Effie Mae Higdon Owens, Possibly Oldest Living Higdon Descendent
On May 31, 2012 my grandmother Ms. Effie Mae Owens celebrated her 100th birthday in Theodore, Alabama. Her mother was Marietta Higdon, born October 27, 1882 and died October 4, 1982. Effie Mae was born in Bermuda, Conecuh County, Alabama and her mother Marietta was born in Loree, Alabama also located in Conecuh County.
Ms. Effie Mae Owens father was James Henry Kirksey (dob 2 Nov 1869 &
dod 29 Sep 1914). Effie Mae is an only child of this union. At age
three, her farther died and she and her mother moved back into the
Higdon home in Bermuda where she grew up. This was the household of her
grandparents James (Jimmy) Jackson Higdon (dob May 20, 1860, dod Nov 7,
1917) and Mary Alice Stokes (dob Nov 2, 1866, dod 6 April 1920). This
home was established in 1909 as the large Higdon family of Jimmy and
Mary Alice moved from Loree to Bermuda. Jimmy and Mary Alice had
thirteen children with Effie Mae's mother being the oldest. Upon the
death of her grandfather, her Uncle Willie, then only 21 years old and
his older brother Rossie, then 28 years old, assumed the position as
head of household with Rossie being the more dominant. These two
brothers would remain business partners all their lives. Three of these
Higdon brothers would serve in the Army during WW1. This home became an
efficient dwelling with all family members having assigned duties and
tasks to perform. It provided a loving and secure environment for my
grandmother's more formative years of growth.
On November 9, 1930 Effie Mae married my grandfather Edward Joshua
(Jimmy) Owens (dob Nov. 10, 1911, dod Feb. 9, 1993) Effie Mae and Jimmy
enjoyed 63 years of blissful matrimony. This union produced two
children, my mother (Helen Vonette Owens-Jackson dob 20 Nov 1931-
living) and my uncle (Dr. Henry Cleamon Owens dob 27 Aug 1933-living).
Both children were born in Bermuda, Alabama and both are retired
teachers. Effie Mae and Jimmy move from Bermuda to Mobile in mid-June
1942. Effie Mae's mother Marietta joined them three years later in 1945
at age 63. Marietta continued to live with daughter and son-in-law for
the remaining 37 yeas of her life.
At age 100 Effie Mae continues to live at home in Theodore, Alabama with her son and near the home of her daughter. Her mind and memories are lucid. Her mobility is good. She recalls most of her experiences with great accuracy and details. She attends church nearly every Sunday and frequently dines out. She enjoys the company of her two children, two grand children, two great-grandchildren and one GG grandson. Her vision and hearing is somewhat impaired and she misses the ability to read books and see well enough to watch her Braves playing baseball.
Effie Mae, her daughter, and myself have significant Higdon family history information with much detailed information of the south Alabama branch of the Higdon family. We desire to expand our data files and we are willing to share what we have.
HFA President Frances Smith Meets with Effie Mae Higdon Owens
I recently had the pleasure of visiting Mrs. Effie Mae Kirksey Owens,
centenarian featured on the Higdon Family Association website
(higdonfamily.org) and in the July issue of the Higdon Family
Association Newsletter. Her grandson, Wayne Alligood, invited me to the
home of his mother, Helen Owens Jackson, in Mobile, Alabama. Wayne and I
spent some time comparing our family trees. According to my
calculations, we go back to Samuel Terrell Higdon, Sr. (b. 1776). I
think Ms. Effie Mae and I share the same great-great-great grandfather!
Henry Owens arrived with his mother, Ms. Effie Mae. We all sat down
for an informal interview. Ms. Effie Mae is surprisingly vivacious and
participated in the conversions. Her two children and grandson had
tidbits to interject along the way. I got out my little digital recorder
so I would not miss a word.
I asked Ms. Effie Mae to tell me about her childhood. On May 31,
1912, Effie Mae was born to Marietta (Higdon) and James Henry Kirksey in
Bermuda, Alabama. James died 3 years later. Marietta moved back home
with her parents. She had several siblings who became like brothers and
sisters to little Effie Mae, an only child. Ms. Effie Mae named and
described her uncles and aunts. Two were close to her age. Orland was 3
years older and Rosa 5 years older. She told me about her uncle Rossie,
the oldest of the Higdon children. Although he never married, he was a
father figure to little Effie Mae.
Twins Willie and Tommy, Ella, and Daisy were among those at home
during Effie Mae's childhood. Her Aunt Lissey and Uncle Sanford were
already married. The Higdons were landowners, farmers, ranchers, and
timber men with their own sawmill.
At age 5 Effie Mae attended the country school with her aunt and
uncle. She was the youngest child at school. She told me that she often
cried because they always sang a sad song (an old war song about a
soldier who didn't come home). The principal petted her and put her in
his lap. The school was in the woods, but some black people lived on the
road. When Effie Mae would not quit crying, the principal took her to
the black lady, a friend of her mother and grandmother's, who then took
She recalled some unnamed mean boys who threw Orland's hat in a
tall tree. It broke her heart to see him treated unkindly and it made
her not like school. When she was a little older, she changed schools.
She loved to read Zane Grey novels by kerosene lamp. She collected books
and became the "librarian" of the community.
At the Higdon home there was no fussing, fighting, or drinking
allowed. However, Grandfather Higdon was bad about cussing. Effie Mae
said he was not mean or bad, just aggravated his wife with his cussing.
Grandmother Higdon was a very patience, godly lady. She invited
preachers to come to her house to preach. Because of that her
grandfather received salvation in Jesus Christ at home.
Granny Higdon was a "mother hen" to her family. Once during a bad
storm, she gathered all the children into one room. The room had tall
windows. While Granny was praying for their safety, a chicken flew
through one of those windows. Needless to say, the prayer meeting broke
up with the laughter of the children.
Since Effie Mae was the "baby" in the family, she was spoiled by
the older children. She told me that her mother had a hard time trying
to discipline her. Once she ran out among the fruit trees to evade her
mother. Effie Mae ran into the scuppernong arbor and right into a wasp
nest. No one was there to protect her that time!
When I prompted Ms. Effie Mae to tell more about the family, she
replied that three of the Higdon brothers had been in World War I. Uncle
Tommy went to France to clean up at the end of World War I. He fell in a
foxhole and broke his leg. Uncle Willie was in the army but never went
overseas. She then related a story about Rossie when he was in World War
I. The family did not hear from him for 5 months and they were very
worried. Even as a small child, Effie Mae remembered when they finally
heard that he was alive. Daisy was known for recognizing individual
footsteps. Early one morning as she was preparing breakfast, she hurried
to her mother's room and said, "Get up, Rossie's here!" Daisy
identified his footsteps as he came down the garden path. Ms. Effie Mae
remembers to this day the excitement of that day.
Rossie's train arrived late the previous night in Evergreen,
Alabama. A taxi wanted to charge him $17 for the 20-mile trip home to
Bermuda. Always known as being tight with his money, Rossie declined and
started walking. Someone came along in a car and offered him a ride but
also wanted to charge him. So he walked!
Although Rossie did not like to spend money, he was renowned as a
kind, generous man. He was known to take fruit and candy at Christmas to
some renters on their property. When there was a death in the
community, Rossie dug the grave. He also dug wells. This was a very
close-knit family who lent money wherever needed in the area. When the
Bermuda Baptist Church needed to be rebuilt, the members came to Rossie
and Willie asking for a contribution. They said to come back after
others in the community had given. Then the Higdons supplied the needed
amount. They were wealthy, but did not realize it. They simply met
needs. "Higdon Hall" - the fellowship hall and library at the Bermuda
Baptist Church - is a tribute to them.
On November 9, 1930, Effie Mae married Joshua Owens. She was 18
and he turned 19 the following day. He was a farmer. She told me that he
was a very hard-working man. By July 4th each year he had "laid his
crops by" (cultivation over, waiting for harvest). He would then go get
another job. He was able to buy a car. It was a stripped down,
two-seater, with the top gone. Effie Mae described it as "ugly" and said
she was ashamed of the car. He had parked it in the front yard until
she convinced him to park it behind the house. She did not want to look
at it and never rode in it. One day he took their two little children
down the road 7 miles to Burnt Corn. She told me she thought she would
never see them again!
The Owens home was a large house with a long hallway from front
to back. The school was close to their house. They rented half of it to
local husband and wife schoolteachers. Years later Effie Mae's two
children would embark on teaching careers.
Effie Mae and Joshua moved to Mobile in 1942. He was a bus driver for
National City Lines (which later became Mobile City Lines). At one
point she worked a few months as an inspector at a garment factory. Mr.
Owens did not wanted Effie Mae to work, so she stayed home with her two
children. She said they were not wealthy but had enough on one salary.
Joshua worked a split shift every day, a few hours in the morning then a
few hours in the afternoon. They were able to have lunch together every
day. They had been married 62 years when he died in 1993.
Helen Owens Jackson, Effie Mae Owens, Frances Smith, Henry C. Owens
Towards the end of our conversation, I asked Ms. Effie Mae about the
changes she had seen in her 100 years of life. Her answer was,
"Everything from an oxcart to a spaceship." She recalled the story of a
German man who lived near them in Bermuda and had an oxcart. The story
was that his father sent him to keep the crows out of the cornfield near
a river in Germany. An American ship came down the river and the man
got on it. He arrived in America without knowing anyone or having
anything. He married a lady in Bermuda and established his home there.
It is still a mystery how he ended up in Bermuda, Alabama.
The old Higdon house in Bermuda burned a few years ago. Ms. Effie
Mae's children still own the land, but the Higdons are gone from there.
Effie Mae's daughter Helen stated, "She has no old friends or family
left. She has a lot of friends today, but yesterday's friends are gone."
Effie Mae still has vivid memories of her past years.
Although my actual kinship with Effie Mae Kirksey Owens may be very distant, we formed a bond like that of close relatives. A couple of interesting facts came out in reference to my family tree. One of Effie Mae's uncles was named Boddie. My grandfather, Bodie (pronounced the same as Boddie) John Higdon, lived within 30 miles of Ms. Effie Mae's family in south Alabama. I also discover that I may be close kin on my Grandmother Higdon's side. I need to do some more research. I plan to interview her again on her 101st birthday!
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