Rescued from the trash by George Garrigues
Interview - in 1953 - Ella G. Dickey
I was seven years of age when I came to live with the Burgesses. That was in Wood County, Texas. I went to school there until I was in the 3rd Reader-- we went by Readers in those days, you see. I wore long dressed to my shoetops; brogrands, brass toes, laced to the top; the brass toes were to keep you from getting your toes scuffed up
- Q How about your dresses? When were you first conscious of your dresses?
Mrs. Burgess made me a dress, she did. It was a worsted dress and it had a velvet longwasted front, red. I remember that dress all right. I remember we were going to a doctor's house. The village was called Webster Village, it didn't even have a store--just a bunch of houses and we were going there for Christmas dinner.
I remember going up to the doctor's house and he had daughters--two little girls about my age. I was so darned little I had to associate with little children because I was so little - no one would believe that I was as old as I said I was because I was so little.
- Q. What kind of transportation did you have?
A sled. They came down to meet us on a sled. One of the kids fell off. I got sand and mud on my dress - I was brushing the mud and sand off the other kid's dress.
I remember going to school. I sat behind a girl who had lice. I sat behind her and I could see those lice crawl down on her neck, you know. I never did catch those lice and why I didn't I'll never know!
We had plenty of food. had our own fodder - and flour - our own hogs. This was a little farm. I didn't know anything else but a farm.
After my mother died there there was just a half-uncle and his wife. The half-uncle's wife--she did not like me. Just because I was better than she--or so she thought. She was going to give me away - and she would tell me she was going to give me away to niggers. This was in Camp County.
- Q So at 7 years of ago your half-uncle's wife didn't want to keep you any more.
The Burgesses took pity on me - so they took me in.
- Q When you were staying with the Burgesses did you have boy friends, girl friends?
I had a lot of girl friends. at this one-room school
- Q Do you remember a particular girlfriend.
Yes. Nannie Hall. And two girl friends named harlow
- Q What duties did you have with the Burgesses?
I worked in the field. I got up at 4 o'clock in the morning - made a fire in the cook stove; I helped get breakfast at 4 o'clock in the morning. I fed the hogs. It was a small farm but enough to have a hired hand. I had to help wash - and would stay out of school to help with the washing, and work on the farm, too.
I worked in a family, as a mother's helper. I had to wash, help cook, but I did not work in the field. And I helped the woman take care of the baby.
- Q Did you enjoy it?
I had to do it--I didn't know whether I was enjoying it or not.
- Q You lived in?
One family - a year at a time.
- Q So for a couple of years you were working out. Were you allowed to go out?
With no body hardly - you wasn't very well thought of if you were working out, no way.
- Q But when you did go out - where would you go?
To square dances. Everybody went to square dances. That was where I met your Dad. Mr. Dickey was the flddler at one of these. dances I was introduced to him, and he asked me to dance. And goodlooking!!! I didn't know whether I fell in love or not with him then, I did know that he had 9 kids!
I was just a young girl - and wanted a home of my own--in fact I think I never did love that fellow, I just wanted a home of my own and somebody to take care of me. I didn't go to school. Women didn't get educated much those days although women did teach school. I didn't get to go to school long enough to get that far along and I was so darned little I didn't think I could do it - and then I didn't have the sense do now. I couldn't go with the older set because they would't believe I was that old - and so I just associated with the younger set all the time.
- Q Did anyone ever make remarks about your size?
They always thought I was cute. But my size kept me from going with older children.
- Q How about when you started going out with Dad?
We started to go together. We went together about six months.
- Q Would he call for you at the particular place you were staying? Where would he take you?
He would take me to dances and house parties.
- Q And then he asked you to marry him?
He asked me to marry him.
- Q Had he told you anything about his family?
No, not much. He told me he wanted a housekeeper.
- Q Were you in love?
I was not in love and didn't care.
- Q How did you plan for the wedding?
We just went and got a Justice of the Peace and got married. For the honeymoon we went to his house where there were nine children. There were two big rooms, 2 side rooms, and he built on a new room. We lived there a year. Gus, Thomas and Will were pretty near grown and they left home.
- Q What was the reason for travel - and how did he make a living?
He would get a day's work -- it didn't take much those days -- just bacon and eggs on a day's road.
We crossed the Arkansas River -- drove the wagon and team across that river into Arkansas. We drove it over and stayed all night and drove back and that bridge could have went down any old time -- we just taken a chance. Back and forth and all in one day. And he just did it to be a daredevil! We came home an stayed awhile and traveled again. We were in El Campo at Tom Dickey's. Eaph had pneumonia. Grandma Dickey saved his life, doctored him.
[ When we come back to El Campo & make a crop & then Jess was born in 1899 ]
And you give her credit for saving his life?
- Q Tell how you played with your babies.
Fiorence always said I taught her to play. We would play set the table. We would take broken glass, put them on a board and play setting the table.
When Jess was two years old, Dad built a little one room house with a lean-to; that was when Will was married--he brought his wife, Lou, The first night they was married they stayed at our house. Lou was a widow, with a kid or two, and had a little brother. Dad built a house for Will, we lived in that. When our house burned down they built a a tent and we moved in their house and that is where Mabel was born. [ in the tent.]
[ Here we have 4 children Florence ]
[ Little house there were ]
Little house -
- Q How many little kids did you have.
I remember we were making some syrup candy one night on a pot-bellied stove and and somebody bumped the skillet of syrup, it fell off, and scalded Ben's foot and he has a scarred foot to this day.
- Q What was the relation of the kids to each other and you and dad to the kids.
Kids and all got along fine. They were all right when the babies came along.
- Q What recreation did you have?
Kids played in the yard. Kick the can, hide & seek
There was a buggy for you (Beulah) we were prosperous then. It cost $12.00. I bought some yarn, nice yarn, hired somebody to make sweaters, you know, jackets; she crocheted them. I would push the buggy - walk with the buggy with you in it, and I was very proud.
- Q What did I look like?
You were skinny and pretty and had blonde hair.
Jess was pretty - he was often taken for a girl. Harold was a beauty. Florence was a real beauty. The rest were goodlooking. Mabel and Hubert were pretty; Eaph not so pretty but oh so cute. [ Vesta was like a little doll ] Woodie was not so pretty, but o so sweet, and not an idiot in the bunch.
- Q Once in a while you went to church: When do you remember first going to church?
Every Sunday when I was growing up.They were Methodists and I had to be a Methodist. But they were hypocrites and I can't hardly stand anybody who is a hypocrite
We lived in the country - didn't have any Sunday Schools; it was five or six miles to church and we would drive there in a buggy. After we come to Hunt County. This was a mile to where we lived and we went to town to church. Hunt county where I met Dad.
We wore long stockings and long underwear. Walked to school. Toes would be so cold I could't walk on them.
Couldn't go to school until you were eight years old.
Old Blue Back Spelling Book - McGuffey's Reader - McGuffey's Sedate Reader.
We had these expositions on the last day of school called "Expositiones" Put on dialogues. I could repeat everybody's exposition that they was goinig to make besides my own. We had an exposition it was a tableau - Jacob's ladder. I was one of the angels. Jacob was laying at the foot of the laader with his head on a block of wood, supposed to be a stone. We sang a song.
When Jacob was weary, by day and at night, on a stone
- for a pillow he lay
When he saw in a vision a ladder so high
- It's foot was on earth
- It's top in the sky
- Press upward, press upward
- The prize is in view
- The crown of glory is waiting for you.
This ladder is strong and very well made
- It's lasted for ages and never decayed.
Press upward, press upward
- The prize is in view
The crown of glory is waiting for you.
[ Tableau - made a smoke by sulfur ]
My half uncle's name was Bob Smith - Mother's married name was Eskridge. Mother's maiden name was Kinnard. My mother had a half sister maiden name Kinnard, She was married to Bell. My father died; my mother Mrs. Eskridge married again to Innes. My mother's half sister was named Smith.
- Q You did not know your mother.
- Her half sister, Lula Smith told you about your names.
I was four years old when my mother died. I barely remember her. I remember my mother, she was lying on a bed on a floor. I was taking her something to drink. She was drinking out of one side of her face. She had a rag over it. I was only four years old. that was when i didn't want to go to sleep. I don't remember who told rne to go to sleep, it was Bob Smith; my mother said, "Don't spank my baby." That is all I can remember about my mother. I don't know a thing about it; that stuck in my mind all these years.
I think one thing my folks had some land, Mattie (Bob Smith) she found out but could not get land from me she would keep the land from me - Piny woods. Choice of acres of timberland
[ * Insert A-B-C ]
Dickey accused Grover and me. I was already that way before he left-- that was when he was in prison. I was big with Vesta. Vesta was redheaded like Grover, and he accused me. He always will believe that Grover was Vesta's kid.
Organ and piano, fiddles and banjo. Thomas, banjo, Dad. Fiddle. Piano was a flat old-fashioned sort of like a grand but old flat piano. organ. played organ and piano, taken five lessons; wern't very good at it; recreation at home. His folks. 7 brothers and 2 sisters. But I didn't know any of the sisters except until after we went to El Campo _ all of his brothers except one. George was the oldest. Never did see George.
- Q You were eating supper when you saw the flame.
- Q How as the burning discovered?
We might have all burned up if I hand't saw a light. ______ out of door and saw it. ______ and saw it on fire. I went to the kitchen to get some bread to go on the table . And I think the old man done it.
- Q You think the old man did it?
I was big with Mabel.
We moved on to El Campo. He bought a lot and there built a nice house. He never did finish a house that he started. That house wasn't finished. We stayed there about a year. Then we moved from El Campo to Guymon. He went up and dug a dugout before we went up. The dugout where you (Beulah) was born.
The dugout was about 23 ft. and 15ft. Kitchen, dining room, sleeping room all in one. Built in bunker. Built it out of raw lumber. Lumber still had bark and was full of chinches that would get you at night. The biggest days work was taking the bedclothes to get rid of the chinches. And Beulah was born the next morning. 1905. The fall before we had went down in Oklahoma, southern part, and picked cotton fall. That was when I got caught [ ( with me! ) ]
We moved out of the dugout because Dad got prosperous because he was in the land business. He bought over a half block of land in the town of Guymon. He built our house, and two rented houses on one lot. He never did rent. The big house had an upstairs, lightening rods, cupula windows and a veranda across the front. It had an outside toilet.
We had an organ - Grover and Dad played the fiddles. We went to church. After we got prosperous I had a few clothes and we went to church. We would bring people home. One couple stayed two or three days.
The routine in the morning was a hubub getting the family off to school.
We came to Arizona in 1908. You were three years old. We were on the train two days and nights. I had cooked up enough stuff before we left that lasted us to Deming. He (Dad) bought a hotel and I had to run the hotel. We were 2 months in Deming. We didn't make anything; out of it, so we pulled up stakes and went to Wilcox.
- Q What prompted him to come to Wilcox?
He come to Gallup a long time before - he would take trips you know, that is how come he was looking the country over trying to find a place; wanted to grow up with the country, imagine anybody sending for his wife and baby come to Gallup. no sleeper -- barely money enough l did not have money enough -- had to take my lunch with me, he did not send me enough to get me a sleeper. Fellows from Guymon happened to be on the train I was on. Tell you I haven't got the money to get a sleeper with.
- Q Hou about the older kids? Jeff? Did he ever try to make you?
- Q But did they take advantage of you?
They did not.
- Q How do you feel about your husband's other children?
Jeff was overbearing. After you kids got a little bigger he tried to run over you kids. He was the somebody itself
Dad got ahold of it, and beat me out of it.
Mittie Smith. - My prettiness was what was the cause of it; I was so much better than her.
Mittie Smith used to tell me to run along. Used to accuse me of killing her baby. I was tending to it. I put the baby in the rocking chair and she fell out and bumped her head against the doorstep and cut her head, her little head, and she died about a couple of weeks later; the cut had not cured up and she accused me of killing her baby. She said to Burgess "She killed my baby" I can't remember, it had not cured up yet, but she accused me of killing her baby. That's when she gave me away. I was so little I did not know what was going on I was only 6 years old. She had another baby later, "Gussie".
Red School House.
One great big room, desks; had a well, had to draw the water ; brought it in a bucket to the schoolhouse and everybody drank out of the dipper. We had no privies, went out in the woods. This was in Hunt county, and in Wood County it was the same way. The girls went one way and the boys the other.
Our games were baseball; I would play with the boys. I remember once. I was playing catch ; the boy throwed the ball so hard I missed it and it hit me on the tittie·. The boy yelled out, "You shoulda caught it." We played crack the whip, jump rope; and played house out in the woods from home, around the trees; moss on the ground and called it carpet; had prohibition election; there was so many drunkards around there; school kids was matched up in speeches. I was a pro (prohibitionist), and they were anti. One boy said "I don't want to speak against her; Mr. Burgess has been teaching her (but then Mr. Burgess was a drunkard too!)
Some of the kids would bring dolls, but I didn't have any doll. We played with broken dishes, pans, and we would build shelves; the kitchen stove was old stove doors and we fixed them so we could have a stove. We found a mossy place; we would hunt round and dig up the moss; and then bed it down on the ground (for a carpet).
The boys and girls played separate . The boys and girls did not play on the same playground. Up in Hunt County we all played together.
Mrs. Burgess taught me my letters out of the Old Blue Back Speller. I knew my letters before I went to school. I couldn't go to school before I was 8. From 8 to 16 you could go free to school. After 16 you had to pay. From 16 you furnished your own books.
- Q You were 8 years old when you went to school. How were you in your
I was sorry in arithmetic. All the grades were in one room. The heating was with a potbellied stove. There was a bench. and we would sit by the stove. The teacher would call a class and we would go up front to the bench. There were two men school teachers in Wood County: Mr. Craddic, a real young man about 20, and a woman in Cpimtu.
There ·were two or three boys that I can think of: Bunyon Branlow, my boyfriend, Bob Perkins, the schoolteacher's brother about 12 or 13 years old. I had pigtails and he liked them. Everybody thought I was so smart. and the boys thought I was pretty. They walked home with me from school and would throw kisses at me and
I don't know why he couldn't go to Campbell, but he came to our school.
Our teacher she had a crippled sister and she came to school to her too.
The teacher wore bustles.
- Q Did she have birch switches hanging on the wall - I can remember a
teacher who had cottonwood switches in plain sight for discipline.
No there were no switches hanging on the wall. But I can remember how she did get red in the face. It began with the big kids. and it floored all of us. There were two boys, they were ignoramuses anyway. One of them was sticking his peter out and his brother was trying to make him behave hinself. The teacher tried to get him to tell what he was doing--it was her fault--she kept on - and knowing her-- you should have seen her face, red almost purple and the big girls, they surely hung their heads, this was the tragic thing; but she (teacher) sure did get red in the face -- but it was her fault; he (the boy) didn't want to tell, he tried his best to get out of telling - and was she red! She made him stay in at recess.
- Q Did you ever get punished?
Yes, once I got punished. There was a big stack of shingles at the back of the schoolhouse; another girl started to jump off it; she was about ready to fall anyway so I pushed her off and she told on me. I got a spanking-- I was hit across the shoulders about three times with a switch.
This one teacher she taught calesthenics - and we had wands. We had wands and marched in exercises. She marked the floor off and had us march one way and then the other.
- Q How about going to the toilet - if there were no privies, as you say.
Well, two or three of us girls would go together. We were not self-conscious, out we had to hide from the boys. And one of the girls had to be a lookoout. The road run right by the schoolhouse and we had to go so far away from the road to get away from the people, But then the people didn't drive like they do now.
- Q Before recess, if you had to go, what would you do.
We would raise a hand and be excused and then sneak out.
- Q When you decided you had to quit school what was your reaction?
I was in the· 8th reader or about the 6th grade as it is called now; this was in White Wright in Fannan County - about a half term-- it was a school that is compared to a junlor high school. The boys and girls were separated. But that didn't keep me from talking to them and writing notes. We were in the same room, but on different sides of the room. I was there a half term The girls 16 were going with fellows, but they were not. allowed to keep company with the boys. This teacher caught this boy and a girl with the windowshades pulled. The teacher would spy on the girls and boys. This boy and girl were up in school and had to stand in the middle of the room before everybody. the girl had to stand in the middle door. The boy he taken a whipping. But he didn't quit school, he came back to get educated. I wrote notes, but I never was caught.
In Texas - Education was not compulsory. They would keep the kids out of school to pick cotton, pick corn, stay out to help wash - no, no written excuses - they didn write notes. You learned what you could. On account of the cotton crops we didn't start school until sometime after Christmas--it just depended on the crops.
Craddick: I remember the first desk. We had benches; then only the big girls had slates; one long desk clear across the room. The little girls had to sit on benches and hold their books. Braddock wouldn't let me go outside - so I shit on the floor. He had to wash it up - served him right!
The grown kids went to school, the older they got and got all the education they could, they'd help teach the other kids.
This Christmas I thought everybody was going to get something. Everybody got something but me. When they told me there was no Santa Claus I was about ten years old. I didn't get anything - except a string of these fish; I was expecting something nice brought to me, but it was these fish made out of gumdrops!
We decorated trees with popcorn and cranberries; we didn't have no bright balls, electric light bulbs, no electric lights; we strung popcorn and had crepe paper, and put on candles--more Christmas trees were burnt up that way.
- ↑ 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 These may be C H Burgess (1833-1889) and Permelia (Covener) Burgess
- ↑ 1882
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 1890
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 27 Nov 1895
- ↑ Gus was 12; Thomas was 19; Will was 17
- ↑ 25 Dec 1896
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 7.2 1901
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 23 Feb 1902
- ↑ WB was in county prison for 60 days starting in mid May 1912. Clearly she was pregnant well before WB went to prison
- ↑ Obviously, this should be reversed