My pilgrimage to Sierra Blanca was signficant on so many levels that you may have gotten the impression it was my first trip there. Not so! Back in 1970, Mom, Aunt Lou, cousin Molly and I made a trip there and visited the Williams hotspots — although I don’t recall stopping to meet Tom D. What an oversight on our part!
Here are the teenage cousins in 1970, posed in front of the Sierra Blanca Methodist Church:
In case you can’t tell, that’s me on the left…..and here’s the church in 2010 – my, how the trees and power lines have grown. And so did the church. There’s an addition on the back that Tom D’s wife Jean was instrumental in securing.
One more photographic comparison – of the Hudspeth County Courthouse. 1970, this time I’m on the right.
This courthouse, still in use, opened in 1919, and is the only adobe courthouse in Texas. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places. But it’s a landmark with personal importance as well.
Our grandfather, Jesse C. Williams, served as the first county agent when Hudspeth County was formed in 1917, and later served as a county judge in this building. (1) There is so much more to say about this remarkable man whom we knew as Popsy. His life merits a full post at a future date but, in the meantime, I can’t resist sharing this newly discovered photograph of him. (2) He’s sitting on the edge of a frontier, looking every bit the part.
I’ve already posted a picture of Ocie Ola (Manning) Williams and her grandchildren on what might have been her porch. Here’s what her house looks like today. It might break her heart. On the other hand, she must have been a very practical woman and I know she experienced many more personal losses.
Tom D owns the house in which Mom spent the first ten years of her life. And he graciously took me on a tour of the small house that actually feels pretty spacious inside.
I followed him around with a lump in my throat. The house has been empty for many years but it wasn’t hard to imagine a loving family life taking place within its walls. How I wish that we had visited the house in 1970, when the sisters would have regaled us with real stories. As it was, I could only snap pictures of a few details that had to have been pressed in Mom’s memory – and miss her deeply.
Here’s one more picture found in Sierra Blanca — and probably taken there as well. And, to complete this installment, it returns us to the heyday of the Williams family’s Sierra Blanca story and offers a glimpse of the inevitable change all families experience.
The Williams women prepare to take to the road in one of the family-sold Fords – mother Ocie in the back seat, daughter Thelma in the driver’s seat, and daughter Annie standing aside the car. (3)
I’d give a lot to see that threesome head down a dusty Texan road. Wouldn’t you?
(1) “Jesse Williams Buried in Farmington, New Mexico,” The (Fabens, Texas) Valley Independent, 2 March 1978; newspaper clipping privately held by Tom D. Ellison in the Julia Mae Jenkins Collection, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE], Sierra Blanca, Texas; scanned by Malissa Ruffner, 6 October 2010.
(2) Photograph of family of Jesse C. Williams, circa 1917, privately held by Tom D. Ellison in the Julia Mae Jenkins Collection.
(3) Photograph of family of Ocie Ola (Manning) Williams, Thelma (Williams) Ellison, and Annie (Williams) Davis in Sierra Blanca Texas, 1920s, privately held by Tom D. Ellison in the Julia Mae Jenkins Collection.