Laura Ethel Arnold was born November 12, 1891 in Gatesville, Coryell County, Texas. She was the daughter of Joe C. and Josie Brashears Arnold. During her years as a young wife and mother, Laura was usually called by her middle name, Ethel. Her father Joe, would sometimes call her “Dutchman” as a pet name.
Laura’s sister Ada married in Eastland County, Texas in 1897. Although I do not have any proof, I think the Arnold family may have lived there awhile before moving to Victoria County, Texas. If they lived there or stopped for a visit, Laura Arnold knew her maternal relatives from that part of Texas.
By 1900 Laura was living in Victoria County, Texas. She was eight years old and going to school. Her father was working at the McFaddin Ranch. Her father, Joel C. was working there in the farming operations. There were so many people working at the ranch that it became a town. McFaddin is near the San Antonio River, two miles east of U. S. Highway 77 and 18 miles southwest of Victoria. Several other family members were working at the ranch, too.
Her Uncle Blackwell Arnold and his family lived next door to Laura’s family.
Her Uncle James Miller (Jim) Arnold and his wife lived two doors down from her.
Her Uncle Robert worked for the man next door and her Aunt Mary Arnold worked as a cook at the ranch. I am sure they had good times and bad times.
The Arnolds were a large, close knit family that time and distance eventually separated.
On May 14, 1906 Miss Laura Ethel Arnold became the bride of Benjamin Joseph Blackstone. They were united in marriage by the Reverend Tom T. Chester, a Baptist Minister. They were married at Donie, Freestone County, Texas. The couple had eloped. “Ben” Blackstone worked as a contractor building up roads and laying track for the railroad company. Laura’s father, Joe C. worked for Ben Blackstone.
By the time the 1910 Census was taken Laura and Ben Blackstone were living in San Saba County. He was still working for the railroad as a road contractor. The census also named two small children, Jesse Dell and Albert Douglas. Jesse and Bert were both born in Victoria, Texas. By October of that year the Blackstones were living in El Campo, Texas. Their son, Joe, was born there. Vick was born in Natalia, Medina County, Texas.
In early May 1910 Halley’s Comet was as brilliant as the brightest star. It came as close to the earth as 14 million miles on May 20th. On the next day, the earth is believed to have passed through the comet’s tail. Grandmother always told me what an amazing sight the Comet was and how everyone watched it for days. Some folks thought the world was coming to an end. She was a witness to one of Halley’s Comet’s more spectacular passages. I can imagine the young couple with their two young children watching the skies each night. Watching Halley’s Comet over head. It would not return for 76 years.
Since so many children were coming along it was decided it was time to
settle down and stay in one place. The Blackstones leased a farm outside of East Bernard. They were farming for a living. The farm was called the Peach Ranch Farm. Laura was a born farmer. She loved farming and she was more than ready to settle down.
On September 12, 1918 Benjamin Joseph Blackstone signed his WWI Draft Registration Card. The family’s address was Rt. #3, El Campo, Wharton County, Texas. The children born in Wharton County, including Joe, were; Lee Roy “Doc”, Maggie May, David Howard “Dude”, Ernest, Alice N., and Josephine Elizabeth “Josie”. Alice and Josie were born at home at the Peach Ranch Farm. All of Laura’s children were born at home. She had an attending physician at each one of their births.
On February 27, 1922 the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution, providing for women’s suffrage, was declared constitutional by a unanimous decision of the Supreme Court. It was the custom for women who were voting for the first time to vote “In Memory” of a woman who would not be able to vote. Laura voted in memory of her mother, Josie Arnold. Laura always considered voting a duty that was not to be taken lightly. When I was a young child I would see my Grandmother, on election day, at Robert Louis Stevenson Elementary School. That was her poling place and she always voted.
While Laura and her family were living in Wharton County, her daughter, Jesse Dell, became the first one of her children to marry. Jesse married Willard Haynes Billings on August 20, 1924 in Columbus, Texas. In July of 1925 Laura became a grandmother with the birth of Jesse’s child, Ethel “Marie”.
Times were very, very hard. In those days people who didn’t own their farms had a hard time making a living. Ben was talking to a man who was building roads out in West Texas. They needed help out there. He still had his equipment so he decided to go with the older boys. They would not have to hire anyone and they could make good money.
The family loaded up their belongings and moved to Andrews County, Texas. When they arrived they found out the job had been given to someone else.
Ben and Laura decided to stay in Andrews County. Their children Dorothy and Robert were born in the little town of Florey. Bob missed being on the 1930 census by a month.
Jesse was married and living in Houston. Vic was single and living in Andrews County, but, he had moved away from home. Jimmie was born in December of 1933. He was
Laura’s last child. She had given birth to thirteen children. Each one extraordinary and gifted in their own special way. Maggie Blackstone Thomas has stated that what each of her brothers and sisters did was interesting enough to write a book about. I definitely agree with her. Sometimes the truth is better than fiction!
Even though times were hard Laura and Ben raised a fine family. There were a lot of changes in the years they lived in Andrews County. Bert married Bea Gray. Joe was killed in an accident at a rodeo in Florida. Vic and Doc were following the rodeo circuit.
Maggie married and moved out of state. Maggie had moved to Idaho. She kept writing and telling the family that they could do well in Idaho. So finally when they had enough money together the family loaded up and moved to Boise, Idaho. That is how the Blackstones wound up in Idaho. They lived there about three years.
When World War II started Benjamin and Laura wanted to go back to Texas. Once again they packed up their belongings. But, this time they were going home. The family moved to Houston. The war years were busy ones for Laura. She did what ever she could to help with the war effort. She got up every day and took the bus to the hospital to roll bandages for the wounded and injured troops. She had three sons and four son-in-laws in the military service.
On November 1, 1945 Benjamin Blackstone passed away at the Herman Hospital in Houston, Texas. He died from heart failure. Only a few years later Laura’s son, Lee Roy, also passed away. He was only 32. “Doc” had always had a weak heart and he had malaria while he was in the army. He just did not get any better, seeming to just get weaker and weaker.
Laura lived there at 5211 Inker with her sons, Bob and Jim. She was always very proud (with good reason) of all of her children. I was fortunate enough to live next door to her.
One night I was invited to go with her to attend a Boy Scout meeting. I was given strict instructions on how to behave when I got there. On that night she was awarded a Mother’s Rose. Her son, Bob, received the Order of the Arrow from the Boy Scouts. I have always remembered how proud she was of him. And how honored she felt to receive the rose.
In 1960 Laura moved to Crockett, Texas. She bought a little farm house. As long as her health would permit she lived there. She passed away April 17, 1970 at Grapeland, Texas. The world is a much better place because she was in it. Laura and Ben Blackstone are buried at Woodlawn Garden of Memories Cemetery, in Houston, Texas.
Laura Arnold Blackstone did not have a motto or a creed that I know of. But, when I saw the following I was deeply aware that this was the exact way she lived her life each and every day.