Families reminisce about old times

Published 6:00 am Sunday, July 12, 2009

Anytime you’re at a family gathering you’re likely to hear a few stories about the good ole days. Especially if you’re in a crowd of 200 as my husband Ken and I were in Roanoke last Sunday.

Ken’s maternal grandmother, Jemima Folsom Kendrick, was born and raised in Roanoke, and several people shared about trips across the mountains to Chelsea in their younger years to see “Aunt” Jemima.

A third cousin of Ken’s had brought her mother by to see Jemima’s old homeplace on a recent trip to Birmingham.

“The house looks just like I remember it when I was a kid,” she said. “I don’t know who lives there now, but I stopped and made a picture.”

Jemima lived with her son Floyd and his family on Highway 39 below K-Springs church. She had come to the area on the first day of 1912, after marrying Elra Kendrick in Roanoke the day before. The couple had five children, but one died as an infant and Elra never saw Floyd, the youngest.

Elra died July 21, 1918 of Typhoid Fever around six weeks before Floyd was born.

Jemima never remarried, but raised her children in Chelsea and supported them by farming and teaching school.

She once told me, “Grandpa (her husband’s father) told me that his mother once owned all this land down through here.”

Wondering about this mysterious lady landholder led to my researching and writing about her and other early settlers in the area. Jemima, herself, was quite an historian. In 1908, as a girl of 9, she began recording births, deaths and marriages. She continued keeping such records in three little black books until her death in 1976.

Once someone told her she should turn her books over to a library. But she told them she wanted to keep them.

“I’m always glad, though, when I can furnish anybody with information from my records,” she said.

When she died the books passed on to Ken’s mother (who continued to record in them) then to Ken. I regret to say we have not recorded in them.

Jemima’s descendants still live in the Chelsea area, with the exception of a grandson and his family, who live in Houston. He and his wife return to Chelsea at least twice a year to see relatives and reminisce about old times.