Giles and Leliar Williams
Photograph, Marriage License, WWI Draft Card and City Directory Images
Giles and Leliar were married in December 1905 in Perry County, Mississippi. In 1906, a portion of the county would later be renamed Forrest County after Perry was divided. When the couple married, Grandmother Leliar already was the mother of a 16 month old son, Talmadge Eugene McElroy from her previous marriage in Alabama to Thomas E. McElroy. (Noted in previous post. Record attached below.) Leliar has to own the most misspelled name on record.
||Thomas Mc Elroy
||09 Jan 1902
||, Sumter, Alabama
|Indexing Project (Batch) Number: M59344-6 System Origin: Alabama-EASy GS Film number: 1293889
Our father, Clarence Williams would be born later ten months later in Hattiesburg (Forrest County) Mississippi. As far as I know, this was Giles’ first marriage, although he had a daughter born in Mendenhall Simpson County, Mississippi. My aunt’s name was Georgia Rankins, later Funchess (1900-1941). Her mother was Elizabeth Rankins Thames. (Aunt Georgia’s letters in the Maybell Collection will be introduced. They are detailed, newsy and very amusing.)
Photo of Giles and Leliar Sheard Williams dated 1921
Giles (age 40 )and Leliar Sheard Williams (age abt. 41) Photo Dated 1921
The image above depicts my paternal grandparents in a formal photo, both are about forty years of age. They present as secure and stable individuals with all of their material needs met. I believe Grandmother Leliar is about a year older than Grandfather Giles but in this photograph he appears to be her elder. He does not appear dominant over her in the. Unlike in many formal studio shots of that era, the subjects seem stiff and uncomfortable. Giles is confidently seated, wearing a suit and tie. By now, he should be missing a limb due to his work related railroad accident. His hands don’t reflect the wear and tear of manual labor and fortunately by now he is a newly minted Hattiesburg entrepreneur. (Additional information about his business follows in this post.)
Leliar is “baby-faced” , confident in and comfortable with herself in this photo. Our father, Clarence said “Leliar” (as he referred to his mother, believe it or not) was a “stout” woman, who at 260 pounds was without question, the smallest of all her sisters. It’s difficult to imagine that she was “the runt of the litter”. The “natural” hairdo” Leliar is wearing is neat and attractive and fits her to a “T”. Her attire is elegant but not overly dressy. Notice the sheer sleeves of her blouse. Indicative of the family’s affluence, she is wearing earrings, a necklace adorned with a cross and a ring on each hand, a wedding band and a “pinky” ring. I am taken with her serene countenance and seemingly calm demeanor. Take notice of her ample bosom and statuesque build.
Our mother would stated more than once,“Clarence’s mother’s bosom looked like she had two-weeks’ wash stuffed down in there”. Still, Grandmother was neat in the waist and looking just lovely in this picture. AND, just so you know…our mother’s wish was granted!
Marriage License of Giles and Leliar Williams dated 1905
Marriage License – Giles and Leliar Sheard Williams – Dec 1905
The family was living at 325 East 7th Street in Hattiesburg in September of 1918. Grandfather Giles was recorded as “tall, stout, with brown eyes and black hair”. Our grandmother, Leliar is listed as “Lellia” Williams. Note that he does not appear to have a middle name or initial. Interestingly enough, since Giles is still listed as a G&SI RR employee in the draft document below, as well as in the subsequent 1918 Hattiesburg City Directory, the railroad accident had not yet occurred.
Giles Williams World War One Registration Draft Card
Giles Williams-Draft Card (Side #1)
Age 38 – Gulf & Ship Island Railroad Brakeman
WWI Draft Card- September 12,1918 (side #2) . Giles Williams’ Signature
Directory Entry- Hattiesburg, Mississippi
The family is now residing at 816 Atlanta Street. Giles remains employed as a laborer with the railroad company. Leliar’s name is misspelled, as usual. She is listed as “Lela”. Since the railroad line ran between Mendenhall and Hattiesburg, it’s clear that Giles’ moved was precipitated by that fact.
1918 City Directory-Hattiesburg, MS-Giles and Lela (sp) Williams
700 Memphis Street
1920 U.S. Census (Hattiesburg, Mississippi)
1920 U.S. Census (MS)
Giles and Leliar were both recorded as 39 years of age.
In 1920, the Williams family is listed in this census as parents of four children. ( Giles, Jr. was born October 10, 1910 and was now nine years old.) They are now homeowners and living at 700 Memphis Street. He is no longer employed with the railroad which suggests that his leg was lost between 1918 and 1920. More good news is that he is now an entrepreneur, operating his own store. Daddy said that his father also owned the property (and most of the block) where the store was located. (I have not yet researched this property.) The census record lists him as a merchant which my father vividly remembered and commented on frequently in conversation with me. Giles also operated a livery stable along with his “dry goods” business. Leliar is not working outside the home. I don’t believe that my grandmother ever worked for anyone except her family while living in Hattiesburg. (The story of Leliar’s family relocation to Mississippi from Alabama was highlighted in a previous post.)
Grandfather Giles would also move the family to Chicago in the the 20’s where he worked in the infamous stockyards. The family (and sometimes just Giles) would move back and forth (between Chicago and Hattiesburg) several times in this decade according to my father. I believe this was initially an attempt to work to retain his business interests in Hattiesburg. (A letter he wrote to Cudn’ Hattie from Chicago in 1926 is included in an earlier post. He made no mention of his family residing with him.)
Enumerated at the bottom of the image is Leliar’s brother, James Sheard (misspelled Shears) and his wife, Pearlie.
1929 City Directory Entry- Hattiesburg,Mississippi
1929 City Directory-Hattiesburg, MS. Clarence and Leliar Williams
In the 1929 Hattiesburg City Directory image posted above note that the “(c)” stands for “colored”. They still own the store at 402 1/2 E. 7th Street. Giles and Leliar are no longer living in their home on Memphis Street. In fact,the family is living at 710 Royal Street which is on the opposite side of town from the business and their former house they owned. Infact, Royal Street in the 20’s was considered semi-rural. By then our father would be 23 years old.His older brother, Talmadge Eugene (better known as Cootley) was 25, married and long gone , Daddy was likely on his own as well and his sister Mattie was dead. Giles Jr. (aka “Baby”) the youngest in the group would have been 19 and perhaps still at home. Giles may have been in Chicago, Hattiesburg, or even Mendenhall. His whereabouts at that time are unclear. at this point.
Daddy often spoke of how the family lived in great abundance. His was a family of successful entrepreneurs and they always “had plenty of everything”! Comparatively speaking, they were considered somewhat affluent. Unfortunately, it is a fact that Grandfather’s most prosperous and productive decade would be the 1920’s. His business was destroyed in part by the Great Depression according to our father, Clarence Williams. Grandfather Giles’ business, wealth, health and his WIFE would all be gone by 1930! I shudder when I think of how defeated he must have felt after realizing so many of his dreams, then seeing them all evaporate. Remember, he was the only one of his father’s (Randall Williams) offspring to leave the farm in Simpson County, Mississippi and strikeout on his own.
The story of Grandfather Giles’ “ruination” is truly heart-wrenching…but it must be told.
Listed above them on the census page are Leliar’s paternal uncle James Sheard (misspelled Shears) and his wife Pearlie. James is Leliar’s brother.
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