About Me: My name is Joseph N. West, shortened to Joe N. West many years ago, I was born August 31, 1931 on the family farm, four miles West of Whitesboro, Texas in Cooke County, one half mile from the Grayson county line.
It is extremely hard to determine what my first recollections were, when there are so many bits and pieces of information running together in my mind. I will endeavor to recall some of these events for posterity. The happenings will be in no particular order, but who knows, they might prove interesting to some future member of the West clan.
Stranger in Town:
I remember one particular story, which I believe to be true that was told to me and other members of the family at one of Granddad Newt West's family reunions. It seems that my Great-Grandfather George West was married three times and had children as a result of each union. The wives and their known children are:
Mary C. Barnett - Emma, Jim.
Sarah E. Huddleston - William, Henry, John L. and Sam R.
Angoletta Davis - Newton Ellis, Robert, Emory and Albert
Now back to Granddad's story, my Grandfather was born Newton Ellis West in Illinois. Great-Grandfather George, Angoletta and the younger children moved to Texas sometime between 1881 and 1882, when he was 4 or 5, settling in what is now known as the Westview community on highway 82, just inside the Cooke county line, approximately 2 miles West of Whitesboro.
In those days this was the jumping off place, if you were heading west. My Great-Grandfather had a watering trough to water horses and cattle. Late one afternoon, around suppertime, a young man rode up to the house of my Great-Grandfather and asked if he could water his horse. The answer was affirmative, of course, and since the young man was a likeable sort, he was asked by my Granddad Newt West if he would like to stay for supper and the night. After they had washed up at the well the young man extended his hand to my great Grandfather and said, my name is Jim West.
Great-Grandfather George, the story goes studied the young man for some time and asked "Where are you from Jim West?" The young man told him some town in Illinois and that he was on his way west. Great-Grandfather asked him more questions and finally held out his arms and said, "you are my son". They spent much of the night talking, but in the morning young Jim West said goodbye, mounted his horse and rode away, never to be seen again.
Making Syrup: My Granddad Newt and all his sons, my father James Ellis West, William Luther West and Charles Newton West raised ribbon cane for syrup manufacture. I can remember that Bill and Charlie would bring the cane in from the field, my dad Ellis would feed the cane into a big press, where the juice from the cane was squeezed out. From the press the juice would flow through a pipe to a large copper cooking pan, where my Granddad Newt would cook the juice until it was of the consistency to become syrup. There were many compartments in the pan and in each compartment there was juice in varying stages of preparation prior to becoming finished quality syrup. My job and my cousin James Landon West's, (son of Charles Newton West), job was to drive the horse or mule around the big press as the horse pulled on a long pole which rotated the press to squeeze the cane juice.
My grandmother Molly West, wife of Newt West, died when I was around five years of age. The only time I remember her alive was after a syrup making episode when she dipped a large amount of hot syrup directly from the cooking pan into a china bowl which contained what seemed to be a pound of fresh churned butter. She placed the bowl of hot syrup on the rock fence in front of the old West home place along with a heaping platter of hot home made biscuits for the grandchildren and grownups to eat. I shall never forget the wonderful taste of the syrup and biscuits nor the beautiful lady, my grandmother, that gave them to us. A short time after we had eaten the syrup and biscuits, the only other time I recall seeing my grandmother was of her lying in her casket after she had succumbed to the dreaded pneumonia. After that, my aunt, Aleta Belle West, who never married, stayed with and kept house for my Granddad Newt until he died as a result of a prostate operation the year I graduated from high school, 1949. Granddad passed away in January, shortly before my family moved into the new house on the Crabtree place, a farm my dad and mother purchased in 1947.
Comfort in the Storm: Going back, again to my early recollections, I remember my dad, an extremely handsome man, who bore a striking resemblance to Randolph Scott, a Western movie actor of the day, riding to Whitesboro on a gray roan horse called Shorty to get supplies from the grocery store. While he was in town a terrible norther blew in and carried with it, a dense sand storm. My mother and we children were very frightened that my dad would not make it through the storm, but just as he always did, he came riding into the yard with some peppermint sticks for us kids. I know it doesn't sound like much of an ordeal today, but to extremely young children, I think only Jim and I were there, but Max may have been a baby, it was the most frightening thing that had occurred in my young life.
Our family, the Ellis West branch, was like most farm families in the 1930's, very poor, but never hungry. In fact, I remember my childhood very fondly. We were a very happy and loving family. My mother, Dorothy Casey West, had been a school teacher and was able to instill in us kids her great affection for reading during our formative years. For this one thing my mother did for me, I shall be forever grateful, as I'm sure my brothers and sister are also. Since I'm speaking of my brothers and sister, let me give you a little background on them and me. I am the oldest child in the family. I was named Joseph Newton West after both my grandfathers, Joseph Franklin Casey and Newton Ellis West. My brother James Ellis West, Jr. is next, we call him Jim. He, of course, was named after our father James Ellis West, Sr.. Next comes Max Archie West. I don't know where the Max comes from, but I do know that Archie comes from my mother's brother, Archie Glenn Casey. Last but not least comes my sister Lou Evelyn West McCorkle. I'm not sure where my parents got the "Lou", but I do know that the "Evelyn" is from our mother Dorothy Evelyn Casey West. We all had nicknames given to us by our father, who named every thing and everyone. Some of the names were quite humorous and usually were not that complimentary, but never-the-less they usually stuck. My moniker was Jr., short for Junior, which I was not, but you just had to know my dad. I think the Jr. came from a popular radio show called "Fibber Magee and Molly". Jim, who as a child had very blond hair, I believe was called "Cottontop" and "Rainwater". My brother Max was called "Zeke" after a character on the "Judy Canova show". The reason being that "Zeke" never talked, only grunted and Max didn't talk for sometime after he was born. My sister Lou had a number of nicknames, most of which pointed out the fact that by stretching she is almost 5 feet tall. My Aunt Aleta Belle West called her Lucinda, but that really didn't stick.
True Love: My mother, as I mentioned previously, was a schoolteacher and a college graduate. My father had an eighth grade education. He used to jokingly say that he might have gone to school longer, but that he caught up with Granddad Newt in the eighth grade and that since one of them needed to work the farm, he was elected to do the farm work. His training must have been excellent, because he was one of the best farmers I have ever known. Even though you might think he was limited by his education, this was not true. He was extremely well versed on about any subject he was interested in. If he wasn't interested, then we didn't bother him with it. My dad loved the game of baseball and during a time when there was no TV and very limited radio, he knew more about the major league players and baseball clubs than anyone around. My mother always made sure that dad got a renewed subscription to the "Sporting News" at Christmas time. We also subscribed to the "Dallas Morning News" which he thought had the best sports page. We subscribed to this paper for many years, but finally the papers political views did not coincide with my father's and he canceled his subscription. My father was a man of the strongest principles I have ever seen. His principles, honesty and integrity, set him apart from any other person I have ever known. My mother, who gave everything she had to our family, was a well educated book worm. A city girl, who never quite adapted to farm life, yet would never consider living anywhere else, other than where she and dad made their home on the farm. She was a highly intelligent woman who cleverly tried to hide it most of the time, but by the same token was extremely adamant in supporting what she believed. In other words, she could be downright stubborn. Dorothy Evelyn Casey West loved her four offspring, I know for a fact, but above all else she loved James Ellis West, Sr.. and to his everlasting credit, he her. They were such contrasting partners, he with his dominant personality, slender physical appearance and she, barely 5 feet tall and in later years a little on the heavy side, never making waves by asserting herself too much. Each of them proud of the other, he secretly of her intelligence and good looks and she always seemed pleased about my father, from his good looks to his ability to make a good crop when no one else could. The one common trait they shared was love for each other. There was never any doubt about that.
First Radio: When I was seven years old, I started school at Concord Dist. No.17 School. This was a one room school, where grades one through six were taught by one teacher to approximately 20 students. My mother had taught me how to read prior to my starting school, so I was advanced to the second grade almost immediately. This later proved to be somewhat of a disadvantage to me since I was always younger than everyone else all through my elementary and high school years. My first teacher was a man named Howard Prestage. Mr. Prestage, besides being a good teacher, was also a whiz at electronics at the time. Mr. Prestage built my family's first radio, which incidentally, was the first radio in the Westview community. People from the Westview community would come to our house for special radio broadcasts, such as prize fights and "the Grand Ole Opry". The radio sat by the West window in our old one and one half story, "shotgun house". My dad would drive our car as close to the window as possible, so cables could be run from the radio to the battery of the car. I also remember we forever had a dead battery when there was a good long radio show on the night before and one of my jobs was to jack up the rear of the old Ford "Model T" so the rear wheels could turn, making it easier to hand crank the car engine.
Going to Church: During my early years, we owned an old "Model T". The car was a coupe' with a rumble seat. My Uncle Charlie, his wife Hazel and my cousins Landon and Jeannine, who lived just across the field, would ride along with my parents and my baby brother Jim. They would climb in and on that old car and ride Westview Methodist Church for Sunday morning worship. It was quite a sight to see us going down through the woods, across the creek, where occasionally the car would stall. We would roll back down into the creek several times before the car could be persuaded by my dad to pull it's self-out. From the creek we would drive by my Granddad Newt's house and then down the road to the church house. It is so pleasant to remember what a happy time that was, with everyone whooping and yelling as we made our way to church, even though none of us probably had more than a penny to put in the collection plate at Sunday school. After church, it was our family custom to go see my maternal grandparents for Sunday dinner.
My Granddads: Granddad Casey's was one of my favorite places to go. He had lead such a colorful and interesting life. The stories he told us were some of the most interesting and fascinating parts of my young life. I had just read or was reading "Huckleberry Finn" and Granddad's stories about life as an orphan in Missouri, bore such a resemblance to "Ol Huck", that I almost felt like I was a part of his stories. My grandmother, "Granny Casey", was 14 when her mother, Margaret, died. She had been assigned the tasks of caring for her younger sisters and brothers. My Great-Grandfather Warren, Granny Casey's father, was present on many occasions when we visited Granny and Granddad. Granddad Warren, in his later years, had become very religious. I recall many occasions when Granddad Warren spoke about hell and damnation if we didn't follow the narrow path of rightesness. Granddad Warren, on the days that Granny and Granddad would go to town to shop, would place himself in the front seat of their automobile about an hour before their departure. It was quite humorous to see him sitting so straight and tall wearing his stovepipe hat while he waited for the car to start. Granddad Frank had been a railroad man, and had lost his job as a result of a strike by union railroad workers. Granddad was not a member of the union, but he honored the picket lines and didn't work. So when the strike was settled, the company, the Missouri Kansas and Texas railroad, fired him. Granddad never recovered from that. He was cut out for railroad work and it was no longer possible for him to do that, so farming was his next choice and he was not a farmer.
Buying Seed: One time I was told by my parents about a trip they took to Gainesville to buy garden seed. Money during the Great Depression was practically non-existent so when necessary you would sell all the eggs you had and maybe throw in a chicken or two to get the money to buy the seeds. They decided to visit my Uncle Archie and Aunt Gladys, who lived in Gainesville at the time. While they were visiting, someone stole the seed out of dad's old Model T. The story goes that the garden was late that year because no money was available to replace the seed at that time. They went back home and waited until enough eggs and chickens were available to buy seed that year.
Cream Separator: As I mentioned we purchased a cream separator for the farm, which in itself was quite an investment, but it would later pay dividends. My father acquired several milk cows, which had to be milked both morning and night. My brother, Jim, dad and I did the milking which inhibited our being away from home morning and night. We would milk before school and I'm sure my classmates could smell the pungent odor of the milk shed on me. Initially we would pour the milk into the cream separator which had a crank to force cream from the milk. Unfortunately I recall that as being another of my chores. We would then sell the finished product, cream, to local grocery stores. The store, I recall, was Ellery Allen's store. Later on there was a cheese factory established in Muenster, Texas. We would place about 3 ten gallon milk cans out every morning and then Vance Hudgins would come by in his old Model A truck and pickup the cans and haul them to Muenster for processing into cheese. During hot weather we would place the milk cans in half wooden syrup barrels then another of my chores was to draw water out of our water well to pour around the cans to keep them cool.
Drawing Water: Yes kids, we didn't have indoors plumbing and we had to draw the water for drinking, cooking and bathing by means of a rope and bucket out of an open water well. My dear little mother always lived in fear that we kids would fall into the well and drown. In the summer time, during hot weather, we would place a number 3 wash tub by the well and would draw water to fill the tub and let the sun heat the water, so that we could bathe after spending a long day in the fields. That was one time that being older was an advantage for me, since the oldest got to bathe first, therefore the water was cleaner. After my sister Lou Evelyn got older though we had a different way for her to bathe.
Baseball: There was a long period when I thought I had 3 brothers rather than 2 brothers and a sister since she was quite a tom boy and played baseball better than my brother Max. Jim and I were better though, but we still had her playing centerfield when we played baseball out in the field behind the house. Baseball was one of the things that our father taught us, and I still remember his love for the game. Baseball was the only thing that would cause him to leave the field before sundown. We had season tickets to attend baseball games played by the minor league professional baseball team.
The Caseys: As I mentioned earlier Granddad Frank was an orphan. I believe that he and his sister Molly were raised by an uncle who apparently was very abusive. When Granddad and Granny married they came to Texas, as did Molly, Granddad's sister. She married a man named Will Heath and lived and raised a family in Denison, Texas, some of whom still reside there. Granny and Granddad had 2 children born in Denison; they were my mother Dorothy Evelyn Casey and one of my favorite uncles, Archie Glenn Casey.
Shortly after my mother's birth the Casey's moved to Whitesboro, where Granddad worked for the railroad. This is where Archie and Dorothy grew up and attended school. As I said I would, I am digressing back to the time that Granddad Frank lost his job with the railroad.
He moved the family to California looking for greener pastures. I believe my mother was 5 years old at the time. Granddad was never happy there. One time he was talking to a friend about going back to Texas. The friend said it was a shame he didn't have the money to go back there. Granddad Frank informed him very bluntly that, "he always kept enough money to come home with" and so they did. Mother always complained that they wouldn't let her go to school in California, because she was only 5 years old.
While Granddad was still working for the railroad, he bought 50 or so acres of land in Cooke County. Granny and Archie built a house on that land that I so loved to visit. My Uncle Archie Glenn Casey and Aunt Gladys lived in Wichita Falls. They had 3 of the most beautiful girls I have ever seen. They were named Marjorie or Marj for short (I wish I could recall the nickname my dad gave her, but alas it escapes me) Jeanette and little Kay who still occupies a very large part of my heart and is so dear to me now. It was a very happy time when they would visit Granny and Granddad. We had some of the best times together. One time Marj and Jeannette came down and stayed with Granny and Granddad and went to school with us at the old Concord School. Kay was the baby and didn't get to go to school with us, which of course I'm sure she will never know what she missed. After thinking about Marj's nickname, I believe that dad called her, "Shug", if that is not it I'm sure Marj will remember.
James Ellis And Dorothy: My mother, Dorothy Evelyn Casey, after finishing high school attended college at North Texas in Denton, where she received a certificate to teach school. She began her teaching career at a small country school up near the Red River north of Gainesville named Hickory School. After teaching there for a couple of years, she was named as the teacher for Concord, Dist. 17 Schools. It was while teaching there that she met James Ellis West at a party near the Woodbine Community. He told her that she was so pretty he was tempted to start back to school. Shortly after that he would show up at Concord School and you know the rest of the story. They were married at Marietta, Oklahoma on November 19, 1930. Their wedding supper consisted of 2 hamburgers eaten on the side of the road that is now known as Radio Hill Road near Gainesville. Mother always said that was the finest supper, she had ever had. Oh yes, my mother loved hamburgers and we often called her "Wimpy" after the comic strip character that loved hamburgers. Dad was forever exasperated when he would take mother out to eat and all she would order was a hamburger.
Hobo on the Train: I remember one story that my Grandfather Frank Casey used to tell us kids about his railroad days. It seems Granddad Frank was on a train with a rather mean engineer who saw a hobo swing on to one of the empty boxcars he was pulling. He told my Grandfather to go back to that car and throw the hobo off his train. Granddad argued briefly but finally consented to go back and throw the man off the train. Granddad went back and told the man he had to get off the train. The man pulled a long pistol and told Granddad that he was not getting off, so Granddad went back to the engine. he engineer said, "did you throw him off my train", Granddad said no, "he's a friend of mine". The engineer was very angry and he told Granddad to take over the controls of the train. He said, "I don't care if he is a friend of yours, he's not riding my train. So as Granddad's story goes the engineer made his way back to the boxcar and them came back a few minutes later, Granddad asked if he had thrown the man off the train and the engineer replied, "no he's a friend of mine also". Granddad told us many other stories and I wish I could recall some of the others, but, alas I seem to be stricken with the problem that occurs as you grow older, "loss of memory".
My Granny Casey's relatives included a sister named Ellen who was married to a man named Clarence Millard who was a member of The Seventh Day Adventist Church. He was a vegetarian because of his religious beliefs. When Granny died he and Aunt Ellen drove from Kansas to the farm in an old Ford pickup truck. They forgot to bring Uncle Clarence's medication and diet, so Aunt Ellen told him he could discontinue his diet while they were here. I have never seen anyone eat as much meat of all kinds as did Clarence. I decided that he wasn't as religious as we had thought. Granny had another sister named Lily who was married to a man named Toon who at one time was the editor of a newspaper in Tulsa, Oklahoma. They had a son named Arthur who was married to a beautiful Native American woman. It was told that she was an Indian Princess. Of all the relatives who visited in our home during the time of Granny's death and burial, she was very helpful to my mother during those trying days. Arthur at one time was a county school superintendant in a county near Tulsa. Granny had other sisters and brothers that I will cover later, but since I have a one track mined, I must continue with the events occurring during the time of granny's death.