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.”

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