Goodbyes are not forever.
Goodbyes are not the end.
They simply mean I miss you.
Until we meet again!
- author unknown
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Charles Alexander Hall

Charles Alexander Hall or "Charlie" as he was known to his family and friends was born on 28 Jan 1920.  He was just a year and a half younger than Grandpa and according to him, 'Charlie was my best friend.'  Even after 70 or so years, I could tell that Grandpa still had a hole in his heart from the passing of his little brother.  I asked before continuing to question him and he assured me he felt comfortable talking about it.  He was in his 90's when he told me the story of his little brother's murder in Griffin, Georgia.

In 1938 Grandpa lived in Atlanta and he had gotten Charlie a job with him at Sears Roebuck, but Charlie, age 18, didn't want to move to Atlanta ... he wanted to get married back home.  Grandpa gave him one of his suits to do so, and requested that Charlie wait around for him to get home from work before heading back to Orlando, but he didn't wait.  The court transcripts state that the two brothers talked for about two hours in the Sear Roebuck cafeteria, that was the last time Grandpa saw his little brother alive.

Charlie was hitchhiking and had made it to Griffin, Georgia.  According to Grandpa, Charlie was wearing the suit, which he thinks probably made him a target.  Eye witnesses claim Louis Harry was wearing a khaki outfit when they saw him initially but when Louis was picked up later by police, he was dressed in a grey suit.  Initially the police assumed it was Bill Hall (Grandpa) who was beaten to death with a rock because his name was in the suit.  Grandpa had to go to the undertaker to identify Charlie’s body.  Grandpa remembered sadly, “he was a good looking young man, but not a good looking corpse.”

Grandpa rode with Charlie’s body on the train back to Orlando.  Jimmie (grandpa’s half-brother) and Estes drove to Fitzgerald, GA, picked up grandpa and they all three went to the trial in Griffin.  Pleading insanity, Louis Harry was still found guilty and was sentenced to life in June 1938.  His records indicate he was paroled and later found guilty of several counts of simple larceny, a second murder in Coffee County and two counts of incest.

I didn't realize the significance of the suit when he told me the story until after I read the court transcripts.  I cannot begin to imagine the amount of guilt that Grandpa probably harbored ... obviously not his fault, but how many "what if" thoughts must have gone through his mind. 

 I don't know more about Charlie, just that his life was cut way too short for something as stupid as a suit.  I don't know who he wanted to marry or what kind of kid he was.  I just know that Grandpa thought the world of him and I wish I had the chance to meet him.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

J C Calhoun & E C Stoudenmire

A Work in Progress:

In the small town of Eufala, Barbour County, Alabama on 28 Jun 1903, 25 year old John Caldwell Calhoun married his fellow Cottonton, Alabama native Effie Corrine Stoudenmire, age 20.  Cottonton, Russell County, Alabama is where the John and Effie had their first two children.  By the end of 1907 the family had migrated to Camilla, Mitchell County, Georgia, likely following the footsteps of Effie's siblings.  Camilla was the birth place of John and Effie's remaing five children.  By 1928 the family moved south to Sanford, Seminole County, Florida.  This Calhoun clan was southern to the core and from the stories I've been told, a close knit, fun loving group of kin folks. 

Note:  these are my father's aunts and uncles, so all of the stories I've heard refer to them as "Aunt Katsy" or "Uncle Bud" and is how they will be mentioned below because that is who they are to me.

1) Alice Kathleen "Katsy" Calhoun was born 26 Mar 1904 in Cottonton, Russell County, Alabama.  On 26 Mar 1937 at the age of 44 she married James "Jim" Thomas Hardy, Sr and became the step-mother to his eleven (I think) children.  I'm told that she and Jim didn't have any children together from one source, but from another that Louis Raymond Hardy was their child.  Haven't been able to cofirm who the birth mother is.  Jim first married Hattie Louise Fountain and had six children.  With his second wife, Carrie Starr he had five children.  I was also told that both Katsy and Jim had a lot of children on their own before marrying.  It's been a challenge to piece together this particular family.  If Aunt Katsy was married before Jim, I have no idea who he was and how many children they had together.

Aunt Katsy and Jim Hardy at a Hardy family Reunion

Aunt Katsy
Aunt Katsy, a teacher for many years, lived at 108 Poplar Avenue in Sanford.  Jim passed away in 1974 and Aunt Katsy lived another 26 years on her own.  She passed away on 17 Mar 2000 and is buried next to her husband Jim at Evergreen Cemetery in Sanford.   

2) Martha Laura Calhoun was born 16 Feb 1906 in Cottonton, Russell County, Alabama.  In Nov 1925 she married Robert Lawton Beard in Camilla, Mitchell County, Georgia.  Together they had three children:  Bobbynette (b:1926, d:2001), Laurier Allen (b:1928, d:1985) and John Byron "Bunny" (b:1930, d:2002).  Martha lived as a widow for 16 years after Lawton's passing in 1961 and she remarried at the age of 77, Vladimir Lacht.  They lived together in Eustis and she is buried at Greenwood Cemetery in Eustis, Lake County, Florida.
Aunt Martha

 3) Ezekiel William "Bud" "Zeke" Calhoun was born 22 Dec 1907 in Mitchell County, Georgia.  On 24 Dec 1933 he married Emma Louise Beard in Sanford, Seminole County, Florida.  Louise was the younger sister of Lawon Beard, Aunt Marth's first husband.  Uncle Bud and Louise had two children: John Caldwell "Sonny" and William R "Ronnie".   
Aunt Louise
Uncle Bud

4) Charles Haddon Calhoun was born 24 Mar 1911 in Camilla, Mitchell County, Georgia. 
Grandpa Calhoun

Charles Haddon and son Charles Harvey

5) John Alvin Calhoun was born 14 Feb 1914 in Cottonton, Russell County, Alabama (? or Georgia?).
Uncle Alvin

Aunt Susie

6) Mary Ann Calhoun was born 30 Jun 1917 in Camilla, Mitchell County, Georgia.
Aunt Mary
7) Effie Virginia "Jack" Calhoun was born 9 Nov 1920 in Camilla, Mitchell County, Georgia.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Margaret Ann Houk

The one branch of my family tree that I am completely stuck on is the Austin line. Stories passed down through the years indicate that there is an indirect link to Steven Fuller Austin (an indirect link because he had no children), known as "The Father of Texas." I was also told by my grandfather that there is a connection to the Alamo. It's great to have stories, but without proof I'm skeptical.

The problem: my link to Texas is my great great-great grandfather, Robert E Austin and I know nothing about him. I have no idea who his parents were or when/where he was born or died. I am traveling around in circles in my research desparately trying to stumble on a link or connection. This post is documentation of what I do know and hopefully one day I will be able to update it with heroic tales from the Alamo :)

Margaret "Maggie" Ann Houk, daughter of James Jackson Houk and Sarah Elizabeth Taylor, was born 1868 in Limrock, Jackson, Alabama. She married John Lewis Jones on 9 Aug 1883 in Jackson County, Alabama and with him had two children, Ethel (b: abt 1886) and Alexander (b: 1887).

On 20 Jan 1892 Maggie married Robert E Austin in Jackson County, Alabama. With him she had two children, Erna Virginia (b: 1893, my great grandmother) and Nellie (b: abt 1897).

Although I have been unable to confirm the date, my research shows Maggie died on 20 Jun 1901. The story that I heard recently was that Erna was adopted by her Aunt Betty. I determined that Elizabeth Erna Houk Sturdivant, Maggie's younger sister was Aunt Betty and on the 1910 US Census records, Alex and Nellie both lived with the Sturdivant family. This gives me confidence that the 20 Jun 1901 death date for Maggie is reasonable and leads me to believe that all of Maggie's children may have been adopted by Aunt Betty.

But what about John L Jones and Robert E Austin? Why didn't they have the kids after Maggie's death? I guess a possibility is that neither remarried and therefore would have been difficult to raise the children on their own. Another thought is that they both could have died at a young age. I cannot prove this for either of them.

The 1900 US Census is a mystery for everyone in this story. Either they were MIA or the census taker butchered their name beyond recognition.

The Children:

Ethel Jones was born around 1886 in Tennessee. She married William G Stapler and had three children: Robert Roy, Artie and William Edward. In 1935 she lived with her son Edward, a truck driver, in Hendry County and Glades County, Florida. In 1945 she lived with her son R Roy his family on 2654 Gilmore in Duval County, Florida.

Ethel Jones (left) and Erna Austin (right)

Alex Jones was born 28 Apr 1887 in Trenton, Jackson County, Alabama. In 1910 he lived with his Aunt Betty in Mooresville, Limestone County, Alabama and worked as a railroad laborer with his Uncle John Anderson Houk. In 1917 on his World War I Registration card he was listed as living in Walker County, Alabama, worked a coal miner and had black hair and brown eyes. Around 1917 he married Gertrude Shannon of South Carolina and between 1918 - 1928 had five children: Bernice, Virginia, Malcolm, Elwin and Doris.

In 1920 he lived in Coal Valley, Walker County, Alabama and worked as a coal miner with this Uncle John Anderson Houk. In 1930 he lived in Yellow Shanks, Walker County, Alabama and was a weighman at a coal mine.

Alex was wheelchair bound later in his life and died 17 Jan 1961 in Dora, Walker County, Alabama.

Erna Virginia Austin was born 19 Jan 1893 in Huntsville, Alabama. I am not certain when she moved to Mississippi, but Erna served as a nurse maid to a dying Alice Virginia "Virgie" Coker, the first wife of William "Willie" Leighton Hall. On 18 Oct 1910 Virgie died, leaving Willie with a two year old son, James Thomas, to care for. Erna and Willie were married in Mississippi on 19 Jun 1913 and together had five additional children: Erna Miriam, William Andrews, Charles Alexander, Alan Lincoln and Robert Edward. Willie died in 1931, leaving Erna to raise their children in Orlando, Florida. Her step son, James Thomas filled in as a father figure that the younger boys looked up to. Later she remarried O C Thomas in Mississippi. She buried two husbands and two sons before she died on 28 Dec 1977 in Orlando, Orange County, Florida. She is buried at Woodlawn Memorial Park in Gotha, Orange County, Florida.

Nellie Austin was born around 1897. In 1910 she lived with her Aunt Betty in Mooresville, Limestone County, Alabama. I know nothing else about her.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Opening the Memory Bank

I recall a day in the beginning of 2007 when I just sat and watched my grandpa, Bill Hall while he napped in his recliner at the Lazy J cabin in Monticello, Florida. The deep purple bags under his eyes were the ones that were reflected to me that very morning in my own mirror. “Thanks a lot, Grandpa” silently swept through my mind as my face brightened into a smile. While examining the deep creases and sags on his face it occurred to me that, rather than a punishment of aging, those wrinkles and age spots on his skin were blessings of a long lived life. He was nearly 90 years old and I suddenly felt like I barely knew him. How many brothers and sisters did he have? What were his parents like? How did he meet Grandma? Why did he get into the nursery business?

That day was when my journey to learn about my family history began. I was frightened by the realization that my time was running short and I desperately wanted to learn how Grandpa earned his wrinkles of life. Nearly nine decades of stories and memories were stored in his mind that needed to be documented. Over the next four years, Grandpa and I worked together to unpack and dust off those treasures in an effort to organize and share them with future generations.

Our family history discussions usually took place in the cabin where Grandpa kicked back in his recliner. His lap was always covered in a garnet, plaid blanket and his gray, velcro sneakers peaked out of the end. At all times the table to his right held a large cup of sweet tea and some sort of treat, usually an apple pie from McDonald’s. My job was to ask the probing questions that required him to dig deep into his memory bank and share stories that were different from the ones we had all heard growing up.

Almost immediately I recognized a slight variation in some of his stories and learned quickly that relying solely on memories that had been packed away for 90 plus years was not going to be sufficient. Confirming the facts became a crucial part of our journey. Cemeteries were a great place to verify locations, dates and relationships, so short road trips across the southeastern states became an added dimension to our research project.

The day that I feared finally arrived on Friday, April 8, 2011 when Grandpa went to his heavenly home. Walking away from him at the hospital was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I will always wish I had more time to spend with him, but am so grateful for our many talks and road trips over the past four years.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Stars Look Down

On July 4, 1944 the 354th Fighter Group made history by taking the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force up for a look at the Saint Lo' area. General Dwight D. Eisenhower was interested in seeing what the Saint Lo' area looked like from the air, and to help plan battle strategy for the upcoming battle. William Andrews Hall's Mobile Unit from the 461st Air Service Squadron adapted a P-51B Mustang for this historic flight and he personally painted "The Stars Look Down" on the side of the plane.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Meridian, MS

Any chance I get, I sit down with Grandpa and jot down notes about his family memories. The most recent visits involved discussions about his Hall relatives in Meridian, MS. He recalled his Uncle Joe, specificially and repeatedly mentioned that we needed to visit Meridian. His wish is our command, so I began my research. I spent months gathering all the details I could find about the three Hall brothers who lived in Meridian, Joel Emanuel, William Leighton (my Great-Grandpa) and James Edward Beaumont Hall, so we could make the most of our trip.

When we arrived, we visited the Lauderdale County Archives to gather all the documentation about our relatives we could find. Next, thanks to a tip from a fellow researcher, we visited the ___ Funeral Home. They had books from ___ to present that were available to the public ... I walked right in and was able to print the pages relating to my family (Joel & Octavia).

We then headed to the Coker's Chapel Cemetery where Grandpa's Uncle Joe and Aunt Octavia were buried along with his half brother who died in infancy, William Leighton Hall, Jr.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Hall Family Reunion 2009

On September 26, 2o09 (yes, the date is correct ... I'm really behind on my posts), Mom, Grandpa and I met Aunt Mim at the Pine United Chapel Methodist Church to attend the 2009 Hall family reunion. Grandpa is the oldest living Hall in the family and everyone flocked around him for conversation, hugs and pictures. He, of course, handled it like the superstar that he is.
After the reunion Mom, Grandpa and I began our hunt for cemeteries. We were armed with a list and maps to five different cemeteries and only anticipated that we would hit a couple. Well, we got rolling and hit all five!!
Citra Cemetery
Dora Ann Hall Carlton was eldest child and only daughter of James Edward Beaumont Hall and Elizabeth Jane Martin. Dora married George L Carlton in 1888, and according to a letter published in The Halls of Marion County by her brother Henry, "it was a great disappointment and grief to each of them that they had no children."

Simmons Baptist Church Cemetery
May L Hall Hobkirk was the eighth born child of Joel Thomas Hall and Andaline Susan Thomas Allen. She married James Davis Hobkirk in 1879 and had seven children.

Antioch Cemetery
Permilla H L Allen was the fourth child of John Earl Allen and Lucy Thomas Bobbett Anderson. She married Alpher D Marcus Watson in 1845 in Pike county, Alabama.

MacFall / Matthews Cemetery
Joel Thomas Hall was the fifth born child of Joel Thomas Hall and Andaline Susan Thomas Allen. He married Elizabeth Brit in 1890 and had eight children.

Millwood Cemetery
Henry Thomas Hall was the third child of James Edward Beaumont Hall and Elizabeth Jane Martin. He married Septa Pauline Denman in 1894 and had five children.