“The Girls, Lelia and Vera”


    Lelia Josie Hall was fifteen when her family moved to Mulberry from Shiloh in Lamar County. Until the end of her life she preserved an album of postcards she received between 1908, the year of the move, and 1911.

photo: the Shiloh school with Lelia (front, third from the left) 

Some of the messages:

    Tis sweet to love but oh how bitter to love a girl and then can’t get her. Sometimes a wish to a friend is given. My wish for you is a home in heaven.  The sea is wide and full of sand, by your side I like to stand. By a friend, Ira Wisely

[postmarked Brookston, Tex., in Lamar County, April 1908.]

    Hi Kido. How are you? I am fine and dandy. I sure did have an elephant time Sun. Didn’t you? I sure wish you could have come back as I sure was lonesome....

    Hello Lelia. How are you? I was sure sorry to hear that you was going to move so soon. I hope you will like to live out there. When you move can I write letters to you for I can’t tell you all I want to on a card. And I sure want one of your pictures....

    Hello! girl how are you? I am just fine and wooly. Your post card was pretty. I love you now and will forever. You may change but I will never.  How did you enjoy yourself at the picnic? Remember well and bare in mind, a true good friend is hard to find and when you find one good and true change not the old for the new.

    Hello. How are you today? I am fine and dandy. No I did not go to the picnic at Reno because it was so muddy. I sent Zoe a card several days ago, but she has not ans it so far.  Millie must be mad at me for she has not ans my card either. Has Charlie and her quit? Yes I had a elephant time at picnic. Yours.  (Me)

    Hello Lelia. How are you. I am fine and dandy. How was prayer meeting Sun. night?  Was Sweet William H. there? How did you enjoy yourself at singing? Sun. evening I had a elephant time. Are you going to Reno Sun.? Sat. there is preaching at Shiloh ant there? Maby go. 

    Hello. Girlie, how are you? I am fine and dandy. I went to an ice cream supper last night. Had a big time. Are you coming to the picnic Sat.? I am going. We are going to take dinner. Come and take dinner with me. Your Friend.

    Hello Lelia. I sure was glad to hear from you. Me and Archer will come over Sun. if nothing happen and then me and you can talk. I am in a hurry. You must write when you move if not befor. I will say good bye to all of you.

    Hello Lelia. I heared that you been sick. Have you? It came a baby cyclone over here this evening blowed sure hard. How did you enjoy yourself at the river Sun. Fine I hope. You ought to have been to preachen Sun evening. W.W. sure did slight Will H. Sun. She said she would stay at home all ways before she would go with him....

    I sure would like to have been to the basket supper at Elberhel. I heard you all were going to move. Your friend.  L.P.

    Hello! Lelia. Recd your card yesterday. Sure you hear from Clyde more than that don’t you? ... you tell him I said hello! Girlie dear excuse this old card but it all I have at present. Will do better next time. Yes and how I wish I could see you, and all the rest especialy Clyde....

    Hello. Oh say what kind of time did you have at the box supper? Did Chesley find his horse and buggy? I guess I had about a good time as any one but I could have had a better one. Didn’t Varion pay a good price for his supper? 

    Dear Lelia: ... I got home all OK. Say Lelia did you find that coat I put it in the buggy.                        

    Dear Lelia [card addressed to Ravenna] I was glad to get your post card. How do [you] like down there? Do you like there better than you do old Shiloh? Say old girl I dreamed of you last night. Woke up crying. I thought I was telling you good by. There is going to be a spelling match at school this eve. Wish you could be there. Write me a long letter as soon as you can.  Ans. soon. Your true friend Mary.

An undated Bonham newspaper clipping Lelia preserved:

    In spite of the hail, sleet and rain of Tuesday afternoon, eight members of the Mulberry Bible Class came over to Bonham and were entertained by the West Side Bible Class of this city at the home of Mrs. Sam Hancock. The real occasion however, was a memory contest on Training for Service, needless to say the honors were theirs. People who would come in Tuesday’s storm this long distance, have too much determination to lose out in any kind of contest, and too, this was not the worst and only storm they had braved for several of these noble young women had given up their loved ones in the terrible cyclone that devastated Mulberry some years since [it was
1919]. After the contest, Miss Lelia Hall gave a talk on prayer which will follow this article....

    “Better Prayers”...bigger returns...soul’s service station...batteries in good working order...dynamo of heaven...jangling discords... asking God really for the things we want...pray square...live consistently...out of our hearts...get the things we want...do our part... knock difficulties out of the way...bring the thing to pass...work like a Trojan...slogan: “Pray as if everything depended on God, and work as if everything depended on you....”

photo: Lelia Hall

Around 1932, Gladys set down “philosophies” she ascribed to her in-laws:

    Mr. Hall—There’s a stock of people just like there’s a stock in anything else and the Hall’s might near bring top price.

    Mrs. Hall—I know what’s right and I know what’s wrong, but let’s don’t have any trouble about it.

    Lelia—I really try to be good, but there’s no harm in a praying woman lying when she gets in a tight.

    Vera—I’ll forgive even tho I’m the most radical person God ever made.

     Lelia asked for many things at different times in her life, but never went far from her father’s house to find them. As adolescent suitors sent the postcards she cherished, her father’s “Nip it in the bud” was implacable.

    At church she could leave her pew, asking Roland Price to “give your heart to the Lord. Jesus died for you,” and be hurt. His reply, “I didn’t know he was sick,” (according to the story) resulted in a “fine”.

    Another time was remembered when families were going home in their cars, buggies and wagons. Young men riding horses progressed from one to another, “talking to the pretty girls.” They stirred up the dust around J. F. Hall’s car; Lelia’s dress may have got tobacco juice on it. When Waldo Cain died in Scotland (1918), people said he’d always been a good boy. “The only trouble he ever got in was that time Mr. Hall sued those boys for dusting up his girls.”

a motor trip to Carlsbad, New Mexico

    1933 July 16: (Bonham Daily Favorite) Beatrice Benoit of Dallas, Miss Lelia Hall of Ravenna, and Miss Helen McKnight of Bonham, left this morning for a motor trip to Carlsbad, New Mexico, and will return by the southern route, going to Houston, Galveston and other points in South Texas....

“One of My Greatest Thrills”

was Lelia’s narrative:

    On Sunday at eleven o’clock Beatrice called...and asked if I could be ready to go by Monday at nine A.M.  I never one time stopped to think if I could be ready or not...so thrilled that we moved around in such a rush.

    ...so happy we were on our way to Carlsbad Cavern...glad when we drove out on the highway west of Ft. Worth, for then our views were new...the most beautiful building we saw in Mineral Wells was the Baker Hotel. We could see the Hotel for miles before we got there.

    ...each one would state every few minutes, “Where is my purse?”...ate dinner on the road side by the beautiful shade of our car. Those that have been on this road out of Midland know how few shades you ever see...the great oil fields of Wink...Pecos is a Western town, mostly Mexicans live in this town...filled our thermos jug with ice at the factory...hillsides are veritable gardens of cacti....

    [At Carlsbad] saw the flight of the bats, one of the world’s most unusual spectacles... from the cave into the twilight...attracted the attention of a lonely cowboy in the year 1900...the greatest writers have yet failed in their efforts to find words...silent vastness and ethereal beauty...lunch room 750 feet below the surface...world’s most unique lunch room...then “Rock of Ages” was sung.

    ...El Paso...Juarez...heard the chime of this old bell...hanging there for over three

hundred years...so clear and sweet...made of copper and gold...bullet hole...put there by Villa’s army...taken through the jail, it was very nice and clean. Oh! how it hurt to see an American woman in jail. There were several American men...the old Cemetery.... I must say this was a very enjoyable tour of 2000 miles. Left at nine o’clock on Monday July 17, 1933, arrived back in Bonham at five A.M. on Monday 24th.

    1936:  Lelia will be the administrator of her father’s will.  “To my daughters, Lelia Hall and Vera Hall...I leave a life estate in my interest to the said Homestead...for their natural lives....”

    In the month her father died at home in Mulberry, Lelia received the following letter from Gayle Norman, 2nd, “Psychologist-Mentalist, World Radio Tour, from Laredo, Texas.” It was dated January 27, 1936:


    Dear Friend: There will be no oil in paying quantities found on your property.

    You will have a most profitable and successful crop during this year.

    You will never recover the money you lost.

    You will be happily married within eleven months to a person unknown to you at the present time, but whom you will meet in the coming five months.

    I will appreciate hearing from you when the answers materialize.     Sincerely


John Click’s Last Letter to Lelia

dated January 14, 1938

My Dear Friend,

    I believe I promised to write you but have put if off until now. Everything of course worked out O.K. So we decided last Sunday to marry next Wed. 19th. We went to Dallas the 3rd and Tressy bought her dress, etc. I had her diamond remounted in Natural Gold ring and got a wedding ring with 7 (small) diamonds, her new mounting also had 4 diamonds on sides, so you of course know that she is very happy and appreciative of them (and me). She, as I have told you, is my lifelong ideal and we are sure that we will be as happy a couple as has ever lived.

    I am sure that we have your very best wishes, and in return may I wish and hope for you a very happy, long, healthful life and that your ambitions may be fully realized. You have been so kind to me. I shall always remember you as one of my very best friends.   

    Love to Joe, Vera and yourself.        John

    P.S. If there is anything you care to write me please do so, but so I shall get it not later than Wed.... So far as I know this is my last letter until we start life anew.  

After her father’s death Vera (above right) married Joe Neathery

Lelia never married.

Christmas 1967: Gladys writing

    Clayton and I had been invited earlier to eat Christmas dinner with Lelia and Vera.... Jack Neathery was there.  He has no wife now.  I don’t know if they have a divorce or not, but he told the girls he had worked for forty years trying to please her, buying home after home, and that he is finished.  He retired December 1 and is staying with Merle.  He said, “I find my sister a delightful person and I am at peace.”  I feel sorry for him, and I know he will be so much company to Lelia and Vera.  They are crazy about him.  He sat at the head of the table and carved the turkey very nicely.  They had a delicious meal, and we had a good time. 

    It was real funny.  While the girls were fixing dinner, I did not want to bother them so I went to talk with Jack and Clayton.  Jack said, “I retired, so now I am going back to the old family trait of doing nothing.”  A twinkle came in his eye and he laughed aloud, as he knows that’s exactly what we thought about his father all these years.  Joe, the old grandfather, and now the son Jack.  We laughed with him.  He served us coffee from his coffee plantation in Columbia.... Very good. 

    1968 May 5: ... About an hour ago, Lelia called me to come down there.  She said there was somethi
ng upstairs she wanted to show me.

    At this point, I need to go back to five or six or maybe eight weeks when one day I told Lelia and Vera that Sandra would like to have Mrs. Hall’s trunk.  They ignored me.  Then last Sunday when they were here to see Kim, I said, “Kim sure would like to have her great grandmother’s trunk to put her clothes in.”  The two sisters looked at each other swiftly, mumbled a few words, and sauntered toward the door.... Sandra said, “Well, I guess that’s settled.  Someone else has asked for it.”  I kept thinking about this, and so on Tuesday Vera came by late in the evening to bring the eggs.  I said, “Vera, I feel that I should apologize for asking for the trunk.  If someone else has asked for it, or if you wish someone else to have it, that is quite all right.  I just felt that I was asking for something that no one else wanted, and I’m sorry I mentioned it.”  Vera said, “That’s alright.  We haven’t promised it to anyone yet.”     

    So back to today.  Lelia took me upstairs and showed me the trunk.  It can be made beautiful.  She said to tell Gary to come after it at night, and that Kim can have it....

    1971 October 24:  Lelia and Vera came.  They talked about the church and how difficult it seems for Richard to preach to this bunch at Mulberry.  Lelia says she can see that we are just freezing him out.  They enjoyed your letter.... Lelia says, “He and all of you are all we have.”

    1976 Sept 7: Greg was at Edna’s this weekend while Lelia and Vera were there. Lelia was ready to go and she said to Vera, “Come on, Darling.” So Betty was right when she said that Vera is Aunt Lelia’s baby.... I can’t say that Vera would be any more lost than Lelia. Of course, Lelia has more things to do than Vera and could carry on with the World Book business, her ability to drive and her knowledge of Fannin County, plus her ability to make friends.

    1982 December 31: Aunt Lelia has not been feeling well and Alma Ruth took her to the doctor today.... She told me that Vera is not doing any good at all...is going down all the time....

    1984 September 14:  I have a little more information about Aunt Lelia and the bees.  She was using a hoe as a walking cane when she went out to check on the burn-barrel.  As she stood there with her hoe, she began to chop down the tall weeds.  When she did, bees came out all over her.  One got behind her glasses and stung her in the corner of her eye.  They stung her head and neck, so she said, “I’m dying!  I’m dying!” and Vera called out, “Don’t do it!  Don’t do it!”  As soon as she got in the house she called Alma Ruth....

    1985 April 3:  ... I called Lelia and told her how Louise appreciated the pie, and how nice it was of her to do this.  Then Lelia called and said that Vera has been upset that she was not recognized, as she helped to make it.  Then Lelia said, “You know, Vera always thinks I get all the credit....”  I was stunned.

    Vera Tennessee died in a nursing home on May 25, 1989. She was buried near her father and mother at Bonham’s Willow Wild Cemetery, beside Joe.

    Both past ninety, Lelia and Vera did not share the same room. Lelia kept her telephone and took a great interest in the family of her new roommate. For the first time alone, Vera suffered all  the indignities of old age. At a memorial service she was identified with the Halls of Mulberry  and, according to her wish, was “Mrs. Joe Neathery, survived...” by step-children, Merle and Jack, and all their children.

    I asked Aunt Lelia about the Victrola that Aunt Vera never gave away. She was noncommittal, but called back the next day to say she had something to tell me. We couldn’t talk about it on the telephone. I said I thought Elizabeth should have “it” because she had done so much for Aunt Vera. “No, Vera would want you to have it. And take the little scarf she made to go on top.” The next week brother Gary helped me move the Victrola to my house. Elizabeth had said, “It isn’t necessary to buy a new one. She has dresses we can use,” but Mrs. Joe Neathery was buried in a new dress.

    Gladys said Lelia became “more admirable” with every passing year, though old habits, on both sides, died hard. After she left Mulberry for Bonham, and before going to a “nursing home” herself, she wrote:

    ...I was very rude to Aunt Lelia yesterday and today. I’m sorry, but she was trying to trick me into doing what she wanted me to do, and I was in a bad mood. My head still doesn’t feel right, and I’ve been worried about it...so when she invited me to come down to the Mulberry Revival, I flew out at her and told her I wasn’t going anywhere, so just now I had to apologize. She said she knew I didn’t mean it, so I had to tell her that Yes I did mean it, then I hung up because I was afraid I would be ugly again. I’m in a bad way. I guess I just need to start quilting....

    When Aunt Lelia was hospitalized for the last time, I helped out in a round-the-clock vigil. Elizabeth and Alma were with her every day. Jerry and Patsy were there the night she died, July 22, 1989. Aunt Lelia told Alma she had a dream, or vision, that the house in Mulberry, her father’s house, had burned. Alma said, “No, Aunt Lelia, it didn’t.” But she replied, “Oh, I know you wouldn’t tell me. That’s alright. It’s ashes now.” Lelia Hall was buried beside her father and mother at Willow Wild, not in Mulberry.

photo: Lelia, Vera and Allie Hall