Wednesday, May 27, 2009


The year was 1912. It was the same year that the Republic of China was created and that New Mexico and Arizona became the 47th and 48th states. William Taft was president of the United States but would not be serving another term following his defeat by Woodrow Wilson. Other than the Titanic sinking in the northern Atlantic Ocean, it seemed like a relatively quiet year.

I wonder how long it took for word to spread to the tiny East Texas "town" of West New Hope that the unsinkable ship was indeed sinkable. I imagine it took quite some time. West New Hope wasn't and still isn't much of a "town", more like an area in Titus County, Texas. It was near that little place where my grandmother was born in her home on May 28, 1912. I cannot begin to imagine the world into which this Scots-Irish girl was born. I cannot begin to imagine the change she has seen in her lifetime. I want to tell her story in honor of her 97th birthday.

Juanita Bigger (no middle name) was born to Marvin Jackson Bigger and Auzzie Thomas Bigger. Marvin Jackson paid the doctor, who birthed his second daughter, with a calf. I can assure you that it was a natural birth. The Biggers were a simple, poor Texas farming family -- at first. They would go on to have two more children after my grandmother. Orita was the oldest, followed by Juanita (my grandmother), Mary, and Samuel Laurence. Orita will be 100 in November. As I'm told, she liked to dance, while my grandmother was more inclined to follow the rules.

I don't know the details of this, but some time after they had all of their children, Marvin Jackson decided to leave farming to become a preacher. As I write this, I'm curious how that Calling came about. Somehow, with a family of six, he managed to get his theological studies done at Lon Morris College and a little at Southern Methodist University. If you were poor in the South, you were either Methodist or Baptist. Those denominations had less stringent training requirements of their preachers, which meant they could have more preachers and therefore start more churches in the predominately poor South. Though, it was hard to have less stringent requirements than the Baptists... My great grandfather was a Methodist preacher.

Juanita Bigger lived through the Great Depression, something I cannot fathom. On top of that, she lived through the Great Depression in the home of a preacher, but not just any preacher, an itinerant preacher who's salary was certainly very little, serving poor farming communities all over East Texas, none of which could support their own full-time pastor. My grandmother went to a different school just about every year. As my great-grandfather paid his doctor a calf to deliver his children, so he accepted payment of chickens and other farm animals in exchange for presiding over weddings. Oh, how I wish my own wedding would have only cost me one chicken. Funny thing is, a wedding is more expensive than having a child these days.

Through all of this, my grandmother was able to graduate from high school and go on to get a college degree, something that was very rare for women in her day. She spent a few years at Lon Morris College and finished up her teaching degree at Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches, Texas - one of the oldest towns in all of the United States.

Her first teaching assignments took her to a little town called Sugar Hill. Again, another town that would basically cease to exist in time. But, there was apparently a reason for the tiny little school in Sugar Hill that is no more. It was there that she met another teacher -- a tall, gentle man named Ephraim Howard Cobb who would become her husband. I don't remember where they were married, however I can still remember getting in trouble for being too rambunctious at their 50th wedding anniversary back in the 1980s.

Juanita Bigger Cobb and Ephraim Howard Cobb would continue teaching all over the state of Texas, have three children, including twins, one of which is my mom. After teaching stints in Monday (West Texas), Amarillo (West Texas), Marshall (East Texas), Harlingen (Texas/Mexico border), they finally settled in the not so little town of San Antonio (South Texas) to raise their family.

After raising a family, Pappa and Memmy, as they are known to me, retired not far from where it all began, on the Cobb Land of Titus County, Texas. Today, she has 4 grand kids and still lives in Mount Pleasant, the county seat of Titus.

My mind races as I consider all of the change Juanita Bigger Cobb has seen in 97 years:
World War I, The Great Depression, World War II, the rise of the automobile, the Television, the 1960s, Kennedy, etc.

Happy Birthday Memmy!