Archive for June 15, 2012

Papa   Leave a comment

Above:  The John Dodson Taylor, Sr., Home Circa 1908, When It Was New

Photograph Courtesy of Sharon Foster Jones, on June 14, 2012


This, of course, is not a poem; it is obviously prose.  It does, however, shed light on John Dodson Taylor, Sr. (December 23, 1860-July 2, 1936).  The source is his son, John Dodson Taylor, Jr. (January 19, 1905-September 27, 1976), my grandfather, from pages 20 and 21 of Leaves in the Wind, a small volume (28 pages) he published.  I find no date in it, but the photograph of my grandfather dates to 1940.  And he died in 1976, having spent years in a nursing home.  I estimate that he published the slim volume in 1960s.




No little boy ever enjoyed his family more than I did mine.  To me my family was tops–every member of it–and that is as it should be.

Papa was the head of the family, in more ways than one.  To him right was right, and there was no alternative.  I had to learn the hard way that when he said “Scat,” he wasn’t kidding.  He ruled the family with an iron hand; and for me, he threw in the razor “strop.”  I learned to shave with a safety razor because I did not care to have any further association with that particular instrument.

Papa was Presbyterianism at this best; however, he wasn’t narrow-minded about it.  He saw the need for other denominations and endorsed them.  In his own mind, nevertheless, he was convinced that when the inevitable time arrives for the Angel Gabriel to give his long-awaited

toot on the tooter,


when the roll is called up yonder,

the Presbyterians will constitute the majority party.  He was very religious and was a number-one student of the Bible, which he read constantly.  On Sunday afternoon, he frequently deviated from his regular Testament, and just for the fun of it, would pour over the pages of his Greek New Testament.

He made us children realize that Sunday was really Sunday.  It was an extra special day which began with a special breakfast.  As long as I can remember, Sunday breakfast consisted of salt mackerel–some fried, some boiled–hot grits, butter, biscuits, and coffee.  Then we had to polish ours shoes and get ready for Sunday School.  I have many things to thank him for, but one especially is a love for Sunday School.  In the years since he has gone, that love for and loyalty to Sunday School has helped me over many rough spots.  Of course, our family always stayed for church.  After dinner, we had to read and memorize portions of the Bible and then rest until about four o’clock when the up-train brought us the papers.  Then, if we had been good and had caused no trouble, we were allowed to read the “funny papers.”  The training that he and Mama put us through seemed rough and unreasonable at the time, but it has paid off in later years.

Papa was, to a large extent, self-educated.  I do know that he went to college at Oxford, Ala.; that there he met Mama, and that it did not take them long to middle-aisle, after which they came back to Summerville.  They started keeping house, I am told, in two rooms of what is now called the old Taylor home.  I was born in this house, and it is still my home.

In contemporary terminology, Papa would have been called a tycoon.  Not many people living today know at all that he did for Summerville and Chattooga County.  He was one of the guiding spirits in the bringing of the railroad to this county.  He pioneered the raising of peaches as a money crop; he organized, built, and for many years operated the cotton mill in Summerville; and to keep from wasting such a resource as the cotton seeds, he established the oil mill.

He brought electricity to town, as well as motivating the installation of city water.  He built and for many years operated the private school then known as Taylor Institute.  He organized the old Chattooga County Bank, which ceased to operate after his death.

Another family business, which long served the county populace, was Taylor Mercantile, a department store and grocery store.  The upstairs was a rental space for a funeral home.  Still another project was the marble quarry located on  some of his land.  For numerous years a good grade of marble was sold in surrounding areas.

All of these activities were carried on while he maintained a most active law practice.  No wonder he was admired by so many!  At the same time, he had his “enemies,” as does any man who, with so strong a personality, accomplishes so much and is so sure of his abilities.  Papa’s wide variety of achievements were based on his deep concern for the welfare of his fellow-citizens.  He was indeed one of whom could be said,

the elements (were) so mixed in him that Nature might stand up and say to all the world, “This was a man!”




John Dodson Taylor, Jr., on the lap of his mother, Harriet “Hattie” Stoddard, Circa 1908, with his sisters, Sarah Faye and Helen, on the left, and his grandmother, Arcissa Dodson Taylor, wearing black on the right; I do not know who is standing to Arcissa’s right