Daily News Telegram (Sulphur Springs, Texas)

April 27, 1937

Early History of Hopkins County
(By J. D. Jones of Little Rock, Ark.)
Six Generations

I shall begin my story with the date of 1777. There is a battle being fought, that is recorded in history as the Battle of Brandywine. A few miles from the scene of batle a woman by the name of Flanagan and her little daughter are standing in the yard anxiously listening to the guns as long as the conflict lasted. That is all I know about them except that they were Irish and that the little girl grew up and married a man named Smith. In the year 1805 she gave birth to a girl they named Nancy Percilla. She had other children but I am just writing about Nancy Percilla Smith.

At the age of nine she was a little beauty. Her mother took her to a picnic one day. A young man noticed the beautiful child and vowed he would not marry until that child grew up, then he would marry her. He went away and did not see her any more for eight years. Then he came back, wooed and won her. They were married in 1822. Then her name was Mrs. Hastings. She had six children. One of her daughters, called Deborah Ann, while working in a hotel in Madison, met a young man, the son of a Methodist preacher named Jones. They married and came to Texas before the war of the rebellion. They reared a large family. After the war they moved north again. The oldest son, whose name was James Wesley Jones, would not stay in the North. H came back to Texas, sowed some wild oats, then settled down and married a fine young woman by the name of Malinda Poff. They had a family of three girls. The oldest girl, called Ada, married Argenbright. The second, named Gabriella, married McCasland. The third married Green. The second girl, now McCasland, reared a family of five children. Her oldest daughter, she called Marie. She grew up in Hopkins County, the county she born in, married a man named Coyle. She is still living in Hopkins County with her husband, three children and a bob-tailed dog.

Nancy Percilla Smith

As you seem to enjoy the stories of your ancestors I will tell you of a little incient that happened to Nancy Percilla. In the other story I began with your grandfather, J. W. Jones' great-grandmother, whose name was Flanagan. She was a little girl then but grew up and married Smith. When the children were small Great-grandfather Smith left home. I think he went to Texas, at that time a part of Mexico. He was gone five years during which time his family did not hear from him. Grandmother Smith had a hard time feeding and clothing the children, but she taught each little pair of hands to work. As they grew up they became able to support themselves very well. Then Grandfather Smith came home.

He did not seem to be getting along as well as his folks,, as he was almost barefooted, while grandmother had a new pair of shoes. Shoes that poor folks wore in those days were made by hand, sometimes at home by the head of the family or by a shoemaker. Both shoes were alike; they were not one for right and one for left, but either shoe could be worn on either foot. They were made from cowhide tanned in the community. They were made with heavy soles and low heels. When a person got a pair of shoes like that they could be made to last indefinitely by keeping them greased with tallow and pegging on new soles from to time. Grandmother had that kind of shoes when Grandpa Smith came home.

He came in and I supposed had supper with them. The children were sent to bed and they talked things over. She gave him to understand that she did not need him as she had managed to take care of the children when they were small and helpless; now she could continue to do so as they were ready and willing to work.

She pulled off her new shoes and left them by the chimney jamb, went to bed and to sleep; left him sitting by the fire. When she got up next morning he was gone, and grandmother's new shoes were gone, too. In their place were his old shoes. Grandmother may have forgiven him for deserting her and the children but she did not ever forgive him for taking her shoes.

Now I will tell you about Nancy Percilla Smith, who was your great-great-grandmother.

Percilla was born in 1805 in Eastern Pennsylvania. I know her mother as a small girl, maybe six or seven, when the Battle of Brandywine was fought in 1777. So she would be about 34 when Percilla was born. I do not know how many children there were.

When Percilla was quite small her father deserted his family and they had a hard time, had to work hard for a living. So it was that Percilla learned in her childhood to do work that should not fall to the lot of a child to do. But work and hardships did not discourage her, or hurt her looks or sour her disposition. She was as lively as a fawn, as busy as a bee and as sweet as the flowers. When she was nine years old her hair was a crown of red gold curls, her eyes bright, in short, she was a little beauty.

Upon one occasion her mother took her to a picnic, where they spent the day. A young man there who worked in a glass factory in Pittsburgh noticed Percilla and she more he saw of ehr the more she appealed to him. Before the day was over he had vowed he would never marry until that little girl was old enough, then he would marry her. Then he went back to his work in the glass mills and waited for the years to go by. He did not see Percilla again for eight years, but he did not forget her. He had her picture with him, not on a card or a tin plate or canvass. It was a moving picture cast on the silver screen of memory.

Percilla worked as all kids had to work in those ays. There is an old rhyme that says : "To spin, to weave, to knit, to sew, Was once a girl's employment; Now to dress and catch a beau Is all she call enjoyment."

Here is another not so old as that one: "Girls had to learn to cook, to sew, And make soft soap or have no beau."

Percilla had learned to do all those things and when she was 16 the young glass blower came courting. They were married in the year 1822 and lived at Pittsburgh, Penn.

Percilla Hastings (for that was her name after she married) was a devout Christian. She read her Bible, believed its teachings, and always tried to obey its commandments. She read in her Bible where it said: "Be fruitful and multiply." She had to obey, so she found time in her busy life to give birth to 13 children. her first baby she named Jane. It died in infancy and she thought her heart would break - "In the damp, cold earth they laid her When autumn cast the leaf, And they wept that one so lovely Should have a life so brief."

In the fullness of life another girl was born to Percella. She called her Jane, in memory of the one that was gone. Jane lived and grew up to be a great comfort to her mother.

Percilla's third child was also a girl. She called her Deborah Ann, who when she grew up became the mother of your grandmother, J. W. Jones.

Percilla Hastings came to Texas. In the year 1836 Arkansas and Texas both became states. The tide of emigration commenced to flow from the states east of the Mississippi River into the great new states that were offering free homes and free range to all. People were selling out and loading their families into wagons along with as much of their possessions as they could haul. Some of the wagons were drawn by horses, some by mules and some by oxen. Some came down the river in boats. It was not until 1850 that Mr. Hastings and his wife, Percilla, sold their possessions in Pittsburgh, Pa., loaded their family on a boat and started down the Ohio River bound for Texas.

Percilla had a brother named Gilbert Smith, at Madison, Indiana. They stopped for some time at Madison. Among the people that met them at the boat was a girl named Agnes Smith, a niece of Percilla and a daughter of Gilbert Smith. When Agnes Smith saw Ann Hastings she said to Percilla: "There is the prettiest girl I ever saw." Percilla was proud of her daughters and she never forgot that remark. She told it to the writer of this story many years afterward. Ann Hastings became my mother in later years. But for this remark I would never have known that Cousin Agnes was there at all. Agnes afterward married a young Dr. Scott and they settled at Black Jack Grove, a little town in Hopkins County, Texas, ten miles west of Sulphur Springs.

May 26, 1937

(Continued from last week)

Along in the midst of those dark days of doubt and fear, Percilla made up her min to get married again. I don't think she got the man she wanted. I think she took him as a substitute just as she took molasses for sugar.

Uncle Billy Chatman must been sixty or else he would have been in the war. He was short and stout and good-natured. Percilla was about the same age. They were both orphans, so did not have to ask anyone's consent. Uncle Billy was sort of a preacher. That is to say he was used as a substitute when there was no regular preacher around. One night after they had been married but a short time they heard a noise in the house. The listened. Uncle Billy said, "It's a rat making that noise." Percilla siad, "It's not a rat, it's a mouse." He said, "I say no, it's a rat."

So they commenced to quarrel and got mad at each other and used words that maybe should not have been used. That was the first quarrel. The next day they were heartily ashamed of themselves an both said so.

Percilla said: "How silly it was of us to lose our tempers over as little a thing as a mouse." Uncle Billy said: "Yes, we were foolish, but it was not a mouse, it was a rat."

The argument started again. It ended in Uncle Billy taking his hat and leaving. They never lived together again.

Afterwards, there came a young preacher - I don't know how long afterward - who told he had stopped on his way and performed the marriage ceremony for a couple in the next neighborhood. The man was called Uncle Billy. When told that Uncle Billy had not been divorced, the preacher, shoe name was Shook, mounted his pony and hastened back to inform the bride and groom. Their marriage was illegal and must not be looked upon as a marriage at all.

Brother Shook must have been their preacher for quite a while. Fannie Short, who was then Fannie Houghton and Percilla's granddaughter, told me recently of an incident connected with Shook's work there. They were getting ready to move. They had a big Bible that contained the family records of births, deaths, etc. They had two smaller Bibles they used in their daily readings and devotions. They had just taken the big Bible down and put on a table to dust off and pack away, when the preacher came. When he saw the Bible laying there he stepped over and wrote his name in the dust on it, saying: "See, you do not read your bible."

Fannie was a young girl then and it hurt her to hear that young preacher rebuke her mother in that way. That happened 70 years ago. Fannie told me about it this summer.

In 1862 another boy was born in Charlie and Ann Jones. They named him Leaner Forbes. Lee, he was called. Also a boy was born to Simon and Jane Bare. they called him George. Later there was born a girl to John and Nancy Houghton. She was named Florence. All were grand-children to Percilla.

Time went on , conditions getting worse. In the winter of 1864 it seemed that the South had exhausted all her resources of men, money and supplies. When Christmas came it was a sad, bleak and baren Yuletide for the South. But in the home of Charlie and Ann Jones there was great rejoicing for Santa Claus had come and left a 12-pound boy, and they called his named John Daniel. When John Daniel opened his eyes on Christmas money, 1864, he looked out on a sin-smitten and war-cursed world, ruined by human greed and made miserable by man's inhumanity to man. It is not my purpose to dwell on the troubles and hardships of the war. From now on I shall refer to Percilla as grandma. She became my grandma on Christmas morning, 1864.

The Jones Family

The first thrilling adventure that happened to me came before I was a year old. Sister Nannie and Kate Bare (Cousin Kate), neither of them more than seven years old, would take me out to play. They went down to the mill one day and played about the mill pond. There was a long plank across the pond at one end where it was narrow. They would run across on the plank. It was fun to run the plank with the baby in her arms. She picked me up and started. When she lost her balance and went headlong into the pond, going under with the baby in her arms. Dad was just inside the mill when he heard the cry and splash. He ran out and pulled us out, nearly dead from strangulation. I was too young to remember all of that but before they quit talking about it I was old enough to remember what they said.

The next great accident that happened to me was when I was learning to walk.

I had pulled up by the door and was standing with my fingers in the door jamb, jusst by the hinge. Watson jones came in and shut the door, mashing the en off my left forefinger. The flesh was mashed off down to the bone and hung by a small piece of skin. Mother stuck it back and bound it up and it grew and knit back. One day when I was down on the floor Watson stepped on it, mashing it off again. Once more mother stuck it back. It knit and healed, but made an ugly finger.

The war ended at last, and the soldiers that had survived were coming home. I think grandma's people who came there from the North were homesick and discourage. Like the Children of Israel longed for the flesh pots of Egypt, they longed for the comforts and luxuries that could be had in the North. They gathered their herds, assembled their wagons and ox teams and started north.

I want you to write the next chapter of our story. You can get information from your grandpa. When the wagon train started north, how many went, who they were, what route they took, how many cattle they took, and what happened to them on the way. Get him to tell you how had came near drowning in a river when he tried to hold to a long chain and it took him under. But you need not try to get him to tell you of a brave deed he did himself for he will tell you it did not matter. I will have to tell you that myself.

They had come to a river they had to ford. The water was wide but not very deep. Men rode across on horses and found there were just a few steps in the middle of the stream where there was swimming water. Oxen are good swimmers, but they cannot swim and pull a wagon, so they put extra teams in front making the team long enough when the leaders were swimming the wheelers would pull, when the wheelers were seimming the leaders would be far enough through the deep water and could pull. ti was Wesley's job to drive the team. He guided them with his voice and whip. They started in all right, the family in the wagon. Wesley was sitting on the front of the wagon talking to the team. They were obeying nicely, altho he could not reach half way to the leaderss with his whip. They went along all right until the lead team reached swimming water. They turned down stream trying to come back, and would not pay any attention to words. If they were not turned at once they would take the whole outfit down into deep water, turn the wagon over and drown all of us. Wesley went into instant action. he leaped from the front of the wagon to the back of the first streer, from there to the back of the next and so on until he met the leaders coming back. Then, standing on the back of a steer he used his whip so vigorously that they were glad to turn back and straighten out and we came safely to shore.

You, in your last letter, quoted the old truism: "Once a man, twice a child." Some say I am in my second childhood. I don't believe they really think it. When I was a little child and would carry in stovewood for mother she would pat me on the had and call me her little man. No one calls me their little man now. When they begin that I will believe I am a child again and shall set a bag of marbles and play with the children.

After all, we are told in Holy writ: "Except you become a little children you shall in no wise enter into the Kingdon of Heaven." I heard a preacher use that as a text one time. As he preached I looked around at the little ones there. They were all asleep. I took his advise and became like them. I expect you will get tired of the Percilla letters before they are all in. There may be lots of childish things, as the two that happened to me. I shall write that happened. You can take it as you like.

Now I am going to tell you a little secret. The first thing they did for me when I came into this world was to change my name. Mother had told Aunt Jane she might name me. She named me Jane before I was bron and made me some dresses. I had to wear the dressed but they changed the name to John. Otherwise I would have to sign my name, Your affectionate Uncle Jane. - J. D. Jones, Little Rock, Ark.