Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Mildred's Memoir

Nora Mildred Roberts Smith
I recently acquired photocopies of a short "memoir" written by a Kirkpatrick cousin, Nora Mildred Roberts Smith. I met her a few times when I was very young, but I don't really remember her other than that I found her name kind of neat - she went by Mildred. It was a very different name and it was fun to say; it sounded quite regal! I will let Mildred introduce herself in her own words:

My name is Nora Mildred Roberts Smith. At the time of this writing [1977] I am seventy years old, and the only living descendant of the Roberts/Kirkpatrick family.

Columbus Benton Roberts (1862-1939)

My mother was Nora Mason Kirkpatrick and my father was Columbus Benton Roberts. They were married April 18, 1886. At that time my mother was 19 years old, and my father was four years older, 23. They were married in Gainesville, Texas. During the next ten years six children were born - Effie, Wayne, Lyndon Kirk, Cleo Inez survived, with William Martin and Leta only living one day.

The Roberts girls with their mother: Wayne, Effie, Mother (Nora), Mildred, Inez
Lyndon Kirk died of blood poisoning and lockjaw at the age of ten. He died at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve, January 1, 1905. This was a very tragic time for my parents for Lyndon was the only boy, and according to their reports, was the 'apple of their life.'

The story of Lyndon's death came down through my branch of the family as well - though with a few additional details. My grandmother, Edna Claire Kirkpatrick Mott (Lyndon and Mildred's first cousin), was very close to Lyndon.  According to my grandmother the circumstances were even more tragic as the blood-poisoning came about through Lyndon burning himself with a new cap pistol he had received on Christmas morning which resulted in his death six days later on New Year's Eve. My grandmother always got a very alarmed look on her face if I was playing with 'caps' and would usually take them away from me.

Lyndon's gravestone reads: "O how much of love and joy is buried with our darling boy." Let's continue on with cousin Mildred's writing:

Two years after his death, I was born, February 10, 1907, in Bridgeport, Texas. The entire clan of Kirkpatricks were living in Bridgeport, Texas. My grandfather and grandmother [William Henry Kirkpatrick (1840-1908) and Mackarina Bridges Hunt Kirkpatrick (1841-1921)] my Aunt Lillian, Aunt Willie, Uncle Louis and their husbands and wife, and children.

My grandfather died when I was an infant, so I did not get to know him, but I did know my grandmother, in fact I was a favorite of hers, for in her words I 'was the only one who would listen to her!' 

Mackarina Bridges Hunt Kirkpatrick (1841-1921)

I will try to tell one or two of the stories she told me of her youth, and of the civil war days that she and my grandfather experienced.

As my grandmother told me, when the war between the states broke out, she was young (I think she said seventeen) [she was actually 20] and living on a plantation in Tennessee. They had a number of slaves (I don't know how many) and she said her mother - my great grandmother [Penelope E. Bridges Hunt (1813-1873)] would give the slaves supplies each day. My grandfather [William Henry Kirkpatrick] lived on a plantation also, with slaves, and they [the two plantations] were near enough for my grandfather to visit (and 'court,' as she said) my grandmother.

My grandfather's father [Anderson Kirkpatrick (1808-1887)] raised blooded horses on his plantation, and my grandfather owned a very fine horse, a jumper, on which he rode to visit my grandmother. He was a little young to enlist at the beginning of the war, but before it was over he was in it. [In fact, William Henry Kirkpatrick signed up almost immediately with Company K of the 18th Tennessee Infantry.]

Their respective plantations were raided, occupied, and finally burned by the Union soldiers. My grandmother said [the Hunts] fled to a small place on the edge of their property, and there they stayed until the end of the war. They managed to salvage some of the family silver, and they hid it from the soldiers under the hens' nests in a chicken coop. The Union soldiers would come by fairly often, and they would take whatever suited them. They were always foraging for food, and my grandmother said they had one hen left. The soldiers decided they would catch that hen. My grandmother's sister became very indignant, and she decided they would not catch their only hen, so she picked up a broom and chased the soldier that was chasing the hen, and every time he would bend over, she would swat him with the broom! My grandmother would chuckle then, and so would end that tale.

Another time, my grandfather came on a hurried visit to my grandmother. As the soldiers did come by frequently, they sent her younger sister to the top of the hill nearby to watch out for them. My grandfather's parents had suffered the same fate as the Hunts and their horses had been confiscated by the Union army, with the exception of my grandfather's horse. During this visit, my grandmother's sister [the lookout] ran to tell them the soldiers were coming, and my grandfather ran out of the house and jumped on his horse. The soldiers were in sight, and they spotted him and gave chase. My grandfather, knowing the area so well, jumped his horse over fences that they had to take down to get by - he was able to elude them and rode to safety.

And another time he was not so lucky, for he was captured and put in a prison camp. [William Henry Kirkpatrick was captured at the fall of Fort Donelson in February 1862.] However, while in prison, his father came to see him. When they shook hands, his father [Anderson Kirkpatrick] pressed a bill into his palm. With this money my grandfather was able to get different clothes, and one day they were marching in line, and he managed to step over the barrier. He then made his way to the railway station, bought a ticket and boarded the train for home. He had quite a scare however, for the C. O. [of the prison camp] boarded the train, and sat in the same coach with him. He was very afraid he would be detected. [The escape occurred June 20, 1862.]

A letter home from W. H. Kirkpatrick mailed from Prison Camp (May 1862)

Other tales I know concern [the Kirkpatricks'] life in Texas. After they arrived in Valley View in covered wagon, Mama said Grandpa Kirk built their first cabin (her words). Grandma Mack was pregnant, and that their only son, [Louis Dillard Kirkpatrick (1873-1951)] was born shortly afterward. Mama said very hard birth, due in fact to long wagon ride. They came from Arkansas where Grandpa had operated a General Store and ferry on a river.

After Louis's birth, they moved to Gainesville, where Grandpa bought and operated a two story "hotel." They served meals, too, And both Mammaw and Willie (her sister) acted as waitresses. That is where Mammaw met Daddy. Mammaw did not tell many tales. I think she wanted to forget some of them!

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