STORY OF THE LIFE OF RHODA ANN SECHRIST
Grace Alma Burchfield*
Many years ago, on September 9, 1851, a baby girl was born to Melvina and Bradley Beavers in Dent County, Missouri, and they named her Rhoda Ann. It is to be doubted that her parents ever dreamed that this one of the eight girls that were born to them would live to claim over one hundred people as her direct descendants. And if there was ever a one of these descendants of my grandmother who did not consider her a very great person, I don't know which one it was. I was never around her very much myself, but I feel as if I knew her very well and I loved and admired her. And I hope that the following narrative gives those of her descendants who never had the privilege of knowing her, as well as the ones of those who did, a better understanding of this remarkable woman.
She did not live long in Dent County, for when she was a very small child, her father bought land in Franklin County, Missouri, and moved to it to live. I can imagine what an important move it seemed to the little girl, and that she felt like she was making a wonderful trip. She remembered sitting on the wagon tongue to eat her dinner on the one-day journey to what was to be the new home.
They moved into a house someone had left, and her father and older brothers began the long, tedious but fascinating task of building a new one for the family. I don't suppose this house cost a penny to build, but it seems to me that the labor and careful thought that went into its creating surely made it more of a home than many of the houses of today that are made of milled lumber with expensive fittings.
My great-grandfather and his sons, cut the timber by hand, flattened the logs so they would lie close together, and sawed the corners to make the ends smooth. They split logs for the floor and made boards for the roof. And at long last the job was completed, a two story structure, with two large rooms above and two below, a side room for a kitchen, and a long porch, which was probably floorless.
There was a small stream running close to the house, with a spring, from which their water was carried. Just below the spring they built a pen of rails for a milk house. Through it the water ran from the spring continually, keeping the milk very cold. The Merrimac River was also to be seen from the new home and the Beavers children led a very happy life rowing the boats and fishing.
After the fashion of that day, there were enough children in the family to make them a social life at home. Besides Rhoda Ann, there were seven girls, whose names were Martha, Jane, Emily, Emiline, Bettie, Ruth and Orlena Ray. The only one of them living today is Orlena Ray, of Cabool, Missouri but I think that two more of them lived until in fairly recent years. Two of them married men named Bradshaw. Another, Jane, married Jim Eads. The ones who married Bradshaw men were Emily and Emiline.
My grandmother also had two brothers, older than she, whose names were Willis and Reeves, and another brother who died at the age of thirteen years. Grandmother must have been a very small child at that time, but she remembered the funeral, and the old Presbyterian minister who held it. They buried him on a knoll at the bend of the creek, and later, when Jim Eads, Jane's husband died, he was laid to rest by the little brother.
Great-grandfather Beavers provided well for his family. He was a hunter, and would be gone from home for weeks, on big hunts. He had a partner who hunted with him, and they would sell the hides and divide the money. That was probably all the money that the Beavers family had. But they did not need much money. Great-grandfather saw to it that they had hogs, sheep and cattle, which, with the farming done by the boys, made a comfortable living, if the family worked for it.
And work they did, leading very busy lives, for though the children found time to play together, there was much work that must be done in those days when so many things were manufactured at home, things that we people of today are accustomed to buying ready made.
Willis and Reeves raised corn and grain on the farm, and I am sure that in some way part of this grain was ground for their bread. There was plenty of work for the girls to do, too, sheep to be sheared and wool to be carded and woven into cloth, and then made into clothes, all by hand. They sat up late at night to pick seed from cotton to make sewing thread, cotton hose, and they had to make the cloth for their bedding, etc. too. After gathering the cotton during the day, they would have a certain amount to pick the seed out of at night. Grandmother would get so sleepy that she would wish the fire would roll down from the fireplace and catch it afire. Sometimes it would, but her mother would get up and get some more cotton. Sometimes, too, the children would get so anxious to get to bed that some one would slip a handful of the seed cotton in with the lint, but their mother would always find it.
When Grandmother was ten years old, she could put the biggest sheep upon the table and shear it as quickly as anyone. It also fell to her lot to see that the sheep were always in their pen at night. One evening they didn't come home and when it was too dark to search any longer, she still had not found them.
The next morning she was out early to look for her flock and soon found them, but six were missing. It must have been with a heavy heart that she went homey took a sack, and went to find those six missing sheep, as she had known she would find them, dead, where the wolves had killed them. Then, she carefully performed the unpleasant task of picking all the wool from the dead sheep, putting it in the sack she had brought with her for that purpose.
Her Grandparents, her mother's father and mother, Kelton by name, came to visit them, once, before the Civil Warp from Kentucky. They came in a surrey, driving a fine span of horses and bought a gift of a little tin Cup with a handle, to each of them. The children were very proud of the cups.
After visiting awhile, the grandparents left for their home in Kentucky. They never heard from them again, but after the war was over, my great-grandmother wrote to them and received a reply from one of their older boys, who said the old folks had both died.
When the Civil War began, Willis and Reeves Beavers went into the army on the side of the Confederacy. The Yankees took them prisoners, but both escaped and came home. Their folks were happy to see them but their joy was not unmixed with fear. If the Federals learned that they were there the family would likely suffer for it by getting their house and other buildings burned to the ground.
For this reason, the father told the boys that he was an old man and couldn't afford to take any stock in politics, and that the best thing they could do would be to make their way back to their army.
Early one morning the boys left, one going up the river and one down, and were lost to sight. That was the last they saw or heard of them until after the war had been over a year or so. Then they came visiting, both had married, and one of them had a child. Willis had married a French woman in some other country and Reeves' wife had been raised in Texas County, in the southern part of the state. Distances from one county to another seemed great in those days, and there were no Post Offices there at that time.
About the time the Civil War began, Grandmother's brother-in-law, Jim Eads died. They moved his widow, Jane Eads into a little house close to them, and Grandmother had to stay with her at night.
Early one morning she sent Grandmother to a neighbor's to borrow something, and she found the family much disturbed. Someone had brought news that Federal soldiers were coming through, destroying everything they found.
Grandmother, with another little girl, was put out to watch for the coming soldiers. Soon they saw them coming swiftly on their horses, jumping the fences as they came.
I have heard her tell of the fright, which their coming caused to the man at the house, as it had been told that the soldiers were killing every man and boy that they found. This, however, was a false report; the man who told it was the only one to die at the soldiers' hands. She said she remembered seeing his glasses hanging in a tree or bush somewhere around.
The soldiers had been to the little village, called Sullivan station, and had taken what they could find and begun to destroy it. They would put bolts of cloth by a tree and then race their, horses down the road, wrapping the material around trees and bushes. The roads were what would now be called trails, and were called two and three notch roads.
While they were at the house where grandmother wasp one of the officers told her to hold his horse, which she timidly did with her fingers in her mouth. Afterward he gave her a pair of shoes, from a bunch they had, all tied together by pairs. They were brogans and much too large, but she was very proud of them. They were the first store bought shoes she had ever owned.
The soldiers ate all the food they could find. One soldier drank the cream, which I suppose was in a pitcher on the breakfast table. As Grandmother had been taught that it was unmannerly to drink the cream, this small act was important enough to remain in her memory always.
During this war, they had no church house, but there was the Presbyterian preacher not many miles away. so several of the neighbors gathered together and built an arbor against her father's house. This, was probably a large open affair, with brush ever the top for a shade, no walls, and with seats under it for the congregation.
They had a protracted meeting there, and some of the people who owned slaves would come and bring some of them with them. The Negroes would sit on the back seats, how they would fan themselves with their turkey wings, and sing, such singing as you never heard, Grandmother said. Her father did not own any slaves.
Sometime after the war was over, her brother, Reeves, and his wife, Orlena and their three children came to visit them, from their home in Texas County. They asked Grandmother to go home with them and stay awhile. Orlena was in poor health and needed her, so she went with them in their ox wagon, little dreaming that she would never go back to the old home again to live. It was then the year 1868, and she was seventeen years old.
In a few months Orlena died, leaving a baby a few days old, and Grandmother continued to stay with her brother. A sister of Orlena's took the baby leaving the other children for her to take care of, which she did for around two years.
About that time she met my Grandfather, J. L. Sechrist. He was from North Carolina, and I think came into that part of the country with a group of people who were moving, looking I suppose for a new place to locate. I have heard the story told that Grandmother, with other girls of the neighborhood, were inspecting the young men among the new comers, and were each deciding, among themselves, which certain one she would choose as a sweetheart if she could have a choice. And Grandmother picked the very one who was later to be her husband.
She told me once that, as she must stay at home and care for her brother's children, the other young men didn't care to keep company with her. They wanted a girl who could go out with them. But my Grandfather didn't seem to mind. He courted her in her brother's home, and on October 20, 1870, they were married, in Cabool, Missouri. Her brother remarried about that time, making it all right for her to leave him and the children.
My Grandfather had a home prepared and ready to be moved into. He had cut logs and built a house on one hundred and sixty acres of land that an unmarried sister had given him. Grandmother said it was one of the prettiest houses she had ever seen, built out of nice straight logs.
On June 1, 1872, their first child, a little girl, was born. They named her Mary Jane, and called her Mollie. (Later she became the wife of M. 0. Jones.) They had three more children before leaving Missouri: a son, Polycarp Hinkle, born April 8, 1874; and two daughters, Martha Elizabeth, called Mattie, who arrived on February 25, 1876, and Rosetta Louisa Caroline, birth date June I2, 1878.
Grandfather and Grandmother took the Texas fever in 1879, along with many other people. From the talk it sounded as if money grew on trees in that wonderful far off land. The Sechrist children took it literally, and made every little scrap they could find into money sacks, by sewing them up and putting a drawstring in them.
Early in April all was ready for the long journey, and a train of twenty one wagons started for Texas, with my Grandfather's father, Andrew Sechrist, his wife, sons, and daughters, and another elderly man, Uncle Billie Brown, and his family. They each had a large family, and their children had intermarried.
They were on the road four months in all, enduring many hardships and worries, but nothing serious happened, until the wife of Andrew Sechrist, my great-grandmother, died on a hot summer afternoon, a short distance from Lipan, Texas.
Her sorrowing relatives made camp, and when they took to the weary journey again, they left her resting peacefully in the cemetery at Lipan.
The wagon train went on to Stephenville, the county seat of Erath County, Texas, and camped there for a time, while locating new homes. At last they found what they thought they could pay for, on Armstrong Creek, or close to it.
Again, houses must be built, and the men went to work cutting timber for them. There was a sawmill some eight or ten miles away, where they had boards made for the roof. My Grandparents had only a dirt floor in their house for a long time, but Grandmother was not one to complain.
They didn't find any money on the trees, as the children had so hopefully expected, or in the honey pond. There was little land in cultivation, they went through a four-year drought and there were many disappointments. But Grandmother was a woman of great energy and determination, and she worked hard to help provide food and clothing for the growing family. I am sure that they spent many happy years, in spite of the hardships and trials they went through.
The first child born to them after they arrived in Texas was my father, Thomas Solomon, on September 22, 1880. The rest of their children were born as follows: Andrew William, October 20, 1882; Orlena Bell, February 20, 1885; Bessie and Jessie, October 24, 1889; and Lela Evelyn June 28, 1891.
All of their children but one grew up, married, and are living in various parts of the country today. The one who didn't live to be grown was little Rosie, the last child born to them in Missouri. She died while a small girl, and was laid to rest in the Bethel Cemetery more than fifty years ago.
Grandmother said once that when her little girl died, she did not have a nice dress to bury her in, and did not know what to dos, until a neighbor gave her a white dress she had made for her own little daughter who was about the size of Rosie.
After their marriage, Grandmother had joined the Lutheran church with my grandfather, but as there was no church of that denomination near them in Texas, she joined the Round Grove Missionary Baptist Church, in the Highland community in 1889.
I am sure that Grandmother was always equal to the tasks that she might be called upon to do and they were many. My father remembers the time, when he was a little boy, and the horses got in the field. His father wasn't at home, so Grandmother caught one horse that was available, and brought the others up through the orchard on the gallop, while he watched, big-eyed. Under the clothes line the horses went, with Grandmother riding fast behind, and she screamed as the line swept her from her horse. To the best of my father's remembrance, she wasn't hurt. He also has told of how sometimes at night, he would awaken to hear a horse coming in a hurry, stopping at their gate. There would be a swift exchange of words, some neighbor was sick. Grandmother's horse would be saddled quickly and father would hear the gallop of her horse as it went rapidly down the road into the night. And my father said that he didn't always wake up when these calls came. Grandmother was not one to fail to go to the aid of those who needed her.
In addition to their own children, a niece of my grandfather's found a welcome in their home, and lived there for some time until she married. Her father had died, and her mother married again, and she had come to my grandparents for a home.
After my father was about grown, he accompanied Grandmother on a trip to Missouri, to visit relatives there. Grandmother was worried quite a bit on the way, because my father insisted on sleeping, and she was afraid he would be robbed. The trip was made safely, however.
Her mother, and part, if not all, of her sisters, lived in, or near Cabool, Missouri, at that time. My father said that once his grandmother and aunts, Emily, Emiline, and Bettie were all in the same room, smoking their pipes filled with homegrown or hillside tobacco, and that he was smoking it, too, and suddenly Grandmother jumped up and hurried out of the room. The strong smoke was too much for her.
Her mother died some time after that and was buried at Cedar Bluff, Missouri.
At one time Grandmother had a country Post Office in her home. My great-grandfather was Postmaster, but he was leaving for Missouri and wanted them to take it. So she was sworn in as Postmistress and her daughter, Mollie, who was fifteen or sixteen years old then, was made the assistant. The mail came from Dublin two times a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays at eleven, A. M.
The people would gather in to see the mail come, and to get theirs. At the little Post Offices in those days some one would go through the mail, calling out the name on each piece, and the person to whom it was addressed would answer and it would be handed to him.
As it was so near the noon hour when the mail came, someone of the crowd, and sometimes several, would stay for dinner. The job paid by the stamps they cancelled, and they did well if they made five or six dollars in a quarter. So, after Aunt Mollie married, the office was moved to Victor, as grandmother did not like the book keeping part of it, and she had to stay at home with it, too.
My Grandfather Sechrist died on November 16, 1903, and was buried by his little daughter in the Bethel Cemetery. As this was several years before I was born, I never knew him. But I think, from what I have heard said of him, that he was a mild and kindly man, not inclined to worry, and was much beloved.
Several of the children were not yet twenty-one then, but after they were all married, Grandmother continued to live at her own home, until her son, Andrew William, called Andy by some, and Bill by others, lost his wife, and was left with two small children. She went to him in California, they moved back to Stephens County, Texas, and she stayed with him, caring for his children, until he married again, and after that she lived alone until she was eighty-eight years old.
After that, she made her home mostly with her two oldest daughters, staying first with one, then with the other. She did not seem to be very well contented after this, as she had kept house too many years to not miss having her own home.
The last time she visited us in New Mexico was in the summer of 1939. At that time, she was eighty-eight years of age, but she never appeared old in spirit or mind, and took a great interest in things. She worked in the garden, irrigating it as long as there was any water that would reach the siphon in the tank. And she made war on a certain kind of weed that grew around the place, which she disliked.
She said then that she had forty-one grandchildren, thirty-eight great-grandchildren, and five great-great-grandchildren, and no matter how many there were of them, she seemed to be interested in every one.
She became ill in October, 1943, while at the home of her oldest daughter and her husband, Mollie and M. 0. Jones, at Stephenville, Texas, and died there on October 23, at the age of ninety-two. At the time of her death, the total number of her descendants was one hundred and seven. She was buried in the Bethel Cemetery (now known as Beth-Haven) beside my grandfather and little Rosie. She had lived for almost forty years after losing her husband.
Most of the material for this story was sent to me by her oldest daughter, my aunt, Mollie Jones. (To Pearl Fincannon Cunyus grandchildren: this is your great grandmother Jones). She wrote of her, "I believe she had the most willpower of anyone I've seen and was very religious and consecrated in her last days. She understood the Bible. Unfortunately, when she talked about some of the events in the Bible, I couldn't discuss it with her because her hearing had failed so badly. So, even though we sat close to each other as we pieced quilts, she really couldn't hear any question I might have asked her. She loved to talk about the Bible, and even toward the end, when she was so bad, she would tell the doctor Bible
Stories. I know she loved all her children, but she was foolish over her boys. She never seemed to want to talk about herself; when the end came, she went away peacefully, and I thought if only I could live as useful a life as she had."
She was a wonderful woman, very generous, who enjoyed sharing what she had with those whom she loved. She was very much a part of my father's life, I think she always will be, and because of his talk of her, and the few visits we had with her, she also is a part of mine. I am sure that this can be said of her other children, too, and probably of many, if not all, of her grandchildren.
There are likely many interesting incidents that might be told of her life, but as I know so few to tell, this story, which could have been done justice only by a real author, must come to an end. I hope that those of her descendants who read this story will not find it too incomplete. I hope that their own knowledge of her may make up for my story's deficiencies. And I hope they will derive some enjoyment and comfort from it, as they remember that mother or grandmother of us all, Rhoda Ann Sechrist.
(Grace wrote this in 1944, and at that time her first husband was living,
which is why it says at the beginning it was written by Grace Burchfield.)
Mrs. J. L. Sechrist, 92, one of Erath County's oldest and best known residents, died here Saturday, October 23 at 7:05 p. m. in. at the home of her daughter and son-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. M. 0. Jones, with whom she had been staying for the past several weeks. The body lay in state at the Jones' home on West Vanderbilt Street until Sunday afternoon when it was taken to the Bethel church in the Jones community near Lingleville, where funeral services were held at three o'clock. Rev. Ernest Rippetoe, pastor to Washington Street Baptist Church, Stephenville, close personal friend of the family, conducted the rites, assisted by Rev. J. A. Bays, Baptist minister of Lingleville, lifelong friend of Mrs. Sechrist, and her family. Interment was made in Bethel (now Beth-Haven) Cemetery.
A large number of relatives and friends attended the services. The church choir furnished music and there was a beautiful floral offering.
Higginbotham Funeral Home had charge of all arrangements. Pallbearers were her grandsons: H. V. Jones; C. E. Jones; P. 0. Jones; R. Jones; L. M. Jones; and Raymond Hamilton. Granddaughters of Mrs. Sechrist assisted with the flowers.
Mrs. Rhoda Ann Sechrist. was born September 9, 1851, in Dent County, Missouri, the daughter of the late Bradley Beavers and Melvina Beavers, early settlers there. When she was four years old her father moved to Franklin County, Mo., and bought land near the Merrimac River where he built his home. She was only ten years old when the Civil War broke out, and during this war she helped older members of her family to shear the sheep, card the wool and spin and weave cloth to help clothe the family. She sat up late at night with the others to pick seed from the cotton by hand to make sewing thread, cotton hose and other cotton garments.
When she was seventeen years old she went to Texas county, MO, with her brother in an ox wagon to help take care of his four small children. While there she met J. L. Sechrist and they were married October 20, 1870, in Cabool, Mo. In 1879, she and her husband and their four small children moved to Texas. They suffered through a four-year drought and the many trials, hardships and disappointments experienced by early settlers here at that time.
In 1903 her husband died, leaving her to rear their family alone. This she did conscientiously and faithfully, living her religion at home and training her family in the religious beliefs that were so much a part of her life. Even after their ten children had married and established homes of their own, Mrs. Sechrist continued to keep her home intact for many years. Here "Aunt Rhoda," as she was called by many of her friends, entertained many, giving unsparingly of her wisdom and knowledge of the Bible, bringing comfort to the weary and distressed. About five years ago she gave up this home when her health failed and had since lived with her daughters, Mrs. M. 0. Jones, Stephenville, and Mrs. W. P. Hamilton at Huckaby.
Mrs. Sechrist had been a member of the Baptist church for more than half a century, having united with the Round Grove Baptist Church in the Highland community in Erath County in 1889. She was baptized into this church by Rev. R. D. Ross, a pioneer Baptist minister of this county who was at one time pastor of the local First Baptist Church.
She is survived by ten children, Mrs. M. 0. Jones, Stephenville; Mrs. J. C. Moring, Longview; Mrs. Lee Swanner, Ranger; Mrs. Ed Caris, San Bernadino, Calif.; Mrs. W. P. Hamilton, Huckaby; Mrs. Sam Rippetoe, Fort Worth; P. H. Sechrist, Strawn, Texas; Tom Sechrist, Grandville, New Mexico; Andy Sechrist, Scottsdale, Arizona; John Sechrist, Belleflower, Calif. One daughter died many years ago. Total descendants of Mrs. Sechrist now number one hundred and seven.