History, Romance, & Destiny
The Third Novel in the Trilogy
Dr. John Burel's great-grandson, John Harrison, was a toddler when his family pioneered from South Carolina to Mississippi. As a youngster, he proudly helped his family bellwether the Civil War and rebirth of the New South. By the early 1900s, he was a prosperous farmer and landowner. Time passed quickly, and too soon he was an old man. Join Grandpa and feel the biting north wind as he shuffled onto the front porch, cupped his hands around his mouth, and shouted, "It's hog-killing day!" Watch the bustling families rush toward the big house to slaughter enough hogs to carry them through the winter. Summer finally arrived and brought old-time gospel singing and preaching to their country church on the hill. Mama rose early on Sunday morning and filled her basket with fried chicken, biscuits, baked sweet potatoes, and fried apple pies. After preaching there was going to be another dinner-on-the-ground. Everyone was excited. Without a doubt, those were the good years.
But all that changed. Walk down the dismal road with the Burrell family as they helplessly watched the reckless Roaring Twenties and Great Depression bring a flourishing economy and their comfortable lifestyle to a grinding halt. Feel Grandpa's pain and humiliation when the bank called in his Deed-of-Trust, and he was forced to sell his last 640-acre farm and home for a few dollars. Sit for awhile and listen to his grandson, Cecil Allen Burrell, The Man Himself, as his thought-provoking stories detail how they all survived those disastrous years. With their eyes on the future, John Harrison's children and grandchildren navigated their way back into prosperity and eventually reclaimed their part of the American dream - the same dream brought to America by their Great3-Grandfather, Dr. Jean-Baptiste Elzéar Burel in 1778.
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The Generation that Saved AmericaSURVIVING THE GREAT DEPRESSION & WORLD WAR II
By Bettye B. Burkhalter Cecil Allen Burrell
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2010 Bettye B. Burkhalter
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Countryside Farm
Old homes, old towns, old friends,
Old ties we all hold dear;
All locked within our memory,
Grow dearer every year.
And when we use the key,
That opens memory's door;
We see old homes, old towns, old friends,
We loved long years before.
John Harrison Burell (Burrell) was a baby when the wagon train rolled into Attalaville in 1848 with his father, William Riley (Billy), and his grandparents, James and Lisbeth. He did not remember the long and rough ride, the campsites along the way, or when his Aunt Anne Elizabeth died shortly after arriving in Attalaville. Neither did he remember the first funeral when his family laid the beautiful twenty-seven-year-old mother to rest. Years later he learned why his Grandpa James and Grandma Lisbeth agreed to raise their daughter's two children. He never knew his Grandma Patience or Aunt Margaret left behind in Goshen Hill, South Carolina. He was too young to remember the dreadful day the letter arrived telling everyone Grandma Patience Burel had passed on and was now buried by Dr. Burel at the old cemetery near their home.
John Harrison's memories were not of Goshen Hill, South Carolina, or Hog Mountain, Georgia. His memories were made in Attalaville, Mississippi, with his father, his stepmother Annie, his grandparents, and his favorite two cousins — Jane Elizabeth and Mary Anne. They were close in age and grew up like three peas in a pod. They weathered the Civil War together, and James and Lisbeth were both special grandparents to the three. Not only were they wonderful grandparents, but they were the reason he was in Mississippi. They also were the reason he was in the Shrock Community where he met and married the sweetest girl he had ever known: Susanna Bishop.
From the celebrated wedding day in 1872, the years passed fast as John Harrison and Susanna worked their farms, bought and sold land, built houses, and raised a family of eleven children. Their final house was a typical southern farm home nestled on the back forty of their 640-acre farm near Seneasha Creek. Those passing by often referred to it as the big house. The house was a traditional dogtrot style spacious country home with large rooms on each side of the wide hall. Had John Harrison remained in Goshen Hill, South Carolina, his place would have been recorded as a plantation, but in Attala County, Mississippi, it was listed as a farm.
John Harrison and Susanna began construction of their new house in the spring of 1899 on land they bought from their oldest son. John Harrison's house was referred to as the "big house" by workers, neighbors, family, and travelers passing through. Only a rock's throw, or less than one-fourth mile, from his front porch he could see his old homeplace where he was raised and where his father, William Riley, died four years earlier. Captain Shrock died in the spring of 1897, just two years before John Harrison built his home. Oftentimes in the quiet of daybreak when they were having their first cup of coffee, he and Susanna talked about Captain Shrock. They both wished the old gentleman could have lived to see their new house. He would have liked it because it was designed much like the one he built for his wife Caroline. As a young man, John Harrison enjoyed teasing and bragging to Captain Shrock about the big fine white house he was planning to build one day.
"Cap'em — one of these fine days I'm gonna build a big house like you did when you came to Attala County. And I'm gonna build it from timber grown on my own place." Captain Shrock always replied with an encouraging expression or a slap on his back. "Alright my boy. When you're ready my old sawmill will be waiting to cut and dress your timber so smooth you won't get a splinter. We can dress it up real nice nowadays like we did on Hal and Jessie's house. Tell you th' truth Billy, Caroline and I have always loved our old house here in Shrock, but you don't want the rough finish like the ole Indians and I had to do by hand. I can't tell you th' sacks of corn my gristmill ground for the group of Indians that helped me build my house. But back in those days, I was thankful to get a helping hand from anywhere. And they were a big help."
By early spring John Harrison's right-hand man, Gus Roby, had wood-mold bricks drying to build fireplaces and chimneys. Fancy hand carved mantles were finished, and dark mahogany bedroom suits and oak dining room furniture were ordered. Too anxious to wait, John Harrison moved his family into the house before the interior was completely finished. The new homeplace soon provided everything his large family and tenant families needed. Large fruit orchards, pecan trees, vegetable gardens, and sweet potato and watermelon patches were found on his sprawling farm. Within a few years, the place was transformed into an inviting country home and productive farm.
Fourteen years had passed since Sam stood by Grandpa Billy's (William Riley) side at the sugarcane mill on an early October morning making molasses, and a few months later at his graveside. How well he remembered that cold and windy day at Fellowship Cemetery when Captain Shrock slipped him a handkerchief to hide his grief. Now a twenty-one-year-old, those events seemed a life-time ago. He was now one of the most handsome bucks in the county, and he had other things on his mind. Sam's father would soon be seventy, and he depended on his son and Gus to help him operate the farm which was now down from twelve to nine tenant families. It was a big farm. From morning until night, Sam rode over the 640-acre farm making sure all the fields were in order and everyone was at work. Then, he went to work himself.
When night brought him inside, after supper he reported happenings of the day to John Harrison, and together they planned the next day's work. If he was not too tired, and if it was not too late, he sported around the county with first one girl and then another. But the girl who finally stole his heart for keeps was Mary Dena McDaniel who lived less than ten miles away at Good Hope Community. Every chance possible he slipped off and visited Dena, and soon they decided it was time to marry. The young couple celebrated their marriage on the fourth of July as they packed Dena's few things to move into Sam's room in the big house with his parents. Earlier, Sam agreed to continue to live at home and help his Papa until he and Dena could save enough money and accumulate enough heads of cattle to buy their own farm.
It was mid-afternoon before Sam and Dena turned onto the winding road that took them to Sam's house. The tree canopy shaded the wagon road, and it was a pretty drive. She had heard about Sam's house, but she had never seen it. The farm wagon was loaded with Dena's few belongings, so Sam drove slowly over the rough bumps and ruts. When Gus saw the wagon coming down the road, he rushed from the blacksmith shop to help them unload and move the two heavy rosewood dressers into their bedroom. Dena prayed the slab of marble for one of the dressers had not been broken. When Sam and Gus reached the porch, John Harrison held the screened door open for the two men to carry each dresser into Sam's room on the left. Both dressers and a wedding ring quilt were wedding gifts from her parents. Next came the hope chest, a large trunk, and boxes of odds and ends Dena had collected over the years. Once alone in Sam's room, Dena was relieved. Everything felt so strange, and she was as nervous as she could be. The first thing she asked Sam to do was to hang his portrait above their bed, for it was the most special gift he had given her. Smiling weakly at her new husband, Dena whispered, "Besides you, Sam, this picture and Mama's two dressers are my three most prized possessions." Sam reached for her and held her close and whispered, "No, our most prized possession will be when we have our first son."
Embarrassed, Dena gently pushed away and walked to her big trunk and lifted the heavy lid. She already longed for the day when they would be in their own home. As she unpacked her clothes from the trunk, she commented, "Sam, I'm gonna take the marble-top dresser for my clothes, and we will use the other one to store our quilts and other things we'll need when we get our house." Winking at his new bride and nodding with approval, Sam turned and walked from the room saying, "I've gotta run now and help Papa, but I'll be back by supper. Mama's out in th' kitchen, but she'll be up here in a little while."
As Dena unpacked her clothes she was glad their bedroom was the first one on the left. She could see outside from the side and front windows. She felt awkward and did not know what to say to Sam's mother, but she had heard from all her neighbors around Good Hope that she was a kind and wonderful woman. Everyone said so. She hoped and prayed Mrs. Burrell would like her, because this was going to be their home for awhile. Heaven only knew how long. As long as she had Sam with her, it did not really matter because she understood that her new home was with him and his people. And so, the first page of the first chapter of Sam and Dena Burrell's life began.
For more than a dozen years, John Harrison Burrell's farm was Sam and Dena's first home. It was the place where five of their six children were born. In their front bedroom under Sam's portrait, their first child was born on a hot and sultry summer day. Through the agony of a long labor and suffocating heat, the young mother feared she was going to die.
The First Child
Hot and humid, summertime was at its peak. By early morning the scorching sun was in control of the day, and all the farmhands knew "dog days" had arrived. Susanna Burrell was a midwife in the Shrock Community and beyond, and when a neighbor rushed to her front door shouting "th' baby's on th' way," she untied her apron, threw it on the table, grabbed her midwife bag, and shouted for John Harrison or Sam to hitch her horse to the buggy. This day she would not need her buggy, for the baby about to be delivered was not a neighbor's. It was her grandson. Dena had been having pains since before daylight. Sam was jittery and nervous. He was relieved when he saw Dena's mother arrive. Anxiously, he met her on the porch and held the wide screened door open for her. Sam was talking fast as he explained, "Mrs. McDaniel, Dena's in hard labor! Real hard labor! I'm so glad you're here." As Dena's labor contractions continued, Susanna motioned for her son to go outside. "Sam — scat!" Placing her hand on her son's shoulder she whispered, "Son, it's going to be a long time yet, and if we need you I'll call you or send somebody for you. Dena's mother is here now, and that's going to help her feelings. You go on out to th' barn and help your Papa and Gus. And get your Papa off that ladder before he falls. He seems to forget he's sixty-eight years old! Lordy mercy! Sometimes I just don't know what to do with that man!"
Attending her daughter-in-law, Susanna soon saw Dena's labor was going to be all day and into the night. As laboring hours painfully inched along, the sultry day turned into night. Mrs. McDaniel sat nearby quietly knitting booties for the baby's first winter. Although both windows were raised, there was not a breeze on the place. When the sun dropped out of sight, Susanna lit the two coal oil lamps, and the shadows from the flames moved in slow motion across the beaded walls and ceiling. Dena's labor pains were now hard and came at regular intervals, and muffled cries drifted through the windows into the still night air. Finally, Susanna sent Dena's mother to get Sam. When Sam walked into the dimly lit room, he looked as white as a sheet and asked, "Mama, is everything alright? It's taking so long."
"Yes, Sam, but this is her first, and she's young and as scared as a little rabbit. She's gonna have to help me by pushing. Sit down and hold her hand and talk to her. She keeps asking for you. Mrs. McDaniel and I are gonna run to th' kitchen and eat our supper, and I need to get my water boiling. Talk to her Sam." Sam pulled a chair up close, and sat down facing his frightened wife. Painful creases cut across Dena's forehead as sweat ran freely and soaked her hair, pillow, and sheets. Sam squeezed water from the washrag and wiped her face and forehead as he coached her to push harder with each backbreaking pain. As the hours of labor slowly passed, he fanned her hoping to catch a breeze from the window, but there was not one. Fanning and waiting, his guts were tied into knots, and he silently prayed for the baby to come. Sam glanced out the porch window, and by moonlight he could see the outline of his father and Gus sitting on the top step whittling. Obviously, they were waiting for the first cry of the newborn. By seven o'clock the pains were hard and fast. Dena was certain she was dying as she pleaded for Sam to do something. A few seconds before eight o'clock her rhythmic cries and whimpers suddenly turned into a blood-curdling scream. It was all Sam could do to hold Dena down on the bed as her mother and Susanna insisted she push as hard as she could. At eight o'clock sharp a healthy baby boy cried out for all to hear. Cecil Allen Burrell was born. Dena fell back into the wet pillow and sheets completely exhausted. Her midwife mother-in-law handed Cecil to his other grandmother to bathe and wrap in the blanket. When baby and mother were clean and on fresh sheets, Sam called for his father and Gus to come inside and see his big boy. Grinning from ear to ear, Sam said, "Papa, look at my big boy! He a whopper! We're gonna call him Cecil — Cecil Allen." By nine o'clock, Cecil was sound asleep in his mother's arms. The next day Dr. Hal Terry rode out from Goodman to assure all was well with the new mother and to record information for Cecil's birth certificate. Susanna greeted Hal and told him Cecil was her twenty-eighth grandchild, and he was a big and healthy one. "Hal, I'd guess he's at least a nine pounder! This was Dena's first, and she had a long and hard labor. But I believe she's gonna be fine — just fine."
Later that morning when Susanna bathed Cecil, she chatted with Dena. "Dena, I want you watch me close and see how I bathe and clean around Cecil's navel cord. Did you know that this cord is how Cecil got all his food and oxygen until he was born? Well — he did. As soon as he was born I cut it close to his tummy and tied it off tight. Then I dabbed it with alcohol." Puzzled, Dena sheepishly asked, "Mrs. Burrell, did it hurt Cecil when you cut th' cord?" Smiling at her new daughter-in-law, she answered, "Oh no, honey, the little fellow didn't feel it one bit. It didn't hurt at all. But, we have to take good care of his umbilical stump until it falls off. Keep the cord clean and dry. If the base starts to drain or ooze bloody mucus, you call me. If it starts to smell bad, that's alright. That's normal. It will usually fall off in two or three weeks. Be careful when bathing him, and don't ever tug at it, or he could start bleeding. Be sure the diaper is below the navel, because we don't want any urine to get to it. About once a day, I would dab a little rubbing alcohol on it. It's not protruding, so I don't think we ought to put a band on him. We want plenty of air to get to it, and we won't put him in a pan of water until it's well. I'll help you watch it too, and in three weeks you just mark my word. Cecil's gonna have as pretty a navel as his Pa."
When Cecil was bathed and dressed, Susanna handed him to his mother to nurse. As she left the room she affectionately smiled at her new daughter-in-law and commented to Dena's mother, Mrs. McDaniel, "Look at our grandson eat! He's as hungry as a little pig."
Reaching the end of the long hall, Susanna stepped down, turned left, and tossed the pan of bath water into the backyard where the chickens were pecking. As she walked toward the kitchen, suddenly a sharp pain shot across her abdomen. Wincing with the pain and grabbing her side, she convinced herself it was gas from not eating right the last twenty-four hours. She decided a bowl of oatmeal with a little cream would make her feel better.
Excerpted from The Generation that Saved America by Bettye B. Burkhalter Cecil Allen Burrell Copyright © 2010 by Bettye B. Burkhalter. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
With Cecil Allen Burrell, The Man Himself....................xiii
Chapter One: The Countryside Farm....................1
Chapter Two: Old Homeplace Revisited....................41
Chapter Three: Surviving the Great Depression....................73
Chapter Four: Making a Living....................95
Chapter Five: The Generation that Saved America....................127
Chapter Six: A Man in Sync with Nature....................155
Closing Thoughts and Lasting Impressions....................201
Samuel (Sam) Burrell Portrait, 1908, Attala County, MS....................215
Hoover Dam: A Masterpiece of Engineering, Boulder Dam, NV....................216
Mississippi Certified Land Patent, 1854, William Riley Burell, Attala County, MS....................217
Susan Bishop Burrell Headstone, Fellowship Cemetery, Goodman, MS....................218
La Burelle Bastide Carrier Pigeon Houses, Ollioules, France....................219
Old-Fashioned Family Christmas Tree and Poem....................220
Spinning Wheel, Seven Springs Plantation, Union, SC....................221
Madison County Agricultural High School, Camden, MS....................222
Madison County Agricultural High School, 1935 Football Champions, Camden, MS....................223
Floor Plan of First Home Built by Cecil A. Burrell, 1941, Goodman, MS....................224
Miller Parlor Pedal Pump Organ, 1901....................225
Farrel Herring & Company, Shrock Country Store Safe....................226
Southern Natural Gas (SNG) Compressor Station Employees, Enterprise, MS....................228
From Prime to Scrap, Worthington Horizontal Engines, Louisville, MS....................229
Chief Engineer and Superintendent Promotion Celebration Cake, Reform, AL....................230
Thirty-Eight Year SNG Career Collage of Cecil Allen Burrell....................231
Private First Class Raymond E. Burkhalter, General George Patton's Third Army....................232
Second Lieutenant Pete Turnham, General George Patton's Third Army....................236
News Release, Major Ellis E. Arnold, Jr., US Department of Defense....................239
Major Ellis E. Arnold, Jr., Memorial Ceremony, Hillcrest Cemetery, Goodman, MS....................240
Staff Sergeant Lewis M. Burrell, Fifteenth Air Corps Bomber Group, B-24 Liberator Unit....................241
Staff Sergeant Lewis M. Burrell Profile, 1945, WWII Fifteenth Air Corps, MTO....................242
Endnotes and References....................245
Novel One Preview: Daring Pioneers Tame the Frontier....................271
Novel Two Preview: Raised Country Style from South Carolina to Mississippi....................272
Companion Cookbook Preview: Raised on Old-Time Country Cooking....................273