Summary: The Strickland family of Pike County, Mississippi, maintained contact
with related families in western Louisiana through visits and intermarriage.
The Stricklands were landlords, merchants and mechanics as well as farmers.
Percy Strickland, Sr. opened one of Pike County's first garages for the repair
of automobiles. He became widely known in Pike County.
Henry and Clarissa Strickland
In 1805 Henry Strickland was born in the State of Georgia. After the death of his father he and several other Strickland men moved to what is now Pike County, Mississippi, with his widowed mother and his married sister. In 1829 Henry married Clarissa Varnado, a grandchild of Leonard Varnadoe of South Carolina. Clarissa's father had come to Mississippi in 1811 before she was born. (Clarissa was an aunt of Solomon Simmons' wife, Sophronio. Solomon and Sophronio Simmons were the parents of George Simmons to whom I have devoted an entire chapter). Henry Strickland's brother (or cousin) John married a daughter of another pioneer couple, Richard and Ann Tyler Simmons. John and Nancy parented a large family of Stricklands who live down along the Mississippi-Louisiana state line and who claim no relation to the Pike County Stricklands. Other Strickland brothers or cousins married other Varnadoe women who were either nieces or cousins of Henry's wife Clarissa.
In 1850 Henry and Clarissa Strickland were living in the vicinity of Mt. Zion Church in Pike County. This area was densely populated by Simmons families. Their immediate neighbor was John Simmons, a son of Richard and Ann Tyler Simmons. Like Henry Strickland, John Simmons was a farmer. John's wife, Mary Hope, had recently died in childbirth and Clarissa helped him manage after his wife's death. She was instrumental in his marriage to one of her nieces, a woman who herself was widowed.
Just as there was a familial connection between the inhabitants of Pike County, Mississippi, and those of Barnwell County, South Carolina, there was a similar connection between Pike County and Sabine Parish in western Louisiana. This connection was created and maintained by immigration westward to Louisiana and Texas. The first group to leave for Sabine Parish was the Sibley family. Just prior to 1850 the brothers Robert and John Sibley and their father Reddick moved to land near Toro, Louisiana. The Sibley's had arrived in the area of Mt. Hermon from near Savannah, Georgia sometime before 1830. They brought a number of slaves with them. By 1830 the younger son, John Sibley, had ten slaves working for him. By comparison, both his brother-in-law, George Simmons, and John Strickland, another relative, had one slave each. In 1830 most Pike County families owned either no slaves at all or one or two. The Sibley's, by contrast, possessed a great many Negroes and were always described as being wealthy.
After 10 or 15 years in Mississippi most of the Sibley's sold their farms and moved further west. In 1851 Reddick Sibley, the father, died in Sabine Parish. He was George Simmons' father-in-law. In September 1854, George Simmons and his wife, Mary Ann Sibley, went overland to Sabine Parish to collect her inheritance. She received $396.06 in cash and four slaves valued at $2,150. from her father's estate. Her half-brother had died in 1852 in Sabine Parish and she received $338.81 from his estate as well. George Simmons and his wife were probably accompanied on this trip by a nephew and a niece, both of whom moved permanently to Sabine Parish.
Richard Simmons and his sister, Emeline Simmons (wife of John Bond), and their families moved to Sabine Parish at the same time. In 1850 Richard Simmons and his sister were living on a farm between that of their father, John Simmons, and the farm belonging to Henry Strickland. Richard and his brother-in-law worked the farm together and were probably working on shares for John Simmons. When these two families left for Sabine Parish, a large group of friends and relatives accompanied them. George W. Addison and his wife Lucinda Simmons, and their two children were among the group that immigrated to Louisiana. These last two were received by letter into the Toro Baptist Church in Sabine Parish in December 1855.
About three years later in February 1859, the preacher Henry Simmons and his wife were received into the same church. In 1859 Henry Simmons was 55 years old and had been a Baptist preacher for 25 years. He stayed in Sabine Parish until his death in 1865. Preacher Henry's nephew, Richard Simmons moved his family across the Sabine River to Newton County, Texas, in 1860 but the other migrants from Pike County stayed in Louisiana and have descendants in Sabine Parish, Louisiana, to this day.
Other groups, some of them quite large, left Pike County and the surrounding area for Sabine Parish in 1868 and subsequent years. There was a constant stream of settlers moving to Texas from Mississippi and in these early years many stopped and stayed in Sabine Parish. The reason for this is that Fort Jessup was the main port of entry into the Republic of Texas. It was located near the town of Many. Fort Jessup became a major population center along the Texas-Louisiana frontier. Fort Jessup was on the trail that was used to bring cattle from Texas to eastern markets. It also had a sizable community of cotton farmers. The bottom land along the Sabine River and its tributaries was ideal for cotton and the Sabine River was navigable all the way to the Gulf Coast.
After the War Between the States some of the Confederate veterans found it difficult to return to civilian life. Several local men headed west to the California gold fields. Some of them, such as Reddick Simmons, eventually returned and settled down again in Pike County. Other men never returned. Some men, like Jeff Simmons, shuttled back and forth between Pike County and Sabine Parish for several years. Many others moved to Sabine Parish and stayed for good. In 1866 the patriarch of the Knipper's clan, Tom Knippers, died. For some reason the entire family decided to leave their farms in St. Helena Parish, just southwest of Osyka, and move west. The Knippers family had been hearing about conditions in Sabine Parish for several years. In 1838 Tom Knippers was a member of the Line Creek Baptist Church along with John Sibley and his sister Mary Ann Sibley. John Sibley was one of the first to move to Sabine Parish and Mary Ann had the opportunity to see the land herself when she and her husband, George Simmons, went there in 1854. The Knippers probably received favorable reports about Sabine Parish from both parties.
In the late 1860s Louisiana was torn by violence between the freedmen and the ex-Confederates. Perhaps because of this the Knippers packed up their belongs, their wives, children, livestock and their widowed mother and traveled by way of Alexandria and Natchitoches to Many in Sabine Parish, a distance of 200 miles. The migration occurred in 1868. All of the Knippers children except for one went along. Several allied families went with them. Several of Henry and Clarissa Strickland's sons went to Sabine Parish with this group. One of them, Green Strickland, married one of the Knipper's daughters. Another son, Henry, followed somewhat later. We are told that the group led by the Sibleys left Pike County before 1850 because there was not enough land in Mississippi to suit their needs. For whatever reason once the first contingent was settled there, it was inevitable that some of their relatives would follow. In this way all the land from the Atlantic Coast to the eastern edge of the grass-land prairies of the Great Plains was settled by a single people having a common culture, a common language and a common history. Until recently the population of the South remained remarkably homogeneous.
There were many ways connections between families in Pike County and Sabine Parish were maintained. The connection operated in generation after generation as cousins moved back and forth to visit and to live. The Knippers were allied to the Stricklands who were, in turn, cousins of the Simmons. The Sibleys and the Simmons visited back and forth several times before the Civil War. For example, one of the sons of George Simmons moved to Sabine Parish with his uncles before 1850. He married and had a daughter. His wife died of tuberculosis and the baby was taken to her grandmother Simmons in Pike County where she grew up. When she was in her middle twenties, she traveled to Many to visit her father. She met and married a man there and stayed in Sabine Parish. Her friends and family from Mississippi would have occasion to visit and so the connection would be maintained. Remarkably this connection between the pioneer families of Pike County and Sabine Parish continued actively until the 1940s.
Back in Mississippi Henry and Clarissa raised 14 children on their farm in Pike County. The fifth child and the second son was Francis Sylvester Strickland. Francis was born in 1839 and farmed in Pike County until he died in 1917. Francis was 21 in 1860 and he, his older brother and, at least, two of his younger brothers were of age to serve in the Confederate army. Most of the white men of military age in Pike County were involved in the war and the Stricklands were probably not exceptions. In 1870 Francis was living next door to his father's farm. By then he had been married to Emily Courtney for nine years. They already had five children. Francis was tall and lanky. He wore a neatly trimmed beard and apparently liked dogs, cats and children. In contrast to her husband, Emily was plump. Like almost all women of her time, she kept her hair long. It was parted down the middle and worn in a bun on the back of her head.
Francis was a farmer as were all of his brothers and most of his neighbors. It seems that none of the Stricklands of Pike County were well off when compared, for example, to their cousins the Simmons. In 1870 Francis owned land valued at $400. This meant that his farm likely consisted of 160 acres. He had $150 in personal property. His personal property consisting mostly of household effects and farm implements. He was well off when compared to his immediate neighbors who were Negro farm hands. Most of the Strickland's black neighbors owned no property and were illiterate. However not all of the blacks of Pike County were poor. One black family in the neighborhood, the Nelsons, owned more real estate and personal property than did either Francis or his father Henry Strickland. This family was exceptional. Most of the blacks owned no land at all and were either laborers, tenants or sharecroppers.
Beginning in 1877 Francis began acquiring more land. He bought 40 acres from his younger brother for $100. Two years later he bought 160 acres at public auction for $25 and, in 1881, he paid $22.75 for 80 acres that had gone to the State for taxes. This was a time of great distress for the farmers of Mississippi and many farmers lost their land because they could not pay the school taxes. By 1875 over a quarter of the total land area of the state had been forfeited for taxes. This was one of the major outcomes of Reconstruction and it led ultimately to the end of Negro participation in government. The fact that Francis had money to buy land while his neighbors could not even pay their taxes showed that he managed his farming operations well and managed to stay out of debt. The land that Francis Strickland was buying was not all adjacent to each other but they were all within a mile or two of his house. He likely farmed most of this acreage with tenants and sharecroppers.
Henry James Strickland was the third child of Francis and Emily Courtney Strickland. In Henry's later years he was called simply "H". He was born a year after the Civil War had ended. He grew up on his father's farm in Mississippi. He left Mississippi and went to live with his uncles Green and Henry in Sabine Parish, Louisiana. He stayed there long enough to marry one of his cousins, Delilah Hayes. Delilah's father was originally from southwestern Mississippi. Like Francis Strickland's brother, Green, he had married a daughter of Tom Knippers. After Tom's death in 1866, John Hayes moved with his wife's family to Sabine Parish, taking with him his seven children. John Hayes had served in the Confederate States Army during the war in the quartermaster corps and in this capacity had become familiar with the area around Many. Thousands of cattle were driven from Texas through Many to supply the Confederate army that had it's headquarters at Alexandria in central Louisiana. Delilah was born in Mississippi and was a year old when her family moved to western Louisiana. She grew up on a farm near Many. In 1887 when she was 20, she married her cousin from Mississippi, H. Strickland.
H. and Delilah were a handsome couple. Delilah was quite pretty. She too wore her hair in a bun but, instead of parting it straight down the middle, she clipped the first few inches short and combed it forward to make bangs. H. had a long drooping mustache that he kept all of his life. The mustache made him look mischievous which, in fact, he was. He was well-known for his practical jokes. Neither H. nor his wife were ever skinny and in their old age they both became fat. They did not stay in Sabine Parish. Instead they moved back to H's home in Pike County in the late spring of 1896. They lived on a farm on the Osyka-Holmesville road, just west of H's parents. As usual in those days Delilah gave birth to a child about every two years beginning in 1889. The couple had 11 children and all but one survived to become adults. The first five were born in Sabine Parish.
Delilah did not lose contact with her family in Sabine Parish. There were visits back and forth. My mother recalls making several trips to Sabine Parish in the 1930s and there are photos of several of Delilah's brothers visiting the Strickland home in Pike County. During one such visit in 1928, the wife of Randal Hayes sickened and died in Delilah's home. For that reason, Mollie Hayes lies buried in the Strickland Family cemetery in Pike County. Her husband is buried near Florien, Sabine Parish. Visits continued through the years. The Hayes family has a reunion every year at or near Fort Jessup and they eagerly welcome visits from their Strickland and Knippers cousins in Mississippi. The Stricklands have their reunion in Mississippi and sometimes one of the Hayes will join them.
In February 1917 H's father, Francis Sylvester Strickland, died. In November his mother, Emily Courtney, also died. Neither left wills and the four surviving oldest children sued the two youngest children for their share of their parent's personal effects. Since both parents died intestate (without written wills), the Chancery Court appointed an administrator to divide the estate. In the meantime the two youngest boys tried to take possession of the household effects. The older children claimed that they wanted to sell everything because they were insolvent. Probably the two youngest boys were still living at home. For whatever reason the older children felt that a partition in kind was not practicable and they insisted that everything, even the family albums and Bibles, be sold.
An inventory of household goods
The complaint that H. filed listed in detail most of the moveable property of his mother along with an estimated value of each item. The list is a catalog of the contents of a well-equipped household of that time and so I have copied it here.
The following is the list of exempt personal property belonging to Emily Strickland at the time of her death on November 22, 1917:
Some of the items listed are unknown today and so I've given below some explanations and comments.
A barrel of corn refers to a certain quantity of unshucked corn weighing about 60 pounds. It probably was the equivalent of a bushel of shelled corn. The corn was not actually in barrels. The 60 barrels referred to here would have been in a corncrib in the barn.
Shoats are young pigs, just weaned. The cow was probably a milk cow of mixed breed. A set of plow gear would be plow points, the singletree and everything else between the plow and the harness. The harness was mostly made of leather while the plow gear was made of wood, metal brackets and chain. The mules needed to pull the plow and the buggy are missing from the list.
A dairy and a safe are cabinets where food was kept. They were free standing, made of wood and measured about six feet high, three feet side and one or one and a half feet deep. A dairy had solid doors and was deeper than a safe. It had to be deep enough to hold the stoneware milk bowls into which the milk was placed to allow the cream to rise. The safe had screen doors and was used to store fresh food. It was not refrigerated and was simply a safe place to keep the food from the flies. Both a dairy and a safe contained nothing but shelving and were usually home-made.
A lounge was an upholstered bench. Like a bench, it had no armrests or backrest. An armor was a free-standing closet with drawers and a place for hanging clothes. Armors were often store-bought and featured a mirror on the door of the clothes closet.
Andirons were fireplace dogs and sadirons were the solid irons used for ironing clothes. Sadirons usually came in a set of three because they had to be used hot. They were heated by placing two of them on the stove or in front of the fire while the third was being used to iron clothes.
The washbowl was used for washing hands and feet. It was always kept near a cedar bucket filled with water. When someone was thirsty, a dipper hanging nearby was used as a drinking glass. If someone wanted to wash, water was dipped from the bucket into the wash bowl. There was no indoor plumbing so the dirty water was thrown out the door and into the yard. A matching bowl and pitcher were kept in the guest room and served the same function as the wash bowl and cedar bucket but in a more formal setting.
Cotton beds were mattresses stuffed with cotton. They were cheaper than the feather mattresses which were used in cold weather. The machine valued at $5.00 may have been a Singer sewing machine. The five lamps were glass coal-oil lamps with wicks. The two albums were picture albums containing tin-type pictures made by traveling photographers. The cow bells were iron bells that were tied around the neck of the lead cow so the farmers could locate the herd. Cow bells were also sometimes puts on any cow who had a history of going through fences and becoming separated from the herd. The looking glasses were probably reading glasses although I don't think that either Frank Strickland or his wife could read. Perhaps they are more properly called sewing glasses. The lace curtains were probably hung in the living room windows and the two shades were roller shades used in the bedroom windows. The beef hide was kept around as a source of rawhide, some of which was used as bottoms or seats of chairs. A bank of potatoes refers to potatoes stored in a hole in the ground and covered to keep them dark and to prevent them from freezing in the winter. The large nickel lamp belonged in the parlor. It was decorated and may have had a polished reflector built into it. The iron furnace may have been a type of fireplace insert that could be used to bake bread or pies or it may have been the kitchen stove. The small grind stone listed here for 25 cents was for sharpening knives in the kitchen. A larger grind stone valued at one dollar and listed under agricultural implements may have been a foot-driven circular stone made of a much coarser stone and used to sharpen tools.
Problems of inheritance
It is noteworthy that this list makes no mention of auxiliary equipment such as tools for blacksmithing, woodworking, sawmilling, syrup making, corn grinding or shingle making. It seems that Francis Strickland was strictly a farmer without other occupational interests. The dispute over his estate was not settled quickly. I have seen another written complaint dated December 1919 relating to the same matter. This was almost two years after Emily's death. I don't know the outcome of the dispute or, indeed, what really caused it. H. may simply have needed some cash money to stock his new store. However I suspect that the dispute dated back to before 1890. H. left home when he was 18 or 19 years old and went to Sabine Parish to live with his uncle. After he left the homestead of 40 acres was sold to the youngest son, Louie Oliver Strickland, for $100. It was a common practice for the youngest son to stay on the farm and work it with his father until his father was too old to work. In return for inheriting the place the youngest son cared for this parents in their old age.
By the time his parents died in 1917 Louis was 45 years old and had a family of his own. The other brother named in the suit was only a year younger and he too had a family. They were both apparently still living at home with their aged parents. Certainly there was no disputing that the house and the land belonged to the two younger sons. Other than that, with the exception of the wash pot, the kitchen sink and the mule, the older children were claiming a share of everything. This was not the common practice of the time. Much of the household equipment that H. wanted sold was essential items without which a farm could not operate. Louie Strickland probably assumed that, when he entered into his agreement with his parents in 1890, that all this came with the farm. Certainly if he was insolvent, as H. alleged, then Louie would have been hard-pressed to replace any of it. If there was not already bad blood between the Strickland children before the death of their parents then this story surely illustrates that dying without a will can make sibling rivalry extremely ugly.
After 1918 and before 1925, when H. and his wife were both in their fifties, they sold their farm on the Osyka-Holmesville Road to their son Percy Strickland. H. bought a store on the State line Road about two miles east of Osyka. They ran that store until the 1930s when they moved up to the Magnolia-Progress road near where the Bluff Springs Baptist Church stands today.
Percy Edward Strickland was the fifth of the eleven children of H. and Delilah. He was born in January, 1896, in Sabine Parish and moved to Mississippi with his parents when he was less than six months old. He grew up on his father's farm in Pike County, just a few miles south of where he built his garage in 1926. In 1915 he married Carrie Lee Simmons, a daughter of George and Sophronio Simmons. Percy and his brother, Clarence, courted two of the Simmons girls together. Most of their courting took place in the parlor of the girl's home some four or five miles from that of H. Strickland. In those days, there were no electric lights and, when the boys overstayed their time, they had to return home in the darkness. They made it back home only because the mule pulling the wagon had memorized the way. On cloudy or moonless nights, the long rides back home in the middle of the night and their overactive imaginations convinced the boys that old Bloody Bones, the devil, came out of the woods where the road crossed the Bala Chitto Creek and followed them all the way home. Many nights the two men, still just teenagers, arrived home in a sweat. Leaving the mule and the wagon in the yard, they would rush up to their parents bedroom until they calmed down. The two Strickland men eventually married the two Simmons women. The couples remained close friends throughout their lives.
After their marriage on Christmas, 1915, Percy and Carrie moved to the house on the Osyka-Holmesville Road since occupied by Hubert Simmons (one of Carrie's brothers). George Simmons offered 40 acres of land to each of his children who waited until they were 21 before marrying. Both Essie May and Carrie qualified for this gift and Clarence and Essie May lived on the forty acres that George Simmons gave them. When Carrie and Percy married, George Simmons offered Percy forty acres just east of the H. Strickland place. Percy refused it. The land had no road leading to it. Percy preferred instead to rent a house out on the highway that ran between Osyka and Holmesville. Percy and Carrie's first child died as an infant. Their second child, my mother, came very close to dying of pneumonia while the family was living in that rented house. The doctor had done all he could do and had left. Fortunately, during the night the baby passed through the worst of the disease and lived.
During World War One, Percy left Pike County and worked in a shipyard in Slidel, Louisiana. None of the Strickland brothers were in the military during this war although several left home to work elsewhere. Percy may have had a draft deferment in mind when he took the job in Slidel. One of the older Strickland boys went to work for the railroad. In 1916 he was caught between two railroad cars and crushed to death. Percy returned from Slidel and worked his father's farm until he bought his parents out sometime before 1925. By 1926 Percy was farming part-time. He was spending most of his time repairing automobiles. Automobiles were just then making their appearance in Pike County. Percy had a car as early as 1920. He and his father-in-law, George Simmons, had two of the first cars in Pike County. One of my mother's earliest recollections is of an incident involving that car when she was two years old. Her parents took her to H. Strickland's place and left her there for her grandmother Delilah to baby-sit. The baby didn't want to be left with grandma and she ran after the car, crying. Percy got out of the car and spanked her. She said that this was the last time he ever spanked her.
In 1926, Percy sold the old H. Strickland place to his brother, Clarence. Percy bought some land where the Osyka-Holmesville and the Magnolia-Progress roads intersect. He built a garage on the southwest corner of the crossroads and spent most of his time there. He relegated his farming duties to a young black man named Alvie Taylor. Alvie began working for Percy when the family lived at H's farm. Alvie was 16 when his mother brought him to Percy. She said, "You want this boy? You can have him." When Percy moved to the crossroads, Alvie followed. At first, Alvie boarded with the family. After he married Sis he build a house on Percy's land behind the garage on the Holmesville road. When Percy stopped farming altogether after his older daughters left home, Alvie worked in the garage. It was Carrie, the older girls and Alvie Taylor who kept the farm going. When necessary, the two girls would change their clothes after coming home from school and then go out into the cotton fields to work. Later Percy sold the cotton field, which was behind the garage, and built a dairy next to the house. That is to say, he built a milking parlor and a place to store the milk until it was picked up by the truck and taken to Magnolia. From Magnolia, it went by train to New Orleans. Every day for years, his wife milked 13 cows in addition to her other chores.
Sometime before December, 1926, Percy built a house across from the garage. This house cost $3,300. to build. When the house was virtually finished and, after the family had already moved in, an arsonist set the house on fire and it burned to the ground. The whole family had gone to Magnolia to hear a speech by Senator Bilbo, who was running for Governor again. When they returned at about ten o'clock at night, they discovered the house completely destroyed. Counting the furnishings, their loses amounted to $4,500. of which $1,500. was covered by insurance. A second house of the same design but of used material was built on the same site. The lumber in the dining room wall was taken from an old garage and it had oil soaked into it. For the next 50 years, the grease on the dining room walls bled through successive layers of wallpaper. There was always a spot on the dining room wall.
In the 1920s, a family named Pezant operated a store on the Magnolia-Progress Road near the new Strickland home. In the 1930s, H. and Delilah sold their store on the State line Road and bought out the Pezants. H. built a new store about a quarter of a mile west of the crossroads as well as a new house. He and Delilah operated this grocery store until H. got sick in the 1930s. He had a small cancer under his left eye which grew larger year by year. For a long time he hid the cancer with an eye-patch but it finally outgrew the patch. He died in 1941. Both the store and the house have since burned down.
H. loved to scare children as much as he loved practical jokes. He would always try to scare Hazel and her cousins whenever they spent the night visiting in his house. He would make whatever noises were necessary to convince the girls that Old Red Eye or Bloody Bones was lurking just outside the bedroom window. When his younger grandchildren came to visit, he took great delight in chasing after them and, if he caught them, stuffing them into burlap bags. He would tie the bag off so the children couldn't escape. Sometime after black children had made purchases at this store, he would tell them, "You better run!" Then he would come out of this store, light a roman candle and point it at the children as they ran. The children were probably a little apprehensive but it was all in fun. H. was laughing and so were most of the children.
Gravel was easily available in Pike County and it was freely applied to the county roads. The trucks and the road graders used in this work were the property of the county. Beginning in the early thirties, when Hugh Simmons was elected county road supervisor, Percy Strickland was given the county's mechanical work. This gave Percy some security and increased his work load to the point where he almost completely gave up farming. Hugh Simmons had one of the first tractors in Pike County and Percy maintained it as well as the county's equipment.
Hugh Simmons was a member of the Pike County Board of Supervisors from the 5th District for 28 years. He was an important friend of Percy's and Percy worked diligently around election time rounding up votes for Mr. Hugh. Before each election, he was given a wad of dollar bills with which to assure the votes of wavering supporters. He occasionally paid the poll taxes for those who had fallen behind. He also worked as a poll watcher and stayed late on election night to watch the vote being counted. Much of his business depended upon Mr. Hugh's victory.
Percy was known as a character. He didn't often go to church with the rest of the family. When he did, he caused everyone to be late. It seemed that whenever he got dressed up to go somewhere, someone would always drive up for an emergency repair on their car. His wife complained that all of his white shirts had grease stains on them. Percy was also missing a finger that he lost to a fan belt early in his career. Like his father, Percy enjoyed practical jokes and mechanical novelties. He equipped his Buick with an illegal exhaust whistle that sounded like the whistle on a steam locomotive. He also mounted a glow plug in his car's tail pipe. When the plug was hot, he could turn the engine off, open the choke and a blast of fire would erupt from the back of the car. When Percy had a gas station in Osyka, he wired a charged capacitor in series with the urinal. When a customer used the urinal, he would receive an electric shock as the capacitor discharged through the stream of urine.
Percy also had a tendency to drink and drive. On time, he missed a turn on the Magnolia-Progress Road and drove his Buick into the middle of a pond of water. A black man waded into the pond and pulled Percy to safety. Percy was quite drunk and the man was roundly cursed for his effort. In the 1930s, square dances were held on Saturday nights at the lodge at Percy Quinn State Park, west of Magnolia. Percy liked to dance but his wife preferred to go to the movies. As a result, Percy dropped his wife and children off in Magnolia where they went to the movies while he went dancing at the park. By eleven o'clock, when he picked them up, he would sometimes be drunk and abusive. Carrie knew that he was not faithful to her but she avoided fighting with Percy over this and his drunking habits. She always said that he wouldn't know what to do with a woman if he had caught her. Sometimes when he came home drunk, Carrie would hide until he fell asleep.
Percy brewed his own beer in the smokehouse. He consumed it himself or sold it by the bottle or the case to local black men who came to the house in a steady stream on Saturdays with their empty bottles in hand. Pike County was legally dry and alcoholic drink could not be purchased openly. However, Louisiana was not dry. A few feet across the state line on Highway 51 were Uncle Bud's and the Windmill. These bars featured huge dance floors and, until outlawed in the 1940s, gambling. After their slot machines were outlawed in the 1950s, these large clubs were torn down and replaced by smaller bars. Percy frequented these bars.
I recall hearing of an incident late in Percy's life in which he and his brother-in-law, G. J.. Simmons, rented two gas powered Go-Karts from a man in Magnolia. They were supposed to go around the block a few times. However, being thirsty, the two decided to go to the state line for a few drinks. This was a distance of 12 miles. Naturally, they failed to return the machines within their allotted time. The Go-Kart man waited until dark, closed his shop and had to search all over Pike County for his machines.
In the 1930s Percy bought a fish camp at Lee's Landing on the Tangipahoa River below Ponchatoula in Louisiana. He kept this cottage for about 15 years and he used it frequently. He hosted large gatherings of friends and relatives as well as politicians and road machinery salesmen. Most of his Pike County relatives visited the camp on occasion including George and Sophronia Simmons. They particularly loved to fish for grinnel in a dead lake just below the camp. Percy always kept a stock of beer at the camp and most of his visitors, even those who didn't drink, would chance a bottle at the camp. Percy and his brother and fishing-companion, Clarence, liked to end a day of fishing with a fish fry and by getting drunk.
Although Percy drank, he was not a drunk. He was a competent business man, an excellent mechanic, a sportsman and a good companion and friend to many men, both rich and poor, black and white, in Pike County. In the last year of his life, he quit drinking and regularly attended church with his wife. His example was sufficient to induce several of his drinking buddies to quit the bottle as well. On Easter Sunday, 1960, he died in his sleep at the age of 64. He was immensely popular and his funeral attracted over 300 persons. His wife, Carrie, lived for another 15 years. Although he had not left her much cash, he left her sufficient property for her to get by during the last years of her life. An unfortunate result of Percy's early death was that G. J. Simmons, who had followed Percy's example and had quit drinking, concluded that Percy's death was caused by his decision to quit drinking. After this G. J. proceeded to drink more heavily than ever. For this, or for some other reason, G. J. survived until 1976. When G. J. died his left his widow in possession of the Solomon Simmons place.
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