Esterlee Andrew Hutchison was born May 8, 1886. In a letter written to her sister Bee Hutchison McAtee, on January 8, 1939, she said, "thirty-four years ago today I thought I was so much in love that I packed my little valise and walked out on the family. I really started something..." Her marriage the next day, January 9, 1905, to W. Melton Frasier was the first of at least six marriages for Esterlee.
In an age that placed a great emphasis on decorum, Esterlee was the quintessential maverick. She was a liberated woman long before the term was coined or the concept approved. She was a slim, very attractive woman, with a great, often self-deprecating, sense of humor. Many of her letters to family members, though in some cases written 50 or more years ago, survive, and each testifies to her wit and charm.
Her first husband, Melton, was born on February 9, 1880. Little is known about him but it is believed he was a farmer from the vicinity of Newport. He and Esterlee separated in November, 1906. He is then thought to have married a woman named Tulia and to have lived in Sallis until his death December 16, 1953. Esterlee's divorce from him was granted in Attala County on February 4, 1908.
Esterlee wasted little time in marrying again. Her second husband was Canaday Cason Lockhart, who was about four years her senior and a nephew of her future brother-in-law, Joe Lockhart. They wed December 18, 1908.
At some point the couple moved to Jackson, where Canaday held a succession of jobs as a painter, a night watchman, and, for awhile, with the railroad. He was an affable but homely man who was troubled from time-to-time with alcohol. From several sources it appears that his excessive drinking contributed to Canaday's difficulty in obtaining and maintaining employment. During this period, however, Esterlee bore Canaday two children: Canaday Hutchison Lockhart, born November 20, 1909, and Julia Blanding Lockhart, born May 21, 1914.
Sometime after the birth of their second child the couple divorced. About this time, Esterlee worked in a post office in the Delta, probably in or near Duncan. Soon thereafter, Esterlee married for a third time. Her husband was Garland Bell Nelson, a native of Arkansas. He was born about 1884. Esterlee and Garland were married about 1915 or 1916 and they lived in Hushpuckena and other places in the Delta. Garland suffered from chronic myocarditis and died in Kings's Daughters Hospital in Greenwood at mid-afternoon on December 17, 1920. At the time of his death he was a plantation manager in Blain, and had been ill for about six months.
Following Garland's death, Esterlee married for a fourth time. On August 29, 1922, she re-married her children's father, Canaday Lockhart, and moved back to Jackson. Part of the time that Esterlee was married to Garland, Canaday had been overseas where he served as a railroad engineer in France during World War I. Their reunion must not have been too happy, for only a little over five months later Esterlee apparently ran-off with someone else. In a very poignant letter to Esterlee's sister, Clarissy Hutchison Terry, dated February 5, 1923, Canaday wrote that he had Esterlee and the children with him in Jackson. "She came back yesterday," and he asks that they, "strew her path with flowers instead of rocks...you have heard me say I would never live with her anymore...but that love for her just won't leave me. Her pleading with me for help was just a little more than I could stand and my children here pleading and calling me to her rescue I just had to come under and save her from total ruin." He said she had,"confessed all," and concluded his letter by writing, "we will be happy again despite chatter and talk." Alas, the happiness was again temporary.
During the 1930's, Esterlee worked in Jackson as a seamstress in several cleaning shops. She is thought to have also worked briefly as an attendant at the State Mental Hospital in nearby Whitfield. Canaday was frequently away, working at various jobs. In an undated letter from this period, Esterlee complained she had been "put out" by court order but a "quarantine prevented me from getting set in the street," and she now lives in three rooms at 612 Clifton St., in Jackson. Her bath is "upstairs" and she has "no sink in (the) kitchen and no cabinets, but plenty of rats, roaches, and ants." Canaday had secured a job at the Gulfport Veterans Hospital on the Coast, Esterlee wrote in another letter dated about 1937, and it paid $90 a month with $33 taken out for uniforms and board. She said she would stay in Jackson because she lacked the money to travel there and, perhaps most importantly, because she wanted to see if, "he sticks." In another letter, dated February 13, 1939, Esterlee wrote to her sister, Bee, saying that Canaday was home for the weekend and, "I feel like I'll be compelled to marry at least one more time and I always feel more that way right after his visits home."
This last letter was prophetic for soon Esterlee divorced Canaday, and on August 25, 1940, she wed a Meridian businessman named Willie Leon Hopper. On October 16, of that year, she again wrote to her sister Bee saying that Canaday had been to Jackson and, "he has decided not to slay us." In subsequent letters written from their home in Meridian, she referred to W.L.'s store and "loan-shark" business and complained that he had not kept his promise with regard to a new car. "I am at the store but...I know no more about his business than you do," she wrote, "I have plenty except peace." By July of 1941, Esterlee was back in Jackson and was being sued for divorce. The attorney representing W.L. in this action was Ross Barnett who later was elected Governor. The divorce was granted in Hinds County on September 15, 1941. In another letter to Bee, Esterlee wrote, on July 31, 1941, "I hope to get a 60 year old widower with a pension that won't stop when I marry him." In the same letter, Esterlee, with tongue-in-cheek, wrote that her daughter, Julia Bee, had, "gone and fell in love with a damn yankee. I mean a buck private, a $21 a month man, a 7 months baby, a Republican!" Less than four months later her daughter went on to marry that "damn yankee," Private John W. Jennings, and lived happily with him until her death nearly 50 years later.
Meanwhile, Esterlee and Canaday began to see each other again. He was able to find work in Pascagoula on the railroad as the Depression ended and the War mobilization began. Soon Canaday and Esterlee wed for the third time and made their home in a succession of small apartments in Jackson. It was her sixth and final marriage and lasted about 16 years until Canaday's death on July 11, 1958. Esterlee lived only a few months more and died on February 15, 1959.
"Yesterday," by E.R. Hutchison, M.A., is a 288 page, hardcover, fully-indexed deluxe edition, available directly from Edward Hutchison, 166 Armonde Ct., Madison, MS 39110. The cost of $43, payable by check, PayPal or money order, includes immediate shipment by USPS Media Mail. Payment can be arrranged