James Furman Poole

James F. Poole at work at Shaw AFB.

James Furman, called Furman by his family, was born 12 October 1890 in Scuffletown Township, Laurens County1, the fourth child of Thomas Pitts Pool and Jemmie Alexander.

Scuffletown- the Early Years

Furman attended Sandy Springs school. Judging by the occasional student grade reports printed in the Laurens Advertiser, he was an indifferent student, but he received regular mention on the Honor Roll for attendance. His last year at school was probably 1906.2

On June 28, 1912 Furman traveled to Benson, NC to attend the wedding of his cousin James A. Poole of Clinton, SC and Dora Hodges of NC. On Monday July 1 his father was informed that Furman had been stricken with appendicitis while at the wedding, and so Thomas P. took the train to Columbia to meet Furman at the City hospital, where he had been transferred for an operation. On July 11 Furman was visited in the Columbia hospital by his sisters Grace and Fannie. The Laurens Advertiser reported that he was recovering rapidly, and was expected to return to Laurens soon.3

Furman was back in Laurens and apparently fully recovered by August, when the Laurens Advertiser reported that "Misses Lila and Nannie Clark and Mr. Furman Poole are visiting Miss Ora Miller at Easley. The party went through the country in an automobile and anticipate much fun." On Wednesday, September 11, he was one of the guests at a lawn party held by his brother Russell and his new wife Eva. Russell and Eva Workman of Charlotte, NC were married September 3, 1912.4

After leaving school, Furman was working as a farmer. He was keeping up with the latest agricultural information: The Laurens Advertiser of 12 February, 1913 noted that "Messers J. W. Donnan and Furman Poole attended the corn show last week".

Losing a Sister

Tragedy struck his family on Wednesday, 25 February 1914 when Furman's older sister Nina died from pneumonia. After attending Lander College in Greenwood, SC, she was working as a clerk in the Judge of Probate's office in Spartanburg. As the Spartanburg Herald Journal reported, "she contracted a severe cold... but would not leave her office... became severely ill Friday afternoon... her cold changed to pneumonia, and she rapidly became worse... her mother and one sister were at her bedside when death came."5

Marriage
wedding announcement.

Furman married Ruth Martin (b. 29 December, 1890), the daughter of Jasper and Nancy Harris Martin, on 2 December, 1915 in Gray Court, SC.6 Perhaps in suport of his new role as a husband, on 20 December, 1915, he advanced his farming career by paying $1400 for 39 acres of land. The Laurens Tax records for 1915 show that he had $50 in taxable personal property, and one horse valued for taxation at $50.7

The extent of Furman's farm is reflected in the Auditor's tax records for 1916. He was assessed for taxable real Property of $245, Taxable Personal Property $75 and household furniture valued at $25. He had 39 acres of land valued at $195, with one building valued at $50, 1 horse valued at $40 and 1 carriage or wagon, $10. By 1918, he had added one mule, another wagon and a cow.7a

On Thursday December 28, 1916 Furman's sister Mary Frances married Dr. William A. Alston of Hagood, Sumter County, SC. Furman gave away the bride, and his sister Grace was maid of honor.8

The Great War

In 1917, Congress authorized the Selective Draft Act to conscript troops for entry into the Great War raging in Europe. On 5 June 1917, Furman, along with his brother Russell, registered. His brothers Martin and Joshua Craig were registered on 12 September, 1918.

The Draft Registration card describes Furman as tall, medium build, with blue eyes and brown hair. He was married, working as a farmer. It was noted that he "has been operated on for appendicitis".9

The Laurens Advertiser of July 25, 1917 printed the names of all 225 local men drawn on Friday, July 20, 1917 to form the First National Army. Furman was included in the list. However, he was not chosen, and did not serve in the military.

Laurens- the Town Years

Furman was following in his father's footsteps, farming cotton for a cash crop, but the 1920's were not good times for Southern cotton farmers. There were many adverse forces bearing down on the cotton market. Southern farmers were under capitalized and were not able to take advantage of the mechanization of American agriculture. They were locked into an increasingly dysfunctional tenant farming system, which relied upon human and animal muscle to produce a crop. The worn out fields required ever increasing amounts of purchased fertilizer to make a crop, and the growing threat of the boll weevil drove down yields. Prices varied, and growing competition from the south-western states and overseas was eroding the once commanding lead of the South as a producer.10

Turbulent 20's

In 1920, Furman and Ruth were living on Scuffletown Road, and their Census occuptions are listed as "General F(arming)" and "None".11 On 5 January, 1921, Furman sold his 39 acre farm to his father, Thomas Pitts Poole.12 In October 1921 a daughter, Marjorie, was born.13

On 8 November 1921 the home of Furman's brother Russell was destroyed by fire. No one was home at the time, so there were no injuries, but the home was a total loss.14

Furman's sister Grace had married Richard Boyd, who was a U. S. Marine. In January 1920 Grace was living with Richard at the Fort Lyon Naval Sanatorium in Bent County, Colorado, where he was a patient. He did not survive the disease, and Grace later married W. B. Alexander.15

On 1 July 1924 Furman's youngest sister, Mattie Bobo, died from injuries received in an automobile accident. Mattie had married John Harling on 20 July 1922, and they were living in Hagood, SC, where her husband was employed as the superintendent of the DeSaussure state farm. On a return trip from a visit to her family in Laurens, Mattie was in an accident, and after a lingering illness died on 1 July in Columbia, SC.16

On 26 March, 1926, Furman's father, Thomas Pitts Poole died. As his estate was settled, Furman placed a claim against the estate for "two mule collars @ $5.00", "shoeing 3 mules", and "three and one-half days labor".17

After Thomas Pitts' death, Furman's brother Martin moved back to the farm, living there with his mother Jemmie until her death 7 March 1937. Martin never married. He was very involved in local Democratic Party politics, and served as secretary and treasurer for Langston Baptist church.18

Into the 30's

By 1930, Furman, Ruth and Marjorie were living as renters at 114 Martin Street in the town of Laurens. Furman was working as a building contractor.19

On January 29, 1934 Furman's brother Joshua Craig was involved in a serious automobile accident. The Greenville News reported that Josh, who was driving two other farmers to a WPA meeting, ran off the road into a gully six miles east of Gray Court, SC. The two passengers were killed, and Josh was hospitalized with a head injury. Josh's wife Sarah Yeargin and brother- in- law were following in another car and witnessed the accident.

A Family Apart

On 14 August, 1935 President Roosevelt signed into law the Social Security Act. On 5 December, 1936 Furman applied for his account, stating that his present employer was the Laurens Glass Works Inc. He gave his address as "R. F. D. #1, Laurens".20 This may be an indication of a division in the family, since a 1937 Laurens City Directory lists "Mrs. Ruth Poole, unemployed, (1),(R)" as the sole adult Poole residing at 114 Martin Street. The other family at 114 Martin Street was that of Laurence and Annie Nabors. Annie Nabors was Ruth's sister.21

Move to Sumter

Sometime about 1940, Furman left his family in Laurens, relocating to Sumter, South Carolina, eventually finding employment as a carpenter at the newly built Shaw Field, now Shaw Air Force Base. He never returned to Laurens.

His surviving brothers and sisters, with the exception of Martin, had also moved elsewhere. With Martin's death in 1943, the close association of this family with the Warrior and Buckhead Creek area of Laurens County, beginning all those years ago with the arrival of Seth Petty Pool, came to an end.

Furman died 7 February 1973 and is buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Sumter.22 As an epilogue to this story of a Laurens County family, I have attached a summary of his life in Sumter, SC. That story brings us to the present time, and the author of these pages.

Child, in Laurens

Ann Marjorie (1921- 1984)


1. The 1900 U. S. Federal Census was used to establish date of birth. Furman was inconsistent in reporting his birth year throughout his life. In his earliest records he used 1892.

2. School reports are in The Laurens Advertiser, December 6, 1905, March 21, 1906, May 16, 1906. South Carolina did not have a compulsory school attendance law until 1915. The Laurens Advertiser of 21 April 1915 printed an article on the new law which required attendance between the ages of 8 and 14. Attendance was also required from age 14- 16, with exceptions for children "... actually, regularly and lawfully engaged in some useful employment or service or who cannot read at sight and write legible simple sentences in the English language."

3. The Laurens Advertiser, 3 July, 1912, 17 July, 1912.

4. Automobile trip in the Laurens Advertiser, 28 August 1912. Lawn party in the Laurens Advertiser, 18 September, 1912, Poole- Workman marriage, 11 September, 1912.

5. Obituary, Laurens Advertiser, 4 March 1914; Obituary, Spartanburg Herald Journal, 27 February 1914; Lander College, Catalogue 1905-1906, Lander Roll of Students, Undergraduates, p. 33; Laurens Advertiser, 8 March, 1905.

6. Marriage Register, Laurens Probate Court.

7. RMC (Deeds) Grantor Direct Index to Conveyances 1885-1939, Laurens County Probate Court, Book 39/Page 256. The Laurens Advrtiser of January 7, 1920 reports a real estate transfer of "F. W. Little to J. F. Poole, farm for $12,000.00". The price seems an obvious misprint, and I have not been able to confirm that the "J. F. Poole" mentioned is Furman. Given his situation in the decade of the '20's, I suspect that it is not him. For the tax information, see Laurens County Office: Auditor Auditor's Tax Duplicate Book Townships: Waterloo, Cross Hill, Hunter, Jacks and Scuffletown 1915 C847, at the SC Department of Archives and History.

7a. Laurens County Office: Auditor Auditor's Tax Duplicate Book Townships: Waterloo, Cross Hill, Hunter, Jacks and Scuffletown 1916 C849, and Laurens County Office: Auditor Auditor's Tax Duplicate Book Townships: Waterloo, Cross Hill, Hunter, Jacks and Scuffletown 1918 C854, both at the SC Department of Archives and History.

8. Laurens Advertiser, 3 January 1917.

9. WWI Draft Registration Card No. 58, Registration Location: Laurens County, South Carolina; Roll 1877672; Draft Board: 0. Russell Poole, Card No. 21; Josh Craig Poole, Order No. A795; Martin Milton, Order No. 1964

10. Some references for the history of cotton in the American south are Mule South to Tractor South, George B. Ellenburg, University of Alabama Press, 2007; Cotton Fields no More- Southern Agriculture 1865-1980, Gilbert C. Fite, The University Press of Kentucky, 1984; King Cotton and his Retainers- Financing and Marketing the Cotton Crop of the South, 1800- 1925, Harold D. Woodman, University of South Carolina Press, 1968; Rural Worlds Lost- The American South 1920-1960, Jack Temple Kirby, Louisiana State University Press, 1987. A comparison of the cotton, tobacco and rice agricultures can be found in Breaking the land- The Transformation of Cotton, Tobacco, and Rice Cultures Since 1880, Pete Daniel, University of Illinois Press, 1986.

11. Year: 1920; Census Place: Scuffletown, Laurens, South Carolina; Roll: T625_1700; Page: 4B; Enumeration District: 67; Image: 295.

12. RMC (Deeds) Grantor Direct Index to Conveyances 1885-1939, Laurens Probate Court, Book 45/Page 319. Although this is the officially recorded date, the Laurens Tax Auditor noted on the 1920 report beside Furman's entry- "Land to T. P. Poole"- so it is probable that Furman had effectively ceased farming by 1919 or 1920. See Laurens County Office: Auditor Auditor's Tax Duplicate Book Townships: Waterloo, Cross Hill, Hunter, Jacks and Scuffletown 1920 C860.

13. Birth date unknown; estimated from Census.

14. Laurens Advertiser 16 November, 1921

15. Year: 1920; Census Place: Precinct 2, Bent, Colorado; Roll: T625_155; Page: 7B; Enumeration District: 15; Image: 342. Spartanburg herals Journal, obituary, 16 May 1966

16. Marriage, see Richland County Court Records, Marriage Licence 13009 and Laurens Advertiser 2 August 1922. Death, see Richland County SC Death Certificate 13489. An obituary was reprinted without source attribution in A Genealogical History of the Poole, Langston, Mason Families and Kindred Lines of Upper South Carolina by Bessie Poole Lamb and Mary-Mack Poole Ezell, published in 1931.

17. Laurens County Probate, Bundle 517, Pkg. 3.

18. Year: 1930; Census Place: Scuffletown, Laurens, South Carolina; Roll: 2203; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 31; Image: 472.0; FHL microfilm: 2341937.; for Democratic politics, see numerous editions of the Laurens Advertiser, such as 26 April, 1922 ; for church, see 26 April 1916

19. 1930 Federal Census Year: 1930; Census Place: Laurens, Laurens, South Carolina; Roll: 2202; Page: 4A; Enumeration District: 25; Image: 965.0; FHL microfilm: 2341936.

20. Social Security Account Application, 5 December 1936.

21. For occupants, see 1930 Federal Census Year: 1930; Census Place: Laurens, Laurens, South Carolina; Roll: 2202; Page: 4A; Enumeration District: 25; Image: 965.0; FHL microfilm: 2341936. For relationship, see Laurens Advertiser, 22 March 1916.

22. Headstone, Evergreen Cemetery, Sumter, SC.