THROUGH THE POPPIES
Around 75 miles southeast of Dallas on the main highway to Houston is Corsicana, Texas, county seat of Navarro County. Shallow oil was struck within the town limits in 1894. This was the first oil in paying quantity west of the Mississippi River.
According to the Navarro County History, Volume 2, published in 1978 by the Navarro County Historical Society, in 1900 Corsicana was an active town of energetic people all out to make a living. Dr. S.W. Johnson was mayor, Capt. C. H. Allyn was president of the school board, and Lewis C. Revarre was postmaster. By 1900 the population had increased to 9,313.
Morrison and Formy's Corsicana City Directory of 1901 reported there were 3 banks, 12 newspapers, 8 hotels, 49 retail groceries, a cotton mill, 2 orphan homes, 15 music teachers, 30 oil drillers and producers, 62 lawyers, 19 real estate operators ,35 saloons, 32 doctors.
My life began here December 10, 1921. I was named Virginia Lee after Virginia Lee Greer, an aunt of my mother's and nicknamed G. G. by my younger sister, Betty.
In January 1923, when I was two years old, the Powell deep oil field was struck and Corsicana became an oil boom city of 28,000 people instead of the farming town that was settled in 1848. I grew up there on the western edge of the East Texas oil fields.
My grandfather, William Franklin Seale, was born July 5, 1831 in Hinds County, Mississippi, one of 14 children. He came to East Texas by wagon train; then returned to Mississippi and persuaded his family to move to Texas. He worked with another man named Mitchell to survey the streets of Corsicana.
He married three times. His first wife, M. A. Seale, had five children. Hattie, his second wife, lived only two years after their marriage. Emily Taylor Seale, his third wife, was my paternal grandmother.
My grandfather farmed until the Civil War. From 1861 to 1865 he was a captain in the Confederate Army. When he returned home safely, he went to New Orleans, studied medicine and returned to Corsicana, the only doctor in eastern Navarro County.
He was one of the founders of the First Baptist Church in Corsicana. My sister, Emily Seale, told me people used to tell her they remembered my grandfather walking down the aisle to the front row with two little boys. The boys were my father, W. Franklin Seale, and my uncle, Homer T. Seale.
My father was named Franklin for his father, but later when he became active in local politics, he used Wm. Franklin Seale. I remember that most of his friends called him Frank or Doc. Even my children called him Doc.
My Dad was self employed. He had an insurance agency and sold life, auto and fire insurance. He also dealt in real estate. He became the county tax collector and since no one seemed to want this job, he had no opposition for many years. I recall being in his office as a small child. He would give me scrap paper and the official county seal to play with. The seal worked like a stapling machine and I impressed that seal on paper many times. Later a lady, I believe was Frances Cushman, ran for the office and she won. He helped her get started after the election.
My Mother was born Sarah Elizabeth Spell in Keatchie, Louisiana on February 18, 1895 near Shreveport. She had one brother, Robert Spell. Their parents, Richard H. and Lillian Leonide Spell, were both born in Louisiana and were both deceased when my mother and uncle were children. They were raised by Lizzie and Jake Hollingsworth, a brother and sister, who were my mother's first cousins. Another cousin, Sally and her husband, Mr. Yancy, lived with them. Sally was Lizzie and Jake's sister.
My sister, Emily, relates one time when she was about four or five years old, Cousin Lizzy and Cousin Jake took her home with them for a visit. They lived in Shreveport, Louisiana. Emily loved bouncing up and down on the back seat of Jake's Model T.Ford sedan. Lizzie thought Jake was driving too fast and was prompting him periodically to slow down, saying, "Jay-cob, JAAY-cob." After several attempts in which he didn't respond to her requests to slow down, she reached over and turned off the ignition. Jacob was very angry because he had to get out of the car and crank it to get it started again.
When I was 13, Cousin Lizzie came to live with us. She was dying with breast cancer. Cousin Sally and Cousin Jake had passed away by that time. I remember hearing her cry a lot after everyone had retired for the night.
One of my duties was to get Cousin Lizzie a cup of strong coffee and bring it to her every morning while she was still in bed. We had a drip coffee pot. I boiled the water, then slowly poured it through the top basket where the coffee had been placed and waited for it to drip through. It was the best! I learned to drink coffee that year and always drank it black which I still do.
Cousin Lizzie taught me to crochet, which I enjoy to this day. Since I was an early riser, after I got Cousin Lizzie's morning coffee, I would sit and crochet until time to leave for school.
About the time I learned to crochet or possibly a few years before, Doc broke his leg and was unable to work for a few months. In order to give him something to do so he would not be so bored, my mother showed him how to tat. He in turn gave me some lessons. All either one of us ever did was a straight row of tatted lace. I inherited mother's sterling silver tatting shuttle with her initials SES engraved on it.
At the cotton gin in Corsicana, I bought ecru thread in a large cone for Cousin Lizzie. Before she died, she crocheted a beautiful bedspread for my mother. The pattern was water lily which is three dimensional. My sister, Betty, who presently lives in Canada, has the bedspread today. Cousin Lizzie started me on a bedspread. I'm sorry to say that it never was finished but I still have the unfinished portion. The Corsicana Cotton Mill went out of business probably sometime in the 1940s and I have never been able to match the thread exactly.
I don't remember when Cousin Lizzie died, but probably she was buried in Louisiana and I wasn't allowed to go to the funeral.