I know very little about my paternal grandmother. Oh, I have the usual birth, marriage, and death dates and accompanying documentation. I even have copies of a couple of letters she wrote to her oldest son and his wife and a poem written by her third oldest daughter. But I didn’t know her. I never heard the sound of her voice. I don’t know what she liked or disliked. I don’t know many details about her day-to-day life. I don’t know her like I know my maternal grandmother, who was a constant presence in my life from the day I was born until she died 26 years later.
Verda Waller Hankins was born 1 December 1884 in Hopkins County, Kentucky, the third of seven children born to Thomas Leander Hankins and Samantha Angeline Petty. Verda was six years old when her only sister, Aggie Lee, died at 20 months old. Brothers John and Perry died in their 20s. Her three surviving brothers scattered from Hopkins County. Dick lived in Birmingham, Alabama, Jimmy in Los Angeles, California, and Elvie in Spokane, Washington.
Her middle name, Waller, was the maiden name of her 3rd great-grandmother, Dorothy Waller, and was used as a middle name for a number of Dorothy’s descendants including a sister of Verda’s paternal grandmother, Isabella Jane Goodloe. According to a descendant of Verda’s Aunt Mollie, she didn’t like her middle name and adopted Jane instead (probably in honor of Isabella Jane). Some of Verda’s children didn’t even realize that Jane was not really her name.
She married John William McCauley at her parents’ house in Earlington 27 September 1904. Verda and Will lived in Daniel Boone in Hopkins County for a few years before settling in nearby Greenville in Muhlenberg County. She gave birth to 11 children between 1905 and 1933 and lost the youngest one when he was 10 months old. She died of chronic myocarditis 16 May 1942 in Greenville at age 57.
My father didn’t talk much about his mother. He was 15 years old when she died in 1942, and it always seemed like it was painful for him to talk about her no matter how many years passed. I’ve always referred to her as Mama McCauley, I guess because he called her Mama.
There are so many things I’d like to know. What were her parents like? Did she remember her little sister? What does she remember about the houses where she lived growing up? Where were the houses located? How did she get along with her brothers? Why did she dislike her middle name? What was her life like when she and Papa first married? Did she know anything about her mother’s great-grandparents? (OK, that isn’t technically about her but you didn’t expect me not to ask some genealogy questions, did you?)
One dinner wouldn’t be nearly enough to answer those questions, much less all the others I have. But I would know far more than I know today about my grandmother.
Written for 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge from Amy Johnson Crow.