Vollie Belle Haston's Marriage to Clarke Raymond

Co-Authors: Becky Hitchcock Harris and Wayne Haston

I have learned that there is a lot of information “out there” (be it factual or inaccurate lore) about Vollie Belle Haston’s life and tragic death.  I’d love to hear anything you have heard or know about Vollie Belle’s life or her death.  WayneH37@aol.com

In March 1937 my grandfather Payne died. One of the dearest souls on earth. A man after Gods’ own heart I know he didn’t drink, ———, never cursed, and was a devout church member. He had a wonderful voice and led singing until his worn out body was paralyzed so he couldn’t even attend church. To this day when I hear certain old hymns I can hear his clear tenor notes ringing in my memory. His and granny’s’ life was so happy and it left her so broken, so unsatisfied she came to live with us part of the time and lived in her own home the rest of the time but I’ll tell you more about her later. But I know or feel like Grandpa Payne is at rest with Granny who followed this year. You are seeing a spot here and there on your pages I guess. Well dear diary that’s tears. When I recall what happiness we had together I can’t help but cry. I can barely see through the tears now what pals they were! My happiness was theirs, my heartaches also. But they went the way we’ll all have to go maybe tomorrow, who knows? And may God help me to live such a life as they so I may meet them!

My mistake in marriage made me very hard hearted but I finally decided I needed friends. I couldn’t go through life as I was at that time. In Nov. 1938, I gave Billie Hutchison a home town boy a date. He was swell he was three years my junior but was very good company. I was 24 and looked much younger than that. I didn’t care for Billie too much, oh I was fond of him in a funny sort of way. He was sweet and treated me like a queen. He changed his way to do the things I liked. He gave me numerous gifts, far above his means I’m sure. Of course, I was nice to him in that way too. He came to care………….

Here the text of the diary ends abruptly and 36 following pages were ripped out of the diary, apparently hastily and quite forcibly.  The little (easily pickable) lock on the diary is still locked.  When Vollie Belle locked it after her final diary entry, she had no idea of how it would eventually be opened again.  

There is no mention of her final boyfriend, who became her second husband, (Clarke Raymond) in the diary because the part of the diary in which he probably was mentioned is gone.

Location in the Diary Where 36 Pages Were Ripped Out
Front Side of Diary
Back Side of Diary

In 1940, Vollie Belle (then age 25) was living with her parents in Spencer and had completed the first year of college, at Burritt College no doubt, but had not attended school in the previous year.  Her folks lived very near the college.  She was single at that time.  No occupation was recorded for her on the census.  In 1935, she and her parents were living in a “rural” area, but rural was anything less than 2,500 inhabitants and Spencer was small enough to be considered rural, so we can’t tell if she was living in Spencer in 1935 or somewhere that we might consider as being “out in the country”–but most likely in town on Mansion Street.

The woman in this photo appears to be Vollie Belle.  The man beside her was Henry Holman, otherwise known by people in Spencer as “Doc Yak.”  The date of the photo is unknown, but it was taken outside of the Nelson Drug Store in Spencer.  Perhaps this was taken between the time of her divorce to James Hurd Cruise and her marriage to Clarke Raymond, but that is only a guess.  There is no record, in Vollie Belle’s diary, of any connection between her and Doc Yak.  They were probably just friends, or perhaps she worked for him in the Nelson Drug Store at some point.

Hoyte Cook’s recollection of Doc Yak:

I recall Doc Yak as a well-dressed old gentleman who always seemed to have a calm-and-controlled demeanor, who was consistently smiling and friendly, and appeared to walk as if he were being careful not to stumble. He had a rather deep voice, and spoke with a neutral accent. His speech would have identified him as ostensibly sophisticated and refined, and not native to Van Buren County, Tennessee.  A visit to Spencer was not complete without a stop at Doc Yak’s for ice cream (one generous scoop for a nickel, two generous scoops for a dime). His store, as I recall, appeared somewhat disorderly and cluttered. There always seemed to be lots of magazines on racks. The only time I ever saw him engaged in a task that seemed to have him really focused and serious was one night when I walked into his store when the carnival was in town – and he was measuring out some medicine for one of the carnival ‘gypsies’. I believe that was the only time I ever walked into his store when he did not give me a cheerful greeting.  Doc was a delightful fellow.”

Doug Woodlee: I don’t know if he actually owned Nelson Drug Store, but he is the only person I ever saw behind the counter. He had one of only two or three telephones in town for a long time. He had an ice cream freezer behind the counter. It had the large round cartons of ice cream and lids that he would lift and scoop out ice cream into cones. The floor was wood. He chewed tobacco and had a hole drilled into the floor behind the counter. He had a very large funnel inserted into the hole and I’ve witnessed him spitting tobacco juice into the funnel. It was quite nasty. Doc Yak always seemed a bit eccentric to me, but how was I, a very young boy, to know eccentricity? I used to love going in the store and browsing through his rack of comic books.

Henry L. Holman was age 63 and living in the Bouldin Hotel in Spencer when the 1940 census was taken.

Childhood Memories of Miss Vollie Belle - Early 1940s

My recollection of Vollie Belle goes back to when I was a child and neighbor of her and her parents.  Their back door opened into a small backyard that adjoined the garden my grandparents and parents had.  The Haston house fronted on TN Hwy. 30 which runs between McMinnville and Pikeville, coming through downtown Spencer.
I used to see Vollie Belle coming and going out the back door.  The Hastons had a garage located on the alley/street that ran between Hwy. 30 and College St.  I can’t remember, but they or Vollie Belle must have had a car they kept there.
There was a big pear tree in their backyard with limbs that overhung the Woodlee garden. Ripe pears would frequently drop into the garden and I would pick them up and eat them.
One day I was in the garden looking for pears and Vollie Bell came out the back door with a cigarette in her mouth.  She was a beautiful woman, even to a less than six-year-old like me.  She spoke to me and I said to her “Miss Vollie Belle, I thought nice girls didn’t smoke.”  I was probably around five and a half years old.   
Later when she was killed, her “viewing” (wake) was held in one of the rooms of the house.  I’m not sure which room, but it was probably their living room.  Vollie Belle’s mother saw me in our garden and asked if I wanted to come in to see her.  She took me into the room and held me up so I could look into the casket.  I personally saw her face and there was no visible damage.  
She told me that she wanted me to know that from the day I told Vollie Belle I thought nice girls didn’t smoke, Vollie Belle never smoked another cigarette.
-Douglas Woodlee

Clarke Raymond

1931 High School Graduation from Ennis High School in Ennis, Montana

In 2022, Ennis High School (grades 9-12) had 127 students.

Clarke Raymond – Military Information

Second Army (Tennessee) Maneuvers

The years 1942-1945 were “happy hunting” times for single women in Middle Tennessee looking for a husband.  

In the autumn of 1942, the War Department decided to resume field maneuvers in Middle Tennessee. Large-scale war games had been conducted in an area around Camp Forrest, near Tullahoma, the previous summer, and General George S. Patton had perfected the armored tactics that were to bring him fame and his divisions victory in Europe. Between the wars Erwin Rommel, as a young military attache, had visited Nashville and Middle Tennessee to study and follow the cavalry campaigns of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest to help him develop a pattern for the use of tank units as cavalry. The army, perceiving in the Cumberland River and the hilly country to the south and north a similarity to the Rhine and Western Europe, decided to send divisions into the state for their last preparation before actual combat. Between September 1942 and March 1944 nearly one million soldiers passed through the Tennessee Maneuvers area. 

Lebanon was chosen as headquarters and Nashville as the principal railhead. Over the hills and valleys of twenty-one counties “Blue” and “Red” armies engaged in weekly strategic “problems,” with troops moved in and out according to a calendar of “phases” that lasted about four weeks apiece. In the military’s scenario Nashville was Cherbourg, without the bombing. The first and second problems usually took place east of Davidson County, but the third in each phase would poise attacking Blue troops against Red troops in defense around Donelson in Davidson County and Couchville in Wilson County. This force would advance to the east toward hilly terrain. In one instance at least a problem involved the defense of Berry Field in Nashville against Blue airborne troops.

Maneuvers paused at noon on Thursday or Friday, when a light plane would fly over the mock battle lines, sounding a siren. Then thousands of soldiers would seek recreation in Nashville and the county seat towns. Facilities were limited, despite the best efforts of the U.S.O. and the American Red Cross; movie theaters and cafes were packed; drug store soda fountains were forced to shut down twice a day for cleanup. Each army PX was strained to the limit. Churches opened their doors and set up lounges; schools opened their gyms for weekend dances. The Grand Ole Opry had never drawn such crowds than during these months when Middle Tennessee hosted the army’s preparations for the eventual invasion of Normandy in 1944.  Source

Memories of Margie Clark, 21 Years-Old Spencer Resident When Vollie Belle Was Murdered

Margie Clark attended all of the sessions of the first Circuit Court trial in which Clarke Raymond was tried for the murder of his wife.

Vollie Belle's best friend was Elizabeth Simmons. Charlie Simmons had a barbershop in Black Bottom [area in Spencer]. Haircuts 25 cents. Charlie's wife Mamie and daughter Elizabeth ran a restaurant there. I think that is how Vollie Belle met Clarke Raymond. She worked in an office, maybe an agricultural office. Clarke was out on the rifle range on Army maneuvers. It makes sense that he would go to a restaurant in town when possible. She was already divorced when Clarke came to town. I never heard the reason for her divorce or anything bad about Vollie Belle. She and Clarke married and I didn't hear anything about them until the shooting.

1944 Visit to Her In-Laws in Montana

Clarke Raymond's Honorable Military Discharge

The Madisonian (Virginia City, MT), September 13, 1946

Clarke and Vollie Belle - Their Post-War Married Life

From a 1947 court trial transcript (which you will learn more about in Part 5), Clarke provides some details about their life together after the war:

After Clarke was discharged, he went to Tennessee to meet the wife he hardly knew.  Vollie Belle met him in Murfreesboro, TN.  From there, they went to Vollie Belle’s parents’ home in Spencer and remained with her parents for two weeks.  Then they traveled to Montana to visit his family.  After spending three months with his family, Clarke and Vollie Belle remained another six months in Montana before returning to Spencer.  

Was Clarke planning to make their home in Montana?  Was Vollie Belle not happy living in Montana?  Was Clarke not happy living in Van Buren County, TN?  Just questions to ponder.  -Wayne Haston


Around the first of December [of 1946] they moved to the farm in Cummingsville, TN that Vollie’s father owned–the place where Vollie Belle died less than a year later.  Clarke’s family raised livestock, cattle and horses, in Montana.  Even though he had no experience farming, Clarke began to farm his father-in-law’s Cummingsville land.  Although Clarke doesn’t say it per se, the record indicates that Vollie Belle was employed somewhere in Spencer, while Clarke was on the farm alone during the day. 

Vollie Belle Haston

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2 thoughts on “3 – Vollie Belle Haston – Marriage to Clarke Raymond

  1. I have been reading these articles to my mother, Marjorie Clark. She is really enjoying your writing and of course it brings back many memories of that time.

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