Looking Back: Birdie Leellen Potts
by Marcia Napier, Grain Valley Historical Society
Even in 1921, Birdie’s family were long time residents of Jackson County, specifically Van Buran Township and later Sni-A-Bar Township and Grain Valley.
At the time of his death, January 26, 1913, her grandfather Levi Potts (Harris-Potts Road) was said to have resided in Jackson County longer than any other resident. He was born in Simpson County, Kentucky in October, 1828, and came with his parents to Jackson County when he was but a year old.
Mr. Potts, a member of the Quantrell squad, participated in the 1862 raid in Lawrence, Kansas. Earlier in 1849, he had crossed the plains in quest of gold. According to his obituary, before his death and with a wealth of experiences to draw from, he became an interesting story teller and was the idol of all the children in his neighborhood. He married Sinia Emily Slaughter and they are both buried in the Slaughter Cemetery.
One of his sons, Josiah Martin Potts, married Lydia Margaret Alley. Birdie Leellyn was their daughter. I had the privilege of knowing Birdie for many years. She was a stalwart member of the Grain Valley Methodist Church (now Faith UMC) having joined in 1915.
In 1989, Birdie read a “centennial moment” each Sunday for a year. She not only helped to preserve the history of our Church; she also revealed many personal stories. One week she talked about the difficulties of traveling the three plus miles to Church in a wagon on rainy Sundays.
She had known many of the early members. She told stories of the old pot belly stove that warmed the congregation on cold mornings. She was there when the Ladies’ Aid was begun. She knew about the work of the Churches in Grain Valley during the Depression and World War II. Money from her aunt’s will helped to build the addition to the church in the early 1950’s. I could go on and on.
Birdie was also active in the community with membership in the Order of the Eastern Star, the Oak Hill Garden Club and later the Grain Valley Historical Society before her death in 1999. The histories she wrote for her church and the O. E. S. continue to provide a valuable resource for the Historical Society.
Birdie became a young widow in 1933 when her husband, Harvey C. Brown passed. Their son, also Harvey, was quite young. In 1938 she married Alexander S. Davidson. A Scotsman, Alex was employed by Sni-A-Bar Farms. He died in 1970. Birdie remained at her farm until her death.
Like so many graduates of Grain Valley High School, she loved her family, her Church, her community and her school!
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