ya’ll niggers back up here again, it won’t be up to the knot where I’ll cut, it’ll be yo’ neck”!

Daddy’d say, Ya’ll better stay out of Jones County!  I mean it!

“Lord, Make A Regular Man Out Of Me” – CLARENCE GILES WILLIAMS (b. September 16, 1906)

 

Happy Birthday Daddy!

Born September 16, 1906 – Today, I remember his 108th birthday!

~CLARENCE GILES WILLIAMS~

(SEPTEMBER 1906 – AUGUST  1992)

 

“Though lost to sight, to memory dear”

(Ruthven Jenkyns)

Daddy (Clarence G. Williams 1906-1992) outside wearing suit and a "waving" necktie in the 1970's, He was in his 70's.

Daddy  in Hattiesburg, standing outside wearing a suit and a “waving” necktie in the 1970’s.   He was in his 70’s.

 

This poem was laminated and filed away in one of my father’s folders.  Clearly, it was one of his favorites  as it personifies who he was as a man  and all he wished to become.

 

Lord, Make A Regular Man Out Of Me

This I would like to be braver and bolder
Just a bit wiser because I am older,
Just a bit kinder to those I may meet,
Just a bit manlier taking defeat;
This for the New Year my wish and my plea-
Lord, Make a regular man out of me.

This would like to be-just a bit finer,
More of a smiler and less of a whiner,
Just a bit quicker to strech out my hand
Helping another who’s struggling to stand,
This is my prayer for the New Year to be,
Lord, Make a regular man out of me.

This I would like to be-just a bit fairer,
Just a bit better, and just a bit squarer,
Not quite so ready to censure and blame,
Quicker to help every man in the game,
Not quite so eager men’s failings to see,
Lord, Make a regular man out of me.

This I would like to be-just a bit truer,
Less of the wisher and more of the doer,
Broader and bigger, More willing to give,
Living and helping my neighbor to live!
This for the New Year my prayer and my plea-
Lord, Make a regular man out of me.

                                                        Edgar A. Guest

“Arrested Development” – How Our Father, Clarence Sullivan Williams became Clarence GILES Williams

~THE NAME GAME~

 

“I couldn’t afford to have the initials C.S.  It was wa-y-y-y too dangerous!  These white folks don’t care if it’s the right man or not. As long as he’s a Negro.”

Our Father(Clarence G. Williams) in the Louis Armstrong Park -  New Orleans, LA  (1980's)

Our father (Clarence G. Williams) walking in Louis Armstrong Park – New Orleans, LA (1980’s) He never left home without his notepad and ink pen. He was forever jotting down his plans, tasks and observations.

Our father’s  given name was Clarence Sullivan (Williams). He was named after his father Giles’ only brother, Clarence. (Uncle C.S. was introduced in a previous post.) Daddy was forced to change his middle initial due to running up against “Jim Crow “lawmen” and their bodacious practices. Daddy told the story of his self-imposed name change in this manner…

“Well you see, there was a Negro man living thirty miles away from Hattiesburg in Laurel.   He had the name of Clarence S. Williams, the same as mine.   Seems like he was a real  “scoun” (scoundrel for readers who happen not to be Southerners)!  Anyway, one night I found myself  involved in  a serious case of “mistaken identity” and you better believe that was dangerous for any Negro in Mississippi back then .  You could get killed on a humble. One night, the police came to the house and rustled me out of bed for night for a crime I supposedly had committed in Laurel! I hadn’t been ANYWHERE NEAR LAUREL!   I tried explaining that to those white policeman,  but I knew it would do no good. I had made it my business to stay out of Jones County because those white folks were known  to be Ku Kluxers. Those Jones County white folks had confused me with that other Clarence S. Williams before.   After being wrongly arrested, then turned out of the jailhouse into the streets, in the middle of the night and with no transportation thirty LONG miles from home, I decided that carrying the  middle initial “S.” was a risk I would not ever take again!  No sir!  “

I got busy right away. I took my Papa’s first name, Giles for my middle name and I’ve been Clarence Giles Williams ever since.”

In order to assure his freedom, not to mention”life and limb”, it is disconcerting that my father was forced to change his name given to him by his father!  The Good Ol’ Days?

 

 

SHOTGUN! “Shoot him ‘fo he run now”…

 Leliar’s Husband HAD TO Marry the Preacher’s Daughter Because

“He got her in the Family Way.”

According to our father, (Clarence G. Williams) his: maternal grandmother Ella Wilson Sheard; mother Leliar; great aunts, Hattie and Mattie; great uncles, Frank and James, all natives of Alabama “struck out” for   Mississippi in 1904. The family arrived in the booming “lumber company town” of Hattiesburg, set up housekeeping and went about settling in to make a living in the “citified” part of the large sized town. (U.S. Census research indicates that the Sheards hailed from Marengo County, Alabama.)

Giles Williams, Leliar Williams and James  (Bud) Sheard

Giles Williams, Leliar Williams and James Bud) Sheard (undated photo, est. late 1920’s)

The year of the family’s arrival in Hattiesburg is relatively incontrovertible for several reasons. Prior to  the relocation, it is a fact that our grandmother, Leliar Sheard McElroy was expecting her first child. This unborn child was my uncle, Talmadge Eugene McElroy.  Uncle “Cootley”, as he was nicknamed,  was born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi in September 1904.  (Verified by  U. S. Census records)

 

Shotgun Wedding Explained

“If you DON’T marry my daughter who you “messed up”, you will be shot!

The story goes that  Grandmother Leliar was married to a Mr. Thomas E. McElroy in Alabama. At some point during their  marriage,  Mr. McElroy allegedly got a preacher’s daughter “in the family way” and the preacher made him marry his daughter”.  Yes, you read that right!  Mr. McElroy WAS ALREADY MARRIED, but apparently that fact was insignificant to the father of the young lady. Thomas E. McElroy “had to” marry the preacher’s daughter…so the story goes. That “shotgun wedding” left Leliar without a “husband” although she too was “in the family way”.     Following that tawdry episode, the Sheard Family left Alabama for Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

(For the uninitiated, sheltered, youthful and/or non Southerner readers,  “in the family way” can be defined as… she: “has a broke leg”, “swallowed a watermelon seed”, “is knocked -up”,  “is expecting” and finally, the  all too common and blunt, “is pregnant”. )

Despite Leliar’s conspicuous condition and  inauspicious circumstances, she showed true resilience! She did not take a running leap from Hattiesburg’s Bouie River trestle.  On the contrary, Leliar moved on with her life. Keep in mind she’d recently had her first baby  in the latter part of 1904. Shortly thereafter, she met my grandfather (to be), Giles Williams and married him in December 1905.  Our father Clarence, her second child would be born in September 1906.

Our father always said that none of the Sheard women arrived in Hattiesburg with a husband in tow.  Thus,  Great Grandmother Ella’s husband, Mr. Mose (Moses) Sheard did not make the journey.  My paternal Great Grandfather was later enumerated in the U.S. Census records married to another lady.

I have no idea why Hattiesburg was chosen or if they already had “people” who lived there.  What I do know is, the Sheards planted roots in Hattiesburg (Forrest County) Mississippi  right after the turn of the century and set about working and establishing businesses. The Sheards and Williams  apparently were  an entrepreneurial  lot and ended up being proprietors of a livery stable, grocery store and a rooming house.

Our father said that as an adult, his brother, our Uncle Cootley traveled to the courthouse in Alabama and successfully unearthed the marriage license of his parents.  He was determined to prove to his “other” brothers and sisters that his parents were married and  that he “WAS NOT A BASTARD”.   There was a suspicion that the question of Uncle Cootley’s “due inheritance” was also a motivating factor in his quest to prove his paternity. The elder Mr. McElroy (and his family) had ended up migrating to Oklahoma where he  acquired property on which oil was purportedly discovered.

“What A Man, What a Man, What a Mighty Good Man” – Clarence Williams (1906-1992) – Introducing Our Father: Part One

 Daddy’s favorite’s saying was…

“It’s just nice to be nice.”

Daddy’s other pearls of wisdom:

Clarence Giles Williams 1906-1992 (est. taken in the 1920’s)

Clarence G, Williams at 37 years of age. Photo is dated ----1937

Clarence G, Williams at 37 years of age. Photo is dated in his handwritin

I don’t know anybody I dislike,  there are people who have ways I dislike, but I don’t dislike them.”

“Some people are more to be pitied than scorned.”

 “Don’t believe everything you read, look at several sources to see what it says. Just because it’s in a book, don’t mean it’s right.”

Since my father, Clarence Williams was born in September, I feel compelled to dedicate the first detailed post about him 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 consistently 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!!!

Daddy, Robert, Randall and Saundra (me) going to Sunday School at St. Paul (abt. 1961)

Daddy, Robert, Randall and Saundra (me) going to Sunday School at St. Paul United Methodist Church, Hattiesburg, Mississippi  (abt. 1961)

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.

 “People can look at you all day long and think you’re a fool, don’t open your mouth and prove it.”

Next Post:  Images from Daddy’s Scrapbook:  

Subject: Emmett Till 1955 Newspaper Articles