|Me, my baby sister Alesha, my dad and Ollie|
Frances Ollie Jordan was my great-grandmother. I met her once when I was about two years old at her home in Steele, Missouri the June of 1981. I and a gaggle of her other grandchildren and great-grandchildren made a road trip across the river from Jackson, Tennessee to Missouri. We showed up at her house unannounced and found her home, dressed to the nines as she was every day. One granddaughter remembers that when she saw us piling out of the station wagon, she clapped her hands together and squealed, "Oh, this is the best day of my life!" (I can imagine having the opposite reaction to 10+ people showing up at my house unexpectedly!) The photo above remembers that event. In it, Ollie is the red-headed, peach blouse-and-long-necklace-wearing spitfire, who already at that time was 91. She would live to be 102.
Ollie was born June 15th, 1890 in Henderson County, Tennessee to Needham Carroll Jordan (1841-1924) and Mary Ann Adams (1857-1940), and was one of ten children. Not much is known about her early life. Her father Needham was a farmer who could not read or write, according to census records. They lived simply in post-Civil War Tennessee near a clan of other Jordans. At one point, their house caught fire while everyone was out in the fields. It burned to the ground, and they lost everything.
|Henderson County, Tennessee|
|Marriage license of Ollie and John Lee|
As Larvous remembered it, via his daughter: "Sister and I were playing in the yard where there were some grapes that weren't yet ripe. Lessie ate a 'bait' of those grapes and a few days later we buried her." She developed colitis, or flux, and died from dehydration. The grapes probably had nothing to do with it, though Larvous might have lived with some sense of guilt--he would have only been about 4 years old when this happened.
|Lessie Mae's death certificate|
|Headstone for Lessie Mae. Note: the dates are wrong. She was born 1908 and died 1910.|
|Pemiscott County, Missouri|
|Ollie and Atlas marriage license|
When Ollie and Atlas Williams moved to Steele, Missouri is unknown, but it was for less than honorable conditions. He thought that Atlas was run out of the state of Tennessee for moonshining and who knows what else. After moving to Steele, he set up a reputable welding and machine shop and rented houses that he built. His name is on the cornerstone of the First Baptist Church where he was a deacon, and where his daughter-in-law Earline was church secretary. It seems that if his reputation was marred early in life, he worked hard to turn it around.
In 1923, Ollie and Atlas had a son, J.C.Williams. (The initials did not stand for anything, that was his legal name.)
|Ollie and her two sons: Larvous on her left, J.C. on her right.|
From one of Ollie's granddaughters: Grandma Ollie was a red-haired, blue-eyed, snazzy dresser. She always wore her lipstick, powder and "ear bobs". She was finicky about her house...was way ahead of her time in decorating. She had the only maroon-colored bath fixtures I've ever seen...tub, sink, commode. She was a good cook and her house always smelled of bath powder and was immaculately clean. A great-granddaughter says she remembers Ollie's rouged cheeks, and as a child thought she must have been rich.
|Ollie at her home in Steele, Missouri|
According to Ollie's sister Ida's granddaughter, Ollie and Ida, liked to catch catfish. A great-granddaughter fondly remembers Ollie's fried chicken, purple hull peas, cornbread, and coconut cake. Others remember her chicken and dressing. One great-grandchild loved it so much that at five years old she offered Ollie her brand new doll because in exchange for a plate of it.
|Ollie, left, and sister Ida|
Another one of Ollie's granddaughters remembers Atlas as being quite generous with his money, freely giving them change for "the show" and even nickels for popcorn. This would be particularly nice since technically they weren't blood relation to him.
Atlas died on 23 Oct., 1967 of a massive heart attack at the Blytheville, Arkansas hospital. He was 75.
Ollie was able to stay independent at home until she was in her late 90's. Her granddaughters say that even when she lived in the nursing home, she maintained her good looks, and was never seen without her red lipstick and ear bobs. She had many suitors at the home who attended her. She only let her red hair turn white the last few years of her life. Many family sources say that Ollie would never own up to her actual age. Her son, Larvous, often teased that she would one day be younger than him, as she was notorious for fudging her birth date. She outlived Larvous by twenty years. Her other children, J.C. and Ruby Dee, would live until 2004.She had fifteen grandchildren, and at least forty great and great-great-grandchildren.
|Ollie at age 100, seated, with her sister Ida, who was 90. Taken December, 1990|