Births Deaths Marriages, Maternal Kin, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina, Oral History

Introducing Martha McNeely.

My grandmother had the sweetest memories of her mother’s mother, Martha Margaret Miller McNeely.Image

In the 1920s, Martha McNeely left Statesville for Bayonne, New Jersey, where her daughter Emma McNeely Houser had settled, followed by several siblings. She settled a few blocks in from the river at 87-A West Sixteenth Street, a 1920 duplex that is still occupied. Said my grandmother:

I went up there one summer from Hampton and worked, and she would let me help her in the kitchen and everything like that, and so I told her, I said, “I’ll cut the corn.”  And she said, “Baby, you can’t cut no corn.  You can’t cut my corn.”  And I said, “Yes, I can, too.”  She said, “I’m sure you can’t, but if you insist, let me see you cut it.”  So I cut the ear of corn like Mama had done, you know.  And she said, “Mmph.  Your mammy taught you.”  [Laughs.]  I didn’t ever forget that.  “Your mammy taught you.”  I said, “Yes, she did.”

And the same story, another time:

… She was so sweet and — I said, “Grandma, now, I can cut the corn.” And she liked to cook. She didn’t think anybody could cook but her. I said, “I can cut the corn for you.” She said, “Honey, you can’t cut no corn for me.” I said, “Yes, I can, too.” And so she said, “well, I’ll let you try it,” she said, “to get rid of you.” So I cut this corn down. She would split the grain, split the grain, and then you cut the top of the grain off, and you cut the second one off, and then you scrape it. And when I did this first ear, she said, “Hmph! Your mammy must have taught you!” “She did.”

When my great-great-grandmother died in 1934, two newspapers marked her passing.  On June 16th, the Bayonne Times announced:

“McNEELY – Martha, at her residence, 87A West Sixteenth street, on Saturday, June 16, 1934, beloved mother of Mrs. Emma Houser, Mrs. Carrie Colvert, Miss Minnie McNeely, John and Edward.  Notice of funeral later.”

Two weeks later, the New York Age informed readers that:

“Mrs. MARTHA McNEELY, one of the older residents of our city, died at her home on Saturday.  Her body was taken to Statesville, N.C. for burial.  Funeral service was preached by Rev. W. Atkinson at Wallace Temple.”

Photo of Martha M. McNeely in the collection of Lisa Y. Henderson.


4 thoughts on “Introducing Martha McNeely.

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