Monday, May 11, 2009


Martha Ellen Wade married Thomas Owen November 29, 1878. Their first child, Jennie Parret, was born November 7, 1878. Ada Carolyn, their third child, was born April 8, 1885, and in her later years told of their life in Texas.

Martha Ellen filed for divorce from Thomas October 11, 1892, charging abandonment and non-support and asked for a homestead on Thomas’ land. Thomas filed a crossbill stating he went to California in the summer of 1890 on the advice of his father, M. C. Owen, who feared trouble between Thomas and James E. Gregory, with whom Martha had allegedly committed adultery. Martha dropped her suit for divorce in 1894. The reason given was that she was living in Texas and could not pursue it further; but a divorce was granted to Thomas.

By: Ada Carolyn Owen Johnson

My mother had a terrible time just feeding us. All she could do was take in washings, housework for others and anything she could get to do. We had nothing.

Not too many years later, Parret and George Janoe married, she was only 14, they lived with us and he and mother tried to make a living for us. They got to talking and it seemed that other people who had gone to Texas and word got back that it was better there so she and George decided that we would all go. We did--by train--our first train ride. They did not know where they were going and knew no one who lived any certain place so we went until they decided that was far enough. We got of f the train at Bonham, Texas--not knowing a soul there--we all, lived together and again she and George fed us. We lived somehow. She raised the five of us by herself as my dad did not contribute in any way to our support, at least after he left home.

We moved from Bonham to Pecan Gap, Texas when I was about 8 or 9-- we never did know when we had a birthday so I do not know what age we made moves. I believe we lived in Pecan Gap about four years.--- We moved from Pecan Gap to somewhere between there and Cooper, Texas.---

She (mother) burned to death at Ben Franklin, Texas. She had married an elderly man who lived close by and had three daughters. Two were still at home and one was about the same age as Oma who was still at home. She and Mr. Stanfield had a baby girl. One day she was preparing dinner. She had gathered her vegetables from the garden and put them on a table outside- -the house was in an “L” shape and the table was in the corner. She had gone in the house for something and the fire in the cook stove wasn’t burning so she told his daughter to put some coal oil on it. The little girl (about 13) picked up a five-gallon coal oil can and poured oil on the wood. There was enough of a spark left in the stove that caused the fire to flame up and it got inside the oil can and it exploded throwing fire all over my mother and the baby (Effie) who was just crawling and was sitting up under a cook table. Mother ran outside and Oma and the girl drew water and throwed on her. One of them had grabbed the baby and got her clothes out. Their screams brought Mr. Stanfield to the house but they had the fire out on both of them by the time he got there. Mother’s dress burned completely off all but the collar (Gibson Girl-type dress).

They had to ride a horse several miles to get a doctor. They put a quilt in a rocker and put Mother in it and she stayed there until the doctor got there but she died soon after. All of her hair was burned off--someone picked it up out of the yard and they put it back on her head but it didn’t look right. Her main concern, they said, was about Effie. How in the world will we ever handle her, she would say. The baby lived for about two weeks but was almost a solid blister. I do not remember who took care of it until it died.

Years passed, the five sisters married, had children, and later died with their memories. In 1993 two of Martha Ellen’s great grandchildren decided to make an attempt to learn more about her and who her parents had been. Could they find anyone who knew of her, did she have brothers and sisters, did they have unknown relatives? The search led to Tennessee, and then to McMinn County and finally to Chuck-A-Luck just south of Tranquility. In 1995 several members of the family, including Ada Caroline’s daughter Mildred came with to Tennessee to visit with their newfound relatives. Ada Caroline’s daughter Ruby (1908-1999) was the mother of Bill Moyers who currently has a weekly program, Bill Moyers Journal, on PBS.

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