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Family History from Aunt Nell - Inell Morrell

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Thanks to Veronica Sehrt for sharing this family history. Transcribed from original.


From "Aunt Nell" - Inell Morrell

Daisy Magnolia Knight was born February 13, 1890 in Bullock County, Alabama, the second child of William Harvey Knight and Stephannah Harrell Knight.

She had 3 brothers and 3 sisters. Hubert Walder, James Edward, William Scott, Lula Melinda, Lily Bell and Eula Pennie.

The family was considered "well-to-do" [not in need]. Her father owned and operated a turpentine facility and her mother managed the home and a commisary type store. This store continued for a period of about 20 years. The leading material sold was calico at .06 a yd. She carried a line of fine imported fabrics and laces along with the staple groceries. This store was located in Holms County, Florida about 4 or 5 miles above Bonifay.

She attended the local school in this community. As a gifted student, her teacher suggested that she be sent away to college. Her father was appalled! He felt education was wasted on girls! Her schools days ended at an early age.

She often recalled that her father was a stern and forbidding man. Once in the long hot summer she decided to have her hair cut according to the very latest fashion. This was unthinkable to Grandpa. So the oldest brother, Hubert, with scissors helped to trim and shape the long dark curls. She felt stylishly chic with the smart new hair do! Then Grandpa came home from the turpentine stills, took one look at his beautiful daughter, grabbed the scissors and razer and shaved her head. My mother would never forget the hurt and humiliation and the necessity of wearing a bonnet continually for a time that seemed forever, while her hair grew long again.

Mama's mother was often ill. She worried about the welfar of the very young children. When papa, George W. Morell, Jr., came to visit his cousins, the Mike Morrell family, that lived nearby, and met mama, he was immediately infatuated with this young slender girl with the striking black curls and clear blue eyes. This pleased grandma. She encouraged an early wedding.

Mama was a very young teenager, caught up in the romantic plans of a home wedding and a gorgeous new trousseau. Grandma sowed late into the night on the floor length gowns of fine dotted swiss, batiste, voiles and organdy, with trimmings of imported French laces. Fittings for the tiny waistline and floor length skirts made in highest fasion were all so exciting. She was marrying a handsome, sophisticated older man! All the stuff young dreams are made of.

The wedding on December 18, 1904 was a very big affair. Everyone from far and near attended. The big lovely old home bustled with all the preparations for the happy occasion.

Papa lived down "near the bay" in Floriday (near panama City) and had a partnership in a market in Dothan, Alabama, socializing in fish and seafood. His partner stayed in the shop while papa traveled back and forth to Panama City supplying the fresh sea foods and dried salt mullet fo rthe market.

After the wedding the young couple set out for the first home. It was to be a homestead down on the bay. The house was a lean-to shack with dirt floors, miles an dmiles from anyone.

Papa continued his work and traveling to and from the market leaving his new youn bridge to prove up this homestaed. The lively trousseau was utterly useless in this wilderness. There was no reason to dress up in the elegant clothes when you wouldn't see anyone for months on end. The work was sheery drudgery, back-breaking, hot and humid. The land had to be cleared and crops planted.

Furniture consisted of bare necessities in this horrid little shack. But the living area was abrightened up with the little round table made from a hoop cheese container mounted on a pedestal end wearing those elegant skirts that she had no occasion to wear herself.

Meantime at the market the partner was confiscating all the profits for himself an dleaving nothing to pay fo rthe fresh supplies. Papa was forced to sell out his interest and spend more time working the homestead.

Their first baby, a daughter was born on February 15, 1907. She was given the name Maxie Floraetta by her paternal grandmother, Adella Sheffield Morrell. Mama always thought this was the most beautiful child in the whole world.

Grandma Knight's health was rapidly deteriorating. In June 1907 they took their baby for a visit back to see her. Grandma was now in her early forties and her youngest child, Eula, was abarely 2 years of age. The brain tumor was closing in on her. She died shortly after they arrived for their visit, on June 25, 1907.

Pennieual, a son, was born March 14, 1909. A positively handsome child, plump, rosy-cheeked, loveable baby who seemed to never have any illnesses and never a bad-tempered day.

Another trip was made to visit her family in December 1909. The baby, Pennieual was now 9 months old. He took sick and died there on December 12, 1909, a few days after their arrival. Pennieual was buried in the cemetary of Betheny Missionary Baptist Church, (Grandpa Knight had helped to build this church) about 10 miles South of Slocomb, Alabama. (Later a baby, Clotie Kngith, wasa buried beside him. This was a child of Grandpa Knight and wife, "Miss Dawnie", and the only other child born to Grandpa).

Sometimes mama spoke wistfully of this baby. Even after all the sadness that followed, she still recalled that Pennieual was a baby still beast feeding, when he died, and notheirng could ever compare with this heartbreak and desolation.

Exel, the second son, was born November 15, 1910. The years passed, they had proved up the homestead on the bay, sold it, moved to another on the sand hills of Holmes Valley, another shack, this time with floors, except for the kitchen that had a dirt floor. They talked and planned of selling this one and buying a dream place that they both would like.

Grandpa Knight was busy courting a new wife to help with the five young children. He eventually maried a total of 6 wives, and most of them, after the honeymoon was over, turned into cruel and wicked stepmothers. Then the children would be brought to mama and papa to be cared for. Mama would sometimes reminisce about her brothers, Jim and Scott, often coming back home to her after each interval with the new stepmother, and always carrying a 22 rifle and a change of clothes.

Papa's older brother, Uncle Tom Morrell, sold his homestead in the valley and found this property right on the Choctawhatchee River, where Holmes Creek flows into the river on its way to the Choctawatchee Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. He convinced papa that this was the right place to settle and raise his family. With transportation then being chiefly water-borne and these 2 streams, it was ideal. Pap was convinced and bought acreage joining Uncle Tom. He neglected to discuss this with mama before closing the deal. I don't believe mama ever forgave him for buying this land.

Flora was born here Setpember 24, 1913 and Maxie had given her the name "Flora Etta" for her favorite character in her school reader. when Flora was 5 days old Maxie died on September 29, 1913 at 6 years of age.

The thord son, Ellis was born March 25, 1916. Papa named this son. On February 6, 1918 Aggie Orie was born, she was named by mama's sister, Lula, who was living with them at that time. Exel died February 11, 1920. Three months later Inell, named by mama, was born on May 9, 1920. Inabelle, named by papa, was born May 26, 1922.

They had begun clearing land along the river for farming, accumulating cattle, hogs and chickens. There were miles of open range laid for grazing. The big island, where the creek and river joined was a fertile feeding ground for the hogs, only the spring floods necessitated their boating the hundreds of hogs off the island at intervals. Each resident had a mark forhis animals. I can still remember papa's "crop split and under-bit in one ear, under square in the other". This has always been abolutely meangingless to me, but I rembmer it almost as a chant.

The high banks of the Choctawhatchee were safe from flooding. The land was conidered the best for farming, and gardens raised on this soil were thought to have a better flavor than any other in the world.

Again papa built a store, stocked it with general merchandise and later the post office was housed in the same building. Mama was appointed postmater at Miller's Ferry, Florida on May 14, 1923. This was located in the Shell Landing Community, somtimes referred to as the "Morrell Settlement".

To provide refrigeration he bought an "Icy Ball". This was the first ice-making contraption of its kind in the vicinity. It consissted of 2 large ball shaped cylinders with a space between. Each morning a then new fangled gas burner was lighted, one cylinder was placed over it, the other cylinder placed in a tall aluminum barrel filled with water. Once child was delegated to sit with the thing for what seemed endless hours to be sure to hear the whistle that signaled the re-charging of the ice making process for another 24 hours. Then the heated unit was hung outside the box and the cold unit inside. It had a small ice cube tray for ice.

Grandpa and Grandma Morrell still lived in the valley. On a trip by horse and buggy to visit Shell Landing, the horse was frightened by something and bolted, athrowing Grandma from teh buggy and breaking her leg. She died soon after, on October 30, 1923 (she was born March 17, 1845). Grandpa sold his home-place, and came to live with this children, mostly with Mama and Papa. He was born, George Washington Morrell, on October 4, 1844 and ided on NOvember 3, 1924.

They continued to stock the store in a complete line of merchandise and to build up the huge herds of cattle, hogs and now he was the first to buy pure breed poultry, the "Rhode Island Reds" for eating and "White Leghorns" for eggs. They were beginning to prosper. Now he was among the first to own a car, a black shiny "26 model Ford" for the family car and an older truck for errands. The older truck was a 23 Ford bought at the Sheriff's auction. It was called a "rum runner" and had (3 in 1) in the rear which made it faster.

Vernall, named by Flora, was born September 8, 1925. Papa often took this young child with him, even on his long trips to town on business. Aggie was also taken along to help with her while he attended to his errands.

Groceries and supplies including gas and oil for the service station came down the river by steam boat from "Louis-Bear Co" in Pensacola. The Army Engineers maintained a "Snag boat" for removing trees and debris from the river and creek to keep them navigable. A form of barter was also used for those without cash. Chickens, eggs and gophers (land turtles) were accepted in exchange for groceries, and then crated and shipped by return steam boat to Pensacola. I still vaguely remember them discussing having bought the same gophers several times over from the rather shiftless but needy family who apparently came back nights and sneaked their gophers out of the special pens and resold them the following day for more food. papa eventually painted a white stripe on the turltles sold so that they could not be "exchanged".

Then papa's health began to fail. Doctors, hospitals constantly. In 1928 his health deteriorated rapidly. Months on end were spent in the hospitals in Dothan, Alabama. Thiws was supposed to be the best and most modern facilities. Then the year 1929, Idell, named by pap, was born on January 18, 1929. The depression was on, yet hospital and doctor bills increased. His kidneys ceased to function along with the other ailments, necessitating the doctro removing the water from his system twice weekly. An enlarged spleen was removed. Many blodd transfucsions were necessary. Ellis, now 13 years of age, was driving the many miles requried to take him to the hospitals and the visits to the doctor when he was home. The rear-end of the 26 Ford was continually having to be replaced.

Mama was coping with a new baby, a critically ill husband, 6 other children, a store, postoffice, farm, cows, hogs and chickens. Sometimes there would be a live-in cook, other times "day-help would fill in.

As the year progressed into winter they realized Papa couldn't live. Doctors now told him that he wouldn't survive through the end of the year. He head always made a happy and beautiful Christmas for his family. This had to be no different. He lay in bed and planned the picnic type feaste on teh front lawn with all the neighbors and relatives included, for our Christmas. Hams, chickens and cakes were baked, there must be fresh mullet and oysters from the bay. Someone was sent on the truck for all the seafood. Santa Claus must come and fill his childrens' stockings as he always had. Somehow this was all accomplished, tho, I can remember vaguely that mama had exhausted all available funds and a mortage was given on the "Carnley Field".

Santa was generous to each child. Life was ebbing. At 9 years of age, I could feel him slipping away. We loved him. Inabelle, at 7 years, hovered over him asking constatnly if he wanted anything. Older people gently ushered her out of the room. I remember swarming crowds of peopole who remained thru the night. He died on CHristmas night 1929.

The funeral for papa was bleak, his casket was built by neighbors under the oak tree by the store. (This was customary in these days to build the casket, and flowers were provided from those blooming in yeards). The material piled outside for that new house he had dreamed of now provided the necessary lumber. White sateen from the store and black for covering the outside and brass hinges and handles made a handsome box for burial. no flowers were blooming that time of year, so there were no bouquets. I can remember a light rain as we crossed the ferry at Miller's Ferry on our way to the cemetary at New Hope Methodist Church (a church he and his relatives had helped to build). His sister, Aunt Lela, told us the rain was a special blessing. I felt a consolation, that our God was blessing papa!

Mama faced insurmountable difficulties. Somehow she managed. Her sole interest became the welfare of her children and to keep them together, raise them respectiable and give tem all the education possible. She kept her store and office open at everyone's convenience. If one of the older children would tend the business then she worked in teh garden. We even arose, dressed and checked the post office for mail, sold groceries or gas at midnight hours. This was supposed to be accomodation (It really was exploitation). Our lives were truly bound to the store and office. Mama never tolerated rudeness by her children, even a much deserved retort was forbidden. The customer was always right. No gossip could be repeated, no discrimination, . First come, first served, black and white. No needy person was ever denied credit for groceries even though she knew they'd never pay. She felt compassion for all and continued to share all she could as long as she lived.

January 1939 death took another of mama's children. Vernall, now 13 1/2 years old went back to school as usual, spent the night with her cousin, Tommie Lee Dunn, came home on Friday with a headache.





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