Saturday, August 13, 2005

She Always Loved Jim

She was a pretty seventeen year-old girl. Of course, she attracted several young men admirers because she was pretty and because her family was better-off than many others in the community. But Alice Grover had her eye on Jim.

A big, handsome young man a bit older than Alice, Jim Walker was totally unsuitable for her. Her father was a leading politician in the area, a Democrat with potential, and he owned a few slaves. Jim's family were Republicans, anti-slavery, and while they were also well off, did not have the standing in the community that the Grovers had. It could be that his unsuitability made Jim even more handsome in Alice's eyes. Her parents had plans for Alice that included a large church wedding to some important political figure, if possible.

Then the War came and people chose sides. It was no problem for Jim who joined up with a Union cavalry group. It didn't matter that he had no military training. Hardly anyone else did, either. Jim was a corporal and could ride and shoot with the best of the men. His unit was full of crazy young men who took lots of risks. It wasn't his fault that he was captured and paroled twice. Alice thought he was the handsomest man in uniform she had ever seen.

Jim noticed Alice and they managed to spend a little time together when he was home. But their last names might as well have been named Montague and Capulet as far as her father was concerned. He did not like the Walkers.

It was 1866 and the War was over and the Grovers had lost their slaves. But it was easy to travel again. Grover took some of his family to a family reunion back to western New York State. And old sepia photograph shows that Alice and her brothers stayed home. Laura, Alice's sister, went on the long trip from the middle of Kentucky.

Alice was nineteen when her parents were away. She and Jim made a trip of their own. They took a ferry across the Ohio River and were married by a justice of the peace. Then they returned and set up housekeeping, waiting for the explosion. Sure enough, Mr. Grover was mad as hell, and Mrs. Grover wept because there was going to be no big church wedding. But they were not fools; they relented and waited for the grandchildren.

Sure enough, a year later Alice produced a son. To pacify her father, they named the boy Grover Walker. It helped only a little. Then came little Laura, named for Alice's dead sister, who died twenty years before. Then came little Stella. No one knows where that name came from.

It was 1873, and Jim's general merchandise business was growing. He built a small hotel in the area to serve the trading people nearby. Mr. Grover had became a U.S. Congressman and was active in State politics.

An nasty group of people emerged in the area. They called themselves the Ku Klux Klan. These people decided that no persons of African descent should live in their county, so they began chasing them out. If a family would not move, they were brutally murdered. Mr. Grover, a lawyer and banker, represented the Klan in court cases and got them off.

Jim Walker and his brothers, among other whites in the area, decided to stop the Klan from killing. It was almost impossible to convict a Klansman in State courts so they notified people in the federal government who issued warrants for the arrest of known killers. The sheriff was in the Klan, so he refused to serve the warrants.

Jim was warned. Anybody would say that he was asking for trouble. But he would not give up. On May 4, 1874, on a rainy Monday afternoon where everybody could see the event, Bill Smoot, the Klan chieftain, shot Jim Walker dead in front of the county courthouse. Jim was only thirty-one years old.

Alice was a widow. Fortunately, her father took her and her three kids in and paid some of her bills. Earlier, young Laura Grover married Jim's younger brother, Henry. It was not long before he was dead, too. So Grover had his daughters back and their children. Having lost two sons-in-law to the Klan, he was beginning to change his opinion of them.

Alice still loved Jim, the man she eloped with in 1866. After several years of grieving, she agreed to marry the town doctor, a middle aged bachelor named Munday. They had no children, but her son Grover was unhappy with his new step-father, so they sent him off to a military school. He seldom returned after that. He went to Kansas with his uncle Tom Walker, who set him up in a successful banking business.

So pretty Alice Walker had lost her son. Dr. Munday did not live long, and Alice had to bury him, too.

Deciding to get away from all the sad memories they had in their community, the Grover family moved to another town some twenty miles away. Grover started a bank, continued to practice law and buy up all the land he could find. He had two partners in the bank.

Alice still loved Jim. But after much of his attention, she agreed to marry her father's partner, an older man named Montgomery. He built a mansion for Alice. It still stands in Georgetown, Kentucky.

About 1887, Mr. Grover died. Alice took some of her inheritance and spent it on having Jim's remains moved from her previous home county to the city cemetery in Georgetown.

Mr. Montgomery died soon after. Alice and her two daughters lived in Georgetown until both Stella and Louise married and moved to Louisville. Then Alice moved to Louisville to be near them and her only living grandchild, also named Alice. In 1909 her son Grover was killed in an automobile accident in western Kansas. Two years later Alice herself died of cancer.

Alice still loved Jim, so she had herself buried beside him, the man she eloped with forty-five years before. She did this even though her third husband was buried a few yards away. Because Alice's legal name was Montgomery and no longer Walker, her daughters put on the headstone the title, "Mother". Eight-four years later I made a change by adding something to Alice's headstone. I had engraved on it the name, "Alice Porter Grover Walker." That was who Alice always wanted to be. I knew she really, really loved Jim.


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