The goals we had for this trip were all attained and then some. What took us back east originally was the family reunion in Williamsburg, Virginia. Along the way we were able to stop and visit with friends and family, although not nearly as many as we would have liked.
The research into my family genealogy produced far more than I could have fathomed. And along the way, I was assisted by a number of folks who gave of their time and energy, along with their expertise in history and genealogy, making my efforts to connect the family dots, so to speak, much easier.
One place I had intended to stop was Des Arc, Arkansas. Isaura and I left Tennessee, drove diagonally through Arkansas from northeast to southwest. We encountered a lot of traffic which meant that we would not get to Des Arc before the museum there closed. The Texas unit my great grandfather served with sailed from Des Arc to Memphis, then by train to Corinth, Mississippi. I phoned the lady (Monica Smith) at the historical museum (Lower White River Museum State Park) in Des Arc and explained my dilemma. She went ahead and researched my great grandfather’s unit anyway and sent me invaluable information. She uncovered the names of the paddle-wheel boats operating out of Des Arc to Memphis in April of 1862. I can assure you that I was blessed and excited to have her support. She is going to continue to look into other files which may provide further specifics as to movements and locations.
We stopped in a La Quinta Inn & Suites in Sulphur Springs. Texas. Our first day we drove to Marshall, Texas where I was able to show Isaura the old Roots home where my father was born. It was built in 1887, and my grandparents moved in as newlyweds in 1903. Though the home is now owned by others, there is a sign out in front that says, Roots–Starr Home (I have no idea who the Starr folks are). I haven’t been to Marshall since 1971 when my grandmother Roots passed away, and my brother and I moved our dad to Dallas. I parked on the street and walked up to the front door. A middle-aged lady answered pleasantly, so I explained who I was and that this had been my grandparent’s home. The three of us stood on the porch and chatted for some time. I discovered that her mother was related to my dad’s cousin (Ruth), and that a half-sister of Ruth (Rosa) was still living (94), currently being cared for in a nursing home a few miles outside of Marshall. That means Rosa is the daughter of my Grandmother Roots’ brother, Albert who used to take me fishing on Caddo Lake (Can you say crocodiles?). Isaura and I spent about an hour with this dear lady, who remembered me as a little boy visiting Marshall from Connecticut in the early 1950s. She said, “I remember you. And you had a brother.” I was floored! She then looked at my wife and said, “His father was a very handsome man!” This was true. My parents moved from Marshall to New York City in 1934. My dad looked just like Clark Gable. He even had the mustache before Gable began to sport one. My parents would often eat out only to have maître-d’s mistake him for Gable. He would assure them that he was not, but they didn’t believe him! Quite a few meals were comp’d, I’m told.
After an hour with Rosa, Isaura and I had a time of prayer with her and said goodbye. I leaned over to kiss her on the cheek, whispering, “God bless you, dear one.” She looked at me, and in true Texas drawl, said, “Thank you, Sugah!” What a joy to meet this lady after 60 years.
On Sunday, August 17, we drove to Sulphur Bluff, Texas to attend the United Methodist church where my great grandfather spent his final decade of life. After the service we walked out behind the sanctuary and began looking for his grave stone. We found it easily enough; took the obligatory pictures; and then headed for Lone Oak, Texas where my mother was born. It has been a number of years since I was there so I was not able to find the home she was born in. It was a town of 500 when she was born in 1915. Today it boasts a population of 598. We drove up and down every street but could not locate the home. I’m thinking it must have been leveled.
So, we finally drove toward the western horizon, passing through Amarillo, Texas; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and stopping in Cortez, Colorado for the night. The next day we drove up Highway 191 toward Provo, Utah to visit family. But what a surprise awaited us on that highway! The Manti-La Sal National Forest is stunning! The proper superlatives escape me. The rock formations are breath-taking. I wanted to stop and simply soak in the beauty of these awesome earth and stone upheavals, but we were expected in Provo, so I begrudgingly pressed on. If you haven’t seen this part of the country you simply must make the effort. Lord willing, I’ll be back again someday to really take it all in.
We’ve been relaxing and visiting Isaura’s brother Tony and family here in Delta, Utah where Tony has built up a sizeable dairy operation. It has been good to see everyone.
I’ve been asked to preach at their church here in Delta this Sunday, after which Isaura and I will begin our final leg of the trip home, arriving Monday night. Can’t wait!