Back to Pioneer
Back to Main Page
- Sarah Ann Harwell
- By Rhesa Gunn McNair
- From: A Journey Through the
Past to the Present of My Harwell Family
- by Mary Harwell McBryde
- Always a fascinating bit of history for
her grandchildren was the story that Sarah Ann Harwell Ricketson, daughter of Seaborn and Mary Jane
Harwell, was born December 29,
1850 in Mississippi, weighing one and one half pounds and slept in
a shoe box for a cradle. Her twin sister, smaller than she, died
Photo of Sarah Ann.
- This and other stories were told at
times around the big red granite fireplace at Grandmother's house
and on other occasions around her opened trunk of souvenirs and
important business papers. Those were memorable occasions for her
grandchildren. When any child chanced to see Grandma approach her
almost "sacred" trunk, with key in hand, that child quickly ran to
call any and all brothers, sisters or cousins to "Come Quick!
Grandma' s opening her trunk."
- Each time we wanted to hear again about
how she was once small enough to sleep in a shoebox, and to see
the tiny dress and cap that she wore when she was one year old.
(It would have fit a small doll.) And we would see the shawl she
wore when a girl, also a silk dress of earlier years; the
"pullikins" that Grandpa used on any or all who sought his talent
for dentistry; some lovely dress material, "the last piece of
goods Aaron brought me from Austin", and a number of other items,
including her parent's pictures.
- The trunk was more special because of
its having been one of the few household things rescued from "THE
FIRE". "THE FIRE" was a term almost as indicative of time as "The
Flood". My memory has it as having indirectly caused Grandpa's
death, 1916, from pneumonia, followed sometime after smoke and
fire inhalation; but I wouldn't make this a statement of fact. But
back to the trunk, it seems the family had difficulty in waking
Buck the night before the fire began. When finally he realized the
house was burning, he sprang out of bed, ran, grabbed the trunk
and sped out of the house into the field (quite a distance for so
heavy a load), sat himself atop the trunk and there he sat as in a
trance until some of the excitement had subsided.
- I am getting ahead of Grandmas early
history. In 1853 she came to Texas in a covered wagon, naturally,
at the age of 2 years with her parents. They came via Tyler, with
a stop over there where Uncle Green, her brother, was born. The
family settled on the Colorado River in Burnet County in what
later became known as the Wolf Crossing Community. (See story in
Bourland's "Flowers for the Living.)
- Being the oldest daughter in the
Family, Sarah Ann helped take care of the younger children, and
one story in particular always ran shivers up the spines of her
grandchildren. Alone with the smaller children in the home one
night, she heard Indians moving about outside. She quickly put out
the lamps and cautioned the children to be absolutely still and
quiet. She herself was "breathlessly quiet" until John, the
youngest at that time began to cry for water, which was kept on
the porch or in the kitchen across the "dog trot". She dared not
leave the room and made great efforts to keep the Indians from
hearing the baby cry. They came so close as to walk across the
porch before leaving.
- Other Indian tales made spellbound
listeners, who in turn, I am sure, passed the tales along with a
lot of our own imagination. In fact, so much of our own makes me
reluctant to tell that the Indians once came so close to capturing
one of the brothers that, as the boy was grabbed, he escaped only
by fleeing with arms stretched back, leaving his coat in the
- For her there was also fun as well as
fear. She must have been playful even at chores. Once in the cow
pen she couldn't resist braiding two cowls tails together "to see
what would happen". She saw. And called loudly above the "bawling
noise" of the cattle, "Somebody bring the butcher knife!" Help
didn't arrive in time to save the tails.
- When she was 22 years old she married
Aaron Ricketson from Georgia. I can recall only one story of
Aaron's single life, a story I did not hear until comparatively
recent years. The account stated that when he was 16 or 17 years
old he served a short time in the Civil War and was wounded in the
hand; a severe infection resulted and doctors ordered amputation
"to save his life". Aaron objected; objection was overruled and
the day for surgery was set. The night before the amputation was
to be done, Aaron went AWOL. After a time his hand healed but he
was afraid to return. So he "hid from the law" unnecessarily, he
learned much later, for he wasn't even "wanted". The war had ended
shortly after he had left the army. (No doubt the doctors and
authorities believed he never survived the infection.)
of Aaron Ricketson.
- When Sarah Ann and Aaron married, they
lived one mile from her parents, built the first "plank" house in
that area with lumber hauled from Austin, and never moved.
Grandpa, though being given to urges to travel and make periodic
trips back to Georgia, must have been a good provider. His family
lived well by standards of that day. He served as banker and
"doctor figure" in the community. He kept money in hollow trees,
in a can under a loose plank in the "gallery"; once even rode
after dark to Fairland for an old "discarded" coat that womenfolks
had used to pack fruit jars after a day of canning at his home.
Why did he need that old coat that had hung for weeks on the same
nail behind the stove? Because he had tucked $400 in one of the
pockets for safe keeping. I have only one memory of actually
seeing Grandpa, that is of him sitting on the front porch with a
fly swatter, killing flies for a pet baby chicken. He died when I
was five years old.
- Grandma was small in stature, but great
in character and personality. Her red hair, fast step and quick
wit, together with her straight forward, plain spoken honesty,
absolute integrity, kindness and love for family and neighbors
gave us all a feeling of security just to be in her presence. Her
hardy pioneer type belied her petite, neat, every inch a lady
image --- shiny red hair pared in the middle, pulled back in a bun
and held with a comb. She could manage, hold and pluck down from a
full sized, mad, snappy goose more easily than I can pick a dead
quail. (And she had the feather beds to prove it.) Evidently she
was also a good business woman, as fair as she was firm.
- If she had an enemy I never knew of it.
If she had a favored (not favorite) child, it would have been the
youngest, over whom she felt the need to be more protective. The
most favored grandchild was, as he called himself, "just a little
red-headed, freckled faced kid that didn't know any better" than
to step on the sweet potato cuttings as the family put them in the
ground. This one, whose mother died when he was 9 months old, she
helped rear. (He became a fine man, of whom she would be proud.)
She had a son and a daughter, who had each lost a mate, to return
to the homestead with their children for a time to live. There was
also the oldest and the youngest sons who never left home to
- The stock-farm and gravel pit continued
to support not only the homestead but a "gravel check" went at
varying intervals to each of her nine children. The gravel pit
also served as a train stop for homecoming or leaving. One had
only to "flag the train" to board it for a trip to Llano or
Austin...or maybe just to Kingsland, the nearest post office.
This, however, was in walking distance in that day, only 4 miles.
Before the "wagon bridge" was built people walked the terribly
high railroad bridge across the Colorado, always being mindful of
the train schedule since the river was quite wide at its junction
with the Llano River.
- My mother, Cenia Ricketson Gunn, who
had many of her mother's attributes--calmness and courage in the
face of danger being not the least of these--had a way of
"crossing any bridge" when she came to it. (But not before.) She
and a girl friend donned their bonnets one summer day to walk to
Kingsland. At about the middle of the bridge they heard and saw an
unscheduled train approaching. Cenia took command when the friend
froze in fright. With some difficulty she steered the panic
stricken girl down to a pier below the tracks. Then she hastily
scrambled down to a safe spot, losing her bonnet in the scramble.
After the train and noise passed, the two girls climbed back upon
the tracks and retrieved Cenia's bonnet, to find only a part of
it. The train wheels had neatly cut off the tail. The rest Cenia
wore jauntily into town as mute evidence of her narrow escape. I
was grown before I knew that she wasn't really wearing the bonnet
when the tail was cut off .
- Grandma was a member of the Protestant
Methodist Church, but preachers of all denominations found a
cordial welcome in her home. In fact, preachers, teachers,
peddlers, far-off kin, close kin, self-claimed kin... any and all
were given lodging. But it was family that brought the twinkle to
her eyes when they came and a tear, that she'd wipe away with her
apron, when they left.
- Many were the tears that had to be
wiped away when she left us in 1928 in her own home, at 77 years
of age, and was buried beside Grandpa on "the old home
You are our 3203
visitor to this page.
Last update: Sunday, 07-May-2000 12:32:05 MDT