MS. JANIE ALLISON BLEVINS
“Don’t worry about anything because no good will ever come of it!”
That is some very sound advice from New England’s oldest resident, Mrs. Janie Allison Blevins. In fact, it is one of her secrets of happiness and advice that we will do well to follow. From the respectful looks bestowed upon her by her children, grandchildren and friends, she seems to have acquired a certain wisdom from being free from worry. Perhaps, too, that is one of the reasons she has enjoyed such a long life, for Wednesday, June 29, was her 81st birthday, and she hopes to see many more. Her memories of the past are as clear as if they happened only yesterday.
She was one of the ten children born in her grandmother Derryberry’s house at New England. Her great-grandfather Derryberry was one of the first settlers in Dade County. When she was two years old, her mother’s ill health made it necessary for the family to move to Cole City. She remembers traveling in an ox cart up the mountain and stopping along the way to get a drink of water in a tin cup at a spring.
While at Cole City her brothers collected butterflies off the cabbage in the prison garden for a penny each to make a little pin money but she was kept busy in the house helping her mother.
Her father worked first as a guard at the stockade there, then tested for coal. He later made the first test for coal at the Lahusage Mine out from Valley Head. The drills he used were equipped with black diamonds which were shipped into the county in small wooden kegs. One of the kegs was plowed up and found by one of the Allison boys when the road was being built on the mountain. Mrs. Blevins came across this keg in her mother’s old trunk just recently, along with a painting someone had made of the prisoners marching down the bluff from the stockade to the coal mines.
She would like to go back to Cole City once more and look over the remains of what was once a busy coal mining town.
Mrs. Blevins attended three schools in the county, one at Cole City, one at New England and one at Trenton. A grammar school education was all anyone could get in Dade County at that time, or travel to another state or to Atlanta. This was difficult, so like many of Dade’s old-timers, Mrs. Blevins was unable to get a higher education. She has been bound and determined ever since to see that her children and grandchildren get the advantages denied her.
Mrs. Blevins says she didn’t learn to read in a primer, but in a blue-back speller. She remembers that Miss Mary Killian was her first school teacher and that Mrs. Wells, wife of Col. Wells, was her first Sunday School teacher. She recalls that one of the colored women imprisoned at Cole City always came with Mrs. Wells to church to help her with her wraps.
After Mrs. Blevins was grown, she took a teacher’s examination in order to teach the rest of a term for Miss Effie Woolbright on Sand Mountain. She didn’t teach very long, for in 1902 she married Jim Blevins and settled down to raise a family in the home in which she presently lives.
She is very sentimental about her home, located across the road from the old schoolhouse. “If a body lives in a place fifty-three years, she doesn’t feel right any place else.” One of the first built in the community the house dates back to the late 1800’s.
Mr. Blevins farmed, assisted by his sons, until his death seven years ago. According to Mrs. Blevins, the menfolks did all the gardening and hog butchering, even to rendering up the lard, leaving her free to do household chores. Since she had to help her mother in the house while she was a girl, she was pretty adept at managing a home and family. She used to sew a lot and still quilts occasionally.
She was active in church affairs until several years back, and was very active in the PTA and other school work. She also found time to do all she could to help the community.
Mrs. Blevins, along with her brothers and sisters, were taught the Bible and knew that, come Sunday morning, they had to go to Sunday School. She saw to it that her children got the same religious training which she believes is so important in every day life. (DADE COUNTY TIMES, Dallyin’ In Dade, July 7, 1955. Written by Myrna McMahan. Used by permission of Myrna McMahan.)
(Note: Mrs. Blevins died in 1958 and was buried next to her husband, James L. Blevins, in the Payne Cemetery, Trenton.)