I once read that a Little Rock woman who had died about 15 years ago was the widow of a Civil War veteran. That was hard to imagine until I read further and learned that she was only 19 when she married the 86-year-old veteran.
Maudie White Hopkins was one of 10 children in her family growing up during the Great Depression. To help out her family, she did laundry and cleaned the house for an elderly Confederate veteran, William M. Cantrell, who lived alone.
He made her an offer she couldn’t refuse when he told her he would will his land and his home to her if she would marry him and care for him in his later years, according to the story.
She agreed. They were married in 1934 and he lived only three more years. She was 93 years old when she died in east Arkansas.
The article said she never talked much about that marriage because she was afraid that people would think less of her, but she began telling people about it when another widow in Alabama died and her family claimed she was the last widow of a Confederate veteran.
She said that she married Mr. Cantrell because she had to do what she could to survive. After his death she married a second time and became the mother of three children.
According to the story Mr. Cantrell — and she called him Mr. Cantrell all their married lives, supported her with his Confederate pension of $25 every two or three months. She was awarded the property after he died and she took a little mule he had and plowed a vegetable garden to have vegetables to eat.
That article reminded me of two things — Beulah Riddle of Sherman, who was “a real daughter” of a Confederate veteran; and my great-grandmother Lydia Jane Rasor Hendrix Snavely.
I remember Beulah when I was women’s editor for the Denison Herald many years ago and covered a lot of events for the Grayson County Extension Service, including Home Demonstration Club and 4-H activities. At that time, Beulah was secretary in the Extension Service Office at the courthouse in Sherman, where she kept records, answered the telephone and handled all kinds of things.
She worked in that office for 20 years, first with Eunice King, who hired her, then with Miss Zelma Moore for 18 years. I’m sure there are others besides me who remember her quiet, kind, helpful manner there in the courthouse. When she retired, the county entertained her at a grand party.
All during that time, I didn’t realize her connection to the Civil War. It wasn’t until years later after my uncle, the late Senior District Judge R.C. Vaughan tape recorded an interview with Miss Riddle and gave me a copy that I learned of her ancestry.
Beulah was one of 14 children. Her father, William Hull, was a member of Company C, 16th Texas Dismounted Cavalry, Mississippi Division, serving under General Walker. He was known as Bill to his family and friends and was a farmer and stockman who raised mules, horses and cows.
Beulah remembered many high or low points in Sherman’s history. In an interview by Dr. Ed Phillips of Sherman that Judge Vaughan recorded on her 98th birthday, Dec. 3, 1984, she said the family’s home at Preston Bend didn’t escape the infamous Sherman Tornado. A lot of big oak trees that surrounded the house lost their limbs when the tornado “kind of passed over and dropped a lot of stuff in the yard,” she said. Her father went to Sherman to help clear the debris.
She saw Teddy Roosevelt in Sherman when he visited in 1905 and said it was a colorful event right down Travis Street.
She said her family didn’t have one of the first automobiles, but neighbors did. They rode in a surrey, horse drawn buggy and a wagon and had several of them on the farm that they left behind when they moved to Sherman in a buggy after her father died.
When the Vin Fiz, the first airplane to fly over Grayson County, landed on the Hull farm, Beulah said it set down about two or three blocks from their house and she could pinpoint the location to within four or five feet. She saw the pilot, Calbraith Rodgers, who made the first transcontinental flight across the country in the little box kite airplane that now is in the Smithsonian Museum of Air and Space in Washington D.C.
She worked at Hardwick & Etter in 1930 when the girls in the office heard that the courthouse was burning. Without asking permission to leave, she said they all ran out of the office to see what was going on. They went down to the Sherman square and were watching the happenings until their boss, W.H. Altman, sent someone to tell them that they might be in danger and they should leave the area.
Reluctantly, she said they returned to work. The event interfered with the work at Hardwick & Etter for the next few days, but they tried to stay open.
She knew Sam Rayburn and said she was “crazy about him,” and that she voted for him a number of times. She added that it was a marvelous thing to get to vote in 1920, calling it “a step forward.”
Lydia Hendrix Snavely
My great-grandmother and her husband, John Hendrix, came to Texas from Missouri in a covered wagon with their children, including my grandmother, Annie Armilda Hendrix (Vaughan), who was 4 years old. They lived at Blue Ridge in Fannin County. Lydia’s husband, a farmer, died there of pneumonia.
They were living in Fannin County at the time of the Sherman Tornado and the kids were out hoeing cotton when they saw a great black cloud. They all went into the house and tried to hold the front door closed, but the wind was strong enough that the door blew off its hinges. The kids were scared to death, but all survived.
The family later moved to near Bells and Lydia married another farmer named Jim Snavely, who had four children of his own about the same ages as Lydia’s children. They all moved in together.
My grandmother told me that all the children called their stepfather “Mr. Snavely” until they were grown, then they called him “Dad Snavely.” But Lydia always called her husband “Mr. Snavely,” and he called her “Miz Snavely.” My grandmother said she never heard them call one another by their first names.
Donna Hunt is former editor of The Denison Herald. She lives in Denison and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. She has been a longtime contributor to the Herald Democrat with her bi-weekly column, which appears in the Wednesday and Sunday editions. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.