Ben. H. Cruce

“At the Breakfast Table”

[This column appeared in the Hood County News, Granbury. Texas Sunday, January 15, 1984. Mr. Cruce wrote a series of columns for the paper in which he recounted his experiences growing up in Hood County and his life in public service. He died in Houston, Texas on October 26, 1984, and was buried in Rough Creek Cemetery in Hood County]

“When I was a kid on the Neri farm, I often sat at Grandma’s knee and listened to her and Grandpa talk. One hot summer day we were sitting in the dogtrot of their little house feeling the breezes when they reminisced about eloping to get married.

“Now after 45 Years and eight married children, they could relax and laugh about their hasty decision. As I recall the conversation I am reminded that the event took place 70O-odd years ago, Sept. 5, 1875.

“As Grandma (Anna Arrina Heath) told it, she put on her best dress and put her shoes under her arm, got on Grandpa’s (William Jackson Cruce) horse, behind the saddle and they rode to a little Methodist church “in the Sulphur River bottoms of Red River County.”

“Shoes for girls were so scarce they protected them as much as possible. It was a warm Sunday afternoon, going barefoot was no problem. Both were orphans. Their mothers died during the Civil War and their fathers soon after the war. That’s why Grandpa was living with Uncle Ambrose Cruce and Grandma living with an older sister, America, who had married two years earlier .

“Grandma would not be 15 until her next birthday, Jan. 7, and Grandpa was barely 19. He was working for his uncle “for a place to eat and sleep” as he put it. Cash came from outside work.

“That horse was the only thing I owned in the world,” Grandpa said with a laugh. “I barely had money to pay the preacher.” I don’t recall if he said how much he paid.

“After leaving the church, Grandma took off her shoes and put them under her arm again, got on the horse behind Grandpa and they rode to his uncle’s place.

“Grandpa laughed as he told about Uncle Ambrose’s reactions to the marriage of two kids, such as, you are too young, too poor, don’t have a place to live or work. Then Grandpa said with a laugh, “But Uncle Ambrose took us in.”

“Yeah, he took us in! He let us live in his chicken house,” Grandma added.

“Then with a big laugh, Grandpa said. I ate so much molasses and bread those first months my hands felt sticky to everything I touched.

“Grandpa told about getting a job cutting crossties for the coming railroad when farm work stopped. The work was several miles from home and he went to live in a camp. When not cutting timber. he would leave on his horse and hunt.

“Deer and antelope were plentiful and he was paid extra for bringing meat to the workmen. He remarked that the men were so choosy that most times he only brought in the hindquarters. Still there was plenty of meat for the camp.

“Grandma told about going back and living with America for the winter. Her face turned grim as she said, I spent most of the winter spinning and sewing.

“Grandpa laughed and said, There pants you made for me was a mile too big. Another feller could’ve gotten in with me. “As they talked I listened. Old Dude, Grandpa’s dog, came in and lay down beside us as if he wanted to listen to the talking too.

“And that’s how one couple eloped and made it 100-off years ago. I heard it from the couple who did it.”

Published in the Hood County News, Thursday, December 1, 1983

“It was a beautiful spring day for a sad occasion. The longest funeral procession I ever saw of horses. buggies. and wagons were on their way to Rough Creek Cemetery. My sister. Ina, died May 6. 1918 and was being buried the next day in the cemetery at the foot of Comanche Peak.

“At the age of 14 and ‘in the blossoming of womanhood’ said Aunt Lone, Ina was a victim of the harsh life we all endured in those bygone days. Her funeral was a community affair because Papa was a leader in Neri lodges, school and church. People came three and four miles away, which was a ‘fur piece’ when in a wagon pulled by a team of mules.

“I vividly recall the morning we children were called to Ina’s bedside. She was lying so quiet on a bed in the log room. We were consoled of her impending death by being told God loves little angels. Later that day she died. She was the only person to die in the old log house that Grandpa and Grandma built in 1887,

“Twenty-five vehicles and teams will make a long line. But I am sure there were between 75 to 100 teams and vehicles in the in the funeral procession, and one car. I was only 8-years-old, but the long line of people left a permanent picture in my memory.

“I recall being frightened when Uncle Ed Dunn turned his little ice wagon over spilling wife and kids, as he made too short a turn to get into the procession. No one was hurt, but it excited everyone.

“Some people came up the lane from the school house and others entered the fields at Grandpa’s gate. The county road was rutted and rough except for horseback riders.

“At the appointed time, which was about 10 o’clock in the morning. Grandpa and Grandma Cruce led the procession with the white coffin in their little wagon pulled by a pair of hinnies. The undertaker had returned to Granbury. He did not lead the funeral procession as we see in the movies.

“Because of the county road condition, the procession followed a trail through our woods to the corner nearest Comanche Peak. At this point, it entered Cooper’s pasture and went diagonally across, over Contrary Creek and between the peak and his watering tank for livestock. It seemed a mile long, probably a quarter, when we crossed Cooper’s treeless range.

“The Peak loomed so large as the wagons rolled slowly past. Guy and I were riding in our wagon with feet dangling out the back. We were second in line. Sometimes we would stand up to see how far we could see the procession. We found it interesting and exciting. In the middle of the long line of wagons and buggies was the lone automobile. A Mr. John Adams brought his family in a big red Page.

“The auto waited until 100 yards was clear ahead then Adams started his motor and drove forward. Upon reaching the wagons, he’d stop, wait, start his motor, drive ahead until reaching the slower vehicles and stop. This routine was repeated many times between our house and the cemetery. It was the first car I remember riding in.

“Ina was buried beside our mother, but I was too young to understand the seriousness of the occasion. I recall that I was more interested in the automobile than anything or anyone at the funeral.

“After the end of World War I, automobiles increased everywhere as well as in Neri. Long funeral processions with horse and buggy vehicles would never be possible again.”

Mr. Cruce’s Book, “Cruce in America and Related Families” (1976) is available in the Hood County Public Library.

From HCGS Newsletter, NO. 32, November 1991