River of Years
You stuck with it when there were
no such words as "lifestyles" and
"Motherhood" with apple pies
and fried chicken on Sunday --
that was your bag.
Those were early ancient years
before man-made air -- and the
attic fan gave little relief
from Texas heat and you with
your dreams not yet.
Then from Houston to Mexico --
I remember long rides in the
back seat of the Desoto and
the deep green mountains with their
narrow hairpin roads as we
climbed closer to heaven
frequent stops in small towns and
you reading your romance books.
Nine fun months in Mexico --
every other day a holiday:
"Pancho Villa Day"
"Day-off Day" and
"Just for the heck of it day".
Then our return to Houston, a
small brick house on Eleanor Street --
you the cook, maid, the only
doctor in the house and nurse
without the R.N.
With your remedy for all known
diseases we received our daily
mutant children for life.
The radio, your constant companion
with Stella Dallas, Amos and
Andy, The Shadow, Fibber Magee
and Molly --
all those faded relics
of the past -- their shadows
Then came the "boob tube" and you
taken hostage by the soaps and
At last you found true meaning
Rivers of years have come and gone
with its passengers of dreams
losses, successes, children
and grandchildren and now
nothing much has changed --
as you sit there
reading your books of romance.
This was mostly when I was under ten years of age, so Aunt Reat was in her early to mid-seventies at the time. She was on her own then, and her home was about a ten-minute drive from Grandmother's house in Lindale Park. If grandmother needed her, she'd hop in her pale-gray 1975-ish Toyota Corolla and come over to keep an eye on me for a bit.
Marguerite was the sister of Julia Mae Maraman ("Mimi"), the mother of my grandmother Margaret Dunaway. She was born on March 13, 1904 in Union County, Kentucky. Her parents were Albert Abraham Maraman and Edna Pearl Allen. Besides Julia, she had one other sister named Annice Viola, born in 1896. The family moved down to Anderson County, Texas in 1905. Four years later, Albert passed away. He is buried in Neches Cemetery in Neches, Texas just outside of Palestine. Marguerite was just five years old.
The 1910 federal census shows the three girls living with their mother as head of the house, a house that apparently was freely owned by Edna. She married Charles Doss later that year.
Not a lot of information is at my disposal regarding Aunt Reat's life between childhood and her early years as an adult. I've been told that she and Julia were fiercely independent, perhaps even outspokenly feminist during a period in history when the suffrage movement was gaining traction in the States. She was married at least twice. Though probably not the first husband, Francis Aubert took Marguerite as his bride in 1945. This union took place in Lucas County, Ohio. Both were residing in the Detroit area. I have no idea what drew her back up to the northern states. Here is their marriage certificate.
Still, Marguerite was supposedly married before the above-mentioned union. She had a son named Garland, who was already in elementary school in the 1930s. I'll touch on this in a separate post.
And so Aunt Reat eventually moved down to Houston. Mimi was ill and living with my grandmother, and there were times when Mimi's sister would come to check on her. I only remember seeing them fussing at each other one day. I get the feeling that Mimi was sometimes stubborn when it came to receiving help from others.
After Mimi passed away in 1980, Aunt Reat was a dependably present figure in my life. There are a couple distinct memories I have from the times when she would come to Grandmother's house to look after me. It was usually mornings when I would see her. Grandmother headed out to run errands. Breakfast had already been served. But one particular day I guess Aunt Reat figured I was still hungry. She then proceeded to prepare for me a simple piece of buttered toast. There was something about the way she made it. The warm bread was saturated with butter. From that day forward, I craved this simple snack every time she came over. Sometimes she was a little reluctant to give in to my begging. I think all mothers have that one special something that they know their children enjoy, and perhaps they hold it back just a little in order to ensure a child's dedicated affection. But in the end, she would turn on the toaster oven and commence to converting a slice of Ms. Baird's bread into something magical. And to this day, I cannot have a piece of buttered bread or toast without thinking of Aunt Reat.
In that area, I had ample space to play with my hot wheel cars without causing damage to any of Grandmother's precious antiques inside. One day, Aunt Reat was puffing away while sitting on those concrete steps. She located a little hole in the pavement in which she could tap off her cigarette ashes. Being curious, I got close to the hole for closer examination. She finally extinguished what was left and promptly warned me not to place my finger where the ashes lay.
Now, I don't know about you, but when a little boy hears the words "don't touch that", it is incumbent upon him as a little boy to set aside that admonition and proceed with his curiosity. I think all I really heard was, "Look! It's glowing red stuff. Touch it!" While I don't recall the specific level of pain thirty-some-odd years after the fact , I do remember jerking my hand back in a state of shock. What resulted from this experience was a lifelong abstention from tobacco in any form. Well, done Aunt Reat. Well done!
I also recall going to Marguerite's house on a few occasions. If I could sum it up as a color, I would say it was gray. Just like her old Corolla, just like her ashy curled hair. And it probably was a gray house - a duplex, if I'm not mistaken. The living room was a museum, though a different sort from that of Grandmother's piano room. An old recliner was situated next to a tray that served as a makeshift coffee table for her TV guide, glasses and utility bills. Simple enough. But against the wall just before the kitchen entrance, there were two glass hutch-like cabinets. They were filled with an abundance of figurines, glass dishes and collectible trinkets. I knew I was to keep my distance based on my experience at Grandmother's house.
Put these few and fleeting memories together with a recollection of her flowered blouses, and there you have an imperfect portrait of my Aunt Reat. Towards the end of her years, she too became ill. She wore one of those push-button devices around her neck to alert a medical professional if she needed assistance. On June 11, 1988, she pressed that button. My grandmother quickly drove over to her house and found Aunt Reat still hanging on. She held her in her arms as she breathed her last breath, later recounting the sadness that filled her heart at that moment. Personally, I think the experience brought back memories of her of own mother Julia and grandmother Edna. The bitter and the sweet with which we must all come to terms.
My 2nd great aunt Marguerite Nell Maraman is buried at Hill of Rest Cemetery in Baytown, Texas - plot 136. The surname Perkins was apparently from one of her marriages.
Speaking of allergies, she believed with all her heart that she was allergic to cat hair. And maybe she really was. One Christmas morning, Grandmother and Granddad visited our house, as was the custom, before heading over to Aunt Gloria's. After we were all sitting happily in the living room for about half an hour, our tabby named "Hi-Kitty" woke up from a nap he had been taking behind the sofa and lazily strolled into plain sight. Immediately, Grandmother started to cough lightly. With a hoarse voice she said, "I just knew there was a cat in here. I felt something itchy in my throat." We all had a good laugh, then promptly placed Hi-Kitty outside, much to Grandmother's relief!
All in all, she just didn't seem to want or need much on her birthday. Sometimes we bought her a pair of slippers or a muu-muu nightgown. She was, in fact, just happy to be remembered and to have us around her. In truth, it was us who benefitted from our time with her.
Happy 98th birthday, Margaret Virginia Dunaway. Though you are no longer with us now, my life is and always has been better for having you as a part of it!
Frustration is a fact of life when researching parts of one's family tree. The most challenging branch for me thus far has been my grandmother Margaret Virginia Dunaway's paternal side. As I showed in one of my earliest posts, her father's (Dewey) life story is a foggy one. Five months later it remains the same, though I hope to make a breakthrough when I return to Texas. My frustration is compounded by the fact that Margaret was my closest grandparent. Having spent so much time with her from childhood up through my late 30's, I could kick myself for not being more inquisitive. Oh well...spilled milk!
Looking into the backgrounds of Dewey's parents has been no easier. I have made some progress. But these are the sorts of ancestors whose supporting records only lead to more questions than answers. Their names are John A. Dunaway and Mary Savilla Rayburn (sometimes spelled Rayborn, Raiborn or Raborn). Dewey's death certificate seems to confirm their names as well as their home state of Mississippi (See my first post on Dewey.)
The 1910 census record places them in Pike County, Mississippi with one of their sons Sidney.
At 17, he was the only child listed, although there were three others as noted in the two right columns of the census above. One of these I should assume was my great grandfather. Dewey would have been around 10 years old at this time, but there is nothing at present to indicate why he was not listed with the family.
John and Mary had a daughter named Dolly (1886-1963). According to the 1910 census, Dolly was married to James Clifton Owens. The very next year they are listed in a town directory for Palestine, Texas.
Both Sidney and Dewey were clearly in Palestine by 1917/1918 based on their World War I registration cards. They were also both married.
Back to John and Mary. Their marriage took place on October 28, 1885, so Dollie's birth in 1886 sounds about right. Yet, we are lacking any concrete data on either of them for a stretch of about twenty-five years. As most of the 1890 census records were destroyed by fire damage, we lose that decade.
Also, I have had no success in locating their names in the 1900 census records. The truth is, that whole part of Pike County, Mississippi was (still is) flooded with Dunaways and Rayburns (as well as another relevant surname, Boyd). There are instances of members of one nuclear family being adopted into other nuclear families, and they all seem to have been neighbors of sorts. Then, there is the issue of my grandmother's line migrating to Texas. It will be a major undertaking to sift through and piece together accurate relationships under these circumstances. Not impossible, though. Dear reader, perhaps you could offer some insight?
Lastly, I'll close today's post by sharing the obituaries for both John and Mary. They are supposed to be interred in the New Addition section of the Palestine City Cemetery, but I have yet to locate their plots.
*Special thanks to Karla at the Palestine Public Library for helping me find these two obituaries.
**John A. Dunaway and Mary Savilla Rayburn were my 2nd great grandparents on the Dunaway branch.
More information on Mary's parents (Isaac Rayburn and Susan Moore) to come in a future post.
Date: around 1945
Seated at center: Joseph Bushrod White, Sr. and Eulah Peyton Williams
Adults standing from left to right:
Ralph Ray Musgrove and Ollie Dell White,
Margaret Lucille Cook and Joseph Bushrod White, Jr.,
Joyce Adelle White,
Mary Frances Foreman and Herbert Lucian White,
Nora Mae Preece and Ross Edison White,
Gladys Mozelle Reed and Benn Wesley White,
Margaret Virginia Dunaway and Clarence Otho White
*Lots of kids in this picture. I see my dad and his sister, but I don't want to take a chance and misidentify any of the others.
Some notes on Joseph and Eulah - my great grandparents - coming soon!
Spending as much of my younger years at my grandmother's house as I did, there is no shortage of stories and memories. I wish I had a time machine to go back to about the year 1981 - don't we all? - and photograph the home's interior. One room, in particular, we would humorously refer to as the museum. There were all sorts of things one wasn't allowed to touch, especially if one was under the age of twelve. And even then, you would somehow sense that it was a naughty thing to get too close to the antique china or bulging blue porcelain vase that sat on an "antique" cherry wood table.
Everything was antique in that room. Everything was polished with the strangely delightful odor of Lemon-scented Pledge. And therefore, fingerprints were easily discernible. There was one item in the museum that I was allowed, no, required to touch. The Baldwin baby grand piano. My parents started me on lessons when I was around six years old. Since my after-school destination was Grandmother's house, it only made sense that I should devote at least forty-five minutes of my afternoon towards practice there Monday through Friday.
As a child, you don't normally adopt an appreciation for the craftsmanship that goes into creating an instrument like this one. The burgundy wood casing, the ivory keytops that were one at a time coming unglued, and the creaking storage bench with its collection of hymnals and dated instructional books - all of these and more I was able to experience daily as I worked out my major and minor scales and arpeggios.
Although this piano was in Margaret Dunaway's home, it originally belonged to her mother, Julia Mae Maraman. I called my great grandmother "Mimi". And although she passed away in 1980, I still have a few poignant memories of her.
Finally, my dear aunt - Margaret's daughter - was pleased to take it into her home. She had the piano appraised, and it turns out that this piano was actually made in 1925. I don't think Mimi bought it brand new, though I suppose it's possible. Either way, this beautiful piece of history somehow made it into her possession. It is still with us to this day, a treasure of the past, her past and ours.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you a woman who was very dear to my heart: my grandmother, Margaret Virginia Dunaway. She played a major role in my upbringing, in particular throughout the years before high school.
There are so many stories of our time together - and, of course, before I was even around - I wouldn't know where to start. But today, I just wanted to share a picture I came across in the "archives". This one I took just before my family and I moved to Taiwan. So that would be spring of 2012, and Grandmother would have been around 93 years old at that time.
I remember her telling me on more than one occasion that she believed that she was descended from Mary, Queen of Scots. Not sure which one - preferably, Mary II. Well, based on my research so far, that's looking less and less likely. Sorry, Grandmother. But in my eyes, you'll always be the queen of this family. Your reign was a long and memorable one, indeed!
You can see my first blog post to understand how Margaret was at least a partial inspiration for my personal pursuit of a family narrative. Click here!
To know more about Margaret's ancestral line, go to the home page and click on her picture. Updates will be coming.
In 2012, my family and I decided to make a move to Taiwan, my wife's home country, for a few years. I remember a year or so earlier that I was intending to sit down with my grandmother Margaret V. White and ask her some questions about our family's past. Ancestry research certainly wasn't my specialty. I had no knowledge of how to go about it or for that matter even the "right" sorts of questions to ask. But there was a seedling of interest there, although I cannot put a finger on the reason for this curiosity.
Sadly, in the scramble to get things ready for the move, I never made time to have a serious conversation with her on the topic. We left for our new adventure, and over the next three or four years Grandmother's memory faded as well. We returned home for a short visit in 2015, and after 95 years on this earth, my dear grandmother was just a few short days away from her passing on. My wife and kids and I did get to see her in the hospital one last time, but she was not conscious of our presence. She was gone by the end of that day. And though I have many memories of my time with her when I was in school, and some memories of the stories she told us about her life, I wish I had taken the opportunity to ask her some of those questions that perhaps only she would have had answers to.
I guess this could be true for any of us with any of our relatives. For me, this was a signal to start investigating my family's past. I began as so many do these days with Ancestry.com. And I was amazed on two different levels. First, the sheer number of records - mostly names, dates, and locations - was so satisfying for me. I was the proverbial kid in the genealogical candy shop. And yet, I was also quite surprised to discover that no one has seemed to piece these names together in a way that made a larger picture of the "family tree".
And so, I have taken it upon myself to do this. I realize that this is of particular interest for me because it stems from my paternal and maternal ancestry. But I also am aware of the fact that there are many others out there who might benefit from the things I discover in my own exploration, no matter how little they are. My hope is that you, the reader of these pages, will not only find that missing name, birth date, and birth location, but especially a story that intrigues and/or brightens your day.