Annie Clements was born 11 March 1858 to George Culver Tennille and Amanda Jane Billings in Texas. [I have written before about Annie. See my previous post here.]
George and his father [also named George] were among the very first who received land grants from the Mexicans in what is now Texas, in the Austin settlements.
Annie was the second born child of six children born to the family. Of the six, only one, Thomas, was a son.
Education was not a priority in the little Gonzales County community where Annie grew up. And at the tender age of 13 she was wed to James Thomas Clements, the bad boy cousin of famed western gunslinger, John Wesley Hardin. "Jim" rode frequently with "Wes", and was reputed to be as near as bad with his gun as his outlaw cousin. Until her death, in 1969, Jim's daughter, Laura May, declared the men were just "products of their time" and were not what the tabloids and books made them out to be.
Annie had her first baby when she was only 16 years old, just a few months before her 17th birthday rolled around. She went on to have 11 children: Virginia [1875-1957]; Viola [1877-1965]; Crawford [1879-1880]; Emma [1881-1962]; James Jr. [1883-1956]; Ella [1886-1969]; William [1888-1928]; Laura May [1890-1969]; Lela Dee [1892-1952]; Nancy Ann [1894-1896]; Bessie Edna [1896-1925].
Annie's life was rough. She was repeatedly physically abused by Jim. And in 1897, Jim mysteriously disappeared after a particular bad beating, where Jim went nearly mad and threatened to beat his daughter and stomp an unborn child from her belly. An inquest was held after finding Jim's horse, still saddled, and blood on the saddle that was suspected to be Jim's. Although particular attention was paid to Annie and her brother, no one was indicted. Jim's body was never found.
Annie went on to live a quiet life in south Texas. She eventually passed away in San Antonio in 1936 at nearly 78 years of age.
Perhaps it is because my first husband physically abused me for 15 long years that I am able to relate to Annie so well. Or maybe just the fact that she went on to raise her children alone, as I did, that I can associate so well with this pioneer woman.
I do know that many of Annie's relatives made excuses for her shortcomings, ie: lack of education, unrefined manners, etc.
Annie is my husband's gr-gr-grandmother. And I do believe that if I could meet her today, Annie and I would be close friends. She exudes a quiet strength in her photographs that I feel even today.
And so, today I salute Annie. And all of the pioneer women of the time. Your strength has grown into the wonderfully strong and self-assured women of this generation.
What a foundation upon which we stand!