Biography of Mrs. Richard K. Boney (Rena Cox Boney), Tallulah, Louisiana, State President and General Federation Director of Women's Federated Clubs of Louisiana

 

Written about 1931 by Helen Spann Murphy

 

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MADISON COORDINATOR'S NOTE: Rena Cox Boney's father, Owen B. Cox, was in business with Jefferson Davis, and most of Davisí personal papers were stored in the attic of the Cox "big house". The papers were never found. They were either burned or stolen by the yankees. Rena Cox Boney was my grandmother. RPS

 

I was born on a cold, snowy, morning, February 14, 1866. This was just after the "surrender" and my father had brought his little family back home to find the "big house", gin and barns burned to the ground; nothing left but the cabins in the quarters, and near the site of the old house a rather pretentious log house which had formerly been the Loom House, where "Mammy Jane" had superintended the spinning and weaving of the cloth for the slaves. The family moved into this humble dwelling and it was there I opened my eyes.

 

The oldest child, a little girl of nine had died during the war. It was my Mother's habit to read to her children and at one time she read an old novel, long since out of print by Mrs. Caroline Lee Hentz, "Rena or the Snow-bird", and the little sister had said: "Mamma, if I ever have a little sister, let's name her'Rena'. And so I found my name and place waiting for me!††††††† After years of happy childhood with my two brothers, never realizing the hard time of adjustment through which my parents were passing, we moved into the little town of Clinton, Mississippi, for school advantages. The old home, "Clover Blossom Plantation" being four miles away. My father engaged in the mercantile business and the family soon adjusted themselves to new surroundings.

 

When I grew up I attended "Central Female Institute" with Dr. and Mrs. Walter Hillman as teachers. This was a fine old college, and boasted the additional distinction of being the only girl's school in the south, which pursued its regular routine all through the war. I was graduated in June 1883, valedictorian of my class, at the age of seventeen. I taught one year in the college, but upon the death of my father we moved back to the plantation and I felt that I was needed at home.

 

Romance begins early in a college town. When I was eight years old, a tall, serious Mississippi College student decided he would marry me when I grew up. Through the years he kept an eye on me, coming back every summer, an intriguing figure to girlish eyes, in his cadet grey and brass buttons from V. M. I.; later as a law student in the University of Virginia; still later a student of Louisiana law in New Orleans at the University of Louisiana. An uninterrupted correspondence through all these years and an unmistakable faithfulness were finally rewarded and the slip of a girl and the tall young man were married in April 1896. At that time Mr. Boney was practicing law in the state of Washington and our bridal trip was in the nature of a revelation to the country girl from Mississippi. There were stops in Chicago, St. Paul, Spokane, and Tacoma, arriving at South Bend at the end of thirteen days of travel.

 

I became an object of interest to our friends-- a new specimen, a real southern girl, drawl and all-- particularly since Mr. Boney had been regarded a confirmed old bachelor!I followed up my advantage and became quite a raconteur of stories of the south and the old-time darkies. I recall a night on the Pacific sea-shore; the booming of the breakers and the musical lapping of the little waves at our backs as we sat around a great log fire of drift wood and ate fruit and told ghost stories. I told one about my favorite hero, "Old Jim Blue", and felt quite flattered when one of the party leaned forward and cried, "Oh, tell it again!" Naturally, at times I taxed my powers and my imagination!As I think back on this part of my life it seems but a dream or something I have read about.

 

We moved to Spokane when Mr. Boney became associated with Mr. Harry M. Hoyt, afterward U. S. District Attorney of Porto Rico. I recall going to a Knights of Pythias Ball in Seattle when one of the party was the Honorable James Hamilton Lewis of the pink whiskers and debonair manner.

 

My introduction to Federation was a big reception in Spokane, when the Spokane women entertained the State Federation.

 

Fate, in the illness of Father Boney, called us back to Louisiana, where we came with our little daughter, quite expecting to return to the west, but new purposes, interests and obligations held us, and --- here we are!

 

I am grateful that my children have had the advantage of being born In the south and on a plantation, with the companionship of birds and animals and many growing things, and with the loving care of "Mammy Jo", of blessed memory. They will never lose the influence of the happy days in the big house behind the levee.†††† We lived at Duckport until 1922. I was happily occupied with my children, my home and the duties of hospitality incident to life on a southern plantation. It was at this time that I reviewed with satisfaction an incident of my girlhood.

 

My graduation essay had for its subject "A Graduate --- Then What?" Now, the tall young man of romance sent me about that time a sermon by Dr. Talmadge In which he said "A woman is not thoroughly accomplished until she has taken lessons in dough." So, in order to meet the situation, I set about learning to cook, and to this good day am proud of that accomplishment. On the plantation, Wednesday and Saturday were set apart for baking, and such was the reputation of my rolls and salt-rising bread that on those evenings many of the came to call! We had governesses for thirteen years until the older girl and boy could go off to school, and these young women added much to the entertainment of the family and guests.

 

Mr. Boney being a progressive farmer, many of the young Agriculturists of the state visited us and many friends from the west came to us. In 1921 Mr. Boney resumed the practice of law in Tallulah and we again become town people. I was a member of the Tallulah Book Club and upon living here, served as Librarian one and one half years. I was then elected President of the club and served three years, after which I was First Vice-President of the Fifth District, becoming actual president when Mrs. McCranie's health failed. At Alexandria in 1928, I was elected first Vice-President of the State Federation and in 1929 I was unanimously elected President and ratified as General Federation Director in Washington in 1930. My term will expire in November of this year and I have enjoyed the fellowship of the clubwomen and the contacts with the women of General Federation. My term as Director does not end until 1932, and Mr. Boney

and I are planning to fly to Seattle to attend the Biennial and to revisit the scenes of our honeymoon! I do appreciate the positions with which the women of Louisiana have honored me and I have tried to live up to their faith in me, feeling that they have understood that I am just one of them. I am a member of the Presbyterian Church and of the Eastern Star. I have always remembered some of my Mother's precepts -"kind hearts are more than coronets", "be polite to all, hurt no one and reverence the aged."

 

Addenda:

 

It has been my pleasure to transcribe the notes as dictated by Mrs. Boney, well knowing that I could not improve upon her charming way of telling her life's story, but I shall make bold to add a few remarks on my own responsibility. Mrs. Boney has dealt with herself fairly but far too modestly.From the first moment when she was presented, a dainty and adorable valentine to her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Owen B. Cox, of Hinds County, Mississippi, a life of singular charm, beauty and activity was added to this homely old world. The lovely little child, delight of the home, grew into a lovelier young girl, popular at school with both teachers and fellow students and whose ability was attested by the fact that she was offered the Principalship of staid "C.F.I." at the age of nineteen. Two years ago when I went back to my Alma Mata and listened to an address given at the Alumnae Banquet by "Miss Rena"; I appreciated her more and understood what she meant to the school. Her own story gives one a glimpse of the charm of her home life; her gentleness and understanding of both husband and children. As her fellow townswoman I can speak with authority of her generous hospitality, her generosity, her indefatigable interest and labor in her church, and the community at large.

 

The Tallulah Book Club was most fortunate in such a President and grew and throve under her wise and kindly management. In the larger scope afforded her by Federation she has done her part faithfully and well, and I feel I but voice the sentiment of the state when I say we regret to see her term of office draw to a close, and with a right good will, in all future activities we wish her "God Speed".

Signed Helen Spann Murphy

 

MADISON COORDINATOR'S NOTE: Mrs. Boney died July 13, 1941 and is buried in Silver Cross Cemetery in Tallulah. RPS

 

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