The Daffodils

The following was written by my oldest brother, Edward Parham, known in our family circle as “Eddie Ray” since long before I was born. Eddie Ray, editor and publisher of The Parham Report and The Parham Review in Camden, wrote this tribute following the death of our mother, Clora Smith Parham, on March 4, 2015. It was a memorial not only to Mama but to Maud Crawford and her unresolved murder and to our grandmother, Essie Jones Smith.


Three March dates now linked in memory

by Edward Parham (The Parham Report, Sunday March 29, 2015 edition, Vol. 23, Number 31)

Among you readers there are doubtless some who know of my predilection for the mystery of Maud Crawford, and are accustomed to – perhaps even anticipate – my refreshing some aspect of her still-unsolved case in observance of the anniversary of her March 2, 1957 disappearance. Perhaps those few noticed that this year’s date passed without my customary entry.

February had worn past Valentine’s Day with me mulling a couple of potential Maud projects. Either one would have had a hard time approaching my 2014 effort, a story based on a sit-down interview with Dorothy Williams. She’d been employed in the 1940s and ‘50s as a legal secretary in the Gaughan, McClellan & Gaughan law firm, and – even all these decades later – was able to provide tunneling insight into the Downtown office suite where Maud Crawford worked.

But just as I was about to try telephoning a prospective interviewee or two, a call came into me instead, from my brother Rodney telling me our mother had had another stroke and was being hospitalized in Fordyce. By the next weekend, she had developed pneumonia and was dying.

On the last evening I saw her alive, sitting in a chair beside her bed, a mirror over a sink reflecting our two faces in a single frame I’ll carry to my own grave – hers unrecognizably weary and in an induced sleep, gasping for every breath; mine in unwanted vigil – it came to me all of a sudden with a horrible dread that at first I wanted to blurt the awful realization out loud: it was March 2. My mother could die  on the same date Maud Crawford vanished.

I’m haunted enough by what remains unrevealed on Clifton Street across the way from what my mother’s extended family called the Big House. Her father – my Granddaddy – had just purchased the old Jack Newton place at Dallas and Greening and was renovating it at the time Maud went missing. That Spring, he and my grandmother moved into the Big House, and Mama and I spent several months while Dad finished out his hitch in the U. S. Air Force. Two years old, going on three, I’m sure I overheard a lot of worried talk about the uncertain fate of the woman who had lived in the imposing edifice across the corner from our screened-in back porch where the door had to be kept latched and pinned to keep me from getting out and roaming the neighborhood. I was notorious for getting loose and leading Grandmama on furious pursuits. She would recall for me in later years that when I’d strike out on tiny legs in the direction of the Crawford home, it was because I was fascinated by a “big white dog” that must have belonged over that way.

This annum’s March 2 came and went with Mama still locked to life. As did March 3, which is significant in Maud Crawford lore for being the date she was discovered to be missing.

Eleven days after this ordeal began, Mama breathed her last late in the afternoon of March 4, with Daddy alone in the room with her, everybody else in the family either already trapped by an approaching wintry storm or behind their doors for the evening to await its icy advance. We all woke up the next quiet morning to a beautiful bottom-side-of-the-quilt snowfall on the ground.

So, no, there’s not the traditional Parham contribution to the Maud Crawford canon the first weekend of March 2015, and I’m left with a sad three-day association for however many more months of March I have left in my life. Each year they come to pass on the calendar, the 2nd, the 3rd and the 4th are sure to come in like the proverbial lion, a gauntlet of difficult memories.


About my mother….

Right there I’m reminded about a long-ago class assignment the week before that Mother’s Day: we first-graders at Leverett Elementary on The Hill just off the University of Arkansas campus in Fayetteville were to write letters of appreciation for our maternal love, instructed to begin with “Dear Mother….”

I balked. With the panicked logic of a six-year-old anxious to avoid trouble at home, I explained to my teacher – and the rest of the class – that my Mama did not like to be called “Mother.”

Actually, this had never come up. It was just that I’d never heard Mama referred to by anything other than “Mama.”

At the end of the day, I was the only kid walking home from Leverett with an envelope tucked inside his satchel, upon which was scrawled “Mama’s Day,” and sealed inside it a letter to “Dear Mama….”

Understandably, many testaments to Mama have crossed my consciousness in the few days since her passing, some expressed by others, some which occurred to me while in the company of people at events attendant to her funeral. Here, I’ll limit myself to three.

First, I remember that the late Ed Falwell, who for years operated the Western Auto store here, used to make it a point – whenever he came across me out in public during my early years reporting for the Camden News – to tell me what a good bookkeeper Clora Parham was. While Dad was serving overseas duty (minding a warehouse of hydrogen bombs on Okinawa during the Korean War), my grandparents relocated from up in the country to Camden so Mama could work keeping the books for Mr. Falwell at his B.F. Goodrich franchise Downtown near Madison and Washington streets. Mr. Falwell like to recall that Clora was smart, pretty and a stickler for balancing numbers.

The Smiths of the tiny Jacinto community on Arkansas 9 North of Holly Springs were all of that bent – preoccupied with measured-up accounts – it seemed to me. They liked to say that each clan member in Granddaddy’s generation was either a (Missionary Baptist) preacher or a (public-school) teacher, but my own private joke with Mama was, that side of her family ought to spell their last name with a $ sign, as in $mith, not that any of them were especially wealthy, but because they had a high regard for the art of not spending any more money than necessary. Granddaddy himself always observed Depression rules when it came to dispensing cash. He preferred shopping at places where he could negotiate down the price.

Granddaddy has been gone from us for 35 years, so I can’t ask him for the details of a mysterious out-of-town gathering of his brothers and sisters back in summery months of the late 1960s. I don’t even remember the town in which it took place, except that it was near the Ouachita River; so probably Arkadelphia or Malvern. The reason I remember it at all, I think, was because he took me along with the promise of as many hamburgers as I could eat for lunch. I said I could eat six (I was probably 14 or 15 years old), and he laughed and ordered six hamburgers. I ate them all and had to concentrate that afternoon not to give away how miserably stuffed I was.

He had me sit outside a meeting room which he entered and shut the door behind him, although I was able to see Aunt Connetta and Aunt Myrtle and all his brothers seated around a table, all of them addressing him in a very formal manner. It was more like a board meeting than a family function, because they were together to discuss some matter of business.

Afterward – I distinctly remember this because he made the observation as if it was something to be marveled at – he said that somebody in the room had solemnly remarked that any two of them would together be worth more than $1 million.


There was the time after Granddaddy died, with the remnants of his extended family divided by a property dispute taken into Dallas County Circuit Court. It went to trial, and Grandmama had me drive her up to Fordyce for it. Straggling into the Courthouse after parking the car, I had the misfortune of encountering one of my grand-uncles at the bottom of a stairway leading to the second-floor courtroom. He grabbed my hand, shook it, and informed me that he loved me, but at that moment was so mad he wanted to punch me in the mouth.

A cousin lawyering in this old case – and who is now a judge on the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals – subsequently developed a deserved reputation in the Western District of Arkansas as a mediator of extraordinary skill. With the outcome of the Fordyce trial twisting unresolved during a recess, he announced his opinion that out of all the Smiths with whom he’d discussed the dispute, only one understood it. He hoped to get her on the witness stand to explain the particulars to the judge, in order to achieve a fair resolution.

“Clora is the Voice of Reason in all of this,” he declared.

But putting Mama on the stand was a tactic of last resort. All parties knew that her disorder, essential (also called benign, or familial) tremor, would prevent her from testifying to any useful effect. And that’s exactly what happened. She tried. She sat in the chair, with all those Smiths looking on. She struggled. But all she managed to do was demonstrate that it is impossible to convey complex statements when the voicing of word upon word is equivalent to arranging blocks of granite.

I have the same problem, and can tell you flatly that it is a debilitating condition. Haven’t lifted a drinking glass in years. Don’t bother trying to dine in public. Can’t hold a newspaper to read it. Can’t tie shoelaces. Can’t take notes. If you’ve heard me speak, you know I sound like I’m either drunk or have had a stroke. And on, and on, and on.

It’s a good thing you can’t see me pecking out these letters. With a computer keyboard, the going is somewhere between laborious and torturous. Without the marvel of word-processing, the Report wouldn’t exist. I’m blessed with a wife who has good use of her hands to do a lot of what I was able to do before my ET worsened, even stepping forward to represent us when the two of us venture out for business.

As part of her burial service at Temperance Hill Cemetery outside Fordyce, members of the Chicot Trace chapter of the Daughters of the Revolution conducted a ceremony to call attention to the fact that Mama was descended from a North Carolinian who defied her husband and aided American forces in the war against the British. I appreciated that one of the women interjected her personal anecdote about how Mama once confided to her how frustrating it was to be without the power of vocalization – that and having to listen to people able to command others’ attention while speaking as an authority on a given subject, when she knew more about it than they did.

There’s a third testament to Mama that I want to get to, but not just yet.


On the day after we buried Mama, I paid $102 to the Camden News to publish her obituary. I’m aggravated that only half of it made it into print.

My baby sister Sandra went ahead and wrote this tribute while sitting up with Mama after she was placed in hospice care. It’s an inspired obituary. I’m disappointed because the passages which elevate it didn’t make the CN cut. I’ve told my sister (in jest) that it’s obviously well-written because so many seem to think I wrote it.

I never intended to publish it here, but because it didn’t reach readers through the Camden daily, and because I think it ought to be read in Camden – even if here I’m reaching only a small fraction of CN’s readership – I’m determined to line it up and try it again, the part which got left off, anyway.

(read Mama’s obituary here)

Mama’s last days numbered 11, but she had already begun to leave us. Three years ago, while on a camping trip in North Arkansas, she sustained a small stroke which left her noticeably frailer and less focused. It was as if she’d had a bout of flu and couldn’t fully recover from it, leaving her a semi-invalid prone to long afternoon naps. She couldn’t cook like she had before, couldn’t dispatch flurries of messages to us via Facebook. She could telephone-call, but she couldn’t make herself very well understood.

I’d circuit through Fordyce about once a week, stopping in and expecting supper whether it was something she’d worked to prepare herself or me running back out for hamburgers or pizza. It eventually occurred to me that I ought to be doing this other thing, so last September – on Dad’s birthday, as a special activity for the occasion – after we’d finished eating, I bustled in between  them with my little digital audio recorder and set up my laptop computer for on-the-go transcription, to type in the occasional keyword as they talked.

Whatever else she couldn’t do, Mama could very well think, and — sitting comfortably in her chair with only me for an audience — she could speak out and with sufficient detail to address the questions I was about to put to her and Dad.

Ed and Clora Parham’s family timeline was what I intended to start putting together that night.

Old reporter that I am, I wasn’t going to harvest information in linear fashion from very beginning to end. This was going to require many sittings, and my subjects might take longer to adequately warm up to the task than they knew. You don’t begin a carving with a deep cut. You shave. You test your material. What I wanted to jump off into was the first family car, then move on to the second, and the third, waiting for unexpected side-stories to come in off the margins of their recollections.

It so happened that our first car — which I remember quite distinctly — was a used 1954 Chevrolet Bel Air. Light Blue. Had four doors and a manual transmission. Dad bought it in 1956 for $900 cash from the old Lindsey Brothers dealership here.

On we went like that for an hour-and-a-half, tying cars and trucks to houses where they lived as Dad — a retired school administrator — took jobs all across South Arkansas, up until the present day, where we stopped. Mama was “chuffed,” as they’d put it in England. This sort of enterprise was exhilarating for her, obviously, and that there was more to come gave her something to look forward to doing. She couldn’t quilt anymore, or continue her genealogical research, but she’d just proven she could still put down her personal history.

Logically, the next direction would have been to go backward in time using our old addresses in places like Camden, Jacinto, Princeton and Temperance Hill as a bread-crumb trail. My childhood recollections of those houses and the reasons why we lived in them are too disjointed for me to get them lined up on my own. I left Fordyce that night looking forward to having Mama and Dad put them – and my own early days, and theirs as well – in proper order.


Hunting season opened up, and the two of them relocated to the Deer Camp at Mama’s “Old Place” at Jacinto so that they weren’t home as I made my weekly passages through Fordyce. Then came the holiday season, which I exited in arrears on my publication schedule for reasons I don’t now recall. By the time I resumed making my regular stops in Fordyce, January was rolling away into February.

The second week I showed up, Mama was visibly displeased that I hadn’t brought my recorder. I explained that I was still running behind and couldn’t stay long enough for the session we’d  by then put off since the first one on September 17. The next week, I had to tell her when she asked that I’d just forgotten it; I was still trying to catch up on my papers.

That was the night she dispatched me to Fordyce’s Sonic Drive-In to fetch us all hamburgers and cheeseburgers. When I returned with them, she had me bring hers to where she sat in her chair, complaining that she was too cold to go eat with me at the kitchen table. Before I left to come back home to Camden, I assured her that I was sure I was ready to pick up again with our timeline work.

“I’ll bring my recorder next week,” I said. She turned her lip crooked, a look of momentary resignation.

At about the same time the following evening, as Dad told me later, he heard a tumble in the kitchen and investigated to find Mama lying on the floor. She hadn’t hurt herself — no broken bones, not even bruising — but her left side was limp. Although I got up there in less than an hour after being called, I never talked to her again. Nothing was left except to endure those 11 final days, the patches spent sitting by her bed with our faces turned together on that singular mirror frame, me watching her breathe and not knowing if each one coming would be her last.

Realizing that one of those days was the Maud Crawford anniversary crept upon me in an excruciatingly long pause as I waited to see if Mama would inhale again. That I wouldn’t have those history talks with Mama laid down a layer of regret each time the folds of her hospital blanket rose and fell.

And that’s besides the grief of losing my Mama. I’m not going to go into that.

March 2. March 3. March 4. Those are now dates for me to ponder what slipped away from me because I didn’t realize Mama’s life was near at end, and what similarly eluded Camden because all those who could have acted – and could still do so – never resolved the tragedy which befell Maud Crawford.

If you’ve read this far, then you should be infused with the understanding that what remains of Clora Parham on this Earth – because she was much loved by us – lies in eternal rest at Temperance Hill. Having just buried my Mama, it serves to aggrieve me all the more that Camden won’t do the same for Maud. Her final resting place at Greenwood Cemetery – next to where her husband Clyde lies – remains empty. Empty of love this community owed her, but never gave.


I mentioned a third testament to Mama, that came to mind as we were preparing our farewells. This is the nicest of all, I think.

It has to do with something she and her own mother – my beloved Grandmama, Essie – did when Mama was a 10-year-old girl, because Mama’s older sisters had both moved on to college and – so it seemed to Mama – left her and Grandmama all alone at what we’ve come to call the Old Place at Jacinto.

There’s no Old Place there, any more. Granddaddy had the house moved to Sparkman and renovated. When it burned in 1966, he and Grandmama moved to Camden for good, building the house here on Columbia Avenue where I live today.

The outbuildings were still there at the Old Place when I was a young boy. Across the road, barns later served as home to what became the Jones Deer Camp. Grandmama’s nephews prevailed on their Uncle Ray to let them hunt from there, a mile up a high and wooded hill from Arkansas 9. I never knew until Mama’s cabin was built a couple of years ago just how high that ground is. What I thought was a headlight shining up at us late one Winter’s day through the pines turned out to be the sun; if you could look out West from the Old Place, you’d be looking down at sunsets. Right at this moment, I’m wishing I could ask Mama if she could look out from the Old Place when she was a little girl, and if she could, did she look down at the dying light of those days?

Her mother was good-hearted. Mama wrote of her in the Jones family cookbook that Grandmama “could make cornbread by the time she was seven years old,” and “she never outgrew that need to cook” after helping her mother feed her nine brothers and sisters.

“Up until she died” in 1985 here in Camden, Mama wrote, Essie “would never let anyone come to her house without trying to feed them. Sometimes it might be just a cookie or a fried pie, but she was going to offer it.”

Grandmama “could take a bit of this and a handful of that, and make a meal. It might be dried beans, potatoes and cornbread, but you wouldn’t go hungry.”

That day young Clora pined around the Old Place for her big sisters, food wouldn’t do. Her mother hit on another angle to keep her occupied, something they could do together.

They replanted daffodil bulbs.

Bulbs of jonquils “clump up” if left to grow in one spot season after season. If you make the effort to dig them up and space them out, you’ll come to have a bumper wave of yellow blooms come early Spring.

Clora and Essie didn’t just replant the bulbs they uncovered. Grandmama had somehow been inspired to spike the bulbs in a pattern. Even though her daughter couldn’t see it right away, she understood why it would be worth the effort.

Just as Grandmama intended — and she was said to be pretty proud of how the pattern turned out — when springtime came and the daffodils blossomed, the name “CLORA” burst forth in letters of gold.

Even after Granddaddy and Grandmama struck housekeeping at Jacinto and came to Camden so Mama could work at the Goodrich store, those daffodils kept spelling out her name year after year, a landmark on the side of the road for those who still passed back and forth in that old community. My own eyes have seen it. I also saw over the intervening seasons how the letters blurred and became indistinct. I remember it being remarked on Spring that we could still make out the “C” and the “O,” but not the rest of it. At some point, with so many people of that age gone on, the Clora daffodils passed out of annual conversation.

Visitation the night before Mama’s funeral saw Benton Chapel in Fordyce filled with a steady flow of friends and relatives come from near and far despite the bad weather, to pay final respects. In the hubbub, a few kind words from some distance away reached my ears, and set me to thinking about what others have said to me about Mama, the first being what old Mr. Falwell always said, secondly the time cousin Bob over at the Courthouse trying to figure out how to salvage a lost legal cause, calling Mama alone – in front of all her feuding Smith kin – “the Voice of Reason.”

And then I thought of those daffodils Grandmama and Mama planted up there at the Old Place on the side of a gravel road off the side of a highway forking away from U.S. 79 North out of Camden, calling out CLORA all those years ago.

Three days after the burial, making a solitary walk in a mist of evening rain, I visited the side of Mama’s clay-mud grave out at Temperance Hill, a lonely place for a lonely son, aching and crying because I couldn’t talk to her again.

Finally sloshed out through the puddle at the gate and got back in my car to drive across the back road to Jacinto.

I was sullenly curious to know if any of those jonquils were left, or if they’d been overrun by the pine which have grown up over the Old Place. Didn’t know what to expect, wondering if maybe one or two green clusters had survived in the brush.

Then I rounded a curve and there spread out by the hundreds – glints of Spring yellow in the hush of near-darkness – were Mama’s flowers. Hundreds! They live! Their message to the passing world has changed, but they still speak to those of us who know what they say, because they still bloom.

(Granddaughter Caroline Parham among Clora’s daffodils in April 2015.)





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Let’s All Be Americans Now: The Great War and the Soldiers of Jacinto, Dallas County, Arkansas

DCM WWI slideshow for Mt. Carmel Jacinto

The following is the full text of the program at the Mt. Carmel Homecoming on September 10, 2017, presented by Sandra Parham Turner and Melrose Smith Bagwell. They have close ties to Jacinto and are both on the board of directors at the Dallas County Museum in Fordyce, Arkansas, where Melrose is the assistant director, and Sandra is over public and media relations. Earlier this year, the museum received a grant from the Department of Arkansas Heritage to upgrade its World War I exhibit. As a result of this and through much research, a program was developed that can be tailored for the audience to whom it is presented. This particular one was designed for Jacinto in Dallas County, Arkansas. A pdf of the slideshow is included in this post (click on the link above), as well as the full text of the presentation.

(Sandra Parham Turner) [PHOTO OF LET’S ALL BE AMERICANS NOW] This year marks the 100th anniversary of the United States’ involvement in World War I. Today, Melrose and I are here to tell you about the men from Jacinto who served in “the war to end all wars.”

[NAMES OF THOSE WHOSE REGISTRATION CARDS I FOUND] I did some research on the internet and was able to find several men from Jacinto, some young and a few who were a little older, who were registered for the war. I am sure this is not all of them, but these were the ones I found online. I only listed the ones who were living in Jacinto at the time of registration (with the exception of Claude Bradley), but there were several more who listed Jacinto as their birthplace who were living elsewhere when they registered for the war. I’m going to show you some of the registrants who ended up staying on the home front, to my knowledge, for various reasons. So, on these cards, the information asked would vary depending on which round the registration occurred. For instance, they either had boxes to put the height and weight or boxes to check whether the registrant was slender, medium, or stout. [PHOTO OF CHAMPIE] It is on record that George Champion “Mr. Champie” Ennis was 43 years old when he registered! He was 5’7” and it was noted at 160 pounds, he was in the “stout” category. They also would have a place to note the eye color and hair color and a yes or no to whether the registrant was bald! Nearly everyone had brown hair except for Arthur Edwin Mann. [PHOTO OF ARTHUR] Guess what color it was? (Red!) You could claim an exemption for not being able to serve in the war, but whether or not it would be granted would be up to the board. [PHOTO OF HILLMON] John Hillmon Taylor claimed exemption because he had weak eyes – and a wife! The registration also listed the person’s occupation. Every one I found was listed as a farmer; either working for themselves or their fathers. The only exception was for John Lemuel Dedman. [PHOTO OF LEM] At 26 years old, he was of medium height, his build was “stout,” he had blue eyes, dark hair, he was married, and he was a minister for the Little Rock Methodist Conference. My granddaddy, Ray Smith, enlisted in the third and final round on September 12, 1918. [PHOTO OF RAY] He was listed as being 5’10” and on that day, he weighed 170 pounds, making him three inches taller and ten pounds heavier than Mr. Champie, but he was listed as being of medium height and build. I guess the heaviness was in the eye of the registrar and no two of them judged a person the same. A month after Ray registered, evidently he had gained 5 pounds already. His mother wrote a letter to his brother Jesse who was serving as a camp cook at Camp Pike. “Here’s Ray, he’s been feasting since he got in. Says he eats too much. Weighs 175 pounds and looks to weigh 200 by the time they get through vaccinating him. I told it wrong he said by the time he got through eating Uncle Sam’s grub.” He never made it – we all thought he didn’t serve because he had flat feet, but the real reason was simple….the war ended before he got called up to serve.

One person who did go on to serve was Claudius, better known as Claude, Bradley. [PHOTO OF CLAUDE] The American Legion post in Fordyce was named in his memory, as he was the first Dallas County resident to die in World War I. His registration card stated he was born in Jacinto and located his residence at Swaty, just outside of Jacinto. Claude was 26 years old when he died at sea on February 5, 1918. Of course, he was buried at sea, but he has a marker at Tanyard Cemetery.

In the Taylor Cemetery is a grave marker that always has fascinated me. It has the names of two brothers on it, John Hunter and Robbert Sidney Walker. They were the sons of Joseph Thomas and Bettie Sue Walker, who I believe sent four of their sons off to this war. Only two would return. [PHOTO OF GRAVE MARKER] I’ve been to that cemetery many, many times in my life, and I always was drawn to that marker because it was for two brothers who died close together, both during World War I. Even more fascinating to me was that the marker said Hunter died at sea. Let me tell you more about these brothers.

[PHOTO OF HUNTER] John Thomas Hunter Walker was a member of the U. S. Army. His World War I draft card listed his occupation as farming and that he was employed by John Mays in Jacinto. It also described him as being of medium height and build and having blue eyes and brown hair. Hunter wrote this letter home on September 19, 1918:

“Dear Marther [Mother?] Will write you a few lines to let you hear from me. I am doing fine and hope you all are well. We leave here tomorrow Sept. 20 1918. We got orders last Friday to get ready to leave here and we are Still here now. But I guess we will go now. They have just drilled the fool out of us this week. I can act like a Soldier now – I know a little about army life I think by this time. I don’t know where we will go for sure. One of the Lt. died aboard ship en route to France.” In a letter home written less than two weeks later, on October 2, Melrose’s father, Jesse Smith, mentioned that Hunter was at Camp Merritt in New Jersey. Camp Merritt was a military base activated during World War I, from which nearly one million troops marched to board ferryboats that took them to Hoboken, New Jersey, where they boarded troop transports bound for Europe and the war. It would be interesting to know just how many of our Dallas County men passed through that camp.

The Chaplain on board the ship Hunter sailed on wrote the following letter to his parents:

At Sea. Oct 11-1918

Mr. & Mrs. J.T. Walker

Parents of John Walker

Prvt in 19th Co.

As one who was with your son during his last illness and death, and called on to perform the last rites at his funeral. I write you more fully than the official announcement would carry the circumstances surrounding his last days. He came aboard the ship with a slight cold as it seemed, but was too plucky to report sick. After a few days out from land, it developed into an attack of measles, He was taken to Hospital where most sufficient and kindly doctors did all they could for him, but pneumonia developed, and he became very sick. He sent for me after I had left him about 2 hrs. before and said “I don’t want you to just come and cheer me up But I feel I am a pretty sick man and may not get well. And if I do not, wish you to write home. Gave his Father’s address. He said “I am not afraid to die. Jesus Christ is my Savior and whatever he thinks best for me. That is the best. Say a prayer for me, and I will pray with you. I tried to do my best, and I am going to do all I can to get well, and go on with the boys, and help finish up this job. But let’s face things as they are. Do what we can, and leave the rest to God.” I prayed with & for him and called frequently after that. But he kept getting worse and Early this morning passed away. I held a service with his company and then his body was committed to the great deep, while his spirit had already gone on to the Father of us all. His body was wrapped in the flag of his country. He was a brave, noble and heroic a soldier as if he had died on the field of battle in the cause of Liberty.

(Rev) Lee M. Brothe [r?] Sec. of Y.M.C.A.

Hunter was 13 days’ shy of his 26th birthday when he died on October 11. His body was committed to the Atlantic Ocean, but he shares a marker with his brother in the community where they were born and raised, and where they called home.

[PHOTO OF SIDNEY] Robbert Sidney Walker was four and a half years younger than his brother Hunter. He, too, was a member of the U. S. Army, and his draft card showed that he worked for W. A. Green in Jacinto.  It stated that he was of medium build and height, that he had blue eyes and light-colored hair. He was stationed at Camp Pike in Little Rock, Arkansas, where he died at the age of 21 of a respiratory illness on November 6, 1918, just five days before the war ended.

(Melrose Smith Bagwell) My father was Jesse B. Smith.  He enlisted in the Great War in July of 1918 and was discharged in December of 1918. Due to the war ending on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, he never did leave Camp Pike.  [PHOTO OF JESSE] I never saw a photo of him in uniform.  He was a cook and attended the School for Bakers and Cooks. He knew about cooking because he was the oldest of 6 children and had helped his mamma cook at home.  We have several letters from him to the family back home as well as some that he received from the family. I found a letter last week that I found very interesting.  He wrote home and told his family to:

Please Ans. my. Questions

how Sid is and what his address is Will Hunter be brought back home. Have you ever heard from Horace Mann. Hope it will soon all be over what was Hunter’s trouble wish I could hear from you all more often. Oh Papa dear Papa it look’s like you would write your dear son more often. Oh why not. Ray it may be you would have to go if you do when do you think you will go.

Well Papa place that check in the bank in my name or your’s if it is easier or you put in your name and give Ray check for $32.00 for carrying it is that correct and also pay him for the fodder he pulled do this at once make mamma a check at once for $7.00 Mamma is that correct.

(4) Papa pay for all cotton picking at your prices and figures and send me a statement of it push my cotton picking and corn pulling with this money. Did you sell my suit of clothes did you want my horse.

I just Red a letter for Clarance Rigg he can’t Read nor write his name. Mamma thank you for that chicken I have not got it yet but oh I wish I had it is Ruined by now I can’t help but think of poor Hunter. Wish I knew how Sid was also glad to hear from Geo. Bradley. You know you wrote me he was so low. Sorry to hear of Miss Callis death also Mrs. Holmes. You know Reace carried me home. I expect to be home a bout Xmas for good. We will know by Monday morning. I guess it is not worying me much I am very well satisfied lifing a easy life. Must stop so by by Jesse B. Smith Mamma I am living a joly [jolly] life and will be home some day by and by I am taking the very best care I can of my self)

Dear Family about 7:30 A.M. Nov. 9 over my light lunch only 2 slices of bread little mush few spoon’s of milk and a poor cup of coffee. We all stay hungry well I have got my bed made. I hear the rifle range

4 out of our 19 have got sick a gain and gone to bed. I am making it fine getting a little weak with nothing to eat much and not much money to buy from the canteen. I will be out of here in a few day’s I think. Last thing last night and first thing this morning was Poor Hunter that has passed on from this vail of tears. Prepared or unprepared ok it makes me feel so snug and sweet to Know I am Prepared to meet my God in the judgement day I am resting in my savior’s precious love. Ah it makes me hapy to know I have a home on high where there will be no war no death no pain no lonelyness no parting no weeping no hunger no thirst and no night there a sweet rest for ever and ever this heaven my home on high where I will go some sweet day. Don’t get the (idea) I am home sick for I am not so by by Jesse B Smith

The Sid that he wanted to know about was the Robbert Sidney Walker that Sandra just told you about. Daddy didn’t know that Sid was dead. He asked if they would bring Hunter’s body back.  That was the Hunter Walker that died at sea..  He was sad all through the letter about Hunter.  He kept wondering if Hunter was prepared to die, and he went on to tell the family that he was prepared to die. I noticed in the chaplain’s letter that he said Hunter told him that he was prepared to die. Then he asked if they had heard from Horace Mann [PHOTO OF MR. MANN] who was another one of the Jacinto boys in the War … and was Sandra’s step-grandfather.  Mr. Horace was one of daddy’s best friends.  He told about so many of the soldiers having the flu and dying, and at one time, he talked about how hungry he was because they didn’t have any food. In his letters, Daddy talks about his crops and what his brothers needed to do about harvesting them so apparently he had already planted his crops before he enlisted. One of his brothers that he mentioned was Ray Smith, who was Sandra’s grandfather.

At the Dallas County Museum, we have photos on the wall of our new World War I exhibit of the men from Dallas County who served, as well as relics in display cases from a few of those men. If you have an ancestor from Dallas County you would like to include, we would love to add to our display. We have a number of letters written during WWI, including a binder of letters written by Joseph Edward Smith to his mother back in Sparkman as he traveled from there to Missouri, Georgia, in France, and back to New York. We also have Jesse Rothwell’s journal of his journey to and in France. To me these letters and this journal give us a better idea as to what these soldiers went through and the sacrifices they made and how many of them lost that lives in order for us to enjoy the freedoms that we have today … which reminds me [PHOTO OF FLAG ON FIELD IMAGE]

All Gave Some, Some Gave All

Some stood through for the red, white and blue

And some had to fall

And if you ever think of me

Think of all your liberties and recall

Some Gave All


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New Books

Turtlehull Publishing has made available the latest books to be published. They are both fascinating histories; one is about a small Dallas County, Arkansas, community, the other about a young boy who became a man through his years of service in the United States Army.


First is The History of Jacinto, a revised edition of a book compiled by my mother Clora Smith Parham and her cousin, Melrose Smith Bagwell. The updates to it include new formatting, additional photographs from the 1800’s to the 1970’s, new information and stories on various families, and the addition of one of my favorite columns of any newspaper, the “dots.” If you have read in small town newspapers the columns dedicated to the news of the various communities, then you have read a “dot.” I did research at the Dallas County Library in Fordyce and used that wonderful invention, the microfilm reader, to go through area newspapers from the 1920’s and the 1940’s. I could have sat there for days reading through those old newspapers. They were fascinating not just for the dots but for the grocery store and clothing store advertisements and front page headlines. What an excellent source of history contained on those rolls of microfilm! The original version of the book was stories and photographs copied onto sheets of paper and placed in page protectors inserted into 3-ring binder notebooks. This release will be an 8×10 paperback book, with a full-color cover and 175 pages of black and white photographs, family histories, and stories of the community of Jacinto, Arkansas. This book will be available September 9. It will retail for $20 with proceeds from the book to be divided equally between the Mt. Carmel Methodist Church Homecoming and Preservation Association and the Macedonia Baptist Church, both located in Jacinto.




The second book is entitled Memories of a Colonel, a first-person account of a young boy born in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1927 who would eventually become a leader of men. It is a life told with much detail, sometimes humorous, often sobering, always enthralling. There are football games, youthful exploits, gripping details of battles and the grim aftermath, friendships, love, family, travel, and making a home wherever he was in the world. This book, written over 30 years ago by the man who lived it, was set aside and forgotten about until this past spring when he and his wife rediscovered it. I have been working on it since April 1 with the transcribing it into a digital copy, researching, editing, and formatting it into a 6×9, 363-page paperback book, divided into sections illustrated with photographs of the Colonel and also of his wife and family. This book will be available November 11 on Veterans Day. The book will retail for $20 with proceeds from the book to benefit the Dallas County Museum.


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Memories of a Colonel

colonel-book-coverThe release date of Memories of a Colonel is Friday, November 4, 2016. Written by James H. Phillips, a retired United States Army colonel, the original manuscript was completed in 1984 and placed in an album, where it remained until its discovery in the spring of 2016. The Colonel and his wife, Agnes, asked if I would be interested in transcribing the manuscript and editing it for publication by my then-new publishing business. Of course, I said yes, and on April 1 I began typing the first sentence, which was in the foreword: This text is dedicated to my wife, Agnes, and our three sons Jim, Ray, and Doug.

By October 1, I had ordered the final edit copy, and as of right now, that book is in the Colonel’s possession as he reads over my edited version of his words. So far, he and Agnes have liked what I have done with his memoir. Agnes, I have known, or known of, for many years; her husband was someone I had heard of but never had met formally. I can remember speaking to him only once before this spring, and that was in the late 1990’s when my mother and I walked into their sunroom, where the Colonel was watching a football game while his wife entertained the Chicot Trace Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in their parlor. He immediately jumped up, but we told him not to get up on our account, we were just looking to see the rooms in the beautiful home we always had admired. He was cordial, and I was a little in awe of this man who I had been told was a colonel. It was fifteen or more years before I would speak to him again. As someone who enjoys getting to know people, not just what they present superficially, but learning who they are, it has been gratifying that this door opened wide to me into the Colonel’s world.

Colonel Phillips, along with his wife, Agnes, will be at the reception honoring veterans at the Dallas County Museum on Sunday, November 6, following the Veterans Day ceremony at First Baptist Church at 2:00 pm.

The books will retail for $20 and will be available at the Dallas County Museum in Fordyce, Arkansas, as well as through Turtlehull Publishing. Proceeds from the sales will benefit the Dallas County Museum.

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Miss Myrtle


The Princeton High School Junior Class of 1949 presented a tribute entitled, “The Life of Miss Myrtle Smith” and in the program, the quote below her name said, “To live is not to live for one’s self alone; let us help one another.” Today I want to talk to you about how appropriate this quote is and was for this woman who influenced so many in this community of Jacinto, and beyond.

Cora Myrtle Smith was born April 5, 1900, the oldest daughter of George and Mollie Smith. She grew up in the Jacinto community and lived there for most her life, occasionally leaving to teach school or to take her father to McFadden Springs, near Hot Springs, so he could receive treatments for his health in the 1930’s. Not until Myrtle suffered a devastating accident in the mid-1970s did she leave the home she grew up in, for good. However, she left behind a legacy of the paper kind that has been invaluable to me, as well as to many others.

One afternoon earlier this summer, there was a message on the Dallas County Museum’s Facebook page. A young woman wanted to know if we had any information about the Swaty family, or if I’d ever heard of a community named Swaty. That name sounded vaguely familiar to me, so I forwarded the question to Melrose. She replied she had gone to school with one of the Swaty family members, but I should ask Aunt Doris, who would know more about the family. I wracked my brain trying to recall where I had seen that name, and it suddenly dawned on me. I dug around in some boxes and files until there it was – a piece of notebook paper, yellowed with age, with very familiar cursive handwriting on it. At the top of the page was the heading “Swaty” and underneath was a list of names and a one- or two-word description beside several of them. I took a picture of it and sent it to the young woman, who immediately responded with a big thank you!

I explained to this woman how I happened to have this piece of paper. I told her how my mother had inherited most of the papers that had belonged to her aunt, my great-aunt, Myrtle Smith. Aunt Myrtle had made lists of people she knew, and I found many of them in her papers. These lists were how she kept everyone straight in her mind, their lineage, who belonged to who. Her papers are a wealth of information. For instance, I know from looking through her 1962 appointment book that Nora Bell’s birthday is March 9. She also wrote on the cover, “Saturday, 12:30 P.M. January 26, 1963, Ice on the ground!” I know from a list of phone numbers that she could call Louise Mann at 2-7300 or Mr. Ben H. Owens at 2-3878. She had many long distance numbers listed, also – remember dialing 121 when it was long distance? – and she could call John Steelman at 121-693-5672.

Aunt Myrtle had so many letters – seemingly hundreds, which is probably not an exaggeration – both to her and from her (such as the ones she wrote to her mother while tending to her father at McFadden Springs). I found it interesting that if you had read the letters she wrote, you would know she just had to be the oldest daughter and the oldest sister. You know – they’re not bossy, they just know what you need to be doing, and when and why and how and where you need to be doing it. Myrtle was no exception, and in fact, being a teacher is probably the reason why she wrote her instructions in great detail. In a letter written on October 28, 1935, to her brother, Conger, she wrote: “Wonder what you and Mamma are doing today! Don’t work too hard, or too long without a resting spell. Be careful about your eating. “Tis very important. Use little, if any, grease. Fry your meat out crisp. It’s the grease, not the bacon, that isn’t good for you. Buy and use lots of fresh fruit. Eat an apple or an orange when you are hungry. Drink lots of water. It’s cheap when you consider sickness and medicines and doctor bills!” I love how she is doing what she can to take care of her “little” brother, who at the time was 32 years old. Two days later, she wrote to her mother, Mollie, “… Mamma, how are you? Be sure to take medicine when you need it but don’t take salts. It will kill you.” Even in later years, she wrote her sister and brother-in-law, Connetta and Robert Roach, on how to take care of a poinsettia. She wrote to them on January 5, 1970: “You keep the poinsettia and let it be yours….After the plant’s usefulness is over, place it in a dry place where it will not freeze. Do not water it, or at least, very little, and let the soil dry up. Next May bring the plant out, cut the stem back about two-thirds, wash the soil off the roots and repot in new soil.” I wonder if they did what she said to do. These are good instructions, so I’m saving them for myself!

Aunt Myrtle had a kind heart and a generous spirit, and she shared what she had with those in the community. She had saved innumerable thank you cards within her papers and they all pretty much said the same thing: “Thank you for the money.” She might have tucked in a dollar bill in a birthday card – five dollars if you were graduating – maybe ten or so if you were getting married. She saved many programs from graduations. One was from the University of Arkansas School of Medicine when Rex Norman Moore graduated on June 16, 1952. Another program was from the Henderson State Teachers College Commencement in 1955. In the section where the names of graduates were listed, she wrote “Ones I know” and put a checkmark beside many of those names – including Thomas Marvin Frazier, Laura Glenn Mallett, and Mary Ann Taylor. Another program, also from Henderson, listed Cora Myrtle Smith. In 1957, at the age of 57, she finally had her bachelor’s degree – in Education.

Going back to the thank you cards: One, in particular, caught my eye. It was written in careful penmanship and even though it was not dated, I knew for a fact the writer wrote it in 1972. It was from one of Myrtle’s former students, and it said: “Thank you very much for the five dollars. I can use it when I go to SSC this summer. Can you imagine that skinny little third grader going to college? Again, thanks for the gift.” Well, that skinny little third grader, who wrote this card as a graduating high school senior, would write the following article published in the Arkansas Democrat on April 2, 1975, when he was a junior in college at SSC, now known as SAU, in Magnolia. It was by Eddie Parham as a special to the Democrat and was entitled, “Readin,’ Ritin,’ and ‘Rithmetic.” The article is published in its entirety in the revised History of Jacinto book so I won’t read it now, but here are a few tidbits:

“The small rural schools that dotted Dallas County early in the century have gone the way of wood stoves and coffee grinders. All that remains of some of them are empty buildings, while others are no more than blackened rubble heaps on the ground.

As the rural areas changed, and people left the country for larger communities, these schools were closed and consolidated with larger schools. But, these small country school houses weren’t all that was left behind in the migrations from the country. Along with the closing of these schools went the profession of the ‘country schoolteacher.’

Myrtle Smith of Jacinto is one of these teachers. She taught in the rural schools of Dallas County for 44 years.

Miss Smith’s parents, Rev. and Mrs. George S. Smith, spent several years teaching in some of these country schools. And, their daughter entered her career as a teacher even before she had graduated from the school where she began teaching.

In 1919, with an eighth grade education, she received a license to teach the second grade. However, she was hired by the Mount Carmel school at Jacinto to teach the upper six grades – this meant that she was a student in her first class.

As her students were her contemporaries and older than her 19 years in many cases, discipline became a major problem. She remembered having trouble with a couple who were continuously exchanging letters during class.

‘He was older than I was, and he would always sit in the back of the room writing little notes to his girlfriend, who sat in another corner of the room,’ she said. ‘I caught him one afternoon and demanded the letter. He held the letter behind his back and said that I wasn’t getting it, so we locked horns.

‘I grabbed his hair and he grabbed mine and we went ’round and ’round the room until he managed to throw the letter out the window. The next day, his daddy drove up to the school in his buckboard and wore him out.’

…For the next few years, Miss Smith taught in several of the small schools in the area, among them Eaglette, Midway, Oak Grove, Nix, Ebenezer and Cooterneck. At Eaglette, a thriving lumber mill community in earlier days, she taught the entire school of 55 students by herself.

While Miss Smith was teaching, she was also working on her own high school education at Bearden and Sheridan in her spare time. She graduated at Sheridan Missionary Baptist College in 1928, and immediately reentered to begin work on a college degree.

But, it was 30 years before she was able to receive her degree from college. The depression, family illness and the need for her teaching services kept her from continuing her education.

In 1957 Miss Smith received a degree from Henderson State Teachers College (Henderson State University) at Arkadelphia…

…In 1937, Miss Smith began teaching at Princeton School where she spent the next 27 years of her career. Princeton School was one of the larger rural schools in that area and had absorbed some of the smaller schools that Miss Smith had once served.

Miss Smith retired in 1968.

Talking about her students and her 44 years of teaching she said, “I don’t know how much they learned – but I learned a lot!”

When Aunt Doris was asked by Searcy Smith, her cousin, to say a few words about Aunt Myrtle in remembrance of her back in 1997, she wrote this: “Aunt Myrtle never married or had a family in the way that we usually think of family. All of her siblings’ families were her family. She was always doing special things for them, always bragging about them, always showing her love toward them.” Aunt Doris wrote how Aunt Myrtle was her teacher in the sixth grade, in 1937, the year Jacinto consolidated with Princeton. She said Myrtle was a good teacher who expected a lot from her students but was patient and kind. She said Aunt Myrtle gave her a set of little tin dishes when Aunt Doris was an adult. The box they came in was as prized as the dishes, because Aunt Myrtle had written in the lid of the box: “Aunt Myrtle I want to see your little dishes is what little Doris would say while visiting us on Sundays. My mothie gave them to me. When I am gone, they are for the sweet little niece, Doris Elaine. Aunt Myrtle June 6, 1944. P.S. I’m cleaning my trunk up. M.S.”

Now, not only was Myrtle a schoolteacher, more importantly to her, she was a Christian. She held her church membership at Macedonia Baptist Church across the road, where she served many years as church clerk, just as her mother did before her. I am almost certain she would never have dreamed she would be the topic of the program at the Mt. Carmel Methodist Church’s annual homecoming. Myrtle knew what words to live by, and they all came from the Bible. Among her papers was a simple sheet of lined paper and written in pen were these words:

In facing a crisis, read Psalm 46
When discouraged, read Psalm 23 & 24
Lonely or fearful, read Psalm 27
Planning a budget, Luke Ch. 19
To live successfully with others, Romans Ch. 12
Sick or in pain Psalm 91
When you travel, carry with you Psalm 121
When very weary, read Matthew 11:28 and 30, and Romans 8:31-39
When things are going from bad to worse II Timothy 3
When friends go back on you hold to I Corinthians 13
For inward peace, John 14
To avoid misfortune John 7:24-27
For record of what trust in God can do Hebrews 11
If you are having to put up a fight – the end of Ephesians
When you have sinned read 1 John 3:1-21
And Make Psalm 51 your prayer

In closing, I want to read a little thank you note written on a plain postcard, mailed from Sparkman on July 27, 1970. It reads, in part: “Dear Miss Myrtle, Thank you so much for the picture and beautiful cards. The Roses fit you exactly. Your life has been an inspiration to me. I appreciate you more as the years pass. If we had lots of Miss Myrtles in this world, we would have a beautiful and wonderful world.”

(From the program given at Mt. Carmel’s annual homecoming in Jacinto, Arkansas, on September 11, 2016.)

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What is Turtlehull Publishing up to now?

Currently, I am editing a memoir written over 30 years ago by a retired Army Colonel. He and his wife rediscovered this manuscript not long ago and promptly asked if I would help them publish it privately for their family. The book is fascinating, a “coming of age” book, military-style. It spans a period of over 50 years, beginning in Little Rock in the late 1920’s and ending in Little Rock in the early 1980’s, with a full circle of the globe in between those years. The Colonel and his wife will decide later whether or not they want to make it available publicly. Stay tuned!

Also, I had someone inquire about the possibility of us having mutual family members and if I could help her find some information on them. I referred her to the book my mother, Clora Smith Parham, and her cousin, Melrose Smith Bagwell, compiled of family histories called The History of Jacinto 1849-2007. It was printed on copy paper and placed in binders. Since she will be purchasing one of the last available copies, I decided it was time for another project. I am planning to work with Melrose to update the book and publish it in a soft cover, with the proceeds donated to a worthy cause in Dallas County. If you have connections to Jacinto, contact me if you want to include your family’s history in the book.

I am going to move my personal blog, The Turtlehull, to this blog over the upcoming month of July. I hope you will take a look at it – either come back in a month, or go to Since I haven’t posted on it in over a year, I believe it’s time to merge the two and by doing that I hope to keep up with it better!

For now, follow me at one of the links at the bottom of this post, and click on the contact link above to let me know if Turtlehull Publishing can help you with your book!

Thanks for stopping by to see me –


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The Widow’s Mite

My aunt Rose Jane was not only a favorite aunt of mine, she was a favorite person who greatly influenced my life from the very beginning. A true Southern belle, she was sweet and kind, with an ageless beauty and grace that extended hospitality to all who came near her. Her passing was bittersweet, enlarging the hole in our family that had begun with her declining health over the last several years of her life. Believing that she had rejoined her husband, her mama and papa, her son-in-law, and many, many other loved ones brought comfort to those of us who grieved for her. To help with my grieving, I quickly wrote this tribute to her the day after she passed on January 21, 2014:

One of the most valuable lessons I learned was as a Sunday school student at Immanuel Baptist Church in Camden (Fairview), Arkansas in the mid 1970’s.  Every Sunday, I’d climb the stairs in the fellowship hall up to the Sunday school rooms for the younger children. In the hallway, you could leave your offering for the week, so I would deposit my dime before walking into the classroom.  Inside, there were chairs lined up for us to sit in for the large group Bible lesson, and two doors leading to the smaller classrooms where we would go afterwards for our smaller group lesson.

On this particular Sunday, our Bible lesson came from Luke, chapter 21.  It was the story of the poor widow and the rich men, putting their offerings into the treasury.  Before we began, our Sunday school teacher, who also happened to be my aunt Rose Jane, handed out paper money in envelopes to the children.  We were going to learn our lesson by performing a little skit.  Not knowing entirely what the lesson would be about, I waited to be given my envelope.  Others were opening theirs, to find inside many dollar bills.  Wow!  We were all going to be rich!  Surely, I would be given the most money of everyone!  She was MY aunt, after all, and would demonstrate my importance to her as her niece accordingly.  I reached out to take the envelope from her, took it back to my seat and opened it eagerly…….and inside were two brown, paper coins.  I was in disbelief.  Wow.  I got the least money of all.  Why would she do this to me?  Disappointed, I waited my turn as the lesson proceeded, with everyone, as the rich people in the temple, going forward to put their large sums of money in the offering plate.  I, the poor widow, walked up to the front, dragging my feet a little, laid my two brown, paper coins on top of the piles of money, and dragging my feet a little, walked back to my seat.

Then she read from Luke 21, “And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.”

Of course, this King James Version did not make a lot of sense to me as a child of about 6 or 7, but my teacher explained to us:  The poor widow gave all she had, and it was worth more to God than the money the rich men gave.  Everyone turned and looked at me, the poor widow.  My heart lightened and I was so excited!  Of course, maybe part of this excitement was my relief that my aunt did give me the best part in the skit, after all.  But, it made me so happy that God was pleased with the widow – she didn’t have much to give, but she gave it all.  It was a defining moment for me and how I would approach giving from then on, even if I didn’t realize it at the time.  I don’t know if even Aunt Rose Jane could have known what an impact that would have in all the years that have passed since that Sunday morning lesson.  Whenever I’ve reached into my pocket (literally or metaphorically), I’m reminded of the widow’s mite, to reach a little deeper and give what I have because it is pleasing to God – and I have my Sunday school teacher, my Aunt Rose Jane, to thank for that.


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