Reprinted from Roses on My Shoulders and Other Memories by Marjorie
Bruce Wilkinson. Permission for use granted by Jean 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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
Feb. 16, 2005
Feb. 16, 2005