Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Fearful Tragedy: G2 Grandfather John Lee Sellers

John Lee is the tall boy in the back row. He is surrounded by his younger brothers, mother Mary Emiline, and maternal grandparents Nancy and Alford Bradford. The date of this photo would be about 1895.

John Lee Sellers (1879-1908) was my great-grandfather. Not much is known about him because he only lived 29 years. He was married to a young red-head named Ollie, he had one young son, Larvous Lee, and a baby on the way. He was a farmer. He made his home in the countryside near Lexington, Tennessee, not too far from the Mississippi state line.

Marriage license of John Lee and Ollie

Unfortunately, the most interesting thing known about John Lee is the manner in which he died. His obituary in The Lexington Progress, dated May 29, 1908, states:

Lee Sellers, a young married man of about 29 years, son of Tom E. Sellers, an aged confederate veteran, was dragged to death by a runaway mule. Mr. Sellers lived near Bargerton, 8 miles NW of Lexington, and, we hear was plowing in the field until about 11 o'clock when he took out to go to dinner. Mounting the mule, the animal became frightened and ran away, partially throwing off the unfortunate man who became entangled in the gear and was dragged to death. When discovered, Sellers was much disfigured. He left a wife and child and an aged father with whom we deeply sympathize.

In an effort to not only discover my ancestors, but understand them, I find myself wondering about his last moments. Specifically, the moment in which he felt hunger and decided to break for a hot lunch he knew Ollie, that good lookin' good cook, would have ready for him, even though she was probably ill with first-trimester nausea. And then the moment the mule spooked. What could have done it in May of 1908? A hunter after a squirrel? The unfamiliar engine of a lone car on the road to Lexington? And then the moment John Lee knew his foot was caught in the gear, the tangle of ground and sky, and the burn of it across his skin. What he must have thought in those last moments: the clean, powder smell of Ollie, the sweet gowns and baby fat thighs of his son Larvous, the child he'd never see, how he was not even 30 yet, and who would plow that field after he was gone.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. That's such a sad story! And I love your questioning after him...beautiful. I'm looking forward to following this project ;-)