A Florrie Story

The Mystery Lady

Did you ever find someone’s story so fascinating that you are enchanted?  Of course you have.  And my enchantment is Miz Florrie.  I’ve known her for several years, yet I know very little about her.  And what I do know fascinates me.  So maybe I’ll tell a bit of her story and you can understand my fascination…

Florrie & husband George on the front steps

Miz Florrie celebrated her latest birthday on February 2, 2010.  She and her family claim that she is 97.  I judge her perhaps a few years younger, not many, from studying the 1920 census. 

I met Miz Florrie a few years back during a cat spay/neuter extravaganza.  First, we have to step back in time to August of 2005.  The Sugar and I were traveling about the area, doing some genealogy scouting.  He had discovered that one branch of his family, the Law***s, had settled in an area about 20 minutes from where he was currently living.  They had settled there in the late 1700’s, and had large land holdings, plantations if you will, and the amenities necessary to independent living.  This style of independent living meant lots of manpower, and that meant slaves.

So we were tooling around this dusty little village of Garnett.  It was once an important railroad stop, with stores and homes and schools.  Now it’s a sad little speck with an aging post office, a concrete block convenience/liquor store/towing business, some dilapidated houses, and some trailers.  There’s a thriving drug trade and pit-bull breeding/fighting association.  There are no schools, a few churches with bi-monthly services, and no gas stations.  Most of this we did not know.  We were just touristing about, enjoying the August day. 

We had been searching for an old plantation called “The Pineland”.  Mapquest showed the plantation to be on a particular road, which it most definitely was not.  There was hardly anything on that road, except a small church named Mt. Zion.    So we turned down a rutted lane named Chisolm.  There was a collection of 4 or 5 large old homes.  Most appeared to be deserted.  We stopped the car, and I walked up on the porch of one of the houses and peered in the window.  There was furniture inside, but no signs of life, like the owners went off to work one day years ago and never returned.

When I turned and walked off the porch, I saw some old bricks on the ground.  I picked one up to take home, and was standing there studying it, the way the light played off it, the color of it, the weight and heft of it, and I heard voices, and looked up, and saw Sugar by the car talking to a man with 3 dogs and a cat, out for a stroll.  I dropped the brick on the ground, afraid that the man might belong to the brick police, and certainly not wanting to be caught red-handed with a hot property.  It turned out the man was just Richard, a local eccentric and professional alcoholic who was not policing the area for brick theft, but I didn’t know that at the time.  I got in the car quickly anyway, as Sugar continued to chat to the man, and I became more nervous.  I heard a new voice, and saw an odd-looking woman had joined them.  She straddled a bicycle comfortably, even though she looked too heavy to ride, and was even wearing sandals, which didn’t seem to me to be appropriate biking equipment.  I got out of the car, and learned that this was Richard’s wife, Wanda, and there were many things about her which were not appropriate and also eccentric. 

Over time, a relationship developed with this wacky couple, and we would visit them every month to take flea and heartworm prevention for their dogs and cats.  Sometimes we took food for the animals, and as often as not we would take some food for Richard and Wanda, or perhaps take them on business to the county seat.  It’s been an interesting and up-close study in dysfunctional personalities, alcoholism, family dynamics, and poverty, but this story is not about them, but rather how chance meetings lead to worlds we didn’t know about, and ultimately to the subject of my interest, Miz Florrie.

After months of spay/neuter and vaccinations at Richard and Wanda’s, Sugar and I were enjoying the end of the project.  Then…

Sugar called me and told me about someone that Richard and Wanda knew who needed help with lots of cats.  I was pissed.  “Oh, no, no more.  We’re not helping Richard with another hare-brained scheme!”  But it’s an old lady who lives across the tracks.  “Oh, heck, no.  We’re not made of money.  We just can’t do this.  There’s no time, no money.”  But I gave in and went to meet, just for a visit, no more… Miz Florrie.

Miz Florrie is an ancient woman with gently creased, creamy skin.  Her hair is neatly braided into little corn rows, and she often has a Bic pen stuck in her hair, where she has been working on her bills and paperwork and accounting, and she’s tucked the pen into her hair for safekeeping.  She has the most severe case of spinal curvature, to the point where she can see behind her easier than she can see straight ahead.  She lives alone with her son Harold, who has schizophenia, but takes medication to control it.  They have no car and depend on others for help, like the Council on Aging who brings them Meals on Wheels, or the transportation bus to take them to the doctor in another county. 

I had known them for about a year, and was sitting in Miz Florrie’s kitchen talking to her and her daughter Rose, who had come for a visit.  One of my genealogy research interests is the Lawton Family, and I asked them if they knew the Lawtons.  Miz Florrie nodded, and Rose rolled her eyes and said, “Oh yeah, we know the Lawtons.”  Curious to know more (translated for those who don’t know me:  NOSY), I asked who they knew, and Miz Florrie said quietly, “My father was kin to the Lawtons.” 

I’ve never gotten more from her than that except little bits of comments about her father.  I find this so interesting because this is a link between the black and the white families, and she just won’t say who her father’s father was.  It appears that much of her history will die with her.

One day, a few months ago, I took my laptop and my scanner/printer to her house and scanned her old pictures to email to her granddaughter in New York.  As usual during one of my visits, she just bursts out saying, “I just enjoy you so much.”  I’m always surprised by that, and I have always appreciated how much she tolerated my visits, my questions, and my interest in her. 

Pictures of her family follow.  I don’t know what many of them mean.  I’m just the instrument of conveyance.

Florrie Miller, 1980's, during a visit to family in New York.

Florrie Miller and Viola Smith, first cousins. Florrie's mother Alice Eady & Viola's mother Nancy Smith were sisters.

Florrie, Charles, Bill, and Mark Miller.

George Henry Miller, Betty Miller (Frank's wife) & Florrie Miller

George Miller, Charlene McPherson, and Claire McPherson (Ben McPherson Jr.'s wife)

Harold Lee Miller 2008

George Henry Miller Jr. (now deceased), November 1985

Daughter Alice Mae Miller (now deceased) in Brooklyn, NY, 1980

George Henry Miller, Sr.

Lacey Green Booker, George Henry Miller Sr.'s greatniece, 1973

No one knew his name.

Florrie Louise Gant Miller

Bill Miller, Alberta Wilson, Charles Miller, and George Miller, Sr., in Long Island, NY

Miller Family members in Long Island, NY

Miz Florrie's sister Eula Fickling

Photo of James Eady (1880's?) with granddaughter Florrie Louise Gant Miller & her daughter Rose Miller Singleton, 4/3/2010

Photo of James Eady (1880's?) with great-grandchildren Rose & Harold

Amazing chance to capture someone’s personal collections and recollections.

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7 Responses to “A Florrie Story”

  1. Kari Says:

    Thank you for taking the time to compose this post. Did you take the last two pictures?

    Like

    • ruthrawls Says:

      I’ve been working on this post since April! There’s more detail, but I wanted to go ahead and get the story out there. Yes, I took the last two pictures. Harold saw the picture of him and said, “Old. Look. Old.” And he left the room. He was upset at how old he looked in the picture.

      Like

  2. lavernerose Says:

    This was beautifully written and I ( Too) appreciate you….thank you😊

    Like

    • ruthrawls Says:

      You’re welcome! There are some things that will slip away from us forever if we let them, and her story is one of those things.

      Like

  3. Patricia Singleton-Greene Says:

    Ms. Ruth I have never meet you, I am Rose Miller oldest child. My name is Patricia, I just wanted to say thank you for all you have done for my family.

    Liked by 1 person

    • ruthrawls Says:

      Hello Patricia, and welcome to the blog!
      Your grandmother has a remarkable story of patience, tenacity, and plain hard work. To think of all the things that she has seen, and the changes that have happened in the world, staggers the imagination. One of my favorite stories happened when she was about 95. She bundled up and went out to cast her vote for Barack Obama! I asked her later if she ever thought a black man would become president, and she said in that low voice of hers, “Noooo, I nevuh did.”

      Like

  4. Eula Miller Says:

    This was Great ! I enjoyed reading this and discovering how my grand-aunt (Eula )actually looked ! A lot of history !

    Liked by 1 person

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