Jimmie and Mary Rosetta Fields were married in 1898 at ages 19 and 17. They were the parents of sixteen (16) children. Ten of which produced grandchildren that totaled fifty-four (54). Ironically, twenty-seven (27) were boys and twenty-seven (27) were girls. My mother, Edna, was their only daughter to give birth to more than one child. She also was their only daughter to give birth to a son. Therefore, I am their only grandson without the Harrison last name.
I would like to recognize Mom (Edna) and Aunt Mil for their memory in setting the record straight. It had been reported that there were 17 children born to Jimmie and Mary. We learned that there were 16 children as shown. In fact, Mom stated that not only did the triplets die as infants (George, Georgia and Georgiana), but while Mrs. Prevost, the mid-wife, tended to Grandma Mary, her three daughters, Louise, Leona, and Edna each held one of the babies. It was at that time that the baby held by Mom (Edna) died. The other two died within days after the first.
Grandpa Jimmie and Grandma Mary reared their children in a happy Christian environment. Grandpa worked at Salmens’ brickyard for years. He also worked at the Oyster factory as a lot of us did in those days. The bus would pick up the workers before day and off we went to shucking oysters. (I said “we” because one morning when I was about 12 years old I caught the bus with Aunt Mil and others and shucked oysters all day, which was enough oyster shucking for me). Grandpa also worked in the timber industry. Thomas Harrison (another grandson) reminded me that he had worked with Grandpa cutting wood. They were responsible for taking the bark of trees before it was dipped into cresol which acted as a preservative. These trees were then used as light poles and telephone poles. Ox and mules were used to transport the prepared timber out of the woods. Grandpa Jimmie had good relationships with his grandkids, nieces and nephews and many of them worked with him on various jobs around Slidell and Mandeville. As a smoker, Grandpa Jimmie would also roll his own cigarettes, as was common then. He used Prince Albert tobacco. Cousin Thomas said he would pull out his little red Prince Albert pipe and tobacco canister and let us roll his cigarettes. He would say “you can roll it but you can’t lick it”, because he would lick and seal them himself. Grandpa Jimmie also owned a horse that he would ride from “the village” to Slidell delivering goods from his garden. Cousin Milton Stokes, a great-nephew of Grandpa Jimmie remembers him visiting his house as a child. Grandpa Jimmie would stop off at his nieces house (Idella Stokes, Milton’s mother) on his way to his daughter’s house Edna Crawford. Milton stated that as a child he thought that was the biggest horse he had ever seen. Grandpa was known to be a good man, but he did not back off of a “hum bug” as he called it. Thomas remembers some fellow giving Grandpa too much lip and Grandpa knocked him down. He did not exclude white people either. He was my hero. He was a hero to all of us who were fortunate enough to know him. Grandpa had a serious speech impediment and stuttered severely. The only time I can remember him “warming my hide” was when he overheard me imitating (mocking) him. I had it down pat and he patted me down.
Grandma Mary was a God-fearing mother and grandmother. She reared her girls to be ladies and assigned two of them each day to get up and fix breakfast for the working men of the family. Each Sunday morning she would conduct prayer service with her family before going to Sunday school. Each child took turns until all of them prayed. She always prayed that her Jimmie would be converted and become a Christian. Her prayers were answered in 1947 when Cousin Idella Stokes, a member of Mt. Olive A.M.E. church, invited Reverend Prentice Harrison, their nephew, to conduct a revival service. She also invited her uncle Jimmie to the revival. It was at that revival that Grandpa Jimmie accepted Christ as his savior. All of us were overjoyed that Grandpa had joined church. Having a choice of baptism by sprinkle or submersion, Grandpa chose submersion. Rev. T. H. Sampson, pastor of Hartzell Methodist Church, baptized Grandpa Jimmie in 1947. It was a grand day for all of us who were there. Grandma Mary, who was a pillar of strength, was overjoyed.
Grandma Mary was born on February 1, 1880 in the Indian Village area. Her parents were Alexander and Mary Fields. Her Grandmother on her fathers’ side was Cilia Ducre. She had 6 brothers and 3 sisters. Her older sister Josephine Fields (known as Aunt Joe) was married to Jacob Washington, whose grandson, The Honorable Lionel Washington, was a member of the Slidell City Council. Her younger brother Anthony Fields (known to us as Uncle Tony) was wed to Pearl Foster (Aunt Pearl). Her other brother, Edgar Fields was wed to Lugenia Harrison who was the younger sister of Grandpa Jimmie. Her other siblings were: Louise Fields, who married Jack Brookter (known as Uncle Jack), Rachel and Alfred, Robert, Buckley, and Gustave Fields. Grandma Mary believed in a favorite quote from the book of Proverbs Chapter 22, Verse 6 that reads thusly, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it”. Each Sunday she sent her children to Sunday school at Hartzell Methodist Church in Indian Village. At 11:00 she and her sister Josephine (Aunt Joe) joined them for church service. This foundation followed their children, grand, great grand, great great grand and great great great grand. To this day her descendants are actively enrolled in church work, such as Sunday School Superintendents, Sunday School Teachers, Bible Class Teachers, Vacation Bible School participants, Stewards, Trustees, Deacons, Deaconesses, etc., doing God’s work throughout the nation. In later years of her life, Grandma Mary’s health began to fail. All of her children helped out with her, as did Grandpa Jimmie. Aunt Mil was the only child who remained at home and took a lead role in caring for her mother.
Through the years, Sam, J.T. and I lived with our grandparents. After my father died in 1935, my mother returned home to live. Even after her second marriage, I stayed with Grandma and Grandpa thereby growing up under their heels. Aunt Mil, J.T. and Sam were like my older sister and brothers rather than an Aunt and first cousins. We worked with Grandpa in his field (garden) where he grew all the vegetables for the family. Some 50 years after his death, the Slidell Times printed an article about a sweet potato crop found on his land. It is thought that was Grandpa’s last crop he had planted. He also had a fruit orchard of pears, plums, peaches, bananas and figs. Grandpa enjoyed excellent health all of his life. In 1950, Grandpa became sick and required an operation. He did not recover from the operation and on October 8, 1950, he died at the age of 72. Since Grandma Mary was bedridden, she was not told of his death, although we thought she knew that he had gone on to glory. On January 11, 1951, just three weeks before her 71st birthday Grandma Mary died. Oh what a beautiful woman who lived a full and Christian life. We felt very certain that her journey to heaven united her again with her Jimmie.