Today, I want to talk about my paternal grandfather, John Preston Beam. He was born on July 4, 1912 in Marshall County, Alabama to James Henry and Della Francis Taylor Beam. He was their first-born child. Sometime between the 1920 and 1930 U. S. Censuses, the family moved to Graham (now Grove Oak), DeKalb County, Alabama. Part of the old home still stands back off in the woods. I will be writing more about the Taylor side of the family in a few days.
The home was about a mile down the road from where the Gant family lived. According to my grandmother, the boys from each family became fast friends, and my grandfather stayed over at the Gant home quite often. My grandmother fell in love with my grandfather, and I’m assuming him with her, but I never heard the story from my grandfather.
My grandmother was only 16-years-old when she married John Preston Beam on June 2, 1934. The couple had seven children; 4 boys and 3 girls. Five are still alive today, (3 boys and 2 girls), along with my grandmother. She is still healthy, (mind and body), at age 95.
John Preston Beam and Wife, with oldest child and daughter, Pauline, and my father (Their first-born son.)
50th Wedding Anniversary (1984)
My father’s three younger brothers and I were all close to the same age; one is even younger than me. Roger, born: 1952, Brother #3, born: 1956, and Brother #4, born: 1961. We all grew up more like cousins than niece and uncle’s.
My grandfather was a big, bear of a man. He was mostly silent, but when he did speak it was gruff. I wouldn’t go near him the first ten years or so of my life. My great grandfather John Columbus Gant and my great grandfather, James Henry Beam, both lived with my grandfather and his family before their deaths in 1964 and 1965, respectively. They played with me and I loved them both dearly. I loved my grandfather too; I was just scared of him.
My grandfather stood about 6’ 2” and was a big man, not fat, just big. He worked hard for most of his life and was very muscular. He farmed, tended to chicken houses, layers and raisers. He worked at Fyffe School for several years, as a janitor, before retiring. He was a big fisherman and a hunter. I remember having squirrel stew quiet a lot at my grandparents’ home. I did stay with them a lot, mostly staying under my grandmother’s dress tail. I learned from my grandfather by watching him. I learned from my grandmother by doing things with her and her talking to me.
As I grew older and my grandfather mellowed a bit in his old age, we became closer. My grandfather became a bad diabetic in his old age. He was in and out of the hospital, several times, with his feet; one was worse than the other, (I can’t remember which, but I think it was his right foot.). He ended up having his bad leg cut off at the knee and was wheelchair bound for the rest of his life. That’s when we really became close.
By this time, my first husband and I, had bought and was living on the land that was the old Gant place. My grandparents had bought some land, less than a mile from me, and were living there. I was in my mid-twenties then and most of my cousins had grown up and moved away. One of my aunts, my father’s oldest sister, lived next door to them, so she could help them get to doctor’s appointments, groceries, and other shopping. She would also take my grandmother to funerals and viewings. It seemed there was always someone dying, be it family or friends. Anyway, I was called upon to sit with my grandfather on many occasions.
My grandfather and I talked a lot back then. He told me stories he could remember from his younger days and I absorbed them like a sponge. He had a lot of stories to tell.
When he got bad enough for home health care to have to come out most every day, he went downhill real fast; passing away at home on the night of October 15, 1998. His passing was a great loss to our large and close family.
1920 United States Federal Census
1930 United States Federal Census
1940 United States Federal Census
U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-Current
United States Obituary Collection
Web: Alabama, Huntsville-Madison County Public Library Obituary Index, 1819-2006
Web: Obituary Daily Times Index, 1995-2012