Janice Williams Loves Austin And sometimes I write about it.

December 1, 2015


Filed under: Family,Food,Travel — Janice @ 10:32 pm

It is a sad state of affairs that it is has been so long since I’ve blogged that I had to hunt for the little icon to click to write this. I have to learn everything all over again every time I go to do something to my website. This is no way to build a skill.

But I am back at it because of Holidailies and that yearly reminder that I want to write, I should write, I like to write, and I CAN write every day during December. Or at least I can swear that I will on December 1.

I did have a lovely Thanksgiving last week and that is something to share. My amazing sister got home from a week-long trip to Italy with her entire family. I don’t mean just HER family of her husband and sons and their wives and the new grandbaby, but also all her husband’s Dutch relatives… mother, brothers, sister, brother-in-law, niece, nephew and nephew’s girlfriend. They spent a week exploring Italy and enjoying good food and a beautiful (haunted) castle and flew across the ocean on Sunday. And then my sister immediately turned around, cleaned house, bought groceries, and started cooking for a fabulous lunch on Thursday. Incredible. I only marginally helped by baking 2 pies. They were delicious, but the meal was the centerpiece.

The Thanksgiving followed my mother having been here visiting at my house for 10 days. Some might groan if they thought about their mother coming for a stay like that, but my mother is easy company and fun. She sleeps late so we don’t even see her in the morning. We come home at night and she is happy to take us out to dinner, send us out to dinner, cook for us (she made potato/tomato soup that reminded me of all my growing up years), or eat cereal or cheese and crackers along with us. That’s our usual diet. She works Sudoku puzzles or Wordfind puzzles and watches old Westerns on TV Land and we’re all happy. After I got back from Thanksgiving I kept forgetting that she wasn’t here. I would be at work thinking I needed to get on home to see her and then remember that she was gone. It’s nice to be home with just the two of us, but it was really nice to have Mother here, too.

Now it is December and who knows where this month will take us. I have no plans to travel in December and I’ll be staying home for Christmas. But I would love to see my nephews’ homes at Christmastime, so I might have to make a quick trip to DFW to make drop in and enjoy their decorations.

March 30, 2015

Cemeteries in Comanche County

Filed under: Cemeteries,Family,Genealogy,Travel — Janice @ 11:05 pm

I spent the weekend in the cemetery and now I am just dead tired.

Doesn’t work quite as well as the “And boy are my arms tired” joke, but I’m trying.


Saturday was the annual Newburg Cemetery Association meeting. I had never even heard of the association or knew they had annual meetings until last year. I don’t know how I was so uninformed about my favorite cemetery in the world, but now I know so I will attend the meetings. It isn’t just a dry meeting. It is a lively meeting of family interested in the welfare of our favorite cemetery and then there is a really nice potluck lunch with the group.

It is also a “Decoration Day,” as we call them in the South. I did not take any flowers for my family graves this year and I should  have. I usually take flowers in August when I go to the Cunningham reunion. All our flowers were pretty well faded so they do need a replacement soon.

I have 8 direct ancestors buried in the cemetery… my great-grandparents (Ed and Henrietta Hallford) and her parents my great-great-grandparent (Bill and Mildred Cunningham) and his parents (Capt. James and Susannah Cunningham) and then great-great-grandparents from another branch,  Joe and Trissia Moore. There is also 3 great-aunts and their husbands, several great-great-aunts and uncles, and so many cousin I would never be able to count. I know I’ve been to 4 funerals in that cemetery, including my very first one when I was 6 (for Grandma Hallford).  [Full disclosure: the picture of the cemetery is not from this year, it is from 2010. I didn’t take a good scene-setting picture this time.]

I got there early and went to the Albin Cemetery first and took more pictures there. It is just down the road and I have at least 4 direct ancestors there. It was a pretty day. I like this picture of the Albin Cemetery in panorama:

2015-03-28 10.16.18

2015-03-28 10.14.37

I love the rock walls on these old cemeteries… can you imagine how much time and energy that took?

Now I am home and I’ve been wasting time researching some of the graves I saw (well, the people in them).

There’s just not enough hours in the day for the cemetery visits and research time I need.

February 8, 2015

My Aunt Billie’s Birthday

Filed under: Childhood Memories,Family,Genealogy,Travel — Janice @ 4:34 pm

Several years ago I wrote about my Aunt Dorothy for her birthday instead of giving a gift. In January we celebrated my Aunt Billie’s 90th birthday and I decided to do it again. Writing about Aunt Billie is a little more challenging because she was always the most elusive aunt, the one I didn’t know as well. Aunt Billie and her family lived in Tyler when I was a child and then moved to Fort Smith, Arkansas before I was a teenager. We would see their family on the rare occasion that they came on a vacation to see us or we went to see them (it did happen a few times) or at family events somewhere in the middle, like Eastland, Texas, or Eldorado, Oklahoma.

Aunt Billie acknowledging the throngs of well-wishers at her 90th in January in Fort Smith:

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I never had the ability to just drop in on Aunt Billie. I have crashed all the other aunt’s homes to eat, shower, sleep, visit, or just take a break from the road, but never at Aunt Billie’s. We haven’t had much of a correspondence over the years either, but that would be because I didn’t write her. She is definitely a letter writer and there’s no way a correspondence would wither from her end.

If I wanted to help you envision my Aunt Billie, I would have you think of Lady Bird Johnson. It’s not that they really look alike, but I somehow got them intertwined when I was a kid and still see some of Billie in Lady Bird and vice versa. Lady Bird’s dark hair and her sweet laughing face are only part of it. They really do share an accent. That part is critical for you to hear in your mind to hear Aunt Billie. She has a very different accent from the rest of the family. I guess we are all West Texas and she is very East Texas. It’s not a lazy Southern talk, sometimes she talks very fast, but then there will be a long languid vowel just before the sentence finds its conclusion. “So-I-said-I’d-be-there-on-Sat-ur-daaaaaaaay?” There’s always that lilting upward inflection at the end, too. Not “uptalk” like the teen girls in America, but a gentle inquisition that seems to be asking politely, “Do I need to slow down for ya’ll to understaaaaand meeee?”

What do I know about Aunt Billie? Whenever I ask that question about a relative or ancestor, the glaring omissions of what I don’t know starts jumping out at me rather than the part I do. But I’ll try to stick with the facts as I know them.

Aunt Billie was the second child of my grandparents. Aunt Dorothy was only about 18 months old when Aunt Billie was born so my grandmother had her hands full at only 22 years old. Billie was born in Newburg, Texas, the same place her father and her grandmother had been born. She was born in 1925 and the family had lived in that neighborhood for 70 years, stretching back to the times of Indian raids and depredations.

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She grew up in Grosvenor (north of Brownwood) where her father, Arla Hallford, was the superintendent of the school there. She had 2 younger sisters, my mother, Patsy, and the baby, Lou Helen. There are great adventures to tell of the family living in Grosvenor. One frightening story was when the four daughters were left at home when their parents chaperoned a school bus full of kids going to the Fort Worth Stock Show. They were bundled up in their bed when a man entered their house and they could see him by the firelight. He caught sight of them and asked, “Has that bus already gone?” or some other question, made up on the spot. The girls nodded in fright and he left. When the family returned and authorities were notified, they brought several men from the community into the lights of a car for the girls to try to identify who it had been, but it was none of these men. And then there was the time the family was all almost washed away when the new dam that formed Lake Brownwood—and stood between them and their home in Grosvenor as they returned from Brownwood—collapsed during a deluge of rain.

The family moved to Quanah when Aunt Billie was in high school. Her dad was no longer her school superintendent; he had gone to work for the State Welfare Office. She graduated from high school in Quanah and was very active, as she would be all her life, in the First Baptist Church.

Aunt Billie went all the way to Kingsville to attend Texas A&I College. It was a long way from Quanah, but Aunt Billie had developed a close relationship with the pastor and he and his wife were moving to Kingsville and encouraged her to come with them and go to school. My mother remembers the adventure of getting to visit her there (while Mother was still in high school) and passing kids at the Baptist Student Union and have them say, “Hi Billie.” She had never known that she looked that much like her sister.

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Aunt Billie had office jobs before she married. She worked at the Western Union office and at the National Farm Loan Association in Quanah as assistant manager to Mr. Silas Mitchel. Then she took the job of secretary to the Vice President and General Manager Quin Baker of the Quanah, Acme, and Pacific Railroad. She stepped into that job when her older sister Dorothy had had before she married. I’m sure Mr. Baker knew quality workers when he found them.

Aunt Billie had many jobs through the years, but her main job was always mother to her four kids, my cousins Hank, Patsy Lee, Jo, and Becky. We have always marveled at their large family and how they would pile in the car and go on their vacations without a fuss or a fight (it seemed to us anyway). Still to this day this is the closest family you’ve ever seen. It seems like there is a birthday in their family at least once a week and a family celebration at someone’s home.

Aunt Billie is the only sister of the Hallford family that has traveled the world so extensively. She visited Israel, The Philippines, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Germany, and other countries in Europe. Sometimes she was there visiting her children who lived there. Jo and her husband Dru were missionaries in Israel for a while. Hank and his family were in Germany while he was in the Army. Many of her trips were related to Aunt Billie’s church work or her desire to know more about the Bible and expand her education. Of all the children in the Hallford family, Aunt Billie is the most like Papa Hallford in her desire to be a constant student. She makes the effort to not just read, but to study and absorb and seek out people to discuss topics with. There’s no doubt she could step into a Sunday School room, a Bible study, or even the pulpit and be ready to go at a moment’s notice.

Aunt Billie has her quirks, there’s no doubt about it. But I love that she is perfectly content with who she is. We should all be so confident and self-assured. While MOST in our family have a need to look “proper” to the outside world, Aunt Billie does things her own way and you can take it or leave it. One time she and I shared a motel room on our way to the Cunningham reunion. Aunt Billie brought her own sheets, pillow, and blankets with her and made her own bed on the couch of the hotel room because she didn’t trust sleeping on the hotel sheets. She also had her house shoes and wouldn’t cross the room and the carpet with bare feet. I was amused, too, because her “luggage” was grocery sacks because they were convenient for her. That was 20 years ago and I find myself traveling with grocery sacks more and more. I have learned a lot from my Aunt Billie.

Aunt Billie is a writer. That’s kind of a thing in this family. I have a story she wrote many years ago about “The Church Pan.” It’s a story you can relate to if you ever took foods to the church for funerals or Wednesday night prayer meeting (… I would assume. I can’t say I’ve done it.). She accidentally took home a church pan along with her own and then failed to get it back to the church in a timely manner. As the time stretches further, her guilt grows and she is certain the church brotherhood is going to ask her to come before the church to confess her sin of coveting and stealing the church pan. She has a way of making you laugh and feel the guilt she felt, all at the same time.

Aunt Billie became a widow young. She married Uncle Glendon when they were in their 20s. They had a church wedding after church on a Sunday at the First Baptist in Quanah. He had been a bombardier in World War II and was shot down over Germany and was held in a German POW camp for over a year when he was just 21 years old. Aunt Billie hadn’t met him at that point. He came home, they fell in love, and started their life together. He sold car parts, like Delco batteries, to parts stores and auto dealerships. They lived all over Texas… Abilene, Corsicana, Roame, Emhouse, Crowell, Tyler, and then they finally settled for good in Fort Smith Arkansas. Glendon died when he was only 61 and is buried in the National Cemetery in Fort Smith. Aunt Billie has been an active and self-sufficient single woman for almost 30 years now.

Aunt Billie and Uncle Glendon and the first 6 of their 12 grandchildren:


Aunt Billie has a very close and special relationship with God. While I was there for her birthday, I heard a great story that illustrates that. Her daughter Jo had come to visit her for an afternoon. Before she left Aunt Billie got her purse and said she was “convicted by God” to give Jo some money. Jo said she didn’t need any, but Aunt Billie pulled out a checkbook and wrote a check for $2500 and was insistent that Jo take it. Jo complied and took it, but said she didn’t need it and wouldn’t be cashing it. When Jo got home, it wasn’t long until her husband had a heart attack and was rushed to the hospital. He made a full recovery, thank goodness. Their out-of-pocket portion of the hospital stay was $2500. Jo hadn’t known that she would need that money soon.

I’ve always loved Aunt Billie’s personal library and her ability to catalogue and file her books and papers and notes. If you bring up a subject, she can pull files and sources and be ready for a discussion in minutes. Her cataloging goes beyond her intellectual pursuits. She has also saved every family letter and photo she has ever received. A few years back she divided her stash and returned the letters and photos to those who sent them. I inherited the ones that my mother got back from her. There were letters from me when I was a kid, my high school and college graduation announcements, photos. She had even created a scrapbook of the school pictures of me and my sister. All in all, she may have had more of my school pictures than I did!

One wonderful discovery in her files showed up in time for her birthday celebration. Her daughter Becky found a song Aunt Billie had written to accompany a poem her father, my Papa Hallford, had written for her many years before. It was a complete piece of sheet music with words and music. Her creativity still surprises me. I knew she played piano, but didn’t know how much she did with her music. I learned she had majored in music in college.

Aunt Billie, like her sisters, is a great cook. I didn’t get to enjoy as many meals at her house as I did the others, but I have seen what wonderful cooks her daughters are and I know where they got it from.

Aunt Billie has been a staunch supporter of me and my genealogy efforts through the years. She has always supplied the information I’ve requested and has passed along photos and books and anything I’ve needed, asked for, or that she thought would be helpful. She has come to lots of the Cunningham reunions (even though Comanche is a very long way from Fort Smith) and I appreciate her children for being willing to jump in the car with her at a moment’s notice to go to a reunion.

Tenacity, faith, humor, creativity. Aunt Billie got a big portion of great traits in our family. I love that she is still living in her home, doing what she has always done, and sees no reason to change anything now.


The four sisters:  Lou Helen (holding Nathaniel), Dorothy, Billie, and (my mother) Patsy.

old box from Mackies house scanned 9 10 2011 001 sisters with Nathaniel tight crop

December 9, 2014

Holiday Visits

Filed under: At home,Family,Normal Life,Travel — Janice @ 10:14 pm

There are many things to love and hate about the holidays, but one thing I do love it the feeling that you NEED to visit people you love and people who you love feel the need to come visit you, too. I don’t know why I get in that frame of mind more in the holidays when everything is busy and crazy instead of in maybe February when we’d have time for a good visit, but that is the way it is.

Sunday I went down the street and visited the new little baby boy Jack who was born in July. He’s a precious little thing. His parents are incredibly sleep deprived and deliriously in love with their little one. That made me happy. I hope Santa is very good to him.

Tonight my cousin Alisa was in town from Italy. I met her a couple of years ago via Facebook and my Cunningham family page and we began a bit of a correspondence. Last year she was in Texas on Halloween and we went out to dinner and got acquainted really well. She is a missionary, which is about as far removed from my life as you can get, but she is a writer and a lover of life and interesting things and we find plenty to talk about. She came by tonight and we just stayed at the house and had pizza and wine and visited a bit. It was lovely.

I can’t wait to see who drops in next…

March 30, 2014

Blogging Again

Filed under: Cemeteries,Travel,Writing — Janice @ 8:08 pm

I have to learn how to write a blog post all over again. I did upgrade my computer after having the difficulties before. I got a nice pretty sleek new HP and it is working like a dream. Like many people, I didn’t like Windows 8. I went in with the intention of upgrading my knowledge and learning to like it, but soon learned it was invented for people with a tablet and the ability to swipe swipe swipe with their fingers to get to things. Like the lady says, "I ain’t got time for that s***." Finding that it took about 5 clicks just to get the power to turn off, I went in search of a better way. I found a program (and this reminds me I need to go actually buy it, I’m in a trial) that makes everything look like Windows 7 did. It’s called Start 8 and it is good. My menus are all just like they were before. I haven’t found a downside to it yet.

Mark and I have been out taking bluebonnet pictures today and last weekend. That sent me looking through old bluebonnet pictures. I could make album after album of me in the bluebonnets. It is awfully narcissistic to have so many photos in the bluebonnets, but when I’ve got a great photographer for a husband and I love the bluebonnets, I don’t care what others might say. I never had my picture in the bluebonnets as a baby or a child, so I’m making up for lost time.

I was looking through the pictures from a great trip we took 2 years ago. I can’t believe it has already been 2 years. After the craziness of South By Southwest, we ran off to Taos to give Mark several days in a row in the same place to rest and recuperate. As I recall, he felt no need to rest and we were on the go every day walking to the Plaza or driving to the canyon bridge or exploring something. It was a wonderful vacation with lots of adventures and a LITTLE bit of rest.

One memory was about how my keen eye for a cemetery gave me one to explore. We were driving down from Eagle Nest after a terrific hamburger at a little Mom and Pop roadside restaurant and enjoying the vista. Suddenly, off to the side, up a steep incline, I saw a grave marker or a cross or something that said CEMETERY to me. I hollered, "Cemetery," and Mark, being the great exploration companion that he is, threw on the brakes, put it in reverse and got us parked beside the road before I bailed out to see what I could find.


Very few graves were readable. There was one or two stone ones that were "real" carved tombstones. One was for a poor little 4-year-old boy that died in 1913. I can only imagine how tough the conditions were in the mountains of New Mexico in 1913. New Mexico had only been a state for a year or so when he died. He had a Spanish surname so his family may have lived in the area for generations, going back to Mexico. Or maybe they had just come there, looking to homestead.


I don’t remember how it happened, but I do remember turning in that cemetery and falling face-forward downhill. Luckily, I fell and stopped. I might have tumbled all the way to the road. It was a super sandy, fine dusty dirt and I came up covered. I wasn’t hurt and the fun continued with more careful footing.







There was no gate or sign on the cemetery, so I didn’t know the name, but I though I certainly would be able to find it on a map or on findagrave.com in the future. No such luck. I can’t even pinpoint exactly where it was and if I went back again I don’t know that my eyes would be able to find it.


This cemetery had no bluebonnets, which is what I really love, so I hope I can continue the postings and get to the fabulous pictures Mark took last week at a bluebonnet covered cemetery. My friend Diana and I are getting together tomorrow to turn over a new leaf and make a pact and write more in our blogs, so I hope that happens. I know the getting-together will happen. I hope the pact and the writing happens.

November 3, 2013

Sally’s Corpus Christi Grave

Filed under: Cemeteries,Genealogy,Travel — Janice @ 10:32 pm

Mark and I went to Port Aransas for a very quick trip this weekend. He played a gig there for the Outdoor Dream Foundation with Tommy Alverson. Mark played with Tommy 20 years ago when we were newlyweds and this was the same four members of the band he played with then, so it was a very fun reunion for the guys. The band wives didn’t have the same kind of reunion because I was the only band wife that has stayed the same over the past 20 years. But I very much like the two band wives that were there, so it was a fun time for me, too.

The small portion of the trip I want to tell about right now, though, is about going to a cemetery (big groan from the audience—“Not again!”). Yes, we had to make a cemetery trip along with seeing the beach and friends and eating seafood.

I haven’t been to Corpus Christi or Port Aransas in a long while and in the meantime I have discovered that my great-great-great-grandmother was buried there. This is NOT a place I would have looked to find her grave since my family is centered in Central Texas. Her husband is buried in Dripping Springs, in Hays County, not all that far from our home. But he died in 1868 and she outlived him. I knew she was still alive in 1900 because she was living with her son’s family in Comanche at that time. But he died in 1902 so I could surmise that if she outlived her son she might go live with another child, but I just didn’t know much about the other children.

This trip makes me want to go back and do some more research on the Hallford family. I spent a LOT of time researching the Hallfords back in the days before I did research online. Now I can hardly remember how research was done before we did it online! Mainly what I did was write letters and people would send me good information and I compiled it. I wasn’t much of a good researcher then either. But I did write a book about our Hallford family just to give to the members of the Hallford family. That’s been 20 years and needs a good update with more of the information that is available in the world.

I had found the grave of “a” Sarah Hallford on findagrave.com at one time. The ages seemed right, but you still can’t be sure. But a summer or so ago I saw a book on Nueces County cemeteries and found just the bits of information I needed to prove that this Sarah Hallford was my g-g-g-grandmother. Of course, now I’m hunting to find what I DID with that information and I’m stumped, but I’ll come across it again.

So Sarah Hallford went to live with her youngest daughter Rebecca and her husband (and their name is the info I have misplaced). She is buried in the “New Bayview Cemetery” in Corpus Christi. I read up on it and found that the “Old Bayview Cemetery” has been protected and preserved because it is the oldest cemetery in Corpus. We found it first today. We didn’t get out to see it, but I did take this quick picture. It looked nice and cared for. The New Bayview Cemetery was established later in the 1800s and then it fell into disrepair and disuse and has not been kept up. Sadly, I also read that just this summer, most of the gravestones had been vandalized.


We found the cemetery easily. It is in a very poor, sketchy part of town. If I had been here on my own I might have snapped a picture from the car and driven on. Okay, maybe not that bad, but it wasn’t well kept. The cemetery is in two parts with a park in the middle. I don’t think that was the original plan and I’m not sure that the park wasn’t built on TOP of graves. But we found the further south section to begin with. There were very few graves visible and there were toppled gravestones, so this didn’t look good for finding her grave if there were no stones. We went on and checked out the more northern part of the cemetery and it looked much more like a cemetery should with lots of headstones… but they were almost all on the ground. It was the saddest sight. Sadder than the cemeteries I’ve been in where they have just been abandoned (well, like the cemetery where her husband is at in Dripping Springs, for instance). Huge headstones were laying everywhere and some were in pieces.

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We got out and started looking through the cemetery. There is a picture of her headstone on findagrave, so I had an idea of what it looked like. The picture appears to be black-and-white and it looked like her stone was gray and laying flat on the ground, but it was hard to tell because it had been tightly cropped. We walked in different directions and I took pictures of some of the other graves. I really didn’t think we would find it. Mark caught up with me to see if I had found anything and then he turned around and said, “There she is.”


Her stone was on the ground, not connected to the base, but it was face up so we could find her name. We took our pictures and then we put the headstone back on its base. At that point, though, we decided it was so top heavy and it wasn’t going to be firmly attached. If it got knocked over again it would probably fall face down and someone like us might never discover her. So we put it back the way we found it and will hope that vandals will leave it alone.

The cemetery is owned by the city and I think there are efforts to preserve it, but I know in tight times, money spent to memorialize someone long dead with no family is hard to come by.

Who she was:

This is just the short, off-the-top-of-my-head, version. I will go back and find all the details and make it a better history. But maybe this will help someone that is just Googling her name. Sarah Medlin Hallford was born in Bedford County, Tennessee, December 12, 1812. 201 years ago. 201! She went by the name Sally. Her husband, James Powel Hallford, was born in South Carolina. They married October 2, 1834, probably in Tennessee. They moved eventually to Moniteau County, Missouri, and both of their parents and families also moved.

In the last year of the Republic of Texas, Sally and her husband James, and her brothers and sisters and their spouses all moved to Texas as a group, by wagon train, of course. They were called The Missouri Colony and they settled near Lewisville and it was called Hallford (or Holford or Halford) Prairie. They also then settled near Southlake and Grapevine and were all charter members of the Lonesome Dove Baptist Church. I need to nail down the dates of all of these things. It’s all documented, I don’t have to dig it all up, at least.

Her oldest son, Andrew Jackson Hallford became a well-known preacher and is buried in the cemetery there at the Lonesome Dove Baptist church. He and his brother John Harrison Hallford (my great-great-grandfather) enlisted together in the Civil War.

Sally and her husband James and their children’s families and at least her brother and his family all moved to Hays County in the 1860s. They were charter members of the Friendship Baptist Church there and it, like Lonesome Dove, still exists.

Her husband died in 1868 at the age of 56. I don’t know from that point when the family moved to Comanche County. Well, at least my part of the family did. And, like I said, she was living with that family during the 1900 census. I would assume she may have moved from child to child. That was how it was done a lot in those days. But her son, John Harrison Hallford, went to Greer County, Oklahoma, to help with the cotton crop and died while he was there. I’ve always said he went to help his son with the cotton crop, but now I see that his son had already died. But that would have left his two sons to be only in their twenties so maybe they needed help from their grandfather because of that. I don’t know details, but I know he died in Blair, Oklahoma, and was buried there. That left Sally with her daughter-in-law and grandchildren in Comanche so at some point I can only assume she went to live with her youngest child, Rebecca, and her husband in Corpus Christi.

You’d think I wouldn’t have a photo of anyone that was born 201 years ago and died over 100 years ago, but, amazingly, I do have a photo. I was lucky enough to meet a cousin that was researching the family and she gave me a copy of this amazing photograph of my great-great-grandparents and his mother Sarah Medlin Hallford. The photo was made in Laredo and at one point I had a theory of why they were in Laredo. Now, of course, I can’t find the info I drew this theory from. But I believe that the wife (Mary Jane Leonard Hallford) had a brother Levi in Laredo so they must have gone to visit him. But, despite the short fat gray-headed woman looking like the oldest, she is the wife of the man, John Harrison Hallford, and the woman on the left is Sally Hallford, buried in Corpus Christi, Texas.


August 9, 2013

Amarillo Trip

Filed under: Family,Travel — Janice @ 10:00 pm

If I want to tell you about all my traveling, I have a lot of catching up to do. In July I had a great trip to my hometown of Amarillo for many reasons. What started as a mini-high-school reunion also turned into a family reunion and a great visit/cemetery tromp with an old friend. I haven’t found a good way to share the pictures with the family, so I may as well just share them with the world. These are my mother and sister (who traveled with me) and my 3 aunts (Mom’s sisters) and some of their families. My cousin Sonia is one of those people who can make things happen and she started this and it turned into a nice party. Sonia’s in the pics along with my cousin Patsy and her husband David (and a cool golf club collection that he also came to pick up), and all of my cousin Judy’s kids and about half of their kids. I was glad to get to meet the two newest members of our family:  sweet Harper Jane and beautiful Madyson Lynn. For such a short visit, we squeezed in a lot of fun. We even managed to make a drive through one of my “sacred spaces”—Palo Duro Canyon. It is ever changing and unchanging. The quilt was a really neat gift from Sonia with pictures of another sister trip she engineered a couple of years ago. Aunt Dorothy just had her 90th birthday. That’s a birthday book that Aunt Louie is studying and reading all the cards. So here are the pictures:

And before we left town, Mother and I drove around town and visited cemeteries and we also found this house:


I don’t know how I had never seen this house before or even thought about seeking it out. This was the house my mother and her parents and her younger sister lived in when Mother met and married Daddy. Her younger sister was already married, but Uncle Jay was in the service in Korea so she was living with the family. This house is just a block away from Route 66. I’ve always thought it was cool that I was born on Route 66. It adds to the coolness that Mom and Dad were falling in love on it.

May 5, 2013

Too Many Stories

Filed under: Bluebonnets,Cemeteries,Family,Taphophilia,Travel — Janice @ 9:43 pm

I have too many stories rattling around in my head. Every time I think about putting one down, another crowds in and says, “What about me???? You were going to tell about me a year ago. Surely my story is of more import to your thousands of readers and the generations to come than THAT one.” And as soon as I start to consider that and move my thoughts that direction, another demanding, irritating story comes begging in an even more sniveling whiney tone and before long I shut the whole process down and eat chocolate.

I call it my “artistic process.”

Trouble is, time passes and the weight increases, but there are no blogs in the pipeline, no pages piled by the typewriter, no checks in the mail from New York publishers.

So let me tell a story. ANY story. The first story that comes to mind, the closest at hand, the freshest. All those stories of my ancestors can wait a day or 10. Or until I run out of chocolate.

Mark and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary on April 24th. We are both a little bit gobsmacked (I am not certain that is the word, but it feels right) that we have achieved such a momentous occasion. Him more so than me because I always believed I would get to a 20th anniversary. Since he had had some rough starts and do-overs, he is especially pleased to prove that he could do it. Do it he did. The 20 years flew by and we are still happily doing lots of the things we were doing when we fell in love and started this adventure.

On the weekend after our anniversary we did some of those fun things. On our honeymoon trip we went in search of antiques and bluebonnets and small towns and cemeteries. We did that again.

Our main goal on the first trip was to go to Pontotoc and see the Union Band Cemetery. Mark had discovered it online somehow and had seen a beautiful picture of it in the bluebonnets.  Last year we stopped in Pontotoc on our way to Santa Fe and Taos. It is an interesting small Texas town because it has ruins like few towns have. There are walls and window sills of an abandoned academy that operated there in the 1870s and 1880s. Across the road is another brick building, empty and abandoned. The academy stopped operating in the 1880s when a typhoid fever epidemic wiped out lots of people in the town. In the 1940s, a fire destroyed most of the buildings in the town. The town never recovered and the ruins are still there and are incredibly picturesque.

Sadly, a little abandoned cemetery lies just north of the town. And when I say abandoned, I really mean abandoned. There is no sign or indication that it is a cemetery, only the fact that you can see some graves there. It did look like someone had cleared some mesquite and prickly pear at one time, but they are really fighting a losing battle.


Most of the graves were like this… rock enclosures with no markings or identification. Some were upright and in place like the one on the left, but most were tumbledown. Mark noticed that the death dates all seemed to be about 1888. When I got home I looked up the cemetery and read that the typhoid epidemic was about that time and a local doctor was worried that the cemetery was too close to the water supply and the city established a new cemetery on the other side of town. Another account said that the first cemetery got full and they had to start the second. We went to it, too, and it is the “new” cemetery and was founded in 1885. So I don’t know the full story of the change in cemeteries. The new one was very nice and grass and a few bluebonnets. It was a mix of old graves and new.


I always feel sorry for gravestones that are totally crowded out by trees.

And we did make it to the Union Band Cemetery, which had more bluebonnets than any, but they were going to seed. Notice that this grave has a Texas Ranger marker to the right. Ranger Miller would have been a ranger in the early part of the 20th Century. I’ll have to look him up. He may have been on the border watching out for Pancho Villa.


We didn’t JUST visit cemeteries with strangers in them. We went through Llano on the way out (and, yes, ate at Cooper’s Barbecue) and I had Mark swing through the huge Llano City Cemetery. I had looked up the location of an aunt and uncle, but didn’t know if I would be able to locate them. Having a location and looking at it on Google or a map is a whole different experience than finding it on the ground, I have discovered. But we got to the area and Mark spotted the Hallford grave right off the bat. He has the pictures with that grave so I can’t post it yet. It is the grave of my great-grandfather’s brother Johnny. I have a transcript of a diary or a life story that his wife, Mattie Phillips Hallford wrote about her young life and their courtship and marriage. It is the sweetest document. I was glad to get to see her grave.

So that was just a small portion of one day of our long weekend celebrating our 20th year of marriage.  I guess I’ll steal Mark’s Facebook photo he took of us in Pontotoc. This is the ruins of the Academy that we’ve watched deteriorate over the years. I guess it could same the same about us.



January 29, 2013

Part I of my Super Saturday

Filed under: Cemeteries,Taphophilia,Travel — Janice @ 8:53 am

A few months ago an old friend sent a message saying that she knew I loved old cemeteries and she did, too. She suggested I come to San Antonio and tour a beautiful cemetery at a convent with her and maybe some others she knew about. I thought that was a great idea, but I am not much of a “doer.” But, though I am calendar-challenged, I put a recurring not on my Google calendar to keep reminding me about this offer because I wanted to take her up on it. When Mark gave me the dates of his trip to California I thought that that might be the perfect weekend to plan to go so San Antonio. It all worked out perfectly with Cathy, too, and she was free to show me around.

I had not seen Cathy in about 30 years. We were in college at the same time, but she was already a professional in Amarillo radio by the time I was just getting started so we weren’t close friends. We knew the same people and had lots in common and knew one another, but we didn’t keep in touch after college except that I would see her doing TV news and I assume she heard me on the radio. She moved away and I did, too. We did both end up in Austin at one time and we emailed back and forth and said we should get together, but that didn’t happen. One super nice thing about Facebook is that you can reconnect with people that maybe you didn’t know well and learn more about them. She saw my interest in cemeteries and here we are.

Her beautiful home was my first stop, but I haven’t “developed” the pictures of it yet (I like using archaic terms). It is a SWEET bungalow in a historic district in the western parts of HUGE San Antonio. I have never driven in San Antonio where I didn’t get lost or off on the wrong freeway. Yes, I did briefly on this trip, too, as I came home, but fortunately there was a second exit that did the same thing as the exit I missed.

Let’s jump right on to the cemetery. This is just Part 1 because I counted something like 29 cemeteries that we saw on Saturday. Hard to fathom that you can go to that many cemeteries in one day and in Part II I will explain how that it possible. But first we went to the University of the Incarnate Word.  It is a beautiful university with a long history. Cathy wanted to show me the chapel there, but it was locked. She says it is beautiful. Cathy is Catholic so she would have been able to stop me from doing something totally stupid in the cathedral, which I am likely to do. I told her how I am the ultimate cafeteria Catholic, as my friend Beth calls me, and my attendance on St. Blaise Day, which is coming up this weekend, by the way.

The University was founded by the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, an order begun by a Bishop from France that came to Texas and saw the need just after the Civil War and brought 3 nuns over to begin a hospital in Galveston. They have done some amazing things.

Their cemetery was small, spare, and very peaceful. I posted a picture yesterday. Here are some more:

This is the entrance to the cemetery with roses and a guardian angel and a child. The nuns ran an orphanage that had a terrible fire in the 1910s. Cathy knew so many stories about the nuns, the convent, the orphanage, and all of San Antonio. She was a great tour guide.


Like a military cemetery, the graves were (mostly) alike and lined up so neatly. On all of these older graves, there were death dates, but no birth dates. On flat gravestones that were newer (and I didn’t take pictures), they did have both birth and death.


This is the grave of one of the first 3 nuns that came to start this order in Texas. I wonder how old she was when she came? Can you imagine the sacrifices she had already made in her life to become a nun and then to leave the relative modern life of France in the 1860s to come to war-torn Texas with only 2 other nuns to begin hospitals and schools? Amazing. You see she did die in France, so she did get to return at some point, but then her body was returned here.


Looking toward the rear of the cemetery and a statue of the Jesus with the “flaming heart” that you see in Mexican culture so often. Another picture of that beautiful oak tree coming up. To the left of the tree is an altar.


This is the altar up close. I really would not have noticed it and thought of it as an altar if Cathy hadn’t pointed that out to me. I have not been to Catholic cemeteries enough or haven’t been observant enough to realize that is what they are there for. She said the tradition of the altar at the cemetery had been going away, but is coming back again.


And the final picture, this beautiful oak tree, which really was the most outstanding focal point of the cemetery. It was easy to imagine the founders of the cemetery choosing this spot because of the spreading arms of the oak, because I am sure they were not much smaller when the cemetery was begun over 100 years ago.  Imagine it without the fence, the parking lot, the cars, and envision this area away from the city center and a peaceful convent cloistered from the city and the world, as the nuns and a priest buried the first sister of their order.


That was just stop ONE of our day and we hadn’t even had lunch yet. I could have been satisfied with just this one beautiful cemetery, but there was a lot more to come. And we’ll get to that eventually in Part II.

January 28, 2013

An Outstanding Day

Filed under: Cemeteries,Travel — Janice @ 9:12 am

I had a super Saturday. Lots of details to come. The day did involve some rolling under cemetery gates.  Here’s a glimpse of the first stop …


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