I’m rounding out the great-grandmother portion of my Women’s Timeline Series with Rachel Louisa Johnson.
1892 – Rachel Louisa was born on August 9, the 7th (and next-to-last) child of Reuben Johnson and Martha Garrett. She was probably born in Fannin County, Georgia; her parents appeared on the census there beginning in 1880.
1909 – On June 27, she married my great-grandfather, Newton Coleman Ward, in Fannin County.
1910 – Almost exactly one year later, Rachel gave birth to her first child, Nellie, who was 1 month old in the 1910 census enumeration. The family lived in Fannin County.
1911 – Rachel lost her father on April 15th.
1912 – Rachel’s second daughter, Ruby, was born on February 26.
1914 – Rachel and Newt had their only son, Worth, who was born in June 3.
1917 - A third daughter, Ellerie, was born.
1918 – Rachel gave birth to her fifth child, Bondell, on November 27.
abt 1922 – Rachel and Newt had another daughter, Thelma.
abt 1923 – Their next-to-last child, Pearl was born.
______ – Rachel gave birth to her last child, my grandmother.
1929 – Rachel’s mother, Martha Garrett, died on October 26.
1939 - Tragedy struck when her son, Worth, was stabbed and killed by a jealous husband (who also happened to be his uncle – I don’t know if this was Rachel’s brother or Newt’s brother).
Shortly after Worth’s death, the family moved to Murray County, Georgia, where Rachel lived the rest of her life.
1974 – Rachel became a widow when Newt died on August 1.
1980 – She died on February 16 in Chatsworth, Georgia and was buried on February 18 at Stock Hill Cemetery in Fannin County, where her husband, son, and parents are also buried.
Rachel – or Memaw Ward as I always called her – is the only one of my great-grandmothers that I knew personally. I feel like I know quite a lot about her life, but in writing this timeline, I realize that I have little that is documented and can be attached to a specific date. When the family lived in Fannin County, she was a midwife and was often called out in all kinds of weather to deliver babies. After moving to Murray County, she cooked lunch every day at the Cohutta Talc Mill where Newt worked, and according to my grandmother, “everyone from town came to eat because her cooking was so good.” At some point, she was also a pencil packer at the talc mill; that is the occupation reported on her death certificate. She also made quilts and sold them for extra money. That is the memory I associate most strongly with her. When we visited, she was always working at her sewing machine or quilting machine and there were many, many quilts in various stages of completion all around the house.
Next steps for research include:
- Order a copy of her SS-5.
- I vaguely remember articles about her quilting being published in newspapers and possibly a regional magazine. I need to ask my mother about this and try to locate copies.
- Take pictures of the quilts she made. I have pictures of the one that I have, but my mother has some also. Most importantly, I need to go to my grandmother’s house and take pictures of the quilts that are still there.
- Lastly, I need to take a photo of her quilting machine, which she left to me when she died, but which is still at my mother’s house.
To see other articles in the Women’s Timeline Series, click here.