Faulkner’s Early Life

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William Cuthbert Falkner, aged eleven months

            On September 25, 1897, William Cuthbert Falkner was born in New Albany, Mississippi.  Falkner was the son of Murry Falkner, who was known as a failure, and Maud Butler Falkner, who was upset about her husband’s lack of ability to be successful.  The only family member that was openly honest about the marriage between Murry and Maud was Maud’s mother, Lelia Butler, who Falkner called Damuddy.  Falkner’s great-grandfather, William Clark Falkner, was a colonel during the Civil War, was a successful writer, and helped in finding the Gulf & Chicago railroad.  Falkner’s grandfather, John Wesley Thompson Falkner, thrived in politics and banking, and he also inherited his father’s railroad.  Along with the inheritance of the railroad, John also inherited the name “Young Colonel,” after his father.  Falkner’s father worked on the family railroad until his father sold it.  The affect of selling the railroad not only gave Falkner’s father unproductive jobs, but it also made the status of the family’s status decline.

            Falkner was the oldest child out of four boys.  When Falkner was one year old, he received his first brother.  Murry Charles Falkner, Jr. was born on June 26, 1898.  Falkner’s father nicknamed his second son Jack.  The day before Falkner’s fourth birthday, September 24, 1901, John Wesley Thompson Falkner III was born.  The family would call this third son Johncy.  Not even after a week of Johncy birth, Murry and Maud almost lost William and Jack to scarlet fever.  After this incident, Murry hired a trained nurse to care for his children. By the time Falkner had turned five, the family had moved from Ripley, Mississippi to Oxford, Mississippi.  This occurred after Falkner’s grandfather had sold the family railroad.

            When the family had moved to Oxford, their house was built large enough for them and Lelia Butler to live.  There was also a small cabin in the backyard of the house.  This cabin was for Caroline Barr, the house servant.  Barr had her own children who were already grown so she became a second mother to the Falkner children, who called her Mammy Callie. 

            On September 25, 1905, Falkner’s eighth birthday, he entered first grade at the Oxford Graded School.  Falkner had skipped the beginners’ grade, or as others liked to call it, the chart class.  Throughout first grade, Falkner was on the honor-roll and never had a grade below a Perfect or Excellent.  Just a year later Sallie Falkner, Falkner’s grandmother on his father’s side, passed away and shortly after, Lelia Butler became sick.  Then on August 15, 1906 the fourth son and last brother of Falkner was born.  They named him Dean Swift Falkner. 

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Murry, William, John, and Dean Falkner

            It was the year of 1907 that Falkner began to tell tales.  Falkner loved to listen to the tales that his grandfather told.  He would also listen to the blacksmith at his grandfather’s house and to Mammy Callie, tell stories.  Falkner would join in on their tales and tell stories that sometimes surprised most people.  He was in fourth-grade in 1907 and this is where his stories began to be written down.  When fifth-grade came around Falkner had a very tough teacher and even though his name appeared on the honor roll, it would be the last time. 

      It was in 1909 when Falkner decided school was not his forte.  Falkner’s seatmate Ralph Muckenfuss began to notice that Falkner was quiet and well-behaved but never payed attention.  He would be writing and drawing the whole class time.  This was about the time Falkner began skipping school.  With his imagination and ability of story-telling growing, Falkner was able to tell stories very well.  During the winter of 1910 and 1911, Falkner was able to convince a peer to do his chore of bringing coal to the house.  Falkner would begin telling a story and end it at a suspenseful part in order for his peer to return the next day.  It was also around this time that Falkner began to notice Estelle Oldham (Blotner 3-42).

Published on May 4, 2009 at 7:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

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