Amma Spence married John Hill, a railroad telegrapher. Amma's first child, Nell, was born in Tulia on March 3, 1912. The Swisher County courthouse later burned down, making it difficult for Nell to get her birth certificate. Amma and John Hill later divorced. When Amma married Ronald DeFord, Amma's sister Jane (and possibly Lynn) lived with the Defords for a period of time, either in New Mexico or Midland, Texas.
AMMA by Ronald K. DeFord (provided by letter to Lynn Ehly from Betty Wilke Cox)
Mary Amma Spence was born on St. Patrick's Day, 1893, in Quitman, Arkansas, but she came to Texas in a covered wagon at the age of two. She was always known as Amma. She and her husband liked that name, although bureaucrats and typists insisted that it must be Anna. A previous Newsletter called her Alma.
The family first lived in a dugout, half below ground, half above, on the High Plains in Swisher County a few miles from Tulia. The plains were swept by a prairie fire, which claimed the life of a baby brother. Maurice Ewing and Amma, both from the High Plains, used to claim they were cousins. During a GSA meeting on a trip to Lamont Geophysical Center, he claimed her from the bus saying, "Come quick, I've got a big quake going on the seismograph just for you." At another meeting in San Francisco she met him by chance in a hallway; he lifted her off the floor, embracing her, and cracking some ribs.
Amma met Ronald DeFord in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1920. In the thirties and forties they lived in Midland, Texas. She traveled in Fennoscandia and the Soviet Union in 1936 and she and Ronald attended the International Geological Congress in the USSR in 1937. They traveled 10,000 miles on field excursions and were on many outcrops. She attended many West Texas Geological Society field trips during her years in Midland. Women were hardly welcome on trips in those days, but she was. Wives sat in the cars and griped about the dust and heat; Amma went to the outcrop and listened to the discussions.
Amma and Ronald came to the University in September 1948. Beginning in 1949 she went to the field every summer with the graduate students, living in Kent, Toyah, Van Horn, and Fort Davis. In 1954 at Hot Springs near Candelaria, she drove 7 miles once a week to Ruidosa to get the mail and ice that came from Marfa down Pinto Canyon by truck. There was no gas, electricity, or telephone ---- but, hot running water. In 195-? it was among the Mormons in northeastern Arizona. In 1956, it was a house at the end of the Porvenir mail route; the water was hauled 55 miles from Valentine; the afternoon temperature reached 115f The students remember her well.
Amma was a gallant lady. She died in Austin on the 7th of June 1976.
------------------------------ Researcher from Austin, Texas - Research for a biography of Ronald K. DeFord Betty Wilke Cox 2305 Wilke Drive Austin, TX 78704 Phone: 512-441-7727
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