Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Along the Lonesome Trail

Ras, Old man G.W., and Dan Stapp 1929 in Texas
I never knew my father's Uncle Ras, but I know from the  letters and the pictures that I've pieced together that he was a collector of our family memories: of deaths, of dances, of calf roping, and hunting.  His life was full for 82 years.

Ras was the ninth of the thirteen children born to George Washington Stapp and Mary Alice Austin Stapp.  He was born January 23, 1894 in Boone County, Arkansas.  He was named Ras King for the doctor who delivered him, and more than likely the first child to be born with the help of a doctor.

The next three babies born to to GW and Mary Alice died within a year of birth, but number thirteen Virgle Roland Stapp was healthy.  He was born December 20, 1902 and lived 81 years.

Sadly, my great grandmother, Mary Alice, was not healthy after giving birth to so many children and living a rugged life.  Ras remembered moving from Boone County, Arkansas across the border to unnamed land called Oklahoma.  During this move and unsettled time three babies were born and died.  Mary Alice was too sick after Virgle was born to care for her family.  Ras writes, "No matter how frail and sick ma was she read her Bible to us every night.  When she couldn't read, we took turns reading out loud so she could hear God's words."  In the end she knew was going to die so she begged G.W. "Take me to Texas.  I don't want to die in this lonesome land. "  G.W.  loaded up his children and wife into the covered wagons, taking mules, chickens, and a few belongings and headed south to Texas.  Ras recalled that the older children took care of the younger ones and the boys hunted for food daily.  The journey was even harder with their mother.  "We spent many days stopped along the trail," Ras wrote in a letter, "because ma was too sick to move.  When she felt better we'd start again."

"When just inside the Texas line from Oklahoma lands, I don't know what part, ma became so sick we had to stop again.  Ma gathered all us kids around her bed and talked with us and said prayers before she died.  I can see it like it was yesterday.  We dug her grave and buried her just off the wagon trail in a little grove of post oak trees.  I always wanted to go back and look for it as the years went by, but never made it back."  There was no gravestone set upon her grave.  Her request was granted.  She died in Texas on October 25, 1903 only ten months after giving birth to her thirteenth child.  Ras was only nine years old when he left his mama's grave.


  1. Ahhh! I knew you were a Texan! We can sense this sort of thing.

  2. What a sad account. Times were really hard then. RR

  3. I share the trait of collecting family stories too--like your Uncle Ras did. I find them so interesting. I'm reasonably certain that we visited Ras's grave. I think we took a picture of it--I usually take pictures of the graves when we find them, and we always leave some flowers too. By the way, I love your blog; it's very interesting. I like your writing style, and your writing has voice---verrrry nice; you are quite talented. (I like writing too.) HS

    1. Hello, we are 2nd cousins, once removed! Thanks for sharing this. Do you have other stories from Ras? I always thought great great grandma died around Talihina, OK.

    2. Hi there,
      I am Martha Stapp Owens McMichael's great granddaughter. That makes us 2nd cousins, once removed. I always thought Mary Allice died around Talihina, OK on the trip to Texas. Do you have other stories from Ras?? Do you know parents of Mary Allice?? I am the family historian here and have been unable to find them.