GONE TO TEXAS
As told to Laverne Kilgore by Cora Chambers Wheeler in July, 1979. She was 92 on Aug. 10, 1979.
In the period between the 1870's and 1880's it was not an uncommon sight in the eastern one-third of our nation to see a deserted cabin with a sign tacked to the door reading - - G.T.T. Gone To Texas indicated that the former tenant was looking for a new start where pastures were greener. This is what the e whole family of Spencer and Nancy Ann Roe Chambers decided to do: Go To Texas. Their eldest son, Thomas Eugene (Gene) traveled to Texas in 1892 and located new land in northern brown country that was much like the sandy cross timbers soil they had found in Marshall County, Alabama, in the 1850's. Gene's report convinced the others that this trek to Texas would be advantageous.
One of the persons to make this journey was Cora. Cora was the eldest child of Paul Jones and Elisa Frances (Fannie) Smith Chambers and was the first grandchild of the Spencer Chambers. She was born on August 10, 1887, at Boaz on Sand Mountain in Alabama. She attended the one-room school at Myrtle Tree, near Albertville, which was taught by her uncle, Grigsby Chambers. W. H. Grigsby was assisted in his teaching by his bride Nancy Susan (Nannie) Shirey. Nannie taught the youngest pupils. The school house was near the home of Spencer and Nancy who were the parents of Grigsby Chambers. Grigsby and Nannie lived with the elder Chamberes. Each Sunday Cora spent the night with her grandparents, so she could attend school the following week. On Friday after school she returned home for the week-end. Each school day her Grandma made Cora a lunch, and Uncle Griggs put it in his pocket. At recess she asked for her lunch and ate it. At noon they all marched to Grandma's house where Grandma had lunch prepared.
Grandpa had a blacksmith shop and operated a lumber mill on Short Creek. His mill supplied the lumber used in the construction of all the Chambers' houses and barns.
In 1893 Grigsby and Nannie Joined Gene in Texas. They bought farms near May in the Wolf Valley community. Soon eleven other members of the family made the move from Alabama to the same vicinity of Brown County. This party included Grandpa Spencer and Grandma Nancy with their children Lizette, Wade, and Billy plus another son, Paul Jones, his wife Fannie, and their children: Cora, Genie, Allen and Monroe. Spencer's son Solomon did not move to Texas at this time, as he was in medical school in Chattanooga, Tennessee "making a doctor". He joined the family later and began his practice in Texas.
When all their personal and household goods were packed, the boxes and crates were loaded on wagons. Their plows and other farm implements had been sent on ahead. They shipped no livestock-"Not even an old hen!". Uncle Tommy helped Spencer's folks load and Fannie's parents helped Paul's family. These relatives transported the families and goods to the Tennessee River. Here the travelers boarded a large boat. It was steered to a big wooden platform on shore where all the goods were rolled on to the deck and stowed below. All the people were housed in the upper cabins. Cora remembers that Grandpa took Genie and her out on deck, and all they could see was blue sky and water. The boat journey continued down the Tennessee River until they reached the railroad. Here the passengers and cargo were transferred to a train for the next portion of the trip. The train trip, which lasted several days, ended at Brownwood, Texas. The train arrived late at night so the travelers stayed in a hotel. Grandpa's family had rooms adjoining Paul's family. When morning came, the families were met by Uncle Griggs and Uncle Gene with wagons, and Mr. Henry Taylor with a two-seated hack. All the men and the goods went to Wolf Valley on the wagons, and the women and children rode in the hack. The first night they all stayed with Uncle Griggs and Aunt Nannie. "There were pallets everywhere," Cora remembers. The next night part of them stayed at Henry Taylor's house. The new arrivals were soon able to move into their own houses which Griggs, Nannie and Gene had gotten ready for them.
When the family fist arrived in Texas, Griggs taught school at Rocky Crossing which was "out in the rough". Sometimes he rode a large red horse named Jerry and carried Cora behind him. Bill, Griggs' youngest brother, rode a feisty horse called Dezer. The rocky crossing school had one room and one teacher. Once Uncle Griggs called on Cora to recite, and she did not answer. He called on her again and asked he to come to the front - she still ignored him. He walked to her, placed her up-side down under his arm, and spanked her all the way to the front of the room. At recess Cora was too angry to go out to play. When everyone else was out, she got books that belonged to Louella Vick and her sister and tore out many pages which she threw away. Cora said she was never punished for this deed. "Because I lied out of it!"
Cora's Uncle Bill was only 7 years her senior. She said they were "always in a row". Once Bill dug a well in the yard, and he was proud of his accomplishment. He left to put away his tools, and Cora filled his well with dirt. When Bill discovered this he was angry, so he punished her. She bawled. Grandma, Bill's mother, came out and asked Cora why she was crying. "Bill Swopped me," she sobbed. "Then Grandma spanked Bill,. And he bellered like a baby bull."