Saturday, April 21, 2007

School Days in Milam County, Texas

School days, school days,
Dear old golden rule days.
'Readin' and 'ritin' and 'rithmetic,
Taught to the tune of a hick'ry stick.

I wish I had some stories of my ancestors in school. Unfortunately, I have no stories, except the now-debunked story that my grandfather was teased (today, we would say harassed) in school in Georgia because he was the only "Spanish" boy in school there. But all I have are some school registration records. I can tell you, though, that I was thrilled beyond measure when I found these records in Salt Lake City last year.

School records can lead to much interesting information for the family historian, as I discovered with these records.

My grandfather's family lived in Rockdale, Milam County, Texas. That's where his grandparents had come in 1884 from Upson County, Georgia. My grandfather, Quentin Manson, was the youngest child of eight (only seven survived to school age). The oldest sons were Carl Edward Manson (1893-1983) and Preston Otis Manson (1894-?). Their first available school record (for school year 1901-02) is reproduced below. There are a number of interesting things about this record. First, notice the boys' birthdates. Carl's birthdate is given as Oct 18, 1892, and Preston's is given as April 1, 1893. In fact, according to the family, Carl was born on January 20, 1893. This is the date on his World War I draft card and his California death certificate. I don't know when Preston was actually born. The 1900 census gives his birthdate as April, 1893. Carl's birthdate on the 1900 census is stated as January 1892. Preston seems to disappear after the 1910 census (no death certificate; no draft card; no further census entries; no marriage of record).

Notice that the record is certified true and correct, "or as far as I am able to answer," by Otis Manson (1874-1950), the boys' father. It's signed by Otis. As far as I know, Otis was unable to read or write! Most likely, the information was conveyed by Otis ("as far he was able to answer") to the other person who signed the form. And, as they say, therein lies a story all its own.

The other signature on the form is that of D[aniel] H[enry] Sanford. D.H. Sanford (1863-1941) was the grandson of Mary Wood Sanford, a widow who, in 1854, packed up her children and her slaves and relocated from Williamson County, Tennessee, to Milam County, Texas. One of the slaves was Billie Sanford (1810-1916). In Milam County, Billie's wife, Emely, gave birth to four daughters. One of the daughters, Bettie, married Otis Manson in 1890. Following this so far?

D.H. Sanford became a leading citizen of Milam County, holding a number of high civic posts, including superintendent of schools. Most likely, all of the handwriting on this school record is his, including Otis Manson's purported signature.

The next record is that of my great-aunt, Myrtle Manson Featherstone (1906-1987). It wasn't until I saw her school record that I knew her name was Myrtle! My father didn't know of her and my grandfather never spoke of her. The census records have her name as "Seritta M. Manson." My cousin Peggy confirmed that she was known as Myrtle. Aunt Myrtle's 1919-20 school year record should be considered with that of Aunt Pansy Manson Warren for that same year. The parental signature on both, though difficult to read, may be that of their mother, Bettie Sanford Manson (1872-1955). Note that their nationality is given as "American." That would change over time.

Myrtle's and Pansy's school cards for 1922-23 state their nationality as "colored."

By 1922, Otis is again signing the school cards. But this signature looks nothing like his earlier signature on the boys' cards. Instead, the hand looks somewhat childish. It's possible that the cards, including the signatures, were filled out by Pansy. Although younger than Myrtle, Pansy was known as the sister with the head for business and she handled the family's business affairs until her death in 1998.

The other 1922 school card is for my grandfather, Quentin Vennis Harold Manson (1913-1987). Notice that his birthdate is given as October 14, 1914. The evidence shows that he was born on June 20, 1913. This error gives credence to the theory that Pansy completed the school census cards that year.

In the 1919-20 school year, Myrtle and Pansy were assigned to Hamilton Chapel School. The Handbook of Texas Online has this to say about Hamilton Chapel:

HAMILTON CHAPEL, TEXAS. Hamilton Chapel, also called Hamilton, was on Farm Road 2116 three miles southwest of Rockdale in southern Milam County. It became a voting precinct in 1886 and was named for J. Hamilton, who gave land for a school. In 1903 Hamilton Chapel had one teacher each for fourteen black students and sixty-three white. The Hamilton Chapel schools were consolidated with the Rockdale Independent School District in 1949. No evidence of the Hamilton Chapel community was shown on the 1988 county highway map.

Len Kubiak, descendant of a Milam County pioneer family, adds:

Today, the church and school is gone and only the cemetery remains, dotted with its huge cedars standing over 40 feet tall and old tombstones in memory of the Hamilton Chapel settlers.

The tombstones tell of a Confederate soldier (L.W. Roberts )that lived in the community and a World War I hero that died in battle (Hicks Carlile was part of the 36th Division from Texas).

One of the original homes from the Hamilton Chapel community, built in the late 1860's still remains on the Leonard Kubiak farm, adjacent to the old Hamilton Chapel Cemetery.

The old Hamilton Chapel School in Milam County, Texas. Photo from The USGenWeb Project--Milam County Texas Archives

The other Manson children were Leroy, also known as Silas (1897-1974), Julia, also known as Mattie (1900-1912), and an unnamed infant who died shortly after birth. I didn't find any school records for Leroy or Julia, who died of tuberculosis at age 12.

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