Appalachian Mountain Families - by Brenda Collins Dillon

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Mother's Side

Mother was born, April 4, 1919, Zelma Zane Bennett. She was all of two pounds and fit very nicely into a cigar box. She was the daughter of Fred and Mollie (Perry) Bennett who lived in Curtin, West Virginia. Fred was a fireman on the logging train that ran through the mountain community.

The Flu outbreak of 1918 & 1919 hit the little community hard and the Bennett family did not escape the sickness. Fred and Mollie cared for their elder daughter, Eva Maxine Bennett but the tiny little girl did not pull through. She was laid to rest along side her grandparents in the Alderson Church Cemetery in Craigsville, WV October, 1918. Mollie was pregnant with mother at the time and tired from caring for Maxine and grief stricken at her loss she became sick too. Mollie really never got over the flu and in April 1919 she finally went into labor and delivered mother early. A week later Mollie's sister and her husband also died.

Fred Bennett had lost his older daughter, his wife, his sister -in law, his brother-in law, and was left with a tiny baby that he felt wouldn't live either. He wrapped the tiny baby and placed her into a cigar box and covering it with a towel, walked a few doors down to the Godfrey house.

Claire and Sylvanis Godfrey had tried without success to have a family but it was just not meant to be. Sylvanis, also nicknamed Doc, was the engineer on the same train that Fred was fireman. They were great friends and he knew they were good people. Fred left the tiny infant with Claire and disappeared from Curtin.

Zelma was tiny but she was a fighter . With Claire's love and care Zelma thrived. The Godfrey's became a family and when Zelma started her first day of school she was enrolled as Zelma Godfrey. The next summer the Godfrey's left Curtin WV and went west to Lewis county, Washington where Doc's family had settled several years before. Doc got a job as an engineer on the trains and Claire operated a boarding house that sat close to the tracks. Zelma grew into a young lady there in Mosseyrock, Washington.

When Zelma was 14 Claire took sick and as she laid on her death bed she explained how mom came to be their daughter. Claire told her everything she knew about her natural parents but she couldn't tell her what happened to her father that left the tiny bungle with them and walked away.

After Claire's death Doc decided to take Zelma back to West Virginia to live with his sister while he was working. Zelma by this time was starting high school. It was a good plan but shortly after their arrival Zelma's aunt Jane Spencer  took sick and mother was tossed from one family member to another. The days of her happy childhood was over and for the next few years she shed a lot of tears. Mother graduated from Richwood High School in 1938.

 

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