the years, I have collected stories about dozens of East Texans who have been
fortunate to reach their 100th birthday and most of them have some wonderful tales
about the early history of East Texas.
Bertha McDaniel of Jasper is no
exception. Her relatives and friends gathered recently at the activity center
of Jasper’s Church of Christ to celebrate her 101st birthday.
longevity can be attributed to the fact that she goes to church every Sunday.
grew up in a rough log cabin with crude, homemade furniture. The family’s stove
was a fireplace with a stick-and-mud chimney and water had to be carried by a
bucket from a nearby spring.
parents, Charley Berryman and Helen Ada Veatch Berryman, built the cabin as their
home on the Texas frontier near Yellowpine in southern Sabine County and never
left. Bertha was the youngest of thirteen children.
as “Ber Ber,” Bertha always has a twinkle in her eyes and has memories few other
people her age can only imagine.
Bertha recalls one Christmas when there
were no presents, and her mother was deeply concerned.
But on Christmas
morning, as Bertha and her siblings rushed to the fireplace, they found that their
stockings contained eggs that had been wrapped in colored paper by her mother
and boiled in a bucket over the fire to make colored eggs. There were also a handful
of hickory nuts, a syrup cookie and “lots of love.”
Bertha also recalls
an animal cemetery by the spring. It was a quiet, secluded place shaded by beech
and gum trees. There, the Berryman children buried each of their pets: kittens,
birds, puppies and chickens. They gave the animals “a good buryin’, prayed, cried
and sang songs like Red Wing and Oh, Happy Day.
School at Yellowpine consisted
of harsh cold days in the winter and hot burning summers. Their dinner pails usually
had biscuits, boiled eggs, a cold piece of meat, potatoes and syrup. The syrup
was usually stuck in a glass with a biscuit squeezed inside to cover the syrup.
the family’s wagon with its paint bleached off by the sun, wobbly wheels, broken
planks in the bed and a spring seat that had collapsed on one side. It was the
family’s only means of transportation and when the kids went along, a quilt was
carried so they could lay down when tired and covered when the air was cold.
“I’d like to go back and ride that creakly old wagon along a shady country lane,
far from the highways and the cities and the cars. That was a place where every
tree and every sound was familiar,” she said.
married Thornton W. McDaniel and they enjoyed sixty-one years together as store
keepers in Pineland and Jasper.
They had no children, but nieces, nephews and friends became their extended family
As she looked back at 101 year. Bertha noted that she rode in a covered wagon,
saw men walk on the moon, and lived through two world wars and the terms of eighteen
most of all, she is thankful for “the beauty around me,” for tall pines, winding
trails, autumn leaves, winter sunsets and the evening star.
“I am thankful
that my life has had more sunshine than shadows,” she said.