Friday, July 20, 2012

Harriet Woodard, 1883-1952, Lamar County MS

Robert "Bob" Johnson and wife
Harriet Woodard Johnson

Harriet Woodard, my maternal great-grandmother, was born 13 May 1883 in Marion County, Mississippi.  She was the daughter of Thomas Riley Woodard and Minerva Warden.  

At the age of 17, Harriet married her first husband, Simon Peter Smith, on 04 May 1901 in Marion County, Mississippi.  He was the son of Manson Smith and Elizabeth Ann Reid. From their union four children were born- Bertha, Paul, Louella and Nathaniel.  Family history states that sometime after the birth of their four children, Simon divorced Harriet then, shortly thereafter, married Harriet's blood sister, Mary Woodard.  Supposedly Simon and Mary had six children from their union.  Further investigation into these family stories led me to seek the truth.  As it turned out, the story was indeed accurate.  I will write more about Mary Woodard and Simon Peter Smith in another post.  For this post, I will focus on Harriet.  

Marriage Record- Simon Smith and
Harriet Woodard, Marion County, MS

The 1910 census of Lamar County, Mississippi shows the household of Simon Smith with his wife "Hetty" and children- son Nathaniel, age 7, daughter Louella, age 4 and son Paul, age 3.  The couple had been married 10 years and had 4 children, of whom 3 were still living.  From this information, I assume Harriet and Simon's daughter, Bertha, is the one that died. 

1910 Federal Census, Lamar County, Mississippi, Beat 1, Dist. 0087, pg 16

Harriet and Simon were divorced by 1914 because it is speculated that Simon married Harriet's sister, Mary Woodard, that year in Picayune, Pearl River County, Mississippi.  

Harriet married second James El Simmons, the son of James C. "Jim" Simmons and Celia Anna Yates on 15 December 1915 in Walthall County, Mississippi (source: Hunting For Bears, comp.. Mississippi Marriages, 1776-1935).  James "El" had previously been married to Corrine Elizabeth Graham, the daughter of Albert and Mit Graham.  She died 17 November 1910, leaving 9 children motherless.  Family history states that Corrine died after giving birth to their son, William Houston Simmons.  

In 1920, Harriet and El resided in Lamar County, Mississippi.  El's son from his first marriage, Rufus "Elmore" Simmons, listed as age 13, resided with them.  Harriet and El also had a child together- Woodrow Wilson Simmons, age 3, who later became my paternal grandfather.  Apparently, all of their other children from their first marriages had either married and moved out or they were living with other family members, as they are not in the household of Harriet and El.  

1920 Federal Census, Lamar County, Mississippi, Beat 4, Dist 101, Pg 2

Where were the children of Harriet and Simon Smith in 1920?  A check of the Simon Smith household that year gave me the answer.  In Jefferson Davis County, Mississippi, "S.P. Smith" is head of household with his wife, Mary, and children- son Nat, age 18, daughter Luella, age 14, son Paul, age 9, daughter Annie Bertha, age 6, son Walter, age 3 years 9 mos. and a boarder, M.D. Smith, age 19.  From this information, I conclude that this family was that of Simon Peter Smith, Harriet's ex-husband.  Their children resided with Simon and his second wife at that time.  I can speculate that Simon moved his family to Jefferson Davis county to secure employment there.  The census listed his employment as "wood chopper" for a log company.  On that same page of the census, nearly every male listed of employment age worked for a log company.  Obviously, the logging industry in Jefferson Davis county provided wages to several households then.

1920 Federal Census, Jefferson Davis County, Mississippi, Beat 2, Dist 75, Pg 38

I have questions concerning Annie Bertha, the 6 year old daughter from the 1920 census.  She would have been born about 1914.  Who was her mother?  Was it Harriet or Mary?  

In 1930, Harriet and El are again listed in Beat 4 of Lamar County.  From their union, two more children were born- son Andrew, age 6, and daughter Bertha L., age 3.  Their son, Woodrow W., who was 13 was also included in their household.  Living next door to the couple was El's son from his first marriage, Walter William Simmons, who had married Callie Cordelia Madden.  

1930 Federal Census, Lamar County, Mississippi, Beat 4

Note that Harriet and El named their youngest child Bertha.  This child is Bertha Lollita Simmons, born in 1927.  If I am assuming correctly, Harriet and Simon had a daughter named Bertha sometime between 1901 and 1910 who had died (see 1910 census notes above).  I also suspect that Annie Bertha, born about 1914, was Harriet and Simon's daughter.  What was Harriet's obsession with the name Bertha? Was she close to someone named Bertha, such as a family member?  Or is the information regarding their names incorrect?  I will have to follow up on this.

Update:  February 8, 2017- The confusion over the Bertha's has been cleared.  Click on link to The 2 Bertha's below for story.

Harriet's husband, James El Simmons, died 28 December 1927.  He was laid to rest in Grantham Cemetery, Lamar County, Mississippi.   There is presently no grave marker.

On 13 July 1939, Harriet married her third husband, Robert "Bob" Johnson, the son of Wilson "Babe" Johnson and Elizabeth G. "Betty" Fillingame.  Bob had previously been married to Sarah Herrin, the daugher of William H. Herrin and Sabra Crawley.  Sarah died about 1935, leaving Bob a widow.  There is a strange twist in the family tree with the union of Harriet and Bob.  Let me explain- three years prior to their marriage, on 04 July 1936,  Harriet and El's son, Woodrow Wilson Simmons, had married Bob and Sarah's daughter, Susie Johnson.  Because of that fact, I suppose the families had close ties beforehand.  In other words, Woodrow and Susie became step-siblings after the marriage of Harriet and Bob in 1939.  My late mother, Lula Sue Simmons, was close to her "grandpa Bob" and "grandma Harriet" when she was a youngster and has fondly written of them in her memoirs (see Memoirs of Lula Sue Simmons).  

Marriage Record- Robert Johnson and
Harriet (Woodard) Simmons, Marion County, MS
Harriet and Bob remained together, residing in Lamar County until his death on 25 August 1952.  According to his death certificate, Bob died of sudden death, cause undetermined, but questionable coronary thrombosis (blood clot in his heart), secondary to a history of heart disease.  The death record states he was 76 years old at the time of his death and that he had lived in Baxterville, Lamar County, Mississippi for 35 years. 

Robert "Bob" Johnson was laid to rest in the Caney Baptist Church cemetery in Lamar County next to his first wife, Sarah.  Only three weeks after Bob's death, Harriet followed him to the grave.  She died 14 September 1952 at the Martine? Sanitorium located in Picayune, Pearl River County, Mississippi of complications with pneumonia following a sudden cerebral hemmorhage (stroke).  The death record indicates Harriet had been hospitalized for 9 days prior to her death, which means she was hospitalized on 05 September, less than two weeks after Bob died.  Harriet was laid to rest next to her late husband Bob. My mother told me many years ago that Harriet died of a "broken heart" after she lost Bob. 

Death certificate- Mrs. Harriet Johnson

Additional information gathered from Harriet's death record:  the Informant was listed as Mrs. Bertha Mills, her parents were listed as Thomas Woodard and Minervia Wardeen and her date of birth was 13 May 1883. Funeral arrangements were made by the Colonial Funeral Home in Columbia, Marion County, Mississippi.  

More About Harriet Woodard:

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