My great grandmother, Martha Jane Youngblood Driskell, was born September 22, 1849 in Forsyth County, Georgia. She died January 23, 1946, only three years before I was born. But as I study her life and the events surrounding her life, it seems as though I am reading a history book. She seems many, many generations removed from her 21st century great granddaughter.
She lived through the presidencies of Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, Chester A. Arthur, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, another term of Grover Cleveland, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William H. Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Franklin Roosevelt and one year of Harry Truman.
Grandma Driskell made her own wool and cotton clothing on the old Driskell home place. All the children grew up watching the fine art of creating the yarn and thread. The spinning wheel was later passed down to Carrie, Martha’s daughter. The Driskell grandson who became the guardian of the wheel, called another Driskell cousin one day in 1980. He asked if she would like to have the old spinning wheel. She was overwhelmed with excitement until her enterprising cousin told her she would have to buy it for $250. There was no way she could afford it. As soon as yet another cousin found out about the business offer, a copy of this same fuzzy picture was enlarged, framed, and sent as a gift. I have no idea where the spinning wheel is today.
My mother wrote the following memories of Grandma Driskell…
“She sat quietly in the corner embroidering a dresser scarf. The original pre-stamped design had included daffodils and butterflies, but now had all kinds of additional flowers. Grandma Driskell was creative. At this point in her life she loved to glory in the fact that she could thread a needle without glasses. The Lord allowed her to have her ‘third eyesight’.
Grandma was sixty six years old when I was born so I grew up believing she was old. But a strange thing happened when she was ninety-six and I was thirty, she seemed not to have aged anymore! When she was coming to visit us, we were prompted days in advance to be on our best behavior. We were told to do everything she said. We were told to listen with respect.
Mama never told us to do anything she wasn’t willing to do; by example, we saw that she treated Grandma with the highest respect. Mama strained every nerve to see that during her visit, Grandma didn’t get upset. Prior to our visit to Grandma’s we were reminded, ‘Mind your manners. Don’t say anything derogatory about the county, the country, the kerosene lamps, the well water or any other thing in her home.’ We grew up being very cautious around Grandma.
This restraint was not easy. We used to visit in the summer. There were four cousins who lived there, and often two or more who visited at the same time. Can you keep eight to ten girls completely quiet? But all of us knew we must never upset Grandma. For that reason we often had to stifle our giggles, or make a mad dash outside to keep from being reprimanded. Two of the girls (Velma and Naomi) like to take naps in the afternoon. Grandma was horrified at this! ‘Sleeping in the middle of the day indicates laziness!’, she would declare. However, she regularly sat straight up in her chair and slept!
On the serious side, I don’t remember Grandma ever laughing. (Maybe she did and I didn’t see her.) One of my older cousins wrote of her: ‘She was a devoted wife and mother. She was industrious and adept at many things. She spun wool, cotton and flax to produce thread from which she wove cloth to make clothing for herself, her husband and her older children. She dyed the cloth with natural dyes made from the trees, shrubs and herbs that grew around the cabin.’ Her husband, Grandpa Billy, made the loom and all of the seventeen grandchildren remember that loom and the spinning wheels well. Once when we were visiting she gave us all lessons on spinning and weaving. I remember she said, ‘It’s a shame to see all of growing up ignorant.'”
I’m so sorry, Grandma Driskell, I have never learned to spin or weave. I hope you wouldn’t consider me ignorant!!