Aaron James is a retired architect turned historian and writer whose family ties to Cooper-Young date back to 1911. For the past two years his research has focused on a soon to be self-published book entitled “America: A Family Perspective.” Over the next several issues, James will be sharing his family’s 100 plus year history in Cooper-Young. To follow James’ research visit facebook.com/AmericaAFamilyPerspective.
In the woods just west of Amory (Monroe County), Mississippi, on the east bank of where the Tombigbee River once flowed, there sits a now-abandoned monument dedicating the location where my father’s paternal great-great grandmother spent Christmas of 1816. The 10-year-old little girl was part of the first group of white settlers led into north Mississippi by her father, the Reverend Frederick Weaver. At the time, everything west of the river was still Indian Territory. It was just a scant decade later that my father’s maternal 3rd great grandfather also migrated to Monroe County. (It’s nearly impossible to conceive from an historic perspective, that this latter ancestor’s land grant was signed by John Quincy Adams!)
The two families — the Hollingsworths and Anglins — remained close throughout the remainder of the 19th century, eventually migrating together to Calhoun County with the turning of the 20th. By the time the Great Depression came along, the families — having long since intermarried — shared adjoining farms in the tiny crossroads of Loyd, Mississippi. All negative Southern stereotypes aside, my dad’s parents were in fact first cousins, once removed (which makes me my own third cousin, once removed!)
The story goes that in early 1933, my then 27-year-old grandfather (and first cousin, thrice removed) was running his bird dogs in the pasture, when up sidles my then 17-year-old grandmother. Regardless of whichever version of what happened next is closer to the truth, two indisputable facts remain: My father was conceived, and the century old familial relations were blown to smithereenies. The cousins were married later that summer but never spent any time together as a family. This was mostly due to the zeal with which my great grandfather wielded his Sears and Roebuck double barrel twelve gauge.
To her own credit, my grandmother decided to forgo pretense, packed her bags, and headed for Memphis. She eventually remarried and put herself through nursing school to become an LPN. During WWII she worked at the Fisher Body plant making wing sections for the B-25 and B-29 bombers. After the war she bought 2029 Felix and decided the time had come to move her son up from the family farm.
My father spent the first 13 years of his life living in a self-contained, yet largely self-sufficient, micro universe in rural Mississippi. The rare trip into town took all day in a mule drawn wagon. Needless to say, Memphis was a bit of a culture shock. His mother’s church down the street held more people than the entire county where he was born. “Going to town” now meant a simple jaunt to the corner, filled with shops and even a soda fountain! When he first started attending Fairview Junior High, he still only had two pair of overalls — my grandmother would wash one while he wore the other to school.
Next month, the little country boy meets a sweet young city girl who also attends the neighborhood Baptist church and lives just a couple blocks away on Manila.