Gold Fever

goldIn Memory of
Henry Jackson Wheeler   (1849-1921)
Borden Springs, Alabama


My mother, Doyce Alline Driskell, was six years old when her grandfather Henry died. She said her mother, Mary Ezzie, had been hungry so many times during her childhood. Henry was always warning them they would starve. His comments led them to believe there would be no food for the next meal or the next… One day, little Ezzie was out working with the family in the garden.  She got in trouble because she was pinching the tops of the green onions…just to have something to eat. After her father yelled at her, she thought he meant not to pinch the onions. So, she got down on her knees and with her hands behind her back, she began to nibble the onion tops. Her mother “stood up” to her husband and warned him never to stop little Ezzie from eating those onions.  But still Henry warned them if they ate too much, Ezzie and her six siblings would starve.

When Henry died in 1921, the family was gathered in the old kitchen. Someone said he was tired of the creaking floorboards and was going to fix them. Much to everyone’s total shock, when one board was removed, they found dozens of canning jars filled with gold pieces! My mother said the five adult children received several thousand dollars. In 1921 that was quite a sum!! And to think…all those years the children were hungry…and walking above the gold filled jars.

I wonder what had happened in Great grandpa’s life to cause him to be filled with fear and then spread that fear to his family. Perhaps it was the only way he knew to be.

Several  years later, Ezzie saw gold pieces again. During one of her husband’s many Georgia work road trips in 1925, Charlie bought a small beautiful broach for his wife. She wore it everyday until her death in 1946. The small gold California gold pieces had been soldered to a pin on the back but there was no locking clasp. Ezzie always worried the pin might be lost.

The pin was left to the youngest daughter, Doyce. She immediately had a clasp added, but would not wear it because of its value. She would wake up in the night, worried that the broach might not be in its hiding place. Just to be free of worry, Doyce gave it to Velma, her older sister in Miami, Florida!! But after Velma found her daughter wearing it to high school, it was given back to Doyce.

After my mother’s death in Washington state in 2001, I became the owner of this valuable tiny piece of jewelry. And I, too, was apprehensive about wearing and losing the broach! Wanting to know its true value, I took it to be appraised. It is real…real counterfeit California gold pieces!! The coins might have been of value, had they not been attached to the pin!! Its value?…only sentimental. But who can place a value on sentiment?!!

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11 Responses to Gold Fever

  1. Beautifully done, thank you for the reminder that sentimental value sometimes has more worth than gold.


    • Ruth Packard says:

      So true! My grandmother died three years before I was born and this is one of ver few connections I have with her. Someday I need to post a copy of a handwritten prayer she prepared when she was asked to pray in her Sunday School class. It, too, is a sentimental treasure!

      You can read on this link about the only grandparent I had while growing up.


  2. What an interesting story. It’s good those stories are passed down through your generations for you all to reflect on. I would love to see a photo of the pin : )


  3. Ah, what is an object but to enjoy. If I had a piece of jewelry that I loved and didn’t dare wear, I might put it in a shadow box. So sad that hoarding money instead of buying food was a sickness in Henry. Lovely story.


    • Ruth Packard says:

      So true, Sheila! Henry would never know how far reaching his actions were…extending not only to his daughter but also to my mother. I have recently found cousins in Henry’s line. I am hoping they can fill in some missing pieces of information. I love the challenges!


  4. It’s such a delight to read your stories, and this one is golden. 😉


  5. What a beautiful story about the importance of faith. Trusting that we will be ok because they always will be 🙂 Love these stories, rich with history, that you share here.


    • Ruth Packard says:

      I have hit a brick wall in my research for my great grandfather. Someday I’ll find out more about him and discover why he had so little faith and lived in such fear.

      Thank you for reading and commenting!


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