Minnie Mae Perry and Putting the Bits and Pieces of Memories Together

Lane, Minnie Mae Perry

A Poor Picture of Minnie Mae in Later Years

Childhood memories float in our minds like ethereal pictures of bits and pieces of our experiences…bits and pieces that may or may not accurately reflect the true happenings of the moment. Such is my memory or lack of memory of my great-grandmother Minnie Mae Perry. 

Minnie Mae Perry was the mother of my grandfather, William (Will) Everett Lane. Her parents, Joseph Calvin Perry and Irene Reville/Revels were from Martin County, North Carolina. They migrated to Crockett County, Tennessee sometime around 1868. Minnie Mae, the fourteenth and last child of Joseph and Irene was born on 26 February 1875 in Maury City, Crockett County.  

Joseph only had two sons. All the remaining children were girls. In 1880, Joseph was farming the land with the help of his girls who ranged in age from nine to twenty. Minnie Mae, at the age of five, was too young to help. Unfortunately the 1890 census records were lost in a fire so we have no record of Minnie during that time-frame. Most likely she followed in the footsteps of her sisters in helping on the family farm until she married or until Joseph died sometime before 1890. 

Minnie Mae and my great-grandfather, Edgar Lane married in Crockett County on 20 July 1894. Minnie was nineteen, and a cradle robber, as Edgar was only fifteen. On 13 June 1895, my grandfather, Will was born. 

It could not have been a happy marriage. Edgar was known to be a gambler and it’s calculated that sometime around 1898 he disappeared. He may have walked away from gambling debts and family responsibilities too heavy for his young age of nineteen. It was possible back then to disappear and start a new life somewhere else. Or, as some family members believe, he came to a premature end due to his unsavory life style. However the cause, he was gone from Minnie and Will’s lives forever.

In those days, family helped to pick up the pieces of a shattered life. Fortunately Minnie’s mother Irene lived across the river in Gayoso Township located in Pemiscot County, Missouri. She was living with her son John, her widowed daughter Mary Mullins and Mary’s son Lloyd. Most likely Minnie and Will moved in with her extended family after Edgar’s disappearance as they are shown living with the family in the 1900 census. Minnie helped John with the farming and Mary helped with the domestic work.

Cosey, Sam picture with mules

Sam Cosey and Charley Bowers, 1901

The next year Minnie married Samuel Cosey on 3 August 1901 in Lake County, Tennessee. Sometime before or after their marriage, Sam and his neighbor, Charley Bowers, took a break from pulling logs to have their picture taken. The picture was subsequently published years later in an unknown newspaper and, fortunately, the clipping was saved by the Lane family.

Minnie and Sam added to their family when their daughter Gladys was born in 1902 and son Raymond was born in 1907. The entire family was living in Gayoso in 1910 including Minnie’s mother Irene and brother, John. John had changed his profession from farming to carpentry. Perhaps this is where my grandfather Will, fourteen at the time, learned his profession. 

Through the 1920s and 1930s the Cosey’s lived in Little Prairie, Pemiscot County. In 1939 Minnie lost Will to a bus accident with a Grey Hound bus in Caruthersville. The accident was on one of the major thoroughfares of this small town. Perhaps the reminder of the loss of her son each time she passed by this place was too much to bear for in 1940 she and Sam moved to Rombauer located in Butler County, Missouri.  

When I was about five or six I recall visiting “some people” who had mules. I believed that they lived in either Tennessee or Arkansas. I recall a rustic fence with mules inside. There were several older people standing around with my mother, father, brother, and me. My father, laughing, climbed over the fence and jumped on the back of one of the mules. He was immediately bucked off. When he got up, he was still laughing, a little sheepishly though, and climbed back over the fence. This picture of my dad being bucked off the mule is as clear today as it was back then. 

Cosey, Sam portrait

Sam Cosey

The reality of this memory is we visited my great-grandma Minnie and step-grandpa Sam. I didn’t even know Minnie existed until I started my genealogy quest a few years back. We were in Rombauer, Missouri not Arkansas or Tennessee. And Sam was known for his mules. I imagine he got a kick out of my dad trying his hand at riding one of his prize mules.

Sam Cosey died at the age of seventy-five in November of 1954.This was probably a year or so after our visit.  Just a little more than four months after Sam was buried, their son Raymond died of peritonitis of the gallbladder. This was a sad time for Minnie. Minnie lived another nine years joining Sam on 13 December 1963. Both are buried in Maple Cemetery in Caruthersville.  

Through interviews with cousins I was able to put the people and places together to form the accurate accounting of this wonderful memory.  Like all of us, I have a lots of bits and pieces of memories floating around in this old brain of mine. However, this was a reminder to me that I have to check, and re-check those bits and pieces to make sure I relate them as they really were.

Bertha Lane…A Woman of Many Names

Ruberta, Rueberta, Bertha, Birdie, Robert A, Ruby … all names found in census records for my paternal grandmother Bertha Hood Lane. But I knew her as Maw.

Maw was born on October 14, 1894 in Mississippi to Aub Hood and Amanda (Mandy) Belle Pennington Hood. I suspect she was born in Itawamba County, Mississippi where Aub and Mandy were married. She was their fourth child. By today’s standards, Maw was very young when she married John Wayson on August 29, 1909. She was only fourteen years old. This marriage apparently did not last long because she was shown living again with the family in Lake County, Tennessee in the 1910 census. However Aub was no longer with the family and Mandy was widowed.

Lane Kids

Back Left, My father Talmadge, Belle, Vernon, Front Left, Pauline, Margaret, Helen

On March 12, 1913, Maw married my grandfather William Everett Lane. She was listed as Birdie in the 1920 census. Children came quickly. My father Talmadge Hollis Lane was born in 1914, Rosa Bell was born in 1917, Vernon Everett was born in 1919, Pauline was born in 1921, Helen was born in 1923, and Margaret was born in 1924. They moved to Caruthersville, Missouri sometime in 1920 where she would live for the rest of her life.

Living on a farm, particularly as tenant farmers, couldn’t have been easy in the 1920s and 1930s. Maw birthed each child at home with the help of a midwife. As the family had no electricity until the early 1930s, Maw would have cooked over a wood stove and would have washed the clothing of eight people by hand. The water for cooking and bathing probably came from a pump in the yard. Most likely she was also responsible for the henhouse and the family garden. Cotton was king in the Bootheel so the children probably were sent out to pick cotton as soon as they were able. And it is likely that Maw picked cotton some time during her life as well.

At the age of forty-four Maw’s life was to change forever. On Sunday, June 4, 1939, her husband of twenty-six years was suddenly killed in an accident with a Greyhound bus. The bus driver was found to be at fault in the accident. No doubt there was a settlement that allowed Maw to own her home and live a modest life. Six years later however tragedy was to strike her life again when her son Vernon died, the result of a kamikaze plane hitting his ship in the Pacific.

My memories of Maw are few. I can only remember visiting her perhaps a half-dozen times. She was not a warm and fuzzy grandmother. She was a large woman for her height. Maw used snuff and Sen-Sen, a breath freshener. Most likely the Sen-Sen was to cover the smell of the snuff. Her cooking was wonderful and my father bragged on her biscuits. One of my memories is walking down the dirt road that ran in front of her house to buy a chicken for our dinner from a neighbor. Much to my horror she wrung its neck when we got home. I know too well what a chicken with its head cut off looks like.

Another memory was seeing a wooden leg in someone’s bedroom. Who belonged to the wooden leg was a mystery to me for a long time. It wasn’t until recently one of my cousins said that Maw’s sister Den lived with her for awhile and Den had lost one of her legs. I believe the mystery has been solved. I don’t remember Aunt Den but I certainly remember that leg.

My cousin Donna was always in the picture. She lived with Maw while her mother Margaret and her father were away earning a living. Donna was more like a daughter to Maw than a grand-daughter. Eventually my Aunt Margaret divorced her first husband and married Walter Kulpeksa. Walter was a beautician. They set up shop in the front of my grandmother’s house. Walter gave me a perm when I was five. I looked like a poodle had settled on my head but that was the style apparently.

Amand Pennington Lane (r), Bertha Lane, Talmadge Lane

Left, Maw, Little Granny, Talmadge

 

Sometime before her death, my great-grandmother Mandy (Little Granny) went to live with Maw. Little Granny was a tiny woman and very child-like. She loved ice cream. Little Granny passed away at home at the age of ninety-eight in 1961. I was fourteen when we went to her funeral. That was the last time I saw Maw.

When my oldest son was born I received an un-expected gift from Maw. It was a yellow and white crocheted baby blanket. The gift of that blanket touched me deeply. Not but a few months later we received word that Maw had died February 3, 1969 at the age of seventy-four. She was laid to rest a few days later in Maple Cemetery in Caruthersville, Missouri.