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Grandpa Dykes
by James Harding Morris
Excerpts from a letter written by James Harding Morris
to his niece Melinda Gardner
Grandpa Dykes** was born after his father died. We have no data on Great grand father Dykes. George W was taken into his uncle's family; this was Benjamin B Dykes of Andersonville, GA. In Sumter County near Americus, GA. He lived as a child and grew up on this plantation.

When the infamous Prisoner of War encampment was built by the Confederate Army in 1864, the land was taken from one corner of Benjamin B Dykes' Plantation. Grandpa used to tell us kids of seeing the Yankee prisoners coming in by the train load (the reason the camp was built there in the first place) and being marched up the hill to the entry gate of "Camp Sumter" as it was already called, there they were locked into the various areas of the camp. This was a stockade made of pine logs put into the ground and being 20 feet height. No way they could get out; although some tried...

At any rate, Grandpa Dykes was taught how to make things of wood, and how to make baskets... He excelled at cabinet making, but could do anything with wood. He also was taught to farm, to tend animals… He was very good at all of these things.

He married Mary Lawson English on December 26, 1878 at Oglethorpe, Macon County, GA. This union produced nine children as follows: Pittsy Eva (1881, Mar 14), Ida Lawson (1883, Feb 17), Ann Verna (1884), Andrew Jackson (Jan 2 1888), Joseph Edwin (Oct 18, 1890), Fannie Jewel (Aug 18, 1892), Ruth Jane (Oct 11, 1895), Bertha Lee (Aug 11, 1897), William Warren (Oct 1901), Katie Thelma (Dec 1903).

Grandpa left the farm and moved to town, where he went to work for the AB&A Railroad Co. as a car carpenter (all cars were made of wood in those days). We saw a lot of Grandpa during our young years. He maintained a small wood working shop in their back yard. We would go to his shop and watch him working with his tools, but knew better than to speak or to interrupt him in any way. I have an encounter or two with a hickory "split" (thin strips which he wove together to make baskets). This was not real fun. He would not tolerate any touching of any of his tools. But we were still most worshipful of him, and were content to see him create something from very few others in our knowledge could, regardless of the occasional whap on the seat for getting in his way.

Grandpa made chewing tobacco. He would visit some farm friend who grew tobacco and bring home several strings of cured tobacco with him. He would then plait these leaves into long whips of tobacco leaves. He would then wind these into flat wheels and place them between white oak planks, clamp the corners together and throw them into the rafters of his shop and let them cure there all fall and winter, take them down in the spring, and un clamp the boards and have round plugs of beautiful chewing tobacco. He would cut a "chaw" off with his pocket knife (a whole story itself), and start chewing, after offering all us kids a chaw of it, all of us declining in the offering. After many years of loving and being loved by his grandkids, he developed heart trouble; of which none of us knew anything.

In January of 1930, my brother Jack and I went with him to where a large pecan tree had been blown down by a storm, to recover some of the wood of the limbs and the trunk, from which he could make tool handles and splits to weave baskets. I remember quite well that mama took us all out to the orchard where the tree was and left us all day with our bag lunches and quart jars of fresh milk and water, then return us all home. This was the last time any of us spent any time with him because he became sick that night and after several days of suffering, he died on January 10, 1930 of Congestive Heart Failure and other related troubles. This is the same type of congestive heart disease that my brother Jack and I both have and which killed our older brother Joe in September 1999.

Grandpa was a gentle loving elder relative and will never be forgotten so long as anyone who knew him lives."

James Harding Morris, March 8, 2000

** Grandpa Dykes is George Washington Dykes, born 13 Apr 1852 at Oglethorpe, Macon County, Georgia. Died 10 January 1930 at Fitzgerald, Ben Hill County, Georgia. Buried in Evergreen Cemetery, Fitzgerald, Georgia.
(Source: Personal records of Melinda Morris Gardner, excerpts used here with permission.)
A Request for Information

A request from Melinda Morris Gardner … she would be eternally grateful for ANY information about her grandfather, Joseph Emery Morris. If you can help in any way, PLEASE send an email to: englishvillega(at)aol(dot)com

From Melinda:
"Fannie Jewel Dykes (MY grandmother), was originally married to my grandfather: Joseph Emery Morris. He worked for the AB&A Railroad and was murdered on September 7th 1921 in Atlanta, GA. He was born 26 April 1887, Cobb County GA. Because of some mix up of dates, etc., I haven't been able to purchase any birth or death certificate. I have sent money and attempted three times, only to have my money kept, and receive a "no information found" letter (annoying to say the least). This beautiful man, who looks so much like my dear … father, only had three sons with Fannie Jewel Dykes: Joseph Emery Morris, Jr... , James Harding Morris..., and my dear father. I have NO other information on Joseph Emery Morris. My Uncle sent me a book on the history of the AB&A Railroad and copies of the original newspaper (headline news, I might add) on the day the train car was blown up and my grandfather died. Fannie did not stay widowed very long and she married George Eaton (a dear friend of my grandfathers). She went on to have several other children. The one uncle that I knew was Uncle Robert Eaton. He passed away last year…

I would dearly love to find out more about Joseph Emery Morris. I can find nothing. This man haunts me. I have a beautiful original photograph painting that my Uncle Jim sent to me. He wanted me to have this of my grandfather because he himself never had any children and he wanted someone to remember the Morris name. "

[Melinda Gardner; Apr 2003]


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