Mary Frances Dillard Bolls
1859 - 1924
Compiled and written by Rosalind Heaps as an assignment for a 1989 college class, History of Women. Revised, corrected and added to through the years as more research resulted in more information on Mary Francis and her family. Please enjoy your visit with Mary Francis, my great-grandmother. family photos
1. To Arkansas
What a wonderful experience this is to come visit with you. It’s so nice to sit here by the fireplace in this comfortable rocking chair while I share some of my life’s experiences. Most of you don’t know or remember me, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t thought of you over the years. Oh how I miss holding my little grandbabies, and now there are so many of you.
Well, if I am going to tell you my story, I need to start with my parents, Francis H. Dillard and Matilda Davis. You see they both lived in the Northern Division of De Soto County Mississippi where they met and married. Daddy was nineteen and Momma just a little older when they got married on that cold December 4th in 1854. Mississippi required a marriage bond of $200 and Daddy was still in the process of learning how to write so he signed the marriage license with his “X”. He was a farmer as were his father, William, and older brothers, David L. and Simeon.
Uncle Simeon and his wife, Louisa Teague, married just a few days after Daddy and Momma on the 18th of December. Then Uncle David married a gal from the community, named Mary Ann Denton, the following June on the 26th. So you see, Grandpa and Grandma Dillard’s family got real big real quick with all those new daughters-in-laws joining their family and the little babies that would come soon afterwards.
Daddy and Momma were the first to have a baby boy. My older brother Benjamin was born in Mississippi in 1855, the year after they got married. Uncle Simeon and Aunt Louisa had a baby daughter, not too long after Ben was born, in 1856 while they were still in Mississippi. They named her Lenora. It was shortly after that when all the Dillard families packed it up, everything they had, into their wagons and headed west to the green rolling hills northwest of Caney Township of the old Ouachita County of Arkansas. There they could get land of their own, enough land for large enough farms to support their families.
John Dillard and his family were already living in Arkansas. In the late 1840’s, he and his wife, Vicie and their first son had moved there from Mississippi. All the rest of their seven children were born in Arkansas. I don’t remember if John Dillard was Uncle John, my daddy’s brother, or Great Uncle John, my granddaddy’s brother. Regardless, Uncle John and his family had purchased their hundred twenty acre farmland on July 1st, 1857. It was about that time the rest of the family came along from Mississippi. Prior to buying their farm in Caney, John and Vicie had been living about ten or twelve miles away in Bodcaw Township, Hempstead County west of Ouachita. Uncle John had his big farm but was also a blacksmith by trade, something that was very necessary in our small, growing farming community.
I don’t rightly know for sure, but I think when Uncle John bought his land that summer of 1857, the rest of the Dillard families came along and helped him clear his land for crops and build his cabin and other out buildings. Grandpa Dillard, Uncle David and Daddy all bought their lands two years after Uncle John did on July 1st, 1859. It was during that two year period that they lived with Uncle John and helped him out, but with the income from the extra crops and other odd jobs they were able to pick up, they earned the money needed to buy their own properties located close by.
My older brother, John, was born in 1857, shortly after the family arrived in Arkansas. I was born March 4th, 1859 and named Mary after Momma’s mother, Mary Ann Davis and Francis after my Daddy, Francis H. Dillard.
Uncle David and Aunt Mary also started their family with the birth of William Thomas the same year I was born. Their second son, named Joseph Edward, was born in 1860.
Uncle Simeon and Aunt Louisa had their second child, this time a boy named Jason John in 1858 in Arkansas. Sadly, both Uncle Simeon and Aunt Louisa died shortly after he was born, leaving Lenora (we called her Elna) and Jason John orphans. They lived with our Dillard Grandparents in Arkansas some of the time and their Teague Grandparents in DeSoto County Mississippi the other times.
Grandpa Dillard’s land, a little over 100 acres, was just to the west of Uncle John’s farm. Uncle David had 240 acres and was just south west of grandpa. Daddy’s 80 acres was just south of Uncle David’s. We all lived close together, making it easy to visit and play with our cousins, chasing each other through our lush green rolling hills.
Together we cleared enough land to build our homes and plant the crops, but left enough forests for the wild critters to live in. Besides the farm work and other chores, there was plenty of wild game for the men to hunt. It wasn’t long before the Dillard boys became known for their marksmanship in that part of Arkansas. Even the women learned how to handle the long rifle when it came to shooting a deer who wandered into the garden. Farming was hard work and the babies were coming.
Our families were no sooner getting their homes built and their crops started when our nation started experiencing some great turmoil. This was during a time of great political debate over the question of slavery. Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States in 1860. I was only two years old when the Arkansas State convention met in March of 1861 and voted to remain in the Union. But just a month later, on April 12, the Civil War broke out and Lincoln called for troops from the Union states to fight the Confederates. Arkansas refused to send her troops to fight against her neighbors, so at the May convention, it seceded from the Union.
On March 3rd, 1862, the day before my third birthday, Daddy left our family and went into the nearby town of Caney to enlist in the Confederate Army with friends and neighbors. He became Private F. H. Dillard and served in the Nineteenth Infantry, Company H, under the command of J. P. Dockery. John Dockery was one of our neighbors a couple of miles down the road. Daddy’s service was to last twelve months and he would get paid $11.00 per month. Momma said that would help us out a lot with our new farm and he would only be gone a year. We kids would still be little by the time he got back home from the war with those Yankees.
We were not the only Dillard family to send a daddy off to fight in the war. Our Uncle John enlisted the same day as our Daddy. He was five years older than Daddy; both of them were born in Georgia. Luckily they were assigned to serve in the same unit and would be able to look out for each other. Because Uncle John was the town’s blacksmith, he served as a mechanic and blacksmith in Maury’s Division of the Nineteenth Infantry, Company H.
The Army worked its way east and was in Priceville, Mississippi in July 1862. Sadly, Aunt Vicie, Uncle John’s wife, received word a month later that her husband died at Columbus, Mississippi on the 23rd of August after serving a little over five months, just eight days shy of being paid. Daddy was very sad and depressed at John’s death. The letters he sent home to Momma were full of grief and tears. Momma would often walk the mile to Aunt Vicie’s house to help and comfort her.
By the 31st of August, Daddy had served a total of five months, twenty-seven days and signed for his pay of $64.90 with his name, F.H. Dillard instead of his “X”. He had learned to write and could sign his full name now and he was proud and thankful that he could write home to send his love to his family he was missing so much.
Daddy’s unit continued to work its way east, further into Mississippi. Momma didn’t hear from Daddy for awhile, but suddenly she received word that her husband, Private Francis H. Dillard had died in camp just ten miles east of Granada, Mississippi on the 8th of December, 1862. They had just been married eight years. I was still only three years old, but oh how I remember Momma crying into the night. We never did hear why or how Daddy or Uncle John died. Neither of their files contained personal papers or medical records. There was nothing that would indicate the cause of death for either Daddy or Uncle John.
Life was hard on Momma with two small boys, ages seven and five, who all of a sudden needed to be the men on the farm and help even more. I certainly wasn’t any help, since I was just the right age for getting into everything I wasn’t supposed to get into. My brother John became my constant playmate, doing his best at keeping me out of trouble while my big brother Ben did his best at helping Momma with the crops, animals, and other farm chores. John and I still did some of the little chores like feeding the chickens and gathering the eggs. John made me be real careful with those eggs and really got mad if I was too rough with them and broke one. He didn’t like me carrying the egg basket and sometimes I would throw a fit if I didn’t get my turn to bring the basket into the house.
In 1863, the Union troops had captured Little Rock and set up a Union government, so the Confederate government reestablished itself in the southwestern town of Washington, just a few miles from where we lived. Arkansas remained a divided state until the end of the war in 1865. I was six by that time and remember the Thirteenth Amendment passing, which allowed freedom for all slaves in the United States.
In 1868, when I was nine and had started attending school with my brothers and cousins, in a one-room school house, Arkansas was readmitted to the Union with a new constitution giving Negroes the right to vote.
However, even with the war ended, there was a lot of killing, anger and hatred around. The old men would sit around and argue while playing checkers about how our state should be reconstructed. The Negroes had the right to vote but they couldn’t go to school or shop in the stores we did. If they did shop, they had to go around to the back of the store to do their business. It just wasn’t fair to see them treated that way. And on top of that, there was this new group of men who dressed up in white sheets and rode around causing all kinds of trouble for the Negroes, even killing some of them. Momma wouldn’t let us kids go out at night for fear of getting hurt from these men that called themselves the Ku-Klux Klan.
In 1871 the counties around our area were reorganized and a new county named Nevada was formed from parts of Ouachita, Columbia and part of Hempstead County where we were living. We lived near the southeast corner of Albany, not too far from Caney Township.
That was the same year we heard people talking about a big fire destroying most of a city up north called Chicago.
As I got older, I became more aware of the political conflict going on between Arkansas’s Democrats and Republicans and sometimes even between Republicans and Republicans. In 1872, two Republican men were in a big fight for the governor’s seat. Elisha Baxter defeated Joseph Brooks in the election, but Brooks claimed that he was the winner and the election results were a fraud. This conflict lasted for nearly two years, at which time Brooks forced Baxter out of the Statehouse at gunpoint and caused the Arkansas citizens to divide into two groups, each in support of a different governor. With the supporters’ differences, street fights broke out.
Finally, on May 15, 1874, president Ulysses S. Grant proclaimed Baxter as Governor, but his reign was to be short, since regular elections were upcoming. When that happened, Augustus H. Garland, a Democrat, was elected governor, giving Arkansas a peaceful and stable government.
Amazingly, Federal troops had remained in Arkansas all this time, almost 10 years after the close of the Civil War, but finally in 1874 they were pulled out.
2. New Beginnings
Oh, I’m sorry; I just get carried away with all that political conflict and stuff that was going on while I was growing up. Mostly, we were way out on the farm in a small community where it was quiet and peaceful and where all the neighbors had the same struggles of making ends meet, bringing in the crops to feed our families and earning enough to pay our taxes so the government wouldn’t take our land away. It was hard work keeping the farm going and helping out Momma. We were still young but we were strong and worked together to make it.
Our neighbor down the road, Ira Nelson Cornelius, lost his wife, Elizabeth, awhile back. They had six kids, and their youngest, Roland, was just a couple of years younger than I was. Ira and Elizabeth had lived in Mississippi and were neighbors to Grandpa and Grandma Dillard back in DeSoto County. They moved out here to Arkansas with their family and bought land about a year after Daddy and Momma did, becoming neighbors once again. Ira was one of the men who helped Momma out after Daddy’s death and Momma was good friends with Elizabeth. So, it only seemed natural that after Elizabeth died, Ira and Momma got married even if he was almost twenty years older than she was. He took good care of her and us kids as well. They had three children together, but only two lived.
We became what later would be called a blended family. One of their kids, Cornelia was born in July of 1872. Even though I was thirteen years older than Cornelia, it was fun to have a younger sister to baby and take care of once in awhile. Ben, John, and I were still living at home and helping Momma with the farm. Several of Ira’s children from his first marriage were also still living at home.
It was in 1875 that I became interested in a young gentleman living in the area by the name of Henry Clay Bolls, son of William Griffin Bolls and the late Mary Ann Burmingham. Henry Clay was born in Hempstead County, Arkansas on the 20th of September 1852. The family moved to Texas shortly after Henry was born. I think his father was trying to get away from the war that was brewing at the time. While there in Texas, they had two more children, a girl and boy. I don’t know much about them other than Henry’s sister, S.C. Bolls was born about a year after Henry was in 1853 and his brother, M.H. Bolls was born about 1857. We don’t know what happened to Henry’s mother, brother and sister, but following the war in 1867 his father, William G. was back in Arkansas paying poll taxes.
While Henry and I were courting we learned a little more about the Bolls’ time in Texas. William G. had a farm of 109 acres he purchased on a land patent back in July 1859. The following year, the court appointed him as an overseer on the road leaving from Lindsey to Forest Home, Texas. He and his crew of neighboring farmers had to maintain the road, keeping it smooth and free of ruts, beginning at the 6 mile post and working toward Forest Home.
On the 30th of January 1864, William G. was drafted into the Confederate Army. This was near the end of the war. William G. didn’t want to serve and even said he was exempt because he was a Justice of the Peace. Now, William G.’s daddy, William Bolls was a JP for years in Hempstead County, but there was no record of William G. being a JP. Because the draft board couldn’t find any proof that William G. was a JP, they insisted he serve anyway. The unit disbanded four weeks later, at the end of February. He was in the army just long enough to be enlisted and do some training and drilling, but not long enough to fight.
Henry was only eleven and half years old when his father went into the army and was allowed many times to join the unit as a drummer boy. Because Henry wasn’t officially in the army, he didn’t have official military service records like his father did.
The Bolls family lived in Cass County, Texas for about fifteen years before moving back to Hempstead County, Arkansas. After returning to Arkansas, Henry’s father remarried a widow named Mrs. Elizabeth White Ingram who had one son. Together, William G. and Elizabeth had two sons. Joseph Griffin was born in 1871 and David Quincy was born in November of 1873.
Henry was twenty-three and I was only sixteen when we got married on Sunday, January 2, 1876 in Nevada County by the Justice of the Peace, John L. McGough. The county had just been formed in 1871 so we were among the first couples to tie the knot in this newly formed county of Arkansas.
The same year Henry and I were married, Momma and Ira had another baby, a boy named Henry Cornelius. William G. and Elizabeth had a baby girl named Cora E. Bolls, and my brother Ben married a gal named Laura. My, how our families kept growing. It made it hard to keep up with everyone.
Henry and I did a lot of moving around those first couple of years we were married. We were living in Emmet, Nevada County at the time our own baby girl, Margaret J. Elizabeth Bolls, was born on April 10, 1877. By December 31, 1879 when our second daughter, Willie Carrie was born, we had moved again, this time to Prescott.
The economy in Arkansas was getting better. The farms and industry were improving and of course the railroad was a big boost to the economy. Henry bought some farm land, but until our house was built we had to move several more times. In fact, we did so much moving around that the 1880 census takers caught us in two different places in Nevada County. The first was when we were living in Georgia Township, next door to Henry’s cousin, Duncan Bolls and his family and near another cousin, Andrew Jackson Bolls. The second census taker came by when we lived for a short time with Henry’s father and step-mother, William and Elizabeth Bolls in Albany. Momma and Ira were living two farms away. During this last period our two little girls had both sets of grandparents close by to spoil and give them lots of attention.
Finally our little farmhouse was built and over the next few years, Henry planted lots of trees including an orchard of pecans that we were able to harvest over time and bring in a little cash from the crop. He also planted fruit trees for me so I could put up fruit for the winter months each year. We had peaches, pears, apples, plums, figs, grapes and tame mulberry trees. What I couldn’t can or jam, we sold or gave to neighbors who could use it. Harvest time was always an extra busy time of year and I was most often found out in the garden or fruit orchard early in the morning and in the kitchen canning and jamming most of the rest of the day and still putting together our supper for our midday meal. The girls loved to play in the orchards and among the crops, but as they grew I made sure they had their own aprons and helped with the canning, as well as helping in the garden and orchard.
Henry would also put in several acres of crops each year and you would often find him working out in the fields. The local farmers would often say that Henry’s crop was the best because he always seemed to know the best time of year to plant. Henry said it was his hip that would let him know. When he was young and just learning to walk, he was out on the porch one day when his foot went through a rotted-out plank and his leg became stuck. The neighbor girl, who was babysitting when it happened, gave him a pull to get him free of the plank, but it pulled his hip out of joint. It stayed that way as cartilage grew, keeping one leg longer than the other. In those days, you didn’t run off into town to see the doctor unless it was a matter of life and death, so Henry learned to walk with a limp the rest of his life. That hip would act a certain way when it was time for him to plant the fields and the neighboring farmers learned to start paying attention to when he planted; it was then they got busy in their own fields.
Just in case you ever want to visit our old farm, let me tell you where it was located. We had 80 acres near Midway but the census takers always listed us with Nowland, Nowlin, and Noland, depending on how they wanted to spell it that year. We were right on the Hempstead side of the Nevada and Hempstead county line, about one mile north of today’s Highway 371. The land description on our deed was SE1/4 of SE1/4 of Section 4 and NE1/4 of NE1/4 of Section 9 in Township 11 South, Range 23 West. Because we were right on the county line, Prescott in Nevada County was a lot closer for our family to go into town for any kind of business including legal matters than it was for us to go to Hope in Hempstead County. Therefore, we have records for our family in both counties.
We loved our girls, but we were so excited to finally have a little boy running around the house. Willie Carrie was only a year and half when our only son, John Franklin was born on the 27th of March 1881. Esther Margaret came two years later in Aug. 1883. We now had four young’uns under the age of seven, running around. Elizabeth, who already was six, would be starting school in the next year or two.
Most of our life was involved with taking care of the farm, the babies and attending Midway Methodist Church. When I did have some free time, I planted a rose garden of all the different color roses I could find. When I was out visiting and came across a rose plant with a different color bloom, I would ask for a snip and put it in my apron pocket so I could start another plant when I got back home. Whenever the roses were blooming, I would always take cuttings from the best to church on Sundays for the podium for all to enjoy.
Our home was way out from town. We heard about some inventions called the telephone, phonograph and light bulbs, but we didn’t have any of those. We had a good cooking stove for our meals, a fireplace for warmth and a coal oil lamp for light. We had a well just outside the house for water when we needed it, and we kept our milk down there so it would stay cool between meals. During the winter, when we were not so busy with the crops, we made the children clothes from the feed bags and flour sacks. What wasn’t used for clothes was used in putting together our quilts or braid rugs.
It was when our three older children were all attending school down the road and Esther was five that we welcomed our next daughter, Myrtie E. into the family. She was born on the 18th of November 1888. Annie Rebecca came two and half years later on the 15th of August 1891.
Things were going well with the nation when all of a sudden in May of 1893 there was a big drop in the economy with a stock market crash that June. The winter of 1893/94 was bad for the nation with so many out of jobs. We didn’t get as much cash for our crops, but at least we were still able to feed our family. Our daughter, Lois Ruth came along the following year on the 6th of June 1894.
3. Leaving Home
By this time, our oldest daughter was now seventeen and found her future husband. It was hard to believe that she was so grown up. Henry wrote a note to Brother Vanghan, giving permission for Elizabeth to marry twenty-four-year-old, Thomas W. Stevenson on the 4th of July, just a month after Lois was born. A little over a year later, our first granddaughter, Flora Mae Stevenson was born on October 4, 1896. With Elizabeth and Thomas’ farm so close by, our daughters, Lois and Flora Mae, who were only two years apart, became close friends and playmates.
Our second daughter, Willie Carrie became very interested in a young man, George Washington Nisbet, who went by the nickname of GW. GW’s folks had a farm over in Caney Township, Nevada County, near where I grew up. His father, John Forsyth Nisbet, was one of the lucky ones that came back from the Civil War after serving two years in Co. B, 33 Arkansas Infantry. He became a Minister of the Gospel at Mt. Moriah Church. Reverend Nisbet and his wife, Mary had eleven children with GW being number seven in the family.
GW and Willie Carrie were married on January 10, 1897 and surprised us with our first grandson, William Jennings Bryant Nisbet, the following summer. Their second son, Herman Lawrence came along just a year and half later on February 8, 1899. With both GW and Willie from large families, it looked like they were well on their way to having a passel of young’uns too.
GW moved his family to a farm in Pecan Gap, Delta County, Texas. When they first moved there, it only had two farms and a little country store. We sure missed Willie and the babies. GW didn’t like Willie to give birth to her babies so far away from family, so he would send her home to us when it came close for her to go into labor. The next baby was a little boy around 1900 or 1901 that was stillborn. We all felt Willie’s loss and it was especially hard for her to return home with only William and Herman and not have the new baby too.
Elizabeth and Thom gave us another grandbaby on May 7, 1900. This time it was a boy named Beaura H. Stevenson. Six-year-old Flora Mae now had someone to help take care of and be a mommy to.
While our family was multiplying, a new family moved into our area from Texas and rented a farm down the road. Lander and Mary Evans had five girls and a son, many of them the same age as our girls, so our families became well acquainted with one another and we saw them often at church. They had lived in Arkansas years back when their first two daughters were born and then moved to Texas for awhile where their last four children were born. When their oldest, Theola (called “Ola”) Maude Evans turned seventeen, our son, John Franklin, who was twenty at the time, married her at the Methodist Church on 5 Dec 1901 by Elder Elisha N. Evans.
The fall and winter of 1902 gave us two more grandbabies. John and Ola had their first baby on October 31, 1902. They named him Ivan Winston Bolls. And for the first time, Willie Carrie didn’t make it home from Pecan Gap for the birth of her next baby boy, Robert Lee Nisbet, who was born healthy and strong on December 17, 1902.
The following fall and winter proved to be just as eventful. I gave birth to my own little baby girl, Alvearn Guthrie Bolls, on Oct 20, 1903. Can you imagine our surprise to have another baby nine years after our Lois Ruth was born?
Now our daughter Esther’s wedding came the day before Christmas, December 24, 1903 and we found ourselves busy helping her with wedding plans and I with my two month old baby! Esther was seventeen at the time and the young man, Clinton Lamar Sandridge, was twenty-one. Three years before, Clint lived with and worked as a farm laborer for William Franklin in the Redland Township over in Nevada County. Clint’s parents were William and Molly Cole Sandridge of Clark County.
It must have been the cold weather because Willie Carrie didn’t make it home again for the birth of her baby, this time a girl, Mary Alice Nisbet, on February 10, 1904 in Pecan Gap. Mary didn’t like her name to be just plan Mary like mine is so, many years later, she fancied it up as Marye.
Well, Willie Carrie and the kids made it home a couple of months later in the spring of 1904 for a big family reunion. With all our children gathered around, we took advantage of the party and had a big family photo taken in front of our farmhouse.
Esther and Clint had their first baby on September 25, 1904; a little girl by the name of Nobie Jewel Sandridge. Jewel was just a year younger than my little one, Alvearn, making wonderful playmates.
John and Ola had their second baby, a beautiful baby girl on April 1, 1905 named Mary Gladys Bolls. It was such heartbreak when she died just five months later on September 1, 1905. It was so hard to lose these sweet little ones. She was buried at Midway Cemetery, next to the church.
In 1906, Willie Carrie made it home in Arkansas from Pecan Gap to have her baby girl, Bessie Faye Nisbet born on February 12. Willie and the kids stayed with us for a month until GW came back to get them, giving her the chance to regain her strength and take care of the baby. Grandpa Henry loved to have Willie’s two oldest boys, Bryant (9) and Herman (7) go out in the fields and help him. Keeping up with her little ones, Robert and Marye who were three and two and my little Alvearn was also three were a real chore. Those little ones sure ran a body ragged. Thank goodness I had the help of my older girls with the diapers and all the extra laundry. They also helped at mealtime with all the extra mouths to feed.
Esther and Clint were blessed with their second baby the following year, Clinton Everett Chat Sandridge. Three-year-old Jewel now had a real live baby to play with. My little Alvearn loved it when we went over to visit and see Esther and the baby. She did a good job at keeping Jewel busy while I visited with Esther and helped out where I could.
We were so busy around the farm and the family, with all the new babies and growing families, and then losing little Mary Gladys (John and Ola’s baby) we often didn’t pay much attention to the other things that were going on in the world around us. Oh, we talked about them but didn’t really have the time to dwell on them much. Take those Wright brothers for example. I just couldn’t imagine someone flying a machine up in the air like that. A few years back they built those motor vehicles that were so loud and noisy they scared our horses to death. Imagine what kind of noise those flying machines will be making and scaring all the birds out of the sky? It’s going to come a time we won’t have any peace and quiet out here in the country and if the good Lord wanted man to fly, he would have created him with wings just like the birds. We need to keep our feet right where they belong, on the good earth where the Lord intended us to be.
Another development that had people talking about was talking pictures. My word, who had time for such things? It was all a body could do to keep up with the children, farm and home. It was just something more to lure us away from our duties and families.
Theodore Roosevelt was elected president in 1904. He was given the nickname of Teddy because of his preservation of parks and wildlife. Now there was a man with his feet on the ground. He did what was best for our nation at that time.
Oklahoma became a state in November, 1907. Some of the young folks around here were looking to moving that direction where land was available.
It had been three years since little Mary Gladys died. Ivan was almost six when his baby brother, Henry Franklin Bolls was born on August 11, 1908. John and Ola were thrilled to have the two healthy boys. Ivan had grown to be such a big boy and followed his daddy around the farm like his shadow. It wasn’t much later before he started attending school in another year or two.
Near the end of 1908, Esther and Clint had their third baby, Mildred Marie Sandridge on November 22nd. They were so proud of their two girls and son and were looking forward to having more.
The first part of 1909 was when my Henry Clay got so ill. The doctor said it was pneumonia. Thank goodness I had Myrtie, Annie, and Lois to help me take care of Alvearn, the house and farm, so I could take care of Henry. He suffered for weeks and finally his body just gave out. He died Sunday, April 18, 1909.
Henry was a good husband and father. We had been married just over thirty-three years and had eight wonderful children and one stillborn together. We cleared land and built a home. He wasn’t a saint, but came close to being one.
That red hair and Irish blood got him in trouble more than once. He never hit anyone, but his bad temper didn’t stop him from speaking his mind without thinking first. After telling his offender off, he would stomp off towards home stewing and fretting about the confrontation. After sleeping on it, he would return the next day and apologize and tried hard not to let it happened again – until the next time someone riled him up.
Later in our marriage, Henry became a minister at the Old Morning Star Methodist Church near Midway. The church later consolidated with Midway Methodist, where the cemetery is located. There were so many lives that were touched by his good heart and gentle ways. He will be greatly missed by all, but most of all me.
1909 Death Memorial - Henry C. Bolls . . .
“After a lingering illness of several weeks with pneumonia, Henry C. Bolls, one of the best men in this part of the county, passed way. Everybody in Prescott knew Henry Bolls. His was a familiar face to almost every house in town, as he was accustomed for years to bringing fruits and vegetables to Prescott. Every housewife knew when it was Mr. Bolls coming in, as he always came with a whistle or song and departed the same way. But his familiar whistle and song will be heard no more on earth. We will all miss Henry Bolls.”
(Prescott, Arkansas, Nevada County Picayune, April 22, 1909 issue)
It was just two and half weeks following Henry’s death that Esther and her friend, Amanda Siders decided to go to Steele’s Creek with eight children for a little fishing following supper that afternoon. Along with their own children, they had little five-year-old, Augustus Dierks whose mother pled with them to take him along. Augustus was an over-active, curious child who often did just what he wanted in spite of what he was told to do. All the children had been told to stay out of the creek and to play in the meadow. It was spring and the creek ran fast and deep. Augustus got too close to the creek and fell into the water over his head. Esther went in the swift, waist deep water after him before he drowned. Unfortunately, Augustus struggled hard in the water and Esther became disoriented and most likely the current helped pull them into the deeper part of the creek. Both he and Esther ended up drowning that spring day; leaving Clint, her husband of less than six years, with three little children to raise. Jewel was four and half, little Clint two, and Mildred just under six months.
May 13, 1909 Nevada News had this article about the accident:
Loses Life Trying To Save Child's
Mrs. Clint Sandridge Drowns in Steele's Creek With Little August Dierks.
(From Tuesday's Daily. [Prescott Daily News])
One of the most horrible accidents which has occurred in this community for some time was the drowning yesterday afternoon about 4 o’clock of Mrs. Clint Sandridge and Master August Dierks, Jr.
The accident happened in Steele’s Creek three miles west of Prescott near the Washington Road and was witnessed by Mrs. W. H. Siders and several very small children who were powerless to aid the efforts of the unfortunate woman and child as they struggled frantically for life.
Mrs. Sandridge was the wife of Clint Sandridge an employee in the carpenter gang of the Ozan mill and the child was the five-year-old son of August Dierks foreman of the carpenter crew. They lived in the western suburbs of Prescott.
The details as near as we can gather them, of the accident, are as follows: Yesterday after dinner Mrs. Siders, Mrs. Sandridge and eight small children including the son of Mr. Dierks, left home for the creek to spend the afternoon fishing. Arriving at the creek the party separated a short distance, each of the women taking charge of a part of the children. About 4 o’clock while fishing in a deep hole near the road, August Dierks, who was with Mrs. Sandridge accidentally fell in the water, and seeing that the child was about to drown Mrs. Sandridge jumped in after him. The water where the child fell in was about waist deep to the woman and she secured hold of the boy, and then apparently lost her presence of mind, for instead of coming back to the bank from the side she had entered, she attempted to cross the creek and was soon in water over her head.
Mrs. Siders hearing the screams of the woman and boy, ran up to where they were, only a short distance and securing a pole attempted to rescue them, but was unable to render any effective assistance and both soon went down in about six or eight feet of water.
One of the larger of the children immediately ran to a farm house near by and securing help went back to the creek and released the bodies from the water. Word was immediately conveyed to Prescott and a crowd left for the scene returning last night about eight o’clock.
The funeral of Mrs. Sandridge will be held this afternoon at Midway and the funeral of August Dierks will be held at DeAnn cemetery about five o’clock.
The accident was the source of deepest grief to our people and the scenes at the homes of the unfortunate woman and child was most heart-rendering.
Mrs. Sandridge leaves a husband and three small children, one of them an infant, to whom the community extends its deepest sympathy, as well as to Mr. and Mrs. Dierks in their hour of grief.
4. We’re Going to Make It
The loss of both Henry and Esther in such a short time of each other was almost too much to bear. As much as I missed them both, there were children that needed tending to and a farm to run. The next year or so was a real struggle, but we all pulled together and made it through a very difficult time in our lives.
Clint left his babies with me so he could go into Prescott and work at the mill. He worked with a couple of young men who were brothers, the same age as him. Their family lived right there in town, so Clint stayed with them and came out to the farm to see his children when he could.
Momma’s husband, Ira Cornulius had died back in 1888, and she never remarried. Thankfully, she came to live with me and helped out with all the little children while the older girls and I worked the farm. Momma was a hard working woman even at the age of seventy-seven. The children lovingly called her Grandma Cornelius and she was usually found in the kitchen stirring up something good at the big black stove or churning butter while smoking her corncob pipe. Momma had her hands full with all three of Clint’s and Esther’s babies and Alvearn, now six and still not old enough for school. It was also around this time that Willie and GW moved back from Texas and lived across the road from us. Their little ones, Mary and Bessie, would often wander over to play in the fruit orchards with Alvearn, Jewel and little Clint.
Myrtie, Annie, Lois and I kept the farm going the best we could. When it came to the real heavy work that we were not able to handle, we would get help from my son John or Elizabeth’s husband Thom, both living close by in Missouri Township. Clint would give a helping hand when he came by to see his children and then there was Willie’s husband, GW from across the way. There was also Annie’s beau, Fred J. Cole who lived just down the road and would use any excuse he could to come over after his farm chores were done. And the Stewart family has been long time neighbors and have always been willing to give us a helping hand. We were not alone, but they all had their own farms to tend to so we did our best to take care of what we could. We didn’t want to over burden our kin and neighbors.
Clint remarried later in the year of 1910 to Margaret A. Cash. Maggie loved Clint’s and Esther’s babies and mothered them just like they were her own. That’s when Jewel, little Clint, and Mildred left our farm to go live with their daddy and new mommy.
After the crops were in and things settled around the farm, nineteen-year-old Annie and twenty-seven-year-old Fred Cole were married on Sunday, the 4th of December 1910. Fred and Clint were first cousins, since Fred’s father, William Cole, and Clint’s mother, Molly Cole Sandridge, were brother and sister. Fred and Annie settled right here in Hempstead County and started to work their own farm.
It was in the fall of the following year that Willie gave birth to her seventh baby, Opal Georgia Nisbett on October 27, 1911 in Prescott. Because the family now lived across the road, Willie didn’t have to make the journey from Texas and was able to stay home to have her daughter.
1912 was a busy year for us with the birth of three grandbabies and two marriages. In the spring on Monday, 4 March 1912 at 1:15 PM, Annie and Fred were blessed with the birth of their first baby, a girl they named Lowieta Fay Cole. That baby girl weighed in at 9 ½ lbs. in Hempstead County. Annie recorded the birth of all her babies in her family bible. Next, John and Ola welcomed John Francis Bolls, born in the summer on the 5th of June in Little Rock. Then in the fall on the 19th of September, Willie and GW had Woodrow Wilson Nisbet in Prescott.
On Sunday, December 1, 1912, Lois married at the age of eighteen to Andrew Jackson Cummings of Blevins, Hempstead County, who was twenty-four. He was known as Drew to all his friends and family and lived two farms down from our son’s family, John and Ola.
Drew’s mother, Ophelia Addie Vineyard, had died from tuberculosis when he was young, leaving his father, James Michael Cummings, with a family of four young children to raise and somehow continue to run a farm. Drew’s father then married Ophelia’s sister, Ada and three more children were added to the family. Shortly after the birth of her youngest in May of 1899, Ada also died of tuberculosis leaving James once again a widower by 1900. Drew and his older brother, Willie helped with the farm work while his older sister Hattie helped with the four younger children. His father remained a widower only a couple of years before marrying in 1902 for a third time. He married the niece of his first two wives, a young lady named Lula, who was nineteen years old. Lulu and James had five more children before she too died of tuberculosis.
Even then, Drew, at the age of twenty-two and his next two brothers, Floyd and James Tracy were still helping out their father with the farm work and providing for the large family. It was a kind hearted, hard working farmer that Lois saw in Drew and married.
Eight days after Lois and Drew were married; Myrtie and Carl E. Stewart, both twenty-four, married on Monday, December 9, 1912. The Stewart’s farm was just three down from ours and the kids grew up attending school together. Following their marriage, Carl continued to farm for a few more years before leaving the farm to become a clerk in 1920 and a cotton buyer in 1930, combining his farming skills with his business sense.
After those last two marriages, nine-year-old Alvearn and I were left to care for the farm. With all those years having a house full of children and so much work to do to take care of them, it seemed kind of empty. With just the two of us, I would only plant my little garden each year and take care of the fruit trees, doing a little canning to get us by. Most of the fruit was used by our married children who came over to pick and put it up for their growing families.
In 1913, we were blessed with two more grandchildren. Lois and Drew had their first baby, Noel Ardis Cummings who was born in Blevins, Hempstead County, just a little northwest of us, on June 17th. Annie and Fred’s second baby was a big one at 11-1/2 lbs. Ludie Beth Cole was born at 11:00 Sunday morning on December 14th.
What a mess it was in Europe the summer of 1914. In June, Austria’s Archduke and his wife were assassinated. Then in July, Germany declared war on several other countries and before the end of the month almost all of Europe and Britain were at war. The United States declared neutrality on August 4th, trying to stay out of all the conflict over there and let them settle their own mess. Even with the declaration of neutrality, many people here were concerned that we would get pulled into their war. At the same time, there was lots of excitement about the opening of the Panama Canal on August 15 where ships could get from one ocean to another without having to go around the cape in South America. It took over thirty years for the United States and France to build that. A lot of good men died in the process, something like over 30,000.
The first part of December 1914 was not a good month. Lizzie’s and Thom’s only son, Beaura H. Stevenson died Wednesday, December 2nd. He was buried in Midway Cemetery with our other grandchildren and my husband. Beaura was only fourteen and half and had so much ahead of him. It is always so heartbreaking to lose them so young.
Later in the month on Thursday, December 24, 1914, Lizzie and Thom’s daughter, our oldest grandchild, Flora Mae Stevenson married James Tracy Cummings, Drew’s brother. Let me see, not only were Flora Mae and Lois best of friends and Lois was Flora’s aunt, but they were also sisters-in-law.
On January 25, 1915, Alexander Graham Bell recreated his first telephone conversation, this time from New York to San Francisco. I wondered how long it will take before there are telephones all across the country.
It seemed like it was only a few years before that they built that first motor vehicle and then in 1908, Henry Ford figured out how to make them more quickly by using an assembly line. Now, when we went into town, we saw more and more of those automobiles, scaring our horses to death. There were so many motorized things with the airplanes, trains and ships. We still had our horse and wagons out here in the country, but it was just a matter of time before all that progress reached us out on the farm too. There was just no stopping it.
Willie Carrie and GW had another baby on the 31st of January 1915, another girl named Anabeth Nisbet. Counting the baby they lost back in 1901, this makes nine for them. Bryant was eighteen then and Herman was almost sixteen, both doing the work of a man. It wasn’t long before they would strike out on their own.
On May 7, 1915, a British ocean liner called the Lusitania was sunk by a German submarine. There were 1,959 people aboard killing 1,198 of them, 128 were Americans. With the Germans doing such cruelty to civilians, it was only a matter of time before the United States got involved with that war over there.
The day after the sinking of the Lusitania, John and Ola had a baby girl, Ineta Maud Bolls born in Prescott on May 8th. It had been about ten years since their little Mary Gladys had died. It was nice for them to have a little daughter once again.
In the fall of 1915, our granddaughter, Flora Mae gave birth to our first great-granddaughter, Georgie Elizabeth Cummings, born on October 22 in Prescott. Lizzie and Thom are such proud grandparents and I have a hard time imagining me at fifty-six being a great-grandmother, a proud one at that. Why, I still have a little one of my own at home, but that doesn’t stop Alvearn from being excited with the birth of her great niece.
Things were getting worse over there in Europe, but here at home we continued to enjoy the peaceful atmosphere with the coming of more grandbabies. Annie and Fred gave birth to their third baby girl, Frances Marion Cole, who was born Sunday night, January 23, 1916 at ten o’clock. Annie said she weighed ten pounds. So far, all her babies have been big and healthy. How blessed we feel.
That same summer brought the birth of Myrtie and Carl’s first baby, C. Ellis Stewart on the first of August 1916 in Prescott. Carl is ready to bust his buttons and I can’t say I blame him.
Lois and Drew had their second baby, a daughter, on the 14th of September 1916, also in Prescott. They named her Ruth Mae Cummings, and she’ll grow up with Noel on the farm. Lois and Drew have moved their family over here to help maintain the farm, giving me more time to visit the other children and grandchildren.
Alvearn thought she was now a young lady at the age of thirteen. It was getting harder to keep track of her.
On April 2, 1917, President Wilson called for a special session of Congress. In his address, he asked for a declaration of war, condemning the German submarine policy of “warfare against mankind.” President Wilson said that the United States needed to join the fight for ultimate world peace and said that “the world must be safe for democracy.” With that, congress declared the United States in war against Germany on April 6, 1917 and against Austria-Hungary on December 7th. How many of our boys are going to get killed? How long will this last?
Well I tell you, while war was raging in Europe; it sure wasn’t here at home and didn’t stop us from having our babies and marriages. Willie and GW gave birth to their tenth baby in 1918, a little girl named Protia Mae Nisbet. Flora Mae and Tracy had a second baby on 22 October 1918. This time a son, James Thomas Cummings, was born in Prescott and was called JT all of his life. Lois and Drew had their third baby, Ray Cummings, who was born 13 November 1918.
With America now at war, the government needed more of our boys to fight in Europe. Therefore, in 1917 and 1918 it was required of all our young men under the age of forty-six to register for the Selective Service System Draft. Lizzie’s husband Thomas was just over the age limit, being born in 1870, so he didn’t have to register. As far as I know, GW, Willie’s husband also just missed having to register for the draft; but their oldest son, William Jennings Bryant Nisbet did serve our country in the war.
William’s service took him up to Chicago, Illinois where he met and married a gal named Erna Emma Mata Wetzel on August 11, 1918. Erna was born in Illinois in 1897, but both her parents were born in Germany. William was twenty-one and Erna was twenty-four when they married.
John Franklin and Ola had moved their family to Broken Bow, McCurtain County, Oklahoma, where he had taken up farming again. He went down to the draft board and registered on September 12, 1918.
Clinton and Maggie had moved with their family up to the Malvern township of Hot Spring County, Arkansas where he was working as a fireman for a factory.
Both Annie and Fred’s and Lois and Drew’s families were living in Prescott at the time of the draft in 1918, where each of their families depended on their farms for their livelihood.
The war ended on November 11, 1919 shortly after all the boys registered for the draft. What a relief it was that it was finally over. There were over 112,000 of our boys from the United States who died in that war, but more than half was from disease. There was an influenza-pneumonia pandemic that swept through the U.S. military camps that took so many of them. What a waste.
Our family continued with its growth with the birth of Annie and Fred’s first baby boy after having three girls. Fred Jones Cole Jr. was born Thursday, January 23, 1919 in Prescott at 9:00 P.M., weight 10 lbs.
Alvearn started making eyes at a fellow named Tibb Lesslie Chambless who was twenty-two. Tibb was a good hardworking farmer and his family had lived in the area for generations. All my children have married those of the Methodist faith instead of the Presbyterian faith that the Chambless family practiced. When a couple is of the same faith, they are usually united in the faith they want to raise their children. On October 13, 1919, Alvearn, then fifteen, ran away from home to marry Tibb. At this time, girls had to be sixteen to get married, so that is the age Alvearn told them. She was just shy of being sixteen by seven days and she just didn’t want to wait any longer – no matter what I said.
About the time the war ended in November 1919, Myrtie and Carl had her second son, Gerald Stewart. Ellis was three by the time his little brother was born and was ready for someone to play with. By this time, the family was living in town with Carl working as a clerk. It was always a real treat to have them visit us out on the farm and watch them run in the fields.
Willie and GW had moved back to Dallas, Texas for a short time before moving on to Los Angeles, California. It was in that short period of time while in Texas that their little two-year-old, Protia Mae Nisbet, died in 1920. Shortly following her death, the family moved to California.
Over the years, there had been a lot to do about the woman’s suffrage movement and giving women the right to vote. A lot of men didn’t think women should have an opinion or think for themselves when it came to politics. Granted, our main responsibility was to our home and family, but we do have very strong opinions about what goes on around us and how it affects the lives of our children and grandchildren. Back in 1917, the state of Arkansas gave us the right to vote in primary elections. But it wasn’t until 1920 that the nineteenth amendment passed and gave all the women in the United States the right to vote in all the elections. With the right to vote, we began a new era.
With no more children at home for me to take care of, I retired from the farm and turned it over to Lois and Drew. Their rent gave me the income I needed to live on. I worked hard those last sixty years and wanted to take the opportunity to visit with my girls and their families and play with my grandbabies, rocking them and telling them stories. I spent a few months with Lizzie, then with Myrtie, Annie, Alvearn, and of course, Lois. GW had moved Willie and the kids out to Los Angeles California and he was working as a conductor for the streetcar company. My son, John and his family had moved over to Marshall County, Oklahoma. Clinton and Maggie had also moved to Oklahoma with Esther’s children and their own two little boys. So, I just visited with the five girls and their families that were still in the area with the others living so far away.
Flora Mae and Tracy had my third great-grandbaby, Florine Cummings. She was born in Prescott on November 7th 1920. Lizzie and Thomas are such proud grandparents, especially with Flora Mae being their only daughter and no possibility of having any other grandchildren since their only son, Beaura died young six years ago.
The death of his baby sister, Protia Mae Nisbet, was really felt deep within the heart of William Jennings Bryant Nisbet and his wife, Erna. They had been married for three years before being able to have a baby of their own and when she was born in 1921 they named her Portia Mae Nisbet.
My two youngest daughters had babies in the month of June 1921. Lois and Drew had a daughter, Vera Marie Cummings born on the 19th in Prescott. This was their forth baby giving their family two boys and two girls.
Eleven days later, Alvearn and Tibb had their first baby, a daughter, on the 30th. Alvearn had taken the first two letters of her name and reversed them to name her daughter LaVearn. The doctor made his rounds out on the farms and delivered two babies that day. When he got back into town to record the deliveries with the county clerk he had mixed them up and recorded LaVearn as a boy, named Clarence and Alvearn as Edith Bolls. That sure will be a mess for LaVearn to clear up later in life if she is ever in need of her birth certificate and has to prove she is female and not male.
Little Florine died in July 1922, just four months shy of being two years old. My heart just cried when we buried her at Midway, especially when I watched little Lizzie and JT watch their baby sister’s casket being lowered into the ground. It was just as hard for them to lose a baby sister as it was the parents and grandparents, maybe harder because they had to learn about death and returning to our Heavenly Father the hard way.
With all the Nisbet families living in Los Angeles, Willie gave birth to one more baby; Wallace Stanley Nisbet was born 10 October 1922. Willie had a total of eleven children, nine of them living. Her oldest, William was married and they had a baby girl, Willie’s only granddaughter so far.
Here in Arkansas, Annie and Fred had their fifth baby on Monday, the 22nd of January of 1923 and named him after my grandfather, William Dillard. My grandfather would have been touched to have a great, great-grandson named after him. William Dillard Cole weighed a hefty 12 lbs. Lois and Drew had their fifth baby on September 19, 1923 and named her Mary Opal Cummings. And then, Flora Mae and Tracy had another great-grandbaby, Jacob Dudley Cummings on November 19, 1923, giving them a total of three babies after the death of their little Florine. Oh how I loved to play with all those new grandbabies and great-grandbabies.
Goodness gracious! I sat down in that rocker to tell you my story and now it is time to go back home. With so many children and grandchildren, Heaven forbid if I forgot any one! Thanks so much for letting an old lady reminisce on the memories of her past. I so enjoyed this visit with you. God be with you till we meet again.
For the remainder of her years, Granny most loved spending the evenings telling her grandchildren the stories they loved to hear. One such story is well remembered by Noel, Lois’ oldest son. He said, “She told of when she and her children walked to church on Sunday mornings. About a half mile down the road, they had to pass by a house surrounded by a picket fence, which was there to keep in the dogs. One Sunday, the dogs got out and started after her youngest daughter, Alvearn. Granny took her Bible, beat those dogs off, and then they continued on to church.” Noel says he knows this story to be true because Granny was never known to make things up.
Noel and his sister, Ruth, also remember Granny as being a devoted Christian. She read her Bible, attended church regularly with her children and grandchildren and said prayers often. Ruth remembers being under the age of seven and sitting by Granny in church. When it was prayer-time, Granny would get off the church pew and get down on her knees between the benches. Little Ruth would then hear her Granny whispering very quietly in response to the prayers that were being said from the podium. Every once in awhile, she would hear a “Yes, Lord” or “We thank you, Lord”.
Ruth also recalls that when Granny visited their small home with limited bed space, Granny had to sleep with her. Ruth was a very active child, always wiggling and never still. She would be termed as “hyperactive” now. Lois, her mother, taught her children to respect others and with this, insisted that Ruth “be still” so as not to disturb Granny’s sleep. She would lie there in bed, absolutely miserable, trying to be still when she wanted so badly to move, turn over, or something. The misery of the night was well worth it because the most favorite memory was when Granny would take little Ruth upon her lap and make her feel so special and so loved.
Mary Frances Dillard Bolls died at the age of sixty-five from “chronic intestinal indigestion” on the eighth of June, 1924. She had been staying with Myrtie and her family at the time. With tears running down their cheeks, her children gather around her casket at the funeral to sing a favorite song or two of Granny's. One such song was “Jesus, Lover of My Soul.” She had a total of nine children; one had died at birth or shortly after, twenty-nine grandchildren and over seventy great-grandchildren. Some would say that she wasn’t anyone special. She wasn’t in politics or in a great profession of any worldly kind. She never made the headlines, but she was a great mother and “Granny” and that’s why we love her so.
Another little mound has been made in Midway cemetery, caused by the death angel visiting and claiming for its own, dear Sister Bolls. On Sunday morning, June 8th, 1924, just about the time she was accustomed to start for Sunday School and other church work, God saw fit to call her home to live with Him.
Sister Bolls, as we all called her, was born and reared in Nevada county, Ark., near old Mt. Moriah church, where she was converted and joined the church. She became a child of God at the age of 16 and united with the M.P. church and was ever faithful to its rules, its work, and to her God.
She always kept her church clean and tidy. She, like many of us, possessed a small portion of this world’s goods, yet she never let her church suffer. She always saw to its needs and gave liberally to the support of the ministry. With her hands she wove and made the carpets that covered the aisles and pulpits of her church. She never wearied in well doing. She was always alive for God. And was up and doing while it was day. She never grumbled nor complained at work being too heavy for her to perform. I lived by her as a neighbor for 20 long years and I never heard her worry about things that came her way.
The way-worn preacher always found a welcome in her home. She was never too tired to forge the needy and distressed. She was ever ready to wait on the sick and lend a helping hand wherever she saw she was needed. I have known her to administer to the bereaved when it seemed to me that she was not able to take care of her self. I am sure that she has clasped hands with loved ones gone on before, and it now standing on the banks of sweet deliverance with her face turned this way, beckoning to her children and loved ones here to come on. Oh, if I could see her face once more and hear her voice in prayer again!
The funeral services were all planned by her long before she closed her eyes in death. Part of it had been arranged for several years, and was completed just one week before she died.
She requested that her children sing “Jesus Lover of My Soul.” And that T. W. Stevenson, one of her son-in-laws, direct the song service. She also asked that her body be placed near the pulpit as possible while her pastor, Bro. Mouser, preached the funeral. Her requests were all carried out as nearly as possible. Her children were all present at her bedside when she died, except Willie who lives in California. In my imagination, I can hear her saying, “When I can read my titles clear to mansions in the skies I’ll bid farewell to every fear and wipe my weeping eyes.”
May the Lord bless the bereaved children through this life and may they ever live to meet their dear mother who has out striped them and gone on to the mansion that God has prepared for the faithful.
Written by a friend and one who loved her.