Thursday, May 14, 2015

52 Ancestors – no. 36: Daisy Lee Shields – (week 20)

Daisy Lee Shields
Last fall during a visit with my Mother, I took the time to interview her about her Mother, my Granny. This blog post is based on that interview and on my personal memories and research.

Daisy Lee Shields, the daughter of James Stewart Shields and Hattie Jane Rhinehart, was born on June 24, 1910 in Sevierville, Sevier County, Tennessee. She was the oldest child of 11—Daisy Lee, Willie Mae, James B., Betty Ann, Paul Sam, Bessie Lucille, Mary Nell, Dorothy Joline, Bobbie Jean, Charles Dewayne, and Loyal Mack Shields. It’s believed that Hattie had a 12th child, possibly stillborn before Daisy was born. I can’t say for certain, but Daisy was possibly named for two of her Mother’s sisters, Daisy Rhinehart and Georgia Lee Rhinehart. Daisy was my maternal grandmother, or rather I should say my Granny.

On January 6, 1920, Daisy (age 9) lived with her family in the Lower Tenth Militia District of Whitfield County, Georgia. Although attending school, the enumerator (or census taker—the person collecting the census data) didn’t note whether she could read or write. Her 54 year old widowed grandmother, Roda Elizabeth “Betty” (Sneed) Rhinehart, lived with them.

Betty (Sneed) Rhinehart
and Daisy
On April 19, 1930, Daisy (age 20) still lived with her family in the vicinity of Prater Mill and Deep Springs Roads in the Lower Tenth Militia District of Whitfield County. The enumerator didn’t list an occupation for Daisy. Perhaps she was too busy helping her Mother raise her seven siblings to work outside of the home. They lived next door to her grandparents, Samuel Cas and Martha (Ogle) Shields. Her uncle Blaine Shields lived with Cas and Martha.

Daisy’s uncle, Milas Shields, lived less than 10 miles from Daisy and her family in April of 1930. Living next door to Milas was Samuel Jackson Holland and his family—wife (Mary) Opal (Stone) Holland, their son William Luther Holland (AKA W.L.), and Sam’s mother Cornelia Janie (Dove) Holland. It’s important to note this because a year later, Daisy would marry Sam. Perhaps they met when Daisy and her family visited her Uncle Milas. Maybe not, but it’s a possibility. On April 23, 1930, the enumerator recorded Sam and Opal, both 25, living next door to Milas. The census record shows that they married at age 18. W.L. was 6 years old at the time. A year later on April 26, 1931, Opal died in Whitfield County. Two months after Opal’s death, Daisy married Sam Holland, the son of Elijah Jeffers Holland and Janie Dove in Whitfield County. He called her Lee while the rest of the family called her Daisy.

Daisy and Sam didn’t rush to have children. Sam had a lot of outstanding funeral expenses for his wife and mother—Opal from April 1931 and his mother, who died on September 19, 1930. Sam was the sole surviving member of his family. His father died in 1915; his brother Roy died in 1919; and his sister Nellie died in 1921. All of the financial debts fell to him which must have been a tremendous burden, not to mention the emotional stress of losing his entire family in such a short time and at such a young age. Daisy helped him pay off the funeral debts by making quilts. She would drive around town in their old model A or T car selling her quilts.

James Stewart Shields, Daisy Shields,
Hattie (Rhinehart) Shields, and
Willie Mae Shields
In 1933, Daisy gave birth at home to her only child, a daughter she named Juanita Fay. After Daisy went into labor, Sam drove to Ringgold to get the doctor but they didn’t make it back in time. Instead, a neighbor helped Daisy deliver Fay herself. When Sam returned, Daisy told Sam “there won’t be any more children.” And there weren’t!

On April 15, 1940, Daisy, Sam, W.L., and Fay lived on East 14th Street in Chattanooga, Hamilton County, Tennessee. The census record shows that Daisy had attended school, completing at least the 8th grade. Sam was a truck driver for the Motor Express Company. Sometime after this census was taken, Daisy left the family and got a room on her own in Chattanooga. She kept in touch with Fay during this time.

It’s believed that Daisy went to beauty school sometime after 1940, became a beautician, and then opened a beauty shop in Chattanooga. In the early 1950’s, Daisy opened a beauty shop in Ringgold that she named Bonita’s Beauty Den (named for her first granddaughter). She later opened a beauty shop in Dalton.

About 1941, Daisy and Sam divorced leaving Sam alone to take care of W.L. and Fay. In 1942, W.L. turned 18 and was drafted into the Army. Sam and Fay rode the bus to Fort Oglethorpe to see W.L. off to Colorado where he stayed the rest of his duty, guarding prisoners of war. Sam and Fay lived alone in Chattanooga for a few months. Sam had help from Arlie Mack Rhinehart (Hattie [Rhinehart] Shields’ brother) and his wife Martha. After Arlie returned to Catoosa County, Georgia, Sam hired a housekeeper to help out. Since Sam was required to drive the trucks overnight, Fay would stay with a neighbor next door as she was too young to be left by herself.

After the divorce, Daisy had several turbulent years moving from marriage to marriage. She married Billy L. Saylors, then Edward F. Steward, and then Harry E. Casbohm, a New Yorker. The marriage to Harry was a short one. Daisy stayed with Harry a little while in New York but then returned home and divorced him. Daisy’s daughter Fay had little contact with Daisy from 1941 to 1948.

Daisy and her daughter Fay
During the time of Daisy’s many marriages, Sam met and married Patsy Reba Seibers, daughter of William L. Seibers and Missie Belle Boles, on September 18, 1943 in Rossville, Walker County, Georgia. Sometime in the next year, Sam decided to move the family to Atlanta so he drove a truck there to look for an apartment for himself, Patsy, and Fay. Daisy accused Sam of taking Fay across state lines (which he had not) and had him arrested. W.L. eventually testified in court that he was with Patsy and Fay at home while Sam went to Atlanta and the case was dropped.

Sometime before June 1944, Sam, Patsy, and Fay moved to Atlanta where they rented a house from a man named Mr. Speilberger on Washington Street. The house had two apartments and one bathroom on the first floor. Mr. Speilberger lived in one room in the front of the house. They all shared the bathroom. Another family lived upstairs. They had the whole upstairs, including their own bathroom. After the Hollands moved to Atlanta, Daisy made the trip three times to visit with Fay.

About 1949, Daisy married Edward Steward a second time and they built a house in Tunnel Hill, Whitfield County, Georgia. As was Daisy’s history, the second marriage to Edward didn’t work out and they divorced sometime after 1951. Daisy kept the Tunnel Hill house after she and Edward divorced.

Daisy’s father Stewart died on September 7, 1962 in Tunnel Hill. He was buried at Nellie Head Baptist Church Cemetery in Tunnel Hill.

Daisy’s last husband was William Hoyt Vest, the son of Andrew Jackson Vest and Bessie Elliott. Daisy and Hoyt lived together in the Tunnel Hill house for several years before they married, presumably there in Tunnel Hill. To me, Hoyt was her only husband as he was the only man I knew her to be with. Hoyt was a tall, gentle man. We didn’t call him Grandpa or anything like that. We just called him Hoyt.

Daisy was still living in the Tunnel Hill house on August 8, 1968 as she received a letter from the Social Security Administration informing her that she was not entitled to disability insurance benefits. The address on the letter was R. R. 1, Tunnel Hill, Georgia.

At some point, Daisy and Hoyt moved to Calhoun when he got a job in the carpet mills. They lived in Calhoun for four or five years and then moved to Cleveland, Bradley County, Tennessee. Hoyt developed diabetes and lost both legs. Daisy and Hoyt eventually divorced and he moved to California to live with his son.

Daisy’s brother James died on September 26, 1972 in Talladega County, Alabama. He was buried at Nellie Head Baptist Church Cemetery in Tunnel Hill. Her sister Betty died on February 16, 1975 in Birmingham, Jefferson County, Alabama. She was buried at West Hill Cemetery in Dalton, Whitfield County, Georgia.

Daisy applied for a Tennessee driver’s license in March 1977 so I’m assuming she had recently moved from Georgia to Tennessee. The address on her application was 783 10th Street, Cleveland, Tennessee.

On October 23, 1978, Daisy filed a Multiyear Property Tax Relief Application with the State of Tennessee listing her address as 1040 Hardwick Street, Cleveland, Tennessee. In December 1981, Daisy applied for and received fuel assistance in the amount of $200 from the Bradley Cleveland Community Services Agency. In April 1982, an application for home weatherization was approved for the Hardwick Street house.

Daisy’s mother Hattie died in Chattanooga on April 11, 1982. She was buried at Nellie Head Baptist Church Cemetery in Tunnel Hill.

Daisy lived in the Hardwick Street house until July 1986. By that time, her health had declined and her daughter Fay made many trips to Cleveland to check on her mother. But with a full time job, the strain was too much for Fay so Daisy sold her house for $20,000 and moved to Riverdale, Clayton County, Georgia to live with Fay. Daisy’s health continued to decline and she eventually moved into a nursing home in Riverdale. The nursing home was minutes from Fay’s house and she visited her mother every day.

Hoyt died in San Diego, California on April, 30 1987. Daisy drew Social Security benefits from his account the last few months of her life.

On October 3, 1987, Fay visited Daisy on her way to work. While there, Fay told Daisy that her monthly social security check had arrived. Daisy told her to hold onto the check—to not put it in the bank yet. Daisy told Fay she didn’t feel good and then went on to say she wanted to be buried in a white dress in a white coffin. Fay called Vanessa, her youngest daughter, later that day and asked her to go to the nursing home and check on Daisy. When Vanessa arrived, Daisy asked her to write a few things down for her and then proceeded to tell Vanessa how and where she wanted to be buried, what she wanted to wear, and that she wanted to be buried in a white casket on a hill back home. She told Vanessa what preacher she wanted for her funeral and who she wanted to sing at the service, including naming the songs. Later that afternoon, the nursing home called Fay to inform her that Daisy had died in her sleep. She didn’t seem sick but Vanessa felt that she knew she was going to die that day.

Daisy’s funeral was held on October 5, 1987 at Wallis Funeral Home in Ringgold, Catoosa County, Georgia, with the Rev. Yules Simpson officiating. As requested, Daisy was buried in a white casket wearing a white gown. Her niece sang the songs she requested, and she was buried on a hill at Anderson Cemetery in Ringgold. Daisy, who was 77 years old at the time of her death, was survived by a daughter, five grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. Cause of death was listed as cardio respiratory arrest, atherosclerosis heart disease. Daisy had suffered from heart disease for some time, living with a pacemaker for many years.

Daisy has been described to me as the black sheep of the family. I don’t know, it may have been justified. I mean, she had all those marriages. She left a husband and their young daughter behind for another man. I know personally that she wasn’t supportive of her last husband, Hoyt, as he became an invalid after losing both legs to diabetes. But to me, she was just Granny and I loved her.

I remember visiting her in Tunnel Hill a lot when we were growing up. She had a statue of a black panther in the front window and an elephant statue elsewhere in her house. She said elephants were lucky. My great-grandparents, James Stewart and Hattie Jane [Rhinehart] Shields lived down the road from Granny. We’d walk the dirt road to visit them, picking blackberries on the way. We knew that meant a pie later that day. Granny was a beautician so she would often brush and pin curl our hair. She made the trip to our house in Atlanta as well. I mostly remember her visiting at Christmas time. She probably arrived on Christmas Eve because I remember her spending the night. She’d bring a cake. On Christmas morning, Mama and Granny would always cook a big breakfast and boy did they take their sweet time. Mama later told me they did that on purpose to drag things out. After we finished eating, my siblings and I headed to the living room where we hovered around the Christmas tree anxiously waiting to open our gifts. We weren’t allowed to open the gifts until the kitchen was clean. And again, Mama and Granny took their sweet time doing the dishes. Finally, the dishes would be done and the adults would head to the living room where we all waited. As Granny made her way in, it seems like she would always suddenly have the urge to “move my bowels” and head into the bathroom. Again, she took what seemed like forever in the bathroom. Oh the agony for us poor kids! Her Christmas gift to my three sisters and I would usually be “granny panties.” We’d open them, smile, and pass them over to Mama. During the summer, the grandchildren took turns spending a week at her house. She and I exchanged letters frequently during the 1960s. She still had mine when she died.

Granny didn’t have indoor plumbing in her Tunnel Hill house. She had an outhouse in the backyard instead. I remember one time she came running out of the outhouse pulling her underwear up as she ran. Turns out she had a visitor—a snake! That’s all it took for me. I was afraid of that outhouse from then on. She kept a big pot in the kitchen for us to “take care of business” at night so we didn’t have to go to the outhouse in the dark. Now that I think about it, I hope that’s the only thing she used that pot for! She also had a well in the backyard—the kind that had a bucket on a pulley with a ladle to drink from.

I don’t remember Granny cursing but I do remember her saying “Day Lord” all the time. And she drug it out—Daaaay Looorrrrrrd. I find myself using that expression every now and then (mostly to myself).

On one of her visits to Atlanta, we were in the car with Granny heading somewhere. The song “Just Dropped In” by Kenny Rogers and the First Edition came on the radio. She thought that was the funniest thing when Kenny sang “I just dropped in to see what condition my condition was in.” I don’t know why things like that stay in your head but it’s one of my memories of Granny and I smile thinking about it now.

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