Hardwired

About Me

Texas: Bob Jones

In attendance was Bob Jones’ grandson Dr. William Jones. Photo courtesy of the Southlake Historical Society. Art location: Bob Jones Park, Southlake, Texas. Artist: Seth Vandable.

My first giant schnauzer was named Shotz. One of her favorite pastimes, besides a walk in the park, was to simply go for a ride in her 4Runner. One morning, I loaded her into our SUV and we drove to north Southlake to check out a new park—Bob Jones Park. We walked the trails for over an hour, and then drove down Bob Jones Road to where it came to a dead-end. The land beyond the end of the road had been in the Bob Jones family since 1868—certified by the Family Land Heritage. I left the area wondering: “Who was Bob Jones?”

After reading about Bob Jones, I will say he was someone I wish I had known—a man who overcame the adversities of the time to become a prosperous landowner in the Roanoke-Southlake area and a well-respected rancher and family man. 

John Dolford Jones, nicknamed “Bob,” was the son of a white man, Leazer Alvis Jones, who bred racehorses in South Carolina, and his slave Elizabeth. Around 1859 Leazer left his white wife in Arkansas and moved to Texas with Elizabeth and his two sons Bob and Jim. They lived on a farm near Elizabethtown and the Medlin community, present-day Roanoke.

In 1861 Bob Jones was freed near the Medlin community, and herded sheep for a livelihood. He bought his first 60 acres of bottom land from his father and began to farm and raise livestock. His hard work increased his landholdings to 2,000 acres on the Tarrant-Denton county line. 

Living alone left a lot to be desired, so he took a friend’s advice and one weekend attended a dance in Bonham. There he met Almeady “Meady” Chisum, also born into slavery. Her father was cattle baron John Simpson Chisum, and his slave Jensie, Meady’s mother. In 1875 Bob and Meady were married and they eventually had ten children.

Like most pioneering families, the Jones family were self-sustaining farmers that planted a vegetable garden and orchard, and raised chickens, hogs, milk cows, and sheep, and planting cotton and corn for the livestock. Bob supplemented his income by raising horses. Many of his deals were made with only a handshake as collateral: debts settled when his “crops came in.”

As many have said, Bob Jones was an exceptional man who worked around life’s obstacles. Both he and his wife Meady valued education. When his children and grandchildren couldn’t attend white schools in a segregated society, that didn’t stop Bob. He’d hire teachers to teach at the church he built—Mount Carmel Baptist Church. 

After the school term ended, Bob hired a private teacher to live on his farm to teach his children spelling, history, English, arithmetic, and geography throughout the summer months. At one time he bought a home in Denton, and each spring, Meady and the children moved there so that the children could attend school, but that proved disruptive to farming the land. His solution? Build a one-room school house next to their home in Roanoke, which allowed the children to attend school year round and they could still tend to their farming chores.

In 1920, for the benefit of his children as well as other black children, he donated an acre to the county for “colored” schools and built Walnut Grove School near Bob Jones Park. By the 1940s, when not many of Jones’s grandchildren were still living in the area, several families were invited to the Jones community so that their children could be schooled.

Christmas Day 1936, Bob Jones passed away. Over 500 people, black and white, were in attendance at this funeral. Upon his death, Bob had divided his land among his children. One of the youngest, Eugie, swapped her land with her brother Emory, so she could keep the 40 acres that was the “home place.” 

In the mid-1940s, the Army Corps of Engineers began planning Lake Grapevine. Much of the original Jones land, situated along Denton Creek, was taken by eminent domain.

In 1948, the family home burned down, but Eugie and her husband McKinley rebuilt “just up the hill a piece” from the original homesite. Before Meady died in 1949, she told Eugie, “Don’t sell the home place. The children need a place to come home to.” 

In early 1950, tragedy struck again with the construction of the Grapevine Reservoir. When the plan changed to include the family home and the 40 acres around it, Eugie fought back. Long court battles ensued, but for two years, Eugie refused to give up her land. Then one day she received a letter saying she could keep the land but had to return the money. She slipped the uncashed checks into an envelope and sent them back to Washington DC.

My father once told me that there are two things in life you can never have enough of—land and trees. So to know that today most of Bob Jones’s land is under water is a sad finality for me.

In 1976, seated on a screened-in porch, gazing at the sailboats on Lake Grapevine, Eugie Jones Thomas recalled her childhood days as one of the ten children of Bob and Almeady Jones. 

She stated that Grapevine Reservoir hasn’t bothered her too much. There is a good fishing hole at the end of her road, but she keeps it open so that people can get to the “place where the fish always bite.”

“I have always worked and I have always been happy. I don’t worry or grieve. I have lived a good true life—a Christian and faithful life. You have got to have faith.” This philosophy of life has been the guideline of Eugie Jones Thomas, the granddaughter of John Simpson Chisum, for 90 years.

As many stated, and I agree, Bob Jones was an exceptional person—a heritage of work, education, family pride, self improvement, and a love of the land. 

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A Final Word on Garlic

Last week I posted my last thoughts on tomatoes. Well, I doubt that those were my last words on tomatoes anymore than I question if this post will be my final word on garlic. Never say never. read more…

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My Last Thoughts On Tomatoes

Red clouds scudded across an ice blue sky. The word “ice” appealed to me, especially when the temperature had already nudged 85 and the sun hadn’t even broken on the horizon. The thought alone had a cooling effect on what was to be another 100-degree day in Texas.

I wasn’t complaining about the heat, but days earlier my tomato plants were beginning to labor under the sun’s beating rays. Most had already given all they had to give and their abundant harvest was winding down. It had been a good tomato season, slow to start with an unusually cool and wetter spring than in years gone by, but the yields hadn’t disappointed. And my Romas have been some of the best I have ever grown—large, plump fruit, perfect for salsa and drying. Because this crop was so successful, I decided to experiment and keep some of the less desirable fruit for seed.

The idea to harvest my own tomato seeds came to me when I was about to toss out some “salad” tomatoes I had bought at Costco. They had sat in the refrigerator while we eagerly awaited for our own plants to set fruit and ripen. Always a long wait. I simply dug a hole, tossed the rotten “salad tomatoes” into it, and watered the area. Weeks later I had what I call “volunteers.” I transplanted eight of the most healthy looking specimens and am nurturing them from there.

I don’t normally grow smaller varieties of tomatoes, because I have a pet peeve about gardening. I love everything about planting a vegetable garden—everything—except picking small produce. One season of harvesting cherry tomatoes and I’ve never grown them again. It’s the tedium of picking that I detest.

With an abundance of Roma tomatoes from this year’s harvest, I decided to dry some to conserve freezer space. If you recall, I’ve sworn off canning as I’ve grown older, and our current “overflow” freezer is already full of spaghetti sauce made from last year’s harvest. Yes, I could make pesto, I have plenty of basil. Or pack the dried tomatoes in oil, but I elected to freeze them once they had been dried.

I also decided to try something new when it came to drying them. My dehydrator had long been donated, and the thought of sun-drying them was too labor intensive. It also conjured up a bad memory. As a teenager, I had visited a friend whose father dried his own fruit for his family’s consumption only. I was in awe of the racks upon racks of drying fruit in his huge barn, the ceiling equipped with row upon row of glass skylights. In awe until I saw two rats nibbling on a piece of fruit that had fallen from one of the racks. Knowing how agile these rodents can be I wondered if they could reach the racks of drying fruit. Enough said.

With a forecast of 100 degrees for the week, the prospect of heating up the house even one iota didn’t appeal to me, so I tried something new. I put the sliced tomatoes on the BBQ grill. Yes, you read that right. But I had a plan. I’d fire up the smoker system on our DCS.

Ignoring the instructions to fill the smoker tray with wood chips, as I had no intentions of wood smoking my tomatoes, I ignited the smoker burner and turned it to its lowest setting. I’d monitor the heat with a meat thermometer I keep inside the grill. My goal was to maintain the temperature at or below 170°F. For tomatoes dried in an oven, most recipes recommend slow-roasting them at a low heat of 250°F. Since I was in no hurry with them drying outdoors, I maintained a consistent temperature of 170 to 180 maximum.

First, I covered a metal cookie sheet with parchment paper, cut the Romas in half, and arranged them on the sheet. I sprinkled them with sea salt and placed the cookie sheet of tomatoes on top of another cookie sheet. The bottom cookie sheet sat directly on the grill top. The first batch burned slightly on the bottoms of the tomatoes, so the second cookie sheet acted as an added barrier between the grill top and the bottoms of the tomatoes.

In closing, I have a couple of tomato tips you might like to try. They’ve worked for me.

1. When growing tomatoes, clip off any new flowers until the plant is about a foot and a half tall. That way, the plant can support the weight of the fruit. Yes, I do use tomato cages, but this method gives the plants a sturdy start.

2. And, rather than grow a cluster of 5 or 6 smaller tomatoes, snip off two or three of the flowers. Less fruit, but the remaining tomatoes grow bigger, but not so much bigger that they are prone to splitting. You don’t want this.

Of course, these tips depend upon the variety of tomato you are growing.

Happy Gardening.

 

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