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Estimated reading time: 12 minutes

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

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Tuesday July 27th, 2021
Stray Leaves


"how comes then,that a slave from the james family,back to jesse james,funeral.who was devoted to jesse.was also by the side of j.frank dalton,who claimed to be jesse james?And also senator clark,really the founder of LA! and jesse and frank,photo evidence of high degree freemasons.Jesse was not killed by bob ford.after the alleged killing of jesse,years later,frank was known to have visited bob ford, who had a saloon near a gold rush route. The jesse body that was photographed,and later buried,that was not jesse.It was charlie bigelow,who had infiltrated the james gang,and was a pinkerton informer,because two older bigelows,sit in graves side by side,and both graves show exact same death date. no-body really knows, but the ages on the grave stones of the 2 bigelows could have been charlies uncle and his father. And maybe killed by the james gang. the DNA evidence in the 80s was doubtful.others were buried buried in the same area,they did not find jesse james body,or grave. all they found was a tooth! I suspect jesse james junior,is the son of charlie bigelow. I dont know who this man is but jesse held a position of power in the US,years after he is dead.And had a hand in the assasination of lincoln, and maybe later US presidents,jesse was not a banker, but paid cash for big railroads,and copper mines,as william c.clark.US senator,and was one of the richest and most powerful men, in the US.J frank dalton told a few months before he died, everything, Dont believe? J for jesse, frank for his brother. Dalton for his mothers maiden name. but jesse james mother was not named Dalton. it was j.frank daltons cryptic clue.his mothers maiden name was cole,but she was adopted by another family,dalton. and its really the same as when jesse was so they say killed.jesse laid his gun down on the table,and bob ford shot him in the head from behind,All his friends knew jesse was not dead.Because jesse always put his guns on when he woke up,all who knew him would know jesse is not dead. so it was someone with the name hines,who went to pay his taxes,and was investigated,and found to actualy be jesse evans, a member of the james gang. who finally told jesse and billy the kid were still alive. jesse i think 12 years older than billy. you can see a picture on line of j frank dalton( as an old man) with brushy bill roberts,who admitted to be billy the kid,had his own story as one of the rough riders,and he is listed in theodore roosevelts rough riders. there is a photo a year or two before dalton died,and you can see his friend billy, and his child hood friend a black slave from his family there too.older than jesse.could it just be a co-incidence,that jesse james mother was attacked and had her arm or hand blown off,in attempts to find jesse,and later in the 1940s,investigations were made into the william c.clarke family,and one of the family screamed because old grandmother clarke,by then dead.Also had the same arm missing? jesse faked his own death twice,as jesse and as william c.clarke. his daughter when he was william c.clarke,became a recluse.she had married a man,but when her father died(jesse), it his rumoured after his death as william c.clarke,he came back after some time and told his daughter the truth,he was jesse james. clarke a rich man who lived in high society,was jesse james.she could not accept it,divorced her husband,and became a recluse. the assasination of lincoln by john wilkes booth was a conspiracy of those who still were true to the south. jesse and frank involved. Lincoln was was shot,but seriously injured,too weak to move him so far,so he was taken to the closest boarding house. And to an empty but rented room. to die. the room was though already rented. the name on the room, was william clark. wilkes booth killed after escaping but not. a soldier was set up to be killed in his place. john wilkes booth was also a freemason. wilkes booth died in 1901,as he had become a drunk and a liability,who could expose the truth,As to who controlled america at that time. jesse arranged a meeting and shot john wilkes booth.to protect the brotherhood. "
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That's impossible to read for a whole bunch of reasons.


Saturday July 24th, 2021
Stray Leaves

MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW THEIR COUSINS, let alone stay in touch with them. Frank & Jesse James have more than 70,000 actual cousins documented in Stray Leaves’ "Genealogy Search" database. Most living people who appear in the database as their cousins don’t even know they are related to Frank & Jesse. But here’s an important cousin clue. If someone strenuously or vociferously claims to be related to Frank & Jesse James, the likelihood is, they are not. Happy National Cousin’s Day, cousins! See MoreSee Less

MOST PEOPLE DONT KNOW THEIR COUSINS, let alone stay in touch with them. Frank & Jesse James have more than 70,000 actual cousins documented in Stray Leaves Genealogy Search database. Most living people who appear in the database as their cousins dont even know they are related to Frank & Jesse. But heres an important cousin clue. If someone strenuously or vociferously claims to be related to Frank & Jesse James, the likelihood is, they are not. Happy National Cousin’s Day, cousins!
Sunday July 18th, 2021
Stray Leaves

DO YOU KNOW THIS LOCATION? Cole Younger was an occasional visitor here. But Cole’s host was not named Warden.Every day is a great day to come to the Warden’s House, but today we have balloons! 🎈⭐️ Tours every Thursday-Sunday at 1pm, 2pm, 3pm and 4pm. Come see us! See MoreSee Less

DO YOU KNOW THIS LOCATION? Cole Younger was an occasional visitor here. But Coles host was not named Warden.
Thursday July 15th, 2021
Stray Leaves

UNDERSTANDING THE TRAIL OF TEARS AS CHICKASAW & CHOCTAW HISTORY . . .NOT AS U.S. HISTORY. First, we stray leaves must grasp the fact that the ancestral Anglo blood that flows in our veins from the time of our arrival in America in the early 1600s through the American Revolution is the same blood that directed the course of the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations among the descendants of Benjamin James Sr. the lawyer and Indian trader and his children Benjamin James Jr. "of the Choctaw Nation" and his sister Susannah James who married James Holmes Colbert, a Chief of the Chickasaw Nation. This, too, is our story.

In this, our story, we see our enthusiastic defense for a growing nation in the War of 1812 betrayed and deceived by expulsion to the Trail of Tears. We see the separation of our Choctaw and Chickasaw families in the West and the surrounding turmoil that engulfed them. We learn how our distrust of the U.S. Government folded us into the Confederacy. Lastly, we perceive ourselves as men of fortitude and women of power. We possess an enduring ancestral skill to put intelligence in the service of leadership, education, and conflict resolution. Our story is a legacy for peace and progress.

Chickasaw.tv | Winter Fire | Episode 2: Arrival In Indian Territory
Amidst Chickasaw removal to Indian Territory, the crucial Fort Washita was constructed and leaders such as Cyrus Harris emerged.
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