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Shinbone Valley


Stricklands & Elders


By Vista Vitura Strickland



“However, if it [my writings] should afford even a small amount of pleasure to someone else, I shall be glad.”







I am due credit to Allie Clark Dowdey for information on our Strickland ancestors.


To Pamela Speed and Diana Burton who helped me arrange this for publication in 1982.


To Rebecca Radde for helping me get it published.

2009 Pictures, Indexing, Binding and Reprinting

Pam Speed and Melissa Speed



Vista Vitura Strickland




Ancel Butler Strickland and Rebecca Spruill(s) Strickland


Inscribed on the back of this picture:
Ancel Butler Strickland Born 1816 in GA died Feb 1899 during coldest weather South had ever known, buried in Union Cemetery Clay Co Ala

Born 1822 in S.C.
Married Dec. 27, 1844 Talladega Co. Ala
Died Buried in Union Cemetery Clay Co Ala
10 children, (6 boys and 4 girls)
Served asHome Guard in Civil War and later as Justice of Peace 30 yrs Clay County Alabama


My great-grandfather, Ancel Butler Strickland, was born in Georgia in 1816, married Agnes Lewis in Georgia. He, with his wife and brother, Troup, and sister, Betsy, moved to the Kentuck region in Talladega County, Alabama, across the mountain and west of Shinbone Valley, what year, I do not know. He was father to Jane, Augustus, Artemus (called Dick), and Sidney (called Bud). His wife, Agnes died and he married again to Rebecca “Becky” Spruill, who was born in South Carolina. Later he moved to Shinbone Valley and settled on Kichemedogee Creek, a relatively large stream running east across the valley. Another smaller stream, the Kichemedogee, ran into the big creek from the north about a half-mile west of Ancel and Becky’s house. This was at that time in Talladega County, but later, about 1846, a line was drawn through the county forming Clay County.

Thus, Ancel was placed in Clay County. On this farm on the Kichemedogee, Ancel raised a large family. Ancel and Becky were parents of Marion (called Dock), Emily, S.M. Clay, Tom, Tilda, Reed, Tolbert, Laura, Bass and Josie. After many years, Rebecca “Becky” died, and Ancel married for the third time Mrs. Sarah Shaddix Panel, a widow, and was the father of Oliver. He lived here until his death at the age of 84.



B. 3-23-1845 – D. 10-14-1919

B. 1854 - D. 1901



Genette Artlissa Elder Strickland & James Albert Franklin Strickland 1954


Shinbone Valley
Table of Contents

Indian istory of Shinbone Valley
Life in the Valley
Church & Singings
Back to Work
Sadness & Other Things
Going to Town
Schooldays & Fun!!
Places Where We Lived
Paradise Lost
Spring & Summer in Texas
Texas Is Home
A Sentimental Journey


Strickland – A History

Table of Contents

Grandpa Clay’s Family (copied from the S. M. C. Strickland Family Bible)
My Father’s Brothers & Sisters
The Children of James “Albert” Franklin and Genette “Nettie” Artlissa Elder Strickland (my brothers and sisters)
Descendants of Albert & Nettie Strickland To Approximately 1979

Elder – A History

Table of Contents

The Elders – A History
The Family of Joseph Elder



Indian History of Shinbone Valley

This book consists of three parts: “Shinbone Valley,” “Stricklands” and “Elders”. It is not meant to be an official document of facts, perfect in detail as to history, geography, or its people, but is written as seen through the eyes of a child who spent the first ten years of her life in the magic of this valley with its tall trees, bubbling springs and crystal streams.

If inaccuracies are found in description of places, people or things, please be lenient, for I am writing it as I remember it. Those things that happened before I could remember were told to me, for the most part, by my father and mother. If sometimes the words don’t come out right, I would like to think that is because I have worked more with numbers than with words.

I am writing it for my own pleasure – a story of my valley and my people which I loved dearly as a child with a love that has lingered on through the years. However, if it should afford even a small amount of pleasure to someone else, I shall be glad.

How far Shinbone Valley extends to the south, to the north, or east, I do not know. I know only that it lies in the foothills of the Appalachian range of Blue Ridge Mountains, in the evening shadow of Mt. Cheaha, which is in the northeastern part of Alabama. It is the highest mountain in the state, with an elevation of 2,468 feet. No other mountain in the state has an altitude of more than 1,600 feet.

There are two mountains on the west side of this valley: First, Horseblock Mountain, then Cheaha, standing majestically above it, joining it with a sort of pack-saddle. Rain falling on the north end of the mountain flows north in Hilliby Creek, and that falling on the south end flows south in Horse Creek.

From that valley Mt. Cheaha appears to wear a veil of misty blue, and because of that was sometimes called the “Blue Mountain.” From the top of Cheaha, on a clear day, one may see a seventy-five mile expanse of rugged mountainous grandeur and splendor. This area was once Indian country. History teaches that there were great migrations of various tribes of Indians to this section of the country in the years following the explorations by the Spaniards. Although there are no Indian reservations in Alabama, the state was, at the time of the first white settlements, one of the most heavily populated Indian regions in the United States – Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Cherokee. According to history, when the white man came, there was an Indian Chief Chinabee on the west side of Cheaha. What tribe I do not know, but he was called “The Peace Maker.” On the east side of the mountains was Chief Shinbone and his tribe of Creek Indians. Chief Chinabee and Chief Shinbone were friends, and when the white man first came the Indians were friendly to them.

One of the first white settlers west of the mounts was a Mr. McEllery. It is said that whatever the Indians dreamed that someone gave them, they demanded that it be given them. Chief Chinabee dreamed that Mr. McEllery gave him a certain something. He went to the white man and demanded it. The man gave it to him. Mr. McEllery owned a spotted horse. Chief Chinabee dreamed that he gave him the horse, so he demanded it. Mr. McEllery gave him the horse. Then Mr. McEllery had a dream that the Indians gave him a tract of land. He went to Chief Chinabee and told him of his dream. The Chief gave him the land, and it is probably the same location where McEllery’s Station is now located in Talladega County, where Chief Chinabee later lost his life in a riding accident.

It was to this Indian country—the land of Chief Chinabee in the morning shadow of Mt. Cheaha—that my great grandfather, Ancel Butler Strickland, came when he immigrated to Alabama from Georgia. After living here for a number of years, he moved to the east side of the mountains, the valley of Chief Shinbone and settled on Ketchamegherke Creek. Ketchamegherke is an Indian name and was not pronounced by the inhabitants of the valley anything like it is spelled. It was called “Kichemedogee”. That is all I ever heard it called, and that is what I shall call it. Other white settlers came, and in the 1830’s the white man, by various treaties, secured title to all the land. A pact was made between Grandfather Ancel and Chief Shinbone, whereby the Chief, with his family, lived on Grandfather’s land as long as they lived. For this privilege, the Chief gave Grandfather his peace pipe. The pipe is now in the possession of my Uncle Northern Strickland’s family and is valued very highly.

The Indian War was fierce in this part of the country. Talladega County was one of the bloodiest battlefields of the war, and Shinbone Valley was a part of Talladega County at that time. David Crockett went to Talladega to fight the Indians, so history tells us. The Indians were marched off in what is known as the “Trail of Tears” to a land of the white man’s choosing. Many of them died along the trail. How sad to think, driven from their beautiful homeland of mountains, tall trees and waterfalls, to an unknown land, never to be free again to roam at will.

Chief Shinbone and family remained on the Kichemedogee, on Grandfather’s place, his glory and chiefhood stripped from him—his tribe all gone. They lived there until they died natural deaths and buried, I am told, on top of a little mountain overlooking the valley. This valley which was named for Chief Shinbone in what is now known as “Shinbone Cemetery”, not far from the Cypress Springs, crystal clear springs bubbling up in a grove of beautiful trees with cypress knees bending all around—shall we say, “bending in prayer and mourning for the valley’s lost children, the Indians”.

When I was a child, evidence of Indians remained along the Kichemedogee. One year my father cleared what was known as the “sandy bottoms”, where Chief Shinbone and his family had lived. It was overgrown in yucca, “bear grass” we called it—the only yucca I ever saw in Alabama, except in Uncle Tol Strickland’s yard. This “sandy bottoms” was an enchanting place, a never-never land, or a land of yesterday—a great expanse of sand, yucca and Indian relics, bordered on one side by the Kichemedogee Creek and surrounded on the other side by a deep forest. Papa cut the yucca off and hauled it out into the woods by the wagon loads. He plowed up the sandy land and farmed it.

We would go with him occasionally, just for the pleasure of it. Mama would fish and we would play. We gathered up the Indian pottery that lay scattered over the sand and played house. There were plates, bowls and every kind of pottery, most of it broken, some only chipped. They were not pretty, but looked like mud dishes with no ornamentation, so we never thought of taking any of them home. We left them sitting on the tables of sand; hoping to go back and play with them again sometime. Chester, my brother, gathered arrowhead and played with them, gave them away and traded with other boys. Papa took a stone trough used by the Indians to beat their corn and used it for a chicken trough.

There were some Indian graves in the woods on a road that we sometimes traveled to and from school. They were still mounded up to some extent and were decorated with beads and trinkets. There were a number of Indian graves in Union Cemetery. I have often wondered about the young Indian braves and maids who once roamed these hills. Many beautiful Indian legends center on this area. The Indians were a proud, imaginative people whose culture was no less dramatic than our own, and a people so different, yet created by the same hands as we, and who in their ancient way communicated with their God.

Shinbone Valley

Chapter 1

Life in the Valley

I was born to Albert (J.A.F.) and Genette “Nettie” Elder Strickland in a log house in what we called “in the mountains”, at the foot of Horseblock Mountain even with the highest point on Mt. Cheaha. As a child those mountains and what lay west were as much a mystery to me as the countries on the other side of the ocean are today. Although I had been as far south as Lineville and Pyriton, about nine or ten miles, east to Liberty in Randolph County, and north to Oxford and Anniston, fifteen to twenty miles, I had little knowledge of the country beyond Macedonia on the north, McClintock’s Mill, Grandpa Strickland’s old place, and the lower bridge on the Kichemedogee Creek east, and upper bridge south—length of five or six miles and breadth of maybe four miles.

The part of this valley I was most familiar with was the Union community, so-called for the school. The community centered around a little village about a quarter mile north of the upper bridge on Kichemedogee.

I know the village only as “Town”, or “Mt. Zion”. A post office was there in former years, named “Dempsey”, and one on Swan Branch called “Buckeye”. They had been discontinued and mail delivered on rural routes. The village consisted of seven residences, one general store, selling everything from groceries and dry-goods to buggies and wagons, a grocery store, drug store, blacksmith shop and church of Christ, called Mt. Zion. A Baptist church, cemetery and school were across a little valley west. This was all called Union.

Uncle Jube Elder, Mama’s brother, owned and operated the general store. Later he sold it and his home to Mr. Jim Fuller, moved to Oxford and ran a business. Little Joe Smith ran the grocery store, Dr. Mackey the drug store, and Mr. Tom Elliot was the blacksmith.

The big road (public road) came through town from Lineville, running over Gray Hill (a large hill that joined the mountains) meandering around the foothills of the mountain for four miles, crossing High Falls Branch, Pretty Branch, and Swan Branch, and passing eighteen houses to Macedonia school and church house—Elderite Christian, so-called because my great grandfather, Wych Elder, established it, then on to Oxford.

The people in the valley were comparatively poor and ignorant of the ways of the world. Most of the older ones owned their homes, and some were very well fixed, but none wealthy—that is, in silver and gold or worldly goods. They were rich in the spirit of cheerfulness and good will and other things that really count for wholesome living and happiness.

Only those who owned their homes remained in one place for long at a time. Many rented land and moved most every year from place to place in the valley. We were among the last, so we lived in many different places.

The land was rather poor, much of it hilly, but with terracing around the hills and enriching with fertilizer, good crops could be raised. It didn’t take much to live on for no one demanded a very high standard of living. I suppose there were some in the valley who didn’t seem to care whether or not they had anything, nor how their homes and surroundings looked. Most of them did.

Life at its best was crude as compared to today, but it was adequate; shelter, the warmth of fire, clothing, blankets and quilts, food to stay hunger and cool water to quench thirst. There were no indoor plumbing facilities, nor running water or electricity, no air-conditioning or central heat, or even circulating heaters, but big fireplaces in nearly every room. Everyone’s diet was not perfect, and there were no vitamins, only sassafras tea in the spring, and, for some, sulphur and molasses. Modern people would consider it very primitive, and so it was, but in those days it was at least comfortable.

Almost everyone had orchards and gardens, and some had vineyards, so they raised their own fruit and vegetables—beans, peas, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and corn for bread. Cane was raised, and they made, or had made, their syrup. Most had one or more cows, some hogs and chickens, geese or ducks. So there was milk and butter, meat and eggs, feathers for beds and pillows, and some owned sheep that furnished wool for clothing and meat for the table.

In the early days, most furniture was handmade—bedsteads, tables and chairs, and some were quite beautiful. I remember seeing a homemade four-poster bed with a mat of splits for the mattress to lie on, and we had some beautiful chairs and a table Uncle John Strickland made. Wagons were also built, candles were molded and even bullets were made.

For so long there was no stock law, so the stock ran loose in the hills and mountains. The fields were patches fenced with zigzag rail fencing like rickrack. Bells were put on the lead cows and sheep, and each person knew the sound of his own bell. If the stock failed to come home at night, a search was on for them. The ears of the cattle, sheep and hogs were notched before they were turned out, each man with his own mark, so if they ran wild in the woods as they often did, especially hogs, they could go and hunt them down and know their own when found. There were deer and wild turkeys in the woods just for the taking, and an abundance of wild fruit and nuts.

For a long time the sheep were sheared in the spring and the wool carried to the scouring plant where it was washed, and then taken to the mill for carding into rolls. It was then ready to be spun into thread and woven into cloth for garments, which was done by the women of the valley. Later, they began selling their wool and buying cloth and most of them sold their sheep. My mother wove when she was very young. We had a spinning wheel and I can remember seeing her card and spin thread for knitting. Ours was a large model walking wheel that required a standing operator, as were most of them in the valley. Mrs. Phillips and Miss Bell Backus had a small one and they could sit down and spin. I can remember seeing Grandpa Elder’s loom, and also his candle molds, but they were in the smokehouse. I never saw them in use.

When Papa and Mama were very young they had log rollings, house raisings, quilting and candy pullings. If someone wanted to build a house, logs were cut, the neighbors came in, and soon the house was built. Not all the old houses in the valley were made of logs; however, many of them were made of plank. If a man wanted to put some new land into cultivation, the timber was cut off and there was a log rolling and soon had a “new ground” ready to farm. This was a lot of hard work for both the men and the women, but they enjoyed it. I have heard Papa tell how they sang and whooped it up as they rolled logs, and Mama tell of baking stacks and stacks of “half-moon” pies, peach and apple, for the log rollings and how those hungry men ate them. The quiltings and corn shucking sounded like great fun. The men and boys went to them and the boys held lights for the girls to quilt by and kept their needles threaded. There were always big suppers at these affairs and the candy pullings had to be sweet and enjoyable.

About 1903, a stock law as passed. Stock were not allowed to run loose any longer, so the people tore down their field fences and built zigzag rail fences around some land for pasture. Most of the lots were of rails. The horse and mules were kept in stables at night, which were sometimes built into the barn, but often were little log buildings rowed up across the lot. They had lofts where fodder was kept. Most of the horse and cow troughs were hollow logs sawed open with legs attached and many had hay racks made of slats in the middle of their lots from which the horses and mules ate hay. Most of the yards were fenced with picket, or pilings, but many were torn down after the stock law.

Much of the farming was done by hand, without any machinery, only a walking plow and hoe. Cornstalks were cut with a hoe and cotton stalks knocked with a stick and burned early in the spring. A familiar sight in spring nights was the sky lit up with bright lights from rows of stalks across the fields blazing and the men and boys silhouetted against the lights running from row to row with pine torches lighting them. The air was filled with the scent of smoke and I loved it.

Planting and cultivating were next, after fertilizing. Some people used guano horns to strew the guano—a long metal tube with a top like a funnel. This guano horn was held with one hand and with the other the guano was taken from a bag at the side which hung from a strap over the shoulder. Some corn and cotton seed were dropped by hand. Not all farming was done this way. Papa had a guano distributor and a cotton and corn planter, both horse drawn, though he had to walk. He had a riding cultivator and raked stalks with a horse drawn rake on which he rode. Some had hay mowers, but much of the wheat and oats were cut with a scythe or cradle, tied into bundles by hand and put into the barn or stable loft ready for the mules and horses. The cows were fed cotton seed and fodder or hay. In the old days, many people worked oxen, but the only oxen I ever saw plowing were Hayes Smith’s two big red ones.

The roads were kept up by the people. An overseer was appointed by the people and at certain times he would summon the men to come to a road working. They would meet at a certain place, bringing their mules, plows, axes, hoes, picks and shovels. They would cut the necessary trees and bushes, plow down the banks, fill and clean out ditches and do whatever was required. The roads were narrow. Even the “big road” (public road) was just wide enough for two wagons to pass, with deep ditches on either side most of the way, and high banks on the hills. The side roads were kept up by those who lived along them.

The first time Papa visited there after moving to Texas, someone said to him, “Ab, I guess you can see we have better roads than when you left here.” Papa said he had just been wondering what had happened to the roads. They had shrunk to mere cow trails. He couldn’t imagine them every having been worse.

Everybody worked hard through the spring and early summer, planting and cultivating crops and harvesting grain. When the last sheaf of grain was hauled in, the last furrow plowed, and the last row hoed, everyone shouted with loud whoops of sheer joy. Now they were able to rest and enjoy themselves for a season. If you heard someone in the field in the early summer shouting at the top of his voice in a joyous tone, you would know that his crop was laid.

Common interests and short distances created closeness. Everybody knew everybody else and was interested in their welfare. In sickness, the neighbors were there to help in any way possible. If an emergency arose and someone was needed at once, you just took a hunting horn and gave three long blasts and soon help was on the way, often a crowd. If a doctor was needed, someone mounted a horse and galloped off in a hurry.

There were three doctors at Delta, Drs. Stevens, Jenkins and Garrett. Prior to that Dr. Harris and Dr. McClintock were there. The last few years we were there, Dr. Mackey lived in our village, and Dr. Campbell was at Campbell’s Cross Roads, and they all practiced in our community. Uncle Joe Carter studied to be a doctor, but the Civil War or something had interfered. He knew a lot about medicine and was of great help in case of illness in the community, always welcomed in the homes.

The people enjoyed visiting and often took their families and went to spend the night with each other. They did a lot of walking, especially the young folks. When Mama was a girl, she thought of walking to Macedonia to church and back on Sunday morning, then to Mt. Zion or Union to a singing in the afternoon, eight miles or more in all. Many rode in wagons, some in “steer wagons”. I can remember riding in Uncle Tom Strickland’s Steer wagon, the steer or ox traveling so slow we could barely tell we were moving. Some had buggies. Mr. Jeff Davis and family rode in a surrey with fringe on top. We owned a two-horse wagon and a one-horse wagon, both with spring seats and two buggies, one a new top buggy with rubber tires, and the other a little “run-about” open top buggy, which was given to Papa by the church at Liberty in Randolph County while he was preaching there.

Our mule was a big black mule named Jim, which Mama would hitch to the one-horse wagon pile us in and go places. Chester, my brother, could hitch him up and drive him alone when he was only nine years old. We had a young mule named Nell, and two horses, Gray Maude, a big beautiful iron gray mare, and Black Maude, a smaller black mare. These two Maudes were the fastest horses in the country. Papa could hitch either of them to the buggy and they would out-trot anything near or far. Black Maude was a little faster, and both trotted and paced. How proud Papa was of these horses and how we all enjoyed them.

I can remember riding Gray Maude behind Papa from our farm down the big creek to the Singleton field, which joined Grandpa Strickland’s place south of the mill pond which Papa had rented and worked in addition to our farm. I kept the big black powder cans filled with guano and cottonseed ready for the distributor. To spend the day out in the field, eating lunch with Papa at the Singleton spring and riding horseback two miles to and from home was like a picnic to me. Gray Maude was easily frightened, and seemed to delight in running away. One day Papa was plowing her and a heel fly got after her. She broke loose from the plow and ran out into the middle of the field, stood on her hind legs, turned around and around like a show horse, and headed straight for where I was playing on a ditch bank. I rolled into the ditch and she jumped right over my head and ran out across the road and stopped as if nothing had happened. Another time when the top buggy was brand new, one Sunday morning Papa hitched her to it. He decided to use a different bridle, with its blinds off and she saw that top standing up behind her, she was off like the wind. She ran out into the road and started down it when the buggy turned over in the ditch. The harness broke and she left the buggy lying on its top with the wheels in the air, spinning. She ran a little distance and stopped and looked back and started grazing. We just knew our beautiful new buggy was ruined, but it wasn’t hurt.

After Uncle Campbell Carter and Cousin Zolemma Smith died, Aunt Lula Carter and Cousin Andy Smith married each other. One day they were driving Gray Maude in a buggy. Mr. Wilf’s little dog, Son, came running after them, barking. Uncle Andy hit at the dog with the buggy whip and Maude ran away, turning the buggy over and breaking several of Aunt Lula’s ribs. That was a short time before we came to Texas, and Uncle Andy owned her.

The first wedding I recall was Aunt Prudie Elder’s. We walked from up in the mountains to Grandpa’s. Mama made Elsie and me some capes to wear to the wedding—beautiful blue and white plaid on one side and red and white plaid on the other. On the way, we were running and playing and I fell down in a clump of daisies by the roadside and got leaves and pine needles all over my cape.

When Uncle Malie Strickland married Ola Newsome, he came and borrowed our buggy to go to the wedding so he could bring her home with him. He drove off whistling “Some love coffee, some love tea. I love a pretty girl and she loves me." We were at the wedding, and also at the infair dinner at Grandpa’s the next day. Papa married them. He also married Rufus Moore and Dona Newsome. I remember that wedding. Mr. Bud McClintock, Aunt Sidney’s brother, was there from Texas and the men went out behind the lot and had a shooting match.

The first couple Papa married was Tom Roberts and Josie Smith. He said when he got to the home of the bride that evening, the place was covered with horses and carriages, and the house was full of people. He almost panicked, thinking, “All these people came here to see me make a fool of myself”. But everything went well and they were all happy.

People enjoyed playing pranks on each other, and sometimes it proved dangerous. One night when Papa was a young man, he was walking home from a “play party”, so called to distinguish them from dances. The moon was shining as he walked along with his hands in his pockets, whistling, when suddenly a pistol snapped right even with him. He stopped. Again it snapped. Glancing around he caught sight of someone in the shadows on the road bank. Without thinking, he made a lunge for the figure, grabbing a pair of legs and jerked the owner of them into a ditch and piled on top of him, beating him with his fists. “What’s the matter, Ab? I was just playing. I won’t do it again!” Papa said he was scared to death, but he told him, “Don’t you ever do that again or I’ll beat the fire out of you.” It was another boy of the community, Gaz Mitchell, who left the party early, knowing that Albert Strickland would be walking down that road alone, and he would have some fun. They were the best of friends from then on.

Our last night there, Halloween night, Joseph and Barney Strickland, and Hubert and Ocoa Garner, thought up a plan to have some fun. They made a mud doll, got some foxfire from the woods and made eyes for it—eyes that would shine in the dark. They put the doll on a base so they could carry it easily. When darkness came, they set out for Mr. Johnson’s. Reaching the house, they set the doll on the top doorstep, then all the boys but one ran and hid behind some stacks of shingles in the yard. The other boy knocked on the door and ran around the corner of the house. Mr. Johnson opened the door, saw the eyes shining in the dark and slammed the door shut. He got a shotgun, raised the window and shot out at it. Shot sprinkled all around the boys who were behind the shingle stacks. They came out yelling, “Don’t shoot, don’t shoot.” They never tried that trick again at night. Barney Strickland and Foster Burt did bring a doll similar to that one to our house on Sunday afternoon, setting it on the doorstep and rapping and hiding. Of course, when we went to the door we could see what it was and it was fun. They then took it to Grandpa Elder’s, and Grandpa and Grandma got fun out of it.

A farmer’s union was organized, meeting in the upper story of Smith’s mill house. Papa was a charter member of it. It must have been something of a secret order then, at least in that locale, with member initiations. Papa didn’t tell us what they did for initiation, he said it was a secret but he told us enough that we thought it must be fun. There was a Farmer’s Union supper one Saturday evening at Mt. Zion church house, with all kinds of good things to eat. Everybody in the community must have been there, for the place was covered with people.

Then, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) organized in the Union church house and everyone came that day. Those who wished to join went into the house and the others stayed outside visiting and having a picnic until a cloud came with a quick rain. The church house doors were locked so no one could get in. Many ran to the school house, others got under trees, wagons, or anything for shelter. Some became very angry because they couldn’t get into the church house. The men had a baseball team that played surrounding communities. Union had one of the best teams around. Mr. Jesse Dempsey was one of the best players.

When Papa and Mama were young, there was a lot of whiskey made, bootlegged and drunk in the valley. Papa drank some with the other boys though he was never drunk. Though there were stills around, he was never at one. One year, soon after he and Mama were married, they could see a light every night at a still about a half mile away. He knew what it was, but never went to it. One man in the community even dug a basement and well under his house and made whiskey down there. That was at what I knew as the Singleton place, south of the mill pond on Kichemedogee. He had a large family of girls and they helped him make and sell the whiskey.

There was lawbreaking in other ways. For instance, if a man thought someone had, or was going to report him to the law, or perhaps someone didn’t suit him, he got a group of men who called themselves “White Caps” together and took him into the woods and whipped him, calling it “white capping”. One night some men took a man and his wife, who was an invalid, and whipped them unmercifully. Some of the men went to prison for that and others ran away to Texas. Papa said he saw one man arrested on the doorsteps of the Union Church as he was going inside for services one Sunday morning. He was placed in a buggy and taken off to jail. This stopped the whiskey-making and bootlegging, and most of the drinking. However, some men still drank but not in public in the Union community.

Once, while living in the mountains, we went down Pretty Branch instead of out by Lee Carter’s on our way to church Sunday morning. About the only time I recall going that road which was very little traveled, it was spring. As we rode along in the wagon, the air was spicy and sweet. As we rounded the hill, there was a steep bank on the upper side of the road, a man was lying in the road. An umbrella was over him, a bottle, partially full of whiskey lay by his side, and a horse stood by, his bridle reins trailing the ground. It was “Black Jim” Carter. He was asleep. We drove out of the road, which was difficult, and around him – we didn’t go back that way on the way home. He was Uncle Joe Carter’s son-in-law, no relation otherwise. Uncle Joe had sons named Jim “Red Jim” and Bill.

I remember one Christmas Eve, Elsie and I were going to the store, when we came to the edge of the woods; we heard some loud talking and hollering up the road just around the bend. We slipped up to the bend in the road, hid in the bushes and watched. Jim Fuller, John Carter and Lias Spear were drinking out of a jug in a clearing by the side of the road. One would take a drink and throw the jug on the ground with a loud whoop, another would run and grab it up and take a drink and slam it on the ground again. This they did continually until they had enough and hid the jug under a pile of bushes. We waited until they were gone and preceded on to the store. On the way home, we got the jug, took it down the road and hid it under some sweet gum sprouts on the other side of the road by the fence. It was still there the last time we looked which was quite some time later.

Someone asked Papa in Alabama if Texas wasn’t a land of outlaws and renegades. He told them, “No, he supposed those outlaws came to Texas, straightened up and flew right for Texas was a land of honesty and uprightness, more so than the part of Alabama that he knew.”

Chapter 2

Church & Singings

Social life in the valley centered around the churches. I don’t know when the Baptist Church at Union was established, nor by whom, but I understand that Christian Church at Macedonia was organized by my great grandfather, Wych Elder. The church of Christ at Mt. Zion was established before or during the Civil War.

During the Civil War, a meeting was held in a clearing at the edge of the woods. Uncle Joe Carter, AWOL from the war, was hiding in the woods. He would come to the meeting every night, staying in the edge of the woods, so no one could see him, but near enough to hear the preaching and singing. One night he came out, down through the congregation to give the preacher his hand and God his heart, was baptized into Christ, and from that day forward lived a faithful Christian life.

When Papa was nearly grown, a preacher conducted an outdoor revival at Union in a clearing at the edge of the woods. The preacher wore a frock-tail coat and was the rip-roaring, exhorting kind, running back and forth, leaping into the air, and flinging his arms as he preached. While clearing the ground for a meeting, a small piece of root had been left sticking up directly in the preacher’s path. One night when he had reached the very zenith of activities, he hung his foot on the root and made a dive for the ground with his arms outstretched before him and his legs spread wide. His coat flew over his head as he hit the ground. He got up, brushed himself off and went on preaching.

Campbell Carter, who was later my uncle, and was about grown, was sitting near the front. He became so tickled he was about to explode. Turning to a boy sitting next to him, he started to whisper, “Let’s go get some wa- wa-“, then he exploded, “Water”, ending up at the top of his voice. He and the other boy got up and hit the trail to the spring, where they rolled and hollered until they were exhausted. Thinking they were through with laughing, they returned. When they came to the edge of the clearing, the preacher said loudly, “Well, I see Brother Carter’s coming back.” The boys exploded again, ran back down the trail to the spring, laughing as they went, and stayed there until services were over.

There were other preachers who came to Union, but the only one I can recall was preacher Jim Shaddix, an old man who was blind and wore a long beard, and preached very long sermons. They used hymn books in this church, thick, long black books, with no notes, only words. Mr. Tol Shaddix and Mr. Greenberry Shaddix were the song leaders. The leader would get up and announce the song title, tell the page it was on, and the meter to sing it in, and then he would read a line or two of the words. The congregation would sing those words and he would then read the next line and they would sing again. Their songs were “Amazing Grace”, “How Firm a Foundation”, and other old hymns, many of them in minor key. They sang very forcefully, some with quavering voices, sweet and touching. Sometimes there was shouting as they sang. Seems that I can hear them singing “I am Bound for the Promised Land” in the minor key, with Grandma Sarah Strickland shouting at the top of her voice.

The preachers I can remember at Macedonia Christian Church were Mama’s cousin, Whit Elder of Chambers County, a Mr. Lyman and Mr. Langford, also from Chambers County. Papa and Mama were members of this church for a long time, Mama was raised in it. Theirs was an arousing religion that played heavily on the emotions. There was shouting in this church and foot washing. Mama didn’t like shouting.

Services were held at Mt. Zion every Sunday. I don’t know whether they were at the other churches or not. Each church had preaching only once each month—at Union the 2nd Sunday, Macedonia the 3rd and Mt. Zion the 4th. They always had it this way.

Mr. Arch Preston of Delta was the minister at Mt. Zion when Papa and Mama were young. Papa said that for a long time he thought Mr. Preston a very dull and uninteresting preacher, never putting any enthusiasm into his sermons, talking more like a teacher than a preacher. He could never get interested in his sermons, but he believed that all churches were right and went to all of them.

A preacher came into the valley and held a meeting at Union. He said he was a “dyed-in-the-wool Baptist”, and he preached the Baptist doctrine. He later held a meeting at Macedonia and preached an altogether different doctrine, shouting loudly from the pulpit, “Don’t call me a Baptist, I’m just a flat-footed, piney woods Christian.” This started Papa thinking—he had never noticed that different churches preached different doctrines. They couldn’t all be right—and maybe none of them were right. He thought: “If there is a right way, the Bible will teach it, and if the Bible teaches it, I’m going to find it. Let God be true, but every man a liar.”

He didn’t have a Bible, but Mama had a pocket size New Testament. He began reading it. He read nearly all the time when he was at home, and when he plowed the fields he carried the Testament in his pocket. He would read a portion of the scriptures, then ponder on them as he plowed another round, he read the Testament two or three times, thinking about it as he read, and memorizing a large part of it.

He kept going to church, to Union on the 2nd Sunday, Macedonia the 3rd, and Mt. Zion the 4th Sunday of each month. Mr. Preston’s preaching became interesting. He could follow right along with the sermon as it was being preached, and it was plain as could be. He was preaching the Bible just as it was. On the 4th Sunday in April, being April 28, 1895, Papa, James Albert Franklin Strickland, was baptized into the church of Christ, and in 1903 he entered the ministry. He began preaching for the congregation at Mt. Zion in 1904, was minister there for five years, building up and strengthening the church, then leaving it to come to Texas. He preached at other places also, Liberty in Randolph County, Erin, the Hobbs settlement, Campbell’s Cross Roads.

The first Christian Church in Oxford wanted Papa to preach for them, offering to put him through college if he would, but he would not. There was not, at that time, a great a difference in the church of Christ and the First Christian Church and this was a temptation to him. He yearned for an education, but remained true to his convictions. I might add here that he had this same offer made to him many years later in Texas. One day, the president of the bank in Valley Mills, Texas, and another man, both leaders in the First Christian Church in Valley Mills, came to the field where he was working and told him he was too good a preacher and too smart a man to spend time working in the fields. They said if he would preach for the Christian Church they would support him and his family and send him to Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. This was during the Depression years when it was hard to make a living, but still he would not. I don’t think he was even tempted.

It took Mama, Genette Artlissa Elder Strickland, a while to make up her mind about the church of Christ. Her Grandfather Elder was a minister of the Christian Church, having established the first church of that kind in Alabama. Her father and mother were very devoted to that church and had raised her to love it. She studied hard before making up her mind. I don’t know the date of her baptism into the church of Christ, but she was a faithful Christian ever after. She loved to read the Bible. She and Aunt Beulah Strickland used to sit flat on the floor with our family Bible and big topical Bible open before them studying the scriptures. Aunt Beulah was baptized the year we came to Texas.

Mt. Zion was the only church in the valley with a steeple and bell. We could hear the bell on Sunday mornings, ringing out clear and sweet, calling the people to worship in tones so loud they could be heard the full length of the community when the atmosphere permitted. As I listened to the ringing of the bell, my spirits soared as if on wings of angels. Sundays were such heavenly days for me. The sun shone with a softer, mellower glow. The bird songs were sweeter, and the fragrance of the roses and honeysuckle more glorious. Sundays were special days.

How happy we were on Sunday morning, Mama getting us ready for church services, putting on our prettiest clothes and shoes and ribbons in our hair. In the summer, our pretty folding fans hung from our necks on baby ribbon. The girls wore hats with streamers—Chester in his best pants and shirt; Papa singing as he shaved, shined his shoes and dressed. Mama rushed around, getting herself ready and making sure everybody was just right. The smell of good food prepared for company was in the kitchen. There was always company if we went home. Papa used to say that he was born on Sunday, and he wondered if that was why he always loved Sunday so much.

The Mt. Zion church bell was also used for another purpose. Sometimes as we went about our daily lives we would hear the bell tolling. Everyone would stop and listen, count and wonder, knowing it was a death knell. Someone in the valley had died. The bell tolled slowly, giving the age of the person—one toll for each year. Mr. John Carter was the sexton, or bell ringer. Sometimes when we lived nearby, on Sunday mornings Papa would ring the bell for him. Once he let me help. He started it ringing and gave me the rope. It lifted me off the floor as it swung back and forth. How exciting! And what a thrill it gave me to be ringing this bell whose tongue shouted out Shinbone’s joys and sorrows in tones so loud and clear.

Aunt Sarah Carter, Mama’s sister, is one I always think of when I think of Mt. Zion. She had a houseful of boys and girls, from grownups to babies, but she was there every Sunday morning if she was able. Either she, or Dora, the oldest girl, fixed the communion table before services and took it up afterwards.

One thing I remember about Aunt Sarah was she always had in her satchel a piece of “sweet bread” she would take it out and give to her little ones and all the little ones near her. How good it was. Dear, sweet Aunt Sarah, she was truly a wonderful Christian woman. No, I shall not forget Mt. Zion and all the wonderful people who made up the church, people I knew and loved from infancy.

Mt. Zion was the first church in the valley to adopt the seven shaped note song books. The first book of this kind used there was “Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs”, and I think the next was “Perennial Songs”. For a time they used a little book of soul-stirring songs, “Windows of Heaven”. The last year we were there they began using “Sweetest Praise”, a beautiful red-backed book of the sweetest songs this side of heaven—“Heavenly Sunlight”, “Music in Heaven”, “In the Morning of Joy”… A Brother Linley from Texas preached a meeting that summer, and a Mr. Dyson taught a singing school. It seemed that almost everyone in the community attended this school, and Oh, how the music rang!

Papa was always popular in the community, from young boyhood on. As a young minister of the gospel and song director, it seemed everyone, even members of the other churches, trusted him and looked to him for counsel and guidance. Somewhere about this time, the Union Church decided to get song books with notes and to use seven shaped notes. The leaders came and consulted with Papa about the type of books that would be best. The old sacred harp strings were all held at Union, and the seven shaped note singings at Mt. Zion. Papa was a leader in both. He started leading when he was fourteen years old, and there were a number of good leaders in both seven and four shaped.

What wonderful times we had at the singings. Everybody sang as hard as they could for awhile, and then had a thirty minute recess. They all went to the well or spring, boys walking with girls, carrying their parasols over them and fanning them—always plenty of sparking and everybody was happy—then, back into the house for more singing.

The Sacred Harp Conventions met on both Saturday and Sunday, and sometimes there were three day conventions. Everybody sang to their heart’s content then, and no one ever seemed to get tired. And what food! Spread out on table cloths on the ground, sometimes on benches, but “dinner on the ground” under the shade of the trees—fried chicken, chicken pies that were out of this world, apple pies fit for a king, cakes and custards, and everything good. Lemonade stands under the big trees at Union sold “ice cold lemonade, made in the shade, and stirred with a spade” by the gobletfulls. Oh, how delicious and cooling! Sometimes watermelons were cut and eaten. Some of the finest melons in the land grew in the valley. Mothers sat in the shade of the trees caring for their children, fanning and talking while the other children ran and played.

Chapter 3


The crops were laid. Then in the summer came “big meetin’ time”. Everybody went to the protracted meetings at all the churches. No one thought of working at anything when meetings were in progress. That was a time for visiting and fellowship, enjoyment and serving the Lord. Everybody liked to have their meetings in the light of the moon. Of course, they couldn’t always do that, but they did as much as possible. In the evenings between sundown and dusk, people began to gather, coming from all directions—people walking, riding in wagons and buggies, on horseback and mules, people with happiness beaming from their freshly scrubbed faces.

In the dark of the moon, some would be carrying bundles of rich pine splinters which were stuck under the house to be brought out and lit for a torch to light their way home. We attended all the meetings at all the churches, but I knew the customs of Mt. Zion church better than any of the others. The bell was rung early, loud and long, and the lights were lit—kerosene lamps, hanging on the wall with shiny reflectors behind their globes. The women with children went in and spread pallets of quilts along the walls and in the corners. The men and young folks stayed outside talking and visiting until the bell was rung again, just a tap of the clapper, then the men and boys went in the north door and women and girls in the south door. The men sat on the north side and the women on the south. A few of the men sat with their wives to help care for the children. Uncle Allen Moore was one of them, and Cousin Jim Strickland always sat with his wife, even after his two boys were going to school.

Most of the little children went to their pallets and lay down and soon were asleep. The older ones went as they got sleepy. The singing started. How nice it was to go to sleep on a pallet listening to the singing, but how hard it was to have to get up and ride home lying in the bottom of the wagon with only a quilt under you, bouncing over rough roads, sleeping on the smooth stretches and waking with a start when a wheel hit a rock and almost bounced you out of the wagon. The big road was usually smooth enough, but, oh, that road down Kichemedogee, across Red Hill Branch and that other rocky-bottomed branch! But, I loved “night meetin's”.

There were usually a number of baptisms every summer. Baptizing was done sometimes in Little Kichemedogee, sometimes in Big Kichemedogee, below the mill and sometimes in the mill pond. One time I remember it was in Pretty Branch above the ford in the big road. Effie Pritchett and Bessie Jones, and maybe others, were baptized then. I can see Papa now, going down into the water with a stick to measure the depth. Then, as they sang “On Jordan’s Stormy Banks I Stand”, I see him leading them into the water, then standing in the deep water with hand raised, ready to baptize, then see them coming up out of the water as they sang, “O, Happy Day that Fixed My Choice on Thee, My Savior and My God”.

Always at the baptizings, someone would throw a blanket to the preacher to wrap the women after they were baptized, and after they came out of the water a number of women would form a circle, holding up blankets to make a screen for the women to dress behind. The men went into the woods or somewhere else to dress.

At the first service after baptizing, the new members stood at the front of the building and the congregation sang “Blessed Assurance” or “Standing on the Promises”, marching by and giving them “The Right Hand of Fellowship”, welcoming them into the fold. I shall never forget Mt. Zion, nor Papa’s preaching there. It seems that I can hear him even now, reading the scriptures and propounding the word. Seems I can hear his strong young voice lifting in song to the sweet, high tenor notes of “We’ll Work Till Jesus Comes”. He seldom sang tenor, but that is one song he sang in tenor. I can see him, as we stood for the Benediction, his hand uplifted and head bowed, and hear him say “Now unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, to Him be the glory and dominion forever and ever, Amen.”

For so long there were no Bible classes, just a reading of a portion of the scripture, communion services, singing and preaching. While Papa was preaching there, they started classes for the children and a Bible class for adults. After the classes there was a fifteen minute recess. People went outside, over to the well and talked, or did whatever they wished. The bell was rung, and they went in for other services. The church began to grow faster than ever. Most of the young people in the community came to the classes – there were no classes at Union – and a number of them were baptized and became members of the church.

J. D. Strickland was my teacher. He was very good; having us read the Bible daily. The little papers he gave us had questions on them, and we had to learn the answers from the Bible. We had a large family Bible that Papa had bought from Mr. Charlie Dowdey. I would lie on the floor, or sit by the table with it before me and read. I loved it. At a very young age, the following scripture was selected by me as my motto: “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report. If there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Phil. 4:8) I have always looked for truth, honesty, justice, purity and loveliness in everybody and everything, and life for me has been sweet. I would say “one grand song”. Of course, there have been disappointments, sadness and sorrow, and heartaches along the way, but it takes valleys as well as mountain peaks to make our country beautiful, and it takes low notes as well as high notes to make a grand song. And, I have found more good than bad in people and in life.

We attended singings in the neighboring communities. One time at Providence, over the little mountain, south (I think), it came a thunder storm with a lot of wind and rain. The singers kept on singing through the storm. Those people on the outside came crowding into the house, causing considerable disturbance. Someone at the front of the house ordered everybody to “sit down and be quiet”. Someone in the back asked, “How can I sit down when there’s nothing to sit on?” The questioner was arraigned into court for disturbing public worship. Papa was summoned as a witness against him, but was never put on the stand. He said that there was too much talking in the house for him to distinguish one voice from another, and, he thought they should have dismissed the singing when the song was over.

At a singing in Bethsaida, I saw a woman wearing a paper skirt. She hung it on a briar and tore it. I didn’t know many people there, but I recall Mr. Jesse Ginn and his wife, Ethel, for Oxford. We went into Nixon’s Store before going home and got some cold drinks from Delma Nixon. At a singing at Manning’s Chapel, a Methodist church south of our community, we saw a number of men and boys drinking and quarreling and trying to fight. Some were lying across a wagon tongue vomiting. I had never seen anything like that, and I never forgot it.

On the way to and from Manning’s Chapel, we passed the time counting insulators on telephone poles. There were only two telephones in our valley and they were new, owned by Mr. Fuller and Cousin Jeff Strickland. About the time telephones came into the valley, Mr. Fuller and Uncle Allen Moore got phonographs with big morning glory horns that used cylinder records. They would put the record on the machine, brush it very gently with a soft brush before placing the needle on it, then what wonderful music!

Phonographs were a mystery to me. Where did all that music come from? Who was making it? One day at Mr. Fuller’s, Velma slipped out some bottles of root beer and we went out behind the garden and drank it, and she told us that she had looked into their phonograph and there were little people, pianos, horns and all kinds of things that made music in there. I didn’t know how it could be, but was just gullible enough to believe it.

J. D. Strickland got a phonograph the next year, and it was beautiful. Looked like big morning glories that bloomed out in the field and all around. At that time we lived at Grandpa Elder’s old home. Cousin Sabina and J.D., her son, lived in the little log house between our house and the barn so we could hear it any time he played it. He also had a magic lantern that showed pictures, something like the slides of today.

Cider making came in the summertime, and was a jolly time. Everyone who was old enough to pick up apples worked at it; neighbors often working together. The apples were gathered in baskets, washed and poured into the press where they were beaten to a pulp with a wooden maul, then the press was screwed down and the cider came trickling out, sparkling, sweet, and delicious. Everyone drank all they wanted and the remainder was put into jugs and put away to make vinegar for the family’s use until cider making time came the next year.

One day, a little girl and I went to the cider mill and made a quart and drank it all. We went back to the rope swing under the big oak and were singing up to heaven and back, “let the cat die”, then wound and unwound, and soon were two little girls lying on the ground watching the world go ‘round. We got up and waddled down to the big oak by the road, and there, lying across its roots, lost all our cider in the road ditch. We didn’t need any more cider for awhile – but it was sure good when we drank it, and we weren’t sorry!

There were many varieties of apples from June to those that ripened at cotton picking time. The summer apples, I remember best, were horse apples, big, yellow, and juicy. The women did a lot of canning of apples and peaches, also blackberries and huckleberries. The huckleberries were from the hills in the woods, and blackberries from around the fields and along the roads. Jelly was made and wild summer grapes put down in sugar or syrup—good eating for wintertime.

Almost everyone went barefooted in summer—some only around the house, but many men and women worked in the fields and some went visiting barefooted. One of the greatest thrills of my life was when spring came and Mama told us we could take off our shoes and go barefoot for awhile. How light our feet felt and how good the cool, fresh air felt on them. We would run around in circles, stopping to dig our toes into the soft moist earth, letting its coolness envelop our whole being.

One of the greatest, if not the greatest sports and treats for the men and boys in the summer, was going in “washing”. It seems that going in “washing” was strictly for the males. What pleasure and pure delight was denied the female gender in Shinbone for a long time. On a hot summer day, the men would say, “Boys, let’s go to the creek and go in ‘washing’”, and off they would go, taking no bathing suits. Soon we would hear the loud lusty shouting and whooping with joy as they dived and splashed in the water. They would come back to the house with wet heads, looking so happy and refreshed. All the boys learned to swim and dive, even if they had to slip off to go swimming.

To me, as a small child, swimming was a mystery. Papa explained to us how it was done, showing us the strokes, but on dry land. I never saw anyone swim and could not understand how they could stay on top of the water, until after we came to Texas. Papa went with us. He would lie on his back, swell out his cheeks and float. We learned to swim and float. Even Mama learned to swim, and what fun we had together. Papa, at the age of seventy-five, loved to go swimming in the Bosque River. He taught a number of our neighbor children to swim.

There were a lot of hornets and yellow jackets in Shinbone Valley. The hornets came around the houses, and many came in. They wouldn’t sting around the house unless you met them head on. They flew straight as an arrow, and if you collided with one, you were immediately stung. They built their nests in bushes and blackberry thickets. The nests were made of material similar to that of the wasp nest, but they were large and shaped somewhat like a jug, and hollow. If someone got around a nest the hornets would come boiling out like smoke and if one was not a fast runner, it was too bad. Their stings hurt like a wasp’s.

The yellow jackets there were not the little yellow wasps people in Texas refer to as yellow jackets. It was a heavier insect, more like a honey bee. Like the bee, he loved sweets and in syrup making time they would swarm around the mill and cooking vat, but would never sting unless stepped on or mashed—unless one got near the nest. They made nests in the ground or in rotten stumps or logs, like the bumble bee.

One Sunday afternoon, Rosa Carter, May, Myrtle, Josie Carter, Elsie and I were playing in the woods near Uncle Joe Carter’s spring, building a dam across the branch making a wading pool. Rosa and May were building the dam while the rest of us brought material. We brought rocks, sticks, and about everything imaginable. Myrtle and I saw a log covered in moss. Suddenly, Myrtle turned back, running and crying, “Lordy, Lordy”. I thought she had seen a snake and turned, running too. Just as I got back to the branch something hit me in the neck. I thought it was a bullet or arrow—I just knew I was shot and wondered if it was Indians—of course, I knew there were no Indians then, but who else would be out in the woods shooting people? I fell down on the rocks and started kicking. Rosa came running by, saying, “Come on everybody, follow me”. I got up and followed. She led us through the thickest bushes she could find, shaking the bushes as she ran. After thrashing around for awhile, we came out into the road and counted our casualties. We had all received one or more yellow jacket stings, except Rosa and Elsie. Josie was stung just about all over. Great whelps raised up on her and she became sick and couldn’t walk, so we carried her—two at her shoulders and two at her feet, with one in the middle. We had to sit down and rest every little while, for all of us were suffering. After reaching the house, our mothers doctored our wounds and comforted us—we rested awhile then went to the apple orchard. On the way, we stopped at the grapevine. Hone bees were flying all around and crawling on the grapes. While Rosa was picking a bunch of grapes, she accidentally mashed a bee and was stung on her finger. Under the apple trees, bees were crawling on the apples that had fallen. Elsie stepped on one and was stung on the foot. Now we all had a sting and were swelled up and crippled for awhile.

There was a lump the size of a bullet on my neck for months after that. That was the only yellow jacket sting I ever had and I never had a hornet sting, except one in the middle of my forehead from a hornet collision.

Almost everybody had a well, and every well I knew had a windlass and “teekle”—and a cover like a little tabernacle. There were a lot of springs throughout the valley from which cool water could be had to quench thirst – some almost ice-cold. Springs flowed constantly, and filled all the wells; there was no need for anyone to be thirsty for long.

The summers were never burning hot. The sun was hot, but it was always cool in the shade, and the breezes were cool—no hot winds. Summertime was a time of enjoyment – a time of fruit and beauty, a time for resting and playing, a time for visiting and serving the Lord.

Chapter 4

Back to Work

After a season of rest came more work. All the farmers pulled fodder, tying it into “hands”, then so many hands to a bundle. They let it cure in the fields and at night when it was damp with dew and not so crisp, they hauled it in and put it in the barn loft. How good it smelled and how the horses, mules and cows loved it. Corn was pulled and put in the crib and peas picked. Those who had enough peas took them to the thresher and had them threshed– and some had their grain threshed. There were not many threshers in the country. In fact, they were so scarce they were a novelty. One time at school, we heard a steam engine blow its whistle on top of the hill above the school house and the teacher said we could all go and watch it go by. It was pulling a threshing machine, and the driver tooted the whistle several times to give us a thrill.

Peanuts were pulled up and hauled in, cabbage and collard kraut made and put in jars in the smokehouse. Pumpkins were hauled in and put in the crib to be eaten in the winter and fed to the cows, and potatoes dug and hilled up. “Potatoes” in the valley meant just the opposite of “potatoes” in Texas—ours were sweet potatoes. In Texas it is “potatoes” and “sweet potatoes”—in Shinbone, it was “potatoes” and “Irish potatoes”.

The potatoes were plowed up and picked up and put into baskets, then piled up near the edge of the back yard. A cover was built over them with planks (usually rough lumber from the saw mill) something like the shape of a teepee, with a door on one side. A layer of corn stalks were placed over this, then dirt piled over it all making a round “potato hill”. They could go through the coldest weather in this hill without freezing. We raised bunch yams, the sweetest, waxiest and best potatoes I have ever known.

Sometimes on cold, cold nights, Mama would bury some potatoes in the ashes in the fireplace and pile coals on them to roast them or bake them in the skillet with legs. She would rake out coals, put the potatoes in the skillet and put the lid on it, then set it on the coals, piling more coals on top, and they would bake. For supper we would have potatoes and butter and drink sweet milk while sitting around the fire. We never tired of potatoes. Mama cooked them so many ways. Baked, fried, potato cobblers—and we liked them raw, especially scraped.

When, it’s cotton picking time, the cotton is picked and put into short sacks, maybe long enough to touch the ground while hanging from the shoulder. Most men used guano sacks. The women tied the bottom corners of their aprons together behind their backs and picked in them—and the children used flour sacks. When the sack or apron was full, the cotton was emptied into a split basket. Every picker had a basket, homemade from oak splits. When the basket was full, it was weighed on the steelyards and carried to the cotton house, usually on the shoulder of a man. If there were many pickers, far from the cotton house, a wagon was driven to the field, and the baskets were hauled to the cotton house. When a bale was finished, it was loaded into the wagon by the basketfuls and tramped down then carried to the gin. After ginning, the cotton was packed into the press by men tramping round and round, and then the press was tightened on it. The bagging and ties were fastened by hand. I can recall seeing Grandpa Strickland packing cotton in the press.

Fall was syrup making time. Papa, Mr. Jeff Davis and Larkus Strickland made more of the sorghum syrup in the valley. Mr. Enos Pate was the ribbon cane syrup maker. The sorghum makers took their mill and evaporator from place to place, making each man’s syrup as they came to him. The mill was set in an open space big enough for a mule, fastened to a long pole, to walk round and round. A long pit was dug with one end sloping from the top of the ground. The pan, or evaporator, was set over this pit. A trench was dug along the side of the pan, deep enough for the syrup cooker to stand in and work at the pan comfortably.

The pan was made of copper, had partitions making compartments. In the end of each partition was an opening or little door, alternating from one side of the pan to the other. As the syrup cooked, it was pushed from one compartment to another with an apparatus made with a piece of board having a long handle attached to it. A scoop-like skimmer made of copper with a long handle was used to lift the skimmings as they rose to the top. A hole was dug in the ground near the pan for the skimmings. This was the “skimming hole”. Long poles of wood were poked through the sloped opening at the end of the pan, into the pit, where the fire was built under the pan.

When things got going, fresh juice was brought regularly from the mill and poured into one end of the pan with syrup running out at the other end constantly. There was usually a sample of syrup sitting there for anyone to try. The syrup was put into barrels, kegs, or buckets, and was a staple food in the valley. Papa could cook the prettiest sorghum syrup I have ever seen—a beautiful golden color, almost amber, and oh, so good!! He enjoyed making syrup and always said there was an art to it. I would say he really mastered that art—he made some syrup in Texas, and was the best syrup maker in the country.

There must have been a lot of fun around the syrup mill. People enjoyed visiting it, though we seldom did. There was always a dipper in the juice barrel and a welcome to drink all you wanted— it was good—though you might get squirted with juice from the canes in the mill as the mule went round and round. Occasionally, someone would actually fall into the skimming hole—and that was really funny. One night, Joseph Strickland and Hubert Garner were wrestling at the syrup mill and Joseph broke his collar bone.

Sometimes Papa would take his pay from syrup making in syrup, and if didn’t need it all, he would sell part of it. I recall once we had a barrel of syrup in the smokehouse. It sat on a scaffold made in a way that the barrel was rolled forward to pour the syrup from the hole in the middle of the barrel, then rolled back and fastened so it couldn’t roll. Papa or Mama would take the gallon pot and fill it, and keep it in the house to fill the syrup pitcher.

We had bees and honey most of the time. Our bee hives were made of hollow trees sawed into the proper lengths with holes bored and sticks put through them to hold the honeycomb in place, and ears nailed to the top with holes in them to put a stick through and a lid made of a plank that slid under the stick. One time Papa and Mama went into the woods to look for some hollow trees to make “bee gums”. Before they left, they put us all up to the table, put a big lump of sugar in a plate, and gave us spoons, so while they were gone we ate sugar.

No one used granulated sugar. This was a beautiful cream color and would crawl instead of run. It was called “Y C sugar”, and after I could spell, I wondered if the Y C meant “yellow crawly”. Anyway, it was yellow and crawled and good to eat like candy. One time, Uncle Tol Strickland went to town and brought back some granulated sugar. Aunt Martha Jane didn’t like it—she didn’t want that “old white sugar”, it didn’t have any taste but sweet.

Papa and Mama found the trees they were looking for, came home, loaded us in the wagon and went way back in the mountains after them. They were in a blackgum thicket. (Blackgum made the best “bee gums”.) These were dead, hollow blackgums. Papa cut them down, and he and Mama sawed them up with a cross-cut saw and loaded them on the wagon while we played in the woods and watched Trailer, the hound, hunt squirrels. He walked up stooping trees until he was high off the ground, and we yelled for Papa and Mama to come and see “Trailer up a tree”.

When the bees swarmed, Papa would wash out a “gum” with salty water and rub it inside with crushed peach leaves, then shake the bees down from where they had settled and knock on the gum, and in they would go. When bee robbing time came, Papa would put on his gloves and hat with mosquito netting over it, tied down. Mama would put on her bonnet, but no gloves, nothing over her face, and they would take a dish pan, a roll of rags to smoke the bees with, a crooked knife and go after that honey. Soon they would be back. Papa usually with a string or two in spite of his coverings—they never stung Mama—and we would all gather around with forks and spoons to sample the honey. Fresh honey was better. Honey in Shinbone Valley was not like honey in Texas. The comb was dark as was the honey, and it was stronger than Texas honey, which is amber or sometimes almost clear. I never liked Alabama honey too well.

Most people bought their flour, but everybody had their corn meal ground. There were three mills in the valley, all water mills. Smith’s Mill was the largest, near town on the Big Kichemedogee and Mitchell’s Mill located up the road about two miles back in the hills east of the big road. I don’t think it had a pond, but a big wheel that was turned by water from the little stream that tumbled down from the hill behind it, and McClintock’s Mill in the east part of the valley. Uncle Tom Strickland was running it the only time I ever saw it. It was in the woods with a lot of rocks as large as bales of cotton lying around the house. I don’t know if it had a big wheel or not, but Smith’s Mill didn’t, only a lot of small wheels and cogs in the dam.

Mitchell’s Mill was owned and operated by Tom Mitchell. “Uncle” Dave Smith owned and was the miller at Smith’s Mill. This mill had a large bell, probably the others did, too, that was rung when a customer wanted grinding done and the miller was not around. Papa was a miller there for a short time and said that as sure as he got tired waiting for someone to come and went squirrel hunting, that bell would start ringing.

Most people in the valley ate, and liked, opossum meat. Papa and Mama did. I don’t know that I ever tasted it, but the odor of it cooking made me sick. Papa caught one once and put it in the chicken coop. We kept it fed with food from the table and ripe persimmons. We were very careful when feeding it to be sure it didn’t get hold of our fingers. Someone had told us that “if a possum gets a hold of you, he won’t turn loose until it thunders”. When we fed it, we were extra careful. I liked that old ‘possum and thought it was cute and wished we could always keep it. But when it got fat, Papa killed and dressed it for Mama to cook. We had a squirrel and dumplings for dinner that day, also, and I really liked that, but could hardly sit at the table with that opossum on it. That afternoon I wanted some dumplings so badly, but the possum was in the safe with the dumplings and I wouldn’t open that safe door for anything. So I just went hungry until that opossum was gone.

There was an abundance of birds—of every kind—so many that sometimes they did damage to crops. I don’t suppose there was a law against killing any type of bird, for people trapped partridge to eat, and broke up their nests to get the eggs, sometimes having quite a feast from one nest. Once Chester found a partridge nest with twelve eggs. We often saw baby partridges in the fields running with their mothers, so little, round, brown and soft. Unlike other baby birds, they leave the nest when only a few hours old and go with their mothers.

One of my first memories is of Papa taking us to see a whippoorwill’s nest. He carried Elsie, and Chester led me. We went down through the field, across the branch and along a trail over the pine hills toward Grandpa Strickland’s. There, beside the trail on the ground was the nest with two baby birds==the only baby whippoorwills I ever saw, but, as I remember them, they were yellow and soft looking. Papa wouldn’t let us touch them. We squatted and held our hands over them, almost touching and wanting to so very much. They were so sweet.

Mama and Papa taught us not to bother bird nests because the mother bird would desert it if we touched it, and the babies would starve to death. Papa recited this little poem to us that showed his kindness and taught us a lesson in kindness to God’s creatures.

If I ever see on a bush or tree,

Young birds in a pretty nest,

I will not prey, or steal the young birds away,

To grieve their mother’s breast.


My mother, I know, would sorrow so

Should I be stolen away?

So I’ll speak to the birds in my softest words,

Nor hurt them in my play.

The pretty birds, the pretty birds,

I like to hear them sing.

I like to see them hop about,

And rise upon the wing.


…(two lines I have forgotten)

When I am sad it makes me glad

To know they’re happy and free.


And another:

Good morning, little bird,

Was it your sweet song I heard?

What was it I heard you say?

‘Give me crumbs to eat today?’

That I will, and plenty too

Here are crumbs I kept for you.

Eat your dinner, eat away,

Come to see me every day.


Blue birds built nests in our apple tree. We would climb up and look at them, but never touch. One day recently, remembering those baby bluebirds, I wrote this:



Some bluebirds live at our house,

In a hold in an apple tree.

They’ve got some baby bluebirds,

I know, for I looked in to see.

But I wouldn’t disturb the babies,

Oh no, not I,

For it would simply break my heart


To see a mama bluebird cry.


One day Papa held us up and let us look at a yellow-hammer’s nest in a hole in a dead pine tree. I remember a huge red-headed woodpecker that Papa called a lobster. It came to our peach orchard and made more noise than any other bird. There were robins that stayed around the wild cherry tree, eating cherries until they were so drunk they wobbled when they walked. There was a catbird that sat in the red haw bush by our chimney and meowed like a cat. I remember an oriole’s nest that swung from a hickory sapling on Big Kichemedogee, and a beautiful redbird without a crest that ate our bees. It would come every day and sit by the hives, and, as the bees came out, catch them. Papa watched it for a long time to be sure what it was doing, then he shot it. It was such a beautiful bird. Papa called it a goldfinch, but the dictionary says a goldfinch has yellow stripes on its wings, and this bird was solid red. I am wondering now if it could have been a carmine bee-eater. I recently saw a picture of a carmine bee-eater riding on the back of an Arabian bustard, and the bee-eater, so far as I can recall, looked like that bird. The bustard is a very large bird in the Ethiopian Danskill Desert. I don’t know if the carmine bee-eater is in this country or not. Ornithologist Roger Tory Peterson says the cardinal and summer tanager are the only two birds in the eastern states that are all red. The cardinal has a crest and the tanager does not. Could it have been a tanager eating bees?

I am not a bird watcher in the modern sense, but I have always been a watcher of birds and wild things, and I learned many




I loved to wander as a child

In the forests, deep and wild

Where spicy fern-draped thickets kept

The secrets of wild things that crept

Along the forest trails.


Where deer stopped to rest

Where the eagle built her nest,

Where the wily bobcat slept

All those secrets safe were kept

Hid beneath a darkling veil.


But the mysteries of the birds

Were revealed to me in words.

The pine whispered to the oak,

And I heard the words she spoke,

And I think she meant then to be heard

How the robins wear red vests,

How the orioles swing their nests,

How the cardinals sing sweet love songs

To their mates the whole day long

All the secrets and mysteries of the birds.


Sweet Williams spread their carpets, gay

Beneath the pines along the way.

Wild strawberries, rich and sweet,

Hid ‘amongst the leaves about my feet.

Just waiting for my hand

To pick and crush them to my lips.


Ah, sweet the cup of wine she sips,

Who has the privilege as a child

To roam the forest, deep and wild,

Where God and nature holds her hand.

Chapter 5

Sadness & Other Things

Funerals in Shinbone Valley were so sad and there were so many of them. I can recall fifteen funerals that I attended at Union and one (Mr. Kee’s) in Chocolocco Valley during the number of years I can remember there.

Those at Union were:

Grandma Strickland Emma Strickland

Aunt Prudie Spear Ellie Smith

Mr. John Ed Phillips Iola Carter Burt

Carson Shaddix Lessie Key

Marion Dover Mrs. Johnson

Zolemma Smith Mrs. Hearn

Mr. Tom Mitchell Marthena Strickland

Uncle Campbell Carter


Many people would gather at the home before the funeral and go in the procession as slowly as the horses and mules could walk, if not too far away, with people walking behind to the Union Church building. Sometimes the services were held in the house and sometimes on the church house yard. When the weather was too cold or bad, there would be no services. The funeral would be “preached later”, sometimes months later, bringing memories back and all the sadness.

Ana (Mrs. Wylie) Mitchell was the one who got things ready at the funeral for the body to be viewed. She always had a bottle of camphor in case someone fainted. She dressed in black and was so straight and slender, neat, dignified and efficient.

Almost everybody cried at funerals, many of them loudly. Grandma Sarah Strickland lived again the loss of her loved ones at every funeral, running back and forth, crying at the top of her voice, calling their names. When the crying became loudest, some of the mules, tied around the cemetery, would start braying, adding to the mournful sound, and would keep braying until it was over.

After the services were over the men carried the casket through the gate into the cemetery with the congregation following, singing:

“Over Jordan we shall meet, bye and bye, bye and bye,

In that happy land so sweet, bye and bye, bye and bye.

We shall meet to part no more, where we’ll love forevermore,

And his precious name adore, by and by, by and by.”

The casket was lowered into the grave and the grave filled while the people cried, some screaming, and the mules braying. It was so sad. There had been people living there who believed in witches. There was a woman living there who had been called a witch. I shall not use her name, but call her “Mandy”. “Mandy” was still called a witch, though more jokingly than otherwise. If someone got down with the mulligrubs, or a child was crying or fretting needlessly, some grownup would get a hat or a bucket and hold it and tell them to cry a hat or bucketful. If they didn’t stop, they would tell them, “We’ll have to get Mandy and the soap gourd. Come on, Mandy, bring your soap gourd.” That usually stopped the crying. I knew where Mandy lived and remember seeing her once, and though I didn’t believe she was a witch, I was afraid of her and her soap gourd. To this day, I don’t know what the soap gourd had to do with it.

Evidently, Mr. and Mrs. Ivan Stancell believed in ghosts, or maybe they were just entertaining. One night shortly before we came to Texas, Elsie and I spent a night at Uncle Bill Joe Shaddix’s. Mr. Stancell lived at Grandpa Strickland’s old place on the big road, and Uncle Bill Joe lived in the smaller house on the next hill just north. Vida and Cassie said, “Let’s go to Mr. Stancell’s and get them to tell us some ghost stories.” Aunt Julie said we could, so off we went. They told us some of the eeriest, most frightening stories I have ever heard, declaring they were true. When time to go, we were afraid to leave. Mrs. Stancell held a lamp in the back door while we hit the trail as fast as we could run down the back lot and up by the garden, never stopping until we were inside the house. We went to bed declaring we didn’t believe them, but cold chills ran up and down our spines, causing us to shiver and squeal. Anything eerie and frightening was fun as long as it was not really happening, and we didn’t believe it ever had or ever would happen.

Almost every family owned one or more dogs. Through the years we owned a number of dogs and loved them. They were part of our lives. The first I remember was Kate, a white and brown spotted hound, a wonderful squirrel dog. There was a bird dog named Eagle. I remember Mr. McClerg coming out from Oxford and hunting birds with Papa. Mr. McClerg and daughters, Elsie, Mattie and Katy came along and visited us. There were other dogs we owned, but Rattler was the last one before coming to Texas. He was a blue and white speckled hound that we raised from a puppy and loved so much. He grew to be a big dog, weighing 50 pounds when he was two years old. He and Elsie weighed the same when he was two and Elsie was seven. Papa gave Rattler to Albert Simms, a man on the other side of the mountain, when we came to Texas. It was hard to tell him goodbye.

Another dog we loved so very much as a beautiful young collie that just appeared at our house one day the last year we lived in Alabama. One day someone borrowed our horse and buggy to go to Lineville and she followed it all the way and got lost. We were all heart-broken, for she was the most wonderful dog we had ever had and the best playmate for us. The only name we ever gave her was “Pup”. She was a beautiful golden color, a true collie with all their wonderful traits. How we missed her!

Maybe the reason we loved dogs so much and that I remember them so well is because Papa loved them. He used to recite this little verse for us.

“I like to see a little dog

And pat him on the head.

So prettily he wags his tail

Whenever he is fed.

Some little dogs are very good

And very useful too.

And don’t you know that they will mind

What they are bid to do?

Then I will never beat my dog

Nor ever give him pain.

I will give him food

And he will love me then.”

“Aunt” Sidney Newsome had a big brown dog named Sport. He would come to visit us nearly every night when we lived near them. If the door was closed and the window open, he would leap through it. One night, the window was closed and he leaped through anyway, breaking it to pieces. He was so embarrassed he would hardly look at us for awhile.

Cousin Andy Smith had a cream colored shaggy dog named Watch. He came to our house often when we lived near the mill and we loved him. Uncle Northern and Uncle Malie Strickland owned two hounds, Keep, a dark red and black spotted dog, and Rouser, solid red-gold, the color of fallen oak leaves. They were coon dogs. Later, Grandpa Strickland owned a black hound named Dude. Dude had a bark all his own – a long, drawn out wail. Most hunters knew the voices of the different dogs; everyone knew Dude’s.

Uncle Rich Carter’s dog was named Pete, a rather small red and white spotted hound, who would run over the mountains until he was barely able to get home and would have to lie around for days so stiff he could hardly get up. He and Grandpa’s Dude hunted together alone quite often at night. We would hear them out on the mountainside, Dude’s long whiney wail and Pete’s quick yelp.

Uncle Campbell Carter had a dog named Tinker. He was black with red on is head and chest. One day, someone met him with a plate of butter in his mouth. He had gone to Hayes Smith’s, about two miles away, and got it off the table and was taking it home.

Uncle Tol Strickland’s hound was named Trailer. Uncle Bill Joe Shaddix’s little black bulldog was called Jet. Mr. Wilf's dog was a little black and white long haired dog named Son. One day, Mr. Wilf and Son came by our house walking. We were playing by the roadside with Blacknose, our cat. She sent Son off yelping – Mr. Wilf laughed so hard he had to sit down on the road bank and rest before going on. Grandpa Elder’s dog was black and long haired. His name was Bob. He was such a nice dog.

Many of the men in the valley were great hunters. Some hunted coons, bobcats, and other large animals, and some were just rabbit and opossum hunters. Grandpa Strickland was one of the best marksmen in the country. He loved to hunt squirrels and deer. He had a pair of deer antlers mounted and hanging on his wall. I have a small horn, one of my prized possessions, that my Uncle Renzo Strickland gave me in 1968 that was Grandpa’s. It must have been killed in the 1800’s, for Papa said deer became almost extinct there around 1900. But, they are flourishing there now – I saw deer trails in the fields in 1968.

Grandpa Strickland and Papa had muzzle-loading rifles, and a shot pouch and powder horn that they slung across their shoulders when they went hunting. Papa traded his for a single barrel shotgun which he kept until we came to Texas. Papa and Chester used to go ‘possum hunting with the neighbor boys. If the moon wasn’t shining, they would split a bunch of long rich pine splinters and light torches. What fun that must have been. Uncle Tom Strickland and Uncle John Shaddix were bee hunters. They loved going to the woods, watching the bees and trailing them to their nests in hollow trees – not so much for the honey they might get, but for the sport of finding a bee tree. Uncle Northern was the greatest hunter of them all. Often, as a young boy, he would go into the mountains alone at night with his dogs, Keep and Rouser, and stay all night listening to them run. He also loved fishing. How I loved Uncle Northern, and loved hearing him tell of his adventures in the woods. He was always so quiet and loveable.

Chapter 6

Going to Town

Though they could buy most of their supplies in our little town, the farmers of Shinbone went to Oxford to sell their cotton and other farm products. It took at least two days to go there and back and do any trading. They went in wagons, sometimes in covered wagons. There were usually a number of people there from different places, sometimes a number of women. Some of them would stay several days just having a good time. They would build a big campfire in the wagon yard and all sit around it at night talking until all hours. If they wished, they slept in their wagons or in the wagon yard house on their bed rolls on the floor. If the women were along, they cooked meals on the campfire.

Papa had a ration box (a round cheese hoop) that he always carried to town. He would carry enough food to last until his return home; however, he usually supplemented it with something extra from the store such as cheese, sweet crackers, sweet pickles, dates, bananas or candy. He would always bring home some of what he had bought to eat, and we would always rush for the ration box to see what was inside. Papa liked candy more than anything and always came home with a bag of it in his pocket. That was one thing we could depend on, not only when we were small, but even after we were big kids.

Most of the women and children didn’t go to town often. I remember once we rode a streetcar from Oxford to Anniston. When we got there the conductor came through, turned the seats over, and we sat down facing the other way, rode back to Oxford and down to Oxford Lake where we saw swans and a man and woman in a red boat on the lake. I recall seeing a model in a store window on Noble Street in Anniston that I thought was a big doll. It was so pretty. I don’t remember where we stayed that night, but not in the wagon yard. We had a number of relatives and friends living there. We had lived in Oxanna between Oxford and Anniston, and also in Choccolocco Valley, nearby.

Papa took Elsie and me to town with him once on a load of cotton bales. He fixed a comfortable place for us to sit, and we started out that morning in high spirits, but that fourteen mile road stretched out pretty long before we got there. When we got over the mountain in sight of town with its black smoke boiling up from the smoke stacks, how excited we were. How good the coal smoke smelled. We could hardly wait to get there. When we arrived the scent of cigar smoke mingled with the other delightful aromas of town was just too wonderful for words. Even the mothball scent on the new clothes in the stores was grand.

We stayed at Uncle Jube Elder’s that night. He lived in a big two story house with an upstairs balcony and an iron fence around the yard, and a cellar. What fun we had sliding down the cellar door. While playing, we heard an automobile coming up the hill; we ran and hung onto the fence and watched it go by. There were two men riding in it, and they waved at us. We waved back and went back to sliding down the cellar door.

On the way to Oxford, we crossed Hilliby Creek five times, sometimes fording it. The beautiful covered bridge I remember crossing then, and again in 1948, washed away years ago. When I was there in the autumn of 1968, that area was the most beautiful drive I saw on my entire trip, but engineers were surveying and staking off a large part of it for a lake. All this colorful beauty has been spoiled. This area, in a drive from Ashland, county seat of Clay County, through our little valley, by Dempsey and Cheaha Mountain and on into Anniston is included in highly recommended “autumn scenes of unusual beauty” by travel experts in the October, 1966, Southern Living Magazine. While driving along this winding road, crossing this meandering stream in 1968, I was reminded of an incident Papa told us about when we were small.

Once, there was an Indian woman who got off the train at Oxford. She looked around until she found a man to take her where she wanted to go, having him take a pick and shovel along. He took her in a buggy to a place on Hilliby Creek. She looked until she found a certain beech tree. She had the man climb the tree and look for a certain mark. He found the mark just as she described it. Then she stepped so many steps in a certain direction from the tree and told him to dig there. He dug awhile and she told him to leave. He left, leaving her there. He went back late and found an old iron pot near the hole with a lid nearby. There was no way of knowing what was in the pot. On one road between Shinbone and Oxford, there is a blue pond. There is a legend told by Creek Indians regarding this pond. A woman, supposedly bad, was burned with her family at the stake. Whether she was white or Indian was not clarified – but, as they burned, the Indians performed a special dance around them, and as they danced, the ground collapsed and swallowed them up, forming a pond. As I recall Blue Pond, there wasn’t any water there, only a low area that had a bluish look.

We went to Lineville one time and saw the first train come into town. A large crowd had gathered for the occasion. As the train came into sight, the people began to cheer and kept on cheering as it came in, puffing slowly along, its black smoke filling the air. A track laying machine came ahead of the train, laying the track, first the crossties, then the rails. A group of men, some of them black, with brown paper bags on their heads for caps, spiked the track down just ahead of the locomotive. There was a barbeque in the grove outside of town. We attended and saw Murle Davis there – the only person there we knew. The Davis’s had moved to Lineville sometime before that. Rufus Moore and Dona lived there, and we visited them. Rufus was doing some photographic work and showed us some of his pictures.

One other time we went to Lineville to see the Hague Bros. Circus. Papa heard it was coming and asked if we wanted to go. Did we? We had heard Uncle Rich’s folks talk about Ringling Brothers Circus in Anniston, and we were thrilled at the idea of going to a circus, and on that morning were ready bright and early. Everyone who ever saw a circus as a child knows something of the thrill this circus was to us. The pomp and glitter of the parade, the elephants and camels and tasseled horses stepping high, the lion and tigers in cages, and the bears (I learned to respect bears that day, had always thought of them as mean things). Then, the big tent and all the unbelievable things those pretty girls could do – and, oh, those colored balloons on sticks, striped walking canes, riding whips and cotton candy! Children now have so many things that are maybe more thrilling than a circus, but not then. For days, I went around in a dream, imagining myself a trapeze artist, or the girl who rode the elephant, or the one who stood up on the horse as it ran around the ring.

Chapter 7

Schooldays & Fun!!

I never saw the school house that my father and mother attended but they told us about it. It sat across the spring trail north of the present Union church building on the west side of the road. It was made of logs and had no windows. There was a huge fireplace at one end. The pupils sat on log seats sawed flat on two sides, with holes bored in each end and posts stuck in for legs. They had no backs. Among books studied in their school, was the blue black speller. Mama, as a little girl, and Wylie Dempsey, were the best spellers in school. Mama and Papa used to amuse us by spelling for us—spelling and pronouncing each syllable of the word separately and adding them to the preceding syllable until every syllable was spelled and pronounced, thus: the word is “incomprehensible”, i-n in, c-o-m com, incom, p-r-e pre, incompre, h-e-n hen, incomprehen, s-i si, incomprehensi, b-l-e, incomprehensible. They learned the vowels and consonants by singing them, taking the first consonant and singing it with each succeeding vowel through the alphabet; b-a ba, b-e be, b-i bitty bi, b-o bo, bitty bi bo, b-u bu, bitty bi bo bu, etc., on through the vowels and consonants this way.

Jack Young, Coleman Bean and Charlie Swan were among the teachers. Jack Young was very athletic, running, jumping and playing with the children, and when he rang the bell after recess and dinner, he lined them up and marched them to the spring for a drink, to wash their faces, then marched them back to school. Mr. Young was my mother’s first teacher. The first day she went to school, she forgot her bonnet at the spring. When she missed it, she pulled out of the line and ran back to get it and was late getting back to school. Mr. Young scolded her and she cried, then he petted her and from that day on she was one of the teacher’s pets—but she never appreciated it, for she never liked being petted.

Papa said that the first day Mama went to school he thought she was the prettiest little girl he ever saw, with little fat legs and feet. From that day on she was always the prettiest girl to him. There were two terms of school each year – winter school and summer school. My teachers at Union were Mr. Charlie Swan, Miss Sue Bagley and Mr. Robert Ingram. Teachers at Macedonia were Miss Sulta Nighten and Miss Florence Pruitt.

Mr. Swan drove to school from his home on Swan Branch, in a little one-horse wagon, picking up little children as he went. How well I remember my first day of school. Mama wrapped me in a big red shawl, put a navy blue cap on me, and I ran down to the road to ride in that little wagon, sitting in the bottom of the bed with a wagonful of little ones. Lessie Mitchell and Vistula Strickland sat with Mr. Swan on the spring seat.

Mr. Swan was a low man with short legs and club feet. He was very strict in some respects, never sparing the rod. Sometimes he required help with unruly students. One time in particular, he had Monroe Knight standing up for breaking a rule. Monroe decided to go home. He ran and jumped out the door and started running. Mr. Swan started chasing him. It was raining and the ground was slick and Mr. Swan slipped down. One of the big boys ran and caught Monroe and brought him back.

Some of the big boys did as they pleased, though. Once Harrison Carter and J.D. Strickland got upset about something and jumped out the window and sat on the ground. Mr. Swan tried to make them come back inside, but they wouldn’t until he gave in to them. Mr. Robert Ingram was a kind teacher. He opened school every morning with a prayer and was so sympathetic with his students. He hated so badly to have to whip one, but he would if necessary with tears rolling down his face as he did so. I shall never forget when Mr. Ingram stayed all night with us. We all sat around the fireplace and listened to him talk, using our very best manners and trying to show him a good time. He complimented me when I played the organ, and complimented all the good things Mama cooked, especially the ruffled muffins for us to take for lunch the next day.

Patriotism was taught, and February 22 and July 4 were great days for celebrations, especially the year Miss Sue Bagley taught at Union. Before July 4th, we spent days getting ready for the occasion, rehearsing speeches and songs, and marching until we had it perfect. Then, on the 3rd, the boys went to the woods and brought back loads of tree branches, holly, pine and ferns. The stage was decorated with greenery, then bunting and flags put in exactly the right places. One the morning of the 4th, the very air was filled with excitement. People came from miles around, bring baskets of food. I remember that Mr. Mace Gregg, Robert Gregg’s father, an old man with flowing whiskers, was there with Montana, his daughter from Randolph County.

The morning was spent with speech making and the singing of songs – patriotic speeches and patriotic songs. How it rang as we sang, “Three Cheers for the Red, White and Blue”. Miss Carrie McCann sang “The Star Spangled Banner”. The afternoon was spent mostly in marching. The whole school marched, double file, Harrison Carter and Perla Dempsey leading, carrying a large U. S. flag. The rest of us carried small flags which Miss Sue had given us. We marched according to size, Howard Elder and I, the smallest ones marching, brought up the rear. We marched up and down the road, “one, two, one, two” round and round over the school ground and church yard, every step in time, in and out, in and out, forming different designs—the stars and stripes of Old Glory waving proudly in the breeze. There was no band or music of any kind to march by, just the count of “one, two…” by the leader to keep time to—we did perfectly as Miss Sue had taught us.

I had never seen a brass band nor even heard one. Can you imagine being eight years old and never having seen a band, not even on television? But you know, there was no television then, not even radio. Papa had seen bands in Oxford and Anniston and had told us about them. So as we marched, I could almost hear the “pom, pom, pom pom” of the drum and the blare of the trumpet as we went, stepping high, feeling proud that we were Americans. Harrison could holler “halt” so loud it echoed among the trees and against the hills. The crowd cheered with loud whoops and hand clapping. How proud Miss Sue was of us and how we loved her! We marched downtown, in at Mr. Fuller’s store door, out at the back, up the back street and back to the school house. We were a tired bunch that night, but happy.

The last day of Mr. Ingram’s school Alec Smith, two days older than I, and I won awards for being the best spellers in school—getting the most head marks, and that afternoon spelling everyone in school down in a spelling match—big boys and girls and all. Finally I missed a word and Alec was the champion speller. That night there was a concert, with a stage outside in front of the school house, with wagon sheets for curtains, and seats from the church houses. The place was covered with people. There was a black-face skit in which Harrison Carter looked something like the late Nat King Cole, dialogues and many things. Mr. Old Joe Smith, with his family string band was there making the valley ring with music of which there was none equal anywhere in the country.

Miss Florence Pruitt and Miss Sulta Nighten were my teachers at Macedonia. Once a thunder storm came, and Miss Florence dismissed classes. Essie Pate was leading a song and what looked like a ball of fire came through the house, with a clap of thunder sounding at the same time. Miss Florence fell over. We thought she was killed. Essie Pate, Tom and Wyatt Newsome were almost grown, and seeing she was not dead, started working with her. Grady Davis, a little boy, ran through the rain to Mr. Wilf’s, his grandfather’s, to get some camphor. Mrs. Wilf and Grady came back with camphor, and Miss Florence was soon all right. After the rain stopped, we went outside. Lightning had struck a pine tree about two feet from the corner of the house and stripped the bark from it.

When there was no school, there were so many interesting things to do. We played in the woods all the year round, climbing trees, hunting nuts and berries, making pine straw houses, and play houses among the trees—separating the rooms with ribbons made of leaves stretched from one tree to another, sometimes with every room carpeted with deep green velvety moss. How wonderful in spring and summer under the leafy bowers of sweetgum, hickory or pine, leaves rustling with the slightest breeze, fanning and cooling as our fingers flew, piecing aprons and sashes and fashioning hats from leaves pinned together with little sticks or weeds. The hats were trimmed with wild flowers and ferns, with streamers made of leaves—the most wonderful hats in all the world to childish eyes.

There were fern watches to be made, silk to be stripped from the silk grass, and pocket books to be picked from the little pocket book bushes that grew along the roadside.

In the woods there were always rider-horses. When you wanted to go somewhere, just go climb a sapling (hickory made the best), swing out, holding on to the top, pull it to the ground, jump on and off you went in a long lope, up and down, up and down. When you reached your destination you got off and up went the sapling back into place. Just climbing hickory saplings to the top and swinging out was fun. The poet, Robert Frost, liked to climb birch trees and swing out. He said, “One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.”

Blacksmith shops were great places to play and most people had a blacksmith shop at home. We loved to pump the bellows, work the vise and pound the anvil. Stable lofts were ideal playhouses when they were empty. There was usually a ladder handy to go upstairs and the stables were often swept clean to play in. We could stick a rail through a crack in the fence and seesaw all day long if we wished. Playing on the cotton in the cotton house was funny in the fall. We would loosen up the cotton and get up on something high and jump off, bogging up in the cotton to our ears. Once, Chester made a big cotton doll out of flour sacks, painted its face and embroidered its features. He dressed it in some of his clothes and put a hat on it and set it on the cotton with his air rifle lying across its lap. It looked very much like a little black boy sitting there. One day, Jim Robb (black) who lived in the mountains came by and stopped to talk with Papa. He saw that doll, rode his mule up to the door and sat there looking at it and laughing. He would slap himself and say, “Now ain’t that something? Looks jes’ like a lump o’ have mercy settin’ there”, then he would laugh some more.

There were not many toys in the valley in those days. Most of the playthings were homemade. The most important was the truck wagon. All the boys had one. They were made by sawing blocks about two or three inches thick off a tree trunk, boring holes in the middle for wheels and attaching an axle and tongue, then fastening a box to it. This made a two-wheel wagon or cart. Many of them had four wheels with a coupling tongue, a long bed made of planks, and operated much like the little red wagons from the stores. These wagons were useful for hauling the baby around, hauling wood or baskets of cotton, watermelons or pumpkins from the field.

Homemade sleds were a lot of fun for both boys and girls. Papa made ours and waxed the runners with beeswax until they were slick as glass. I took mine to school and what fun we had sliding down the steep hill way over in the woods behind the school house.

Perhaps hickory bark whips were not considered playthings, but some boys used them. They were made by braiding long strips of bark and fastening them to a stock. They could be made to pop like an ox whip and could be heard for half a mile or more.

One Sunday afternoon, some girls started home from Mt. Zion. When they reached the top of the hill by the cemetery, they heard what they though were gun shots on Gray Hill. They ran back to town and told someone. Some men got horses and went over the hill but found nothing. Someone saw Jessie Cline, not long before, walking up the road with a hickory bark whip. They decided it was him popping his whip.

There were Tom Walkers (stilts) to walk on, hickory bark whistles, stick horses, elder stalk popguns that shot paper wads and dancers made of spools. We never lacked for something to play with. We made squawkers of onion blades by wilting them over a steaming teakettle, or hot stove, pinching the end off and blowing through them, flopping them with our fingers until they started flopping by themselves and squawking. And there were always games to play—chicktum oraney crow, drop the handkerchief, hide and seek, blindfold, William Trembletoe, etc.

The last Saturday night we spent at home in Alabama, Ida and Cora Clark, Annie Strickland, Lula Newsome and Lessie Carter spent the night with us. Papa and Chester were late getting home from Oxford. Ada Ducke came out there, and she and Mama played games with us in the yard. We had so much fun, laughing and hollering so loud Anderson Strickland said they heard us at their house, about a mile away across the fields, against the mountain.

Chapter 8


Christmas was a wonderful season. Getting ready for it and the anticipation and excitement in the air was sometimes just almost too much to bear. The smell of cooking—stacks and stacks of half-moon pies, apple and peach pies, potato custards, gingerbread and sugar cookies, enough to last a whole week.

The children had to clean the yards of any litter and sweep them so Santa Claus wouldn’t stumble and fall down and break the toys. The yards were usually clean, for everybody swept on Saturdays with a brush broom of dogwood branches tied together. The very air bristled with expectation as dusk came on Christmas Eve and when it was dark, if the sky was clear, it seemed the stars came down close and shined brighter than any other time. Beautiful, bright shining Christmas Eve!!

We hung out stockings by the chimney, got into bed early and lay listening, waiting and wondering how Santa could get down the chimney, and why he came that way, anyway. Imagining we could hear him on the roof—then, everything is quiet and we are soon asleep.

Bright and early Christmas morning the house is full of joy as we race for our stockings, “Oh”, “Ah” and sighs of gladness for things Santa put in them.

It was hard for Papa to make a living and do the things he felt necessary, but our stockings were always bulging on Christmas morning with oranges and apples, raisins, stick candy, and nuts. I think Papa and Mama enjoyed it almost as much as we did.

We never had oranges except at Christmas and what a Christmasy smell as we peeled and ate them, peppermint candy and nuts. Nobody ever wanted much breakfast on Christmas morning, but there was always one thing we had and that was cheese. Papa always got that especially for Mama for she liked cheese better than anything. We had cheese at other times, too, but it just wasn’t Christmas without cheese on the table. We usually had a coconut at Christmas—the only time of year we did. Papa would punch the eyes out and pour the milk and drink it. He was the only one who liked coconut milk. Then he would saw it in two pieces and get the meat out in chunks and that was so good. Nobody said “Good morning” or “Merry Christmas” on Christmas day. It was “Christmas gift”, everyone trying to say it first. Whoever said it first was entitled to a gift from the other person.

There were no church services of any kind. We don’t know what day Christ was born, and nowhere in the scriptures are we told to keep his birthday, only his resurrection day, the first day of the week. We observed his birthday all year long in songs of praise and adoration like “Joy to the World”, “O Come all ye Faithful”. Christmas was celebrated only as a tradition. (I think it’s good to worship and sing praises to Christ at Christmas and every day. I enjoy Christmas carols. Christmas is a special time.) Christmas lasted from Christmas Eve until New Year’s Day. We didn’t work the whole week, but spent the time visiting, eating and having a good time. We didn’t, but many people had a little toddy or egg-nog for Christmas.

The first Christmas I can remember, we spent Christmas Eve at Grandpa Elder’s. Next morning, peeping out of my stocking was a little china doll with wavy black hair painted on and brown eyes, red lips and pink cheeks. Elsie’s was like mine, except with blue eyes. Uncle Wych Elder and Aunt Mary hadn’t been married long, and they lived in the little log house between Grandpa’s house and the horse lot. We were up and out there before daylight to show them our dolls. Uncle Wych served us “sweetened whiskey”, water with a little whiskey and sugar, in tall goblets and we drank a toast to our dolls.

The next Christmas, Santa brought us some of the softest, prettiest white fascinators with fluffy pompoms on top trimmed with crystal beads. When we got them on with the little blue coats Mama had made for us trimmed with gold braid, we were really dressed up. Christmas afternoon we returned home from visiting and Elsie ran and jumped on our porch saying, “Christmas gift, I’m dressed up”, and that was our byword at Christmas for a long time.

One year Papa told us before Christmas that Santa was going to bring us dolls with white kid bodies and skin soft like babies. We questioned him every day and he had to tell us over and over how those dolls would look. He said he had seen some like that and left word for Santa to bring them. Santa was bringing Chester an air rifle and fireworks. Uncle Bill Joe Shaddix and family spent Christmas Eve night with us. At three o’clock the next morning, Chester got up to kindle the fire and woke us. He had his gun and some fire crackers, roman candles and sky rockets, but we couldn’t see them for those dolls looking at us over the tops of our stockings. They were the most perfect dolls in all the world, beautiful curly hair and soft skin just as Papa had said. Easter had a sweet baby doll. Santa brought Vida and Cassie some story books and Carson a pretty drinking mug. We all whooped and shouted and woke everyone up. We had to hug Papa’s neck over and over for having Santa bring the dolls. Papa showed us how and Chester let us help him shoot his roman candles. He enjoyed his gun as much as we enjoyed our dolls. When he shot all his BB’s, he made an arrow out of a bicycle spike. It worked in the gun as well as shot.

The last Christmas Eve night we were in Alabama, Dock and Mexa Carter and their little boys spent the night with us. Just about bed-time it sounded like all the cattle in the valley started running around the house ringing their bells, with guns shooting. We were being serenaded. Chester grabbed his walking stick that shot caps that he had gotten the Christmas before, and got caps for this Christmas, and started running with them. Every time he passed the kitchen chimney he hit it with a boom that almost shook the house down, louder than the guns. When they stopped, Papa asked them in and passed around a box of candy.

When Papa was young there were a lot of dances in the community especially at Christmas. Mama never went to them. Grandpa never allowed his girls to attend dances. Grandpa and Grandma Strickland took their children and Grandpa played the fiddle for dancing and Grandma danced. When they obeyed the Gospel and became Christians, they stopped going. Papa continued to go until he became a member of the church of Christ, calling sets for the dances. The square dance was the only one done.

Sometimes in the fall and winter, Papa would take us out on dark nights and tell us about the stars. He knew only what his father had told him. Grandpa was a watcher of stars and could not be lost on a starlit night. Papa didn’t know them by their astronomical names, but he told us about the Big Bear, Big Dipper, Little Dipper, the North Star and the Seven Stars. Job’s Coffin, plain as day, was up there in the heavens, and Orion, the most beautiful constellation: Orion, the fearless hunter who carries a club, a lion skin and sword. Look to the east on any clear night in November and you will see him. Three bright stars stud his belt. He is at his best during the winter months.

When the moon was full we would look at it and talk about how big it was. To me, it looked about the size of a dinner plate. To Mama, Chester and Elsie it was the size of a washtub. Easter was too little to think about it, but to Papa it looked like it was as big as Mitchell’s mill wheel, which was almost as high as a house. He said maybe he could stand by the moon and reach the top of it by tiptoeing. It was fun to play outside at night, so different from days. Dew started falling at sundown. Sounds carried farther, yet voices sounded muted and different as mountain breezes whispered through treetops, caressing us with the pine scented breath of the forest, fireflies flashed, whippoorwills called from hillsides and maybe an owl said, “Whoo-whoo”, filling us kids with shivers, which was fun. Yes, sounds carried farther in this little valley. The “Budger-rum, budger-rum” of the bullfrog could sometimes be heard for more than a mile. Sometimes, one could holler and hear it echo against a hill on one side, then against a hill on the other side, back and forth, each echo a little fainter than the one before until it finally died away.

On dewy mornings, one could get out in the woods and holler loud and dewdrops would come showering down. The men in the valley loved to holler, especially early in the morning. It seems that some of them vied with each other to see who could get up and out first and wake the others with their loud whoops. Many times a man would get up long before day, and as he went out to feed the stock, give a loud yell, only to hear an answering yell by someone half a mile or more away—and maybe another yell from a different direction.

It was not unusual, early in the morning, to hear men and boys whooping and hollering and singing at the top of their voices, or yodeling with the sheer joy of living. They had a yodel different from anything I have ever heard. Papa loved to yodel, and Harrison and Whit Carter were yodelers. The women sang about their work and the children sang in their play. People loved to laugh and some laughed loudly.

Unhurried, unworried people, living in this pine scented valley of towering trees and winding dirt roads, rich in nightingale and bluebird music, in apples and berries, figs and grapes, leisure and laughter, rich in our neighbors, so warm hearted and cheery spoken; this little land where “the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy”. This little valley with its strange sounding name—Shinbone, so many miles east of Birmingham.

For the traditions, values and obligations I have inherited from this valley, I am profoundly thankful. Shinbone Valley, thank you.

Chapter 9

Places Where We Lived

As said before, I was born in the mountains, on Pretty Branch—queen of all the branches in the world to me. This is all in Talladega National Forest now, right under Cheaha State Park. A paved road leads from the heart of the valley up Horseblock Mountain and to the top of Cheaha where there is a watchtower, a hotel, motels, tourist court, a store and all the wonderful facilities of a state park—this mountain for so long all but insurmountable from the east only by people on foot. The nearest thing to a road was an old mail trail that could be traveled by horseback.

One of Alabama’s most popular backpacking trails is Odum Scout Trail, ten miles long, running along the mountain ridge, starting near Concord Baptist Church, somewhere south of Union, and running to Cheaha Park. Two waterfalls are passed before reaching the ridge, the only water on the way. The first memory I have we lived in Oxanna, between Oxford and Anniston, then in Choccolocco Valley with Mr. Kee and family. There were two grown girls and a boy, Mary, Sallie and Sam. Sam had two spotted dogs that tore up my rag doll, Susanna, and left her on a stump in the yard. We contracted malaria while living there and moved back to Shinbone Valley. We lived near the mill, and Papa was the miller for a time. Then we lived at the Buddy Hill place, which is now the house on the left going north, at the foot of the hill where the road turns off going to Mt. Cheaha.

I had scarlet fever while living there and almost died. My throat had to be lanced twice. Once, Dr. Stephens had Mama go into the garden, which was back of the house, and get a toad frog and cut it open, and when he lanced my throat he put it on it while the frog was still warm and bound it on. My throat got well then. While I was sick, Papa and Mama had a hard time caring for me and became very worn out. People with children were afraid to come and help for fear of taking the disease home to their children. But a number of men took time about coming and sitting on a big stump in the yard every night until I was better—and all that came left some money for me. Papa bought me a book of nursery rhymes, my first book, and he and Mama read it to me as I recuperated. I memorized a number of verses like, “Ba, Ba, Black Sheep”, “Little Betty Blue, Lost Her Holiday Shoe”, and “Three Blind Mice”. How I loved that book!

I had earaches a lot after having scarlet fever and probably was badly spoiled. They said when I got well, I cried nearly all the time. I don’t recall that, but I do remember two different times thinking, “Maybe if I cry a little louder I can get what I want”. It didn’t work either time. Papa always called me “Little Bitty”. Once day he told me I was too little to whip, but they couldn’t have a little girl that cried all the time. He said he was going to carry me off and throw me away. He got a sack and put me in it and tied it up. Then he carried me off to the woods, kicking and screaming. I yelled so loudly he came back and talked to me. He said if I would hush and not cry, he would take me home. I promised I would and I did, so he took me out of the sack and carried me home. I guess I cried a lot after that, for he put me in a sack another time, but I hushed before he carried me off.

There was a spring a little northeast of the house. One day Mama left me to watch Elsie for a short time. I saw some wild turkeys scratching in the leaves near the spring and ran out there to watch them. Some sweet Williams were blooming near the spring, so I forgot about Elsie and started picking flowers. When I saw Mama calling frantically, I ran home. She was carrying Elsie and both were crying. Elsie had crawled up to the fireplace and pulled a pot of boiling beans over and scalded her hand.

There was another spring around the hill southwest of the house where Mama washed clothes. Our hog, Sam, lived in a pen near this spring. When Sam broke his leg, Chester and I would go every day to scratch his stomach and pet him. I loved Sam and was heartbroken when he was butchered. We also owned sheep while living there. During our time there, Mama grew some corn beads in the yard and made a necklace. Willow Hill made a hot dish mat with them and gave it to Mama. She kept it until we came to Texas. Braskey Hill made a wooden bicycle. How he made it, I didn’t know, but he did and rode it to our house from his house on the hill.

A branch ran north of the house and down across the road. Possum haws grew along the branch. We climbed the bushes and ate the haws. They weren’t good. I really don’t know why we ate them. Hickory trees grew there and when they started making leaves in spring they looked like hands with the fingers opening. I loved to play with them. The largest log I ever saw was at the foot of the hill, by the Hill Branch. There was a sawmill there for a time. It was a pine log. Papa stood by it, and it was thicker than he was tall. He was 5 ft. 9 ½ in. tall.

We next lived “in the mountains” in Grandpa Strickland’s new house on the hill above where I was born. Big oak trees grew in the front and all around the north side of the yard. Tall pines on the south and dogwoods bloomed around the yard. Our neighbors were the Lee Carter, Henry Thompson, and Linnie (Mrs. John) Cline. While we lived in the mountains, hawks were killing our baby chickens. One day one was flying low, calling, “Chickie”. Mama ran to get the gun and killed it. The Thompsons ate hawks, so we carried it to them. Mrs. Thompson asked us to wait so she could give us a wing. They had a big, pretty hawk fan by the fireplace to kindle the fire. Mrs. Thompson gave us a wing and told us to spread it out to dry for a fan. Chester explained it to Mama, and she made a fan for us.

One day Papa and Mama were in the field, and we were at the house. Mountain laurel was in full bloom along Pretty Branch. We gathered our arms full of the blossoms. When we got to the house a hawk was flying overhead. Chester, only six years old, said he was going to shoot that hawk. Elsie and I sat down in the floor in the hall and started making bouquets. Chester climbed up and got the gun over the door. He sat down in a chair at the end of the hall and loaded it. After he got the shell in, something happened and it went off. Fortunately, the barrel was pointing toward the floor. Papa and Mama heard the shot and came to the house as fast as they could run. They were happy to find us all alive. My uncle, Columbus Dingler, told me that they lived in this house when he was a young boy. They always wondered why there was a hole in the floor.

Another time while living there, we were going to visit Grandpa Elder. We saw a rattlesnake crawling toward the yard. Mama got us back into the house and got the shotgun. She got on her knees, took aim and shot the snake’s head off. The gun kicked Mama over and she was pretty shaken up, but we went on to Grandpa’s. When we returned, the ducks were eating the snake. Mama thought it was poison and would kill the ducks, so she hung it up in a tree to show Papa when he came home. This was the only rattlesnake I ever saw in Alabama. Mama shot another rattlesnake and another hawk in Texas, killing them both. These were the only times I ever saw her shoot a gun, unless in target practice with a rifle just for fun.

Sometimes in summer, Papa had to keep the wagon wheels soaked in the branch to keep the tires from running off. Sometimes they would anyway and he would have to stop and wedge them to keep them on. One Sunday morning we stopped in the branch on the way to church to let them soak a little. While they were soaking, Papa said, “I know where there are some ripe apples”, and he got out of the wagon, climbed over the rail fence and went off across the field. He soon returned with a hat full of apples—a kind of old gold color with rusty mottles on them, but, oh, how juicy and good! Papa said they were Shockley apples. We went along to church, eating apples.

Often, we stopped at the High Falls Branch below Grandpa Elder’s to let the horses drink. Alders grew along this branch, their yellow powdery curls lining the banks with gold dust and sprinkling it on the water. We were always thirsty, and Papa would take off his hat, rake the gold dust aside and dip up water on the brim for us to drink. How he ever had a nice looking hat I don’t know, but he would do anything for us.

After living in the mountains, we lived in the house that Grandpa Elder built for us on the hill just south of Pretty Branch on the big road. That winter we had twelve inches of snow. When Papa got up that morning, he woke us calling, “Wake up, wake up and look out. Mother Nature has been picking her geese.” Chester and I had just recovered from the measles, and Elsie was breaking out with them, so we couldn’t go out in the snow. Papa went rabbit hunting. He came back covered with snow and said he had fallen into a well. He was walking across the field east of the road near the branch when suddenly he went down. Fortunately, it was a shallow well with no water, and a lot of things fell in with him so he could climb out. He thought it was funny. He said he was glad no one saw him. But Uncle Wych came out that afternoon and asked, “Albert, what happened to you this morning? You were walking across the field and suddenly you went out of sight.” They had a big laugh. Uncle Wych knew the well was there. Someone had covered it with canes from the bank of the branch and the snow had covered the canes so it looked like the ground.

Papa caught the measles (Mama had both measles and mumps when she was a child). Papa wouldn’t break out and was so terribly sick. People said give him a lot of hot drinks. Mama made hot tea of everything she could think of for him. Bill Cline brought some sheep pills to make tea and said it was “good medicine”. He was the only one in the country who had sheep then. I don’t know if Mama made tea with them or not, but Papa still wouldn’t break out and his temperature went higher and higher and he was so thirsty. Mama set the cedar bucket of water by his bed. Water froze in the bucket, so he drank ice water all night and the next morning he was broken out.

Although Mr. Mitchell, a rather, low, heavy-built man, lived in a nice home, had a sweet and gracious wife, and raised a nice family, but he never put on shoes in summer. He went everywhere barefoot. One day we saw him pass driving a wagon with an ox that was wearing a bell that rang every step he took, which was not often, for he was going so slow, we almost had to take sight by something to tell he was moving. Late that afternoon we heard a furious rattling sound coming up the road. Soon there came Mr. Mitchell’s ox running, pitching and bucking, the wagon wheels hitting the ground first on one side of the road, then on the other, and the bell ringing furiously. He went toward home “rattly bang, rattly bang!” We wondered where was Mr. Mitchell? Soon he came walking up the road through the dust barefoot. He said old Ball ran away with him down Gray Hill, threw him off, ran off and left him. He was not hurt, but plenty mad at old Ball as he walked home.

When Grandpa Elder built a new house near the spring and moved into it, Uncle Hartwell Elder moved into Grandpa’s old house, and we moved to Uncle Hartwell’s place near Macedonia. Uncle Hartwell’s boys, Wyatt and Floyd, came back to gather the corn, which was in new ground over the hillside. It seems that new grounds were mostly on hillsides so steep that it was difficult to walk on them unless you had a short leg and a long leg—and it was extremely difficult to drive a wagon on them. But these boys drove the wagon on this hillside. Soon it turned over and slid down the hill. They had gone to the house and get something to lift it up. All the corn poured out. They had to pick it up and put it back into the wagon. Soon Wyatt and Floyd got into a fight. As they fought, they would roll downhill, then get up and start fighting all over. Mr. Hilliard couldn’t do anything with them so he got on one of the mules and went to get Uncle Hartwell to straighten them out. It took them several days gathering corn and fighting, but they finally got all the corn.

Uncle Rich Carter’s boys were great fighters, too. One time we were at Uncle Rich’s when Harrison and Whit had a fight. They fought all over the kitchen and finally Whit ran and grabbed a flaming stick of wood from the fireplace and started at Harrison with it. Their uncle, Dock Carter, who was sitting by the fire, jumped up, grabbed it and threw it out the door into the garden. That stopped the fight. Another time, we were there when Brooks and Whit had a fight. Brooks was grown, Whit was younger, with Harrison between them. Brooks was sitting at the parlor table writing a letter to his girlfriend, May McKenzie. Whit kept slipping up behind him and reading it. Brooks chased him out several times, but he kept coming back. Finally, Brooks got on him, Whit got angry and started fighting. Brooks didn’t want to hurt him and would hold him to keep from getting hurt. Uncle Rich and Aunt Sara were not at home, and we were sitting on the ground in the yard watching Harrison draw pictures in the dust with a stick. Harrison was a good entertainer, and we were having a good time. When the fight started, I forgot the pictures and enjoyed the fight. They fought all over the big house and fell out the door, dragging a chair after them. Brooks was defending himself. Whit was so mad he was crying and fighting like a wildcat. His nose was bleeding, his hair down over his face and his shirttail out, suspenders broken and pants barely hanging on. Dora and Ola, who were older, were crying and begging them to stop. They fought all over the front yard, through the space between the big house and kitchen, which cornered, then, fought all over the back yard. I don’t remember how it ended, I just recall watching it.

I never knew “Aunt Sidney Newsome” until we moved to Macedonia. She was not my aunt. She had married Uncle Gene Newsome after Aunt Lizzie, Mama’s sister, died. Uncle Gene and Aunt Lizzie had two girls, Cora and Exa. He and Aunt Sidney had five girls: Ola, Dona, Mary, Rosa and Lula. They were our neighbors and we loved them. Uncle Gene had died, and Cora and Exa were married. At Macedonia, a peddler came around every so often. Mama would buy things from him, usually paying for them with eggs. One time, a foot peddler came with a pack on his back and spent the night with us. He said he was a Russian Jew and hadn’t been in America long. His English was so broken we could barely understand him but he was interesting. So different from anyone we had known. Mama bought a red checked tablecloth from him, and he gave her a pair of beautiful linen towels for his night’s lodging. Mama took orders from people and got a thirty-eight piece set of beautiful dishes, and the company sent her a set of knives, forks and spoons, and the loveliest thin china teapot, cream pitcher and sugar bowl for promptness. They were packed in a barrel of sawdust. Papa brought the barrel home and put it on the porch and we all gathered around as he unpacked each object so very carefully. They were all so pretty and we were so proud of them. I still have the teapot, pretty as new, sitting on the mantel in the dining room.

I suppose I found my love for the woods from Mama, for it was her delight to ramble in the woods. In the spring she would come home with armfuls of flowers for bouquets. If our fireplaces were smooth enough she whitewashed them inside and set pitchers of dogwood, ivy or pink honeysuckle in them. If a fireplace was too rough, she made a screen for it by making a frame and tacking white cloth over it. She got ferns and leaves of all shapes and laid them on it. With a pine top for a sprinkler, she sprinkled them either with bluing water or water with ink in it, or water with soot from the chimney mixed with it. When she took the leaves off, there was the print of all those leaves on a blue or black dappled background.

She embroidered pillow shams with beautiful red roses for the beds and crocheted lace for pillowcases and scarves. She loved pretty things and made us pretty clothes. A few of the little girls wore their dresses half way between their knees and ankles, but Mama made ours just below the knees, usually with a tuck or two in them, so if they shrank or we grew too tall, she could let them down.

There was a tragic occurrence in Shinbone Valley that I shall never forget. Early one crisp fall morning, while we were living at Macedonia, Papa went to the barn to feed the stock before breakfast. He finished and stepped out into the road when he saw Bill Cline and his son, Jake, coming up the road. Mr. Cline was carrying a shotgun. The sun was barely up above the hills to the east, and Papa wondered what had brought them out so early, as they were about four to five miles from their home. As they neared, Papa said, “Good morning, Mr. Cline”. Mr. Cline spoke and Papa saw that something was wrong, for his face was ashen and his voice sounded unnatural. Soon he asked, “Have you seen my girl, Dink?” Papa said he hadn’t, and Mr. Cline said, “She’s run off with James Phillips, and I’m going to find them and kill them both.”

Papa talked with him, told him he had better go back home or he would get himself in trouble and would be sorry, but they kept on walking up the road. Papa came into the house and told Mama about it, saying how glad he was he could say he hadn’t seen Dink and James. If they had come to him, and he had married them, there is no telling what Mr. Cline would have done!

That evening, between sundown and dark, a number of men or horses rode up to our yard. I recall that I knew only one of them, Morgan Dover, the son of my Great-Uncle Sherman and Aunt Josie. He did the talking, saying, “Albert, saddle your horse, get your gun and come with us. Bill Cline has killed a man.” Papa asked, “Who?” and Morgan said, “John Ed Phillips.”

As Papa got ready they told him how it happened; Mr. Cline and Jake had gone over Horseblock Mountain and as they went down the other side, they met Mr. Phillips and son, John, who was around fourteen years old. They were the father and brother of James Phillips. Mr. Cline stopped them and asked about James and Dink. (If I remember correctly, Dink’s real name was Cindy). Mr. Phillips told him that they were married, and he had taken them to the train. Mr. Cline then leveled his shotgun at Mr. Phillip’s head and shot him off his wagon, scattering his brains in the road. John turned the wagon around and ran the mules back to Oxford for help.

We were horrified. Mama begged Papa not to go, he might be killed. They all tried to assure her Mr. Cline wouldn’t kill anyone else, and they all rode off with Papa. Aunt Sidney and her girls came to spend the night with us. How glad we were. We barricaded the doors and soon put out the lights and huddled together. No one would go into another room to sleep, so all eleven of us piled on two beds and the cradle, but not to sleep. We heard Sport, Aunt Sidney’s dog, barking at home, and just knew Mr. Cline was passing by. He surely wouldn’t take the road back home—he would go through the woods. We were afraid he would kill Sport. I lay there shaking with fright, listening to every sound, imagining he was coming to kill us, and just knowing he would kill Papa and all those other men. About midnight, we heard cries coming from the south—heartrending cries, coming closer and closer. Soon we heard the “clop clop” of many horses hooves and the rattle of a buggy. The cries grew louder and louder as they passed and went up the road. If you have ever heard a big strong man crying at the top of his voice in the middle of the night, and when you are already scared to death, you can’t know how we felt.

Papa put his horse in the lot, came in and told us about it. There was very little sleep in our house that night. The posse had gone gathering more men as they went. The sheriff came in a buggy and joined them. After nearing Mr. Cline’s house, they heard his dogs barking as if welcoming someone. They thought it was Mr. Cline and Jake getting home. They tied their horses some distance from the house and walked, surrounding it. Everything was dark and quiet. The dogs didn’t even bark.

Uncle Tol Strickland, who was Justice of the Peace, and a good friend of Mr. Cline’s, went to the edge of the yard, in front of the house, and called, “Bill, get up and come with us. We’ve come after you.” For a little while there was no sound, then a knocking around in the house and some low talk. The men held their breath, some expecting to see a blaze of fire from a door or window. After what seemed an eternity, Mr. Cline said, “Come in, gentlemen, I’m neither going to run nor fight.” Uncle Tol told him to make a light. He lit a lamp, and split some pine splinters and started a fire in the fireplace. All the men marched in. When he saw them coming in, a whole room full of them, he looked frightened, like a trapped animal. They assured him they weren’t going to hurt him, but would protect him if anyone tried to. His mother tried to give him something wrapped in paper, saying it was potatoes. She didn’t want her boy to go hungry, but he wouldn’t take it. Some of the men wondered if maybe it wasn’t a pistol. Mr. Cline got in the buggy with the sheriff and the men on horseback rode along with them, each one dropping out as he reached home.

Papa said Mr. Cline talked some as they rode along, very much as if nothing had happened, until they neared Uncle Tol’s house, then he became quiet. When Uncle Tol stopped at home, he said a few words to him, shook hands, telling him goodbye, and then Mr. Cline started crying, and cried all the way up the road and before reaching our house his cries grew louder. Papa said it was because he considered the two of them his best friends, and from our house on he would be with strangers. He was tried and sentenced to prison. His folks left Shinbone Valley, moving somewhere nearer the prison so they could visit him. Someone from our community who visited him once said that he had wasted away from a large, strong man to a mere shadow of his former self. He didn’t live many years, and died in prison. We attended Mr. Phillip’s funeral and it was so sad, not only for his folks but to think of Mr. Cline and his family and what trouble they were in.

Papa bought a farm ‘way down the Big Kichemedogee, not far north of the lower bridge and we moved from Macedonia. When moving time came, Papa and Mama took a load of things down there, among them, the chickens. They unloaded the coops, then Papa took the chickens out, handing them to Mama, and she put them in the chicken house counting them as she did. It was about dusk when they got them all in, and as she put the last chicken in, saying, “Sixty-seven chickens” a big owl sitting in a nearby tree burst out with a loud “wha wha wha, who who who-ah!” Papa and Mama came home laughing about how happy that owl was to hear about all those chickens. But they had fastened the door tight before leaving to be sure he didn’t get any of them.

We never had any trouble with owls getting our chickens, but one morning Papa came in from feeding the horses and said, “There are sixteen chickens lying in the house dead.” Something had dug a hole under the wall and got into the house. Papa said it was a mink because they were killed just the way a mink kills them. He took Rattler, our hound puppy, and tracked it down across the field into the pasture, across one branch and to another where the trail ended. The bank of the branch was slick where animals had been going in and out and mink tracks were all around. Papa came to the house and got the mattock and shovel. We went with him and on the way he told us that minks den in creek banks. They would go under the water and dig a hole upward until they are above the water and there make their dens. He and Mama dug half the morning, tearing that branch bank to pieces, but couldn’t find a den, so we went home.

This home was a good place to live. The house was made of logs, consisting of a big house and kitchen, each with a fireplace. The two houses sat corner to corner, the northwest corner of the big house to the corner of the kitchen with a space the width of a door between, as many houses were built. A veranda ran the length of the big house and joined the kitchen, making a little breezeway between them. There was a barn and stables with lofts for fodder, and an apple and peach orchard that was loaded with fruit that first year. An ice storm came when the peaches were almost as large as marbles, covering them with ice, but it didn’t hurt them. Mr. Ivan Stancell said that if the wind was from the south or east on February 14th, there would be fruit that year—and if it was from the north, there wouldn’t. Papa said after Mr. Stansell told him that, he watched it every year and never saw it fail.

It failed once, about four years ago. The wind was from the north part of the day, yet there was an abundance of fruit that year. But, they say all signs fail in Texas. Papa put out young peach trees that bore peaches that year. In the front yard were two cherry trees that made the most delicious cherries that were almost black when ripe. Branches grew almost to the ground on these trees, making them easy to climb and when those cherries began to ripen, we would go up those trees after them. The branches were small and easy to break, so Papa laid the law down to us, “Don’t climb those cherry trees, wait for the cherries to fall, then get them.” That was hard to do, but we obeyed. One day, Myrtle Carter saw the ripe cherries in the top of trees and up a tree she went. We yelled at her, “Papa said don’t climb the trees”, but on she went. We told Mama and she got her down. When Papa came home and saw the broken limbs he pulled a little one off and came in saying, “Alright, who climbed the cherry tree?” Mama came to our rescue and explained it to him, so we were safe from a spanking.

The yard was almost blood-red clay until Papa hauled in sand from Sandy Bottoms and covered it, and made us a sand pile to play in. It was here that we lived when Papa worked the Sandy Bottoms, where we played with Indian relics. Strawberries grew in the woods and round the fields at this place and how good they were from our tall preserve dish with cream and sugar. A big red haw bush grew in the chimney corner and bore red haws that looked like little red apples and were good to eat. There was the wild cherry tree by the pasture fence where the birds ate cherries and got drunk. Not far from the road on the south side of Kichemedogee, after crossing the lower bridge, were two or three large blackhaw trees that bore the largest blackhaws I have ever seen, much larger than those that grow wild in Texas. Those were the only blackhaws I saw in Alabama.

One Sunday morning on the way to church, we crossed the bridge and were going around the hill near those blackhaw trees where a trumpet vine grew up a tree and hung out over the road. It was in full bloom and so pretty; but shortly before reaching it, Papa stopped the horses and said, “There’s a snake in those vines.” Then he drove a little nearer and we could see it. A big, long snake, coiled up among the vines. Papa said it was a coach whip and that coach whips don’t bite, but wrap themselves around their victims and whip them to death. We got scared and began to beg to get away from there. Papa drove out of the road and around and we went on our way. As we rounded the next curve and turned up the creek, a flying squirrel sailed out of a tall pine tree, floating to the ground. Then, it ran across the road ahead of us and up another tree. This was the last flying squirrel I ever saw.

Uncle Campbell and Aunt Lulie lived near us, so it was a good place to live, except we had to carry water from a spring at the foot of the hill for everything. This was the first place we had lived that didn’t have a well. It was about two and a half miles to church and school, and that was a long way for little kids to walk in cold weather. So, Papa sold the place and we moved back nearer the center of the community to a house at the turn of the road above the mill toward Mt. Zion.

This house was made like the other one, only the big house was of planks and the porch ran the length of the kitchen, joining the big house making a breezeway. There was a room over the kitchen with a stairway leading to it, making five rooms in all. The well was on the veranda with a curb, a windlass and “teekle” and oaken bucket. A big barn and shed were all across the lot and a cellar at the edge of the yard.

Apples and peaches galore grew there, and currants. A big hickory tree was in the front yard and bore the largest hickory nuts. A hackberry tree was also in the yard—the only one I recall seeing in Alabama. Mama raised dahlias and verbenas and we had guineas and turkeys. Down in the pasture was a good fishing hole in Little Kichemedogee. When school was out in the afternoons, we would grab our fishing lines and some worms, run down there and break down some elderberry stalks for poles, and start pulling out the mudcats. They were not good to eat, so we threw them back, but it was fun catching them. Once Papa and Mama went with us fishing in Big Kichemedogee, below the ford and dam, under a big pine tree, and I caught my first real fish, a good-size trout. Was I happy!

I always loved Aunt Hixie Strickland, and thought she was the prettiest girl in the world. She see-sawed, tramped the woods and played with us. She dressed so pretty, and came into church holding up her long skirts so daintily looking just so. I hoped that some day I would be just like her. When I grew up, girls didn’t wear long sweeping skirts, I didn’t want to look just so. I wanted to be just me. But in one way I was like her. I tramped the woods and fields with my nephews and nieces, played and swam with them, and enjoyed it as much as they did. Aunt Hixie and Donnie Smith were pals, and married cousins, John and Othal Hudson, of Erin, in a double wedding at our house. They gathered flowers and decorated the fireplace and mantel, and Papa married them in front of the fireplace, with a houseful of people.

One Sunday Whit Newberry asked Papa to go with him and Lovie Dempsey to Georgia to get married. They went that afternoon in Whit’s buggy, from a singing in Mt. Zion. If I remember correctly, they went to Bowden, Georgia and called by telephone to the County Clerk at Carrolton, county seat. They went to the courthouse and were issued a marriage license. The County Judge read the ceremony over the telephone to Papa. It was here that we got our organ—the most beautiful organ in the whole world. Papa traded a little horse for it. It was as wide as a piano with the same number of octaves. When the organ was played it seemed I could hear the angels blowing their trumpets. We were all so proud of it and wanted to play it.

Mary Newsome came to live with us, and she and I started taking music lessons. When I came in from school in the afternoon, I had to sit down and practice for thirty minutes. Finger exercises or picking out tunes with one finger without any lessons. I wanted to go outside and play, or go fishing, but I had to get in my practice. I’m glad now that Mama made me do it, for after I learned to play, making music was one of the most enjoyable things I ever did. Yes, it was here that Mary came to live with us. After her older sisters married, Mary became a rebellious “teenager”, causing Aunt Sidney a lot of worry. She came to Papa and Mama and asked if Mary could live with us. She was like a big sister to us, and Papa and Mama treated her like a daughter, though they were young themselves. She had beautiful red hair and was very attractive. Harrison Carter was her boyfriend.

The millpond was nearby. It was beautiful with willow and poplar trees, and cattails growing around the edge, mirrored in its water. Tall, long-legged birds waded around and stood on one leg and dreamed in the sun. Ducks and other waterfowl swam around, fish leaped, little frogs chirped, and bull frogs “Budger-rummed” loudly.

Papa sometimes hauled goods for Mr. Fuller’s store, taking railroad crossties to Lineville or Pyriton, and bringing back merchandise. Sometimes he would bring home a case of soda pop, which we really enjoyed. There was also a powder, much like Kool-Aid, in little bottles that he got in orange, lemon and strawberry flavors. The pop bottle caps had cork in them. We would take it out and when Mama baked cakes, she would give us a little dough and we would bake tiny ruffled muffins in them for our playhouse. Papa would also bring home big black powder buckets from the mines at Pyriton to use around the house and barn—they were very useful.

Our last year in Alabama and this little valley, living at Grandpa Elder’s place, is filled with so many beautiful memories. It was such a wonderful place to live, with so many interesting things. It seems that grandfather’s homes were always wonderful places—but when it was our home with Grandpa and Grandma living just down the road, it was even better. The house was not large compared to houses today—though larger than we had lived in. The banisters had been removed from the north end of the front porch, but were still all around the back porch, and down by the kitchen, which was both kitchen and dining room. The garden joined the yard on the east surrounded by a picket fence. The smoke house, which sat in the garden, opened into the yard. On the north side of it was a big pear tree. South of it was the well under shelter, the ash hopper, then a Yates apple tree at the corner of the garden. These apples ripened just right for Christmas. The peach orchard and quince tree were at the back of the garden, and other young apple trees were by the cotton house. Inside the garden were the Concord grape vines on frames and below the garden was a scuppernong vine on an arbor as big as a room. And, oh, those scuppernongs!! We could never get enough of them. They were a large grape that grew single on the vine, not in clusters. And, when ripe, were an old gold color—and yum, yum, what a flavor! On down the tail through the little cotton patch was the plum thicket by the pasture, with red and yellow plums and still further on, by the pasture fence, was a Shockley apple tree.

Back of the cow lot was a big black walnut tree that bore bushels of big delicious walnuts, and by the horse lot were bushes loaded with figs. In the middle of the field toward Little Kichemedogee was a large apple tree that grew from a seed. It was different from any apple tree in the country with the best pie and jelly-making apples to be found. It furnished apples for the community, then bushels went to waste. Blackberries grew along the road in front of the house and all around the fields. The berries were ours for the picking, to eat, can, and make jam—and oh those pies! Wild strawberries grew along the roads and were better than the tame ones—huckleberries grew in the hills, and gooseberries. We didn’t eat gooseberries, but the huckleberries and huckleberry pies were out of this world. There were huckleberries and huckleberries—hog huckleberries and bush huckleberries grew thick, but those growing on little low bushes were the best and less plentiful. Mama knew where they grew and went after them. One time, Chester and I went on Gray Hill with Barney and Vistula Strickland. Barney and Chester went over the hill to Union Spring and came back with buckets full of berries—Vistula and I didn’t get many. We spent too much time sitting down counting to see who had the most. Of course, we ate all we wanted.

Muscadine vines ran up the tall trees along the branches and bore large purple grapes that grew wild and single on the vine like the scuppernongs. Summer grapes and winter grapes were in the woods. Mama gathered summer grapes and put them down in syrup to eat in winter. Maypops and pawpaws grew wild in the fields for anyone who liked them. Hickory nuts grew in the woods, and chinquapins and chestnuts—though not many chestnuts since most people did not conserve. Some people, when chestnuts began to ripen, would take their axes and go hunting. When they found a tree they would cut it down and pick the nuts off. The burs are very prickly and difficult to open but when fully ripe the nuts fall out and could have easily been picked off the ground. But some couldn’t wait, afraid they wouldn’t get there first. So the trees were scarce except in the mountains. Uncle Rich’s boys often went to the mountains in winter and came back with pockets full of chestnuts—occasionally, Papa found some. I remember seeing a big chestnut tree lying by the road near Good Hope church—the only time I recall ever going there. It had been cut down and there were still a few chestnuts on it and we picked them off. There were horse chestnuts in the woods, but they were not as good.

Mary was still with us, and we loved her so very much, but Mama saw that we made ourselves scarce when Harrison came. When I would come home from school in the afternoon and see them in the front room, holding hands and looking so soulfully at each other, I would hurry through the house, grab something to eat, and hi tail it to the pine grove and sassafras thicket to look for strawberries, or watch the birds build nests, or just listen to the pine trees swishing, just wishing Harrison was somewhere else. He was taking Mary away from us! Mary decided to go and live with a young couple, Harrison’s cousin, Washie and Minnie Carter. We all begged her not to, but Minnie wanted her to come. Mama helped her get her things together, all of us crying, including Mary. Mama wrote Aunt Sidney, and she took her home. She stayed a short time, and she and Harrison were married.

When Papa was preaching at Campbell’s Crossroads, Mr. Charlie Dowdey gave him an ice cream watermelon—a big, long, yellow meated melon—the best we had ever tasted. Papa planted some of the seed and raised a big one just like it. We could hardly wait for the melon to ripen. We would go to the patch every day and thump it. At first it would say “plink, plink”, and then it said, “plank”—and finally it said “plunk, plunk”. We told Papa and the next day, about mid-morning, he came carrying it on his shoulder. We ran to meet him, fairly drooling. We all gathered round while he cut it. What a feast! It was as good as the first—good watermelons were really a treat in the summer.

Uncle Rich and Uncle Campbell Carter were brothers—Uncle Rich married Mama’s sister, and Uncle Campbell married Papa’s. We lived near them at different times and were with them a lot. Uncle Rich and Uncle Campbell were both “head chucklers”, or claimed to be. I loved them but was a little afraid of Uncle Rich. He was always going to chuckle his kids’ heads. I think his bark was louder than his bite, for I don’t recall ever seeing him chuckle a head. At home we were allowed to talk and laugh and giggle as long as we wanted after going to bed at night, but at Uncle Rich’s, when we went to bed we were supposed to go to sleep. If we started talking Uncle Rich would call out “Shut up in there and go to sleep”. Sometimes we would cover our heads and whisper, but he had good ears and would say, “All right, I’ll come in there and chuckle your heads.” That quieted us.

I can see Aunt Sarah, a short woman with golden earrings, which she always wore. She was always busy, cooking, sewing or doing something. She could make the best sausage —wrapping it in corn shucks and hanging it in the smokehouse to cure. She called it “sassage”. She also called onions “inguns”, and rich pine for starting fires (kindling) “lightard”. There were always peanuts at Uncle Rich’s and we ate them any time we wanted. Much of the time, the boys had a pet ground squirrel or two to eat with them, going into their pockets after the peanuts and sitting on their shoulders to eat them.

One day at Uncle Rich’s, we were out playing, when A.Z., who was around fourteen, asked if we would like to go snipe hunting. He went to the barn and got a tow sack and started off across the field, telling us to follow. We followed to a big gully. He jumped down into it and we all jumped in after him. It was deep and wide with steep banks, and we went up it until we came to a narrow place. Here, A.Z. stopped and asked who wanted to hold the sack. We all did, but he said since Dewitt was the youngest, he could. He demonstrated to Dewitt just how to hold the sack in the narrow part of the ditch, saying he would go up the ditch and when we found snipes we would drive them down the ditch and into the sack, telling him not to let any of them get away. We climbed out and left Dewitt holding that sack every so carefully. We went up the ditch a short distance, then A.Z. started across the field toward home. We asked where he was going, he said, “Going home. It’s just a joke. That’s the game. There are no snipes around here.” So we went to the house and played until Aunt Sarah called us to dinner. When we sat down Aunt Sarah asked about Dewitt. We told her he was down there holding a sack waiting to catch snipes. She told A.Z. to “Get up from this table right now and go after him”, adding, “You ought to be ashamed of yourself treating your little brother like that.” I don’t know how the others felt, but I felt mean. A.Z. got him, and when Dewitt came in looking embarrassed and so tired, I felt meaner. That’s the only time I have ever gone snipe hunting.

Uncle Bill and Aunt Etta Pritchet lived above Macedonia so we didn’t see them very often. We were at their house one day—the 5th of July. In the afternoon we were walking in the cotton fields and found a cotton bloom. It was red, so we knew it had opened the day before and thought it was something to have a cotton bloom on July the 4th. Daisy picked it and took it to show Uncle Bill and, of course, he reminded her that meant one less boll of cotton. Dewey Pate was with us, and while walking, Robert Pritchet said Dewey was going to hell. Chester, my brother, asked how he knew. Robert said the preacher told him he was for talking in church. Chester said, “He wouldn’t go to hell for talking in church.” Robert said, “He will! He was sitting on the front seat and was talking to another boy, and the preacher stopped and told them they were going to hell.” Chester said, “I don’t care. I know more than that preacher, and I know he won’t go there for that.” Daisy said, “You don’t know more than that preacher.” Then I took up for Chester and we had quite an argument. Dewey never said a word, just looked very unhappy as if he really thought he was going to hell.

On fall nights we watched the fire zigzagging across the mountains, flashing up here, dying down there. It was fascinating. There were no forest rangers, or any danger of bad forest fires. The woods on the mountains and in the valley burned every year, but never did any damage, just burning the dead leaves and pine straw, dead limbs, dead trees and stumps. The woods were like a beautiful park with big tall trees, with just enough underbrush to make it enchanting. Dogwoods and pink honeysuckles bloomed in spring, and sourwood in summer. Redbuds scattered here and there, sweet Williams in patches, and an occasional blue iris. Ferns and berry bushes on the hillsides, violets and baby blue eyes in the lowlands, and tall ferns, white honeysuckle, mountain laurel and sweet bubbies (sweet shrub) on the branches. The only reason I can think of, for no real forest fires, is that the people kept most of the dead trees and limbs especially pine, hauled out for fire wood and kindling.

One Sunday afternoon shortly before we came to Texas, Elsie and I were walking home from Aunt Sidney’s, who at that time lived on the old McClintock place toward Good Hope. The woods were thick for a long way. The leaves had fallen and were dry, and a fire had started and was burning on both sides of the road, not high, just the leaves on the ground and a dead tree stump here and there. One place there were leaves all across the road that were burning, and a lot of smoke, but the flames were low. The only way to get by was to run through it or jump over. We got a way back, made a running start and jumped it, then went on home smelling like smoke.

Seemed we had more adventures on the road to and from Aunt Sidney’s than anywhere. One time when she lived on Big Kichemedogee, Mary, Elsie, and I went to her house to spend the night. When we got to the lower bridge it was in a state of disrepair. The floor had been removed and only the sills and banisters remained—and there was deep water under the bridge! We didn’t know what to do. Her house was close and ours was two miles away. If we went another way it would be about four miles or more to walk and it would be dark before we could get there—and, we would have to pass the Indian graves. Mary said, “Let’s walk the sills.” So we did. When we arrived at Aunt Sidney’s she really got after us for doing that, and the next day when she told Mama, she nearly got us all.

One time, May and Myrtle Carter, Elsie and I spent the night with Aunt Sidney. Uncle Seph, and Aunt Cora lived in the house with Aunt Sidney on Uncle Campbell’s place. While playing in the barn, I steeped on a nail and stuck it in my foot. It went to the bone. The kids couldn’t pull the nail out, so Uncle Seph removed it and bandaged it up with turpentine. The next day we had a big rain and it was muddy. I had to walk with a stick, but we started home. We made it fine all the way up the creek to Red Hill Branch, which was up and rolling. Grandpa Strickland was sitting on the bank on the other side watching it and told us to wait awhile and it would run down. We waited and watched. Finally, he decided we could make it. If we washed down he would get us. He directed us, telling us to walk on the upper side of the road. The water came up under my arms and I, hobbling along with my stick, almost slipped down a number of times. Grandpa kept encouraging us. When we got out, wet as dogs and dripping, J. D. Strickland, who was there on a mule, rode across on the lower side of the road just above where the branch runs into the Kichemedogee, and it swam the mule. We went on home sopping wet. Mama just knew my foot would come off, but it was well in no time.

Once, Elsie and I were coming home from Aunt Sidney’s when we saw a black racer snake lying across the road in front of us. It was so long it reached almost all the way across the road. When we saw it we ran back, then stopped to look, and shivered and wondered what to do. We were afraid to make any sound, afraid it might chase us—we had heard that black racers did that. We couldn’t go around it because the weeds and briars grew so thickly along the roadside, so we got some rocks and began chunking it. It didn’t move. We held a consultation, whispering, “Maybe he was just waiting for us to get closer to chase us.” We moved in close enough to hit it with rocks. After waiting and watching for awhile decided maybe it was dead. We decided to run and jump over it—we looked back after running quite some distance and still it hadn’t moved. So we went home satisfied it was dead.

Chapter 10


I never dreamed we would ever go to Texas, but one day a cloud came over our paradise. One Sunday afternoon Uncle Bill Pritchett and Aunt Etta, Uncle Scott and Aunt Bertie Clark and their smaller children came to our house. Uncle Bill and Uncle Scott had the “Texas fever” in a big way and began begging Papa to go with them to Texas. They had lived in Texas in the past, and that was all they talked about. After they left, Papa began thinking and talking about it. Mama didn’t want to go, and I felt that I would die if I had to. Chester and Elsie thought it would be fun—Easter was little, and wanted to go if there was any going to be done.

Finally, Mama agreed to go and wrote Uncle Dock Elder in Fairy, Texas. He was thrilled that we were coming, found us a place to live and a farm to work. The world was coming to an end for me. This place and the ancient hills around it had placed a claim on my heart. They were all a part of me, and I felt that no other place on earth could ever be home to me.

Why would anyone want to exchange this place for a place with no trees—nothing but level land covered with fields and broom weeds? Uncle Hartwell Elder in Midland had written that there were no trees or rocks. Aunt Lula Strickland in Cranfills Gap had written about broom weeds and live oaks. Since there were no trees, we thought live oaks must be some type of weed. No trees to climb, to hang a rope swing, no cool shades to play in and no leaves to play in.

There were jackrabbits in Texas, we had heard, but no rocks to throw? What was there to do for fun? Besides, in Shinbone we had our grandpas and grandmas, uncles and aunts, and cousins by the dozen, and friends by the score, and they were all so dear. We just couldn’t leave them! I would slip off down to the woods to dream long dreams, and listen to the fairies and pixies whispering in the pines, and watch them splash their paints of gold and red over the sweet gums and the sassafras, and to talk to God about the mountains and the trees that I would have to say farewell to. How could I?

I would sit on the doorstep and look at the things around me, and these beautiful things I strung on the golden cord of memory to keep forever. I studied the mountains and hills, picturing them behind my eyelids where the pictures would never fade. I drank of their beauty, of the beauty of every tree and every form, cherishing them deep in my heart where they would never perish, thinking that if I should come back sometime a long time from now, and this house and all the people I loved should be gone, these mountains would still be there, and I wondered, “Are these the hills we sang about at singing school ‘I will look unto the hills, God’s holy hills’?” To me they were God’s holy hills.

Papa went to Oxford and bought us all some new clothes, and brought home some big boxes for Mama to start packing. It was near Christmas, so she sent us to the woods to get some holly branches to take along. We got the holly with bright shiny leaves and red berries, thinking this would be the last holly trees we would see. And it was, for me, so far. I see holly shrubs in yards, but no big holly trees.


We had a sale, with Mr. Tom Elliot as auctioneer. We sold our cows, horses, wagons and buggies, farm equipment and household goods. Sold the organ, which was like slicing a piece off my heart and selling it.

We couldn’t stay at home any more, so we stayed with relatives until time to go to Texas. On Saturday night we stayed at Grandpa Strickland’s and went to Mt. Zion church on Sunday morning, and Papa preached. The house and yard were full of people. The windows were raised so those outside could hear and see. After services we lined up, twenty-one of us—three families: Uncle Scott Clark and family; Rufus Moore, wife and baby, Clealis; our family and three young men, Arch Dover, Charlie D. Shaddix, and Brooks Carter—all going to Texas. (Uncle Bill Pritchett had decided not to go.) Across the front of the church building, and the congregation sang, “Good-by”, marching by and bidding us farewell. The song rang out:

“Once more we give the parting hand,

Once more with tear-dimmed eye

We have to say reluctantly

Good-by, dear friends, good-by.”

One by one they came with tears streaming down their faces, old men, young men, women, girls and boys, singing and crying.

“As we have been together here

How swiftly time did fly!

We scarce believe that we must say

Good-by, dear friends, good-by.”

Friends, brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, nephews and nieces, cousins, schoolmates and playmates, they came, some shaking our hands, and some holding us close and crying with us. The sound of feet shuffling up the aisle come from outside. It was like dying, listening to the words:

“Good-by, good-by, dear friends, good-by.

This is our parting cry.

Remember us when ‘you’ [we] are gone.

Good-by dear friends, good-by.”

We went back to our seats, and they sang “God Be With You”. Then it was over.

Though this is a story of Shinbone Valley, I must tell of our exodus and something of our life in Texas. Early on the morning of the fifteenth, Mr. Charlie Hall took us to Pyriton, and we, with the other fifteen, boarded the train for Texas. At Birmingham we walked, all twenty-one of us, carrying our bags several blocks from one station to another—looking up at the skyscrapers, and at cars crawling in the street like bugs. We stayed in Birmingham until 10 o’clock that night, then got on a chartered car of an emigrant train. There were about forty of us on the train bound for Texas.

Riding in the train was something else. We were soon settled and enjoying it, especially the kids. We played games, and stuck our heads out the windows and watched the black smoke puffing from the big locomotive and felt the cinders in our faces. Wednesday morning early, we crossed the Mississippi River at Memphis, Tennessee. A misty haze hung over the water, so we couldn’t see across, but a steamboat was on the water with black smoke pouring from its smokestack. Sometime in the night, December 16th, we crossed the Red River into Texas—and about sunrise on the 17th, in Dallas, our coach was switched off and coupled to another engine which was to take us to Fort Worth.

We walked over the town of Fort Worth, seeing the sights, then separated—each family going to a different place: Uncle Scott and family, and two of the other men to Ringgold; Rufus Moore and family to Haskell. Brooks Carter came with us and a Mr. Wright, his wife and two daughters we had met on the train, came as far as Waco.

Because of a freight train wreck, we had to spend the night in Waco. The hotel room was cold. The beds were hard and we didn’t have enough covers. We piled our coats on the beds but still were cold. The next morning we ordered ham and eggs for breakfast—the ham was so rare blood was running out of it and there was not enough bread. This was our first experience dining in a hotel. We didn’t ask them to re-cook the ham and pushed it aside. Mama then opened up the box of food we had eaten from on the trip, and we ate it along with our eggs.

It was cold and frosty as we rode in a taxi from the hotel across the Brazos Bridge to the depot. But, when we got on the train it was warm and comfortable and seemed like home. Papa told us we would soon be there. I didn’t want to get there. I hadn’t wanted to start, and now I didn’t want to stop. Riding the train was great, I was sure better than arriving anywhere in Texas. It seemed I could ride the train forever, but we did arrive at Hico around one o’clock in the afternoon, Friday, December 18th. After Birmingham and Fort Worth, Hico was a desolate looking place, and oh, so cold! Uncle Dock and son, Joe, were there to meet us in a wagon to carry us to his house, about fourteen miles. The Bosque River flowed at the edge of Hico and along its bank grew trees. To our great surprise, we had already seen a lot of trees in Texas. Once what we thought was the largest peach orchard we’d ever seen was, according to Uncle Scott, not a peach orchard at all, but a mesquite grove. We had never heard of mesquites.

We had seen cedars growing on white hills in Hill County, and even a wild deer among them. Now there were trees along the road, small trees, but they were trees. Also, rock houses, rock fences and rock piles. Before we reached Uncle Dock’s, though, we had left most of the trees and rocks behind. Riding fourteen miles in a wagon through steel-blue cold was no fun, especially after riding a warm train, sitting on plush seats for nearly a week. We wrapped up in the quilt we were sitting on, but almost froze before getting to Uncle Dock’s after dark. There was a red-hot heater and a warm supper waiting. Uncle Dock’s was a large and jolly family. The boys came down from upstairs and Uncle Dock introduced them—there was Aunt Mantie, Electa, Myrtle, Russel, Bill, Tennie, Levena and Sam.

The next morning it looked like we were on top of the world—right up against the sun though it was still cold. Even the sunshine looked cold. Some chinaberry bushes and some peach trees grew around the house. Beyond the fields and pastures on every side were things that looked like potato hills. They called them “mountains”. We had never heard of mountains in Texas. Uncle Dock pointed out shell rocks around the house, which he said proved that the country once was covered with water. He said there were water rings on the hills and mountains to further prove it.

I was filled with fear, thinking that if it was once covered with water it might be again. Also, it was a scary looking country. The ground was too high. Back home we looked a long way up to the top of trees and mountains. Here we were walking around almost level with them. I felt uneasy as I have always felt on high places. What if we should fall off the world? I didn’t tell anyone, but I was scared.

Christmas Eve day we went to Uncle John Strickland’s at Cranfills Gap. They were glad to see us, and we were them. They didn’t believe in Santa Claus, so we didn’t hang up our stockings that night. Papa had some candy and nuts and fruit for everyone, so it seemed a little like Christmas.

Velma, Ella and Ista took us over on the hillsides to play in the ditches. It was all white gravel and petrified shells, fossils, and scraggly cedars right up against the sky. The sun still looked cold. Was God here? I had though he was everywhere, but this land looked so forsaken. Surely he was not here. Then we climbed a tree and found a screech owl in a hole —I knew then that God was there, for he takes care of the birds.

On January 1, 1909, we moved into our new home…a three-room house on a rocky knob in the middle of a thirty acre pasture in the Agee community in Hamilton County, two and one-half miles from Uncle Dock’s. There was not a tree in the pasture, nor a bush, except some polecat bushes about knee high at the south side. Prickly pears grew so thick over part of it we couldn’t walk through them. We had never seen prickly pears before and suffered some painful experiences getting acquainted with them.

There were no rocks in the field and the dirt was as black as tar. A cottonwood grew by a well at the far side of the field, a half mile away. There was a well and a dirt tank below the house, but they were dry. A corncrib sat at the edge of the yard with a shed on the south side for the mules and cows, and an outdoor toilet.

Not much of a home, but Mama swept up the trash from the floor and put it over the door, and we ate black-eyed peas for dinner. Uncle Dock and our landlord, Mr. Porterfield, were there to help us, and told us to do those things for luck. They also told us we would have to be good, for Mr. Grogan, the sheriff, lived just across our field on the south, and Mr. Kavenaugh, the deputy sheriff, lived in the house at the edge of our pasture on the north.

This was all so different from what we had known. But, this was Texas and a new adventure. All our furniture was new—new shiny beds with brass knobs, new mattresses, cook stove, cooking vessels and dining table, and new dishes. Papa got Mama a big white milk pitcher trimmed with gold. She was so proud of it and told us that whoever broke it would get a whipping—it hasn’t been broken and we still have it.

Somehow the meals tasted different cooked in these new utensils on that new stove and eaten off the new table in our new home in this new country. We were full of enthusiasm and wonder. Even I became interested. We spent the next two days exploring and watching the neighbor’s houses for a glimpse of their children. Wondering what they would be like. We could see a one-room schoolhouse out across the fields. Excitement reigned Monday morning as we got ready for school. Papa went with us as far as Mr. Porterfield’s. We walked the road through the field. It was foggy and we could see only a short distance ahead. The road was covered with dead grass and our shoes were new and slick on the bottom, so we slipped down a number of times. It looked like a short distance across the field to Mr. Porterfield’s house, but that morning it seemed like picking up our feet and setting them down in the same place. It seemed as if we would never get across those fields. That was the longest mile we had ever walked.

Finally, we reached the schoolhouse so scared we were almost shaking. There was not a soul there we had ever seen, and we were not accustomed to strangers. A number of boys stood in front of the door. One red haired boy tipped his cap and said, “Good morning, boys”. Chester spoke to him, but Elsie and I pretended not to hear and almost fell down getting into the house away from their eyes. Inside, a tall girl with a kind voice and sweet smile, who, we later learned, was Emme Porterfield, our landlord’s daughter, came, took our lunch kits, wraps and put them away. She then took us to the teacher. To us, she was a shining angel and from that day to now, I have remembered her as one of the sweetest persons I have ever known.

The teacher, Mr. Robert Foster, was only eighteen years old, but was a very kind man, and we loved him from the beginning. He showed us to our desks and rang the bell. After we had studied awhile the teacher said something I didn’t understand and everybody jumped up, and yelled at the top of their voices. I was frightened, jumped up too, wondering what in the world was happening. Everyone seemed to be saying something different, like, “First batter, second batter, third batter, pitcher, etc.”, all yelling as loud as they could. I said nothing. I soon learned it was recess and everyone went out of the house pushing and shoving. We were accustomed to getting out of the schoolhouse quietly and this was something else!

The boys ran down across the road and started playing ball. The girls climbed through or rolled under a barbed wire fence, grabbed a bat and hard rubber ball and were soon batting, running and screaming at each other. Elsie and I had never played ball, except anty-over with a cotton ball, so we just watched. At noon, everyone was nice to us. The big girls sat us on a table and stood before us asking questions and admiring our complexions. We were not sun-tanned like the Texans. Before many days, we forgot to be afraid and were soon playing and yelling like the rest of them. School was great and Texas began to seem like a pretty good place.

Besides the schoolhouse, Agee consisted of four residences, a store, blacksmith shop, and Baptist church house. On Sunday we went to church at Fairy, four miles away. Mr. Porterfield and his family were there to welcome and introduce us. He was an elder. Everyone was nice and made us feel we belonged. Papa was soon directing the singing and then was the minister for the church until we moved away.

Our well was dry, so Mr. Porterfield made arrangements for us to get water from Mr. Kavenaugh, our nearest neighbor. Papa made a sled and got a barrel, and with that and a gentle old mare named Diancy, we could haul water more easily than we could carry it. In spite of that, we still carried quite a bit because of the difficulty of catching and harnessing her. Though she was thirty years old, she sometimes had to be run down on horseback and be roped with a lariat. Mr. Porterfield had to do the roping for Papa was not a rider and roper.

One beautiful, warm Sunday afternoon in early January, a little before sundown, we noticed a dark bank across the north and thought a sandstorm was coming. We had heard of Texas sandstorms. Soon the cow came running across the yard, going to the shed. Then the wind struck and all outdoors turned blue. There was a strong odor in the air, something like the scent of sparks from flint or steel, a scent peculiar, as we were to learn, to blue northers. This was a blue norther and not a sandstorm. The barrel of water we had in the yard was solid ice the next morning.

We had never used a hearting stove, but had always had fireplaces to keep us warm in winter. Our heater didn’t throw out any heat. It all went up the pipe and outside where it did no one any good. With the wind blowing up through the cracks in the floor we were about to freeze to death when in walked Ike Porterfield, the landlord’s ten-year old son. He had walked a mile through that cold wind to bring us a damper for the stovepipe. Papa had to take the fire out of the heater and put it in the cook stove and let the pipe cool before he could install it, but the damper helped. Mama covered the floor around the stove with ducking, tacking it down, and that helped, too.

We ran out of water in the house and couldn’t get the ice out of the barrel. The wind was so high the windmills couldn’t run and the water pipes were frozen. Papa and Chester went to Mr. Blacklock’s another neighbor, where there was a wooden tank and climbed onto the tower, broke the ice, and dipped water out and brought it home. It was ice before they could get it home.

We thought of the well we had left, where we could draw water any time we wanted, warm water in the winter and cool in the summer, and Grandpa’s spring across the road where on cold mornings steam rose from the water continuously, and of the little spring where Grandma kept her water lilies—they never froze.

In the cold weather there was the humming of telephone lines, a sound so desolate, almost terrifying at times with its loneliness. One might as well have been alone in the world, or maybe in outer space with nothing but that eternal, mysterious humming. It shut out everything else and brought loneliness that was indescribable. But, we grew accustomed to it and even came to enjoy running from pole to pole, putting our ears against them, listening to the hum.

Chapter 11

Spring & Summer in Texas

As spring came, the wind blew all the time from some direction—mostly the west. We would often come home from school and find Mama’s eyes red from smoke and crying. Our kitchen was a side room and the stovepipe was not high enough so the wind blew down it and sent smoke into the house in great puffs until the house was filled and the doors had to be opened, bringing in the cold. The cook stove didn’t work at all. Mama would cook what she could on the heater. Some time passed before a neighbor told us what was wrong—then Papa got some more stove pipe and put it up. The wind blew it down. He put it up again. It blew down again. Finally, he put it up and tied it with wires to the roof so it wouldn’t fall.

The hard winds made the walls of the schoolhouse swell in and out like a blacksmith’s bellows—the teacher would turn out school for fear the house would blow down and we would fight our way home, our clothes almost blowing off. These fair weather storms were something we couldn’t understand—where did all that wind come from? Wind and no rain.

One day at afternoon recess two young men came to the schoolhouse on a horse and wild mule, which they were breaking. Some of the little girls were in the house. They rode up to the door asking for a drink of water. Another girl went for the water. I went to the door, and not thinking of being afraid, started to rub the mule on the nose. The fellow urged him a little closer, and into the house he came pitching and bucking up and down the aisles. We ran out screaming and climbing onto anything to get away from that mule, as scared as if an African lion had been let loose among us. They got him out of the house, and Mr. Foster helped get him off the school ground, and he went off across the prairie still pitching and bucking. When we got home we told Mama about it, she said, “What next? Cold, wind and smoke, now mules in the school house?!”

When there was nothing to do in the fields, Papa would cut prickly pears and put them in piles. When he had them all cut, he hauled them in the wagon to the back of the pasture and burned them. Stickers on the cactus came off in the wagon; Papa would sweep them out with a broom—the big ones, at least. The little ones were so fine they could barely be seen and stayed in the wagon. They would get into Papa’s clothes and work into his skin to torment him.

Bluebonnets bloomed in the pastures and looked as if the blue sky had come down and spread out over the ground. Other flowers bloomed in patches: Prairie pinks in their lovely shades of pink, rose and salmon, little white daisies in clumps and wild cosmos sprinkled the picture with a beautiful shade of dark red. A few prickly pears left to bloom the most delicately beautiful flowers of all. We had never seen anything like it—our whole pasture-- a veritable flower garden, except the front yard, which was one big solid rock.

We gathered armfuls of flowers and made bouquets, and, I think Mama almost forgot the continually blowing wind. I missed the woods, with their dogwood, honeysuckle and ivy in bloom, our rose and lilacs, apple blossoms and the songs of birds. But, I got out at night and walked in the pasture among the flowers in the moonlight. I looked away to the lights of Hamilton, twelve miles away. Only once did I get homesick enough to cry. One night I cried myself to sleep thinking of Grandpa and Grandma, afraid I would never see them again, and I didn’t.

These people all lived in big nice homes. The Kavenaughs (Mr. and Mrs., Verna, Vera, Cecil and Lawrence) lived in a five bedroom home with bath, wall-to-wall carpeting, crystal chandeliers and velvet drapes, yet they visited us and treated us as equals, as did all the community. The Porterfields ate with us, and asked us to spend nights with them, and we did. The Blacklocks had five little girls, Johnnie, Dot, Essie, Hope and Rose, and a piano, which I loved to play with all of us singing.

The Charlie McClintocks soon seemed like homefolks. Papa and Mama had known them in Alabama when they were young. Mr. Mc. was Aunt Sidney’s brother, and Mrs. Mc. was the Mitchell’s daughter. He was tall, red-headed and jolly, and they were two of the kindest people I ever knew. They had a large family, seven girls (one married) and two boys. Iula, Eva, Henry, Troy and Truett were around our age. We were together often. They all just took the place of our grandpas, grandmas, uncles, aunts and cousins.

Papa was appointed county lecturer for the Farmer’s Union, and his way paid to the convention in Galveston. Still no rain came, big black clouds and thunder, but no rain, just wind. But Papa whistled and sang and plowed, thinking that some day we would have a nice house and barn like our neighbors.

The corn grew tall and made a shade for us to walk through to the well as we chopped cotton. How good it felt, and how sweet the whispering of the cottonwood leaves—and how good that water tasted after walking up and down those rows in that parching burning sun. Clouds stacked up on top of clouds like castles in the sky, but no rain. What were clouds for, if not to rain? It was hard to understand. Heat glimmers danced over the fields. Hot winds blew and the sun beamed down parching the soil to a powdery dust. The corn started twisting and Mr. Porterfield said, “If we get any good out of the corn, we’ll have to cut the tops.” So they cut corn tops and let them dry and hauled them to the barn.

The well in the field went dry, and we had to carry water in a jug wrapped in a tow sack. We would re-wet the sack, but it wouldn’t stay wet. We kept a jug at each end of the field and the rows were half a mile long. OH, how dry and thirsty we would get before we could hoe a row, and Chester wouldn’t let us go and get a drink. We had to hoe to the end of the row. As we trudged up and down the rows digging a sprig of grass here and there (Papa thought every sprig must be out) our feet burned and our mouths parched. We spit cotton, licked our lips and watched the windmills in the distance “clank, clanking”, bringing up precious water. Chester would tell us if we would work instead of watching windmills we would get water sooner. But, Elsie and I were pure-dee sissies and thought Chester a hard master. He was more brave than we.

We could see Grandpa’s spring again in a mossy dell, shaded by beeches and willows and alders. Cool sparkling water bubbling up and pouring over the side of the spring box and running off in a beautiful clear stream. Oh, to be there! To lie down and let that cool water pour into our mouths, to splash our hands and faces in it and feel its coolness running over parched feet as we waded up and down the stream—and there was Bluff Spring with water so cold it hurt your teeth, bubbling out from beneath a bluff. “Cool, clear water.” It was maddening. We would cry and beg, “I’m burning up, I’m dying.” But we must hoe to the end of the row. When we at last reached the end of the row, Chester wouldn’t let us drink much water until we had passed it on to the next one. “It might hurt us,” he would say. I wonder now how he could have been so wise and brave while not being a very big boy. Are boys naturally braver and wiser than girls?

As hard as we thought Chester was, he was not totally without compassion. One day, he found a baby streak-field lizard. Imagining it to be very thirsty, he put it in his pocket and carried it, as he hoed, to the end of the row. Then he made a hole in the ground packing in the dirt hard and filled it with water and put the lizard by it. It drank, then he put it back in his pocket and hoed back to where he had found it and let it go.

The remaining corn leaves sang a mournful dirge as we walked through them, carrying our water jug to the shade of the cottonwood tree by the dry well to rest and pass the jug around, reveling in the water, before starting back through the hot sun to the other end. The cottonwood leaves still sang in the wind, but it was a song of despair.

We had no shades outside to play in, so we had to play in the house. Mama never let us get on the beds in the daytime, but now it was too hot to do anything else, so she let us sit or lie on the beds anytime.

Late in the afternoons we could play in the lot under the cow and mule shed and in the shade of the corn crib. We would rake the manure, which was dry as powder, into rows for walls to be different rooms of our playhouse. The sun, beaming down on our rocky yard, heated it up like a furnace and reflected into the house, and by night became almost unbearable. The beds were so hot we couldn’t sleep on them. The wind stopped blowing, and we all but suffocated night after night. I don’t remember how the others tried to sleep, but I recall Mama lying in the floor with her feet propped up in the window, and I on my knees on the floor with my head on the side of the bed. We all fanned and moaned and groaned. We had been accustomed to pleasant summer nights and sleeping in comfort with the windows and doors closed.

Our hog pen was made of poles, and the hog rooted under it and got out. We all worked trying to get it back. It would run and we would run after it. When we got it back in the pen, Papa saw it was too hot so he got water to pour over it. But it died, leaving us hogless and feeling almost helpless.

The Blacklocks invited us to come and eat ice ream with them on a Saturday night. O joy! The cream was made in the yard. We took turns turning the crank or sitting on the freezer while the men turned. When it was too hard to turn, we played hide and seek and booger while waiting for it to mellow. Dishes and spoons were brought out, and we all gathered round. The heat was forgotten for a season while everybody cooled off with that delicious ice cream. Nothing was better than ice cream—unless it was more ice cream.

There was the Hico Old Settler’s Reunion with its merry-go-round, ferris wheel, cat-racks, balloons and all kind of jolly things. The merry-go-round was the most fun of all with its loud piping music and ponies—black and white ones, and speckled and gray.

One day our feet almost blistered walking down the road to the mail box and we could hardly wait to get there to cool them in Egg Creek, only to find the creek dried up. We went to the store and Dr. Agee, who ran the combination grocery, drygoods and drug store, was advising everyone to stay in and take it easy. The temperature was 110 degrees in the shade. We “took it easy” back to Iula’s and Eva’s house, where we stopped for awhile without Mama’s consent, feeling sure she would understand, and she did when we told her what the doctor said.

The McClintocks, May, Emme and Ike Porterfield, Viola and John Jackson (Dr. Agee’s grandchildren), and all of us went camping on the Leon River for two days and a night. What fun! I could smell the water before we got to it and like a longhorn steer, wanted to run and get in it. Papa and Mr. McClintock did a lot of fishing. The rest of us played in the water to our heart’s content and had the time of our lives, splashing, squealing and shouting with joy. When we started home I wanted to take the water with me. That’s what I loved. Was it I who had been afraid that Texas might be covered with water again? Never Texas!!

Summer burned on. All our corn burned up but a little in a draw at the end of the field. Mama gathered all we made and brought it to the house in her apron. The cotton made only a boll here and there. Papa bought a crop in Erath County, and we went there and picked it. Uncle Dock’s boys and girls came and helped us—twelve of us in a four-room house. Mr. McClintock also bought a crop nearby, and we had fun.

We had a letter from the Porterfields. They had picked our cotton—one scrappy bale on forty acres. It had rained and prospects were good for a crop another year, so we moved back, we kids started to school, and Papa started farming with high hopes again.


1916 Texas Wildflower Field


Standing left: Vista Strickland, Reva Walters, Elsie Strickland, Mattie Landgraf

Sitting left: Hilda, Easter Strickland, Tracy, Clarence Strickland (b. 1911 TX)

Chapter 12

Texas is Home

There must have been something magic about Texas that wove its spell about us, for all those who came with us, except Rufus Moore and family, went back that first year. Anyway, we stayed. We still had each other and faith in God that things would be better. Texas was home and still is. We love it.

After we came to Texas, Harrison and Mary Carter lived in Grandpa Elder’s old home. Grandma wrote us that Harrison had plowed up all the shrubs and flowers in the yard, and planted cotton up to the door. She said it made her cry. We cried too. Grandpa’s beautiful old home, our last home in Alabama was just next to heaven in my memory.

Many years after we left Alabama a company came and tapped all the pine trees on the mountains, hills and in the valley, and drained their sap—their life-blood, for the turpentine stills. Then the saws and axes arrived. Every able-bodied man living there worked at it, and every pine tree, and large tree of any kind was cut down for lumber. Papa so hoped they wouldn’t take the giant pine at the cemetery gate. But they did, also the one in front of the schoolhouse that it took seven of us little girls to reach around. The virgin forest with all the tall trees were gone. The valley’s beauty ravaged, ruined! Then most of the people moved away to Oxford, Anniston, Florida and Georgia, leaving Shinbone Valley in desolation.

We stayed in the Agee community in Texas three years. In the meantime Easter started to school, and at the Christmas program she stepped onto the stage and said:

“Do you know why old Santa Claus

Hided all day long from me?

I tired all out jus’ sittin’ still

With nothin’ ‘tall to see.

So I jus’ laid my headie down,

And didn’t say my prayer,

But all the same I went to sleep

In Papa’s big arm chair.

Then somethin’ wiggled, and I jumped

And saw right in my lap

The cutest doggie Santa bringed

Jus’ while I had a nap.”


And on January 3, 1911, Clarence, the sweetest and dearest little baby brother was born. Rufus and Dona Moore had moved here from Haskell. They had three children now: Clealis, Lois, and Allen. We enjoyed them. It rained and we made good crops and Papa was still minister for the Fairy church, but he thought he could find a better place to live, and started looking. Almost everybody owned their homes and the few who didn’t stayed where they were. The nearest place he could find that he thought was better was in Bosque (pronounced “bos-ky” or “Bos-cue”) County. He showed us from our front yard, a light spot on a mountain, and said, “That’s Bee Rock, not far from where we’ll love, about thirty miles from here, near Clifton.” Later we looked at it through binoculars from Mr. Kavenaugh’s front porch. So we moved there, four miles from Clifton.

J. D. Strickland had come to Texas and lived with us part of the time and when not living with us, working for someone nearby and spent weekends with us. He was like a big brother to us and we loved him in that way. Like the rest of us, J.D. loved to sing and had a grand bass voice. Chester learned to sing tenor and I learned alto, so with Papa leading, we had a quartet. Elsie and Easter joined in on the soprano. They both had much better voices than mine, but they didn’t sing alto. I couldn’t sing soprano.

When we were moving from Hamilton County to Bosque County, before taking out the telephone, Papa called the McClintock’s, who then lived west of Hamilton, about twenty miles away, to tell them goodbye. They wanted us to sing “Mother and Home”, so we all gathered around the phone and sang it. Then, tearfully we all said goodbye, and left our neighbors all crying, even Mr. Porterfield.

The people at the new home were not strangers for long. Easter, my little sister, came down with spinal meningitis shortly after we moved. Drs. Glass and Moore said there was no hope for her recovery, but they stayed in there and did what they could. The neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Horn, and Mr. and Mrs. Ed Stapp took over and nursed her until she was well. Everybody was wonderful, and we soon loved it there and had so many friends we didn’t want to live anywhere else. We still loved Hamilton County, and visited there every summer with our relatives and the Porterfields, Kavanaughs and Blacklocks, and they visited us. The Porterfields spent weekends with us. Emme stayed a week once. Mr. and Msr. P. visited us here in Meridian as long as they lived, and how we did love them! Ike is the only one living now.

This place was better in many ways, a better, larger house and water at home. There was the Bosque River at the back of our field. Papa bought half interest in a boat so we could fish, swim, boat ride and have a good time. There were woods which I enjoyed.

A short time after we started school at Clifton, on a Monday morning in chapel while we were singing, the principal of the school kept walking around over the auditorium, finally stopping behind Chester. When the song was ended he told Chester, “Come with me.” Taking him on the stage, he said, “I’ve found a diamond in the rough.” Then, introducing him to the audience, he said, “This young man has the sweetest voice I have ever heard anywhere.” Soon he was directing the singing in chapel, and, before we were there a month, I had been chosen for the alto in the literary society quartet. I was surprised and never knew why they selected me—though I knew it wasn’t because I had a strong voice. Before I learned to sing alto, sometimes when I sang, Chester would say, “Mama, I want you to make Vista hush. She’s bursting my eardrums. I can hear her across the room.”

We attended singing schools after coming to Texas—three in Hamilton County and two in Bosque. We went back to Agee and attended singing school two summers after moving away, studying the rudiments of music, voice, harmony and composition. As long as our family was all at home, in the evening after the day’s work was done and supper eaten, Papa would say, “Get the song books and let’s sign a song or two.” It was usually an hour or two. It was hard to find a stopping place.

We never owned a piano, but we had an organ usually a French harp and down through the years, at different times, a violin was in our home, a guitar, steel guitar, ukulele, and sheet music all around—and later a trombone, television and radio, and always, music, vocal and instrumental, sacred and popular. Our economic circumstances were always difficult, but we had music and were happy. As Clarence grew up, he and I were the only ones left with Papa and Mama, we sang duets together. I have never heard sweeter voices than those of Chester and Clarence.

One day in 1972, I met a woman from Valley Mills, I had not seen her since we were young girls, and had never known her very well. She told me about a children’s day program she had attended once when Clarence and I sang a song “Beautiful Home Somewhere”. I remember the occasion very well and still have the printed program. She said she would never forget how pretty that song was. That made me feel good, and I could hardly wait to tell Clarence to see if we could still sing that song together.

We always had a lot of company. Often on Sunday our home was running over with laughing, rollicking youngsters. Even the banker’s daughter in Clifton would come out and spend weekends with us, and we with her. We loved to read an especially favorite pastime of mine. Like Papa, I read everything I could get my hands on. We couldn’t buy many books, but our friends let us read theirs.

If someone came along looking for work or some place to stay while, Papa took them in, and somehow, we always had plenty of good food for everyone. One time an old man came by, looking for work. Papa had him hoeing cotton. He was almost blind, but he stayed with us until all the cotton was hoed and then he went on his way. The next year he came back, driving two burros with a wagon and said he wanted to live with us. Papa and Mama talked it over and told him he could. So, he sold his burros and wagon and stayed with us as long as he lived. His name was Mr. Lee Farris.

Mr. Farris was almost totally blind at that point, but he cut and sold cordwood as long as he could see at all. When he could no longer see, Clarence, my little brother, was his eyes, leading him wherever he wanted to go, doing things for him and listening to his stories. He was an old trail driver having driven cattle up the Chisholm Trail to Abilene, Kansas, and had many interesting stories to tell. He was red haired and freckle faced and I can, in imagination, see him as a young cowboy out on the range. Mr. Farris learned the truth while living with us and wanted to be baptized, so a group gathered on the banks of Childress Creek, and he was baptized and lived a Christian life until he died of lung cancer. We were all saddened by his death for we had learned to love him. He was buried in the Fairview Cemetery in Bosque County.

We came to Meridian in 1938 and found a good home there. Meridian has been good to us. There was no church of Christ here then, but Papa worked until one was organized in October of 1938, and it soon grew to be a strong, dedicated church. Papa held office in the county court house a number of years. He was happy there and with the church work. Mama was happy gardening and raising flowers and houseplants.

Meridian is still home and I would say with a song, which was one of Papa’s favorites, “I Love (these) Dear Hearts and Gentle People who Live and Love in my Home Town.” I love to drive on the little back roads where nature still holds sway—to drive up to Meridian State Park and lake, home of the golden-cheeked warbler, where deer hide in the cedars, and where we go for picnics. On the way back stop at the roadside park at the edge of the mountain overlooking Meridian, with the Bosque River, fields and mountains curling ‘round it. Looking at it and knowing that God is over it all, then I can sing “O Lord my God!…how great Thou art!” and bow my heard in humble adoration to Him who created all the splendor and loveliness for us to enjoy.

Chapter 13

A Sentimental Journey

In June, 1948, after visiting in Houston and Galveston and all along the coastline of the Gulf of Mexico to Mobile Bay, and into Florida, Chester, his wife, Elsie, and I spent two nights in Auburn, Alabama, with A.Z. Carter and wife, Ethel. We visited Auburn College. From there we went to Eastman, Georgia to see Aunt Ellen Shaddix, Mama’s sister. Uncle John had died, and she was staying with Mary Allen, her adopted daughter. She had fallen and broken her hip, and was in bed, looking so sweet with her pretty white hair. She remembered us, and was glad to see us. We always loved her and Uncle John. I thought of him now, how he used to chase us making noises like a wildcat. We would run and squeal and go under the bed, and he would come under after us squalling and yelling. I had to go out on the porch and cry a little. Mary served us tall glasses of iced tea, cake, nuts and fruit.

The girls, Helen and Myrtle, took us through the woods to the lake where tall white birds swam and flew around. We enjoyed the walk, for we had ridden all day. Grady, Mary’s husband, came from his work and we met him, and we stopped and took a picture of Johnnie, the son, plowing. We ate supper with Jim Shaddix, the adopted son, and wife, who was Anna Newbery, the prettiest maiden in Shinbone Valley after Aunt Hixie married. We met two of their sons, spent the night at Ellaville, and visited Franklin D. Roosevelt’s little white house at Warm Springs. It looked like any little white house in the woods. I got a hickory nut at the backyard gate for a souvenir. Then we headed for Shinbone Valley.

Oh, boy! We would soon be back in our homeland. We felt like we would want to whoop and holler when we got there. Chester said he hoped we wouldn’t be disappointed. We took the Anniston highway, to Delta and stopped there to get some cokes. We talked with Chester Jenkins, our second cousin, Uncle Joe Carter’s grandson, then took a dirt road for Shinbone. We soon came to a little church house in the woods that looked as I remembered, Good Hope. Then, we saw a house that I believed was Tom Miller’s and soon one I thought was the McClintock place, where Uncle Tom Strickland lived when he ran the mill —and where Aunt Sidney Newsome was living when we left for Texas. Chester didn’t think so.

The woods closed in around us. We could see nowhere, only ahead. Then, there was a house that had fallen down and was covered with kudzu vines and every kind of bush and briar—and then, another in the same condition. Old Joe and Scott Smith places? The big trees were all gone, but small ones grew, and brush so thick I didn’t see how a rabbit could get through. There were no fields, just brush everywhere and kudzu vines draping the trees on everything.

We crossed what we guessed was Little Kichemedogee with a house on the bank—the Robert Gregg place? Around the curve and sure enough, there stood Mt. Zion church house in an oak grove looking very natural. We got out of the car and stood looking at it. Are we home? We bowed our heads in thanksgiving.

Then, looking around, saw most of the dwelling houses were gone or falling down. Someone lived in Mrs. Hearn’s and Mr. Fuller’s houses. The blacksmith shop was gone, the stores vacant and falling down. A ghost town, so desolate, lonely and miserable! Someone said there is no going back home after you’ve been away for a long time and we were inclined to believe it.

We saw only one person as we went through—Charlie Sasnet, who came through on a wagon and stopped to talk awhile. He remembered us and we him. Then we drove down the hill and up to Dr. Mackey’s house. Bud and Lizzie Shaddix Stancell lived there. They came out and we enjoyed a visit with them, though we couldn’t imagine how they changed so much—and perhaps they felt the same about us.

We went up to Union, and the church house looked as we remembered it. The cemetery was larger and more full, but well kept. The schoolhouse was gone. We traveled over Gray Hill and across High Falls Branch, up by Grandpa Elder’s place which didn’t look the same. Most of the houses along the road were vacant; some had fallen down. The Macedonia church house on the hill was gone and another had been built at foot of the hill. Yes, we were disappointed! Was this Shinbone Valley?

When we drove up to Uncle Bill Shaddix’s at the Wilf place, he and Aunt Julie were sitting on the porch just as I remembered them, only older. After visiting with them awhile and learning that Vida lived in the house below Macedonia where we had once lived, I decided to walk down there. By the road, on the hill where the church had been, was a chubby boy about nine or ten years old, and another nearby. I asked, “What are you all doing?” The chubby one said, “Nothing.” I asked, “Why don’t you do something?”, and he said, “We don’t know anything to do.”

I walked down the road and over the little bridge where we used to stop and play on the way home from school. When I got to the house, a pickup was parked in the road in front of it and a large woman was on the porch giving directions to the man driving. He drove on and I walked up to the porch and said, “I would like to stay the night with you.” She said, “Alright, come in.” I went to the porch and stopped and looked around and said, “I might want to stay a month.” She put her arm around me and said, “Alright, come on in.” Inside, I asked, “Are you Vida?” She said she was. Then I told her who I was, and she started jumping and shouting, “Glory, glory!”, and beating on me. She was so happy and so was I. I commended her on her hospitality. She thought I had been a passenger in the pickup and was ready to take me in for a month, without any questions—not even asking my name. We had a nice visit. She had a large family, most of them married. There was Billy Joe, Johnie, Jerry, Robert, and Roy still at home.

I learned that the two boys I saw on Macedonia Hill with nothing to do were Robert Dees and his nephew, Dale Gann. The bigger boys came in with buckets full of blackberries, and back at Uncle Bill’s late that afternoon, Chester and I went up and down the road in front of the house picking berries and eating them. They grew everywhere. Chester found a vine by the barn with big fat ones on it and called to me. We picked some and ate them, and they were not as good as the others. We told Uncle Bill about it and he said it was a tame vine. They were not nearly as sweet and flavorful as the wild ones.

The next day we ate lunch with Vida and family, and she baked a big blackberry cobbler that was so good! We spent four glorious days full of excitement and genuine pleasure in the little valley. Uncle Bill and Aunt Julie explored with us. We went to Grandpa Elder’s old home, our last home in Alabama. The big oaks out front, the apple and peach orchards, the shrubs and flowers in the yard, and grapevines were all gone. Only some arborvitae and small oak were in front of the house. No maples or beeches along the roadside. They were all gone and none had taken their place.

Was this Grandpa’s house? Was it once our home with all the good and beautiful things around it? How sad it now looked. Grandpa’s house down across the road was also gone. This house that Grandpa had built when Mama was a little girl was still standing there looking sad and lonesome. Mrs. Bell lived there. A Bell girl and I walked down the little path by the well and the scuppernong vine was still on an arbor and loaded with young scuppernongs. The pine grove was gone where I loved roam and dream. A few sassafras sprouts were there.

We drove to the cemetery and walked over it and picked huckleberries at the edge of the Union church yard. We went to the Smith’s mill place. The house where we lived at the turn of the road above the mill had fallen down and was covered with kudzu vines. The mill house, gin house, dam, bridge and millpond were all gone. “Uncle” Dave’s house was still there, as well as, the well and well shelter where butter-and-eggs used to bloom in the yard. The barn across the road with its stalls where Hayes kept his two red oxen was there.

Aunt Julie and I waded across Kichemedogee at the ford below the dam place and walked a way down the road toward Grandpa Strickland’s place. There were trees and bushes growing in the road. We had to go back by Mt. Zion, the upper bridge and down the creek. The house looked familiar, only all worn out. Renzo and family lived there. We met them. I met Helen, the girl with whom I had corresponded and loved. That afternoon and the next day I learned to love her more. She and I took a long walk over the place. There was the plum thicket where I used to stop on the way home from school and watch for a rabbit making the trails through the dead grass under the plum bushes, and there was the road, grown up now, down Kichemedogee, where we marched home from school.

Back at Uncle Bill’s, Robert Dees and I went to the field to pick blackberries. A row of blackberries at least ten feet wide and almost as tall as a house reached all the way across the field, and was loaded with ripe berries. We soon filled our buckets and didn’t make a dent in them. About that time, Johnie, Jerry Dees and Dale Gann came, bringing swim suits for us all to go in swimming in Chulafinnie Creek. I decided to sit on the bank and watch the boys swim, and it was great fun. Then we went to the house and pitched horse shoes.

Uncle Bill, Chester and I went on the first shelf of Horseblock Mountain picking huckleberries. It was great climbing the mountain. The dogs were with us and they “treed” a rattlesnake but it got away. There were berries everywhere—huckleberries and gooseberries—but most of the huckleberries were on tall bushes. But we got enough off dwarf bushes to make a pie. And oh, boy! Saturday afternoon we went to Oxford and Anniston to see Uncle Northern and Aunt Beula, and Uncle Seph and Aunt Cora and also visited with Whit and Ellie Carter and their girls in their store. In town, there were people everywhere, cars and streetcars. We saw Odessa Carter Turner in town.

Sunday morning we went to church at Mt. Zion with Uncle and Aunt, Jerry and Robert. The crowd was small, and knew no one except those we were with, Walter Strickland and wife, Willie, my uncle, Renzo and family, Wych and Hattie Carter of Munford. They had heard we were there. After church, people were coming from Oxford and Anniston and everywhere and bringing food. It was spread on tables in the yard, what a feast, and what a good time eating, meeting people and talking. There were 90 there. L.D. and Audry Turner and baby, Shirley, were there from Fort Payne, about 85 miles away. Whit Carter had called them. They were our friends in Texas.

Monday morning we went to Mt. Cheaha, the mysterious mountain I had looked up to so long ago. Here I was on top of it. It was not in the wilds as it used to be. Man had tamed it to some extent, but it was wild enough to be interesting. There were still those fascinating things to see that I heard so much about as a child. We went up in the tower and looked at the country. When we went to the waterfalls it was so much more breathtaking than at the top of Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee, from which one could see into seven states. We saw a trail leading to the Bald Rock. Chester said, “I’m going to Bald Rock.” I said, “I’m going with you.” We left Uncle Bill, Aunt Julie and Elsie at the hotel, and followed the trail. Sometimes I had to go around trees that had fallen across it. There was a huge bare rock at the edge of the mountain overlooking a wide valley or canyon of wild, rugged beauty. Looking away across the canyon to another part of the mountain, Chester pointed out the Pulpit Rock, what we had known as “The Devil’s Pulpit”. He had been there and to the Bald Rock with Uncle Rich’s boys when he was small, and I had heard Papa tell of finding his hogs there once eating acorns. Looking out over it all now filled my heart with wonder. Oh, if I could only sit there and contemplate on its beauty and glory. If I could just stay up there and ramble to my heart’s content! But other things were calling. We didn’t see the cave with sand as white as salt, or the cedar cliffs, and so many things that Mama told us about after going up there with a group.

We said goodbye to Uncle and Aunt, wishing we could take them with us. We went to Alabama City to J.D. Strickland’s, his wife Pearl and family where we were treated royally. Then we traveled to Aunt Hixie’s at Albertville. Uncle John had died, and she lived alone. Her old pal, Donnie Smith Hudson, and husband, Othal, were her next door neighbors. We saw them. Spent two nights with Aunt Hixie, and went on to Rainsville to John Tom Turner’s. They had been our neighbors and friends in Texas. Then to Dutton to see Abury and Naomi McKenzie and family, who had an apartment with us here in 1941, and we loved them.

We then went up the Tennessee River to Chattanooga, where we saw the sights atop the Lookout Mountain, went through the Civil War Museum and cemetery where the famous “battle above the clouds” was fought and 36,000 men in blue and gray fell in two days bloody fighting. We attended church services at St. Elmo, sailed up the river aboard the cruiser “Seven Seas” and on to Chicamauga Lake, went through Ruby Falls Cavern, then home, all agreeing that it was the most wonderful trip we had ever taken.

Chester and I knew his wife, Elsie, hadn’t enjoyed Shinbone Valley as we did, but she was a good sport and didn’t complain. We knew there were four things on the trip that she didn’t like—first New Orleans French Quarter’s coffee, but I don’t believe she mentioned it until we were out of town. It is said that a man complained once about their coffee, and next day he felt a sword through his middle. She didn’t like the cable ferry on the Tallapoosa River in Alabama, the covered bridge on Hilliby Creek, nor Ruby Falls Cavern where she bumped her head on a stalactite.

I have been to Shinbone Valley three times since, but those four days of that “sentimental journey” in 1948 were the greatest. In June, 1968, Odessa and Ercella Turner and I went on Mt. Cheaha, traveling up from the west. It was foggy and misty up there. We could see only a few feet from us that day. We were up in the clouds. We didn’t see much. We stopped at the store and bought some postcards, and on the way down on the east side, it seemed we just worked our way down among the rocky cliffs like mountain climbers, not able to see anything below us. Sometimes it seemed surely the car would somersault and hurtle into nothingness—into eternity! Eerie? Yes, but I’m glad for the experience.

In 1968 a beautiful new brick home had been built about where Grandpa Elder’s blacksmith shop had stood, among the pines west of the road. A lovely little log cabin sat at the foot of Gray Hill, north, and a beautiful, modern trailer home belonging to Roger and Linda Strickland was between the log cabin and High Falls Branch. But, as modern as they may make it, it will never be as lovely again as it once was unless the trees are again allowed to grow big and tall. To a certain extent time has healed the wounds left by lumbering in days past, but there are no giants of the forest as in former days. As soon as a tree is large enough for lumber, it is doomed. In 1968, I found a pine on Grandpa Strickland’s place above the house, west, that I could barely reach around. I felt sad, for I knew that it would soon be cut down, dragged out and hauled to the mills. The hills were full of timber roads and lumber trucks piled high with logs were passing all the time.

Today, my mind goes back to the little valley as I knew it in my childhood—to its mountains and hills, its people, who were so dear to me. Shinbone Valley was inhabited with ordinary, everyday people, each one different from the other, some seemingly very insignificant, yet each one filing his place—playing his part. It took them all to make Shinbone Valley what it was. They, all together, represented a quality of life that was deep-grained in the fabric of our valley. Without any one of them there would have been a vacancy, and my memory of Shinbone Valley would not be so rich and colorful.

Yes, my mind goes back to those people, those mountains and hills. Other mountains loom higher, and other valleys are richer, but these were my people. These were my mountains and hills, and this was my valley that offers a feast of tempting names—Shinbone, Chulafinnie, Kichemedogee, Cheaha…they sing so sweetly! And I shall love them forever.


Chapter 1

We learn from available records that the name Strickland is derived from the residence of its bearers at a place of that name in Westmoreland County, England. It is probable that all the Stricklands originated in the ancient Westmoreland County family. Families of this name were residents at early dates in English counties of Westmoreland, Cumberland, York, Lancaster, Suffolk and Oxford, as well as in the city and vicinity of London. History says “they appear to have been, for the most part, of the landed gentry and nobility of Great Britain.”

I don’t know from which branch of the family in the British Isles we are descended. Legend has it that we are the descendants of one of four brothers who came to America from England, date unknown. Our family first lived in Virginia. They moved from there to Georgia. The first family record is of Solomon Strickland, born in 1735 in Virginia, married Martha Ann Atkins [inaccurate, wife was Amy Pace], and died in 1818 in Madison County, Georgia. I have no record of Solomon’s family, except one son, Ezekiel. Ezekiel married Elizabeth [Jane] Hayes in Georgia and was the father of Elisha, Elizabeth, David and Wilson Strickland, among other sons and daughters, names unknown to me.

Elisha was born in 1780 or 1790 and married Mary Ann Holly [sp, Holley] in Morgan County, Georgia. He was a farmer, country school teacher and was the father of Ancel, Hardin, Troup, Betsy, Ann, and Jane by his first wife. By his second wife he was father of Solomon, Simeon, another son—name not known, and Caroline. He later came to Alabama, died there, and is buried in Union Cemetery in Clay County.

My great-grandfather, Ancel Butler Strickland, was born in Georgia in 1816, married Agnes Lewis in Georgia. He, with his wife and brother, Troup, and sister, Betsy, moved to the Kentuck region in Talladega County, Alabama, across the mountain and west of Shinbone Valley, what year, I do not know. He was father to Jane, Augustus, Artemus (called Dick), and Sidney (called Bud). His wife, Agnes died and he married again to Rebecca “Becky” Spruill, who was born in South Carolina. Later he moved to Shinbone Valley and settled on Kichemedogee Creek, a relatively large stream running east across the valley. Another smaller stream, the Kichemedogee, ran into the big creek from the north about a half-mile west of Ancel and Becky’s house. This was at that time in Talladega County, but later, about 1846, a line was drawn through the county forming Clay County. Thus, Ancel was placed in Clay County.

On this farm on the Kichemedogee, Ancel raised a large family. Ancel and Becky were parents of Marion (called Dock), Emily, Clay, Tom, Tilda, Reed, Tolbert, Laura, Bass and Josie. After many years, Rebecca “Becky” died, and Ancel married for the third time Mrs. Sarah Shaddix Panel, a widow, and was the father of Oliver. He lived here until his death at the age of 84. My father and mother took Bessie, my little sister, to see him when he was in bed sick before he died. He loved Bessie so very much, calling her his “red headed baby”. Bessie died September 5, 1894, at the age of 18 months.

This place of Grandfather Ancel’s, in the old days, was beautifully kept and was a gathering place in the community for young and old. With so many boys and girls in the family, a schoolteacher boarded there in addition to two hired hands. There were stables full of livestock, and bees humming around the door. An orchard of apple, peach and pear trees, sweet with blossom in spring and luscious with fruit in summer, and a well-planned garden furnishing vegetables and flowers for the home. Sweet smelling spice pinks and other old-fashioned flowers grew in the beds in the garden with walks between. Lily trees, altheas, as we know them today, bloomed in the yard which was of red clay and smooth as a floor.

Large black walnut trees grew around the yard. Walnuts were gathered and kept in the walnut house. On Sundays there was usually company. The men would sit on the broad front porch or under the shade of the trees, eating walnuts or apples, and talking while the women and girls entertained indoors, talking and showing off their handiwork. The boys (my father was one of them) played marbles on the marble yard under a giant, wide-spreading red oak that measured three feet in diameter in 1880. This tree was still living in 1919 when my father visited there. How much longer it lived, I do not know.

This place of Great-grandfather’s was a grand place to our father. He loved his grandpa and so did my mother. He talked about him a lot, but never said how he looked, only that he had red hair. I had pictured him in my mind as stockily built, red-haired, with a forceful air about him. In 1973, I saw my first picture of him and Grandma Rebecca. He was a slender man with pale eyes, I suppose blue, as were my father’s and brother, Chester’s, and so many of the Stricklands. Papa said Grandpa’s hair was dark red and curly. It was very dark in the picture. He had a slim face, clean shaven that wore the most humble, kind and gentle expression—almost timid! Grandma Rebecca had dark hair and eyes and a kind face.

About a hundred yards down the hill behind the house, in a cool shady spot, was an inexhaustible spring of delicious sparkling water, rising cool and constant from beneath the hill—the only source of water for their home. My Grandfather Clay Strickland loved to laugh and tell of a funny incident that took place at this spring when he was a boy. The spring was walled up with rocks and had a trough made of a log hewn out to run the water to another log trough where the stock drank. A branch ran off from this and was a mud hole at times. A steep bluff rose at the back of the spring where trees grew and formed a perfect grapevine swing. When the boys came in from the fields they would stop at the spring, water the mules and swing on the swing. One day at noon, while they waited for the mules to drink, John Hix, one of the hired men, climbed the bluff, grabbed the grapevine and said, “I’m going to take one good swing.” With a running start he was off, away out over the spring, over the muddy branch, and then “snap”, the grapevine broke, and “splash” he went into the mud! He hit it sitting down and bogged up to his waist.

Grandpa Ancel was a great talker and the only subscriber to a newspaper. Naturally, the community looked to him for news of the country, and when President Garfield was assassinated, the men gathered there to read the news. He was not a religious man; though, not an infidel, he was not a believer in the Christian religion. He believed there was a god who created and ruled over the universe, but didn’t believe in Christ. Why he was like that we do not know. He was a good moral man—a man with a high sense of old-fashioned, “all-wool yard-wide” honor. He said his religion was truth and honesty. He went to church sometimes, but never went in. It was not unusual for men to go to church services and stay outside, sitting on a log or wagon tongue, whittling and talking. His children all grew up to be religious men and women.

Grandpa Ancel always wore homespun clothes, except when attending court, as he often did, sometimes for a week or two at a time. On these occasions he wore a nice black “store-bought” suit. He served as justice of the peace in Talladega County and was justice of the peace in Clay County for thirty years. His brothers, Hardin, Solomon and Sim, and his sisters, Jane, Caroline and Anne, later moved to Alabama, settling in Clay and surrounding counties. Solomon lived in Meringo County, and served several years as state representative from his district.

Ancel was not a slaveholder, though his brother, Hardin, and probably his other brothers were. There were slaves in Shinbone Valley. It was said that one man in the valley stayed in the field on horseback, with a whip, driving his slaves, both men and women as they worked. If one got sick or gave out and couldn’t work, he whipped them. The slave women of this man had nothing to wear in the summer except guano sacks with holes cut out for the neck and arms. Ancel didn’t believe in slavery. When the Civil War came, though living in the south, he and his family were in sympathy with the north. In fact, practically all the little community of Shinbone Valley wanted to remain in the Union.

Ancel served as home guard throughout the war, and four of his sons, Gus, Dick, Bud and Doc, fought with the South. Bud and Dock died in the war and Gus was captured by the Federal Army and sent home on parole after taking oath not to take up arms against the government. When he arrived home, he was sent back to the Army and forced to fight. He was again captured. They were fighting in a small stream and the battle was fierce. The water of the stream was red with blood. Gus ran for cover under an overhanging rock upstream. Two other men were hiding there. The Yankees found them and told them to throw their guns into the mud. They did and were taken prisoners. Gus was certain he would be killed this time, but was sent to Rock Island Prison in Illinois where he remained until the war was over. Dick deserted the army and hid in the woods but was tracked down with bloodhounds and sent back. My grandfather, Clay, was sixteen years old during the war and though they were taking sixteen year olds, he was so small he never had to go to war. Ancel’s sons, all except Bass, married and raised their families in Shinbone Valley, Clay County, Alabama. Bass went to Georgia and married and raised his family there.

Among the pines, not far from the home, was a small log house where each boy, as he married, took his bride and lived until his father bought him a farm. He then moved out and started farming for himself and the little house stood waiting for the next bride and groom.

As was stated in previous records of the characteristics of the Stricklands in America is true of the old line of Stricklands in Clay County, Alabama. They were kind by nature, loyal to family and friends, strong of will and courageous. They were all farmers. Clay and Tol each ran a country store on the side for a time, and Tom was a miller, running the McClintock mill and Smith mill on a part-time basis.

Ancel’s old home remained in the hands of the Stricklands around 110 years. In 1949, it was sold to the government by the heirs of Tom, son of Ancel. The house had fallen down and the place had grown up with every kind of bush so that it was impossible to get around. Evidently, as time passed, especially during the post-war period, land became harder to get and money with which to buy it more scarce.

My grandfather, Clay, son of Ancel, married Mary Palestine Moore from Randolph County on August 19, 1869, and moved into the little house among the pines—the honeymoon house. They remained there until after their first two children, Etta and Albert, were born. Then Grandfather Ancel gave them a farm about one-half mile down the Kichemedogee on the opposite side of the creek—the south side—and they moved into it. This home sat on a high ridge, not on top, as the ground sloped upward to the south for about a quarter mile before reaching the top. Large oaks grew around the house. My father’s childhood centered around this place and he especially remembered a chinquapin tree that grew at the back of the barn below the hill on the west. Eight children were born to Clay and Mary at this place. They were Sanford, Roberta, Lula, Julia, Josephus and Rufus (twins), Northern and Gamaliel.

I have heard from different sources that no better man ever lived than my grandfather, Clay Strickland, and from the memory I have of him, I believe it is true. He was a quiet man, unassuming, small stature, usually weighing around 125 pounds. He had blue eyes and dark brown hair that he wore “roached” up above a high forehead. His jaws were square and he had a deep cleft in his chin, though it was covered by a short beard from middle life on. From the age of forty-three, he was a devoted member of the church of Christ and a perfect Christian gentleman.

Mary, Clay’s wife, was a small woman with pale blue eyes and light brown hair. She was not physically strong, but industrious—too much for her strength. She was a great lover of beauty and used her hands to create beauty. The words of Lemuel’s mother to her son in Proverbs might well have been spoken for her. When in speaking of a virtuous woman, she said, “She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hand is on the distaff…she is not afraid of the snow for her household, for all her household is clothed with scarlet. She maketh herself coverings of tapestry…she looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not of the bread of idleness.”

Mary was busy carding and spinning, knitting and weaving. She wove beautiful, bright colored coverlets of wool and lovely white double-woven counterpanes with fringe around them. Her family was clothed by her hands and her house furnished with linens woven by her. She gave my father a black, purple and beige wool coverlet and a white counterpane with fringe when he married. We still have the coverlet, though it is faded and worn.

At that time the community centered in the little village about two miles up Kichemedogee Creek from Grandfather Clay’s. The village then had a post office, called Dempsey, a general store, a blacksmith shop, and the church of Christ building which was called Mt. Zion. About a quarter mile west, across the little valley, was a Baptist church, cemetery and schoolhouse. This was called Union.

In 1887, Clay bought a farm on the “big road” about two miles north of Union and moved into it. At this new home, the house was on a hillside at the foothills of the mountains, edged by piney woods. Pines grew down to the yard on the west and the road ran right under the yard on the east. Several large stone steps led from the road up to the yard, which was level and hard clay. The house was made of logs and was in two parts, as was the custom when it was built—the “big house” and kitchen. The “big house” consisted of the living and sleeping rooms, with a long front veranda, and a fireplace almost as wide as a room. The kitchen, where the meals were prepared and eaten, sat some distance from the “big house”. It also had a large fireplace. The well was under a shelter with an oaken bucket, standing in front of the kitchen door. Water was drawn by windlass and “teekle”. Clay dug this well with a pick and shovel. It was ninety feet deep and never ran dry.

There was a spring of cool water around the hill, under tall trees, where pink honeysuckles and wild roses bloomed in spring. Also, there was an apple orchard below the road and large persimmon trees around the horse lot.

Another child, Hixie Ann, was born at this home. Clay and Mary lived here until their older children were grown. There was a short time that they lived “in the mountains” in a new house that Clay built on Pretty Branch, about a half mile over the hill west on a forty acre farm he had given to Albert, his oldest son and my father, and later bought back.

Mary died while living in the mountains, and Clay moved back over on the road. It was here that he ran the country store. He later married Octavia Smith, daughter of Dave and Antonette Smith.

After a time, he sold his home on the road and built a new house on “Tavie’s farm” on Kichemedogee, almost directly across the creek from his father’s old place. He purchased more acres adjoining the farm, and half interest with his father-in-law in a cotton gin and mill. He helped run them in connection with his farming. This house, like his other homes, sat on a hill. In the yard two water oaks were planted by Gamaliel “Malie”, Clay’s youngest son then, who was almost grown. Below the hill was a spring. Ironwood trees grew around the spring and under those trees were a number of beehives that supplied the table with honey, a delicacy they were never without. Clay raised a second family at this place where he lived until he died in 1919 at the age of 71.

Going to Grandpa Clay’s was not like going to Grandpa’s. His second wife was a younger woman, my father’s age, and didn’t want to be called “Grandma”, so we called her “Tavie”. They also had young children, so it was more like going to visit an uncle. We loved them, but more as an uncle and aunt. I only knew of Grandma Mary Strickland’s family: Malie, Josephus and Allen Moore, Uncle Malie lived in Georgia, Uncle Seph lived most of the time in Anniston and was a street car conductor. Uncle Allen lived in Shinbone Valley. These were Grandma’s brothers.

Chapter 2

Grandpa Clay’s Family

S. M. C. (Sicero Marion Clay) Strickland and Mary P. (Palestine) Moore

married August 19, 1869.

S. M. C. Strickland and O. E. (Octavia) Smith married August 8, 1901.




Martha Etta Strickland – March 21, 1871

J. A. F. (James Albert Franklin) Strickland – March 9, 1873

Sanford M. Strickland – October, 1874

Effie Roberta Strickland – January 1, 1877

Lula Strickland – November 11, 1878

Josephus E. Strickland – March 25, 1883 (twin)

Rufus Ervin Strickland – March 25, 1883 (twin)

William N. (Northern) Strickland – January 7, 1885

Julius Gamaliel Strickland – July 21, 1887

Hixian Florence Strickland – November 23, 1889



(second marriage Octavia Smith)

Zilphy E. Strickland – March 6, 1903

Renzo E. Strickland – July 25, 1905

Emily Strickland – December 8, 1907

Bessie Strickland – August 6, 1910




Rufus E. Strickland – July 17, 1883

Sanford E. Strickland – August, 1890

Mary P. Strickland – January 13, 1901

S. M. C. Strickland – October 14, 1919


Etta Strickland married William “Bill” Pritchett, October, 1889. Their children were: Effie, Harrison, Myrtle, Robert, Daisy, Claude, Flora, Odessa, Theodore, Alice and Inez.

Albert Strickland married Nettie Elder, February 4, 1892. Their children were Bessie Etta (died 1894), Chester, Vista, Elsie, Easter and Clarence.

Roberta Strickland married Scott Clark, October 15, 1891. Their children were: Allie, Ida, Dewey, Ernest, Cora, Eunice, Early, Douglas, Claudine, Lucretia, Roberta and Frank.

Julie Strickland married Bill Joe Shaddix, October 7, 1897. Their children were: Vida, Cassie, Carson, Homer and Albert.

Lula Strickland married Campbell Carter. Their children were: Mae, Myrtle, Josie, Iran and Marvin. She later married Andy Smith and they had one child, Lola.

Josephus Strickland married Cora Newsome, January 25, 1903. Their children: Irvin, Lela, Eugene, Edward, Ezelle, Lucille, Audrey and Vitura.

Northern Strickland married Buela Brown, January 1, 1905. Their children: Jewel, Maybell, Grace, Ruth and Bernice.

Gamaliel “Malie” Strickland married Ola Newsome in 1907. Their children: Florilla, Gladys, Flavil, Clyde, Omar, Clay, Warren, Calvin and Odell.

Hixian Strickland married John Hudson in 1907. Their children: Duell, Dennis and Sherrill.

Zylpha Strickland married Garrett Wade, November 29, 1918. Their children: Avaline, Marion Clay, Aubedine, Garrett, Jr., Margaret, Eugene, Erline, Paul, Shirley, Florence Ellen and Barbara Nell.

Renzo Strickland married Era Butterworth. Their children: Helen, Dennis, Verna, Travis, Donald and Lou Neal.

Emily Strickland married Roland Banister. Their children: Annie Paul, Jimmie Sue, Tommie Lou and Marion Clay.

Bessie Strickland married Columbus Dingler. No children.

James Albert Franklin Strickland, my father, and oldest son of Clay and Mary Strickland, was born March 9, 1873, in the little house among the pines, the little honeymoon house. He married Genette “Nettie” Elder, the youngest daughter of Joseph and Jane Manning Elder, in a home wedding. Charlie Swan, minister of the Christian Church officiated.

A wedding supper was served after the ceremony. Turkey was usually the main dish at wedding suppers, but Grandpa was not raising turkeys at the time, and Nettie didn’t like turkey. She suggested having chicken instead. I have the platter this chicken was served on, a large, heavy ironstone china platter. A dinner was served at Grandpa Strickland’s the next day with all the relatives and close friends attending, as was the custom in those days.

Grandpa Clay, Albert’s father, gave him a forty acre farm “in the mountains”, on Pretty Branch. They moved to it on March 4th, one month after their marriage. The place consisted of two rooms, built of logs, a smokehouse, barn, log crib and stable. There was a garden fenced with rails, a few apple trees and a sugar pear tree. It was in this house that their three eldest children were born—I was one of the.

My father and mother loved to talk about this home where mountains loomed in the background and pink and white “honeysuckle” (azaleas) and ivy bloomed along the crystal clear mountain brook that sang along the way past their door. Mother told of how she loved to play along the banks of the branch and wade in its water in the summer; track rabbits in the snow over the fields in winter, and of their old dog, Tige, their faithful companion. She told, too, of the sweet music of the swamp sparrows, the sweetest bird music she ever heard.

It was this house that lightning struck the second year of their marriage. My father was in the crib shucking corn and mother was spinning. It was drizzling rain and Mother had been out to drive some goslings back into the yard and had just returned to the spinning wheel when it struck. It swept the chimney clean, covering everything in the house with soot. It knocked the head of the spinning wheel around, but didn’t touch Mother. When my father got to the house she was lying on the bed rolling and screaming, her face black with soot, and she couldn’t hear anything for a time.

The lightning ran along one of the logs of the house, hit a large poplar tree in the yard, ran to the ground, dug a hole under the garden fence and ran along a row of onions across the garden, cooking them. A bottle of bluing sitting on the shelf was shivered so all the bluing ran out, but the bottle was left sitting upright. A hen was sitting on some eggs at the back of the house. She flew off the nest frightened to death, but, contrary to the saying, “if it thunders nearby, eggs won’t hatch”, nearly all of those eggs hatched.

While living there, my mother spun and wove material and made my father a suit of clothes, some woolen dresses, and beautiful red and purple balmorals (woolen half slips). She spun and wove blankets and sheets, also material for bed tick, as well as knitting all the socks and stockings.

After six years my father sold this place back to his father and moved to Oxanna, about fifteen miles north, and worked for an iron mill as a teamster, hauling iron ore. After living in Oxanna and in Choccolocco Valley for awhile, he moved back to Shinbone Valley where he farmed and preached. He entered the ministry in 1900, preaching for a number of churches of Christ. Father preached and worked with the Mt. Zion church from 1904 through 1908, when he, with his family, moved to Texas. He was minister for the church at Fairy, in Hamilton County, Texas, preaching for meetings at different places all over the county.

In December, 1911, he moved to Bosque County, near Clifton, and continuing farming and preaching—going back and holding meetings in Hamilton County, and in Coryell, Cherokee and Limestone counties, always hoping for the time when he could spend more time in the Lord’s work. He always seemed to feel as did Paul when he told the Corinthians, “Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel.” He and Foy E. Wallace, Jr. organized a church in Valley Mills, and he and Clarence Bryant organized one at Kopperl, and he was totally responsible for the organizing of the church in Meridian in 1938. He spent his last nineteen years working with the church in Meridian, preaching some, serving as an elder, teaching and directing singing until his last illness.

He served four terms as justice of the peace, and two terms as county treasurer of Bosque County, holding office until his death. During his years in the courthouse he kept a Bible on his desk, reading and discussing it with his friends in his leisure time. He had many friends, among them young boys who came in and talked with him. A police officer once told him that all the boys in Meridian loved him and would do anything he asked.

His labor in the Lord was not in vain, for all the churches he helped establish are thriving, working churches today. He was truly a man with the interest of the Lord at heart, happiest when teaching His word, or directing the singing of praises to Him. He was a man with a song in his heart, and a voice with which to sing it to the last—singing at home and at work, morning, noon, and night.


My father and mother celebrated their 60th anniversary February 3, 1952, with an open house. It was a joyous occasion. They observed their 65th quietly at home with lots of flowers, neighbors and a few friends dropping by. The following I wrote for their 65th anniversary:

Flowers of Love

They strolled in the woods in springtime

Picking violets, blue,

Pledging their sweet young love

Vowing to forever be true.


They trod through summer showers,

And equinoxial storms,

Picking the sweet flowers of life

From among the thistles and thorns.


Now they walk through the woods of autumn,

Where the leaves are purple and gold.

The way has been long, and sometimes rough,

But they have found joys untold.


And their steps are firm, and their hearts are light,

As they look to the heights above,

Where they’ll press on hand-in-hand,

Picking flowers of love.


Albert, my father, and Nettie, my mother, both died in Meridian, Texas, and are buried in Meridian Cemetery…Albert died on May 15, 1957, and Nettie on April 15, 1968. My dear father and mother, for whose loving care and Christian influence over my life, and that of my brothers and sisters, and for their wise counsel down through the years, I am deeply grateful.

Chapter 3

My Father’s Brothers & Sisters

We were never closely associated with Aunt Etta Pritchett and Aunt Bertie Clark and their families. We never lived near them. I remember being at Aunt Etta and Uncle Bill’s once below Union and once on a high hill above Macedonia, and we visited at Aunt Berite’s and Uncle Scott’s once in Oxford and once below Union.

Aunt Lula “Lulie” and Uncle Campbell Carter always lived in Shinbone and were our close neighbors one year. We loved Uncle Campbell, and missed him so after he died.

Uncle Seph (most people called him “Joe”, but Papa always called him “Seph”, so he was always Uncle Seph to me, and Aunt Cora lived in Oxford. When I visited them in 1968 Aunt Cora was almost an invalid with arthritis, but she got on the telephone and soon a large number of their family where there. I enjoyed them so much. Uncle Seph and Aunt Cora were so sweet. Aunt Cora died May 24, 1975. About 8 a.m. Edward called me and said she had died. At 8:30 a.m. Levena Elder Jones called from Hico, Texas saying Myrtle Elder Blakley, her sister, had died there. Aunt Cora and Myrtle were Mama’s nieces.

I guess Uncle Northern Strickland and Uncle Wych Elder were my favorite uncles when I was a child. They gave me more attention. Uncle Northern was interested in things that interested me. He loved the mountains and streams and all outdoors, and told me all kinds of fascinating things about them. They were our neighbors once after being away for some time—as far as New York part of the time. He had all kinds of things he made in the foundries—miniature anvils, frogs, lizards, etc., scattered throughout their home for door props, paper weights and what-nots, all made of iron. A big rabbit, painted white sat in the garden, where I loved to climb a tree and eat nectarines.

I have visited twice in his colonial home on Gray Street in Oxford. It is beautiful and so interesting. Chester made some lovely pictures of it with its beautifully landscaped grounds, all done by Uncle Northern. In an article in the Anniston Star December 1, 1963, was a history of this home, saying “This charming colonial home at 112 Gray Street, Oxford was once the home of the mother and grandmother of America’s former First Lady Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson…”The Patillo home” . Uncle Northern had an abstract tracing ownership of his home back more than one hundred years. Uncle Northern wrote us such interesting letters about the relatives, and interesting places around Oxford.

J.G., Uncle Malie Strickland and Aunt Ola and three children came to Texas in 1913, coming to our house. He went to Agee in Hamilton County, lived there and near Hico awhile and moved to Bosque County where he raised his family of two girls and seven boys: Florilla “Flo”, Gladys, Flavil, Clyde, Omar, Clay, Warren, Calvin and Odell. We lived about thirty miles apart most of the time, but visited as often as we could. I have spent many happy hours in their home and love them very dearly.

Theirs was a musical family. They all sang, Aunt Ola and Flo, and some of the boys played the piano. The boys had a string band popular in the community. Five of the boys and Flo were in the service in World War II. All came back safe and sound. They were all Christians. Flo married Mitchell Davis; Gladys, Leonard Peterson; Flavil, Modell Jones; Clyde, Inez Hill; Omar, Lois Turner; Clay, Irma “Peggy” Stewart; Warren, Eleanor Herrada; Calvin married Margie Payne; Odell, Dorothy Smith. Calvin’s wife, Margie, left him and married another man. Later he married Audrey. Clyde’s wife, Inez, died and he married Dorothy.

Flo has no children. Gladys has two: Doris and Elaine. Flavil has one girl, Austine. Clyde’s children: Tommy, who died at age 14, Eugene, James, David, Judy, Dennis and Kenneth. Omar has two, O.C. and Marvin. Clay has a son and daughter, Kim and Vickie. Warren has one son, Vance. Calvin two boys, Dean and John and two adopted, Wanda and Lonnie. Odell has Debbie and Greg.

Flavil lives at Marble Falls, Texas. Clyde is a forceful gospel preacher with a church of Christ at Mountain View, Arkansas. Clay lives at Jacksonville, Florida. Warren is teaching in Delmar College in Corpus Christi. Calvin lives and teaches high school in Carlsbad, New Mexico. Odell is in Chicago. Omar lives in Cleburne, and teaches in high school in Joshua, Texas.

Uncle Malie moved to Arkansas in 1957 and lives near Hiwasse. Aunt Ola died November 2, 1974 and is buried near Hiwasse. Uncle Malie lives alone with his dog, stands straight as a young man, mows his and Flo’s yards and helps Mitchell on the farm. He is an elder in Hiwasse church of Christ. Gladys lives at Gravett, Arkansas.

Omar Strickland’s wife, Lois, lived with us while he was overseas in World War II. Their first child, O.C., was born while she lived there, so they seem like part of our family. O.C. and wife, Sharon, and children, Lya, Aaron, Jenifer and Martha live at Elkhart, in east Texas. Marvin and wife, Debbie, Shane, Sherilee and Sarah live near Knoxville, Tennessee. They most always visit me when they come to Cleburne, about twice a year.

We came to Texas when Grandpa Clay and Tavie’s children were small, but we came to know and love them. Bessie married Columbus Dingler. No children, but they took Bessie’s niece, Annie Paul and Cordell Watson’s children after Annie Paul died, and educated them. Larry is a doctor, living in Galveston. Shirley’s husband, Steve Farnsworth, is studying medicine now.

Other Stricklands in Texas


Grady and Allie Clark Dowdey, granddaughter of Clay Strickland, were born and raised in Alabama. They lived in Newberg community in Comanche County, Texas. Both taught school, farmed, and raised and educated two sons, Ben Clark, who is Dr. Ben Dowdey, M.D., of Dallas, and Hoyt of Fort Worth. Ben was one of the doctors on duty at Parkland Hospital in Dallas where President John F. Kennedy was taken after being shot, and where he died.

Egbert Strickland, son of Dick Strickland, came to Texas and lived at Lanham and Cranfills Gap. He went to California, married and died there and is buried in Cransfills Gap Cemetery. My father conducted the funeral services.

Will and Milla Strickland Glover, daughter of Dick Strickland, came to Texas in 1908. They lived at Cranfills Gap and died and are buried there. Their children were Dallie, Cora, Matilda, Carl, Lomis and Norton Glover.

Dallie and Cora both married in Alabama and both came to Texas. I never knew Dallie’s family, she married Reuben Cotton. Cora married Harvey Taylor. William and Earl are two of their children.

Tilda Glover married Bill Hughes and lived at Cranfills Gap. Their children are Carl and Jewel Dean. Dean and husband, Sam Dunagan, live in Stephenville, Texas. Their children are Terry, Sandra, Kay, and Jonnie B. Carl Glover married Amy Stewart.

I never knew his family. Lomis Glover married Via Stephens and lived at Cranfills Gap, and later at Indian Gap in Hamilton County, Texas. Their children are Vida Dee, Arville, A.D. and June. Lomis died in Indian Gap.

Norton, the youngest son of Will and Milla Glover, married Ella McGuire and is the father of Ray, Bobby Gene and Ammie Lou. They all live in Fort Worth.

The follow tragic report is from a Fort Worth paper. This happened a number of years ago. Four of the victims were descendants of Ancel Butler Strickland, great-grandchildren of Will and Mill Strickland Glover.

“6 Die in Crash of Truck, Auto”

Baytown, April 8 (UP) – A blazing gasoline truck-car collision and explosion killed six persons, including a mother and four children, last night two miles north of Baytown.

Killed were Mrs. Mary Edna Taylor, 33, of Liberty, Texas, and her four children, Leonard E., Mary Isabel, 12, Linda Elane, 10, and John Harvey, 6.

The truck driver, Milton Heath, 26, of near Baytown, also perished in the explosion that ripped through the two vehicles when a car smashed a hose in the gasoline trailer.

Frank White of the Department of Public Safety said the truck was rolling down a slight incline on State Highway 146 when Heath apparently slammed on the brakes and the trailer jackknifed into the path of the car. Earl Taylor, the husband and father, was a member of the fire department called and discovered while fighting the fire it was his car and all his family burning.

I attended, with Grady and Allie Dowdey, the funeral services of Tilda Glover Hughes on August 22, 1978, at Cranfills Gap. Cranfills Gap was her home, but she had been living with her daughter in Stephenville since the death of her husband, Bill. She was buried in Cranfills Gap Cemetery. Fifty or more people ate lunch at the Methodist church that day, most of them Glover and Strickland descendants, and my relatives. Howard Strickland and wife, Winnie, were there from Texarkana.

Rufus Moore, son of Allen and Georgia Ann Strickland Moore, and grandson of Dick Strickland, went to Haskell, Montague County, Texas, in 1908 and moved to the Agee community in Hamilton County in 1910. Later moved to Bosque County, near Clifton, and bought a farm there. He moved to the plains of west Texas in 1926, and settled at Tahoka. He and wife, Dona, both died and are buried at Tahoka, Lynn County, Texas. He raised a family of seven girls and two boys, Clealis, Lois, Allen, Arlie, Lela Mae, Launa, J.C., Jaunelle and LaFayne.

Clealis married Othelle Freeman, and has one daughter, Othelda. Lois married Charlie Terry and had one son, and a daughter who died. Arlie married Orbin Aycock and had a son and daughter, David and Kala. Lela Mae married Ralph Collins, their children are Kenda, Roger Dale, Eddie and Mike. I hear from the occasionally, but that is all I know of the family now. Only Clealis, Lois and Arlie, and some of the others live in Tahoka. Allen lives in California and the others are scattered over west Texas.

Campbell Moore, son of Allen and Georgia Ann Moore, came to Texas as a young man, lived and worked around Clifton, went into the U.S. Service in World War I. He came home on leave to spend Christmas, took sick and died at the home of his brother, Rufus. He was buried in Clifton Cemetery, Clifton, Bosque County, Texas.

In 1975, at an arts and craft show here in Meridian, Lois Turner Strickland (Mrs. Omar) and I stopped at the booth of beautiful paintings and noticed that the artist was Loveta Strickland. Talking with her, we learned that her husband is Clinton Strickland, son of Barney Strickland, who was the son of my great-uncle, Tol Strickland. Barney was raised in Shinbone Valley. Lois had known Clinton in North Alabama. Loveta operates Loveta’s Gallery just outside of Waco.

Chapter 4

The Children of James Albert Franklin Strickland and Genette Artlissa Elder Strickland

Chester Strickland volunteered and was in service in World War I. Married Elsie Wilson in Hamilton June 20, 1920, lived in Hamilton and ran a filling station and tire business. They had two children, Gladys and Raymond, moved to Bledsoe in Cochran County right near the state line of New Mexico in 1925. Was a pioneer there, built the first residence and store in Bledsoe. They lived in the house, Elsie ran the store and Chester worked at construction work. He helped build the first schoolhouse for eight pupils, and was secretary of the board until he and his brother-in-law built a ten room school.

He was elected Tax Assessor and moved to Morton, the county seat, served two terms, and entered the dry-cleaning business. Then he served two terms 1943-1947 as County Judge and County Superintendent. In his last year in office he was secretary-treasurer of County Judges and Commissioner’s Association of West, Texas. He was post commander of the American Legion, president of the Morton Lion’s Club, volunteer fireman and direction of the Dry Cleaners Institute. He built a large cleaning plant that worked 14 hands, while he farmed a little on the side.

He was a strong worker in the church of Christ and a family man. He loved his wife and children, his in-laws, his parents, brothers and sisters. If there was anything he could do for them or anyone else he did it. He gave land and a lake to the town of Morton for a park. It is known as Strickland Park.

Chester died August 15, 1974, and is buried in the Morton Cemetery. Gladys married Arlin Mullinax and had one child, Carrie Ann. Carrie Ann married Jessie Wynn Tyson. They had a little boy, John David. Carrie Ann died December 18, 1971. Gladys “Pat” teaches in the Morton school. Raymond is an engineering architect for Mobil Oil Company, with offices in Irving, Texas. He and wife, Shirley, live in Chico. Their children, Lynda, Vickie and Randy live in Irving and Houston. Elsie, Chester’s wife, a lovely person, lives in Morton.

Elsie, my sister, married Hurshel Jones on April 20, 1919, in Valley Mills, Bosque County. They lived in Bosque, McLennan and Hamilton counties before moving to Carlsbad, New Mexico where they lived for twenty-three years. Hurshel operated a salt business at the potash mines, then worked with a school in Carlsbad. Elsie worked in a jewelry store. They raised roses and dahlias in their yard as a hobby, furnishing flowers for the church and other events. At one time they had 57 varieties of roses growing. Theirs was a beautiful place in the town of Carlsbad, near the famous Carlsbad Caverns.

They moved back to Meridian, Texas in 1963. Hurshel and Elsie presently reside at the Meridian Geriatric Center. Recently they celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary with a small family gathering. Hurshel still loves to grow flowers and plants. He also loves a good game of forty two, and enjoys writing poetry.

Robert, Hurshel and Elsie’s only child, lives in Fort Worth with his wife, Virginia “Sam”, and their teenage daughter, Jeananne “Pidge”. Robert has three other daughters and a son. Pamela, the oldest, is married to Joe Speed, and they live in Fort Worth with their children, Jeffrey and twins, Robert Corey and Melissa Carol. Cameo is just finishing law school in San Francisco, California. Jan is nutritionist for the Administration on Aging over five states in Dallas. Bob is a junior in high school.

Easter, my youngest sister, married Harvey Marshall October 14, 1922 in Bosque County, Texas. They lived on a ranch in McLennan County until 1931, when they moved to Kopperl to farm. They still live there. Easter loves working with her hands, raising flowers and shrubs, and making beautiful things for the home. She is a very quiet and unassuming person. Harvey is now retired, but keeps busy gardening and keeping up the home and car. Is an elder in the church of Christ in Kopperl. Three of their boys served in World War II.

Their oldest son, Leo and wife, Martha Helen, live in a beautiful split-level home in Cliff Oak addition, Clifton. They have two daughters, Jan, a Junior in Baylor University in Waco, and Myra, a Sophomore in high school. Harvey’s and Easter’s daughter, Reva and husband, Harry Calahan, live in Kopperl. Their children are married. Cindy, the oldest, is married to Dr. Morris Wilkins and lives in Whitney. Patricia and husband, Ronnie Armour live in Fort Worth and their family. Dian and Billy Jack both live in Kopperl.

J.C. Harvey’s and Easter’s second son, lives in Hewett with his wife, Betty. Their children: Linda, Ronnie, Peggy, Donna and Sandra, are all married and live in Hewett and Waco. Eddie, the third son, and wife, Joyce, and daughter, Beverly, live in Fort Worth. Randy, their son, is in the U.S. Army. Gene and wife, Bobbie, and son and daughter, Gary and Paige, live in Fort Worth.

Maxine, the youngest daughter, and husband, Joe Bob Scruggs, live in Edge-Cliff Estates near Joshua, Texas. Their boys, Ricky and Michael, live in Burleson and work there. Sebrena, the daughter, married Joe Steadman June 10, 1978 in a lovely church wedding that looked like an old-fashioned valentine. They live in Burleson.

Sunday, June 4, 1978 I drove to Lake Whitney, near Kopperl, after church services, to a reunion of the Marshall family. There were 64 there, all relatives of mine except 10, and what a wonderful day of visiting, eating, horse shoe pitching, water skiing and boat riding!

Clarence Strickland, youngest son of Albert and Nettie Strickland and my brother, married Louise Winnett in Clifton, Bosque County, Texas February 22, 1933. They had two boys, Leon and James Oscar “J.O.”, and lived in Clifton, Meridian and Fort Worth. Louise left Clarence and the boys and married another man.

In 1946 Clarence married Vera James in Amarillo. They lived there awhile and moved to Fort Worth where they were raising a family of two boys and two girls. Clarence worked at different occupations—farming, taxi-driving, appliance man for Tex & Chuck Butane Co. of Fort Worth, then appliance man and electrician on his own. He built, with his own hands, their spacious five bedroom house at 5000 David Strickland Rd. in Fort Worth. Vera was an Avon lady, beautiful and sweet. She died April 9, 1970 and Clarence died with a heart attack June 13, 1974. Both are buried in Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Fort Worth. Clarence was a sweet singer, with a heartbreakingly beautiful tenor voice. For a time when he was young, he along with three other boys, had a program on the radio, broadcast from Fort Worth, known as “The Melody Boys”, with piano, violin, two guitars and Clarence singing. Like our father, he loved music, and taught his family to love it. Vera, Jack and Carroll sang beautifully.

Leon, oldest son of Clarence and Louise, started directing singing for church services at the age of eleven. Later he was director for the church here. He graduated from high school with honors, was judged best actor, and received the Brooks award for being the best football player. He attended Abilene Christian College, spent four years as a paratrooper, married Ailene Williams of Bosque County, and has been teaching speech and drama and directing drama at Tyler Jr. College since 1969. He paints the scenery on the backdrops, makes the accessories for the stage—houses, stumps, angels, or whatever, in his shop in the college, and directs the plays. Ailene operates a computer in the college. Their children, Kemp and Sheila are grown, and still at home.

J.O., youngest son of Clarence and Louise, married Ernestine Boedecker of Meridian. They live in Meridian. J.O. works for the State Highway Department, is a member of the City Council, and Assistant Fire Chief. Ernestine is the Sheriff’s Dispatcher. Kenneth, the oldest son, works for the Santa Fe Railway in Louisiana. Janice is in college in Stephenville. Bryan and Rhonda are in high school. Baby Kristina stays with a baby sitter.

Jack and Carroll, the two oldest of Clarence and Vera’s children, are married and live in Fort Worth. Danny works with Nash Mfg. Co., and is still at home at 5000 Strickland Rd., with his dog and his music—guitar and piano. Is engaged to marry, but waiting for the girl to finish college.

Toni, the youngest, spent every summer with me after her mother’s death until her father died. She brought her Bible, bicycle, flute and stereo, and I enjoyed her so much. We attended meetings, singings and other activities over the county. Walked a lot, picnicked and laughed a lot. I have missed Clarence, Danny and Toni so much. They came often, and we drove all over Bosque County, back roads and all. After Clarence’s death, Toni went to live with an aunt and uncle in Amarillo. Her uncle died and she later became the foster daughter of Calvin Warpula and wife, and lived with them and their children. Calvin is now Speaker on World Radio Bible Broadcast at West Monroe, Louisiana. Toni is attending Freed-Hardeman College at Henderson, Tennessee.

I would like to write about all the younger generation, but time will not permit.

Chapter 5

Descendants of “Albert” & “Nettie” Strickland


James Albert Franklin Strickland Genette Artlissa Elder Strickland

Father Mother

Born March 9, 1873 Born December 11, 1875

Clay County, Alabama Clay County, Alabama

Children Born Place

Rochester Cornelius Strickland March 11, 1896 Clay County, Ala.

Vista Vitura Strickland January 1, 1898 Clay County, Ala.

Elsie Euthera Strickland August 17, 1900 Clay County, Ala.

Easter May Strickland April 3, 1904 Clay County, Ala.

Clarence Horton Strickland January 3, 1911, Hamilton County, Tex.



Chester Strickland, Father Elsie Gladys Wilson Strickland, Mother

Born Hamilton County, TX

Children Born Place

Gladys Cleora Strickland May 28, 1921, Hamilton Co. TX

Raymond Chester Strickland April 13, 1925, Hamilton Co., TX


Elsie Strickland Jones, Mother Hurshel Robert Jones, Father

Children Born Place

Robert Chester Jones January 3, 1922, McLennan Co., TX


Easter Strickland Marshall, Mother Harvey Jesse Marshall, Father

Children Born Place

Leo Jesse Marshall July 29, 1923 McLennan Co., TX

Reva Mae Marshall October 5, 1924 McLennan Co., TX

Joseph Clarence “J.C.” Marshall January 19, 1926 McLennan Co., TX

James Edward Marshall July 19, 1930 McLennan Co., TX

Gene Wilson Marshall July 28, 1933 Bosque Co., TX

Maxine Jeanette Marshall Mar. 25, 1937 Bosque Co., TX


Clarence Strickland, Father Louise Winnett Strickland, Mother

Children Born Place

Clarence Leon Strickland December 27, 1933 Bosque Co., TX

James Oscar “J.O.” Strickland August 3, 1941 Bosque Co., TX


Clarence Strickland, Father Vera James Strickland, Mother

Children Born Place

Darrel Jack Strickland August 1, 1949 Amarillo, TX

Carroll Jane Strickland June 17, 1951 Ft. Worth, TX

Danny Byron Strickland October 22, 1956 Ft. Worth, TX

Toni Maynette Strickland May 8, 1960 Ft. Worth, TX



Gladys Strickland Mullinax, Mother Arlin Mullnax, Father

Children Born Place

Carrie Ann Mullinax May 8, 1941 Cochran Co., TX


Raymond Strickland, Father Shirley Hagerud Strickland, Mother

Children Born Place

Lynda Rae Strickland August 20, 1947

Vickie Lea Strickland January 10, 1950

Randall Ross Strickland August 29


Robert Chester Jones, Father Norma Fowler Jones, Mother

Children Born Place

Pamela Marie Jones December 14, 1947 Carlsbad, NM

Camille “Cameo” Annette Jones November 29, 1949 Carlsbad, NM

Janice Gay Jones December 27, 1951 Carlsbad, NM


Robert Chester Jones, Father Diana Bulloch Jones, Mother

Children Born Place

Robert Chester Jones, Jr. June 14, 1963 Ft. Worth, TX

(adopted & surname changed to Burton)


Robert Chester Jones, Father Virginia Reed Jones, Mother

Children Born Place

Jeananne “Pidge” Jones December 14, 1965 Ft. Worth, TX


Leo Marshall, Father Martha Helen Hendrix Marshall, Mother

Children Born Place

Lona Jan Marshall December 2, 1957 Bosque Co., TX

Myra Kay Marshall November 23, 1962 Bosque Co., TX


Reva Marshall Calahan, Mother Harry Calahan, Father

Children Born Place

Cynthia Jean Calahan December 28, 1945 Bosque Co., TX

Geneva Diann Calahan August 10, 1950 Bosque Co., TX

Patricia Fay Calahan August 31, 1954 Bosque Co., TX

Billy Jack Calahan December 29, 1956 Bosque Co., TX


J. C. Marshall, Father Betty Stegall Marshall, Mother

Children Born Place

Linda Carol Marshall November 5, 1947 Bosque Co., TX

Ronald Gene Marshall March 10, 1951 Bosque Co., TX

Peggy Ann Marshall May 9, 1952 Bosque Co., TX

Donna Kay Marshall February 2, 1954 Bosque Co., TX

Sandra Lynn Marshall September 18, 1956 Bosque Co., TX

Eddie Marshall, Father Joyce Reeves Marshall, Mother

Children Born Place

James Randall Marshall August 17, 1956

Beverly Sue Marshall 1959


Carroll Strickland Coulter, Mother Grover Coulter, Father

Cleveland Coulter Ft. Worth, TX


Gene Marshall, Father Bobbie Darlan Marshall, Mother

Children Born Place

Gary Lynn Marshall October 10, 1956

Paige Renee Marshall


Maxine Marshall Scruggs, Mother Joe Bob Scruggs, Father

Children Born Place

Ricky Joe Scruggs October 26, 1956 Bosque Co., TX

Michael Wayne Scruggs

Sebrena Janette Scruggs May 22, 1960


Leon Strickland, Father Eunice Ailene Williams Strickland, Mother

Children Born Place

Gregory Kemp Strickland January 5, 1957

Shelia Sue Strickland August 28, 1958 Commerce, TX


J. O. Strickland, Father Ernestine Boedecker Strickland, Mother

Children Born Place

Kenneth Eugene Strickland September 12, 1958 Bosque Co., TX

Janice Renee Strickland October 16, 1959 Bosque Co., TX

James Bryan Strickland February 9, 1961 Bosque Co., TX

Rhonda Louise Strickland February 19, 1964 Bosque Co., TX

Kristina D’Anne Strickland September 11, 1978 Bosque Co., TX




Carrie Anne Mullinax Tyson, Mother Jesse Wynn Tyson, Father

Children Born Place

John David Tyson June 16, 1966 Cochran Co., TX


Lynda Rae Strickland Wray, Mother James Charles “Jimmy” Wray, Father

Children Born Place

James Charles “Chip” Wray Jr. June 15, 1972 Dallas Co., TX

Jana Michelle Wray


Vickie Lee Strickland McLaughlin, Mother Larry McLaughlin, Father

Children Born Place

Jodi Ann McLaughlin


Pamela Jones Speed, Mother Luther Joe Speed, Father

Children Born Place

Jeffrey Joe Speed December 17 1971 Greenville, TX

Melissa Carol Speed June 4, 1975 Ft. Worth, TX (twin)

Robert Corey Speed June 4, 1975 Ft. Worth, TX (twin)


Cynthia Calahan Wilkins, Mother Morris Wilkins, Father

Children Born Place

Robert Wayne Wilkins January 13, 1966 Bryan, TX (twin)

William Calvin Wilkins January 13, 1966 Bryan, TX (twin)

Rebecca Lynn Wilkins March 28, 1968 Bryan, TX


Diann Calahan Findley, Mother James Findley, Father

Children Born Place

James Dean Findley December 22, 1974 Bosque Co., TX


Patricia Calahan Armour, Mother Ronnie Chris Armour, Father

Children Born Place

Carrie Renee Armour November 26, 1975

Christopher Wayne Armour March 19, 1978


Linda Marshall Scarborough, Mother Stanley Scarborough, Father

Children Born Place

Ramey Scarborough April 29, 1973 McLennan Co., TX


Ronnie Marshall, Father

Children Born Place

Jenifer Chan Marshall September 7, 1975 McLennan Co., TX


Peggy Marshall Veselka, Mother Vselka, Father

Children Born Place

Jerry Veselka June 17, 1975 McLennan Co, TX


Donna Kay Marshall Bearden, Mother Ricky Bearden, Father

Children Born Place

Serena Bearden

The Elders – A History

Chapter 1

The first history I have of the Elder family, they were living in Scotland in the 15th century. They migrated to England and Ireland because of religious viewpoints and liberties.

My grandfather, Joseph W. Elder, was a descendant of John E. Elder, who, with two brothers, came to America landing at Norfolk, Virginia, in 1669. John, born 1650, came over as a stowaway, working out his passage with a rich merchant. His two brothers later went to Ohio and Michigan.

While John was working out his passage with the rich merchant, he fell in love with the merchant’s only daughter. Because of her family’s social standing and financial position, he hesitated to make known his love for her. She did not shun him, and history has it that he went to her father and told him he was in love with a girl but afraid that her father would not consent to their marriage. It was unlawful at that time for a man to steal a girl. The girl’s father suggested that there was no law to prohibit a girl from stealing her sweetheart, so they eloped and married at Dinwiddy County Court House, Virginia. It is on record there to this day. From this marriage were born several boys and girls, one of which was John Elder II.

John Elder II was born in 1735. He married Mary Matthews, daughter of Ephram Matthews of Brunswick County, Virginia. George Matthews, brother of Mary Matthews Elder, raised a regiment soldier, became a colonel and fought in the Revolutionary War. He afterwards went to Georgia and was elected governor of Georgia for two terms, then was representative in Congress. He died in Georgia and his remains now lie in a cemetery in Augusta. The records and date of the marriage of John Elder and Mary Matthews Elder were destroyed by fire in Virginia in the war of 1861 to 1865. They raised a family of five boys and two girls. I have a record of all these, but I am giving only the line through which my mother, Genette Artlissa“Nettie” Elder Strickland, descended.

David Elder, second son of John and Mary Matthews Elder, was born in Brunswick County, Virginia, January 7, 1760. He served in the Revolutionary War in Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia. He married in 1786 the first time in Brunswick County, Virginia to Molly Read, a cousin of George Washington, our first president and “father of our country”. From this marriage were two sons and two daughters. He married a second time to Mollie Phillips of Dinwiddy County, Virginia, on January 23, 1797. From this second marriage came eight sons and daughters, some born in Virginia and some in Georgia.

David and his older brother, Joshua, moved from Virginia to Georgia, arriving in Clarke County (now Oconee) on January 11, 1807. Joshua stayed in Georgia for a few years and then went to Mississippi. David remained in Georgia and died there.

When David Elder moved to Georgia he had with him his second wife, Mollie Phillips Elder, since his first wife had died in Virginia. He also had seven or eight children and a large number of slaves. He laid claim and took into possession a large body of land given by the government for his extensive service in the Revolutionary War. He, his sons and slaves went directly into the original forest on Big and Little Rose Creeks and built homes for themselves.

Mollie Phillips Elder lived only a few years after moving to Georgia. She was buried in the old Elder Cemetery on Rose Creek in lower Oconee County (then Clarke). After her death, David married Elizabeth Allen in 1813. From this marriage issued three daughters.

Elizabeth Allen owned a large number of slaves in her own name, thus, David Elder came into possession and charge of them, also. This gave him labor and ability to clear more land and to enlarge his farming interests until he owned an immense body of land on which he raised cotton and corn for many years. He died in Clarke County (now Oconee) on August 4, 1853, and was buried in the Elder Cemetery. He lived to the age of 93.

Wych Malone Elder, my great-grandfather, seventh son of David Elder and Mollie Phillips Elder, was born in Brunswick County, Virginia, October 5, 1804. He married Mary Jane Burt of Clarke County, Georgia, who was born January 11, 1809. Their children were Joseph, Ellen, Ann, Francis, Doctor, John, Thomas, Edmond and Mary. Joseph, the oldest, was my grandfather.

Wych M. Elder died at Roanoke, Alabama, March 11, 1870. Mary Jane died at Roanoke on February 2, 1884. Wych Elder’s name was originally Wych Malone Jenkins Elder and was used in full by his father, David Elder, when making distribution of his property in his will in May, 1853.

The foregoing information is from a record compiled and written by W. Shannon Elder of Watkinsville, Georgia, in 1935 and given to me by my uncle, Wych Elder, of Rock Hill, South Carolina. In this record it is stated that there were at that time, 1935, more than 1,000 descendants of David Elder living in Georgia and Alabama, mostly in Oconee and Clarke counties, Georgia. The writer of this record says that Ruth Elder, the noted flying girl and the first woman to attempt to fly the ocean, was a great-granddaughter of Wych and Mary Jane Burt Elder.

I do not know when Wych and Mary Jane Elder emigrated from Georgia to Alabama, since the record does not say, but he raised his family in Chambers County, Alabama. Wych M. J. Elder was founder of the first Christian church in Alabama. This first church building has long stood as one of the state’s religious landmarks. At the grave of Wych and Mary Jane, near this church building at Lanett, Alabama, in Chambers County, there has been erected a stone marker with the legend, “In memorial tribute to him for his life so consecrated by God, his fellowman and Alabama.”

Chapter 2

Church & Singings

Chapter 2

The Family of Joseph W. Elder

I don’t know what year Grandfather Joseph Elder moved to Clay County, settling in Shinbone Valley, but according to the census he was living in Clay County in 1870 in Flatrock Beat. (My great-grandfather, A.B. Strickland, was listed in the census of 1870 at Flatrock post office.)

The following information is from the family Bible: “Joseph W. Elder was born March 22, 1831, and was married to Sarah Jane Manning, who was born April 1, 1834. They married on December 26, 1852. Their children were Permilla Ann Francis, Ellen America, David Brooks, Mary Elizabeth, Sarah Jane, Wm. Doctor, Edmond Hartwell, Viola Vilula, Joseph Jubelee, Polly Prudence, Genette Artlissa, Wych Malone Jenkins Elder.”

Joseph Elder’s wife, Sarah Jane, died August 21, 1886, and he married the second time to Rosa Ann Elizabeth Hill Deloach, a widow, of Chambers County, on September 13, 1888. Joseph Elder died November 8, 1913. Rosa E. Elder died May 24, 1917. They were buried by the side of his first wife, Sarah Jane, in the Union Cemetery in Clay County, Alabama.

Grandfather Joseph Elder, like Great-grandfather Strickland, was against secession, though he served in the Southern Army during the Civil War. Because of an injury to his hip as a child, which caused him to walk with a limp, he was not a fighting soldier. He worked around the camps and delivered food and supplies to the soldiers. He told of the hardships of the soldiers—how many of them almost starved to death, sometimes getting so hungry they would eat dogs. He said that if a fat dog came around camp, it was too bad for the dog. He said that many times he had laid “half-moon” pies in the crease of his hat and slipped them out to half-starved, wounded and sick soldiers.

My grandmother was left home with four small children and another born during the war. She had a hard time as did all the wives and children of the soldiers. Grandpa carried a picture of Grandma in his pocket through the war. It was in a little velvet-lined case. Grandma kept one of him in a similar case at home. I have seen these pictures. We have some copies made from them. Grandpa’s looked almost new, while Grandma’s was pretty well worn on the outside.

Grandpa Elder settled near the Little Kichemedogee Creek, over the Gray Hill from Union between High Falls Branch and Pretty Branch. He raised his family in a three room log house with an open hall. When Mama was around ten years old, he started building a new house. Before it was finished, Grandma died. Grandpa finished the house and later married Rosa Deloach of Chambers County.

The day Grandpa brought his new wife home, Uncle Wych, then around ten years old, fell off a horse and broke his arm. He was close to Grandpa Strickland’s home when the accident occurred and Grandma Strickland bandaged his arm, got him back on his horse and took him home. The new wife was a real mother to the children from the very first and they loved her.

Grandpa Elder’s spring was across the “big road” southwest of the house, below a hill edged with beech trees. Big trees grew all around the spring, which was boxed in with a big long box. Clear sparkling water, bubbling up through the white sand, flowed over the top of the box and ran off in a beautiful stream that ran into the High Falls Branch a little above the road. There was a mineral spring a few feet from this spring, from which flowed water all purple and gold with minerals. It had an offensive taste and odor. Some people used it for medicinal purposes. Dr. Mackey got water from there for his wife to drink. There was also another spring a little distance from it where Grandma kept her lilies in winter. She put them in the spring and covered them over with planks and they never froze.

Grandpa dug a well in the yard, but had a hard time getting water, and when he did it was not good to drink or for washing clothes. He spent a lot of time and money trying to perfect a method of drawing water from the spring to the house, but nothing proved successful, so they had to carry water for drinking, wash clothes at the spring where they had a “wash place” with tub benches, wooden tubs, a battling bench and battling stick, and a wash pot to boil clothes. He didn’t know then about hydraulic pumps or he could easily have furnished his home with water, probably with no more money than he had spent.

Grandpa owned several rent houses—one a little north of his home on the west side of the “big road”, and two on the part of Gray Hill that runs north and south, east of the road. There was also a little log house near the edge of Grandpa’s yard, between the house and horse lot, where Abram Elder, son of a former slave of Grandpa’s father, and his wife, Sarah, used to live. Sarah used to take care of me when we went to Grandpa’s house. I loved her.

When Mama was small there were two or three houses near the spring where black people lived. Mama loved them, especially “Uncle Mose” who was old. On bitter cold mornings he would come to Grandpa’s and say, “Mose is cold this morning. He needs something to warm him up.” No one in the family drank, but Grandpa usually kept a little whiskey for medicinal purposes. He would fix a warm toddy, Mose would drink, and say, “Mose feels better now. Much a-bleeged”, then he would go back to his house.

I remember a black man lived with Abram and Sarah named Frank. He was a slim man with a flat nose. Abram was shorter and more heavily built. After Uncle Wych married, Frank lived with Grandpa and worked for him. Later he lived with Uncle John Shaddix and Aunt Ellen. He was old and sick when we came to Texas. One day Uncle John came by, taking him to the doctor. He stopped the buggy down at the road and came to the house asking me to take Frank a drink of water. Uncle John said Frank had insomnia and wanted to sleep all the time. I took him some water, thinking about the word “insomnia” as I had never heard it before and it was a long time before I learned that Uncle John had it backward. What Frank had was just the opposite of insomnia.

The following was taken from The Clifton Record, Clifton, Texas, dated August 18, 1933, after my mother’s visit to Alabama:

“Attends Big Family Reunion in Alabama”

Mrs. J.A.F. Strickland has returned from a visit to her old home in Alabama and reports having a most wonderful time looking over familiar scenes and meeting friends and relatives. She had only one sister living there now, but was accompanied on the trip by a sister, Mrs. J.A. Strickland and husband of Luling, Texas, and was met there by two brothers from South Carolina and a sister and sister-in-law from Georgia.

They went together to the old home where they were all born and reared to manhood and womanhood, but she says things are so changed that nothing looks natural. She attended a reunion, an annual affair, of the descendants of her Grandfather Elder, who was the founder of Alabama’s first Christian church and also attended a reunion of her father’s family of which the following is an account as it appears in two Alabama papers, The Lineville Tribune and The Ashland Progress:

(The J.D. Strickland mentioned in this article spent some two years here in Clifton several years ago and has friends here who will be glad to know that he has made good.)

“Reunion of Elder Family”

A reunion of relatives and friends of Joseph Elder, deceased, “Uncle Joe” Elder, was held at Mt. Zion church, in the northeastern part of Clay County, July 25, 1933. The following children were present: Mrs. Ellen Shaddix of Lumber City, Georgia, Mrs. Sarah Carter, Pyriton, Ala., Mrs. Lula Strickland and husband, John Strickland, Luling, Texas, Jube Elder and wife, York, South Carolina, Mrs. Nettie Strickland, Clifton, Texas, Wych Elder and wife, Rock Hill, South Carolina, and Dorcus Elder, wife of Hartwell Elder, deceased, Lumber City, Ga.

There were present 40 grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren and from 400 to 500 other relatives and friends of this good and noble man, who spent the best years of his life in this community and who passed on to his well-earned reward of peace several years ago.

Since Edmond Elder, my great-uncle Ed, was closely associated with Shinbone Valley, I am listing his family here:

Edmond Elder, born 1848, married Sarah Love, who was born 1860 and died December, 1910. Eleven children.

Edmond born 1868, married Nettie Blunt.

Tillman born 1868, married Leila Webb.

Alice born 1869, married John Kilgore.

Sam born 1871, married Mary Sockwell.

Will born 1874, married Florence ________.

Thomas born 1874, married Leila Rogers.

Oscar born 1875, married Sarah McGollen.

Jesse born 1877, married Lena Winn.

Etta born 1880, married Leakey _________.

Nora born 1881, married Will Parsons.

Edgar born 1890, married Nelma _______.


These are all that are listed on this record by H. W. Elder, but if I remember correctly, I knew a girl younger than Edgar whose name was “Leah”.

So far as I know, Sam L. Elder never lived in Shinbone Valley, but he visited there a number of times when a boy and my mother was a little girl. Mama knew him quite well—he was the son of Ed Elder, then living in Anniston. The first time I saw him was soon after we came to Texas. He and his daughter, Clarice, a beautiful young girl, visited at Uncle Dock Elder’s, Hamilton County. They lived near Valley Mills in McLennan County.

After we moved to Bosque County, which joins McLennan, we came to know the family. Sam and Mary Sockwell Elder’s children were Clarice, Annie, Joseph, Prentice, J. W., Ethel, Winnie Bell, Erma and Euna. We knew Prentice better than any of them for he visited often as a young man and became one of our favorite persons.

In later years, we moved farther away, and almost lost contact with them. I don’t know who married. Clarice married A. D. Black, Annie, Roy Black; Joseph, _________, Prentice, Velma Cunningham; Ethel, C.B. Simpson; Euna, George Crosley. Prentice and Velma live in Clifton. Their children are Lee, Amos, Oleta, Dorothy, Betty and Mary. Though we live only eleven miles apart, I am sorry I don’t know all of them. Those I do know, or have met, are Dorothy, Mrs. Bill Turner, a registered nurse who worked for a time at Meridian Hospital, and after moving to Fort Worth became “Mrs. Fort Worth” in 1959. Mary, Mrs. Duane Davis, who lives in Atlanta, Georgia. Amos Elder, superintendent of Joshua, Texas, schools, and Lee.

Joseph, son of Sam, lives in Birmingham, Alabama. The Sam Elder family is scattered all over Texas.

In 1973, Omar Strickland, son of Uncle Malie Strickland, who had moved to Cleburne, Texas, from Lubbock, where he had been teaching, applied for the position of math teacher in Joshua High School. He learned that the superintendent was Amos Elder, my distant cousin. He got the job, and now I have two cousins teaching in the Joshua schools, one named Elder and one named Strickland.

Prentice and Velma attended my sister, Easter, and husband’s 50th wedding anniversary celebration in Kopperl, Texas, October 14, 1972, and we attended theirs a month later in Clifton.

The only one of Grandma Elder’s people I remember seeing was her brother, Uncle William Manning. He came once and visited at Grandpa’s and we went to see him.

Grandpa bought the first cook stove in the community, a large black range with a reservoir for hot water, and a warming closet. He later bought a larger range and gave the first to Aunt Permilla and Uncle Joe Carter. He also bought the first sewing machine in the community, a new home machine. Mama said that when the sewing machine agent came he had a little fawn with him, the first baby deer she had ever seen and while the agent showed Aunt Sarah how to operate the machine, she and Uncle Wych played with the little fawn.

Grandpa Elder was a teacher of the sacred harp music—only four notes; a triangle, circle, square and diamond, standing, respectively, for fa, sol, la, mi. He taught several singing schools at Union. I have heard Papa and Mama tell of concerts at the close of school, how they marched, wearing headdresses and carrying banners of colored, fringed paper. When the concerts were at night, they carried candles. Grandpa raised his family to sing.

After Abram Elder moved out of the little log house at the edge of Grandpa’s yard, Grandpa’s nephew, Oscar Elder and wife, Sarah, lived there with their three girls, Pherla, Pauline and Ruth. When we visited at Grandpa’s we played with them. Ruth was the same Ruth Elder mentioned in Shannon Elder’s record. The Ruth, who tried to fly across the ocean in 1927, but she failed. It was in 1927 that she and Captain Haldeman, her co-pilot and navigator, left Long Island in a Stinson Monoplane called “The American Girl” to fly over the Atlantic. Lindy had made his famous successful flight several months before and Ruth wanted so much to be the first woman to fly the ocean, but they had to ditch the plane some 350 miles from the Azores and were picked up by a Dutch tanker. Around 1927, she made films for Paramount, getting $1,000 a day. One was “Moran of the Marines” with Richard Dix in 1922. At her request her ashes were scattered off the Golden Gate Bridge by a crew from an Air Force plane. She died at the age of 74.

Grandpa’s place was always busy with hired hands and tenants farming, mending terraces, ditching and improving the farm. Little Kichemedogee had been straightened for a long time, but the field between Gray Hill and the hill on which the house sat was swampy. I can remember Mama helping Grandma cook for the men who worked. Sarah Elder, black, also helped. Grandma had a little brass bell on a handle to ring when the meals were ready. When the bell rang, the men came marching in, the white men sat at a table on one side of the room, and the black men on the other side. The women waited on the tables and fanned flies away with young peach limbs full of leaves. The men talked about how they were draining the bottom land, and Papa told us how it was done. They dug deep ditches ever so far apart, blinding them by covering them with slabs from the sawmill, and then covering the slabs with soil deep enough to be plowed over without disturbing. This made the land tillable. It was rich and grew fine crops.

Grandpa was old and lame, so he didn’t do much work himself, but he was a good manager. He had some sheep skins and everyday in summer, after he had eaten his noon meal, he would spread one out on the back porch and lie down for a nap. I can see him now, his hat over his eyes, sleeping, while children climbed on the banisters and played. He went to Texas the year I was six and stayed a month. Oh, how we missed him. When he came back we were all there to welcome him. I remember that Grandma cried. I wondered why. I thought she should be glad, too, but I didn’t know then that people cried also from happiness.

Grandpa and Grandma had a lot of company—their children, grandchildren, brothers and sisters from Chambers County, Oxford and Anniston. The preachers visited them and one school teacher boarded there. From Chambers County I remember seeing: Uncle Tom, Grandpa’s brother, and Aunt Josie Elder, his sisters, Aunt Mollie Chewning, Aunt Francis and Uncle Sheriff Brewster, Whit and Palace Elder (Grandpa’s nephews), and Betty Stephenson, a relation. Uncle Ed Elder, Grandpa’s brother, lived in Anniston and spent much time prospecting for gold, digging ditches and pits on Grandpa’s and Uncle Rich and Uncle Joe Carter’s land, filling the banisters around Grandpa’s back porch with “fool’s gold” (pyrites and pyritees). Beautiful shiny rocks they were! How I would like to have them in my rock collection today.

Uncle Ed didn’t resemble the prospectors we see in movies. He was tall and slender and always clean shaven and well dressed. Grandpa was also a slender man, but he wore a long white beard. When he was too old to farm, he built a new house with a basement under it near the edge of the hill above the spring. They had a barn and horse lot for Tommy, the horse, and a lot for the cow, Mot, and a toilet and smoke house. They raised a garden and sweet potatoes, and Grandma raised water lilies and tube roses. Grandma could bake the waxiest, sweetest potatoes, and the most delicious apple pie, the best biscuits and ham with red gravy.

Joseph W. Elder’s Children & Families


Permilla Elder married Joe Carter – children: Lee, Eva, Lovie, Dock, Ezekiel “Zeke”, and Rosie.

Ellen Elder married John Shaddix – children: Jim and Mary (adopted).

Elizabeth Elder married Gene Newsome – children: Cora and Exer.

Sarah Elder married Richard Carter – children: Dora, Iola, Brooks, Harrison, Whit, A.Z., Wych, Lessie, Dewitt and Odessa.

Wm. Doctor Elder married Mantie Wade – children: Arthur, Joe, Electa, Myrtle, Russel, Bill, Tennie, Levena, Sam and Anna. Anna died as a child.

Hartwell Elder married Dorcas Pate – children: Hilliard, Wyatt, Floyd, Hubert, Zilla, Addie, Howard, Ada and Manning.

Lula Elder married John Strickland, son of Gus – children: Ulys “U.S.”, Velma, Ella, Winnis “J.W.”, Ista and David Whit. Ernest died as a child.

Jubelee Elder married Lula Hill – children: Russel, Lois, Alston and Ista.

Prudie Elder married Riley Spear – children: Joseph Jubelee, later changed to Julian.

Genette “Nettie” Elder married J. Albert Strickland – children: Bessie, Chester, Vista, Elsie, Easter, and Clarence.

Wych Elder married Mary Lee – children: Starling. Later married Ruby (do not know last name).


All the Elders, except Grandpa and Grandma, left Shinbone Valley before we did. Uncle Jube and Uncle Wych went to Oxford where they ran a mercantile business. Uncle Hartwell went to Texas in 1906. He lived at Midland for a time and then went to Georgia, to Lumber City, where he ran a business. He and Aunt Dorcas died in Georgia. His family was still in Georgia last I heard with Wyatt in Vidalia.

Uncle Jube and Uncle Wych went to Lumber City, Georgia, and lived for a time. They were successful businessmen there and later went to South Carolina, Uncle Jube to York, and Uncle Wych to Rock Hill.

Uncle Jube went from York, South Carolina to Albemarle, North Carolina, where he was in business. He died in Newport News, Virginia in July, 1958. He and Aunt Lula were buried at York, South Carolina. All I know of Uncle Jube’s family is that Russel had a son, Russel, Jr., and two daughters, Catherine and Lynda. Russel died August 31, 1960, in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Lois Elder married Roy Kennedy. They live in York, South Carolina.

Alston Elder married Louise Cooper and had two daughters, Mary Louise and Elizabeth. Mary Louise married Howard Rae Lasher, Jr., of Greensboro, North Carolina, on March 28, 1959.

Aunt Lula Elder Strickland and Uncle John came to Texas in 1903 and lived near Fairy and in Cranfills Gap, and Olin, then moved to Arkansas and Oklahoma, and back to Texas. Uncle John died December 31, 1940 in Coleman, Texas. Aunt Lula died in Jasper, Texas. Ulys “U.S.”, Uncle John’s oldest son, worked for an oil company, and lived in Odessa, Texas. He and Joseph Winnis “J.W.” were both in World War I, and Ulys was in World War II. Ulys married a widow with two daughters, Louise and Margie, whom he adopted and changed their names to Strickland. Abbie, Uly’s wife, and Louise were both in World War II. U.S. died in 1971 in Jasper, Texas, and is buried there.

Joseph Winnis Strickland married Opal Luedtke. They had two children, Rose Marie and Joe. They lived in Hull, Texas, J. W. died in Austin, Texas.

Velma married a Mr. Williams. He died and she married W. F. Williams (no relation to the other). This Mr. Williams was a friend of General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s, and Mr. Eisenhower visited with them when he was in Texas.

Ella and Ista never married. Ista lived and worked in California many years. Velma’s husband died, and she, Ella and Ista live now in Jasper.

David Whit and wife, Fay, live in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Aunt Prudie Elder Spear died when her son, Julian, was born. He was raised by his father, Uncle Riley, and his grandfather and grandmother Spear. He lived and was a druggist in Rock Hill, South Carolina. His son, Joseph Julian Jr., married Marie Elizabeth Dowd in Locust, North Carolina June 21, 1959.


(See Stricklands for “Nettie” Elder.)

Uncle Wych Elder’s wife, Mary, died, and he remarried into the wealthiest family in York County, South Carolina, and his wife was an only child. Her name was Ruby. She was a good wife and mother to Uncle Wych and Starling and a lovely woman. Uncle Wych was a successful druggist and real estate man in Rock Hill, South Carolina. He died September 22, 1968. He was always one of my favorite people. He wrote long newsy letters as long as he was able, writing a beautiful hand. Uncle Jube, as a young man, was a writing teacher and taught his younger brother and sisters. The way I remember Uncle Wych, Dr. Bob Hughes, of television’s soap opera (and the only one I watch) “As the World Turns”, looks like Uncle Wych. Uncle Wych’s son, Starling, an only child, was a druggist in Rock Hill, South Carolina. He married Georgia Gatch and had one daughter, Joanne. Joanne married John Calvin Caruthers of Rock Hill.

Uncle Dock Elder came to Texas long before I can remember. He lived in East Texas for a time, then farmed in Hamilton County, near Fairy, until 1916 or 1917. He sold his farm and bought a farm at Carlton. Later, he moved to Cisco in Eastland County where he operated the Cisco Coffee House and Cottage Hotel, and later ran a general store.

Uncle Dock and Aunt Mantie were both great singers of the sacred harp music, attending all the singings far and near. Uncle Dock was a leader and Aunt Mantie sang treble. For years, the Bosque County Sacred Harp Convention was held at the courthouse in Meridian, Texas. Aunt Mantie, Papa, Mama, and Mr. Charlie Gandy, county clerk of Bosque County, were the treble singers, sitting in the jury box.

Uncle Dock, Aunt Mantie, and all their family were jolly and it was great fun to go to their house. After we moved to Bosque, we went back every summer and visited. Once Elsie and I spent a week with them at Carlton, and they visited with us. I loved them all so much. Aunt Mantie died in 1933, and Uncle Dock in 1938. Both are buried at Carlton, Hamilton County, Texas.

The Elder name in Uncle Dock’s family is almost gone. Eula, Joe’s wife, and Sam and Tenny are the only Elders left. Bill and wife, Eleanor, both died in 1973 and are buried in Denton, Texas. Sam’s wife, Edith, died in 1973 and Joe died December 2, 1977, at San Bernadino, California and is buried there.

Of Uncle Dock’s boys, not one had a son. Arthur and Russel died as young men and had no children. Bill and Eleanor had no children. Joe married Eula Kent and had two girls, Ovie and Leta Mae. Sam married Edith Criswell and had two girls, Imogene and Jeanelle. Electa married Jim Moss and had two girls, Arline and Henrietta. Myrtle married Roy Blakley and had a boy and a girl, J.W. and Vance. Levena married Druid Jones and had five boys and five girls, J.D., Leona, Maymie, Mary Nell, Billy, Wade and Wayne (twins), Alvie Lee, Phylis and Virginia.

Uncle Dock’s family had a family reunion every year from 1926 to 1970. We attended most of them and most of our family and part of Uncle John and Aunt Lula Strickland’s family were there. People came from all over Texas and from Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Arizona. The first reunion was in a park at Glen Rose, Texas, 1926, and the last in a park at Hico, Texas, in 1970.

Hico and Meridian are both on the Bosque River, on the east side. One year on reunion day the river was out of banks, covering the whole valley, running over the bridge here in Meridian and lapping into some houses in town. Hico is 24 miles away, and the highway crosses the river twice between here and the reunion place. It was impossible to cross here, so we went by Glen Rose, 48 miles – exactly twice the distance of the other route…but it was worth it.

Joe Elder’s wife and daughter, Ovie, and husband, Clyde Nichols, live in San Bernadino, California. Electa and Myrtle died. Levena and husband, and Sam live in Hico, Texas, and Tenny, who never married, lives in Hobbs, New Mexico. The younger generation is scattered all over Texas, Oklahoma and California.

Gary Jones, grandson of Druid and Levena Elder Jones, son of J.D. Jones, of California, made history by winning the AMA National Motocross championship three years in a row – 1972, 1973, 1974 on different makes of motorcycles. Gary also was the first American to win an AMA motocross against the Europeans, and the first to win an AMA motocross series. I saw Gary soon after he had won his last race. A motorcycle had come too near and broken his ankle. He was on crutches. He was twenty-one then.