Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Beam Boys - Making Music

Sitting, front: Calvin and Carl Beam
Standing, rear: Arnold, Ruble and Ivy Beam

The Beam family in northeastern Itawamba County was a musical one, and on Friday and Saturday nights you could find them 'making music' at one of their homes. Carl Beam was particularly gifted and could play several different instruments. In fact, he played with fiddler Merle "Red" Taylor before Red became famous from his association with Bill Monroe and Hank Williams.

After a long week of farming or sawmilling, the Beams would gather at someone's home, push the furniture back up against the wall to make room for a dance floor, and then start their music. Buck dancing was a popular accompaniment, particularly to the tune of the Chew Tobacco Rag. Coal oil lamps provided low light, and to keep mosquitoes away, old rags were soaked with diesel, tied up and lit.

It was a family affair. Kids were always running around, but they knew better than to run in front of where the adults were sitting to avoid getting hit with an errant spit of snuff or tobacco. After tiring, the children were laid on pallets on the front porch while the music went on.

Carl Beam was sixteen years old in the above photo so that dates it as being around 1931. He was the grandfather of Cousin Don Dulaney, and thanks goes out to Don for sharing the photo and the story, both of which were supplied to him by his mother, Dorothy Beam Moody, and his Aunt Hazel Beam Harnage.

The Beams lived along Highway 25 between Salem and Fairview. Elijah Fiester Beam and his wife, Rowena Brown Lackey, arrived in Itawamba County sometime before 1860 when they are found on the state census. Elijah was born in 1812 in South Carolina while Rowena was a Georgia native, born in 1818. They married in Walton County, Georgia on October 21, 1841.

The musicians in the photo were either a son or grandson of Samuel Thomas Beam, Elijah and Rowena's son who was born in Georgia in 1847 and married Nancy Jane Cromeans in 1875 in Itawamba County.

Samuel and Nancy's son, Calvin Smith Beam, is pictured in the photograph along with his sons Arnold and Ruble. Samuel's grandsons Carl and Ivy are also pictured, and they were sons of Elbert Edgar Beam.

1920 Census
Itawamba County, Mississippi
Copeland's Precinct
S. Thomas Beam 72, born in Georgia, occupation - retail merchant, dry goods
Nancy 62, born in Mississippi

Calvin S. Beam 41, born in Mississippi, occupation - farmer
Elvira 36, born in Mississippi
Arnold, Pearly, Odis and Ethel, children

Edgar E. Beam 39, born in Mississippi, occupation - farmer
Minnie 25, born in Mississippi
Murdy, Mittie, Narcie, Irene, Carl and Ivy, children

1930 Census
Itawamba County, Mississippi
Beat 1
Calvin S. Beam 52, born in Mississippi, occupation - farmer
Elmira 47, born in Mississippi
Arnold, Odis, Ethel, Rubie, Ruble, children

Edgar Beam 50, born in Mississippi, occupation - farmer
Minnie L. 45, born in Mississippi
Meardy, Narcy, Irene, Sally, Thomas, Delta, Willis, children


Don Dulaney said...

Miss Mona.
Thanks for posting this story and great story it is. It is truley the families like the Beams that produced people like Bill Monroe and Elvis Presley. The family bond that these gatherings produced is a fading tradition that made Itawamba County what it is today.
Cousin Don

Mona Robinson Mills said...

Don, the thanks go to you and your mom and aunt for sharing. It is important to capture stories and experiences like those of your family. Mona

Anonymous said...

Hi Mona! Grandmother, Minnie Beam died on Aug 2nd , 1964.right after I married. The Child in her lap is Charlotte Beam, her great granddaughter.In order:
Minnie Lou:
Meardy Wooten:Her Son
Charles Beam: Meardys' Son
Charlotte Beam: Charles daughter

Anonymous said...

Oh-- the Anonymous was-- Dot