Hardscrabble — Speakeasy #150

The rules for the Speakeasy challenge can be found here.

My name is Cora Ann Skinner. I was born in Stoddard, Missouri on February 9, 1873. I married James Alexander King on May 15th, 1892. I was 19 years old. My mother had to sign our wedding certificate because of my age. I was one of 10 children of John Skelton and Lucretia Mcpheeters. I had ten children; John Daniel, Charley, Vera, Walter, Herman, Marshall, Roy, Nellie, Bertha, and Ralph.

Life was hard in Missouri in the late 19th century. James and I had a small shack called “Hardscrabble”.James never worked a steady job in our entire marriage. He did handyman type jobs around Hannibal. There were occasions where he would take a job “out-of-town”. Where “out-of-town” was always a mystery.

My brother Rueben committed suicide. He had a mental breakdown and locked himself in the attic with his bible and spent several days reading it. They found him hanging from the rafters. I never liked him but he planted the seed.

My father came to Stoddard county from Hawkins county, TN. He had owned some slaves in TN but knew that the area of southeast MO didn’t like slavery but they also didn’t like blacks. So before he moved he freed his slaves. One slave was named Jake and he had taken our last name. He had been with them most if not all of his life. He refused to leave them after receiving his freedom and make the journey with them to MO. It was a worry to my family that he would be beaten or worse by some ignorant member of the KKK which was pretty well established in Stoddard County at that time. They did finally talk him into moving and he settled in an African-American community near Cape Girardeau, MO. I lost a true friend in Jake.

After ten children my husband left me in 1915 the year young Ralph was born. Just disappeared, like through a black  hole and then never returned. Not a single person ever heard from James again. All I had left was ten children, a four room shack, and  five acres with a lone oak tree smack in the middle. The summer and early fall of 1917 were brutally hot, even for southeast MO. That’s when I lost my mind; “snapped” they would say today. I wanted to take Ralphie with me, but in my state of mind could not figure out how to do it. It was surprising easy once I got the rope over the lower limb. Just slipped the noose over my neck and jump off the peach basket. That would do it  I thought. But then I thought about my ten children. Along in this Godforsaken place.

She waited for someone to tell her  what  to do next.

29 thoughts on “Hardscrabble — Speakeasy #150

  1. tinkerbelle96 February 27, 2014 / 12:43 pm

    Ugh, her situation sounds really awful! I really can’t imagine how anyone could cope with such a life…

    Like

    • Danny James February 27, 2014 / 2:10 pm

      I wouldn’t last long myself. Thanks for the read and your comment.

      DJ

      Like

  2. smudgedclarity February 27, 2014 / 12:10 pm

    A sad sad story!
    It did give me a chill when i found this is true.

    a story beautifully written though

    Like

    • Danny James February 27, 2014 / 12:26 pm

      Thanks for the read and your comment. Appreciate the compliment.
      DJ

      Like

  3. atrm61 February 27, 2014 / 8:43 am

    How terrible!And what a life-no wonder she contemplated suicide!Well told 🙂

    Like

    • Danny James February 27, 2014 / 8:56 am

      Thanks for the comment. I think I would go absolutely crazy.

      DJ

      Like

  4. Suzanne February 27, 2014 / 8:41 am

    Oh, what a tragic story – and so heartbreaking that it was true. I can’t imagine how difficult life must have been for her, to be left alone to raise 10 children.

    This is told with such sensitivity. Thank you for sharing this with us. 🙂

    Like

    • Danny James February 27, 2014 / 8:55 am

      I know. What a terrible position to be in. Sometimes we think we have it bad. Nothing in comparison to those living in that time. As always, thank you for your thoughtful comment.

      DJ

      Like

  5. tinsenpup February 26, 2014 / 7:03 pm

    So sad… You brought this to life with an air of authenticity, something I think is often actually more difficult with a story based in fact. My mum was one of ten children with a dad who couldn’t work much. It was a very hard life for everyone and something that continued to define her her whole life.

    Like

    • Danny James February 26, 2014 / 9:56 pm

      Wow! You certainly can relate to the post then. They were hard people just to survive.

      DJ

      Like

  6. Esther February 26, 2014 / 5:14 pm

    I would love to read more about this character! I like the small details you’ve tossed in, especially the “peach basket.”

    Like

    • Danny James February 26, 2014 / 9:55 pm

      Thank you for commenting. Perhaps she will return in a later post.

      DJ

      Like

  7. Peggy Smith February 26, 2014 / 5:11 pm

    The hard life of pioneer women was well told in your story. It was sharp and captivating and gave me a sense of falling off a cliff with just a bit of hope ’till the very end.

    Like

  8. Deanna Herrmann February 26, 2014 / 4:02 am

    Oh wow, so sad and tragic, but also so interesting that you found that out in researching your family tree. What a hard life. I enjoyed the “voice” you gave her, it came across very matter-of-fact and told the story well.

    Like

    • Danny James February 26, 2014 / 8:25 am

      Thanks Deanna for the nice comment. I knew the story from our family history but I wanted to see what it felt like from her perspective.

      DJ

      Like

  9. aishasoasis February 25, 2014 / 4:38 pm

    OMG what a hard life that must have been… good job and thanks for sharing it!

    Like

    • Danny James February 25, 2014 / 10:24 pm

      Hard to believe what hard times they had. Thanks for the fomment

      Like

  10. jannatwrites February 25, 2014 / 12:47 pm

    What a heartbreaking story. I got a shiver when I read your comment above that these events are true. My goodness, I’d feel helpless abandoned with my two kids… alone with ten, I can understand how she could ‘snap.’

    Like

    • Danny James February 25, 2014 / 1:22 pm

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I found most of this out when I was doing research on my family. All events are documented. It’s one of those things when I confronted my relatives about they all said “we don’t talk about that.” Even found a birth certificate for an uncle I never new I had who died when he was about one month old. I fear some of things I still don’t know. Oh…and I have a convicted murderer in my family tree.

      Dj

      Like

  11. nabanita February 25, 2014 / 7:22 am

    What did she do then? Ten kids without the husband, so lonely and such a long life to live…

    Like

    • Danny James February 25, 2014 / 7:29 am

      She committed suicide by hanging herself on September 20, 1917 at the age of 44. She was my great grandmother. Family names changed of course.

      DJ

      Like

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