Sometimes a story comes along that demands that it be shared with others. John W. Roark's autobiography is such a story.
Clark Simmons, WM
The XLData Net
The John Leslie mentioned in this autobiography was a great-great-? uncle on my mother’s (Jo Ann Leslie Stewart) father’s (Earl Leslie) side. I copied it from a document that has been passed down in my family. It has been copied many times and parts of it seem to have been typed at different times by different typists. I have corrected some spelling and punctuation errors which seemed to be obvious typos and have left others in when I thought they may have been the way Mr. Roark wrote them. Some sections seem a little disjointed but whether this was a typist fault or not, I do not know, so I have tried to copy it word for word.
Robert Leslie Stewart (Les)
MY AUTOBIOGRAPHY – JOHN W. ROARK
Not that I think that there is anything worthy of record connected with my life, but since some of my children have requested that I write a sketch of my life I will try to record such things that might be of interest to them.
I was born somewhere in East Texas. I am not sure where but very likely in Upsher county.
My mother’s maiden name was Sara Ford and my father’s was David Roark. I know very little about my mother except that what I have learned from my half-sister, Mrs. R.C. Marshall of Portales, New Mexico. My mother’s first husband’s name was Britt, who fought in the Federal Army during the War Between the States. He died from a wound received in battle. Mother’s people were in sympathy with the South. After Mr. Britt’s death, my father married his widow who became the mother of myself and Henry. There were four of the Britt children, Mattie, Dan, Annie and one boy who died while young.
Annie married R. C. Marshall. Mollie married a Mr. Martin. Dan was the father of Adoluphus Britt. All of whom are dead but Mrs. Marshall.
Henry, my full brother, died the first of September, 1909 near Ector, Texas.
I know nothing of the circumstances that lead to the marriage of my father and mother. My sister, Annie says that father was a Union soldier during the Civil War, and if this is so I suppose that he was sent to East Texas on duty for the government. While there, he and mother married. I was born July 16th, 1866. Henry was born in September, 1868. I do not know the day of the month. Another brother was born, I suppose sometime in 1870. This brother died in infancy. My mother died soon after his death and was buried at Longview, Texas.
At the time of mother’s death, the feeling between the North and South was very bitter. My mother’s people being Southern, would not allow my father to come about. They would have nothing to do with him since he was a Union soldier. My father was a mechanic and a blacksmith.
It is my opinion that my father’s home had been in Missouri before he and my mother married. I am of the opinion that he started to Missouri to take Henry and myself to his people after Mother’s death. I can remember that while we were making the trip which I have always thought was to Missouri, father would stop and work at different places. I remember our staying at a place where they had a parrot that could talk. I think father worked on a house at this time which I have always thought was in Sulphur Springs, Texas.
My father, Henry and I arrived in Fannin County some time in the fall of 1872. We were driving a blind bay horse hitched to a buggy. He had in his possession, a chest of carpenter tools, a record of mine and Henry’s birth, a marriage certificate and a church letter from a Baptist Church. These records were later burned when W. R. Luton’s house burned. My father stopped in what is known as Arledge Ridge community about six or seven miles from Bonham, near the present road from Bailey to Bonham. He had stopped to fix a wagon for a man by the name of Conedy. While we were stopped at this place, father became sick and died. He was buried in the White Rock Cemetery. His grave is lost. I have looked for it but was never able to find it.
If my father had anything of value in his possession when he died, the people where he died got it. The horse and buggy was used to pay his doctor bill and the people where he died moved off with his tools. Uncle John Leslie was to have got his tools.
I remember riding behind someone on a horse to Bonham between Christmas of 1872 and January, 1873. I do not know how Henry went. We were both turned over to the county. I was very thinly clad, was barefoot and had my father’s hat on. There was snow on the ground and my feet were cracked open and bleeding from exposure. I do not know how Henry was clad.
(John Leslie and wife were generally known as “Uncle John and Aunt Lou”. They were not relatives of ours.)
Uncle John Leslie took me into his home. Mr. W. R. Luton took Henry. Mr. Luton lived north of Ector a few miles. Uncle John lived south of Bohnam. His house was less than a mile from the place where my father died. Mr. Leslie bought me a pair of shoes in Bohnam the day he got me but my feet were too sore to wear them. I could not wear shoes the remainder of the winter because my feet were too sore.
It might be well to say something about Fannin County at that time. It was a pioneer county and was very thinly settled. There were plenty of game such as deer, wild cats, turkey, prairie chicken, rattlesnakes and other wild game. Bohnam was a small village. The T. P. Railroad came to Bonham in 1872. One could go across the prairie most anywhere. There were very few farms at that time. The prairies were covered with long horn cattle and the woods were full of ticks, snakes, etc. I was bitten by a ground rattler in the fall of 1875 while hunting red haws in the timber but it did not hurt me very much. They gave me some liquor which did not do any good. Then they cut open a live chicken and held it on the bite to draw the poison out.
Mr. Leslie came to Fannin County in the fall of 1872, in a ox wagon with his wife and young baby. He had only seventy-five dollars in money. Mr. Luton with whom Henry lived, worked on the halves on his wife’s father’s place. Both Mr. Leslie and Mr. Luton became wealthy before they died.
John Leslie, his father, mother, and grand daughter lived in one room of a large two room log house. There was a hall between the two rooms. John Leslie’s brother lived in the other room. There were seven in the family. John Leslie’s brother worked on a farm on the east side of the road from Bailey to Bohnam. This land is now owned by Charley Trayler. It is the same neighborhood where my father died. The grand daughter who lived with Uncle John Leslie was a sister of Sam Reid and a niece of John Leslie. A man whose name was Permenter, a kinsman of the Leslie’s visited them in the winter of 1872. While there he took the measles, several of us had the measles too. Even though we were crowded into two rooms we all recovered. In 1873 I had my first experience with farming. I remember picking a hundred and two or three pounds of cotton in one day, that fall.
Uncle John tried to find my people by writing to the county officials on Upsher County but he never did hear from any of them. In this same year Uncle John caught a stray mule and broke him for working on the farm. This mule would drop down in the harness like he was sick. Uncle John piled some honey locus sprouts in scattered piles over the field. These sprouts had thorns in them an inch or more long. One day the mule pretended to be sick and dropped down on a pile of the locus thorns. After this he never played sick no more.
Mrs. Anna Marshall, my half sister, now of Portales, New Mexico, now tells me that I was born in Fayette County, Texas.
Uncle John rented a place that fell about three miles south of Gobar. We lived at this place in 1874 and 1875. Nothing happened in 1874 worth mentioning unless it was this. Aunt Lou kept her churn in the kitchen. One night an old hound dog got his head hung in this churn. Uncle John got the dog by the hind legs, Aunt Lou held the churn while Uncle John pulled the dog out. I remember, too, that Sam Reid and I went out East of the house about 400 yards and killed a big wild turkey gobbler on Christmas Eve. We lived in a big one room log house with a porch on the south and with a shed room on the west end of the porch. Aunt Lou cooked on the fire place in an old fashioned oven and skillets. Their kitchen was a large log house separate from the rest of the house. That winter Uncle John went back to Arkansas in a two horse covered wagon after Aunt Lou’s father and mother and their family. There were six in the family, one grown boy, two girls about grown and a baby girl. In 1875 Hugh Leslie was born. The first time he ever crawled Aunt Lou left him sitting alone in front of the fire place. He fell backwards and the back of his head fell in the skillet that was on some live coals in front of the fire. Aunt Lou came in and rescued him but he has a bald spot on his head today which was caused by this burn. This scar is about the size of a silver dollar.
Uncle John took up two wild cows off of the prairie to milk. One of them would lie down and sulk like a opossum. Well we made a dog we had bite her a time or two and that broke her but the other cow was not so easy to break. At first it seemed as if we could not do anything with her. One morning Aunt Lou’s brother Bob tied her head to a bar post pulling her head close to the post so that she could not move her head. Then he got her by the bush of her tail and pulled her up close to the post so that Aunt Lou could milk her. He had his hands through the bars holding the cow by the tail. The cow kept pulling until she got her head loose and made a lunge to get away. Bob had the bush of her tail wrapped around his wrist and could not turn her loose. The cow pulled straight, sideways and would swing backwards and forwards, bawling and pawing, all the time. Bob’s eyes would bug out and his face got red. The bones in his arm and shoulder would crack and pop. I thought she was going to kill him and was scared until I was almost having fits but finally the bush of the cow’s tail pulled out and lift him standing there unhurt. The cow jumped the fence and the last we saw of her she was going across the prairie in a long run.
That same year a horse kept getting in the field and they could not keep him out. Finally Aunt Lou’s brother tied some boards to his tail and turned him loose. The horse left in a fast run. That was the last we saw of him that day. The next day this same man went visiting in another neighborhood. After he got a few miles from home he saw a bunch of horses coming over the hill toward him. They passed him on a run. He rode on a short distance and met the horse he had tied the boards to. He was so near given out that he could just raise a lope.
The same year I was out in the woods with this same man hunting opossums. We caught four opossums but the dogs killed the last one and it bled some on the ground. We had not gone far till we heard some wolves howling behind us. They had smelled that blood and was on our trail. Oh! My!; I was scared and wondered what we could do. But we did not go far until this man said, “John suppose we go home.” I very quickly said, “Alright.” If he had started running I don’t believe he could have left me behind. It would have taken a good pony to have out run me that night. I surely was glad to get to the house that time.
That spring Uncle John saw a turkey running across the field. He got his gun and slipped along the outside of the fence until he got in front of the turkey and shot it. This turkey had a long beard like all gobblers but when Aunt Lou cut it open it had two hard eggs in it.
The 18th of March we had the biggest snow, I think I ever saw. It fell in the night. It was a still night so there were no drifts. The snow was about 12 inches deep all over the ground and was very soft. We went rabbit hunting that day. We would track the rabbits until they went under the snow. Then we would follow the hole till we would find the rabbit and pick him up. I do not remember how many we caught but a good many.
In the fall of 1875 Uncle John bought 80 acres of school land one half mile east of what is now the town of Bailey for $6.00 per acre. Sounds pretty cheap for this type of land. He built a one room house with a side room for a kitchen and a room upstairs over the main room. He built a stick and dirt chimney on the north side of the kitchen. Aunt Lou cooked on that fire place and we ate in the same room the first winter. By the next winter we had built a good rock chimney and had torn down the stick and dirt chimney. We really felt like we were really fixed up.
One or two years Uncle John was not able to pay the interest on his place. Cotton was cheap. There was no such thing as barb wire so the task of improving a place was a slow one. You had to use poles, rails, or pickets for fencing and either way was very slow. Finally he got his place paid for.
I stayed with them until I was twenty two years old. They were as good to me as they were to their own children, and they had six boys and two girls. One of the girls, Ruth died while a young girl. Before I go any further I want to say to my children that they should always respect the Leslies for they took me when I was a helpless child without a friend in the world and cared for me as if I was their own.
Now I am going back to my school days. In 1875 I went to a school a short time where Harrison school house stood and still stands today. A blue black speller was the only book I had to study. I started with the alphabet and my thumb were through the book but I had learned the a,b,c by the time school was out or I quit school. I do not know which. The next school I went to was in 1876, I think. It was about one forth of a mile north of where the old Portland school house now stands but it is now used for a church service for any denomination. This school house was a log building about ten by fourteen feet. Our benches were made of split logs with holes bored in them. Pegs were stuck in the holes for legs to hold them up. The windows were cracks between the logs which ran from one end of the house to the other. I learned to read some and spell a little during this school. I had one fight with a boy and when he was about grown we tried it again. I was still a boy but, as it happened, I got the best of him in both fights. The next school I went to was in 1877 or 1878, I am not sure which. We used a vacant dwelling this time and fared much better than formally. I do not know what kind of seats we had but I guess they were fine. By this time I could read and spell good and was started in the second reader. We had two spelling lessons in a day. The teacher offered a prize of anything the winners wanted that did not cost over $2.50 to the one who made the most head marks. There were grown boys and girls in the class but I won by one head mark. The teachers name was Lannious, an aunt of Dr Lannious of Bonham. She asked me what I wanted and I told her I wanted the nicest third reader she could find so it did not cost all of the 2.50. Later I told her I would take a big set of marbles, so she gave me both book and marbles. I guess they cost her not more than forty or fifty cents. I became an excellent speller. When I was about fifteen years of age or older. I must have been older. I suppose I was about seventeen, I won Hood’s Poems for being the best speller in the Portland school. I was also good in arithmetic. I do not remember ever having failed to solve a problem but I sometimes had to have help on a few. Just a hint as to how to solve the problem but that was very rare. I always had good lessons in all my subjects but these were the subjects I took much pride in. I studied Ray’ s and Robertson’s two book series in arithmetic and the higher book was plenty hard. However I never failed to solve any problem I came to though I never did get to finish the book. Along about 1878 or nine they built the Portland school house and after that we had a much better house and better equipment though nothing to compare with the schools today. We played what we called town ball, a game similar in some respects to baseball. We also played Cat and bullpen.
I never got a whipping in school and I do not remember of ever having to stay in though I do not say that I did not deserve a whipping for I talked to two teachers very rough. I thought they treated me wrong and I did not fail to tell them so in very strong language, but for some reasons they did not punish me at all. This is enough about my school days until later.
In 1876 a dog bit me on the right foot. This bite made three awful sores and what I mean was they were bad. Proud flesh got in the wounds. What walking I did for the next three months was on crutches and you could track me by the blood from these sores on my foot. They finally burned alumn and put on those places and they healed up in a short time. In the winter of 1881 and 1882 whooping cough broke out in the Portland school and just about all the children took it. I took it. I had been so hoarse for about two weeks I could hardly talk, we just thought it was a bad cold. This was sometime in January. I took pneumonia in both lungs and they did not think I would get well, but since it is a fact that I am still living in 1938, that is sufficient proof that I got well.
In the fall of 1882 Uncle John told me to take Ruth,10 years of age, Hugh, seven and Fenner, five and pick the cotton while he gathered the corn and sowed wheat. We picked eighteen bales of cotton without any help by the time or maybe before he got through. Boys in those days went to school when the crops were gathered or laid by in the summer time.
In 1883 Uncle John gave me a colt and I named her Fashion. When she was two years old he gave me a bridle and saddle. I broke her to ride and you maybe sure I was one happy boy. When a boy in those days had a horse and bridle and saddle he was all fixed up at the top of the ladder. When people would say, “John that sure is a fine horse and saddle.”, you may know I felt I was some body come. Just before Christmas in 1885 Uncle John told me I could consider myself my own man. Can you imagine my feelings! My that was grand! Now he said, ”John, I’ll give you $200.00”. Oh boy two hundred dollars. That looked like a lot of money to me. When a boy had a quarter to spend at the Leonard picnic once a year and about that much to spend for Christmas he sure enough felt big. People did not have much money those days. Well I took Uncle John up. He was to feed me and my horse, too, on top of that. Think of that eats, for me and my horse and $200.00.
We made the crop. It was an awful dry year and cotton was very short around Bailey where we lived so Uncle John told me I could stay there and he would give me fifty cents a hundred to pick cotton as long as he needed me and then Aunt Lou could fix me a lunch so that my board would not cost me anything and I could pick for other people as long as I could get picking near home or he would give me the $200.00 then just as I saw fit. I picked 7000 lbs. for Uncle Henry at fifty cents a hundred and 4000 lbs. for another man at seventy cents. For the last I picked I got 65 cents. I picked 20,000 in just three months to a day and I had made $110.00 by the time I quit picking November 10. Then I worked for a month for Sam Reid clearing land for my board and room and $15.00. Uncle John was keeping my horse all this time and driving her with the other stock to Bois’darc creek six or seven miles northwest of Bailey and to Gobar about the same distance northeast near Sulpher Springs to water.
I think it was in 1887 that the ticks broke up a revival meeting at Gober. They had dammed up the creek to make water for stock. Near this creek was a very nice grove of timber with no under brush. The stock would go to this pool for water, then they would lay around in the shade in this grove in the hot weather. There were ticks there by the multiplied thousands. Ticks of all ages and sizes. Seed ticks, yearling ticks and ticks of all ages. Ticks surely were bad in those days. The people built a brush arbor in this grove and started the revival and carried it on for a few days. When the women came with their white dresses on the ticks would just cover them and they could not sit still. The men did not fare any better so they decided they would have to quit. They called on a Methodist, I’ll not call his name, for a closing prayer. He said, ”Oh, Lord, we can stand the world, the flesh and the devil but these ticks are more than we can stand so we will have to surrender.” That is enough about ticks.
In 1887 I made a crop and lived with Uncle John Leslie. They fed me and my horse with out any charge. I loaned out $185.00 of what I made in 1886 at 15% interest and had enough left over to buy a set of plow tools. I made the crop with one horse. I made nine bales of cotton and I do not remember how much corn. At this time I decided to make a school teacher so I went to school through the winter of 1887 and 1888 but later decided to farm for a living. This year the Cotton Belt R.R. came to Bailey. Then the town of Bailey was paid off.
In May 1880 I went with some other parties to the dedication of the State Capitol at Austin. Our tickets cost us 5.00 dollars for the round trip. From Austin to San Antonio was $2.50 a round trip. After school was out that year I chopped cotton in the spring and picked cotton in the fall. In 1880 I leased some prairie land and bought a team and tools. Bob Fenner and I broke the land and made a crop together. I lived with Bob and his wife this year. I lived with Sam Reid in 1890 and 1891. I paid him $6.00 dollars per month for my board and washing. I helped about the place getting wood or any thing else which needed to be done. In 1889 I met Miss Ada Moreland. Our acquaintance grew into friendship and later into courtship. On the twenty-fifth day of November 1881 we were married near Windon, Texas.
Before we were married I bought a forty acre farm three fourths of a mile due east of the auction house at Bailey for $1500.00. I paid $600.00 on it and got a loan of $900.00 at 8% interest. In 1892 September 20th Jessie Mae was born. Alvan Leslie was born Oct 7th 1894. We had an unusual amount of sickness, cotton and other farm products were very cheap, therefore I decided I could not finish paying for the farm so I sold out and moved to town where I went into the grocery business. I had a good business and was getting along very well. I was saving some although we were still having a good deal of sickness. However I had splendid health until March 3, 1901. At that time I had about $1800.00 stock of goods besides the house (business) and a lot and the house where we lived on which I still owed $150.00 I had plenty of money and good accounts to pay every dollar I owed. But I got sick the night of March the 3rd with appendicitis. I had two awful bad spells. The second attack was on April 2nd. They were afraid I would not live through either attack. On May 9th I had the third attack which was not quite so bad. At this time I decided to be operated on. Dr. Racon Saunders came from Fort Worth to perform the operation on May the 16th. He got off the train at Bailey at 4.P.M., performed the operation and was leaving at 6.P.M. There was no pus, no adhesions not any complications but the wound became infected and trouble began. I did not drink anything nor swallow anything except a small dose of Calomel from 12.A.M. May 16th till 9.P.M. May 17th. Then they began giving me a teaspoon full of water every thirty minutes. None can imagine how I suffered for water. That teaspoonful of water only intensified my thirst, it seemed to me ten times. It was about twenty four hours before I got enough water. By this time the poison from the infection began to make me vomit. The second night I was so sick the Dr. told my wife that I would not live until morning. They gave me morphine and something else with it. They did not know but that it might kill me but thought it might stop the vomiting and it did. However I lay on my back for three weeks without moving. For six weeks I did not get off of the bed for anything and it was about six months before I could take care of my business. I closed out, put the store building lot and stock of goods on my debts and still owed 1000.00 dollars. The operation was followed by a hernia and I have been wearing a support ever since. My wife was sick most of the time I was. I paid Dr. Saunders $800.00, Dr. Adair $150.00 and Dr. Lambeth $11.00. I have no idea how much I paid for drugs. I could not put my shoes on, nor pull them off but could go after I was dressed. In 1894 I think it was Grandpa Hayes my wife’s Mother’s father came to live with us for a while. He stayed until he died Aug, 12th, 1897 the day he was 82 years old. Lois Pearl, our third child was born and died this same year. I paid the $10.00 Dr. bill for grandpa Hayes when he died bought everything he needed to put him away, shipped him to Sherman and it all cost me less than fifty dollars. He was buried in a nice casket for that day and time and they, through courtesy, because I was in business sold me the casket at just about cost. By this time we had four children living, the oldest being about nine years old. Lois Pearl was born June 27,1898 and died Aug.12, 1897. Lulu Gladys was born Oct. 31st, 1898. Ruby Ray was born Dec. 9th, 1901.
I went to farming again but had to buy teams and tools on time to farm with which I got without any trouble. In 1902 I made a small crop. About the first of May that year I got so I could put my shoes on and tie them without any help. In 1903 I rented an eighty five acre farm east of Bailey three and one half miles in the Crandall Community. We lived in this community in 1903, 1904 and 1905. In 1904 I settled all my debts even though we still had a lot of sickness in the family. Sherwood Vernon was born here Oct 29, 1904.
I moved back to Bailey in 1906. John Lloyd was born here Oct 29th, 1907. I farmed at Bailey from 1906 until 1909. Then I moved to Leonard, Texas in order to give my children a better school advantage. I farmed place one and three fourths miles east of Leonard in 1910, 11 and 12. Then we moved one and three fourths miles north and just a little west of Leonard to a farm owned by B. B. Braley. We lived here until [ can’t read]. I had from 85 to 90 acres of good land to cultivate on this farm. It was hear that my wife and I lived, reared and educated our children in the Leonard public schools. Five of them are reaching or have taught school. All have had some college work. One boy, Sherwood is a registered pharmacist working in Grand Prairie, fifteen miles west of Dallas, Texas. He has at present a half interest in the Cicero Drug Store at Grand Prairie. Ruby is teaching Vocational Home Economics at Avalon, Texas south of Waxachie. She holds a Smith Hughes certificate. All are now married but Ruby.
Back in 1907, in June, Lulu had an awful bad spell of sickness. Dr. J. J. Pendegrass said an operation was the only thing that would save her life and he saw very little chance for her to live after that. My wife was in bad health at the time and Lulu begged me not to have it done so I decided not to have the operation done. She would have awful bad spells and we thought some of them would take her off but she finally got well. On July 15th, 1917, Alvan enlisted to serve in World War I. He went into training at Fort Worth in the Calvary but was transferred to the 132nd Field Artillery. He was sent to France in the summer of 1918 but to his disappointment he was never in action. Only those who had boys overseas can imagine our anxiety about our boy. He never looked quite so good to us as he did the day he left home the last time to go over seas. We did not know that we would ever see him again but he came back home in the spring of 1919, but he had contracted chronic bronchitis and I suppose he will have it as long as he lives. Let me say here that if there is anything worse than war it is terrible and I think it should be resorted to only when every thing else has failed except the yielding of your home and country.
Sometime in 1915 my wife’s father and mother came to live with us (Rev. J. H. Moreland). Mrs. Moreland had lost her eye sight and could not keep house any longer. They stayed with us until she died in 1925. Bro. Moreland stayed on with us until his death, March 19, 1927. They are both buried in Austin, Texas. I feel that their lives as they lived as devoted Christians should, was worth more to me and my family than all they cost me besides the pleasure we had in taking care of them in their declining years.
In the winter of 1918 and 1919 Jessie, Lulu, Ruby, Sherwood, John, Lloyd, Anna Lee Beth Marie and myself were all down with the flu all at the same time and my wife was not feeling well at all. Had it not been for Bro. Porter his wife and sons, Mrs. Ezra Dillon and some others, I suppose we would have suffered for attention. Jessie had a touch of pneumonia and we were afraid for a while that we would lose her. Anna Lee was born May 30th, 1912 and Beth Marie was born Dec. 26th, 1913.
The last ten years of my wife’s life, she was in a wretched state of health. She had high blood pressure and a nervous trouble. My family doctor told me she might go at any time. To me those ten years were spent in extreme anxiety. I was always uneasy night and day for I knew she might go at any time. She and my children meant everything to me and she was to me the most precious thing in the world. I do not believe I ever knew a sweeter, better woman than she was. She was so devoted to God, her children, her church and to me. For her family she gave her life wholly in unselfish service. She had to be really sick when she failed to render service to the sick. I have known her to get up out of bed, not too sick, of course, but not well enough to wait on the sick. She bore her illness with patience, and Christian fortitude as only a Christian can. No man ever had a truer, more faithful and lovable wife than it was my privilege to live with for forty three years, seven months and six days. She took to her bed for the last time some time in May 1935. We watched by her bed side expecting her to go any time. But she began to improve and gradually grew better, gained consciousness regained flesh. We were feeling good about her. I had been hard at work plowing all day till rather late. I came home, fed the stock and milked, and got to the house, I suppose a few minutes before eight o’ clock. My daughter told me she had had the best day since she got down. She had been cheerful and had stirred around the room quite a bit so we were very happy about her. She was quiet and I thought asleep, so I did not bother her, just thought I would eat my supper before I went into her room. But before I had finished eating we heard her cry out and we rushed into the room. When I got in the room she was lying on the floor. She breathed a few times and was gone without a word or expression of any kind. I would have given anything for just a word from her. Just a few minutes before we were feeling so good about her and to think she had slipped away so quickly. It almost broke my heart but she had told me several times when she was perfectly rational not to be uneasy about her, that she was ready and prepared to go. Since she could not live without suffering, while she loved us and hated to leave, she wanted to go and be at peace with God and the Holy Angles. She passed away July 1st, 1935 at eight o’clock P.M. at or about the same minute we married 43 years, seven months and six days before.
I want to say to my children that you have given me no real trouble. It was the ambition of my life from boyhood to have a home that would be worthy of the name. I wanted my children to make citizens who were worth while. I want to say that my ambition has been fully realized except owning the home and that was a great disappointment to me. When I realized that I would never be able to own a home that would be a real home, I turned my attention to the task of giving you children an education. I am very sorry that I was not able to do any more for you than I did, abut I feel that I did all that was in my power to do considering the fact I had doctor bills and drug bills to pay. In the twenty seven years I lived at Leonard I think I spent $2000.00 dollars with Ellis Giles for drugs and other things that are sold in a drug store. To me, Giles was a real friend.
After my wife left me in 1935 the web worms struck my cotton. After spraying twice I made five bales of cotton on thirty seven acres of cotton and two of these bales were bollies. Cotton was cheap so I realized very little out of the crop, so I could not meet my obligations which consisted of a note at the bank, a big drug bill and a doctor bill besides a heavy funeral bill to pay. I paid all I could on my debts and creditors very kindly carried them for me. I want to say here that while I lived in Leonard I had to borrow money many times to make a crop and was in some very close shaves and places financially. I never went to the Leonard Nat. Bank for money to make a crop or for my own use but what I got it without a word or question from the Bank. Nor did they ask for any sort of security, due I think to the influence of Dr. J. J. Pendegrass, who was a very close friend of mine and the family.
In 1936 my son-in-law Lilbern Ross made a crop with me. He was working on the halves. We made a fairly good crop of cotton and got a tolerable good price for it. Corn was short on account of dry weather. I do not think we had over one half inch rain at a time and only two or three times we had that much. We got just enough to bring up the oats and the same way with the corn and cotton. We had the hottest weather I feel sure I ever saw all through the summer. We had some fairly good rains after crops were made but too late to help the crops. In July my son-in-law got a job in Kansas City Mo. and with my advice and consent left me with the crop to finish and gather.
On the 29th of November that year (1936), Beth Marie the only daughter at home married and left me without a cook. All the other children with the exception of Ruby were married and none of them at home. My children wanted me to quit farming. This I finally did after a very hard struggle. That was the hardest thing to do I ever did in my life when I had a chance to decide. I all but collapsed before I decided to quit. I want to say to you children, as a father, I believe I love you as dearly as any father could love his children and to me you were all I could expect of a bunch of children and more especially since I was not able to do any more for you than I could. I am very proud of every one of you. You have not given me any trouble. I have never been uneasy about you when you have been away from home for fear you would get into trouble and be to blame. I do not think any man has a set of children who has caused him less trouble or are more worthy than you are. You are the pride of my life and mean almost everything to me. Few men have a more worthy set of son-in-laws than I have. You and my friends are all I have to live for. I am sorry that I have not been a better father than I have. Sorry I was not able to do more for you than I have but I feel that if your mother and I have never done anything more than to give to the country and the church, the kind of children you are, our lives have been complete.
To your dear mother is due the credit for any good you have seen in my life for I could not have lived without being at least a nominal Christian. To her I give the credit for giving to the world the worthy bunch of children we have. It occurs to me that you might forget your father but I do not see how you can ever cease to honor your mother and love and cherish her memory or emulate her example of being a noble, faithful, devoted, true Christian. Ever strive to meet her some sweet day in the Glory World. I am left in the world to spend the remainder of my life with my children who I am sure are willing to do anything they can for my pleasure and welfare. I feel perfectly free in their homes but I had much rather be able to help them than to be helped. I love them all and my friends as well.
There are at least some things that make life worth while, but I am lonesome, in spite of these things, without the companionship of your mother who meant so much to me. I miss her smile and her words of cheer and comfort that so often helped me and gave me courage to press onward when I was discouraged and the way looked dark ahead. For her and the children I was willing to do all that was in my power but she is gone and it seems to me I will never be able to make another dollar or render any more help to you children, the church or the state. I want to say that I am able to see as never before that it is more blessed to give than to receive. I enjoyed paying to the church, helping you children in the world as well as anybody who needed help but it would be a greater pleasure now. There are some things worth living for yet and I am trying to be as happy as it is possible for a man to be situated as I am.
Your mother cannot come back to this earth to bless us as she did but we can go to her, which is a happy and glorious thought. It brings joy and peace of mind and soul. Without this, I do not know what I would do. It would be a sad world to me, but with these I am able to press on with courage, joy, and hope with the witness of the Spirit, testifying with my spirit that I shall live throughout eternity with God and the Holy Angels.
J. W. Roark
Further comments by Jessie Shearer:
Papa died in Denton, Texas September 20th, 1944 and was buried in Leonard, Texas by Mother September 23, 1944. All the children were present for the funeral except John Lloyd who was still in the Philippines (in the U.S. Army). Uncle Oscar preached his funeral as he did Mother’s. His text was taken from 2nd Samuel, 3rd chapter and 38th verse, “Know ye not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel”. Rev LeRoy Massengale who assisted, “likened to Enoch and Enoch walked with God and he as not, for God took him”. Rev. E. L. Silliman, who also assisted, took for his subject “Well done thou good and faithful servant. Enter thou into the joys of thy Lord!”. Papa’s death was sudden and unexpected, caused by coronary occlusion, heart block.
Further comments by Alvan L. Roark, January 10, 1961:
I did not know our father had written the above autobiography until I visited with some of my sisters and my brother, Sherwood in Texas, December 28-31, 1960 during which I obtained this copy from Jessie.
John Lloyd returned from the army in good condition. He is now and has been for several years, principal of the High School at Marshall, Texas. He and his wife Gladys have one daughter, Nancy Jo. Jessie, now a widow, lives in Mason, Texas. She has two fine sons, Harold and Carroll Shearer, both married and both employed as civil engineers by New Mexico Highway Department. Lulu Skiles is also now a widow and lives in Denton, Texas. Ruby, now Mrs. Ruie Taylor, lives in Dallas, Texas where she and her husband own and operate a day nursery for children of employed parents. Sherwood is half owner and operator of Cicero’s Drug Store in Grand Prairie, Texas. He and his wife, Aileen have one son, Billy John who with his wife and two children live in Farmers Branch, Texas. Anna Lee (Mrs. L.C. Ross) lives in Kansas City Missouri where husband Lilburn is employed by a large cleaning, pressing and laundry firm. They have two children, Billy and Beth, now Mrs. Vince Wessling and mother of three children. Anna Lee and Lilburn’s son is Douglas. Beth Marie and her husband, Aubrey Shoemake live in Commerce, Texas where Aubrey owns and operates a cleaning and pressing establishment. They have one son, Tommie.