Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Grandmother Who Let Her Hair Down

long hair, Lillie Powell Gurganus, Walker County, Alabama , Fletcher Gurganus, Charles F. Gurganus, Charlie Snow Powell, Rebecca Jane Holley, Genealogy. Family History, Census,
Lillie Powell at the age of 16
As Lillie carefully unpinned and released her hair, the tresses tumbled down past her shoulders. Picking up the hair brush, her grand-daughters would carefully begin the much loved past time of brushing their grandmother's long locks. Gently they would pull the brush through Lillie's hair which fell down past her shoulders and on past her waist. The silken strands of hair represented a lifetime of growth, a lifetime of second glances from strangers, a lifetime of questions about how long she had been growing it and a lifetime of admiration from others, who like me, are very hair challenged.

Lillie Powell Gurganus never cut her hair throughout her entire life. Brushing her hair was among her grand-daughters' favorite things to do with their grandmother. Sitting in a chair, her long thick hair reached down to the floor in her later years. As a young girl she often wore it down, evidence of  how long it really was, but in her later years it was carefully braided and then pinned around her head.

Lillie was born on the 17th of June 1895 to Charlie Snow Powell and Rebecca Jane Holley in Walker County, Alabama. She was their oldest daughter and the third child in a large family. Growing up in Walker County, the Powell family lived in relatively close proximity to the large Gurganus family, so it's not too surprising that Lillie and Charles Fletcher Gurganus had the opportunity to meet. Fletcher and Lillie began the process of courting at a young age and it soon led to their marriage on a winter's day, the 13th of December 1914.

There in Walker County, replete with rolling hills, rivers and forests and living near extended family members, Fletcher farmed and Lillie took care of the household chores and their five children.

Her grandchildren remember Lillie as soft spoken and for her sense of industry. A firm believer that an idle mind was the devil's workshop, she constantly busied about, doing something productive with her time. If by chance you found her sitting, she was not idle, but generally busy at the lost art of mending, darning or meticulously piecing together a quilt top. As her children grew and married, they returned to Lillie and Fletcher's home for cherished family dinners where Lillie constantly bustled about, tending to the needs of each of her precious visitors.

In Walker county on the tenth of March, 1975, at the age of 80, Lillie Powell passed from this life. Among the things she left behind were treasured remembrances such as handmade Valentines, cards and birthday messages from her husband, evidence of their love for each other. But in the hearts of her grandchildren, she left cherished memories of time spent together at family gatherings as well as those uniquely special moments when she unpinned her long braids for them, and they had the privilege of brushing her beautiful long hair. They truly prize the memories of Grandma Lillie letting down her hair.

A special thanks to Betty Wedgeworth for sharing a few memories and the picture of her grandmother Lillie Powell Gurganus. 

For those curious about our connection, Charlie Fletcher Gurganus was my third cousin, twice removed. 

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2016, All rights reserved

12 comments:

  1. Such a sweet story and a fabulous photo. It's a wonder Lillie didn't just get tired of that long hair, but it's so cool that she didn't. I wonder who got her brush -- that would have been a treasure to keep.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This post was a fun one to write. It's interesting how sometimes the thoughts flow and other times it is so difficult. But when Betty wrote to me and told me how she loved to brush her grandmother's hair and how she felt about her, it all fell into place and I was left wishing I knew her.

      Delete
  2. The little details about our ancestors bring them to life, such as beautiful long hair. An interesting post & delightful photograph.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Colleen. Betty only shared a handful of details, but it was enough for me to envision Lillie. It made me realize how we need to record what we know about our grandparents because even if it is just a few details, it makes such a difference.

      Delete
  3. Wonderful story, nice to see you back!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Ellie! It was a fun one to write.

      Delete
  4. I can't believe how long her hair was at 16 - can't imagine what it looked like at the end of her life. What great memories her grandchildren have!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can't believe it either Deb and I too wonder what it looked like in her older years. Thanks for stopping by !

      Delete
  5. Beautifully written Michelle! What a lovely photograph!

    ReplyDelete