My name is Iviah Vivian Brown and will try to put down some of the
things that I remember about my Mother Charlotte Bradford and Father
Miles Lemarion Brown. They were married February 24, 1915, in Hickman
County, Tennessee by M. M. Petty, Justice of the Peace.
They started their married life in a small three room house that my
father built on the farm of his father, William George Brown, better
known as “Billy” Brown. This house was located on Big Spring Creek,
just about where the creek runs into Piney River. My father was a
farmer for many years. A leg injury kept him form going into World
War I.
I was born about a year after their marriage and I don’t remember
much about our lives until I was five years old. When I was three,
father’s brother Ross Vestal Brown, died from blood poising. I
remember going to see him before he died.
About this time father bought or rented the David Aaron Dodd farm a
mile or two from Spring Creek on Piney River. Why we moved I do not
know. Later in 1920, we moved back to Big Spring Creek where in 1921
by brother, Max Hulin Brown was born. It was about this time that an
old sow hog about killed me. Mother had made me a new dress and I
went outside to show my Dad. He was watching the sow eat and when I
walked up she grabbed my new dress. It was torn from my body as my
Dad got me away from her. I wasn’t but very scared. The sow became
bacon and ham when the weather got colder.
I always helped my mother take care of my baby brother. She also
begin to teach me to make beds and wash dishes. Daddy made me a
little wooden box to stand on so I could reach the dishpan where it
sat on the table. Another thing I could do was churn butter. I didn’t
like that job very much.
Both my parents had lots of relatives living close by, so sometimes
we rode a horse and visited them. Daddy took Max in Front of him, and
mother rode side saddle behind Daddy and I road behind her.
Once Daddy borrowed Grandfather Brown’s buggy and we went to visit my
Mother’s sister, Tommye Bradford-Haywood, at Santa Fe, Tennessee. She
was married to Hubert Haywood. We also visited some of Daddy’s
relatives who lived nearby. Daddy’s mother, Oilie May Vestal-Brown,
had been born and raised on the Santa Fe Road, near Columbia, Tennessee.
My Grandfather Brown also had a surrey with a red fringe on the top.
I thought it was so beautiful. I’d sit in it for hours and pretend I
was going on long trips. Once in a while Grandpa would let me ride
with him when he had the time. He was quite and important man in our
community, and had business in Centerville and Nashville.
About this time we moved back to the Dodd farm. Daddy must have
bought it for we lived there off and on until Daddy’s death in 1963.
I really liked the Dodd farm. We had a big house and a large yard
with big maple trees to play under.
My mother was a very good housekeeper. When we ate our meals she
always had a nice tablecloth with napkins to match. On the table she
had tiny glass bowls to put at each place with salt in them. We were
taught good manners and never talked while we were eating. Every week
she scrubbed the kitchen floor with lye soap and it was always clean
and white.
When I was six, Daddy decided to go to Detroit, Michigan to find
work. A lot of people he knew had already gone and found work. He
left us at home and went to find work and a place for us to live.
After awhile, he sent Mother the money for us to make the trip.
Mother’s brother, Henry Bradford, carried us to Dickson in his Model
T Ford. When we got to Dickson, Mother got Max and me a haircut in a
barber shop. That was the first place I ever saw electric lights.
We spent the night at Daddy’s brother, Walter D. Brown and family who
lived in Dickson, Tennessee. The next day we got on the train for
Nashville. When we got there we had several hours to wait for a train
to Cincinnati, Ohio. I spent most of the time looking out the windows
at the city. It was a sight for a little girl from the farm. One
thing that stands out was a big electric sign advertising Sealtest
Ice Cream. It was close to where the Nashville Tennessean Newspaper
Offices are now. That sign stayed there for many years and I was to
see it several other times on future trips to Michigan. Daddy was
staying with Mr. Bill Estes and family. They were form Tennessee too.
Many years later Mr. Bill was my school bus driver when we all moved
back to Tennessee. Daddy had rented us the upstairs apartment in a
house on Farr Avenue. We lived there for several months. I started to
school as soon as were moved in. Mama had taught me at home for a
long time. Mama enrolled me in Lyon School, a few blocks form our
house. My teacher was Mrs. Ivy Younger. I loved school and learned
fast. At midterm I was promoted to second grade. When school was out
in June 1923, I was already promoted to the third grade. One day a
deep snow fell and I got very wet going home. I took pneumonia and
was very sick for awhile.
Daddy met a man at work that came from Georgia. His name was Ambrose
Bowen. When Mr. Bowen got a vacation, he went to Georgia and got
married. His wife’s name was Bessie. Mr. Bowen and Daddy rented the
upstairs of a house that had a grocery store downstairs. It was on
the corner of Mt. Elliot and Kascuisko. They had three rooms and we
had three rooms and we shared a bath. Clatye Bradford-Smith, mother’s
sister, and her family were to live just across the street from the
grocery store during the fall of 1926 and to March 1927 when they
returned to Tennessee. The Smith children also went to Lyons School.
I really liked Bessie Bowen. She was lonely so her and Mama became
good friends. Later she had a little girl and they named her Rebecca
Rowena Bowen. I really did love the baby and helped care for her when
I could.
On weekends the Bowen’s and our family went to Belle Isle Park for a
picnic. We carried lots of food and rode a streetcar to the park. The
park was on a very large island in the Detroit River, between the
United States and Canada. There were several playgrounds for the
children and also a large zoo. I saw an elephant for the first time.
They also had large greenhouses with thousands of flowers and shrubs.
There were banana trees and tall palms. Some of the orange and lemon
trees had fruit on them. Later the city built several huge fountains.
They were a sight to see. Under the waterfalls they put colored
lights and at night they were just beautiful. We always stayed until
dark so we could see the lights.
While we lived over the grocery store, Daddy carried us to the movies
for the first time. I really enjoyed it and insisted on going often.
Mama liked it too and she helped me convince Daddy that we should go.
Max was only three years old so he didn’t enjoy it much as he
couldn’t read. This was a while before talking pictures came to be.
It was here that I learned to roller skate. I cut off the handle of a
broom and taught myself to skate. I still have scars from learning, I
fell a lot. By the time I was fourteen, I had dreams of being a
professional skater. We would see the skating acts at the vaudeville
shows in the movie houses. The depression put a stop that dream.
In the fall of 1923, we left Detroit and came back to Tennessee.
Daddy had bought a car and we drove through. On the way Max became
very ill. As soon as we got to our house at the Dodd farm, Daddy went
to get a doctor. The doctor said Max had diphtheria and was dying. He
said there was a new vaccine for diphtheria, but that Max was so bad
he wasn’t sure it would help. He gave him a double dose. After a few
hours he got better and the doctor was surprised that he made it. The
doctor tacked a square of red cloth by our door and no one would come
in. It was thirty days before anyone could visit us or we could leave
home. It was a hard time on Daddy and Mother. We had just came home
and our trunk with our bedding and most of our clothes was in
Dickson. Daddy always shipped it by train, and he had to wait a month
before he could go to Dickson to pick it up. Mother must have had a
hard time doing all she had to do for a sick child and not much to do
In the spring of 1924, Daddy put out a crop and we had a nice garden.
In June a tornado came through with a lot of hail and destroyed all
the crops and gardens. So another year on the farm was a failure. At
this time, I wasn’t going to school. Mother helped me at home. It was
three miles to school and much to far for me to walk alone. Before
Christmas, Daddy went to work with Mother’s brother, Henry Bradford.
They went to Nashville and stayed all week and came home on weekends.
Uncle Henry’s wife was named Ella and they had two little boys. They
lived about a mile from us. Henry and Ella were living where their
son, Billy Robert Bradford lives today, 1988. A few days before
Christmas, Aunt Ella came to visit us. It had rained for days and
Piney River was up everywhere. In Nashville, the river was so high
that Daddy and Uncle Henry couldn’t leave. They were to bring our
presents for Christmas. So for Christmas all we had was a can of King
Leo Peppermint sticks that Daddy had brought home earlier. When the
waters finally went down, we had Christmas on New Year’s day. In
those days all a the roads followed the streams. Our road crossed
Piney River several times inside of two miles. People just didn’t
travel in cars in winter and even in summer cars had a hard time
getting through the streams. ?
She wanted all her children to be born in Tennessee, so Daddy [it
ended like that]
When spring came, Daddy went back to Detroit to work. Mama waited at
home with Max and I until he found a place for us to live. This house
was on Garadin Street. My mother started keeping boarders. She was a
real good cook so she never had any trouble getting boarders. One of
our favorites was Mama’s brother, Dob Bradford. He was a happy-go-
lucky person. Always laughing, singing or dancing. Max and I just
loved him.?had him for Thanksgiving dinner. ?It was back to school
again a Lyon. When I came home each afternoon, Mother, Max and I got
our wagon and went grocery shopping. We got most everything at an A &
P grocery store. We bought our baked goods at a bakery. The bakery
had cream puffs for ten cents each. I liked them so well I saved all
my pennies until I could buy one. We lived on Garadin Street until
spring of 1926. Mother became pregnant with her third child. Daddy
brought us back to the farm in Tennessee. I was ten years old. I
started back to school at Pinewood. It was a long walk, but Uncle
Henry Bradford was building a house at Pinewood so I rode with him
most of that spring. Sometimes the river would get up and I couldn’t
go to school for days. Once in a while it got up when I was at
school. I’d stay with someone close to school. Most of the time I
stayed with the Same Griffin family. They had a daughter my age so I
could borrow clothes from her to wear. Thinking back it’s a wonder I
ever learned anything. Went to school when I could and changed
schools every few months. When spring came, Daddy went back to
Detroit. Grandpa (Samuel Davis Bradford), came to stay with us. He
stayed the rest of the year. When Daddy returned to Detroit in the
spring of 1926, he boarded with Hollis and Clatye Bradford-Smith.
They lived on Farr Avenue near Mount Elliot Avenue. Charlotte
Bradford was in Detroit that summer for a short stay with Clatye and
returned to Tennessee. At some time before March 1927, all the Brown
family were living in Detroit. Grandpa Bradford was every child’s
dream of what a grandfather should be. Max followed him all day long.
He grew a garden and a few truck patches. We helped plant seeds and
set out the plants. After lunch every day, he would sit under one of
the maple trees and tell us stories. Some of his ghost (stories) were
very scary, but we loved them. He also told us about when he was
young and fought Indians. Mama always said most of it was his
imagination, but we believed every word. ?
Mama raised chickens. One baby chick has a solid white head. Grandpa
named him white head (what else). We petted him until he was so tame
he would sit on Grandpa’s knee and listen to the stories. He grew up
to be so mean that he jumped on us every time we went outside. One
day he made the mistake of jumping on Mama. She put him in a pen and
we had him for Thanksgiving dinner. ?On May 27, 1926, my second
brother was born. Mother named him “Miles Lemarion Brown, Jr.” Daddy
wrote a letter from Detroit and told Mama to “kiss my little Zoonie
for me.” From then until he was full grown he was called “Zoonie”
Brown. Daddy didn’t see Miles Jr. until he was several months old.
Daddy came home in 1926. I kind of draw a blank here, for after
Christmas Daddy carried me to stay with Aunt Tommye Bradford-Haywood,
so I could go to school without a long walk. I don’t know were Mama
stayed. Maybe with relatives for Daddy went back to Detroit, just
after the New Year. He told me if I would be a good girl he would
send me a present for my birthday. When I finally got it, it was a
gold ring with my initials engraved on it. I was eleven years old.
While I lived with Aunt Tommye, I went to a one room school that was
in sight of their home. I got acquainted with many of my relatives on
Daddy’s side of the family. Aunt Tommye’s husband, Hubert, raised fox
hounds. On night when he carried them out on the ridges to listen to
them run, he let my cousin Frances and I go with him. He would build
a big fire and sit by it and listen to the hounds running the fox.
After school was out, Daddy came and got me. He was home again to try
farming. After the crops were in, he rebuilt our house. He tore away
a lot of it and built three new rooms. There was a new kitchen, a
screened dining area, and a new bedroom for me. He also built a big
porch across the front. I guess he spent too much money on the house
for that fall we went back to Detroit.
After our return to Detroit in the fall of 1927, Hollis and Clatye
Bradford-Smith and family moved into the house and lived there until
1828, and moved back to the Smith farm across Piney River form Henry
and Ella Bradford. While at the Brown farm, their youngest daughter,
Jean was born, on March 6, 1918. This was our last return to Detroit
and we remained there until I was fourteen, in the summer of 1930.
When we first got there, we lived on Dwyer Street for a short time. I
still went to Lyon School. Later we moved to one block over to a
larger house so Mama could keep borders again. That trip back to
Detroit put me back to the fifth grade. I hadn’t learned enough in
Tennessee to pass the required tests in Lyon School. One good thing
came out of my setback was as a fifth grader, I competed in my school
spelling bee. I won against the whole school. I didn’t do very good
in the city contest as I was up against sixth, seventh and eight
graders. I did win a large World Atlas and big dictionary with my
name on the front in gold letters. When I was ready for the sixth
grade, we moved into a new house on Koschuisko Street. It was large
enough that Mama could keep her borders, and I could walk to my new
school. Max was going to school now and he could walk to Lyon School
which was in sight of our house. My new school was Alex Cooper
Intermediate School. I liked it real well. We could have hot lunches
everyday and went to different rooms for some of our classes. One
class I liked best was home economics. I learned not only basic
skills but to make many desserts. From then on I always made the
dessert for our meals at home.
Mama really liked reading and so did I. She bought a number of books
and magazines for us to read. In school we studied the books of
”Treasure Island” and “Robin Hood”. I guess I was the only student
that enjoyed it. I kept my books and read them over for many years.
One thing I liked about the Detroit Schools was there was never any
homework. All lessons were studied at school. The only books we could
bring home was the ones that belonged to us or library books. It was
so strange when I moved back to Tennessee and teachers signed so much
I still went grocery shopping everyday after school. Only now I went
alone. I purchased the food that would be used in the next day’s
meals. With ten boarders and our family my mother sure did a lot of
cooking. It was my job everyday to wash the dishes after supper. It
took a full hour everyday. I always hated having to do it for by the
time I was finished it was to late to go outside. About this time the
Company Daddy worked for built a large park several miles out of
town. In the summer we went there nearly every Sunday. Mama fixed a
picnic lunch and we went in our Dodge touring car that Daddy got for
us. My Uncle Dob Bradford still stayed with us and most Sunday’s he
would bring his girlfriend and go with us. He name was Hazel Jones.
My sister Hazel was named after her.
?In the spring of 1929, my little brother, Miles Jr., was nearly
three years old. He liked playing outside and one Sunday he
disappeared. We searched the whole neighborhood for him. Finally
Daddy called the police to help. Several hours later they found him
several miles form home. He was wandering around the street, so the
police decided he had been kidnapped. Every who did it got scared and
put him out. We were all very worried and Mama was hysterical.
Needless to say we kept a closer watch on him from then on. ?That
summer I got scarlet fever. Later Miles Jr. got it too. Our house was
quarantined for twenty-eight days, so all our borders had to leave.
Even Daddy couldn’t stay in the house with us. Later some of the
borders came back but a few didn’t. ?The next year was very hard on
my Mother. In the fall she found a lump in one of her breasts and
went into the hospital for surgery. Her health never did get as good
again. Daddy and I managed to take care of the borders and our family
until Mama was able to help. Daddy bought her a new cook stove to
make her work easier. It was green and cream enamel and she loved it.
She had wanted one for a long time. My children will remember the
stove for it stayed in our family until 1964. That year I started
another new school. It was called John Burroughs School. It was so
large, it had two gyms, a swimming pool and a cafeteria that was
almost as large as the other schools I went to. I learned to swim
there and became a junior life saver. Years later I was able to save
Miles Jr., and a cousin form drowning. I played softball that year
and was captain of our team. ?Our house had an upstairs apartment and
day a young couple moved in. They had a small baby. I did babysitting
for them. They had the first radio I ever saw. I really enjoyed
listening to it.?
?In the winter of 1929, Mother burned her arm really bad. She was
stoking the furnace and someway the steam burned her. Even if she
couldn’t use her arm she was able to help with the cooking. So all
together we were able to do what needed to be done. Times were
getting very hard. The depression was starting. Most of our borders
had left by spring of 1930. Daddy stayed on until summer. Work got ?
scarce so he decided it was time to go back to our farm. He took his
savings and hired a truck to move all our furniture to Tennessee.
Mother wasn’t about to leave her stove behind. Daddy invested in some
real estate and he lost all that. He had a few hundred dollars to
take care of us until he could make a crop. ?On our way back to
Tennessee our car had some trouble and Daddy pulled into a garage to
see what was wrong. They put it on a rack to raise it up, and not
knowing he was standing on the rack while he looked under the hood,
Daddy was raised up. He stepped back and fell and hurt his wrist.
Mother thought is was broken but he wouldn’t go to a doctor. Mother
bandaged it tightly and he drove home with one hand. It healed up all
right in a few weeks. ?When we got home stayed with Grandfather Brown
for a while. Our house had a family living in it and they didn’t have
to leave until New Year’s. The man’s name was Francis Marion
Crawford. He lived there with his wife and daughter. His nickname was
”Uncle Duck” and he would be counted on to tell a tall tale or two.
His daughter’s name was Vivian Christine. She was three years older
than I was. We became very good friends. Just across the river from
Daddy farm was a man named Albert Sullivan. His wife was Christine’s
oldest sister and her name was Ruby. He had several children, but the
two oldest girls were the same age as Christine and I. In the next
year we were together a lot. Just up the road from us was a family
named Wrenn. They moved that year and Christine’s father, “Uncle
Duck”, moved to the Wreen house just before Christmas . That fall of
1930, before the Crawford’s moved, we lived with my Grandfather
Brown. Mother was expecting her fourth child, but she helped my step
grandmother can fruits and vegetables and for her help we got part of
them. Daddy worked for different people that needed help and for pay
he took what ever we could use to help make it through the winter
until he could make a crop the next year. When school started, my
parents carried me to Mother’s sister that lived near Columbia,
I was starting the eight grade and loved going to school at my
Aunt’s. We road a bus to a new school, that had replaced the one room
school I had attended before. I got acquainted with may of my
relatives. I was older now I could visit them more often. Even after
I married, I went back a few times.
When Daddy came to get me and I went home, I started back at Pinewood
School, Miss Eunice Murphy was my teacher.
Mother and Daddy worked very hard that fall to gather enough food for
us to eat in the winter. They worked for people gathering crops and
Mother helped can fruits and vegetables and they took a share for
pay. Everyone was glad of their help for no one had money to pay
hired help.
We moved into our house just before Christmas. We were all glad to be
home at last. By now a school bus ran over on Highway 48, so I only
had a short distance to walk. We still had the river to cross, but
Daddy kept a small boat and when our foot log washed out, we used the
boat to cross. I was fifteen and was allowed to date on the weekends.
Christine Crawford, her nieces, Doy and Virginia Sullivan and I spent
a lot of time together. Once in a while Mr. Sullivan would give a
square dance. He played a fiddle and someone usually came that could
play a guitar or banjo. Once Daddy let me have a square dance in our
When my sister Hazel was a few weeks old, she became fretful and lost
weight. The doctor said she needed to be bottle bed with rich milk.
We had a cow but she was not giving mild. My Victrola was the only
thing we had that was worth enough to trade for a good cow. Daddy
found a nice Jersey cow with a young calf. It belonged to James and
Florence Cooper that lived on Plunder’s creek. Daddy said that if I
would trade my Victrola for them I could have the calf for my very
own. It was very hard to give it up, but in a few weeks Hazel’s
cheeks grew rosy and she was fat and healthy. I knew then we had done
the right thing.
Mother never got very strong after Hazel’s birth. I took on a lot of
extra work helping her. To repay me for all my help, she managed to
make me two new dresses. The depression was really bad so anything we
got was a treat. She was a very good seamstress.
I had lots of friends and we had swimming parties and fish fries all
summer. Before school started in the fall, my Grandfather Brown
became very ill. All of Daddy’s brothers wanted us to move into our
old house on Spring Creek and take care of him. They told Daddy that
if he would take care of him as long as he lived they would deed him
their share of the farm. So we moved again. It took a while but we
finally got everything moved. I started to school again that fall,
but Mother’s health go so bad I had to quit and stay home to help her.
My Grandfather Brown died on Saturday, November 7, 1931. We had only
taken care of him for a few weeks. All of Daddy’s family decided that
he hadn’t earned the farm, and wanted him to pay them if he wanted
the farm. Daddy sold the Dodd farm to Doctor John Edward Wood. He
paid his brothers and sisters for the farm. It was a huge old two
story house and had three big fireplaces. We still almost froze for
it was a cold house. We got most of Grandpa’s things. His widow took
what was hers and moved to Centerville to live with her children.
As Christmas grew nearer, Mother became very ill. She had to go into
the hospital at Nashville. Max and I kept things going with the help
of one of Daddy’s cousins who came and stayed with us. Her name was
Annie Lou Harbison. She was a lot of help to me. She taught me to sew
and help me make what clothes we got. In mid-January, Mother came
home and we cared for her until she died on Thursday, February 16,
1932. Charlotte Bradford-Brown died at home on Piney River in Hickman
County, Tennessee, and is buried in an unmarked grave in the Brown
Cemetery on Big Spring Creek.
On January 11, 1932, I was sixteen years old. On my birthday a new
family moved into our neighborhood. They were from Nashville and
everyone was excited that something new was happening. For me this
family was to become my future in-laws. They were well liked and the
woman came to help me take care of Mother.
In this family was the father. His name was Hurshel Benton Gibbs. The
mother, Lela Arizona Gibbs, two daughters, the oldest was Mettie Lee.
She was already married to Harvey Young. The other daughter was Sadie
Geraldine. She was married to Rufus Gallaher, Jr.
In March, Mrs. Gibbs said her son was coming for a visit. She had
told me so much about him before we met, I think I fell love with him
before we met, and on the last Friday of March, 1932, I met my future
husband. He was twenty years old. I think even that day we knew that
we would be together all our lives. We discovered we both liked the
same things, especially fishing. From then on for over forty-five
years we have been fishing, together.
This ends one story and begins another. It has many very precious
by Iviah Vivian Brown
* * *
Dear Vivian:
On behalf of all the “Friends of Oak Grove”, we appreciate your very
beautiful and touching story. We thank and love you very much for
sharing it with us.
James E. Bradford