Tuesday, November 1, 2016

It's the Small Things.......

Sometimes, it’s the smallest of things that brightens one’s day or makes one smile.

I’ve been tracing various families, in my trees, for a number of years. Recently, the focus has been on the Allen family. My grandmother, or Granny, as we all called her was Annie Catherine (Gibson) Walker. Her mother, my great grandmother, was Courtney Alice Allen. For the most part, the Allens were a great bunch of people – with the exception of Grandma Courtney’s brother, Matt.

Matt Allen had a farm over in Jasper County and his mother, great-great grandma Permelia Allen lived with him after great-great grandpa Hardy Allen (great grandma Courtney’s father) died. Two of gg grandpa Hardy’s and gg grandma Permelia’s daughters had died and left orphans (Pete Hosey, age 10, and Little Jimmy Bethea, age 24 who was mentally challenged).Gg grandma Permelia and her two orphan grandsons lived with her son Matt.

Matt had a farm with cattle but he was also a bootlegger. Because Little Jimmy Bethea was mentally challenged, his Uncle Matt was very abusive to him. Old newspaper articles mention how Little Jimmy was starved and beaten. I’ve often wondered where gg grandma Permelia was when this was going on. Was she afraid of her son, Matt? Is that why she didn’t speak up?

Apparently, Little Jimmy told someone that his Uncle Matt had a Moonshine Still, and Matt beat him, to death. There was a trial, in Jasper County, back in the spring of 1924 and Matt was sentenced to life behind bars, in Parchman.

Money talked back then, just as it does today. Matt sold his cattle and was able to accumulate enough money to buy his way out of prison. He was sent to live, for the remainder of his life, in the Ellisville State School.

I’m not sure why I cared, but I wanted to find his grave. (It’s just one of those things that genealogists do.)  I searched online on Find A Grave and in old Jones County Cemetery books, to no avail. Susan Blakeney, the expert on Genealogy at the Library in Laurel suggested that Matt might have been buried in Ellisville, at the State School.

It was the day before July 4th and I had taken my cousin, Hilda Grace Craft Bynum, in search of a vehicle – in Ellisville. After looking at the car, I decided to go to the Ellisville State School and search through their cemetery, if there was one!

The state of Minnesota always talks about “Minnesota Nice”….but Mississippi has that, too! I was so impressed with both the young men who helped me that hot afternoon. Nathan Fayard, the young policeman who led us to the oldest of the two cemeteries at Ellisville, walked through with us as Hilda Grace and I looked for Matt Allen’s grave.

The gravestones, supplied by the state of Mississippi, were buried flat in the ground. I was surprised how far apart the graves were spaced. They could have buried two people in the space where they only allowed one.

I had no idea that I would locate his grave. Imagine my surprise when suddenly, there it was!! I had found him on the 1940 Census of Jones County, still in Ellisville School as an inmate, and I had no idea when he died. There was his gravestone with the dates 1881 – 1958. He had lived until he was 77 years of age, and had been sent there when he was 43. He had lived 35 years of his life in the Ellisville State School. Had he gone to Parchman, he might have suffered for abusing a child. I wondered, did that also happened at Ellisville?

By his gravestone was a small figurine of a dog, that had been there for awhile. Someone had visited the grave. He had no wife and no children, so who?

Finally, I was able to close the book on this horrible story. I didn’t like Matt Allen but I could put him to rest.  Now, if only I could find out where Little Jimmy Bethea was buried!! 

Thank you to wonderful Ellisville State employees who went out of their way to be so helpful. It’s the small things that count!!
#MattAllenGrave #EllisvilleStateSchoolCemetery #JimmyBethea #PermeliaWindhamAllen 
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