Monday, April 21, 2014

Sidney Stout Pleasant, A widow for 59 years

My great grandmother, Sidney Stout Pleasant was 89 years old and had been a widow for 59 years when she died in 1949.

Sidney was the youngest of 10 children born to James D. Stout, Sr. and Susannah Proffit, farmers, of Johnson County, Tennessee.

School was not compulsory when Sidney was a child and many schools were subscription schools, charging a tuition for each student. With 10 children, it may have been impossible for the Stouts to send their children to school.  Also, the Civil War had devastating effects on this area from 1861 to 1865 and many of the schools were destroyed. She was most likely uneducated since she used an "X" when signing her name (mark) to documents.

Sidney said she wasn't sure of her exact age. Many children in the 1800's were born at home without birth certificates and the only recording of the date was in the family bible, but couldn't someone tell a young girl how old she was?

She may have even been referred to as an "Old Maid." She was 22 years old when she married my great grandfather in 1882, which for the time, was not a young bride. He was a widower for only four months and had nine children with his first wife. How convenient for him to find love in just four months!

My great grand parents were married just short of eight years and had four children together before my great grandfather died leaving Sidney a young 30 year old widow. Sidney was also four months pregnant with my grandmother at the time.

Her property was labeled "poor mountain land." She probably wasn't able to farm it, and the only means of support she had was sewing she did for neighbors.

In those days, a young widow would have been expected by society to re-marry so her husband could support her and her children, and although I have no way of knowing for certain, I suspect it was societies' expectations of her that started her troubles. In 1899, nine years after her husband passed away, she was accused of spending time with a man and indicted for "Open and Notorious Adultery."

I haven't found any evidence that the man was married or that he was even accused of being married. No one could prove that he spent a night at her home,  and no one proved that they were living as husband and wife. Deposition records state her house was not accessible by buggy, so it seems it would have been difficult for anyone to see them together at her home. I often wonder if she was "railroaded" or "set-up" by someone.

Was the man she spent time with of bad character, misleading and corrupting her, or was it just a simple matter of making poor choices? Was she a lonely widow who chose the wrong person to spend her time with?

George Washington said "Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation, for it is better to be alone than in bad company."

I wonder if my great grand children will read about me 50 years from now and say, "What was she thinking?  (They probably will.)

Carl Sandburg wrote "Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you."

Maybe Sidney was just born 100 years before her time. This did happen 21 years before the 19th Amendment granted women the right to vote.  Whatever injustice may have happened to her, it was with her for the next 50 years until her death. She never married again. Perhaps she never trusted anyone with her heart again. Who could blame her?

Sidney Stout Pleasant had a mysterious life. She lived out her destiny, and I look forward to meeting her someday when my life is over.

My grandmother, Sidney's youngest daughter, the one she delivered after her husband died,  loved to sing "I'll Fly Away" and play the harmonica. I'm sure she sang this to Sidney at the end of her life, just like she sang it to me at the beginning of mine.
                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                           Joe & Sidney Pleasant
Some glad morning when this life is o'er
I'll fly away
To that home on God's celestial shore
I'll fly away.

I'll fly away, Oh Glory
I'll fly away
When I die, Hallelujah by and by
I'll fly away

When the shadows of this life have gone
I'll fly away
Like a bird from prison bars has flown
I'll fly away

I'll fly away, Oh Glory
I'll fly away
When I die, Hallelujah by and by
I'll fly away

Just a few more weary days and then
I'll fly away
to a land where joy shall never end
I'll fly away

I'll fly away, Oh Glory
I'll fly away
When I die, Hallelujah by and by
I'll fly away






1 comment:

  1. What a story!

    I love that old gospel hymn too.

    Have a great week ~ FlowerLady

    ReplyDelete