Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Heritage Photos of the Week

I am fortunate that my grandmother, Ivy Frankum Wilcoxen, gave me quite a few photographs of herself as a young woman. My favorite is the first shown. I'm not sure of the year it was taken. Grandma had asked me what photo of her I would like to have in a larger print and was surprised when I asked for this one. She said the beads were not straight. But I think she is so pretty in this photo.

At Burr, Texas, 1918. (Ivy, far left)

With friends (Ivy, far right) at Medina dam, 1921.

The hairstyle was called "dog-ears", 1922.

December 1922



Ivy Frankum Wilcoxen
October 8, 1901 - December 3, 1994


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Heirloom of the Week

My grandma Lucy Hodge made the best cornbread dressing. It has passed down the line to all her daughters and sons and now to my generation. One of the more cherished of the family heirlooms:

Hodge Family Cornbread Dressing

· 1 recipe cornbread (a skillet full)
· 1 small can biscuits
· 1-2 bunches green onions, with tops, sliced
· 2-3 ribs celery, chopped
· ½ - 1 green bell pepper, chopped (optional)
· 2-3 hard boiled eggs, chopped (optional)
· Sage, salt and pepper to taste

Prepare breads ahead of time. A 10-inch skillet full of cornbread is about right, plus 5-6 biscuits. Crumble breads into a large bowl.

Chop the green onions (you may add a little regular onion, if desired), celery and green pepper. You should have approximately 1 cup each. You may add the vegetables directly to the bread mixture, or you may prefer to cook the vegetables briefly in boiling water until they begin to soften. Drain the water before adding to the breads. If you wish, chop and add some boiled eggs.

To season the mixture, add about 2 teaspoons salt, ½ teaspoon black pepper and 2 to 3 teaspoons sage. (When it comes to sage, the feeling at our house is the more the merrier—about ½ of a standard spice bottle is about right for us.) Mix well.

Add chicken broth until the mixture is well moistened, but not soupy. (Think mud pie consistency.) It usually takes 2-3 cans or 4-5 cups of freshly made broth. Pour into a lightly greased casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour, until the dressing is firm and slightly browned.

Some folks like to add the chopped, cooked giblets. I’m not one of them, but if you insist, go ahead. Just warn me, if you do.

This is the official family cornbread dressing recipe, created by my grandmother. For many years we accommodated the non-sage eating in-laws with a separate pan without that spice, but we’ve decided that if you want to be in this family, you had better learn to love sage. The giblets in/giblets out battle continues to rage.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Unraveling the Snarl

If you have ever knitted or crocheted, you have at some point encountered a snarl of yarn that has to be untangled before you can proceed. Some snarls are so bad you finally end up cutting the thread and reconnecting, but it is always the best policy to unravel the tangle if at all possible.

The family thread can get snarled from time to time. These snarls are a lot more fun to detangle, but sometimes just as tough.

The first and best-known tangle in the family tree involves the McAfees and Masons. Great-grandfather Burl Mason was first married to Pinkey Fariss (remember that name). They had several children, one of which was daughter Susie Mason. After Pinkey died, Burl met Nettie McAfee, a young widow with two sons. Nettie was the only daughter of Albert McAfee and his first wife Johney Elizabeth Underwood. When Johney died, he left Nettie in the temporary care of a neighborhood girl named Mary Brock. Albert ultimately married Mary and they had another batch of kids, one of which was son Albert Henry.

Albert Henry married Susie Mason and they had several kids. Meanwhile, Burl and Nettie had children together, one of which was my grandmother Lucy. Another was daughter Annie Mae, who married Jim Byrum (remember that name).

Bottom line for this little family tree snarl was that Lucy was the half-1st cousin and the half-aunt of the children of Albert Jr. and Susie McAfee. (To me they are half-1st cousins once removed and also half-2nd cousins once removed.)

We started with the easy one, believe it or not. Now, let's look at a real snarl, the kind that if you were knitting would probably have to be cut.

Burl's first wife was Pinkey Fariss. Pinkey had several siblings, including Mary B. Fariss and Jane C. Fariss.

Burl had a brother John Mason and a sister Hulda Mason, who married to William Ashley.

John Mason married Mary E. Adkins, who was the daughter of Mary B. Fariss and her first husband L. C. (or D. C.) Adkins.

Hulda Mason Ashley died and her widower William Ashley married Mary B. Fariss Adkins.

Jane C. Fariss, sister to Pinkey and Mary, married 5 times and one husband was named Crockett. With him she had daughter Nora. Jane then remarried to J. C. Byrum. Nora had a son named Jim (at this point I am not clear on who the father is), who ended up being raised by his grandmother Jane, who ultimately married a man named Walling. The best I can tell, when grandson Jim went to live with Jane, he took the name of her then husband and became Jim Byrum. (In one census Jim is listed with the last name of Crockett, which was Nora's maiden name, so I'm guessing she was not married when she had Jim.) Jim Byrum married Annie Mae Mason, as mentioned above.

Ok, now where are we after all this? Actually it's a tangle of lines marrying into lines that are related, but the blood relationship is fairly simple.

Jim Byrum, my grand-uncle by virtue of marriage to my grandaunt Annie Mae Mason Byrum, was the grand-nephew of Burl Mason's first wife, but had no blood relationship to the Masons, except as second cousin to the children of Albert Jr. and Susie Mason by virtue of a shared set of great-grandparents in the Fariss line. Burl Mason would have had the dual relationship to Jim as father-in-law and grand-uncle by marriage to Pinkie Fariss who was sister to Jim's grandmother.

The fun of this particular snarl is plotting all the names on a sheet of paper and then connecting the marriages with lines and seeing them loop around the various generations. Whatever else you can say about it, the Fariss folks got around.

One little additional point of interest with this little snarl of relationships is that three of the Fariss connections met a grisly death in January 1899. Pinkey Fariss Mason's brothers James and Cass and William Ashley, the widower of Hulda Mason Ashley and by that time Pinkey's brother-in-law, were killed by a train near Smithville. They were at a railroad crossing in a wagon, when apparently the horses spooked and ran into the train. All three men and the horses died in the accident.

Researching can lead you down paths you never expected. I am not related to the Fariss family by blood, but their history is so intertwined with that of my bloodline, I feel they belong in my files.


P.S. One other Fariss complication that has not yet been solved involves my Mobley line, where great-grandaunt Sallie Mobley married widower Tom Fariss who had kids and then they had kids together. I don't yet know whether Tom Fariss is related to the other Farisses that connect to the Masons, but the Mobleys lived out in the Oak Hill area of Bastrop County as did Jane C. Farris. I'm betting that sooner or later I will find yet another non-blood connection to the Fariss line.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Heirloom of the Week

My mind is still with Burl Wilkes Mason this week. I hope I have the story about this heirloom correct. This little leather pouch, containing a 1900 Liberty Silver Dollar, was found in Burl's pocket at the time of his death.

It now resides in the pressed glass honey dish that belonged to his wife Nettie, which itself holds an honored place in my china cabinet.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Heritage Photo of the Week

I've been monitoring a blog called "The Pioneer Woman" (which I discovered through the recommendation of my aunt) and today she posted a slew of photos of dour women and ended up with several of sisters. It reminded me of one in my collection.

Here is two versions of the same photo of sisters Sallie and Cora Mobley. I don't really know when it was taken, but I suspect it was before either of them was married, which would put the time frame about 1890 or so.

Sallie is on the left and Cora is on the right. Cora is my great-grandmother who married Elmo Elisha Hodge and had Horace and Horace married Lucy and had Nettie and Nettie married Norman and had me.

Let this be a lesson to anyone who is contemplating sitting for a portrait. Wear dark colors that will show up well against any background. Poor Cora is so washed out she looks ghostly. Even playing with the contrast and brightness didn't help bring her back to life.

It did help to crop the photo and concentrate on her face. Such big, sad eyes. Such a grim mouth. And this was probably before life got tough and she became a young widow with two young children to feed and clothe.


Monday, December 8, 2008

Heritage Photo Addendum

For some reason, I neglected to include a photo of Burl Wilkes Mason in the previous post, so let me correct that error.

Burl Mason, right, and his brother-in-law Jessie McAfee, left

Burl spent the majority of his adult life working as the foreman of the Trigg Ranch near Red Rock. He's probably the closest thing to a real cowboy in the family tree.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Heritage Photo of the Week

Beside the road on Highway 21, just south of the intersection with FM812, this stately tree stood just across from the gate that led down to the house where my great-grandparents, Burl and Nettie Mason raised their family. I'm not sure the tree is still standing because a few years back a new overpass was added to reduce the danger of that particular intersection. The landscape was changed enough that I'm not sure the tree survived the construction.

This is the tree where my great-grandfather Burl Mason was found hanging on August 20, 1925. For years afterward it was possible to see the scars where his spurs had scraped against the tree as he hung there.

The official verdict was death by suicide. Perhaps. His daughter and widow did not believe that and always suspected he had been murdered. There was at least one and possibly two motives for murder that should have been explored. Perhaps they were and no evidence was uncovered. I have yet to locate the record of the inquest, but I hope to find it someday and see what kind of investigation took place.

I wish the tree could talk. It knew the truth.