Hiram A. McAdams

Jennie Robbins - Alice Rebecca Williamson

Kelly's Recollections of H. A. McAdams

By Kelly Edgar McAdams - 1995

By Kelly Edgar McAdams - Age 91 - as told to his daughter, Martha McAdams Vertrees for the H. A. McAdams Family Reunion, April 30, 1995 at the request of Mary Frances Payne Murphy.

Grandpa - H. A. McAdams
Grandpa was tall, maybe six feet and he never wore glasses, that I remember. He died on Dec. 28, 1935, of pneumonia when he was 90 and if penicillin had been discovered at the time, he probably would have lived to be 100. He always carried his newspaper around with him and I can remember going to visit on Sunday afternoons and finding Grandma and Grandpa sitting on the back porch. Grandma would read every line of the newspaper to Grandpa, so maybe he did need glasses, but she had been a school teacher and reading out loud came natural to her.

Now Grandpa like to drink a cup of hot water, that's right, hot water for breakfast! And Grandpa certainly didn't like liquor or those who drank it. During the time of prohibition, there was a lot of making of "moonshine" in the backwoods and this did not sit well with Grandpa, at all!

You see, my great, great, grandfather, who was Grandpa's grandfather, Rev. John McAdams, Sr., came to Texas in 1834, from Tennessee. As I remember hearing about it, he was a great friend of Sam Houston, who urged him to bring his family to Texas. He was a minister and his son, John Jr., helped him bring the word of the Lord to this new territory. So Grandpa came by these feelings rightly and those who broke the law were bad people! And those who bought that "moonshine" were sinners!

Grandpa's family lived on a 13 acre piece of land that Grandpa had bought in Bedias. They all went to the Baptist Church in Bedias regularly and Grandpa is buried there in the church cemetery along side of his second wife, the only grandma that I ever knew (actually, my step-grandmother), Alice Rebecca Williamson.

The year was 1935...he lived form 1845-1935, that was his life. Ina May, Kelly Roy, Martha and I were living in Caldwell and I remember that it was during the Christmas holidays from school when we went to his funeral.

Grandpa's first wife, my real grandmother, Jennie Robbins, is buried in the McAdams cemetery. Grandpa has a head stone there, too, because Ruth McAdams Cole, his daughter, sent a letter around and we all sent in money to get this nice head stone for our grandfather to be placed in the McAdams cemetery which is in Walker county, but Grandpa is really buried in Grimes county in the Baptist Church cemetery in Bedias.

Did I ever tell you how the McAdams cemetery got started? Well, Grandpas' mother, Hester White McAdams, my great, grandmother, was the first person to be buried in the McAdams cemetery. She was quite young when she died in 1849, but she had picked the spot where she wanted to be buried. I believe that they were out walking on a sunny afternoon and she said, "John, when I die, I wan t to be buried under this huge hickory tree." Her words were inscribed on her head stone.

John McAdams, Jr., was Grandpa's father and Grandpa was the next to the youngest of their five children and only 4 years old when their mother died. Later, Grandpa's father remarried Mary Francis Bankhead and together they had eight children, giving Grandpa's father two sets of children.

Now Grandpa also had two sets of children. He and Jennie were married on Feb. 19, 1874. They had six children: Clara, Alice, Carl, Edgar, John Robbins (who died by accident at the age of 3), and Frank, who was only 4 months old when their mother, Jennie, died on Oct. 24, 1886 at the young age of 33. Clara was 12 and Alice was 10, so they took over the care of the little boys with the help of Jennie's brother, William Edgar Robbins (Uncle Edgar) and his wife, Judy Elizabeth (Aunt Betty), until Grandpa remarried 6 years later.

Both Clara and Alice were old enough to know what was happening when Grandpa went "courting"! He would write a "love note" to Miss Alice to ask if he could ride the 8 or 10 miles over to see her, for she was teaching school in Grimes county and his ranch was in Walker county. She agreed to marry Grandpa with his 5 children and they were married on Jan. 22, 1892. All Grandpa's first children called her, "Miss Alice". She was a kind and wonderful lady and they all loved her and got along well together. Miss Alice and Grandpa had 6 children who were: Mary, Horace, Era, Joe, Vernon, and Ruth.

Grandma Alice died of pneumonia when I was about 15, and by then, we all were living very close together in Bedias. So she must have been about 50 years old then and she had lived through the 1914 influenza epidemic that killed so many people. Ina May lost two of her uncles during that awful time.

Grandpa was born and grew up in the John McAdams house. This was the house that Ina May and I gave to Marilyn, which she and Sibley have restored beautifully for their home. Living out in the country, grandpa's schooling consisted of very little more than reading, writing, and arithmetic. So, in turn, Grandpa's first set of children who also lived on the ranch in Walker county, went through the fifth or sixth grade in the little one teacher school nearby. But, Grandpa wanted Edgar, my father, to have a better education, so he sent him to Madisonville to school. Papa lived with one of our kinfolk, Uncle Bud Price, who had a saddle shop and a nice house. After 2 or 3 months, Papa talked Grandpa into letting him take his horse back to school. I don't remember what happened, but Papa decided to leave school, so he rode his horse home! And Grandpa didn't make him go back!

As I recall, all of Grandpa's children, both the first and second set, were born on the ranch. But, because Grandma had been a teacher, she wanted her children to have more education than the little one teacher school could provide. So, Grandpa moved the family into Bedias, which is in Grimes county, when the older ones of the second set of children needed more schooling.

Some of my uncles were not much older than I was, and after we moved to Bedias, we were always together. Grandpa was their father, but he was my grandfather and I always respected him. I don't ever remember him telling a joke and I knew that he was the "head" of the family.

The Ranch
There were several Negro families who lived in little houses and worked on the ranch. I remember that for several years, my dad, Edgar, was in charge of their work with the cotton crop. Grandpa had a syrup mill to make syrup and there was one of the Negro men who was an expert at making syrup. That good sugar cane syrup was a favorite of my brother, G. B. When he was so little that he couldn't even say biscuit...he would say, "want a bicket with a hole in the middle", which meant taking one of Mama's delicious biscuits, poking a hole in the center with your finger and filling the hole with that wonderful syrup!

Grandpa also had a cotton gin and a grist meal. On certain days of the week, they would do the ginning for his cotton and that of the neighbors. Corn would be brought to the grist mill to be made into cornmeal for that wonderful cornbread which we all loved.

After Grandma Alice died, Grandpa would often come to the ranch to stay with us, just to get away from town. During the hog roundup, all the boys would gather the wild hogs, who were fat from the big acorn crop and put them on the train to ship to Ft. Worth. Hogs were one of our cash crops and Grandpa and the boys would kill and scald 15-20 hogs in the fall. I can remember how Grandpa would say..."this one is yours and this one is yours"... to all the men. Cattle were also shipped on the train to Ft. Worth and it was necessary for someone to go with the livestock to see about them on the trip to market. After Grandpa no longer wanted to make the trip, my uncles would take turns going to see about the cows and hogs and to bring the money back to Grandpa. So they all knew where Ft. Worth was!

When I was about 20 years old and I had finished teaching school in Lynn Grove near Navasota, I was home helping Papa finish the cotton crop. Grandpa came for a visit. He had sold some of his land, so he had a little money and he asked me what I wanted to do with myself? I said that if I had about $100, I would go to West Texas to school for six weeks. I had completed two years of school at Sam Houston and I had my teaching certificate. But I didn't want to teach school and I was at loose ends. Grandpa asked, "Kelly, how much do you think it would take?" and I thought I could do it on $100. So Grandpa replied, "You get ready and I'll lend you that $100!"

So I bought a trunk, took my letter sweater that I had earned from playing baseball at Sam Houston and got on the train to go to Canyon in northwest Texas for school. It wasn't long before I knew the $100 would soon play out, so I got me a little job shoveling coal at 25 cents per hour. They didn't have any wood in the area, so coal was used to heat the boilers. That got me through the six weeks of school. Then I got a job at the Schaffer Ranch. It was a big ranch on 23 sections of land. Mr. Schaffer had made his money in Oklahoma selling liquor, so he came down to Texas and bought him a ranch and now he was building a fine house even with a "flush bath" instead of a toilet! I lived in the bunkhouse with the 24 other workers. I was always up by daylight and I was a good worker. Mr. Schaffer liked me and wanted me to stay on after the house was finished, and to continue to work for him. He let all the others go, but he needed one man to stay and he wanted me! While I was working for Mr. Schaffer, I had my 21st birthday! As I recall, I was so sure of myself on that day that I challenged every man on the crew to try to whip me. I guess that since it was my birthday, they must have liked me enough to let me get away with it because not one of them took me up on my challenge!

Well, it was beginning to get cold and snow and Papa wrote that Mama missed me and wanted me to come home. Gayle was 16, Robbie Lee was 12, Bob was little, and Papa said that Mama was going into menopause and wasn't feeling good. She wanted me to come home! But Papa wasn't right about Mama, because Margaret was born after that!

So I came home and got a teaching job at a three teacher school at Liberty Springs. Grandpa had shown that he had faith in me and I sure wasn't going to let him down. I paid Grandpa back $25 each month from my teaching salary. I think that I was the only grandchild that Grandpa ever loaned any money to. And I paid him back!

My next job was as superintendent in Shepherd at $175 per month, where I met and married Ina May. When Kelly Roy was born, I was again teaching at Liberty Springs. I stayed at that salary until I went to teach Vocational Agriculture at Caldwell, where I received $200 per month. By then, both Ina May and I had our degrees and Caldwell could pay $100 and through the Smith-Hughes Act, I would receive another $100 from the government.

In Search of Better Land
Grandpa inherited land from his father and added to that land many times over because Grandpa did a lot of looking around for better land. He always hoped for a more healthy location for his family. Mosquitoes were always a problem, causing malaria. And Grandpa was always worried about the rough and lawless people who lived in this backwoods area. I remember him talking about a murderer who had killed two men in their warehouse, right behind their store. Well, there was a lot of controversy about the whole matter and the trial was moved out of the county to Caldwell. There, the accursed man had been set free!

Grandpa had heard that the Sinton area had a better climate. I think that his sister lived there and he thought about moving his entire family out of Walker county. So he went to Sinton to look for some good farm land. But, he returned with the story that the bugs were so bad that they ate the legs right off of the tables! He must have been referring to termites!

He did find some land to his liking in Blue Ridge, near Houston, which he bought, but he did not move the family there. And, this land he later sold, but when oil and gas was found on it he was very upset for he had not been aware of the value of its minerals, so after that, he always held on to his minerals. With the exception of his giving tracts of his land to his children, the children received both the land and minerals.

I can remember when I was about 10, riding our horses with Grandpa, Papa and my uncles to look for cattle. We came to an area where there was little vegetation and Grandpa wanted us to see a gas seep. He had an old cone shaped object, probably part of an old gramophone, with him and said, "Boys, make a little mound out of the earth and place the cone over it". He said gas was leaking out of the ground. Well, he lighted a match at the small end of the cone...and it burned...not a lot, but it did burn! So, Grandpa always knew that there was gas and oil on his land!

During Grandpa's lifetime, he accumulated 5,151 acres of land. These lands were divided equally among his 13 children. Grandpa made his wishes known that the 13 acre tract along with his home, he wanted to go to his daughter, Era, for living with him and taking care of him in his old age.

Grandpa knew the value of holding on to your minerals and he passed this knowledge on to his family. Because of his vision, the present owners have enjoyed the fruits of his wisdom and labor.


Kelly Edgar McAdams, January 16, 1998.