Friday, January 31, 2020

My Grandma, Floria Mae Burnette

Grandma and one of her grandsons
standing in front of Penfield Baptist Church
in Penfield, Georgia
This blog post is another in a series connecting the dots in my tree to the souls buried at Bairdstown Cemetery in Bairdstown, Oglethorpe County, Georgia.

Floria Mae Burnette, daughter of Thomas Terrell Burnette and Elizabeth (Lizzie) Jones, was born in Loganville, Walton County, Georgia on November 18, 1897. She was the 3rd of 13 children—Luther Terrell Burnette, Eva Drucilla Burnette, Floria Mae Burnette, Jesse Burnette, unknown twin Burnette, Willie Lloyd Burnette, Prince Albert Burnette, Claudia Burnette, Maudie Burnette, Henry T. Burnette, Eleanor (Elna) Estelle Burnette, Samuel A. Burnette, and Julia Virginia Burnette. She was my paternal grandmother whom we called Grandma.

On June 26, 1900, Floria and her family lived in the Vinegar Hill District of Walton County. Her parents had been married for six years; her father worked as a farmer. The census enumerator recorded her mother as having had five children, all of which were living, however, there were only four children listed in the census record—Luther, Eva (enumerated as Ever), Flora, and a son named Jesse (age 1, born January 1899 in Georgia). I’ve been told that Lizzie had two sets of twins—one set survived (Claudia and Maudie) and one set that died at the age of one. This census is the only record I’ve found that lists Jesse who I’m assuming to be one of the twins. But what about the fifth child (the other twin)? Where was it? If the family lore is true, Jesse would have died shortly after this census was taken.

1900 Census, Walton County, Georgia. The only record that lists a child named Jesse.

When Floria was 11 years old, she attended the Jones family reunion with her family in 1908. The group photo below was taken that day. At this time, I can identify 38 family members.

Jones family reunion, ca. 1908

The photographer also took individual family photos. Floria is the girl with the bun on the left behind her mother.

Thomas Terrell Burnette family, ca. 1908

On April 28, 1910, Floria and her family lived in Greshamville, Greene County, Georgia. Her father was enumerated as Tom and was still farming. Luther, Eva, and Floria were all farm laborers on a home farm; all three could read and write and were attending school. The enumerator recorded her mother as having had 10 children, 8 of which were living. This accounts for the death of the twins. Still at home were Luther, Eva (again enumerated as Ever), and Floria (enumerated as either Florence or Flor Mae, it’s hard to read) with five more children added to the family—Willie, Prince (enumerated as Price), twins Claudia and Maudie, and Henry.

1910 Soundex Cards

Floria was a teenager during the early to mid-1910s. On one of her birthdays, her mother gave her a carnival glass vase that was eventually given to my Daddy. I remember it always sat on an end table in our living room when I was growing up. Today, it sits on my bedside table.

Grandma's carnival glass vase
You can see the vase on the table in our 1960s living room
On February 13, 1920, the family lived in the Walkers District of Greene County. At age 22, Floria, enumerated as either Florrie or Flossie (again, hard to read), was still living at home, as was her 24-year-old sister Eva. Her father was farming on a general farm and Eva, Floria, Willie, Prince, Claudia, Maudie, and Henry were all laborers on a home farm. The house was full with Floria’s parents, 10 of the children, and Floria’s 78-year-old widowed paternal grandfather, Samuel Pride Burnette all living together. Three more children had joined the family since the last census was taken—Eleanor, Samuel (enumerated as Sammie), and Julia. Floria’s brother Luther and his wife Etta Belle lived next door.

1920 Soundex Cards

Floria and Carroll Harvey Lankford, son of Thomas P. Janes Jr. and Alice Beman Lankford, visited the courthouse in Greensboro, Greene County, Georgia on February 23, 1922 where they obtained a marriage license from Judge F. B. Shipp at the Court of the Ordinary. They were married by Mr. Dreyer on March 12, 1922 in Penfield, Greene County, Georgia. Floria was 26-years-old and Carroll 36-years-old. Judge Shipp incorrectly wrote Floria’s last name as “Barnett” when he issued the license. I’m assuming they took the license with them when they left the courthouse so the person who married them could complete and sign it after performing the marriage ceremony. That would mean Floria and Carroll should have seen the misspelling of her last name. I can’t help but wonder why she didn’t ask the judge to correct the spelling, but that’s something we’ll never know.

1922 marriage license for Carroll and Floria Burnette

Something else we’ll never know is whether the burden Carroll brought to the union had any effects on their marriage. I’ve already told my grandpa’s story, one of a child born out of wedlock and living with that shame during his lifetime. If you’re interested, you can read it here and if you care to read more, click here to learn about our DNA connection to the Janes line. Floria and Carroll would go on to have eight children together—Carroll (Sport) Harvey Lankford Jr., Floria Lucile Lankford, Samuel Terrell Lankford, twins Alice and Elizabeth Lankford, Grover William Lankford, Clark Eugene Lankford, and Betty Ann Lankford.

Grandpa and Grandma with their eight children—front:  Carroll Harvey Jr. (AKA Sport),
Grover, Clark, and Sam; back: Liz (twin), Lucile, Grandma (Floria),
Grandpa (Carroll Sr.), Alice (twin), and Betty (ca. September 1959)

Carroll worked as a sharecropper, farming cotton and vegetables. Being a sharecropper meant they moved every two years working the land. Until Floria and Carroll moved into a house Daddy bought in Penfield, they lived in old, deserted plantation houses owned by Ralph Brightwell. Mr. Brightwell rented the houses to Carroll for half—Mr. Brightwell got the cotton and Carroll kept the vegetables. As the family grew, and as mentioned previously, they moved a lot, living in Stephens in Oglethorpe County and Woodville, Union Point, and Penfield in Greene County. I can’t find the family in the 1930 census records, but know they were still in Penfield that year. They made another move to Oglethorpe County, living in Maxeys, then moved back to Penfield, and then back to Maxeys by 1935. They eventually settled down in Penfield in a home purchased by their son Sam. Carroll also worked as a blacksmith, although I don’t know when and for how long.

Lankford home in Penfield, Georgia

Floria’s father Thomas died of heart disease at the age of 71 on February 6, 1940 in Greensboro, Greene County, Georgia. He was buried at Walker United Methodist Church Cemetery in Greensboro. On April 11, 1940, the census enumerator found the family living in Woodville. Floria was a housewife and Carroll was enumerated as Caral Lanford working as a farmer on his own farm. The highest grade Floria had completed was the 7th and Carroll the 4th. Their son Sam joined the Navy in 1944 and left home. He returned in 1946, staying for a year before moving to Atlanta in 1947 to live with Floria’s sister Julia. While living with Julia, Sam worked with her husband, Jerry Gregory who was a plumber. Jerry taught Sam the trade and it wasn’t long before Sam encouraged his brothers Grover and Clark to move to Atlanta as well. Before long, all three were plumbers and worked together for many years.

Sam in the white t-shirt, other men unknown. Standing in front of Gregory Plumbing.

Before leaving for Atlanta, Sam transferred the house title to his mother Floria. Carroll sold pulpwood off the land and then bought an additional 20 acres, giving them a total of 25–30 acres. Carroll also bought property between Greensboro and Penfield from the government but was unable to pay for the land and filed bankruptcy on that piece of property. Along with whatever income Floria and Carroll received from his farming and blacksmith work, he also received a monthly pension of $60 for his service during World War I, which was eventually increased to $72. Really not that much money coming in.

My Aunt Lucille and Grandma
In 1955, Floria’s brother Henry was killed in a hunting accident in Putnam County, Georgia on New Year’s Eve. Henry was buried at Pine Grove Cemetery in Eatonton after a service held at Oak Street Baptist Church. Floria’s mother Lizzie died at Minnie G. Boswell Hospital in Greensboro on December 2, 1956. At the time of her death, she suffered from multiple issues, including acute adrenal insufficiency following a fracture of her right shoulder, cardiovascular disease, senility, and chronic bronchitis. Lizzie was buried beside her husband at Walker United Methodist Church Cemetery in Greensboro the next day. Her sister Eleanor died in Fulton County, Georgia on April 25, 1963 and was buried at Salem Baptist Church Cemetery in McDonough, Henry County, Georgia.

My Grandma was diagnosed with cancer (of the stomach I believe) in September 1969. By the time it was discovered, the cancer was pretty advanced. She and Grandpa moved into a nursing home for a short time but they both hated it so moved in with their my Aunt Lucille. With no money to pay medical expenses, Sam (my Daddy) hired a local Greensboro lawyer named Miles Walker Lewis to transfer their Penfield property over to my uncle Ralph Epps (Aunt Lucille’s husband). Uncle Ralph sold the property off in pieces to pay the medical bills for both Grandma and Grandpa. After all was said and done, there was only $500 left. The cancer took its toll and my Grandma died on March 3, 1970 at Boswell Hospital in Greensboro at the age of 72. I still remember the night she died. I knew she wasn’t doing well. My bedroom was downstairs at the time and after hearing the telephone ring just after 10 p.m., I headed upstairs. When I got to the dining room, Daddy was standing there crying, with his hands covering his face. That was the only time I ever saw my Daddy cry. My Uncle Clark, who was at the hospital with Grandma, was the person who called Daddy after she was gone. Daddy once told me that he remembers dreaming about Grandma the night she died and was woken by the phone when Uncle Clark called. Her funeral was held the next day at Bairds Baptist Church in Bairdstown, Oglethorpe County, Georgia with Rev. Robert C. Black officiating. She was buried at Bairdstown Cemetery near the church. She was survived by sisters Eva, twins Maudie and Claudia, and Julia; and brothers Willie, Luther, Prince, and Sam.

I was only 13 when Grandma died so only have a few memories of her. I remember the yearly family reunions at their house in Penfield, always in September to coincide with Grandpa’s birthday. I remember that house looked like it always needed to be painted, as in it was raw wood. Daddy said Grandpa wouldn’t let them paint it. Parts of the house was caved in; I remember in particular portions of the back porch. You pulled into a dirt driveway; in fact, most of the yard was dirt. My sister Bonita remembers that Grandma swept the dirt yard, an old Southern custom to help ward off snakes and make a safe play area for children. Pictures show there was a wooden building, perhaps a barn, at the end of the driveway. There was an outhouse a short distance from the house, in the field with a mule. I was always afraid of using the outhouse because you had to walk past the mule to get to the outhouse. Water was drawn from a pump well in the backyard. There was a large round grinding stone, powered by pedaling, either on the back porch or in the yard, that was used to sharpen knives and tools. You entered the house by going up a few steps which led into the kitchen. I don’t remember but it was probably the dining room as well. There was a large wood stove in the kitchen that Grandma cooked on. Because they had no heat or water in the house, Grandma got up before daylight every morning to light the stove and heat up the house before she cooked breakfast. I remember her adding wood to the stove, making biscuits in a large wooden bowl (my sister Bonita has that bowl now), and then putting the pan of biscuits in oven of the wood stove. It still fascinates me that people cooked that way inside their house.

Carroll and Floria Lankford (ca. 1959)
Daddy remembers they shelled a lot of corn so that must have been one of Grandpa’s crops. I can picture Grandma, standing in front of her wood stove, stirring a pot of southern style creamed corn for dinner, something any good southern woman knows how to cook.

My cousin Tim told me his Mom (Alice) said the kids only got one pair of shoes once a year when they were growing up. Aunt Alice told my cousin Kathy that when she and her twin sister Liz started working at the mill, they had Grandma and Grandpa’s house wired for electricity. They also bought them a refrigerator, two bedroom suites, a couch, a rug or piece of carpet for the living room, and put some kind of shades on the windows.

I don’t remember it but my Aunt Betty told me that Grandpa and Grandma had a piano. Aunt Betty said Grandma played by ear and loved to play church songs.

My cousin Euleen remembers spending the night at their house, something I don’t think I ever did, and having to watch the Jackie Gleason Show on their television. I didn’t even know they had one! Euleen also said they always had tons of quilts on the bed when they slept there in the winter. It got cold in the house at night.

Floria on the right standing
beside her mother Lizzie
and granddaughters
Linda and Nancy
Money was probably an issue all of her married life. Grandpa worked all the time, as a farmer/sharecropper and blacksmith, but Daddy once told me Grandpa couldn’t hold onto money—if there was money in the house, he spent it. That had to be hard on Grandma. I cringe when I hear someone complaining about the (material) things they don’t have. My mind always goes to how my grandparents lived, how hard life must have been for them, and how much they didn’t have. We think we have it so bad sometimes but we don’t know what bad really is.

A quiet, kind, sweet, and gentle woman—these are the words used by myself, my siblings, and cousins to describe my Grandma. That is how I remember her.


  • “Back When Mamaws Would Sweep Their Yards,” Appalachian Magazine, April 11, 2017;
  • Certificate of Death no. 30983 for Elizabeth Jones Burnette, Georgia Department of Public Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, December 4, 1956.
  • Certificate of Death no. 4275 for Thomas Terrel Burnette, Georgia Department of Public Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, February 9, 1940.
  • Floria Mae Burnette and Carroll Lankford, Marriage Certificate, State of Georgia, Greene County, recorded March 22, 1922.
  • Mrs. Lankford Passes Away, obituary, newspaper unknown, March 1970.
  • Obituary, Carroll H. Lankford Jr., McCommons Funeral Home, Greensboro, Georgia.
  • Personal memories of Denise Murphy, Kathy Osborne, Tim Griffith, Alice Griffith, Betty Elrod, and Euleen Disharoon.
  • U.S. Federal Census, Greshamville, Greene County, Georgia, 1910.
  • U.S. Federal Census, Vinegar Hill, Walton County, Georgia, 1900.
  • U.S. Federal Census, Walkers District, Greene County, Georgia, 1920.
  • U.S. Federal Census, Woodville, Greene County, Georgia, 1940.

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