Alethia Jane DICKERSON lived her life within a 30 mile radius in middle Georgia. She was born in an area called ‘Crowders’ in Monroe County. If you’ve ever eaten or heard of the Crowder pea, it was developed by John Crowder of the same county. When ‘peas’ are on the menu of a family reunion of southerners, they aren’t talking about the green, English variety. They’re talking about a field pea, such as ‘Crowder’ or ‘Purple Hull’ that make their own gravy color.
Alethia had almost as many versions of her name as there are field peas. Her various names appear on documents throughout her life, ‘Letha’, ‘Leitha’, ‘Lethy’ and ‘Aletha’. They are all the same person. She was so named by her parents Sarah E HOBBS and James DICKERSON, their only child together before the death of Sarah, her mother in 1851 when she was 5 years old. Her father remarried when she was 10 and about a year later she became a sister to George Monroe.
There is some confusion as to when she married Thomas Jefferson HOLDER. The marriage date of 26 Nov 1857 is found on many internet sources although a certificate has not emerged. If this marriage date were true, Alethia would have been 11 years old when she married. This seems improbable since she was living with her father, stepmother and stepbrother at age 14 when the 1860 census was taken. She more likely married by 1866 since their first child, James Solomon was born in March of 1870.
By the age of 34, Letha had 6 children and had moved to Sandy Ridge, Henry county. In 1883 there were 9 children when Thomas died in that same year. Letha somehow survived (they probably ate lots of Crowders) and reappears on the 1900 census at age 54. Her neighbors at that time included her son James Solomon HOLDER, his wife Alma Josephine JACKSON and children Bertha and Lyndon. She lived another ten years, dying at age 64 after the 1910 census was taken and is buried in the New Hope Methodist Church Cemetery.
New Hope Methodist Church is located at the intersection of New Hope Road and LeGuin Mill Road near the LeGuin (formerly Wynn’s) Mill where T. J. HOLDER worked wood. Along with HOLDER family members, the cemetery also interns Wynns and LeGuinns and others that Letha and her family were probably well aquainted with including Magnolia Wynn LeGuin.
There are no known letters or journal entries from Letha, but we can glean a bit about the life of women living in the agrarian area from Magnolia who lived just a few houses away and probably attended the same church as Letha . She kept a journal which has been published by her grandson Charles LeGuin titled A Home-Concealed Woman. The Diaries of Magnolia Wynn LeGuin 1901-1913 published by the Un. of GA Press. Since the LeGuin family owned and ran the mill, Magnolia appears to have done a lot of hosting for visitors that came. A couple of excerpts from the book:“I was truly glad when I felt the sprinkling of the rain. I was so glad I couldn’t content myself indoors washing dishes, sweeping floors, making beds, etc etc, so I just postponed those things and churning too awhile and betook myself out in the misty rain with a new brushbroom and swept a lot of this large yard and inhaled the sweet air scented with rain-settling dust.” . . . “I feel rebellious once in awhile at my lot–so much drudgery and so much company to cook for and in meantime my own affairs, my own children, my little baby–all going neglected.”
It’s amazing how many clues and pieces start fitting together just by reviewing and studying census, vital, and cemetery records. Consider that in 1900 a neighboring family, the Ingram’s lived near Letha who lived next door to her daughter-in-law Alma and son James. The Ingram’s had an infant daughter named Eula Mae Ingram that died on 6 Dec 1900 and buried her at New Hope. Just 4 days later Alma delivered a little girl and named her ‘Eula Mae’. A coincidence? Probably not. Surely this community of people knew, supported, and were friends (or not) with each other.
Now, go eat some Crowder peas.