The Five (5) Wilson Brothers of Kimble County, Texas

The first of these brothers was born in 1891. The last surviving brother died in 1977.

A few chapters of family history

by Horace Peter Wilson

Original edition, October, 2002

Revised and expanded, August, 2004

For further information:

Kathleen Izod Wilson, Austin, Texas

Izod@austin.rr.com

Horace Peter Wilson, Leawood, Kansas

hpwilson@kc.rr.com

Table of Contents

5 Introduction

17 Cast of Characters

19 Photographs (pages 21- 48)

49 Chapter I … From Virginia to Texas

75 Chapter II … From Missouri to Texas

85 Chapter III … From England to Texas

95 Chapter IV … Horace and Stella Wed, their family, where they

lived

105 Chapter V … Horace Ernest Wilson, Esquire

115 Chapter VI … Stella Jane Graham

135 Chapter VII … The 5 Wilson Brothers

141 Ernest … 1891-1970

157 Arthur … 1892-1974

175 Robert … 1894-1975

185 Francis … 1901-1976

197 Baten … 1907-1977

(rhymes with Dayton)

205 Appendix: Elizabeth and Carolyn Wilson

211 Exhibit I … Ancestry Chart of the 5 Wilson Brothers

215 Exhibit II … Descendants of Horace and Stella

Wilson

219 Epilog

Introduction…

My first impulse was to write this family history for a general readership. Then, of course, I realized there is no broad readership for such a story, and perhaps no readership at all – that is, no one with a conscious present desire to read about the lives and genealogy of my paternal ancestors.1 Upon considerable further reflection, I decided the best approach would be to write this book as a narrative for my children. Even if their lives are too busy now to be interested in the dusty past, some day they and their children will be glad to have this story.

Through happenstance, I had many documents and photographs at the outset relating to family history, but had never reviewed them in detail and did not understand what I had looked at. I did not even know who most of the people in the photographs were. Eventually, as I began to absorb the details and interrelationships of all this material, it became clear just how much was missing. I began to seek out additional documentation. In time, I discovered that I wanted to fill in all the blanks that I could, to tie the pieces together, and to learn enough to speculate reasonably on the unknowable in cases where large questions remain unanswered.

After a while, the project crystallized into 2 simple goals: first, to acquire all the information, documents, records, photographs and stories I could reasonably get my hands on concerning the genealogy and family history of the paternal side of my family tree; and second, to produce a narrative bringing together the many scattered fragments of this story. I am now producing a second edition of this family history in order to remain true to these aims, and thus incorporate several important elements that I have uncovered since the initial version was printed.

However, there was a larger, overarching objective. It became evident to me that this story was on the verge of being lost forever. Soon, nothing might be left but a few boxes here and there of old photographs and papers that would be difficult, perhaps impossible, for any living person to bring together into a clear perspective.2 Without an extensive effort, the pieces would have remained in widely scattered fragments, in numerous locations in Texas, in Kansas, in New Mexico, in California, in Indiana, in Canada, England, Scotland and Ireland. Without an extensive effort, the story almost surely would never have been pieced together and integrated into a single archival history.

The 5 brothers3 who are the focus of this book were the children of my paternal grandparents, Horace Ernest Wilson and Stella Jane Graham. One of the 5 brothers was my adopted father, Ernest, born 1891. Another was my biological father, Arthur, born 1892. I knew them all, Ernest and Arthur in greatest detail, Robert, Francis and Baten, to a lesser degree. I will write what I can about all of them, with help, wherever available, from those with any additional knowledge.

It follows that the audience for this narrative includes all descendants4 of the 5 Wilson brothers, and anyone else who shares any of the genealogical threads delineated here.

Writing the story with my children in mind made it easier for me to formulate the narrative. After all, a father telling a story to his children can be given some latitude; an historian writing for a larger audience cannot; and a genealogist is even more circumscribed by rigid procedural rules. So, that is the point of view I have adopted.

The material in this story will surely be too much for some readers. For that I apologize. Despite all that remains unknown, there is an abundance of information here. My reason for being so inclusive is that the source material will never be available to most readers, and even if it were available, it would take weeks of careful browsing just to begin to penetrate the dusty haze of the past, not to mention months to put it all into some sort of framework in which the myriad of fragments are correctly related to each other and sequentially coherent.

The information contained here constitutes an archive for those readers who wish to know as much as possible about their roots, whether to read in the present or to preserve as a resource for themselves and their offspring later in life.

On with the story!

For all descendents of Stella Graham and Horace Wilson, there can be no story whatsoever in the sense of family history unless we can track the myriad movements and wanderings of prior generations in order to have this attractive couple find their way from far separate origins to the sparsely settled Hill Country of Texas.5 To accomplish that, the narrative will begin in distant times and places and follow three principal threads of genealogy until they eventually culminate in the juxtaposition in the late 1880’s of Horace and Stella in close enough proximity on one little section of Texas soil for them to become acquainted and eventually wed.

I will digress here for just a few paragraphs to comment on the Hill Country of Texas. In Chapter I of Robert Caro’s book, “The Path to Power” (a prize-winning 3-volume set that chronicles the life and Presidency of Lyndon Johnson), the author devotes a lengthy section to the harsh realities of survival in the Hill Country of Texas where President Johnson spent his early years. He does this to emphasize the large impact of life there on Johnson’s character. In pages 9-32, he presents a bleak picture of the heartbreak and privations most of its inhabitants faced in trying to force the deceptively beautiful, unyielding Hill Country to support life in the approximate period 1850-1926. This is especially compelling reading for descendants of Stella Graham and Horace Wilson, who, along with their ancestors, lived in this region for much of this period.

Furthermore, on pages 18-19 of his book, Caro quotes Marietta Cox Nunley (an important Wilson relative, see Cast of Characters on page 15 of this book you are now reading) about the horrors of Indian raids in the Hill Country. Her name is referenced in his notes at the rear of the book, though not mentioned at the place where it is quoted. I recognized the text immediately as being written by her. Thus, not only was the land, itself, inhospitable; likewise, native Americans who had inhabited the land for centuries were militantly hostile to settlers.

In this vein, Caro refers to a massacre at a “fort and mission deep within the Hill country, at San Saba” built in 1757 by the Spanish. This reference has major significance to descendants of the 5 Wilson brothers. On page 16 of “The Path to Power,” Caro explains the massacre and how the fort was abandoned and came to be ruins:

On the morning of March 16, 1758, there was a shout outside the mission walls; priests and soldiers looked out – and there, in barbaric splendor, wearing buffalo horns and eagle plumes, stood 2,000 Commanche braves.

The ruins of this fort are where my grandmother, Stella Graham, was born on Christmas day in 1869, seeking safety from Indian raids a century later in the crumbling remains of that fort. I photographed these ruins in 2002. See photograph 4.11. It was only a few miles from their unprotected, isolated log cabin on Celery Creek, still standing.

Now, back to family history.

One thread of the Wilson ancestry’s migration to Texas has its identifiable roots in early 18th century Virginia. It may be thought of as the Cox-Woodward thread. Another principal thread goes back to early 19th-century Missouri, and may be termed the Graham thread. So distant from each other in the beginning, they will eventually intertwine in Texas to produce Stella Jane Graham, who will be born in that abandoned Spanish fort.

The third thread goes back to early19th-century England, and it is this thread, the Wilson thread, that improbably brings Horace, a capable and ambitious 20-year-old student in London, to this primitive, sparsely- inhabited area of Texas. His roots go far back in England and Europe.

In her late teen years, Stella Graham, a bright, attractive young woman, will be discovered by Horace, who has only recently arrived from England. The specific locale of their meeting was the remote area of the West Fork of Bear Creek in Kimble County, Texas. Photo 5.3 shows Horace and Stella on horseback in that area.

Clearly, these threads go back much further in time, and disappear into the mists of history. Elements of the Cox and Graham threads reach into the 1700s and earlier in America, some much further into English and European origins. Horace Wilson’s ancestry appears to go far back in England, and perhaps even to France of the middle ages.

Ancestors known to me are recorded in Exhibit I attached to this narrative.

Who can say how much additional material remains to be discovered that would push existing knowledge of our family history even further back in time? I do believe that there are ample opportunities for investigation to uncover more genealogical information in public records (birth, death, census data, church histories, court proceedings, deed records, archives, etc.), but it is less likely that anecdotal information of any sort can be found, although a remote cousin yet to be discovered might have a family bible or other documents or family tales to tell. But time is running out for those with any personal, or even second-hand, knowledge of the era that began in 1852 when the first ancestor set foot in Texas, and ended in 1977, when the last of the 5 Wilson brothers died.

Authenticity …

Much of the information in this narrative can only be passed on as I found it. That is, it was sincerely and honestly offered as fact or probability or belief by whoever originated it. Where possible, I have tried to check information which was subject to verification. Of the rest I can say that I have looked at it carefully in order to identify and clarify conflicting or questionable data. I have consulted extensively with dozens of people who might be able to elucidate or verify any fragment of the story. There are unavoidable gaps. The story is subject to human error, considering that much of it has been transmitted from generation to generation, and has possibly acquired some coloration along the way. Most of the dates and events are accurate in my opinion, the rest closely enough so for contextual accuracy. A great deal of the content is based on identifiable sources, and I will be perhaps tiresomely liberal with footnotes in order to draw connecting lines between the narrative and the source material.

Other genealogical efforts devoted to these families

To the best of my knowledge, there are just two people alive now, in addition to me, who have been active in any meaningful way in discovering Wilson family history or genealogy.

Robert Graham,6 formerly of New Mexico but recently located in Uvalde, Texas, has been extremely active for almost three decades in compiling the genealogy of the Graham family, touching also on the Cox and Wilson threads. His work has been thorough and scrupulously accurate to the extent that intent and disciplined effort could make it so. The Graham family joined the lineage of the Wilson family at the point in 1890 when Horace E. Wilson married Stella Jane Graham. They went on to produce 5 sons who will be the end point of this document. Bob Graham’s work has provided many details that I have incorporated into this narrative. Robert has completed the great bulk of the work to be done on Graham and related genealogy. He is now preparing it for final publication. I believe he intends eventually to deposit his work in archives within the library system in Uvalde, Texas, and it will be available there for all to consult. His material will always be indispensable to any work covering Graham and related genealogy.

The other person who has significant interest in the Wilson lineage is Kathleen Wilson, of Austin, Texas. She is married to James Thompson, a retired professor of physics at the University of Texas. Kathleen is a cousin with whom I have had no contact prior to early 2002. She is the daughter of my uncle, Robert Izod Wilson, one of the 5 sons of Horace Wilson and Stella Graham. She and I, as children of two of the 5 Wilson brothers, share identical genealogical interests in the Cox-Graham-Wilson lineage. She was born in 1943, and comments that her father spoke very little to her of family history. Her contact with me was generated by an awakening of interest in family genealogy. She and her husband visited me in Kansas City. It shocked me to hear Jim Thompson say in passing that I am very likely the only person alive who has direct personal knowledge of the 5 Wilson brothers and that I should jot down recollections of them. That is the seed that has here begun to sprout and has grown into a rather daunting effort. Since that initial meeting, Jim and Kathleen have been helpful in many important ways, and I owe them thanks for all their efforts.

Sources of material …

Time and circumstance, and now personal investigation, have placed quite a large collection of material in my hands relating to family history. Much of the original material came from Arthur Wilson’s effects after his death in 1974, given to me by Jane Grey, his companion (perhaps wife) of several decades. Evidence is clear that he obtained many valuable photographs and documents from one or more daughters in the Marietta Nunley family, who were cousins of his mother, Stella. It is also clear that he maintained an active interest over a long period of years in family history. A few items came from Ernest Wilson.7 From Robert Graham, I have received numerous reports and documents, and much valuable commentary. Kathleen Wilson and her husband, Jim, have provided me with useful papers and copies of documents. They have conducted independent research in Ireland and Scotland leading to important information on the ancestry of Horace Wilson’s mother. Another cousin, Robert Rawdon Wilson,8 son of my uncle Francis Graham Wilson, cooperated by searching through his father’s papers and making many letters and other documents available to me. Dozens upon dozens of letters among the brothers and from Horace and Stella that he furnished have allowed me to document many of the thoughts of these people in their own words, providing a valuable content, authenticity and directness not otherwise possible. Other material has been collected from several area historians, from newspaper archives, from the archives at Harvard University and University of Texas, Baylor University, from Buffalo Gap Historic Village, from Kimble County Historical Museum, from libraries, the Western Collection at Angelo State University, from Indiana, California, New Mexico, from helpful sources in England, Ireland and Scotland and from other sources I have probably forgotten to mention. I even spoke to a 104-year-old lady in Junction, Texas, who knew my grandmother before she died in 1926. Altogether, this material creates a formidable and chaotic array of tantalizing fragments.

I have had considerable correspondence with two “Cox cousins,” Kris Keesey and Eva Lauraine Wilson (not a Wilson relative) who have supplied helpful information. Kris is a descendant of Isaac Cox (a direct Wilson ancestor), and Eva is a descendant of Dr. George Washington Cox, a brother of Isaac.

In the company of my cousin, Kathleen, and her husband, Jim, I have traveled to many of the sites that are important in this story – most importantly to Bowie Springs, San Saba Presidio, Menard, Junction, Roca Springs, the school at Cleo, Bear Creek, the ranch on the North Llano, and to San Antonio cemeteries and Buffalo Gap Historic Village.

My role …

It’s safe to say that this collection of information about Horace Wilson and Stella Graham, their ancestors, and their 5 sons is unequalled anywhere. The simple danger I see is that the connectedness of all this documentation is at risk of being completely lost, unless someone undertakes to put it all together in a way that can be absorbed by people unfamiliar with it. I am willing to do the best I can with the task, for it is perhaps true that I may be the only individual living with sufficient personal knowledge and background to try to construct a comprehensive narrative from the scattered fragments.

What I failed to do when I had the chance …

When I was young enough to obtain much fascinating lore from many living family members, I had no interest in acquiring it. That is the age-old lament of older people who pursue genealogical interest in their later years.

My adopted father, Ernest Wilson, had an avid interest in and extensive knowledge of family history, and would have happily talked to me for hours about it. His knowledge would have filled a book, and should have filled a book. In fact, I have found several references to a book he was writing (or intended to write) on the subject. But that all seems to have disappeared at his death in 1970.

Perhaps someone will learn from my earlier indifference and begin an accumulation of material from older relatives that can later be converted into chapters of family history.

Where will all my documents and photographs go?

After discussions with my children and with Kathleen Izod Wilson, I have decided to transfer all my family history photographs and documentation to Kathleen, who will combine them with her material and form an archive of it. It will remain in her possession until she feels it appropriate to transfer it to someone in the next generation, and so on, so that it will hopefully remain in one piece and always be available for interested relatives to consult.

Why a revised version of this book?

Since the initial printing of this book in October of 2002, I have uncovered new material of sufficient significance to warrant printing a new edition in the interest of completeness. Chapter I contains important new information about close connections between ancestor Henry Woodward and George Washington. Chapter II expands on Graham ancestry. Chapter III now includes extensive new information about Horace Wilson’s mother and her ancestry. The section on Arthur Wilson includes significant information about his early marriage, his wife and daughter. As many as 20 new photographs are included. And, the decision to reprint the book has presented me a welcome opportunity to improve and clarify the entire text.

I have a good feeling about this …

Originally, I had thought that writing a just a few pages of recollections would be the nature of the task, as Jim Thompson had suggested. That’s how I began.

However, as weeks and months passed, the story never stopped growing in scope and complexity. New questions arose that could not be left unanswered. Interrelationships began to reveal themselves. Faces in old photos and tintypes gained identity and character, became human. Events that seemed unconnected at first began to reveal their linkage. Insights emerged. More and more material came to hand, requiring integration into existing text, often leading to new interpretations and new questions. Personalities became more complicated. The drama of their lives became more intricate. It was a process without end.

I’ve tried to work it all out to a point where instead of cluttered boxes of confusing photos and fragmented information, I can leave behind a reasonably coherent narrative. I have a good feeling that much has been accomplished toward that end.

Conclusion …

Fundamentally, this has been a story starting with a wagon trip in1852 from Virginia to Texas and ending with the death of a 70-year-old man of unknown origin in Burbank, California, in 1977 – a span of 125 years. Of course, the story didn’t begin at just that moment in Virginia; that is only a convenient starting point. And the story certainly did not end there in Burbank in 1977; it only brings to a close the lives of the 5 Wilson brothers. It is a story without definable beginning, and without foreseeable conclusion.

Though I leave this project with some sense of accomplishment, I admit to an acute sense of wishing I could have done greater justice to it.

I repeat this from the 2002 Introduction:

Right now, as I write these very words, old Isaac Cox’s wagons were rolling on his terrible trip from Virginia to Texas exactly 150 years ago. So, when my grandchildren read this narrative 50 years or so from now, they will be looking back on events of hardship and danger experienced by their forebears 2 centuries earlier.

To my children, my grandchildren and all who read this, in whatever time and place, I send you love and warmest greetings.

But there is a post script …

P.S. … a personal plea …

I would like to ask all who read this family history to keep in mind how extremely difficult the times were for most of the people in this story.

Economic circumstances were dire for much of the time, and the very fact of living on the frontier was the cause of much hardship. Marietta describes life in the Cox cabin at Bowie Springs, including the necessity to make their own fabric for clothing, to make dyes from plants, even to make forks out of twists of wire. As delightful as some of her observations are, these were not merely charming aspects of an idealized life in simpler, happier times; these were mostly harsh and unpleasant necessities.

My boyhood was lived during the Great Depression of the 1930’s, and that was an unforgettable taste of how hard the times could be for much of the period covered by this narrative. The Great Depression plays a crucial role in the lives of the generations of my parents and grandparents. Their struggle to preserve assets during these times was heroic and mostly futile.

It was a time when my adopted mother, the wife of a lawyer, made her house dresses out of feed sacks, made soap in the back yard, made my clothes out of my father’s worn out business suits, sold eggs for small change, gave me haircuts at home and worked night and day in order to minimize expenses. My adopted father, an attorney, worked the equivalent of 3 jobs for a decade or more to do what was necessary for survival. At one point early in his legal career, his income was so slight that his indispensable law books were on the brink of being repossessed for inability to make minimal payments on them.

A relative writes of life in that era,

And there was a two year period when the only new thing I bought was a 97 cents house dress.

In 1932, my uncle Robert writes of the costs of maintaining family property and says:

I am hoping the farm will produce something since last year Papa received the grand sum of $7.35 for the use of it.

These were not backward, lazy or unintelligent people who failed to be prudent and thus suffered a fate they brought upon themselves and somehow deserved. They were living in very difficult times. They exhausted their resources and health struggling to survive. People had no money to spend. Unemployment rates were astronomical. Income for professionals was scarce. No money for doctors. No money for lawyers. No jobs. There was a great drought, no rain, and farmers lost their lands. Times were hard. Only people with large capital resources escaped severe hardship.

Further back in time, survival could be equally difficult, but in a somewhat different way. Life in a one-room cabin on the frontier was often hard at its best, a never-ending struggle for self-sufficiency with shelter, food, education, health, garden and livestock – not to mention attacks from Indians who were hostile to the idea of giving up their land and freedom.

Death or major illness could throw a family into a life of poverty almost impossible to escape from. In this narrative, you will read in his own words how Isaac Cox lost his herd of cattle, and nearly lost his life, to Apache Indians at the Horsehead Crossing of the Pecos River in 1867. It most probably represented the entire wealth he had accumulated in all his adult years. Many unfortunate women and their children were left in the direst of straits when a father died, became handicapped or left the household.

The Great Depression beginning in 1929 and continuing throughout the 1930’s and on into the 1940’s was an economic catastrophe of indescribable proportions for the entire country; it squeezed virtually all the value from Horace Wilson’s considerable estate and the inheritance of his five sons. Property assets brought virtually no income, yet taxes and maintenance and mortgage costs relentlessly accumulated.

A few random notes on the Depression of that time:

By the end of 1931, foreclosures on farms had reached a rate of 20,000 per month. By that time, one-third of Iowa and one-quarter of Mississippi, for example, had been auctioned off because farm owners could not meet their financial obligations. An evicted farmer who had once been a prosperous member of the middle class found it necessary for him and his young son to work picking cotton 9 hours a day for 5 cents an hour to have any income at all. In Chicago, 600,000 persons were unemployed, in New York, 800,000. The total unemployed in the country was between 15 million and 17 million. Private charities had run out of money. State and municipal governments had run out of money. In Columbus, Ohio, 7,000 men tramped toward the statehouse to “establish a worker’s and farmer’s republic,” and 4,000 men took over the Municipal Building in Seattle. In Chicago, 1,000’s of unpaid teachers stormed the city’s banks. Farmers who still were able to farm applied for usual seasonal loans for seed and were told the banks had no money to loan. In 1933, only 38 percent of the farmers in Nueces County – a prosperous farming area in Texas – had enough money to pay their taxes. For the rest, survival for another year was doubtful. The abyss that gaped before them all seemed unbridgeable and bottomless.9

Such were the difficult years of the Great Depression in which the later generations in this family history lived. Likewise, they were the conditions under which I lived the first 15 or so years of my life.

So, I ask, as you read these pages: bear in mind the hardships the people in this story endured and mostly overcame – hardships of frontier danger, hardships of primitive conditions, hardships of economic depression.

Cast of Principal Characters …

  • Stella Jane Graham … born in Menard County, Texas, 1869, in the ruins of an abandoned Spanish fort during Indian raids. She is a principal figure in this story. She is my grandmother, and the mother of the 5 Wilson brothers.
  • Isaac W. Cox … grandfather of Stella. A true pioneer who brought his family by wagon from Virginia to Texas through much hardship in 1852.
  • Elizabeth Ann Woodward … wife of Isaac W, Cox, mother of 7 children. From a genteel Virginia family. A hard life on the Texas frontier contributed to her early death.
  • Nancy Jane Cox … a daughter of Isaac W. Cox and Elizabeth Ann. Married at 15 to William Graham, she became the mother of Stella. She is my great grandmother.
  • Marietta (Cox) Nunley … sister of Nancy Jane Cox. She is Stella’s aunt. In her later years Marietta wrote an extremely informative chapter in a book called, “History of Pioneer Days …” vividly describing details of their life on the frontier, including Indian raids.
  • William Graham … a rough and colorful character of the Texas frontier. He married Nancy Jane Cox, and became Stella’s father. He is my great grandfather.
  • Horace E. Wilson … arrived penniless in Texas at age 20 from England in 1885. He married Stella in 1890, prospered and became the first president of the first bank in Kimble County. Father of 5 Wilson brothers. He is my grandfather.
  • Ernest, Arthur, Robert, Francis, Baten … the 5 Wilson brothers in order of birth, 1891, 1892, 1894, 1901, 1907.

Photographs

This section will give a pictorial introduction to the principal figures and events of the story. Even for interested readers, family history can become a bit difficult to grasp when so many unfamiliar people and places and dates and events are thrust upon the attention within the span of a few pages. For this reason, I have created a sketchy chronological narrative to go along with the pictures and give them a helpful context.

In total, the 125+ photographs that appear here are a rather amazing historical record, one that many families might envy. The oldest I am aware of is a picture of Isaac and Elizabeth Cox, obviously taken before 1862, which was the year of Elizabeth’s death. Many of the others are almost as old.

Each photograph has an identification number and a caption. When photographs are mentioned in the text, I have tried to give the identification number of the picture to permit quick reference back to this section.

The photographs presented here came from numerous sources, but principally from Arthur Wilson following his death. Arthur had maintained close contact with several relatives, but primarily with his mother’s cousins, the Nunley daughters. They were the children of Marietta Ann Cox Nunley. Marietta was avidly interested in family history, and her daughters shared that interest. Arthur befriended them in difficult times late in their lives. Other photos came from Ernest Wilson, Kathleen Wilson, Robert Graham, Robert Rawdon Wilson, Kris Keesey, Eva Lauraine Wilson, Buffalo Gap Historic Village and Frederica Wyatt of the Junction Historical Museum.

Chapter I … from Virginia to Texas

Isaac William Cox was the first of my direct ancestors to arrive in Texas. He was my great-great grandfather, the grandfather of my grandmother.

Isaac was a true American pioneer. In 1852, he uprooted a young family from the “civilized” Virginia countryside and took them on a two-month trip by wagon through amazing hardships, ending eventually in the remote and inhospitable frontier of West Texas. Isaac and his wife, Elizabeth Ann Woodward, had three children at the time of their trip, ages 2 through 6, no doubt adding considerable difficulty to a trip that would have been arduous aplenty without small children. What might seem all the more incredible is that Elizabeth was far enough pregnant to give birth to a child on the trip. The child lived only 6 days. Despite the risks and inescapable hardships, they set out on this journey in September of 1852.

Of great family and historical interest, Isaac sat down upon his arrival in Texas and wrote a detailed account of his trip in a letter to his relatives back in Virginia. I have a copy of this letter in his own handwriting, which I will quote in its entirety a little later.

First, however, a little background on the forebears of Elizabeth Ann and Isaac is appropriate at this point.

Early Ancestors … Woodward, a connection to George Washington and the American Revolution

Elizabeth Ann’s grandfather was Henry Woodward. At about age 25, he had arrived in the Colonies from England, almost certainly in 1755. No information on his ancestors is available, although Austin Cooper,10 who has done extensive investigation of Woodward families, believes Henry to be a descendant of George Woodward, one of whose sons came to Jamestown in 1619 on the ship Gifte.

Henry first appears in Virginia records in the of 1755 when he presents a letter of introduction, written by James Abercrombie, the London Agent, to Governor Dinwiddie of Virginia.

Because young Henry immediately became associated with George Washington upon his arrival in the Colonies, as a neighbor and military officer, much about his life and military record is available from numerous sources, including the National Archives. An internet search on Capt. Henry Woodward will uncover considerable information. A large database on the “Descendants of Capt. Henry Woodward” on a website11 maintained by Scott Scheibe makes reference to an extensive private document of the same name, first published in 1968, and updated periodically since then.12 Volume II of “Early Settlers of Lee County, Virginia and Adjacent Counties,”13 by Hattie Byrd Muncy Bales, contains extensive information on Elizabeth Ann Woodward’s ancestors, including the Hyden (also Hayden and Heydon) line going back into the 1500’s. This summary of the Woodward-Shelton ancestors comes from these sources.

Even the small fact that Henry lost at cards to George Washington on Monday, January 6, 1755, is documented.

Volume 2 of “Writings of Washington” notes for 17 Sept. 1755: “Lieutenant John Savage, John Mercer, Joshua Lewis and Henry Woodward are promoted as Captains in the Virginia Regiment.” In the same volume, Washington notes these orders for 5 Oct. 1755: “A detachment of one Lieutenant, one Ensign, three Sergents, thee Corporals, a drummer and fifty private men, under the command of Capt. Woodward, are to march on Monday next, for Fort Cumberland.”

Not only did the newly-arrived Henry Woodward profit from Mr. Abercrombie’s introduction to Governor Dinwiddie by becoming almost immediately a lieutenant in George Washington’s Virginia militia, we learn something of how young Lieutenant Woodward continued to benefit from this connection in a letter written on February 24, 1756, from Governor Dinwiddie to James Abercrombie:

Upon your recommendation I took Mr. Woodward by the hand, and have promoted him (tho’ a young man) Capt. of a Co, in the pay of y’s Colony.”

The following letter, from George Washington to Captain Henry Woodward, May 5, 1756, underscores Washington’s reputed moral stature. It may be surmised that Woodward’s troops had became a bit too raucous on this occasion:

Sir: I was not a little surprized to hear of the misbehaviour of your party last night at Jesse Pugh’s. He has been with me this morning, and complained that they killed his Fowls, pulled down one of his Houses for firewood, turned the Horses into his meadow and corn, destroyed them and his fences.

As I should imagine that your sense would direct you better, were it not absolutely contradicted by an express order, which I found it necessary to give last October, when you were present.

I can not credit the Report; but only send this in order that you may be particularly careful for the future: as you may depend I shall call you to account, for any irregularities that are committed by your party.

If they are guilty of such misbehaviour it entirely perverts the design they were sent upon; as they are intended to relieve, and not add to the distresses of the people.

Captain Woodward appears in an important context in the National Archives, associated with the French and Indian Wars, as follows:

A Council Of War, Held at Fort Cumberland

July 10th 1756

Colonel George Washington—President.
Lieutenant-Colonel Adam Stephen

Captain Christopher Gist
Captain Thomas Cocke                    

Captain George Mercer
Captain Henry Woodward                

Captain William Bronaugh
Captain Robert McKenzie                

Captain David Bell
Captain Henry Harris

The President having informed the Council that the General Assembly had resolved upon building a chain of Forts for the protection of the Frontiers—To begin at Henry Enoch’s, on Great Capecapon, and extend in the most convenient line to Mayo River——the building of which forts was not to exceed two thousand pounds and as the fixing upon the places judiciously was a matter of great importance to the Country, He desired their advice thereupon.

Captain Woodward was placed in command of Voss’s Fort on the frontier, June 10, 1757, and served in the Cherokee Expedition.

On July 29, 1757, George Washington wrote again to Captain Henry Woodward, and this time the letter illustrates the detail and thoroughness with which Washington directed his forces:

Sir: You are ordered, immediately upon receipt hereof, to march with your own company (which by a late regulation, has the one that was Capt. Bronaughs added to it) to the plantation of Captn. Dickenson on the Cow-Pasture; and to persue the following rout, vizt. First you are to go up the south fork; thence to the head of the Cow-Pasture River, and thence down the same to Dickensons; where you are to halt ’till joined by Major Lewis, and the Draughts sent by him to strengthen your company; or till you receive Orders from the Major, what to do, if he shou’d not be there himself.

That he may have timely notice of your coming to Dickensons; you are to despatch an Express to him at Agusta Courthouse, so soon as you begin your march. I expect you will make but little halt at Dickensons, as your place of destination is Voss’s, on Roanoake, to relieve the company that is posted there. Not knowing what may intervene at this distance, to render other orders necessary; you are as above, to receive directions from the Major, who is ordered to command the Detachment of the Regim’t in that Quarter. And to him you are, till further orders, to apply for instructions in any thing you may require. You are also to send your Returns (agreeably to my General Instructions herewith sent you) to him; who is to send them with his own and Captn. Spotswoods, to me.

As you will receive new Kettles from the public stores (to be delivered you by Maj. Lewis:) I have desired Captn. Waggener to call in all the old ones, pots, &c. which were made use of in yours and Bronaugh’s late company; and to send them to this place, and I desire you will be punctual in seeing this done, as well as in seeing that great care is taken of the new kettles.

As the Fort which Captn. Hogg is building, and to which you are now going, has, either thro’ bad conduct in the Director, idleness in the workmen, or thro’ some other cause which I can not comprehend, been of infinitely more expence to the country, and much longer about, than was ever expected, you are required to finish it with the utmost dispatch; and that in any manner, however rough, if it will secure you upon an attack. You are for farther direction referred to the General Instructions herewith delivered you.

(signed) Geo. Washington

Henry Woodward remained in service until 1762, and received large land grants in Stafford and Cumberland Counties of Virginia in recognition of his service. For a record of Capt. Woodward’s war service, see “The Descendants of Francis Muncy with Allied Families” by Mary Edith Shaw, published 1948.

At the close of the French and Indian Wars, Captain Woodward and his wife settled in Stafford County, Virginia, a short distance from Aquia Church on the Potomac River in Overwharton Parish.

A descendant, Mark Rhea Woodward, states14 that Henry’s wife, Sarah, came of the noble family of Sheltons who trace their ancestry to Charlemagne and the Magna Carta Barons. (This is one of several interesting possibilities that remain for future genealogists to investigate.)

Supported by records in the Congressional Library, the original portion of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., was built from stone quarried on Captain Woodward’s Land. The southeast cornerstone was laid by President Washington with Masonic ceremonies September 18, 1793.

Henry and his wife had 3 sons: James, Jesse and William.

Jesse served as a soldier in Captain Stith’s 4th Virginia Regiment and also under Captain Leonard Deakins during the Revolutionary War in the period 1776-1777.15 It appears that he served as a very young teen-ager. His name appears in the official Patriot Index of the Daughters of the American Revolution. His wife is listed there as Mary Hayden.

Jesse Woodward was the father of 11 children. His son, Valentine Austin Woodward, had 8 children, the eldest being Elizabeth Ann, born May 23, 1825, in Lee County, Virginia. Elizabeth married Isaac Cox November 28, 1844, in Lee County.

Henry Woodward died in the late 1700’s.

Early Ancestors … Cox, Coxe

In the census record of 1850 for Lee County, Virginia, Isaac William Cox is listed as being born in 1823 in Virginia. This is the Isaac Cox who brought his family to Texas in 1852. He was one of as many as 14 children of James Cox and Nancy Hansford Finney, whose families easily go back to Colonial times, though nothing whatsoever is known at this time about the identity of their ancestors.

There were several families of the name Cox(e) with prominent histories in North America and with deep roots going back to early Colonial times and from there back to England. For instance, Thomas Coxe, born 1590 in Devon, England, came to Jamestown in 1614 with his brothers, William and Walter, on the ship Friendship. Another family of great importance in the colonies originated with Dr. Daniel Coxe, who was physician to the Queen of Charles II of England and also to Queen Anne. This Daniel Coxe received an enormous land grant in North America from Charles II, amounting to hundreds of thousands of acres. Among his other large ventures, around the year 1700, Dr. Cox promoted the establishment of a colony of French refugees on 10000 acres along the James River in Virginia.

Isaac Cox’s brother, Dr. George W. Cox, believed that his ancestry led back to Dr. Daniel Cox(e) of England. According to notes written in 1950 by John Mark Graham16 (a great grandson of Isaac Cox):

Dr. George Cox claimed that Daniel Cox of Colonial days was one of his ancestors. Daniel Cox’s father, D. Cox, was court physician to both Charles 2nd and Queen Anne of England.

Earlier notes written in 1929 by Virginia Cain17 (granddaughter of Isaac Cox) contain the following:

The Cox family came from England, where some members of the family were Physicians to the Royal Family. The[y] first settled in Pennsylvania and later moved to Virginia.

Dr. Daniel Coxe never saw his vast holding in the New World; however, he gave over control of this land to his son, Col. Daniel Coxe, who arrived on these shores in 1701-2, settling near Trenton, New Jersey. He was commander of the Queen’s forces in West Jersey (as New Jersey was then called) and served as Justice of the Colonial Court and as a member of the Governor’s Council. He was founder of the first Masonic Lodge in America in 1730, and was also the first Grandmaster of Masons in America

One of Col. Coxe’s sons was William Coxe, a judge and prominent citizen of Philadelphia. His son, Tench Coxe (1755-1824), was a successful merchant and land owner, greatly extending the family’s wealth and prestige. Tench Coxe served in the Continental Congress in 1789 and was appointed to positions in the U.S. government by Presidents Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Madison.

Like many families of the Colonial era, the Coxe family generated an amazing sprawl of children, grandchildren, uncles, aunts, nephews and nieces. William Coxe had at least 9 children, and his son Tench Coxe had 13 children. Consequently, there are literally dozens of possible threads of connection between these branches of the Cox(e) family.

It was not uncommon at the time for a family name to be written with slight variants in spelling, so that the “e” in Coxe might easily have been dropped. Robert Graham believes that a relationship between these branches of the Cox(e) family likely does exist, but can point to no conclusive documentation connecting them. (This is another possible area for future genealogists to investigate.)

Isaac had one brother who was a Methodist preacher, Ivey H. Cox, and two brothers who were doctors, James M. and George Cox. In the context of the times, the education implied in these professions bespeaks a family of considerable attainment, not incompatible with connections to the noted Coxe family. Later we will see that the Cox family was of sufficient means to be able to engage in numerous land transactions in Texas over a long period of time.

The children of James Cox and Nancy Hansford Finney Cox

It is James Cox whose ancestors may or may not have included a physician to the Royal Family in England.18 This is a connection that is quite possibly valid but has not been documented. Further, nothing at all is known of his wife’s ancestors. She is known in most references as Nancy Hansford, but is clearly identified as Nancy Hansford Finney in a Prayer Book of Hiram Graham, a great grand child of Nancy Hansford Finney Cox.

There were as many as 14 children born to Isaac and Nancy. They are, in approximate order of age: Isaac William, Dr. George Washington, Rev. Ivey H., Dr. James Madison, Marion, Smith, John Wesley, Louisa C., Malinda S., Harvey, Reuben M., Benjamin F., Alexander S., and Sarah H.

This list of names has been compiled from Census data, legal documents, family bibles and other family documents. Most all of the names have been confirmed in multiple sources, though it is possible that one or perhaps two of the names might not be children of James and Nancy Cox.

Migration to Texas of members of the Cox Family

It should be noted that Cox ancestors undoubtedly were immigrants with roots in England, perhaps Ireland, perhaps Scotland. It is thought in the family that the earliest Cox immigrants settled in Pennsylvania, then made their way to Virginia, and eventually moved to Lee County, which is the westernmost part of Virginia, just across the river from Tennessee, and a way station on one of the most well-traveled routes of westward immigration of the period. Evidence seems to indicate that the Cox family arrived in Lee County in the 1840’s. They are not to be found there in the 1840 Census, though they are present in the 1850 Census. Also in the 1840’s as best I can surmise, one or more members of the Cox clan, migrated to Texas, and in the case of James Madison Cox, he stopped first in Carroll County, Arkansas, for a while where he studied medicine under a preceptor and married Elizabeth Kenner, originally from Tennessee. Dr. James arrived in Texas early enough to be identified as a physician and land owner in Fayette County, Texas, in the 1850 census.

Then, in 1852, Isaac Cox and his family made the difficult two-month wagon trip from Lee County, Virginia, to Rutersville, Texas, in Fayette County, a trip which he documented in a remarkable letter later reproduced in this chapter. At least a half dozen more of the Cox family also found themselves in Texas, including the mother, Nancy. It is thought that several of these, perhaps all, came at the same time that Isaac came, in the autumn of 1852. In addition to Nancy, Isaac and Dr. James M., those mentioned by name in records I have seen as being in Texas are: Dr. George W., Rev. Ivey H., Louisa, Reuben, Marion, Smith, Alexander and Sarah. There are also indications that some of the Woodward family might have come to Texas at this time.

Why the migration to Texas? Why Rutersville, in particular? Two possible influences are: 1) in 1845, Texas became a state in the Union after 10 years as an independent nation, and I believe migration was enthusiastically solicited by the new state to build its population and economic strength , and to quickly develop a defensive capability against the possible attempt by Mexico to recover the territory, and 2) at the very time of Isaac’s 1852 journey, the Methodist church was establishing (and likely recruiting for) a village together with a college in the area. In fact, the town took its name from the Methodist Rev. Martin Ruter, one of the first missionaries sent to Texas. Nancy Hansford Finney Cox was an ardent Methodist all her life, and her son Ivey was a Methodist minister. Also, there was a very strong attachment to the Methodist faith in the family of Elizabeth Ann Woodward. Only a few years later, when this college failed and the area experienced a decline, the Cox family moved to other regions Texas, sometimes forming a presence imposing enough to have geographical areas named after them, such as Cox Bend on the Brazos River, a district in Hill County called Coxville, and a post office of the same name from 1859 to 1867.

However, a third major influence in much of the migration of the period was the most immediate form of population explosion: family growth. Consider the arithmetic of what happened in just a few generations in the Woodward family. Henry Woodward had 3 sons who had 33 children who at the rate of 8 children each (as did one son, Valentine A. Woodward, Elizabeth’s father) would have had 264 children who at the rate of 6 children each (as did Valentine’s daughter, Elizabeth Ann Woodward) would have had 1584 children. Or imagine the 2nd- and 3rd-generation progeny of Nancy and James Cox’s 14 children. Presumably the rest of the good citizens of Lee County were just as busy populating the area, so that it may be imagined that substantial pressure was placed on the fixed resources of the area, generating considerable motivation to find new land in new areas.

Isaac Cox

At the age of 21, on November 28, 1844,19 Isaac married Elizabeth Ann Woodward. Elizabeth had been born May 23, 1825. As noted earlier, both sides of her family can be identified in Virginia back in time for several generations. Elizabeth’s surroundings and refined upbringing in Virginia stand in extreme contrast to the primitive life she was to encounter when she arrived on the West Texas frontier in the 1850’s.

A nephew of Elizabeth, Elbert William Robertson Ewing, graduated from the University of Virginia and was an attorney who practiced law in Washington, D.C., before the U.S. Supreme Court.20 Photo 1.4 is a fine, elegant picture of Mr. E.W.R. Ewing showing a handsome gentleman of stylish attire, great poise and grave bearing.

Having just mentioned Mr. Elbert Ewing, I cannot resist including here a delightful reference made to a photograph of him in a letter Elizabeth Ann wrote in 1861. She writes to her mother about the reaction of her two young daughters, ages 11 and 13:

The young ladies say that Elbert is the prettiest sweetest looking young man they ever seen the girls have tried to take it [the photo] from me, but they shant have it.21

A niece of Elizabeth was Maude Cox. I include her picture (photo 1.24a) to suggest the radical difference of life style between those who migrated to Texas and those who stayed behind in Virginia, though there certainly may have been differences in the economic circumstances of various branches of the same family in Virginia. For reference, imagine Maude as she appears in her photo living in the cabin of Isaac Cox shown in photo 1.7. Maude was the daughter of Elizabeth Ann’s younger brother, Elbert Sevier Woodward. Maude’s brother, James Olin Woodward, was a banker and attorney.

We know from Elizabeth’s daughter that Elizabeth’s family was affluent and had a number of slaves.22

Elizabeth’s grandfather was a Methodist minister, Valentine A. Woodward, and two of Elizabeth’s brothers were also ministers, William and Alexander Woodward. Elizabeth’s mother was Mary Ewing before she married, and she had two brothers who were ministers, Jo and Alexander.23 This profusion of ministers in the family might indeed bespeak a religious fervor that could have played a role in moving to a new area of the country where the Methodist church was founding a community and center of religious teaching. And it might also be the kernel of a very strong religious presence we shall discover later in Stella Graham, a granddaughter of the Cox-Woodward marriage. Stella is my grandmother and is the woman who will become the principal character of this story and mother of the 5 Wilson brothers.

Marietta, the first daughter of Isaac and Elizabeth, was born in 1848, “…on Sugar mountain, Lee County, Virginia…”24

This short description of Marietta’s birthplace is in her own words taken from a very important source of information on the Cox family: a book first published with the title, “History of Pioneer Days in Texas and Oklahoma.” Chapter III of this book was written by Mary A. Nunley, which was Marietta Cox’s married name in the form that she used it at the time the book was published. In 1909, the book was expanded and republished with the more marketable title of “Pioneer Days in the Southwest from 1850 to 1879, Thrilling Descriptions of Buffalo Hunting, Indian Fighting and Massacres, Cowboy Life and Home Building.” In this subsequent edition, Marietta’s chapter becomes number IX.

It is worthwhile to take special note of this book, for it is a frequent source in this narrative of important and interesting information. Subsequently, the book will be referred to as simply “Pioneer Days.” Marietta’s chapter contains much of historical value and family relevance. Its very special significance is that Marietta’s sister Nancy Jane is to become Stella Graham’s mother; therefore this chapter by Marietta is an extremely rare kind of documentation that describes the exact circumstances of the home life they shared, the life of a direct ancestor just about a century and a half ago as this is being written. Few families could ever hope for such direct, authentic and extensive observations from a distant relative 150 years in the past.

A photograph of “the old [Woodward] Virginia home where our ancestors lived”25 taken in 1938, shows a large, handsome home on a hill. The inscription on the back of the photograph which I take to be in the handwriting of the last surviving of Marietta’s children or grandchildren, goes on to say,

All have gone except me that’s related to those who in early life lived in this home.

The home was originally of log construction, but has since been covered with white siding and modernized in other ways. This was Elizabeth Ann’s home as a child. The home looks all the more comfortable and appealing considering the circumstances that Isaac was soon to thrust his wife Elizabeth and family into. The contrast between pictures 1.5 and 1.7 in the photo section of this book accurately demonstrates the radical contrast in life styles that Elizabeth Ann underwent as she was forced to adapt to the primitive life of the West Texas frontier. The cabin in photo 1.7 was built by Isaac Cox in Bowie Springs shortly after Elizabeth’s death, but is virtually identical to the one he built just a few years earlier in Palo Pinto for Elizabeth and family.

What we know with indisputable accuracy is that Isaac, Elizabeth Ann, daughters Marietta and Nancy Jane, son Valentine, and “Stephan, Mother’s black boy,” left sometime in September of 1852 in wagons for Texas26. From John Mark Graham,27 it can be seen that two of Isaac Cox’s brothers were in the exact same area of Texas at the exact same time as Isaac’s arrival. Several other sources mention other of his brothers and sisters being in Texas, in this general time frame (earlier in the case of Dr. James M. Cox, perhaps later in the case of others). We know that Dr. James M. Cox was in the Rutersville area in 1950, well ahead of Isaac and his entourage. Also, records clearly indicate that the mother of these children purchased 700 acres of land in Rutersville in 1852. All told, the record supports the idea that several families of the Cox clan made the trip together, forming a caravan of sorts that helped them better survive the rigors of the trip. Alice Conklin, a granddaughter of Isaac Cox, wrote in 1974, “And there were three covered wagons at least, with many Cox and Woodward relatives.” Family lore28 says that these same Cox families freed their slaves and gave each a parcel of land before departing for the distant frontier of Texas. The story may be partially correct, but it is perhaps contradicted, at least in part, by the documented presence of slaves in the family of Dr. James M. Cox in Texas and probably also by the presence of Stephan with Elizabeth Ann on the wagon trip to Texas.29

In November of 1852, having just arrived in Texas after the arduous trip from Virginia by wagon, Isaac W. Cox sat down and addressed a lengthy letter to friends and family back in Virginia. One of the prize possessions in my collection is a photostatic copy of this very touching and informative letter, written in Isaac’s hand, detailing the trip to Texas. Though it is somewhat long, I will quote the entire letter here. It is of historical interest for the feel it gives of what such a trip actually entailed, for the description of events along the way, and for its many fascinating details. I have transcribed the letter to conform as nearly as possible to the original spelling and format. As you read it, you will find that it also contains gripping and dramatic events, including some that arise with sudden, surprising force. Among its many interesting details: the letter is addressed to “friends” back in Virginia, I assume, but not to relatives (could that mean all his relatives came with him to Texas or were already there?); Isaac does not mention the names of any family members traveling with him other than his wife and children; and he refers to his destination in Texas as the “far west.”

Fayette Co, Texas November the 1852

Respected friends

After having landed at the destined

place in the far west I now seat myself to address

a few lines to you informing you that we are all at

this time in possession of a reasonable portion of health

and hope these few lines may find you all in possession

of the same blessing. since we left Va we have had

many hard trials & difficulties to encounter. we made

the trip from Va to Ruters Ville in two months and

8 days and lay by 8 days on the road. we lay by

one day at Tennessee River to have working done

and 7 days at washington in Arkansaw.

we had to lay by there on account of sickness.

from the time we started to till we got to washington

Arkansaw we had tollerable good health with the

exception of Diarrear & I got one of my arms hurt

and has not got well yet. Elizabeth has stood

the trip tollerable well. Valentine has been perfect

ly healthy since we left. Maryetta has been poorly

and Nancy Jane also Nancy caught the Whooping

cough on the road and is very bad at this time.

we landed at washington Ark the 26th of Oct.

Elizabeth was there taken sick on the same evening

we got there and a little after dark gave

[Page 2 of I.W. Cox letter, 1852]

gave birth to a fine daughter. it lived only

six days. the next day after Elizabeth was taken

sick myself and Maryetta was take with the congestive

fever and also Stephan[,] Mother’s black boy. we stayed

there seven days. the child died when I was not able

to sit up. I sent the boys to get a coffin. they

got a fine coffin all ready made. and dug the

grave and buried the child and next morning

we started. myself nor Elizabeth was not able

to sit up when we started. we had a bed made

in our waggon and was helped in. and it

was a bout a weak before either or us was out of

the waggon. you must know it was a distressing

time. the reason why we started almost everybody

in the country was sick and a great many dying.

the physician that tended on us advised us to

to leave or we would all die. it was Dr Williams. he

was much of a gentleman and a good physician.

I cannot at present give as much satisfaction

with regard to our travails and country as I

would wish for, for I am writing with an old

steel pen that I borrowed in town. the day I left Uncle

Robert Ely’s I swaped my brown horse for a

mare. I made an excellent trade. the mare stood the trip

fine, and is with fold. She is as large as old _____.

my horses boath stood the trip fine. when I got to Memphis

they were so fat that I could hardly manage them.

[Page 3 of I. W. Cox letter, 1852]

But when I got in Arkansaw I could not get one

bushel of old corn and having to feed on new corn

and pull so hard they fell off some but is now in better

order than when I started. my expenses was grater

that I anticipated they would be, they were $93.75

besides some clothing and things I bought on the road

including my doctor bills.

I will now give a way bill and the distances

from Va to Rutersville Texas.

From Cumberland gap to Jacksborough 45 miles

From Jacksborough to Montgomerey 50

From Montgomery to the white Plains 60

From thence to Mcminville 55

From thence to shelbyville 50

Thence to Farmington 16

Thence to Lewis Burg 8

Thence to Lymville 25

Thence to Camelsville [?] 12

Thence to Waynesborough 40

Thence to Clifton 15 on Tenn. River

Thence to Lexington 35

Thence to Jackson 30

Thence to Denmark 10

Thence to Estanola 6

Thence to somersville 21

Thence to Memphis 41

The distance through Tenn 529

Arkansaw from Memphis to Blackfish Lake 35 miles

Thence to Green Plains 20

Thence to Little Rock 109

Thence to Benton 25

Thence to Rockport 30

Thence to Washington 80

Thence to Fulton 16

Thence to Sulphur fork of Red river 40

Distance through Arkansas 370

Distance through Texas from Sulphur fork to Lynden 30

Thence to Jefferson 20

Thence to Marshal 16

Thence to Henderson 38

Thence to Rusk 21

Thence to Crockette 40

Thence to Henderson 75 [second mention of Henderson]

Thence to Washingto 20

Thence to Independance 12

Thence to Rutersville 45

Distance through Texas 317

Whole distance 1216 miles

[Page 4 of I. W. Cox letter, 1852]

This is the most direct route with one exception

and that is Below Jacksborough at the salt works we should have

taken the left and went across to Kingston and struck

Knoxvill Road leading on to sparta in stead of going

by Montgomery for it is the worst road I ever travailed in

my life . we was highly favoured on the route. the roads

were generally good through Tenn, but when we got

into Arkansaw we had the worst roads on earth through

the swamps. the mud was generally to the axail tree

for a bout twenty five miles. the country is as level

as a house floor swamps and lakes all through it. we would

have sometimes to waid for miles through mud and

water over knee deep and we had to cut our way in places

through the cypress knees and cane [?]. it was nothing

to see our horses and wagons bogged in the swamps and some

of them nearly clear under and would have to stay

there till a caravan of moovers comes to their relief.

I would give you a description of the swamps in Arkansaw

but I havenot the language nor mental ability to portray

to you the dismal locality of that country. its inhabitants [?]

be nothing more than pirates and high way robbers

and looks like the very picture of death. the musquetoes

have sucked all their blood from them and they

are nothing more than putrified substances going

a bout as pack horses for the devil. I would tell you

something more about them but you see I must

come to the close. [He has reached the bottom of the 4th page]

I have not given you any description

of the country yet. I must get me another sheet of paper.

Elizabeth and children are all in bed snoreing. I must retire for tonight.

[The letter ends here without signature. If he did procure additional

paper and write more, it was not part of any material I have seen.

My surmise is that he did not write more at this time.]

As his letter indicates, Isaac and family arrived in Fayette County, Texas. The 1850 census indicates that Dr. James and Elizabeth Cox were already residents of Fayette County at the time Isaac arrived. In “Pioneer Days,” Marietta identifies the area more specifically and states that the family

settled within four miles of Ruterville and twelve miles from LaGrange.

After a few years in Texas, Marietta, her mother and a baby sister made a trip back to Virginia for a visit. From “Pioneer Days,” the details of travel are revealing:

There was only one railroad in Texas at that time, and that was from Richmond to Houston [about 20 miles]. My father took us in a wagon to Richmond where we got on a train and went to Houston, and from there on a little boat to Galveston, and from there across the Gulf of Mexico to New Orleans, from there up the Mississippi on a large steamboat to Memphis, Tenn., and from there by railroad to Knoxville, and from there to Tazwell by stage.

The visit to Virginia lasted 6 months.

After a few years in the Rutersville area, the family moved to Palo Pinto County, which was then the frontier. Cox built a cabin there near the Brazos River which was still standing in 1959.

In “Pioneer Days” Marietta says:

My father bought cattle and moved to the frontier, Palo Pinto County, where we experienced all the dangers, privations and hardships of a frontier life. We settled on the west side of the Brazos river…30 We lived on dirt floors, and cooked and ate and slept all in the same room … My father built a little log house on a knoll near the river for my mother to teach school in.

Marietta adds that there were four students from the surrounding area in addition to the children of Isaac and Elizabeth. In the Buffalo Gap Messenger of May 2, 1959, Ernest Wilson states that Elizabeth Ann was the first school teacher in Palo Pinto Country.

Marietta says,

My father then bought the Bob Dillingham place, a mile or two from John Pallard’s and we moved there.

For the record, the children of Isaac and Elizabeth Ann were:31 Valentine Maurice, March 11, 1846; Marietta Ann, March 11, 1848; Nancy Jane, February 14, 1850; Martha, born and died on trip to Texas, October, 1852; Robert Melleville, June 20, 1854; Elizabeth Louisa, April 19, 1856; Donna Isabella, June 1, 1860.

From this roster of children, we can see that Elizabeth Ann bore three of her children in the relative comfort of civilized Virginia; that one died during the rigors of that 1216-mile wagon trip to Texas; finally, that three were born under the severe circumstances of West Texas frontier life, which were bad enough in themselves, but also included the ever-present threat of hostile Indian raids.

Just to keep the relationships in focus, Isaac and Elizabeth Ann are my great great grandparents; and their daughter Nancy Jane is my great grandmother. She is the sister of Marietta, so when Marietta writes these details about life on the frontier, she is describing the exact life and experiences that one of my direct ancestors lived, right down to the dirt floor of the very same log cabin.

Encounters with Indians in the area of Palo Pinto were not infrequent, and inhabitants lived in constant fear of violence, looting, kidnapping and death. In “Pioneer Days,” Isaac’s daughter Marietta writes:

My mother said she suffered a thousand deaths at that place for fear the Indians would come and kill us or carry off some of the children. Why men would take their families out in such danger I can’t understand.

In fact, Indian fights were not uncommon for Isaac. In a letter32 from Palo Pinto, he wrote to his father-in-law on January 24, 1860:

We have had two skirmishes with the Indians lately – the 1st fight there was 8 [Indians] killed, the last fight 5 Indians – one white man was shot but not mortal.

As context for this letter, Elizabeth’s father (photo 1.15), a minister and a cultivated man from Virginia, had visited his daughter in Texas and had been distressed at the primitive conditions in which he found Elizabeth and family.

Marietta has this to say in passing about her grandfather’s visit to Texas,

I remember her [Elizabeth’s] father came to Texas once to see her; and preached in the schoolhouse where she taught, he was not very favorably impressed with the country and didn’t stay very long in Texas.

So, in this same letter of January 24, 1860, in which Isaac relates two instances of Indian fights in the area, he endeavors to impress his disapproving father-in-law with comments about how the area in general has improved and Elizabeth’s lot in particular:

there has been quite a change taken place in Palo Pinto since you left here. We have three very full stores – several new houses have gone up since you left. We have bought two lots in town – one acre in each – one improved with a good log house 18 x 20 with a gallery [porch] on each side. We moved last Saturday. Elizabeth and children are much pleased with the change.

This move occurred about two years before Elizabeth’s death, and there is an implied concern for her well being in Isaac’s letter. At the time of the letter, Elizabeth was expecting her sixth child, Donna Isabella (often referred to as “Belle”), who was born June 1, 1860.33 Now living in the relative splendor of an 18 x 20 log house in town, possibly even luxuriously divided into two rooms, she might have been spared at least a few of the more difficult conditions that frontier existence in that part of Texas forced upon a woman of sheltered upbringing in civilized Virginia.

It is fair to assume that frequent fights with Indians and harsh frontier conditions were the principal reason leading Isaac and family to move into the relatively greater security of the town. But Elizabeth’s health may have been failing at the time, which could have been a further consideration in making the move. It was still a decade and a half before the dangers of Indian attacks had been eliminated in that part of Texas.

According to the Handbook of Texas Online, the last serious attack by Indians in the area where Isaac lived came in 1876.34

Elizabeth Ann died April 30, 1862, just short of 10 years from the time of their arrival in Texas,35 and just about 2 years after their move into the town of Palo Pinto. She was 37 years old. Isaac was left with 6 children, ranging from about 16 to under two.

Very few things can be more poignant, more evocative of the contrast between Elizabeth’s life style in Virginia and what she faced in Texas than the following matter-of-fact statement quoting Marietta from “Pioneer Days”:

Well, the war came up and our mother died, her father had lots of slaves and she was raised very tenderly, never having done any work before she was married. The hardships and continuous fear of a frontier life was too much for her.

“…she was raised very tenderly…” This simple but expressive passage speaks volumes in summing up her mother’s life and death.

Elizabeth’s death was not completely unexpected. Ominous concerns about mortality cast a dark shadow over one of her letters dated “Palo Pinto Co. Texas April 29, 1861,”36 which was just one year and one day before she died:

Dear mother I sincerely thank you for the nice presents you sent me by Pa. I have not made my dress yet … I intend to take good care of them if I live.

Later in the same letter comes a touching passage:

I have nothing new to write. Maybe so when I write again (if I live to write at all) [Elizabeth’s underscoring] I will have something new to write… write soon and pray much for your unworthy daughter. I am trying to live more prayerful & and more devoted than ever but I have many things to irritate and divide my mind but I intend to do the very best I can…

It is hard not to be moved by the unconcealed pain and difficulty of Elizabeth’s life evident in that paragraph.

Pioneer Days” gives us a further glimpse of frontier life in Isaac’s household after the death of his wife. Marietta offers delightful details of how efforts were made to introduce some brightness into a life of considerable hardship:

After our mother died we children had to learn to card and spin all the cloth our clothes were made of. We used bark and leaves from oak and walnut to color the thread with; walnut leaves made such a pretty dark brown and broom weeds made a pretty yellow, we used moss and other things to color with. We had to do without lots of conveniences and necessities … for forks [we] would twist wire together … we parched wheat for coffee … We didn’t use hardly anything that was not homemade. We used to sit up till ten or eleven o’clock carding, spinning or knitting.37

Not long after Elizabeth’s death, Isaac moved his family and stock to the Menard County area. According to an article in a local paper in 1971:38

About 1862 … the Isaac Cox family came by ox-wagon to settle in the San Saba River valley… Until they could decide where they wanted to live, they moved inside the walls of the old fort at Menard. The roof was gone, so they stretched wagon sheets over the poles. They stayed there several years39 … There were several bands of Indians within a 100 mile radius of the San Saba River who had become quite bold.

The “old fort” is the ruins of the historic San Saba Presidio (photo 4.11), a fort and mission to Comanche Indians built by the Spanish in 1757 as the Presidio San Luis de las Amarillas.40 The Presidio was abandoned after about 1 year, when the Spanish were driven away by Indians. The ruins of the Presidio often served as temporary quarters for early settlers and became a refuge for nearby families in times of Indian raids.

(I will leap ahead just momentarily to tell you that it was in this same roofless fort, only seven or eight years later, that Stella Jane Graham was born on Christmas night in 1869. Stella was my grandmother and the mother of the 5 Wilson brothers who are the end-subject of this family history.)

After his family’s stay at the ruins of the Presidio, Isaac selected a site at Bowie Springs and there built a cabin in 1863.41

Bowie Springs is a beautiful and historic location just off Celery Creek named for James Bowie, an Alamo martyr whose name was given to a famous knife design and who is reported to have fought with Indians in this location while searching in the area for the lost Almagres silver mine.42 Isaac Cox’s Bowie Springs cabin (photo 1.7) was still standing in October, 2002,43 and appears to be in good enough structural condition to last another century and a half.

The density of settlement of the Menard County area at the time is indicated by a report in the Menard News which says there were only five or six families in the county in the year 1863.44

Soon after arriving in Menard County, Isaac returned briefly to Fayette County where he proposed matrimony to Mary Eubank, a former neighbor, and brought her back to Menard County as his wife.45

Difficulty with Indians was perhaps even worse at Bowie Springs. Several instances are recounted from Marietta’s chapter in “Pioneer Days”:

They [the Indians] came to Fort McKavett on the head of the Sansaba river and killed one man and stuck a spear in the girl, she pulled the spear out herself. Then they gathered up a large bunch of cattle, hundreds of them, and drove them off. The men followed them as soon as they could get together but could never overtake them.

Elsewhere, Marietta adds:

We lived in constant dread and fear of being killed.

Further, at Bowie Springs, Indians came one night, and

Then we could hear them passing down on each side of the spring branch, not more than fifty yards from our house. They got all the horses on the ranch but one, and were so elated over their success that they went over the hill in a little valley and held a war dance, we could hear them very plainly whooping and yelling… I can’t describe my feelings. I had never heard an Indian yell before. There were only two women, two babies and two men of us… we being on a ranch five miles from Menardville… we decided we’d better abandon the ranch… We went down to the town of Burnett … then we returned to Menardville again.

Here is an incident involving hostile Indians that occurred in 1867 when Isaac W. Cox was taking cattle to New Mexico to sell them to the U.S. Army. It is taken from Marietta’s chapter in “Pioneer Days:”

and they all went on together till they got to the Horsehead Crossing on the Pecos, when a large party of Indians (the Apaches, I think) came on them and surrounded them. They [the Indians] thought they’d starve them out and make them perish for water, but some of the men slipped down to the river and got water. I think [the Indians] kept them there three days, and then decided they would drive the cattle off, so drove the entire herd off.

I have an account of this very same event in Isaac’s own words46, in a poignant letter he wrote from “Horsehead Pacos May 31, 1867.”

My dear children … I met with very bad luck on Concho. My horse fell with me & mashed one of my feet … we reached the Pacos on the 24th of this inst with one herd of cattle & the morning after landing we were attacked by 100 Indians. We fought them about two hours – Lost all our cattle & horses but seven horse we had left at the canion… we lost our entire out fit. Our oxen gave out before they reached the water. consequently we left our wagons with all our provisions & all Coys household [a pioneer traveling west?] … which was plundered and burned that night after the fight… we saw one Indian fall is all we knew was killed for certain. I shot one of my horses dead on the battle ground. An Indian was on him in the fight. After they got all our stock and provisions they calculated to starve us out which they would have done if it had not been for the gold expedition releaving us. Children, I forgot to state to you that only fourteen of our party were present at the fight. Only myself and six others had arms and fought. Children I have on the same cloths I had on when I left home & is all I have… Children, I have under gone a great deal of hardship – do the best you can… farewell your affectionate father till death I. W. Cox.

Isaac’s affectionate farewell “till death” was something more than a trite phrase, considering the circumstances he had just survived.

The event at Horsehead Crossing of the Pecos River serves to illustrate how requirements of the Longhorn cattle business caused Isaac to range over large areas of Texas and be away from home for considerable periods of time.47 The effect of this was that women and children often had to face severe dangers and difficulties alone on the frontier.

I should make the further point that at various times in this general period the one-room cabin at Bowie Springs was the only known home of Isaac and his 4 unmarried children; his new wife, Mary Eubank and her 2 children;

Isaac’s daughter Nancy Jane and her husband, William Graham. At least

Some of the time during this period, Isaac’s oldest daughter, Marietta, and

her husband lived in the cabin, though they did strike out on their own. It is likely that Isaac’s oldest child, Valentine, had left home by this time. He was age 21. The other 3 unmarried children were Robert, age 12; Louisa, age 10; Belle, age 7.

In December of 1974, Alice Conklin, a daughter of Alice Graham and granddaughter of William and Nancy Graham, wrote to Robert Graham and mentioned a time when the Graham and Nunley families lived together in the cabin with bunks along the wall, separated only by curtains.

Not long after that, perhaps in 1868, Isaac placed his other children in the homes of various relatives and left the area.48

There is this further information bearing upon Isaac’s departure from the area:49

Shortly after [Elizabeth’s] death Isaac moved with the children to San Saba County and later to Menard County, having married again in the meantime. Domestic relations not being altogether pleasant, the children were placed in the homes of relatives. Isaac was of a roving and restless nature and little is known of his life after the children had been placed in the homes of relatives. Aunt Eddie Cox, wife of Valentine, the eldest son, says he seldom came to see them and was seldom heard of. She believes that he died in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma.50

Some additional light is shed upon this subject in notes written in 1931 and taken from records and family Bible of Ida Belle Cox and Catherine Nunley Wilson.51 Ida Belle Cox is the daughter of Aunt Eddie Cox who is the source of the information in the note above, so the similarity is understandable. However, these notes contain a few additional bits of significant information:

[Isaac’s] three youngest children were placed in the homes of his two oldest daughters, Marietta and Nancy… Isaac was of the roaming and unsettled nature. Little is known of him after his children all left home. Isaac made two or more subsequent marriages all of which ended in separation. He once lived in Grayson Co having purchased a fine farm near Sherman. This inheritance should have shared by his other heirs, but was lost to them.

From this information it seems likely that the disposition of Isaac’s three youngest children would have been: Belle stayed in the Bowie Springs cabin with Nancy Jane; and Robert and Elizabeth Louise went to live with Marietta, wherever she was located at the time. It is not known whether Isaac had any children after he left Bowie Springs, but the term “other heirs” in the note suggests that Isaac failed to take measures to see that any of his estate went to the children he left behind. A certain bitterness in this regard seems apparent and justified.

It would be my surmise that Isaac’s loss of his cattle at Horsehead Crossing represented the loss of his only productive assets at the time. His place at Bowie Springs was not a farm in the sense that it could produce a sustainable existence for his family. The land seemed hard and rocky when I personally saw it, and it seems rather clear that neither Isaac nor William Graham were farmers by temperament. My guess is that Isaac was wiped out by the loss of his herd, and at the same time might have found himself in a distressing domestic situation. Thus, unable to put the pieces of his old life back together, he experienced an urge to flee and seek a new start. The reference to “domestic relations not being altogether pleasant” undoubtedly referred to crowded conditions in the cabin and the likely problems of conflict and discipline amongst so many adults, children, step-children and step-parents. Conditions were ripe for much friction, with Isaac away for long periods and his new wife attempting to manage a difficult situation where she might not have been welcome in the first place.

At some juncture in this time period, and possibly for similar reasons, Marietta and her husband left the area, and the cabin at Bowie Springs ultimately became the sole possession of Isaac’s daughter Nancy Jane and her husband, William Graham.

At the time of Elizabeth’s death, Donna Isabella (frequently referred to as “Belle”) was only 2 years old. A daughter of Marietta, Virginia Cain, wrote:

After Elizabeth Ann died, Nancy Jane raised Donna Isabella and there was almost a mother-child relationship.

From this, I would assume that Nancy, 12 years old in 1862, became the principal caretaker of Belle after Elizabeth’s death and remained in the Bowie Springs cabin. It seems most likely that Isaac’s two other young children, Robert, age 13 in 1868, and Elizabeth Louisa, age 11 in 1868, went to live with Marietta. Nancy and Marietta both had first children of their own in 1867.

It is known that Belle went to live with Aunt Lou Caruthers (Louisa, a sister of Isaac) sometime later. On November 1, 1870, Aunt Lou wrote a letter to Marietta stating that Isaac and his wife and his wife’s two daughters had come to Aunt Lou’s home in Bosque County, Texas, to take Belle away. Aunt Lou says, “…from what his wife told me I think they will go to the Indian Nation …” a term used at that time to describe Indian Territory in Oklahoma. Parenthetically, Aunt Lou writes,

I am somewhat fearful they [Isaac and his wife] will not get on agreeably… she is a very ambitious woman and will have her own way and I greatly fear this will not please your father.

The accounts of Virginia Cain and Louisa Caruthers both support the idea that Isaac went up to Oklahoma (the Indian Territory) some time after 1870, under circumstances perhaps boding ill for his future happiness. Nothing more is known of him, except the terse references by children and grandchildren that he was seldom seen or heard from after 1870. The only estimate I have seen for his date of death is 1879, and the context of this date suggests to me that it is only an educated guess, since the place of death is unknown. Discovering accurate information about the location and date of Isaac’s demise remains a goal for further research.

The terms “roving and restless,” and “roaming and unsettled” appear in several descriptions of Isaac, and these words seem to hold the final published judgment of his character by those who were closest to him.

Perhaps his was a spirit suited to the pioneer.

To the best of my knowledge, this chapter in this book is the only known memorial to Isaac William Cox, so let us etch those words here on this page to remember him by:

ROVING AND RESTLESS; ROAMING AND UNSETTLED.

More than one of Isaac’s descendants has shared this character.

Now, the first part of our genealogical puzzle is in place.

In late 1852, the girl who is to be the grandmother of the 5 Wilson brothers has taken up residence in Texas. It will be a decade before her family moves to the remote Hill Country. We shall soon see that her husband-to-be is a young boy still in Missouri at the time the Cox family arrives in Texas. He must yet find his way this little section of Texas, where he will one day meet and marry Nancy Jane Cox.

Moreover, a lot of history must still take place before Stella will be born. And Stella’s husband-to-be will not be born in England until 1865. He, too, must somehow find his way, across the Atlantic Ocean, to this hilly place in Texas not far from San Antonio, to play his appointed role in this family history.

Chapter II … from Missouri to Texas …

Though Isaac W. Cox was the first of my direct ancestors to arrive in Texas (in 1852, by the slim margin of 2 years), the line running back from William Graham has a longer and larger involvement in the great westward migration that characterized United States history in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

If Isaac Cox was the focal point of Wilson ancestry that migrated from Virginia to Texas, William Graham is the focal point of the ancestral thread that made its way from Kentucky and Tennessee to Missouri to Texas.

William Graham is a large personality and a colorful individual. He is my great grandfather. He married Isaac Cox’s daughter, Nancy Jane. He is the father of my grandmother, Stella Graham.

William was a genuine character of the west: at various times he was an Indian fighter, a buffalo hunter, a Civil War veteran on both sides, an army Scout, a peace officer, always a tough man of action, rough, uneducated, uncultured, though handsome and reportedly very attractive to the opposite sex. He had a reputation for being able to hold his own in rough situations. In his old age he delighted in recounting tales of barroom brawls, battles with Indians, and gun fights. He was even said by some to have been a Texas Ranger. No evidence for that exists, though his exploits as a lawman in criminal-infested Kimble County might have been the origin of such a legend.

Adding further to his authentic Western flavor, William was almost certainly ¼ Indian. Several credible references in the family maintain this connection, and I grew up in the belief that I was part Indian. After many years of study, Robert Graham believes that William’s grandmother Nancy was a full-blooded Cherokee Indian.52

The Great Tide of Western Migration

Almost from the beginning, inward flows of population from abroad into the early Colonies of the United States began to exert a corresponding outward pressure that eventually resulted in migrations sometimes to the south, but mostly westward. This pressure from incoming population was greatly augmented by the startling effect on population density that several succeeding generations of families having 8, 10, 12 children had. At first the migratory movements were little more than a trickle, but as the best lands were claimed and settled, and as expanding families began to carve up the settled land into smaller and smaller inherited holdings, the availability of rich lands over the horizon just for the taking proved an irresistible magnet.

In the late 1700’s, settlers from Virginia and North Carolina spilled over into Tennessee and Kentucky. Between 1810 and 1820, as many as 1,000,000 people surged across the Mississippi, and the principal thrust was westward along the Missouri River.

Graham, Hicklin, Edmundson

Among the arrivals along the Missouri River in the period 1818-1819 were the grandparents of William Graham. They were: Abner Graham, probably born in North Carolina, and Nancy (last name unknown), probably from Tennessee

Abner and Nancy were some of the earliest settlers on the western edge of Booneslick Country,53 along the Missouri River, east of present-day Kansas City, Missouri. They arrived in 1818, from Warren County, Tennessee, bringing with them their son, Hiram, who had been born October 30, 1815, and two other children, Daniel and infant daughter, Rhody.

Abner appears in the “Minutes of the Cooper County Court, Missouri Territory, March, 1820” where his appointment as “road overseer of the Third District, Tabo Township” is announced. This has more than ordinary significance in that “…this ‘road’ was the last westward road segment of the settled areas of Missouri and the point from which the Santa Fe Trail originated.”54 At the risk of belaboring the obvious, this was the absolute westernmost point at which the American nation had arrived, the frontier in its fullest meaning. Pushing west from St. Louis, it most likely, in fact, was the needle-point of the thrust that did not end until it reached the Pacific Ocean. The time was barely 15 years after the historic Lewis and Clark Expedition had passed this exact spot on its exploration of the unknown lands of the Louisiana Purchase Territory and beyond, pursuant to Thomas Jefferson’s orders to find a water route to the west coast.

In Missouri, Hiram met his wife-to-be, Louisa Edmundson. She was born May 12, 1820, in the Missouri Territory. She was the daughter of Richard C. Edmundson, who had been born in 1785 in Mechlenburg, Virginia, and Leah (Hicklin) Edmundson, born in 1790 in Bototourt, Virginia. Richard Edmundson died August 6,1822, in Lafayette, Missouri; Leah Edmundson died in 1847 in Cass County, Missouri.

Hiram Graham’s wife, Louisa, was descended from a prominent ancestry. Her parents were wealthy in land and slaves. Her mother was the daughter of the noted John Hicklin, Sr., and his wife, Hanna Rupe, who were pioneers in the earliest days of Booneslick Country, and who later became foremost citizens of Lexington, Missouri, where even today a mansion bearing Hicklin’s name is a landmark recorded in the National Register of historic buildings. Both the Hicklin and Edmunson families established plantations in Missouri in the southern tradition.

Hiram and Louisa were married May 8, 1834, and their marriage is recorded in Jackson County, Missouri, which is the county that includes present-day Kansas City. They were among the first families to settle in nearby Van Buren County, just south of Jackson County. Van Buren County was formed in 1835, and later renamed Cass County for political considerations in 1849. They lived in Grand River Township.

They were a prolific family. Ten children were born to them prior to their move to Texas. Of these, one died in early childhood. William, who is the fourth of the 10 children, is listed in the 1850 census as having been born in Tennessee. Robert Graham feels that this listing is incorrect and believes that Missouri was the likely birthplace of William.

Hiram and Louisa Graham Move to Texas

In 1854, Hiram and Louisa moved to Texas with their nine children. They settled In Ellis County, on Red Oak Creek near Ovilla. At the time William arrived in Texas he was 13 years old.55 As the only son of working age, William spent much of his youth helping his father with the difficult and never-ending labor of transforming the native countryside into a family farm.

Little is known of Hiram and Louisa in this period, except that they had three more children. Hiram died February, 1868, in Ellis County, Texas. Following instructions in his will, Louisa sold the farm upon his death. She died about 1890, and is buried in the Couch Cemetery near Red Oak, Ellis County, Texas.56

One of William’s brothers was Hyde Graham, who had a bit of colorful Western history of his own. He was well respected in later life but had been well known for wildness in his early years. According to John Mark Graham’s notes of 1950, Hyde was rumored to have been a horse thief in his early adult years, a lynching offense.57 John looked up his uncle Hyde many years afterwards in Kerrville, Texas, when Hyde was well over 90 years of age. “He received me cordially,” John Graham says, “and admitted he stole horses when he was younger.” Hyde was reputed to have been hung for his offenses, but survived the experience. John Graham says that Hyde showed him rope marks on his neck to prove the point.58

In pre-Civil War days, William was a buffalo hunter. According to his grandson Ernest, he hunted in the area around Dallas, if buffalos can be visualized in the landscape of that megalopolis at the beginning of the 21st century. At various times, according to another grandson, John Mark Graham, he was an Indian fighter and an Indian scout for the army.

On September 7, 1861, at the beginning of the Civil War, William joined Company G, 16th Regiment, Texas Cavalry of the Confederate Army at Dallas, Texas. He fought in battles against Indian tribes of Oklahoma; at the Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas; at the Battle of Corinth, Mississippi; in raids against Union Armies in Mississippi and Tennessee; and finally at the Battle of Vicksburg. The loss at Vicksburg cut Texas off from the rest of the Confederacy. Along with many Texas soldiers who had become disillusioned at this time, William deserted from the Confederate army and turned himself in to Union authorities on June 3, 1864, at San Elizario, Texas, just east of El Paso. He was taken to Santa Fe where he was given an oath of allegiance, and most likely worked with Union troops in New Mexico for the remainder of the war. The Union Army was then “pacifying” Mescalera Apache and Navajo Indian tribes who were aggressively raiding settlements in New Mexico.59

William participated in some brutal, bloody fighting during the Civil war, and Robert Graham believe some facets of his rough character are attributable to difficult war-time experiences.

After the war, William came back to Texas from New Mexico with a number of returning Union Army soldiers, including his friend, C.P. Nunley, whose actual full name was Commodore Perry Nunley. Their difficult trek across the high country of New Mexico and the untracked Texas plains was historic in the sense that it is among the very first sojourns ever across this territory by non-native Americans. The plains at that time were inhospitable and studded with roaming, aggressive, Indian tribes, including Commanches, Apaches, and Kiowas. The time frame of this trek was about 11 years before Custer’s dramatic defeat at the Battle at Little Bighorn, just to place the prevalent hostilities in historical context. William was elected to be the leader of this party of returning war veterans, and was later often referred to as “Captain” based on that happening.

When the two friends, Nunley and Graham, approached the frontier at Menard County in early 1865, they happened upon the Cox cabin at Bowie Springs. Isaac was away at the time. Frightened by the abrupt appearance of strangers, the two older Cox girls, Marietta and Nancy, met them at the door with rifles and ordered them away. The men assured the girls that they intended no harm, and were allowed to camp nearby. When Isaac returned home after several days, he took a liking to the men and asked them to stay on and help him “put in” a farm. This rather innocent-sounding term conceals the months and even years of back-breaking labor necessary to clear the land of trees and stumps, boulders and brush, and get it ready for the planting of crops.60

As events unfolded, it may be recognized that old Isaac displayed shrewd insight into human nature and a knack for strategic planning. Not only did he get his farm put in, he acquired two sons-in-law. Not long thereafter, William Graham married 15-year-old Nancy Jane Cox on March 20, 1865.

The following year, William’s friend C. P. Nunley married the other daughter, 17-year-old Marietta, on November 15, 1866.61

(According to Robert Graham, “The marriage of William Graham and Nancy Cox was a union between the westward-moving Scotch-Irish of the back country of the Appalachian Mountains with the settled Distressed Cavaliers of Virginia.” The terms are taken from a book called “Abion’s Seed,” by Richard Hackett Fischer. The book is a serious history of American folkways, and how they got that way. Fischer’s thesis is that although less than 20% of the present population has British antecedents, these strands of British genesis are nonetheless the dominant factors determining our overall culture: New England Puritanism, Southern aristocracy, Quaker piety, Appalachian feuding. As it relates to William Graham and Nancy Jane Cox, it was a union of two widely different cultural origins: the mass migration of aristocratic English cavaliers to the Chesapeake Bay region between 1640 and 1675 and the migration of rugged, rowdy, feuding English, Scots and Irish from the borderlands that settled in Appalachia between 1717 and 1775.)

William’s marriage to Nancy at Menardville is possibly the first marriage in that sparsely-settled county. Robert Graham says that no record of the Graham-Cox marriage has been located, perhaps because of the remote location of the then-unorganized County. Graham says that the later divorce papers of William and Nancy reveal that William married under an assumed name, suggesting he may have been concerned about being discovered as a deserting soldier from the Confederate army.62

C. P. Nunley was born in Marian Country, Tennessee, April 17, 1834. He left home and went to Missouri, where he was a school teacher. He caught “gold fever” at age 21, and went to the Pike’s Peak region of Colorado. Nunley became the first school teacher at Ft. McKavett and Menardville, where he taught earliest school sessions under a tree. In 1873-4 he was sheriff and tax collector of Menard County. The couple moved from Menard County to McCulloch County and eventually on to Thorp County. They were parents of four daughters and several sons.

There was a period of time when the young Nunley and Graham families lived together with their youngest infants within the confines of the log cabin at Bowie Springs (photo 1.7).

Among other memorable aspects of William Graham’s life, he was noted for the fierce fighting ability of a dog he owned that was part lobo wolf. Dogs were often bred and maintained for sport fighting, which was not uncommon in those frontier times. This dog fought as the wolf fights – he charges, snaps, bites, tears at his opponent and then runs, only to renew the charge. Average dogs were helpless before such an attack.63

William and Nancy Graham had four children, three of whom are reported in family records to have been born on Celery Creek, at the Bowie Springs cabin built by Isaac W. Cox. Their son Hiram was born October 20, 1867; daughter Mary Alice was born July 22, 1871; son Walter was born October, 1874.

A remarkable story concerns the birth of their oldest daughter, Stella, my grandmother. During the Christmas season of 1869, when Indian raids were persistent in the area, the Nunleys and the Grahams took refuge in the ruins of the San Saba Presidio (photo 4.11). There, on a clear Christmas night, Nancy’s second child, a daughter, was born. Impressed by the brilliant night sky and the jewel-like stars, Nancy named the daughter, Stella.

Some of the settlers, to escape the Indians, sought refuge from time to time inside the walls of the Presidio. The William Graham family, for example, harbored there in December 1869, during an Indian scare. A daughter was born to the family in the fort on Christmas Day.64

A further point of interest in the book from which this text is quoted is this reference: “… Isaac W. Cox, 1862, may have been the first Anglo settler to reside in the Presidio,” referring to his stay there a few years earlier when he first moved to the Menardville area.

In an interview printed in the Free State of Menard, Ernest Wilson reports that William and Nancy moved from Bowie Springs to Menardville in 1871 following a terrifying event when Nancy Jane discovered 2-year-old Stella playing innocently with Indian children at the spring. To give some idea of population density, the 1870 census showed only 43 families living in the entire Menard County. I am inclined to think the move reported by Ernest may have been a temporary relocation to escape immediate threats from Indians.

Isaac Cox’s Bowie Springs one-room cabin is approximately 12 feet by 16 feet, possibly a bit smaller. Despite its limited size, as many 8-12 people must have been housed there at times. To begin with, Isaac and several of his children plus his new wife and her two daughters lived there – some of them no doubt sleeping outdoors, weather permitting.

Then Nancy Jane married William Graham in 1865, adding to the cabin population. Then in 1866, Commodore Nunley married Isaac’s oldest daughter. He later went to Ft. McKavett and Menardville to teach.

Somewhere in this time frame, Isaac left the area with his new wife and her two daughters. The children were placed with relatives. Then, Marietta and her husband moved into the cabin, and for a while the two couples, each with an infant, shared the single room. In 1869, the population of the cabin was increased with Stella’s birth in 1869. Alice was born in 1871.

At this approximate time, Marietta and her husband moved away. By 1874, evidence shows that 14-year-old Belle had either come to live in the cabin or had come to visit.

In October, 1874, William and Nancy Graham became totally estranged. This was the month of the birth of their 4th child, Walter. In November, William left the household. In November of 1876, Nancy filed for divorce, and the court gave temporary custody of the children to her. Proceedings became extremely contentious, including a counter suit for divorce by William. In May of 1878, a jury granted the divorce to William, finding his allegations to be true. However, temporary custody of the children was granted to Nancy, with provisions for William to visit them. In November of the same year, William asked for custody of Hiram and Stella, claiming that Nancy did not allow him visitation as the court had ordered. William’s request was granted two months later, in January of 1879. It was appealed by Nancy, holding up implementation. The appeal was denied, but apparently Nancy failed to turn Hiram and Stella over to William, for early the next month, in February, the sheriff was ordered to remove Hiram and Stella from Nancy’s custody and deliver them to William. 65 No further legal actions were taken, and final custody of Stella and Hiram remained with William. Robert Graham says family lore maintains that Nancy Jane packed up all the children on another occasion and attempted to flee the area by wagon, but was intercepted by the sheriff and the two older children were forcibly returned to William.

Unfortunately for the well-being of the children, this divorce was extremely bitter and it generated extreme adversarial feelings. Each litigant charged that the other was cruel and abusive and threatened physical violence. Each claimed that the children were averse to living with the other parent. Even worse for our story, each claimed that the other was physically and mentally cruel to the children, especially to Stella. Allegations in divorce proceedings in the days before “no-fault” divorce were often exaggerated, so we may possibly discount some of the passionate charges and counter charges, but there was clearly a titanic battle of wills and personalities here, and it seems certain that no child could escape unscathed from 4 years of such heated parental animosity.

In 1878-1879, when William was no longer under court orders to remain in Menard County, he moved with Hiram and Stella to Roca Springs, a beautiful but remote location (even today) on the West Fork of Bear Creek in Kimble County.

After a brief stay near Austin, Texas, Nancy and the two children, Alice and Walter, moved to San Antonio, where she lived out her life. She died in 1917, and is buried in City Cemetery No. 1 on East Commerce Street in San Antonio. Her headstone was said to read, “Nannie Graham.” In October of 2002, I confirmed from cemetery records that she is buried there, but I could not find her grave. Many headstones are either illegible or missing.

Alice Conklin, a granddaughter of Nancy Jane Cox Graham, wrote this in 1974, which might be an epitaph on Nancy’s lost tombstone:

Nancy Jane was worn out with grief, too hard work, the injustice of things… My mother had tears in her eyes when she thought of her mother.

Though his ranch was located in Kimble County, William’s longhorn cattle business was conducted throughout the state of Texas. Like his father-in-law Isaac Cox before him, he was frequently gone for weeks, even months, at a time.

The following quotation from a letter Stella wrote in 1884 to her Aunt Marietta Nunley gives some feel for her life in William’s household at Roca Springs:66

Hiram and I are living with Pa; I am his housekeeper; Hiram his cow hunter I have been keeping house over a year … Hiram and I do not get to go to school but very little. Hiram is seventeen and I [am] 15. We have only one near neighbor; the rest are three miles off; my cousin lived with us four years and kept house for Pa but since she left I have kept house for him…Pa is thinking of selling most of his cattle; they are so hard to keep together Hiram has been cowing (hunt the cattle) all the year; but still they are scattered …

Modern-day readers may need to be reminded that land in that part of the country was not fenced in those days. Consequently, it would have been a never-ending and nearly impossible task to keep a herd of valuable cattle together in the dense growth and rugged hills of the area. Little wonder they were still scattered after a year of Hiram’s best efforts. The need for ranchers to identify their cattle on the open range gave rise to the practice of branding them. It was not until around 1900 that the land was sufficiently fenced to contain livestock and prevent free-range grazing and cattle drives over long distances.

This very same young cow hunter, Hiram, managed to undertake some studies at Southwestern University at Georgetown, Texas. He went on to become a circuit-riding Methodist minister, traveling from town to town throughout the region by horseback and buggy to bring the inspiration and comfort of religious services to a sparsely settled area. He is also the father of John Mark Graham whose 1950 notes have been cited here, and the grandfather of Robert Graham, who has contributed important material incorporated into this narrative.

The cousin that Stella refers to, who had spent 4 years keeping house for William, was Loiza Mayes, William Graham’s niece. On December 11, 1879, she wrote a letter to her mother which contains a reference bearing on the divorce:67

Ma ant nanie [Nancy Jane, Stella’s mother] is still agrevate him [William] Hiram and Steler [Stella] mienes [minds, behaves?] as good a they can if she would let them alone they would be like white children.

Through Loiza’s eyes, we can observe the continuing bitterness between William and Nancy, and the strong pull in opposite directions that the children must have been subject to. Loiza seems to be suggesting that Nancy was responsible for disruptive behavior on the part of the children.

As a scout for Ft. McKavett and Ft. Concho, William was known to the northern soldiers as the “rebel guide.” A tintype photo (2.1) of William in this period shows a very presentable man with a clear gaze, an open face, and a look of poise and confidence. Despite an education which might have consisted at most of a year or two of backwoods schooling, William became the first county attorney of Kimble County when it was formed in 1876, and his grandson Ernest W. Wilson reports that the first sessions of court were conducted outdoors under trees. Even today, a plaque near the entrance of the present courthouse lists William as its first county attorney. In our time, such a position seems most unlikely for an uneducated man, but his skill with a six-gun and his fearless character may have been more important in the then-lawless Kimble County.68 William had a reputation as a resolute and fearless man who could take care of himself in rough circumstances.

William at age 48 married his second wife Franziska Menges in 1889. Franziska’s mother, Mary Menges, was born in Germany in 1825. In 1903, with their son, William Anton, they moved to New Mexico, settling on the Rio Bonito in the Sierra Blanca Mountains of Lincoln County, the scene of Billy the Kid’s famous gun fights in 1878-1881. In 1908, they moved to Hot Springs, New Mexico, where the arrival of the three of them doubled the population of that tiny town. Somewhere around 1950, Hot Springs made the remarkable decision to change its name to Truth or Consequences, the name of a very popular radio program of the time.

Finally, the old warrior died at Hot Springs March 3, 1925, at the age of 84 and is buried there. His grandson, Ernest W. Wilson, says that old William greatly enjoyed telling all who would listen about the old days on the frontier, fighting with Indians, brawling on the street and in barrooms, and relating stories of the Old West in Kimble and Menard counties.

Franziska was born around 1862; she died in Austin, Texas, and was buried in Hot Springs, New Mexico, in 1942. On occasion, she lived with the Ernest Wilson family in Abilene, and was known to them as “Aunt Frances.” She also lived at times with John Graham’s family in Uvalde, Houston and Austin, Texas.69

Now, more pieces of the puzzle are in place. We have witnessed the arrival of Isaac W. Cox in Texas in1852, who came from Virginia with Elizabeth Ann and daughters Marietta and Nancy Jane, and son Valentine. Subsequently, William Graham, a returning soldier from the Civil War, wandered onto the Cox premises with the outcome that he soon married Cox’s daughter Nancy Jane. In the course of time, Stella was born to Nancy Jane on a cold, clear Christmas evening in 1869, while the family was taking refuge from Indian raids in an old abandoned Spanish fort.

All that now remains is for us to see how Horace Wilson arrives from England in this small, remote section of Texas where he will become acquainted with Stella when she reaches the age of 19 or thereabouts. To do this, we shall trace one more important thread of the family, the Wilson thread, in order to set the stage for the consequent arrival of the 5 Wilson brothers.

Chapter III … from England to Texas …

My grandfather, Horace Wilson, first set foot on Texas soil in 1885 as a young man of 20. He had gone from London to France, caught a boat there, set sail for New Orleans, and upon his arrival there made his way by wagon to San Antonio. Arriving penniless in San Antonio, he proceeded to walk to Bandera, where he undertook the lowliest of jobs, herding sheep amongst the rocky landscapes of the Texas Hill Country.

Behind him in Greenwich, he left father, mother and 7 brothers and sisters.

His father, Robert Wilson, was born around 1824. He was a farmer near Milnthorpe in Westmoreland County, England, which is in the Lake District, the area of famous poets, Wordsworth and Coleridge. His father before him had been a farmer. I have a photograph (3.1) of Robert in his later years, a nice-looking older gentleman gazing at the camera with a somewhat puzzled look. It is identified in Arthur Wilson’s handwriting as “My paternal grandfather.”

In the 1930’s, English cousins told my uncle Francis Graham Wilson that these early ancestors never quite managed to be successful as farmers, and were often in debt. That may be one reason the younger Robert went as a boy to London where he worked in the dry goods business of an uncle, also named Robert. When Horace was born, his father was employed in the retail dry goods business in Greenwich, Kent. He was identified as a “linen draper” on Horace Wilson’s birth certificate. Horace relates that this business failed and his father received an appointment as a tax collector.

As it happens, the lengthiest and most distinguished ancestry pertaining to the 5 Wilson Brothers of Kimble County, Texas, appears to belong to Maria70 Lalor Nixon-Izod Wilson, my great grandmother, the eldest of 4 children born to Mary Lalor71 and Major William Nickson-Izod. Maria was born in 1837, in Ireland, in the Townland of Grovebeg, which is in the parish of Kilree, which is in the barony of Kells, which is in the County of Kilkenny which is in the province of Leinster. In Roman Catholic designations, Grovebeg is in the parish of Dunnamaggen, in the diocese of Ossory. A description in the mid-1800’s of Kilree is:

3 miles (N.W.) from Knocktopher, on the Road from Kilkenny to Waterford; containing 611 inhabitants. It comprises 1895 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act. Kilree is the residence of T. Shaw, Esq., and Chapel Izod, of W. Izod, Esq.

It is not clear to me how a parish can be said to be the residence of two individuals and at the same time to have a population of 611 people. The Izod holdings in 1876 (referred to generally here as Chapel Izod) were officially listed at 1661 acres, so it may be assumed that many of the 610 other inhabitants of Kilree were tenant farmers and renters and employees of the family.

The greater part of all the information on the ancestry of Horace’s mother has been uncovered through travel and investigation by my cousin Kathleen Izod Wilson and her husband, Jim Thompson.

In the late 1840’s, Major William died unexpectedly, and Mary suddenly found herself the mother of 4 young children with no means of support. At that very time, Ireland was in the midst of the cruelest of many devastating periods of famine that the nation had ever known. It was under these difficult circumstances, in the midst of poverty, famine and bitter religious strife between Catholics and Protestants, that this family decided to make its way to Northern Ireland, and perhaps eventually to Scotland.

A note I have says Mary took her children to Kirkeel, in County Down, Northern Ireland, and raised them there. In time, the children grew and scattered. Maria (b. 1837) made her way to England. Ann (b. 1841) went to Australia. William (b. 1843) lived in Scotland. John (b. 1843) went to Newfoundland. In England, Maria married Robert Wilson and became the mother of 8 children. One of those children was Horace Ernest Wilson, my grandfather. Where Mary spent her last days is unknown.

In brief biographical notes that Horace Wilson wrote late in his life, he stated that his mother’s family can be traced back to the time of William the Conqueror. He offered no details.

Happily, however, sources are available from England and Scotland that do formulate a genealogy for Horace’s mother. These are sources discovered by my cousin, Kathleen, and her husband, Jim.

From England, Mrs. Joan Bright, great great granddaughter of Major William Nickson-Izod maintains that Maria’s ancestry leads back through Major William Nickson-Izod to some of the most proud and prominent families in England and Europe, and then even further back through Edward I, and ultimately to Henry III and Anne of Provence. I will report her principal findings.

From Scotland, we have extensive notes from Mary Mackenzie Nixon, O.B.E. Ms. Nixon died in her 90s in 2003, and her notes were discovered in an archive in Stirling, Scotland, where she had lived. She was also a descendant of Major William Nickson-Izod. Ms. Nixon lists the same first 6 generations going back through Sir Faithful Fortescue, but her notes stop there. I can’t rule out the possibility that one of these assiduous lady genealogists might have obtained her information from the other.

Unfortunately, both these genealogies are offered without sources. Both are based on several decades of study and investigation, but should be taken only as provisional, a starting point for further study. I believe sufficient corroborating evidence exists from several sources for at least the first 3 generations back from Horace’s mother to warrant acceptance of that ancestry.

Maria’s father was born William Nickson, March 1782. His parents were Lorenzo Nickson (1736-1806) and Elizabeth Izod, who married in 1773. Under a deed of settlement, William adopted the name Izod, and was registered as William Nickson Izod at age 17 at Trinity College, Dublin, in 1798.72 For some time his descendants used the name Nickson-Izod, though most eventually came to use the single name, Izod. Both the Nickson and Izod families seem to have originated in England. Both were families that served under or helped finance Cromwell in the 17th century and were later granted lands in Ireland in recognition of their services.

Here following are the generations backward in time from Maria as Joan Bright named them:

Maria

Willam Nickson-Izod+Mary Lalor

Lorenzo Nickson+Elizabeth Izod

Abraham Nickson+Mary Hodson

Lorenzo Hodson+Elizabeth Culme

Arthur Culme+Mary Fortescue

Sir Faithful Fortescue+Anne Moore

John Fortescue+Susanna Chichester

Sir John Chichester+Gertrude Courtenay

Sir William Courtenay+Mary Gainsford (b 1499)

Sir John Gainsford+Anne Haute

Sir Richard Haute (1438-1487)+Elizabeth Tyrell

And on back to

Edward I (b 1239)

Henry III (b 1216)+Eleanor of Provence.

Who would not feel at least momentary delight upon discovering an ancestor named … Sir Faithful Fortescue?

Not only did the family name change from Nickson to Izod, a similar shift in identity is the change of name of the Nickson-Izod landholding. In the mid-1600’s, Richard Izod and his wife Mary Dethick, of Gloucestershire, England, received a grant of land from Charles II in the area of Kilfera, Ireland.73 (Land grants to the Nickson family were originally located in County Wicklow, Ireland. They later moved to County Kilkenny.) However, when Mary Izod died, the land devolved to their only child. Accordingly, when Richard had children with a second wife, there was no land for those children to inherit. Their son, Lionel, solved his problem of being landless by marrying Elizabeth Cochrane (or Coghran) who inherited a large property called Grovebeg from her maternal grandfather, John Kevan. The property was then inherited by Kevan Izod (spouse unknown), whose daughter, Elizabeth, married Lorenzo Nickson and inherited Grovebeg. The land then went to Abraham Nickson, then to William Izod (nee Nickson) and on to successive heirs. At some point in this chain of events, just as the Nickson family name became Izod, the Grovebeg property was renamed and became Chapel Izod, most likely by Lionel Izod (d. 1742), who certainly rebuilt the “big house” according to a stone in the chimney base.

The Izod line, leading to Elizabeth Izod who married Lorenzo Nickson, is pieced together as follows, based on information from Joan Bright and Mary Nixon and Alan Izod:

Lorenzo Nickson+Elizabeth Izod

Lionel Izod+Elizabeth Cochrane (or Coghran)

Richard Izod+Ann Brabant

Rev Henry Izod of Stanton b abt 1595

Henry Izod of Todington b abt 1568; d 1632

Henry Izod of Todington d 1597

The notes of Mrs. Bright and Ms. Nixon concur with the ancestry back to Richard Izod. Their notes do not go further back. The source of the additional generations is Alan Izod of Cheltenham, England, who has studied Izod genealogy for almost 3 decades. He says “…there is absolutely no proof but everything points to [Richard Izod] being the son of Rev. Henry Izod, Rector of Stanton.” Accepting this connection adds 2 further generations.

The tenuous and difficult circumstances of Mary Lalor remain to be amplified. It appears that she may have been the daughter of a tenant farmer in Kilfera. In any event, after Major William Nickson-Izod’s wife, Darkay Hemsworth, died in 1836, the major began a relationship with Mary that lasted until his death a decade later – a relationship enduring enough to produce 4 children, and substantial enough so that some provisions were made for Mary and the children by name in the Major’s will. Though the Major had inherited the large house (see photo 3.15) and considerable lands of Chapel Izod and lived there himself during this period, Mary lived at Vinesgrove, a small farm dwelling elsewhere on the estate74, with her children. In the Major’s will, she received the right to continue living there as long as she wished, and an “annuity” of 50 pounds yearly. The children each were to receive a lump-sum settlement at age 21, ranging from 400 pounds for Maria to 250 pounds for the youngest, John. I have a copy of the relevant parts of the Major’s will that document these provisions specifically. Because Mary had been Catholic, the will specified that all rights granted to Mary and the children would be terminated if the children were to become Catholic or if Mary married.75

Mrs. Nixon says that when Major William died, his son from his marriage, Lorenzo, inherited the estate. She says that Lorenzo did not honor the Major’s will. I am inclined to believe this, as it is indirectly corroborated by Horace in autobiographical pages he wrote late in life, where he says his mother had been unfairly cheated of her inheritance. It was a cruel fate that befell Mary and her children at that time. It was a period of horrible famine and poverty. Further, the terrible nature of Protestant-Catholic tensions surrounding her life would have been unbearable, so that escaping to Northern Ireland was a necessity for the family on several counts. It seems almost certain that Mary’s extended relationship with the staunchly Protestant Major would have caused bitter resentment toward her in the Catholic community she had once been part of, and would have made it impossible for her to build a new life in those surroundings. Marriage prospects would have been nil. Likewise, few if any doors in the Protestant world would have been open to her. Sadly, she was between two worlds, at home in neither. It was an untenable position for her and no doubt worse for her children. Hence, their departure for Northern Ireland, where new beginnings might be possible.

As may be seen in photo 3.2, Maria (most likely pronounced Mar-EYE-ah) was a handsome woman, well dressed, beautifully groomed, with a patrician expression that seems to reflect both resolve and sadness. If there was sadness in her demeanor, it would not be hard to understand, for Maria had seen her family uprooted at the height of the potato famine in an Ireland which as a nation had become a victim of natural disaster and shameful religious laws.

The potato famine in Ireland of the 1840’s was alone enough to cause heartbreak and tragedy, and indeed did so for millions and millions of the population, with a disproportionately heavy effect those of Catholic faith. In the County of Kilkenny, where Maria and family lived at the time, population dropped 22% in this decade, from 202420 to 158746, due to a high death rate from starvation and a high rate of emigration. The genesis of the famine evolved over time as farmers in Ireland gave up virtually all other crops in favor of the potato, and gave up virtually all other varieties of potatoes to concentrate on the one variety that produced a higher yield. Then, this one variety became subject to a blight that reached a peak in 1845 when 90% or more of the potato crop was destroyed. Because half of the population was wholly dependent upon agriculture for survival, and because the potato was just about the only crop, the blight was a humanitarian disaster of biblical proportions. During the years 1845-1849, 1 out of 9 people in Ireland died. In Kilkenny, 27840 deaths were recorded in the period 1841-1851, the peak year being 1849 with 4055 deaths. The population of Ireland dropped from 8 million to 6.5 million in this decade. In July of 1847, it was reported that 3 million people in Ireland were dependent upon soup kitchens for survival.

The dire famine across Ireland, coupled with the harsh Penal Laws in effect for more than a century, added up to intolerable conditions for much of the population. Before looking into these subjects for purposes of understanding Maria’s life a little better, I only dimly understood how dire were the circumstances faced by Irish Catholics of the period. Though I was raised a Protestant, my feelings are that these Penal Laws represent the shameful and opprobrious imposition by a foreign Protestant Government of severely unjust restraints upon the political, social, economic, cultural, educational and religious rights of a Catholic majority in Ireland. Though instituted in the 17th century, their impact was still being felt into the 19th century.

Religious strife is an ongoing fact of life in Ireland, and it may be made specific to Chapel Izod. I came across the following email on the internet:

Posted by: MarieEBooth Date: February 06, 2002 at 02:52:05
In Reply to: Re: Marnell family history in Ireland by Mary (Marnell) Mcwilliams of 88

Hello Mary, I read your posting relating to your family being burned out in the Civil uprisings in Ireland. I have just read a recently published book by Terence Dooley entitled “The decline of the big house in Ireland”. ISB No. 0-86327-850-7. I obtained a copy through the Public Library Service here in England. It deals extensively with the burning of hundreds and hundreds of some of the most beautiful houses and their contents of treasures by the I.R.A. They not only burned the “big houses” [of Protestants] they also targeted homes and businesses of Catholics who dared to disagreed with their plans for a Republic.


My mother’s family, Catholics living in County Kilkenny, were in favour of continued union with Britain and they also suffered at the hands of the I.R.A. with the result that most of the family emigrated to England where they lived happily for the rest of their lives.

The “big house” Chapel Izod, where some of the family worked, and were well looked after, in the house and on the land, was burned to the ground by the I.R.A. in the 1920’s, leaving the family without means of work in a very rural area. The book is factual and informative and is backed up by recognised reference sources. Unlike many books I have read on Irish history which tend to be biased and uncorroborated. A good read. Marie

The present owners of Chapel Izod offer a different account of events. They say that their family purchased the house around 1920, (1918 according to Alan Izod) and the contents were sold at auction in the 1920s. The house was presumably left vacant at that time. Their recollection is that the house was burned as late as the 1940’s, possibly by vandals or vagrants. In any event, the likelihood that religious strife could have been an important element in the departure of Mary Lalor and her children is amply illustrated by the conditions expressed in the email above from Marie Booth and in the book she refers to.

According to Horace, his mother had some education in a Protestant school in nearby Waterford, not far from Chapel Izod. He further indicated that she had other advantages of upbringing that elevated her appearance and manner above the average level of that time and place. Horace loved his mother dearly, according to my uncle Francis, though he seldom spoke of his father.

As the brutal circumstances in the lives of Mary Lalor and family in Ireland have slowly unfolded upon my consciousness, they leave me with a grim sense of empathy for their plight. Poor Mary Lalor, I think. Homeless, penniless, unwelcome anywhere at perhaps age 30 with 4 young children. Cheated out of inheritance. What might she have done for food, clothing, shelter, warmth – not to mention health, medicine, the slightest enjoyment? At least she made her way toward a better life in Northern Ireland. Poor children, I think. What harsh lives under such deprivation. Pathetic, ragged band of outcasts. Not one stayed in Ireland. Maria went to London. William went to Scotland. John went to Newfoundland. Ann went to Australia. Anywhere, it seems, but Ireland.

Horace began an autobiography shortly before his death. Surviving pages of this autobiography are quoted in “By Llano Water.”76 In it, he writes

My mother was educated at Waterford, Ireland, in a Protestant school, but when she was sent to England I do not know. I have heard her tell that she was a ward in Chancery for a number of years and that the legal profession and her guardian succeeded in getting a considerable share of her little inheritance.

This makes me wonder. Did Horace know the horrible details of Maria’s life in Ireland? Perhaps he did not. Perhaps not even Maria grasped the entire story.

Horace also wrote in his autobiography that his mother had visited him “at the ranch outside of Junction on the North Llano.” The time would have been between the years 1897-1905. By this time Horace had not seen his mother for 15-20 years. Horace was by then an attorney and involved in important enterprises in Junction. She would have been proud, though she might have been startled at the raw nature of Junction (photo 3.9a) at the time, compared to the sights around London that she was accustomed to. Even in the late 1920s, rattlesnakes and men carrying guns were not a rare sight in the streets of Junction.77 She was no doubt surprised to find a handful of affluent English people in the area. See photos 3.9a, 3.9b.

At the time Horace was born, on February 11, 1865, Robert and Maria were living at 9 London Street, Greenwich, the family address appearing on his birth certificate.78 The father is Robert Wilson, occupation Linen Draper; the mother is named “Maria Wilson formerly Lalor.” At this moment, the exact identification of Maria’s maiden name is not settled. Horace lists her name as Maria Nixon on a notation he made on his own marriage license years later. Horace elsewhere refers to an Uncle John Nixon, Maria’s brother, who was in business in St. John, Newfoundland in 1873. The name “Lawler” shows up later on a wonderful photograph of Maria (3.2), where the complete identification is “Maria Lawler Nixon-Izod Wilson.”79 Mrs. Joan Bright believes the name is Lalor or Lawlor. All of these variations of the spelling occur widely in the Irish population. Ms. Nixon also finds all 3 spellings of the name. My guess is that it was originally Lalor.

The name Izod has continued on. Horace named one of his sons Robert Izod Wilson in recognition of her. Robert, in turn, named a daughter Kathleen Izod Wilson.

Horace states in a letter of December 11, 1907, that his mother died on November 15 of that year, probably in Greenwich. She was 70. Horace’s father had died in 1894, also at age 70, and he was buried in Greenwich Cemetery, Shooter’s Hill.

In 1885, at the age of 19, while a student at the City of London College,80 Horace read an advertising brochure of the Southern Pacific Railway offering what seemed to be virtually free land in Texas. He was captured by the lure of land in the West, as were many Englishmen at this time.81 Horace came to the United States on a tramp steamer, disembarked in New Orleans and made his way to Texas by wagon. In a newspaper article about him in a San Antonio newspaper of November 19, 1928, it is reported that he arrived penniless in San Antonio and walked from there to Bandera, some 50 miles along present routes, where he found work as a sheepherder. He settled first, it appears, on Pipe Creek. His earnings were $10 a month. Within a couple of years, Horace relocated to Kimble County. He later refers to “…the old Braggins ranch on the head of Bear Creek in Kimble County, where I … worked.”82

Francis reports that a brother, William Wilson, came with him to Texas for a while but soon returned to England and later became a leader in the conservative movement. Francis says this brother of Horace wrote a book about 1909 called “The Menace of Socialism.” In fact, a search by Robert Rawdon Wilson did uncover this reference: W. Lawler Wilson published ‘The Menace of Socialism.’ London:  G. Richard, 1909.  520 pp. +xii. 

That a brother named William came to Texas with Horace is a complete surprise, known to me only through this single reference and not mentioned or confirmed elsewhere. Quite to the contrary, it is common knowledge that another brother, Frank came to Texas with or at about the same time as Horace. However, some kind of falling out occurred between the brothers, and the bad blood of that rupture carried on down to the next generation, where Ernest disliked Frank intensely and Francis elects not to mention him in “By Llano Water.” 83 It cannot be a case of referring to the same person by a different name, since Frank remained in Texas and died there many years later.

Chapter V is devoted to the life and activities of Horace Ernest Wilson.

Now, at last, the stage is fully set. Horace and Stella are both located in the Bear Creek area of Kimble County, Texas, within the same few square miles of each other. He is a bright, handsome young man with a future. She is an intelligent, attractive, serious-minded daughter of a longhorn rancher. They meet, and what happens next will not come as a surprise.

Chapter IV … Horace and Stella wed … their family, where they lived …

Though Horace came originally to Bandera County from England in 1885, he moved to nearby Kimble County around 1887, working on “the old Braggins ranch” on Bear Creek. Considering that Stella was living at this time at nearby Roca Springs on the West Fork of Bear Creek, the stage was now set for this young couple to meet. Perhaps 4 or 5 miles downstream from Roca Springs the West Fork joins Bear Creek. There stood the little 1-room school (photo 4.6) that Stella attended. Perhaps it was there at some event that Horace first saw the bright young girl that he was to marry in March of 1890.

We do have a letter dated December 12, 1888, in Stella’s own handwriting, that suggests they had not yet met and also provides a glimpse into her frame of mind at the time. Stella writes to her Cousin Annie Nunley:

I feel now almost like an old woman, most girls have a fresh hopeful feeling about them, but I have not.

These do not sound like the thoughts of an 18-year-old girl who will be married within just 15 months. Thus, we might infer that Stella has not yet met Horace, or if so, that their relationship has not progressed to the point where it has brought hopeful feelings to her life. Perhaps her lack of hope is no more than a figure of speech expressing a young girl’s dismay at her lack of prospects for the future. Or perhaps it expresses an underlying lack of optimism about life grounded in the loneliness and bitter atmosphere of her broken home life dating from age 5 onward.

In any event, by March 18, 1890, Horace Ernest Wilson and Stella Jane Graham have indeed met, and have agreed to marry. That is the date of their marriage license, which was recorded in Book 1, page 63, of the Kimble Country marriage records. The marriage service was performed on March 20, 1890, by E. S. Alley, County Judge of Kimble County, and duly attested to by him. The location of the wedding is not indicated, though the license was issued in Junction City.

I have a wonderful photograph (5.3) of the young couple out for the equivalent of a Sunday drive in the country: a leisurely horseback ride in fine attire through the rugged countryside. A stream runs though the picture, most likely West Fork of Bear Creek, the area of Stella’s one-room school house and where Horace and Stella met.84 I can’t say for sure whether this is a picture of them at the time of their wedding, but it is definitely of the period, and the couple does seem similar in appearance to how they look in the picture (5.2) which their eldest son, Ernest, says was taken just after their wedding. Horace sports a fine mustachio in both pictures, and Stella has quite the same upright, formal appearance in both. The background of the picture gives some idea of the terrain of the area – hilly, rocky, thick with underbrush. These are the only two photographs I have of them alone. More than any other picture, this one of them on horseback captures them in their natural element, the Hill Country. It pleases me to think that his picture could have been taken during their courtship.

For a little while after their marriage the couple was employed in some capacity by a Mrs. Jaques in Junction City. This I learned from Ernest’s inscription on a photograph of them (5.2) in 1890. Mrs. Jaques is just one more of the surprising number of English people who lived in Kimble County during this period.

From that time onward, however, I had little knowledge at the beginning of this project about where they actually lived until their later years in San Antonio.

Fortunately, I came across an excellent piece of evidence that allowed me to piece together a reasonably accurate overview of Horace and Stella’s whereabouts during the next few years. On the back of the original marriage license of Horace and Stella, Horace has meticulously entered the birth dates and birth places of their first three children.85 His notations give three different locations for the birth places of the first 3 sons:

Ernest Walter bn Jan 14, 1891, in Brady, McCulloch County, Texas

Arthur William bn July 20, 1892, in Sherwood, Irion Co., Texas

Robert Izod bn Feb 17, 1894, in Junction City, Kimble Co., Texas

Discovering these entries proved a startling surprise to me, and simultaneously created a mystery. All along, I had thought that the lives of Horace and Stella before moving to San Antonio in 1914 fell neatly into two broad categories: the early years on “the ranch” in Bandera County, and the later years in Junction. I had thought the first three children were born on “the ranch” and the last two in Junction. But the case is more complicated. “The ranch” in Bandera existed only decades later, but it was never a place where the family lived. Instead, the first three children were born in three different locations, not the one place I had incorrectly assumed.

As it turns out, the 4th and 5th sons were born in still other locations, so, contrary to my beliefs, each of the 5 sons was born in a location different from each other and different from what I had thought. Only child 4, Francis, was born on “the ranch” as I had once believed they all had, and it was a ranch on the North Llano River in Kimble County, not in Bandera County. 5th son Baten was born in the house at 909 N. Llano Street (photo 3.8) that they moved to after leaving the ranch. All that became clear only after an investigation was triggered from reading Horace’s notes on the marriage license. My earlier impressions had been all wrong.

In defense of my mistake in this regard, I will say that even Francis, the 4th son, made a similar mistake. In 1938, 66 years closer to events than I am today, he writes in “By Llano Water” that his three older brothers were born in Brady.

But as learned from Horace’s careful notation on his marriage license, only the first son, Ernest, was born in Brady. That was on January 14, 1891.

The place where the couple lived in Brady is unclear, but Francis says that Horace edited a country newspaper there. More will be said about all of Horace’s activities in the following chapter devoted to him.

From Brady, Horace went to Sherwood, Texas, near San Angelo, to start a

newspaper. The 2nd son, Arthur, was born there on July 20, 1892.

The 3rd son, Robert, writes that he was born on Main Street in Junction in a small house between the old Chase house and the Methodist church.86 The date of his birth was February 17, 1894. It is unclear how long the family may have maintained this address.

In about 1897, Horace purchased a ranch on the North Llano River, where the family lived for approximately 8 years. The 4th son, Francis, was born on this ranch November 26, 1901.

Francis Wilson writes in “By Llano Water:”

if you look to the left you will see the land where I was born in 1901. There is the old family place. It [the North Llano Ranch] is where my father ranched, while in the town not too far away he practiced law. It was there that my older brothers learned to run cattle; it was from there that they went to school.

My uncle Francis writes these memories about life on the North Llano ranch:

..in the fall, we usually killed a hog at the time of the first norther [a bitter cold wind sweeping down from the northern plains] … we made our own wash soap, our smokehouse was used to cure a large portion of the winter meat; practically all sewing was done at home; we did our own canning and preserving; there was always a vegetable garden; and baker’s products were taboo.

Next, in 1905, Horace sold the North Llano Ranch, and the family moved into Junction, where Horace had built a lovely large new home at 909 North Llano Street. (See photo 3.8.) It was at this address on May 23, 1907, that 5th son, Baten, was born.

Discovering Horace’s presence in Sherwood was a complete surprise to me and a revealed a mystery that took considerable detective work to solve.

In this regard, I will devote a few lines to illustrating the complexity of unraveling small bits of genealogical history. By a circuitous route it was discovered when and why Horace went to Sherwood, Texas. The first clue appeared on the marriage license mentioned above, which indirectly revealed the otherwise unknown presence of Horace and Stella in Sherwood by listing that town as Arthur’s place of birth. This contradicted what I thought had been the case, and gave rise to questions. Those questions led to the second discovery: Kathleen Wilson unearthed a copy of Ernest Wilson’s “Buffalo Gap Messenger” in archives in Austin, Texas, which mentioned that Horace had started a newspaper called “The Irion” in Sherwood. This little piece of information had been nearby but undiscovered all along, and was only found hundreds of miles away by Kathleen decades after its initial publication. Then, based on the dating of a photograph of Ernest taken by a San Angelo photographer, I surmised this move probably would have occurred in the year 1891, sometime between March and June.87 That effort to establish the timing was conjecture, but was later factually verified. From telephone calls to Sherwood and Mertzon, Texas, (a few miles from Sherwood) I finally was directed to a lady who had a great interest in historical information of the area. She was Mrs. Joyce Gray, who had fragments of information from a San Angelo newspaper of 1891 saying that two men from Brady, Mr. Shore and Mr. Wilson, were bringing a printing press to Sherwood to begin publishing a newspaper in June, 1891.88 She thought the name of the paper was “The Sherwood Advocate,” not “The Irion” as Ernest Wilson had mentioned.

Mrs. Gray gave me this information about the thriving city of Sherwood:

In 1891, Sherwood was a rapidly growing town of some 400 people. It had 5 saloons and 5 churches on Main Street. There was not a vacant house to be found. New people were arriving weekly from other locations, including Buffalo Gap.89 In 1909, the Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railway passed Sherwood by, urged by the local community leaders to go elsewhere so as to protect the morals of their children. The Sherwood Advocate moved in 1910 a few miles to nearby Mertzon, where the railroad unwelcome in Sherwood had put down its tracks, and became the Mertzon Star. Today, in 2002, Sherwood has approximately 100 people.90

It is a pleasure to contemplate the grand name of that railroad which brought about the near-demise of a small town by veering a few miles from its planned course to pass through a nearby town. Although the town of Sherwood barely exists today because the railroad passed it by almost 100 years ago, the residents there may find some poetic justice in that the importantly-named “Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railway” has long since become defunct, no doubt absorbed by some larger railroad.

A final piece of the puzzle fell into place when I called Angelo State University in San Angelo, and made further inquiries. The school maintains a West Texas collection. I spoke to a very helpful young lady named Suzanne Campbell who informed me that the paper was called “The Irion County Advocate.” Ms. Campbell sent me a copy of the page of the San Angelo Standard of June, 1891, that carried news of the first appearance of “The Irion County Advocate.” Barely legible, the item reads in part:

The Irion County Advocate, published at Sherwood by Messrs. Shore & Wilson, made its appearance for the first time in due form this week.

Of great incidental interest to me are some of the other separate items carried on that same page of the San Angelo Standard:

Capt. P. McHugh of Sonora is in the city. The Captain has 4,000 head of muttons on his ranch, but like a sensible man, he will hold for better prices.

Mr. Childress of Devil’s River is here with 3200 head of sheep for sale. The STANDARD would advise Mr. C. to drive them back to the ranch for the present.

A.J. Knowlin, manager of the sheep department of Swift & Co., Chicago … says that fat sheep will bring good prices in Chicago, but that a man is very foolish to ship anything now that is not extra fat.

If you refer to photo 5.13, you will see a picture of Horace and Stella and four sons, shortly after Francis was born, which would place the picture at about 1902. On the back of the photo, second son Arthur says that this house is on the North Llano River, and refers to it as the “ranch house.”

Photo 3.8a shows the house Horace and Stella occupied in town in the last years of their stay in Junction. Frederica Wyatt91 says that this house on North Llano Street was later converted to use as a boys’ home and burned to the ground in 1984.

The arrow in photo 3.9 points to the location of Horace’s house in Junction.

After something like 8 or 9 years at the address on North Llano Street, Horace, Stella and the 5 Wilson sons moved to San Antonio in December of 1914. There is no direct information to explain why they made the decision to move from Junction to San Antonio.

I must confess that the move represents something of a mystery to me, and I believe it must have been associated with difficult events in the family. Francis writes:

I can still remember vividly how in 1914 in December we packed the family belongings, put some of them in the Overland car, and drove away to San Antonio to live…. I was never to live on the Llano again. Yet there is much about this that I never want to tell… let us permit the tragedies of humanity, even when our own, to rest where they might have been left behind.

San Antonio was the cultural capital of Texas at the time. It had a proud and splendid history. It would surely have been an attractive destination for a promising young family, but almost-50 doesn’t seem to me an age one associates with uprooting a large family and starting a new life in a large city – especially when there is no visible consequence of the move in the ensuing years that suggests a self-evident motive for moving. Nothing occurs following the move which leads one to say, “Aha, now I see why they left the prestige and prosperity and prominence they enjoyed in Junction.”

In a later reading of Francis’s thoughts on this move, I note that he feels the same way: that is, the timing and the advantages of the move do not strike him as in Horace’s favor:

It is said in the family that it would have been better to stay on the Llano and hold to the land. Most always this is the best advice, especially for a man of 50 who had spent 30 years on what had been only so recently Texas frontier.

A little further on, he finds the heart of why this move was wrong for Horace. It beautifully and sadly expressed:

My father’s ability had expanded most perfectly near to the land. He was near his ranches; he lived in a society that he understood thoroughly and in which his competitive powers had been trained to sharpness. First of all, he was too old to make the change… But beyond that, he had acquired his spiritual stature on the land, and when he went to San Antonio the land was left behind… he should never have left the land.

However, Horace’s connection with Junction was not completely severed. For quite a few years following his move to San Antonio in 1914 he maintained a law office in the Junction state Bank Building (which he owned) and advertised regularly in the Junction Eagle. Likewise, his businesses appeared to continue successfully there.

Though speculation may be fruitless, any attempt to understand the lives of these people requires some effort to understand the causes that played a part in such a major decision — moving to a new location in the absence of any easily identifiable motivation to do so.

First of all, there may have been some difficulty or decline in Horace’s affairs in the period just before the move to San Antonio in 1914. In a letter written on September 10 of 1913, 2nd son Arthur makes ominous references to severe, but unnamed circumstances in Horace’s affairs. I will quote from that letter in the following chapter related to Horace.

In another letter of the period young Arthur inquires about a “bank election.” Since Horace was president of the local bank at the time, there might be some connecting link between Horace’s difficulties and the bank election and the move to San Antonio.

Next, Arthur drops out of college for the academic year 1913-14, in an action which appears to be in consideration of Horace’s unidentified difficulties.

Arthur did return to school for the 1914-1915 school year, but a notation in 1914 in the dean’s file of that school tersely states, “Father hard pressed.”

When I look forward to the lives of Horace and Stella in San Antonio, I see that Stella became active and prominent, whereas Horace limited himself to practicing law and did not engage there in the numerous high-visibility entrepreneurial activities that made him a leading citizen in Junction. He was no longer in touch with the land in the same vital way. In other words, the large arena of religious and social causes in San Antonio brought rewards of growth and accomplishment to Stella; however, there is no evidence that Horace flourished in any way there. If semi-retirement was what he wished at that stage of life, would he have chosen a wrenching move to a city to achieve that? That seems doubtful to me.

In fact, by maintaining an active practice in Junction after moving to San Antonio, it seems to me that Horace affirms that that his greater affinity is associated with Junction, lending support to the possibility that the move might possibly have been at Stella’s insistence.

Of some significance, in my view, we have a statement in Stella’s own handwriting, from a speech 92 to one of her groups in San Antonio. The speech is surprisingly negative toward small-town life, considering that she, herself, spent the first 45 years of her life in rural and small-town settings. By her own admission, Stella had unequivocal views on church and social matters, and was outspoken in voicing them. Her speech makes it clear that she found much cause for disappointment in this regard in Junction. This leads me to think that over time she might have become alienated from the very community leaders in Junction that she wanted to be counted among. (This is a pattern that Ernest exhibited later in Abilene. When he disagreed with church elders and they would not see things his way, he left that church and started a new one. He did that twice.) Though what Stella says in her speech may be perfectly correct, it nonetheless overtly challenges local leadership and depicts small-town life unflatteringly. It seems likely that Stella might not have been able or willing to conceal her disapproval (as Ernest could not do later), which, instead of achieving the corrective measures she sought, might have instead earned her a cool reception in circles where acceptance was most important to her. Thus, she could have become disillusioned with life in the small town and instigated the move to San Antonio.

I thought, perhaps, that Stella might have had a desire to move to San Antonio in order to be near her mother, Nancy Jane, age 64 at that time in 1914, who was living there. But Arthur writes in a letter to Francis dated September, 1956, “Mamma lived in San Antonio without getting in touch with her mother.”

A final possible motive for moving to San Antonio might have been to provide better cultural and educational opportunities for the two younger sons, Francis and Baten who were 13 and 7, respectively. In this regard, results were mixed, only partially positive.

However, the connotation of Francis’s shrouded phrase, “…the tragedies of humanity, even when our own,” in connection with the family’s move, leaves open the possibility that altogether different matters may have been the primary causation in the move to San Antonio.

Whatever the reason for moving, after about 4 years in San Antonio, an unexpected scenario unfolds, surprising to me because it seems completely out of character with everything I thought I knew of Horace and Stella and their devotion to their 5 sons: their marriage begins to experience severe difficulties, leading ultimately to its dissolution. Divorce documents reveal that at the beginning of 1918, they had ceased living under one roof. They divided all joint property in October of 1918, in a manner that was deemed fair by Stella. In late 1919, Horace filed for divorce, after 29 years of marriage to Stella. The divorce was granted either in late 1919 or very early 1920.

We can’t know for sure, but we might wonder: did the unraveling of their marriage begin back in Junction? Might something of that sort have played a role in the move to San Antonio? This is a possibility that cannot be ignored. In fact, in a letter Stella wrote in 1924 (see Chapter VI), remarking on dire circumstances in her life in the period 1906-1907, we may find the seeds of the estrangement that came to full fruition more than a decade later. The significance of that letter will be discussed in the chapter devoted to Stella.

For the moment, we will leave these sad circumstances behind us and turn our attention to Horace and Stella separately as individuals, and consider their lives and accomplishments, and what more we can understand about them.

Chapter V … Horace Ernest Wilson, Esquire …

Horace was an enterprising young man. At age 20, he came to the United States in 1885 from England on a tramp steamer to New Orleans, and made the journey to San Antonio by wagon.

An article in a San Antonio newspaper of November 19, 1928, features Horace and his son Robert as successful law-firm partners. The story declares that he arrived penniless in San Antonio and walked some 50 miles to Bandera where, full of optimism, he took a job herding sheep. His son Francis says he earned $10 per month in that capacity. It was 24 hours a day, working outdoors, drifting with the sheep, sleeping on the ground, and putting his blanket on of a bed of rocks in rainy weather so the water could drain away beneath him.

It is a touching close to the circle of Horace’s life in Texas to observe that he lived his last days as a major landowner in Bandera County, but sad and alone.

The newspaper article depicts Horace’s life as a Texas version of the classic American story: a man arrives with empty pockets on these shores in the nineteenth century, seeking opportunity; he forges his way under difficult circumstances to educate himself, to achieve professional and economic success; a major goal is to provide education and opportunities for his children.

By 1887, the tax roll for Bandera County shows that he had acquired 40 acres of land, 2 horses, 85 head of cattle and 3 other “miscellaneous property.”

By 1889, he had moved to Kimble County and was listed on the tax roll there, where his property now consisted of a carriage, 15 horses, 45 head of cattle and 150 sheep. This would have been the period when he met and courted Stella. A carriage would have been a splendid possession with which to impress a young lady.

Some 5 years after his arrival in the Hill Country, he married Stella Jane Graham, herself barely 20 at the time, the intelligent, attractive daughter of a handsome, tough, unpolished longhorn cattle trader in the area (2.1). Stella’s photograph taken in 1890 (4.1) at the approximate time of her marriage shows a lovely young girl with fine features, a serious mien, an alert expression, a firm gaze directed over the photographer’s left shoulder. She appears to be evaluating something, not certain yet whether it pleases her. It is not difficult at all to see why Horace’s head could be turned by this fetching young lady with an intriguing touch of skepticism in her gaze.

After he and Stella were married in 1890, Horace worked for a brief while in Junction, and then went to Brady, Texas, where he edited a country newspaper. Francis says that he set his own type, he wrote his own stories, and he no doubt swept the floors, as well. Also, according to Francis, Horace dreamed of literary achievement at this time. In “By Llano Water,” Francis quotes a short story written by Horace, with a frontier Texas setting. I enjoyed the story and thought it well done. Ernest Wilson, Horace’s 1st son, was born in Brady in 1891.

Horace’s enterprising nature is illustrated by his next move. Along with a man named Shore, he bought a printing press, and opened a newspaper in the promising little town of Sherwood, Texas. The press was purchased in San Angelo, Texas, about 35 miles from Sherwood, and it was delivered by freight wagon.

Probably in 1893, Horace moved to Junction, Texas, where he took over the local paper, “The Junction Clipper.” He changed the name of the paper to “The Kimble County Citizen,” and an issue of the paper dated March 8, 1894, declares: “Published every Thursday by Horace E. Wilson, Editor and proprietor.”

During this period Horace somehow managed to extend his education and assumed the role of school teacher. He served for many years as Trustee of the Junction Public School System.

Not satisfied, Horace began the study of law under preceptors Judge Alley and Judge Williamson, early-day lawyers of Junction, and was admitted in 1897 to practice law in the State of Texas.93

In the same year, Horace bought a beautiful ranch property on the North Llano River, just a few miles outside of Junction. Pictures 5.13 and 5.14 show the family there in 1902 not long after the birth of 4th son, Francis. It is not known whether the ranch house was built by Horace or was in existence at the time he bought the ranch. The house burned to the ground sometime between 1905 and 1929. Through searching deeds and physical exploration, we (cousin Kathleen and her husband, Jim, and I) were able to locate a woman now in her 80’s whose family has owned the North Llano site of Horace’s ranch since the 1920’s. She pointed out a place where she used to play as a child, finding shards of glass and burnt coins and other objects, which she felt certain was the actual site of the burned-down ranch house. The topography matched the appearance of the photos we have of the ranch house. There was evidence of a foundation there. I am convinced we were able to stand on the actual ground where Horace and Stella lived from approximately 1897 to 1905. See photo 5.10. Photos 5.9 and 5.11 were taken in October, 2002, on the land of the old North Llano ranch.

Horace sold “The Kimble County Citizen” somewhere about the time he began the practice of law. Subsequent to this, the name of the newspaper was changed to “The Junction Eagle.”

In 1898 Horace was admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of Texas.

In March 20, 1903, the Llano River Irrigation and Milling Company was chartered in the State of Texas. Horace E. Wilson was one of the 5-member board of directors. The purpose of the company was “To construct, maintain and operate dams, reservoirs, lakes, wells, flumes, laterals, siphons and other necessary appurtenances for the purpose of irrigation, millings and city water works, with the right to sell water for all such purposes.”

An advertisement in the Junction Eagle of December 19, 1913, lists the Llano River Irrigation and Milling Company as “… owners of Junction Water Works, Cotton Gin, Grist Mill, Saw Mill” and sellers of “water for all purposes.”

Somewhere in this period, Horace formed the “Junction Ice and Light Company,” telephone number 73, where he is listed on the company letterhead as Manager, though I believe he was also owner.94 His brother Frank was listed as Secretary. It was news to me that it was an ice and light company, since I had only ever heard it referred to as the “ice plant.” I can still remember seeing sepia pictures taken there, with giant iron spoked wheels and great loops of belts running from wheel to wheel turning equipment and causing things to happen. I hope one day to find the photo albums containing those pictures, albums which were fixtures in the house I grew up in. (I did later find this album at the Buffalo Gap Historic Village, which was originated by Ernest Wilson in about 1957.)

Advertisements over time in the Junction Eagle for the Ice and Electric Company offer lighting systems for sale (“We can furnish you with the very best light known for any home”) and ice for sale (“Special rates to ranchmen in large quantities … We are going to install necessary equipment to make Crystal Ice”).

(I can’t refrain from this brief interjection: Numerous ads in the papers I browsed through in the 1911-1914 period were promoting Kodak film to prospective users who were referred to as “Kodakers.”)

(Another interjection: An advertisement in the Junction paper February, 1914, announced performances on the 24th and 25th by the famous Russian Ballerina, Anna Pavlova, in the Grand Opera House of San Antonio.)

Though Horace had come to Texas to be a rancher, his energies were becoming more and more focused upon his law practice, real estate activities, and business dealings. No doubt for this reason he decided to build a home in the town of Junction. There on a parcel of land that is even today part of the “Wilson” subdivision, he built a large home for his family. The photograph of this home (3.8a) shows a handsome structure. The design is attractive, and the impression is of clean lines, spaciousness, ample size – all without ostentation. Sadly, on January 5, 1984, the Junction Eagle reported that the house had burned to the ground:

A bit of Junction’s history was destroyed last week as a conflagration of flames literally consumed one of the local remaining landmark homes. The structure was designed and built sometime after the turn of the century by Horace E. Wilson, an Englishman by birth.

A local resident recalls that Mrs. Wilson was opposed to the English style of architecture, but her husband stubbornly refused to abandon his plans to construct the imposing and multi-gabled structure.

A few lines of biographical information follow in the article:

He was the first president of the first bank organized in the county. Being somewhat of an entrepreneur, he had extensive real estate holdings in the county and was considered one of its leading citizens.

Mrs. Wilson, a product of the Texas frontier, was Stella Jane Graham before her marriage in 1890. She was born in the old Presidio de San Saba where her family had sought safety during an Indian raid on Christmas Day, 1869.

The first bank in Kimble County was organized in 1906 by Horace Wilson, and was appropriately named “The First State Bank of Junction, Texas.” 190 shares of the bank were outstanding; Horace owned 124 of them. Not surprisingly, Horace was named President of the bank.

In a report entitled “A Brief History of the Banking Business in Junction, Kimble County, Texas,” the author, Walker Ragsdale says:

By reason of the fact that most of the Shareholders of the Bank were of English Nationality, and originally coming from England, the bank was often referred to as the ‘English Bank’ of the community.

Not long after the First State Bank was originated by Horace, a competing bank was opened in Junction, known as the “Kimble County State Bank.” The two banks merged on August 1, 1908, and became the “Junction State Bank.” At that time, Horace became Vice President. On August 23, 1909, Horace was elected President of the merged banks.

A photo (3.6) showing a large calendar clock with the date July 6, 1908, just before the merger, shows a proud Horace in the First State Bank, along with a few other prominent citizens. In the teller’s window are framed the faces of his eldest son, Ernest, and young Coke Stevenson, who became a popular Governor of Texas in the mid-1940’s (and was defeated for the US Senate in 1948 by Lyndon B. Johnson by the narrow margin of a few hundred extremely questionable votes from the King Ranch in South Texas).

All seems to be going well for Horace. He is a successful attorney. He is involved in numerous real estate transactions. In this general time frame he runs the “Junction Ice and Light Company.” He is a director of the Llano River and Milling company. He is an officer in a local bank. Yet, in a letter to Horace from his son Arthur in 1913,95 there are clear intimations of problems, disturbing but unspecific references to the possibility that Horace was in difficult financial circumstances of some sort:

Your letter has decided me in one thing. For a year, at least, I shall live from my own hand, by the toil of my brain; then I shall study law or anything else you like, but preferably law. I want to show you that in an hour like the present, when you are so hardly beset, you should have no worry of me… And God help me now, and God help you first, who need Him the most!

Granted that young Arthur might have been given a bit to dramatization, seeing that his interests at this time were in studying writing; nonetheless, there seems to be clear reference to serious financial difficulties. In point of fact, Arthur did leave college for the 1913-1914 school year. In an undated letter to Horace that I take to be even earlier, Arthur offers what may be a clue to the difficulties he alluded to in the letter quoted just above:

I would like to hear a word of the Bank election.”

On June 5, 1912, Horace resigned as President of the Junction State Bank. The reasons are unknown. However, on June 12, 1916, the First National Bank was formed in Junction, and Horace was listed as its Vice President.

We also have record of a notation in the dean’s file at the school Arthur was attending, dated October 9, 1914: “Father hard pressed.” Not even the smallest fragment of information exists to help identify what these references might be alluding to.

Perhaps connected to the difficulties of 1913, or perhaps for other reasons entirely, Horace and family moved to San Antonio in December of 1914, according to son Francis.96 As we have seen, Stella’s later remarks about life in small towns give every reason to believe that she favored the move, and was probably pleased by the change of surroundings, and may have in some way been directly responsible for it.

Horace established a new law practice in San Antonio, engaging in both civil and criminal law. For several years, he and his son Robert practiced law together as partners. A San Antonio newspaper article in 1928 features the father-son law partnership, and will be the subject of some attention a little later in the narrative.

Though he had moved to San Antonio, Horace continued to maintain an active law office in Junction, and he ran ads mentioning his law practice frequently, perhaps every week, in the Junction Eagle. Mostly they just mentioned the law practice, but occasionally they mentioned various aspects of his involvement in real estate. In 1918, an advertisement read: “Real Estate Loans, Vendor Lien Notes, Bought and Sold… We practice in all State and U. S. Courts.” Horace maintained an office in a building he owned which was occupied by the Junction State Bank. At the same time, he was a Vice President of the First National Bank.

Things did not go well for Horace and Stella in San Antonio. Their marriage unraveled and they separated on or around January 1, 1918; divorce proceedings were initiated by Horace in 1919, and the divorce was granted not long thereafter. From this distance, it is not possible to determine the causes of this unfortunate rupture with any certainty, and difficult to try to catch an early glimpse of the underlying factors as they developed.

The single clue we have that gives any hint of an earlier estrangement is a letter dated November 12, 1924, in which Stella relates an extreme despair during her pregnancy with Baten in late 1906-early 1907. Being of resolute character, it may be that her avowed extreme anguish of that period was beyond healing, in which case the origins of their later separation and divorce might be traced to this time, or earlier. To substantiate this possibility, in Horace’s filing for divorce in 1919, he mentions that an alienation of affection had existed for more than ten years prior to the final separation in January of 1918 – placing the estrangement in the period that Stella refers to in her letter. More about this letter in the chapter devoted to Stella.

In Horace’s divorce filing, there were claims of incompatibility, personality differences, harsh feelings, lack of intimacy, intolerance – but all these are not incompatible with boiler plate for divorce cases of the era, where courts would not grant a divorce without forceful demonstration of serious grievance. Merely not wanting to be married was inadequate as a reason for divorce. What is clear is that an unbridgeable chasm had grown between the two over a period of quite a few years, resulting in a sad estrangement. The property had been divided to the satisfaction of the parties long before the divorce proceedings were ever initiated, in a manner satisfactory to both parties, according to the papers filed. It would appear that their separation in 1918 and subsequent property settlement marked the actual end of the marriage.

In 1920, Horace married Georgia Howell. On December 27, 1923, their one child was born, a daughter named Theresa after one of Horace’s sisters who had died years earlier in childhood in England. Georgia died at age 90 in 1976. I read in her obituary that she had two children from a previous marriage who, the obituary said, had preceded her in death. I believe that these two children became part of Horace’s new household.

At this writing, Theresa is living San Antonio. I have met her on several occasions, most recently in October, 2002. She had a close relationship with her father, and clearly loved him deeply. Horace was devoted to her.

In a letter to Robert Graham, Theresa writes about her father:97

He was reserved, cultural, a music lover. Particularly opera – but also cowboy ballads. He read Shakespeare avidly and had a dry English wit. He was frugal, a devout Christian and a Mason. He was a public speaker for the various Arts and Sciences groups and was a neurotic democrat… He always liked a formal meal, and lobster and roast and fancy cheeses being his favorite dishes. He told me a bedtime story every night and most of the time they were his boyhood adventures in London.”

In 1925, Horace and Georgia were divorced. A decree dated December 18, 1925, exists in draft form granting the divorce.98 In this decree, custody of Theresa was given to Georgia, and the court observed that the Horace and Georgia had adjusted their property rights in a fair and equitable manner. Without commenting on the tangle of emotional conflict that might lead to such an outcome, and the distress that all parties to the disaffection might have experienced, I am compelled to feel enormous compassion for the lonely last six or seven years of Horace’s life.

Readers will have noted that Horace had divided his estate in a fair and equitable manner two times in a period of 7 years.

Most references to Horace that I have read remark on his fine human qualities, his intelligence, his kindness, his great skills as an attorney. Francis remembers his great kindness, somewhat in contrast to Stella’s stern and moralistic presence. Horace had an open character, a notable basic integrity even when it put him in conflict with his sons. He had a simple but firm sense of what was just. Horace was an ethical man. He was a church-goer, temperamentally Episcopalian, but became a Baptist in consideration of Stella’s strong leanings in that direction. But I do not believe he was a fundamentalist in his persuasions, nor do I believe he was dogmatic or in any way holier-than-thou in the way he lived his life. He was, however, an ardent prohibitionist.

In an obituary written by his son, Ernest says:

His family was his joy and pride. He knew every one of his sons would some day become good and great men. Their every thoughtless act and deed was graciously and tenderly forgiven.

Horace had a great respect for theater, books, Shakespeare and poetry. He had perhaps the best library in Kimble County. He loved music, opera particularly. He studied violin in his last years. He enjoyed good food. Francis says that he lived in a broad and tolerant manner. Francis believes that Horace owned the first automobile in Kimble County.

Francis says:

Always I think my father tried to be a gentleman. He had his code of conduct which was a mixture of that of England and the frontier…. I remember also his broad sympathy for those around him who lacked even the most elementary education … Without effort he talked to all in a way they could understand.

Horace believed:

All were forced to work, and to my father the first thing to learn in life was to hold an honest job no matter whether it was dignified or not.

My mother, Winifred Brown, brought me from England to San Antonio in 1927.99 We lived for a while with my grandfather, Horace. Winifred was extreme in her praise of him, and thought that he was a wonderful, kind and considerate man. She said he was very good to her, helpful in every way.

In 1925, according to Francis, Horace made a brief visit to England and Ireland.

Francis says of Horace100, “He was a very sad old man during the last months of his life. His main interest at the time was Theresa.”

Francis mentions, “People around my father tried to dig money out of him, almost all of them.” He adds: “I think many of [his] unhappy relations came from my father being too generous.” In a letter dated September 30, 1930, Horace seems to agree, “It seems difficult to me to understand that the people who would break me are those who owe me their love. It will probably astonish you later in life.”

On January 9, 1930, Horace writes to Francis, “I have been greatly depressed most of the time of late. My head seems tired.” In September 30 of the same year he writes, speaking of the economic struggle he has been facing, “Things have been very difficult with me for some time.”

On December 18, 1930, Horace tells Francis, “[I] recently sent an application for a patent to a patent attorney at Washington … Most inventions seem to have no monetary value, but I want to feel that I am not dead yet.”

In fact, the somber clouds of economic hardship in the early years of the Great Depression greatly weighed upon Horace’s mental and physical health. His children felt that the stress of trying to hold his property together contributed to his death. As Robert was to say of this era in a letter in March of 1932, “…just now to owe 5 cents places a big burden on one’s shoulder… People have no money to spend.” Regardless of how much equity one possessed in a piece of property, it was subject to foreclosure unless taxes and mortgage payments could be made. It was difficult to generate income from the property; so the problem quickly became, how can payments be made to avoid losing everything already invested? It was necessary to sell some property in order to maintain ownership of other property. This was a formula for loss and devastation.

It is touching that Horace’s entire life in Texas came full circle at the end. As an ambitious young man, Horace had come penniless to Bandera County 47 years earlier. In his later years he had acquired a 2200-acre ranch in Bandera County, land that is now of incredible value. He moved there two months before his death. Thus, Horace’s death certificate, after all the intervening years, lists Bandera as his place of residence.

On January 13, 1932, Horace writes to his grandson Ernest, Jr.: “I have been feeling very unwell, and I cannot make the trip to Abilene.”

Just 10 days later, Horace Ernest Wilson suffered a stroke in Bandera on January 23, 1932, at age 67. He died later the same day in San Antonio.

Francis writes this sad passage in “By Llano Water”:

My father was almost 70 when he died; and on the day of his death he said to his secretary: ‘I wish I could die.’ His wish was granted, and soon.

The Mayor of San Antonio, C. M. Chambers, was an honorary pall bearer.101 Horace is buried in Mission Park Cemetery in the plot that was purchased by the sons when Stella died. It was something of a surprise for me in 2002 to find Horace and Stella side-by-side under one headstone, because photographs show that Stella was buried under a headstone exclusively her own in 1926. The present stone is a joint headstone, replacing the former one.

Clearly, the sons elected to discard the former one and unite the parents, perhaps against their will, for their long slumber though eternity.

Now, we turn to the life of Stella Graham Wilson.

Chapter VI … Stella Jane Graham…

Stella Jane Graham102 is a difficult and complex woman to write about. Few direct observations are available to aid in understanding her; nonetheless, she arouses strong feelings of admiration and sympathy in me. I feel a need to give her as much dimensionality as possible. By sheer force of personality, she left a strong legacy behind, transmitted behaviorally through her sons, perhaps genetically, as well. Though she died a few months before I was born, 78 years ago, I sometimes think I can feel her imprint on me.

The material I have to draw upon gives many glimpses of Stella’s life and mind and attitudes, ranging over 40 years. There are early two letters in her own handwriting, one about 1884, the other dated December 12, 1887. I have 5 documents that she wrote: 1) notes for a talk on “Rural Church Work” in her own handwriting, 2) an essay or talk, “We Build the Ladders by which We Climb,” typewritten, 3) several pages of notes in her own handwriting, probably for a speech on women’s issues, 4) a typewritten story, “Child Beautiful by Stella Wilson,” 5) an earlier version of the “Child Beautiful” story, in her handwriting. There are also letters written March 10, 1918, November 12, 1924, and January 16, 1925, in her handwriting, the last scarcely more than a year before her death.103 In a letter written to her in 1908 from one of her sons, there is a reference that may give some insight to her character. I have copies of her will, her death certificate, and an obituary as it appeared in the Junction newspaper of the time, written by her eldest son. Additionally, I have several comments made by sons that may help a little to understand what she was like. The rest will have to be extrapolation, conjecture, surmise.

Just to facilitate discussion, I am going to divide Stella’s life arbitrarily into 3 different time frames, with a very fuzzy line of demarcation between periods 2 and 3.

The 1st period covers Stella’s childhood and youth up until the time of her marriage, in March of 1890, at about age 20. We can paint a fairly well-informed picture of her life in this period.

We can also piece together a fairly good picture of Stella’s life for the years beginning in 1914, when the family moved from Junction to San Antonio. Her thoughts and activities are revealed in a number of documents and letters and events. The period in between 1890 and 1914 is dimly known at best.104 There is little tangible to indicate what she was like as an individual during this middle period. Yes, we know she had three children by the time she was 24, then one at age 30, then the last one at about age 37. We know she had major surgery in 1908, though not the nature of the surgery. We know her family was prosperous and successful. We know that her children were entered upon fine educations, or soon were expected to do so. We know Stella’s 1st child was born in Brady; the 2nd in Sherwood; the 3rd in Junction. She would have come from Sherwood perhaps in mid-to-late 1893.

The 1900 census reports them in Junction, with a servant living in the household. Horace had become an attorney and was operating businesses in the town. We know all that, but we really don’t know much about Stella as a person in this period, except what we can project forward from the 1st period and backward from the last period. But, she does open one window retrospectively onto her life in the middle period in one of her letters of 1924, from which I will quote later on in this chapter.

The things that can be known about Stella’s life in the early and late periods suggest that she was an intelligent, articulate, serious, forceful, earnest, intense, highly moral, perhaps even melancholy person. The terms happy, carefree, joyous, ebullient, relaxed, cheerful, frivolous, informal never seem to enter the mind about her. All her pictures suggest a touch of formality, perhaps even remoteness. This characterization may be a limitation of the material available, or perhaps it is an inaccurate interpretation of mine. Nonetheless, she seems to be one of those people whose minds are always on serious matters. And it is fair to say that this aspect of character seemed to be strong in her 5 sons.

I certainly hope that she experienced great joy and happiness with her marriage and young family right on up to the final period of her life. There is nothing to say that she didn’t; neither is there anything to say that she did. With only one exception, all the photos I have seen of her, with or without her children, suggest a serious, even somber, person. The strongest likelihood to me is that the personality we are able to observe early and late in her life was most likely with her in the middle period as well, although there are events to relate in the later period that surely further darkened her already-dim sense of optimism about life in general.

It would be much easier merely to set down available facts about Stella and move on, without trying to understand her as a person. That would avoid the interpretive pitfalls I am surely making myself vulnerable to. But Stella is perhaps the most important character in this entire story, because I firmly believe she had the greatest influence by far on the lives of her 5 sons, and she calls for as much fullness of character as can be portrayed.

Stella’s mother, Nancy Jane Cox, was a bride at barely 15; she married William Graham on March 20, 1865, and he no doubt became another of the numerous family members living inside Isaac Cox’s one-room cabin at Bowie Springs (photo 1.7). However, not long after their marriage, Isaac left the area, and it seems clear that Nancy Jane and William remained there. Though Isaac’s other children were placed with relatives living elsewhere, it seem that his youngest daughter, Belle, remained in the cabin under the care of Nancy. This home was a one-room log cabin several miles from any community, and for a while Nancy’s sister, Marietta, her husband and one or more of their children also shared that cabin. By late 1874, Nancy and William had 4 children in all: Hiram, Stella, Alice and Walter.

I will repeat the circumstances surrounding Stella’s birth; they seemed to bode so well for this child. It was not to be.

During a time of hostile Indian raids, William and family left the vulnerability of their isolated cabin to take refuge in the nearby ruins of the Spanish fort (photo 4.11) called the San Saba Presidio, but originally named Presidio San Luis de las Amarillas when it was built more than a hundred years earlier. It was winter. On Christmas night of 1869, a daughter was born there to William and Nancy Jane Graham. The family lore is, inspired by the brilliant starry sky of that crisp December night, the child was named Stella.

Unfortunately, it was not long before things began to go wrong for Stella. When she was a small child, severe difficulties arose in the marriage of her parents, William and Nancy Jane, culminating in their separation when Stella was not yet 5 and in their eventual divorce in 1879 when Stella was 10.

I will briefly recall the grim outline of her young life.

More than likely things had been working up to a crisis for some time, but in October of 1874, William and Nancy Jane had a ruinous falling out, in the month their 4th child, Walter, was born. In November, William left the premises. In November of 1876, Nancy filed for divorce. Matters became acrimonious in the extreme, with counter suit and counter allegations by William. In May of 1878, a jury awarded a divorce to William, with temporary custody of the children remaining with Nancy. William then claimed that Nancy failed to live up to the court’s stipulations regarding his rights of visitation, and in November of 1878, he asked the court for legal custody of Hiram and Stella, which was granted just two months later, in January of 1879. Nancy appealed the decision, thwarting its immediate implementation, but, in early February, the court made a final ruling in William’s favor, and the sheriff had to proceed to Nancy’s residence and physically remove Hiram and Stella from Nancy and deliver them to William. According to Bob Graham, family recollection has it that on another occasion Nancy Jane endeavored to kidnap Stella and Hiram and leave the area with them and the other children in a wagon, but the sheriff caught up with them and brought them back. Nancy undertook a few more legal efforts to regain the two children, but no further changes occurred, and final custody of Stella and Hiram remained with William.

It is distressing, even at this date, to think of the impact of the rancorous clashes of implacable wills that occurred between William and Nancy with the children being pushed and pulled from both sides. Both sides claimed cruelty on the part of the other side toward themselves and toward the children. Both claimed the other was physically violent with the children. Both claimed the children wished to be with them. Both claimed the other was especially cruel to Stella. Both claimed the other was teaching the children to hate and reject the other.

I do not know where the sentiments of the children rested, but the impact on them was surely devastating. In addition to being separated from their mother, Hiram and Stella also suffered the hurt of being separated from their two younger siblings, Alice and Walter. There is a story that Stella and her mother met on the street in San Antonio in later years, and that they briefly stared at each other and moved on without speaking.

Evidence exists that bitter divisions remained among the Graham descendents for several generations, traceable directly to the irreconcilable differences between Nancy Jane and William.

I will not try to sort out the claims and counter claims in this bitter marital dispute. My purpose in saying as much as I have is to establish something about Stella’s childhood as it may have had an influence on her character and outlook on life.

Another major force in Stella’s development was the pervasive sense of loneliness and alienation she experienced throughout her entire youth, right up to the time of meeting Horace. I am inclined to believe that this was a characteristic so imbedded in Stella that she was never able to emerge from under its shadow.

From age 4 on, Stella was without two parents in the household, and it is doubtful to me that she ever enjoyed a happy, secure, loving home. Stella’s father was a longhorn cattle rancher, away a great deal of the time. But, even when he was at home, William Graham could not have been, by virtue of his own upbringing, much help in the furtherance of her social, psychological and educational development. He was a genuine rough character of the west: at various times he was an Indian fighter, a buffalo hunter, a veteran of bloody Civil War battles, a civilian scout for the army in Indian territory, a peace officer, always a tough man of action, rough, uneducated, uncultured. He had a reputation for being able to hold his own in rough situations. In his old age he delighted in recounting tales of barroom brawls, battles with Indians, and gun fights.

From age 4 until age 9, Stella lived with her mother and three siblings in deprived and difficult circumstances. From age 9 until her marriage at age 20, she lived in a one-room log cabin at Roca Springs with her father, her brother, and with a cousin, Loiza Mayes, for the first 4 years. At about age 14, Stella took over the housekeeping chores from Loiza, who left the household about 1883.

Not only was Stella’s father often away from home for lengthy periods of time in his cattle business, her brother was also away much of the time trying to hold a herd of cattle together out in the unfenced hills.

The fundamental truth about Stella seems to be that she was a gifted child with an unusually bright and questing mind, a tabula rasa just waiting to be imprinted by whatever had the force to make a durable impression on it. And such a force was not far to be found. In those days, especially for women, church-going served literally as a blessed relief from the hard routine of frontier life. This brief statement suggests how it was:105

Women in the West had daily opportunity to test their strength, courage and ingenuity. They often were alone for months at a time; they kept house in the crudest of dwellings with the most makeshift furnishings; they spun and wove their own cloth, endured a temperamental climate, and were frequently called upon to be extremely brave in the face of peril. They loved to go to church, whenever they could find one, to bolster the faith that helped them endure…

Stella’s mother had been raised in a religious family, and church-going was not only a duty, it was surely also a welcome social and spiritual activity. Stella’s aunt Marietta writes the following in “Pioneer Days,” speaking of the place of religion in their childhood days:

We had a plank along one side of the room for a desk and a big crack in the wall to give us light; we had preaching also by whoever would preach for us. I remember two preachers who would preach for us sometimes … Our home was always a home for the preacher of any denomination; we loved to have them with us and minister to their comforts.

The pervasive spirit of religion in Nancy’s household, both as a child and presumably as a mother, may not have been much greater than the norm of the times. What was unusual, however, in my opinion, was the hungry, lonely soul that Stella brought to it. It was a case of a very bright, active mind with practically nothing to feed it except the certitudes of charismatic preachers that she loved to hear, and all the stories she listened to in Sunday school. Stella even became a Sunday school teacher in her late teens. To underscore it all, in those days whatever rural public education was available was usually filled with religious content; it strongly reinforced biblical history and biblical morality.

Religion thus became central to Stella’s life. Her brother Hiram became a minister. Her son Ernest became a Methodist minister. Her son Francis, though he converted away from her fundamentalist Baptist views of religion, nonetheless became an active, devout Catholic intellectual, writing frequent articles and appearing at the podium of numerous church conferences. As noted elsewhere, the ministry was a common occupation among her ancestors.

When the divorce and all matters of custody were cleared up, William moved with Stella and Hiram from Bowie Springs in Menard County to an even more isolated site on the West Fork of Bear Creek in Kimble County, Roca Springs.

Stella’s letters will tell us something of her education, something of her loneliness, something of the impact of religion upon her. For the moment, consider this one quotation from a letter written when Stella was not yet 18,106 about a year and a half before marrying Horace:

Sometimes the [thought] comes to me that I am missing all the pleasures of life, the enjoyment of youth, by trying to be a Christian, but better thoughts soon follow and I know I am seeking the only way there is in life to find true happiness.

In the same letter, she says, “I like to go to church so well.”

Stella did not have the home life or the social life to mitigate the categorical imperatives thrust upon her in church and school. She learned indelibly well the high moral strictures, and believed in them implicitly to her death. She developed a firm concept of ethical propriety which was to be her unfailing compass in life. I don’t think Stella was one to hold moral precepts lightly; if it was right, flexibility and compromise tended to stop right there. In this respect, her son Ernest was very much the same.

For four years of the period when Hiram and Stella first lived alone with William, one of Stella’s cousins107 lived with them and kept house for William. But she left, and now at age 15 we can get a glimpse of their life in a letter that Stella wrote to her Aunt Marietta from Roca Springs, approximately 1885:108

Hiram and I are living with Pa; I am his housekeeper; Hiram his cow hunter. I have been keeping house over a year … Hiram and I do not get to go to school but very little. Hiram is seventeen and I, 15… Hiram has been cowing (hunt the cattle)109 all the year; but still they are scattered …

In this letter, a lonely Stella is reaching out to an aunt she can remember having seen only once. She signs the letter, “Loving little niece Stella Graham.”

As a boy, I heard literally hundreds of fundamentalist sermons, and the message I received was unmistakable: God doesn’t like any monkey business; He doesn’t like lying, stealing, cheating; He doesn’t like dancing, playing cards or other frivolous entertainments; He doesn’t like drinking; and He especially doesn’t like sex, which Satan uses to trap young folks into Hell. There was a lot about Hell. I’m certain there were other topics, but I’m not sure young people heard them To my mind, everything was negative, what not to do. If you do the things God doesn’t like, you will burn painfully in Hell, eternal, without end. Undoubtedly, the brand of Protestant religion Stella encountered on the Texas frontier was even sterner than that.

I don’t wish this to sound facetious; this is exactly the underlying view of life a young, earnest, impressionable mind can come away with when repeatedly subjected to the powerful, mesmerizing rhetoric of a charismatic preacher. It leaves an indelible imprint. And it is not a simple matter to displace such an imprint. Stella had just that sort of mind.

Francis makes this same point in “By Llano Water:”

In the Llano country, people were converted in order to avoid the eternal punishment of the damned. Hell was no illusion, no figure of speech, for it was genuine fire and brimstone that would burn and torture individuals who had not accepted Christ and this torture would last for ever and ever.

Robert Graham relates a story told in his family that a charismatic evangelist minister came to the Bear Creek area in the 1880’s, probably to hold a “revival” meeting. These visiting ministers were unusually powerful orators, brought in by local church people to rouse church-going residents to greater extremes of religious dedication and to “save” as many sinners in the area as possible. These evangelists were hypnotically persuasive speakers, very adept at applying psychological pressure to impressionable minds. Robert says that such a minister had a profound influence on Hiram and Stella, who were “saved” at such a revival meeting, and profoundly influenced for most of their lives by the galvanizing experience.

So there you have my admittedly personal interpretation of the overriding influences on Stella’s serious young mind and developing character: a large vacuum created by loneliness and isolation was filled by high-voltage fundamentalist religion. Though Stella achieved the equivalent of much education and sophistication in her life, I don’t believe she ever had any rigorous intellectual training that might help her question some of the more extreme teachings of fundamentalist religion, and I don’t believe she ever escaped the grip of the harsh moral teachings of her youth.

In continuing to pursue some sense of Stella as a person from the evidence we have, something of her outlook in this first period of her life may be seen in this statement that she writes at 17 to a cousin:110

I feel now almost like an old woman, most girls have a fresh hopeful feeling about them, but I have not.

Admittedly, this was written in the context of commenting on how young her cousins seem to her. The entire statement might be dismissed as a girlish fear of becoming an old maid, or something of the sort, but it seems to me that she is expressing an altogether different emotion when she says she does not have a “fresh, hopeful feeling.” Knowing as much about her life as I have come to know, my thought is that we are seeing here an early expression of a view of life that became more extreme in her later years. This letter was written just about 18 months or so before she was to marry Horace Wilson.

Taking her entire letter under consideration, I would comment that Stella has come a long way in her education since age 15. Her handwriting is elegant, her phrasing expressive, her sentence structure is complex and accurate. Her manner is polite and deferential. This is a girl who has not even had the benefit of a small-town school. Photo 4.6 shows the tiny little one-room cabin where she went to school, identified in her own handwriting. Schools such as this were typically built in some location more or less central to 4 or 5 ranch homes in the area.

In later years, Horace and Stella both taught at this school. Harrison Stucke, who later became and Archdeacon in the Episcopal Church and was the first man to conquer to the North Face of Mt. McKinley, also taught there.

By contrast, we have a letter from Loiza Mayes111 in the very same household, written when Loiza was about 18, that is barely decipherable for lack of proper grammar and spelling, whereas Stella’s writing is articulate, well phrased, nuanced, clearly educated.

Consider Stella’s simple sentence:

I am in school this morning and ought to be studying, but I know my reader and grammer, and so have a few spare moments in which to write.”

That sentence has the sound of someone who has already begun to develop a deft competence with the language, even though she did misspell a word. Compare Stella’s sentence to the following short passage from a letter written by Stella’s cousin, Loiza Mayes, at the same age of about 18, from the very same household in Roca Springs:

Ma I haven’t got the things straiten yet Ma I has quilted 2 quilts in the last two weekes and has one more to quilt Ma I have soled charry to unkel will for too good cows and calfs in the spring they will do me a heap more good then the horse weld.

This is not to poke fun at Loiza; it is to illustrate by contrast something of Stella’s development and how she amazingly overcame the limitations inherent in her entire upbringing, not perceptibly different from Loiza’s.

Perhaps some remarkable genetic confluence came together in Stella – old William’s courage and iron will plus Nancy Jane’s religious bent and iron will. If so, I think some of that strain was passed on to the next generation, and perhaps it will continue to be felt for generations to come.

This same letter of December 12, 1887, contains a charming glimpse of Stella’s sentimental side. In a reference that at first was unclear to me, she just says to Cousin Annie, out of nowhere:

Ther[e] is one song that I dearly love that I do not know what the name of it is. I think it is, ‘I have a casket at hom[e].’

She is referring to a song that she had heard, “The Little Rosewood Casket.”112 The song describes a young girl who is dying and asks her sister to read to her the love letters her husband-to-be has written to her from afar. The letters are in a small rosewood box (casket) on a marble table. It is a sad, sentimental song that would have allowed Stella to feel the tender emotion of love found and the heartbreak of love lost.

Looking further in the direction of understanding Stella’s temperament, her 2nd son Arthur, in a letter dated April, 1908,113 offers this observation:

Dear Mama –

It has always been your grievous habit to look at the black side of every cloud that hangs over your head whether great or small. Perhaps you might try in a feeble way to consider the bright side of life, to cultivate the idea that you are not a forlorn and rejected outcast…

Here we have a characterization of Stella that refers to a span of time – “always” – which may not be very long for a boy of 16, but nonetheless is from a close observer over an extended period. Young Arthur’s suggestion that Stella, at age 29, with 4 children and a successful husband, might have considered herself a “forlorn and rejected outcast” strikes remarkably close to what I consider the dominant underlying tone of Stella’s attitude about her life. Her lonely, bitter youth coupled with what she surely must have felt as inadequate preparation to be the wife of a well-spoken Englishman who by this time was attorney, bank president and leading citizen – these were the ingredients that caused her much pain but also fuelled her fierce determination to be successful in the world at large.

Because the letter goes on to speak of unidentified major surgery that Stella has just undergone, I believe Arthur’s letter was written to her while she was away in the hospital, probably in San Antonio.

The letter continues:

Yours is a mistaken idea about the fruits of your toil being the inheritance of some ‘Silly Girl.’

This reference to “some ‘Silly Girl’” stumped me at first, but one explanation is that Stella might have voiced a fear that she would not survive this serious surgery and that some silly girl would eventually catch Horace and “inherit” the treasure of her children and all the fruits that her toil had contributed to Horace’s material accomplishments. But I cannot rule out other explanations. It is perhaps relevant that this is the exact period in which Horace later said in divorce papers that ”alienation of affection” in their marriage had originated. It is also within a year of the period referred back to in Stella’s dramatic letter of 1924, just two years before her death, as a period of dark emotional despair. Is it possible there was, indeed, some “Silly Girl” in the background of this domestic picture? No evidence exists to that effect.

Parenthetically, in this specific context, by 1908 Horace had become quite successful since returning from Sherwood in 1893, and had, indeed, probably accumulated considerable aggregate wealth. But, there is at least some possibility that Stella had earlier brought wealth into her marriage in the form of property, cattle and possibly cash. Stella’s father was at the time a successful cattleman and land owner in the area. Robert Graham has documented quite a number of real estate transactions between Horace and William, suggesting a beneficial relationship between the two following the marriage.

Arthur’s letter continues:

Papa told we boys that the operation would be somewhat terrible… The people left behind are very greatly concerned about your welfare.

In the chronology of her children, this surgery comes when Stella is 38 and just about 11 months following the birth of her fifth son, Baten. There is no known record to indicate the nature of the surgery. Whether it was a specific condition, or some sort of ongoing difficulty, or in any way related to her childbirth or a year earlier, I cannot say.

Now is the moment to go a little deeper into a matter I have referred to only in passing earlier in this narrative.

On November 12, 1924, Stella wrote a letter to Francis that contains a disturbing passage referring to the time of her pregnancy with Baten, which would have been roughly September, 1906 through May, 1907. The despair and alienation and horrifying emotions she experienced in that period are expressed, even 17 years after the event, in terms that are emotionally shattering. Even at this distance in time, I feel uneasy about quoting her words, as if I am lifting a veil of privacy that might be better left alone.

Her letter is written in the broader context of difficulties that her youngest son, Baten, now 17, is having. Horace had remarried and was off leading another life, the 4 older boys have long gone from home, and Baten was beginning to get in trouble with authorities.

My real trouble grows, rather than lessens – and looking back, I know quite surely, he [Baten] is not responsible for his vagaries – but they grew up in his being long months before his birth – horror, despair, longing for the unattainable (namely death) – hatred, revenge, desire, helplessness, restlessness – no way to turn, no one to look to – always bordering on insanity – always alone… I was beside myself with daily horror and suffering.

What seems clear to me is that she considered the pregnancy an imposition upon herself so unjust as to be unforgivable. What is unclear is the exact basis for this towering rage and resentment that she feels. Perhaps it was an unwanted pregnancy, which is certainly bad enough, but for her more than she could emotionally endure. Perhaps it was a pregnancy with complications, one that there was good reason to avoid, thinking of the serious surgery that she underwent just 11 months later. Perhaps she felt that somehow a sacred right not to become pregnant was violated. We cannot know.

Because, in the overall picture, this is surely the time in which an unbridgeable chasm in the marriage was created, I want to say that I do not know how to parcel out guilt or blame or right or wrong in this situation. I prefer to believe that this was a tragedy inherent in the human condition, in which a remarkably strong woman and a fine, outstanding man found themselves entrapped, beyond any hope of extrication. No doubt, it was not an uncommon situation, though Stella’s reaction took on a dimension that was far from common. As the reality of what happened to them slowly unfolded in my mind, I understood some things that had not been explainable before, and I became deeply saddened at these happenings of almost 100 years ago.

From this moment on, it is not possible for me to think of Stella without recalling her desperation in 1906-1907 and what its consequences were in her marriage and in the rearing of 5th son Baten, whom she loved so dearly.

At this point in the narrative, I will touch on what seems to me the final and greatest tragedy of Stella’s life, already foreshadowed by the quotation from her letter of November 12, 1924. It deals with what she took to be a failure in the upbringing of Baten.

The separation of Horace and Stella in 1918 had in effect made Stella at age 49 the single parent of what appears to have been a strong-willed 11-year old boy. The three oldest sons were no longer living at home, and Francis had elected to live with his father upon their separation in January of 1918. Therefore, Stella and Baten faced life alone together. She experienced difficult times with this 5th son in the ensuing years right up until her death in 1926, at which time Baten had reached age 19.

Her despairing letter of November, 1924, alternates between the difficulties she experienced during her pregnancy with Baten in 1906-1907 and the difficulties Baten is now experiencing in 1924 as a youth of 17 years. In her mind, Stella believes the two are connected, that her distraught pregnancy foreshadowed the later unhappy reality of Baten’s life.

In that same letter of November, 1924, Stella gives an account of a recent visit she had from Baten, who was no longer staying at home, nor with his father, either, and who had only recently been in difficulty with the law:

well, he came one night and I had nothing to fix him – he seemed to think I would have a lot on hand like I always had for him – but I cooked him 4 eggs and gave him milk for next morning. I was not expecting him and I could say nothing. I just looked and looked in sheer misery while he ate – he had the same smiling bravado air – I should have gathered him in my arms and told him I forgave him – but I still sat and watched him go out of my life …

Over a period of many years, the family was usually very tolerant of Baten, but more than once patience failed and exasperation took over. On an occasion just recently before this letter, Stella says,

When [the school] called up about his taking some things, Robert made him leave – with only his summer clothes on – his suit was gone – his grip, every rag he had. I will always just see him wandering, hungry, cold …

Baten did return, but difficulties continued.

I think it must have been about this time that Stella wrote a story that she called “Child Beautiful,”114 which is a wrenching tale of a loving mother and an adorable son. There is no father in this story. Because the mother is sick at times and because of external demands, she is sometimes unable to meet the lonely child’s needs as she would like to do. In a moment when the mother is preoccupied, the child innocently pursues his own amusements and wanders off and drowns in a dark pool while narcissistically contemplating his own image. The mother is tortured by the things she did not do to keep the child constructively occupied, and tries desperately not to feel responsible for his death.

It is clear to me that this is an autobiographical story.115 Although in real life her child did not literally die, in her view he was “lost” to her as if he were dead. In her writing, the remorse seems too palpable, the pain too intense, not to have been personal:

He should have been born to parents obsessed with a desire to understand children and a will to work unceasingly for the building up in him of the characteristics that would beautify his life…

Boundless in his energy, unlimited in his imagination, extreme in his affections, as variable as a March day, and enveloped always in a desire to have his own way, he was, in himself, all that one pair of hands and one understanding heart could successfully cope with. But when one pair of tired hands and one weary heart had multitudes of other cares, he was like to grow pretty much as a weed would grow among the rocks and thorns out on the hills.

To have done well with him was to have gained a soul for heaven, beautified, adorned and purified for heaven’s harmony; to have developed him in all his bright possibilities was to have given to the world a power that would have left a trail of light along the path where it swept; to have trained his whole soul’s affection was to have enshrined within his heart a beautiful ideal, a reverenced and adored object as long as the mother should live and at last to have stayed her soul with memories so sweet, so precious, so abiding that they would have glorified all heaven; to have trained his religious instinct, so pure, so full of the faith that asks, all believing, was to have merited the undying gratitude of this heaven-born soul.

Surely only the God of heaven could find time for all this. I know just one tired mother could never in all the world, with all the adverse influences about her, accomplish so great a task…

In my view, this passage rises to heights of poetic beauty and raw emotional power. Every word is distilled from the sorrow of an anguished heart. I am near to weep at the beauty and pain of her expression.

Later, when we speak of Baten, we will see that he indeed went his own way, as the child in the story did, and did lose himself, though long after Stella’s death.

This following quotation provides a glimpse of Stella as a mature woman, perhaps approaching 50. This is the beginning of what appear to be notes for a speech she may have given before one of her groups, or perhaps a wider audience:116

History is the mirror by which we glimpse the ladders others have builded.117 It reveals to us a panorama of dazzling effort; it reveals to us a pageant of the master minds on exhibition before the world of men; it reveals to us a spectacle of continuous unwearying human effort that kept the world moving on … As these flash by us … through the slow evolution of changing thought, through shadowy visions of unrealized ambitions … there stands out before us the inspiration of all that we are trying to do today …

Yet today, we are only beginning in the lowly earth to mount the ladders by which we climb and always just ahead lies the higher, holier, more heavenly round. The weeding, the elimination of unworthiness, wrong, sin and meanness, enables us to climb. The feet that linger in the mire … these shall forever stray amidst the garbage, the taint and heaviness with which they weight the soul down.

This contrast of high moral values against a dark vision of human behavior is repeated often. To me, passages in her writing contain rhetorical echoes of the old sermons of her youth, validated in her mind by something like 4 or 5 decades of personal experience.

In Stella’s notes118 for another talk to one of her groups, she boldly pleads for education in the home to teach youth that which they otherwise will learn from “dirty sources.” Yes, she is making a case for sex education far, far ahead of her time; but I suspect she has been brought to this point of view by her personal realization that without such education in her own home, her “Child Beautiful” grew “… as a weed would grow among the rocks and thorns out on the hills.” This is what she said:

Ignorance is no longer excusable since literature for the asking can be obtained for all ages of youth and childhood. I would see that every mother in the state had in her home literature that would teach her children the things they [otherwise] learn from dirty sources.

If we realize that this was probably written in the early 1920’s, in a Bible-belt area of fundamentalist religion, by a devout woman, and at a time when even the word “pregnant,” for instance, could not be mentioned in mixed company, then we can start to see how clear and advanced Stella’s thinking was. If, as I imagine, Stella’s interest in this topic was coincident with issues she was experiencing with Baten at the time, I can’t help but wonder if she also looked back and retrospectively confronted the possibility of similar issues in raising her 4 sons that preceded Baten.

This talk must have been given before a parent group, for many of the issues Stella discusses are child-related: supervised playgrounds, sanitation and health issues. But she also turns her attention to city-wide matters, such as germ-laden streets and sidewalks which she attributed to “tubercular expectoration.” In a parallel to current debates over how to deal with certain modern-day problems, such as drugs or crime, she forthrightly says, “I should work more to prevent tuberculosis than for tubercular homes.”

However, Stella did not stray far from moral issues. She did not approve of teaching dancing in schools. She insists that parents must “establish the standards of social life,” not schools. She thought that movies were adversely affecting the morals of young men. Her remedy:

The popular effort does not go deep enough; [it] leaves the root, already springing forth anew. It takes the surgery of Enlightened Motherhood to accomplish lasting good.

Stella’s eloquence is quite amazing to me. It is usually intense, forceful, cadenced, and often fraught with sorrow and disappointment at the discrepancy between some ideal of hers in contrast to reality in the world around her. Here is yet another glimpse of Stella’s prose and daunting moral temperament. It is the opening statement in notes for a speech entitled “Rural Church Work.”119

All I know of church work before coming to San Antonio has been work in a little country town.

I have thought many times that if one wanted his Christian ideals lowered, a lethargy of the spirit to dull his senses of the needs about him, or just to have a burdened, breaking heart, all one need do is to spend his life in a small town with its unsolved problems, its indifference, its non activity and its people all divided up in little factions that pull, not together, but against one another.

Stella’s talk is a practical, knowledgeable discussion of what she thinks is needed in church work in communities. She was competitive for her Baptist denomination, referring at times to progress in membership that Methodists and Presbyterians were making while the Baptist churches were mired in ineffectual factionalism. She severely criticized church leaders for not taking church messages and services to the poor. She wasn’t satisfied with the answer, “We’re here. Let them come and worship.” That view was smug and evasive, she thought, and it failed to accept the fundamental responsibility of taking the church message out to where it was most needed. As in politics, she felt, the poor are ignored. It is not hard to read in her words a strong sense that she had tried to introduce meaningful new concepts and had been rebuffed by leaders responsible for the status quo. However, one of the seeds that Stella planted did come to fruition less than two decades later. Her son, Ernest, founded, supported, and served as minister of a church placed in the center of a very poor area in Abilene, Texas.

Time and again, Stella emerges in her writing as a woman of great force, powerful expression, stern morality, and uncompromising conviction. As in her lonely youth, now in her lonely last years the large moral values of religion are about all she has to live for.

In her obituary,120 son Ernest wrote of his mother,

Her education121 was limited to what is popularly called a log cabin education. Yet, blessed as she was with a great intellect and strength of character, she trained her mind and bent her purpose to the end that she took her place among the educated and cultured and became a leader among the women of her city.

Stella’s activities and memberships testify to the nature of her personal beliefs and the degree of her commitment to spiritual and social causes in her community. She was well known in Junction for her church work.122 In San Antonio, she was a leader in the Baptist Church,123 and a Sunday school teacher; she was ex-president of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union of San Antonio; ex-president of the Mothers and Teachers Club of San Antonio; a leading member of the Woman’s Welfare committee of San Antonio; and a member of other civic, social and religious organizations. By virtue of her ancestors, it is said she was a Daughter of the American Revolution and a Daughter of the Southern Confederacy.124

Further, in Stella’s obituary, Ernest offers the saddening observation:

Every physical ailment to which human flesh is heir seemed to be visited upon her.

Stella left an estate in excess of $20,000, evenly divided among her sons. It was an amount of money considered sizeable in the 1920s. She hoped it would help each of them get a start in life. Baten’s share was put in trust until he became 25, with Francis as trustee.

Stella died February 16, 1926, at the age of barely 57, and is buried in Mission Burial Park in San Antonio. Her death certificate attributes her demise to cancer of the pancreas. Six years later, Horace was buried side-by-side with Stella, and for at least a moment I won’t push away the sentimental thought that they might provide some small comfort to each other, who each died lonely and much in need of solace in the last years of their lives.

One of Stella’s sons (number 1) saw her as an angel with glowing halo.125 Another (number 2) saw her as stern and moralistic.126 I suspect she was both at the same time; and both sons were describing the same qualities, which they perceived differently. Another son (number 3) responded to his daughter’s query about his mother with a terse and cryptic, “She was a woman.”127 Still another son (number 4), though he spoke often of his father in terms of affection and admiration, almost never mentioned his mother.128 However, he did rebel against her Baptist leanings, converting to Catholicism and becoming a prominent intellectual figure in that church.

At this moment, I have no comment from any source to suggest the 5th son’s view of his mother, although with the benefit of modern psychological hindsight, it wouldn’t be farfetched to interpret Baten’s entire life as some kind of reaction against a mother’s possibly overbearing and smothering influence. But it would also be fair to add, in the same vein, that Baten was preceded in the family by four brothers, the eldest 16 years older, who had already achieved a great deal and who were no doubt held up to him as examples he was expected to emulate. It would also be fair to observe that Horace was gone from the household, in another marriage, and we cannot estimate the influence of his father’s absence on the upbringing of Baten, nor the impact on him of his parents’ divorce.

Stella died just a couple of months before I was born.129 Up to this time, more than 3/4 of a century following her death, when I am making a large effort to try to understand her, she has been only a name to me. I wouldn’t even have recognized a picture of her. Now, I have a strong sense of a handsome woman whose convictions about morality were so strong that the world became a difficult place for her.

There is a somewhat different perspective in which I think about Stella, one that illustrates the very great credit due to her. From this perspective, it might be said that Stella’s entire existence was a life-long effort to rise above the limited circumstances of her youth and achieve a potential that she somehow understood that she had. That she had the motivation to do this and that she was able to succeed in doing it deserve great admiration. From a lonely life in a crude one-room cabin on the frontier, she rose to a position of prominence among capable men and women in the society of a large American city, San Antonio. From the intermittent and limited schooling of a log-cabin education, she became an articulate, forceful thinker, writer and speaker whose views influenced others.

Stella married what surely must have been just about as fine a catch as any girl in the state of Texas could want: a young, handsome, ambitious Englishman destined to go far in the world. It is likewise true that Stella, herself, was a fine catch for Horace – bright, attractive, well spoken, intelligent, serious minded.

Granting all Stella’s fine innate qualities, I want to focus here on the circumstances in Stella’s life that she needed to deal with as she moved from her limited frontier upbringing into the broader society associated with Horace’s activities. In my view, it is likely that she experienced some difficulty at first in striving to comport herself as she would wish in the society of her husband, as he progressed in his life from newspaperman to teacher to rancher to attorney, bank president, prominent business man, man of considerable property and leading citizen. There was a surprising handful of landed English people there with whom Horace associated, adding further to the demands that Stella may have placed upon herself to achieve social acceptance. I have twice encountered reports that Stella spoke with an English “brogue,” which suggests that she may have made a conscious effort to elevate the tone of her language above the ordinary Texas twang that would have been her natural manner of speaking. On the other hand, it may have simply been an unconscious emulation of the sound of her husband’s natural pronunciation, as well as that of his numerous English friends in the area with whom Stella would have found herself in frequent company.

Some of Stella’s influence can be seen in the way her children were dressed in many of the photographs taken at early ages before the family enjoyed the comfort and prosperity of town living. In their photographs, the children were almost invariably dressed in a nice style and quality of clothing, one not always associated with dusty ranch life in a remote west Texas location.

Thinking further of the influences on Stella, it is pertinent to recall that she was 1/8 Indian.130 That surely was something that a Texan of that era would have recognized as a stigma to be compensated for, at a time when the deadly strife with native Americans was fresh in the memory of all Texans. Even if completely unknown to those around her, her own self-awareness would have given her a firmer resolve to achieve status and recognition. I might say that even in our enlightened time, some people are rather touchy about matters of this kind.

Stella’s vehicle for evolving from backwoods country girl to women’s leader was her passionate involvement in religious and social causes. She was militant; she was an activist; the sidelines were not for her. She was outspoken. No one ever doubted what she believed or where she stood.

Stella was a woman of strength and courage. Sheer force of will and intellect harnessed to a lofty moral code were the attributes that enabled her to prevail against great odds in a world she had not been born to. The journey from her lonely cabin in the hills to leadership in San Antonio was a conscious effort and the work of decades.

Yet, I have a troubling thought that her powerful attributes might have had the ironic effect of diminishing her ability to deal as she might have wished with young Baten, and possibly with her husband and older sons as well.

For her, the tragic result was that what she believed in most became at odds with what she loved most.

All who descend from Stella can hope for the gift of her intelligence and courage and ability to achieve large goals against great odds.

Chapter VII … The 5 Wilson brothers …

In many ways, these brothers were accomplished, well educated, successful in their chosen fields, prominent in their communities. For the most part, they were men whose achievements are noteworthy under any circumstances, but especially so as a group, and perhaps even more so because of their early beginnings in the Hill Country of Texas. Of the 5 brothers, 4 chose professional paths; the 5th found another path to follow.

Just as was the case with their mother, there is something that exceeds expectations in their story. In 1900, few adolescents completed high school and only 1 in 50 completed college.131 That was the national average, and it is absolutely certain that the proportion of young men with college degrees was markedly lower in rural Kimble County, which was just emerging from its status as a lawless haven for notorious gunmen and criminals. When we consider that schools like Harvard and Stanford were involved in the education of these brothers and that 7 college and professional degrees (including 3 law degrees and one Ph. D.)132 were attained by them, the unusual nature of their achievement is further underscored.133

One needn’t look far for the causes of this remarkable record so far above the norm of the times: Stella and Horace. Both parents started with little more than the clothes on their back in one of the remotest, smallest towns in1890s America. Horace herded sheep 24 hours a day for $10 a month. Stella came from a log cabin with little education, brought up by a rough rancher and no mother in the home, lacking any model for style and culture except what she might find in the one-room school she occasionally attended or in church when she was able to go there.

Horace managed to become an attorney, the first president of the first bank in Junction and a leading citizen. Stella developed a powerful gift of language and made her way to leadership in church and social affairs. In both instances, a remarkable combination of ability and effort resulted in notable achievements.

Horace’s success seemed to evolve comfortably out of attributes one might observe on the surface: a bright intelligence, winning social skills, willingness to work, and an ambition to achieve. My impression is that Stella’s success was more a matter of molding herself to conform to a social and moral ideal of her own formulation that was far from anything that might normally have evolved from her character and background. It seems unlikely that she had a natural affinity for relating to people and being successful in their midst. Her success was an effort of will and the work of decades.

Stella was not going to be satisfied with ordinary children. Horace surely agreed. Horace could see the value of an education for the boys merely by observing his own achievements. Stella, I feel, knew the value of education for the boys by observing the great lack she felt in her own life due to the absence of one. Together, they must have vowed to make certain that each of their sons had the opportunity to go to college and get the head start in life that they, themselves, had not had.

Stella’s aims for the boys might be observed by the standards of dress she established for them. Despite the dusty, hard-work setting of a ranch home, virtually all the photographs of the children show style and care in the way they are dressed. From the outset, one feels that those boys were raised to dress well, speak well, behave well, get outstanding educations and establish themselves at a level in the world far above the primitive circumstances of Stella’s own upbringing. She saw it as her duty and privilege to see to that. She had achieved a remarkable transformation of herself, rising far above any expectation that might have been placed upon a girl with her rural log-cabin roots who had endured contentious years of bitter family strife in her youth. I believe she had an iron resolve to see that her offspring would maintain and perpetuate her gains. This section is about the boys, yet the presence of Stella is everywhere to be found. In fact, I can’t help but conclude that Stella’s influence on the character of the 5 boys was considerably greater than Horace’s. His intellectual abilities and certain aspects of his taste are not difficult to ascertain, but the bedrock character of the boys seems much closer to Stella’s.

Generalizing about these boys is difficult. In some ways they are varied in temperament. But they do have some things in common. They seem to be intelligent, independent, each capable in his own field. Each went his own individual way, was never part of a crowd. Each seemed to exhibit a greater-than-normal character of detachment, of separateness. For instance, I tend to doubt that any of them achieved or even desired much real closeness in family life. And I suspect that they did not cultivate or maintain enduring friendships, though my knowledge of them collectively makes this conclusion more surmise than fact.

In a letter dated August 10, 1955, Arthur says this about the family: “The same tendency to become lost souls was in Papa, Mama, in all the boys…” This is not easy to interpret, but I suspect he means that they all were at risk of becoming alienated, apart, detached, alone.

There is a touch of absolutism that the brothers have in common. They are not moderate. They have firm convictions. They tend to be categorical, outspoken, a little unbending, not easily swayed. There is a leaning toward rigidity. They stick up for what they believe, to the point of being argumentative, contentious. They became aggrieved quickly, but relinquished their grievances slowly.

I would say that these brothers had a hard time following rules; they tended to be rebels and non-conformists, though Ernest may have been an exception in the single sense that he was ardently supportive of a 10-commandment type of conformity. However, he was in no way socially or intellectually conforming.

Despite all of this, the brothers always expressed affection for each other, and great loyalty — although it often seems that the affection was more dutiful than warm, and that the loyalty was more abstract than deeply felt. The exception might be that Ernest and Robert carried on a feud for most of their adult lives, but even they, from time to time, would express fraternal feelings toward each other.

One part of the brothers’ common nature tended toward being contentious, which is inherently divisive. Another part of their nature emphasized family loyalty, which is inherently cohesive. I can’t help but feel that the divisive force that the boys share is more traceable to Stella than to Horace, because of her unassailable convictions and resolute moral absolutes; whereas the cohesive force more likely derives from Horace, who seemed to value flexibility and pragmatism. Stella was a forceful, perceptive, visionary woman who found much around her that did not meet the very high moral standards that were a part of her nature from early youth. Horace, on the other hand, seemed to be a likeable, accepting individual who advanced in life by finding opportunities and solving problems, and who advocated helpfulness and cooperation among the boys. Stella was far more absolute than Horace, and lack of flexibility seemed to be a dominant characteristic in all the boys.

An interesting introduction to the Wilson brothers as a family group is an article in a San Antonio newspaper134 on November 19, 1928, which is ostensibly devoted to Horace’s partnership in a law practice with 3rd son Robert. It will provide a way to become acquainted with the brothers and show something of the family dynamics at this particular time in 1928.

However, this will be something of a complicated introduction. For, despite the appearance of a prideful recitation of familial success, some uncomfortable issues are concealed beneath the surface of this article

This story is a result of an interview with Horace and Robert, and I make the assumption that the story is told by the journalist exactly as it was related to him. For the most part, it is a defensible case of putting one’s best foot forward and leaving the less good unsaid, but there is one element of the story which is startling to an informed reader.

Charmingly, the article is headlined in large letters:

PATER AND SON BOTH SUCCEED IN LAW.”

This heady theme of success is carried forward in a highlighted caption beneath individual photographs of Horace and Robert which reads in part:

Horace E. Wilson, S.A. lawyer (right) is the father of four sons who have succeeded in their profession.”

Immediately, something is jarring in this caption. As insiders, we know that Horace had 5 sons, though the general public may not. Why is this 5th son not mentioned? Is there not a 5th son, or is it that only 4 of the 5 have succeeded? Or is this merely a case of sloppy journalism? In my view this is a carefully contrived story, and the language is knowingly crafted by two attorneys for a purpose.

The story then proceeds along expected lines, recounting Horace’s penniless arrival from England in the area 43 years earlier, how he herded sheep in Bandera Country, and how he later moved to Junction “where he met the girl whom he married,” with no further mention of who this lady might have been, or where she might be now.

It is strange that there is no mention of the mother of the children, Stella. Why was she not mentioned? I’m sure the reason can be found in the stigma that the public attached to divorce at that time. Horace would have wanted to steer broadly clear of the subject, especially since he had by this time a second divorce behind him. This question passes, to remain unanswered.

However, the question, “What about the fifth son?” returns in louder voice about one-third of the way into the article where a subheading in capital letters appears:

FOUR SONS SUCCEED”

This lends itself to the thought that somehow only 4 or the 5 boys is being discussed. Then, with the next declarative sentence, it seems to become clear that the omission is not accidental.

The Wilsons raised a family of four boys.

Clearly, the existence of the 5th son is intentionally being omitted. Finally, the article proceeds to identify the four sons one by one, and still there is no mention whatsoever of a fifth son:

The eldest, Ernest, is a lawyer at Abilene, Texas. The youngest son, Francis, who graduated at Brackenridge High School, and attended Texas University where he took his law degree, is at present finishing his Ph. D. at Leland Stanford University. The second son, Arthur, is an artist and author, who divides his time between New York, London and other European cities.

The third son, Robert I. Wilson, attended Texas A. & M. college, and was taking his law course at Texas university when the war started. After two years in the service he returned to school, and took his degree in 1919.

So it is Baten, the fifth son who is excluded from recognition. He was about 21 at the time of this article, and living in the area where the article appeared. A little later, when the time comes in this narrative to speak directly of Baten, we shall discover events of just a year earlier that probably explain why Horace would have deliberately avoided mention of a fifth son, and, in fact, why he or Robert probably went to some lengths at this time to arrange for this positive story of success to appear.

The article concludes with more information about Robert’s distinguished career and the law partnership.

End of story? No, not quite.

There is yet one more cloudy detail, which also conceals a mystery. Look again at the information about Arthur. He divides his time among international capitals. He is an author and artist. But no education? That would seem out of character, not only with his profession as author, but also as a member of this accomplished family. Ernest’s college received no explicit mention, but he was identified as being a lawyer, so his education is implicit. Robert’s education is detailed. Francis’s education is lovingly extolled, even the high school he attended. But Arthur? Did he not go to college? Indeed, he did. He had approximately 5 years of college in the aggregate, but there is no mention of that here. Why? We shall find the answer to that perplexing question when we come to the chapter on Arthur.

I must offer a small disclaimer here. The chapters on Ernest and Arthur will be longer and fuller in detail simply because I know more about them personally and have more material about them to work with. No preferential treatment is intended. I have included as much information as I could obtain from the living children of Robert, Francis and Baten. I have tried to be objective in depicting all of these brothers. As a consequence a few warts and blemishes may show in their chapters that might normally be suppressed in the usual sort of family history. I feel that the value of what I report throughout this narrative will be greater for attempting to be complete and forthright.

Ernest … January 14, 1891-March 25, 1970

In the final analysis, Ernest was closer in character to Stella than any of the other 4 sons. He had an overarching moral view human life and behavior, as did Stella, and he shared her belief that activity in church matters was a personal duty. As a young man, he resolved to devote one third of his life to church work, a resolve that I believe he actually achieved throughout his years. To him, right and wrong were clear signposts pointing in opposite directions, and he had little doubt as to which was which. He was an intelligent and humane individual, but he invariably ceded dominance to moralisic precepts; thus nuanced and compassionate views tended to take a back seat always whenever moral guidelines applied.

I personally believe that Stella’s firm and lofty sense of how the world and the people in it should behave, noble and idealistic though it may have been, was the inadvertent cause of much conflict and confrontation throughout her life. It seems to me that the same was true of Ernest. For all the many good things about him – loyalty, hard work, standing up for the poor and disadvantaged, feeding and sheltering a family in very hard times, even willingness to adopt the child his brother denied because he [Ernest] thought it was the right thing to do – his good doings seemed to derive more from a sense of duty than a sense of humanity. Consequently, he seemed somewhat impersonal and detached, even in his good deeds. That too, I believe, was the case with Stella. Ernest’s extremely strong sense of duty, of the “right” thing to do in a moral sense, most likely mirrored Stella’s behavior and explained much of his conduct throughout his life.

There is a gap in my knowledge of Ernest’s early life. I assume that his high school education was more or less normal. If so, he would have completed high school roughly in 1908, perhaps at age 17. Had he gone on to college and law school right away, he might have taken his law degree and begun practice by something like 1914. Instead, Ernest entered law school in 1923 and graduated in 1925. He began practice in Abilene later that year.

So, there are about 15 years between leaving high school and entering law school. His undergraduate college work is totally unknown to me; but allowing 3 or 4 years for undergraduate school, that still leaves 11 or 12 years of his time in that period to account for.

Because I feel this gap is significant for reasons enumerated later, I will list a few things that might have had been responsible for some of this unusually long period between high school and law school.

Ernest often bitterly related that that it had been his lot to perform hard ranch and farm work on the family property for several years instead of going ahead with his education. His implication was that he had been unfairly treated in this regard and that he had been required by Horace to postpone the normal pursuit of higher education.

The first evidence of this is a photograph (picture 6.33, about 1906) of himself as a boy in his middle teens, on he wrote: “Ernie Wilson, see his hand from hard work.” The picture portrays a sad-faced boy with his visible right hand displaying an appearance very much consistent with strenuous manual labor.

On another photograph of a large area of Junction containing a fair ground and race track, Ernest wrote:

the alfalfa fields where I farmed… in 1916, 1917 and part of 1918.

This aspect of Ernest’s story is further supported by a reference made by Arthur. In an undated letter to Ernest, Arthur comments on an early photograph of Ernest, saying:

Still, it is a lovely shot of you, taken before toil and mistreatment brought out the iron in you.

In 1906, a photograph taken inside Horace’s bank shows Ernest as one of the employees of the bank, alongside Coke Stevenson who later became governor of Texas. He would have been 15 at the time

For at least one winter in this period, Ernest took a job hauling freight between Junction and Menard, an enterprise in which his uncle Hyde Graham was also involved. There were no automobiles then, and no trains in that remote area. All goods that now move by air or truck or train had to be transported by heavy-duty wagons pulled by mules or oxen. Roads such as existed at all were no more than ruts through and around the hills, searching for places to cross streams and avoid terrain too rugged for wagons to navigate. Ernest was proud of this occupation and was a member of the Old Trail Drivers Association of Texas, whose conventions he attended.

In 1913, a letter from Arthur makes mention of a severe illness that Ernest experienced. The story I remember is that he met his wife, Pauline Steck, during this illness. She was a trained nurse and was helping care for him at the time they met. Ernest married Pauline January 23, 1916, so the illness Arthur refers to is likely the one which brought about his acquaintance with Pauline. I believe this was an era of very serious influenza epidemics; perhaps Ernest was victimized by one of these.

Horace’s Junction Ice and Light Company was deeded to Ernest in early 1915, in what might have been an ostensible purchase. This came at a time soon after Horace and Stella and the younger boys had moved to San Antonio and when Horace might have been facing some financial difficulties. Giving the ice company to Ernest may have been somehow in lieu of his going to college. In any event, his association with this activity accounts for part of the time-gap before he went to law school.

My belief is that he probably was involved in farm work and ranch work and other activities for several years during this period. It is conceivable he had initially elected not to go to college of his own volition, even though in later years he remembered it as an unfair imposition. Perhaps it was a combination of factors.

During the period that would have followed immediately upon Ernest’s graduation from high school, Horace was a bank president in Junction, and a successful attorney, so financial hardship would not have seemed to be an issue, especially considering that 2nd son Arthur had attended college beginning in 1909 and was heading off to a costly Eastern university in 1911.

However, Horace did come upon some difficult times in the 1912-1914 period, and if Ernest had sought to go to school at that time and perhaps for a few years following, Horace might have been unable to provide the money. Perhaps this is somehow related to the deeding of the Ice Plant to Ernest in 1915.

Ernest worked for some time during World War I at a DuPont ordnance plant in Tennessee. My assumption is that he was not eligible for the draft due to his illness, and may have been conscripted to perform this duty as an alternative. Pay stubs indicate that he was in Tennessee in 1918.

In any event, none of these avenues seemed to have led to any promising possibilities for his future life, and we have this reference to Ernest from Horace in a letter in 1929:135 “After he got to be about 30 years of age [Ernest] decided that he wanted to study law…” Ernest would have been 30 in 1921.

Since Ernest attended two semesters of law school at the University of Texas in 1923 before transferring to Baylor University in 1924, Ernest’s actual age upon entering law school would have been closer to 32 years.

I make this point at some length because I think it had a determining impact on Ernest’s later life. What I believe is that Ernest remained more of a “Texas country boy” well into young manhood before pursuing his professional education. He worked in the fields, and he worked on the ranch. He worked at the bank. He was ill. He hauled freight. He ran the ice plant. He got married. The war came along and he worked in a munitions plant in Tennessee. Though he probably did have some additional education in this period, most likely at a small college, by the time he made the decision at age 32 to pursue a law degree, he was a mature adult whose rural ways and language would have been more deeply ingrained than if he had proceeded to college and on to law school directly out of high school. I think that much of his earlier character stayed with him all of his life and came to dominate his pattern of living in later years.

There was always a residue of Texas frontier in him, more than in the other boys, I believe. Frontier justice often entailed swift, decisive action based on a clear code of right and wrong. It fit well with Ernest’s firm moral convictions. I think that’s how Ernest basically saw things, and many of his instincts derived from that concept.

Once Ernest did get to law school, he excelled. He received his law degree at Baylor University in 1925, where he graduated with “highest honors,” according to the record read to me from the Baylor University archives. One of his classmates was Leon Jawarski, who achieved wide fame as the prominent attorney during the impeachment proceedings of Richard Nixon. Ernest was elected to Barrister’s Temple, an honor society. He graduated second in his class. As a senior law student, Ernest was president of the Baylor Senate. It is somewhat indicative of Ernest’s character that he went to his grave believing he had really achieved first place, but had been deprived of this honor because of the favoritism of one Professor Hildebrand, a name I have not heard in perhaps 60 years, but one that still comes back to me because of the firmness with which Ernest expressed his convictions. This is not to say Ernest was incorrect, only that the sting of this alleged injustice never completely disappeared.

In any event, he began law practice in Abilene in late 1925, at age 34.

Ernest was a man of strong convictions. Like Stella whose example he may have subconsciously been following, it was somewhat typical of him that he often saw better ways that affairs could be managed in the churches where he was active, and he expressed them openly, not always to the delight of the people whose methods he was criticizing. In contrast to Stella’s staunch adherence to Baptist beliefs, Ernest came to espouse the Methodist faith. I feel rather sure, however, that their convictions were infinitely more alike than dissimilar in the categories of morality and behavior.

In my view, t is clear that Ernest’s 4 younger brothers demonstrated clear instances of rebellion toward some of Stella’s influences, but Ernest showed a much greater devotion to her and to her fundamental views. In going through Ernest’s papers after his death, I came across a profusely laudatory essay about her by Ernest, in which he spoke of her as wearing a halo.

Ernest told me of several instances in his life where his firm convictions had led him to the point of physical confrontation: one involving a face-off with pitchforks out in a hayfield (possibly with his uncle Frank), another involving fisticuffs on the street. With his clear moral compass, he may at times have been quick to judge; with his dislikes incited, he may at times have been intemperate in his response; with his fierce tenacity, he may at times have cherished his grudges too long. These are traits shared in large measure by all the Wilson brothers.

Perhaps it is because I know him better than the other 4 brothers, but I am inclined to believe that Ernest may have had more difficulty staying on good terms with others and was more likely to find areas of dispute in his relationships than the other brothers – though they all seem to have strong tendencies in this regard.

Ernest also had an inclination to be suspicious (as I believe the other brothers did, too) and perhaps to feel that people were acting against him. On one occasion I especially recall, he made elaborate accusations that I had taken some photographs of no possible interest to me, which he himself had probably misplaced. At the time of his death, I found some notes in his files going back to when I was 16 or 17 detailing how, because I was having guests, I had moved his hat from a piano bench where he usually kept it to a place in his bedroom. He had been hurt by my behavior. I believe he thought I felt that his ways were not good enough for me, though at age 16 I knew no other ways.

All the brothers were contentious in nature. They were quick to feel the sting of affront, slow to relinquish a cherished grudge. Ernest was certainly quick to feel affront, and became quite confrontational when so offended. Even as a bystander, I knew of many disputes with law partners, with church colleagues, with friends, with tenants, as well as with brothers.

The brothers seemed to delight in challenging each other’s views on people, politics, and religion – and not merely in a humorous manner. Any position taken or decision made was subject to articulate disagreement. In Ernest’s case it seems to me that he may have had difficulty participating in a sustained give-and-take dialog without resorting to his absolute values, which, once invoked, tended to bring discussions to an acrimonious conclusion. This, of course, would lead to protracted confrontation and conflict. In this, I suspect he was similar to Stella.

I don’t recall anyone in Ernest’s life that I could say was a pal or a friend. He was a loner of sorts – not because he was withdrawn and preferred solitude, but more, it seems to me, because he didn’t interact comfortably with people.

Relations among the brothers sometimes erupted in bitter disputes. Usually, however, after allowing sufficient time for the disputants feel that their honor had been satisfied, the brothers would reconcile and proceed onward in a cordial manner. The one exception, a dispute between Ernest and Robert, was never resolved. Apart from this single instance of irreconcilable differences, the brothers typically expressed loyalty and affection in their letters, even in the midst of their disagreements. They seemed to feel that an intangible bond of brotherhood transcended their animated disputes.

Ernest had difficulties in his relation with his Uncle Frank, Horace’s brother, as he writes to Francis December 8th, 1961:

Forget the lifetime feud between Frank Wilson and myself and the injury he did our family and Father.

The cause for Ernest’s dislike of his Uncle Frank is alluded to but not identified in an earlier letter to Francis, January 2, 1936:

Much of the bitterness of my boyhood could easily have been averted if my uncle had been different or only left me alone.

Frank Wilson was not very popular amongst the 5 brothers. Ernest had some kind of ongoing hostility with him from very early years. Francis says that his Uncle Frank took advantage of Horace’s generosity. It is very clear in reading the record of Horace’s estate that the brothers thought that Uncle Frank collected money due the estate and used it for personal purposes. A mention is made in correspondence that Frank was disgruntled that Horace made no provision for him in his will. Francis makes a statement that Frank was driven out of Mexico, without explaining the reference. He says that Frank “camped on” Horace, meaning, I think, that he sought financial help from Horace over an extended period of time, with the implication that he should have been more self-supporting and less dependent on his brother.

Now, to Ernest and Robert. If you wish to imagine a situation fraught with potential conflict, consider this: two brothers who are lawyers, of contentious natures, who seem already to have some animosity between them, who are thrown into conflict over the management of their mother’s estate which exacerbates the underlying conflict, only to be thrown into deeper conflict 6 years later over their father’s estate which apparently puts the conflict beyond reconciliation. That is what happened between Ernest and Robert. In the end, Ernest complained openly that Robert was self-indulgent and irresponsible in the management of Horace’s estate and the use of funds that were part of the estate. On the other hand, Robert felt that Ernest wished to take over executorship of the estate for purposes of personal material gain. Certainly, each seemed to have had a lustful taste for vendetta going back in time to entirely unrelated and perhaps forgotten antecedents.

A very condensed summary of this decades-long feud between Ernest and Robert: Ernest became executor of Stella’s estate; Robert took exception to one or more things that Ernest did; harsh words were spoken; differences worsened; later, Robert became executor of Horace’s estate; Ernest took exception to one or more things Robert did; harsh words were spoken; differences worsened; Ernest sued in court to have Robert removed as executor and the estate placed in the hands of receivers, of which Ernest was one; the court so ruled; harsh words were spoken; differences worsened; and from that day onward to Ernest’s death, some 37 years later the differences were never reconciled. Ernest did visit Robert once around 8 years before Ernest’s death, but the meeting ended in bitter words.136 However, Robert did attend Ernest’s funeral.

From reading perhaps 50 or more letters relating to the legal affairs of Stella’s and of Horace’s estate, I can say that being executor seemed to be a tremendous burden on whichever brother was in charge. Ernest made several dozens of trips from Abilene to Kimble County, involving countless hours of legal detail and much seemingly unrecompensed time and effort. Worst of all for either brother was the ongoing struggle to lease, rent, or sell properties and collect sufficient monies to pay taxes and numerous loan obligations – all this during extremely difficult economic times. Horace Wilson died in 1932, at a time when the Great Depression was in full force, making the resolution of matters relating to property and debt and taxes very difficult.

Here is one of numerous instances that appear in the correspondence about managing matters related to Horace’s estate. Ernest writes to Francis, January 20, 1937:

Dear Brother: I was in Junction yesterday and closed the deal. I drove 340 miles, stayed in Junction 8 hours, wrote up the papers, checked the taxes, and figure that I will charge you and Baton [sic] a total of $7.00 for driving my car 340 miles, drawing all the papers and working 8 hours on the deal. You owed taxes on this lot of $1.52, including 1934, which they had overlooked, or so they claimed, on the school. This left $3.48 … which I applied on the $7.00.

The meticulous attention to small sums (though no sum was truly a small sum in the depression) illustrates a point Horace made to Francis in a letter I estimate to be around April, 1926. It illustrates the demands of being executor of an estate and says something about Ernest’s character:

Ernie has been spending most of his time down here and when he goes back to Abilene it will be just like starting [his law practice] anew. I think he has taken a very peculiar view of some things, yet I am sure you can absolutely rely upon his correctly accounting for what he does.

Ernest had a vision of what the ranch in Bandera might develop into.

On April 28, 1938, he writes to Francis:

I have looked this ranch over very carefully, and see some wonderful possibilities in holding it… It can be made into a semi-dude ranch with hunting and it is near Medina Lake. This is in addition to running the front part of it as a dairy and the back part as grazing. I have been making arrangements to get the Government to build a water tank [pond] and cut cedar on it.

On June 6, 1938, in another letter to Francis, he writes:

I am holding up the leasing of the ranch as I think we can get a contract for about $730.00 to $800.00 per year, we to reserve all of the hunting privileges and get the government expenditure for conservation of water and grazing. The latter including the building of storage tanks below the springs, and the shrubbing of cedar. We have a wonderful opportunity to turn this into a semi-dude ranch, in addition to the hunting and other privileges.

Difficulties in trying to hold the estate together and to realize any kind of fair value for it were on-going from 1932 through 1944.

At age 71, in the letter to Francis of May 14, 1962, Ernest mentions a hope for reconciliation:

It is my hope that we as brothers can get together and visit before the last call which usually comes to people of senior years. One of the greatest privileges of my life would be to have a reunion of the brothers at my ranch or in Buffalo Gap at the museum to show them how I am preserving the heritage of our family… I want to clean the discord and misunderstanding out of all our lives… Your loving brother…

To the best of my knowledge, no reunion of any sort occurred.

In my years in Abilene (roughly 1929-1944), the only visit I personally recall from a brother was from Francis, and that was in 1938, I believe. Arthur never visited in this period, though I believe he did visit Ernest in the 1950’s or 1960’s. Baten never visited. Robert never visited, to the best of my knowledge.

Like Stella, Ernest was prone to seeing things in terms of right and wrong. He was compassionate, even caring in an abstract way, as long as no moral or ethical principles were being in question. I don’t think he was mean or cruel or tyrannical, but his sense of moral absolutes gave him a feeling of rigidity. His inability to relate comfortably to people included his relationships with Pauline and Ernest, Jr., and me. He showed interest in a detached way. I don’t recall that he ever took delight in his children, though he was genuinely proud of their achievements and he was especially pleased with his first grandchild.137 The idea of family was very strong in him. I must acknowledge, however, that I had little opportunity to observe his relations with Ernest, Jr., who was about 7 years older than me. On the occasions in later years when Ernest, Jr., and I discussed these matters, I came to believe he felt much the same way.

I can remember being punished by him, sometimes with a belt and sometimes with a “switch,” which would be a very small, flexible little branch from a nearby shrub or tree, stripped of its leaves, usually preceded by the statement, “I’m going to switch you, young man.” I rather suspect I deserved the punishment, though, in fairness, I can recall instances where I probably did deserve punishment but received none.

Ernest seemed happiest when fully absorbed in affairs related to his ranch and his museum, or in pursuit of some consuming goal. Establishing his museum and collecting for it are a perfect example: Days and weeks and months upon end were absorbed by it, and almost everything else, including people, seemed secondary.

I’m inclined to think there is a commonality in this regard among the brothers. They all seemed, each in his own way, to have at the minimum a tendency toward a detached, preoccupied character, capable of consuming passions and intensive involvement in impersonal matters to the exclusion of human relations. I feel that this characteristic in some way was an influence of Stella, though I cannot draw a connecting line. Perhaps this is what Arthur had in mind when he mentioned that all the brothers had a tendency to become “lost souls.”

Horace’s influence was different. Ernest had a sizable library in our small home, although I do not recall him reading very much for pleasure. But it was clear that he thought a home could not be proper without such volumes as a complete set of Mark Twain, a complete set of Dickens, a set of Halliburton’s Travels, histories, and Shakespeare. He taught me chess. He always spoke to me as if college was a foregone conclusion, although, as it turned out he made no contribution to my college education. (However, I should add that I had the wonderful G.I. Bill to help me get an education that otherwise could have been only an unfulfilled dream.) On the other hand, Horace relates that Stella always preferred discussing Biblical matters with the young boys, rather than Shakespeare or literature.

Ernest was active in Democratic politics, following Horace’s preferences in that regard. Francis, other the other hand, was a staunch Republican.

On the occasion when Ernest ran for a seat in the U.S. Congress, one of his campaign posters declared:

I will tell the story of the last Legislature and what the next should be when I speak. Pensions or Poverty, which shall it be? I am opposed to members of the Legislature drawing any salary until all the constitutional debts to the pensioners, the blind, the needy children and the retiring schoolteachers are paid.

Ernest was firmly anti-big business, anti-chain stores, and expressed contempt for “corporation” lawyers. He had a deaf ear for music, as did Stella, according to Francis. However, of all things, he hired a local “operatic” soprano to sing on the radio show sponsoring his insurance business. (This had to be the influence of Horace, who loved operatic music.) Ernest loved food, and often brought home delicious barbecue or bushels of cantaloupes or corn, or half a dozen watermelons. Later, he was thrilled when I was able to send him a selection of delicacies from New York City each Christmas, which had to include crystallized ginger, an exotic delight he had learned to love from Horace, who in turn had brought that taste from England.

Ernest was always proud of his sons, and never failed to boast about them, given the slightest opportunity

As unaesthetic and frugal as he was in most regards, he built a beautiful lily pond and grape arbor in our back yard, of which he was inordinately proud.

It may be seen in photo 7.4.

Until Prohibition (a law making the sale of alcohol illegal) was repealed in 1932, and even for a few years thereafter, Ernest traveled about the area making Temperance speeches, decrying the Demon Rum and advocating strict abstinence from alcohol in any form. This was a favorite cause of Stella, one of the few of her passions which Horace shared with her.

Early in his adult life, Ernest vowed to dedicate a third of his waking life to the church, a third of his life to his profession, and a third of his life to personal pursuits, such as archeology, West Texas history, genealogy, collecting and similar topics of interest to him. (In those days, I suppose, it did not occur to people to devote time to family.) He was a man of his word. His entire life bore out his faithfulness to that early commitment, though along the way his allocation of time might have been skewed more to one or another of those areas of commitment. I can never remember a time while I was in the household when he was not fully occupied in his pursuits. Leisure and entertainment were foreign to him, though he occasionally found time to do some fishing. Even as I kept abreast of his activities throughout the rest of his life, he was hard working and involved in his commitments and interests.

His earliest years in Abilene (roughly 1926-1936) were dedicated primarily to establishing himself in his profession and as a bread-winner. He was energetic, worked long hours, and did all he could to keep his family housed and clothed and fed during the depression. Times were very hard. He was a full-time attorney. He started two insurance companies in the 1930’s. These companies provided mostly small policies, such as burial insurance which indigent people were especially concerned with. In addition to selling the small polices, premiums were usually collected in nickels and dimes each week in order to keep the policy in force. One of the insurance companies was absorbed by a larger firm, and I cannot say what happened with the other one. At the same time, Ernest simultaneously pursued and wrote up Dun and Bradstreet credit reports for twenty-five cents each, or less, each one usually requiring travel out of the office, data collection and at least one personal interview. What he did was the equivalent of holding down 3 jobs simultaneously.

Ernest managed to acquire property here and there. He pieced a few things together and was able to use them to help realize a life-long dream when, sometime around 1937, he bought a small 640-acre ranch of his own near View, Texas, 14 miles south and west of Abilene. Land was literally dirt cheap in the depression, and not much more was needed to acquire it than the ability to pay taxes on it, make a small initial payment and then make minimal mortgage payments – though this was all much easier said than done. It was typical of our life that family comforts and life style took a back seat to Ernest’s desire to build an estate and provide for the future. There was no pension plan for him to rely on. Life in his house was spare.

The idea of a ranch of his own was doubly appealing: it was deeply ingrained as a romanticized dream of earlier Texas times, and it was a recapture of his life as a youth in the Hill Country. By and large, the land around Abilene is flat, arid and grudgingly farmed or ranched, if at all productive. However, about 14 miles south and west of Abilene, some ancient hills rose out of the flat lands, and Ernest bought his ranch there. At the time, a neighboring farmer grew a few crops on a few of the non-hilly acres of the ranch, but it was otherwise not productive, except for a few goats that I recall. Very soon, World War II came along. His ranch was subject to forced sale to the government, and the army took over property from many contiguous landowners in the area and built Camp Barkley in the area along about 1940 or 1941. With the proceeds from that sale, he bought a small farm near Tuscola, which he nonetheless insisted on calling a ranch.

One of Ernest’s consuming passions was a study of the archeology of Indian culture throughout the area. Combined with an equal interest in the history of U.S. Army forts established in West Texas in the 1800’s to protect settlers from the Indians, these studies took him all throughout the area. He wrote reports for historical and archeological publications. He had a spectacular collection of arrowheads and Indian artifacts.

In the period from the mid-30’s to the mid-40’s, he became more involved in church work, although his interest in his ranch and West Texas history never lay very far beneath the surface. He was superintendent of Sunday school at the largest Methodist Church in Abilene, and an Elder of the church. Differences arose, and he affiliated himself with a splinter group of the Methodist faith and started a church literally from the ground up in another section of town.138 A few years later, disputes arose in the new church and he left that church and started still another church in a poorer section of town, where he, himself, assumed the role of minister, having been ordained

somewhere along the way.139 Few if any church-goers from that section of town had transportation and Ernest would send me on several trips in our 1933 Chevrolet sedan before each service to go out and “haul” people in to attend church. Ernest’s wife, Pauline, was the pianist for Sunday morning, Sunday evening and Wednesday night prayer meeting services. She was not an accomplished piano player, but neither was the piano in tune, and everyone appreciated that there was music, at all. I can still sing the words and tunes of many a hymn. Pauline loved music. I must mention that she used to listen to broadcast of the Metropolitan Opera in New York on Saturday afternoons, and I can still remember joyfully imitating the strange sounds bounding barefooted along paths through acres of mesquite trees near our house.

I should point out that each of Ernest’s affiliations with new churches entailed acquiring land and literally building a house of worship. In each case, he undertook the task of spearheading these moves. The records indicate he contributed money as well as tremendous amounts of time and energy to these causes. He attended to all the ongoing finances and legal matters of these later churches.

I joined the U.S. Army Air Force in 1943 at 17, and was called into service in May of 1944, less than a month after my 18th birthday. Following my discharge in 1947, I went away to school and only returned to Abilene infrequently. In the present stage of my life, however, I must confess to having a very strong urge every few years to go back to Abilene for occasional visits, not to see people, but to look once again on the old haunts.

I see my footprints there, and the ghosts of the boy that I was.

Ernest’s wife, Pauline, was of German descent.140 She was a kind and compassionate woman who had had excellent training as a nurse in the Kellogg Sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan. She and Ernest had a son Ernest, Jr., in 1919, and had earlier lost a daughter, Dorothy, in infancy. I joined the family in 1929 and was later legally adopted. Pauline told me of the horrible prejudice expressed toward people of German descent during World War I.

Pauline went to San Antonio and stayed with Stella during her last illness. Ernest says:141

Pauline injured her health taking care of Mother. But it gave Mama so much pleasure to have her with her.

Pauline’s unselfish nature was recognized by Stella who left a small sum of money for Pauline in her will “…as a token of my appreciation of her kindness toward me.”

Pauline died of leukemia in 1946 (I can recall that Ernest felt that the doctors and hospital had somehow failed to do all possible to diagnose and treat her condition), and I had the feeling that soon thereafter, Ernest began to concentrate more and more on his interests in pioneer days in West Texas. This took the form of insatiable collecting of anything in any form related to this topic. His collecting interests didn’t stop at the large and obvious – guns, wagons, log cabins, saddles, old furniture, brands, Indian artifacts; he took equal delight in the smallest relics of past years – a doll, an egg beater, high-button shoes, a lady’s hat, a coffee pot, a lock, a child’s dress. By 1956, or thereabouts, he began to think of an actual museum. He bought a little-used building in Buffalo Gap, Texas, (photo 7.1) which had been the first county courthouse and jail in Taylor County, before the county seat was moved to Abilene when the railroad went there in the 1880’s. Eventually, he sold his Tuscola “ranch” and moved into a decrepit old house across the street from the courthouse which he converted into a museum to house his collection and to make room for more.

During this period, I think he reduced or even discontinued his obligations to the church and also reduced his law practice to a minimum. He had bought the Buffalo Gap building for a modest price, and he did all his collecting at negligible expense. A great many of the items he added to the museum were donations from people who believed, as he did, that memorabilia from the frontier days of West Texas should be preserved and available for later generations to experience.

A brief, remarkable story about Ernest is that he served as the attorney to arrange for the legalization of liquor sales in Buffalo Gap. To understand this in its full, amazing improbability, you’d have to have known him in his earlier years, with his implacable moral stance against drinking and his untiring efforts on behalf of the Temperance movement. I’m really sorry I can’t recall his explanation when I asked him about it. However, I took it as a gratifying indication that he had mellowed, at least a little, in his later years. He might have chuckled a bit at the obvious irony of how things had changed. To this very day, a picture of Ernest and the Mayor of Buffalo Gap is on exhibit at the local beer and barbecue café, commemorating the legalization of beer sales.

In 1964, the “Ernie Wilson Museum” received the honor of being designated a Texas State Historical Site, which it is to this day. Following Ernest’s death in 1970, new owners further expanded the museum, the entire complex coming eventually to be known as the “Buffalo Gap Historic Village.” The Museum and village are a well-known tourist attraction in the area. It is presently owned and operated as a non-profit, educational program of the Grady McWhiney Research Foundation of Abilene, Texas.

Following Ernest’s funeral a small group of people gathered at Buffalo Gap:

Arthur; Robert; Ernest, Jr., his wife Marie, daughter Patti and her husband, Lauren; and me. Nice things were said about Ernest. Arthur spoke about the great achievement represented by Ernest’s museum and how the boys (Ernest, Jr., and me) should continue it. Marie quickly interrupted with something like, “Well, I don’t know about that. I think these boys have already had to give up enough for this museum and all that went into it.”

Ernest was never affluent, but I am convinced he could have achieved great material and community success. He accomplished a great deal in very difficult times in his law practice, in his business activities and in real estate. But by the time prosperity might have been within his reach, his interests in church activities had begun to consume him, and he began to follow a different path. And always there was his passion for West Texas history and his mania for collecting.

Life at home in the 1930s was lived under very spare circumstances. Pauline often wore house dresses made from feed sacks, and I went to school in clothes that Pauline made from Ernest’s worn out suits. Pauline cut my hair. We had cows which I milked and chickens for food and eggs. Pauline sold eggs for a little spending money, and she made our own laundry soap. She baked bread two or three times a week, to the point where a slice of “bought” bread was a bigger treat to me than a slice of cake. I went barefoot all summer. For years, we heated hot water for baths on the kitchen stove. The only heat in the house was a small gas heater in the “front room,” and the floor covering was torn linoleum. The only window covering was roll-up window shades. On Saturday nights as late as the mid-1930’s we would walk half a block to the only house on the entire square block across the street to listen to their radio. We never went hungry. We never were cold. We were never without a roof. But I think life was hard for Pauline.

Without a doubt, times were difficult, and Ernest put a very high priority during the 1930s and 1940s on accumulating some net worth to help meet future needs – college expenses, emergency requirements and something to count on for old age. He had faith in land as an asset that would appreciate. So, his family got by on limited resources during those years, but perhaps no more than most other families of the times.

A significant change took place over time with Ernest. In his earliest period in Abilene, he was growing in prominence and prosperity. There was every indication that he would take his place among the leaders of his community – leaders in the sense of prestige and stature and perhaps even wealth and political power. He was a candidate for the U.S. Congress. However, beginning somewhere around the mid-30’s he began what turned out in the end to have been a long, steady movement away from the upper-middle- class status that appeared to have been his earlier direction, no doubt accelerated by Pauline’s death in 1946. His clients and religious associates began little by little to be progressively less prosperous, less educated, less professional. At the same time, he reverted more and more to a genuine old-time Texas manner of speech and dress. This occurred as his interests in collecting were growing. It is as if he wanted to go back to a time he had left behind. Being the oldest son, and not entering upon professional training until age 32, perhaps Ernest had never quite severed his roots that were sunk deep into frontier West Texas. Perhaps he didn’t “regress” into an earlier era as I implied; perhaps he had never really left it. Perhaps his excursion into middle class professional status had been only the short-lived visit of a man who soon found he wanted to go back to where he felt he belonged. In that sense, of all the brothers, he probably remained closest to 19th-century frontier Texas.

Late in life, almost everyone addressed him as “Judge Wilson” (an honorary title often accorded to attorneys) or “Brother Wilson” (a term often used amongst church people of the time).

Upon his death in 1970, his estate was minimal. The last dozen years or so, he had kept legal work to a level barely sufficient to keep him going and to permit him to pursue the passion of his Museum. Personally, I am glad he worked out his life that way. His interest and pride in the museum never flagged. His resources held up so that he was able to keep the museum open at his own expense for something like 12-13 years. For a little while after Pauline’s death, he had an acquaintance with a “widow woman” that I encouraged him to cultivate, but after a while I heard nothing more about her. Perhaps she could see that his heart belonged to the museum. Perhaps he could see that that she would want more of his time and resources than he would want to spare from his pursuits.

Ernest deserves credit and thanks from me. He adopted me in 1929 when alternatives for me were very problematical. I was the son of his next youngest brother, Arthur, and he felt the family had a responsibility to give that boy a better life than seemed probable under existing circumstances. He was just starting out in law practice in Abilene, and it is certain that another child would have been a disruption and a burden. Yet, he never once complained or made me feel other than a son. All through the hard years of the depression, I was fed and clothed and cared for in that family, without ever any overt sense of being less a family member than Ernest’s own son, Ernest, Jr., about 7 years older. Pauline was a caring woman, and Ernest was as fair and supportive as he knew to be. If either one of them had stronger affection for their own son, it never manifested itself in word or deed that I observed.

Ernest died of a stroke at age 79 in Abilene. His brothers Arthur and Robert attended the funeral. It was at Ernest’s funeral that I had my first conversations with Arthur, as father and son.

Ernest’s obituary appeared with photograph on the front page of the evening edition of the Abilene Reporter-News on March 25, 1970, and in the morning edition the following day. Brief excerpts from the obituaries follow:

Mr. Wilson took an active part in politics and served four years as State Democratic Executive committeeman. He was a member of the Taylor County Bar and the Texas State Bar Association.

He was founder and owner of Buffalo Gap Ernie Wilson Museum, which contains many relics of West Texas Life. He lived at Buffalo Gap during the latter years of his life.

Mr. Wilson was a charter member of the West Texas Geological Society, West Texas Folklore Society, State Folklore Society, West Texas Historical Society.

In reading some of the things Ernest wrote very late in his life, I am led to wonder if he might not have experienced one or more minor strokes in the several years before his death. The connections in some of what he wrote were sometimes very difficult to grasp. Perhaps advancing age had begun to take its toll.

Ernest, Jr., and I decided that we could not undertake to keep the museum in operation. His permanent residence was Albuquerque, New Mexico, and I lived in Princeton, New Jersey, at the time. My job was in New York City with the publishing company, McGraw-Hill. The Museum and all its contents were sold to a local doctor for a very modest price. Ernest, Jr., was executor of the will. He did a splendid job.

I think Ernest was a good man, an honest man, a difficult man. He worked hard throughout his life. He supported his family in hard times. He contributed to his community through decades of dedicated church work. I feel certain that he did much pro bono legal work throughout his career. He left an enduring legacy by establishing a museum complex which has grown and evolved to the point where it is a well-known tourist attraction in the state of Texas … The Buffalo Gap Historic village.

Arthur … July 20, 1892-November 18, 1974

Arthur was my biological father, though I never met him until Ernest’s funeral, 44 years after I was born.142 I had encountered him once before, at an art exhibit in New York, around 1951. At the time, I was a student at Columbia College in New York City, and my Uncle Francis had quietly let me know that such an exhibit was to take place. (I take this to be a bit of a subversive activity on the part of Francis, since I believe there had been a pact, at least between Ernest and Arthur, that I was never to know that Ernest was not my biological father, and I am certain that all the brothers knew that this was Ernest’s fervent wish.) I introduced myself to Arthur as Horace Wilson, from Abilene, Texas. He certainly knew who I was, but he chose not to acknowledge a relationship, and I accordingly followed suit.

My first awareness of Arthur came as a child. Despite the unyielding conviction of Ernest that I should be raised as a natural son in his household, unaware of the fact that I was actually adopted, Pauline let me know that I was in fact adopted and that I had other parents. It was all very vague, but, to the extent that anything at all was concrete, it was that I had a “Winnie mama” who loved me and sometimes wrote to me and sent me gifts. (I have a handful of these letters to me and to Pauline dated in the late 1920s. Somehow, Pauline saved them and took steps to see that I would get them after her death. She knew that they would mean something to me.) In the case of Arthur, there was a portrait in my closet of a man in a WW I uniform that I somehow thought may be my father. After these very early impressions, no further discussions ever occurred about my parentage. Knowing Ernest, he would have emphatically outlawed any such conversation. Foremost among other things, he would have wanted to prevent me from ever learning that my parents had never married. Nonetheless, it was these seeds, along with some gentle assistance from Robert and Baten and Francis in the late 1940’s that led me to seek out my parents out later.

In all the many early pictures of the brothers, Arthur seems to project the sharpest personality, as if he has everything all figured out behind a non-committal, self-assured gaze.

Of all the documentation I have recently accumulated, the first written record I have of Arthur is a letter dated April, 1908, from Junction, Texas, to Stella when she has just recently undergone serious surgery in a hospital, probably in San Antonio. He would have been age 17 at the time. It is the letter in which he attempts to comfort her and persuade her to give up her “grievous habit” of looking “at the black side of every cloud that hangs over head.”

Arthur attended college briefly at Texas A & M. I have letters dated February 3 and October 10 of 1911 from College Station describing his courses and life there.

Then, there unfolds something of a mystery that I shall relate more or less as it became known to me. The next correspondence from Arthur takes the form of a long descriptive letter dated August 30, 1911, from the colorful city of New Orleans. Arthur, now age 19, is enjoying the great variety and excitement of the city. He says he is going to move as quickly as possible to obtain a boat and implores his mother to answer every letter he sends and gives a most surprising destination address: Bromley Court 44, Cambridge, Massachusetts. He wants to know about things “…that take place in Junction, about things of interest as material for stories, etc.” Arthur has decided to become a writer.

Now comes another long letter, just the kind one might expect from an aspiring author. It was written on a river boat between New Orleans and St. Louis, and is full of interesting and colorful events that occurred on the Mississippi. The letter is dated September 9, 1911.143 In it he says:

At first I feared to believe what I yet hoped to realize, namely, the trip to Harvard. I feel utterly selfish in accepting all that you and Papa have offered me…

It is germane to note that you have just now become privy to information that for many years seemed to me to be a family secret, subject to concealment and evasion. I suppose it was not a “secret” to those in Arthur’s immediate family at the time. Kathleen knew of his attending Harvard from her father. I realize now that it may only have been a “secret” in my household, where any mention of Arthur, of any sort, was prohibited.

As time went on, I believe Arthur’s attendance at Harvard became an embarrassment that was kept from the outside world. The fact that Arthur went to Harvard was never mentioned in all the approximately 500 pages of family documentation I have acquired, although there are one or two oblique references that only the already-initiated would comprehend. Nor have I discovered any mention of his attendance there in any public documents or statements. What would have been a proud fact in most families was a skeleton in the closet of this family. The reason is that mention of attendance at Harvard would have led to disclosure that he did not graduate, raising the question of why not, which is the mystery to which I presently have no answer.

For the time being, you and I, reader and writer, will have to leave this mystery unexplained. I simply have no definitive answer as I write this, though I do expect to find out before this narrative is completed and will inform you when I do. For now, I will relate the story as it unfolded to me. A little whisper of family gossip from the past. A few small clues. Some cryptic remarks. Intimations of difficulties. Just enough references to tantalize. All raising more questions.

My first inkling of this “secret,” mentioned to me 50+ years ago, by my uncle Robert, was to the effect that Arthur had attended Harvard and had been expelled for some reason, something I vaguely recall, such as participating in labor riots in Boston and commandeering a street car and someone was killed and he had to leave. I can surely acknowledge that it is my recollection that is vague, not what outspoken Uncle Robert would have said. And this vague idea in my head was all I ever knew up until beginning the present task of rummaging through family files and acquiring additional material from all relevant sources. It was an intriguing notion, likely enough untrue, I thought.

To put things in their truest light, I did not even know for a fact that Arthur attended Harvard.

About 5 weeks ago, I decided the only way to resolve the issue was to call Harvard Archives, and they confirmed on the telephone that Arthur had indeed been a student there in 1911, 1912, 1913, but had left for the school year 1913-1914, and then had returned for the academic year 1914-1915. There was no record that he graduated. They promised to send me his records, which would contain all documents they have related to his stay there. As yet I have not heard from them, so no real facts are available at this moment to illuminate the story. But I had confirmed his attendance and non-graduation.

In the meantime, there is vague mention of tragic difficulties in this very time frame, in a letter from a close friend of Arthur, Clarence Britten. The letter is to Mrs. Anna Blackshaw, a lady whose connection to this story is unclear except she is one of a surprising number of English people living in this area of Texas at the time:144

I saw Arthur several times in Boston … The trouble with his nerves is the terrible memory of last year. It demands always good company and plenty of distraction… Personally, I should say that the loneliness of a ranch would be bad for Arthur and might drive him to less desirable distractions.

His college work is peculiar. What he does do he always does to perfection. His grades are usually A or nothing… I know that he has worked hard all the year on his writing with perseverance unusual in him and most encouraging. So I hope he will not be recalled to Texas definitely until he has found his feet and is a man of self control. He needs every chance for that, after all that has happened.

In a letter merely dated January 8th,145 from Robert to his brother Francis, a broad reference is made to Arthur in the past which includes just this hint and no more:

. [the] death of a Britton in the street car business in Boston.

Except for my vague recollection of a streetcar incident mentioned to me 50+ years earlier, this typically cryptic reference might easily have gone unnoticed. That the name of the person who died is Britton, and the name of Arthur’s friend writing to Mrs. Blackshaw above is Britten, invites speculation that must await further information about what actually occurred.

I have read all known material on the Wilson family for weeks and still have not encountered anything more explicit than this. The only other reference to Harvard or streetcar incidents amongst well over 150 letters exchanged in the family is this reference from Ernest, in a letter to Francis, dated March 24, 1926:

I also have a copy of the Harvard Monthly dated in 1912, published at a time when Arthur was associated with it…

So, with that, I leave behind for the time being the mystery: does a death of a “Britton” in Boston explain why Arthur left Harvard without graduating?

At this point, Arthur’s story intersects with Horace’s story. This is the period of Horace’s unknown financial difficulties alluded to when Arthur volunteers, “For a year at least, I shall live from my own hand, by the toil of my brain.”146

To add finality to this portion of the Harvard episode, in a letter to Horace on June 20, 1913, Arthur writes, without actually telling us anything:

I am now writing my last from Cambridge. Things are about fixed for always and always and always – as the story books say.

From two undated letters that Arthur writes to Horace from 2 Mt. Vernon Place in Beacon Hill, Boston, it appears that he is now seriously plying his trade as a writer. However, he ends by saying:

It has become a question of late whether I ought to abandon my work, that is, most of it, so that I can earn some money. I do need money just now, most despicably, and I was thinking that if you can easily spare me $20 a month, I would be glad of it indeed, and I would not have to hunt for a job.

It is unclear what Horace’s response might have been to the plea for money.

This was the state of my knowledge when I did at last receive a rather thick package of documents from the Archives of Harvard University. Reading them forced me to revise my view of what actually occurred.

First, it does appear that some kind of accident occurred in Boston on July 4, 1912, in which Arthur was involved and in which someone was killed. But this accident was not described in the Archives, nor was it directly implicated in Arthur’s departure. I shall have to await a trip to Boston later this month to search the newspapers for the story of the incident. But I did find a reference on the Internet to a man named Merle DeWitt Britten who died in Boston on July 4, 1912. He was a brother to Clarence Britten, who had written a letter to Mrs. Blackshaw in 1913 about Arthur’s studies at Harvard.

Second, the Harvard Archives confirm that Arthur did drop out of school for the school year 1913-1914, and he did return for the 1914-1915 school year.

Finally, what I discovered from the Harvard archives is that the cause of Arthur’s departure from Harvard is far less dramatic than a mysterious death on the ramparts with Arthur making a dramatic speech about liberating downtrodden workers. Arthur simply had an unacceptable attendance record.

As I read the record, he was not actually admitted to Harvard until October 2, 1911, even though he made the trip to Cambridge from Texas in September. Perhaps an earlier acceptance in writing had been made contingent upon a suitable appearance and impression in a personal interview. In any event, barely 3 months later, on January 9, 1912, he was put on probation for having 22 cuts through December 14. He was told his record in November exams was poor, and chided for having 10 cuts in December. He later had some illness and petitioned to drop German classes, which he was allowed to do.

In October of 1912, he was told by the dean that he could return to Harvard but that it “would not be worthwhile unless your attendance improves.” He did return, and was “relieved from probation” on October 10, 1912. It became clear from the file that Arthur was in a danger zone with reference to meeting French and German language requirements needed to be admitted for his junior year, yet he was not taking either of the languages. He was summoned for hearings about more cuts in May of 1913. A later record refers to “A.W. Wilson, originally ’15, who dropped out of College before the end of the academic year 1912-1913, and was not here in 1913-1914…” So it appears Arthur did not complete his second year at Harvard before dropping out for the year 1913-1914.

Then, on October 5, 1914, Arthur received this letter from the Dean:

I am sending you now this formal note to tell you that the Administrative Board at this last meeting voted to readmit you to Harvard College as a Sophomore, on the understanding that you have given your word that you will attend faithfully, work at your courses until you have mastered them – by which is meant that you shall labor to attain something better than mediocrity, C –, and in every way conduct yourself honorably. You agree further that, if at any time your record is in any way unsatisfactory, you will withdraw upon request: in other words, the Board will not again, unless it sees fit, consent to your remaining in College on probation.

(I will point out that Arthur at this stage has 4 years of college under his belt – 2 years at Texas A&M plus 2 years at Harvard — and is being admitted as a sophomore.)

Arthur does return. A handwritten note appears in the Dean’s file on October 9, 1914, “What can I do to help him – his father is hard pressed – can a loan be granted.” I can find no clear explanation of the broader context of this ominous note referring to Horace. It is the time when Horace and Stella and remaining family leave Junction and move from to San Antonio.

In December of 1914 Arthur wrote some sort of article for the Boston Evening American, a Hearst newspaper, which had something to do with Radcliffe students. It was embarrassing enough for the Dean of Harvard to speak to the President of Radcliffe. This note appears in the file: “… it would be well to explain to Wilson our view of his conduct… I understand that Dean Harlbut and Mr. Briggs, himself, have already conferred with Wilson and that the boy is thoroughly ashamed of himself.” I made a rather limited search of the archives of the Boston Evening American, but did not find the article.

Arthur was further warned on December 9, 1914. He was warned again on January 25 for 7 cuts. 14 cuts were noted for April and May.

On May 12, 1915, the Dean notes for his file about Arthur, “Is about to be elected President of [Harvard] Monthly. Wanted to redeem himself for Radcliffe story.”

However, just one day later, on May 13, 1915, Dean Harlbut writes this letter:

Dear Wilson: At a meeting of the administrative Board, May 11th, we considered your case at length, and voted to request you, since you have broken your agreement, to withdraw … You need the discipline of hard, routine work. I hope you will be able to get a job and stick to it.

(Ironically, in two instances, Horace later offered comments that bear on this aspect of Arthur’s character. On March 11, 1930, Horace wrote to Francis: “I think his [Arthur’s] mind is equally as good as yours, but he lacks the element of pertinacity.” Then, in 1938, Francis had written of Horace, “…to my father the first thing to learn in life was to hold an honest job…”147 Perhaps Francis had Arthur in mind when he decided to repeat this comment.)

It is purely speculation, but it might be reasonably assumed that the wise men at Harvard decided to act swiftly to remove Arthur from the school, rather than have to face the more embarrassing difficulty of dismissing the President of the Harvard Monthly.

On the same day that Arthur is notified, the Dean writes to Horace:148

I am sorry to inform you that since Arthur has broken the agreement … it has been necessary to vote to ask him to withdraw… Despite warnings he has persisted in cutting his engagements, and he has also been neglectful of his studies. … I believe that the best thing for him is to be set to work in the world to pay his own way.

Saddest of all, Horace replies with candor and dignity:149

You can understand with what disappointment it [your letter] was received by me. I know you realize that it has cost me, a lawyer practicing in a small town, some sacrifices to send Arthur to college; but if he has ever realized it the fact does not seem to have made much impression on him. Though I had not told him so, I had about come to the same conclusion that you have reached, and had intended at the end of this school year to insist that he take upon himself the burden of his own support. Your letter confirms me in the opinion that my view was correct. It is some consolation to me to know that I have tried to do for him all that I could.

The Dean courteously replies:150

He is one of those who find it hard to adjust themselves to rules. The boy has excellent ability … although I am strongly of the opinion that Harvard College is not, at present, the place for him.

This almost concludes the sad chapter of Arthur at Harvard, except for something about Mr. Roy Follett and the two Britten brothers.

When Arthur was at Texas A&M he had an English instructor named Roy Follett, who was himself a Harvard graduate. Mr. Follett became captivated with Arthur, whom he saw as a brilliant writer. In a letter to the Dean at Harvard, Follett says: “.. through me, he [Arthur] became interested in Harvard, and in the possibility of living in a cultivated community. He urged me to write to his father, making an appeal…” to send Arthur to Harvard where the young man’s exceptional abilities could be nurtured and developed. As things turned out, Follett must have become a mentor and eventually a sponsor at Harvard, for in January of 1913 he writes two long, frantic letters to the Dean on behalf of Arthur, amongst other things calling Texas A&M “the tawdry military school in Texas.” He implored the Dean not to throw Arthur out of school. Details of exactly what occurred are not clear at this time, but it was only a few months later that Arthur dropped out near the end of the 1912-1913 academic year. Personally it does not seem likely that his dropping out could have been at Horace’s behest. That he did not attend in the 1913-1914 academic year does appear to be because of Horace. I conclude that failing to complete the year in 1913 was of his own doing. Perhaps dropping out obviated a year-end report he believed would contain disastrous grades.

Something of young Arthur’s personality at the time may be seen in these words that Follett (teaching at Dartmouth at the time of this letter, it seems) wrote to the Dean at Harvard:

I am confident of that boy, Dean Harlbut … and beg you … to exercise the last possible extension of official clemency. I know well, though it sounds to him an officious pose, that he is going through one of my own undergraduate stages; I know he will grope his way to the end of it as I did, and find his way to sanity, balance, and good hard work … for I know that he burns with a purifying white heat that will cleanse him of much that would have soiled me had I dared touch it. I think he is right about himself; he isn’t a Sentimentalist, he’s a Superman. He can plunge into the lowest stoke-hole and come up clean. We sentimentalists can never afford to see the underside of the deck … I believe he has a capacity for observing life – all of it – and proportioning the values of it; and I believe that capacity will save him from everything – soon.

Both of Mr. Follett’s letters contain extravagant and deeply emotional praise of Arthur, with much reference to his superiority and fragile emotional state. In one instance he says,

The fact is, I had come to believe that he was in most ways bigger than I, and that I had nothing more to give him. Certainly, his presence made me feel atomic.

As to the Britten brothers, Clarence and Merle, Follett says of them, in a wonderful phrase, “They are not milk for babes.” Arthur and Follett and the Britten brothers had been very chummy at Texas A&M, although it is unclear what brought them all together there. Follett later broke away from this group, and lamented that Arthur had become even more involved with them. The Britten boys were the sons of Fred Britten, who headed a powerful real estate development company in Boston. Clarence became editor of (and perhaps founded) a fortnightly literary magazine in Cambridge called “The Dial” that published many promising writers of the time, including John dos Pasos and E. E. Cummings. In February of 1913, Arthur wrote to Horace, “For example, it was certainly not a great effort of my own that brought me here [to Harvard]. Britten did it. He says that he ‘discovered’ me!” This assertion seems in conflict with Follett’s earlier statement that Arthur urged Follett to write to Horace promoting the idea of sending him to Harvard.

The likely scenario that emerges from all this seems to me: Arthur was a very bright and talented young man who was “discovered” by some affluent, sophisticated Eastern people who believed they had uncovered a budding genius in the wilds of Texas. They worked in concert to persuade Horace and Stella to send Arthur up to Harvard where his genius could be nurtured and would flower. Arthur found the drudgery of attending classes to be stifling, and rebelled against that dull routine. He was active on the school newspaper, where he was about to be elected president of the Harvard Monthly. He wrote at least one article for the Boston Evening American, a Hearst newspaper. He did well in what interested him, and was indifferent to the rest. He failed to take courses necessary to fulfill requirements, and seemed very unlikely ever to be able to graduate on that basis alone. He was building up a backlog of requirements and make-up courses that was formidable. On average, his transcripts show he did only moderately well in the courses he did take, with a few exceptions. After having made virtually no academic progress in 3 school years at Harvard, he was asked to leave Harvard, leaving a poorer and sadder Horace to reflect on how little there was to show for the sacrifices he had made in order to send Arthur for 3 years to Harvard.

Sitting here, right now as I write this, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean at Chatham on Cape Cod, I will interject what I discovered just yesterday in the Boston Public Library. The headline of a front-page story in the Boston Globe of July 5, 1912, reads: “HEAD CRUSHED BETWEEN CARS.” The Boston Evening American of the same date carries a first-page story with the brutal headline: “BLUNDER KILLED EL EMPLOYEE.”

From the Globe:

Merle DeWitt Britten, a Harvard freshman employed as a strike-breaking conductor by the Boston Elevated Rail Company, was killed last night by having his head crushed between two cars in the City Point carbarns. Arthur H. [sic] Wilson, another Harvard student was the motorman of the car that crushed out his life… [Britten] prepared for College at Cambridge Latin School from which he was graduated in 1911.

From the Evening American:

The facts connected with the killing of Merle DeWitt Britten, the Harvard freshman who was crushed in the car barns in South Boston while acting as a conductor for the Boston Elevated Railway, came out this afternoon. The young man’s death was caused through the mistake of Arthur Wilson, a fellow student and chum, who was working as a motorman on the same car and who ran the car backward instead of forward as he had been signaled. The students were strike-breakers.

There is every indication from all the documentation I have read that the trauma of this event that occurred about 9:10 pm in Boston on the evening of July 4, 1912, had a shattering effect on Arthur’s already uneven emotional make-up. As to the substance of the matter, somehow, in my mind, I had idealistically assumed – to the extent that I had any information at all – that Arthur’s involvement in the strike had been a noble effort on behalf of exploited workers and that the death had somehow been sad, but a casualty of the “warfare” of the poor and weak against the rich and powerful. The facts are otherwise. As the Boston Evening American bluntly explained, workers for the Boston Elevated Railway were on strike, and “The students were strike-breakers.”

Several years pass. The next thing I can determine factually about Arthur is in 1917, when he is identified in a biography of ee cummings as an apartment-mate of the famous poet in New York City. The address is 21 East 15th Street. He is identified as Arthur W. “Tex” Wilson. Parenthetically, knowing Arthur as I did in his later years, I will comment that it is amusing to think of him being called “Tex,” although I was called that at times during my army service.

On April 28, 1917, Arthur writes to Horace, excited to be joining the artillery and going to France to fight in WWI. He has borrowed money from Horace to buy a fine officer’s uniform. He says that his roommate (Cummings) just left that very day for France, to drive an ambulance at the front.

Arthur did go fight in the war. He became an observation pilot (actually in the artillery branch, to report where the enemy was and to help direct fire). The photo gallery contains a picture (6.10) of the handsome young officer, splendid in his uniform. The story told in the family is that his plane “fell,” and he suffered what was referred to in WW I as “shell shock,” which is probably akin to what in other times might have been called battle fatigue or nervous breakdown. It became a common understanding among the brothers that Arthur’s extremes of temperament and unpredictability were due to a combination of the Boston streetcar episode and the difficulties he had endured during the war, no doubt further explained by Arthur’s artistic and intellectual propensities as they manifested themselves throughout his life. All were cautious about topics that might distress him; all had experienced his emotional responses and withdrawals.

Relying further on my best recollections of family lore, it is said that he underwent rehabilitation for “shell shock” following the war, and took up painting as therapy during his treatment. He discovered a talent for painting, and decided to give up the demands that writing as a principal career made on his nervous system. He began to study painting seriously. For the remainder of his life he was dedicated to the art of painting, although he did undertake to write several texts on art subjects and possibly other topics, but with nothing published that I am aware of. His letters demonstrate an assertive and expressive style of prose, and a complex, thoughtful content.

In the period of the early 1920’s Arthur married a girl from Ohio. The couple had a daughter, but the marriage ended before the child was born.151 Horace says that Arthur never saw this daughter. A few pictures of the young couple frolicking in the snow with two handsome Dalmatian dogs are all that remain to memorialize that family. The names of his wife and daughter are unknown.

That unexpectedly and dramatically changed in August of 2003.152

My efforts to collect information for this family history included trying to find out something about Arthur’s early marriage. Whom did he marry? Was his daughter, my half sister, still alive? If not, did she have children I could get in touch with? A lengthy chain of events led me to Anna Selfridge of Lima, Ohio, who was able to identify Arthur’s wife as Elizabeth Brice, but had little information about their daughter, Carolyn. Anna put me in touch with another relative, Beatrice Farwell of Santa Barbara, California, who had shared a long and cordial relationship with Carolyn, who was her first cousin. From these two wonderful sources, I was able to piece together a reasonable sense of the lives of Arthur’s former wife and child.

Arthur’s bride had been Elizabeth Brice of Lima, Ohio. Elizabeth was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of University of Wisconsin and was employed at the Rockefeller Foundation when she met Arthur in New York. They were married May 17, 1919, in the Little Church Around the Corner. The notice of their wedding in the Lima, Ohio, newspaper contained the following account of the groom, given to the paper by the father of the bride. He did not attend the wedding, and must have received the information about Arthur from his daughter.

Mr. Arthur W. Wilson is a New York City man, and an author of some prominence, although but a young man. He is a graduate of Harvard University in the class of 1915, where he did very remarkable work.

I am deeply saddened at the deception evident in this account, since it is indisputably correct that Arthur was asked to leave Harvard for poor attendance at least 2 years prior to his earliest possible graduation date. Perhaps Elizabeth was aware of these facts and wanted her father to think better of Arthur than the truth might allow, but I fear that this might have been the background as Arthur presented it to Elizabeth.

In any event, things did not go well with the marriage. The divorce papers Elizabeth filed in 1925 claim domestic violence and state that she left the marriage in October of 1920 to return to Lima. She said there had been an understanding that Arthur would follow to make a home there for wife and expected child, but that never occurred. Carolyn was born April 9, 1921. From the time of the separation right up to the time of the divorce in 1925, Arthur had seen neither wife nor child. In fact, Arthur spent at least part of his time after the separation in Europe, returning in early1926. The divorce was granted December 26, 1925.

Elizabeth never remarried. She eventually became a professor of Humanities at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. Elizabeth died on the night of June 21-22, 1978, at a retirement home in Richmond, Indiana, about 3 ½ years after Arthur’s death in 1974.

Their daughter Carolyn graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in Tuxedo Park, N.Y., where she majored in modern dance and graduated in 1943. According to Beatrice, who knew her well, she had a pronounced artistic personality, with abilities in music, poetry and painting, though dance was her passion. She studied for a time with the greatest of modern dancers, Martha Graham, and with associates of hers who were well known.

Subsequently, probably in the late 40’s, Carolyn studied art somewhere in Massachusetts, possibly in Gloucester, where Arthur was active, though whether at this time I do not know.


In the late 40’s or early 50’s Carolyn was involved in a short-lived marriage.

In this general time frame, according to Beatrice, it appears that Carolyn began to exhibit manifestations of a mental illness that was to worsen over time, leading first to psychiatric attention and then evolving from to intermittent to permanent stays in mental institutions.

At times Elizabeth and Carolyn lived together. At other times Carolyn endeavored to live alone. Sadly, events inevitably led her back to the institutions, until eventually she no longer desired to be a part of the outside world, or was perhaps deemed unable to do so by authorities.

In November of 1991, while living in a care center in Illinois, Carolyn became seriously ill and was admitted to Cottage Hospital in Galesburg, Illinois. She died at 11:20am on November 25, 1991, at the age of 70. The medical certificate of death lists hypotension and probable sepsis as the cause of her demise, which came only 24-36 hours after the onset of the ailment. Her body was cremated, and the ashes were sent to Beatrice Farwell in Santa Barbara. Not long thereafter, on a visit to other of Carolyn’s relatives in Ashland, Oregon, Beatrice planted a dwarf flowering dogwood over Carolyn’s ashes. Beatrice says: “The dogwood has since flourished and produces splendid flowers in the spring.”

(Interested readers will find further information on Elizabeth and Carolyn Wilson in an Appendix at the end of this book.)

By 1925, Arthur was studying art in London where he met an 18-year-old art student, Winifred Brown, daughter of a well-known local building contractor. At some point, they went to France to continue their studies in Paris. She became pregnant. He left for New York before the child was born in April of 1926.153 The affair created a scandal which concerned readers may find reported in newspapers of the time.154 Horace in Texas and the girl’s father in London eventually worked out a course of action, and Horace arranged for the girl and her son to come to Texas to live with him. Eventually the mother married a Canadian war veteran and moved to California. The boy was adopted by Ernest, and became a member of his family in Abilene.

Arthur headquartered mostly in the New York area, with studios at various times in Carnegie Hall, at 3 Washington Square North in Greenwich Village, Woodstock, N.Y., Lime Rock, CT, and Gloucester, MA. He adopted the name Winslow Wilson for his work, in admiration for the wonderful sea paintings of Winslow Homer. He focused on 3 genres of painting: seascapes, portraits, and “surrealist” paintings, the last painted under the name Pico Miran – which he no doubt shortened from the famous humanist of the Italian Renaissance, Pico della Mirandola. Pico preceded Leonardo da Vinci and provided the philosophical thrust that gave rise to the incredible flowering of the renaissance in Italy and eventually throughout the civilized world. It is said of Pico’s work, “Oration on the Dignity of Man:” “No other work more forcefully, eloquently, or thoroughly remaps the human landscape to center all attention on human capacity and human perspective.”155

I quote this brief statement attesting to the significance of Pico della Mirandola in the history of thought in order to indicate the ideas and personalities with which Arthur consciously wished to associate himself. He was well read, and moved by the great thinkers of the past. Of all the 90+ paintings of his I have seen, the largest depicts the painter Raphael handing over to Arthur a laurel symbolizing the crowning spirit of art. This is another instance in which Arthur overtly identified himself with grand personalities in the forefront of thought and painting.

Arthur’s seascapes are largely depictions of powerful ocean scenes, almost all but one or two without anything but wind, waves, shore and sky. His portraits are what I would call “depression” paintings, scenes of people whose lives have been heavily impacted by poverty, sickness and hard times — seemingly inflicted by a cruel economic system. His surrealistic paintings carry on the theme of his depression paintings with a less subtle emphasis on how unfortunate people suffer at the hands of a moneyed plutocracy. Themes of war and poverty and greed were common in all forms of art during the time of the Great Depression.

I am not a competent critic, but I think that his best seascapes are masterful. Some of his portraits are remarkably impressive to me. However, I do not have the training to recognize much beyond technical merit in his “surrealist” paintings.

I cannot say how successful Arthur was as a painter. At one time, he was represented by one of the foremost galleries in the United States, The Vose Gallery in Boston. From May 23-June 9, 1951, he had a one-man show entitled “Paintings of the Sea” at the Associated American Artists Galleries, 711 Fifth Avenue, New York. At that time, Eleanor Roosevelt was an honorary board member of the Gallery.

A preview of the exhibit was held on May 22 for the benefit of Greenwich House, one of the oldest settlement houses in the United States.

In the program for this exhibit, Arthur writes:

What moves me to paint is an unquenchable desire to express certain emotions… I feel that art should be a vehicle for personal emotion rather than for a direct and faithful representation of natural phenomena, and I have endeavored to put into these paintings a personal emotion having at once a purely esthetic and broadly human significance.

This exhibition was reviewed briefly in the publication “Art Digest,” June, 1951, which reads in its entirety:

Traditional seascapes – rocky coastlines, leaping spray and pounding waves – are shown by Winslow Wilson in his first major New York Exhibition.

A representational painter, Wilson depicts these elements meticulously and with great technical skill. One can feel the water’s wetness and the hardness of the rocks, so detailed the marks left by the water are clearly evident on them. Ranging from turbulent storms to quiet sunsets, the seascapes exhibit a variety of moods. M.C.

If I can judge by Arthur’s writing and what I know of his life, he seemed rather indifferent to success measured by how well his paintings sold or how popular they were. He was dedicated to being an artist in the broadest sense of the word, and his focus was on art for art’s sake. In this regard, he received important, perhaps indispensable, support from his companion for many years, Jane Grey, who was a very successful portrait painter in her own right. She was convinced Arthur was a genius; she encouraged and assisted him in his life as an unfettered creative artist. She told me that Arthur would often be away for months, in various parts of the world, capturing remote seascapes in his paintings.

In the mid-1930’s, an event occurred in connection with a competition that reveals something about Arthur as a painter and as a person. First, consider the basic facts, as reported in the New York Times:156

Winslow Wilson, who has been painting abroad for years and who joined the Lime Rock colony this summer, entered a canvas called “The Mora Children,” which the hanging committee considered so good as to merit the place of honor in the show. It was there hung, but later removed, so the tale runs, that the space might be occupied by a picture of cows by G. Glenn Newell, a regular exhibitor at Lime Rock and a member of this year’s hanging committee. The demoted canvas was, Mr. Wilson asserts, put in a very inferior position ‘among a lot of academic trash.’ Thereupon he withdrew his painting from the exhibition and opened his own, a one-man show in a house close to the art gallery.

Arthur did not lack a flair for the dramatic. The article continues:

Feeling that his reputation had been injured by this slight and also an exchange of angry words, before many witnesses in the gallery, Mr. Wilson issued his challenge to a painting duel, the outcome to decide which, in the jury’s opinion, is the better artist. The challenger offered his opponent: ‘Your own conditions, your own subject, your own time limit and your own standards of judgment.’

Mr. Newell apparently wanted no part of such a test of his abilities, and refused to accept the challenge.

Arthur then filed a $100,000 suit against Newell for damages allegedly sustained in the clash at the reception. I am unaware of the outcome of the suit.

Based on comments made by some of the brothers, Arthur often withdrew for long periods from correspondence, always maintaining a somewhat lofty intellectual posture above the more mundane concerns of the family. In one instance, Arthur sent a manuscript to Francis for review, and now Arthur responds to one of Francis’s comments:157

My vocabulary may be too ‘comprehensive,’ as you say softly; but I felt that I must speak my truth naturally, and take my chances with publishers. I prefer honorable neglect to any form of compromise with commercial demands.

A glimpse of Arthur’s ability to adopt a lofty attitude can be seen in the elaborate language and reasoning he employs in making the following not-insignificant request of Francis, who was by this time a highly successful Professor of Political Science, an author of books and a noted scholar:158

Dear Francis: If you have the time and the inclination, will you read a book-length manuscript of mine (276 typed pages) on the general subject of painting viewed as sociology, or rather ideology? There is an element of ironic presumption in this inquiry, since I have to confess that, up to date, I have not read either of your two books or any of your articles. My excuse may be that although my subject is specialized, it has a general, perhaps popular interest, which is expected to reward the layman. Moreover, my book is begging for a publisher, and I thought it barely possible that you might be able to suggest something.

Francis did read the manuscript, but Arthur was not pleased with the comments. In a letter some weeks later, he wrote back thanking Francis for his “graciously prompt and sharply critical letter,” then again “thanking you most cordially for your effort to murder me.” The letter continues for 10 pages of elaborate discussion of his ideas. He includes this eloquent challenge to Francis:

And what have you to say to the poetry of man’s will? I insist that a generous examination of history will show that everywhere, at all times and in all places, the struggle for what seems to be the utopian impossible has been one of the most fruitful moral dynamics on earth.

Arthur ends his letter with equal eloquence, somewhat reminiscent of Stella’s powerful prose:

You see, I do not agree with you that ‘myths’ end in the tragedy of death. In tragedy they end, for you, if, with your mind closed, you cut them off from their splendid fruitage. Even assuming tragedy, it is the grand tragedy of life, of men dreaming dreams, of minds trying to encompass the new – and a better end, all considered, than we could ever have without them. Salud! Arthur

In the 30’s and 40’s Arthur appears to have developed a distinct left-wing tilt to his politics, arguing vehemently with Francis, who was correspondingly tilted to the right.159 Arthur prided himself on an understanding of large global issues, and he wrote on several occasions to Winston Churchill to offer observations and suggestions.

Influences of both Stella and Horace may be seen in Arthur. He, himself, commented to Jane Grey that his admitted difficulties in relationships with women were due to the stern moralism of Stella in his upbringing.160 He did not explain further. It is certainly possible to think that Arthur’s rebellion against rules and discipline at Harvard was an expression of exuberant freedom from Stella’s close management of her children’s behavior. I think Arthur was either agnostic or atheist, which would have been in part a rebellion against the profound Protestant religion of Stella. He shared one characteristic that seemed common to all the brothers, which is that he held his views very firmly, had no hesitancy in expressing them, and was little inclined to modify them. He shared a bright intelligence with Stella and Horace, and from Horace a breadth of interests and an appreciation of the finer qualities of life. But, he was also a rather detached and abstract personality, something of a “lost soul” – a term he had used much earlier in life to describe a tendency shared by all the family.

Only after Ernest’s death did Arthur and I form an acquaintance. I visited him on several occasions in New York City, where I was employed at the time, and he visited me at my home on at least two occasions in Princeton, New Jersey.

Near the end of his life, Arthur suffered several small strokes, and on one occasion Jane Grey called me for help when Arthur had wandered off from a park bench and disappeared for 2 or 3 days, eventually showing up half naked at Belleview Hospital. After a partial recovery, he moved to Miami in February of 1973, and died there on November 18, 1974. He was given a military funeral at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. I attended, along with Theresa (Horace’s daughter from his second marriage), my Uncle Robert and his wife, Jesse, and Jane Grey (Arthur’s friend/companion/spouse?) of more than 4 decades). I don’t recall anyone else in attendance.

Robert … February 17, 1894-March 18, 1975

If I had to pick which one of the 5 Wilson brothers that I might have enjoyed knowing the most, the choice would probably be Robert. This is not to say that Robert was likeable in the ordinary sense of the word, though he might have been; rather, the quality of his mind, the sharpness of his wit, and his unapologetic support of the weak against the strong are the aspects of his character that would have drawn me to him.

As I was making notes for this chapter about Robert, I wrote down some words about him that came to my mind, in no particular order. They may overlap a bit, but they indicate the impressions I was getting as I remembered him, read about him, and read 32 of his letters: insightful, perceptive about people, independent, irascible, direct, incisive, pithy, wary, skeptical, a raging populist, keen perception, politically astute, no nonsense, blunt expression, suspicious, gruff, colorful, broad view of the world. These are not qualities that please everyone, though I admire most all of them. Occasionally Robert’s candor and bluntness no doubt bruised sensitive temperaments, and his pithy mode of speech surely failed to acknowledge a nuance or two of grey now and then.

Though I saw him perhaps half a dozen times up until about 1950, it is only the last time I saw him, in 1970, at Ernest’s funeral, that I can recall quite clearly. However, I have copies of almost 3 dozen of his letters to draw upon. I have two short biographical summaries that he wrote, and some insightful comments from his daughter, Kathleen. There are a few references to him by Horace and his brothers. Together they help form a picture of his character and amply illustrate his prickly personality.

First, let me relate an episode from the time I saw Robert at Ernest’s funeral. It will illuminate something about his manner: for perhaps an hour after the funeral, a small family group sat in the living room at Ernest’s house in Buffalo Gap. Present were: Arthur; Robert and his wife, Jesse; Ernest, Jr., and his wife, Marie; Ernest, Jr.’s daughter, Patti, and her husband, and their frisky little dog; and me. The time came for Robert to leave. He said his good-byes and made his way to the door. Just then, he turned around, and said to the room at large about the dog, in his gruff and gravelly voice, “That little beast is the goddamnedest most annoying creature I have ever had to put up with.” With that, he turned and left the room.161 (The husky voice was the price of years chain smoking unfiltered Camels and Lucky Strikes, a habit he finally gave up “cold turkey” about 1955.)

It is true that the dog had been hyper-active and had done a lot of high-pitched barking for some reason; possibly all the strangers excited him. Robert was of the old school and probably held to the notion that people should control their dogs in public places to prevent them from annoying others who weren’t as likely to think they were such adorable little darlings. Robert probably felt that it was justifiable to tell them what he thought about that. He no doubt also felt that the pleasure of doing so was just compensation for the annoyance he felt he had to endure.

Robert’s daughter, Kathleen, relates another example of Robert’s forthrightness and its consequences.

One year my father, as Democratic County Chairman, led the delegation to the state convention in Austin. By the end of the convention, all the delegates were so angry with him that none of them would let him ride back to Kerrville in their cars. He took the bus home.

Here is a bit of biographical information in Robert’s own words:162

Born February, 1894, in Junction, Texas, on Main St. in a small house between the old Chase house and the Methodist Church of which I am [now] a member. Graduated from Junction High School, received my diploma while in bed with the measles, in a class of three – Willie V. Jarvis, Mary Stevenson and [me] the measlely one.

I attended the U of T (after having wasted three months in A&M) and started practicing law in 1919, in Junction… I was in WW I and WW II leaving the service as a Major. I am a Lt. Colonel in the Texas State Guard. Gov. Allan shivers appointed me an Admiral in the Texas Navy.

Robert had a feel for the straight-faced expression of quirky or humorous or ironic detail, a mode of expression I enjoy.

True, he had a gruff side, but there was also a gallant side, which took the form of aiding the underdog. His daughter Kathleen relates an instance of this. Norman Luther, a naïve young man, had subscribed to an expensive mail-order correspondence course in order to better himself. When he realized the course had been grossly misrepresented and that he had made a mistake,

He wrote to the company and told them to stop sending the materials, and he refused to pay them. One day he was at the old filling station and a man accosted him, demanded full payment for the course of study, and threatened to sue him. A man in a suit stepped from the filling station office and said, ‘I am this man’s lawyer. If you have any complaints, address them to me.’ The bill collector turned on his heels and left. Daddy introduced himself to Mr. Luther. The matter ended there. I think that is my favorite story about Daddy.

Another instance of Robert’s independence and concern for the less fortunate is that he employed a secretary of conspicuous Mexican name and origin, at a time when community practices were vocally opposed to giving desirable non-menial jobs to persons of ethnic origin. People spoke to him on the street about it, to no avail. I’m sure Robert enjoyed the egregious affront that this simple act gave to the upstanding townspeople who felt that certain people should be kept in their proper places.

Robert once undertook to organize a food co-op in Kerrville, but it was opposed and quashed by the town’s most prominent family, who also owned a large grocery store in town. Additionally, Kathleen relates that Robert undertook another venture aimed at making life a little easier for the less privileged: he and three other men formed a cemetery association aimed at providing affordable plots and burials. It never prospered, and Kathleen was later informed that they may have had to pay someone to take the venture and its obligations off their hands.

Perhaps the combative nature of Robert’s personality can be explained by a comment Arthur makes about him in a letter from Gloucester, Massachusetts, of September, 1956, to Francis:

He [Robert] is actually more interesting as a throwback to the Grahams with their dash of Cherokee blood & the desire to wage perpetual war.

Robert was married about the time he began practicing law to Olga (last name unknown). Robert wished ardently to have a son. His first child was a daughter, Edna Jean, born in 1920. Though he acknowledges a fleeting moment of disappointment, he allows a rare glimpse of tenderness tinged with sadness when he says, in a letter to Francis dated August 31, 1933:

I do not regret this however, since she was all the pleasure I ever received from being on earth.

The couple separated. On April 12, 1926, he writes to Francis, “Edna Jean was stolen … I got her back.” It appeared to be an actual case of kidnapping, that is, the child was whisked away by the mother or on behalf of the mother. Details are skimpy covering events of this period, but it is assumed that the couple divorced and that custody of the daughter ultimately went to Olga.

Robert entered a 2nd marriage, of which no details are known.

On March 4, 1938, Robert married Jessie McCalmont, and in a letter of April 21, 1939, Robert announces the birth of another daughter:

She was born April 13, 1939 at seven P.M. and is well equipped with a voice. Her name is Linda Mary…

Then, in August of 1940, a son is born, which surely brought joy to Robert’s heart. The child was named Robert Izod Wilson, Jr. With great sadness, we read in a letter of January 20, 1941, to Francis:

We write little, but as a rule we attend to the Christmas festivities with some form of communication. This one just past was so tragic to us that no spirit of any sort prevailed. Robert was buried on December 2nd, and Linda became ill which lasted thru until after the season’s activities were behind us. Linda seemed to be troubled as was Robert with an ear infection which required puncturing of the drum more than once. So you will excuse what we failed to do, and will understand that even though Linda may not have been as sick as we imagined nevertheless the apprehension existed and kept our minds so miserably disturbed especially with the loss of Robert recently past.

It is pleasant to think that much of Robert’s sadness was dispelled with the birth, July 17, 1943, of a new daughter, Kathleen Izod Wilson, proudly bearing his own middle name. It was his grandmother’s Irish name, and the middle name he had given his son. Now it would be carried forward by his daughter.

This is the Kathleen whom I have just this year (2002) had the pleasure to meet, and whose visit with her husband, Jim Thompson, has set me off on this narrative, for better or for worse.

Kathleen relates that her father had no use for the church and for ministers. I have no doubt that this was a reaction against the powerful religious presence that the 5 Wilson brothers experienced in their youth as a result of Stella’s unshakeable moral convictions. In fact, in one way or another, I think the great force of Stella’s feelings about religion had a marked effect on each of her sons, though in clearly different ways.

Robert has a wry sense of humor, often directed toward himself. In a brief page of autobiography, Robert writes:163

I was county attorney in Kimble and Kerr counties and am still apologizing for the hard things that I did in that capacity. I hope to make amends before it is over.

In this I sense a kind of honesty and self-awareness which does not allow him to exempt himself from the judgments that he levies upon others. He realizes that he had been obligated to do certain things in a public capacity that may have been cruel and harmful to innocent or helpless people who somehow ran athwart of the law. He does not like that in others, and he is unable to mention his early job without light-heartedly applying some self-criticism. In this regard, I think Robert shares with Ernest an extreme distaste for lawyers who are “hired hands” to represent large entities, whether community or corporate, in pursuing their fixed ends, right or wrong. A lawyer who represents individual people in individual situations is more or less free to pick and choose the clients and causes he works for; the corporate lawyer (such as for insurance, for railroad, for bank) must fight against the widow’s claim, must condemn the rancher’s land, must foreclose the farmer’s acres.

In notes for a brief talk Robert gave to some group, we can hear his gruff voice as he has this to say about certain matters of public discourse:

About improvements in morality let us look at the level of advertising over the radio and television. The advertising today is in part pointed to morons, such as the use of a certain toothpaste to give sex appeal to your mouth; have a boy to grease his hair and all the women will chase him. Let me ask you if you think this kind of advertisement is an elevation of the morality. Surely the advertiser can not but admit that he thinks this is the simplicity of the mind of the people.

Robert is direct and plain spoken, no doubt to his detriment at times. Though a skilled attorney, flamboyant and colorful in the courtroom, he does not choose to hide behind euphemisms and circumlocutions to announce his views; he knows what he thinks, and he seems to feel that it would be a mark of moral cowardice and intellectual dishonesty not to speak his piece plainly.

One of several traits the Wilson brothers shared is tendency to combine very strong opinions with very great obstinacy. Coupled with quickness to feel affront, this led to vociferous disagreements, often lasting over long periods of time. At times, alliances would form, sometimes pitting a pair of the brothers against one or more of the others. Usually, these disagreements worked themselves out over time or just lost their initial energy and faded away. Even though their correspondence is often filled with disputes, their letters almost always end with avowals of affection and loyalty.

In a letter dated only “The 13th,” which seems to come at the end of a series of letters in which Francis’s conservatism and Robert’s populism have put the brothers in acrimonious dispute, Robert concludes:

Regardless, we are still brothers; let us drop this. I still have great affection for you, to demonstrate which I sign, Affectionately, Robert.

The major exception to this general cordiality was a long-standing disagreement between Robert and Ernest. The origins of this feud are lost in time, and undoubtedly go back beyond the first manifestations that I am able to pick up in correspondence. To me, it is similar to the situation a parent encounters when coming upon two siblings squabbling: no one will ever know who struck the first blow and whether the retaliation was out of proportion to what provoked it. A contributing factor to the feud might be that Ernest began law practice about 6 years later than Robert did, due to Ernest’s belated decision to attend law school. Thus, while Ernest was the big brother, Robert was the senior attorney. Perhaps Robert felt overlooked when Stella chose Ernest to be the executor of her will in 1926; however, the score was evened when Horace chose Robert to perform the same duty for his estate in 1932.

I will not devote much time to this squabble, except to summarize it in the broadest terms. Its rancor was extreme and durable, though occasionally the two would speak and appear together in pictures. One feels sadness that these two brothers were at odds for something like 45 years.

However, the significance of this feud is overshadowed by the fact that it is a subchapter in a drama of larger significance in this narrative: the effort to hold together an estate during the years of the Great Depression of the 1930’s.

The estate was almost entirely in land and houses at the time of Horace’s death. He had already hastened his own demise due to the strain of trying to avoid loss of property. The problem with owning real estate is that it is a tax liability; it requires mortgage payments if not owned outright; and is often in need of maintenance, such as painting, repair, fence mending, road work and the like. Accordingly, when times are hard and the land cannot be leased for income, and the owner cannot operate it as farm or ranch, the property is a cash drain and becomes vulnerable quickly to tax liens and mortgage foreclosure.

The reality of owning land in hard times is shown in this statement by Robert in a letter of March 15, 1932, to Francis:

I am hoping the farm will produce something since last year Papa received the grand sum of $7.35 for the use of it.

Though Robert makes no mention of obligations for taxes and maintenance and mortgage payments, one can assume they exceeded far $7.35 per annum.

The feud between Robert and Ernest is first mentioned in correspondence on April 22, 1926, just 2 months after the death of Stella, although it might only

be the contemporary expression of a dispute between them going back to earlier times. Robert writes to Francis about difficulties he is having on several fronts. Ernest had been appointed executor of Stella’s estate in her will of January 20, 1926, and unspecified disagreements had arisen between Robert and Ernest concerning the estate. Later, in a letter dated November 26, 1933, he again traces his disagreement with Ernest back to the time of Stella’s death.

Robert announces that he has moved away from San Antonio and has become partner in a law firm in Kerrville, Texas — Baker and Williams, upon whose stationery this letter is written. He is pleased at the move, and says to Francis, “I regret that I did not go as far away [like Francis] as I could at the beginning.” However, by 1928, Robert was back in San Antonio, a partner in his father’s law firm.

The feud with Ernest worsened in 1932. Horace died on January 23 of that year, having appointed Robert executor of his will.

Now, the shoe is on the other foot. Robert is executor of the will, and it is Ernest who takes exception to the handling of the estate. In November, Ernest suggested a voluntary arrangement with Robert whereby modifications would be made in the way certain affairs of the estate were to be handled. Later, still unsatisfied with the situation, in August of 1933, Ernest filed suit in District Court to have the estate placed in the hands of receivers.

One must recognize that things between two obstinate brothers, both lawyers, have come to a very strained state when one is challenged by the other in a court of law. The court made the changes as petitioned: Harry Klotz and Ernest were named and qualified as receivers.

It is thought that the two brothers never spoke cordially again, other than to exercise minimal civility if forced to do so. Yet, somewhere around 1950, Robert says to Francis, referring to Ernest and Arthur, “I still have affection for them both.” Late in life, Ernest made efforts to patch things over. Perhaps the efforts were not sincere; perhaps Robert’s grievance was beyond healing. Reconciliation never occurred, to my knowledge.

However, Robert did attend Ernest’s funeral in 1970, observing that last civility, as his code would have had him do. It was perhaps a mark of the Wilson character that these two intelligent brothers were able to keep a grudge going for 44 years, unable or unwilling to find a way to put the past behind them. Incidentally, Francis did not attend Ernest’s funeral, nor Arthur’s, though he did attend Robert’s funeral in 1975.

A last observation of the feud may be found in a letter from Arthur to Francis dated September, 1956.

Your account of the feud between Bob and Ernest is fascinating. I think however that you substitute reason for life. At any rate, life already eludes your schema. Last month Ernest went to the Old Timer’s Reunion in Junction. He wrote to me: ‘I shook hands with Bob.’ … the feud is by way of becoming one-sided because Ernest (partly through my offices) now seeks reconciliation, as he sought with me.164

Colorful, and perhaps apt, as Arthur’s idea may be of Robert forever on the warpath because of his Cherokee heritage, I am not certain that scientists today allow for strains of blood (genetics, really) to influence behavior especially when diluted to 1/8th, as in the case of Robert – but Ernest, too, and all the brothers had the same influence. However, if we are to credit the idea, even poetically, it certainly must be applied retrospectively to Stella and her father, William, who would have been ¼ and ½ Cherokee, respectively. In the sense of Robert’s never-failing barbs and harpoons directed at pretension, pomposity, posturing, self importance and exploitation of the weak, Arthur was indeed correct: Robert seemed always to be on the warpath.

Efforts on behalf of the estate were difficult and time consuming. Crisis followed crisis. Every kind of problem imaginable arose. Multiple trips were made to deal with taxes, tenants, potential sales, contracts, maintenance problems. From the several dozen pieces of correspondence I have read on the subject, I can say it was a thankless task for whoever had it; worse than thankless, for it sometimes earned more complaint from those on the sidelines than gratitude. The depression continued to push down values and few people had any resources to put into land, either for purchase or lease. It was a month-to-month struggle that never seemed to have any relief from the threat of insolvency.

As far as I could tell, very little value remained when final liquidation occurred. Horace Wilson had left me ½ of Arthur’s 1/6th share of the estate in his will. One day in 1943, Ernest gave me a check for $700, telling me it was my inheritance from my grandfather. Looking back, it seems like a small amount to represent 1/12th of an estate that once included 2200 acres of what is today some of the most prized land in Texas. I have wondered about it, looked at it with a skeptical eye. Was there more I should have received? At first I thought that might be so, but after a careful reading of all the correspondence, I’m persuaded that there just wasn’t any more, and that $700 was my fair share. In fact, on June 28, 1939, Francis wrote to Arthur:

You may be aware that not a great deal of value will be left in the property after the debts against it are disposed of … at a maximum there might be, with luck, $1000 or something less coming to each one of us.

As it turned out, about 5 years later, when the estate was finally liquidated, my interest was worth the $700 I have mentioned, which means that Francis was not far off the mark, with a full 1/6th share worth $1400.

I confess to a special like for Robert’s character among all the brothers. They all had active minds and vivid personalities. Kathleen says that Robert could seem aloof. That seems to have been a characteristic all the brothers shared. In fact, the scope and nature of Robert’s thinking seemed broader and more human to me. His concerns were not quite as detached from human life as were the concerns of the others. All the brothers seemed to exhibit a sense of being preoccupied, a little detached. However, Robert seemed less abstract, less removed. Robert had two realistic feet on the ground and could call things by their names, not needing to resort to abstractions and complex conceptualizations.

For a while in his earlier days, Robert had a problem with drink. Fortunately, he overcame that and lived a constructive, productive life. He died March 18, 1975. I wish I could have known him better.

Francis … November 26, 1901-May 24, 1976

Of all the 5 sons of Horace and Stella Wilson, the 4th son, Francis, probably made the greatest and most permanent mark upon his times. Arthur left behind paintings. Ernest left behind an active museum with his name that is a Texas State Historical Site. Francis left behind 9 books, many articles, and a growing reputation that now is fueling a revival of academic interest in his work culminating in books, articles, lectures and even a website about him.165

From the start Francis was a little different in upbringing from his 3 older brothers. They were children of the 19th century, children of the hard times the family experienced while Horace and Stella were trying to gain a foothold on life. Horace had done some newspaper work in Brady, where Ernest was born in 1891. In that year, Horace and a partner whose name was Shore struck out for the little frontier town of Sherwood to begin a newspaper.166 In Sherwood, Arthur was born. By the end of 1893, Horace had left Sherwood and moved to Junction in Kimble County, where Robert was born in 1894. Ernest was 10, Arthur 9 and Robert 7 when Francis came along in 1901. Their formative years had been passed in harder and more primitive conditions than Francis was to face.

By the time Francis arrived, the family was prospering. Horace had progressed from newspaperman to teacher to attorney and businessman. Stella was able to create a more genteel environment. According to the 1900 Census, there was a servant living in the home when Francis was born. Unlike the years when the other children were arriving, there were not always other infants to care for along with the newest child. The imprint of hard times and the more primitive aspects of West Texas rural life did not make their mark felt upon Francis as it did the others. As the mother of the first three children, Stella was still the young bride straight out of a primitive log-cabin life. By the time Francis was born, she had become the wife of a prosperous attorney gaining prominence in the community. She knew more what she wanted to achieve with Francis, and she had time to raise him without demands from still younger children. When not doing chores or homework, Francis’s older brothers would have been out of the house much of the time, fishing, hunting, climbing, jumping into creeks, throwing rocks, racing, inventing games, digging caves, catching lizards, swimming, playing baseball, killing snakes, building forts, exploring the hills – all the things boys did from morning to night in Texas, even when I was young.

In his life, Francis was more genteel, less overt in personality, less outwardly expressive, more observant, more thoughtful. He was a more cultivated man, more a product of a cultured upbringing than his free-swinging brothers. Francis tended to observe dispassionately from behind an academic mask. His temperament was cool, theirs was fiery. They had been born in an earlier century. They had one foot in frontier Texas, and some of the open, hearty rough-and-tumble character of the frontier stayed with them throughout their lives. Francis had the benefit of a more programmed and polished youth. He was the first of the children who had a chance to be raised as a gentleman from the very beginning, and he was a gentleman – and a scholar, to use a hackneyed phrase that for once is genuinely applicable. His tastes were refined.

Francis’s son speaks of his father’s somewhat aloof character. He adds “…my father didn’t care much for photos and seemed to have little interest in his own family. Perhaps that is a Wilson family trait…” Amazingly, on November 28, 1933, Robert writes this to Francis, explaining why he had not sent family photographs to him after Horace’s death: “…one time you told me that you were not afflicted with morbid sentimentalism, and hence did not care for them.”

In the end, Francis looked back on parts of his Texas youth with even more nostalgia than his brothers, perhaps because he had viewed it a bit more from a distance than they had, and perhaps because, like Arthur before him, he had left it early and decisively. Despite the nostalgia they both expressed for their Texas roots, neither Arthur nor Francis ever did more than return to Texas for infrequent, brief visits. Nonetheless, I think they both recognized that the strongest parts of their identities had been forged out of the unique environment comprised of parental and geographical forces back in Texas and the broad historical forces that preceded them.

Francis took his undergraduate degree at University of Texas in 1923, earning membership in Phi Beta Kappa honorary society. He also received an M.A. degree there, in 1924.167 He then further distanced himself from Kimble County by pursuing a Ph. D. degree from Leland Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, performing teaching duties at nearby schools along the way. He obtained His Ph.D. at Stanford in 1928. That same year he began a long tenure at the University of Washington, and in 1939, he moved to the University of Illinois, eventually becoming Chairman of the Political Science Department there in 1953. Upon retirement from University of Illinois, he became a staff member at C. W. Post College, Long Island University, whose more enlightened retirement policy allowed them to employ this gifted, prominent professor. He is listed in Who’s Who in America.

Francis was the author of 9 books. I am aware of these 6 titles: Labor in the League System, 1934; The Elements of Modern Politics, 1936; The American Political Mind, 1949; The Case for Conservatism, 1951; A Theory of Public Opinion, 1962; Political Thought in National Spain, 1967. He was the author somewhere near 100 publications and articles.

Francis Wilson was active in intellectual affairs of the Catholic Church. In 1956-57, he was Chairman of the Catholic commission on Intellectual and Cultural Affairs. In 1965 He was a member of the Task Force on Human Rights and Responsibilities of the Republican National Committee.

Among other honors, Francis was President of Accuracy in Media, Inc., and of the Committee on Constitutional Integrity, both of Washington, D.C. At his death, he left an unfinished manuscript on Spanish Political Theory entitled, “An Anchor in the Latin Mind.”

On December 20, 1924, Francis married Ruth Millicent Rawdon in Glendale, California. Francis was age 23, and it seems that his marriage must have taken his mother by surprise. Twenty-seven days later she wrote:168

I ought to be ashamed not to have written before, but your marriage was somewhat of a shock to me and I am a little slow to adjust myself to the unexpected when I have been months settling into a line of thought altogether contrary.

Well, I only want you to be happy and I will come round all right if you will give me time and if things work out all right with you.

Stella is exercising extreme self control, but scarcely conceals her displeasure at being notified of Francis’s marriage after the fact. Nor does she grant her blessing immediately, but makes her acceptance conditional upon the passage of time and what she seems to consider a possibly dubious outcome of the marriage, itself. The marriage lasted until Mickey’s (so she was called) death about 50 years later. I cannot say if Stella ever fully embraced Mickey into the family.

On August 16, 1933, their only child was born to Francis and Millicent, named Robert Rawdon Wilson.

My acquaintance with Francis was limited to something like half a dozen personal encounters with him. There was a visit he made to Abilene in 1938, from which I recall little except that I enjoyed meeting his son, Robert Rawdon Wilson, who is, himself, a distinguished Professor and author. Following World War II, while I was a student at Columbia College in New York City, I met Francis on two or three occasions. Still later, when he joined the staff of C. W. Post College of Long Island University, I saw him on two or three additional occasions. Finally, I visited him once at the Cosmos Club in Washington, D.C., where he lived his last years before his death in 1976.

I was greatly surprised to find 7 letters from me to Francis among material furnished to me by Francis’s son Robert Rawdon Wilson.169 More important by far, however, Francis had saved numerous letters to him from brothers Ernest, Arthur and Robert – and even a few from Horace and Stella. For reasons I do not understand, not one of the approximately 150 letters is from his brother Baten. These letters are especially valuable in catching the flavor of the brothers’ personalities and in understanding some of the fraternal disputes that seemed to flourish amongst them.

By now, you will have recognized that Francis was possessed of a strong intellect combined with the tenacity of character that was both a blessing and a curse to the 5 Wilson brothers. He had become a religious and political conservative,170 two categories not always noted for introspection and self-doubt. So you can imagine that he won my admiration for irony and self-awareness when he prefaced some sentence he was saying to me with, “Well, I was walking across the campus yesterday sorting out my prejudices, when ….” That’s the kind of mind I admire, and I always thought very highly of him for this hint that he could recognize, though perhaps facetiously, that even his own carefully-crafted convictions were on some level a form of human preference, not Olympian formulations of indisputable truth.

Francis had the detachment and perspective of a true academic. He was no doubt wary of first impressions and hastily-voiced opinions.171 His brothers suffered no such restraint. Francis’s views were usually measured, deliberate, carefully phrased. He once offered the view:

It is especially true that professors, who get themselves on record too much or too clearly, are dealt with retroactively when the moment of final decision has arrived.172

In the same letter, Francis shares some news and reveals a little about himself:

I turned down a very fine position in the Library of Congress. I turned it down because I have no desire to be any more of a bureaucrat than I am at the present time.

Another mark of Francis’s more disciplined character can be seen in the ways he expressed rebellion against the influences of his childhood. He did rebel against Stella’s strong Baptist fundamentalism, but the role of religious faith remained strong in him, and transformed eventually into a deep, intellectual commitment to Catholicism. Perhaps it was also a form of measured rebellion against Horace that he remained politically active and aware, but his commitment took a 180-degree turn, as with Stella’s religion, and he became dedicated to the Republican Party, whereas Horace had been a staunch Democrat. These are the rebellions of a disciplined mind, one that that did not simply become anti-religious as a negative reaction to his mother’s faith, one that did not simply become anti-political as a negative reaction to his father’s political causes.

I may be giving a somewhat incomplete picture of Francis. He was measured. He was disciplined. He was reserved. He was cautious about expressing extremes. But he also experienced strong dislikes, many of them associated with what he saw as the closed and repressive society of West Texas, according to his son, Robert Rawdon Wilson,173 who goes on to comment that Francis’s feelings about Stella …

were probably linked to his rejection of the social and religious repression he grew up with.

Despite the measured and orderly persona of distinguished Professor Francis Graham Wilson, his son Robert also discloses that “Father was a very complex fellow,” and that he harbored bitter dislike of “a large number of things — persons, ideas, modes of life.” With this revelation, notwithstanding his professional achievements, I am relieved to discover that, beneath it all, Francis is thus fully entitled to take his place without reserve as a member of the clan of the 5 Wilson brothers. Perhaps he merely subjected his more extreme characteristics to concealment whereas his brothers wore theirs like a badge of honor.

Undoubtedly, the most personal glimpse of Francis is to be found in a 132-page double-spaced typewritten document written by him in 1938. It is called “By Llano Water.”174 For non-Texans, Llano is pronounced “Lanno.” The first 4 or 5 years of Francis’s youth were spent on a ranch on the North Llano River near Junction, Texas. “By Llano Water” is written under the pseudonym of William Rawdon to his unnamed son, though the copy I have is signed Francis G. Graham, 1938, and further dated “in the month of your fifth birthday.” In it, Francis reveals intimacies of his life and beliefs that I suspect rarely ever came to the surface at other times or in other ways. Though the learned professor is visible in almost every page, there are deeply personal moments that reveal the psyche of the scholar.

In “By Llano Water,” Francis identifies himself as a professor and philosopher. He wishes to share with his son some family history, some ideas about the big issues of life, and some advice. He writes at considerable length about his father, with only a few cautiously-guarded references to his mother. He speaks of religion, of art, of justice, of reason versus faith, of the qualities of a good life. He speaks of the Texas of his youth with a sad nostalgia, knowing that what he remembers longingly may not be recaptured. Francis exhibits admirable qualities of compassion and understanding.

I am going to quote at considerable length from “By Llano Water,” for it contains first-hand information relevant to this family history.

Three things to keep in mind: first, “By Llano Water” is a personal document, not an public or formal argumentation of any sort on Francis’s part; second, his views in this document relate to a specific moment in time; and, third, though I will make numerous observations, I do not claim to be qualified academically to paraphrase or interpret his remarks.

The backdrop against which “By Llano Water” is written is important to Francis’s thinking at this moment in time.175 It is 1938, and two momentous phenomena are enveloping the globe: the Great Depression has left millions around the world hungry, homeless and desperate; and international communism is gaining a strong foothold amongst intellectuals of the world as an acceptable conceptual solution to the widespread social disorder and human misery. The disastrous world scene was further complicated by the emergence on the horizon of Nazi Germany as threat to both east and west.

Amongst intellectuals who had even the slightest perception of world affairs, the major ideological battle was between the promise of communism versus what appeared to be the decay of a crumbling, moribund capitalism. The depression years of the 1930’s were cruel years around the world, and many in academia felt that the frightening conditions everywhere were evidence that communism should prevail over capitalism and the Western democracies.

In all 132 double-spaced pages of “By Llano Water,” no mention is made of communism, per se, yet it is almost certainly the context of much of what Francis writes. He, a master of political science, simply would not have been detached from the intellectual battles raging around him. Even unintentionally, what he writes to his son about life, religion and how society organizes itself can be read against this backdrop.

To me, Francis’s subtext is a simple, but profound chain of thought: The broad sweep of human experience is replete with folly, poverty, ignorance, disease, disaster, wars, corruption; history demonstrates the inability of reason, noble efforts, intelligence and other human endeavors to improve the underlying conditions of existence; therefore, since communism is a human scheme of ostensibly noble ends to be achieved through evil means, it cannot succeed and should not be tried. That leaves only faith and hope and the mercy of God.

At least, that is my feeling about the relationship of large issues in Francis’s mind, as they reveal themselves in scattered places throughout “By Llano Water.” In fact, as thoughtful and concerned as Francis was, one of his goals might have been to give his son a careful theoretical grounding as a basis for later resisting the blandishments of communist doctrine.

On occasion, Francis reveals something about himself that is startlingly at odds with the image of even-tempered, contemplative professor. A surprising inner self peeks through the academic exterior in this fleeting revelation, which no doubt shows the influence of Hemingway:

You can see, little son, why I am not interested in house dogs that are pampered and spoil the rugs and furniture. I like dog fights, just as I like bull fights, cock fights, or any really serious exhibition of tragedy. Boxing is interesting, though it lacks beauty and tragedy; football is sufficiently boring to be avoided.

How did Francis choose his career? At one point in his life, Stella had wanted him to become a Baptist minister, and although religion was always a foremost focus of his inner life, he reacted negatively to the faith of his mother and to the religious tension between his parents. For such reasons, he decided against religion as a field of endeavor. He considered being a newspaperman; he considered being a lawyer. But, he says:

I looked at the men who had served the deadline for 20 years, even 30 or 40. I looked also at the lawyers who had through a lifetime fought the battles, trivial and important, of their clients. It seemed to me clear that a profession is to be judged by the old men in it. Reluctantly I decided to be what I am today.

Elsewhere he comments:

No, I would rather follow the drama of life from other angles. If I follow my own career I shall always deal with young men and women between the ages of 18 and 22. Already I have grown away from their optimism, their unconsciousness of impending disaster, but it is pleasant to be on the edge of the[ir] world.

A similar sentiment, a similar contrast of youth and age, hope and reality:

Youth is a climber of Parnassus as he walks the college campus. He is a dreamer and life itself is filled with health and dreams of what will come in the future. He does not vision carefully the ultimate end; he cannot picture himself 20 years later when he has been moulded by the unbending pressure of society around him… Dreaming youth is always quaffing at the Bacchic cup, and he is always going and returning from the spring festival of Persephone or Apollo. Reason when it is purest is a spring maiden with all of the passion of life. Only the young love reason blindly, and they love it with the passion that is anything but reason. As with Omar, as with the old, reason becomes barren with age.

These references are far apart in the text, but they are thematic. Almost invariably they contrast the beauty and hope of youth with the unhappy eventuality that befalls us all. It is somewhat mindful for Stella’s recurring theme, the bitter contrast between her moralistic ideals and the realities of human behavior.

If we can take the sad and sometimes difficult natural end of life as an inevitable given, then what Francis writes about youth is a paean to the courage and nobility of each new generation. Consider:

I have said that all of us should be sometime a revolutionary; to have known in some degree the intellectual passion of the rebel is a heritage to later years that is not forgotten. Some live in reality in the poverty of a Bohemian attic, while others think and say the same things in a more comfortable atmosphere. But they are all brothers and they are young. Like every generation of the young they are fighting against the world as it is, and as it has always been.

Here is one last reference to this pervasive theme, this time including the implicit charge that reason and human effort cannot be demonstrated to result in historical change on a cause-and-effect basis:

The urge to reform … is one of the deepest, most beautiful and more generous impulses of the human spirit. But also, as history shows, it is one of the most futile. Every young man who emerges into manhood has at some time the urge to change the world. And the world does change, but we are not sure just why. We are not sure that it was pure human will and nobility that did it.

This view of the world is the underlying foundation upon which Francis posits the need for faith. About historical change, even if initiated by man:

what changes [that do] come seem to have little relation to the relatively constant quantity of pain in the life of human beings.

I can tell you, though, some of the answers that men have accepted in order to avoid the madness of those who think too much about the nameless living dead. The easiest of all answers, and the one that most men accept, is that finally there is a supernal and immortal justice that will return to men in the after life that of which they were robbed in this… So we believe that God is merciful to men in the end, and it will always be so, or so I think. Perhaps we have here one of the laws of life.

Those who trust in God do not reason. They hope and they believe; and they do this without messengers from those who have been compensated and without the daily assurance of the benevolence of God.

It is unfair to suggest that Francis’s beliefs remained exactly as he articulated them in 1938. They may or may not have.  The world became a different place after WW II, and I am certain his views were probably adapted to new realities as he perceived them. My purpose is to pass along a few of the personal thoughts of this scholar who is also a relative of most everyone who will be reading this family history.

Elsewhere “By Llano Water”, Francis tells about a crisis of faith and its impact on him. He is a high school student, and in an older brother’s luggage he made a discovery:

Down in the bottom of the trunk one summer I found a copy of Robert G. Ingersoll’s Forty-four Lectures Complete. I had never heard of Ingersoll, but I had been told about the terrible iniquity of the free-thinkers and the infidels.

He goes on to explain the deep inner conflict between the forbidden fruit of Ingersoll’s writing on religion and the sermons of the preacher during the next few Sundays.

I went to church, and there within myself a terrific battle, far beyond the development of my mind, went on against the preacher… at the end of the sermon I was weary and defeated. I returned with thirsty eagerness to Ingersoll and during the week following, the battle tide surged against the preacher. I often think that part of my tendency toward melancholia goes back to those summer weeks and months of bitter struggle within myself.

The significant point here is the remarkable sensitivity in young Francis to the conflict he describes, the degree of importance it occupied even in his adult mind when writing about it, and the impact he believes it had on him. His perceptive mind is quickened by an insight gained; his heart is saddened by a certitude lost. I cannot help but surmise that the closeness and intensity with which Stella conditioned Francis’s mind on the subject of religion contributed greatly to his susceptibility to a personal crisis of this sort at a time when most boys of his time and place would have many higher priorities. She had wanted Francis to go to a Baptist school and become a preacher, 176 and she had a long span of years with undivided access to his mind. Baten came along when Francis was 6, but even for a few more years until Baten became a full-time preoccupation, Francis and Stella were constant companions for much of the time.

The crucial turning point in Francis’s liberation from the powerful hold of Baptist fundamentalism came in a sudden realization at one of those typical situations in fundamentalist churches of the time. At the end of a powerful sermon the preacher implores sinners to come down to the altar to be saved, to “accept Christ” before it is too late. Music is playing softly, the choir is pleading “Oh, sinner come home.” The minister is beseeching the sinners to renounce the Devil and relinquish themselves to the almighty. There is an enormous psychological urge to give oneself up to what at the moment seems right and irresistible. In “By Llano Water” Francis writes:

At the close of the meetings there was the usual call for converts, and runners were sent through the crowds to talk with those who were not saved… One of the assistants came by. ‘Are you saved?’ he asked. I answered him, trembling, but with all the courage I could muster: ‘I don’t believe in hell.’ And there it has stood over time. One must believe in hell in order to conceive of the necessity of salvation; if you don’t believe in hell, what is all the bother about?

As I think of Francis, it is impossible for me not to offer just one or two more insights into his own character that he reveals in privacy to his son almost 65 years ago:

But I am going to be frank, and I may say things here that many of my most intimate friends may not know. I can write about that of which I cannot speak. First of all, I must tell you that I have been something of a lonely individual. I have always been a watcher, and the watcher is a lonely man. To be happy in the moment we must participate in whatever is going on; it really does not make much difference what is happening.

Francis is a young man here, only 37, at the writing of “By Llano Water.” He is a professor of political science at a major university, yet in this document he twice declares himself a philosopher with no mention of the subject in which he is an acknowledged authority. His interest in regions of thought beyond his specialization greatly enriches his message to his son, and enriches all who read it. Many thinkers and artists have attained their heights at the cost of loneliness and melancholy in their own lives. We can surmise that this might have been so for Francis.

Elsewhere in “By Llano Water” he says:

In my choice of a profession I think sometimes that I was running away from the misery of the world.

It would be a mistake to think of Francis’s oft-times dark view of the world as the attitude of a sour, cynical, disappointed man. Instead, I am persuaded that the roots of his view are to be found is a profound sense of theology, one which sees the evils of ignorance and greed and poverty and cruelty and war as invincible for eternity. Francis was rare even among his own academic breed. Beneath his vast expertise of specialization, he had a soul that genuinely yearned for spiritual understanding and that deeply felt the suffering of the world as he was given to see it. For such a man, whose life is given to observation and contemplation; whose perceptions are sharpened by endless years of formally studying man’s ways on this earth; whose attention is not easily distracted from eternal truths of history; whose entire youth was most likely a catechism of good and evil — for such a man the specifics of each day’s life tend to reinforce the universality of his beliefs about the human condition.

For me, the question is: why did this man have an inner self so acutely attuned “to the misery of the world?” The answer is, in a word, Stella. The hand of Stella is upon each of the 5 Wilson brothers, and it is to be recognized in Francis’s life-long anguish over evil in the world, which he equated with the suffering of mankind and the inability of man’s efforts and institutions to ameliorate it. Stella attributed evil to wrongdoing which, I’m sure, she felt was due to sinful choice on the part of wrongdoers. Francis seemed to take the view that evil in an inherent in the world itself, expressed as poverty, war, cruelty, epidemics, disasters, and the intractable nature of sin, itself.

Francis’s writings on political science are no doubt proffered with the gifts of insight and lucid expression. “By Llano Water” offers a rare personal glimpse of the inner man, a glimpse that likely reveals more about him as a man than his 9 books, his numerous articles and his honored lectures.

Francis Graham Wilson died May 24, 1976, at Washington, D.C. In his last years, he was a resident of the distinguished Cosmos Club there. He and Millicent are buried in Mission Burial Park, San Antonio, Texas, in a plot not far from Horace and Stella.

Just 38 years earlier, writing about the San Antonio River, Francis had said in “By Llano Water:”

Pecan trees, oak and mesquite cast their shade along the banks of the river. And over our headstone177 in the burial park the hard mesquite leaves and beans fall each year. The grass is not lush because the land is dry and burned with the sun that shines most of the year. What I am trying to say about all this is very simple. We must all die sometime, and it seems to me that the San Antonio’s shore is as good a place as any to give up the struggle.

I don’t think Francis really meant that the shores of the San Antonio River would be as good a place as any to give up the struggle. I think he believed that it would be the best place of all places, a final return to the land and the people he could not be reconciled to earlier. Francis’s wish was fulfilled. He lies there with his wife, not far from Horace and Stella, reconciled at last and forever to the irreconcilable.

Baten … May 23, 1907-January 24, 1977

Later in life, Baten (rhymes with Dayton) chose to be known by his middle name, Victor; but he is almost always referred to as Baten in all the family documents I have, so I shall adopt that usage. I’m told that the name Baten was chosen for him by Stella because of her admiration at that time for a minister of the same name.

I have left the writing of this chapter for last, not because Baten is the youngest of the 5 Wilson brothers, which would be sufficient reason, but because it forces me to confront the saddest events of the entire story.

We have a startling letter from Stella written November 12, 1924, in which she writes of the great despair she experienced during the time of her pregnancy in late 1906 and early 1907 with Baten. She never once intimated that she did not want the child, but she was excruciatingly clear that it was a pregnancy she did not want. I interpret her feeling to be as follows: that a woman of her age, 37, with 4 children already, has a sacred right not to become pregnant if she wishes not to. Based on her account of the pregnancy, I can only say that her despair reached the wrathful heights of a woman wronged by the fates in Greek tragedy. Her letter does not place blame, nor can I. As I said in the chapter on Stella, I feel enormous sympathy for Horace and Stella in this situation, two worthy people embroiled in a sad unfolding of events they are powerless to alter. They have been caught up in the vulnerability of the human condition.

Only 11 months after Baten’s birth on May 22, 1907, Stella had “terrible” surgery of an unspecified nature. There is no basis for suggesting that her pregnancy and this surgery are in any way related, but there is no way to rule it out, either. And, it is just this time frame that Horace referred to in divorce papers he filed a decade later, saying that this is the period when an alienation of affection had occurred in their marriage.

Looking at the history of the births of Stella’s 5 sons, we see that the first three came in close succession – 1891, 1892, 1894. Son number 4 came along about 7 years after the prior child.

Then, Baten was born 6 years after the fourth child, when Stella is 38, and thirteen years after the last of the three eldest sons. This works out so that from about age five onward, Baten has only one brother at home, who is about 6 years older, and probably not much of a companion for the younger brother, nor much help in taking care of or supervising the younger child.

When Baten was about eleven, in 1918, Horace and Stella separated, and Francis elected to live with his father, which likely coincides with Francis’s going off to college. Baten thus became the only child at home. Now, Stella, almost 50, troubled by illness and probably desolate with her broken marriage, had sole care of a boy who is heading into his teen years, and who by every indication is free spirited and headstrong.

These are the years, I feel sure, when Stella writes “Child Beautiful,” the story of a bright, delightful child whose mother is often ill and weary at heart; and when she is making a plea that mothers be given help in teaching their children the “mystery of life,” which they will otherwise learn from “dirty sources.” “Child Beautiful” is her barely-fictionalized telling of the story of her son Baten, an autobiographical piece which reflects her sense of helplessness and the ultimate failure in the upbringing of Baten.

Consider once more the following passage from “Child Beautiful,” (see chapter on Stella for a fuller discussion of this piece) as it may apply to Stella and Baten:

But when one pair of tired hands and one weary heart had multitudes of other cares, he was like to grow pretty much as a weed would grow among the rocks and thorns out on the hills.

The point I want to make is that Baten did not have the direct parental guidance and control of his father, who was living apart from Stella in this period. Nor did Baten have whatever discipline older brothers might impose in keeping him on track with his schooling, his behavior and his duties at home. And his mother is often ill, is no doubt distressed by the separation and pending divorce, still has leadership obligations to some of the organizations of importance to her, and she still had a household to keep. She had two apartments to rent in her home for needed income, and the difficulties of getting and keeping tenants added to her burdens. She even kept a flock of chickens which she entered in poultry shows and which also helped with the food supply.

It goes without saying that Baten was expected to follow in the footsteps of his older brothers and make something of himself in the world. Three of his older brothers had (or would soon have) a total of 7 college degrees, including a Ph. D. degree from Stanford University. Also, a 4th son had 5 years of college to point to, including 3 years at Harvard. Expectations were powerful; they came from his brothers as well as from his parents.

I’m guessing, of course, but I think other expectations existed as well: the expectations implicit in the strict moral upbringing that one would expect Stella to provide for this boy who was now solely under her guidance.

If you accept as I do that “Child Beautiful” is autobiographical, then consider the following an eloquent, loving description of young Baten:

Boundless in his energy, unlimited in his imagination, extreme in his affections, as variable as a March day, and enveloped always in a desire to have his own way, he was, in himself, all that one pair of hands and one understanding heart could successfully cope with.

Stella’s task was not an easy one. As Baten was entering his teen years, Stella was entering her 50’s. My guess is that Stella was not a “natural” mother. She had certainly not learned the ways of a warm, loving home in her own childhood. None of her sons ever attributed a nurturing, cuddly nature to her. Her ideas of guiding behavior were undoubtedly the unbending moral precepts of her early church training.

Baten was a charming child, judging by his photographs (6.6, 6.7) and it was probably all too easy for Stella to allow free rein to his delightful spirit which was “enveloped always in a desire to have his own way.” Without help from the father, imposing discipline would be near impossible, as it often seems to be the case under such circumstances.

We get one glimpse of how it might have been with Stella and Baten in a touching note Stella penned on the back of a photograph of the young child. Though the photograph is of Baten at about age 5 sitting in a beautiful metal toy car (6.7), I feel certain the inscription is quite late in Stella’s life, possibly not long before her death. The handwriting is “older,” and something in the tone of what she writes has the poignancy of a statement made to be remembered after death:

Do you remember Darling how Mother made a big Xmas tree & had a real Santa Claus bring you everything your little heart desired – you always said to me ‘You are so good to me Mother.’ I hope my baby that you will always remember me that way. Your own dear Momie.

These factors – expectations to achieve to the level of his older brothers; expectations to live up to a restrictive moral code; a willful temperament; and an indulgent mother unable to draw a balance between discipline and love – seem likely to me to have created the conditions in which headstrong rebellion could take root and flourish.

In that desperate letter of November 12, 1924, Stella makes reference to something Baten (now age 16) had pilfered from his high school, but she protectively puts it in the context of other “petty things” and “many useless things” that he had also taken in other situations. However, only two months later178 Stella mentions a new incident in the same vein, but a little more serious, this time involving incarceration.

Then, Baten entered a period where he took up with unsavory characters and continued to run athwart of the law, with progressively more serious consequences. Several incidents occurred. There was a major trial,179 a conviction. Details may be found in the Austin American of August 25, 30, September 4, November 6, 8, 10, 13 – all of 1927. On November 12, he received a sentence of 5 years. Baten was represented by his father and Robert. There may have been a successful appeal, or perhaps a release into the hands of his father180– I am unable to report the ultimate outcome. Relations with his parents and brothers were strained and often ruptured completely throughout a 4- or 5-year period. In Stella’s obituary, Baten, age 19, is listed as a high school student, though probably at this time he was no longer attending school. His education was never resumed, as far as I know.181

Somewhere in this time frame, Baten was married. In February of 1929 Horace makes reference to Baten’s wife, and again on January 9, 1930, when it appears that they may be separated. The wife’s name is given as Irma. A third mention of her is made in a letter from Robert dated March 15th, 1932.

Importantly, the letter of January, 1930, mentions that Baten is working as a taxi driver. By this time, it seems he had put all wayward behavior behind him; no further mention of difficulties in this regard appear in all the remaining documents I have seen.

Sadly, that period beginning late in his high school years and continuing up until his mid-20’s rendered his chances for a further education virtually impossible, and his earlier brushes with the law probably precluded many desirable career opportunities as well.

Although there are at least two instances when Robert lost his patience with Baten and threw him out of Stella’s home because of his behavior, he and Baten seemed to have had more of a fraternal alliance than any other relationship among the brothers. This is largely because they are the only two brothers remaining in the general area, but it is also true that Robert seemed to have a special sympathy for Baten.

On November 28th, 1933, in a letter to Francis, when times are very hard, Robert writes:

Baten and I are still eking out something to eat. We will stick together if no one else [will].

Later, sometime after 1953, Robert writes to Francis:

I still have a great affection for them both [Ernest and Arthur]. And for Baten I will do anything since his whole life has been one of frustration, but the heart is good – limited by many adversities.

Horace died in January of 1932. Even in death he reached out to do what he could for Baten. The following quotation is from a letter of March 15, 1932, to Francis from Robert. It gives a clear picture of events of the time:

I could make a good lease on the entire ranch but it was Papa’s wish that Baten live and become a respected ranchman. Baten is living there and running the 250 head of goats. I know that it is costing the estate something to do this but Papa spent enough money and suffered unknown quantities of sorrow over him and I rather think that if we can we had best carry on this policy. If he gets away from us now he is gone forever, but he is taking an interest in the thing and some pride of ownership and management, and I feel he will pull thru.

A happy fruition of Robert’s hope may be seen on a letterhead which he uses for a letter on August 31, 1933. The letterhead reads:

WILSON RANCH

Pipecreek, Texas

Victor Wilson, Mgr.

The brothers keep each other posted on Baten’s activities and status. Over a span of many years and regardless of who is writing to whom, there is always concern for Baten.

In 1933, Baten married a girl who appears to have been wonderful for him. Her name was Kathryn Mazurek. In a post script to a letter of March 23, 1935, Ernest writes to Francis:

I saw Baten in San Antonio he was doing well. I was favorably impressed with his wife.

The following year, on January 2, 1936, Ernest writes,

Baten is working and making a living. I am very well impressed with his wife and hope they will have some children as the first one died. However, he had sufficient income when it was born and it was not through neglect.

The child that died in early infancy was named Victor Wilson, Jr., born December 27, 1933, buried December 29, 1933. Baten and Kathryn had 5 more children in the years 1940 through 1950. They are;

Joseph Delano Wilson, November 7, 1940;

Stella Bernice Wilson, January 23, 1946;

Catherine Rose Wilson, June 13, 1947;

Roberta Frances Wilson, August 10, 1948; and

Victor Anthony Wilson, November 27, 1950.

(Sadly, Victor Anthony died February 2, 1999.)

When my 3 years of military service during WW II ended, I was discharged from the Army Air Force in San Antonio. I visited Baten and family then. I was pleased to see them again after something like 12 years – in which I had grown from a child of 9 to a young man of 21. They were kind to me, and later corresponded with me for a brief while. Somehow, Kathryn had come into possession of a dozen or so cables and telegrams that Arthur had written to Winifred in the period just preceding and following my birth in Paris. Winifred had brought them to Horace in 1927, I suppose as credentials to demonstrate that Arthur was indeed my father. But it is not clear to me how Kathryn came to have them, especially since Horace had died before Kathryn had married Baten. Thus, it would seem that another pair of hands had been in the chain of possession, but whose I do not know. In any event, she had saved them to give them to me at an appropriate time. It is amazing to think of the path of those cables and telegrams: New York to Paris to London to San Antonio to Horace to Kathryn to me.

A very attractive young Baten can be seen in a picture (6.11) with 3 of his other 4 brothers, Francis, Robert and Ernest. Two other pictures (6.24, 6.25) of him were taken around 1941, one with his son, Joseph. Photo 5.6 shows Baten with Horace and 3 of his brothers.

A terrible blow came to Baten in 1953. Kathryn was expecting a child and went to the hospital, but was sent home by a doctor. Two days later she began to hemorrhage and they returned to the hospital. No doctor came, and the situation was handled by an intern. The baby was delivered stillborn and the mother hemorrhaged to death. The mother and the baby were buried together.

Baten was distraught. I feel great empathy for him, for I once found myself divorced with custody of a 7-year-old daughter, which is a circumstance infinitely lesser than Baten’s desperate straits. He had the recent loss of wife and child to endure, he had 5 young children to worry about, he had a job that he desperately needed to hold on to.

In time, Baten married again. He must have thought heaven sent him an angel when he found a woman whom he wished to marry who would help provide a home for his children. I will let Robert take the story from here, in his typical direct manner:182

As to Baten: Since his wife’s death he has remarried a woman who promised to take the children, but after the ceremony the promise was spurned. She is no good, but doing well for her own child and herself… If he remains in that atmosphere he will be completely destroyed – he will be oppressed and belittled in every way. Little I can do. In fact, I have quit because he still hangs on to the woman – the course of things will have to evolve – but can not come to anything but worse. His spirit is about whipped and gone.

Baten’s children ended up with Kathryn’s relatives. Baten visited them. Sometime around 1956 he signed papers to allow his son Joseph to enter the military at age 17, and not long thereafter Baten left San Antonio. A few letters came, then nothing more.

One can only imagine what extremes of despair and hopelessness could have led Baten to leave his children. Against odds that his children may never have known about he had the courage to struggle for more than two decades to build a life of his own and provide for his family; through some of the hardest economic times of the 20th century he succeeded. He was remembered as a resourceful, generous, helpful person. When Kathryn died a large part of his life died with her. When his ensuing marriage failed, it was not just a failure of a marriage; it had to be the end of all hope that he could ever have his family together again. If, as Robert says, his new wife was cruel and demeaning, the totality of his situation may have become unendurable. Perhaps he saw no other way out. Only the people left behind can forgive him for the vacant place he left in their lives; but I can feel compassion.

As late as 1998, no one knew what had become of Baten. Ernest, Jr., had a vague idea from some source that Baten had spent some time in Albuquerque, but had no actual knowledge. Baten’s children also had the same thought, but had no actual knowledge. Baten had disappeared at about age 49, and that was all the information anyone had, other than the postmarks of a few letters that came at the beginning of his absence. Beyond that, where he was, how he was living – no one could say.

And so the story remained, until 54 years after his departure, when in February of 2002, Jim Thompson183 located a death certificate for Baten. These words come from that certificate:

Name of deceased, Baton V. Wilson. Date of birth, 5-22-07. Birthplace, Oklahoma. Date of death, January 24, 1977. Hour, 8:15 A. Place of death, Saint Joseph Medical Center in the City of Burbank, California. Cause of death, cerebrovascular accident, preceded by generalized arteriosclerosis and systemic hypertension. Name and birthplace of father, unknown. Maiden name and birthplace of mother, unknown. Last occupation, unknown. Last employer, unknown. Kind of industry or business, unknown. Length of stay in county before death, unknown. Length of stay in California, unknown.

In Burbank, they know almost nothing of this man, not even his place of birth. But we know who he is. He is Stella Wilson’s “Child Beautiful.” There are people in Texas who have remembered him for decades, where we know that he was born, in the little town of Junction. They know who he is. We know who his father was, a proud man and a successful man, Horace Ernest Wilson, born in Greenwich, Kent, England, who came penniless to Texas in 1885. We know who his mother was, who sustained a broken heart because of the failed upbringing of this unknown dead man in Burbank; she is Stella Jane Graham, born in an abandoned Spanish fort on a starry Christmas night during Indian raids, who rose from a one-room frontier log cabin in the Texas hills to a position of leadership in religious and social affairs in San Antonio.

Until just early in 2002, the story of the 5 Wilson brothers could not have been brought to a complete close with the question of Baten still unanswered. There would always have been a crucial piece of information missing. In the spirit of Stella’s unquiet heart, we would always wonder: what happened to Baten? Now we know. It is not a happy ending, but it is an ending.

Appendix: Elizabeth and Carolyn Wilson

Arthur Wilson was married around 1920. That marriage produced a daughter.

That daughter was my half sister, a cousin to all the children of the 4

remaining Wilson brothers and other close kin, and an aunt to my children.

The following is written so that you may have knowledge of this unhappy

relative hitherto unknown to all of us.

Until mid-August of 2003, the entire extent of my knowledge of Arthur

Wilson’s wife and child of the early 1920’s was that he had married a girl

from Ohio, the couple had had a daughter, and their marriage had ended

without him ever seeing the child.

Several times during the course of the last two years, I have searched

extensively on the internet to try to locate this marriage and discover

whether his wife and daughter or their descendants might still be alive. I

developed a strong personal desire to find my sister and become acquainted

with her. Unfortunately, the numerous searches uncovered no leads.

Then, I re-encountered an isolated fact that I had previously come across

but not remembered: their divorce had occurred in Lima, Ohio, on December

26, 1925. By contacting the courthouse in Lima, I was able to obtain

official papers related to the divorce. From this I leaned that the divorce

was sought by and granted to Elizabeth B. Wilson, and that there was a

daughter, Carolyn, who was 4 years old at the time of the divorce. The

divorce record did not give a maiden name for Elizabeth, nor did it contain

any other clue as to how I might find her.

The court papers did reveal that the two had been married on May 17, 1919,

in New York City. Elizabeth alleged that things had gone badly in the

marriage, including domestic violence, and on October 25 of 1920, she

separated from her husband and returned to Lima, Ohio. The documents

further assert “… it was understood…” that Arthur “was to and would

follow this plaintiff to Lima where a home would be made for this Plaintiff

and her child.” This did not occur. (These charges may very well be true

… but to be fair I should add for people unfamiliar with that era that

divorces were not granted unless egregious wrongdoing could be proven, and

it was usual in cases of uncontested divorce for severe charges to be made,

providing an easily defensible basis upon which the court could render a

favorable ruling.) Though the divorce was granted on December 26, 1925, the documents further state that the last time Elizabeth had seen Arthur was

the day of their separation in October of 1920, approximately 5 months

before Carolyn was born. But the court papers contained no information that

would be helpful in discovering the identify or whereabouts of Elizabeth B.

Wilson and descendants.

A search of the Social Security database did reveal the death in 1991 of a

Carolyn Wilson born April 9, 1921, but a location for the death was not

given, and there was no way to ascertain that this was, indeed, the

daughter of Arthur and Elizabeth. The only thing I could think of to do

next was to request and wait 6-8 weeks for the Vital Records Archive in New

York to send me a copy of the marriage record, which would at least give me

the name of Arthur’s bride. Perhaps I would then be able to use that

information to begin a search for Elizabeth and Carolyn, even though

Elizabeth probably had acquired another married name and might have moved to a far distant place. Prospects did not seem good.

Then, fate intervened in a wonderfully accidental, astoundingly fortuitous

manner. In trying to uncover even the thinnest thread of information to get

me started, I bounced from court house to newspaper to genealogical

society. Eventually, I wound up speaking to a research associate at the

Allen County Historical Society in Lima, Ohio. She listened to my question,

and, after what seemed an unusual silence, she stunned me with the words,

“Elizabeth B. Wilson was a relative on mine!”

That research associate was Anna Brice Selfridge. From her, I learned that

Elizabeth B. Wilson had been Elizabeth Brice, a cousin of Anna’s mother.

Anna proceeded to give what details she could. She then developed a

personal interest in this quest insofar as it became concomitantly a search

for information about her own family, and she began to reach out to

relatives she had not been in touch with for a long time, or had never

known at all before. Information and photographs from Anna provided my

first insight into the lives of Elizabeth and Carolyn, which was further

amplified as she learned more and relayed the information on to me.

One of the early things I received from Anna was the text of a story from

the local Lima newspaper. The story appeared a few days after the wedding

in New York, which occurred in the famed Little Church Around the Corner.

The ceremony was followed by a reception at the St. Regis Hotel. This

article supplies interesting information about the bride and groom:

Mrs. Wilson, the bride … is a graduate of Lima High School, spent two years at the Rockford College for Women, and later graduated from the University of Wisconsin with the class of 1916 … with honors in her

work, being elected to Phi Beta Kappa … and has recently been located in New York City, where she had a position with the Rockefeller Foundation.

The groom, Mr. Arthur W. Wilson, is a New York City man, and author of some prominence, although but a young man. He is a graduate of Harvard

University in the class of 1915, where he did very remarkable work …

The young couple will make their home in New York City.

(The official record I obtained from Harvard very clearly indicates that

Arthur was expelled from that school, nowhere near completion of his studies, for unsatisfactory attendance.)

It is perfectly clear from available information that Elizabeth Brice was a

talented, intelligent and determined woman. She loved music and literature.

Despite the difficulties of being a single mother from the first day of her

daughter’s birth, she managed to find a teaching position in a private

school for the mentally challenged in Van Wert, Ohio, and from that

beginning she systematically expanded her own education credentials and

secured progressively better teaching positions, ending as professor of

humanities at Knox College, in Galesburg, Illinois. For part of the time in

the period up to 1938, while Elizabeth was pursuing an advanced degree,

Carolyn lived with relatives.

However, little information about Carolyn’s life existed beyond a bare

outline. That changed when Anna Selfridge established a contact with

Beatrice Farwell, of Santa Barbara, California. Beatrice’s mother and

Elizabeth were sisters. Thus it was not unnatural that the two cousins,

Carolyn and Beatrice, shared a close and long-enduring relationship. Ms.

Farwell has been very kind in writing a lengthy and articulate account

describing what she recalls about Carolyn based on that acquaintance which

became close in 1938.

Beatrice Farwell lived with Elizabeth for several years, including one or

more years while Carolyn was at home, although Carolyn at some point

attended Sarah Lawrence College in Tuxedo Park, N.Y., where she majored in

modern dance and graduated in 1943. Carolyn had a pronounced artistic

personality, with abilities in music, poetry and painting, though dance was

her passion. Carolyn had had several years of piano instruction and played

Mozart with skill and sensitivity.

Beatrice had gone in 1942 to attend graduate school at NYU, and lived with

Carolyn during the summer of that year, sharing an artist’s studio on West

3rd Street in New York City. (This would have been quite close to where

Arthur lived at the time with Jane Grey, in an historic building at No. 3

Washington Square North.)

Beatrice became a specialist in art history and became a full-time staff

lecturer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, a position she held

until 1966, at which time she undertook studies culminating in a Ph.D in

1973 and a position at the University of California in Santa Barbara.

Beatrice says: “One day [probably in the mid-40’s] I got a phone call from

a man who said he thought we were related. His name was Arthur Wilson. A

friend of his had heard me lecture … the upshot was that Carolyn and I

were invited to tea at the home of the friend, and Carolyn and her father

were introduced. There was rather stiff conversation … we agreed to meet

sometime later for dinner …” Beatrice says that they met with Arthur on a

few occasions, but never at Arthur’s studio, and never did Arthur meet with

Carolyn alone. They soon lost contact with Arthur.

However, this information was passed on to Elizabeth, who at some later

point met with Arthur on a few occasions. Neither Carolyn nor Beatrice knew

the subject of these meetings.

Following her graduation from Sarah Lawrence, Carolyn settled in New York

City seeking further training and experience in the field of modern dance,

“… studying for a time with the greatest of modern dancers, Martha

Graham, and with associates of hers who were well known …” Unfortunately,

Carolyn was diagnosed with a physical condition that terminated her hopes

for a career in professional dance.

For a while, probably in the late 40’s, Carolyn studied art somewhere in

Massachusetts, but she did not take up painting as a profession. Beatrice

says: “She returned to New York, and was clearly in poor shape with fears

and obsessions that were much more serious than I had any idea of.”

In the late 40’s or early 50’s Carolyn was involved in a short-lived

marriage. The couple lived in Boca Raton, Florida. She became pregnant but

miscarried. A divorce followed not long thereafter.

In this general time frame, it appears that Carolyn began to exhibit

manifestations of a mental illness that was to worsen over time, leading

first to psychiatric attention and then evolving from to intermittent to

permanent stays in mental institutions.

Carolyn’s misfortune was a heart-rending tragedy in Elizabeth’s life. At

times the mother and daughter lived together. At other times Carolyn

endeavored to live alone. But events inevitably led her back to the

institutions, until eventually she no longer desired to be a part of the

outside world, or was perhaps deemed unable to do so by authorities.

Elizabeth died on the night of June 21-22, 1978, at a retirement home in

Richmond, Indiana. At that time, Carolyn was living in a state care

facility in Geneseo, Illinois.

In November of 1991, while living in another care center in Illinois,

Carolyn became seriously ill and was admitted to Cottage Hospital in

Galesburg, Illinois. She died at 11:20am on November 25, 1991, at the age

of 70. The medical certificate of death lists hypotension and probable

sepsis as the cause of her demise, which came only 24-36 hours after the

onset of the ailment. Her body was cremated, and the ashes were sent to

Beatrice Farwell in Santa Barbara. Not long thereafter, on a visit to other

of Carolyn’s relatives in Ashland, Oregon, Beatrice planted a dwarf

flowering dogwood over Carolyn’s ashes. Beatrice says: “The dogwood has

since flourished and produces splendid flowers in the spring.”

Ashland is a lovely small city, looking across a broad valley of beautiful

fruit orchards to a snow-capped volcanic peak. It is a place of brilliantly

clear blue skies, of crisp mountain air, a home of art and music and a

world-famous Shakespeare festival. It is a fitting place for Carolyn to

find repose.

Exhibit I … Ancestry of the 5 Wilson Brothers

The following two pages contain the best presentation of the genealogy of the 5 Wilson brothers that I can piece together.

In my view, the great majority of the information is correct and has either been verified and cross checked by me or comes from sources that I consider to be reliable. As always, there is the chance that I overlooked some error, or that some source deemed authoritative, now long departed, was incorrect in some manner. That is always a possibility in trying to document family history going back many generations from the present, especially since the information necessarily comes from multiple sources, many originating in distant times and distant places.

A word of caution

In this regard, please refer to Chapter III of this book for a discussion of the genealogy pertaining to Horace Ernest Wilson’s mother, Maria Lalor Nickson-Izod (1837-1907). The first several generations preceding her seem adequately supported by corroborating sources. Beyond that, we have two sources which agree going back several more generations, but it is possible that one of these sources actually acquired the information from the other, so that if that be the case, the information cannot be said to have independent confirmation.

Of course, there is other information in this book relating to genealogical lines that I cannot confirm independently, but in the instance of Maria Lalor’s ancestry, the amount of information is quite large and the lines lead back to such distant and illustrious ancestry that a word of caution seems advisable.

Issues for future research …

There are two major areas that I would have been greatly pleased to take further than I was able to:

First I would have liked to discover information about the ancestry of Isaac William Cox’s parents. Wherever I turned, I hit a brick wall, though a great deal was found on the ancestry of Isaac’s wife, Elizabeth Ann Woodward. Further study would begin the 1850 Census in Lee County, Virginia. It is thought this Cox family came from England to Pennsylvania and on to Lee County, no doubt with intermediate stops before Lee County.

The other area would have been to document/verify the ancestry of Maria Lalor Nickson-Izod. To do this would be to begin with established data in this book, then to establish and document each generation back in time, one by one, as far as reliable information permits.

Good luck to you in the future.

Exhibit II … Descendents of Horace and Stella Wilson (Exhibit prepared by Kathleen Wilson in 2002)

1 … Ernest Walter Wilson … January 14, 1891

Ernest Walter Wilson, Jr. … (deceased) … November 29. 1919

Patricia Marie Seiler … October 3, 1943

Jason Marcus Seiler … August 21, 1970

Richard Ernest Wilson … April 24, 1952

Christian Bradley Wilson … October 18, 1972

2 … Arthur William Wilson … July 20, 1892

Horace Peter Wilson … April 13, 1926

Cynthia Maria Wilson … June 26, 1951

Seth Hilton Palmatier … November 11, 1971

Tyler Hilton Palmatier … 2002

Rebecca Mentzer Wilson … December 24, 1974

Damien Wilson … about 1992

Peter Michael Hinson … July 28, 1984

Claudia Stephanie Wilson (Howard)… December 3, 1959

Peter Daniel Howard … April 11, 1994

James Marshall Howard … January 28, 1997

Arianna Amy Howard … January 19, 1999

Alexander Howard … December 18, 2001

Scott Andrew Wilson … October 12, 1962

Amanda Jayne Wilson … August 3, 1993

Carly Ann Wilson … August 16, 1995

Matthew Scott Wilson … September 15, 1998

3 … Robert Izod Wilson … February 17, 1894

Edna Jean Wilson (later Edna Jeanne) (Marlow)(Cummings) …

(deceased) …November 25, 1920

Barbara Marlow (Ahlf) … August 15, 1940

Julienne Marie Ahlf

Joseph Elias Tilbury …August 18,1987

Jayna Lynn Ahlf

Hera Lynne (Swager) … May 19, 1985

Robert Wilson Marlow, (died in infancy) … August 15, 1943

Charles Cummings, Jr.

Charles Cummings III

Deborah Lynne (Spurlock)

Laura Lynne (Walker)

Faith

Jack

Linda Mary Wilson … April 12, 1939

Robert Izod Wilson (died in infancy) … August 9, 1940

Kathleen Izod Wilson …July 17, 1943

Margaret Elizabeth Jenkins (Roberts) … August 26, 1962

Kathleen Elizabeth …September 6, 1996

Alexander Elmore … May 20, 2000

Richard Walter Jenkins … March 26, 1967

Max Wilson …July 21. 2000

Robert Wilson Jenkins … May 13, 1969

Colin Sullivan … July 2, 2001

4 … Francis Graham Wilson … November 26, 1901

Robert Rawdon Wilson … August 16, 1933

Francis (“Paco”) Rawdon Wilson … January 5, 1965

Cinthia Raquel Wilson … June 11, 1967

Aaron Shawnawdithit Tronsgard … May 4, 1997

Marina Maquina Tronsgard … December 18, 1998

5 … Baten Victor Wilson … May 23, 1907

Baten Victor, Jr. (deceased)

Joseph Delano Wilson … November 7, 1940

Stella Bernice Wilson (Lawson) … January 23, 1946

Stephanie … April 7, 1969

Gregory … January 15, 1974

Michael … September 2, 1978

Veronica …April 11, 1980

Catherine Rose Wilson (Hickman) …June 13, 1947

Krystina … January 24, 1982

Roberta Frances Wilson (Guelich) … August 10, 1948

Elizabeth …January 11, 1968

Andrew (deceased) … February 11, 1993

Stephen … July 15, 1995

Nicole … January 1, 2002

Jennifer … April 22, 1969

Jacob … May 8, 1997

Jonathan … July 27, 1999

Jenna … February 12, 2002

Melissa … April 12, 1971

Katrina …November 5, 1992

Joseph … February 11, 1997

Robert … June 26, 1975

Brandon … March 18, 1997

Christine … June 8, 1999

Christina … January 12, 1980

Ruthanne … December 29, 1980

Victor Anthony Wilson … (deceased) November 27, 1950

Vickie … June 3, 1969

Bryan … August, 1971

Kevin … August, 1975

6 … Theresa Georgia Wilson … 1923

(Daughter of Horace Wilson and Georgia Howell)

Epilog

This page concludes a journey that began with only a vague notion of destination and, obviously, no conception whatsoever of what would be involved in getting there. Perhaps I would never have embarked upon this path at all had I known what would be required to travel it to its conclusion.

Initially, I set out to write a few paragraphs of personal recollections about each of the 5 Wilson brothers. Such was the deceptively simple task Jim Thompson insidiously suggested to me. Before long, however, I was deep into the box of old family papers and pictures that I’d never paid attention to before. My interest began to be fuelled by what I learned, and I became challenged by questions that seemed to arise at every turn. The broad goal ultimately crystallized of its own accord: I wanted to learn everything I could about this family and put it on paper as a readable archive.

Strong as the interest and challenge were, a deeper motive was, I’m sure, a desire to discover myself to be the unique product of identifiable generations long preceding me on this globe, not merely a collection of nameless atoms that happened to coalesce randomly in Paris in 1926. Though genetically a full member of the Wilson clan, my upbringing as an adopted child, not knowing my parents for 40+ years, left me with underlying feelings of being unconnected. Were those feelings, perhaps, the muffled outcries of Stella’s unhappy ghost, or the whispered urgings from Isaac Cox’s restless spirit?

In time, I realized that many fragments of this story were close to being lost forever because of their wide dispersion and perishable nature. It seemed all the more urgent to collect what I could while it was yet available and to try to record the dominant threads in one archive-like publication.

Still, it was a temptation not to undertake this second edition. It could be argued that the first edition is sufficiently comprehensive. Yet, significant new elements have come to light which, in my view, mandate this reissue in order to keep faith with the primary goal of completeness in all important regards: Henry Woodward’s close association with George Washington; the ancestry of Horace’s mother and the sad story of her life in Ireland; and the melancholy tale of Arthur’s wife and child of the early 1920’s. These and additional minor information and newly-acquired photographs are my reasons to reissue this book at this time – along with the welcome opportunity it provides to correct a few mistakes and, I hope, improve general readability. I see little likelihood of another edition.

This is a rather lonely moment for me. I have come to the end. With the music of Mozart’s Fantasia in D Minor, KV 397, paralleling my mood in the background, I metaphorically put down my pen, close the cover on this book, and wish you the very best in all things.

Horace Peter Wilson, August, 2004.

1 Knowledge of my maternal ancestry is limited to what I acquired directly from her during the last 25 years of her life and from her brother and relatives whom I visited on several occasions in England. Genealogically, it covers several generations of fine people, but contains virtually no narrative material. For that reason, I have limited the subject matter here to my father’s generation and its predecessors.

2At this time I have something like 200 photographs of the 5 brothers and their ancestors plus hundreds of pages of various documents – letters, speeches, essays, notes, genealogical studies and the like.

3 This seems a natural focus to me. To include more recent generations would greatly diffuse a dramatic story that encompasses some early American history. At some later time, I may add a chapter dealing with my own personal history.

4 See Exhibit II for a list of descendents of the 5 Wilson brothers. This exhibit was prepared in 2002 by Kathleen Wilson.

5 The Hill Country of Texas comprises a region that lies approximately northwest of San Antonio and west of Austin. For purposes of this narrative, Kimble Country will be the main focus, although adjoining Bandera, Menard, nearby McCulloch and more distant Palo Pinto and Ellis Counties play major roles. Kimble County was rugged country. Because of limited law enforcement and ease of concealment in the dense brush of the hilly terrain, it was a popular haven for outlaws and gunmen, cattle and horse thieves, murderers and mail robbers. The 1870 census showed only 13 families living in Kimble County.

6 Robert Graham’s grandfather was Stella Graham’s brother.

7 Ernest was very interested in collecting and preserving family history, though I have not ever found his papers and photographs. It has occurred to me that they might have become part of his Museum in Buffalo gap, Texas, and I will make a trip there soon to see what I can find in their files. (I did make such a trip in October, 2002, and later in 2003, but I did not find his files on family history. Sadly, they appear to be lost forever.)

8 Robert Rawdon Wilson has been a distinguished professor of Literature in Australia and Canada. He is author of numerous works of fiction and literary criticism.

9 The observations in this paragraph are paraphrased from Part III, Chapter 14, of “The Path to Power” by Robert A. Caro.

12 “Descendants of Capt. Henry Woodward. Woodward/Woodard History,” compiled by Naomi (Anderson) Smith and Warren D. Woodward, both now deceased. D. Scott Scheibe estimates that this work contains approximately 5000 individuals.

13 Published 1977, Media, Inc., Greensboro, North Carolina.

14 “Early Settlers of Lee County, Virginia,” Volume II, page 492.

15 Documentation for Jesse Woodward’s service during the Revolutionary War is to be found in War Department Payroll records, with copies also available in Virginia State Library, and Records of Maryland Troops in Continental Service During War of American Revolution, 1775-83. This information comes from an application for membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution submitted by a descendant of Jesse Woodward, through Isaac and Elizabeth Ann, and through their daughter, Elizabeth Louisa Cox who married Cyles Monroe Gordon in 1875.

16 J. M. Graham Notes, 1950. John Mark Graham is the father of Robert A. Graham.

17 Cain Notes, 1929. So named after Virginia Cain who provided these notes to Florence Adcock, who in turn gave them to Robert Graham in 1985. Virginia Cain was the daughter of Marietta Nunley and the granddaughter of Isaac Cox and Elizabeth Ann (Woodward) Cox..

18 It is possible that the elder James Cox might also have been a physician. James’ son, Dr. George Cox had a son, Dr. George Cox, Jr., who became an important health official in the State of Texas. A lengthy article about him in the Austin American Statesman of October 24, 1948, includes the following: “He had made up his mind. He would become a doctor like his father and his father’s father.” The wording strongly suggests that the elder James Cox of Lee county, Virginia, was also a physician. However, there is no other indication to my knowledge that this is the case.

19 Cain Notes, 1929.

20 Note on back of photograph of E.W.R Ewing, in my possession. See photo in Gallery.

21 Letter April 29, 1861, from Elizabeth Ann Cox to mother. I have a photostatic copy of the original letter in Elizabeth’s letter in her own handwriting in my possession.

22 “Pioneer Days.” In a letter sent by Mrs. Henry Kerr to my grandmother, Stella Wilson, in 1920, the following names and dates of birth are given for 14 of the slaves: Bashalia, 1815; Eliza, 1822; Belinda, May, 1825; Stephen, February, 1827; Nancy, 1830; John, 1832; Bashalia, 1838; Absalom, July, 1844; Monroe, October, 1846; Minerva, October, 1847; Frederick, April, 1849; Dice, April, 1852; Manerva, April, 1849; July, about 1849.

23 Ibid.

24 Ibid.

25 See photo 1.5.

26 November, 1852, letter, Isaac W. Cox. Photocopy of letter in Cox’s own handwriting in my possession.

27 Notes J.M. Graham, 1950.

28 Robert A. Graham.

29 A very informative and lovely document exists, consisting of an interview conducted in 1937 with a 100-year-old slave, Mary Overton, who had been brought to Texas from Arkansas in the 1840’s by Dr. James Cox and his wife Elizabeth. It refers to several slave transactions in Texas made by her “marster and mistis.” Elsewhere, there is at least one instance of a recorded purchase by James Cox of a slave “named Willey, age some 33 years, sound of body and mind, a slave for life” for the sum of $1000. Willey was purchased on December 20, 1853, and sold two months later for $1250. The interview with Mary Overton may be read at the following website: http//freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~ewyatt/_borders/Texas%20Slave%20Narratives/TEXAS%20O/Overton,%20Mary.html.

30 There is still a place on the Brazos river known as Cox’s Bend.

31 Cain Notes, 1929.

32Letter January 24, 1860, from Isaac Cox to his father-in-law. I have a photostatic copy of the original letter in his own handwriting in my possession.

33 Cain Notes, 1929.

34 “The Handbook of Texas Online,” Kimble Country, Texas. Site: http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online.

35 Buffalo Gap Messenger, May 2, 1959.

36 Letter April 29, 1861, from Elizabeth Ann Cox to her mother. I have a photostatic copy of the original letter in her handwriting in my possession.

37“ Pioneer Days.”

38 “Menard News and Messenger, 100th Anniversary Edition, 1971. From this retrospective article, it can be inferred that Isaac and family arrived in this area about 9 years prior to the establishment of its first local newspaper.

39 Ernest says they stopped here for many months. Several years seems excessive.

40 “The Handbook of Texas Online,” Menard County,Texas. The Spanish were driven out a year later, and the fort ultimately became a ruins. Most frequently referred to as San Saba Presidio.

41 “The Cox-Graham Cabin at Bowie Springs,” 1997, Robert A Graham

42 Ibid.

43 I visited this site in person in October, 2002. Traveling down a series of progressively more primitive roads through empty ranch country, we arrived at the cabin beautifully situated above Celery Creek where the spring runs into it, forming a lovely pool. The cabin has been well maintained, with new roof and floor. The walls are beautifully sturdy, and the dovetail fitting of the timber still holds the structure together 140 years later. It will endure long into the future. It was a memorable experience.

44 Menard News.

45“Pioneer Days.” Also, interview with Ernest W. Wilson.

46 Letter May 31, 1867, from I. W. Cox to his children. I have a photostatic copy of the original handwritten letter in my possession.

47 “Families of Kimble County, William Graham,” 1985, Robert A. Graham.

48 Cain Notes, 1929

49 Ibid.

50 I called a local historian in Pauls Valley to inquire about Isaac Cox, and the lady I spoke to promised to see if she could find a record of Isaac’s death there. An initial search has failed to discover any trace of him there.

51 This information was provided through the research of Eva Lauraine Wilson, a descendant of George W. Cox. Ida Belle Cox is the daughter of Valentine Cox, eldest child of Isaac; Catherine Nunley Wilson is the daughter of Marietta Cox Nunley, oldest daughter of Isaac Cox.

52 “A Genealogy of the Descendents of William Graham,” Robert A Graham, 2002. In a separate report, John Graham states, “Stella Graham’s son Ernest Wilson has information that the Grahams were part Cherokee Indian.”

53 This area on the Missouri River was reputed to be the finest farming land in the country and was famous for salt springs, hence the original term, “Boone’s Lick.” Daniel Boone’s two sons formed a salt manufacturing activity there. Its principal settlement came from a “Tennessee Colony” that arrived in 1815-1816. Abner Graham was most likely a part of that migration.

54 “A Genealogy of the Descendents of William Graham,” Robert A Graham, 2002. As time went on, the origin-point of the Santa Fe Trail moved westward, ultimately originating in Westport, Missouri.

55 Born January 15, 1841.

56 Letter September 16, 2002, Robert A. Graham to Jim Thompson.

57 It should be noted that horses were both wealth and transportation on the frontier. In the public mind, robbing a bank was a lesser offense than stealing a horse, which often prompted swift and final frontier justice. So it is good that Hyde reformed into respectability.

58 Email September 14, 2002, from Robert A. Graham.

59 Families of Kimble County, William Graham, 1985, Robert A. Graham

60 Standing on the premises of this cabin in October, 2002, one can see the acres of land that had been cleared and can imagine the months of work necessary to remove trees, stumps and boulders from it.

61 Cain Notes, 1929.

62 Families of Kimble County, William Graham, 1985, Robert A. Graham

63 “By Llano Water,” by Francis Graham.

64 “The San Saba Mission: Spanish Pivot in Texas,” Robert S. Weddle, University of Texas Press (1964), page 211.

65 J. H. Comstock, Sheriff of Menard County, writes: “Came to hand February 5, 1879. Executed February 10, 1879 by delivering the said Hiram Graham and Stella Graham to Wm. Graham as directed.”

66 Roca Springs is a beautiful but very remote location. In October of 2002, we visited the isolated place of Stella’s home as a young girl. No cabin stands there now.

67 Letter December 12, 1879, to her mother, from Junction City, Kimble Co., Texas.

68 As a child, when I was alone in the house, I would go to a special place where Ernest hid William Graham’s beautiful Colt revolver, and I played cowboys and Indians with it. Little did I realize then that this beautiful weapon had a provenance that included Indian fights and barroom brawls.

69 John Mark Graham in his 1950 notes says “She died in Austin, Texas, October 10, 1942, at 3:50 pm and her body was shipped to Hot Springs to be buried near her husband.”

70This name was probably pronounced Mar-EYE-ah.

71 Her name is variously spelled Lalor, Lawler, Lawlor. I have chosen the spelling Lalor, as this is the way it appears as the maiden name of the mother of Horace Wilson on his official birth record. Mrs. Joan Bright, another information source, says she has seen documents spelling the name Lawlor or Lalor. The name Lawler appears on a photograph that I have, most likely spelled phonetically by Marietta Nunley.

72 Kathleen Izod Wilson has provided the following excerpt from a will of the period that illustrates how keeping the name of the male line alive was a prominent goal in many families: “And for want of such issue male of his body the same [property] to descend and  be to my two Daughters and their heirs, provided always and upon condition that their respective husbands and heirs do respectively assume and take upon him or them the surname Waring and in case of neglecting so to do, I doe order and devise my said real estate to descend to my next heir.”

73 Richard Izod was a soldier of Cromwell. He and his wife, Mary, were granted lands under the acts of settlementof Charles II, 1664 and 1667. The lands were granted at Kilfera in the barony of Shillelogher. Richard and Mary had a daughter, Anne, who by marriage became possessed of the lands in Kilfera. Information thanks to Alan Izod, Cheltenham, England.

74 Ms. Nixon says that Vinesgrove was a farm that could be seen from the front porch of Chapel Izod.

75 This is just the period when some of the Penal Laws thrust upon Ireland a century before were being relaxed. It is unclear to me if the marriage and property laws were statutorily in effect at the exact time of William Nickson-Izod and Mary Lalor, but they were certainly in effect socially and culturally. They prevented marriage between Protestant and catholic upon penalty of loss of property, and they prevented the education of Catholic children.

76 “By Llano Water” is a document of 132 double-spaced pages that my uncle Francis wrote to his five-year-old son in 1938. In many places it is a sharing of thoughts and values with his son, with bittersweet reminiscences of parents and the Texas of his youth. For use of this document, I am grateful to Robert Rawdon Wilson, Francis’s son, himself a professor, novelist and literary critic.

77 This was my mother’s impression when she first went there with my grandfather in the late 1920’s.’

78 I went to Greenwich a few years ago and tried to look up the birth record of Horace Wilson, but was told it could only be found at Catherine’s House in London. where I did find it. Unfortunately, I didn’t have an opportunity to go back to Greenwich to see if the street and house were still there.

79 This identification is in a handwriting that I attribute to Marietta Nunley.

80 An article, dated November 19, 1928, in a San Antonio newspaper devoted to Horace Wilson’s joint practice with son Robert, notes that “England lost an analytical chemist” when Horace came to America. Since the article is based on an interview with Horace, this is probably an accurate statement of what he was studying when he decided to pack his bags an come to Texas, although Francis writes that he was a “London chemist’s apprentice.”

81 Horace may have been drawn to this region of Texas because a fairly sizeable number of Englishmen seemed to inhabit the Kimble County area.

82 Letter December 18, 1930, Horace to Francis.

83 The gist of the family dislike of Frank Wilson relates to his alleged practice of borrowing money from Horace and not paying it back, taking advantage of fraternal trust and betraying it on numerous occasions.

It was claimed that he collected money due to Horace and used it for his own benefit. According to Ernest, he was willfully obstructive in efforts to keep Horace’s estate from crumbling during the Great Depression of the 1930’s. I have read a reference to Frank’s displeasure at not being mentioned in Horace’s will. In a letter of January 30, 1975, Francis makes a disparaging remark about Frank Wilson, saying” “People around my father tried to dig money out of him… His brother, Frank Wilson, camped on him after he was driven out of Mexico.” The reference to Mexico is not explained. Also, Stella wrote in later life with some anger that she had often been snubbed by Frank’s wife, Mary, who was from England. Pauline, Ernest’s wife, had a similar complaint. Of Frank’s wife, Stella says, “She plans her cruelties.” Taking these complaints at face value, I would conclude that Mrs. Frank Wilson felt superior to the local ladies of Kimble County and made no effort to conceal her feelings in this regard.

84 According to 4th son, Francis.

85 Original license , in fragile condition, duly signed and sealed.

86 Biographical notes by my uncle Robert Izod Wilson, undated.

87 The picture was of Ernest at age 6 months and was taken in or by a photography studio located in San Angelo, Texas. Apart from living near San Angelo, Horace and Stella would have had no logical proximity to that photographer.

88 News items on these two men appeared in the San Angelo Standard Times on May 5 and May 27, 1891.

89 The mention of Buffalo Gap is ironic, because this is just the time frame when the Texas and Pacific Railroad bypassed Buffalo Gap, leading to the removal of the county seat to Abilene and the decline of a thriving community. Ironically, those who moved from Buffalo Gap to Sherwood in the 1890’s were doomed to experience the same disappointment once more as residents of Sherwood.

90 Population in 1990 census, 73 people. Information about Sherwood thanks to Mrs. Joyce Gray, Tax Office, Mertzon, Texas, very knowledgeable about history of the local area.

91 Mrs. Wyatt operates the Kimble County Historical Museum in Junction. She knew two of the Wilson Brothers, Ernest and Robert, in her youth. She is an enthusiastic and knowledgeable historian of the area.

92 The handwritten document is entitled “Rural Church Work,” undated. I will quote from this document in the section devoted to Stella. It is clearly written after coming to San Antonio. In the context of Stella’s active participation and leadership in numerous church and civic groups, this document has the feel of a speech she might have given before one of her groups.

93 Copy of letter admitting him to Texas Bar, March 23, 1897, filed with Texas Supreme Court.

94 Later, ownership of this company was deeded to Horace’s eldest son, from which it seems reasonable to conclude that Horace was the owner.

95 Original letter, October 10, 1913, from Arthur to Horace Wilson.

96 Copy of letter January 30, 1975, Francis Wilson to Robert A. Graham.

97 From letter January 14, 1975, Theresa Wilson to Robert A. Graham.

98 Dated December 18, 1925, and signed by Judge of said Court.

99 I owe a personal tribute to Horace, which I shall pay here. My name is Horace. I was a little embarrassed most of my life by the old-fashioned name, and became H. Peter Wilson in my 30’s. I have become proud of the name Horace in the course of writing this family narrative. There are many reasons I could list, but one will be enough. Sometime late during the pregnancy of my mother in Paris, Arthur returned to the United States, perhaps to get money to remit to her, perhaps for other reasons. I have cables and telegrams in my possession from him to her, encouraging her, and offering marriage if she will come to the States. Nothing of that sort came to pass and my 19-year-old mother had to return to her middle-class English home in London with an unexplainable baby boy. A few more telegrams came, and then a final one, “VERY ILL CANNOT COME.” My two grandfathers corresponded and Horace brought my mother and me to Texas, and gave her a place to live and accepted me as Peter Wilson. At that time, Arthur began to suggest that he was not the father, and that Horace was providing for a future “claimant against my honor.” Horace writes all this to Francis on August 4, 1927, adding: “When Arthur first told me about what had happened he told me there was no doubt of the child being his.” Horace adds, “I hope to make some provision for the child out of what would otherwise go to Arthur if I have any estate to go to anyone.” Then he says with moral clarity and foresight, “I do not want him to create in the mind of his brothers that there is some doubt as to the parentage of Peter. Perhaps he fears that I may call on him for assistance. He need not worry about that. Winnie [my mother] has been earning enough to provide for her own clothes. I guess I can do the rest. Just before this child was born he was living with Winnie in Paris. He left her there to battle it through alone.” He adds, “But when I am dead I don’t want my other sons feeling that I have treated Arthur unjustly, or that there is any doubt on Peter’s relationship.” Even at this date, 75 years after his words, it pleases me to read: “Uncle Frank who has seen the child says there is no question he is my grandchild. A good many people comment upon his likeness to me. He is exactly like my memory of Arthur when he was a small child.” From the same deep sense of family responsibility, Ernest adopted me within a year or two, and raised me. With Horace’s blessing, Ernest gave me the name Horace.

100 Letter January 30, 1975, Francis Wilson to Robert A. Graham.

101 San Antonio Light, January 24, 1932.

102 In the 1870 census and in a few other places, Stella’s name is seen as Louise or Louisa, most likely after her grandmother, Louisa Edmundson. . Her mother’s middle name was “Jane.”

103 These letters were supplied from the files of Robert Rawdon Wilson, son of Francis Graham Wilson.

104 1914 is an arbitrary date. It coincides with the family’s move to San Antonio, and introduces a period in which more is known about Stella. However, there is some cause to think of a new era in Stella’s life beginning with the arrival of her 5th son, Baten, in 1907.

105 From “Frontier Times,” by Jean Ehly, December-January, 1973

106 Original letter, December 12, 1887, in Stella’s handwriting, Stella to Cousin Katie, in my possession. Various parts of this letter are addressed separately to Aunt Marietta and other cousins.

107 In the 1880 census, Loiza Mayes appears as a resident of William Graham’s household.

108 Photstatic copy of original letter, about 1884, in Stella’s handwriting in my possession

109 The word “cow” or “cowing” as a verb strikes the ear strangely. I had never encountered this usage elsewhere until I saw it recently while rereading “Lonesome Dove,” where Larry McMurtry writes, “’I’m here, ain’t I?’ Jasper said. ‘Just because you lost that hand [of cards] don’t mean I can’t cow.’”

110 Original letter, December 12, 1887, in Stella’s handwriting, Stella to Cousin Katie, in my possession.

111 Loiza Mayes lived for four years in the William Graham household as housekeeper. When she left, Stella took over the housekeeping duties.

112 Kathleen Wilson and Jim Thompson found the text to this song that dates back to the latter part of the 19th century.

113 Original letter, April, 1908, Arthur to Stella, in Arthur’s handwriting, in my possession.

114 “Child Beautiful, by Stella Wilson,” 18 double-spaced typewritten pages. The story also exists in an earlier, handwritten form. Both in my possession.

115 At the time Horace and Stella separated, fifth son Baten was just about 10 or 11 years old, and became basically her total responsibility for guidance and discipline.

116 The talk (probably not an essay) is entitled, “We Build the Ladders by Which We Climb.” It is in typewritten form, undated.

117 This is an archaic usage that lends a formality of tone to her opening sentence.

118 Three pages of notes in Stella’s handwriting, undated, no title, in my possession.

119 “Rural Church Work,” nine pages of notes in Stella’s handwriting, in my possession.

120 Copy, obituary, Junction Eagle, at time of Stella’s death, written by Ernest W. Wilson, signed ‘Her Oldest Son.”

121 I have no way to explain Stella’s remarkable achievements of thought and language despite the very limited education she had. There is a possibility that she might have attended high school for a while after age 44 when the family moved to San Antonio in 1914.

122 Families of Kimble County, Robert A. Graham.

123 She was active in the First Baptist Church and the Pruitt Avenue Baptist Church, both of San Antonio.

124 Obituary, Junction Eagle, unknown date.

125 Ernest held the view that his mother was a saint, and throughout his life he emulated her dedication to religious and social causes. I think he was the son closest to her in character

126 Arthur commented to Jane Grey on the negative impact of Stella’s moral force on his relationships with women. She mentioned this on at least one of my visits with her after his death.

127 Kathleen Wilson, writing about her father, Robert.

128 Note from Robert Rawdon Wilson, son of 4th son, Francis, to Peter Wilson, July, 2002.

129 There is a photo of Stella (4.8) taken within 2 weeks of her death. She is at a cemetery with her sister Alice and her grandson Ernst, Jr. The photo has an eerie quality, as if Stella is a dark, ghostly presence.

130 The strong likelihood is that Stella’s great grandmother on her father’s side was 100% Cherokee Indian. Robert A. Graham correspondence.

131 “The First Measured Century,” PBS website.

132 Francis is reported in the San Antonio paper of November 19, 1928, to have taken a law degree at the University of Texas before undertaking studies in political science.

133 Robert Graham feels that this is one of the most outstanding families of the era in west Texas.

134 I have the newspaper clipping but cannot identify the newspaper in which it appeared.

135 March 9, 1929, Horace to Francis.

136 Letter May 14, 1962, Ernest to Francis.

137 Ernest made out his will after his first grandchild was born, leaving his estate in 3 equal parts to Ernest Jr., his first grandchild, and me. He never modified it after Ernest, Jr’s 1nd child was born; thus Ernest, Jr’s second child and my 3 children were not mentioned in his will.

138 The church was the Grace Methodist Church, which I believe was affiliated with the Southern Methodist Conference – a group that had broken off from the regular Methodist church, most likely because it was too liberal in some of its beliefs. All the time I attended this church it was housed in a “topless” building, that is, they built the basement with the funds available, and later built the rest of the structure. When I last saw the building a few years ago, it had become a mosque. The building still stands in 2002.

139 I cannot recall whether this was a further splintering of the Methodist church, or whether it was because Ernest wished to control the message and policies of the individual church that he formed this new church. I believe it was called the Locust Street Methodist Church, located at 8th and Locust Streets, on the northwest corner, in a disadvantaged section of town. Ernest moved some sort of building onto the site and converted it into a church. The building is no longer standing.

140 Very large numbers of German immigrants came to Texas in the latter half of the 19th century.

141 Letter April 15, 1926, from Ernest to Francis.

142 To complete the picture, I was born in Paris, France. My mother was Winifred Brown of London. She and I were brought to Texas by Horace Wilson. There, she met and married a Canadian war veteran and I went to live with Ernest in 1928, and was adopted by him in 1929. It was approximately 1973 when I first met Winifred, having managed to locate her eventually in Pompano Beach, Florida.

143 This was a period in which Arthur entertained serious aspirations to become an author. His letter is full of vivid accounts of unusual doings on board a river boat in 1911.

144 The letter is dated July 20, 1913. Clarence Britten is probably the Clarence Britten who was editor at that time of the fortnightly literary magazine, “The Dial.” Britten was associated with a group of Harvard people at that time and published a number of things by E. E. Cummings, who entered Harvard the same year that Arthur did, and who was later associated with Arthur in New York City. The letter is to a “Mrs. Blackshaw.” The only reference to this name is that in Horace’s earliest days in Texas he worked on a ranch owned by people of that name. Mrs. Blackshaw was born March 12, 1832, in Ashford-Carbonel, England. She came to the U.S. on a slow sailing ship (months to make the voyage) and lived first in Illinois, but came to Texas after her husband died in 1881.

145 The letter can be approximately dated to February of 1954 or 1955, because of a reference that seems to place it about a year or two after the death of Baten’s wife, Kathryn.

146 Arthur to Horace, September, 1913.

147 “By Llano Water,” Francis Wilson.

148 May 13, 1915, Dean Harlbut to Horace.

149 May 20, 1915, Horace to Dean Harlbut.

150 June 7, 1915, Dean Harlbut to Horace.

151 Letter August 4, 1927, Horace to Francis.

152 In August, 2003, my knowledge of this situation greatly expanded. Through newspaper clippings I learned that the divorce of this couple occurred in 1925 in Lima, Ohio. From that, I was able to locate a copy of the divorce papers. From those I learned that his wife was Elizabeth B. Wilson, maiden name not given. I sent away to the archives in New York City for a copy of the marriage certificate, to learn the bride’s name and origins. The wait would be 4 to 6 weeks. Impatient, I called the Lima Library. They knew nothing, but referred me to the Allen county Historical Society in Lima. There I reached a Ms. Anna Selfridge. When I explained what I was seeking, she was silent for a long moment and then said, “Elizabeth was my cousin!” Remarkable!

153 In a large footnote near the end of Chapter V, the reader will find more information about these events. Jane Grey was a companion/spouse? of many decades to Arthur. I met her on several occasions before and after Arthur’s death. With reference to Arthur’s decision not to take responsibility for his child, as it appeared that he intended to do from transatlantic cables and telegrams, she related what I would take to be the crucial information influencing his decision. While all the turmoil involving newspapers, his family, Winifred’s family, was going on, she told me that she told him (which I paraphrase accurately): “You are an artist, a genius. If you had a wife and child, how would you support them? You would have to have a job. How could you pursue your genius? You would be destroyed.” She didn’t tell me, but I fully believe she assured him she would assist him economically to be free to paint without the necessity of earning money. “And, besides,” she said, with what I still recall as a sense of one playing a trump card, “I told Arthur, you can’t even be certain the child is yours.” Please refer to the footnote near the end of Chapter V for the details filling in the remainder of this story.

154 Stories were reported in the New York Times of April 29, 30, May 2, 3 and 4 of 1926; The New York Herald-Tribune Paris Edition of April 28, 29, 30, May 1, 3, 4, and 13. Stories appeared in other newspapers, as well.

155 From the website, World Civilization.

156 This version of the story appeared October 1, 1934, in “The Art Digest,” which quotes from the New York Times, which in turns gets its information from Waterbury, Conn., newspapers.

157 Letter, March 8, 1943, 3 Washington Square, North, New York City..

158 Letter May 15, 1938, 121 East 23rd St., New York City.

159 Around this period of time, many intellectuals in England and the United States found themselves sympathetic to the general Marxist views of the plight of working people in a capitalist society. It was a time of the Great Depression, with staggering unemployment, widespread hunger and poverty, bread lines, despair, bankruptcies, hopelessness.

160 Jane Grey told me this on one of the several occasions I met with her at Arthur’s funeral and several times thereafter.

161 I have always remembered with delight a similar exit. The great composer, Johannes Brahms, apparently shared some of Robert’s gruff characteristics. Upon leaving a social gathering he is said to have turned and said to the group, “If there is anyone here I have failed to offend, let me assure you it was an oversight.”

162 “Tid-Bits from the Life of Robert I. Wilson,” undated.

163 “Tid-Bits from the Life of Robert I.Wilson,” undated.

164 On the other hand, it could have been Arthur who sought reconciliation with Ernest. Ernest, with Stella’s firm fundamentalist Christian convictions, would have been unshakeable in his belief that Arthur side-stepped a sacred duty by not taking personal responsibility for the child he fathered in Paris, a responsibility which Ernest then shouldered as a family duty at considerable cost and inconvenience by adopting the child.

165 In a book, “Francis Graham Wilson, Collected Essays,” authors H. Lee Cheek, et al, list 9 books and about 100 publications for Francis.

166 Irion County Advocate, first edition June, 1891.

167 A 1928 article in a San Antonio newspaper says that Francis took a law degree at the University of Texas. I am not certain of this.

168 Letter, Stella to Francis, January 16, 1925.

169 I have had no contact with my cousin Robert for something like 50 years, but I wrote to him as I began to collect material for this family narrative. Surprisingly, he possessed many letters and documents from Francis’s files relevant to family matters, which he made available to me.

170 Francis was not a religious or political extremist in the present sense of the word. He was a sophisticated, not a simplistic thinker. He was conservative in a philosophical sense.

171 I fear that my efforts to understand and portray him might have been the source of distress to Francis. I can only say, this is basically a story I’m telling my children about an uncle. If it were possible for Francis to know what I’m writing, I’d shrug and say, “I’d do it better if I could. It’s the best I know how to do. Don’t you agree it’s better to do this much than nothing at all?”

172 Letter, February 18, 1941, to Robert I. Wilson.

173 Robert Rawdon Wilson to H. P. Wilson, Email August 7, 2002.

174 This document was provided to me by Robert Rawdon Wilson.

175 I cannot report how Francis’s thoughts might have changed following WW II. I would assume they continued to evolve in the context of changes in world events, so that what we are seeing here is only a snapshot in time of his views.

176 Ernest did go to a Baptist school, Baylor University, but to study law. He did become a preacher later in life, though in the Methodist church.

177 Horace and Stella are buried side by side in a family plot in San Antonio containing no other graves. Francis and Millicent are buried nearby in a separate plot. Ernest is buried in Abilene. Arthur is buried at Fo

The first of these brothers was born in 1891. The last surviving brother died in 1977.

A few chapters of family history

by Horace Peter Wilson

Original edition, October, 2002

Revised and expanded, August, 2004

For further information:

Kathleen Izod Wilson, Austin, Texas

Izod@austin.rr.com

Horace Peter Wilson, Leawood, Kansas

hpwilson@kc.rr.com

Table of Contents

5 Introduction

17 Cast of Characters

19 Photographs (pages 21- 48)

49 Chapter I … From Virginia to Texas

75 Chapter II … From Missouri to Texas

85 Chapter III … From England to Texas

95 Chapter IV … Horace and Stella Wed, their family, where they

lived

105 Chapter V … Horace Ernest Wilson, Esquire

115 Chapter VI … Stella Jane Graham

135 Chapter VII … The 5 Wilson Brothers

141 Ernest … 1891-1970

157 Arthur … 1892-1974

175 Robert … 1894-1975

185 Francis … 1901-1976

197 Baten … 1907-1977

(rhymes with Dayton)

205 Appendix: Elizabeth and Carolyn Wilson

211 Exhibit I … Ancestry Chart of the 5 Wilson Brothers

215 Exhibit II … Descendants of Horace and Stella

Wilson

219 Epilog

Introduction…

My first impulse was to write this family history for a general readership. Then, of course, I realized there is no broad readership for such a story, and perhaps no readership at all – that is, no one with a conscious present desire to read about the lives and genealogy of my paternal ancestors.1 Upon considerable further reflection, I decided the best approach would be to write this book as a narrative for my children. Even if their lives are too busy now to be interested in the dusty past, some day they and their children will be glad to have this story.

Through happenstance, I had many documents and photographs at the outset relating to family history, but had never reviewed them in detail and did not understand what I had looked at. I did not even know who most of the people in the photographs were. Eventually, as I began to absorb the details and interrelationships of all this material, it became clear just how much was missing. I began to seek out additional documentation. In time, I discovered that I wanted to fill in all the blanks that I could, to tie the pieces together, and to learn enough to speculate reasonably on the unknowable in cases where large questions remain unanswered.

After a while, the project crystallized into 2 simple goals: first, to acquire all the information, documents, records, photographs and stories I could reasonably get my hands on concerning the genealogy and family history of the paternal side of my family tree; and second, to produce a narrative bringing together the many scattered fragments of this story. I am now producing a second edition of this family history in order to remain true to these aims, and thus incorporate several important elements that I have uncovered since the initial version was printed.

However, there was a larger, overarching objective. It became evident to me that this story was on the verge of being lost forever. Soon, nothing might be left but a few boxes here and there of old photographs and papers that would be difficult, perhaps impossible, for any living person to bring together into a clear perspective.2 Without an extensive effort, the pieces would have remained in widely scattered fragments, in numerous locations in Texas, in Kansas, in New Mexico, in California, in Indiana, in Canada, England, Scotland and Ireland. Without an extensive effort, the story almost surely would never have been pieced together and integrated into a single archival history.

The 5 brothers3 who are the focus of this book were the children of my paternal grandparents, Horace Ernest Wilson and Stella Jane Graham. One of the 5 brothers was my adopted father, Ernest, born 1891. Another was my biological father, Arthur, born 1892. I knew them all, Ernest and Arthur in greatest detail, Robert, Francis and Baten, to a lesser degree. I will write what I can about all of them, with help, wherever available, from those with any additional knowledge.

It follows that the audience for this narrative includes all descendants4 of the 5 Wilson brothers, and anyone else who shares any of the genealogical threads delineated here.

Writing the story with my children in mind made it easier for me to formulate the narrative. After all, a father telling a story to his children can be given some latitude; an historian writing for a larger audience cannot; and a genealogist is even more circumscribed by rigid procedural rules. So, that is the point of view I have adopted.

The material in this story will surely be too much for some readers. For that I apologize. Despite all that remains unknown, there is an abundance of information here. My reason for being so inclusive is that the source material will never be available to most readers, and even if it were available, it would take weeks of careful browsing just to begin to penetrate the dusty haze of the past, not to mention months to put it all into some sort of framework in which the myriad of fragments are correctly related to each other and sequentially coherent.

The information contained here constitutes an archive for those readers who wish to know as much as possible about their roots, whether to read in the present or to preserve as a resource for themselves and their offspring later in life.

On with the story!

For all descendents of Stella Graham and Horace Wilson, there can be no story whatsoever in the sense of family history unless we can track the myriad movements and wanderings of prior generations in order to have this attractive couple find their way from far separate origins to the sparsely settled Hill Country of Texas.5 To accomplish that, the narrative will begin in distant times and places and follow three principal threads of genealogy until they eventually culminate in the juxtaposition in the late 1880’s of Horace and Stella in close enough proximity on one little section of Texas soil for them to become acquainted and eventually wed.

I will digress here for just a few paragraphs to comment on the Hill Country of Texas. In Chapter I of Robert Caro’s book, “The Path to Power” (a prize-winning 3-volume set that chronicles the life and Presidency of Lyndon Johnson), the author devotes a lengthy section to the harsh realities of survival in the Hill Country of Texas where President Johnson spent his early years. He does this to emphasize the large impact of life there on Johnson’s character. In pages 9-32, he presents a bleak picture of the heartbreak and privations most of its inhabitants faced in trying to force the deceptively beautiful, unyielding Hill Country to support life in the approximate period 1850-1926. This is especially compelling reading for descendants of Stella Graham and Horace Wilson, who, along with their ancestors, lived in this region for much of this period.

Furthermore, on pages 18-19 of his book, Caro quotes Marietta Cox Nunley (an important Wilson relative, see Cast of Characters on page 15 of this book you are now reading) about the horrors of Indian raids in the Hill Country. Her name is referenced in his notes at the rear of the book, though not mentioned at the place where it is quoted. I recognized the text immediately as being written by her. Thus, not only was the land, itself, inhospitable; likewise, native Americans who had inhabited the land for centuries were militantly hostile to settlers.

In this vein, Caro refers to a massacre at a “fort and mission deep within the Hill country, at San Saba” built in 1757 by the Spanish. This reference has major significance to descendants of the 5 Wilson brothers. On page 16 of “The Path to Power,” Caro explains the massacre and how the fort was abandoned and came to be ruins:

On the morning of March 16, 1758, there was a shout outside the mission walls; priests and soldiers looked out – and there, in barbaric splendor, wearing buffalo horns and eagle plumes, stood 2,000 Commanche braves.

The ruins of this fort are where my grandmother, Stella Graham, was born on Christmas day in 1869, seeking safety from Indian raids a century later in the crumbling remains of that fort. I photographed these ruins in 2002. See photograph 4.11. It was only a few miles from their unprotected, isolated log cabin on Celery Creek, still standing.

Now, back to family history.

One thread of the Wilson ancestry’s migration to Texas has its identifiable roots in early 18th century Virginia. It may be thought of as the Cox-Woodward thread. Another principal thread goes back to early 19th-century Missouri, and may be termed the Graham thread. So distant from each other in the beginning, they will eventually intertwine in Texas to produce Stella Jane Graham, who will be born in that abandoned Spanish fort.

The third thread goes back to early19th-century England, and it is this thread, the Wilson thread, that improbably brings Horace, a capable and ambitious 20-year-old student in London, to this primitive, sparsely- inhabited area of Texas. His roots go far back in England and Europe.

In her late teen years, Stella Graham, a bright, attractive young woman, will be discovered by Horace, who has only recently arrived from England. The specific locale of their meeting was the remote area of the West Fork of Bear Creek in Kimble County, Texas. Photo 5.3 shows Horace and Stella on horseback in that area.

Clearly, these threads go back much further in time, and disappear into the mists of history. Elements of the Cox and Graham threads reach into the 1700s and earlier in America, some much further into English and European origins. Horace Wilson’s ancestry appears to go far back in England, and perhaps even to France of the middle ages.

Ancestors known to me are recorded in Exhibit I attached to this narrative.

Who can say how much additional material remains to be discovered that would push existing knowledge of our family history even further back in time? I do believe that there are ample opportunities for investigation to uncover more genealogical information in public records (birth, death, census data, church histories, court proceedings, deed records, archives, etc.), but it is less likely that anecdotal information of any sort can be found, although a remote cousin yet to be discovered might have a family bible or other documents or family tales to tell. But time is running out for those with any personal, or even second-hand, knowledge of the era that began in 1852 when the first ancestor set foot in Texas, and ended in 1977, when the last of the 5 Wilson brothers died.

Authenticity …

Much of the information in this narrative can only be passed on as I found it. That is, it was sincerely and honestly offered as fact or probability or belief by whoever originated it. Where possible, I have tried to check information which was subject to verification. Of the rest I can say that I have looked at it carefully in order to identify and clarify conflicting or questionable data. I have consulted extensively with dozens of people who might be able to elucidate or verify any fragment of the story. There are unavoidable gaps. The story is subject to human error, considering that much of it has been transmitted from generation to generation, and has possibly acquired some coloration along the way. Most of the dates and events are accurate in my opinion, the rest closely enough so for contextual accuracy. A great deal of the content is based on identifiable sources, and I will be perhaps tiresomely liberal with footnotes in order to draw connecting lines between the narrative and the source material.

Other genealogical efforts devoted to these families

To the best of my knowledge, there are just two people alive now, in addition to me, who have been active in any meaningful way in discovering Wilson family history or genealogy.

Robert Graham,6 formerly of New Mexico but recently located in Uvalde, Texas, has been extremely active for almost three decades in compiling the genealogy of the Graham family, touching also on the Cox and Wilson threads. His work has been thorough and scrupulously accurate to the extent that intent and disciplined effort could make it so. The Graham family joined the lineage of the Wilson family at the point in 1890 when Horace E. Wilson married Stella Jane Graham. They went on to produce 5 sons who will be the end point of this document. Bob Graham’s work has provided many details that I have incorporated into this narrative. Robert has completed the great bulk of the work to be done on Graham and related genealogy. He is now preparing it for final publication. I believe he intends eventually to deposit his work in archives within the library system in Uvalde, Texas, and it will be available there for all to consult. His material will always be indispensable to any work covering Graham and related genealogy.

The other person who has significant interest in the Wilson lineage is Kathleen Wilson, of Austin, Texas. She is married to James Thompson, a retired professor of physics at the University of Texas. Kathleen is a cousin with whom I have had no contact prior to early 2002. She is the daughter of my uncle, Robert Izod Wilson, one of the 5 sons of Horace Wilson and Stella Graham. She and I, as children of two of the 5 Wilson brothers, share identical genealogical interests in the Cox-Graham-Wilson lineage. She was born in 1943, and comments that her father spoke very little to her of family history. Her contact with me was generated by an awakening of interest in family genealogy. She and her husband visited me in Kansas City. It shocked me to hear Jim Thompson say in passing that I am very likely the only person alive who has direct personal knowledge of the 5 Wilson brothers and that I should jot down recollections of them. That is the seed that has here begun to sprout and has grown into a rather daunting effort. Since that initial meeting, Jim and Kathleen have been helpful in many important ways, and I owe them thanks for all their efforts.

Sources of material …

Time and circumstance, and now personal investigation, have placed quite a large collection of material in my hands relating to family history. Much of the original material came from Arthur Wilson’s effects after his death in 1974, given to me by Jane Grey, his companion (perhaps wife) of several decades. Evidence is clear that he obtained many valuable photographs and documents from one or more daughters in the Marietta Nunley family, who were cousins of his mother, Stella. It is also clear that he maintained an active interest over a long period of years in family history. A few items came from Ernest Wilson.7 From Robert Graham, I have received numerous reports and documents, and much valuable commentary. Kathleen Wilson and her husband, Jim, have provided me with useful papers and copies of documents. They have conducted independent research in Ireland and Scotland leading to important information on the ancestry of Horace Wilson’s mother. Another cousin, Robert Rawdon Wilson,8 son of my uncle Francis Graham Wilson, cooperated by searching through his father’s papers and making many letters and other documents available to me. Dozens upon dozens of letters among the brothers and from Horace and Stella that he furnished have allowed me to document many of the thoughts of these people in their own words, providing a valuable content, authenticity and directness not otherwise possible. Other material has been collected from several area historians, from newspaper archives, from the archives at Harvard University and University of Texas, Baylor University, from Buffalo Gap Historic Village, from Kimble County Historical Museum, from libraries, the Western Collection at Angelo State University, from Indiana, California, New Mexico, from helpful sources in England, Ireland and Scotland and from other sources I have probably forgotten to mention. I even spoke to a 104-year-old lady in Junction, Texas, who knew my grandmother before she died in 1926. Altogether, this material creates a formidable and chaotic array of tantalizing fragments.

I have had considerable correspondence with two “Cox cousins,” Kris Keesey and Eva Lauraine Wilson (not a Wilson relative) who have supplied helpful information. Kris is a descendant of Isaac Cox (a direct Wilson ancestor), and Eva is a descendant of Dr. George Washington Cox, a brother of Isaac.

In the company of my cousin, Kathleen, and her husband, Jim, I have traveled to many of the sites that are important in this story – most importantly to Bowie Springs, San Saba Presidio, Menard, Junction, Roca Springs, the school at Cleo, Bear Creek, the ranch on the North Llano, and to San Antonio cemeteries and Buffalo Gap Historic Village.

My role …

It’s safe to say that this collection of information about Horace Wilson and Stella Graham, their ancestors, and their 5 sons is unequalled anywhere. The simple danger I see is that the connectedness of all this documentation is at risk of being completely lost, unless someone undertakes to put it all together in a way that can be absorbed by people unfamiliar with it. I am willing to do the best I can with the task, for it is perhaps true that I may be the only individual living with sufficient personal knowledge and background to try to construct a comprehensive narrative from the scattered fragments.

What I failed to do when I had the chance …

When I was young enough to obtain much fascinating lore from many living family members, I had no interest in acquiring it. That is the age-old lament of older people who pursue genealogical interest in their later years.

My adopted father, Ernest Wilson, had an avid interest in and extensive knowledge of family history, and would have happily talked to me for hours about it. His knowledge would have filled a book, and should have filled a book. In fact, I have found several references to a book he was writing (or intended to write) on the subject. But that all seems to have disappeared at his death in 1970.

Perhaps someone will learn from my earlier indifference and begin an accumulation of material from older relatives that can later be converted into chapters of family history.

Where will all my documents and photographs go?

After discussions with my children and with Kathleen Izod Wilson, I have decided to transfer all my family history photographs and documentation to Kathleen, who will combine them with her material and form an archive of it. It will remain in her possession until she feels it appropriate to transfer it to someone in the next generation, and so on, so that it will hopefully remain in one piece and always be available for interested relatives to consult.

Why a revised version of this book?

Since the initial printing of this book in October of 2002, I have uncovered new material of sufficient significance to warrant printing a new edition in the interest of completeness. Chapter I contains important new information about close connections between ancestor Henry Woodward and George Washington. Chapter II expands on Graham ancestry. Chapter III now includes extensive new information about Horace Wilson’s mother and her ancestry. The section on Arthur Wilson includes significant information about his early marriage, his wife and daughter. As many as 20 new photographs are included. And, the decision to reprint the book has presented me a welcome opportunity to improve and clarify the entire text.

I have a good feeling about this …

Originally, I had thought that writing a just a few pages of recollections would be the nature of the task, as Jim Thompson had suggested. That’s how I began.

However, as weeks and months passed, the story never stopped growing in scope and complexity. New questions arose that could not be left unanswered. Interrelationships began to reveal themselves. Faces in old photos and tintypes gained identity and character, became human. Events that seemed unconnected at first began to reveal their linkage. Insights emerged. More and more material came to hand, requiring integration into existing text, often leading to new interpretations and new questions. Personalities became more complicated. The drama of their lives became more intricate. It was a process without end.

I’ve tried to work it all out to a point where instead of cluttered boxes of confusing photos and fragmented information, I can leave behind a reasonably coherent narrative. I have a good feeling that much has been accomplished toward that end.

Conclusion …

Fundamentally, this has been a story starting with a wagon trip in1852 from Virginia to Texas and ending with the death of a 70-year-old man of unknown origin in Burbank, California, in 1977 – a span of 125 years. Of course, the story didn’t begin at just that moment in Virginia; that is only a convenient starting point. And the story certainly did not end there in Burbank in 1977; it only brings to a close the lives of the 5 Wilson brothers. It is a story without definable beginning, and without foreseeable conclusion.

Though I leave this project with some sense of accomplishment, I admit to an acute sense of wishing I could have done greater justice to it.

I repeat this from the 2002 Introduction:

Right now, as I write these very words, old Isaac Cox’s wagons were rolling on his terrible trip from Virginia to Texas exactly 150 years ago. So, when my grandchildren read this narrative 50 years or so from now, they will be looking back on events of hardship and danger experienced by their forebears 2 centuries earlier.

To my children, my grandchildren and all who read this, in whatever time and place, I send you love and warmest greetings.

But there is a post script …

P.S. … a personal plea …

I would like to ask all who read this family history to keep in mind how extremely difficult the times were for most of the people in this story.

Economic circumstances were dire for much of the time, and the very fact of living on the frontier was the cause of much hardship. Marietta describes life in the Cox cabin at Bowie Springs, including the necessity to make their own fabric for clothing, to make dyes from plants, even to make forks out of twists of wire. As delightful as some of her observations are, these were not merely charming aspects of an idealized life in simpler, happier times; these were mostly harsh and unpleasant necessities.

My boyhood was lived during the Great Depression of the 1930’s, and that was an unforgettable taste of how hard the times could be for much of the period covered by this narrative. The Great Depression plays a crucial role in the lives of the generations of my parents and grandparents. Their struggle to preserve assets during these times was heroic and mostly futile.

It was a time when my adopted mother, the wife of a lawyer, made her house dresses out of feed sacks, made soap in the back yard, made my clothes out of my father’s worn out business suits, sold eggs for small change, gave me haircuts at home and worked night and day in order to minimize expenses. My adopted father, an attorney, worked the equivalent of 3 jobs for a decade or more to do what was necessary for survival. At one point early in his legal career, his income was so slight that his indispensable law books were on the brink of being repossessed for inability to make minimal payments on them.

A relative writes of life in that era,

And there was a two year period when the only new thing I bought was a 97 cents house dress.

In 1932, my uncle Robert writes of the costs of maintaining family property and says:

I am hoping the farm will produce something since last year Papa received the grand sum of $7.35 for the use of it.

These were not backward, lazy or unintelligent people who failed to be prudent and thus suffered a fate they brought upon themselves and somehow deserved. They were living in very difficult times. They exhausted their resources and health struggling to survive. People had no money to spend. Unemployment rates were astronomical. Income for professionals was scarce. No money for doctors. No money for lawyers. No jobs. There was a great drought, no rain, and farmers lost their lands. Times were hard. Only people with large capital resources escaped severe hardship.

Further back in time, survival could be equally difficult, but in a somewhat different way. Life in a one-room cabin on the frontier was often hard at its best, a never-ending struggle for self-sufficiency with shelter, food, education, health, garden and livestock – not to mention attacks from Indians who were hostile to the idea of giving up their land and freedom.

Death or major illness could throw a family into a life of poverty almost impossible to escape from. In this narrative, you will read in his own words how Isaac Cox lost his herd of cattle, and nearly lost his life, to Apache Indians at the Horsehead Crossing of the Pecos River in 1867. It most probably represented the entire wealth he had accumulated in all his adult years. Many unfortunate women and their children were left in the direst of straits when a father died, became handicapped or left the household.

The Great Depression beginning in 1929 and continuing throughout the 1930’s and on into the 1940’s was an economic catastrophe of indescribable proportions for the entire country; it squeezed virtually all the value from Horace Wilson’s considerable estate and the inheritance of his five sons. Property assets brought virtually no income, yet taxes and maintenance and mortgage costs relentlessly accumulated.

A few random notes on the Depression of that time:

By the end of 1931, foreclosures on farms had reached a rate of 20,000 per month. By that time, one-third of Iowa and one-quarter of Mississippi, for example, had been auctioned off because farm owners could not meet their financial obligations. An evicted farmer who had once been a prosperous member of the middle class found it necessary for him and his young son to work picking cotton 9 hours a day for 5 cents an hour to have any income at all. In Chicago, 600,000 persons were unemployed, in New York, 800,000. The total unemployed in the country was between 15 million and 17 million. Private charities had run out of money. State and municipal governments had run out of money. In Columbus, Ohio, 7,000 men tramped toward the statehouse to “establish a worker’s and farmer’s republic,” and 4,000 men took over the Municipal Building in Seattle. In Chicago, 1,000’s of unpaid teachers stormed the city’s banks. Farmers who still were able to farm applied for usual seasonal loans for seed and were told the banks had no money to loan. In 1933, only 38 percent of the farmers in Nueces County – a prosperous farming area in Texas – had enough money to pay their taxes. For the rest, survival for another year was doubtful. The abyss that gaped before them all seemed unbridgeable and bottomless.9

Such were the difficult years of the Great Depression in which the later generations in this family history lived. Likewise, they were the conditions under which I lived the first 15 or so years of my life.

So, I ask, as you read these pages: bear in mind the hardships the people in this story endured and mostly overcame – hardships of frontier danger, hardships of primitive conditions, hardships of economic depression.

Cast of Principal Characters …

  • Stella Jane Graham … born in Menard County, Texas, 1869, in the ruins of an abandoned Spanish fort during Indian raids. She is a principal figure in this story. She is my grandmother, and the mother of the 5 Wilson brothers.
  • Isaac W. Cox … grandfather of Stella. A true pioneer who brought his family by wagon from Virginia to Texas through much hardship in 1852.
  • Elizabeth Ann Woodward … wife of Isaac W, Cox, mother of 7 children. From a genteel Virginia family. A hard life on the Texas frontier contributed to her early death.
  • Nancy Jane Cox … a daughter of Isaac W. Cox and Elizabeth Ann. Married at 15 to William Graham, she became the mother of Stella. She is my great grandmother.
  • Marietta (Cox) Nunley … sister of Nancy Jane Cox. She is Stella’s aunt. In her later years Marietta wrote an extremely informative chapter in a book called, “History of Pioneer Days …” vividly describing details of their life on the frontier, including Indian raids.
  • William Graham … a rough and colorful character of the Texas frontier. He married Nancy Jane Cox, and became Stella’s father. He is my great grandfather.
  • Horace E. Wilson … arrived penniless in Texas at age 20 from England in 1885. He married Stella in 1890, prospered and became the first president of the first bank in Kimble County. Father of 5 Wilson brothers. He is my grandfather.
  • Ernest, Arthur, Robert, Francis, Baten … the 5 Wilson brothers in order of birth, 1891, 1892, 1894, 1901, 1907.

Photographs

This section will give a pictorial introduction to the principal figures and events of the story. Even for interested readers, family history can become a bit difficult to grasp when so many unfamiliar people and places and dates and events are thrust upon the attention within the span of a few pages. For this reason, I have created a sketchy chronological narrative to go along with the pictures and give them a helpful context.

In total, the 125+ photographs that appear here are a rather amazing historical record, one that many families might envy. The oldest I am aware of is a picture of Isaac and Elizabeth Cox, obviously taken before 1862, which was the year of Elizabeth’s death. Many of the others are almost as old.

Each photograph has an identification number and a caption. When photographs are mentioned in the text, I have tried to give the identification number of the picture to permit quick reference back to this section.

The photographs presented here came from numerous sources, but principally from Arthur Wilson following his death. Arthur had maintained close contact with several relatives, but primarily with his mother’s cousins, the Nunley daughters. They were the children of Marietta Ann Cox Nunley. Marietta was avidly interested in family history, and her daughters shared that interest. Arthur befriended them in difficult times late in their lives. Other photos came from Ernest Wilson, Kathleen Wilson, Robert Graham, Robert Rawdon Wilson, Kris Keesey, Eva Lauraine Wilson, Buffalo Gap Historic Village and Frederica Wyatt of the Junction Historical Museum.

Chapter I … from Virginia to Texas

Isaac William Cox was the first of my direct ancestors to arrive in Texas. He was my great-great grandfather, the grandfather of my grandmother.

Isaac was a true American pioneer. In 1852, he uprooted a young family from the “civilized” Virginia countryside and took them on a two-month trip by wagon through amazing hardships, ending eventually in the remote and inhospitable frontier of West Texas. Isaac and his wife, Elizabeth Ann Woodward, had three children at the time of their trip, ages 2 through 6, no doubt adding considerable difficulty to a trip that would have been arduous aplenty without small children. What might seem all the more incredible is that Elizabeth was far enough pregnant to give birth to a child on the trip. The child lived only 6 days. Despite the risks and inescapable hardships, they set out on this journey in September of 1852.

Of great family and historical interest, Isaac sat down upon his arrival in Texas and wrote a detailed account of his trip in a letter to his relatives back in Virginia. I have a copy of this letter in his own handwriting, which I will quote in its entirety a little later.

First, however, a little background on the forebears of Elizabeth Ann and Isaac is appropriate at this point.

Early Ancestors … Woodward, a connection to George Washington and the American Revolution

Elizabeth Ann’s grandfather was Henry Woodward. At about age 25, he had arrived in the Colonies from England, almost certainly in 1755. No information on his ancestors is available, although Austin Cooper,10 who has done extensive investigation of Woodward families, believes Henry to be a descendant of George Woodward, one of whose sons came to Jamestown in 1619 on the ship Gifte.

Henry first appears in Virginia records in the of 1755 when he presents a letter of introduction, written by James Abercrombie, the London Agent, to Governor Dinwiddie of Virginia.

Because young Henry immediately became associated with George Washington upon his arrival in the Colonies, as a neighbor and military officer, much about his life and military record is available from numerous sources, including the National Archives. An internet search on Capt. Henry Woodward will uncover considerable information. A large database on the “Descendants of Capt. Henry Woodward” on a website11 maintained by Scott Scheibe makes reference to an extensive private document of the same name, first published in 1968, and updated periodically since then.12 Volume II of “Early Settlers of Lee County, Virginia and Adjacent Counties,”13 by Hattie Byrd Muncy Bales, contains extensive information on Elizabeth Ann Woodward’s ancestors, including the Hyden (also Hayden and Heydon) line going back into the 1500’s. This summary of the Woodward-Shelton ancestors comes from these sources.

Even the small fact that Henry lost at cards to George Washington on Monday, January 6, 1755, is documented.

Volume 2 of “Writings of Washington” notes for 17 Sept. 1755: “Lieutenant John Savage, John Mercer, Joshua Lewis and Henry Woodward are promoted as Captains in the Virginia Regiment.” In the same volume, Washington notes these orders for 5 Oct. 1755: “A detachment of one Lieutenant, one Ensign, three Sergents, thee Corporals, a drummer and fifty private men, under the command of Capt. Woodward, are to march on Monday next, for Fort Cumberland.”

Not only did the newly-arrived Henry Woodward profit from Mr. Abercrombie’s introduction to Governor Dinwiddie by becoming almost immediately a lieutenant in George Washington’s Virginia militia, we learn something of how young Lieutenant Woodward continued to benefit from this connection in a letter written on February 24, 1756, from Governor Dinwiddie to James Abercrombie:

Upon your recommendation I took Mr. Woodward by the hand, and have promoted him (tho’ a young man) Capt. of a Co, in the pay of y’s Colony.”

The following letter, from George Washington to Captain Henry Woodward, May 5, 1756, underscores Washington’s reputed moral stature. It may be surmised that Woodward’s troops had became a bit too raucous on this occasion:

Sir: I was not a little surprized to hear of the misbehaviour of your party last night at Jesse Pugh’s. He has been with me this morning, and complained that they killed his Fowls, pulled down one of his Houses for firewood, turned the Horses into his meadow and corn, destroyed them and his fences.

As I should imagine that your sense would direct you better, were it not absolutely contradicted by an express order, which I found it necessary to give last October, when you were present.

I can not credit the Report; but only send this in order that you may be particularly careful for the future: as you may depend I shall call you to account, for any irregularities that are committed by your party.

If they are guilty of such misbehaviour it entirely perverts the design they were sent upon; as they are intended to relieve, and not add to the distresses of the people.

Captain Woodward appears in an important context in the National Archives, associated with the French and Indian Wars, as follows:

A Council Of War, Held at Fort Cumberland

July 10th 1756

Colonel George Washington—President.
Lieutenant-Colonel Adam Stephen

Captain Christopher Gist
Captain Thomas Cocke                    

Captain George Mercer
Captain Henry Woodward                

Captain William Bronaugh
Captain Robert McKenzie                

Captain David Bell
Captain Henry Harris

The President having informed the Council that the General Assembly had resolved upon building a chain of Forts for the protection of the Frontiers—To begin at Henry Enoch’s, on Great Capecapon, and extend in the most convenient line to Mayo River——the building of which forts was not to exceed two thousand pounds and as the fixing upon the places judiciously was a matter of great importance to the Country, He desired their advice thereupon.

Captain Woodward was placed in command of Voss’s Fort on the frontier, June 10, 1757, and served in the Cherokee Expedition.

On July 29, 1757, George Washington wrote again to Captain Henry Woodward, and this time the letter illustrates the detail and thoroughness with which Washington directed his forces:

Sir: You are ordered, immediately upon receipt hereof, to march with your own company (which by a late regulation, has the one that was Capt. Bronaughs added to it) to the plantation of Captn. Dickenson on the Cow-Pasture; and to persue the following rout, vizt. First you are to go up the south fork; thence to the head of the Cow-Pasture River, and thence down the same to Dickensons; where you are to halt ’till joined by Major Lewis, and the Draughts sent by him to strengthen your company; or till you receive Orders from the Major, what to do, if he shou’d not be there himself.

That he may have timely notice of your coming to Dickensons; you are to despatch an Express to him at Agusta Courthouse, so soon as you begin your march. I expect you will make but little halt at Dickensons, as your place of destination is Voss’s, on Roanoake, to relieve the company that is posted there. Not knowing what may intervene at this distance, to render other orders necessary; you are as above, to receive directions from the Major, who is ordered to command the Detachment of the Regim’t in that Quarter. And to him you are, till further orders, to apply for instructions in any thing you may require. You are also to send your Returns (agreeably to my General Instructions herewith sent you) to him; who is to send them with his own and Captn. Spotswoods, to me.

As you will receive new Kettles from the public stores (to be delivered you by Maj. Lewis:) I have desired Captn. Waggener to call in all the old ones, pots, &c. which were made use of in yours and Bronaugh’s late company; and to send them to this place, and I desire you will be punctual in seeing this done, as well as in seeing that great care is taken of the new kettles.

As the Fort which Captn. Hogg is building, and to which you are now going, has, either thro’ bad conduct in the Director, idleness in the workmen, or thro’ some other cause which I can not comprehend, been of infinitely more expence to the country, and much longer about, than was ever expected, you are required to finish it with the utmost dispatch; and that in any manner, however rough, if it will secure you upon an attack. You are for farther direction referred to the General Instructions herewith delivered you.

(signed) Geo. Washington

Henry Woodward remained in service until 1762, and received large land grants in Stafford and Cumberland Counties of Virginia in recognition of his service. For a record of Capt. Woodward’s war service, see “The Descendants of Francis Muncy with Allied Families” by Mary Edith Shaw, published 1948.

At the close of the French and Indian Wars, Captain Woodward and his wife settled in Stafford County, Virginia, a short distance from Aquia Church on the Potomac River in Overwharton Parish.

A descendant, Mark Rhea Woodward, states14 that Henry’s wife, Sarah, came of the noble family of Sheltons who trace their ancestry to Charlemagne and the Magna Carta Barons. (This is one of several interesting possibilities that remain for future genealogists to investigate.)

Supported by records in the Congressional Library, the original portion of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., was built from stone quarried on Captain Woodward’s Land. The southeast cornerstone was laid by President Washington with Masonic ceremonies September 18, 1793.

Henry and his wife had 3 sons: James, Jesse and William.

Jesse served as a soldier in Captain Stith’s 4th Virginia Regiment and also under Captain Leonard Deakins during the Revolutionary War in the period 1776-1777.15 It appears that he served as a very young teen-ager. His name appears in the official Patriot Index of the Daughters of the American Revolution. His wife is listed there as Mary Hayden.

Jesse Woodward was the father of 11 children. His son, Valentine Austin Woodward, had 8 children, the eldest being Elizabeth Ann, born May 23, 1825, in Lee County, Virginia. Elizabeth married Isaac Cox November 28, 1844, in Lee County.

Henry Woodward died in the late 1700’s.

Early Ancestors … Cox, Coxe

In the census record of 1850 for Lee County, Virginia, Isaac William Cox is listed as being born in 1823 in Virginia. This is the Isaac Cox who brought his family to Texas in 1852. He was one of as many as 14 children of James Cox and Nancy Hansford Finney, whose families easily go back to Colonial times, though nothing whatsoever is known at this time about the identity of their ancestors.

There were several families of the name Cox(e) with prominent histories in North America and with deep roots going back to early Colonial times and from there back to England. For instance, Thomas Coxe, born 1590 in Devon, England, came to Jamestown in 1614 with his brothers, William and Walter, on the ship Friendship. Another family of great importance in the colonies originated with Dr. Daniel Coxe, who was physician to the Queen of Charles II of England and also to Queen Anne. This Daniel Coxe received an enormous land grant in North America from Charles II, amounting to hundreds of thousands of acres. Among his other large ventures, around the year 1700, Dr. Cox promoted the establishment of a colony of French refugees on 10000 acres along the James River in Virginia.

Isaac Cox’s brother, Dr. George W. Cox, believed that his ancestry led back to Dr. Daniel Cox(e) of England. According to notes written in 1950 by John Mark Graham16 (a great grandson of Isaac Cox):

Dr. George Cox claimed that Daniel Cox of Colonial days was one of his ancestors. Daniel Cox’s father, D. Cox, was court physician to both Charles 2nd and Queen Anne of England.

Earlier notes written in 1929 by Virginia Cain17 (granddaughter of Isaac Cox) contain the following:

The Cox family came from England, where some members of the family were Physicians to the Royal Family. The[y] first settled in Pennsylvania and later moved to Virginia.

Dr. Daniel Coxe never saw his vast holding in the New World; however, he gave over control of this land to his son, Col. Daniel Coxe, who arrived on these shores in 1701-2, settling near Trenton, New Jersey. He was commander of the Queen’s forces in West Jersey (as New Jersey was then called) and served as Justice of the Colonial Court and as a member of the Governor’s Council. He was founder of the first Masonic Lodge in America in 1730, and was also the first Grandmaster of Masons in America

One of Col. Coxe’s sons was William Coxe, a judge and prominent citizen of Philadelphia. His son, Tench Coxe (1755-1824), was a successful merchant and land owner, greatly extending the family’s wealth and prestige. Tench Coxe served in the Continental Congress in 1789 and was appointed to positions in the U.S. government by Presidents Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Madison.

Like many families of the Colonial era, the Coxe family generated an amazing sprawl of children, grandchildren, uncles, aunts, nephews and nieces. William Coxe had at least 9 children, and his son Tench Coxe had 13 children. Consequently, there are literally dozens of possible threads of connection between these branches of the Cox(e) family.

It was not uncommon at the time for a family name to be written with slight variants in spelling, so that the “e” in Coxe might easily have been dropped. Robert Graham believes that a relationship between these branches of the Cox(e) family likely does exist, but can point to no conclusive documentation connecting them. (This is another possible area for future genealogists to investigate.)

Isaac had one brother who was a Methodist preacher, Ivey H. Cox, and two brothers who were doctors, James M. and George Cox. In the context of the times, the education implied in these professions bespeaks a family of considerable attainment, not incompatible with connections to the noted Coxe family. Later we will see that the Cox family was of sufficient means to be able to engage in numerous land transactions in Texas over a long period of time.

The children of James Cox and Nancy Hansford Finney Cox

It is James Cox whose ancestors may or may not have included a physician to the Royal Family in England.18 This is a connection that is quite possibly valid but has not been documented. Further, nothing at all is known of his wife’s ancestors. She is known in most references as Nancy Hansford, but is clearly identified as Nancy Hansford Finney in a Prayer Book of Hiram Graham, a great grand child of Nancy Hansford Finney Cox.

There were as many as 14 children born to Isaac and Nancy. They are, in approximate order of age: Isaac William, Dr. George Washington, Rev. Ivey H., Dr. James Madison, Marion, Smith, John Wesley, Louisa C., Malinda S., Harvey, Reuben M., Benjamin F., Alexander S., and Sarah H.

This list of names has been compiled from Census data, legal documents, family bibles and other family documents. Most all of the names have been confirmed in multiple sources, though it is possible that one or perhaps two of the names might not be children of James and Nancy Cox.

Migration to Texas of members of the Cox Family

It should be noted that Cox ancestors undoubtedly were immigrants with roots in England, perhaps Ireland, perhaps Scotland. It is thought in the family that the earliest Cox immigrants settled in Pennsylvania, then made their way to Virginia, and eventually moved to Lee County, which is the westernmost part of Virginia, just across the river from Tennessee, and a way station on one of the most well-traveled routes of westward immigration of the period. Evidence seems to indicate that the Cox family arrived in Lee County in the 1840’s. They are not to be found there in the 1840 Census, though they are present in the 1850 Census. Also in the 1840’s as best I can surmise, one or more members of the Cox clan, migrated to Texas, and in the case of James Madison Cox, he stopped first in Carroll County, Arkansas, for a while where he studied medicine under a preceptor and married Elizabeth Kenner, originally from Tennessee. Dr. James arrived in Texas early enough to be identified as a physician and land owner in Fayette County, Texas, in the 1850 census.

Then, in 1852, Isaac Cox and his family made the difficult two-month wagon trip from Lee County, Virginia, to Rutersville, Texas, in Fayette County, a trip which he documented in a remarkable letter later reproduced in this chapter. At least a half dozen more of the Cox family also found themselves in Texas, including the mother, Nancy. It is thought that several of these, perhaps all, came at the same time that Isaac came, in the autumn of 1852. In addition to Nancy, Isaac and Dr. James M., those mentioned by name in records I have seen as being in Texas are: Dr. George W., Rev. Ivey H., Louisa, Reuben, Marion, Smith, Alexander and Sarah. There are also indications that some of the Woodward family might have come to Texas at this time.

Why the migration to Texas? Why Rutersville, in particular? Two possible influences are: 1) in 1845, Texas became a state in the Union after 10 years as an independent nation, and I believe migration was enthusiastically solicited by the new state to build its population and economic strength , and to quickly develop a defensive capability against the possible attempt by Mexico to recover the territory, and 2) at the very time of Isaac’s 1852 journey, the Methodist church was establishing (and likely recruiting for) a village together with a college in the area. In fact, the town took its name from the Methodist Rev. Martin Ruter, one of the first missionaries sent to Texas. Nancy Hansford Finney Cox was an ardent Methodist all her life, and her son Ivey was a Methodist minister. Also, there was a very strong attachment to the Methodist faith in the family of Elizabeth Ann Woodward. Only a few years later, when this college failed and the area experienced a decline, the Cox family moved to other regions Texas, sometimes forming a presence imposing enough to have geographical areas named after them, such as Cox Bend on the Brazos River, a district in Hill County called Coxville, and a post office of the same name from 1859 to 1867.

However, a third major influence in much of the migration of the period was the most immediate form of population explosion: family growth. Consider the arithmetic of what happened in just a few generations in the Woodward family. Henry Woodward had 3 sons who had 33 children who at the rate of 8 children each (as did one son, Valentine A. Woodward, Elizabeth’s father) would have had 264 children who at the rate of 6 children each (as did Valentine’s daughter, Elizabeth Ann Woodward) would have had 1584 children. Or imagine the 2nd- and 3rd-generation progeny of Nancy and James Cox’s 14 children. Presumably the rest of the good citizens of Lee County were just as busy populating the area, so that it may be imagined that substantial pressure was placed on the fixed resources of the area, generating considerable motivation to find new land in new areas.

Isaac Cox

At the age of 21, on November 28, 1844,19 Isaac married Elizabeth Ann Woodward. Elizabeth had been born May 23, 1825. As noted earlier, both sides of her family can be identified in Virginia back in time for several generations. Elizabeth’s surroundings and refined upbringing in Virginia stand in extreme contrast to the primitive life she was to encounter when she arrived on the West Texas frontier in the 1850’s.

A nephew of Elizabeth, Elbert William Robertson Ewing, graduated from the University of Virginia and was an attorney who practiced law in Washington, D.C., before the U.S. Supreme Court.20 Photo 1.4 is a fine, elegant picture of Mr. E.W.R. Ewing showing a handsome gentleman of stylish attire, great poise and grave bearing.

Having just mentioned Mr. Elbert Ewing, I cannot resist including here a delightful reference made to a photograph of him in a letter Elizabeth Ann wrote in 1861. She writes to her mother about the reaction of her two young daughters, ages 11 and 13:

The young ladies say that Elbert is the prettiest sweetest looking young man they ever seen the girls have tried to take it [the photo] from me, but they shant have it.21

A niece of Elizabeth was Maude Cox. I include her picture (photo 1.24a) to suggest the radical difference of life style between those who migrated to Texas and those who stayed behind in Virginia, though there certainly may have been differences in the economic circumstances of various branches of the same family in Virginia. For reference, imagine Maude as she appears in her photo living in the cabin of Isaac Cox shown in photo 1.7. Maude was the daughter of Elizabeth Ann’s younger brother, Elbert Sevier Woodward. Maude’s brother, James Olin Woodward, was a banker and attorney.

We know from Elizabeth’s daughter that Elizabeth’s family was affluent and had a number of slaves.22

Elizabeth’s grandfather was a Methodist minister, Valentine A. Woodward, and two of Elizabeth’s brothers were also ministers, William and Alexander Woodward. Elizabeth’s mother was Mary Ewing before she married, and she had two brothers who were ministers, Jo and Alexander.23 This profusion of ministers in the family might indeed bespeak a religious fervor that could have played a role in moving to a new area of the country where the Methodist church was founding a community and center of religious teaching. And it might also be the kernel of a very strong religious presence we shall discover later in Stella Graham, a granddaughter of the Cox-Woodward marriage. Stella is my grandmother and is the woman who will become the principal character of this story and mother of the 5 Wilson brothers.

Marietta, the first daughter of Isaac and Elizabeth, was born in 1848, “…on Sugar mountain, Lee County, Virginia…”24

This short description of Marietta’s birthplace is in her own words taken from a very important source of information on the Cox family: a book first published with the title, “History of Pioneer Days in Texas and Oklahoma.” Chapter III of this book was written by Mary A. Nunley, which was Marietta Cox’s married name in the form that she used it at the time the book was published. In 1909, the book was expanded and republished with the more marketable title of “Pioneer Days in the Southwest from 1850 to 1879, Thrilling Descriptions of Buffalo Hunting, Indian Fighting and Massacres, Cowboy Life and Home Building.” In this subsequent edition, Marietta’s chapter becomes number IX.

It is worthwhile to take special note of this book, for it is a frequent source in this narrative of important and interesting information. Subsequently, the book will be referred to as simply “Pioneer Days.” Marietta’s chapter contains much of historical value and family relevance. Its very special significance is that Marietta’s sister Nancy Jane is to become Stella Graham’s mother; therefore this chapter by Marietta is an extremely rare kind of documentation that describes the exact circumstances of the home life they shared, the life of a direct ancestor just about a century and a half ago as this is being written. Few families could ever hope for such direct, authentic and extensive observations from a distant relative 150 years in the past.

A photograph of “the old [Woodward] Virginia home where our ancestors lived”25 taken in 1938, shows a large, handsome home on a hill. The inscription on the back of the photograph which I take to be in the handwriting of the last surviving of Marietta’s children or grandchildren, goes on to say,

All have gone except me that’s related to those who in early life lived in this home.

The home was originally of log construction, but has since been covered with white siding and modernized in other ways. This was Elizabeth Ann’s home as a child. The home looks all the more comfortable and appealing considering the circumstances that Isaac was soon to thrust his wife Elizabeth and family into. The contrast between pictures 1.5 and 1.7 in the photo section of this book accurately demonstrates the radical contrast in life styles that Elizabeth Ann underwent as she was forced to adapt to the primitive life of the West Texas frontier. The cabin in photo 1.7 was built by Isaac Cox in Bowie Springs shortly after Elizabeth’s death, but is virtually identical to the one he built just a few years earlier in Palo Pinto for Elizabeth and family.

What we know with indisputable accuracy is that Isaac, Elizabeth Ann, daughters Marietta and Nancy Jane, son Valentine, and “Stephan, Mother’s black boy,” left sometime in September of 1852 in wagons for Texas26. From John Mark Graham,27 it can be seen that two of Isaac Cox’s brothers were in the exact same area of Texas at the exact same time as Isaac’s arrival. Several other sources mention other of his brothers and sisters being in Texas, in this general time frame (earlier in the case of Dr. James M. Cox, perhaps later in the case of others). We know that Dr. James M. Cox was in the Rutersville area in 1950, well ahead of Isaac and his entourage. Also, records clearly indicate that the mother of these children purchased 700 acres of land in Rutersville in 1852. All told, the record supports the idea that several families of the Cox clan made the trip together, forming a caravan of sorts that helped them better survive the rigors of the trip. Alice Conklin, a granddaughter of Isaac Cox, wrote in 1974, “And there were three covered wagons at least, with many Cox and Woodward relatives.” Family lore28 says that these same Cox families freed their slaves and gave each a parcel of land before departing for the distant frontier of Texas. The story may be partially correct, but it is perhaps contradicted, at least in part, by the documented presence of slaves in the family of Dr. James M. Cox in Texas and probably also by the presence of Stephan with Elizabeth Ann on the wagon trip to Texas.29

In November of 1852, having just arrived in Texas after the arduous trip from Virginia by wagon, Isaac W. Cox sat down and addressed a lengthy letter to friends and family back in Virginia. One of the prize possessions in my collection is a photostatic copy of this very touching and informative letter, written in Isaac’s hand, detailing the trip to Texas. Though it is somewhat long, I will quote the entire letter here. It is of historical interest for the feel it gives of what such a trip actually entailed, for the description of events along the way, and for its many fascinating details. I have transcribed the letter to conform as nearly as possible to the original spelling and format. As you read it, you will find that it also contains gripping and dramatic events, including some that arise with sudden, surprising force. Among its many interesting details: the letter is addressed to “friends” back in Virginia, I assume, but not to relatives (could that mean all his relatives came with him to Texas or were already there?); Isaac does not mention the names of any family members traveling with him other than his wife and children; and he refers to his destination in Texas as the “far west.”

Fayette Co, Texas November the 1852

Respected friends

After having landed at the destined

place in the far west I now seat myself to address

a few lines to you informing you that we are all at

this time in possession of a reasonable portion of health

and hope these few lines may find you all in possession

of the same blessing. since we left Va we have had

many hard trials & difficulties to encounter. we made

the trip from Va to Ruters Ville in two months and

8 days and lay by 8 days on the road. we lay by

one day at Tennessee River to have working done

and 7 days at washington in Arkansaw.

we had to lay by there on account of sickness.

from the time we started to till we got to washington

Arkansaw we had tollerable good health with the

exception of Diarrear & I got one of my arms hurt

and has not got well yet. Elizabeth has stood

the trip tollerable well. Valentine has been perfect

ly healthy since we left. Maryetta has been poorly

and Nancy Jane also Nancy caught the Whooping

cough on the road and is very bad at this time.

we landed at washington Ark the 26th of Oct.

Elizabeth was there taken sick on the same evening

we got there and a little after dark gave

[Page 2 of I.W. Cox letter, 1852]

gave birth to a fine daughter. it lived only

six days. the next day after Elizabeth was taken

sick myself and Maryetta was take with the congestive

fever and also Stephan[,] Mother’s black boy. we stayed

there seven days. the child died when I was not able

to sit up. I sent the boys to get a coffin. they

got a fine coffin all ready made. and dug the

grave and buried the child and next morning

we started. myself nor Elizabeth was not able

to sit up when we started. we had a bed made

in our waggon and was helped in. and it

was a bout a weak before either or us was out of

the waggon. you must know it was a distressing

time. the reason why we started almost everybody

in the country was sick and a great many dying.

the physician that tended on us advised us to

to leave or we would all die. it was Dr Williams. he

was much of a gentleman and a good physician.

I cannot at present give as much satisfaction

with regard to our travails and country as I

would wish for, for I am writing with an old

steel pen that I borrowed in town. the day I left Uncle

Robert Ely’s I swaped my brown horse for a

mare. I made an excellent trade. the mare stood the trip

fine, and is with fold. She is as large as old _____.

my horses boath stood the trip fine. when I got to Memphis

they were so fat that I could hardly manage them.

[Page 3 of I. W. Cox letter, 1852]

But when I got in Arkansaw I could not get one

bushel of old corn and having to feed on new corn

and pull so hard they fell off some but is now in better

order than when I started. my expenses was grater

that I anticipated they would be, they were $93.75

besides some clothing and things I bought on the road

including my doctor bills.

I will now give a way bill and the distances

from Va to Rutersville Texas.

From Cumberland gap to Jacksborough 45 miles

From Jacksborough to Montgomerey 50

From Montgomery to the white Plains 60

From thence to Mcminville 55

From thence to shelbyville 50

Thence to Farmington 16

Thence to Lewis Burg 8

Thence to Lymville 25

Thence to Camelsville [?] 12

Thence to Waynesborough 40

Thence to Clifton 15 on Tenn. River

Thence to Lexington 35

Thence to Jackson 30

Thence to Denmark 10

Thence to Estanola 6

Thence to somersville 21

Thence to Memphis 41

The distance through Tenn 529

Arkansaw from Memphis to Blackfish Lake 35 miles

Thence to Green Plains 20

Thence to Little Rock 109

Thence to Benton 25

Thence to Rockport 30

Thence to Washington 80

Thence to Fulton 16

Thence to Sulphur fork of Red river 40

Distance through Arkansas 370

Distance through Texas from Sulphur fork to Lynden 30

Thence to Jefferson 20

Thence to Marshal 16

Thence to Henderson 38

Thence to Rusk 21

Thence to Crockette 40

Thence to Henderson 75 [second mention of Henderson]

Thence to Washingto 20

Thence to Independance 12

Thence to Rutersville 45

Distance through Texas 317

Whole distance 1216 miles

[Page 4 of I. W. Cox letter, 1852]

This is the most direct route with one exception

and that is Below Jacksborough at the salt works we should have

taken the left and went across to Kingston and struck

Knoxvill Road leading on to sparta in stead of going

by Montgomery for it is the worst road I ever travailed in

my life . we was highly favoured on the route. the roads

were generally good through Tenn, but when we got

into Arkansaw we had the worst roads on earth through

the swamps. the mud was generally to the axail tree

for a bout twenty five miles. the country is as level

as a house floor swamps and lakes all through it. we would

have sometimes to waid for miles through mud and

water over knee deep and we had to cut our way in places

through the cypress knees and cane [?]. it was nothing

to see our horses and wagons bogged in the swamps and some

of them nearly clear under and would have to stay

there till a caravan of moovers comes to their relief.

I would give you a description of the swamps in Arkansaw

but I havenot the language nor mental ability to portray

to you the dismal locality of that country. its inhabitants [?]

be nothing more than pirates and high way robbers

and looks like the very picture of death. the musquetoes

have sucked all their blood from them and they

are nothing more than putrified substances going

a bout as pack horses for the devil. I would tell you

something more about them but you see I must

come to the close. [He has reached the bottom of the 4th page]

I have not given you any description

of the country yet. I must get me another sheet of paper.

Elizabeth and children are all in bed snoreing. I must retire for tonight.

[The letter ends here without signature. If he did procure additional

paper and write more, it was not part of any material I have seen.

My surmise is that he did not write more at this time.]

As his letter indicates, Isaac and family arrived in Fayette County, Texas. The 1850 census indicates that Dr. James and Elizabeth Cox were already residents of Fayette County at the time Isaac arrived. In “Pioneer Days,” Marietta identifies the area more specifically and states that the family

settled within four miles of Ruterville and twelve miles from LaGrange.

After a few years in Texas, Marietta, her mother and a baby sister made a trip back to Virginia for a visit. From “Pioneer Days,” the details of travel are revealing:

There was only one railroad in Texas at that time, and that was from Richmond to Houston [about 20 miles]. My father took us in a wagon to Richmond where we got on a train and went to Houston, and from there on a little boat to Galveston, and from there across the Gulf of Mexico to New Orleans, from there up the Mississippi on a large steamboat to Memphis, Tenn., and from there by railroad to Knoxville, and from there to Tazwell by stage.

The visit to Virginia lasted 6 months.

After a few years in the Rutersville area, the family moved to Palo Pinto County, which was then the frontier. Cox built a cabin there near the Brazos River which was still standing in 1959.

In “Pioneer Days” Marietta says:

My father bought cattle and moved to the frontier, Palo Pinto County, where we experienced all the dangers, privations and hardships of a frontier life. We settled on the west side of the Brazos river…30 We lived on dirt floors, and cooked and ate and slept all in the same room … My father built a little log house on a knoll near the river for my mother to teach school in.

Marietta adds that there were four students from the surrounding area in addition to the children of Isaac and Elizabeth. In the Buffalo Gap Messenger of May 2, 1959, Ernest Wilson states that Elizabeth Ann was the first school teacher in Palo Pinto Country.

Marietta says,

My father then bought the Bob Dillingham place, a mile or two from John Pallard’s and we moved there.

For the record, the children of Isaac and Elizabeth Ann were:31 Valentine Maurice, March 11, 1846; Marietta Ann, March 11, 1848; Nancy Jane, February 14, 1850; Martha, born and died on trip to Texas, October, 1852; Robert Melleville, June 20, 1854; Elizabeth Louisa, April 19, 1856; Donna Isabella, June 1, 1860.

From this roster of children, we can see that Elizabeth Ann bore three of her children in the relative comfort of civilized Virginia; that one died during the rigors of that 1216-mile wagon trip to Texas; finally, that three were born under the severe circumstances of West Texas frontier life, which were bad enough in themselves, but also included the ever-present threat of hostile Indian raids.

Just to keep the relationships in focus, Isaac and Elizabeth Ann are my great great grandparents; and their daughter Nancy Jane is my great grandmother. She is the sister of Marietta, so when Marietta writes these details about life on the frontier, she is describing the exact life and experiences that one of my direct ancestors lived, right down to the dirt floor of the very same log cabin.

Encounters with Indians in the area of Palo Pinto were not infrequent, and inhabitants lived in constant fear of violence, looting, kidnapping and death. In “Pioneer Days,” Isaac’s daughter Marietta writes:

My mother said she suffered a thousand deaths at that place for fear the Indians would come and kill us or carry off some of the children. Why men would take their families out in such danger I can’t understand.

In fact, Indian fights were not uncommon for Isaac. In a letter32 from Palo Pinto, he wrote to his father-in-law on January 24, 1860:

We have had two skirmishes with the Indians lately – the 1st fight there was 8 [Indians] killed, the last fight 5 Indians – one white man was shot but not mortal.

As context for this letter, Elizabeth’s father (photo 1.15), a minister and a cultivated man from Virginia, had visited his daughter in Texas and had been distressed at the primitive conditions in which he found Elizabeth and family.

Marietta has this to say in passing about her grandfather’s visit to Texas,

I remember her [Elizabeth’s] father came to Texas once to see her; and preached in the schoolhouse where she taught, he was not very favorably impressed with the country and didn’t stay very long in Texas.

So, in this same letter of January 24, 1860, in which Isaac relates two instances of Indian fights in the area, he endeavors to impress his disapproving father-in-law with comments about how the area in general has improved and Elizabeth’s lot in particular:

there has been quite a change taken place in Palo Pinto since you left here. We have three very full stores – several new houses have gone up since you left. We have bought two lots in town – one acre in each – one improved with a good log house 18 x 20 with a gallery [porch] on each side. We moved last Saturday. Elizabeth and children are much pleased with the change.

This move occurred about two years before Elizabeth’s death, and there is an implied concern for her well being in Isaac’s letter. At the time of the letter, Elizabeth was expecting her sixth child, Donna Isabella (often referred to as “Belle”), who was born June 1, 1860.33 Now living in the relative splendor of an 18 x 20 log house in town, possibly even luxuriously divided into two rooms, she might have been spared at least a few of the more difficult conditions that frontier existence in that part of Texas forced upon a woman of sheltered upbringing in civilized Virginia.

It is fair to assume that frequent fights with Indians and harsh frontier conditions were the principal reason leading Isaac and family to move into the relatively greater security of the town. But Elizabeth’s health may have been failing at the time, which could have been a further consideration in making the move. It was still a decade and a half before the dangers of Indian attacks had been eliminated in that part of Texas.

According to the Handbook of Texas Online, the last serious attack by Indians in the area where Isaac lived came in 1876.34

Elizabeth Ann died April 30, 1862, just short of 10 years from the time of their arrival in Texas,35 and just about 2 years after their move into the town of Palo Pinto. She was 37 years old. Isaac was left with 6 children, ranging from about 16 to under two.

Very few things can be more poignant, more evocative of the contrast between Elizabeth’s life style in Virginia and what she faced in Texas than the following matter-of-fact statement quoting Marietta from “Pioneer Days”:

Well, the war came up and our mother died, her father had lots of slaves and she was raised very tenderly, never having done any work before she was married. The hardships and continuous fear of a frontier life was too much for her.

“…she was raised very tenderly…” This simple but expressive passage speaks volumes in summing up her mother’s life and death.

Elizabeth’s death was not completely unexpected. Ominous concerns about mortality cast a dark shadow over one of her letters dated “Palo Pinto Co. Texas April 29, 1861,”36 which was just one year and one day before she died:

Dear mother I sincerely thank you for the nice presents you sent me by Pa. I have not made my dress yet … I intend to take good care of them if I live.

Later in the same letter comes a touching passage:

I have nothing new to write. Maybe so when I write again (if I live to write at all) [Elizabeth’s underscoring] I will have something new to write… write soon and pray much for your unworthy daughter. I am trying to live more prayerful & and more devoted than ever but I have many things to irritate and divide my mind but I intend to do the very best I can…

It is hard not to be moved by the unconcealed pain and difficulty of Elizabeth’s life evident in that paragraph.

Pioneer Days” gives us a further glimpse of frontier life in Isaac’s household after the death of his wife. Marietta offers delightful details of how efforts were made to introduce some brightness into a life of considerable hardship:

After our mother died we children had to learn to card and spin all the cloth our clothes were made of. We used bark and leaves from oak and walnut to color the thread with; walnut leaves made such a pretty dark brown and broom weeds made a pretty yellow, we used moss and other things to color with. We had to do without lots of conveniences and necessities … for forks [we] would twist wire together … we parched wheat for coffee … We didn’t use hardly anything that was not homemade. We used to sit up till ten or eleven o’clock carding, spinning or knitting.37

Not long after Elizabeth’s death, Isaac moved his family and stock to the Menard County area. According to an article in a local paper in 1971:38

About 1862 … the Isaac Cox family came by ox-wagon to settle in the San Saba River valley… Until they could decide where they wanted to live, they moved inside the walls of the old fort at Menard. The roof was gone, so they stretched wagon sheets over the poles. They stayed there several years39 … There were several bands of Indians within a 100 mile radius of the San Saba River who had become quite bold.

The “old fort” is the ruins of the historic San Saba Presidio (photo 4.11), a fort and mission to Comanche Indians built by the Spanish in 1757 as the Presidio San Luis de las Amarillas.40 The Presidio was abandoned after about 1 year, when the Spanish were driven away by Indians. The ruins of the Presidio often served as temporary quarters for early settlers and became a refuge for nearby families in times of Indian raids.

(I will leap ahead just momentarily to tell you that it was in this same roofless fort, only seven or eight years later, that Stella Jane Graham was born on Christmas night in 1869. Stella was my grandmother and the mother of the 5 Wilson brothers who are the end-subject of this family history.)

After his family’s stay at the ruins of the Presidio, Isaac selected a site at Bowie Springs and there built a cabin in 1863.41

Bowie Springs is a beautiful and historic location just off Celery Creek named for James Bowie, an Alamo martyr whose name was given to a famous knife design and who is reported to have fought with Indians in this location while searching in the area for the lost Almagres silver mine.42 Isaac Cox’s Bowie Springs cabin (photo 1.7) was still standing in October, 2002,43 and appears to be in good enough structural condition to last another century and a half.

The density of settlement of the Menard County area at the time is indicated by a report in the Menard News which says there were only five or six families in the county in the year 1863.44

Soon after arriving in Menard County, Isaac returned briefly to Fayette County where he proposed matrimony to Mary Eubank, a former neighbor, and brought her back to Menard County as his wife.45

Difficulty with Indians was perhaps even worse at Bowie Springs. Several instances are recounted from Marietta’s chapter in “Pioneer Days”:

They [the Indians] came to Fort McKavett on the head of the Sansaba river and killed one man and stuck a spear in the girl, she pulled the spear out herself. Then they gathered up a large bunch of cattle, hundreds of them, and drove them off. The men followed them as soon as they could get together but could never overtake them.

Elsewhere, Marietta adds:

We lived in constant dread and fear of being killed.

Further, at Bowie Springs, Indians came one night, and

Then we could hear them passing down on each side of the spring branch, not more than fifty yards from our house. They got all the horses on the ranch but one, and were so elated over their success that they went over the hill in a little valley and held a war dance, we could hear them very plainly whooping and yelling… I can’t describe my feelings. I had never heard an Indian yell before. There were only two women, two babies and two men of us… we being on a ranch five miles from Menardville… we decided we’d better abandon the ranch… We went down to the town of Burnett … then we returned to Menardville again.

Here is an incident involving hostile Indians that occurred in 1867 when Isaac W. Cox was taking cattle to New Mexico to sell them to the U.S. Army. It is taken from Marietta’s chapter in “Pioneer Days:”

and they all went on together till they got to the Horsehead Crossing on the Pecos, when a large party of Indians (the Apaches, I think) came on them and surrounded them. They [the Indians] thought they’d starve them out and make them perish for water, but some of the men slipped down to the river and got water. I think [the Indians] kept them there three days, and then decided they would drive the cattle off, so drove the entire herd off.

I have an account of this very same event in Isaac’s own words46, in a poignant letter he wrote from “Horsehead Pacos May 31, 1867.”

My dear children … I met with very bad luck on Concho. My horse fell with me & mashed one of my feet … we reached the Pacos on the 24th of this inst with one herd of cattle & the morning after landing we were attacked by 100 Indians. We fought them about two hours – Lost all our cattle & horses but seven horse we had left at the canion… we lost our entire out fit. Our oxen gave out before they reached the water. consequently we left our wagons with all our provisions & all Coys household [a pioneer traveling west?] … which was plundered and burned that night after the fight… we saw one Indian fall is all we knew was killed for certain. I shot one of my horses dead on the battle ground. An Indian was on him in the fight. After they got all our stock and provisions they calculated to starve us out which they would have done if it had not been for the gold expedition releaving us. Children, I forgot to state to you that only fourteen of our party were present at the fight. Only myself and six others had arms and fought. Children I have on the same cloths I had on when I left home & is all I have… Children, I have under gone a great deal of hardship – do the best you can… farewell your affectionate father till death I. W. Cox.

Isaac’s affectionate farewell “till death” was something more than a trite phrase, considering the circumstances he had just survived.

The event at Horsehead Crossing of the Pecos River serves to illustrate how requirements of the Longhorn cattle business caused Isaac to range over large areas of Texas and be away from home for considerable periods of time.47 The effect of this was that women and children often had to face severe dangers and difficulties alone on the frontier.

I should make the further point that at various times in this general period the one-room cabin at Bowie Springs was the only known home of Isaac and his 4 unmarried children; his new wife, Mary Eubank and her 2 children;

Isaac’s daughter Nancy Jane and her husband, William Graham. At least

Some of the time during this period, Isaac’s oldest daughter, Marietta, and

her husband lived in the cabin, though they did strike out on their own. It is likely that Isaac’s oldest child, Valentine, had left home by this time. He was age 21. The other 3 unmarried children were Robert, age 12; Louisa, age 10; Belle, age 7.

In December of 1974, Alice Conklin, a daughter of Alice Graham and granddaughter of William and Nancy Graham, wrote to Robert Graham and mentioned a time when the Graham and Nunley families lived together in the cabin with bunks along the wall, separated only by curtains.

Not long after that, perhaps in 1868, Isaac placed his other children in the homes of various relatives and left the area.48

There is this further information bearing upon Isaac’s departure from the area:49

Shortly after [Elizabeth’s] death Isaac moved with the children to San Saba County and later to Menard County, having married again in the meantime. Domestic relations not being altogether pleasant, the children were placed in the homes of relatives. Isaac was of a roving and restless nature and little is known of his life after the children had been placed in the homes of relatives. Aunt Eddie Cox, wife of Valentine, the eldest son, says he seldom came to see them and was seldom heard of. She believes that he died in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma.50

Some additional light is shed upon this subject in notes written in 1931 and taken from records and family Bible of Ida Belle Cox and Catherine Nunley Wilson.51 Ida Belle Cox is the daughter of Aunt Eddie Cox who is the source of the information in the note above, so the similarity is understandable. However, these notes contain a few additional bits of significant information:

[Isaac’s] three youngest children were placed in the homes of his two oldest daughters, Marietta and Nancy… Isaac was of the roaming and unsettled nature. Little is known of him after his children all left home. Isaac made two or more subsequent marriages all of which ended in separation. He once lived in Grayson Co having purchased a fine farm near Sherman. This inheritance should have shared by his other heirs, but was lost to them.

From this information it seems likely that the disposition of Isaac’s three youngest children would have been: Belle stayed in the Bowie Springs cabin with Nancy Jane; and Robert and Elizabeth Louise went to live with Marietta, wherever she was located at the time. It is not known whether Isaac had any children after he left Bowie Springs, but the term “other heirs” in the note suggests that Isaac failed to take measures to see that any of his estate went to the children he left behind. A certain bitterness in this regard seems apparent and justified.

It would be my surmise that Isaac’s loss of his cattle at Horsehead Crossing represented the loss of his only productive assets at the time. His place at Bowie Springs was not a farm in the sense that it could produce a sustainable existence for his family. The land seemed hard and rocky when I personally saw it, and it seems rather clear that neither Isaac nor William Graham were farmers by temperament. My guess is that Isaac was wiped out by the loss of his herd, and at the same time might have found himself in a distressing domestic situation. Thus, unable to put the pieces of his old life back together, he experienced an urge to flee and seek a new start. The reference to “domestic relations not being altogether pleasant” undoubtedly referred to crowded conditions in the cabin and the likely problems of conflict and discipline amongst so many adults, children, step-children and step-parents. Conditions were ripe for much friction, with Isaac away for long periods and his new wife attempting to manage a difficult situation where she might not have been welcome in the first place.

At some juncture in this time period, and possibly for similar reasons, Marietta and her husband left the area, and the cabin at Bowie Springs ultimately became the sole possession of Isaac’s daughter Nancy Jane and her husband, William Graham.

At the time of Elizabeth’s death, Donna Isabella (frequently referred to as “Belle”) was only 2 years old. A daughter of Marietta, Virginia Cain, wrote:

After Elizabeth Ann died, Nancy Jane raised Donna Isabella and there was almost a mother-child relationship.

From this, I would assume that Nancy, 12 years old in 1862, became the principal caretaker of Belle after Elizabeth’s death and remained in the Bowie Springs cabin. It seems most likely that Isaac’s two other young children, Robert, age 13 in 1868, and Elizabeth Louisa, age 11 in 1868, went to live with Marietta. Nancy and Marietta both had first children of their own in 1867.

It is known that Belle went to live with Aunt Lou Caruthers (Louisa, a sister of Isaac) sometime later. On November 1, 1870, Aunt Lou wrote a letter to Marietta stating that Isaac and his wife and his wife’s two daughters had come to Aunt Lou’s home in Bosque County, Texas, to take Belle away. Aunt Lou says, “…from what his wife told me I think they will go to the Indian Nation …” a term used at that time to describe Indian Territory in Oklahoma. Parenthetically, Aunt Lou writes,

I am somewhat fearful they [Isaac and his wife] will not get on agreeably… she is a very ambitious woman and will have her own way and I greatly fear this will not please your father.

The accounts of Virginia Cain and Louisa Caruthers both support the idea that Isaac went up to Oklahoma (the Indian Territory) some time after 1870, under circumstances perhaps boding ill for his future happiness. Nothing more is known of him, except the terse references by children and grandchildren that he was seldom seen or heard from after 1870. The only estimate I have seen for his date of death is 1879, and the context of this date suggests to me that it is only an educated guess, since the place of death is unknown. Discovering accurate information about the location and date of Isaac’s demise remains a goal for further research.

The terms “roving and restless,” and “roaming and unsettled” appear in several descriptions of Isaac, and these words seem to hold the final published judgment of his character by those who were closest to him.

Perhaps his was a spirit suited to the pioneer.

To the best of my knowledge, this chapter in this book is the only known memorial to Isaac William Cox, so let us etch those words here on this page to remember him by:

ROVING AND RESTLESS; ROAMING AND UNSETTLED.

More than one of Isaac’s descendants has shared this character.

Now, the first part of our genealogical puzzle is in place.

In late 1852, the girl who is to be the grandmother of the 5 Wilson brothers has taken up residence in Texas. It will be a decade before her family moves to the remote Hill Country. We shall soon see that her husband-to-be is a young boy still in Missouri at the time the Cox family arrives in Texas. He must yet find his way this little section of Texas, where he will one day meet and marry Nancy Jane Cox.

Moreover, a lot of history must still take place before Stella will be born. And Stella’s husband-to-be will not be born in England until 1865. He, too, must somehow find his way, across the Atlantic Ocean, to this hilly place in Texas not far from San Antonio, to play his appointed role in this family history.

Chapter II … from Missouri to Texas …

Though Isaac W. Cox was the first of my direct ancestors to arrive in Texas (in 1852, by the slim margin of 2 years), the line running back from William Graham has a longer and larger involvement in the great westward migration that characterized United States history in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

If Isaac Cox was the focal point of Wilson ancestry that migrated from Virginia to Texas, William Graham is the focal point of the ancestral thread that made its way from Kentucky and Tennessee to Missouri to Texas.

William Graham is a large personality and a colorful individual. He is my great grandfather. He married Isaac Cox’s daughter, Nancy Jane. He is the father of my grandmother, Stella Graham.

William was a genuine character of the west: at various times he was an Indian fighter, a buffalo hunter, a Civil War veteran on both sides, an army Scout, a peace officer, always a tough man of action, rough, uneducated, uncultured, though handsome and reportedly very attractive to the opposite sex. He had a reputation for being able to hold his own in rough situations. In his old age he delighted in recounting tales of barroom brawls, battles with Indians, and gun fights. He was even said by some to have been a Texas Ranger. No evidence for that exists, though his exploits as a lawman in criminal-infested Kimble County might have been the origin of such a legend.

Adding further to his authentic Western flavor, William was almost certainly ¼ Indian. Several credible references in the family maintain this connection, and I grew up in the belief that I was part Indian. After many years of study, Robert Graham believes that William’s grandmother Nancy was a full-blooded Cherokee Indian.52

The Great Tide of Western Migration

Almost from the beginning, inward flows of population from abroad into the early Colonies of the United States began to exert a corresponding outward pressure that eventually resulted in migrations sometimes to the south, but mostly westward. This pressure from incoming population was greatly augmented by the startling effect on population density that several succeeding generations of families having 8, 10, 12 children had. At first the migratory movements were little more than a trickle, but as the best lands were claimed and settled, and as expanding families began to carve up the settled land into smaller and smaller inherited holdings, the availability of rich lands over the horizon just for the taking proved an irresistible magnet.

In the late 1700’s, settlers from Virginia and North Carolina spilled over into Tennessee and Kentucky. Between 1810 and 1820, as many as 1,000,000 people surged across the Mississippi, and the principal thrust was westward along the Missouri River.

Graham, Hicklin, Edmundson

Among the arrivals along the Missouri River in the period 1818-1819 were the grandparents of William Graham. They were: Abner Graham, probably born in North Carolina, and Nancy (last name unknown), probably from Tennessee

Abner and Nancy were some of the earliest settlers on the western edge of Booneslick Country,53 along the Missouri River, east of present-day Kansas City, Missouri. They arrived in 1818, from Warren County, Tennessee, bringing with them their son, Hiram, who had been born October 30, 1815, and two other children, Daniel and infant daughter, Rhody.

Abner appears in the “Minutes of the Cooper County Court, Missouri Territory, March, 1820” where his appointment as “road overseer of the Third District, Tabo Township” is announced. This has more than ordinary significance in that “…this ‘road’ was the last westward road segment of the settled areas of Missouri and the point from which the Santa Fe Trail originated.”54 At the risk of belaboring the obvious, this was the absolute westernmost point at which the American nation had arrived, the frontier in its fullest meaning. Pushing west from St. Louis, it most likely, in fact, was the needle-point of the thrust that did not end until it reached the Pacific Ocean. The time was barely 15 years after the historic Lewis and Clark Expedition had passed this exact spot on its exploration of the unknown lands of the Louisiana Purchase Territory and beyond, pursuant to Thomas Jefferson’s orders to find a water route to the west coast.

In Missouri, Hiram met his wife-to-be, Louisa Edmundson. She was born May 12, 1820, in the Missouri Territory. She was the daughter of Richard C. Edmundson, who had been born in 1785 in Mechlenburg, Virginia, and Leah (Hicklin) Edmundson, born in 1790 in Bototourt, Virginia. Richard Edmundson died August 6,1822, in Lafayette, Missouri; Leah Edmundson died in 1847 in Cass County, Missouri.

Hiram Graham’s wife, Louisa, was descended from a prominent ancestry. Her parents were wealthy in land and slaves. Her mother was the daughter of the noted John Hicklin, Sr., and his wife, Hanna Rupe, who were pioneers in the earliest days of Booneslick Country, and who later became foremost citizens of Lexington, Missouri, where even today a mansion bearing Hicklin’s name is a landmark recorded in the National Register of historic buildings. Both the Hicklin and Edmunson families established plantations in Missouri in the southern tradition.

Hiram and Louisa were married May 8, 1834, and their marriage is recorded in Jackson County, Missouri, which is the county that includes present-day Kansas City. They were among the first families to settle in nearby Van Buren County, just south of Jackson County. Van Buren County was formed in 1835, and later renamed Cass County for political considerations in 1849. They lived in Grand River Township.

They were a prolific family. Ten children were born to them prior to their move to Texas. Of these, one died in early childhood. William, who is the fourth of the 10 children, is listed in the 1850 census as having been born in Tennessee. Robert Graham feels that this listing is incorrect and believes that Missouri was the likely birthplace of William.

Hiram and Louisa Graham Move to Texas

In 1854, Hiram and Louisa moved to Texas with their nine children. They settled In Ellis County, on Red Oak Creek near Ovilla. At the time William arrived in Texas he was 13 years old.55 As the only son of working age, William spent much of his youth helping his father with the difficult and never-ending labor of transforming the native countryside into a family farm.

Little is known of Hiram and Louisa in this period, except that they had three more children. Hiram died February, 1868, in Ellis County, Texas. Following instructions in his will, Louisa sold the farm upon his death. She died about 1890, and is buried in the Couch Cemetery near Red Oak, Ellis County, Texas.56

One of William’s brothers was Hyde Graham, who had a bit of colorful Western history of his own. He was well respected in later life but had been well known for wildness in his early years. According to John Mark Graham’s notes of 1950, Hyde was rumored to have been a horse thief in his early adult years, a lynching offense.57 John looked up his uncle Hyde many years afterwards in Kerrville, Texas, when Hyde was well over 90 years of age. “He received me cordially,” John Graham says, “and admitted he stole horses when he was younger.” Hyde was reputed to have been hung for his offenses, but survived the experience. John Graham says that Hyde showed him rope marks on his neck to prove the point.58

In pre-Civil War days, William was a buffalo hunter. According to his grandson Ernest, he hunted in the area around Dallas, if buffalos can be visualized in the landscape of that megalopolis at the beginning of the 21st century. At various times, according to another grandson, John Mark Graham, he was an Indian fighter and an Indian scout for the army.

On September 7, 1861, at the beginning of the Civil War, William joined Company G, 16th Regiment, Texas Cavalry of the Confederate Army at Dallas, Texas. He fought in battles against Indian tribes of Oklahoma; at the Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas; at the Battle of Corinth, Mississippi; in raids against Union Armies in Mississippi and Tennessee; and finally at the Battle of Vicksburg. The loss at Vicksburg cut Texas off from the rest of the Confederacy. Along with many Texas soldiers who had become disillusioned at this time, William deserted from the Confederate army and turned himself in to Union authorities on June 3, 1864, at San Elizario, Texas, just east of El Paso. He was taken to Santa Fe where he was given an oath of allegiance, and most likely worked with Union troops in New Mexico for the remainder of the war. The Union Army was then “pacifying” Mescalera Apache and Navajo Indian tribes who were aggressively raiding settlements in New Mexico.59

William participated in some brutal, bloody fighting during the Civil war, and Robert Graham believe some facets of his rough character are attributable to difficult war-time experiences.

After the war, William came back to Texas from New Mexico with a number of returning Union Army soldiers, including his friend, C.P. Nunley, whose actual full name was Commodore Perry Nunley. Their difficult trek across the high country of New Mexico and the untracked Texas plains was historic in the sense that it is among the very first sojourns ever across this territory by non-native Americans. The plains at that time were inhospitable and studded with roaming, aggressive, Indian tribes, including Commanches, Apaches, and Kiowas. The time frame of this trek was about 11 years before Custer’s dramatic defeat at the Battle at Little Bighorn, just to place the prevalent hostilities in historical context. William was elected to be the leader of this party of returning war veterans, and was later often referred to as “Captain” based on that happening.

When the two friends, Nunley and Graham, approached the frontier at Menard County in early 1865, they happened upon the Cox cabin at Bowie Springs. Isaac was away at the time. Frightened by the abrupt appearance of strangers, the two older Cox girls, Marietta and Nancy, met them at the door with rifles and ordered them away. The men assured the girls that they intended no harm, and were allowed to camp nearby. When Isaac returned home after several days, he took a liking to the men and asked them to stay on and help him “put in” a farm. This rather innocent-sounding term conceals the months and even years of back-breaking labor necessary to clear the land of trees and stumps, boulders and brush, and get it ready for the planting of crops.60

As events unfolded, it may be recognized that old Isaac displayed shrewd insight into human nature and a knack for strategic planning. Not only did he get his farm put in, he acquired two sons-in-law. Not long thereafter, William Graham married 15-year-old Nancy Jane Cox on March 20, 1865.

The following year, William’s friend C. P. Nunley married the other daughter, 17-year-old Marietta, on November 15, 1866.61

(According to Robert Graham, “The marriage of William Graham and Nancy Cox was a union between the westward-moving Scotch-Irish of the back country of the Appalachian Mountains with the settled Distressed Cavaliers of Virginia.” The terms are taken from a book called “Abion’s Seed,” by Richard Hackett Fischer. The book is a serious history of American folkways, and how they got that way. Fischer’s thesis is that although less than 20% of the present population has British antecedents, these strands of British genesis are nonetheless the dominant factors determining our overall culture: New England Puritanism, Southern aristocracy, Quaker piety, Appalachian feuding. As it relates to William Graham and Nancy Jane Cox, it was a union of two widely different cultural origins: the mass migration of aristocratic English cavaliers to the Chesapeake Bay region between 1640 and 1675 and the migration of rugged, rowdy, feuding English, Scots and Irish from the borderlands that settled in Appalachia between 1717 and 1775.)

William’s marriage to Nancy at Menardville is possibly the first marriage in that sparsely-settled county. Robert Graham says that no record of the Graham-Cox marriage has been located, perhaps because of the remote location of the then-unorganized County. Graham says that the later divorce papers of William and Nancy reveal that William married under an assumed name, suggesting he may have been concerned about being discovered as a deserting soldier from the Confederate army.62

C. P. Nunley was born in Marian Country, Tennessee, April 17, 1834. He left home and went to Missouri, where he was a school teacher. He caught “gold fever” at age 21, and went to the Pike’s Peak region of Colorado. Nunley became the first school teacher at Ft. McKavett and Menardville, where he taught earliest school sessions under a tree. In 1873-4 he was sheriff and tax collector of Menard County. The couple moved from Menard County to McCulloch County and eventually on to Thorp County. They were parents of four daughters and several sons.

There was a period of time when the young Nunley and Graham families lived together with their youngest infants within the confines of the log cabin at Bowie Springs (photo 1.7).

Among other memorable aspects of William Graham’s life, he was noted for the fierce fighting ability of a dog he owned that was part lobo wolf. Dogs were often bred and maintained for sport fighting, which was not uncommon in those frontier times. This dog fought as the wolf fights – he charges, snaps, bites, tears at his opponent and then runs, only to renew the charge. Average dogs were helpless before such an attack.63

William and Nancy Graham had four children, three of whom are reported in family records to have been born on Celery Creek, at the Bowie Springs cabin built by Isaac W. Cox. Their son Hiram was born October 20, 1867; daughter Mary Alice was born July 22, 1871; son Walter was born October, 1874.

A remarkable story concerns the birth of their oldest daughter, Stella, my grandmother. During the Christmas season of 1869, when Indian raids were persistent in the area, the Nunleys and the Grahams took refuge in the ruins of the San Saba Presidio (photo 4.11). There, on a clear Christmas night, Nancy’s second child, a daughter, was born. Impressed by the brilliant night sky and the jewel-like stars, Nancy named the daughter, Stella.

Some of the settlers, to escape the Indians, sought refuge from time to time inside the walls of the Presidio. The William Graham family, for example, harbored there in December 1869, during an Indian scare. A daughter was born to the family in the fort on Christmas Day.64

A further point of interest in the book from which this text is quoted is this reference: “… Isaac W. Cox, 1862, may have been the first Anglo settler to reside in the Presidio,” referring to his stay there a few years earlier when he first moved to the Menardville area.

In an interview printed in the Free State of Menard, Ernest Wilson reports that William and Nancy moved from Bowie Springs to Menardville in 1871 following a terrifying event when Nancy Jane discovered 2-year-old Stella playing innocently with Indian children at the spring. To give some idea of population density, the 1870 census showed only 43 families living in the entire Menard County. I am inclined to think the move reported by Ernest may have been a temporary relocation to escape immediate threats from Indians.

Isaac Cox’s Bowie Springs one-room cabin is approximately 12 feet by 16 feet, possibly a bit smaller. Despite its limited size, as many 8-12 people must have been housed there at times. To begin with, Isaac and several of his children plus his new wife and her two daughters lived there – some of them no doubt sleeping outdoors, weather permitting.

Then Nancy Jane married William Graham in 1865, adding to the cabin population. Then in 1866, Commodore Nunley married Isaac’s oldest daughter. He later went to Ft. McKavett and Menardville to teach.

Somewhere in this time frame, Isaac left the area with his new wife and her two daughters. The children were placed with relatives. Then, Marietta and her husband moved into the cabin, and for a while the two couples, each with an infant, shared the single room. In 1869, the population of the cabin was increased with Stella’s birth in 1869. Alice was born in 1871.

At this approximate time, Marietta and her husband moved away. By 1874, evidence shows that 14-year-old Belle had either come to live in the cabin or had come to visit.

In October, 1874, William and Nancy Graham became totally estranged. This was the month of the birth of their 4th child, Walter. In November, William left the household. In November of 1876, Nancy filed for divorce, and the court gave temporary custody of the children to her. Proceedings became extremely contentious, including a counter suit for divorce by William. In May of 1878, a jury granted the divorce to William, finding his allegations to be true. However, temporary custody of the children was granted to Nancy, with provisions for William to visit them. In November of the same year, William asked for custody of Hiram and Stella, claiming that Nancy did not allow him visitation as the court had ordered. William’s request was granted two months later, in January of 1879. It was appealed by Nancy, holding up implementation. The appeal was denied, but apparently Nancy failed to turn Hiram and Stella over to William, for early the next month, in February, the sheriff was ordered to remove Hiram and Stella from Nancy’s custody and deliver them to William. 65 No further legal actions were taken, and final custody of Stella and Hiram remained with William. Robert Graham says family lore maintains that Nancy Jane packed up all the children on another occasion and attempted to flee the area by wagon, but was intercepted by the sheriff and the two older children were forcibly returned to William.

Unfortunately for the well-being of the children, this divorce was extremely bitter and it generated extreme adversarial feelings. Each litigant charged that the other was cruel and abusive and threatened physical violence. Each claimed that the children were averse to living with the other parent. Even worse for our story, each claimed that the other was physically and mentally cruel to the children, especially to Stella. Allegations in divorce proceedings in the days before “no-fault” divorce were often exaggerated, so we may possibly discount some of the passionate charges and counter charges, but there was clearly a titanic battle of wills and personalities here, and it seems certain that no child could escape unscathed from 4 years of such heated parental animosity.

In 1878-1879, when William was no longer under court orders to remain in Menard County, he moved with Hiram and Stella to Roca Springs, a beautiful but remote location (even today) on the West Fork of Bear Creek in Kimble County.

After a brief stay near Austin, Texas, Nancy and the two children, Alice and Walter, moved to San Antonio, where she lived out her life. She died in 1917, and is buried in City Cemetery No. 1 on East Commerce Street in San Antonio. Her headstone was said to read, “Nannie Graham.” In October of 2002, I confirmed from cemetery records that she is buried there, but I could not find her grave. Many headstones are either illegible or missing.

Alice Conklin, a granddaughter of Nancy Jane Cox Graham, wrote this in 1974, which might be an epitaph on Nancy’s lost tombstone:

Nancy Jane was worn out with grief, too hard work, the injustice of things… My mother had tears in her eyes when she thought of her mother.

Though his ranch was located in Kimble County, William’s longhorn cattle business was conducted throughout the state of Texas. Like his father-in-law Isaac Cox before him, he was frequently gone for weeks, even months, at a time.

The following quotation from a letter Stella wrote in 1884 to her Aunt Marietta Nunley gives some feel for her life in William’s household at Roca Springs:66

Hiram and I are living with Pa; I am his housekeeper; Hiram his cow hunter I have been keeping house over a year … Hiram and I do not get to go to school but very little. Hiram is seventeen and I [am] 15. We have only one near neighbor; the rest are three miles off; my cousin lived with us four years and kept house for Pa but since she left I have kept house for him…Pa is thinking of selling most of his cattle; they are so hard to keep together Hiram has been cowing (hunt the cattle) all the year; but still they are scattered …

Modern-day readers may need to be reminded that land in that part of the country was not fenced in those days. Consequently, it would have been a never-ending and nearly impossible task to keep a herd of valuable cattle together in the dense growth and rugged hills of the area. Little wonder they were still scattered after a year of Hiram’s best efforts. The need for ranchers to identify their cattle on the open range gave rise to the practice of branding them. It was not until around 1900 that the land was sufficiently fenced to contain livestock and prevent free-range grazing and cattle drives over long distances.

This very same young cow hunter, Hiram, managed to undertake some studies at Southwestern University at Georgetown, Texas. He went on to become a circuit-riding Methodist minister, traveling from town to town throughout the region by horseback and buggy to bring the inspiration and comfort of religious services to a sparsely settled area. He is also the father of John Mark Graham whose 1950 notes have been cited here, and the grandfather of Robert Graham, who has contributed important material incorporated into this narrative.

The cousin that Stella refers to, who had spent 4 years keeping house for William, was Loiza Mayes, William Graham’s niece. On December 11, 1879, she wrote a letter to her mother which contains a reference bearing on the divorce:67

Ma ant nanie [Nancy Jane, Stella’s mother] is still agrevate him [William] Hiram and Steler [Stella] mienes [minds, behaves?] as good a they can if she would let them alone they would be like white children.

Through Loiza’s eyes, we can observe the continuing bitterness between William and Nancy, and the strong pull in opposite directions that the children must have been subject to. Loiza seems to be suggesting that Nancy was responsible for disruptive behavior on the part of the children.

As a scout for Ft. McKavett and Ft. Concho, William was known to the northern soldiers as the “rebel guide.” A tintype photo (2.1) of William in this period shows a very presentable man with a clear gaze, an open face, and a look of poise and confidence. Despite an education which might have consisted at most of a year or two of backwoods schooling, William became the first county attorney of Kimble County when it was formed in 1876, and his grandson Ernest W. Wilson reports that the first sessions of court were conducted outdoors under trees. Even today, a plaque near the entrance of the present courthouse lists William as its first county attorney. In our time, such a position seems most unlikely for an uneducated man, but his skill with a six-gun and his fearless character may have been more important in the then-lawless Kimble County.68 William had a reputation as a resolute and fearless man who could take care of himself in rough circumstances.

William at age 48 married his second wife Franziska Menges in 1889. Franziska’s mother, Mary Menges, was born in Germany in 1825. In 1903, with their son, William Anton, they moved to New Mexico, settling on the Rio Bonito in the Sierra Blanca Mountains of Lincoln County, the scene of Billy the Kid’s famous gun fights in 1878-1881. In 1908, they moved to Hot Springs, New Mexico, where the arrival of the three of them doubled the population of that tiny town. Somewhere around 1950, Hot Springs made the remarkable decision to change its name to Truth or Consequences, the name of a very popular radio program of the time.

Finally, the old warrior died at Hot Springs March 3, 1925, at the age of 84 and is buried there. His grandson, Ernest W. Wilson, says that old William greatly enjoyed telling all who would listen about the old days on the frontier, fighting with Indians, brawling on the street and in barrooms, and relating stories of the Old West in Kimble and Menard counties.

Franziska was born around 1862; she died in Austin, Texas, and was buried in Hot Springs, New Mexico, in 1942. On occasion, she lived with the Ernest Wilson family in Abilene, and was known to them as “Aunt Frances.” She also lived at times with John Graham’s family in Uvalde, Houston and Austin, Texas.69

Now, more pieces of the puzzle are in place. We have witnessed the arrival of Isaac W. Cox in Texas in1852, who came from Virginia with Elizabeth Ann and daughters Marietta and Nancy Jane, and son Valentine. Subsequently, William Graham, a returning soldier from the Civil War, wandered onto the Cox premises with the outcome that he soon married Cox’s daughter Nancy Jane. In the course of time, Stella was born to Nancy Jane on a cold, clear Christmas evening in 1869, while the family was taking refuge from Indian raids in an old abandoned Spanish fort.

All that now remains is for us to see how Horace Wilson arrives from England in this small, remote section of Texas where he will become acquainted with Stella when she reaches the age of 19 or thereabouts. To do this, we shall trace one more important thread of the family, the Wilson thread, in order to set the stage for the consequent arrival of the 5 Wilson brothers.

Chapter III … from England to Texas …

My grandfather, Horace Wilson, first set foot on Texas soil in 1885 as a young man of 20. He had gone from London to France, caught a boat there, set sail for New Orleans, and upon his arrival there made his way by wagon to San Antonio. Arriving penniless in San Antonio, he proceeded to walk to Bandera, where he undertook the lowliest of jobs, herding sheep amongst the rocky landscapes of the Texas Hill Country.

Behind him in Greenwich, he left father, mother and 7 brothers and sisters.

His father, Robert Wilson, was born around 1824. He was a farmer near Milnthorpe in Westmoreland County, England, which is in the Lake District, the area of famous poets, Wordsworth and Coleridge. His father before him had been a farmer. I have a photograph (3.1) of Robert in his later years, a nice-looking older gentleman gazing at the camera with a somewhat puzzled look. It is identified in Arthur Wilson’s handwriting as “My paternal grandfather.”

In the 1930’s, English cousins told my uncle Francis Graham Wilson that these early ancestors never quite managed to be successful as farmers, and were often in debt. That may be one reason the younger Robert went as a boy to London where he worked in the dry goods business of an uncle, also named Robert. When Horace was born, his father was employed in the retail dry goods business in Greenwich, Kent. He was identified as a “linen draper” on Horace Wilson’s birth certificate. Horace relates that this business failed and his father received an appointment as a tax collector.

As it happens, the lengthiest and most distinguished ancestry pertaining to the 5 Wilson Brothers of Kimble County, Texas, appears to belong to Maria70 Lalor Nixon-Izod Wilson, my great grandmother, the eldest of 4 children born to Mary Lalor71 and Major William Nickson-Izod. Maria was born in 1837, in Ireland, in the Townland of Grovebeg, which is in the parish of Kilree, which is in the barony of Kells, which is in the County of Kilkenny which is in the province of Leinster. In Roman Catholic designations, Grovebeg is in the parish of Dunnamaggen, in the diocese of Ossory. A description in the mid-1800’s of Kilree is:

3 miles (N.W.) from Knocktopher, on the Road from Kilkenny to Waterford; containing 611 inhabitants. It comprises 1895 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act. Kilree is the residence of T. Shaw, Esq., and Chapel Izod, of W. Izod, Esq.

It is not clear to me how a parish can be said to be the residence of two individuals and at the same time to have a population of 611 people. The Izod holdings in 1876 (referred to generally here as Chapel Izod) were officially listed at 1661 acres, so it may be assumed that many of the 610 other inhabitants of Kilree were tenant farmers and renters and employees of the family.

The greater part of all the information on the ancestry of Horace’s mother has been uncovered through travel and investigation by my cousin Kathleen Izod Wilson and her husband, Jim Thompson.

In the late 1840’s, Major William died unexpectedly, and Mary suddenly found herself the mother of 4 young children with no means of support. At that very time, Ireland was in the midst of the cruelest of many devastating periods of famine that the nation had ever known. It was under these difficult circumstances, in the midst of poverty, famine and bitter religious strife between Catholics and Protestants, that this family decided to make its way to Northern Ireland, and perhaps eventually to Scotland.

A note I have says Mary took her children to Kirkeel, in County Down, Northern Ireland, and raised them there. In time, the children grew and scattered. Maria (b. 1837) made her way to England. Ann (b. 1841) went to Australia. William (b. 1843) lived in Scotland. John (b. 1843) went to Newfoundland. In England, Maria married Robert Wilson and became the mother of 8 children. One of those children was Horace Ernest Wilson, my grandfather. Where Mary spent her last days is unknown.

In brief biographical notes that Horace Wilson wrote late in his life, he stated that his mother’s family can be traced back to the time of William the Conqueror. He offered no details.

Happily, however, sources are available from England and Scotland that do formulate a genealogy for Horace’s mother. These are sources discovered by my cousin, Kathleen, and her husband, Jim.

From England, Mrs. Joan Bright, great great granddaughter of Major William Nickson-Izod maintains that Maria’s ancestry leads back through Major William Nickson-Izod to some of the most proud and prominent families in England and Europe, and then even further back through Edward I, and ultimately to Henry III and Anne of Provence. I will report her principal findings.

From Scotland, we have extensive notes from Mary Mackenzie Nixon, O.B.E. Ms. Nixon died in her 90s in 2003, and her notes were discovered in an archive in Stirling, Scotland, where she had lived. She was also a descendant of Major William Nickson-Izod. Ms. Nixon lists the same first 6 generations going back through Sir Faithful Fortescue, but her notes stop there. I can’t rule out the possibility that one of these assiduous lady genealogists might have obtained her information from the other.

Unfortunately, both these genealogies are offered without sources. Both are based on several decades of study and investigation, but should be taken only as provisional, a starting point for further study. I believe sufficient corroborating evidence exists from several sources for at least the first 3 generations back from Horace’s mother to warrant acceptance of that ancestry.

Maria’s father was born William Nickson, March 1782. His parents were Lorenzo Nickson (1736-1806) and Elizabeth Izod, who married in 1773. Under a deed of settlement, William adopted the name Izod, and was registered as William Nickson Izod at age 17 at Trinity College, Dublin, in 1798.72 For some time his descendants used the name Nickson-Izod, though most eventually came to use the single name, Izod. Both the Nickson and Izod families seem to have originated in England. Both were families that served under or helped finance Cromwell in the 17th century and were later granted lands in Ireland in recognition of their services.

Here following are the generations backward in time from Maria as Joan Bright named them:

Maria

Willam Nickson-Izod+Mary Lalor

Lorenzo Nickson+Elizabeth Izod

Abraham Nickson+Mary Hodson

Lorenzo Hodson+Elizabeth Culme

Arthur Culme+Mary Fortescue

Sir Faithful Fortescue+Anne Moore

John Fortescue+Susanna Chichester

Sir John Chichester+Gertrude Courtenay

Sir William Courtenay+Mary Gainsford (b 1499)

Sir John Gainsford+Anne Haute

Sir Richard Haute (1438-1487)+Elizabeth Tyrell

And on back to

Edward I (b 1239)

Henry III (b 1216)+Eleanor of Provence.

Who would not feel at least momentary delight upon discovering an ancestor named … Sir Faithful Fortescue?

Not only did the family name change from Nickson to Izod, a similar shift in identity is the change of name of the Nickson-Izod landholding. In the mid-1600’s, Richard Izod and his wife Mary Dethick, of Gloucestershire, England, received a grant of land from Charles II in the area of Kilfera, Ireland.73 (Land grants to the Nickson family were originally located in County Wicklow, Ireland. They later moved to County Kilkenny.) However, when Mary Izod died, the land devolved to their only child. Accordingly, when Richard had children with a second wife, there was no land for those children to inherit. Their son, Lionel, solved his problem of being landless by marrying Elizabeth Cochrane (or Coghran) who inherited a large property called Grovebeg from her maternal grandfather, John Kevan. The property was then inherited by Kevan Izod (spouse unknown), whose daughter, Elizabeth, married Lorenzo Nickson and inherited Grovebeg. The land then went to Abraham Nickson, then to William Izod (nee Nickson) and on to successive heirs. At some point in this chain of events, just as the Nickson family name became Izod, the Grovebeg property was renamed and became Chapel Izod, most likely by Lionel Izod (d. 1742), who certainly rebuilt the “big house” according to a stone in the chimney base.

The Izod line, leading to Elizabeth Izod who married Lorenzo Nickson, is pieced together as follows, based on information from Joan Bright and Mary Nixon and Alan Izod:

Lorenzo Nickson+Elizabeth Izod

Lionel Izod+Elizabeth Cochrane (or Coghran)

Richard Izod+Ann Brabant

Rev Henry Izod of Stanton b abt 1595

Henry Izod of Todington b abt 1568; d 1632

Henry Izod of Todington d 1597

The notes of Mrs. Bright and Ms. Nixon concur with the ancestry back to Richard Izod. Their notes do not go further back. The source of the additional generations is Alan Izod of Cheltenham, England, who has studied Izod genealogy for almost 3 decades. He says “…there is absolutely no proof but everything points to [Richard Izod] being the son of Rev. Henry Izod, Rector of Stanton.” Accepting this connection adds 2 further generations.

The tenuous and difficult circumstances of Mary Lalor remain to be amplified. It appears that she may have been the daughter of a tenant farmer in Kilfera. In any event, after Major William Nickson-Izod’s wife, Darkay Hemsworth, died in 1836, the major began a relationship with Mary that lasted until his death a decade later – a relationship enduring enough to produce 4 children, and substantial enough so that some provisions were made for Mary and the children by name in the Major’s will. Though the Major had inherited the large house (see photo 3.15) and considerable lands of Chapel Izod and lived there himself during this period, Mary lived at Vinesgrove, a small farm dwelling elsewhere on the estate74, with her children. In the Major’s will, she received the right to continue living there as long as she wished, and an “annuity” of 50 pounds yearly. The children each were to receive a lump-sum settlement at age 21, ranging from 400 pounds for Maria to 250 pounds for the youngest, John. I have a copy of the relevant parts of the Major’s will that document these provisions specifically. Because Mary had been Catholic, the will specified that all rights granted to Mary and the children would be terminated if the children were to become Catholic or if Mary married.75

Mrs. Nixon says that when Major William died, his son from his marriage, Lorenzo, inherited the estate. She says that Lorenzo did not honor the Major’s will. I am inclined to believe this, as it is indirectly corroborated by Horace in autobiographical pages he wrote late in life, where he says his mother had been unfairly cheated of her inheritance. It was a cruel fate that befell Mary and her children at that time. It was a period of horrible famine and poverty. Further, the terrible nature of Protestant-Catholic tensions surrounding her life would have been unbearable, so that escaping to Northern Ireland was a necessity for the family on several counts. It seems almost certain that Mary’s extended relationship with the staunchly Protestant Major would have caused bitter resentment toward her in the Catholic community she had once been part of, and would have made it impossible for her to build a new life in those surroundings. Marriage prospects would have been nil. Likewise, few if any doors in the Protestant world would have been open to her. Sadly, she was between two worlds, at home in neither. It was an untenable position for her and no doubt worse for her children. Hence, their departure for Northern Ireland, where new beginnings might be possible.

As may be seen in photo 3.2, Maria (most likely pronounced Mar-EYE-ah) was a handsome woman, well dressed, beautifully groomed, with a patrician expression that seems to reflect both resolve and sadness. If there was sadness in her demeanor, it would not be hard to understand, for Maria had seen her family uprooted at the height of the potato famine in an Ireland which as a nation had become a victim of natural disaster and shameful religious laws.

The potato famine in Ireland of the 1840’s was alone enough to cause heartbreak and tragedy, and indeed did so for millions and millions of the population, with a disproportionately heavy effect those of Catholic faith. In the County of Kilkenny, where Maria and family lived at the time, population dropped 22% in this decade, from 202420 to 158746, due to a high death rate from starvation and a high rate of emigration. The genesis of the famine evolved over time as farmers in Ireland gave up virtually all other crops in favor of the potato, and gave up virtually all other varieties of potatoes to concentrate on the one variety that produced a higher yield. Then, this one variety became subject to a blight that reached a peak in 1845 when 90% or more of the potato crop was destroyed. Because half of the population was wholly dependent upon agriculture for survival, and because the potato was just about the only crop, the blight was a humanitarian disaster of biblical proportions. During the years 1845-1849, 1 out of 9 people in Ireland died. In Kilkenny, 27840 deaths were recorded in the period 1841-1851, the peak year being 1849 with 4055 deaths. The population of Ireland dropped from 8 million to 6.5 million in this decade. In July of 1847, it was reported that 3 million people in Ireland were dependent upon soup kitchens for survival.

The dire famine across Ireland, coupled with the harsh Penal Laws in effect for more than a century, added up to intolerable conditions for much of the population. Before looking into these subjects for purposes of understanding Maria’s life a little better, I only dimly understood how dire were the circumstances faced by Irish Catholics of the period. Though I was raised a Protestant, my feelings are that these Penal Laws represent the shameful and opprobrious imposition by a foreign Protestant Government of severely unjust restraints upon the political, social, economic, cultural, educational and religious rights of a Catholic majority in Ireland. Though instituted in the 17th century, their impact was still being felt into the 19th century.

Religious strife is an ongoing fact of life in Ireland, and it may be made specific to Chapel Izod. I came across the following email on the internet:

Posted by: MarieEBooth Date: February 06, 2002 at 02:52:05
In Reply to: Re: Marnell family history in Ireland by Mary (Marnell) Mcwilliams of 88

Hello Mary, I read your posting relating to your family being burned out in the Civil uprisings in Ireland. I have just read a recently published book by Terence Dooley entitled “The decline of the big house in Ireland”. ISB No. 0-86327-850-7. I obtained a copy through the Public Library Service here in England. It deals extensively with the burning of hundreds and hundreds of some of the most beautiful houses and their contents of treasures by the I.R.A. They not only burned the “big houses” [of Protestants] they also targeted homes and businesses of Catholics who dared to disagreed with their plans for a Republic.


My mother’s family, Catholics living in County Kilkenny, were in favour of continued union with Britain and they also suffered at the hands of the I.R.A. with the result that most of the family emigrated to England where they lived happily for the rest of their lives.

The “big house” Chapel Izod, where some of the family worked, and were well looked after, in the house and on the land, was burned to the ground by the I.R.A. in the 1920’s, leaving the family without means of work in a very rural area. The book is factual and informative and is backed up by recognised reference sources. Unlike many books I have read on Irish history which tend to be biased and uncorroborated. A good read. Marie

The present owners of Chapel Izod offer a different account of events. They say that their family purchased the house around 1920, (1918 according to Alan Izod) and the contents were sold at auction in the 1920s. The house was presumably left vacant at that time. Their recollection is that the house was burned as late as the 1940’s, possibly by vandals or vagrants. In any event, the likelihood that religious strife could have been an important element in the departure of Mary Lalor and her children is amply illustrated by the conditions expressed in the email above from Marie Booth and in the book she refers to.

According to Horace, his mother had some education in a Protestant school in nearby Waterford, not far from Chapel Izod. He further indicated that she had other advantages of upbringing that elevated her appearance and manner above the average level of that time and place. Horace loved his mother dearly, according to my uncle Francis, though he seldom spoke of his father.

As the brutal circumstances in the lives of Mary Lalor and family in Ireland have slowly unfolded upon my consciousness, they leave me with a grim sense of empathy for their plight. Poor Mary Lalor, I think. Homeless, penniless, unwelcome anywhere at perhaps age 30 with 4 young children. Cheated out of inheritance. What might she have done for food, clothing, shelter, warmth – not to mention health, medicine, the slightest enjoyment? At least she made her way toward a better life in Northern Ireland. Poor children, I think. What harsh lives under such deprivation. Pathetic, ragged band of outcasts. Not one stayed in Ireland. Maria went to London. William went to Scotland. John went to Newfoundland. Ann went to Australia. Anywhere, it seems, but Ireland.

Horace began an autobiography shortly before his death. Surviving pages of this autobiography are quoted in “By Llano Water.”76 In it, he writes

My mother was educated at Waterford, Ireland, in a Protestant school, but when she was sent to England I do not know. I have heard her tell that she was a ward in Chancery for a number of years and that the legal profession and her guardian succeeded in getting a considerable share of her little inheritance.

This makes me wonder. Did Horace know the horrible details of Maria’s life in Ireland? Perhaps he did not. Perhaps not even Maria grasped the entire story.

Horace also wrote in his autobiography that his mother had visited him “at the ranch outside of Junction on the North Llano.” The time would have been between the years 1897-1905. By this time Horace had not seen his mother for 15-20 years. Horace was by then an attorney and involved in important enterprises in Junction. She would have been proud, though she might have been startled at the raw nature of Junction (photo 3.9a) at the time, compared to the sights around London that she was accustomed to. Even in the late 1920s, rattlesnakes and men carrying guns were not a rare sight in the streets of Junction.77 She was no doubt surprised to find a handful of affluent English people in the area. See photos 3.9a, 3.9b.

At the time Horace was born, on February 11, 1865, Robert and Maria were living at 9 London Street, Greenwich, the family address appearing on his birth certificate.78 The father is Robert Wilson, occupation Linen Draper; the mother is named “Maria Wilson formerly Lalor.” At this moment, the exact identification of Maria’s maiden name is not settled. Horace lists her name as Maria Nixon on a notation he made on his own marriage license years later. Horace elsewhere refers to an Uncle John Nixon, Maria’s brother, who was in business in St. John, Newfoundland in 1873. The name “Lawler” shows up later on a wonderful photograph of Maria (3.2), where the complete identification is “Maria Lawler Nixon-Izod Wilson.”79 Mrs. Joan Bright believes the name is Lalor or Lawlor. All of these variations of the spelling occur widely in the Irish population. Ms. Nixon also finds all 3 spellings of the name. My guess is that it was originally Lalor.

The name Izod has continued on. Horace named one of his sons Robert Izod Wilson in recognition of her. Robert, in turn, named a daughter Kathleen Izod Wilson.

Horace states in a letter of December 11, 1907, that his mother died on November 15 of that year, probably in Greenwich. She was 70. Horace’s father had died in 1894, also at age 70, and he was buried in Greenwich Cemetery, Shooter’s Hill.

In 1885, at the age of 19, while a student at the City of London College,80 Horace read an advertising brochure of the Southern Pacific Railway offering what seemed to be virtually free land in Texas. He was captured by the lure of land in the West, as were many Englishmen at this time.81 Horace came to the United States on a tramp steamer, disembarked in New Orleans and made his way to Texas by wagon. In a newspaper article about him in a San Antonio newspaper of November 19, 1928, it is reported that he arrived penniless in San Antonio and walked from there to Bandera, some 50 miles along present routes, where he found work as a sheepherder. He settled first, it appears, on Pipe Creek. His earnings were $10 a month. Within a couple of years, Horace relocated to Kimble County. He later refers to “…the old Braggins ranch on the head of Bear Creek in Kimble County, where I … worked.”82

Francis reports that a brother, William Wilson, came with him to Texas for a while but soon returned to England and later became a leader in the conservative movement. Francis says this brother of Horace wrote a book about 1909 called “The Menace of Socialism.” In fact, a search by Robert Rawdon Wilson did uncover this reference: W. Lawler Wilson published ‘The Menace of Socialism.’ London:  G. Richard, 1909.  520 pp. +xii. 

That a brother named William came to Texas with Horace is a complete surprise, known to me only through this single reference and not mentioned or confirmed elsewhere. Quite to the contrary, it is common knowledge that another brother, Frank came to Texas with or at about the same time as Horace. However, some kind of falling out occurred between the brothers, and the bad blood of that rupture carried on down to the next generation, where Ernest disliked Frank intensely and Francis elects not to mention him in “By Llano Water.” 83 It cannot be a case of referring to the same person by a different name, since Frank remained in Texas and died there many years later.

Chapter V is devoted to the life and activities of Horace Ernest Wilson.

Now, at last, the stage is fully set. Horace and Stella are both located in the Bear Creek area of Kimble County, Texas, within the same few square miles of each other. He is a bright, handsome young man with a future. She is an intelligent, attractive, serious-minded daughter of a longhorn rancher. They meet, and what happens next will not come as a surprise.

Chapter IV … Horace and Stella wed … their family, where they lived …

Though Horace came originally to Bandera County from England in 1885, he moved to nearby Kimble County around 1887, working on “the old Braggins ranch” on Bear Creek. Considering that Stella was living at this time at nearby Roca Springs on the West Fork of Bear Creek, the stage was now set for this young couple to meet. Perhaps 4 or 5 miles downstream from Roca Springs the West Fork joins Bear Creek. There stood the little 1-room school (photo 4.6) that Stella attended. Perhaps it was there at some event that Horace first saw the bright young girl that he was to marry in March of 1890.

We do have a letter dated December 12, 1888, in Stella’s own handwriting, that suggests they had not yet met and also provides a glimpse into her frame of mind at the time. Stella writes to her Cousin Annie Nunley:

I feel now almost like an old woman, most girls have a fresh hopeful feeling about them, but I have not.

These do not sound like the thoughts of an 18-year-old girl who will be married within just 15 months. Thus, we might infer that Stella has not yet met Horace, or if so, that their relationship has not progressed to the point where it has brought hopeful feelings to her life. Perhaps her lack of hope is no more than a figure of speech expressing a young girl’s dismay at her lack of prospects for the future. Or perhaps it expresses an underlying lack of optimism about life grounded in the loneliness and bitter atmosphere of her broken home life dating from age 5 onward.

In any event, by March 18, 1890, Horace Ernest Wilson and Stella Jane Graham have indeed met, and have agreed to marry. That is the date of their marriage license, which was recorded in Book 1, page 63, of the Kimble Country marriage records. The marriage service was performed on March 20, 1890, by E. S. Alley, County Judge of Kimble County, and duly attested to by him. The location of the wedding is not indicated, though the license was issued in Junction City.

I have a wonderful photograph (5.3) of the young couple out for the equivalent of a Sunday drive in the country: a leisurely horseback ride in fine attire through the rugged countryside. A stream runs though the picture, most likely West Fork of Bear Creek, the area of Stella’s one-room school house and where Horace and Stella met.84 I can’t say for sure whether this is a picture of them at the time of their wedding, but it is definitely of the period, and the couple does seem similar in appearance to how they look in the picture (5.2) which their eldest son, Ernest, says was taken just after their wedding. Horace sports a fine mustachio in both pictures, and Stella has quite the same upright, formal appearance in both. The background of the picture gives some idea of the terrain of the area – hilly, rocky, thick with underbrush. These are the only two photographs I have of them alone. More than any other picture, this one of them on horseback captures them in their natural element, the Hill Country. It pleases me to think that his picture could have been taken during their courtship.

For a little while after their marriage the couple was employed in some capacity by a Mrs. Jaques in Junction City. This I learned from Ernest’s inscription on a photograph of them (5.2) in 1890. Mrs. Jaques is just one more of the surprising number of English people who lived in Kimble County during this period.

From that time onward, however, I had little knowledge at the beginning of this project about where they actually lived until their later years in San Antonio.

Fortunately, I came across an excellent piece of evidence that allowed me to piece together a reasonably accurate overview of Horace and Stella’s whereabouts during the next few years. On the back of the original marriage license of Horace and Stella, Horace has meticulously entered the birth dates and birth places of their first three children.85 His notations give three different locations for the birth places of the first 3 sons:

Ernest Walter bn Jan 14, 1891, in Brady, McCulloch County, Texas

Arthur William bn July 20, 1892, in Sherwood, Irion Co., Texas

Robert Izod bn Feb 17, 1894, in Junction City, Kimble Co., Texas

Discovering these entries proved a startling surprise to me, and simultaneously created a mystery. All along, I had thought that the lives of Horace and Stella before moving to San Antonio in 1914 fell neatly into two broad categories: the early years on “the ranch” in Bandera County, and the later years in Junction. I had thought the first three children were born on “the ranch” and the last two in Junction. But the case is more complicated. “The ranch” in Bandera existed only decades later, but it was never a place where the family lived. Instead, the first three children were born in three different locations, not the one place I had incorrectly assumed.

As it turns out, the 4th and 5th sons were born in still other locations, so, contrary to my beliefs, each of the 5 sons was born in a location different from each other and different from what I had thought. Only child 4, Francis, was born on “the ranch” as I had once believed they all had, and it was a ranch on the North Llano River in Kimble County, not in Bandera County. 5th son Baten was born in the house at 909 N. Llano Street (photo 3.8) that they moved to after leaving the ranch. All that became clear only after an investigation was triggered from reading Horace’s notes on the marriage license. My earlier impressions had been all wrong.

In defense of my mistake in this regard, I will say that even Francis, the 4th son, made a similar mistake. In 1938, 66 years closer to events than I am today, he writes in “By Llano Water” that his three older brothers were born in Brady.

But as learned from Horace’s careful notation on his marriage license, only the first son, Ernest, was born in Brady. That was on January 14, 1891.

The place where the couple lived in Brady is unclear, but Francis says that Horace edited a country newspaper there. More will be said about all of Horace’s activities in the following chapter devoted to him.

From Brady, Horace went to Sherwood, Texas, near San Angelo, to start a

newspaper. The 2nd son, Arthur, was born there on July 20, 1892.

The 3rd son, Robert, writes that he was born on Main Street in Junction in a small house between the old Chase house and the Methodist church.86 The date of his birth was February 17, 1894. It is unclear how long the family may have maintained this address.

In about 1897, Horace purchased a ranch on the North Llano River, where the family lived for approximately 8 years. The 4th son, Francis, was born on this ranch November 26, 1901.

Francis Wilson writes in “By Llano Water:”

if you look to the left you will see the land where I was born in 1901. There is the old family place. It [the North Llano Ranch] is where my father ranched, while in the town not too far away he practiced law. It was there that my older brothers learned to run cattle; it was from there that they went to school.

My uncle Francis writes these memories about life on the North Llano ranch:

..in the fall, we usually killed a hog at the time of the first norther [a bitter cold wind sweeping down from the northern plains] … we made our own wash soap, our smokehouse was used to cure a large portion of the winter meat; practically all sewing was done at home; we did our own canning and preserving; there was always a vegetable garden; and baker’s products were taboo.

Next, in 1905, Horace sold the North Llano Ranch, and the family moved into Junction, where Horace had built a lovely large new home at 909 North Llano Street. (See photo 3.8.) It was at this address on May 23, 1907, that 5th son, Baten, was born.

Discovering Horace’s presence in Sherwood was a complete surprise to me and a revealed a mystery that took considerable detective work to solve.

In this regard, I will devote a few lines to illustrating the complexity of unraveling small bits of genealogical history. By a circuitous route it was discovered when and why Horace went to Sherwood, Texas. The first clue appeared on the marriage license mentioned above, which indirectly revealed the otherwise unknown presence of Horace and Stella in Sherwood by listing that town as Arthur’s place of birth. This contradicted what I thought had been the case, and gave rise to questions. Those questions led to the second discovery: Kathleen Wilson unearthed a copy of Ernest Wilson’s “Buffalo Gap Messenger” in archives in Austin, Texas, which mentioned that Horace had started a newspaper called “The Irion” in Sherwood. This little piece of information had been nearby but undiscovered all along, and was only found hundreds of miles away by Kathleen decades after its initial publication. Then, based on the dating of a photograph of Ernest taken by a San Angelo photographer, I surmised this move probably would have occurred in the year 1891, sometime between March and June.87 That effort to establish the timing was conjecture, but was later factually verified. From telephone calls to Sherwood and Mertzon, Texas, (a few miles from Sherwood) I finally was directed to a lady who had a great interest in historical information of the area. She was Mrs. Joyce Gray, who had fragments of information from a San Angelo newspaper of 1891 saying that two men from Brady, Mr. Shore and Mr. Wilson, were bringing a printing press to Sherwood to begin publishing a newspaper in June, 1891.88 She thought the name of the paper was “The Sherwood Advocate,” not “The Irion” as Ernest Wilson had mentioned.

Mrs. Gray gave me this information about the thriving city of Sherwood:

In 1891, Sherwood was a rapidly growing town of some 400 people. It had 5 saloons and 5 churches on Main Street. There was not a vacant house to be found. New people were arriving weekly from other locations, including Buffalo Gap.89 In 1909, the Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railway passed Sherwood by, urged by the local community leaders to go elsewhere so as to protect the morals of their children. The Sherwood Advocate moved in 1910 a few miles to nearby Mertzon, where the railroad unwelcome in Sherwood had put down its tracks, and became the Mertzon Star. Today, in 2002, Sherwood has approximately 100 people.90

It is a pleasure to contemplate the grand name of that railroad which brought about the near-demise of a small town by veering a few miles from its planned course to pass through a nearby town. Although the town of Sherwood barely exists today because the railroad passed it by almost 100 years ago, the residents there may find some poetic justice in that the importantly-named “Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railway” has long since become defunct, no doubt absorbed by some larger railroad.

A final piece of the puzzle fell into place when I called Angelo State University in San Angelo, and made further inquiries. The school maintains a West Texas collection. I spoke to a very helpful young lady named Suzanne Campbell who informed me that the paper was called “The Irion County Advocate.” Ms. Campbell sent me a copy of the page of the San Angelo Standard of June, 1891, that carried news of the first appearance of “The Irion County Advocate.” Barely legible, the item reads in part:

The Irion County Advocate, published at Sherwood by Messrs. Shore & Wilson, made its appearance for the first time in due form this week.

Of great incidental interest to me are some of the other separate items carried on that same page of the San Angelo Standard:

Capt. P. McHugh of Sonora is in the city. The Captain has 4,000 head of muttons on his ranch, but like a sensible man, he will hold for better prices.

Mr. Childress of Devil’s River is here with 3200 head of sheep for sale. The STANDARD would advise Mr. C. to drive them back to the ranch for the present.

A.J. Knowlin, manager of the sheep department of Swift & Co., Chicago … says that fat sheep will bring good prices in Chicago, but that a man is very foolish to ship anything now that is not extra fat.

If you refer to photo 5.13, you will see a picture of Horace and Stella and four sons, shortly after Francis was born, which would place the picture at about 1902. On the back of the photo, second son Arthur says that this house is on the North Llano River, and refers to it as the “ranch house.”

Photo 3.8a shows the house Horace and Stella occupied in town in the last years of their stay in Junction. Frederica Wyatt91 says that this house on North Llano Street was later converted to use as a boys’ home and burned to the ground in 1984.

The arrow in photo 3.9 points to the location of Horace’s house in Junction.

After something like 8 or 9 years at the address on North Llano Street, Horace, Stella and the 5 Wilson sons moved to San Antonio in December of 1914. There is no direct information to explain why they made the decision to move from Junction to San Antonio.

I must confess that the move represents something of a mystery to me, and I believe it must have been associated with difficult events in the family. Francis writes:

I can still remember vividly how in 1914 in December we packed the family belongings, put some of them in the Overland car, and drove away to San Antonio to live…. I was never to live on the Llano again. Yet there is much about this that I never want to tell… let us permit the tragedies of humanity, even when our own, to rest where they might have been left behind.

San Antonio was the cultural capital of Texas at the time. It had a proud and splendid history. It would surely have been an attractive destination for a promising young family, but almost-50 doesn’t seem to me an age one associates with uprooting a large family and starting a new life in a large city – especially when there is no visible consequence of the move in the ensuing years that suggests a self-evident motive for moving. Nothing occurs following the move which leads one to say, “Aha, now I see why they left the prestige and prosperity and prominence they enjoyed in Junction.”

In a later reading of Francis’s thoughts on this move, I note that he feels the same way: that is, the timing and the advantages of the move do not strike him as in Horace’s favor:

It is said in the family that it would have been better to stay on the Llano and hold to the land. Most always this is the best advice, especially for a man of 50 who had spent 30 years on what had been only so recently Texas frontier.

A little further on, he finds the heart of why this move was wrong for Horace. It beautifully and sadly expressed:

My father’s ability had expanded most perfectly near to the land. He was near his ranches; he lived in a society that he understood thoroughly and in which his competitive powers had been trained to sharpness. First of all, he was too old to make the change… But beyond that, he had acquired his spiritual stature on the land, and when he went to San Antonio the land was left behind… he should never have left the land.

However, Horace’s connection with Junction was not completely severed. For quite a few years following his move to San Antonio in 1914 he maintained a law office in the Junction state Bank Building (which he owned) and advertised regularly in the Junction Eagle. Likewise, his businesses appeared to continue successfully there.

Though speculation may be fruitless, any attempt to understand the lives of these people requires some effort to understand the causes that played a part in such a major decision — moving to a new location in the absence of any easily identifiable motivation to do so.

First of all, there may have been some difficulty or decline in Horace’s affairs in the period just before the move to San Antonio in 1914. In a letter written on September 10 of 1913, 2nd son Arthur makes ominous references to severe, but unnamed circumstances in Horace’s affairs. I will quote from that letter in the following chapter related to Horace.

In another letter of the period young Arthur inquires about a “bank election.” Since Horace was president of the local bank at the time, there might be some connecting link between Horace’s difficulties and the bank election and the move to San Antonio.

Next, Arthur drops out of college for the academic year 1913-14, in an action which appears to be in consideration of Horace’s unidentified difficulties.

Arthur did return to school for the 1914-1915 school year, but a notation in 1914 in the dean’s file of that school tersely states, “Father hard pressed.”

When I look forward to the lives of Horace and Stella in San Antonio, I see that Stella became active and prominent, whereas Horace limited himself to practicing law and did not engage there in the numerous high-visibility entrepreneurial activities that made him a leading citizen in Junction. He was no longer in touch with the land in the same vital way. In other words, the large arena of religious and social causes in San Antonio brought rewards of growth and accomplishment to Stella; however, there is no evidence that Horace flourished in any way there. If semi-retirement was what he wished at that stage of life, would he have chosen a wrenching move to a city to achieve that? That seems doubtful to me.

In fact, by maintaining an active practice in Junction after moving to San Antonio, it seems to me that Horace affirms that that his greater affinity is associated with Junction, lending support to the possibility that the move might possibly have been at Stella’s insistence.

Of some significance, in my view, we have a statement in Stella’s own handwriting, from a speech 92 to one of her groups in San Antonio. The speech is surprisingly negative toward small-town life, considering that she, herself, spent the first 45 years of her life in rural and small-town settings. By her own admission, Stella had unequivocal views on church and social matters, and was outspoken in voicing them. Her speech makes it clear that she found much cause for disappointment in this regard in Junction. This leads me to think that over time she might have become alienated from the very community leaders in Junction that she wanted to be counted among. (This is a pattern that Ernest exhibited later in Abilene. When he disagreed with church elders and they would not see things his way, he left that church and started a new one. He did that twice.) Though what Stella says in her speech may be perfectly correct, it nonetheless overtly challenges local leadership and depicts small-town life unflatteringly. It seems likely that Stella might not have been able or willing to conceal her disapproval (as Ernest could not do later), which, instead of achieving the corrective measures she sought, might have instead earned her a cool reception in circles where acceptance was most important to her. Thus, she could have become disillusioned with life in the small town and instigated the move to San Antonio.

I thought, perhaps, that Stella might have had a desire to move to San Antonio in order to be near her mother, Nancy Jane, age 64 at that time in 1914, who was living there. But Arthur writes in a letter to Francis dated September, 1956, “Mamma lived in San Antonio without getting in touch with her mother.”

A final possible motive for moving to San Antonio might have been to provide better cultural and educational opportunities for the two younger sons, Francis and Baten who were 13 and 7, respectively. In this regard, results were mixed, only partially positive.

However, the connotation of Francis’s shrouded phrase, “…the tragedies of humanity, even when our own,” in connection with the family’s move, leaves open the possibility that altogether different matters may have been the primary causation in the move to San Antonio.

Whatever the reason for moving, after about 4 years in San Antonio, an unexpected scenario unfolds, surprising to me because it seems completely out of character with everything I thought I knew of Horace and Stella and their devotion to their 5 sons: their marriage begins to experience severe difficulties, leading ultimately to its dissolution. Divorce documents reveal that at the beginning of 1918, they had ceased living under one roof. They divided all joint property in October of 1918, in a manner that was deemed fair by Stella. In late 1919, Horace filed for divorce, after 29 years of marriage to Stella. The divorce was granted either in late 1919 or very early 1920.

We can’t know for sure, but we might wonder: did the unraveling of their marriage begin back in Junction? Might something of that sort have played a role in the move to San Antonio? This is a possibility that cannot be ignored. In fact, in a letter Stella wrote in 1924 (see Chapter VI), remarking on dire circumstances in her life in the period 1906-1907, we may find the seeds of the estrangement that came to full fruition more than a decade later. The significance of that letter will be discussed in the chapter devoted to Stella.

For the moment, we will leave these sad circumstances behind us and turn our attention to Horace and Stella separately as individuals, and consider their lives and accomplishments, and what more we can understand about them.

Chapter V … Horace Ernest Wilson, Esquire …

Horace was an enterprising young man. At age 20, he came to the United States in 1885 from England on a tramp steamer to New Orleans, and made the journey to San Antonio by wagon.

An article in a San Antonio newspaper of November 19, 1928, features Horace and his son Robert as successful law-firm partners. The story declares that he arrived penniless in San Antonio and walked some 50 miles to Bandera where, full of optimism, he took a job herding sheep. His son Francis says he earned $10 per month in that capacity. It was 24 hours a day, working outdoors, drifting with the sheep, sleeping on the ground, and putting his blanket on of a bed of rocks in rainy weather so the water could drain away beneath him.

It is a touching close to the circle of Horace’s life in Texas to observe that he lived his last days as a major landowner in Bandera County, but sad and alone.

The newspaper article depicts Horace’s life as a Texas version of the classic American story: a man arrives with empty pockets on these shores in the nineteenth century, seeking opportunity; he forges his way under difficult circumstances to educate himself, to achieve professional and economic success; a major goal is to provide education and opportunities for his children.

By 1887, the tax roll for Bandera County shows that he had acquired 40 acres of land, 2 horses, 85 head of cattle and 3 other “miscellaneous property.”

By 1889, he had moved to Kimble County and was listed on the tax roll there, where his property now consisted of a carriage, 15 horses, 45 head of cattle and 150 sheep. This would have been the period when he met and courted Stella. A carriage would have been a splendid possession with which to impress a young lady.

Some 5 years after his arrival in the Hill Country, he married Stella Jane Graham, herself barely 20 at the time, the intelligent, attractive daughter of a handsome, tough, unpolished longhorn cattle trader in the area (2.1). Stella’s photograph taken in 1890 (4.1) at the approximate time of her marriage shows a lovely young girl with fine features, a serious mien, an alert expression, a firm gaze directed over the photographer’s left shoulder. She appears to be evaluating something, not certain yet whether it pleases her. It is not difficult at all to see why Horace’s head could be turned by this fetching young lady with an intriguing touch of skepticism in her gaze.

After he and Stella were married in 1890, Horace worked for a brief while in Junction, and then went to Brady, Texas, where he edited a country newspaper. Francis says that he set his own type, he wrote his own stories, and he no doubt swept the floors, as well. Also, according to Francis, Horace dreamed of literary achievement at this time. In “By Llano Water,” Francis quotes a short story written by Horace, with a frontier Texas setting. I enjoyed the story and thought it well done. Ernest Wilson, Horace’s 1st son, was born in Brady in 1891.

Horace’s enterprising nature is illustrated by his next move. Along with a man named Shore, he bought a printing press, and opened a newspaper in the promising little town of Sherwood, Texas. The press was purchased in San Angelo, Texas, about 35 miles from Sherwood, and it was delivered by freight wagon.

Probably in 1893, Horace moved to Junction, Texas, where he took over the local paper, “The Junction Clipper.” He changed the name of the paper to “The Kimble County Citizen,” and an issue of the paper dated March 8, 1894, declares: “Published every Thursday by Horace E. Wilson, Editor and proprietor.”

During this period Horace somehow managed to extend his education and assumed the role of school teacher. He served for many years as Trustee of the Junction Public School System.

Not satisfied, Horace began the study of law under preceptors Judge Alley and Judge Williamson, early-day lawyers of Junction, and was admitted in 1897 to practice law in the State of Texas.93

In the same year, Horace bought a beautiful ranch property on the North Llano River, just a few miles outside of Junction. Pictures 5.13 and 5.14 show the family there in 1902 not long after the birth of 4th son, Francis. It is not known whether the ranch house was built by Horace or was in existence at the time he bought the ranch. The house burned to the ground sometime between 1905 and 1929. Through searching deeds and physical exploration, we (cousin Kathleen and her husband, Jim, and I) were able to locate a woman now in her 80’s whose family has owned the North Llano site of Horace’s ranch since the 1920’s. She pointed out a place where she used to play as a child, finding shards of glass and burnt coins and other objects, which she felt certain was the actual site of the burned-down ranch house. The topography matched the appearance of the photos we have of the ranch house. There was evidence of a foundation there. I am convinced we were able to stand on the actual ground where Horace and Stella lived from approximately 1897 to 1905. See photo 5.10. Photos 5.9 and 5.11 were taken in October, 2002, on the land of the old North Llano ranch.

Horace sold “The Kimble County Citizen” somewhere about the time he began the practice of law. Subsequent to this, the name of the newspaper was changed to “The Junction Eagle.”

In 1898 Horace was admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of Texas.

In March 20, 1903, the Llano River Irrigation and Milling Company was chartered in the State of Texas. Horace E. Wilson was one of the 5-member board of directors. The purpose of the company was “To construct, maintain and operate dams, reservoirs, lakes, wells, flumes, laterals, siphons and other necessary appurtenances for the purpose of irrigation, millings and city water works, with the right to sell water for all such purposes.”

An advertisement in the Junction Eagle of December 19, 1913, lists the Llano River Irrigation and Milling Company as “… owners of Junction Water Works, Cotton Gin, Grist Mill, Saw Mill” and sellers of “water for all purposes.”

Somewhere in this period, Horace formed the “Junction Ice and Light Company,” telephone number 73, where he is listed on the company letterhead as Manager, though I believe he was also owner.94 His brother Frank was listed as Secretary. It was news to me that it was an ice and light company, since I had only ever heard it referred to as the “ice plant.” I can still remember seeing sepia pictures taken there, with giant iron spoked wheels and great loops of belts running from wheel to wheel turning equipment and causing things to happen. I hope one day to find the photo albums containing those pictures, albums which were fixtures in the house I grew up in. (I did later find this album at the Buffalo Gap Historic Village, which was originated by Ernest Wilson in about 1957.)

Advertisements over time in the Junction Eagle for the Ice and Electric Company offer lighting systems for sale (“We can furnish you with the very best light known for any home”) and ice for sale (“Special rates to ranchmen in large quantities … We are going to install necessary equipment to make Crystal Ice”).

(I can’t refrain from this brief interjection: Numerous ads in the papers I browsed through in the 1911-1914 period were promoting Kodak film to prospective users who were referred to as “Kodakers.”)

(Another interjection: An advertisement in the Junction paper February, 1914, announced performances on the 24th and 25th by the famous Russian Ballerina, Anna Pavlova, in the Grand Opera House of San Antonio.)

Though Horace had come to Texas to be a rancher, his energies were becoming more and more focused upon his law practice, real estate activities, and business dealings. No doubt for this reason he decided to build a home in the town of Junction. There on a parcel of land that is even today part of the “Wilson” subdivision, he built a large home for his family. The photograph of this home (3.8a) shows a handsome structure. The design is attractive, and the impression is of clean lines, spaciousness, ample size – all without ostentation. Sadly, on January 5, 1984, the Junction Eagle reported that the house had burned to the ground:

A bit of Junction’s history was destroyed last week as a conflagration of flames literally consumed one of the local remaining landmark homes. The structure was designed and built sometime after the turn of the century by Horace E. Wilson, an Englishman by birth.

A local resident recalls that Mrs. Wilson was opposed to the English style of architecture, but her husband stubbornly refused to abandon his plans to construct the imposing and multi-gabled structure.

A few lines of biographical information follow in the article:

He was the first president of the first bank organized in the county. Being somewhat of an entrepreneur, he had extensive real estate holdings in the county and was considered one of its leading citizens.

Mrs. Wilson, a product of the Texas frontier, was Stella Jane Graham before her marriage in 1890. She was born in the old Presidio de San Saba where her family had sought safety during an Indian raid on Christmas Day, 1869.

The first bank in Kimble County was organized in 1906 by Horace Wilson, and was appropriately named “The First State Bank of Junction, Texas.” 190 shares of the bank were outstanding; Horace owned 124 of them. Not surprisingly, Horace was named President of the bank.

In a report entitled “A Brief History of the Banking Business in Junction, Kimble County, Texas,” the author, Walker Ragsdale says:

By reason of the fact that most of the Shareholders of the Bank were of English Nationality, and originally coming from England, the bank was often referred to as the ‘English Bank’ of the community.

Not long after the First State Bank was originated by Horace, a competing bank was opened in Junction, known as the “Kimble County State Bank.” The two banks merged on August 1, 1908, and became the “Junction State Bank.” At that time, Horace became Vice President. On August 23, 1909, Horace was elected President of the merged banks.

A photo (3.6) showing a large calendar clock with the date July 6, 1908, just before the merger, shows a proud Horace in the First State Bank, along with a few other prominent citizens. In the teller’s window are framed the faces of his eldest son, Ernest, and young Coke Stevenson, who became a popular Governor of Texas in the mid-1940’s (and was defeated for the US Senate in 1948 by Lyndon B. Johnson by the narrow margin of a few hundred extremely questionable votes from the King Ranch in South Texas).

All seems to be going well for Horace. He is a successful attorney. He is involved in numerous real estate transactions. In this general time frame he runs the “Junction Ice and Light Company.” He is a director of the Llano River and Milling company. He is an officer in a local bank. Yet, in a letter to Horace from his son Arthur in 1913,95 there are clear intimations of problems, disturbing but unspecific references to the possibility that Horace was in difficult financial circumstances of some sort:

Your letter has decided me in one thing. For a year, at least, I shall live from my own hand, by the toil of my brain; then I shall study law or anything else you like, but preferably law. I want to show you that in an hour like the present, when you are so hardly beset, you should have no worry of me… And God help me now, and God help you first, who need Him the most!

Granted that young Arthur might have been given a bit to dramatization, seeing that his interests at this time were in studying writing; nonetheless, there seems to be clear reference to serious financial difficulties. In point of fact, Arthur did leave college for the 1913-1914 school year. In an undated letter to Horace that I take to be even earlier, Arthur offers what may be a clue to the difficulties he alluded to in the letter quoted just above:

I would like to hear a word of the Bank election.”

On June 5, 1912, Horace resigned as President of the Junction State Bank. The reasons are unknown. However, on June 12, 1916, the First National Bank was formed in Junction, and Horace was listed as its Vice President.

We also have record of a notation in the dean’s file at the school Arthur was attending, dated October 9, 1914: “Father hard pressed.” Not even the smallest fragment of information exists to help identify what these references might be alluding to.

Perhaps connected to the difficulties of 1913, or perhaps for other reasons entirely, Horace and family moved to San Antonio in December of 1914, according to son Francis.96 As we have seen, Stella’s later remarks about life in small towns give every reason to believe that she favored the move, and was probably pleased by the change of surroundings, and may have in some way been directly responsible for it.

Horace established a new law practice in San Antonio, engaging in both civil and criminal law. For several years, he and his son Robert practiced law together as partners. A San Antonio newspaper article in 1928 features the father-son law partnership, and will be the subject of some attention a little later in the narrative.

Though he had moved to San Antonio, Horace continued to maintain an active law office in Junction, and he ran ads mentioning his law practice frequently, perhaps every week, in the Junction Eagle. Mostly they just mentioned the law practice, but occasionally they mentioned various aspects of his involvement in real estate. In 1918, an advertisement read: “Real Estate Loans, Vendor Lien Notes, Bought and Sold… We practice in all State and U. S. Courts.” Horace maintained an office in a building he owned which was occupied by the Junction State Bank. At the same time, he was a Vice President of the First National Bank.

Things did not go well for Horace and Stella in San Antonio. Their marriage unraveled and they separated on or around January 1, 1918; divorce proceedings were initiated by Horace in 1919, and the divorce was granted not long thereafter. From this distance, it is not possible to determine the causes of this unfortunate rupture with any certainty, and difficult to try to catch an early glimpse of the underlying factors as they developed.

The single clue we have that gives any hint of an earlier estrangement is a letter dated November 12, 1924, in which Stella relates an extreme despair during her pregnancy with Baten in late 1906-early 1907. Being of resolute character, it may be that her avowed extreme anguish of that period was beyond healing, in which case the origins of their later separation and divorce might be traced to this time, or earlier. To substantiate this possibility, in Horace’s filing for divorce in 1919, he mentions that an alienation of affection had existed for more than ten years prior to the final separation in January of 1918 – placing the estrangement in the period that Stella refers to in her letter. More about this letter in the chapter devoted to Stella.

In Horace’s divorce filing, there were claims of incompatibility, personality differences, harsh feelings, lack of intimacy, intolerance – but all these are not incompatible with boiler plate for divorce cases of the era, where courts would not grant a divorce without forceful demonstration of serious grievance. Merely not wanting to be married was inadequate as a reason for divorce. What is clear is that an unbridgeable chasm had grown between the two over a period of quite a few years, resulting in a sad estrangement. The property had been divided to the satisfaction of the parties long before the divorce proceedings were ever initiated, in a manner satisfactory to both parties, according to the papers filed. It would appear that their separation in 1918 and subsequent property settlement marked the actual end of the marriage.

In 1920, Horace married Georgia Howell. On December 27, 1923, their one child was born, a daughter named Theresa after one of Horace’s sisters who had died years earlier in childhood in England. Georgia died at age 90 in 1976. I read in her obituary that she had two children from a previous marriage who, the obituary said, had preceded her in death. I believe that these two children became part of Horace’s new household.

At this writing, Theresa is living San Antonio. I have met her on several occasions, most recently in October, 2002. She had a close relationship with her father, and clearly loved him deeply. Horace was devoted to her.

In a letter to Robert Graham, Theresa writes about her father:97

He was reserved, cultural, a music lover. Particularly opera – but also cowboy ballads. He read Shakespeare avidly and had a dry English wit. He was frugal, a devout Christian and a Mason. He was a public speaker for the various Arts and Sciences groups and was a neurotic democrat… He always liked a formal meal, and lobster and roast and fancy cheeses being his favorite dishes. He told me a bedtime story every night and most of the time they were his boyhood adventures in London.”

In 1925, Horace and Georgia were divorced. A decree dated December 18, 1925, exists in draft form granting the divorce.98 In this decree, custody of Theresa was given to Georgia, and the court observed that the Horace and Georgia had adjusted their property rights in a fair and equitable manner. Without commenting on the tangle of emotional conflict that might lead to such an outcome, and the distress that all parties to the disaffection might have experienced, I am compelled to feel enormous compassion for the lonely last six or seven years of Horace’s life.

Readers will have noted that Horace had divided his estate in a fair and equitable manner two times in a period of 7 years.

Most references to Horace that I have read remark on his fine human qualities, his intelligence, his kindness, his great skills as an attorney. Francis remembers his great kindness, somewhat in contrast to Stella’s stern and moralistic presence. Horace had an open character, a notable basic integrity even when it put him in conflict with his sons. He had a simple but firm sense of what was just. Horace was an ethical man. He was a church-goer, temperamentally Episcopalian, but became a Baptist in consideration of Stella’s strong leanings in that direction. But I do not believe he was a fundamentalist in his persuasions, nor do I believe he was dogmatic or in any way holier-than-thou in the way he lived his life. He was, however, an ardent prohibitionist.

In an obituary written by his son, Ernest says:

His family was his joy and pride. He knew every one of his sons would some day become good and great men. Their every thoughtless act and deed was graciously and tenderly forgiven.

Horace had a great respect for theater, books, Shakespeare and poetry. He had perhaps the best library in Kimble County. He loved music, opera particularly. He studied violin in his last years. He enjoyed good food. Francis says that he lived in a broad and tolerant manner. Francis believes that Horace owned the first automobile in Kimble County.

Francis says:

Always I think my father tried to be a gentleman. He had his code of conduct which was a mixture of that of England and the frontier…. I remember also his broad sympathy for those around him who lacked even the most elementary education … Without effort he talked to all in a way they could understand.

Horace believed:

All were forced to work, and to my father the first thing to learn in life was to hold an honest job no matter whether it was dignified or not.

My mother, Winifred Brown, brought me from England to San Antonio in 1927.99 We lived for a while with my grandfather, Horace. Winifred was extreme in her praise of him, and thought that he was a wonderful, kind and considerate man. She said he was very good to her, helpful in every way.

In 1925, according to Francis, Horace made a brief visit to England and Ireland.

Francis says of Horace100, “He was a very sad old man during the last months of his life. His main interest at the time was Theresa.”

Francis mentions, “People around my father tried to dig money out of him, almost all of them.” He adds: “I think many of [his] unhappy relations came from my father being too generous.” In a letter dated September 30, 1930, Horace seems to agree, “It seems difficult to me to understand that the people who would break me are those who owe me their love. It will probably astonish you later in life.”

On January 9, 1930, Horace writes to Francis, “I have been greatly depressed most of the time of late. My head seems tired.” In September 30 of the same year he writes, speaking of the economic struggle he has been facing, “Things have been very difficult with me for some time.”

On December 18, 1930, Horace tells Francis, “[I] recently sent an application for a patent to a patent attorney at Washington … Most inventions seem to have no monetary value, but I want to feel that I am not dead yet.”

In fact, the somber clouds of economic hardship in the early years of the Great Depression greatly weighed upon Horace’s mental and physical health. His children felt that the stress of trying to hold his property together contributed to his death. As Robert was to say of this era in a letter in March of 1932, “…just now to owe 5 cents places a big burden on one’s shoulder… People have no money to spend.” Regardless of how much equity one possessed in a piece of property, it was subject to foreclosure unless taxes and mortgage payments could be made. It was difficult to generate income from the property; so the problem quickly became, how can payments be made to avoid losing everything already invested? It was necessary to sell some property in order to maintain ownership of other property. This was a formula for loss and devastation.

It is touching that Horace’s entire life in Texas came full circle at the end. As an ambitious young man, Horace had come penniless to Bandera County 47 years earlier. In his later years he had acquired a 2200-acre ranch in Bandera County, land that is now of incredible value. He moved there two months before his death. Thus, Horace’s death certificate, after all the intervening years, lists Bandera as his place of residence.

On January 13, 1932, Horace writes to his grandson Ernest, Jr.: “I have been feeling very unwell, and I cannot make the trip to Abilene.”

Just 10 days later, Horace Ernest Wilson suffered a stroke in Bandera on January 23, 1932, at age 67. He died later the same day in San Antonio.

Francis writes this sad passage in “By Llano Water”:

My father was almost 70 when he died; and on the day of his death he said to his secretary: ‘I wish I could die.’ His wish was granted, and soon.

The Mayor of San Antonio, C. M. Chambers, was an honorary pall bearer.101 Horace is buried in Mission Park Cemetery in the plot that was purchased by the sons when Stella died. It was something of a surprise for me in 2002 to find Horace and Stella side-by-side under one headstone, because photographs show that Stella was buried under a headstone exclusively her own in 1926. The present stone is a joint headstone, replacing the former one.

Clearly, the sons elected to discard the former one and unite the parents, perhaps against their will, for their long slumber though eternity.

Now, we turn to the life of Stella Graham Wilson.

Chapter VI … Stella Jane Graham…

Stella Jane Graham102 is a difficult and complex woman to write about. Few direct observations are available to aid in understanding her; nonetheless, she arouses strong feelings of admiration and sympathy in me. I feel a need to give her as much dimensionality as possible. By sheer force of personality, she left a strong legacy behind, transmitted behaviorally through her sons, perhaps genetically, as well. Though she died a few months before I was born, 78 years ago, I sometimes think I can feel her imprint on me.

The material I have to draw upon gives many glimpses of Stella’s life and mind and attitudes, ranging over 40 years. There are early two letters in her own handwriting, one about 1884, the other dated December 12, 1887. I have 5 documents that she wrote: 1) notes for a talk on “Rural Church Work” in her own handwriting, 2) an essay or talk, “We Build the Ladders by which We Climb,” typewritten, 3) several pages of notes in her own handwriting, probably for a speech on women’s issues, 4) a typewritten story, “Child Beautiful by Stella Wilson,” 5) an earlier version of the “Child Beautiful” story, in her handwriting. There are also letters written March 10, 1918, November 12, 1924, and January 16, 1925, in her handwriting, the last scarcely more than a year before her death.103 In a letter written to her in 1908 from one of her sons, there is a reference that may give some insight to her character. I have copies of her will, her death certificate, and an obituary as it appeared in the Junction newspaper of the time, written by her eldest son. Additionally, I have several comments made by sons that may help a little to understand what she was like. The rest will have to be extrapolation, conjecture, surmise.

Just to facilitate discussion, I am going to divide Stella’s life arbitrarily into 3 different time frames, with a very fuzzy line of demarcation between periods 2 and 3.

The 1st period covers Stella’s childhood and youth up until the time of her marriage, in March of 1890, at about age 20. We can paint a fairly well-informed picture of her life in this period.

We can also piece together a fairly good picture of Stella’s life for the years beginning in 1914, when the family moved from Junction to San Antonio. Her thoughts and activities are revealed in a number of documents and letters and events. The period in between 1890 and 1914 is dimly known at best.104 There is little tangible to indicate what she was like as an individual during this middle period. Yes, we know she had three children by the time she was 24, then one at age 30, then the last one at about age 37. We know she had major surgery in 1908, though not the nature of the surgery. We know her family was prosperous and successful. We know that her children were entered upon fine educations, or soon were expected to do so. We know Stella’s 1st child was born in Brady; the 2nd in Sherwood; the 3rd in Junction. She would have come from Sherwood perhaps in mid-to-late 1893.

The 1900 census reports them in Junction, with a servant living in the household. Horace had become an attorney and was operating businesses in the town. We know all that, but we really don’t know much about Stella as a person in this period, except what we can project forward from the 1st period and backward from the last period. But, she does open one window retrospectively onto her life in the middle period in one of her letters of 1924, from which I will quote later on in this chapter.

The things that can be known about Stella’s life in the early and late periods suggest that she was an intelligent, articulate, serious, forceful, earnest, intense, highly moral, perhaps even melancholy person. The terms happy, carefree, joyous, ebullient, relaxed, cheerful, frivolous, informal never seem to enter the mind about her. All her pictures suggest a touch of formality, perhaps even remoteness. This characterization may be a limitation of the material available, or perhaps it is an inaccurate interpretation of mine. Nonetheless, she seems to be one of those people whose minds are always on serious matters. And it is fair to say that this aspect of character seemed to be strong in her 5 sons.

I certainly hope that she experienced great joy and happiness with her marriage and young family right on up to the final period of her life. There is nothing to say that she didn’t; neither is there anything to say that she did. With only one exception, all the photos I have seen of her, with or without her children, suggest a serious, even somber, person. The strongest likelihood to me is that the personality we are able to observe early and late in her life was most likely with her in the middle period as well, although there are events to relate in the later period that surely further darkened her already-dim sense of optimism about life in general.

It would be much easier merely to set down available facts about Stella and move on, without trying to understand her as a person. That would avoid the interpretive pitfalls I am surely making myself vulnerable to. But Stella is perhaps the most important character in this entire story, because I firmly believe she had the greatest influence by far on the lives of her 5 sons, and she calls for as much fullness of character as can be portrayed.

Stella’s mother, Nancy Jane Cox, was a bride at barely 15; she married William Graham on March 20, 1865, and he no doubt became another of the numerous family members living inside Isaac Cox’s one-room cabin at Bowie Springs (photo 1.7). However, not long after their marriage, Isaac left the area, and it seems clear that Nancy Jane and William remained there. Though Isaac’s other children were placed with relatives living elsewhere, it seem that his youngest daughter, Belle, remained in the cabin under the care of Nancy. This home was a one-room log cabin several miles from any community, and for a while Nancy’s sister, Marietta, her husband and one or more of their children also shared that cabin. By late 1874, Nancy and William had 4 children in all: Hiram, Stella, Alice and Walter.

I will repeat the circumstances surrounding Stella’s birth; they seemed to bode so well for this child. It was not to be.

During a time of hostile Indian raids, William and family left the vulnerability of their isolated cabin to take refuge in the nearby ruins of the Spanish fort (photo 4.11) called the San Saba Presidio, but originally named Presidio San Luis de las Amarillas when it was built more than a hundred years earlier. It was winter. On Christmas night of 1869, a daughter was born there to William and Nancy Jane Graham. The family lore is, inspired by the brilliant starry sky of that crisp December night, the child was named Stella.

Unfortunately, it was not long before things began to go wrong for Stella. When she was a small child, severe difficulties arose in the marriage of her parents, William and Nancy Jane, culminating in their separation when Stella was not yet 5 and in their eventual divorce in 1879 when Stella was 10.

I will briefly recall the grim outline of her young life.

More than likely things had been working up to a crisis for some time, but in October of 1874, William and Nancy Jane had a ruinous falling out, in the month their 4th child, Walter, was born. In November, William left the premises. In November of 1876, Nancy filed for divorce. Matters became acrimonious in the extreme, with counter suit and counter allegations by William. In May of 1878, a jury awarded a divorce to William, with temporary custody of the children remaining with Nancy. William then claimed that Nancy failed to live up to the court’s stipulations regarding his rights of visitation, and in November of 1878, he asked the court for legal custody of Hiram and Stella, which was granted just two months later, in January of 1879. Nancy appealed the decision, thwarting its immediate implementation, but, in early February, the court made a final ruling in William’s favor, and the sheriff had to proceed to Nancy’s residence and physically remove Hiram and Stella from Nancy and deliver them to William. According to Bob Graham, family recollection has it that on another occasion Nancy Jane endeavored to kidnap Stella and Hiram and leave the area with them and the other children in a wagon, but the sheriff caught up with them and brought them back. Nancy undertook a few more legal efforts to regain the two children, but no further changes occurred, and final custody of Stella and Hiram remained with William.

It is distressing, even at this date, to think of the impact of the rancorous clashes of implacable wills that occurred between William and Nancy with the children being pushed and pulled from both sides. Both sides claimed cruelty on the part of the other side toward themselves and toward the children. Both claimed the other was physically violent with the children. Both claimed the children wished to be with them. Both claimed the other was especially cruel to Stella. Both claimed the other was teaching the children to hate and reject the other.

I do not know where the sentiments of the children rested, but the impact on them was surely devastating. In addition to being separated from their mother, Hiram and Stella also suffered the hurt of being separated from their two younger siblings, Alice and Walter. There is a story that Stella and her mother met on the street in San Antonio in later years, and that they briefly stared at each other and moved on without speaking.

Evidence exists that bitter divisions remained among the Graham descendents for several generations, traceable directly to the irreconcilable differences between Nancy Jane and William.

I will not try to sort out the claims and counter claims in this bitter marital dispute. My purpose in saying as much as I have is to establish something about Stella’s childhood as it may have had an influence on her character and outlook on life.

Another major force in Stella’s development was the pervasive sense of loneliness and alienation she experienced throughout her entire youth, right up to the time of meeting Horace. I am inclined to believe that this was a characteristic so imbedded in Stella that she was never able to emerge from under its shadow.

From age 4 on, Stella was without two parents in the household, and it is doubtful to me that she ever enjoyed a happy, secure, loving home. Stella’s father was a longhorn cattle rancher, away a great deal of the time. But, even when he was at home, William Graham could not have been, by virtue of his own upbringing, much help in the furtherance of her social, psychological and educational development. He was a genuine rough character of the west: at various times he was an Indian fighter, a buffalo hunter, a veteran of bloody Civil War battles, a civilian scout for the army in Indian territory, a peace officer, always a tough man of action, rough, uneducated, uncultured. He had a reputation for being able to hold his own in rough situations. In his old age he delighted in recounting tales of barroom brawls, battles with Indians, and gun fights.

From age 4 until age 9, Stella lived with her mother and three siblings in deprived and difficult circumstances. From age 9 until her marriage at age 20, she lived in a one-room log cabin at Roca Springs with her father, her brother, and with a cousin, Loiza Mayes, for the first 4 years. At about age 14, Stella took over the housekeeping chores from Loiza, who left the household about 1883.

Not only was Stella’s father often away from home for lengthy periods of time in his cattle business, her brother was also away much of the time trying to hold a herd of cattle together out in the unfenced hills.

The fundamental truth about Stella seems to be that she was a gifted child with an unusually bright and questing mind, a tabula rasa just waiting to be imprinted by whatever had the force to make a durable impression on it. And such a force was not far to be found. In those days, especially for women, church-going served literally as a blessed relief from the hard routine of frontier life. This brief statement suggests how it was:105

Women in the West had daily opportunity to test their strength, courage and ingenuity. They often were alone for months at a time; they kept house in the crudest of dwellings with the most makeshift furnishings; they spun and wove their own cloth, endured a temperamental climate, and were frequently called upon to be extremely brave in the face of peril. They loved to go to church, whenever they could find one, to bolster the faith that helped them endure…

Stella’s mother had been raised in a religious family, and church-going was not only a duty, it was surely also a welcome social and spiritual activity. Stella’s aunt Marietta writes the following in “Pioneer Days,” speaking of the place of religion in their childhood days:

We had a plank along one side of the room for a desk and a big crack in the wall to give us light; we had preaching also by whoever would preach for us. I remember two preachers who would preach for us sometimes … Our home was always a home for the preacher of any denomination; we loved to have them with us and minister to their comforts.

The pervasive spirit of religion in Nancy’s household, both as a child and presumably as a mother, may not have been much greater than the norm of the times. What was unusual, however, in my opinion, was the hungry, lonely soul that Stella brought to it. It was a case of a very bright, active mind with practically nothing to feed it except the certitudes of charismatic preachers that she loved to hear, and all the stories she listened to in Sunday school. Stella even became a Sunday school teacher in her late teens. To underscore it all, in those days whatever rural public education was available was usually filled with religious content; it strongly reinforced biblical history and biblical morality.

Religion thus became central to Stella’s life. Her brother Hiram became a minister. Her son Ernest became a Methodist minister. Her son Francis, though he converted away from her fundamentalist Baptist views of religion, nonetheless became an active, devout Catholic intellectual, writing frequent articles and appearing at the podium of numerous church conferences. As noted elsewhere, the ministry was a common occupation among her ancestors.

When the divorce and all matters of custody were cleared up, William moved with Stella and Hiram from Bowie Springs in Menard County to an even more isolated site on the West Fork of Bear Creek in Kimble County, Roca Springs.

Stella’s letters will tell us something of her education, something of her loneliness, something of the impact of religion upon her. For the moment, consider this one quotation from a letter written when Stella was not yet 18,106 about a year and a half before marrying Horace:

Sometimes the [thought] comes to me that I am missing all the pleasures of life, the enjoyment of youth, by trying to be a Christian, but better thoughts soon follow and I know I am seeking the only way there is in life to find true happiness.

In the same letter, she says, “I like to go to church so well.”

Stella did not have the home life or the social life to mitigate the categorical imperatives thrust upon her in church and school. She learned indelibly well the high moral strictures, and believed in them implicitly to her death. She developed a firm concept of ethical propriety which was to be her unfailing compass in life. I don’t think Stella was one to hold moral precepts lightly; if it was right, flexibility and compromise tended to stop right there. In this respect, her son Ernest was very much the same.

For four years of the period when Hiram and Stella first lived alone with William, one of Stella’s cousins107 lived with them and kept house for William. But she left, and now at age 15 we can get a glimpse of their life in a letter that Stella wrote to her Aunt Marietta from Roca Springs, approximately 1885:108

Hiram and I are living with Pa; I am his housekeeper; Hiram his cow hunter. I have been keeping house over a year … Hiram and I do not get to go to school but very little. Hiram is seventeen and I, 15… Hiram has been cowing (hunt the cattle)109 all the year; but still they are scattered …

In this letter, a lonely Stella is reaching out to an aunt she can remember having seen only once. She signs the letter, “Loving little niece Stella Graham.”

As a boy, I heard literally hundreds of fundamentalist sermons, and the message I received was unmistakable: God doesn’t like any monkey business; He doesn’t like lying, stealing, cheating; He doesn’t like dancing, playing cards or other frivolous entertainments; He doesn’t like drinking; and He especially doesn’t like sex, which Satan uses to trap young folks into Hell. There was a lot about Hell. I’m certain there were other topics, but I’m not sure young people heard them To my mind, everything was negative, what not to do. If you do the things God doesn’t like, you will burn painfully in Hell, eternal, without end. Undoubtedly, the brand of Protestant religion Stella encountered on the Texas frontier was even sterner than that.

I don’t wish this to sound facetious; this is exactly the underlying view of life a young, earnest, impressionable mind can come away with when repeatedly subjected to the powerful, mesmerizing rhetoric of a charismatic preacher. It leaves an indelible imprint. And it is not a simple matter to displace such an imprint. Stella had just that sort of mind.

Francis makes this same point in “By Llano Water:”

In the Llano country, people were converted in order to avoid the eternal punishment of the damned. Hell was no illusion, no figure of speech, for it was genuine fire and brimstone that would burn and torture individuals who had not accepted Christ and this torture would last for ever and ever.

Robert Graham relates a story told in his family that a charismatic evangelist minister came to the Bear Creek area in the 1880’s, probably to hold a “revival” meeting. These visiting ministers were unusually powerful orators, brought in by local church people to rouse church-going residents to greater extremes of religious dedication and to “save” as many sinners in the area as possible. These evangelists were hypnotically persuasive speakers, very adept at applying psychological pressure to impressionable minds. Robert says that such a minister had a profound influence on Hiram and Stella, who were “saved” at such a revival meeting, and profoundly influenced for most of their lives by the galvanizing experience.

So there you have my admittedly personal interpretation of the overriding influences on Stella’s serious young mind and developing character: a large vacuum created by loneliness and isolation was filled by high-voltage fundamentalist religion. Though Stella achieved the equivalent of much education and sophistication in her life, I don’t believe she ever had any rigorous intellectual training that might help her question some of the more extreme teachings of fundamentalist religion, and I don’t believe she ever escaped the grip of the harsh moral teachings of her youth.

In continuing to pursue some sense of Stella as a person from the evidence we have, something of her outlook in this first period of her life may be seen in this statement that she writes at 17 to a cousin:110

I feel now almost like an old woman, most girls have a fresh hopeful feeling about them, but I have not.

Admittedly, this was written in the context of commenting on how young her cousins seem to her. The entire statement might be dismissed as a girlish fear of becoming an old maid, or something of the sort, but it seems to me that she is expressing an altogether different emotion when she says she does not have a “fresh, hopeful feeling.” Knowing as much about her life as I have come to know, my thought is that we are seeing here an early expression of a view of life that became more extreme in her later years. This letter was written just about 18 months or so before she was to marry Horace Wilson.

Taking her entire letter under consideration, I would comment that Stella has come a long way in her education since age 15. Her handwriting is elegant, her phrasing expressive, her sentence structure is complex and accurate. Her manner is polite and deferential. This is a girl who has not even had the benefit of a small-town school. Photo 4.6 shows the tiny little one-room cabin where she went to school, identified in her own handwriting. Schools such as this were typically built in some location more or less central to 4 or 5 ranch homes in the area.

In later years, Horace and Stella both taught at this school. Harrison Stucke, who later became and Archdeacon in the Episcopal Church and was the first man to conquer to the North Face of Mt. McKinley, also taught there.

By contrast, we have a letter from Loiza Mayes111 in the very same household, written when Loiza was about 18, that is barely decipherable for lack of proper grammar and spelling, whereas Stella’s writing is articulate, well phrased, nuanced, clearly educated.

Consider Stella’s simple sentence:

I am in school this morning and ought to be studying, but I know my reader and grammer, and so have a few spare moments in which to write.”

That sentence has the sound of someone who has already begun to develop a deft competence with the language, even though she did misspell a word. Compare Stella’s sentence to the following short passage from a letter written by Stella’s cousin, Loiza Mayes, at the same age of about 18, from the very same household in Roca Springs:

Ma I haven’t got the things straiten yet Ma I has quilted 2 quilts in the last two weekes and has one more to quilt Ma I have soled charry to unkel will for too good cows and calfs in the spring they will do me a heap more good then the horse weld.

This is not to poke fun at Loiza; it is to illustrate by contrast something of Stella’s development and how she amazingly overcame the limitations inherent in her entire upbringing, not perceptibly different from Loiza’s.

Perhaps some remarkable genetic confluence came together in Stella – old William’s courage and iron will plus Nancy Jane’s religious bent and iron will. If so, I think some of that strain was passed on to the next generation, and perhaps it will continue to be felt for generations to come.

This same letter of December 12, 1887, contains a charming glimpse of Stella’s sentimental side. In a reference that at first was unclear to me, she just says to Cousin Annie, out of nowhere:

Ther[e] is one song that I dearly love that I do not know what the name of it is. I think it is, ‘I have a casket at hom[e].’

She is referring to a song that she had heard, “The Little Rosewood Casket.”112 The song describes a young girl who is dying and asks her sister to read to her the love letters her husband-to-be has written to her from afar. The letters are in a small rosewood box (casket) on a marble table. It is a sad, sentimental song that would have allowed Stella to feel the tender emotion of love found and the heartbreak of love lost.

Looking further in the direction of understanding Stella’s temperament, her 2nd son Arthur, in a letter dated April, 1908,113 offers this observation:

Dear Mama –

It has always been your grievous habit to look at the black side of every cloud that hangs over your head whether great or small. Perhaps you might try in a feeble way to consider the bright side of life, to cultivate the idea that you are not a forlorn and rejected outcast…

Here we have a characterization of Stella that refers to a span of time – “always” – which may not be very long for a boy of 16, but nonetheless is from a close observer over an extended period. Young Arthur’s suggestion that Stella, at age 29, with 4 children and a successful husband, might have considered herself a “forlorn and rejected outcast” strikes remarkably close to what I consider the dominant underlying tone of Stella’s attitude about her life. Her lonely, bitter youth coupled with what she surely must have felt as inadequate preparation to be the wife of a well-spoken Englishman who by this time was attorney, bank president and leading citizen – these were the ingredients that caused her much pain but also fuelled her fierce determination to be successful in the world at large.

Because the letter goes on to speak of unidentified major surgery that Stella has just undergone, I believe Arthur’s letter was written to her while she was away in the hospital, probably in San Antonio.

The letter continues:

Yours is a mistaken idea about the fruits of your toil being the inheritance of some ‘Silly Girl.’

This reference to “some ‘Silly Girl’” stumped me at first, but one explanation is that Stella might have v