YOU’VE SEEN THE FIRST VOLUME OF CATHERINE’S ORIGINAL WRITINGS, A BOOK OF POEMS PUT TOGETHER AND TITLED BY CATHERINE. NOW WE GET TO START THE SECOND VOLUME OF HER ORIGINAL WRITINGS WITH CATHERINE SHUMAKER BRINSON AUTOBIOGRAPHY!
I found this among Catherine’s things – the Autobiography that she wrote in 2012. It covers her birth and childhood in Vicksburg, and is interesting to read, not just for those who knew her, but also for the historical perspective of the times in which she grew up.
Unfortunately, Catherine Shumaker Brinson Autobiography was never completed. It would have been interesting to read about more about her early life.
The photo above was taken in 1929. Left to right are Edward, Catherine, and Robert Shumaker, three of the children of David Jesse Shumaker and Catherine Edna May Shumaker.
I’ll be putting together “Original Writings by Catherine Shumaker Brinson vol. 2” as I find more of her writings to go with this Catherine Shumaker Brinson Autobiography.
If you don’t yet have Volume 1, you can read it on Kindle, or have your very own print copy for your and your family’s enjoyment and for posterity. Here are the links:
Print Link: https://amzn.to/3veMMm7
Kindle Link: https://amzn.to/2RUdIck
Thank you for reading!
Here is the Catherine Shumaker Brinson Autobiography:
Catherine May Shumaker Brinson
On May 11, 1927 I was born to David Jesse Shumaker and his wife Catherine Edna May Shumaker, the third child born to them, and their only daughter. It was a good occasion for the family, but the entire Mississippi River Valley was in turmoil. Due to heavy rains, snow melt and other climatological conditions, the area was in the midst of the worst flood on the Mississippi River in recorded history. North of Vicksburg the levies broke and the flat delta land was covered with contaminated muddy water leaving people stranded on any high place they could get to.
David worked for Rice Furniture Company as a furniture repairman, delivery man, electrician, radio technician and almost anything else they needed done. Since all who could, helped in any way they could, Mr. Rice told David to take the truck up highway 61 and gather up stranded people and take them to one of the camps that had been set up for them.
But this day he stayed home. Catherine was in labor and would, that afternoon, give birth at home, as was the custom. Few babies were born in hospitals in 1927.
Dr. I. C. Knox was notified and came to the house on Dabney Avenue, which overlooked the rising river. Dr. Knox would check his patient then go out onto the porch and watch the rising water as it crept higher and higher onto its nearest street. They were in no danger as Dabney Avenue was, as all the east-west streets that were west of Washington Street were, rather steep, sloping rapidly to the Yazoo Canal. (Vicksburg is NOT on the Mississippi River, and has not been since soon after the War Between the States. At that time nature did what General Grant could not do, it cut through the land at the narrow point of the loop the meandering river had made. The Yazoo River, with alterations, flowed past the hills of Vicksburg into the old river bed.)
That afternoon the baby was born. Both mother and father were happy — they had a girl to go with two boys, ages 4 and 5, they already had. They were both relieved that the baby seemed healthy and that Catherine, though exhausted, was OK. They had gone through so much since December 1924 when they were given a baby boy who lived only 3 1/2 months.* It was a terrible, heart rendering experience which affected both of them greatly. They baby boy they named Wallace, had always seemed weak. His mother had died bringing him into this world, and his father could not take care of him. Shortly after Wallace’s death, Edward was playing with his father’s tools, which included a brick hammer, when he hit another piece of metal which flaked off a piece of that metal which then entered the little boy’s arm. In spite of the diligent care his arm became infected. Dr. Knox called it Blood Poising and gave them directions for his care. One parent watched over the child while the other slept and then they changed roles. One time when Mother was telling about this I asked, “Why did you sit over his bed watching him every minute?” She replied, “We had just lost one baby when we were not right there and we were determined that we would be there if we lost another.” Soon after Edward got well they sold their house and moved to Florida. Catherine looked at her husband who now was just happy both mother and baby were doing well, and said, “I want her name to be ‘Catherine’.” And so it was.
One day, as usual, big brothers Robert and Edward were playing with the Stewart boys. Billy and Robert were about the same age but Van Stewart was just a little older. As is true with a lot of children, especially boys, they discovered the fascination of fire, but feeling they needed to hide, they crawled under the Shumaker house, which was very easy as houses were built on brick pillars. As the land was not level there would be plenty of room to play under almost all houses. But they went there to try to start a little fire. They were directly, not only under the room where baby Catherine was sleeping, but also directly under her crib. It was a good thing that Catherine discovered them and promptly put a stop to their “play”.
The family had lived in the neighborhood before. David had built a house on Oak Street and that is where they were living when Robert and Edward were born. After Wallace died and Edward almost died, they decided to move to Chipley, Florida, where they, with the help of David’s family, built a log cabin and dug a well that still had good water 30 years and more later. At that time David was the only married child of Joe and Florence Shumaker. Sometime in 1926 they decided to return to Mississippi. They did not move directly back to Vicksburg. It seems that while at Chipley they started having some problems. David would habitually stop by his parents house on his way home from work and forget the time. By the time he got home the boys were in bed and his supper was cold and his wife probably was “cold” also. After months of cold suppers, etc. she packed up some things and she and her little boys took the bus to Gulfport, Mississippi.
Apparently they stayed with her family on the dairy for a while. David missed his family and went to Gulfport, found a job and a place for them to live and retrieved his family. I do not know how long they remained in the area called “The Bungalows”, but it was there that an incident happened that frightened Catherine. A strange dog attacked Edward and none of the several men standing around would do anything to rescue the 3 year old. Catherine, who had been sweeping, came rushing out of her house still carrying the broom. She kept calling for someone to help the child but no one moved. She said, “So I took my pregnant self out and started beating off the dog with my broom. Not one of those men moved to help. Finally the dog let go of Edward and ran off.”
But now the little family was back in their old Vicksburg neighborhood renting half a house on Dabney Avenue. They had sold the house they had built on Oak Street.
Living in “half a house” was not unusual, and continued to be common until after World War II, and then some. (Ralph and I rented half a house on Baker Street when we moved to Jackson. It actually had become, a “duplex”, which “sounded better”.)
Sometime after the birth of Little Catherine, they moved to a small house not far away, on Pittman Street. It was small but was a whole house. David moved the play house he had previously built for the boys, to the new location.
David had his old job back and things seemed to be going well.
They probably lived on Pittman Street for a couple of years. During this time Catherine’s brother Walter lived with them for a very short time while he was searching for a job. He was hired to work in the office at the Vicksburg Furniture Factory. Her brother Charles may have stayed with them intermittently, but I am not sure. I do know that he would show up every year or so and stay a short time. I remember him well. Charles was a large man — not fat at all — just tall with a strong, well filled out frame. I remember that he would hold his arms out straight and Robert would swing on one arm while Edward swung on the other! He was strong.
Catherine’s sister Florence lived with them a number of months. She went to Draughon’s Business College learning short-hand and other things so she could get a job in an office. She was never a person to take anything off someone else and thus she was quick to discipline her 2 nephews, and maybe little Catherine as well. Robert started referring to her as “Ole Meany Aunt Florence”. She did not mind that he said that. By early adulthood Robert, and as long as she lived, would sometimes call her that with love and humor. [Human nature is such that we usually respect and love those who demand the best in us.]
Catherine’s sister Frances stayed with them very little, and George and Bert were still “boys” when Catherine’s parents moved to Harrison County. But that is the way it was. Younger siblings used older siblings to move from the country to town to better themselves by getting more education and/or to get a job. And it worked!
It was while they lived on Pittman Street that another incident happened that involved Edward. The family had a dog called “Puppy”. Puppy was always around the little boys. This particular day there had been a heavy rain during the night and the “gully” on the side of the street was full, and deep and still flowing. Somehow Edward fell into this deep roadside hole unnoticed at first. Then someone started screaming that the dog was biting that baby! Everybody came running but by that time the little boy’s face was above the water with the dog’s mouth still biting his forehead and eyebrow. They started hitting at the dog, who backed off. Upon lifting Edward up they saw that he was totally wet, even with the dirty water dripping from his hair. Robert was still screaming something about the dog pulling on Edward. It was then that they realized that Puppy had been PULLING Edward OUT of the water hole. Puppy had probably saved his life. When things calmed down Edward told them he had fallen into the hole and Puppy pulled him out. To this day, at the age of 89 years, Edward still has a scar in that eyebrow where Puppy got a good enough grip on him to pull his head up above the water.
Catherine Shumaker Brinson Autobiography continued:
Apparently David liked that neighborhood. He enjoyed going out on the river with his red-haired neighbor, Jimmy Crain. Jimmy was the buoy tender along the Mississippi River. It was his responsibility to refill the kerosene lamps and be sure they were lit, for night tugs and barges could be sure they were in the shipping channel. At the time of year that the turtles were laying their eggs, the 2 families would take a couple of boats and a lunch and stop for a while on one of the sand bars. The children would enjoy running around in the sand and wading at the “safe” edge of the sand bar. They would eat their lunch and then hunt for turtle eggs. They did not get more than about a dozen. Raccoons and foxes would “harvest” many, many more. Mrs Crain said that turtle eggs made really good cakes. (My experience is that “wild” eggs are very good for cooking but have a strong taste when eaten fried for breakfast. At least duck eggs are. I have no experience with turtle eggs, and don’t intend to.)
Catherine Shumaker Brinson Autobiography continued:
I am not sure of the date that we moved to Baldwin’s Ferry Road, but there is a snapshot taken of me in the side yard in 1929. For some reason Catherine had become dissatisfied with the Oak Street neighborhood. It seemed to be a compatible group of people. However, Catherine stated many times that she wanted a place where her boys could run and play. When she said that I had a sunken, empty feeling in my chest. She often made that remark and each time I had that strange feeling but as it was repeated it grew until I felt that she had no interest in me — just the boys. She found the place on Baldwin’s Ferry Road.
There were only four buildings on the north side of the road between Clay Street and the railroad track. And none on the other side of the track to the end of Baldwin’s Ferry on the north side of the street. There was plenty of empty spaces. There was an abundance of hills and hallows. To the east of their house was an empty lot and then another house — the home of a city fireman, his wife and their small son, Johnny Stout, Junior. All I ever heard the child called was “Johnny Junior”. There was an empty area to the west and then an old brick store which had stood empty for many years. To the west of that was the home of Mrs. Wray Cannon. Her house did not look like it belonged across from the frame houses on 50 foot lots. But there it was on about 5 acres of land. A large imposing house with well manicured lawns, hedges and fish ponds. At one time she raised turkeys and earlier she had had a couple of cows. She was an imposing lady who carried herself well. In my later childhood I thought that she looked regal and could have been of royal heritage. She was always clean and neat, stood erect and often had a long cigarette holder with her favorite brand of cigarette in it, ready to take a long draw and then blow the smoke to one side, never towards the person she was conversing with. Occasionally I would wander down to her house and if she was outside we would chat for a few minutes — rather she would chat a few minutes. I was too shy to say more than a few words. At other times I would wander into her pasture — a wide expanse of short pasture grasses, very few trees and a few hills. Her hills were not as steep as those behind my house, and being different, they created a new interest in me as they contained different plants than those growing near our house. As I wandered along I saw on a low rise to my right a hen turkey and her family. I immediately wanted to hold one of the polts (baby turkey) so I walked over towards them. When I got about 5 or 6 feet from the babies suddenly the “Daddy Turkey” leaped into the air towards me and attacked me. Naturally I had on a dress and the hems of little girls dresses were above the knees which left plenty of “leg” vulnerable. I still have the scar where he took a beak-full of my thigh! Saying that I was “very surprised” would be an understatement! I was so surprised that I didn’t even cry, even though it was rather painful. That ended my desire to play with baby turkeys!
But there were no children to play with. I wonder if Robert and Edward ever complained about having no playmates. I feel sure that they missed the Stewart boys and Frank Blades and the others. As for me, I NEVER knew what it was like to have anyone to play with except my two older brothers. I NEVER learned how to play with girls, or talk to girls, or even to think like a girl. One Saturday at the movies that Aunt Betty’s Bakery sponsored for children, there was a scene where a small child was on the end of a log hanging over a cliff. The cowboy hero started shinnying out to get the child and all the kids in the theater were hollering that they would fall. But not me, I was hollering for the lady to get on the end of the log that was on solid ground. The kids around me, except my brother, stopped shouting and looked at me as if I were crazy. Apparently all the girls and some of the boys had never heard about counterbalancing. Had they never had fun on a seesaw? That was the first time I really realized that I was different from all the other girls and most of the boys. It was not a good feeling.
Maybe the boys did not miss their friends as much as they would have had they not had some neat toys. They even had a tricycle with a sidecar! They both could ride at the same time. It was, or had been, red. It was well used and the paint had suffered the ravages that boys sometimes give toys. They would not let me play with them and the tricycle. When they were not playing with it, I could ride it a little, but I was much smaller than them and it was hard for me to pedal it. It was a “two-person-wheel-toy”. But I loved tricycles. I always wanted one.
Catherine Shumaker Brinson Autobiography continued:
At that time children under about 12 years of age did not have bicycles. The larger children had larger tricycles! During the Christmas season sometimes I would walk to town and go to The Valley Dry Goods Store on the corner of Washington and maybe South Street. It was “The Best Store” in town. I would go to the top floor where every year they had “Santa’s Toyland”. I would slowly walk to the large tricycles and get on one and slowly move the pedals so that it would move only the small space between it and the next one. I would sit there wishing that I had a big tricycle like the other children had. It is a wonder that they allowed me to do that. I was all by myself. No adult with me. Finally I would get off, walk down the stairs, head east on South Street to Cherry Street, then north to Clay Street and return home. I don’t remember how old I was, but it was definitely under ten. Nothing was said to me. Nobody asked me where I had been. What? You wonder how or why a child that age was allowed to walk alone the two miles to town? When I was just barely seven, the water container that hung on the side of the bird cage so “Dickie” the canary could drink, broke. My mother handed me a dime, or it could have been a nickel, and told me to go to town and buy a new one. She did not even tell me which store to go to. I walked straight down Clay Street to Washington, crossed the street at the light, and south a half block to the Kress store. I found the item, noted the price, then left the store and walked further south, crossed the street again and went to Woolworth’s. The little watering dish was the same price at both stores, so I bought it and walked home. I don’t remember if it was a nickel or a dime. That was before Mississippi passed a sales tax law so whatever it was, was all I needed. So, you see, I had been “sent” to town, so why the to-do when I went by myself? And, by the way, I was NEVER given a “wheel toy” regardless of how much I wanted one. My brothers had them, but I did not.
Catherine Shumaker Brinson Autobiography continued:
I stated that “I walked straight down Clay Street…” Now, we did not live on Clay Street. We lived on Baldwin’s Ferry Road which intersected with Clay Street maybe a quarter of a mile east of our house. However, we could look out our back and see Clay Street about a quarter of a mile west of the intersection, so someone, perhaps my parents, had made a path through the trees and vines, etc. from our back yard to Clay Street. We had to go out to the end of the ridge, down the steep hill then up the next hill to get to Clay Street. There was another path that went down the steep side of the hill just at the back edge of our property, then down the length of the hallow and up the hill to Clay Street. For some reason this path was not used as much as the other one. So, before I got to Clay Street I had taken the “short cut” through the woods, which probably saved close to a half of mile. Those woods, though not belonging to us were our “playground, our source of winter heat, and a grazing area for our cows.
Also, they loved little toy cars.
I am grateful to God and have tried to do as God would have me do. He has given me so many Miracles, how could I do less. I have tried to serve others with a smile and with gratitude for what others have done for me. I have a deep appreciation of, and have enjoyed, God’s creations. I am thankful for my family whom I love deeply, my dear departed husband, our three children and six grandchildren, and perhaps in not too many more years there will be great-grandchildren to also love and adore!
8-8-2012 (Which happens to be the 117th anniversary of the birth of my father.)
In Catherine’s Autobiography, the younger siblings of Catherine Edna May Shumaker are mentioned. Here is a list and photos, along with the May direct line genealogy:
Also, here is a link to Catherine’s direct line of Shumaker ancestors:
Have you seen Catherine’s Baby Book? Here it is: