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Biographies

The Jenkins Family
William Jenkins [1] | William Jenkins [2] | Francis Jenkins [1] | Francis Jenkins [2] | Francis Jenkins [3]
Lorenzo C. Jenkins | Thos. William Jenkins | William N. Jenkins | William Ollie Jenkins

WILLIAM OLLIE JENKINS(1902-1971)

William Ollie Jenkins, the eldest son of William Newton Jenkins and his first wife Emmerine (Morrison) Jenkins, was born June 7, 1902 on a farm near Powderly, Lamar County, Texas.

Unfortunately, we know very little about Ollie's early years apart from the fact that his mother died when he was less than two years old, that he grew up on a farm in rural Lamar County, Texas with his father (William Newton Jenkins), stepmother (Lestie Uselton Jenkins), and an older sister (Pearl) and younger brother (Isaac Newton), and also that sometime before he reached adulthood, he underwent an emergency appendectomy.

Thanks to the magic of photography however, we know too that even though he was raised on a farm, the young Ollie Jenkins was something of a snappy dresser. One photo, taken when he was probably sixteen or seventeen, shows him wearing what appears to be an expensive three-piece suit while posing beside an equally well-attired girlfriend named Gussie, sitting on some sort of wooden structure next to a rural railroad line.

Ollie and Gussie

Another photo, probably taken a year or two later, shows a fresh-faced Ollie with hands on hips, smiling and proudly showing off dress trousers, white shirt and collar, a colorful tie, and what might be a brand new hat.

Ollie Jenkins

On July 23, 1921, at the age of nineteen, William Ollie Jenkins married Ida Lee Seay, the seventeen-year old daughter of a neighboring farmer, Matthew E. Seay (see photo below, taken on their wedding day).

Ida and Ollie

Together, this couple had the following named children:

  1. William Aaron "Jack" Jenkins, born June 27, 1922 at Sumner, Lamar County, Texas; died July 25, 2001 in Dallas, Texas.
  2. Lindell Ray Jenkins, born June 26, 1925 in Muskogee, Muskogee County, Oklahoma; died September 26, 2000 in Ennis, Ellis County, Texas.
  3. Emma Inez Jenkins (named for her two grandmothers, Emma Morrison Jenkins and Maggie Inez Ward Seay), born April 15, 1927 in Muskogee, Muskogee County, Oklahoma; died February 8, 2009 in Dallas, Texas.
  4. Ida Louise Jenkins, born November 11, 1930 in Muskogee, Muskogee County, Oklahoma; died June 22, 1995 in Western Springs, Cook County, Illinois (near Chicago).
  5. Elizabeth Ann Jenkins, born in April 1934 in Muskogee, Muskogee County, Oklahoma; died May 27, 1934 in Muskogee, Muskogee County, Oklahoma.

In 1921, after they were married, Ollie Jenkins and his bride went to live for a period of time with the family of Ollie's Aunt Pearlee Margaret and her husband John Henry Cunningham, during which time they helped pick cotton. Around 1924 the Ollie Jenkins family left Texas and moved to Muskogee, Oklahoma, where they resided for the next ten years (and where four of the five children were born). Ollie's father, stepmother, and brother also lived in Muskogee for a few years. In all likelihood, Jess Uselton, William Newton Jenkins' brother-in-law, had something to do with the move. In 1920 or possibly earlier, Jess had found a job at the Muskogee Iron Works, which had started business in 1917 and within a few years had "expanded rapidly" to manufacture "[oil] derricks, [radio] transmission towers, transformer racks, road-building equipment, and steel frameworks." Iron bridges, typical of the type that spanned rural waterways all across mid-America, were also made at the Muskogee factory. It seems then that the prospect of a job at the Muskogee Iron Works is what drew the Jenkins family north from their home in Texas.

Muskogee Iron Works advertisement
From The Employer magazine, May-June 1919.

If the promise of employment is what attracted Ollie Jenkins to Muskogee, he was not disappointed. Both the 1930 federal census for Muskogee County and Muskogee city directories confirm that Ollie's occupation during this period was "ironworker" or "steel worker." One of his father's jobs at the factory, remembered Lindell, was working in the "tool cage," checking out tools to other workers. Lindell recalled that for a while his father also operated an overhead crane that was used to load and unload the railroad cars parked on tracks that ran beside the sprawling ironworks, and that sometimes he would toss coins to Lindell and his older brother Jack, so that they could buy candy or go to the movies.

The 1930 federal census shows further that Ida's nineteen-year-old brother, Matthew E. Seay Jr., also known as "Buck," was living with her and Ollie their children, when they resided at 813 Texas Street, and that he too was employed as an ironworker. Muskogee city directories also reveal that Ollie and his family shared a house with his father and stepmother at 920 Texas Avenue until 1927 or 1928, when it appears that William Newton Jenkins and his wife Lestie returned to Texas, where by 1930 they had settled in Dallas. Interestingly, the Muskogee city directory does not identify Ollie's father as an ironworker, which suggests that he had some other type of employment while living in Muskogee.

During the years before his father and stepmother returned to Texas, remembered Lindell, Ollie had a short-lived partnership with his brother Newton and father William, selling ice-cream cones and hot dogs, probably at local sporting events and celebrations, from two refreshment wagons that they jointly owned. There are three photographs of these wagons, all of which appear to have been taken on the same day. One of these photographs shows Ollie and his wife Ida holding sons Lindell and Jack in their arms while posing in front of one of the wagons. A second photo shows William Newton Jenkins holding two babies, one of which is his grandson Lindell, while two slightly older boys (probably Newton's son Orland and Ollie's son Jack) stand on either side of him. The third photo shows William Newton Jenkins with his two sons: Isaac Newton, and Ollie, standing together on his right, with the two ice cream wagons visible behind them. A woman seen standing beside Newton is probaby his wife Bonnie.

Jenkins family in Muscogee

Jenkins family in Muscogee

Jenkins family in Muscogee

Newton Jenkins' residence in Oklahoma during this time is also confirmed by the 1930 federal census for Dallas, Texas, which lists he and his wife Bonnie with a son, Orlan, who was born in the "Sooner State" in 1927. It appears however, that the compilers of the Muskogee city directory somehow overlooked Newton.

During the years they lived in Muskogee, the Ollie Jenkins family resided at no fewer than six addresses:

  1. 920 Texas Street (Lindell was born here; Emma Inez probably born here also.)
  2. 2006 Baltimore Street
  3. 813 Texas Street
  4. 2105 Monta Street (Ida Louise was born here in 1930.)
  5. 914 Dayton Street
  6. 1815 Augusta Street (Elizabeth Ann was born, and probably also died here in 1934.)

All these addresses are located in close proximity, in the southeastern section of the city and all but the original Monta Street house are still standing (as of 1995). Jack, Lindell, and Inez all had vivid memories of their childhood in Muskogee, although they were still very young when the family moved back to Texas. Louise, who was only three-and-a-half when they left, understandably had no memories of the place. Of the three who remembered, Lindell and Inez were the most willing to share their memories, although they were not all pleasant ones.

According to the late Inez Jenkins Hickman, when her mother, Ida Lee, was pregnant with her last child, she was suffering from tuberculosis, which was even then sometimes referred to as "consumption." Already weakened by her medical condition, it appears that the rigors of pregnancy and childbirth were too much for her to body to bear. The baby doubtless suffered from her mother's condition as well and was probably underweight. She (Elizabeth Ann), died on May 27, 1934 at the age of about six weeks. Her mother lasted only a little longer, passing away on July 20 of that same year. On July 23, 1934, on what would have been her thirteenth wedding anniversary, Ida Lee (Seay) Jenkins was laid to rest in Muskogee's Frozen Rock Cemetery, a small country graveyard on the eastern outskirts of town. The baby, for reasons that are uncertain, was buried in the Muskogee City Cemetery.

Because it was suspected that William Ollie Jenkins also suffered from tuberculosis, the family returned to Texas, where Ollie was admitted to the Woodlawn T.B. sanitarium in Dallas (see photo below). He remained there several months, while his two daughters lived with their grandparents in South Dallas. During this time his sons lived with their Aunt Pearl and Uncle Ernest Hayes, who also resided in South Dallas.

Ollie Jenkins at Woodlawn Hosptial

When Ollie was released from the sanitarium about 1935 or 1936, it appears that he also moved in with William Newton Jenkins and his wife Celeste for a while. The family later had their own home, at 3303 Pennsylvania Avenue, just around the corner from William Newton and Celeste, who resided on 4th Avenue. A few years later, Ollie Jenkins' family moved a few doors down to 3311 Pennsylvania Avenue.

On January 20, 1940, William Ollie Jenkins remarried. From all reports, his second wife, a tall, somewhat lanky woman named Ola Mae McBride, was a good step-mother to his children and was adored by them. (That's Ollie in the middle, in the photo below, with Ola Mae immediately behind him.)

Jenkins family in 1940s Dallas

At around this same time, Jack Jenkins, Ollie's eldest son, also got married. His bride was fifteen-year-old Geraldine Sheba Sharpe, a classmate at nearby Forest Avenue High School. Shortly after they were married, World War II began and Jack, eager to get into the fray, enlisted in the United States Coast Guard. Throughout the war, Jack served in the Pacific theater and was wounded in action. It was only after he returned from the war that he and Geri began a family.

Lindell Jenkins was also eager to serve his country. In 1943, he joined the United States Maritime Service. Like his brother, he served in the Pacific arena.

While their brothers were away fighting in the war, Inez and Louise (neither one went by their first names of Emma or Ida), continued to go to school in South Dallas.

About 1946, Ollie divorced his second wife, Ola Mae, which dismayed his children, who all adored her. His third wife was Alberta Lee Kelley (see photo below), a widow with two children of her own, Hubert and Patricia, who was about the same age as my Aunt Inez. (Ola Mae wasted little time finding another husband, marrying a roofer, Eldridge Scott, whose nickname was "Scotty.")

Ollie Jenkins and Albert Lee Kelley

Step-sisters Inez Jenkins and Patricia Kelly also became friends and after graduating from high school and getting jobs, they left home together and moved in with Patricia's Aunt Irene Hagedorn, whose husband, Karl, had a leather business that his father, a German immigrant, had founded. Irene was Patricia's aunt and Alberta Lee's former sister-in-law. The Hagedorns lived at 6550 Bob O Link Drive, a few blocks east of Abrams Road and not far from the western shore of White Rock Lake.

Sometime probably after school was out for the summer in 1946, Ollie and Alberta Lee, along with Hubert and Louise, went to live on a farm in Ratcliff, Arkansas-a tiny rural community about thirty-three miles east of Fort Smith. According to Inez, Ollie and Alberta Lee were irresponsible parents who on one occasion left Hubert, who was about fourteen years old, and Louise, who was then fifteen, all alone for an entire week in Ratcliff while they traveled to Dallas to borrow some money from Inez (who was so startled one morning when she saw her stepmother tapping on the kitchen window of the house in which she lived, that she dropped a skillet). Later, Patricia Kelley went to live with her mother and stepfather in Ratcliff, leaving Inez in Dallas on her own. Probably because the Hagadorns were not her own relatives and possibly also because she could not afford to pay them rent, Inez eventually moved in with her Aunt Pearl and Uncle Ernest in South Dallas after Patricia went to Arkansas. Later that same year, or in 1947, following a brief residence in Sherman, Texas, Ollie, Alberta Lee, Patricia, Hubert, and Louise all returned to Dallas, where Ollie and Alberta Lee left Hubert and Patricia in the care of some of Alberta Lee's relatives and Louise joined her sister at her Aunt Pearl and Uncle Ernest's house at 3612 Wendelkin Street in South Dallas. Unencumbered with children, Ollie and Alberta Lee went to live in Corpus Christi, Texas. (Note: Worley's Dallas City Directory for 1947 shows Ollie and Alberta Lee living at 700 North Lancaster Street, in Oak Cliff (just a few blocks east of Lake Cliff Park. It is uncertain whether they lived there before or after their sojourn in Arkansas.)

Louise's memory of the above events corroborates most of what Inez recollected, but with some slight differences. Louise recalled that she and her father and stepmother (and stepbrother) were living in Sherman, Texas, not Ratcliff, Arkansas, when Ollie and Alberta Lee left her and Hubert on their own. Louise also said that it was not her father and Alberta Lee that brought her and her stepbrother back to Dallas but rather it was Inez and Patricia who came to get them. There is no way to know which version is the most accurate.

Ollie and Albert Lee resided in Corpus Christi, Texas for about five years, from 1947 through 1952. Alberta's daughter, Patricia, lived with them there. However, their address in that city is unknown. When they returned to Dallas about 1953, they took up residence at 5601 Morningside Avenue (northeast corner of Morningside and Worcola), in the "M" Streets or Glencoe section of Dallas, between Central Expressway and Greenville Avenue). Their address(s) in 1954 and 1955 is/are unknown.

In 1956 Ollie and Alberta Lee lived at 4618 Cowan Avenue, one block north of University Blvd. and about two blocks east of Love Field Airport.

In 1957 they resided at 6833 N. Ewing Avenue, Apartment A, about a block west of Burnett (baseball) Field in Oak Cliff.

Neither Ollie nor Alberta Lee is listed in the Dallas City Directories for 1958-1960. It was during this period, apparently, that they either divorced or separated and Ollie went to live on the west side of Chicago, Illinois, in an apartment building at 202 N. Central Avenue, just a few blocks south of the Lake Street elevated train station. In 1964, he was living at 165 N. Central Avenue in Chicago.

During the summer of 1960, Ollie's youngest daughter, Louise, left her abusive second husband and with her two youngest children went to live in Chicago, initially in the same apartment building as her father. She ended up living in Chicago for the rest of her life.

During the last full decade of his life, the 1960s Ollie lived an itinerant life, alternating between Chicago and Dallas, where apparently for the sake of convenience, he used his sister Pearl Hayes' address in East Dallas when he opened a bank account on nearby Grand Avenue and renewed his Texas driver's license. Throughout this period he continued, as he had done since the late 1930s or early 1940s to make his living as a painter and wallpaper hanger.

In 1971, Ollie's health began to fail, and on Tuesday, October 26, 1971, while living with his daughter Louise and her third husband, Anton Pirman in their Division Street apartment, he died. Following his funeral on October 28, 1971, he was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in Forest Park, Illinois. He was survived by his four adult children and eight grandchildren.


The Jenkins Family
William Jenkins [1] | William Jenkins [2] | Francis Jenkins [1] | Francis Jenkins [2] | Francis Jenkins [3]
Lorenzo C. Jenkins | Thos. William Jenkins | William N. Jenkins | William Ollie Jenkins


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