ELIZA (LILA) EVANS WILLIAMS 1888-1984
By Tom Roberts
Posted August 09, 2005 by Myrtle Bridges
My grandmother, nicknamed Lila, the second of four children, was born in Cumberland Co, NC on
October 28, 1888 to Peter McKellar and Eliza (Lila) Faison Evans Williams. My grandmother's brother
and sisters were all born in Clinch Co, GA, but for some reason her mother returned to Cumberland
County for her birth. My great grandparents had moved from North Carolina to Clinch County in southern
Georgia in 1884 to work in the turpentine business; therefore, they raised their children in the
swamps close to the Florida border. Young Lila must have been quite a tomboy from comments she made
about her life in southern Georgia. She loved living in this beautiful part of the country and grew
up playing with frogs and running through the swamp with no fear of snakes, alligators or other swamp
Sisters Annebel, Sarah & Lila about 1892.
Since they lived far from any school, the children were home-
schooled by a live-in teacher until they were old enough for high
school. One of the teachers, named Mrs. Gedding, came from Indiana.
She spent eight months in the winters of 1898 to 1901 teaching young
Lila and her sisters and brother the three R's. The family, except
for her father P. Mc K. Williams, moved north to Blackshear, Pierce
Co, GA in Oct. or Nov. of 1902 so the children could attend High
School. My grandmother attended The Presbyterial Institute school.
Her father continued to work and live in Clinch Co, GA, but often
visited his family on the weekend. During the summer vacation the
family returned to Clinch County. Peter Williams decided to move to
Blackshear in 1907. The Presbytery of Savannah founded the school in
1901 to give southern Georgia children a good educational, moral and
spiritual basis for college and life. Some of the schools students
came from Blackshear, but others lived in the dorms and came from
other parts of Georgia. The cost of going to the school in 1905 was
$130 per year or only about $3,000 in 2006 dollars. The fee included the nine-month term, board and tuition.
My grandmother graduated in May 1905 along with eleven other students equally divided between males and
females. During her time at the school Lila Williams studied math, English, history, science as well as music.
In February 1905 she sang "Melody in F" by Rubenstein and "Pilgrim's Chorus" by Wagner at a recital at the
Institute Hall. The recital included other students enrolled in the school. The Blackshear Times Newspaper
claimed the hall was filled to capacity.
AGNES SCOTT COLLEGE
In the fall of 1905, my grandmother left home to attend Agnes Scott College in Decatur, GA and graduated
in May 1910 with twelve other young women all from the southeast. While at Agnes Scott, she took a well-
rounded series of courses in English, literature, math, history, foreign languages German and French, science
and music. She even took a course in chemistry and one in physics as well as ones in biology and geology.
Lila, Sarah & Annabel about 1905
Her music courses included voice, piano and
harmony. Each course lasted for one year rather than one semester.
At the end of four years she accumulated 57 B.A. hours and needed
60 hours to graduate. She, therefore, attended the school for one
more year and graduated with 70 hours. During her first two years,
she received numeral grades. The grades ranged from 81 to 95 with
the highest ones being math and harmony. During the last three
years she received letter grades and made mostly B's and C's. A
grade of C back before 1910 is most likely equivalent to a grade
of B or higher today. When I was growing up she told me many
times to get a well rounded education. She certainly did. During
her college years she often returned to Blackshear for visits and
summer vacations. While at home, she attended parties at her friends
home which were reported in the Blackshear Times. At Agnes Scott she served as president of the
Mnemosynean Literary Society in the second term of her senior year, sang second soprano in the glee club,
played guard on the college scrub team (I guess the back up basketball team), and managed the senior
basketball team [1910 Agnes Scott school annual]. The following unedited poem is below her senior picture
in the 1910 school annual.
The three sisters taken around 1960
"Lila Williams is another of the Seniors fair Who besides being
fair are extremely rare.She can play and she can sing and easily carry
the tune. She sits in the Decatur chair and never comes in too soon
In the library she becomes Miss Bucher's mainstay, And is always so
happy day after day."
In 1907 Dr. Mary Martin became the resistant physician at Agnes Scott
College. She held this position for only a short time for on July 2, 1908
she married Dr. Eustace Sloop in Blowing Rock, NC, and they settled in
the mountain town of Plumtree, NC to practice medicine. In December 1911
Dr. and Dr. Sloop moved from Plumtree to the mountain town of Crossnore,
NC where they both practiced medicine and became involved in the education of the children of the area. The old,
dark one room school building had no electricity, and; therefore, it was difficult for the children to learn to
read. Around 1912 the Sloops were instrumental in expanding the school with the addition of a new more modern
building and adding another teacher to make a total of two. In the early 1900's most of the mountain children
dropped out of school by the fourth grade. Through the efforts of the Sloops, many of these children stayed in
school past the fourth grade. Sometimes later the Crossnore School began to cater to homeless and disadvantaged
children from Western North Carolina and the school still plays a vital role in educating many homeless and
problem children from the state of North Carolina.
After my grandmother graduated in 1910, she moved to Cumberland Co, NC, where her
parents had relocated in 1909. Sometimes later my grandmother, most likely in 1912
and at the invitation of Mary Sloop, decided to work as a teacher at the Crossnore
School. Lila Williams may have been hired as the second teacher mentioned in the
paragraph above. My grandmother took the train by herself to a mountain town close
to the school. Nobody met her at the train station, but some nice gentleman gave
her a buggy ride to the school. After teaching for a few months or maybe up to a
year at the school and living under very primitive conditions, my grandmother moved
back to Cumberland Co, NC. She moved in with her Aunt Augusta and Uncle Neil Curie
to teach at a one room school in the Clarkton, Bladen Co, NC. The Curie children
attended this school. After a period of time she decided teaching was not for her.
I do not know for sure which teaching job came first. She may have taught at Clarkton
before she helped Dr. Sloop in Crossnore.
MARRIAGE AND FAMILY
Sometimes after graduating from college and moving to Cumberland County my grandmother
fell in love with an older man, Crawford MacKethan, from a very wealthy family. Something
happen and they broke up. Mr.
Lila Rose around 1910
MacKethan died a few years later. My grandfather later said in jest "you
should have married him first andthen married me, and we would be rich." My
grandmother first met my grandfather Tom Rose, her fourth cousin, in 1905/6 dressed
in his Horner Military uniform. She told some of her grandchildren that she fell in
love with him right then for he was so handsome in his uniform. In the Fayetteville
area, young Lila again met my grandfather most likely through her Aunt Jean (her
mother's sister) who had previously married my grandfather's brother Augustus Rose.
After a suitable court ship, my grandparents married on October 27, 1914, just one
day before her twenty-sixth birthday so she would not be older than him. The marriage
took place at Woodland, the home of her parents and the ancestral home of her mother's
family the Evans. This was the ninth family wedding at Woodland over two generations.
Her parents had the home decorated with chrysanthemums, ferns, southern smilax and galax
leaves. Numerous candles lit the home. She wore a plain and brocaded satin skirt with a
long pointed train. After the wedding the family served a dinner to the guests in the
dining room. Someone took my grandparents to a train station, and they left for Baltimore,
MD by a northbound train. My grandmother later told my mother, that she left her beloved
south to go north with a man she hardly knew.
My grandparents lived for a for a few years in Baltimore, MD but in late 1919 they moved
back to North Carolina and spent most of the rest of their lives in either Fayetteville or Chapel Hill, NC. In the
early to mid 1920's, they lived in the home shown below on Hillside Avenue in Fayetteville near the homes of many
of their relatives.
Lila Rose with daughter Eliza taken in 1916
During the depression in the 1930's they lost their home because my grandfather
could not pay the mortgage. The house would have been paid for within a year
or so. He would not purchase another house until he could pay cash for it;
therefore, they lived in rented homes over the next 20 years. In 1955, they
built a small home on about one-half acre of land on top of a hill at 102
Howell Lane in Chapel Hill. The gray framed home with white trim had two
bedrooms, two baths, a living room across the front, a kitchen, a small den
and a large screened porch on the west side. My grandparents later converted
the single car garage in the back of the house into a larger den, which was
air conditioned. They spent most of their time at home on the porch.
My grandmother filled the yard around the house with flowers and rose bushes.
They called their home Rose Cottage. My grandmother raised four children, one
born in Baltimore and the other three born in Fayetteville. My mother, Eliza,
was the first born in 1915. Lila Rose did not want her oldest child born in
the north so she returned to Fayetteville for my mother's birth. Annie Lea,
the second child, was born in Baltimore in 1919. She was named for ancestors
of her father. I do not know why grandmother did not return to Fayetteville
for her birth. My grandmother developed phlebitis during this pregnancy and
may have been unable to return south. Tommy named for his father was born in
1921 in Fayetteville, NC, as was Sara, named for her mother's sister, eleven
years later in 1932.
OUTSIDE INTEREST AND CHARACTER
My grandparents on their 60th wedding anniversary in 1974
Lila Rose was a loving mother and grandmother who very much enjoyed
her family, especially her twelvegrandchildren. When I was in my late
teens she told me how fortunate she was to have so many grandchildren
because she could worry about them and not her own health. She was a
loyal member of the Presbyterian Church for all of her 96 years and
involved in many of the churches activities. She loved to garden and
very much liked to tend to her yard with great emphasis on her flowers
and rose bushes. She planted, pruned and did all the necessary things
to make her yard look beautiful. My grandmother like many women of her
times did not drive; therefore, her husband, children and sometimes her
grandchildren took her places she needed to go. I can remember driving
grandmother on errands such as to the grocery store. In those days if
no one was available to take her it was easy for my grandmother to call
in an order to the grocery store and have the groceries delivered.
She grew to an average size woman of about five feet four inches
tall with long brown hair that she kept rolled up on the top of her
head. In fact, even as she aged her hair remained brown with only a
little gray appearing. As a young lady she was quite beautiful, and
I imagine many a young men came a calling. Her youthful tomboy nature
gave way to a very refined soft-spoken southern lady, as she grew older. She was a very strong
resilient woman. For example, my grandmother broke her hip due to a fall down a step when she
Hillside Avenue home in Fayetteville (picture taken 2004)
was in her 80's. This accident would have killed most older women of the time,
but she was determined to recover. She did everything the rehab nurse told her
to do; therefore, with in few months she was out in the yard tending to her
garden with a walker instead of sitting in a wheel chair. A short time later
she threw the walker away for she had made a complete recovery. She enjoyed
good health during her life. She was an active woman and only slowed down
after a series of mini strokes beginning in her mid to late eighties. She
died on September 3, 1984 in Chapel Hill, NC just two months prior to her
ninth-sixth birthday. She is buried beside her husband in the University
Cemetery in Chapel Hill, NC.
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