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Friday, November 26, 2010

1931 :: Thanksgiving Reunion

1931 Rockdale Reunion of Henry-Davis Descendants

In his 18th October 1931 radio address, President Herbert Hoover said that, "I appeal to the American people to make November 26 next the outstanding Thanksgiving Day in the history of the United States; that we may say on that day that America has again demonstrated her ideals; ... that upon this Thanksgiving Day we have removed the fear of the forthcoming winter from the hearts of all who are suffering and in distress -- that we are our brother's keeper." . . . Some members of my maternal grandpa's family apparently took this message to heart, for the group photo in the above collage is from a November 1931 family reunion held in Rockdale, Milam County, Texas. These family members (from left to right) are --

  • Emma Sharp nee Henry (1872-1944) [widowed twin sister of Edgar Henry]
  • Ella Hamilton nee Henry (1875-1967) [widowed younger sister of Edgar Henry]
  • W.P. Henry, Jr. (1868-1941) [oldest brother of Edgar Henry]
  • Annie Henry nee Calvert (1874-1950) [wife of W.P. Henry, Jr.]
  • Jerome Bonapart Henry (1870-1956) [older brother of Edgar Henry]
  • Sudie Henry nee Criswell (1881-1961) [wife of J.B. Henry]
  • Edgar Henry (1872-1950)
  • Berta Mary Henry nee Sharp (1873-1955)

The last named -- Edgar and Berta (Sharp) Henry -- are maternal great-grandparents to the Keeper of this history blog. By 1931, they had been farming in west Texas for more than a decade, so it was probably quite a big deal for them to travel back to Rockdale (their former as well as future home) during the desolate years of the depression. My connection to them is through their son, Robert E. Henry (1905-1976). In November of 1931, Robert was living in Massachusetts with his very pregnant 1st wife, Elizabeth, and their son, Robert, Jr., so they are not listed as being amongst the attendees. A little over two months later, Elizabeth would die following the birth of their daughter (my Mom).

I am extremely thankful that somebody in the family took the time to sit down and write out the details of this gathering, and to submit the article to the local paper (The Rockdale Reporter) -- and I am grateful for whoever sat down and clipped this news story from the newspaper and carefully preserved it over the years until it finally passed into the caring hands of a cousin, who shared it with me. The following transcription of the yellowed and crumbling newspaper clipping of that article was e-mailed to me in 1999 by Peggy Skeeters nee Fergeson (a 3rd cousin). The bold text is the original wording, and the remaining text is notes that I have added for the purpose of clarification, etc.

On Sunday, [sic] November 26 [sic], 1931, a happy event took place at the home of Mrs. Ella Hamilton in this city [Rockdale]. It was a get-together of the Henry family for the first time in twenty years. W. P. Henry and Mrs. Ella Hamilton being the only ones left in the old home town.

The 26th day of November in 1931 was Thanksgiving Day, and was on a Thursday. The photos from that gathering are actually dated Sunday, 22nd November 1931. Mayhaps the members of this family -- who had scattered over the years -- had an extended (and long-overdue) multi-day "reunion" at the Hamilton home that was located at 604 West Cameron in Rockdale, Milam County, Texas.

Dr. and Mrs. T. E. Riddle were guests at this occasion, they being old friends and Dr. Riddle the family physician.

Thomas E. Riddle came to Texas from Tennessee as a young man and was engaged in farming and ranching while studying medicine. It was by long hard work that he prepared to take and successfully passed the medical examinations. Thus he proudly "hung out his shingle" and framed his certificate for his office. He was one of those rare individuals whose treatment included medicinal aids and prayer. Many of his medicines he prepared from plants, herbs and roots. These he carried with him in his saddle bag as he became a familiar figure moving mile after mile among the early day residents. Many long vigils were kept by this good man as he faithfully fulfilled the Hippocratic oath he had taken years before. Dr. Riddle served in the Confederate Army with McCord's Texas Cavalry, Company F, was a lifelong member of the Baptist Church, and was a Mason. It is probable that Dr. Riddle served Rockdale and its surrounding territory longer than any other doctor in the history of the town. His death occurred in 1934 and he is buried among many lifelong friends of yesteryears in the family cemetery. . . . from A History of Rockdale, Texas 1874-1974 edited by Mrs. Ida Jo Marshall (1903-1982).

Everyone came early, talked and enjoyed themselves. The dining room was decorated with lovely ferns and chrysanthemums. The table spread in picnic style, then came the time to eat, and everyone seemed ready. Dr. Riddle returned thanks. In the afternoon some pictures were taken. Then came the parting time but all declared that they had enjoyed themselves. All the relatives were present except nine grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. 

See separate list > HERE < of all those not listed as attendees within this article. If the previous statement is correct, then there were quite a few at the reunion who didn't get listed in the 1931 newspaper article.

Grandpa Henry was born in Kentucky, came from there to Sherman in Grayson county. There he was married to Josephine Davis, she being a relative of Jefferson Davis. Grandmother was born in Georgia. Eight children were born to this union, three dying when infants. 

According to an entry in Josephine's family Bible, "Josephine W. Davis married to Wm. P. Henry at the residence of Mr. James W. Lance March 1st 1864." We now know that marriage took place in Brazoria County, Texas, in which county Josephine was enumerated on the 1860 census. :: As of this date, I have still not found any connection to Jefferson Davis. :: Regarding the children born to this couple, according to entries in the family Bible --

  • Born in Brazoria County Texas October 20th 1865 Margaret Ann Henry
  • Margaret Ann Henry died April 19th 1868
  • Wm. P. Henry, Jr. born October 3rd 1868
  • Jerome Bonepart Henry born April 18th 1870
  • Emma & Edgar Henry born January 31st 1872
  • Harry Henry born July 31st 1874
  • Harry Henry died in Sherman January 10th 1875
  • Ella May and Jesse Eugene Henry were born in Grayson County Texas October 26 A.D. 1875
  • Jesse Eugene Henry died September 1876

On Oct. 3, 1876, the Henrys arrived in Rockdale to visit a sister and family of the Mrs. Henry's, it being Dr. and Mrs. M. F. Anthony, who at that time had the post office and drug store combined on the corner where the Wolf Hotel now stands. 

This would be Margaret, Josephine's only sister. Margaret's husband (and also their 1st cousin once removed) was Dr. Milton Antony, Jr. He was a Confederate Surgeon in Brazoria County during the war between the states, and was the third Postmaster in Rockdale, serving 06th June 1876 to 26th April 1877 (which was one month after the entire wooden portion of Rockdale burned). He was a practicing physician in both Cameron and Rockdale. Margaret and Milton are buried in the Old City Cemetery in Rockdale.

The Wolf sat on the northeast corner of the intersection of Main and Milam. According to a history of Rockdale published in 1936, a two-story stone and brick bank building was erected in 1875, which later became the Wolf Hotel, and then, c. 1935, the American Legion Hall. An 1885 map of Rockdale does show a bank at that location, and on the corner across the street is a post office in the Mundine House (now McVoy's).

A year before Josephine went to Rockdale to visit her sister, Margaret, the following item appeared in the 12th November 1875 issue of the Galveston Weekly News: "There are street fights occurring (in Rockdale) almost every day and the officers of the law seem to enjoy it, taking their fines, never giving offenders the least word of warning or lecture. Nothing better could be expected when they license women of ill fame for ten dollars a month and receive half of the fines and their compensation. The most disgusting of it is, when they choose, these officers step beyond their authority and utterly disregard the law at pleasure. Every day or two some very interesting scenes occur in the pettifoggeries of Rockdale."

And a just a year before that 1875 report, the same paper, in the 09th November 1874 issue, described the brand new city of Rockdale as being "delightfully located in a thriving section of the county. . . . there are two or three banks, fifty or sixty merchants, and plenty of saloons, and has generally all the appearances of a railroad town. . . . While all it new and in some degree crude, there are some fine stone and brick buildings. . . . Where a population of eighteen hundred now thrive, was ten months ago the home of the deer, and the pleasure ground of the black bear."

Grandpa liked the country so he moved to a place just across the road from Dr. Riddle, just south of town, and stayed there awhile. He then bought 100 acres of land three miles north of town, moved there, and raised his family, . . .

Milam County Record, Volume 54 Page 526-529 . . . Know all men by these presents that I, Mary Estes of the State and County aforesaid in consideration of the payment of a promissory note . . . for three hundred ($300) Dollars given by W. P. Henry, have granted, bargained sold and released and by these presents do grant, bargain, sell and release unto the said W. P. Henry all that tract or parcel of land known as a part of a two league survey . . . containing an area of one hundred acres of land. . . . Witness my hand this the 14 day of December 1878.

. . . lived there until his death, Feb. 10, 1911.

According to William Paschal Henry's printed obituary (actually a photocopy of an undated newspaper clipping), as well as his tombstone, he died in 1912, not 1911.

Grandmother was killed Oct. 28, 1899.

According to her tombstone, Josephine Wingfield Henry nee Davis died the 28th January 1899. Family lore said that she was drug to death by the hair of her head when it became entangled in the wheels of her buggy, but we were never able to find a newspaper account of her death in the existing newspapers for that time period. After receiving this conflicting information regarding Josephine's date of death, my Mom went to the Rockdale Public Library to once again peruse the microfilm copies of the 1899 Rockdale Reporter, and sure enough -- in the 01st November 1899 issue, she found write-ups supporting the family lore.

Three of the children left here at different times. W. P. Henry and Mrs. Ella Hamilton are the only ones left in the old home . . . (crumbled edge, but I would guess the word missing is town) Those present on this occasion . . . (part of the word "occasion" is crumbled away) . . .

  • W. P. Henry (Jr. 1868-1941),
  • Miss Grace Henry (1908-1996) . . . (Henry is frayed & the first part of someone's name is crumbled away; the next line begins with) . . .
  • (Er) nest Henry ("Buck," 1911-1995),
  • Mr. and Mrs. (Birdie Henry 1894-1943)
  • Jack (Kyle) . . . (crumbled) . . . and
  • Lucille,
  • Graham (1917-1984),
  • We(l) to (n) . . . (crumbled) . . . Delbert Kyle,
  • Mr. and Mrs. (William Clinton 1896-1969) . . . (frayed) . . . Henry and
  • Nathlee Henry,
  • Mr. and Mrs. Will (Pearl Henry 1899-1981) Vogel,
  • Mr. and Mrs. Eddie (Bessie Henry 1901-1964) Backhaus and
  • Ruth Backhaus,
  • Mr. and Mrs. Joe Henry (1903-1955) and
  • Wesley Bert Henry.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Jerome (1870-1956) Henry and granddaughter,
  • Gloria Sue, of San Antonio;
  • Mrs. Emma (nee Henry 1872-1944) Sharp, Crockett;
  • Mr. and Mrs. Edgar (1872-1950) Henry, Norton;
  • Mr. and Mrs. Sylas (Ruby Henry 1895-1978) Christian, Rockdale;
  • Frank (1899-1952) and
  • Nellie (1912-1996) Henry, Norton;
  • Mrs. Ella (nee Henry 1875-1967) Hamilton,
  • Misses Laura (1898-1987) and
  • Ruth (1909-1998) and
  • Harry (1913-1983) Hamilton, Rockdale.
Those who were visitors:

  • Dr. (1838-1934) and Mrs. T. E. Riddle and
  • Miss Docle Williams, Rockdale;
  • Cleve Calvert, and
  • Miss Margaret Calvert, Houston;
  • Milton Phillips, Norton;
  • Mrs. Ida Halyard (1871-1964), Crockett. [sister of Berta Mary]

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Every Family Has One :: My Hometown

My Hometown . . . when I return . . .
the main street still is filled with pleasant faces and glad hellos
with an atmosphere of calm . . . with time for neighborly concern
with joy in sharing another's fortune
or heartfelt words to one who mourns.
Hometown is more than just a town
it is a way of life, a place of peace and quiet
and when I return it is as if I have never been gone
and in my heart I have not.
Craig E. Sathoff

Old Rockdale postcard . . .
Main St. north from I & G. N. Depot, Rockdale, Texas

The postcard has been reproduced in multiple Rockdale publications . . .
location / ownership / existence of original unknown . . .

According to a newspaper clipping from the files of my cousin, Peggy (Ferguson) Skeeters, a Henry family reunion was held at the old Hamilton homeplace in Rockdale, Milam County, Texas sometime in 1931. That yellowed and crumbling piece of paper recorded the following about the arrival of my 2nd great-grandpa, William Paschal Henry (1836-1912), and his family in the brand-new town of Rockdale, Milam County, Texas . . .

On Oct. 3, 1876, the Henrys arrived in Rockdale to visit a sister and family of Mrs. Henry's, it being Dr. and Mrs. M. F. Anthony, who at that time had the post office and drug store combined on the corner where the Wolf Hotel now stands.

That is the Hotel Wolf in the lower right corner of the above collage, with an arrow pointing to the same building on the old Rockdale postcard. The Hotel had gone out of business before 1935 when Rockdale's American Legion post purchased the building.

During World War II the building's second story was lopped off and its Main Street front was shortened and remodeled. A stage was added and the hall became the place to be for dances and music for almost 20 years. Rockdale Reporter, 06 Aug 1998

When I was in high school (the 60's), we frequently spent a portion of our weekend hours attending teen dances -- with real live bands! -- in the un-airconditioned bottom-half of this building. My parents were regular fixtures as chaperones at these events.

Directly across the street was McVoy's Grocery Store where my parents shopped weekly. Every Friday, my widowed Grandma, who never learned to drive, had her grocery list ready for Mom or Dad to take with them to McVoy's. There was a large wooden magazine rack near the front door where I would sit and read comic books while Mom checked out. Mr. Galbreath kept the produce stocked and freshly washed, and would give us pieces of fresh sugar cane to chew on. The meat market at McVoy's was where Mom bought steak cutlets for making her infamous chicken-fried steak with cream gravy which NONE of us have ever been able to replicate.

I was back on Main Street in June of 2009 while in Rockdale for the 75th Annual Rockdale Homecoming as well as my Mom's 60th RHS Class Reunion, where I was flattered to be told by numerous people (who had known Mom since the 40s) that, "You look just like your Mom!"

At the Homecoming gathering, one lady said to me, "Aren't you the one who found the snake in the bedroom when you were babysitting Delaine?" That was also during high school in the 60s! I was babysitting for the local pharmacist in his home. The baby and I were sitting in the rocker / recliner in her nursery when I saw a snake come crawling in the room! I got out of the room with Delaine and shut the door (which wasn't much of a barrier since it had such a gap at the bottom) and called my trusty Dad at our home (no cell phones in those days). Dad was there immediately, but it took him a while to find and kill the poisonous copperhead -- it had crawled up into the coils under the rocker / recliner!

Before I left town, we (me & Mom & my sister) visited the Dan Kubiak exhibit at the I&GN Depot, and I also took a few photos of Joy Graham's Bit of History building on Cameron Avenue.

The journey back home to Main Street was nostalgic, while somehow filled with the sweet assurance that at Home we are not forgotten. These people knew me as a child. They knew my grandparents. And in some cases, their parents and grandparents knew my ancestors. And many of the families of Rockdale have somehow managed to climb into my family tree!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

1899 :: An Awful Accident

The Rockdale Messenger
Rockdale, Texas
Thursday, November 2, 1899

Accident - Mrs. W. P. Henry who has lived on the Cameron road, 3-miles from Rockdale for over 20-years left her son’s home on the Dr. A. C. Isaacs farm, about 3-miles beyond her home, to come home and as was her habit, she pushed her buggy animal, a gray mare that she has driven for several years, into a lope.

She drove over the hill at the home of George Banzhaf and turning down the hill, Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Bradly were going from Rockdale to their home beyond Minerva in a light spring wagon, seeing the vehicle coming down the hill near them, pulled their team, a pair of young mules, to one side to give the road, but before the left wheel had cleared the track to the right fore wheel of Mrs. Henry’s buggy struck the hub of the wagon wheel and smashed it.

The woman had probably never seen the wagon or saw it too late to stop, and she was pitched foremost and fell with her dead between the left fore wheel of the buggy and shafts and was so held that her hair was wound around the buggy hub and spindle and she was held there until some young man, met the buggy at the gate near the old Ferguson place, more than a half-mile this side of where the accident occurred.

She was dead when found as her neck was broken. She was buried at the Pleasant Grove cemetery Sunday evening. She leaves a husband and five grown children, three sons and two daughters, all married. Brother Henry does not blame the drivers of the wagon for the accident but thinks they should have ascertained the results before driving home.

Monday, November 1, 2010

1899 :: Deplorable Tragedy

The Rockdale Reporter
Rockdale, Texas
Wednesday, November 1, 1899

Estimable Lady Meets Death Through an Accident

Last Saturday news reached Rockdale that Mrs. W.P. Henry had been killed by her horse running away with her.

When she was found between her home and that of George Banzoff, near the gate that leads to Dr. Isaac’s home, she was lying across the axle dead, with her hair and clothing wound around the spindle of the buggy.

One of the wheels was broken, and the rim of this broken wheel was found near the Murray school house, from which place she was dragged to where she was found.

The road indicated that the horse had been frightened and ran away. The wheel showed that the rim of the wheel had received a wrench and broke it loose from the spokes.

Her funeral took place Sunday at Murray school house, and a large procession of friends and relatives witnessed the ceremonies that consigned her body to its last repose.

She was the wife of W.P. Henry, one of our most substantial and upright farmers and the mother of five children, all grown [plus three who died young].
The Reporter extends sympathy to the bereaved family.

Later Developments

Since the account of the tragic death of Mrs. W.P. Henry, on another page of this paper, was printed, we learned the following details in regard to her death.

As she was nearing the house of Geo. Banzhoff, her buggy ran into a wagon in which were two young men*, Messrs. Bradley and Jenkins.

This collision broke the rim off the wheel referred to in the other account, and evidently she was thrown out of the buggy at that time, as when found her head was caught between the wheel and the shaft, on the side opposite the broken wheel.

The road over which she went showed where her limbs had been dragged from the point where the collision occurred to the place where she was found.
The men state that she was in the buggy as far as they could see, but in this they were mistaken.

The buggy top was raised and it was impossible for them to see a person in the vehicle, and as they saw no one on the ground, they naturally supposed that she had not fallen out.

It is indeed unfortunate that these men did not follow her and rescue the body, when they found out the wheel had been broken.

While they doubtless thought she was unhurt, they should have gone to her and rendered what assistance seemed necessary.

Her neck was doubtless broken by the fall, and while they could not have saved her, they could have carried the body home when the accident happened.