The Clock

When my great-grandparents, Sam Scott Wren and Pearl Hudson were married in 1899, Sam’s parents gave them a clock as a wedding present.  It was a Welch kitchen clock, about 24 inches tall and 15 inches across, designed to sit on a shelf.  And it did.  For years and years, it sat in Sam and Pearl’s house, dutifully chiming the hours and the half.  I don’t actually remember it being in their house by the time I came along, but I was not really aware of the details, or at least I was focused on other details.

Dr. Alonzo Dossey Wren (Dr. Wren) and Georgia Frances Vickers came to southwest Arkansas the long way around.  He was born in Putnam County, Georgia in 1841, she in Thomas County, Georgia in 1849.  By the early 1850s, both of their families had migrated to the Minden area in Bienville Parish, Louisiana.  That’s where they were married in 1866, after he returned from the Civil War.  He studied medicine at the University of Louisiana Medical Department, now Tulane University, in New Orleans.  Then the family made its way to southwest Arkansas, Nevada County where they raised their family.

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Dr. Alonzo Dossey Wren and Georgia Frances Vickers Wren
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Millie Cindy Hudson and John Wesley Hudson

Pearl’s family came to Nevada County from the Atlanta area.  Her father was John Wesley Hudson, born in the Atlanta area in 1841, right at the founding of Atlanta, but that’s another story for another day.  Her mother was Millie Lucinda “Cindy” Almand.  Cindy was from the Conyers area in Rockdale County, Georgia where her family had been some of the founding families in the Salem Camp Meeting.  Generations of Almands still meet there every September for a reunion – 2nd Sunday in September at 1:00PM. Bring a dish and you’re more than welcome!  Both of these families had moved into Paulding County, Georgia after the Civil War, but I can’t find any evidence that they knew one another, or that they didn’t.  In any case, there was a large migration from Paulding County, Georgia to Nevada County, Arkansas around 1870.

Sam Scott Wren was born in Nevada County in 1879 and Pearl Hudson was born there in 1884.  They were married in 1899 and her parents wanted to give them a significant gift for their wedding.  So, the clock.  A.D. and Georgia Wren gave the newlyweds a beautiful Welch kitchen clock.

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Sam Scott Wren and Pearl Hudson Wren, daughters Norvelle, Marion, and Mildred, 1906

 

It must have broken at some point.  I don’t remember it in Grannie’s (Pearl Hudson Wren) house.  I do remember that my uncle Keith Johnson refinished it and gave it to Papaw (Hudson Wren, my grandfather) one year.   And I can always remember it in Nannie and Papaw’s house, sitting near the fireplace in the living room.  I remember thinking how loud it was when it ticked and chimed.  But then, it faded into the background and you would have to listen hard to see if it was running.  I remember hearing it chime once in the night and then not knowing if it was 1:00 or 1:30 or what time until the next chime, thirty minutes later.

After my grandparents died, Mom asked me what I would like to have from their house and I said the clock.  I think she was sort of reluctant at first to let me have it, it being so special.  But, she did.  And I have loved it.  It sits in my office and gets wound every Sunday.  Kathleen doesn’t want to wind it but doesn’t want me to forget, so she gets the key out of the clock and sets it on my chair so I never forget to wind it.

Broken FootI have had it worked on a couple of times – cleaning, bushings replaced, a new spring – but it’s the same clock that has kept on ticking since it found its new home with Sam and Pearl in 1899. The last time I had it cleaned, I slipped coming down the stairs and broke my foot, but the clock didn’t get dropped and kept on running. Interestingly, I went ahead and took it to the clock repair place.  I got a call to pick it up the day my foot came out of the cast.

So, if you are on a conference call with me and hear it in the background, and if I am working at home, you probably will hear it, now you know its story.

P.S. Notice the little clay pot to the right of the clock in the front.  My friend Bridget Kelman made these unfired, soft clay pots for our class when she and I led a Disciple III Bible study some years back. It is to remind us of 2 Corinthians 4:7, “But we have this treasure in clay pots so that the awesome power belongs to God and doesn’t come from us.

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That doesn’t look like a quilt to me…

My grandfather, Hudson Wren, had two sisters, Mildred and Norvelle. Norvelle never married and Mildred and her husband, Henry Whitten, never had any children.  The two of them lived across the street from each other from the time that Mildred and Henry were married in 1920.  No doubt there will be much written about these folks as time goes on.  They were pretty special, all of them.

After Mildred died, her furniture and things were put into storage.  She had a beautiful, small cedar chest that I thought would look nice in my apartment.  Mom said that if it was okay with Norvelle, I could have it, but that she wanted the quilts that were in it.

So, the next time I was in Prescott (Nevada County, Arkansas), Norvelle and I set about cleaning out the cedar chest.  There were some beautiful quilts in it that I think I eventually ended up with, anyway.  But, we set them aside that day for Mom.

At the bottom of the chest, we found an envelope with a little note that said “Merry Christmas, 1921” from Henry’s mother (Mildred’s mother-in-law), Christine Holston Whitten.  In the envelope, we found this 1881 $5 gold piece!

Norvelle looked at me and said “That doesn’t look like a quilt to me.  Put it in your pocket.”  So, I did.  And I still have it!

When Halley Came to DeQueen

I’m on a flight from Atlanta to Seattle and then on to Anchorage for a few days of customer visits.  I got to wondering if I could see the Northern Lights while I am there.  Maybe.  If I get up in the middle of the night and it’s clear, the forecast is good for this week.

That reminded me of the time that Aunt Bettie told me about seeing Halley’s Comet.  Bettie Higgs Finney was born in 1903 in DeQueen, Sevier County, Arkansas.  She was my grandmother, Mary Higgs Wren’s, older sister.  Aunt Bettie was one of the most cheerful people I have ever met.  No matter what her circumstance, and they were not always happy times, she would quote from Psalm 103:2.  Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.  After losing her husband, after losing her son, after having a stroke, still Bless the Lord, O my soul.

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Bettie Higgs Finney, 1989

The picture at the top of this post is Bettie.  I never would have known when I found this picture who it was, if not for the fact that Aunt Bettie told me about having her picture made as a little girl in a pretty new dress, holding it out to the side.

One time, she and we were all at my grandmother’s house in Wilson, Arkansas (the one at on the banner of this blog).  It was in 1986, when Halley’s Comet was passing near the earth. After supper, we were sitting around the table in the dining room, like we always did and the topic of the comet came up. Aunt Bettie told me about the when she saw Halley’s Comet for the first time when it came by in 1910 with her father.

Bettie and Mary, along with their parents Will and Nan Higgs, their sister Lida, and brothers Morton and Jere Will, lived in DeQueen, Arkansas.  Like I said, Bettie was born there, as was Mary.  The other kids were born around Arkansas as their father Will moved from newspaper to newspaper.  He worked at and ran a number of newspapers around Arkansas and then Oklahoma.  More about the newspaper business and the rest of the family another day.

Halley came closest and was most visible in April 1910.  Just a few weeks after standing outside in the starlit night, watching the comet with Bettie, Will took a job with a   newspaper in Idabel, Oklahoma.  He started work there in May 1910 but the rest of the family didn’t move there until September 1913.  During that time, they commuted back and forth the 40 miles between the two to visit.  Either Nannie or Aunt Bettie told me that he felt like Idabel was just a little to rough around the edges for three young girls in 1910, Oklahoma only having become a state a few years previous.

I wonder if Will knew he was about to be separated from his family when he stood out in the night air with Bettie.

Anyway, years later, Mary Chapin Carpenter wrote a song called When Halley Came to Jackson (you can find it here on YouTube).  Every time I hear that song, it takes me back to the dining room, sitting around the table with Aunt Bettie and Nannie in Wilson that night.  In the song, a father holds his little daughter and watches the comet in 1910.  He makes a wish that night that she will see Halley again.  And “in 1986 that wish came round.” Just like Bettie and Will on that DeQueen night.

I wrote  a letter to MCC to tell her the story of Aunt Bettie.  Only time I’ve ever written to a performer.  And you know what?  I got a really nice, handwritten letter in reply.  A special story about a special lady.

Find a Penny, Pick It Up

My grandfather, Henry Hudson Wren (everyone always called him Hudson, or Mr. Wren), found this penny on his family farm when he was young.  As devoted to his children and grandchildren as he was, Mom tells me that this was a thing he kept for himself and never offered to give to any of them.  After he died, Mom gave it to me.

I am sure that I will spend a lot of time on my grandfather here, but here are the basics.  Hudson was born in 1906 and grew up in Prescott, Nevada County, Arkansas.  He played football for the Prescott Curly Wolves in high school and lettered for three years at the University of Arkansas in the 1920s.  He studied agriculture and went on to be a very successful farmer and leader in northeast Arkansas.

The family farm was on the site of the Battle of Prairie DeAnn, also called the Battle of Moscow Church.  Since the family moved there in around a little before 1920, there were still plenty of artifacts of the skirmish to be found.  My brother has a cannon shell.  My mother has a cannon ball.  And I have a sword that was plowed up on the farm.

Papaw found this penny there when he was a teenager.  It’s not a valuable coin.  It’s beat-up from being in a battle and then in the ground for sixty years.  It’s worn smooth from years in a pocket.  You can’t even tell what year it was minted.  But, it was a special thing to Hudson and he kept it his whole life.  Now, I have it in the little box that he kept it in, wrapped in a little piece of one of his handkerchiefs that he used for it.  And that’s special.

Approved Alternate Uses

This is my great-grandmother Viola Tennison Bailey‘s butter paddle.  Rather than use a churn, she made butter in a big, wooden bowl.  I’m not sure where the bowl is.  I never had it.  Perhaps Dad does.  In any case, using this, Great-grandmother would turn and turn and turn and whip and whip and whip the cream until the butter came together and rose to the top.  Sounds like a lot of work to me!

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Viola Tennison Bailey

 

My grandmother, Susan Louise Bailey Dickson, told me that there were some  approved alternate uses for the butter paddle as well and that it got pretty regular use across the family.

Susan was the youngest of ten children born to Viola and Charles Council Bailey.  Viola and Charles were married in 1895 and lived most of their lives in Hackett, Sebastian County, Arkansas.  They had their first son, Carl Everett Bailey, in 1896.  I’ll talk more about them and  him in later blogs; there’s lots to tell there.  By the time Susan was born in 1919, Viola had been raising children for twenty-five years – eight boys and two girls.  Her oldest had already gone off to war, come back, and died.  Two more sons had died as children or infants.  Not too long after Susan was born, her older sister started having kids of her own.  Some of those kids where quite the characters and I am sure got into all kinds of trouble.  bailey-0200-f-v01.jpg

That’s where the butter paddle comes in.

Grandmother told me that her mom used it not only to make the family butter but also used it on some family butts!  She said that this was one of her preferred discipline tools. Now, seeing this angelic child, can you ever imagine her being in any sort of mischief or needing to be disciplined in any way at all?  Hard to imagine!

This is one of the classic pictures of my grandmother, Susan Louise Bailey Dickson, along with her cow, Blossom.  It’s not often that you see a dirtier child than this.  But out of that dirt grew one of the finest women I have ever met.  She and Granddad were married for sixty-six years and every bit as smitten with each other when they died as when they met.  But, that’s a story for another day.

I laugh every time I see this

Kathleen’s grandmother, Alma Ross Boyle was quite the character.  I never knew her really well since she died not too long after we married, but I always enjoyed being around her.boyle-0050-f-v00-AlmaBowling-2.JPG  Alma was born Alma Beatrice Ross in 1905 in Brockton, Mass.  She had two older sisters, Edna and Rotha.  I get the impression that the three of them were all full of spunk.  I’ll go into their genealogy another day.  But I wanted to share these two pictures today.

One thing I remember about Alma is that she loved to bowl.  She would drive to the bowling alley and play candlepins every week.  After she could no longer drive, she tried to walk to the bowling alley for a few weeks before the folks in her apartment building made her use the shuttle.  Alma died in 2001 at 96 years old, after fainting at the bowling alley.  Of course.

But, what I really laugh at is the picture of Alma, Edna, Rotha, and all of their friends in their bloomers and underclothes and “unmentionables” out behind the school.  What in the world are they up to!  This would have been maybe 1920.  The era of the flapper and all, I guess.  I have never figured it out.  And who took the picture?  Did their parents find out about it?  What did they think?  I am sure that we will never know.  Alma, Rotha, and Edna are all gone and I am pretty sure that they never told their kids about that afternoon behind the school house.  Shame.

 

What the heck is this?

Sometimes the things you inherit from your ancestors are not only photos and letters and documents.  Sometimes you get pieces of them!

Charles Council Bailey, my great-grandfather, was born in 1868 in Hackett, Sebastian County, Arkansas, on a farm his grandparents had purchased in 1840 (more about that another time).

Charlie Bailey worked the farm, worked as a carpenter framing houses, and in his spare time wrote and collected songs by the dozens.  I have stacks and stacks of songs that he wrote out on notebook paper.  I’m still working to figure out which ones he copied and which ones he wrote.

In September, 1895, he married Viola Tennison in Le Flore County, Indian Territories (now Oklahoma).  Charlie and Viola had ten children, starting with Carl Everett Bailey in 1896 and ending my with my grandmother, Susan Louise Bailey in 1919.

Along the way, Charlie must have had some dental issues and got a tooth fitted.  After he died, and after Viola died, his small trunk with many of his prized possessions ended up with my cousin, Michael Bailey, who gave it to me.  In addition to photos, songs, and the like, in it were several pairs of glasses and this – the tooth.  I can only assume that it belonged to him and not someone else.

Charles died in 1935 and was buried in the Vinita Cemetery in Hackett, on land that his family had donated may years before for that purpose.

So now, on my shelf with my grandparents watches and great-grandparents clock and photos and the like is a tooth.  But, without this story, who would know that it was an ancestor’s story and not just some weird collection on my shelf!