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Ringgold County's Oral Legend & Memories Project



John Allen & Abigal Mae (Pettis) Gravett
wedding photograph

My father, John Allen Gravett, was born at Clay City, Kentucky on 30 July 1881. He was the sixth of 11 children to Melvin Green Gravett and Polly Jane Highley who were tobacco farmers. John left Kentucky as a young man and started work in Kansas City, Missouri as a shoe sales clerk in a department store. The city was not for him so he began working for his older brother, Clarence, in Danvers, Illinois. He then moved to Iowa where he began farming. He married Bernice Watts and to them were born Evan, Cecyl, Melvin, and a baby that died at birth. Evan died from blood poisoning at the age of 13. Bernice decided she wanted to marry the preacher of their church so she and John divorced. With the family to care for in addition to the farm located near Bartlett, Iowa, John needed a housekeeper.

My mother, Abigal Mae Pettis, was born at Grant City, Missouri on 2 June 1893. She grew up there, and attended grade school there for a few years. At the age of 16, she married Harrison Drummins at the home of her parents, F.O. and Mary Pettis. Harrison had been working as a hired hand on farms nearby and continued that in Nevada, Iowa where Mae's friends, Clara and William Handsaker, lived and farmed. Later, Mae and Harrison bought an acreage back in Grant City and farmed it. At that time, they lived just a few miles from her parents on the edge of Grant City near the railroad tracks. After Harrison died from a lengthy illness caused by pernicious anemia, it was necessary for Mae to sell the house and acreage. Mae always said they bought the acreage before the depression when prices were high and had to sell it during the depression when prices were low. She then moved to Shenandoah, Iowa to the rooming house of her brother, A.P. Pettis. Mae was a very good cook and housekeeper resulting in her accepting a job as housekeeper for John Gravett.

When Mae began working for John, Melvin was in high school and Cecyl was in college. Mae was a hard worker willing to help the whole family. John would invite Mae to go to town with him shopping for groceries and various other places. They were married 4 July 1931 in Shenandoah and to them were born Ruth Elaine and Deloris Mae Gravett. Elaine preceded them in death on 16 July 1942 at the age of nine due to leukemia.

I was born on a farm two miles west of Bedford, Iowa, which is where my sister Elaine died. We also lived near Diagonal and Clearfield, Iowa while moving about five times when I was growing up. My parents lived on rental farms of about 160 acres while raising corn, oats, hay, cattle, and hogs. They purchased the last farm they lived on which was 80 acres on the southeast corner of Clearfield. Due to my Father's failing health resulting from heart disease, we sold the farm and equipment and bought a house in Mt. Ayr, Iowa. Dad worked for Finch's Produce while Mother was always a homemaker. To help make ends meet my parents rented out an upstairs apartment and a downstairs apartment at the back of their house. Dad passed away 1 June 1956 when Mother was 63. She continued living in that house through age 72 when she had a light stroke. Finally, at age 84, the house was too much for her and she moved to the Heritage Apartments for the elderly, still in Mt. Ayr. She lived there until age 89 when deteriorating health necessitated moving her near me while I lived at Lake St. Louis, Missouri. She lived at a residential care facility followed by three nursing homes. After 16 years of special care, she died at the age of 105 on 24 July 1998 at the Lincoln County Care Center in Troy, Missouri. Those preceding Mother in death were husband John, daughter Elaine, stepson Melvin, a sister, two brothers, one-half sister, and several half brothers. Stepdaughter Cecyl was in very poor health at that time. We held funeral services for Mother at the Mount Ayr Christian Church where both Mother and Father had been members. Services for my Father had been held at a funeral home in Mount Ayr in June 1956. They are both buried at the Grant City Cemetery next to their daughter Elaine.

While Mother lived in Iowa, she came to our house in Missouri many times to spend a month or two at a time. That helped pass the winter and gave her more time to see her grandson, Allen Lee Bear, as he was growing up. While living near me, she came many times just for fun and for special occasions. She celebrated her 100th birthday at my home with friends and neighbors. Many Sundays my husband, Ramon Lee Bear, and I would take her out for chicken and other home cooked type meals. During her last few years at the nursing home, I daily took her fried chicken and other foods that she enjoyed so much.

Submission by Deloris Mae (Gravett) and Ramon Lee Bear, October of 2009

John Allen Gravett Obituary     Abigal Mae Gravett Obituary

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