Don't Fence Me Out

My father was a writer, too, and when I was digging into a box of his family research and notes for his book The Collinsworth-Craddock Feud, I noticed some short stories that were typed up separately from the book. Here's one of them.

by Kimbrough Dunlap

James Alexander Cox married (great grandmother of the author) Susan Jane Craddock's older sister, Margaret Collinsworth, in 1850, and they had eleven children, seven reaching adulthood, before she died in 1876. Over the next 24 years Jim Cox remarried and buried three additional wives, before he married Gussie Hess in 1900. By that time, Jim had raised his children plus five grandchildren, and he was 71 years old. Gussie was an old maid at 61, and it was her first marriage. She was the daughter of J.A.W. Hess, Sheriff of Gibson County for three terms prior to the Civil War, and the older sister of Sue and Willie Hess, who married the Dunlap brothers, W.N.L. and Winchester M. Dunlap.

Gussie was a plump but jolly lady that the Hess and Dunlap families never expected to see married, so when she and the elderly Jim Cox did marry, quite a few jokes and a lot of happiness spread throughout the families and community.

Gussie enjoyed taking care of Jim and entertaining his children and grandchildren over the next four years, before tragedy struck the Cox household again. Jim was sitting in his buggy after drinking a little one day in the early fall of 1904, and he was engaged in a conversation with his nephew, Bob Craddock. Jim made an insulting remark that caused Bob's temper to flare, and he jerked the old man out of the buggy and hit him, breaking his jaw and collarbone. A few weeks later, Jim died on November 11, 1904. Nothing was said much publicly at the time, nor two years later, when Bob Craddock killed Andrew Collinsworth on the Collinsworth Levee and lit the fuse of the smoldering Collinsworth-Craddock feud, but it is safe to say the manner in which Jim Cox died was not totally forgotten.

At the time he died, two of Jim's wives were buried at the Collinsworth cemetery, and the other two wives were buried at the Cox's Chapel Church of Christ. Gussie made an honorable decision to bury her husband beside the two wives at the Cox's Chapel Cemetery.

Some time later Gussie had an iron fence placed around Jim's grave, so that the south side of the fence ran between Jim's grave and the grave of his third wife, Penina. When Gussie died in 1921, her instructions were carried out, and she was buried inside the iron fence with Jim, which effectively fenced out the other wives. The fence still remains today that fences Gussie inside for eternity with her one and only husband.

Note from the editor, Sally Hendrick, daughter of the author. My father hinted above that this killing was the first spark of the Collinsworth-Craddock feud. The first killing (Bob Craddock to Jim Cox - married to Margaret Collinsworth) may have been considered not on purpose, an accident. He was family by marriage after all. But when it happened again, and Bob Craddock killed Sheriff A.J. Collinsworth, they couldn't let it slide, hence igniting the years-long feud.

Sally is patching together the pieces of her father's book called The Collinsworth-Craddock Feud by Kimbrough Dunlap. It will be published soon on Amazon.


What you don't know about Jim Crow

by Sally Hendrick

Two little girls in rural West Tennessee are best friends but only in secret. Separated by a cotton field, their lives couldn't be any more different. Sudie's and Mabie's friendship, beautiful yet tragic, leaves a mark for generations to come.

Sally takes you on a journey back in time to the early 1900's Jim Crow South, as she imagines what life was like for her grandmother, Sudie, weaving together memories from her own childhood and stories from her family, even the black women who raised her.

Coming someday soon. Please enjoy this chapter for now.

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