John Wesley Sudderth
Born March 1st 1889
Died June 4th, 1950
Written March 1st, 1996 by Mildred (Stone) Sudderth
Today is March 1st, 1996 - the birthday of John Wesley Sudderth, born March 1st, 1889 to David Gilbert and Martha (Matty) Hancock Sudderth, J. Wes was the third youngest of eleven children. His father owned a lot of land - numerous farms in Fannin County, White Rock, Bailey and Leonard, Texas. He gave each of his sons, including a distant relative, Lee Demint, who he and Martha had raised.
J. Wes received a 40 acre farm about two miles South of Leonard, Texas. He married Alice Johnson at a young age - I think he was 17 and she was 20. They had seven children; Louie, Mattie Lou, Ruby Lee, Dave, James, Willard and Wesley Gompers. Dave was kicked by a horse or a mule and died of encephalitis due to the injury as a small boy. It wasn't long before J. Wes sold the 40 acre farm and bought a larger one a mile or so South of the one his father had given him. There he built a new house and that's where they reared their children and called home until about 1950.
Wes was an avid hunter and purchased land in South Texas around Uvalde and Knipa. He traveled back and forth, always being there during deer season. He was known far and wide as a 'sharp shooter' and a 'mule skinner' by some. Although he moved his family to the Uvalde/Knipa area for short periods, they always returned to the home in Leonard. J. Wes didn't trust banks and buried his money inside the cow barn. Ruby Lee told me that she discovered the 'stash' one day when she watched her father come home from the Cotton Gin and make a 'deposit'. She told her mother and since he was 'tight fisted', they began to help themselves to purchase home necessities. As far as she knew he was never aware of their withdrawals - I don't know how long that lasted.
As were all the Sudderth brothers, J. Wes as quick to fight and get into trouble. He was injured pretty seriously a few times; stabbed in the stomach and once slashed across the face. That produced a big scar that he wore the rest of his life. As head of the Farmers Coop he stored a lot of food in large lots in a warehouse he built for that purpose on the farm. The warehouse later became a corn crib.
He was sort of a lay preacher and conducted a lot of 'shade tree' meetings. He loved to make speeches and was said to be quite good at it. He decided to run for Fannin County Sheriff and because his farm was located in Hunt County, he bought a house in Leonard and the family moved to town and lived there about three years. He didn't get elected so they all moved back to the farm. After that he decided to run for State Representative - didn't get elected to that office either but he did represent a lot of people in a lot of ways. He conducted his campaign from a new Model T Ford Roadster that he purchased from Sears & Roebuck for $125. It was delivered to Leonard on a freight train.
I remember once when I was working in my Daddy's store in Bailey, Texas that J. Wes stopped to buy gas. We sold Magnolia gas and had a gas pump in front of the store. He bought $2 worth of gas and wrote me a check. Of course the check bounced because he didn't believe in banks and didn't even have a bank account. That was long before I even knew James (Mildred Stone married James Ewing Sudderth in 1939). He never came back to make the check good and my daddy wasn't very happy with me. Two dollars was a lot of money then - more than a days wages.
Alice (Johnson) Sudderth died in May of 1936 of typhoid fever after a short illness (there may be some error here in as much as others have said that Alice died of acute appendicitis). By that time the three girls, Louie, Mattie Lou and Ruby Lee, were married and had homes and families of their own. Gompers, the youngest, went to Lone Oak and stayed with Ruby Lee and Ophel Blanton until the Fall and time for school to start. James was in school at Weslian College in Greenville, Texas, but quit school and came home to look after Willard and Gompers and work the farm. J. Wes had purchased some land North of Bonham, along the Red River and was spending most of his time there.
All of this happened before I knew the family and I was told of the history by Louie, Ruby Lee and Mattie Lou (some by James) after I married into the family. I met James in the Fall of 1936; we married in 1939.
About 1937 or 38, a family from Rosedale, TN came to live in the rent house on the farm and pick cotton. Their name of Wright; a man, his two daughters and two sons. One of the girls, Katie, stayed on to keep house for J. Wes and the boys. She was a hard worker and a great cook and so very sweet. She and J. Wes were soon married. She was so good to Gompers and even bathed his feet. She even bathed J. Wes some times and doctored his chigger bytes. Kate was a good person and made a good home for J. Wes and the boys. J. Wes always said that she could make a good cup of coffee even if it did take a whole pound.
James and I were married in September 1939 and lived in a house on the eleven acres across the road from the Sudderth farm and owned by J. Wes. James traded his dad the cattle he had bought and raised for the eleven acres and the house on it. We fixed up the 3 room house real cute and even added a screened-in back porch. J. Wes was not proud of the 'skinny' little girl that didn't know a damned thing about a farm and he often told us so. He thought that Ewing (James) had made a big mistake when he brought me home.
By this time, J. Wes had traded the farm on the Red River for a few acres South of Timber Creek (North of Bonham). He later bought acreage which bordered it on the North side of the creek and had a house on it. This was to be his final home and where he died.
J. Wes was always attracted to younger women and didn't care who knew of his relations with them. The only ones I knew of by name was 'Weesa' Stockton and later one named Tony - he kept her around a long time. Kate became pregnant and after Christmas, while J. Wes was away on a deer hunting trip to Uvalde, she left him. She went to stay with Wes' brother Jim and his wife Rose who lived in the old Sudderth home place out by the Leonard Pool. Grandpa Dave and Martha had moved to town and lived in a large house which is now the Taylor Funeral Home. Kate stayed with Jim and Rose until Elmer Ray Sudderth was born on February 13th, 1940. She then went back to Tennessee to live with her family.
Things got kind of rough after Kate left. J. Wes was 'in and out'; he, along with Willard and Gompers, lived in the old house but took their meals with James and me. That was the first time he became 'tolerant' of me - because he liked my cooking. In the later part of 1943 he decided to go to Detroit with a friend of his named Broyles. I am guessing at the time frame but James and I had just found out that I was pregnant with Tim - so that would be about right. The closest he came to telling us he was happy about that was when he was leaving for Detroit. He said "I hope it is a boy and that it looks just like me". Timothy was born on July 17th, 1944. I don't know for sure how long he stayed in Detroit or what his job was. He did send a picture of his boss so I guess he had a job. In the early Spring of 19454 he arrived by train in Commerce, Texas. He was badly beaten and very sick with a high fever. He had a note on his clothing saying to call Ophel Blanton. J. Wes arrived in Commerce with no money and only the clothes he was wearing. We assumed that he had been beaten and robbed and that either Mr. Broyles or his boss had found him and put him on the train. The depot agent simply called the Blantons and said to come and get him - J. Wes was never able (or willing) to tell us anything about the episode.
Louie, James, Willard, Matie Lou & Doss all went to Commerce and they all agreed to take him to Baylor Hospital in Dallas. He had a badly infected sore on his dislocated shoulder and pneumonia. After several weeks in the hospital, he was dismissed but needed a lot of care so he went to Ruby Lee's and stayed a week. Then to Louie's but they got in a fight over her making him go to the outdoor toilet and him wanting to go in the pot in the house - so she brought him to us. We only had one bed and a crib and that didn't work very well, but we managed until he got well enough to sleep at his house (up the road) and stay with us during the day. J. Wes was a very cantankerous man and was very hard to take care of. Mattie Lou and Doss were teaching school in Hooks, Texas and when school was out we took him to Bonham and put him on a train to Hooks. He stayed about a month. By that time he was pretty much able to take care of himself but his shoulder never healed completely. (My strongest memory of my Grandfather was that weeping sore on his shoulder. He liked to torment me by making me look closely at it. - Tim Sudderth)
One day in Leonard, J. Wes met a man named Cyclone Davis. He drove a big old car and it was filled with all his belongings - he lived in it. J. Wes brought Cyclone home with him and he stayed about a year and a half. Davis repaired things for his keep - he put 'mendits' on all of the pots, pans and buckets that leaked on the place. He was quite a character and had many tales to tell to Gomp or anyone that would listen. He was a well learned man and told me that he had published a book entitled "Musings by A. Knutt". He eventually became a nuisance to J. Wes and Gomp and they sent him on his way. We learned many years later that he was found dead under an overpass near Austin, Texas.
Kate and Elmer Ray came back to live in the house to help out with things around the place but she and J. Wes never remarried. That was in the early Spring of 1946, just before Ronny was born on the 20th of July 1946. Kate was a life saver for all of us. J. Wes stayed mostly on the Timber Creek place but spent some time at home in Leonard to 'be around the boy'. Elmer Ray was six and started to school in Leonard.
When Ronny was ten months old, we moved (house and all) to the farm land that James and I had purchased a few years before. It was located a few miles South of the Bonham State Park and was served by a 'black top road'. That would have been in 1947. There was a small two room cabin (one big room with an attached kitchen) on the place that had been built by the CCC in the '30's. We lived in the cabin while we rebuilt the house that we had moved from Leonard. Later Kate got lonely without us in Leonard and moved into the cabin for a while with Elmer Ray. She soon moved to the Timber Creek place with J. Wes. She stayed at the house during the day but she and Elmer spent their nights with a neighbor. They lived there until she found him dead in his bed on June 4th, 1950.
Kate continued to live at Timber Creek with Elmer Ray. Her sister, Della May came to live with her and take care of Elmer Ray after Kate was diagnosed with Cancer. After a long bout of Xray treatments in Houston, Kate died and Della May continued to raise Elmer Ray there on the ranch on Timber Creek.
Sometime during those years, J. Wes had sold the Leonard farm. He gave the children their mother's share and he gave away and squandered the rest. He was ill and not doing very well by himself. James had the little two room shack from the South side of the first Timber Creek place moved to a lot on East 8th in Bonham, added a kitchen and bathroom and had it all ready for J. Wes to move into. Before he even moved into the house, Wes traded it to the Broyles man for a 'used to be gas station' in Leonard. It was very 'junky' and on the street to the Leonard Pool. I can't remember what year that was but it was after James and I had moved to Bonham and while Kate was caring for a Mr. Stallings in Leonard.
Kate and J. Wes spent their last years together with Elmer Ray on Timber Creek. Elmer Ray was ten years old when J. Wes passed away.
This is how I remember this much of J. Wes's life. - Mildred Sudderth
You are invited to make comments, additions and corrections to his chronology if you see fit. Email your edits and comments to Tim Sudderth: firstname.lastname@example.org