|Anna Weisinger of Montgomery, Texas, died on April 30, 2005. Her personal history and her personality were captured in this series of interviews by Lloyd A. Biscamp in 1994 & 1995.
Ilai Couch Davis was my paternal grandfather. He was born during 1820 in North Carolina and came to Montgomery during 1850.
Melissa Landrum was my paternal grandmother. Her father (my great-grandfather), William Landrum, moved his family to Texas during the latter part of 1829. On January 22, 1830, William Landrum was given a certificate for a league of land by Stephen F. Austin. My Grandmother Melissa was born during 1834 on a farm a couple of miles west of what is now the town of Montgomery. Montgomery was just a trading post down on Town Creek at that time. They called it the little town under the hill.
My grandparents Ilai Davis and Melissa Landrum were married during 1865. They lived for a few years in a log cabin north of the Community Center, close to where the Branch house is now. That's where my father and his sister were born. My grandparents bought this house, Magnolia, during 1868, and it has been in our family ever since.
A few years before they moved into this house, my grandfather's business partner, Mr. Palmer, lost his wife. They had three small children, two boys and a girl. Then Mr. Palmer died. At that time the Palmer children became wards of my grandparents, and came with my grandparents to live in this house. The three Palmer children stayed here a few years, then went to Virginia or some other place to live with relatives. Cora Palmer, the girl, married a Blanding. The Blandings had a daughter who came here for visits in later years. Her name was Agnes Blanding. She married a Mr. Stroud, who was a banker.
When Grandfather Ilai Couch Davis died during 1872, he was well-fixed. This house belonged to him, all the property out in front of this place belonged to him, and he owned some other property. Then Grandmother Melissa married her second husband, Mr. Threadgill, who had been executor of her first husband's will. Her second husband helped get rid of lots of her money, then he died after about a year. Next she married Mr. McKinney, her third husband. Well, he wasn't much better than her second husband because he drank all the time, then he also died on her. She died during 1919, a year after my father died. Later somebody made the remark that Grandmother Melissa was a fine lady until she took to marrying.
My father, Ilai Cecil Davis, was born in Montgomery during 1866. His sister, Mary Melissa Davis, was born in Montgomery during 1868. My mother, Ida Clark Morriss, was born in Houston during 1874. My parents married during 1894.
My parents built and lived in the house that James McDonald lives in now. My two sisters and my brother who lived to be adults were born in that house. I was born in Magnolia, this house, during 1907. Next, our family lived in what is now known as the Old Baptist Parsonage. While we were living in the parsonage, ice formed all over the kitchen floor one night, and it was just like an ice rink the next morning. We had a ball, playing on that iced floor. I don't remember if we had water pipes in the parsonage, or had a water pump on the porch or in the kitchen. We may have gotten our water from a cistern. But water got all over the kitchen floor and froze.
Bleu and Dickey Beathard have the Old Baptist Parsonage fixed up so pretty now and it looks like a museum, but no old house I ever went into in all my life ever had that much furniture. You'd go into a bedroom and it would have a bed and a trunk, and that may have been all, not even a dresser.
There was a swing in front of a two-story boarding house that stood on the site where the Dennis family lives now. Some of the men who lived in the boarding house used to put me up in the swing and pay me a penny each time I sang 'Casey Jones,' because there was a Mr. Jones who lived there and he didn't like the song.
Next we lived in Houston and Bryan, and then we moved to Vinton, Louisiana, where my father had a mercantile store. We lived upstairs above the store. I started to school in Vinton. My mother died there in 1914 during the birth of my younger brother, who lived three months and died. I remember like it was yesterday, standing beside the railroad tracks in Vinton, watching them load my mother's casket onto the train. Not long after our mother died, my oldest sister Cecil left home to live on her own and my brother Richard, my sister Ella and I came here to Magnolia to live with our old maid aunt, Mary Davis, who was our father's only sibling. My father didn't come back here to live at that time, but later he got sick and came to live with us. My aunt took care of my sick father, took care of Grandmother Melissa, and took care of Richard, Ella and me.
There Auntie was in 1917, my father sick, my grandmother very old, and three of us children. My father spent some time in the hospital in Galveston before he came here during December of 1917. Dad was in the hospital during November and part of December. He went there from Port Arthur. He was not working, and by the time he came back here to live he had no money. I heard he was a heavy drinker, and died of sclerosis of the liver. Everybody said my father was a gentleman's gentleman. He was raised when the family had a little something. Maybe he just didn't know how to work. Dad died in February of 1918.
Auntie was extremely loyal to my father. It wouldn't have mattered what he did, she would have stood by him.
Other than her brother, the only man important in Auntie's life was Robert Palmer, who had been a ward of her parents. There was a packet of Robert Palmer's letters that she always kept in her trunk. She told me before she died that she wanted that packet of letters buried with her, so I buried the packet with her. I never read those letters, out of respect for Auntie. A few of his letters that are upstairs in that old suitcase were some that weren't tied in that bundle. He was in bad health during 1888, and his brother Edward took him to Virginia. Robert Palmer died from tuberculosis or something like that, and he died sort of young.
My grandmother was buried on Easter Sunday of 1919. She died about a year after my father died. Auntie was very close to her mother. They had a good relationship.
My father died in this house. My grandmother died in this house. After Auntie died in Houston during 1944, we brought her back here before she was buried, so she was buried from this house. She was buried in the Old Cemetery. I think because that is where she wanted to be buried. It may have been that if she was buried in the New Cemetery she would have been buried next to Mr. McKinney, and she didn't want that. She ended up being buried next to Mrs. Sarah Wise. Miss Sallie, who died in 1953, was Auntie's best friend.
Auntie never drank any alcoholic beverages that I know of. And she didn't use tobacco in any form. But Auntie was not the healthiest person in the world. She was thin and frail. I don't remember her being sick much, though, until about the last year she lived. She spent most of her last winter with us, had a stroke and passed away.
When Richard, Ella and I came to live with Auntie in Montgomery, we didn't have any Christmas trees. Each of us always had a stocking with some fruit and candy in it. And Auntie would get each of us a unique gift. She would hide the gifts in the house, and run a string through the house. Every once in a while there would be a note on the string, telling us whether we were getting close, or something like that. One Christmas, Landrum Gay and a little colored boy and I went down to the cedar brake to cut a Christmas tree. While I was chopping, I came down and cut my left foot wide open, bone and all. I just dropped the axe and the three of us started running. There wasn't a doctor handy, so my foot never was sewed up.
Auntie did not participate in sports of any kind. She didn't play bridge, but we played hearts a lot.
Auntie had a telephone when I lived with her. It was a crank telephone mounted on the wall. I can remember her having it as early as 1917. The telephone office was upstairs in one of those two-story buildings that burned in 1920, the night the whole town burnt. I remember one time I had some chores to do, and I didn't do them. Auntie let me walk all the way to the Richard Willis house, where the Berkleys lived at that time, then she called me on the telephone and told me to come home and do my chores. She never whipped me or hit me in any way. But she would not let me do something some times, and then she would remind me about something I had failed to do, and tell me that was my punishment.
When I was a kid growing up, we had a great big metal cistern that sat on the ground outside next to the kitchen. It must have caught water from the roof, but I don't remember. We used to play school out there. We would write on the outside of the cistern, using it as a blackboard. I'm sure if we drank that water, Auntie must have boiled it. The old water tank northwest of the corner of College and Highway 149 was built with a wooden tank in the early 20's, but I don't remember if we got water from it or not.
When I was a kid, I never thought I'd live to be grown and have any hands. Auntie made me wash my hands every time I turned around. I just thought that was awful. Still today, I catch myself washing my hands for no earthly reason.
There was a two-hole outdoor privy sitting southwest from the southwest corner of this house when I was growing up. We took our baths in tin tubs. The brick underground cistern here at this house is eighteen feet deep. Richard, Ella and I used to play inside it when we were kids. We never went into the metal cistern that sat up above the ground, but we wrote on the outside of it. Some time in the 1930's Ella and I had a bathroom put in where it is now, which was a bedroom Ella and I slept in when we were kids. The outdoor privy was still there when Raymond and I moved back up here in 1947. It wasn't used then, but it was still there.
Auntie told me there used to be a couple of rooms extending out from the west side of the house, but they were torn down before I came to live with her. When Auntie was a little girl, she would go into the southeast bedroom, pretend she was a princess, and walk majestically all the way across the house.
We used kerosene lamps for lighting when I was growing up. Those lamps upstairs on either side of the four-poster bed are brass now. They were nickel-plated when I was growing up, and that is what I studied by. In 1936 Raymond and I had the house wired for Auntie. Later we had those lamps wired for electricity. She never owned a radio.
The yard never was taken care of. Auntie didn't have any grass in the yard. We swept the yard, swept the dirt in the yard. That's the way all farm houses were then. Nobody had grass in their yard. Auntie didn't have any kind of garden. There were no planted flowers in the yard, but there were lots of wild flowers. Nearly every spring, the yard was a sea of yellow jonquils. The year Auntie died, you've never seen anything as gorgeous.
There used to be a barn south of the gate on Eugenia, not the old Willis house but a barn for cows and such, and I remember seeing a big walnut tree near it go down during a storm when I was a kid.
Auntie usually made us get in the front hall whenever it was real stormy, when we had hurricanes, electrical storms and whatever. She was afraid of lightning coming down the chimneys and out of the fireplaces.
During a storm when I was a girl, two big oaks east of the house were blown down. There was a seat between those two trees. There were also two other big oaks directly behind the house and there were two southwest of the house. Six big oak trees in all were in our yard. We had a great big swing behind the house that three people could sit in. One day Vivian Simonton, later Furlow, fell out of the swing and hit the ground cursing.
Auntie was not a very good cook, and she never taught me how to cook anything. She didn't have time to cook. She was always so busy taking care of people. She cooked in the old kitchen, and when I was a kid we ate in the old kitchen. Auntie cooked on a kerosene cook stove. After I graduated and went off to college, Auntie had to tear down the old kitchen because it was falling down.
Sallie Byrd, a black lady, did Auntie's washing and ironing. Sallie boiled clothes in a pot and used old flat irons.
My oldest sister Cecil used to have box suppers here at Magnolia. We have a sleigh bed that's upstairs now but used to be out on the porch, and I set on that sleigh bed and watched my sister and her friends.
Cecil married about the time that Ella was fourteen, and later Ella went to live with Cecil and her husband. My brother Richard went into the military service, and Auntie and I were left alone in this house. Ella came to visit us in the summertime.
Auntie couldn't do much of anything to fix up this house. A cousin said one time that Auntie was like a mother with a beautiful child, but couldn't afford to do things for the child. She supported all of us, the best she could. Times were hard then, and we didn't have very much.
I look back and know there were occasions when Auntie probably did without food in order to feed me. She was a fine lady. Before I lived with her, she taught a private school in the big bedroom upstairs. The only thing she did to earn money while I lived with her was work for W. C. Munn, which was a big store in Houston. And she worked for Levy's. She had an order service and worked here in this house. The showcase that I have upstairs in the relic room used to sit on top of the piano downstairs in the bedroom. She kept things she ordered in that showcase. Some of the folks still living in Montgomery remember coming in and ordering stuff from Auntie. I think Auntie may have been an agent for Munn and Levy until she died. W. C. Munn was the favorite meeting place in Houston for people from Montgomery. I guess Auntie bought all of her clothes and shoes from Munn and Levy. She was not the least bit extravagant about anything. She couldn't afford to be. She never wore makeup or perfume. She never wore jewelry. Her fingernails were plain. She took care of her own hair. Miss Maggie, Mrs. Jimmy Curry, used to always accuse Auntie of dying her hair. When Auntie died at age 76, she had very few grey hairs. Her hair was brown, but she used to tell Miss Maggie, 'Well, I'm just not going to tell you. You might want the same thing.' She never colored it at all. It was brown when she died. She wore her hair on top of her head. She was thin and about 5' 6'' tall. Very thin when she was older.
Auntie's eyes were grey. She wore glasses to read, and she read constantly. Books and certain magazines. I still have a lot of her magazines in the relic room, and lots of her books are in the hall. She was an avid student of Texas history. As you can see from the scrapbooks in this house, she must have clipped every article concerning Texas history that she ran across in newspapers. There weren't many books on Texas history available in her time. She also clipped and saved articles about U. S. history, architecture, art, book reviews and ancient cities. My auntie was an exceptionally smart and inquisitive woman. There was nothing dumb about her. She helped with many a thesis for area college students. She didn't own a typewriter.
Auntie wore only dresses. When she knew she was going to die, she bought a piece of material to have a dress made. Before she had the dress made, she died. We buried her in a dress she already had and that we loved, and that she looked good in. She didn?t have many clothes.
Maybe she was active in church when she was young, but when she was older she wasn?t active in church. She didn't have the clothes she thought she needed to go to church. She took care of us kids, and made us go to Sunday school and church. But she never was able to have anything for herself. As many people as she took care of, and as much as she gave up in life to take care of those people, you can't convince me that she will be punished for not going to church.
I never knew of a mean thing Auntie ever did, and I don't remember her ever losing her temper. She spoke softly, used good diction, and had no accent that I can remember. She was reserved, not outgoing. But she did speak her mind.
She was strong-minded. She had high principals and she stood on them. She was always telling me I was arguing. I said, ''When you talk to me like that, what are you doing?'' She answered, ''I'm strong minded.'' She was strong minded and I was arguing.
Auntie wouldn't allow me to use profanity. One time she got real mad. I was outside and heard her say, ''Damn it!'' I went into the house and asked, ''Why is it that you can say that but I can't?'' She replied, ''Sometimes there's just not another word that will do.'' Auntie had a great sense of humor.
I wouldn't say Auntie was unforgiving. I don't think she was a spiteful person. But there were two people in her life that caused her problems.
My older sister, Cecil, couldn't come to this house during Auntie's later years, because Cecil had mistreated Auntie. While Auntie was taking care of us children, Cecil, after she got married, bought a lot of stuff from Auntie, through Munn, and she never paid Auntie. Auntie just couldn't forgive that.
And I guess that I committed an unpardonable sin. I got married in Houston in the home of my mother's sister. Auntie and my mother's sister had a falling out before that about the way my mother's sister had treated my father. After that, Auntie just never had anything to do with her. Auntie didn't come to my wedding, because it took place at the home of my mother's sister. Auntie never mentioned it to me.
Auntie never owned an automobile. When she went some place out of town, somebody picked her up and took her there. Raymond and I took her to Monterrey, Mexico one year. When we lived in Corpus Christi, we drove to Montgomery, picked up Auntie, took her back to Corpus for a week, then brought her back home. We also took her to the Texas Centennial in Dallas. After I left home and went away to college, I came back to visit Auntie fairly often. I never came without her telling me beforehand to ''bring your hat.'' You always had to bring ''Sunday clothes'' if you came to visit Auntie. Everybody wore hats. Auntie didn't leave the house to go any place without a hat. You didn't go to church if you didn't wear a hat and gloves.
I don't know what Auntie's political leanings were. Texas was a one-party state back then. But in 1935 when Franklin Delano Roosevelt put in social security, Auntie said that was the saddest day of this country, because the great-grandchildren would never be able to pay this country out of its debt.
I was seven years old when I came back to Montgomery to live with Auntie, but I don't remember all the buildings that went down College Street. On the northwest corner of College and Main Street (Highway 149) there was the general mercantile store building that my grandfather Ilai Couch Davis and his partner had owned at one time. There was a little market on the corner at Highway 149; nothing is there now. There was a two-story brick building right across the street from it. I don't remember what was in that two-story building then, but I do remember that the Branch family lived there at one time. There were buildings and stores on the west side of Main Street (Highway 149) from the brick bank building north all the way up to the College Street corner. In 1920, one night when I was thirteen years old, that whole side of town burned. Wood's store and millinery shop were there, the Berkleys had a grocery store, Mr. Tom Simonton had an ice cream parlor.
The old Peel place used to be just down the road east of where T. J. Peel lives now. It was a beautiful old place, a mansion. It burned.
The Berkleys sold their home to somebody who did a lot of work on it, then those owners sold it to the Menefees, and the Menefees have done a lot of work on it. That house was built during 1854 by John Shelton for Richard Willis.
There was a fine two-story house, the Nobles house, where the telephone company building is now, at the southwest corner of Caroline and Highway 149. It burned.
Dr. Young and his family lived in the house at the northwest corner of Caroline and Highway 149. He brought me into the world. His wife was Bell Young. We called her Miss Bell.
The old courthouse was where the Community Center is now. That was before I was born. The old courthouse burned.
There used to be an opera house near where the Community Center is now.
The old Berkley Hotel was on the north side of the Community Center. The Berkleys who owned the hotel lived in a house at the turn of the road, and the hotel was east of their house. The hotel was there up into the thirties, when it was torn down.
The Deans lived across the street from us in the old Chilton house. They didn't have any children living at home then.
The Campbells lived in that old dilapidated two-story house by the flower shop and the bank and the Depot Restaurant. I took music lessons from the Campbell's daughter, Susie Gary Campbell. And I went across the street from here to Mrs. Dean's house, the Chilton house, to practice on Mrs. Dean's piano. But it didn't take. I've always wanted to learn to play a piano. I even took lessons after I was grown so that I could play this old piano we have, but it just didn't take. You know, some things take, and some things just don't take.
In all my life I never heard Auntie play a piano. The old piano here was never tuned, either. It hadn't been tuned for maybe 75 years when Raymond and I moved in. We had the piano fixed up in 1955, after the first tour. It was tuned in 1955, with every original string still on it. The same man has tuned it every year but two since 1955. He now lives at Brookshire. He broke one string on it during the past 40 years.
There was a railroad spur, a dead-end, that ran from southwest of town to about where the Depot Restaurant is now. Trains came in, then backed out. That used to be part of our excitement. Kids would hear the train and rush to the station to watch the train come into town. There were two cotton gins, one on each side of the road, and they used the railroad spur to ship bales of cotton. This was quite a cotton place. Mr. Jimmy Curry, who at one time lived in the house next to Bell's Grove, bought and sold cotton in the old bank building. Mr. Curry worked there as a cotton broker.
There was a fight one weekend between members of the families of two leading citizens of this town. One man grabbed a meat knife and slit open another man, and the man who had been attacked fought back with a pair of ice tongs. Both men died. On another occasion there was a big fight in town and someone got hit over the head with a piece of stove wood. There was a lot of fighting in this town. I guess men enjoyed fighting way back yonder, and I guess that's why my mother and Auntie never let my sister and me go to town on Saturdays. People from the country came into town on Saturdays for supplies, and things got pretty wild sometimes. The old cedar tree in front of our house was there when I was a little girl, and Ella and I would climb up in that tree on Saturdays to see what was going on in town.
I went to school under Bessie Owen's grandfather, Mr. Paine. He was quite a character. And later Bessie?s mother was my teacher. Bessie's mother, Mrs. Linda Paine Price, and her grandfather, Mr. Paine, were my teachers. And then Bessie became a teacher. Three generations of teachers.
I used to walk by a coffin house back of the Methodist Church on my way to school. Where the One Stop store is now was right in the middle of the school yard. School grounds used to be near where Highway 105 and the Depot Restaurant are now. The highway through town back then was just a country road that went in front of both churches and turned at the cemetery and went by the school. The schoolhouse had only four rooms, two upstairs and two downstairs, and was built high off of the ground. Kids crawled under the school during recess. We used to walk from school to the drugstore, where there were punchboards with candy as prizes. One day some boys won some candy and took it back to school. Girls found the candy and ate it. The boys were furious, and they made the girls mad at them. After school that day, the girls made some candy and mixed a lot of laxative into half of the batch. The girls brought the homemade candy to school the next day, ate the half without the laxative and left the other half sitting out. Boys got their revenge, stole the half with laxative, went underneath the school and ate it. In just a little while, you talk about a sight to see, boys running around like they were crazy.
I worked at the drugstore of Mr. L. E. Jones while I was in high school. Mrs. Jones was a musician. Mr. and Mrs. Jones had two boys. Years later, Mr. and Mrs. Jones divorced. Mr. Jones later remarried, and he and his second wife also had a son, who is now married to a daughter of a member of our church.
The school that I graduated from in 1925 was for all grades, and it had only four rooms. I think we had eleven grades. My class was the last group that graduated from that school.
I wrote a history of Old Montgomery during my last year in school. I got the credit for this history, but Auntie did much of the research and real work. She gave me the credit for it.
There were five girls in our graduating class. Vivian Simonton, who married a Furlow, was one of the five. The oldest Berkley girl, Phil Anne, did not graduate with us, but was about our age and later went to Arlington to complete her schooling. She lived in the house that the Menefees live in now. They had a grove of big oak trees, maybe a dozen. They were just gorgeous. We had some wonderful slumber parties in that old Berkley house. The girls our age used to have slumber parties together, sort of rotating between our house and the Berkley house on Friday nights and such. When Vivian stayed overnight with me at our house during the winter, Auntie baked sweet potatoes in the ashes of the fireplace in our bedroom downstairs, which is where Auntie and I usually slept. Vivian and I loved sweet potatoes.
When we were teenagers, maybe fourteen or fifteen years old, Mrs. Lockett Simonton took six or eight of us girls on the train from Montgomery to Conroe. We were going to stay south of Conroe at Grand Lake. That used to be the name of what is now Camp Strake. By the time we got to Conroe it was raining so hard that Mrs. Simonton changed our plans and took all of us to the Chrisman Hotel to spend the night. You know what that did to a bunch of kids who had never even been inside a hotel. We just thought that was absolutely wonderful.
During the early twenties, Conroe was just a mud hole in the road, absolutely nothing. They turned out the lights, rolled up the streets and went home at six o'clock every night. But they did have a nice hotel.
High school kids from Conroe and Willis came to Montgomery for social activities and to have fun. A few of the girls from Montgomery occasionally went to dances and parties at homes in Willis. One of the ladies in Montgomery had dances for teenagers at her home every once in a while. She was a Baptist. The preacher wanted to put her out of the church because she was having those dances, but he didn?t have the nerve to do it.
Of the five girls who graduated from Montgomery High School in 1925, three of us visited together here in this house during the 1994 Christmas tour. Two of the five have died.
After graduating from high school in Montgomery I went off to college, and a while later I met Raymond Weisinger. I finished a year of college, then went to business school, and next I got a job. I married Raymond Weisinger in 1927 while I was working in Houston. After marrying we lived in Houston, Port Arthur, Corpus Christi, Conroe and Houston again. Auntie lived here until part of her last winter, when she came to Houston and lived with us until she died during December of 1944. After Auntie died, we got an uncle and aunt of Vivian Furlow to come live here and watch over the place.
Raymond and I came to live here in 1947. Magnolia was just barely livable. Auntie had the house painted in the 1930's, had the old kitchen torn down, and had tried to do a few things, but it was not a very livable house in 1947.
Shortly after Raymond and I moved here, the town gave us a housewarming. I knew there wasn't any reason in this world for them to do that except they wanted to see inside this house. My aunt had a lot of false pride, and I had absolutely none. I opened all the closets and everything, and let the whole town see it, and I've joked since then that some of the people who came to see it that day were satisfied and never came back to see it again. They satisfied their curiosity. It was just a friendly thing, they had a homecoming for us. Auntie never let people go any place that she hadn't fixed up, and I opened everything and let them see it all. While Auntie lived here, even family members couldn't go into a room if it wasn't fixed up right. Auntie used to tell the wildest tales. She had so much pride. She'd tell visiting kids things like, ''There's a peg-legged man upstairs,'' to keep them from wandering into places she didn't want them in.
Auntie was a hoarder. She saved everything. And I?m sure that after she died, I threw away lots of papers concerning Montgomery history that were absolutely invaluable.
Somebody said they wished they had a house like this, and I told them exactly how they can get one. You go into an old house that is about to fall down. You go to the bank, borrow as much money as you can, you come home and you do one job. You go back to the bank and borrow as much as you can, you come home and do another job. After about twenty five years, you can look back and say, ''Look what I did!'' People don't want to do that. They want it right now.
The first winter Raymond and I were here we nearly froze to death. We had an ice storm during the winter of 1947-48, and no coverings on the floors. Soon afterwards we covered the floors with tar paper, then put wool carpeting on top of the tar paper.
A little later Raymond started fixing the foundation of the house. The foundation had settled and the sills were twisting. He got some steel rods, put them through holes in the sills and beams, then pulled the foundation back together. Those steel rods are still in the foundation. While Raymond was working on the foundation, we were getting ready to celebrate the eighty-first birthday of his father. We had four huge oak trees in the back yard, but they've all died since then. They were killed by oak decline, according to folks at A&M. All the skirts were off the house and it just looked terrible. No bushes, no nothing. All of the children but one and all the grandchildren came here to the party. We had a photographer to take group pictures of everyone. Twenty years later we had a family reunion here, with all of the same children, and all of the ones taken as little babies before, and had everyone in the same position they were in twenty years earlier. It was real interesting to see. Little boys crying and being so ugly in the first family photo, then all grown up and with their own children in the second photo.
After we finished the foundation work we put on a new slate roof, although the original roof was wood shingles. I had to have the slate taken off year before last and had a new composition roof put on. When we were kids, this house leaked like a sieve. We had to move our beds from one place to another when it rained hard. And nearly froze to death on cold days because we had fireplaces and Auntie was scared of burning the house down and wouldn't let us have a fire bigger than a teapot.
Following work on the foundation and roof, we put sheetrock on the walls of the three rooms that had already been plastered and later covered with wall paper. When I was a kid my grandmother had paper on the walls of those three rooms. In 1947 the other rooms in the house still were painted gray or sort of faded white, just like the relic room is now. The relic room floors, walls and ceiling look just like they did when I was a little girl. In the early 1950's we had the wood floors refinished, except for the relic room. The only other thing we've done to the rooms that still have wood walls and ceilings, except repainting, is to strip the seams in the ceilings. When the wind blew, dust sifted down through cracks in the ceilings, so we put screen molding over the cracks to keep the dust out. I hated to do that to the dining room ceiling because the paint in there was most unusual. It looked like whoever painted the ceiling had just flecked it. I would have loved to keep it the way it was.
Auntie had the old kitchen torn down because it was in such bad shape. That old kitchen was offset to the southwest. You had to go out onto an open porch, and then into the kitchen. The kitchen was not attached to the house, but there was a covered porch from the dining room door to the kitchen door. After tearing down the old kitchen, she used what is now the southeast bedroom for a kitchen. Raymond and I had been here about twelve years before we built a new kitchen.
When I was a girl, there were wild peach trees up and down the front walk. They're called wild peach trees, but they didn't have peaches on them. You could hardly see the house from the road because of trees of various kinds.
Back in the 1950's the State of Texas realized that the history of Texas was slipping away. History was not being preserved. The State put on a campaign. There were two ladies by the name of Mrs. Chici Hinton and Miss Ima Hogg who I think spearheaded the campaign, at least they spearheaded it in this part of Texas. Chici Hinton talked the people of Anderson and Montgomery into joining and having a tour together, and it was called Texas Trek No. 1. After a few years, Anderson got to where they were not happy with a joint tour. People from the Houston area tended to come to Montgomery first, and if they went on to Anderson it would be late in the day. Then Anderson got involved with trail riders, and we didn't want that. We felt that trail riders should have their own day, and that historic building tours should have their own day. Finally, Anderson broke away of their own accord, and they took the ''Texas Trek No. 1'' name with them. We named our tour the ''Montgomery Trek.''
Different people wrote press releases during the early days of the trek. Hart Addison, Bessie Owen, Harley Gandy, Marjorie Cameron, me. Ken Whisenant got us on Channel 13 one time, and we were on Eyes of Texas twice.
Maude Hooker was the oldest person I've known who lived in Bell's Grove. She was the daughter of W. C. Hooker and Mary Ann Hooker. I don't remember Cousin Maude's father, Mr. Hooker, but I knew her mother, Mary Ann. I called her Aunt Mary Ann. I'd have to go look at our family records to see how we were related. And I called Maude "Cousin Maude." Maude married J. B. Dacus and they had four children; there were twin girls, Erma and Erla, there was Maggie, and there was a son, James. I remember Aunt Mary Ann and Auntie sitting on the back porch of Magnolia when I was a girl, just sitting and rocking.
Cousin Erma married a man named Dunn. Maybe his name was Russell Dunn. They lived in Port Arthur where she taught school, and I think Mr. Dunn was a postmaster. They didn't have any children. After Mr. Dunn died, Erma returned to Bell's Grove and taught school in Montgomery for many years. When Erma was quite old, she fell down the stairs in Bell's Grove, broke her hip and laid at the foot of the stairs for a long time before Sarah Brown heard her crying for help. Erma and Sarah taught school together. After Erma got out of the hospital, she went to live in a nursing home in Willis.
Cousin Erla married a Mr. Whitehead. They built the house where the Butlers live now, Social Circle at 602 Caroline. The Whiteheads had three sons and a daughter, Hooker, Nita, Gene and Clifford. The Whiteheads moved to Houston, but Gene and Nita spent their summers at Bell's Grove for several years. They had a windup Victrola that they used to play for dances out on the porch of Bell's Grove. I was too small to go to those dances, but I used to watch them from a distance and listen to the music.
Miss Maggie married Harry Eldridge and they lived in Brenham. They had one child, Harry Madden Eldridge. Mr. Eldridge died and Maggie and their son Harry continued to live in Brenham for a while. Later Miss Maggie married Jimmy Curry. At one time Miss Maggie and Mr. Curry lived in the Methodist parsonage. Before Mr. Curry died, Miss Maggie's son Harry built a little house next door to Bell's Grove for Miss Maggie and Mr. Curry to live in.
When Raymond and I first moved here to Magnolia we had chickens, cows, a little bit of everything. We had a cattle guard in the fence to keep the livestock on our property. We had two little pigs, and when Raymond and I came home from work in the afternoons, those two little pigs would meet us at the cattle guard. They were just like pet dogs. We would sit out under one of the four huge oak trees that we had then, shell peas and such, and the two little pigs would lay or sit at our feet. Eventually those two pigs got big. One fall we had a good crop of pecans, and every time I went out to pick up pecans, one of those big pigs would run up and nearly scare me to death. One day a pig got after me, I crawled over the fence, went down to the bank and got Mr. Curry to come back and help me with that pig. Miss Maggie was an old lady when Mr. Curry died. She used to call me on the telephone every day because she was lonesome. Nearly every afternoon Miss Maggie would come over here and sit in my swing. She wouldn't come in the house or let me know she was here, she'd just sit out there and swing. She was a lot of fun and had a great sense of humor.
I remember that at one time there was a Dr. Covington who rented a room at Bell's Grove. Also, a Mr. Urqhart and his son rented a room upstairs for several years. Mr. Urqhart had a sawmill somewhere around here.
A high board fence went around the back yard of Bell's Grove when I was a girl. Later, before Raymond and I moved into Magnolia, a wire fence was built all around the yard of Bell's Grove. I think it was the same kind of wire fence that was around Magnolia when Raymond and I moved here in 1947. Raymond tore down a wire fence and built the picket fence that is around this yard now.
Miss Maggie's son, Harry Eldridge, married Florence Connell. Florence came from Temple. Harry and Florence lived in Houston for a long time. He worked out of Dallas, traveled and sold clothing at showings in hotel rooms he rented in various cities. Harry and Florence had two girls, Fans and Betty. After Harry retired, he and Florence came to Montgomery to live. One day Harry was shooting at squirrels in the back yard of Bell's Grove and shot right through my living room window.
My sister Cecil and her husband Pete Barlow bought that house where John Butler lives now. They were planning to retire in that house, and had fixed it up beautifully, but Pete died just before he planned to retire. I don't know who built that house, but I can remember several people living there. Vivian Furlow and her husband William lived there at one time. And the Branches lived there. I think Sister and Pete bought it from the Branches. Sister lived there for about a year after Pete died, then she turned it over to John Butler.
W. N. Martin used all my archives during 1950 when he wrote his thesis for his master's degree. Mr. Martin was the principal of the Montgomery High School and became Superintendent of Montgomery Independent School District. He also did a little moonlight work for us. He refinished the floors upstairs. He is dead now. He had a wife, two boys and a girl. They lived in the Hooker house.
Harley Gandy also had free access to my archives when he wrote his master's thesis during 1952.
One time about four years ago, the bridge club was meeting here when a man called me from Galveston. He said he was at the Sealy place, and somebody there told him about this place in Montgomery. He wanted to come by here and see it. I asked if he could come the next day, and he said he was going back to Philadelphia early the next morning. He added that he would have to come that day or not at all. I said, ''If that's the case, you just come on by.'' He didn't get here until around six or seven that evening. Well, he had married someone in the Willis family years before. He and his wife were divorced, and his wife had left a trunk of old letters with him. He said some of the letters were written by Peter Willis, and then added, ''I'll be glad to send you copies.'' And you know, he sent me the copies, and among them was a copy of a letter that Peter Willis had written to his brother in May of 1854, saying he had all the lumber on the ground for his new house, this house, and they were to start building the next week.
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