Thursday, October 8, 2009

Aline Dewees Wiggins Cunningham


Aline Dewees Wiggins Cunnigham was the second daughter of Blake Baker Wiggins III and Eddie “Trinkins” Cabaniss of Jackson, Mississippi. She was born June 16th, 1892. Aline was a tall girl, almost 6 foot tall, and prone to slouching to hide the fact that she stood head and shoulders over many men of her time. She was quite pretty and her hair was long and thick. So thick and heavy that when she wore it up, she got headaches from the weight of her hair.

Aline was somewhat shy but very friendly and sociable. She loved her family and parties and learning new things. Her family was well known in the Jackson area and she had many opportunities to travel and meet many different people. Her friendships were strong and continued throughout her life.

Sometime around 1913, Aline traveled to Clarksville, Tennessee to visit her sister Mae who had moved there after her marriage to Herbert Hambaugh. Because travel was difficult, visits to family were extended, sometimes for months. While in Clarksville, Aline met a young man, a very tall young man named Frank Cunningham. Frank was from a good family and was quite charming. And he was tall. There were parties and a courtship. And Frank was charming enough that Aline agreed to marry Frank and to move to Tennessee, away from Mississippi and her family. They married in 1914 and settled in Clarksville, close to Frank’s large family.

Aline was much like women of her day. She left her family of origin and became part of a new family, that of her husband. She had children, two boys. Blake was named after her father and Frank was named after her husband. Aline missed Mississippi, her parents, and her siblings but travel was not easy so visits were few. But she was a wonderful letter writer and shared the news of her young boys and daily life with her family and friends back in Mississippi on a regular basis.

Aline was a sentimental soul. She researched her family lineage and corresponded with many long distance cousins through letter writing and sharing documentation. She saved letters, postcards, clippings, journals, and baby shoes. She gave her all to her husband and her boys and was, by all accounts, a beloved wife and mother. And an amazing cook.

Aline was a gentle woman who rarely even raised her voice. Later in her life she was ravaged by rheumatoid arthritis and was confined to a wheelchair. But she never complained. After being so selfless all of her marriage, there were times her boys and her husband did not appreciate her pain. She had given all to them and they were quite selfish. But others saw the truth. Both her daughters-in-law saw it as did her grandchildren. And they talk about her strength to this day.

I didn’t know Aline that well, really not at all. She died when I was 4. She was my great grandmother. I have memories of sitting beside her and looking at her hands. They were twisted and she couldn’t move her fingers much but she was so gentle. She enjoyed playing cards. And I remember when she died. We weren’t there but when my mother got the phone call, I remember her getting down on her knees and praying and crying. She wasn’t her grandmother. My mom married one of Aline’s grandsons. But Mom had such admiration and respect for Aline and they were close. My grandmother used to say that my mom reminded her of Aline.

The stories of Aline have inspired me all my life to be a better person. Different from Aline because the times are different but taking all of the good in her and trying to live my life better. There may have been bad and I just haven’t heard it. I would hope so since really, no one is perfect.

It is said by some that when you die and the people that knew you die, it’s as if you didn’t exist. I don’t want that to happen. So I write about Aline here. And other family members that have passed. Now you know a little about them too. And they can live forever.

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