8. A. G. McGinnis – Part 1

I have to clear my conscience before writing the bio on A.G. McGinnis. If you search most of the documents related to A.G., you would find him identified as Arthur Garfield McGinnis; for example, both of his marriage license and his death certificate. While all these documents were written or produced by someone else; I was somewhat surprised to see that he was unable to sign his first marriage license and his WWI draft registration; both are clearly marked with an “X” and the signature written by someone else. I also have used the ‘Arthur’ spelling when identifying him in some of my genealogy work, but he was adamant that his name was spelled A-U-T-H-E-R. He was so determined to make sure everyone knew this, he had his own foot stone for his grave carved before his death to make sure it was spelled that way. Since he was unable to sign his name when younger, I’m not really sure why he was so determined to spell it the way he did, but I do know that he was eventually able to sign his own name; for it appears on his second marriage license when he was married at the age of 81. So to my grandfather, I apologize for any offenses that I might have committed in not honoring the memory of your “name” as you might have wished.

Auther was born in Rutherford County, NC; the birth date he always stated was April 27, 1885. I have no real reason to doubt that date, but the 1900 census (the first in which his name appears) has his birth as October 1884. At that time he was fifteen years of age, and it is questionable about who gave the census taker the information; I’m sure that it might have been difficult to keep up with the correct dates for all the family members. It is unfortunate for us all that almost all of the 1890 federal census records were lost in a fire, as this could have been the first official record of Auther Garfield. He does show up in that 1900 census with his father, William Andrew (it is actually unreadable on the census, looks like it could be Wm. A.); his mother, listed as Julie, and his three younger brothers listed as Kinth (Kenneth), William, and Jim. Auther’s name was written as ‘Authur’. The family is listed in the Colfax township, near the town of Ellenboro; this is in the eastern part of the county, on the county border with Cleveland County.

It appears that Auther made the move to Lincoln County within the next few years after that 1900 census since the next record we have of Auther is a marriage license dated April 28, 1905, and the marriage certified as having taken place on the 30th of April between himself and Effie Heafner. It took place in the residence of the Justice of the Peace, A. L. Sullivan, located in the Howard’s Creek township of Lincoln County, NC. The marriage document lists Auther as ‘Arthur’, and as being 21 years of age; but if we use his birth date as being in 1885, he would have just turned 20 a few days before the marriage. This is also the license that he signed with a “X”.

The family then shows up in the 1910 census as living in the Howard’s Creek township, just west of the town of Lincolnton. The census shows: Authur G., age 25; Effie, age 26; Maggie M. (Madge Mae), age 4; Ocie B., age 3; and Unice, age 2. A couple things may be revealed in this census information; Madge Mae’s birth date has been recorded as being July 18, 1905, and her census age of 4 corresponds since the census was taken in April 1910; so if all the documents are correct, this means that Madge was born three months after the marriage in 1905 (no judgment). Also, the census shows that Effie had given birth to four children, but only three were living at the time of the census. I am aware that Effie and Auther had two children who died, but these are documented as having occurred after that April 1910 census. I have been unable to find any documented evidence of this other child’s birth or death, but if one looks at the dates of the other children’s births, about the only time available for another birth would have been between October 1908 and October 1909 (since I know the next child was born in August of 1910). It is very possible that the child died during childbirth or soon after, so there is no record that I have been able to find; I’m still looking. I guess it is possible that Effie in counting the number of children that she had carried, included the one that she was pregnant with at the time of the census. Another interesting tidbit shown in this census, is that both Auther and Effie stated they could read and write.

The only written documented evidence that I have been able to find of Unice Lee has been that 1910 census. The decade between the 1910 and 1920 censuses would have been one of joys and heartbreak for Auther and Effie; as I had mentioned earlier, Effie was pregnant at the time of the 1910 census, and in August 1910 she would give birth to their first son, Laurence Herbert. Less than three months later they lost their youngest daughter, Unice; a couple months shy of her 3rd birthday. Since this was before the time when death certificates were required to be filed, we don’t know the cause, but I do know she was buried at Laboratory Methodist Church outside of Lincolnton. Losing Unice was probably a very distressing time for Effie; it would be more than six years before Effie would again give birth to a child, our father Carl Herman. The joy of the birth of another son was short-lived; ten months later Herbert would die from diphtheria; this time we have the death certificate, but this is the only written documented evidence of Herbert. He too was buried at Laboratory Methodist Church, beside his sister. He didn’t live long enough to have his name entered into any census. When we look at the 1920 census we find the family living in Ironton, a community just east of Boger City in Lincoln County. The census lists: Authur, Effie L., Madggie M., Olcie B., and Carl H.; still with just three children, but only two were the same as ten years earlier.

Some time between the 1920 and 1930 censuses is when the family must have made that move to become a tenant farmer family on Clark’s Creek just north of the town of Lincolnton. It appears that the ’20’s were a little kinder to the family; I don’t believe there were any family deaths; and it appears that both Madge and Ocie were married in 1924, and both moved with their husbands to Gaston County. The 1930 census shows the family living in the Lincolnton township, and lists: Auther, 44 (the census was taken just four days before his 45th birthday); Effie, 45; Carl, 13; Mildred, 9; Roy Lee, 7; and Dorothy (Patsy), 5.

My Dad told me a story about Auther that would have taken place sometime around this 1930 census. He told me that one day a man came up to their house with a black man in tow. The man said to Auther, “ I caught this n****r stealing watermelons out of your patch down by the creek, he was eating one and had two more in this burlap sack. You need to come with me downtown to file charges with the sheriff”. Auther didn’t want to go, but the man insisted that his going was the only way to stop some of this “thievery goin’ on”; so Auther went with him. When they got to the sheriff’s office it became apparent that the man who had accused the black man of stealing was going to receive a “cash bounty” for bringing him in and having him charged. It made Auther so mad that he told the sheriff he was not going to file a complaint against the man, and that he was giving the watermelons to the man; so the sheriff had to let him go.

The 1930’s were the years of the “Great Depression” and while most were doing their best to just survive; Auther and Effie’s family appeared to come through the times better than most. Their oldest surviving son, Carl, was able to graduate from high school, and even find the means to start his own business. The family did not add any children, but then again they did not have to endure the pain of burying anymore. As the decade ended, the family was planning their move out of Lincolnton and moving into the “old Willis Schoolhouse” in Gaston County.