Posts Tagged ‘Miz Florrie’

The Breeler Field Cemetery

December 23, 2013

After taking a photograph of every.single.marker in Solomons Cemetery, we got back in the van and drove further along the lane to find Breeler Field.

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Breeler Field is big, so only a few photos were taken for Reader Maureen, who is researching the Beckett family.

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And because Mama Florrie’s father was a Gant, I took a photo of the only Gant I saw, not knowing if/how this Gant fits into Mama Florrie’s family.

That’s Breeler Field. Easy to find, and full of stories.

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In Search Of Transpine

November 23, 2013

Sugar’s ancestor was Colonel Alexander James Lawton.  He’s found several references to where the Colonel is referred to as “Alex”, like in the papers of Benjamin Spicer Stafford.  Every time we’ve talked about him, we’ve always called him Alexander James.  Like at the family reunions, the organizers divide the attendants up into groups depending what child of Joseph and Sarah Robert Lawton they descend from.  There’s only one other family that descends from Alexander James, and they descend through his youngest child, Edward Payson Lawton.  In the papers of Benjamin Spicer Stafford, he refers to this person as “Ned”.

I love this so much, this finding of these little facts that personalize these long-deceased people.  “Alex”.  “Ned”.  I. Love. This.

There are other references that we’ve found that refer to Transpine Plantation  being part of the larger Mulberry Grove Plantation.  I don’t know why one plantation would be part of another one.

Which brings us back to the enormous oak that we saw.  Live oaks mean something here.  Many times they define an allee, or lane, to a house, like a driveway.  A lone oak?  I don’t know specifically.  But it means that someone was there.  It brings a humanness to the spot.  We’ve seen one other oak that was bigger, and that’s the Angel Oak.

In some of his reference materials, Sugar saw where Alex Lawton had a small house, basically cabin sized, built for his mother Sarah Robert Lawton to live in during her later years, and it was built at Transpine.  The enormous oak we saw was next to a little house, and he wondered if that would be the location of Sarah’s house.

We wiggled all week in anticipation of going back to see the tree up close and to measure the house.

*****

We drove past, and saw yet something else that we had missed in all our previous passes.

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It’s less than 20 feet from the dirt lane.  What is it?

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We wore our rubber boots because we have no idea what we might step into.

 

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This building is all cattywampus. I told him not to go in there because it was going to fall down around his ears. I wouldn’t go in at the same time in case it collapsed. Somebody would need to be able to call 911.

 

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To the right of the door.

 

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To the left of the door. Perhaps this was an old store.

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Okay…
I’m leaning in the door at approximately the same angle as the left wall. This place is scaring the bejesus out of me.

 

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The left side of the building.

 

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Part of the support system holding up the front porch.

We walked along the left side of the building, and Sugar said, “Don’t step on that skull.”  I said “huh”, and looked down and saw that I was indeed stepping on a skull.  Just a skull, no skeleton.

 

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The back wall has completely fallen away from the building. See the sunlight coming THROUGH the building?
My apologies for being to antsy to allow the camera to focus clearly before I made this shot.

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I manned up, and skittered inside the building to get a detail of the wall support.

 

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And when I turned, I saw a chimney suspended in the air.

I skittered back out, and we decide to get back in the van to head toward the enormous live oak.

But first.  The morning sun slants through the trees.  We are facing south, and there’s a half-allee of live oaks on our right.

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Further along this lane is the enormous live oak.  I was still jittery about the ambiance at the old building, and I didn’t have my wits about me to remember to take a photo of the tree with a real-life frame-of-reference, like a person.

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But see that tiny building to the left of the tree? That’s about 22′ wide by 34′ long.
Are you getting a sense of how big this tree is?

 

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This long horizontal branch has broken away from the tree, although it is still attached.

We turn onto the field lane, which is between the house and the field, and stop to have a bite of early lunch.

 

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That mass of greenery is the house.

 

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This is a zoom shot of the previous view. See the walls of the house under all the greenery?

 

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Sugar brought his machete because of all the vines. He’s chopping and whacking a path for us.

 

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Dear God, that’s a widow-maker hanging over his head. I was as jumpy as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs, but he wasn’t worried.

 

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The house is not the right dimensions to be Sarah’s house at Transpine, but perhaps it was here once.  Regardless, Sugar named the live oak “TransOak”.

Then onward past what we believe to be the original location of the house at Mulberry Grove which was burned by Sherman.  There’s a lane which is marked No Trespassing, but the road map shows that it is a public road.

Yes, we did drive along it.  And took photos out the driver’s side window.  Some are zoomy, some are not.

 

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The gate to the driveway to the house.

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Further along the lane, we come to more fields.

 

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Peanuts!  My father used to plant peanuts.

Sugar agreed to go again to the Lawton Cemetery so I could take some photos of headstones to confirm that this was indeed the Lawton Cemetery that Mama Florrie said it was.

And that’s another blog post.  (Spoiler:  she was right.)

 

Of DNA and Such

September 6, 2013

I’ve written about Mama Florrie before.  You can use the search bar thingy in the right-hand sidebar to search for her on the blog, simply by entering “Florrie”, or you can click on her name “Miz Florrie” in the tag cloud. If you don’t have a sidebar, go to the heading “Ruthrawls’s Blog”, and left click on it. That will take you to a new page with the most recent post and a sidebar.

A little bit of back history:  a few years ago, Miz Florrie told me that her father was “kin to the Lawtons”.  Nothing more.  She will not elaborate as to which Lawton is her father’s father.  Does she know, or doesn’t she, and if she knows, why won’t she say?  Is she protecting someone?   I mean, she’s *one hundred years old*, and all those folks are dead.  She won’t tell me, she won’t tell her family.

So her grand-daughter submitted a DNA sample through www.ancestry.com, and she has been matched, 96%, with some white folks.  But her tree doesn’t have a link to white folks, and the white folk’s tree doesn’t have any black folks in it.  Because in genealogy, you have to have proof and documentation.  At least, you should have proof and documentation.  This doesn’t mean that you completely rule out stories told by elderly people, because many times within the story is a grain of truth, if you can find that tiny grain, and you build on it.

Which brings us to African-American genealogy.  It’s complicated.  It’s aggravating.  It’s full of brick walls.  Like breaking through the 1870 brick wall.  1870 was the first time that enslaved people of color were documented on the census.  Well, more correctly, they were documented by name.  In 1850 and 1860, they were documented on a slave schedule by sex and age under the slave owner’s name.

Alexander James Lawton, Sugar’s g-g-grandfather, kept a plantation journal in which he recorded details of plantation life.  His records are exacting.  He records, among myriad other things, the names of the slaves belonging to him and his mother.

His plantation journal is at the Georgia Historical Society in the Sarah Alexander Cunningham collection, MS194.  I was able to make a few photos of the journal before I ran out of time again.

For example, In 1818, he writes:

30 May                 commenced third hoing of cotton.

1 Sept.                  had picked 7009 with field hands –

house neg. 1453

The following negroes had new baskets this

year – in all 14

Old Toney

Jenny

Will

Affee

Ned

Aberdeen

Mariah

Lavinia

Dido

Hannah

Reuben

Charles

Jimmy

Phillis

Later he mentions “Brister” and “Little Toney”.

Then, in 1820:

Planting 1820

This year my mother & myself plant at

plantation as usual

We work in all 21 hands

A. J. Lawton’s hands

Paul       1

Lavinia  1

Will         2

Milly      2

Sam       3

Phillis     3

Charles 4

Juny       6

Peggy    6

Sirah      7

Aberdeen, Dido, Reuben             1. ¾

11. ¾

My Mother’s hands

Brister   ½

Christmas            1

Jack        1

Tony      1

Richd.     1

Ned       1

Jenny    1

Nanny   1

Toney, Lucy        1 ¼

Then, in 1821:

This year my Mother & self plant at plantat-

ion as usual

I work   Will         1

Tom       1

Paul       1

Jimmy   1

Charles 1

Peggy    1

Linah     1

Lavina   1

Milly      1

Phillis     1

Mariah  1

Aberdeen, Dido, Reuben             1 ½

12 ½

Mother works Brister Driver ½

Christmas            1

Jack                        1

Toney                   1

Richard                 1

Ned                       1

Will                         ½

Jenny                    1

Nanny                   1

Old Toney, Lucy, Daniel 1 ½

9 ½

25 Negroes         whole hands      22

Then, in 1825:

Planting acct. for 1825

This year Mother & myself work our hands

at the plantation conjointly as usual

Alex. J. Lawton’s hands are

Jacob

Paul

Will

Sam

Charles

Reuben

Peggy

Linah

Harriet

Lavina

Milly

Phillis

Lavenia

Mariah

Thaddeus, Butler, & Dido

14 ¾

Mother’s hands

Christmas

Jack

Richard

Ned

Will

Toney

Nanny

Lary

Daniel

Harmone

Old Toney

Dick

10 /4

25 ½

I do not count Brister’s work this year –

Mother has many more cattle than I, that cause

more work to be lost out of the field than

mine, & moreover I have ever viewed it unjust

that I should pay for half of his work as a

field hand, when Mother loses nothing by his

attending to my hand with her’s, & I have never

charged her one cent for more than ten years

attention to her business.  I cannot allow it

in future; it is unjust; my family in increasing….

*****

I suppose there were house slaves as well as field slaves, tending to the cooking and cleaning and laundry, among other things.  Now go back and re-read “Our Grandmother”, and see if you get a different mental picture.  I know I do.

One Hundred Years And Counting; Or, Happy Birthday, Mama Florrie!

February 25, 2013

One Hundred Years!

The social event of the year happened on February 1, 2013, at the Bull Durham Building in Estill.

Friends and family from far and near gathered to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Mama Florrie’s birth.

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She makes her way into the building under her own steam with the aid of her walker and her two escorts.

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There were possibly one hundred people there, a guest for every year!  I hardly knew anyone there except for Miz Florrie’s immediate children and neighbors.

It was a great evening of celebration!

Happy birthday, Mama Florrie!

 

 

Miz Florrie’s 99th Birthday, Or In Which I Learn Soul Cooking

February 5, 2012

Miz Florrie’s daughter Rose called me two weeks ago to remind me that her mama’s birthday was on February 2, and that there was a par-tay to be had on Saturday, February 4, 2012, at noon.

The last party that I went to at Miz Florrie’s was back in July, 2011, right before Sugar bought the grooming business and I became sweat equity.  Rose had told me the party was on July 4th, but when we showed up, she said the party had been two days before on July 2.  Something about the 2nd and the 4th of the month gets switcharooed in that family.  But it hardly mattered that we were two days too late, there was still food available.  Most of us probably can’t fathom that kind of cooking on that grand a scale.  At least I know I can’t, but that was before I met Rose.

It gets even more amazing than that.  Rose cooks from scratch. 

So now the stage is set for a birthday extravaganza for Miz Florrie’s 99th.  I had told Rose that I’d be late because I had to work that day until noon, and secretly I knew that there would be food still available.  I was a bit concerned when I got to Miz Florrie’s house, and there was only one car there – Rose’s car.  I thought I’d slipped into a Twilight Zone episode and mixed up the 2nd and the 4th of the month thing.

When I rang the doorbell, Rose called for me to come in and said that they were just talking about me, although my ears had not been burning.  Rose was in the kitchen with Rachel, who once went with Rose’s son Kenny, and Rose said that Kenny letting Rachel go was the biggest mistake he ever made, and when I saw Rachel in action in the kitchen, I knew why.  Also, in the kitchen was teen-aged Eula, who was Rose’s oldest brother’s youngest daughter, plus a girl of about 7 or 8, whose name I have already forgotten. 

I got there about 1:30 PM, and they had been working in the kitchen since 10 AM.  Rose had done cooking and domestic type work for many years, and should actually be retired, but when someone needs for her to help, like eldercare or babysitting, Rose is there.  Rachel has cooked in restaurants and grocery store kitchens, plus catering and domestic work, her whole life, and I watched her open two institutional-sized cans of green beans with a butcher knife.  I am in awe of her skills.  Rachel and Rose are the stuff, and pretty soon Eula and Little Bit will be able to take over in the kitchen.  Rose anticipated that the meal would not be ready before 4 PM, because there was still serious chopping and mixing and preparation to be done.

Miz Florrie was in her bedroom, dressed up in anticipation of the big day of the family coming.  I visited with her a bit, and she said that she’d be out in the living room soon so I went back to the kitchen.  I watched Rachel cut bell peppers into impossible small pieces using only a small knife and no cutting board.  We sat at the table and Rose cut onions for what she called a “vej-a-bull” salad.  On the table, there were several cans of tuna, several bottles of barbeque sauce, a bowl of raw chicken parts, several cans of evaporated milk, a bowl of hard-boiled eggs, and other assorted boxes and bowls, including a box of band-aids. 

Rachel directed Eula on how many cups of milk to make the pudding for an elaborate dish called a “Punch Bowl”, that was actually made in not one, but two – you guessed it – punch bowls, made up of layers of sliced yellow sheet cake (yup, homemade, baked in a catering-style aluminum foil pan), pudding, bananas, strawberries, and whipped topping.  I was beginning to believe that we were going to be eating dessert, a rice dish, and some chicken, when Rachel opened the oven door.

Inside the oven were two more aluminum foil pans covered with aluminum foil.  The one on the top shelf had a picnic ham, garnished with pineapple slices and cherries, and the bottom pan was full of ribs.  The ribs were just that, ribs in the pan covered with aluminum foil, and the juices were cooked out of them, bubbling hot, and Rachel exclaimed that she was not going to pour out the juices, because that would be perfect to take home and make some collard greens, and she worried that she would have to pour them down the drain.  She commanded Rose to hand her some hand towels, and she pulled the pan out of the oven, commanded Rose to close the oven door, and then she maneuvered the pan and poured the juices into the rice pot, then commanded Rose to open the oven door, and slid the pan of ribs back into the oven without losing a drop of juice or a single rib. 

Rose continued to work on her vegetable salad, and then her potato salad, and another rice dish using jasmine rice.  Rachel started another pot cooking with the green beans and some meat for seasoning, and then she made a masterpiece of a macaroni and cheese dish.  She took yet another aluminum foil pan, filled it with cooked macaroni, still steaming hot, sprinkled three packages of shredded cheese over it, poured three or four cans of evaporated milk over that, and poured several beaten eggs over everything, covered it with more aluminum foil, and slid it into the oven, along with another aluminum foil-covered pan filled with chicken parts. 

I was in awe.  I make spaghetti in a small electric cooking pot made by Procter Silex, and pour ready-made Newman’s spaghetti sauce over it and call it done. 

There were still the bottles of barbeque sauce on the table but Rachel wasn’t having it.  She was going to make her own.  I headed to the local store to get mustard, ketchup, and a bag of ice.  When I got back, she mixed the mustard and ketchup and vinegar and a bit of brown sugar, and tasted, and mixed, and added, and mixed, and tasted, until she was satisfied. 

The birthday girl was sitting in the living room, just beaming and enjoying the day.

When Rachel asked Miz Florrie what she was doing, she replied, "just chillin'." Note her rhinestone-embellished rose-colored glasses. The epitome of chill. Also note the inkpen secured in her braid. The woman loves to keep an inkpen handy.

 Those ladies in the kitchen continued working until everything was done, somehow magically all at once.

Barbeque ribs.

Barbeque chicken.

Baked ham.

Hopping John (a great recipe here, although Rachel used some kind of small red pea/bean.)

Jasmine rice with seasonings.

“Vegetable” salad, with macaroni, peppers, onions, tuna, and hard-boiled eggs, and mayo-based dressing.

Baked macaroni and cheese.

Potato salad.

Green beans seasoned with pork.

Punch-bowl dessert.

Sweet tea and lemonade.

Rose works her magic.

Rachel works her magic.

 
And the birthday girl works her magic…
 

A LawtonFest Family Reunion, June 10-11, Part 3

June 22, 2011

Lawton folks. These ladies are reading "Our Family Circle" by Annie Miller, a book long considered as gospel for the Lawton and allied families. Annie Miller compiled this book in the early 1900's. That's right. No computers. I'd imagine that she used those famous index cards for organizing such a huge database. The book is a work of art and a labor of love.

The morning led off with a continental breakfast and a gathering of Lawtons related by blood and marriage.  After introductions, a business meeting, and some discussions, the speaker was introduced.

 
It was none other than Stephen Hoffius, an editor of the book Northern Money, Southern Land, The Lowcountry Plantation Sketches of Chlotilde R. Martin.    He presented an entertaining overview of the book.  One of my favorite quotations about the book is the following: 

“In the 1920s, as poverty and weather ground away at South Carolina’s formerly grand plantations, Sam Stoney of Medway was known to say, ‘Lord, please send us a rich Yankee.’ Chlotilde Martin’s engaging articles provide fascinating insight into an overlooked era of history that largely determined the shape of today’s lowcountry landscape. As a native South Carolinian, I often thank the Lord for the rich Yankees who decided that their adopted land was too beautiful to despoil, and consequently helped launch one of the nation’s most successful conservation movements.”— Dana Beach, executive director, Coastal Conservation League

Afterwards, there was – what else – a book signing and sales of Mr. Hoffius’s latest book, Upheaval in Charleston: Earthquake and Murder on the Eve of Jim Crow.  Sugar had taken his copy of “Northern Money, Southern Land” to be signed, and also bought another two books that he did not have (he’s a collector of sorts). 

More Lawton book collector types

Bookish Sugar waits his turn.

When Sugar finally got his turn in line, he mentioned that his parents met at Colony Gardens in the Beaufort area.  Colony Gardens was mentioned by Hoffius as one of the places that was developed with northern money, and Mr. Hoffius seemed interested to hear more about Sugar’s parents.  Nice touch, Mr. Hoffius, connecting with your peeps.

Then, yay, it was time for lunch, and we all determined to meet after lunch at the Estill Museum, and then to sojourn to the Lawtonville Cemetery. 

Our charming hostess, Mrs. DeLoach. She loves this town so much, she came to work on her day off just for us Lawton-lovers.

“I’m Mrs. DeLoach.  We’re delighted to have you here.”  The Estill Museum is the tiniest little building.  To get to the second floor you have to go outside and up the stairway. 

Here’s some photos of some random Estill stuff that is in the museum.  You can left-click on any photo to enlarge it once, then left-click on it again to enlarge it yet again.

Estill Stuff

In the 1930’s, twenty mule teams and their drivers pose at the Van Peeples farm located at Solomons Crossroads. Photo courtesy of LaClaire Laffitte.

Lots of the photos were in those shiny acrylic frames so you’ll see some weird other-worldly reflections on the photos. 

A copy of the plat of the town of Estill, SC.

A corn grinder.

This photo was taken through the glass case so you get extra-special reflection. You're welcome.

Cotton hook thingies. Looks dangerous to me.

Estill office equipment. I think I learned to type on a typewriter like this.

And if the office equipment weren't excitement enough, here's a photo of a service station in Garnett.

Then we headed up the outside stairway to the second floor.  Thank goodness for air-conditioning because by this time it’s prime-time for scorching Southern heat.

Love me some quilts.

Closer examination of the quilt and its accompanying booklet shows an interesting twist of coincidence and time.  This quilt is over fifty years old, and it is from the St. John’s Methodist Church in Garnett.  That’s the church that Sir Richard of Garnett goes to when it’s open for services on the 2nd and 4th Sunday of the month.  We went to that church one Sunday when he played his guitar and sang for the church service. 

*****

THE ST. JOHN’S UNITED METHODIST CHURCH QUILT

CIRCA 1949

THE ST. JOHN’S UMC QUILT DISPLAYED HERE WAS FOUND IN A SUNDAY SCHOOL ROOM AT ST. JOHN’S BY CECILIA B. MCKENZIE IN JANUARY, 2010.

BASED ON INFORMATION STATED BELOW, IT IS ASSUMED THAT THE ST. JOHN’S QUILT WAS A FUND-RAISING PROJECT FOR ST. JOHN’S.  THE GREAT MAJORITY OF NAMES WERE MEMBERS OF ST. JOHN’S OR HAD CONNECTIONS WITH ST. JOHN’S MEMBERS.  SOME PERSONS LISTED WERE MEMBERS OF OTHER COMMUNITY CHURCHES AND CHURCHES OUT OF OUR COUNTY, FOR EXAMPLE, IN NORTH AUGUSTA, SC.

MARY ELEANOR BOWERS STATED THAT SHE QUILTED AND EMBROIDERED ANOTHER QUILT USING THE SAME PATTERN AS THE ST. JOHN’S QUILT AS A FUND-RAISER FOR A LOCAL ORGANIZATION.  THAT QUILT WAS THEN RAFFLED.  PERSONS PAID A CERTAIN AMOUNT TO HAVE NAMES PLACED ON MARY ELEANOR’S ORGANIZATION’S QUILT.

ST. JOHN’S UNITED METHODIST CHURCH HAS LOANED THE ST. JOHN’S QUILT TO THE ESTILL MUSEUM, APRIL, 2010, UNTIL A TIME WHEN REQUESTED BACK.  WE, THE MEMBERS, AND PETER MICHAEL LACK, PRESENT PASTOR, EXPRESS OUR APPRECDIATION FOR ALLOWING OUR QUILT TO BE DISPLAYED IN THE ESTILL MUSEUM.

THE FOLLOWING PAGES LIST THE NAMES APPEARING ON THE ST. JOHN’S QUILT.  VIEWERS ARE URGED TO PROVIDE ANY INFORMATION RE:  THIS QUILT AND TO ADDRESS ANY CORRECTIONS IN SPELLING OF NAMES OR INFORMATION AS LISTED BELOW TO

DAVID AND CECILIA B. MCKENZIE, MEMBERS

ST. JOHN’S UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

APRIL 22, 2010

*****

And another bizarre twist.  When we moved to SC 10 years ago, we didn’t know anyone.   BabyBoy met some folks in high school, and one friend, Amanda, is the granddaughter of Jean Wiggins Taylor.  We didn’t know any of that connection then, because we lived an hour away.  Ms. Jean’s maiden name is right there on the quilt.  Her mother was Annie Chisholm Wiggins, who lived in the big house across from Sir Richard (I’ve posted photos of that house before), and she knew Miz Florrie, age 98, who still lives in the area. 

The center of the square is Mattye Riley Chisholm and her husband Jesse Chisholm , who was the postmaster back in the day.

As if that wasn’t enough excitement, we still had to tour the cemetery.  I’ve written about the cemetery before in this post.

Last time we were here, the fields around the cemetery were planted in cotton. This time, it's corn.

This group of Lawton folks listen to Mary Eleanor Wiggins Bowers and Lawton O'Cain expound about Lawton history. I'm in the shade, thank you.

Here's Rev. Winborn Asa Lawton. You saw his photograph in the post with the Lawtonville Baptist Church Museum.

Winborn's wife Lucinda.

This is Anna, Winborn and Lucinda's daughter.

This is about the time when I sat down and the fire ants found me.  So that concludes this post for tonight, even though, there’s more Lawton excitement to come.

Happy Mother’s Day, 5/8/2011!

May 8, 2011

Today we went out and about.  We had a super-fun lunch at the Distillery in Savannah, then went to the health food store, then headed out to see Ms. Florrie.  She’s 98 years old!  I made a little video of her for her granddaughter in New York.

Miz Florrie, Age 98!

February 12, 2011

The queen on her throne

 

This shot was taken a few days after her birthday on February 2, 2011.  Sugar and I drove out with a red velvet cake and a birthday card.  The queen was on her throne in the den, the gas wall heater was a blast furnace, and the TV droned out some shiny western program.  She was happy to see us and happy to receive her card.  She directed Harold to put the cake in the kitchen.

We can’t even imagine how much longer she can live at home.  Y’all cross your fingers for luck.

Miz Florrie’s Birthday, February 1, 2009!

September 1, 2010

“Cool Breeze” Miller Speaks Up

August 18, 2010