Mattie Sylvania Young was born on January 4, 1895. She and older sister Mell were the only two children in the Hine photo that did not go to the orphanage. She may have stayed a while with her mother, possibly in Ashburn. But in 1912, she married Nelson Colup Ricks. She was 17 and he was 21. They lived initially in Ashburn, but by 1920, they were living in Albany, where Nelson worked for a saw mill. They had all three of their children then, Ione (6), John (4) and Clyde, a girl (1).
By 1930, they had moved to Red Rock, in Worth County, where they were farmers. About 1943, they moved to Fresno, California, where Mattie worked 27 years for the Roeding Fig Company. They returned to Georgia for several visits. On the first visit, Mattie saw her mother. The second time, she had a reunion with sisters Eddie Lou and Mell. They had not seen each other since they were children, according to several descendants of Mell and Eddie Lou.
Mattie’s husband Nelson died in 1972. Mattie died in Fresno on March 2, 1982, at the age of 87. She was the last to die among the children of Catherine and Jesse Young. In her obituary, three of her siblings were listed as survivors: Seaborn, Jesse and Eddie Lou, but all of them had already passed. None of her children are living now, but I interviewed her great-granddaughter, Susan Beauchene, and her granddaughter, Shirley Lockett.
Excerpts from my interview with Susan Beauchene, great-granddaughter of Mattie Young (and granddaughter of Mattie’s daughter Ione). Interview conducted on June 26, 2011.
I was born in 1953, so I was about 29 when my great-grandmother Mattie died. I didn’t know her very well when I was a child. I remember her as being sort of distant. She wasn’t a real loving kind of great-grandmother. She was very domineering. Everybody answered to her. She even named my grandmother’s children. The last time I saw her was in 1978, after my youngest son was born. My mother, my husband, my children, and I drove to Fresno from San Diego, where we were living. She was in her eighties by that time, but I remember her being very sharp. She could discuss anything with you. That was the only time I ever talked to her on an adult level, but the conversations were enjoyable because she was witty and smart.
I never knew about her childhood. She seemed like a very hard person. Maybe the picture explains why. She certainly didn’t have an easy life. Their father had died young. She and her brothers and sisters had to work as children, and then they were adopted out. My mom remembers that when she was a little girl, she visited Mattie’s mother, Catherine, who was bedridden and blind. She was staying with somebody in Albany, maybe her daughter Mell.
Ten months after I completed and posted this story, I was contacted by Shirley Lockett, one of Mattie’s granddaughters. Her mother was Mattie’s daughter Clyde. Here are excerpts from my interview with Shirley. The interview was conducted July 12, 2012.
“My cousin sent me your story. That’s how I found out about it. He printed it from the website and put it in a binder, like a book. As soon as I opened it and saw my grandmother’s name and picture, I started to cry.”
“I was born in 1949. There were eight of us kids. Until I was 17, when my parents moved to Reno (NV), we lived just a few doors down from my grandmother. It was in an area in Fresno called West Park. My mom and my grandmother were really close. Every holiday, we were together. Every Sunday we went to my grandmother’s house for supper, and spent the whole day there. We loved it.”
“My grandmother lived in a two-room house, just a kitchen and the one room. The bed was in there, and the TV. My grandfather would sit on the side of the bed, and my grandmother sat in the recliner. And there were a few other chairs. They had an outhouse and a chicken coop and a washroom. They were comfortable there, and they had lots of acreage. Later on, my dad built a separate bedroom and an indoor bathroom for them.”
“My grandmother was always working, but I don’t remember my grandfather working. He couldn’t see very well, so he wasn’t able to work. He wore real thick glasses. I loved my grandfather. He babysat for me a lot. Sometimes, he would drink whiskey, and if I was too rowdy, he would give me a little shot of it to put me to sleep. My grandmother never learned to drive. So my grandfather did the driving, and my grandmother told him where to turn, and so on.”
“My grandmother was always laughing and teasing my dad. She was one of the funniest ladies I’ve ever been around. She used snuff, and my dad did, too. It was always Sweet Garrett Snuff. They would see who could spit the farthest. She carried a spit cup in her purse, and she’d open her purse and spit in it. When she sat in her recliner, she had a coffee can next to her, and she would spit in it. It was very funny.”
“She never said anything about having to work as a child, but I did know that her brothers and sisters went up for adoption. She hadn’t seen them since they were little, and she didn’t know where most of them were. She told us she was able to make a trip back to Georgia and meet up with two of her sisters (Mell and Eddie Lou). I never heard her mention her mother, Catherine. But on her dresser was that picture you have of her with her mother and grandfather in the background. I never knew who the woman and the man were until I saw the picture on your website (see picture below). She kept in contact with Mell a little. She talked about her from time to time. As far as being sad about having had a traumatic life, she never showed it.”
“She said that she and my grandfather were on a motor trip across the country, and they had gone into Fresno, and she loved the city so much that she wanted to move there, so they did. She told stories about living in Georgia. She had some black servants that they paid, but when she moved to Fresno, she didn’t have any servants, so she had to learn to do everything, the cooking, washing, cleaning, everything. She had two sons besides the three girls. One only lived a few days, and the other passed away when he was a year old. She was strong willed, but she was a wonderful, loving person.”
“In 1968, my mom and dad split up, and my mom went back to Fresno and moved in with my grandmother and grandfather, and she stayed there until they passed. My mother passed away about 15 years ago.”
“When I was about 9, I was in the kitchen with my mom, and she was cooking dinner. I accidentally bumped into her, and she spilled hot water on my hand. I was crying and flipping out. My mother said, ‘Go over to Mother Ricks – that’s what she called my grandmother – and I’ll have her talk the fire out of you.’ I started down the dirt road to my grandmother’s, and all I could think about was, ‘What is she going to do to me?’ I was still crying, because it really hurt. When I got to the back door, I saw her sitting at the table, and she had her hands in a pot. She looked up and said, ‘Come on in and let me take a look at that hand.’ When I went in, I could see that she was peeling potatoes in cold water. She just put my hand in the cold water and rubbed it, and she told me I was going to be fine. And then we talked and laughed and I completely forgot about it. I found out later that my mom had called her while I was on the way down.”