GAMALIEL’S OLDEST LIVING RESIDENT
Courtesy Barren’s Black
Roots, Volume 3, Michelle Gorin Burris,
Gorin Genealogical Publishing,
(c) May 1993. Originally printed in the Tompkinsville News, 1956.
“Aunt Elsie” was born October 9, 1859, near
the child of a slave who was owned by a family named Martin. She
knew only hard work as a child but enjoyed work and did not think of
it as a hardship. Her wants were few as a young person and she
acquired patience, endurance, industry, and the ability to do many
“She was married when she was very young to George
Elders. The marriage was not a success because in her own words, “I
married him first for spite." But her “prince charming” came along
before many years. As Mrs. Lige Franklin, our subject, spent her
happiest years until the dreaded disease, lung consumption, took her
husband and father away leaving her with two little girls. She then
had to leave the little girls with her mother and work in the homes
of white people as a housekeeper. This continued for some years
until “Aunt Elsie” met her husband number three, Gregg Lankford. She
liked to say that this was a marriage for convenience, but people
who knew them could see that she as really devoted to this man who
was certainly an unusual colored gentleman. Their only daughter,
Martha Ellen Johnson, resides in Indianapolis, Ind. The other two
daughters, Mrs. Lollie Pipkin and Mrs. Emma Pipkin, live at Gamaliel.
“Before “Aunt Elsie” lost her eyesight, a few years
ago, she had spent a half-century of service to the people of
Gamaliel. If any person was ill within a large radius, she left her
own home and rushed to the bedside to be of service. When she
entered the sick room the psychological effect on the patient seemed
to speed recovery. “Aunt Elsie” has probably cooked more meals for
preachers than any other person living. Most of her 95 years have
been spent cooking bountiful dinners for special guests, nursing the
sick, or caring for the very young babies of the community.
“Her advise to teenagers often seemed unwise at the
time, but as the teenager approached middle age, he or she often was
made to wonder if “Aunt Elsie” possessed superhuman powers and
insight and in reading and summing up human character. Whether this
power was a special gift or whether it was acquired by her many
experiences, those who know her best still cannot ascertain.
“Her activities have been greatly curtailed by her
blindness in her years since she passed the ninety mark, but she is
still remarkably alert, mentally. She lives with her daughter, Mrs.
Roscoe Pipkin, who is herself a retired school teacher. She is a
faithful member of the Church of Christ.
“Aunt Elsie” will live on and on in the lives of the
Comers, Harlins, Crabtree's, Hayes and many others. “A life of
service to ones fellow-man has no end.”