Grandma Vida

Merrelton Farm

In some ways, studying your past is sort of like solving a mystery.  The answers are there, they just have to be uncovered.  In someones old cedar chest is a forgotten family bible, family portraits lay untouched for years in a dusty attic, a misplaced filing cabinet stuffed into the backroom of any courthouse may hold amazing documents.  Its exciting what turns up, and oh how fantastic your bounty, when you are willing to dig for answers.  Many libraries are very supportive of genealogy, and have incorporated whole areas to research and materials.  The above picture actually came from a local library in Calhoun County, Alabama.  A local photographer had a wonderful archive that went back over a hundred years of photos of local families, homes, events, and they worked with the library to make these available digitally to patrons.  My family names associated with this picture are Nixon and Hay, but this picture was filed under Hay Farm.  The above farm was where my Great grandmother Vida, for whom this blog was named, lived almost her entire life.  It was named Merrelton, after the first Postmasters in the areas young daughter. Although the Postmaster wasn’t related to my family, at the time I guess the name was already established, and it just stuck.  My great great Grandfather, William Dawson Nixon, Vidas father, eventually became the Postmaster here at Merrelton. He built a beautiful old Victorian style farmhouse, (you can see it peeking out from under the large shade trees on the left) around 1895, and raised his large family of three boys and five girls here. He married Nancy Jane Green, the local daughter of a successful Civil War veteran, William Butler Green.  Butler, as they called him, also had a big rambling plantation house very close to Merrelton.  At some point, according to Herman Clarence Nixon, the son of William Dawson Nixon, and author of ” Possum Trot”, Green farm burned to the ground.  Clarence Nixon stated that it was when he was about 8 years old, and he “watched it burn to the ground from the upstairs window of the Nixon house, as it was right across the street.”  Records show William Dawson Nixon bought his land from an Arnolt family, and that it adjoins the Green property.  William Nixon must have really gotten along with his father in law, because there are many newspaper advertisements for their joint ventures. They did sharecropping, had a grist mill, and each owned their own stores, known as the “Green Store” and the “Nixon Store.”  Amazingly, all of these years later, the building that housed the Nixon store is still in existance.  A wonderful Aunt of mine, a few years ago, gave me a tour of the old family property. Yes, it is still in the Hay family, and amazingly some parts of the farm have so many wonderful reminders of the past here.   Of course the highlight of the visit was the opportunity to go inside of the old Nixon store.  Some of the old cases that at one point housed sugar, flour and candy were still in the store.  On shelves were old cans and jars, dusty and bearing obviously antique labels and branding.  Even the key my Aunt used to open the front door was an old timey skeleton key.  It was an incredible experience, to be able to imagine my ancestors before me, bustling around the store. Helping their customers, ringing up items on their old cash register, maybe shooting the breeze out front while having a cold RC Cola.  The Nixon store catered to locals, but, since the railroad had a stop right on the property, its great success was fueled by travellers.  Of course, Merrelton was always a working farm.  My Aunt showed me existing equipment still on the property used to feed the horses and cows. Several houses throughout the farm were rented to sharecroppers.  Merrelton even had its own school, which the children of the sharecroppers attended.  My grandmother and great grandmother did not attend the school with the sharecroppers children, they were sent to school in “town.”   My grandmother even told me she was not allowed to play with the sharecroppers children, but she used to sneak around and do it anyway.  In 1929, a tornado came through Merrelton, destroying the school on the property.  My Grandmother told me she was heartbroken to find out a few of her playmates had been killed. The Nixons lived a very traditional life, with Bill Nixon working outside the home and his wife, Nancy Jane (Nannie) taking care of the children, cooking, and managing the household.
My Grandmother said that it wasn’t unusual for Nannie Nixon to have 25 gathered for dinner, on any given night.  She was always cooking, and especially Southern Fried Chicken.  Many times the sample salesmen, coming to sell their wares to Bill Nixon for his store would look forward to having one of Nannies wonderful Southern Dinners.  She was famous for her fabulous food.  As the years passed, Bill Nixon branched out into other businesses.  He was a true entrepeneur, and at one point even owned a few buildings in downtown Anniston, Alabama. 

The old Nixon Store
"The Merrelton Room"

My Aunt Mary Edd has a real appreciation for the history of her home.  She actually has a huge room built onto her home she calls her “Merrelton Room.”  She uses it to display items, photos, etc. from Merrelton over the years.  The sign in this picture was used at the Railroad station.  The shelves were used in the Post Office for many years.  The Post Office was always located in the Nixon Store. 

Aunt Mary Edd

My beautiful Aunt Mary Edd holding the incredible skeleton key used to get into the old Nixon Store.  I owe so much to this wonderful Aunt of mine.  She took me all over Merrelton, telling stories and showing me anything she thought was of interest.  She took me to two separate cemeteries, where many Green, Nixon, Hay and Prather family members are buried.  She unselfishly let me scan all of her old pictures.  I am so grateful to her and hope someday I can be as inspirational as she has been to me.

After tragically losing her Mother, and a few years later her father, my Grandmother was raised at Merrelton.  It was a huge part of her life, and especially her childhood memories.  It gave me a unique perspective, as she had lots of stories about my Great Great Grandfather William Dawson (Bill) Nixon, and my Great Great Grandmother Nancy Jane Green Nixon.  She would often talk about her sadness at losing her Mother, Mable Vida Nixon Hay-she died when my Grandmother, Ida Louise Hay Pentecost, was only 6 years old.  My grandmothers Mother, Vida, was the apple of her father Bills eye.  The eldest child in the family, Vida was apparently given every luxury.  Because they owned a store, she always had the newest fashion, shoes, dolls, books, and even candy from the cabinet.  Salesmen would often come through and give Bill Nixon samples of the finest for their family, and Vida benefitted greatly from his entrepeneurship.  In a time when many Southerners were still reeling from the effects of Civil War, the Nixon family never did without.  Vida was trained in voice and classical piano, and graduated from Jacksonville State University at 18 with a degree in teaching. She later graduated from Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina with another degree in teaching, this one focused mainly on Music.  I didn’t have a picture of Vida, and hoped for one.  Again, the Calhoun County photo database was such a blessing.  While visiting with my Aunt I showed her some of the pictures on the library website, suspecting one might be Vida.  I was amazed that one of the pictures was Vida!  I couldn’t have been more surprised, and I cherish her portrait.

Mable Vida Nixon, My Great Grandmother

My great grandmother Vida went on to marry William (Dub) David Hay from Carrollton, Georgia.  I don’t have any pictures of my great Grandfather DW or Dub Hay.  They went on to have four children together, eventually moving from Carrollton, where they settled on what census records say was “Greens Schoolhouse'” June Bug, Calhoun, Alabama. I am not really sure where exactly “Greens Schoolhouse” was located, but it must have been either on the Nixon or Green property, as those families also appear on the same census record.  In earlier census records, William Butler Greens maternal grandparents are listed as living in the same vicinity as his family and Bill Nixons family.  Amazing to think of how wonderful it would be to so much family surrounding you, as a part of daily life.  I have many more details about the genealogy and history of Vida and her family, and I will be updating this as soon as I am able.

Picture of Thanks for reading ... Kimberly

Thanks for reading ... Kimberly

For more on Kimberly, please visit the About page on this website

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