A Story About Otis

Otis Green
-Son of Gus Green

It has been said of Otis Green that as a boy he loved nothing more than to outfox a fox. One particular story I was told illustrates perfectly this element of his character.

Each morning before school, it had been customary for a few of the boys (including Otis) to meet in the school yard and divide up rubber bands amongst themselves. They would stick them deep into their pockets and head into class, no doubt with plans of mischief to ensue on an unsuspecting classroom.

After a bit of time had passed, the teacher became wise to who and what was wreaking havoc by shooting rubber bands in her classroom. The new practice quickly became a morning line up of Otis and his buddies in front of the class while she systematically put her hand into each boy’s pocket confiscating the findings. Otis found this greatly humiliating.

Indignant, Otis marched home one day and informed his brother Ray that she (meaning the teacher) would not be checking his pockets again after tomorrow. The next morning came and Ray noticed a twinkle in Otis’s eye and a slight smirk on his face. Not being the interfering type, Ray shrugged his shoulders and followed his brother to school.

The morning ritual arrived and all of the boys lined up for the teacher to check their pockets. When she got to Otis, she stuck her hand deep into his pocket. Her face turned a deep scarlet shade of red and she immediately drew her hand out and sternly told the boys to take their seats. Otis had completely cut out the bottom of his pockets, so when the teacher went searching for rubber bands, that is not what she found.

She never checked the boys pockets again.

Grandma Northam

I have spent many a night wrestling with whether or not I should share this particular information. After much deliberation, I have come to the conclusion that the truth is the truth and history is history and gossip is gossip. SO, here is a bit of true history most likely mingled with gossip, no offense intended.

Icy’s parents were Rhoda and John Northam.  Later in life Rhoda lived with Icy and Gus and everyone called her Grandma Northam. My mother tells me that Grandma Northam would not change clothes in front of the television set because she was afraid those people could see her through the screen.

During the late 1800’s, John W. Northam and Rhoda Frances Holley met at school. It has been debated which school, but we know it was in Marion County.  John and Rhoda marry and for whatever reason, move to Bowie, Texas.  While in Texas, John acquires a saloon. I will leave it to your imagination what life would have been like running a saloon in this time period, but ultimately it did not work out too well for John. Rhoda and John have 4 children during this era in Texas:
Johnny Bell (a girl in case there is confusion)

Between 1897 and 1900, details become a bit sketchy. I have been told three accounts of what presumably happened to John W. Northam.
Scenario One: John dies of pneumonia and is buried in Bowie, Texas.
Scenario Two: John is shot and killed in his saloon and is buried in Bowie, Texas.
Scenario Three: John does not die at all, but deserts his wife for another woman. The burial in Texas is a likely story.

I suspect that scenario one or two is most likely the truth. In hand written records, the family says that John died in Texas and in the 1900 Census, Rhoda is listed as a widow. Whatever the case, Rhoda packs up her family and moves back to Ittawamba, Mississippi. For those of you who are not farmiliar with the lay of the land, Ittawamba is just over the state line and very close to Marion County, Alabama. My guess is she wanted to be close to her Holley family (and some Northams also lived in the vicinity) or she was penniless and had to move back for help. Whatever the motive, she is no longer a Texan  and close to sweet home Alabama.

The 1900 Census is important. Rhoda is listed as widowed and head of the household, with FOUR dependent children all with the last name Northam. Once again those are Cora, Benjamin, Icy and Johnny Bell. In the 1910 Census, Rhoda is listed as head of the household, widowed, and there are SEVEN dependent children.  Three more children since 1900… all with the last name Northam:
Lena – 7 years old
Arthur – 5 years old
Delela – 3 years old

Naturally, my first question is “where did these children come from?” John Northam is dead. They can’t be his. Are they relatives? Are they hers? Did she marry another Northam? Of course, I had to start interviewing relatives to find some answers. And here is the skeleton in the closet.

Of the numerous people I interviewed (the ones who would actually talk to me), they stressed “You must understand what it was like for a single woman during this time. She had to feed her family.” With that said, I was told that Rhoda exchanged sexual favors for food and lodge. It was reported that her family in the area was so upset over the matter that they completely shunned her. She was no longer invited into “good” society. All they would say is “she has chosen the wrong path and we don’t talk about her.” Also Delela revealed later in life that she knew she was born out of wedlock. She did not know her father’s identity.

There is also a mystery involved with this story. I have numerous records of the youngest child Delela. She grows up, marries and becomes Delela Hocutt.

Lena and Arthur literally vanish from the records. One relative believes they died young, Arthur as a young boy (before his teens years) and Lena before her twenties. I cannot find a record of graves or death certificates for either of them. I have not been to the Hamilton Courthouse, but that probably needs to be investigated just to see if there is any information. Otherwise, I am at a standstill on their account.

Rhoda is not found in the 1920 Census. Benjamin, Cora, Icy and Johnny Bell are all present in the 1920 Census. They are married and living in various locations in Alabama, but none of them include Rhoda as a dependent.

Eventually Rhoda is claimed by Icy and Gus. I have been told she would migrate from home to home of her children, but ends up spending the remainder of her days with Icy in Hamilton. She liked her snuff and was describes as a “slip” of a woman (meaning she was small framed).

The Meeting of Gus and Icy

In the year 1922, Icy’s husband died in May and Gus’s wife died in July. Icy was widowed with three girls and only a little settlement money from the coal company. Gus was widowed with six children, the oldest being Jessie at 16 years of age and the youngest Ray who was only 5 months when his mother passed. Both were in a predicament.

The exact date is not clear when Icy and Gus met, but most likely it was some time between August and December of 1922. The story goes that Icy was visiting her sister in Cordova. She rode the train back to Guin, then hitched a ride with the post man (Gus Green) back to Hamilton. Most likely Gus was delivering mail with a horse and wagon, but it is possible he owned a car by that time. Whether it was a car or wagon, relatives report that they were engaged by the time they reached Hamilton. Joining forces to care for their new combined family of 9, the couple was married January 14, 1923. Their first child Gatmon was born in December of 1923.

Together Icy and Gus had 5 children:
James (Jimmy)
Claire Jean

That made a grand total of 14 children between the two of them. Reportedly they bought their first house together in Hamilton with the settlement money Icy received from the coal company.

Gus and Bertha Green

Lemuel Augustus Green (Gus) was born March 28th in 1885 .  In the 1900 census he lived in Hamilton, Alabama with his parents James Winston and Mary E. Green. He had two brothers Richard and Henry plus two sisters Myrtle and Annie.

It is estimated that Gus married Bertha Elizabeth Burleson around 1905. They had the following children:

(in order of eldest to youngest)
Bessie Gus

Gus in the early days was a mail carrier between Bexar and Guin. He started with a horse and buggy and eventually owned a Model-T Ford to run the route.

On July_, in 1922, Bertha was walking from the chicken coop to the house and collapsed. Reportedly she never regained consciousness. It is unknown what specifically caused her death. She was 36 years of age.

Jessie would have been around 16 years of age and her youngest brother Ray was only a few months old.

I wish I had more personal information about Bertha Green, but I don’t have a lot of details about her character. Maybe the family can lend some more information.

The Paul Miller Story

Let’s begin this story in the early 1900’s with a blue eyed farmboy named Paul Miller. Paul was born and raised in rural Marion County, Alabama just outside of the town called Hamilton. He lived with his father Jordan, his mother Francis, older brother Walter and two younger sisters Sarah and Lily. From my research, the census actually lists a total of 10 Miller children over the span of 20 years but in 1914, the above listed are the only ones living at home. Like many of the teenage boys in Hamilton, Alabama during the early 1900’s, Paul completed a 6th grade education and then went to work on the farm, but farming was not what he intended to do for the rest of his life.

Paul met and fell in love with Icy Estelle Northam, who also lived in the Hamilton area.  I believe that Paul married Icy sometime in the year 1914. Paul would have been 17 and Icy 19. The couple was blessed with three girls. Their first child Rubye Ethyl was born October 4th in 1915. Rowena Francis was born February 9th in 1917. Three years later, she was followed by her sister Lillian Maxine on February 24th, 1920.

I know that at some point the family decided to leave Hamilton and move to Sipsey, Alabama so Paul could work as a coal miner. I know this because Paul completed a World War I Draft Registration Card on September 12, 1918. He states that he was a miner and worked for the Debardeleben Coal Company and lived in Walker County, Town of Sipsey, Alabama. He is described as a medium height and build, brown hair and grey eyes (I take that to mean pale blue.)

I have done some research on what life would have been like in Sipsey, Alabama during this time frame. Sipsey was primarily a coal town, and nothing more. Just take a moment to imagine an entire town where every morning the majority of men would all don their mining hats with a single round light in the center of their foreheads. Slowly they would disappear for the day into underground holes or to transport the coal to the river or railroad. This would have left all of the women at home to tend to daily chores and children until their husbands returned at dark.  I imagine laundry was fairly important to the women because her husband’s clothes would daily be covered in soot. Row housing for the miners would have been available for moderate rent. There was also a town Doctor and a small school.

Unfortunately, mining could be a dangerous trade. I am sure Paul left for work kissing his wife and three daughters goodbye fully intending a normal day, but something went terribly wrong. Reportedly the mine he was working in collapsed and crushed his chest. He did not die immediately, but lived for nearly two months confined to his bed unable to move. He developed pneumonia and died on May 16, 1922. He was only 24 years old. Icy and her three daughters moved back to Hamilton so they could be near family.


Paul Dobson Miller was born in 1897.  He lived in Hamilton, Alabama with his parents Jordan and Mary Frances Miller. The Millers had 10 children:
1. James  2. Mary  3. Luther  4. Viola  5. Maggie  6. Walter  7. Paul  8. Sarah  9. Lily (Lillian)  10. unknown
In the 1910 census, Jourdan states they had 10 children and only 7 were still living. The children living within the household in 1910 were Walter, Paul, Sarah and Lily.
In 1920, Jordan Miller died at the age of 67.

One interesting piece of information I came across about Jordan Miller is that he was the overseer of the Pauper’s Farm in Marion County. A Pauper’s Farm was a place for the homeless or wanderers to have a roof over their head but to also work the land in exchange.

Paul worked for the DeBardeleben  Coal Company.

In the 1920 Census, Paul states that he rents his home. Household members are Icy, Rubye, Rowena, Maxine and Paul’s sister Lillie Miller.

Paul Miller’s Draft Card


Where to begin?

History fascinates me. As a child, I loved hearing my grandparent’s stories about the “good ol’ days” and tall tales that may or may not have been true, but they certainly were entertaining. My grandmother’s house was a treasure trove of old photographs and memorabilia. I can distinctly remember thumbing through dusty pictures and Maw Maw (Mary Clark) would say “aw that’s old so and so, you know who they are, they’re related!” Nodding in agreement, inwardly I was positive I had never met or seen that person before in my life and certainly couldn’t pull up the fond memories my grandmother seemed to enjoy. Nonetheless, I liked to look anyway regardless of my lack of knowledge, and those memories seemed to brighten my Maw Maw’s day.

Now that I am adult and all of my grandparents have gone on to be with Jesus, I wanted to preserve those stories and tales. Slowly I started recording my own memories and quickly realized I needed help with the facts. After numerous interviews with family members and acquaintances, it occurred to me that I was naive to believe that this would be an easy undertaking. First of all, the stories are endless. Second of all, everything I have heard is either fantastic, interesting or I would even say …shocking. Third and last, THE INFORMATION IS COMPLETELY WORTH SHARING. So my conclusion: Why not start a blog? This way I can share what I know and any family members who want to submit their own stories or memories can absolutely join in the fun too.

MY DISCLAIMER: Most everything posted here is usually second hand information. I will try to be as honest and true to the person or people who told me their piece, but I fully realize that re-told accounts can vary over time. Please contact me if you feel like your kin folks were not properly construed. We are just having fun, not trying to offend. Other than that, please enjoy and feel free to contribute (if you are a relative.)