Friday, January 26, 2018

Dinner and a chat with Granny Callaway

Alice Beman Lankford
Week 4: 52Ancestors theme—Invite to dinner

When I heard the 52 Ancestors theme for this week was “invite to dinner,” I immediately knew who I wish I could extend an invitation to—my great grandmother, Alice Beman Lankford. Her story is one that I would truly love to hear straight from the horse’s mouth. I blogged about her in 2014 so won’t go into great detail here, but the gist of her story follows.

In early 1887, Alice was allegedly raped by Thomas Janes Jr., the son of Thomas Janes Sr., Georgia’s first Commissioner of Agriculture. Alice became pregnant as a result of the alleged rape and on September 21, 1887, gave birth to a son in Penfield, Greene County, Georgia—my grandpa, Carroll Harvey Lankford. At age 15, Alice was still just a child herself. Years later, her grandson (my Daddy), remembers two school teachers telling him and his sister of the alleged rape and birth. Over the years, Daddy retold the story himself many times. Last year DNA linked the Janes family to my Lankford family so something must have happened at some point in history!

Alice would eventually marry Robert Dawson Callaway and have a second son, Homer Crawford Callaway. Daddy always called her Granny Callaway.

My great-grandmother died before I was born so dinner will never be an option. But if it were possible, I would want to ask her about what happened so many years ago. A list of questions that immediately come to mind follow:
  • What do you remember about the day my grandpa was conceived?
  • Did you know the Janes family?
  • Was the pregnancy the result of a rape or did something consensual take place?
  • Was Thomas Janes Jr. the father?
  • Family lore is that he was sent away after the alleged rape. Is that true?
  • Did you tell your parents about the incident?
  • How did you tell your parents about your pregnancy?
  • How did they treat you after they found out?
  • Did you stay at home during your pregnancy or were you sent away?
  • Were your parents supportive of you?
  • How did other family members and neighbors treat you?
  • Was it a normal pregnancy or did you have problems?
  • Who was with you when you gave birth?
  • What was going through your mind the first time you held him?
  • Did grandpa ever have a birth certificate? If so, was a father listed? What was his name?
  • Where did you and grandpa live after his birth?
  • How did the community treat grandpa during this childhood?
  • Did you ever tell grandpa the truth about what happened to you and who his father was?
  • Did other family members know the truth about the father?
  • Did you purposely tell the 1900 census enumerator that you had one child vs. two?
  • If this had happened to you in today’s world, would you have kept or aborted him?
  • Did you and your family tell people he was your brother vs. your son?
  • Did you know the shame he felt all his life?
  • Did you share that shame?
  • Did you love your first-born son?
Would Alice answer my questions or would she tell me to mind my own business? I’ll never know. And most likely, I’ll never know what happened that day in 1887. She probably kept her thoughts on this subject to herself, taking all the answers to her grave when she died on December 5, 1951.


  1. Wow - that's a story and a half. Incredible what our female ancestors endured. At least she was able to marry later. And how nice you have a photo!

    1. Yes Teresa, and from the news reports, women are still having a endure a lot! What she endured in her childhood probably affected her the rest of her life. Daddy always told me Granny Callaway was mean as a snake. But he said it with a smile as he loved her. Thanks for reading!