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   Mary Effie Harrell Chastain






On 27 April 1901, Lee Roy Harrell and his wife, Willie Alma Massey, became proud parents of their first daughter. They named her Mary Effie Harrell. This happened in Mitchell County, Georgia, somewhere in the country between Vada and Pelham. Little Mary Effie was delivered by a midwife. According to a custom, the new mother was confined to her bed for nine days, and then she was to walk around the house accompanied by someone carrying the baby. The person that carried the baby was chosen with care, as supposedly, the baby would take after that person. Mary Effie was carried around by her grandmother, Mary Ann Harrell.

The first memory she has of her childhood is not a pleasant one, as her little brother, Zemer, had gotten sick with the hives. A midwife had been called to help care for him. With all good intentions, the lady did what was the accepted thing for treating babies, and priced a little blood from the baby’s neck. If she fed him a little of his own blood, it was supposed to help him get well. However, three year old Mary Effie was watching this, and not understanding, she assumed the woman was trying to hurt her little brother. She jumped on the woman, yelled, screamed, hit and beat her with all her might. Apparently, even at that age, Mary Effie Harrell was determined to fight for what she believed in, to defend those she loved, from anyone or anything she believed might hurt them, and to refuse to be intimidated by anyone, no matter how large or powerful.

Another memorable experience was that she often held and rocked her little brother, Earnest. It was there that little Earnest died, in his big sister’s arms.

How little Mary Effie loved dolls! Like many little girls, she would spend hours and hours playing with them, loving and caring for them as if they were real. A sad memory she has is when her brother Maynor got angry one day and deliberately smashed her two lovely china dolls to bits. She had named them Molly and Polly, dressed them all up and set them on a fence. She had to leave for a few minutes and then returned to find them destroyed. As a matter of fact, since she loved dolls so much, every Christmas or birthday, her mother usually made her either a new ragdoll or something for her dolls to wear.

Because her father was in the turpentine business, the family moved around to where there was a need for his




trade. Towns she remembers having lived in as a child are: Hortense, Georgia, where she started school; Shellman, Georgia, where she also attended school, Monticello, Florida, where she lived with a Mrs. Malloy Fitzgerald, and Boston, Georgia, Boston being where she finished school. Her best subjects in school were geography (she loved dreaming of traveling), reading and spelling (she remembers winning several spelling bees). Her least favorite subjects were history and math.

Life was not all fun and games for a little girl, however. Mary Effie had to often help the men work outside doing hard work such as sawing trees and carrying heavy loads. And inside, she frequently had complete run of the house, as her mother was not well, so she had to reply on her oldest daughter to care for the younger children and to do all the household chores.

Mary Effie got older and naturally, she began to notice boys. This caused problems between her and her father. He felt she was too young to be noticing them, and he did all he could to discourage her from speaking to them. the first real boyfriend she had was short-lived because her father made their friendship impossible due to his strictness.

Then one day, her cousin, A.B. Harrell came over with a friend who stayed at his house. He came to show the young man a horse that his Uncle Lee had for sale. this friend was L.C. Chastain, a handsome, quiet young man, who immediately fell in love with the girl he later described as the ‘most beautiful girl I have ever seen in my life”. It seemed that Mary Effie Harrell was equally impressed with him, so in Boston, Georgia, in spite of her father’s opposition, the two of them managed to get together, to write numerous notes to each other secretly, and to get to know each other.

The courtship thrived. Then early one warm spring day, L.C. and Mary Effie were taking a walk together through the streets of Boston. L. C. asked Mary Effie if she would marry him. Did she say yes? NO. Not then! She replied, “Oh no! My daddy would kill me!” It took a little time for L.C. to persuade her that her father would not kill her, that he would be there to protect her if she needed him, and that she would





be safe with him.  Eventually love won out and Mary Effie said “Yes!”

Since Mary Effie was afraid that if L.C. asked her father for permission to marry her, he would say no and possibly even succeed in ending their relationship permanently, she tried to persuade him that they should run away and get married.  At first, L.c. agreed, however, he soon realized that that was not that right thing to do and that the most respectable way for a young man to marry was with the permission of the girl’s father.  L.C. was determined that he would ask for permission from Lee Roy Harrell, so the following Sunday, eh did.  Furthermore, Lee Roy Harrell consented.

So, in her father’s house on the Fourth of July, 1915, Mary Effie Harrell became the bride of L.C. Chastain, in Boston
, Georgia.  They spent their wedding night at her uncle Elmore Harrell’s house out in the country, and then for about two months, lived with her parents in Boston.  Then, they moved to another house nearby where they set up housekeeping themselves.  Later, they moved to a big, old country farmhouse so that L.C. could farm to a little with a mule he had gotten.  For furnishings, he collected old odds and ends, including an old wood stove he bought for $1 and fixed up for his young bride.

That house was where their first child was born.  that was quite an event.  Mary Effie was determined that a midwife would deliver her baby, as she was not about to let a MAN be in the same room with her at a time like that!  When complications developed, L.C. saw that the midwife was not able to handle these complications, he got Dr. Van from town and insisted that he take over.  Fortunately, he managed to save both young mother and the new baby girl.  The baby was named Sarah Eileen, the Sara being after L.C.’s mother. 

After their second child, Billy Woodrow, was born, Mary Effie took him to show her mother, Willie Alma Harrell.  Willie had the flu as there was an epidemic at the time (she also died a few days later).  She did get to see her beautiful red-headed grandson though (she also had red hair).  Mary Effie had not realized that she, herself, was also ill, and right at her mother’s home, she collapsed and hardly regained consciousness for three days.




At times, things were hard for the young couple, but they worked together as a team and managed to get by. They had seven children. When L.C. started the sand company in Thomasville, Mary Effie insisted he let her help in the office as he was having trouble finding the right person for the job. Furthermore, she wanted to help her husband succeed, to fulfill his dreams, as she sensed he was not well and knew he was working too hard.

When Mary Effie Chastain was 39 years old, her husband died, believing that the business she had begun would provide for his wife and children for the rest of their lives. And it did. Mrs. L.C. Chastain, Sr. was an excellent businesswoman, a hard worker, one who said nothing “can’t” be done. She worked with her business, kept the books, tracked down accounts, pumped sand, drove dump trucks supervised the drivers and never slowed down for 30 years. Being a lone woman in a man’s business world did not prevent her from doing her job.

When she retired finally, from Southern Sand Company in 1973, she then sold Electrolux Vacuum cleaners, became an Avon sales representative, and then at 74 years old, took a course at the Vocational School in Thomasville to be a Medical technician. From then on, she helped care for sick people, particularly for members of the R.C. Balfour family.

Mary Effie Harrell Chastain has been described as a go-er, a do-er. She survived hard times, tragedies, and disappointments with more spirit than many of us could have ever even imagined. She volunteered to help in nursing homes and spent much of her time helping anyone in need, never asking for anything in return. She was a friend to many people and was loved and respected by all who knew her. Her principles and integrity were of the highest caliber.

As a mother, she taught her children the value of an education, to love beauty of nature, flowers, art and poetry, and to lead good lives, in actions as well as in words.

She was baptized at First Baptist Church in Thomasville on 23 April 1944 and was an active member there since. Today, at 87, Mary Effie Harrell Chastain is still outdoing us all when it comes to energy, activity and good works.




  Mary Effie Harrell

Ten years old







School in Shellman, Georgia. Mary Effie Harrell, around 10 years old, is in the center, curled locks and a ribbon in her hair, hands folded neatly in her lap. (c 1911)

School in Boston, Georgia. Mary Effie Harrell is about 13 years old, sitting on the left, third girl from the teacher, has a colored scarf tied around her neck, and hair pulled back. (c 1914)





Marriage license of Mary Effie Harrell to Luther Cleveland Chastain, 4 July 1915, Thomas County, Georgia





The only picture ever taken of L. C. Chastain and his wife, Mary Effie Harrell Chastain, together as a couple.




Updated Information:

Mary Effie Harrell Chastain died on

She is buried in Thomasville, Georgia in Laurel Hill Cemetery next to her husband and their son, Teddy.