This was my family!!!
My Daddy’s people on his Daddy’s side of the family were born and bred Kentucky hillbillies, living in the same area of Western Kentucky since the 1810’s. But then their feet starting itchin’ and they moved on over to Missouri then back to Kentucky and then over to Arkansas and back again to Kentucky. But the itch got to them once more and they moved on to Oklahoma. My Papaw Beard would have stayed there in Oklahoma, but Mama Jessie didn't want nothin' to do with Oklahoma, so after their daughter Dale was born there in Bowlegs in the spring of 1930, they headed back home to good old Kentucky once again. Aunt Dale’s brothers use to tell her she was born on an oil rig, which didn't set well with her, but she knew they were teasing. All of Papaw Beard and Mama Jessie’s kids were born in Kentucky except for Dale.
Papaw Beard’s momma, Rose, his sisters, Nina, Cleo, Gladys & Gwen and his brothers, George & Petieman, his nieces Peggy and Billie Ruth, nephew Buster and brother-in-laws Clyde and Lofton, who had also gone to Oklahoma, stayed in Oklahoma and before winter, became part of what was to be the beginning of some of the Dust Bowl Okie's heading out to the San Joaquin Valley in central California in 1930.
By the winter of 1930, great-grandma Rose and most of her children and their families had settled down in a little town nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, named Woodlake. Things weren't much better for them in California then they had been in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri or Kentucky, but they were a lot further away from home then they had ever been too. They decided it wasn't going to be easy, but they wanted to try and make something in happen in central California.
Great-grandma Rose, her sons George and Petieman, lived in Woodlake and eventually within just a couple of years, George was able to build his mother a home there on Walnut Avenue where she lived until the day she died in June of 1939. George had a little grocery store there on the street going towards the Presbyterian Church on the right hand side of the road, which he ran for a number of years. He eventually moved up to Fresno where he died in July of 1979. Petieman who was handicapped since birth, lived with his mother Rose and brother George and died in Porterville in September of 1969. The story I remember hearing was that when great-grandma Rose was pregnant with Petieman, she was kicked in the stomach by a mule and that is why he was slow, mentally. I remember him as a kid setting out in the yard on Walnut Avenue, smoking cigarettes and not saying much at all. The weird thing is I don’t remember Uncle George at all and I know he would have been around some when I was a kid.
Nina, her husband Clyde and their children, Buster and Peggy first had a place in the town of Woodlake and they even lived over in Visalia for a time as well. Eventually though they bought a small piece of property outside of town where they had orchards of olives, peaches and of course oranges, as well as a small garden farm. Aunt Nina was always making quilts seems like and was often found reading her bible and going to church. I use to love going to visit Aunt Nina as a child, but I don’t really remember Uncle Clyde that well. I also remember little peppermint candies that she would give us. Buster moved over by Monterey, then came back to Woodlake for a little while and finally moved to Fresno where he died in 2002. Peggy also lived in Woodlake and Visalia, but moved over to the coast and died in San Diego in 1991. I remember Peggy really well, but I don’t remember Buster much at all.
Cleo and her husband Lofton and their daughter Billie Ruth also lived in Woodlake, but Cleo who had always been sickly even as a child, took sick again and died in January of 1935 in Visalia. Her husband Lofton and their daughter Billie Ruth ended up moving north to Merced County where Lofton remarried to his wife’s cousin, Dulcie Mae Daniels in January of 1936. Dulcie’s husband Hershel Sparks had passed away in 1932 in Arkansas and left her with 4 young children. So Lofton and Dulcie combined their families, Dulcie’s four and Lofton’s one and then they had two children together, one who died as a baby and Millie. Cleo and Lofton’s daughter Billie Ruth married and lived most of her life in Dos Palos and Los Banos. I just loved Billie Ruth, she was always such a sweetheart and my Daddy thought the world of her. Millie is also a sweetheart and I just received a Christmas card from her today.
The twins, Gwen and Gladys were both married in Tulare County, Gwen in 1934 and Gladys in 1939 and both left Tulare County within a couple of years of their marriages and moved to other areas in California. I don’t remember Aunt Gwen at all, but I remember Aunt Gladys real well, she use to come and visit my parents all the time when we moved to Utah from Kentucky. Gwen and Gladys passed away just 14 days apart from each other, Gwen in April of 1985 in San Andreas, California and Gladys in May 1985 in Orem, Utah. Gwen’s only child, a son, lives in Texas and Gladys’ had three sons, one lives in Arizona and two live in Utah.
In 1942 after several years of separation and conflict, my grandparents were divorced. My Daddy was 7 years old and remembered well the things that had transpired for the two or three years previous to the divorce decree. The following year in July of 1943 my Papaw Beard, brought his 7 children, Helen, George, Dale, Don, Jack, Sis and Tog (my Daddy) to California and moved right in with Aunt Nina and Uncle Clyde in Woodlake. Aunt Nina’s house was pretty small, but somehow she made it work for a while until Papaw Beard could find a job and get back on his feet some. He was able to get a job as a guard at Sequoia Field in Visalia during the war, but after the war he had to look for other work.
After a few months they left Aunt Nina’s house and moved out to McGee’s Camp, just outside of Woodlake and lived there for about a year I think it was. There wasn’t much room for everyone at the camp and the building they lived in wasn’t much more than some boards and nails with cracks in the walls, and so Papaw Beard worked on convincing his brother George to let them live in the house on Walnut Avenue. Uncle George finally agreed on the condition that Papaw Beard would now take care of their brother Petieman. Papaw Beard agreed and so the family moved into that house and lived there for a number of years. It was the nicest house any of them had ever lived in before and they so enjoyed living in a house that rain and snow would not being blowing through the cracks in the walls and onto their beds. It was a palace compared to everything else they were use too.
Papaw Beard worked at Hunes Packing House after the war for a short time, but mainly he did painting and paper hanging just like he had in Kentucky until his stroke in January of 1962. From then on he was paralyzed and lived the remainder of his life in a wheelchair. I don’t remember him ever walking but I do have this picture of him, me and my Dad and Mom where he is standing. After he couldn't take care of himself anymore he moved in with Aunt Helen and Uncle J B there in Woodlake. He would spend the school year with Helen and her family and then spend the summers with us in Kentucky. Papaw Beard passed away in January of 1974 in Exeter, California.
Papaw Beard, his momma Rose, his sister Cleo, brothers George and Petieman, as well as his daughter Helen and son-in-law J B, are all buried there at the Woodlake District Cemetery by the Presbyterian Church.
Peggy still has descendants that live in Woodlake to this day and so does my Papaw Beard. I even lived in Woodlake as a little kid and went to kindergarten at Elbow Creek Elementary. My Daddy was my school bus driver and he even worked at Sequoia National Park as a park ranger for a year or so. My family or parts of them have lived in the San Joaquin Valley and in the town of Woodlake for going on 85 years now.