Monday is all about honoring female ancestors who showed strength and perseverance in the face of adversity. Today’s Matriarch is my maternal Great Grandmother Lucy Bell Brown.
Lucy was born on Feb 6, 1897 in Greenbrier County, West Virginia to James C. Brown and Laura Hanshew. She was the 3rd of 4 children. When Lucy was young her parents divorced. Records are scarce on Lucy’s childhood but family stories indicate she was “adopted” out to a couple to be raised after her parents separated.
Lucy found love with a man named Archie Jamison. The couple married in 1914 in Nicholas County, West Virginia. Four children, Steward, Orelo, Archie, and Juanita, were born to the couple between 1915 and 1921. The 1920 census shows the family living in Richwood, Nicholas County, West Virginia and Archie is reported as being a cook in a restaurant.
During August of 1921 the town of Richwood experienced a massive fire which destroyed blocks of the town. According to accounts of the event it appears the fire stopped blocks from where the young family of six lived during the period.
September 1, 1923 tragedy struck when Archie Sr. was killed after being hit by a train. Lucy was left a young widow with 4 young children.
A Second Chance at Love
In 1926 Lucy wed for the second time to Dallas Finley Shuck in Nicholas County, West Virginia. Over the next decade the couple would have 6 children, Dallas, Mary, Elden, Wilson, Laura, and Jeannetta, bringing their family to size to 12. Her husband, known as Finley, supported the family working in the coal mines.
Duty Calls Her Sons to War
Adversity was not behind her as Lucy settled into her life as a coal miner’s wife. Life was a daily struggle in the poverty stricken mining communities. Even opportunity was a double edged sword when three of her sons enlisted in the military and all three were sent to the Korean War at the same time.
Lost in the Woods
At some point Lucy began to develop dementia. I can only wonder if its onset helped lead to one occasion where Lucy became the star of the local news. She was 78 years old when while out squirrel hunting with her husband she became lost in the woods in October of 1975. Rescue parties were formed, and searchers looked for her all night long before she was found the next morning. Apparently, between her faithful hounds and trusty shotgun she was unfazed by her ordeal and planned to continue hunting. Lucy yet again faced adversity and somehow managed to handle a situation that would have devastated a lesser person.
Lucy and Finley celebrated over 55 years of marriage before Finley passed. They had buried 3 children by his death in 1982. By the time he passed she was suffering pretty heavily with dementia.
1984 saw the death of another of Lucy’s children when Steward died.
I have hazy personal memories of when Uncle Steward died. As was still the custom in that area at the time, they had the funeral at home. A downstairs room was used to set up the body and afterwards it would be buried in the family cemetery across the road.
I don’t know if Lucy was ever truly aware of the fact that it was her son they had set up in the parlor. I remember conversations of her being upset telling people to get the body out of the parlor before Finley got home from work. Finley was two years dead and that body was her son. Perhaps dementia was fates way of sparing her even more grief in life.
Lucy lived out the final years of her life in the house of her daughter, Mary, in the same little area known as Hell’s Half Acre where she had lived a majority of her life. She died in 1989. Her funeral was held in the White Oak Methodist Church on the same road she had lived and she is buried in the P.A. Shuck Cemetery next to Finley.