Arp, Mary Elmira (b.1875) - wife of William Thomas Higdon (b. 1867)

Arp, Mary Elmira (b.1875) wife of William Thomas Higdon (b. 1867)

From left: Dr. H.A. Benton, Bonnie Higdon Benton, Beulah Higdon Bautz, Leonard Higdon, Ivory Arp, Charles E. Higdon, Lena Arp Franklin (wearing hat), Gertrude Higdon Nave holding Joe Nave, Thomas Edgar Nave (standing low in center) Charles P. Arp, Mary Arp Greer, Mary Elmira Arp “Doll” Higdon, Katherine Franklin, Walter Q. Higdon

Below is an early image of the Higdon House in Copperhill, TN.

Higdon House in Copperhill , TN

Mary Elmira Arp “Doll” Higdon (b.1875), wife of William Thomas Higdon (b. 1867): In 1923 about five years after the death of her husband, William Thomas Higdon, Mary Elmira “Doll” Higdon moved the family from Higdon Store, Georgia to Copperhill, Tennessee. Copperhill was a prosperous and thriving community in the nineteen twenties and thirties. Tradesmen came in great numbers to work at the Tennessee Copper Company. These workers needed a place to stay, and Doll needed a way to support her family. She opened a boarding house that provided rooms and meals. The image to the left is an early photo of the Hidgon House in Copperhill, TN, from Charles P. Higdon’s book, “The Boys From Georgia.”

The two youngest Higdon sons, Leonard and Charles, vividly and fondly recalled their boarding house days during a videotaped interview in 1989. The boarding house was a two-story home with eight coal burning fireplaces and two chimneys. The range in the kitchen could burn wood or coal and had an attached 30-gallon galvanized tank which provided running hot water to the kitchen and upstairs bath. There was no refrigeration. Most of the bedrooms had one double bed, and the boarders slept two to a bed.

Mary Elmira Arp "Doll" Higdon's Boarding House

Leonard was 13 and Charles was 7 years old when they moved to the boarding house. The boys got up every morning at four o'clock. They started a fire first in the kitchen range to supply hot water to the house; then they lit the fireplaces in the boarders' rooms. The boys milked the cow, fed the chickens, and collected the eggs. In the meantime, Doll cooked breakfast and packed lunches for the workers. The boys helped serve breakfast and washed dishes. Before leaving for school at eight, Leonard and Charles lay in coal and kindling for the boarders' rooms to be used the next morning.
The boarding house sold breakfast, a noonday meal, and supper to any who could pay. A typical breakfast consisted of bread, syrup, hot cereals, and cold cereals, followed by a platter of hot offerings. Charles recalls a patron who joined them for breakfast. The man ate bread and hot cereal. When offered a serving platter with three or four slices of ham and six fried eggs, the man misunderstood. He pushed his dinner plate to one side, took the serving platter, and said, "I'm not sure that I can eat all of this, but I'll give it a go.” 

1924 Copperhill Left to right- Charles E. Higdon, brother Reese Higdon, mother Mary Arp Higdon, and cousin Kathryn Franklin (daughter of Lena Arp Franklin)

Mrs. Higdon purchased pork, beef, and chickens. The pork and beef were prepared by the butcher from the meat market. The chickens were bought "live" from peddlers and kept for eggs until needed for a meal. Leonard recalls killing chickens on Saturday afternoons by jerking off their heads, then hanging the birds on a clothesline to allow the blood to drain. Both say that their mother was an excellent cook. Many preachers ate Sunday dinner at the boarding house. The preachers frequently selected the choice parts of the chickens leaving the Higdon boys to “enjoy the feet and neck."

Somehow with all this work, the boys still found time for sports, school, and church. They even had a newspaper route! Charles credits the lack of free time as a positive influence in their lives. (He says that he has never met anyone who could think of more to do than his mother. When one chore was finished, she was ready with three or four more.) All of the activities shaped the boys into fine young men who went onto college and successful careers. Their mother Doll died in December 1934 after operating the boarding house for eleven years. The home in Copperhill is still occupied by a Higdon family member.

Below is an image from Charles P. Higdon’s book, “The Boys From Georgia,” showing, among others, Mary Elmira Arp “Doll“ Higdon, center right in back,  and her son Walter A. Higdon, to her right. 

Walter Q. Higdon, with his family

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