Leila Mae Hartley was born May 4, 1894 to George Leroy and Mary Elizabeth Varner Hartley in Flora, MS. Her siblings included, Alma Lee, George Benjamin, Samuel Richard, Edward Lee, Margie Louise, James Russell, Marvin Ashley and Rudolf (still born). She married Rufus Franklin Conrad on September 20, 1914 in Canton, MS. Rufus was 19 and Leila Mae was 20. Rufus was born in Flora, MS in 1885. 18. Their children were Charles Estus, Louise Elizabeth, Leroy Kirkland, Marie Marie, Ashford Harper, Leila Mae, George Franklin, Betty Ophelia and Mary Agnes.. Leila Mae died in 1953 at the age of 59. Rufus married Gladys Varner after Leila Mae's death. Rufus died May 26, 1972 in Vicksburg, MS.Madison County, MS.
On September 20, 1914, Rufus Franklin Conrad and Leila May Hartley were united in marriage in Canton, Mississippi. They were farmers on Grandaddy Hartley's plantation in Flora, MS. This is now the Petrified Forest in Flora.(George Leroy and Mary Elizabeth Varner Hartley were the grandparents.)
To this happy couple on August 20, 1915, a darling baby daughter, Charles Estus was born. For the life of me, I don't know where they got that name. They always told me that Charles was after a dear great Uncle, Charles Talley who loved them so much and that Estus was the name of a beautiful girl my daddy once knew.
Then on September 9, 1916, in Flora, MS, another girl was born . They named her Louise Elizabeth, after grandmother Hartley. (Louise was also the name of her sister Margie Louise Hartley Oakes.)
Then over in the land of opportunity where our dear daddy thought the grass was greener, Mangham, LA, daddy's dream for a boy was fulfilled. A son who was named Leroy Kirkland, after Grandpa Hartley, was born on June 24, 1918.
Our Daddy almost had to go to World War I, but it ended just before he had to leave. Prosperity didn't come to us in LA, so back to good old Mississippi we came. I'll never forget crossing the river on a train. I was literally scared to death. While we were on the river I told mother to "hold me like a sweet girl." When the train reached the land I began singing "Standing on the Promises of God". We went back to Flora, MS again to share cropping. The only thing we had going for us was lots of love. Times were... hard...hard...
Then on March 26, 1921, another girl, Margie Marie was added to our family. She was named again for Aunt Margie Oakes, Mother's sister. We had to pack her everywhere. Her heart hurt, she said.
Not long after this on March 8, 1923, another boy was born and named Ashford Harper. He was the baby when dear old Will Wadford, mother’s cousin, came over and saw how poverty stricken we were and how hard Mother and Daddy were working. He got daddy a job in Vicksburg at Houston Brothers Sawmill, and us a house on top of Fort Hill. (Two houses over from his home.) He brought his big truck to Flora, loaded all of our few belongings in it and moved us to Vicksburg. We had a half decent living for the first time in our life.
I can remember so well when the next baby was born. There were 5 of us already. Daddy would come by the Lustburg Store every afternoon from work and buy us 5 pieces of candy for 5 cents... 1 piece each. We were really rich!!! Then on March 18, 1926, along came Leila Mae. She was named after our dear Mother. I really worried because I knew I was the oldest, and when she got big enough, she would get my piece of candy and I wouldn't get any...but the Lord always looks after things like this. The great depression was beginning to come on strong and with another baby to feed, Daddy gradually stopped bringing candy in the evening. Daddy worked I0 hours per day, 6 days a week, and when he got paid on Saturday night he would buy a sack full of candy for all of us.
On December 20, 1928, another boy, George Franklin, named after dear Daddy was born.(George probably for Leila’s father, George Leroy Hartley.)
On October 20, 1931, another girl, Betty Ophelia, named after Grandmother Conrad was born. (“Betty” was also the name Leila’s mother, Mary Elizabeth Varner Hartley went by.) She was the baby for about 7 years. How we loved and petted her. Everyone said she was the cleanest baby in the country. We played with her like she was a doll. Daddy was out of work now..the miill had burned and times were very hard. I remember once Roy and I gathered wild cherries and made some wine. By this time we had moved up in the house by Mr. Crutchfield and Mrs. Groves. (The families of William and Agnes Crutchfield, (William worked at Y&MV Railroad), and Charlie and Amelia Groves lived on Union Avenue.) Mother was helping Mrs. Groves get up her cow and get a little milk for us for the depression was so great then just to eat was a problem. The wine was really good and we were tending to Betty, who was just learning to walk, while Mama was gone. We were drinking the good wine and Betty wanted some too. We would give her a taste every once in a while just to shut her up. Roy and I were enjoying that wine until we looked over and saw one of Betty's eyes going one way and one another way, and she couldn't hold her head up straight. WE KNEW WHAT HAD HAPPENED!!!. Roy got one hand and I got the other and we taught her that evening how to walk real good, as 'round and 'round the house we went to get her sober before Mother came home.
We were all growing up and Daddy worked and worked. They planted food and managed someway to feed and clothe us the best they could. I can't ever remember being hungry. We ate cornbread only a few times for breakfast. We ate nearly everything that is edible in this world during those hard days. I can understand since I have a family, how Mother and Daddy must have worried over us kid's during that terrible depression. We all went to school and all of us who would keep going and graduated. How proud I was when Mr. Kleinman finally in 1934 got Daddy a job with Anderson Tully Lumber Company in the filing room. (Probably William M. Klineman who worked with Rufus’ brother Jones Conrad at the US Engineering Shops.) With his first payday he bought me the prettiest white and blue crepe dress I had ever seen to wear to graduation on May 4, 1934. How proud he and Mother were to do this. I got lots of pretty clothes for graduation...I also got my first permanent given to me by a boy friend, Jake Gray. I tell you with my curly hair and that beautiful white organdy dress on graduation night I had a ball. We had a dance after graduation. GOSH I WAS PRETTY!!! Only 10 girls graduated and we were the belles of the ball. Mrs. Margie Broome, a former principal's wife who had opened up a flower shop, gave us a beautiful sweet pea corsage we were all just queens.
After graduation times were still hard . The government under the leadership of President Roosevelt had CCC Camps all over that park (The National Park - where the Civil War was fought). Our home was located in that park. We never had seen so many good-looking boys in our life. I met one Vicksburg boy, James Cowart, at a regular Sunday evening baseball game in the Raines cow pasture. I couldn't see anyone else. I married him on October 26, 1935. On February 1, 1933, we had a darling son, Charles Wayne. Four months later on June 28, 1938, I had a baby sister, Mary Agnes (For the life of me I don't know who she was named after). She had the blackest, thickest hair and the longest legs l had ever seen on a baby. I was there...I bathed and dressed her the first time. She was a little doll and such a blessing to Mom and Dad and to all of us. (Note by Agnes: I was named by my brother Roy, after a lady he worked for and loved very much, named Agnes Crutchfield(see above)...I guess Mama and Daddy added the Mary). (Mary was Leila’s mother’s name, Mary Elizabeth Varner Hartley.-Mel Oakes)
James and I had a little girl, Edith Arlene, on October 25, 1939 and another little boy on June 14, 1944, James Allen. We loved them all and did the very best we knew how to raise them under difficult and trying times in World War II.
Our hearts were broken and our faith strengthened in the Lord, when Charles (our oldest son) drowned on December 28, 1963. God has been good to us. We have five grandchildren, Rhonda Rene Cowart, Chris & Teresa Cowart, Leland and Gary Wayne Hennington. The Lord gave us the very best mates for our children. Carolyn Doan for Charles, Joyce Dodd for Jimmy and Walter Hennington for Arlene.
On May 6, 1953, our dear Mother went home to be with the Lord. The Lord sent us a dear sweet step-mother, Gladys Varner, and three Step-Sisters, Madelyn, Naomi & Willa Dean, and one Step-Brother, Billy. Gladys was an answer to prayer and still blesses our heart. (Gladys’ first husband was Lacey B. Varner, the grandson of Robert Benjamin Varner, Leila Mae Hartley Conrad’s maternal grandfather.)
On May 26, 1972, our Daddy joined Mother in Heaven. All of us young'uns are still around. We were raised in a home of so much love until we just love each other so much. All are married and have grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Our love will stay strong throughout eternity, when some day we will all be with Mother and Dad again in Heaven.
"CONRAD IS THE NAME...LOVE HAS BEEN THE GAME AND ALWAYS WILL BE " . MAY GOD BLESS.
This was written and told to all of us at one of the Family Reunions at Jeff Davis Community Center...l'm not sure what year it was.–Agnes
Click Here for: “Memories of Grandpa and Grandma Conrad” written by Rufus Franklin Stephenson
Rufus Franklin and Leila May Hartley Conrad Family Gallery