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"Charlie" and Mrs. J. F. Vermillion, 1914 (August 2017)

"Charlie" and Mrs. J. F. Vermillion, 1914

By Deborah Burkett

The 1914 Vermillion ad read: "From May first until November first, eggs from Special Exhibition and Fancy matings will be one-half price---We use the very latest in packing our eggs to ensure safe delivery---All prices on stock and eggs are f. o. b. Rusk---All orders and correspondence will be given our prompt and personal attention."

When the above ad was printed by the Press Journal, Mrs. Ella Berta Shaw Vermillion, wife of J. F. had been breeding Single Comb Rhode Island REDS for eight years. She established a very successful mail order business, all the while traveling by train--winning ribbons at shows throughout the U.S.

Her photo belies the fact she was an astute professional business woman in a world where refined ladies were meant to be seen not heard. Ella looks as if she thought only of the latest fashions arriving from New Orleans or the next social engagement.

Not so. "Charlie" was on her mind.

Since the first show in Houston where she entered only a few birds and "Charlie" won First Cock, he was her pride and joy. He won so many Firsts, Shape and Color Specials and headed Sweepstake Winners that it would take a whole page to list his winnings in full.

Initially, Vermillion started with Sherman stock direct from Newport, Rhode Island, and then would always purchase stock and birds--the best money could buy.

In her 1914 catalogue she explained her poultry yards represented eight years of constant study…"with us REDS have not been a fad, but a business proposition…"

Her philosophy was to exhibit at nothing but the largest shows. To illustrate to prospective buyers the quality of her birds, she wrote, "…We sought the strongest completion, for we believe that a blue ribbon won in a small show with weak completion is worthless…"

"Neither have we followed any special judge…we selected our shows taking the judges as they came from either north or south and our birds seemed to please them all…"

The 1914 multiple page catalogue included mating details with prices of stock, eggs and shipping, etc.

Large photos were also included with the following promise by Vermillion, "Cuts used in this catalogue are from actual photographs unretouched. The practice of using cuts made from retouched photographs is misleading to say the least."

Based upon Ella Vermillion's own words published 103 years ago, I feel sure she meant what she said and her word was her bond. She was a women sure of her place in the world, not easy to do in the early 1900s which many still considered the Victorian Age.

Yes, she was aided by her husband who ran the Depot in Rusk for years. Ella had a rail pass and traveled free of charge because of his position with the railroad. Even so, it took a joie de vivre (love of life) and lots of courage to board the train in Rusk with Charlie and the other birds for a show in such places as San Antonio and New York.

Ella was often asked what strain of REDs she had. The answer, "…We can truthfully say we have now established a strictly "VERMILLIOM" strain…" This was due to "Charlie" and her meticulous attention to breeding.

Special thanks to Raymond Vermillion of Rusk for sharing his great grandmother's story. Vermillion family members have made extremely important contributions to Texas history and to our nation's history, as well.

Wish I could have sat down with Ella Berta Shaw Vermillion and conducted an interview. But come to think of it, I got to do the next best thing.

She has shared her story with me-through her catalogue. Thank goodness her descendants preserved it.

Are you taking care of old family scrapbooks, documents, letters and photos?

Ella Vermillon