This is a story that my grandmother wrote about her life. She was in her 80's when she wrote it and died a couple of years afterward.
Forward by Martha Wells
Drawings by Barby Prothro
My name is, Fannie L Prothro. At the request of my granddaughters, this is a brief story of my life, a glance at the past as I remember it.
I was born Fannie Lillian Terry in Crecy, Texas (Trinity County) January 5, 1895. My father was Randolph Monroe Terry, my mother was Theodosia McClain They got married in 1894, when Papa was 19 and Mama 17. My father was tall, with sandy hair and blue eyes. My mother had black hair and eyes. When I was a little girl, I was fair and had blue eyes. I heard people say it was a pity that I didn't have hair like Mama's.
Father's family came to Texas from Louisiana. His father was Sanford Warren Terry, his mother Cornelia Elizabeth Cockerham. The Terry’s came from Ireland; the name was O’Terry but the O was dropped after they arrived in America. They owned many slaves and were wealthy until after the Civil War. Taxes and debts took all they had and they left their home near Baton Rouge, Louisiana for Texas. Five brothers and their families went in covered wagons. They settled at Crecy, Texas. They had a big house, lots of trees, shrubs, and flowers.
Mother's people, the McClain's, moved to Texas from Tennessee after the Civil War and Settled in Trinity County at Centralia. Her people were Scotch-Irish. Her father was named James Ardis and her mother Harriet Meredith.
Grandpa McClain had more then a thousand acres of good farm land and raised cotton, sugar cane, peanuts, and corn. He had a big orchard, with peach, pear, plum, apple and fig trees. Grandpa McClain gave my parents sixty acres of land half. way between Mama's and Papa's families in Crecy, Texas and they built a house with a big hall and two rooms on each side. The hall was open at each end--called a dog trot.
A short distance from our house there was a creek, fed by a spring up on a hill with a waterfall that was about five feet high. This was where Mama washed our clothes in a zinc tub. Papa went along to carry the bundle and make a fire under the black iron wash pot. Mama put the clothes on a big wooden block and paddled them. She boiled them and rinsed them in three tubs then carried them home and dried them on a clothes line. One day when we were there Papa took me and waded in the shallow water. He stepped off into a deep place over his head, fell under the water, and dropped me. I remember this and from that time I’ve been afraid of water and never learned to swim.
Life as a child
When I was a year old Mama went to the wood pile to get wood for the fireplace. She did not know l had followed her to the fence. She threw a pine knot over the fence, hit me on the head and knocked me senseless.
Our school was two miles from our house. My brother Ed and I walked with other children who lived near us. The McBrides had a girl my age, May, and a boy, Jim Tom, Ed's age. We liked to go spend the night with friends, but were not allowed to go often.
There was a boy, Howard Magnum, whose mother had died and his father let him go any time. One day he said he would go home with the one who cared him piggyback the farthest. He rode Ed's back and then Jim Tom's. We had to pass Grandpa's store and he saw Ed all stooped over with a boy on his back. Grandpa told Papa about seeing Ed with the boy on his back. Papa was angry and told Ed never to do that again.
We had a cow that would chase me. One day papa hid and made me go in the pen where she was. Sure enough, she came at me in a fast run. Papa jumped the fence and whipped her; said that would cure her but I never gave her a chance to know if she was cured.
Our social life was built around the church. They had singing conventions. I remember Papa and Mama would always go. A teacher came to teach singing and we always attended. Mama sang alto and I loved to hear Papa sing. I think these meetings were in the summer when the crops were laid by. They had books with shaped notes (now the notes are round). They would have dinner on the ground and preaching once each month. I loved to ride in the surrey with fringe around the top. They hitched the horses that pulled all the buggies and wagons around the church house under the shade trees. Usually someone went home with us for dinner.
We had a Christmas Tree at Church. Santa was there to give out the presents. Everyone received a gift and stick candy. No one had a tree at home. We hung our stocking on the mantle above the fireplace and got an orange, apple and nuts.
On Sunday when there wasn't church service at Crecy, we often went to Grandpa McClain's. Grandma always cooked the best food, chicken and dumplings, smoke cured ham, sweet potatoes with candy dripping, big dishes of vegetables, pickles, preserves, hot biscuits, cornbread, yellow butter, sweet milk and buttermilk. It was a long dining table, with Grandpa at the head and Grandma at the end. Eleven children sat at the side, and there was always room for another guest. Grandpa asked the blessing. I couldn't understand the words because of his Scottish accent.
After dinner, the young people went to the parlor. One played the organ and they sang hymns and popular songs. When they were tired of singing, the men went outside and wrestled and played "pitching dollars". They dug a hole the size of a dollar, stood on a line on the ground a certain distance and each pitched a dollar toward the hole. The one that went in won. They ran races, broad jumped, etc.
We crossed a creek on our way; usually it was ankle deep. One time it rained the nite before. The water came down from the hills and the creek was wide. Papa drove in and when halfway across the wagon lodged on a big log and almost upset us in the water. We children screamed and frightened the horses. Papa unhitched them and rode out to the bank. We were scared the wagon would spill us in the deep water and were so glad when some men came and carried us out. That was one time I didn't enjoy my visit because I was thinking about having to cross the creek again going home. But when we got to the creek, the water had flowed off and the log had been removed.
Grandpa had a country store and taught school. The store was near their house. Grandpa closed the store at noon for dinner. Then he and Grandma would take a nap or rest. And they always had a headache and said I had magic in my hands, so I would rub their foreheads. Grandpa always gave me a shiny new nickel. (When I visited my Aunt Berta recently, I asked if they had really had headaches. She said no, they just liked to have me rub their heads.)
They had the first telephone in the community. People said they would not have one of those things, lightning might strike and burn the house.
A photographer came to Crecy and stopped at Grandpa's. People went there to have group pictures taken Mama and Papa took us, all dressed in our best, to have some made. My sister, Eva, four years younger than I, had pretty red curls, brown eyes and fair skin. She wandered off near the bee hives and a bee stung her on the cheek. Everyone looked straight at the photographer, no smiles. And Eva's face was so swollen, but she also looked strait ahead and did not look like herself as that bee sting really changed her looks.
This reminds me that must have been jealous of Eva's pretty curls One day I took her outside and cut every curl as close as I could with scissors. When she went back in the house, Mama shrieked and I got a switching.
Mama baked pies and cakes every Friday. She put a fresh cake on the dining room table to cool. It looked so good, I broke a bite and it was good. I kept eating. Not much left. Crumbs dropped on the floor. Mama missed me and called, "What are you doing?"
"Raking crumbs through a crack," my answer. Another switching. My parents believed in using the rod (switch). Never hurt, except our feelings, very much.
We lived ten miles from Groveton, the county seat of Trinity County. The road was graded and the men who lived in the district worked the road. They used oxen to pull heavy logs over it to make it level. We walked to school on this road. One day some wolves crossed ahead of us. We were scared but they ran off into the deep woods.
One teacher was Professor Pool. All classes were in the same room. We used a slate to do our writing and numbers. One day Ed had done something against the rules and Professor Pool said, "Ed go bring me a nine prong switch."
Ed went outside and stayed a long time. Professor Pool went to a window and called, "Ed, come on right now with that switch."
Ed was crying and said, "Professor Pool, I don't know what a nine prong switch is." I can't remember what happened then. We would never tell if one got punished at school. Papa said if we got a whipping at school, we would get another when we got home because the teacher was always right.
Once a month, Ed and I took a sack of shelled corn to a grist mill to have it ground for meal. The miller took some of the meal for his pay. We liked to go as we rode the horses. In the winter, papa butchered hogs. Neighbors came to help and were given some of the meat. Papa made syrup in the fall. He had a cane mill. A horse went around in a circle to grind the cane, it flowed into a pan and was cooked, then into another pan where it finished cooking.
We had a log rolling. Papa wanted to clear some land to add to his farm and neighbors came to help. They cut the trees, piled them, and burned them. Mama prepared a big dinner. About this time, Papa ran for tax assessor, lost by a few votes, ran the next time, lost again. That ended his political career.
We moved to Groveton in 1902, when I was seven. Papa got a job with a lumber mill. We had a nice house with a long porch across the front. We had children to play with, a big barn to play in' and a pony to ride. She was gentle and Ed, Eva and I would mount her and she would canter off, easy to ride. Often when we were a mile or so from home she would stop and turn her head around and try to bite us. We had to got off and lead her back home. This didn't happen every time, just when she was in the mood.
Grandpa Terry moved to Groveton and I visited them often. One night I went to spend the night with a friend. In the middle of the night I woke up; mosquitoes were all over me. I couldn't go to sleep, got up and went home about two blocks away. I went upstairs and went to bed under a mosquito bar (net). When my friends woke up the next morning and I was missing, they were frightened and came to our house to report me missing. Grandma went to my room and found me sound asleep.
There was a good grade school at Groveton. High school pupils were upstairs and we were not allowed to go up there. There was a high wall dividing the play ground. Boys on one side, girls on the other. When we had recess, the boys played football and baseball. The girls played games. One I liked was called “witch. ”
One girl was the witch; she sat on the ground while the others had a base. They would go skipping and singing "Chicken, chicken, McCraney Crow, I went to the well to wash my toe , when I came along back, my black-eyed chicken was gone, what time is it Old Witch?" She would say "one" and we'd go back to base and repeat. The witch counted until the number she had written down. When she said it, she would jump up and chase us. If one was touched, she had to be the witch (I’ve told this in detail as I don't think children play it now.)
One night Mama was sitting up with me while I was studying my lessons. We went to the back porch to get a drink of water. The linen tablecloth was on a line by the dining room. Mama opened the door to put it inside. A man was standing at the end of the table! She ran so fast to tell Papa a man was there, she could hardly walk the next day. When Papa got there, the man was gone. The peg in the syrup barrel was out and syrup was pouring out on the pantry floor. Flour was spilled too. No one locked their doors back then.
There was a picnic ground near a river where people like to go and camp. My grandparents went as chaperones. One time I went with them. They went in wagons and buggies, and carried food enough to last a week. The men slept in one tent, the girls in another, and I slept in the tent with Grandma and Grandpa. They fished and went swimming. The men and women did NOT go in swimming together. At night we sat around the campfire and told stories, sang songs and all had fun. One morning Grandma scolded the girls because she heard them talking to the men after all had gone to bed. She told them not to let it happen again' as it wasn't decent and I wondered why.
Editor’s Note: This is a great example of the types of stories we would all like to be able to read about the lives of our own grandparents. If your grandparents are still alive, we would encourage you to take a tape recorder along on your next visit, and start asking them as many questions as you can think of about the lives of their grandparents and their own childhood. If you are old enough that your grandparents are already gone, then it is time for you to preserve their lives, by writing down anything you can remember about them. And please send us a copy that we can share with our readers.
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