Friday, January 20, 2006

The Malinda Phelps Story

Memories of Malinda Phelps, daughter of Isham Phelps, granddaughter of Reuben Phelps, great-granddaughter of James Phelps of Caswell County, N.C.

This story was sent to me by Anita Ferrell Avery, great-granddaughter of Malinda Phelps. It is a wonderful and touching story, beautifully written by Anita who knew her Great-Grandmother personally. Stories such as this are rare finds in genealogy as you could search courthouses and records for decades and never come across such wonderful first hand information told by someone who knew the subject of the story. Without people like Anita, who are willing to pass on these stories to future generations, they are lost forever.

Latham Mark Phelps---January 2006


Memories of my Great Grandmother, Malinda Ann Nichols, Wiles

Malinda Phelps,1857-1944, was the daughter of Isham Phelps and Betsy Moore

My grandmother, Lizzie Phelps Ball was the daughter of Malinda Phelps and James Nichols who lived near Milton N.C. I lived with my parents, Anne Ball and John Baxter Ferrell, just a few houses away from Lizzie in Danville Virginia. Because they lived so close I was almost a permanent fixture with her and my grandfather John Thomas Ball.

Several times a year during the warm months Granny Ball and I took the morning train to Milton to visit with our relatives who lived about a mile south of the train stop. We happily walked at a brisk pace to our "Milton relatives." After a long chatty afternoon that included a big country Sunday dinner, we walked back to the train stop to take the train back to Danville. Most of these visits occurred during the depression years when there were few cars so public transportation and walking was just the way one traveled, both within the city and to places further away. I was probably around 8 to 10 years of age when I first started going on our Sunday outings to Milton so walking was no problem for me.

Malinda lived about a hundred yards from my Granny Ball's half sister, Mary Lou and her family. Her unmarried daughter, Lucy looked after her until Lucy died of kidney failure. When I was older Granny Ball told me Malinda owned the land and her daughter, Mary Lou's family raised tobacco as a money crop on it. Malinda needed very little from the profit of the tobacco since her daughter's family looked after her worldly needs. This arrangement came about after Malinda's second husband died.

She and Lucy lived in a log cabin house that looked like a tobacco-curing barn converted to a house. There was one large room with an attached lean to sort of kitchen and an upstairs. The house was very old and drafty from the crumbling concrete between the logs. A makeshift door that didn't fit the opening well enough also provided air conditioning winter and summer. The door was especially intriguing for me as a child because it had no hardware on it. It was a homemade contraction that worked by pulling string, which raised and lowed a piece of wood to open and close the door. Someone in the family tried to alter the draft factor by pasting layer over layer of newspapers on the inside walls of the house. The room had one window and a fireplace

She and Lucy dressed as farmer's wives must have dressed in the late eighties. I can visualize her now sitting outside in the shade of a large, spreading oak tree dressed in a dark flowered dress that came to her ankles, high top black shoes, an apron and prairie bonnet. She liked to have her relatives around her on those lazy Sunday afternoons but she did little talking herself. 1, the child, had three sisters to compete with at home for talking time so I took advantage of the opportunity to ask her why, why, why about her style of living. For one bright moment, I asked her if her father had been in the Civil War. Of course, now we know he was a little old for battle, but she did tell me her brother fought in the war. Her husband James Y. Nichols died before reaching old age leaving her with young children. She remarried in a few years.

Later I was told her second husband, Andrew "Jack" Wiles was somewhat of a dandy who liked to riding about the countryside on his horse, also named Jack. My grandmother, who had enough energy for three people, thought him a lazy man who expected his wife and daughters to look after his welfare. Maybe this is why she often used the phrase "He would lay down beside work and go to sleep." Andrew also didn't live to old age so after he died they survived with the help of her nearby daughter, Mary Lou who shared their home canned food and what little meat they had from the pigs. My grandmother said she, Lucy and Melinda also helped picked fruit and vegetables for their neighbors, the Scotts, across the road. While the Scotts owned a large farm and hired help, Mrs. Scott and Malinda, who had nothing, were to be good friends as long as they lived. Later, I became acquainted with her son John Scott and his wife Jean. They have shared with me things that not even my grandmother told me. I learned that Malinda lost three children in one day to what they thought might be a deadly form of diphtheria. While that sounds unthinkable to us these days, one only has to go to an old church cemetery to see tombstones of too many small children who died in the early 1900s, if the family had the money to buy a tombstone.

John Scott may have revealed how Malinda felt about herself as he chatted about her. She was often invited to have lunch with Mrs. Scott during the fruit and vegetable picking sessions, but Malinda would not sit down at the table with her. She would take something home to eat if it was offered. As a child I was aware she wouldn't eat any other place except her own kitchen so her daughter's children would make up a plate and take it to her. One of Mary Lou's daughters never married and to the day Malinda died she took care of her food and clothing needs.

To my knowledge she never left her home to travel to Danville for supplies, preferring to send someone to the general store in Milton. But there finally did come a time when she fell and broke her hip in her very old age and made the trip to Danville in style lying in an ambulance. She never recovered from the trauma to her hip and eventually died of pneumonia. When her death was just hours away she asked for her long deceased daughter, Lucy, to hold her hand. Someone took her hand and she died peacefully and I feel sure with thoughts of being with Lucy again.

The Nichols had a long association with Connally Methodist church, so her remains are in the church cemetery just a few miles south of Milton. NC. She lies next to her beloved Lucy. Her first husband preceded her in death before the present Connelly church was built.

Submitted by Anita Ferrell Avery January 11th 2006

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

A WARM AND TOUCHING STORY. I AM ONE OF THE RELATIVES. I AM THE YOUNGEST DAUGHTER OF ROY AND BESSIE SALLEY PHELPS. MY GRANDFATHER WAS ED PHELPS WHO WAS MARRIED TO CARRIE BELLE GRINSTEAD AND FARMED IN THE OLIVE HILL COMMUNITY. THERE WERE FIVE CHILDREN TO ROY...THREE BOYS AND THREE GIRLS. TWO BOYS AND TWO GIRLS SURVIVE. PHILLIP RAY PHELPS DIED. ALICE FAYE PHELPS DIED SHORTLY AFTER BIRTH IN 1942 I BELIEVE.
I AM RACHEL ANN PHELPS O'BRIANT.
I HAVE TWO CHILDREN, A SON AND A DAUGHTER.I HAVE BEEN INTERESTED IN MY DADDY'S PEOPLE MOST OF MY LIFE AND ONLY KNOW WHAT I LEARNED FROM MY DADDY AS I GREW UP IN PERSON COUNTY. HIS MOTHER WAS A FANCY LADY AND A STAUNCH CHRISTIAN WHO WAS A MEMBER OF LAMBERTH MEMORIAL BAPTIST CHURCH. SHE DIED AT 92 OR SO.
I HAVE HEARD OF MANY OF THE NAMES YOU HAVE RESEARCH AND FROM THE INFORMATION YOU SENT MY BROTHER GRADY PHELPS WHO SENT IT TO MY SISTER MARGARET LOUISE PHELPS BARBER WHO LIVES IN DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA AND IS A WIDOW WHO IN TURN SENT THE INFORMATION TO ME.MY OTHER BROTHER IS JAMES MATTHEW PHELPS WHO LIVES NOT TOO FAR FROM ME ON THE SEMORA RD. IN ROXBORO.HE HAD TWO CHILDREN, A SON AND A DAUGHTER. HE HAS GRANDCHILDREN AND A GREAT GRANDDAUGHTER.
OUR AUNT SUE, MARRIED TO RAYMOND JOHNSON IS THE ONLY LIVING RELATIVE WHO WAS MY DADDY'S SISTER. SHE HAD THREE CHILDREN. NELLIE WHO WAS MARRIED TO JOSEPH DUNKLET HAD TWO BOYS.
MY SISTER HAS A SON. HER HUSBAND HAS PASSED.
I HAVE BEEN WRITING A BOOK FOR THE LAST TWENTY YEARS ABOUT MY CHILDHOOD, MY FAMILY, AND GROWING UP. I ONLY WORK ON IT WHEN THE MOOD HITS. LIFE WAS NOT ALWAYS EASY GROWING UP AFTER WWII IN A SLOW PROGRESSING TOWN. SOME GOT OUT, SOME DIDN'T. BECAUSE OF SOME HERE WHO FEAR PROGRESS ROXBORO IS STILL A SLOW PROGRESSING TOWN AND THEREFORE TENDS TO LOSE THE YOUNGER GENERATIONS TO BETTER CITIES. ENOUGH FOR TODAY. MY SISTER COULD TELL YOU ABOUT STAYING WITH MY GRANDPARENTS, SHOPPING IN THE CITY OF DANVILLE, AND EXPERIENCING THE CITY AS THE REST OF US STAYED HOME TO DO CHORES. GRANDPA PHELPS (ED) OWNED A GRAND PONTIAC.
FOUR

Janet Nichols Spriggs said...

This is a beautiful tribute to Malinda or "Mindy" as I am told she was called. Mindy was my great-grandmother. Her daughter, Mary Lou Wiles married my grandfather George Flem (shortened from Fleming) Nichols and my father, George Fleming Nichols, Jr. was the youngest of their five children.

My grandmother, "Susie", as she was known by everyone in Milton, took care of her mother Mindy until Mindy's death. Her oldest Mary Sue, is the daughter that never married who Anita mentions in her posting. Mary Sue was a kind woman with a big heart who loved her family above all else. I grew up next door to my grandmother and Mary Sue and my Uncle Jim lived with my grandmother. My fondest memories come from the time that I spent with my grandmother and my Aunt Mary Sue was always there -- trying to feed us and give us whatever she had to give -- even though she did not have much at all.

I used to sit on the porch and swing with my grandmother and she would tell me the stories of her youth -- she loved her mother dearly and even though "Jack", her father, had some what of a reputation of being a "hard" man, my grandmother loved him and his white horse as well. We used to sit on the porch swing and sing hymns -- I sang my first song at Connally Unted Methodist Church when I was in the first grade -- it was Christmas and I sang "Away In a Manger" with Mrs. Bessie Scott (sister-in-law of John Scott mentioned in Anita's post), playing piano for me. My grandmother was so proud. Many, many years after that, when I was grown up and married with a family of my own, my husband and I went back to Connally (as we do whenever possible) and presented special music at Homecoming. I sang and my husband and his friends played guitar, banjo and mandolin. I dedicated that song to my beloved Granny and I felt her watching over us that day as sure as the sun was shining.

My Granny died on December 15, 1979 -- I was 17 years old and I will never forget the sense of loss that came that day and in many ways has never left. What a wonderful, kind, loving, and gentle woman she was. I did not know Mindy personally, but I knew her through my grandmother and I am so proud and honored to be a member of her family.

I "met" Anita via email many years ago when I first started my Genealogy research. She helped me tremendously and I never forgot her although we lost touch. I had other things in my life for many years including the death of my father, George Nichols, in 1999. I am just returning to my love for discovering the roots of my family and found this website and the story of Malinda and her father Isham and his father Reuben. Thank you so much for posting these stories!!

Anita, if you are out there and happen to read this -- I would love to talk with you again. I hope you are doing well and if I ever get back up to Danville (I don't go as much now that my daddy is no longer there, but I do visit my Aunt Mable, his sister, the only surviving child of Mary Lou who is 84 years old now) occasionally and I will try to talk with your relatives in Danville when I am there next.

Anonymous said...

Anita, who wrote this story, passed away on January 30, 2010. She was my aunt and she was a great story-teller and writer. We will miss her.