You are not poor because someone else is wealthy…
is an excellent summation of a lady and her life that I hold dear in my memory; and it is as àpropos during my childhood as it is now. Back in the day, there did not seem to be much coveting of someone else’s success or wealth; nor was there jealousy. It seemed that those who had been successful illuminated the way for others to follow to attain the American Dream. And if the American Dream is dead, it was not the people who slaughtered it.
The lady I write about is Lena Mae Myhan. She was an extraordinarily ordinary woman. That was part of what made her extraordinary in the crossed eyes of my childhood. You would have thought that I would have been spoiled as the only
girl, but uh uh. And I am thankful for that as I learned independence at an early age. Miss Lena Mae was one of the few who exclaimed to me as a little girl that I had beautiful blue eyes; notwithstanding that the right one was firmly placed in the corner of my eye socket next to my nose. And she remembered every birthday of every child in the near neighborhood for as long as I could remember; that was really special because for the most part our family really did not pay much attention to birthdays back then. I loved Miss Lena Mae; and came to think of her in my adult life as a bonus grandmother.
What about this ordinary woman made her so extraordinary in the eyes of a little Sheffield girl? Let me count the ways. For one thing, she taught me a lot of things that are virtues in today’s world – and all without even knowing it. A little background is in order here.
The Myhan family has known and have been neighbors of my Murray family for more than 150 years now. Most of them are gone now. Our families go way, way back.
Miss Lena Mae Myhan’s family history is one of great pride. Her earliest known ancestor, John Myhand and wife Mary MacMiel immigrated from Lietrim, Ireland. John Myhand and Mary McMiel Myhand were devisees in John MacMiel’s 1729 will and upon his death his son-in-law John Myhand received several hundred acres of property while daughter Mary MacMiel Myhand inherited his plantation.
Their son James Myhand also immigrated from Lietrim, Ireland; he lived in Rowan County, North Carolina and he and his wife Sarah Bryant Myhand are buried in Sampson County, North Carolina. Their known children were Jesse Myhand, Silas Myhand and James Myhand.
Their son, James Myhand was born in Morgan, Rowan County, North Carolina in 1755. He married Rosannah Owen in 1782 in North Carolina. James and Rosannah Owen Myhand migrated to Georgia and lived in Morgan County. There someone on his behalf was a fortunate drawer in the 1820 Georgia Land Lottery that rewarded his service in the Revolutionary War with the gift of land. In 1820 James Myhand’s fortunate draw was in Irwin County, Georgia which was claimed on 3 November 1823, likely by his widow Rosannah Owen Myhand since he had died in 1819. You will find the Myhand family well represented in the Daughters of the America Revolution files. Rosannah Myhand left a “Deed-of-Gift” when she died and it is recorded in Harris County, Georgia Deed Book “A” (1828-1832) page 623.
Here is the text of the gift; Georgia Date of “Deed-of-Gift Morgan County August 12, 1831 Between: Rosannah Myhand,of Morgan County, Georgia, Give unto: My two sons: Alvin and James Myhand, Jr. of Morgan County, Georgia Land Lot – 108, 5th District, Troup County, Georgia, containing: 202 1/2 acres, granted to myself widow of Revolutionary Soldier on April 23 1828. Her signature was an ‘x’ mark; witenss was Caswell J Allen, John J McNeel, J. P.
The Myhand family males provided military service to protect and defend this nation in most of the wars in which America was engaged. James and Rossannah Myhand had a number of children likely: John, William, Nancy, Sarah “Sallie”, Thomas, Alvin, Jesse, Abner L, and James Knight Myhand.
James and Rossannah Owen Myhand’s son James Myhan was born in North Carolina or Cass County, Georgia; he married Bersheba McCowan in North Carolina. He migrated to first to Warren County and then to Morgan County, Georgia. He and his wife are buried there. Their known children are Mary Myhand, Thomas Butler Myhand, and John Myhand. It is their son John Myhand that continues the lineage for our Miss Lena Mae Myhan.
John H Myhand was born circa 1815 in Cass County, Georgia which then was considered the [New] Country. He married Eliza A Horne. In 1850 they were living in Cass County, Georgia [Country]. By 1860 they were living in Franklin County, Alabama. Their children were: William, Mary, John H, Susannah, Missouri A, Edward J, Zachary (or Zachariah) Taylor, Sarah, and Benjamin Franklin Myhand. John reportedly died in 1880 and may be the John Myhand buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Cypress Inn, Wayne County, Tennessee.
John H and Eliza A Horne Myhand’s son, William T Myhan was Miss Lena Mae Myhand paternal grandfather. He was born in 7 March 1833 in Georgia and died 11 Dec 1905 in Sheffield, Colbert County, Alabama. He is buried at Morning Star Cemetery in Tuscumbia, Alabama. William T Myhand married Susan MATILDA McCorkle, daughter of Thomas Jefferson and Susan M McCorkle. They had the following children: Alice P Myhan Finney 1867 – 1933 Ella Minerva Myhan Clark Rumph 1867 – 1952, Laura P Myhan 1870 – 1953, Betty Elizabeth Myhan Kimbrough 1875 – 1968, Jo Ann or Joan Myhan Elledge 1879 – 1962, William M Myhan 1880 – 1959, Martin Myhan 1881 – , Thomas E Myhan 1877 – 1944 and Charles Everett Myhan 1884 – 1965. A large number of the Myhan and related families are buried at Morning Star Cemetery where three or four generations of my Murray and related families are buried.
William Myhand served in the Confederacy during the War Between the States. He served as a Private in Company K of the 5th Arkansas Regiment entering in April of 1861 and afterwards served in the 11th Alabama Regiment of Cavalry from 7 April 1861; entering this regiment at Prides [Landing]. He was captured and taken prisoner of war being held a prisoner in Nashville, Tennessee. He continued to serve until being honorably discharged in 1865 in Montgomery. His widow, Susan M Myhan, made an application for a pension on 26 Jun 1903. The application was granted and the pension was for the total of $2.50 per month.
Their son William M Myhan was Miss Lena Mae Myhan’s father. Her mother was Minnie Lee Ida, but her maiden name is yet to be discovered. Ida Myhand died in 1918 and is buried in Morning Star Cemetery. They had two girls: Lena Mae Myhan and IvaDell Myhan.
IvaDell Myhan was born 29 Nov 1908 in Colbert County, Alabama and died 1 November 1985 in Sheffield. She and her husband, Willie J Young are buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Sheffield. They had two girls named Lola M and Betty A Young. Ivadell and her family lived in Chattanooga at one time, and on another census record it was inferred their residence was in LaGrange, Georgia. The Young family returned to their native Alabama and lived in Sheffield when she died.
Miss Lena Mae, that is what we all called her, was born 19 January 1906 in Colbert County. Her family had lived in the neighborhood of my paternal family for nigh over one hundred and fifty years at the time of her death; they had lived in the neighborhood of my maternal family for nearly fifty years. So, the history is steep and deep between our families.
Miss Lena Mae was not a pretty woman; at least to the time I remember her. But I had always pictured her as a young girl to be as pretty as she was in my mind’s eye as a child. Of course, she seemed a woman of ancient maturity by the time my memory set in; but even until her death I saw no change in her appearance from how I remember her. There is a photo of one of her ancestors that looks how I imagine her to have looked at the same age; beautiful and young and vibrant. She was not a silly, flighty girl, who lived on airs and pretentiousness. She was pragmatic, and she loved her father. She was taller than my mother and a little on the stout side. She wore little cotton house-dresses and always seemed to have an apron tied around her waist. She and Mr. Lon always grew the most luscious looking and green garden behind their home. She had a huge dip in her forehead where a metal plate resided; and her hearing was all but nonexistent. Her hair was mostly a light gray and she kept it in a ball at the nap of her neck; obviously she had black hair in her youth. There always seemed to be a little wisp of hair blowing in the breeze from her temples. She must have had back problems since her gait was a little on the awkward side; if I recall correctly she had a steel rod in her back. But in all my lifetime, I never heard her complain. Her life was dedicated to the care and welfare of her father; she was a worker. Lest you get the idea that she was just a girl from Appalachia without many virtues; the record will be clear now. She had a four-year college degree but evidently never used it; her father consumed all her time. She had lost her mother when she was just twelve; and for some reason when her father became crippled she assumed the role of caregiver 24/7. Her father, William M Myhan, had been a rural route Mail Carrier for the U S Government during his working days. He drove a horse drawn wagon to deliver the mail to my family and others in rural Colbert County for decades. After moving to Sheffield he worked at King Stove and Foundry and retired from that employment. He was a member of the Okolona Baptist Church that still exists on the corner of Sixth Street and Wilson Dam Road in Muscle Shoals, as has many of my relatives and ancestors.
It was said that he had an ingrown toenail which had became gangrenous and had to have one of his legs amputated. He was pretty much bedridden by the time I was a child. I remember his armless wheelchair which seemed to take up most of the room where his bed was located. And I remember his shockingly white hair. I always thought he looked pretty healthy, except for the missing leg. The family had a boarder, Alonzo “Lon” Marlar, who lived in with them for many years and helped her take care of her father; but also had a day job and worked at Martin Stove which was a foundry across the railroad tracks. The family had no phone, no car, no television and Miss Lena Mae never had children. Their seating under the shade trees outside were those wooden straightback chairs with the woven seat. They did have the most beautiful dog that I have ever seen. He was a collie and all fluffy and energetic; his name was Carlo and he would be in the street where we would travel and play a lot of the time. Many would consider them poor, very poor. But you are not poor because someone else is wealthy.
Miss Lena Mae was one of the influences that taught me pride, independence, and that you do not have to have a lot of money, riches, property, beautiful clothes, or worldly possessions to be rich – and neither does any person worth his/her salt covet or envy those who are more fortunate than they for that is a biblical sin. Actually, that is the backbone of my families on both sides. Growing up in the little city of Sheffield made myself and my siblings what we are today; we had so many good influences to model after.
I remember as a child, standing with my jaw dropped when Miss Lena Mae’s sister and her family would visit. The juxtaposition of the lifestyle of the sister and my beloved Miss Lena Mae was stark, even to a child. They came in a car, what seemed like a nice car. They had nice clothes, unlike the little cotton house-dresses that Miss Lena Mae wore. The sister had a husband and two beautiful children. I imagined they lived in a Norman Rockwell house and had a Norman Rockwell life. Whereas, Miss Lena Mae and her family had rented that lonely looking house at 1001 West 13th in southwest Sheffield for what could have been a lifetime, by my estimation more than forty years. I think the rent was less than $75 per month likely much less for them. but they had rented it long enough to have bought it a dozen times or more. Those houses were removed from TVA property when one of the Villages was done away with. They were originally shotgun houses with a dog trot through the middle. They look nicer now, but as a child they were unpainted and a bleak gray. They heated the house with coal. I remember getting Miss Lena Mae some pretty towels one Mother’s Day. When I took them to her and went to hang them up in her bathroom, I was unable to hang them because the bathroom was bare and did not even have a towel rack or a toilet paper holder.
My heart ached for my Miss Lena Mae because I thought she deserved just as good as her sister and I did not understand the difference in the two lives. It seemed to me that the sister lived a charmed life and did not visit that often, perhaps they lived out of town. And Miss Lena Mae was dedicated to the welfare and care of her invalid father all her adult life; it just was such a stark contrast in the mind of a child, but Miss Lena Mae never took a breath that showed resentment or jealousy or envy. It was as it was supposed to be. She was rich.
I had become aware of the Vocational Rehabilitation Center in Muscle Shoals. When I asked them about a hearing aid for someone like her; they suggested that she come in and were sure that they could help her. I was ecstatic at the thought of her getting help with her hearing and I eagerly told her about their service. It was then I learned a good life lesson about independence and pride. She told me that she would not be getting the hearing aids. She stated that was ‘charity’ and that charity was for those who were poor. There was a jolt to my system because I had (mistakenly) thought she was poor just because she did not have many worldly possessions. Well, she taught me and I have remembered that lesson for a lifetime now. That is how our past generations of family were; proud and independent. Those attributes are likely why those in the deep south are so mistrusting of the government. When I think back on that incident, I get chills; oh, how I loved that wonderful extraordinarily ordinary woman.
Mr Lon was born in Missouri and was living in the household of his sister Grace Thomas in Sheffield on the 1930 census record. He was age 31 and single. Grace and her husband William E Thomas were the parents of Paul Thomas. We called him Mr Paul and his wife Miss Audie. They lived next door to my maternal grandparents on West 8th Street in southwest Sheffield as long as I could remember and until their deaths.
After her father died in 1959; she was such an upright person that she told Mr. Lon that it wouldn’t be right or look right for them to continue to live in the same house without being married. So that is what they did. Her father died in January of 1959 and in February of 1959 they married. They lived in that shotgun house on West 13th in Sheffield until he died, and then she lived there until she was put in a nursing home and then died. She and Lon Marlar are buried at Colbert County Memorial Gardens.
What good memories I have of my Sheffield childhood; and Miss Lena Mae Myhan Marlar is one of them. She taught me that WE ARE ALL RICH.