THE INSTITUTE OF TEXAN CULTURES
ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM
INTERVIEW WITH: B. Goff
DATE: November 8, 1985
PLACE: Mason, Texas
INTERVIEWER: Callie Hughes
G: Now we was back down to where I was telling you that we
had to go in an old wagon and working two old mules that he
had to work the farm with and it was rough, just like a
cattle trail because it didn't have no roads like they have
nowdays and he (father) would tell me the good book said
there would come a time when this road would be just like a
rock and as I said, he always told me, he s ays now then
they're gonna have things that they call horseless carriages
and they're gonna go at night, said they will have torches
on them. And when he'd get through telling me these Bible
stories well he'd say, "Now child don't you ask me how
they're gonna do it because I don't know." And I said, "I
guess that's the reason we don't understand but now we do."
That we see the road and we see the cars. And I guess
that's what they call horseless carriages, you know, at that
day and time.
H: What was your daddy's name?
G: Jim Henry. James Clark Henry was his name.
H: When was he born?
G: And he was born, let's s ee, 1846, I think that's when
he was born. And mother was born in 1860.
H: When did they come to Texas?
G: And I think they come to Texas about, oh, I'd have to
get my record, but it was way back yonder, I guess about
1872. That was when my first brother was born in Mason
County, you know. And from then on, he bought a hundred
acres of land from Mr. Ed Bode and we were just there. All
the rest of the people around us, they had big ranches and
they could raise cattle and I said we were like a little pin
in that hundred acres.
niece lives on it.
It's still down there now and my
After my mother and daddy was gone, well my sister
bought it (land), and now then they're all gone but just two
and that was Elva May and Elma Goff. And my sister married
Ron Goff and I married Clark Goff which they were brothers
and me and Nettie were sisters.
H: Did you farm or ranch?
G: We farmed, and we had a living at home. We raised
everything we ate nearly. Only flour, sugar and such things
as rice or oatmeal or things like that, we bought. But all
my life, I didn't know what to buy groceries 'cause we
raised it, you know. We had our honey, we made our own
syrup, and I said we made our own corn to make our meal, and
we had to buy the flour, you know, for our bread. And
coffee; we had to buy coffee, which we had to grind on an
old coffee mill. Because we didn't have it like they have
H: Did you go to school at Art?
G: We went to school at Fly Gap and there's a great long
story about why they named that Fly Gap. (Men were chasing
Indians. Tied their horses and pursued Indians through a
gap in the mountains. When they returned, all the horses
were bloody from horse fly bites.) And I said they'd have
to go into a long, long story on that, you know, and that
was where they waited for the Indians to come in, you know,
when they was trying to run them out of this country, you
know. And I said my grandpa on my mother's side well, I can
remember him real well, his name was Sam Logan Fleming.
H: Was he the first owner of the land?
G: No. It was, he had just come in here and bought him
some land, you know, from the government. And I think they
had about 320 or 640, with my mother's daddy, you know. And
then, after my grandmother passed away well, then they sold
the land. My grandfather married again and they sold the
land and they moved from Mason County to Shackleford
H: Where did they come from?
G: Grandpa Fleming came from Tennessee. But now where he
really originated from I think he was out of Germany.
H: Did you go to church down there?
G: We didn't have no church. Just every once in a while
a preacher would come through and have just arbor service,
you know. But as far as a church house, well the Germans
all had one, but us American people at that time they didn't
associate with the German people. The German people didn't
associate with American people like they do today, you know.
H: Aren't you part German?
G: My mother says she was, but my daddy says he's Irish.
My grandpa, I'm talking about mother's people now. But my
daddy come from Missouri. My daddy, the Henry side, you
know. He was from Missouri and my mother was from Tennessee.
And see how they got together, now, I don't know that.
Anyhow, well, my daddy was first married to mama's
first cousin. So after she passed away, one little son was
born and then she never did get over the childbirth, she
passed away when he was born. And I had a half brother and
his name was Hiram Henry. And my marna and daddy had eleven
children, so we had a dozen in the family with the half
brother, you know. And then I had seven sisters and I made
eight and I had three brothers. The oldest one was named
Sam Henry and the next one was Bill Henry and the next one
was Isaac Henry. My sister's names were Nancy, and Alice,
and Nettie, and Minervie, and Lily, and Clara, and Effie ,
and myself. That's the Henry family.
And I said that I don't know when my marna and daddy
married in DeWitt County. You want me to go get the record
and we'll see when it was.
And they called them a turning plow and a planter which
we had to walk behind and pulled by the team, you know.
H: Did you children have to work?
G: Yes, we had to work in the field every day. We raised
cotton, raised corn, raised cane, and all kind of vegetables
in the garden. We had to work every day. We had to pull
H: When you went somewhere you had to go in the wagon?
G: When we had to go somewhere we had to go in the wagon.
H: What year did you get a car?
G: We didn't never have no car. We never did have no
television; never did have no telephone; we just growed up
there on the farm. And work was all we knowed we had to do.
'Cause these conveniences we have now, they wasn't here yet.
They was for some people but we didn't have them.
H: Well, did you visit your neighbors for entertainment?
G: Yes, and I said they were friendly people and we always
had company. On Sunday we had a houseful of people, it was
a big family and when they all corne horne on Sunday, we'd
have a big dinner and enjoy it just like we would Christmas
time. But it ain't that way no more. No sir.
And I said I don't know but it's just altogether
different. But I was told that these things would happen.
So when I get out on the road now with people in cars, you
know, I come to these places where my daddy told me the
Bible stories, they're back new again.
H: I bet you remember it.
G: I remember it.
I know I was told of it and I know he could see that
far, but still he didn't understand why it was gonna be. I
said we're still thataway 'til today. The things like we
have today that we don't understand like what they made to
go to the moon and what they're doing up in the air now,
when we send up one of these here ships you know, whatever
it is, and these astronauts go up there. They're looking
G: for something. It will be in the future.
H: The land has been in the family. For ... ?
G: A hundred years. (Looking at pictures) Now this one
right here you can see better than I can. I think that's my
mama, her name was Eva Jane. Is that Eva Jane, is that
Nancy? This is Eva Jane, this is mama's records That was
my daddy's first wife. This is my mother. This is my mama
and daddy's second marriage, and we can tell by that about
when they married. I think they married in July, 1876.
And I think my brother, they had two children, when
they come to Texas, which was Sam and Nancy. And then, Bill
was the next one, which would have been, if that was '76, I
think he was born in about '79 or something like that. And
these other children were born before, he was born before
they come to Texas; before they moved to Mason County.
And I said, now it takes a long time, because I'm 86
and nearly 87 years of age and you know all these things
from a little girl. I go back in my mind and I've gone over
them again pretty often about how we had to go to school.
We just had a little ole country school and the teacher
taught not hardly seven months. 'Cause that's all the time
they had for school in them days. I never did get no
further than the 6th grade, and I said •••
H: Did you walk?
G: Yeah , we walked, and it was about two miles and a half.
And I'm telling you, whenever the wind was a-blowing from
the north and we had to face that, we was sure cold when we
got that two miles and a half walked off, facing that north.
G: But at the evening we had our backs to it but the rest
of them they had to go north and they had to face it in the
evening; we had to face it in the morning. So, the little
schoolhouse, which I went to, burned down and then they
built a new schoolhouse. It's still standing down there on
the Fleming property but it belongs to Anna Fleming now.
After the old school burned down, she moved it over on
her part of the property which my grandfather gave an acre;
he gave an acre for a school; he gave an acre for church.
That made two acres. He gave an acre for a cemetery; that
made three acres. He gave of his part of the land for his
descendants to be cared for you know. You know, to go to
school, to go to church, and to be buried. That's why he
gave that three acres which was donated by my grandpa, you
know, and that's down there now where Wilson Fleming and Sam
Fleming and Anna Fleming lives at Fly Gap.
H: Well, this Nancy, is that your .,.
G: My daddy's fi rst wife. Now, she was my mama's first
cousin. See, they were both Fleming girls.
H: They married in '67?
G: Uh huh. And I think my daddy lived about seven years a
widower from the time he married my mama. They had that
little boy that she left, you know. So I don't know,
Callie, the stories are long and longer; you get to
H: Well, now you told me something about John going to
G: Oh, yeah. That was a terrible time. That was when we
had a real drought here in Mason County in 1918. And so, my
husband's father came by and he was raised in East Texas at
Commerce, Texas, and he decided that he'd go back home,
' cause it rained more in the eastern part than it did in the
western part. He drove by and wanted to know if Cl arke
wanted to go with him. We was camped out under a tree and
had one little baby girl and he was working for wages. He
got $25.00 a month and I never did know where he was at. He
was always out on the ranch, you know. And Clarke decided
we'd better go with daddy, 'cause we wasn't gonna make
enough for us to get by on like that.
So we started out in a covered wagon and it had taken
us from the 23rd day of July 'til the 6th day of September
to get to Rockwall County which is 28 miles east of Dallas,
and we walked every step of the way behind that wagon.
H: You'd walk and then ride?
G: We couldn't ride because there was 13 of us and we let
the little ones ride and us older ones, we'd walk by day and
then at night we just had to make our beds down by the side
of the road and sleep there, and make camp and eat
H: What all did you take with you?
G: Just our bed and our cooking vessels and our dishes to
eat out of ; our clothes; just what you had; didn't have
many, Callie. But we made it. We run out of money and we
stopped in Dawson County and picked cotton for three weeks
to get enought to go on down to Rockwall.
G: I thought it was fun because I never had been away from
home. I was just 19 years old, so it was fun to me. I
didn't know it was work at that time, you know, I just
knowed I was going somewhere where I'd never been, and been
raised there on tha t 100 acres, I didn't mind that. I was
Our little baby was just learnin' to walk, and she'd
get tired ridin'; she'd want to walk. sometimes me and her
daddy would get way far behind because we were playing with
our baby. When she wanted to walk, she wanted to walk in
the ruts where the tracks run, you know, the wheels. She'd
fall down a thousand times and we'd have to pick her up and
she'd go right back in that rut and fall down again.
Sometimes we'd ge t maybe a mile or a mile and a half behind
because we was foolin' along with that baby, you know. The
others would make camp and when we got to where they was
camped why we was at home again that night. The next
morning we would get up and start again.
When we got to Rockwall well, there was a man and he
was in a car and he seen the covered wagon go through. So
me and Clarke walked up on the sidewalk and we was lookin'
at things in the showcase and I said, "Just think about how
far I am away from home." I still wasn't homesick yet, you
know. It didn't take me long after we •. , this man hired us
to pick cotton for him. He said they had four hundred acres
of cotton and they just had three hands and they were
colored people and they were
H: How many was there?
G: Thirteen with the baby, my baby, and I said the thing
of it was now he (the man in Rockwall) said, "Whose wagon is
that that we seen go by?" And Clarke says, "That's my daddy
and his family. They ride through town, you know, to keep
all of 'em in the wagon, so they wouldn't lose none of them,
or get hurt you know." And so when he spoke to me and
Clarke, well, he decided we didn't belong to that covered
wagon, 'cause we was too far behind it. It was just going
through town and we wasn't out of town yet; we hadn't gotten
H: What size town?
G: Well, I think it was as big as Brady; Rockwall was as
big as Brady to me at that time. And I said the thing of it
was, well, he asked for, said, "Well do you think that your
daddy would be interested in pickin' some cotton?" And
Clarke said, "Yeah, that's what we're huntin' is work,
'cause it's been dry where we lived and we come out of West
Texas and we are huntin' a place to work and make some
money." And he said, "Well, do you think that if you'd get
in the car with me and we'll go and overtake that wagon and
you could talk your daddy into the notion of goin' with me
and let him look at our crop, you know, our cotton crop, and
see if he'd like to stop and pick a few days or as long as
he wanted to?
So we did that and they decided that they'd go look at
it and when he come back to the wagon, well, he said, "We're
all going over there and that man's got a house and we're
gonna pick cotton for him" So we stayed there and picked
G: cotton. We started on the 6th day of September and we
was picking cotton all the way up to the 1st of March. And
then they come and told us that we got to quit and plow this
up so they can start to make another crop. Still had cotton
in the field. But they had to get rid of it 'cause they
couldn't gather it all, you know. So now that's long to
pick cotton from September to March.
H: Then you came home?
G: No, we stayed five years in Rockwall. That's the
longest I ever stayed away from Mason. One Christmas we
decided we was gonna come home to see my mama. I didn't tell
Clarke but one morning we got up and it was about a week
after Christmas and Clarke said, "Nora, don't you reckon
we'd better start back towards home this morning? And I
said, "I'm not going." And he looked at me and he said, "Do
you really mean that?" And I said "Yes, I mean it. I've
been living with your people about seven years and I think
it's time for me to live with mine for a while." And I said
I really didn't want to go back there because it was too
muddy. I said, "I like Mason County better so I'm gonna
stay here." And he said "Well, I guess I'll have to write
down there and tell my daddy to send our furniture and our
household goods, what we got, up here, and then I gotta go
hunt a place to stay because we can't stay here with your
So he got out and rented us a little place. It
belonged to a man by the name of John Leslie; it's on the
old Ponotoc Road, about five or six miles northeast of
G: Mason. Still out there. I think it belongs to a man
now by the name of Ervin Hoerster. He bought it. I wanted
Clarke to buy that place but he wouldn't buy it. He didn't
think we could ever pay for it. We didn't; so we never did
own a place. Down here in close to town. And this little
place my daugl'ler bought us, and I said, "He's done passed on
and here I an still in this little house, which my daughter
give me. 1I
PART OF TAPE I. SIDE 1. ABOUT 20 - 25 MINUTES.
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