Two years ago when I started working on my father’s side of my family history, the first thing I did was write my Aunt Jane (Lou Jane Higginbotham Starks) a letter and ask her what she knew about the family. She wrote me back that she had Big Mama’s (Mollie Davis Harris) bible and I could come and get it the next time I came to town.
I did, and took the bible over to Nedra (Harris) Turney’s where we went through the bible and found a letter that was from Osa to Big Mama (Mollie).
I didn’t know who Osa was, and neither did Nedra, but her letter tore us apart. I was shocked to hear of the troubles that she suffered and wrote about. Before I share the letter with you, I would like to tell you a little about Osa and what I have discovered about her since finding the letter.
This is Osa and her husband Walter J. Sloan.
Her parents, James Arthur Alexander and Maggie Isabell Davis Alexander, are seen here holding Osa’s oldest brother Willie. Osa also had another brother, Arthur Douglas “Doug” Alexander.
Maggie Davis Alexander was the oldest daughter of William Lynn Davis and Sarah Robertson Davis. She died on 25 Jul 1900, just four days after giving birth to an infant that was born and died on 21 Jul 1900. Osa was only two years old at this time when her mother died.
Osa (standing), is pictured with her mother Maggie’s youngest sister Nora Davis Bull.
This family photo shows Osa with her brother Doug Alexander, her Aunt Nora Davis Bull, her grandparents, Lynn and Sallie Davis and her Aunt Mittie Davis Grigson McBride.
I would much imagine that with Osa’s mother gone, her Aunt’s and grandparent’s stepped in and did what they could for her. I suppose this is why her letter to her Aunt Mollie was so frank about her situation.
The letter was not dated but I think the letter was written between the time of the 1930 census and 1932.
On the 1930 census, she and husband Walter are living in Waco, Texas with their children, and her father.
In 1932, I found Walter and Osa listed in the Waco, Texas – City Directory. I did NOT find a listing for James A Alexander in the directory.
I realize this doesn’t mean that her father wasn’t living with them, but it’s possible. From the way this letter reads, Osa had no family with her during this crisis, and she was in a bad way without them.
Read for yourself:
Hello Aunt Mollie
I sure was proud to hear from you. You all can’t possibly get as lonesome as I do because you have one another you have sisters and brothers and a phone you can talk to your own blood kin, that is lots of difference to strangers. Walter got out of work and stayed out about 6 months and you know any boddy in town like we are has to pay rent, watter, buy wood or gass and when you haven got over
any money to pay with the rent man say get out, the gass man cuts off gass the watter is cut off so there you are and no money to get food with if you go to your next door nabor they will hand you 1 cup of beans for a family of 7 to eat on all day long if you go some where for something to eat for super they ask you 1 thousand questions before they hand you 2 or 3 potatoes they ask if I had any kin folks and Grandma taught me not to tell a story
I tried to tell the truth while she lived and now she has passed on but that don’t mean I half to start lying so when people I was forced to ask food from ask me if I had any kin folks I said yes I have 2 bros. and some aunts & uncles and a father well they got where they would tell me they was sorry they didn’t have anything and ask why I didn’t write to my people and have them send for me Over
Well I knew my kin folks was just like me hard up try to get by and I knew Walter would find work some time and at least we had a better chance finding work here than any where else so we just suffered a long and when some one would bring us something to eat or we would get some our selves it would be so so little they baby marrie would look at me and say mama I’m hungry can I have your beans or potatoes which ever it was and something in my heart ached oh! you will never know how I felt eather I had to eat to care for the children you know attend to them and
Watch over them or I would get sick my self but my heart hurt to think that my child was so hungry that it was forced to ask for its mothers food because what people were handing us was so little until we had to cook it and divide it out and then tell them that was all they could have. Well the out come was after 6 months of this (not day or weeks but months) I got weaker and weaker and every day the sherrif would come and say I am sorry
Mrs. Sloan but the man that owns this house is pushing us and we are going to half to sit you all out in the street well I am human like every body else and I could not help worring over all that if I had of had plenty for my children to eat that would not have worried me so bad but all of it to gether was more I guess than I could stand I was so weak until I went back wards every time I would start to walk and I call a Doc and he would not come made some excuse of corse it was because we had no money
And every day walter would say sure to goodness I ‘ll run into something to do to morrow, so one day I told Maggie to call me when diner time come I told her I believe I would lay down 3 or 4 hours and see if I would not feel better well I layed down and the next thing I knew was I was crying loud and hard and what made me mad at my self was I couldn’t stop I cryed and cryed some one sent for the city doc – and he said I had a nervious break down well Walter or any of the children did not know how to handle a case of that kind all you need is to be real
Quite not ask questions to make me talk so I could not get up for 4 weeks but I tryed to and I would take spells laughing if some of them said something funnie instead of me laughing a little bit if it was not much to laugh about well I would laugh as much over nothing as would over a whole lot because my nerves had broke you see and I could not control them I did not want to laugh hard but I was ignorant of how to hand a case like this my self so when the children would say something that would make any boddy else smile it
would make me shake the bed laughing and then I was all ways worse after that but I could not help it unless I had of had money to get a nurce and doc. And the nurce could have avoded lots of these laughs and crying spells and I would have been better but as you see it takes money to make things run smooth and we didn’t have one piny so that called for suffering on my part well not long after I got up Walter found the job he has now just enough to pay rent by food and pay gass and watter not a
Piny for cloths or any thing else but you don’t know how thankful we are to know that we can do that and not have to ask it of some one else you see Waco is a small town to what new York is or other places but in any town where there are so many people and no work you see we was not the only ones at that time or now that was out of work people next door to us out of work across the streets or 3 blocks away well by the time you cover the whole town like New York there were thousands of people out of work and they had to eat so it is in a city worse than
In the country where it is 9 or 10 mabe you here of so when thousands of people in one place are saying the same thing it get to where to other people is sounds like a song we got out of work because hauling was scarce no boddy wanting anything hauled and when we could not meet payments on the trucks so one day while Walter was out of them right in broad day light the company had there man to get them Walter had a lot of tools in them and we couldn’t
get them back of course if we had of had some money to fight with but what was we by the side of a big truck company so Walter was out and so many people were out before that and at that time, so it was just hunt and hope and I am geting stronger every day I can see fine better than I ever could wash Irion sew scrub and any thing that needs to be done have not had any medician to take for 2 years no money to buy any so if God is not watching over us and helps us who does? those that are
able wont because they love the dollar more that human and those that would cant so from the very fact that I am living to day after what I have just experienced teaches me that God lives also so there is my hope and trust is in God I sure would like to have been down there to Dougs and Grandpas birthday but you see how it was tell every boddy to please write to me and you write as often as you can so by and be sweet from your niece Osa.
The first time I read this letter, I was reading it out loud to Nedra (Harris) Turney, and we had to stop. We couldn’t even finish it. We came back to it later and finished it, but our hearts were broken for Walter and Osa.
It certainly put my whining into perspective. I’ve never even come close to having to make the choices they had to make.
When I look at this picture of Osa holding her oldest daughter, Maggie Sloan all I can think about is her heartache on trying to decide whether she should feed herself or her children.
It really saddens me to know that Osa probably never got over this. Her letter states how sick she was and had no medicine for two years. It was very upsetting when I found her headstone in Sylverino Cemetery, directly behind that of her parents.
She died in 1933, only 34 years old. I haven’t found a death certificate to know what she died of for sure, but I imagine it had everything to do with what she described in her letter. Doing without food for long periods of time can do great damage to your body and maybe she just never recovered.
I haven’t found her father on the 1940 Census, but his headstone says he died in 1951. I found Walter, Osa’s husband on the 1940 Census living in Houston, remarried to Ruby Mae Williams and living with a mix of his and Osa’s children and Ruby’s children from her previous marriage. I believe they later had two children together.
I’m so sad for Osa. Sad for her children that they lost their mother, just as she had. Sad for Walter that he had to handle all this and pick up the pieces for his children. It seems he did and I hope and pray their lives got better after this. I imagine that would change a man forever so I was glad to see he had remarried.
Thank you to Nedra for always being there with me when we discover our families’ stories. It’s never to late to tell them!!
Thank you to Marilyn Metcalf Huber, for sharing these pictures of Osa and her family with me.
While my Aunt Jane is no longer with us, I thank her too for sharing what she had with me! We wouldn’t know at all about Osa’s struggles without her.
Most importantly though, thank you to Osa for sharing this story with Big Mama (Mollie). It must have been very dear to her to have put it in her bible and saved it. I can only imagine how she must have felt upon reading this letter.
Did Big Mama want to go get Osa?
Was it too late??
Will we ever find out???
If you are a descendant of Walter and Osa, I would love so much to hear from you.