My great-grandmother on my Mom’s side of the family was Mary Belle Fryar who was born March 16, 1894 in Blackford, Webster County, Kentucky. She was the oldest child of the ten children born to William Lonzo ‘Lonnie’ Fryar and Ida Ann Hart. The following is a picture of her parents, my 2nd great-grandparents that I have always loved. They just look so sweet and I know I was small when they died, but I can remember going to their home there in Crittenden County just outside of the town of Marion.
Belle as she was called had the following siblings: Leva Elmer Fryar born July 31, 1896 married William Franklin Gilland in 1914 and Otis Blanton in 1946 and died April 25, 1989 in Grand Junction, Colorado. Johnny Virgil Fryar born October 2, 1898 married Levada May Armstrong in 1923 and died December 3, 1927 in Crittenden County, Kentucky. Opal Vernon Fryar born May 3, 1902 and died that same year but I don’t know the exact date or if he died the day he was born. Carrie Elizabeth Fryar born September 16, 1904 and was married at least four times, died February 12, 2001 in Winnsboro, Louisiana. Lettie Washington Fryar born February 22, 1907 married Raymond Thomas Dickerson in 1924 and died July 2, 1980 in Paducah, Kentucky. Vera Clama Fryar born August 31, 1910 and died of polio when she was 12 on February 8, 1923 in Livingston County, Kentucky. Rose Ellen Fryar born December 10, 1913 married Lee Andrew Hunt in 1928 and George C. Kasman in 1960 and died September 11, 1996 in High Ridge, Missouri. George Clement Fryar born April 29, 1916 married three times, died November 4, 1998 in Marion, Kentucky and the youngest, Ivy Larnie Fryar born November 9, 1920 married twice, died October 13, 1989 in Paducah, Kentucky.
I know I met Aunt Leva and Aunt Lettie when I was just a little kid, but I remember Aunt Carrie quite a bit as we visited with her a number of times and were able to get copies of old pictures she had of the family. I probably met Aunt Rose and Uncle Larnie too when I was a kid, but I can’t remember for sure. But my Uncle George, I remember really well and was in his home many times. Me and my Papaw, Ermon Fraley, who was the son of Belle and therefore the nephew to George Fryar use to meet Uncle George at the Marion Café there in Marion, Kentucky and have lunch with him many times when I would go back home for a visit. I remember when my Papaw died, Uncle George came up from Marion to Hebbardsville to see my Papaw and how he cried to seeing him lying there in bed, they were not only family, but best friends, being only 2 years difference in age. Uncle George told us later that he had never thought Papaw favored the Fryar side of the family, until he saw him lying there in the bed and he said he looked just like his Daddy, Lonnie.
Belle had a pretty normal childhood, she attended school and helped with the chores around the house and with the younger children. Pretty soon however, she met a young man who made her heart do flips and soon they were engaged to be married. Belle was only 17 and Robert Ermon ‘Bob’ Fraley was almost 20 years old when they got married and so they needed their parents’ permission to marry, since they were both under the age of 21. Lonnie gave permission for Belle to marry and Robert’s mother Levy Fraley gave permission for her boy to marry since his father had passed away when he was just 14 years old. Belle and Bob were married at her parents’ home just outside of the town of Salem in Livingston County, Kentucky on June 18, 1911. The witnesses to their marriage were David C. Loveless and Lewis J. Ross and they were married by C. R. Stevens a Justice of the Peace. The following picture was taken on the day they were married.
Shortly after their marriage Belle and Bob loaded up their belongings and moved to New Madrid County, Missouri. Bob’s brother, John and his family as well as some of the McDaniel family, his mother’s people, were living there too. Bob knew there was work to be had and so they left Belle’s family in Kentucky and started their new life in Missouri. Pretty soon Bob was cutting timber in the swamps and Belle took care of their little cabin and soon found she was pregnant with their first child, a little girl who was born on March 11, 1913 in Kewanee in New Madrid County and was named Corene. A little over 18 months later a little boy joined their family who they named Ermon Edward Fraley, he was born October 19, 1914 also in Kewanee. This little boy became my grandfather, my Momma’s daddy.
Life was moving right along for this little family, they now had two children, work was good and things were looking up. This next picture was taken of Corene and Ermon probably late 1915, since my Papaw looks like he could be around a year or so old.
I know I have seen at least one other picture of my great-grandmother Belle, but I can’t for the life of me find it now. I believe my Mom had it in one of her albums, so it could be in some of the boxes I have here at my house that I haven’t gone through yet since my Mom passed away. I thought I had scanned most of Momma and Daddy’s old pictures but apparently I haven’t. L
Life was soon to change for this little family. Family stories say that Belle was pregnant with her third child, when the Influenza Pandemic hit the world in 1918 and ended up killing 50 to 100 million people worldwide, in one of the deadliest natural disasters in human history. The nickname of this pandemic was the Spanish Flu, since it was reported that Spain was especially hard hit. My family was soon to join in that sadly unfortunate statistic.
I have the last letter Belle wrote, which was dated December 7, 1918 in Kewanee, Missouri. She tells how sick everyone has been including her husband, Bob, their two children, Corene and Ermon, as well as others in the family that lived close by. She never mentions that she had been sick or that she had a baby, but the family stories say that she had a little boy and the baby was really small and she was so sick that she couldn't feed him, and he died. The story also goes that the ground was so frozen and it was so cold that no one had the strength to dig a grave so they put the baby and Belle in the front room until someone could bury them. The letter is 5 ½ pages long written in pencil. My great-aunt, Lillie Fraley Barnes, still had these old letters and gave them to my Papaw, her nephew Ermon, before 1974 and then my Papaw gave them to me in the 1980’s. The following are the six pages of Belle’s last letter that I now have in my procession.
From the story my great-grandfather, Bob told to my Mom, after he and the children got better, Belle who wasn't as bad, took a turn for the worst and she died late one evening. They laid her body in the front room with the baby and covered them both up, but sometime later, someone brought out a coffin and placed the mother and baby in it, so that they were no longer laying on the table. Apparently it was a few days before there were enough men strong enough to go and dig a grave.
My great-grandfather, Bob, told my Mom that Belle was buried over in Sikeston in Scott County, Missouri. Papaw, told me that he went with his Daddy, after he was grown to see the grave and have a marker placed on it, but that his Daddy could not remember exactly where it was so they did not get a marker made for her after all. Papaw, said that his Daddy stood there in the cemetery and cried because he couldn't remember the location of her grave. I wish I knew the name of the cemetery so I could do some digging of my own and see if I could find some kind of a record for her burial. There was never an official death certificate for Belle either unfortunately. If I didn't have this old letter I wouldn't even know what month or year she had passed away. My great-grandfather could never remember when she had died just that it was winter time and very cold.
My Papaw never liked funerals and I can only assume it was because he had to see his mother and baby brother’s bodies lying in that front room for a few days, before they were buried. Can you just imagine a little four year old boy, losing his Momma and then not understanding why she wasn't taking care of him like usual, even though she was still in the house with them?
I don’t know the exact date of Belle’s death, but I do know it was in December of 1918, sometime between the 7th and the 17th, because one of Bob’s cousins found Belle’s letter that she never got the chance to mail and then wrote her own two page letter to the people Belle was writing to let them know that Belle was gone. Belle had been writing to Bob’s sister Lillie Fraley and her husband Bennett Barnes back in Kentucky. Bob’s cousin was Oma Ready Mays, daughter of Arthur Robert Ready and Sarah Elizabeth McDaniel and Oma’s husband, William Claude Mays, had also died of the influenza just the month before in Sikeston. They had only been married for two years and had a little girl who was just one when he died. The following is the two page letter that Oma wrote.
My Mom really favored Belle a lot, at least I have always thought so, and the following picture was taken of my Mom, Erma Jean Fraley, when she was 17 years old, the age Belle was when she got married. My Mom was also 17 when she married my Dad, Duell Franklin Beard and this is their wedding picture in 1957, 46 years after Belle and Bob's marriage.
At least I was able to meet Belle’s parents and some of her siblings so that I have a little idea of what she may have been like. I remember her Mom as just a tiny little woman, who was always smiling and seemed really happy and her Dad as always twirling his mustache and smiling too. Belle’s son, my Papaw, was my idol and I was his little shadow and followed him everywhere till the day he died and I still miss him to this day. I know my Papaw never got over losing his Momma and neither did his sister, Corene, who I also knew really well.
Oh how I wish I could have known her too.