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By Wanda Karr Ellerbee


My great-grandparents, Thomas H. Hulen, Jr. and Mary Elizabeth Heidelberg were married on May 27, 1868 in Barbour County, Alabama. Thomas was born in 1850 in Alabama and Mary was born December 6, 1845 in Georgia. They had several children while they were living in Alabama, but by 1879 they were in Limestone County, TX. My great-grandfather appears on the 1879 tax rolls and my grandfather, William Wesley Hulen, was born that same year in Limestone County.

From my genealogy research, I have been able to ascertain that most of my ancestors were farmers and mostly uneducated. But it appears they were hard and faithful workers, sometimes working the land for others; but in some instances, they owned the land. Thomas H. Hulen, Jr. had many acres to pass through his hands over a period of several years. It seems as though he would come upon hard times and then have to sell off some of his land. I have read some of the conveyance reports on his buying and selling of land, but a conveyance states only facts; reasons for buying and selling are not stated. I had only one clue from a family member that seemed to think that my great-grandfather sold all of his land at one time because one of his sons was in trouble and needed money.

My great-grandparents names appeared on the 1880 federal census for Limestone County. They had five children listed; Ida Maud, Gussie, Carrie, Ella and William, my grandfather and the youngest at one year old. They later had Belle and Middleton. By checking the tax rolls for Limestone County, I discovered they were still in the area around 1890. There were no census records available for 1890 since most of them were destroyed by fire. According to the 1900 census, they are living in Limestone County. By 1910, my great-grandmother had died and my great-grandfather then married a lady by the name of Joanna Bowers Medders and they began living in Mart near Waco, Texas. In 1920 they were still in the Mart area; he was 70 years of age and apparently retired as there was no occupation listed. But he did own a home. Previously, his occupation was always listed as farmer.

My great-grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Heidelberg, died in 1905 in Limestone County and is buried in a small cemetery by the name of Kirk near Mart, Texas. She died of heart failure at the age of 58. Not much was known about her, but my mother and her siblings remember that their dad, William Wesley, sang songs to them in German that his mother had taught him. She died before my mother was born.

Thomas married Joanna Medders in Limestone County in 1909 and later moved to Mart in McLennan County. He lived there for many years but apparently when he got too old to take care of himself, he and Joanna moved to Dallas, Texas and he died there on October 15, 1929. He was almost 79 years of age. He, too, was buried at the Kirk Cemetery next to Mary. His headstone did not have any dates, just his name. Later, I paid to have the date of birth and death etched onto his headstone. His death certificate indicated heart problems also.

My grandfather, William Wesley, was born in Limestone County on December 25, 1879. His birthday was the same as his father's who was born December 25, 1850. Granddad lived in Limestone County in the Mexia/Groesbeck area during his adolescent years. On February 1, 1897, he married my grandmother, Elizabeth (Bettie) Williams in Limestone County. Their names appeared on the 1900 federal census living in Limestone County. He was a farmer; Bettie was a housekeeper. They had two children by this time, but one has passed away; in 1910 they are living in Ellis County. They had been married 13 years and had seven children, but only five are living; a second child died in 1901. My mother was born in this county at Midlothian in 1912. My grandparents, William Wesley Hulen and Elizabeth Williams, had fourteen children in total and my grandmother died giving birth to twins. The twins, possibly a boy and a girl, died on December 31, 1919; Elizabeth died January 4, 1920. The death certificate shows pneumonia as cause of death. A family story was that she and the twins were buried together with holding one in each of her arms. They were buried at the Venus Memorial Cemetery in Venus (Johnson Co), Texas but there is not a headstone. It was apparently destroyed many years ago. But in talking to some of the old-timers in Venus, they have said that they remember my grandmother's death and the death of the twins. There was a lot of sympathy from them for my grandfather since he was left with ten children to rear.

William Wesley and Elizabeth had been living in the Mart area, but when it came time for her to deliver the twins, my grandparents and the other children moved to Venus in Johnson County to be near her parents, George M. and Georgia Ann (Bates) Williams. Sadly, only a few months later their son, Woodrow, who was about five years old died. Family members tell the story that my grandfather was holding him in his arms while they sat under a big tree outside. When Woodrow died, my grandfather had lost three children and a wife within three months. It is hard to imagine the pain he must have been feeling. Woodrow was also buried in the Venus Memorial Cemetery. My mother, Georgia Agnes was only six years old when her mother died. In talking with Herman L Hulen shortly before his death, he told me that each of the children stood beside their mother as she lay dying so each could tell her good-bye. My mother never talked much about her family so it has been difficult to garner a story of human experiences.

On the 1920 census taken shortly after the death of my grandmother, William Wesley was still in Johnson County with six of his children; Thomas 19, Ira 17, William B 15, Essie 12, Effie 10, J B 8, and Agnes 6. Woodrow, age about 4, had just recently passed away. The census was taken in February of 1920.

William Wesley remarried in June 1923 in Johnson County, Texas. His second wife, Lula Devine, died in 1927. She was buried in the Grandview Cemetery in Grandview, Texas. It has been said that there was much opposition from Lula's family. I am sure they did not want her taking on the responsibility of that many children. It seemed that the siblings who were still living did not have a good opinion of "Miss Lula". She apparently was a very cold and hard woman. Some family members said that after her death, they found many bars of candy in her trunk; these were candy bars that my granddad had bought for the children which she would not let them have.

He married a third time in June 1928 to Jennie Lee McKenzie; he and "Miss Jennie" lived in Johnson County for a short time. In 1930 while they were still in Johnson County, my grandfather received word that his younger brother in Waco was ill. On his visit to check on his brother, he went out one evening to a café to eat and while he was there, a man came in and shot the proprietor and two other people. The owner of the café and his waiter died and the other victim was badly wounded. Although my granddad was questioned that night, he was never called as a witness when the alleged murdered went to trial. According to the Waco News-Tribune, the altercation was due to a love triangle; the alleged murderer was the local barber.

By the early 1930s, my grandparents were living in Fort Worth; they had a boarding house located at 1110 Lamar. My dad had often told stories about Bob Wills and his wife living at my grandparents' boarding house. He said they would all sit around at night and "jam" together. In doing my research, I decided to check this out so I checked the City Directories beginning with 1931 and found that indeed Bob Wills and his wife were living in the boarding house. The City Directory gives his name and address as: "Wills, James R., (Edna) musician, Burrus Mills and Elev. Co., r1110 Lamar".

By 1932, William Wesley and "Miss Jennie" ventured to New Mexico; they settled near Raton Pass in a little town called Maxwell. Granddad had a ranch and "Miss Jennie" ran a cafe. They lived in New Mexico until the middle 1950s and then moved back to Fort Worth. They bought a two-story house at 1203 E Allen next to a church, and an orphanage was at the back of their home. Again, they rented out rooms but it seems that mostly it was family who lived there. We had many good times visiting in their home but I always felt so sorry for the children at St. Teresa’s home. They would stand at the fence and watch us play and were never allowed to come across and join in with us. It made me grateful that I had a loving family.

My granddad died on March 19, 1957 at the St. Joseph’s Hospital in Fort Worth. I was a teenager when granddad died, but I can remember that hospital very well. All of the floors were wooden and the halls were always dark; but there was something about that hospital that had a warm feeling about it. The nuns took very good care of my granddad.

"Miss Jennie" sold the house on Allen Street and came to live with us in White Settlement. She was quite a lady who taught my mother and her siblings some of the finer points of life. She had been a school teacher before she married my granddad. In her younger years, she had been a very petite woman. For many years she had her riding habit on display at the State Fair of Texas in Dallas. Apparently, she was quite a horsewoman and she was always proud of the fact that when she was young she had an 18" waistline. The riding habit proved that. I remember seeing it one time when I was a teenager.

She lived with us for a few years before she remarried. My friends all loved to come to our house and listen to her tell stories. As stated earlier, she was quite a lady. She had a very positive impact on my life because she was a strong believer in showing respect for other people. She died in 1975 after her second husband had died. In the meantime she had moved back to White Settlement. She and my grandfather, William Wesley, are both buried in Hillsboro, Texas at the Ridge Park Cemetery. They are buried on the Menefee plot. Miss Jennie’s mother’s second marriage was to a man named Menefee.

My mother and father married September 3, 1929 in Johnson County. They lived in the Johnson County area until about 1935, and they then moved to Galveston County. They moved back to Johnson County by 1940, and later to Tarrant County. I was about nine months old when we moved to this area and I had a brother who was six and a sister who was 16 months old. We were living on the Boswell Dairy in Saginaw. Between that time and 1946 when I started to school, we had alternated between living on the dairy and living near General Dynamics in White Settlement. We were firmly settled in White Settlement by the time I started first grade. In the meantime, my parents had another child, a boy, born in 1944.

My dad was a hard worker who always provided for his family well. He taught us the importance of independence and accountability. Handling money frugally was also important to him. I have always felt that my dad instilled in us our civic responsibilities, and my mother taught us our Christian values. I grew up in the First Baptist Church of White Settlement. My mother and oldest brother, Clarence, were baptized on the same night, November 15, 1948. I had been baptized on June 25, 1948 when I was eight years old. My mother carried on the Christian traditions taught to her as a child and passed them on to each of her children. Her method of teaching was by example. My mother, as her father before her, was very well-liked and respected by both family and friends.

Mother and Daddy have both passed away, she in 1980; with heart problems brought on by diabetes. Dad died in 1992 due to cancer of the liver and lungs. He lived actively until the last few months of his life. They are both buried in a family plot in the Grandview Cemetery in Johnson County. There are several family members buried in this cemetery from my father's side of the family; his mother, Martha Jane Ledbetter, his father, William Edward Karr, and his grandfather, John Henry Karr.

John Henry was a Civil War veteran who marched across Texas with Walkers' Greyhounds. He died in 1909 and is buried in the Grandview Cemetery but there never was a headstone put down for him. Daddy always reminded us of where John Henry is buried.

About 1993, my brother, Clarence, and I went through procedures with the Veteran’s Department in Waco to receive a headstone from the government. I did not know until then that a headstone would be provided free of charge for a veteran. It was shipped to the Kay Funeral Home in Grandview and installed by a Mr. James Wigington.

In 1934, my oldest brother, Clarence, was born in Johnson County. He was born on a ranch outside of Cleburne. My sister, Claudette, was born in Galveston in 1939 at the John Sealey Hospital while Daddy was there working on the Galveston Causeway. I was born in 1940 at Aunt Essie and Uncle Floyd Terrell’s house in Cleburne. The house that I was born in is still in use and is well taken care of. Ronald was born in 1944 in Fort Worth.

After we left Boswell’s Dairy and moved to White Settlement, we first lived in some apartments called the "whites" as they had white asbestos siding on them. Shortly after that we moved to the "bricks" in the Liberator Village or more commonly called "the Village". My dad worked for General Dynamics for about 32 years. His job provided us with a good living.

Each of mother and daddy’s four children graduated from Brewer High School (1953, 1957, 1958, 1962). My parents had encouraged each of us to finish high school, but there was never a lot said about a higher education. Neither of our parents graduated from high school, so to them, the high school diploma was the ultimate.

In 1975 my sister, Claudette, graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington. I was about 40 years old before I stared taking college courses at Tarrant County Junior College (now TCC).

I will leave the bulk of the Karr family history to my brother, Clarence.