Conyers, Georgia

Conyers is the only city in Rockdale County, Georgia. The city is twenty-four miles east of Atlanta. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 15,195.

Between 1816 and 1821, the area known as Rockdale was open for settlement. John Holcomb, a blacksmith, was the first settler in what is now Conyers. He settled where the current Rockdale County Courthouse is located, in the middle of Conyers on Main Street.

Eventually, there was pressure for a railroad to cross Georgia; the railroad was intended to run from Augusta, through neighboring Covington to Marthasville (now known as Atlanta). John Holcomb was against the railroad and refused to sell his land, and threatened to shoot anyone from the railroad who came onto his property.

Dr. W. D. Conyers, a banker from Covington, eventually persuaded John Holcomb into selling his land for $700. Dr. Conyers then sold the land to the Georgia Railroad. What is now Conyers began as a watering post along this line, named after Dr. Conyers. By 1845, the railroad was in full operation. By 1854, nearly 400 residents lived around the watering post, and Conyers was incorporated.

Conyers has been nearly destroyed several times by fire. It is said that it survived Sherman’s March to the Sea thanks to a friend of Sherman’s who lived in the area between Conyers and Covington. The story goes that the houses were spared because Sherman was uncertain where his friend lived.

“Pearl + Jake”

Pearl + Jake
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

Snowed all day in Macon
When Pearl left for the last time
Alabama Mi’sippy Louisiana
Georgia felt far enough behind
Creosote cottonseed Shreveport
Hit her like a cinder block
Lights of an all-night diner
Pearl coasted to a stop

Jake behind the counter
White apron, little paper hat
Slid some coffee before her
Quiet as an alley cat
Pearl pulled a pint from somewhere
Tipped it over her cup
Jake lit a cigarette
The sun came up

Loving’ her is what he meant to do
Even if it broke his heart in two
He played life like a game of horseshoes
Loving’ her is what he meant to do

Jake bought this diner
After selling McLemore’s
Pearl was stranded in Macon
Managing a dollar store
They met on Jewella Avenue
Both lookin’ for a new start
Jake gave her some food
And his hidden heart

Loving’ her is what he meant to do …

Jake didn’t want to come home
Stinkin’ of cigarettes, beer and perfume
Five years flash by
As he walks from room to empty room
Pearl was running away
That first day he met her
She’d been leavin’ ever since
Jake fin’ly found a way to let her

© 2018 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP)

“The River and Jake”

The River and Jake
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

Long as I can remember
When Jake was sad he would go
On down to The River
With some bait and a pole

It’s the place he wants to be
When he needs to be alone
Jake’s gone down to The River
Every day since Pearl’s been gone

You can ask him where they’re biting
Or what he used for bait
Just don’t ask him anything about her
That’s between The River and Jake

Soon his mind will grow empty
With each cast he’ll forget
All the worries he brought with him
They’ll all fade with the sunset

You can ask him where they’re biting …

© 2018 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP)

Owen McLemore (1791-1867)

Owen McLemore was born in Tennessee, but his family originally came from Ulster Ireland, Scots-Irish, landing in North Carolina in the mid-18th century. Owen’s grandfather, Allen McLemore came to North Carolina as a young boy in 1854, he stayed there acquiring some land not far from his father’s farm and also lived as a sustenance farmer. His son, Jason was the McLemore who left North Carolina , crossing the Appalachian mountains and making his way to middle Tennessee by 1788.

Owen McLemore was born in 1791, the second child to Jason and wife Lucy; a girl had been born in 1789, but only lived a few months. Owen grew up on his father farm and learned everything he needed to become a farmer himself before marrying Annabel March in 1816. Together they worked a sustenance farm in Tennessee and began to build a family outside of Nashville, seeing their first son Jacob McLemore come into the world on Christmas Day 1818.

Annabel gave birth to six other sons before dying in 1838 at which time the family migrated to West Texas where Owen died at the age of 76, living to see all of his sons make their way in the harsh world of West Texas.

Sam Summers McLemore (1852-1878)

Sam Summers McLemore (1852-1878) lived a violent and short life as an outlaw and gunfighter in Texas.  His father fought and died in the Civil War, leaving Sam at age 12 without much direction.  He occupied his time by practicing drawing and shooting the pistol that he inherited from his father.

At age 18 he was part of a cattle drive, and when some of the wranglers went into town, he was called out for cheating at cards.  He wasn’t cheating but had to defend his honor and killed his first man.  From then on, he found himself having to kill more men who challenged him.

Being a gunfighter was never clearly articulated in his mind, but his life took on a momentum of its own, with him being thrust in the position of defending himself from those who wished to make their own reputations.  For the better part of a decade he lived this kind of life, before taking up with a young prostitute, Sally McCune, rooming with her in the saloon/brothel in West Texas where she worked.

His last fight took place in the dusty street outside this saloon, when he was outgunned by a younger gunslinger and died on that street, age 26.  He did not know it at the time but Sally was carrying his child, Jacob Mac McLemore.

Sally would joke that since her father, a hard shell Baptist minister, was named Horace it was only natural that she took to whorin’.  But once she had the boy, she swore that she’d get out of that life and raise him up right.  And this she did, eventually owning and operating a boarding house in Fort Worth.  This is where Jacob grew up, until he turned 15 and took off for Corsicana when he heard about the oil strike there in 1894.

Jacob Mac McLemore (1879-1977)

Jacob Mac McLemore made and lost more money than any of the McLemore men. When he was fifteen he heard about the 1894 oil strike in East Texas. He started at the bottom working any job he could get, eventually learning enough to strike out on his own.

 

Jacob Mac McLemore never knew his father, who had been an outlaw-gunslinger who died a few months before he was born.  Sam Summers McLemore (1852-1878) never even knew the 16-year old whore, Sally McCune, he was living with was pregnant when he went out in the street to face a younger and what turned out to be faster boy.  Jacob was raised by Sally, who eventually was able to quit the life and lived out her days running a boarding house in Fort Worth.   There’s some who say it was more than a boarding house, but others deny those rumors.

Indians found oil seeping from the soils of Texas long before the first Europeans arrived. They told explorers that the fluid had medicinal values. The first record of Europeans using crude oil, however, was for the caulking of boats in 1543 by survivors of the DeSoto expedition near Sabine Pass.

Melrose, in Nacogdoches County, was the site in 1866 of the first drilled well to produce oil in Texas. Other oil was found in crudely dug wells in Bexar County in 1889 and in Hardin County in 1893. But it was not until June 9, 1894, that Texas had a major discovery. This occurred in the drilling of a water well for the city of Corsicana. Oil caused that well to be abandoned, but a company formed in 1895 drilled several producing oil wells.

Jacob Mac was 15 when the Corsicana oil came in, and for the next sixty years he chased strikes all over Texas and Louisiana. He might make some money here, then invest it somewhere else only to see his investment evaporate in the dusty Texas wind.

 

Jacob was married and divorced four times, the last near the end of his life and the one which really broke him. Of the four marriages, only the first produced any children, one boy, Lee Allen (1903-1989), and a girl, Aurelia.  Lee Allen was Jake McLemore’s grandfather.

If you were to ask those who knew him, what they would tell you about Jacob Mac McLemore was that, first and foremost, he was a decent man whose word was his bond. No one ever knew him to brag or lie and that he never made a deal that he did not keep, and usually made his partners money.

He died at the age of 98, dying peacefully in his sleep in an Odessa, Texas hospital room with his great-grandson, Jake, by his side. You might say that Jacob Mac lived an interesting life, but despite not enjoying consistent good luck he was always in good humor and very good company.

“Blinkin’ Back a Tear”

Blinkin’ Back a Tear
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

A few weeks before his great-grandpa went in
The hospital for the last time
He told Jake the stories of their kin
A life that was all but left behind

Clear whiskey, flatfoot dancing at jamborees
Frontier women and the men they loved
One by one he handed down his memories
Jake was eighteen, couldn’t get enough

Under a clear blue West Texas sky
A bluetick hound layin’ at his feet
A single tear in the corner of Jake’s eye
He blinked it back from fallin’ down his cheek

Owen McLemore was born in 1791
In Tennessee he married Annabel
Before she died she gave him seven sons
He went to Texas then he went to hell

Owen’s great-grandson was Jake’s namesake
He made some money chasin’ the oil boom
There wuddn’t be nothin’ left for Jake
‘Cept this empty hospital room

Under a clear blue West Texas sky …

© 2018 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP)

Mike “Sarge” Broussard (1948-2014)

Mike “Sarge” Broussard  (1948-2014).  Great-great grandson of Coleman Broussard (1842-1910).  Born and lived entire life in Vivian, Louisiana except for the period when he was in the service (1968-1970). Served in the Vietnam War, honorably discharged with the rank of sergeant.  Owned filing station/auto repair shop in Vivian.  Has a daughter, Eva Broussard.

Mike comes from an old Louisianan Cajun family that first settled in Natchitoches, Louisiana in the late 18th century.  Later the family made its way north to Shreveport, then Vivian.  Coleman Broussard, MIke’s great-great-grandfather, was the cousin of Levi Motts who died during the Civil war, at the Battle of Mansfield, leaving behind his pregnant fiancée, Ruby Robison.  Coleman decides to ask Ruby to marry, a proposal she accepts, in order to legitimize his cousin’s child and they go on to have several more children.  These were Mike’s direct ancestors.

The Acadians, who descended from sturdy French peasant stock, originated during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in a colony known as Acadia in the present-day Canadian province of Nova Scotia. By the time Acadia fell to British control in 1713, the Acadians had become a close-knit, clannish, and culturally distinct group of French-speaking folk who had fashioned their own identity. But once the Acadians became British subjects, and for decades thereafter, they experienced continuing problems with their British overlords. In an effort to end these difficulties, Great Britain began a forced exportation program after the Acadians refused to take oaths of allegiance. The authorities relocated thousands of Acadians against their will in various colonies, including those of the Atlantic coast and the Caribbean. This mass movement, known in Acadian history as the dérangement, separated entire families.

cajun dispersion map

The migrating Acadians did not arrive in Louisiana as their initial destination, but some of them eventually found their way to the lower Mississippi from other New World colonies to which they had been exiled by the British. Thousands of Acadians arrived in Louisiana during the 1770s and 1780s. The Spanish government provided them with material assistance in establishing their farms. Most of the Acadians settled to the west of the Mississippi River in the bayou areas along the southwestern prairie. There they soon developed a unique rural lifestyle based on hunting and farming. The French inhabitants already in the colony shunned them, most likely because the Acadians appeared to them as unsophisticated and simple folk. These Acadians became the forebears of today’s Louisiana Cajuns.

Mike Broussard enlisted in the army during the Vietnam war and rose to the rank of sergeant.  He was good with cars and was assigned to the transport unit and served with distinction.  After the war he came back to Louisiana and opened a Texaco filling station and repair shop, which he ran for over forty years (see songs, “Sarge” and “D.W.“).

He had one daughter, Eva, with whom he became estranged but not because of anything he did.  However, he did have a loving relationship with her son, James.  Eva had James when she was sixteen and Mike and his wife Nina raised him.  When James was around ten, he and Mike would go in the back yard and play catch (see songs, “Jenny or James” and “Catch“).

Sarge lived a long and productive life, consistently honoring the service of military vets, dying in 2014.

“Sarge”

Sarge
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

Bought this here Texaco with a V.A. loan
Built this business all alone
Would hire any vet that come along who knew cars
Got his stripes in Vietnam
Where he learned to make a motor hum
You can ask most anyone ’bout Sarge

He hired me cause he knowed my dad
Was the closest to one I’ve had
Kept me from goin’ bad
Outta the bars
“Boy you better stay in school,
I sure can’t use no fool
Every job’s got one right tool”
That was Sarge

I can still see him with his sleeves rolled up
Under the hood he’s got a crew cut
Chewing on the butt of a ten cent cigar
Person’s gotta be made of wood
Not to feel a sense of botherhood
Once they stood next to Sarge

When we’d see a car with special plates
POWs and MIAs
Look’d come across his face
Something from the war
“son, just keep your seat
Best leave this one to me”
Then he’d fill the tank for free
That was Sarge

I can still see him with his sleeves rolled up …

I could talk all day and never get it right by Sarge

© 2017 Frank David Leone, Jr/Electric Mule Music/Warner Music (BMI)

D.W. Washington (1946-2007)

Dwight Wayne Washington was born and spent his early life in Detroit, Michigan. He was drafted into the Army in 1964 when he turned 18 and was sent to Vietnam.  Eventually he was assigned to the 515th Transportation Company in Cam Ranh Bay under Sergeant Mike Broussard.  Here he learned just about all there was to know about repairing cars and motors.

D.W. Washington2

 

Instead of going back to Detroit, D.W. decided to move to Vivian and continued to work for Mike in his filling station and auto repair shop for the next 40 years.  D.W. and Mike were best friends despite D.W.’s tendency to get drunk most weekends forcing Mike to drive by his house on Monday morning and get him up for another week of work (see song, “D.W.“).

D.W. died in 2007 shortly before his 61st birthday from congestive heart failure.