Boydton, Virginia. Written at the age of ninety-two with the help of her son, Frank, this memoir recalls the life of this woman who learned to face life's challenges with an open mind and to live life in peace.
The story follows
Mary as she grows up with her parents and siblings on "the hill" in a small southern town where things didn't change much, and it continues through a journey of survival during the Great Depression. My Memoirs chronicles her sixty-five-year marriage to Frank (Pete) Wray and of raising their family of three children. Mary passed away January 21,
2010. Communicating a sincere appreciation of family, this memoir contains special words written by a special woman of wisdom. It provides a new direction, a new beginning, a sense of peace.
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About the Author
Boydton, Virginia. She attended Boydton High School and went to nursing school in Baltimore, Maryland. She and her husband, Frank (Pete), lived on the Eastern Shore of
Virginia for sixty-five years. Wray wrote My Memoirs when she was ninety-two years old.
Read an Excerpt
Sweet Southern DaysHow These Memories Flood My Soul
By Mary Webb Wray Frank Alexander Wray
Trafford PublishingCopyright © 2010 Mary Webb Wray And Frank Alexander Wray
All right reserved.
Chapter OneA THOUGHT
Youth is not a time of life-it is a state of mind. Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years; people grow old only by deserting their ideals. Years wrinkle this skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. Worry, doubt, self-distrust, fear and despair: these are the long, long years that bow the head and turn the growing spirit back to dust.
Whether 110 or 10, there is in every human being's heart the love of wonder, the sweet amazement of stars and star like things and thoughts, the undaunted challenges of events in everyone's life, the unfailing child-like appetite for what next, and the job and the evergoing game of life.
Yes, you are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt, as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear, as young as your hope, as old as your despair. Yes, you are very young.
My state of mind tells me I am still young even though some will say to me, "Mary, I cannot believe your age." Why should I care about my age because God Almighty is not yet finished with me. Perhaps I can still touch a life in a positive way or still feel the tender touch of a child or feel the warm arms of one of my children around me on a lonely day that may give a ray of sunshine. A flower created by God and its beauty forever does not like to be stomped upon and taken from this earthly scene nor does humanity of all ages. Life is precious and I thank Him as He is blessing me as He has always done for me. ______M.W.W.
THE WEBB CHILDREN
MY parents: Lewis Presley Webb and Sally Robertson were Married by Mr. J. T. Sewell, April 14, 1909
1. Sara Robertson Webb, born April 25, 1910 on Monday night at 10 pm at the homeplace in Boydton, Virginia, and she weighed 8 1/2 lbs, baptized at Mrs. Laird's by Dr. Smart.
2. Margaret Miller Webb, born September 29, 1911 on Friday 7am and she weighed 8 1/4 lb, baptized March 12, 1912 by Dr. Smart.
3. Nell Wayles Webb, born June 16, 1913 at 7:30 pm, weighed 10 pounds, baptized n Mrs. Laird's arms at her home by Mr. Scott on November 22, 1913.
4. Lewis Presley Webb, born March 16, 1915, weighed 9 1/2 lbs, baptized by Mr. Kabler.
5. Mary Adelaide Webb, born July I, 1917 on Sunday at 7am, weighed 8 pounds, baptized by Dr.. Whitney. 6. Bess Johnson Webb, born June 22, 1919, baptized by Dr. Whitney.
7. Virginia Laird Webb, born February 22, 1921, baptized by Dr. Whitney.
God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform He plants His footsteps in the sea, And rides upon the storm.
His purpose will ripen fast, Unfolding every hour, the bud may have a bitter taste, But sweet will be the flowers. _______W. Cowper How wonderful are His ways__________M.W.W.
Humans have 46 chromosomes, each animal has its own number. ______Quest Magazine
Glimpse of Heaven
Isaiah-30-26. Isaiah 60-19-20. Revelation-21-23.
How These Memories Flood My Soul ...
Memoirs compiled by Mary Adelaide Webb Wray, January 2008 as Mom told them to me, Carol Ann Wray Barrineau
We children knew that all was well when we would see Mama and Daddy sitting in each other's laps in the kitchen.
Words were not spoken, but I knew Daddy knew we wondered why we didn't have money like other children did. Daddy said, "We don't have money, but we have blue blood running through our veins. For a long time, I thought our blood was blue! Then Daddy would say, "Our lineage goes back to George Washington, and we have records to prove it." And Mama would say that on her Robertson side, their lineage went back to Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland (in the year 1320); (I have the papers in my trunk showing our lineage goes back to these dates).
Daddy always put his coppers (pennies) on the mantel in their room. I took a few coppers and bought a few pieces of candy for Mama and me. Mama sat at her sewing machine so much and I thought it would give her a boost. I knew Nell would sweep the front porch so before she swept, I planted the coppers at the front porch in the red clay dirt. I went out and dug up the coppers while Nell was sweeping. I said, "Nell, look what I found!" Nell said, "Mary, you are the luckiest thing I ever saw." I didn't tell her the truth until we were teenagers.
There were six of us: five girls and one boy, the one lonely boy. There used to be seven of us, but little Margaret died when she was 8 years old. We were all born at home, a home built on a hill. My grandfather, Dr. Robert T. Webb, was the overseer, and the home was just one mile out of the county seat (Mecklenburg) of Boydton, Virginia.
Nell had a photo album. I took a picture of me out of her book for my boyfriend and she didn't like that and fussed with me. That was bad, but the worse thing was when I dug up her moss rose bush, thinking it was a weed! She was so mad that I could see the veins come up in her neck-then I knew she was mad-but she forgave me.
My oldest sister, Sara, was a little bossy. I stood right in the middle of the back yard and proclaimed as loud as I could to the world and to Sara: "You may be the boss of the barnyard, but you "ain't" the boss of me!"
When it was my time to wash dishes, I wouldn't wipe off a place for my sister to put the clean dishes. Not until my sister would call Mama from the next room: "Mama, Mary won't wipe off a place to put the dishes."
Mama would say, "Mary, wipe off a place," then I would do it. Mama was my only boss.
I must have been mighty stubborn, even with Mama. I had to hang out the washed clothes on the clothes line and any where I could find a place to hang them: on the fence, on the bushes-anywhere. She asked me to hang out a week's clothes for 8 people on Saturday. No way would I do it! She then asked me to get a switch from the peach tree. I took my own dear sweet time. I went in the house with a tiny switch and when Mama saw it, she laughed and hugged me. I hung out the clothes to dry ...
When Mama was a child, she used to ride in a horse-drawn sleigh.
We stood behind Daddy while he shoveled the snow from our home to the highway so we could walk the mile to school.
One summer, Dick Lewis, a traveling comedian, would come to Boydton. One particular time was in 1927. When the show was over, it was pitch black and we had that 1 mile walk to home. There was Lewis, Bess, Virginia, and me. Lewis had just gotten some long, white sailor bell-bottom pants. They were real wide at the bottom. We were running home. I could beat Lewis running, because his pants kept wrapping around his legs and I giggled to myself. Years later, I asked Lewis why he didn't protect us. He said that he was just as afraid as we were!
Bolling Robertson, my cousin from Petersburg, and I were the same age. He grew up to become a missionary in Liberia, Africa, for all his adult life. His mother mailed us a cute picture of his sister, Mary Evelyn and Bolling and in the picture, Mary Evelyn was standing by a pony and Bolling was sitting on the pony. Well, I was jealous and tore that picture up! Of course, I had to admit it to Mama-I was the guilty one. Mama whipped me, I guess, but I don't remember her doing it.
When Bolling and I were 14 years old, I asked Bolling to say the Books of the Bible from memory. He said every one, without hesitating, and I knew right then that he was going to be a man of God
Mr. & Mrs. Thompson's farm joined ours. They had children and one son, Ray, and I played together; both of us were 8 years old. We were playing around their open well and I wanted some water. A new bucket was at the end of the rope. I was holding on to the bucket, but the latch wouldn't hold. I was holding on tight. As I stood on my tip-toes, I could feel myself going in the well. Ray pulled me back. Now, I think it had to be an angel. I skinned my arm real bad with the rope going so fast and when I went home Mama asked what happened to my arm. I told her that Ray hit me with a plank as I didn't want her to know what really happened. So Mama marched herself to Mrs. Thompson's and asked why Ray did this. Mrs. Thompson told her the truth. Mama came back home and questioned me. She didn't fuss with me because, I guess, she was so happy I didn't go in the well.
Alberta Hill lived on the property; she named her daughter Mary after me. Alberta and her husband would come to see us on Saturday night and he would play his guitar and sing to us. We pulled up chairs in the hallway to listen. He played and sang beautiful songs.
When Mama closed her old foot-pedal sewing machine up, we used it as a dressing table to "primp." She later got a new foot-pedal sewing machine.
When I became a teenager, I used to dream about falling in a well so many times. I would sit right up in bed thinking about the dream, then go back to sleep, so happy it was only a dream.
Mama made our dresses and underwear with chicken feed bags and she made Lewis' underwear with them, too. We'd wear our pretty dresses that Mama made to church and school.
When I was around 7 years old, I put a piece of grass in my mouth and the blade of grass slid down my throat, stopping midway. I told Lewis that I had a piece of "grass" in my throat and he took my hand and we both ran home to Mama. Lewis told Mama that I had a piece of "glass" in my throat but Mama knew that I had said "grass" and not "glass." Mama gave me a piece of bread and water and I swallowed the blade of grass.
During recess at school, we would play "snap the whip." Everyone would hold hands, forming a circle, and then run around and around. After a while, people would let go of the other's hand until there was only one person left.
When Sara was 18 and before she went to nursing school in Baltimore, Stewart Hawkins sold us our first washing machine, a Maytag. Before we had our Maytag, we would wash clothes using a wash board and a big tub. Stewart Hawkins came to the house and he liked Sara. He liked to sing and as they were walking around the house, he would hold Sara around her waist singing, "Girl of My Dreams, I Love You."
After school and when it was warm, we would stop by the town yard spring and drink water from the spring using our tin folding cups. We would leave the cups at the spring and after school, we would drink the water. First, though, we had to run the tadpoles away before filling our tin cups with water. We each had our own cup.
On the other side of Webb's Creek and close to an old chimney and abandoned piece of land, we would pick blackberries from wild bushes. There were snakes there but they never bothered us; there were surely Angels around us. We would take the blackberries home to Mama for her to make blackberry dumplings and then she would make a sugar sauce to put on the blackberry dumplings. Mama was always happy when we would bring her the berries.
I was 8 years old and was walking on the path to home from the main road, and I heard the sound of a rattlesnake close by me. I ran as fast as I could up the path to home.
Another time when I was 8 years old, we used to play under a culvert and wade in the water. One day, I saw a water moccasin swimming in the water. I found a nice size rock and killed the dog-gone thing! I told Mama about seeing the snake and she asked me if I killed it and I said, "Yes." Mama and Daddy had so much faith because they knew their children were safe from all evil. We never had any fear of anyone or anything harming us when we walked to town and back.
At the Boydton Presbyterian Church, there would be black men standing on the sidewalk. When we would get close to them, they would move to the grass and stand there, tipping their hats at us as we walked by.
The potatoes we raised in the summer were harvested in the fall. We took them upstairs and put them in a large room above Mama and Daddy's bedroom downstairs. We would eat potatoes during the long, cold winter months and also feed the farmhands potatoes. All those potatoes piled up over Mama and Daddy's bedroom! It was a miracle that the floor never gave way with all the weight of the potatoes. After the potatoes were gone, we swept the floor and, using a piece of chalk, we would draw three lines to divide the room among Bess, Virginia, and me. Because we divided the room into three lines, we each had our own dollhouse. We pretended to visit each other with our dolls. While the other wasn't looking, we'd wet each other's dolls. Later, we'd go in the front yard with our dolls and play some more. We'd knock on a tree and visit each other with our dolls.
When we harvested tomatoes, we'd go in the garden with a wheel barrow. Smiling and laughing, we wheeled the tomatoes to the back door, took the tomatoes out, and put them on the kitchen table. We'd wash and peel them and Mama would boil them. We had a metal kitchen table and, not realizing what would happen, I put a hot, filled jar of the tomatoes on the table and the jar exploded. Mama didn't fuss with me but I learned a lesson!
My job before school was to let Mama's chickens out of the chicken house that was under the pear tree. I skipped to the chicken house. On my way, something happened. A gush of wind came to my right ear and a strong voice within the wind said, "You don't love God, you love me!" I murmured, "Yes I do love God!" For two mornings in a row, I heard the same thing, and then it left me.
Later in life, Pete and I had a good Christian friend, Mr. Albert Adolfson, and I asked him if this ever happened to him. He said no, but he had heard of people who had similar experiences.
We used to go to Mason's Lake, a lake not far from home. There was a floating float. As I was sitting on it, two young adults jumped on one end of the float. This caused me to slide off into the water, way over my head. I saw Mr. Mason starting to take his pants off to rescue me, but two younger boys rescued me.
Another time at Mason's Lake, I saw two of the most beautiful young teenagers walking out in the water, knee deep. I thought they had fallen from the sky (just kidding)! Later, I found out they were from Wilson, North Carolina. The brunet was Ava Gardner and I never did know who the blonde was. I knew who the brunet was, though. Ava Gardner was buried right there in Wilson, North Carolina.
At a quarry in Baltimore and not knowing it was a quarry, another couple, Pete, and I went off by ourselves to go swimming. They went hand-in-hand to waters edge and I sat down and watched them walk. They said I was a sissy. I kept looking, and all 3 just disappeared. I kept looking, walking out to where I last saw them. Then Pete hollered to me for me to call for help. I ran over a hill and hollowed for help. Two young men ran and pulled them out of the water. The girl couldn't swim and was pulling Pete and the other man down in the deep water with her. We found out that the quarry was so deep that they didn't know exactly how deep it was. After that, the quarry was fenced off. I know angels were with us.
Barier and Margaret Ann Adams had a small boat and they would take Pete and me fishing. On one fishing trip, you couldn't see land on either side. The fish were biting like crazy, so we were having a good time. All of a sudden, a bad storm came up and we were stuck. It was an electrical storm and we had no life vests on the boat. They were laughing at me because my hair was standing up straight on my head and the boat was rocking and they were catching fish! When we got back on land, I told them that I would never get in a small boat again, and I never did.
There is something grand and glorious in viewing the "glow to early morn." The feathered songsters make the air vocal with their notes of praise to the Great Creator (from Mary Epps Robertson's composition book, 1858).
When I was a child, there was a man who lived in the back woods not far from home. His name was Ransom Kanichet. We were afraid of him, but Mama wasn't. Ransom Kanichet would open the kitchen stove oven, get a hot sweet potato, and swallow it whole. You could see it go down his throat. He was so hungry. It was a sight to behold! Mama would give him clean clothes and tell him to go in the ditch, take off his dirty clothes and leave them in the ditch and put on the clean clothes. There was a path from our house and the main road. We got Jack, our dog, in on the act by telling Jack to sic 'em. We said sic 'em real loud. You should have seen Ransom running down that path! We said that he was running so fast that we could play marbles on his coat tails!
Daddy asked me to go with him and plant the garden in the "bottom." I didn't want to because Bess and Virginia got to stay home. I was 12 years old. I looked and saw Bess and Virginia running down the hill with a picture in Bess' hand. It was the first picture of Jimmy Jr. we had seen; he was 6 months old. I didn't want to put my hands on the picture because my hands were dirty from planting tomatoes. Daddy was so sweet talking to me as we worked. I didn't say much to Daddy because I was peeved with Bess and Virginia. Now, I'm so ashamed of myself!
Sara, our oldest sister, moved to far-away Baltimore to go in training to become a nurse. Before she left, Bess, Virginia, and I wanted something to remember her by so we asked her if we could have a little bit of her hair. "Yes," she said. This made us happy.
Excerpted from Sweet Southern Days by Mary Webb Wray Frank Alexander Wray Copyright © 2010 by Mary Webb Wray And Frank Alexander Wray. Excerpted by permission.
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Table of Contents
A Special Thank-You....................xix
How These Memories Flood My Soul ....................9
Revisiting "The Hill"....................33