As Diane McAdams Gladow's family history comes to life in her book, “A Journey of Voices: Stewards of the Land,” so do the little communities that once existed in southern Cherokee County.
When her maternal great-grandfather, Silas Crume came to Texas in 1853, “bringing wagons and a bunch of slaves … he picked out spot in Cherokee, where Pine Town used to be and built his own little world,” Gladow said. “He had farmland; he built a grist mill, saw mill, a gin for his cotton. His house was sitting on the old Palestine-Rusk road, so it was a stage stop (for travelers). And his wife served as postmistress of the town for a while.”
While the “Journey of Voices” books are meant to share family history, “the purpose also is to show the growth of the area, even the changes in agriculture (that affected residents' lives) – it helps us see how things were moving away from small town farming” and how once-thriving communities are now just names found in documents, she said.
“Pine Town is completely gone, Java is gone, although there is a sign near the railroad tracks,” Gladow said.
A retired educator, Gladow said her avid interest in history combined with a treasure trove of material passed from one generation to another of her mother's family led to the decision to write the books.
“When I became the holder or 'keeper' of my family’s considerable number of documents, letters, and old objects, I saw the link between (our) history and the history of America,” she explained. “I decided to use the letters, old documents, and diaries to tell (their) story … I did not want to write just another genealogical book of facts; I wanted to tell my family’s story as it connected to American history, a story told in many cases through their own voices.”
She said the material – which includes letters, old land records, documents and photos – “were contained in an old hump-back trunk which was passed down” over the years through the family.
“I actually had two trunks, one from my father’s side of the family and one from my mother’s, and I have around 400 letters which stretch from the Civil War period to the 1950s.”
These provided a good starting point, but it took time – about 15 years, she estimated – to research and verify that material.
“I found that there were many holes that I needed to fill in and family stories to verify.”
So Gladow began researching documents from county courthouses and genealogical/historical libraries, even traveling to the various locales where her family had lived and meeting with descendants of the folks who'd carefully added their letters and documents to the humpback chest.
The biggest – and most surprising – discovery during this period? Locating the site of a handful of graves belonging to family members whose location had been lost for a century and a half.
Crume Cemetery, located in Kentucky, is where Mary Lincoln Crume – the aunt of President Abraham Lincoln and a distant cousin of Gladow's – is buried.
“There was a number of family members missing, and we thought they might be buried together (but) we didn't even know for sure” where they had even lived, she said.
“But there was a place called Crume Valley, at the edge of Breckinridge County in Kentucky. A friend helped me re-search the archives to locate cemeteries in that area, but he wasn't getting anywhere (since) we knew they wouldn't be in an established cemetery.”
As luck would have it, an older woman overheard her friend's conversation and told him about an old cemetery out near where she lived, “and that there were supposed to be Lincoln relatives buried there.”
That location turned out to be “in the middle of a big field, and it's a little area that has not been planted (because) people always knew not to plant there, because something was there,” she said.
After contacting the owner and doing further research, and with the help of a grave douser – who follows the same basic principal of locating underground water sour-ces using dousing rods, except the search is for graves – “sure enough, we found 13 graves out there,” Gladow said.
“We'd been very lucky because there had always been fields planted around” the site, so the graves remained un-touched, albeit overgrown, she said.
“There were three generations who owned the land and kept that area (separate), they never planted on that particular spot.”
“Stewards of the Land” – a title chosen to acknowledge the members of the family who not only settled an area but who “saw the value in the land and it was very important to him” – has been a labor of love in which Gladow incorporates not only the voices of long-gone ancestors who penned letters and missives, but ties in the roles of her mother and herself, too.
“My mother did most of that work (assembling the materials) and put the (lineage) together – what I had done was put names and dates together (for her books),” she said. “I put in short chapters (with conversation be-tween her and her mother), so you get a feel of the past, but we're present, too.”
Three generations of Crumes lived in Cher-okee County: Silas, who moved here in the mid-19th century, his son Gus (a railroad depot agent), and Gus's daughter (Gladow's mother) Lura Gladys.
While her mother was raised in West Texas, she had strong ties to East Texas – especially with her parents buried in a Maydelle cemetery – often bringing a young Gladow to visit.
“When I was a little girl, my parents used to go back, visit a couple times a year when my grandmother still alive,” Gladow recalled.
“We would make trips to see them, and eventually, when gm died, my mother and I went back to Maydelle because she wanted to see it again. She'd take me around and show me stuff there.”
The “Journey” books recount the story of her Crume family, yet the author said she hopes readers find more than just a telling of one family, but realize that their own family histories ties in with the national and global events of the time.
“So many of the stories in my books are not common just to my family – everyone’s family members were a part of the history in the time in which they lived,” she pointed out.
“Often I get the comment from readers that their family experienced some of the same things that mine did.
“I want my readers to see American history as the lives of their ancestors. ... If they have any family stories at all … they're going to (share similar elements),” she said.
“It's going to remind them, 'Oh yeah, I heard that kind of story from my grandma.'”
“A Journey of Voices: Stewards of the Land” is available online at www.amazon.com and the Barnes & Noble site, www.bn.com. Readers also can order it from local bookstores or through the author's website, www.dianegladow.com.