The Ellis Family
In Johnsonville, South Carolina, the late Norman Ellis and Silinia Shird Ellis were united in holy matrimony. Silinia gave birth to nine siblings and one of the siblings was Carbie Ellis born November 12,1916.
In Live Oak, Florida, the late William Franklin Garvin, and Pearl Johnson Garvin were united in holy matrimony. Pearl gave birth to seven siblings and one of the siblings was Susie Garvin born April 28, 1923.
At a young age Carbie had to work the fields to help support the family. Time was not easy back in those days for any African American. He left home at the age of 16 traveling to Live Oak, Florida with a Caucasian man name Mr. Mcknight. His dream was to live in the sunshine state, Florida, and work toward his dream of becoming a farmer. Carbie was a share cropper working many farms throughout Suwannee County. A sharecropper is when black families would rent small plots of land from a land owner, plant crops on the land and in return the landowner will receive a portion of their crop at the end of each year.
Carbie lived on the McKnight farm. He had no close family and was all alone. Everyday Mr. McKnight and Carbie would travel to different homes picking up other sharecroppers to work the farm. One day he saw a young girl playing in the yard at the home of Mr. & Mrs. Garvin. He admired her from a distance. He got too know the Garvin’s very well as they worked on McKnight farm. One day Carbie asked the Garvin’s if he could court their youngest daughter, Susie. The Garvin’s knew he was a respectful young man, a hard worker and would provide a good future for their daughter. They allowed him to court her and weeks later they fell deeply in love. Carbie ask Susie to marry him but she couldn’t because she was underage. She was fourteen and he was twenty-one. Susie needed her parent’s approval. Mr. & Mrs. Garvin agreed and they signed a document with the court approving the marriage.
On December 22, 1937, Susie was united in holy matrimony to Carbie Ellis. Susie worked the farms with her husband, saved money and prayed that one day they would be able to own their own home and land. Their family increased in size and over the years they had 18 children together, seven boys and eleven girls. For years, Carbie was not able to communicate with his family in South Carolina because of technology and transportation. Over the years, Carbie and Susie saved enough money to travel to Johnsonville, South Carolina to meet his family. It was a happy occasion. So many years had passed. During their stay, Carbie was told he left behind a son he never knew about, his name was Jero. Their family was now a total of 19. Three of their children has deceased and sixteen are still living today. All the children have the same father and only 1 child have a different mother. There are 8 boys and 11 girls.
Let me introduce you to the Ellis siblings in birth order;
Jero (half-brother, deceased 07/03/2016), Norman, Ruby Dell, Carl, Doll, Pearl, George, Loraine, Curtis, Earnestine, Emma, Betty, Magedelene, Al (deceased), Diane, Merita, Michael, McRonical and Rudolph (deceased).
Carbie and Susie worked several farms from sunrise to sunset. They nurtured and loved their children the best way they knew how. As the children grew older, they would work the farms with their parents. Carbie and Susie didn’t let anyone supervise their children but themselves. When they would go into town to purchase supplies, they would not take their children with them. They were sheltering their children from hatred spoken by others. They would leave their son Norman in charge until they returned. They always said, “not all Caucasian are evil people”, we wouldn’t have accomplished what we have today without them.
After many years of hard work, sweat and tears, Carbie and Susie saved enough money to purchase their first home in 1961 which resides on 200 acres. They became homeowners and self-employed. Farming is not an easy life. You must be wise, skillful, patient, and knowledgeable about how nature works. Farming was their dream and they were masters at farming. The Farmers’ Almanac was their best friend and the guide to being a successful farmer. They cultivated and prepared their land for growing crops. Their main crop was tobacco and they grew plenty of it. Tobacco was a money-making crop. They raised cattle, hogs, and chickens. Other crops grown on the farm was corn, cotton, vegetables, and watermelons. Everything planted and raised on the farm was eaten and sold to support the family. They didn’t hire laborers to work the farm because they had many children of their own to work the farm.
Your day begins when the rooster crow early in morning. Time to wake up or when the sun begins to rise. There were many mornings we hated to hear that rooster crow. Today people make a big deal over organic food. We ate organic food throughout our childhood. Everything on the farm was fresh. Every year a cow and several hogs were butchered and stored in large freezer to be eaten throughout the year. Vegetables and fruits were preserved and stored in mason jars. They purchased very few items from the store because all meats, vegetable and fruits were grown on the farm. We ate well and didn’t know it until we left the farm to pursue a life of our own. The old saying “You Never Miss Your Water (‘til Your Well Runs Dry’)”.
The Ellis Farm was a large productive farm fully operated having its own gas tank, irrigation system, water system, trucks, tractors, trailers and cultivating equipment necessary for the farm. Carbie favorite tractor was a John Deer and truck was a Chevrolet. Susie favorite flower was roses.
Carbie said, when he takes his tobacco to the warehouse to be sold, the owner would buy his tobacco before the auction and resell his tobacco during the auction for a higher price. There was nothing he could do about it.
They raised big fine healthy hogs and was filmed on a TV show called “On the Road with Charles Kuralt” for raising fine hogs. One hog was named “MoJo” he wasn’t fat he was big and lean.
Carbie and Susie had a good strong relationship. Susie was more laid back and Carbie was the dominant one. He was the King and she was the Queen. They would never discuss grown folk business around their children they would go into their bedroom. Carbie was the one to discipline the children but Susie would step in if needed. Sometimes, we would try to take the easy way out by asking Susie for permission to go to a game or dance, she would always say “Ask your Father”. We hated those words, there was no way you could avoid Carbie. They were always in sync. He was stricter on the girls than boys but out of all those children no one had a baby under their supervision. There was no dating at their home. We were happy to leave after high school graduation.
Carbie and Susie were spiritual people and every day they thanked the Lord for his blessing. He was a deacon and she was a deaconess at New National Grove Baptist Church. They were faithful and very active in the church. They worked every day of the week except Sunday. Every Sunday the family would go to Sunday School and every fourth Sunday of the month it was a full day at church. The only time you rested on the farm was after Sunday School.
Carbie and Susie were well known and respected in the community. They believed in what was right and that all people should be treated equal. He was very active in the community and serve on the board of the NAACP. He was very faithful to this organization. Carbie and his family participated in all marches organized by the NAACP. His goal was to make life better for his children and others. Carbie was vice president of Suwannee County Farmer Cooperation which allowed black farmers to purchase farming supplies at low cost. Carbie was president of the Pallbearer Chapter. An organization that provided caskets at a low cost to family to bury their love one. Carbie and Susie chose their caskets and stored them on the farm several years prior to their death.
Their Last Days
Ten years prior to their death Carbie and Susie deeded six acres of land to each child. Their legacy was to leave land for their children and grands to enjoy and hope that one day their children would return home to live. The six acres the home resides on was sold to four siblings and those funds was used toward their care. They remain on the farm as long as they could until their health began to fail. They lived out their last days in Suwannee Health Rehabilitation Center.
God called Susie to her heavenly home on August 31, 2010 and fourteen days later God call Carbie to join her on September 14, 2010. Carbie and Susie were married for 72 wonderful years.
Rest in Peace.