In Memory of Lee Franklin Pearson, My Dad
by Estalee Pearson Knight (Mrs. Harvey Dell Knight) Rt. 4, Box 52 Brownfield, Texas 79316.
Today, 09 Dec 1991, I am to begin the story that has burned deep into my soul for 30 years. My dad, Lee Franklin Pearson would have been 89 years old yesterday. He passed away June 8, 1961. He has been gone 30 years. I must honor my father by giving to my children this report before it is too late. My dad, Lee, lived his whole life in Swisher county. He lived within 4 miles of where he was born in a 1/2 dugout most of his life. With this very humble beginning he lived to see a man fly across the ocean in hours and he really believed man would make it to the moon.
Even though this story is going to be about my dad I want to begin the Pearson story much earlier for my children's sake. I will tell them as much of their heritage as I can. The one fear I had about writing this story is that I really believe in making it as factually correct as possible. All my life I have searched for facts and dates. I am more aware than anyone how little I know because this is a mission that is very large.
Some things may be legend. I have tried to authenticate by reading many books and records. I've decided to write the story in order, perhaps more like fiction. But I plan to insert family genealogy, probably with family trees. I lived my whole life 3 miles from Grandma Pearson. Many things will be from Grandma.
Our great grandfather was the son, Benjamin Franklin Pearson. The family migrated to Tennessee territory and lived there. Jesse A. and Mary are buried in Cherokee country in Tennessee. During the war of states, Ben went back to fight with his father and brothers. I have heard one brother was killed in this conflict. I found my information on Jesse and Mary in the West Virginia census book at Mayhorn Library in Lubbock, Texas.
My very fist clue was given to me by grandma Nora (Will Pearson's wife). She was very adamant that they were not farmers, that grandpa was a woodsman and the Pearson family had come by way of the Cumberland mountains on the Cumberland trail She always assured me where you found the Pearsons you found Parkers. She expressed herself strongly about Fess Parker and Daniel Boone going off and leaving their families. However, she always assured me they were not farmers; they were "Pioneers." I hope this story can adequately express what she meant.
Benjamin Franklin Pearson married Rebecca Elizabeth Susan Thompson, a Cherokee Indian maiden. On the announcement that the U.S. had ordered the Cherokees to leave Tennessee Cherokee Nations, Ben and Becky moved with their two older children, Hettie and Ben, to Quitman, Arkansas. They came two years before the "Trail of Tears." I went to Cherokee, Tennessee and many, many Indians are the descendants of Major John Thompson, who was an early English red-coat officer in the Tennessee Cherokee Reservations. The Cherokee Indians had plantations, schools, churches and were very civilized. Ben and Becky had a large family.
Their children were raised in Arkansas. Ben was gone to war in Tennessee and Becky and her mother stayed in Quitman with the family. Becky's father was named Sedrick Henderson Thompson. Her mother
. I understand when the time came for Oklahoma to divide land to the Indians, Becky would not sign because she wasn't going to have her family live in that heathen country. Edna and Lee were eligible for landatage 15. When Ben returned from the war the story was told Grandma Thompson sat on the porch with a large carbuncle boil on her big toe. She wasn't able to walk on it, however, when she saw Ben walking way down the lane, she recognized him, screamed, jumped over the porch railing, and ran to meet him. She burst the boil and it healed right up.
Ben had written Becky and told her to take all the confederate money and buy donkeys, chickens, cows, hogs or goats because the war would be over and the money would be no good. She did this. In 1959, at Christmas-time, I visited grandma Nora. She let me and Billie Pearson, my sister-in-law, read this crumpled, yellow letter that she had kept for years. I've wished many times I would have asked her for the letter. But, I was taught not ask for things. I am so thankful Grandma insisted I read it aloud to her.
I understand from another letter of history that Ben and Becky did well in Arkansas. They lived there until Ben was 52 years old. Most of his children were married when he came to Texas. Quitman, Arkansas had a high school and college. The pioneers carved into the wooded, beautiful area a far, churches, schools and towns. In 1989 we went to Quitman and saw the old college building where Will and Jess attended and graduated. I have a copy of grandpa Will's report card. It was given to me in Aunt Velma's things by Uncle Lather Harris.
Benjamin and Becky came to Texas with their entire family about 1889.
My grandfather William Lee Pearson, at age 19, and his brother, Jesse Henderson Pearson, age 21 came to Texas on horseback. They had heard about land in Texas. When they arrived in Tulia there were very few families there. They wanted men with families and buggies to build the territory. Uncle Jess and grandpa worked as cowboys on the J.A. Ranch for several years. When it came time to file on land they built a half dugout on two claims. Part of the dugout was on Jesse's claim and part on Will's claim. They lived together, ranched and farmed. In the winter it was told to me that they would go down around Dallas and Sherman to work in the winter to make some money for paying their payments on the land. They also improved their places by cutting and hauling cedar post out of the canyon to fence their land. Their dugout was on the old Clawson place. It was a part of the J.A. Ranch that spread toward Tulia. This place is located 2 1/2 miles south and 1/2 mile east and 1/4 mile south of the SW corner of Lee and Wayne's farm, the homeplace in Salem Community. The dugout was considered in Valley View Community. It was across the Vigo highway.
Uncle Jess taught school at Pleasant, later named Salem. Will's oldest daughter, later, also taught school at Salem, Edna Pearson McAdams. Jess and Will worked, ranched and farmed for 10 years on their land.
As young men, Jess and Will went back to Arkansas and convinced their father, brothers-in-law, and brothers to move to Swisher County Texas. The entire family came. At age six in 1908, my dad, Lee Franklin Pearson, rode the saddle behind his father. The Pearsons had nine sections of grass under one fence.
The Pearson land was along the Vigo highway. The Ben Pearson Place, my great grandpaw, was later the Parker place, farmed for many years by Mr. Record. It was about 12 miles out on the north side of the road. Brett's land was west of that. Will's was north and northwest, and Jesse's was south of the road. Will traded his original claim and bought two sections of land. One half section of it is what Lee and Wayne have called their homeplace. Grandpa Will bought this 1/2 section from his brother-in-law, Bob Jasper for a wagon and team. Uncle Bob was married to Ida Elkins, Grandma Nora's sister. Uncle Bob and Ida didn't like farming. He moved to downtown Lubbock and raised mules until the city moved him out in the early 50's. He continued to be a pioneer. he lived in a covered wagon and worked on the railroad tracks and repaired the tracks replacing crossties. Aunt Ida went blind and they still traversed the tracks and camped out in a covered wagon. The city moved Uncle Bob out of Lubbock to 40 acres where the Lubbock cotton oil mill is today.
Grandpa Will made a good buy. He built a new two room house on the land, box and strips. The outside was wood and so was the inside. Today that would be called a shelter. I think the new house was built because the oldest daughter, Edna and Wallace lived there and the original shack burned. The one time I really remember my grandpa when he was able to work is they came over and dug a dugout for food storage and an extra bedroom.
Grandpa had a ruddy complexion, blue eyes and a red beard and mustache. His hair was darker auburn. He was shy and teased a lot. He built shoes on a shoe last. I remember him driving shoe nails with a funny little hammer. If your shoes hurt he would fix them. I also remember him whittling whistles and toys. He loved sitting in the sun on the east side of the house.
Grandpa and Grandma, Will and Nora (Elkins) married when he was 29 and grandma was 19. Grandma always called her husband Mr. Pearson. I suppose to her he was just that. Because when I married, at age 18, and Harvey was 18, she said "Why, Estalee wend down there and married a 'kid of a boy.'" She probably knew much more than I gave her credit for. I know now.
Will and Nora moved to big pasture to help build New Hope Community. There were no churches, schools, doctors, preachers and a very new town 18 miles away across pastures by way of ruts and gates. Every one had fenced their places and the ruts wound around lakes and made their way from one corner of the place to the opposite corner.
They were very origianl in one case - New Hope school was built on skids. They moved the building to where the most children were. The hoseback preacher came from the canyons over by Claude. They even had preachers that walked. Each home had its own congregation. Later they began having church in the school houses. Grandpa Pearson was a Methodist. Grandma Nora was a Baptist. It didn't matter, thay all went to the same schoolhouse church. Later Valley View built a bigger school and the family had a buggy to send the kids further to school.
Grandma's oldest brother, Charlie Elkins, early cowboy, had three sons killed by riding a skittish Indian pony to school. He would run fast and step in gopher holes, groundhog or rattle snake holes. The pastures were not always safe. The plow got many animals. Mules would chase the ponies to the corners and it would be hard to get thru the gates.
The families were large but many children and women died. In 1924 there was a plaque. Many people died with the flu. It left orphans and peopld took in children to raise as their own. Many a man died young with typhoid fever, probably dirty or impure water. People, houses, and other animals drank from springs, creeks, and lakes.
Nora and Will had a most unusual famous family.
(1) Edna Mae Pearson, born in 1900 married Wallace McAdams (2) Lee Franklin Pearson, born in 1902 married Carrie Ruby Townsend (3) Velma Ora (twin) Pearson born in 1906 married Lather Harris (4) Thelma Nora (twin) Pearson born in 1906 married Ward Saunders Townsend, then Herman Larson. (5) William Hardie (triplet) Pearson born in 1911 did not marry (6) Wilmer Ardie (triplet) Pearson born in 1911 married Evelyn Evans (7) Winnie Arney (triplet) Pearson born in 1911married Sam Bryan (8) Ethel Pearson born in 1915 married Charlie Clark
My dad, Lee, said he was nine years old before he could straighten up from a diaper tub. His brothers and sisters were twins and triplets - all within just a few years. Grandpa Will was a lot Indian. Most people would tell you what a fine man he was. He loved his kids and picked, teased, and played with them, but Grandma had to be the one to make them mind. I now realize she didn't have a chance by the time she nursed them all, sewed, cleaned and disciplined.
Grandpa Will would be gone on long trips for supplies. Before the railroad, they freighted supplies from Big Springs or Colorado City. Grandpa hauled all the lumber to build their big house from Big Springs, Texas.
Grandma's brothers were freighters; Uncle Hosea, Uncle Doug and Uncle Charlie.
Grandpa Will Pearson died when I was six years old. He had been sick for about three years. His health had failed because of polycystic dialysis. It was in his Pearson family. Will was 61 when he died. Daddy and Mother helped him with the land as he had many mules; and, to plow with mules was long hard working days. He had been quite wealthy for his day. He raised, broke and sold big mules. I remember one Sunday afternoon the grandkids watched as daddy and my uncles and friends would fix big loaded wagons and hook the young mules and horses to the weighted wagons and go out across the plowed field to break the teams to drive and work. I stood on the tall fences to watch my daddy, hoping he wouldn't get hurt breaking teams or broncs. The families had their own rodeos on Sunday afternoons.
The windmill pumped water in the water barrel, it then ran into a wooden milk trough built with three two by twelve's nailed together on three sides with ends in it. Sometimes they were four to six feet long. Milk, butter, cottage cheese was kept in crock jars in the milk trough. Then the water ran through the pipe to the horse tank in the horse lot. The water bucket was always filled and carried in before dinner because the men would wash on the back stoop or porch. Grandpa had this big room about twelve by twelve just for barrels of flour, cans of lard and cans of coffee. This room had a dirt floor so it would stay cooler. I remember the bacon in salt barrels and rat traps in the pantry. There were no windows in that room because of trying to keep it cool.
Grandma Nora had the first sink. Uncle Ardie welded some tin and made a trough and drain board and the water ran out a pipe through a hole in the wall into the back yard. Grandma had a huge black wood stove in the middle of the kitchen and always had bread rising for biscuits or rolls. She had one end always full of boiling water. We really had to look for cow chips for kindling.
Grandma had a Model-T truck. I remember us going by and getting the truck and going to Amarillo Christmas shopping. Daddy got mom a set of colored glass dishes and mother was so proud. Coming home we went through rain and mud holes, there wasn't a highway to Amarillo and there were bad roads. The dishes were broke when we got home and mother cried. I was about seven.
Times got better in the 40's and grandma Pearson got an irrigation well. Some crops were grown. Uncle Jim and Uncle Ardie bought a new John Deere Poppin Johnny. It had a wheel on it to crank it. That was why I could drive it because I couldn't crank it. Daddy always had a McCormick Deering or a Fordson.
I remember on the day Uncle Ardie married. He and Aunt Evelyn came to cheveree. I was about twelve. They were ducking Uncle Ardie in the water and someone grabbed Uncle Jim and threw him in, clothes and all. They wouldn't let him out of the tank for a long time.
At Christmas time we all gathered at grandpa and grandma's house. The gifts were pocket combs, powder puffs, socks, ties and sometime a shirt. The kids got little cupid dolls like five in a box about 1 1/2 or 2 inches high. Sometimes, stuffed homemade animals out of an old coat or something. Grandma cooked a fresh turkey. It was a big deal to feed and fatten the big turkey tom for Thanksgiving and Christmas. For weeks before Christmas we feed grain to the 4 or 5 turkeys in the pen. Everyone raised their own. When it came time for a Christmas tree, we went to the canyons about a week before and got us a tree and grandma a tree. We looked for the greenest, best-shaped one.
I made the remark to Mrs. Doughty one time about Grandma Pearson being old and slow. Mrs. Sally Doughty gave me to understand right there what a beautiful woman my grandmother had always been. I began to see grandma in a much better light after Mrs. Doughty got through with me.
When grandpa died in 1934 I think the "trips" were about 24 years old. Uncle Ardie cooked and helped grandma in the house. He could make the prettiest white cake with white mountain icing. Grandma was a real short, thick-built Welshman. Her whole family had short, fat, legs and big arms, round, narrow shoulders and thick thighs. I knew dozens of them and they had the same short stocky build. I never knew a tall Elkins.
Lee Franklin Pearson was born in a 1/2 dugout , 8 Dec 1902 on the original homestead. His sister, Edna was two years old. Grandma never complained about living in the dugout. I asked her about in one time and she said you do what you have to do when you're Pioneers. I truly believe this clan of people were gifted by God to claim this prairie for Him. They came to give their children a chance and the children worked and helped produce.
Lee had a deep desire to farm the land at an early age. He sat behind mules to plow and plant and cultivate. The Pearsons bought a tractor for wheat harvest and they hired thrashers and worked with neighbors to cut, haul, shock and thrash their crops for grain and feed.
Lee was very small when he was born. They felt he would never live, however, grandma nursed him. The doctor told grandma he would be weak. At age 17, he weighed 115 lb. He was never really strong but that didn't keep him from working hard. When he worked it was like fighting fire. Lee did not finish high school at Tulia. He came home to help grandpa farm. Later, he went to Wayland College one year, 1924, and finished high school and one semester of college.
Lee always enjoyed summer harvest. The wheat had been good in the early farming years. In the summers, families came from Arkansas and Oklahoma to help work.
Lee married Carrie Ruby Townsend, 24 Jul 1926. Dad was 24 and mother was 22. They had been engaged for 2 years, but because of family situations they waited. Both families needed them at home.
Lee and Carrie moved into a two-room shack on the Will Hamblin place eight miles east of Happy. The first year they had a beautiful wheat crop and the hail wiped it out. In 1928, Estalee was born and that year they made a fair crop.
In 1929, Lee had a young boy by the name of Bo Stevens working for him. Lee, Carrie and Estalee went to Happy to get a plow part. When they returned Bo had slung his leg over the fender, caught his pants leg in the lugs of the harpar tractor. It caught and pulled him under the lugs and under the one-way. The tractor had gone round and round in a circle and pulled Bo under the one-way. This incident had a profound affect on Lee and Carrie. Lee, Carrie and a neighbor, Mr. Joe B. Tibbets went to Happy, bought a lot and buried him. All through the years we never heard a word from the family. Lee wrote letters to his address but never received an answer.
The next year Wayne was born in October. Lee and Carrie moved to the Will Pearson place in January 1930. Lee and Carrie were very active in community affairs at Salem; quilting, home demonstration club, and mattress making. Lee loved to play baseball. The men of the community at Salem usually played after school on Friday. The neighbors were the Doughty, Grables, Laytens, McCaslins, Coxs, Knowls, Lorings, and Lowes.
Carrie's parents came from Georgia in 1924. They lived on the Ben Wyman place when Lee and Carrie met. Lee always said that was the most beautiful red-head he had ever seen. When the Townsends arrived Lee met them and opened the gate. Carrie was driving a covered wagon and Will Townsend and Millie were driving the other covered wagon. Willie, Robert, Bill, Beaulah and Carrie had driven from Gomez, Texas. Ward Townsend was always at the Wyman place as he had rented the land for his dad. Ward Townsend later married Lee's sister, Thelma Pearson. They had three daughters, Hazel, Elwanda, and Juanita Townsend.
When Wayne was one year old, Millie, Willie, Wick and Robert went back to Georgia. They lived in Texas seven years. Carrie never saw her father again.
Lee and Carrie worked hard on the farm, raised their children at Salem and Union Hill. Lee and Carrie were Baptist. Bro. John Scott, the pastor of First Baptist in Tulia had married them after Sunday School on Sunday morning, 24 Jul 1926. John Scott was a long time friend. Another one of their preacher, long-time, friends was Newt Daniels. When the Methodist came to collect money for the Methodist they came to our house too. K.J. and Myrlte McCaslin were my parents friends. When we were little I remember asking Daddy one time who is your best friend. After a long while daddy said, I guess I'd have to choose Kenny to swim the river with. Right here, I want to dearly honor and thank my parents Lee and Carrie Pearson. I watched my mom and dad work hard to preserve the land, peace, joy, honesty, truth and everything in which they believed. Many times, only God knows, the heartache of lost crops, sickness, hope, courage, trust, love and their deep believe in God, themselves and their fellowman. Dad was a people person. He loved visiting, teasing, laughter, games and Christmas. He would always spend his last dime on one more family at Christmas, whether it was family or not. If there was a need my dad and mom loved others. All through my life, my dad and mom had friends of all ages. It's a shame we have lost the appreciation for our neighbors next door. I remember well how daddy saw to it Mrs. Doughty got to town to get groceries each Saturday. Sometimes Mrs. Doughty, with much pride, walked 2 1/2 miles to the highway and caught a ride with someone else. Everyone went to town on Saturday to buy feed for chickens, groceries, maybe a new dress or new shoes if we worked hard and had enough extra from milk , eggs, and cream. Daddy used to say he could walk one block in Tulia on Saturday and meet seven cousins.
We got up early every morning. When I was 12 to 16 we milked seventeen cows night and morning. Then we'd hurry to get to the ballgames to play ball. Mom and dad always went to all the school activities.
When dad got older, about 40, he started work on his lodge work. He was 32 Mason and a Master Mason. He loved the study of helping his fellowman. Dad was honest, true and trustworthy. When there were family problems he would go to his brothers and sisters and see that things worked out in love. My dad and mom, both, loved the Lord with all their hearts. God allowed them to start Salem Baptist Church and become friends to many missionaries and preachers. I am sure I'm living up prayers my parents prayed for me and sometimes God lets me know it too.
Grandma Townsend came to live with us in 1942 when grandpa Townsend died. Daddy was always kind and considerate of "Mrs. Townsend." I never heard him call her by her first name.
Mom knew dad was sickly and she worked hard beside him. He was a stocky, short man like the Elkins. But, he had the disease of his father, polycystic kidneys. Nearly all his brothers and sisters had it. One day, in 1956, Dr. Glenn Robinson at Happy told Wayne, "Wayne, your dad cannot live long. His body is deteriorating fast. Maybe three years."
Dad left the farm when he developed diabetes in 1957. He moved to Tulia and decided he needed a job. His friends asked him to run for the Justice of Peace for Swisher County. He took the job of electioneering. He won the election and loved it. He died while he was still holding office. My dad was a fighter. He fought to hold the land, loved his God, loved his family, and served the people.
Beside every good man is a good women. Most of my grandchildren knew my precious mom. She loved her husband(s), her God, her children and she had the courage to fight for all. She was truly a lovely lady and my best friend.
I miss daddy and mother so much, but I never have to wonder what kind of advice I would get. I can go straight to God's word and the answer is there for me. Truly, God never leaves us alone. It was nothing I did to receive this bountiful blessing of being born to Christian parents.
Grandma Millie Townsend was a doll. I slept with here every night and all those questions I had she answered. I remember asking her "Grandma, how can you go to bed and not worry about Uncle Wick, Uncle Robert, and Uncle Ward?" She said, "I just always turn them over to God and he keeps them." I truly love her for that because she was the mother of nine children. Her tried and true recipe never fails.
Grandma Townsend went back to George about 1958. She lived with Aunt Ethel Whitmire. She went to the clothes line and had a sharp pain as she reached up. They rushed her to the hospital. Aunt Ethel and the girls stayed with her. She told them she slept so good. She had a wonderful dream. She had seen Carrie and Lee, Harvey and Estalee, Shere and Carla and that sweet red-head baby Dell, Wayne and Billie and all the boys. She felt real good. They stepped to the door and came back to the bed. Grandma had gone to Glory.
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