Monday, July 21, 2008

Early Family Images

These are some of the earliest Poole family images that I have. All are from my father's (John R. Poole's) photo collection. Most were taken in Nashville, GA, or at the Poole farm in the nearby rural community of Cottle. Few have definite dates, but I've attempted to provide best possible estimates, generally based on my father's age at the time.

John Poole (seated) and Henry Monroe Poole. This is perhaps the finest image I have of either of these men. John Poole was my great uncle (whom my father was named after), and Henry Monroe Poole was his brother and my grandfather. This photo was probably taken sometime around 1910-1915. The manner of dress -- broad brimmed hats, bow ties, pocket chains -- was ubiquitous for southern gentlemen at that time.

Early family portrait. The back row consists of (l. to r.) John Poole, a woman whom I cannot readily identify, but assume to be John's wife, my grandfather H. M. Poole, and his wife/my grandmother, Eunice Philips-Poole. The older women in the center of the photo are unknown to me, but based on the nature of the photo, I assume that they are matriarchs of any of the three families represented here. The three children are all children of H. M. and Eunice Poole; they are (l. to r.) Elma Poole, James Poole, and John R. Poole (my father). My father appears to be about 2 years old in this photo, so the photo was probably taken around 1909 in Nashville.

Two riders. This photo is affixed to a heavy piece of cardboard; the lower right-hand corner is broken off, and some of the material is also missing from the lower left. My grandfather is on the right. The man on the left is identifed on the reverse side of the cardboard backing as H. D. Culpepper. The Culpepper genealogical archives indicate that (according to the 1900 U.S. Census) there was an H. D. Culpepper who was born in 1878 in Mitchell County, GA, married a Bonnie Maples (also of Mitchell County) in 1904, and was a farmer. I do not know what his relationship to my grandfather was, but he clearly appears to have been another gentleman farmer like my grandfather. Perhaps he was somehow connected with the turpentine industry. I estimate this photo to have been taken some time around 1915 (I am uncertain of the location). That would make Mr. Culpepper about 37 years of age, which certainly seems consistent with his appearance in the photograph.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Origins: Georgia and Florida

My grandfather's name was Henry Monroe Poole. He was born in Eastman, Georgia, in 1879. The earliest account I have of his life was as a farmer and turpentine distiller. He married my grandmother, Eunice Phillips of Colquitt, Georgia, in 1902.

Sometime prior to 1907, they moved to northern Florida, where land at the time was selling for as little as $1.00 an acre. My grandfather purchased large tracts of land down there, and I believe that that was when he initially entered the turpentine industry. My own father was born in 1907 in a small community called Sirmans, in Madison county, Florida. When I was a teenager, we made a trip to Sirmans and visited a distant relative who was still living there at the time. There isn't very much to Sirmans, although it's still officially on the map.

According to my mother, my grandmother was very unhappy in Florida. They lived a very isolated life far out in the piny woods, and my grandmother missed her family back home. So my grandfather finally agreed to sell the land and turpentine operation, and return to Georgia. They settled just on the outskirts of Nashville, in the rural community of Cottle, which still exists today, more or less near the intersection of CR 199 (Henry Poole Road) and CR 200:

There, my grandfather farmed and also expanded his turpentine operation, partnering in the turpentine business with John Wesley Langdale. They formed a company called Poole and Langdale. The Langdales had always been well known in the navel stores and timber industries. John Wesley's son, Harley, became famous as an attorney and judge who also some how found the time to continue running the Langdale timber business, and today has been immortalized in the timber hall of fame. When my grandfather finally retired from turpentining, he sold his share of the business to the Langdales. Today, Langdale Forest Products is a large and well-known timber company headquartered in Valdosta, and is run by John Wesley Langdale, III.

The inside jacket of my grandparent's Bible, recording the marriage of my grandparents (this is not their official marriage certificate, although it resembles one). You might notice that "Poole" is written without an 'e' in the Bible entries. I remember my father telling me that my grandfather had dropped the 'e' around that time, but then later returned to the old spelling. Exactly why, I don't recall.

The other inside jacket of the my grandparent's Bible, recording my grandfather's and grandmother's dates and places of birth, their marriage, their deaths, and the births and deaths of their children.

When my grandfather died in 1959, his land was divided between his four children: Elma, James, John (my father), and Jack. Neither James nor Elma were interested in farming, so sold there shares to my father and my uncle Jack, although in what proportions, I am not sure. My uncle Jack continued to actively farm and eventually passed his farm on to his daughter and son-in-law. My father, on the other hand, rented the cultivated portion of his land to local farmers, and occasionally sold off timber from the non-cultivated portion. When my father died in 1990, my mother and I took ownership of my father's farm. To this day, our half of the farm is still in operation, and we grow primarily peanuts and soybeans, but haven't harvested any timber since my father died.

Those of you who know me might be somewhat puzzled as to how I could be connected to this interesting bit of southern history that began in the late nineteenth century and flourished throughout the first half of the twentieth century. I must admit that I was born very late to older parents, one of those so-called miracle babies never expected to arrive, but who finally decides to show up just when his parents are contemplating a quiet retirement (my father was 53 when I was born). So there is something of a "missing generation" or generational gap (whatever you prefer to call it) between me and my parents. But if it weren't for that, I never would've developed such an intimate knowledge of family members essentially two generations before my own time. And it is for that experience that I will always be grateful.

Acknowledgments: Many, many thanks to my cousin Virginia Bailey (nee Poole) for providing our grandparents' Bible, and to my good friend William H. Outlaw Jr. (visit his wonderful web site, for scanning the inside jacket of the Bible and providing me with the images.