The Grandmother I Met Only Once

Effie Estella Carroll Pittman Jeffords
The Grandmother I wrote poems and letters to.
The Grandmother I met only once.
The Grandmother that lived in Alaska.
The Grandmother that came to Grandfalls, Texas in a covered wagon.
 The Grandmother who married my Granddad at the age of sixteen and the Mother my Dad hardly knew.

Her name was seldom if ever spoken in our house, as Daddy had only fleeting memories of her when he was a small boy. He only remembered being raised by his Dad and his older sisters Irene and Beatrice.

 As I search my memory for words and phrases that I heard as a child that would describe my Grandmother Stella, only ‘she left us, divorced Daddy, moved to Alaska, married another man, and had another son’ come to mind. Back then, all I understood was that she lived in Alaska, wherever that was, and my Grandad lived with us.

And now, I’d like to think I understand how a sixteen year old girl who married a man twice her age, gave birth to six children, struggled everyday to feed, clothe and get them to school, and whose own Mother was hundreds of miles away, could leave. The reasons for Stella’s leaving are unknown to me as it was not talked about in our home. Diviorce was unheard of in the 1930’s, and I can imagine how hard it must have been for her to face her family.

I can remember Daddy making a few trips to Anchorage, Alaska to see her when we were children. Stella came to Texas to visit her Mother, Martha Jane Carroll in 1952. I remember this one time that I met her only through the pictures that were taken.

My favorite memories of Stella Carroll are the memories and stories from her brother, my Great Uncle Mert. I’d like to share one I wrote based on Mert's story telling of his Sister Stella.

 Martha Jane Carroll Makes Homestead Tracks in Texas will give you some insight into my Grandmother Stella as a Girl Raised In Texas.

PS...I always thought it would be nice to be named after one of my Grandmothers. Can you just imagine going through school as Effie Sue Pittman or Minnie Sue Pittman. Whew! Thanks Mama!

Our Family Heritage...Texas Pioneer Martha Jane Marley Carroll

Martha Jane Marley Carroll was the oldest of the fourteen children of Elisha S. Marley and Mary Josephine Leatherwood.  She was a Texas Pioneer and my Great Grandmother.  This is Her Texas story...

My Daddy ran away from home when Grandpa Marley and Uncle John joined up with the Carolina's Militia to fight the Yankees. They wouldn't take Daddy. Said he was too young. He didn't start out for Texas, but ended up here, married my Mama, and started a family. Mama birthed fourteen children, and raised twelve of us to adulthood.

I was named after my Grandmothers, and everyone called me Janie.  My siblings had short names like John, Ann, Ben, Ida, Bill , and longer ones like Zachariah, Holbart, Wardie, and Samuel.

I married Mr. Stephen Bennett Carroll in Jack County, Cleburne, Texas.  He called me Mrs. Carroll right up to the day he died  on June 23, 1903. 

Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Bennett Carroll and their children. 
Othello Elisha Columbus born August 18, 1895
Merritt Douglas Carroll born November 3, 1896
Effie Estella born June 22, 1900
Mary Ella born July 14, 1902

Dear Family and Readers of CollectInTexas Gal,
As 'Keeper' of the Our Family Heritage and in Honor of Mother's Day,
I dedicate this Post and the Ones to Follow to the Mothers of Our Family.

Martha Jane Marley Carroll  was my Daddy's Grandmother.  His Mother, Effie Estella 'Stella', is the little girl standing in the portrait with her brothers, Othello and Merritt and sister, Mary Ella, taken in 1902.

The photographs are originals from the Family Album shown in the background.  It was passed to me as 'Keeper of Our Family Heritage' from Great Aunt Mary Ella's Son, Thomas.


Martha Jane Makes Homestead Tracks In Texas

Third and Fourth Generations Follow
by Sandra Sue Pittman

When the wind mixes with a driving sleet in West Texas, a cow, a calf and a young girl should be someplace out of the bitter cold. Preferably someplace warm.  Stella's thoughts about someplace warm kept her going in the driving sleet.  The cow was having a hard time of it, too.  Stella could tell by the tension on the rope that kept the mother as close to her newborn as she could get.  The calf, barely four hours old, was draped across her saddle sharing the slicker that was doing a passable job of keeping the rain and ice from soaking them both.

Stella looked up just before her horse crossed the road through the gate where the sign was covered in snow and dripping with ice sickles.  Just able to make out Wristen Ranch through the blowing sleet and snow, she peered beyond the sign to make out the house and barn  down the snow covered  wagon rutted tracks.  Holding back on the horse so the cow could keep up, she spoke softly to the shivering calf, "Hang on little one, we'll get you warm and fed real soon.  Dear god, let there be somebody here who will take us in for the night."

The answer to her prayer was standing beside the barn swinging a lantern.  As she neared the barn door, Stella allowed the cowboy to take the reins and lead them inside.  For the first time in what seemed like hours, she took a full breath of air without the wool scarf filtering the cold and ice. 

Numb and shivering, she handed the calf to the out stretched arms who quickly rubbed the calf down with a toesack, laid it beside it's mother and returned to the girl as she nearly fell from the saddle.

"I bet yore Stella Carroll," said the cowboy as he helped her to the pot bellied stove in the tack room of the barn.  "I'm Bob Offield.  I met yore Mother, brothers and sister today when they was stuck in a mudhole jesta mile or two down the road from here.  Can't say I'm surprised to see you.  Yore Mama said you were jest a few hours behind with a cow and a newborn calf.  Looks like you did a right fine job of getting all of you this far.  Now let's get you unfroze a bit before we git on up to the main house where Miz Wristen will fix you somethin' to warm you up".

With her chattering teeth, Stella was having a hard time saying her thanks, but managed to nod her head in agreement as Bob motioned her to the stool in front of the fire.  He threw in another log and stoked the embers as Stella pulled off her gloves and hat, and unwrapped the shawl she had covering her head and shoulders.  Bob noticed that she had the same color hair as her Mama, and the young girl seemed to have that same proud stance and determination that he had witnessed earlier in the day.

The following day dawned with the sun shining on the snow drifts that had piled on the window sill of the room Mrs. Wristen had insisted Stella take for the night.  Stella hadn't had the luxury and comfort of a real bed since leaving Grandpa and Grandma Marleys place.  It seemed like a long time ago, but it had been less than three weeks since she had left Borden County to travel to Grandfalls in the covered wagon she watched roll out of sight so many hours ago.  Now she would have to catch up with her Mama...oh how she wanted to stay under the warm scrap quilts, eat hot food and wait for warmer weather before venturing out again.

"My Daddy died nearly thirteen years ago.  Mama, my brothers and sister and I have been living with my Grandpa and Grandma Marley on their farm in Gail.  Mama heard that Ward County was offering homesteads to farmers who could make it for two years.  So we started off and when we got to Monahans, the storm hit and the cow decided to have her calf.  I'm very grateful to you, Miz Wristen, for your hospitality.  I couldn't have gone much further.  "Stella found herself telling Mrs. Wristen, who was busy making a pan of biscuits and stirring gravy for the ranch hands that would be sitting down to the long oak table for breakfast.

"Your Mother must be a determined woman to take on homesteading in this part of West Texas without a husband.  It's a tough life, and God knows, it takes a mighty strong will and strong back to make it work.  I wish you and your Mama well.  Stella, I can see that you are strong, young Texas woman.  You'll make it."

Pittman Place Cow and Calf ~ Grandfalls, TX ~ 1982 ~ by Sandra Sue Pittman

Around sixty-five years after Martha Jane Carroll and daughter Stella brought their first cow and calf to homestead in Grandfalls, Stella's youngest son, Willard Carroll Pittman, was raising a few head of  cattle and farming Bermuda Grass on twenty-one acres of land in Grandfalls, Texas.

The Pittman Place land was Irrigated out of the same ditch that Willard's father had been 'The Ditch Rider' for Fifty years earlier. 

Willard Carroll Pittman ~ Pittman Place ~ Grandfalls, Texas 1982

Cow Skull ~ by Sandra Sue Pittman
Grandma's Quilt and Shawl ~ Collection of Sandra Sue Pittman


Martha Jane's Covered Wagon Tracks

by Sandra Sue Pittman

The old man spit apple seeds into the dust and watched as they landed beside the cast off spiral peel that the hot afternoon sun was quickly turning the color of cinnamon.  Apples reminded him of the boys that once upon a time stopped everyday on their way home from school.  It had gotten to be a habit, buying apples at Eudalys Store.  Especially when staples were needed more'n apples, but he got alot of pleasure telling the boys stories that most folks weren't interested in hearing.  Too bad, too, as they were the stories of a time long gone.  Ones that should be heard and told for future generations of the family he had been a part of for  too short a time.

Rocking back and tugging his worn straw hat down over his eyes, the old man allowed his mind to roll back the hands of time.  There she was standing beside the wagon. He would forever remember the sight of her.  Hands firmly gripping the pole that was wedged under the wheel that had sunken several feet into a mud hole, telling her younguns at the back of the wagon to push as she placed all her weight on the pole.
"Looks like you folks could use some help," he'd said to her as he stepped down from BigUn.  "We'd be obliged," she said as she pulled off the gloves to introduce herself and the children.  "I'm Martha Jane Carroll, and these are three of my four chldren, Merrett Douglas, Mary Ella, and Othello.  Stella is some miles back waiting for our cow to have a calf.  She'll be along soon."  He quickly peeled off his worn gloves and stuck his calloused hand into her offered one, and told her he was Bob Offield, a cowhand, on the ranch that she was passing through.

"Let's see if we can get you nice folks on your way, before nightfall.  It's shore gonna be colder than a cow's teat.  Oh, pardon me mamn, I only meant..."  She waved him off as she pulled her gloves onto cold reddened hands and said, "I know about cow teats Mr. Offield."  She instructed Ella to climb into the wagon and take the reins, the boys to the back and Bob to take charge of the pole.  She joined her sons and on Bob's count of three they all did their jobs and were rewarded with the wagon slowly moving forward onto solid ground.  As the children scrambled back into the covered part of the wagon to get out of the cold, Bob questioned their destination.  "We are on our way to Grandfalls.  About how much further do we have to go , Mr. Offield, " she answered with her quick question.  "Well, now, your jest a few miles from there.  This here's the Wristen Ranch Road that leads right on into Royalty, and Grandfalls is bout two miles on past.  I jest came from there, and the the road is purty clear all the way in.  You shouldn't have any more troubles.  Do you folks have a place to stay once you get there?"

He'd never forget the pride in her stance and the determined look she gave him when she answered saying, "We have this wagon that we have come all the way from Tom Greene County in, and I reckon it'll have to be home for a while longer.  But, thank you for asking Mr. Offield, we are much obliged for your help and directions."  At that she climbed aboard the wagon, took the reins and set the team of mules into motion with a flick of the whip.  He watched her pull away with his unspoken request still on the tip of his tongue, and his hat in his hand.  Not much left to do now, he thought to himself, but put youre hat back on youre old bald head, git back in the saddle and head for the bunkhouse.

The sun was dropping in the west and as it filtered through the battered straw hat, Bob realized he'd dozed off.  As he pushed himself up and out of the rocker he paused a minute to get his balance on legs that hadn't straddled a saddle in many years,  but still longed for and missed those days.  "Oh, Lordy", he said talkin to himself, " I sure was hopin' to ask her if I could call on her once she was settled in.  Never even entered my mind that she might have a man.  Strong, determined woman like her.  I figered she probably didn't need  or want one, but those were hard times for everybody.  Four children, a cow with a new calf, dead o'wnter, and she thought that old wagon would hold out a while longer."  Shaking his head at the wonderf of it all in his memories, Old Bob, let the screen door bang behind him.

Oh, Lordy!  Martha Jane, she was quite a woman.  I wouldn't have missed knowin' her fer nuthin!  Even if it was for a short time. 


Two Boys and A Donkey Makin' Tracks Down The Dusty Road

Down The Dusty Road
Two Boys and A Donkey Makin' Tracks
    by Sandra Sue Pittman

The dusty path between town and home was covered with tracks.  One set belonged to a barefoot boy and one set to a donkey.  Every hundred yards or so, the barefoot tracks would switch to shoe tracks that ran along side the donkey.  Racing was a measure of the boy on the donkey against the boy on foot.  From school to the 'oldman's house' was one leg of the race.  At the end of that leg, an apple awaited all three, both boys and the donkey.  Eating the apple and resting up for the next leg home, gave the boys a chance to visit with the old man and tell him about their day at school.  He in turn shared the stories they liked to hear about when the old man was young, and how he knew their Dad and Granddad in the old days when they were early settlers in Ward County, Texas.

"Yep, I knew your folks when they got here in a covered wagon.  Uncle George, your Granddaddy, had a way with horses and he passed that right on to your Daddy, and now you boys show a real promisin talent with horses, too."  He pointed out to them that the donkey wasn't quite the caliber horses he knew they were destined to own, but was a right good start.  "I jest imagine you two will be right good with cattle, too." he added as he began the yarn about how their Mama had stayed behind in a snow storm to help birth a calf. 

 "It was a sleetin and a snowin, and that wagon jest kept getting farther and farther away, and yore Ma stayed til that calf was born.  Then she wrapped it up in her slicker and carried it across her saddle while the mama cow followed.  That musta been somewhere between Odessa and Grandfalls," he told the boys as they finished their apples.  The old man spit apple seeds into the dust, and continued with his tale.  "Now, your Grandma Carroll was mighty proud of her daughter for gettin that old cow and her new calf home.  Yes siree, that Stella was quite a gal."

The apples finished, and the sun going down, prompted the two boys to say their thanks and good byes and be on their way home a mile or so down the dusty road and across the ditch.  Both boys riding the donkey, the finishing of the race could wait til tomorrow, rode across what passed for a bridge going across the ditch.  They would ride a ways down the ditch line looking for their Dad.  Looking into the sunset with squinting eyes, they spotted him nearly a half mile down the ditch.  As they rode in his direction, they talked about how they would like to ride horses and be bronc busters.  In the meantime they would just ride the donkey and admire their Dad's big horse he rode as the Ditch Rider.

Reaching the big horse that had to be lots of hands high, the boys jumped down to help drag the clump of weeds and sticks from the ditch.  Down the ditch the water could now flow until it blocked up again, and their Dad, the Ditch Rider, would get there to untangle the debris so the water could flow again.  That was his job, and one that had to be done for the 'Ditch Irrigation' to work.  The contract with the water district maintained that the water from Brush Dam was allocated for the farmers in the Grandfalls area of Ward County.

Backtracking the ditch on their way home, the boys wondered what they would eat for supper.  Probably, the apple was going to have to last until morning, unless one of them could figure out something to fix for supper.  Sure enough supper was meager, but the beans and cornbread filled them up and the cool breeze of spring fluttering the worn curtains in the small house found them in bed not long after sun down.

Rising early, the two boys started off to school.  Somewhat reluctant about going on ths bright morning, Willard, admitted to MD that he wasn't all that keen on schoolin today.  "Mrs. Brandenburg has promised me a paddlin first thing every morning." he told his brother as they walked down the dusty road.  "Why's she whipping you before school even starts, and you haven't done nothin yet"?  MD wondered aloud.  "Well, she seems to think I'll be in her office sometime during the day for licks anyhow, so she thought it'd be a good idea to just get it over with early," Willard said as he threw rocks into the ditch as they crossed over.  "I'll fool her one day, and not do a single thing to get sent to the office for licks.  Think I coud manage that"?, he quizzed MD.  "Nah, I doubt it." MD said shaking his brown curly head and his laugh showing in his brown eyes.

The days of spring moved on to the days of summer, and the dusty road got hot and powdery under the boys feet as they worked, played and talked about riding horses and working on a ranch.  They argued about who was the best rider, and which of them would grow up to be a cowboy.  A tumble in the dust, a bit of rough talk, and lots of laughing at themselves ended with the two boys walking down the dusty road, arms slung over each others shoulders, and one boy saying, "I'll be derned, if you don't have a way with horses, Willard."

MD and Willard Pittman...Grandfalls, Texas in 1940

Willard Carroll Pittman and Palomino Dan...Gainesville, Texas 1957