Saturday, September 11, 2010

Louisa' s Little Cemetery

My daddy's daddy was Daddy Shaw - Grady Columbus Shaw - barber, salesman, and storyteller extraordinaire. I lived for the week I spent in the summer at Daddy Shaw's house -- and especially the barber shop! I loved to crank myself up and down in his spare barber's chair while his clippers buzzed and his words painted my brain with images my eyes had never seen. What fun to slide some Tom's peanuts from their little cellophane packet into an ice cold Co'cola. Or earn a dime shining a pair of shoes for someone waiting his turn under Daddy Shaw's clippers. All the while listening to laughing, teasing, storytelling.

His daddy was Grandpa Shaw - Columbus Turner Shaw, Lum for short. My first memory of him is from his funeral where there was a bewildering amount of crying.

(l-r) Minnie, Lewis, Curtis, Lum (Grandpa), and Grady (Daddy Shaw)

I knew nothing of Grandpa's daddy till after he and Daddy Shaw were both gone. Now there's a story. Grandpa Shaw's daddy was not a Shaw! He was a Treadwell, John Treadwell. And he and Grandpa's Mama, Louisa, had never married even though they had a bunch of children together.

John Treadwell

Today I spent some time with several other descendants of that illegal union. My second cousin and genealogy friend Annette Winningham and three other cousins I'd never met before: Gwen Shaw and Clyde Shaw - descendants of Louisa's eldest son, John; and George Long, grandson of Louisa's daughter, Mary Ann Shaw Long.

(l-r) Terrell, Gwen, George, Annette, Clyde

We visited the little family cemetery near Lithonia and found it completely overgrown. You would never know it was there without being very close and having good light.

The cemetery is completely obscured from the road by trees and undergrowth.

We are hiring a tree surgeon to clear the young pines and other undergrowth and weeds. He has assured Gwen that he will be gentle and careful.

There is a chain link fence along one side.

Marci gets a close look at the gravestone of Mary Amanda Shaw Dobbs.*

Those of us descended from the folks buried there should help with the $1200 it will cost, if we can. Sheila and I made a small pledge. If any of my siblings or other Shaw kin would like to help, give me a call and I'll put you in touch with Annette and Gwen.

Louisa's gravestone:
Louisa Shaw
Born Aug. 31, 1842
Died Feb 26, 1932
She was a kind and affectionate wife, a fond mother, and a friend to all.

I've wondered a lot about Louisa. She was revered by her children. Treadwell bought her several houses and a couple hundred acres or so for the use of his second family. He also bought her first shoes and later gave her a slave (Lou Stroud) according to my grandmother. He provided for her in his will. She was so young when this older married man took up with her. If it weren't for their misbehavior I wouldn't be! This poem grew out of my wonderings:

All Things Work Together: Questions for a Kept Girl
For Louisa Frances Shaw, 1842-1932

Louisa, little girl.
Tell your secret.
Was he kind at first?
Did he give you dolls?
Did your dolls know too?
When did you tell your pa?

Louisa, mother girl.
Where is your secret now?
In how many cities do we breathe and wonder?
Did he take you in your sleep?
Carry you from the well? Or the wood?
Where was your Daddy?

Louisa, grandmother girl.
Your secret spreads north and west.
Why did you stay?
Why put him on the mantel?
Should we love him too?
Did your mother cry?

Louisa, great grandmother girl.
I am your secret now.
I know your pain.
I cry for the lost father.
I cannot save you.
I would not.

Louisa, great great grandmother girl.
Your secret is mine and a hundred more.
Without your pain we never were.
These tiny hands would not clasp mine.
I would be no one's Papa,
no one's me.

© 1997 Terrell Shaw

* 9-13-10 I have corrected the name for this grave. I knew better than the name I gave previously, but still put the wrong one. Whoops! This should be a reminder to ALWAYS take genealogical info with a grain of salt and verify, verify, verify. I have seen mistakes on tombstones and lots on census records. Thanks, Annette, for straightening me out!
(Also corrected some typos.)

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