Tag Archives: Alvarado

Stray Leaves Diary of John James of Alvarado – 2

2nd Installment of “Stray Leaves” from my diary

John James of Alvarado, Texas
John James of Alvarado, Texas

In my last I told you about our moving about up to the time I came to Texas. Now I will go back and tell some other things connected with my life in Illinois, for it was there the greatest epoch in my life and history occurred, when we lived there it was a new and sparsely settled country and not very much society schools and preaching until after the war.

Just before I was 16, I professed religion and joined the “New Light” church and from that time I became an active Sunday school and church worker, and I now see that was the very best thing that could have happened.

While Father was gone to the war I grew out from under his rule and influence so that when he came home I felt in me a feeling of rebellion against him and was never willing for him to boss me as I called it, so in the summer after I was 16 I left home “ran away” after night I went to another county about 30 miles from home taking only one extra shirt and my testament that I loved so well. I hired to a man to herd cattle, so did not have much to do but put in all my spare time reading my Testament.

The Stray Leaves diary of John James of Alvarado, Texas, page 3
The Stray Leaves diary of John James of Alvarado, Texas, page 3

I planned to get myself plenty of clothes and then go to school for I wanted to get an education I wanted that above everything else, of course I loved my dear mother and the children, wanted to see them and went home in the fall on a visit intending to go back to Philo, Illinois, where a man had offered to board me and send me to school for my work of nights and mornings. But Father begged me to stay at home and promised me an education, so I stayed on account of our financial condition and father’s feebleness (from hardships and exposure in the war) I never got to go to school any more, I had never went to school but nine weeks and that was to Uncle Henry… (illegible writing)…by a chip fire light until I ruined my eyes that had been afflicted with granulated lids from the time I was 5 yrs. old (our first year in Illinois), but I stayed with my Father and learned to love him again and done all I could for him but read and studied all the time I could.

I loved that Sunday School and prayer meeting and debating societies and sing schools and became active in all that work and I loved the girls too and had several precious sweet hearts ” that I hated most of to Leave” when we came to Texas, but I learned to write by writing back to several of them for over a year after I came here.

During the summer (our first summer here) after I was 18, the neighbors fixed up an old log house with split log seats and plank on pegs in the wall for a writing desk and put me in as teacher over about a dozen children, but my school was a success from the start. It gave me the chance to study and I would study every evening after school was out every lesson that was to come up the next day so I kept ahead of my school. I taught four schools at that place and my salary grew from about $20.00 up to $75.00 per month and at the end of the 4th school I had carried my advanced classes up into such high branches as higher arithmetic, algebra, physical geography, philosophy and Astronomy and Book keeping.

The Stray Leaves diary of John James of Alvarado, Texas, page 4
The Stray Leaves diary of John James of Alvarado, Texas, page 4

I had not only taught a good school, but had educated myself during the two years or four schools that I taught there so I kept on teaching for 18 years, the last three years a mission teacher to the Indians where I learned to love the Indians and learned their language and can talk it yet, though it has now been 15 years since I quit teaching.

The 3rd year, after coming to Texas in September after I was 20, in April I married into one of the very best families in this country or state, I would teach in the winter and wake crops in the spring, teach again in the summer. Father had moved to Wise County, 50 miles north of here. I also moved up there and went to teaching and farming as I did here where my wife and baby child died the same week in I had joined the Baptist Church in spring 1873 and up there in Wise County in 1878.

I was licensed to preach and was ordained soon after, so I mixed preaching with teaching and farming. I had 4 motherless children that my dear Mother was taking care of so I married again in fall 1879. I now have eleven children living and thirteen grandchildren.

While I was among the Indians I a Missionary preacher, teacher, and doctor would have stayed there had it not been for my family, I did not want to raise up my children and have them marry off in that country. So in spring of 1883 I moved back to Johnson County to the same neighborhood we first came to 33 years ago and where I first began teaching, Some of my first pupils are living here yet and most of them Grandfathers and Grandmothers and when I think of it, it makes me feel old, but I am only 51 next month, have not a grey hair in my head.

The Stray Leaves diary of John James of Alvarado, Texas, page 5
The Stray Leaves diary of John James of Alvarado, Texas, page 5

In politics, I am a Democrat but in politics religion and everything else I am very liberal and kind to those who differ with me in their views. I believe there is good in all creeds and in all nations of the Earth and believe God’s people do wrong in keeping up separate denominational creeds instead of trying to live together in Love and Unity. I began to preach that kind of doctrine about twelve years ago. Of course, that did not suit Baptists. They took my credentials away from me; but I am glad of it, and have never regretted it. From that day until this I have been an independent free man and preach and teach what I believe and hold myself accountable to no man or set of men but God only.

While a mere boy reading the Bible, I began to believe in the Mighty Power of the mind. I felt that I had some mysterious secret power but did not know how to use it. I believed a correct understanding of this secret mental or Spiritual power would make plain many of the mysterious things spoken of in the Apostles and of the similar things among the different nations of the earth, all the way down from that time until now. There were my feeling and thoughts back to 30 or 40 years ago and I have lived up to those4 very things demonstrated.

I have learned how to recognize and use that secret power that I felt swelling up in my very being when I was but a mere child from a mere boy. I have always desired to be able to heal the sick. Now I have witnessed hundreds of them getting well under my treatments and; yet it is not I that do it, but it is done by God-given power that I have learned how to use.

The Stray Leaves diary of John James of Alvarado, Texas, page 6
The Stray Leaves diary of John James of Alvarado, Texas, page 6

All my youthful desires for knowledge and for power was my earnest prayer, and God has answered them not as I expected but more fully than I had ever dared hope for and above all I have a better understanding of the great doctrines of the Bible and have a more vital and intelligent conception of God’s love and serve him better than I could ever have done by following human creeds.

I have had many strange and wonderful experiences through life much that was dark and mysterious at the time but all is plain now. As I look back along the journey of my past life, I can now see how God in his mercy and wisdom was leading me. I seem to have come to the great Fountain of Wisdom and day by day Wonderful Knowledge of the here to fore hidden mysteries of the world and of life are coming to me. Praise the Lord, O my Soul. Amen.

JOHN JAMES    March 8, 1903


Stray Leaves Diary of John James of Alvarado – 1

This website takes its name of Stray Leaves from the diary of John James of Alvarado, Texas, which he titled his Stray Leaves. John began his diary of four typewritten pages on March 8, 1903, but he never wrote any more of a diary. His progeny inherited his four-page diary. John also sent copies home to relatives in Shopville, Pulaski County, Kentucky. This four-page document and historical record has been disseminated among the James family and its descendants since.

Stray Leaves from my diary

John James – Alvarado, Texas, March 8, 1903


My father is of English descent on his paternal side. My mother’s name was Hall and her people were mixed-Americans. Both were born and raised in Pulaski County, Kentucky.


The Stray Leaves diary of John James of Alvarado, Texas, page 1
The Stray Leaves diary of John James of Alvarado, Texas, page 1


I was born on Flat Lick Creek, same county and state Apr. 29, 1832, and recollected quite distinctively some of the people and places there, such as Grandma Hall’s and orchard. Grandma James’ stone house and mill pond, the Peyton Randall place, and of going there and staying all night with Grandma James and of sleeping in a small side room in which I saw the first high chair for children. I was less than 4 years old then.

I can remember Uncle Perry James building me a cornstalk playhouse in a fence corner to the front and right of the stone house, and of he and I and Aunt Babe coasting downhill, out in from of the house on the sleet and snow using warped clapboards from an old ash hopper to ride on.

I can remember mother, carrying water from the mill pond to wash with in a cedar churn and of the churn getting away from her in the mill pond and of someone getting it for her own at the dam. I also remember playing hide and seek with Aunt Babe and some neighbor children and of Aunt Mary  (Mary Martha James) hiding me under her big cook apron. I also remember being at Uncle Shad Owens place and some of the family, also remember some of the places where we lived all before I was 5 yrs. old.

The stone house built by Rev. Joseph Martin James prior to the Civil War at Flat Lick Creek in Shopville, Pulaski County, Kentucky.
The stone house built by Rev. Joseph Martin James prior to the Civil War at Flat Lick Creek in Shopville, Pulaski County, Kentucky.

In Feb. 1857, Father (Cyrenius Waite James) and family and Uncle Henry and his young bride (who was Rachel Tomlinson) moved to Illinois. Jesse Nance hauled us to Danville, Kentucky in a covered wagon where we stayed all night with Uncle Mack James (Joseph McAlister James, aka Joseph McJames) Uncle Henry being drunk all the way and his young wife crying all the time, Uncle Mack offered her $50.00 if she would go back to her Father. We traveled from Danville to Louisville on R.R. train, crossed the Ohio River on a large ferry boat stayed all night in a hotel in the Ind. side and from our window saw a big fire over the river in Louisville. We went on to Pesotum, Illinois on the train. At Pesotum, we stayed in a small depot until Father walked out to Squire Lee’s, 4 miles, and got a wagon and team and hauled us out there.

We lived in Champaign County twp years near Uncle Squire Lee’s (husband of Elizabeth Ann James) then moved to Uncle Mack’s farm in Douglas County, 15 miles S.W. (Spring 1859).

In 1861 Father enlisted in the U.S. army and was a soldier 3 years passing through 17 of the great battles of the rebellion in Sherman’s and Grant’s armies. He got wounded slightly once at Rebecca Ga. was paroled and came home and stayed a few days and returned to his command, then in Tennessee.

The Stray Leaves diary of John James of Alvarado, page 2
The Stray Leaves diary of John James of Alvarado, page 2

During the war, mother and I tried to farm and did make a crop but had a hard time to keep something to eat and wear. Everything was high-priced and Father’s 13 dollars a month was not sufficient to keep us supplied as there was then a family of Mother myself, William Henry, George Mack, Squire Martin, and Mary Martha, four children.

My little and only sister Mary Martha only 2 years old got choked to death on a grain of corn. While Father was a prisoner of war at Marietta Ga 1000 miles away but in a vision the night and hour she died, he saw her come to near his pallet dressed in white and was the most beautiful. Father woke up his bedfellow and told him of the strange vision, and looked at his watch and noted the time.

John James of Alvarado, Texas
John James of Alvarado, Texas

When Father came home in 1865, I was 13 yrs. old and could do a man’s work on the farm. Father’s health was bad and I had all the work to do. We had nothing left but a poor pony team and old wagon and one cow, but prospered and came to Texas in fall of 1869 when I was 17 years old. I had never been to school but nine weeks in my life but had picked up a fair education and had read the New Testament through one that Father brought home and given me.

(To Be Continued)


People are better known and remembered by what they write themselves, than what appears in their obituary. Fredda Louise James-Johnson died this week, on Feb. 3, 2014, following a fractured shoulder and declining health. I met Fredda in 1998 at the annual Jackson Waite James family picnic. She was very interested in our family history and shared much of it with me as she introduced me to other family members – all of which for, I stay grateful. Previously, Fredda had written recollections about her childhood for her daughter-in-law, Ruby Tidwell-Johnson. Ruby was collecting stories about the James family, descended from Fredda’s father Jackson Waite James and her grandfather, John James of Alvarado. The following is Fredda’s own memory of a childhood life on the Texas prairie.

by Fredda Louise James-Johnson

Fredda Louise James-Johnson
Fredda Louise James-Johnson in 1998

The memory of my first home was on the old Granbury (Texas) road which is now Highway 4. We lived there when I was about six months old. When I was about 3 or 4 years old, that house burned down. My mother always had to wash outside on the rub board in the pot, and what have you, and she usually washed until after lunch. On this day while she was washing, Finis (Finis LaVaurne James, her brother) and I were aggravating her, and she told me to go in the house and go to bed, which I started. When I did, I looked up. There was fire everywhere and on my bed. I came out there and told her there was a fire in the house, and she said she was supposed to get papers out of the house if anything happens. But she knew Finis and I would follow her in so she didn’t get to save anything, and that’s the first house I remember. Mama and Dad (Maggie Dozier Fitzgerald & Jackson Waite James) lost 3 or 4 houses to fires, but that’s the only one I saw. Then I don’t remember any other houses til my Dad built a house. He built the house Bobbie West lived in for a long, long time, and then he sold it here not too long ago. I think about three years ago.

The only Grandparents I remember was Grandpa James (John James of Alvarado) and I only saw him once. It was about May, a year or two before he died. He was blind and they put me in his lap, so he could feel of my face to see what I looked like and it scared me, scared me to pieces, and that’s the only thing I remember of him.

My Grandmother (Mary Elizabeth Rosaline “Ross” Bradley) had died a long time before my grandpa. After my Dad was born, my grandmother had a baby boy and they both died in the same week. Then my grandpa found someone else (Louisa Ellen Sutton), and married her, cause back then he had a bunch of kids and he had to have someone to help take care of them. So, my Dad had several half brothers and sisters, but I never saw too many of them, just every once in a while.

I got lots of whippings from my Dad, and my Mother never did whip me. I got whippings just like the boys did, with a belt. Sometimes I really think I shouldn’t have gotten it, but because I was with the boys I got a whipping too. He had what they call a razor strap too. He would use that on us and if one got into trouble it looked like all of us did. If Mama had any pets in the family I didn’t know it. When I came along, I had a brother that was fixing to get married, and my older sister stayed til Mama was up and about. I was born in June and she married in October same year. From there Herbert and his wife (Herbert John James Sr. & Rosetta Matthews) married, and one night they was going to bed and I wanted to go to bed with them and everybody laughed. I didn’t know why until later. They lived there with us for a while. That was in the old house.

Jackson Waite James
Jackson Waite James

My Dad was a Deacon in the Baptist Church, but after I came along, I don’t remember them going to church very much, and if we went, we went with my brothers to church and places like that. My Dad was a farmer and raised cotton, corn, wheat, and that kind of stuff and raised everything in the garden. Everything had to be raised or killed or you don’t get anything to eat. Mama raised chickens and turkeys. I seen her many times go in that little smoke house with a duck, and every time she plucked, that duck would go chirp. And she would pluck again, and it would go chirp. That’s what she made pillows out of, duck down, and that’s the way we had to get our own pillows and what have you. Mama quilted a lot. She didn’t have any certain patterns. She’d just use old scrapes she had. I remember helping her some, you know I was a big help, I thought I was anyway. But I seen her go out many times, we had a lot of company when we was growing up, my Mother’s brothers and some other people, I’d see her go out and get a chicken and fix it for breakfast. Mother always had her hog meat, too. We killed for nearly all our meat.

Family of Jackson Waite James
Jackson Waite James Family with Fredda Louise James standing left

We had our own butter. I used to have to churn butter, and we had buttermilk you know. But I didn’t like to churn butter. I churned on the old churn and every chance I’d get, I’d try to break it thinking I wouldn’t have to finish churning, but I usually had to finish.

I’d go down to the barn and get them to let me try to milk, and they knew what was going to happen and it wasn’t any time and I was having to help milk by myself. We had a lot of cows to milk and we had to wear boots; I can’t remember in the winter time, the mud would come up to our knees. Well maybe it wasn’t that bad, but it was awful, but that milking had to be done.

I always had cats and dogs, if I could get a dog. I can remember one time I had a dog, I think I called him Patches. One day I couldn’t find him and Dad told me he raised up a rock and he went under it…I always had a cat and one time I had a goat, a neighbor had given it to me and brother (Finis), I had to get rid of it because it was an old male and we sold it back to the people who gave it to me and they killed it for meat. But he was getting too mean, and he didn’t mean very much to me anyway.

Bertha Duke James-Nichols
Bertha Duke James-Nichols, 1998

Rosetta made some of my clothes, my oldest sister (Lillian Rosaline James) and Bertha (Bertha Duke James, her sister) made some too, slips and things like that you know, but we didn’t buy clothes like people do now for sure…Mama made all the men work shirts, her aprons, her slips, and things like that.

Talking about raising food, my mama would sell eggs, and take that money to buy groceries and things like that, but when you raise all your milk, eggs, and butter and that sort of thing, you don’t need much of anything else.

We had to pick cotton a lot, and I don’t like it at all. I couldn’t pick it. I guess everybody had a weak back but I just couldn’t pick it. I picked with brother and he’d get like 100 pounds and I would only get 50 pounds. But brother would help me. He would pick it and pile it up in a row so that I couldn’t put it in my cotton sack, trying to keep me up with him. This is how we got our school clothes. We had to work for them. I think my Dad would pay us like a dime a pound for picking cotton, and then when we get through, we could work for the neighbors, and they would pay us and that’s what we bought our clothes with. Brother would take some of his money and buy some of my clothes. That’s how close we were. You don’t see that nowadays. He was always good to me.

Fredda Louise James-Johnson
Fredda Louise James-Johnson in January, 2013

I went to school at Lone Cottonwood until they had to close it down, because there were lack of funds. That was when I was in 7th grade and they could only have a six month school because they didn’t have enough money to run it. Those that had a way had to go to Godley School, but we didn’t have a way and the country schools at that time had to go to the Johnson County Court House. That’s when we took our test. All the country schools had to go in at the 7th and was fixing to go into High School. We were out there three months and brother and I went in and took the test. My teacher wrote us a letter that said we could pass on trial basis, just try it and see if we could make it, we thought that meant that we passed, then when graduation came, it was over here at the High School where you kiddos went to; everybody had to go into this room and they called your name out. They never did call our names and they said they have no record of when we passed. Anyway, I started to Cleburne, and I believe Finis went to Alvarado for a little while and then they decided we were in the Godley School District, so they sent us up there. We went there for a while, and finally brother had to quit, and then the next year there wasn’t a bus, so I didn’t have a choice since there was no way to go to school and this was about the 8th grade. But I had always passed all my subjects and made 90’s and 100’s in this school and then send you to High School in town, now that was different.

I had to work in the fields, help bale the hay, shock the wheat, I was a Tomboy and I could get up on the top of the barn, and I’d climb to the top of the windmill and when we were baling hay; you had an old baler that had to have a mule that would go round and round, and I had to punch the wires through the bales so they could be tied. I rode horses bareback, and I knew how to saddle, and a few times we rode horses to school, but not many times. I helped Mama put up vegetables and I helped take care of the garden. We always had a big orchard. Mama would cut up peaches and I would get on top of the barn and lay them out on it and that’s the way you dried peaches. I had to go up every day and turn them you know, one way or the other, then when they dried you would gather them up and put them in bags. For some reason, when we emptied a jar we didn’t wash it and when it came spring time to put up the vegetables, it was my job to wash those jars, and you think we didn’t have a time. Our big old wood stove had what you call a reservoir on it and that thing held about 5-10 gallons of water and I had to carry the buckets of water to the wood stove and keep water in it. Then after Bertha got married, she told me I would have to keep house because Mama had all the cooking and everything else to do. I mean I went through the house every morning, and because Bertha told me to do it, I thought I had to do it. I was about 11 years old at this time. We worked, we all had to work.

Fredda Louise James-Johnson with daughter Glenda Johnson-Dunn.
Fredda in July, 2013, recovering from a fractured shoulder with daughter Glenda Johnson-Dunn

There weren’t too many at home when I was there, but some of the older ones may have come back for a spell, but there were many Christmas’ that I didn’t get anything. I think when Finis was about 12 or 13, we had a big tree put up in the hall, but we didn’t have any presents under it, except for one box of candy somebody had given Mama, and that’s what we had. If you don’t have money, you don’t have money.

We always had lots of storms in early spring nearly every year and maybe it would hail a crop out or it would always do a lot of damage and it was always at the last of school when it was worse. We had a cellar and one time I remember we had a storm and we went into the cellar, the house wasn’t very far from it and Dad looked out the cellar door and Jesse was helping him hold the door down because it was just so bad and then directly it came lightning and he said that the house was still there and everything else was gone, the barn was laying in the garden and ruined it, it picked my Dad’s wagon up and took it about a mile into the pasture, and Mama would always have to go out and gather her chickens many, many times after storms, cause they would be killed if you don’t get them. The babies would hatch about that time…It was every year we had something like that.



Obituary for Fredda Louise James-Johnson

Jackson Waite James Family Reunion, 1998 – slide show

In-Laws of Our James Know More Than Us Sometimes

Was it not for Ruby Tidwell-Johnson, few of our James family would know about the descendants of John James of Alvarado, his story, & the story of his line. Ruby is the wife of Dennis Lee Johnson, a James family descendant.

Ruby Tidwell Johnson & Husband Dennis Lee Johnson

For years, Ruby meticulously compiled a history of her husband’s family. Ruby not only collected the required genealogy of names, dates, & places of individuals, spouses, children, and their births, marriages, deaths, & burials, Ruby also collected the family lore & stories attached to John James of Alvarado & his descendants, that cause their history to live and be relevant today. Over the years, Ruby generously has shared what she learned among her James relatives.

Prior to the start of Stray Leaves’ publication in 1997, Ruby also shared the history & genealogy she collected with Stray Leaves author Eric James. In turn, her information has been shared countless times among other members of the James family who found their way to the James family’s web site, & among a public drawn to the James family’s story.

Ruby is not the only in-law to reveal the history of the James. In the twelve years of research conducted by Eric James, many times Eric encountered in-laws of the James who knew more about the James than the James knew about themselves. Except for those in-laws found among the line of Frank & Jesse James, who felt stigmatized by their marriage relationship and did not want it made known they were related to the notorious outlaws through marriage or any other way, James in-laws outside that line were more than willing to share what they knew. In some cases, they revealed family secrets unknown to the James themselves.

Some of what Ruby Tidwell-Johnson collected soon will find its way into Eric James’ epic, new history of the James family Jesse James Soul Liberty, Vol. I, Behind the Family Wall of Stigma & Silence. In the book’s “Acknowledgements” chapter, Ruby is appreciatively cited as a valued keeper of the James family’s history, for whom many are grateful.


Dennis Lee Johnson & Ruby Tidwell

. Lecil Johnson & Fredda Louise James

.. Jackson Waite James & Maggie Dozier Fitzgerald

… John James, of Alvarado & Mary Elizabeth Rosaline “Ross” Bradley

…. Cyrentius Waite James & Amanda Jane “Manda” Hall

….. Rev. Joseph Martin James & Rhoda May

…… John M. James & Clarissa “Clara/Clary” Nalle