July 30, 2007

William and Carrie Rice's oldest child, James Armstead Rice, was born near Jones Prairie, Milam County, Texas on September 1, 1868. Armstead Rice stood about six feet tall but was not a large man. He had gray eyes. While his black hair turned gray in later life, Armstead maintained a full head of hair. He had a calm temperament. Click here for a photo.

Throughout his life, Armstead Rice labored at a variety of jobs, including teaching. One of his early teaching jobs was at Turkey Peak, located in Brown County, Texas. However, Armstead's first love was always farming. Armstead labored as a stock farmer for the better part of his life; he raised jersey cattle.

Although Armstead apparently moved with his parents to Brown County around 1890, he returned to Milam County. Armstead married Jessie Lee Harrell in Milam County on December 23, 1896. She stood about 5'10" and had sandy-red hair, being a large-framed woman who was always a little too heavy. Click here for a photo.

Jessie Lee was born in Maysfield, Milam County, Texas on August 7, 1879. She was the daughter of Thomas W. "T. W." Harrell and Joanna Massengale Harrell. Jessie Lee's father, a Confederate veteran, came to Milam County from Martin County, North Carolina. Jessie Lee's mother came with her parents to Milam County from Coosa County, Alabama.

Jessie Lee's mother had died when Jessie Lee was only eight years old. Thereafter, Jessie Lee kept house for her father. When Jessie Lee was fifteen, her father died. She then went to live with her sister, Mollie Stidham.

Jessie Lee graduated from the Jones Prairie community school. She enjoyed school and wanted to attend college. However, Jessie Lee's family encouraged her to marry Armstead Rice, perhaps because Armstead was a cousin of Mollie Stidham's husband, Benjamin Franklin Stidham (who was the son of Nancy Caroline Jones Stidham, daughter of J. P. Jones).

Armstead and Jessie Lee Rice had the following children: Carrie Anna "Carolyn" Rice; Harrell Henry Rice; Irving Grady Rice; Gladys Rice; Mary Louise Rice; Jesse Armstead "Junior" Rice; and, Florence Joy Rice. Click here to see photos of the children.

Armstead and Jessie Lee Rice settled in Jones Prairie. Their home was purchased, at least in part, with money that Jessie Lee had inherited. Soon after Armstead and Jessie Lee married, two of Jessie Lee's sisters came to live with them. These sisters, Elma and Florence Harrell, continued to reside in Armstead's home until they married.

Armstead Rice's Jones Prairie home bordered on a tract owned by a Mr. Black. The Black children and the Rice children grew up and attended school together. Carl Black, Mr. Black's son, later served as sheriff of Milam County for many years. Georgia Black, Carl Black's sister, was a life-long friend of Armstead's daughter Carolyn.

Armstead and Jessie Lee resided together in Jones Prairie from 1896 until 1918. During that time all seven of their children were born. Jones Prairie was then perhaps more of a metropolis than it is today. For example, the town then supported two stores. The Flynn store carried a more complete line of merchandise than did the Lester store.

Additionally, there were then two schools in Jones Prairie. The Barron School and the Tarver Grove School were at opposite ends of town: each had two or three teachers and offered the same number of grades. Most students attended the school that was closest. Because of its proximity, Armstead's children attended the Barron School.

During the time that Armstead's children were attending the local school, Jones Prairie had a barbershop, a blacksmith shop (operated by Mr. Black, Armstead's neighbor), and a Justice of the Peace facility complete with cells for holding prisoners. Although the town then contained a post office, Armstead Rice received mail on a rural route carried out of Cameron.

Armstead's daughter Carolyn recalled that when she was growing up Jones Prairie always had at least one doctor. Among the physicians that served Jones Prairie were Dr. Herring, Dr. Fontaine, and Dr. Carlton McKinney.

Dr. Herring delivered Armstead and Jessie Lee's four oldest children. Jessie Lee thought that Dr. Herring was the best doctor that she had ever encountered. However, her daughter Carolyn did not like Dr. Herring because the doctor had lied to her. Once, when she had a boil, he told her that he would only examine it, and not touch it, if she would hold still. When he got close enough, he slashed open the boil. Carolyn maintained that she would have held still even if the doctor had told her of his true intent. However, she could not tolerate his lie. Carolyn was happy, but Jessie Lee was disappointed, when Dr. Herring left Jones Prairie to practice near Temple, Texas.

Dr. Fontaine saved the life of Irving Rice, Armstead's son, when Irving was only three years old. He cured Irving of dysentery. It was thought that the illness was caused by some cabbage that Irving had eaten.

Dr. Carlton McKinney was a native of Jones Prairie. However, he practiced there for only a short time.

During the time that Armstead Rice's children were growing up there, the Jones Prairie community offered its share of amusement, scandal, and disaster. Residents often created their own entertainment. Armstead's family would occasionally camp on the Little River, near Jones Prairie, with other families. Some campers would swim and wade in the river. The men would fish: everyone would eat their fill of fried fish. Armstead's daughter Carolyn recalled that Jessie Lee always made gingerbread cookies for the river outing.

As an example of local scandal, the Rice family's long-time Jones Prairie pastor once announced in church that his own daughter and her boyfriend had become overly intimate. He advocated that both the boy and girl be "turned out of" (dismissed from) the church, which they were. The preacher apparently hoped that this experience would break up the couple. However, the couple married soon thereafter.

The weather was a major cause of local disasters. About 1910, around Christmas, a cyclone hit Armstead's Jones Prairie house while the family slept. It was an old house made of hewn logs. Suddenly, the roof was gone and the rain poured in. Although the chimney fell between some of the beds, only a clock and rocking chair were damaged. Luckily, Armstead Rice owned a vacant rent house, into which the family moved. This was an especially trying time for son Irving: he was still recuperating from a bad burn on his arm. A Roman Candle had shot up Irving's sleeve during the Christmas festivities.

Daughter Joy recalled that Jessie Lee Rice was always terrified by storms. It was a fear that Joy found to be contagious. However, Armstead Rice did not share his wife's concern with bad weather. One night, when a dark cloud appeared, Jessie Lee ordered all of the children to go to a neighbor's storm cellar. Armstead observed that he would rather blow away than spend time in a dark and dusty cellar. Consequently, Armstead went to bed and the rest of the family went to the cellar. Fortunately, the storm did no major damage.

The Jones Prairie weather occasionally wrought more pervasive adversity. Around 1916, Jones Prairie and much of Texas suffered from a severe drought. Armstead traveled to Oklahoma where he performed agricultural work with what was called the Farm Depression Crew. The workers were paid five to six dollars per day; they also received room and board. Armstead faithfully sent his check back to his family. He periodically worked with this crew for several years: he would go home to make a crop and then return to Oklahoma.

In the Fall of 1918, Armstead Rice moved his family to Belton, Texas, where daughter Carolyn had obtained a job teaching school. Armstead then headed for California while Jessie Lee and the children remained in Texas. Armstead wanted to see if California life was as good as he had heard: he had been receiving letters from his brother, Bob Rice, who was farming in California.

In December of 1918 Armstead's oldest son, Harrell, joined his father in Imperial Valley, California. Armstead needed Harrell's help to make a cotton crop. Armstead received a good price for that crop. In fact, he made enough money to bring the family to California. At the end of the school year, Jessie Lee and the rest of her children packed their possessions. They rode the train to Imperial Valley.

Armstead's son Irving recalled that, while in California, he and his sister, Gladys, attended a local elementary school but that his brother, Harrell, rode the bus to a city high school. At some point, Harrell began driving a car for the school; he would pick up students in the morning and take them home at the end of the school day. Harrell completed high school in California.

While living in California, Armstead's family attended a Sunday School that they had helped organize. Irving Rice recalled that the Sunday School was attended by people of all races and many ethnic groups.

Jessie Lee did not like living in California. In addition to missing her relatives, she yearned to return to a place that offered regular church services.

After residing in California for about two years, the family moved to Brown County, Texas. Because Jessie Lee had been so unhappy in California, they left that state before Armstead's and Bob Rice's crop could be harvested. Bob was supposed to send Armstead a share of the crop-sale proceeds. However, bad weather (hail, flood, or both) ruined the crop and Armstead received nothing.

All of Armstead's family did not travel together to Brown County. Armstead hired a man to drive Armstead and sons Harrell and Irving to El Paso in a Buick that Armstead purchased in California; Harrell then drove Armstead and Irving on to Brown County.

The rest of the family traveled to Texas by train. Bill Routh, who had married Armstead Rice's sister Eugenia, met the train in Zephyr, Texas. Bill and Eugenia Routh's Brown County farm was located near Zephyr. Irving Rice recalled that for approximately the next month Armstead, Jessie Lee and the children lived on that farm with the Rouths.

Thereafter, Armstead Rice moved his family to Brownwood, the county seat of Brown County. They chose to live in Brownwood for several reasons: because some of Armstead's siblings lived in or near Brownwood; because Brownwood had good churches; and, because Brownwood had an institution of higher learning (Howard Payne College). Armstead and Jessie Lee continued to reside in Brownwood until their deaths.

In Brownwood, Armstead occasionally worked day jobs at the freight depot; he loaded trucks and performed other tasks. However, Armstead could not get regular work at the depot because he did not belong to the union.

When Brownwood installed a sewer system, Armstead contracted to dig sewer lines. This job lasted for several years. Irving Rice recalled that the project "paid good money."

Even though the family lived in town, Armstead managed to resume farming and ranching. Apparently, Armstead's farm was quite a distance from Brownwood. At some point, Armstead began residing at the farm. He would periodically return to Brownwood (perhaps on weekends). Son Junior recalled occasionally staying at the farm with Armstead. How long Armstead Rice maintained this living arrangement is not known.

After work, Armstead found time for relaxation. He loved to read: his favorite magazine was "The Saturday Evening Post." His favorite radio programs were "Amos and Andy" and "Fibber Magee and Molly." He enjoyed playing dominoes. Armstead was opposed in principle to the game of football until he saw a game; thereafter, he became quite a football fan.

Armstead always took a great interest in politics. Once, he unsuccessfully ran for public office in Milam County. Armstead was very disappointed over the loss; he felt that some who had promised support had not been sincere.

Armstead spent many hours arguing about governors with neighbors and relatives. He leaned toward the Republican Party but believed in voting for the best candidate without regard to party affiliation. Armstead opposed Franklin D. Roosevelt; he feared that Roosevelt would ruin the country.

Armstead's gentle voice was often heard telling stories to his children. Daughter Carolyn recalled that Armstead told a story about his grandparents coming to Texas in a covered wagon. Son Junior remembered Armstead telling a story about courting Jessie Lee. Jessie Lee's father, T. W. Harrell, had offered Armstead a drink. Armstead disapproved of drinking because of his father's habit. However, to be polite he accepted the drink offered by Mr. Harrell. Because Armstead was not used to drinking, he became intoxicated. He had trouble finding the door on his way out; when found, the door appeared to be moving.

Armstead was usually in good health. He did not like to take medicine. Once, when he contracted pleurisy, Jessie Lee applied a poultice to Armstead's chest. His children laughed when the poultice was painfully removed.

In contrast to Armstead's good fortune, Jessie Lee was seldom in good health. She suffered from a heart condition. Later in life she had a heart attack and a stroke. Thereafter, her sense of humor was not the same and her feelings were easily hurt. She was bedridden by illness for the last two years of her life.

Once, while the family still lived in Jones Prairie, Jessie Lee wrenched her back while canning foods. She suffered with the problem for most of a summer. The doctor that she consulted thought that she had developed tuberculosis. However, at Jessie Lee's insistence, the doctor agreed to operate. Daughter Carolyn was told that Jessie Lee would not survive the operation. Because the operation was in the Rice home, Carolyn had to take the children elsewhere. Happily, the operation was a success; the doctor found the abscess that Jessie Lee had diagnosed.

Despite her health problems, Jessie Lee maintained a good sense of humor for most of her life. She enjoyed socializing and often invited others to share a meal in her home. Daughter Carolyn grew to dislike company as a result of the extra dish-washing thereby occasioned.

Jessie Lee's grandson, Harrell Benge Rice, recalled that Jessie Lee customarily baked an angel food cake for his birthday. He recalled that the cake was always delicious.

An excellent seamstress, Jessie Lee did a great deal of sewing for relatives and Jones Prairie neighbors, without charge. She could cut a pattern for an outfit after having seen only its picture. Jessie Lee's sisters would usually come for a summer visit so that she could make clothes for their children.

After the family moved to Brownwood, Jessie Lee began to charge non-relatives for sewing. She also lined drapes and upholstered furniture for the Empire Furniture Company in Brownwood; she thereby obtained furniture for the family and piano lessons from the store owner's wife for daughters Gladys and Mary Louise. However, the store owner's wife believed that Mary Louise was not practicing and would not allow her to continue taking lessons.

Armstead and Jessie Lee were active in religious affairs. He was a Baptist and was very firm in his beliefs. Armstead would argue religion with relatives; daughter Carolyn recalled that he was good at proving his point with citations to the Bible. Armstead helped found a church at Turkey Peak.

Once, fellow church members wanted to expel from membership several young people who had been caught dancing. Armstead defended the youngsters. He believed that expulsion would be inconsistent with the Bible's teachings; he thought that the dancers merely needed counseling. Armstead stated that those who supported expulsion had done things worse than dancing--like mistreating animals and cursing.

Jessie Lee's mother was a Methodist and her father was a Primitive Baptist (a group that practiced a foot-washing ritual). Jessie Lee told her children that these influences combined to make her a Missionary Baptist. She enjoyed church work and taught Sunday School. One year Jessie Lee was president of a church club.

Jessie Lee and the children regularly attended church. However, Armstead's church attendance was less than regular; daughter Carolyn recalled that he attended when he felt like it. When Armstead and Jessie Lee did attend together, they sat on different sides of the church. Even when Armstead attended church, the children were required to sit by Jessie Lee so that she could make them behave.

Armstead Rice's method of disciplining his children was to give them a stern lecture. Daughter Carolyn recalled that the lectures were so serious that she would have preferred to take a whipping.

In contrast to Armstead's style, Jessie Lee believed in the adage, "Spare the rod and spoil the child." Daughter Carolyn recalled that her mother would make her "get a switch" even when the switch was to be used on one of the other children.

Daughter Joy remembered being switched "several times" by her mother. Once, when Joy went home with a friend after being denied permission, Jessie Lee whipped her with a shingle (their house was being re-roofed). Joy thought that she had been "nearly killed." Joy also remembered that Jessie Lee used to say that the whipping hurt Jessie Lee more than it hurt Joy. Joy thought that this was the most foolish thing she had ever heard: she did not believe it.

Jessie Lee Rice was superstitious. For example, she forbade anyone to carry a hoe through her house: a hoe in the house was thought to bring on bad luck. Jessie Lee told her daughter Joy that Jessie Lee's own mother, shortly before her death, had seen a burning bush that was not consumed by the fire. Jessie Lee believed that this vision was an omen of death.

Jessie Lee was always especially fond of her brother Sam and her sister Mollie. Jessie Lee's children were especially fond of Mollie because Mollie was the closest thing to a grandmother that they had.

Armstead maintained a close relationship with all of his brothers and sisters. Daughter Carolyn observed that Armstead would have given his last dime to his brothers and sisters if they had needed it.

Armstead and Jessie Lee wanted their children to attend college. Although times were hard, Armstead and Jessie Lee managed to send daughter Carolyn to college. They encouraged Carolyn to help the other children obtain an education.

On March 4, 1935, Armstead Rice died after undergoing surgical removal of his prostate gland. The immediate cause of his death was listed as myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle).

Jessie Lee died on January 27, 1938. A mitral deficiency (defect in the heart valve) caused her death. Both Armstead and Jessie Lee are buried at Brownwood's Greenleaf Cemetery.

The Evidence

Reunion Photos

William Henry Rice Descendants Page