I remember asking Granny, Wilma Mae Watkins, about her grandparents, and I recall feeling sad to hear she only knew one of her grandparents and hardly had any memories of her. While three of her grandparents passed away before she was born, I was blessed to know all four of mine and have great memories with each. Granny was only six-and-a-half when her father’s mother, Margaret Roxanna Radford, who had lived with the family for awhile, passed away. Granny could never recall much about her grandmother other than feeling a little afraid of her because she was somewhat paralyzed and ill.
While her tombstone states Margaret was born in 1865, her 1934 death certificate states she was about 73 years old which would mean she was born about 1861. To complicate matters further the 1870 census states she was 12 while the census ten years later states she was 17. It is possible a neighbor answered questions for their household and did not know exact ages or that age did not matter quite so much at that time because children began working so young. A death index states Margaret was born in 1858. However, she is not listed in her parents’ household in the 1860 census, so we know it was after that. Regardless of which year is correct, Margaret Roxanna Radford was born 15 June in North Carolina to Andrew Radford, a farmer, and Elmira Arrowood. In the 1870 census, the family was living in Jamestown, McDowell County, North Carolina. Her eldest brother, Thomas, then nineteen years old, was not in the home. Along with her parents were, 18-year-old sister Sarah, 16-and 14-year old brothers George and James, 10- and 8-year old younger brothers, Zeb Vance and Johnson, and 7-month-old sister “Eller.” While census takers can sometimes make research difficult by writing names incorrectly, I enjoy finding these evidences of the accent people had in how they said and spelled a name.
In the 1880 census, Roxanna’s older brothers, George and James have moved out. The rest of the family remains the same. Roxanna and her older sister Sarah are listed as “seamsters.”
On 27 May 1883, Margaret married John Merido Watkins, a farmer like her father. On the 1900 census, they have 11-year-old Waitstall, born 1888, 9-year-old Carrie, 7-year-old Evie, 5-year-old Gussie (my great-grandfather), and 2-year-old Myra. Her brother-in-law, Elisha, is also living with the family in Bracketts Township, McDowell County, North Carolina.
In early 1907, Margaret’s husband sold two acres of land for the building of Macedonia Baptist Church. Sometime between the 1900 and 1910 census, their daughter Carrie passed away. We know this because the 1910 census states Margaret has had 6 children but only 5 are living. Maude was born by this time. By 1910 the family has moved to Caroleen in Rutherford County and her husband, oldest daughter, and son Gus are working in the cotton mill. This is typical of mills during this period. Working in them was a family affair.
Reading about life in a mill town was interesting. The electric was shut off in the morning and did not come back on until twelve hours later when workers returned home. One day a week it was turned on earlier to do ironing. You can read more about mill life in Caroleen and nearby areas by visiting Remember Cliffside.
By 1920, the family moved to Green Hill, Rutherford County and John was back to farming again. John passed away in December 1926. Perhaps it was at that point that Roxanna, as she was called after she married, began living with her different children as Granny recalled. In the 1930 census she was listed with daughter Eva and her husband, Charles Lawing, in Marion.
Roxanna passed away 21 March 1934. Her death certificate lists her cause of death as a paralysis of one side of the body called hemiplegia and other contributing factors. She was buried beside her husband at Macedonia Baptist Church cemetery in Vein Mountain, North Carolina.