Thursday, February 14, 2013

FHWC: The mysterious disapperance of Joe Parmer

Joe Parmer (left)
In the 1930s, the Great Depression was further compounded by over-farming and a decade-long drought that impacted a significant portion of the United States. "Black blizzards" of dust blew from the dead wheat fields in west Kansas, the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma, and the eastern borders of New Mexico and Colorado, darkening the skies throughout the plains.

After the death of their parents in 1928 and 1929, Granddaddy's twin brother Joe was boarding at the home of Hugh C. Morman on April 5, 1930 when the U.S. census was taken there. The rented farm was located near Joe's older brother Nathan's farm, as well as Grandma's parents, George and Rebecca Nowell's farm.

Joe and Hugh were both working as farmers, and were close to the same age, Joe being 28, Hugh 29. They probably went to school together. Hugh had recently started a family, and had a 3 year old daughter at the time. Joe remained single.

The drought and falling prices of crops drove many American farmers into migratory work. They traveled from farm to farm seeking seasonal labor, and received nominal pay for their efforts.

Sometime during the 1930s, Granddaddy's twin brother went west with the migratory farm workers, bound for Arizona. Rumors of large harvests ready for picking often spread along the highways of Texas during the Great Depression, but the rumors were at times fraught with errors.

It wasn't unusual for migrant workers to chase down these rumors only to find there has nothing to harvest. Or too many laborers had arrived ahead of them, and there were no more jobs left.

Joe Parmer was never heard from again. After failing to return home, his family and friends began to suspect the worse. There were many hazards in the life of a migrant farmer. Deplorable living conditions in the labor camps or lack of shelter on the road could lead to fatal illnesses. Labor strikes would sometimes culminate in violence.

There is no way of knowing whether or not Joe reached his destination. If he died on the road or in a labor camp, no one identified him as Joe Parmer of Henderson County, Texas. Else one of his brothers would surely have been contacted for burial arrangements, and there would be no mystery.

While we may never know what exactly happened to Uncle Joe, Grandma maintained this theory on the disappearance of her brother-in-law: "He probably got drunk and fell in a well."

That's so Grandma.


Donald Worster, "DUST BOWL," Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed February 14, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

"US Census, 1930," images, Henderson County TXGenWeb " : accessed 14 Feb 2013" Joe M. Parmer, boarder in the household of Hugh C. Mormon, Precinct 5, Henderson, Texas, citing ED 107-19, page 3B, dwelling 58, family 57, NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 2355.

Email conversation with Gary Wright about Joe's disappearance.

Email conversations with Gina, Nancy and Donna about Grandma.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

FHWC: Jack and Zula start a family (cont.)

In the Spring of 1927, Grandma, Granddaddy and 1 1/2 year old Effie were living in or near Chandler, Tx (maybe Brownsboro), when they welcomed Winnie Dois Parmer into the world on March 22.

The sisters were very close growing up, seemingly inseparable when you look through the family photos. While the two were very different, their personalities complimented each other well. Effie was shy and reserved, whereas Winnie was very outgoing. And it was probably because of this that Grandma allowed Effie to wait on starting school until Winnie could go with her.

Now, Granddaddy enjoyed a stop at the bar when he had the chance, but he learned, perhaps the hard way, that he couldn't stop there if he had Effie with him. You see, Grandma was opposed to drinking, so Granddaddy just wouldn't tell her. But Effie would rat him out.

Winnie, on the other hand, enjoyed going to the bar with her daddy. Granddaddy would set her up on the bar, and she would become the center of attention. Granddaddy didn't have to worry about Winnie telling on him.

Other things that happened in the family, 1926 to 1930

Zula's brother John Benjamin, and his wife Alice Terrell, added two more children to their growing family. In addition to Lorene, Murry, and Juanita, John and Alice had John B. Nowell Jr. on January 1, 1926, and Margaret Virginia Nowell on 26 July, 1928.

On March 15th, 1926, Zula's grandmother, Martha Elizabeth Dennis Nowell, succumbed to influenza at the age of 82. She died in the home of her son-in-law and daughter, J. Sam and Bettie F. Davis, in Chandler, and was buried at Rockhill Cemetery in Brownsboro.

Around this same time, something happened that none of us knew about until Grandma was in her 90s (heck, I just found out last week!). As Gina told it:

"Me, Grandma and Mama were sitting around her kitchen table as usual and somehow it came up. Grandma said it took place between Effie's birth and Winnie's. She thinks she was just a month or so wasnt officially verified by a doctor or anything. She said she was "late" and figured she must be pregnant again but within a few weeks "stuff" came out and she figured she miscarried."

Almost a year after Winnie was born, Granddaddy's mother, Martha Fransina "Synie" Parmer died of heart failure in Chandler. About a year and a half later, Granddaddy's father, Green Clifton Parmer, also died, on August 1, 1929. Like most of the Parmers and Nowell's who died in Henderson County, they are also buried in Brownsboro's Rock Hill Cemetery.

Maggie Lorraine and her husband, Otis Sanders, as you may recall, divorced around this time, or at least sometime between their daughter Elsie's birth and Otis's 1930 marriage to Allene Hancock.

On October 24, 1929, the stock market crashed (Black Tuesday), sparking the beginning of the Great Depression. In November, around $30 billion in stock values simply vanished, while President Hoover announced that, "Any lack of confidence in the economic future or the basic strength of business in the United States is foolish."

By March of 1930, the unemployment rate more than doubled from what it was prior to "Black Tuesday", to over 3 million.

Meanwhile, in 1930, Grandma and Granddaddy were raising their daughters on a rented farm in part of Justice Precinct 4 in Henderson County. Grandma's siblings, George "Kit", Dora and Tommie were still at home with their parents and young niece, Oletha Wilson.


Winnie's Death certificate

"United States Census, 1930," index and images, HeritageQuest Online ( : accessed 11 Feb 2013), Amry Parmer, Justice Precinct 4, Henderson, Texas, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 107-15, sheet 2A, family 29, series T626, roll 2355, Page 46. Or view it here:

#21935, Martha E Nowell, Confederate pension applications, Texas Comptroller's Office claims records, Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

"Texas, Deaths, 1890-1976," index and images, FamilySearch
( : accessed 08 Feb 2013), Francis Sina Parmer, 03 Jan 1928; citing reference certificate # 2600, State Registrar Office, Austin, Texas.

Timeline of The Great Depression - PBS -

Monday, February 11, 2013

FHWC: Jack and Zula start a family

After getting married, Grandma and Granddaddy probably rented the farm in Henderson County where they were living by 1930. Granddaddy was still working as a farmer, and Grandma was taking care of the house. And probably visiting with family at every opportunity, cause she always did love chatting around the table with friends and family.

Effie Parmer
1925 - Their first child
The first hit we get on Grandma and Granddaddy after their 1924 marriage is on the 18th of August, 1925, when their first daughter Effie was born. However, Effie wasn't born in Henderson County according to her own entry in her bible, but in Baird, Callahan County, Tx some 250 miles west.

Callahan County is on the eastern border of Taylor County, where Grandma's sister Maggie Lorraine was probably still living with husband Otis Sanders. Maggie's daughter, Elsie, was born in either 1924 or 1925, several months to a year before Effie.

Could it be that Grandma wanted to visit or help her sister when Elsie was born, despite being pregnant herself? Or did Grandma talk Granddaddy into moving there for a while so she could be closer to her sister?

Well, whatever the reason was, Zula Irene Nowell Parmer (according to that bible entry), gave birth to her first child in Baird, Tx, about 43 miles from her 1922 home in Lawn, Tx. But try to order a copy of Effie Parmer's birth certificate from Callahan County, and you have a whole new mess on your hands.

The conundrum - Or "Why can't this $#!% be easy?"
When I attempted to order this document by mail, I received a letter back stating, "We don't have a Birth Certificate for Effie Parmer. We do have an Unnamed infant born to Zula Nowell and Luther Turner on 8.18.1925."

I was also informed that the Callahan County TXGenWeb site's claim that "Copies are made at $1.00 per page," at the Callahan County Clerk's office apparently doesn't apply to birth certificates. They are $23, same as a certified copy (or perhaps they can only issue certified copies). Should have called ahead. Hindsight.

And no, I'm not suggesting that Effie's REAL dad was some guy named Luther Turner. Nor can I find any instance of a Luther and Zula Turner living in Texas between 1920 and 1930 to suggest that this is simply the wrong birth record.

Grandma and Granddaddy seemed to be plagued by record keepers with sloppy handwriting and/or poor hearing. So I have no doubt that this is just another case of a "best guess" by the transcriber of the original document, or simply incorrectly recorded data.

I'm guessing here, but I figure she must not have ever needed to obtain a copy of her birth certificate, and therefore it went uncorrected. Or she was born somewhere else, and I just haven't located the correct birth record. Either way, unless I can track down the original document, this one remains just another weird mystery.

Google Maps

Effie Martin's bible, Wife's Genealogy page

Death certificate of Effie Lorraine Parmer Martin

"United States Census, 1930," index and images, HeritageQuest Online ( : accessed 11 Feb 2013), Amry Parmer, Justice Precinct 4, Henderson, Texas, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 107-11, sheet 2A, family 29, series T626, roll 2355, Page 46.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

FHWC: No story today, but here's what I am doing

Gina asked me the other day if these stories would be preserved with the family tree. That reminded me of a post on the FHWC forum I had read about an hour earlier asking what happens to all of our family history blog posts if we die, and no one is paying the hosting bill?

Well, I'm 36, and in relatively good health, but accidents can happen. So this morning I printed out all of my blog posts about Grandma, slapped them into a folder, and labeled it "15 Zula Irene Nowell". I would have thrown Parmer onto the end of her name, but I wrote too large on the tab to fit it.

In a little while I will put her folder, and all of my other genealogy research folders, including my pencil and paper ancestor charts, into the filing cabinet. So if I get hit by a meteorite the size of a refrigerator, Family, you know where to find it.

There's also a bunch more on my netbook, so somebody can copy all of that stuff and distribute it to whoever wants it in the Martin, Parmer, Norman and Russell lines, if they are so inclined.

I'll work on getting more stuff printed out as I go. And I really need to invest in a backup drive. Of course, neither of those is likely to survive if the house burns down, but there are others with the same research data I have (probably more than I have). I have to draw the line somewhere between hobby and obsession.

So, hopefully I will live long enough to get all of this organized into something distributable for the family. But if I don't, you know where to find it.

There is no story today because we are leaving town in a few hours. But I didn't want to just skip a day, since the point of this Family History Writing Challenge is to write consistently, every day, for 28 days. So I just made my 300 word quota for the day ;-D Okay, it's supposed to be about somebody, so I'll take a notebook in the car and jot something down to post tomorrow.

Friday, February 8, 2013

FHWC: Henderson County, Tx - Meet Jack

It was 1923 or 1924 when Grandma's family moved to Henderson County from Lawn, Tx. Grandma was about 20 years old, and she and her brothers, Kit and Tommie, sister Dora, and baby niece Oletha were all living with George and Rebecca. This is where Grandma met the love of her life.

Meet "Jack" Parmer
Rufus Amery Parmer, better known as Jack, was born and raised on a farm in Henderson County, Texas. He came from a large family, who had migrated to Texas from Barbour County, Alabama in the 1850s and 1860s.

Granddaddy's paternal line
According to oral family history, his great-grandmother, Mary Ledbetter Tindel, wife of John Tindel (or Tindell), was full blood Indian. April has researched this claim extensively, and surely knows more of the facts behind this legend.

John and Mary Tindel played a huge role in the development of the Henderson County town of Fincastle, and established the first school there. But by the time Granddaddy was born, the town began to dwindle when the railroad tracks were laid through other towns in the county.

Green Clifton Parmer with granddaughters
John and Mary's daughter Lydia Frances Tindel married Jacob Henry Parmer in the late 1840s, probably in Barbour County, Alabama where their first 6 children were born. Jacob Henry Parmer was the son of Benjamin Parmer Sr., a Georgia native who had migrated near Creek Indian territory in Pike County, Alabama in the 1820s (the area was formed into Barbour County in 1832).

Lydia Tindell Parmer gave birth to Green Clifton Parmer, Granddaddy's father, on July 26, 1860 in Barbour County, Alabama, just before Jacob and Lydia moved their family to join Lydia's parents and Jacob's brother Zachariah Wesley Parmer in Henderson County, Tx. (Zachariah was married to Lydia's sister, Mary Jane Tindel.)

Granddaddy's maternal line
Granddaddy's mother, Martha Fransina "Synie" Greer, was born in Henderson County on May 17, 1866, to Civil war veteran John Alford Grier and Martha Elizabeth Perkins Crumpler Grier.

Four years after burying Jacob Parmer in the Fincastle Cemetery, Synie and Green were married on November 20, 1884 at "Home" according to the marriage page from Synie's bible. They had seven children: Henry Alford, Nora Elinor, Lyta Pearl, Nathan Napolean, George Browning, Rufus Amery, and Joe Matterson.

Granddaddy was a twin, born December 17, 1901, two years after the death of his grandmother, Lydia. Jack and Joe Parmer were the youngest of Green and Synie's nine childen. Granddaddy might have been born first if the order in which Synie listed their names in her bible is any indication of their birth order.

Left to right, George, Nathan, and Green Parmer pausing from their work for a photo-op c. 1910

Jack (front) and Joe (back).
I remember Granddaddy telling my sister and I about his school days, though I don't remember any specifics, just that he said he got in trouble a lot.

The Nowell family may have rented a farm neighboring Granddaddy's brother, Nathan's farm. The census taker visited George Nowell's household immediately after Nathan Parmer's in 1930, anyway.

Granddaddy and Grandma's brother, Kit, were about the same age, and probably became good friends. As the story goes, Granddaddy had been out hunting with Grandma's brother, and when they returned, upon seeing Grandma, he told Grandma's brother that he was going to marry her.

Now, I've already mentioned how Grandma knew she was going to marry Granddaddy in "Grandma was a witch". And she was right. They were married on September 16, 1924, supposedly in Tyler, Smith County, Texas.

I couldn't find their names in the marriage book at the library. Either it was misread by the transcriber (happens a LOT with these two), or maybe they got married somewhere else.


Again, anyone related to or researching this line, I'd be happy to share the full size, unaltered scanned images of these photos and documents. Just let me know what you need in the comments.


  • Lydia's bible, family records page, scans received from Gary Wright.

  • Synie's bible, family records and marriages pages, scanned images received from Gary Wright.

  • Grandma's bible, marriages page, scanned images received from Gina.

  • Effie's bible, wife's genealogy page, scanned images.

  • Conversations with Gina, Nancy, Donna and April.

  • Kathryn Brown, "FINCASTLE, TX," Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed February 08, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

  • Linda Sybert Hudson, "HENDERSON COUNTY," Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed February 08, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

  • "The Palmers and Parmers of North Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi" by John T. Palmer, pgs 12-18, scanned pages received from Gary Wright.

  • "United States Census, 1860," index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 08 Feb 2013), Jacob H Parmer, , Barbour, Alabama; citing p. 167, family 1309; NARA microfilm publication M653, FHL microfilm 803001.

  • "United States Census, 1870," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 08 Feb 2013), Green C Parmer in household of Jacob H Parmer, Texas, United States; citing p. 7, family 38, NARA microfilm publication M593, FHL microfilm 0553090.

  • "United States Census, 1870," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 08 Feb 2013), John A Grear in household of John A Grear, Texas, United States; citing p. 32, family 229, NARA microfilm publication M593, FHL microfilm 0553090.

  • "United States Census, 1880," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 08 Feb 2013), Jacob N Parner, Fincastle, Henderson, Texas, United States; citing sheet 184B, family 0, NARA microfilm publication T9-1310.

  • "United States Census, 1900," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 08 Feb 2013), Green C Parmer, ED 60 Justice Precinct 5, Henderson, Texas, United States; citing sheet 11B, family 197, NARA microfilm publication T623, FHL microfilm 1241644.

  • "Texas, Births and Christenings, 1840-1981," index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 08 Feb 2013), Rufus Amery Parmer, 17 Dec 1901.

  • "United States Census, 1910," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 08 Feb 2013), Green C Parmer, Justice Precinct 5, Henderson, Texas; citing sheet 6A, family 102, NARA microfilm publication T624, FHL microfilm 1375576.

  • "United States Census, 1920," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 08 Feb 2013), Green C Parmer, , Henderson, Texas; citing enumeration district (ED) , sheet 21B, family 447, NARA microfilm publication T625, FHL microfilm 1821818.

  • "Texas, Deaths, 1890-1976," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 08 Feb 2013), Francis Sina Parmer, 03 Jan 1928; citing reference certificate # 2600, State Registrar Office, Austin, Texas.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Don't think I can get a fhwc post out tonight

I got one started on Grandma and Granddaddy, but I don't think I will be able to finish it tonight. Too many distractions throughout the day, and got a late start. Plus, my eyes aren't used to being on the computer this long anymore. It'll get easier though.

And I'm looking forward to getting all that I know about Grandma (and suspect) written. Then organizing my research, and writing about another ancestor. This is a lot more fun than I expected. But it's difficult when you're trying to take care of nine other things at once.

Granddaddy inventing the Capt. Morgan pose.
Sorry guys. I'll try to do better tomorrow. But I'll leave you with this really awesome picture of Granddaddy, circa 1920-ish, that cousin Gary Wright sent me years ago when I first started researching. I love this one. If anyone related wants the original, unaltered scan, just drop me a note in the comments and I'll send it to the email address you comment with.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

FHWC: The notorious Maggie Lorraine

Maggie Lorraine Nowell was one of our more infamous family members. I've written about her before in a Wedding Wednesday post. Born October 7, 1906, Maggie Lorraine was closest in age to Grandma than any of her other sisters, so I would imagine they were pretty tight.

Let's return back to the Fall of 1922 in Taylor County, Texas. The Nowell family has probably harvested this year's crop of cotton, or are close to finishing up. Newly-wed Della is expecting, and is likely certain she knows the gender of the child, having used the "magic" pendulum.

And Maggie Lorraine is in love. Or something like that.

Otis and Maggie Lorraine Sanders
Otis R. Sanders
The family of Otis Sanders had been living and farming in Taylor by 1900. Otis was seven years older than Maggie, who was soon to turn sixteen when they married on October 3, 1922. Eight months later, on June 14, 1923, Maggie Lorraine gave birth to her first child, Lorena Sanders.

Eight months? Actually, about 36.3 weeks from the date Maggie and Otis married. Now it could be that Lorena was born a little early. Or it could be that Maggie Lorraine, whether she knew it yet or not, was already pregnant. I can just hear Grandma scoffing out a, "Good Lord."

Either way, there was another new baby in the family to bring a little bit of joy after mourning the loss of their big sister Della.

Another tragic loss
Lorena Sanders 1923-1924
Lorena Sanders didn't live to see her first birthday. I have been unable to find her death certificate so far, but her tombstone provides this information:
ML OR Sanders
June 14 1923
Apr 4 1924

Maggie Lorraine's daughter was buried in Rogers Cemetery in Tuscola, the same cemetery Della was buried in the previous year.

On the move again
I can't be sure what prompted George and Rebecca to make the nearly 300 mile trek to settle down in Henderson County, Tx. George's mother was 80 years old, not in great health, and still living with Sam and Bettie Davis in Henderson County. His brother, Johnny R, was buried in Brownsboro's Rock Hill Cemetery in 1923. And his uncle, Robert Adolphus Nowell, had died there back in 1920.

Perhaps they just wanted to live closer to the remaining Nowell family. Or maybe, despite the fact that overall cotton production was going well in Taylor County, George had reason to think they would fare better in Henderson County. At this point I can only speculate.

Whatever the reason, George, Rebecca, Kit, Zula, Dora, and Tommie moved to Henderson County sometime between Maggie's October 1923 marriage to Otis, and Grandma's September 1924 marriage to Granddaddy. I don't know if Otis and Maggie went with them, or remained in Taylor County.

Elsie Sanders ca. 1925
Elsie Sanders
All I have on little Elsie Sanders is a photograph, and two censuses. She was born about 1925, and was 5 years old at the time she was enumerated on the 1930 U.S. Census for Taylor County on April 11 of that year.

She was living in the household of Otis Sanders with Otis's widowed mother, Maggie Mitchell Sanders, and Otis's wife, Allene.

Where did Maggie Lorraine go?
The thing is, on that 1930 census, Otis has just remarried. His new wife is a seventeen-year-old local girl by the name of Allene A. Hancock. Well, Allene Hancock Sanders, now.

So, what? Does he just have a thing for teenage girls? Nope. Otis was married to Allene for 34 years until he died in 1964. They had kids. Grandkids. Great-grandkids. You can read all about it at Find a Grave.

But wait, there's more...

Otis and Allene are also enumerated on the 1930 census in Henderson County on April 23rd. They were living in the dwelling of Sidney C Leavell (haven't had time to look for a connection to that one), and apparently paying rent to him.

Now, this isn't the first time I've seen someone's name pop up twice in the same census year, but it is the first time I've seen it happen 300 miles away. Granted, there are possible explanations.

According to Allene's bio on Find A Grave, Otis and Allene married in Louisiana in 1930, but I haven't been able to find a specific date or location. Perhaps they are on their way to or back from Louisiana while Otis's mom watches over Elsie, renting a room for a night or two before continuing on. Just a coincidence that he's in the same Justice Precinct of Henderson County as his ex-wife's family?

Or, perhaps Maggie had gone to live with her family in Henderson County, and there was some matter Otis needed to clear up. But Maggie Lorraine isn't living with her parents on the 1930 census. Nor is she living with her brother, John. Or Aunt Bettie. She doesn't appear to be in Taylor County, either. I know she's alive, there's a lot more to her story. Maybe she's remarried, too?

Maybe he was there looking for his ex-wife and couldn't find her? I have no idea. Much more digging to do here.

Ten years after
April 3rd, 1940 Elsie Sanders is living with her grandmother, Maggie Mitchell Sanders. There are no street names or house numbers recorded for this area, just the order of visitation and family numbers. The census taker visited the household of Otis Sanders just before stopping by his mother's place.

Otis, Allene, and their three children are living in a rented house for $5 a month. He had been seeking work, and finally landed a job as a floor manager at a dance hall.

His mother is 67, owns her house, and is receiving an income from some other source than wages or salary. Elsie is 15, and attending school after having completed her second year of high school. I know no more about her.

Aside from an undated photo of a George Gough with "one of Lorraine's husbands" written on it, Grandma's sister Maggie Lorraine Nowell has fallen off my radar until 1948.


Side note: If any descendants or relatives of Elsie Sanders happen across this, please leave a note in the comments (my contact form went screwy and I haven't had a chance to fix it). I'd be happy to pass along the full size original scans of the family photos. I'd also be interested to learn what became of Elsie.


  • Grandma's bible

  • "United States Census, 1900," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 06 Feb 2013), William A Sanders, ED 152 Justice Precincts 3 & 6, Taylor, Texas, United States; citing sheet 8A, family 131, NARA microfilm publication T623, FHL microfilm 1241672.

  • "United States Census, 1930," images, HeritageQuest Online ( : accessed 06 Feb 2013), Otis R. Sanders, 3 J-PCT, Taylor, Texas, United States; Series T626, Roll 2400, Page 25B

  • "United States Census, 1930," images, HeritageQuest Online ( : accessed 06 Feb 2013), Otis R. Sanders, 5 J-PCT (South Part), Henderson, Texas, United States; Series T626, Roll 2355, Page 102A.

  • Lorena Sanders - Find a Grave

  • "Texas, Deaths (New Index, New Images), 1890-1976," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 06 Feb 2013), Otis R Sanders, 1964; citing State Registrar Office, Austin, Texas.

  • Allene B Hancock Sanders - Find a Grave

  • "United States Census, 1930," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 06 Feb 2013), George W Nowell, Precinct 5, Henderson, Texas; citing enumeration district (ED) 0019, sheet 3B, family 60, NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 2355.

  • "United States Census, 1940," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 06 Feb 2013), Elsie Sanders in household of Maggie Sanders, Lawn, Justice Precinct 6, Taylor, Texas, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 221-32, sheet 2A, family 25, NARA digital publication T627, roll 4144.

  • There's probably a few more, but I'm so tired. If you need to know where I found some bit of information, leave a comment and I'll let you know.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

FHWC: Taylor County, Della Nowell Wilson

Cotton farmers had struggled with drought conditions in Taylor county throughout the 1910s, but the 1920s brought a resurgence in cotton farming to the area. This is where we find the Grandma's family in 1922, about 25 miles south of Abilene in the tiny rural community of Lawn.

The Santa Fe Railroad laid tracks in 1909, but the small town of Lawn wasn't close enough to benefit. The community couldn't bring the rails to Lawn, so in 1910 they took Lawn to the rails, leaving behind what is now called Old Lawn.

The newly re-established town of Lawn enjoyed a fair amount of growth over the next two decades, with a peak population of 650 residents in 1929.

1922 was a good year for Taylor County cotton farmers. The number of bales ginned rose by over 8,000 from the previous year, to 30,385.

Zula, Maggie Lorraine and Dora were attending school in Lawn, Tx during the 1921-1922 school year. Grandma was 18 years old, and in the sixth grade.

Della Nowell, the eldest of George and Rebecca's children, was 26 in the Spring of 1922. She married a fellow called Bird Wilson on March 22nd, 1922. By the time the cotton was planted, Della was pregnant.

Maggie Lorraine also married in October the same year, but we will get to that story tomorrow.

On February 9, 1923, Della gave birth to Oletha Wilson. But Della soon fell ill. She was suffering from an infection commonly referred to as childbed fever.

Childbed fever, or puerperal fever, according to the Encyclopedia Britanicca, could develop "... after long and injurious labour and unskilled instrumental delivery..."

Della Wilson's death certificate states that she succumbed to "Flu and Child Bed Fever" on March 4, 1923 at the age of 27. She was buried March 6th at Rogers Cemetery, in Tuscola about 8 miles northeast of Lawn.

Whatever became of Della's husband is still a mystery to me. Rebecca and George took Oletha in. Grandma had just turned 19 the previous November. After losing her baby brother nearly six years earlier, she had a new baby in her life. But now her oldest sister was gone.

And there would be more joy and heartbreak for the Nowell family in the year to come.


  • TSHA - Lawn, Tx

  • TSHA - Cotton Culture

  • "Usual Planting and Harvesting Dates, 1997", Agricultural Statists Board, NASS, USDA

    - No longer active, but have the text saved. Zula, Maggie and Dora Nowell listed as students.

  • Grandma's bible

  • The Texas Almanac and State Industrial Guide 1925, Book, ca. 1925; digital images, ( : accessed February 05, 2013), Page 224, University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting Texas State Historical Association, Denton, Texas.

  • "Texas, Deaths, 1890-1976," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 04 Feb 2013), Dello Wilson, 04 Mar 1923; citing reference 10269, State Registrar Office, Austin, Texas.

  • "Texas, Deaths, 1890-1976," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 04 Feb 2013), Oletha Walker, 27 Mar 1975; citing reference 24988, State Registrar Office, Austin, Texas.



Monday, February 4, 2013

FHWC: Out of Comanche County

Maggie, Kit and Zula
Mom once asked Grandma how long it took to travel by covered wagon. My mom was working on a historical romance novel, and Grandma was a great source of information for how things were in the "old days". Grandma said they could cover about 25 miles a day.

As previously mentioned, boll weevils drove many of the cotton farmers out of Comanche County in search of more conducive land. The next time Grandma's family pops up on the US census is in Hunt County, about 200 miles Northeast. But something terrible happened along the way.

Tragedy in Mansfield
Rebecca, Zula, and baby (probably J.D.)
On October 7, 1917, Grandma's one-year-old baby brother, J.D., had to see a doctor in Mansfield, Tarrant County, Texas, just outside of Fort Worth. But to no avail.

A week later, on the 15th, J.D. died of "bowel trouble with brain complications". He was buried the following day in Pleasant Valley Cemetery in Mansfield (that cemetery is now located in Cedar Hill, Dallas County).

Granny Rebecca was the informant for the death certificate. Well, actually, there are two death certificates for J.D., 29418 and 29415. 29418 does not have burial information, whereas 29415 does. And I found them quite by accident because the name is spelled Norwell instead of Nowell on both documents.

From these two death certificates we learn that J.D. was 1 year, 1 month, and 16 days old, born on 30 Aug 1916 in Comanche County, Texas, that he was breast-fed, and he first saw the doctor that signed his death certificates (I can't make out his name) 8 days before his death. It is also stated that his father, George Nowell (okay, Norwell on the document) was born in Delta County, Texas, and his mother, Rebecca Joplin, was born in Nashville, Tennessee.

These two death certificates are the only evidence I have that J.D. Nowell ever even existed. I don't remember Grandma ever mentioning him, and he isn't recorded in the family bible.

Eastward bound: Hunt County, Texas
The primary cash crop of Hunt County at the time was cotton, and this may well be what drew George and Rebecca Nowell to take a chance there, despite the fact that the rest of George's family headed to Murchison in Henderson County.

George's widowed mother, Mattie, lived with her youngest daughter, Bettie, and Bettie's husband, John S. Davis. George's brother John R., and oldest son John Benjamin, had also moved their families to Henderson County by 1920.

Though cotton production was at its peak in Hunt County, the majority of farmers weren't really turning a profit. This was mainly due to the fact that many of them rented the farms they worked on.

George, Della, Kit, Grandma, and Maggie Lorraine all worked for wages as farm laborers. In addition, 16-year-old Grandma, 14-year-old Maggie, and 8-year-old Dora were also attending school.

But it wasn't long before the Nowell family packed up their belongings and hit the road again. This time they would travel 250 miles west, where adventure and more tragedy awaited.

  • "Texas, Deaths, 1890-1976," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 04 Feb 2013), J. D. Norwell, 15 Oct 1917; citing reference cn 29418, State Registrar Office, Austin, Texas.

  • "Texas, Deaths, 1890-1976," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 03 Feb 2013), J. D. Norwell, 15 Oct 1917; citing reference cn 29415, State Registrar Office, Austin, Texas.

  • TSHA - Hunt County

  • "United States Census, 1920," images, HeritageQuest Online (, G E Nowell, 6-PCT (part), Hunt, Texas, United States; citing ED 140, Dwelling 206, Family number 210, Series T625, Roll 1820, Page 166.

  • "United States Census, 1920," images, HeritageQuest Online (, John Nowell, Murchison, Henderson, Texas, United States; citing ED 21, Sheet 7A, Dwelling 121, Family number 122, Series T625, Roll 1818, Page 156.

  • "United States Census, 1920," images, HeritageQuest Online (, John B. Nowell, Murchison, Henderson, Texas, United States; citing ED 21, Sheet 17A, Dwelling 334, Family number 345, Series T625, Roll 1818, Page 187.

  • "United States Census, 1920," images, HeritageQuest Online (, John S. Davis, Murchison, Henderson, Texas, United States; citing ED 22, Sheet 16B, Dwelling 324, Family number 335, Series T625, Roll 1818, Page 187.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

FHWC: Where Grandma came from

Grandma's parents were married in Hillsboro, Tx in the summer of 1894. George and Rebecca probably met in Johnson County after her father, John M. Joplin, moved his second wife and children there from Tennessee sometime before 1900. George's parents and maternal grandparents had been living in Johnson County by 1880, having previously made a go of it in Lamar County after his parents married.

George and Rebecca had both grown up on farms, and they continued with what they knew. Along with George's parents Ben and Mattie, older brother John R.'s family, and little sister Bettie Frances, George and Rebecca headed about 100 miles west to rent a farm in Comanche County.

The economy in Comanche County was booming for farmers and ranchers between 1890 and 1900, and the rapid population growth reflected that. Cotton farming in the area increased dramatically from a single bale produced in 1860, to over 24,000 commercial bales in 1900. Comanche County was the place to be.

George and Rebecca Nowell
The Nowells established a cotton farm, worked hard, and raised their family. I can't say for sure whether their first two children, Della and John Benjamin, were born before or after they arrived in Comanche County. Della was born 2 Jun 1895, and John B. was born 6 Nov 1897. But they were definitely living on a Comanche County farm by 1900, where the rest of their children were certainly born.

George Columbus "Kit" Nowell came along on the 26th of January, 1901, followed by Grandma Zula Irene on November 11, 1903. Maggie Lorraine and Dora were born in 1906 and 1911, respectively.

George's father's health was declining by then. Joseph Benton Nowell was receiving a small pension for his service in the civil war, but he was no longer able to work. On the 5th of July, 1913, Ben Nowell passed away at the age of 69 or 70 (born 1842 or 1843), when Grandma was 9 years old.

George and Rebecca had two more children, Tommie born August 13, 1914, and J.D. born on the 30th of August in 1916. However, things weren't going as well as they had hoped.

The Nowell's, like most of the cotton farmers in Comanche County, were struggling. Cotton crops were being destroyed by an infestation of boll weevils, leaving farmers in the area with nothing to show for their hard work. As Grandma would say, they didn't have a pot to piss in, or a window to throw it out of.

It was time to get out of Comanche County and try their luck elsewhere.

  • "Texas, Marriages, 1837-1973," index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 03 Feb 2013), George Nowell and Rebecca Joplin, 05 Jul 1894;

  • Grandma's bible

  • "United States Census, 1880," images, HeritageQuest Online (
    ), George Nowell, 5-PCT, Johnson, Texas, United States; Series T9, Roll 1313, Page 366.

  • "United States Census, 1900," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 03 Feb 2013), George Nowell, ED 26 Justice Precinct 1 (west half), Comanche, Texas, United States; citing sheet 11B, family 198, NARA microfilm publication T623, FHL microfilm 1241622.

  • "United States Census, 1900," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 03 Feb 2013), Joseph B Nowell, ED 27 Justice Precinct 1 (east half), Comanche, Texas, United States; citing sheet 18A, family 322, NARA microfilm publication T623, FHL microfilm 1241622.

  • "United States Census, 1900," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 03 Feb 2013), John R Nowell, ED 26 Justice Precinct 1 (west half), Comanche, Texas, United States; citing sheet 11A, family 194, NARA microfilm publication T623, FHL microfilm 1241622.

  • "United States Census, 1910," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 03 Feb 2013), George N Nowell, Justice Precinct 2, Comanche, Texas; citing sheet 15B, family 299, NARA microfilm publication T624, FHL microfilm 1375554.

  • "United States Census, 1910," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 03 Feb 2013), Ben Nowell, Comanche, Comanche, Texas; citing sheet 8A, family 123, NARA microfilm publication T624, FHL microfilm 1375554.

  • "United States Census, 1910," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 03 Feb 2013), John R Nowell, Comanche, Comanche, Texas; citing sheet 19A, family 331, NARA microfilm publication T624, FHL microfilm 1375554.

  • "United States Census, 1880," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 03 Feb 2013), J. M. Joplin, District 8, Henderson, Tennessee, United States; citing sheet 289B, family 0, NARA microfilm publication T9-1262.

  • "United States Census, 1900," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 03 Feb 2013), John M Joplin, ED 54 Justice Precinct 1 (southeast part), Johnson, Texas, United States; citing sheet 20B, family 350, NARA microfilm publication T623, FHL microfilm 1241649.

  • TSHA - Comanche County

Saturday, February 2, 2013

FHWC: Grandma was a witch

Jack and Zula Parmer - 1924
Zula Irene Nowell was born 11 Nov 1903 in Comanche County, Texas. She was a granddaughter of Joseph Benton Nowell, the former subject of my FHWC project. But I've decided instead to write about my memories of Grandma. And blog them. Much easier.

She claimed her daddy was 100% Irish, by which I think she meant that he was descended from Irish immigrants, because surely she knew he was born in Northeast Texas. Her mother, she said, was Black Dutch.

Grandma (she was my great-grandmother, but we all called her Grandma) and her siblings grew up picking cotton on her parents' farm. She received an 8th grade education in Lawn, Taylor County, Texas before her family moved to Henderson County. There she met her future husband, Rufus Amery "Jack" Parmer, the son of another cotton farmer.

Grandma's divination teachings
According to her, as a young woman, with a tub of water and a mirror at noon on the first day of May she discovered who she would marry (this would have been sometime between 1922 and 1924). She said she saw Jack Parmer's face in the water wearing a hat. Then the next time she saw him in person, he was walking up the road, wearing that same hat.

They were married 16 Sep 1924 in Tyler. I think the photo above was taken that day, because she had several printed up (I'm not sure how many are out there). Here is the back side of the photo:

Near the bottom Grandma Zula wrote "To Dear Mother From Jack and Zula." She wrote it in pencil so it is rather difficult to make out now. It was probably one of her daughters that wrote in the dates and ages in pen later.

Anyway, back to Grandma's witchery, she had a method for determining the gender of your future children. Stick a threaded needle into the eraser end of a pencil, and hold the pencil over your wrist by the thread (now I know this is called a pendulum).

Eventually the the pencil will begin to move. If it moves in a circle, it means girl. Back and forth in a line means boy. Then it will come to a stop, and begin to move again telling you the sex of the second child, and so forth for as many children as you think you want to have.

As kids, we had a good time playing with this one. I can't really speak to the effectiveness of it, since it has a fifty-fifty chance of accuracy, and I only have one child. But my sister swears by it. I always got 3 girls, then a boy.

One who controls the weather, controls the world
In addition to divining future elements of one's life, Grandma also passed on a means of controlling the weather. Texas summers are often drought-ridden, so whenever we really needed some rain, Grandma would call us up and tell my sister to "throw a snake over the fence."

So my sister would catch and kill what my great-grandmother called a chicken snake, though I think they are more commonly referred to as rat snakes. Then my sister would hang it over the barbed-wire fence and we would wait.

Now, I'm not a superstitious person, and I'm not exactly sure how hanging a dead snake over a fence would have any impact on the weather, but I'll be damned if it didn't always seem to work. In fact, the more snakes my sister hung on the fence, the more rain we would get.

Grandma's snake bite remedy
Grandma also had a way to deal with poisonous snake bites, though we never really had a need to test this one. The way she put it was, "Split a chicken and lay it over the bite." It would seem the intention behind doing this was to draw the poison out of the wound, into the chicken.

And this is why my mom would declare, "Grandma is a witch!"

Friday, February 1, 2013

FHWC: Day one, ready or not

I woke up this morning feeling non too confident that I could start writing for the Family History Writing Challenge today. Heck, I haven't even been able to conclusively determine whether Joseph Benton Nowell was born in 1842 or 1843, in Alabama or Mississippi.

But then I received the FHWC newsletter from the Armchair Genealogist. Lynn's advice for the unprepared really helped. Instead of putting off the writing to chase down more documentation, I'm going to do both.

First I will start with writing summaries about events in his life, even if I do have to include the "I don't know if it's this or that," statements. And I'm only setting a 300 word count quota to start with so that I will also have time to research for the next day's topic. I may bump it up later when I have more information.

I'm not going to worry too much about the order of events. In fact, I'm probably going to save each event summary separately so that I can go back and put them in order for a single outline. Then I can start the actual first draft.

As far as style of writing goes, I'm not sure what you'd define it as, but I'm mainly writing it for interested members of my family. So I will give all of the documented facts, including the contradictory ones, but also try to throw in some of that good old Nowell family humor that Grandma Zula passed down to us.

And, of course, it's just a rough draft that will grow and flesh out over time with more research. Which is why I won't be publishing it on my blog. =D I will post updates on my progress, achievements, and frustrations though.

If anyone reading this is blogging about their own experiences with the Family History Writing Challenge, or is actually posting their family history writings, please feel free to share your blog link in the comments so I can check it out.

Time for me to put on a fresh pot of coffee and start Day One.
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