Thomasson Family

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By Donald Earl McKinney, Jr
(Originally Published in“Wagon Wheels”, Logan Co Hist Soc, Fall 1990,Vol 10)


I have always been proud of my southern heritage. While growing up, my mother and grandmother often told me stories of their lives in Magazine, Arkansas. I guess I always had a great interest in my Arkansas roots but like most children, I didn't write down or record any of the interesting things I heard. My mother's maiden name was Eda Faye Thomasson and she was born and raised in Magazine. Her parents, Gordon and Hester (Jones) Thomasson came to Logan County when they were children. Mother left Magazine during World War II when she joined the Women's Army Auxillary Corps (WAAC's). Prior to entering the WAAC's in 1941 she was a nurse at the Sanitorium in Booneville. While serving as an Army nurse at Fort Riley, Kansas in 1943, she met my father, Donald E. McKinney, Sr. He was a young First Sergeant serving with the U.S. Cavalry who was born and raised on a cattle ranch in Wyoming. They were married July 18, 1943 and soon after, mother was discharged from the WAAC's. Dad served a combat tour in Burma during World War II and later received a battlefield commission as a 2d Lieutenant during the Korean Conflict. He retired from the Army as a Captain in 1962 and our family moved to Junction City,Kansas when Dad was appointed General Manager of the Fort Riley Credit Union. My father died July 7, 1988 of emphysema and other complications and is buried in the Fort Riley Military Cemetery. Mother now resides in Topeka, Kansas near where my brother Rick lives. I only live about 35 miles from Topeka so we all visit each other quite often. Being an "army brat" and living in many different places with my parents, I always looked forward to our occasional visits to Magazine. My brother Rick and I always envisioned Magazine as our "fantasy land." This was the land where our grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and all of the special and friendly people of the world resided. We would always get excited when we first sited the "big blue mountain" which was what we called Mount Magazine. We knew then that we would soon be pulling in to the driveway of our grandparents' home. I always had a dream of someday returning to and actually residing in my ancestral homeland.
(Note: Since this article was written, my mother, her sister Dorothy & husband Willis Page passed away.)
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Gordon & Hester (Jones) Thomasson (sitting)
With children:
Dorothy (far left), Gordon Jr standing, Ada Ruth (sitting), Eda Faye (far right)
Magazine, Arkansas

The Thomasson family came from a deep rooted, religious, southern background. They were not wealthy land barons, big city businessmen or influential politicians, but were typical of many of the pioneers of Logan County, hard working rural and small town people with old fashioned grass roots morality and common decency. If these seemingly insignificant stories of pioneer life are not recorded in some way, our ancestors, who worked so hard and sacrificed so much many years ago to become well respected citizens,will be forgotten forever. I am talking about your ancestors as well as mine. I am sure that many of you reading this article are descended from people who actually knew and were well acquainted with my ancestors.

The progenitor of the Thomasson family in Logan County was my Great Grandfather, Horace Gordon Thomasson, Sr. who was born March 28, 1872 near Cornerville, Lincoln County, Arkansas. He was the son of William Lafayette and Evelyn (Fish)Thomasson who were prominent farmers in Lincoln County, owning over 1000 acres of prime cultivated land. Horace's paternal ancestors left England during the 1660's and settled in Virginia. The succeeding generations of this Thomasson family drifted south into North Carolina and eventually York County, South Carolina, where Horace's father was born. According to family tradition, Horace's Grandmother, Elizabeth (Jackson) Thomasson, who was of Scotch-Irish descent, was distantly related to President Andrew Jackson who came from the same area of South Carolina. Horace's maternal ancestors were of English descent and came from New York and Connecticut, but later settled in South Carolina, Georgia, and eventually Oktibbeha County,Mississippi where his mother was born. Horace's father and his Grandfather Jason S. Fish were soldiers in the Confederate Army during the Civil War and several of his ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War.

Young Horace married Miss Ada Owen on April 26, 1896 in Lincoln County. She was born December 12, 1874 and was the daughter of John M. and Mary (Grumbles) Owen, who were farmers from Palmyra, Lincoln County, Arkansas. Her paternal Owen ancestors were of Welsh descent and came from South Carolina, but later settled in Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and eventually Tippah County, Mississippi where her father was born. Her maternal Grumbles ancestors were of English descent and came from Delaware and Maryland, but later moved to South Carolina and Alabama before settling in Arkansas. She too had several ancestors who served in the Revolutionary War while her Grandfathers John Err Owen and James H. Grumbles were soldiers in the Confederate Army during the Civil War.

While growing up on the family farm in Lincoln County, Horace Gordon Thomasson was always interested in mathematics, the sciences and intellectual pursuits. He decided to further his education at the Ouachita Baptist College at Arkadelphia. Before completing his education, he taught in several rural schools. After his graduation in 1903, Horace and his wife and young son, Gordon Owen Thomasson, who was born August 12, 1898 in Palmyra, moved to Bradley County, Arkansas where Horace accepted a position as Principal of the high school in Warren. He later accumulated many hours of correspondence work from the University of Arkansas. While in Warren, a second son James was born in 1904. Horace Gordon Thomasson and family moved to Logan County, Arkansas in 1905 when Horace accepted a position as Principal of the Booneville High School. While living in Booneville, he also served one term as State Representative in Little Rock. In 1910, he accepted the position of Principal of the Magazine Ouachita Academy at Magazine. At this time, the Magazine Ouachita Academy was a branch of the Ouachita Baptist College and was a very prestigious college preparatory institution which enrolled students from all over the state of Arkansas as well as other states. Several other children were born to Horace and Ada Thomasson, however, the only one to remain in Logan County the remainder of his life was their first son, Gordon Owen Thomasson (my Grandfather). As I mentioned above, James was born in Warren, Arkansas in 1904, Turner Thomasson was born in 1905, Angie Thomasson in 1908, Horace Gordon Thomasson, Jr in 1911 and Grace Thomasson in 1916. Gordon, James and Turner Thomasson also attended the Magazine Ouachita Academy where their father was Principal. James, Turner and H.G. Jr later moved to southern California where they raised their families. Angie married Jack Greer and moved to Ozark in Franklin County, Arkansas while the youngest daughter, Grace married Argus Pannell and moved to Tulsa where they resided for many years.

From 1921 to 1927, Horace Gordon Thomasson was Logan County's first County Superintendent of Schools. For many years he was also on the Board of Trustees for his Alma Mater the Ouachita Baptist College. He resigned as County Superintendent to become Principal of the High School Department of Arkansas Tech at Russellville, Arkansas. He later became Superintendent of the Ozark, Arkansas schools in 1930.

Horace retired in 1935 after over 30 years as an educator and returned to Logan County. He was elected County Judge from Logan County and served from 1937 to 1939. He resigned as County Judge when a stroke left him relatively incapacitated. Horace and Ada Thomasson were members of the Baptist church and were very active in church work. Horace also belonged to the Masonic Lodge. My Great Aunt Angie Greer who was the oldest daughter of Horace and Ada Thomasson has lived for many years in Ozark. She once shared with me some observations concerning her parents. "Yes, mother and dad were strict as parents according to today's standards, but with so much care and love, we didn't consider them strict. We had a real happy "growing up" home. Dad was strict in school because he thought schools were for teaching and learning. He was not harsh and always earned the respect of all. He joked and teased a lot. Former students continue to tell me how much they learned under Dad and how they still appreciate what he meant to them. He was a real educator."

Horace Gordon Thomasson, Sr died at the family home in Magazine on July 31, 1947, but his wife Ada lived for many years after his death. I wish I could have known my Great Grandfather, but he died when I was an infant. However, I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to visit with my Great Grandmother Thomasson several times when our family visited Arkansas. As one of her neices once described her "She was a real inspiration to all who knew her. She always saw the bright side of everything and you never "saw her down." And that is exactly how I remember my Great Grandmother. She would get on an airplane and visit her children in California, go fishing with her Great Grandchildren, research family history, and organize church and family reunion
activities when she was well over 90 years of age. She later moved from Magazine to Ozark and lived next door to her daughter, Angie Greer. Her optimistic spirit kept her going until her death at the age of 97 on December 19, 1971. Horace and Ada Thomasson are buried in Highland Cemetery, Ozark, Arkansas.

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As previously mentioned, only one of the children of Horace and Ada Thomasson resided in Logan County the remainder of his life. This was my Grandfather, Gordon Owen Thomasson, Sr. He came to Logan County with his parents when he was 7 years old and was educated in the Logan County school system. He later attended the Magazine Ouachita Academy at Magazine where his father was Principal. This is where he met his future wife, my Grandmother, Miss Hester Beatrice Jones, daughter of Dr William E. and Annie (East) Jones of Sebastian County, Arkansas. Hester was born November 17, 1895 in Charleston, Arkansas but later lived in Poteau, Oklahoma for a few years where her father practiced medicine. Her father practiced medicine in Paris as well as Magazine, Arkansas during the time she attended the Magazine Ouachita Academy, but later was a very prominent surgeon in Little Rock and was well known throughout Arkansas. My Grandmother also attended Crescent College at Eureka Springs before her marriage. Her parents also came from a rural farm background. Her paternal Jones ancestors, who were of Welch descent, came from South Carolina where her Great-Great Grandfather fought in the Revolutionary War. The succeeding generations of this Jones family later settled in Georgia, Tennessee and eventually Jasper, Newton County, Arkansas where Hester's father was born. Hester's maternal East ancestors came to Virginia from England during the 1660's and the future generations settled in Georgia, Illinois and eventually Independence County, Arkansas where her mother was born. Even though her paternal and maternal Grandfathers (Enoch M. Jones/Rev Martin Alonzo East) were southerners, from Sebastian County, Arkansas, they both strongly believed in the preservation of the Union and consequently enlisted as soldiers in the Union Army during the Civil War. Since this was a war of "brother against brother", I guess it wasn't that unusual that both of her Grandfathers had brothers who joined the Confederate Army.

Gordon Owen Thomasson married Hester Jones May 28, 1918 and they made their home in Magazine. While a student at the Ouachita Baptist College at Arkadelphia during the latter part of 1918, he joined the Army, but was soon discharged after World War I ended. He joined the Arkansas National Guard and later served with distinction as a Captain. He also received an appointment from the U.S. Government as a rural mail carrier in Logan County, which position he held for many years.

Gordon and Hester Thomasson had one son and three daughters, all born in Magazine. Their son Gordon, Jr, born in 1919, was killed in the Pacific during World War II. My mother, Eda Faye, was born in 1920. Dorothy Nell Thomasson was born in 1922 and later married Willis Page. Dorothy and Willis continue to reside in Magazine in the one story rock house that belonged to my Grandparents. The youngest daughter, Ada Ruth Thomasson, was born in 1923. She married Paul Smith of Magazine and they now reside in Branson, Missouri.
Mother told me that her parents were fairly strict in the old fashioned religious and moral sense of the word, but they were good natured about it and not petty or cruel. Mom, along with her sisters and brother, respected their parents and wanted to please them. If they misbehaved, they were not fearful of harsh punishment, but they felt ashamed that they had let their parents down. Gordon and Hester Thomasson earned the respect of their children rather than demand it through intimidation and fear. Mother said their father had the uncanny ability to always find out if his children went somewhere they were not supposed to go or do something they were not supposed to do. Mom said her father was a big tease with his children just as his father was. He was the type of man who rarely raised his voice in anger to anyone. He was the first to awaken in the morning and he often cheerfully sang the following refrain from an old Army ballad to his "sleepy-eyed" children, "Oh, how I hate to get up in the morning, Oh, how I hate to get out of bed."

I was six years when my Grandfather died and only remember bits and pieces about him during our visits to their home. He was an avid outdoorsman and sports enthusiast and gained a reputation as an outstanding fisherman as well as a bird, squirrel and deer hunter. I remember one instance when he and fishing buddy Roy Martin were standing in front of the Grandparents' rock house holding up a catfish. Roy Martin was about 6 feet 6 inches tall and I vividly remember that catfish being almost as tall as he was. I also remember when Granddad came home from a deer hunting trip with a well antlered head of a buck deer. He fished and hunted throughout the entire state of Arkansas. His other fishing and hunting buddies included Earl Brown, Troy Barker, Emmett Brewster but as my mother said "Daddy took turns but sooner or later he fished and hunted with practically everyone who lived around Magazine."

Gordon and Hester Thomasson engaged in many of the social activities that were popular in rural America. In a small town like Magazine they knew and were acquainted with virtually everyone. They went square dancing, played dominoes, went on picnics and cookouts with their friends and played cards hours at a time at someone's house. Each family would take turns hosting another family and they all enjoyed the good clean wholesome entertainment. I suppose Gordon and Hester Thomasson's best friends were Earl & Sulah Brown. Big Earl Brown, as he was called, and Sulah were constant companions of my Grandparents. They used to go on all night fishing trips to the Petit Jean River and to all the other streams and rivers that flowed through Logan County. They even made several weekend expeditions to the White River. My mother remembers these fishing excursions very well, because as a child she, her sisters and brother occasionally had to go along. Mother never was a great lover of the great outdoors and was bored during these trips. She told me how her father, being a good-natured practical joker, once decided that she and her sister Dorothy needed a little excitement in their lives. I guess they were both tired and a little sleepy eyed one morning as they were sitting in the fishing boat with their father. Mother described the incident: "Daddy suddenly pushed us girls from the boat into the river. He never gave us any warning at all, we were so mad. Daddy never cracked a smile and with a straight face told us girls that we looked bored and thought we might want to take a little swim!"

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Gordon Thomasson was middle aged when World War II began and he had long ago resigned his commission in the National Guard, but his patriotic spirit led him to join the Marine Corps in 1942 as a 44 year old recruit. He later advanced to Corporal, Sergeant and Platoon Sergeant. While he was away from home during the war, my grandmother Hester performed the duties of rural mail carrier. A copy of an old newspaper article from the Arkansas Democrat in Little Rock gives an interesting account of this wartime story. Soon after the war, he received his appointment as Postmaster at Magazine. He held this position until the Korean conflict again interrupted his career. This time he was a member of the Arkansas National Guard and his unit was mobilized during the crisis. He had achieved the rank of Chief Warrant Officer. His faithful wife again assumed his duties while he was away on active duty and she received an appointment as Acting Postmaster. While Grandfather was stationed at Camp Atterbury, Indiana, he underwent surgery from which he later developed complications. He died of a cerebral hemorrhage on August 25, 1951. His funeral at the Magazine Baptist Church was attended by many friends and relatives. This was a funeral with full military honors and was represented by the Masonic Lodge of which he was an active member. He was buried in Ellington Cemetery at Magazine.

My Grandmother Hester lived for many years in Magazine after her husband's death. When Dad was stationed in Alaska during his Army days, she made the trip with us through western Canada along the Alaskan Highway. Dad bought a brand new 1954 Ford station wagon especially for the trip and the roads were mud and gravel the entire route. I got to know her very well when she visited us at Dad's various assignments. She loved to paint, especially with oils, and I have many of her paintings hanging in my house. While in Magazine she continued to socialize with her circle of friends. They played canasta, gathered at the various art clubs and at each other's houses, however her failing health prevented her from making the fishing trips she and her husband used to enjoy.

In 1960, two years before Dad retired from the Army, my dream came true. I finally had the opportunity to actually reside in my ancestral homeland. Dad requested a final assignment to Fort Chaffee, Arkansas and for the next 2 years we lived with Grandmother in Magazine. Living in Magazine was everything I had expected. To me it was an enchanting place with friendly people, beautiful scenery and exciting things for kids to do. I finally had a chance to get to know my cousins, play and socialize with them. We played croquet and wiffle ball for hours at a time, went to basketball games and the various school activities, had parties and picnics, went fishing and on those hot summer days went swimming in Bluff Hole and Scott Creek. These were the simple social pleasures that my parents and grandparents enjoyed many generations ago.

My Grandmother lived with us for about a year in Junction City, Kansas after Dad retired from the Army. She and mom made several trips to Las Vegas where they stayed up virtually all night playing Bingo and the nickel slot machines. While she was living with us, she decided she must return for a while to her beloved Magazine. Her daughter Dorothy and husband Willis Page had
recently bought her rock home and she lived with them. She was a victim of asthma and heart problems for many years, but at age 73 her system just couldn't take it any more. She died on St Patrick's Day, March 17, 1969, just a few days after being admitted to the hospital for complications with her heart. She was buried in Ellington Cemetery next to my Grandfather. It has been over 20 years and I still miss the conversations we used to have about family history and the things she used to do back in the old days when she was a young girl.

I make an occasional visit to Arkansas to visit my relatives and I still get excited when I first sight that big blue mountain as I am driving down highway 10 heading for Magazine. Magazine is a part of my heritage and I am proud to be associated with the people who helped make its history.

(This article was published in the "Arkansas Democrat" 4th of July 1943, 2 weeks before our mother Eda Faye married our father Donald E. McKinney who was serving with the U.S. Horse Cavalry at Fort Riley, Kansas)
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