Jim and Ida Dean, Part of My Story


Woodlawn is a large cemetery in Sumner, Mississippi.  In order to reach it, you have to turn by Cassidy Bayou. If you are coming from the square, take a right on the street running behind the bank.  It will take you to Woodlawn.  If you continue to follow the road, you will end up in Webb.  My Great Grandparents and a number of relatives are buried in this cemetery.


This picture above is one of the reasons for me starting this journey though.  James and Ida Dean first moved to the Mississippi Delta in 1915 from Claiborne County, south of Vicksburg.  James went by Jim. They got off the train at Dundee in Tunica County, bought an ax, and started work on this land that was still much a wilderness.  With them were 8 children.  Their ages ranged from one to sixteen.  The youngest, Willie Bell, would die in 1917 at the age of three.  He is buried in Dooley Woods Cemetery in Tunica County. They would move not long after down to Leflore County where Jim’s  brother was living.  The couple and their family wouldn’t stay there long though. By the mid 1920s, they are back in Tunica.  It was on this second attempt in Tunica that my Grandfather met my Grandmother and got married.  The family hung on awhile, but were not successful.  By this time, many of their children had gotten married.  One son, John, had gotten injured in a farm accident and would never be the same.  They moved near Rolling Fork in Sharkey County before finally settling in Sumner in Tallahatche County.  Jim’s brother Bill and his family were living in Charleston. Six of their children would settle at Sumner and in Tallahatchie County. My Grandfather remained in Tunica.  My Great grandfather died three years before I was born.  I was raised on stories my Father told me about him though.  About bear hunts and a posse he rode in hunting for a bad man.  When my Father started dating my Mother, he took her to visit Jim.  By that time, he was sick in bed.  My Great grandmother would bring him his medicine. He would take it and after she left, you could hear him throwing the pills against the wall.  Jim Dean would sit in his overalls with a handkerchief over his head telling his stories.  His son John would say “Aw Paw, Don’t keep telling those stories.” He never stopped.  John passed in 1961.  Jim passed in 1964. I remember my Great grandmother though. When I was little, Ida Bell Dean came to visit and I remember her holding me.  Then she passed into history. Soon their stories were only memories.  Later, I remember going to Sumner to visit my Aunt Ruth, Aunt Fannie, Aunt Ethel, Uncle Fred, and Uncle Everett.  Listening to their stories.  Taking them all in.  Then they passed into history.  Soon their stories were only memories.


My Delta is full of stories and memories like James and Ida Dean.  Stories of hardship. Stories of survival.  Stories of love. Stories of both the good and bad.  There are places all over the world where these stories have happened.  This is just one corner.  My Corner.  My Delta.  ” Stories not recorded don’t become memories, they become lost. “







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