Sunday, September 28, 2008

Nancy Alice Hall Bentley 1899 1975

My whole interest in family history is due to my grandmother, Nancy Alice Hall Bentley. She seemed to know everything and everyone in our family. I just didn't know enough questions to ask.

She was born on March 5, 1899 in Millstone, Letcher County, Kentucky. She was the daughter of Joseph Leonard Hall and Lettie Craft.

Joseph Hall & Lettie Craft

Lettie died when Granny was about six years old. Her father married again right away, but I have always heard that she was taken in by Stallard relatives. Another verison that I have heard was she lived with Joe and his third wife, Druscilla Craft who was Lettie's first cousin and the widow of Miles Mayo Adams. I was told that she was worked very hard in a boarding house doing cooking, laundry and such.

I asked Aunt Hazel if her father had ever owned a boarding house. She said not that she knew of. I wondered if it could have been something Siller owned.

Nancy Alice and Otho Bentley

Granny married young. When Otho Bentley lost his wife, Sadie Collier, he was left with six children, one of them the baby born a week before Sadie died. After Otho, who we called Poppy, died in 1965, she sometimes spent time in her children's homes.

At one point she was staying with Aunt Wilma. Cousin Nancy, Wilma's daughter, wrote me this about how Otho and Nancy came to be married:
"When Granny was staying with Mother at Charlestown, I came up to visit for a while. Granny was sitting on the commode, with the lid down, and we were talking as I bathed her. She said she had been working for Sadie and Poppy, helping with the children and the house. She said that when Sadie died, her Mother made her come back home because it wasn't "fitting" for a young girl to be staying alone in the same house with a grown man.

Granny said that one day Poppy came riding to her house over the hill on a mule. She said he was all dressed up in his best clothes. He wanted to talk to Granny's parents. He talked to them and told them he wanted to marry Granny. Her Mother told him that they had no objection but that the final decision had to be left up to Granny.

I asked her why in the world a sixteen year old married a 32 year old man with children. She said that she prayed over the situation and that God told her that those children needed a mother and that he knew that she would be good to them.

I know the above story is true because she told it to me."

I don't know if the person who is referred to as her mother was Druscilla or Dianah Webb. Joe Hall married Dianah twice, the first time May 20 of 1916 and the second, August 19, 1919. The reason I say this is because they had a daugther, Atta May in 1914. She died when she was about four years old in 1918. Druscilla outlived Joe, and had no children with him. I don't know when they separated and when Dianah came into the picture.

Granny and Poppy married on April 1, 1915.

1952 Nettie (her step daughter), Otho, Nancy, Stella (her step daughter) and Willie (her step son) at Nettie's husband's funeral.
Sadie Collier, Otho's first wife, had died on February 8, 1915. We grew up thinking that little Mary, who was born on February 3rd, died at birth after Sadie's labor started when she was kicked in the stomach by a cow. She did not die. Granny took on a two month old as well as Stella age 11, Willie age 9, Nettie age 7, Atha age 5 and 3 year old Laura Jane.

Three months later, Mary died. Nancy was pregnant and had her first child, Lettie, on January 12, of 1916, a little more than nine months after the marriage. They went on to have the following children:

• Sabrina, February 13, 1918
• Lake Erie (first called Georgia on the census of 1920 and Baby on her birth certificate which she legally changed later) on December 21, 1919.
• Opal, December 8, 1921
• Cora, January 12, 1924
• Wilma Imogene, June 12, 1926
• James Martin "Joe", August 22, 1926
On October 20, 1928 she was told her father, Joe Hall, had committed suicide. She always thought that someone else had shot him, but the official record was suicide. I always heard her say that she cleaned up the blood from the clothes and floors.

• Daniel Van "D. V.", November 10, 1930
• Anna Sue, January 17, 1932
• John Vint, November 15, 1934
In August of 1936 Opal died of Septicemia.

• Otho Jr, May 25, 1937
• Can Morgan, June 20, 1939, twin
• James Martin "Jimmy", June 30, 1939, twin
• Freddy, July 12, 1941
• Jerry Wayne, May 28, 1943.
I didn't make a mistake. She had two sons named James Martin. Nancy wrote me what Granny said about that, too:

"While visiting Mother while Granny was staying there, we would sit around the kitchen table at night and talk. So I don't know which one told me what.

Your telling me about our Uncles and Aunts having different names than what they thought started my memory working. Granny said that Dr. Can Bentley would do the delivery of the baby and she would tell him the name. When he got to his office to file the birth certificate, he would name them what he wanted to or he might have forgotten what she told him the baby's name was.

Granny said that every time she would have a boy, he would want her to name him James Martin Bentley. So when the twins were born Granny told him that he could name one of them. So he named Jimmy "James Martin Bentley." Please verify this next part with Uncle Joe. When Uncle Joe was getting ready to go to the service he got a copy of his birth certificate. His real name was James Martin Bentley. So Granny had two children with the same name. I don't know if he had his changed or not."
Notice, too, that John was John Vint, not Vent. All the old John Vints were VINT. John was written that way in the family Bible and on his birth certificate. He never knew that until he was retiring. He had his name legally changed to the VENT spelling.

Aunt Sue told me her original name was Rachel Virginia. She said a neighbor came over and said she did not look like a Rachel that she was Anna Sue. Most of her life we called her Aunt Sue. She told me she now prefers to be called Anna which I try to remember.

I always loved it at Granny's. You can go back to my very first blog and read about the memories I have of staying at her home.

I never heard her say an unkind thing about anyone. Even when Poppy got sick from his strokes and was hard to manage, she took it all in stride. She was one of the strongest women that I ever knew. I thought my mother was just like her.

Poppy was sick for quite a few years before he died. She took care of him. He died in 1965 a month after my cousin, Yvonne, died. It was a terribly sad time in the family.

Granny traveled a bit after that, visiting her sons and daughters. She seemed to blossom.

In 1969 her son, Otho, died in Japan while preparing to go to VietNam. His body was not shipped home for about a week. I went down and stayed that week with her. It seemed like losing another child broke something in her. She said you should not outlive your children.

She had bone cancer. For a while it went into remission and the doctors were amazed. They wanted to do tests to try to figure out why. I have no scientific proof, but I always thought that their poking and proding around caused it to become active again. She lived with Uncle Freddy for a while. Then she was in a nursing home in Englewood, Ohio. She hated it. She thought their food was poisoned or had no taste. My mom would make her meals and take them up to her every day. All she wanted to do was go home to Kentucky.

She finally got to go home. At first the family tried having different children staying with her for a week or more at a time. Eventually, Uncle D. V. and Aunt Mary lived with her until her death on September 28, 1975.

She rested at the funeral home rather than the living room of her house where Otho Sr. and then Otho Jr had been. I know it is an old custom, but we would stay all night with the dead when they were at the home. A few of us did that at the funeral home, too. It was the last time I ever sat up with anyone all night.

She was buried at the Chunk Craft cemetery in Millstone. Chunk was her grandfather and had owned much of that land and more up the right fork of Millstone.

Granny holding Candy.

Granny was friends with Mable Kiser. Mable wrote a column for the Mountain Eagle. They went to church together. Granny and Poppy would sometimes bring the whole church home with them or they would have church there. I remember once when Mable was visiting Granny and we got to talking about earrings. Mable said she could never have her ears pierced. I didn't have mine either. I was maybe 15. Remember those little screw on types? I pulled mine off and Mable tried one on and so did Granny. They were just little balls one set was bright orange and the other lime green. They thought they were the neatest things and looked like they were pierced. I gave them to them, but I doubt if either one ever wore them. But it felt like three teenage girls talking the day we went through my earrings.

My favorite picture of Granny is one of her standing at the stove being caught on film and laughing at being caught. She was one of the best cooks I have ever known. She was always working and busy. Even when we sat on the porch her hands were busy breaking up beans or cutting apples or doing some work. There was no air conditioning, maybe a fan or two. Sitting on the porch was time to cool off and to do a little socializing. I loved to hear her laugh. When some things were said that were a bit outrageous to her, I remember her raising her hand up and saying "Law!" Now "law" was pronounced as a two syllable word.

She didn't wear red and didn't care for us wearing it. It was the color of the devil. She didn't want card playing in the house even crazy eights or old maid. Cards were from the devil, too.

It didn't matter how many people were in to visit, we would just sleep on the beds, the floor or the boys would go out the barn loft. She would tell me not to worry, if we ran out of floor space she would start hanging us from nails on the wall.

I miss my Granny and wish I could hear her voice. When she was in Dayton in the hospital before she went to the nursing home or got to return home, in fact, while she was still with Freddy, too, she would keep telling us that there was something she needed to tell us. She would start at the VERY beginning. If she got interupted, lost her train of thought or you asked a question, she would start again at the VERY beginning. I never heard the end of what she wanted to tell us. I know one night I stayed with her and the next day I was still there. So many in the family had come in and we were visiting. I ended up staying all day and the second night because they forgot I had been there the night before. I had stayed up with her the first night, but I couldn't do it the second night. I finally said, "Granny, please let me sleep a little then I will listen to you." She looked like I had struck her, but she was quiet for a while. I still wonder what that was that she wanted us to know. Others told me that it was just the medication. The doctors had overdosed her a bit on darvon, but I really think there was something she wanted us to know.

Nancy Alice Hall Bentley was wife, a step-mother, a mother, a grandmother over many times. I always felt like I was special to her, but I also always thought she made each of her grandchildren feel that way. She always remembered our names. I had a thing when I was young of NOT answering until you got my name right (ok maybe I finally stopped that after I turned 50). I found out that even though I only had one child that sometimes I called him the wrong name. Granny never called me the wrong name. She went to church all her life and lived the life she thought she should. She was an example to anyone who was around her. My Granny was the best grandmother a child could ever have.

Granny and her grandchildren: Eddie, Yvonne, Alan and Jerry

1 comment:

  1. Karen,
    This was a beautiful story. I wish that I had more memories of granny. I was only 7 when she passed away.