NOTE: New facts discovered in 2012 contradict the last sentence in the first paragraph.
The Story of My Life by Rev. Emilio Ernesto Cavaleri (circa 1955)
(transcribed by Pendy Susan Cavaleri Bowers August 1999 from a photocopy of a carbon copy)
I was born in the city of St. Louis, Missouri, January 23rd, 1876. My father was an Italian born at Milano, Italy, and my mother was an American of pure Irish stock, born at St. Louis, Missouri. My father was a manufacturer of wire goods, such as fireguards, bank mailings, elevator shafts, birdcages and trellises. My mother died when I was eight months old, and my father always lived in his place of business.
One day an incident happened that caused me to be placed in an orphan home under the direct charge of the Superintendent. Some ladies passing my father`s place of business saw a spark fly from a blacksmith's anvil on to my clothes, so they waited on my father and informed him that his shop was not a proper place to raise a child. While in this home I was struck down with sunstroke and came very near dying; the only thing that saved me was a trip up the Mississippi River on a steamer. My father had to get off the boat with me at Davenport, Iowa, where I lingered between life and death for a week, but having improved my father continued the trip up the Mississippi River to St. Paul, Minnesota, where my father established another wire work business.
While living at St. Paul my father fell through the floor of the second story on to a chair in the lobby of the hotel where we were staying, injuring his back which affected his kidneys and he was advised to go south for his health. On our way to Houston, Texas, we stopped and lived among the Indians for a week in what was then known as Indian Territory, because my father was not able to travel very far at a time. After recovering somewhat from his illness he started a wire work business in Houston but did not stay there very long and for some unknown reason moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, where he established a fine wire work business on Canal Street. After a while my father`s health broke down with kidney trouble and he was advised by a friend to go to Atlanta, Georgia, and drink the water of the Ponce de Leon Springs he would find help, which he did and was able for six years to carry on a profitable wire work business by which he became well known in the city.
We came to Atlanta in 1880 and when I became six years old started to school and to Sunday school. My father claimed that he did not believe in Christianity, but he let Mrs. Hazard, who lived back our place of business on Forsyth Street, the widow of Judge Hazard, one of the first families of Atlanta, to take me to the First Methodist Sunday School, which was then located where the Candler Building or the Coca-Cola Building now stands, and which was across the street from my father's place of business. After some time Mrs. Hazard moved away, having rented her house to a Mrs. Marshall who had two boys about my age; I fell in with them and they took me to the First Baptist Sunday School.
About 1886, my father`s health broke down again and some friend advised him to go to Florida for his health, which he did shipping 22 large boxes of goods to Jacksonville, Florida, where he set up a wire work business in a new store that had just been completed for $60.00 a month and my father took in 60 cents in three months fixing a coffee pot. It was then my father decided to go into the ice cream business, in which he had great success, clearing $2,000 in three months, but he had to sell out because his health broke down again.
On our way back to Atlanta we stopped at Macon, Georgia where my father sold an ice cream business before he got it started. Then we moved to Columbus, Georgia, where he started another ice cream plant and after running it three months sold it. Then he moved to Eufala, Alabama, where he started another ice cream plant, which he sold in a few months to an Italian fruit merchant. We returned to Atlanta, Georgia, and my father built a home at East Point, Georgia, six miles from Atlanta, where we resided for a time.
The following summer my father went on the road again, starting ice cream plants at Charlotte, Durham, Winston-Salem, North Carolina and selling them for a profit after running them for several months. We then returned to East Point, Georgia, where we lived until one day my father fell sick on a street in Atlanta, Georgia, where he had gone on business, and General J.P. Lewis, a friend of his, advised him to go to the Soldier`s Home at Dayton Ohio and put me in a school so I could get an education. The plan did not work out, so we went to Washington, D.C. and my father went to the soldier's home at Hampton, Virginia. My father became disabled at the home and returned to Washington, took me out of school and I became a cash boy in Charles Baum`s Department Store on Seventh Street. Then my father took over the management of a pool room in the National Motel, corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Sixth Street, and I went to work there. After a time my father gave up the pool room and we went to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where we spent the Christmas week of 1889, and then on to Patterson, New Jersey, where I learned to weave silk and fix looms.
After some months my father decided to return home, Atlanta, Georgia, but before doing so we visited New York City on a sightseeing tour. We were not long in Atlanta when my father’s health failed again, and we returned to Dayton, Ohio, where he went into the Soldier`s Home and I board with a family by the name of Bosuler and went to the public School at Miami City and Berry Street Schools. Here I had the finest opportunity for an education, but my father could not stay at any one place very long. We went to Detroit, Michigan, to attend the C.A.R. Encampment in the fall of 1890, and while there witnessed the races of the American Amateur Bicycle Association. Then we turned south and landed at Tallapoosa, Georgia, where there was a boom and I obtained a position as a shipping clerk for Littlefield Building Material Co. Before the boom bursted we moved back to, Atlanta, Georgia, where I entered the government service, Post Office Department, as a special delivery messenger, and afterward a clerk.
I was in the Atlanta Post Office seven years, during which time my father bought a home on Cray Street and on October 31, 1895, I married Miss Maggie Edna Fairbanks at her home in West End. All went well until I began to engage in politics, even before I was old enough to vote I was an active member of the McKinley Club and thereby lost my job. This happened during the panic of 1897 where jobs were scarce, but my father-in-law, Edwin Fairbanks, was night yard master for the N.C. & St. L. RR and I obtained a position of a call boy. I was in the railroad service nearly six years, during which time I was a clerk, switchman, car repairer, car inspector, and was night chief clerk for the yard office when I went over to S.A.L. where I resigned July 1903 to accept a position as Assistant Secretary of the RRYMCA where I served for fifteen years.
During the period of my railroad experience three children came into our home. Eliza Estell, born Nov 7th, 1897, who is now Mrs. Dean Peck living at Decatur, Alabama. She has two girls: Carol Dean who married Wayne B. Jennings and lives at Athens, Alabama. They have four children, two boys and two girls. Margaret Ann the other daughter married Robert Whittman and she has daughter Carol Ann. Edwin Fairbanks was born December 20th, 1899, married to Miss Kate Wright October 17th 1910 and they have three children: LeMargaret who married Mrs. Ford Lewis and they have one boy, Mike; they live in Atlanta. Betty Louise who married Mr. Louis Weber, they live at Springfield, Illinois and have two children. Edwin F. Jr. married Mrs. Rae Althea Paluch, he is a Lieutenant at Ft. Benning, Ga, and they have one daughter, Pendy Susan. Maggie Gertrude was born March 29th, 1902, who passed away March 12th 1923 at Birmingham, Alabama.
I was with the RRYMCA from July 1905 to November 1915, during which time I was ordained a deacon by Bishop Eugene R. Hendrix at St. Paul Methodist Church, Atlanta, Georgia, November 21st, 1909. I was then a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, south. During this period, July 1903 to December 1910, still living in Atlanta, Georgia, there were four children born to us: Emilio Ernesto Cavaleri, Jr. born November 15th, 1903, who is now Director of the Crippled Children Clinic at Birmingham, Alabama, was married to Miss Dorothy Steward, July 19th, 1939, and they have one son, Emilio Ernesto III. Paul Horatio was born September 28th 1905, and passed away May 1st, 1906 (one week later, May 8th, my father, Emilio Ernesto Cavaleri passed away). Mary Antonica was born November 10th, 1907, who is now Mrs. J.L. Roberts of Birmingham, Alabama. William Waggoner was born June 7th, 1909, after serving apprenticeship with Stewart Machine Col. Of Birmingham, Alabama, then joined the U.S. Air Corp and was in the North African drive in World War Two, married to Miss Dorris Holmes at Nashville, Tennessee October 5th, 1945, passed away at the Percy Jones General Hospital at Battle Creek, Michigan, December 7th, 1946, was buried in the family plot at the Hollywood Cemetery, Atlanta, Georgia, where my father, son Paul, daughter Maggie Gertrude, and another son, David Hammond are buried.
I was called as pastor of the Nellie Chapel Methodist Church, East Point, Georgia, December 1910, appointed as a supply by Bishop William P. Anderson, presiding over the Georgia Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church at Fitzgerald, Georgia, and was pastor of this church for eight years and part of this time I served the Hemphill Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church at Atlanta, all the while I was working as assistant secretary of the RRYMCA at Atlanta, Georgia. While living at East Point, 1911 to 1918, there were four children came to the parsonage: Charles Scott born February 19th, 1911, married to Miss Mary Loy of Etowah, Tennessee, where I was pastor, October 30th 1938, and they live at Tarrant, Alabama. Nellie Catharine was born August 4th, 1912, who married Max Creviston at Jellico, Tennessee where I was then pastor, March 3rd 1940, they were then living at Nashville, Tennessee but now live at Muncie, Indiana; Frances Alice was born October 6th 1914, married to Clifford Martin Cantrell, October 23rd, 1939, at the Rev O.C. Wright at Jonesville, Virginia, they now reside at Cincinnati, Ohio and they have six children: Clifford Martin Junior, Catharine Fairbanks, Jennifer Sue, Alice Frances, James Henry, Margaret Melissa; Curtis Holly was born October 18th, 1916, married to Miss Elsa Louise Markham October 6th 1939 at Jacksonville, Florida now residing at Birmingham, Alabama and they have four children: Davis Curtis, Nancy Elizabeth, Robert Markham, and Margaret Ellen.
November 1918 I resigned as Assistant Secretary of the RRYMCA at Atlanta, Georgia, and Bishop Frederick D. Leete appointed me as Camp Pastor at Fort Oglethorpe at Chattanooga, Tennessee, stationed at Rossville, Georgia. My commission as Camp Pastor expired in one year, at the close of World War I, but I remained at Rossville two more years where I had a wonderful ministry among the industrial people of that city. During our pastorate at Rossville there was another daughter born to us, Martha Leete, December 29th 1918, who married A.T. Hammond, Jr. November 8th 1941 at Jellico, Tennessee where I was then pastor they live in Knoxville, Tennessee and have four children: Ronald Stuart, Emily, Susan Elizabeth, and Robert Fairbanks.
December 1921 Bishop B.C. Richardson of the Atlanta Area, appointed me as pastor of the Simpson Methodist Episcopal Church, Birmingham, Alabama where I was pastor for five years, and during my administration built a beautiful brown stone church near the heart of the city, corner of Seventh Avenue and 25th Street. I had during these years a remarkable ministry and became very prominent in the religious life of the city and in the Masonic circles for the state. I served the Mission board of our Church throughout the state and the Board of Pension throughout the south in different conferences. I also delivered many Masonic lectures in all parts of Alabama.
During our pastorate at Simpson Church our last baby was born, David Hammond, November 30th, 1922, who passed away at the age of seven years, while we were serving the Mankey Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church at Chattanooga, Tennessee, January 8th 1930 and was buried at Atlanta on January 10th. During our pastorate at Simpson Church Birmingham, our second daughter, Maggie Gertrude passed away March 12th 1923, lacking seventeen days of being 21 years of age. She was buried at the family plot at Hollywood Cemetery, Atlanta.
During my time as pastor of the Simpson Church, the Alabama Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, of which I was a member, who transferred from the Atlanta Area to the Chattanooga Area, under the leadership of Bishop W.P. Thirkield, and he through his mal-administration transferred me to the Central Tennessee Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church and appointed me pastor of the Coleman Memorial Methodist Church, Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, December 1926, where I was for one year. Bishop Thirkeld promised to rectify the injustice of sending me to Lawrenceburg, but finding out through my District Superintendent, Rev. B.W. Blessing, that was not his intention, I returned to Birmingham, Alabama and became the pastor of the 57th Street Christian Church, where I served for one year. In the meantime Bishop H. Lester Smith succeeded Bishop Thirkeild as Bishop of the Chattanooga Area, 1928, and he had me reinstated as a member of the Central Tennessee Conference and transferred me to the Holston Conference, and appointed me as pastor of the Mankey Memorial Methodist Church, East Chattanooga, Tennessee, where I served two years. This church was heavily in debt and I raised on paper $27,000 toward the indebtedness, but the depression which followed immediately canceled our efforts, and knowing that it was best for a new man to come in to conduct another campaign on the debt, in which Bishop Smith and Rev. Walter A. Smith, District Superintendent, Chattanooga District, agreed that I should move so I was appointed to Oakdale, Tennessee in 1930, where I was for three years and had a fine ministry.
At the Conference of 1935 I was appointed pastor of the Oakwood Methodist Church, Knoxville, Tennessee, and another church heavily in debt and about to be sold, with the people hopelessly discouraged. In the spring of 1934 we had a remarkable revival, which revived the faith of the people, and immediately following we conducted a financial campaign with great success, which put hope and courage into the membership, saved the church building and it is now clear of debt. I was at the Oakwood Church for three years where I again had a wonderful ministry, and at the Holston Conference of 1936, Bishop Edgar Blake, presiding, I was appointed pastor of the First Methodist Church, Jellico, Tennessee, where I had a lovely pastorate for five years. Here I had a rest from debt raising or building churches and we enjoyed it very much. I was at Jellico when Unification was consummated, and October 1945 I received my last appointment at the hand of Bishop Paul DeKern to Radford, Virginia, where I remained for five years until my retirement at the Holston Conference, Johnson City, Tennessee, October 1945.
Having preached in four Conferences: Georgia, Alabama, Central Tennessee and Holston, in four states: Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and Virginia. At our retirement we moved to Birmingham, Alabama where four of our children live and they provided us a lovely home, and where we have many friends of the old days when we served the Simpson Methodist Church, 1921-1936. We are happy in our retirement, enjoying the fine fellowship of the Norwood Methodist Church, Rev. R. S. Hill, Jr., pastor, whose preaching we enjoy, where the wife has united as a member and where I have a membership in the Quarterly Conference. Not having much preaching to do I accepted an appointment from Bishop Clare Purcell and Dr. O.K. Lamb, District Superintendent of the Tuscaloosa District, March 20th 1949, as supply pastor of the Cottondale Charge having three churches: Cottondale, Taylorsville and Big Sandy. All went well until Sunday, July 3rd when I went to Cottondale to preach at 11 o’clock and then moved over to Taylorsville Church for the evening service to start a revival. Next morning, 9:30 o’clock, I was struck with a severe heart attack which put me in the Druid City Hospital in Tuscaloosa under a tent for a week, then the children moved me to the South Highland Infirmary, Birmingham, Alabama, where I was for two weeks more. This caused me to give up the work under the doctor’s orders. I am now ready and willing to retire as the Holsten Conference did in October 1948.