Bessie and Buck
Matriarch of a clan from Boogerville
By Jessie “Buddy” Williams
Bessie Elizabeth Sheats was the only child of Jessie Lee Sheats and Lula Beatrice Crawford. She was born in Eufaula, Alabama Aug 12 1905. In her life she would marry three times. The children from these marriages and their children and their children did not look at their selves as half siblings. They had a love for each other that had no bounds. Bessie was like a mother hen, always trying to keep her biddies under her wings and she did. There were the normal jealousies between brothers and sisters, but any non-sibling had hell to pay if they caused any dismay with this family. Bessie’s descendants were like a Clan. At times we all lived in the same house. When we did not live in the same house we would live very close to each other.
I do genealogy and if you do genealogy you know that in ten years between censuses a lot can happen in a family. I seem to think of the history and events of my life sort of like short eras of time. One or two years in time can seem a lot longer when you are living it than it seems when you are remembering it and writing it down. Sometimes the details may not be exactly as others or you remember them, but they are your memories. Events, though a life time ago, in one’s mind can seem like yesterday. Some memories are not what you lived but what others shared with you about their life. You can sort out some misconceptions however by studying the Federal Census, city directories and Sanborn Insurance Company maps.
My grandmother Bessie, that I remember, was a very strong willed woman. She did not stand for any bull-shit from anyone. Was she like this from the beginning of her life? I think so, however it also could have come about from raising her family in hard times.
I don’t know what year Bessie and her mother and father moved to Columbus from Eufaula. The 1910 Federal Census shows them living in Eufaula, Barbour County Alabama in the household of Jessie Sheat’s half-brother William Bowling. Bessie’s mother and father are listed as farm laborers. By 1920, Jessie, Lula and Bessie were living in Columbus at 1004 Twelfth St. The three of them worked at the Bradley Mill. Before becoming the Bradley Mill it had been
Paragon Mill, then Hamburger Cotton Mill. Jessie was a spinner, Lula a carder and Bessie a labor. Bessie’s grandfather, Lula’s father, William Henry “Henry” Crawford had a small neighborhood store as well as lived at 1216 Tenth Ave. This was the corner of Webster’s Alley and Tenth Ave.
In those times the area South of Thirteenth St. to Wynnton Rd. between Tenth Ave. and Thirteenth Ave,(I call it Thirteenth Ave. actually Buena Vista Rd.) was known as the Bottoms. Most of this would become Warren Williams Apartments. According to my mother Marie McPeters this was the original Boogerville. According to Marie some of the shot-gun houses in what would become the Boogerville of my era. Were moved from the bottoms by Mr. Striffler of Striffler-Hamby Funeral Home, as rental property.
By 1920 Bessie is listed as Bessie Newsome. So she had married her first husband Warren Morris Newsome, but her first child had not been born yet. Ada Elizabeth Newsome, “Cooter”, was born Sept 23 1921. After Bessie had divorced Mr. Newsome. She married James Loveless Ginn, “Jim”. Born to them were William Henry Ginn, “ Dude”, April 7,1924 , named for Bessie’s grandfather William Henry Crawford. Jessie Lee Ginn, “Jiggs”, May 1,1926, named for Bessie’s father and Robert Elliot Ginn Sept 9, 1927. Jim Ginn born 1897 died March 8, 1928. Jim had worked as a pipe fitter for the railroad.
In the 1930 Federal Census Bessie and her children are living with her father and mother at 1016 Twelfth St. She is listed as Ginn but her children are listed as Newsome. Around this time Bessie married Samuel Clark “Sam” McPeters born 1900 in Maryville Tennessee. They had six children, an infant daughter that was born and died in 1930. Marie “Bare-foot” McPeters born June 25,1931. Richard Larry McPeters born December 13,1934. Margarett Mcpeters born and died July 8, 1936. Gerald Eevertt McPeters, “Dickie”, born June 6, 1938 and Kathryne “Butchie” McPeters born November 1940.
The 1940 Federal Census shows Sam and Bessie McPeters living at 1347 Eleventh Ave. Living with them listed as McPeters are Robert Ginn and Jessie Ginn, as well as Marie McPeters born 1931, Richard Larry McPeters “Larry” born 1934, and Gerald McPeters born 1938. By now Ada had married Denzil Clyde “Buck” Williams, they as well as their children Denzil C Williams born 1938,
Jeanette Williams born 1939 were living in the same household. Sam McPeters is listed as a doffer in the cotton mill. Bessie is listed as a spinner in the cotton mill. Buck Williams is listed as a tieing end hand. In the years between 1930 and 1940 Bessie and family had lived at 1329 Webster Ave. Prior to marring Ada , Buck had lived with his family at 1117 Webster Ave. (not to be confused with Webster’s’ Ally)
There was trouble between Sam McPeters and Robert Ginn. Robert had tried to get money from Bessie. Sam was not happy with Robert’s attitude when Bessie would not give him any money. In the following events Sam cut Robert with a pocket knife. After that Bessie and Sam did not cohabitate any longer. Sam became a boot leger and was a gambler. Sam worked as bartender for the Viaduct Café on the North East corner of Tenth Ave and Thirteenth St. infamously known as “The Bloody Bucket” a location notorious for fist fights and knife fights that ended up very bloody. At one time Sam ran the Eleventh Ave. Pool Room for Mr. Jim Patrick.
Sometime in the 1940’s Sam’s brother Albert McPeters, “Uncle Pete” born 1896, lived with the family. In 1936 he and his wife Annis Winslett born 1908 had lived at 1010 Twelfth St. They had a daughter Shirley McPeters born 1937. Sam and his brother Albert McPeters “Pete” were known to hobo around for months at a time. Neither kept a steady job for long.
Dude was under age when he joined the Us Army. In the 1940 Federal Census, (Enumeration Dist. 26-a Fort Benning Ga. Sheet 13a), it list him as age19. He was actually born April 7 1924. This shows he was 16 years old when the census was taken and he was in the army. Dude became a paratrooper. During WWII there came a time when the paratroopers at Fort Benning were to be sent to Europe. There they would be pulled behind planes in gliders. Released from the plane the glider would glide into position and the paratroopers would jump from the gliders over enemy lines. When Bessie found out about this she went to the commander at Fort Benning and had Dude release from the army because he was under aged.1945 Dude Ginn married Marjorie Morgan born 1933, they had a son William Henry Ginn Jr., “Billy” born 8 Oct 1946. Dude and Marjorie divorced soon after this and Cooter Newsome Williams raised Billy as her own. Marjorie’s mother Sybil Morgan had died in 1934 as a result of her clothes catching fire by a
space heater. Marjorie was raised in the Anne Elizabeth Shepheard Orphans Home. In 1947 Dude married Gladys Cheeks Lott born 1924. Born to them was Christyne Ginn , then Steve Ginn born 1950. Gladys already had two sons Bruce and Wayne Lott.
In 1944 Jiggs Ginn married Joan O’Connor born 1926. To them were born Kathleen Marie Ginn born 1946 and Shela Ann Ginn born 1948. Jiggs and family along with Joan’s mother and father moved to Miami Florida. Jiggs came back to Columbus sometime between 1951 and 1952. He was here for an extended time when he went back to Miami they had all disappeared. It was only in 1965 after shela had been struck and killed by an automobile in Washington D.C. that Jiggs heard from Joan again. After that they were back together.
Robert married Julia Helen Bell in Nov 1946, he was 19 years old, she was 28 years old. Helen Bell was a legend In Boogerville in her on life. In 1950 Robert Ginn married Virginia Rose Walker. To this marriage Robin Ginn, “Robbie” was born July 6, 1951. While Robert was away in the US Navy, Virginia left Robert and Robbie. Bessie and Cooter, then Bessie, raised Robbie Ginn. Robbie was more like a sister to me than a cousin she died Oct. 3, 2003.
Marie Mcpeters married Willie Robert Williams born 1926. He was the son of JT Williams born 1907 and Veter Dukes born 1911. Willie had a sister Myrtle Williams born 1929 and a brother Hubert Williams born 1931. Willie was no relation to Buck Williams. Willie was first in the US Navy, then the US Army Air Corp, then when the US Air Force was split off from the US Army he was in the US Airforce and retired from the Airforce in the 1960’s. While in the Air Force, Willie Robert Williams changed his name to Robert Dewayne Williams. He did this because most everyone in the military named Williams was called Willie, he hated that name. After that he was called Robert or Bob. Growing up he was called Willie Robert. . They had moved to Columbus from Eufaula sometime after 1930. In the 1930 Federal Cenus, JT Williams is listed as a framer in a cotton mill. In 1940 Willie Robert and family lived at 1013 Twelfth St. JT is listed as a doffer in a cotton mill. In the 1930’s the Mcpeters family and both Williams families are neighbors on Webster’s Ally. Born to Willie Robert Williams and Marie were Darlyne Marie Williams 1947 and me, Jessie Lamar Williams “Buddy” 1953.
Sam had thought Bessie how to play poker. Bessie was superior poker player. Her friend Ada Anglin Reddish was also a great poker player. Ada was married to Sam McPeters nephew David Newton Reddish “Newt”. Bessie and friends like Ada Reddish would sponsor poker games at various people’s houses around Boogville. I can remember well as a child Granny Bessie baby-sitting me and taking me and my cousin Robbie Ginn with her to poker games. There would be neighbors, Taxie Cab drivers, people from all walks of life attending these poker games. It was not a small affair.
Bessie and her son in-law Buck Williams liked raising hogs and chickens and making moonshine. So they would move out of town to the country for a few months then move back to Boogville again and again. My cousin Billy Ginn said they were fair weather farmers. While living out Hamilton Rd about 1955-56. I remember some of us kids being on the back of uncle Bucks truck. We were sitting on a tarp that was covering a load of moonshine. Granny Bessie and Uncle Buck were in the front seats. We had a flat tire and were sitting beside Hamilton road before you get to Cataula. The sheriff pulled up and helped Uncle Buck take his tire to be fixed and brought him back. Then we were on or merry way. Sometime after that the barn in which the whiskey still was in caught fire and burned the house down.
Larry McPeters married Ruby Mae Sanders “Sonny” born 1934. Aunt Sonny’s father was Rubin Sanders and mother Clara Smith. Rubin is the man who was killed during the textile, Strike of 1934. Rubin and Clara were the father and mother of Rex Sanders, Max Sanders, Billy Sanders a female and Ruby Sanders. Rubin was killed before aunt Sonny was born. Clara could not raise them alone Rubin’s father Jeptha Powell Sanders and mother Georgia Lou Law took the children in. In1937 Jeptha passed away. So Georgia put Billy and Sonny in the Anne Elizabeth Shepheard Orphans Home. Billy Sanders, Sonny Sanders , Marjorie Morgan were in the orphans home together.
Dickie McPeters married Avonia Wright in 1962. Avonia born 1947 was the daughter of George Wright and Mary Clyde Hancock. George and Clyde’s other children were Josephine, Curtis, William, Willie C., Lou “Snookums” and Francis. Dickie and Avonia are the parents to Debbie McPeters, Wanda McPeters and Betty Joe McPeters. Dickie had another nick name “Blade”, no he didn’t cut people!
On Eleventh Ave. between Fourteenth St. and Thirteenth St. across from the Good Will Center was a transfer company yard. Sometime in 1961-62 Dickie and his pal Richard Adams burglarized the trailer of a tractor trailer rig stored there. It was not the first time. Before this they had always checked the manifest to see where the truck would be taking the trailer. If it was going a couple of states away they knew no one would know where the break-in occurred. This time they were intoxicated and did not pay attention to the manifest. Well this trailer was going to Fort Benning, Georgia. It was loaded with shaving kits. They were never arrested. There was a story in the newspaper. It said something like, whoever stole these shaving kits could use a different kit three times a day for 100 years and never use the same razor twice. Most everybody in Boogerville had shaving kits, there was far more than enough to go around. By 1966 Dickie and Avonia had their on household in East Highland, Granny Bessie and Robbie Ginn started living them. They moved several places eventually moving to Howard Ave. above Thirty-fifth St. Bessie lived with them until she died in 1991. She had come a long way from The Bottoms to the high ground. I know there were some bad times but there were a hell of a lot of good times too.