Alexa Sevilla Evans was born in Nantahala Township, Macon County, North Carolina on 19 April 1889 to a farmer and his wife who eventually had 16 children, 13 of which lived to adulthood. She grew up in the Deep South, in and around the Macon County area. By the time she was three she was picking cotton and working in the fields. She told of backbreaking work, the constant bending over, the heat and humidity. Of how heavy her long skirt and petticoat were, adding that she would lift them up and tuck them in at the waist so she could get a little breeze on her legs. When she grew into woman- hood many heard of Alexa Evans and how pretty she was with her long, black hair and beautiful blue eyes.
When she was eighteen she met and married Michael Ghormley, always affectionately referred to by Lexie as “Mikey”. Neither Lexie nor Mike liked her given name so she changed it, and from then on was known as “Lexie Willie”. She and Mike had two children, a son, Jesse Bernard, and a daughter Loise; the daughter would die young of pneumonia, as would Mike. Lexie always spoke highly of her “Mikey” stating, “He was always good to me.” Sometime after the death of Loise and her beloved Mikey, about 1912, she and Bernard moved to Georgia where her parents had already relocated a few years before. She began to work in a mill and she spoke of taking homemade pickles and crackers for her lunch everyday; life was hard for a widow with a young son to support.
About 1913 she met, probably at the mill she was working in, and married Ellis Garrett. They had two sons and a daughter and then, in 1921, the couple decided to move to Missouri, possibly because Ellis had family there, or maybe for better employment opportunities. For whatever reason, they packed up what belongings could be put on a covered farm wagon, and the kids, and set off for the long hard journey to Missouri. Rush, Lexie’s brother, accompanied them to help with the move, later returning to Georgia. Lexie walked most of the journey from Georgia to Missouri behind the wagon, carrying baby Lottie Mae and tending her three sons, Bernard, Sherman, and Coleman. Shortly after arriving in Missouri, Pauline was born in October of the same year so Lexie must have been pregnant when she walked those many miles. Ellis and Lexie would have three more daughters, Mary Belle, Willie, and Lucille.
Life wasn’t easy for Lexie; Ellis was a drinker and abusive, especially to his stepson Bernard. He would hang around long enough to get her pregnant, grab what money he could, and then he would disappear for long periods of time. Lexie continued to work out in the fields of their farm, taking in extra work as she could, in order to support the family. Lottie Mae tells of her mother working long, hard hours and coming into the house every evening exhausted. One of the kids would always run and get a pan of warm water for her so she could soak her feet. Lottie Mae said there were many times her mother would have her get a pen and paper and Lexie would dictate letters to her while she soaked, many to her father and to her Aunt Bunie. The last child, Lucille, was born in 1929; soon after that Ellis left for the last time and never returned. Years ago Coleman and his wife, June Baker Garrett, were staying with Lexie and June spent many afternoons talking with her. June asked Lexie why, when Ellis had been so abusive, she had stayed with him. Lexie told her that she had left Ellis three times but that each time she left him, her family, most notably her father, made her go back to him. Most likely the thought of her father’s censure would have been more difficult and painful for her to face than Ellis’ abuse.
After Ellis left for the last time, Lexie bought a cafe in Willard, Missouri and it became known as “Garrett’s Cafe.” Lexie worked long hours in the cafe, as did the children. The kids would get out of school and go to the cafe to help out; Lexie had indeed taught her children the meaning of “good work ethics”, which stayed with all of them throughout their lives. About 1944 or 1945, before WWII ended, Lexie sold the cafe and moved to Springfield. All of the family remember well the big, two story house on Robberson Street. By this time Lexie had many grandchildren, and as the years went by there would be great, as well as great-great-grandchildren and many family get-togethers in the house on Robberson Street.
In Feb 1982, at the age of 92, Lexie broke her hip. While in the hospital she was told by the doctors that she could not return home until she could walk and that usually took about 6 months (medical science, of course, not being like it is today). Lexie walked out of the hospital in 27 days. Soon after, the house on Robberson Street was sold and she moved into a mobile home behind her daughter Pauline’s house. About six months after she left the hospital, Lexie suffered a stroke which paralyzed her left side and affected her speech. The next few years must have been torture for a woman who had always been so independent. But Lexie, as she had always done, met this challenge and coped with her disabilities with grace and dignity.
Lexie Evans Ghormley Garrett passed away 3 Sep 1986, leaving behind a loving family and a legacy that will not be forgotten. During her lifetime, she saw 17 United States presidents take the Oath of Office, her country involved in 5 wars – not counting the “Cold War”, man’s first flight in an airplane and his first steps on the moon, the sinking of the Titanic and the Lusitania, the discovery of antibiotics, diseases such as polio and smallpox eradicated, and the introduction of AIDS. She was a strong woman with true, pioneering grit and an indomitable spirit.
~ written by granddaughter Debra Hayes Brodbeck ~