The story of Soloman Batchelor Jackson, the first of our Jackson ancestors to come to the Republic of Texas.
Well the journey has come to an end, if family history ever comes to an end. Each generation writes their own stories and adds to the legacy of their family. However, my journey back into the history of the Sutherland Family has come to an end. I continue to do research of my early ancestors to find where in Scotland that they came from and when they immigrated to this county and I will post those findings for everyone to read. I have several good leads and with the help of the Ancestry.com community, I will break down that brick wall someday. After all, how many Sutherlands could be named “Alvis”.
This has been a bittersweet journey for me. I met the family that I never knew through their stories and their history. Some of them like my Great-Grandmother, Mary Melvina “Mollie” Jackson were towers of strength and many like my Grandfather, Royal Henry “Fritz” Sutherland were certainly not worthy of much respect. My poor Grandmother, Artie Odom Sutherland spent her entire life in mental institutions never knowing her children and grandchildren as they grew up. Despite everything, they are my family and I accept them for who they were. They certainly contributed to my success, each in their own way.
The most wonderful part of writing this Blog was to meet many Sutherland cousins that I never knew. I have made contact with children and grandchildren of Eddie Sutherland, Sam Sutherland, and Hazel Sutherland as well as descendants of my Great Aunts and Uncles, descendants of Robert Henry Sutherland and Mollie Jackson. I have been in touch with the West’s and the Jacksons as well as descendants of Alvis Sutherland’s sister, Lucinda Sutherland Taylor. Every post brings new “cousins” and new information.
Now, I will leave the Sutherlands to rest in peace and have a look at my Mother, Ruth Inez Grant’s family history. The genealogy research is extensive and there are incredibly fascinating stories to be told about the Grants and the Pruitts. I can’t wait to start writing again. You can follow my new Blog at: www.grantfamilyhistory.wordpress.com
As I have captured the stories about my father and his siblings, it has always made me very sad that they all had such troubled lives. They were not always the finest of men and made mistakes throughout their lives that hurt their families and friends. But there were times as well when they were heroes and did great things that we can all be proud of. So much of the pain and the trouble stemmed from the character of their Father, Royal Henry Sutherland, Sr. and their Grandfather before, Robert Henry Sutherland. The examples set for these children certainly had an influence on them throughout their lives. The traumatic loss of their mother to mental illness at such young ages certainly contributed as well. The last of the Sutherland siblings that I am going to write about is the youngest brother, Sam.
Sam was born Royal Henry Sutherland, Jr. after his father and his grandfather. He was born May 13, 1927 in Sutherland Springs, Texas. He was the youngest of the children who ranged in age from 7 years old to just 3 years old. Their father Royal Sr. was by reputation a drinker, gambler, and a womanizer who was never home and never worked very much. He was always in the local bars spending the little income that the family possessed. Artie Sutherland lived a hard life trying to raise her growing family without the support of her husband. While we do not know if there was ever physical abuse in the family, we do know that there was terrible emotional abuse.
Shortly after the birth of Sam, Artie may have suffered what we might now call “post-partum depression”. She started having psychotic episodes. Family history says that sometime after the birth of Sam in 1927 Artie placed the baby in a large roasting pan and was about to place the baby in a hot oven when she was stopped. Artie was very protective of all of her children, especially the baby and would even take him into the fields with her. While this is a terrible thing to think about, we can understand how such cruelty and neglect could push an already fragile person over the edge of sanity. Artie was admitted to the State Hospital in San Antonio. She never recovered and spent the remainder of her life in the San Antonio Asylum and later in the Kerrville State Hospital.
I cannot imagine the fear and the sadness that these children felt at losing their mother at such young ages. My father would have been about 9 years old, Hazel would have been about 7, and Eddie would have been only 5. Sam of course was still a baby. Fritz may have hoped that Artie would recover and eventually come home again so he did what he could in the interim. Hazel went to live with Artie’s brother, Garvie Odom and his family. Royal kept Harry and Eddie at home with him for a while. Sam, the baby went to live with his uncle, Ancil “Jack” Sutherland and his family.
If you have read the story about Ancil Jackson Sutherland, the second born of the children of Robert Henry and Mollie Sutherland, you know that this was a very stable family of hard working successful people. I talked about Jack in my story called, “Ancil Jackson Sutherland, the Jackson Namesake” published on the Blog on February 27, 2014.
Jack and Annie Sutherland called the baby “Roy” a shortened version of Royal. We think that he went to live with them at such a young age, that he never knew that they were his aunt and uncle rather than his parents. Jack and Annie already had their six children when Sam came to live with them. The youngest boy, Daniel Sam was already about 8 years old and the youngest girl, Edna Earl was about 12. Sam was really the baby.
Apparently everything went well for those first years with Jack and Annie. In Sam’s own words, “I was the son of a farmer, the youngest of seven. Being the “baby” of the family (which was not my idea), everyone seemed to give me all of their attentions until the day the earth stood still”. Sam learned from one of his cousins at the age of 3 ½ or 4 that he was living with his aunt and uncle and their family. He approached his “Mother”, Annie Lou Sutherland about this new information and in his own words he says, and “I went to who I thought was my Mother and confronted her with the question, ‘Are you really my Mother?’ At this point I saw tears come to her eyes and she said, ‘No, we are not your real parents, but we love you like one of our own’. This was to be a turning point in my life.”
After this devastating revelation, Sam sought solace and comfort from another of the children. We believe that this must have been Edna Earl who was about 8 years older than Sam. Edna told Sam the story about his mother and father. Edna indicated that Artie had been admitted to a mental institution when Sam was only about 6 weeks old. Edna indicated that Artie had tried to choke Sam to death and that she had been stopped her. This is a different version that told by other members of the family so we do not know which is the truth. Edna told Sam that his Father became an alcoholic after this incident and did not seem to care about what happened to his children. All four of the children had been scattered to grandparents as well as aunts and uncles to raise.
Sam began getting into trouble in school stealing a case of red soda pop. Despite all efforts of Edna to befriend him and help him, he was heading down a path of theft and larceny. He even stole and cashed his Grandmother’s Social Security check. He lived for a while with Edna after she married and moved away from home, but continued his life of larceny until he joined the Navy in 1944. He served on the USS Ticonderoga until March 1946. In his own words he started drinking heavily while in the Navy. Despite doing well in the Navy, he did not re-enlist and returned home to find his childhood sweetheart already married.
Sam met someone he called “a country girl who would go with me”. This would have been Lila Louise Stoeltje who he married in about 1947. Despite being married, Sam continued to date other girls behind Lila’s back and began drinking heavily. Their first child, Joe Wayne Sutherland was born on July 27, 1949 in Cuero, TX. Cuero was where my Father, Harry Sutherland and his family were living at this time. The second son, David Sam was born April 22, 1955 followed by daughter Tammie Louise born September 15, 1958. Despite having a family to support, Sam continued to drink heavily and in his own words began to embezzle money from one company and then another.
Lila left him and took the children away when she found out that he was still seeing other women behind her back. Sam went to prison for the first time in 1964-1966 followed by other sentences in 1966-1969 and in 1970-1979. The Victoria Advocate Newspaper, dated July 18, 1972, stated that Sam was sentenced to 12 years for three burglary cases. Each time that Sam was released from prison, he would show up at his Brother Eddie’s doorstep. While in prison the last time, Sam tried to follow the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) program at the prison and got involved in the organization.
During one of the periods between sentences, Sam met and married Fannie Sue Grant on January 16, 1967. They were only married a short time as they divorced on August 19, 1969. Fannie was born in 1913 and would have been 14 years older than Sam. This seemed to be a pattern as Sam married a third time on January 6, 1979 to Etta M. Hall who was born in 1907 making her 20 years older than Sam. Apparently Sam met Etta when he got out of prison after the third sentence.
While Sam and Etta lived in Palestine, Sam’s brother, Eddie, along with his family made several trips to visit. On these visits, Sam and Eddie would spend hours sitting on a bench together talking. If we could only know what they were talking about, I am sure we would have a better understanding of both brothers and their own personal demons.
Despite this good start after prison, Sam reverted to his old ways. Sam started applying for credit cards in Etta’s dead husband’s name and charging up huge bills on those fraudulent cards. Since Sam was at home to check the mail while Etta was at work, he was able to retrieve the credit cards when the mail came. Just before the bills and collection agencies started to be unavoidable, Sam hit the road once again. Etta found out about the credit cards after Sam left and the bills started showing up in her mailbox. Etta attempted to find Sam and contacted Eddie to ask if he knew where his brother was. When Eddie asked Etta what happened, she told him that Sam had just up and left and all about the credit cards. At the time, Eddie did not know where his brother was. Etta divorced Sam in the later part of 1983. As far as we know Sam never went to prison for this latest crime. Etta was likely too embarrassed to press charges.
Sam married once again on June 9, 1987 to Dorothy Bond. Dorothy however was younger than Sam by 5 years since she was born in 1932. By Sandra’s account, Sam and Dorothy made numerous trips down to Cedar Park for visits to see his brother, Eddie and the rest of the family. The couple lived in Anderson County, Texas until Sam died on June 30, 1997 at the age of 70. They had been married for 10 years. Sam was buried in the Morris Cemetery in Van Zandt County.
I don’t remember very much about Uncle Sam. My only recollections were visiting when the family all lived in Corpus Christi and my family drove down there to visit from Cuero. That would have been before 1958. I remember playing with Joe and David. Tammie had not been born yet. I do remember that Uncle Sam was always very jolly but now I am guessing that that was the alcohol talking. I do remember lots of drinking on the visits.
Aunt Lila took her children away and raised them on her own. She did a great job and those children did a great job of raising their own children. This past year, I have had the privilege of meeting a couple of David’s daughters, Samantha and Katie, two wonderful young women who are active in their community and raising beautiful children of their own.
As a child I remember that my Father, Harry always had a special place in his heart for his “Baby Sister” Hazel. While growing up in Cuero, Texas, my family always spent a lot of time with Aunt Hazel and her family. We visited them when they were living in Victoria and went to family reunions with them. Of all of my Father’s siblings, I think he was the closest to Hazel.
Hazel Willette Sutherland was the second child of Royal Henry Sutherland and Artie Beatrice Odom Sutherland. She was born on January 26, 1922 in Floresville, Texas. My Father was just two years old when Hazel was born. I am not sure where the middle name Willette came from. It is unique in the Sutherland family and certainly not a common first name in the 1920s. However we do find another young woman named Willette Franke in Stockdale, Texas during this same time period. She was the daughter of August and Iona Estelle Franke. In the Blog about Eddie James Sutherland, the “Franks” family played a big part in Eddie’s life. We don’t know if the Franke and Franks families are the same of related in any manner, but it will make a very interesting research project to see if there is a connection.
Two more sons joined the family when Eddie James was born in 1924 and Royal Henry Jr. was born in 1927. Hazel would have been just 5 years old when the second son was born. In March of 1928, Hazel’s Mother, Artie suffered a major nervous breakdown and was institutionalized for the remainder of her life. She left three little boys and a little 6 year old girl without a mother to care for them.
We know that the families stepped in to take care of the children when needed. This was the way things were done back in the days before Foster Care and Family Services. The baby, Royal went to his uncle Ancil McDonald “Jack” and Annie Lou Sutherland where they raised him as their own child. We know from the Blog, “A Man with a Troubled Life, Eddie James Sutherland,” that the other son, Eddie was adopted by a man named Arthur Franks and moved to California. Hazel and Harry however have been a mystery.
Who took in these two children? Harry would have been 8 and Hazel would have been six. We know that both Harry and Eddie remained with their father Royal for a while as they are listed as living with him on the 1930 census, but Hazel was not shown in the household. My guess is that she was taken by another relative before that time.
From valuable information provided by one of Hazel’s grandchildren, I have pieced together where she went and believe she was taken in by Artie’s brother Garvie Odom and his wife Bessie Mildred Cox. Garvie and Bessie had been married for 5 years in 1928 and already had two children of their own, Joseph Daniel “JD” who was born in 1923 and Kenneth “Kenny” who was born in 1925. These two Odom sons became the brothers that Hazel grew up with. Her granddaughter reported that Hazel did not have especially fond memories of growing up with the two Odom boys but was blessed with another boy who was her defender and her closest friend. This turned out to be Johnnie Munselle.
Johnnie Munselle was born John William Munselle on April 5, 1915 making him about 7 years older than Hazel. His mother was Maud B. Cox who was a half-sister of Bessie Mildred Cox. Maud died in 1920 when Johnnie was only 5 years old. Johnnie was taken in by his Aunt Bessie and Uncle Garvie Odom and was living with them when Hazel came to them in 1928. Johnnie’s father remarried and had five more children. Apparently Johnny came back to live with them for some time as he is included in their household in the 1930 census living in Caldwell County, Texas which is just north of Guadalupe County where Garvie and Bess lived.
As time passed, the friendship between Johnnie and Hazel eventually became a romance as Hazel grew older. The two “orphans” married sometime before 1939 as their first child Kenneth Norman “Kenny” was born on April 9, 1939 in Wilson County, Texas. The little family moved before the 1940 census as they are shown as living in Cuero, Texas on that census report. Johnnie is shown as working as a “Helper” in a Retail Fruit Market. Now this is a real eye opener for me! My Mother’s brother-in-law, Norman Powell ran a small Grocery Store called the “Green Garden” which specialized in fresh fruit. It is possible that this is where Johnnie worked.
While I previously believed that my Father came to Cuero as a member of a CCC “Civilian Conservation Corp” or a WPA, “Works Project Administration” project, now it appears that he may have come to Cuero since his sister was there. Regardless, it was about this time that he met my Mother and they married. It is possible that they met through Hazel and Johnnie Munselle and Johnnie’s employer Norman Powell and his wife, who was my Aunt Bea.
The next son, John William Jr., “Bubba” was born on November 2, 1941. The third son, Richard Gerald, “Dickey” was born August 4, 1946. This 5 year gap between children was likely due to World War II. I am still looking for an enlistment record for Johnnie Munselle, Sr. I was born on January 4, 1948 and growing up I knew all three boys. The youngest Dickey was closest to my age and I spent most time with him.
In the summer of 1955, there was a big Sutherland Family Reunion that was held in Kerrville, Texas. I think this site was selected since that is where the oldest Sutherland daughter, Maggie Sifford lived. I remember that Aunt Hazel and Uncle Johnnie and their sons came to our house in Cuero to drive to Kerrville to the reunion together. The oldest son, Kenny was a teenager then and had no interest in attending, so he stayed behind at our house. I have a number of pictures of Hazel and Johnnie at that reunion and several at Cascades Cavern where we visited on the way home.
The two families stayed close even when Hazel and Johnnie moved to Victoria. We visited them often and it was there in about 1954 that my Father fell off of their roof while trying to install a television antenna and broke his leg. That was a tough time since we lived in Cuero and my Mother did not drive. We moved to San Antonio in 1956 and did not spend much time with their family after that.Sometime before 1960, Hazel and Johnnie divorced and Hazel remarried Archie Arnold Ripple. They had two sons, Bennie Ray Ripple born in 1960 and Timothy Wayne Ripple born in 1963.
It was sometime during the early 1960s after my Mother had died that I had the last information about Hazel. My Father came home late one night very upset and told me that Archie had physically assaulted Hazel and that he had gone to teach him a lesson. Apparently there was a physical altercation that my Father won. He had great concerns that he might have killed Archie and told me to contact my Aunt Bea if the police came to take him away. Fortunately for everyone, he did not kill his sister’s husband and the police did not come to take him away, but it made for some very sleepless nights for me.
Johnnie remarried in 1967 to Maudie Vivian Ringo. They lived together until Johnnie died on March 30, 1978. He is buried in the Colmesneil Cemetery in Tyler County, Texas. Hazel and Archie remained married until Archie died in 1979. Aunt Hazel actually took the bus from Victoria to Austin to attend my cousin, Sandra’s wedding on March 14, 1986. Hazel died on June 1, 2001 in Victoria, Texas. At that time two of her three sons with Johnnie Munselle; Kenny and Bubba had both passed away.
My memories of my Aunt Hazel were that she had blonde hair like my Father and I. She was very soft spoken and always had a smile on her face. She was very quiet, perhaps because it was hard to get a word in edgewise with a house full of men. I understand why my Father was particularly fond of her. She was his “Baby Sister” and he felt responsible for her until his death.
This story is written by my cousin, Sandra Sutherland Wensel, daughter of Eddie James Sutherland.
To even begin to write about my father, Eddie James Sutherland, is very difficult. As his daughter, I believe the majority of my father’s life was in turmoil and he struggled for an identity. At times he was a good man, but he drank heavily to try to tune out the disappointments, the failures, and the obligations of his life. When my father went to drinking, he went from one extreme to another, from a very good man to a very bad man, like the character in the movie, Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde. I strongly think, that if he had not met my mother, his life would have turned out different and possibly much better. My mother was a major part of the alcoholism, she was very domineering and wanted to control everyone, including my father, family and myself. However, if he would have taken a different path, I would have to say, I would not be here today!
Eddie James Sutherland was born the third child of Royal “Fritz” Henry Sutherland and Artie Beatrice Odom Sutherland in Floresville, Texas on November 7, 1924. How ironic it is, that I share the same birth date as my father. My mother tried so hard not to give birth on his birthday. I had never asked my father who he thought he was named after, so I am assuming that my father was named after his uncle Eddie Odom [Edward Orestes Odom], Artie’s brother, and another uncle, James “Jim” Corbert Sutherland, his father’s brother.
Along with Eddie’s siblings, Harry, Hazel and Royal Henry Jr. (Sammie or Sam as everyone called him), they did not have much of a father figure to look up to. Their father did not take his obligations as a father seriously, gambling and squandering what money they came by and most likely womanizing. My father had told me several times that Harry and he was always sent into town to bring their father home from whatever dive he was in at the time. It was in March 1928, where life took its’ toll for Artie, experiencing what we call today “post-partum depression”. Artie was not thinking straight when she put young Sammie in a roaster oven and was fixing to put him in a hot oven. This resulted in Artie being committed to the State Asylum in San Antonio, where she escaped into her own little world.
With Artie being admitted to the State Asylum, two of the children were to be split up amongst relatives. On the 1930 Wilson County Census records, Harry (age 9) and Eddie (age 5) are still living with their father, where Royal Jr. is listed as a son living with Ancel Jack and Annie Sutherland, brother and sister-n-law to Royal (Fritz). Even though it has yet to be determined, Hazel most likely was taken in by Garvie Odom and his wife, Bess, brother and sister-n-law to Artie.
Sutherland Springs School Picture November 6, 1930. Eddie is in the bottom row far right, his brother Harry sitting above him. Eddie was fixing to turn 6 the next day after this photo was taken.
My father had told me, that sometime around 1932, when his older brother, Harry, and him came home from school, their father was no where to be found. Not sure where Royal (Fritz) had gone. Depending on what time of the year it would have been, Harry would have been either age 11 or 12, where my father was age 7 or 8. Just thinking about what was going through the boy’s minds at that time, not knowing what was going to happen to them, is unimaginable.
Beings that the boys could not survive on their own, Harry most likely went to stay with his Uncle Garvie and Aunt Bess [Garvie and Bessie Mildred Odom]. Eddie ended up being taken in by a man named Arthur Weir Franks. How was this man connected to the Sutherland family? In doing research, it was determined that when Arthur Franks took a trip to visit his sister-n-law, Alva Franks, who ran a boarding house in Del Rio, he encountered James “Jim” Sutherland [James Cobert Sutherland], younger brother to Royal (Fritz). On the 1930 census record, it shows Jim and his wife, Anna Belle [Anna Belle McIver Sutherland], living at the boarding house. During the many talks at mealtime in the boarding house, is when the story of the Sutherland siblings probably unraveled. It has just been recently known that someone in the past history was traded for a case of whiskey, which could have been my father. How true that is, we will never know. Not to long after Arthur took in Eddie, he changed Eddie’s name to Edwin John Franks and his birth date to November 7, 1925……why, is to everyone’s guess. As the rest of my story unfolds, Edwin will be referred to as Eddie, his true given name.
After Arthur took in Eddie, the timeline between 1933 and 1940 is unknown. On the 1940 Census records, Arthur and Eddie are living in Roscoe, California at 10812 White Street in a bungalow.
In 1948, the city of Roscoe was renamed Sun Valley. Arthur was working as a school crossing guard and Eddie was attending school at the age of 15. Not sure how correct the age was, if going by the 1925 birth date and beings that the census was usually taken in the early part of any given year, Eddie would have been 14. If going by his correct birth year of 1924, the census record would have been correct.
Without my father’s military records, it would have been difficult to piece together the parts of his life after 1940. Numerous things are stated in his military records, one in which I have been able to determine that sometime between the latter part of 1940 and 1942, either both Arthur and Eddie moved back to Texas or just my father moved back. Eddie attended grade school for 8 years and high school for 1 to 2 years. Eddie walked into a Navy recruitment office in San Antonio, Texas on August 13, 1942 and enlisted into the United States Navy under the name Arthur had given him, Edwin John Franks. A home address of 122 Madison, San Antonio was put down along with next of kin being Arthur Franks as his father. Prior before enlisting, he had worked as a truck driver with E. L, Transport in San Antonio. If going by the birth year of 1925, Eddie would have been 17, if going by the birth year of 1924, he would have been 18. Once enlisted, Eddie was transferred to the US Naval Training Station in San Diego on August 17, 1943 to attend Landing Craft School. On November 24, 1943 he reported to the Pacific Fleet aboard the USS Epping Forest, LSD-4, an Ashland class dock landing ship where he served 2 years and 1 month with a final rank of V-6 Coxswain.
During his time on the USS Epping Forest, Eddie participated in a number of campaigns including the Initial Offensive Operation of the Kawajalen Atoll in the Marshall Islands, the invasion and occupation of Emirau Island, the invasion and bombardment of Aitape, New Guinea. He also participated in the invasion of Guam, Palau Islands, Leyte and Luzon Island in the Phillippines, Okinawa and the Ryukyu Islands. During one of the campaigns, he suffered injuries from metal shrapnel, resulting with a metal pin being inserted into his left thigh and numerous scars all over his body, a more prominent one on his left eyebrow. One time my father did tell me about some R & R time he did in Manila, now he did not exaggerate, but I can most certainly imagine the time he had. He also mentioned to me at one time, that if he seriously took an Asian woman as a wife, that I would have had Asian characteristics. Eddie was awarded the Phillippine Liberation Medal, the American Theatre Medal, the Asiatic Pacific Theatre Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal. Eddie was honorably discharged from the United States Navy on December 27, 1945 under the name of Edwin John Franks.
After Eddie was discharged from the Navy, he worked odd jobs as an auto mechanic and a truck driver. For some reason or another, Eddie decided to re-enlist back into the Navy on August 8, 1947 still under the name of Edwin John Franks. He listed a home address of 4386 Pacific Blvd, San Diego and Arthur Franks still as his father. During this enlistment, Eddie served on the USS Thomas Jefferson and the USS Repose (a hospital ship) running between the Naval bases in San Francisco and San Diego. It was during this second stint in the Navy, where sometime in September 1948, Eddie became despondent over having never known his own immediate family and decided to find them. Eddie’s own biological father was to soon pass away on November 22, 1948 in San Antonio, Texas.
With taking the path of trying to locate his own family, Eddie had gone AWOL from the United States Navy on numerous occasions, always resulting being picked up by military police. With each attempt, he was always taken back to San Diego to face disciplinary actions from getting either loss of pay or brig time. His final attempt on February 9, 1950, got him finally to San Antonio, where again, he was picked up by military police. On March 3rd, he was transferred to the US Naval Station in New Orleans to face a court-martial. It was during his court martial, where his own birth record was requisitioned from Wilson County, Texas dated April 10, 1950 witnessed by John William Munselle, husband to Hazel, my father’s sister. Also along with the testimony from his two brothers, Harry and Royal Jr. (Sammie) and his sister, Hazel, that his name was changed back to Eddie James Sutherland and his birth date changed back to November 7, 1924. I am now looking into see if I am able to acquire those court documents.
Eddie was transferred May 16, 1950 to the US Naval Retraining Command in Norfolk, Virginia to serve 18 months of confinement and retraining. On December 26, 1950 his sentenced was reduced and he was released January 10, 1951. With his release, a dishonorable discharge was issued and any pay that he was to be given was forfeited. Stated on his military records, Eddie requested transportation back to San Diego, California. I assume that he wanted to go back to California to either say his final goodbyes to Arthur Weir Franks or to give him a piece of his mind. Arthur Weir Franks remained in California where he died July 3, 1956 in Stanislaus County, southeast of San Francisco.
After returning back to Texas, he took a job as a bus driver with the Kerrville Bus Company, which was founded by Hal & Charlie Peterson in 1929, during the time when tire and gasoline rationing encourage motorists to take the bus. The Kerrville Bus Company was sold to Fred Kaiser of Kerrville on July 5, 1988. My father’s route was from Victoria to San Antonio and back to Victoria.
It was during one of his routes sometime in 1952, is where he met Hilda Hermine Schneider Helmers, my mother. Hilda was born November 15, 1922, the second daughter to Fritz and Bertha Zorn Schneider, in Nordheim, Texas. Hilda was a single mother, raising a son, Lorance Earl Helmers, born September 10, 1946 with intellectual disabilities. Hilda filed for divorce from Earl Helmers on July 24, 1950. Living in San Antonio, she periodically traveled by bus from San Antonio to visit her parents still living in Nordheim. Eddie and Hilda married St Johns Lutheran Church in Cuero, Texas on February 21, 1953.
On October 8, 1953, a son, James Leon Sutherland, was born in the Cuero Hospital & Clinic in Cuero, Texas. It is stated on his birth certificate that Eddie and Hilda were residing at 118 W. Church Street in Cuero at the time of his birth. Eddie’s occupation at the time was a bus driver and Hilda was recorded as being a housewife. James was named of course from my father’s middle name of James. Not sure where the Leon came from. It was soon discovered that James was inflected with the intellectual disabilities as well.
With the family moving from Cuero to the south side of San Antonio sometime between October 1953 and July 1955, Eddie was working as a truck driver along with his brother, Harry, at Howell Refinery Company.
Another son, Ronald Allen Sutherland, was born in Floresville on July 21, 1955. Why he was born in Floresville, I can on speculate that it was less expensive to give birth to a child there rather than in San Antonio. Ronald was named after my parent’s favorite actor at the time, Ronald Reagan, and my mother’s first cousin, Allen Braun. And once more, another son was inflected with the intellectual disability, making it three sons to care for with much difficulty.
I had learned quickly while being around my mother’s own family, that the intellectual disabilities came from my mother’s side of the family. Adolf Zorn, older brother to Bertha, Hilda’s mother, was also inflected with the intellectual disabilities. Adolf lived out his years working on the family farm outside Yorktown, Texas until his death in February 1957. But it was through genetic testing of my brothers and I in November 1988 at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, that it cemented in concrete that the intellectual disabilities definitely stemmed from my mother’s side of the family possibly going back 4 generations. It was determined that the women were the carriers of the broken X chromosome and it affected males that were born. It was explained to me after the genetic testing that there is an increase of the intellectual disabilities with each successive generation because of the change in the gene and any son that I was going to give birth to, there was a 100% chance of intellectual disabilities. At this time, I chose not to have any children and the intellectual disabilities came to an end with my generation.
On November 7, 1956, a daughter, Sandra Lynn Sutherland (of course me) was born in San Antonio, Texas. With my parents not expecting a daughter, a name had to be decided quickly, so I was named after my mother’s baby sitter at the time, Sandra Lynn Reifert. I had been told numerous times during my life that my mother did not want a daughter, but another son. She said that daughters are nothing but trouble. I often wondered if this was from her own experience with her own relationship with her mother.
Sometime in 1958 or 1959, Howell Refinery transferred my father down to their Corpus Christi facilities. I don’t remember anything of living in Corpus, for I was either 2 or 3 years old. After a year of being down in Corpus, Howell Refinery transferred my father back to San Antonio where we moved to 230 Langford Place. It was at this address, where my father received a letter dated April 5, 1960, stating that his mother, Artie, had been transferred on March 30, 1960 to the Kerrville State Hospital in Kerrville, Texas where she lived out her remaining years till her death.
In the summer of 1963, Eddie moved the family to Stafford, Texas, southwest of Houston, where he continued his career as a truck driver. Not sure if my father quit his job with Howell Refinery or he if he had been fired. Once in Stafford, my brothers and myself was enrolled into school in the Missouri City School District, between Stafford and Houston, where I started first grade. The school held all grades from 1st grade to 12th grade. At the time, there were no schools in Stafford, so children was either bussed or taken by their parents to school in Missouri City. Both my brothers, Lorance and Ronald were enrolled only for a short while, due to my mother pulling them out of school. Why she did this, the only reason I can come up with is that she learned that she could apply for SSI disability checks for both of them and figured that they did not need any schooling. With this course of action by my mother, is when I noticed that life as we knew it changed for the worse. With the toll of life’s obligations getting heavier, my father took to drinking very, very heavily.
From 1964 to 1966, it became hard for my father to hold down a job and we relocated quite a bit. For my 2nd grade year of school, we moved to north Houston, where I attended Hidden Valley Elementary School in the Aldine Independent School District. I did not finish my 2nd grade year in Houston, for we had to move again, most likely due to my father losing his job as a truck driver. We moved to Schertz, Texas, a small city northeast of San Antonio, where my father took a job as a school bus driver. I was able to complete my 2nd grade year in Schertz, however we had to move again by the time I had to start third grade. We moved into San Antonio where my father started a job with Union Transport as a truck driver hauling petroleum once again.
In the summer of 1966, with my father being fired from Union Transport, my parents had no choice but to drop us four kids off to live with our grandparents, Fritz and Bertha Schneider, who were well into their 70’s living on a farm outside Runge, Texas. This was the first time that I had ever heard bad language come from my grandfather’s mouth, for no one knew that I was sitting in a rocker on the veranda that ran between the bedroom and the kitchen. My grandfather went up one side of my father and mother and down the other side, calling them every name in the book. My grandfather had already been retired as a Dewitt County worker since 1963, but taking on his grandchildren, he soon had to return back to work. During the next three years, living with our grandparents, turned out to be the best, for we were able to be kids. Even though we helped with the chores around the farm, we were given time to play like normal kids and life was grand. My brother, James, and I attended school in Runge, where on good days we would walk to school, on bad weather days, my grandmother would take us. While we were at school, Lorance and Ronald stayed home with our grandmother, while our grandfather went to work.
While we lived with our grandparents for the next three years, our own parents lived with family or in motel rooms, one being the Violet Crown Motel on Lamar Boulevard in Austin, Texas. Eddie was not able to acquire a steady job, so Hilda applied for a job as a waitress at a truck stop in early 1969. In June 1969, our parents came to take us back, which we were not happy to leave the life we had been living with our grandparents, for we knew the chaotic life was to begin again. On November 5, 1969, my grandfather passed away, turning my world upside down. My grandmother decided to sell the farm, for it was too much for her to take care of. She moved to Austin, splitting her time living with Hilda and her other daughter, Elna Wofford.
It was in the summer of 1970 on a camping vacation to Big Bend National Park, is when I found out that I had another grandmother. My father had never mentioned her to us, for the times in the past where we had gone to Kerrville to a hospital, we were told to stay in the car. On our way to Big Bend National Park, is when we stopped in Kerrville to visit this hospital again. This time our parents told us to stay outside by a bench under a tree. Once my father brought her out, he introduced me to her, but I realized quickly that she was in her own little world, most likely a very safe world to her.
In the early part of 1971, my father was admitted involuntarily by my mother to the State Hospital in Austin to dry out. My father was there for a month and he came out a new man and life was beginning to turn around. With my mother acquiring a chess game with her S & H Green Stamps that she had collected, my father and myself commenced to learn how to play the game. That following summer, my father and mother put in motion a vacation trip to the Grand Canyon, James, my brother, and myself being the only children to accompany them on the vacation. Lorance and Ronald were to remain at home under the care of their grandmother, Bertha. A strong memory that I have of the this trip, is my father and me playing a many game of chess inside a tent during rain storms at the Grand Canyon, with pots sitting on cots to catch the rain seeping through the tent. James kept busy putting a puzzle together. What I learned early on playing chess with my father, when he had a lot on his mind, is when I knew that I could win the game.
For a while, life was surreal, but the new man was short lived and the drinking began again a year later, putting the children in turmoil once again with physical and verbal abuse. The death of his mother, Artie, on May 25, 1972 could have been a contributing factor to my father drinking again. Also with my mother constantly nagging him about her having to come up with some of the funeral expenses for Artie’s funeral did not help matters. And boy, did my mother love to nag him. Now, I could go into great detail of all the incidents of the abuse that Lorance, James, Ronald and I endured, but over time I learned, that if I decided to let those memories eat me up inside, most likely it would gear me to the same path my father took. All I know, is that what I endured, made me a stronger person.
In early 1980’s, I took an interest in the Sutherland family history and asked my father if he would be able to help me with some of the history, hoping that it would not open any unseen wounds of his childhood. He surprised me and said that we would begin with a trip to the Stockdale Cemetery and show me what was left of Sutherland Springs. We visited numerous cousins of his, but it was a trip to visit two of his cousins, Dorothy Phillips Bruce and Mildred Phillips, where we come to find out that a family bible existed. Dorothy and Mildred were the daughters of Laura “Dollie” Phillips, sister to my father’s father. I wished I would have paid more attention to what they were talking about, but I was busy taking pictures of the bible, other family pictures and other items that were carefully tucked away in the bible. This was a major highlight for my father, so much so, that he could not wait for me to develop the pictures that I took, so that he could relive the memory of that day.
My father struggled with alcoholism up until a heart attack on top of a stroke hit him in early part of 1988, leaving him paralyzed on the right side. Soon after being released from the hospital, my mother brought him home, to only find out that she was not capable of carrying for an invalid and he was also going through alcohol withdraws, and a scene that was not pretty to watch. My father was admitted to New Hope Nursing Home in Cedar Park, where he lived his remaining years till his death on April 13, 1990 from another heart attack.
Now with me, it is difficult to separate the troubled man that my father was. When I think of the times when my father wasn’t drinking, the bad times always seem to come into play, leaving me with mixed emotions. On a trip to Sutherland Springs awhile back to visit the Sutherland Springs Museum with my cousin, Sharon, Harry’s daughter, it was there that both of us was given the opportunity to see both our fathers in school pictures at an age of innocence. To see my father at age 6 and 8, gave me the chance to see my father before the troubled life began and to know that he was not born a bad man.
The memories I try my best to hold onto is the good times, the times we played chess, the times he helped me with my homework in History and Geography. One memory I cherish is when I needed to do a book report on the Congressional Medal of Honor for my American History class. I did not even know where to begin, so my father suggested that we make a trip on a Saturday morning to the Austin Public Library to do the research. With his help and the research, I was able to turn in a book report, receiving and A- for my efforts. There was a many a time, where my father and me would just sit over a cup of coffee and discuss the philosophy of life. My father had told me numerous times, that I was the philosopher of the family, because of the topics that we discussed and my obsession of collecting quotes about life and all that it holds.
When I moved out of the house in November 1975, it was my father that helped me move my things. My mother had given my father strict instructions that he was not to help me move. He did the opposite and helped me move my things while she was at work. During the move, he said to me that he wished that he could leave. But he told me that he would be leaving with just the clothes on my back and nothing else. I think, that he also thought that if he left, he would be taking the same steps that his own father took, abandoning his family.
My father liked to read, especially anything to do with history. He liked watching World War II movies, one favorite of his being In Harms Way, with John Wayne and Patricia Neal. The film recounts the lives of several US naval officers while based in Hawaii as the US involvement in World War II begins. The title of the film comes from a quote from an American Revolutionary naval hero, John Paul Jones, “I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast, for I intend to go in harm’s way”. I believe, even though the world was in turmoil during that time in history, it might have looked different in my father’s eyes. There was a many a time that he had told me that he wished that he would have stayed on the straight and narrow, and stayed in the Navy to make it a career. I think that with him reminiscing about his time in the Navy and World War II, is when he felt that he had an identity and felt like he was making a difference in this world.
If you have an interest in Texas history and the history of the Texas Rangers, you will all know who Bigfoot Wallace is. William Alexander Anderson “Bigfoot” Wallace was born in Lexington, Rockbridge County, Virginia on April 3, 1817. Bigfoot came to Texas in 1836 to avenge the death of his older brother Samuel and a cousin, William, who were reported to be massacred at Goliad on March 27, 1836. This was shortly after the conclusion of the Battle of the Alamo that ended on March 6, 1836.
William was a very large man for the times, standing 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighing over 240 pounds, all muscle. He weighed 13 pounds at birth and “could kick harder and yell louder than any youngster she ever saw,” so said his favorite aunt who was the midwife.
Wikipedia gives the following account of his life once he reached Texas:
“Wallace fought at the battles of Salado Creek, Battle of Hondo River, and Mier. Some of his most graphic memories were of his experiences in Perote Prison after having survived Black Bean Incident. Wallace later participated in the Mexican-American War Battle of Monterrey and the Comanche Wars.
In the 1850s Wallace commanded a ranger company of his own, fighting border bandits as well as native Americans. He was so expert at trailing that he was frequently called upon to track down runaway slaves trying to get to Mexico. He drove a mail hack from San Antonio to El Paso, and on one occasion, after losing his mules to Comanches, walked to El Paso and ate twenty-seven eggs at the first Mexican house he came to-before going on to town for a full meal.
The later years of his life were spent in South Texas in the vicinity of a small village named Bigfoot. He never married. He was a mellow and convivial soul who liked to sit in a roomy rawhide-bottomed chair in the shade of his shanty and tell over the stories of his career. Wallace was personally honest but liked to stretch the blanket and embroider his stories.
Wallace died on January 7, 1899, and shortly thereafter the Texas legislature appropriated money for moving his body to the Texas State Cemetery.”
It had been claimed by the West family for years that the Wallace sisters, several of which married into the West and Jackson families were cousins to Bigfoot Wallace. Let’s take a look and see if this is true. I love to unwind a good mystery.
We have to start with some basic information about Bigfoot Wallace and his family so we can establish timelines and ancestors to compare with the Texas Wallace Clan. Sometimes we have to go back several generations to prove a common ancestor.
The Handbook of Texas History reports that Bigfoot was the son of Andrew Wallace and Jane Ann Blair Wallace. There are claims that Bigfoot Wallace is a descendant of the Scottish heroes William Wallace and Robert the Bruce. In my research that is unproven. Everyone with Scottish roots wants to be descended from these Scottish legends.
The Wallace sisters; Ellender Temperance, Martha Matilda (Polly), Narcissa Jane, and Missouri Carolina (Mazie) and their brother, John Muse Wallace were the children of Samuel Allen Wallace, (Jr.) who was born in Rutherford County, Tennessee on April 16, 1812. He married Mary W. Muse in Rutherford County sometime before 1838 when John Muse Wallace was born. The family then moved to Alabama where Samuel received a land grant in 1837. The first daughter, Ellender Temperance was born there in 1840. The next daughter, Polly was born in1844, followed by Narcissa who was born in 1846 both in Alabama. The family moved from Alabama to Mississippi sometime between 1846 and the birth of the last daughter Mazie who was born in 1848. By 1850 the family was in Panola, Texas.
Samuel’s father also named Samuel Allen Wallace (Sr.) was born on March 14, 1779 in Greenwood, Albemarle, Virginia. He moved from Virginia to Georgia where he married Martha Jones in 1804. Their first child, John Jones Wallace was born in Jefferson County, Georgia in 1803. Their next child, James was born in 1807 and it appears that he was born in Kentucky. The couple moved to Rutherford County, Tennessee before the birth of their next child, Matilda who was born in 1809. All of the rest of their children were born in Rutherford County, TN including; George Polk in 1810, Samuel Allen, Jr. in 1812, Richard in 1816, Jesse Alben in 1817, and Elisha in 1820. The family moved from Tennessee to Alabama between 1820 and 1827 when Samuel Allen Sr. died in Dallas County, Alabama.
Samuel Allen Jr. came from Mississippi to Panola County, Texas by 1850. After his first wife Mary Muse died in 1840 he eventually remarried Elizabeth T. Powell who is likely related to Almarine Powell who was Ellender Temperence’s first husband. They married before 1870 and are living in Brazos County, Texas on the 1870 US Census with Elizabeth’s two children James 15 and Elizabeth 12.
.So now we look at the next generation to see if there is a link. Samuel Allen Sr. was born in 1779 so one of his brothers could possibly be an uncle to Bigfoot. The timeline makes more sense. Samuel Allen Sr. was the son of John Wallace and possibly Mary Carrington.
John Wallace was born in 1743 in Somerset, Pennsylvania. John had two younger brothers that we know of; Oliver Wallace, Jr. (1748 – 1789), James L. Wallace (1750 – 1838) and two younger sisters; Hannah (1746 – 1807) and Jeanne (1760 – 1847).
John Wallace was the son of Oliver Wallace and Annisbelle “Ann” McNabb. Oliver Wallace was born in 1716 in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, USA Oliver married Ann McNabb in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1742. By 1756 the couple had moved south first to Mecklenburg, North Carolina by 1756 and then to South Carolina by 1766. They then moved on to Oglethorpe, Georgia after the Revolutionary Was. Oliver died in Clarke County, Georgia on 25 Mar 1802. Oliver had the following children: John Wallace (1742-1835) was the oldest son, followed by Hannah Wallace (1746 – 1807), Oliver Wallace, Jr. (1748 – 1789), James L. Wallace (1750 – 1838), and Jeane Wallace (1760 – 1847).
So where does this leave us in regards to Bigfoot Wallace?
Bigfoot’s father was Andrew K. Wallace born August 8, 1784 in Lexington, Rockbridge County,Virginia. He married Jane Ann Blair in 1812 and they had Sarah Lapsley Wallace (1812 – 1853), Grover Wallace (1813 – ), James Blair Wallace (1813 – 1824), Samuel P. Wallace (1815 – 1836), “Bigfoot” (1817 – 1899), Rebecca Jane Wallace (1819 – 1832), Andrew Grover Wallace (1821 – 1854), Elizabeth Jane Wallace (1823 – 1832), Joseph Blair Wallace (1826 – 1904), Martha Wallace (1828 – 1829) and Alexander Augustus Wallace (1831 – 1921).
Bigfoot’s Grandfather was named Samuel Augustus Wallace who was born in 1745 in Lexington, Rockbridge, Virginia. He married Rebecca Anderson and had six children; Elizabeth Ann “Betsey” Wallace Grisby born in 1772, James Wallace born in 1778, William Wallace born in 1780, Martha Wallace Ruff born in 1782, Andrew K. Wallace (Bigfoot’s father) born in 1784 and Anderson Wallace born in 1886. All children were born in Lexington, Rockbridge County, Virginia.
We could go back still another generation to look at yet another generation, but even if there is a connection this far back it is highly unlikely that it would be known to either Samuel or Bigfoot. Bottom line, I believe that this is just a family myth. There does not appear to be any direct relationship between Bigfoot Wallace and the Texas Wallace/West sisters.
In the course of doing this research, I have some more important information to leave behind to the Wallace and West descendants. It appears that Samuel Allen Sr’s father, John Wallace who was born in 1755 in Somerset, Pennsylvania served in the American Revolutionary War. His Revolutionary War service was documented on his Pension Application that was filed by his widow Sarah Locke. Here is an excerpt from an article in the Kansas City Genealogist, Volume 44, No. 4 which was written by Candy Novak.
“His (John Wallace) service began in June 1775 when the militia went eighty miles to the west in Cherokee country for two months. In December of the same year they “chased” some Tories under the command of William Cunningham. He served with his cousin Captain John Wallace in June 1778 or 1779. He was with Major Ross when the militia fought the battle of Briar Creek in Georgia. He was unhorsed by the British charge and had to swim the Savannah River to return to camp. Kings Mountain (October 1780) was another battle they fought. Their unit was joined by the Virginia militia under Colonel Campbell and Colonel Shelby. It was about this time John and his family moved to Abbyville District, 120 miles from York District. After his move he became a spy in Captain Baskins Company for six months. His militia unit met the Tories at Reedy Branch where John was wounded and taken prisoner. He was placed in close confinement at the post of C. I. Say for three months, which meant he was chained to the floor in what he described as an “offu (awful) position.” He was then transferred to Charleston and finally to Jamestown, Virginia where he was released. He spent some time recuperating at a Williamsburg hospital. General Pickens sent for John so that he might be protected from the neighborhood Tories. These unfriendlies were also light fingered as they stole his bed and bedding, two horses and a wagon. Robert Wallace has found evidence that John Wallace, Jr. moved to Oglethorpe County, Georgia and then to Tennessee about 1804, where his father died. He eventually moved to Mississippi and then in 1817 to Missouri.
There is a John Wallace listed in the Howard County tax rolls for that year. On 17 May 1820, John, his wife and three grandchildren were crossing the Missouri River to Ray County. Only John made it. Evidently he lost his family and most of his possessions. He applied for a Revolutionary War pension 5 August 1832 with the help of George Woodward, Ray County Clerk. His references included Daniel Patton, George Woodward and General William T. Thompson, a brigadier of the State Militia. One of the papers was misfiled into James Wallace’s pension file (S19145). John received his pension (file # SI7178). He is listed on the Pension Rolls of 1835. He would have been 89. In his deposition, Daniel Patton indicated that he was John’s nearest neighbor. Daniel is listed as having land in Township 52 Sections 20 and 29 which is just northeast of Richmond at this time. John is probably buried in this area sometime between 1835 and 1840 (he is not on the census). Note: Daniel Patton was a Cumberland Presbyterian minister who came to Ray County in the 1820s from Bedford County, Tennessee. He was born in 1799 Wilkes County, North Carolina. He later moved to Fishing River Township in Clay County. He was included in a series of articles in the Liberty Tribune entitled “Old Men of Clay County in 1870.” 170 Kansas City Genealogist, Volume 44, #4.”
My research shows that several of John Wallace’s brothers and uncles also served in the South Carolina Militia during this same time. Many fought under the same commanders like Captain William Bratton and several named sons after him.
So there you go. Any Wallace/West descendants have it all laid out to join the Sons or the Daughters of the American Revolution. I really got interested in this research project as it was my first venture into the revolutionary war battles. I am sure it will not be the last.
I have had a special request from one of the blog followers to put together a story about William Lightfoot West. She believes that she is a descendant of one of his daughters, Sarah Pocahontas West. I wrote briefly about William Lightfoot West in my Blog, “Not So Grand, my Grandfather, Royal Henry Sutherland”. As a quick refresher, William Lightfoot West’s daughter Amanda Jane West came to Texas with her husband Joseph Rendell Harrell. When the Harrell’s migrated to Texas in 1882, they came in a wagon train along with their children and a neighbor named Jefferson Davis Odom who had recently lost his mother. Jeff Davis eventually married Sarah Ellen Harrell who was one of Amanda and Joseph Harrell’s daughters in Wilson County. Their daughter, Artie Beatrice Odom was my Grandmother.
So was William Lightfoot West an Indian? Many West researchers believe that he was an Indian based on his middle name, “Lightfoot”. However a bit of research shows that the surname Lightfoot is a well established old English name. In old English, the name means someone who is “light, nimble, quick” with the foot. The name may have originally denoted someone with a light springy step or a speedy runner or messenger. There are many early occurances of the name including, William Lightfote (Cambridgeshire, 1273), and Willelmus Lightfote (Yorkshire, 1379). In the Norfolk “Towneley Plays of Caesar Augustus”, dated 1274, reference is made to the characters “Lyghtefote Nuncius” and “John Litefot, cacher”. John Lightfoote, an early settler in America, was recorded on a Census of Virginia in 1624.
Several West researchers indicate that they believe that William Lightfoot West was named after his Mother’s Family. While, I have no specific sources to prove it, many West Family Trees indicate that William’s mother was named Sarah Lightfoot. More research is needed here.
Based on immigration patterns, I believe that William’s father was Berry West who was born in 1778 in Laurens County, South Carolina. Prior to the Revolutionary War, Laurens was a part of the 96th Judicial District of South Carolina. In 1885, counties were established within the 96th district. In 1800 the 96th District was abolished all together. This is important to know when you are researching historical records. Berry is shown in Laurens District on the 1800 census. He would have been 22 at that time. He must have married in Laurens before 1796 as his first son Dow was born in 1796, followed by a daughter Nancy West in 1799. There were four more sons born in Laurens; Jim in 1799, John in 1800, Berry Jr. in 1804, and finally William Lightfoot in 1809. They also had two other daughters after Nancy. The first was Polly born in 1805 and then Elizabeth born in 1807.
Berry West remained in Laurens and is seen on the 1810 and the 1820 census reports. However by 1830 he had moved on to Fayette County, Alabama. We have records of him purchasing land there in 1836 and in 1839. By 1830, his children would have been grown and on their own. He is shown in Fayette County, Alabama on the 1840 census and apparently, he remained in Alabama through the end of the Civil War. Sometime after 1866, he moved to Thorn, Chickasaw County, Mississippi. Chickasaw County is named for the Chickasaw Native American Tribe, the tribe that ceded this land in the treaty of Pontotoc in 1832. The Chickasaws lived in this area for hundreds of years. Most were removed to Indian Territory in the 1830s, but some remained and became citizens of the state and United States.
Our William Lightfoot was well on his own when Berry West moved from South Carolina to Alabama. He married Mary Ann Thompson on September 24, 1836. Some West researchers believe that they were married and had their first three children in Tennessee. However, I have found no record of this. All of the children indicate at some point that they were born in Alabama. So it is likely that William Lightfoot moved on the Alabama about the same time as his father, Berry, and lived there in Fayette County. In 1852, William Lightfoot and Mary moved to Bexar, Marion County, Alabama which borders on Fayette County to the north.
According to a text written by Vidian Davis West and Jane Cain Resler, “William and Mary Ann built what is known as the West Home there is Marion County. The home had one large room with a very large fireplace on each end of the room. The mantles were large logs split in half. Family legend said that William Lightfoot kept his money on the mantle. If someone needed to borrow they would ask William Lightfoot and if he saw fit he went to the mantle, but no one helped themselves. The home also had large porches across the sides. It was a typical home of the time.
He had large land holdings here and is listed on the slave owners’ records in 1850. I believe they were almost self-sufficient at this time even to running at least one mill for themselves and others. The records that we have show that William Lightfoot still owned lands in Alabama at his death and I feel it is this land that we call the West Homeplace.”
The narrative continues to say: “The family made friends with the Pearce family when Augustus C. Pearce and his sister were school teachers to the older West children. Augustus C. married Jerusha Adeline West (1843-1875) about 1860. The Tories raids were more frequent and destruction more extensive so by the early 1870’s the West’s began to look in the westward direction. Oregon seemed to be the destination.”
During the Civil War, Union supporters became known as “Tories” like the British Loyalists during the American Revolutionary War. Union sympathizers in northern Alabama were certainly in a minority. Apparently the West family bore some of the neighbor-against-neighbor “bushwacking” that was common during this very unhappy time in the south. While I have no record of William Lightfoot serving in the Confederacy during the Civil War as he would have been 53 in 1862, we do know that his oldest son, William Jefferson West served with General Pemberton’s Army in battles around Jackson, Mississippi and participated in the siege at Vicksburg.
His second son, Lucian Benton West also served in the same company of the Confederate Army in the Civil War. He enlisted at Aberdeen, Monroe County, Mississippi on May 13 1862. He was captured at the Siege of Vicksburg on July 4, 1963 when General Pemberton surrendered and was paroled on July 10, 1863 at Vicksburg, Mississippi.
So off they went, leaving their Alabama lands behind. “They reached Tremont, Itawamba County, Mississippi, near where the Pearce family lived, and decided to rest a year and make a crop. This seems strange now, since the distance was only about nine miles but if they had serious illness, or damage and destruction in this distance it could have seemed a very long way. This time in Tremont bonded a good friendship with the Pearce family for life. Both families gradually inched their way west but they stayed together. ”
William Lightfoot made his will only a short time before his death. We can see from his probate that his health began to decline in early May, 1883. May 2, whiskey (for medicine) was purchased for $1. May 28 shows expense to New Albany $1. May 29 a box of pills was purchased for $1. Carrorin Supplement for $.25. On June 7 new bed springs were purchased for $3.25, perhaps to make him more comfortable. On June 8 expenses for medicine from New Albany was $10. June 9 the dispatch ($3.50) went to Verona to Dr. West who was paid $10. Elbert Neely was paying final bills in July and we find Dr. Ellison was paid $37.30, Dr Bogan was paid $17, Dr. Phip was paid $3.50 and .50 for Bennett medicine.
William Lightfoot died 14 June 1883 in Fawn Grove Precinct near Mantachie, Itawamba County, Mississippi. Based on the information given in probate, he was buried in a good manner. A dispatch for a coffin was $1.35, coffin was $22.50, and expenses on the coffin was $.50. They purchased a coat and vest for $9.00, pair of pants for $2.75, and new socks for $.10. He is buried in Center Star Cemetary, Mantachie, Itawamba County, Mississippi.”
Upon his death it was apparent that he was a wealthy man. “His land holdings were extensive and cash on hand was sufficient that his land holdings were not listed in his probate. Upon disposition of his probate each of his living children received $475 and each minor grandchild from his deceased son and daughter received $100.”
His beloved wife Mary Ann was buried next to him when she died in 1890. Other family members buried here are his sister, Nancy West Anderson, her husband Issac Anderson, his daughter Juresha Adeline West Pearce and some of her babies, another daughter Sarah Elizabeth West Grimes, her husband Harmon Grimes and some of their babies. Just to the west of these graves are several Pearce family graves.
So what is the story about our reader’s ancestor, Sarah Pocahontas West? With a name like Pocahontas, there has to be a good story. Everyone remembers who Pocahontas was. Right? She was the brave Indian maiden in colonial Virginia who fell in love with Captain John Smith and saved his life when her father wanted to kill him. Several census records indicate that Pocahontas was born in 1854 in Alabama. She married James Sheran Olsen in 1873 in Paris, Texas which is in Lamar County. She and James had at least 12 children before she died at the age of 50 on January 17, 1904.
While researching Pocahontas, I only found the name “Pocahontas West” on one census record before her marriage. I found her on the 1860 census for the Eastern Division, Morgan, Alabama. Her father is shown as Wm West who is 48 years old, born in Kentucky. Her mother is shown as Sarah West who is 44 years old, born in Tennessee. We have problem here!! William Lightfoot West and his wife Mary Ann Thompson West, along with their children, are on the 1860 US Census in the Western District, Marion, Alabama. William Lightfoot is 50 and born in South Carolina while Mary Ann is 42 born in Tennessee/South Carolina.
Bottom line, despite what dozens of Ancestry Family Trees are showing, Sarah Pocahontas West is not the daughter of William Lightfoot West. William and Mary Ann did have a daughter born in 1854 named Sarah Elizabeth “Sallie” West who married Herman H. Grimes and lived the rest of her life in Mantachie, Itawamba County, Mississippi, USA where she is buried.
According to several other Ancestry family trees, Pocahontas West’s father William “Billy” West and her mother, Sarah “Sally” Thomas married on September 3, 1833 in Limestone, Alabama. They had at least six children in addition to Pocahontas. Susan born in 1835, Louisa in 1838, David Jasper in 1841, Elizabeth M. in 1841, Thomas N. in 1846, Zachariah “Zachary” Taylor in 1846.
Well, I just never know what I will find when I embark on these research projects, but am always glad for the opportunity to make my family tree more accurate and help others find their roots. In this case, my reader and I do not share the same roots, but we do share a love of family history and that is enough…
When my father left the Army at the end of World War II, he had achieved the rank of a Technician Fifth Grade or T/5 or TEC 5. This rank was also known as a Technical Corporal. This was based on his work as an automotive technical specialist working in the motor pool. He wore a chevron with two stripes over the letter “T”. After the war, he came home to Cuero, Texas where my mother was waiting. I never heard my father talk about the war. He talked about his friends and fellow soldiers but never mentioned anything about the actual conflict. I think this was pretty common with many of the former soldiers. After the war, he returned to the profession that he learned best while in the army, driving big trucks. During those first years back as a civilian he drove for the Groce-Wearden Food Distribution Company as a truck driver. Later he worked as a bus driver for Trailways Bus Company and for Phoenix Transport.
Like many, many couples seeking normalcy after years of separation during the war, Harry and Ruth Inez were very much looking forward to the birth of their first child in 1946. Harry Lee Sutherland, their first son was born on Christmas Day, December 25, 1946. He was named after his father Harry and it is likely that the middle name “Lee” came from his great-uncle Robert Lee Sutherland and his great-aunt, Annie Lee Sutherland Earp. However, the tiny infant suffered from some sort of congenital malformation and died just one day later on December 26, 1946. He was buried in the Bundick Cemetery in Smiley along with his Great Grandparents, Jim and Lula Grant, his Grandfather, Herbert Grant, and his little infant cousin who also died at birth. Harry and Ruth Inez were no doubt devastated by the loss of their first child. I inherited several pictures taken of the dead infant, one showing Harry holding him. I always found these pictures of dead infants pretty bizarre, but many tell me that they were not uncommon at that time. You can see the tiny stitching on the little satin gown that Harry Lee was buried in, that had been lovingly stitched by my mother.
The Post-War Baby Boom was in full bloom by 1948 when on January 4, 1948 another child was born and that would be me. My parents named me Sharon Ruth. I don’t know where the Sharon came from, but the middle name Ruth was after my mother Ruth Inez. I was a very healthy little baby was the center of attention for my parents and for my Aunt Bea and Uncle Norman Powell who did not have a child of their own at this point.
I remember those early years when we lived in Cuero, Texas on Austin Street. The little house is still there. During these years, my father drove the bus and was often gone late into the night. I adored my “Daddy” during those years. He was my hero and the one to which I always turned when in trouble with my mother. I could not wait for him to come home at night and often lay awake very late waiting for him. I was always “Daddy’s Girl” and as far as I was concerned, he could do no wrong.
On July 9, 1954 the third child was born and he was named Jimmy Ray Sutherland. I think the name Jimmy came from my father’s great-uncle Jim but I don’t know where the Ray came from. Jimmy was the cutest little blonde headed boy ever. He was born when we were still living in Cuero on Austin Street. I am sure that the birth of this little boy brought great joy to my parents, especially after the sad loss of their first son.
I don’t have many memories of my father while we lived in Cuero. I know that he was gone a lot of the time. My mother learned to fend for herself with the help of my aunts and my grandmother. Life was good for me during those years. I loved school and was so very proud to bring home good grades to show to my father. My mother and I spent many wonderful days with Aunt Bea, Aunt Lena, and my Grandmother. I was a little kid focused on playing and enjoying the weekly tub of homemade ice cream and did not really understand what was really happening with the grown-ups. It would still be years before I put it all together.
When I was in third grade in about 1959, we moved to San Antonio where my father went to work for Howell Refining Company as a truck driver. His brother Eddie had first got a job with Howell and convinced my father to come to San Antonio to work for Howell as well. That first year in San Antonio we lived in three different houses in three different neighborhoods. We ended up in far south San Antonio on Hutchins Street in the Bellaire neighborhood. My Great Aunt Mamie and my Grandmother loaned my parents the down payment money for their first home. In more recent years, I have gone back to look at each of these little houses and am always amazed about how small they actually were.
I was just 10 years old when on April 30, 1958 the new baby, Harry Elmo Sutherland, Jr. was born. He was the spitting image of my father with bright red hair and blue eyes. Everyone called him “Junior”. It seems like I almost raised Junior, as it was within the next year that my mother got sicker and sicker. I never understood why she never went to any of my school functions until much later. She did not drive and was not able to make the walk to the school. My father spent a lot of time driving petroleum transport trucks all over south Texas to pick up crude oil and bring it back to the Howell Refinery. He was never home until late at night and rarely home on the weekends. I really have no memories of the family doing much of anything together those years except for the occasional visit down to the Stockdale/Floresville area to visit my Uncle Garvie and Aunt Bess Odom. We always brought home a car full of watermelon and cantaloupes from Uncle Garvie’s farm. The adults would sit inside and visit and I would swing for hours in the old tire swing hanging from that huge old oak tree in the front yard. Those were wonderful times.
I never really understood why until later, but we had to move away from our little home on Hutchins Street. Later I found out that my father had failed to make the mortgage payments and we were being evicted. So in September, 1960 we moved out of Bellaire to a little house in far-east San Antonio. I was in 7th grade and devastated to be leaving my school and my friends. The new school was so far from where we lived and the environment so unfriendly, I just stopped going to school. This is really amazing, because I am the original school nerd. School was where I was able to receive positive feedback and recognition. I lived for the perfect report card.
When we were living in that little desolate house, my mother was so sick most of the time that she could not get out of bed. I took care of both Jimmy, who was about six, and Junior was only a little over 18 months old. I cleaned house, cooked, did laundry and took care of my mother as best I could as a 12 year old. I really did not mind this too much as I always thought that this was going to make my father really love me and want to be home more. However, despite how very sick my mother was those few months, he was not home more.
The truancy issue finally became a problem. My parents got in serious trouble with the school for not making us go to school, so in October 1960 my father finally moved us back to south San Antonio and back to the school I had left. By then my mother was so sick that my grandmother had to come to San Antonio to take care of her. I was so thrilled to be back where I had friends and to have someone to carry the load for a while; I did not know how very sick my mother actually was.
She died of pancreatic cancer on December 3, 1960. I remember very clearly that it was a Saturday afternoon, just a week or so after my mother went to the hospital, when my father’s sister-in-law, Hilda, called me on the phone and told me that my mother was dead. I had been to the hospital to see her just a few days before and took her a rose. Aunt Bea had come from California where she and Uncle Norman were living at the time to see after my mother. She knew how very sick she actually was. She had no sooner returned to California when my mother died.
So after my mother’s death, there we were, just my father and the three kids. I have to give him credit in that he did keep us all together despite offers from members of the family to take us in and raise us. I can’t help wondering sometimes how that would have changed things for all of us. We always had a roof over our heads and food on the table. We moved a lot but always within the Bellaire community. I think that he would pay the first month’s rent and then not pay again until he got an eviction notice. Then he would move us to another house.
With three young children to raise, you would think that he would have tried to spend more time at home with us, but that just never happened. We never saw him until late at night and he always went out every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night. He would dress up in his nice western shirt and western pants and always looked so handsome. I worked really hard to keep his clothes all washed and ironed for his nights out. I worked pretty hard period during those days, going to school and taking care of my brothers and keeping house. Except for a couple of years when my father hired an older lady that we called Aunt Rosie, the responsibility was all mine. When Aunt Rosie was with us, we did eat well as she was a great cook.
So what was my father doing with all those spare hours? He told me that he was looking for a new mother for us. It’s pretty hard to argue with that sort of logic since we were a sad rag-tag band of motherless orphans or were we really? Those of you who know me well, know that I am the most well organized and most single-minded person in the world. In those times as well as throughout life, things within my control were well handled.
The truth was that this story was just an excuse to explain why my father went out to various night clubs and dance halls so much. He did indeed meet a lot of women, some of which he brought around to meet us, but most we never knew. I am not so sure he was looking for a new mother for us or a new mother for himself. The early loss of his own mother to mental illness must have left a great void in his life. I think his continual search was to find the love that he lost as a child from his mother.
In about 1964, he met a woman named Constance Lorein Gore. She was recently divorced from her husband and had lost her own 18 year old daughter, Sharon Jean, to a brain aneurysm in 1962. In the beginning, we were pretty pleased with this new paramour. She appeared at the beginning to be pretty normal at least relative to the other “bar-flies” that were the normal. My father was madly in love with her and they got married in the summer of 1965 and she moved into our house on Vestal Street. Mission accomplished, he had found us a new mother!
Unfortunately, this story did not turn out as well as we might have hoped. Remember, I had been running the show in our house since 1960, a period of over five years. I had been the woman of the house and it was hard to suddenly be on the side lines. I really tried hard to please her, but she was just a nasty lady as it turned out and she would constantly compare me to her dead daughter. Those years of being responsible for everyone required a lot of growing up and a lot of strength. I also was that squeaky clean nerd who brought home all those A+ report cards. In essence, I was the exact opposite of Connie’s dead daughter and she hated me for still living when her daughter was dead.
It funny about significant events in your life and how they all seem to fall on the same day, year after year. For me that date was December 25. So on Christmas Day in 1965, Connie gave my father the ultimatum, I had to leave or she was going to leave. I don’t even remember what happened to bring that ultimatum about, but it was only a matter of time. So, guess who left and guess who stayed behind?
I spent the next 6 months living with Connie’s son and his wife who lived nearby until I finished high school and then I moved out into my own apartment. I sent my father an invitation to my high school graduation as I foolishly thought he would be proud of my academic accomplishments. He did not come. Who doesn’t come to their child’s high school graduation? This was not a big surprise for me as he had never come to a single school event before. I never saw my father again after December 25, 1965.
So back to that magic date, my father died of a massive heart attack on December 25, 1969. He was buried in the San Fernando Cemetery #3 in San Antonio. My brothers became my responsibility yet again. With the help of my Aunt Bea, they went with her to Cuero while I finished my senior year of college.
I went back to the cemetery only one time to see if I could find the grave. It is a lovely pink granite double stone with my father and Connie’s names on it. I am guessing that she will never be buried there since she married again three times after my father’s death.
So I guess that everyone has been able to do the reading between the lines in this story. My father followed so closely in the footsteps left by his father, Fritz Sutherland and his grandfather, Robert Henry Sutherland. He spent his life drinking, womanizing, and in the end he abandoned one of his own children just like his own father. As an adult, I learned the truth about those years in Cuero and those late night bus schedules. I learned the truth about those weekend trips that he did when he was in San Antonio. I learned in fact that he had been unfaithful to my mother since the beginning of their marriage.
I wish I could justify all of this and explain it away because of his own sad childhood, but adults just have to grow up and be adults sometimes and he was never able to put his family’s needs before his own desires. I have tried very hard over the years to find that love that I had for him as a child but it is lost forever. Part of my need to do all of this genealogy research into the Sutherland Family was based on my need to try to understand why he was the way he was and to somehow find some reconciliation. This story is the second draft of the story about my father’s post-war years. In the first draft, I recounted all of the horrific incidents and the terrible things that he did over the years. However, there are those who did love him and I have chosen to keep their memory of him intact.
Next time, the Sutherland Sister, Hazel Willette Sutherland and how her life impacted my father.
As I said before, this will be a hard story to write. My relationship with my father has been one of love and hate over the years. It has taken me over 45 years to come to terms with it and some days I am still unsure that the years have really healed my heart. But let’s start at the beginning.
Harry Elmo was the first child born to Royal Henry “Fritz” Sutherland and his wife Artie Beatrice Odom Sutherland. He was born on March 31, 1920 in Sutherland Springs, Texas. His parents, Fritz and Artie had been married shortly less than a year when he was born. In 1920, Artie and Fritz were living with Artie’s Father, Jefferson “Jeff” Davis Odom on his farm along with her brothers Ed, MT, and Garvie. Fritz was working as a farm laborer on his father-in-law’s farm. He was 27 and Artie was 17. The 1920 census record was taken on February 12-13, 1920 before Artie had given birth to Harry.
So where did the name Harry Elmo come from? I have to guess that my Father was named after his uncle, Harry Herchel Sutherland who has just died in 1919 of tuberculosis in San Antonio. I do not have any idea where the middle name “Elmo” came from. We don’t know when, but at some point after 1920, the new family moved away from Jeff Davis’ home and set up housekeeping in Floresville, Texas.
Harry was soon joined by a younger sister, Hazel Willette Sutherland born on January 26, 1922 in Floresville, Texas; another brother, Eddie James Sutherland born on November 7, 1924 in Floresville, Texas; and finally one more brother born May 13, 1927 in Sutherland Springs, Texas. The family apparently moved back to Sutherland Springs between 1924 and 1927 when the youngest son was born. That new baby was named Royal Henry Sutherland, Jr. after his father. He was nicknamed “Sam” and was called that the rest of his life.
In about 1929 when Sam was about 18 months old, his mother Artie suffered a total mental collapse. Family stories say that Fritz was exceedingly cruel to her and spent many hours away from home often gambling away what little money that the family had. Often Harry and Eddie were sent into town to find their father and bring him home from the gambling dens. It was said by Sam’s descendants that his mother was very protective of him and would even take him into the fields with her. Her mental condition may have been triggered by what we now call “post partum depression” following the birth of Sam. Regardless, one last incident was the one that resulted in her admission to the San Antonio Insane Asylum. Family stories say that Fritz came home one night and found that Artie had placed Sam in a large roasting pan and was preparing to put him into a hot oven. While we cannot think that a mother doing anything like this to her baby, in her depressed mental state, she was obviously no longer thinking rationally. She had to receive medical and psychological assistance in the State Hospital.
I cannot imagine the fear and the sadness that my father and his siblings felt at losing their mother at such young ages. My father would have been about 9 years old, Hazel would have been about 7, and Eddie would have been only 5. Sam of course was still a baby. Fritz may have hoped that Artie would recover and eventually come home again so he did what he could in the interim. Hazel went to live with Artie’s brother Garvie and his family. Sam, the baby went to live with his uncle Ancil “Jack” Sutherland and his family. Royal kept the boys at home with him for a while.
The boys continued to attend school in Sutherland Springs. The pictures that we found of Harry and Eddie along with their classmates in 1929 and 1930 show little barefoot boys with their hair slicked down and in 1930 Harry is sporting a hat in his lap. His younger brother Eddie was never far away. On the 1930 census, the four were living in Wilson County, Justice Precinct 3 in dwelling 112. Fritz indicates that he still earns his living as a farmer. However, shortly thereafter, Fritz abandoned the boys and disappeared into places unknown. Family history says that one day when the boys, Harry and Eddie came home from school their father had packed up his things and was gone. The two were on their own at age 12 and 10. We think this happened about 1931 or 1932. This was the height of the depression and times were hard for everyone especially these two little homeless boys. We do not know for sure what happened to Harry for the next 10 years, but we know that Eddie was adopted by a man named James Wire Franks and was taken to California where his name was changed and he was totally separated from his family until after WWII. Legend says that Eddie was traded to Arthur Franks for a case of whiskey.
My father must have grown up somewhere in Wilson County, but I do not know for sure. All through his life he held a special affection for his Uncle Garvie Odom so it is possible that he went there and joined his sister Hazel until he was old enough to be on his own which would have been about 1938. Times were hard during those years and we do not know how Harry survived or where he lived. I have never been able to find him on the 1940 US Census report.
However we do know that by 1941 he was living in Cuero. Perhaps he was visiting his cousin Georgia Aline Southern. Georgia was the oldest child of Ancil Jack Sutherland. Georgia married Joseph “Elton” Southern in 1935 and moved to Cuero the same year. Georgia and Elton were in Cuero until their deaths. So it is possible that he came to Cuero to visit his cousin. However it is much more likely that Harry came to Cuero to be with his sister Hazel Sutherland Munselle. Hazel married John William “Johnny” Munselle in about 1938. The couple was living in Cuero in 1940.
Regardless of how he got there, he met my mother, Ruth Inez Grant in Cuero. Ruth Inez was born on September 26, 1925 and was only 16 years old when she married my father in Methodist Church in Cuero on December 12, 1941. In 1940, My Grandmother Ethel Grant was working in a Works Project Administration Sewing Room as a seamstress. Ruth Inez was likely still in school at the time.
Since World War II had started, Harry enlisted in the Army on November 25, 1942. He was interred at Ft Sam Houston in San Antonio. On his enlistment papers he indicated that he had one year of high school and that he was unmarried with no dependents. I am not sure about this discrepancy since I am sure of the marriage date based on the actual marriage certificate in my possession. Regardless, Harry was assigned to work in the Motor Pool and was assigned to the 547th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion. The Anti-Aircraft Artillery are the huge guns used to shoot down German aircraft to provide cover for the advancing infantry. Somehow, I ended up with the Unit History Book of this Battalion and was able to follow my father’s army service across Europe in support of George Patton and the Third Army. Below are a few excerpts from some of the Battalion’s Letters of Appreciation:
“The 547th AAA (AW) Battalion joined the Division in Normandy, and served with it throughout its campaigns at Metz and in the Saar, in the Rhineland and the Ruhr. The Battalion shared in the bitter fighting that attended the Third Army’s winter assault on the Siegfried Line, and participated in the sweeping drive that carried the Ninth Army across the Rhine and brought the war in Europe to a close.
The path of the Division across Europe was marked by the gun placements of the 547th AAA (AW) Battalion; in all weather and under all conditions the gun crews stood at the alert. The Luffwaffe was largely vanquished prior to the Divisions’ commitment but in its brief resurgence during the German counter-offensive in December 1944 the gunners proved their skill. They had proved their courage many times over when they moved into position under the guns of the Siegfried Line at Saarlautern.
In addition to its exemplary performance in carrying out its primary mission, the 547th AAA (AW) Battalion rendered vital assistance to the Division in making its transportation available for the movement of infantry units. The tireless efforts of the drivers who transported troops to combat from Metz, France to Boxmeer, Holland, and across the Rhine into the heart of Germany, is worthy of special commendation. ” Signed: Harry L. Twaddle, Major General, U.S.A., Commanding.
George S. Patton Jr. Lieutenant, General U.S. Army, Commanding wrote:”The fourteen days of continuous attack against a strong and aggressive enemy, along a 26-mile front, drove irresistibly to the heart of the city of Metz where contact was made with American forces advancing from the south. In the course of the attack you successfully (1) made four assault crossings of the Moselle River at its high flood stage, (2) penetrated the line of defending forts, reducing those necessary to accomplish the mission and (3) greatly contributed to the destruction of an entire reinforced German division. Against these fortifications which had never before in modern times fallen by assault in terrain favorable to the enemy, and under almost intolerable weather conditions of rain, flood, and bitter cold, your officers and men met a most searching combat test which required not only individual courage, skill, endurance, and determination, but also tactical judgment coupled with an insatiable desire to close with the enemy.”
Sounds like a real hero right? Stay tuned to my next Blog on the Post-War years.
The study of your family history can take you down some unlikely roads. Sometimes there are some surprises at the end of those roads. While emailing with my Arkansas Cousin about possible hints about the father of Alvis Sutherland who is the first Sutherland ancestor in the Sutherland Family Tree, I mentioned that it might be possible for him to be related to two other Sutherlands that I found living in Guilford County, North Carolina ten years after I found Alvis living there in 1820. The men were brothers named Habrum and Overton Sutherland. Very unusual names and common among Quaker communities that were in Guilford County at that time. My Arkansas Cousin immediately responded that Alvis’ son John Walter Sutherland (1822-1885) was “certainly no Quaker”. She said that John was friends with the legendary female outlaw, Belle Starr. Now that was something to think about! So off we go on another historical journey to see if we can find a link.
When you take a look at John Walter’s family names, there is certainly some indication that there may have been a connection of some sort with Belle Starr. John and his wife Rebecca Larkins Sutherland lived near Fort Smith, Arkansas from about 1840 until both of their deaths sometime in the 1880s or 1890s. Belle Starr spent quite a bit of time in Ft Smith from the period from about 1880 when she married Sam Starr, son of the legendary Cherokee outlaw, Tom Starr until she was murdered on February 3, 1889. She was in court for horse thievery several times during this period. In fact she had the picture taken in Ft Smith on her favorite horse, holding her Colt revolver in 1886.
The story of Belle Starr is fairly interesting in itself. There is a great book about her called “Belle Starr, and Her Times. The Literature, the Facts, and the Legends” written by Glenn Shirley that provides a lot of detail. We do know that she was born on her father’s farm near Carthage, Missouri on February 5, 1848 and was named Myra Maybelle Shirley. Make a note of the middle name. Later in life she was called “Belle” from her middle name. Her family called her May.
Her father was John Shirley. Her mother, Eliza Hatfield, was related to the Hatfields of the famous Hatfield and McCoy feud. It is reported that she had an affair with Cole Younger, who was a member of the famous Younger Gang that ran with Jesse James. Some claim that her first daughter named Rosie Lee (nicknamed Pearl) was Younger’s child. Others believe she was the daughter of Jim Reed who was a member of the Starr Gang that was led by the legendary Cherokee outlaw, Tom Starr, a murderous Cherokee so notorious that he was an embarrassment to the Cherokee Nation. Jim Reed and Belle married in 1866, but Jim could not give up his outlaw ways and in August of 1874 he was shot by a Deputy Sheriff in Paris, Texas while being pursued for a stage robbery.
Belle returned to Oklahoma where she took refuge with members of the Starr Gang and in 1880 married Sam Starr, who was the son of Cherokee outlaw Tom Starr. The couple settled down on Sam’s sixty-two acres on the north side of the Canadian River, near Briartown. Belle named the place Younger’s Bend, reported in honor of Cole Younger. The bandit couple supposedly formed a gang around themselves and, from their hide-away on the Canadian River in Indian Territory, entered upon a life of rustling, horse stealing and bootlegging whiskey to Indians.
The nearest settlement to the Starr gang’s operation in the Oklahoma Indian Territory was Fort Smith, Arkansas, which was about 70 miles to the east. The local Magistrate was the famed Judge Isaac Parker, “the Hanging Judge”. Judge Parker became determined to put Belle behind bars. Several times his Deputies had brought her in to face various charges like rustling or bootlegging. Yet, each time she was set free due to lack of evidence. In the fall of 1882, however, Parker got lucky when Belle was caught red handed as she attempted to steal a neighbor’s horse. After a trial, he sentenced Belle to two consecutive six month prison terms and Sam to one year in the Federal Prison in Detroit. After serving their time, Belle and Sam returned to Younger’s Bend.
However, their time behind bars did nothing to change their lawless ways. Upon release they immediately returned to a life of rustling and bootlegging. In 1886 Belle and Sam were again arrested by United States marshals, who brought them to Fort Smith on charges of robbery and horse-stealing. The Starrs were arraigned the following day before Judge Parker but the hanging judge was forced to dismiss the charges for lack of evidence.
During a friend’s Christmas party in December 17, 1886, Sam Starr got into a gunfight with an old nemesis Frank West. Both men hit their marks and died of their wounds. Belle did not remain alone for long. In 1889 Belle entered into her third marriage, with a much younger bandit by the name of Jim July “Starr”, who was an adopted son of Tom Starr. This marriage allowed her to keep her land in Indian Territory.
On February 3, 1889, Belle Starr was ambushed and shot to death on a lonely country road near her home. She was 41 years of age. Her killer was never found but many were accused, including her husband Jim July, her daughter Pearl, and her son Edward, however most believe that she was murdered by a neighbor named Watson who the couple was feuding with. Jim July did not live long after. Just a few weeks after Belle’s death, a deputy who was on July’s trail mortally wounded him.
Belle was buried in the front yard of the cabin at Younger’s Bend. She was buried in one of her black velvet riding habits and adorned with all of her jewelry. Months later Pearl hired a stone cutter to mount a monument over her mother’s grave. On top of the stone was carved an image of her favorite mare, “Venus.” On the stone was this inscription:
Shed not for her the bitter tear
Nor give the heart to vain regret,
‘Tis but the casket that lies here,
The gem that fills it sparkles yet.
In 1889, the publication of the dime novel: Bella Starr, The Bandit Queen, or The Female Jesse James. A Full and Authentic History of the Dashing Female Highwayman, with Copious Extracts from Her Journal. Handsomely and Profusely Illustrated further spread the reputation of Belle Starr, but this was after John and his son had already named their children after Belle so we do not think this was the basis of their relationship with the famed outlaw.
So was our John Walter Sutherland a friend of Belle Starr’s? John named his first daughter who was born in 1848, Catherine “Belle” Sutherland. Since Belle Starr was not born until 1848, John could not have named Catherine for her. However, his son Gideon Thurston Sutherland who was born in 1860 named his first daughter who was born in 1882, “May Belle” Sutherland. Remember that Belle Starr’s birth name was Myra Maybelle Shirley. In 1882 we know that Belle Starr was in Ft. Smith as she and her husband Sam Starr were on trial for horse theft.
John’s youngest daughter, Mary Magnolia “Maggie ” Sutherland Little who was born in 1863 also named her oldest daughter, born in 1885 “Nannie Belle”. Descendants from Nannie Belle, claim that she was named after the famous Outlaw Queen. Since Belle Starr was not murdered until 1889, she would have been around the Ft. Smith area from time to time in 1885 when Nannie Belle was born.
While there is nothing to prove this friendship either way, it is certainly possible since John Sutherland and he son Gideon lived in Sebastian County during this era. Based on interviews conducted by the Works Progress Administration Writers Project now called “The Indian-Pioneer Interviews” housed at the University of Oklahoma, Belle often came into Ft. Smith to shop, socialize, and to attend parties and dances. A number of the old pioneers who were interviewed claimed to have danced with Belle at these dances. This makes perfect sense since Belle loved beautiful clothes and jewelry. She was raised as the daughter of a rich man and no doubt enjoyed many of the trappings of civilization from time to time. She also had a young daughter to introduce to society and may have made trips into Ft. Smith with her daughter, Pearl. With all of this information we have to conclude that it is indeed possible that John Walter was a friend of Belle Starr, but that it is much more likely that his son Gideon knew her since he was much closer to her age.
I like to think that John and Belle’s paths did cross at some point when she made her way into Fort Smith Arkansas and perhaps they did become friends. One thing is for sure, Belle Starr made a big impression on John Walter Sutherland that continues through the family history even today with all of the “Belle’s” in the family tree.