Hiram A. McAdams

Jennie Robbins - Alice Rebecca Williamson

Alice McAdams Thompson

By Sue Wafer Gilpin - 1991

I was two years old when he died, so I never knew the remarkable patriarch, Hiram McAdams, my maternal great grandfather. However, I have heard enough accounts from his children and their children, and read enough documentation of his accomplishments that I am most proud and fortunate to be a part of him. His most enduring legacy was the love, devotion, and honor he brought to his descendants. He continued the lifelong struggle of his fore fathers as humanitarian, pioneer, and philanthropist in helping to settle the Republic of Texas.

Alice McAdams Thompson
Not only was Hiram McAdams a pioneer of the land, but he was a pioneer of the advancement of education for all people - regardless of sex, race, class, or religion. It is no wonder that such a large number of his descendants have excelled as educators. He was such a tenacious advocate of "equal rights;" a true visionary - that all his daughters were "liberated women" at least two generations before the idea, much less the term, was fashionable! Alice, whom we are honoring today, was his second daughter by his first wife, Jennie Robbins. I’d like to give you a brief resume on her character and personality - a new dimension that, perhaps, few of us ever knew.

I remember Memaw as a gentle, soft-spoken docile homemaker who never uttered an unkind word about anyone. This demeanor was interrupted with an occasional display of aggressive violence that I always witnessed with horrified disbelief. She would corner a hen in the back yard, wring it’s neck off, monitor the headless creature as it jumped about, scoop it up, pluck out the feathers, then stroll daintily into the kitchen and plop it in a pot of boiling water for supper! This was the extent of her violent behavior.

In later years I learned even more about what lay beneath that kind and delicate facade. I learned that she was quite capable of getting what she wanted with a cool deception and a deadly determination. (Under close examination, I feel sure that all us McAdams women possess a bit of this trait.) When Alice came of age at the turn of the century, instead of selecting a proper husband to marry and begin her family, as was the expected progression for young ladies then, she not only elected to pursue a college education, which delighted her father, of course, but she chose Mary Hardin Baylor which was over 200 miles away.

Back then, Bedias was a bustling cattle and cotton town, so it was connected to all major cities by the railroad. Having influenced a couple of her girlfriends to join her, she boarded the passenger train for Belton. After her second year there, she approached her dad with yet another brazen declaration: "Would you terribly mind if I left college to attend the millinery school in St. Louis, Missouri?" Now St. Louis was about 1,000 miles from Bedias - but she must have thought, "If it worked the first time, why not try it again?" Sure enough, Papa approved, and she had his permission for an even bigger, more unorthodox move!

Alas! In that summer of 1903, an unexpected event occurred. She met the handsome young pharmacist, Cuyler Thompson, who had moved to Bedias to set up practice in the town’s first drug store. Although the courtship had become rather serious by summer’s end, Alice continued with her plans and left by train for the bright lights of St. Louis, again with two girlfriends she had influenced for the adventure. The courtship flourished by mail. St. Louis was especially exciting in 1903, as they were preparing for the very first World Fair to be held in 1904. Alice wrote Cuyler to come visit - he must see the fair - thy, they’ll be introducing the first ice cream cone!

Now, Alice was apprenticed in the millinery salon owned by a Mr. Levy who was making a valiant effort to woo her from the attentions of Mr. Thompson who was 1000 miles away! This situation was mentioned with well calculated subtlety in one of her letters to Cuyler. Picking up on the implication, Mr. Thompson boarded the train with great alacrity for St. Louis. He did indeed see the fair with Miss Alice, confirm his intentions, make his proposal, and whisk her back to Bedias where they were married shortly thereafter. With one last display of independence, Memaw opened and operated a millinery shop of her own there - abandoning the project with the birth of her first child, my mother, Alete.

To confirm Alice’s expertise in wielding the "velvet hammer", I have one last incident to relate, and this I witnessed as a child of six or seven. My grandfather was prone to venting his wrath with locker-room expletives from time to time. One day he was repairing something in the kitchen and had misplaced his screwdriver. In a fit of frustrated rage, he yelled, "Which sonofabitch moved my screwdriver?" Memaw, in perfect control, cooed, "Sweetheart, I believe you left that sonofabitch on top of the icebox." I never, ever, heard my grandfather swear in her presence again!