Martin Family

Submitted by Bruce A. Martin

Yesterday’s Yesterday

My guess is that families living off the land in the rocky mountainous region of north central Texas in the nineteen teens and twenties did not have significant differences in lifestyles. Why the previous generation of Martin’s (William and Caroline) selected the Glen Rose vicinity, in Somervell County, as a place to settle upon migration from Tennessee is unknown.

During their adolescent years, Frank was the fisherman and fur trapper; Austin was the hunter; no stories of activities or interests of Gladys and T.C. “Pete” that I recall hearing. Their father, Elisha, was a carpenter, painter, paper-hanger. Possibly, additional income was derived from the cutting and selling of the native cedar as firewood and/or to woodworking mills for their production of furniture; and, of picking cotton during harvest season.

Don’t know the year, or why, Elisha and Florence loaded the family and belongings onto a wagon and relocated to Edna. The only recall of events that transpired during that period of life was that Frank was the catcher on the school baseball team. It was also during that time that he suffered a broken leg injury; don’t know the circumstances.

Don’t know the year, or why, the family again relocated – this time to the “West End” of Houston. As a pre-teen, I can remember visiting the home, located off Washington Avenue.

In later years the elder Martin’s relocated to Chalk Mountain, in Erath County, where they grew vegetables, raised chickens, and a few hogs for slaughter. Cooking was done on a wood-burning stove and water was hauled by bucket from a neighbor across the highway. As a teenager, I enjoyed visiting them, either during the summer or over the Christmas holiday, and going fishing in one of the two tanks within hiking distance. I still have one of the four “fiddles” that Elisha handcrafted.

Frank attended, and graduated from, John Reagan High School in Houston. He was a talented art student and one of his Fire Prevention posters was selected to be on display in the State Capitol in Austin. I still have a portrait he painted of Robert E. Lee, a painting of tall ships on the sea, and a sketch of Steam Locomotive No. 30 on a rail siding. He was apparently fluent in Spanish, as he was offered a job with the Consulates Office as an interpreter, which he declined (Frank was not adventurous in that regard).

During the years of World War II, Frank worked as a millwright at Brown Shipyard in Houston, building vessels for the Navy. For this, he received a Service-E Award, given for civilian service during the war effort. Other vocations included cabinet maker; dozer operator on a right-of-way crew for a pipeline company; and, most remembered, a butcher.

Frank enjoyed woodworking as a hobby; was a “green thumb” gardener; and planted trees for their fruit (if they happened to also provide shade, that was just a plus!). [1908 – 1990]

Country Living in the Mid-1900’s
Chalk Mountain, TX

Growing up in the suburbs of Houston, I looked forward with excitement the opportunity to visit my grandparents “in the country”. They lived along Hwy 67; and, from Houston, it was a six hour auto journey, mostly on Hwy 6.

Our visits were usually during the summer months when we could enjoy the outdoor experiences of rabbit hunting throughout the cedar-breaks, hiking to one of two stock ponds to fish, “help out” with feeding the chickens and gathering eggs, “slopping” the hogs, or just playing in the fields.

Some excursions included going to Glen Rose to swim in that fabulous pool, driving to Mineral Wells (I never acquired a taste for the water from the mineral springs), and going to the Puluxy River to drown worms (we were sometimes lucky and actually caught fish!).

My cousins scratched their names in the soft rock of Chalk Mountain. For whatever reason, I never had the opportunity to autograph the landmark for posterity.

I recall celebrating one Fourth of July, back in the days when one could buy those loud, repeating, colorful fireworks… it seems that the sounds of the booms echoing back from surrounding hills are still ringing in my ears!

For one Christmas trip, I was bundled in blankets in the back of Dad’s ’52 Chevy pick-up truck, along with the suitcases and packages (no room in the cab), observing the light decorations of farms and small towns along the way, and arriving late at night. I tried to imagine how occupants of the rural homes were spending their evening. Granny and Grandpa did not have a Christmas tree, so we went out the next day and cut a three-foot cedar, brought it back to the house, and preceded to decorate it. We scrounged about a half-dozen ornaments, made bows from ribbons, and made a popcorn string for a garland. In the eyes of many, it was probably pretty pathetic; but, to me, it was pretty grand! That night we slept on pallets on the floor near the old wood-burning stove in the living room.

Grandma cooked meals on a wood-burning stove and oven; she had that down to a science, as I cannot remember eating tastier home-cooked meals and bakery goods. She also had a kettle in which she heated water over an open fire in the back yard for doing laundry. That kettle was also used for making homemade lye soap. We had to haul water by bucket from a neighbor’s well across the highway. The house had electricity, but no plumbing.

Grandpa had a knack for story-telling. There was the one about the old Spanish explorers hiding treasure chests in a cave in one of the mountains located toward Glen Rose, being guarded “to this day” by hoards of rattlesnakes. Then, there was the one about (Spanish explorers, again!) constructing a pig pen from bars of silver somewhere in the hills. And, (yep, you guessed it) Spanish explorers burying bags of gold among the roots of a walnut tree near Walnut Springs.

There was a general store nearby where we could get candy, while the grandparents where shopping for their goods. There was no television; entertainment was provided by radio programming.

The only family names of nearby residents that I can remember are Parham and Underwood.

In their later years, the grandparents relocated to Stephenville, in a house at 515 South Devine, where they continued to raise a few chickens and grow productive vegetable gardens for cooking and canning. Upon graduation from high school, I wanted to live with my grandparents and attend Tarleton College; but, that did not happen.

The parent and grandparent generations have passed to their rewards, but left me with memories that do not fade.

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