James Whitesel Hayworth

Big Mama -  As told by Marguerite Witt Calvert to Cindy Witt-Ervin  

Georgia Frances Elizabeth Lyons was born November 8, 1865 in Southwest Missouri to George Lyons and Sarah Tucker Lyons.  They had a son 2 or three years older than Georgia.

George Lyons was killed in his fields by the Yankees shortly before Georgia was born, and the small son’s feet were held to the fire to force Sarah to tell where supplies were hidden on the farm.  After that he was a cripple, but much loved by Georgia for all of their lives.

Sarah later married James Polk Moore, but he was a very strict stepfather and did not permit Georgia to go anywhere.  Consequently the older crippled brother helped her slip out her bedroom window and down a tree to the ground so she could go to church meetings which she would continue to enjoy all her life.

 Georgia Lyons was Irish, and many Irish traits were predominant in Georgia.  She was barely 5 feet, had beautiful blue eyes and very red hair.  Until almost the end of her life she danced the lively Irish jig and always was surrounded by music.  She purchased one of the first Victrolas and played pianos in Arlington Heights neighborhood in Fort Worth, Texas about 1921 and all the grandchildren were always permitted to play both.

Several young ministers of the Disciples of Christ faith were traveling from Kansas City southward and stopping to preach in various communities.  James Whitsel Haworth was one of the young men, and within a few minutes he and Georgia married.  This was about 1883.  He had been a Quaker and continued to use “thee” and “thou” in his speech.  He was 20 years older than Georgia and had been previously married to Edith Dorsey (or Dorsett), but she died in childbirth.  James had an English background and was very handsome with card hair and full beard.  At least 6 of the young men in our family inherited his dark hair and beard.

James and Georgia lived in Southwest City, Missouri but soon moved on down to Bloomfield, Arkansas, which was near the present town of Rogers.  They bought an apple farm and had 6 daughters with various shades of red hair.  He continued to preach and teach Sunday school all the rest of his life.  About 1896 he decided to g to Texas with a group of other pioneers.  My mother told me that one on the men in the 7 or 8 families in the wagon train was a half brother of Georgia of the Polk Moore family.

Georgia (Big Mama as we called her) had 6 daughters by this time, but one had died in infancy.  Big Mama planted evergreen trees around her grave, and when the surviving daughters went back from Fort Worth to Bloomfield in the 1950’s, they found the grave with the tall evergreens surrounding it.

The six Haworth daughters were Mary Frances May (married Gus Zimmerman), Mattie (the baby who died at 6 weeks), Daisy Floyd (married Clarence Edward Witt) and twin Ada Floy (married Jack Grigsby), Lillie Iora Josephine (married Jack Grigsby after death of Ada), (obviously named for the half sister you mentioned), Della Nancy Lee (married Mike Strawn), Annabelle (7th daughter whose father was W.F. Nichols, Georgia’s second Husband).

On leaving Bloomfield, my mother Daisy was having one last frolic before climbing in the ox-drawn wagons to Texas, and she tossed her only toy – a rag doll – high into the air.  It landed so high in an apple tree not even the men could retrieve it, so Mom had to leave not only her home forever, but her beloved rag doll too.  She always loved watching “Little House on the Prairie” as it reminded her so much of her family’s trip by covered wagon to Texas.

Georgia and James Haworth’s family came down the edge of Western Arkansas through the Boston Mountain Range and arrived in Fort Worth after about 4 months.  At one point an Indian who Big Mama had fed (he wanted his meat raw) asked Big Mama if he could take the little twin girls back into a cave for the Indians Chief to see.  Evidently twins were rare in Indian tribes.  Big Mama went with them into the cave, and the Chief was very pleased.

Their actual destination was Cleburne, Texas about 30 miles below Fort Worth but I don’t know why except there is a religious settlement on Seventh Day Adventists in a nearby community.  Or maybe the Moore brother was going there.

They stayed in Cleburne 2 years but moved back to Fort Worth and lived very close to the courthouse.  Grandfather Haworth had sold his apple farm in Bloomfield to his cousin, but he never received any mail or money from the cousin; and because there was another Haworth family in Fort Worth, Grandfather went to court and had his name changed to Hayworth, to avoid and mix up in the mail, but he never received the money for his farm.

His health was failing, as he had a weakness in his lungs.  One morning he arose early to go down to the Trinity River nearby and get water for breakfast preparation.  He fell into the Trinity River and drowned, leaving Big Mama with the 5 little daughters to raise.

The church people wanted Georgia to go back to Missouri where she had family to help her; but she refused their offer of assistance, and when the good (?) church women came to get the 5 little girls to put them in an orphanage, she hid them under the bed until the women left.  She sewed to earn money and held her little family together still living near the courthouse.

About 1905 she married William Fletched Nichols from North Carolina and they became parents to Annabelle, Big Mama’s 7th daughter.  About this time she rode the train back to Joplin, Missouri to get an orphaned baby boy in the family.  His name was Van Pollard and was the pet of all the six daughter.

Georgia and our step-grandfather, Mr. Nichols, moved a little farther out from the town area and settled on West 5th Street where they lived until 1923 when they moved 7 miles southeast of downtown to get from the frequent flooding of the Trinity River which was behind the 5th Street house.

The piano and Victrola previously mentioned weathered the floods, as did a bookcase which had to be tied up in a tree to keep it from washing away.  It was passed on down to Annabelle, and when she had to give up her home at age 80, she had the bookcase sent to me with a letter of its history.  I am the book lover of the family which must be the reason she sent it to me.

Georgia (Big Mama) owned a small acreage in the new settlement (Glen Garden), and she and Mr. Nichols had a huge garden each year as well as many fruit trees and flowers.  I now have iris and lantana in my yard from her big front yard.

My own family (Daisy and Ed Witt) and their 4 children bought an acre across the road from Big Mama at the same time in 1923, and I well remember moving on the Interurban (like a street car, but larger) out to our new home. I was 6, my big brother Edward was 11, and my baby sister Dorothy was a month old.  She rode in a dresser drawer on the seat on the Interurban, and it was quite an event.

We all loved the rural life and we always had a cow and chickens, so we ate healthfully all through the depression years, what with orchard and garden.  Big Mama fed families from her garden when they were in need.

Right up to the last years of her life she quilted, sewed and raised chickens and never lost her love of music.  Still had the Victrola and player piano!  She suffered greatly from cancer during the last months of her life and finally died on July 30th, 1935.  She was 69 years old.  She was a vivacious and colorful and a very courageous pioneer lady.  Counting just the family that I know of, she has well over 100 descendants living in or near Fort Worth.

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