On the 1900 census, she is listed as 5-year-old Judie E living in Chimney Rock, Rutherford County, North Carolina. Also in the household were both parents, her 16-year-old brother James A from her father’s previous marriage, 10-year-old Melger D, 7-year-old Thomas H, 2-year-old Mary S, and 3-month-old Mittie S.
In February 1904, when Eva was 9 years old, her mother passed away. I was told many times by my Gran that Eva then went to live and work for another family. By the 1910 census, 15-year-old Eva was living in High Shoal in Rutherford County with her older sister Amanda, from her father’s first marriage. On this census she is listed as Judie E, sister-in-law to the head of the household, Henry Biggerstaff. It is noted that Henry works at the cotton mill along with his 14-and 12-year old sons who are both doffers. Two households away lived her future husband, 15-year-old Gus Watkins, also working as a doffer.
Eva and Gus married 14 Jan 1914 in Caroleen, Rutherford County, North Carolina. The next year they welcome Mamie Sue into the world, and in 1917 Eva is living in Vein Mountain in McDowell County while Gus is living in a boarding house in Spindale for work. He writes to her in September:
By the 1920 census, they are listed in Green Hill, Rutherford County down the road from Gus’s father and brother. By this census, they have added Mildred and J.D. to the family. On the 1930 census they are living in Brackett, where Gus was born near Vein Mountain and have added Charles, Lois, and Wilma, all but their youngest child to their family. Granny often told me her mother was told by the doctor that she would not survive if she had any more children after Lois, yet she went on to have two more children and live to age 89.
By 1940, Eva and Gus had added their last son to the family and moved into town-Marion, North Carolina. It appears they moved here sometime between 1930 and 1935 as the 1940 census states they had been living in the same place in 1935. While Gus had been a farmer at Vein Mountain, he was now a proprietor of a grocery store in Marion.
In the mid-to late-1960’s, Gran was onhand with a tape recorder, trying to get her Mama to talk. When she couldn’t, my mother interviewed her about dinner at McDowell House and a picture her great-grandson had done for her.
In 1964, the family had a fiftieth anniversary celebration to honor Gus and Eva Watkins. Almost seven years later, in December 1970, Gus passed away. Eva lived fourteen more years, passing away 11 January 1985. I was nine years old and hers was the first funeral I attended. I will never forget the day my Mom and Poppy got the call while Gran was at work at Higbee’s Department Store and them telling her her beloved mama had passed away that evening when she got home. It was the only time I ever heard my Granny cry.
When Eva passed away, her children buried her at Green Hills Cemetery in Asheville, North Carolina and arranged for their daddy to be moved from the family cemetery at Macedonia Baptist Church on Vein Mountain to Green Hills Cemetery with her. Granny told me this was because Mamaw went to her own mother’s grave in a family cemetery once and could not find it because of the overgrowth of grass and bushes in the cemetery. She did not want the same to happen to her own grave. I understand this but I much prefer the quiet and peace of the small family cemetery at Macedonia.
My memories of Mamaw are those of a young child. Others had many more years to make memories with her. Three things first come to mind when I think of Mamaw:
- She sat in a chair in the corner by the window at Aunt Mickey’s every day at the same time watching traffic at rush hour. I wonder if she was thinking how much faster life was now.
- She was very afraid of spiders. Once when she and I were home alone, I saw a spider inside the lampshade by her chair. When I told her, she jumped out of the chair and just about begged me to kill it. I remember being surprised by this because I didn’t like spiders either and never had an adult ask me to kill one. She said something like, “Oh no, I’m not killing it. You get it!”
- She played a triangle peg board game a lot AND she wrote down her moves so if she beat it she could memorize how and beat it every time.
I’m sure others can share many more wonderful memories of Mamaw as well.