Query: Wood

A new society member, Sharon Swindler, has furnished us with the following query about her Wood family:

My mother was born in Quitman and was the daughter of Alonzo Church Wood, Jr. and Catherine McReynolds Wood. I think I may have met Miss Ona Wood when I was a child. I am interested in getting copies of her written history of the Wood family and ancestors. I would want to include the McReynolds and Gunstream families. This week I checked the Wood County Genealogical Society’s web page and found some of Miss Ona Wood’s writing about the family. Is that available to members.
Sharon Swindler, 2678 Imperial Ridge Drive, Loveland, CO 80537, grandmasha@aol.com

Life in The Piney Woods, Chapter 4

Life in The Piney Woods
By Ona Wood

Chapter 4
The Pines Whisper

Peter M. Gunstream loved the Southland of the United States. It was the place to which he had turned his steps when he set foot in America. He loved his home in the pines, and he and his family had worked hard to develop the land.

Although Mr. Gunstream owned some six slaves, he was opposed to the system of slavery and treated the Negroes very humanely. He worked them hard; he did not ask more of them than he could do himself, but Mr. Gunstream was not one to condone idleness.

He always gave the Negroes their Sundays to go anywhere they wished. If a young Negro, man or woman, married in some other section of the county, Mr. Gunstream arranged to buy his or her mate, or if the choice was to go to the mate’s owner, he managed to trade or sell.
He deeply deplored the fact that the south was planning to leave the union and did not believe that secession was right.

Each year since he and his family had lived in East Texas, they had strived to make their home more comfortable. His wife, though a little French lady, had been born in the Southland. Her people had become his people, and they had been helpful through the years; she had been courageous — a characteristic which befitted the life of every pioneer.

By 1862, the Gunstreams had lived on their land in Wood County for 15 years.
Mr. Gunstream had reached the age of 46 years and was still able to turn out much work, but with the South at war, he and his family would need to extend their energies a little further.
Pioneer women could never be idle. They had loved ones on the field of battle who were suffering hunger and disease.

In all the little homes could be heard the hum of the spinning wheel, the clicking of knitting needles, and the noise of the weavers’ shuttles. Cooking, washing and mending had to be done.
Though only 36 years of age, Mrs. Gunstream grew tired. Hard work weakened her body, and she became ill.

Few doctors were available; the difficulty of travel and the distance between settlements in East Texas made it well nigh impossible to have medical care.
Mary Alitia Gunstream died 24 July 1862.

Peter Gunstream had been called upon many times to make coffins for his neighbors, but he was now confronted with the sad duty of constructing a coffin for his lovely little wife.
They buried her on top of the hill about one-half mile from her home on the land she had helped to settle. She was buried near her son, Little Peter, who had died at an early age.

The grave site was in the deep woods where peace reigned supreme, and the fragrance of the beauty of the countryside pervaded the soft breezes as they stirred gently through the dense foliage of the woodland.

Mockingbirds whistled in the giant oaks, and redbirds nested in the green cedars. In the springtime, wild azaleas bloomed profusely; Sweet Williams fringed the hillside, and from their heliotrope blossoms floated a delicate perfume.

Buckeye with plumes of scarlet flowers and dark green foliage grew in the deep woods and added their queenly beauty to the haven; while from under a carpet of deep brown leaves, spread by the hoar frosts of countless ages, purple violets peeped modestly.

High above it all, like a canopy overspread, the tall pines whispered and moaned, but always they told a story of love.

Mrs. Gunstream left six children. Gustavas was just reaching young manhood; Belinda was 16 years old. The younger children were Andrew, Limuel, Christina, and the baby, Jerome, scarcely six months of age.

To Belinda fell the task of attending the younger children. Jerome, flaxen-haired and fair, was her pride and joy. To him, she devoted her untiring attention.

Continued on the Members-only page which can be accessed with the link at the top right of this page. If you have forgotten the member password, send an email to the Bulletin editor.

Wood County Feels the Tug of War

Life in the Piney Woods
By Ona Wood
Chapter 3
Wood County Feels the Tug of War

The everyday affairs of life went on as usual in the deep eastern section of Wood County.

Mary and Peter Gunstream and their neighbors always arose long before the dawn and prepared breakfast. They ate by the light of candles which they had molded with their own hands from the tallow dried from the fat of the beeves that they had butchered on their own range.
Their breakfast was no meager affair; even if they did live in the woods of a sparsely settled country, food was in abundance: quail fried to a golden brown, ham from their smokehouse, sausage, red gravy and hominy, hot corn pone and butter.

As soon as the first rays of the sunlight dispelled the rosy tinted dawn, Peter went to the fields or to the mill. Everything seemed peaceful in the deep forest.

Far off in the distance a turtle dove cooed to its mate… Continued on the Member’s Only pages accessible from the link at the top right of this page.

Life in the Pineywoods – Chapter 2

Ona Wood writes about life in Wood County in the early 1850’s reflecting the life of Peter Gunstream and especially the Holly Springs community of eastern Wood County in Chapter 2 of the story of her ancestor’s coming to the county. This chapter is available on the members only site by going to the link at the top right of this page. Here’s an excerpt from the chapter:

It was not until the year 1857 that the first school house was built in the settlement of the deep eastern part of Wood County. The little log school house was located about one half mile southwest of the Gunstream home. The principal patrons were P. M. Gunstream, Mr. Isham Burnett, and Mr. B. L. Robbins.
The first school that was taught in the log structure was under the tutelage of Miss Emily Smith, a very young girl. She had an enrollment of fifteen pupils.
The school term was very short. That was the case of all the school terms throughout the entire county, and in many other places of the state for the next half century. The school usually ran for a term of three or four months; and in some instances two months in the summer time after crops were “laid by.”
The children had to walk long distances to reach the school house, even as much as four miles or more. By the time a youngster reached the school building, ate his lunch, and returned home, most of the day was gone.
The only school books were those that parents might have brought from the old states or , perchance, some father had been lucky enough to find during a trip to Jefferson or Marshall when going for supplies for the family.

Life In The Piney Woods – Chapter One

We have begun the serial publication of Life In The Piney Woods by Ona WOOD. It is available to members on the members-only page which you can access at the top right column of this page. It will also appear in the second quarter (June, 2010) newsletter.

The foreword (by Mrs. Ona Wood) was previously published here. If you would like to read it again before going to Chapter one, click here.

Thanks to member Mark Reid who digitized the first chapters of Mrs. Wood’s book.

———————–

Life In The Piney Woods – Chapter One

A YOUNG SWEDE COMES TO AMERICA

The day dawned beautiful. The sun projected its rays across the waters of the northern seas in an effort, it seemed, to hold in check the restless beating of the waves.

On the deck of a ship lying at anchor in Baltic waters in the harbor of Copenhagen, Denmark stood a young man, well groomed and handsome.
The long locks of his light wavy hair sweeping loosely around his neck were tousled by the wind; the tangy sea breeze upon his face, caused his eyes to turn occasionally from their far-distant gaze; within their depths, like a mirror to his soul; shone a spirit of courage and strength, supported by an abiding peace.

Inside the iron-bound chest, bearing the name of P. M. Gunstream, that had just been placed on board were many tools that were to be used to ply his trade in a new world. To read the remainder of Chapter One, go to the member-only page.

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