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Josephine America Pardue Wallis Chappell

Josephine America Pardue Wallis Chappelle
DOB March 2, 1859      DOD January 4, 1940

Buried:Live Oak Cemetery Division 14 Lot 806W

Submitted by: Michael Ross Great-Great-Grandson

Josephine America Pardue was my mother’s* favorite old relative. She was Mom’s maternal great-grandmother: her mother’s mother’s mother. And although Josie, as she was known, was already 65 when my mom was born, her fresh, independent thinking inspired my mom.

My mom’s favorite story about Josie came when she was in her late 70s and twice a widow, and my mom was a newish teenager. Looking back at her life – her love-life, actually – and yet still ahead toward her future, Josie told mom this:

“My first husband … I was too young. I didn’t know what I was doing.

“My second husband, I married for LOVE! (Pause) BIG mistake!!!

“Now I’m looking for MONEY!!”

Mom loved Josie’s spunk, especially coming from an elderly lady. But she didn’t know Josie’s family history that underlaid her reflection.

Josephine America Pardue was born March 2, 1859, in Summerfield, Alabama, which is a few miles north of Selma. She was the youngest of six children born to George Washington Pardue and Jane Bell. Their 4th and 5th children died before they reached 2 years old. The 5th child and Josie were each born 13 months after the deaths of their immediately younger siblings.

On Dec. 4, 1873, the Pardue’s second child and oldest daughter, Miranda Parilee Pardue, married William Thomas Wallis, who was two years her senior. Within a year, however, she died, on October 14, 1874. Her obituary gave no cause.

Nearly 9 months later, on July 7, 1875, Josie married Mr. Wallis, her sister’s widower. She was 16 years old.

On Sept. 22, 1876, Josie gave birth to Alma, my mother’s grandmother. In all, Josie and William had five children in 10 years.

In 1880, they lived on a 115-acre farm in Perryville (75 in cultivation, 60 in unimproved woodland) with their first two children, Alma and Oscar.

By 1900, they had moved into Selma, where they lived at 501 Mabry St. with their three youngest children, Edgar (19), Otis (16) and Ada (14), and Josie’s 77-year-old mother, Jane Bell Pardue. William’s occupation given in the census was clerk at liquor store. No occupation was listed for Josie.

In 1910, they lived near the corner of Selma’s First Ave. and Broad St. William was listed as a retail grocer in the census; Josie as a dressmaker at a dry goods store. Their son Otis (27) was the only other person living in the household. His occupation was a driver.

William Wallis died on July 10, 1917.

In the 1920 census, Josie is recorded as living at 1131 First Avenue. On March 11, 1922, in Calhoun County, Alabama (which is near the Georgia border), Josie married George C. Chappelle, a clerk. They lived in Atlanta. City directories gave their residences as 64 Dill Avenue (in the 1923 and 1926 directories) and 1375 Beatie Ave. SW (1928, 1929).

George died March 5, 1930, and Josie moved back to Selma, into the house at 1131 First Ave., which my mother recalls that Alma’s son – John Michael Seymour, Sr. – had built for her. She died in Selma at age 80, on Jan. 4, 1940, and is buried in the Old Live Oak Cemetery between her first husband (William Wallis) and her
son Otis.

One of Josie’s favorite activities was writing poetry. In her will, she gave her poetry book to Bettie Jo Hurley, thought to be one of her granddaughters. Her Selma Times-Journal newspaper obituary said “she penned many charming verses which received special recognition.”

She was most proud that one of her poems, “Alabama,” had been – as described in that obituary – “included in an anthology of poetry which was exhibited at the (1939-40) World’s Fair in New York City.”

It turns out that this was not exactly true.

“Alabama” was published in “The World’s Fair Anthology of Verse” (Exposition Press, 1938, Eastern Edition). But that book had nothing to do with the actual New York World’s Fair. Rather, it was one of the first successful productions of the new subsidized (aka “vanity”) book publishing business created by Edward Uhlan.

On page 42 of his 1956 autobiography, “The Rogue of Publishers’ Row,” Uhlan said that shortly after he’d purchased his business certificate in 1936, NYC and Fair executives insisted that he could not use the words “Exposition” or “World’s Fair” as part of his business. But Uhlan steadfastly refused to concede and got away with it. Ultimately Mr. Uhlan published 11 volumes in this anthology series over three years (1938-40).

(This article, with photos and some edits, appears on my family history blog: https://rossfamilyhistory.wordpress.com/2019/07/17/josephine-america-pardue-1859-1940/. )

*My mother is Martha Jackson Ross, the eldest daughter of the longtime Selma and Decatur, Ala., educator, Walter Mahan Jackson, Sr. (1898-1956). )