Early Pampan Mary Jane Purvis Had Interesting Ancestors

The interesting and colorful ancestry of early Pampa resident Mary Jane Purvis is related in the book Noah McCuistion: Pioneer Cattle Man written by his daughter Carleen M. Daggett and published in 1975.

Photo of Eloise Lane

Eloise Lane

Records exist of every generation of the Clan McCuistion back to Biblical Jacob who was tricked into marrying Leah instead of her younger sister Rachel. When the English began to persecute the Scots in 1637, many of the Clans fled to Ireland and then to America .

James McCuistion landed at New Castle , Delaware , on August 6, 1735 and settled in Salisbury , Rowan County , North Carolina . James and his wife, Sarah Behol, had nine children. Their second son, Thomas, was born on December 17, 1731.

On September 15, 1756, Thomas married his fifth cousin, Ann Moody of Guilford , North Carolina . Thomas and Ann were the parents of Robert McCuistion, born May 2, 1770.

Ann had been given a keg of gold when she was eight years old … a legacy from her bachelor great uncle, Alexander McCuistion of Paisley , Scotland . While Thomas was in the Continental Army, General Cornwallis’ British Army approached the McCuistion home. Ann refused to run and, with the help of her great nephew, Andrew Jackson, rolled the keg of gold behind the smokehouse to Duck Creek and let it sink deep out of sight among the fallen trees, where it remained until the war was over. Cornwallis had heard that Thomas had gold and when he prepared to move on, he had his men to rip open the feather beds with their sabers and badly damage the house in a thorough search for the gold.

Thomas died in the war on December 9, 1783, and about twenty years later, Ann went with her sons, James and Robert, and Andrew Jackson to settle at Shelbyville , Tennessee . The young men built a grist-mill where twelve-year old Sam Houston liked to hang around.

Caravans bound for Texas that formed at Nashville passed through Shelbyville on the Old Natchez Trace, and Robert’s family noticed that he had a far-away look in his eyes as he watched the caravans pass. Shortly before Ann died in 1819, she divided her property among her children and gave the keg of gold to Robert, saying that he “had Texas in his blood” and needed an inheritance to take with him.

Robert’s second wife was Mary Elizabeth “Betsy” McWhorter, and they were the parents of Joshua, their youngest child, born May 2, 1830 in Coffee County , Tennessee .

In January 1834, Robert added three wagons to a caravan going to Texas . Elizabeth had told Robert that her Bible and her complete set of Shakespeare’s Works were not to be jettisoned if all else had to go. The Bible, Shakespeare’s Works and “Mama’s little keg,” which weighed more than eighty pounds, were loaded on a pontoon wagon and arrived intact on Texas soil.

When the wagon-train headed south on the Old San Antonio Road to the safety of the forts, Robert turned his three wagons north to an unsettled area … now Robertson County. The place became known as McCuistion Headquarters and the first one-room schoolhouse in Robertson County was built there. Elizabeth taught Bible, ciphering, spelling and reading Shakespeare.

Robert held church services at his home every Sunday. The regular year ’round preachin’-all-day-and-diner- on-the-ground Sunday service was non-sectarian. There was a camp meeting every summer with a real ordained “saddlebag” preacher.

After the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836, the Republic of Texas was declared and Sam Houston was faced with the responsibility of establishing a government and paying accruing bills. He went to Washington , D.C. to ask President Andrew Jackson’s advice and learned of the keg of gold that Jackson ‘s “Dear Old Great Aunt Ann” had hidden from Cornwallis.

After returning to Texas , Sam Houston summoned the seventeen men known to have gold and asked them to give their gold to Texas because any help was going to have to come from within. Every man of the seventeen agreed … one man had kept his gold hidden in a bucket of molasses … and Robert surrendered the keg of gold that his mother had protected for seventy-nine years and he had kept for seventeen years. He died in Robertson County on August 31, 1851, and his children remembered that he never regretted his gift to Texas .

Joshua was nineteen years old when his father Robert sent him to New Orleans to “broaden his horizons.” Later Joshua told his children that he became an abolitionist and a slaveowner in less than an hour. He was passing a sign which read SLAVE BLOCK where an auction of slaves was taking place. Joshua was horrified to see human beings in pens with shackles on their ankles and drinking buttermilk from troughs like animals. The last lot of slaves to be auctioned was a family of five, and Joshua, distressed at their plight, bid one thousand dollars. His bid was not raised, and his family was surprised when he returned home with his purchase.

Joshua built a house on the west part of ten thousand acres of land granted to Robert after he gave the keg of gold to the Republic of Texas . Joshua’s first wife was Mary Elizabeth O’Neal, the first graduate of Baylor Female College at Independence (now University of Mary Hardin-Baylor at Belton). Joshua and Mary Elizabeth O’Neal had four children: John Clayton in 1853, Mary Jane in 1855, Noah Wesley in 1857 and James Robert in 1959. Mary Elizabeth died four days after the birth of James. Joshua married a second wife, Mary Elizabeth “Lizzie” McGuire.

When Texas seceded from the Union in April 1861, Joshua felt that he had no choice but to join the Confederate Army. He was mustered out of the Confederate Army; Sibley’s Texas Cavalry in April 1865. In his desire to leave behind a war with which he did not agree, he moved his family to Limestone County . When the carpetbaggers’ acts of violence there increased, he moved farther west to Bosque County .

About 1872, when Comanches, Kiowas, and Apaches were crossing the plains of Texas , Joshua chose the vigorous and dangerous life of a surveyor. When he was seventy-five years old, he went pioneering into Old Mexico where he and his land-workers were slain by Pancho Villa’s men on March 22, 1906.

Mary Elizabeth O’Neal McCuistion’s share of her father’s estate, given in cattle, was turned over to Noah in 1861 when his father Joshua was away in the Civil War and Noah was only four years old. As incredible as it seems, Noah realized that those cows were the salvation and security of “Mama’s children,” and he did not intend that any of them should get away. He chose to hold the cattle together instead of attending school, so Mary Jane, at the age of six, patiently taught him every night what she had learned in school that day.

During the Civil War years, bread was scarce and made from corn meal that was black with weevils. Lard was made in troughs cut from the inside of ash logs which were 10 feet long, one foot wide and two feet deep. Soap was put up in the same way. People starved for flour, sugar and coffee. Shoes were so scarce that many went barefooted and women spun their own clothes. On the day of the battle of Chattanooga , the sky was black with buzzards flying overhead.

The sister of Joshua’s second wife had been abusive to the four children of Joshua’s first wife, and when Joshua returned from the Civil War, he arranged for John, Mary Jane, Noah and James to have a separate dwelling. The black family Joshua had bought at New Orleans was a great help to “Miss Mary’s chillun” through the difficult times of the Civil War and the violence of the carpetbaggers which brought about the moves to Limestone and Bosque Counties .

Noah was determined that Mary Jane should follow her mother in attending Baylor Female College at Independence, and, when Mary Jane was fifteen, arranged for her to go to her grandmother O’Neal at Rosebud to prepare for entering college. Unfortunately Noah became very ill with “swamp-fever” (later known as malaria) and Mary Jane rushed back to Bosque County to help Noah. Instead of entering Baylor Female College , she married Anthony Lewis Purvis on March 24, 1872.

Noah’s doctor told him that he would die if he did not get to a high, dry climate. In December of 1878, Noah arrived from Bosque County to a place half-way between Miami and Canadian on the Roberts-Hemphill County line. He brought a herd of twelve hundred and sixty-one mothercows with their calves and drys, steers, heifers, bulls and horses. In later years Noah ranched in New Mexico and Montana , but he returned to Roberts County .

On December 28, 1896, Mary Jane’s daughter, Delia Purvis, was married to William Augustus Elrod at the bride’s home in McLennan County , Texas . Mary Jane wrote to her brother: “I wish you could have made the journey to see Delia married. She looked regal in her white lace wedding dress. She wore my seed pearl brooch and I pinned to her underskirts a little piece of blue ribbon that had been among mama’s things. Brother Noah, she looked like Grandmother O’Neal in her carraige and pair.”

William Augustus Elrod and Delia Purvis had four children: Dick, Lucille, Ione and Gussie K. Their home was in Valley Mills, McLennan County , Texas . Delia died at Waco in 1922 and William Augustus died in 1924.

In the spring of 1903, Noah went to see Mary Jane and told her that he was ready to marry and have a family of his own. He bought some land for her and she moved to Pampa, far enough to be out of the way and close enough for Noah to come from Miami whenever he wished to see her.

Noah married Elizabeth Jordan of Henrietta on September 5, 1903, and they were the parents of two daughters, Doyle and Carleen, and a son, Wayne. Noah died at Amarillo on April 5, 1937. The last thing he said was, “Mary Jane.”

When Mary Jane moved to Pampa , houses in Gray County were often 20 miles apart and all the land anyone wanted could be purchased for $.25 an acre. Population was sparse and the land was mostly cattle range. The two principal religious sects were Methodists and Presbyterians who worshiped together.

For the last six years of her life, Mary Jane had a lovely one-bedroom apartment in her home at 121 North Gillespie in Pampa . She let it rent-free to sucessive young school teachers with the stipulation that the young lady should see and speak to her before going to school in the morning and again when she returned in the afternoon. Mary Jane had oil and gas income from the land Noah had given her and always had a new Buick although she never learned to drive a car. Any of the girls who wished could drive her to the Methodist Church and after services they were her guests at the best restaurant in town.

On July 11, 1943, Mary Jane fell and broke a hip, and died in the Worley Hospital on July 16, 1943. The last thing she said was, “Brother Noah.”

In 1930 Gussie K. Elrod, daughter of Gus and Delia Purvis Elrod, came from Valley Mills to Pampa to live with her sister Lucille (Mrs. Don Allcorn). Gussie met and married Dr. T.J. Worrell on May 4, 1931, at 917 East Browning with the Reverend C.E. Lancaster performing the ceremony.

The children of Gussie and Dr. T.J. Worrell are Jeneane Thornburg of Pampa , Patsy Rogers of Cedar Park (near Round Rock north of Austin ) and Virginia Martinez of El Paso .

Temp Jefferson Worrell was born on June 4, 1894 at Slater, Saline County , Missouri . Reared on a farm, he became aware of the need for veterinary assisstance and went to the Arkansas Veterinary College at Fayetteville to learn this specialized science. He served as assistant state veterinarian from 1917 to 1920 except for a short period in the navy. He was in charge of a serum plant in Fort Worth before coming to Pampa in 1928 to put in the city’s sanitation system. He was the city’s health inspector for 12 years and the city laboratory technician for another 12 years.

Dr. Worrell built a large and small animal hospital to accomodate a need for specialized attention to pets as well as domestic animals. The animal hospital had kennels for boarding 32 pets.

His spare time was occupied by raising and caring for a herd of registered whiteface Herefords of the Domino strain. His feed lots were just west of the Pampa High School at 111 East Harvester, and he spent most evenings dishing out the ground oats, ground bundles, cotton-cake and other ingredients of the balanced rations with which he fed the little calves. At one time Dr. Worrell had the famous Prince Domino to sire his herd and over six years the big bull grew to 2400 pounds. During World War II, Dr. Worrell sold the animal to Charles Hickman.

Dr. Worrell died on February 28, 1972 at Pampa , and Gussie K. Worrell died on May 22, 1989 at El Paso . Worrell Avenue in Pampa was named for Dr. Worrell.

Over 200 Articles, written by Eloise Lane, were published in the Pampa News. These articles may be accessed by clicking on each section below. A list of articles will be revealed that are linked to a page containing the text of the article.

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