James R. Reynolds

12/01/1853 - 04/09/1936

[Photo of Martha Jane Dukes]

James R. Reynolds was born on December 1, 1854, somewhere in Alabama, I believe it was Jackson county, although it may have been in Marshall county. I have heard tell that the area he came from was called Sand Mountain. He was the second son and one of ten children of John R. Reynolds and Pheba Catherine Story. James married his first cousin, Martha Jane Dukes on March 20, 1873 in Jackson county, Alabama and they moved to Cookville, Titus county, Texas sometime around 1888.

Although it is not known the exact date, why, or just how James and his family came to Titus County, it must have been a hard and dangerous journey. They may have came by covered wagon or the trip may have been made part way by river boat.

During the 1800's many early settlers traveled from the South to Baton Rouge down the Mississippi River and then took a steam boat up the Red River to near Clarksville or to Jefferson. From there it would have been a fairly easy trip along the Nacogdoches Road, or Cherokee Trail, as it was also called, to Titus county.

Jim, as he was know by everyone, spent his life as a farmer, and according to the 1910 Federal Census, he and Martha Jane, also known as Aunt Jane, had a total of fourteen children with nine still living. I have tried to place the known children in the best order that I was able to come up with. The children were as follows:

Dora Ann born in Jackson county, Alabama in January 1874. Dora Ann never married and died on February 27th, 1936 in Titus County, Texas at the age of 62.; Walter C. also born in Jackson county, Alabama on January 18th, 1876; Minnie Reynolds born in November 1879 also in Alabama, I believe that Minnie died at a early age, there does not seam to be any records of her or knowledge of her by other relatives. Next born was Henry Carter on November 14th, 1879 in Alabama.

Their next child, John Bun Pruitt who was born on May 18, 1882 also in Alabama, he had a twin brother Tommy M. who died in 1892. Thomas Pence Reynolds was born the 11th day of November, 1888 in either Alabama or Titus county, Texas, I am not sure just which it was. Mollie, who was born in December 1891 in Titus county and Nancy Lucenda who was also born in Cookville, Titus county, Texas in July, 1894.

Both Jim and Aunt Jane were well known around Cookville, Texas. There are many stories about Aunt Jane especially. Everyone I have talked to says she was quite a woman, and could be one of the meanest women around. It is believed that Aunt Jane had two thumbs on her left hand, and it is said that both of them loved to sing and play the guitars.

I was told by someone that at one time they only had one pair of shoes between the two of them and that they would each wear one shoe and cross their other foot under themselves on the bed while they played their music.

Other than the census records there is little if any written information on which I can draw my information as Traylor Russell wrote in his book "History of Titus County, Texas":

We must be content with considerably less than certainty. These men and their families lived and died without keeping much, if any, records. Their houses have been removed, destroyed by fire or rot, and in many instances their graves and stones have been leveled by the plow and destroyed. The documentary sources are few and widely scattered, and when found are meager and fragmentary.

Then to compound the confusion, there was the act of a county official, who, in 1895, in order to conceal a shortage in the county funds he handled, set fire to the courthouse in order to destroy all records. He got them all, including the indictment that had been returned against him.

These early settlers were not a learned people, and more often than not a cross testified to their signing an instrument. Their physical needs were few; a gun and its powder and lead, an axe, a knife, a skillet and iron pot, a few domestic animals, and if he was married, a few items of household equipment. The sun told the hours of the days and the changing seasons were his calendar. The wives who came with them deserve our admiration.

If life was hard for the men, what must it have been for the women. Loneliness for others of their sex added to the perils of living far from every comfort except the most primitive, made their lot an unenviable one. Their children were born without the benefit of physician, and often without midwifery. Sickness was common among the children, and too often fatal. And yet we wonder why they failed to keep proper records.

I believe that Martha Jane Dukes died in the winter of 1933 there in Cookville, Titus county, Texas. James R. Reynolds died on April 9, 1936, also in Cookville. They are both buried in the Cookville Cemetery. Jim and Aunt Jane may have been simple poor farmers, but just look at the many families that have been created by their children and their children's children.

We can all thank them for the hard times that they must have endured in order to give each of us a chance in this life. And, if they lived hard then we pray that they are having it easy and restful in Heaven.

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