“I Can Never For Get You and the PIG!” – Lee Bass’ Letter from Great Grandmother Lucy (est. 1925-1930)

“I can not express my self to thank you”
(Letter from the Hattie Maybell Collection)

1920-30  Letter LeeBass from G'ma.Mr. Bass Dear friend with mutch pleasure I take in riteing you this leavs me well I hope you ar well and I can not express my self to thank you for your good and kindness to wards me and I so highly appeshated many thanks to you i can not never for get you and the pig and is ok But they has not lade yet well nothing more to rite this tie so i will close with many thanks to your friend Lucy Williams

Obviously, this letter lacked punctuation , as did numerous others to Hattie from her family . Nevertheless, they are right to the point and convey the message without a single period or comma. It is clear that Mr. Bass was “courting” Hattie’s grandmother as well as Cudn’ Hattie.  A pig was no small gift back in the 1920’s and 30’s.  He obviously had a familial affection for Grandma Lucy and/or wanted her approval of his courtship of Hattie.  There is a Lee Bass living in Laurel who is listed in the 1930 Census as married to Mattie Bass.  More research is due on this matter.

This image proves again that Cudn’ Hattie had in her possession a document, specifically a letter belonging to Mr. Lee Bass. This letter was directed to her gentleman suitor and was “written” to him by her maternal grandmother. Lee had gifted Grandma Lucy with a PIG! She is thanking him with heartfelt gratitude. Lucy was not literate (as was mentioned in a previous post), therefore she dictated this letter to her daughter, Harriet. There are many letters in the collection with fine examples of Harriet’s rudimentary penmanship (and writing style). Without a doubt, Harriet is her “scribe”.

Undated letter –  In my estimation, it was written in the mid 1920’s or early 1930’s.  I make this supposition based  hints gleaned from the letters in the Hattie Maybell Collection.

“Fine As Wine” – March 25, 1927 – Lee Bass’ Court Papers (Simpson County, Mississippi)

Was Lee Bass “fine” as wine?

He “musta” been.  I believe a  “honey hush” is in order! Cudn’ Minnie once disclosed to me that Lee Bass was an old boyfriend of Cudn’ Hattie’s.  I’d read letters where his name was mentioned and I was curious about his connection to Hattie Maybell.

In 1927,  Maybell  was 29, single again and living in Laurel, Mississippi.  (She moved from Mendenhall sometime between 1917 and 1921, according to the addresses on her letters.  I don’t know if he was a rascal or not.  According to the attached document, he had court fines that added up to $114.25!!!   That would have been equivalent to her Maybell’s annual salary!

Lee Bass' FInes in Simpson County Circuit Court 1927- He was a "beau" of Cudn' Hattie
Lee Bass’ Fines in Simpson Co., MS Circuit Court  March 1927- He was a “beau” of Cudn’ Hattie’s

The irony of the situation is that Cudn’ Hattie was no “cream-puff”, nor was she naive. Hattie was worldly and independent. She left her first husband, Mr. Hayes husband in 1918 in an era when women did not generally make their own “life” decisions. She was only 20 years of age in 1918. I think being orphaned before the age of ten and not having children afforded Cudn’ Hattie inevitably fostered a spirit of fierce independence in her. Further, as a single lady, she moved several times (even out of state to LA, KY and TN). Hattie Maybell was WO-MAN who “owned herself”. Anyhow, I guess Lee Bass was her one “reckless love”.

In addition, she was a serious “money-saver”. I have numerous silver dollars dating from the late 1800’s that belonged to her. She collected enough “silver coins” to sink a small canoe.  There were many coffee cans filled to the brim with each denomination of coin currency. Her old bank-books  documented  consistent deposits and cash withdrawals were almost non-existent.  She saved her money religiously!

The charges against Lee Bass may have been valid or “trumped up”,  I have no idea. What I surmise is that Cousin Hattie probably paid the fines for him. Otherwise, why would she have possession of the receipt?  She kept it for 65 years. Very interesting, I think.  Sadly, some questions will never be answered.

In the census records were two black men in the Simpson County area and one in the Laurel/ Jones County area named Lee Bass, I am trying to determine which one is THE LEE BASS.  I would even say that even his short mono-syllabic, “non-slavery time” name, evokes masculinity and exudes testosterone.   Imagine him speaking slowly in a low bass voice,  “My… name… is… Bass…Lee Bass!  (Reminds me of Bond, James Bond.)  Shucks, I may have wanted to pay his fine and get him released from jail too!

Mr.  Bass also was mentioned by name or simply by his initials (“L.” or “L.B”) on several letters to Cudn’ Hattie from “back home” in Mendenhall.  This document is 87 years old to the day!


“Your shoes was two small” – March 25, 1914 Postcard to Hattie

This postcard is 101 years old to the day!

Postcard – From Burnham Craft to Cudn’ Hattie Postmarked KIRBYVILLE TX MAR 25 1914  

Miss Hattie Eptin  RFD #1 Box 8  MendenHall Miss   

Kirby ville  tex 3-26-14 Hellow Hattie  How are  you this leaves me all OK trust you are the same lisent your shoes was two small i Bought them for 6 and i throte that they would Bee plenty large so tell mama lucy i sent here sumthing to weathersby and i will send here the other the 17 of next  month. By By from B Craft

Mr. Craft is writing to his deceased wife’s daughter.  Cudn’ Hattie is his step-daughter. He is also sending a message to his ex-mother-in-law,  Mama Lucy who is my paternal Great-grandmother.  

Postcard 3-25-1915

“Cootley, You’re Gonna Bust Hell Wide Open!”

Rev. Talmadge E. McElroy

aka “Cootley”

Out father, Clarence Williams  would say to our mother, Lucy Mae that his brother “could really preach, but wasn’t nothing to Cootley”.  He’d say the very best “preachers” were often the biggest devils in the world.  He said they can quote scripture, chapter and verse better than anybody.  “That Cootley could “sho-nuff” preach!  Daddy’d sometimes minister to his brother , THE minister” by scolding him, “Cootley, boy you gotta change your ways if you really want to get to heaven.”  That was Daddy admonishing his well-educated brother who was “The Reverend”.   He’d never directly share this information  with me, but it was sometimes stated to Mama within  my earshot or I somehow picked it up in conversation.

Uncle Cootley had one daughter Mattie Louise by his first wife Bessie Hearn from Poplarville, Mississippi from whom he was subsequently divorced.  I was told Bessie was only about 13 and Cootley was about 21 when they married!  According to census research, that was not an uncommon occurrence for the time (abt. 1925), but I find it quite appalling to say the least.   He also had one son, Howard prior to marrying his second wife.    His son’s birth was very “hush-hush” because he was an unmarried minister and a District Superintendent.  He was actually supervising other pastors in his assigned district.

Uncle Cootley and Aunt Eloise (undated photo-estimated 1950)
Uncle Cootley and Aunt Eloise (undated photo-estimated 1950)

In the late 1930’s he married Eloise Daniels of Amite, Louisiana and they remained together until his death.

My father would sometimes say, ” I tell Cootley all the time, boy I am more fit for the pulpit than you.  If you don’t change your ways, you’re gonna bust hell wide open!”  In 1992 when Daddy was in the hospital and in his final  days of life.  Uncle Cootley traveled from Morgan City to visit with him.  As he prepared to depart for home, before bidding him farewell, he paused and asked Daddy if he wanted him to pray for him.  Daddy looked him in straight in the eye and said with a laugh , “No Cootley, I don’t want you to pray for me. You need to pray for yourself.”  After his brother left, Daddy in his jovial manner said to us , “I don’t want that ‘ol devil to pray for me, I’m trying to get to heaven.”  He really loved his brother, but he “kept it real with him”.  Daddy died at the age of 85 (one month prior to his 86th birthday). Uncle Cootley would die 18 months later at the age of 89 after he’d  just returned from an out of town day trip.  Aunt Eloise said he cried everyday after Daddy died and virtually grieved himself to death.  She even referred to her husband directly and indirectly as “Rev. McElroy”.  To Daddy and to us, he was just “Cootley”.  Daddy was ONLY person with whom he could really “be himself”.  They would laugh and talk for hours. Daddy  was the only person who really knew him inside and out. I imagine it’s very sad when the last person who “knows your story” is gone. Uncle Cootley was the eldest of Grandmother Leliar’s three sons and he would live the longest.  (Uncle Baby Giles was the youngest and was the first in the sibship to die.)

“Uncle Cootley” Sold Dead Folk’s False Teeth – The Undertaker, T.E. McElroy

Talmadge Eugene McElroy (1904-1994)

“They don’t need false teeth where they’re going!” (Uncle Cootley)

“That dern Cootley can smell a nickel a mile away!  (Daddy)

Talmadge Eugene McElroy (1904-1994) Undated photo - about 1944, age
Talmadge Eugene McElroy (1904-1994) Undated photo – about 1944, age 40

This is a true story, macabre but true… Uncle Cootley kept a drawer to display his collection of dentures  previously belonging  his dearly departed “customers”. It’s a fact that, he would sell the dentures of the deceased to his “living” neighbors.  Secondhand false teeth! He’d say to Daddy, “Oh, I’ll get the false teeth back, Miss Sally will be in here (laid out) for embalming in a year or two.  You just watch! These teeth always come back to me.  Then I can sell them again.  Daddy would chuckle, all the while admonishing him, “Cootley, you ought to be ashamed of yourself”.   “Well, he’d respond, the dead don’t need them and the buyers know where the teeth came from, so no there’s harm done.  Boy, it’s an easy $15.  Look, I’ve got a whole drawer full of teeth!”

My father, Clarence’s older brother was Talmadge E. McElroy, nicknamed Cootley  (pronounced “Cooley”).  He and my father shared the same mother, but had different fathers. I explained his parentage in the post entitled, “SHOTGUN, Shoot ‘em ‘fo he run now!” , dated 09/15/14.  It will bring readers up to date on that particular chapter in family history.   The difference in their last names never piqued my curiosity as a youngster. As strange as it may seem, I never gave it a thought that my uncle was a “McElroy” and the rest of us were Williams(es).  It was a fact and a subject of amusement, that some of us (the Williams siblings) could not tell our father and uncle apart when we were youngsters.  I know I couldn’t. To me, they looked exactly alike and their booming baritone voices were identical as well.  Uncle Cootley loved to laugh about it and  remark his brother’s children called him “Daddy.

Daddy would say with a wily smile, “That dern Cootley can smell a nickel a mile away! I’ve never seen anybody who loves money as much as Cootley.”  Though supposedly stated  in jest, we knew Daddy meant every word of it.  The two brothers, born two years apart (in 1904 and 1906) , were inseparable although my uncle spent the vast majority of his life living apart from his immediate and extended family.  After all of us were adults, Daddy spent every Easter and Thanksgiving visiting  his brothers in Morgan City, Louisiana.  These twice annual gatherings would continue until he was into his 80’s.  The “notorious Baby Giles” (also included in previous posts) was an invalid and was also living in Morgan City.  In fact, he lived on the same block as Uncle Cootley.  (That’s another story and not a pretty one.)  “Uncle Baby” was an invalid for over 20 years, his illness reportedly expedited  by fast-living, heaving drinking and general maltreatment of his body.  Anyhow, Daddy spent those holiday with his brothers.

As a side-note, Uncle Cootley would spend all of his adult life in Louisiana.  I was told he attended Alcorn College in Lorman, Mississippi and later taught school in north Mississippi.  He also had been “preaching” since the age of 19.  He left the Baptist Church, joined the Methodist Episcopal Church at some point and later served as a pastor and District Superintendent. (Beginning in 1968, this denomination racially integrated and was renamed the United Methodist Church.)

He was appointed to several Louisiana parishes and after arriving in Morgan City, much to his delight, he discovered that the town did not have a Black owned funeral home.  BINGO! Cootley was extremely well acquainted with the   funeral industry having worked in mortuaries in various capacities since he was a teenager in Hattiesburg.  Being the industrious entrepreneur, he enrolled in mortuary school in New Orleans and became a licensed embalmer and funeral director.  He proceeded to establish McElroy Funeral Home on Lawrence Street in Morgan City in 1950.  Zero competition equaled 100% success.  He and his second wife, Aunt Eloise Daniels (also with mortuary credentials) would operate the business until his death in 1994 at age 89.

Uncle Cootley told a tale about his early life in the funeral industry, reminiscing about picking up dead man in Lumberton, Mississippi in the 1930’s.  Well, while driving the hearse back to Hattiesburg, “there commenced a knocking on the windows behind his head”. He pulled over from the road to see what the racket was all about. Cootley found that the young “dead man” was trying to sit up and wanted to be let out of the funeral wagon at once.  Uncle said he was not at all startled or afraid,  but he couldn’t just drop the man off since he was not wearing any clothes.  They decided that the “dead man” would stay overnight in Hattiesburg, my uncle would find clothing for him and then return him to his hometown the next day.  He said he purposely let the “dead man”  out of the vehicle  around midday in the right in middle of “uptown”.  (Note: Small southern towns had “uptowns” rather than “downtowns”.

Keep in my that news travels fast in small towns and  news of an untimely death travels even faster.  (The “death news” was OUT!) When the townsfolk saw the “dead” man striding down the street looking quite “un-dead”, naturally they were hysterical.  Of course they panicked and scattered every “which-a-way”.  Uncle Cootley would chuckle  every time he retold this story.  I never doubted that Uncle was unafraid.  He was quite practical and straight-forward. He said, “you’re either alive or dead, there’s nothing in between”.  The man just was not dead to begin with.

“A Mighty Love” Lucy Mae and Clarence

 “I Love You Just The Way You Are”

This undated image features my mother and father, Lucy Mae and Clarence Williams.  During This Valentine’s Day weekend, my greatest memory of them is the deep friendship they developed with one another.

Clarence and Lucy Mae Williams (abt.1940 – Ages abt.  25 and 34)

They really liked each other and loved to be in one another’s company. They laughed a lot and showed us how to seek harmony rather than discord.   I lived with my role models. They were my heroes, not the people in books. I could touch, hear, feel and observe my heroes.

My mother always said no matter what, even during the (Great) Depression when money was scarce, she always received a nice box of chocolate from Day at Valentines’ Day.  ALWAYS!  Daddy delivered that candy until the day he died.  As a child, I remember waiting to share that treat with mama. Around the age of twelve, I was added to Daddy’s candy list along with mama and my sister, Leliar (Lee Ann).  My securely wrapped box of candy  arrived via U.S. mail even after I left home for college.

In the photo, Mama so  pretty and “free” and daddy was the epitome  COOL.  The hat, the tie, the pose, the cigar.  His eyes were “deadly” and beautiful. I loved these two way back when and …I love them still.

 © Saundra Blackman and soldfor35cents.com2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Saundra Blackman and soldfor35cents.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

“You Are So Beautiful To Me” – Vintage Pictures of Lovely Ladies!

 “You’re Everything I Hoped For…Everything I Need.  You Are So Beautiful To Me…”

Surely, that was the sentiment of the men who loved these ladies.  In early celebration of Valentine’s Day and to lighten the mood after the serious content of previous posts,  I will shift the focus to “matters of the heart”.  These images are not those of my relatives, rather they were in a batch of photos loaned to me by my friend Dorothy Lartheridge Cox (of Chicago) who happens to be a very young 93 years old.  She is a Mississippi native, as am I and these are her relatives whom I assume are Mississippians as well.  It is unfortunate that many people fail to “picture” southern women of color as refined, elegant and beautiful, especially rural  residing Mississippians.  Need I say more?

Dorothy Lartheridge Cox Collection 20140000


Dorothy Lartheridge Cox Collection 20140020

Dorothy Lartheridge Cox Collection 20140022







“Rock of Ages, Cleft For Me” – Grandfather Giles’ Death Certificate


  There are a few surprises in the death certificate. One, he was buried the day after his death and two they actually utilized the services of an undertaker.  I would have thought that this was uncustomary, but obviously not.   It saddens me somewhat that he was “found dead in bed”…

The document may be slightly illegible to the reader, therefore it has been transcribed.  The sections are numbered for clarity.

Death Certificate – Giles Williams 1881- 1940

  1.  Paternal Grandfather died in Simpson County, Mississippi outside the city limits of Mendenhall,  Mississippi.  It incorrectly states that he’d lived in the community for 58 years.
  2. It  indicates that his residence before death was in the same area. (Previous posts have documented his years living away that area, beginning at least around 1904.)
  3. His full name was Giles Williams, was not a veteran and did not have a Social Security Number. 
  4. Male
  5. Negro
  6. He is listed as widowed, which is technically accurate since he and Grandmother Leliar were living apart, but not divorced prior to her death. 
  7. Born November 27, 1881
  8. He was 58 at his death, eleven days away from his 59th birthday!
  9. Born in Smith County, Mississippi
  10. His “usual occupation was listed as “breakman”  
  11. His industry was listed as Railroad.  He had been a brakeman for the G&SI Railroad which was also previously documented.) 
  12. Name of his father misspelled as Randle (Randall) 
  13. Father’s Birthplace – North Carolina
  14. Maiden name of his mother Lucy Harris (actually Harrison)
  15. Mother’s Birthplace – Smith County, Miss.
  16. Informant’s signature – Clarence Williams (This was  Giles’ younger brother and my father’s uncle , known as C. S. of Mendenhall, Mississippi.)
  17. Burial 11-17-40.  (I am amazed to discover he was buried the day after his death.  I’d like to delve further into this. I wonder if this was customary in Simpson County during the that era.)  Like most of his family, he was buried in Zion Hill Cemetery in Mendenhall.   I have visited Zion Hill at least twice.  He has no headstone that I am aware of, bot admittedly, I did not cover the entire area. I wonder if there is a cemetery map available?) 
  18. The funeral director was – R.C.  Cook Undertaking Company in Jackson, Mississippi. 
  19. Date the Death Certificate received by  local registrar , 12-9-40 and signed by Nola F. May
  20. Date of Death November 16, 1940 at 3 o’clock a.m.
  21. Last doctor was R.E. Giles of Mendenhall about two years ago. Found in bed dead. No doctor attended. 


This is the first vintage family death certificate in my possession. (I’m sure my father kept this one  many others, but after his death, they were “mislaid” (as he’d say) and forever lost.

Many,  many thanks to Linda, author the blog  entitled “Between The Gateposts” for searching, (unbeknownst to me) locating and forwarding this document to me.  It was very timely.  Linda, you are a peach!

Please, please, please , please… “BABY”, Please DO go!” – The Notorious “Baby Giles”!

GILES WILLIAMS, JR.   “Baby Giles”

Oct. 1910 – Dec. 1985( vintage letter excerpt posted)

“Giles was so “dern” bad, he’d tear up the doggone devil if he could get his hands on him.”   “Baby always never been nothing but trouble and he worried Leliar right into the grave.” (Words of his brother and my father, Clarence Giles Williams)

According to family stories, Uncle Baby (Giles Williams, Jr.) would end up directly contributing to the utter destruction of Grandfather Giles’ finances and his marriage to Grandmother Leliar. That’s putting it nicely! He was my father, Clarence’s youngest brother and – he – was – a – “pistol”.  Daddy would say, “That Baby Giles is as bad as “a ape with a walking cane”!  He just stayed in trouble!”

My grandfather was one of six heirs to 159 acres of land that Great-Grandfather Randall acquired under the Homestead Act in 1889. The tale goes that Uncle Baby got himself involved in some serious trouble AGAIN while the family was living in Chicago during the 1920’s. Grandmother Leliar was having such a fit over the inevitability of “Baby Giles” going to jail that she insisted that his father “buy” him out of trouble.  Grandfather Giles did not have access to the large amount of cash required , so he proceeded to “borrow” it.

He enlisted the help of  his sisters in Mendenhall and then deeded his land (in Simpson County) to two of them, Harriett and Sophronia , I’m certain.  The understanding was that he would re-pay them and reclaim the deed to his land when he came home from Chicago. Well, Daddy always said to me that when his father, Giles came “home” to re-pay his sisters the borrowed sum, they refused the payment and KEPT THE DEED TO THE LAND!

Other family members “recollected” another version of the story.  They asserted that Giles did not honor the agreement  and never offered to repay his sisters.  They chose to believe that version.  Cudn’ Hattie (who should have known better since the aunts “took” her land for themselves also) and Cudn’ Minnie (mentioned in earlier posts) told me personally told me that Giles reneged on the loan.   I vehemently disagreed! Well, guess what? My father’s version is basically irrefutable due to what I consider to be proof of their “anemic” character when it came to almighty LAND!

June 25 – 1944  – Sunday 

My dear husband how are you by this time O do hope you are Just fine and Ted I sure feel better now than (that) I have for a long time for my uncle Clarence have ben on his sisters wend (wind) untill he has got them to agree to let me have my land back and aunt Sophronia said she will make me a new deed back for the land so he is got them to gather yesterday and they said I could have it but that will ma made she give them I mean aunt Harriet and aunt Sophronia between the too of them and that is all rite they are welcome to it for they are the ones ma wanted to have her land so honey I got mine and honey I have been to see a lawyer for infamation so my uncle auntee Armildia (Armilda) sure has stuck to me and all the credit is due (to) my uncle Clarence uncle Charlie did all he could at Mendenhall but I thank the Lord I have got it back and Ted they are borening (boring) for oil down here they are working on a well now about 4 or 5 miles north of my place and all the people through this neighborhood has their land… (excerpt)

Hattie Maybell Collection Letter June 25, 1944 Cudn' Hattie's Letter to her husband, Theodore Wallace
Hattie Maybell Collection Letter
June 25, 1944
Cudn’ Hattie’s Letter to her husband, Theodore Wallace

For me, The Mattie Maybell Collection letters allay all negative speculation related to Giles and “the loan”. Those two aforementioned great-aunts of mine actually confiscated, the land legally inherited by Cudn’ Hattie from her grandmother, who left her a parcel of land.  She was the only child of Ada (who died when Hattie was 9 or 10 yeas old).  IT’S ALL IN DOCUMENTED THE COLLECTION! Cudn’ Hattie, being an only child, would have been  the sole heir to her mother’s portion of the family property.  Hattie Maybell, as indicated in the vintage letters, as an adult she stopped speaking to and writing to her aunts when she realized that her inheritance  had fallen prey to their shenanigans.  Upon the 1944 death of her Grandmother Lucy, Hattie “declared war” on her aunts and got ALL of her land back!  The details are in the letters Hattie wrote to her own husband when she was away from home.  She kept those as well.  (They are scanned and ready to “fly”, but February will be reserved for “love”.  The “Hattie Maybell Collection holds a treasure trove of love letters! I consider it redundant to “celebrate” Black History Month via this blog, because it’s definitely all about Black History everyday.)

…back to the story. LONG STORY SHORT, my grandfather was the only one of the six children of Randall and Lucy Harrison Williams to end up with ZERO acres of land in Simpson County.   This was due in part to the expenses of rescuing Uncle Baby , then subsequently because of his land-stealing sisters!  “Ain’t Fronie” and “Ain’t Harrit”! (” Bless their hearts.  Little ole’church ladies. Their actions were so “nice and Christian-like.”)

In terms of the dissolution of the marriage of my paternal grandparents, Grandmother Leliar allegedly left Grandfather Giles in Chicago several times with Baby Giles in tow.  This action was to prevent him from going to jail for one thing or another.  It’s sad to say, but he was reputed to be a habitual thief. I was told that one particular incident was the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back”.  Leliar left her husband trying ONCE AGAIN to “protect” Uncle Baby.  She spirited him away, taking him to Hattiesburg, Mississippi (where her extended family still lived).  My father’s parents would never reconcile. Leliar was considered to be smart, but where her youngest son was concerned, all sound judgement “went straight out of the window”.

The final and most devastating blow in the family, actually told “far and wide” were the circumstances surrounding Grandmother Leliar’s sudden death.  Although my father would retell this story throughout his life and was also told to me by several of my parents’ friends (whom I encountered in my adulthood in Chicago) and by both Cudn’ Hattie and Cudn’ Minnie.

“Did you know that doggone Baby Giles really did kill his mama?  A man came to her house one day in Hattiesburg and told her the “police was looking for Baby Giles” for some crime he was supposed to have committed.  He was always doing something he ain’t had no business doing. Miz Leliar said,”Lord, that boy is in trouble again?  Baby (Giles), you’re going to be the death of me!”  Before she could take her next breath, she suffered a MASSIVE STROKE AND DIED!”

Good job, Uncle Baby…wherever you are.  You were largely responsible for the  destruction of your father’s finances, his inheritance (land), his marriage and ultimately the loss of his wife’s life.

My  grandmother Leliar Sheard Williams was in her early 60’s years at the time of her death around 1939-40.  There is no record of her to be found in the 1940 census.  The facts:  By 1940, her daughter Mattie was dead (a few weeks after childbirth), her son Clarence (my father and mother) was living in Chicago, her son Talmadge Eugene, aka “Cootley” was living in Pineville, LA with his wife Eloise, and Uncle Baby was still  up to this same old tricks! He was true to his vocation,  a thief!  (Unfortunately, I cannot locate his discharge papers from the infamous Parchman Farm Penitentiary in Sunflower County, Mississippi.  I “handled” it about a month ago, but it has been miss-filed. My father had kept it since the 1930’s. It will be posted.)

Letters in The Maybell Collection from Aunt Georgia and an introduction to my maternal relatives, the Dawkins will be shared in the coming weeks.

 © Saundra Blackman and soldfor35cents.com2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Saundra Blackman and soldfor35cents.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

“How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?” – Grandfather Giles in the 1940 Census

“…seems to be all in his mind.”

At some point between 1930 and 1940, my grandfather was teaching school in the Simpson County area.  This oral history recount is quite plausible for many reasons. Per the 1900 Census, (previously posted)  at age 18, Grandfather Giles was still attending  school.  He was intelligent and industrious and hailed from a  family that valued education. My father shared with me that his father , Giles taught at a “country school” for several years after he went back “up home” to Mendenhall. I am almost certain that the school was located in a church building in the area, as was customary at the time. Many, if not most, black children living in rural areas attended school in local churches. Although the Piney Woods (boarding) School was located in the next county, there were schools operating in Simpson County educating black children.  I will refine my search via the MDAH website (MS Dept. of Archives and History) Educable Children Report in an attempt to retrieve more information.

The 1940 census was the final census in which Grandfather Giles was enumerated.  He was then 58 years of age, unable to work and had suffered a stroke.  Consequently, his standard of living had continued to decline.  He would die in November 1941 about a week prior to his 59th birthday.

In 1920, he had a wife, children, a house, two businesses, his health and the apparent potential to continue to live a full and prosperous life.  Grandfather Giles had “the world in a bottle and the cork in his hand.”

Per the 1930 Census, he was back living in Simpson County (as noted in the previous post) without his wife Leliar (my grandmother) and was living with his “bad seed” son, Giles… The previously successful entrepreneur was no longer self employed, but performing manual labor for a public entity.

Now in 1940, he is at “his last.  Fortunately, “Uncle Baby” is no longer living with him. Hallelujah! He shares a home with  Great Grandmother Lucy who is listed as head of household.  I regret that I cannot fill in the numerous gaps since I failed to retain SO VERY much of the oral history generously (and regularly) provided to me by my father, Clarence G. Williams.

Grandfather Giles is mentioned in several letters in the Hattie Maybell Collection that will be subsequently posted. However,  he is not mentioned after 1941.  None of the letters mention his November 1941 death.     Several letters in the Collection disclosed that he was very ill and appeared to have become an invalid of sorts. One letter stated that “Giles is not getting along well, he is sick but says he is not hurting anywhere, but it seems to be something wrong with his mind.  I suspect the loss of his livelihood and his health had finally exacted a terrible toll and lapsed him into a state of depression. He was brokenhearted… 

Other letters mentioned that “he is being cared for by Mrs. Thames”. She was the mother of my father’s oldest sister, Georgia Rankins Funchess (1900-1943).  Georgia was born in the Simpson County area to Elizabeth and Giles, but the couple never married. He was about 19 when Georgia was born in 1900. Despite the fact that they never married, Elizabeth apparently felt compelled to care for Giles during his convalescence.  The letters mention how well Mrs. Thames was taking care of Giles. Another sad note is that Georgia would die in 1943 at the age of 42 or 43. Her grave is marked and is located in Zion Hill Cemetery in Simpson County, Mississippi. It appears that she and her father, Giles would die around the same time.  Aunt Georgia’s letters are coming this month.  They are “chock full of news”, I promise.

In 2015, I intend to  order death certificates and “nail down” the dates of death for all ancestors  of mine whose “dates of death” remain in question.  The State of Mississippi does not provide this information online, only via “snail mail”. Have then, I must!

1940 U.S. Census  Giles Williams and Mother Lucy WIlliams

1940 U.S. Census
Giles Williams (1881- 1941)
Lucy  Harrison Williams (1962-1941)

When I began the  soldfor35cents blog in April 2014, my intention was to post at least once per week.  To date, there have been 36 posts in 9 months, an average of 4 per month.  There are months when I write more or less than others, but somehow, I remain on target. As the posts continue, I will return to sharing the vintage letters that got this entire thing started, aptly named The Hattie Maybell Collection.

Lucy  Mae and her antics will re-appear intermittently and the Dawkins clan will debut as well.  In order to cover numerous “relations” and various  topics pertaining thereto, I am forced to “skip around” somewhat. There is  a “method to the madness” as any attempt to organize and post the  characters chronologically would be futile. It would take me 20 years (that I may not have) to tell each person’s story completely (as I “know it”) and in order. Telling the story of my family will be a lifelong endeavor.

Keeping the content fresh, frequent and (occasionally) fun is what I strive to accomplish.


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