Verda was my paternal grandmother, but I never met her. My father did not talk much about his mother and when he did, it always seemed that it was painful for him. She died two months before Daddy turned sixteen years old while he was alone with her at the hospital. His father and several siblings had left to get something to eat, not realizing she was that close to death.
Verda Waller Hankins was born on 1 December 1884 in Dalton, Hopkins County, Kentucky, to Thomas Leander Hankins and Samantha Angeline Petty. Her middle name, Waller, was the maiden name of her third great-grandmother Dorothy Waller Goodloe and had been used as a middle name for several of Dorothy’s descendants.
Verda rarely used her middle name, although the middle initial W appears in 1880 and 1920 U.S. census entries for her. She adopted Jane instead, apparently in honor of her paternal grandmother, Isabella Jane Goodloe, whose sister Mary had Waller as her middle name. Some of Verda’s children did not know she had named herself Jane. J is even on her headstone as her middle initial. However, Waller apparently appears on one child’s birth certificate. The Kentucky birth index entry for her son John lists his mother’s name, which should be her maiden name, as Verdie Waller.
Verda often went along with her father when he was fulfilling his duties as a General Baptist minister, riding cross-country on horseback. She loved meeting people and always made those around her feel welcome with a kind word and a smile.
Verda was ill with Typhoid during the summer and fall of 1903. She was so ill that she could not feed herself, so neighbors and relatives volunteered to help her mother care for her. Around that time, her brother Dick made friends with a fellow coal miner named John William McCauley and invited him to Sunday dinner at their parents’ home. Soon Will started coming by to feed Verda her dinner.
Verda married Will on 27 September 1904, at her parents’ home in Earlington. The local newspaper referred to the groom as an industrious miner and the bride as an estimable young lady. Will was born on 1 March 1875 in either Randolph or Chamber County, Alabama, the son of Joseph Smith Lanier and Nancy Jane Bennett. His life before he met Verda is a long story that will take a book to tell.
Will and Verda began their life together at Daniel Boone in Hopkins County, probably in coal company housing. Their first three children were born in Hopkins County—Golden Gladys in 1905, Icy Vernon in 1906, and Lillie Vashti in 1909. Eight more children were born in Muhlenberg County between 1913 and 1932—Joseph Lee, Elizabeth Angeline, Lois Marie, John William Jr., Kathryn Louise, David Hankins, Jimmie Nell and Ralph Raymond.
On 27 July 1908, Will bought a lot on the corner of College Street and Madisonville Road (now Depot Street) in Greenville in neighboring Muhlenberg County for $100. Exactly when they moved to Greenville is unknown, but they may have already lived there when they bought that lot as the deed notes the Post Office for all parties was Greenville. Regardless, they did not move to the College Street property until they had a house built.
Will continued working in the coal mines while they lived in Greenville. Will and Verda sold the College Street property for $1,350.00 on 6 October 1919. On 22 November 1919, they bought a 112 acre farm about three miles from town for $2,000. Will was still working in the mines in 1920 but eventually turned to farming full time.
The original house on the farm, located on what is now Oppossum Lane, burned to the ground in 1924. They lost almost everything. With seven children ranging from nineteen years to a few months old at home, the family had to temporarily split up to stay with neighbors. They moved into an empty store building that had been used to store tobacco and corn until they could build another house. It was a big open building that had a worn out wood floor.
They built the new house in a different location on the farm, facing what is now Kennedy-Brasher Road. That house was smaller and not as nice as the original, which had nice cabinets and furniture. It had four rooms downstairs with two attic rooms upstairs. The living room ran the width of the house facing the road. Besides a front door, it had two exterior doors on the right side of the house. One went into the living room, the other to the bedroom behind it. Beyond that bedroom was a second bedroom, and off that bedroom was the kitchen. They also had a back porch off the kitchen (behind the first bedroom with the outside door).
The family attended Pleasant Hill Methodist Church, where Will led the singing for many years and Verda was active in the Women’s Society of Christian Service. As the older children married and had families, they often came to Sunday dinner. It was not unusual for Will to invite several others from church to join them, even as Verda’s health declined.
Verda and Will’s youngest child, Ralph, died of colitis on 29 June 1933, a few weeks before his first birthday. He was buried in the Pleasant Hill Cemetery behind the church.
Verda suffered from heart problems from a relatively young age, likely caused by the lingering effects of Typhoid compounded by the stress of having eleven children over twenty-seven years. She had been ill for several years when she died at the Greenville Hospital from chronic myocarditis on 16 May 1942 at fifty-seven years old.
They held her funeral at the church. According to Verda’s obituary, “Crowding the church and ground to pay a last tribute to Mrs. McCauley was one of the largest gatherings ever to attend a service of any kind at Pleasant Hill Church.” Verda was buried in the church cemetery beside Ralph.
Will married Pearl Gertrude Fitzhugh Joins on 10 April 1943 in Muhlenberg County. He died on 29 July 1959 and was buried beside Verda. Eight of Verda and Will’s eleven children were buried in Pleasant Hill Cemetery.
Golden Gladys McCauley
Gladys was born on 28 June 1905 in Daniel Boone. She married William Ferman Dukes on 27 September 1922 in Muhlenberg County. Ferman’s parents were James William Dukes and Elvira Jane Dockins. He was born in Greenville on 25 January 1901.
Gladys and Ferman lived in Greenville until 1940 then moved to Louisville, Kentucky, where they lived for the rest of their lives. They had twelve children. In October 1942, they lived at 244 E. St. Catherine Street. By 1946 they moved to 1463 S. 1st Street, where they lived for many years. Ferman worked as a machine repairman for American Radiator and Standard Sanitary Corporation.
Ferman died on 29 November 1958 in Owensboro, Daviess County, Kentucky, from injuries sustained in a car accident. He was buried in Woodland Missionary Baptist Church Cemetery in Greenville.
Gladys moved to Baptist Towers Retirement Community at 1014 S. Second Street a few years before she died. She died on 25 April 1978 in Louisville and was buried next to Ferman in Greenville.
Icy Vernon McCauley
Vernon was born on 4 September 1906 in Hopkins County. She married Jason Gordon Lucas on 28 May 1925 in Muhlenberg County, and they spent their lives there. Gordon, born on 2 May 1902 in Smith County, Tennessee, was the son of Jason G. Lucas and Callie Mary Denny. Vernon and Gordon had three children.
They owned a farm outside Greenville on what is now Gordon Lucas Road. After Gordon retired from farming, they moved to 204 Carolyn Street in town.
Gordon died on 22 May 1982 in Greenville. Vernon died there on 8 February 1989. They are both buried in Pleasant Hill Cemetery in Greenville.
Lillie Vashti McCauley
Vashti was born on 28 May 1909 in Hopkins County. She married Shelby Rhea Wells, son of Robert L. Wells and Mallie Finley, in October 1928 in Rockport, Spencer County, Indiana. Rhea was born on 14 March 1896 in Muhlenberg County.
Vashti and Rhea lived in Muhlenberg County all their lives and had two children. Rhea farmed and when he retired, they sold their farm and moved into town to 415 N. Cherry Street.
Rhea died on 30 August 1992 in Greenville. Vashti died there on 3 April 2001. They are both buried in Pleasant Hill Cemetery in Greenville.
Joseph Lee McCauley
Joe was born on 26 January 1913 in Greenville. In 1937, he graduated from Union College in Barbourville, Knox County, Kentucky, where he met Jeanette Rankin Gilliam. Joe married Jeanette on 19 June 1937 in Gray, Knox County, Kentucky. Jeanette was born 15 September 1918 in Cumberland, Harlan County, Kentucky, to Bruner Gilliam and Leona Johnson. Joe and Jeanette had five children.
Before his graduation and marriage to Jeanette, Joe taught in 1934 at Pond Creek School in Muhlenberg County. Among his students were four of his siblings and several nieces and nephews.
Joe served in both the U.S. Army and Navy. He enlisted in the army on 30 June 1943. He joined the navy after that.
Joe and Jeanette lived in Lexington (Fayette County), Cumberland and Benham (Harlan County), Middlesboro (Bell County), Pikeville (Pike County) and Auxier (Floyd County) all in Kentucky. Joe taught school in Fayette and Harlan counties. They ran an office supply business in Middlesboro, and Joe served a term as mayor from 1961 to 1965. When he became the executive director for the Big Sandy Area Development District in 1966, they moved to Pikeville and later Auxier.
Joe died on 21 February 1985 in Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky, and was buried in John Gilliam Cemetery in Cumberland. Jeanette died on 2 September 2014 in Lexington and was buried beside Joe.
Elizabeth Angeline McCauley
Liz was born on 23 November 1915 in Greenville. She married Kenneth Mel Carver on 2 July 1933, and they had three daughters. Mel, the son of Elmer O. Carver and Winnie Vick, was born on 19 January 1907 in Muhlenberg County. Liz and Mel lived their entire lives in Greenville, making their home for many years at 406 Hayes Street.
Liz worked for Hahn-Oates & Co, and for William & Wells Drug Store. Mel worked in the taxi and bus line service driving for Greyhound and later Greenville Transportation Company.
Mel died on 27 October 1991 in Greenville and was buried in Pleasant Hill Cemetery. Liz died on 20 November 2003 in Greenville and was buried beside Mel.
Lois Marie McCauley
Lois was born on 27 July 1918 in Greenville. She married George Estill Dockins, son of Estelle Dockins and Sarah Florence Jernigan, on 11 August 1935 in Muhlenberg County. George was born on 14 June 1912 in East St. Louis, Saint Clair County, Illinois.
Lois and George lived in Greenville and had four children. Their last home was at 1311 Kentucky 181 South. George worked for P. & M. Coal Company for twenty-three years.
George died on 27 November 1996 in Greenville. Lois died there on 1 March 2006. They were buried in Pleasant Hill Cemetery.
John William McCauley, Jr.
John was born on 8 February 1921 in Greenville. In June 1942, he joined the U.S. Navy and was assigned as a naval gun crewman on merchant ships. By 1944, he had crossed the Atlantic eighteen times and made one full trip around the world. He was discharged from the Navy in February 1947.
John enrolled at Union College in Barbourville, Kentucky, in September 1947 and graduated with a B.S. degree in education in August 1950. After he graduated, he joined the merchant marines and spent almost two more years at sea before returning to Greenville in April 1952.
He married Elsie Marie Harper, daughter of Robie Harper and Velma Orene Bivins, in 1960. Marie was born on 27 August 1930 in the Muhlenberg County community of Beech Creek. John and Marie had four sons.
John worked as a coal miner and farmer. He also ran the Greenville Pool Room and Restaurant for seventeen years.
John died on 15 January 1992 in Madisonville, Hopkins County, Kentucky. Marie died on 31 March 2013 in Greenville. They were both buried in Pleasant Hill Cemetery.
Kathryn Louise McCauley
Katie was born on 7 February 1924 in Greenville. She married Adrian Stinson Tomes on 16 November 1942 in Omaha, Douglas County, Nebraska, where Adrian was stationed in the U.S. Army. Adrian was born on 24 November 1918 in McLean County, Kentucky, to William Coda Tomes and Mary Elizabeth Stinson.
Katie and Adrian had three children. They lived in Calumet City, Illinois, for many years. Adrian worked for Inland Steel in Gary, Indiana. Katie worked for Animated Manufacturing in Dolton, Illinois, from which she retired in 1988. They both returned to Greenville after retirement. Katie lived next door to her sister, Jimmie, on Mellwood Drive.
Adrian died on 3 March 1987 in Greenville and was buried in Pleasant Hill Cemetery. Katie died on 3 May 2011 in Princeton, Bureau County, Illinois, where she had been in assisted living for several years. She was buried next to Adrian in Pleasant Hill Cemetery.
David Hankins McCauley
David was born on 12 July 1926 in Greenville. He left home at age sixteen and went to live with his sister Gladys in Louisville when Will remarried less than a year after Verda’s death. David worked at American Radiator and Standard Sanitary Corporation until he joined the U.S. Navy on 20 January 1944. He was discharged on 22 April 1946.
After his discharge, David moved to Cumberland, Kentucky, to live with his brother, Joe, and his family. Joe wanted him to finish high school, even though he had earned a GED while in the navy. After graduating from Cumberland High School, David attended Union College for a year before going to work for Joe and Jeanette in Middlesboro selling office equipment.
At Union, David met Uta Faye Hopkins, daughter of Elmer Dennis Hopkins and Emma Ewers Taylor of Loyall, Harlan County, Kentucky. David married Faye in Loyall on 18 February 1950. They had four children.
For almost a year, David and Faye lived in hotels in Cookeville, Johnson City, and Crossville, Tennessee, while he sold stoves for Qualified Range Company. They moved to Middlesboro about January 1951, and he went back to work for Joe and Jeanette selling office equipment. Several months later, David started working for The National Life and Accident Company, and he and Faye moved to Louisville.
They moved to Mt. Vernon, Rockcastle County, Kentucky, in 1952 where they lived for the rest of their lives. David initially ran a service station for Faye’s father and later opened a used car lot next to the service station. In 1953, he started McCauley Egg Company, which he ran until retiring in 1994. His son still runs the business today.
David died on 16 June 2000 in Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky. He was buried next to Faye’s parents in Elmwood Cemetery in Mt. Vernon. Faye is still living.
Jimmie Nell McCauley
Jimmie was born on 6 August 1929 in Greenville. She married David Johnson Knight there on 31 December 1948. David was born on 29 July 1922 in Daviess County, Kentucky, to Griffin E. Knight and Lena Johnson.
After starting their life together in Greenville, Jimmie and Dave moved to Louisville. She worked for Stewart’s, a regional department store chain. Dave served as a Naval Air Force pilot during World War II and worked as a civilian pilot for James Cash Machine Company for thirty-two years.
Jimmie and Dave had two children. After they both retired, Jimmie and Dave returned to Greenville and lived at 214 Mellwood Drive.
Dave died on 27 April 1996 in Greenville. Jimmie died there on 15 December 2018. They were both buried in Pleasant Hill Cemetery.
Ralph Raymond McCauley
Ralph was born on 7 August 1932 in Greenville and lived less than one year. He died on 29 June 1933. The official cause of his death was colitis, but the family story is that Will let him eat strawberries off the vine, and they made him sick. Ralph was buried in Pleasant Hill Cemetery.