If last week’s post was any indication, you probably knew I wasn’t done at Magnolia Cemetery.
I had a feeling that the monument beside Zenobia “Nobie” McKenzie had a story. Because of the grain of the stone, reading the inscription was difficult. But after fiddling with the photo, I realized May McKenzie Stallings died as young as her sister Nobie had and in one of the worst accidents about which I’ve ever read.
Born in 1888, May was the youngest child of Greenville merchant William F. McKenzie and Emma Herbert McKenzie. Nobie, her older sister, died from illness at age 19 when May was five. William was mayor of Greenville at one point.
May met and fell in love with Samuel Stallings, the only son of Jesse Francis Stallings, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1893 to 1901. Sam hadn’t finished college yet and May was only 17. While they were eager to marry, both sets of parents understandably wanted them to wait a little longer.
Accompanies by friends, the couple eloped to Columbus, Ga. to wed. Despite their worries about their parents, Sam and May were received back in Greenville with open arms.
Tragedy in Greenville
It was three months later on Nov. 3, 1905 when it happened. I’ve read three different newspaper accounts of what happened that day and while some of the details vary, the basic facts are these. May and Sam had ridden their carriage into Greenville to visit someone near the train station, possibly Sam’s father. They were sitting in the carriage when two mules hitched to a wagon nearby were spooked and bolted.
Sam jumped down to lift May out of harm’s way but was too late. The mules hit the carriage and May tumbled down into the clash of wagon, carriage, and mules. She was dragged many yards down the road before the vehicles were stopped. May died the next morning of her injuries. Having already lost Nobie 12 years before, I am certain her parents were devastated.
As for Sam, I can’t imagine what he was thinking. The young couple had only been married three months and his beautiful bride was gone.
Sam remarried two years later to Grace Heaton of Birmingham and they had four children together. He died in 1959 in a car accident at age 75. He and Grace are also buried in Magnolia Cemetery.
One Husband, Two Sisters
I have another story of a young bride dying young but this one comes with a final twist.
Born in 1880, Edna Flowers was the daughter of Joseph Hampton Flowers (J.H.) and Clara Howard Flowers. J.H. was the brother of William Flowers, whom I talked about last week. Like his brother, J.H. was successful in the lumber business. The family lived in Bolling, a little south of Greenville, but later moved to Blakely, Ga.
It was there Edna met Dr. William Jennings, a 1898 graduate of Baltimore Medical College. They were married on Nov. 26, 1901 in the Flowers home. I don’t usually post articles about weddings but I don’t always find accounts of such events. Afterward, the couple settled in Iron City, Ga., only about 30 miles south of Blakely.
Their happiness was soon ended. Edna was stricken with a sudden illness and died on Jan. 17, 1902. Being that her new husband was a physician, it was probably even more painful that he could do nothing for his new bride. It took me a while to find her obituary because the Greenville Advocate mistakenly reported William’s last name as “Jenkins” instead of “Jennings”.
I thought it was interesting that Edna’s monument includes her marriage date above her death date. Then there is “Edna Flowers-Jennings” on the bottom, a hyphenated last name being something I definitely don’t see often on a monument from this era.
Dr. Jennings was comforted by his young bride’s family. Then something happened that occurs more often than you might think but in this case, it took place five years later. It usually happens much sooner.
William married Edna’s younger sister, Sarah “Sadie” Flowers, who was six years younger than Edna. The couple had at least one son together, also named William. William Sr. died in 1925 from heart disease but Sadie lived many years after, dying in 1980 at age 93. The couple is buried together at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Thomasville, Ga.
Our final bride is one whose death was likely caused by the birth of her first and only child.
Born in 1886, Aileen Steiner was the granddaughter of Joseph Steiner and Margaret Mathilda Camp Steiner. You may remember them from Part I of my series. She’s buried behind them in the Steiner plot. Her father, Joseph Manning Steiner, Sr., was a prosperous merchant like his father.
On Dec. 12, 1906, Aileen married Edward Winkler, who worked in his father’s store. She was 20 and he was 25. The article written about their wedding mentioned it was the first one held in the “new Methodist Church” in Greenville. After the ceremony, the couple left on a train for a two-week honeymoon in New York and “other points of interest.”
The date of December 8, 1907 was a happy one for the couple when their son Edward August Winkler was born.
But tragedy was lurking. During the evening of Dec. 21, 1907, Aileen suddenly became ill. Her obituary states that she seemed to improve but died at 3 a.m. the next day, “heart failure being the cause.” She probably died of postpartum cardiomyopathy. According to WebMD, it occurs in the last month of pregnancy or up to five months after delivery. It’s a type of congestive heart failure, which causes your heart to become larger than normal and weak. This decreases the amount of blood that your heart can pump. It is quite rare in the U.S. now and only 1,000 to 1,300 women develop this condition every year.
Edward waited quite a while to remarry. On December 31, 1920, he married Louise Thagard, in Birmingham, Ala. They had three children together, all of whom lived to adulthood. His child with Aileen, Edward August Winkler, died at age 58 in 1966 in Montgomery, Ala. They are all buried in Magnolia Cemetery.
“Remember the Days of Thy Creator”
The last person I’m going to talk about at Magnolia Cemetery is not a woman, a bride, or even Caucasian. He also lived a much longer life than they did.
The Rev. Frank W. Ward is buried in what was probably referred to back in the day as (and I say this with no pleasure) the “negro area” of the cemetery. There are parts of Magnolia that were not connected as they are now. Many of the graves around Rev. Ward’s are fairly recent.
Rev. Ward’s monument is the only grave marker of its kind I have seen in the Southeast for an African-American pastor and frankly, it caught me by surprise when I saw it. But as I read about him, it made sense. He was not only a beloved pastor, Rev. Ward was a valued businessman in the Greenville community.
Rev. Ward’s monument states he was born in 1857. His parents were probably slaves. He was a prominent AME (African Methodist Episcopal) Zion pastor in Alabama but was also well known in Greenville for his store. He purchased the land for it in 1884 from Patrick and Sarah Pryor. That cannot have been an easy feat during that era.
I found this information in the application to make Frank Ward’s Corner Store (as it was known) a National Historic Site, which it did become:
Although Ward is best remembered as the proprietor of this small neighborhood grocery store which he opened (around) 1885, he was also recognized as one of the leading AME Zion ministers actively involved in stimulating the growth of the denomination of the East Alabama Conference between 1881 and 1892.
Ward successfully combined his professional activities as a minister with this business pursuit and by the turn of the century, conducted an impressive business evidenced in the handsome residence situated behind the store, his imposing grave site in Magnolia Cemetery, and a lengthy obituary attesting to his prominent and modest economic achievements.
Rev. Ward’s health declined steadily in 1924. He was preaching a sermon on Feb. 22, 1925 when he had a stroke in the pulpit and passed away the following day. The only obituary I could find about Rev. Ward was not lengthy but it was probably more than most African-Americans could expect to read in a Southern newspaper in 1925. Some of the wording makes me wince, especially the mention of him being a “good negro”.
After Rev. Ward’s death, his wife, Sallie, took over running the store. She passed away in 1930 and is buried beside Frank. Oddly, her marker says her birth date was 1873 and the death date is empty. Since she married Rev. Ward in 1877, that is impossible so there must have been a carving error.
The Ward property was purchased by Nobie Price, who also operated a neighborhood grocery store there. The building was leased out during the 1960s and known for its weekend fish fries. As far as I know, the building remains in the ownership of the Price family. It is a reminder of one man’s efforts to preach the gospel while providing a valued community center for his neighbors.
Saying Goodbye to Greenville
My afternoon in Greenville, Ala. is one of the most moving in my cemetery hopping career. It was here I encountered some of the most amazing monuments (especially Abrams’ cast iron grave covers) and stories I have even encountered. There’s so much more that I didn’t even talk about in these eight blog posts.
This place became quite special to me. I’m so glad I stopped.