California or Bust!

Road Trip! – 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

Jere Will Higgs was on the move again. This time, he was moving from Texas to California for a job. It wasn’t going to be a forever move. Just about six months. But too long to leave his son behind this time. So, the whole family was going to take an adventure and make a roadtrip.

Will Higgs, Jere Will Higgs, Lida Cason Higgs

Jere Will had moved before. A number of times. He was born in 1893 in Alma, Crawford County, Arkansas to John William “Will” Higgs and Eliza Johnson “Lida” Cason. From there, his family moved to Van Buren, Arkansas and then to DeQueen, Arkansas. By the time the family was moving to Idabel, McCurtain County, Oklahoma, Jere Will had enrolled at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, Arkansas. He graduated (I think) in 1914 with a degree in Civil Engineering, one of several engineers that this family produced.

Lt. Jere Will Higgs, 334 Field Artillery, U.S. Army

Jere Will took a job with the Kansas City & Southern Railroad in 1914. This certainly put him on the move. When the Great War broke out and the US became engaged, he enlisted in the Field Artillery and went to France. In 1919, he as discharged and returned home to Idabel, Oklahoma.

In 1926, Jere Will married Grace Clowdis. They had a son, Jere Will Higgs, Jr. (called Jere) in August of 1927. Grace died just days afterward, leaving Jere Will with a baby and a job on the road. His mom, Lida Cason Higgs, and his sister, Mary Higgs, pitched in to help. Lida even moved to Dallas to help take care of her grandson.

I am sure that Jere Will felt fortunate to have a steady job as a professional person during the height of the depression. So, when his job was to take him out west visiting some of his company’s plants and then staying in California for a time, I have no reason to believe that he hesitated. But, what about Jere? Well, what if Grandma came, too? And so she did.

Lida Higgs Travel Journal

On April 12, 1933, Jere Will Higgs, his mother Lida Higgs, his son Jere, and Jere’s dog Bob piled into a car pulling a trailer in Dallas, Texas and headed west. Their destination was Bodie, Mono County, California. That’s the middle of mining country. I think Jere Will worked as an engineer in mining and mineral exploration. His brother Morton certainly did. And his cousin Griff C. Lee was world renown as a petroleum engineer.

I can see Lida opening up her little notebook as they got ready to pull out of the driveway and make her first notes in her diary of the trip. She recorded her observations of the trip as they headed out on the road, where they stopped, what kind of places they stayed. That little notebook came down to my mother from her mother, who got it from Jere Will’s (her brother) wife Florence after he had died.

After a good start, things went south pretty quickly:

Apr 12, 1933

Left Dallas 11 A.M. Blow out in trainer 10 miles west of Ft. Worth.  Jere & I stayed with trailer 2 hrs while Jere Will went to Ft. Worth for tires.Good lunch at Ft. Worth.3 miles E of Strawn, trailer came uncoupled.  A complete wreck. Sold new tires & all for $12.00.
Wrecker carried what was not broken of our effects to a tourist camp in Strawn. Repacked to fullest capacity big good box & shipped it.
With great difficulty put rest of suitcases &c in car.  Had to raise
back seat & filled the back of car & made a bed for Jere & Bob on top.  Jere Will much more philosophical than I would have expected.
He had taken great pride in traveling in an empty car.

How frustrating! Many of their possessions destroyed on the first day on the road. Sounds like The Grapes of Wrath from the outset. And as a family historian, I can only selfishly wonder what was lost when the trailer overturned.

Jere Higgs and his dog, Bob

Lida, for the most part, just kept a record of the progress of their travels – where they stopped, what they spent, what sort of places they stayed. But it wasn’t all ledger-faire. I know I might be reluctant to jump into the car with a young boy and his dog for a long trip like this, but …

This first day out Bob proved himself a good traveler. Took the pillow from Jere Will at every chance, barked when he needed to get out a minute and was just as little trouble as a dog could be, but was lots of company for Jere.

And she talked about the people that they met along the way.

Visited Kiser home.  Very interesting collection of mounted animals, birds, &c collected in their hunts. A very happy couple though she looked not more than 25 and he about 70.

And she talked about the fun that they had along the road.

But such a wonderful day – of mountain scenery, gorges, also vast stretches of desert lands.Great variety of cacti  -wonderful roads – stopped at Coolidge Dam, a marvelous structure

Apr 19
Gila Bend to Los Angeles by San Diego, Long Beach mountains & valleys & snow. Wonderful scenery. First view of ocean at San Diego.  Saw part of U.S. Pacific Fleet.  Earthquake ruins at Long Beach very evident.

April 20
Jere Will wanted to take us on world famous cruise to Catalina Island.    Just had time to catch train to Wilmington where we embarked on the Catalina.  A most wonderful day for him & me. First time on ship – town beautiful & picturesque.  Lunch looking at ocean – seafood. Trip around island to see herd of seals. Never to be forgotten.

To round out day in a wildly extravagant way he could not afford, Jere Will took us to dinner at ______ . Everything suggested fishing occupation.  Nets on wall, little light houses for light fixtures – clam chowder served in shells for bowls. Oars for wall decorations, wonderful service.  Women in evening dress.  Wonderful aquarium display at door. Jere could hardly be persuaded to leave.  His Daddy had explored & explained every inch of vessel open to public. U.S. Navy ship in harbor also many others & a day never to be forgotten by Jere & me.

After ten days on the road, Jere Will, Lida, Jere, and Bob reached their destination: Bodie, California. They had stayed in Strawn, Texas, Pecos, Texas, Demming, New Mexico, Geronimo, Arizona, Gila Bend, Arizona, Los Angeles, California, and ultimately arrived in Bodie.

Route from Dallas, TX to Bodie, CA. 12 Apr 1933 – 22 Apr 1933

For six months, Jere Will worked in Bodie. And in September, they turned around and headed back home. This time, by a more northern route. In her ledger this time, Lida spent more time describing their lodging, whether they had water and a stove for her to prepare meals, how far they traveled, and how much it cost.

This time, their travels took them through Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Arkansas, and finally into Oklahoma to visit a bit on the way home. Lida’s daughter, Bettie, was living in Idabel, Oklahoma with her family

Route home from Bodie, CA to Dallas, TX. 25 Sep 1933 – 11 Oct 1933

It was clearly with a sigh of relief that they pulled into Bettie’s driveway that Monday evening, 2 October 1933.

Reached Idabel about 5:30. Words can hardly tell the luxurious felling of seeing & using again the usual utilities & conveniences of life which we take for granted.

And after visiting for a couple of weeks, Jere Will came back up to Idabel from Dallas, collected his mom and his son (and his dog) and headed for home in Dallas.

A six month adventure had come to an end. And as Lida said, it was “never to be forgotten.”


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Author: Scott Dickson

I've been doing family history research since the late 1980s. Almost all of my family came into the southern colonies and worked there way across the South. Lately, I've started to look at my wife's New England, Irish, and French Canadian ancestry. My tree is online at http://wrenacres.com/genealogy.

11 thoughts on “California or Bust!”

  1. It’s so awesome that you have this journal! I have some home movies of some trips of my Grandparents, but no sound, very quick shots of signs sometimes and not many identifiable locations. The way you’re able to track their trip is wonderful!

    Liked by 1 person

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