This is what is on my mind…. Get some coffee. This is a long one but one I want to write while I can. In 2020, I had three brain strokes. And I am struggling to get better. I did not anticipate brain damage. But then, I did not anticipate moving to Nice, France, retiring, France, Steve’s death, my resulting depression, a bad orthopedic surgeon, a repair-and-replace orthopedic surgeon, a move to Paris, a pandemic, the death of my rescue cat “Missy”, an MRI, out of pocket expenses with specialists, not being able to walk, the need for another knee replacement on my other knee, and another apartment move in Paris in the middle of a pandemic. Ugh. Is this what Daddy meant when he said, “Rough Seas Make Good Sailors”? That is only a portion of the list causing me stress and anxiety. I am 84. And there is no “home” to go home to. I am there, already. I am trying not to panic. So far, so good.
Since I have been staying inside for lockdowns, I have been doing a lot of thinking. And so, my “walks” are in planning stage. Where? When? I plan to do more research of this area when I feel better about being outside because of the pandemic. And so, even though I feel like I am “home” in this apartment, I have several places I plan to go when it gets warmer. I have now been vaccinated. And, cafes are opening their patios on Wednesday. I need to get outside! And, spring is here and in the air. Leaves are appearing on trees, and different flowers are in the plant shops. And it is light longer during the day. Great! I love spring. Hope and new life are within reach. AND, it is my year – The Chinese Year of the Ox! A good one for me, for sure.
I have thought a lot about my family of late. You know, you only have one family and every family has issues. Mine had a LOT of issues. So……as a result, I have had a LOT of issues. So…..what is my Destiny? I’m living it. I have heard that your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, and your values become your destiny.
As a result of looking at my destiny, I have begun to understand more things. I think that is good. I have done a lot of research about Daddy, Daddy’s mother, and now things have made more sense to me. I was planning to write about my findings, but I am rethinking that. Maybe things are better left unsaid. Maybe. I am still thinking about it. It is a wonderful story of strength, love, and forgiveness. It is a wonderful story of choices and priorities before our time.
My plan was to do a “Once upon a time….”. I wanted to write a novel. But, I doubt I will. And, I would have fun writing it. A little girl. Born to a slave owner in Alabama. Tallulah Dickson. She grew up and moved to Gainesville, Georgia. She met a Gainesville man and married June 1, 1897. She was amazing. One of their sons, my Daddy was an amazing man. And I understand his father now. Even more than people remember. I have discovered it. And it all makes sense to me. I am very happy that I know now. Secrets that adults keep from children. I know the secrets. And, I love them for keeping them from me. I was just one of three – the baby.
Plus, these things don’t mean anything to others. They have their own family secrets. But, somehow, it matters. Daddy did a lot to help entire area, and now it all makes sense to me. I lived it. And I am a dying generation.
So, maybe it needs to be told. Maybe. I need strength and energy to write it. And, I make a lot of mistakes because I write with blurry vision. Brain strokes. So, we’ll see. Maybe, through my eyes…… You see, when you start trying to recreate someone else’s world, you get outside of yourself and see through different eyes. I have always enjoyed doing that. That is why I loved acting so much. And they say “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Well, the brain strokes have not killed me. And, my mind still works. YES!!!
In working with Daddy and his mother, Mary Tallulah Dickson, I recreated her world and childbirth, and five little babies she loved, and how she dealt with those problems in her world at that time in a small town in Georgia. She was born in Alabama. Moved to teach college in Gainesville Georgia. Most of her family of origin lived in Texas at the time of her marriage. The family moved to Texas (Wharton County – in the middle of nowhere – LAMPASAS, TX (near Houston) when she was 10. And at that time, she cooked and cleaned for her father, her stepmother, and three more half-siblings.
ONCE UPON A TIME, there was a little girl born in 1872 in the middle of nowhere, to a young couple in Alabama (Pine Level), on a plantation. The man was good-looking and strong and his new wife was, too. They named her Mary Tallulah. She was their first-born. Her mother died in childbirth when Tallulah was 2 (1874)And, Tallulah cared for her two brothers and her sister a long time because Tallulah was the oldest. It was a lot of work. I need to have more information with names and places but I don’t have them in my head because she had three step-mothers. But, this story is Jesse’s story.
So when she went to teach art at a private girls’ college in another state, she was glad to get away from all of that. Now, you cannot just imagine what it was like without remembering a different world. Things were rough. Life was raw. Indians. Woods. Wars. No television or machines. No cars. How did she learn to paint- watercolor? I don’t know. Why did she apply to that college? I don’t know. Why did they accept her? I don’t know. She was tall. Pretty. Strong-willed. Brown eyes.
She probably “surrendered” about that time. My thoughts on “surrender” – “Surrender is the ultimate sign of strength and the foundation for a spiritual life. Surrendering affirms that we are no longer willing to live in pain. It expresses a deep desire to transcend our struggles and transform our negative emotions. It commands a life beyond our egos, beyond that part of ourselves that is continually reminding us that we are separate, different and alone. Surrendering allows us to return to our true nature and move effortlessly through the cosmic dance called life. It’s a powerful statement that proclaims the perfect order of the universe.–
She fell in love and married a party boy with a good personality. Edgar Herman Jewell. He was the son of a Baptist preacher. He was 20 years older than she was. He was moody. Experimented with the drugs of that day – opium. I don’t know if I have a picture of him. I have a picture I think is him, but I don’t know. She helped ED with a feed store. And, fertilizer store. At a time when women did not work. But, she did. They had five little babies, Two girls and three boys. Ed kept trying to kill himself. Tallulah kept all of it running. And, they bought a big house with a lot of bedrooms and a barn. But, Tallulah was terrified that Ed would kill himself. She even hired people to watch him when he was alone. She really loved her babies. And she loved Ed.
And, one night he succeeded. Ed hung himself in the family barn. Ugh. Oh, the shame of all of it! And one of the babies (a son), found his father hanging in the barn the next morning, July 19, 1909. Talk about trauma. That image living with that picture in your mind forever. My uncle Beamus, Ed’s namesake, did. Uncle Beamus, Ed’s oldest son (age 9, going on 10) nicknamed “Beamus” (Ed, Jr.) found him that morning, hanging in the family barn., Jr. (Uncle Beamus)
Well, what happened after that is a story of survival that is so full of love and strength and giving that I still cry when I think of the beauty and the strength of it. Tallulah was relentless in her love and protection for her five babies. Aunt Mary Tallulah (named after her mother) was the oldest. She was 11 at the time.
After that, someway, Mary Tallulah Dickson Jewell met and married Leonard Cranford Loudermilk.
But somehow, she met and decided to marry Leonard Cranford Loudermilk on July 23, 1914, in Atlanta, at the age of 42. How did she meet him? I don’t know. Tallulah and Leonard got married in Atlanta in front of a Baptist preacher and two witnesses on July 23, 1914, blending two families that had five children each, and went home from Atlanta that day to a group of 10 children (ages 15 – 4), who had all been through their own individual experiences – five who suffered the death of their mother and five who experience the suicide of their father. WOW.
Let’s figure out the various ages of those kids. First, let’s list them: the Jewell kids were Mary (born June 1898), Edgar, Jr. (born August 1899, aka “Beamus”), Jesse (born March 1902) , Furman (born October 1903), and Margaret (born August 1904).
Two of the five Loudermilk kids are listed below. Dennis Loudermilk was the oldest (February 1898 -15 at remarriage). The youngest was Ida Mae Loudermilk, (January 17, 1910 – 4 at remarriage.) Joe and Ruby and Hershel are included elsewhere.
ON the morning of July 19, 1909, that fateful morning when each child’s father was found hanging in the barn, Mary, the oldest, had just turned 11 in June. Beamus was 9 and would be 10 in August, the next month – he is the one who found his father. Jesse (my father) was 7 in March. His younger brother Furman was 5 – he would be 6 in October. Margaret, their baby sister, was 4. She would be 5 in August.
WOW. Talk about a trauma. And, if he were suffering from drugs anyway, imagine the craziness that comes from drugs and alcohol. WOW. I know that crazy from personal experience. In other words, those kids were very young. And, their mother, was 37. The deceased father ED JEWELL was 52. I am not sure what age Leonard was. I think he was close to Tallulah’s age. Maybe a year younger.
Questions? What did she do for money? How did she manage with those 5 little children and the shame of that death? I don’t know. But somehow, she did. And they did. For five years. Who was Leonard? Let’s take a minute to see what we know about Leonard. I have a few photos.
Leonard Cranford Loudermilk was born (October 1875) in Habersham County and grew up and fell in love with a local girl Malala Sisk. He married her at the age of 22. Malala was two years older and beautiful, and I image they were excited and In love because their wedding day was Valentine’s Day 1897 (romantic day).
They moved to Gainesville in Hall County when he got a job, managing a company mill store for two cotton mills in Hall County. And they had five children together. Who were their kids? The oldest was Dennis, (born February 1898). The next was another boy, Joe (born September 1899). The next was another boy Hershel, born March 1902, and then a girl Ruby (born November 1906. And the baby was another girl Ida Mae (born January 1910). The above photo is a photo of Leonard and Malala and their oldest three boys. Malala died on July 28, 1913, from cancer. She was a young 40. At the time of her death, Dennis was 14, Joe was 13, Hershel was 11. Ruby was 6. Ida Mae was 3. Just babies. Left for Leonard to raise alone. From what I think, Leonard was a good man and loved his wife and kids. I believe he missed Malala very much and wanted the best for her kids. How sad.
Within a year, he met a widow – Tallulah Dickson Jewell, with five kids of her own. They decided to marry and blend the two families. Tallulah had a big house with five bedrooms and two baths, so the twelve of them lived there. It was struck by lightning in a tornado in 1936 and burned. All of the children had married by then, except Beamus, who still lived with them. I don’t know what year this photo below was taken, but the kids look young. It is taken on the steps of the big house before the tornado in 1936 destroyed it. I was born in 1937. All of this happened when I was not present. Or even conceived or thought about. Haha. I just took it all for granted when I was young. NOT.
Another timing to note – after Malala’s death, Leonard remarried in one year. (Malala died July 28, 1913 – remarriage was July 23, 1914.) Mary remarried 5 years after Ed’s death (July 19, 1909 – remarriage July 23, 1914). Mary Dickson was 42. Leonard was 39. That fact tells me that they both needed each other, in love or not. So, they contracted to join forces to help all of the children at risk here. WOW. And they did. And they managed to rear them and send 9 of them to college.
Together Tallulah and Leonard were quite a team. Now, if that is not love, I don’t know it. Two adults during pandemics, depressions, and world wars, working together to help families and each other. WOW.
Now. Daddy felt a strong need to help his mother and step-father through hard times. He was quite a son. And this story is full of love and family and amazing strength during a lot of trauma. The true American spirit. It inspires me. I lived it and did not appreciate at the time. I took it for granted. HOW WRONG OF ME.
I apologize for not being clearer about all of this. Family members may be confused. I still have a lot of blurred vision and want to write this with this MAC that keeps jumping around so I make a lot of mistakes. Sorry. But, I am amazed at all of these people who lived this amazing story during wars and hard times. And, each child has a successful story. But, this is Daddy’s story. Here goes.
His name was “Jesse”. I called him “Daddy”. It has been written “It is dangerous to say that one man in less than two decades changed the eating and food purchasing habits of the United States, saved many farmers from bankruptcy, helped found a national industry. Almost any citizen of North Georgia will readily admit that one man was at least the leading instrument, the planner and stimulating agent for this phenomenal development, and that his name was ‘Jesse Dickson Jewell’ ” . A friend said that he was born “before his time”. On the contrary, he was born at the perfect time and was able to help a lot of people.
A moment to recap – He was born in Gainesville, Georgia on March 13, 1902, to Mary Tallulah Dickson Jewell and Edgar Herman Jewell – their third child and second son. He grew up in Gainesville and attended local public schools through high school. His father committed suicide when he was seven (on July 19, 1909), when he was in the second grade. Five years later, when he was in the 7th grade, his mother remarried Leonard Loudermilk, a handsome, young widower with five children of his own. They all lived together in Tallulah’s big house and Leonard helped with the family business (a Feed and Fertilizer Store). Tallulah and Leonard got all of the children (10) to help around the house and also hired a woman to help. I don’t know if she lived there or not. I doubt it.
All of the kids graduated from High School and started or graduated from college. Jesse went for a short time to the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, and also was a Kappa Alpha at Georgia Tech for a period of time. He did not graduate. He went home to help his mother and stepfather run the Feed and Fertilizer Store.
The South was in a depression, and people were struggling. His mother was struggling. And, remember, this was a time when women did not work!! I don’t know when that store opened, but it supplied farmers with feed and fertilizer “ALL YEAR ‘ROUND” for their animals and crops. But the store could not sell any feed or fertilizer when the farmers had no money to buy it. The farmers in the area had hogs, cows, and chickens. Crops were grown to feed the family, not to sell. Some were – cotton, peanuts, tobacco, peaches. But everything was a tough sell. The land was worn out. And, on top of that, a devastating tornado wrecked the town in April 1936.
Jesse was hitting brick walls. Did he give up? NO. With youthful enthusiasm, he started using common sense. If the farmers could not buy the feed or fertilizer because they did not have any money, he had to help them get money so he could help his mother sell feed and fertilizer. How? Pick an animal. He picked chickens (hogs and cows were too big) Help the farmers get chickens to feed and raise. Get baby chickens to farmers. So, he figured out how to get baby chickens to farmers to raise. (Somebody loaned him some money to get some baby chickens to begin this project with a few willing farmers. Did his family do it? I don’t know.) Somehow, he got resources. It was a risk. Did he dare gamble on the farmers helping? YES. He was going to try. What did he have to lose? He had already lost most of everything. He gambled.
He GAVE the desperate farmers some baby chickens and GAVE them feed. Most farmers were scared and unwilling, and landowners objected. EVERYONE WAS SKEPTICAL. A few agreed to go along. Then, he waited while his mother watched him go for it.
When the chickens became “broiler” size (approximately 12 weeks later), he bought them back from the farmers at a market price with cash money. With that money, the farmer paid him back for the baby chickens and feed and still have a profit left. There was a LOT of trust going here. Take note.
People began to have money in their pockets. Shops in town began to thrive. Jesse helped his mother and his step-father. The feed store would survive. The whole area responded. People built hatcheries, more feed stores, and places for processing of the broiler-size chickens for market. The entire southeast of the United States changed. And, from there, Jesse continued to use common sense. It continued to work. And the industry survives today with a highway named after Daddy. There is a lot more to this story, but it is up to others to write it. I will just keep up my friendly banter on Jayspeak in PARIS for a while yet. I am not ready to quit.
After that, I don’t know how he helped Tallulah and Leonard. I just know that he did. We visited them for over an hour EVERY SUNDAY FOR YEARS. He was into sharing. So, I can believe he shared the wealth with them and others we don’t know about. That’s our dining room. Wow.
I saw the love he had for his mother. So for all he did, we can also thank Tallulah Dickson and Leonard Loudermilk, along with a host of others.
Yes, Jesse had problems. I know how Jesse’s story ends. But what he did for the area survives. And it will survive for many years long after our deaths. Yes, the story takes twists and turns. But, all of it is huge and in the history books. Yes, I know the rest of the story, but this is major. Thank you for sharing this time with me. I apologize for any confusion. I am glad I tried.
The picture below was the picture in an ad that Daddy bought and put into the Gainesville High School Class of 1955 yearbook in my graduating class from High School.
Jayspeak and me.