Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Vacation Hump Day

So far my vacation from work stress has been an exercise in cleaning out closets and packing boxes for a later trip to the thrift store. In the midst of all that I ended up repacking about a dozen boxes of books that have been the foundation of "Cat Mountain" for the last few months. I wanted all the boxes moved out to the garage until I find the right bookcases for the bedroom. That resulted in numerous trips between the bedroom and the garage. The dogs have been anxious, trying to decide if I'm packing to take a trip or maybe we are moving. So far I've managed to not throw my back out with all the lifting and carrying and the house is beginning to look a little bit less cluttered. The garage? That's a different matter, but at least out of sight is (temporarily) out of mind.

Today I decided to take a vacation from my vacation and go on a hunt for ancestors.

Some years ago I had approached the folks in the District Clerk's office about getting copies of a couple of old divorce case files and had not been successful. At the time those files were stored in the courthouse basement and the gals working the counter were less than enthusiastic about going down to the dark recesses where spiders and other creepy crawlies were busy. I relented and decided to try again another day.

In the intervening years, an annex building was erected and the District Clerk moved into new quarters. I wasn't sure where the really old files were housed these days, but I decided to make another try for those divorces. I arranged for a co-worker who is based in the courthouse to take me over and introduce me to the ladies in the clerk's office. They could not have been more helpful and it turned out that all those lovely old records are now in a nice, well-lighted, spider free vault off the main office. I was invited to "make myself at home" and explore to my heart's content.

So far as the divorce case files were concerned, they were quickly located and copied. Unfortunately, the one criminal case I was after was in a section of files that were missing in action, but you have to expect that some of those old files will be hard to locate and I do have copies of the court minutes for that case so I was not too upset about that.

I proceeded to prowl through piles of ledgers and indexes. I found the Physician's Registry books, but Dr. Henry Hodge once again managed to avoid registration. (I've only caught him in one of those registry books in all the Texas counties the old boy lived in.) On the other hand, I found the registrations for three of the Mayo brothers, one of whom was Dr. Henry's brother-in-law. (And yes, the Mayo family who married into the Huddleston branch of the family and produced at least a half-dozen doctors and dentists, were distant relatives of the Mayo clinic bunch.) Dr. Stephen Mayo, who married Ellen Huddleston, delivered quite a few of my relatives who were born in the Red Rock area, so he is a very important person in the family history.

On one shelf I found a pile of docket ledgers for delinquent tax suits. Well naturally, seeing as how I have spent the last 30 years in the business of delinquent tax collection, I began paging through the books and looking for familiar names. I found a few. My great-great grandmother Hodge had a suit filed against her and so did the brother of my great-great grandfather Frankum. Another suit may or may not involve my great-great grandmother Mason. The cases weren't in the active archives, but my co-worker is going to retrieve the files from that dark basement sometime this week.

As I was flipping through the delinquent tax suit docket, I ran across a surprise. Someone had used the very back portion of the book to log in a few criminal cases. I was idly flipping the pages there when a familiar name jumped out at me. A murder trial in 1905 had a long list of witnesses that included my great-grandfather Burl Mason and his son Henry. That had me flying back to the criminal indexes and court minutes, looking for more information on the murder trial. Again, I hit a sudden brick wall on that case. Only a single sheet was in the file, a call for a body of 40 people for the selection of a jury. I plan to check the newspaper for further information on who was murdered and why Burl and Henry Mason were called as witnesses.

After three hours, my stomach was growling and I called it a day, planning to ponder what else I need to look for and intending to spend another morning there in the near future. I headed for Smithville to eat at my favorite Mexican food joint. I enjoyed reading through the divorce case files while I ate and I am wondering what kind of fur will fly when I divulge the contents of one of them in next year's Frankum reunion newsletter.

To prolong my good morning, I stopped by the furniture store in Smithville and went sofa shopping. Found one, too, but I'm holding off making a commitment just yet.

My morning of lifting heavy books was good preparation for when I got home and began to move the boxes of books to the garage. Cat Mountain was dismantled and relocated before suppertime.

The mid-point of vacation week was satisfaction from start to end.


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