My Grandpa Jesse Cornett was born at Dry Fork on April 23, 1875. His parents were Benjamin Franklin Cornett (1848-1905) and Leodicy Roberts (1854- 1883).
On the day he was born, the 6th Calvary, U.S. Army, killed a group of Cheyenne Indians at Sappa, Kansas, and Billy the Kid was arrested for the first time for stealing a basket of laundry. Later in 1875, the first Kentucky Derby was run and the first game of football was played.
He attended school on Dry Fork for three years, then his mother died. His father soon remarried, and his new wife had no use for her husband’s children. His sister Arminta was given to the Ison family at UZ. His brother Preston went to the Maggard family at Eolia. And Grandpa was given to the Fairchild family at Sandlick. He once told me, “They never did let me go back to school, and they made a slave out of me.”
His grandfather, Joseph Enoch Cornett (1814-1891), was a Civil War veteran who deserted. He died when Grandpa was 16, and he surely told him about his experiences in the war. I never asked Grandpa to tell me these stories.
Grandpa fell in love with one of the Fairchild girls, and they wanted to get married. Her parents refused to allow this marriage, and Grandpa left them.
That’s all I know about his early love life, because I never asked him about it.
The war with Spain started, and his eyes were so bad he failed the physical. I never asked him about his friends who went and fought in that war.
On April 26, 1899, he married my grandmother, Louraney Whitaker, on Linefork. They had four boys and four girls. My dad, Curt Cornett, was born to them in 1910. They all worked on the farm and walked to school.
Grandpa was 39 when World War I started, and I never asked him about his friends and relatives and neighbors who served in the war.
He was born 11 years before the Statue of Liberty was erected, and 28 years before the first airplane. I never asked him about his reaction when he saw his first airplane.
He lived through the terms of 18 presidents, from Ulysses S. Grant through John F. Kennedy. I don’t know which one he liked best, because I never asked him.
He and his family lived in Fleming County awhile, then at Hot Spot and at Blackey in the 1920s. The spring is still there where his house once stood. I never asked him about how Blackey was like back then.
He was called to preach, and he told me he started the Dry Fork Old Regular Baptist Church. I only heard him preach twice. I could have gone to church with him more often, but I didn’t.
On his porch at Linefork, he used to sit and play his banjo with Lee Sexton. I never saw him with a banjo.
Grandma died at Blackey in 1946, and Grandpa lived alone the rest of his life.
He was 74 when we moved to Blackey in 1949. Dad and I built him a new house. I never sat down and talked to my Grandpa. He died March 10, 1963. The river was in flood, and the water was lapping on the stops of the houses across the railroad tracks.
I’ll soon be 76 years old. Just think of all the history I could have recorded if I had talked to Grandpa more. Today’s students study about history . . . we lived it.
Your grandparents are living history books. Sit down and talk to them. You’ll learn a lot you never knew before. Write down the stories they tell you.
When Grandpa got very sick, we asked him where he wanted to be buried. He said, “Bury me as close to my daddy as you can get me, and as far away from the Whitakers as you can get me.”
I never asked him why, and now I’ll never know.
We buried him at the Cornett/Brown Cemetery at UZ.