AUTOBIOGRAPHY AND REMINISCENCES, Wiley M. Crook
STAR CITY, ARKANSAS
I lived with my eldest son. Dr. L. F. Crook, after the death of his mother and continued my work as postmaster. In September, 1904, my son, John, and I visited my mother, relatives and friends in Tennessee. My daughter-in-law, with whom I lived, was sick with a lingering disease all of the year 1905, and died in the hospital at Fort Worth. My home was again broken up. My second son, James S. Crook, offered me a home at his house, but in order to continue as postmaster, I secured a home with Brother Horton, a deacon of the Baptist church.
In the winter of 1905, I visited my sister at Hico, Texas. From her I learned the address of our mutual friend, Mrs. H. L. Barham, a widow in Arkansas, whom we each had known in Tennessee. I wrote a letter to Mrs. Barham, telling her of visiting my sister, and of my visit to Tennessee the year before, and in a genera] way renewed our friendship, expressing a wish to see her. She answered my letter in an appreciative tone, telling me of a Confederate reunion near Star City, inviting me to come to see Arkansas soldiers. I accepted her invitation and was at Ben McCullough Camp No. 542 reunion, July 21, 1906. My visit was a pleasant one. My association with Mrs. Barham appeared congenial. I became impressed that we could with propriety consider together a further renewal of our friendship and told her we already thought enough of each other to treat each other right. After reaching my home in Texas, I wrote to Mrs. Barham. A correspondence ensued, resulting in a marriage engagement, which was consummated in January, 1907, at Texarkana, Texas. We went to her home near Cornerville, Ark. Her daugter Alva, 16 years old, and son Curtis, 11, were yet in the home. I joined the Baptist church at Cornerville. Brother H. G. Johnson was pastor. The people were kind to me. I enjoyed the associations of my newly-made friends.
At Christmas I went to see my people in Texas, a time I greatly enjoyed’ after a year’s absence from them. In the summer of 1908, I was called back to Texas at the death of my brother, but burial had already taken place.
In September, 1908, at the Friendship Baptist Association, I was elected on the board of directors of our academy at Star City, identifying me with the Baptists and other good people of that town. I recall Wilford F. Norton, J. M. C. Young and others of my acquaintance.
My sister Susan, who lived at Hico, Texas, died in October, I believe it was, but I could not attend her bedside, but in December visited my relatives, and my niece, Hannah Crook, came home with me. In January, 1909, our daughter Alva, and E. K. Stephens, were married. In June of this year I went to our Confederate reunion at Memphis. My wife and her sister, Mary Floyd, of Texas, went with me. We there met another sister of theirs and my sister Nannie of Tennessee, together with many of my soldier friends.
At the September, 1909, term of our circuit court, I was drawn a member of the grand jury, giving me a splendid opportunity to meet many of Lincoln county’s citizens. Just after adjournment of court our Baptist association met with the Star City church. I was a delegate from Cornerville church, and through Pastor H. G. Johnson a way was opened by which a trade was made that myself and wife move into the dormitory and board the pupils of the academy at Star City. We took charge in October, 1909. I feel impelled to mention the teachers and some of the young men and women with whom we were associated in this school. Teachers were: G. W. Brindell, W. A. Fish, Miss Neva Ray, Miss Ruth Ray, Miss Georgia Warden and Miss Lillian Brice, music teacher. The young ladies, Nettie Atkinson, Ruby Fish, Lela Irwin, Mary McClain, Jewel Moran, Ether Nobles, Ethel Owen, Grace Reed, Mellie Saint, Mignon Rogers, Ida May Thompson, Grace Vick, Bessie Wilkes, Jewel Palmer and Geneva Hays. Of the above two have since died, and seven married. The young men, Frank, Ben and James Bridges, Curtis Barham, Boyd Atkinson, Chris Atkinson, Odwin Brackman, Howard Chambliss, Hardy Cogbill, Jess Cogbill, Orman Dean, Floyd Fish, Robt. Hoover, Joe Hunter, Iredell Leek, Will Leek, T. J. Johnson, Otis Johnson, Alma Nobles, H. D. Palmer Jr., Earl Raley, Harolson Steed, Jno. Sweeney, Clyde Stewart, Vernon Tarver, Jas. Wilkes and Joe Wilson. Of the boys, three have died, seven married, and five have volunteered in defense of our country against German autocracy. It is in grateful memory that I pen these names, all whom I love.
At the close of school in May, 1911, it was decided to discontinue it, as attendance did not justify carrying it on. Arrangements were made for us to stay in the dormitory to care for the property.
Our twenty-first annual Confederate reunion was at Little Rock, May 16, 17 and 18 of this year. I attended it and met Jap Steagall, whom I had not seen for thirty years. We were in the same company. I spent the summer months in getting acquainted with the people of Lincoln county, and looking for something to do that would suit better than to return to the farm. During the teachers’ institute, conducted in the academy building, some of the teachers boarded with us, and I made the acquaintance of the school teachers of our county. After the expiration of the institute I visited my friend and comrade, Dr. T. W. Vick, at Cornerville. He suggested that I make the race in the coming primary for county treasurer. Doctor Vick, an old settler, well and favorably known in the county, impressed me by this suggestion. My wife having lived in the county twenty-five years, I consulted her about this important step. We talked with other friends, and I decided to make the race, and canvassed the county October, November and December, 1911 and January, 1912. I was nominated in the county primary February, 1912. Our reunion was at Macon, Ga., in May. I went to it and came back through Tennessee to see my sisters, relatives and friends. In June I built a residence on a seven-acre lot previously purchased. In August, 1912, my second son, J. S. Crook, of Texas, died. I attended the burial, not reaching there in time to see him alive. I had never expected to outlive either of my three sons, but cherished the hope of leaning on them for comfort in my declining years. Jimmie was a member of the church that I helped to organize.
I was elected in our general election September, 1912, and made a bond of $70,000 and was sworn into office the following November. We moved into our new home. The Baptist Academy being discontinued, we formed a high school in the session opening in October. Miss Cora Boyd lived with us and taught in our school. I again went to’ our reunion at Chattanooga, Tenn., June, 1913, ‘and visited my people in Tennessee on my return home.
In May, 1914, our son, Curtis H. Barham, graduated in our high school, of which we were very proud. I another time went to our reunion at Jacksonville, Fla., and had the pleasure of visiting Miss Lillian Brice at Douglas, Ga., on way home. In August, 1914, I went to Henderson, Tenn., to a local reunion of my former friends and comrades, some of whom I had not met since I left that county forty years before.
I was again elected county treasurer, September, 1914, and renewed my bond and assumed second term first of November.
I did not go to reunion at Richmond in June, 1913, but went to Birmingham in 1916.
I again made the race for county treasurer, and, thank the Lord and the people, was the third time elected in November, 1916.
In July, 1916, our son, Curtis, volunteered in Company F of the First Arkansas National Guards and served on the border of Mexico. That regiment was recalled to arms to defend our country from Germany’s atrocious acts against our Government and humanity. Curtis is now in the officers’ training camp at Little Rock. He is past twenty-one years old, and I am much pleased at his progress as a boy and a soldier. I attended our reunion at Washington, helping to at last capture the great capitol of our Government.
I have gone to seven out of the last nine Confederate reunions. I do not think I will attend another east of the Mississippi river. The trips are too great and tiresome for me now.
In early life I made notes of facts concerning my ancestry, learned from older relatives. I began writing the manuscript two years ago at leisure moments and almost completed the write-up last April, but found it necessary to rewrite and greatly condense on account of cost of publication.
This little book is written for the benefit of my children, relatives, comrades, their sons and my friends with the hope that any mistakes may be excused and worthy actions on the part of the writer may be emulated.
I have asked Richard G. Ried, a nephew of ours, to write a foreword for these reminiscences.
June 25, 1917, Star City, Ark.
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