Shirley Convention July 1983
By Betty Shirley
We met about 150 Shirley descendants who came from many states to be with us July 9th & 10th in Anderson. What a great group of people.
My day started about 3AM. I couldn't sleep so I got dressed, gathered all my material and went to the lobby of the hotel to ask if I could go into our meeting room and get things organized. I posted things on the walls, wrote out a few things on the blackboard and made notes of things to do. Before I knew it the sun was up and a few people were looking in the room to see where the meeting was to be. I joined my family for breakfast and then it was convention time.
I opened the convention with a warm welcome and thanked all who came. After I talked for a bit, I asked each Shirley descendant to stand, give us your name and where you are from and tell us briefly about who your Shirley ancestors were. We had a coffee break following this and then a guest speaker, Harold Travis Parker, who descends from John and Elizabeth Barmore Shirley. He wrote a book PIONEERS OF HART COUNTY GEORGIA. Shirleys and related families from Abbeville SC are included in the book. This was followed by a question and answer period. The morning now gone, it was time for lunch.
The afternoon was quite warm as we left to visit Shirley places in the area. We met in the convention room right after lunch and passed out SHIRLEY signs to put in the window of the cars so we would know we were together. We met in the parking lot and lined up the cars in caravan style. Lydia Pinson was the lead car and I rode with her. Our first stop was the Obediah Shirley home, (branch #5), built about 1806 in Honea Path SC. As we drove down this country road to the house, I saw a black lady and her children sitting on the porch. I thought to myself, what is she going to think when she sees this large caravan of some 20-30 cars stopping at her house. We were in the first car and it would take a few minutes for the rest of the cars to arrive and park. She took it calmly and I kind of had the feeling she might be expecting us? Everyone got out of their cars and swarmed the premises. She acted like it was nothing at all. Her house was very tidy and she said we could go in the house. People were everywhere. They went up the old rickety stairs to the rooms upstairs. Some of us began to talk of concern that it may not be safe for so many to go up at the same time as the floors may not take the weight of so many people. We scattered out and took turns going upstairs. We talked to the lady asking her questions about the house. She seemed to enjoy the excitement as much as we enjoyed being there. When we left, I slipped her a little money for her inconvenience. She seemed happy about the whole thing.
We continued to the Honea Path Baptist Church where Obediah was a life long member. He was an elder and ardent church worker. A stained glass window in the Chapel has been dedicated to his memory. We visited the cemetery across from the church. By this time we were getting to warm. I hurried to the store and got some ice and plastic glasses so we could refresh ourselves with a cold drink before continuing on.
Jean Conselya took the lead from Honea Path as she knew the way from there to Turkey Creek Baptist Church. What an experience to actually be visiting this church. I have read this name many, many times when working with the Shirleys of this area.
At the convention I unveiled a special project I had been working on for sometime. It was a book for the 1850 and one for the 1880 Census of Shirleys in U.S. Census.
There was a gentleman who was in the hotel lobby talking to the receptionist when I first arrived at the hotel to register. I overheard him asking about the convention and I introduced myself to him. He was interested in the convention but could not attend either day. He did however attend our informal Friday pre-convention get together. He thought he would get back from his meetings in time to join us late the next day. I never saw him again and I did not get his name. He looked a great deal like Jimmy Carter. Several others made mention of it to me. Actually Jimmy Carter does have a connection to the Shirleys. Benjamin and Eliz. Hughes Shirley were the parents of Armand who married Robert Kay. They were the great Aunt and Uncle of Jimmy Carter (President of the United States).
I would say we had a terrific Shirley Convention and everyone is looking forward to another in the near future. We are thinking of Indiana in 1985.
Later I learned... A gentleman who came from California to attend the convention had passed away 2 months later. This was a shock to me. His wife told me how much he had enjoyed attending the convention and meeting new to him relatives. His name was Vernon Madden and he died Sept 8th. He was descended from Benjamin and Elizabeth Hughes Shirley (branch #4).