Williams 'Old Home Place' settled by grandpa

By Mary K. Hamner
Journal Correspondent

When Jimmie Ray Williams' grandparents drove their mule drawn wagon into their newly acquired homestead in the hills of Bienville Parish, they drove over an oak sapling. That oak endured, as William Quitman and Mary Williams did as they established their home on their 160-acre homestead. It was a daunting challenge for Quit and Mary as they cleared enough room for a log cabin, smokehouse, corncribs and other outbuildings.

It didn't happen in a day but the buildings were built to last. The log cabin was added onto over the years to house ten children, Wilburn, Zannie, James, Gus, Alf, Jeffey, Claudia, Ted, Luke, Duke, and their parents.

Jimmie Williams, grandson of pioneer Quit, and wife Sunshine, now live on the old home place. The old buildings, constructed more than a century ago, are still standing. The legendary oak tree extends its bare branches in a protecting posture, open arms to winter's bright blue skies. On a moonlit night the tracery of the tree looks magical and often seems to capture the moon in its arms. "When my Grandfather died in 1913," Williams said, "my parents, Jim and Vallie, cared for my grandmother. Dad's brothers and sisters signed off on an agreement leaving the old place to them. My parents passed away and since I was the only heir, here I sit, right here at the end of Brooks Creek Road."

"My Dad, James McCoy Williams, farmed the old place. He was drafted into the military service during WW I in 1917 and just missed going overseas when the War ended in 1918. He came back home and never ventured far. He never owned a car and walked or rode a horse to town for items the farm didn't supply. He married my Mom, Vallie Hickman in 1932."

"I learned all about farm life when I was growing up," Williams continued. "There were hogs to slop, cows to milk, chickens to feed, and a middle buster plow to follow down long corn rows. I rode a school bus with board seats down each side and in the middle. We sat back to back and knee to knee and if we could find enough room we would play card games on the middle seat on the way to school. My folks sent me to school to learn. If I misbehaved in class, I got a paddling. Then I was sent to the office where I got another paddling. I don't know how they got the word with no telephones or any means of communicating with the school but my parents always knew when I'd been in trouble. That meant another paddling at home.

"I was attending school and getting on up in high school, an eighteen year old in the 11th grade. Tired of school, pulling crab grass in the spring, and picking cotton in the fall, I decided to quit school and enlist in the Air Force. My buddy, James A. Mangum and I decided to hitch-hike to Shreveport and join up. The Air Force wouldn't take us, so we went on down to see if we could join the Navy. Well, the Navy wouldn't take us because we hadn't graduated from high school.

"Me and James A. were sort of loitering around in the Federal building there in Shreveport that day, trying to figure out what we were going to do next when this Marine sergeant in dress blues came walking down the hall. Man, his uniform was sharp! He asked us what we were waiting for and when we told him our story, he said, 'You boys come on down to my office and let's talk. We are still taking men into the Marine Corps.' He said, 'If you enlist you will get a uniform just like mine.'"

"Well, we enlisted, expecting that the two of us would stay together. We hitch-hiked back home; both of us thinking about wearing that spiffy dress blue uniform with red stripes down both pant legs. When I told my Daddy what I had done, he seemed to take it pretty seriously."

"Well son," Daddy said. "You have become a man. Don't let me hear of you being AWOL. You have chosen to leave-now don't expect to set your feet under my table expecting me to make your living anymore. The next twenty years I was a Marine. When I was shipped out of Shreveport for basic training I said to myself, 'Lord what have I done!"

"After sixteen weeks of basic training we managed to graduate as Private First Class Marines. My buddy and I, remember, had been promised we could stay together by that recruiter. When we were shipped out, James A. was sent to California and I went to North Carolina. It was twenty years before I ran into him again."

Williams enlisted in 1952 and was serving with the 3rd Marine Division in Korea in 1953. After his discharge in 1954, he opted to re-enlist. During his service, he assisted with the reorganization of the 26th Brigade and did two tours of duty in Viet Nam. His military service extended to September 30, 1971 when he retired with the rank of E-7, Communications Chief. It took him eighteen years to earn those dress blues.

"Serving in the Marines was good for me", Williams said. "I went to school and earned my GED after realizing how important education was. I took classes on my own and excepting a few basic courses, I would have a degree in electrical engineering. During my tour of duty, I was in thirty-three different foreign countries and most of the states of the US. When I returned home, I was equipped to make my way in an occupation that was not farming," he laughed.

"I had a TV repair service for a while, then went on to industrial electrical and construction on gas compressor stations. I worked on the Southern Natural gas storage project until it was completed, did electrical maintenance, and then was hired by Willamette as company electrician. I worked for Martin Timber at their Castor mill and then stayed on after Hunt bought them out. During this time my first wife died with cancer and our daughter Marlene finished school at CHS." Williams later sustained the loss of his second wife after she died from complications of a stroke.

"Sunshine was my first love. When I went away to the Marines, she married someone else. There have been a lot of sad times in my life but learning that my former school sweetheart and I were both singles was the beginning of some happy days for me. After we married, I learned that one of her goals for me was to wrestle those old buildings out there away from the encroaching vines and woods. That old oak that my Grandpa ran over stands there as witness to my progress."