A Real Pioneer Woman
I enjoy reading your pioneer stories. My own mother, Mary E. Millsap, was one of these early settlers but she overcame a handicap most of her contemporaries didn't have -- over thirty years were spent in blindness. Even so, she raised nine children and when she died at the age of ninety-eight she had twenty-two grandchildren, ninety-seven great-grandchilden, twenty-five great-great-grandchildren, eleven great-great-great-grandchildren and four great-great-great-great-grandchildren.
A native of Wilson County, Texas, she was born one year after Ulysses S. Grant was inaugurated. Mason county was the place she considered home, and four generations of her family attended the same school in Mason before it was made into a museum.
She often told of her earlier life and of rearing ten children among wild animals and early-day outlaws in Mason County where she and Tom Millsap were married on July 11, 1887. She remembered waiting with one of her babies in a covered wagon camp while her husband and brother hunted for game in the woods. While they were gone, a panther stalked the camp and tried to take the baby, and she threw skillets and everything else expendable in her desperate effort to frighten the animal away. Finally remembering that "cats" are afraid of fire, she snatched up a small brass kerosene lamp and lighted it. She carried her baby in her arms and walked about brandishing the lamp until the men returned to dispatch the panther.
When she was seven years old, the Comanches made their last raid in that part of the state. Cynthia Ann Parker, captured by the Indians and then retaken from them in 1860, was a first cousin of her husband.
Early-day outlaws were also a curse in that country, and sometimes chased the ranchers from their homes. The Millsaps left once, after finding a cardboard caricature of themselves being hanged by the neck "until dead, dead, dead."
She lost her husband in 1928 but, despite thirty-one years of total darkness, continued to keep house for many years after she lost her eyesight. "You can hold your hand over the coffee pot to see if it's boiling and ready; you can touch bread to see if it's done."
The one hundred and sixty-eight descendants she left behind will certainly never forget Grandma Millsap!--Mrs. Arvill Pierce, P. O. Box 224, Brady Texas 76825
(Letters to the Editor,OLD WEST, Spring 1973)