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William Grover Clements

William Grover Clements[1]

Male 1884 - 1984  (99 years)

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  • Name William Grover Clements 
    Nickname Bill 
    Born 1 Oct 1884  Ray City, Georgia Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Died 30 Jul 1984  Cross City, Dixie, Florida Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Buried Evergreen Cemetery, Madison, Florida Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Person ID I4449  Yatesville History & Genealogy
    Last Modified 1 May 2021 

    Father Levi Jordan Clements,   b. 31 Jul 1851, Lowndes, Georgia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 25 Apr 1924, Berrien, Georgia Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 72 years) 
    Mother Elizabeth Rowena Patten,   b. 27 Jun 1858, Berrien, Georgia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 26 Jan 1951, Berrien, Georgia Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 92 years) 
    Married Abt 1875  Berrien, Georgia Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Family ID F2373  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Lola Elaine Sirmans, Adopted Daughter,   b. 27 Jan 1893, Berrien, Georgia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 12 Apr 1974, Madison, Florida Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 81 years)  [1
    Married 1921  Madison, Florida Find all individuals with events at this location 
     1. Levi Austin Clements,   b. 19 Feb 1923, Madison, Florida Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 14 Feb 1990, Leon, Florida Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 66 years)
    Last Modified 30 Sep 2022 
    Family ID F2393  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Photos

  • Notes 
    • WWI Civilian Draft Registrations Name: Clements, William Grover Birth Date: 1 Oct 1884 Birth Place: Relat. Lives Ray City GA City/County: Madison State: FL Ethnicity: W

      Bill Clements: A real “Old Timer” at the age of 96

      Madison County Carrier, April 16, 1981
      By: June Toomey

      His parents named him William Grover Clements. His middle name was for Grover Cleveland, the first Democratic President elected after the Civil War. Bill was born on October 1, 1884, the same year Cleveland was elected. The place was Berrien County, Georgia, about twenty miles north of Valdosta.

      In those days, Bill said there were only two brick buildings, a bank and a warehouse for the railroad, in the now bustling city of Valdosta. People went to town in buggies drawn by horses and the streets were sand--no paved roads then. Bill had two older brothers and two older sisters. Twin boys were to be born to his parents later. When he was old enough, he attended Green Bay School five months out of the year and, little as he was, helped the family on the farm during the rest of the year.

      After graduation, he attended Georgia Normal College and Business Institute in Abbeyville. He stayed at the dormitory which was run by the President of the Commerce Department. The charge for living at the school, including meals, was $9.80 a month which his parents paid for in syrup and bacon from the farm. It was a co-educational school.

      Bill said, "The ladies lived downstairs and the gents up. I had a Yankee sweetheart. She was the sister of the Principal's wife. There wasn't much time for social activities then but I did play on the baseball team. I played first base and sometimes I was the catcher." He modestly didn't want to admit it, but was one of the star hitters on the team.

      Thirty five or forty Floridians attended the school but the total enrollment was about 200 students at that time. Bill was graduated with honors, the leader of his class, and he was offered a job on the faculty. He turned it down though, preferring to go back to the farm and help his parents send the twins through school. Later, he taught at Gopher Ridge, Pleasant Grove and Ray City High Schools, all located in Georgia. He taught for five months at a time and worked in the bank at Nashville, Ga. the rest of the year. He met a girl there, Sancil Connell. That was in 1906, when he was 22 years old.

      "She wanted to get married,' ' he said, "but I told her we'd better wait 'till we were a little older. She finally got tired of waiting and married a Circuit Court Judge." That didn't seem to bother Bill much and in 1909 he came to Florida and worked at the Citizens Bank in Madison. That bank was located where Eagles is now.

      He was the bookkeeper and said he was surprised to learn that the prior bookkeeper kept books like a storekeeper. ���Every account had a page where he would enter the deposits and withdrawals. I found an account that he had lost and the President of the bank said, 'Good for Clements'."

      It was a farm bank as Madison was, and still is, a farm community. The largest account was a Mule Dealer. The average farmer's account amounted to about $400. When Bill worked there, Claude Morrow was a cashier.

      The bank had about $400,000 on deposit. It was the time that Cotton was King and Madison County Farmers raised Sea Island cotton. The Florida Manufacturing Company was in full sway and Madison was rich, but comparing those times with the present, Bill said, "It took a good cow to bring $10.00 then."

      One of Bill's brothers had a half interest in a turpentine business with W. L. Fender of Valdosta. In 1910, Bill bought out his brother's interest and went to work in Sirmans to run the Naval Store owned by the turpentine company and to oversee several thousand acres of pine trees in Madison and Taylor Counties.

      The Naval Store was like a commisary for the company and the 35 or 40 families employed there used tokens ailed “babbits”, made of a heap grade of aluminum, for trade. Payday was once a month and then, the babbits were redeemed for cash.

      The company had a turpentine manufacturing plant in Sirmans and Bill was also in charge of that. There, the raw gum was distilled into spirits of turpentine. The barrels for the rosin were made from oak right there at the plant. Bill said that saved the company a great deal of money.

      He remembers the straw boss, Press Blue, who would take children offered to him and raise them. They would work for the turpentine company when they were old enough. 'That black man raised a lot of other people's children,” said Bill. “He was a good man, distinguished and respectable.''

      Another man he remembers is Tom Puckett of Perry who was also in the turpentine business. "He tried to hire me. That was the year we shipped more than any other division on the books. We had 167 accounts,'' said Bill. Fender and Clements shipped $21,000 worth of products a year and their expenses were about $10,000. That was a lot of money in those days.

      Back then, Florida had open range. Cattle were allowed to roam free on the roads and they were attracted to the smell from the turpentine still. Cows often slept near the still as the scent repelled flies and mosquitoes.

      One night when Bill left the Naval Store, he tripped over a cow in the dark and lost the day's receipts. He said he found them the next day. They had no electric lights in the rural communities at that time.

      Every spring, before it was time to plant, Bill would round up a few of the cows and pen them in his garden patch. 'I got free fertilizer that way," smiled the thrifty Bill.

      He remembers that A. W. Edwards was Justice of the Peace then but he said they didn't have much law. Madison County and the City of Madison had many saloons and bar rooms and slot machines were in all of them. The towns were wide open. Moonshining was the way of life in the country in both Madison and Taylor Counties. Bill boarded with John D. Sirman's then. He founded the community of Sirmans when the Railroad came through in 1903. Bill said they had the prettiest and biggest house in the county. They apparently had the prettiest daughter too because Bill began courting her.

      "Booze Browning was a teacher at Garbett's Crossing then," said Bill, "and I'd go get him and we'd go to dances together." In 1921, when Bill was 37 years old, he married Lola Elaine “Shug" Sirmans. She was nine years younger than he was. The couple had one child, a son, Levi Austin Clements. They named him Levi for his grandfather and Austin for Austin Chamberlain who was a big man in England at that time. Levi lives in Cross City now.

      In 1935, Bill ran for a seat on the Madison County Commission and was successful. He kept that seat until 1947 when he lost to Kenneth Beaty by 30 votes. His pay for being a County Commissioner was $33-1/3 a month. They were paid $100 every three months.

      For ten years, during that period, Bill was County Campaign Manager for Senator Claude Pepper. He was the first to sign up with the Tri-County Electric Cooperative and was elected to the board of Trustees in 1950. He is still on the board and attends meetings often. “Nobody ever ran against me," said Bill.

      He has made two trips to Las Vegas for conventions with Tri-County. The first time he said they went on the train but the last time was on a plane. "There were 182 people on that plane," said Bill, "It was a big 'un."

      Bill's "Shug" died in 1974 after being an invalid for a number of years. She taught him to cook and he always prepared the meals for the family while she was ill. "She was a good cook," Bill reflected, "and she used to trade recipes with Bernice F. Wilder who was the Home Demonstration Agent when we courted. She was a good dancer then, too, and taught music on the piano and the organ."

      Bill is alone now but is keeping busy. He is an Elder Deacon at the Sirman Baptist Church, a Woodman of the World, a Mason, and a Shriner. He also is a distributor for Shaklee Products and said he would be glad to tell anyone about the natural vitamins. He said he went to his doctor, told him he was taking the vitamins, and his doctor told him to continue as his blood pressure is down now.

      He has the voice of a man much younger than his 96 years and is a natty dresser. He attributes his long life to--"I let the other fella do the worrying." He said he didn't think smoking or drinking had anything to do with it although he never smoked cigarettes--only good cigars, and he doesn't drink.

      "They tell me when you drink; you live right on, but don't know nothing. I lived right on and I know something," he commented. He bragged that he has never been arrested. After the interview, he invited your CARRIER reporter to lunch. Bill Clements has lived a long time but, no, he has not grown old.

      (Source: Madison County Carrier, April 16, 1981 By: June Toomey; transcribed by Ronald E. Yates 8/15/2009; web_genealogist@yatesville.net)

      Florida Death Index, 1877-1998 Name: William Grover Clements Death Date: 30 Jul 1984 County of Death: Madison State of Death: Florida Age at Death: 99 Race: White Birth Date: 1 Oct 1884

  • Sources 
    1. [S88] GEDCOM File : db-fondren.ged, 12 Mar 2008.