Interview with Walter Williams April 1 1959

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Interview with Walter Williams April 1 1959
Williams, Walter ( Interviewee )
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Confederate Veterans
Veterans -- Confederate States of America
Confederate Veterans Oral History Collection ( local )
Miscellaneous Oral History Collections ( local )


This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.

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Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
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This interview is part of the 'Confederate Veterans' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
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Subject: Walter Williams

Interviewer: M. J. Hansinger

Date: 4-59


H: on the eighteenth of April, in Houston, at the home of

Mrs. Willie Mae Bowles, and it is a test to check the functioning

of the tape recorder. I've just arrived, and Mrs. Bowles has

not been too well lately, and Mr. Williams himself has not been

too well. At the moment, he's sort of resting and singing to

himself. Mrs. Bowles mentioned that he was born on the fourteenth

of November, in 1842, in Fulton, Mississippi. His mother and

father came to Texas in 1870. After the war, Mr. Williams went

back to Mississippi and came to Texas with his people. We will

now try to get a few words of his singing.

W: (YyF Ov\ _

B: Sing loud, daddy.

W: Huh?

B: Sing loud. Sing loud.

W: _no__vi)_________

B: Sing Cotton-Eyed Joe for me.

W: Huh?

B: Sing Cotton-Eyed Joe.

W: (m_)_______

B: Sing loud, sing loud.

W: Huh?

B: Sing real loud for this man. Sing Cotton-Eyed Joe.

W: VTlbae). Y A Cotton-Eyed Joe, (vt*qva rb)

long time ago,

long time ago.

CP 2A 2


B: (Chuckles)

H: ,-- , Uh, Mr. Williams is actually

in very feeble health, he's singing again.

W: (Humming?)

H: As I'm, uh, that was In the Sweet By and By2Mrs. Bowles tells us,

as these notes are being made, Mr. Williams is quite tired. His

hair is closely cropped, as is his mustache, and he shows every

indication of loving care from his family. Just above his bed is

a placard from the Civil War Centennial Commission conferring

honorary membership on him, and the Confederate battle flags in

a frame are beside the War Commission monument. A small statue

of General Lee is over his head, and above that and to the left

is a picture of Mr. Williams in his memorial Confederate reunion

uniforms, at the time when he was a little haughtier and able to

sit up.

(Break in tape)

....Mrs. Bowles, would you ask....will you ask Mr. Williams if

he remembers when the war started?

B: Daddy? Do you remember when the, when the Civil War started?

W: Huh?

B: Do you remember when the Civil War started? When the Civil War


W: Uh huh. whatr t+year it was.J ( j V )

B: Don't know what year it was.

W: la'Vt rccollec{1

CP 2A 3


B: Don't recollect what year it was.

H: Okay, does, does he recollect when it ended?

B: When, when, no, he don't, unless you pump him with those questions,

lie 1. oirl tL r.LA LVt 7 0 U)

H: Uh huh, yeah.

B: Daddy?

W: Huh?

B: Uh, what, what company was you in?

W: Brigade.

H: What outfit was that?

B: Uh, CAlvert's.

H: Calvert's?

B: He was in the Calvary, and the HVod's Brigade Company, see,

W: 6oj arig)Je-

H: In Hood's Brigade. Let me get that, Mrs. Bowles, I'd consider it

a favor if, if .y&Ae leA- v0 e


H: What was that?


B: And he had a cousin preached


B: while he's talking. Daddy?

Tell him how many deer you killed.

W: Huh?

B: Tell that man how many deer you killed in your life.

W: _'Bout 300.

B: 'Bout 300.

CP 2A 4



B: Well, tell him about the Indian you shot when he hollered, when you

was driving the cattle down the trail.

W: (Laughs)

B: And he hollered out, "What did he say?" What did he say when you

shot him?


H: (Chuckles)

B: Say it real loud.

W: Huh?

B: Say it real loud.


H: Uh, can we find out what year that was?

B: It was during the war.

H: Oh, that was during the war?

W: in the bushes, like

B: How many cattle did you kill during the war?

W: Huh?

B: How many cows a day did you kill during the war?

W: Twenty.

B: Twenty.

H: Well, this is fine, Mrs. Bowles. Mrs. Bowles interprets that

Mr. Williams to say that the Indian he shot was while

he was driving cattle....




B: Huh?

W: a-_X k" __ __ soldiers.

B: Six hundred soldiers.

W: the cattle ,. .

H: Killed thirty cattle per day for six hundred soldiers.

B: No, he killed twenty a day.

H: Oh, twenty a day. For six hundred soldiers.

B: Well, that was a lot of soldiers, wasn't it?

W: Yeah.

B: They must have eat a lot.

W: Huh?

B: They must have ate a lot. Was they hungry when you....?


B: You didn't let them get hungry.


B: Well, how old are you now?

W: HIh?

B: How old are you now?

W: Hundred and sixteen.

B: Well, where was you born?

W: Born in Mississippi.

B: What county?

w: 1 -OgU, n U-) a),__a

B: How you spell it?

w: I-T-A-W-A-M- B-A.

H: That's wonderful. Uh....

W: Mississippi,

CP 2A 6


B: Fulton?

H: Where were you when the war ended, Grandpa?
W: I was in Tennessee.

B: Tennessee.

H: In Tennessee? With Hood's Brigade?
W: Uh huh.

H: What did you all do then?

W: ?4 ci 4 hv khrii4

B: Pulled for home.

H: Pulled for home. How did you all get home?

W: We rode the horse back.

H: Rode horseback.


B: What was his name?

W: A10iic 1+u' .

B: Frank.
H: Had a good horse named Frank.
W: j-n b -c bcs- horse.-
B: the best horse

H: Best horse that they had) /nd he was yours.

W: best horses eVO X 'uC} % e ih -? CoU- -

H: Ever ridden in that country. Uh, tell us about your first trail

drive on the Chisolm Trail, Mr. Williams?

W: Huh?

B: Tell him about the cattle that you, you all drove on the Chisolm
Trail when that man beat you out of the money. Time that man give

you a hot check.

CP 2A 7


W: Oh-

\AJ o u cattle.

B: He said hbf' oisf-fi/ bee~i a^terY1^W6 m<,a4
B: He said )-h (tc bseg_ IMA that man torn you up, b- 9 O+Ae

man didn't have the /.C', hi. hrf /vryr

H: Been still after him yet if it'd been..him, but the other man didn't

didn't have the nerve.

B: What was that man's name that was with you, that you tried to

UAJI v7 at?

W: Huh?

B: What was the man's name that you tried to wink at not to take the


W: The man that was with me?

B: Yeah.

W: He was Frank.

B: Frank who?

W: Frank Rogers.

B: Frank Rogers? How'd you all get home?

W: We rode home.

B: Who had the money to come back home on?

W: I had /i._

B: You had the money.

W: I had twenty dollars

B: without a dime.


CP 2A 8


H: Was this at the end of the trail drive? Where they got beat out

of the money?

B: Uh huh. It was in Kansas City.

H: It was in Kansas City.

B: Yeah. See, they met a man on, out sixty miles from town,

or thirty miles, which he said, and he give them

a big check for the money, I mean for the cattle, he give them

a big check and they say that was a big price, he kept a-winkin'

to this man, trying to get him not to take the check, and when

they got, he took the check, and they went on to town, they had

never heard of that man before, so they got beat out of all the


H: After they had driven them all the way to Kansas City?

B:AAll the way up there2 U i .-

H: Oh, Lord. I....

B: How many cattle did you have, daddy?

W: Huh?

B: How many cattle did you all take on that drive?

W: How many ge co*I e- ?

B: Uh huh.

W: We had two or three hundred.

H: Two or three hundred.


H: What did he say?

B: He just, he said that when they got there they had two or three


H: Okay, well, I think we'll let him be now.

CP 2A 9


H: We've just left the bedside of Mr. Williams. His, he, he's been

under the weather for the last few days, and it's not wise to

tax his strength,] walking is quite an effort for him. And we'll

go over to his daughter, who attends him now, for some of her

descriptions of what he's been saying, and We own family

recollections of what he's been through. Now, we can just talk

Mrs. Bowles, and we don't need to tire ourselves, /nd what we

say will be picked up, as long as these lights are flickering

here, everything we're saying is being picked up on the tape.

Like that, you see.A Uh, where did the Williams' family settle

in Texas when it came out from Mississippi?

B: Calvert, around Calvert Texas.

H: Where is that?

B: E-hin-k the other side. I don't know if that's in Robertson

County, or what county that's in, but it's the other side of


H: So they settled in east Texas. Now, what did they do?

B: Farmed.

H: Um hmm. And then, how did Mr. Williams get into raising cattle

and going on trail drives?

B: Well, he, he run-a'livery stable, and a meat market at that time

in Calvert, when he married his first wife.

H: Um hmm. I'm going to get that closer so the radio don't come in

on top of it. And then how did he get into cattle?

B: Well, he always drove cattle, and worked with cattle. ACe alv(. T

H: Has he ever mentioned what year he drove on the Chisolm Trail?

B: No, that must have been after he come out of the service, so, because,

CP 2A 10


B:; after he married the first time, because, he never was home when he

first married my mother, he always went on cattle drives and things

like that.

H: And he was living in, near,9qAall this time?

B: Uh huh, in Calvert, uh huh. He married his first wife in CGlvert

and he had a livery, owned a, run a livery stable, and a meat market.

And then after that, when she died, at the birth of her seventh

child, and then he married my mother, and had twelve children

by my mother, which was nineteen children.

H: Sure enough!

B: And he has eleven living children now.

H: Oh, that's wonderful.

B: And there's six generations.

H: How old are the living children? How old are the eldest?

B: The oldest one was, to my mother, or the other, the first one?

H: Well, the first one?

B: Well, she was eighty-seven.

H: And is she still alive?

B: No, she passed away about two years ago.

H: And how old is the oldest living one?

B: Uh, he's in his seventies.

H: So he had nineteen children, by two wives.

B: Uh huh.

H: And where are they all?

B: Oh, they scattered around to different places.

H: Well...

B: He had, he lost the oldest child from each wife, each one of them

were daughters, he lost both of them.

CP 2A 11


H: Well, they died of old age?

B: No, they had, they both died of cancer.

H: Oh, that's too bad.

B: Both of the daughters, the oldest one from each wife, died of

cancer of the brain.

H: How many years did he drive cattle up on the trail, there?

B: Well, he drove cattle for quite some time, I think until his

children, so he could settle down and begin to raise his family.

He drove the cattle between the time he married my mother, and

during the first part of my mother's marriage to him.

I: And what did he do when' he stopped driving cattle?

B: Well, we farmed.

H: General farming, out in BLryo V^ClH ?

B: Uh huh.

H: And when did you all come to Houston?

B: Oh, I've been in Houston, oh, about thirty-Ayears.

H: Did he used to go to the Confederate# reunions, and the....

B: No, he never did get to go because of too many things. Ae went to

Dallas, to the convention the sons of Confederate convention there,

and we went to Austin to a big race, they had there a big, some

kind of big convention there where they had Jimmy Stewart came

down to see us, to see daddy there, and we went to Dallas to the

fair, and we had a trip to go to New York, but we didn't take it

because my mother's illness was beginning to get worse, and we

didn't take it because she couldn't fly, and.he wouldn't go

without my mother.

H: How old was your momma when she passed on?

CP 2A 12


B: Eighty-three, she was eighty-three.

H: Well....uh, let's go over his war history again. He was a boy,

a young boy in, in, near Fulton, Mississippi when the war broke

out, and he took to driving a wagon./ fou want to tell me....

B: No, he joined the army, he joined the service. He, when he was

quite young he joined the service, and when the war was over, he

went back to Mississippi and stayed in Mississippi while he was

a young man, and he did a lot of traveling, he traveled lots of
places before he came back to Texas. A,'d'later, his mother and

father came to Texas.

H: Well....

B: They died in Robertson County. They're buried in

County. Died in they '

f qth hVg/el, fgyp' tio,- yain Robertson and County.

Or he stayed in

H: Well of course, he could tell us a lot about pioneer Texas, too.

B: Yeah.

H: Would you go over what he was-telling us about the war experiences.

I'm not sure, you know, that the average person listening to him

could understand him like you can, 'cause you've listened to him

for so many years.

B: Well, when he grows, when he was a porchmaster, and on Company

C. Hood's Brigade, he was in the calvary. His, uh, he had to

keep twenty head of cattle killed a day to feed the soldiers, and

they run up on an Indian tried to steal the cattle, and they shot

him, and he hollered, you see. They shot him and killed him and

and the horse both, and then he hollered, give out a big war whoop.

CP 2A 13


B: And, he never did discuss the war too much with us or we just

never did think we'd ever need to know anything about it, so

we never did sit down and write most of that down.

H: 'Course everyone know about it, aid no one knew then that he was

gonna be the last survivor.

B: Yeah. But long years back we never did think that he would be

the last one. Always he said he would be, but we didn't think it.

H: Did he, sure enough?

B: He's always said he was gonna live to be 120, which is, his grand-

father was 119. And he lived with his mother and daddy, and he

passed away in Mississippi before they came to Texas, and then he

said he was gonna be, live to be 120, that would outlive the

Williams' record.

H: Well, now....

B: And he said he was gonna outlive all the soldiers in the Civil War,

which he has outlived all of them, he's the last one.

H: That's the most remarkable thing I've heard in a long time. Imagine

thinking this, and then having it to come true.

B: Um hmm. /fe always, people write and ask him, we get trep letters

and letters want to know how, if he's kin to them, or if, what he

does to contribute to the long life, and he tells them he gets up

for breakfast, turns around for dinner, and goes to bed for

supper. That's his, uh, meals keeps him a-goin', never should eat

too much. &t? that's all.

H: Well, right now, he's down.

B: He's been confined to the bed for about two years, I think.

H: When did he first start getting poorly like that?

CP 2A 14


B: Well, he'd got, he was getting up in the chair, in the wheelchair

up until the last year and a half. After my mother died, why, he


H: And your momma died about two years ago?

B: It'll be two years the second day ofilNovember.

H: And he went down....

B: Seem like he ot We didn't tell him at

first, but when we told him, he cried eight days and nights here.

We didn't tell him till after his birthday that she was gone.

We kept taking the fear, and we wanted to tell him,

we didn't want to tell him, so we finally decided to tell him

that she was gone.

H: She'd been off in the hospital, hadorq she, all that time?

B: No, she was here, but we made him think at first that she was

there still. But she had passed away. So he^jt a ta.

But he just, he still has a lot of ability to live, but not, he

misses her an awful lot because he calls her-now. At times he'll

wake up during the night and he'll call her to come wait on him,
50o Ct 's15
do something.& 'A'out the only thing he lived for, he and her both,

they were very happy. And she took as good a care of him as she
v3 etlevr 4fe-
did the little babies, rgathe're were babies, all of her children,

well, she waited on them hand and foot. They never .a# for nothing,

she was right there waiting.

H: Well, it's a marvelous DGCeoroUid *

B: Um hmm A I used to tell my mother she made my daddy an invalid by

waiting on him/fy much. ye O)

H: Well, if she did, and he lived to be _-.nXtRlad-Ste r-

CP 2A 15


H: then everybody ought to do it, hadn't they?

B: Yeah, that's right. And I mean, you, he, you noticed him, too,

when you're around, he don't never let you know, he knows when

someone's in the room, he'll holler for me to come rub his back

or scratch his head, or comb his hair, or, it's something, he's

got, you've got to be doing something so he'll know you're in
0'lVIM, bLt5, 'iW" eaw(+,
the room with you.A8:Since he was blind, he told me that the only

two things that the worst he had ever faced was his blindness and

losing my mother, that's the only two things.

H: Is he completely blind?

B: Yeah.

H: Oh, that's too bad.

B: Oh, yeah, he's....

H: When did he go blind?

B: Well,Asee, it's been about three years. He could see a little

bit about three years ago. And since then, well, his eyesight,

he has cataracts behind the eye.

H: Oh. Well, he sure 49 fine-looking bvI e CS And such

nice-looking skin.

B: He doesn't have a break, not a break in his skin.

H: Well, that's wonderful.

B: No place, he doesn't have bedsores or anything.

H: Well, let's go back to this grandfather of his who lived to be

119. When do reckon the. grandfather died?

B: Well, let's see, he must have died, now this is what he told me

here lately, that he was eight, seven or eight years old, and he

used to carry wood in to his grandfather, to get ready for the

CP 2A 16


B: rainy spell, or cold spell, he'd carry it in the house. That, he

remembered that, and I asked him if he remembered going to his

grandfather's funeral, which he said he did remember'.it. So he

must have died when he was seven, eight, nine years old.

H: Well, let's see, then, Yh, Mr. Williams is, was born in 1842,

and if he was about seven or eight years old when his grandfather

died, that would be about 1850) ,hat his grandfather died, and

if his grandfather was 119 years old when he died, then he must

have been born back in about 1731.

B: Yeah, we had figured it up one day. Some man came by here, but

I forgot now, should have put that down, but I didn't.

H: Well, that....

B: And his mother was ninety-four, and his father was ninety-six

when he passed away. That's my grandmother and grandfather, she

was blind and invalid when she passed away. She was bedridden,

she stayed in the bed five years.

H: Well, this is the most remarkable record I've heard of

Here is a grandfather living to be 119, here is his son living

to be ninety-six, the son's wife living to be ninety-four, the

grandchild living to be 116, Ujiic& hcc iit((|igtS is now.

This is a remarkable record. Even though they were feeble their

last several years....

B: They still had good health. My daddy's still got good health.

H: Well, there you are.

B: I mean, the doctor said there's nothing wrong with his heart, his

blood pressure stays better than mine.

H: Well, you see, there's, there's....

CP 2A 17


B: But his mind is remarkable.

H: Well, I'm glad to A/p, that.

B: To be, you know, like, who, who would have thought a man 116 could

said those words, you know, about the war and everything, about

the Indian.

H: Or remembering the last name of this:man who was up in Kansas City.

Or remembering how much money they had.

B: Yeah.

H: What was it he said when we asked him what they did when the

war was over? He said....

B: They hiked it back home. No, hit it back home.

H: He said they pulled....

B: Pulled out home.

H: Pulled out home.
We. /
B: Yeah. Said)j fi$ pulled out home.

H: I can just see him now, can't you?

B:'A Well, no. C tcic j

H: Well, what has he been doing for the last twenty or thirty years,

when he gave up hard farming?

B: Well, the children always farmed, he never did have to farm after

they got old enough to farm, you know, to do the work in the field.

I really don't remember my daddy ever being in a field working.

My mother, and children always did the work, 'cause he, he's always

had kind of a weak knees from some kind of fever he had, typhoid

fever, I believe. And otherwise, I don't even remember him ever

working in the field.

H: Well, now....

CP 2A 18


B: He'd go to field with us, you know, show us what to do, but I

don't remember him ever doing it. He'd just ride down there,

ride the horse, and show us what to do, and what he wanted to do,

and we did it.

H: Well, now, that little, that notice on the wall says he's the

last living veteran of the Chisolm Trail, besides being the last

war veteran.

B: Yeah, uh huh.

H: Can you think of any other war stories he's ever told you about


B: No, I really don't, because, see, as I said, when we should have

sit down and talk to him and got a lot of those, lot of the history

back there, we didn't dream of him being the last one then.

And we want that, it would be very nice to have.

H: Even though he kept saying that was going,*,* be,

B: He kept saying that, but we never did believe it. But he really

made it, he'd say he'll always be the last one, and stay here

till all of them was gone, see what happened.

H: Well, were these Texas troops that he was with, did he say?

B: Well, no....

H: 'Cause he was from Mississippi.

B: Well, I don't know, because they stopped in, uh, when the war was

over, he was in Tennessee.

H: Yes.

B: So I don't really know if he were, or i brigade was Texans or


H: Well, wh4 did have a Texas brigade#,

CP 2A 19


B: Well....

H: He had a brigade of Texans, and they operated in that Mississippi

and Tennessee area for a while, but Hood had, went on and commanded

other units, and I don't know offhand what happened to the brigade

or whether they still called it Hood's Brigade. He lost, he lost

one whole division at the Battle of Antietam Creek, Hood did.

And that, that's, I think, where most of Hood's Texans wound up.

B: Well, I just really don't know, but I imagine it was, 'cause they

was always, I mean, by him coming back to Texas and settling, I'm

sure that he was in the Texas brigade.

H: Well, it kind of sounds like he might have met up with Texans,

as a M/ssissippi boy, and decided he wanted to go see this country

that they were talking about. Especially him being a horseman.

B: Um hm. Because he's traveled, he's said he's traveled all over

the world, you know, different places, looking, and he'used to

drive cattle to Galveston when there wasn't no roads, just the
highways wasn't anything,Ajust dirt roads, and all the travel

he did was just over the roads when there wasn't even concrete

or anything like that) /oads that he traveled through.

H: Let me turn that radio down just a little

B: 7 t,,a J +' 1OAVderlu_ Probably is on

the background.

H: It'll make it,Amake the tone hard to hear it. Well, then he had

driven cattle to Galveston before there were any roads.

B: Yeah. Oh,4he's traveled all over the world. Not very much of
C(1 of it-
the country that he hasn't seen, and gmy'gs by horseback.

H: What was he doing when he was traveling over the world'

CP 2A 20


B: I imagine driving cattle.

H: Um hmm.

B: Because my grandfather was a cattleman, cattleman. And they worked

together. Because one time he said my grandfather had buried

some gold by a tree, and he couldn't find it. And my father went

out there, and he was just looked everywhere, he just knew somebody

had gotten that gold. He said, "Well, why don't you go dig over

that tree, and get your gold," said, "that's the tree you put

it by." So he goes over and getsrthe gold, and he, they went

out on a cattle drive then. But he always worked with my, my

mother's father, that he worked for.

H: I see.

B: Worked with, LA ), H 1hC lii)4, you know, driving cattle from

one place to the other.

H: Well, he must have had a remarkable life.

B: Yeah.

H: The times that he lived, and the places that he lived, ,re-war

Mississippi, and then during the war All that fighting with the

army of Tennessee, and then east Texas right after the war.

Reconstruction in Mississippi, and then the trail driving days

up to, up to Kansas.

B: Uh huh.

H: That was a....

B: Remarkable.

H: Remarkable time, and a remarkable life to live it in /nd 116

years- of it. Had, did he ever say where his own grandfather was


CP 2A 21


B: He came from Carolina.

H: His name was Williams, too, I reckon?

B: Uh huh.

H: So they came out of the Carolinas, that figures. That would, we

were thinking about when he was born, born in 1731 or so. That

would have him to be born about the same time as George Washington.

Washington was born in 1732. So we have, in the person of

Mr. Williams, and his own grandfather, we go all the way back to

the birth of George Washington, when there wasn't even a United

States, and it was still the thirteen colonies.

B: Uh huh, that's right.

H: And this is the life span of two men, because your father was a

seven or eight year old boy, J"':said, when his grandfather died.

Well, these records are well worth keeping, and making some

record of.

B: They sure are.

H: Well, I wonder if we've covered everything in his war experiences

then. He joined the war early, as a very young man in his teens,


B: Um hmm.

H: Was in the calvary, Company C of Hood's Brigade. His strongest

recollections are as a forage master.

B: Fifth Regiment.

H: Fifth Regiment. And he stayed through the whole war till the end

up in Tennessee, when they got word that the war was over. He

remembers .... .

B: I know he always said this, tpt just4/l give them five more minutes,

CP 2A 22


B: they could have won, but they didn't win through the battle, 1

but he won through, that he had won, he himself had won because

he had outlived them all. That's what he, that's what he said the

other day.

H: he said this just the other day? That the South

had won 'cause he's outlived them all.

B: 'Cause he's outlived them all. That, that's why they won after


H: Well, I think he's right.

B: Yeah, I imagine.

H: And a lot of other people would say so too. Well, this has been

a very fine experience, Mrs.Bowles, I'm sorry you're not feeling

as well as you might, and I certainly appreciate your taking me

on like this, putting up with the questions. Uh, I wish both

of you all a good long happy life, for a long time, now, and I

hope he goes to more than 120, and I hope he enjoys every day of


B: Well, if he lives to be 120, I'll be amazed!

H: Well, I don't know, maybe you....

B: I'm aOOM _Cj,,

H: Maybe you, maybe you'll break all their records.

B: I don't know, fi Jow't' /-rtio. I.'7/ fever do that.

H: Well, thank you very much, I'll close this out now. This terminates

a tape made at 10:25 on the eighteenth, the eighteenth of April.

1025 West 23rd Street, the present address of Mrs. Willie Mae

Bowles, who is taking care of her father, Mr;, it's William Williams,

CP 2A 23


H: isn't it?

B: Walter Williams.

H: Mr. Walter Williams. And the, Mrs. Bowles has been kind enough

to receive the equipment and myself into her home, either though,

as explained earlier in the tape, she had been down, and her

father, himself being down, the, the visit was bound to be

something of a strain for both parties concerned.

....Bowles has just told us a very fine, wonderful little story

of how her momma and Mr. Williams came to be married, and I'm

gonna ask her to tell us again so we can get it down on tape,

because one of these fine family stories is like opening a door

into the old times. Tell us about that again, please, Mrs.

Bowles. Start, start from the beginning.

B: Lordy me. When my mother and my daddy were going together, well,

my daddy was working with cattle, driving cattle and working

cattle with my grandfather, my mother's father, so he didn't think

that my daddy and my mother should get married because my father

had been married and had children. Some of them were older than

my mother. So when she got ready to get married, well, my oldest,

her oldest brother slipped her out of the window from my daddy

and they had to give the dog some milk so they wouldn't be barking

so they could get off toQ get married before my grandfather caught

up with them.

H: What, what kind of milk was this?

B: Clabber. Clabber milky.

H: Pour, poured the clabber outside of the window or something, didn't


CP 2A 24


B: Uh huh, in a pan, so the dogs wouldn't bark.

H: Kept the dogs quiet.

B: And then they got, they went off and got married then) /nd

my grandfather really was mad for a while, because he thought

that my mother shouldn't marry anyone older than her, and had

been married and had those children.

H: Well, what did he do to that boy that helped her get out?

B: Well, no telling what he did to him, because I went to, to

Arkansas and got my uncle whenever my mother first took her
heart condition, and he was telling me this story4as we was

riding on the bus coming back, he come to see my mother. I

went to get him and bring him back to see my mother, 'cause

she was very sick, ad he was telling me how he slipped her out

of the window to get married to my father.

H: This was in Calvert, where they got married?

B: Uh huh.

H: Well, now, your momma was married sixty-five years, wasn't she?

B: Uh huh.

H: You just told me that. And she passed on two years ago?

B: It'll be two years the second day of this coming November.

H: So she was married sixty-seven years ago, which would have...

B: Sixty-fiveA sixty-six, or sixty-seven years, they.....

H: Which would have her to be married in 1892. So this little story

you told us happened in 1892, there in Calvert.

B: Yeah, I imagine.

H: Where did they go after they married?

B: I don't know, they never did say, I imagine 4 .1i I)IS slo1 Ov tO$fItt

CP 2A 25


H: lY'ouwonder what happened when they got, when he first came back

home again with his, back to the farm, you know, with his new

bride. 'Course there couldn't be too much the father could do

about, could he, after they got married?

B: That's right. I really think she was eighteen when they got married

because if he could have done anything about it, I imagine he

f would have. I never have figured it up just to see, you know,

because she was, they was married sixty-five years, and she was

eighty-three# when she died. She was eighty-four this coming)

last February t4! L

H: Well, they got, they all got to be friends again ,afterwards cJidn'fV,

B: Yeah, they all, it all COA^e caj fine.

H: Well, thanks very much, I didn't want to miss that one.

(Break in tape)

H: A few words are in order on the circumstances attending this

interview with Mr. Williams. Uh, the, the year in question is

1959. It, it's April. We're living at Cocoa Beach. In January,

on January the thirtieth of this year, to be exact, we left

Albee, Virginia, and headed west toward the Cumberland Gap

Country, and stopped off near Slant. The purpose of this visit

was to carry the recorder to the home of John Salling, who was

then 113, living in his cabin outside the settlement of Slant,

Virginia. We, we recorded that interview on the thirtieth, and

John Salling was down at the time, with a cold and a chest

congestion. We had a memorable visit with him, I don't believe

the children will ever forget it, and I certainly hope not, and

came down b/,aet a month later in March, General Salling passed

CP 2A 26


on. He was carried to the hospital at Kingsport, placed in an

oxygen tent. It was pneumonia. It's possible that our visit

with him was the last time anyone had recorded his voice. Possibly

our pictures were the last pictures of him which were taken.

We feel very badly about losing General Sailing, he enjoyed life

a great deal, and of course, our feeling on these things is that

these wonderful old heroes are national treasures in a way, and

it's an....a living link is gone. Having left General Salling,

and having read of his loss in March, then, we were determined to

visit with Walter Williams, should ,ny opportunity offer. The

opportunity did offer last xep(a'p'f and we were able to get

Houston late on Saturday, the eighteenth of April, 1959, following

a rather fortunate set of circumstances involving getting the

tape recorder from the airfield in Ellington into the Bowles

home in northwestern Houston. It's interesting to think on the

the approach to the Bowles home, leaving Cocoa Beach, which of

course is the site of Patrick Air Force Base, all4focusko in this

Cape Canaveral area, is on the and the Titan and

the Atlas, and the forthcoming man in space program. Then a four

and a half hour flight across the gulf country, to land at the

airfield outside Houston) 0, t drive through the heart of Houston,

skyscrapers, freeways, carefully manicured parkways and hospitals,

TV stations, all the apparatus of a large, progressive second

half of the twentieth century American city, and then a drive to

a residential section, and into this clean, spic and span bedroom

with this pink little man lying outstretched 40ez-t sheets. The

recipient of loving care from his daughter, herself in poor health

CP 2A 27


H: due to some breakdowns. Herself the recent victim of a tragedy

in the loss of her own husband in February, following a long

siege of cancer, grieving for her mother, she had lost two years

before. I found this true daughter of the Confederacy) the last

surviving daughter to take care of her veteran father) cheerfully

prepared to continue to wait on her father hand and foot, night

and day, seven days a week, as long as he might live. She loves

her father, never complained for a moment about the burden. Her

only complaint was at the loss of her, of her own mother. Mrs.

Bowles is a rather young woman, must be one of the youngest of

the Bowles children. A remarkable thing, rather, the Williams

children. A remarkable thing about her father and mother is

that although her father's first marriage lasted long enough:for

seven children to be born, and he apparently did not remarry for

some time after that, he must have been a man of about forty-nine

well into middle age, at the time of the marriage, married her

eighteen year old mother, still the second Mrs. Williams and the

old hero survived to celebrate a sixty-fifth wedding anniversary.

The love and care and devotion of the couple is indicated by Mrs.

Bowles own statements of her mother's waiting on, on Grandpa the

last few years, his wheelchair years, and his other later years,

and her, her father's grief at her passing. To enter the Bowles

home and the bedroom is to leave downtown Houston, the jet age and

the space age of Cocoa, Patrick, Ap^ Cape Canaveral, to leave that

age and open the door on America of the 1840's and the 1850's, in

the person and recollections of Walter Williams. It's a great

regret to us that we weren't able to visit with him a few years

CP 2A 28


H: earlier when it would not have been so fatiguing to him, and we

might have been able to record more of his reminiscences. As it

is probably, there's a great deal that has been lost, although

it's understood that there have been a number of others who've

made recordings of one kind and another in the last several years.

I wanted to make a, make mention of the music in the background

during part of the interview, particularly with Mrs. Bowles, this

is a small radio which is in Mr. Williams room, and when we left

the room, they turned it on, and put it next to his pillow so that

he could have the music. Apparentely/ listening to radio music

is one of his pleasures, he likes his live fiddle music, and, and

also singing was what he was doing when we came into the room,

He was crooning Cotton-Eyed Joe, which, Mrs. Bowles mentions is

one of his favorite songs. And of course, this song is a hundred

or more years old in Texas. As I was saying, to enter the Williams

bedroom is to open the door into.....


CP 2A 29


side two

H: As I was saying, to enter the Williams'bedroom is to open the

door into the rural south, the deep south of a hundred years ago,

and to visit Texas, the east Texas woods and cotton farming

country of the immediate post-war years, and to visit Texas

in the days of the Chisolm Trail, the cattle drives, skullduggery

on the way, Indian thievery, Kansas City, the railhead, and drives

to Galveston. Interesting point there on the Galveston drive,

this might possibly have been before the Overland drives through

Oklahoma, since an important reason for driving the cattle as far

across as Kansas was because of the prices paid in the ports of

Galveston, and so on down the Gulf, were not nearly commensurate

with the prices that were paid at the railheads in Kansas. So

this Galveston point would be an interesting one to check. There

is a certificate mounted on ie wall in Mr. Williams bedroom

which says that he, in addition to being a Confederate veteran,

was the last surviving member of the Chisolm Trail drivers.

So thatAvenerable Walter Williams in his lifetime spanned a

tremendous section of Americana) Antibellum Mississippi, Hoods'

and Forest's calvary, four years of war in the western theatre

battle raising and the Chisolm Trail) reconstructionn and all of

Texas from 1870 on. As this record is made, Walter Williams is

the last known survivor of either army of the War Between the

States. We have previously visited and recorded with John Salling,

and prior to that we have visited and recorded with Uncle Bill

Lundy in Crestview, Florida, the nation's third last survivor.

We have previously visited in Alabama with Mr. Crump, Alabama's

last survivor, who was 102 at the time; Xith Arnold Murray in

CP 2A 30


H: South Carolina, when he was 101, South Carolina's last survivors

l'ith Mr. Boytes, a veteran of the Battle of Gainesville, who

we met in St. Augustine in '49 when he was 99 or 100. And with

Uncle John Hodges in Missouri, Missouri's last surviving veteran,

born in 1840, and 105 years old when we visited him in 1945.

Mr. Williams is said to be the last. One remarkable point that

comes to memory immediately on recalling these venerable heroes

is that every one lived in the country and had spent an active

lifetime farming. 'Course this is party accounted for by the

fact that the old south was primarily rural, but you tend to think

that the country life these men lived had, must have had a great

deal to do with all of their living to such great ages.

When Mr. Williams is gone, presumably the last veteran -will

,bAe gone as well. And yet, consider the circumstances of these
men, their somewhat rural living, the fact that their Confederate

affiliations seemed to have been largely forgotten in the last

few decades, and that they became persons of prominence only in

the last few years as their almost legendary connection with the

Confederacy became rediscovered by the newspaper and by various

local organizations. I'd be willing to conjecture that there are

other venerable old men in the cabins and the back woods of the

rural south to this day, and that at least one will reappear in

later years who will blandly announce one day that he is a veteran

of such and such a company, and such and such a regiment, and not

realize, not be able to understand what all the fuss is about.

I venture to say that we will rediscover veterans of the war for

at least another few years. Still, when we have Oftour last

CP 2A 31


H: living link with that time, something which can only leave a

void, a void which cannot be filled with anything else. It will

be too late then to give these heroes a tribute that they virtually

all deserve. Men who fought under the conditions that they did,

as long and faithfully as they did, were actually deserving of

lifelong tribute, and this was all too lacking for so many of them.

In the case of Walter Williams, it's really remarkable that years

back, he expressed the conviction and the wish to outlive all of

his contemporaries who fought the war, and that he should actually

have done so, and should have realized that this was the case

when he still had control of all of his faculties. All hail and

tribute to Walter Williams. The most fitting expression that comes

to mind to record this tribute, is a section of verse which

accompanies the picture of him dressed in his Confederate veteran's

uniform, on a day when he well over a hundred, signed by him, and

printed up in some number by their preacher. It identifies the

smiling Walter Williams as Colonel Walter W. Williams of the the

United ConfederateVeterans Forage master of Company C, Fifth

Regiment, Hood's Brigade, the Confederate States Army. Born

November 14, 1842, in fRAU)O nO A County, Mississippi) 7ast

rider of the Chisolm Trail. And the tribute closes with this

verse: The bravest men of soldiers that ever faced the fray,

they fought for all that we hold dear, our men who wore the gray."

Goodbye)for a whileto Walter Williams.

End of tape