aprilhenry (aprilhenry) wrote,
aprilhenry
aprilhenry

"Going down the steps with a gun in his hands" - A murderer's blood runs in my veins

A few years back, I found out the secret my grandmother had hidden all her life, a secret that explains all about the kind of woman she was - and maybe about the kind of writer I am. Perhaps I should have guessed there was a secret. As a writer, I know that the way a character acts can be traced to backstory.

EffieMy grandmother, Effie Satterwhite, was a bitter, mean woman.  But I never thought to wonder why, to think that people don't start out that way.  I never thought to question why she didn't marry until she was 32, in 1920, at a time when many of her peers were probably becoming grandparents.  If I did give any thought to it, I must have chalked it up to no one wanting to marry such a judgmental person.

Then, four years ago, in an idle moment of Googling, I found her name in an Arkansas State Supreme Court decision. It upheld a lower court's ruling that found my great-grandfather guilty of assault with intent to kill.

According to the court records, when she was 17 and living in Hope, Arkansas, Effie started seeing a man named Jim Wallis. One night they went to an “entertainment,” and returned at 11 pm.  The following is from the court transcripts.

"She put her hands against him and pushed him away"
“She started to go in the house, but was stopped by Wallis who reached out his hand and drew her to him and kissed her. She put her hands against him and pushed him away. They walked to the end of the porch, and stood there talking until the clock struck eleven. Wallis looked at his watch and then turned and kissed her again. He then left the house.”

James Louis Effie went inside, heard a door open, and then saw her father “going down the steps with a gun in his hands.” She heard the shot, and tried to run to Jim. Her father grabbed her, and said it was all her fault.

Finally he let Effie go to her boyfriend, who lay bleeding in the street. Jim told her that he was sure he was dying.

"Relieve her of her virtue"
Luther Augustus At the trial, Effie’s brother testified that a year earlier he had seen Effie and Jim together “in a very suspicious attitude, conducting themselves in what he thought a very unbecoming manner on the front porch.” Gus ordered Effie inside, and told Jim to never come back.  But Jim did, the next day, and told  Effie’s brother that he loved her.  They continued to see each other until the night he was gunned down. He lingered for months, finally dying in a Texarkana hospital.

My great-grandfather’s defense was that he was sure Jim “was trying to seduce his daughter and relieve her of her virtue.”  But the jury found that the two intended to marry.  
Screen Shot 2014-08-07 at 1.04.47 PM
Effie lived with her parents for many more years. How did her family treat her? Her town?

I'd like to do a story that reunites the lovers in present day.  A ghost story. Which is different than anything I've done before.

But Grandma Effie's spirit calls to me.

Do you see a family resemblance?
Tags: effie, ghosts
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