The Story of Thomas Jarvis and Esther Anne Evans

by Betty Gilmore Hodge


Brandon, Texas was a half -days journey from Whitney and maybe three fourths of a days trip from Loafers Bend, which was on the Brazos River in Hill County. It was, in my earliest memories, at the end of a very long dusty road that took us through Hillsboro where we delighted in the game of hollering "I see the court house first." Going home to Brandon was a joy for my mother Sara Samantha Jarvis Gilmore (Sadie) the second child and only daughter of my Grandmother and Grandfather Jarvis. My Dad, Estell William Gilmore had his hands full dealing with the dirt roads, the prevailing weather and our old car. Ruth Marie (Ree), my older sister, and I, Elizabeth (Betty) Anne were glad to be on the road again.

My Grandma Esther Ann Evans Jarvis lived alone in Brandon, in a small house that we were told had been built by her husband, Tom Jarvis (My Grandfather), before his death. She was a very short, round, little lady who was in her 70's when I first remember her. She was always dressed in a long sleeved cotton dress that went almost to the floor. Her everyday dresses were made of a small dark print fabric with a white crochet trimmed collar and her sunday dress was solid black. She was no longer the beauty she had been in the picture I saw of her as a young girl. When I knew her, her hair was short, gray and oily, parted down the middle and pulled back on each side. Her skin was coarse with large pores and she had false teeth which she would put in a jar of water, each night. Her gait was unsteady and she used a cane to support herself, but she was extremely independent, living alone for many years after her husband died and her children left home. It was known around town that Mrs. Jarvis had a gun and would shoot through the door if you came upon her porch. No one ever bothered Grandma Jarvis but she was highly respected in her community and treated with the utmost courtesy.

Grandma Jarvis was not particularly fond of me. She seemed more interested in my sister, Ruth Marie, who was 5 years older and had the same passion for reading that Grandma had. As I grew older I learned to love to read also. One of her last gifts to Ree (Ruth Marie) was a hard to get copy of "Gone with The Wind", a possession that gave our family a great sense of pride as we were the only people we knew who had that book so soon after it came on the market in 1939.

. Things I remember about her house--an oil painting with waves crashing into the shore, painted by grandma; the pot-belly coal stove sitting in the center of the sitting room; the beautiful bookcase, inherited from her father, Dr. Evans of Broomsburg, Pa.; a piano that she learned to play by herself as well as read music, when she was 60 years old. There was also a victrola and it, as well as the beautiful bookcase are in my home now. A big library table was in the sitting room where Grandma read deep into the night, sometimes never going to bed.

You could leave the sitting room and go into the dining room or the guest bedroom. Grandma always stacked the never ending supply of the Dallas Morning News that her son, my Uncle Bob, (Joseph Robert Jarvis, who was the president and CEO of Lone Star Gas Company) brought each time he visited from Dallas. Those newspapers were the highlight of my visit, because they contained the colored comics page.

You could also exit the sitting room into a small bedroom that you had to go through to get to the kitchen. This was where Grandma lived and slept. One wall was curtained off and her clothes were hung behind the curtained area. The middle of this private spot was the home of her "slop jar" as adult potties were called. It was on an elevated shelf, so she did not have to squat to use it. I don't know if this inovation was one of my Grandma Jarvis's or not. But she seemed to have some unique ways of tending to her eliminations. Namely, the design of her drawers (underwear). They consisted of two separate pant-a-loon type legs that were not joined at the crotch. They were held on by a sash tie band at the waist. To empty her bladder, she just pulled her legs apart and she was free to go. This was certainly a time-saving article of clothing and I wonder if it was her own invention?

If you went into the large dining room with food you had to carry it through the small bedroom from the kitchen, but the dining room table was used for another purpose one day. It was draped with white sheets that had been boiled and dried in the sun. The eye, ear, nose and throat doctor skillfully removed my sister's tonsils on the spot. I had that pleasure several years later in the doctor's office in Hillsboro, Texas.

We visited Grandma every few months. Sometimes we would bring her home with us for a visit. On one occasion while traveling down the road, Grandma casually placed her hand on the door handle for support. We were in an automobile which had a front opening door and it begin to slowly open and she held on to the handle. Mama yelled "GRAB HER" to me and I managed to reach over from the back seat and keep Grandma from being jerked out of the car, until Mama could stop the car. Grandma liked me much more after than.

Alva Powell was about twelve years old when Thomas Jarvis and his new bride Esther Anne Evans came to Brandon to live. Aunt Alva, as she became to be known, liked to tell stories about the Jarvis' arrival in Brandon. Esther Anne had several trunks of clothes, appropriate for a young heiress with a masters degree. Her station in life changed, at that time, and she was forced to make clothes for her two children, when they came along, from her trousseau.

It was told that Miss Esther Anne Evans was the daughter of Dr. Joseph Robert Morris Evans of Bloomsburg, Pa. She had one brother, Fletcher Wallis Evans. Their Mother, Samantha Jane Appleman, died when they were small children and they never cared for their new, young, spoiled step mother. It was told that Dr. Evans had a very terrible temper and the children were afraid of him, but they enjoyed tormenting him when they could. One sign of their rebellion was changing their religious affiliation from Episcapallian to Presbyterian when they were about 12 years old. To her death Grandma remained a Presbyterian.

Despite her fine eastern education, Esther Anne, when well past 25 and considered an old maid, went one summer to business school in Valparasio Ind . There she met a cowboy from Texas by name of Thomas Jarvis. My sister said Mama told her that they eloped and Grandma's life changed radically.

I don't know much of Thomas Jarvis, my Grandfather, since he died before I was born. In the early years of his marriage, they lived mostly off of Grandma's trust from her mother's estate, until it ran out. When pregnant with my mother, Grandma and her son, my Uncle Bob, left Thomas Jarvis and went home to Bloomsburg, Pa. Here, Uncle Bob, being about 5 or 6 years of age, was very impressed with Dr. Evans's fine home and was so happy to have a grandfather. He didn't know that Joseph Robert Morris Evans was a bit of a sadist and took pleasure in flipping tobacco into Uncle Bob's eyes while the Dr. was standing on an upper balcony, and little Bob was looking up at him with admiration (story from Ree as told to her by Uncle Bob).

The trip Esther Anne had made was to protest her husbands lack of endeavor in making a living for their family. Dr. Evans said he would not give them money. Eventually, Tom Jarvis came after them and assumed responsibility for keeping food on the table. He became a carpenter and built several homes, including his own, and several churches in Brandon. He and my Mother were very close but unfortunately he died while she was only sixteen.

When Dr. Evans died, he left some property on Peach Tree Street in Atlanta, Ga. The proceeds from this property were pocketed by the unscrupulous lawyers who handled his estate. Uncle Bob found this out when he went to Atlanta to see about the property there.

In shipping one of the hand crafted beautiful bookcases, which Grandma also inheireted from Dr. Evans, the center door glass was broken. Grandma neatly covered the opening with a linen drape. My mother used the first salary she made teaching school at sixteen years of age, to replace the glass in that bookcase. Dr. Evans also left enough cash for Grandma to purchase farms at Memphis, Texas to make income for her to live on for the rest of her life. From Grandma, Mama inherited one half of the farms and Uncle Bob got the other half. Uncle Bob gave Mama his half of the land, in a loving, generous way. Mama sold the west Texas farms and used the money to buy the Whitney, Texas farm, which passed on to Ruth Marie. Of equal value was the Prarie Valley land that my Dad Gilmore inherieted and this was passed on to me.

Grandfather Tom Jarvis (born 1860, died 1917) was the son of Bryan Alexander Jarvis and Susan Hanes who lived in North Carolina. He had one younger brother, Bryant Jarvis who stayed on and eventually inherited the family lands. When Thomas was four and Bryant was 1, their young 30 year old father was killed during a battle in the Civil War. Their equally young mother Susan Hanes was left to care for herself and the two boys.

We are not sure when or why Thomas Jarvis left North Carolina, or why his name was not shown by the many genealogist in North Carolina who researched the Jarvis name and did not include him along with the rest of the Jarvis family tree, etc., in that state. We believe it is possible that Thomas came to Texas to visit the Warren Jarvis family who moved to Click, Texas from North Carolina. Staying there for a while, he decided to join a cattle drive (we do know that he was a cowboy and went on several cattle drives, when he met Esther Anne Evans in Valparasio, Indiana) to the north that ended in either Kansas or Illinois. While there he decided to attend business school and met his future wife. What we do know, for sure, is that my husband (Glyn Hodge) was searching for Thomas's ancestors on the internet and stumbled across a JARVIS FAMILY PAGE there and immediately sent an e mail to Faye Jarvis Moran, who had the page and was so helpful to Glyn. Through correspondence with her we felt the gap could be bridged between Thomas and those North Carolina Jarvis's.

The only logical way would be to look in the North Carolina Census for 1870 (since Thomas' dad died in 1863) and see if we could find Susan Hanes or Susan Jarvis with her two sons, Thomas and Bryan. When Glyn did that, he found her as head of a household with TWO sons, Thomas and Bryan. She was shown as keeping house at 46 years of age and Thomas at 10, going to school and Bryan doing nothing. We were very pleased to place Thomas Jarvis's name beside his mother and father and brother's names and to be known as a part of his family, again.

One day Mama took Grandma to Hillsboro for business and they ran into a Mr. Giles, who had previously lived in Brandon. Grandma said, "Mr. Giles, I saw in the Hillsboro Mirrow where your son died last week, and I am so Sorry." Mr Giles said, "Oh no, Mrs. Jarvis, it wasn't my son, it was my nephew." As we got back in the car going back to Brandon, Grandma said, "I don't care what Mr. Giles said, I know that was his boy who died."

Grandma was 80 when she had a stroke and stayed in a coma for one week, nursed by her loving daughter, Sadie (Mama) in her little bedroom between the kitchen and the sitting room. Mama always said that during her coma Grandma laughed and talked and seemed happy with her life.

Thomas Jarvis and Esther Anne Evans Jarvis now lie side by side on a beautiful hilltop cemetery south of Brandon, Texas. They caused quite a stir in that sleepy little Texas town in the late 19th century - THE COWBOY AND THE HEIRESS.

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