Archive for the ‘family’ Category

Memories for a Lifetime

My son-in-law and his daughter were here this weekend so he could install a rail down the back porch steps for me (in answer to my daughter’s frequent plea that I HAD to have some rails). During that time, seven year old granddaughter and I played while daddy worked. I have ongoing anxieties about how to “grandparent” and more than once a good friend of mine has reassured me that we are all treading new ground.



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A Special Thanksgiving


This is the season when I look back over the photographs I’ve taken during the year trying to decide which ones will be preserved in my “best of the year” book. Having visited many wonderful places this year and been able to photograph extraordinary sights, this year is a challenge.

Strange as it may seem, however, the photographs that thrilled me the most weren’t taken in some exotic location. They aren’t of family and many aren’t really very good (much to my despair). So, you ask, why on earth would these be considered special?

Well, since you asked . . .

My daughter works for a well-known Houston rehabilitation hospital where patients often must remain for long periods of time working on recovery. I sort of know what she does, but only sorta. Several weeks before Thanksgiving, she asked me if I’d be willing to take some pictures at the hospital. It seems that at Thanksgiving the hospital hosts dinners for patients AND their families. They have specially reserved tables in the cafeteria or in conference rooms near the patients.

Part of the effort to make this time special includes a photograph of the family that is printed and delivered to the patient on the Monday after Thanksgiving. My daughter was asking me to be the person who provided the “click.” As one can imagine, I was thrilled.

I got so much out of the day as we interacted with each family group, and I loved that I felt like I was making it a little better for folks who faced quite difficult situations. The photographs included the usual challenges as well as special ones. There were babies who slept through the event, teenager daughters who only agreed grumpily to be included, patients who had to be coached to smile, and spouses who clearly had been struggling with the stress of a loved one’s hospitalization. There were also so many who thanked us with great appreciation and eagerly gathered everyone together for the traditional “family picture.” It was a wonderful experience to be part of.

But here’s where the surprise for me came. I got to watch my daughter in her work “environment.” I got to see her incredible sense of concern for each person she encountered. I got to see that she was aware of each person she passed in the hall giving everyone a smile. I saw her stop frequently to give directions to lost visitors. Even when she knew that her family was waiting at home for her arrival so they could start the feast, she never hesitated to walk the distance with someone to the exact spot they needed to be. I also saw her pitch in to help cafeteria staff set up extra tables and chairs for unexpected arrivals. I still can’t tell you exactly what her job description is. What I do know is that she is the kind of employee that every organization would love to have. I know how wonderful she is as a daughter. Now I know that she brings that same quality to her workplace.

So the image of the cafeteria table setting is something I cherish. It acts as a reminder of a day I don’t want to ever forget. A day of true thanksgiving.

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newspaper clippingThis newspaper clipping is hard to read yellowed with age. But it’s a priceless document. I have nothing else from this family that is as precious. I have stared at it countless times trying to imagine the people lined up for the photographer’s camera. It was probably taken about 1905 based upon the age of baby Ruth Walker who was born July 1904. This clipping was cut from the Hood County News-Table published sometime after 1964. I have a hunch it might have been one of those “memory” pieces newspapers sometimes include from their archives.
So who are these people and what is their story? James Robert Lancaster (my great grandfather) lived a life from which a movie could be made. He was born in Georgia in 1847, but by 1860 his family is living in Arkansas.
When civil war was declared in 1862, he was almost of an age (15) to fight. He joined along with his older brother William Sinclair. Later accounts indicate that he was part of Tyler’s Company, Bradley Regiment, Dockery’s Brigade although other sources indicate he was part of Hood’s Texas Brigade. He was captured in April 1862 at the Battle of Island Number 10 (New Madrid) and sent to a prisoner of war camp in Illinois (Camp Butler). His brother died there in May. James Robert was released in 1864 and returned to fight until 1865.
For those of us raised with images of concentration camps, the description of life at Camp Butler seems nearly as horrifying. According to one article, “The stench was horrid and sickening, and the medicine supply was lacking. The camp’s six hospitals were in a miserable sanitary condition. The floors were filthy; deodorizing agents were not thought of; slops and filth were thrown indiscriminately around. The sick were crowded in wooden bunks; some on the floor, many without blankets. Typhoid, pneumonia, and erysipelas raged.” [Source] It comes as no surprise that late in the war James Robert became part of the medical corps having seen the likes of this.
After the war, he went to medical school in New Orleans graduating in March 1867 and several months later married Mary Elizabeth Brown in Louisiana. The family moved to Bosque, Texas where she died in 1874 (perhaps in childbirth) leaving him with three small children. That same year he moves to Comanche, Texas staying there only a single year. He marries Annie Norris in 1875 in Cleburne, Texas, but she dies the next year leaving no children. He then moves on to Granbury, Texas where he remained for the rest of his life. About that time in 1877 he marries Ella Scott DuVal from Palestine, Texas with whom he has a dozen children.
This short paragraph represents ten years of continual change: a new career, new wives, loss of loved ones, and new places to call home. It’s a lot to absorb for a man only in his twenties. I wonder if he yearned for stability and life without change.
Ella Scott DuVal (notice the V – DuVals who use the capital are usually related) came from stability. Her family had come to Texas before 1850 originally moving from Virginia through Mississippi. The only image I have of her is a photocopy of a photocopy, but her strength comes through in even that poor copy. She is a stern looking buxom mother and manager of the household. You can imagine she allowed no nonsense under her roof. I would love to have met her. She would have tales to tell, I’m sure. The reality of bearing and raising twelve children seems overwhelming to me. For twenty years she was either pregnant or had just given birth. That explains a family tale that she eventually told her husband no more which in those days meant no more sex. It would be hard to argue against her point of view.
Of her twelve children, two died in early childhood. Another (one of a set of twin girls) died of peritonitis as a teenager. Family history says the death came as a result of a botched abortion performed by her father. This occurred the same year that Ella’s last child was born. One can’t help but wonder if there wasn’t a connection between that family tragedy and her decision to have no more children.
Of the remaining nine who lived to be adults, two went on to be doctors and one to be a dentist. Amazing as it seems, her oldest child – a daughter Riveire E was to become a physician during a time when such events were surely rare. Out of the Lancaster family, she is the only member I ever met. Known professionally as R Cromwell (from a first marriage) Rogers, she was known to the family as Aunt Beebe. I had no idea what an amazing woman she must have been when I met her as a small child; instead I was just always impressed that she actually lived in a hotel (the Hilton in Fort Worth).
The other daughters married and had families of their own. The sons also married and established careers. One son (my grandfather) must have caused his mother great grief being part of a scandal that I’ll explain later.

James R Lancaster was well respected and influential in his community. His name appears on countless death and birth certificates in Hood County. His name also appears in an account of a shooting of a traveling salesman who according to family history had a relationship with the good doctor’s mistress. It’s an interesting account that isn’t followed up with any indication of a trial or interference by the law. One believes that such an upstanding member of the community may have been able to explain away the facts.
Both J. R. and Ella are buried in the Granbury Cemetery as well as many of the children, their wives, and their offspring. They left behind a huge legacy consisting of many grandchildren and great grandchildren – some of whom carry on the tradition of medicine. My pharmacist daughter and physical therapist niece continue that line proudly.

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