Sunday, September 21, 2008

Mary Ann Mobley Christian

The Mobley family has been much on my mind lately. In preparation for the Mobley-Turnipseed Reunion I attended yesterday, I spent the last week or so reorganizing and sprucing up my Mobley notebooks so I could take them along.

One of the more dramatic Mobley family stories concerns Mary Ann Mobley Christian, eldest daughter of Hezekiah Madison and Sarah Jane (Jones) Mobley. Mary Ann was born January 15, 1860, in Georgia. In Carroll County, Georgia, in 1879, she married Micajah Jesse "Cage" Christian. The couple moved to Bastrop County, Texas, in 1881 and settled in the Oak Hill community near McDade. Mary Ann was 95 years old when she died in a nursing home in Elgin in 1955. She and Cage never had children.

Mary Ann was widowed after 11 years of marriage when her husband Cage was murdered before her eyes, shot down by a group of men who confronted the couple as they were riding horseback near McDade, Mary Ann on the saddle behind her husband. The men ordered Cage to step down from the horse and then shot him in cold blood.

There are conflicting stories about what prompted this act of violence. Some say it was vigilantes, some say Cage was involved with the lawless crowd that operated in and around McDade. I prefer to believe the version that Mary Ann gave to the newspaper when they interviewed her in her later years. The article refers to her as "Aunt Mary", but family oral history says she was called "Aunt MeAnn" within the family.

Mary Ann Mobley & husband
Micajah Jesse Christian
probably a wedding portrait

By Winnie McCall Burns, Chronicle Correspondent
--published in the Houston Chronicle Magazine, August 5, 1951

In former years, when people reached the age of three score and 10, the popular belief was that they were supposed to fold their arms and silently fade away. But not so with Mrs. Mary Mobley Christian of Elgin, who now is 91.

She not only has been a member of the Baptist Church for 74 years, but she has gone through the most turbulent period in the history of this section.

Born in Georgia, she moved into Bastrop County in the days when the frontier was being moved rapidly westward and when one lived longest by talking the least.

She was married in 1879 to Micaja Jesse Christian. Four years later, they, and the Mobley family, came to Texas and settled near Oak Hill, south of McDade.

McDade at that time was a thriving little town on the newly-built Houston and Texas Central Railroad. As the M.-K.-T. was not built through Elgin (10 miles to the west), Bastrop, Smithville, La Grange and on into Houston until 1886, McDade was the shipping point for the territory south of Elgin.

It had many stores, saloons, gambling houses and eventually developed a lawless element that ruled the community.

At about the time "Aunt Mary" and her husband had settled in their new home, a dance was given at the home of one Pat Erhard in the Blue Branch community.

During the dance a member of the "committee", as the lawless called themselves, proceeded to go in and call outside each of the men wanted until four men were in their hands. In a short time a man walked onto the dance floor and announced that four men were hanging to a tree a few hundred yards from the house.

On the eve of the second Christmas after Aunt Mary arrived, the "committee" called three more men out of a saloon, took them about a mile from town and hanged them to a tree.

The next morning three brothers of one of the victims came into McDade, seeking the killer of their brother. Two of them were shot down in the streets. Six men lay dead by Christmas morning.

The year 1887 stands out most vividly in Aunt Mary's mind as the year that the greatest tragedy that could befall any human came into her life.

Her husband was invited to attend a meeting of "neighbors", held in the woods. It turned out to be a meeting of the lawless element, which had decided that a certain Negro in the community was to be disposed of. Two of those present were designated as executioners. Word of this meeting was whispered around and Christian was accused of telling what had happened.

Not long afterward Mr. Christian was riding a horse with his wife up behind him when he was overtaken by several men. He stepped to the ground and before he was given a chance to explain his side of the argument he was shot dead in the presence of his wife.

After the death of her husband, Aunt Mary made her home with her brother, Joe Mobley, for 62 years and the two of them reared 13 children of the Mobley lineage. Uncle Joe Mobley died a few years ago.

After the death of Joe she was moved to a local nursing home, where she sits in her wheelchair dispensing cheer to those less fortunate.

In her 68 years in Bastrop County she has seen this area changed from cabins to castles and its roads from cow trails to high speed highways.

Mary Ann may not have given birth to any children of her own, but she provided maternal love to many of her orphaned nieces and nephews and was much loved by her family in return.

If you believe some versions of the story of Cage's death, you might hear that the folks in Oak Hill community would not allow him to be buried there, believing him to have been responsible for a fire that burned down the school building. They claim he set the fire for spite after having been rejected for membership to the Grange Lodge. This does not at all fit into the oral history passed down in the Mobley family. However, Cage and Mary Ann are not buried with the other members of her family in the Oak Hill Cemetery, but instead lie at rest in the Ridgeway Cemetery in the community of Paige where Mary Ann's uncle Joseph Mobley's family settled. For many years Cage's grave was unmarked, surrounded by a wrought-iron fence. This may lend some credence to the alternate version of the event, but I choose to accept Mary Ann's story.

In recent years some family members have placed a small marker at the grave in remembrance of the young man whose life ended so tragically. Mary Ann's grave is next to his, just outside the fencing.


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