Thursday, February 26, 2015


By Esther Eley Jones

When I was growing up in rural West Carroll Parish I knew very little about my family heritage. I knew that I was an Eley and that I had five sisters and two brothers and a mother and father. You see my father was a farmer, and he was busy providing for his family and my mother was a homemaker and she cared for her husband and children. There was very little conversation about family and who your ancestors were and where they originated. My parents were too busy taking care of the day to day necessities to be concerned about ancestors and ancestor hunting. So, I grew up not knowing much about family, our origin, our history or where they originated. Now do not get me wrong, we had family. There was a large family of aunts, uncles, first and second cousins. They were our neighbors, but we did not discuss “who we are and where we came from”. 

As I became older I was curious, “who were my ancestors”. I had very little information to go on. I knew my last name was Eley and I had one grandmother, Granny Eley. Granny died while I was a junior in high school. I knew very little about her because she lived with an aunt, daddy’s sister, and we did not see her very often. Daddy had a favorite aunt who we visited and her name was Aunt Leckie Lee. All I ever knew about Aunt Leckie was she was a very good cook and she had a wonderful swing on her front porch. See we used to visit her a lot when I was growing up in West Carroll Parish. I found out when I was grown the reason for us visiting her as often as we did and the reason she was daddy’s favorite aunt.

Mother was always, as far as I can remember, pleasant around daddy’s family, but I never heard much about her family other than her brother George, and two sisters Mamie and Julia. Uncle George lived with us until he was drafted into the Army. Aunt Mamie and Aunt Julia lived in East Carroll Parish, and we visited them from time to time. While we were visiting Aunt Mamie, Aunt Julia, and her family would come over for a visit too.

Families during my growing up years did not talk about “things” such as who are we, where did we come from? They were busy rearing their children, taking care of family and basic family needs. However, when I became an adult I wanted to know who my family was and where they come from. So I began my journey into who am I and where did I come from. My husband also wanted to know who he was and where he came from so we began our journey together. So I now had a plan. I talked to my oldest sister who was nine years older than me and had some knowledge of the family. She provided me with my Granny Eley’s name and her parent’s names. She also knew they migrated from Alabama to Louisiana. They settled in a small town in Jackson Parish that no longer exists. My sister knew the names of Granny Eley’s siblings which proved to be very beneficial in doing my research. Two children had died along the migration trail and my sister knew their names which was helpful as I did research on this family.

My sister also knew my late grandfather, Jack’s full name and his parents’ names. She told me that he had come from Arkansas. Well, that was the information that I started out with to do research for this family. With this tidbit of genealogy information I began my search to find out about the Eley Clan. I now had a plan and a goal to begin researching this family line. It was not as easy as I thought it would be finding the Eleys. I am not a person who gives up easily so I continued even though it looked like they would never be found. 

My first trip was to the public library genealogy department to search microfilm. That was a fruitless search and discouraging because I did not find anything that trip. However, genealogy research was now a challenge and I would not give up. So I continued my search going through census indexes looking for my surname in Louisiana, then Arkansas, and found one with the given name and surname that matched information that was given to me. Things were really looking up now and I was getting excited. I went to the microfilm and searched the census and found my grandfather on the nineteen hundred census where he was a border and eighteen years old.  This was the only time that I found him on the census.

After finding out “how to research the census” I found out that the 1890 census had been lost in a fire. Well, that hurt! I really needed that census to help in my search because my grandfather was born in 1880. So, what do I do now? There were other ways to find him after all according to the story that I had on him he was a “bounty hunter”. You know every family has a story! I wanted to know about this bounty hunter story, so I searched to find out what that meant. After doing my research I found out that bounty was bounty land that is public land awarded by the federal government to people who served in the military as a reward for service. What a relief that was to know that my grandfather did not hunt people for a bounty.

Now I had something to go on and it was time to start my search for the elusive Eley Clan. My father had one living relative, an aunt.  So I made a trip to visit her and to quiz her on the family and to get any information that she could give me. She only had a tidbit of information and that was that my grandfather had a brother who lived in Richland Parish and his name was Robert Lawrence. After doing my research on Robert Lawrence to my surprise he was the uncle of my grandfather, not his brother. I found Robert on the 1870 census with his brother, sister-in-law and nephew.  This opened the door for me in my research so I could go back further and eventually found Robert with the same brother who was listed on the 1870 census. The names were the same and the ages were approximately ten years younger. Now I was able to use these two names and approximate ages to look further using the 1860 Census. So I went to the Soundex to do a search for these two brothers and parents. I was able to locate them on the on the 1860 census in Drew County Arkansas with a father, Robert Lawrence and other siblings.  After doing a search on the 1850 census I found the father, mother and the oldest son and the oldest daughter living in Drew County Arkansas. I compared the information from the 1860 census with the 1870 census and the brother’s name and it matched so I knew I had the right family line.  However, there were two mysteries that I discovered in doing my research. One mystery was that the mother was listed on the 1850 census but was not listed on the 1860 census. She was not to be found in any records that I searched. So what happened to her? 

I carefully examined the information that I had and my conclusion was that she died in childbirth since there was an infant baby listed on the last census where she was listed. This was a common happening during those times. The other mystery was that I could not find the father listed with the children on the 1880 census or any records.  What happened to him? This was a mystery that would take a few years to solve. I did solve it though. I became a Civil War buff and after going through Civil War records I found the answer to the mystery of what happened to Robert Lawrence Eley my great-great grandfather. I discovered that he enlisted in the Confederate Army at the age of forty-six. He was reported missing 04 October 1862 at the Battle of Corinth in Mississippi. I had mixed emotions over this discovery. I had found the answer, but it was not the answer that I wanted to find. However, this created in me another passion and that was to find out as much as I could about the infantry, the battle and the state in which he served.

This research journey that I have been on has lasted ten years and has taken me through some   successes as well as hitting brick walls along the way. I started this journey with a tidbit of information. There was my one elderly aunt who thought her great uncle was her uncle, my grandfather who was listed on one census record when he was eighteen years old, and I was able to find my ancestors who were some of the early settlers of Drew County Arkansas and who served in the Civil War. I was ready to expand my search to gather more information on this family line. I did this by searching for birth records, death records, cemetery listings, court records, marriage records, church records, newspaper articles, land deeds, and tutorship papers. I found out that the oldest son had petitioned the court in the 1870s for guardianship of his younger siblings. In the tutorship papers were the parent’s names and their deaths so I was able to use this information to verify the information that I had on the family.

In the cemetery listings I found the name of the mother and her maiden name another way of verifying the information. I had a plan. I stayed with the plan and I had goals to accomplish. I was able to accomplish those goals by persevering when the things did not turn out as expected and I took the information that I had and went back over the information to see if I had missed anything.  I would say that I had a successful journey along the way. 

Written by Esther Eley Jones
October 2010

Source References:

1.     1840 U. S. Census, Tippah County, Mississippi; Roll 219; p. 199, Image: 403; line 18, Robert L. Eley household.
2.     1850 U. S. Census, Drew County, Arkansas, Spring Hill Township, Roll M432_26; p. 96A; Image 197: dwelling, 299, family 299, Robert L. Eley household.
3.     1860 U. S. Census, Drew County, Arkansas, Veasey Township, Roll 181; p. 109; Image: 182, dwelling 615, family 209, Robert Eley household.
4.     1870 U. S. Census, Morehouse Parish, Louisiana, Ward 6, Roll 517; p. 256; Image:515, dwelling 39, family 39, Josiah Eley household.
5.     1880  U. S. Census, Morehouse Parish,  Louisiana, Ward 10, RollT9_457; p. 474, Image 0188, dwelling 81, family 81, Joseph Eley household.
6.     1900 U. S. Census Ashley County Arkansas; Roll T623/578; Sheet 10; p. 80, dwelling 199, family 202, Thomas M. Howie household.
7.     Civil War Records 1881-1865; [database on-line], UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2007.
8.     Horn Cemetery Records Rayville, Richland Parish, Louisiana, page 83.
9.     Tutorship Probate Record 472
10.  Richland beacon News 1929 Obituary Robert L. Eley
11.  U. S. General Land Office Records 1860, Document Number: 10914, 10915, 4588; 1857, Document Number 4321; 1859 Document Number 6638.
12.  World War I Draft Registration Card 1917-1918: West Carroll Parish, Louisiana; Roll 1685029.
13.  1930 U. S. Census, West Carroll Parish, Louisiana, Ward 3, Roll 825; p.12B, Image: 882. Lawrence J. Eley household.
14.  Morehouse Parish, Louisiana, Marriage Bond, 1879, no.106 Josiah Eley to Eliza Jane Eley, Fourteenth Judicial District Court. Bastrop.
15.  West Carroll Parish, Louisiana, Marriage License, 1913, no. 68, J. L. Eley to Alice Lee, Clerk of Court, Floyd.
16.  Certificate of Death: Jack L. Eley. Filed 03 Nov 1944. State of Louisiana, Department of Health, Division of Public Statistics, State File No. 5161258. Informant: T. T. Copes [son-in-law of deceased], Oak Grove, Louisiana.

Friday, February 13, 2015

1930 US Federal Census Esters Eley

Esters Eley my father is shown living with Bob E Lee. Bob (Robert Edward) E Lee is the youngest brother of Alice Lee mother of Esters. Great Aunt Leckie is Uncle Bob's wife. She was Leckie Landrum. Willie Lee is the cousin Daddy called "Bill". Ornal is Arnold and Elma was Emma Lee. The spelling variations of of the names including Estus is census enumerator errors. Esters was born   was born in Eros, Jackson Parish, Louisiana 28 June 1908. His father was born in Alabama and his mother was born in Louisiana.

1940 US Federal Census for Esters Eley

Esters Eley World War II Draft Reistration Card

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Farmer Named Esters

Life on the Farm
June 16, 2013

Esters Eley age three
Esters Eley was born in a small rural area on 28 June 1908 in Eros, Jackson Parish, Louisiana to Alice Lee, daughter of William “Willie” Alford Lee and Sophronia Emmer Meadows from Alabama. Who was Esters Eley? He was my father. He was a common, hardworking, farmer. As were all his ancestors before him. Or as some folks would say “they engaged in agriculture.” Whatever you want to call it, Daddy worked hard most of his life, but that’s what most farmers do. Work from sunup to sundown. The work goes on, because the crops won’t wait. Agriculture is raising field crops, poultry, or other livestock, and those were the thing produced on the farm – cotton, corn, and potatoes. There were cows, hogs, and a couple of horses. Then. there was the garden with all the fresh vegetables. Mother took care of the gardening, growing fresh peas, tomatoes, Kentucky Wonder beans, squash, okra, butterbeans, cabbage, and in season turnip greens and collard greens. The garden wasn’t just a small plot of land, it was at least an acre. There were ten people in our family so they planted enough to take care of our family year round.

Daddy taught us kids how to work, and we worked on the farm. We didn’t always like to do the work, but Daddy had a way of persuading us it was for our own good. There was always enough food to can and store for the winter. Daddy raised the meat we ate and cured.

The thing that I remember most about growing up on a farm in West Carroll Parish is that we always had food to eat, clothes to wear, and a place to live. We didn’t do without the basic needs of life, and Daddy and Mother provided that and a home where we felt love and safe.

Another thing that I remember and it really didn’t come to my mind until I have gotten to be older and see how the world has changed, is that Daddy came home in the evening. He was there at night and he stayed with his family. He provided for his family. Family was important to daddy. When he was growing up it wasn’t easy for him. He was the oldest of the six children. Those were hard times for families. West Carroll Parish was a poor area, made up mostly of farmers.

Daddy retired when he about 70 years old. He had worked on the chicken farm since 1965 and retired because of upper respiratory problems.  He lived to be 82 years old. He lived a full productive life. He loved life and loved his family.  He married his sweetheart; they were married 58 years, and raised eight children. All of the children have lived to become “senior adults.”  That is an accomplishment!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Submitted by Kenneth Lee

Kenneth Lee writes the following story. He writes of his memories of his Grandma Leakie Lee and her two sisters-in-law, Dollie Ophelia Lee Edwards and Alice Lee Eley. Grandma Leakie Lee’s husband was Robert Edward “ Bob” Lee, brother of Dollie and Alice. The setting is a rural farm in Oak Grove, West Carroll Parish, Louisiana in the 1950s and early 1960s. Aunt Dollie Edwards lived in Alabama and she would make visits to see family in West Carroll Parish. Aunt Alice would come and visit while Aunt Dollie was  there. 

Robert Edward Lee "Bob" grandfather of Kenneth Lee.
When Aunt Dollie came for a visit, it was usually around cotton-picking time. Uncle Bill worked late in the field to harvest the crops. Aunt Dollie lived over in Alabama, and was a part, as we called them, of the Alabama branch of Lees. Dollie Lee Edwards was Grandpa Lee’s sister. She charmed people with her ease of conversation. Her melodic voice was punctuated with a pause and a smile. Grandpa Lee had lain in the Oak Grove Cemetery several years by the time I remember her visits. When Aunt Dollie came to visit my Grandma Lee, her sister (Aunt Alice Lee Eley) would also come up for a visit. She lived with a daughter near Pioneer, Louisiana. In my mind, Aunt Alice was directly opposite of Aunt Dollie in looks and personality. Aunt Dollie was petite and neatly coiffed with a flower in her hair. Aunt Alice wore a simple housedress, and she pulled her hair up in two braids, which she wrapped around her head. She listened more, but when she spoke, her voice was dry and crackly. She was direct and to the point!

The three women spent afternoons on the front porch. All three women had raised numerous children, and the family tree branches had grown significantly because of those three women. I would walk the short distance from our house to visit. Grandma and Aunt Dollie took the big rocking chairs, and Aunt Alice sat in the swing where she sat crocheting. I usually sat on the steps. Spit! Spit! Spit! Aunt Alice and Grandma Lee took a pinch of snuff, and they interrupted the conversation by spitting into the yard. Aunt Dollie carried most of the conversation anyway. She spoke with a twinkle in her eye. Her head shook slightly which caused her small earrings to dance. Once, Grandma Lee said, “She might tell you anything!” She was telling me to take her conversations with a grain of salt so to speak!

Sometime later, Aunt Alice had a long illness. I visited her once with my parents. I wore a new coat, because it was late in the fall. She said, “That is a handsome coat!” That was the only direct conversation that I remember with her. Children were told to be seen and not heard so adults didn’t usually go out of their way to talk directly to you. She died in the early sixties, and snow fell the day she was buried. Grandma slipped, she told me, to the ground on the snow and sleet. Grandma Lee lived a couple of years beyond that wintry day. Aunt Dollie lived several more years, and was written up in her local town paper about her skills as a mid-wife. She delivered close to a hundred babies (maybe more) in her lifetime.

The visits were rare, but I looked forward to seeing Great Aunt Dollie and Aunt Alice! By the way, Aunt Dollie did talk directly to children.

Speak! Speak! Speak! Talk to your relatives while the fire burns. When the embers go cold, there isn’t another chance to feel the warmth of their voice!

Alma Coon Eley  December 1955

Alma Lavenia Coon was four years and nine months old when her mother became ill, was taken to a hospital, died, and was never seen again by her family.  This story has been repeated in my family for as long as I can remember.  That was the story that my mom remembered being told about her mother, Mary Lavenia Ramsy Coon. Alma Lavenia was my mother. She was born in Brookhaven Pike County Mississippi on 02 March 1916 to Mary Lavenia Ramsy and Clifton Coon.

 Mary Lavenia “Vennie” Ramsy was born in Pricedale, MS in Nov 1876 to Asa and Jane Ramsy. Asa served in the Confederate Army Eighth Mississippi Calvary Co B and the Seventeenth Regiment Mississippi Infantry Co F. Vennie married first W.G. “Joe” Blunt 06 Apr 1893 in Pike County Mississippi. The Blunts were some of the earliest settlers for Pike County Mississippi.

I had very little information to go on in researching this line in my family. With the information that I had, I decided to make a trip to the courthouses in Pike County and Lincoln County Mississippi, the University of Southern Mississippi, and the Archives in Jackson.  I made the trip to the courthouse in McComb, Mississippi, and there I found a marriage bond of Mary Lavenia Ramsy and her first husband W. G. Blunt.  On the marriage bond was her father’s initials and Vennie’s age. Things were really going well in my research of this family, considering that I had such little information to go on when I started my research.

After the trip to the courthouse, it was time to look at the census indexes and soundex for the state of Mississippi.  This search paid off because I found Mary Lavenia on the 1880 census living with her father, mother, and sister in Beat 3 Pike County, Mississippi, and her place of birth as Mississippi.  Vennie was three years old at the time of this census.  On the 1900 census, I found Mary with her first husband and son living in the same area that she was living in 1880.  Mary was twenty three years old, had been married seven years, and  was the mother of three children with only one child still living. I continued my search for information on the Ramsey family line by looking at the 1910 census for Mississippi. I found a Mary L. Coon was thirty-three years old and living in Lincoln County, Mississippi with husband Clifton, stepson, two sons, and two daughters. Two of the sons were the same age. Were they twins? I had never heard mother mention twins in her family. We had two aunts that we visited who lived in Lake Providence East Carroll Parish, Louisiana. She talked of her brothers, but never mentioned twins.

I was having some successes, but more research, and conversation with my oldest sister Ruby, would clear up the information that was a little cloudy for me.  She was ten years older than I was, had knowledge of the family history, and was able to clarify the information I had found on the 1910 census. Clifton was Vennie’s second husband. The daughters and one son on the census were Vennie’s by her first husband, one son was Clifton’s by his first wife, and the other son, the youngest, was Vennie and Clifton’s son. Now that I had that clarified, I was ready to move on.  I set out to find who Clifton’s first wife was, and when he married. I found that information in a compiled list of marriages from the local newspapers for Lincoln County, Mississippi. He married the first time 27 June 1900. I found another record of the marriage in the HUNTING FOR BEARS computer indexed marriage records published by Nicholas Russell Murray for Lincoln County, Mississippi from 1893-1913.  Another record that I found helpful in establishing Clifton Coon and Lavenia Coon as my ancestors was the World War I Draft Registration Card, 1917-1918. Lavenia was listed as his wife on the registration card. Other valuable information on the draft registration card was Clifton’s full name and his birth date. Next, I went to the 1920 census for Lincoln County, Mississippi and looked for Vennie and Clifton. I found them on the census, with all the children who were on the 1910 census, plus four more children, two sons and three daughters. 

My mother, Alma, was the youngest daughter and her brother, George, was the youngest child. Mother was four years and nine months old at the time the 08 Jan 1920 Federal Census was taken for the Ruth Precinct in Lincoln County, Mississippi. All nine children were listed on this census living with her as the head. The census showed that she was married. This is the last census on which Mary Lavenia Ramsy Blunt Coon is enumerated.  Her husband Clifton Coon is enumerated on the 16 Jan 1920 Federal Census for Beat 1 Marion County, Mississippi listed as a boarder and is widowed. I was unable to find Clifton on the 1930 census in Mississippi, but found him on the 1930 census in Oak Grove West Carroll Parish Louisiana with the two youngest children, one stepdaughter, step-son-in-law, and their three children. Living close by them were relatives who apparently migrated from Mississippi when they left and headed west. One of the sons married in West Carroll Parish 27 Sept1930 and on his marriage license it stated that Vennie Coon, his mother, was deceased. My mother, married 29 April 1932, and on her marriage license, it stated that Vennie Coon, her mother, was deceased.

My search for Mary Lavenia Coon ended with the 1920 census. I requested a death certificate from the state of Mississippi and Louisiana, but there is no certificate for her death or record of  death. I have looked in the surrounding counties and states, but there are no records of Mary Lavenia “Vennie” Coon. Vennie’s parents were buried in a family cemetery in Pike County, Mississippi, and there are unmarked graves in the cemetery. Could one possibly be her grave? This I will never know.
 I have hit the ultimate brick wall and have exhausted every resource that is available for that area where my ancestor lived. Maybe one day there will be a story in an old newspaper, a distant relative, or a resource that is hidden somewhere, that will tear down this wall. I will continue my quest for a grandmother that I never knew, the one that became ill, was taken to the hospital, and died to never be seen again by her family. My mother lived with that story her entire life and she died at the age of seventy-eight.

1870 Federal Census Marshall Mississippi
1880 Federal Census Pike County Mississippi
1900 Federal Census Pike County Mississippi
1910 Federal Census Lincoln County Mississippi
1920 Federal Census Lincoln County Mississippi
Marriage Bond Pike County Mississippi #352
U. S Civil War Soldiers’ 1861-1865 film # M232 roll 33
Mississippi Death Index
Louisiana Death Index
Wingo Cemetery Pike County MS Record
U. S. IRS Tax Assessment Lists, 1862-1918 Mississippi District Roll 1
World War I Draft Registration Card 1917-1918 Roll 1685027
Marriage Records #103 & # 232


Esters Eley with His Sisters

Esters b. 28 Jun 1908,  Irma b. 03 Mar 1912, Dolly Ophelia b. 09 Oct 1914
 Ellen  18 May 1916, 'Gladys Inez Eley b. 04 Feb 1922

This photo was taken of Esters Eley and his sisters in Goodwill Community, Pioneer, Louisiana. Esters was about 75 years old. Robert Lawrence Eley, youngest of the siblings, was deceased at this time. Esters was the oldest of the children. Esters was the child of John Houston Edwards and Alice Lee. Esters was five years old when Alice married Jackson Lawrence Eley (Ealy). Esters was born in Eros, Jackson Parish, Louisiana 28 June 1908. Irma was born to John Houston Edwards and Alice Lee. Irma was three years old when Alice married Jack Eley. The two children took up the Eley name when Alice married Jack. 

Emma Meadows Lee and her children, James William "Jim Lee, Dollie Ophelia, Alice , Robert Edward "Bob" Lee. This photo was originally from Timothy Vines given to him by Alma Coon Eley. Location of this photo is unknown; however, most likely on the Lee homeplace in Oak Grove, West Carroll parish, Louisiana. Bob Lee owned land outside of the city limits in Oak Grove, Louisiana. Probably William Alfred was taking the photo since he in't in the picture. James William "Uncle Jim" was born about 1869, Dollie Ophelia "Aunt Dollie" was born about 1879, Robert Edward "Uncle Bob" was born about 1882, and Alice "Granny" was born 9 Nov 1887. All the Lees were born in Alabama.

Alice Lee Eley: A Mystery Woman

Alice Lee mother of Esters Eley
Alice Lee Eley was a mystery woman to me. Who is Alice Lee Eley and why did I think she was a mystery woman?  Alice Lee Eley was my paternal grandmother, my father’s mother. Alice “Granny” as we all called her was a quiet, short, serious person. She was the youngest of the William Alfred “Willie” and Emma Lee children.  Here is the history of the Lee family, and the story of how I became part of this very outstanding name in history.

William Alfred Lee and Emma Meadows married in Tallapoosa County, Alabama, which is located on the southeast border of Alabama close to the territory of Georgia. William and Emma were the parents of nine children with five of them living.  Alice Lee was born to William Alfred Lee and Emma Meadows on 09 November 1887 in Tecumseh, Cherokee County, Alabama. She was the youngest child of William and Emma. William was a farmer and a blacksmith, and Emma was  “a stay at home mom,” or that is what the younger generation in the year 2012 calls it. The Lee family migrated from Cherokee County to Newsite, Tallapoosa County, Alabama sometime before 1880. Wm. A. Lee, Emma, and two children, James W. and Dollie O. Lee are on the 1880 census there in Newsite, Alabama. William was a blacksmith at the time of the census taking. Then, in 1900, the Lee family, William Alfred, Emma A. Lee, Robert, and Alice were living in Channahatchee, Elmore County, Alabama. Alice Lee was twelve years old at the time of the census enumeration date 12 June 1900. Apparently four of the children had died before the 1900 census was enumerated. The family moved several times over the years due to difficult times, and looking for better farmlands. The family left Alabama sometime after 1900 but before 1910, migrated to Police Jury Ward 1, Jackson Louisiana, and settled in Eros, Jackson Parish, Louisiana.

The family had a long journey from Elmore County, Alabama, which is south of Tallapoosa County, to Jackson Parish, Louisiana. On today’s map that would be about 364 miles traveling by vehicle on super highways; however, they were not traveling in vehicles and on super highways. They were traveling by wagons pulled by horses. Poor economic conditions during 1880s and early 1900s most likely were the reason for the Lees’ migration. Living there in Eros, Louisiana were William A. Lee, Emma, and Alice Lee,  age 24 years old, and living in the same household were Robert, Leaky, Emma, Willie, and Mary Lee.  Robert was William and Emma’s youngest son. Living down the road from William’s family was his oldest son James W. Lee, Uncle Jim as the family called him and his wife Nancy or Aunt Nannie, and their eight children. Neighbors living next door to William and Emma were the John H. Edwards family. William and Emma’s oldest daughter married John H. Edwards before they migrated to Louisiana. The Edwards had four children living with them who were listed on the census for that year.

Three years after the Lee family settled in Jackson Parish Louisiana Alice Lee and Jackson Lawrence Eley were married. At the time Alice married, she was living in Oak Grove, West Carroll Parish, Louisiana.  J. L. Eley and Alice Lee were married 26 June 1913 in Floyd, West Carroll Parish, Louisiana. R. E. Lee, or Uncle Bob as I always called him, was Alice’s brother, and guarnteed the security for the marriage license. The Security was where J. L. Eley would owe the Governor one hundred dollars if the marriage did not take place.  I suppose you could say that was an incentive for Jack to marry Alice since one hundred dollars was a large sum of money for that family during that era. However, taking out a security was a law during those times. Alice’s, father and mother were there at the time of the marriage. J. L. or Jack Eley’s parents, Joe and Eliza were deceased.

Jackson “Jack” and Alice had six children, one son and three daughters. My father, Esters was Jack's step-son, was the oldest of the six children. Then there was Irma a step-daughter, Dolly, Ellen, Robert Lawrence, and Gladys.  Jack or Granddaddy Eley died 30 October 1944 in Oak Grove, West Carroll Parish, Louisiana and had lived in that community one year. He lived in a rural area, Pioneer, seven miles northwest of Oak Grove, Louisiana, in Ward 4. He was 62 years old when he died suddenly of angina pectoris or a heart attack. The family was going through an emotional time after the death of Granddaddy. Granny was left alone so the family decided she would live with Aunt Gladys, her youngest daughter, and Uncle Tinker Copes and their three children. This decision was an easy one since Aunt Irma lived in Texas, Aunt Dollie lived in Mississippi, Uncle Lawrence lived in Arkansas, and Esters, my father, had eight children and there was not room for another person in his three-bedroom house.

My father, Earstus (Esters), was the oldest of the six children. Therefore, I was one of several of Granny’s grand children. When I was growing up in West Carroll Parish, Louisiana Granny would come visit us on occasion, about once a year as I recall. She was a short woman, medium built in size, and old for as long as I could remember.  My family lived in Concord Community in West Carroll Parish and she lived in Pioneer, Louisiana with my Aunt Gladys and Uncle Tinker Copes. Granny Eley had a habit that kept us “kids” entertained. She was a snuff dipper and she knew how to spit that snuff. She had mastered that snuff spitting down to an art. She kept her snuff jar tucked away under the mattress for safekeeping, or she thought.

Granny Eley always had to have her large syrup bucket sitting beside her rocking chair for her spit bucket. She could sit in her rocking chair and hit that syrup bucket dead center as she spit her snuff. She always had a good aim and never missed that bucket. We “kids,” (that is what we were called, you would think that we did not have names) would sneak around and watch her. We would peak around the door facing to watch as she rocked in her rocking chair and enjoyed her snuff. We were very good at sneaking around too. She never caught us sneaking and watching.  Keep in mind that we lived in the country and this was entertainment for us, and we enjoyed the entertainment immensely. I was willing to try this new found "treat" so I decided it was time that I sample the snuff. 

One day I got her snuff jar from under the mattress and was going to enjoy me a dip of her snuff as she enjoys it. I got a pinch out of the jar, placed it in my lip like I had seen Granny do many times, and went outside ( I did not want to get caught), to enjoy my first time at snuff dipping. Well, I shall never forget that day for as long as I live. It was nothing like what it was supposed to be from watching Granny enjoy it. I became dizzy headed, almost passed out, was sick to my stomach, and felt like I would die. Nevertheless, I could not tell Mother or Daddy what I had done because of the consequences. Daddy was not a snuff dipper and neither was mother. Mother was the ultimate in cleanness. Therefore, I suffered, and made my sisters promise not to tell on me. However, Mother and Daddy did find out and had a good laugh over my experience and I did not suffer the consequences because I had learned my lesson. As a result, my snuff dipping days were short lived. Granny had mastered that snuff dipping and snuff spitting down to an art and I decided that from that day on Granny was the master of that art and she had rightfully earned it. On each side of Granny's mouth was a permanent stain from her many years of dipping snuff and it running down the side of her mouth. I can only imagine that she started that addiction when she was a young chap. Probably Emma her mamma was a snuff dipper.

Another thing that is etched in my mind is that she would count the biscuits that we ate for breakfast. That was during the era when mothers cooked breakfast for family, family members ate breakfast together, there was order and manners at the meal table, and mealtime was a hallowed time for family, and Fathers's sat at the head of the table. Now Granny would pick one of the eight children to sit beside at the table. Now, the one she sat beside was excited, until she started nagging about the number of biscuits eaten. Mother and Daddy did not care how many biscuits we ate as long as we ate a "good meal."  Mother always cooked an abundance of food to feed the family of ten, and if I remember correctly Granny never offered Mother help in cooking the meals or doing chores around the house. She was there visiting for leisure time, which was her yearly obligation even at Aunt Gladys’ home. 

Granny Eley made her permanent home with Aunt Gladys Copes, her youngest daughter after Granddaddy Eley died. When we made a visit to see Granny my family would get in our old truck, with all eight kids piled in the back, and go visit Granny, Aunt Gladys, Uncle Tinker, and their children. You can only imagine how much fun we “kids” had with a name like “Tinker.” These visits were few due to the hardship on our family. Aunt Gladys and Uncle Tinker never could come visit our family even though it was five in their family.  Now these trips to visit them were quite an adventure! Our hopes were that we would make it there and back without a flat tire, the truck breaking down, or the battery dying. This was during the time period before paved highways or super highways and convenient stores along the way. This was wide-open territory with nothing along the way for miles.  

We traveled from Concord Community to Pioneer on these gravel roads until 1957 when daddy moved his family from West Carroll Parish, Louisiana to Clay Community in Jackson Parish, Louisiana near  where daddy was born to Alice Lee when she was twenty one years old. 

There are memories of family, reunions, trips, good times, and trying times in West Carroll Parish, Louisiana as I grew up there in the quiet country setting among cousins. I long for those times and miss Granny. There were so many untold stories that when she passed those stories all passed with her. 

Alice Lee Eley died 29 January 1960 of kidney cancer. She was 73 years old. She died in Pioneer, Louisiana. Alice was living with her daughter Gladys, son-in-law, Tinker Copes, and their three children at the time of her death.
“Growing Up In the Country in Oak Grove, Louisiana”
Written by Esther Eley Jones

Growing up in a family of ten was a joy and a privilege. Having a family this size each member learned to carry their “load.”The joy came from our family living on a farm in the country and the children were able to play outside. We were able to breathe that fresh country air with no pollution, wade in Tiger Bayou, swing on our homemade swing, play with our corn dolls, and take turns riding our one bicycle, and there was always the game of red rover. Our siblings were our play mates, our next door neighbors were relatives so we were never alone for any length of time. We lived on a farm so we raised our vegetables, farm animals, cows, pigs, and chickens.

The older children did chores around the house, helped milk the cows, feed the hogs, and hoe or chop cotton or pick cotton when the time came. When the corn in the field was ready to pull that was another job to be done. Pulling the ears of corn and throwing it in the wagon! What an unpleasant task that was! The food that was planted and gathered was canned and stored for the winter.  The corn was used for feeding the animals and for making corn meal. When the blackberries were ready in season, the family would go and pick those and most times, there would be a bumper crop. Of course there were the pesky little red bugs better known as chiggers that would we would get on us as we walked through the grass to pick the berries.  We would itch and scratch all night after a day of picking blackberries. Then, there was the fear of a snake slithering nearby that would keep each one of us keeping a watchful eye; however, it was always worth the adventure, especially when Mother would make her special blackberry cobbler and blackberry jam. Mealtime at the Eley house was a solemn and reverent time.

Meals at our house what fond memories! When meal time came the family was summoned to come “eat.” When called to eat we were called one time and came and took our place at the table. The family gathered around the table and ate our meal quietly and orderly. Pass the peas, please! Pass the bread! Daddy did the talking and mother would talk if the opportunity presented itself. The children ate their meal and when finished got up quietly and left the table. Meals were enjoyed to the very last bite! The girls took turns cleaning the kitchen after meals doing one week at a time. This saved a lot of arguing over who will do the dishes and clean the kitchen. Now when it was mine and Jean’s turn we would take a few short cuts by sticking dirty pans in the oven. That worked as long as we did not get caught.  Usually we did though! When caught we were summoned back in to finish the job. Grocery shopping in those days was another serious job. Daddy would drive Mother to the grocery store to buy the staple groceries. For some unknown reason to me, Mother never learned to drive a vehicle. Until we moved from Oak Grove Mother and Daddy did their grocery shopping one time a month. When we lived in Oak Grove, they traveled there to shop and buy just the staple groceries, when we moved to Concord Community it was closer for them to shop at Terry grocery. We lived on a farm so we raised our vegetables, farm animals, cows, pigs, and chickens so only staple foods or an occasional bag of apples or grapes were bought when they shopped for groceries.  Those were hard times for the Eley family of ten, and it was getting more difficult for Daddy to provide for his family on the farm.

Daddy had been farming his whole life and that was all he knew to do; however, he made the decision to move and start logging with Mr. Billy Seamans. By this time Ruby, the oldest child had married Buford Parden and they moved to Beaumont, Texas. Polly married Royal Parden, and then Mary married Larry Klick. Royal, Larry and Buddy were drafted into the Army for their four year term in the service. Jean went to Texas to stay with Ruby and while there she married. So now there are three children left at home, Esther, Kathryn, and Johnny. Royal, Larry, and Buddy thought by them going in Army at the same time they would be sent to the same place; however to their surprise the Army had other plans for them. Royal did his basic training and was sent to Okinawa and Larry did his basic training and was sent to Germany. Each one of them served their term in the service and returned home. Polly and Royal later moved to Buras, Louisiana where Royal worked in the oil fields. The decision to give up farming was a tough decision for Daddy since farming was all he had ever known.  

When I was growing up we had the basic necessities. There was always plenty of food to eat, a place to live, and a way of travel for our family. We grew up taking care of each other, and watching out for the needs of our family. The older girls Ruby and Polly took care of us two younger girls. They would take us to church and make sure that we got on the school bus. They did this until they were married and moved away.

Christmas at our house was a lot of fun. There was always the Christmas parade in Oak Grove and the riders on the float would give bags of fruits and nuts out to all the children attending the parade. When we got up on Christmas morning we knew there would be a pile of fruit and nuts for each of us that Santa had left. Then Christmas dinner was a time of rejoicing. There was always a feast to enjoy on Christmas day. Lots of mother’s homemade pies and cakes, a large pan of dressing with all the trimmings and that special fruit salad that only mother could make.

We somehow got a Sears and Roebuck Catalog. We probably got it in the mail. We would look through that catalog for Christmas toys, clothes and all kinds of stuff. Then we would take the catalog and cut paper dolls out of it, and use the pages to make us cars for our paper dolls. We would also cut the clothes out to dress the paper dolls.   We didn’t get Christmas presents under the tree on Christmas morning, but we spent many enjoyable hours cutting out paper dolls and playing with those. We were thrilled to get that.

Mother smoked Prince Albert tobacco for as long as I can remember. Prince Albert came in a red can. Jean and I would take those cans when Mother finished with them and press the back down and make us a Chevrolet car. We pushed the car around and pretended there were people in it. We spent many hours playing with our Chevrolet cars.
Our dolls were ears of corn. Not just any ear of corn. They were specially picked from the cornfields. The ear of corn had to have either blonde silks for blonde hair or dark brown silk for brown hair. These were our dolls for play. We would brush their hair. The blond silk ears of corn were the young ears of corn before it dried on the stalk, and  the brown silk ears of corn were ears of corn that were dried. After the corn was harvested then we would have to find another doll to play with. Our other dolls were sticks of wood that Daddy had cut to use in the fireplace or the stove in the winter. We would dress (pretend of course) the dolls and play for hours with them. We learned to be creative in our play, and spent a lot of time outside playing. 

Growing up in a large family had its advantages, and most of Daddy’s cousins had large families. We had a lot of relatives who we would visit on Sundays. Daddy was the oldest child in his family. We visited Aunt Gladys Copes, Aunt Ellen Holden, daddy’s two sisters, and Aunt Leckie Lee, Daddy’s aunt, at different times, usually on Sunday afternoons.  When the “Alabama Folks” came to Louisiana all the families would gather for a reunion. What fun those reunions were! Growing up in rural area in a parish that was an agriculture community taught us to enjoy the simple things of life, to appreciate the material things we had, and to cherish our family heritage. Those were happy times. Our family was blessed with good health, eight living children, and our basic needs were met. Mother was always at home with us children. Daddy was out working the fields on the farm and making a living for the family and at night was home with his family.  Our family had little as far as wealth and riches but we had our heritage.

Daddy was the head of our household, and he was honored as head. When Daddy spoke, we listened. Daddy worked and supported our family and mother cooked and clothed us. Mother saved her flour sacks that they bought their flour in and made the girls dresses to wear. We were bought one pair of shoes a year. They would take us to “town” and buy us shoes. We got a pair of shoes whether they fit us or not - we got them. When mother or daddy told us children to do something we did it, and did not ask why we had to do it, argue, or talk back to them. We just did what they told us to do out of respect for them. They were our parents and we respected them. When our parents told us to go outside and play, we were more than happy to go outside. We knew if we did not go out and play there were always chores to do. Therefore, we did not have to be told but once to go play, or we would be put to work doing chores.  When we children went out to play, we played with our brothers and sisters. Then there were the stories of Indians.

Mother used to tell us kids that Indians at one time lived in the area. There was a mound down the road from where we lived on Mr. Lee Landrum’s place. We kids would go on a scavenger hunt for Indian relics, and most of the times would find some. We would find pieces of pottery and arrowheads.

Growing up in a home with five sisters and two brothers, responsibilities were learned.  We always had something to do and someone to play with during your spare time. There was no time to get bored. It was a joy to grow up with a large family and live on a farm.  Those days when family ate meals together, visited family together, shared holidays together, and was there when a family member was sick or a family member passed away have gone forever in the busy lives of families today.  

Family is everything.

Written 2009