Thomas Earl LEE, Sr. was the third of nine children born to George Belton LEE (1871-1948) and Alma LYBRAND LEE (1875-1956). Tom, as he was called, was born 14 November 1899 in Lexington County, South Carolina. Lexington County is next to Richland County.
Tom’s grandfather, John Wesley LEE, Sr. (1841-1922), was a half-brother of my great-grandmother, Elizabeth LEE MARTIN (1868-1937). This makes Tom my 2nd cousin, once removed.
Tom marries the girl next door
In 1918, 19-year old Tom registered for the WW1 draft. Tom was living and working on a farm owned by J. P. Hite. This farm was in Lexington County. Tom was of medium height and build, and he had brown eyes and black hair.
In 1920, Tom was still with the Hite family. The Dooley family appears next on the census after the Hite family. The census also states that Tom could read and write. In 1921, Tom married Ernestine DOOLEY who was 16 years old. Ernestine went by Jimmie.
Tom and Jimmie had four children between 1922 and 1929. In 1930, Tom rented property that appeared between the Hite and Dooley families on the census. I don’t know if he rented land from the Hite family or from his in-laws.
Life after farming
In 1940, 42-year old Tom and 36- year old Jimmie were living on College Street in Columbia, Richland County, South Carolina. I’d show you the house, but there is parking lot there now.
Both Tom and Jimmie worked at a cotton mill. Tom was a twining operator, and Jimmie was a winding operator. Considering the Depression was still going on, they were probably thrilled to both be working.
Oddly, none of their children were living with them in 1940, even the youngest two. I can’t find the youngest two in the 1940 census at all. But I know all of Tom and Jimmie’s six children lived beyond that time since I found later records for them.
A terrible accident
In 1945, Tom and Jimmie were still living in Lexington, and Tom as still a textile worker. According to the death certificate and the newspaper article in The State, Tom died at his home on October 12th of an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound. Tom was trying to get a shell out of his shotgun, and it went off. The coroner announced no inquest would be made.
Tom was 46 years old when he died. He’s buried at St. David’s Lutheran Cemetery in West Columbia, Lexington County, on 14 Oct 1945.
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