My mother’s paternal grandmother is Dollie Cook, born Dorcas Elizabeth Allison, in Marion County, Georgia, on October 8th, 1890. As far as I know, no one has ever found a birth record for Dollie, but that is the date she always used.
Dollie’s timeline, based on the records we have for her, goes as follows:
1900 – U.S. Census – Dollie, age 10, is living with her parents, S. John and Delila Allison, and four brothers in Tazwell, Marion, Georgia.
1906 – Georgia County Marriages, 1785-1950 – Dollie marries Arthur Thomas Cook in Marion County.
1907 – Family records show she had a baby who died.
1909 – April 15 – Dollie gives birth to Dewey Hoyt Cook in Walnut Hill, Escambia County, Florida.
1911-1926 – Dollie has eight more children (five sons, including twins, and three girls).
1910, 1920, 1930, 1940, and 1950 – U.S. Census records show Dollie living in Walnut Hill.
1941 – Florida Divorce Index, 1927-2001 – Dollie divorces Arthur.
1973 – Florida Death Index, 1877-1998, and published obituaries show Dollie died on September 27th.
My mother remembers Dollie as being mean. Dollie insisted that her children bring their families to her home in North Escambia County for all holidays and special occasions. It’s one reason my grandmother, Hoyt’s wife Willie, was always ready to host Christmas dinner and gift exchanges on a day other than December 25th. She understood the pressures from the “other” family to spend the day with them, and she realized it wasn’t worth fighting about or getting upset.
I imagine Dollie’s early life was difficult. Both her parents died in or around 1904, when Dollie was 14 years old, or thereabouts. Her mother, it’s said, sustained fatal injuries in a train wreck on the way to Oklahoma. Her father and two younger siblings died in Oklahoma. The story I heard was that there was a settlement from the railroad, but the children didn’t see any of that money. Community members helped them get money to return to Georgia, where members of their late mother’s family still lived.
Dollie had one older brother, Frank Allison. He was about 16 when they were orphaned. They had two younger siblings, ages 12 and 9, and I’m sure she had to take on some of the responsibility of taking care of those children.
The timeline suggests that very soon after their marriage, Arthur and Dollie moved to Florida. Pensacola and Milton were booming with port traffic and lumber mills. The Cooks settled in the north end of Escambia County and started farming.
Dollie’s brothers Frank, John Henry, and Elbert Byron (known as Zeb) all moved to the same area and lived there all their lives.
I was told that in 1916, when Dollie was pregnant with twins Horace and Hurley, Arthur had to carry her to the porch, where she would sit and shell peas or whatever she could do. I’m sure that having nine children and a farm to run kept Arthur and Dollie busy just about every hour of every day.
At some point when Hoyt was a boy, their house burned. Hoyt had left his new shoes on the back porch and wanted to run around and grab them but Dollie insisted all the children stay with her. All his life, Hoyt said he could have saved those shoes if she’d have just let him run back there for a minute.
In 1965, according to an newspaper photo caption published much later, Dollie was injured in a car accident. My mother says she was told Dollie had gotten out of the car, perhaps to check the mailbox, and the car rolled and knocked her down. She was in a wheelchair the rest of her life.
I have searched the Pensacola newspaper archives on newspapers.com, but I can’t find a reference to the accident. I did find several listings from that time period where Mrs. Dollie E. Cook was named an inspector for an election precinct in Walnut Hill.
This timeline review – suggested by Amy Johnson Crow as part of her 52 Ancestors in 52 Days Challenge – shows just how little a timeline of vital records and censuses can tell about a person’s life and how important it is to preserve family stories that will otherwise be lost to time.