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My Grandmothers

Reprinted from Roses on My Shoulders and Other Memories by Marjorie Bruce Wilkinson. Permission for use granted by Jean Wilkinson Richardson Wales.

Marjorie Bruce Wilkinson

Marjorie Bruce Wilkinson was born 15 May 1911. Her parents, James Arthur Bruce (20 Jul 1878-6 Apr 1944) and Lorena May Nolte Bruce (21 Mar 1883-4 Jan 1906) were married Jan. 4, 1906 in Matagorda, Texas.  James' parents were Charles David Bruce (son of David T. Bruce and Elizabeth Smalley Burnett) and Margaret Jane Yeamans Bruce daughter of Horace Yeamans and Eliza Baxter Yeamans. Lorena's parents were Carl Nolte (son of Joseph Nolte and Christina Berghard Nolte) and Hannah Elizabeth Sterry Nolte (daughter of James Sterry and Nancy Wright Sterling Sterry). (Family histories for these families can be found in Historic Matagorda County, Volume II.) Marjorie was a sixth generation descendant of the first settlers of Matagorda County. Her family moved to Bay City when she was seven years old, and she was educated in the local schools. In 1932 she received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English from Southwest Texas State Teacher's College in San Marcos. After teaching private lessons for a year, she married Walter W. Wilkinson, Jr. in 1933. They were the parents of two daughters, Jean and Helen.

Mrs. Wilkinson devoted herself to her family and the activities of her daughters as they were growing up. She was a life-long Episcopalian, and long-time valued member of the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle. In her later years she began to write these stories of her early memories. After her death in 1989, her daughter Number One, Jean, carried out her wishes by preparing them for publication for her descendants, and as a lasting memorial to her.

I remember Grandma Nolte as the one with whom to have fun. She was a small person with honey blonde hair that never turned gray, and big blue eyes. She had a huge kitchen and pantry and cooked marvelous food on a big black wood stove. Mostly I remember the bread she baked and her delicious "tea cookies."

 Grandma Nolte was always ready for a crabbing expedition. What fun it was to get up just as the sky was deep pink with dawn, and armed with crab net, basket, bait and string, walk to the bay about two blocks form home, go out on the wharf and catch big blue crabs; which we later boiled in a big pot in the yard under her mulberry tree. On these expeditions, she always let me choose one of her many pretty sunbonnets to wear.

Grandma helped me make doll dresses out of the prettiest scraps in her "scrap bag," and she taught me to play dominoes and cards. She took me along when she went to distribute baskets of vegetables to the needy families in town, and she always seemed embarrassed when they thanked her. In the vegetable baskets there were often flour sack "drawers" she had made for the children of the family. I firmly believe she made a stack of "drawers" high enough to walk to heaven on.

Grandma Nolte had eight children, two of whom died in childhood, and she brought up an orphaned nephew and treated him as though he were her own. Wherever she went, children gathered around because she could tell them games to play and most likely would have some of her famous "tea cookies" in her apron pocket.

Grandma Bruce couldn't go crabbing, make doll dresses or cookies, or play with me, but I loved to go to her house. She had a back injury after her second son was born, and the remainder of her life was spent in a wheel chair or on crutches.

What wonders she accomplished from her wheel chair! A devout Christian, she organized a Church and Sunday School of her faith, and was hostess to all visiting ministers who came and went. She played the piano for Church and Sunday School, taught a class and had choir practice in her home weekly. I remember her best sitting in her wheel chair at the piano playing the hymns she loved.

     Grandma Bruce's hair turned "snow white" at an early age, but her blue eyes and lovely complexion made her most attractive. She was the neatest lady I ever saw--always her dresses were freshly starched, and she wore a sheer "pinafore type" apron. When I sat on her lap, she smelled of good soap and cologne. She had a fireplace in her bedroom and a big four poster bed, and in this room she spent most of her time.

She was most interested in my progress in school, especially reading, and she wanted to know what I was learning. When I had a loose tooth she would pull it, and she always reminded me to take good care of my teeth. She died in her sixties without a cavity.

Grandma Bruce's dining room was very big and there was a china cabinet filled with beautiful china and glassware. Her tablecloths were always white and beautifully starched, and sumptuous meals were served by her Negro cook who often stood behind the table with a fly swatter as we ate.

My grandmothers lived only a block apart, and occasionally Grandma Bruce would have someone wheel her over to visit Grandma Nolte. Grandma Nolte admonished all of the family to keep a sharp watch on the gate, which was a considerable distance from the house; so that they could warn her if "Mag" Bruce was coming, in which case she would hastily don a clean gingham dress, because as she said, "Mag Bruce always looked as though she just stepped out of a band box."

I can see them now in my memory having a friendly visit, and I believe I even know what each thought of the other. Grandma Nolte would be thinking how "Mag" Bruce managed to do so much church work from her wheel chair, and her admiration was great. Grandma Bruce would be wondering how in the world Hannah Nolte got all that preserving, cooking, sewing, and cleaning done for such a big family and how every day of her life she found time to give of herself and her abundance to others around her.


Copyright 2005 - Present by Carol Sue Gibbs
All rights reserved

Feb. 16, 2005
Feb. 16, 2005