Charles Jackson Hardin was born on March 5, 1892 in Graysville, Alabama. The fact that Graysville started out being called Gin Town because Graysville had the only cotton gin for miles made me laugh. I guess that is where my grandfather got a taste for alcohol. His father was Alfred Jackson Hardin and his mother was Georgia Tallulah Young.
Charles is on the left. Fun hair, right?
Alfred Hardin had been previously married to a woman by the name of Martha Bivens. Together they had three sons. William Lenox (WL) Hardin, born 1879, Issac Luther Hardin born in 1881 and Samuel Hardin born on 14th of May, 1883. Martha Bivens Hardin died on the 29th of May, 1883, two short weeks after her child’s birth. Samuel died five years later in 1888.
Alfred Hardin married Georgia Tallulah Young in 1891 and she inherited two young boys. Charles Jackson was their first child born a year later in 1892.
Charles’s subsequent siblings were Moses, Esther, Ida, Thelma, Gracie Ann, Tom and Felix, who was called Bryan.
In 1900, the family still lived in Graysville, AL and Alfred working as a farmer. His two oldest sons, WL and Issac were working as farm laborers.
By 1910, they had moved to Massy and Lacon Road in Morgan County, AL and were still running a farm. Charlie was 18 and helping his father on the farm.
I didn’t get to meet my grandfather. I will get to that part shortly. However, in 1977 my parents took me and Jackie on a trip across the US heading to Florida. In Birmingham, AL we stopped and spent the night with my Great Uncle Bryan and Great Aunt Lilly. Uncle Bryan took us out to the cemetery and as we were walking through, Uncle Bryan points to a grave and says, “That’s Charlie’s first wife.” I was shocked. I didn’t know Grandpa had been married before. What do you want to bet that the picture above where it has been cut out from a larger picture included his ex-wife? I can see the slightest hint of a black dress next to his shoulder.
So, Charles Hardin had married a woman by the name of Serepta Viola Wilhite. I had no other information other than that Charlie had been married to her. I assumed she must have died before he married Grandma Flora. Nope. She died in 1976, the year before we visited. I was shocked (it didn’t take a lot to shock me at that point). I found that on the 1920 census, Viola Wilhite was listed as a “widow”. That made me laugh. I thought, hm, history revisionist? Lol. My guess is that Charles was married to her sometime in between 1911-1915. Married and divorced. I don’t have any other information than that.
By June 5, 1917 Charles is living in Covington, Kentucky and working as a Clerk at Adams Exploration Company. He was single when he signed up for the WWI draft. He is listed as having a bad ankle.
On June 21, 1921 Charles Jackson Hardin took a bride, one Flora Mae Burgess. He was 29 years old, Flora just 19 years old. I suspect she was swept off her feet. She had been living in Tulsa, OK working at an office and living as a border in a home. I think she must have longed to have a “real home” and a “real family”, a symptom of having been raised without a mother since the age of eight. They were married on the same day as a race riot had erupted in Tulsa.
Grandpa Hardin was already working for the railroad. He held several jobs with the railroad and they traveled by railroad during their married lives.
One month into their marriage, Flora and Charles were living in the Killmer Apartments in West Tulsa, OK when they received a knock at their door in the middle of the night and Flora was informed that she would be one of 21 heirs to inherit a fortune.
The Tulsa Tribune and my grandparents on the cover
So, although the article makes a big proclamation that my grandparents were to live on Easy Street, that was not to be. Flora’s Grandmother was descended from a Texas family who had owned property where oil was discovered. I can only imagine that it rocked their marriage early. You can see from the article that he was employed as a Switchman for the Frisco road in West Tulsa and Flora was the Credit Manager at Hunt’s Store. To me, the sweetest part of the article is what their dream was…to move to Texas and buy a ranch, raising cattle and hogs. A real country life! But first, they were going to buy a car and drive to Alabama to visit his family.
They do not make it to Easy Street, but they do make it to Texas. Just in time for the Dust Bowl. But first, they moved to Colorado. A year later, in June of 1922, Charles Jackson Hardin Jr. was born. He was a pretty baby and Grandpa Hardin must have been so happy with him.
But his dear little life wasn’t to be, either. Grandma Flora was already pregnant with my Aunt Kay when Junior died at 15 months old. I cannot fathom how hard it would have been to lose their baby, but Grandma Flora used to walk, every day, a mile to the cemetery and a mile home, crying all the way. This had to have had a lasting effect on their marriage and on their home life.
The little family persevered. In the 1920’s he continued working for the railroad. By 1930, they were living in Borger, Texas, had two daughters, Kathleen and Virginia. Flora had their last child, Ruby Mae Hardin on February 9, 1930.
So while they lived from state to state (Virginia was born in Washington State), Charles made several trips to visit his family in Alabama. You can tell from these pictures he must have been very adored in his family and felt very close to them. I think Flora really longed for a large family with lots of people to love.
In the midst of the depression, they were living in New Mexico and had very little to spare. Relatives Jack and Etta Trapp (Jack’s mother, Eugenia and Charles’ mother Lula were sisters) had been told that there were jobs in California as well as food and sunshine. They decided to move together. Etta Trapp’s sister, Cora and Carl Smithers had already moved to California so there was a safe place to land. My mother said her father drove them to California in his Model T.
Upon arrival in California, the family camped underneath the Woodson Bridge in Corning. My mother, while embarrassed that they had been homeless when they arrived, said that everyone was doing that, camping out. She returned to the bridge when she was married and living in the area.
So while Charles never again lived in Alabama or near his family, he found ways to keep them close. His brother Bryan made numerous trips to California and spent vacations and miles on the road with Flora and Charles. They became really close.
Flora and Charles moved to a number of California cities, including Yuba City, Fresno and finally Stockton. They lived on Sierra Nevada, Alpine Avenue and Carpenter Road. My grandfather built the house on Alpine. He also helped build the house on Carpenter Road. Charles worked for several train lines including the Southern Pacific RR, Western Pacific RR, Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe RR.
While Charles worked to make a living for his family, there was another side of him that Flora must have had a difficult time with. He liked to drink and he smoked a pipe or cigar. He also liked to hang out at the bar. While Flora was busy going from church to church (always looking for a home), Charles liked to hang out at a bar, watch baseball and have a drink.
Their marriage wasn’t easy and at one point they split up. It makes me sad but I can’t judge either of them. I am sure Flora wasn’t easy to live with and at times Charles wasn’t working. I think it is often a decision to marry in haste that comes home to roost. But those are the facts, you can’t change them.
My mother enjoyed a special relationship with her father. She was the apple of his eye. He was the one that called her Jubie and her name fit. He loved her as greatly as he could and she was devoted to him.
I wish I had known him. I have to be satisfied that my mother always said I had a big heart, just like my Grandpa Hardin and that he would have loved me. I was very close to my Uncle Bryan and my mother used to say if she closed her eyes, listening to Uncle Bryan talk was like listening to Grandpa Hardin. That slow southern drawl must have stayed with him. Hard to miss something you never had, but that is something I missed out on, having a grandfather that I could have been close to.
I think Grandpa Hardin was a genial sort of guy. He was a guy that you could sit and have a drink with and chat about sports. I know my dad liked him. Charles Hardin died of a heart attack on December 29, 1960. Three of the barmaids from the bar that he frequented attended his funeral. That probably didn’t sit well with Flora, but Charles went out loved by all sorts of people.
The Tulsa History Center allowed me to use the page from the Race Riot on their website…to learn more, you can find them here