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).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s