Autobiography of Mrs. Otis McGaffey, Sr.

Luling, Caldwell County, Texas, 1895

Part 2

The Captain Reed and his officers remaining, and wishing me to get up a big dinner for Sunday, that he might invite a few friends to dine with them which I did, but, was so glad when they all left next morning, as I was thoroughly tired out.

Again, I am too fast, as I must tell you more of that fearful night. We had gone to bed as usual, about 10 o'clock the wind which was blowing a gale increased, and the waters after slashing against the side of the house, beat into the floor, and was constantly rising. We got up, dressed ourselves, and we had to hustle around gathering our babies and silverware together, and hurrying to get out of the back door (as the front was flooded) into a skiff; the men had waded out up above their knees to get, and bring to rescue us from impending danger. Mother McGaffey took one child in her arms, sister Julia another, and I my babe and stept out into the skiff at the door, our men holding it and guiding it the best they could (as the water was getting deeper) going over blown down fences and trees obstructing our way, to a neighbor's two-story house, arriving there, they soon made beds on the floor for us. We lay down but not to sleep, very soon a window upstairs was blown in, and we feared we should all be blown away. After witnessing God's power over the winds and waters, we witnessed the calm which only He could produce, who controls all the elements. We were thankful for his care and protection and the privilege of seeing home again next morning, but such a desolate looking home, as I have already pictured to you, my reader.

As thousands of other people do, I thought well I will get away from here, before another storm comes, but it was so pleasant after the storm, and our home was there, we, like the sinners in the time of the flood, forgot God's warning, as they did Noah's warning, until the last one (but one) which was fearful, the water rising so fast through the day (which I spent in cooking so as to have food to take with us) and getting so high in the evening that we were forced to abandon home and stock, get into a large skiff this time being drawn by a horse through the deep waters, one half mile out of town to our old resort in times of storm, but imagine our surprise and fear when told the water had already been over the fence the last night, and large snakes were then coiled up in the trees right close to the house. But the dangerous point was when the wind veered to the north making the water higher, for a time, than ever, and looking as if we might be swept out into the Gulf of Mexico before it. Right then, I vowed if there was terra firma anywhere to be reached before another storm came, I had seen enough and was determined "The Lord willing", to quit old Sabine forever. Mr. Mc replied he had seen enough and would leave if he knew where to go.

About this time, Mrs. Keith, our eldest daughter, who was living at Luling, and who was actually afraid for us to remain there longer, wrote to us to come to Luling on a visit (believing she could persuade us to sell out and move there) if only we would come. We went, were pleased with the town and the people, put our youngest son with our son-in-law Mr. Keith, into business, and Mr. Mc thought of our starting home, when with Ruth, I cried, "Entreat me not, for where my son's home is, there is mine". So we bought and started back, sold our home and store, and then began to pack our goods and furniture with all our household goods, Mr. Mc packing at the store, and I, with help, at the house, setting the day to start. I got ready, he failed to be ready on that day so it was arranged that I and Charlie and wife should start in a hack, with driver, to Boliver Point and cross over the Bay to Galveston, leaving Mr. Mc to follow on as soon as their boat was loaded, coming two days later.

Well, we started early in the morning while it was raining, thundering and lightning and mosquitoes fearful. When we had gone ten miles it was still storming but some lighter, Charlie says, "Ma, shall we turn back or press onward?" "Onward, every time", was my reply. On we went and when we came to the first station where we were to change horses, not a man or horse was to be seen or found, which looked mysterious. As there had been a robbery near there lately, we were quite suspicious that something was wrong, but travelled on slowly as our team was tired, until after a long time, we saw what appeared to be a man on horseback, leading another coming toward us. Charlie had no pistol (if I well remember) but I had him give me his money, which I hid away, for we didn't know but they were the robbers, but it was our man with the horses that he had taken out to water quite a distance from the camp. We changed and pressed on, getting lost, as the driver was a young boy not knowing the road, so at sundown we were travelling over potato ridges and nearly tired out, when we saw a man on horseback whom I had Charlie to beckon to. When he came up, he paid him to guide us to the Hotel arriving at dark, there we took boat and landed at Galveston at nine o'clock at night, Charlie securing a room for me at the Hotel, and he and his wife going to her Father's to stop. I was too tired to eat and began to fasten my doors to retire when I found one door had no lock, so I took a large washbowl and pitcher and placed on a chair at this door, knowing if any one should attempt to enter the crash would waken me. Not being disturbed, I slept until morning when Charlie came for me and I visited and dined with them at Mr. Beaufort's, Charlie's father-in-law. Had a splendid dinner and visit, being well acquainted with the family as they had lived at Sabine as our neighbors.

After dinner and rest, Charlie accompanied me (as I was alone) as far as Harrisburg, where after putting me in the Conductor's charge on the train, he left me to return to Galveston, while I headed for Luling our destination, arriving Saturday eve or Sunday morning in company with our son-in-law Mr. Keith, who had boarded the train soon after Charlie left, and I arrived at Luling all right and in good spirits, as there I found my baby boy and eldest daughter awaiting us.

Sunday morn dressed and went to Sunday School and Church where all denominations worshipped together in the same house, in the basement of the masonic hall, where all went smoothly until the Baptists and Episcopalians felt able to build their own Churches. Soon after, the Methodists and Presbyterians, then the Catholics last of the Campbellites, so Luling now boasts of six Churches instead of one hall, about ten or twelve stores, two or three drugstores, a courthouse, a fine college, several private schools and a few handsome dwelling homes, with something like a population of 22 or 3 hundred, if rightly informed. I neglected to say we had two or three saloons, or rather dislike to say it.

I had been a great worker at Sabine, while a Methodist, in church work, and when we commenced our church building, wished the sisters to join in and see if we could not help the brethren in raising funds, but soon found out they were not accustomed to such work, so I took the lead and got some of them to follow, but I had the planning to do, being the oldest sister and having some experience. About the first I undertook to do, was to get lady subscribers for a bell, which I did by talking and working a good deal, raising $100 before I gave up. The next was $60 dollars on lumber for ceiling, raising $59.00 from others and self, myself, while another sister collected just one dollar, making the $60 dollars. I soon saw the sisters had to be talked with and shown how to talk with others, to raise the money. The next thing was to buy paints for the inside and out, also carpets, needing a round hundred, which we raised in part by giving dinners and suppers which paid well, as they were well patronized. The next was a silver communion set, costing about 30 dollars, my portion of it raised by gathering nickles for Maj. (or Bro) Penn's Nickle Church. And now I must tell a good joke on a gentleman who was gathering nickles, and boasting in the newspaper of how he was going to do it. I read and re-read it, and felt disheartened at the time, thinking most any man could beat an old woman at collecting, but I changed base and adopted his plan the very next morning, that of writing to my many friends near by and afar off, telling them I had set out to beat him with their help, so they worked with a will, I sending to St. Louis, Missouri even, and beat him so bad he did not like to hear about it, but I was proud of that money for I worked so hard for it, and used much time in collecting 5 cents at a time, calling on each member of the family for a nickle. I was younger than now, being 75 years old, at this time, but I look back on those stirring days with pleasure, as I am now so crippled up with Rheumatism I can scarcely walk about the house and am not able to get to church, but I rejoice that my children and grandchildren and friends can enjoy the fruits of my labor and toil to get the church completed. I have neglected to speak of the furniture, chairs, tables, secretary organ and chandeliers, soon to be replaced by electric lights, of our work (although the brethren helped us on the organ) and baptistry and second carpeting) I feel that we helped out very much, am thankful for the spirit to do it.

We have enjoyed some precious protracted meetings since, and many have been converted, especially under Bro. Penn's preaching, and the church built up numbering 250 members at one time, but some have moved away, and some have died. We like our pastor very much and hope we shall soon rejoice in another revival of refreshing grace.

After being an invalid nearly five years and not able to keep house longer, my husband and children all persuaded me to break up and go live with my only living daughter, Mrs. Keith. It was very kind and thoughtful of her to take us home with her, but, at first, I could not think of leaving my cosy little home and flowers, but especially my youngest son and his dear family of six dear little girls, the most of whom visited me nearly every day and twice or thrice a day, whom I taught their A B C, and learned to read, four oldest reading remarkably well, as their teachers afterward thought and asked them who had taught them, which made me very proud. They lived adjoining us, only a gate to pass through and they were at Grandma's, and generally came in with a smile and a kiss for me ready to read, spell, sew, or eat supper or dinner with me. Oh, I thought it will kill me to leave my dear little grandchildren, Papa and Mama, and go where I cannot see them every day, and for days I felt that I could not, but when I realized I could no longer cook, or eat a trifling negro's cooking with any grace or patience, I surrendered and came home with my daughter, which I have never regretted. They are all so kind thoughtful and pleasant, and by boarding I am relieved of a load of care and have improved slowly ever since.

Otis, my dear good boy, sometimes brings Laura his wife to visit us, and the children, and last Sunday he brought all six of the dear little girls with himself, in the phaeton, to visit us, and Grandpa said as they jumped out of it, dressed in gay colors, "They look like a swarm of little birds". I had some cakes for them and we had a pleasant time. I know I am better off here, but I do miss my little flock, some of whom I taught lying abed, and I miss their sweet songs and speeches, but find it pleasant with my eldest and her daughters who are very kind and entertaining. I did not think when I came here, I would be alive today, but I have improved so that I went to Charlie's a few days since to eat Turkey dinner, which I enjoyed with the family, very much. They have a very nice interesting family of six children.

But, there is and end of all things, and the end of my departure may be close at hand, "Through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come, twas Grace that brought me on thus far and Grace will lead me home". I am very tired and will close my straggling remarks and sketches, hoping they will edify and strengthen some of our young folks who think they are seeing hard times, and do not know anything about them, as we have experienced them, have worked and lived through all, and are now living easy, pain excepted, with one truly devoted and loving daughter, where we expect to lay us down and die, trusting in the same power and loving Father who so loved us as to give his only son to die, that we through his name and shed blood might live.

End of straggling thoughts.

Mrs. O. McG.




Neal McGaffey was the son of Samuel and Lydia (Sanborn) McGaffey and was born in Sandwich, NH, 26 June 1794. He died in Sabine Pass, Jefferson County, TX on 7 July 1867 and is buried there at the old McGaffey Cemetery (also called Wildwave Cemetery). The 1850 Texas census lists him in Jefferson County, worth $6000, occupation lawyer. More information about him can be found in both family histories, "The 1904 McGaffey Family Genealogy" by G. W. McGaffey and in "Yellowed Pages" from the Southeast Texas Genealogical and Historical Society in articles written by W. T. Block of Beaumont, TX.

Oral and written family histories indicate that he helped lay out the plot for White Pigeon, MI; built a dam there; and worked as both a lawyer and farmer. We know only that he was in White Pigeon, MI before 1838 when he left to come to Texas with his brother John McGaffey who was in Texas in 1824 and Sabine Pass, TX in 1832.

Neal married Hannah McNeil on 23 November 1819, probably in OH. Hannah was born in Tiffin, Sevaca County, OH, 3 September 1801; she died in September 1862 at Sabine Pass, Jefferson County, TX of yellow fever and is buried beside her husband. From an unknown source, we know that her father died in 1831 in Michigan.

Their three children were:

Otis McGaffey I, dob 30 August 1820 in Circleville, Ohio
Dod 27 May 1908 in Houston, Harris County, TX
Buried in Luling, TX

Oliver McGaffey, dob 1825 in Fort Ball, OH
Dod 1851

Julia Maria McGaffey - dob 1 July in Michigan

Otis McGaffey I married Mary Tomb (Jane) McCollister in White Pigeon, MI, 18 May 1841 in the home of "Deacon" Charles and Jerusha (Bellows) McCollister. While the birth order of their children is unknown to us, we do know that when Mary returned to Michigan for a visit in 1871, only two of her siblings were alive - Sarah Dick McCollister and John, a lawyer, who had changed his surname to McAllister and moved to Chicago, Illinois. Other children of the McCollister family who made the move to White Pigeon were: John, Delia, Sarah Dick, Hamilton, Thomas, and Charles II. According to one of the family autobiographies, "Deacon" McCollister kept the Farmer's Inn in White Pigeon. The family moved from Salem, NY to White Pigeon in 1832.

Mary (McCollister) McGaffey's dob was 4 March 1822 in Salem, Washington County, NY; dod 28 Mar 1896 in Luling, TX and buried there.

NOTE: The copy of the McGaffey/McCollister memoirs was typed "as it was" with all her original misspellings, and punctuation. I started to correct a few things but decided not to do so and preserve it in the original form. The only place where I -did have to make a change was where she used the "cents" sign, which, as you know, is not on our computer keyboards.

Typed by Julia M Brittain, great-granddaughter of Mary Tomb McCollister from a carbon copy typed some time in the past by her granddaughter Delia Prince (McGaffey) Harris.

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The content of these pages is courtesy of Julia M Brittain, a direct descendant of Mrs. Otis McGaffey, Sr.
Many thanks for your thoughtful contribution to the St Joseph Co., MI pages!

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