Miss Charles Emily Wilson, the founder of the Seminole Indian Scout Cemetery Association, never had children of her own, yet she was a mother-like figure to many Black Seminoles. Even though she passed away in 2006, her wishes and hopes for the association are still very real and vivid. She wanted for us to continue to grow and to continue to tell the world about our history. She, especially, wanted for the younger generations to constantly be involved and interested in where they came from. That is why she created the Juneteenth and Seminole Days celebrations that have taken place annually at the Carver School Grounds since 1979.
For many of us, our first encounter with Miss Charles was when we were students in her classroom. She (along with her sister Dorothy) taught at Carver School during segregation. She was a wonderful teacher who made sure that everyone understood what they were being taught. She could be very strict at times, but she was also very attentive and compassionate.
She was our matriarch. We looked to her for guidance. She was wise, thoughtful, and resourceful. She was extremely intelligent, eloquent, and graceful. She was the kind of role model that most people only dream of.
My mom, Dora, and Miss Charles were good friends. When they would get together and visit, I would always stay within eavesdropping distance. While listening to these two ladies’ conversations, I learned a lot about life and how to persevere. I also heard a lot of laughter.
Every year, we, the Seminole Indian Scout Cemetery Association, look for little ways to honor her memory, as she is never very far from our minds and hearts. This year, we will be honoring her in a slightly larger way. We will be having a plaque dedication and teachers’ appreciation ceremony on Saturday, May 20. We will be placing a marker on our museum that will let all who enter know that the museum is dedicated to Miss Charles Emily Wilson. We will be celebrating teachers, as well, because Miss Charles was an educator, and we really want to let our teachers know how much we appreciate all that they do for their students. Interestingly, Miss Charles’s birthday falls within that week, on May 16, so we will, also, in a way, be honoring the day she was born.
Mother’s Day is on Sunday, May 14. On this day, we honor all mothers and the many different forms that they come in. Many gave birth to their children; some adopted theirs, while others were just like mothers in everything but name. For many of us, Miss Charles Emily Wilson was the latter. Just like a mother, she helped to raise us. She taught us, and she loved us like we were her own.
Note: This blog appeared in the 5/11/17 edition of the Kinney County Post
My family has grown by one. Today (Monday, May 1) I received a text from one of my brothers. Accompanying the text was a picture, taken in a hospital room, of the cutest little baby. He was being held by his four-year-old sister, who was beaming. The birth of this sweet baby boy signifies the start of several other very special events, that I am very excited about, that will be taking place back-to-back over the next few months. Next, one of my nephews will be getting married in May. Our vice-president’s granddaughter will be getting married in June. We (the Goodloes) will be having a family reunion in Big Lake in July. One of my nieces will be having a baby in August. And in September, another one of my nieces will be getting married.
As I’ve watched my young relatives grow into adults and begin families of their own, I can’t help think about how I felt as I experienced some of these same life events when I around their age. There was always a mixture of pure joy and a little bit of fear, especially when I had my son. But something that I always can say is that my family was always there for me whenever I needed them. Even though my son was born over forty years ago, I can clearly see my great-grandmother (We called her Muda), showing me how to rock my baby “the right way.” I can clearly see my mom perfecting the temperature of his bottles and making sure that his diapers were the whitest.
Weddings and babies bring so much joy and hope to families. They are testaments that beautiful things can and do happen and that people can come together and create the most amazing memories and little people. They give us a chance to take stock of all the bountiful blessings that we sometimes take for granted. As our family trees grows and expands, we get to be thankful for all that has happened to make everything possible.
Weddings bring two families together and join them as one. I’ve always loved how it is not just the bride and the groom that get married, but dozens and dozens of others seem compelled to make an effort to welcome the other side into their hearts. I’ve always loved seeing the mother of the bride and the mother of the groom become friends who meet every day to have coffee or seeing the fathers of the newlyweds get together to barbeque on the weekends.
And of course, there are babies. Babies can make us feel old and young simultaneously. I can remember when my nieces and nephews were born. Sometimes it feels like some of them were born only yesterday. And now they are having babies of their own, but then when I look into those new, little faces, I see so many of my relatives. And I realize that the baby may never know the many people who passed on before him, but he carries so much of them within him.
So I am looking forward to these weddings and the births of more babies. I will be there, playing the same role that my Muda and mother played before me, welcoming each new family member with my arms spread wide, ready to love and cherish them.
I was raised to respect my elders. I don’t remember there just being one specific time when I was told “you must be respectful toward those who are older than you”; instead, it was a constant and consistent lesson that was always being reinforced.
I was lucky to have grown up with my maternal grandmother. She was a feisty little lady, who had a lot of energy and spunk. She was always on the go and was always dragging one of her “grandbabies” along with her. She was young at heart, and sometimes, she didn’t seem to act anywhere near her age, yet my mom always made sure that my siblings and I respected her. We did this, not just because she was a blood relative, but because she was someone who, as an elder, possessed wisdom and deserved to be treated with respect and reverence.
When she spoke, we listened. She loved to talk, so we were always being entertained by her stories and anecdotes. I always enjoyed her company and often found myself seeking out her company because we had a very special relationship. Having her in my life was extremely impactful.
Along with my grandmother, Miss Charles Emily Wilson, the matriarch of the Black Seminoles, taught me many invaluable lessons about the importance of respecting our elders. She always worried that our history and stories would be lost because the younger generations did not make seeking out their elders and learning the history of our people a priority. Instead of continuously complaining about this, she did something about it. She created Seminole Days and began celebrating Juneteenth in 1979 as a way to make sure that we would all gather around and share our stories.
The Seminole Indian Scout Cemetery Association’s motto is “Lest We Forget,” which, according to Wikipedia, is commonly used in war remembrance services. Every time I’ve ever heard or uttered this phrase, I can’t help but think about the people who came before me. Many of those souls have passed on and been gone for centuries, but there are still many elders among us who lived through very significant and unforgettable times. That is why, each year during Seminole Days, we do our best to find a parade marshal who is one of our elders. Last year’s parade marshal was Ms. Rodessa Jones, from Corpus Christi. She is in her early nineties. Luckily, she accepted our invitation and had a great time during the weekend. And again, when she spoke, we listened. She talked about her childhood. And what touched me the most was that she would look at someone that she may not have known and tell them how much they looked like one of their relatives that had passed on. Like my grandmother, that weekend, she was feisty and full of energy. Her youthfulness belied her ninety-plus years.
What does it mean, then, to respect our elders? I think it simply means to treat those who are older than you the way that you would like to be treated. I think it means that you should ask questions and engage with them. They are living fountains of knowledge, and it is up to us to drink from their wells and absorb all that we can so that we can be of use and of value to the generations that will one day look at us as their elders. There is an African proverb that states: “When an elder dies, a library burns to the ground.” Sadly, I don’t believe truer words have been spoken, but I do believe that we (no matter how young we are) can find ways to build relationships with those who are older than us and let them know that they are valued, loved, and respected.
Note: This blog appeared as an article in the 4/27/17 edition of the Kinney County Post.
I’d been looking forward to Easter for a while. The First Baptist Church had an Easter egg hunt on Saturday, and I had volunteered to participate. I couldn’t wait to see all the children as they ran and hunted eggs, and of course, their cuteness and eagerness did not disappoint.
At seven in the morning on Easter Sunday, I attended the Sunrise Service at Fort Clark’s amphitheater. The morning was cool and overcast. It was the perfect atmosphere. There were several familiar faces in attendance, so before the service began, we all greeted each other warmly. Several preachers spoke during the service. Their message was singular and succinct. Their cooperation was a testament to everyone’s ability to get along. Each speaker filled our hearts with wisdom and truth. By the conclusion of the service, my heart was full.
Following the sunrise service, I rushed over to the First Baptist Church. This Sunday, I helped with the bus route. Then, I helped out in the nursery.
I couldn’t help but see this day as a time for reflection, reverence, and renewal. For the past few days, it seemed like everything had turned so green and vibrant. The greenery signaled a reawakening. I couldn’t help but feel that the time to come alive was “right now.” And as Easter approached this feeling became clearer and very obvious.
Jesus’s resurrection is something that I hold very dear. I reflect on his sacrifice quite often. I use this as a way to question myself and my beliefs and actions, to examine and evaluate what I am doing as a Christian, to see where I can improve. I celebrate Easter because I believe that Jesus died on the cross and was resurrected three days later. I believe that we can be made new through our beliefs. We must be humble, and we must be willing to change. That, I believe, is what will bring about our renewal.
To be renewed means that we look at life with new eyes. We must cast off those old worries and fears and begin to live with joy. We are so lucky to be alive at this time. I truly believe that. There is always something to be thankful for, and there is always something that we can improve to make us better. I know that we must stumble. We stumble all the time. It seems that we must. We were not made perfect. And no one should ever strive to be perfect. But when you are feeling overwhelmed or out of sorts, you can strive for renewal. You can take a moment to readjust the way that you look at life. You can take a moment to reflect on your life. You can take a moment to say thank you. And this, I hope, will bring you a little bit of joy and sunshine.
Note: This blog appeared as an article in the 4/20/17 edition of the Kinney County Post.
Monday, April 10, was National Siblings' Day. I am not sure when this day was created. I’ve only heard about it a few years ago, but I think it is a wonderful way to celebrate our brothers and sisters. As you probably know, if you’ve read any of my previous writings, I have ten siblings. I have eight brothers and two sisters. Two of my brothers have passed on.
We didn’t have a lot when we were growing up. Truly, all we had was each other. And my mother and father instilled that in my siblings and me from the moment we were born. They told us to always take care of each and to always look out for each other. And we have carried this with us into adulthood. I am proud of my brothers and sisters and the way that we come together when we need each other.
In late 2015 into early 2016, I made many trips to Big Lake to visit my brother Bootsie. He was battling cancer, and my son Elton and I wanted to be there for him as much as we were able to. Most of the time, when we were there, one or more of my other brothers would be there. And you know, we didn’t ever do anything extra special. We’d just watch TV or barbeque or just sit around the kitchen table and talk until we all got sleepy. But I think the most important thing was that we were all there together and that we were spending time together and making memories.
My brother Bootsie passed away just over a year ago, and losing him was very painful, and that pain is still very fresh. I miss him very, very much. I’ve learned that the loss of a sibling doesn’t make you love him any less. Instead, I’ve learned that I can cling to and hold dear all the things that remind me of him. When I look at his kids, I can see his face smiling back at me in theirs. If one of his favorite songs comes on the radio right when I am thinking of him, it warms my heart to know that sometimes the world seems to read my mind and gives me a sign that lets me know that my brother is still with me, even if I can’t see him.
During our meeting this past Saturday, another set of siblings came together and it was heart-warming to be a part of it. The Fay family from Del Rio surprised their brother Jerry for his birthday. It was great to be a part of it, to see all of these siblings coming together. Their love for each other shone brighter than the sun.
So no matter how annoying they may have been when you all were younger, your siblings are people who are irreplaceable in your life, so, every chance you get, let them know that you love them.
Note: This blog appeared as an article in the 3/13/17 edition of the Kinney County Post.
This Saturday, the Seminole Indian Scout Cemetery Association (SISCA) will have a meeting. Our meetings take place once a month, on the second Saturday of each month, at one in the afternoon. During our meetings, we, like many other organizations, discuss pertinent issues, plan upcoming activities, and generally do our best to keep everything moving forward.
Personally, I like meetings. Over the years, I’ve seen how an idea that is mentioned at a meeting can flourish into a huge, concrete thing. The idea of SISCA, I am sure, began with the meeting of a few like minds and has flourished into an organization that is historic and honored and necessary in its own right. In Jeff Guinn’s Our Land Before We Die, the Seminole Indian Scout Cemetery Association is described as “the de facto keepers of the tribal flame” (i.e. history/legacy). Because keeping our legacy alive and making sure that the next generation knew where they came from was so important to her, Miss Charles Emily Wilson created two special events that we celebrate each year. Juneteenth and Seminole Days began as ideas for Miss Charles Emily Wilson, and it was during SISCA meetings that the first Juneteenth and Seminole Days events were planned in 1979, and this year, we (SISCA) will be celebrating thirty-seven years of celebrating both events here in Brackettville, Texas.
I am saying all this to say that being involved in something that you are passionate about is never a small thing. You never know what your voice, your ideas, or your presence might do to help change, better, or expand an organization. I’ve always encouraged others to volunteer. I’d also like to begin encouraging everyone to meet. There are so many great organizations here in Brackettville that anyone can get involved in. There is the Fort Clark Historical Society, Kinney County Historical Commission, the Kinney County Chamber of Commerce, the Montalvo House, the H.O.P.E Church Alliance, S.A.L.T, the Boy Scouts, and of course, the Seminole Indian Scout Cemetery Association. All of these organizations (and I apologize to the ones I did not mention) meet regularly, have relatively affordable membership fees, and would love to see more smiling faces at their meetings.
Generally, the meetings take up no more than an hour or two of your time. While there, you’ll become privy to how many of the events that take place in Brackettville get off the ground. There is a lot of planning that goes into pulling off some of the events that our hometown has come to see as annual occurrences. And many of the aforementioned organizations work together to pull them off. Therefore, if you’re even just a little bit curious, I would encourage you to attend a meeting. Just go to one and see what you think. If you like it, become a member. And when you get a chance to, speak up because so many of us have such wonderful ideas, but never get the change to voice them.
Note: This blog appeared as article in the 4/6/17 edition of the Kinney County Post.
On Saturday, March 25, the Fort Clark Historical Society (FCHS) and the Seminole Indian Scout Cemetery Association (SISCA) teamed up to celebrate National Medal of Honor Day, which is the day that has been designated to honor those who have been awarded the military’s highest honor.
The day was warm. Above us was a brilliantly blue, cloudless sky. It was truly a beautiful day to honor our nation’s bravest. At 2 PM, we gathered in front of the memorial flagpole located in front of Dickman Hall. Mr. Russell Nowell was the master of ceremonies for this part of the ceremony. He engaged and educated the crowd by telling us about the origins of the Medal of Honor award, how National Medal of Honor Day came to be, and some of the gentlemen who received the award while stationed at Fort Clark. Five men, in particular, were highlighted and honored. They were four Black Seminole Indian Scouts and Claron A. Windus, who had once been a deputy in Brackettville. During his presentation, Mr. Nowell invited descendants of the Black Seminole Medal of Honor recipients to place commemorative bricks that had been created with their names on them in their resting place in front of the memorial flagpole. Ms. Beverly A. Kelly and Mr. Joe Louis Factor did the honors. Following the end of this program, we hopped into our vehicles and drove to the Seminole Indian Scout Cemetery.
As we arrived at the Seminole Indian Scout Cemetery, we were greeted by thousands of tiny wildflowers. Surely, this was a gift from Mother Nature. The beauty of this only emboldened our reverence for those that we had come to honor. At the cemetery, we gathered the four Black Seminole Indian Scouts who had received the Medal of Honor. They were Pompey Factor, Adam Payne (Paine), Isaac Payne (Paine), and John Ward. Pompey Factor, Isaac Payne, and John Ward received their Medals of Honor for their bravery during the same battle. On April 25, 1875, these three men participated in a charge against “twenty-five hostiles while on a scouting patrol,” according to their Medals of Honor citation. The fourth Black Seminole who received the Medal of Honor was Adam Payne. He served as a private in Texas at Blanco Canyon, a tributary of the Red River, where he participated in an engagement that occurred on September 19, 1874. Adam Payne "rendered invaluable service to Col. R. S. Mackenzie, 4th U.S. Cavalry, during this engagement," according to the Medal of Honor citation.
This information was presented by four Black Seminole descendants, Ms. Beverly A. Kelly, Mr. Joe Louis Factor, Mr. Larvell Blanks, and myself. Following our presentation, a beautiful wreath was laid at the Seminole Indian Scout Cemetery marker. From there, several of us walked to each of their graves and paid our respects to these four brave men.
Following the ceremony at the Seminole Indian Scout Cemetery Association, we hopped in our cars again and traveled to the Masonic Cemetery. It is at this cemetery that Claron A. Windus has been laid to rest. He received the Medal of Honor for bravery while serving as a bugler during a battle with the Kiowa in northern Texas on July 12, 1870. His citation reads: “For the President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Bugler Claron Augustus Windus, United States Army, for gallantry in action on 12 July 1870, while serving with Company L, 6th U.S. Cavalry, at Wichita River, Texas.” A wreath was also placed at his grave in reverence and in honor of his bravery.
This was the first time that the FCHS and SISCA have celebrated National Medal of Honor Day. I am so happy that we did, and I am certainly looking forward to commemorating this day again next year.
Note: This blog appeared as an article in the 3/30/17 edition of the Kinney County Post.
This Saturday, March 25, the Fort Clark Historical Society and the Seminole Indian Scout Cemetery Association will observe National Medal of Honor Day. This is the first year that we will be marking this very sacred day. I must admit that I am very excited about this coming Saturday.
What is National Medal of Honor Day? National Medal of Honor Day is a day dedicated to all Medal of Honor recipients. According to www.nationalcalendarday.com, “It was on March 25, 1863, when the first Medals of Honor were presented. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton presented Medals of Honor (Army) to six members of ‘Andrews Raiders’ for their volunteering and participation during an American Civil War raid in April of 1862. In 1990, the United States Congress designated March 25th of each year as National Medal of Honor Day. Since its creation, there have been 3,468 Medals of Honor awarded to the country’s soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and coast guardsmen.” Use #MedalOfHonorDay to post on social media.
There are four medal of honor recipients buried at the Seminole Indian Scout Cemetery. Outside of the Arlington National Cemetery, the Seminole Indian Scout Cemetery has the most medal of honor recipients laid to rest. The four gentlemen are Pompey Factor, Adam Payne, Issac Payne, and John Ward.
In 1873, Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie decided to go on a mission. This would be a punitive expedition. He wanted to cross the border and fight the Lipan Apaches. He decided that the Seminole Negro Indian Scouts would lead the way. On September 19, 1874, three Seminole Negro Indian Scouts and two Tonkawa Scouts went out, searching for the enemy. Very soon, they were ambushed by about forty Kiowas. The only thing that they could do was fight. Although the exact details about what happened during this skirmish are not clear, at the end of it, Adam Payne was awarded the Medal of Honor. He had risked his life to save his fellow scouts. According to Wikipedia, Payne was decorated for his habitual courage though there is no evidence that he received his medal.
Pompey Factor, Isaac Payne, and John Ward received their medals following an attack on April 5, 1875. The three men were with Lieutenant Bullis. They were scouting Comanches who had built a camp on the lower Pecos Rives. Upon discovery of the Comanches’ habitat, a battle ensued. According to Wikipedia, the scouts dismounted and positioned themselves behind some rocks so that they would appear to be a larger force. According to Bullis’ report, “we twice took their horses from and killed three Indians and wounded a fourth,” but the hostiles, about thirty of them, eventually discovered the size of the scouting party and attempted to surround them in order to cut the scouts off from their horses. The scouts were able to maneuver away from them and get to their horses. As they were on their way back to safety, they realized that Lieutenant Bullis had been left behind. Under heavy fire, the scouts returned to the battle and rescued their commander. The three men received their medals on April 25, 1875 (Source: Wikipedia).
Adam Payne passed away on January 1, 1877. Isaac Payne passed away in 1904. John Ward passed away on March 24, 1911. Pompey Factor passed away March 29, 1928. All four of these remarkable men, these Medal of Honor recipients, are buried at the Seminole Indian Scout Cemetery.
Note: This blog appeared as an article in the 3/23/17 edition of the Kinney County Post.
The past few days have been gray and filled with clouds. Whenever the weather is like this, I can’t help but want to stay at home, wrap myself in a soft blanket, and indulge in some good ol’ comfort food.
Yesterday, I made a big pot of stew. I will admit that I made enough to feed an army, but I don’t think you can make comfort food in some quantities. Part of the fun of this food and why it is loved by so many is that, by definition, you should be able to return for as many helpings as you like.
I began by cutting up the vegetables that would go into the stew. There were carrots, celery, onions, potatoes, and green bell peppers. While I was cutting them, I couldn’t help but think of the many times I’ve been at my counter preparing a meal that I hoped would sooth my or someone else’s soul.
Of course, two of the best chefs in the world taught me about the importance of comfort food. They were my parents, Johnny and Dora Goodloe. My dad was a professional chef, so every meal that he was able to cook at home was thoroughly appreciated and enjoyed. Because he worked so much, having him home for a meal was very rare, so the cooking of the meals, especially the evening meal, was my mom’s duty. While we never had very much, my mom was always able to go in the kitchen and work her magic. After stepping into the kitchen, following her long day, she would call my siblings and I in within thirty minutes to an hour to come and eat. And the dishes she made were always varied and very delicious. Many of the foods we ate when I was a little girl are still a part of my comfort food repertoire when I am feeling a little sad or nostalgic. We ate a lot of chicken and dumplings, cornbread, goulash, and beans and rice, and I still eat and love these foods today.
When my mom was at the start of her decline, she would often request that I make her or buy her the foods that she was so fond of in her youth. Most of those things were easily created or obtained, but there was one request that she had that I had never heard of before. One day, out of the blue, she talked about how much she loved tomato pie and how she would eat it every day if she could. Tomato pie? I was bewildered. I’d never heard of it before. And I couldn’t recall my mom ever talking about it or making it before. But because it sounded so interesting and because she was my amazing mom, I decided to see if I could find it. First, I asked my siblings if they’d every heard of it, but they hadn’t. Then I asked some of my mom’s friends, and they’d never heard of it either. Finally, I asked Google. And I was surprised and delighted to find a recipe. After going over it with my mom and determining that this was what she wanted, she and I went into her kitchen and went to work, baking this pie from her youth.
I watched my mom as she moved about the kitchen. She wasn’t as agile as she used to be, but she was still graceful. She and I enjoyed ourselves that day. It was the first time in a long time that she had cooked in her kitchen. When the pie was ready, I carefully removed it from the oven and placed it on the counter. The smile that spread across my mom’s face was priceless. Although at that time, she was in her early eighties, I could see the ten-year-old Dora in her. In that moment, I understood how powerful this memory would be for me and her. Over food, my mom and I were able to time travel. Over food, my mom and I were able to connect in a real and meaningful way. Over food, my mom and I were able to make our love for each other tangible. And even though she is now gone, it is memories like these that I take comfort in.
Note: This blog appeared as an article in the 3/16/17 edition of the Kinney County Post.
This past weekend, I had a lot of fun. I had been looking forward to attending Fort Clark Days since last year. Like Seminole Days and Juneteenth, Fort Clark Days is a chance for everyone to come together and have a good time. It doesn’t matter if you’re five or ninety-five, fun is sure to be had by all. Every year, I learn something new, and I make new friends. I don’t think there is anything better than that.
Of course, our only worry was the weather. And as soon as Corina, our secretary, and I had set up our booth it began to rain. No worries. We didn’t mind. I know that I am always happy to see rain. Once it started raining harder, we decided to close up. From there, I walked to Seminole Hall and met with John Woolf, who had a booth. He was demonstrating a new product. I also met an amazing artist named Joe Escamilla from Pearsall who made the most beautiful creations out of deer horns. His work was impressive.
While Mr. Escamilla was from out of town, I am always fascinated by the talent that resides right here in my hometown. People that I see at the grocery store or attend church with turn out to be extremely talented fine artists, crafters, and musicians. Often they are too modest to brag about their abilities, so when we have events like Fort Clark Days, I get to see their work on display.
And have we talked about the food? I think I was saving that for last. I had the most amazing hamburger on Saturday. I think what made it so good was that I hadn’t planned on eating it. Someone was kind enough to buy it for me. At first I declined, but then the wind sent the aroma over to my nose and I could no longer resist. It was one of the juiciest burgers I’ve ever had. As you can see, it’s been a few days, and I am still thinking about that delicious burger.
Later that day, I gave a tour of the Black Seminole museum to a kind group. They were eager to hear about the history of the Black Seminoles, and they asked some really interesting questions. To be honest, many of them were already pretty well versed in our history, so the conversation was a memorable, intellectual exchange. I was happy that they seemed pleased with what they saw in the museum. I am thankful that they took the time to come and visit.
Note: This blog appeared as an article in the 3/9/17 edition of the Kinney County Post.