▪ 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.
Mississippi CY US Navy WW I Veteran Marvin See
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.
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.
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.
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."
Miss Sallie Christian
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.
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, Hymnary.org, 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
Hymnary.org also shows that his songs are included in these published song books:
Amazing Grace for Singing Schools and Conventions
Good News, Our New 1953 Convention Gospel Song Book
Grace and Glory for Singing Schools and Conventions
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
Radio and Revival Special for Use in Radio Programs, Revivals, Camp Meetings, Conventions ...
Spiritual Evangel: a Book of Songs with Soul Appeal
Sunday School and Revival Songs No.2
Universal Songs and Hymns, a complete hymnal
Waves of Joy
World Wide Church Songs
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 and 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.
Around 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
or post them on the VHP group site on Facebook.
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 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.
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 email@example.com
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".
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.
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.
Successful Vardaman Businessman
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.
Miss Sallie Christian