John William Dorning


Born:February 3, 1885, Madison County, AL
Died:October, 1964, Madison County, AL
Buried:Tuck Family Cemetery, Harvest, AL


•  John William Dorning      "John William (Will) Dorning, born February 3, 1885, in Madison County, was the son of Lucinda Ann Tuck and James Monroe Dorning. Lucinda Ann's grandfather, John Tuck, Jr., was an early settler of Madison County, having come here in the early 1820's from Virginia. Will married Anna Dee King in 1907. She was born in Limestone County January 14, 1889. Will died in 1964, Dee in 1978.
     Will and Dee reared their family on what is now Dorning Road in Harvest. A portion of the family farm was part of the original tract settled by Will's great-grandfather John when he came from Virginia. Will and Dee were the parents of eleven children - three died in childhood.
     The eight remaining children were Irving, Lillie, Marjorie, Roy Lee, Lester, Lucille, Richard and me. I am Dorothy, the youngest, and am attempting to write a little bit about my family as I remember growing up in Harvest. I was born in 1926, when Papa and Mama had been married 19 years and two of my little brothers had already died. My oldest sister Lillie married when I was 10 months old and my oldest brother Irving married shortly after that. So I remember my brothers Roy Lee and Lester as the oldest siblings along with my sister Marjorie, who at 14 years my senior was my second mother. The brothers and sister nearest my age were Lucille, Richard and Silas, my favorite brother and at only 3 years older than me, my closest playmate.
     Growing up in this family was a wonderful experience in good times and bad. The Depression in the 1930's were desperate years for many and caused great hardships. However, on our farm Mama and Papa were excellent providers who made sure we children had everything we needed. We always had a big garden, orchards, grape vineyards, chickens, hogs and cows. Mama was an excellent cook who knew the right way to prepare and preserve food. We children were really not aware of the terrible plight of those in the cities and others who went hungry during those times. Of course all of the food growing and preparation took a lot of work and we were all expected to do our share. I thought it so unfair to have to pick and peel vegetables and churn when I wanted to frolic and play with my friends.
     Trips to Huntsville fifteen long miles away were exciting! There was always a big discussion about who was going because there was not room in our Chevy sedan for everyone. Being the youngest in the family, I was usually in the car. During this period I remember my brother Lester building a "Hoover Cart" for us children to ride in. The cart was pulled by a mule and Lester would use it to take us to visit our friends and to the nearby country store and other places we otherwise wouldn't have been able to go if the car had to be driven. Saving the money that would have been spent on gas for the car was very important.
     Sunday dinner, sports, school functions and activities at Harvest Baptist Church constituted our social life. Of course, summer fun included swimming in the creek, homemade ice cream, and watermelon cuttings. In the wintertime we spent the long evenings making popcorn balls, playing checkers and dominoes, telling ghost stories and listening to the Victrola. We were a very musical family - Papa had once played the banjo and Mama insisted upon having a piano although she never played. All three of my sisters played very well, and I specially remember Lucille, who played by ear, entertaining us between chores with the sounds of "Alexander's Ragtime Band" and "The Old Spinning Wheel in the Parlor." Though I loved the sounds the instrument made, I hated the piano, as it was my job to dust it every week. Maybe that explains why I never had the desire to play!
     We were also a family who loved to laugh. Papa was a wonderful storyteller and most'of his stories were humorous. My brother Roy Lee was a true jokester and always seemed to have some prank or the other going. Mama was probably the most serious member of the family, and several of Roy's jokes were on her, though she never knew it. We all admired our mother very much, as it seemed to us children that she could do anything and do it well. Mama was a tall, stylish woman, given to wearing large hats. She was very careful of her dress and thought it very important to be a lady at all times. Mama loved flowers and always had many varieties growing in her garden. She was on a constant search for "rich dirt" as the red clay native to our part of the county wasn't always the best in which to grow beautiful flowers. Roy teased her constantly about the "search for dirt," and her penchant for hats. However, none of her children loved her any more than Roy.
     Papa loved to hunt and his happiest times were spent hunting foxes, rabbits, birds, or whatever was in season. He passed his love of the sport to my brothers, and I remember so well the men of the family coming home from a hunting expedition bringing back delicacies for Mama to cook. Growing up with 5 men in the house was a great experience for me. I thought my easy going Papa and my protective older brothers were wonderful - they were my heroes. I didn't realize then what true heroes they really were, for Roy and Lester delayed marriage and beginning a family to help Mama and Papa with the farm during the depression. My oldest brother Irving was busy taking care of his wife and family and my brother Richard would serve in the Army during WWII. I thought all men were responsible, hard working and fun like my brothers. Sadly, I wish that were true in today's world where there are so many boys who would benefit from the influence of men such as my father and brothers.
     During those Depression years I came face to face with tragedy for the first time in my young life when my beloved brother Silas died at the age of 13 of appendicitis. For Mama and Papa it meant burying a third child - a fact so horrible that I still can't imagine how deep their feelings of grief must have been. For me it meant losing a wonderful playmate and friend and coming to a gradual understanding that I would never see him again.
     World War II was such a major event in our lives. I remember the sad day in the fall of 1942 when we all went to the train depot in Huntsville to see Richard off to the war, and how happy we were when he returned safely in November of 1945. The war changed our lives profoundly, but we gladly accepted the rationing and other hardships for the safe return of our brother and friends. I can remember so clearly President Roosevelt's "fireside chats" and how we sat mesmerized around the radio listening to his every word. When I graduated from high school in 1944, I did my part for the war effort by taking a job as a chauffeur at Redstone Arsenal. My brothers had taught me to drive anything mechanical with wheels; therefore, Army limousines, buses and trucks were not difficult for me.
     The years after the war brought many changes, and after marriage and children I returned to Redstone Arsenal for thirty years in procurement for the Army Missile Command. Since retiring I am serving as a trustee for the Tuck Family Cemetery in Harvest where many of my Tuck and Dorning family members have been buried, some since the 1860's. Serving as a volunteer van driver for Madison County transporting the sick and senior citizens was a rewarding pastime. Driving a church van for senior groups is one of the most enjoyable things I am doing along with my church activities. And of course I love my bridge group in Huntsville where I've been getting together weekly with retired friends I've known for years and other newer friends for more than 10 years now.
     All of my brothers and sisters married and reared wonderful families. Irving, Roy and Lucille all died untimely deaths, or what we considered untimely when we were not ready to let them go. Roy's only son owns the family farm on Dorning Road which Roy purchased from Mama and Papa in 1950. It's hard to believe that Roy, the jokester of the family, is the one who insured that Will and Dee's farm would remain in the family as it has now for over 175 years.
     John William and Anna Dee had twenty grandchildren, thirty four great grandchildren and numerous great great grandchildren. Their first great-great-great grandchild was born recently. Among this group are engineers, ministers, accountants, a lawyer, business administrators, business owners, a retired Army Colonel, a banker, nurses, a chemist, law enforcement officers, management professionals, farmers and many other professions. They live in many states: Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Tennesse, Texas, Oklahoma, California and Alabama.
     I know Mama and Papa would be proud of this group and amazed at their far-reaching accomplishments. They would have a difficult time understanding why any of them would want to live somewhere other than northern Alabama! We meet annually in Harvest for a family reunion, fellowship, fun and reminiscing. Occasionally at this gathering or a funeral or wedding, I can see Mama or Papa in a smile on a grandchild's lips, or Mama's height in a tall great-grandchild, or her love of gardening in several of her granddaughters and great-granddaughters. I see Papa's love of laughter in so many of his descendants, including myself, and his and Mama's love of music has been passed along to so many of them. I've written this memoir as much for the descendants as for myself. I wanted them to have a small idea of what it was like to grow up on Dorning Road in the bosom of this family - their family. I hope I've succeeded."
     Submitted by: Dorothy Dorning Mann, 1481 Nick Davis Road, Harvest, AL 35749 - Heritage

Related Links:

•  Heritage - Memoir by Dorothy Dorning Mann, telling of her early life on Dorning Road, Harvest, AL. The Heritage of Madison County, AL by Madison County Heritage Book Committee, printed in 1998, p. 165-6.