Fifty years ago today my Great Grandmother, my father’s maternal Grandmother, Sallie Eliza Heath Rouse passed away from suffering at home from pneumonia and what appears to have been a stroke. She lived 65 yrs, 8 months and 16 days.
Born as the 2nd to last child to Thomas Arendell Heath (1821-1893) and his 3rd (and final) wife Elda Mittie Hunter (1851-1907) on 7th of Nov 1877 in Lenoir County, North Carolina. On the 24th of Jan 1899, she would marry a tall young man, George Kinsey Rouse a man not of wealth but had some property.
When they married they both had inherited land, small family farms, and George dreamed of living “in town”, which really was just a couple of miles down the road. This was not Sallie’s idea according to their daughter, Aunt Ellen, but she went along with the plan. So George purchased property and set to building a house for his wife and soon to be children.
In 1901 they had their first child, a son, Hervey Kinsey Rouse, followed 5 yrs later with a daughter, Ellen Cardell Rouse in 1906 and then in 1909 daughter Lenore Averett. Sadly in 1913 they would lose twins, unnamed daughter and son dying hours apart in 21st of Aril for her and the following morning the 22nd for the son.
The children from all stories were healthy and happy.
The couple purchased two more properties close by their home and had them as rental properties for extra income. George became an elected Sheriff of Kinston and though Sallie did not approve of his bringing home the spoils of his job, such as a nice size storage trunk from a liquor raid, he was able to support his family well enough.
Then, without any warning, George was gone. On the 8th of August 1921 after surgical attempts in a hospital in Richmond, Virginia, George died of a brain tumor despite two surgical attempts to save him. Unable to say goodbye to her husband, only to receive a telegram of his passing, Sallie would suddenly find herself without her husband or a means of supporting herself or her three children still at home, ages 12 to 20. With very little money, she faced an uncertain future.
The rents on the two homes would have to do. Hervey got a job and then would go into the Navy sending money home to the family when he could. Ellen was away at the Eastern Carolina Teachers College (Eastern Carolina University) and would never teach, instead she would get a job at to contribute to the family. Lenore would also go on to the same college and then marry.
Sallie would continue to fret about her income. She saved wherever she could, including using the backs of envelopes, bills, receipts and brown bags to write notes on. I have letters from her renters where they are making excuses and pleading their cases for being late, sometime several months, on their rents to her. And in turn, her letters pleading for payment so that her name did not go on the tax list printed in the local paper. That must have been a very hard and humiliating prospect for her. Reading her letters makes me feel some of her embarrassment, frustration and disappointment.
Sallie was possibly 5’2, she was a small woman, but carried the weight of her voice and manners. It is said her husband gave her his small hand gun when he was able to get a larger one as Sheriff. She did shoot it, once. Someone came onto the back porch of the house and was trying to get in, she aimed the gun, yelled out for the intruder to leave and shot it! No one was injured, but surely someone had to get a pair of clean pants that night.
Today, on the anniversary of her death, I recall a woman sitting at the dining table asking if I wanted more green beans, me the youngest getting asked if I wanted more, before the adults were. That and her chocolate cake……now where is that gallon of milk?