Otis (Jewel) Hill


Written by R.L. Shirley
Submitted by Dee Schoonmaker via Louise Birchfield


Mrs. Otis (Jewel) Hill of 21st Street West in Haleyville has a "White" sewing machine still in good working condition -- that was 100 years old on Dec. 12, 1989.

And, she has a wooden bread tray -- which her grandfather carved out of a poplar tree using broken glass to scrape it with (no sandpaper in those days) -- which is 123 years old. She is very proud of both her sewing machine and the bread tray.

Mrs. Hill's father, the late Rev. William Michael Brooks, made two bales of cotton in the fall of 1989 [1889], when most of his neighbors made only one. He carried the cotton to the Florence area to sell -- using both mules and steers to pull the wagon -- because the price of cotton was slightly higher there.

Rev. Brooks collected his money for the cotton, and among the items he bought was the 'White' sewing machine for $9, and an iron cook stove for $7. This was on December 12, 1989 [1889]. The date is easy to remember because Mrs. Hill's baby brother, the late Joe Brooks, was born that night.

"This machine still has a beautiful stitch," Mrs. Hill said, while operating the machine to show her visitor. The machine is operated with a foot peddle.

Mrs. Hill's parents lived on the Macedonia road near Haleyville. They moved to Henderson, TN, and from there to Tupelo, Miss, and finally came "back home" where they lived until their deaths.

Rev. Brooks was a Baptist preacher, a school teacher, a singing school teacher and was a Mason. He preached his first sermon at the Macedonia church in 1891, and preached his last sermon there in 1926 -- a span of 35 years apart. But, he preached at several churches in between.

Mrs. Hill said, "My two older sisters, my oldest brother, my mother and myself learned to sew on the sewing machine my father bought. I made my first dress on it when I was 8-years old."

She continued, "An 88-year-old widow that I spent nights with gave me a piece of light blue organdy material for a dress. I wanted a new dress to wear to an all-day singing the next day at the church where my father was pastor, so I cut it out (no pattern) and made it trimming it in while lace.

"I'm quite sure it wouldn't have won any dressmaker prize but I wore it and felt real dressed up, for an 8-year-old. I have been making my own dresses ever since," she said.

Mrs. Hill's grandfather George Daniel Wilson, found a hollow tree 123 years ago in the Macedonia area and he cut of part of it to make the bread tray for his new bride, Martha Elizabeth Ward. Since he had never heard of sandpaper, he made it smooth by scraping it with a piece of glass.

The little platter, or bread tray was given by Mrs. Hill's grandmother to her (Mrs. Hill's) mother as a wedding gift on Nov. 1, 1888. Her mother, Martha Jane Wilson, married at the age of 14.


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