Alice Madora Caulk Croft

William and Alice Croft
William and Alice Croft

Alice Madora Caulk’s life story began July 26, 1867 in Litchfield, Montgomery County, Illinois. Her parents, Allen Monroe and Cansada Caulk, had children from previous marriages, but Alice was their first child together. The country was still recovering from the Civil War; so undoubtedly, folks in this small farming community were continuing to put their lives back together.

The first record I found for Alice was on the 1870 United States Federal Census. Along with her parents, Allen and Canzada (misspelled name) are her step-brothers, Jasper and Joseph, younger brother, Albert, and Allen’s mother, Sarah. The family is living in Bear Creek, Montgomery County, Illinois.

During the following ten years, the Caulk family expanded “its ranks.” By 1880 the census shows they have five more children. The name on the census is mistakenly recorded as “Cork.” Listed are: A.M. Cork (48), Cansada (37), Joseph W. (16), Alice (13), Albert (11), Theodosia (9), Arthur (7), Rosette (4), Lillie (2) and Sarah (8m). The family resided in Seminary, Fayette County, Illinois, northwest of Montgomery County.

Sometime before 1885, Allen and Cansada left Illinois and moved west to Nebraska. He was located on the Nebraska State Census, 1885, in Lone Tree, Clay County. Lone Tree was a prairie town located in the south central part of the state. I do not know their reasons for the move with their large family, but it could not have been an easy journey. Following is a bit of information that lends some insight into the reasons people were drawn to Nebraska.

During the 1870s to the 1880s, Nebraska experienced a large growth in population. Several factors contributed to attracting new residents. The first was that the vast prairie land was perfect for cattle grazing. This helped settlers to learn the unfamiliar geography of the area. The second factor was the invention of several farming technologies. Agricultural inventions such as barbed wire, wind mills, and the steel plow, combined with good weather, enabled settlers to make use of Nebraska as prime farming land. By the 1880s, Nebraska’s population had soared to more than 450,000 people. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nebraska)

ALICE AND WILLIAM CROFT MARRY

Shortly after arriving in Lone Tree, Alice met a young man by the name of William Teeter Croft, the son of John and Elizabeth Croft. They were a large family who were also farmers in the Lone Tree Township area. William and Alice courted and then married on November 12, 1885.

Marriage record for William T. Croft and Alice Caulk
Marriage record for William T. Croft and Alice Caulk

There is not an 1890 Federal census available, but from family records we know that William and Alice started their family in 1887. Their first child, Oscar Cameron, was born on June 19 in Fairfield, Nebraska. During the next thirteen years Alice would give birth to six more children – Paul Harold, Vede Weaver, George Allen, Edna Ruth, Elmer Glenn, and Fred Dewey. Along with Oscar, all except Elmer, were recorded on the 1900 United States Federal Census. Shortly after the census was taken, their eighth child was born and named Frank Monroe. Elmer was the only child of these eight who died within his first year. We know that Croft family would continue to grow, so they were certainly on their way to becoming a dynasty!

William and Alice with sons, Oscar, Paul and Vede
William and Alice with sons, Oscar, Paul and Vede

By 1910, William and Alice Croft were parents of twelve living children. During the years since the last census Floyd, Grace, Blanche, Hope, and Russell were added to the fold. All were recorded on the 1910 United States Federal Census. The five oldest sons ranging in ages 11 to 22 were assisting their father, William, on the family farm.

Croft Nebraska farm.
Croft Nebraska farm.

During the years between 1914 and 1918, all the world’s great powers were engaged in the First World War, sometimes called “The Great War.” In 1917 and 1918 all men who between the ages of 18 and 45 were required to register for the draft. Several of William and Alice’s sons fell in that category and their World War I Draft Registration Cards are provided on Ancestry.com. I do not think any of them served in the military. Nevertheless, with America engaged in a world war it must have affected their lives and the farming industry.

When the 1920 United States Federal Census was taken William, Alice, and seven of their children were still living in Lone Tree Township. Fred D., Frank M., Floyd M., Grace X., Blanche M., Hafe (Hope) and Russel W. were listed with their parents.

Several names and initials are incorrect, but as mentioned, this often occurred. The sons were working on the farm with their father.

HARD TIMES HIT NEBRASKA DURING 1920’2 AND 1930’S

History tells us that many folks began to experience hard times in Nebraska during the 1920’s. A reason is stated in this excerpt from an article entitled “Nebraska – History” found at www.city-data.com/states/Nebraska-Hist.html.

Tilling of marginal land to take advantage of farm prices that had been inflated during World War I caused economic distress during the 1920’s. Nebraska’s farm economy was already in peril when the dust storms of the 1930’s began.

It was quite likely that the farming Croft family was impacted by these circumstances. Family sources indicate that beginning in the latter part of the 1920’s and into the 1930’s the large Croft family began to disperse with each family group moving in different directions. Some traveled northwest, others east, some to the southwest, and a few to Kansas. It is surmised that the reason for the dispersion was the combination of the terrible drought and the historical United States depression. We know that Nebraska was one of the states that felt the brunt of the Dust Bowl that occurred in the early 1930’s, so it is entirely possible the Crofts felt the early effects of it in their area. If that was the case, we can understand their need to seek “greener pastures.”

The 1930 United States Federal Census tells us that William and Alice were still living in Lone Tree Township, Nebraska. The household included only William, Alice, Russell and his wife, Mary. Several of the Croft children and their families were still living in the area but began leaving in 1930’s. Some traveled to Washington and others to Kansas, Oregon, Texas, and New York. Family stories indicate it took a while from them to reach their destinations. As we know, the nation was in the midst of the Great Depression.

Even though we have no records or written stories to guide our thinking, William and Alice must have endured some terrible experiences when Nebraska and other plains states were being besieged by the horrendous Dust Bowl. The description written by Dorothy Creigh gives us a glimpse of what people experienced.

Some of the beginning of the Dust Bowl went back to the time of World War I, when marginal land was plowed to produce $2 wheat, for in years to come when the rains stopped, that land lay bare, despoiled, and eroded. But most of the origins of the Dust Bowl years came from the geological and climatically characteristics of the vast inland area bounded by the Gulf of Mexico on the south, the Rocky Mountains on the west, and what geographic barriers existed on the east and north. The land of high winds and sun, intense temperature extremes, and cyclical patterns of rainfall had known dust storms before; archeological excavations show that almost 500 years earlier, a heavy mantle of dust had driven off the semi-nomadic people who then populated the area. In the early 1930’s, drought, heat, and high winds combined in such a way as to produce a similar dramatic natural catastrophe. Although the semi-arid region had known drought and heat before, when seeds could not germinate or develop, and had known wind for most of its existence, it was the coming together of several forces that created the incessant dust storms of the 1930’s.

William and Alice, Nebraska, 1935
William and Alice, Nebraska, 1935

William Teeter and Alice Croft lived on their Nebraska farm through many very tough years. Their pioneer stock was tested mightily when the country went through war and depression and the land was crippled by drought, and dust storms. As a mother myself I cannot help but wonder how Alice endured the birthing of thirteen children; dealt with the grief of losing a child; and managed during the children’s growing up years! She must have been a woman of incredible strength.

Nevertheless, through the years William and Alice were able to witness their children develop successful livelihoods. It is likely they were well acquainted with many of their grandchildren and great grandchildren, so that must have brought them great satisfaction and pride.

When the 1940 United States Federal Census was taken, William and Alice were retired and living on South Railroad Street in Port Isabel, Cameron County, Texas. Perhaps the cold Nebraska weather or ill health was the reason for their move to a warmer climate. Their oldest son, Oscar, and grandson, Lloyd, lived in San Antonio, so they had family for occasional visits.

In 1942 Alice lost her husband of 57 years on January 11, 1942. We do not know the circumstances, but they were in San Antonio, Texas when he died. Their oldest son, Oscar, lived there, so perhaps William and Alice were there for a visit. He was buried at the Mission Burial Park, South in San Antonio.

Following William’s death Alice moved to Kansas City, Missouri to be near her son George and his wife, Lena. She died on October 8, 1947 in Kansas City, Missouri and was buried beside her husband in the Mission Burial Park, South in San Antonio, Texas.

Grave Marker for Alice M. Croft
Grave Marker for Alice M. Croft

 Sources

Alice C. Croft, death certificate no. 34427, State Board of Health of Missouri. Kansas City, Missouri.

Ancestry.com. 1870 United States Federal Census [database online] Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009.

Ancestry.com.1900 United States Federal Census [database online] Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2004.

Ancestry.com.1910 United States Federal Census [database online] Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2000.

Ancestry.com.1920 United States Federal Census [database online] Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009.

Ancestry.com.1930 United States Federal Census [database online] Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2002.

Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012.

Clay County, marriage license, Clay County Clerk’s Office, Clay Center, Nebraska.

Creigh, Dorothy, “Dust Bowl Years,” Adam County (Nebraska) Historical Society.

“History – Nebraska,” www.city-data.com/states/Nebraska-Hist.html

Written by Lucy Ann Nance Croft, 2011

Alice M. Caulk Pedigree Chart (click link) alice-m-caulk-pedigree-chart-scan0001

 

William Teeter Croft

William and Alice Croft with children.
William and Alice Croft with children.

John Hipple and Elizabeth Teeter Croft can certainly be counted among the pioneer folk who traveled long distances to set up their homesteads in early settled territories. They moved their family across three states from Pennsylvania to Monroe County, Iowa sometime between 1847 and 1860. Their first three children were born in Pennsylvania and the last six children were born in Iowa.

When John and Elizabeth’s eighth child was born on April 26, 1858, they were living in Appanoose County, Iowa. They named him William Teeter. Note the use of his mother’s maiden name. This county borders both Monroe County and the state of Missouri. In 1896 Frank Hickenlooper wrote poetically about the landscape of this prairie land in An Illustrated History of Monroe County Iowa. His words set the scene for us.

The old settlers whose faith in the future of Monroe County was unshaken by the midnight chorus of the wild wolves, the sting of the winter frost creeping through the “chinking” of the cabin walls, the sweep of the prairie fires, the depleted meal-chest, the stroke of the prairie rattlesnake, the pall of the “deep snow,” and the loneliness of the prairie cabin – husbands and wives, youths and maidens, whose brave, true hearts and willing hands defied the wilderness; and in after years made it to blossom as the rose, this volume is most sincerely dedicated….

It will seem strange at this day that the beautiful prairies (the word “prairie” in French means “meadows”) of Monroe County, growing in grass and studded with wild sweet Williams, asters, and golden rod, and a profusion of other flowers, should for several years remain untenanted by those who had come here to acquire homes.

Our southern neighbor, Appanoose County, with her wooded ridges and brushy pastures, may be said to define the physical limits or mark the boundaries, in a physical sense, of the North and South.

Note: William’s death certificate gives Keokuk, Iowa as his place of birth. Since his father is listed in the Iowa, State Census Collection, 1836-1925, living in Appanoose County in 1856, I think the information on the death certificate may not be correct.

At the time of the 1860 United States Federal Census, William was 2 years old. The Croft family was living in Monroe County. Recorded on the census were John H. (41) Elizabeth (34) Mary A. (18) Margaret (15) Barbary (12) John (10) Caroline (7) Eli (5) and William (2). John H. recorded his occupation as “Gunsmith.” Other interesting bits of information were given on this census. Value of Real Estate – $400; Value of Personal Estate – $150; Occupation of daughter, Mary Ann – School Teacher; and Person over the age of 20 years of age who cannot read and write – Elizabeth.

Aside from the difficulties that the Croft’s faced in settling in new territories and providing for their family, it was a tumultuous time in the history of the United States. As we know, the Civil War broke out in 1861 and lasted until 1865. Along with all people in that time and place, they must have been greatly impacted.

Iowa was the 29th state to join the union in 1846 and sided with the North in the Civil War. As a part of the Union, it played an important role by providing food, supplies, and troops for the troops. In the 1850’s, the Illinois Central and the Chicago and North Western Railway developed, and this meant Iowa’s fertile fields were linked with the Eastern supply depots during the Civil War. Manufacturers in the east Iowa, as well as farmers, could get their products to the Union army.

Again I turn to Frank Hickenlooper to provide insight into this tragic time. Even though he wrote about Monroe County, the situation was much the same for all in the southern counties of Iowa.

On the breaking out of the Civil War, Monroe County, from her close proximity to the pro-slavery border, was one of those new counties upon which the evil stroke of war fell with a heavy hand. She was ill prepared at the time to make the great sacrifice, but the record of her soldier boys, and of her fathers, upon whose locks time had left its frost marks, shows that they not only took their lives in their own hands, but bowed to a still greater sacrifice, in leaving behind, in privation, their wives and little ones, to battle with hunger and possibly to suffer at the hands of guerrilla hordes from across the Missouri border.

William was only 3 years old when the Civil War began, but his father and older brothers may have been called on to serve in some capacity. I have not located military records for them at this time. Though it is only a supposition on my part, it is possible that as a gunsmith, John Croft  may have provided his services to the army in some way.

In 1870, John and Elizabeth Croft and their family were recorded on the United States Federal Census. Their name was misspelled, but this was not uncommon. We also discover that two more children had been born since that last census was taken. Listed are John Croff (53) Elizabeth (48) Caroline (14) Eli (12) William (11) Edward (8) and Isabel (6).

JOHN AND ELIZABETH CROFT MOVE TO NEBRASKA

At some point in the next ten years, the Croft family headed to Nebraska. When the 1880 United States Federal Census was taken, they were living in Lone Tree, Clay County, Nebraska. The township’s name certainly describes the landscape of this part of the United States. It was a sparsely populated prairie land in south central Nebraska, and a major industry was corn and wheat farming. The census records John and Elizabeth and their four youngest children – Eli (22), William (21), Edward (19) and Isabel (16). The enumerator recorded John’s occupation “Not at home” and the sons’ “Working on farm.” It was recorded that Elizabeth can neither read nor write.

Evidently, when John and Elizabeth migrated to Nebraska, four of their older children also moved. Evidence gleaned from census records show that Jacob and Margaret Croft Hager; Andrew and Barbara Croft Clark; John and Dora Croft; and Nathaniel and Caroline Croft Graham lived in the Clay County.

WILLIAM CROFT AND ALICE CAULK WED AND START A FAMILY

A young woman named Alice Madora Caulk also lived in Clay County. Her parents were Allen Monroe and Cansada Caulk. Like the Crofts, they were a farming family. Sometime in the early 1880’s, she and William met. After a courtship, they married November 12, 1885.

There is not an 1890 Federal census available, but from family records, we know that William and Alice started their family in 1887. Their first child, Oscar Cameron, was born on June 19 in Fairfield, Nebraska. During the next thirteen years, Alice would give birth to six more children – Paul Harold, Vede Weaver, George Allen, Edna Ruth, Elmer Glenn, and Fred Dewey. Along with Oscar, all except Elmer, were recorded on the 1900 United States Federal Census. Shortly after the census was taken, their eighth child was born and named Frank Monroe. Elmer was the only child of these eight who died within his first year. We know that Croft family would continue to grow, so they were certainly on their way to becoming a dynasty!

William and Alice Croft with family
William and Alice Croft with family

By 1910, William and Alice Croft were parents of twelve living children. During the years since the last census, Floyd, Grace, Blanche, Hope, and Russell were added to the fold. All were recorded on the 1910 United States Federal Census. The five oldest sons ranging in ages 11 to 22 were assisting their father William on the family farm.

William and sons on Nebraska farm, 1914
William and sons on Nebraska farm, 1914

Having such a large family seems unbelievable to us today, but it was quite common in earlier times. There is family lore that William wanted to form a type of family commune with each son or son-in-law helping in a certain capacity on the farm. I have read the commune idea was often utilized in remote farming areas, so perhaps his idea was not unique. Not everyone had farming skills but could assist in other ways such as carpentry or machinery repair. Cynthia Croft Wood is William’s great granddaughter and shared this family story passed along by her father Lloyd Ollie Croft.

Their dad (William Croft) never voted for a winning politician – always for the socialist candidate. Hence this was his desire to implement the communistic concept of “each contributing according to his ability and each taking according to his need”. It was Oscar that decided that they “needed” an airplane to dust the crops. I recall Dad saying that the rest of the family wasn’t consulted and this decision caused a rift within this “utopian” commune.

Lone Tree land platte for W.T. Croft farm property.
Lone Tree land platte for W.T. Croft farm property.

During the years between 1914 and 1918 all the world’s great powers were engaged in the First World War, sometimes called “The Great War.” In 1917 and 1918, all men between the ages of 18 and 45 were required to register for the draft. Several of William and Alice’s sons fell in that category, and their World War I Draft Registration Cards are provided on Ancestry.com. I have not checked other records for them, but I do not think any of them served in the military. Nevertheless, with America engaged in a world war, it must have affected their lives and the farming industry.

When the 1920 United States Federal Census was taken, William, Alice, and seven of their children were still living in Lone Tree Township. Fred D., Frank M., Floyd M., Grace X., Blanche M., Hafe (Hope) and Russel W. were listed with their parents. Several names and initials are incorrect, but as mentioned, this often occurred. The sons were working on the farm with their father.

Croft Nebraska farm.
Croft Nebraska farm.

History tells us that many folks began to experience hard times in Nebraska during the 1920’s. A reason is stated in this excerpt from an article entitled “Nebraska – History” found at  www.city-data.com/states/Nebraska-History.html

 Tilling of marginal land to take advantage of farm prices that had been inflated during World War I caused economic distress during the 1920’s. Nebraska’s farm economy was already in peril when the dust storms of the 1930’s began.

THE GREAT DEPRESSION AND DUST BOWL HITS NEBRASKA

It was quite likely that the farming Croft family was impacted by these circumstances. Family sources indicate that beginning in the latter part of the 1920’s and into the 1930’s, the large Croft family began to disperse with each family group moving in different directions. Some traveled northwest, others east, some to the southwest, and a few to Kansas. It is surmised that the reason for the dispersion was the combination of the terrible drought and the historical United States depression. We know that Nebraska was one of the states that felt the brunt of the Dust Bowl that occurred in the early 1930’s, so it is entirely possible the Crofts felt the early effects of it in their area. If that was the case, we can understand their need to seek “greener pastures.”

The 1930 United States Federal Census tells us that William and Alice were still living in Lone Tree Township, Nebraska. The household included only William, Alice, Russell and his wife, Mary. Some of the Croft children and their families were still living in the area but began leaving in 1930’s. Some traveled to Washington and others to Kansas, Oregon, Texas, and New York. Family stories indicate that it took them a while to reach their destinations. As we know, the nation was in the midst of the Great Depression.

Croft Family Reunion, Fairfield, NE, 1935
Croft Family Reunion, Fairfield, NE, 1935

When reading his obituary, I found it interesting that William taught school in Lone Tree for many years. It does not mention what grade he taught, but it is likely the school was small and a class may have included several grades.

Even though we have no records or written stories to guide our thinking, William and Alice must have endured some terrible experiences when Nebraska and other plains states were being besieged by the horrendous Dust Bowl. The description written by Dorothy Creigh gives us a glimpse of what people experienced.

Some of the beginning of the Dust Bowl went back to the time of World War I, when marginal land was plowed to produce $2 wheat, for in years to come when the rains stopped, that land lay bare, despoiled, and eroded. But most of the origins of the Dust Bowl years came from the geological and climatically characteristics of the vast inland area bounded by the Gulf of Mexico on the south, the Rocky Mountains on the west, and what geographic barriers existed on the east and north. The land of high winds and sun, intense temperature extremes, and cyclical patterns of rainfall had known dust storms before; archeological excavations show that almost 500 years earlier, a heavy mantle of dust had driven off the semi-nomadic people who then populated the area. In the early 1930’s, drought, heat, and high winds combined in such a way as to produce a similar dramatic natural catastrophe. Although the semi-arid region had known drought and heat before, when seeds could not germinate or develop, and had known wind for most of its existence, it was the coming together of several forces that created the incessant dust storms of the 1930’s.

William Teeter Croft lived with his wife Alice on their Nebraska farm through many very tough years. Their pioneer stock was tested mightily when the country went through war and depression and the land was crippled by drought and dust storms. If he had hopes for a large family farm commune, those hopes were not fully realized. Nevertheless, through the years they were able to witness their children develop successful livelihoods. It is likely they were will acquainted with many of their grandchildren and great grandchildren which must have brought them great satisfaction and pride.

WILLIAM AND ALICE RETIRE TO TEXAS

When the 1940 United States Federal Census was taken, William and Alice were retired and living on South Railroad Street in Port Isabel, Cameron County, Texas. Perhaps the cold Nebraska weather or ill health was the reason for their move to a warmer climate. Their oldest son, Oscar, and grandson, Lloyd, lived in San Antonio, so they had family for occasional visits.

Four generations of Croft men - William, Oscar, Lloyd and L.K.
Four generations of Croft men – William, Oscar, Lloyd and L.K.

On January 11, 1942, William and Alice were visiting family in San Antonio, Texas when he died at the age of 84. He was buried in San Antonio at the Mission Burial Park South. William was survived by his wife of 57 years, Alice M. Caulk Croft, their twelve children and numerous grandchildren. Here is his obituary, transcribed from photocopy of a newspaper clipping by Mildred Croft (wife of Keith Croft, grandson of William Teeter Croft).

Funeral services for William Teeter Croft, 84, of Fairfield were held in San Antonio, Texas, Wednesday, Jan. 14. Mr. Croft passed away Jan. 11, 1942, after a short illness in San Antonio at the home of his son, 1616 North Flores, where he had been for the last two months.

Mr. Croft was born April 26, 1857, in South Central Iowa, coming to Clay County in 1872, where he homesteaded five miles northwest of Fairfield. Here, he spent the rest of his life, except for the last few years which he spent traveling and seeing the country.

He married Alice M. Caulk on October, 1885. To this union, thirteen children were born, twelve surviving him.

He taught school at Dist. 15, Lone Tree a number of years and [was] well thought of [as} a man during his life time.

Those surviving him are: his wife, Mrs. Alice M. Croft of San Antonio, Texas; daughters, Mrs. Ruth Durfee, of Washington, Kansas; Mrs. Grace Montgomery, of Prosser, Wash.; Mrs. Blanche Mumford of North Port, Nebr.; Mrs. Hope Thompson of North Platte, Nebr.; sons, O.C. Croft of San Antonio, Texas; C.H. Croft and Frank Croft, both of Los Angeles, Calif.; V.W. Croft and Fred Croft, both of Glen Aubrey, N.Y.; G.A. Croft of Kansas City, Mo.; Floyd Croft of Fairfield, Nebr.; and Russell Croft of Dallas, Texas; thirty-four grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren, and a host of friends and other relatives.

william-t-croft-gravestone-img_0318

Sources

Ancestry.com. 1860 United States Federal Census [database online] Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009.

Ancestry.com. 1870 Unites States Federal Census [database online] Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009.

Ancestry.com and The Church of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census [database online] Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2005.

Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census [database online] Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2004.

Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census [database online] Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations. Inc., 2000.

Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census [database online] Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009.

Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census [database online] Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2002.

Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012.

Ancestry.com. Iowa, State Census Collection, 1836-1925 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2007.

Clay County, marriage license, Clay County Clerk’s Office, Clay Center, Nebraska.

Creigh, Dorothy, “Dust Bowl Years,” Adam County (Nebraska) Historical Society.

“History-Nebraska,” http://www.city-data.com/states/Nebraska-History.html

Hickenlooper, Frank, “An Illustrated History of Monroe County, Iowa 1896,”www.usgennet.org/usa/topic/historical/Monroe/Monroe_1htm

Wikipedia The Free Encylopedia, “Iowa in the American Civil War,”www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iowa_in_the_Ameri

William Teeter Croft, death certificate no. 397, Texas Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Austin, Texas.

Wood, Cynthia Croft, Personal Recollections of Croft Family, clebleuwood@gmail.com

Written by Lucy Ann Nance Croft, 2011

William T. Croft Pedigree Chart (click link) scan0007

William T. Croft Family Group Sheet (click link) william-t-croft-fgs-document

 

George Edward Nance

george-edward-nance-2

George Edward Nance was born February 28, 1865, in Hallettsville, Lavaca County, Texas and was the second child of Lewis and Charity May Nance. This small town is located on the Lavaca River, eighty miles southeast of Austin. At that time, as now, much of the economy of the area was based on agriculture and area farmers raised cattle, and grew rice, corn, hay, fruit, and pecans. George’s father, Lewis, farmed and raised cattle.

Around the time of George’s birth, the American Civil War was coming to a close and Texas was a Confederate state. Needless to say, the Nance family, like all Texans, must have been greatly impacted by this war. George’s father, Lewis, was enrolled for the duration of the war and was a corporal in Company D, 2nd Texas Cavalry.

In the years following the Civil War, Lewis Nance was doing what he could to provide for his growing family. In his book The History of the Nance Hereford Ranch, Jim W. Kuhlman provides a record of Lewis’ land transactions and livestock purchases in Lavaca County, Texas (Kuhlman, 41-47). Some of the land transactions were in partnership with his brother, Edward Y. Nance. He also registered for a livestock brand.

It is evident that he valued land ownership and raising cattle was his business. I imagine young George was required to help his father on the farm and was receiving some early lessons in farming, ranching, and the importance of owning land.

Unfortunately, there is little information about George’s childhood. However, when his father died, in 1874, the Nance family had five children (Mary Margaret, George, Katherine, Sarah, and Louis “Lou”) and his mother was expecting a sixth child. Since George was only 9 years old when his father died and was the only son, it is likely he had to grow up very quickly. Undoubtedly his mother expected him to be “the man of the house” and depended on him to help with the chores on their farm. Jim Kuhlman gives two differing family perspectives on Edward’s young life.

 Bennett Nance wrote in ‘The Nance Family History’ in 1992 that George Edward was the boss at an early age and was spoiled by his sisters who had to do the work. Others in the family said he was adored by his five sisters for he had done so much for their mother Charity and the girls as they were growing up without a father. (Kuhlman, 47-48)

It is likely there is some truth in both statements. Nevertheless, the views, one by a son and another by George’s sisters, give us a little insight on family dynamics.

George met the daughter of a neighbor John Woodward when he was in his early twenties. Her name was Lucinda “Lucy” Ann Woodward. Following a courtship they married on January 23, 1888, in the Mossy Grove Methodist Church in Lavaca County.

Mossy Grove Methodist Church, Lavaca County, Texas
Mossy Grove Methodist Church, Lavaca County, Texas

George Edward and Lucy Ann Nance began their early married life on the Nance land south of Hallettsville along the east side of the Lavaca River in January 1888, raising cattle and farming. It has been said that he started with $17 dollars and a team of mules. George inherited the urge to acquire land from his father Lewis and the conservative way of life from his Cherokee grandmother Mary Upton May. Lucy Ann learned from her family, the Woodward’s, the value and importance of land and livestock. Losing her mother at twelve years of age, and having to help raise other brothers and sisters, prepared her to raise her own family. (Kuhlman, 73)

 Note: Mary Jane Upton’s Cherokee ancestry is family lore and has not been documented.

In his book, Kuhlman wrote that George Nance began early in life to develop a desire to own land, and between the years of 1888 and 1896, he made a number of land transactions in Lavaca County, Texas. One purchase of particular interest was from his sisters, Sally Nance and Margaret “Maggie” Nance Varnell. He paid them $100 for 150 acres 3 miles southeast of Hallettsville near the small community of Sweet Home. This eventually became known as the “Nance Homestead.” Records for all Lavaca County land transactions are in the Lavaca County Courthouse, Hallettsville, Texas. (Kuhlman, 73-74)

GEORGE AND LUCY START THEIR FAMILY

Three years after they married, George and Lucy Ann started their family with the birth of a daughter, Willie Mae, on January 28, 1891. By 1897, they had four more children – Gladys Gertrude (August 10, 1892); Norma Dell (March 11, 1894); George Edison (January 3, 1896); and Sadie Ann (September 4, 1897). All were born in Lavaca County, Texas.

George and Lucy with daughters, Willie Mae and Gladys.
George and Lucy with daughters, Willie Mae and Gladys.

In 1900 we find the George Nance family living in Goliad County, Texas, their family of seven listed on the 1900 United States Federal Census. They lived near the small community of Charco located in the northeastern part of the county. This little burg was settled by at least four members of Stephen F. Austin’s Old Three Hundred. The Spanish charco means “pool” or “watering hole,” a name suggested by the numerous bodies of water that once dotted the area. In his autobiography, Bennett Nance says their farm was on the banks of the San Antonio River about 4 or 5 miles from Charco which at the time had one school, one grocery store, a cotton gin, and a blacksmith shop.

While living in Goliad County, the Nance family continued to grow with the birth of Bennett Allen, December 23, 1901 and John Allison “Al” September 18, 1903.

In 1907, the Nance family moved to Wichita County, Texas as described by Bennett Nance.

Bennett and Al Nance
Bennett and Al Nance

 We moved our furniture, plows, wagon, buggy, horses, and mules in one freight car to Electra, Texas. We moved into an old house that had formally been the home of W.T. Wagoner. It was a block from the old depot. He was the owner of the 600,000 acre Whiteface Ranch…We lived here only a for short time, and then we moved to a farm on Beaver Creek, 11 miles south of the town. This was a 984 acre stock farm which is still held by Nance descendants. (This is no longer the case in 2009 as I copy this information.)

 The Nance family stayed on the Beaver Creek farm near Electra until about 1915 and then readied for their next move to Floyd County. In his book, Jim W. Kuhlman provides an excellent record of George Nance’s land transactions in Floyd County. (Kuhlman, 80-82) It seems he had quite a good eye for land and was an able dealer.

Oil had been discovered in 1911 near Electra, and in 1914, Papa Nance leased our farm to Texas Oil Company (later Texaco). Having a craving for land, Papa found this place west – a 320 acre farm 5 miles south of Lockney, Texas, in Floyd County. In 1915, we moved there, but we kept the Beaver Creek farm. In about 1916 oil was discovered on the Lockney farm and eventually there were more than 100 wells on the place. In 1915, we moved by train to a farm 5 miles south of Lockney, a town of maybe 100 homes. Every house in the town had a windmill. In those days no small town had waterworks. What a sight! Back on Beaver Creek we did not have windmills, and I don’t remember one in Electra. An elderly couple was more than glad to sell Papa their farm. Their name was Keys. Again the school was on our property – Pleasant Valley. My sisters had all married by this time. Al and I went to school here. Our teacher was Miss Maggie Satawhite. My older brother, George, did most of the farming with me and Al helping out. We still used horses and mules. The first crop on the 320 acres was planted with mules and a planter called a “sod buster planter.” Since the World War I was being fought, we made enough grain at about $3.00 per hundred weight, which was enough to pay for the land with the first crop. (Bennett Nance autobiography)

After meeting with Bennett Nance, Jim Kuhlman shares some of their conversation about the Beaver Creek farm.

When Papa purchased the farm in Lockney and moved the family once again, he wanted to sell the 984 acres in Wichita County but Mama Nance would not hear of it, so they kept the property. She must have had a hunch something good was going to happen!

Not long after their move to Lockney, oil was discovered on the Beaver Creek property, around 1916. This certainly was a major turning point in the lives of the Nance family. On March 28, 1993, Bennett told me that some of the wells drilled back in the teen years were still producing today. ‘We had over 100 oil wells on that place at one time on 984 acres. My friend Herman Mitchell who I grew up with at Rocky Point School, said that the Nance place was the cream of the crop.(Kuhlman, 82)

 During the years of 1914-1918 the world was embroiled in war. Like others in our nation, the Nance family was affected by this terrible event when George and Lucy Ann’s son, George Edison, joined the U.S. Navy on December 27, 1917. World War I was a conflict which involved most of the world’s great powers and was centered in Europe. It has gone down in history as one of the largest and most deadly wars with more than 15 million people killed. It was also known as the Great War and the War to End All Wars. Having their son in the military must have been a terrible worry to George and Lucy Ann. I imagine they and their entire family were deeply concerned about his well-being and safety. Seeing an end to the conflict could not come soon enough.

World War I ended in 1918 and the Nance family is found on the 1920 United States Federal Census living at 418 Sycamore Street in Abilene, Taylor County, Texas. George Nance was listed as a farmer and his son, George Edison, is a tool pusher meaning he worked in the oil fields. By this time, all of the Nance daughters were married and only the sons George, Bennett, and Al were named as a part of the household.

GEORGE AND LUCY ANN MOVE TO THE TEXAS PANHANDLE

 In 1921 George Nance turned his eyes to the Texas Panhandle. When he learned of some land available in southern Randall County, some of which was owned by the Harris family

from Floyd County, George Nance worked a trade of some of his Floyd County farm for the Randall County land. Jim Kuhlman gives the details of the trade. (Kuhlman, 127-128)

 As it turned out, this was only the first land transaction for George Nance. More than ever, it is evident that George Nance had a hunger for land in his beloved Texas.

By February 1924 George Nance owned nine and one half sections which stretched five miles from the west border of section 117, which is next to the Schuette place, to the east border of section 121, on the Palo Duro Canyon. (Kuhlman, 134)

Note: A part of this land was purchased in 1929 by George and Lucy Ann’s son, George Edison, and his wife, Lucille, and they developed the renowned Nance Hereford Ranch.

From his conversation with family members, Jim Kuhlman points out that it was well known that George Nance was a good stockman, trader and businessman. His grandson shared that he was told that his grandfather would sit in the lobby of the local banks to learn what was going on and visit with the bank officers about different opportunities. He soon became a stockholder in the bank in Canyon, Texas. (Kuhlman, 132)

After his initial land purchase, George and Lucy Ann began thinking about another change, and in 1922 they moved from Abilene to a small primitive ranch house on one of the seven sections of land near the Palo Duro Canyon. While living here, George Nance purchased cattle for his new operation and most likely they were Hereford. They also raised their own forage feed, farming with horses and mules;

The Nance family lived in the old ranch house until the spring of 1924 and then made the decision to build a new house on one of the sections of land.

 The Nance family decided that the east one-half of section 118 would be a good location for a new home and a headquarters for their ranching operations. It was reasonably level land with good productive and nutritious native grasses including blue grama and buffalo grass. The pastures were free of trees and shrubs…

So early in the spring of 1924, a new home was built on a knoll on the north side of the half section that eventually became the home of the Nance Hereford Ranch. Bennett shared with me on March 29, 1993, ‘We had to pull all the nails out of the lumber from the house down in the header of the canyons to build the Nance home on the ranch. Papa Nance wouldn’t throw away the nails; they and the lumber could be used again.’…As Bennett had mentioned earlier, his father was a very frugal person. He believed in paying cash, and definitely did not believe in charging purchases. Credit cards were unknown in those days. (Kuhlman, 134-135)

 George and Lucy Ann Nance lived on their ranch near Canyon, Texas, until 1929 when they decided to retire. At that time their son, George Edison, and his wife, Lucille, purchased the ranch home place and two additional sections. George and Lucy bought a lovely home in Brownsville, located in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.

George and Lucy Ann's home in Brownsville, Texas.
George and Lucy Ann’s home in Brownsville, Texas.

George Edward Nance died February 4, 1937, in Brownsville, Cameron County, Texas, and was buried in the Dreamland Cemetery near Canyon, Texas. Jim W. Kuhlman shows his admiration of George Nance with this wonderful tribute.

 At seventy-one years of age, almost seventy-two, the very adventurous life of a major pioneer born in Hallettsville, Texas, came to an end. He certainly left a wonderful mark on this world and a shining example for all his family for generations to come. A great lover of land, he impressed upon his children ‘Never sell land.’ So even today some of the land that he put together in his lifetime is still owned by his descendants. (Kuhlman, 193)

An obituary from the Canyon News, Canyon, Texas, Thursday, February 11, 1937.

Mr. Nance was one of the large pioneer ranchers in this section of the country, and he and Mrs. Nance made their home at their ranch east of Canyon until six years ago when they moved to Brownsville because of his failing health. Mr. Nance was a kind, generous, and successful businessman, who was loved by all who knew him. He was formerly associated with the First National Bank of Canyon as Vice President and as a member of the Board of Directors. (Kuhlman, 193)

nance-george-edward-d24b6a61-4795-441f-a4b9-5788e11422b8

Sources

Ancestry.com. 1870 United States Federal Census. [database online]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009.

Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United

States Federal Census. [database online]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2005.

Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census. [database online]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2004.

Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census. [database online]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2006.

Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census. [database online]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009.

Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census. [database online]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2002.

Ancestry.com. Texas Death Index, 1903-2000. [database online]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2006.

Canyon News, Obituary for George E. Nance, February 11, 1937.

Commonwealth, Volume 4, Chapter LX, Wortham-Molyneaux Company, Fort Worth, Texas, 1924. www.texasmilitaryforcesmuseum.org/wortham/4345.htm

Croft, Lucy Ann Nance, Looking Back: Reflections On My Life, 2007.

George Edward Nance, death certificate no. 6978, Texas Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Austin, Texas.

Handbook of Texas Online, www.txgenweb2.org/txlavaca;hallettsville.htm and www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/HH/hgh1_print.html

Kellner, Marjorie, Project Director, Wagons Ho! A History of Real County, Texas, Curtis Media, Inc., 1995.

Kuhlman, Jim W., The History of the Nance Hereford Ranch, 1996.

Lavaca County, marriage record, vol. E, p, 409, County Clerk’s Office, Hallettsville, Texas.

Nance, Bennett Allen, Autobiography of Bennett Allen Nance: Rancher in Real County, 1927-1948, 1985. n.p.

Wikipedia The Free Encylopedia, “World War I”, www.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_WarI

Written by Lucy Ann Nance Croft, 2010

George Edward Nance Pedigree Chart (click link) scan0006

George Edward Nance Family Group Sheet (click link) george-edward-nance-family-group-sheet-document

 

 

Bennett Allen Nance

bennett-nance

Bennett Allen Nance was born December 23, 1901, near the small community of Charco, Texas, located in northeastern Goliad County. Interestingly, this little town was settled by at least four members of Stephen F. Austin’s Old Three Hundred. The Spanish charco means “pool” or “watering hole,” a name suggested by the numerous bodies of water that once dotted the area. Bennett was the sixth child of George Edward and Lucy Ann Woodward Nance. The Nances lived on a farm on the banks of the San Antonio River about 4 or 5 miles from Charco which at the time had one school, one grocery store, a cotton gin, and a blacksmith shop. In his autobiography, Bennett says:

I was born in a shack, I remember, and Al (his brother) was born (September 18, 1903) in a new house Papa had built. I visited the old homestead a couple of years ago and the oldhouse had burned down. It was very sad to see. All that remained were the foundation and chimneys.

Bennett and Al Nance
Bennett and Al Nance

In 1907, the Nance family moved to Wichita County, Texas. Here is what Bennett writes:

We moved our furniture, plows, wagon, buggy, horses, and mules in one freight car to Electra, Texas. We moved into an old house that had formally been the home of W.T. Wagoner. He was the owner of the 600,000 acre Whiteface Ranch. Electra was named after his daughter. Electra was very small, maybe 200 people. The barn on our place was behind the house in the middle of the present town. The present bank in Electra is where our house was located and a drug store is now where our barn was located. We lived here only a short time, and then we moved to a farm on Beaver Creek, 11 miles south of the town. This was a 984 acre stock farm which is still held by Nance descendants. (This is longer the case.) A school, Rocky Point, was built on the corner of our property and four of us started to school there. I remember Miss May Pridgen as my first teacher. Also, there was a Mr. Adrain.

According to Bennett, the Nance family stayed on the farm near Electra until 1915. He has this to say:

Oil had been discovered in 1911 near Electra, and in 1914, Papa Nance leased our farm to Texas Oil Company (later Texaco). Having a craving for land, Papa found this place west – a 320 acre farm 5 miles south of Lockney, Texas, in Floyd County. In 1915, we moved there, but we kept the Beaver Creek farm. In about 1916 oil was discovered on the Lockney farm and eventually there were more than 100 wells on the place. In 1915, we moved by train to a farm 5 miles south of Lockney, a town of maybe 100 homes. Every house in the town had a windmill. In those days no small town had waterworks. What a sight! Back on Beaver Creek we did not have windmills, and I don’t remember one in Electra. An elderly couple was more than glad to sell Papa their farm. Their name was Keys. Again the school was on our property – Pleasant Valley. My sisters had all married by this time. Al and I went to school here. Our teacher was Miss Maggie Satawhite. My older brother, George, did most of the farming with me and Al helping out. We still used horses and mules. The first crop on the 320 acres was planted with mules and a planter called a “sod buster planter.” Since the World War I was being fought, we made enough grain at about $3.00 per hundred weight, which was enough to pay for the land with the first crop.

By 1920 the Nance family is found in Abilene, Texas (1920 Federal Census). Bennett tells about their move here.

My older brother, George, had by this time (1917 or 1918) volunteered for the Navy in World War I and was stationed in Norfolk, Virginia. The war was getting terrible. We moved to Abilene, Texas (1917 or 1918). I was seventeen years old and in the 6th grade. I went to Simmons College where they also taught grammar school. It was 3 miles from home and I walked it twice daily until the Armistice was signed and then I rode a streetcar.

During the next years in Bennett’s life, he lived in several locations, primarily for better education. In 1921 he entered Peacock Military School in San Antonio, Texas, and was classified as a junior in high school. By the end of his first year, he was promoted to captain. In 1922, he went to live with his sister, Willie Mae, and her husband, Doc Fisher, in Electra, Texas. It was here that he spent his senior year in high school and met his future wife, Archie LeBus. They graduated in the same class – The Electra High School Class of 1922.

Electra High School Class of 1922
Electra High School Class of 1922

Evidently, Bennett was well liked by his classmates at Electra High School. This was revealed to me as I looked through his small scrapbook of mementos including notes, cards, programs, and news clippings. Among these souvenirs was a program for the Electra High School Senior Play. It may surprise some in his family but Bennett was the leading man in the play, “Aaron Boggs, Freshman.” Perhaps we are a bit taken aback because our dad and grandfather was a man of quiet demeanor. I for one find it almost impossible to imagine him on stage!

After graduation from high school in 1922, Bennett wanted to continue to pursue an education. He says:

I persuaded my parents to let me go by train to school at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. I stayed only a few months, to my everlasting sorrow and regret. It was a wonderful institution and I have always wished I could have graduated from there. I came home part way by boat via Savannah, Georgia.

While I was at Brown University, Papa had, in the meantime, traded for a ranch 6 miles east of Canyon, Texas, on the banks (edge) of what is now Palo Duro Park. At that time no one had ever thought of it being a park. I have been down in there by horseback. Big Sunday Canyon, one of its tributaries, headed in our pasture. I attended classes again in Canyon at West Texas State Teachers College (currently a university). Of course, I helped at the ranch also.

Bennett and Al Nance on the ranch
Bennett and Al Nance on the ranch

BENNETT AND ARCHIE WED

As previously mentioned, Bennett met Archie LeBus while a senior in Electra High School and they had stayed in contact in the years following graduation. In 1924, Bennett visited family in Electra and got in touch with Archie. Here he shares his thoughts about that time.

On a trip back to Electra, I was re-acquainted with Archie (we had been corresponding) and I decided I wanted to get married. It was the luckiest thing that ever happened to me, to acquire such a priceless pearl. She was the greatest thing that ever happened to me. We were married on January 1, 1925, in Wichita Falls, Texas, at the First Christian Church. Her brother, Jack LeBus, stood up for us.

Bennett and Archie Nance
Bennett and Archie Nance

We went on our honeymoon in a Model T Ford. After this, we decided to move back to Canyon with my folks. There were three families of us – my father and mother, my brother George and his wife, Lucille, and Archie and myself living in one house.

Mom (Archie) and I were never happy on the ranch at Canyon, so we went to Electra and I went to work at the LeBus and Friend (L & F) Chevrolet Company selling cars and helping out front at the gas pumps. In the meantime, Papa had sent me word that if I could find a ranch that I liked, he would look into the matter. I began to look around for another location and found an area that intrigued me around Rocksprings down in the Hill Country of Texas.

Bennett and Archie were still living in Electra when a very sad event occurred in their lives. Archie gave birth to a baby girl on September 16, 1926, and they named her Aileen. However, much to their great sorrow, baby Aileen died that same day. It must have been a devastating blow for them to lose their first child. Regrettably, neither of my parents spoke about this experience to me and Daddy (Bennett) makes no reference to it in his autobiography. I suppose through the years the pain of that event was partially replaced with the joy of having other healthy children.

As previous mentioned, Bennett’s “Papa” told him if he found a ranch, he would buy it. According to Bennett, here is what happened.

Homer Grizzle, my brother-in-law,(who also worked at L & F Chevrolet ) and I decided we would take a trip down through central West Texas to see what we could find. We drove down to San Angelo, Menard, Junction, and other parts of the country. I found a place I liked on the north fork of the Llano River. We went back to Electra and I contacted my folks and told them about the country we had seen. I also told them about mohair and wool being in its prime and how great goat ranching was. Goat ranching was in its real heyday as mohair was being used in autos for upholstery, furniture, cloth, drapes, etc.

When I got Papa Nance down there to look it over, Papa was just ‘carried away’ with the ranch country in the Edwards Plateau. He had never heard of that area. All the ranchers down there were raising Angora goats and doing well since mohair was in its prime, being used a lot in the rapidly growing automobile industry. One of the key people we visited with before making a purchase was a man, ‘Reo’ who worked on the Charlie Schreiner YO Ranch at Mountain Home, Texas, established in 1858. Papa Nance purchased the ranch from the Rudisil’s. It was located on the Divide of the Edwards Plateau where the Frio River started and became known as the Divide Ranch, 35 miles east of Rocksprings and 65 miles west of Kerrville.

In late August, 1927, we had all of our belongings loaded and traveled to the ranch to start our new adventure. I drove a truck and Archie followed in the car. We drove on mostly dirt roads. I can remember driving up to the ranch and going through the gate that was just about 100 yards from the house. The gate was too narrow and I ripped our new bedsprings off the side of the truck. Archie was upset and crying. You must remember this was a real change for her, but she was determined to try and be a good wife and mate.

We started improving the ranch. I was very pleased now being in what I thought was the best place on earth and in a new business. I knew nothing about sheep and goats, although, I had the advantage of being a country boy. The Great Depression was starting, but we were always able to get groceries once a week on credit payable when the mohair or wool sold.

THE NANCE FAMILY BEGINS TO GROW

More changes occurred in 1929 when Bennett and Archie were expecting a baby. Because Archie needed to be near a doctor and medical attention, they decided to move back to Electra. Having lost their first child, it makes sense that they must have felt some anxieties about this second baby and felt relief knowing she would also have family support there in Electra. Dan Allen was born April 10, 1929. Happily they welcomed their healthy baby boy! After Archie and Dan were strong enough to travel, they moved back to the ranch.

Dan Allen Nance
Dan Allen Nance

On October 25, 1931 Archie gave birth to a beautiful baby daughter, Nancy. Again, they had moved near a doctor but this time to Kerrville which was only 65 miles from the ranch. By this time, they had built a new home on the ranch which was more comfortable and suitable for their growing family. I recall hearing about the larger kitchen with both a wood-burning iron stove and a gas stove. Archie probably enjoyed her better equipped kitchen since cooking for her family was something she absolutely loved.

Nancy Nance at 3 years old
Nancy Nance at 3 years old

In his autobiography, Bennett says that by 1935 living in such a remote area presented a “school problem” for Dan and Nancy. To help remedy this they built a small school house and employed a tutor, Miss Dorothy Sikes, from Center Point, Texas to live in and teach the children. However, as the Depression got worse, home schooling worked for only a short time. They decided to rent a house in Kerrville during the fall and winter so that Dan and Nancy could attend school. Bennett commuted back and forth from town to ranch.

Bennett and Archie’s family continued to grow and on February 22, 1937, their baby girl, Lucy Ann, was born at home in Kerrville. (She was named after Bennett’s mother.) Perhaps it was more common at that time to give birth at home, but it required special preparation and, of course, a doctor who made house calls! In her autobiography, Lucy Nance Croft shares some memories her brother Dan had about her birth.

The first thing I can remember about you is Mom’s preparations for your being born at home. At the time it was 925 Myrta Street. Of course, that’s in Kerrville. I remember Mom and her friends obtained a hospital bed somewhere. They made up a lot of absorbent pads. They also had a crib and other things around. I can recall the big event but really not in great detail (Croft, 7).

Lucy Ann Nance at 6 months
Lucy Ann Nance at 6 months

In the fall of 1938, there was another move for the Nance family. When the school situation again presented a problem, they rented a home in San Antonio so that Dan and Nancy could attend better schools. This was a longer commute to the ranch for Bennett but it was necessary.

Continuing to search for a solution to the “school problem,” Bennett and Archie decided to purchase a home and move to Wichita Falls, Texas, so that Dan and Nancy could attend school there and Archie would be near her family. Bennett continued to commute to the ranch but says that because he had good help he could stay in Wichita Falls for longer periods of time. However, this changed somewhat in 1941 with the advent of World War II. He had to do his part in the war effort by raising food, mohair, and wool. Bennett makes the statement that his draft board gave him orders to do so. This meant he had to spend more time at the ranch and away from his family. Archie must have been happy to be near her family during this time of national and world upheaval.

A very happy event occurred on July 25, 1943, when Bennett and Archie added a beautiful little red haired baby boy, Steven Anthony, to the family! Not long after his birth, the family sold their home in Wichita Falls and bought a home in Kerrville. They lived at the ranch for about six months while the house at 901 Myrta Street was being remodeled. During that time, Nancy and Lucy attended a one-room school on the Divide and Dan was at Kemper Military School in Boonville, Missouri.

Steven Anthony Nance
Steven Anthony Nance

BENNETT SELLS THE RANCH AND BUYS A FARM

In 1948 Bennett made a big decision to trade the Divide Ranch for a farm in south Texas. Here is what he says:

Batching at the ranch and driving 65 miles back and forth to Kerrville became impractical. Dan was in Kemper Military School in Missouri. I finally decided to make a switch, so I traded our Real County ranch for a farm in the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas. We still own this farm. (This is no longer the case. In 2010, only Dan Allen Nance owned a section of this farm.)

With his ranching days behind him, Bennett shares these thoughts:

On leaving the ranch, I had the fantastic notion that I was departing one of the last areas or vestiges of The Old West. I had the privilege of knowing a lot of folks that were the last persons to live in an era that is now gone forever. I am proud to have experienced a small fraction of it.

Owning a farm must have been quite a new and challenging venture for Bennett. Even though he had a sharecropper farm his land, his commuting days were not entirely over. Through the years, he and Archie made routine trips to the Valley to check out their crops of cotton and grain along with other business related to the operation of a large farm (1000 acres). As farmers can attest, there are good years and there are bad years. It seems to me that a farmer needs to have a lot of patience and a deep faith to negotiate the ups and downs of weather, price fluctuations, good help and other obstacles.

Archie and Bennett celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary
Archie and Bennett celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary

Both Bennett and Archie loved living in Kerrville. Through the years they made countless friends and were always so proud of their lovely home at 901 Myrta Street. Bennett called it his “castle.” Maintaining a beautiful yard was especially important to them.

Nance family home at 901 Myrta Street, Kerrville, Texas
Nance family home at 901 Myrta Street, Kerrville, Texas

Later in life, Bennett and Archie decided to purchase a small country house on 60 acres of scenic land near Leakey, Texas. It was adjacent to Rosetta Nance’s home and property and very near the Frio River. They called the place “El Charco” commemorating Bennett’s birthplace. For Bennett it became a work place and he enjoyed involving himself in various projects improving the house and land. The house was comfortable but rustic, so perhaps he enjoyed it more than Archie. Nevertheless, it provided a little “get-away” spot for them. It is possible it reminded them of their early days at the Divide ranch.

The darkest day of Bennett’s life occurred on August 5, 1987, when his dear wife, Archie, died. They had traveled together to the Rio Grande Valley to check out the cotton crop on their farm. While visiting there, with no warning, Archie died. It was a deep shock to Bennett and the entire family. Her body was returned to Kerrville for her funeral and burial at the Sunset Cemetery in Mountain Home, Texas.

Bennett continued to live in his home on Myrta Street until 1991. By then his health began to deteriorate, so he moved into a nursing home in Kerrville where he remained until his death. At one time he felt it might be possible for him to move into the home of one of his children, but after thought and discussion, he realized that was not a realistic solution. Dan, Nancy, Lucy and Steve helped “dismantle” his home and pack some of his favorite belongings to move to his new location. Even though they tried to ease the transition for Bennett, they knew it was a difficult time for him.

During the next few years, Bennett’s children would spend time with him, visiting, going out to eat, running errands or driving in the countryside. Dan made an effort to come to Kerrville for one week out of each month to be with his dad. Bennett and his children enjoyed these special times together.

Bennett Allen Nance died February 17, 1994 in Kerrville, Texas. He was buried at the Sunset Cemetery, Mountain Home, Texas beside his beloved wife, Archie.

nance-bennett-gravesite-monday-october-05-2009

In her autobiography, Lucy Nance Croft writes about her father.

During the early years of my life, Daddy was a rancher. When I was eleven, he sold his ranch and bought a cotton farm in the Rio Grande Valley, between Harlingen and Raymondville. He had a tenant to farm it, so even though he spent a good bit of time traveling there, we continued to live in Kerrville. As both a rancher and a farmer, Daddy loved the earth, its bounty and beauty, and treated it accordingly. I can say I certainly had a wonderful role model of a good steward. He had some direction from his dad in ranching and farming, but he gained most of his knowledge from on-the-job experience.

Education was important to Daddy, whether it was formal or informal. He graduated from high school and attended some college, but in many respects I would say he was self-educated. I feel that he regretted not having more college education. Reading and life experience were his primary means of continuing education. His favorite books were about Texas history or historical people, and he enjoyed reading the Bible and his Encyclopedia Britannica. Daddy also learned Spanish by working alongside Mexicans and reading Spanish newspapers. He never felt fluent, but I thought of him as bilingual and considered it quite an accomplishment. He loved many things about the Mexican people and their culture, especially their music.

Daddy was a very honest, responsible, and conservative person. He believed in diligence and persistence in all undertakings and was a fair person in his dealings, whether in business or daily living. He was a perfectionist in many ways, and because I am much the same way, I can say that it may have been both a blessing and a curse!

Because of his hard and frugal upbringing, I think Daddy had a difficult time enjoying himself. He was very comfortable with solitude, was a reserved, private, and rather shy man. I remember that he had only a few close friends whom he would occasionally meet in town for coffee. Also, Daddy and Mama seemed to be happiest when they had family gathered for a big meal. Another one of their pleasures as a couple was going for drives or “rides” as they called them. Late in the afternoon, they would drive around the Kerrville area, to Fredericksburg or along the Guadalupe River.

Daddy would sit on our front porch late in the day enjoying his home and yard. He always referred to his Kerrville home as his castle. He enjoyed good home-cooked food, and his favorite meal was a breakfast of eggs, bacon or ham, gravy, biscuits, peach preserves, and perhaps a few hot peppers on the side. A favorite quote of his—”A man should eat breakfast like a king, lunch like prince, and dinner like a pauper.” Actually, that is pretty healthful advice.

Daddy was a conservative man in his lifestyle, religion, and politics. His tastes were simple, but he did enjoy looking well groomed and was quite handsome when he dressed up. He loved hats. In his older years, he always wore a “gimme” cap.

This is a favorite quote from Daddy’s autobiography – ‘I have lived a versatile and romantic life, witnessing the times of cotton kingdoms, cowboys, oil booms, drillers and roughnecks, oil field machine shops, and inventions beyond our wildest dreams – From the horse and buggy to traveling in space and to the moon. But the most memorable of all is a honeymoon in a model T Ford!’

On reflection, I would say that Daddy’s integrity, fairness, strength of character, diligence, perfectionism, and stewardship of the earth and his possessions were the qualities that most affected my life. Being a man of simple tastes, he appreciated the small things in life and was not overly impressed with the materialism of the world around him. Acting responsibly was important to him and influenced his evaluation of others. He was a dear and special man—a great daddy! He died in Kerrville at the North Haven Care Center on February 17, 1994, at the age of ninety-two. (Croft, 28-31)

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; thou holdest my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.

Tom Curry, minister, First Presbyterian Church, Kerrville, Texas, used Psalm 16:5-6 as the text for the message at Bennett’s funeral service.

Sources

Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census, (database online). Provo UT,

USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2006.

Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census, (database online). Provo UT,

USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.

Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census, (database online). Provo UT, USA:

Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2002.

Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census, (database online). Provo, UT, USA:

Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012.

Ancestry.com. Social Security Death Index, (database online). Provo, UT, USA:

Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.

Bennett Allen Nance, birth certificate no. K211604, Texas Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Austin, Texas.

Bennett Allen Nance, death certificate no. 0174460, Texas Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Austin, Texas.

Croft, Lucy Ann Nance, Looking Back: Reflections On My Life, 2007.

Handbook of Texas Online, www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/CC/hnc46html

Kellner, Marjorie, Project Director, Wagons, Ho! A History of Real County, Texas,

Curtis Media, Inc., 1995. (Includes Autobiography of Bennett Allen Nance.)

Kuhlman, Jim W., The History of the Nance Hereford Ranch, 1996.

Nance, Bennett Allen, Autobiography of Bennett Allen Nance: Rancher in Real County 1927-1948, 1985. n.p.

Wichita County, marriage certificate no. 12846, County Clerk’s Office, Wichita Falls, Texas.

Written by Lucy Ann Nance Croft, 2010

Bennett Allen Nance Pedigree Chart (click link) scan0005

Bennett Allen Nance Family Group Sheet (click link) bennett-a-nance-fgs-document

Ancestry of Bennett Allen Nance

nance-crest1

In researching my Nance family ancestry I have discovered this surname to be quite a common one. This work focuses on the family histories of Bennett Allen Nance and Archie Carlisle LeBus; George Edward Nance and Lucinda “Lucy” Ann Woodward; Lewis Camerer Nance and Charity Melvina May; and Edward H. Nance and Margaret Camerer.

Other related surnames are Anderson, Camerer, Hinch, LeBus, May, Montgomery, Upton and Woodward.

At the time of this writing (2014) I have not been able to find information about the parents and siblings of Edward H. Nance, and therefore, I have not made a connection with our Nance ancestors who first came to America or their country of origin. In his book The History of the Nance Hereford Ranch, Jim W. Kuhlman says the generally accepted tradition of researchers is that Nance ancestors were French Huguenots and fled France to England during the Huguenot persecutions in the 1500’s.

Variations in the spelling of the surname include Nance, Nans, Nanse, Nantes, Nantz, Nantze and Nanz.

Lucy Ann Nance Croft, 2014

Nance Coat of Arms: “SEMPER-EADEM” meaning “Always the Same.”

Note: Check Nance Genealogy Clearinghouse article on this Coat of Arms. http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~nancegc/nnc_arms.htm

 

 

Surnames (Related to Koenning Family)

Here are the surnames related to the Koenning family:

Berger: Anne Dorothia “Dora” Elizabeth Berger

Croft: Lloyd Ollie Croft

Kluch or Kluck: Anna Margaretha Kluch

Kram: Marie “Mary” Kram, Joseph Kram

Stratmann: Caroline Wilhelmine Luise Stratmann

Wemken: Helene Catherine Margarethe Wemken, Alerd Wemken

Surnames (Related to LeBus Family)

Here are the surnames related to the LeBus family:

Calk: Ethel Cleora, Early Jackson Calk, Thomas Clayton Calk

Daniels: Julia Clementine Daniels

Larrimore: Mary Elizabeth Larrimore

Leyburn: Lucy Ann Leyburn, John L. Leyburn

Nance: Bennett Allen Nance

Ruby: Nancy Jane Ruby

Simington: Margaret Simington

Titsworth: Wincy Louisa Titsworth, Levi Nicholas Titsworth

 

Surnames (Related to Nance Family)

Here are surnames related to the Nance family:

Anderson: Mary Adelia Anderson, Richard Jordan Anderson

Camerer: Margaret Camerer, Ludwig “Lewis” Camerer

Grant: Mary “Polly” Grant

Hinch: Lucinda Ann Hinch, Michael Henry Hinch

LeBus: Archie Carlisle LeBus, George Franklin LeBus, John Blackburn LeBus, Andrew Morandus LeBus

May: Charity Melvina May, George May, John May

Montgomery: Anna Montgomery

Taylor: Charity Taylor,

Upton: Mary Jane Upton, Samuel Isaac Upton

Woodward: John Southern or Sidney, Woodward, Jacob Woodward

Surnames (Related to Croft Family)

Surnames related to the Croft family are as follows:

Agley: Mary Agley, Conrad Agley

Bowton: Mary Emma Bowton, Mark Bowton, William Bowton

Caulk: Alice Madora Caulk, Allen Monroe Caulk

Hipple: Anna Margaretta Hipple, John Hipple

Irich: Anney Catherine Irich

Jones: Cansada Jones

Koenning: Gertrude Kathlena Koenning, Adolph H. Koenning, Joachim Koenning, John F. Koenning

Kirkpatrick: Rebecca Kirkpatrick, Hugh Kirkpatrick

Mohler: Thomas Jefferson Mohler, John Adams Mohler (Sr & Jr)

Nash: Mary Nash

Shambaugh: Lydia Ann Shambaugh, John Shambaugh

Teeter: Elizabeth Teeter, David Teeter

Walter: Catherine Walter

Ethel Mae Mohler Croft

Ethel Mae Mohler Croft
Ethel Mae Mohler Croft

Ethel Mae Mohler began what would be a very long life in Orion Township, Illinois on August 10, 1891. Her parents were Thomas Jefferson and Mary Bowton Mohler and she was their sixth child. They were one farming family among many in this part of Illinois. Three more children were born in this family before they left Illinois and moved to Nebraska in the late 1890’s. I cannot imagine the ordeal of moving a family of eleven people.

When the 1900 United States Federal Census was taken they were living in York, York County, Nebraska. T.J. Mohler is recorded along with his wife, Mary and their children Charles, Lena, Ethel, Darrel, David, and Ewort. Thomas and Mary had another son, William, born in 1885 in Illinois, but he was not residing with them. The two older children, Flora and Ellsworth, were no longer living with the family. Information from the census shows that the family is living in a home which they owned and was not on a farm. The enumerator’s handwriting is difficult to read but it appears that Thomas is working as a carpenter.

Unfortunately we have no diaries or recorded family stories to help us better understand Ethel’s youth. Thanks to the U.S. census records we do get a glimpse of her family’s life. The 1910 census shows that Thomas was farming and his younger sons were helping him on the family farm. Ethel and her sister, Lena, were teaching school. With seven mouths to feed and the same number of bodies to clothe, undoubtedly the days were long and arduous for all members of the Mohler family.

A young man named Oscar Croft lived in nearby Clay County, Nebraska. Though we do not know where or how, he and Ethel met sometime in the 1908 or 1909. Evidently they were attracted to each other and courted for a time. On October 5, 1910 they married in York County, Nebraska.

It is likely that after their marriage Oscar and Ethel lived on or near his father’s family farm land in Clay County. Since Ethel’s father was also a farmer she was familiar with the lifestyle. While still living in Fairfield, Clay County, Nebraska they became parents when their first child, Lloyd Ollie, was born February 9, 1913.

Evidently Oscar made the decision to leave farming because on the 1920 United States Federal Census, he, Ethel, Lloyd, and Keith are living in Hastings, Adams County, Nebraska. It may have been the family rift that caused him to leave the farm. However, he may have felt he was not cut out for the farming life. Nevertheless, the census recorded his occupation as automobile salesman. Later that year they had their second son, Keith Lyle, born November 15, 1920.

Sometime in 1929 Oscar and Ethel opted to leave Nebraska. Family sources indicate that during the latter part of the 1920’s the large Croft family began to disperse with each family group moving in different directions. Some traveled northwest, others east, some to the southwest, and a few to Kansas. It is surmised that the reason for the dispersion was the combination of the terrible drought and the historical United States depression. We know that Nebraska was one of the states that felt the brunt of the Dust Bowl that occurred in the early 1930’s, so it is entirely possible the Crofts were feeling the early effects of it in their area. If that was the case, we can understand their need to seek “greener pastures.”

OSCAR, ETHEL AND SONS MOVE TO TEXAS

Oscar and Ethel moved to San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas in 1929. We do not know what drew them to this part of the country, but perhaps it was the promise of better employment opportunities and living conditions. Oscar, Ethel, Lloyd, and Keith are recorded on the 1930 United States Federal Census and are residing at 1625 Broadway. This residence must have been a rooming house because five other individuals are recorded at this same address. Ownership of the house is not indicated. The census also gives the information that Oscar’s occupation is District Representative in the automobile industry.

1937 was an important year for Oscar and Ethel Croft. They embarked on a new venture with their son Lloyd when together they founded the Croft Trailer Company at 1423 North Flores Street in San Antonio. Later they developed a trailer rental business and became a part of the Nationwide Trailer rental chain. Oscar’s brother and sister-in-law, George and Lena Croft, lived in Kansas City, Missouri and founded a branch Croft Trailer Company there, too. The company was quite successful and the San Antonio branch was in business for over 70 years.

Ethel Mae Mohler Croft
Ethel Mae Mohler Croft

Family members recall that Ethel was involved in the Croft Trailer Company from its very beginnings, working right along with her husband and son. Her role was assisting in the business office. She was quite serious-minded, and it is likely she ran a “tight ship.” At some point, she and Oscar moved next door to the business, so more that ever, she was on the job 24/7.

When Ethel became a grandmother, they called her “Grandmother.” However, her first great grandchild called her “Gee Gee” and that stuck for the rest of her days.

In her autobiography, Lucy Ann Nance Croft shares her memories of “Gee Gee.”

 In looking back on the people who have gained my deepest respect, I would put Grandmother Croft at the top of the list. Because she lived in San Antonio, L.K. was able to spend a great deal of time with her as a child and they developed a close relationship. Consequently, it mattered a lot to Grandmother who he married. Fortunately for me, she let me know from the beginning that she approved of his choice.

When L.K. and I married, Grandmother had been widowed for a number of years (Oscar Cameron Croft, 1887–1952), and I realized right away that she was a fearlessly independent woman. Perhaps it was just her nature, but I believe it had a lot to do with the fact that she had worked at the Croft Trailer Company handling properties, investing her money, and planning her life in all respects. Father and Mother watched out for her and included her in their life as much as possible, but Grandmother had a mind of her own. She died on June 30, 1989, in San Antonio, Texas. She was ninety-seven years old and still lived alone.

Ethel Croft was a person of deep Christian faith. She was an active member of the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church in San Antonio. Because she had a commitment to its work and worship, the church played a major role in her life. Some of her lasting friendships were with people she met there and with whom she served over the years. She exhibited her spirituality in numerous ways. Though a frugal person, she was also generous in her giving, to both the church and to individuals who needed her assistance or encouragement. She was faithful in the reading and study of her Bible and made its truths a part of her daily thinking and living.

Though conservative in dress and demeanor, Grandmother was an attractive woman and took pride in her appearance. Perhaps her good health and longevity could be attributed to her good genes, but she knew the importance of staying fit and healthy by eating well and exercising. Even in her later years, she would walk in the neighborhood—sometimes to the beauty salon to have her hair done.

Gee Gee with Gertrude, Cynthia and Mildred Croft
Gee Gee with Gertrude, Cynthia and Mildred Croft

When the family got together for dinner or a celebration of some kind, Grandmother, or “Gee Gee” (the name given to her by her great-grandchildren), really enjoyed herself. She was reserved and quiet, but she listened intently to the talk going on around her. It pleased me that in her later years, if someone engaged her in a conversation she responded very enthusiastically. It is wonderful that our children were able to know their great grandmother. That’s not true for many of us. Each of them went to Trinity University in San Antonio and would see her from time to time.

grandmother-gee-gee-croft

One thing that concerns me as I grow older is staying mentally alert. Gee Gee was role models to all of us. We were constantly amazed at her sharpness and continued interest in the world around her. When we would think of the changes she had experienced in her lifetime, it astounded us that she could cope so well. L.K. would phone her each week and she would remember things he had told her the week before, such as our plans for a trip, our recent activities, or an item of news about our children. Her interest and curiosity were admirable and impressive. L.K. would often compliment her on her abilities and her longevity. She surprised us when she said that living a long time was not something we should be impressed by. She felt that she was no longer contributing to the world and was a worry to those who loved her. As I reflect on that, perhaps in some respects that may have been true. However, even up to her last days, we respected her wisdom, her caring manner, her encouragement, and her constant support and love for us and our family. In those ways, she was still giving of herself.

Ethel Mae Mohler Croft died on June 30, 1989 in San Antonio, Texas and was buried at Mission Burial Park South next to her husband, Oscar Cameron Croft.

croft-oscar-ethel-127666638_1397018218

 Sources

Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census, [database online]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2004.

Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census, [database online]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network. Inc., 2006.

Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census, [database online]. Provo UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.

Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census, [database online]. Provo UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009.

Clay County, marriage record, Clay County Clerk’s Office, Fairfield, Nebraska.

Croft, Lucy Ann Nance, Looking Back: Reflections On My Life, 2007.

Ethel Mae Mohler birth record, State of Nebraska, Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Lincoln, Nebraska.

Ethel M. Croft death certificate no. 060184, Texas Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Austin, Texas.

Written by Lucy Ann Nance Croft, 2011.

Ethel Mae Mohler Pedigree Chart (click link)scan0004

 

Oscar Cameron Croft

Oscar Cameron Croft
Oscar Cameron Croft

Oscar Cameron was the first of thirteen children born to William Teeter and Alice Caulk Croft, on June 19, 1887 in Fairfield, Clay County, Nebraska. The first time Oscar appears on a United States Federal Census record was in 1900 (The 1890 census record is not available). He was 12 years old and living with his family in Lone Tree, Clay County, Nebraska. The township’s name certainly describes the landscape of this part of the United States. At the time the Crofts lived in the area it was a sparsely populated prairie land in south central Nebraska, and a major industry was corn and wheat farming.

By the time the 1910 United States Federal Census was taken the Croft family had grown by leaps and bounds. Recorded are William and Alice with their twelve children – Oscar C., Paul H., Vede W., George A., Fred D., Frank M., Grace I., Blanche M., Hope C., Russell W., and Ruth E. A son named Elmer died in 1897, the same year he was born. This was a formidable household, to say the least!

In so many historical accounts of this era we read that the children were engaged in the work on the farm and was a major reason for such large families. They provided a type of workforce. Since Oscar was the oldest, undoubtedly his parents expected a great deal of him. More than likely, he and his brothers began at an early age helping their father in various capacities on the wheat farm. In fact, there is family lore that the Croft’s formed a type of family “commune.” Here is the story as related by Oscar’s granddaughter, Cynthia Croft Wood.

Their dad never voted for a winning politician – always for the socialist candidate. Hence this was his desire to implement the communistic concept of “each contributing according to his ability and each taking according to his need”. It was Oscar that decided that they “needed” an airplane to dust the crops. I recall Dad saying that the rest of the family wasn’t consulted and this decision caused a rift within this “utopian” commune.

Oscar Croft beside crop-duster airplane
Oscar Croft beside crop-duster airplane

Sometime in the 1908 or 1909 Oscar met a girl named Ethel Mae Mohler. She was the daughter of Thomas Jefferson and Mary Mohler and her family lived in nearby York County. We do not know how they met, but evidently they were attracted to each other and courted for a time. On October 5, 1910 they married in York County, Nebraska.

Oscar and Ethel Croft
Oscar and Ethel Croft

It is likely that after their marriage Oscar and Ethel lived on or near the family farm land. Ethel’s father was also a farmer so she was familiar with the lifestyle. While still living in Fairfield, Clay County, Nebraska, their first child, Lloyd Ollie, was born  February 9, 1913.

During the years between 1914 and 1918 all the world’s great powers were engaged in the First World War, sometimes called “The Great War.” In 1917 and 1918 all men who between the ages of 18 and 45 were required to register for the draft. Oscar fell in this category and he did his duty by registering June 5, 1917. It is interesting to note that he claimed two disabilities – weak eyes and a heart ailment.

Evidently Oscar made the decision to leave farming because on the 1920 United States Federal Census, he, Ethel, Lloyd, and Keith are living in Hastings, Adams County, Nebraska. It may have been a family rift that caused him to leave the farm, or perhaps it was the realization that he was not cut out for the farming life. Nevertheless, the census recorded his occupation as automobile salesman. Later that year, their second son, Keith Lyle, was born November 15, 1920.

Oscar and Ethel with sons, Lloyd and Keith
Oscar and Ethel with sons, Lloyd and Keith

Sometime in 1929 Oscar and Ethel opted to leave Nebraska. Family sources indicate that during the latter part of the 1920’s into the mid 1930’s the large Croft family began to disperse with each family group moving in different directions. Some traveled northwest, others east, some to the southwest, and a few to Kansas. It is surmised that the reason for the dispersion was the combination of the terrible drought and the historical United States depression. We know that Nebraska was one of the states that felt the brunt of the Dust Bowl that occurred in the early 1930’s, so it is entirely possible the Crofts were feeling the early effects of it in their area. If that was the case, we can understand their need to seek “greener pastures.”

OSCAR, ETHEL CROFT AND SONS MOVE TO TEXAS

Oscar and Ethel moved to San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas in 1929. We do not know what drew them to this part of the country, but perhaps it was the promise of better employment opportunities and living conditions. Oscar, Ethel, Lloyd, and Keith are recorded on the 1930 United States Federal Census and are residing at 1625 Broadway. This residence must have been a rooming house because five other individuals are recorded at this same address. Ownership of the house is not indicated. The census also gives the information that Oscar’s occupation is District Representative in the automobile industry.

1937 was an important year for Oscar and Ethel Croft. They embarked on a new venture with their son Lloyd when together they founded the Croft Trailer Company at 1423 North Flores Street in San Antonio. Later they developed a trailer rental business and became a part of the Nationwide Trailer rental chain. Oscar’s brother and sister-in-law, George and Lena Croft, lived in Kansas City, Missouri and founded a branch Croft Trailer Company there, too. The company was quite successful and the San Antonio branch was in business for over 70 years. In its 70th year Oscar and Ethel’s grandson L.K. Croft submitted an article to the San Antonio Express News and it was published on July 10, 2007.

Happy 70th anniversary to Croft Truck Equipment and Accessories…

Seventy years in business is always worth noting.

The company began in 1937 when Lloyd O. Croft and his parents, O.C. and Ethel Croft, founded the Croft Trailer Company at 1423 N. Flores Street.

It originally focused on making trailers and hitches. Later as the trailer rental portion of the business grew, it became part of the Nationwide Trailer rental chain.

The part of the business specializing in custom truck accessories also grew.

In 1972, a cousin, Mary Ann Balzer, and her husband, Harvey Balzer, purchased the company. The rental portion of the business stopped a decade later as the company moved into selling trailer hitches and truck accessories In 1991 the Balzer children, Mike and Sandra, became president and vice president of the company.

Now at 1503 N. Brazos, the company has 135 employees, with a distribution center in Houston.

croft-trailer-company-1958

Note: At this time (2011) the Croft Truck and Equipment Accessories is no longer in business.

In the years following the founding of Croft Trailer Company Oscar was very involved in developing the business. Though it was no surprise to family members, Ethel worked right beside him assisting with the bookkeeping and other office tasks. It was a team effort. Eventually they even moved into a house next door to the company.

Ethel and Oscar Croft
Ethel and Oscar Croft

When asked to describe his grandfather L.K. Croft shared that he remembers him as having a light-hearted demeanor. In fact, he added that his grandfather’s brothers were also very outgoing and fun-loving.

In the late 1940’s Oscar developed heart disease causing a gradual decline in his health. He died in San Antonio on April 19, 1952 and was buried at Mission Burial Park South.

croft-oscar-c-2

Sources

Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census, [database online]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2004.

Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census, [database online]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations. Inc., 2000.

Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census, [database online]. Provo UT,

USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.

Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census, [database online]. Provo UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009.

Ancestry.com. World War I Draft Registrations Cards, 1917-1918 [database online]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2005.

Oscar C. Croft obituary, Express News, San Antonio, Texas, Apr. 20, 1952.

Clay County, marriage record, Clay County Clerk’s Office, Fairfield, Nebraska.

Oscar Cameron Croft, death certificate no. 16167, Texas Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Austin, Texas.

Tijerina, Edmund, “Around Town”, San Antonio Express News, July 10, 2007, San Antonio, Texas.

Wikipedia The Free Encylopedia, “World War I.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WorldWarI

Written by Lucy Ann Nance Croft, 2011

Oscar Cameron Croft Pedigree Chart (click link) scan0003

 

Lloyd Ollie (Olie) Croft

Lloyd Ollie Croft

Lloyd Ollie (Olie) Croft was born February 9, 1913 in the prairie town of Fairfield, Nebraska. He was the first child of Oscar Cameron and Ethel Mohler Croft who were part of a large wheat farming family in Clay County Nebraska. In fact, Oscar was the eldest child of William and Alice Croft who had a family of thirteen children, all living in the area at the time their son Lloyd was born. Family lore says the family formed a kind of commune, all assisting in various capacities on the farm.

Note: Lloyd’s middle name was spelled “Olie” on his birth certificate, but family members always spelled it “Ollie.” I found no other documents with his middle name spelled out.

William and sons on Nebraska farm, 1914
William and sons on Nebraska farm, 1914

On the 1920 United States Federal Census Oscar, Ethel and Lloyd are living in Hastings, Adams County, Nebraska. It is interesting to note that Oscar is no longer farming, but is recorded as an automobile salesman. Later in that same year on November 15, the Crofts had another son, Keith Lyle.

Lloyd and Keith Croft
Lloyd and Keith Croft

During the latter part of the 1920’s into the mid 1930’s, William and Alice’s large family began to disperse with each family group moving in a different direction. Some traveled northwest, others east, some to the southwest, and a few to Kansas. It is surmised that the reason for the dispersion was the combination of the terrible drought and the historical United States depression. We know that Nebraska was one of the states that felt the brunt of the Dust Bowl that occurred in the early 1930’s, so it is entirely possible the Crofts were feeling the early effects of it in their area. If that was the case, we can understand their need to seek “greener pastures.”

On the Adam County (Nebraska) Historical County website there is an article entitled the “Dust Bowl Years” by Dorothy Creigh and it gives us some insight into the prevailing catastrophic conditions. Here is an excerpt:

 It was darkness at noon-impenetrable clouds of red, or yellow, or brown gritty dust swirling across the countryside, carrying with it topsoil, seed, and the hope of the Great Plains farmers. It was inescapable heat in mid-summer; it was parching drought, furnace-like winds. It was the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s. Whereas the Great Depression of the early 1930’s affected almost all Americans in one way or another, the Dust Bowl years that followed were the affliction of the Great Plains, a phenomenon peculiar to that geographic area. That the people were able to survive the twin calamities of the Depression, then the Dust Bowl, is a measure of their vigor, tenacity, and strength.

OSCAR CROFT FAMILY MOVES TO TEXAS

Like other family members, O.C. and Ethel decided “to pull up stakes” in Nebraska and move to San Antonio, Texas in 1929. Lloyd was 16 years old. We do not know what drew his parents to this part of the country, but it was probably the promise of better employment opportunities and living conditions. Oscar, Ethel, Lloyd, and Keith are recorded on the 1930 United States Federal Census and resided at 1625 Broadway. This residence must have been a rooming house because five other individuals are recorded at this same address. Ownership of the house is not indicated. The census also gives the information that Oscar’s occupation is District Representative in the automobile industry.

Upon arrival to San Antonio, Lloyd enrolled in Thomas Jefferson High School. His high school transcript shows that he had average scores in math and mechanical drawing and below average in English and physical education. His best subject was music and he participated in both the Glee Club and Orchestra. Knowing that later in his life he found great success as a businessman building and renting of utility trailers, this seems a bit ironic. However, we do know that as an adult he enjoyed music and had a beautiful singing voice. He also loved ballroom dancing and acting in a local theatre group, so his talents did not go to waste! Lloyd was in the first graduating class at Thomas Jefferson High School, June 1, 1932.

While in high school Lloyd met a very lovely girl named Gertrude Koenning. They began dating, and as the saying goes, “the rest is history.” During the next few years, the relationship grew more serious. A year after Gertrude (Gertie) graduated from Jefferson High School, they married. The ceremony took place on February 9, 1934, at the Austin Street Methodist Church in Seguin, Texas, with the Reverend L.J. Rode officiating.

Lloyd and Gertrude "Gertie" Croft
Lloyd and Gertrude “Gertie” Croft

Later in life both Lloyd and Gertie shared stories about their early married life, and according to them, those were difficult economic times for them. Gertie’s brother, Mel Koenning, was a photographer with the San Antonio Light (newspaper) and helped Lloyd get a paper route. For several years he delivered newspapers to residential customers and Gertie worked as a clerk at Woolworth’s.

One year after they married Lloyd and Gertie had their first child, Lloyd Koenning Croft, born February 12, 1935. They used the nickname, “L.K.” One time Lloyd told L.K. that his birth was their first wedding anniversary gift.

CROFT TRAILER COMPANY IS FOUNDED

In 1937 Lloyd embarked on a new venture, and though he did not know it at the time, his life and fortune were about to change. With his parents, O.C. and Ethel Croft, they founded the Croft Trailer Company at 1423 North Flores Street in San Antonio. His daughter, Cynthia Croft Wood, tells how the story unfolded in this personal account.

 Croft Trailer got its start because of Dad. He was delivering papers at the time, and someone on his route knew that he was a good auto mechanic and asked if he would make a trailer for him. Dad went to a junk yard, got a car axle for almost nothing, and figured out how to put sides on and a make-shift hitch. Instead of selling the trailer to the man, Dad rented it. It seems the guy was moving, as so many did during the depression, and after he moved, he brought the trailer back. Someone else wanted to rent it immediately. Pop (O.C. Croft) funded the purchase of more axles and lumber. The Crofts had scattered to the four winds–Kansas City, West Coast, New York–and Dad got them to accept a trailer coming to their area and then returning it with a rental.

Croft Nationwide Trailer Company, 1958

Initially the company manufactured trailers and hitches. During World War II, it was considered an essential business supporting agriculture, particularly the cotton and cattle industries. Later they developed a trailer rental business and became a part of the Nationwide Trailer rental chain. Lloyd served as president of the Nationwide for several years. His uncle and aunt, George and Lena Croft, lived in Kansas City, Missouri and founded a branch Croft Trailer Company there, too. The company was quite successful and the San Antonio branch continued in business for over 70 years. In its 70th year L.K. Croft submitted an article to the San Antonio Express News and it was published on July 10, 2007.

Happy 70th anniversary to Croft Truck Equipment and Accessories

The company began in 1937 when Lloyd O. Croft and his parents, O.C. and Ethel Croft, founded the Croft Trailer Company at 1423 N. Flores Street.

It originally focused on making trailers and hitches. Later as the trailer rental portion of the business grew, it became part of the Nationwide Trailer rental chain.

The part of the business specializing in custom truck accessories also grew.

In 1972, a cousin, Mary Ann Balzer, and her husband, Harvey Balzer, purchased the company. The rental portion of the business stopped a decade later as the company moved into selling trailer hitches and truck accessories In 1991 the Balzer children, Mike and Sandra, became president and vice president of the company.

Now at 1503 N. Brazos, the company has 135 employees, with a distribution center in Houston.

 Note: At this time, the Croft Truck and Equipment Accessories is no longer in business.

LLOYD CROFT’S FAMILY LIFE

Just as the San Antonio business developed and expanded, Lloyd and Gertie’s family life also blossomed and changed. To their delight Lloyd and Gertie’s became parents again when their daughter Cynthia Elaine was born on October 17, 1940.

Lloyd and Gertrude with son, L.K., and baby daughter, Cynthia
Lloyd and Gertrude with son, L.K., and baby daughter, Cynthia

During the next years much of Lloyd’s time and energies were consumed by his business while Gertie tended to their home and the needs and interests of L.K. and Cynthia. Normally as children grow and mature, there is an increased involvement in school, church, and community activities, and that was certainly true for the Crofts. Both Lloyd and Gertie did their part in assuring that L.K. and Cynthia lived a full life in a healthy and wholesome home environment.

Lloyd was so proud of his children, L.K. and Cynthia. Even though he worked long hours seven days a week, he would always make time for them. When they were teenagers he enjoyed meeting their friends and attending various school or community activities in which they were involved. L.K. shared that as he matured he looked a great deal like his dad. Lloyd teased and said he welcomed the opportunity to introduce L.K. as his younger brother!

In her autobiography Lucy Ann Nance Croft wrote about her father-in-law, Lloyd Ollie Croft.

Father impacted my life in many ways. But it was his sense of humor that I loved the most. Perhaps his showmanship revealed itself in his humor, or maybe it was his way of showing affection. He loved to tell jokes, some silly, some a little off-color. He could be quite a tease, too. Telling family stories was one of his talents, and some were hilarious and quite embellished, I’m sure. We wish now that we had recorded some of those old family tales.

His children and grandchildren were his pride and joy. He loved to brag about their accomplishments. He always introduced L.K. as “my son, Dr. L.K. Croft.” When we visited their home, we knew that at some point he would take our children to visit his friends so that he could show off his grandchildren. This also became a forum for his storytelling. He had great pride in his family, and I adored this about him.

A responsibility that Father took quite seriously was caring for his mother. Even though she was a very independent woman and lived alone until her death at the age of ninety-seven, he called or saw her almost every day. He was so thoughtful where she was concerned and made sure her home was secure and her car in good repair. He did not hover, primarily because she would not put up with it, but he was there for her when she needed him. His devotion to his mother impressed me greatly.

I have such fond memories of Father and the part he played in all of our lives. His great smile, teasing manner, eagerness to help, and practical, down-to-earth way of dealing with things all made a lasting impression on me. He could be a lovable clown or a rock of strength, depending on the situation. (Croft, 100-101)

 Lloyd and Trudy Croft
Lloyd and Trudy Croft

Life for Lloyd was extremely good, but as with most people, it was not without troubles and grief. Following his retirement from his business in 1972, his health began to fail and he tried unsuccessfully to deal with his alcoholism. In addition, Gertie had a recurrence of mental illness that had plagued her in the 1950’s. Undoubtedly, the greatest sadness he had ever experienced occurred on January 5, 1977 when his beloved Gertie took her life.

Following Gertie’s death Lloyd grieved, but with the help of family and friends he adjusted to his life situation fairly well. His friends stayed in close touch and included him in regular social gatherings. It was at one of these occasions that he renewed a friendship with a former acquaintance, Helen Cochral. Following a brief courtship they married April 17, 1978 in Richardson, Texas in the presence of his children and grandchildren.

Lloyd and Helen Croft, Christmas 1977
Lloyd and Helen Croft, Christmas 1977

Helen brought a great deal of joy and comfort into Lloyd’s final years. She was totally embraced by his mother, children and grandchildren and they grew to love her dearly. She had no children, but Lloyd’s family became 100% hers. Her large family of siblings, nephews, and nieces adored him, too. Even though he had many good days, Lloyd’s health issues continued to worsen over the next years. Helen lovingly cared for him to the last days of his life. He died of congestive heart failure on January 5, 1987 in San Antonio, Texas. He was buried in the mausoleum at Mission Burial Park North next to his dear wife, Gertie.

Sources

Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census, [database online] Provo UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.

Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census [database online] Provo UT, USA:

Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009.

Ancestry.com. Texas Marriage Collection, 1814-1909 and 1966-2002 [database online]

Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2005.

Creigh, Dorothy, “Dust Bowl Years,” Adam County (Nebraska) Historical Society.

Croft, Lucy Ann Nance, Looking Back: Reflections On My Life, 2007.

Guadalupe County, marriage record, Guadalupe County Clerk’s Office, Sequin, Texas.

Lloyd Ollie Croft birth certificate no. 2940, State of Nebraska, Department of Commerce and Labor, Bureau of Census, Lincoln, Nebraska.

Lloyd O. Croft obituary, Express News, San Antonio, Texas, Jan. 6, 1987.

Lloyd O. Croft student transcript, Jefferson High School, San Antonio Independent School District.

Lloyd O. Croft, death certificate no. 00190, Texas Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Austin, Texas.

Tijerina, Edmund, “Around Town,” San Antonio Express News, San Antonio, Texas, July 10, 2007.

Wood, Cynthia Croft, “Personal Recollections of Croft Family, clebleuwood@gmail.com

Written by Lucy Ann Nance Croft, 2011

Lloyd Ollie Croft Pedigree Chart (click link) scan0002

Lloyd Ollie Croft Family Group Sheet (click link) lloyd-o-croft-fgs-document