Vardaman History Project

Personalities and Events to Remember

In the century and more of its existence, Vardaman and the area surrounding it have been the
home of many especially interesting people and also the location of both sad and happy events.

This section will highlight some of these.

▪ Marvin See, Wanderer
▪ Elmer McQuary, A Donkey In The Gym
▪ Brother A.M. Gammill, Tabernacle Builder
▪ Dr. Tilmon Smith, Brickmaker and Physician
▪ Docia Patterson, Tragedy at Reid
▪ Lethal Albert Ellis, Songleader and Composer
▪ Clara Christian, Beloved Teacher
▪ Jim F. Hartley, Beloved Pastor
▪ Mabel Burke Hartley, Beloved Pastor
▪ Robbery of Willie Van Horn, Successful Businessman

▪ Wedding Announcements

There are many more interesting personalities and sad and happy events. Please write about someone or something you think belongs in this section and send it to me. I'll be happy to edit it if needed and post it here if appropriate.
-Jim Young-


Marvin Kelsey See (Nov. 23, 1898 - Jan. 20, 1974)

Marvin See was the son of James Andrew See and Ora Elizabeth Sugg both being born in Calhoun County, MS. Both are buried in Prospect Cemetery. He had an older brother James Luther See who is also buried at Prospect and who served in the US Navy, as did Marvin. They had a younger brother, Prentiss Lagrone See, who died in Hinds County. Prentiss married Ellen Eads Wimbish and he was apparently the only one of those three who had children.

James Edward Clark remembers: "For the ones that did not know him, he was a hitchhiker. He could travel faster than anyone in a car. I am told a man left Houston going to Memphis. He passed Marvin standing on the street in Houston, when he got to Memphis they saw Marvin standing on the side of the street. Marvin got there before he did.

When I was 18 years when we got our crops planted I got my first public job working for Couch and Bailey Lumber Co. in Houston. I had planned to work about two months before we had to go back to the field and school. I was carrying a load of lumber to Calhoun City and had to stop and get gas before I left Houston. Marvin was at the gas station and asked if he could ride with me because I was going west. I let him ride. When we got on the road he told me that someone was going to have a wreck with him in the car and he was going to sue them. I knew I had done wrong at that time. When I got to Pyland I stopped and told him that was as far as I was going for him to get out. He did! I heard Marvin was hurt in service and that is the reason he acted the way he did. I have been told if he was wanting a ride and you were going one way and he wanted to go the other way, he would just change his mind and go your way. Every time I saw Marvin he had a tie on and a hat. He carried what he owned with him I guess in a suitcase. He always had a ukulele with him and asked people to pay him to play and sing. I am not sure if you would call him a hobo or not. I do not know if he had any place to live or not when he was around Vardaman. I was out on the Old See Place between Houston and Vardaman one time. There was an old house there. I went in the old house and there were old checks lying everywhere. They were signed by Marvin. They were on banks out West, from more than one state and bank. I do not remember what states, but thought it very strange for him to have bank accounts all over the country."

In her unpublished memoir, "Memories of Vardaman", Monette Young recalled that in the early 1930's Mrs. Ora See, the mother of Marvin and Prentice See, was living in an apartment in the home of Mrs. Clara Young Crawford Greenslade which was just east of the Bob Young house on Hill Avenue near downtown Vardaman. By this time, Mrs. Greenslade, widow of Bob Crawford who had been murdered at Ellzey, had remarried Mr. Greenslade and they had let out the two east rooms of the house for an apartment.

Monette Morgan Young: "Mrs. See was an unusual woman by many accounts and it was said that she now owned the farm near Midway that had belonged to her husband's parents. Her son Prentiss was an auctioneer and he had married a lovely lady who had attended the famous Juilliard School of Music. We had been told that that Mrs. See had signed Marvin into the Navy just before the U.S. entered WWI when he was 16 and that he had a breakdown while in there. He was smart in some ways but acted strangely in others. Marvin See

In his later years, people believed he had huge amounts of money or property. He hitchhiked all over the United States. One man who let him ride in his truck told some Vardaman person that Marvin had asked to be let off at a certain fine hotel in a certain city and when he went in the staff all bowed and scraped and that he owned the place. It was widely believed he owned others. Once while living there at Aunt Clara's house, after Auntie had died and someone else was living in Auntie's apartment, Marvin got sick. The neighbor in the other apartment reported strange goings on. It was said that no overhead light was allowed in his room. Only a flashlight etc. One afternoon he ran screaming next door to Mrs. Young's house and was saying, 'Miss Sally, they're trying to kill me.' After that episode and when he had been gotten back in the house, his treatment was changed and he was allowed the overhead light. Mrs. See would not have a Vardaman doctor with him. She had Dr. McGahey at Calhoun City.

About 12 years ago I saw in the Memphis Commercial Appeal that a hitchhiker named Marvin See had been killed in West Memphis, Arkansas, trying to cross a street to get in the car he was going to catch a ride in. I often saw him on street corners in Memphis catching his rides. I would speak to him but it seemed to embarrass him. He had three nieces, Prentice's children, to survive him. They never found any property if he had any. Many year ago in his more lucid years people claimed to have seen stacks of savings or war bonds lying about the places he lived in. When asked if that was not dangerous he said he had the numbers written down in his safety deposit box in a Houston, Mississippi, bank. The nieces found only a candy bar wrapper there."

James Robert Fox: "I do believe that Marvin See was possibly related to the Inman's that lived on the County Line Road in some way, since I can remember Daddy picking him up a few times hitch-hiking between the Inman house and Hwy 8 and saying that Marvin was somehow kin to the Inman's. I think Daddy like many others picked him up because they thought he was an oddball that needed help surviving. Later on Daddy quit picking him up for the same reason James Clark related. Most of the folks James Clark and I grew up with would do their best to help anybody who was down on their luck, but once the recipient was found to be non-deserving they could do a good job of ignoring him.

I think most old tales start with a grain of truth, After many retellings the embellishments dim or completely overwhelm the grain of truth. Marvin See's eccentric behavior created a rich environment for such tales to thrive in.

[An example of this is] ... my own personal observation of Marvin in Horn's Grocery Store in Houston in the 50's trying to talk Albert Horn into selling him a brand new pint of peanut butter for a nickel (regular price was probably 50 cents or so) because the lid was slightly dented. I remember that Marvin appeared to think it a perfectly logical transaction, and my thought was that he was essentially trying to gyp Albert out of a jar of peanut butter. The dent was so slight that my family would have bought it for full price without question. Funny thing is, I don't remember whether Albert let him have it for the price or not."

Bill Beckett: "I picked Marvin up at Pittsboro about 1950. I turned east at the intersection of Hwy 32 and 9. For some reason he seemed to threaten to sue me. I also never again picked him up.

This may be true because he was eccentric or it may not be for the same reason. It was rumored that he bought out of date film and did school pictures, mostly small schools that had only a few students. Does anyone know about that.? ...The legends about Marvin were humorous, or sad and often ridiculous, probably, as was said, based on a grain of truth. [I heard] ...that he owned 400 acres on Bear Creek and a chain of motels. All of which proved to be untrue. It would be interesting for someone to get the truth about him."

Mr. See's obituary was printed in the Houston, Mississippi, Times Post, on January 24, 1974. He was buried in the Prospect Methodist Church Cemetery in Chickasaw County.

His obituary and his grave marker indicate that he was a Chief Yeoman in the United States Navy in World War I. In the current Navy grade structure, a Chief Yeoman is an E-7, and E-9 is the highest enlisted grade. Yeoman is the oldest rating in the United States Navy. Yeomen perform administrative and clerical work. They deal with protocol, naval instructions, enlisted evaluations, officer FitReps, visitors, telephone calls and mail. They organize files and operate office equipment and order and distribute supplies. They write and type business and social letters, notices, directives, forms and reports. For Mr. See to have achieved the very significant grade of Chief Yeoman indicates that his Navy perfomance was exemplary.

Mississippi CY US Navy WW I Veteran Marvin See
Fatally Injured

Times Post, Houston, Mississippi

Marvin Kelsey See, who for years could be seen somewhere in this area, almost daily "catching a ride" to various destinations, died at John Gaston Hospital, Memphis, Sunday. He was 75.

According to reports, Mr. See had crossed the bridge leading to West Memphis, Ark., and was on a frontage road when he was hit by a Texas-based truck. It was said that the accident was unavoidable.

He was a native of Calhoun county, and had resided in Houston for the past few years.

He was a familiar sight on the highways and often traveled with his guitar. Marvin See Monument

Funeral services were conducted from the Houston Funeral Home Chapel at 2 pm, Tuesday, Jan. 22, with the Rev. Ira Bright, pastor of Parkway Baptist Church officiating. Interment was in the Prospect Cemetery.

Pallbearers were: Paul Baine, A G Easom, Jr., Billy Wells, Ada Sykes, David Hobbs and Hal Allen.

He leaves three nieces, Mrs. Sara Easom of Sebastopol, Miss., Mrs. Nira Hobbs of Town Creek and Mrs. Peggy Hoffman of Walla Walla, Washington.

Mr. See's photo was posted on and the obituary and grave marker photo were posted on Laura LeCornu Young reposted the obituary information and his photo in the VHP FB Group.

The comments by James Clark, James Robert Fox, and Bill Beckett were contained in James Clark's compilation, "Tick-A-Bend Then Timberville Then Vardaman and East Calhoun County, Mississippi".


Elmer McQuary

Donkey In The Gym
by Dewitt Spencer

When I was growing up we had a delightful and unusual entertainment at the Vardaman basketball games. Mr. Elmer McQuary was a tall raw-boned bachelor from the Wardwell community out south of town who could and would bray like a donkey at our basketball games. I don't remember that he did it at any particular point in the game but it seemed it was always unexpected. We all loved it and were proud of Mr. Elmer's braying. It sounded exactly like a donkey and was so loud it filled every inch of the old gym. I don't remember him doing it in the new gym, that is after 1960, though he may have. The bray was long, drawn out and ended with a snort and the crowd cheered wildly when it came. It was a thing of beauty and we were proud to have it as our own particular "cheer" which we could be confident would not be replicated by our opponents. As I remember it Mr. Elmer mostly brayed during the girls games and at that time the girls had a winning tradition. His nieces Margaret McQuary and Nannie Maud McQuary were good players on the 50's teams.


Brother A.M. Gammill
Builder of Tabernacles

In the Hebrew language, the word "Tabernacle" means dwelling place. On the first day of the first month of the second year after the Israelites fled Egypt, they erected a portable structure built to the specifications that God had given to Moses. This dwelling place for God in their wilderness journey was called the Tabernacle.

Bro AM Gammill

On the Ellzey to Vardaman road heading south just before the road leading west up to the school house on the hill, there was a house sitting in middle of a lot. This was the Bro. Gammill home.

Gammill Revival Monette Morgan Young: "He was a preacher, but he had no churches that I ever knew of. Once in the early 1930s, he held a revival at Prospect Church, east of our old home on the Reid to Houlka road Mother and Daddy went to hear him.

He had two daughters and a son. One daughter was Bera, older than me, and a daughter younger, and a son about my age who was in some of my classes. I don't know where that family was from. Bro. Gammell had a sister who had a responsible job at Whitfield and she had to live there and certain weeks at a time she had a lot of accumulated leave. She came to stay with them then. She attended church and we got to know her.

The daughter Bera and Rodney Inmon were sweethearting in school. Rodney was one of Andrew Inmon's many children. They were planning to marry soon after school was out their graduation year of 1931, but she went to Kentucky for a visit with relatives and kept prolonging the visit. Rodney gave up and quit corresponding with her. He soon had a romance going with a girl in the Derma area. They married but she died within about two years. By that time Bera had been back from Kentucky a long time, and she and Rodney resumed their courtship and soon married."

James Young: "I remember in my young years being told that, for a while, Bro. Gammill could be seen many weekday mornings with a double-bladed axe over his shoulder and carrying a bag of something through town to the highway. There was a bus that ran east and west along the highway and Bro. Gammill would get on it heading east. I was told that he got off somewhere in the Pyland area and went into the woods to work. It was said that he was building a tabernacle. He would get on the west-bound bus later that day and come on back to Vardaman. I don't know where or if the tabernacle was ever finished, but he did create an arena-type area in front of his home and conducted some services there."

Gammill Obit


Dr. Tilmon H. Smith
Brickmaker and Physician

Dr. Tilmon H. Smith was born on July 31, 1883, in Water Valley, Mississippi. In 1886 his father, who was also named Tilmon H. Smith (but is referred to as T.H. Smith here to avoid confusion), moved the family to a farming community in the Skuna River bottom 7 miles from Pittsboro. Then in 1889, they moved again, to Pittsboro where T.H. Smith had been appointed postmaster.

T.H. Smith, had come to Mississippi from Kentucky in the 1840s as a very young man to live with friends of his family. He entered the new University of Mississippi and planned to become a Baptist minister after completing his education. The Civil War, however, interrupted his plans and he enlisted in the Confederate Army. After the surrender of the Confederate forces, he returned to Mississippi and eventually came to Banner in Calhoun County where he met and married Fannie Hawkins in 1869. He and his wife moved to Water Valley where he worked for a while in a butcher shop and meat market since there seemed to be an abundance of Baptist ministers in the area. Before long, he began preaching at various country churches. Three sons, of which Tilmon H. was the third, were born there.

After moving to Pittsboro, Pastor Smith continued to preach at various churches. One of these was in Ellzey Town, as the community of Ellzey was then known. One of the members of his congregation there, Holly Winters, owned a large amount of land in that area and he gave "Parson Smith" a quarter section of this land and the Smith family moved there from Pittsboro. The land was covered with a thick growth of timber which had to be cleared, and they treated it as a family project with everyone, big and small, working. Within a few weeks of the gift they had a small area cleared and a house started.

Since the senior Tilmon Smith was pastoring several churches in the area, the job of clearing the land and building the house fell to a great extent on Mrs. Smith and the children. Pastor Smith was a University graduate, probably the only one within 20 miles. At time pastors were considered to be a man called by God to preach and minister to his people. It was thought that if the Lord called one to preach, He would provide for the preacher and his family. His parishioners felt little or no obligation to pay the preacher. Tilmon Smith, the young son, said that he came to agree with that theory, that "the Lord had provided a way and that was through the sweat and tears of my stout-hearted mother and the labor of her children."

In 1893, realizing the dire need for money for the family, Tilmon and his older (by 18 months) brother Sam began working at his first (and the only one he could find) job at Aldridge's brickyard, a 6-mile walk to and from home every day. Their pay was 40 cents a day, but they were paid in molasses at 50 cents per gallon instead of money. In 1895, Tilmon convinced Sam that they knew enough about making bricks to be able to start their own brickyard, and they did. It was built on their own property and in the first year, 1896, they made 65,000 bricks. That number increased to 165,000 the second year, and to 250,000 in 1898. In building the brickyard kilns, Tilmon had learned how to lay bricks and he began to contract with people in the emerging village of Vardaman to lay bricks for some of the buildings that were being built.
JD Richard Store
In his autobiography, Home to the Flowers, Dr. Smith relates how he contacted to lay a section of bricks in a building in Vardaman and how he worked from 4 AM to 8 PM on that job. He said that when that day was over, there were 7,500 bricks in the wall. He had actually worked two normal days but his employer could not see a fifteen-year-old boy making $18.75 in one day. He admitted that he had made the contract, and he admitted that Tilmon had laid the brick. But he said that no man, and certainly no fifteen-year-old boy was worth that much money for one day's work. Tilmon said the he filed suit and that the court found for him and ordered the man to pay the $18.75. According to Tilmon, the building on which he worked still stands and is the one which later became the J.D. Richards store.

On February 3, 1899, a massive tornado swept through the area west of Vardaman and then continued on its northeast path through the northern part of Ellzey. The Smith home was demolished and the daughter Mary had a broken leg. The Levi Ferguson family, their nearest neighbor, gave them shelter which was badly needed as the weather grew progressively colder. Six days after the tornado, the day that came to be known as the "Cold Thursday" arrived with the temperature plunging to 10 degrees below zero and 8 inches of snow.

The Smith family, with some community help, rebuilt their house but it was never as good as before. Pastor Smith's health began to fail and the family couldn't count on farming their land to support them. The father, T.H. Smith, died on November 19, 1904, and the family moved to Vardaman a few months later.

Brickyard They opened a brickyard at Vardaman managed primarily by Sam Smith and operated by the other brothers including Irvin who had returned from the Spanish-American War. There wasn't enough brick work in Vardaman by that time to support all the family, so Tilmon began work as a traveling brick layer. When that dried up, he and Irvin began working in the Yazoo River bottoms hewing timber and making crossties for the railroads. Tilmon next moved to Okalona to work in the Stone Family saw mill. It was owned by two Stone bothers and their sister. Tilmon and the sister married and they had a daughter, but when the daughter was only 10 months old, Tilmon's wife died.

Tilmon had long been interested in medicine and he enrolled in the fall of 1910 at the Southern Medical School in Meridian. That led to his move to Memphis where he enrolled in the Hospital Medical College (later the University of Tennessee Medical School.) After some ups and downs in his training, he was awarded an MD degree on June 4, 1915. On June 15, 1915, he was back in Mississippi as he had always planned, and began practice in Banner. A year later, he became the County Health Doctor for Calhoun County and moved to Pittsboro. In 1917 he became an Army Medical Officer and, with Governor Bilbo's influence, was stationed in Pittsboro. He was there during the influenza epidemic of 1918 which killed so many.

In 1920 the boll weavil arrived in Calhoun County and decimated the cotton crop. Farmers weren't able to pay anything, including their doctor bills and Tillmon had to look elsewhere for work in his chosen field. After two years working as a coal company doctor in West Virginia he found a better position in a relatively small town in Ohio, New London. He had a rocky start there but before long had a thriving and successful practice and remained there becoming an influential member of the community until his death.

In 1963 at the age of 81 he made a farewell trip back to the places of his youth. He went to Banner, Pittsboro, remarked on the growth of Calhoun City, and headed to Vardaman. He says in his book, "This was the town that I had helped build. Many of the brick I had made and laid sixty-five years ago were still forming the walls of the mercantile buildings of this town. Here was the blood, sweat and tears of my youth. But this was not what I was hunting. We turned north to Ellzey Town, the community of my early youth. Nothing was left of a once thriving community, except the church and adjacent cemetery, which held the remains of my father, mother, and youngest brother. This scene moved me, but the urge to go on was strong, and we turned again to the east. Soon we reached the end of the road."

"I alighted from the car and walked eastward. My steps were sure, for the ground was familiar, and I moved with the instinct of the homing pigeon. I was soon at the site of my mother's old home, and felt a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. The old house was burned, but the stark brick chimneys, built by my own hands, remained as sentinels guarding all that remained of what my memory always recalled as home... I moved forward through the bushes, brambles, and briars into what had been my mother's flower yard. I viewed the Crepe Myrtle bushes, which she had planted, still growing luxuriantly. The pink flowers were in their glory. The Cape Jessmines were green with foliage. I looked along the old brick walks and the borders of jonquils were there with their stems doddling in the breeze. The redbuds which my mother had grubbed from the woods and planted over the yard were a green background for the panorama. The rambling roses were blooming and spraying their sweet fragrance over the countryside. I thought again of my mother, and how her workworn hands had tenderly placed these plants in the ground seventy years ago. I now understood my serenity, being ready to face whatever destiny had decreed for me, for I had for the last time come home to the flowers."

New London Record
New London, Ohio
February 20, 1969

Dr. Tilmon Smith Dies at 86; Practiced Here 45 Years

Dr. Tilmon Smith, 86, of 193 Park Avenue, died last Thursday afternoon [Feb. 13, 1969] at New London Hospital following a brief illness.

Dr. Smith who was on the staff of New London Hospital and Southern Lorain County Hospital in Willington, had practiced medicine in New London for 45 years and was active in his profession until his admission to the hospital a week before his death.

Born in Calhoun County, Mississippi, he was a 1915 graduate of the University of Tennessee Medical School. He had practiced in Mississippi and West Virginia before coming to New London.

The information above is taken from Dr. Smith's autobiography. One tends to wonder if his memory may have exaggerated some of the things he recalls, but this book is a fascinating read and is highly recommended. The obituary was reprinted in James E. Clark's compilation of historical data and photographs from early Vardaman and eastern Calhoun County.

According to a clipping from the Newspaper Enterprise Association, Sandusky, Ohio, dated February 8, 1965, Dr. Smith began his autobiography, Home to the Flowers, in 1964 at the age of 81. He said that for the last 20 years many of his patients had asked, "Why don't you write a book about your many experiences?", and he did just that. The framework of the book and arranging of the material was left to the skill of his nephew, John S. Clark of Taylorsville, Mississippi, who is known throughout the south for writing the thoughts of politicians into speeches. Dr. Smith said that the two and one-half days that he spent telling the events of his life into a dictaphone "were the hardest days of work in my life."


The Death of Docia Patterson from Rabies in 1937
by Dudley Davis (ed. Steve Walls)

My relative James (Sonny) Young recently posted in the Vardaman History Project on Facebook a story written by his mother and my cousin Monette Morgan Young, about Boss, a beloved collie dog who was a member of their family. Part of the story is about how Boss was bitten by mad dogs but never contracted rabies. The story also mentions that "Mrs. Docia Patterson died of rabies" around 1940 "up in Reid."

Docia Patterson was my aunt. After reading the post, I was inspired to share what I remember of the story my mother told me about this incident.

My mother, Rena Hannaford Davis, was grieving over the accidental death of her daughter, our little sister Virginia Ruth Davis, who was only two years old. Aunt Docia had been so good to her after Little Sister's death and they had become such great friends. Mother had mentioned what a loving person Aunt Docia was to her. Aunt Docia was married to Jess Patterson, my father's uncle. They all lived in the area around the stores there in Reid. Uncle Jess was a big hunter and had lots of dogs. Aunt Docia was feeding the dogs in their pen one day and one of them bit her, and it turned out it was rabid.

Mother said it was a long time until Aunt Docia showed any signs of the rabies. Then confusion and severe headaches and other painful things began to show up. During her illness she wanted Mother to spend the nights with her. Because my sister Martha Frances was just a small girl, she would have to spend the nights too. It was feared that because of this, Mother and Martha could have been exposed as well, so it was decided that all three of them would have to take the series of vaccinations to prevent them from contracting rabies. These shots were quite painful.

My Uncle Bud Davis had just graduated from the University of Tennessee Medical School, and was practicing with Dr. Dyer in Houston, Miss. Uncle Shed Davis was finishing hisinternship at the University of Tennessee Medical School. My mother gave them so much credit for her recovery from Little Sister's death, especially Uncle Shed. She had mentioned that they refused to let her die. Mother said that she wanted to die because she felt responsible for Litter Sister's death.

Aunt Docia had to be hospitalized in Houston where she was diagnosed with rabies thanks to Uncle Bud and Uncle Shed. There was no cure and her seizures or fits became so severe you could hear Aunt Docia screaming all over Houston as she was dying. It seems that Aunt Docia's death from rabies was the last one documented in the state of Mississippi. Aunt Docia died a horrible death but through all of this pain, my mother was miraculously able to recover from both of these horrible tragedies.


Lethal Albert Ellis
Songleader and Composer

"Lethal Albert Ellis was a widower, with one son, who he raised by himself with modest means. He remarried late in life. He had three grandchildren, seven great grandchildren, eight great-great. He fought in World War I. Mr. Ellis died in Vardaman, MS."

That short biography in the Hymnary database falls far short of telling the complete story of this man.

James Young: In 1950 I became aware of the beauty of vocal harmony in singing. This happened in the sanctuary of the Vardaman Baptist Church where Mr. Lethal Ellis was conducting a singing school. I had been reluctantly enrolled but soon found it to be fascinating. I can honestly say that this was one of the key learning events of my life even though it lasted only 5 evenings during that hot summer week.

Mr. Lethal Albert Ellis was born in the New Liberty Community on December 19, 1895. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War I as a Carpenter's Mate Second Class. I don't know how he managed to develop his musical talents or what work he did before. But over the next several decades he proved to be a prolific writer of gospel music and a tireless teacher of singing schools.

Ellis Diploma He was affiliated with the Hartford Music Company of Hartford, Arkansas. Between 1920 and 1950 this company was one of the hottest things going in the heartland of published gospel music. It's musical institute trained hundreds of teachers and musicians each year. During the 1930s, the company's songbooks sold up to 100,000 copies annually. At the center of a vast network of music teachers, students, musicians, convention singers, and songwriters, Hartford helped the gospel movement flourish in the south between the world wars.

Mr. Ellis was both a teacher and a songwriter. He taught singing schools and individuals throughout our area. The Blackwood Brothers, it is documented, received part of their early musical training under Lethal Ellis at Chester in Choctaw County. He wrote the words and music to many songs. For example, in August 1931, he obtained the copyright to "Meet God in Secret" (words and music) and "Let the Hallelujahs Roll" (words and music).

The comprehensive online hymn and worship music database,, credits Mr. Ellis with being the author of the text for the following gospel hymns:

Can't you see my Savior there, Face to face with my dear Savior, Go and find a little place in secret, Happy in Jesus on my way, Have you been alone and talked with God, How sweet it is to be with God, I need thee Lord every hour, If I could turn back the pages of time, I'm just a pilgrim amid my sorrows, In the shadow bright there is always light, Jesus saved my soul from death, No painter's brush can trace the blood, O blessed Savior help me live each day, O the soul that is lost in the world tempest, The sweetest place on earth to man, There is a battle in the land, There is a place called heaven, There is work for the Master, There's a beautiful garden filled, There's a God who's standing at heaven's door, There's a happy home in glory for the soul, There's a place I'm told, built of purest gold, There's a place just over yonder, There's a trail of precious scenes, 'Tis sweet to be alone with God, When I was on the downward way, When you arrive inside the gate, You may be the rich ruler of Lazarus of old also shows that his songs are included in these published song books:

Amazing Grace for Singing Schools and Conventions
Divine Echoes
Good News, Our New 1953 Convention Gospel Song Book
Grace and Glory for Singing Schools and Conventions
Heaven's Highway
Songs of Spring Three Hundred Country Chapel Songs and Hymns
Best of All
Chimes of Glory No. 3
Christian Hymnal, a Collection of Hymns and Sacred Songs Suitable for Use in Public Worship
Favorite Songs
Radio and Revival Special for Use in Radio Programs, Revivals, Camp Meetings, Conventions ...
Revival Message
Spiritual Evangel: a Book of Songs with Soul Appeal
Sunday School and Revival Songs No.2
Universal Songs and Hymns, a complete hymnal
Vocal Gems
Waves of Joy
World Wide Church Songs
Ellis Home

Mr. Ellis' home was located as shown on this map. Before the Ellis's moved there, it had been the home of the Henry Daniel family. After the Daniels moved (to the house which is across from the post office now), Mr. and Mrs. Ellis moved in and enlarged it.

Mr. Ellis' first wife was Mable Curtis Brannon, the daughter of Huey and Pernecia Eveline Hardin Brannon Mable Ellisand the granddaughter of Stephen Edward Hardin of Reid. She was born 9 October 1901. Their son Larry Alfred Ellis was born February 20, 1937. Mrs. Mable Ellis died 2 September 1947 and is buried in the New Liberty Baptist Church Cemetery. This photograph of her is on her tombstone.

Lethal and Ruby EllisAround Christmas 1949 Mr. Ellis married Mrs. Ruby Mitchell, a widow. She was the mother of Rebecca Mitchell Neal (wife of Jerry Neal), and Rebecca began school at Vardaman in January 1950. This photograph of Lethal and Ruby Ellis was probably made in 1950.

Lethal Albert Ellis died on May 31, 1965, and is buried in the New Liberty Baptist Church Cemetery, Calhoun County. The inscription on his grave marker includes: "The earthly song is ended and the voice joins the heavenly choir." His foot marker includes: "Miss. CM2 US Navy, WWI"

Lethal and Mable Ellis' son Larry was active in sports at the Vardaman School and remained interested in sports throughout his life. In 1964, I was stationed at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, and Larry, it turned out, was living not far away. We got together one weekend in November 1964 and drove to Knoxville, TN, to attend an Ole Miss - Tennessee football game.

Larry married (1) Betty Sue Hughes from Oldtown in Calhoun County on 1 April 1955. They had two children: Theresa Lynn Ellis, born on 14 October 1956, and Jeffrey S. Ellis, born on 16 November 1958. Larry married (2) Darlene _____ in 1989. He died on May 23, 1990, and is buried in the Monroe Cemetery, Butler County, Ohio.


Clara Christian
Beloved Teacher

This section is still in the process of being added.
If you have any information about Miss Clara and her family,
or any memories of her as a teacher and citizen of Vardaman,
please send them to me at
or post them on the VHP group site on Facebook.

Clara Christian Miss Clara Christian was born May 28, 1895. She was the daughter of Samuel Vasco Christian and Sarah Rebecca Watkins Christian and the granddaughter of John and Sarah Gable Christian.

Samuel Vasco Christian was born in either July 1855 (per 1900 census) or September 1855 (other source) and he died in 1942. He is buried in the New Liberty Cemetery. Rebecca Christian's monument in the New Liberty Cemetery shows a birth date of 1867 and a death date of 1907.

There were three sisters in the family: Clara, Sallie, and Alma.

Sallie Ann was born July 5, 1898 and Alma was born June 8, 1901. Alma married Oron Dewey Spratlin who was born November 5, 1897. Clara, Sallie, and their father lived together in Vardaman on the west side of north Main Street across from the Dee Blue family. In the US Census of 1940, Clara is listed as the head of household with Sallie (sister) and S.V. (father) listed as residing in the household. Clara's age is listed as 40, S.V.'s as 82, and Sallie's as 34. [These ages don't match exactly with the birth dates for them shown in other sources.] Clara's occupation is "teacher" and S.V. is "retired". No occupation is shown for Sallie.

Miss Clara, as she was called, taught the fifth grade at Vardaman school for decades. She was a popular and effective teacher. She also was active with children at the Vardaman First Baptist Church.

Miss Clara died on June 1, 1971, at the age of 76 and is buried in the Hillcrest Cemetery (Vardaman Cemetery).

Miss Sallie died on April 6, 1986 at the age of 87 and is buried next to Clara in the Hillcrest Cemetery.

Miss Sallie Christian

Miss Sallie Ann Christian, 87, died Sunday, April 6, 1986, at Grenada Lake Medical Center in Grenada. She was a homemaker and a resident of Vardaman.

Born July 5, 1898 in Calhoun County, she was the daughter of Vasco Christian and Sarah Rebecca Watkins Christian.

She leaves one sister, Mrs. Alma Spratlin, and a nephew O.D. Spratlin, Jr., both of Grenada.

Funeral services were held April 8 at Vardaman Baptist Church, Rev. Cooper Hartley officiated assisted by Dale Easley. Burial was in Hillcrest Cemetery. Pallbearers were Gary Taylor, Ralph Spratlin, Ray Foshee, Don Sanderson, Bill Blue, and Charles Fred Martin.

Mrs. Alma Christian Spratlin died November 7, 1987 at the age of 86; and Oron Dewey Spratlin died November 17, 1994. They are buried in the Woodlawn Cemetery, Grenada, MS.


Rev. Jim F. Hartley
Beloved Pastor

This section is still in the process of being added.
If you have any additional information about Bro. Hartley and his family,
or any memories of him as he served his ministry in the Vardaman area,
please send them to me at
or post them on the VHP group site on Facebook.

Brother Jim F. Hartley was born in Pontotoc County on September 9, 1890. He said that he answered the call to preach in 1913 following a tornado during which his son Cooper was almost buried under some fallen lumber. He first came to Calhoun County in 1915.

Rev. Hartley was married to Mabel Clara Burke Hartley (1893-1977). They had four sons: Cooper Hartley, Sam Hartley, Mark F. Hartley, and Joe B. Hartley; and one daughter: Mary Evelyn Hartley.

He pastored churches for 59 years, preaching for more than 62 years. Among the churches he pastored in the Vardaman area were Reedy's Chapel and Friendship Baptist Church in Chickasaw County. He was also pastor of churches in Pontotoc and Lee counties as well as other places in Mississippi. He also served in Alabama and preached revivals in Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, Michigan, and Louisiana.

For 20 years he preached over WCPC radio in Houston. He once remarked that in all those years he never asked for donations; and, at his death, he still had two months paid-for broadcasting.

Brother Hartley died at the age of 85 on Wednesday, May 26, 1976 of an apparent heart attack. He ate a good breakfast Wednesday morning, then said that he felt sick. He suddenly slumped over and passed away.

His son, Rev. Cooper Hartley, and his Pastor, Rev. Fred Harley (a grandson), will continue the work.

He had been a Mason for more than 50 years, having been initiated into the Derma Lodge. He received a 50 year pin from the Vardaman Lodge in 1975.

Many times Rev. Hartley remarked, "I have tried to do all the good I could perform and no harm to anyone. Some pastors have had more people and larger congregations but no man has had a better message and a better people".

Bro. and Mrs. Hartley He held the love and respect of everyone who knew him.

His funeral services were held Thursday, May 27, at Friendship Baptist Church. His pastor and grandson Rev. Fred Hartley officiated. He was buried in the Hillcrest Cemetery at Vardaman with Masonic rites held at the graveside. Pallbearers were Jerry Hartley, R.A. Clark, Howard Easley, Oneal Clark, Donald Reedy, and Charles Hester.

Mabel Burke Hartley

Mrs. Mabel Burke Hartley, 84, died Friday, Oct. 28, 1977, at Nautilus Memorial Hospital in Waverly, Tenn.

She was the widow of the late Rev. J.F. Hartley, and had resided at Vardaman almost all of her life. She was a member of Friendship Baptist Church.

Born Mar. 24, 1893 in Pontotoc County, she was the daughter of Samuel and Virginia Weeks Burke.

She leaves a daughter, Miss Mary Evelyn Hartley of Vardaman; four sons, Rev. Cooper Hartley of Grenada, Sam Hartley of Vardaman, Dr. Mark Hartley of Waverly, Tenn., and Joe Hartley of Batesville; one sister, Mrs. Ora Gallop of Columbus; 17 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.

Funeral services were held Sunday afternoon at Friendship Baptist Church. Rev. Fred Hartley, her grandson, officiated. Burial was in Hillcrest Cemetery at Vardaman. Pallbearers were Jerry Hartley, Jerry Berry, Doug Hartley, Bill Phillips, Rainey Little, Richard Hartley, Sam Waller and Jimmy Ellis. Antony Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements.


Robbery of Willie Van Horn
Successful Vardaman Businessman

Willie Van Horn was a successful Vardaman businessman, having owned and operated a service station and automobile dealership there for decades. He was known to be thrifty; and, as in the case of other successful businessmen, rumors occasionally circulated that he kept large sums of cash at his home. These rumors apparently led to the robbery described below in a decision from the Mississippi Supreme Court.

Willie Vanhorn Dealership Doyle Lee Sanders and three others robbed Willie Van Horn and his wife on May 10, 1970. Sanders was indicted, tried and convicted in the Circuit Court of Calhoun County of the crime of armed robbery and was sentenced to serve a term of 25 years in the Mississippi State Penitentiary.

Two court-appointed attorneys, Honorable Charles W. Cook and Honorable Lawrence R. Chandler, represented Sanders at his trial. They represented Sanders well and effectively, but after his conviction and sentence he became dissatisfied with the services of these attorneys and wrote the circuit judge asking that the court remove his court-appointed attorneys. The court honored his request, and Sanders represented himself on his appeal.

A joint indictment had been returned by the grand jury charging Melvin Hunt, Owen Chaney, Doyle Sanders, and Carroll Fleming with armed robbery of Willie Van Horn on May 20, 1970, of the sum of $1700 in cash. A severance was granted and Sanders was tried separately. Melvin Hunt, a co-indictee, was the principal witness against Sanders.

Hunt testified that in the spring of 1970, he Sanders, Chaney, and Fleming gathered at Ann's Cafe on 28th Street in Fort Worth, Texas, to plan the robbery of Willie Van Horn of Vardaman, Mississippi. The plan was for Carroll Fleming to come to Mississippi ahead of the group, and to make preparations for the robbery. Fleming called Hunt in Texas and informed him that everything was set up, and Hunt, Sanders, Sanders' wife, and Chaney left for Mississippi. The car they were traveling in broke down in Tyler, Texas, so they called Fleming in Mississippi and informed him of their problem, and they then returned to Fort Worth, Texas.

Two or three weeks later Fleming returned from Mississippi and met again with Hunt, Sanders and Chaney. The morning after this meeting they again left for Mississippi, this time traveling in two cars. They arrived in Grenada on May 20, 1970, and checked into the Parkview Motel.

They then left for Vardaman, Mississippi, in Fleming's 1958 white Cadillac 4-door sedan. Arriving at the home of Willie Van Horn about 9:30 p.m., Hunt and Chaney went to the front door, while Fleming and Sanders waited in the car with the lights on and the motor running. Fleming was driving and Sanders was riding "shotgun" on the passenger's side of the front seat. When Mrs. Van Horn came to the door, Hunt and Chaney posed as FBI agents, and asked to see Mr. Van Horn. Hunt pulled a snub-nosed pistol on Mrs. Van Horn and tied her up in a bedroom. Hunt pointed the same pistol at Mr. Van Horn and he was tied up in the living room.

Hunt took five billfolds from Van Horn's pants. The billfolds contained a total of $1700 cash. Hunt and Chaney then took Mrs. Van Horn's green Pontiac and left. They drove to the New Liberty community center, where they met Fleming and Sanders. They left the Van Horn Pontiac there, and all returned to the Parkview Motel in Grenada in Fleming's white Cadillac. On the way to Grenada, they divided up the $1700 cash. At the motel, Fleming and Sanders got out and Chaney and Hunt drove on to Texas.

All of the robbers were arrested. Sanders' case was separated from the others and he was tried, convicted, and sentenced. After "firing" his court-appointed attorneys, he represented himself in his subsequent appeals. On May 26, 1975, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed his conviction and sentence.