Things were hard and money was scarce, but they were all making it okay until the Influenza Pandemic hit. The Influenza Pandemic occurred in three waves in the United States throughout 1918 and 1919. All told throughout the world somewhere between 20 and 40 million people died. It has been cited as the most devastating epidemic in recorded world history. More people died world wide of influenza in a single year than in four years of the Black Death Bubonic Plague which occurred from 1347 to 1351. This epidemic was also known as the Spanish Flu since that is where it had seem to originate and was a global disaster. In pockets across the globe, something erupted that seemed as benign as the common cold. The influenza of that season, however, was far more than a cold. In the two years that this flu ravaged the earth, a fifth of the world's population was infected. The flu was most deadly for people ages 20 to 40. This pattern of morbidity was unusual for influenza which is usually a killer of the elderly and young children. It infected 28% of all Americans and an estimated 675,000 Americans died of influenza during the pandemic, ten times as many as in the world war. Of the U. S. soldiers who died in Europe, half of them fell to the influenza virus and not to the enemy and an estimated 43,000 servicemen mobilized for WWI died of the influenza. Some of this info about the pandemic was found at: https://virus.stanford.edu/uda/.
My family was to feel the effects of this awful pandemic when my great-grandmother, Mary Belle Fryar Fraley took sick and died in December of 1918. She had also been pregnant with her third child who was born sometime that same month. Mary and the baby, a boy I was told, were buried in the same casket and laid in the front parlor on a table, until the men of the family were strong enough to dig the grave. I have the last letter she ever wrote and she is talking about how sick everyone was and especially my great-grandfather, my Papaw and his sister Corene, but she never even mentioned how sick she was, she was only 23 years old. The following is the letter which was dated December 7, 1918 and then the letter written by a cousin to let the family in Kentucky know that she had died, which was dated December 17, 1918. Somewhere in the 10 days between the two letters being written, my great-grandmother and her baby passed away. My Papaw told me that he took his Daddy back to Missouri to visit her grave sometime in the early 1970’s, it had not been marked at the time of her death, because they did not have the money to have a stone made. Papaw said that his Daddy just cried because he could not remember where she had been buried exactly and so they were not able to find the grave while they were there. According to Papaw, his Daddy had told him she was buried in a cemetery in Sikeston, Scott County, Missouri. Papaw couldn’t remember the name of the cemetery though.
Life changed drastically for my Papaw after his mother’s death, within the month my great-grandfather took his children Ermon and Corene back to Kentucky to his mother’s home near Salem, Livingston County, Kentucky. Bob’s mother was Levy Margie McDaniel, 1868-1946, and she lived on the Lola Road near Salem in 1920 and was married to Benjamin Franklin Shuecraft at that time. Bob’s father, James Edward Fraley born in 1853 had passed away in 1902 after a short illness, when Bob was only 11 years old, so my grandfather and my great-grandfather, both knew what it meant to lose a parent early in life. For the next six to eight years my Papaw and his sister Corene lived with their grandmother, Levy. My great-grandfather left sometime around the first part of 1920 and no one really knows where he went or what he did for the next three years before he came back to his children in Kentucky. Shortly after coming back he met and married on February 25, 1923 Mary Evenyln Belt, 1906-1975, and they had nine children together and lived in Salem at first, but then moved over to Sheridan, Crittenden County, Kentucky in about 1938 and lived there until their deaths in 1975. Mary only lived six months after Bob passed away, even though she was fifteen years younger than Bob. I remember so many times going to their house and I loved to go and visit them as a child. My great-grandfather always called Mary, ‘Murray’ at least that is what it sounded like to me at the time and I always thought that was a funny name for a woman.
The following picture shows my Papaw and his sister Corene with their grandmother Levy as well as their step-mother Mary Belt and two of their half-siblings, Ophelia and Virgil around late 1927.
Papaw’s half-siblings were the following: May Fraley 1923-1923; Virgil Fraley 1924-1973; Mary Ophelia Fraley 1927-1998; James Cecil Fraley 1930-1987; Robert Glenn Fraley 1934-1997; Harold Wayne Fraley; Willard Ray Fraley 1940-1989; Escal Eugene Fraley and Richard Dale Fraley. I was just in Kentucky last month and was able to go and visit with my great-uncle Harold for a little while, he and my Daddy were good friends growing up, but I didn’t get the chance to see Uncle Escal or Uncle Ricky. I did get to see Uncle Bobby’s wife though and had a nice visit with her as well.
My Papaw worked as a farmer and carpenter and sometimes, if times were hard he would work in the spar mines too. However, he told me he hated going underground so he never worked in the mines unless he absolutely had to. He ended up with white lung from the mines even though he hadn’t worked in them that much. White lung is from spar dust, just like black lung is from coal dust. Papaw had quite a few friends, everyone always loved him, and he was always smiling, laughing and singing. The following are three pictures that were taken in the 1930’s with him and some of his buddy’s, Bennett Walker, Carl Guess and Hartley Hillyard.
Sometime around late 1936 or early 1937 he met my Mamaw, Daisy Elnora Loftis 1917-2006, who was living near Salem in Livingston County, Kentucky. Mamaw’s Daddy was a spar miner and worked at the Klondyke Mines and others in the area. They started dating and soon the sparks started to fly. J The following is a picture of them when they were on one of their dates, weren’t they just the cutest and I love that old car. Mamaw told me that there was some kind of a button or something in that car that Papaw could push and it would cause a flow of air that would blow her dress up pretty high. She said he got a kick out of doing that any time they were going somewhere and she would smack him every time, but it didn’t seem to stop him from doing it though. I can just see him doing something like that and I can hear him laughing the whole time too.
Those sparks soon turned to love and on March 19, 1938 which was also Mamaw’s birthday they were married in Marion, Crittenden County, Kentucky. Daisy was the daughter of Jasper Guy Loftis and Amy Susan Floyd. The following picture shows the house in 2005 when I took this picture, that was the first house that my Papaw and Mamaw lived in and where their first child, Barbara was born, just outside of Marion.
Papaw and Mamaw settled into married life and soon their children started coming, Barbara Ann Fraley who married Curtis Leon Fritts 1934-2005; then my Mom, Erma Jean Fraley 1940-2011, who married Duell Franklin Beard 1935-2009; Guy Robert Fraley who married Eleanor Jane Summers; Amy Corene Fraley who married Thomas Edward Brooks 1943-1997, then Joseph Monroe Mitchell; Connie Rose Fraley 1947-1950; Iva Nell Fraley who married Roger Dale Griffin and Edward Jewell Fraley 1952-1954.
Pretty soon World War II started and my family was effected the same as most of the rest of the nation and the world. My Papaw was called up in 1943 in the United States Navy Reserve and was sent to the South Pacific and was on board a hospital ship as a corpsman. He never fought on land but he saw the after effects of what the Japanese did to our soldiers and he never liked to talk about the war or the things he saw, so for that reason I don’t know a lot about his service. I do know that he would go to Australia when he was on leave during the war. I have the following pictures, one of Papaw in uniform and one that my Mamaw sent to him during the war of her holding Amy who was born right before he left and then from left to right my Mom, Erma Jean, Guy and Barbara.
The following is a picture I took of another house that my Mamaw and the kids lived in while Papaw was in the Navy during World War II in Crittenden County, Kentucky. Aunt Barb and my Mom both told me that Mamaw bought this house with the money she earned selling eggs and chickens and what she got from Papaw’s service pay. We drove by this house in 2011 when I was there the last time with my Mom, she passed away a few months later.
The war finally ended and Papaw was able to come back home to his family, where the last three children were added to their family. The following pictures show Connie Rose, Iva with Mamaw and Papaw and Edward Jewell. The pictures of Connie and of Edward were taken not to long before they passed away, they both apparently had the same thing wrong with them. My Mom and her other siblings never said a lot about it, but I know my Mom really had a hard time when they passed away and I am sure the others did as well. I also know my grandparents suffered for a long time to, wondering if there was anything they could have done, but both deaths were pretty sudden and seem to be almost the same type of thing happening to the both of them. My Mamaw told me a few different times that a mucus like pus was coming out of their eyes and ears, they both had really bad coughs and high fevers right before they died and the doctors didn’t really know what the problem might have been. We now know it might have possibly been encephalitis. They had taken Connie to the Children’s Hospital in Louisville, because the doctor in Marion didn’t know what was wrong and that is where she passed away. Mamaw told me that after Connie died the doctors wanted to do an autopsy, but that was such a new concept to them and most people at that time, that they didn’t want it done to Connie. Mamaw told me that after Edward Jewell died, she and Papaw both blamed themselves and wish they had let the doctors perform the autopsy on Connie and then maybe Edward wouldn’t have died. I don’t know how they did it losing a child, let alone losing two children within a four year time frame, I know it haunted them both till the day they died.
Papaw and Mamaw and their children moved out to Woodlake, Tulare County, California in 1953, because Mamaw’s brother, J B Loftis and his new bride, had moved out there in 1946 after they got married and told them jobs were plentiful and they would love it there. The above picture of Edward Jewell was taken at Mooney’s Grove in Visalia that year. They found work right off, but only stayed for about a year, they were so homesick they had to get back to Kentucky and so they packed up and went back home. They moved to the Hardin’s Knob area of Crittenden County when they got back to Kentucky and that is where Edward got sick and died in 1954.
In 1959, my grandparents left Crittenden County for the last time and moved up to Hebbardsville in Henderson County, Kentucky about 70 miles north. My Mom and Dad had gotten married in 1957 and my Aunt Barb and Uncle Leon had gotten married in 1955 and they both stayed in Marion for a little bit longer. My Aunt Iva started third grade there at Hebbardsville Elementary. They lived in at least three different houses that I can remember before my Papaw built the house that they would continue to live in until 2006. The following two pictures shows one of the houses they lived in up there when I was just little, that is me on the front porch and with my Aunt Iva out in the yard. We lived in Henderson and Papaw would pick me up in the evenings after he got off work and take me home with him. Aunt Iva always reminds me of the following story, when I was riding home with Papaw we would go past the little town of Zion and a pond that was on the right side of the road always had cows around it. I would start laughing and say, “Look Papaw them cows are getting their belly wet”. Papaw would tell me that story every time we drove past and Aunt Iva still tells me that story to this day and especially if we are in the car together and driving past that same little pond. Wonderful memories of my childhood.
Papaw was a carpenter and worked construction and had a small farm, he was always trying out new strains of tomatoes, corn or whatever struck his fancy that year. He helped to build a number of houses in Henderson County as well as apartments and other buildings in the area. He had a few acres he would plant in potatoes and I remember walking behind the tractor and picking up potatoes as they were brought up by the plow. Anywhere Papaw was that is where I wanted to be as well. Papaw said I could clean a row of tomatoes faster than any bug when I was little, probably still could if I had a row of tomatoes around. J If the metal salt shaker from the back of the stove was missing and if I was missing too they knew to look between the rows of tomatoes and they would find me every time. When I got older Papaw showed me how to drive a tractor and he even had an extra tractor and we would have races on the tractors down to the barn or down the lane.
After school on Friday’s I would catch the bus that took me to their house and would stay all weekend when possible and just ride the bus to school on Monday mornings. In 1974 Papaw had a severe heart attack and was at the VA Hospital in Marion, Illinois for quite some time. Papaw had always been a smoker, but the doctor told him, “Mr. Fraley if you don’t stop smoking I might as well sign the death certificate now”. Uncle Guy who also smoked, told him, “Daddy you quit and I will too”. They both quit that day and neither ever touched a cigarette after that.
Papaw and Mamaw celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary in 1988 at Atkinson Park in Henderson, the following pictures show them from that special day. All their living children were there and if I remember correctly all of their fifteen grandchildren were there as well. The picture of Mamaw with her head against Papaw was when he gave her a wedding ring, she had never had one until that day.
This next picture was taken at Uncle Guy’s house in Henderson I think in 1990 and shows Papaw and Mamaw with their five living children. From left to right, standing: Barbara, Guy and Erma Jean, setting: Amy, Mamaw, Papaw and Iva.
Here are some pictures of their beautiful house on the hill just outside of Hebbardsville, which I have taken over the years, along with the lane leading to the house, the barn, the tulip popular tree and snowball bush and the dogwoods around the house and along the fence rows. Everyone who ever stopped there, could feel the love coming from that wonderful house and those fantastic people, my grandparents.
While my husband and I and our girls were in Arizona on vacation, visiting my husband’s family, I got the call I was hoping I wouldn’t get for quite a few more years. My Mom had been visiting her parents and called and said that Papaw had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and the doctors were only giving him a few weeks at most. We left Arizona that next morning and drove back up to our home in Utah. The next day I washed all my clothes and caught a flight back to Kentucky. Papaw wanted to stay home and not waste money on a hospital, so hospice was set up to come and take care of him. After I got there and with my medical background, the hospice nurse showed me what was needed to keep him comfortable. I administered shots of morphine when needed, listened to his heart and lungs, took his blood pressure and temperature and kept the nurse informed of any changes. She only came out if we really needed her too. Those last couple of weeks were some of the hardest I have ever had to endure up to that point. My Mamaw and all her children were there constantly, those that had to work would come out every evening and stay till 10 or so, before going back to their own homes. I would sleep during the day a little and at night after my Mom and Mamaw went to bed, I would set by the bed of my Papaw and just hold his hand. He didn’t want to be left alone especially after dark.
Papaw’s neighbors were fantastic, they made sure we didn’t need to worry about food, mowing or anything like that. They made sure we didn’t go without and someone was always checking on all us and making sure we had all that we needed. That morning before he passed away all of a sudden nothing but mud was coming out of the faucets in the house. They had a well that they had dug years before and had always had clear cool water. The coal mines over across the freeway had been blasting quite a bit and apparently they had hit the underground stream while doing that and it cut off the well water. Within just a few hours my Uncle Guy and my other uncles and cousins as well as the neighbors were able to find where the county water line was, run to Evansville pick up equipment and pipe, dig the trenches from the main road down their lane to the house and get county water. In the meantime the neighbors on the other hill got garden hoses and hooked them to their outside faucets and ran garden hoses from their house down the gully and up the hill to Papaw and Mamaw’s house so we could have water until we could get the county water running, not sure how many hoses it took but there were a lot.
We knew Papaw was just hours, if not minutes away from leaving all of us when this happened. When the water quit, we were able to get Mamaw to leave Papaw’s room for a little bit and go outside so she could see what the men were all doing. My sister Kim and my Aunt Amy stayed inside, both setting on either side of Papaw’s bed holding his hands. Just as I was walking past the bedroom window outside, my sister, Kim, knocked on the window and motioned for me to come back in. I went back in and Kim and Aunt Amy were both crying. They said, “Check him I think he is gone”. I knew when I walked into the room that my hero was gone, but I took the stethoscope and listen just to be sure. I believe he couldn’t let go until his sweetheart of 56 years left the room, she had only been out of the room, maybe fifteen minutes at the most.
Ermon Edward Fraley, aged almost 80, died August 4, 1994 at his home in Hebbardsville, Kentucky. We called hospice to let them know and then the funeral home people came out to get him. Uncle Guy ask me to set with him to help give all the vital information for the death certificate that the funeral home needed. The funeral home man ask who the pallbearers would be and there was Curtis, Robert, Eddie & David Fritts and Guy Brooks, all Papaw’s grandsons except for my two brothers, Tony and Barry Beard who were not able to be there and that would have made enough pallbearers. So they were trying to figure out who could be the sixth pallbearer when I ask, if it would be okay for a girl, meaning me, to be a pallbearer. The funeral home man said he had never seen a girl be a pallbearer before, but he didn’t see why I couldn’t be, so I became the sixth pallbearer for my Papaw. I figured he had carried me all over the place as a child and it was the least that I could do in helping to carry him to his final resting place. My cousin Curtis and I are the two oldest grandchildren and Curtis was born on Papaw’s birthday as well, we were in the middle on either side and the other boys were in the front and back of us. Four days later on August 8, 1994 Papaw was laid to rest at Deer Creek Baptist Cemetery in Sheridan, Crittenden County, Kentucky beside the graves of his two young children, Connie Rose and Edward Jewell. He had a military honor guard and taps were played as he was placed in the ground. What we didn’t know is that one of the honor guard had gone out into the woods and when he starting playing taps, almost like an echo of the one by the grave, it gave us all chills.
A man that will be missed always, he left 5 living children, 15 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren at the time of his death. His sweetheart our special angel passed away on December 5, 2006 and was buried beside him and their two children. I was just at the cemetery this past month and my cousin, Phyllis, took this picture of me by their grave. The next picture is of Papaw’s 15 grandchildren, which was taken when Mamaw passed away in 2006.