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Black Success, White Backlash

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John Seals Interview

John E Seals: 63 years old, interviewed by Rosa Fleck : 38 years old in August, 1983
your great, great, great grandparents: Mr and Mrs Lindner (Mary Elizabeth Beckner) came by boat from Germany in the early 1800s. They were probably Lutheran but turned Primitive Baptist in the farm state of TN. They bought a whole county, named McMinn…located in Reliance, TN…that is 25 Miles from Etowah at the foot of the Smokies. Mr and Mrs. Lindner had several children but only 2 names come to mind….Ellen and Fred. Ellen met a man named Elijah Lingerfelt. Ellen’s parents did not like him because he was a bootlegger. Finally Ellen eloped with him …went out the upstairs window…down the ladder in the middle of the night. Elijah was waiting with a horse and buggy. Mr and Mrs Lindner disowned Ellen by not giving her any land as a present. They did however give her a sewing machine. Ellen was creative, loved her machine, it was one of the first sewing machines around. When her first born arrived, Donnie Louisa, Ellen made all of her new daughter’s clothes. When Donnie would visit her lindner grandparents, they would sometimes speak German when they didn’t want the kids to know what they were saying. Fieldwork in Reliance consisted of hoeing and picking cotton, corn, tobacco, and wheat. Ellen detested fieldwork, So she sewed for the neighbors and they in turn did her farm work. Ellen and Elijah had Donnie in 1884, Callie: died at 18, Grover (after Cleveland), Elijah (Lige), Frank, Mary, Laborn (Labe), Carrie (Kate)…Ellen died at age of 76. She had very few gray hairs. But long before she died, they cut her hair and put it in a trunk and kept it the rest of their lives (the children). Grandmaw Ellen smoked a pipe–lit it by putting a hot coal into the pipe from the fire place.
Mary Hurst was sweet, very neat and clean. She was very white headed and thin. Died of cancer at an old age. She married George — an engineer on L & M RR…had no children Kate was fiestier. not as nice as Mary…more crude. “But she was as nice as she COULD be!” Kate was a little woman…skinny…wore a size 4 shoe. (Donnie wanted little feet but ended up a size 7) When Grandmaw Ellen lived, there was lots of food in the house. When she died, Kate was the cook. When John and Gaynelle would come and visit, Kate would say, “Lige, Ideee…come and see John’s wife, how pretty she is!” There would be no food in the house, and John would have to go to the grocery. Kate would say, “don’t go and make those storekeepers rich, John” she would try to talk him out of it. When Ellen and ELijah would get company, Ellen would send Elijah out to the smoke house and cut off a ham…she’d cook that and 50 biscuits and 3-4 doz eggs…would be sooo good. It would all be eaten. There was a gallon jug of corn whiskey kept in the corner of the kitchen. Ellen had one drink each morning. Sometimes Ellen would whisper to Elijah and he would get up at 4 am (before it got hot, and before the neighbors woke up to see him)…he would saddle up Mary (the mare) and go up 5 miles to the mountain to get 2 gallons of whiskey. A gallon was carried on each side of the mare back home. In 1931, John’s first cousin, a sheriff in Cleveland, Tennessee confiscated 1,000 gallons from the basement of various bootleggers. The sheriff then sold the moonshine. The whiskey was stored in 5 gallon copper jackets…these containers kept the homemade whiskey dark. Homemade corn whiskey was 100% … much better tasting than bottled today. Elijah died Nov 3, 1935…In the Family bible that John has, it is spelled “Elige” 83 years old, “died at 11 o’clock at night” The four kids lived together. Frank, Lige, Labe and Kate. Donnie and Grover were the only ones to have children. Grover worked on RR. He died walking across the street. It was snowing and a “punk kid hit him and dragged Uncle Grover.” Grover married Mattie Lindner, an adopted child of a cousin. Grover and Mattie had Bernice. Grover built Bernice “a play house in the back yard; stood there 60 years, right now tearing it down.” Donnie married Edward Seals. They had four boys, Charlie, Elmer, Curnel, and john. As I said before, Lige, Labe, Frank and Kate and parents all lived together in the big house…Donnie and Ed and sons would come visit from Detroit. Ed worked at “Fisher Body” in Detroit. L,L and F would be too curious and embarrassed to sit down and eat that first day of the visit. The boys could not stand their brother in law, Ed Seals. They would brag about how well they could shoot their guns when they went to get rabbits. Ed would brag too…he would try and top their stories for meanness. If they missed one rabbit, papa (Ed) wouldn’t let it die. He would kid them to death. The boys hated to be teased…they would yell, “Ed Seals, go home!” On one hunting spree, Ed (for fun) shot a rabbit and placed just it’s head straight up ona clump of grass. He walked away and then yelled, “Look!” Labe shot the hell out of the rabbit’s head. Labe went to fetch it, picked up the head, immediately started reloading his shotgun to shoot Ed. Ed started running across the creek. They all hated Ed Seals and Ed loved it.
Frank, Lige, Labe and Kate mostly inherited Lingerfelt’s Estate. They did do a little farming…of tobacco and cotton. They raised little corn to feed the pigs. Laborn received (took) most of the inheritance left.
After the parents died, Frank, Lige, Laborn and Kate lived in the old house in Etowah..each had his own room, own money box, secret hiding places. Kate had chickens, she sold the eggs, and put her money in a gallon syrup tin. Most of it was silver dollars. Kate never fussed on Lige. But she raised hell with Laborn and Frank. Kate would say, “Look at that old sorry Laborn and Frank. They ain’t worth the powder and lead to blow their brains out!” John says here: They’d stand there looking so pitiful because she meant it. Kate had a cow to furnish milk and butter. Each boy had a hog to kill in the fall of the year.
In 1906, Frank was in WW 1–the calvary. He wore lace boots, rode horses. He would put on his uniform and walk the streets of Etowah even after the war was over. John has his sword. Frank had one girlfriend. nothing came of it. U Harrison Seals and U Frank would go to the army together. to Ky, NC, and trained in the South.
Gaynelle: Frank was the one you could’ve liked. Grover too. All the rest of the LIngerfelts would disagree if you weren’t blood kin. Lige would really argue. Laborn was a money monger. Nor much was recollected about Lige except that he was Kate’s favorite. A receipt was found in family bible where Lige bought clothes on 5/16/34 at Reed Brothers store in Etowah. On top of the receipt are the words “All accounts due each pay day in Full. Phone 18″ . Shoes— $1.98
sox—– .15
shirt—- .69
Laborn was very self centered, On his mom’s and dad’s and sister’s tombstones he had engraved…”mother, father, sister of Laborn” Laborn was “piggy” and greedy about money. Donnie once said laborn was a dog after money.
Kate died first. Curnel later found an old white glove with money stuck down each finger. In between each sheet of Kate’s bible was a $100 or $50 bill, found after she died. In her room, under her bed, was a loose floor board and under that she put her money into the syrup tin.
The boys loved “light” (white) bread from the grocery store. They were able to buy it once kate died. They couldn’t buy it before. she wouldn’t let them. Laborn would get a qt of milk (once in a while), hide it in the bushes from the other two boys, and then drink it spoiled. There were beehives on the property. Labe would rob honey once a year…eat it with a spoon.
The four had money, each would hide it in secret places. They were real back woodsy. no electricity in the house. didn’t know what a bank was. their dad had lost all in depression at the bank, so they were leary.. They had two dogs..so people would not rob them …plus they would shoot their shotguns at anything that moved. (neighbors knew this and left them alone)
After they decided they trusted Donnie’s boys and Bernice, and after they realized that they weren’t going to steal their money, they would show off their gold pieces, confederate money, silver dollars, and thousands of paper money back then…worth more now. A face powder box was full of gold pieces and was never found after all had died. When Kate and Labe died, Lige would start carrying their money out to the fields and bury it. Could’ve been the fate of the powder box. I think Frank was the last to go. He told someone (bernice?) that he wanted to ride in the red ambulance just once in his life. He did, on way to hospital before his death. They found grass in his mouth or in his stomach after he had died. John has the sword, sewing machine, phonograph, bible…perhaps a coin or two. The bulk of the money was never found. Granny (donnie) died on her birthday in 1972. she was 88. The boys lige, labe and frank were not told of her death for at least one year later because when Elmer died of typhoid, the boys went up to the hospital and cussed out ED Seals for “letting him die”. John told them of kate’s death… on 8/30/88…Gaynelle said : Labe’s previously purchased and engraved tombstone read: ” Laborn Lingerfelt…Here lies a good man. “
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Monti & Kerri!

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Ride at Bumbershoot 2023

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Gaynelle’s Story

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Hot summer days

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God Bless You

I guess there’s a woman that goes thru drive thru at her coffee place. woman is super religious – always reading a bible when she comes thru. Dahlia is of course not. Not a religious bone in her body. However the woman always tells everyone “god bless you” when she drives off. Dahlia made mental note and never gets a God bless you. Dahlia now getting nose out of joint on it. Finally really butters up the woman one day. Puts on her best smile and charm to get this God Bless you from her. Woman instead says to Dahlia as she drives off “Jesus is coming”. Dahlia was not pleased with that.
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Mom’s Bday Cake

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A nice morning

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Lizzo concert

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