Attala County, Mississippi


Excerpts from Our Grandma's Journal

(Mrs. Lottie Gilbert Ward McLellan 1888-1994)


Lottie Gilbert Ward McLellan's Journal

I came into this world on March 23rd 1888. To you I guess that seems a long span, but to me very short. At this time, I am 72 years old. My time is almost over here; soon I will be crossing over to that happy land of somewhere.

I remember some of the boys in the neighborhood coming by to play marbles with Pa, Abbie and the small boys. I was a girl and of course, I mustn't play. Abbie is my half brother, his mother died and my dad married Martha Coleman, our mother. Abbie's mother was Mary Jane Coleman, a first cousin to our mother.

My mother had one sister named Katie Coleman. She married John Wood and she had two boys.

Grandpa's name was Sam Coleman; my mother's mother was Lucretia Coleman. She was young when she died.

Grandpa lived in a house built of logs hewed out flat. The ceiling was so high and there were so many dirtdobbers nest it looked dangerous to lie down. If one fell on you, it would have been like a rock. The rooms were almost as large as a church. Most houses were built of logs in those days.

Grandpa was a very stout and healthy man. He came across the field to our house everyday when the weather was good until about a year before he died, which was in 1905.

Grandpa Coleman, his parents and most of the Coleman connection are buried in the Coleman cemetery, a plot of ground deeded to Attala County by Grandpa for a burial ground.

Grandpa Coleman and Lucretia Coleman (our Grandmother) were first cousins. I've been told he was 40 years old before he married; he lived to be 103 years old. Grandmother died when my mother was just three years old. She had a small boy who ate some berries that looked like white grapes, they killed him. She was so grieved that she ate some too, and they killed her. The berries still grow where they did or they were there a few years ago by the spring where they got their water.

In those days, we walked to school. Our shoes had to be very heavy to go in the cold, snow and mud. My feet would be frostbitten all winter, and itch so bad when they would finally start to warm up.

I remember when there wasn't a house where McAdams now is. A crowd of us children would go down there on Sunday afternoon to get sweet gum from the sweet gum trees, such pretty white gum. I guess there are some of the gum trees still there now. The land is owned by the Gowans now.

Our school was a mile north of there. One teacher…one room…and about 60 children all together. One heater in the middle of the building to heat it with wood…one bucket…one dipper for all to drink from. Worst of all we fetched our water from a branch or from a hole that caught water in it. No wonder people had slow fever in those days and any disease one had the others would catch it. The name of the school was Mill Creek or Clear branch. I love my old schoolmates, and am always glad when I see or hear from any of them. Some of my happiest days and some of the most miserable were at that school.

The Methodist church was just across the woods from our house. We could hear them singing. It sounded so good over those hills. The church is torn down now. Only the roads can still be seen. The old paths the cows made where there was no stock law that goes around the hill is still there. I guess that path is 80 years old. The people just turned them out and let them go until spring. Very little fencing was needed and it was made out of rails. That was all before I was born.

There was some of the finest timber I ever saw on my dad's place. It would have made him rich if he had only known. Very little timber is left anywhere like that now. Some of it was so high; when it was sawed up, it took six yokes of oxen to pull it out. My dad had only one yoke of oxen. The horns were wider than we could reach across. A good yoke of oxen was worth more than two mules.

When we were small children, our mother was often left alone at night. Our father (J. R. Gilbert) was a deputy sheriff and constable and very often he would have to go catch some outlaw.

My dad sometimes brought a prisoner home with him and chained him to the bed till he could get him to jail.

One time just before dark about twenty men rode up to our gate, got down, and Ma fixed supper. They wanted pa to go help them catch Brooks Story.

I've visited in the home of Aunt Lottie Duncan. One summer we went to a protracted meeting all week. I spent one day at Aunt Lucy Carnes and one with cousin Mattie Coleman. I met lots of nice girls and boys that week.

In those days, it was fun to go serenading your neighbors at Christmas. I remember one night a crowd came to our house ringing bells and blowing horns, beating plows or anything to make a noise. I thought my time had come.

The people of McAdams always seemed the nicest in the world and especially those that lived near us. Several lived close. They would take a time about and have a Christmas dinner in each home. We had a good time at each place but the best seemed to be at Grandpa Coleman's. The old men went in and asked an old lady to go to dinner with him. Grandpa was nearly a hundred but he was right in there with the others.

One Christmas morning we kids got up and carried coals of fire on a shovel to light fire crackers with. After we shot them all, we heard something stumbling in the yard. Pa went to the door and hollered "Bring the light here it's the devil out here!" Alice got the lamp, and I went with her. I really thought it was the devil. Mr. Benford Terry and Oliver Dace were out there with false faces and white gowns on. It scared me most to death. We went to their house that day and they shot firecrackers all under our feet and kept us running all day.

My grandpa Gilbert lived in Holmes County Miss. Before my dad was born. The lived near where Mr. Jim Morehead now lives.

The house my dad was born in is still there. Mr. Louis Duncan owns the Gilbert place.

The day they left Holmes County to go to Attala County, it took far into the night. That was the night the stars fell. A Negro boy was driving one wagon. He got under the wagon. The stars kept falling all around them. Even the mules were afraid. Aunt Ann told me about this. She also told me about an earthquake. She said the chairs seemed to be dancing. The dishes on the table were jumping and once she said the sun was eclipsed and it was so dark, the chickens went to roost at noon. They had no newspaper, no radio and didn't know it was coming so naturally they were scared.

Years ago it was customary to cut two trees, saw the logs and give a log rolling. It took lots of food for that. The women would quilt, the men would roll logs all day, then at night they would dance, sometimes all night. They made canes out of hickory timber. Every man had a cane. My mother has cooked lots of dinners for such a crowd, and hardly had to go anywhere to get the things she needed to cook. Most everything was grown on the farm. They would quilt two quilts in one day. People in those days enjoyed life. Not so much to worry about then.

The day I was 14 years old, Miss Lillian Turner invited us, that is Alice and I to a birthday dinner. Miss Lillian and I have the same birthday. I had my first train ride and my first beau that day. I thought I was a grown up young lady.

We were invited to Peaster Neals and Willie Yates wedding, only a home wedding, but the first I ever saw. Uncle Bob Ward bought the Yates place. Some of my happiest times were spent there with the Ward girls. This is where I first met Gus. We were going to a picnic at Pleasant Ridge. We were powdering our faces and we asked him if he wanted some on his face. He said "It might rain and make it run on me". I thought he was real cute.

When I was a girl, I've cooked lots of picnic dinners for the old time singings. The old people were all that could sing. They sounded a few notes, told whether it was short or long meter, no musical instruments. They began to sing. They made the woods ring. It was so beautiful. Later years we would have a young peoples' singing in any home that had an organ to play.

I guess I was kind of a peculiar girl. I always loved elderly ladies. Some of my best friends were elderly ladies. Miss Paige McMillian, Mrs. Joe Greer, Mrs. Hyatt, Mrs. Bailey, Miss Mollie McCrory, and lots of others.

When I was a girl you could buy a good milk cow for six dollars and a fat beef yearling for 50 cents. You could hire a good wage hand for four or five dollars a month and 50 cents a day was the wages for a day hand. I remember when cotton sold for four or five cents a pound. Eggs sold for 5 cents a dozen. Good material for dresses was only six cents. Good wool material was 50 cents a yard.

Another memory that was perhaps the happiest of all was getting to go to Grandpa and Grandma Gilberts. They lived only ten miles away but it took half a day in a wagon to get there. When we started up their land the old people would start out to meet us. No where on earth did I ever feel so happy. Our Aunt and Uncle John Redding lived with them and we frolicked and played upstairs nearly half the night, There were five girls of Aunt Alma's and some small boys.

There were 12 children in grandpa Gilbert's (John W. Gilbert) family. Nine girls and three boys lived to be grown. Many didn't in those days. Grandma Gilbert's maiden name was Lottie Miller. I never knew anything about Grandpa's family. They are all dead now. Most of them are buried in the Mussellwhite Cemetery in Attala County Ms.

One Christmas we had a family reunion at Grandpa Gilbert's. All of the 12 children were there except Aunt Jane and nearly all of the grandchildren were there too. That was the only time I ever saw all of Pa's people at once. Aunt Jane and Uncle John Gilbert lived at Hope Arkansas. Aunt Frances lived at Carrolton, Ms. She married a man named Hody. Mrs Lottie Duncan, Mrs Lucy Crane, Mrs Van Temple, Mrs Lee Miller and Aunt Ann and Aunt Margaret Gilbert. There was Uncle Bill Gilbert too. I think it's so nice for families to have family reunions.

The journal of Lottie Gilbert Ward McLellan (1888-1994), was submitted by Gigi Tanksley, her granddaughter. Lottie McLellan lived to be 106 years of age. She was featured in the January 18, 1993 issue of U.S. News and World Report. She was also recognized on her 100th birthday by the United States Government for the fact that all six of her sons had served in World War II.

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