Silas Cannon Chastain


Silas Cannon Chastain


Silas and Lillian ChastainSilas was born in Alabama on September 7, 1880. He is a seventh generation Chastain, and his descent from Pierre is 1. Pierre; 2. Peter, Jr.; 3. John "Ten Shilling Bell"; 4. Elijah; 5. Edward; 6. William Howell (Cobb); 7. Silas Cannon.

Everyone in the area knew him, but no one called him Silas. From little children to old men; from drunks to Church members--as far as they were concerned, his name was "Dad" Chastain. Perhaps few even knew his real name, as even his signature was simply "S. Chastain."

He grew up on a farm, but in his youth he worked in the mines at Brilliant, Alabama. It was dangerous work, and one day his time came. There was a cave-in and he was pinned under the rock! He broke his leg, some ribs, and possibly sustained other injuries. After the rescue, he did not mine anymore, but went back to farming.

Silas bought a farm near Haleyville, Alabama around 1931. His last two children--twin boys--were born there, but did not keep it long before he moved to another farm at Bear Creek. Thornhill, Brilliant, Bear Creek, Haleyville, and Russellville are found on this map. Click ZOOM OUT button.

While at Bear Creek, he dug a 104 foot deep well in exchange for a Victrola in a cabinet for the kids' Christmas present. It was wind-up rather than electrical. Wound up, it would play about two 78 records, but with the volume turned up, it could be heard perhaps two miles away. The family loved music and square dancing. Silas would take the girls to dances all the time, but was there to watch over them. Silas even played a little banjo. His father had been a popular fiddler at square dances in his day. Another event that occurred while they lived at Bear Creek was a spring flood. Bear Creek overflowed its banks. Evidently, it also flooded another farm upstream because huge numbers of pumpkins floated down the creek, and when the river receded, it left pumpkins all over the Chastain farm along the creek.

For a few years, they moved around a good bit. They lived for a short time at Blue Springs during the depression. While there, Silas worked on a road project for President Roosevelt's WPA Program. He fixed pot holes in dirt roads, dug drainage ditches, and cleared the roads of branches. To get to the worksite, Silas would walk for miles to meet the truck and then walk miles back home in the dark when the workday was done. It took hours each way. History books state that WPA was the Works Projects Administration, but Silas said it meant We Piddle Around. As a life-long partisan Republican, perhaps Silas did not have a totally positive view of the President's program.

After the project was complete, the family moved to a farm near the Grey Rock Church for a year and made a crop. Instead of using mules for plowing, Silas used steers. When the weather was too hot, the steers would lay down on the ground, and Silas sometimes built a fire under them to encourage them to get back up. They moved to Murphey's Creek and then to the Buren Moore place where Silas share-cropped for Martin Van Buren Moore for two years.

After that, Silas bought a 120 acre farm in Sodom and farmed it for ten years. Some of the major crops he grew (an acre or two each) were corn, peanuts, potatoes, and peas, but his main crop was his acres and acres of cotton. Cotton was his livelihood; everything else was extra. He also grew oats for feed. For livestock, he had chickens, pigs, mules, and cows for milk. Occasionally, he bought a yearling for salting. In addition to these, Lillian grew a lot of garden vegetables and canned them. She also dried fruit from the many trees on the farm. There were apple and peach trees, and a marvelous eight-foot cherry tree with a big round top. It produced a bumper crop each year, and sometimes blackbirds would swarm in and strip it in a single day. She would sun-dry the fruit on sheets or on the roof of the barn and store large quantities of dried fruit in flour sacks.

While living at the Sodom farm, Silas purchased a 1920 Chevy, but he never drove it. In fact, he never drove a car at all, but he would get others to drive him to visit relatives. The family did not often visit relatives, perhaps because of distance and transportation, but in one case there were other reasons. Silas was very fond and dutiful toward his father, Cobb Chastain, and Cobb lived his later years in Silas' home. One day, two of Silas' siblings asked for Cobb to spend some time with them. Instead, they placed him in an old folks' home where he died a few days later. Silas did not know about the home until he was informed of Cobb's death. He was furious! For many years, he did not speak to those siblings, but one of his visits in his 1920 Chevy was to see his sister, Clem, who was dying.

From Sodom, Silas rented another farm for about a year, then he farmed near Kimbrough Chapel for a couple years. He bought a farm near Moore's place which he farmed for two or three years, and then he retired and sold the farm to his daughter, Pearl, and her husband Victor DuBoise. He moved to Cherry Hill and later to Russellville.

Silas did his banking and business in Haleyville. Perhaps his biggest community involvement was politics. Silas was a staunch Republican and actively supported Republican campaigns. Even when he was old, he would set his grandchildren on his knee and ask, "Are you a Republican or a Democrat?" And they knew the right answer!

Silas' wife, Lillian suffered from kidney stones, and she had a jar of almost a hundred stones, one of which was the size of a golf ball. At one point, she had a kidney removed and they drained from it a jar of infection. Afterwards, her hands were so swollen her fingers were permanently extended and she could not clutch items. Three or four years later, she had an hysterectomy and her hands returned to normal. Lillian, was religious and prayed regularly at home (her prayers were very expressive), and she read the Bible often. Silas, however, was not much inclined toward religion, though he was not hostile. They did not have a regular church, but attended revivals at various churches. As was the tradition, Silas stayed outside with the men, while the women and children were inside.

An interesting story illustrates Silas' attitude. One of his sons, Robert and his friend, Billy Jean Rice, visited a Methodist Church while the service was in progress. They were about 10 years old. The boys stopped inside the door to see where the other kids were sitting, so they could join them. The preacher stopped talking and told them they were welcome in the church, but not to stand in the door. Robert's friend went to a seat, but Robert turned and left. Some of the people of the Church complained to the law about the boys disturbing the service and the news got back to Silas. He responded, "I told him if he went to church he would get in trouble!"

In his last days, Silas had a change of heart. He had suffered a stroke on his 86th birthday and was bed-ridden. He tried to talk to some of his children, but his words were difficult to understand. "Are you trying to talk about Jesus?" they ask. "Yes," he said. "Do you want Jesus to come into your heart?" His clear response was, "Foot yeah!" So they prayed with him and reported that his face beamed with peace and happiness. Though he had always had a cantankerous side, he never complained through the pain and debilitation from that time until his death some three months later.

At advanced ages, Silas and his wife, Lillian went to a nursing home together. There they died within 16 days of each other, she on December 23, 1966 and he on January 8, 1967. They are buried at Thornhill Church of Christ Cemetery, where most of the local family has been buried since the Civil War.

The children of Silas and Lillian are:

  1. Lucian, 1905-1906
  2. Ruffie Flotilla "Ruth",1907-1985
  3. Roy Lee, 1909-c 1990
  4. Willie Beatrice "Shorty", 1911-
  5. Romala, 1915-1915
  6. Lavonia Pearl "Puff", 1916-1991
  7. Ruby Matilou "Ruby", 1921-1984
  8. Clara Mildred "Blondie", 1923-
  9. Robert Earl "Bob", 1927-
  10. Charles Venice "Buddy", 1931-
  11. Lindbergh Kenneth "Fat", 1931-
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