Narratives are personal stories that help enrich the reader’s understanding of a time period, person, place, or event. These are first-person views of history taken from personal recollections, memoirs, diaries, and oral histories.

Information included in this section is not fact checked by the Encyclopedia staff. The author of the Narrative is entirely responsible for its content.

(Told to James R. Teeter by his mother, Neva Taylor Teeter of Conway, Ark., on July 17, 2001, three years before her death at age 94.)

In 1918, almost everybody who lived in the small community of Center Valley adored baby James Taylor, nearly one.

That is, until the flu pandemic of 1918 began to sweep the world, eventually spreading to the entire Taylor household. James soon developed pneumonia.

With most members of the family sick, “Aunt Velma” Parker (sister of James’s mother) came from Russellville to help. When Neva (then eight) and her older brothers Roy and Earl walked into the kitchen one morning, Velma was crying inconsolably. “He’s gone, honey,” Velma said to Earl.

The baby’s death was devastating. James’s mother was so despondent and sick with the flu (she almost died that week) that James’s funeral service was held at her bedside.

At the time of James’s death, the weather was wet and cold, and roads were in terrible condition. Nobody thought Mr. Nugent, the undertaker in Russellville, could get to Center Valley with a casket and his “burial coach” (hearse). But he pulled up to the house in his horse-drawn coach to take the casket to Old Baptist Cemetery.

Before leaving for the cemetery, Neva told her father that she had some nickels and dimes that she wanted to put in the casket in case James should ever need to buy something. Her father watched as she placed her monetary wealth in the casket beside James.

Neva’s grandfather, who seemed to be taking James’s death harder than anybody else, had loaded hay into the back of his buggy. When he tossed the hay on top of the casket, people asked why he had done this. He replied, “I can’t stand hearing the sound of dirt hitting our sweet baby.”

Jim Teeter
Little Rock, AR