Monday, June 19, 2023

The Lazenby's Story - Introduction

Our story, as we currently know it to be, actually began way back in 1480 with the birth of Thomas Lazenby in Yorkshire, England.  In the mid 1600's  records show that my 7th great grandfather emigrated from England, and was an early settler of Maryland.  At some point in the early 1700's he was the High Sheriff of Ann Arundel County in Maryland.

My grandfather, Oscar Gray Lazenby Sr. and my grandmother Emma Lester Porter Lazenby lived in North Louisiana - Bernice in Union Parish after their first son O. G. Jr. was born in 1916.  My father, William Porter was born there on May 15, 1919.

On my mother's side, John “James” Colvin was born in Devon County, England on Sept. 13, 1703, according to baptismal records.  He emigrated from Chelsea, England on Nov. 29, 1725, settling in Providence, Rhode Island, Colonial America. My great grandfather, William Andrews Hughes Colvin and one of his brothers were the first Colvins to settle in North Louisiana in what is now the Dubach area.  My mother, Laura Elizabeth Colvin was born there to Lee "Preacher Colvin and Effie Ophelia Cox Colvin on November 24, 1918, the youngest of ten children.

It is their story and hence mine, Gin and Sarah's story that I will be telling in this series I'm calling "The Lazenbys in Bayou Chicot."  Let's get started.

My dad's father worked in a department store there, and they lived in a "dog-trot" house out of town on a red-clay dirt road, characteristic of that part of the country.  I think the original house had belonged to my grandmother's family.

As a young man, Dad had already exhibited exceptional intellect and physical prowess.  Not only did he have an almost photographic memory, and read everything he could find, he excelled at football and boxing in high school. He was very much the outdoorsman.  Truly a man's man.

Dad came to know the Lord as his personal Savior at an early age. As a teenager, he accepted God's call to serve as what he always referred to as "a country preacher".  He never questioned or wavered from that calling.  He used to tell how he would stand on tree stumps and preach to the birds and any other animal that seemed interested in hearing the gospel.

He attended the Industrial Institute & College of Louisiana, now known as LA Tech University in Ruston.  He left shortly before graduating at the urging and promise of financial support by a local minister, to attend the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.  For a country boy away from home for the first time, in a totally new world and without the continued promised funds, this was a very difficult time and he returned home before completing his degree.  He did make a friend there though who would later play a very instrumental role in his life and God's plan for him.  Her name was Katherine Carpenter.

It was after returning home that he held a revival in northern Morehouse Parish in the village of Collinston.  This was the beginning of him establishing the First Baptist Church there, which is still an active congregation to this day.  This was also what paved the way for him and my mother to meet.

Mother, the youngest of ten children, lost her father when she was seven.  She was raised by her mother with help from older siblings, in a town just south of Bernice called Dubach in Lincoln Parish.  As a Colvin in this town you were either closely or distantly related to everyone in the area.  In high school Mother was very popular and excelled in all subjects, but especially loved Home Economics.  I found an article in the area paper that declared her as a "bathing beauty."  We have no reason to question this at all.

Mother told of convoys of soldier boys passing through their town and the young ladies would exchange names and addresses with some of them in the early 40's during WWII.  She told of corresponding with several for a short time.  She also had a steady boyfriend through high school and until she met one special guy from Bernice.

Following high school, Mother attended beauty school and upon completion was given her own shop inside a friend's drug store in downtown Dubach.

She loved to tell of her first travel experience with a friend to the New York World's Fair in 1939.  She marveled at the idea of having layers of highways and handheld telephones where one could see the person they were speaking to.  Gin and I could also only dream about these things as children.

Having always been involved in the local church, it was at this time she became very involved in the Women's Missionary Union (WMU) as it's leader. It was this involvement that led her to invite a young preacher boy, who had started a new ministry in a nearby town and was in need of support, to speak at her church.  This was in early 1943.  As they told it, she invited him to have Sunday lunch with her and her mother. They spent the afternoon on the front porch swing and she served him her best baked apple pie.  His favorite.  They were married on November 24, of that year, mother's 24th birthday.

When I, Elizabeth Claire "Libby" was born a year later, Dad was pastoring a small country church not far from where both my parents had lived, called Fellowship Baptist Church.  When I was two years old my sister, Virginia Kay "Gingie" was born.

Dad was pastoring three small churches in North Louisiana and mother was very involved in state-wide mission work.  Mother's mother, "Mama" lived with us and we loved her unconditionally.

Because only one of the churches provided a parsonage and Dad only preached in a church once or twice a month, it was necessary to stay on the field all day between services.  Yes, back in that day there were morning and evening church services.  The Nutt family adopted us and it was at their house that we spent most every Sunday afternoon.  Mrs. Otha made the best fried chicken and their daughter, Judy became our older sister but only by a year.

Many years later in 2003 we renewed our long-lost friendship in Shreveport .

When I was either three or four years old, I awoke one morning completely rigid.  My parents rushed me to the nearest hospital, the Ruston Sanitarium only to be told after many tests that I had polio.  The doctors gave me little chance of survival and if I did I would be "a hopeless vegetable."  These were their exact words to these young frightened parents.  Because the doctor was a Colvin and knew the financial status of my parents, he and the other doctors decided to keep me there rather than send me to New Orleans to the Polio Center.  He later told them that he didn't want to send them down there only to have a dead baby.

My only memory is kicking the syringe out of a nurses hand as she was preparing to give me yet another spinal tap on day 4 of my hospital stay.  And that was the first time I had moved a muscle in four days.

During those four days, it was the people from those three country churches who stayed outside the hospital praying for their pastor's child.  After five days and being declared completely healed, I was allowed to return home.  This was my first miracle.

Do you recall me mentioning Dad's friend, Katherine Carpenter from the seminary in New Orleans?  Perhaps it was through mother's connection with state missions and her friendship with this wonderful woman (Aunt Katherine to us and who latter served as the Louisiana State WMU Director), that Daddy's friendship with her was reestablished and he was recommended to a church in the South Central part of Louisiana.

Bayou Chicot was just on the northern tip of Acadiana - Cajun Land in Evangeline Parish.  Mother used to tell that she couldn't believe God had called them to the "land of heathens."

In the summer of 1949, our little family of five, including our maternal grandmother, moved what meager belongings a country preacher's family owns to the little village of Bayou Chicot. We left the familiar piney woods of North Louisiana to start a new adventure that would last 45 years and provide memories for several life times.  

Bayou Chicot is known as the oldest English settlement west of the Mississippi River.  Our church, Calvary Baptist Church also holds the distinction as "the oldest Baptist Church still in existence west of the Mississippi River."  At the time, this held very little meaning to Gin and me.

It is this story that I want to tell in the following weekly blog posts.  I hope you will want to come along and learn what life was like for the Lazenbys in Bayou Chicot and beyond.

Elizabeth "Libby" Day
Elizabeth "Libby" Day

Hello, My name is Libby. I enjoy reading good books, painting, blogging, spending time with friends and whatever my "Heart" leads me to do. Welcome to Beauty Without Within.

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