Hiram A. McAdams

Jennie Robbins - Alice Rebecca Williamson

Alice Williamson Biography

By Mary Frances Payne Murphy - 1988

My album is a garden spot
Where all my friends may sow
Where thorns and thistles flourish not
But flowers alone may grow
With smiles for sunshine, tears for showers
I'll water, watch and guard my flowers.

Bedias, Texas
Nov 1890 -- Alice Williamson


Once when I was a child my mother and I were visiting in Bedias. All the cousins were scattered and with no one to play with, boredom soon set in. In an effort to entertain me, Aunt Era allowed me to go through an old trunk. In it were the few belongings of Alice Williamson McAdams preserved by her daughter from the time of her death twenty years previously.

Alice Williamson McdamsThe little poem at the beginning of this was copied by Alice in her autograph book and stored in the trunk. It was, obviously, a prized possession filled with messages from her friends, her sister Louvenia, her suitors including some very brief words from H. A. McAdams and even a rhyme to "Dear Momma" from "Your baby Ruth" written for Ruth by my mother who was Alice's oldest child. Besides the autograph book, the contents, of the trunk were relatively few. There were several articles of clothing and a thin packet of letters written by Hiram McAdams to Alice before their marriage. The discovery which excited me the most was her wedding dress packed away in tissue paper. To me, it was so beautiful and I immediately began to fantasize about wearing it at my own wedding. This garment was actually a suit of white wool closed in the front with tiny buttons and with a collar and cuffs of white lace. Unfortunately, the moths had also found it and it was riddled with holes so no one was able to wear it. I don't know what became of the dress and if there was a picture made of Alice wearing it, it has not been located.

Grandmother Alice had thirteen grandchildren but all were born after her death. Mary was the only one of her children married at that time and when Mary was expecting her first child, Grandmother Alice crocheted a beautiful lace cap for the baby. It was packed away, unworn, however, after the death of the premature infant. Pop McAdams, fortunately, had a number of grandchildren, the offspring of his older children. These youngsters were considered Grandmother Alice's grandchildren too. Alete Thompson Wafer tells many stories of her early life in Bedias and how Grandma was a big part of that life.

It is obvious there was little free time in the McAdams house down in Walker County. With a large family and much company, often unexpected, food preparation was the first order of business. Grandmother Alice cooked and baked great quantities of food. She canned the vegetables and fruits grown in the family garden and baked bread and desserts for the growing youngsters. Before Pop and Grandmother moved to Bedias it was a long wagon trip to church on the Sundays worship was held. There was always a flour sack of tea cakes (sugar cookies) to pacify the restless children during the long service and ride home. A bag of these same tea cakes was stored in the farmhouse kitchen to add to lunches packed for the boys. A typical lunch consisted of cold fried chicken, biscuits, a bottle of syrup and baked sweet potatoes. It took hardy food to provide energy for overseeing the cattle and raising the crops. Aunt Ruth says that after the move to Bedias, she never knew Grandmother Alice to attend the morning church service. Sunday morning was spent in the kitchen across the street from the church. As soon as the service was over she had the dining table loaded with a bounty of hot food for the family and any other people Pop could talk into sharing the meal. Sunday nights were another matter; then she was one of the first worshipers in the church.

The number of school teachers in our family has always been a matter of pride but it was only recently learned that Grandmother Alice was the first. The Williamson family lived in the Cotton community in northeast Grimes County. There the young Alice studied and learned as much as she could in the country school. She was not able to attend college but she did share her knowledge and love of reading with the children in the small community school. This story was verified by her niece, Retha Callender Hassell. Family tradition tells of Alice loving to read so much she would hold a book in one hand while churning butter with the other. It was her belief in the value of a good education that encouraged her sons and daughters to pursue college studies. One of the last things that she did before her death was to remind the family that she had put,$100 to pay for Ruth's music lessons in a safe place.

Living as the family did in isolated Walker County it was necessary that Grandmother Alice serve as nurse for a good number of people. Whether the skills came naturally to her or because of necessity we do not know but she took care of those who needed her. Vernon McAdams related the story of her prescription for a cough. The crystals formed in the bottom of the barrel used to store sugar cane syrup were mixed with whiskey to make a cough syrup. Since her husband refused to have any alcohol about the place she would get the older boys to purchase a pint of whiskey for her use when they took the cattle to be sold. In spring time she dosed everyone with her special blend of sulfur and molasses to keep them healthy. After the move to Bedias she continued her role as nurse for the family in her house and the other McAdams families who lived near-by. According to Alete Thompson Wafer there were many nights when Grandmother Alice was called to tend a sick child.

Since shopping in Bedias had its limitations it was necessary for Grandmother Alice to use another of her skills to provide clothing for the family. She sewed on her old pedal machine making dresses and shirts for her daughters and sons from material purchased at Williamson & McAdams Store. In the winter months when there was more time she practiced more creative needlework in the form of knitting, crochet and embroidery as well as quilt making.

The dread influenza epidemic of World War I spread through the area and Grandmother Alice contracted the disease. Her kidneys suffered damage and, as antibiotics were yet to be discovered, the effects took their toll. On December 18, 1918 she died at the age of fifty years. Just a month before, she wrote her last letter to her daughter, Mary, who was living in Flynn and unable to travel because of pregnancy problems. Pearl, who is mentioned in the letter, is the wife of Carl McAdams. Pearl had traveled with her small children from her Walker County home by wagon to help take care of her step-mother-in-law during her last weeks.

Saturday Nov 16
Dear Mary
I intended to write you yesterday but neglected it. It just rained here yesterday and night before last too. We intended to send for Era yesterday but it rained so we couldent. I am getting along alright but she keeps thinking it would be better for her to come home and stay awhile. I know it will set her back in her studies but I guess we will send for her as soon as the roads dry off. Have you taken the flue yet? Pearl is still here dont know how long she will stay but am going to keep her a good while if she will stay I dont have but very little fever but I am might slow gaining any strength but dont be uneasy for we will keep writing you and when you feel strong enough I want you to come
Mama

There are few photographs of Grandmother Alice for us to see so for many of us she has been only a name. This is one of the reasons this small collection of stories has been put together with love. Despite her early death this quiet, blue eyed lady has had an influence on all our lives. Her name lives with her grand daughter, Marilyn Alice McAdams Sibley, and her common sense philosophy and fundamental beliefs in a good education were passed on through her children to their children and grandchildren.

Mary Frances Payne Murphy
April, 1988