Oh for an Easter Bonnet Complaint

November 1, 2016

 

I know it's the first of November, but stay with me here. I'm doing research for a book. It's set on the Lamar peninsula at a house that no longer exists. It was a house the Moore children, my husband and his siblings, visited during the summer. It belonged to James Johnson and his wife, Annie Mae Ryals Johnson. I've enjoyed talking with old friends and relatives about the house and the family. The stories about Teddy Ryals and Annie Mae bring back many memories.

 

There is a rich history in this family, the Johnsons. My husband's grandmother, Myrtle Elenor Johnson Linney was James Johnson's sister. Myrtle was called Heart by her children and died in 1931 at the age of forty-two, giving birth to her eighth child, a female, Agnes, also deceased on the same day. This book will be historical fiction, if I don't change my mind about that before it's published. It's a work in progress.

 

I ran across an article today while I was researching the Lamar peninsula and what it was like there in earlier times. I was struck by the differences and also by the fact that people and their attitudes don't change much. I would have to draw you a family tree to explain the relations and I will probably have to do that for this book, but trust me when I tell you that Margaret Emanuel Simpson, wife of Moses Simpson is an ancestor of the Johnsons and the Moores. She told a graphic story about early life in Texas that was printed in the Galveston News in the early 1900's, before her death in 1918. The story was reprinted in the centennial edition of the Refugio Timely Remarks in 1934. I will probably use part of the story in the book to capture the feel of the peninsula in the mid 1800's, but what she said about the people of the time caught my attention and I thought I should share it. It gave me some hope that things aren't as bad as they seem, but also some concern that we haven't come very far:

 

In 1852 Margaret Emanuel married Moses Simpson. Mr. and Mrs. Simpson lived at Copano, close to Lamar for twenty or twenty-five years. There were only a few families in residence there. “I had never heard a wolf howl,” said Mrs. Simpson. “But on the night of our arrival, they were almost in our house, and I mistook their howls for the screams and yells of the Indians. I raised an alarm and was much relieved when I learned my Indians were only wolves.
 
“About the time of the Civil War a drought set in, and before the rains began again, both cattle and horses died by the thousands . . .hunger and thirst seemed to drive these poor animals mad. Hundreds of them would rush into the bay and drink salt water until they would fall dead.
“We had no resident priest . . . nor did we have schools, nor Easter bonnets or other foolish fashions like we have nowadays. . . I fail to see that the people are anymore sociable, better, or happier now than they were in the early days of Texas when we had to endure hardships and face dangers . . .Then the people were kind and hospitable and we all endured our privations and enjoyed our sports and pleasures together. Now, the people are pulling and hauling among themselves, so that scarcely any two or three of them can agree on any religious, political, or business question.”
--Margaret Emanuel Simpson, 7-8-1832 – 2-6-1918 from an article by S.M. Lesene in the Galveston News, Reprinted in the Centennial Edition of the Refugio Timely Remarks, December 14, 1934
 
This sounds familiar. I wonder what Margaret would think of social media and the things we say to each other via cyberspace. Oh for the complaints of Easter bonnets.
 
This novel will be Doris Marie Moore's story. Although it will be fiction it is filled with incidents and anecdotes that actually occurred. I'm striving to keep it historically accurate. If anyone has a memory, something to add, visited the Johnson's house on the bay in Lamar or anything, please contact me via the contact page on my website. If anyone has a photo, I'd appreciate that also.
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