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Showing posts with label Jacksonville. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jacksonville. Show all posts

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Love's Lookout

Love's Lookout, Jacksonville, TexasJoe and I grew up in the same small East Texas town.  Jacksonville is located in Cherokee County surrounded by rolling hills and pine trees. The scenic overlook in the photograph (not mine, one I found online) is called Love's Lookout. The scenic bluff was used for the location of a large ampitheatre formed from  red rock, a WPA project. President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Depression-era Works Progress Administration came to the hill in the 1930s and, using red rock mined from Cherokee County, built a park, picnic grounds and an amphitheater.

The ampitheatre was named to honor Wesley Love who in 1904 bought much of the surrounding area and planted a 600-acre peach farm. After Love's death in 1925, his wife donated 22 acres to the state for a state park. The state, however, failed to create the park and in 1934 the City of Jacksonville purchased an additional 20 acres and developed the two tracts as a city park. That's when the Works Progress Administration began its project.

In the Spring, dogwoods and other spring flowers are in bloom, making the setting even more beautiful. When I was a child, we often drove on the highway between Jacksonville and Tyler because both sets of my grandparents lived in Bullard, about halfway between those towns. Typically, scenes that are so familiar and frequently seen tend to be taken for granted.  Not until you are far away do you remember those sights and realize just how lovely they were.

There is yet another fond connection for our family with this place and its name. In 1982, we bought the home built by John Wesley Love and lived there long enough to research and write its history, receiving a designation for the significance of the home with a State Historical marker. By that time all acreage but the 3 acres where the house was located had been sold (or donated, as the land for Love's lookout is located), but the oaks and magnolias and pines that were there were  lovely reminders. When I did the research for the historical commission I learned that there were earlier connections between our family and the Loves.  My father and uncle once worked in John Wesley Love's peach orchards picking peaches.  Joe's father had done work inside the home as a painter.

When we do go back to Jacksonville, our itinerary usually includes a trip to the Bullard cemetery where so many of my ancestors were laid to rest. The highway is bigger and better, but the sides of the road are still lined with red dirt and pine trees.  There are still remnants of the watermelon colored crepe myrtles which were always full of summertime blooms.  And Love's Lookout still beckons us to stop and look across  a green valley.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Opal and Gertrude

This photograph taken circa 1930 is an image of a friendship that lasted over 80 years! On the right is my mother, Opal Auntionette Terrell, who married my father,  John William Howard Teal, on December 27, 1931. On the left is Gertrude Mae Burks, who married Herod Bickerstaff on December 4, 1931. These two young women "stood up" for each other at their weddings that December in 1931. But they had been standing up for each other for years before that.  They went to church and school together, both graduating from Bullard High School in 1931. They shared  living in big families on farms with no indoor plumbing, drinking water from a dipper stuck in the well bucket,  learning to cook on wood stoves, learning to iron with flat irons heated on those stoves, writing in their diaries, the giggling of girls, and the satisfaction of working hard,. In those days, school text books were hard to come by. They shared those books, which were called "partner books"  I have one of those books with their names and that designation handwritten inside the book.

Through the years Opal and Gertrude remained close friends. They grew up on farms whose acreage backed up to each other.  There was a small creek with a bridge in between. Mother spoke fondly of the times they would plan to meet at that bridge. I am sure Gertrude was at a party Mother went to when she was a teenager. She told how she had such a good time she was late coming home and as she tip toed down the long front hall of their big white house on the hill in Bullard, she kicked a washpan that had been set outside a bedroom door and woke everyone.  Gertrude shined her patent shoes like Mother did, by rubbing a cold biscuit over the toes!


Best friends for so long, and married in the same month, their married lives began as Gertrude and Herod worked a farm in the sandy soil of East Texas, raising watermelons among other crops.  They had 2 sons and  2 daughters. Opal and Howard moved to Tyler where they both worked in Cameron's Cafeteria and where they lived when I was born in 1940, later moving to New Orleans, LA during WW II  Daddy worked in shipyards. When they came back to Texas, both worked in cafes in Jacksonville and later operated and owned cafes where Daddy was well known for being a wonderful cook.  My sister Janice was born in 1946.  When I left home to start college in 1958, Gertrude and Herod's oldest daughter Nona was my first college roommate!

Both were strong women whose faith was apparent in the way they lived life in their communities, raised their families,and served in their churches. Gertrude was an active member of First Baptist Church Bullard.Opal was a longtime member of First Baptist Church Jacksonville. Both were married for over 50 years.  Howard Teal died in 1982. Herod Bickerstaff died in 1987.  So both women were widows for many years.

 Gertrude was born August 30, 1913 lived in Bullard all her life and died in Jacksonville (less than 15 miles away) on April 15, 2002 after a couageous battle with cancer.  Opal was born October 20, 1913, lived all but 2 years of her life within a 15 mile radius of her childhood home, and  finally left her home in Jacksonville when we moved her near us the same year Gertrude died, 2002.  Often in those last few years, she would tell me she was ready to "go Home."  On that night,  September 21, 2006, as I grieved her loss, I smiled through tears and said,

"She is meeting Gertrude at the bridge."

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Easter 2014

In recent years, Lent resolving into Holy Week and Easter has become rich with ritual and remembering for me, but it is always a time of remembering  Easters in the 1940's, when I was a little girl.

  Mother sewed new dresses for my sister and me, which  inevitably wound up being hidden under coats as we made our way to the Sunrise Service held. in our hometown.  This service was early, and happened at a place called Love's Lookout where there was a large ampitheatre formed from  red rock, a WPA project. President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Depression-era Works Progress Administration came to the hill in the 1930s and, using red rock mined from Cherokee County, built a park, picnic grounds and an amphitheater used for these sunrise services, plays and other events.

The scenic bluff which was the location of  the ampitheatre was named to honor Wesley Love who in 1904 bought much of the surrounding area and planted a 600-acre peach farm. After Love's death in 1925, his wife donated 22 acres to the state for a state park. The state, however, failed to create the park and in 1934 the City of Jacksonville purchased an additional 20 acres and developed the two tracts as a city park. That's when the Works Progress Administration began its project.

In the Spring, dogwoods and other spring flowers are in bloom, making the setting even more beautiful.  I remember shivering on the cold hard semicircle of rock on which we sat, but I loved this sunrise service, with its gathering of Christians from many area churches, the joy of singing "Christ Arose" and Alleluia, the feelings of newness and festivity in our Easter clothes, and our family traditions that would follow:  church services at First Baptist Church, Easter Sunday dinner which would included having grandparents at our house or going to theirs.  There was baked ham, potato salad, new potatoes with green beans put up in Mason jars, Jello salads and sometimes Coconut cake or pie - all homemade and delicious.  I can almost smell the vinegar we used for die to color boiled eggs the day before so that we could hide them over and over again on Sunday afternoon.

Today our family includes some version of many of the same traditions as those I loved 70 years ago, but
we have added to these a deeper awareness of the season of Lent, and more intentional observance of Holy Week.  Our church for 22 years now, First Baptist Church in Richmond, Texas is where we gather for services such as one we attended last night, Tenebrae.  The church  has a prayer garden with a small labyrinth where chairs will be set up for a Sonrise service tomorrow morning followed by breakfast with our church family served from dishes made with eggs and sausage made at home and brought as families arrive. There will be an egg hunt for children.  I will sing in the choir and ring with the handbell choir as we express joy and praise with some of the same hymns I sang with my family all those years ago.  Then we come back here to our house with all of our sons and their wives and children who can be here.  That will include our newest granddaughter, sweet Nora Opal, who is exactly one month old and celebrating her very first Easter.

Alleluia.


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Jacksonville, Texas

Jacksonville (population 14,544) sits about 30 miles south of Tyler in East Texas and is surrounded by lush green forests nestled atop rolling hills. Some might find that strange because when I’ve spoken to people who don’t live here and I tell them I’m from Texas, their first comment is, “It’s so flat there.” What they don’t understand is that Texas has a diverse landscape and Jacksonville is one of those places that proves it.
Jacksonville was founded as a result of an Indian massacre. On October 5, 1838, the Killough family migrated to the area from Alabama and was attacked by a group of Cherokee Indians while preparing the land for harvest and building their homes. In total, eighteen were either killed or taken as captives. The few family members who managed to escape walked over 40 miles south, ending up in Alto, Texas and those who were taken as captives were never heard from or ever seen again. General Thomas Rusk brought the Texas Army to the area to search for those who committed the murders and one of his soldiers, Jackson Smith, while scouting along Gum Creek,  found a spot that was so beautiful he vowed to return and make his future home there. He did so nine years later.


 Jacksonville is a city with an exciting and unique history. Its story goes back to 1838, the year of the Killough Massacre, East Texas' worst Indian atrocity. The site of the massacre was about seven miles north of the current location. Eighteen settlers, including women and children, either were killed or carried away, never to be heard from again.

General Thomas J. Rusk brought the Texas Army into this area to search for the renegades who had committed the murders. One of his soldiers, Kentucky native Jackson Smith, was scouting along Gum Creek when he found a spot so beautiful that he vowed to return and make his home there. Nine years later, he did.
Jackson Smith built a house and blacksmith shop along the east bank of of the creek in 1847, setting up a post office at one end of the shop which took the name Gum Creek, after the little community that had grown up there since 1838. Soon after Smith built his shop, Dr. William Jackson built an office next to it. When Smith had a townsite and square surveyed near his home in 1850, Jacksonville, named after the two men, was born, officially replacing the community of Gum Creek in June of that year.
In 1872, the International-Great Northern Railroad was built through Cherokee County, missing Jacksonville by about two miles. Jacksonville inhabitants, aware that the railroad was crucial to the survival of the town, worked out an agreement with railroad officials to survey a new township along the railroad. In the fall of 1872, most of the original Jacksonville was moved the two miles east to its new location.
Within ten years, agriculture became the main focus of the local economy. Jacksonville was a leading center for peach production from the 1880s to 1914; thereafter, tomatoes became the primary crop until the 1950s. During this time, Jacksonville earned the title "Tomato Capital of the World." Livestock has always been -- and to a certain extent still is -- an important part of the economy as well. The production of plastics and polymers led industry from the 1980s through the '90s.
                                                                                                         ****
In 1945, when I was 4 years old my parents saved enough money to pay cash for a small frame house on the corner of Sunset Avenue and Pineda Street, which was my home until I was 17, graduated from Jacksonville High School and went away to college.  Some of the old photographs in this slide show I believe to be prior to 1945, but many were taken during the time that I grew up there.




Friday, January 11, 2013

In recent years, I have seldom put away our Christmas decorations before Epiphany, which has now come and gone.  I even leave a couple of little trees up and add red tissue paper hearts so they become Valentine trees.  This year, I was late getting to the rest of "all things Christmasy".  As I stripped the big tree in our family room, I held each dear old ornament for a second and savored the stories they tell. My camera helped.  We don't limit the tree adorning to things we have bought for that purpose; these items hanging near each other here are a good example.  The glass ball in the center hung on our family tree when I was growing up, so it has graced decades of trees.  Many of those trees stood at the window of the small living room at 1128 Sunset Ave. in Jacksonville, Texas where my parents moved in 1944, and was still in use for many years after I grew up and left home to start my own family.  Daddy died in 1982, shortly after their 50th wedding anniversary.  Mother eventually stopped putting up a big tree and passed some of the tree decorations on to me, so they have traveled far and outlasted any number of trees! This ball and its peers hold dear memories of my childhood and my parents, but it also speaks endurance to me!

On the left is a small torn piece of paper with a tiny handmade Christmas tree.  It arrived one year as a card from dear friends.  I love it perched on a branch as it reminds me of friendship and how much it means to make something for a friend.

On the right, the small cross-stitched banner is my own handwork.  I love the little carolers.  I love more their song.  So, as I go back and forth to the garage with my boxes packed with Christmas heirlooms, they leave behind their message.  Joy to the World, the Lord has come!