Interview With Charles McKinley Alexander
Original scanned transcription submitted by his grandsonRicky D. Lindley
In the following, any mention of
Greenbriar refers to a town in Robertson Co., TN. Alexandria
refers to DeKalb Co., TN. Some other places mentioned are in Texas.
Transcribed from conversation recorded at Garland, Texas, December 28,
1978. Participants: Charles McKinley Alexander [CA]; his wife, Grace
Moton Alexander [GA]; his son, Leon Douglas Alexander [LA]; and Leon's
daughter, Judy Alexander Johnson Maples [JM].
The transcription in html format is below. There is also a large 2.8 MB pdf file of the images of the original scan of the interview (25 pages) available for viewing here. Dialup internet users probably shouldn't try it.
Link to the descendants of John N. Alexander and his two wives, Eliza MNU and Catherine Vanatta
CA: ....... the first?
GA: The second. The second batch of kids.
CA: Now you see, that's something I didn't lnow.
JM: I found that out on the census. .......Alexander. Did
you ever hear it? Nathaniel or Nathan? There are two names on here that
could have been your grandpa's daddy, and I don't know which one it is.
One of them is named Thomas and one of them is named Isaac. Have you
ever heard one of those names?
JM: I think it was Thomas.
GA: I do too.
CA: Maybe that's who Thomas is named after. [reference to Tom
Alexander, brother to Charlie]
JM: Might have been.
CA: I know he came from Ireland. A flannel-mouthed Irishman from
Ireland. Just like granny came from Germany.
JM: Where was she born?
CA: At Mahonia Germany. [CA unable to furnish spelling of name of town,
but says it sounds like muh-HONE-un. Could it possibly be Mannheim?]
She was Dutch. She wasn't a German. What they call German Dutch.
JM: Black Dutch.
CA: She was Dutch. Dutch and Irish is our two bloods. That's the reason
I'm so mean to fight is that ___ Irish.
JM: See that? That's your daddy. That's your daddy right there.
CA: John Vanatte? [prounced vuh-NAT-ee -- stressed
syllable rhymes with "hat"] [John Vanatta]
JM: That's him. Your grandfather was a wagonmaker.
CA: He could make anything they told me.
JM: Here he was a cabinet maker. Ten years later he was making cabinets
instead of wagons.
CA: If you'd seen the ___ house that granny lived in when she died,
you'd have swore he could have made anything. Cedar, solid cedar. Wood
about that wide and about that thick, and it was notched at the
corners. And it showed red .......
Some cedar fades out white. And her fence, on the west side of thirteen
acres, was cedar rails. And he made that. Old man Luke Simpson told me
CA: My grandmother was a Vanattee [Vanatta], and she had some folks
when we came
to Texas. We lived on some of her -- anyhow, he was a Legislator of
Tennessee. Hatefulest man I ever met. I was about nine or ten years
old. I recollect her very well. She couldn't talk like we do. Hog,
hog [pronounces first time as "hawg" second time rhymes with
"bog, cog, jog"]. She didn't talk their stuff, you know, from over
yonder. Scott Vanatta was a state legislator. That was her [nephew?] He
was a man of about fifty, owned a nice farm. Cruelest man there ever
was with stock. He had a boy and a girl and his wife, and they had a
nice, fine white house and about eighty or a hundred acres of in
between two mountains like that. And down here a creek went down
GA: That was Tennessee, where he's talking about.
CA: That was her [nephew] bound to be -- that is-- It couldn't have
been her brother. They were too young.
LA: What part of the country was it in?
CA: That was Alexandria.
GA: Alexandria, Tennessee.
That's about as far as I know, for I never heard -- She died in 1906.
And grandpa, it's very little I'll know, although he must to -- They
told me he was in a wheelchair thirteen years after he came out of the
army. A horse broke his leg. He was shot in the heel in the war. But he
was crippled in the -- A horse kicked him. And he set in a wheelchair,
and rolled around and worked at his business, his trade. I never did
see him. It was two years before I was born. And granny, she died in
1906. Burt was a year old. [refers to brother of CA] According to his
papers he was two years old, born in 1904. But he was born in 1905, for
I used to go to her house, about two miles from where we lived,
southwest, around to Granny's old place. And start out fightin
snakes and bulls and goats and everything. We was toting two gallon
buckets of milk and about two pounds of butter. Well, I'd get there for
the most with the butter but the milk was just about half gone when I
GA: He was drinking it on the way.
CA: Her neighbors, if she could contact some of them --
LA: She's got some of them.
CA: Have you got a Compton? Old Jim Compton. But he's been
dead for years. was a rich man.
JM: Overall? An Overall? Last name Overall? (no audible answer) There
was a Quarels.
CA: I forgot one. The man that was on the farm on the west side of her.
I can't think of his name.
LA: What about Quarels?
Qualls. That was Uncle Jim. Has to be 'cause he was an old man when him
and Aunt Liz married. That's Dad's sister, Lissie, and Uncle Jim
Qualls. And they had three boys, God bless their little hearts, I'd
like to kill them again. Uncle Jim was another of the cruel devils. And
him and Dad -- Grandpa -- was on the wrong side in the war. They
couldn't meet and set down and talk like we do. They'd be
each other. The Red Army -- no. it wasn't the Red Army. Hathaway had
the Red Army. There was three bunches. The North and the South, the
Gary and the Blue, and then the Reds. Hatfield [Hathaway?] run the
bushwhackers. And I've seen the man that killed him. And when he
came to town, after he came back out of the war, he painted
boot red so somebody'd say something about it and he'd get to kill him.
That's the way he was. You say something about the reds -- And
Hathaway, he had spies out too, listening to see what you know about
it, you see. But he died out. Old man Columbus Vick was
at Smithville. And Hathaway came to town on one of his big sprees with
his boot painted., And this marshal had a -- been in the war against
him. I've seen old man Columbus, head was just as white as snow, 80 or
90 years old, but he went to arrest him, and when Hathaway went, he
never did get his hand out of his pocket. Old Columbus Vick just filled
him full. Died right there on the floor in a saloon. I've heard him and
Dad talk about it, "That's the man right there, Charlie, that killed
Hathaway. That's him right there." said, "He's a nice man. He's quiet,
nice-spoken." They'd have two groups of fairs there. Just everybody'd
come to Alexandria, gathered on the creek out yonder, and nobody wasn't
allowed a gun, not even the sheriff. The sheriff couldn't carry a gun
without he was going after somebody. But they would fist you and club
you till -- If you was found on the street drunk, you'd had it. And you
caught a woman coming down the street like they do now, she'd had it.
Smoking, if they smoked they smoked a pipe. And everybody brought his
own eats, for you couldn't get nothing in Alexandria. And it was bigger
than Rockwall. You couldn't get nothing till 12, then go over to the
hotel and eat all you could eat 35 cents. Old barn bell, well, I'd slap
it. I was nine years old. Worked down there. I've got a picture of it
in me, and that's the way it is. I've pictured it out. But Bill Alec,
he's been back two or three times. And he says, "It aint like you think
it is." Well he hadn't moved them hills.
LA: Bill who? Which one?
CA: Uncle Mose's Bill.
LA: Oh. OK.
CA: He stays on the road, you know, for a week, and didn't know where
Granny and Grandpa was buried.
JM: Where are they buried?
They're buried about two miles out, west of town. On the old -- one man
owned the road from Smithville to Nashville. John Overall owned the --
LA: You don't know the name of the cemetery, do you?
Simpson. Simpson was on the west. And Luke Simpson. I don't know what
he done but he'd skin your head with a stick. They was just as they are
GA: Did he understand what the name of the cemetery was?
LA: You don't know the name of the cemetery, do you?
No, I don't guess it was named. It was just a hill on the side of the
highway. And the highway had a fence from one end to the other on both
sides. But if you had a home the fence stuck to your property. Your
property was fenced. It was stock laun. Every bit of it. 'Cause Overall
didn't want a bunch of stuff 'cause he had a tollgate on his road every
12 miles. And you paid on that stage. You'd get on at Nashville,
Lebanon, Watertown, Alexandria, Smithville, on into the Smokies. I
know, I've been over the thing afoot. A hundred feet wide. a hundred
feet wide and solid rock. Where it wasn't all rock, they'd beat 'em up
-- mashed them and made it rock. The old 50 cents a day, and Dad
wouldn't work at it. He was a stone mason, built rock fence, chimneys,
flues, and hired Uncle Jim Qualls, Uncle Taylor Blye, and Uncle Jim
Martin. Now he had one brother-in-law here in Royce City. One of his
sisters lived over there. They owned 200 acres of land. And they're
buried over there. Aunt Sarah Holland. And Charlie. Charlie got killed
in Rockwall, and they had a crazy girl -- who wasn't crazy but she
growed up in size but not in mind. That's all I can figure. But I can't
figure what Scott Vanatte would be -- 50 years old -- would be. Her
nephew? Granny's nephew?
LA: I don't know.
CA: She was about 80 when she died. Her neighbor there, Buck Vantreece,
but I don't know whether he owned the farm or not.
GA: Vantreece. There's another name.
JM: I've not heard it. I've read it.
Well, Lena told Judy that yet one of the boys, you know, of y'all was
born around what? Bonham? Around Bonham. Which one was that, that was
born at Bonham?
CA: One of whose boys?
LA: One of you brothers.
JM: That's Uncle Bill.
LA: Bill? Where was Bill born?
Oh Bill was born -- and all born -- up in Collin County. Melissa. And
Bill was born in Hunt County. And Lena in Hunt County. They done it a
year older so they could get paid quicker.
JM: Where was Uncle Tom born?
Up there at Melissa, right north of there. 1910. I recollect very well.
Now Bill was born -- now lets see. Now Lula was born in 1907 on the
Scott Vanatte place. That was the year -- she was about six weeks old
-- when we came to Texas. You can figure back about six weeks. We came
in the 7th of August. We landed in Melissa the seventh day of August
with another one of Daddy's -- he was married twice -- with his -- his
LA: Aunt Lula is y'all's sister, right?
LA: The only kid was Harrison -- by the other marriage, right?
CA: He had one but I never did know what her name was.
LA: Aunt Maud, wasn't it?
CA: She died. No, no. Oh, yeah, yeah.
LA: By the previous marriage.
Yeah. What was her -- Pickett. Pickett was her name. His first wife was
a Pickett. She was my half sister, Maud. She died here two or three
years ago somewhere about Nashville.
JM: Whose first wife was a Pickett?
LA: His Daddy.
Talk to her about meddling and messing with this family tree. Suppose
some of them's still living and not dead -- hanging up there by their
tails and wondering at me.
But I know when they was born, but I won't argue with them, because
they got young out yonder. John -- biggest hypocrite that ever went to
Mineral Wells. He was born in '98. And Edd was born in 1900.
JM: Were they both born in Tennessee?
LA: Well, I knew Edd was, but I didn't know about Uncle John.
And when that was all taking place, Tennessee didn't have but about
three counties in the whole state, Smith, DeKalb, and Wilson. And they
all joined, pointed in toward Alexandria was the center.
JM: Did you ever go to Temperance Hall, Tennessee?
CA: And we had some more kin folks, but I can't ever think of their
name. The Talleys.
LA: Did you understand what she said?
CA: No, I didn't really. What?
JM: Why don't you ask him if he's ever been to Temperance Hall,
LA: Temperance Hall, Tennessee. Have you --do you know where it was?
CA: Temperance Hall?
CA: Yeah. It was close to Alexandria. It wasn't too far.
And there was a railroad that came out of Nashville, the Tennessee
Sentinel, come right down from Nashville, [to] three miles north of
Alexandria, and they wouldn't use it, because they had a turnpike and
stage coach. They wouldn't even ship stuff and stop there. Brush Creek,
they wouldn't stop there. There wasn't nothing to pull off or get on.
They went on through to -- I don't know what town -- on into the Blue
JM: Did you ever hear of Charles and Mose Vanatte [Vanatta] that were
CA: No. Have you got mother's kin folks, her daddy and them. That's all
I can tell you right there, honey, on that.
JM: They were her brothers.
CA: I don't recollect nary a one of her brothers -- her sisters either.
LA: She's got them listed in that paper then, Daddy.
CA: Well it may be right as far as I know.
LA: Yeah, she wanted to know if you knew anything about them.
JM: Because this is the only thing I have her listed as is Elizabeth.
I can't even tell you Grandpa Wilkerson's first name. Now he
three boys. There was Jack and John. John was the oldest, then Jack,
then Ollie. Mother had a sister that got killed. And John made a big
evangelist preacher. And Uncle Jack made a house thief, I guess. I
ain't seen Jack now since 1905, when Grandpa Wilkerson died. But to
tell you his first name now, I can't do it, what have you got?
John. Well, that must be right, 'cause he'd naturally name his boy
John. They was men 25, 30, 40 y7ears old when I recollect them, see?
They all lived out there at a little health resort. And Grandma, let me
see. She married a Wilkerson. That's those -- all those boys was
Wilkersons. Don't know whether he was married before or not, but she
was a Hatfield.
GA: That's where the Hatfields come in.
Uncle Albert Hatfield stayed with us and worked with Dad. And they was
with that killing bunch, the Hatfields and McCoys. Now Maud (She was
CA's half sister), Maud.... she was just five years older than me. And
she was, of course, her and Uncle Jack and Uncle John was the leaders
of the band. If they went to school I don't know where it was at.
That's Greenbriar. 'Cause we lived there in that health resort, and
that was as far as the railroad, trhe L&N, could go south
Nashville, and it could come up from Nashville about 12, 15 miles out
to this hill. And that's what they were doing when Grandpa got -- my
Daddy -- got that one eye up there. Was going straight through that
mountain, 960 feet from level to the top. And the train come out there
to bring the passengers. Now they had a wagon road but no stage. They
had a wagon road, just like climbing Haggard's mountain exactly. Way
back in 1905, 1904 and 5, I can't recollect too much about it. I was
trying to take care of myself. I recollect my Daddy. He never told me
to do a thing in his life he wouldn't do it first. But he knew that
Albert Hatfield was liable to do anything. And we had a bunch of blacks
that lived on the road over east of us there about a mile, that went
through from Nashville to Greenbriar and on up to Bowling Green and on
up in there. Well, there was these blacks, 6 or 7 kids. Their Mommy and
Daddy was dead, and we couldn't go nowhere without fighting them
blacks. Uncle Jack'd get into it with them. And Maud -- she'd generally
fight, and I'd have to, to take care of her. Him and Daddy used
dynamite and nitroglycerin in that tunnel, you see, and going through
from the south side and going down in the middle and going both ways.
And the work train stood right out there. We could get groceries, you
see, dry goods where they had that. That was as far as the train could
go. Well it started trouble. Hatfield got tired of it, but he wouldn't
let Dad know it. He stole out enough dynamite that blowed that house
and blacks ... and then was in the bed when Dad found out. "Oh, I
hadn't been nowhere, just asleep." I've heard him say -- tell Uncle
Jack and them -- said, "Youi won't be bothered with them blacks no
more." They'd be grown gals, great big, that'd throw rocks at us and
we'd fight them ..., me a' running.
JM: Where were the Wilkersons from?
Well, I don't know, can't answer that. They were there in north
Tennessee. There never was none of them down at Alexandria, but Uncle
Jack would come to see us. You see we moved from up there to
Alexandria, and he'd come down there and stay two or three days.
LA: You don't know, though, what part of it he was from?
Never did know. In and around Greenbriar, Tennessee.Grandpa was the
best natur and the best humored man I ever saw, to be as big. He wasn't
a big old puss-bell. He was just a big man. Seven foot tall.
LA: Did he fight in the Civil War, Daddy?
No he wasn't in no war, 'cause I'd have heard of it if he had. He
wouldn't argue politics, 'cause he didn't know which side he was
(Portion of conversation missing due to having to turn over tape in
The Ku Klux Klan took over, and they killed them by the thousands. A
band of men on horses, they took a train and went to Nashville and took
six prisoners away from the sheriff in Nashville and took them out to
the Cumberland River bridge and hung them and throwed them overboard.
They had the -- you better be on that train when it come by. They
didn't ask you. You couldn't tell who nobody was. Covered from foot to
head. All you could see was two eyes. I've seen them -- that's the
reason the tobacco went so high. They burned the warehouses. I know
that at Adairsville, Kentucky, they got one of the Ku Klux up to try
him, and when they sentenced him, the Ku Klux came to their feet and
killed the court, the judge, jury, and all the rest of them, and took
their man with them. Dad always said they was all just a bunch of
murderers to start with. They hung the judge, the county judge, and
made the blacks set on his feet and whip him till he died. A
of them, horseback, made that black do the work -- put that rope around
a peach tree limb, and hung him, and made that black set there till the
old county judge died, because he'd been prosecuting them, you see.
That was over to Adairsville, and all them towns, Bowling Green, in
Kentucky that was whiskey towns. They made it. They do yet. They didn't
bother you because you made whiskey, but if you bought tobacco
was in danger. You could buy tobacco and it ready for the manufacturer
at $3.00 a hundred pounds, but you couldn't do it. People
had to do any way they could. But Dad never was in that.
JM: Did y'all ever live in Kentucky?
No, we was in Tennessee -- Greenbriar, Tennessee was as far north as we
ever lived. _____ was where we did livethe last time when we
come back. They got the railroad done so we could come through to
Nashville. Dad had an aunt that worked there and a brother-in-law. So
we came there in a wagon.
LA: Who were they? Do you remember?
Samp Alexander. And he wasn't kin to none of them. But Aunt Rit (?)
married him, see. And she never did have to change her name.
LA: Samp Alexander. Is that the one that lived in east Texas that I
knew when I was a kid?
CA: No I don't think so.
LA: Who was that old man, Daddy, that I knew?
CA: He was another of them fighting kind.
LA: Do you know who I'm talking about though?
GA: Uncle Hamp?
LA: Yeah, Uncle Hamp.
GA: Uncle Hamp Atnip.
LA: who was he?
CA: He was just an old two-dollar mouth.
LA: Oh, I always liked him.
GA: Well, he liked Roy.
CA: But he'd tell you about it if it killed you.
GA: I've got a picture some where of Roy and him together.
They had one Aunt Rit and, uh, Uncle Samp, I always called him. I
didn't want to, but I had to. He was a big bully. And they had one boy,
named Charlie, and I can't think if they had any more children or not.
We come by there, and Dad had been in the hospital for six months with
his eye and foot and hand. They fed us and gave us about three thousand
dollars in merchandise out of the railroad. I know the big lawyer come
out from Bowling Green, Kenticky, and got off at our house, off of the
train. I can't think what his name was. He said, "John -- he knew Dad
personally -- he said, I've come down to try to help you." Well, Dad
was trying to contract with the company about a month before he got
"killed", you might say. A dollar more a day on his own risk, or work
like he was and they'd take it, you see. And Dad said, "I can't do
that." He said, "Why can't you? I'll put in a $50,000 brick home for
half of it. I'll stop every train on the L&N from Nashville to
Louisville till you get your money." Dad said," No. If a man's word
ain't worth nothing, why he ain't either." "Well," he said, "you're a
fool." "Well, I know that," he said, "but you didn't have to tell me.
But my word is what honor I've got." Well, I suppose it was right back
to work again, and we come right back to the same place that we had
left. We went in the wagon, and then come back that way. "Bout three or
four years between that. But that's the way he was. Any way you look at
it, that's the way he was right up 'till he died. Old Bill Proctor was
that big lawyer's name. He said, "I'll get you $100,000 for your foot,
eye, and hand, and I'll give you half of it. And that'll put you where
you need to be." And Dad said, "Yeah, and it'll put me with the
thieves, too. I'll be right back there with them -- and with you." He
wouldn't do it. That's the way he was plumb on up till he died right
down yonder. My mother had just enough Hatfield and Wilkerson in her to
skin your head, but Dad never was that way.
GA: Tom's more like Mr. Alexander. Tom's more like him than any one of
LA: I don't think so. Tom'll hurt you in a second. Tom's more like
JM: Where was your mother born? (Some speculative conversation deleted
I wasn't there that day. I recollect Grandpa Wilkerson died in 1905. We
lived at Mayhone, Tennessee when he died. And we had just come from up
in that part of the country. Wasn't sick. I never seen him suffer a
lick in my life. Worked every day -- just whatever he could get to do.
He was making boards about a mile from home when he died. Jack had
carried him his dinner, and Jack didn't know he was dead till he got
ready to take the bucket and go back to the house. Grandpa eat his
dinner, eat and went across a little branch and set down, leaned back
against a tree and just kept setting there. Jack wanted him to wake up,
and tell him to go on home, but he didn't. He was setting up dead.
LA: Do you remember where it was that he died?
CA: It was at the High G Springs Health Resort. That was south
Greenbriar about 4 or 5 miles. It was all sulphur water. If you wanted
any water that wasn't sulphur, you'd better carry it with you. Now you
can figure the whole country peaceable that way. You could camp side of
the road, and stay out there six months, and they wasn't nobody say
nothing to you. Glad to have you if they had to walk three miles to a
neighbor. They had peddlers that come through twice a week buying
blackberries, raspberries, eggs. People'd be beside the road with their
produce, and they'd buy them berries 10 cents a gallon. He went to the
-- I guess back up there in Kentucky where they made the wines. But
there was two a week that passed our house, and he carried candy,
chewing gum, and just little old stuff, you know, that wasn't worth
[anything]. That was all he could haul. I wish my Daddy was here to
answer them questions for you.
GA: Oh, boy, and he could answer
them too. He had a good mind for a long time -- all the way. Mary Jo
was a little bitty baby when he died.
JM: Ask him if there was a family bible.
You see, they got in a big to do when Grandma died, Grandma Alexander.
When she died she had 13 acres of prickly pear and cedars and that
house. I don't know what it was -- seven, eight, or nine dollars an
acre. And they owed for her casket, and there was a place good for it.
Dad done that. He said, "When she's put away, we'll settle it then."
And Uncle Mose and Aunt Daisy and her sister is the ones that's got our
records now -- at Alexandria, Tennessee.
LA: Aunt Daisy's not still alive is she?
GA: No she's dead.
LA: Well, who's her sister. Do you remember?
Bert Talley is her sister at Alexandria, but now her name was Starnes,
and her and Aunt Daisy was sisters. Brothers and sisters. Lucy and --
let's see. They's four of them. Daisy, Bertha, Lucy, and John Starnes
that lived at Melissa was her brother. They was Starneses, and she --
her mother married a Hendricks and come to Texas. They wouldn't sign
the deed. They sent to Aunt Daisy's to get our records. It was a Bible,
and all the records was in it. They kept them. We never could get hold
of that Bible. All the records was in it plumb back. Granny said it was
just like going from Genesis to Revelations in the Bible -- what day,
what hour. A man could write there to Frank Talley.
GA: He's dead perhaps.
CA: He's too old to be living. And Bert was older than Aunt Daisy. And
John up here
LA: John who?
John Starnes. He was the one was going to help me get my birth
certificate, Leon Alexander over here told him, said, "I don't need
anybody to help me." Well, they give him his birth certificate 'cause I
been knowing him a hundred years. Well, that's her own brothers and
sisters, you see and she -- her mother married a Hendricks. Mary, Nell,
Frank, and a whole mess of them. they died up around Melissa, I guess.
Old Cicero did I know.
LA: Sure there's a whole bunch of them up there.
CA: Them was step-uncles.
LA: Who do you think wound up with the Bible?
Well, if they never did take it away from him (her?) I guess Bert got
it 'cause Aunt Daisy never did get it back. I raised Hell with them
LA: You talking about Bert who?
CA: Bert Talley. And her husband now is Frank. But Bert Talley was the
one that got the Bible.
LA: Where did they live?
They lived right there in Alexandria, just above Sam's son (?) They
don't move back there like we did. They never did move here.
LA: And the kids never did move. They're all right there.
Well, you see, after she was dead and buried and Dad stood for it, they
refused to sign for their part of her little place. Aunt Daisy had the
guts to tell Dad, "Me and Mose ought to have had that place. We took
care of Granny until ger last year." Dad said, "You're a liar. She fed
you and Mose, and Mose set there and eat. Dad's youngest -- only
brother he had.
LA: Do you know I remember him?
GA: Sure you do.
Said, "You could set there and let you tell a lie." He said, "You know
she drawed a little $36 every three months. Four times a year she got
her -- grandpa's pension. $36 for three months. It was $12 a month. And
she got that four times a year. She could get anything she wanted. She
had everything you could think of to eat. She made her clothes. I'd go
there to watch her cook. Big range, cook stove. One room was her
spinning room. She made her own cloth, spun her own cotton thread, then
made the cloth and made her own clothes. She didn't need the money. But
she'd go down there and get some extra stuff. You'd get a toe-sack full
of coffee for a dollar, or a -- anything, but there wasn't nothing in
packages. It was bulk right out of the barrels, put on the scales and
weighed. I know, I've worked there. And they had a bank and they had a
printing office, and Dad got work from these landlords around town,
building fence and chimneys and flues and whatever they got. He
wouldn't work for the fifty cents a day. Just wouldn't do it. He'd take
a contract and do that.
CA: Dad told Aunt Daisy, "You told a
lie, and you're going to take it back before I leave here or I'll kill
you." Well I guess I've blowed my stack.
LA: Man, you ain't through yet. Keep going. Tell her about it.
CA: Well, I could just tell you what I've been through with, and that
JM: Hey Grandpa, did you know any Hinesley's in Alexandria?
CA: Hinesley? No.
JM: Did you know any Denneys?
No. That Hinesley kind of strikes me a little bit. But I don't know
where at. I guess that's Texas stuff -- John Hinesley. Her landlords
around her little place there. He was a nice man and been there all his
life, too. And Granny had been there ever since she was a young woman.
And she gave Dad an acre. Just went in and made out a -- they went and
measured it, one acre square. "Now," she said, "John, if you can get
the lumber, build you a house and its free." One acre. And Uncle Mose
and Aunt Daisy lived with her. Bill -- Bill was born there. They had
anything that -- we got some things that they had then, in different
localities. They've not got nothing around here like that. If you did
you could sell it for a million dollars. I'd go there and watch Grandma
cook. She was a little more black with her head bonnet on. And
sometimes she'd lose her glasses and have them on. "Charley, have you
seen my glasses?" and I'd say, "Have I seen you? You're under them!"
"Well I be dog-goned. I can't see nothing." Put on a big pot
beans. And a big old oven skillet. She'd bake that full of biscuits or
sweet potatoes or cobbler pie. Baked her own light bread. And there was
bacon hanging up over that fireplace. She had a big old gray pet cat. I
guess the cat was 25 years old. He'd set there in the warm ashes
asleep. And some old dog irons over the fire. She'd get wood anywhere
she could, you know. Fall out of the tree. Nobody to cut it. Well,
that'd be too long, wouldn't go in. She'd bust it over the dog iron,
hit it and break it, you know, and (chuckles) that old cat -- that's
the truth, she laughed for a week about that -- that old cat setting
there asleep and she got a stick too long and whopped him on top of his
head and "hadn't seen that cat in a month."
GA: The first refrigeratror they had was that spring house.
Her spring come down right through the yard. You'd go out there and
take a gourd and dip you up some drinking water. Wasn't no stock.
Chickens, ducks, peafowls, had a road full of them. Everything got its
drinking water in the yard. And it just went on towards town. And she
kept her butter and milk and stuff, you know, from one meal to another
one or two or three days setting up in that spring. I don't care how
much it rained, it never got no bigger, never got ruddy. Water setting
just about that deep. She'd set a bowl of beans in that, a bowl of
buter and the milk. She had a cow that fed everything in that country.
She said she give $8 for the cow. She'd milk that old cow, take the
milk and strain it and put it in the spring. That was her exercise, a
little treat. She was a dope head. Them doctors there at Alexandria --
I forget the doctor's name, but he had Granny on dope. Opium. And she'd
roll that opium. She'd get her about an ounce every check and
roll it out. And when her heart was bad -- and she's slip me one or
two. And I've showed them something. And when Dad got our house done --
he built us three rooms and we moved in. Then he took a notion he
didn't want it and moved.
GA: Well, Mose and Daisy come in and
he got out. He was independent. That's why your Daddy's so independent.
They're all that way, the Alexanders. Independent.
LA: You don't think we got any of this stubborn stuff from you?
LA; No, I didn't think so.
GA: No, I'm an Indian. You didn't get nothing from me. I've got all
LA: Impatience is one thing we get from Mama. Let the phone ring three
times and she just hangs that thing up.
CA: Uncle Mose, he was 19 years younger than Dad. They didn't keep no
records. Most people didn't keep no records.
LA: But those records there that she's got, those are authentic.
George Washington. But it wasn't the George Washington you're thinking
about. But it was his kinfolks. George Washington on the east side of
the river and Joe Washington on the west side. And they owned it a mile
on each side. And him and Mrs. Quinnie would go to England every year
on vacation. And they was great sportsmen. And their double surrey and
their driver. He was kin to the old, original Washington. Went back
there. I know I used to call his dogs down to the house to get to go
home with them. Half tigers. I've seen them out with the black driver
setting up yonder and him and Mrs. Quinney setting in the double buggy
with their rifles. They was crack shots, and they wouldn't shoot
nothing setting. It had to be running or flying. They was sports. They
was raised millionaires. I don't know how many was on Joe's side, but
they was two or three families on George's side of the creek. And over
on the other side, Joe's, I don't know what he had but it was valuable
timber, you see, that was in there -- black walnut, chestnut --
and that was what they was after. They'd been there about --
maybe all the tine, I don't know. And he had a big, fine, white mansion
up on the hill next to the highway that went through to Louisville, I
guess, and his yard was just one acre big, 70 yards square, white
fence, and a black man tended to it. And a black woman tended to his
house, all the rooms, day and night, whether they was there or not.
There wasn't nobody going to bother their stuff. I seen them kill hogs
there once. He was there then. He was about 45 years old. Her too. They
was common around the house. It was when they went out on that sport
with them guns, they was the talk of the bucket. And, of
they had to show off with his brother, Joe. He was on the other side of
the creek and doing the same thing. They killed hogs. The black man and
the black woman liced in a little white two-room house in the yard. We
lived right down the hill from there. And when they killed the hogs, he
give them to his neighbors. Give Dad one that weighed about 350. Give
the black one, but you'd do your own cutting it up.
GA: Where was that at?
That was up in Kentucky. Right in the corner of Tennessee and Kentucky.
I never say nothing about that, 'cause every time you mention George
Washington, they say, "He's gone to lying." I was 5 or 6 years old.
LA: Towns and counties is what she's interested in. That way she can
check back there and find out.
The name of the creek that came down through there -- a pretty good
size creek -- was Duck Creek. All the big courts and the big stuff in
Kentucky got close to the river, as they could get it. Plantations,
they called then, two or three hundred acres. Old judge Mims owned one
there -- him the county judge. I don't even know what county it was in
JM: I can't even look for the Wilkersons till I've got a
county to go to.
Dad said you'd get more working for him for 50 cents than you would
working for somebody else for $5. It's what he give you. That's the
reason Dad worked for him. He'd cut and haul them logs with two bulls.
That's all you could get in the bottom with was cows. You couldn't get
in there with horses. He had two horses that come from England -- snow
white. They wasn't gray. They was solid white. And they was washed and
cleaned and pampered. And them dogs was spotted and striped
half-tigers. They'd weigh 150 pounds apiece. Big enough to rare up
there, you know, and look you right in the face. They wouldn't bite,
but they'd knock you down and walk all over you. That's the reason I'd
get out there and holler and whoop with them about 200 yards down the
hill. I'd holler and whoop. I want to go up there and get up on the
fence, anyhow, where I could see. Here they'd come just right over that
fence and, g6et down there, nothing. We'd turn around, all three of us,
and go back up. John, he was too little -- he was two years younger
than me -- he was too little to go with me. I didn't have no buddies.
It was just me. He was born in 1898. And it was 1894 when Grandpa died.
LA: I know it was two years before you were born.
Well, they didn't talk about you after one was dead and buried and took
care of just as good as you could. They talked about everything else
but, you understand.
LA: Was any of your people ever from North Carolina, that you know of?
CA: Granny had been over there, but I don't know why. She had been
LA: You talking about my Granny?
CA: No, my Granny.
GA: His Daddy's mother.
She'd been over there because that was full of the Dutch. That was a
Dutch community , you see, in North Carolina. She'd visit there, you
see, because she had friends there that came from Germany when she did.
But she was a Dutch, raised in Mahoner, Germany. I think she was 12
years old when she came to this country.
LA: Well, somebody said that she was born there. I don't know who said
CA: I don't know, but she came from Ireland.
LA: No, I mean Granny. We heard that she was born in Tennessee, but
you're saying that she was born in Germany?
Yeah, she was born in Mahoner, Germany. That was a Dutch colony over
there, you see. They was as different a tribe in Germany in them days
as they could be.
JM: Well, I've got her born in Tennessee and her Mama born in North
Carolina and her Daddy born in Tennessee.
CA: I couldn't tell about that.
LA: Well, you're the one that should know. That's just according to the
CA: Well now, it may be that they's more John Alexanders than they is
LA: These are the Vanattes that she's talking about now.
JM: The Vanattes.
LA: She was supposed to have been born in Tennessee.
CA: Well, she ain't. She wasn't according to my records.
She was born -- because she came from Mahoner, Germany, when she was
twelve years old. Now I don't know whether she was born in Tennessee
and went over there and then came back or not. But it'd take them too
long to go and come. She couldn't have been. She was originally a
Holland Dutch raised in Germany. And had a pretty fair education. Just
a good read and write. That's about all they tried to do then.
GA: Yeah, women wasn't supposed to read and write. Women wasn't
supposed to know as much as men.
Now his name, my Grandpa's name, is down here at Jackson,
Mississippi, on the government old records, you see. At the bridge at
Jackson, Mississippi. 'Cause Junior -- I mean Kenneth --
GA: Junior went down there.
CA: -- stopped and looked at it. And Edd's been down there and seen it.
His war name is there on the --
We're not talking about Jackson, Mississippi, though, Daddy. We're
talking about where they had the battle, the big battle. We stopped
there, me and June, coming back from -- and, and Junior. It's not at
Jackson. It's somewhere else. I'll think of it in a minute.
GA: Yeah, it's not Jackson. It's another place.
I've been there, Daddy -- when I come back from Florida -- me and
Charles, we stopped there. And I've got a record of it down at the
CA: Well, you know Kenneth went down there in Florida,
you know, and carried that big machine, and he said he saw it. And Bill
Alec, they came around that way, and they saw it. They ain't people
that knowed Edd's middle name.
CA: It was Lee.
And John Newman. I seen a man today. He was buried right up yonder.
World War One. His name was McKinley Moss, Ray McKinley Moss. Born in
1896. World War One. Mine is a president that got killed.
Thomas Jefferson, that's Tom's name. He was named after a president.
And Bill, William Anderson Goynes, was named after old Bill Goynes down
here at Greenville.
LA: You mean Bill Alec -- our Bill?
Yeah, the one that's dead. John Newman. And John was named after some
big something back there. Newman. And let me see, who else has got one.
Thomas Jefferson, Bill Anderson --
LA: What's Lena's name?
CA: -- Charles McKinley --
JM: Lena May.
-- I wished I could change mine, and I did. And John changed his
according to -- I mean Burt. His name wasn't no more Burt than mine.
His name was Bird Ray, and that was a steamboat on the Cumberland
River. He went to court in Dennison and had his name changed to Burt.
Named after a steamboat! Them old devils back yonder, they named every
thing you could think of. Dad said when I was born he had an old horse
that he called Charley. He said he had got the government out to kill
the horse. I've heard him tell it -- laughed and said, "I just wonder
what I killed that horse for. I couldn't have two Charleys in one
house; so I just shot the horse."
LA: Then he wondered why he killed the horse.
CA: I remember the time I was about 2 or 3 years old, I guess. Dad
always called me "Big-un." So they went over to Grandpa's to stay all
night. They lived about two mile, and he had to carry me. He'd set me
down on a little of the trail rgar was smooth and I'd fall into pieces.
He'd pick me up, spank my end and say, "You little devil you. You could
walk some and let me rest if you'd do it." I love to get up on his back
and get him around the neck. We'd have a time then.
LA: I remember Grandpa.
GA: Yeah, Grandpa Alexander. Leon was just a little bitty feller, and
he'd make fun of Grandpa 'cause he walked with his back --
LA: He stooped over. He was hurt.
GA: And he'd put his hands behind him. And he'd get in front of him and
walk like that to make fun of him. And he'd say, "You little bag you. I
ought to kill you."
CA: You know, he got where he couldn't make one step if he straightened
up. He couldn't step and stand straight and make just one step.
LA: What happened to him, Daddy? Why did he walk like that?
CA: That was Bright's disease.
LA: Oh --- (long pause) --- OK.