While researching my files for a series of posts on J.A. Roberts, I came across this in his father’s file. In 1838 John R. Roberts and his younger brother Newton bought a tract of land on Rutherford Creek in Williamson County, Tennessee. W.O. Smithson and Paschal Giles serve as the the two witnesses to this transaction. Giles was the brother of John R. Roberts’ wife Rebecca Anne Giles. Smithson was the brother of John R.’s first wife Sarah B. Smithson (She died perhaps giving birth to their second child). William Overton Smithson was born, as was John R. in Lunenburg County, Virginia. Now, here’s the interesting connection. (I know, you thought I had already shared it.) W.O. Smithson had a son named W.O. Smithson. He was born in Williamson County in 1831 and died in Montague County, Texas in 1900. The surprise: He married Mary Jane Nichols, the sister of my 2 x great-grandfather Frederick Shaffer Nichols. Both were born in Williamson County. And this reminder from a previous post, My father’s father Gus Roberts, grandson of John R. Roberts, married the granddaughter of Frederick S. Nichols and Sarah Elizabeth Neely. Her name was Emma Lee Ingram and they had to meet in a Children’s Home in Fort Worth to make it happen! I’m certain my grandparents Gus and Emma knew nothing of these earlier relationships in Lunenburg, Williamson or Montague Counties, but now we do!
Always check the census records first.
Burton Lee Roberts’ military records say he was born in 1917. His amended birth record says 1919. The 1920 census supports his birth record of 1919 as the correct date. Here is part of the census record from Brownwood, Texas and what we learn about my father and his family in 1920.
The household record actually begins on the previous page. It is probably difficult for you to see this page (and you certainly can’t see the previous page because I haven’t included it), so I’ll try to accurately relate the information. This information is available at Ancestry.com and the National Archives.
Gus and Emma L. Roberts are living at 1009 Booker St. in Brownwood City (Today called simply Brownwood), Texas. They are living in the household of Edward and Grace Mohn. Gus is Edward’s brother-in-law. We know from other sources that Grace is Emma’s sister. The Mohn’s have two sons, Edward age 4 and John age 2 1/2. Edward Sr. is working as a machinist in an auto shop.
Gus Roberts is a 21-year-old married white male. He is able to read and write. He was born in Texas. He, or whoever spoke to the census taker that day, gives his father and mother’s birth place as the United States. (I don’t believe Gus, my grandfather, knew the birthplace of his father or mother. Therefore he could not have told his wife or a census taker. He’s able to speak English, works as a machinist helper in an auto shop as a wage earner and is enumerated on the farm schedule at #620.
Emma L. Roberts is a 21-year-old married white female. She is able to read and write. She was born in Texas. She, or whoever spoke to the census taker that day, gives her father’s birthplace as California and her mother’s as Tennessee. (I tend to believe she was the source of this information. What’s interesting is she was wrong about her father and right about her mother. Most “tree builders” online are usually right about her father and wrong about her mother.) Her work is listed as “none” and that makes me laugh.
Burton L. Roberts is enumerated as the only child of Gus and Emma living in the household. He is the nephew of Edward Mohn, the head of the household. He is a ten month old white male who was born in Texas, as were his parents. He could not read, write or speak English. Awww, those were the days. And while he did not work according to the census, I bet he kept his mother busy!
This census record supports Burton Lee Roberts’ birth year as 1919. His amended birth certificate supports this. His Social Security records support this. He told me this was his correct birth year and that he had lied about his birth date to enlist in the Army.
After you interview all of your living relatives, begin your next research with the U.S. Census. Happy backtracking!
“Are you the Spirit, sir, whose coming was foretold to me?” asked Scrooge.
The voice was soft and gentle. Singularly low, as if, instead of being so close beside him, it were at a distance.
“Who and what are you?” Scrooge demanded.
“I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.”
“Long Past?” inquired Scrooge; observant of its dwarfish stature.
“No. Your past.”
Perhaps Scrooge could not have told anybody why, if anybody could have asked him; but he had a special desire to see the Spirit in his cap; and begged him to be covered.
“What!” exclaimed the Ghost, “would you so soon put out, with worldly hands, the light I give? Is it not enough that you are one of those whose passions made this cap, and force me through whole trains of years to wear it low upon my brow?”
Scrooge reverently disclaimed all intention to offend or any knowledge of having willfully “bonneted” the Spirit at any period of his life. He then made bold to inquire what business brought him there.
“Your welfare!” said the Ghost.
Scrooge expressed himself much obliged, but could not help thinking that a night of unbroken rest would have been more conducive to that end. The Spirit must have heard him thinking, for it said immediately:
“Your reclamation, then. Take heed!”
It put out its strong hand as it spoke, and clasped him gently by the arm.
“Rise! and walk with me!”
(Quote from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens)
Some people seek to extinguish the light of their past, when in fact, that light is the beginning of our reclamation. Let us rise and walk. Let us raise our past as a means to enter our future.
Everything about my dad’s behavior suggested he loved Christmas. He became as giddy as a school child, something I think he missed growing up. His involvement and participation in family activities virtually went “through the roof” at Christmas. He secured the tree and set it up. It was Mom’s and our job to decorate it. He collaborated
with Mom to buy the gifts and selected many all on his own. He really knew what a little boy wanted! I think my mother did most of the wrapping but I wouldn’t be surprised if Dad helped. He posed for Christmas picture postcards one year (See above). He bought the long play Christmas albums that filled our house with seasonal cheer. He was the last one to bed on the eve and the first one up on The Day. Long before light he made sure no one else could sleep by pounding up and down the hall on those old wooden floors in our seventy-year-old pier-and-beam house. One year he was so excited about an unknown
gift from our neighbor Colonel Garrison that he instituted, for the one and only time mind you, an “open one gift on Christmas Eve” policy. His was a gold pocket watch stand. It was meant to hold an old Elgin railroad watch he bought from me for $3.00 back in the 4th grade! (That’s another story for another day.) The watch and stand set on my desk for many years and now occupies the top of a foldout desk positioned behind my work area. With the exception of one year, Christmas was my favorite time to be alive and belong to the Bob Roberts’ household.
My dad had ghosts from his Christmases past. My older brother David observes the strain in his memoirs, “…I know that Dad and Grandpa didn’t get along very well and I never saw Dad show any affection toward Nanny…” [i](That’s Dad’s mother, our grandmother). David makes this statement even though most of people thought of Dad as a “hugger”. There was clearly some “history” in those relationships.
I was the middle child and the second child of the same sex in our little family. I had all the symptoms. I was a pest and had an insatiable curiosity (nothing to do with being a middle child). I constantly peppered Dad with questions. On the very rare occasion he allowed me to peak into his pain, it was hard for me to understand. I remember pestering him one day about his dad. I had spent so little time with Papoo and he was so reserved, I knew almost nothing more than what I observed. So, I kept peppering Daddy, “What was your dad like?” “What was Papoo like?” Finally frustrated, he blurted out, “He was a mean, old, bitter, blankety blank!” But he didn’t say blankety blank! I backed off that day and later thought as I crawled toward adulthood, how much those very words could be used to describe Dad. He had become what he perceived his father to be. We both needed some understanding, some healing.
Dad’s “ghosts” from his past chased him into his future – and “haunted” him. He had “demons” he allowed to control him. He had an addictive personality. He was angry and often depressed. He was a binge alcoholic. Once he started drinking he couldn’t stop. He was one of those who had to stay completely away from alcohol. If he chose to drink, it would eventually lead to the loss of a job and income for his family. He joined Alcoholics Anonymous for a while and had modest success. But the “ghosts” of his past drove him to the darkness rather than the light. One year it would be on Christmas. No season was immune from the “ghosts”.
Unlike his parents, Dad and Mom were not religious. I’ve often joked that the only time I heard God mentioned in our home growing up was when it had a “damn” attached to it. They allowed us to go to church but I can’t remember seeing them in a church service more than once or twice. Dad had little time for religion or religious people. Yet he was instrumental in my own salvation. Here’s how. (1) Dad taught me to respect and respond to authority. He was a strict disciplinarian. (2) I didn’t want to become like my dad. So, when the Supreme Authority of the universe invited me into His grace through Jesus Christ, I responded in the affirmative. Dad had taught me to respect and respond to authority. Six years later I entered the ministry. I eventually developed into a very religious person and I don’t mean this in a good way.
One week while attending a Christian conference the Lord helped me understand the principle and the power of a negative focus. I had been so focused on not becoming like Dad that I became “just like” him. Oh, I didn’t smoke, drink or cuss. I didn’t have all of the same addictions. But, I was proud, boastful, opinionated, angry, controlling and at times controlled by my own “ghosts”. I had become like my dad. I needed to be forgiven and to forgive. And to top off the week, God impressed me to go home to Dad; not to confront him about the failures of his past but to ask his forgiveness! Honestly, I had already forgiven him for any real or imagined mistreatment in my past. It was time for me to ask his forgiveness. Here’s why. For many years, through my relationship with Jesus, I had the power to respond correctly to my dad and any perceived wrongs. I had not availed myself of His strength. I too was angry and bitter. I needed Dad to forgive me for my wrong responses. So I made a trip home to see him. It would be our third and final significant spiritual conversation. He forgave me.
A few years before Dad’s death I learned something I believe eased some of his pain. I’ve written about it previously. I learned Dad’s grandmother had been convicted of participating in the murder of his grandfather. Dad’s dad never really knew his father and was raised as an orphan. Maybe this knowledge helped him understand Gus Roberts, his dad, a little better. Maybe he knew that even though it did’nt excuse his dad’s misdeeds, it did help us to potentially understand them. Maybe.
For the last eight years of Dad’s life, he was as “sober as a judge”. In fact, he was a judge! I think Dad enjoyed those years and I know Mom did. He was eventually named Citizen of the Year in Krum, Texas and buried with honors in 1988.
Rest in Peace Dad. Your story will be told.
I share this because I can only share Dad’s story from my perspective. I need the reader to understand what this perspective is. I have the historical record. I have my memories. I have the relationship we shared. I don’t have the final say. I’m not the final judge. I’m someone who believes in bringing the past into the light to propel us into a better future. And dear grandchildren, never forget, I am the “teller of tales”.
“What!” exclaimed the Ghost, “would you so soon put out, with worldly hands, the light I give? Is it not enough that you are one of those whose passions made this cap, and force me through whole train of years to wear it low upon my brow?”
Scrooge reverently disclaimed all intention to offend or any knowledge of having willfully “bonneted” the Spirit at any period of his life. He then made bold to inquire what business brought him there.
“Your welfare!” said the Ghost.
(Charles Dickens from A Christmas Carol)
[i] My Journey: The Autobiography and Family History of David L. Roberts by David Lee Roberts. January 2015.
Merry Christmas to my gracious readers of this simple blog. I’m grateful and thankful for you!
My great grandparents J.C.W. Ingram and Sarah Alice Chandler were married in Kerr County, Texas on January 25, 1890. The officiant was a man name John W. Vann. His story is not common. I thought my children or grandchildren might want to learn more about him so I’m leaving them some “bread crumbs”. Here is a brief sketch I found on Find A Grave.
I am grateful to Find A Grave, Cathy Morgan and others who have contributed to this memorial. I’m also indebted to the West Kerr Current and especially Irene Van Winkle for the photo of John W. Vann and family. This is how he would have appeared at about the time of my great-grandparents’ wedding.
“Never let the truth get in the way of a good story”, we’re told. And, that’s fun. But, is it what we want our history books and monuments to reflect? Should we “change” or can we “correct” history? Is the correction of “facts” changing history or simply aligning our stories with history?
One of my great grandfathers was named John Charles Wesley Ingram. Most of what is written about his arrival in Texas is wrong. Three quick examples repeated with small variances in many different sources illustrate what I mean.
The photo is one of the historical markers in old downtown Ingram, Texas. The site is visited by thousands of tourists every year. It says my great grandfather J.C.W. Ingram bought land on this sight in 1879. Wrong. It says he was a Church of Christ Minister. Wrong. (My mother was sure he was a Methodist. I can’t say for certain he wasn’t ever a Methodist. I know his second wife, my great grandmother Sarah Alice, certainly was a Methodist. J.C.W. however was a Presbyterian minister…merchant, constable, sheriff, Mason, postmaster, pharmacist, and much, much more.)
Two more examples describe his arrival in Texas.
“In 1879 J. C. W. Ingram bought six acres, in what is now known as Ingram, opened a store and applied for a post office under his name” (taken from Kerr County, Texas annual budget report 2011-2012 p. 30)
“INGRAM, TEXAS. Ingram is on Highway 27 and the Guadalupe River at the confluence of Johnson and Indian creeks, seven miles west of Kerrville in central Kerr County. The surrounding land was granted by the state to John Twohig in 1847. J. C. W. Ingram bought six acres in 1879, opened a store and post office, and gave the town its name.” (From Texas History Online as of August 13, 2015, https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hli06 )
Once an event is incorrectly reported, that incorrect report may travel around the world. Never has this been truer than in the age of the internet. And we should also remind ourselves that not everything written in books and published is true.
Sometime, somewhere in the last century it was reported that J.C.W. Ingram arrived and bought land in Texas in 1879. This “fact” is now part of multiple online articles, family trees, newspaper articles, county histories, Texas guidebooks and several expensive historical markers in Kerr County, Texas. The problem, this “fact” is wrong and to record it as such is inaccurate.
So, can we change or correct history?
History may be seen in 3 ways:
- Events which have taken place in the past.
- The stories (oral history) or recordings (written history) of those past events, accurate or inaccurate.
- His/Her-story. How an individual chooses to research, hear and interpret available “facts” concerning an event in the past and report those “facts” to others.
I visited Kerr County in the spring of 2013 with by wife, brother and sister-in-law. We were looking for land and marriage records…and of course, antiquing. We were fortunate to meet Irene Van Winkle of the West Kerr Current newspaper. She was surprised and concerned, as any conscientious reporter would be, of a possible error in the dates for the Ingram’s arrival in Texas. She had reported this erroneous “fact” more than once herself. I shared with her my concerns and she expressed her intent to look into the matter.
Here are some facts I’ve found related to J.C.W.’s arrival in Texas.
- According to the Pacific Rural Press of California dated May 17, 1879, J.C.W. Ingram is elected as an officer of the Lakeport Grange Hall #76.
- J.C.W. Ingram was a well-known, well respected and well-to-do man living in Lake County, California during the middle part of the 1800s. There are many records to illustrate these facts. For now, I’ll refer you to a biographical sketch of Ingram found in the “History of Napa and Lake Counties, California: Comprising Their Geography, Geology, Topography, Climatography, Springs and Timber” written by Lyman L. Palmer, A.M., Historian and published by Slocum, Bowen and Co. of San Francisco, California in 1881. The digital copy in my possession is a photocopy of a first edition donated to Harvard College Library. Palmer signs the preface to his book in November of 1881. The Ingram sketch beginning on page 250 closes with the mention or six surviving children; Luella C., John L., Mary R., Sarah A., Ruth and Maud. The article ends with the Ingram’s loss of two sons; William R. and Preston.
- According to cemetery records William Riley Ingram died in Lake County on November 30, 1878. He’s buried in the Hartley Cemetery which began in 1860 as a Masonic Cemetery. J.C.W. once served as Worshipful Master of this Lodge #199. I include this because it is a sequence of events happening prior to the Ingram’s leaving for Texas.
- According to the 1880 Federal Census, John C.W. Ingram is a 51 year old farmer living in Scotts Valley Precinct and Big Valley Township. In his household is Mandana A., 46; John L., 17; Mary R., 14; Sarah A., 11; Ruth, 8; Maud, 6; Laura A., 24 (We know this to be the widow of William Riley); Arthur O. Lillie, 4 (a son widow Laura brought into her marriage with William) and Ethel Ingram, 11 months (Laura and William’s daughter). Enumerated 21st day of June 1880.
- This same John C.W. Ingram has his farm enumerated with the following facts recorded on 21st day of June 1880 reporting his production for the year of 1879 in Scotts Valley, Big Valley Township of Lake County, California. Acres of land: 140 tilled, fallow or in rotation. 6 acres meadows, pastures, orchards or vineyards. 105 acres woodland or forest. Farm values: $8,000.00 for farm including buildings, land and fences. $150.00 for farm implements and machinery. Value of livestock, $300.00. Cost of building or repairing fences in 1879, $350.00. Amount paid for wages in 1879, $500.00. Weeks hired laborers in 1879, 52 weeks. Estimated value of all farm production for 1879, $1,200.00. Acreage mown in 1879, 10 acres. Acres not mown, 230 ac. Products harvest in 1879, 20 tons of hay. Horses on hand as of June 1, 1880, 7 horses. Mules on hand as of June 1, 1880, 1 mule.
- In the precinct of Lakeport, in the county of Lake, CA, several miles to the southeast of the Ingram farm, John F. Burger is enumerated in the 1880 census 18th of June. Included in his household is his 25 year old son, George F. Burger. According to the Ag schedule for this farm (1880 Federal) it is larger but valued just over half of the Ingram’s place.
- In the 1900 census Mary R. Burger, age 34, is living with her husband George F. Burger, her children (6) and George’s Brother James C. Burger in Township 4, Lake County, CA. Mary and George are reported to have married in 1881 and have thus been married 19 years. Mary was born in California. Her father was born in Illinois and her mother in Missouri. (Mary Rebecca Ingram married George F. Burger in Lake County, CA on 7 December 1881.)
- Mary Rebecca Ingram Burger was the great grandmother of Kathy Fuqua Rivas. According to an Ancestry.com message I received from Kathy on March 15, 2015, her relative Gene Burger was still running the original Ingram place until his death in 1978. His son Fred took over upon his death and the farm was only recently sold within the past 10 years, thus leaving Burger ownership for the first time since the 1880s. This was the former ranch of J.C.W. Ingram which he sold before leaving for Texas. (p. 11 of Scottslandia: A Romantic History of Scotts Valley by Alice W. Deacon)
In 1881 J.C.W.
“…sold all of the rest of his land to John F. Burger, and left right away for Texas. The night before the Ingram family left the Valley, his daughter Mary was married to Fred Burger, son of John F. Burger, and the young couple built themselves a home nearby.”
(Scottslandia: A Romantic History of Scotts Valley by Alice W. Deacon, p. 30)
- In the May 11, 1882 edition of the San Antonio Evening Light there is an announcement of a business dissolution. J.C.W. Ingram of Kerrville, Kerr County, Texas dissolves all business ties with E.C. Tatum as of May 8, 1882. Mr. Tatum assumes all liabilities of the firm, and alone has authority to collect claims due the co-partnership.
- According to the research in Jim Wheat’s POSTMASTERS & POST OFFICES OF TEXAS, 1846 – 1930 (http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~txpost/postmasters.html), John C.W. Ingram became Ingram, Texas’ first postmaster on October 31, 1882. According to The Official Record of the United States Vol 2, containing a list of the officers and employees in the Civil, Military and Naval Service on the first of July 1883, J.C.W. Ingram is the postmaster of Ingram in Kerr County, Texas.
- Deed records copied from the courthouse records in Kerrville, Texas in May of 2013 tell us J.C.W. Ingram bought lots from C.E. Mitzschke in Kerrville in February of 1882 (Vol G p. 71). This is not the land he will later purchase west of town. The land he purchased from the Morriss family on which he built his store and ran his post office on the Guadalupe River was purchased in January 1883 (Vol H pp 8, 9).
- The August 27, 1883 edition of the San Antonio Light newspaper has this item in the Hotels report: “J.C.W. Ingram and Frank Coleman, prominent citizens of Kerrville, are at the Central”. (Notice the phrase “of Kerrville”.) He had stayed previously at the same hotel in June of the same year.
How we interpret and report these facts will determine how close our story is to history. What may we learn from these facts about J.C.W. Ingram’s arrival in Texas?
The facts not only give evidence the Ingrams were NOT in Texas in 1879, they also imply he was not even thinking of coming to Texas until as late as 1881.
- J.C.W. accepted a new office and responsibility in Lakeport, CA in May of 1879.
- J.C.W. is the head of a household in Scotts Valley, CA in June of 1880. He can’t be in two places.
- J.C.W. reported in June of 1880 he spent $350.00 in 1879 on his fences. He spent $500.00 on labor. He reports only having 7 horses, 1 mule and no other livestock requiring fencing. That’s a very large financial outlay. It’s over 10% or the total value of his property, buildings, crops and farm implements! That kind of investment does not indicate to me he’s planning to sell his place. It’s already prime real-estate. If you’re planning on leaving the state, let the new owner invest in his own fences and oversee the labor.
- The biographical sketch of J.C.W. mentioned earlier was published in 1881. To write this piece it would have been necessary to interview J.C.W. or someone very close to him. The preface was signed in November 1881. Harvard College Library obviously received an advanced copy because their copy is stamped with an October 1881 receipt date. The interview would have been between the death of William in late 1878 and sometime in early 1881.
- John F. Burger purchases this farm and ranch in the fall of 1881. J.C.W. would need to be in California to oversee this sale.
- J.C.W. and Mandana’s daughter Mary Rebecca married John F. Burger’s son George Frederick (Fred) on December 7, 1881 and the Ingram family left for Texas the next day. The facts all support this account.
- J.C.W. is in Texas before May of 1882. We know this because he’s already dissolving a partnership with E.C. Tatum. This implies he arrived in Texas, agreed to enter a business partnership and arranged an agreed upon dissolution of that partnership all in a few months’ time. I wonder what happened? The 1879 San Antonio City Directory lets us know Elisha C. Tatum was a young clerk working for L. Moke & Co. while living in the home of his father. In the 1880 census he’s 23 and living with his sisters Viana Gillis (widowed or divorced with two children) and Sally Tatum who is 15 and still in school. His occupation is “clerk”. In the 1881 San Antonio Directory he’s listed as “E.C. Tatum and Co. (Elisha C. Tatum, Mrs. Viana Gillis), groceries, provisions and proprs Buffalo Camp Yard, 25 and 26 n Flores. See advr’t.” Buffalo Camp Yard was a well-known place to gather and move supplies from San Antonio to points west. There was a regular freight run from the Buffalo Camp Yard through Kerrville and on to Comfort, Texas. It would have passed near or through the land J.C.W. would eventually purchase on the Guadalupe River. It may have passed by his property in Kerrville purchased in February 1882. So, let me speculate. By early 1882 a young, aspiring business man and his sister need a cash infusion into their grocery and supply business. Perhaps it was Frank Coleman, the brother-in-law of Elisha Tatum, who introduced Tatum to J.C.W. Coleman and his wife lived in Precinct 1 of Kerr County (primarily the city of Kerrville) near where J.C.W. bought those lots in February 1882. He and Coleman are described in the San Antonio newspaper in 1883 as “prominent citizens of Kerrville”. J.C.W. had plenty of capital to invest and may have been looking to get into business before arriving in Texas. The young salesman “sold him” and they entered a business agreement. Something happened. Perhaps J.C.W. got a clearer picture of the person or the condition of the business. He appears to have pulled out of the arrangement without recovering his cost or any future income from the business.
- If one needs a building or a piece of land to have a post office and be the postmaster of the new berg of Ingram, we can say J.C.W. did not own the land now known as Old Ingram until January 1883. He may have owned or invested with his friend Frank Coleman in Kerrville prior to and/or in 1883. It may have been business or ministry, or I suspect both, but J.C.W and his family began their time on the Guadalupe River in 1883. So, if you need a property or a building or a post office to have a town and or have it named after you, Ingram was not birthed until 1883.
Unlike most travel guides to this date, Hill County Visitor.com gets it right.
“Ingram, Texas is on the north bank of Guadalupe River. Ingram, Texas was founded 1883 by J.C.W. Ingram who built a store and conducted church services…”
The facts say the Ingrams left California in December 1881. They were in Texas by February of 1882 and purchased land in Kerrville. They then purchased the land where old Ingram sits from the Morriss family in January 1883.
- J.C.W Ingram arrived in Texas in early 1882.
- The seed for the town of Ingram was planted in 1883.
The On-going Mystery: WHY did J.C.W Ingram; successful, well respected, settled, choose to pull up stakes in California and move to the Hill Country of Texas? Was it…
- Grief over the loss of his sons?
- The need for a new adventure or challenge?
- A business opportunity?
- Church ministry?
Does anyone have a letter from J.C.W. explaining it? Please feel free to share it here.
It happened on April 23, 1973. Forty two years ago today Dee and I had our first date. We refer to it as “the deal”. We’ve had many dates since that day but never another one just like the first one. I’ll explain in a minute.
I thought about that first date Tuesday night. We had tickets to attend a classical piano concert at the Bob Bullock State History Museum in beautiful uptown Austin, Texas near the University of Texas campus. The concert was part of the Texas Art and Culture Series. Renowned Texas pianist and director of the Round Top Festival Institute James Dick performed. Dick is a graduate of the University, winner of the Texas Medal of Arts, the Chevalier des Arts et Letters, and an Honorary Associate of London’s Royal Academy of Music. He played several classical pieces from French composers in honor of the Museum’s new La Belle exhibit. Dee and I particularly enjoyed the pieces composed by Claude Debussy.
Earlier in the evening we took advantage of our museum membership, parked in the parking garage and walked to dinner. El Mercado provided the perfect fix for a couple who had a taste for Tex-Mex. After dinner we strolled by beautiful old homes and gardens in the early cool of the evening. We eventually found ourselves seated under the giant Star of Texas in front of the museum, talking while waiting to go inside. I think she mentioned the approaching anniversary of our first date and it raised a question in my mind. How many times had I taken her to a classical music concert? She said this would be the first. Surprised, I asked if she were sure. (I think our memories are a little faulty these days.) But I agreed it could have been me and the girls at those Stephen F. Austin concerts. (No, wait a minute, I’m sure our whole family went to at least once.) Well, it’s a good thing her favorite music’s not classical!
I thought about how much I enjoyed our conversation and how much I always do. We spend more time together now than we ever have and would not want it any other way. We enjoy being together and never have to force ourselves to find something about which to talk. I’m glad.
Now about that first date.
I was a senior in high school in Denton, Texas. Dee was a freshman at Texas Women’s University. We met through friends at church. I never really gave her much thought because she was “so much” older than me. But one night she pulled me aside at the
Christian Student Center and asked if she could ask my advice. That conversation, hearing her heart, opened my heart to hers that night and boy did I take notice! About two weeks later, while working on a class project, I decided to use it as an excuse to ask her out. I told her I would make a deal with her. Help me on my project and I’ll take you out for pizza. I’ve been asking her ever since and she’s been saying, “Yes”. But, I’ve never asked her to help me on a high school project. That was a one of a kind date.
We saw each other almost every day for four months and then I was off to school. We would spend very little time together the next two years. We were both very busy. We “dated” long distance which I think helped my grades but wasn’t nearly as much fun.
Less than a week after my 20th birthday and at a time of the year when we were the same age, we were married. It hasn’t always been easy or fun but it’s been a lot more fun than it’s been uneasy. I think we would start it all over again today. Who knows, with a little bit of experience, it could be even better.
Now, you’re wondering, why this story? Why all the detail? Well it’s like this. As a family historian I’m sure some of you have regretted not asking you grandparents more questions or listening to their long-winded details? My hope is that when one of my grandchildren ask the questions, I wonder where Pop and Memaw met or I wonder what they did on their first date, they will find this firsthand account. What I would give for some firsthand accounts. How about you?
If you have family or research family history in North Texas, this blog post is for you. These resources will make your research more productive.
Dee and I recently used the genealogical sections of three North Texas libraries. One was a surprise, one was status quo in our experience and the third one was a gem. Here’s our report with some basic information on these resources plus tips for researching any library in any place.
We were in McWright Cemetery in Hunt County, Texas looking for the final resting ground of my 2 x great grandfather William Henry Price. Three of us were looking (including my sister Debbie from Collin County), but we could not find him. It’s a large cemetery and has been in use since the 1800’s. It’s possible his burial marker had been destroyed by time. I wondered and then hoped someone had recorded the graves earlier before there was a Find A Grave. That’s when a car pulled into the cemetery occupied by two elderly sisters. They had lived near the cemetery all their lives, but they could not recall the Price name. They did remember there was a book in the Greenville library with a listing of all of the graves in the cemetery at the time the book was published and suggested we look in that book for William Henry Price.
Greenville, Texas 75401
Hours: Monday – Wednesday, 10am – 6pm, Thursdays, 12 pm – 8pm and closed Sundays.
I was surprised by such a large, modern facility in such a small place. I was also surprised by the generous genealogical holdings secluded in their own room. The library has a public break area with vending machines, very nice for long hours of research. The staff on duty this day did not seem particularly knowledgeable in the field of genealogy and appeared to be pre-occupied with preparing to watch basketball on the computer. So, be prepared. You may have to provide for yourself. (see below). We found the book our good Samaritans told us about but did not find William Henry in it. We did however find several other useful facts about other family members. If you’re researching family in Hunt County, you’ll want to visit this facility.
The Status Quo
We were looking for old Collin County, Texas tax records. When I say old, I mean from the beginning of the county (1846). I was looking for evidence my 2 x great grand father Samuel Byrd made it to Texas before his death. I was pleased to discover the microfilm of the earliest tax records was available in McKinney near my family’s residences. It would not be necessary (as we had been told by the county officials) to travel to the library at the University of Texas at Arlington. (BTW, I found no evidence that day or any other day that Samuel Byrd made it alive to Texas in spite of what someone posted on the Find A Grave website.)
101 East Hunt St.
McKinney, Texas 75069
Hours: Mon.-Thu: 10 am – 9 pm, Fri.-Sat.: 10 am – 6 pm, Sun.: 1 – 5 pm
This library is modern and spacious, pleasing to the eye. The genealogical section is good on Collin County and fair on the surrounding counties. There is, as there is in most Texas libraries’ genealogical sections, as smattering of books on the states from which Texas settlers came. The second floor space is shared by an open computer room where it appears mostly young adults are checking Facebook and playing computer games. There has been an attempt to tuck the research tables back into a corner away from distractions. This provides a place for others to talk and text away from the crowd. The staff from which we requested assistance did not come across as knowledgeable of their genealogical holdings or how to operate the microfilm viewers. It was a fairly standard experience and thus the term “status quo”.
And then you find that special place with special people. I’m talking about the Haggard Library in Plano, Texas. I speak specifically of the basement in this library and the people who work there. The basement? Sounds rather dark and damp. I assure you it’s neither.
2501 Coit Rd.
Plano, Texas 75075
Hours: Monday – Thursday, 9am – 9pm, Fri. 9am – 6pm, Sat. 10 am – 6 pm, Sun. 1pm – 5 pm
The genealogical section of the Haggard Library is in the basement. It’s large, comfortable, well stocked and well staffed. I could spend a long time here and I did spend most of a day and part of another. You need to plan your visit or you’ll be going from “one shiny thing” to another. There’s plenty here for the history hound and the family historian. And then there’s the staff. They are knowledgeable, courteous and considerate. Considerate? Yes. When I’m researching I generally have goals and don’t have time for chit chat. I need the staff to be knowledgeable, but share with me only the knowledge I request. Otherwise I need them to simply give me space and solitude. I’ve just described the five staff I met working the basement in my two days at the Haggard Library. And the gem of this gem was Genealogical Librarian Cheryl Smith. She is a wonderful and respectful resource for family historians and genealogist researching North Texas families. She is especially knowledgeable of Collin County. Thanks Cheryl! I smile when I think of the staff — and that basement!
My one complaint about Haggard is the lack of a public break area. Researchers may be in the stacks for long hours and need regular breaks to stay nourished and hydrated. This would be a nice addition to the library and provide additional income.
Preparing to research a library:
- Have research goals. What do you hope to find or accomplish with you visit?
- Know before you go. What is available? What is allowed? What are the hours? Where is it located?
- Search the online catalog. Have your titles and call numbers ready. What questions do you have for the staff? Prepare your research log in advance.
- Don’t forget your equipment. Notebooks, computers, cameras (know their policy) and money for the copier
When you’re there:
- Be courteous to the staff and considerate of others. Allow them to do their work. Don’t distract others around you.
- Follow the library’s protocols. Don’t reshelf the books. Place your used materials on the carts if they’re provided. Know how to use the equipment and properly use it. Ask for help if you don’t.
Here’s how we’re connected. My mother’s name is Bertha Mae Byrd Roberts (Mamaw to some of you.) She was born a Byrd. Her mother was Willie Mae Burns Byrd. She was born a Burns. Her mother was Annie Elizabeth Price. She went by “Bettie” and was born a Price. Her father’s name was William Henry Price. His father is the focus of this post.
William Brumley Price was born in Tennessee on March 27, 1819. He moved with his family to Missouri in 1834 and married Rhoda Brixie in 1843. They named their first child Francis M. “Frank” Price. Rhoda may have died giving birth to him or shortly thereafter. William married Rebecca Eggman in 1846. They migrated with their 7 children to Texas sometime after 1856 where they settle in Collin County and would go on to have 11 children.together. He served as a member of a cavalry regiment during the Civil War. It may have been the same unit in which Pleasant Wesley Byrd served. (researching) There is one piece of evidence that indicates he may have been a lawyer. (researching)
William Brumley Price died July 3, 1901 in the Blue Ridge Community in northeast Collin County. He is buried in the historic old Grounds Cemetery north of this community. He and Rebecca’s grave is surrounded by a chain link fence. Their beautiful engraved stone has been knocked off of its base and was too heavy for our crew to upright. (We need some big Roberts or Collins boys to make a trip to Collin County.) There appears to have been a storm through the cemetery. The engraving on the stone reads:
W. B. husband of Rebecca Price, Born Mar 27, 1819 Died July 8, 1901 Father let thy grace be much that we may meet in heaven Rebecca wife of W.B. Price Died Feb. 27, 1906 Aged 82 years old We trust our loss will be her gain, And that with Christ She’s gone to reign
Bertha Mae Byrd Roberts visits the grave site of her great great grandparents in March of 2015. Looks pretty good for 82!
I guess you could call me a reluctant genealogist. The craft/hobby/obsession has been trying to draw me in for half my life. I finally capitulated these past two years.
Here’s how it all started thirty years ago this fall. I had just finished conducting a graveside service outside of Fairfield, Texas when I was approached by a couple who appeared to be in their late forties or early fifties. They introduced themselves as Lawrence and Juanita Uhl. They thanked me for the service and my kind words and then asked me a question I had never been asked before or since at a funeral service. “What do you know about your father’s family?” That’s where it all began. I didn’t know it then, but I know it now.
The truth was, in spite of my insatiable curiosity about most things, I knew nearly nothing about my father’s family. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to know. It wasn’t because I hadn’t asked. I think I can sum it up in two ways. First, my dad and his dad knew nothing about their family and its roots. Second, unlike a good genealogist, I took their “No” for an answer. They had nothing to tell me and I accepted their lack of information as the final say on the matter. I lived with this false reality until the fall of 1985.
The Uhls were professors at a small college in East Texas and they both had been bitten by the genealogy bug. They were passionate amateur sleuths, using most of their free time in the hobby (read obsession) but had hit a roadblock in following Lawrence’s father’s line. They lost the trail in Virginia. They later confessed to me they hoped by helping a minister that God would help them get past their brick wall and pick up the trail.
I told them only a few things at the cemetery that day. This was all I knew. My dad was raised in the Ft. Worth, Texas area by Gus Roberts. While badgering my dad one day for information about his family he blurted out that all he knew about his dad’s family was that they were from a small community outside of Paris, Texas. That’s not much to go on.
Lawrence and Juanita Uhl took those crumbs and went to work. Two weeks later I received a call. The Uhls asked permission to drive to our home in Nacogdoches and share what they had found. In a few days they arrived with a notebook and large envelope in hand. They weren’t sure how I would take the news they had to share and thought it would be better delivered in person.
Here’s what I heard and saw that day. My grandfather, the man I knew as “Papoo”, was the offspring of his father’s second marriage. Great granddad John A. Roberts had a nice farm in Lamar County and he worked it with his son and son-in-law from his first marriage. His wife had been deceased for a few years when he married one of his farm workers. She was about 29 and he was 66. My granddad arrived in 1898. In 1901 my great grandmother Mary Laningham Thompson Roberts and one of the hired hands named John Killian were accused and convicted of murdering my great grandfather. They were sent to the Texas Penitentiary. Witnesses claimed my grandfather Gus, then only three years old, was in the room when the deed was done. He would be raised by the Masonic Home in Ft. Worth until he graduated their school at the age of eighteen.
In a flash I saw it. I knew why my grandfather was the way he was. I was moved with compassion for him and my dad. My father had once described his dad as a “mean old bitter SOB”. Dad would not escape the malaise. He left home at 16 to wrestle with his own demons the rest of his life. Now I understood.
My great-grandmother was convicted of murdering my great-grandfather in 1902. Was this bad news? Sure. Was it sad news? Yes. A jury of 12 men said it was a fact. They said it was the truth. (I’ll have more to say about this on another day. Hint: They were both pardoned by two different governors!) For now, all we had to work with was the decision of that jury. Knowing the story allowed me to share with my father about a man he never met (his grandfather) and a man he never really knew (his father). I saw a light in his eyes that day and an emotional expulsion from his chest. He would live with these liberating facts for less than three years. They were good years.
I think often of a pair of dedicated amateur genealogical detectives who made this possible in our family. I never really properly thanked them. I’m just now, after thirty years, understanding the impact of what they did for my family. Thanks Lawrence and Juanita Uhl wherever you are! May your tribe increase! I dedicate this blog to you, your memory and people like you who are committed to the facts and will follow them wherever they lead. I hope we all break down our brick walls together and continue to backtrack the common until we meet in a place where there is no sorrow.