Matilda Estelle Comer, my great-grandmother, was born April 17, 1896 in Advent, Jackson County, West Virginia, to George William Comer and Nicatie Gibson. My whole life, I did not know her middle name but guessed it was Elizabeth, based on things a great-aunt told me. I recently found her delayed birth certificate and found, to my surprise, that her middle name was Estelle.
Matilda was the youngest of six siblings, Owen, Mary, Marietta, William, and Daniel. Her mother passed away when she was about two years old. To date, I have been unable to find the family in the 1900 census. Her father remarried Mary Jane about 1904. By the 1910 census, the family has moved to Buffalo in Clay County. Their father is a laborer in a lumber camp. Matilda was thirteen and all her siblings except the oldest, Owen (22), were still living at home. Her father and his new wife had added Ora and Masel to the family by then and later came Roma and Ruby.
In the 1920 census, Matilda, Mary, and Daniel are living with their brother Owen and his wife, Glendora. Owen is farming and brother Daniel is a laborer for the railroad. Is it possible at some point she worked? The picture below is a postcard picture on the back of which is written “Matilda E. Comer, later Bailes, with friend…worked at Kelly Axe Co? Charleston, WV.”
Matilda married Russell Bailes on 16 March 1921. By the 1930 census, they had their oldest daughter (7-still living), Kathlene (5), Carl (3), and Doris (1). Russell is working as a coal miner by now and did so until the end of his life. By the 1940 census, they are living near her brother, Roma and his family. Three more children are added to the family as well, Janice, and twins Chessie and Chelsie. Matilda and Russell had one other child, Kenneth, twin to Kathleen, who died at about one year of age.
Matilda’s husband, Russell, passed away in 1948. About four years later, she sold their home and 77-acre farm. She eventually moved to Elyria, Ohio.
It is getting more and more common for young people to know their great-grandparents. My children knew five out of eight of theirs. But many years ago, this was very uncommon due to disease, lack of medical advancements, and earlier deaths. I feel blessed to have known two of my great-grandparents, both great-grandmothers. Matilda was one of them. I was almost five years old when she passed away 7 September 1980 in Elyria, Ohio.
I have extremely few memories of Mamaw Bailes, honestly probably only two specific memories. I remember my mom making iced tea for her, going to her house nearby and leaving it on the front porch in the sun when she was not home. I also remember a tobacco box of hers that my dad has and kept colored pencils in for a long time. My best memory of Mamaw Bailes was going to her house once when she had recently washed her hair and did not have it up yet. I had never seen Mamaw Bailes with her hair down. She always wore it in a bun. It was long and black, and I remember her sitting in a rocking chair doing her hair up quick and easily. I remember wishing she would wear it down all the time because it was so beautiful.