The second Sunday in May was officially proclaimed “Mother’s Day” by President Woodrow Wilson in 1914. Most families honor the women in their families with a special card or gift, often accompanied by a special meal. Statistics show there are more phone calls on Mother’s Day than any other day of the year. Growing up in Llano, it was customary for my mother to make a red rose corsage for me and a white one for herself from flowers growing in our own front yard to wear the church that Sunday. The red roses represented a living mother, while the white ones signified a mother who had died. My maternal grandmother died during the Flu Epidemic of 1919 when my mother was four years. This was prior to penicillin, so any infection could be life threatening. My personal interest in family research has given me a clearer understanding of the realities our female ancestors continually faced. Life for females was hard; their rigorous work schedule, pregnancies, childbirth, and child rearing took a physical toll on their health. Infant mortality was high, and deaths from birth complications were frequent for mother and child. Illnesses and contagious diseases lowered the life expectancy of all children. Without birth control, families were numerically large, meaning few mothers escaped the anguish of losing one or more children. In recent years, new information regarding the heritage of one of my great great great grandmothers has compelled me to reflect on the events she experienced during her lifetime. Looking into her life also gives insight to what life was like for pioneer women in Llano County’s formative years from 1850 to1870. It’s a tumultuous story, but a story that instills a deep appreciation for the difficulties these frontier women experienced.
My great great great grandmother, LUCINDA NULL ARNOLD, first came to Llano County not long after the county was created in 1856. Her husband, Levi V. Arnold joined his father, Elijah Arnold, his younger brother, William K. (Bill) Arnold, and their Shults in-laws along the Colorado River, where they had come from northwestern Arkansas in time to sign a petition asking the State to create a new county. Levi V. had originally come to Texas in the early 1840’s to join his sister, Mary Arnold Hill (David) in Harrison County. It was here that he met Lucinda Null, and the two planned to be married. They returned to the Arnold home in Scott County Arkansas, taking out a marriage license in Sevier County Arkansas as they passed through in July, 1842.
The first children of Levi and Lucinda were born in Arkansas, but the young couple returned to Harrison County Texas near the end of the Republic of Texas. By 1850, they moved to Van Zandt County, where Levi owned a town lot in Canton and worked as a cabinet maker. They remained there several years before deciding to join his father in Llano County. Perhaps they were slow to leave East Texas because Lucinda had already had to bear the burden of losing two of her children within a few months of each other. Family records document Permela Jane Arnold, age 6, and her infant brother, John A. Arnold, died respectively in June and December of 1851. It had to have been hard for Lucinda to leave the last tangible memories of these two children. Perhaps Levi thought it would help his wife cope with their loss if she lived in different surroundings. Llano County might be just the place for her to heal and start over.
Tax records show Levi remained in Llano County several years; these same records also show he moved to Hill County Texas prior to the 1860 Census. When the Civil War broke out, Lucinda found herself among many women whose husbands and sons went off to fight in the war. Both Levi and their oldest son, William Richard (Rich) Arnold, my great great grandfather, enlisted in Co. D, Parson’s Brigade, 19th Cavalry, to serve in the Trans-Mississippi units organized to prevent the Yankees from crossing the Mississippi River. Although other family members lived near Lucinda during this time, she is bound to have felt extreme stress as head of such a large household without the aid of a male figure. Asa, the oldest son still at home, was only eleven years old, and try as I’m sure he did, he was hardly able to provide the security Lucinda needed. As the war progressed, things only worsened. In 1863, Rich Arnold became too ill to travel with his regular unit camped in Dallas County Arkansas. The Union Army was on its way there, but his weakened condition forced him to stay behind. Levi refused to leave his son; when the Yankees arrived, both men were taken as captive POWS. They were in and out of several Illinois prisons before ending up at Camp Douglas near Chicago. The conditions in this prison were deplorable, but because the Yankees won the war, the only prison camp ever criticized for inhumane treatment of prisoners was the southern prison at Andersonville. Research now shows Camp Douglas was just as bad, compounded by extremely cold, harsh weather conditions.
Back home in Texas, Lucinda struggled. Texas came to the aid of persons in her predicament by having each county devise an Indigent List to provide help for the families of soldiers. The Arnolds showed seven persons in their Hill County home in physical need. Things continued to deteriorate. In November, 1864, Levi V. Arnold died of complications at Camp Douglas brought on by extreme diarrhea. He was buried with hundreds of other soldiers in the Chicago City Cemetery. Records verify his death, and a special monument has been erected in Chicago to remember the men who did not survive incarceration. Rich Arnold survived. After a prisoner exchange, he rejoined his mother in Hill County, but by 1867, Lucinda was determined to return to Llano County. She remained here the rest of her life, living on land fronting the Colorado River, four miles south of Old Bluffton. Soon after arriving, Richard married Delila Jane Atkison. The 1870 Census shows he and his wife are parents of an infant, Mary Lucinda (Mollie) Arnold, who became my great grandmother. Rich lived adjacent his mother, doing what he could to help his mother in a harsh environment, which by that time was frequently under attack by hostile Indians.
In 1925, Lucinda’s youngest son, Levi V. (Lee) Arnold, Jr. wrote his memoirs describing what it was like for a four year old boy to grow up in Llano County during the Indian Era. Except for his sister Margaret, the Arnold siblings were older and did not require the nurturing and comforting Lucinda had to provide for the two youngest children. It was difficult for frontier mothers to allay the fears of younger children when families were so frequently faced with life threatening situations. Lee’s memoirs tell how the family locked themselves inside their log home when Indians made their rounds during the week of the full moon. The Arnolds peeked through the cracks in the walls and watched Indians roam all over their property, riding horses in the corrals, like at a rodeo, before stealing them, then ravaging and destroying crops and family gardens. Younger children must have had terrible nightmares as the moon grew to fullness each month. There was also a constant fear children would be taken captive. Lee remembered playing near his house and coming upon a young Indian straddling a log eating salt intended for the livestock. The boy ran away, but that meant other Indians were also lurking around.
Indians weren’t the only family fear. Central Texas had a large population of mountain lions, and the animals had not learned to be fearful of humans. Although I have never read of a human who was killed or maimed by one of these predators, I have read several accounts alluding to the natural fear the early settlers had for these animals. According to Lee, one of his older brothers opened the door to their home one morning and found three or four adult mountain lions curled up asleep next to their chimney to keep warm. Coming back from Old Bluffton one day, something spooked the horse Lucinda was riding, and she was thrown from the horse, severely injuring her leg. Unable to travel, the children protected her from “wild animals” by hiding her in the brush, before hurrying to get help from the older brothers. Lucinda’s injury never healed, and from that time on, she was partially crippled.
But, this was not the last devastating blow in Lucinda’s life. As cattle herds and drives increased in Texas, young men longed to be drovers. When Lucinda’s middle son, Dan Arnold, turned seventeen, Richard Coffey agreed to take on Dan as a cowhand for his herds in Concho and Coleman County. All went well until June, 1870, when the cowhands were attacked by Indians soon after the men had gone for a swim. Dan was unable to get the bit back in his horse’s mouth, and in his attempt to get to safety, the horse overrode its destination, placing Dan in the midst of charging Indians. He was shot with arrows and scalped. The boy was tall and did not fit in the box that was provided, so his legs were wrapped in a blanket. He was buried where he was killed on a small knoll between Voss and Leaday.
Sadly, Lee writes in his memoirs that Lucinda never got over this final tragedy. Months later when the Coffey outfit came by to pay Dan’s wages in gold, Lee wrote that no amount of money in the world could ever replace the sadness that was in his mother’s heart. It appears from that time on, Lucinda’s physical and mental health continued to deteriorate. She died in 1874 and was buried in the original Old Bluffton Cemetery. Her tombstone and grave were moved in 1931 prior to Buchanan Dam, but after many years, the name and dates on the marker slowly disappeared. Within the past year, the old monument broke half in two. It is my intention to see that family members replace her grave with a new marker of some kind. Lucinda’s contribution to our heritage is too great to be lost to future generations. She endured many hardships, but she persevered. She still has a story to tell, and it is up to us, her descendants, to tell it.
SOURCES: QUEEN BEE (Levi V. Arnold Jr.’s memoirs); Arnold & Null family history; Wikipidia Online; Tax records from Llano and Van Zandt County; Civil War POW records;