Joshua Sutherland Allen

Joshua Sutherland Allen

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Uncle Hubert, Part II

This is the second installment of a story I am writing about my uncle.

Hubert Robertson was born in 1926, in the tiny village of Stringtown, Missouri.  In the middle of the Roaring Twenties, Stringtown was an island of poverty.  Its residents were poor subsistence farmers who worked the brown, rocky land they had reclaimed from the surrounding forest. 

            Hubert was the youngest of nine children.  His mother, Eddie, originally came from Trigg County, Kentucky, near what would become the Kentucky Lake resort area.  

            Eddie’s father, William Dixon, was one of the big landowners in Poplar Bluff.  He owned thousands of acres and employed hundreds of workers.  His wealth, however, was never enjoyed by his daughter.  Eddie was William’s eldest daughter, and the reason William and his wife, Avis, had settled in Butler County.  When Eddie was very young, the family had set out from Trigg County to seek land and fortune in points west.  When they had crossed Black River, Eddie fell ill.  With a sick child, William and Avis could not travel.  They settled down in Poplar Bluff for what they thought was a temporary stay.  Then William got a job, Avis had another baby, and the family never left the area.

            William Dixon never forgave his daughter for that illness.

            Nor did he ever forgive her for not being a boy. 

            Avis Turner had been sixteen years old when she married the 20-year-old William Dixon in 1886.  Eddie was born almost exactly nine months later.  During Avis's pregnancy, William had been so convinced that his firstborn would be a boy that he refused to consider any girl’s names.  His first child would be named Edward Lee Dixon.  When Avis gave birth to a baby girl in the soggy heat of a Kentucky August, William had been stunned, and he had made no attempt at hiding his disappointment.  He still refused to consider any girl names for his daughter.  “She’ll be Eddie,” he said.  “Eddie Lee.”

            In 1905, Eddie Lee Dixon met James Henry Robertson, a store clerk in Poplar Bluff.  They were married just before Christmas that year.

            Fifteen years later, James and Eddie moved their large and growing family to Stringtown.  Their first daughter, Irene, had been born in 1907, followed by four more children at more or less regular intervals.  In the summer of 1920, Eddie was pregnant with their sixth child, and the house they had been renting in Poplar Bluff could no longer fit their clan.  In Stringtown they found a large, affordable house on a small plot of land where Eddie could garden and raise the family while James was working in Poplar Bluff.  They bought the house and moved late in the summer, and in September of that year their daughter, Mildred, was born.

            Stringtown was only about ten miles south of Poplar Bluff, but in the early years of the twentieth century, a ten-mile trip through rolling hills and thick forest was not a reasonable daily commute.  So James boarded with a couple of his co-workers in town during the workweek, and he returned home to Stringtown on the weekends.  This arrangement meant that the youngest of the nine children would never really know their father.

            Three more boys followed Mildred: Harold in 1922, Harlan in 1924, and Hubert in 1926.  By the time Hubert was born, Irene had married and moved back into Poplar Bluff, and seventeen-year-old Eugene, James and Eddie’s oldest son, was away from home working for long stretches of time.  But still, the big house in Stringtown had little room to spare.

William Dixon, grandfather of Hubert Robertson

Avis Dixon, grandmother of Hubert Robertson

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