The Work of Many
Stepping into the kitchen door of the house, I began calling for her. “Rosa! Rosa! Anybody here? Rosa!” The silence was then broken with a soft reply. “Yoo-hoo!” said Rosa. “Rosa is that you?”
“Yoo-hoo!” Her voice was closer and louder now.
An even louder “Yoo-hoo!” came back to me, and then we saw each other.
“What is yoo-hoo?”
“It was the way we found each other in the house without startling them,” she explained, referring to Mr. and Mrs. Callaway. “After all, it’s a big house. Ever since I started working here, forty-three years in all, we just kept calling yoo-hoo.”
Then she chuckled, shook her head and said, “Boy I have some good memories in this place.”
When I met Rosa Sims just prior to Hills & Dales opening to the public in 2004, she was one of the last, in a long line of employees, on staff who had worked for Fuller Jr. and Alice Callaway.
Given the size of the home, garden, and surrounding property, one of the most common questions from visitors is: “How many people worked here?” This curiosity piqued our interest so we started digging to find out more. We searched for names, job titles and tenure in old city directories, the census, and family records. So what did we discover?
Even before Hills & Dales was completed in 1916 Fuller Sr. and Ida employed a good number of people. They were both extremely busy, particularly Fuller who worked long hours tending to his business affairs, so they needed an able staff. One long-standing devoted employee who was central to Fuller’s private and business success was his personal secretary, Ab Perry, who held this post from 1912 until Fuller’s death in 1928. A surviving family ledger from 1913 includes references to Epharam Fitts (Fitzpatrick), Lewis Lipscomb, Madison Towns, Jim Robertson, and at least twelve other employees. We don’t know much about these workers but, given the date, it’s tempting to think they may have helped clean up the old Ferrell Gardens after Fuller and Ida bought the land in 1912.
We do know Mr. B. Eichholz was hired as a gardener in March of 1916, but about a month later Eichholz received his final check so presumably it didn’t work out. From a surviving photograph we know Charlie Cameron was working as a gardener around the same time. A little later, the 1920 census reveals that the Callaways employed Mrs. J.M. Shaw, a Scottish born housekeeper who immigrated to America in 1879 at the age of nine. But how Shaw came to LaGrange and how long she remained is
Perhaps our best source about their personal staff in these early years is from Ida’s 1929 memoir: “I want to write here a few words about the faithful devotion of three of our house servants during the long period of Fuller’s serious illness. Lydia has been with us 34 years, the only nurse Cason ever had, and our cook since the time he was old enough to do without her. Fuller used to say we did not know whether Lydia belonged to us or we belonged to Lydia. Lydia’s never-failing loyalty to our every interest, from grandparents to grandchildren, has convinced me that there is no devotion superior… Jim, our butler, and Neal, our chauffeur, waited on Fuller untiringly, helped him up and down the stairs, and nodded in their chairs through many a long night that they might be at hand should I have need of them.”
While, we don’t know the last names of Lydia and Neal we do know Jim was Jim Robinson who continued to work for Fuller Jr. and Alice after Ida passed way. Ida also mentioned Mr. Frank Thomas, a man-of-all-work who served as their butler, cook, chauffeur, and whatever else the occasion called for until he went to work for Highland Country Club.
When Fuller Jr. and Alice moved to Hills & Dales in 1936 Alice, age 24, freely admitted she was a novice gardener and wrote that she was: “grateful that she inherited some dedicated old-time gardeners that were kind to her and helped her through the early years.” Her 1937 journal makes reference to Mr. Tillman and his men…and faithful old Jim Robinson noting they were: “cutting lawn…working in greenhouse…cleaning up in the orchard…and prepared holes for the gardenia bushes…”
On Thursday, March 13, 1941, Alice writes “Cloudy day – Jim Junior and Nathan in the house cleaning – Dewey and Eddie cutting grass – Jim and Tucker in the greenhouse.” Some ten years later Jim, Dewey, Eddie, and Junior are all still working at the estate as Alice refers to them “trimming the boxwood on the 1st terrace.” But, by this time a Mr. Stuart Miles has joined the crew as he is pruning “…the roses back today.”
From the recently released 1940 census we learn that Lena Moore and her husband Eulas were both working for the Callaways. Lena as a child’s nurse, Eulas as a laborer and his brother George as the chauffeur. But managing a staff presented certain challenges. After being away in New York during September of 1943 Alice wrote her friend Katie Lynn in Lynchburg, Virginia: “When I came home I had a siege of help trouble and have lost three out of the four I had. George has gone to Brunswick, Ga. to learn welding… Alice, the maid said her husband didn’t want her to work (he works in the mill and so makes enough to support them), Mattie, whom I had cooking during the summer returned to Lillian Cobb who uses her in the winter. So- I have had my hands full trying in vain to replace them. Now I have an excellent cook but only temporarily as she too does not want regular work, and good old Jim is pinch hitting for butler until I can get someone. I still am without a maid but think I have found one. Willie, the laundress, is the only one of the old crew here.”
Some four years later she writes her friend Katie that she has a maid for the first time in many years – probably Willie Newton, who would work at Hills & Dales well into the 1960s.
By the time Fuller Jr. began raising Hereford cattle in the mid-1940s, staff needs had expanded beyond the house and garden to include a number of farm hands. Among these were herdsman Bill Cox, plus Frank Pope, Fred Grant and later, Sidney Lanier, who helped with the farm.
Perhaps the best insight into their contributions was given by grandson, Mark Callaway, who periodically stayed with Fuller Jr. and Alice while growing up in the 1950s and 60s: “Willie Paige was the inside and outside butler. He taught me how to fish with a cane pole. Catherine Gibson, cook, taught us all the finer points of fried chicken and pineapple sandwiches. Mable Boykin was a maid and early childhood development specialist. Mable introduced me to ‘The Switch.’ Willie Newton, laundry, forever ruined me by ironing everything including my socks. And last, but not least, [is] Rosa Sims, who started in the laundry in 1962 and continued as a housekeeper for the home even when it opened to the public in 2004.”
Clearly it’s apparent than an estate the size of Hills & Dales requires the work of many to keep it running smoothly. A roughly accurate count from our research has given us a sum of over fifty different people employed here between 1916 through 1998. How fortunate we are to enjoy the results of their work and dedication!
-CW & JB
Hills & Dales Employees
(Who worked 10 or more years between 1913 and 1998.)
Lydia and Neal
(No last name listed)
Ed Bassett (Eddie)
Norman H. Billingslea
William Ellick Boyd (Cookie)
George Dewey Brewer
George Brewer, III
Ephraham Fitzpatrick (Fitts)
Willie E. Newton
Willie James Paige
James Robinson Jr. (Junior)
Jim Robinson (Robertson)
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