Sunday, December 30, 2012

Pop Friddle's Lonely Childhood

The first New Year that I saw as meaningful was that of 1980.  I had lived through the entire decade of the 1970’s, but was young enough that I don’t remember that new year.  I was twelve years old in 1980 and remembered thinking that there were a lot of exciting things to come that year and that decade.  When I woke up on New Year’s Day, I opened up the newspaper and looked at the Garfield comic strip.  There was Garfield sitting in his bed with his eyes half open.  He put his paw out and touched the ground in front of him and thought “Nope, it doesn’t feel any different!”  When 2000 dawned, I pretty much felt the same way.  Despite all the doom and gloom that was forecasted, the world didn’t stop and life continued on.  I’ve often thought of the dawning of the 20th century and my ancestors who were alive then.  For the most part, they led pretty standard lives with their families and their secure homes – all but one of my ancestors – my great grandfather, David Carl Friddle.

David Carl Friddle was my great grandfather.  I never knew him personally, but my mother told me a great deal about him.  I know that he was a loving, doting grandfather who lavished attention and affection on my mother.  My mother told me that when the circus came to town, they would often draft him to be the strong man because he could straighten a horse shoe with his bare hands.  By the time my mother remembered him; he had suffered several strokes and was probably a shadow of his former self.  Mom could remember vividly listening to him and my great grandmother telling tall tales about each other and both of them nodding as if it was the absolute truth. ..and she remembered that the two of them gazed at each other with love and devotion.   There was a lot she didn’t know about the gentle giant who gave her bare hugs and comforted her when she was crying her eyes out.  Much of this, Mom and I found out together as even she didn’t know what his young life was like.
David Carl Friddle or “Pop” as he was referred to in our family was born on 1 May 1889 to Moses Friddles and Martha “Mattie” Brown.  His father, Moses was 63 years old when Pop was born and his mother was 27.  Pop was the youngest of the six children that Moses and Mattie had…however, Moses also had at least four other children from his first marriage.  When Pop was about 10 months old, his father died.  I have no real idea as to what happened in the intervening years between 1890 and 1900 except a few stories that I have heard.  I believe that Mattie worked as a maid in the household of Judge Vaught and that the old Judge taught Pop how to read and write.  By the time 1900 came around, Pop’s entire family had splintered and none of them were together.  Pop’s oldest brother, Albert, who was born in 1854 had left Tennessee before Pop had been born and went to Oregon with his family.  His sister, Julia, was married and living in Caldwell County, North Carolina with children of her own.  Pop’s older brother, Roby was in the military and stationed in the Philippines and his brother Jesse was most likely also in the military.  It is unknown where his older brother James was – because I’ve been unable to located in him the census for 1900, however it is likely that he was a servant in another household.  Pop is listed as a 10 year old “Carlie” in the household of Richard Wilson. Pop’s sister, Calia, is also listed several households away as a servant in the household of Nathaniel Ward and his wife Lily.  Pop’s mother, Martha “Mattie” is listed in the same area with her new husband, John M. Tester.

As 1900 dawned – I can’t help thinking about the situation that my great grandfather was in.  His father  who he never really knew died when he was one – and by the time he is 10 years old, his mother has remarried and seemingly abandoned her youngest child.  This ten year old boy had to work to have a place to stay.  I don’t think his situation improved much over the next ten years.  I know that his teen years were spent working so he had a place to sleep and food to eat.  When I contrast my situation with his, it is difficult to ever feel sorry for myself.  I had parents who loved me and provided everything that I could want or need including affection.  I had siblings and a large external family who care about me and what happened in my life.  Pop had a mother who seemed to have abandoned him and no close family to look out for him.

Pop married Mom Friddle (Sophia Dollar) on 22 Dec 1908. When the 1910 census is taken, he is most likely living in the home that his wife grew up in (Laurel Bloomery, TN)  At 21 year old, he had a wife and son to care for and probably saw no potential for a good living in Tennessee.  I’m not sure, but I believe that his brother, Albert came back to Tennessee for a visit and encouraged his much younger brother to come out west as there was land and opportunity.  When Pop Friddle left Tennessee in late 1910, he left behind a life that he never returned to.  His mother had died the previous year as had his sister, Calia.  His brother Jesse had died while in the military in Ohio and it is unclear where his brother Roby lived.  His brother, James was married and living a county away.  There was nothing for him in Tennessee and so he left for a new life.
Mom Friddle went back to North Carolina and Tennessee to visit family, but Pop never did.  By the time 1928 had arrived, his two brothers back in Tennessee had both died.  James was most likely murdered before he, too could leave.  In fact, Pop Friddle lost Albert to old age on 5 October 1928 and his brother James was found along side of a road with a gunshot in his head on 1 October 1928.  In 1932, his last living sibling, Julia, died of old age in Walla Walla, WA.  From what I know of Pop Friddle, he took loving care of his wife, children and grandchildren.  They were precious to him and perhaps he probably understood the importance of family more than most.  

Pop died on 4 Jan 1955 in Lewiston, ID.  He was the last remaining member of his own family.  As he lay in that bed after suffering another debilitating stroke, he must have known he was near the end.  My mother told me that she sat by his bedside that last hour.  Mom Friddle and my Grandma Cappy sat on the other side of the bed quietly talking.  My mother remembered him looking at her and trying smile as he briefly squeezed her hand and then he looked over at Mom Friddle, smiled and closed his eyes and died.   Pop lived his life trying to be the best husband, father and grandfather that he could.  In many ways it is amazing that that little boy who saw the new century in 1900 grew up to be such a beloved husband, father, and grandfather.