Sunday, April 11, 2021

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: 2021 (Week 14): Great

 Amy Johnson Crow from Generations Cafe is again hosting the blog writing prompt this year called 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: 2021.  I'm going to try to participate more fully this year.  I like that she gives us "permission" to interpret the prompt however we wish and share it however we wish.  It doesn't have to be a blog post; it could be a family video, a letter to a child or grandchild, an e-mail, etc.  

The Theme for Week 14 (Apr 5 - Apr 11) is Great.

My GREAT grandmother, Emma Vermell Harrell Drake (1867-1935), was my paternal grandmother's, Nealie Drake Tapley (1895-1970), mother.  I know almost nothing about Emma.  If I could meet her, I would have so many questions.  

Emma was born September 4, 1867 in Emanuel County, Georgia to William Robert Harrell (1838-1908) and Catherine M Odom Harrell (1841-1875).  Robert was born in South Carolina, as was his father before him.  Catherine's family, on both of her parents' sides, had been residents of Emanuel County since at least the late 1700s.  

Emma was one of three children born to Robert and Catherine.  She was the oldest.  Her sister, Nancy Jane (1869-1901), was 2 years younger, and her brother, John Milledge (1872-1951) was 5 years younger. 

Emma also had an older "half" brother.  Roan Perry Riner (1860-1941) was Catherine's child from her first marriage to Lawson Riner (1837-1863).  Lawson died in the Civil War.    

In 1875, tragedy struck the family.  Emma's mother passed away just 13 days after Emma's 8th birthday.  Catherine was only 34 years old.  Her obituary states that in her last moments, she turned "her attention to her four small children, [and] said many things to them." I cannot imagine how heartbreaking and confusing this would have been for the children.  

So Robert was left with three small children to raise.  In those days, the men had to go out and work to make a living to support their family.  So usually, in the case of a baby, another relative would take that child and raise it or the the man would remarry quickly.  Just a little over two years after Catherine's death, Robert remarried.  On January 1, 1878 in Emanuel County, he married Winford "Mimie" Barwick (1853-1939). Turns out that Catherine and Winford were 1st cousins.  Again, it wasn't that unusual for a widower to marry a member of his late wife's family, even her sister!

Robert and Winford had a baby boy in 1881, Robert Lanier Harrell (1881-1947).  Emma would have been 13 years old when this new baby brother was born.  As the oldest (and a girl), I am sure she had to help take care of all the other children.  In 1885, another brother was born named Grover Cleveland Harrell (1885-1928).  

Emma married William John Drake (1857-1927) on July 30, 1883.  She was 15 years old.  John had been married before (his wife had passed) and had a baby girl, Samantha Augusta Drake (1881-1966), who was only 2 1/2 years old at the time of their marriage.  Fifteen months after marrying, Emma gave birth to the first of their nine children:

Hattie Lay (1884-1912)

Kenneth Catherine (1886-1973)

William Lovick (1892-1912)

Nealie Vermell (1895-1970)

William Robert (1897-1927)

James Weldon (1900-1977)

Keland Lawton (1903-1972)

Nancy Mary Ann (1906-1931)

Martha Lou (1908-1986)

In my opinion, Emma had more than her share of tragedy during her life.  In addition to losing her mother so young, she lost two of her children, Hattie Lay and William Lovick, to typhoid fever within a few months of each other in 1912.  She experienced double tragedy again in 1927 when her son, William Robert, was murdered in June and her husband was accidentally shot and killed by their son, James Weldon, in August.  Then 4 1/2 years later, in 1931, her daughter, Nancy Mary Ann died at only 25 years of age.  (I do not know her cause of death.)  

In addition, her daughter, Kenneth Catherine, moved away to South Carolina, and I don't know how often Emma got to see her.

My grandmother, Nealie Vermell, "ran off" with a man twice her age with three children, and from what I can tell, Emma may have never seen her again.

Nealie's husband, Lusion K Tapley (1870-1935), passed away in July 1935.  Emma passed in October of that same year.  My father was shocked when I told him that because he said he had absolutely no memory of his mother attending Emma's funeral.  Of course, he was only age 7 at the time, so he may have just not remembered.  He also didn't remember ever meeting his grandmother.

However, I am led to believe that perhaps some of Daddy's older brothers may have met their grandmother because my first cousin, Gary, who is the son of Daddy's brother, Hugh "Dorsey" Tapley, told me that Emma was a little "off."  I am theorizing Gary got that from his father, but I don't know if Uncle Hugh witnessed it for himself or was just repeating what he had heard.  Either way, who could blame her if she was?  

I do not know that I have any pictures of Emma or her husband.  I do have  this picture that belonged to Grandma Nealie and is unidentified.  Could this be the Drake family?  

The little girl on the left looks very much like my Aunt Irene, who was Nealie's only daughter.  That makes me think the little girl in the photo was Nealie and this is a picture of her family.  If that's the case, the woman in the middle, dressed in black and holding the baby, would be Emma Vermell Harrell Drake, my great grandmother.  

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