My grandmother, Eva Caroline Smith, was born in Select, Ohio County, Kentucky, in 1889, the third daughter and fifth child in a family of nine children. Her parents were James Thomas Smith and Sarah Sanders. Her paternal grandparents were Thomas Smith, (Jr.) and Catherine "Kitty" Ann Jenkins; her maternal grandparents were Charles Sanders and Fidella Porter - all of Ohio County, Kentucky. Eva Caroline Smith had four brothers and four sisters. She was the fifth child and third daughter born to her parents.
In 1908 at her parent's home at age 19, she married Jasper Newton Cox, 24, who only months before had been discharged from the Army after serving five years. They had grown up together in the same town, being neighbors, and attended the Select School together. The first date they ever had was to go to church. "Newton didn't have his own buggy, and always hired one to go courting in. It seemed like he always picked the wildest horse he could get at the livery stable," she told me. "And so," she said, “they had been married 66 years when he died in 1974 at the age of 90.
Newton and Eva Cox had three children, Gilbert Owen who married Frances Altman;
March 10, 1977 tape: Grandmother: “Yes, I had a sewing machine. The first one I had came from Sears and Roebuck. We were living on a farm in Kentucky. Eula Mae was a baby. I was so proud of that machine.”
Every year, her birthday on March 31 was a big event and everyone who could, came to help her celebrate it. As long as she lived in her own home, it was celebrated there; after she moved to Tyler to live with her youngest daughter, it was celebrated at my aunt's home. All her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren tried to come, if possible. In 1988 she reached a milestone and celebrated her 99th birthday. Her three daughters gave a party for her at Darrell's home, and as always there were flowers, a beautiful cake with candles, and punch. We all called on her to make a wish, to which she promptly stated, "I hope you all live to be a hundred. You deserve it."
A wonderful story teller, Eva Cox recounted spell-binding stories of family happenings and day-to-day living in an era that is gone forever. As her oldest granddaughter, I visited her frequently to collect her life history. Though it was hard times, she made even the Depression years seem exciting! She left a legacy - her life history, preserved on cassette tapes over a 17-year period, which will ultimately become the basis for my book about her life, her parents, brothers and sisters, and her grandparents, one of whom was a Civil War soldier. He was Thomas Smith, who fought on the Union side, and was captured by a group of Confederates on New Year's Day near Bowling Green, Kentucky in 1862. He never returned home from the war.
While Eva Cox did not make much history herself, she lived through some of the most momentous years in recorded history. Seventeen presidents of the United States were inaugurated after her birth. Several have sent her greetings, including one on her 99th birthday from President and Mrs. Reagan. Numerous wars have been fought, won and lost.
My grandmother's early Kentucky tales recall the family smokehouse, making syrup and soap, moving from their old log house to a new two-story log house built by her father when she was five, home chores, her brothers and sisters, play parties, church activities, and her courtship and marriage. Her tales filled many pleasurable hours for our family members while sitting out on the back porch, or after a special Sunday dinner while sitting around her dining table.
She told many stories to her grandchildren when they were young. I asked her once if the stories were true, and she chuckled and said, "Some were, but some I made up." All of the stories, though, were very entertaining. When she was trying to get us to take a nap, we lay on the bed and she played little games with us, which we will always remember. Her favorite songs were "My Old Kentucky Home," "Little Brown Church in the Wildwood" and "Sweet Hour of Prayer." When she lived in Kentucky, she and her sisters and families attended the old Bald Knob Church.
Every year everyone in the family who was home went over to her house to watch the Kentucky Derby with her. My grandmother always tried to watch it, and when they played "My Old Kentucky Home" before the race started, one time she rose from her chair and stood with her hand on her heart. She said there was no other song like that one; it always reminded her of her home and native state, and so it was another of her favorites.
Eva Caroline Smith
Mar 31, 1889 – December 4, 1988
Darrell left me her copy of Grandmother's "Day Book" that was written by her own mother, Sarah (Sanders) Smith, for each of her children. (She died a year later, November 20, 1931). It was a long, thin, gray, canvass-covered ledger book...100 pages. At the end Sarah Smith wrote:
"June 18, in the year 1930" -- below this date she wrote these words:
"Mrs. Eva C. Cox, My Daughter, this Book is written in Rememberance
of your Mother. With lots of love. Mrs. Sarah Smith."
What a great thing for her to do and she must have worked diligently a little bit each day to make one of these for each of her eight living children. It must have helped to pass lonely days, and she realized how valuable it would be for each of her children to have - "lest they forget."
She wanted them to know where their roots were. She was undoubtedly a very smart and intelligent woman, with great common sense.
She was still telling her life stories to me, even six months before her death. She had a wonderful recall and memory, and a dry wit, coupled with a soft-spoken voice that had just a hint of a
brogue. She almost made it to her 100th
birthday; she was ill for about four months and died at the age of 99 years,
eight months and six days.
My mother, Frankie Cox and my grandmother, Eva Cox
Her obituary which appeared in the Tyler Morning Telegraph on Monday, December 5, 1988 is quoted here:
"Mrs. E. C. Cox Services Tuesday"
Services of Mrs. Eva Caroline Cox, 99,
, are scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Tuesday
in the Lloyd James Funeral Home chapel with Dr. Paul W. Powell
Burial will be in
Rose Hill Cemetery
in . Mrs. Cox died Sunday in a Tyler
hospital after a lengthy illness. Tyler
She was born March 31, 1889 in
. She was a housewife. She had been a resident
Kentucky Texas since 1919, living in New Summerfield
for 40 years and
for four years. She was preceded in
death by her husband, J. N. Cox in 1974 and a son, Gilbert O. Cox in 1984. Tyler
Survivors include three daughters, Mrs. Darrell Appl, Tyler, Mrs. Eula Mae Smith,
Leoti, Kansas, and Mrs.
Retha Green, ;
six grand-children, 12 great-grandchildren, and nine great-great grandchildren. Corpus Christi
Interment will be in