He placed the tiny baby in a cigar box and walked to the Godfreys

Posted by | June 26, 2009

“Mother was born April 4, 1919, Zelma Zane Bennett. She was all of two pounds and fit very nicely into a cigar box. She was the daughter of Fred and Mollie (Perry) Bennett who lived in Curtin, WV. Fred was a fireman on the logging train that ran through the mountain community.

“The Flu outbreak of 1918 & 1919 hit the little community hard and the Bennett family did not escape the sickness. Fred and Mollie cared for their elder daughter, Eva Maxine Bennett, but the girl did not pull through. She was laid to rest along side her grandparents in the Alderson Church Cemetery in Craigsville, WV in October, 1918. Mollie was pregnant with Mother at the time. Tired from caring for Maxine and grief stricken at her loss she became sick too. Mollie really never got over the flu and in April 1919 she finally went into labor and delivered Mother early. A week later Mollie’s sister and her husband also died.

“Fred Bennett had lost his older daughter, his wife, his sister-in law, and his brother-in law, and was left with a baby whom he felt wouldn’t live either. He wrapped the tiny baby and placed her into a cigar box and covering it with a towel, walked a few doors down to the Godfrey house.

Kennebec cigar box“Claire and Sylvanis Godfrey had tried without success to have a family but it was just not meant to be. Sylvanis, nicknamed Doc, was the engineer on the same train that Fred was fireman. They were great friends and he knew they were good people. Fred left the tiny infant with Claire and disappeared from Curtin.

“Zelma was tiny but she was a fighter. With Claire’s love and care Zelma thrived.

“One day Doc wanted to go to the store. Zelma being about 3 years old at the time cried to go with him. He took her hand in his and off they went. The store was a hangout for all the men in town. They would gather and collect the news.

“Well, Doc and Zelma came walking in and everybody knew Doc loved to tell stories so they asked him to set a spell and tell a story. Doc didn’t want to tell a story but said he had a joke for them……he told the joke and everybody roared with laughter.

“Then he decided to sing a dirty song…..well wouldn’t you know Zelma caught onto the tune real quick and everybody thought she was just the cutest thing standing on the table of that store singing a dirty song.

“Doc and Zelma collected their things and went home. Claire greeted them at the door and asked if they had a good time. Zelma popped up with “Yes, and Dad taught me to sing a new song…” and she began to sing. Well, Doc turned 40 shades of red and couldn’t get out of that house fast enough.

“When Zelma started her first day of school she was enrolled as Zelma Godfrey. The next summer the Godfrey’s left Curtin, WV and went west to Lewis County, WA where Doc’s family had settled several years before. Doc got a job as an engineer on the trains and Claire operated a boarding house that sat close to the tracks. Zelma grew into a young lady there in Mosseyrock, WA.

“When Zelma was 14 Claire took sick and as she laid on her death bed she explained how Mom came to be their daughter. Claire told her everything she knew about her natural parents but she couldn’t tell Mom what happened to the father who’d left the tiny bundle with them and walked away.

“After Claire’s death Doc decided to take Zelma back to West Virginia to live with his sister while he was working. Zelma by this time was starting high school. It was a good plan but shortly after their arrival Zelma’s aunt Jane Spencer took sick and Mother was tossed from one family member to another. The days of her happy childhood were over and for the next few years she shed a lot of tears.”

Brenda Collins Dillon
(1944-2006)
b. Richwood WV

sources: http://www.saponitown.com/brenda-collins-dillon/mother.htm http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~wvnichol/bd/godfrey.htm

Brenda+Collins+Dillon Curtin+WV Spanish+flu appalachia appalachian+history history+of+appalachia

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