Monday, February 25, 2019

The Life of Louise Garnett (1887-1945)

By: Terrence A. Garnett
(Feb. 25, 2019)

Life Story 

Louise (circa 1940) - From the
photo collection of my late
Grandmother Jane Garnett
My great-grandmother, Louise Garnett, was born September 7, 1887 (or May of 1887 according to some sources), in Bellville, Austin County, Texas, to former slaves Charlie Garnett and Jane Wade (Travick). Louise the fourth child of eight children; was raised in the Ives Creek Community. When she was old enough to work, she labored doing farm work on the property of her maternal grandparents, Frank and Mary Travick, who purchased the land in 1871. Family members affectionately called her "Mama Lou" and "Mickey"; the latter nickname was given to her by her favorite Uncle and Aunt, Mark and Martha (Travick) Slater

Sometime in 1899, Louise's father, Charlie, passed away around 41 years old, most likely due to natural causes. By 1900, her widowed mother, Jane, continued working on the farm, and she eventually employed the help of a laborer named James Harrison to work the land. 

On May 14, 1903, Louise, at the age of 15 or 16, gave birth to her first child, Leola Southern. Leola's father was 22-year-old Hannibal "Sam" Southern, whose family lived on a neighboring farm.

Louise didn't have much schooling, but she learned to read and write at the Westlake Colored School in Bellville. The 1940 U.S. Census reveals that the highest grade level she completed was the third grade. 

Inscription on the Church Cornerstone in front of
Pleasant Grove of Bellville, Texas

Louise attended Pleasant Grove Baptist Church in Bellville, Texas where she was baptized at a young age. By 1912, Louise served as the church secretary under the leadership of Pastor R. C. Coleman.  

In 1916, after the death of her sister, Mary (Garnett) Loggins, Louise took in and raised Mary's infant son, Lemuel Logan (Loggins). She also helped in the upbringing of her niece, Idell Collins, who was the daughter of her sister Rosie (Garnett) Smith

On November 23, 1917, a few days before Thanksgiving, Louise gave birth to her second child whom she named Martha Garnett after her favorite Aunt who passed in 1915.
Louise went on to have two more children: Lenora "Mable" Garnett, born December 11, 1920, and Jane Garnett, born April 1, 1922. Jane was named after Louise's mother who passed in either 1920 or 1921.

Louise's older brother, Nelson Garnett, lived in Houston, Texas for several years, but as his health declined, he moved back to Bellville, Texas where Louise cared for him until his passing on July 6, 1935.

Death Certificate of Nelson Garnett - Louise was the Informant

According to relatives, Louise was petite at just under five feet tall and a stern disciplinarian. My dad relayed a story that his mother told him about Grandma Louise: apparently, Aunt Leola (Louise's oldest child) was "talking back" to her, so Louise picked up a chair and told her, "I brought you into this world, and I'll take you out." She was definitely a no-nonsense woman!

Louise suffered from hypertension, so she made her own blood pressure medicine using plants, herbs, and vinegar; she also made beer for relatives who lived on the family’s property, including her sister, cousins, aunts, and uncles. She was visiting in Houston when she had a massive heart attack in front of my grandmother, Jane. Apparently, Louise had collapsed while trying to calm my grandmother, who was upset about something at the time. She was 57 at the time of her passing on April 21, 1945. She was laid to rest at Pilgrim Rest Colored Cemetery in Bellville, Texas.

Death Certificate of Louise Garnett (1945)
Louise's Headstone

Affidavit of Heirship of Louise Garnett 
  1. Leola Southern-Taylor (1903-1994), affectionately called "Taylor"
  2. Martha Lee Garnett-Coverson (1917-1994)
  3. Lenora Garnett/Southern- Brown (1920-1981), affectionately called "Mable"
  4. Jane Garnett (1922-2000)

Louise and her four children: Leola, Martha, Lenora, and Jane



On August 5, 2013, a close DNA match (I'll call "Cousin B") appeared among my list of matches on 23andme. I surmised that she was connected to my father's side since she was not matching my mother or maternal grandmother. I sent her a message and she responded later that day informing me that her great-grandmother was named Martha (Garnett) Coverson. Growing up, Aunt Martha's name was mentioned frequently as she and my grandmother, Jane were close. Both sisters lived together in Houston, Texas after leaving their hometown of Bellville in the late 1930s. Aunt Martha only had one child, named Lloyd Melvin (1934-2004), known to the family as "Cousin Son"; and he is the maternal grandfather of "Cousin B" (my 2nd cousin once removed).

My father tested with 23andme in February of 2018 and his results show that he shares 165 centimorgans across 8 segments with "Cousin B"; including the X-Chromosome. I share 70 centimorgans across 3 segments with this cousin. Aunt Martha and my grandmother were Half-sisters. Researching Martha's father's line (Milam Curry) there appears to be no connection to the sisters other than through their mother, Louise.

My father's Maternal Haplogroup is: L2c2a - Follows his matrilineal ancestry through mitochondrial DNA (MtDNA), which is passed from mother to child.

From 23andme

Dad's Maternal Line

  1. Louise's Heastone shows her year of birth as 1887, The 1900 Census shows her being born in May of 1887, Her death certificate has September 7, 1896 (The year incorrect).
  2. William Whitworth to Frank & Mary Travick, 1871; Deed Records, Volume P, Pages 278-280, Austin County Clerk, Bellville, Texas.
  3. 1899 Austin County Tax Assessment Rolls, Line 29, Chas. Garnett - Last tax record listed. His wife Jane was widowed in 1900.
  4. Austin County Official Public Records, Affidavit of Heirship of Louise "Mickey" Garnett, Volume 750, Page 706.
  5. Texas Department of State Health Services, Death certificates, 1903-1976, Certificate No. 16446, Harris County (1945), Louise Garnett, Father: Charlie Garnett, Mother: Jane Travice, Informant: Mabel Benjamin, daughter.
  6. Oral History from Idell Collins Graham (1922-2017), Louise Garnett's niece who knew her well.