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This post is not a fond remembrance of my great great grandmother. I can't remember a woman who died 45 years before I was born.


Her grandson, Jo Duffie Williams, was 10 years old when she died. I don't know - and he didn't ever say - if he attended her funeral, held in Sardis, MS.
For years, I wondered where she was buried. Her death certificate gave me the answer, and I created a memorial page for her on Find a Grave.

I made a request for a photo of the stone.

Just a little over two years after I created the memorial, another Find a Grave volunteer got the photo.

Here Lies With Hope in Jesus Christ Her Saviour
Emily Conner Meek Webb

Not only that, but after I thanked him, Larry Hart emailed me all the shots he had taken to get a photo he felt best captured the inscription on the stone which has fallen into the ground after nearly a century. In one of them, you can see that he had to kneel on the grass to get his shots.

He gave me his written permission to use the photos in any way I wished.
The stone is interesting.

The family Bible and her death certificate give Mary Emily Conner's date of birth as 12 Apr 1837. The stone says 1838.

And since her first name isn't on the stone, I wonder if she was called Emily all her life.

This Sentimental Sunday, I am thinking of the great great grandmother I never knew, and a man who knelt patiently in the grass one autumn day to provide her granddaughter a photo of her grave.
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Over at 2338 W Washington Blvd., Margel wrote about the struggle of a widow to get financial support from her deceased husband's estate, finally having to sue.

It's a very interesting post, and according to my own family research, not an uncommon event. There are widows in my family tree who, having been given the family home and land, had no financial means to pay the taxes, hire the farmhands, or whatever was needed. In some cases, after debts had been paid, there was only a pittance in cash left over. Some of those widows applied for their husband's military pensions (as their widows), and then had to fight to get more than a few dollars a year.

Margel listed some of the expenses of the estate, with scans of receipts. One of the expenses she mentioned was for the burial of Thomas Gilshannon - $35 for a shroud, coffin and box.

I noted in a comment that the funeral expenses for Hetty Hill were included the 1897 accounting of the guardian of her brothers as an expense against their deceased mother's estate. (And Margel, I was wrong - $7.50 was half the cost of her coffin. My great granddad - the boys' guardian - paid the other half.)
The psychological specter of Hetty Hill continues to flit in and out of my thoughts.

She was the only daughter of 5 - or perhaps 6 - children my g-g-grandfather, James Littleton Burris had with Martha J F (Vick) Hill between 8 Apr 1869 and 10 Mar 1883.

While he was still married to my g-g-grandmother, Elizabeth Adeline Ashmore.

I wrote about my discovery of granddaddy's other family, our 150 year old Burris family secret, in the fall of 2010.

The whole thing still bugs me.

But Hetty is one of the parts of it that bug me the most.
According to a cemetery book painstakingly researched and published by Lina and CL Boyd, Martha J F Vick Hill is buried beside her youngest son, Charley L Hill, in St Joe Cemetery. Not far from where my dad lives.

The book says there are no dates of birth or death for her from the records of her burial.

And there is no marker. There is a rock deliberately placed in the ground next to Charley's grave.

So in records of the cemetery, Martha's burial is simply noted. That's all.

And I don't care what century it was, or how anyone might have felt about Martha and James screwing around...if you can call evidence of a relationship that lasted at least 14 years (and probably all the way up to her death in 1893) screwing around.

That's just wrong.
But what about Hetty?

Where is she buried?

The 1897 annual estate accounting lists Richard and Charley Hill's half share of Hetty's coffin as $7.50. George W Burris, Sr., the guardian, paid the other half.

That accounting was filed with the Clerk of Court on 28 Jan 1897. So Hetty died before that date.

I don't know if she was married or not at the time of her death. The itemization for the expense simply says, "Coffin for sister (1500) 1/2 of which is $7.50."

According to the 1880 census, Hetty was 5 at the time the census was enumerated. So if she were born in 1875, and died before 28 Jan 1897, she would have been 21 or 22 at the time of her death.

And there is no record that I can find of her burial.

But there are a few more "deliberately placed" rocks in the area of Charley, James (and wives) and Martha Hill's graves.

And all over the cemetery. Every time I walk through there, taking photographs, I have to pause by one and another of a few those rocks that are just out on their own - not close to any family plot.

And I wonder. Is Hetty buried under one of those?
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The back of the photo said 1950 in Florida.

Dad said it was Louisiana.

My dad, and his dad...George Washington Burris, Jr.

And they caught some huge fish...

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In addition to my own family history, I maintain online family trees for three very dear friends.

One of the trees hosted at Rootsweb focuses on descendants of Reddick Massengale, from Nash Co., NC, and Edward Francis Roach, from Fairfax Co., VA.
Naturally I was a bit curious to see that there was a Roach Cemetery in Randolph Co., AR, and wondered if my friend's family had donated the land.

A phone call to a local funeral home in Pocahontas got me the name and phone number of the elderly volunteer caretaker for the cemetery, who was only too happy to tell me all about it.

It was a delightful conversation, and afterward, I sent her a letter with a check for a small donation to the upkeep of the cemetery.

She sent me back copies of the legal deeds to the cemetery, including the original 1868 donation of the land by William and Laurinda (Hubbard) Roach.

It's now a typewritten transcription of the original handwritten deed, compiled by the Randolph County Abstract Co., in Pocahontas, Randolph Co., AR.


Transcription follows...

William F. Roach and wife,
Lorinda Roadh [Roach]
United Baptist Church

DATED April 11, 1868 ; acknowledged
before Nathaniel G Jackson, a Justice of the
Peace, of Randolph County, ArkĀ«
Filed July 1. 1868 M.
Recorded in Book...8 Page...151
That William F, Roach and wife, Lorinda Roach, do by these presents grant, and
convey to "the United Baptist Church of Christ" the following tract of land, to-wit:

2 acres of land in a square beginning 96 poles from the Southeast corner of
Sec. 2, Twp. 20 N.R. 1 West, to a rock on said line, thence 18 poles to 2
rocks, then west 18 poles to a rock, then south 18 poles to a rock on the
section line, then east 18 poles to beginning corner on said land.

To have and to hold the same unto the said United Baptist Church of Christ, with
all appurtenances and privileges thereunto appertaining.

No dower clause.

Duly signed and acknowledged, except dower.


I love the way these old deeds were written - as if the poles would always be used as a measure of distance, and rocks would be there forever.

There is an updated legal description of the deed on file now.

Someday, I'll have to make that road trip for photographs.
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Louise Herrington Burris, on her 70th birthday in 1978
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This one was inspired by my cousin...

Guess who's on the ledge?

George Washington Burris, Jr., in 1954...

My dad, about 1941/42...

Louise Herrington Burris, in 1978...

Louise Burris, and her daughter Jean, on Louise's birthday in 1978...They weren't technically "on the ledge," but they were very close to it...

And could it be? Why yes, I think it is moi, probably about 1974...
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Well, I didn't remember the red corsages...but there they were...

George and Louise Burris, surrounded by all their grandchildren and a great-granddaughter, on their 40th wedding anniversary...

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In May 2008, central Arkansas was hit hard by tornadoes.

I had a daily reminder of them as I took a shortcut to work through a Little Rock neighborhood that was devastated by those storms.

Trees that are easily older than I were ripped out of the ground and tossed into the street, or onto a neighbor's house. The hop-skip-jump pattern of the tornado was easy to detect by the number of homes that have been torn completely down, and new (replacement) homes built on old foundations. Even three months later in August.

There was one house in particular that I was watching. The owners elected to tear down and start from scratch and they chose a new facade for the new home. It was almost complete, and sat on a corner lot right where I stopped each day, waiting for construction traffic to pass.
Back in the olden days when I was in grade school, one of my friends lived in that house. Her family hosted many a sleep-over there and her older brother used to scare the shit out of us when we "camped out" in the backyard. As I watched the rebuilding process, I wondered if her family still lived there. When we were in the third grade, her older brother died of leukemia in his fifth grade year. It was the first time I had known someone my age who had to deal with the death of a sibling. It made me look a little differently at my own sisters.

On a late August day as I made my way to work and approached the corner, I saw an old man getting out of a truck parked in front of the house. He reached into the bed of the truck and awkwardly heaved out what looked like a board wrapped up in some plastic trash bags. It was raining lightly, and he just stood there in the drizzle, looking at the house. The closer I got to the corner and the stop sign, the more familiar he looked.

So I stopped and parked behind his truck.

Telling myself I was going to scare an old man and make a fool of myself, I got out anyway. I stood a respectful distance away from him, and said what I hoped was his name. When I was a kid, we called all adults Mr. or Mrs. Last Name, and I did the same then.

He looked at me. Didn't recognize me. (It had only been 40 years.) I walked a little closer and told him who I was - at least who I was then.

His eyes lit up and he extended his hand to shake mine. He said, "I'd hug you but I'd have to put this down and I don't want it to get wet."

"This" turned out to be a piece of the kitchen doorframe. When I was a kid, just about every one of my friend's houses had the same one. So did mine.

The one where our parents had us stand up with our backs against it while they marked our height with lines - "My god, how you've grown!" - and put our initials and the date on it. My dad used a carpenter's pencil.

He said there was no choice but to tear the house down and start over. But not completely over.

Because the kitchen doorframe - the side where he marked my friend's changing height, as well as the height of the son he buried at age 11 - had survived the tornado.

So we went down the driveway still covered in sand and construction muck into the unfinished garage. He unwrapped the piece of the doorframe and showed it to me. And took me inside to show me where it would be placed by the carpenters that morning.
I got my hug, and left to go to work. But not before I sat in my car for a few moments with tears running down my face, and gave thanks for daddies who cherish the lines on the doorframe.
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When my mother died a few years ago, I inherited a multiple leaf dining table from her. It had been my grandma's table and had been in her dining room as long as I could remember.

Grandma and I had a shared love of plants and gardening. When she died, my mother, my sisters and I, and our cousins gathered at her house to divide up the things that had not already been promised to a specific person. I asked for, and was gladly given, her gardening hand tools. Everyone else looked at me like I had lost what was left of my mind - after all, there were Oriental rugs, solid silver flatware, gold rimmed china, and solid wood pieces of furniture, ornately carved, still up for grabs. Why would I pick a bunch of hand trowels, shears and those weird looking wire hands when I could choose my share of that other stuff? (The wire hands are just neater than snuff - they have a crook at the end of each of them for hanging on your clothesline after you've stretched your wet gloves to dry over their wire fingers.)

My mother took the table, and for several years afterward, she dropped both end leaves, stored the two center leaves, and used the table as a sort of telephone desk in a corner of her dining room. She already had a large table with matching chairs in there.

And now I have the table. In Grandma's house, I remember it always being covered with a tablecloth, and candlebra in the middle of it. Around here, that would last as long as it took for me to leave the room. Four cats would make hash of that. So at my house, the table sits nude in the kitchen, with the end leaves dropped and the center leaves in.

At Grandma's house, you knew you had "arrived," and had stepped over the threshold from child to young adult when you were allowed to eat your meal at the table in the dining room, instead of the kids' table in the kitchen.

I was talking the other night with a woman who knew my mother and was friends with her since they both had been in their early teens. I asked her if she remembered the table. She did.

She said one of the first times she recalled eating at the table was at my mother's 14th birthday dinner in 1951. She was pretty sure Grandma had gotten the table for her brand new dining room in her brand new home in 1949.

Over the years, it has acquired some scars. Some are deeper than others, and I can feel them through the soft cloth I use to apply lemon oil to it every couple of weeks. Grandma probably would wince slightly at some of them, but I think overall, she knew that the journey through life brings with it the scars of experience.

Here in my own kitchen, I sit at the table and contemplate the journey as I suspect my grandmother also did on occasion. There is a feeling of groundedness in that old wood that provides a sense of connection, not only with Grandma, but with an ancient life force and spirit that imparts wisdom along the way.


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Dee Burris Blakley

August 2017

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