Life in the early years was hard in this country, very hard at times. For the Texas counties of Erath, Comanche, Hamilton, Brown, and Coleman, this was definitely true. However, when you think about it, life has always been hard at times, and tragedy still strikes today, doesn’t it?
When Shirley Wetzel sent me information on the tragedies in her Hornsby family, I knew I wanted to share it with you. We invite all of you to share your family stories with us.
John Alexander Hornsby (1859-1892) was born in Elmore County, Alabama. He married Marietta Rodgers (1856-1947) in 1876 in Tallapoosa County, Alabama and that is where he and his family lived in 1892 when he had some type of accident in his mill.
Some of his children witnessed the accident, and his daughter asked him, “Pa, are you hurt?” He said “Yes, Baby, I’m killed. Tell your mother to sell the mill.”
John Hornsby died the next day, and Marietta took her children and moved to Comanche County, Texas in 1904, joining other family members.
The child that we want to follow is a son and Shirley Wetzel’s grandfather, Sterling Elder Hornsby (1889-1922) who married Sabina “Bina” Ward in Comanche in 1911.
The Hornsbys apparently made the decision to move to Coleman County and in April of 1922, Sterling and his oldest son Lennie set off in a wagon for Coleman County, looking for a new place to live.
Daughter Genieve who would have been nearly four at the time, remembered that young Lennie sat on the back of the wagon and waved until he was out of sight “as though he would never see them again.”
Apparently everything went well until Sterling and Lennie tried to cross the swollen Colorado River. Sterling’s namesake, Sterling, told of what happened next:
“I was born out in the country near Comanche, Texas, the fifth child in the family. I have no memories of my papa, Sterling Elder Hornsby. I wasn’t even two years old that day in April, 1922, when he and my oldest brother Lennie set off in the wagon to find a new place for us to live in Coleman County.
“They had to cross the Colorado River, and Papa decided to ford it instead of going down to the bridge a mile away. They were halfway across when a big wall of water, a flash flood, came sweeping down on them.
“Some men watching from the bank said there was nothing anybody could do. Papa was trying to cut the mules loose and got trapped in the reins. Lennie, they said, was just sitting on the wagon box, looking so scared, and then he was gone.
“My uncles and cousins all came down to look for them. The local doctor said to wait three days, then Papa’s body would surface, and it did. People searched for days all down the river for Lennie. It was two weeks before he was found, two hundred miles away.
“Papa was buried at White Point Cemetery, next to his brother Johnny, who’d been kicked in the head and killed by a young mule he was training just a year before. Life could be pretty hard, and dangerous, in those days, but that’s just how it was.
“Some of the kinfolks went down to get Lennie, but his body was in such bad shape they couldn’t make it all the way to White point and buried him in Zephyr.”
Lennie’s sister, Genieve, remembered that Bina (wife of the elder Sterling and mother of Lennie) was baking a cake when she heard they were missing. When she heard the news, she screamed and screamed until the doctor sedated her. She never baked a cake again.
Bina wrote the following in a letter to her sister on May 21, 1922. She is speaking of her little son Sterling whom I quoted above.
“Poor little Sterling L. never goes to eat breakfast but that he don’t get down out of his chair and goes to Sterling’s bed and says ‘Papa’ and looks so sad and then points out at the door and say “Papa” two or three times he hasn’t for got Sterling leaving but he knows when we go to eat his Papa ought to be there it is a good thing that we have a higher power to call on are else we could not stand our burdens when they are so heavy laden.”
Bina married Owen Davis in 1928. By 1929, she was dead due to complications of pregnancy, her baby dead with her.
I stand by my original statement: Life is sometimes very, very hard.