by W.P. Sissell
Many years ago, as Nannette and I traveled on Highway 6 toward Oxford, going to another Thanksgiving dinner, I stopped at Audley Goodnight’s store. I have no idea why I stopped (you see there are some things that I do forget). There was an old colored gentleman, El Fondern, in the store looking for a ride to Oxford. Mr. Goodnight asked if we would mind him riding with us to Oxford. We assured him (them) that would be fine for I had met El several times. As it turned out Uncle El was inquisitive, asking about just who we were. After a short explanation from Nannette as to her folks, El said, “Yes ma’am, I’ve known Shipps most all my life.
Then Nannette started explaining about the first Sissell farm which was where the Prophet Bridge boat ramp is presently located. Uncle El’s reply was, “Yes sir, yo’all’s dem Yankees dat moved in on the river.” The conversation went fine after he got both of us classified. He was a fine old gentleman. Many of his descendants live along the west line of our farm here in Panola County. We are thankful for many things and one of those things is the good neighbors, mostly Pegues, along that west line.
Thanksgiving has always meant a special time in our family. I can still name most of the foods on the menu. For years, until my grandmother Sissell passed away, the family went to the grandparent’s house. In later years, the gathering continued but went to the various children’s homes.
In our immediate family, Nannette (mostly) and I have prepared the Thanksgiving meal. Most of our children and grandchildren live in the Batesville area.
This year was different. Our oldest daughter Nancy is a retired teacher although she works part time in three different areas (one of those areas is still with the schools). She began early on inquiring as to the days we could get together. When she got the date established she began giving out “orders” as to what was to be brought by each family. The only thing that she would tell Nannette and I was to bring Cile. Cile is Lucile Martin Hall, my older sister, Lucile’s, daughter who is now a resident of Fairfield in Batesville.
The delicious meal prepared by our daughters, Nancy and Susan, was served buffet. Our grandsons’s girl friends brought additional desserts. As we all got seated around the table I commented on its origin. The table, at one time, was a part of the furniture of the dining room in the Herring Hotel which stood on the corner of Main and Panola in Water Valley. My grandparents owned the Herring in the late 1900’s as well as a boarding house across the railroad track (apparently where the old gymnasium stood, according to the plat maps which Mr. Gurner has showed to me). Although they lived in the hotel for several years they later bought the Dr. Young place at the foot of the hill where Sissell St. goes down to the sewage lagoon (I believe that Dr. Young’s office was right at the foot of the hill a log building).
After we moved to the Mud Line farm my dad delivered milk in town every day. A part of that trip was a short visit to his brother. The two, who had been born on the plains of western Kansas, Goodwater, Gove county, in a sod house, saw each other almost daily. They were very close to their older sister, Ethel, who lived with them in that sod house. One of dad’s favorites was about how they would always wet their shirts in the creek (O’tuckalofa) before going to the house for dinner (so mama would see how hard they were working).
A Half Right
If you delve a little into ancestry you will find that Uncle El was only half right. You will find that my mother was a direct descendent of one Benjamin Hawkins, who served George Washington as his French interpreter (General Lafayette). His daughter, Virginia Hawkins Carr, was the wife of William Austin Carr. There are many of us from Water Valley and its surrounding area that have those names in their ancestry.
Have a good holiday season, be thankful for you know that your life is a gift. You can reach me most of the time at 23541 Highway 6, Batesville, MS 38606, firstname.lastname@example.org or 662-563-9879.