Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Edenton Family History

I've spent some time recently trying to learn more about my father's parents. My father was born in the old historic town of Edenton, North Carolina in 1930. Anyone who would know about my grandparents is gone now so I've tried searching some of the genealogy websites, garnering very little info. Time keeps me from researching as often as I'd like. My grandfather, William M Morris, was in WWI, was gassed during the war which resulted in some sort of paralysis in the form of a stroke or something. He was bedridden but I don't know at what point this happened. He did suffer depression from being unable to support his family and, when my father was 9, my grandfather somehow got hold of his gun and shot himself in the head. Writing this down for the first time makes me very sad. How he got the gun has never been known since the kids were always told not to give it to him for any reason. My father never talked much about this. I don't remember when I first heard about it. All my father would say was that people in town said "the son would do as the father would" (his actual words). I hate that kind of nonsense. My father didn't suffer depression, however, and when he'd say this, I always reminded him that he wasn't his father nor did he live like his father. Looking back now, it could have been scary, hearing my father say this. But, really, my grandfather had a good reason to be depressed. All I know about him was that he was a strict disciplinarian. A big man with red hair. Looked exactly like my Uncle William, Dad's older brother. My dad looked like his mother, Mary Ann Nixon. Nixon is a prominent name in Edenton, the Nixon family going back to at least the early 1800's. There is a Nixon cemetery, which I remember visiting once. From what I've gathered, my grandmother worked in a chicken factory, cutting up chicken, to support the family. I've also heard that she took in laundry and ironing. I know the kids also worked in various jobs to help out. My grandmother was a funny, warm, sweet lady who loved telling stories (just like my father and my son, Chad). If only I could get the three of them in a room together! I like thinking that my grandmother and my father are in heaven, telling stories and laughing. Anyway, my grandmother never saw me. She went blind in the late 1950's, but continued to live in the house she and her husband moved into when they were married. Being blind didn't stop her from cleaning her two story Victorian home on Broad Street. I remember seeing her wipe each step with a white cloth, one at a time, carefully backing down the stairs as she went. Her Venetian blinds were never dusty. I miss her.

My grandparents had three children, William, Mary and George Edward, my dad. When we would visit, everyone would call him, "Eddie" and I was always confused. These people are all gone now. William's wife is still living (in Texas) but I do not know her; however, she or her children may have some info. There's a source I didn't think about.

Anyway, I grew up hearing about the Chowan Herald, the weekly Edenton newspaper. I decided to call the paper and see if they had any info on my grandfather's death, since there must have been a police report or news item about it. Suicide is usually news, especially in a small town. This paper was established in 1934. I found the phone number and called the paper yesterday morning. I began talking to the lady who answered and told my story fairly quickly. She was quiet for a moment and then said, "I know about this. My mother told me. She knew your grandmother and on the day your grandfather died, she went over to the house and helped your grandmother." I was stunned. I almost didn't believe her but then she said, "I remember where your grandmother's house was - it's not there anymore." Since I knew this was true, I had no reason not to believe her. We talked for 20 minutes. She said that her brother was born in 1934 and might have known my dad. I asked if I could call again sometime, since I'd love to hear more, if there is more. Amazing! Talk about small town! My husband said, "Oh, it's just you and your coincidences." I guess so. I called my Mom and she was also stunned. Then she cried.

I wish I could go back there and do some research. I called the police department and when I told the lady on the phone I wanted some info about a suicide that happened in 1939, she declared, "Oh, Lord!" I almost laughed because she sounded just like my Aunt Mary, the NC accent and all. She tried to help me but was unable. At the Chowan Herald, there is a very old, decrepit book of records that no one is allowed to touch. It's too bad they can't somehow preserve it but maybe someday. This has been interesting and I've only begun, however, it will have to be put aside for now until I have more time to pursue it. I only wish I hadn't waited so long.


jugglingpaynes said...

There are no coincidences. You were meant to talk with that person at the paper. :o)

I love learning family history because there are always such interesting stories that are usually passed orally. My brother and I both did family research papers during the era of "Roots", so we were lucky to have a great grandmother who was still alive to tell us stories.

Make time for that research! Your kids will thank you.

Peace and Laughter,

Paula Vince said...

Wow! I hope you'll be able to pursue the lead in the not so distant future. I always find it amazing to think of the scope of attributes which can be passed down through family lines, which your post mentions.

Cate said...

Wow - yet another of your incredible coincidences. Am hoping that you will get to discover more. What a sad passing for your grandfather though.