My grandmother, Thelma Hathorn Johnson Graves (pictured on the left), and my aunt Elenor “Elna” Hathorn Burkhalter (pictured on the right) were always together. My aunt Christine Hathorn Durr, the third member of this trio, is probably hiding away from the camera. My Nanny and Aunt Elna were the ones out front. They laughed loudly, smoked cigarettes and drank beer. Aunt Christine was quite reserved in contrast. She would rarely speak in public. She never drank beer or alcohol or smoked cigarettes. The youngest three sisters of the Hathorn family. The secret keepers.
As I have embarked on the family history journey, I’ve uncovered bits of the secrets that they kept. But no ultimate Truth to date.
My grandmother had a first husband, Eddie Hugh Johnson. I found the marriage certificate. A cousin told me that she seemed to remember that someone had said that my grandmother had been married once before my grandfather but she couldn’t remember what happened to the man.
My Aunt Elna was married to a man named Joe Burkhalter. Again I found a marriage certificate. Again a cousin says that she seemed to remember a marriage, but she couldn’t remember what happened to the man.
My Aunt Christine was married to a man named Mack Durr. Yes, I found a marriage certificate. Yes a cousin says that she remembered something. This time, however, I found the niece of Mack Durr. A fellow genealogist who was able to give me a little more of the story of this woman with whom I had lived my childhood and adult life through 2008.
Oh, the things they kept!
My latest challenge? Those cousins who remember a little of this and a little of that have asked if I could find their father’s father. This is the big secret of the family. The eldest daughter of Arthur and Idella Hathorn had a son out of wedlock. This son was raised as the youngest child of Arthur and Idella. It wasn’t until he was 65 and applying for benefits that he discovered that his biological mother was his sister.
Of course, my cousins asked my grandmother and her two sisters for the answers. As my cousin says, “Your grandmother and Aunt Elna and Aunt Christine called us everything but the child of God, so that was the end of that.”
I don’t know if we will find the answers, but I’m thankful for the riddles.
March 14, 2011
February 4, 2011
One of my goals for this year is to write a narrative sketch of Arthur and Idella Hathorn, my maternal great-grandparents. Thanks to the weird north Texas winter storm, I have had four days to organize my thoughts and find focus for the project. I have decided to focus on the beginning of their lives together
The Near Beginning
1910 Federal Census, Beat 1, Jefferson Davis County, MS
Arthur Hathorn H M B 24
Married for 5 Years, Renter, Working, Own Account, Farmer
Farm Schedule #49
Idella Hathorn Wife F B 23
Married for 5 Years, 4 births, 4 children
Clara Hathorn D F B 4
Flucor Hathorn S M B 3
Irma Hathorn D F B 2
Rucus S M B 6/12
Jefferson Davis County was formed from parts of Covington and Lawrence counties in 1906. The county seat is Prentiss, MS. Prentiss is a rural agriculture community.
The Time Period 1900 – 1920
The Hathorn family would have lived in the midst of the Mississippi’s Jim Crow system and frequent epidemics. Death from disease and lynchings would be a part of life. During the first 20 years of their marriage, the Hathorns would experience WWI and the First Great Migration.
I have decided to start writing even though, there are some questions that need to be answered.
1. Who are Idella’s parents and where is she from?
2. When and where were Arthur and Idella married?
3. How old was Idella?
I have ordered Idella’s death record. Hopefully that will provide the leads to fill in the other questions quickly.
December 29, 2010
Mahala (Haley) HATHORN caught my attention early in my research. She is my 3rd great-grandmother listed in a tiny community of other freed slaves named HATHORN living in Holliday Creek, Covington County, MS. Mahala is one of the three women enumerated as mulatto HATHORNs in the 1870 Census. My goal is to complete her story.
What I have:
Census records (1870 – 1920) She is shown as being married to Isaac HATHORN. She is shown as having had 5 children (Zana, Ann, LD?, William and Matilda). In the 1900 census, the children are out of the house and there are 2 grandchildren (Anna HOLLOWAY and John HOLLOWAY) living with Isaac and Mahala. In the 1920 census, Mahala is living with John HOLLOWAY and his wife Mabelle WHITE.
Freedman’s Bureau Labor Contract (June 2, 1865) The labor contract is for 6 months of work for N.C. HATHORN in exchange for food of “good and sufficient quality”, shelter, necessary medical care and an allotment of land for gardening purposes. The group of laborers are Dorry?, Mahala, Lucy, Calvin, Jane Racheal, Bertro and Ann. Dependents are Sanco, Henry, Willis, Jack and Easter. (Lucy and Jane are the two other mulatto women listed in the 1870 census in the Holliday Creek community).
What I may have:
Death certificate – I found a 1924 death certificate for Myhalia HATHORN in Jefferson Davis County, MS. The name and the place of death are in line with the known information about Mahala. However, her age is listed as 52. Mahala would have been in her 80s at the time! The informant is listed as William HATHORN. William is my 2nd great grandfather. The burial is Pleasant Grove Church. A trip to Prentiss, MS is in order.
Cluster genealogy – I will begin researching the plantation owning HATHORNs and the others listed on the labor contract.
Deadline: – December 1, 2011
December 24, 2010
My grandmother and two aunts made teacakes all the time. They didn’t eat cookies or have other desserts in the house besides homemade ice cream. I don’t think my mom ever made them, but she had a recipe in her cookbook.
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
There were no directions included with the ingredients, but here is my best shot. Mix the dry ingredients and then the wet ingredients. Kneed the mixture and roll into balls on a greased cookie sheet. Cook for about 15 minutes on low heat.
The result is large cookie that is more spicy than sweet. I may give this a try on one of my more adventurous cooking days.
December 23, 2010
I spent at least a month each summer with my grandmother, Thelma Hathorn, and her two sisters, Elna Hathorn and Christine Hathorn, in the tiny town of Prentiss, MS. As a teenager, it was very boring. Cable television didn’t reach that far. But when I was young, it was great. There were trees to climb, fields to wander through, watermelon to eat from the vine and tons of cousins to play with. I even had fun picking cucumbers!
The nights, however. The nights were always scary. There were no street lights. Just darkness and nothingness.
I would sleep with my great-aunt, Christine, in her big bed and would snuggle up close to her. I was sure that the fierceness that the tiny woman expressed during the day would protect me through the night.
I was about 6 years old when I began to doubt if this was true.
Flucor Hathorn, the sisters’ brother, died in 1977. I don’t remember his face or the sound of his voice. I only remember the night he passed.
I was sleeping next to Christine when my grandmother let out a painful sound. Not a scream. A loud wail. I was immediately awake and so was Christine. She hurried across the hall to my grandmother’s room. My Aunt Elna was hurrying across the hall as well. She was saying, “Who is it? Who is it?” I sat alone in the darkness, frightened. I listened to their crying and started to cry myself.
Aunt Christine came into our dark room and told me to bring my covers down to the living room. The house was awake, but quiet. I curled up on the sofa and watched as the three of them made breakfast in silence. My Aunt Elma even made teacakes. It was still dark outside.
I can’t remember how long we sat there. It seemed like hours. Finally the phone rang. It was Flucor’s son. Uncle Flucor had passed away in the night. My grandmother said that she was on her way over to sit with his wife. She said, “Flucor told me to sit with Nannie Mae.”
Though I could not express it at the time. I knew that something had happened. Something strange.
As my brothers grew and spent summers with my grandmother, they witnessed these episodes of knowing. We never talked about it.
Except once. When my grandmother passed away. My brothers and I were in her kitchen packing her things away. My brother, the practical, said that maybe we should let Nanny know that we are okay and that she didn’t need to visit us or anything like that.
We all agreed and together we said, “Nanny, we love you. You don’t need to visit us.” We laughed at our silliness. But I was glad we said it out loud.
December 20, 2010
At some point in 1905, 25 year old William Arthur Hathorn married 14 year old Idella Griffith. Why? An obvious answer is that their first child was also born in 1905; however, the age difference is still extreme.
To this union would be born 9 children.
2011 Research Goals
1. Find the parents of Idella Griffith
a. Unable to locate Idella Griffith in census of Covington County, Mississippi or surrounding counties prior to 1910.
b. Idella died in 1962, her death record should still be on file with the Vital Records Office of the Mississippi State Department of Health.
2. Verify her age at time of marriage
a. Unable to locate a Covington County marriage record for William Arthur Hathorn or Idella Griffith.
b. Will check Lawrence County, Simpson County and Marion County for a marriage record.
3. Document birth and death dates for each of 9 children
4. Obtain marriage records for each of 9 children
2011 Research Writing
Complete biographical sketch of Arthur and Idella Hathorn. They will be the beginning or ending of the story of my branch of the HATHORNs in Covington County,Mississippi.
December 19, 2010
In Loving Memory of Ella Rose (Nell) Hathorn
August 27, 1942 – January 29, 1996
Ella Rose Hathorn was born August 27, 1942 in Covington County, MS to the late Johnny and Viola Sullivan.
Ella Rose united with Friendship Baptist Church at an early age. She attended the Covington County Schools.
She married the late Mr. James Hathorn in 1963. She later attended the Mt. Harmony and Mt. Carmel Missionary Baptist Churches. She worked at H&P Sales and Groceries and Polk Meats for many years.
She was called home on Monday January 29, 1996. She is preceded in death by her parents: Mr. and Mrs. Johnny Sullivan; one brother: Ellis Sullivan; her husband: Mr. James Hathorn.
She leaves to cherish in loving memory John L. Fairley, two sons: Le John Fairley and Richard Lee Winters; one daughter: Kemeka Fairley, all of Prentiss, MS; five sisters: Georgia Simmons of Jackson, MS, Johnnie V. Joshua, Christine Brewer of Prentiss, MS, Brenda Jones and June Harris both of San Jose, CA; four brothers: Marcellus Magee of Chicago, IL, John Magee of Gulfport, MS, Willie Sullivan of Hazelhurst, MS and Robert Sullivan of Prentiss, MS; four aunts: Myrtle McLaurin of Milwaukee, WI, Mattie (John) Mayes of Springfield, MA, Mae Helen Powell of Chicago, IL, and Tina McLaurin of Gulfport, MS; one uncle: Sonny McLaurin of St. Petersburg, FL; her mother-in-law: Mrs. Lola Fairley of Prentiss, MS; and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.
December 13, 2010
I was so excited to quickly find my maternal 3rd great grandmother, Harriet and her family. All I knew about my grandmother’s grandmother was that her name was Harriet. After finding the HATHORN family in the 1870 Census, I scanned the next few families and found Harriet LOFLIN. I was able to verify that Harriet HATHORN had once been Harriet LOFLIN when I received my great-grandfather’s SS-5 application letter. His parents were listed as William HATHORN and Harriet LOFLIN.
I was busily entering my new found information into my database when I took a closer look at the census record. The 80 year old woman Hager LOWE was not associated with the house below her name but with the LOFLIN household. Had I found my maternal 5th great-grandmother?
Is she related by blood to Jerman LOFLIN? Is she related by blood to Marandy LOFLIN POSEY?
Was she actually born in Mississippi as it is enumerated in the 1870 Census? Had she been of the first slaves in the colony established by the French in 1719?
December 12, 2010
Arthur Hathorn, better known as Papa, was by all accounts a quiet man. He was born in 1880, in the little community of Hollidays Creek, MS to William Hathorn and Harriet Loflin Hathorn.
The son of former slaves, he received no formal education. He taught himself to read and began teaching his community to read. After long hours of working in the cotton fields with his family, he would invite the community into in his tiny home and teach passages from the Bible. His favorite passages have been lightly underlined in his Bible.
My cousins say that by the time he passed away in 1966, he was known in the community as a former grade school teacher. Those who came after the days in the cotton fields probably never knew the type of “school” in which he taught.
“I barely remember his voice now. He just didn’t talk much”, said Comel Hathorn.
When Comel Hawthorn was growing up she believed that Arthur Hathorn was her grandfather. He was her father’s, Toxey Hathorn, father.
In the 1930 Census, the Hathorn family is enumerated with Arthur Hathorn as the Head and Idella Hathorn as the Wife. There are several children living in the home including Toxey Hathorn who is enumerated as a 4 year old son.
It wasn’t until the early 70s, that the quiet man’s secret was revealed. He was not the father of Toxey Hathorn. He was his grandfather. Arthur and Idella Hathorn had raised their grandson as their son and apparently had never said a word. After Comel and I reviewed the 1930 Census record, she remarked that this lie was so old that everyone had just accepted it as Truth now.
What other secrets had this quiet man kept? We may never be so lucky to find a record of them, but the search continues.
August 18, 2010
I was very excited when the library called to tell me that the microfilm from the LDS library was in. I had requested the colored marriage records from Jefferson Davis County 1939 – 1954. I was sure that I was going to find my grandparents marriage records and hopeful that I would find records for my great – aunts, Elma and Christine.
I looked immediately for Abraham Graves, my grandfather, and found nothing. I then scanned the brides’ names just to see if I could find my two aunts. And there was the name – Thelma Hathorn. My grandmother’s name. The groom was Eddie Hugh Johnson. The record showed that on 15 February 1947 Thelma Hathorn, daughter of Arthur Hathorn of Prentiss, MS, married Eddie Hugh Johnson, son of Jim Johnson of Mendenhall, MS. My first surprise – my grandmother had a first husband!? Still waiting on a call from the cousins to see if anyone remembers this or if this something that has been conveniently forgotten. I have yet to find the marriage record for my grandparents.
I continued scanning the brides’ names and found my two great-aunts. Elnora “Elma” Hathorn married Joe Burkhalter on 1 March 1949. She was 26 and he was 55. The age difference was amazing because the vast majority of couples in the records were only 2 or 3 years apart in age.
Christine Hathorn married Mack Durr on 18 August 1951. She is listed as 25 years old and he is 26 years old. But my great-aunt was born about 1916, she would have been about 35 years old at the time of the married. I wonder if his age had been miscalculated as well?
Upcoming interviews will focus on these three men. If my grandmother was married in 1947, when did she marry my grandfather and have my mother and uncle between 1948 and late 1949? Why did Elma marry a man twice her age? Did Christine knowingly marry a man 10 years younger? And what happened to the marriages? Death? Divorce?