Evelyn Standley will be turning 100 years young on May 11, 2022. She is pictured here in her 1939 Ball High School senior picture. Although a graduate she has continued as a student of life and now the student has become the teacher. Not a teacher with a university degree, but one from the "School of Hard Knocks," as she once told me. She never let an experience go by without learning something from it and she teaches all who are wise enough to listen, from her century of life experiences. She inspires all those blessed enough to spend time with her, encouraging them to treasure the memories of the past and glean wisdom for the future. We wish you a very Happy Happy Birthday, Evelyn and many many more!
Smith Point’s oldest living resident is Linnie Evelyn Stephenson Standley who will turn 100 years old next month. She arrived in Smith Point with her parents, sister Eula Mae and brothers Ralph and Walter (Snook) in the year 1927, at the tender age of five. The following information has been collected from interviews at different times with Evelyn and may have some repetition, but it is all so informative, I wanted to include all of it.
My grandparents on my father's side were Jessie William Stephenson and Mary Ellen Mitchell. They were also born in Double Bayou, Texas, but their parents came from Germany and Berni, Switzerland. My maternal grandmother, Mary Floyd Everett was born in Sommerville, Georgia. She was always called Floyd, never Mary. Her grandparents came from England and settled in Georgia.
My maternal grandfather Karl Mathais Nielsen came to America from Arendal, Norway as a young cook on a sailing vessel into Galveston, Texas in 1881.
He changed his name to Charles Martin Nelson when he received his citizenship papers in Galveston, Texas in 1890. They came for religious liberty and a better way of life, because America was known as the "Land of Opportunity." Evelyn wrote in her story of how she became an avid Indian enthusiast, "Mary Floyd met Karl (Charles M.) Nelson while working in the cotton mill in Galveston. Karl had come into Galveston in 1881 as a young cook on a sailing vessel from Arendal, Norway. He received his citizenship in Galveston, March 10, 1890.
He changed his name from Karl Mathais Nilsen to Charles Martin Nelson. From then on he was known as Charlie. He had to walk by the cotton mill on his way to his longshoreman's job. After some days of being whistled at, he and Floyd met and married shortly thereafter. Charles, and Mary Floyd, and two children moved from Galveston in a sailing vessel to Anahuac, TX. around 1900.
They then moved to Double Bayou until Nov. 12, 1912, when they arrived with seven children in a motorless sailboat named "Nancy" on Smith Point. "
Excerpt from an interview between Evelyn and her granddaughter, Davonna Wilson, 23 Oct 1992.
"My name is Linnie Evelyn Stephenson Standley. I was born in Corpus Christi, Texas on May 11, 1922. (Evelyn said her father, Jessie worked in the fishing industry and opened a shrimping business in Corpus Christi for a time. Evelyn does not recall how long they were in Corpus Christi before she was born, but she and 3 siblings were born there, Evelyn being the oldest.)We moved to Smith Point, Texas when I was five years old, and I have made my home here ever since.
My parents, Jessie Ralph Stephenson and Ruby Lena Nelson were born in Double BAYOU, Texas. They married on 26 Oct. 1921.
Most families had at least nine children. In my immediate family, I was the eldest of four brothers and two sisters with one brother dying at childbirth. Our house consisted of kitchen, large living room with two day beds and two bedrooms and a porch made into a bedroom. My oldest sister, and I being the oldest, had a bedroom together. My oldest two brothers shared the bedroom on the porch. My younger sister and brother had the day beds in the living room. My baby brother slept in a crib in my parents' room.
We made pallets on the floor in the living room in the summertime, as we would rather sleep on the floor than in the bed. Mom would have to make us go to bed at times.
We did not have electricity where I lived. Smith Point did not have electricity until 1948 or 1949. We did not have indoor plumbing but had a little house out back. We did not have toilet tissue, we used old catalogues.
I was a teenager when we acquired a radio run off batteries and our music were records played on a hand wound Victrola phonograph. We did everything by hand, because we had no need for electrical appliances.
On a cold morning with no heat in house, Mom would kindle a fire in the kitchen in the wood stove. We had a tin heater in the living room that we called "Snuffin' Billy" because if it didn't get hot fast enough, we would throw in some paper and it would dance while getting hot. We would back up to the stove and burn on one side and freeze on the other.
We had running water when we ran with it! But, we did consider ourselves being uptown, because we had a pitcher pump and sink on a porch attached to the kitchen while others in the community got their water from a well, or had to carry it some distance from a windmill. If the house would have caught on fire the water bucket would have been the first thing to burn because it never had any water in it.
There were only thirteen families on Smith Point until the thirties. Our family pets were cats, dogs, chickens, and pigs. We had one pet pig that we called Porky and we rode it. Of course, my dad was raising it for meat. When we killed it my sister never ate a bite of Porky.
We never heard or saw any store bought games with the exception of jacks or marbles. So, we made out own playing cards out of cardboard. We would build kites with sticks, brown paper, and homemade paste of flour and water. We also had fun building stilts, then known as "Tom Walkers" and walking on them. We also built tin can wheelers by nailing a syrup can lid on the end of a stick. We also had old tires that we could roll around and make tire swings.
My name Linnie Evelyn is not used very frequently any more. I guess the funniest nickname I ever knew was what we called our oldest brother Willard at times. It was "Pill Jerk Pete." It came from my dad telling about a man named Pete, and he was told to take a pill three times a day. So he tied a string on the pill, swallowed it and jerked it back up, swallowed it again and jerked it back up. We thought it was funny and started calling our brother "Pill Jerk Pete."
Dad had a humorous side. When he was asked what my brother's Willard and Walter's names were he replied, "Poker Pete" and "Ekelie Zeke."
We had no grocery store on Smith Point until the late thirties, so our staples came by boat from Galveston.
I made bread when I had to stand on an apple box to reach the top of the table in order to knead the dough. Knead is to place your dough in a pile of flour and work the flour into the right consistency to make loaves or rolls. The you let them rise & bake. We made bread about three times a week and had homemade biscuits for breakfast. We even made our own yeast cakes with hops (Dad bought in Galveston) and cornmeal. We rolled them out, cut them with a biscuit cutter, and dried them. When they were dry, we would place them in a flour sack and hang then on the wall in the kitchen. If we didn't have the hops, Mom would pick fig leaves and boil them with Irish potatoes for yeast. We also made sourdough bread by saving a little dough for a starter. When the dough became where it didn't rise well, we would add yeast cakes to the dough.
Evelyn is carrying her homemade book bag and syrup bucket lunch pail.
During the school term (which always stated the day after Labor Day) I would always get up to a big bowl of oatmeal, then walk a mile and a half to school. The first one-fourth mile was through deep ruts and wet grass. The rest of the way was on the main road of deep sand carrying lunch in a syrup bucket and books in a flour sack book bag.
When we arrived at the one-room one-teacher school we would line up and do exercises. In later years, I realized that the teacher had us do this to burn off excessive energy.
After walking home from school, we kids had to do chores like chopping wood, shucking corn, and grinding it to feed the baby chicks. Also, we slopped the pigs while Mom did the milking.
Then, after supper we always had lessons to get. Because, in the one-room, one-teacher school, the teacher only had time to hear what we had learned the night before and assign us another lesson.
In later years I asked one of my former teachers, Thelma Chitwood Fanett, how we ever learned anything. She said that we got it mostly ourselves and therefore remembered it. It also helped to listen all day to all the other classes from the first through the ninth> I learned enough that I passed when I went to a big high school in Galveston, TX.
In the summer we played a lot when Daddy didn't have something for us to do in the field like pulling corn or picking peas or watermelons. Then we had to help Mother can vegetables, fruits, jams and jellies to keep the family eating when the summer gardens were no longer producing. Meats and fish were also canned, as there was no refrigeration or freezers.
My dads first car was a Model "T". I can still remember the funny shaped key and him cranking it to get it started, putting mud chains on it so that we could navigate in the winter.
My husband's first car was a used Model "A" Ford that he bought for about $25.00 in 1941 and repaired it. It served us well. The second car was a 1938 Ford that I bought in 1943 on time for about $200.00 during World War II, when my husband was fighting with "Merril's Marauder" in Burma. He was one of one hundred out of a platoon of three thousand to survive. A movie of his outfit was made, and I still have it. It has shown on TV numbers of times.
After I married, we lived in rented houses for about $15.00 a month until we bought a home on two lots in December 1959 with electricity and propane tank included for $7,500.00. It had three bedrooms, living room, dining room, kitchen, bath, glassed in den, and carport, which is appraised today at $30,000.00
One of the funniest things was when our son, Ronnie was too small for a pocket knife that was given to him. He was so excited over it, so I told him that he could keep it until he cut himself with it. Then one day I heard him making unusual noises, and I asked him if he had cut himself. He said, "Yes, a little but it doesn't hurt," so, he got to keep the knife.
I finished High School in Galveston, TX in Ball High School. I will always be grateful to my grandmother Stephenson for letting me live with her for three years. I took some courses in college on School Food Services. I think that education is very important, because I would never have been able to direct school food services in Anahuac Independent School District without it. Education today is much more important today than when I was in school, because everything now is so mechanized and computerized.
Monroe Kreuzer, transportation director of AISD., told me, when Evelyn started driving for the school district, she drove a 9-panel wagon, keep this under your hat, I have it on good authority she did not have a driver's license when she began driving. In the winter when it was freezing Evelyn would drain the radiator when she finished her evening run and store the water in the house to prevent it from freezing and busting the radiator. In the morning she would return it to the radiator and place a hand-cut piece of cardboard over the front of the radiator to keep the frigid air from freezing the water on her long trip to Anahuac. Monroe also said the road leading out of Smith Point was in pretty poor condition in the early days and when it rained it was safer to drive in the pastures than on the treacherous road. When circumstances demanded a safer route Evelyn would leave the road and hop onto private property, the owners of said property will remain nameless! She would choose her route through the pastures carefully heading from knoll to knoll and when the road became safer to navigate, she would exit the pasture. I've driven the Smith Point route before and it's a long one, but it was much longer back in Evelyn's day. When Evelyn reached the 'Y' at FM 1985 and FM 562 her route took her left down to Oyster Bayou before she could return to Smith Point. She had a couple of family members, who will also remain nameless, who did not relish that extra travel time on the bus. They would inevitably (and purposefully I might add) get into a fight before the turnoff and Evelyn would put them off the bus at the 'Y'. Although they walked the remainder of the trip home, they always managed to beat Evelyn there.
During the summer months, Evelyn worked side by side with her husband helping him build their 40-foot shrimp boat. Evelyn said it took them quite a while to complete it, because they could not afford all the material at one time.
Morris was the first person in the area to build a boat with a round cabin front on it. He would take the boards and soak them in the water until they were pliable enough to bend in the desired shape. Once the boat was completed Morris hauled it to the water to swell it. He named their boat "Ronnie." After Morris' death, Ronnie renamed the boat "Davonna M" after his daughter.
Photo: Lee Nelson, Pastor Michael Graves, and Linnie Evelyn Standley
When Evelyn finally made the decision to retire from the school district in 1988, she certainly didn't retire from life. She has continued through the years volunteering her services wherever she sees a need. She was born to work and work she has. Never one to sit back and wait to be asked, she has always assessed the situation, rolled up her sleeves, and jumped right in. Necil Kelley said Evelyn worked faithfully and diligently keeping the lawns and flower beds of the Smith Point Baptist Church manicured to perfection. She pulled every weed on her hands and knees, not stopping until every last one was gone and mowed the lawn with a push mower until not too long ago when her strength began to fail.
Evelyn's honesty and loyalty is above reproach, blessed with a keen mind she has always been the perfect choice to keep the books for many organizations over the years. Necil said Evelyn would not rest until the books balanced, even if she was off just a penny she would look diligently until she found it. Sad to say, they don't make too many like her anymore.
Here's just a short summary of the many hats she has worn in the community over the years: Smith Point Baptist Church treasurer from 1962 to the present.
Smith Point Baptist Church Secretary from 1962 until a few years ago, stopped because of hearing loss.
Smith Point Fire Department Founder and Volunteer since its inception in 1976.
Smith Point Volunteer Fire Department secretary for 40 years.
Smith Point Volunteer Fire Department treasurer for 30 years.
Smith Point Volunteer Fire Department Emergency Care Assistant.
County Wide Fire Department secretary/treasurer for 30 years.
United Daughters of the Confederacy vice-president for 2 years.
Texas State School Food Services Association secretary for 2 years.
Chambers County 4H Horse Club Leadership Team from 1972-1975.
Evelyn has a great love of travel and that has been one area she has indulged herself. I believe she has visited 9 different countries, a few of which are: Africa, Hawaii, Greece, Mexico, Italy (Rome), The Holy Land, and one very special trip she took along with cousins Necil Nelson Kelley, Ruth Nelson, and Mary Edith Nelson in 2004 to Norway. They traveled to the birthplace of their grandfather, Karl Mathais Neilsen in Arendal, Norway and were able to visit the Church where he was baptized as well as the resting place of ancestors long gone. On every trip Evelyn kept such explicit diaries that one could actually experience every aspect of the trip through her literary skill. Speaking of literary skill, Evelyn always wanted to write a book, but couldn't quite seem to find the time, I think you can see why! She did write several short stories.
Necil Kelley, Evelyn Standley, Back: Ruth Nelson and Mary Edith Nelson. On board train to Oslo, Nor
The Schooner Sterling in front of the Sterling Store in Graydon, TX. B. F. 'Frank' Sterling with beard, second from right.
It was Frank Sterling who began the first school in Double Bayou in 1882, with his son, S. H. Sterling serving as schoolmaster. Besides the everyday duties of running the farm and the school, Frank built a store in Double Bayou and in 1895 a schooner to transport produce and other products to Galveston. He would return to Double Bayou with staples, such as coffee, sugar, hardware, and other necessities, to sell in his store. The magnificent tall-masted Sterling, with her billowing sails and shovel-nosed bow, was the fastest ship on Galveston Bay. Patricia Woods said, “The Sterling was in the Galveston Harbor when the 1900 storm hit. Frank was staying in the house of his son, John at the time and he and his son feared the house would go down. They put an ironing board out the window and connected it to the house next door and crawled across. Both houses survived the storm and are still standing today. The schooner Sterling was washed up on the wharf but sustained minimal damage.”
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