Saturday, June 13, 2015

Jesse Lee Findley

My great-grandfather, Jesse Lee Findley, was one of the few great-grandparents I didn't have a chance to meet. I'll refer to him as Jesse Lee throughout the remainder of this post in order to distinguish him from my grandfather Jesse Joe.

Jesse Lee was born 1 September 1908 in Hart County, Georgia. He was the first (or possibly the second) of at least 11 children born to his parents, William Ben and Pearl Olivia Cargill Findley.

Most of the stories of my great-grandfather were passed down from my grandfather to me and my siblings. According to my brother, Jesse Lee wanted to join the military. (Remember, Jesse Joe joined the Coast Guard as a teenager with the permission of his parents.) According to the story my brother heard, Jesse Lee was not allowed to join the military due to an issue with his eye. The story goes, as a child, Jesse Lee was playing with a stick. He threw the stick in the air, and it came down and hit him in the eye injuring it.
Jesse Lee Findley
Photo provided by Thomas Cardenas
If I had just seen this picture without having known that story, I probably would have thought it was just a sunny day and he was squinting because of the sun.

The biggest mystery to me surrounding my great-grandfather, though, is why he moved around so much. As I mentioned earlier, he was born in Hart County, Georgia. I'm not sure where he was between birth and 1920, but he is seen still being in Hart County, Georgia in 1920. (I'm still leafing page by page through the 1910 census in Hart County, and I haven't given up hope in finding them!)

Sometime between 1920 and 1930, Jesse Lee moves from Hart County, Georgia to Chicago.
Clipping from 1920 Census
He's renting a room from a 29-year-old named Walter Fredericks. Jesse Lee's occupation is listed as being a laborer of "odd jobs," and Walter's is listed as being a chauffeur for a printing business. I wonder if Walter and Jesse Lee met in Chicago after he moved there or if Jesse Lee somehow knew him before moving. According to the census, Walter was born in New York to immigrant parents; his father was from Canada, and his mother was from England. This leads me to believe they did not know each other (or at least for very long) before becoming roommates.

I've always wondered why Jesse Lee left Georgia for Chicago, but in any case, that is, no doubt, where he met his wife, Rosemary Christine Reaber, a native Chicagoan. Rosemary and Jesse Lee married in Chicago on 27 January 1932.

According to the 1940 census, the couple was still living in Chicago in 1935, but by 1938 they appear in a city directory in Jacksonville, Duval County, Florida.
Clipping from Page 1 of the 1938 Jacksonville, Duval County, Florida Directory
In the 1940 census, the family has moved from Jacksonville to DeLand, Volusia County, Florida. Jesse Lee's occupation is listed as "rodman with the State Road Department." I'm not entirely sure what a "rodman" does, but I'm more curious how or why he ended up in Florida from Chicago.

Was this a joint decision with his wife to move to Florida? He seemed to do odd jobs in Jacksonville before moving to Volusia County. Did he get the job with the Road Department before or after moving to DeLand? DeLand is the county seat for Volusia County, so it does at least make sense that they would have ended up there as opposed to another part of the county. (DeLand is in the western part of the county. Daytona Beach is also in Volusia County. Duval County is a few counties north from Volusia.)

I lose the family rather quickly after the 1940 census except from city directories and family stories. I find them in Jacksonville as late as 1944 in city directories. Florida had a state census in 1945. They are still living in Jacksonville, Florida then. But then the trail goes cold.

I know my great-grandfather died in Jacksonville, Onslow County, North Carolina in 1985. So, sometime between 1945 and 1985, the family moved to North Carolina. (My grandfather, Jesse Joe, was living in the next town over by this point.)

Even though Jesse Lee and Rosemary moved closer to their son, Jesse Joe, I see no evidence that they ever saw either of their parents again. Rosemary's parents died in Chicago, and Jesse Lee's parents died in Georgia. I know Rosemary communicated with her mother in letters, but I don't know if they ever visited each other. I have a good idea on Rosemary's relationship with her parents, but I wonder what Jesse Lee's relationship was like with his. Based on the constant moving, either it wasn't very good, or he just craved adventure and new experiences. More investigations will hopefully lead me to the actual reason.

  • 1920 Rays, Hart County, Georgia U.S. Federal Census (accessed on Ancestry)
  • 1930 Chicago, Cook County, Illinois U.S. Federal Census (accessed on Ancestry)
  • 1938 Jacksonville, Duval County, Florida City Directory (accessed on Ancestry)
  • 1940 DeLand, Volusia County, Florida U.S. Federal Census (accessed on Ancestry)
  • 1942 Jacksonville, Duval County, Florida City Directory (accessed on Ancestry)
  • 1943 Jacksonville, Duval County, Florida City Directory (accessed on Ancestry)
  • 1944 Jacksonville, Duval County, Florida City Directory (accessed on Ancestry)
  • Death Certificate, Jesse Lee Findley (provided by Thomas Cardenas)
  • Tombstone, Jesse Lee Findley and Rosemary Findley (personally visited in 2006 at Rosemary's funeral)

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