Friday, May 19, 2017

Vincent Thomas Langford Sr.

Vincent Thomas Langford, Sr.,
a blacksmith by trade
Vincent Thomas Langford Sr., son of James C. Lankford and Mary Ann Wilson, was born in Woodville, Greene County, Georgia on March 29, 1887. He was the 8th child of 10—Homer J. Lankford, Alice Beman Lankford, Julia Lee Lankford, Jessica Corinne Lankford, James Vason Lankford, Mary Corrine Lankford, Nathan Lawrence Lankford, Vincent Thomas Langford Sr., Oliver Wilson Lankford, and Lillie Della Lankford. He went by Vince and would be my great grand uncle.

As I looked at the different records to write this blog post, I noticed the spelling of Vince’s last name went back and forth between Lankford and Langford. I mention this because Daddy used to say that the Langford’s thought they were better than the Lankford’s and that’s why they changed the spelling. Of course, that’s not true and he didn’t feel that way. Somebody had probably said it to him at some point and he repeated it as I'm doing here. I often see the spelling switched and find it interesting that it happens in the first place. If your name was spelled one way, why wouldn’t you correct someone if it was spelled incorrectly? Over the years, I know I’ve corrected people many times. It seems people hear the “g” more often than the “k.” Of course, Langford could have been the correct spelling and it was switched to Lankford. Who knows. Whatever the case, I’ll note the spelling in each record as I go along.

On June 1, 1900, Vince and his family lived in Woodville. The census enumerator recorded his age as 11 and birth as October 1888 which I believe it incorrect. If born in 1887, Vince would have been 13 years old, which matches the other records for him. Vince was already working as a farm laborer in June 1900, most likely helping his father who was a farmer. Vince could read and write. The census record shows that his parents had been married for 31 years and his mother had 10 children, all of which were living. Julius C. Wilson, Vince’s paternal 1st cousin (son of Emma Lankford) and his family lived next door.

When Vince was 20 years old, he married Maude Miriam Jarrell, daughter of William Jarrell and Mary Broom, in Oglethorpe County, Georgia on August 31, 1907. They were married by Marion S. Weaver, a Baptist preacher. Vince’s last name was spelled Lankford, with a “K” on their marriage license. Together Vince and Maude had five children—Agnes G. Langford, Estelle Alice Langford, Vincent Thomas Langford Jr., Roy Eugene Langford, and Mary Alma Langford. The following year started off with the death of Vince’s father James C. Lankford on January 21, 1908 in Greene County (probably in Penfield). He was 60 years old, young by today’s standards. James was buried at Penfield Cemetery in Penfield. That same year, Vince and Maude’s first child Agnes was born on December 8, 1908 (probably in Penfield as well).

Vince and Maude's Marriage License, Oglethorpe County, Georgia

Photograph of a group of men in front of a store, Penfield, Greene County, Georgia, 1908.
Vince is standing beside the horse.
From Vanishing Georgia, Georgia Archives, University System of Georgia.

Vince’s daughter Alice, born in Penfield, joined the family on January 20, 1910. Exactly three months later on April 20, 1910, the census enumerator found Vince and Maude living on Sanders Street in Penfield. They had been married for three years and had two children—Agnes (age 2) and infant daughter Alice (three months old and unnamed in the census record). Vince was a blacksmith who could read and write. The family of another paternal first cousin, Walter L. Wilson (son of Emma Lankford), lived three doors away. Two years later, Vince Jr. was born in Penfield on June 20, 1912.

Vince, Maude, and most likely daughters Agnes and Alice

Vince registered for the World War I draft in Penfield on June 5, 1917. He noted that he had a wife and two children. Vince described himself as short and slender, with blue eyes and black hair. He was still a blacksmith. His last name was spelled Langford, with a “g” on his registration card. On June 17, 1917, Vince and Maude welcomed baby Roy to the family. Vince’s mother Mary Ann Wilson Lankford died of Bright’s disease in Penfield on March 26, 1919. She was buried beside her husband James at Penfield Cemetery on March 27. Three months to the day after Mary’s death, Vince and Maude’s youngest daughter was born on June 27. They named her Mary so it’s possible that she was named for the grandmother she never knew. The family lived in Penfield when both Roy and Mary were born.

World War I draft registration card
On January 30, 1920, Vince, Maude, and their five children lived in Penfield. Vince rented a farm that was four houses from his sister, Jessie Lankford Barnhart, and her family. In early October 1920, Maude came down with diphtheria and tonsillitis which proved to be fatal. After 11 years of marriage, Maude died in Penfield at 2:30 a.m. on November 30. Every record I find for Maude has a different birth year but according to the Georgia Death Index, she was 33 years old at the time of her death. The informant on her death certificate was Annie Young who I believe was her sister. Maude was buried later that same day at Penfield Cemetery beside Alice Escoe Lankford, first wife of Nathan Lawrence Lankford, Vince’s brother. James C. Lankford and Mary Wilson Lankford, her father- and mother-in-law, are buried on the other side of her grave.

1920 Census Soundex card

Suddenly faced with raising five small children alone, Vince must have been in a panic. How was he going to work at the blacksmith shop and take care of his large family? He needed a wife. According to family members, Vince knew Thomas Terrell Burnette and his wife Elizabeth (Jones) (my great-grandparents) and arranged to marry their daughter, Eva Drucilla Burnette (my grand aunt). It’s been said that Vince and Eva’s courtship was not a storybook romance. Vince’s great-granddaughter once told me that he basically showed up at the house one day and took Eva away. Vince and Eva were married in Greene County on May 27, 1922 by John S. Callaway, the local Justice of the Peace. His last name was spelled Lankford, with a “k” on their marriage license. Vince’s sister Alice (Lankford) Callaway (my great grandmother) had a son Carroll Lankford (my grandpa) who was married to Floria Burnette, Eva’s sister. My grandparents Carroll and Floria Lankford were married on March 12, 1922 so perhaps that was how Vince knew that Eva was a single young woman of marrying age, but I don’t really know. Vince was nine years older than Eva. They had one child together, a boy they named James Hoyt Langford (Sr.), born in Greensboro, Greene County, Georgia on May 26, 1923.

Thomas and Elizabeth (Jones) Burnette and family, ca. 1908.
Eva is the taller girl in the plaid dress. My grandma Floria is standing to her left.

Vince and Eva's marriage license, Greene County, Georgia, 1922

Vince’s sister Julia died in Wilkes County on September 2, 1924. She was buried at Resthaven Cemetery in Washington, Wilkes County, Georgia. His brother James Vason Lankford died in Tryon, Polk County, North Carolina on December 22, 1929. He was buried at Penfield Cemetery in Penfield.

By April 8, 1930, Vince and Eva had moved the family to Greensboro. Agnes and Alice were no longer living in the home with the rest of the family. Vince owned his home, valued at $1210. Vince was still a blacksmith and by now, had Vince Jr. helping him in the shop. The 1930 census record was the first time I found Vince’s last name spelled Langford with a “g” instead of Lankford with a “k.”

On April 11, 1940, Vince, Eva, and James lived on Walnut Street in Greensboro. The highest grade that Vince had completed was 4th, Eva had completed the 5th grade, and their son James had completed the 7th grade. Vince was a proprietor in a blacksmith shop. The census enumerator spelled his last name Lankford, with a “k.”

Vince lost two sisters in 1951—Jessie died on August 1 and Alice on December 5. Both were buried at Penfield Cemetery. Jessie’s obituary noted that Vince lived in Greensboro while Alice’s noted that Vince lived in Penfield.

Vince was admitted to Minnie G. Boswell Hospital in Greensboro on June 10, 1956, suffering from congestive heart failure and pneumonia due to hypertensive and arteriosclerotic cardio vascular disease. He died on June 17 at the age of 69 having never left the hospital. His son Roy was the informant on his death certificate which incorrectly listed his brother James Vason Langford as his father. Vince’s obituary also listed his father as James Vason Langford. Vince’s funeral was held at Walker United Methodist Church in Veazey, Greene County, Georgia on June 19. He was buried near Thomas and Elizabeth Burnette in the church cemetery following the service. Vince was survived by his wife Eva; daughters Agnes, Alice, and Mary; sons Vince Jr., Roy, and James; sisters Mary and Dell; and brothers Nathan and Oliver. His obituary mentions a third brother named Carol Langford of Penfield who I can only assume is my grandpa, Carroll Harvey Lankford, who lived in Penfield. Carol was the son of Alice Beman Lankford, Vince’s sister, so would be his nephew, not his brother. This is just another case of my grandpa not being recognized as Alice’s son. Vince was also survived by 15 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren. Two of the pallbearers were Eva’s brothers, Prince and Luther Burnette. Other pallbearers were C. H. Crumbley, Ed Brown, Cola Langford, and Frank Moore. Frank Moore was the husband of Eva’s sister, Claudia Burnette. His last name was spelled Langford, with a “g” on his grave stone.

Vince was a blacksmith for many years in Greensboro as were several members of the Lankford family. One of his favorite activities was sitting on the back porch on a Sunday afternoon in a rickety old lawn chair according to his great-granddaughter.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Robert Dawson Callaway

Robert Dawson Callaway, son of Lemuel Lawrence Callaway Jr. and Anna Josephine Mullins, was born on April 10, 1875 in Union Point, Greene County, Georgia. Together they had six children—Talula Callaway, Jack Mullins Callaway, Carrie Callaway, Robert Dawson Callaway, Lemuel Kelser Callaway, and Earnest Callaway. He went by Bob and was the husband of my great-grandmother. We have no common blood relative.

Bob’s father was originally from Sumter, Alabama and served in Company H of the 8th Texas Cavalry (AKA Terry’s Texas Rangers) during the Civil War. His mother had a twin sister named Georgia A. J. Mullins.

On June 18, 1880, Bob and his family lived in District 146 of Greene County. His father was a farmer, his mother was keeping house. His sisters Talula and Carrie and his brother Jack were attending school, however, at age six, Bob was not.

Bob was just seven years old when his mother died on May 7, 1882 in Penfield, Greene County, Georgia. Bob’s father took a second bride less than a year later on April 12, 1883 in Greene County, Georgia—Julia C. Askew, daughter of Ezekiel Griffin Askew and Cornelia Frances Mullins. Lemuel and Julia added eight more children to the family—Sidney Johnson Callaway, Arthur Howell Callaway, Olivia Callaway, Annie Callaway, Eulilla May Callaway, Ida Ruth Callaway, Samuel Ezequiel Callaway, and Claude Parkis Callaway.

On October 27, 1897, Bob married Alice Beman Lankford, daughter of James C. Lankford and Mary Ann Wilson, in Greene County. John S. Callaway performed the ceremony which was recorded by James H. McWhorter, Ordinary. Together they had one son, a boy they named Homer Crawford Callaway. Alice already had a son named Carroll Harvey Lankford (my grandpa) when she married Bob. I won’t go into the details of his birth here but if you’re interested, you’ll find the blogpost I wrote about Alice here. I’m sure my grandpa’s birth brought great shame to Alice at the time and therefore he was never fully acknowledged as her oldest child. This was something he had to live with his whole life.



On June 9, 1900, Bob, Alice, and their one-year-old son Homer lived in Woodville, Greene County, Georgia. Bob, who was unable to read or write, supported his family on a rented farm. His wife Alice was enumerated as the mother of one living child, which was incorrect.

On May 10, 1910, Bob and Alice still lived in Woodville. They had been married for 13 years. Bob had learned to read and write since the last census was taken. The census enumerator recorded Alice as the mother of two children this time, both of which were living. In fact, both boys were living in the home—Homer (age 11) and Carroll (age 19). My grandpa was enumerated as Carrel L. Callaway this time around. Both Bob and Carroll were farmers on a general farm.

Bob Callaway (1911)

Bob’s half-sister Eulilla died on April 13, 1911, most likely in Greensboro, Greene County, Georgia at the young age of 19. She was buried at Greensboro City Cemetery there in Greensboro. The following year, his father Lemuel died in Greensboro on July 22, 1912. I’ve been told (but haven’t found any proof yet) that Lemuel was working for the Georgia railroad as a night watchman at Carey Station when he died. Someone played a prank on him and turned the red light so the train would stop. Lemuel was walking the trestle to turn the light so the train could pass when the train hit and killed him. Lemuel was also buried at Greensboro City Cemetery.

On September 12, 1918, Bob was 43 years old and living in Greensboro when he registered for the World War I draft. He listed his occupation as farming and his nearest relative was his wife, Mrs. Alice Callaway. Bob was of medium height and build, had grey eyes, and light hair.

World War I registration

On January 2, 1920, Bob and Alice lived on a rented farm on Penfield Road in Penfield, Greene County, Georgia. Bob was a farmer on a home farm and Alice was a farm laborer. Their son Homer and his wife Lou Emma (Armour) lived next door.

On April 25, 1930, Bob and Alice lived in Penfield. Homer, Lou Emma, and their six-year-old son Dawson were living with them. Both Bob and Homer were a laborer in a saw mill.

On April 15, 1940, Bob and Alice still lived in Penfield. Homer and his family, now consisting of five children, lived next door. At age 65 and 69 respectively, Bob and Alice were no longer able to work.

In 1941, photographer Jack Delano, working for the U.S. Farm Security Administration, took at least two photos of Bob and Alice for the book “Tenants of the Almighty” by Arthur F. Raper. The book, published by The MacMillian Company in 1943, depicted the story of Greene County, Georgia and its agriculture. Bob and Alice didn’t make the book but both pictures are in the Library of Congress today. The photo is captioned “Mr. and Mrs. Bob Callaway, couple receiving old age pension, Penfield, Greene County, Georgia.”

 Mr. and Mrs. Bob Callaway, couple receiving old age pension,
Penfield, Greene County, Georgia, Nov. 1941. Photographer Jack Delano.
Photograph retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/fsa2000028130/PP/.

 Mr. and Mrs. Bob Callaway, couple receiving old age pension, 
Penfield, Greene County, Georgia, Nov. 1941. Photographer Jack Delano. 
Photograph retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/fsa2000028130/PP/. 

Bob’s wife Alice died in Union Point on December 5, 1951. She was buried at Penfield Cemetery in Penfield. Bob lived another four years without Alice. He died of pancreatic cancer at his home in Union Point on March 1, 1955. He was 79 years old at the time. Bob was buried beside Alice at Penfield Cemetery on March 3 after a service at Penfield Baptist Church. The pall bearers were Earl Butler, Marshall Turner, Howard Lankford, Vason Lankford, Julian Callaway, and Beaman Callaway. Rev. Charles H. Kopp officiated the service. Bob was survived by his son Homer; his stepson Carroll, sisters Ruth and Mrs. B. M. Jester (I can’t figure out which sister she was but she lived in Augusta, Georgia); brothers Lemuel, Samuel, and Claude; 6 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

Daughter-in-law Lou Emma (Armour) Callaway, son Homer Callaway,
wife Alice (Lankford) Callaway, and Bob Callaway

Stone at Penfield Cemetery

My Daddy remembers Bob as a kind man who loved his wife Alice and liked to tease her. Bob was a member of the Penfield Baptist Church and a Mason in the past lodge in Penfield.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Julia Saphronia Overton

Julia's tombstone at Old Conyers Cemetery
Julia Saphronia Overton, daughter of Abijah Overton and Elizabeth Ann Rhodes, was born in Newton County, Georgia on January 15, 1835. She was the 3rd child of 9—Mary J. Overton, James H. Overton, Julia Saphronia Overton, Elizabeth Z. Overton, John M. Overton, William Mosby Overton, Frances A. Overton, Louisa E. Overton, and Millicent Virginia Overton. Julia would be my 2nd great grand aunt.

[Note: When a wrote the blog post for Millicent Virginia Overton, I inaccurately recorded the children of Abijah and Elizabeth Rhodes. I have corrected that blog post and hopefully have it correct here.]

Julia’s family lived in District 166 of Newton County, Georgia in 1840. The census enumerator recorded two males under 5, one male under 10, and one male under 40; there were three females under 10 and one under 30.

On September 26, 1850, Julia and her family lived in Subdivision 65 of Newton County, Georgia. At 14 years old, she was enumerated as Ciphorna. Her father, enumerated as Elijah rather than Abijah, was a farmer with real estate valued at $1500. Julia married Hansford D. Woolley, son of Basel Woolley and Susannah Cumbaa, in Newton County, Georgia on June 15, 1858. Their only child, a son they named John L. Woolley, was born in Conyers, Rockdale County, Georgia on August 24, 1859.

Julia and Hansford's marriage license

On July 18, 1860, Julia, Hansford, and baby John lived in Conyers. Hansford was a carpenter with a personal estate valued at $800. Tragedy came to the Woolley home when John died in Conyers on March 30, 1861, five months before his second birthday. John was buried at the Old Conyers City Cemetery. The tragedy didn’t end there though. Sadly, Julia died two weeks later in Conyers on April 15, 1861—the same week the American Civil War began. She was just 26 years old. Julia was buried at Old Conyers City Cemetery beside her son John. I can only imagine that their death was the result of some horrible disease. Julia’s tombstone reads: To the memory of Julina S. Woolley, born Jan 15 1835, died April 15 1861.

Hansford, likely still grieving the loss of his family, enlisted as a private in Company B of the 18th Georgia Infantry Regiment on October 2, 1861. Hansford was wounded somewhere in the Richmond, Virginia area and sent to a hospital in Richmond where he died in service on April 29, 1862. He was just 30 years old. Hansford’s brother Elias brought his body back to Georgia for burial with his wife and son in Old Conyers Cemetery, bringing a tragic end to Julia’s small family.





Wooley family plot at Old Conyers Cemetery




Friday, April 28, 2017

Reflections on retirement day

Several years ago, my boss Gil Miller started preparing me for his retirement which would have been today, April 28, 2017. I don’t really think he was ready to retire so perhaps he was preparing himself as much as me—but he had no choice—our company requires its executives to retire when they turn 65. And for Gil, that would have been today.

I dreaded his retirement day. Not that I didn’t want him to start the next phase of his life. I guess I was just being selfish. I thoroughly enjoyed working with and for Gil and just didn’t want to lose a great work husband. But two of Gil’s children and his grandchildren lived in Texas so once he came to terms with the inevitable, he set the wheels in motion to build a new home and began preparations to join his family there. As it turns out, God had another plan for him and he never got the chance to make that move. He passed away unexpectedly but peacefully in his sleep on November 8, 2015.

At the time of his death, Gil and I had worked together about 26 years. I can’t remember exactly when he hired me but my youngest son was about two years old at the time and he’ll be 30 this year. Gil and I were a good team. We clicked immediately. I remember the first day I worked for him. We sat down at his table that first morning and he had a list of things to discuss—his expectations along with his likes and his dislikes. I’m a list maker so appreciated that he started out with one. He set the tone for how we would work together. I always knew where I stood with him. We trusted and respected each other. I could read his mind. I knew what he wanted, sometimes before he did. He always had my back and I knew it. Every year at review time, we would have the normal discussion and we ended it with a handshake and a confirmation that we were good for another year. And we had a deal—where you go, I go and where I go, you go. Occasionally, things might not be going the way he thought they should and he’d tell me “you might want to update your resume. We might need to make a change.” But things would calm down and we never had to test that deal!

Gil pushed me to learn new skills. I’m doing things today that I never would have done if I had not worked for him.

I’m Miss Practical—sometimes to a fault. We often had conversations about things happening around the office or in the world in general. I’d voice my practical opinion which may have been a point of view he hadn’t thought about and he’d thank me for bringing him back to reality.

His nickname for me was Sergeant Major. I’m not exactly sure how I earned that nickname though. I’m a quiet, introverted person and don’t feel like I boss people around. But that’s what he called me and the next thing I knew, other people started calling me Sergeant Major. I chose another nickname for myself. As a lefty, I always sat to his left so referred to myself as his left-hand girl. He stuck with Sergeant Major though.

Many years ago, a package was delivered to our office and was determined to be a possible threat. Security eventually called in a robot to deal with the package. After a short time, they decided to evacuate the building. Gil had visitors from George Mason University in his office at the time so I escorted them downstairs. He stood by my desk and patiently waited while I took the visitors downstairs and returned to gather my belongings. We walked out of the building together that day. He wasn’t going to leave without me.

Once I walked into his office and as I got behind him, asked him a question. He was concentrating heavily on whatever he was working on and turned around and said “what’d you say Hon.” He quickly realized what he had called me and was embarrassed. I could tell it was mindless and he didn’t even think about what he said but he kept apologizing to me. I thought it was funny myself.

He was always grateful for the support I and others gave him and he didn’t hesitate to tell you.

But it was not all about work. Gil was a very generous man. For years, he gave my boys Christmas presents—from the first Christmas I worked for him until they were adults. I finally had to tell him he didn’t need to do that anymore—they were big boys now. I will always think of him at Christmas time. Every Christmas he gave me Lenox Christmas dishes and decorations. My tree is full of beautiful Christmas ornaments because of him. I treasure all of them. We shared a love of Christmas music too. Or at least he tolerated my love of Christmas music. For a while, our office was down the hall, away from everyone else’s. He didn’t seem to mind when I played my Christmas CDs during the work day. Every year, I bought myself one or two new Christmas CDs. At some point, I started buying an extra CD to give to him. I remember one was by the 1970s band America. He left early one Friday and after he got home and was back at his computer, he sent me an email acting like he was singing the lyrics of a Christmas song to the tune of “A Horse With No Name.” I’m not sure if he liked the CD or if he was making fun of me!

We shared a love of bird watching and often compared notes. Each of us quickly texted pictures of special birds we spotted to each other. The spring of 2014, I found an eagle nest in Manassas and immediately texted him a picture of the eagle in the nest. He wrote me back asking for directions. I thought he was kidding but he quickly let me know that he wanted to know where the nest was. The next day he was in Manassas to see the eagles for himself. I ran into him several times at the nest. One time I remember my husband and I seeing a man in the field, we felt too close to the nest. I told my husband “look at that idiot out there … he needs to get away from the nest.” A half hour later, I find out it was Gil! One year, I was lucky enough to spot three different flocks of Cedar Waxwing. On two of those occasions, the flock stuck around for several days so I took a lot of pictures. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a Cedar Waxwing, but they’re beautiful and it’s a special treat to see them. He was so jealous that year. That Christmas, he gave me a Hallmark ornament of a Cedar Waxwing bird. I loved it and it gets a special spot on my tree every year now.

Sometime in late 2014, Gil told me about his daughter and grandchildren having fun with an elf on the shelf. Anyone who knows me knows about my elf on the shelf named Athya so of course I had to share some of Athya’s pictures with him. Afterwards, he asked me to send him some of my pictures, which I did. Christmas Eve I get a text message from him sending me a link to the video he made using my Athya pictures and a Christmas story he had written. It was priceless! He’d planned to do another video for 2015 but that wasn’t meant to be.

When both my mother-in-law and father-in-law passed away, he came to their funerals. It was bitter cold on the day we buried my father-in-law but Gil was there.

The last time I saw him was a Wednesday in October 2015 before I left for a trip home to Atlanta. I would be gone for 10 days and when I returned, he would be on a planned business trip. He left the office before I did that day and as he headed out, he stopped by my desk and said, “I won’t see you for a while” and then we said our usual goodbyes. Sadly, he was right. I never saw him again.

His wife and I often talk about the fact that he broke his deal with both of us. But I can’t hold that against him. He wasn’t ready to leave this world when he did. He wanted to see his grandchildren graduate from college and they were nowhere near that.

So today, on his birthday and retirement day, I’ve spent time reflecting on the many good years I had with my work husband. He was a good man. The day he passed away, I lost a colleague, a boss, a work husband, but most of all a friend. Happy birthday in heaven Gil. I miss you.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Three little Athya’s portrait

Howard Athya, Jim Athya, and Mary Athya (ca. 1934)
This beautiful portrait is of Howard George Athya, James Jem Athya, and Mary Margaret Athya—three of George Durie Athya and Bertha Edna Smith’s children. George and Bertha had a fourth child—their first born named John Thompson Athya—who wasn’t living with the family at the time the portrait was taken. Instead, he lived with Bertha’s mother Amanda Larimer Horne Smith and brother Benjamin Gordon Smith. Amanda and Ben moved John into their home in late 1926 or early 1927 in hopes of making life easier for Bertha, who was pregnant with Howard at the time. The move was supposed to be temporary—just until Bertha got back on her feet after Howard was born—but it turned into a long-term stay. John had visited the Smith household many times and was comfortable being with his grandmother and uncle. He liked it there and as young as he was, decided that’s where he wanted to live. It hurt Bertha’s feelings but she realized it was for the best.

I estimate this portrait was taken circa 1934. The frame is blue and silver with a decorative scalloped edge and is 10” x 16.” The portrait was probably taken in Apollo, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania but may have been sent out for framing. The back has a sticker on it that reads “A Midwest Studios Portrait, Portland Oregon.” The framed piece is in excellent condition on the front. The paper covering on the back is slightly torn but in pretty good shape as well. I assume the framed piece once belonged to Bertha and George before being passed to Mary, and then to my husband. Mary Athya Murphy was my mother-in-law.

Howard Athya, Jim Athya, and Mary Athya Murphy (ca. 2004)

Friday, April 14, 2017

Hayden Edgar George

The George family (from the left:
James. Julia standing in front of James,
mother Mary with daughter Raleigh in her lap,
Hayden standing beside his mother, and
Ennis standing in front of Hayden).
Hayden Edgar George, son of Raleigh David George and Mary Willie Hollingsworth, was born in Smyrna, Cobb County, Georgia on July 21, 1882. He was the third child of six—James England George, Bertie George, Hayden Edgar George, Ennis Adele George, Julia Cleo George, and Raleigh Mae George. Hayden was the husband of my first great grand aunt, Lillie Della (Dell) Lankford. Dell was the sister of my great grandmother, Alice Beman Lankford.

Hayden was just five years old when his older sister Bertie died in 1887. She was buried at Smyrna Presbyterian Campground Cemetery in Conyers, Rockdale County, Georgia.

Raleigh David George died in Rockdale County, Georgia on March 23, 1891 leaving Hayden without a father at the young age of three. Raleigh was buried in a plot beside Hayden’s sister Bertie at Smyrna Presbyterian Campground Cemetery.

Hayden’s mother Mary and his sisters Julia, Ennis, and Raleigh were living in Doraville, DeKalb County, Georgia when the census enumerator came to visit on June 1, 1900 but Hayden was not living with them. His older brother James was living in Greene County with his wife Gussie and father-in-law William Harris McCarty, a Civil War veteran. I’ve looked in the surrounding areas in Doraville and Greene County but so far haven’t been able to find Hayden during that census year. He would have been 18 years old so certainly could be living on his own by then. But where? Hayden’s mother Mary was a dress maker and his siblings were at school. His sister Ennis was enumerated twice in 1900—the first time on June 1 with her mother as noted above. She was enumerated as Eunice on that record. The second time was on June 6 and the census enumerator recorded her as a pupil at the Georgia Academy for the Blind on College Street in Macon, Bibb County, Georgia.

On April 15, 1910, Hayden lived in Penfield, Greene County, Georgia with his brother James and his family. James’ father-in-law William lived with them as well. Hayden’s sister Julia and her husband Augustus Hamilton Clark lived next door. Julia’s neighbor was my 2nd great grandmother Mary Ann (Wilson) Lankford (widowed and 58) and two of her children, Oliver Wilson Lankford (age 20) and Lillie Della Lankford (Dell, age 17). Five months later, Hayden married Dell, Mary’s daughter with James C. Lankford, in Greene County on September 19. Together they had four children—Dell Louise George, Mary Winnie George, Marguerite Elizabeth George, and Hayden Edgar George Jr. They didn’t wait long to start their family. One day before their first anniversary, Hayden and Dell welcomed daughter Dell Louise, who was most likely born in Greene County on September 18, 1911. A year and a half later daughter Mary Winnie was born in Greene County on March 12, 1913.

Greene County, Georgia marriage record for Hayden and Dell

Sometime after Mary’s birth in 1913, Hayden moved his family to Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia. They were living at 53 Crew Street when Hayden registered for the World War I draft on September 12, 1918. He was working as a switchman for a freight yard at the time. Hayden recorded his physical description as tall and of medium build, light blue eyes, and light hair. Although only 36 years old, Hayden was already balding, noting that he was “bald on top.”

It's believed the man is Hayden
but that needs to be confirmed.
The woman is unknown.
By January 17, 1920, Hayden, Dell, and their three children had moved a few doors down to 65 Crew Street where they rented a home. Hayden switched occupations and was now an automobile machinist. He told the census enumerator that he could read and write. An early Christmas present arrived on December 6, 1920 in the form of baby Marguerite. I can’t find a birth record for Marguerite but assume she was born in Atlanta. I assume that for Hayden Jr. as well, born on March 15, 1922 since both the 1924 and 1929 Atlanta city directories show Hayden and Dell living in Atlanta. In 1924, they lived at 505 Pulliam Street. By 1929, they had moved back to Crew Street, living at house number 608. Hayden continued to be a machinist through the 1920s.

On April 8, 1930, Hayden and his family lived at 429 Crew Street in Ward 2 of Atlanta where he rented a home. The census enumerator noted that Hayden was 28 and Dell was 18 when they married. He also incorrectly recorded Hayden’s name as Clayden. Hayden continued to support his family as an automobile machinist. Dell wasn’t working but their daughter Winnie worked as a telephone operator. Atlanta city directories for 1935 and 1936 show Hayden and Dell living at 62 Clarke Street SW. In 1935, Hayden worked as a foreman but no occupation was listed in 1936. Was he working? He was only 54 years old so too young for retirement at that age.

Hayden’s mother Mary (Hollingsworth) George died on January 6, 1935. She was buried beside her husband and daughter Bertie at Smyrna Presbyterian Campground Cemetery in Conyers.

A year and a half later, Hayden died in Fulton County, Georgia on September 18, 1936. He was buried at Penfield Cemetery in Penfield. If I recall correctly, he’s buried near my great grandmother Alice Lankford Callaway. I remember seeing Hayden’s grave every time I’ve been to Penfield Cemetery and over the years, that’s been quite a few times.

Hayden's stone at Penfield Cemetery

Friday, April 7, 2017

The secret is out and just who was Vernell

Earl's photo album, Hawaii (late 1940s)
Every family has its secrets. It’s just human nature. My husband was in his 40s before he learned a secret his parents kept from their children for many years.

My in-laws lived an hour’s drive from us so when we visited, we’d let them know what time we planned to arrive. They would watch for us and greet us at the door. But the day we discovered their secret was different—only my father-in-law Earl greeted us that day. He let us in the house and pointed us toward their bedroom where my mother-in-law Mary sat on the bed. This was unusual because normally their bedroom was off limits for anyone but them. She called us in and patted the bed telling me to have a seat. There were papers scattered on the bed and as I sat down, one of them caught my attention—a marriage license—their marriage license. I asked if I could look at it and she said it was okay. And that’s when we learned their secret. As I read the license, we learned that in 1951, my then 22-year-old father-in-law, who resided in Herndon, Virginia and worked as a pressure operator, was a DIVORCED man when their marriage license was issued in Montgomery County, Maryland. Wow, that was unexpected!

Earl and Mary's marriage license

I feel certain it was no accident that she had their marriage license on the bed when we arrived. One or both wanted us to know about this. They both knew I did genealogy as they had helped me with their families. I don’t know whose idea it was to share this that day, but they were both in the room at the time. Mary on the bed beside me and Earl standing quietly by the door watching the exchange. I looked at both and questioned what I was reading, wanting to be certain what I read was correct. Earl confirmed that it was true and then in his stern way, told us that we were not to talk about this to anyone until after they were both gone. So, we didn’t!

Just this month we learned that my brother-in-law has known about the divorce for 38 years and never mentioned it to my husband or their sister. He was still living at home and discovered the marriage license while looking through a cabinet. He probably wasn’t supposed to be looking through the cabinet so kept that piece of information to himself! My husband mentioned it to him when we learned about it and found out he already knew. My sister-in-law learned about it a little after we did. But we still didn’t talk about it. Just this past January, my husband’s cousin asked if he knew about “the divorce,” which means other family members knew about it but didn’t talk about it with us. I wonder who else knew.

We know her name was Vernell Z and that at some point she lived in Los Angeles, California because it’s listed on a news clipping we found after Mary passed away. The clipping was a legal notice published in the Western Reserve Democrat in Warren, Ohio in 1950. I’ve researched Vernell on Ancestry.com but so far have been unsuccessful in finding anything. Here’s what the news clipping tells us:
Legal Notice
Case No. 58288
The defendant, Vernell Z. Murphy, whose last known residence was 2126 Clinton St., Los Angeles, California, will take notice that the undersigned plaintiff Earl L. Murphy, filed his petition against her in the Court of Common Pleas of Trumball County, Ohio, on the 25th day of February, 1950, praying for divorce and equitable relief on the grounds of extreme cruelty and gross neglect of duty and further known as Case No. 58288.
Said case will be for hearing on or after the 15th day of April, 1950. 
EARL L. MURPHY
By: Albert W. Marowitz, His Attorney
139 S. Park Avenue, Warren, Ohio
Published in W. R. Democrat
Mar. 2, 9, 16, 23, 30, April 6, 1950
As you can see, the legal notice contained another surprise—the grounds being extreme cruelty. With that being the case, I was happy to see it was my father-in-law filing for the divorce and not Vernell.

The only other clue I found is a small leather address book that belonged to Earl with an anchor and USN imprinted on the cover. Inside, I found an entry for Miss Vernell Tarkington. Above her name is Mrs. Alice Tarkington of Los Angeles, California. I don’t know if this is her but Vernell is an unusual name and assuming she was related to Alice, she might have lived in Los Angeles which was the last known address for Vernell Z. Murphy. But I can’t prove that’s her.

The page in Earl's address book that lists Miss Vernell Tarkington

We have Earl’s photo album that contains pictures taken in Hawaii while serving in the U.S. Navy. Many of the pictures have been removed. Before he passed away, Earl told us they were “her” and that Mary removed them. Guess you can’t blame her.


Many photos were removed from the Hawaii album

They’re both gone now so I decided to write this blog post to share what we know with our children. All three of Earl and Mary’s children gave their permission to publish this. And as mentioned earlier, both Earl and Mary told us not to talk about the marriage until after they had passed away. So now it’s all out in the open and we can freely talk about it if we want to … or not. By the way, they were married for 55 years.


Mary and Earl on their wedding day
January 12, 1951

Mary and Earl on their 50th wedding anniversary
January 12, 2001

Friday, March 31, 2017

Emma S. Lankford

Emma Lankford Wilson's grave
at Penfield Cemetery
Emma S. Lankford, daughter of James Meriweather Lankford and Caroline B. Hobbs, was born in 1852 in Georgia, most likely Greene County. She was the third child of seven—Mary F. Lankford, James C. Lankford, Emma S. Lankford, Emerette R. Lankford, Nathan Lankford, Laura J. Lankford, and Marion Lankford. Emma would be my 2nd great grand aunt.

On July 21, 1860, Emma and her family lived in Woodville, Greene County, Georgia. Her father was a stock trader with real estate valued at $1500 and a personal estate valued at $4000. By the time the census enumerator came around, the family was complete with all seven children having been born. The book How Curious a Land: Conflict and Change in Greene County, Georgia, 1850–1885 by Jonathan M. Bryant states “… James Lankford made a good living trading livestock and by 1860 had accumulated more than $5,000 worth of property …” This probably means that Emma and her family were living a comfortable life at the time.

1860 Greene County, Georgia census for the James M. Lankford family

April 12, 1861 brought the beginning of the American Civil War. Emma’s father James joined the Confederate cause and enlisted in Penfield, Greene County, Georgia on April 24 as a private in Company C of the Third Regiment Georgia Infantry, or the Dawson Grays, C.S.A. James left home and mustered into service at Augusta, Richmond County, Georgia on May 3, 1861. He was discharged on July 15, 1862 in Portsmouth, Virginia, leaving a substitute in his place and then began serving in Company C of the Georgia Troops in November 1862. Sherman and his troops marched to Savannah during the months of November and December 1864. They would have come awful close to Greene County so this must have been a frightening time for Emma, her mother, and siblings home alone in Penfield. James was with his company in Augusta when the command surrendered in May 1865 and finally came home.

On July 6, 1869, Emma’s mother Caroline filed for and received a plot of land in Penfield under the Homestead Act, a federal law enacted to help with Reconstruction after the Civil War ended. The plot contained four acres and was bounded by lands of Robinson and Mercer University, belonging to Emma’s father James. Caroline claimed that she was the head of a family consisting of herself and five children, one of which was Emma.

Emma married James L. Wilson, son of Silas A. Wilson and Sarah A. Fambrough on May 22, 1870 in Greene County, Georgia and began their life together in Penfield. Together they had two children—Walter Lewis Wilson and Julius C. Wilson.

Emma Lankford and James Wilson's marriage certificate

On June 8, 1870, the census enumerator recorded newlyweds James and Emma in Penfield. James was a butcher and Emma was keeping house. They lived next door to James’ parents, Silas and Sarah Wilson. Emma’s brother (and my 2nd great-grandfather) James C. Lankford and his wife Mary (Wilson) lived four doors away. James Lankford was also a butcher. Their first son Walter was born in Georgia about 1871 or 1872. Their second son, Julius, was born in Georgia on June 1, 1873. I haven’t found documentation yet but assume both were born in Greene County.

1870 Penfield, Greene County, Georgia census record for James and Emma Wilson

Sometime after June 1873 and before December 1879, it appears that Emma died of unknown causes. I find no mention of her in any type of record after the birth of her son Julius in June 1873. Her husband James married Laura Emma Mobley on December 26, 1879. James, Laura, and his two sons (Emma’s children Walter and Julius) were living in Skull Shoals, Greene County, Georgia on June 24, 1880. Emma would have been in her 20s at the time of her death—still a young woman. I found Emma’s grave on my last visit to Penfield Cemetery. The stone lay flat on the ground beside the grave of Mary Lankford Hobbs, Emma’s grandmother and my 4th great grandmother. Unfortunately, no dates are inscribed on Emma’s stone—only her name. I hope to someday find out what happened to Emma. I hate to leave her story hanging.

Mary Lankford Hobbs' grave beside Emma Lankford Wilson's grave
at Penfield Cemetery

On a side note, as I wrote this post, it dawned on me that people reading this blog may not know anything about Woodville and Penfield, so I share the information below describing these small towns in Georgia. It appears that both were thriving communities during the time that Emma was alive.

The book History of Greene County, Georgia by Rice and Williams describes Woodville as … “This village was located five miles north of Union Point on the Athens branch of the Georgia railroad. This was once a prosperous village of 300 people, a bank and large stores. It is said to have been given that name because here the trains loaded up with wood. Before it was called Woodville it was called Beeman for a man who owned a large store there. After the railroad was built the name was changed. … Woodville was a good trading point. This village was 10 miles from Greensboro. In 1887 they shipped 3,500 bales of cotton. There were two ginneries, three stores, and dairy-farming. …”

The New Georgia Encyclopedia writes that Penfield, a village in Greene County located approximately 73 miles from Atlanta, “was named after Josiah Penfield of Savannah, who bequeathed $2,500 to the Georgia Baptist Convention in 1829 to help fund education. Using Penfield’s donation, the church purchased 450 acres of land north of Greensboro and in 1833 founded a literary and theological school, which was named Mercer Institute after a prominent Baptist pastor, Jesse Mercer. In 1837 the school began calling itself Mercer University, and the following year its trustees were granted the authority to govern the village surrounding the school. Penfield became a center of culture in Greene County, vying with Greensboro for social dominance. But when Mercer University moved from Penfield to Macon in 1871, Penfield gradually lost its population, ultimately being subsumed by Union Point. …” Wikipedia further notes that the American Civil War brought hard times to the village of Penfield and after Mercer University moved to Macon, “the village of Penfield survived on the strength of the cotton industry.”

Friday, March 24, 2017

William Elmer Shields

William Elmer Shields
William Elmer Shields, son of Samuel “Cas” Shields and Martha Ann Ogle, was born on April 4, 1896 in Sevierville, Sevier County, Tennessee. He was the 3rd child of 10—James Stewart Shields, Milas Odell Shields, William Elmer Shields, Walter C. Brown Shields, Sallie Addice Shields, Albert Conley Shields, Blaine Arthur Shields, Melona Jane Shields, Pearl Lewcrilly Shields, and Maude Maree Shields. He went by Elmer and was my great grand uncle.

On June 8, 1900, Elmer and his family lived in Civil District 13 of Sevier County. His father was a farmer. His mother Martha was enumerated as having had four children, all of which were living in the home.

On May 3, 1910, Elmer and his family still lived in Civil District 13 of Sevier County. He was enumerated as William E. Shields. Elmer’s oldest brother and my great-grandfather, Stewart, had already married Hattie Jane Rhinehart and moved out of the home. Elmer’s father was a farmer on a general farm and at the age of 14, Elmer was helping work on the farm. Elmer attended school and could read but not write.

Sometime between 1910 and 1913, Elmer’s father, Cas, moved the family to north Georgia where it was felt farm land was better and cheaper than the mountain land around Sevierville. Cas went alone and bought a farm in Whitfield County on top of a hill with a long drive between Praters Mill and Deep Springs and then headed back to Sevierville to get the rest of the family. They traveled to Dalton using two two-horse wagons, each pulled by two mules with two cows, four dogs, two coops of chickens, and all their furniture. The children walked and rode in the wagons. The trip, which was approximately 120 miles, took 8 to 10 days. They camped by creeks and in farmer’s fields. It was more like a picnic to them.

Front: Melona Jane Shields in father Samuel Cas Shields' lap, Albert Conley Shields,
Pearl Lewcrilly Shields in mother Martha Ogle Shields' lap, Blaine Arthur Shields, Sallie Addice Shields.
Back: Milas Odell Shields, William Elmer Shields, Walter C. Brown Shields.
Oldest son  James Stewart Shields is not in the photo.

Elmer registered for the World War I draft on June 5, 1918. He was an independent farmer living in Varnell, Whitfield County, Georgia at the time. His registration card shows that he was of medium height and slender build. He had blue eyes and light colored hair. On October 19, 1918, he married Lela Ann Vineyard, daughter of John Ervin Vineyard and Rachel Catherine Mathis, in Whitfield County. The ceremony was performed John Eslinger at the Varnell Methodist Church there in Varnell. Vivian Eslinger witnessed the ceremony alone—there was no best man or maid of honor at their wedding. Five days later, Elmer was inducted into the Army in Dalton where he served as a private in Battery D, 26th Artillery C.A.C. Elmer’s service to his country was short, however, with World War I ending on November 11. Elmer was discharged on December 10, 1918 having never served overseas.

Elmer's World War I service card

Elmer returned home to Lela and together they had six children—Charlie Jenard Shields, John Billy Shields, Wallace Howard Shields, Tommy Denzil Shields, Patricia Shields, and Dannie Shields.

On January 5, 1920, Elmer (age 23) and Lela (age 15) rented a home on Praters Mill Road in Varnell. Elmer was a farmer. The census enumerator noted that Elmer could read and write. Their first child, Charlie, was born in Dalton on April 21, 1923. John, who went by J.B., joined the family on December 21, 1924. Wallace followed soon afterward on July 1, 1927. Charlie and Wallace were both born in Dalton. J.B. was born in Whitfield County, most likely Dalton as well.

Elmer and Lela (Vineyard) Shields
On February 10, 1930, Elmer’s sister Maude (Shields) Horrell died at the age of 15 in Georgia. Her last name was Horrell so it’s assumed she was married. Its possible Maude died in childbirth. She was buried at Grove Level Community Cemetery in Dalton. I haven’t been able to find any other information on Maude, at least not that I can confirm, so I don’t want to share at this point. On April 8, 1930, Elmer and his family lived on Cleveland Road in Dalton. He was a farmer on a general farm and enumerated as a veteran. Elmer was also enumerated as having first married at age 20 and Lela at age 15. Considering he was 23 and Lela 15 when the census taker came around in 1920, something doesn’t add up here. It was a three-generation household with Elmer’s father- and mother-in-law, John E. and Rachel Vineyard, living with in the home with them. Rachel did needle work on bedspreads. The family living next door to the Shields family was John M. Overton and his wife Chunia. John was the son of Abijah Overton and Elizabeth Ann Rhodes, my paternal 3rd great-grandparents. Abijah Overton lived in Rockdale County, Georgia so it was a surprise to find his family living in Whitfield County. Lela was pregnant with Tommy when the census enumerator visited—he was born on June 15, 1930. They welcomed Patricia to the family in 1937. Both Tommy and Patricia were born in Whitfield County.

1930 Dalton, Whitfield County, Georgia census

On April 14, 1940, Elmer and his family, including his in-laws, still lived in Dalton. Elmer had a second-grade education; Lela had a fifth-grade education. Elmer was now a service station manager and Lela was working out of the home as a machine operator. I believe it was in the early 1940s that Elmer ran a motel in Dalton that they called Elmer’s Cabins. His daughter Patricia remembers that there were always what seemed to be a lot of people around, and constant activity. His son Tommy remembers Elmer (Papa) “let a traveling minister live at Elmer’s Cabins on a monthly basis.”

Elmer's Cabins
Elmer Shields manager

Elmer Shields family

Pearl (Shields) Hester, Elmer’s 33-year-old sister, died of tuberculosis at their parent’s farm in Dalton on July 26, 1941. It was said you could hear her breath outside on the porch. Pearl left five young children behind ranging in ages from 2 to 11. She was buried beside her sister Maude at Grove Level Community Cemetery in Dalton. Elmer was the informant on Pearl’s death certificate. He lived at Route 4, Dalton at the time.

J.B. Shields
Elmer’s son J.B. was only 15 when World War II began in 1939. During the summer of 1943, J.B. headed to Fort McPherson in Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia and enlisted as a private in the U.S. Army. It didn’t take long before he was in the thick of battle. J.B. paid the ultimate price and died in Anzio, Italy on February 26, 1944 as his landing barge came ashore in combat during the Battle of Anzio, a campaign that lasted from January 22 to June 5, 1944. J.B. was buried at West Hill Cemetery in Dalton. His name is listed on a memorial plaque at the Georgia War Veterans Memorial Complex commemorating Georgians who died in World War II. The complex is located at the Floyd Veteran Memorial Building in Atlanta. Elmer’s daughter Patricia remembers “the sad and fateful day that a man arrived with a ‘telegram.’” At the time, she didn’t realize what was happening but she remembered “seeing the mourning and changed expressions of their faces” that were very frightening to her. She recalled “that day a deep sadness appeared in mama’s eyes that never left them until she died.”

In 1946, Patricia said that Elmer and Lela shared a big surprise with the family … “one evening Papa said I have to take mama to the hospital. That evening she gave birth to our younger brother Dannie to the complete surprise and disbelief of everyone.” Soon after, Elmer sold everything and moved his family to Port Orange, Volusia County, Florida. Patricia thought it might have been too sad for him to live in Dalton after the death of J.B.

Brother Blaine Shields, Elmer Shields, mother Martha (Ogle) Shields, and father Cas Shields
in Daytona Beach, Florida

Tommy didn’t like Daytona Beach so he returned to Georgia and lived with his grandparents, Cas and Martha Shields. He stayed with them for about six months.

Patricia shared that over the next few year “Elmer became a land developer, accomplished carpenter, home builder, orange grove manager, shop owner, fruit stand owner, plus other enterprises.” She also shared that “Mama and Charlie started an upholstery business along with working for other people. During this time, we siblings were learning the principles of free enterprise which benefits us to this day. For example, I loved the movies, so whenever I would ask if we could go to the movies Papa would say ‘you earn the dollar and we’ll go.’ So, I’d jump on my bike and head for the neighbors with my tubes of glue (which Papa had mail ordered by the case). When I sold three tubes, we went.”

The year 1955 was a sad one for the Shields family. On April 6, Elmer’s brother Walter died in Varnell. Walter was buried at Red Hill Cemetery in Cleveland, Bradley County, Tennessee. Six months later, Elmer’s father died on September 26, 1955 at home in Dalton. He was 85 years old. Cas was buried at Grove Level Community Cemetery in Dalton. Elmer lost his mother in 1961 when she died in Dalton at the age of 91 on July 10. Martha was buried in the family plot at Grove Level Community Cemetery in Dalton.

Elmer and Lela eventually moved back to Georgia, although I’m not sure what year the move took place. The 1955 and 1956 Daytona Beach city directories recorded Elmer and Lela living at 144 N. Ridgewood Avenue in Daytona Beach. Elmer was a carpenter and Lela was working in the Port Orange Upholstery Shop with Charlie. Sometime between 1956 and 1962, Elmer and Lela moved back to Georgia where they lived on Shields Road, off Dug Gap Road, in Dalton. When my great-grandfather James Stewart Shields (Pappy) died on September 7, 1962 in Tunnel Hill, Catoosa County, Georgia, his obituary noted that Elmer was living in Dalton. They buried Pappy at Nellie Head Baptist Church Cemetery in Tunnel Hill.


1955 Daytona Beach city directory 

Elmer’s brother Conley died in Dalton on September 20, 1975. He was buried at Varnell Cemetery in Varnell. His brother Milas died in Dalton on December 17, 1978. Milas was buried at Good Hope Baptist Cemetery in Dalton.

Elmer died at the age of 83 at the Hamilton Memorial Hospital in Dalton on May 23, 1979. His death certificate lists his birth location as Georgia vs. Tennessee as listed on the delayed birth certificate he received in 1944. Elmer lived at 1404 Shields Road in Dalton at the time of his death. He was self-employed. Kenemer Brothers Funeral Home in Dalton handled the funeral arrangements. Elmer was buried at West Hill Cemetery in Dalton. The Dalton Daily Citizen News published his obituary on May 23, 1979:
Elmer Shields, age 83, of Shields Road, died in Hamilton Memorial Hospital at 1:15 this morning. He is survived by his wife; Mrs. Lela Shields of Dalton, one daughter, Mrs. Pat Davis of Encinitas, Calif., four sons, Charlie and Dan Shields of Daytona Fla., Tom Shields of Encinitas, Calif. and Wallace Shields of Dalton; two sisters, Mrs. Addice Palmer of Dalton, and Mrs. Janie Bennett of Calif., one brother, Blane Shields of Dalton, 10 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Funeral services will be at Chapel of Kenemer Brothers Funeral Home Friday morning at 11 o’clock with the Rev. Thad Osborne officiating. Burial will be in West Hill Cemetery with Kenemer Bros. Funeral Home in charge of funeral arrangements. The family will receive friends at the Funeral Home after 2 o’clock tomorrow afternoon.

At some point in their married life, Elmer and Lela owned a chicken farm in Dalton where he raised chickens for eggs going to a hatchery.

Elmer's chicken house

Lela Shields, Dalton, Georgia
Elmer’s son Tommy recalled his Papa being was very generous. He said “there was always someone else at our house—nieces, nephews, children, grandchildren, and in-laws.” His nieces Bessie Lucille Shields and Willie Mae Shields (Stewart’s daughters) lived with them in Dalton so they could be closer to the chenille plants where they worked. Years later, he allowed his grandson and his wife, Terry and Michelle Shields, to live with them at the beginning of their marriage. Michelle shared this story in 2001:
“Terry and I had been dating for about five years and were going to get married in June of 1971. Terry was 19 and I was 16. Terry got cold feet and left town with a friend of his after he dropped me off for work that evening in his father’s 1958 Chevy, which used more oil than gas to get them to Dalton, Georgia. I didn’t know they were leaving and I was crushed. I called Granny Shields (Lela) and she said he was there and made him talk to me. I guess she knew something we didn’t. Well about three months and $200 worth of telephone bills later, he came home and we got married on September 18, 1971 and moved right away to Dalton, Georgia. We stayed with Granny and Papa. I was so home sick for I had never been away from home and my family but Granny made me feel like I belonged in her family. I will never forget how kind she was to me when we got to Dalton. Terry’s job filed bankruptcy and closed. He was out of a job for two months. I was working in a department store. They would never let us pay for staying there, but one day Papa and Terry had some words about him not working and Granny stepped in and told Papa to hush and leave that boy alone. But it was good that Papa said what he did because it helped Terry and me to realize that we needed to make our own way. They were both wonderful people and we loved them so very much. They helped us so many more times after that but that is how we started and now 31 years later we know that they had a large part of who we are today and how we model our love and devotion after the two people that we respected the most, Elmer and Lela Shields.”
Tommy also recalled that his Papa “was not very religious, but a believing man.”

Working at the house

Elmer’s son Dannie shared that his “Mama would always have a pound cake baked for me after I left home and would return for a visit. It was my favorite cake back then. Papa always had words of wisdom to offer, and you know, most of them were true I found out later in life. He would always offer me money when I had to leave after my stay had ended.” I’ll end this blog post on daughter Patricia’s these final thoughts on her parents … “even though they always both worked long hard hours we had a close secure feeling of family. They were not openly affectionate nor did they tell us they loved us but we always felt their love and never doubted its constancy.”