James was born in Fairfield County, Ohio on September 4, 1917. His father was Alfred Alan Gatwood and his mother was Mary Alice Delong.
Each of his parents had a son prior to their marriage. Tarlton Gatwood, son of Alfred was the oldest, born in 1906 he was 11 years old when James was born. Lawrence Aumock, son of Mary Delong was only three. The family lived in Bloom Township, Fairfield County, Ohio.
In 1920 census, James was only two years old and the family was living on Sidderly farm in Canal Winchester, Ohio. My Grandpa Al worked as a tenant farmer all his life. There were two more children born, both girls; Alice and Martha. Martha Belle was born August 20, 1920 and departed this life December 18, 1921, aged 1 year, 3 months and 28 days. I am sure she was well loved and when she was ill with diphtheria, it must have been just horrible for the entire family. She was laid to rest in the Amanda township cemetery where there are many Delong relatives.
In 1930 census, James and his father were still on Sidderly farm, but his mother, brother Lawrence and his sister Alice were no longer living with them. Sometime between 1923 (when Alice was born) and 1930 census the family split-up. By this time Tarlton was grown. James was raised by his father. Alice and Lawrence were raised by their mother in nearby Columbus, Ohio.
James did not graduate from High School. He left home during his last year of High School and he never lived with his father again.
While still a young man he had a brief marriage to the sister of a friend. Her name was Edna Sharp. They were married November 12, 1936 in Franklin County, Ohio. The record shows him as twenty two years old and born in 1914. The truth is he was born in 1917 so he was nineteen years old. There were no children born in this marriage. My information is very sketchy and I have only the marriage record of this event and receipts of payments he made to pay for the divorce.
Soon after his twenty-second birthday, he married my Mother Thora Lynn Buffington. They went to Kentucky to get married. The date was October 7, 1939.
Sometime before I started school in 1949, our Dad left the family. I don’t recall the family talking about this openly. I have only spoken of it to my older sister, who remembers this period better than I do. We were moved into Sullivant Gardens Federal Housing Projects. The housing was for low income people and rent was based on that income. After about two years, Dad rejoined the family, but we continued to live in the projects until mid-1950’s. I was in the sixth grade when we moved out of the projects. It was not long before we were back on a farm, but my Dad never owned land or his own home.
Jim Gatwood was a good looking man with black wavy hair and big brown eyes. He was five feet, nine inches tall according to his driver’s licenses. He enjoyed making people laugh. He had a fun and loving personality. He knew many funny songs and silly poems. I still can recall some of them. Although he did not finish High School, he was able to help his daughter with her geometry. He loved to read books and work crossword puzzles. In later years my parents took two morning newspapers so they could each have the puzzles. He also had a talent with woodworking. He made useful things for our home.
He was also a drinking man and that could often be a problem. He made his living as a farm hand, truck driver, mechanic and later a heavy equipment operator and was a member of the Operator Engineers Union. He was the first of the Gatwood’s to leave farming as their main income. He had a beautiful garden every summer and we canned most of it and there was always enough extra to give away. He was a very good mechanic and was always fixing someone’s car. He liked to hunt and dressed the animals for many other hunters. He prepared many holiday meals for us. I think he just had a feel for cooking. He was not afraid of spices and we all loved it when he got in front of the stove.
James Alfred Gatwood died in his sleep on July 7, 1989 from heart failure. He spent his entire life in or near Columbus, Ohio.