Cleo Sims Josey
July 30, 1913 to January 26, 1997
This is my mother's story
to the best of my knowledge.
To the left is a picture of mother taken when she must have been about ten years old. Some say mother was born in Idabel, OK, and others say in Little River or Sevier County, AR. On a trip to AR and OK, mother and I researched and interviewed several cousins as to her true birthplace. They all said she was born in Idabel, OK. The 1920 Federal Census shows the household of James B. and Elizabeth Sims, in Idabel, McCurtain County, OK, with Cleo Sims, age 6, as granddaughter, born in Oklahoma. With that information from her grandparents and other statistics, I tend to lean toward the story that a midwife delivered mother in Idabel, OK, and that is where her delayed birth certificate was from.
Mother spent her childhood in Ashdown, AR and Idabel, OK, and later in Oil City, Mooringsport, and Vivian, LA. Hers was not an idyllic childhood from all of the stories that have been passed down.
Mother's parents were James Bradley (Brad) and Zula (Zulie) Baker Sims, Jr. There is quite a story here, and one may easily get lost in reading all of this, so good luck. Zula Baker had been married to Will Jean in 1906 and they had a son, Lloyd Jean, January 18, 1908 in Mineral Springs, AR- July 13, 1994 - buried in Laws Chapel Cemetery, Atlanta, TX. Per my first cousin, Shirley, (daughter of Lloyd Jean), Will came up on a horse with some shoes for Lloyd and Zula threw them back at him. Shirley said that Will and Zula Jean were divorced after that and I am not sure of that date. Will Jean put up electric lines outside of Albuquerque and he was electrocuted in a job accident.
Will Jean was born January 19, 1886, died August 15, 1914, and is buried in Hicks Cemetery outside of Ashdown, AR, along with many of Zula Baker's family members. The picture to the right is of Zula and Lloyd, probably taken about 1911 or 1912, before mother was born.
James Bradley Sims, Jr. had married Coila Hardy, about 1905 and she died quite young. That also has some convoluted stories. A 104 year old black lady told me in the 1980's that Coila had such bad morning sickness that she just sat in the rocking chair and rocked and rocked and could not keep food down at all. She finally died of dehydration, and malnutrition, they said. Others have said that she died in childbirth. Coila was born February 12, 1886 and died March 28, 1907. She is buried in Hicks Cemetery, in Wilton, Little River County, AR
At any rate, after Coila's death and Zula's divorce, Zula and Brad married in 1911, and they had mother in 1913. Mother was only a few months old when Zula was breast feeding her one day and a black widow or a tarantula spider crawled up and bit Zula on the chest as someone came in and grabbed mother. Blood poisoning set in and Zula died shortly thereafter. Zula was born August 17, 1887 and died about 1913 and is buried in Denison Cemetery, Idabel, OK. One more strange thing is that they have on Zula's headstone a death date of 1912.
06-29-2004 - NOTE: A strange discovery today!!!
Having been left motherless, mother and Lloyd spent a lot of time with Brad's parents, James Bradley and Elizabeth Collins Sims, Sr. in Idabel, OK. Those were good days, according to mother, because she loved her grandparents. She grew up with her cousins, the Rays, which included James, Swann, Ruth, Pat, Berton, etc. James Ray shared with us the fact that mother was a great story teller when they were kids. They would sit outside and each one would take a turn at telling ghost stories and James said that mother always told the scariest ones. They were the children of Grace Sims Ray, one of mother's dad's sisters. Ruth Ray later married the well known oilman in Texas, H. L. Hunt. One of James Ray's and mother's repeated stories was that many times, Brad would get off work late at night in Mooringsport, LA, come in and say "Cleo, get up, get dressed and we will go to Idabel." Mother always loved those trips. James said "that when Brad and Cleo got there, Brad would pull up in his old model "T", and drive around in circles in front of the house and the kids ran around chasing them, thrilled to see them again."
Here is a picture to the right of the school in Mooringsport that mother attended. This was one of the trips that I went on with mother when I was interviewing her about her life many, many years ago.
This is the school that she pointed out to me that she remembered. Then, on the October 2005 trip that I made to Mooringsport, LA, I found this photo below of the school when it was built in 1911. You can see it is the same school, if you look closely. And, do notice those old cars in the front of the school. These photos are such treasures to me, and I am just so glad that I was able to obtain all of them.
Here is a fuller shot of the school.
This is the home, in Mooringsport, where mother lived with her dad in the 1920's and 1930's. The next time I am over that way, I must check to see if the house is still there.
During this time, mother's dad, James, Jr. was working for Gulf Oil in Mooringsport, LA. On October 10, 2005, I visited Vivian, Oil City and Mooringsport, LA and found many items of interest. One interview was with an adorable 105-1/2 year old lady who said she remembered mother's daddy, James Bradley Sims, since she went to church with him at the Methodist Church. So, now I know what religion they were. I also talked with a lady who went to school with mother and she said that she remembered what a sweet girl mother was. Also, here is a picture that I retrieved from the museum in Mooringsport to show you what sort of town mother grew up in.
In a "Profile of Mooringsport," I am quoting:
According to another legend, a chief of the Caddo tribe was warned of impending disaster by the Great Father Above. Heeding the vision, he led his people to higher ground whereupon the earth trembled, the ground sank, and floods poured over the land where the tribe once lived and hunted.
On December 16, 1811, one of the largest earthquakes on record occurred. The quakes epicenter was in an unusual location near New Madrid, Missouri, from this it derived its name although it effected 2,000,000 square miles. It produced striking topographical changes over a vast area. A depression in the northwest corner of Tennessee was created and when it filled with water, it became Reelfoot Lake. The land trembled and cracked open in places as far south as New Orleans and as far west as Greenville, Texas. Even Boston, Mass felt it's tremors. The current of the Mississippi River was reversed for a matter of minutes. Its banks heaved and caved. Landslides roared down cliffs. The sky was darkened by dust or by sulphurous fumes. Changes took place in northwest Louisiana and northeast Texas, and Caddo Lake was formed.
As settlers moved into this area, minor problems arose that made the Caddo Indians willing to sell their land. On July 1, 1835, a treaty was signed and the United States agreed to pay the Indians $80,000 for their land; $30,000 in goods and $10,000 in cash per year for five years. The area involved was all of Caddo Parish and parts of southern Arkansas. For his work as interpreter in this transaction, Larkin Edwards was allowed to choose for himself one section (640 acres) of this land. The Caddos left and finally ended up in Oklahoma.
Long before Mooringsport had a name, a colony of hardy folks came from Alabama in 1836 and settled here. In 1844, Isaac Croom homesteaded the land and where the town now stands. In 1837, two brothers, John and Timothy Mooring, came to Louisiana from North Carolina. John chose a point near the lake and Timothy operated a ferry. It was not long until steamboats were tying up here and cotton was being loaded for other points. In the early days, steamboats plied Caddo Lake regularly. Just west of town is the old Swanson Landing where goods were loaded for Jefferson, Texas, after being hauled overland from New Orleans, as the Red River was not navigatable at this time. This was prior to the removal of the Great Red River Raft by Capt. Henry Miller Shreve.
The picture to the right is one of mother standing by the first car that she learned to drive. This was taken about 1929, and click on the picture to get a good view of mother when she was young, about 16 or 17.
Then, Brad sent off for a mail order bride from the Carolinas, and he married a Minnie Ray, who had been a school teacher. The stories mother told me, about living with the stepmother that she now had, are more than I could put on this page. Apparently, she was the proverbial wicked stepmother. Mother related stories that she had to come home from school and stand on orange crates to do the dishes, do the laundry, and iron the starched long petticoats of her stepmother. The stepmother pulled a gun on mother more than once. Mother told her dad about it and he said that the next time something like that happened (the gun being pulled) that she (mother) should pull the shade up and down in the bedroom, and he could see it since he worked in the oil fields next door. It happened again, mother pulled the shade up and down and Brad had to call the local law enforcement. Minnie was admitted to the state hospital in Pineville, LA and readmitted several times thereafter. They finally kept Minnie and she lived the remainder of her life there. She died in the institution and is buried there. I have tried extensively to find out the death date and more information on Minnie Ray Sims, only to have the hospital tell me that the records were all destroyed many years ago.
Another convoluted storyline is Brad's fourth and last wife, Vera Mae Murphy Hearin. We have been unable to find the marriage record of Brad and Vera, but, in 1968, six ladies published a quarterly in Union Co AR. It was entitled "Murphy - Perry - Perdue and Allied Families." Virgil Sims told me about it. The genealogy was done with a whole lot of time and effort. Interviews, cemetery searches, trips to the Dallas library, and Arkansas archives, going through court house records and a whole lot more went into the data in these books. I was fortunate enough to be able to add all of those children to our tree.
However, it revealed some disturbing facts, considering that I had gotten all of the family history from mother, while she was alive, or so I thought. Apparently, Brad and Vera married in the late 1920's. According to the book by the six ladies, Brad and Vera had two children, Gladys, born in 1927 and Juanita born in 1930, and they are listed as Sims. We grew up going to visit Vera and Juanita and Gladys during the summers in the mid to late 1940's at which time Brad was dead and Vera had married a Tom Bross. Vera was born October 15, 1898 and died June 25, 1964 and is buried in the Chapelwood Memorial Gardens, in Vivian, LA.
We always knew Gladys and Juanita as "Bross" children. Soooo, if these six ladies are correct in their research, that means that mother had two half sisters that were never explained to me while mother was alive. Gladys is now deceased and even though I have found her daughter, we can't get this matter cleared up. I went to Oil City, LA to interview Gladys' second husband and he believed that Brad was Gladys's dad. I have talked with Gladys' daughter and she said that after Gladys took a trip up to Arkansas one time, that Gladys came back and said she had found out who her real daddy was, and it was not Brad, but she would never tell her daughter who it was. She took that secret to the grave with her. Many of us have tried to find Juanita and had no luck. So, we have yet two more mysteries.
Mother worked for a time as a switchboard operator in Mooringsport, according to some stories, but that has not been confirmed yet. Again, here is another picture of mother to the left when she must have been about 16-17. She is standing on the railroad tracks where she told me that she and Bush and Mary, her cousins, would run down the tracks with no escape except the lake below and sometimes the trains would be coming behind them, so they really had to run when that happened. Could we give these three ladies the nickname of "daredevils?"
Here is a picture on the right of that Historic Caddo Lake Drawbridge
that I just found on the Caddo Parish web site. Click to enlarge
picture of bridge. In the summer of 1941, just prior to World War
II, the United States Army held maneuvers in and around Mooringsport as
a means of preparing the soldiers for war. During the maneuvers,
Generals Dwight D. Eisenhower and George S. Patton came to Mooringsport
and led the Red and Blue Armies in the "capture" of the bridge.
They also bombed the bridge with sacks of flour.
Mother then spent a lot of time in the LA and AR area with some other cousins, Bush, Mary, Rags, Estalena, and others who were children of Henry and Tom, Brad's two brothers. The picture to the right is one of Bush and Mary. Those years were mainly spent in the Mooringsport and Oil City, LA area. They were always close, all of these cousins and mother, throughout the years, up to and at the end. Mother attended school in Mooringsport, LA.
Mother and daddy had seven children with one dying of leukemia. Recently, it has come to light that there may have been an eighth baby born dead, but mother never told anyone about that. Our brother, who we have always thought was the third child, noticed it on his birth certificate, and it is on one other certificate, but not on the others, so we are confused on that point. I have spent hours talking with the hospital, to find out that they threw out all of the records dated prior to 1950. As an avid genealogist, I find that to be unconscionable. Further, I have also checked with the local health board in Shreveport, and they referred me to the New Orleans office, but they said there is not much hope of there being a record. So, that is an ongoing twist in this family line.
During the depression years, it was not easy for mother, especially with a baby being born every 14-18 months apart. Then World War II years came on and it was really tough times then. Daddy went into the Army Air Corps and mother worked in a defense factory for a time during that period, then in a candy factory and then she went into her beginning of her nursing career, as a nurse's aid at the Tri-State Hospital. Mother did her best, struggling (and it was a struggle) day to day with so many challenges and so many children. At one point, it was a consideration for us to go to an orphanage because things were so tough, but mother did not go that route. She always made such good meals, the likes of which we have not experienced since childhood, unless we went to visit her. Her corned beef and cabbage, cabbage rolls, salmon croquettes, divinity and fudge could not be duplicated anywhere. I had not thought of it for many years, but Betty brought it up today in November of 2004 how Mother would make us homemade pancakes and make the syrup by using sugar, water, and vanilla flavoring. Gosh, was it good too. We did not know what store bought syrup tasted like. Betty is the only one who seemed to inherit mother's knack for making successful divinity candy like mother did. Betty remarked recently that she always remembered one of mother's favorite sayings as being "you can get just as full on a plate of beans as you can on a plate of steak."
One of mother's most memorable moments was when she was selected the "Mother of the Week" at a local radio station because her children had written to the radio station about what a great mother she was. The letter was read on the radio and mother was presented an orchid from the Young American's Club.
When daddy died in 1953, mother decided that with her lot in life of having to rear the remaining four children who were still at home, that she had better get some kind of training and she pursued the dream of her life, to become a nurse. She went to nursing school during the days and worked as a nurse's aid during the nights, until she graduated from nursing school. Those following years were rewarding for mother, because that is what she had always wanted to do. But, her grandparents had always told her that nice ladies do not go into nursing. How the times have changed. Mother remained in the nursing profession until 1986. The pictures to the upper and lower right are of mother chatting with a Harlem Globetrotter after we had watched them play at a game in Tampa, FL, in 1976 and mother and Lloyd, her half brother, taken in 1984.
The picture to the upper left above was taken of mother in Missouri when she came to visit us in the early 1960's.
Here is a picture of mother below on the right hugging "Tiny," our doggie that we had to leave behind with mother when we went to Germany. Mother loved that dog so much, and it broke her heart when she lost Tiny. You also can see that mother was in her nurse's uniform in this picture, and I also found a picture of one of the nursing homes that mother worked in for many years in Vivian, LA. That was a very long drive for her to make (almost an hour each way) and she worked the 3-11 p.m. shift. Mother was an extremely strong woman, and I admire her more and more as time goes on.
Shown below are two places facilities where mother worked. The first one was then known as the Tri-State Hospital in Shreveport, and the second one is the Heritage Manor in Vivian, LA.
This has always been one of my favorite pictures of mother, with Les escorting her down the aisle at Paul and Ellen's wedding in 1991.
The guys always loved to tease their grandmother Josey. They thought she was such a good sport. She could give as good as she took too. They have all said many times how much they miss her. You can see how petite mother looked here beside Yukon Les. The holidays are not the same with all of the old timers gone. They were such a huge part of all of our lives. I strongly encourage any and all who may be reading this to cherish every moment they have with our older generation. There is much to be learned from each of them and, trust me, they will be incredibly missed after they are gone.
July 23, 1988, a week before her birthday, mother's children hosted a really nice 75th birthday party for her in the Wellington Square Apartments complex where she lived throughout her remaining years. All six of her children were there, along with her half brother, Lloyd Jean and his wife, Hazel and their daughter, Shirley. Mother and Lloyd were always very close and they shared some good memories at the party. There are some great pictures on the next page of the party. One hundred booklets were printed up with mother's life in pictures and each attendee received one. It was such a thrill to see everyone sitting around looking through the books. Heartwarming toasts were given at the party, and mother said that many of the residents remarked that they had never seen anything like it, and everyone had a marvelous time at the party.
very fond of Elvis, just as Mary McCoy Helfrich was, and it is only
appropriate to have this picture of Elvis on both of their pages.
Mother wanted to be a nurse more than anything else in the world and I am so glad she achieved that goal. Mother is the first one on the right (front row) in the picture to the left. Just click on the diploma on the left to enlarge it. After mother's death, we set up a nursing scholarship with the criteria that the recipient be middle age, with children, and trying to get her nursing degree, just as mother had done. The scholarship was set up in Idabel, OK, where mother had grown up, and the winner was Linda Mitchell. Click here to see the newspaper article about the scholarship. Click on the lower right side of the article and you will get an icon to click on which will enlarge the article.
To say that mother was a special person, one of a kind, etc., is quite an understatement. I miss her more than words can express. She is truly one of the pioneers that I talk about on the Lady Bug Page, with a special segment dedicated to her. Mother had been diagnosed with congestive heart failure in earlier years, but she lived to the age of 83, leaving us January 26, 1997, due to recurrent bronchopneumonia, prolonged immobility, and recent cerebrovascular infarct. Mother is buried in Forest West Cemetery, Shreveport, LA, and will forever be with us in our hearts.