Three of the seven children born to Mary Reid Hood and Richard Jarrett Hood: Claudia C; (the mother, Mary, seated); Talmadge J.; and Cora Lode Hood. Jessie Mae died in 1902. Ida, Laura and Zona were not present when this family picture was taken.
Last week’s account of the Mary L. Reid Hood family noted that Mary’s husband, Richard Jarrett Hood, left on a cattle drive from Upper Choestoe to South Carolina sometime in 1895 and was never heard from again by his wife and seven children.
Carol Thomas-Alexander, a great granddaughter, persisted in finding the facts and, together with the help of other kin, has solved the mystery of Richard Jarrett Hood.
She writes in her Hood family history book: “There were many theories about his disappearance. Mary thought he had...been murdered, which is what she told her children...There was conversation in the community that a local resident in South Georgia had seen him, but nothing was ever proven from this sighting.”
Mrs. Thomas-Alexander tells how Elbert Carlyle (E. C.) Sanders (d 2002), a newspaperman, editor and owner of The Rockmart Journal, until his retirement in 1980, made a trip to Blairsville in the late 1980's seeking information about his grandfather, Richard Jarrett Hood, who died in Pembroke, Georgia in 1932 and was interred at the Beulah Baptist Church Cemetery there. It seems the most Mr. Sanders knew about his grandfather was that he had lived in Union County, Georgia before relocating in South Carolina and then moving to Pembroke, Georgia.
E. C. Sanders talked to Dexter Fair, a son of Claudia Hood Fair. She was the six-year old child Richard Jarrett Hood seemed most reluctant to leave behind in Choestoe when he left in 1895, never to be heard from again by his family in Union County. No record was made of the conversation between Fair and Sanders, both, as it turned out, grandsons of Mr. Hood. However, in 2000, Carol Thomas-Alexander made contact with Mr. Sanders in Rockmart and proceeded to unravel the mystery of Richard Jarrett Hood’s “double” life.
When Hood left Union County, he evidently had no intention of returning. He ended up in Barnwell, S. C. where he married Eudora Cave about 1893. He and Eudora had one child, a daughter, whom he gave the same name as his beloved daughter back in Union County. The South Carolina daughter, Claudia Cornelia Hood, was born September 18, 1894. Evidently, without benefit of a divorce by Jarrett from his Union County, Georgia wife, Mary L. Reid Hood, he had married in South Carolina and a child was born to him and Eudora before he officially left Choestoe.
From South Carolina, the Hood family moved to Pembroke, Georgia. There Richard Jarrett Hood was a sawmill operator and active in local politics, serving as a Justice of the Peace and mayor of the town for two terms. When Georgia Power was ready to string lines for electricity to Pembroke and the surrounding area, Richard Jarrett Hood was active in bringing this forward step to the small town.
Mr. Sanders told Carol Thomas-Alexander that his grandfather never returned to North Georgia nor did any Hood family members ever visit them in Pembroke. No mail was exchanged, but he remembered a Mr. M. D. Collins visiting the Hood family in the late 1920's. (This person, as we know, was Dr. Mauney Douglas Collins, noted Georgia educator state superintendent of schools for 25 years, and Choestoe native).
Mr. E. C. Sanders told his newly-found cousin, granddaughter of the Union County Claudia Cornelia Hood Fair, that his grandfather, Richard Jarrett Hood “was not a happy person and seemed to have a distant look on his face...which he thought was guilt that went to his grave with him.”
The one child borne by Hood’s second wife, Eudora, was artistic and musical. She played the piano for the United Methodist Church in Pembroke for over 60 years and was a noted piano teacher, director of school choral groups, and played for civic events, funerals, weddings and community and church programs. She married Henry M. Sanders, a printer and typesetter for The Savannah Free Press and they had five sons, Elbert, Marion, Robert, Jimmy, and Gene. This Claudia Cornelia Hood Sanders lived to the ripe age of 90, dying January 20, 1989. She was buried in the Northside Cemetery, Pembroke.
The Choestoe Claudia Cornelia Hood (April 8, 1889-Sept. 10, 1958) married John David Fair (1874-1936). They had seven children: Annie Lee, Jessie Mae, Charles Winford, Fannie Bell, Clifford Leon, Eurah Vee, and William Dexter. Their fourth child, Fannie Bell, was Carol Thomas-Alexander’s mother. Carol writes of her grandmother Claudia: “She was a quiet, composed, well-mannered person, a devoted mother and grandmother...Her creative nature enabled her to be a great storyteller, a wonderful clothes designer, an excellent seamstress and a writer of poetry, among many other gifts.” John and Claudia Fair were interred at Providence Methodist Church Cemetery, Union County.
E. C. Sanders remembered his mother, the other Claudia Cornelia Hood Sanders, as a loving and giving person, one who touched countless lives with her music, her ready smile and her Christian influence.
The adage, “Truth is stranger than fiction” is certainly borne out in the Richard Jarrett Hood story.
c2003 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Dec. 4, 2003 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.