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Little Willie

Little Willie's handprint

My mother was our family historian; she had boxes, envelopes, and folders of family history "stuff," most of which was not sorted too well.

She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in August 2006 and succumbed to the cancer in March 2007.  We were living near her and for several days a week in late 2006 I would sit with her and go through her family stuff; she would identify to me what each item was and I took notes on my laptop computer.

The item in the photo was in a folder marked "Ada Coon Davis."  It is a yellowed piece of lined paper cut in the shape of a child's hand.  There are two notations on the paper:  "Little Wille" and "13 mos."

Paper handprint with notation:  “Little Willie, 13 mos.”

My mother's father -- my maternal grandfather -- was Clarence J. Richardson ( b. 12 Mar 1896, d. 13 Feb 1972).  His mother was Martha “Mattie” Coon ( b. 28 Jan 1866, d. 21 Jan 1901).  Mattie Coon had six siblings – four brothers and two sisters.  One of her sister’s was Ada Adair Coon (b. Feb 1879, d. 1968); she married John Davis (b. 1877, d. 1952) on 6 Nov 1907.  She is the "Ada Coon Davis," my grandfather's aunt,  whose name was on the file folder containing this handprint.

My mother told me that Granddad Richardson told her he had a brother who died in infancy, "Little Willie." He did, in fact, have a brother who died at age four months -- Richard H. Richardson, son of Reverdy H. Richardson and Mattie Coon.   The child lived from Aug to Dec 1900.  Their mother, Mattie Coon Richardson, died one month later, January 1901.

 I have always thought this could be a tracing of "Little Willie's" hand, possibly after his death.  However, if Willie was 13 months old, he  could not be Granddad's brother Richard, who died at 4 months.  I do not find a "Willie" in any of my Richardson family material and there is no "Willie" in the Richardson family Bible.

If this piece of paper is a tracing of "Little Willie's" hand, and if the notation "13 months" means the tracing was made when Willie was 13 months old, then, we need to answer the question:

Who is Little Willie?

I have thought of these possibilities for Little Willie. 

FIRST.  “Little Willie” does not seem to be Richard H. Richardson, who was born 10 Aug 1900 and died in Dec 1900.  Richard was the son of Reverdy Hunter Richardson and Martha "Mattie" Coon, making him my grandfather's youngest brother.   The child was four months old when he died; his mother, Mattie Coon Richardson, died one month later, January 1901.  However, these dates clash with the handwritten note on this handprint that Little Willie was 13 months old when the handprint was made.  Furthermore, there is no reason to believe that Richard H. Richardson would have been known as "Little Willie."

SECOND. Another possibility is that "Little Willie" was the child of Aunt Ada and her husband, John Davis.  As far as I know, they had no children.  It is possible they had the one child, Willie, and after his death, they had no more children.  The fact that this handprint was in my mother's file of "stuff" pertaining to Aunt Ada suggests Willie may have been Aunt Ada's only child or somehow connected to Aunt Ada.

THIRD.  My grandfather's mother died in January 1901 when my grandfather was four years old.  His father sent several of the children to live with relatives.  My grandfather lived for several years with a family named BRANNAN.  The mother of this family was Mary Brannan.  Her obituary lists among her survivors:   “. . . an adopted son, Clarence Richardson of Centreville who spent his infancy and childhood in her home as on of her own children, . ."    It's possible that Little Willie is a child of Mary Brannan, possibly born while my grandfather was living with the Brannan family, which would explain my grandfather's comment that "Little Willie" was his brother.

FOURTH.  Granddad Richardson's mother died in January 1901.  His father re-married to Nettie Ethel Dubose in January 1906.  They had five children.  One of these, Mattie Richardson, died at age three after "falling in the fire" at their home.  It is possible that "Little Willie" was Granddad's half-brother, born to his father and his second wife.  However, I find no records at all to support this theory.

FINALLY.  "Little Willie" could have been a cousin.  Granddad's parents had several brothers and sisters, all of whom had families; he would have had a flock of cousins and Willie could have been one of these.

This is a family mystery that remains unsolved:  Who was "Little Willie" that my Grandfather Richardson spoke of and whose handprint was in a number of items left to my mother by her Great-Aunt Ada Coon Davis.



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