Mrs. Carrie Kirby LaPrairie
by: Audrey Tracy
February 5, 1976
Mrs. Carrie Kirby LaPrairie was born in the year 1886 at Wallace Ridge to Mr. and Mrs. James Kirby. She was the oldest child of six born to the Kirbys. Her mother was, before she married. Flora Wooten from up Little River. In talking with Mrs. LaPrairie, she said, "Come August 31, I'll be 90 years old."
Last week, a fire destroyed a landmark in Trinity. A house that Mrs. LaPrairie says, "No telling how old it is because it was there when I was a little girl growing up and it was the last house that I lived in before the '73 water run me out and I just came on to live in the nursing home because I can't hardly see and can't walk too good and it was just the best thing to do."
She said, "I first married at near age 18 to France Taylor in 1905 at Wallace Ridge. In 1930 he fell ill and in those days you'd just call a doctor to come to your house and his stomach kept hurting and we couldn't find out what was wrong. He lay sick seven days and when we carried him to Chamberlin Rice Hospital in Natchez, they operated on him but it was too late and the appendix had ruptured and infection took up and he died.
"Fourteen years later, (she chuckled) I married Moab LaPrairie who lived down Black River on Larto Bayou off Larto Lake. Foolish waiting so long to marry again. Moab was 69 and I was 58. He died 10 years later of a heart attack.
"I had no children by birth," she said, "but I raised my daughter, Pearl Taylor, after her mama and papa died. They brought her to me when she was yet started to school and France and me were her Mama and Daddy. She actually was a cousin of France, but she's my girl and she had children, so I have grandchildren. I kept my nephew for 16 years after my sister died. He's here in this nursing home too," she said.
"About Pearl, she married a steamboat captain. The water was up and the boats were all beached right near our place but the water was in our house and there was a federal boat on a pontoon they let us live in until the water went down and Pearl and the steamboat captain got acquainted and married. His name is Wood E. Lam'er.
"Too bad about my sister's husband. She was 4 1/2 years younger than me. She married Charlie Adams. He was a steamboat man, too. White out on the Mississippi somewhere, something went wrong in the boiler room, and he went down to fix it and the thing blew up and scalded him to death. That boat's name was Joseph E. Ransdell."
Home for 57 years
"But back to that house," she said, "Mrs. A. D. Swayze's grandmother, Mrs. Ussery, told me that in 1882,the time the high water came in the house, she moved in the upstairs with her three small children and made out in it until the water went down. There was a fireplace up there she cooked on. Uncle Lonzo, Jr., was born just across the road and then the drought came and the water in the old wooden cistern made of staves, got tow, he and my brother, Dorothy Shamburger's daddy, would go down under the hill and they brought water up out of the Ouachita. That was for cooking and drinking and filling up the wash tubs that set on a side porch that made an ell outside the kitchen and dining room and back. Then the washing was done in several tubs with a rub board.
"For 57 years I owned and lived in that old house. When my husband and I moved in there we made it over. We painted it, and built on to the back in 1919 and made a straight porch across the back. We had it fixed up real nice. There was a big old living room, kitchen, dining room, bath and 3 bedrooms, if you count the living room, as sometimes we put a bed in there. The dining room and living room both had a fireplace and one upstairs. They were all off the same chimney. Many's the time, I fixed coffee on the fireplace and we'd sit around and entertain company and watch the embers as the fire died away. I had an old skillet with long legs and I would bake bread on the coals. On my mantel, in the dining room, I kept fruit jars filled with canned foods. And speaking of the mantel, in 1940 the water got in the house realty deep. It came up to the mantel. We had to move out then, but there was one year after I married, the water came up and we just stayed right there. My daddy had died, so in our bateau boat we'd go back and forth to pick up my mother and bring her to our house to cook. The water was tapping at the screens but it finally went down.
"The old hearth upstairs had been filled with sand and I was always afraid it would fall in on my mantel below. One of the waters that ran so swift washed the foundation and dirt away from the old chimney and it caved in but was rebuilt.
"Back in that day and time, you didn't worry when a storm came or a flood came, you just took it as part of living and went on. I was just as contented and happy as I could be and waited for each new day to greet the morning.
"We had a fine old-timey white bath tub we took our baths in. It set on legs, but they tell me when the fire came, it just (burnt) it into pieces.
"My old uncle, he lived to be a hundred, said he used to come to the old house when the Fuglaar's lived there. He was just a boy then but said you wouldn't believe how far back the yard extended toward the Ouachita back then. There was even a road between the Ouachita and the yard; it was a long ways back there. The road was smooth and white in places and he and other little boys would play marbles there. They always cautioned each other to be careful and not shoot too far cause the marbles would go in the river. He said this same house was right there, with trees in the back yard and flowers growing and had a picket fence.
"My old uncle told of a woman of mystery who occupied the house at one time. Said she was a medium and he'd seen her tip the table with her magic.
"The old house was made out of mighty good lumber, it was heavy and fine and the sills was thick through and through. I used to hear an old hen cackling and go upstairs, that had been closed off, and not used, and find where an old hen had slipped up there and built a nest.
"There originally was four lots that went with the house, according to records, but through the years, the river has slipped the land away and the house set right on the bank of the Ouachita when it burned.
"Black people lived there in that community too, when I was growing up and we all played together, had a good time and fussed and fought like all children will do and nobody thought anything about it. I remember one old colored woman, Cooney Cotton, told about a pear tree that has been there long as anyone can remember and Old Aunt Margaret Cotton was living there and had told Cooney's brother to not eat the pears while they were green but he would slip up in the moonlight and steal them pears. Those were some good old pears and now the tree is caving in the river, but my niece's husband, J. R. King, said he climbed up there in 1975 and gathered some more of these good old pears. Good eating!
"Back in the days when I was a young girl," she said, "there was no bridge to Jonesville and Trinity was a livelier place. Once a week we'd have sociables and all us young girls would have a fetter and we'd square dance and have a good time. But, we had chaperones," she added, "we'd play games like tin pan. They'd give family dances in Jonesville on Saturday night in some of those big old fine homes, now been tore away. We'd cross the river by boat and go and Oh what fun we did have." Her eyes twinkled as she recalled the good times. "We'd waltz and two-step and eat cake and refreshments and made good memories, then our fellers would take us home and we girls would talk about all week what fun we had and look with anticipation to the next good time.
"I remember," she said, "they'd have a colored band from out of town to come and play the dances. One had a big bass fiddle, that's what I liked best, one had a coushaw looking thing with strings and sometimes the piano would play along with them. We'd wear our dresses to just above the ankles and bow ribbons in our hair.
"A great friend of mine, Ethel Snyder and I were girls together and we played and shared secrets. Her family were fine people and had the Post Office in Trinity in one end of a hall that was closed off." (Mrs. LaPrairie told the writer a joke, told to her about one of Mrs. Snyder’s patrons; it is very important and very funny, but since she asked me not to divulge it, I won't. It's nice though to know when you're almost 90a sense of humor still remains.)
Another thing about her childhood Mrs. LaPrairie recalled were Indians coming to Trinity to sell baskets woven from cane. She said they were pretty and her mother had bought one. As she recalled the Indians came from around Jena.
Mrs. LaPrairie went on to tell about courting back then. She said, "We didn't have picture shows and entertainment like that, but what good times we had. The girls and our fellers would go on fish frys. We'd get in a boat and go up the Tensas where the finest big brim would just bite until you wouldn't believe. My feller never would get a fish much though, cause I wouldn't fool with them worms and it kept him busy just baiting my hook. He didn't seem to mind and just enjoyed watching me catch those brim. Other times we'd go on picnics and you know, that's the best times, being outdoors in the sunshine and fresh air, riding in a boat, sharing tales with your friends," she said.
With her sweet sense of humor, Mrs. LaPrairie told of going on a buggy ride with her feller on the 16th birthday and laughingly said to him, "I'm sweet and sixteen and never been kissed." She said he would have gladly obliged but she said, "no, indeed" that was taboo back in those days unless you were married.
Mrs. LaPrairie ends her reminiscing with an account of her Mama and Papa. She said her Papa delivered the mail down the river in a boat. There were no roads to carry it down Black River to where some little settlements were and he got the boat bid from Mr. Ford, the postmaster in Jonesville.
"Sometimes he'd carry Mama on the route with him and stay over night at the last stop on his route. It happened that Mama hung her clothes on the back of a rocking chair when bedtime came and her stocking and garters were laying on top, then Papa laid his clothes on top hers. He hurriedly got dressed the next morning and went his way. Far down the river, he met a salesman who started laughing and started pulling Mama's stocking out of Papa's sleeve. Papa said that was the longest stocking he had ever saw and they had a big laugh over it. Meanwhile, Mama wondered until Papa made his return trip, what in the world had become of her stocking."
Life goes on. As I was driving by the site where the old house stood before it burned down last week, I tried to capture some of the glimpses of history as told by Mrs. LaPrairie. On the front of the lols and stretched for a long way were fishnets and a net maker; behind the fishnet stood the tall old chimney, a water cistern and the ruins of the old home.
Authors Note: In as far as possible, this writing has been put down in it's original context in order to preserve the genuiness of an era of time.