Early Va./Ky. Meachams -- Marion & Georgia

Memories of Marion and Georgia Meacham

The following transcript is from a tape recording made by Gene Cravens of Lexington, Kentucky, probably in the 1970s, of Anna Elizabeth Edwards reminiscing about her Meacham grandparents. Her mother, Ivy Meacham Edwards, was the fifth of six children of Marion Delain and Georgia Anderson Meacham. Anna was born in 1903, and was a teacher in Kentucky and Florida. She retired in 1970, and served several years as a member of the Board of Directors of the Pennyrile Museum, Hopkinsville, Ky. She died in 1983 and is buried in the old Meacham plot at Riverside with her parents and Meacham grandparents.

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This tape is recorded by Anna Edwards, giving some memories that she has of Grandfather and Grandmother Meacham during the years that she lived in their home and the years that she was very close to them. Well, Grandfather Meacham was a tall, slender man. He was very-- I guess he kept to himself pretty well. He was not a person who did a lot of talking; he was rather a silent man. But I noticed that all of the family always depended on him. If they got in a tight spot, all the cousins, brothers, grandchildren came to him to get advice, to borrow money, or whatever they needed. [Anna Edwards] [Marion and Georgia]

Grandmother Meacham, who was Georgia Anne Anderson, was a spit fire. She did all the talking in the family, and I remember one thing, I could always tell when they had a disagreement. She called him 'Mr. Meacham' always, but if she was mad at him for something, he was 'Marion.' And she could yell 'Marion' real sassy. And if he was provoked with her, he called her 'Georgianne.' But generally, he called her 'Judy.'

I lived in their home to go to school when I was six and seven years old. A lot of times funny things happened. There was a cousin who lived there at the same time. That was Uncle Bob's son, Arthur Meacham. Grandmother and Grandfather always took in other people to live with them. Anybody who was in trouble, anybody who didn't have a home. They opened their home to them. They raised several orphans who called that home. And those children went out into the world, but never forgot Grandmother and Grandfather. They came back to visit and came back to see them and kept in contact always. And I remember them coming to visit and always enjoyed seeing them, but I was sometimes amazed at the people they took in who lived with them. Grandmother always kept up with everybody in the neighborhood, too. She would say, 'They're new to the neighborhood--we must go and see what they need.' And she would get in that buggy, with the old horse hitched up, and away she would go to visit, to take them something, to see if they needed anything. And if anybody was sick, she was one of the first ones there to see about them.

Grandfather didn't visit around very much, but (as I said) people came to see him. I remember Grandfather -- we were sitting around the fire one night, and I had told a story about something that had happened, and Grandmother doubted it and she few onto me like a duck onto a junebug and said, 'Well now, you know that's not so.' And she laid me out on the field for dead, but when she got up and left the room, I cut my eyes over to Grandfather and I said, Now Grandfather, you know I was right' And he looked up at me, and his eyes just twinkled, and he said, "Yes, I know you' re right, but don't you know you cannot have the last word with an Anderson."

And at Christmas time, all the family got together. We'd come to Grandmother Meacham's--all the cousins, the children, everybody--and then, my what a laden table. There was a stairway that went up from the dining room, upstairs. That was the called the "boys' stairway" up to the boys' room. The chtldren would sit up there and watch the older folks eat and think they'd never get through because they always had to sample the new sausage, because they'd just killed hogs at Thanksgiving. Everybody must sample that, and the souse, and we had to have ham, and then the turkey. And at Grandmother Meacham's we always had custard and cake. The bourbon bottle was passed around for those who wanted to put a little seasoning in the custard. But we knew we were always going to have that.

And one time, a cousin got so impatient because the older folks sat around the table -- and we were so hungry that he yelled, "Grandma! the cats are in the ice cream." And of course, we didn't even have ice cream at that time, but he thought maybe someone would get up from the table and second table could go in to eat. Such things as that makes for entertaining conversation at this day and time.

Then another time we had Christmas, we were all there, and I can remember -- I can't tell you who all was there -- I don't know how many spent the night, but I remember Grandmother going upstairs. And in the back room, in the storage room, there were feather beds. She brought them out. They were dropped over the banisters and I can hear those feather beds hit the floor now-- Kerplunk! And the kids would all run and jump in the feather beds. Those were pulled out and put on the floor, and the children slept on those, very much like we do sleep with these things you go camping with -- sleeping bags. And we'd be thrilled to death to sleep all together, and of course, more giggling was done than sleeping.

A tall Christmas tree sat in the parlor in the corner, and the children were not allowed in the parlor. In fact, we were never allowed in the parlor unless the preacher came, or some very impontant company came. And then we were allowed to go to the parlor. This time, all of the cousins, and everybody was there. I can't remember what kind of gifts we got, I know we hung up stockings. Grandmother never believed in wrapping up things, and I remember that she told all of the daughters-in-law, and all of the nieces to sit down in a circle, and then she disappeared-- and when she came back into the room, she still had on her apron. She come back into the room, and she had a gifts for everybody, but it wasn't wrapped. And she walked around in front of them and reached in her apron and pulled out what she was going to give them, and dropped it in their laps. And she went all the way around with the stockings, and powder, and different things that she had collected for them for Christmas. Our presents were not ... well, if we got an orange in our stocking, we thought that was wonderful- an orange and a stick of candy. That meant Christmas to us.

One Christmas I remember, way back -- it was very cold, similar to the one we had in 1975 or 76 and the snow was deep, very very cold (way below zero). We didn't have the warming furnaces that we have today, where you just flip a button. We had fireplaces. And those fireplaces, you were very warm when you stood right in front and turned around. We moved the dining room table in by the fireplace, because the dining room was so cold nobody wanted to go to eat. In the kitchen, where we were everything was frozen. It was awfully cold. I remember cooking that day with galoshes on. But anyway, everybody was having a good time and nobody thought anything about it. We sat at the table and ate our food, and Grandmother laughed and said, "Well, I'm afraid the coffee's going to freeze in the cups." But it didn't matter, everybody had a good time. Somebody ran and got the organ stool (some of the children) and put it right in front of the fireplace. And that was the favorite seat because you could turn around on that stool and get warm on all sides. But everybody else sat up with something around them that day. It was pretty cold.

Another time I remember was in the summer and all of us were there. Arthur was there, he was a young man -- I imagine he must have been twenty or twenty-one. Marion had come home -- he'd been in the Navy, and he came home. They had boxing gloves. Marion introduced that sport and wanted Arthur to box with him. We saw a great crowd of men down at the stable, so the children all decided they'd run down there and see what was going on. When we got there Aurthur and Marion were boxing and Marion thought that he knew all about it, and he'd given Arthur a few little tips about boxing. He thought he could flatten him in a few minutes. But all of a sudden, Arthur stole the march on him and gave him a lick that sent him sprawling up against the wall of one of the stalls and he had such silly expression on his face and everybody just roared. He never dreamed that Arthur could knock him down.

They were very good friends, thought a great deal of each other. And when Arthur left Grandfather's, he went to Washington to live with Marion and to work with him. Marion in his younger days, had run away. Why I don't know, but he decided he didn't want to live on a farm so he ran away and they did not know where he was. The family was so worried because they couldn't find him. He and his sister Nell were two of the orphans that Grandmother and Grandfather took in to raise. They were the children of Uncle Buck Meacham, William Feland, and Marion had ran away and nobody knew where he was. But his sister Nell finally -- someone suggested that he might have joined the Army or Navy so she wrote to Washington and found that he reallv was in the Navy but he was in the construction end of it. I guess it would be CB's today.

And he was working not too far away. One place he'd been working was in Memphis, so it wasn't too long before he came home. She wrote to him -- she wrote through the War Department at first. And then he finally answered the letter and then came home. And he worked with Uncle Buck, his own father, in the construction business in Hopkinsville for many years. He married a distant cousin in the family, Mamie Henderson. And they went to Washington to live, because he was a cabinet maker in the city of Washington. And that's where Arthur went to be with him and to work with him in this cabinet business.

They had a child and named him William. Mamie died after a few years (the boy was just a few years old -- he was just about four years old when his mother died). And Marion brought him home. And Nell, his sister, who had maried Virgil Akery, took Billy to raise. And Marion married again; he married a Johnson this time -- Mattie Johnson, and had one son, James. Marion went back to Washington but he contracted TB. And when the family heard that he was quite ill with TB, they told him to come home. And he and Mattie and the baby came to Hopkinsville and he lived there until he died. Mattie and James soon left Hopkinsville and went to California to live with her people, the Johnsons, who had moved to California. We've almost lost contact with them. They have been back twice in these years. Now Billy Meacham is Dr William Meacham in Nashville, Tennessee. He goes to California frequently, and has been in contact with his brother James, but the rest of us have not had any contact with him much since his inother died.

As I've said before, Grandmother took care of everybody in the neighborhood. I've heard one young neighbor say "It was nothing unusual to see Mrs Meacham coming out of the driveway, driving old Kitty (that was our horse) out to the buggy, and she was going out into the neighborhood to visit and see who needed anything." And one morning, I came down to -- it must have been a Saturday morning because I was teaching at Sinking Fork at the time and living with Grandmother and Grandfather. And when I came downstairs, Grandmother said, "Anna, you've got to go to the funeral up on the hill this morning. That young man who just moved up there, his wife died last night, and they're going to have the funeral, and you must go." And I said, 'Well, Grandmother I don't even know them. " She said, "That's alright. You've got to represent the family, because we must not let anybody be in sorrow in this neighborhood unless we're there to help them if they need us." So I went to the funeral because Grandmother said so. And when I got up there and I saw that young man walking around looking so sad with two little babies to raise all by himself, I became chief mourner and I cried at the funeral worse than anybody there. So I guess maybe 'twas a good thing they had a chief mourner at the funeral.

Why Arthur came to live with Grandmother and Grandfather was a strange and funny tale, too. Grandfather said that Bob had met him and said, "Pa, that boy's gettin' out of hand. He isn't worth killing, he won't work, and he's running around. And I want you to take him down there and straighten him out." Grandfather said, "Then send him on." So Arthur moved in with Grandmother and Grandfather and I was staying there going to school with the Major children into town because there was no school anywhere close to us, and in those days they didn't bus children from one place to another -- you had to get there the best way you could. But Grandfather evidently straightened Arthur out because nobody ever heard of him getting out of line anymore. Grandfather could do that. Grandfather was a rather calm man and I don't suppose he ever spanked anybody. Mama never did say he did. But he never did spank, he'd just look at them and that was enough. But Grandmother certainly was good with that switch. She could fly into folks like a duck onto a junebug in a very short time. And they always stepped around when Grandma said "Step."

Grandmother didn't believe in slavery. And when the Civil War was fought Grandmother always thought that the Negroes had been abused. She didn't think that God had intended for one man to own another. Part of the family, though, fought on the Conferderate side and one of Grandfather's brothers on the Northern side. But that didn't make any difference -- she still felt. And I've heard her tell that during the Civil War, Grandfather would have to go to town on business and he would ride a horse. And she said many times, "Oh, I was just frightened to death and all day long I sat and waited and prayed that he would not be caught on the road going into town. Sometimes the Confederate Army or the Union Army soldiers would be out and would catch somebody with a good horse and take both of them into the Army. And it was always a great relief to see him coming through the woods and know that he was safe again." But Grandmother liked the Negroes that always worked for them. She always was kind to them, and they loved Mrs. Meacham. I remember two that worked there that Grandmother and Grandfather thought so much of -- Genevieve and Prentice Irvin -- and Genevieve would come up to the house and say, "Mrs Meacham, let me have a cup of sweet milk please, ma'am. That nigger's just got to have his pie for dinner." She always made pies, and they were the best things. She'd make some and bring them to the house, too. Or Grandmother would get her to help her with some of the work.

If Grandfather had any sins to be sorry for, he did like his bourbon. And Grandmother would get so angry when he'd go to town and bring back his bottle. She had no patience with that whatsoever. But he'd slip it around and hide it. Sometimes he hid it in the henhouse in a hen's nest -- nevertheless he'd hide it. And one time my mother, Ivy, found the bottle, and she thought "Now this is pretty good stuff. Pa uses it all the time, so I'll take some." So she uncorked it and got a good swig of it and tasted it along until she was laid out. And, boy, was Grandma mad that time -- to think that Mama had found the bottle and gotten drunk on Grandpa's liquor! She always said well, he could drink if he wanted to, but he wasn't going to enjoy it. Not if he was at home, because she wouldn't even let him come in to sleep. I don't know where he slept -- he might have gone to the barn, for all I know, but she certainly did everything she could to stop it.

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