William Elijah Joseph Petty (1875-1935).
Holding the flowers with the flag near he looks like he might be a gentle person doesn’t he? He was a hot temper raging maniac at times.
I am told by someone who knows protocol that the flag is positioned just the opposite of what it should be and William Elijah is holding the bouquet in the wrong hand. I think the print was made from a negative, and from the wrong side of the negative. But, I will leave the pictured unchanged by me.
William Elijah Joseph Petty (wait! I am going to call him what his siblings called him, Elijah) was my grandfather, my mother’s father. I never met Elijah, he died six years before I was born.
Elijah was a man of contradiction and as the song was sung in “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou”, he was a man of constant sorrows.
The reason I think he was a walking contradiction was that he treated some of his children very cruelly and petted the others. He and his wife Viola produced twelve children but three died at childbirth.
My mother was one of the ones that he mistreated, that he would beat with no mercy. He would give swift whipping punishments for no apparent reason. And the next minute he would have one of his pets in his lap having a good time with that one.
In today’s times Elijah would be locked up and the children would be put in foster care.
Because of him, I think, the children fought among themselves to the end of their lives.
Elijah had TB or some other lung disease. He was told to move out west. The family moved near Gillette, Wyoming. That is where my mother was born.
They sat up homesteading. I think they got land on the Homestead Act but am not quiet sure. They had a rough time. In the winter the snow and blizzards got so terrible they moved into town to wait out the bad weather.
Once on their homestead a well known outlaw gang came and wanted food for themselves and their horses and a place to stay overnight. Elijah had “Ola” cook them food and he gave it to them and told them they had to sleep in the barn.
All night long while the outlaws drunk, rode their horses, and shot of in the air, Elijah sat outside in front of his house entrance door with a gun, ready to fire to protect his family. In the morning the men left.
They had such a hard time out on the prairie trying to scrounge out a living, they realized they had two choices: (1) move back east or (2) starve to death.
“Ola” took the all the females and the young children via train back east. Elijah took the two oldest boys in a wagon with their belongings. The two boys, Tom and Wallace, got to spend a number of months of quality time with their father in the opened air.
Wallace grew up, got his degree in teaching and quickly became a principal of a high school and in a short time went to work for the Georgia Department of Rehabilitation and became the department head in due time. Tom, on the other, became a con-artist and a gospel singer.