AUTOBIOGRAPHY AND REMINISCENCES, Wiley M. Crook
JOHNSON COUNTY, TEXAS
I will now take up my narrative following the marriage of sister Susan, Elijah and myself. Nannie continued to live with Elijah until she and John Brown were married in the spring of 1869. In order to settle with sister Susan as her guardian, I sold her husband my land and rented a place from Cousin Elizabeth Dodds, a widowed cousin of my father.
On Sunday, August 15, 1869, our first baby was born, Lee F. Crook, now living at Belleview, Clay county, Texas. In the fall of this year I bought 150 acres of land from Cousin Sarah Brown, another widowed cousin of my father. She is yet living in Tennessee. January, 1870, we moved on our newly purchased place, that was first settled by the parents of my second and present wife about the year 1840. The four years of Civil war and devastation had made its impress upon this farm:
I cleared some new land during this year. On November 8, 1871, a second son was born to us. We repaired the buildings, made new fences around our fields, cleared land, cut ditches, and cleaned up briars and bushes. We named our second baby James S. Crook. We continued to live on the farm until the fall of 1873, when we sold it with a view of moving to Texas. However, we rented land from Aunt Nancy Allen, a sister of my paternal grandmother. During this year, Uncle Ervin Grider, who had gone to Cass county, Mo., influenced us to go to that country instead of Texas. In December, 1874, we moved to Missouri and rented a farm of 40 acres.
In January I took pneumonia and came very near dying. In the spring of 1875 I prepared and planted my crop, but the grasshoppers ate it all up.
We became dissatisfied. I asked my landlord to release me from my rental contract, which he granted, and on the 7th of June we started in a two-horse wagon to Texas. We went south through west Missouri and down to Montgomery county, Arkansas, where my brother Elijah lived on the Ouachita river. We remained with Elijah and rested. He wanted us to stay, but we did not like that country. In September, 1875, we started to Texas in our wagon, going through the Indian Territory and crossed Red river at the mouth of Mill creek and camped for the night. Next morning we resumed our journey, passing through Dallas, and reached the home of Cousin I. J. L. Pearson in Johnson county, in October, 1875.
This is where we had planned to go when we sold our farm in the fall of 1873, but changed our minds and went to Missouri. We were 34 days on the road from Cass county, Missouri, to Johnson county, Texas. I was now thirty years old and my wife 23, Lee 6, and Jimmie 4. We had made nothing and spent considerable moving this year. If we had gone to Texas direct from Tennessee, I could have paid for 100 acres of land and had more left than we possessed, a mistake I very much regretted. It was only by hard labor and strict economy that we regained our lost time and money—a mistake I have always regretted—a lost 1875.
We rented and moved on a farm near cousin Ira Pearson’s home. He was of much help to us in getting located. We lived on this place the years 1876 and 1877.
On October 21, 1877, a daughter was born to us. We named her Mary Loula.
Elvis Rhodes, Tom and Hugh Pridy, came from Tennessee and visited us. Tom and Hugh stayed in the country a year, during which time their father also visited us. We rented a farm from George Granbury, a relative of General Granbury of the Confederate army, for the year 1878. January, 1879, we moved to a prairie 160 acres I had bought from the county school land domain, enclosed 50 acres and put it into cultivation. This was a hard year on us. 1880 was no better, as our new prairie land did not yield good crops, but we did better in 1881. May 8, 1882, our youngest son, John Wiley Crook, was born. He is now 35 years old and lives at Denison, Texas. In August, 1884, we had a Confederate reunion at Cleburne, Texas. I carried the flag of the 57th Indiana regiment, captured at Franklin, Tennessee, to this reunion, with the hope that its exhibition would lead to a way for its return to the survivors of that Indiana regiment. This flag was unfurled on the speakers’ stand, which attracted the attention of the people. I was interviewed concerning the capture and keeping of this flag. I made known my wish to return it to those who lost it. Col. W. D. Wyley of the Federal army, and Major E. M. Heath, of the Confederate army, helped me to plan for the return of this flag. It was found that Kokomo, Indiana, was the home of Colonel Blanch, who commanded the 57th Indiana at Franklin, and he called a reunion of his regiment in September to receive the flag, and requested that I accompany its return. Major Heath and Captain Vial of the Confederate army, Colonel Wyley and G. U. Service of the Federal army, all of Texas, went with me to Kokomo. We were met by a committee and cordially greeted by a reception given in our honor. The next day the ladies arranged a reception to meet me. I asked Colonel Wyley to go with me, so at the appointed time we met those good Indiana women in the parlor of the hotel. We were introduced to the ladies, and I asked further acquaintance with the wife of Colonel Blanch. Her daughter escorted me to her mother. I learned that she had helped to make this beautiful silk banner. She thanked me for its preservation these twenty years, asking what prompted its return. I told her that the flag was captured on the soil of my native State, that I had kept it as a trophy of war, but now we are a united nation and that my children were reared under its ample folds; we, like you, love that flag. The next day this flag was presented by the Texas delegation to Colonel Blanch. Then followed a gift to me of a twenty-dollar gold medal. This was the first captured flag of the Civil war to be returned. Its example has been followed many times, resulting in a resolution by Congress to return all captured Confederate flags. I claim no distinction or notoriety in the capture of this flag; it was my duty, and no less to return it. On my way home from Kokomo I visited my mother in Tennessee, not having seen her in ten years.
We continued to live on the prairie farm in Johnson county, Texas. In 1887 we sent our oldest son to a high school. During the year 1888, two railroads were built, crossing seven miles from our home. I was first to put in a store and establish a post office at this crossing, naming it Cresson, Texas. We moved to Cresson in 1889, selling our farm and buying 80 acres near Cresson. In 1894, we sent our daughter to the Baptist University at Waco, Texas. On the 4th of May, 1895, she died at Waco. Her mother, eldest brother and myself were at her bedside.
In 1901, our youngest son graduated in the Cresson high school. In September we sent him to Bryan, Texas, to our Agricultural and Mechanical college.
On October 3, 1903, my wife died. Although many years have passed, yet I shrink in sorrow as I record this sad event.
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