Queries: Cave, Wilder, Ramey, Willingham, Potter, Bellomy, Shirey, Minshew

These researchers are seeking information on the following surnames:

Violet Shirey is researching Potter, Bellomy, Shirey, and Minshew in Wood County, Texas. Violet can be contacted at 361-729-5283 or at vshirey@sbcglobal.net.

Shirley Navarro is researching Cave, Wilder, Ramey, and Willingham. Shirley can be contacted at navarro6@swbell.net.

Mae Etta Johnson

Mae Etta Johnson of Quitman, Texas 1958

Mae Etta Johnson

During her presentation to the society’s January meeting, Leatrice Mason paid tribute to her sister Mae Etta Johnson. A part of it is printed here to share with all members and the public in general.

“… Instead, I chose to tell you about – My Hero – a Quitman Hometown Hero that not many people know about.
As Martin Luther King, Jr., died fighting for equality and justice throughout America, so did my baby sister Mattie Mae Etta Johnson.

“My mother and father (Woodie & Erie Johnson) became proud parents of a baby girl that they named Mattie Mae Etta Johnson on December 17, 1940, in the Muddy Creek Community in Quitman. She was the youngest of the four children, three girls and one boy. My older sister and I are the only two living children today.

“She was known as Mae Etta to everyone who knew her well. She attended Sunday School and church services at the Muddy Creek Baptist Church here in Quitman and united with the church at the age of six (1946) under the pasturage of Rev. J. H. Harrington.

“As a small child, her favorite place to play was under, up and in a tree in the backyard of our house. Her favorite story on the radio was “Uncle Ben”. Her favorite books were the Bible Story Book in Pictures and a book of poems titled, “Pearls along Life’s Sea Shore.” We didn’t have a television and of course no computers back then, so we all read a lot as children. Mae Etta purchased these books with money she saved from her weekly allowance. She realized at a young age that saving money was important as well as studying the Bible. She used some of her savings to purchase her first bible. She loved going to church and was active in the Sunshine Band, YWA, BTU, youth choir and usher board.Mae Etta worked faithfully on 4-H projects and her good-natured disposition made her an idol of her time. One of her greatest anticipations was being a delegate to the district board meetings. She became a regular delegate to the Cypress District Sunday school and BTU Congress and Cypress District Association.If our mother was unable to attend with her, because she had to work, our Aunt Irene Hunter would gladly take her.

“Mae Etta attended W.B. Clark School in Quitman and graduated with honors from high school in 1958. While she was in high school, she began to make preparation to enroll in Bishop College in Marshall, Texas. Bishop College was founded by the Baptist Home Mission Society in 1881. Their drive was to establish a Texas college for black Baptists.

“Mae Etta was well accepted in the Bishop College family. One of her dearest friends and classmates was Thomasine Parker Cleaver who was also a Quitman native. They both entered Bishop at the same time and continued their friendship. Mae Etta maintained her high academic standing throughout her stay at Bishop.

“In 1960, the struggle for equality, freedom and human dignity was strong on the minds and hearts of many students at Bishop including my sister. She gladly displayed her courage by giving a new dimension to man’s hope that one day segregation would end. and defined the Christian faith and affirmed in an unmistakable manner the dawn of a new day. With God’s help, she believed it could be done as she continued to work on God’s program at Bishop College. She was president of the Wednesday night Bible Band and seemed to gain much strength through studying God’s word.

“As a budding junior at Bishop College in 1960, she participated in a sit in demonstration against lunch counter segregation in Marshall, Texas. Several black colleges all across the South were also active in the lunch counter segregation movements during this time. She and many other students were arrested, charged and fined for picketing stores as well as staging mass demonstrations on the Harrison County courthouse lawn. She was fined $50.

“In a few short years, my baby sister achieved the maturity some never reach in eighty years. She saw clearly and wholly the ultimate implications of the struggle for human dignity and identified her future with it. We, the family, wondered how else could she suffer to be arrested without ever once losing the cheerful smile and the utterly wholesome outlook on life which she always possessed? How else could this letter that I will read to you be explained that she wrote to our mother less than 24 hours after she had spent 26 hours in a Marshall jail at the age of 19?

“Here is the letter:

April 3, 1960,
Bishop College
Marshall, Texas

Dear Mother,
How are you? I am fine. I guess you know by now we were arrested Friday evening. We were carried to jail at 8 p.m. Friday evening and we stayed there about 26 hours. We got out Saturday night about 10 o’clock. There were 27 of us girls in my cell. Our lawyer is from Dallas. We were bonded out by Negro citizens of Marshall. We are under $600 bonds. The night in jail was not too pleasant, but it was a comfort to know we’re in there to serve a good purpose. We were in for a good cause and none of us minded it really. If it takes a few days in jail to get equality, I feel it’s worth it. I feel that’s the least I can do. I know that God is with us because he has the whole wide world in his hands. I hope they haven’t given you a rough time. What has been said? Be sure and write and tell me. Give everyone my love. I am going to class and study now. Tell UNK hello. Be sweet, I love all of you. Forgive me if I’ve caused you worry. I have lifted a burden from my heart because of my stand. In God’s name we are going to get out freedom.

Your Baby, Etta

“Our family had a real togetherness and supported her in her struggle. We were devastated when we received the news on August 16, 1960, while Mae Etta, her attorney and another student were driving back to their boarding house, that a railroad­switching engine struck the car and killed her and the attorney instantly. The other student was seriously injured. The accident stunned the Marshall community and the legal cases against the students were dismissed. Shortly thereafter Marshall’s public facilities were de-segregated. We do not understand all the ways of God. We cannot comprehend the reason this beautiful and promising life was ushered so suddenly from time into eternity. Her Christian faith can be shared with all; that God does have the whole wide world in His hands.

“Remembering those who dedicated their lives for civil rights such as Medger Evers, John F. and Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr. and many others, Mae Etta dedicated her life for the cause of getting freedom for her people. She would be proud to see President Obama and his family occupying the White House today.

“We may never see a bronze statue of Mae Etta in a hall of fame somewhere or her letter from jail as a required reading as it once was for every student entering Bishop College, but her epitaph is written in the hearts of all who knew her. No tribute can be too much because Mae Etta did not die in vain.
“The people of Quitman should be proud to know that Mattie Mae Etta Johnson is a part of Black History.”

January Meeting Summary

Leatrice Mason of Quitman brought the January meeting program with a remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King, a preview of African American History Month (February), and a special tribute to her sister, Mattie Mae Etta Johnson of the Muddy Creek Community of Quitman, who played a memorable role in the 20th Century’s Civil Rights movement. (More about Mae Etta in the next bulletin article)

Speaking on January 21, Dr. Martin Luther King Holiday, Leatrice recalled as a child having memorized his speech and delivered it to the Cypress Distrtict Congress at Naples, Texas. She also told why Dr. Carter G. Woodson chose February as Black History Month because it was the birth month of both Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. Douglass was a prominent Black civil rights spokesman and Lincoln proclaimed freedom for slaves in his Emancipation Proclamation. She also related many contribution by Black inventors to our modern lives.

In the business meeting, members were able to view the new microfilm reader-printer and old and new business was discussed. Details of the meeting will be available on the member’s only area (see upper right on this page for a link to that area) when posted in minutes after the February meeting. The previous (November) meeting minutes and the January treasurer’s report are in the member’s only area now.

Leatrice Mason answers questions after her presentation

Leatrice Mason answers audience questions after her presentation on Dr. Martin Luther King Day

New Scanner-Printer

The microfilm printer-scanner is now ready for use at the genealogy research center at the Quitman Public Library. Microfilm (mainly census and the Wood County Democrat back issues) can be checked out from the library main desk for in-library use. Inter-library loan is possible for microfilm from other sources.

microfilm scanner-printer

The new microfilm scanner-printer

An example scanner page

January Meeting Monday, 1/18/2010

The regular monthly meeting of the Wood County Genealogical Society will be held next Monday, January 18, at 7 p.m. at the Quitman Public Library. The informal gathering at Peralta’s Restaurant open to all members and guests starts at 5:30 p.m. in Quitman.

Program activities for the 7 p.m. meeting are under the direction of Vice-President Dorothy Harbin.

Query: Greer, Morrison

Member Mary Yandell of Grove, Oklahoma writes that she is still seeking information on the James Greer family and the Hugh Bailey Morrison family, both in Wood County before the Civil War. She can be contacted by postal mail. For her address, go to the WCGS Bulletin member only pages where this query is also posted along with her mailing address. Non-members may email the Bulletin editor at netexas@gmail.com, mail contact with Mary can be arranged.

Letter from Confederate Soldier in Archives

Among items in the Wood County Genealogical Research Center archives is a letter from a Confederate soldier prisoner of war in 1864.

Lt. James G. Blackmon of Company B, 2nd Infantry Battalion of Waul’s Texas Legion, C.S.A. was from Hempstead, Texas. He was captured at Yazoo City, Mississippi in July 1863. He was in three different prisons including the last at Fort Delaware where he died of pneumonia on January 1, 1865.

The letter was written from the Officers Barracks at Fort Delaware, December 11, 1864 less than a month before his death. It was addressed to Cousin Beckie.

The following transcription is by society member Sally Allcorn who came across the letter while working in the research center archives.

Officers Barracks
Fort Delaware December 11th 1864
My dear Cousin Beckie
Your very kind and affectionate letter of the 3rd inst came to hand several days ago and would have been answered ere this but cos have been awaiting a reply from the commanding officer here as we had sent out a petition asking to be allowed to receive a box of eatables for Christmas. Which request I am sorry to say was refused and I suppose we will have to be content with our usual daily allowance which consists of a small piece of buffalo bacon and bread. Coffee, tea and sugar we get for greenbacks at the rate of one dollar per pound for ground coffee and sixty cents per pound for sugar. That is almost equal to the starving confederacy is it not. My dear cousin I did not apply for a permit for the blanket from the fact that an officer of my division made a similar request only a few days ago and was refused. I often ask myself this question, why we are this punished. I shall endeavor to obtain permission to receive some stationary and the cough mixture, my health I am rejoiced to say is much better and I hope to be entirely well soon and if you will only write often I will assure you that your dear letter shall lack nothing in interest on that score. So write often. My kindest regards to Cousin Annie. Ever your Cousin,
James G. Blackmon

A copy of the original is available in the members only area at http://wcgs.posterous.com/my-first-blog-post-22939.

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