In Memory of Bernice “Lonnie” Cason Donner

Bernice,  or “Lonnie” to everyone but her parents, lost her fight with cancer and passed away in her home in Fort Mohave, Arizona on 9 Jun 2015. We all mourn her passing as she was an eminent member in both sides of my family. She was born a Cason, my mother’s next oldest sibling, and then married 54 years ago, to Jack Donner who is my father’s eldest sibling.

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Bernice Cason in the middle with sister Bronzie on the left and brother Delmer on the right.

The Facts:

Bernice Cason was born near Alex, Grady, Oklahoma on 20 Oct 1939. She was the third child of six. She married Jacky Dean Donner 22 July 1961 in Grand Junction, Mesa, Colorado. Bernice died 9 Jun 2015 in Fort Mohave, Mohave, Arizona.

Bernice’s children are Daniel D. Donner, Larry C. Donner, and James R. Donner. Her grandchildren are Waylon, Brittany, and Daniel James. She has two great grandchildren: Robert and Jack Duane who was born just one day after Bernice passed away.

Bernice’s parents are Alvin Dewey Cason (dec.) and Alice Mozell Ward (dec.). Her siblings are Alice Bronzie Fields (dec.), Delmer Dean Cason (dec.), Maxine Cason (dec.), Christine Nisbet and Connie Cason.

The Story

Bernice Cason
Bernice Cason

Bernice moved to the Grand Valley of Colorado with her parents and three siblings in 1947. She grew up in Grand Junction, Mesa, Colorado where she attended school and graduated from Grand Junction High School (go Tigers) in 1958. During the time she attended high school, Bernice received training as a institutional cook learning to cook and bake for large parties.

Bernice and Maxine Cason. Rangely, Colorado 1948
Bernice and Maxine Cason. Rangely, Colorado 1948
Bernice Cason High School Graduation. 1958, Grand Junction, Mesa, Colorado.
Bernice Cason High School Graduation. 1958, Grand Junction, Mesa, Colorado.

When Lonnie first met the love of her life, Jack Donner, he lived and worked on a ranch in Collbran, Colorado that he and his parents owned. Ranch work meant long, hard, and often unpredictable hours. Many fights between Lonnie and Jack revolved around missed dates do to something unpredictable happening on the ranch that caused Jack to miss a planned date. Lonnie was miserable because her love for Jack was so intense. No one understood her misery more than Maxine who was her younger sister and confident. Maxine finally got tired of the bickering and misery of Lonnie and told the two that they needed to quit fighting and get married.  The pair started fighting over that. Maxine finally called the bishop of her church (LDS) and was able to schedule a day, time and place for the ceremony. Then she told Lonnie and Jack when, and where to show up.

When Lonnie and Jack first married, they moved with Lonnie’s young son, Dan, into a small cabin on the ranch that he and his parents owned in Collbran, Colorado. In 1963, after their son Larry was born, Jack joined the Colorado State Patrol as a state trooper and the family moved to Craig, Moffat, Colorado where their son James was born. Because of Jack’s job with the Colorado State Patrol, they lived in Delta, Kremmling, and Cortez. Jack retired from the Colorado State Patrol in 1989 and they settled in Delta where they lived until they moved to Fort Mohave, Arizona in 2013. There, Lonnie had her dream house with her dream kitchen, but of course, she had to remodel the home some.

Jack and Bernice
Jack and Bernice “Lonnie” Donner. Grand Junction, Colorado.

Everyone in our family–both the Casons and the Donners–say the same thing when describing Lonnie: She was a great cook, baker, and hostess. Everyone looked forward to her holiday dinners. In our family, her spaghetti was legendary not to mention her delicious cinnamon rolls. Both sides of the family often gathered at Lonnie and Jack’s place for holidays. She made it look so easy. She lined the men up and told them what she needed them to do. She lined us kids up, putting us to work, and the women jumped in wherever they could. There was always massive amounts of food. Even the Donner men with large appetites could not put a dent in the food.  Always, the cry was, “There’s still food left. You all need to eat up,” with which we all would groan. Eating a holiday meal at Lonnie and Jack’s did not mean you sat down and ate one meal–it meant you ate from the moment you got there until the moment you left some several hours later, or even the next day. There was always room at Lonnie’s table, and no one was allowed to leave hungry.

Lonnie and Jack Donner 4 July 1993. Grand Junction, Colorado.
Lonnie and Jack Donner
4 July 1993. Grand Junction, Colorado.

Besides her three sons, Lonnie and Jack had a hand in raising many strays–stray cats, stray dogs, and stray children. If one of her sons, as an adolescent, mentioned that a friend was having trouble with their parents or needed a place to stay for awhile, Lonnie and Jack opened their doors and their hearts. Their sons knew, after they became adults and moved out, that they were always welcome at their Mom and Dad’s if they needed a place to call home for awhile, and so did their friends.

Lonnie had many friends wherever she lived. She didn’t know a stranger, and was always willing to give a helping hand when needed. This stole the hearts of her neighbors and community, ingratiating her to them. Many times our holiday meals included her friends and neighbors.

Lonnie loved her home–whatever home she lived in. She kept it perfectly clean, and did her best to decorate it. She and Jack didn’t have a lot of money, but she didn’t mind because one of her favorite hobbies was going to yard sales and secondhand stores. She went to yard sales all around Delta and the Grand Valley so much, that she knew which sales to stay away from. I always admired the way she saw treasure in things that I only saw as junk. She knew a bargain when she saw one, and would not buy until she found that bargain. She told me that many times she would be out all weekend and not buy anything because either there wasn’t anything she wanted, or it wasn’t the right price. One holiday, we gathered at her home and she had a new (looked new) Broyhill sleeper sofa. I commented on the lovely sofa. Then she told me the story of how she bought it at the local Salvation Army–who had her name and phone number on file–for $60. Wow! I always wanted to learn from her on how to yard sale and bargain hunt, but she would just shrug her shoulders and say, “It takes patience. You have to know what you want and then wait for the right price.”

Lonnie didn’t just love her home on the inside, she loved her home on the outside, as well. She loved planting flowers and taking care of her yard. She used her yard to entertain in the summer, and it always looked as beautiful and immaculate as the inside of her home. She put out bird feeders and humming bird feeders every year.

Like I said, Lonnie and Jack didn’t have a lot of money, and many times, that meant buying a house that needed work. Lonnie didn’t mind. She enjoyed it. There was never a remodeling job that was too big or too hard for Lonnie to tackle. For the first five years of my life, we lived in Craig, Colorado near Lonnie and Jack. One day, my mom (Maxine) mentioned that she wanted to paint our kitchen. Lonnie jumped all over that and by the time my older siblings and cousins came home from school, the kitchen was painted.

Jack and Lonnie Donner Rifle Gap, Rifle, Colorado. 18 Jul 2007
Jack and Lonnie Donner
Rifle Gap, Rifle, Colorado.
18 Jul 2007

Lonnie loved changing things. She loved to paint and repaint. She moved the furniture weekly, and if she was at one of her sister’s or sister-in-law’s house, and they mentioned rearranging the furniture–she was on

it. Lonnie seemed to be happiest when she was changing and improving her home–or someone else’s home.

Lonnie was such an energetic and vivacious presence in our lives, that we, as an extended family, feel the hole that is left with her passing. Her husband, Jack is experiencing devastating grief at the loss of his lifetime friend and companion. Her children are at a loss. We take comfort though, knowing that she is in heaven with our Lord.  As one of my cousins said, we know that Aunt Lonnie has  gone to heaven, taken over the kitchen, and is cooking for the hosts of heaven. I also imagine that she has rearranged the furnishings, is painting, cleaning, and remodeling her mansion so it will be ready when her beloved joins her.

Funeral flowers for Lonnie Donner rearranged by a niece, Tara Benson. Yellow was Lonnie's favorite color.
Funeral flowers for Lonnie Donner rearranged by a niece, Tara Benson. Yellow was Lonnie’s favorite color.

More Pieces of the Puzzle–My Great, Great Grandparents

Today, I am going to record the history (as much as I know) of my Cason great-great grandparents, Asbury and Pamelia (Tetrick) Cason. It is going to be tricky because as you can imagine, the records are scanty. I am fortunate to have one picture of Asbury, and one of Pamelia.  If someone reading this has more photos of Asbury and Pamela, I would love it if you would post them on this website or my facebook page.

The Facts

Asbury D Cason was born in Monroe County, Georgia, USA in 1833. He married Pamelia A. Tetrick 27 Jan 1869 in Freestone County, Texas, USA. He died 02 Jan1869 in Rusk County, Texas, USA.

Asbury D Cason
Asbury D Cason

Asbury’s parents were Michael Smith Cason and Nancy Edwards. He was the next to the youngest child. His siblings were William John (b. 1818), Mary Permelia and Smith Edwards (b. 3 Jun 1820), Michael Smith (b. 1829), James Elijah (b. 1830), Thomas C. (b. 1831), and Nancy A. (b. 1832).

Asbury and Pamelia’s children were George Tillman (b. 1870), Mary T. (b. 1872), Carlos Eugene (my grandfather–b. 1875), Elsie Menora (b. 1879), and Pearl Isadora (b. 1882).

Asbury joined the confederate army at Camp Moore, Tangipahoa, Louisiana 11 Dec 1861 as a private and was discharged 6 Mar 1862 do to an inability to carry out his duties.

 

Pamela Tetrick, wife of Asbury Cason
Pamela Tetrick, wife of Asbury Cason

Pamelia Tetrick was born 29 may 1848 in St. Clair County, Illinois, USA.  She died 04 Oct 1912 in Pilot Point, Denton, Texas, USA.

Pamelia’s parents were George Tillman Tetrick and Mary Pamelia Middleton. She was the fourth child of seven. Her siblings were Loisa A. (b. 1840) Burrell (b. 1842) Elsie (b. 1844), George W. (b. 1852) Isadora (b. 1862?) and Don Carlos (b. 1855).

The Story

Asbury Cason was an intelligent, self-educated man. He spoke and wrote three languages fluently: English, Spanish, and French. As a young man, Asbury fell in love with a young woman whose family owned a plantation near New Orleans and began to correspond with her in Spanish, as she and her family were from Spanish descent.  Asbury’s father, Michael, would not permit a marriage of his son to a Spanish woman, and instead, pressured him to marry Sophia Long,a wealthy widow with two children, in 1859.  I have seen the source records showing that Sophia filed for divorce from Asbury on grounds of abandonment, but I am unable to find them at this time. I hope they are not lost forever.

I also have seen a bill of sale showing that Asbury sold one female slave, age 18, and a horse, days before enlisting in the 19 Reg’t Louisiana Infantry. I understand that it was common practice for men of some means to sell their personal property in order to finance their entry into the army–he would have purchased a rifle, uniform, etc–but, like the source document of Sophia and Asbury’s divorce, I cannot find the bill of sale, either.

At any rate, Asbury survived his stint in the war, and when he was discharged, he made his way to Texas. Rumor has it that he then shacked up with an Indian squaw. This was not true. He married his Spanish sweetheart in secret and had two children. They lived happily until Yellow fever took his wife and two small children. The first document showing Asbury’s residence in Texas, is a voter’s registration card dated 1867 in Freestone County, Texas, USA.

Pamela or Permelia depending on who is spelling it, was born in Illinois and migrated to Palo Pinto County,  Texas with her parents and siblings around 1868 where her father, George, was granted land. It is rumored that Pamela was a school teacher (although I can not support this with source documents) before she married Asbury in 1869.  I am unsure what county they were married in, but I will continue to research Asbury and Pamela and keep this post updated.

If anyone has any information to add to Asbury and Pamela, please do not hesitate to add it to this post, or contact me through my email.

Pieces of the Puzzle–My Donner and Jenks Great Grandparents

Most of the pictures you see in this post were copied from the Creative Memories book entitled The John Bell Donner Family Photographs for which, my aunt Marty Donner (Richard’s wife) did the layout and design in 2013.

The Facts:

John Bell Donner was born 6 Oct 1858 in Springfield, Sangamon, Illinois, USA. He married Emma Estella Jenks 24 Dec 1882 in Grant, Taylor, Iowa, USA. He died 25 Dec 1927 in Burwell, Garfield, Nebraska, USA. He was buried in the Cottonwood Cemetery in Burwell, Garfield, Nebraska, USA.

John Bell was the oldest child of George Washington Donner and Lydia Pulse Ambrose. The oldest of six children, his siblings were Charles A. (m) (b. 1862)Mary E. (f) (b. 1867), Commodore Perry (m) (b. 1868), Addie L. (f) (b.1874), and Lily M. (f). (b. 1877).

John and Emma had nine children: George Oliver (m) (b.1883), Walter Eugene (m) (b. 1885), Nellie Mabel (f) (b.1886), Mary Anna (f) (b. 1889), Charles (m) (b. 1893), Hazel Submit (f) (b. 1895), John Ansley “Jack” (m) (b. 1899), Leta Maud (f)(b. 1901), and Loren Ambrose (m) (b. 1097)–my grandfather.

John Bell and Emma (Jenks) Donner family in 1911. Back L-R: Mary, Hazel, Walter, Charlie, George, Mabel. Front L-R: Jack (John Ansley), John Bell, Loren , Emma, Maude.
John Bell and Emma (Jenks) Donner family in 1911. Back L-R: Mary, Hazel, Walter, Charlie, George, Mabel. Front L-R: Jack (John Ansley), John Bell, Loren , Emma, Maude.
Standing: Emma Jenks Donner and Mary Jenks Shoemaker. Seated: Destemona Jenks Robinson and Selina Abigail Jenks Van Houten. I'm not sure of the year or the place.
Standing: Emma Jenks Donner and Mary Jenks Shoemaker. Seated: Destemona Jenks Robinson and Selina Abigail Jenks Van Houten.
I’m not sure of the year or the place.

Emma Estella Jenks was born 14 Dec 1864 in Conway, Taylor, Iowa, USA. She died 22 Feb 1941 in Newdale, Fremont, Idaho, USA. She was buried in the Cottonwood Cemetery in Burwell, Garfield, Nebraska, USA. Emma was the youngest of 11 children. Her parents were Oliver Charles Jenks and Submit  Leonard.  Oliver and his first wife, Louise Cornell, had Vernon (m) (b. 1836), Destemona Arvilla (f) (b. 1838), Sally Ann (f) (b. 1841), Alvarado (m) (b. 1846), Selina Abigail (f) (b.1849), Oliver (m) (b. 1851), Ella Louise (f) (b.1853, d. 1857), Baby Boy Jenks (born and died 4 Mar 1857) Later in the year after her baby boy was stillborn, in August of 1857, Louise died, and a year later on 26 Sep 1858, Oliver married Submit Leonard. They had Manford (m) (b. Jul 1859 and d. Sep 1859), and Mary Persis (f) (b. 1862).

The Story

I don’t remember hearing many stories about John Bell and Emma. Perhaps because I was so young when grandpa Loren passed away, or perhaps because he was so young when his  father, John Bell passed away, but whatever the reason, I will endeavor to write what I do know.

Donner home called the Stone Block House built by John Bell Donner and his oldest sons in 1914. Jones Canyon, Nebraska.
Donner home called the Stone Block House built by John Bell Donner and his oldest sons in 1914. Jones Canyon, Nebraska.

John and Emma were farmers who worked hard and played just as hare. John Bell and his sons built a house in 1914 they called the Stone Block House in Jones Canyon, Nebraska which is somewhere near Burwell, Nebraska. John and his family slept in the hayloft of the barn while he and his sons made the bricks that they used to build the house. After the house was built, John, Emma, George, Charlie, Hazel, Jack, Maude, and Loren moved in. It was a two story house with eight rooms. Several grandchildren were born there.  Aunt Alice (Loren Blaine’s wife) told me that one of Loren’s cousins told her that fourteen grandchildren were born in that house. Of those fourteen, we know that Gerald Hatfield, Daryle Donner, Nadine Donner, Jackie Donner, Mildred Donner, Vernelle Donner, and Eugene Dudsches were born in the Stone Block House. John Bell’s mother, Lydia, died in the house in 1924. John and Emma’s daughter, Mary Anna Roberts, stayed in the house in 1926 while taking treatments for a brain tumor that eventually took her life later that year. John Bell died there a year later in 1927. In 1935, when Loren and Blanch moved to Newdale, Idaho with Emma and another of her sons, Jack (John A.), the Stone Block House was sold to a nephew of John Bell’s named Elzie Donner.

Emma moved with her sons Loren and Jack (John A.) and their families to Newdale, Fremont, Idaho in 1935 where she lived with Loren and Blanch until 1941 when she passed away.

John and Emma Donner in the Last Christmas card sent by them the Christmas of 1926.
John and Emma Donner in the Last Christmas card sent by them the Christmas of 1926.
Emma (Jenks) Donner and two of her daughters Mary and Mabel, 1914.
Emma (Jenks) Donner and two of her daughters Mary and Mabel, 1914.
Loren with his brothers: George, Walter, Charlie, and Jack. Their father, John is sitting down.
Loren with his brothers: George, Walter, Charlie, and Jack. Their father, John is sitting down.

Pieces of the Puzzle–My Great-grandparents Ward and Couch

Not a lot of information is known about my Ward ancestors because they were born in Choctaw Nation, Oklahoma during a time when federal census were not taken, and written records were not kept. No birth certificate, death record, or marriage licenses were issued.

The Facts (as much as is known).

The Great Seal of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma
The Great Seal of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

Edward Algie Ward was born on the 4th of July 1875 in Choctaw Nation, Oklahoma. Now the problem with this is that Choctaw Nation occupies 10 1/2 counties of the southeastern part of Oklahoma–so, we don’t know exactly where Edward was born. We know that his parents were Edward Ward and Hannah McConnell. He was the youngest of two sons. His brother was John Samuel. We believe that the two boys were left orphans in 1880, as apparently both mother and father died in that year. We also believe that the two boys were raised in Choctaw Nation, Oklahoma, by whom, we don’t know.  Edward died 22 Dec 1933 in Atoka, Atoka, Ok, and I believe that is where he is buried. He married Mary Elizabeth Couch 30 Apr 1881 in Atoka County, Oklahoma. Their children were Elijah D., Alice Mozell (my grandmother), Samuel Edward, and Anna Louise.

Edward Algie Ward was enrolled in the Daws Indian Rolls as being 1/4 Choctaw. I believe he was 1/2 to 3/4 Choctaw, but the Bureau of Indian Affairs does a different sort of math than the rest of us.

Mary Elizabeth Couch-Ward and Dot (grandchild)
Mary Elizabeth Couch-Ward and Dot (grandchild)

Mary Elizabeth Couch was born 30 Apr 1881 in Van Buren County, Arkansas, USA. Her parents were Lewis Couch Jr. and Sarah Emily Scroggins. Mary died 13 Feb 1960 in Grand Junction, Mesa, Colorado, USA. She was buried 16 Feb 1960 in the Elmwood Cemetery, Fruita, Mesa, Colorado, USA. Her siblings were John Wesley, Martha Caroline, and George. Her mother passed away, and her father remarried. They had Hattie, Fay, Etta, Ruthie, Nancy, Rufus, Harry, James, Alice, Cara, and Ellen.

The Story

My grandma Alice never had a good thing to say about her father, Edward. All she ever told me was that he was a lazy, drunk, womanizing Indian who made his family slave in the cotton fields and live in a tent. My grandpa Bud, though, told a slightly different story. He said that the number one thing that Edward like to do was tell stories around the campfire, and that he told wonderful stories. He would often travel miles to visit his friends and tell tales. Grandpa also said that on the rare times that the family was able to go to town, Edward would drop his wife and children off to run errands while he ate in a restaurant and went to a picture show, spending money they precious could afford. There was a rumor that Edward was a Light Horseman for the Choctaw Nation, but we have no documentation on that.

This is Alice, her mother, and two youngest siblings taken in 1947 in Fruita, Mesa, Colorado. from left- right: Anna Loraine, Mary Elizabeth, Samuel Edward, and Alice Mozell.
This is Alice, her mother, and two youngest siblings taken in 1947 in Fruita, Mesa, Colorado. from left- right: Anna Loraine, Mary Elizabeth, Samuel Edward, and Alice Mozell.

Mary moved to Fruita, Mesa, Colorado, USA with her two sons and youngest daughter in 1932.  My grandma Alice never told me much about her mother, either, but my mother, Maxine, knew Mary and told me many stories. Mom remembered staying with Mary each time her two youngest sisters were born. She said that Mary made the best cornbread in the world, and she never tasted any better. Mom told me that “Uncle Jack” (Elijah) built the cabin that they lived in, and that Mary always grew a garden. One spring Uncle Jack, an avid hunter, found a orphaned fawn and brought it home to his mother. Mom said that Mary nursed the fawn back to health but had to have it taken to high country as soon as it got big enough to survive on its own because it would stand up on its hind legs and put its front hooves on a person’s shoulders, and began knocking the grandchildren down.

Christine Cason and the fawn that Mary raised in Fruita, Colorado, 1952.
Christine Cason and the fawn that Mary raised in Fruita, Colorado, 1952.

Grandpa Bud said that Mary could make the best biscuits and gravy in the world. As good as he could make that combination, Mary could do so much better. He remembered when he moved Grandma Alice and the four oldest children to Colorado, there was a time that the whole family depended on her biscuits and gravy for survival. She also cooked venison and fish well as her oldest son was a hunter and a fisherman. It was rare that they went for very long without meat of some kind.

It is rumored that Mary was Cherokee on her father’s side, but we could never find documentation. When my grandma and grandpa Cason were far advanced in their age, I once mentioned the possibility of her mother being Cherokee to Grandma Alice in front of Grandpa. Before she could answer, Grandpa became indignant and said, “They were not. Alice’s family is Black Dutch.” I had to turn aside so he wouldn’t see me chuckle. Later, when we were alone, I asked Grandma if her mother was Cherokee and she laughed. “Yes,” she replied. Mary was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) having possibly converted before when she and Edward took their family to Salt Lake, Utah in a covered wagon when Alice was just a little girl.

Mary Couch-Ward with her son, Samuel and his two children, Roy and Betty Rose.
Mary Couch-Ward with her son, Samuel and his two children, Roy and Betty Rose.

I wish I would have known Edward and Mary, my Ward great-grandparents, but I feel that by telling some of their story, I am beginning to know them in a small way, and I feel a connection to them in a big way.

Pieces of the Puzzle–My Great Grandparents (Cason)

I don’t know a lot about my great-grandparents, and only had the opportunity of meeting one of my great-grandfathers once when I was a very young child. However, they are part of the great puzzle and therefore, my heroes.

The Facts

c6cf8ee2-4dac-4a43-b128-2ec88941d6c5Carlos Eugene Cason was born 29 Sep 1875 in Freestone County, Texas. He died 05 Dec 1948 in Clinton, Custer, Oklahoma and was buried in the Walters Cemetery, Cotton County, Oklahoma. He married Idella Darden 20 Aug 1903 in Denton, Denton, Texas and they had nine children: Nora May (McNight), Lola Eugene (Potts), Alvin Durell, Eula Lee (Ely), Scott Edward, Mary Alma (Barber), Clarence Britton, Mildred Alene (Suttles) Tillman George. His parents were Asbury D Cason and Pamela (or Pamelia) Tetrick. He was the third child of five. His siblings were George Tillman, Mary T. (Beckham), Elsie Menora (Frambough), and Pearl Isadora (Nicoles). 

Carlos Eugene Cason memorial, Cotton County, Oklahoma.  findagrave.com
Carlos Eugene Cason memorial, Cotton County, Oklahoma. findagrave.com
Idella Darden Cason
Idella Darden Cason

Idella Darden was born 19 May 1878 in Van Buren County, Arkansas. She died 01 Dec 1948 in Grandfield, Tillman, Oklahoma. Her parents were Reuben Wesley Darden and Mariah Elizabeth Primm. Idella was the sixth of eight children. Her siblings are Nathan Paul, George Washington, Margaret Lucinda (Reed), William Turner, Ann E., Reuben Wesley Jr., and Lemuel Thomas.

The Stories I Heard

Carlos–I didn’t hear many stories about Carlos other than he was a mild mannered man who seemed to take life with his hot-tempered wife and nine children in stride. When Idella “Della” became too wound up, he was reported to say, “Now, Della.” It always brought an abrupt halt to her temper tantrum. They were farmers and sharecroppers from Oklahoma and Texas.

Idella–My grandfather, Alvin Cason, had more to say about his mother than he did about his father. He once described Idella as “a red-headed Irish bitch” with a quick, mean temper. He told how she once threw bricks at one of the children because she was angry, and she fired a shotgun at one of the boys while having a temper tantrum. Grandpa told a story of Idella when they were sharecropping on a farm in Texas.The owner wanted more than his share and demanded that they pay up. Enraged, Della took a horse whip to him, and he never again tried to schiste that particular Cason family.

I heard other stories about her through some of my great aunts and second cousins. Growing up, she was her father’s right hand. She was allowed to be a tomboy and learned how to farm, doctor humans and animals. She never quite mastered being a “lady.” She had a “doctors” book that she referred to when any family members were ill. When the farm animals needed doctoring, she did that,too.

Idella was very intelligent and possessed an active imagination. Living during the heydays of the Dalton Gang, Bonny and Clyde, etc., and living a monotonous life, she spent her spare time verbally creating plots with her male cousins, to rob local banks and general stores. Of course they never did that–it was entertainment only.

Idella did have a passion for hats. Grandpa said that the rare times they were able to go to town, Della would go to the general store to shop, and invariably, get a hat and walk out with the price tag still hanging off the hat (like Minnie Pearl).

This is a representative of the house that Carlos and Idella possibly lived in.
This is a representative of the house that Carlos and Idella possibly lived in while sharecropping in Texas and Oklahoma.

Our ancestors were indeed a colorful bunch.

Pieces of the Puzzle–Blanche Donner, My Paternal Grandmother

These photos featured in this post come from the Creative Memories Storybook of the John Bell Donner Family Photographs 1899-1939 that Marty Donner (Rick’s wife) put together.

Blanche Irene Adams. High school graduation picture circa 1929. Burwell, Garfield, Nebraska.
Blanche Irene Adams. High school graduation picture circa 1929. Burwell, Garfield, Nebraska.

The Facts

Blanche and Vera Adams, 1919 Nebraska.
Blanche and Vera Adams, 1919 Nebraska.

Blanche Irene Adams was born 30 Nov 1911 in Burwell, Garfield, Nebraska. Her parents were James Richard Adams and Jessie Mae Wallace. Blanche was the next to the youngest of seven children. Her siblings were Albert Kenneth, Hazel Pearl, Andrew James, Robert Allen, Percy Lee, and Vera Mae.

Blanche died (I don’t have the day recorded anywhere) Jan 1980 in South Fork, Rio Grande, Colorado and was buried beside her husband, Loren, in the Cottonwood Cemetery in Burwell, Garfield, Nebraska.

Blanche married the love of her life, Loren Ambrose Donner, 13 Apr 1929 in Burwell, Garfield, Nebraska. They lived in the Donner’s Stone Block House in Jones Canyon, Nebraska where their first son, Jackie “Jack” was born in 1932.

Blanche Adams and Loren Donner October 1926 York, Nebraska.
Blanche Adams and Loren Donner October 1926 York, Nebraska.
Loren and Blanche Donner on their wedding day 13 Apr 1929
Loren and Blanche Donner on their wedding day 13 Apr 1929
Blanche Donner with Jackie, 1933; Jones Canyon, Nebraska.
Blanche Donner with Jackie, 1933; Jones Canyon, Nebraska.

In 1935, Blanche moved with her husband and son to Newdale, Idaho where their second son, Cloid Duane, was born in 1936 and their third son, Loren Blaine “Blaine” was born in 1940.

Blanche, Jackie, Loren Donner, 1933, Nebraska.
Blanche, Jackie, Loren Donner, 1933, Nebraska.

In 1942, the family moved to Oregon (their original destination) where Loren found work as a carpenter. After the war, they returned to Idaho and settled in Hollister where they operated a store and service station.

From Hollister Idaho, they moved to Twentynine Palms, California in 1947, where their next-to-the youngest child–their fourth son–Richard, was born in 1948. They then moved to Modesto, California where their youngest–a daughter–Barbara, was born in 1952. In that same year, the family moved to Dome Valley (near Yuma), Arizona where they leased a farm and harvested eight crops of hay a year.

Blanche, Loren, and Cloid (the baby) in front, 1938; Newdale, Idaho.
Blanche, Loren, and Cloid (the baby) in front, 1938; Newdale, Idaho.

Their oldest son, Jack, became interested in Western Colorado when he talked to a man from that area who was peddling apples off his truck in Yuma. Loren, with his son, Jack, and and his brother John (Jack), went to Delta, Colorado to investigate and fell in love with a ranch in Collbran, Colorado and so, they procured the ranch and moved the entire family, to said ranch in 1957.

In 1969, with most of their children gone from the home, they sold the ranch and moved to Craig, Moffat,Colorado where Blanche lived until 1978 when she sold the house and moved to South Fork, Colorado, where she lived until her death.

The Stories/Memories.

Blanche did not work outside the home, that is, she did not have a “professional job,” but she did raise four wild boys, and kept five children in clothing and food. She raised a garden, and chickens. I remember the chickens on the ranch in Collbran. I remember hearing that a mean old rooster scratched Elaine, and nearly put her eye out. That story ended with the rooster in the pot, and my mouth watered thinking of Grandma’s fried chicken. I remember going with Barbara one morning to collect the eggs, and the chickens didn’t want to give them up easily, so Barb would chase the chickens away, and I’d reach in and grab the eggs. I also remember the homemade ice cream and taking my turn at sitting on the old crank ice cream maker until my butt froze. And who can forget the outhouse?

Blanche’s hobbies were reading, crocheting, gardening, fishing, playing the organ, and baseball. She also sewed well. I remember that she crocheted a “mod girl hat”, a matching vest, and a purse for my birthday one year. Also, she made a doll quilt for another one of my birthdays. She crocheted enough afghans that each of her granddaughters could choose one when they turned sixteen. I remember going on numerous family fishing trips with Grandma. She loved to fish (I loved to swim–and sometimes the two collided with a scolding from Grandma for scaring all the fish). Blanche loved baseball and watched the World Series religiously. I remember times we would be visiting or we kids would be staying with her, and we knew not to interrupt when she was watching baseball on t.v. If I remember correctly, her favorite team was the White Sox.

She grew the best strawberries in the whole wide world. I remember, when Grandma and Grandpa lived in Craig and it was strawberry season, Dad would take us kids over to their house to harvest the strawberries, and Grandma would admonish, “Don’t eat all of the strawberries or we won’t have enough for strawberry shortcake.” For me it was one strawberry in my mouth for about every two I put in the bucket. Strawberries just don’t taste the same now. She grew huge vegetables in her garden, and even was featured in the local newspaper once or twice for growing the largest of this or that vegetable. She grew the best tasting radishes-both the red and the white.

When I stayed with Grandma while Dad and Mom were in Denver for medical tests, Grandma always served me a bologna sandwiches with butter on the bread, plain Pringles potato chips, and a banana for lunch. To this day, on the rare occasions I have a bologna sandwich, I spread butter on the bread and eat it with plain Pringles potato chips. It’s the only way I can eat a bologna sandwich.

Going to Grandma and Grandpa’s house always meant three things for me: Reader’s Digest Condensed books that Grandma read (and then allowed me to read) candy (usually gumdrops) in a candy dish on the table that we had to always ask permission for (and was rarely denied) and were allowed to choose just two pieces at a time (this was a ritual)  and the cats who always piled on me whenever I was there.

I knew that Grandma liked to play pinochle because every time the family gathered, there was always a pinochle game in which Grandma always played. But, when my family lived in Mesa, Arizona, and she came to visit, I discovered that she enjoyed playing board games. I loved then, and still love, playing board games, and badgered my parents and brother to play all the time and rarely did they oblige me, but Grandma played every board game I had while she was there, and never seemed to grow tired of them. She played, when the others refused, and I was delighted.

I miss my Grandma. I miss all of the little things that I took for granted when she was with us. She, like all my grandparents, is my hero.

Blanche Adams in the early 1920s.
Blanche Adams in the early 1920s.

Another Piece of the Puzzle: Alice M. Ward Cason, My Maternal Grandmother

The Facts:

Alice Mozell Ward, a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, was born 07 Sep 1911 in Garvin, McCurtain, Oklahoma. She married Alvin Dewey Cason 11 Nov 1929 in Fredrick, Tillman, Oklahoma and they had six children: Bronzie Alice, Delmer Dean, Bernice “Lonnie”, Maxine, Christine, and Connie. Alice passed away 22 Jul 2002 in Delta, Delta, Colorado at the age of 91. She was laid to rest in Elmwood Cemetary, Fruita, Mesa, Colorado next to her husband, and in the same cemetary where her mother, two brothers, and a grandson are buried.

Her parents were Edward Algie Ward, an original enrollee of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, and Mary Elizabeth Couch. Alice was the second born of four children: Elijah “Jack” D. (the oldest), Samuel Edward (just younger than Alice), and Anna “Annie” Louise (the youngest).

This is Alice, her mother, and two youngest siblings taken in 1947 in Fruita, Mesa, Colorado. from left- right: Anna Loraine, Mary Elizabeth, Samuel Edward, and Alice Mozell.
This is Alice, her mother, and two youngest siblings taken in 1947 in Fruita, Mesa, Colorado. from left- right: Anna Loraine, Mary Elizabeth, Samuel Edward, and Alice Mozell.

The Story

Alice lived most of her young life in a tent, and only received a third grade education as the family picked cotton for a living and followed the cotton crops. Alice often told me about the trip she took with her family in a covered wagon from Oklahoma to Salt Lake City, Utah where she received a blessing from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Momons).When she was five years old, she had an accident where she fell from a ledge and broke her hip. She recalled laying in bed and hearing the other children playing outside yearning to be with them. She had to learn to walk, and use the bathroom all over again as she healed. Her hip didn’t heal properly and left her unable to pick cotton, so she stayed at home to cook and take care of the younger children when her parents and older brother went out to pick cotton.

Alice described her father as a womanizer and drunkard. She despised the fact that he forced his family to work in the fields while he, himself, went to town or to surrounding neighbors to tell stories (bullshit is how she put it). She often said that it was a shame that her mother had to pick cotton when she was pregnant and quite large with the youngest child. The rare times that the family had a little money and were able to go to town, her father would leave his wife and children to buy the supplies, while he sneaked off to enjoy a steak and a movie, spending money they could ill afford. Alice’s husband, Alvin, described her father as being a wonderful story teller, and they spent many a night around a campfire while Algie told stories. According to Alice, he participated in too much story telling and not enough working.

Sometime around 1924, Alice and her family became neighbors to the Casons in Oklahoma. She became close friends with Eula Cason who was a younger sister of Alvin Cason. It was there and then that Alice and Alvin fell in love. Alvin, unlike her father, was a hard working, enterprising young man who promised to take care of her in sickness and in health. Although not perfect, Alvin did take care of her in sickness and in health for 66 years when he passed away.

Alvin "Bud" and Alice Cason. Hale County, Texas 1945.
Alvin “Bud” and Alice Cason. Hale County, Texas 1945.

In 1946, when their fourth child, Maxine, was two years old, Alvin and Alice moved their family to Fruita, Mesa, Colorado where Alice’s mother and siblings had moved sometime before. Alvin and Samuel went to work coal mining and Alice cleaned houses. Their hard work paid off and they were able to buy a home, which they sold, and bought another, and sold, etc…until they settled down at 2757 D Rd. in Grand Junction, Mesa, Colorado in 1967, and lived there until illness forced them into nursing homes in the mid 1990s.

Alice Cason in front of an oil rig in Rangely, Colorado 1948.  She and three of her children followed Alvin to Rangely where he worked as a roust about in the oil field.
Alice Cason in front of an oil rig in Rangely, Colorado 1948. She and three of her children followed Alvin to Rangely where he worked as a roust about in the oil field.

Alice was a member of the LDS church in Grand Junction, Colorado, and especially enjoyed the Relief Society work days. Her hobbies were sewing and making hand crafts either learned through the church or from her neighbor and best friend Edna Donna. My mom and aunts recall how, when they were still at home, they would see a dress in a catalog or in a store that one of them wanted, and Alice would sit down, make a pattern, and sew that very dress. I remember receiving a “Granny” doll that she had fashioned out of a Joy dish washing bottle one year for Christmas. She also made two or three dresses to go with the doll. Later, she made a “Hobby Holly” quilt for my Christmas gift. It was a quilt she pieced together and then appliqued Hobby Holly on each of the quilt blocks. She made many quilts. I looked forward to visiting her to see the newest quilt she had created. She made my wedding dress, and later, she made a cowboy quilt for my son when he was a baby.

This is at the Cason-Barber family reunion in Okalahoma. Alvin, Alice, Bronzie, Christine, and Delmer.
This is at the Cason-Barber family reunion in Okalahoma. Alvin, Alice, Bronzie, Christine, and Delmer.
Alice Cason, Christmas 1970.
Alice Cason, Christmas 1970.

Grandma tended to be quiet when she had nothing to say, but if she had something to say, she did not beat around the bush. My father wanted my mother and we girls to wait on him hand and foot. One time, we were visiting Grandma and Grandpa, and he demanded that Mom get him a cup of coffee when she was braiding my hair, Grandma spoke up and said, “Cloid, get your own coffee. It’s sitting right behind you on the stove.” That was grandma. I couldn’t help but laugh and Dad laughed, too, while he got his cup of coffee and Mom finished braiding my hair. I guess I must get my outspoken tendency from Grandma Cason. I don’t mind telling someone how I feel, even if does get me into trouble. Because of both of my grandmothers, I have a love of hand crafted items and respect the long, hard, and loving work that goes into each item. I am proud to be Alice Cason’s granddaughter.

17 Sep 1995 Delta, Colorado after Alvin D. Cason's funeral. Back row L-R: Delmer Dean Cason, Christine Cason Nisbet, Bronzie Alice Cason Fields, Maxine Cason Front: Bernice "Lonnie" Cason Donner, Alice Mozell Ward Cason.
17 Sep 1995 Delta, Colorado after Alvin D. Cason’s funeral. Back row L-R: Delmer Dean Cason, Christine Cason Nisbet, Bronzie Alice Cason Fields, Maxine Cason
Front: Bernice “Lonnie” Cason Donner, Alice Mozell Ward Cason.
Alice Mozell Ward Cason. 7 Sep 1995
Alice Mozell Ward Cason.
7 Sep 1995