Tracking Down Grandma Pyron

Are you within six degrees of Mrs. Pyron? With such an endearing nickname, you would think that everyone knew all about her. Maybe that was true once upon a time – but even with the internet, it has been real effort to dig out her story.

I first learned of “Grandma Pyron” when Augusta Tucker mentioned her in a 1937 interview with Hazel Greene. Given Augusta’s amazing recall of her neighbors during the Doaksville era, I wish she had written her memoirs for us, the future generations…something like “The Doaksville Years,” much like another author who really did write “The Kinta Years.” Read my recent blog on The LeFlore Ghost to see what memories Augusta did pass down to us.

Grandma Pyron shows up on the 1900 census records for Towson County (Choctaw Nation) under the name Lucy Hall (surname from her second marriage to William Roland Hall). She was a widow, age 64, in the company of her son William W. Woosley (from her first marriage to William W. Woosley, Sr.), wife Julie, and three children, ages 8, 5, and 2.

Mrs. Hall must have sensed the beginnings of a prosperous town, for in 1905 she married a third time, to Mr. William D. Pyron who was a member of the townsite commission for the new town of Fort Towson. She chose well; in 1905 Mr. Pyron obtained a patent on several lots in the new town. He did not live long after that, but he is forever remembered by the town folks as “Old Uncle Billy” Pyron.

Mrs. Pyron amused the local residents with her frequent out-of-town trips. On Sep. 25, 1914 the local newspaper kept everyone apprised of her trip with her granddaughter Grace to see family and friends in Stigler (home of her brother George Sims).

1914 Grandma Pyron returns 1914 Sep 25

Lucy had a half-sister and half-brother who lived in the Stigler area. Maria Sims and husband John C. Foster moved to Whitefield, Haskell County about 1891. They are buried at Whitefield Cemetery.

Photo Maria Sims -John Foster

George W. Sims, who married Jane L. LeDou in 1886, moved to Choctaw Nation in the 1890s. He was a merchant of “general merchandise” at Stigler and Keota. They are buried at the Stigler City Cemetery.Photo George Sims-Jane LeDou

But only six short months later in March 1915, Grandma Pyron, the oldest of her siblings succumbed to pneumonia.

Aged Citizen Dies

After a protracted illness terminating in pneumonia Lucy Ann Pyron, better known as Grandma Pyron, breathed her last at the home of her daughter, Mrs. R. L. Carter, at 3:20 pm March 17, 1915, at the advanced age of 79 years, 11 months and 16 days.

Grandma was among the oldest pioneer citizens of Fort Towson, and numbered her friends by the score and by the hundreds. Being a staunch Christian, she met the grim monster death without a quake or fear.

Appropriate funeral services were held at the Methodist church, where Grandma always delighted to attend. The writer being in charge of the service.

Two brothers, three sisters, a son, and daughter, besides a number of grandchildren remain to mourn her loss.

“But we weep not as those who have no hope.”

Her Pastor, Albert A. Puckett

~~Fort Towson Enterprise (OK), Friday, March 19, 1915, p4

1915 George Sims Stigler visits 1915 Mar 191915 Frank Pyron of Center TX visit 1915

Photo Lucy Pyron - Sims family edt

Seated, L to R: Benjamin Sims, Jr., Lucy Sims Pyron, George Sims; Standing, L to R: Maria Sims Foster, Edna Sims Lynch, Helen Sims Crowell.

~~~~~

Grandma Pyron’s full name was Lucy Ann Sims. We have no record of how Lucy Ann Sims, born 1835 in Georgia, got herself to Missouri but there she was in the midst of the “great westward expansion” in northwest corner of Missouri, watching the daily departure of wagon trains heading for a distant Oregon Territory.

Against all expectations, her father, Benjamin F. Sims, with four generations of good Virginian stock in his blood and rich Georgia soil under his feet, apparently heard the resounding call to “Go West, young man!” – the call made famous by newspaperman Horace Greeley. A suspicion arises that, after several years in Missouri, Mr. Sims felt the lure of the gold fields of California; for on the 1850 census, his wife Eleanor was alone with 5 children.

By the time he returned to Maryville, Missouri, Lucy had married her first husband William W. Woosley on March 20, 1851 in Nodaway County. In 1856, her father Benjamin F. Sims also chose a new bride, Margaret Vaughn.

Lucy and her husband William turned their gazes southward to the beckoning hills of Van Buren, Arkansas where William’s father had lands. Mr. Sims with his growing brood of children chose to follow his daughter. By 1860 everyone would be putting down roots near Van Buren, Arkansas.

The unknowns of Oregon Territory would have been a better choice. The dark clouds of the Civil War captured William Woosley, by now a father of three, saw him promoted to Captain in the Arkansas Infantry, and then on a cold December 7, 1862, mercilessly killed this promising young man in the obscure battle of Prairie Grove, Washington County, Arkansas.

Captain William Woosley was buried at a small, quiet cemetery called Sarah Grove, located at Van Buren, Arkansas, across the river from Fort Smith.

Grandma Pyron related this story to her youngest child Maude: The cemetery and nearby church were named for their youngest daughter, Sara Woosley, born the following year after Captain Woosley’s death. Sara married in 1879, but must have died in childbirth or succumbed to an illness, for nothing else is known of her.

There is another version of the story given in the book, History in Headstones, by Swinburn and West on page 399: Sarah Woosley, described as the sister of Captain Woosley, died at the tender age of seven years and was the first person to be buried at the cemetery. The land belonged to their father, James Woosley.

Lucy’s version of the story continues: Sara Grove Church was two-story log building, with the upper floor used for the Masonic Lodge meetings. The building was also called the Lucy Lodge in honor of Lucy Woosley (Grandma Pyron), a member of the Eastern Star.

Lucy’s father, B .F. Sim, Sr. died in 1868 at Van Buren, Arkansas, leaving his third wife Margaret with their four children: Maria, Helen, George, and Harry.

Lucy married again in 1874 to a local man named William Roland Hall. A daughter Maude Roland Hall, was born in Van Buren, Arkansas, August 26, 1877, in a large log house, made of hewn logs about 18 inches thick. According to Maude, the old house was still standing in 1937, about a quarter of a mile on the road out to the Sara Grove Church and cemetery. Mr. Hall died three months after Maude’s birth.

At age sixteen Maude R. Hall married Robert Lee Carter, a school teacher from Murfreesboro, Arkansas. After Mr. Carter and Maude moved to Doaksville, Mrs Hall (Grandma Pyron) taught school there for several years, and then at new Fort Towson.

Five children were born to the Carters: Henry Carter, a resident of Los Angeles, California; Roy Carter, who was killed October 1918 in France and is buried at Paris, Texas; Grace Carter Everidge, (first wife of Governor Everidge) a resident of Muskogee; Otis Carter, who died in 1905 at six years of age, and another infant, buried at Doaksville.

Robert Carter and family

Mr. R. L. Carter, for years bought furs, hides, snake root, etc., for Julius Haas and Lowenthal of Antlers, but in later years was in the banking business at Fort Towson. He was the long-time Vice-President of the First National Bank.

New Bank-First Nat Bank 1906He was also elected to the Fort Towson Board of Trustees, serving with A.L. Osborn, A. Peters, W.S. McKinney, and J. L. Gardner in 1911. In addition, R. L. Carter was a cotton trader and became president of the Fort Towson Gin Company, organized in March 1911.

Robert Carter died May 14, 1926 at Fort Towson and is buried at Doaksville cemetery. Maude Carter, a resident of Muskogee since 1938, died Aug 5, 1953 in Muskogee and is buried there.

Mr. Carter’s son, Henry W. Carter, served many years as the Cashier at the American National Bank, where he was popular because he could speak and understand the Choctaw language.

Henry (Pete) Carter-short

 

Henry Carter Cashier 1913

~~~~~

Lucy’s brother, Benjamin F. Sims, Jr., also served with the Confederate forces in the Civil War, rising to the rank of First Lieutenant with the 7th Regiment, Arkansas Calvary.

During the Civil War, he was part of the Confederate forces stationed at the old Fort Towson. He recalled traveling through Paris, Texas, with his troops and seeing Paris, Texas as a sparse settlement in its infancy. There was one general store and post office, a blacksmith shop and a new railroad, but not even a church. The single merchant there freighted goods from Doaksville by ox wagons. The goods had been shipped up the river in boats to the mouth of Kiamichi and to Hook’s Ferry. He remembered the cavalry crossing the wide open prairies northwest and west of the old Fort Towson instead of the timbered land familiar to folks in later years.

By 1865 Benjamin ‘Frank’ Sims, Jr. had left Arkansas to try his luck in Texas, choosing a well-settled area close to the old town of Nacogdoches, Texas. By 1870 at age 28 he was married and farming in Shelby County.

Shelby County was one of the original 13 counties in Texas, being organized by the Republic of Texas Congress in 1837. The largest settlement, first called White Cottage, then later Center, obtained a Post Office in 1848.

Center, Texas would be Mr. Sims’ home for the rest of his life. He served many years as Sheriff of that community – from 1884-1890, 1898-1900, and 1906-1908. He is honored as an early pioneer of Shelby County, Texas.Photo Benjamin F Sims

His obituary tells us that on January 21, 1922, Mr. Sims, 78, died of pneumonia in Center, at the home of his daughter, Mrs. Jake Stubbs. Survivors included two sons: Henry Sims, a son by his first marriage, and Dr. John B. Sims; and daughter Mrs. Jake Stubbs. He is buried at the Fairview Cemetery in Center, Texas.

~~~~~

Benjamin Sims, Jr. kept in touch with his sister Lucy. Perhaps one of his letters stirred the fancy of Maude’s’ two half-brothers Nathen Woosley and Willie Woosley. Maude recalls that she was nearly nine years old when “the boys “just got a roving spell” and wanted to go to Texas.

In a 1937 interview, Maude talked about her family’s wandering years and their life at the famous Rose Hill Mansion. At the time of the interview, she was a matron over little boys at the old Goodland Academy.

“Robert M. Jones, a wealthy Choctaw who came to Doaksville in about 1831, played a major role in the commercial de­velopment of Doaksville. He operated a trad­ing post and owned Rose Hill, the largest plantation in the Choctaw Nation. It was between Doaksville and the Red River. The furniture for the mansion was imported from Europe or brought up from New Orleans. Today only a grove of cedars marks the place.

Jones acquired 28 Indian Ter­ritory stores, six plantations near the Arkansas and Texas borders, and a sugar plantation in Loui­siana. He also owned two steam­boats that ran from Fort Towson Landing to New Orleans, one called the “R. M Jones,” another the “Frances Jones.” after his only daughter. “

~~Daily Oklahoman, 27 Sep 2009, Sunday, p58

Mother rented out their beautifully furnished old home in Van Buren and moved over to Witchersville, south of Fort Smith to another one of Mrs. Hall’s homes.

These homes were splendidly furnished, homemade rugs, marble topped dressers and wash stands, four-poster bed and everything else to match those things.

Mrs. Hall [Grandma Pyron] sold her home at Witchersville when they went to Texas but she never did sell the furniture in the home at Van Buren. [Maude] doesn’t know whatever became of that furniture. They wandered around in Texas for several months, and then the boys decided that the Indian Territory was a good place to live so they came to Grant in the Choctaw Nation.

The railroad had just been through Grant about one year and to quote [Maude], “There was nothing there, not even a shed for a railroad station, just a platform. The station agent and family lived in a shack somewhere near. We lived in a one-room shack with a shed room. There was no church, no school, no nothing. We either had to buy our groceries at Goodland, about ten miles north of us or walk the railroad bridge across Red River to Arthur City, Texas, where the most of the stores were in reality just saloons; or we could go up to Garrett’s bluff where there was a ferry and go across to Chicota, Texas. They sent me to Chicota to school and boarded me over there for four years because everything was so doggoned crude in Grant.

I was ten years old when my brothers leased the Randell farm, which was a part of the old Robert Jones’ estate, and the Rose Hill farm was another part of the same estate and they leased both.

The Randell farm is about twelve miles southeast of Hugo and is located on Boggy and Red Rivers and the Boggy bends around in such a fashion to join the Red River that it forms an island. It is almost an island. There are just a few feet of land connecting it with the mainland. My brother Nathan and his family lived on the Randell farm and with the aid of a lot of Negroes cultivated 535 acres of land. Those Negroes were “free” and had been given their 40 acres of land and a mule, but were glad to work for wages. They kept three Negroes steadily employed to do the feeding and chores around the place because they ran lots of teams; twenty-five or thirty I guess.

My brother, Nathan Woosley, was overseer at Randell farm, and my brother Willie [Woosley] was overseer at Rose Hill farm, where he and mother and I lived.

There were only fifty acres in cultivation then at Rose Hill, so we kept only five teams there and only two colored boys to do the chores and milking. We only kept two Cows, too. These Negroes lived in the old log cabin slave quarters

If any part of Rose Hill Mansion was of logs, it was covered up. It looked like a frame building to me. There was a long porch all along the front, and big pillars. There was also a porch all along the sides and banisters along all porches. The double front doors had glass panels in them; there were also glass panels beside the doors of heavy plate glass all carved with figures and baskets of flowers. They say that glass was imported from England. A stairway of marble went up from the main big hall. The windows upstairs were of smaller panes than the ones down stairs, but they were large and wonderful for those days. And in all of the bed rooms, there were marble topped dressers and wash stands.

Marble mantels were above the fireplaces throughout the house, unless it was in the kitchen, and bronze and brass candlesticks on all of them. There was one candlestick of hammered brass made to resemble a stump and hammered to look like the bark. It would have held four or five dozen candles, and was about four feet tall, eighteen inches in diameter and each knot on it held a candle and the knots were all over it. The roots were on rollers. It was in the library and could be rolled from case to case of books. The bookcases, almost lined the walls and there were still lots of books.

My brother was a perfect bookworm, so he enjoyed lots of reading while we were there. The cases and furniture in this library were of black wood, I don’t know whether they were supposed to be mahogany or walnut or what. The chairs were great big leather tufted things, and the chairs in the dining room were the ladder back style with leather seats. That furniture in the house was of that dark color.

Another stairway went, up from one of the front bedrooms, and still another went up from a pantry in the kitchen. That one was for the exclusive use of the servants, who lived over the kitchen- maids and housekeeper. Of course, the Negroes lived in the slave quarters. So it was called the maid’s stairway.

There were about 15 rooms in that house. Some of them were locked and never opened while we were there, and we were there four years. I wanted a lot of times to go into them, open a window or something, but mother always reminded me that those things in there belonged to the owners and that they locked the doors to keep others out. Mother also said that what was in those rooms was none of our business and that we would not be quite honest if we prowled in them.

The Negroes could not be hired to go near them. They thought they were haunted. Those locked rooms were in wings that had been added to the original house. We never had any idea what they contained. The attic was full of furniture too, Lovely, massive old pieces. The dining room suite was massive, as were also the four-poster, beds and bedroom furniture.

The library and main hall were profusely hung with fine paintings. Most of them were supposed to have been done abroad. They had portraits of all the Presidents of the United States up to that date. One night it was cold as the Dickens. I heard an awful crash downstairs; then I knew that the “ghosts” were loose. I tried to get my brother to get up and go with me to see what it was, but he said he would not because it was so cold, but I accused him of being scared. I slept with my head under cover the balance of the night. Next morning we went downstairs and found George Washington flat on his face on the floor.

Out in the corner of the yard was the family cemetery. Those tall tombstones stood out there like sentinels. On moonlight nights they looked ‘spooky.’ There were about four marble slabs laid flat on top of the many graves. Then there was one marble mausoleum, some of the Jones’ occupied it.

We had four great big wash pots; then there were some bigger ones which had been used to make salt in, so we heard. I’ve been told that they are still there in one of the yards.

The way I remember it, the Robert Randells lived in Dennison, Texas. They had a daughter who I understand is still living. Robert Jones had been long dead when we moved to Rose Hill and the story went that he was killed some way, at Garrett’s Bluff, and buried at the Randall home place out in the garden. I just don’t know why the Indians buried in the corner of their gardens, but they did.”

The reason we left Rose Hill and the Randell farms was because of overflows. Each spring the boys would have to plant the crops over from one to three times. There came three overflows the last year we were there. We hated to leave that lovely, home and move into a shack, as compared to that, but we did. The market for our crops was Paris, Texas, and it was hard to get over there. My brothers put in a ferry there at the edge of the farm. If it was ever named, I did not know it. Chicota, Texas, was just across from the farm.

We moved to old Bennington. Then we had Caddo for a market for our crops. We stayed there one year. Then we moved to the railroad station of new Goodland [Grant]. You see the school is Old Goodland. People later told us that that lovely furniture [from the Rose Hill Mansion] was hauled away piece by piece, just stolen when the house was vacant, from time to time.

~~~~~

Two other members of Lucy’s family ended up in Riverside, California.

Helen Sims, wife of George W. Crowell, married July 1877, moved to Riverside, California in the 1890s. He was a jeweler; Helen was a music teacher and milliner.

Photo Helen Sims-George Crowell-Riverside

Harry Sims married Emma Austin about 1889. Harry was a salesman. They lived many places but had just left Muskogee for Riverside, California where Harry passed away in 1903 at age 36.

William Harry Sims 1903 Riverside sm.jpg

50

***YAHOKE, ikana! Thank you, friends. Much GRATITUDE for spending time on a Choctaw Journey with me.***

SOURCES [under fair use exception; not-for-profit educational purposes]

Obituary for Benjamin F. Sims, Jr.: January 25, 1922, reprinted in Mildred Cariker Pinkston, Obituaries of Early Pioneers, Shelby County, Texas, (Center Printing Co., 1983) I:174.

Sheriffs of Shelby County, Texas, complied by the Shelby County Historical Society, Center, Texas.

The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma HistoryEntry on Fort Towson: “Among early residents were William and Tinsley Pryon [sic- should be Pyron], Jordon Folsom, D. G. Ball, and Wright Hopson.”

Marlynn Fleck-O’Keefe, Fort Towson, Indian Territory: A Link to the West, (Fort Towson, Okla.: Lakeside Publications, 1997), page 80.

Interview with Mrs. Maude Hall Carter, #6260, Indian Pioneer Papers, 1937, Western History Collection, Oklahoma University, Norman.

Find-A-Grave memorials:

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s