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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Lydia A. Smith: Queen of the Okefenokee

Lydia (Smith) Stone

Lydia (Smith) Stone

"Born a dreamer, she became an empire-builder and a living legend in her time. 
Lydia Stone was the name she was best known by, but she was born Lydia Smith and died Lydia Crews, the name of her second husband." 
Ware County Georgia  Biography Lydia Stone

 Big Girl


Lydia Smith (Miss Liddie) was  six foot, four inches tall, broad shouldered and strong . The story goes,
William Smith
"William Smith, her father, gave her a cow and sow to start her on the route to wealth. 
With her childhood savings, she purchased her first 40 acres of land, began turpentine interests, and later sold the trees to the railroad for cross ties which she helped cut and load." 
Ware County Georgia  Biography Lydia Stone
She died a millionaire; land rich. She bought up land that timber companies had cleared - and abandoned - for pennies.

Lucey Goosey


She was doing well in 1900 when she hired twenty-four year-old Daniel 'Gordon' Stone. He stood five feet, five inches tall, had black hair and blue eyes. Lydia was smitten. Gordon moved in and they began living in common-law.

The large Primitive Baptists' Community around them weren't happy. Attempting to force them to marry, the Grand Jury of Charlton County, Georgia, charged that Gordon,

"...unlawfully did have carnal knowledge, connection and sexual intercourse with one Liddie Smith, a single woman, the said Gordon Stone being then a single man..." 
Indictment; October 1903 
A separate indictment carried a similar charge against Lydia Smith" 
Queen of the Okefenokee: The Autobiography of Lydia Smith pg 23

Moonshine Mistress


Two months later...
"On Christmas Day, 1903, Lydia and Gordon were arrested for operating a moonshine still, and the Grand Jury indicted them for their unlicensed selling of 'spirituous...and intoxicating liquors' ". 
Queen of the Okefenokee: The Autobiography of Lydia Smith pg 23

Gordon and Lydia (Smith) Stone
Gordon and Lydia married Easter Sunday, April 3, 1904; one week before court convened.  The co-habitation charges were 'nol prossed'  (dismissed).

Lydia pleaded guilty to the moon shining charges.  She paid a $100.00 fine-  a massive sum for the time- to avoid six months jail time.

Gordon Stone died in 1926.

Sugar Mama


Sixty-four year-old widow Miss Liddie took up with another employee, twenty-one year-old John Melton Crews.
"They were later (1927 ed.) married but Charlton County people regarded their relationship as scandalous. " 
Charlton County, Georgia, Biography Lydia A. Stone
Melton and Lydia (Smith) Stone Crews
She called him 'Baby Doll' and treated him like her child. It's said,
"...she would seat him in her lap, rock in the old rocker on her front porch in Racepond, and sing to him. As gossips talked about the “ol womern and th’ youngun,’ she made Melton grow his hair long and a beard (to) make him look older." 
Charlton County, Georgia, Biography Lydia A. Stone
After he shot and killed a neighbor, she bribed the Governor of Georgia to get him out of jail. She cancelled the check to him once 'Baby Doll' was free.

Legendary Queen Lydia

High Bluff Cemetery
"The 'Queen of the Okefenokee' died at her Racepond home on January 4, 1938; she was laid to rest beside her parents, a sister, and former husband. 
And the tallest monument in the cemetery was erected to the unschooled woman who once, very simply, stated the chief rule of finance;  
'I always said I could make five dollars out of every one dollar I could get my hands on.  I believe anybody can if they’re careful and not afraid to work.' " 
Charlton County, Georgia, Biography Lydia A. Stone
*NoteRelationships, such as grandmother, 2nd great, etc., are expressed from the perspective of the grandchildren of Willis Edgar and Carrie (known as) Mae (Merritt) Musgrove.

Terms of relationship - grandmother, uncle, aunt, cousin, etc.  - are used here generically to include  relatives such as fourth great grandfathers, great grand uncles, second cousins twice removed, etc.

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