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Portrait of an Abandoned Family

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Estimated reading time: 12 minutes

Nothing shows a story more poignantly than the photo of an abandoned family.

Mack Henry James 1878-1945 ran out on his family. He left his wife and his children with no support. Suffering from stigma, and with few resources left to them, Mack’s family reorganized themselves successfully into extended family.


Center: Ivadean James Elliott & her 3 children Patricia Ann, Gerald, & Rod Elliott. 4th Child is Del Watkins, sister of Dean Watkins Conley. 2nd Row L-R: Zena James Randall, Ada James Watkins, Geneva “Ginny” James Randall, Dora James, & Canzada Watkins. Back Row L-R: Lareen Randall Phelps, possibly Boyd Phelps, & Leonard Watkins. Identified by Dean Watkins Conely, Feb 18, 2016.

The Man Who Left Stigma & Abandoned Family Behind

Mack Henry James died terribly. He was a junkyard man woefully ridden by  Buerger’s disease. His two legs were amputated. Mac was left entirely to the care of one of the women for whom he abandoned his family. Following Mac’s death, his third wife Flora Audra Spencer, after caring for Mac and watching him die, would enter her own descent into the cruel underworld of Alzheimer’s disease.

Mac’s abandoned family whom he left behind progressed forward painfully. They were more successful than Mac. Generations of them, demonstrating high respect for family, have followed.

Mac only survives as a lost memory now, and a sad story. The legacy of Mac’s family lives in his children and in theirs.


The Abandoned Family in the Picture

Canzada Frances Gregory-Watkins:  From her apron, it is evident Canzada Watkins is the hostess of this group on the day the photo was taken. Born in 1872, she is the mother of Leonard Watkins, a twin born in 1905.

Leonard Watkins :  Leonard is a son of Canzada Watkins. Leonard also is a 6th great-grandson of Samuel Sallee of Culpeper County, Virginia. Just how Samuel is related to Guillaume “William” Sallee, the associate of Frank and Jesse James’ grandfather John M. James, remains undefined.

Ada James-Watkins :  Ada James, one of the daughters abandoned by Mack Henry James, stands to her husband Leonard’s right. All the descendants of Leonard and Ada James Watkins share a unique combination of James and Sallee kinship.

Delma “Del” Watkins:  The child standing far right is the daughter of Leonard Watkins & Ada James.

Dorinda “Dora” Phelps-James:  Standing to the right of Canzada Watkins, Dora is the first wife of Mack Henry James. She is the mother of his children. All were left to be Mac’s abandoned family shortly after the birth of their 5th child, Ivadean James in 1915. The 1920 census lists Dora at age 37 as head of household with four children between the ages of twelve and four and a half years. She had been head of household for almost four years.

Ivadean James-Elliott:  Standing front and center is the youngest child of Mack Henry James. Ivadean James inherited the genetic tall gene that is occasional among James siblings. Over the years, the unhappiness of her expression in the photo would turn into resignation and peaceful acceptance.

Stigma of The Bastard Bunch

When Mack Henry James abandoned Ivadean James and her siblings, it was not the first time this James family line suffered a stigma. There always was a the stigma of kinship to Frank and Jesse James. But there was more stigma that was closer to home.

When interviewed in 1999, Ivadean James-Elliott misidentified her paternal great-grandfather. She knew her grandfather Judge John Thomas James, who tragically was dragged under an automobile and killed when Ivadean was 8 years old. But she knew nothing about her actual paternal great- grandfather, the “talented, but erratic” Rev. Joseph Martin James.

Defrocked due to his alcoholism, outrageous misbehavior, and bigamy, Rev. Joe left the embarrassment he made of his family. Joe married Permelia Estepp bigamously, while he still was married to his second wife Rhoda May. In years to come, Rev. Joe continued to father children as he lived with his two wives in their separate homes, each in alternate years.

The community of Flat Lick Baptist Church and Pulaski County branded the offspring of Rev. Joe and Permelia Estepp as “the bastard bunch.” They were socially ostracized by a communal silence and social ostracism.

Children and grandchildren of this line, like Ivadean James, her siblings, and children, did not know or recognize one another from other James family or among their community. Nor were they regarded as family. Today, that has changed.

More Abandoned Family

Ronald “Ron,” Patricia Ann, & Gerald Elliott: The three children Ivadean James bore to Gid Chester Elliott, who also abandoned Ivadean as her father did. When Ivadean died in 2000, ironically Gid Elliott also passed 12 hours later.

Zena James-Randall:  Another child in the abandoned family of Mack Henry James, Zena married Rev. Clifford Randall Sr. They had 6 children. Zena operated a mercantile store in Science Hill in Pulaski County, Kentucky. She was known to often forgive unpaid due balances. Her kindness and consideration, together with her children and their progeny, salvaged their lost ancestry. She restored dignity and respect.

Geneva “Ginny” James:  Geneva married Rev. William Lesbert Randall, known casually as Willie. Their 7 children moved in a world beyond Pulaski County. Five years after they married, Rev. Randall in 1928 began to conduct missionary work in China. For a year following September, 1936, he furloughed in Victoria of Vancouver, Canada. He returned to China until 1940, when Ginny and he finally returned home to Pulaski County. He continues to conduct Baptist evangelism.

Missionary Family

Missionary Family – Rev. William Lesbart Randall & Geneva James, with their youngest son Robert Randall.

Other Outlaw Kin

Through their ancestry in the Randall family, the descendants of Zena & Geneva James also are 3rd cousins, twice removed of Western outlaw & lawman Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp 1848-1929. The common ancestors they share are William H. Earp 1720-1778 & Priscilla Nichols.

Laurene “Lareen” Randall-Phelps:  The daughter of Zena James & Rev. Clifford Randall Sr., she married Boyd Bertram Phelps. The couple produced 4 children.

Boyd Bertram Phelps, possibly:  Zena’s husband.

 

Omer James:  Omer does not appear in this photo above. He is the sole male sibling of Zena, Ada, Geneva, and Ivadean James. Omer was known to visit his father Mack Henry James in Bloomington, Illinois on several occasions. He appears here with a friend identified as Clettie.

Contributors to This Story

William Hurt:  The abandoned family photograph above was brought to the attention of Stray Leaves by William Hurt. He is the husband of Mitzi Elaine Watkins, a daughter of Leland Elaine Watkins and a granddaughter of Leonard and Ada James Watkins.


Dean Watkins Conley:  Dean provided William Hurt with the abandoned family photo initially. Furthermore, she provided identification for the individuals in the picture. Dean Watkins Conley is a daughter of Leonard and Ada James Watkins.


Lore about Frank & Jesse James by Ada James Watkins’

Contributor William Hurt provided Stray Leaves with this following family lore back in 2010.

“Hi. My name is William Hurt (not the actor). I was at my wife’s family reunion sitting with her grandmother Ada James Watkins. We were all sitting around talking and she was sitting quietly enjoying the presence of all the young people around her when a popular cousin arrived and caused a big stir of people wanting to see him.

Ada James-Watkins

“Well, out of the blue she [Ada] started telling a story. I was totally amazed. She said, ‘I can remember when I was a young’un at our reunions when Frank would show up he would cause an even bigger commotion.’

She went on to explain that she was talking about Frank James. I knew that she was somehow related to Frank and Jesse James, but I didn’t know that she actually knew one of them, let alone that Frank would come to Pulaski County to a James family reunion. Unfortunately, she stopped talking and a few months later suffered a stroke and forgot everything and everybody.

“I grew up in Campground close to where The James Gang hid out after an aborted attempt at robbing The Bank of Somerset, according to stories. It seems they rode into town and saw some young men with shotguns and thought someone had tipped them off. In all reality, the boys [with the shotguns] were going rabbit hunting and never even noticed the James gang. The gang returned to Campground and hid out a few days then rode on to rob the bank in Jamestown so the story was told to me. The cabin they hid out in burned when I was very young but the chimneys are still standing.

“My wife has been wanting to find out exactly what her relation to Frank and Jesse really is. Lots of people around here claim relation but most I do not believe. I didn’t really think my wife was related until her grandmother told that story and one of her cousins tried to explain the blood tie. Thank you for your time. I no longer live in Campground I now live in what locals call the Halloween house in Stanford.”

Ada James-Watkins (c) with daughters L-R Dean, Delma, and twins Zena and Lena Watkins.

The Facts about Ada James Watkins Lore

Alexander Franklin “Frank” James died February 15, 1915, when Ada James was still only 4 years old. Other James family relate stories of the James brothers visiting Rev. Joseph Martin James’ stone house in Shopville, but none of the stories are substantiated.  If Ada recalled a Frank James, it probably was another Frank James among the family and not the notorious Civil War partisan who had surrendered.

The attempted robbery of the First National Bank of Somerset, KY occurred in either 1876 or 1877 as reported in Alma Tibbal’s book The History of Pulaski County.  As is widely known and documented, Jesse James lived in Nashville and secondly in Waverly, Tennessee. Frank also lived in Nashville. Both were pursuing the turf trade and racing. Frank was pursuing a lucrative career as a race starter. They had little need for robbing banks.

Lastly, the Campground site mentioned has been researched and documented HERE on Stray Leaves.

Descendants of Dorinda “Dora” Phelps-James, 2017

Descendants of Mack Henry James & Dorinda “Dora” Phelps

Descendants of Geneva James

Ivadean James & Bernadine “Deanie’ James

James Family Dirt, Literall – Tombstones – Bastard Bunch – Ivadean & Gid Elliott

James & Earp Cousin Rev. Bernard Patton Randall Passes

Flora Audra Spencer, The Other Woman in The Life of Mack Henry James

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Tuesday July 27th, 2021
Stray Leaves

WHY DID STRAY LEAVES REMOVE THIS COMMENT FROM STRAY LEAVES' YOUTUBE CHANNEL?

"how comes then,that a slave from the james family,back to jesse james,funeral.who was devoted to jesse.was also by the side of j.frank dalton,who claimed to be jesse james?And also senator clark,really the founder of LA! and jesse and frank,photo evidence of high degree freemasons.Jesse was not killed by bob ford.after the alleged killing of jesse,years later,frank was known to have visited bob ford, who had a saloon near a gold rush route. The jesse body that was photographed,and later buried,that was not jesse.It was charlie bigelow,who had infiltrated the james gang,and was a pinkerton informer,because two older bigelows,sit in graves side by side,and both graves show exact same death date. no-body really knows, but the ages on the grave stones of the 2 bigelows could have been charlies uncle and his father. And maybe killed by the james gang. the DNA evidence in the 80s was doubtful.others were buried buried in the same area,they did not find jesse james body,or grave. all they found was a tooth! I suspect jesse james junior,is the son of charlie bigelow. I dont know who this man is but jesse held a position of power in the US,years after he is dead.And had a hand in the assasination of lincoln, and maybe later US presidents,jesse was not a banker, but paid cash for big railroads,and copper mines,as william c.clark.US senator,and was one of the richest and most powerful men, in the US.J frank dalton told a few months before he died, everything, Dont believe? J for jesse, frank for his brother. Dalton for his mothers maiden name. but jesse james mother was not named Dalton. it was j.frank daltons cryptic clue.his mothers maiden name was cole,but she was adopted by another family,dalton. and its really the same as when jesse was so they say killed.jesse laid his gun down on the table,and bob ford shot him in the head from behind,All his friends knew jesse was not dead.Because jesse always put his guns on when he woke up,all who knew him would know jesse is not dead. so it was someone with the name hines,who went to pay his taxes,and was investigated,and found to actualy be jesse evans, a member of the james gang. who finally told jesse and billy the kid were still alive. jesse i think 12 years older than billy. you can see a picture on line of j frank dalton( as an old man) with brushy bill roberts,who admitted to be billy the kid,had his own story as one of the rough riders,and he is listed in theodore roosevelts rough riders. there is a photo a year or two before dalton died,and you can see his friend billy, and his child hood friend a black slave from his family there too.older than jesse.could it just be a co-incidence,that jesse james mother was attacked and had her arm or hand blown off,in attempts to find jesse,and later in the 1940s,investigations were made into the william c.clarke family,and one of the family screamed because old grandmother clarke,by then dead.Also had the same arm missing? jesse faked his own death twice,as jesse and as william c.clarke. his daughter when he was william c.clarke,became a recluse.she had married a man,but when her father died(jesse), it his rumoured after his death as william c.clarke,he came back after some time and told his daughter the truth,he was jesse james. clarke a rich man who lived in high society,was jesse james.she could not accept it,divorced her husband,and became a recluse. the assasination of lincoln by john wilkes booth was a conspiracy of those who still were true to the south. jesse and frank involved. Lincoln was was shot,but seriously injured,too weak to move him so far,so he was taken to the closest boarding house. And to an empty but rented room. to die. the room was though already rented. the name on the room, was william clark. wilkes booth killed after escaping but not. a soldier was set up to be killed in his place. john wilkes booth was also a freemason. wilkes booth died in 1901,as he had become a drunk and a liability,who could expose the truth,As to who controlled america at that time. jesse arranged a meeting and shot john wilkes booth.to protect the brotherhood. "
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That's impossible to read for a whole bunch of reasons.

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Saturday July 24th, 2021
Stray Leaves

MOST PEOPLE DON'T KNOW THEIR COUSINS, let alone stay in touch with them. Frank & Jesse James have more than 70,000 actual cousins documented in Stray Leaves' "Genealogy Search" database. Most living people who appear in the database as their cousins don't even know they are related to Frank & Jesse. But here's an important cousin clue. If someone strenuously or vociferously claims to be related to Frank & Jesse James, the likelihood is, they are not. Happy National Cousin’s Day, cousins! ... See MoreSee Less

MOST PEOPLE DONT KNOW THEIR COUSINS, let alone stay in touch with them. Frank & Jesse James have more than 70,000 actual cousins documented in Stray Leaves Genealogy Search database. Most living people who appear in the database as their cousins dont even know they are related to Frank & Jesse. But heres an important cousin clue. If someone strenuously or vociferously claims to be related to Frank & Jesse James, the likelihood is, they are not. Happy National Cousin’s Day, cousins!
Sunday July 18th, 2021
Stray Leaves

DO YOU KNOW THIS LOCATION? Cole Younger was an occasional visitor here. But Cole's host was not named Warden.Every day is a great day to come to the Warden’s House, but today we have balloons! 🎈⭐️ Tours every Thursday-Sunday at 1pm, 2pm, 3pm and 4pm. Come see us! ... See MoreSee Less

DO YOU KNOW THIS LOCATION? Cole Younger was an occasional visitor here. But Coles host was not named Warden.
Thursday July 15th, 2021
Stray Leaves

UNDERSTANDING THE TRAIL OF TEARS AS CHICKASAW & CHOCTAW HISTORY . . .NOT AS U.S. HISTORY. First, we stray leaves must grasp the fact that the ancestral Anglo blood that flows in our veins from the time of our arrival in America in the early 1600s through the American Revolution is the same blood that directed the course of the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations among the descendants of Benjamin James Sr. the lawyer and Indian trader and his children Benjamin James Jr. "of the Choctaw Nation" and his sister Susannah James who married James Holmes Colbert, a Chief of the Chickasaw Nation. This, too, is our story.

In this, our story, we see our enthusiastic defense for a growing nation in the War of 1812 betrayed and deceived by expulsion to the Trail of Tears. We see the separation of our Choctaw and Chickasaw families in the West and the surrounding turmoil that engulfed them. We learn how our distrust of the U.S. Government folded us into the Confederacy. Lastly, we perceive ourselves as men of fortitude and women of power. We possess an enduring ancestral skill to put intelligence in the service of leadership, education, and conflict resolution. Our story is a legacy for peace and progress.

Chickasaw.tv | Winter Fire | Episode 2: Arrival In Indian Territory
Amidst Chickasaw removal to Indian Territory, the crucial Fort Washita was constructed and leaders such as Cyrus Harris emerged.
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