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Local birthday girl has place in history
Liberty lore
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Today is the birthday of one of Liberty County’s oldest citizens. Mrs. Cherrie Watkins Murrell of Hinesville will be celebrating 100 years of living today. I had the pleasure of visiting her last Wednesday and asking her a few questions about her life. Several years ago, she often visited city hall and talked with us, giving us bits of wisdom and sharing her humor with us.
I knocked on the door and she told me to come in. She was sitting in her recliner with a beautiful lap robe across her. There were the Coastal Courier, Savannah Morning News and several current news magazines on the coffee table. She stays up with the news of today. Her worn Bible, which she reads daily, was right beside her chair. Her walker, which she uses often, was standing beside the chair. Mrs. Cherrie looked the same as she had years ago when I had seen her last. She still had that smile on her face and in her eyes.
Mrs. Cherrie was born in Emanuel County near the city of Swainsboro on Monday, April 12, 1909. Her father owned and operated a large farm and her mother was a homemaker, worked on the farm and was a midwife for the community. Cherrie was the baby of the family, having two older brothers and five sisters. Being the baby she was the “pet” of the family and got all of the hand-me-down clothes.
Her father often carried her to town with him, riding in the wagon or buggy pulled by the farm mule. She recalled loving to go with him to McKinney’s Mill Pond where he had a load of corn ground into grits and meal. She liked to see the water spilling over the large mill wheel and running over the dam.
As she grew older, she, along with the others sisters, had to peel many bushels of peaches and apples for their mother to can in jars. There was a large peach orchard, several apple trees, pecan trees and many plum trees. Nothing went to waste.
Peanuts, cotton and corn was grown on the farm. There seemed to always be hoeing to do. She spent many hours in the hot sun wearing a large straw hat hoeing the weeds from the crops. She loved it. All her life she loved to plant and watch the plants grow daily.
Today, that is what she misses most — planting her garden and working in it. She likes all kinds of vegetables but especially loved to grow watermelons. To my surprise, her favorite kind is what she called the “ice cream” watermelon. It has yellow meat.
She attended primary school in Emanuel County, completing fifth grade before quitting to work on the farm. She loved school and learned well.
I asked her about her courting days.
“Oh, that was a long time ago. My boyfriend, Spergeon, came over and we sat in the yard under the big cedar trees. There were two huge cedar trees in the front yard. Also, chinaberry and sycamore trees. We did not go anywhere except to church on Sunday. Most of the time we walked to church. Occasionally, I got to ride over to Emanuel County and ride by my old homeplace. I can still point out where it was by the tall pine trees growing there. My father died and later the farm was broken up and sold. We had some good times on that big farm,” Mrs. Cherrie said.
During The Great Depression in the late 1930s, everyone was in the same boat. People did what they could with what they had and made do. There was a lot of cornbread and syrup and sweet potatoes eaten in those lean years. The times were very hard but everyone learned how to survive.
Cherrie married Spergeon Watkins and they lived in Emanuel County before moving to Metter for a few years. When Cherrie was 15, she gave birth to their only child, a son who died in 1989.
In 1940-41, they heard Camp Stewart was hiring workers. They moved to Hinesville and both applied for and got jobs. Cherrie could not remember what her husband did there — he just worked. She had a job in the laundry.
Cherrie loved to cook all foods, especially catching and frying catfish and pike. Fruit cakes during the holiday season were a joy to prepare and bake. She wrapped the baked cakes in clean cloths soaked in good homemade blackberry or wild plum wine and let them sit for a few weeks before Christmas.
Spergeon Watkins died and later Cherrie married Douse Murrell, who owned a large farm in the Gum Branch area off John Wells Road. After Mr. Murrell died, the farm was divided and sold except for a couple of acres and the farm house.
Cherrie learned to drive and purchased two brand new Chevrolets during her driving career. She quit driving just a few years ago as the traffic increased so much in Hinesville she could not get on and off the roads.
At 100, Cherrie is content to live in the home of her niece, Tommie Fish, who serves as a loving companion and caretaker. I asked Mrs. Cherrie if she had any wise words to give us about living. She said, “Treat everyone right. Put the Lord first and trust in Him. I have had a good life. I have had some illnesses and heartaches, but I have always pulled through. I would like to live to be 200 if that is what the good Lord has in mind for me to do.”
Cherrie attends Mt. Zion Church and will be honored today by the congregation. Happy 100th birthday!
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