by: Robert Stokes
There was "GrannyStokes" and "Mr. Stokes." There never was Grandfather Stokes or any other reference to him except "Mr. Stokes." Mother called him that; I called him that; my sister Merle Lea called him that. I don't ever remember my father ever referring to him at all.
GrannyStokes called him "Mr. Stokes."
I know more about him now than I did as a child. The 1880 census lists my grandfather as being 7 years old and living with his father and mother, Willis Doris and Sally Irene Weems Stokes on a farm in Scott County, Mississippi.
Emma (Emily Eran Weems Stokes) and Edgar Holbert Stokes were married at the High Hill Methodist Church in Scott County, Mississippi, on 22 December 1892 and their first son Basil was born almost 10 months later, 11 September 1893. Howell Lee, my father, was born a few days less than two years later there in Sun, Scott County, on 30 August 1896.
By the time the 1900 census was taken, Mr. Stokes was 28 years old and working on his own family farm in Scott County, Mississippi, where he was born.
The 1900 census of Scott County listed the head of the household Edgar Holbert, his wife Emma (Emily Eran), their son Basil (written as "Bassell"), another son Howell Lee, and a daughter Lennie (written as "Leinna").
There are so many things I have learned about my grandfather Mr. Stokes. One of them according to the Official Register of the United States, Containing a List of the Officers and Employees in the Civil, Military, and Naval Service in 1908 and 1909 was that he delivered the mail on Route 26631 in Scott County, Mississippi, for which he was paid $991.00 a year.
For the 1920 census for Pascagoula, Jackson County, Mississippi, Mr. Stokes evidently told the enumerator that he was an engineer at the shipyard and the Citizen Seaman's Identification Card lists him as a "Crane Mech."
The Citizen Seaman's Identification Card for Edgar Stokes
I was born in 1931. Mr. Stokes died in 1936 and in the 5 years between Mr. Stokes spoke to me three times; each one was a traumatic experience.
I must have been 4 years old when I found Mr. Stokes sitting on a rail at the back of the detached garage. There was a pile of oyster shells at the end and Mr. Stokes was cracking an oyster open scraping the oyster out and sucking it out of the shell. He held one out to me and asked if I wanted one.
I looked at that black and grey slimy thing, turned, and ran away. As I was running, I heard Mr. Stokes laughing at me.
EPISODE #2: The Fireworks Incidence
We, meaning Marice, Merle Lea, and I, were never allowed to shoot off fireworks. But everyone else in the Stokes family did. At the family reunion which was held at the Stokes house on Lafayette Street every year, there were a lot of fireworks.
The reason we were not allowed to shoot off fireworks was that Daddy was afraid that what happened to him would happen to one of us. When he was young, a giant firecracker exploded and paralyzed the third finger of his right hand.
We stayed away from fireworks.
But at one of the family reunions, 1935, I think, someone threw a string of firecrackers out in the yard to go off and they landed right in my face. I was not hurt but Mr. Stokes said something to me. I don't know what, but he said something.
That was the second time he spoke to me.
The last time I saw Mr. Stokes was on the day he died, January 22, 1936.
It was a little after 1 o'clock in the afternoon that Mother came outside and took me by the hand to lead me upstairs outside a bedroom door. She told me to go inside and stand by Mr. Stokes's bed. She pushed me through the doorway and closed the door.
Later I found that every male member of the family had been ushered into Mr. Stokes' bedroom to receive "the Blessing." He had put his hand on my head, and said something. I did not hear him then and if I had I would not have understood.
I don't remember leaving his bedside or going out the door. That was my last memory of Mr. Stokes.
Edgar Holbert Stokes died in Pascagoula, Jackson, Mississippi, United States on January 22, 1936.
After that there were no more Stokes reunions at the big house at 604 Lafayette Street.
Our family never went back to Mr. Stokes' house until Pat and I went to visit GrannyStokes 20 years later.