Submitted by Phyllis Carpenter
Arthur Hubert Roberts was born on March 17, 1878 in Cooper, Delta County, Texas, to A.J. Roberts (I do not know what the A.J. stands for) and Victoria Sheppard Roberts. He had an older brother, Robert Roberts of which we know nothing...did he die in childhood? By the 1880 Census, Victoria was listed as divorced and living with her two sons, Arthur and Robert at the home of John Stell, where she was employed as a cook.
On August 12, 1883, Victoria married N.B. Reid with whom she had three children - twins, Lucinda (Lou) and Joe, and Annie. Arthur went by the Reed name, which at some point was changed from Reid to Reed. Apparently, Victoria was widowed. She married James (Jim) M. Wilson (no relation to my paternal Wilson family) on September 21, 1889. She and Jim Wilson had the following children: Eliza Victoria, Grantlin, Samuel and Lem and possibly a son named Claudie Harris. Jim Wilson liked whiskey and didn’t like to work. Arthur disliked him intensely. After his stepfather tried to stab his younger brother, Joe, with a fork at the dinner table, Arthur got up and walked to his Uncle John Sheppard’s home. He lived with Uncle John and Aunt Eliza Sheppard until he married. Arthur greatly revered his Uncle John and looked to him as his father.
His mother, Victoria, was the daughter of Lucinda Elizebeth Kennedy and Madison Sheppard. Lucinda was the daughter of Hiram T. Kennedy and Sarah Jane DeWeese Kennedy, who were highly respected citizens of Lamar County.
Arthur had a beautiful bass voice and loved to sing. He joined the Lamar County Singers. He met a very pretty, brown-haired, blue-eyed girl, who also loved to sing. Her name was Eddie Esley Burns and on March 2, 1902, he and Eddie were married in the town of Milton in Lamar County.
Eddie had been born in Weaver in Hopkins County, Texas on October 3, 1880. Her parents were William A. (Billy) Burns and Paralee Aribell (Bell) Hart Burns. Eddie had a fascinating ancestry, rich in history. Through her father, she descended from the Brownlow-Brownlee family who were Nobles, Viscounts and landed gentry and gave up their nobility for their religious beliefs...they were early Presbyterians. Her great-great grandfather, James Brownlee, emigrated from Ireland to the Abbeville District of South Carolina in 1756. Her great-great grandfather, John Miller, was a blacksmith in Abbeville. His home was used as a fort by Revolutionary soldiers. The Miller and Brownlee families were very prominent citizens of the “Old 96” District of South Carolina, which included Abbeville. Her mother, Paralee (called Bell and sometimes Pearl) was the daughter of William R. Hart (a Circuit-Riding Methodist Preacher) and Sarah Jane Roads Hampton Hart. We have always been told that Paralee was part Indian. I have not proven this one way or another. It is a possibility that her mother, Sarah Jane Roads was half Cherokee. Paralee’s mother died when she was very young.
On December 3, 1902, Arthur and Eddie had their first child - a baby girl who was born two months premature. They named their tiny little girl, Eula Claudine. They wrapped her in blankets and put her in a box in front of the open oven to keep her warm and, needless to say, she survived!
Other children born to Arthur and Eddie were: Esley Lee, Early Victoria, Floyd Preston, Paul B.F., Audrey Ellen, Opal Christine and a daughter, Helen, who was stillborn. Arthur and Eddie were called “Mama” and “Papa” by their children. Only later would the sons call them Mother and Dad.
Early in 1907, Arthur and Eddie took their three small children (Eula, Lee and Earlie) and moved by covered wagon to Indian Territory ( Stephens County, OK), where Eddie had relatives. It took them a month to travel the distance, as they stopped for Arthur to work along the way. They were there when Oklahoma became a state in 1907. Two sons were born in Oklahoma - Floyd and Paul. Arthur decided that he wanted to be an undertaker and went to work for one in the town of Marlowe. He would later tell the story of cutting down bodies from trees where they had been hanged. He attended wakes with families. He thought he had the temperament to be a good undertaker until the day of a train crash. He had to walk along the rails and pick up body parts and put them in baskets. He decided then and there that he would go back to Texas and farm. He took his family back to Cunningham in Lamar County by train.
Arthur resumed cotton farming in Lamar County and he and Eddie were very active in their community of Cunningham. Audrey and Opal were born in Lamar County. All of the children (except Opal -she says!) had singing lessons and the family enjoyed going to “Singings” held at the school. They also had the Circuit-Riding preachers eat Sunday dinner at their house. Their religious leanings were to the Church of Christ, which they later joined.
In 1927, Arthur’s beloved uncle, John Sheppard died. Cotton farming was difficult in Northeast Texas. So in 1928, Arthur and his family moved by train to Childress County in West Texas. They settled in the Garden Valley area, near the town of Kirtland. Here, Arthur farmed, but never seemed to make a lot of money. Whenever the family went into Childress, they had to go by horse and wagon, as they never had an automobile.
In the early 1940’s, Arthur, Eddie and Opal moved from Garden Valley into Childress. They rented a house for a while and about 1944, they bought a little house. This was the house that I remember. There were three rooms - a bedroom, a living room which also had a bed and a large kitchen. There were no built-in cabinets in the kitchen...there were “safes” for the dishes and food staples, a stove (natural gas) and a icebox. Every day or so, the sign would be left out for the iceman to deliver ice.
Across the front of the house was a large porch with chairs and a porch swing. Arthur like to have an evening pipe and I can still remember sitting with him in the evening, when we would visit from Colorado, smelling the sweet smell of the pipe, hearing the squeak of the chains on the swing and just savoring the quietness with a man that I knew was not a great talker.
Out in back of the house was a chicken house which always had a mean rooster in residence. That rooster always terrified me as he and the chickens did not stay in the fence. The chickens provided the eggs and Sunday dinners.
In the winter of 1949, Eddie fell and broke her hip. My mother and I rode the bus from Colorado so that my mother could help to care for her mother. We stayed for about a month. Eddie never recovered. She died on August 15, 1949, from a stroke.
We went back to Texas. I remember the day her coffin was brought back to her house. The day was filled with friends and family filling the house, eating, visiting, remembering and crying. And that night was a wake. All of the adult family members and friends sat up all night with my grandmother’s body in the open coffin. The next morning, she was taken to the church for the funeral.
I wish that I could remember more about my grandmother, but I can’t. I was only five, when we moved to Colorado, so my memories are few.
In the early 1950’s Arthur and Opal made their first visit to Colorado. He was fascinated by Mesa Verde. He made several other trips to visit us after we moved to Grand Junction. I loved to see him and enjoyed him. All except for the fact that my mother always wanted me to impress him by getting up early. I didn’t see the point...no one wanted to get up as early as he did...4:30 or 5:00 in the morning. I rebelled and slept in!
Arthur died on June 6, 1963. I was a newly-wed living in California and could not go back for his funeral I remember laying across the bed and crying for my grandfather, the silent man with the crusty disposition that had let me see his kindness and gentleness. I still remember our moments in the porch swing and I smell the fragrance of his pipe.
NOTE: Arthur’s gravestone has his death as June 7.