I’ve always been a bit of a wanderer. It runs in my blood, I guess. By 11th grade, I’d been to 11 schools in 3 states. So, needless to say, it was a bit of a shock to meet my new family that has called one farm home for over 100 years.
The Withers family first came to Jasper County in 1861.Five years later, Valentine J. Withers purchased 1,000 acres of land, including this site. With one of the boundaries of his land bordering on the Neches River, Withers established a ferry service that provided public transportation for a three-county area.In 1875 Withers’ son William married Margaret L. Richardson, who was a descendant of pioneer area settlers. They built their home at this site, on land given to them by Valentine Withers, in the community that became known as Cairo Springs. The house was designed and constructed by William, who also built some of its furnishings. William Withers, who at one time had assisted his father with the ferry operation, was a successful farmer and merchant.In 1894 he was elected Jasper County Commissioner and served for four years. He died in 1917, a victim of the influenza epidemic.The Withers homestead, which has remained continuously in the family, serves as a reminder of Jasper County’s early history. Its close link to the settlement of Cairo Springs is an important element in the area’s rich heritage.”
Though now some of the land has been sold or handed down to other family members, the Withers clan has called this plot of southeast Texas home since the mid-1800s. They can trace their family back to when they came over to America (even know the name of the ship) in the 1600s. I can’t even tell you the names of my great-grandparents or where they were born, for one reason or another.
I didn’t actually know most of this information before we left on our two day drive to Texas. I knew I was going to Texas to meet my new husband’s grandmother, most importantly. I was told that the property was beautiful and I would love all of the trees and that the people were really nice.
What I wasn’t told was how beautifully silent the property was. You take for granted real, restful silence. No cars, no people, no trains, no idiot kids screaming through the neighborhood. I stood, staring up at the pines and just marveling at the lack of sound. And the STARS. So many stars! Way more than we ever see so close to Philadelphia.
I wasn’t told, after meeting a million new people, who really was family and who was a friend. But I noticed quickly that it didn’t matter. Everyone I met was family, blood or not. I was welcomed in and hugged and congratulated. Offered food, invited off to do something super fun. I ate a delicious Thanksgiving meal prepared for something near 60 people (small compared to the usual 90-100), listened to stories and memories, shared a drink and a laugh with new friends, drove a 4 wheeler for the first time, saw a scorpion, and sprawled out drunk in the driveway one night just to look at the stars.
One of the best bits, as strange as it may be because we normally reside just a few blocks away, was spending the week with our niece and nephews. These kids are amazing. They helped with yardwork, helped clear the trail through the woods behind the house, and had a week full of new adventures! They rode 4-wheelers, learned how to shoot a gun, made some new friends, and spent a ton of time outside having amazing fun!
Ian and I spent a lot of time walking the property. Whenever we got a moment away, we were hiking and exploring. I think walking through the woods and getting wrapped up in discussions and debates is one of our favorite past times.
I went into this week in Texas being plagued daily with tension headaches from the stress of running a business, working a job, making time for social life, worrying about when our bus would be finished, and maintaining my marriage. Life gets a little crazy sometimes.
One morning, I went outside with a chair and sat in the backyard and cracked open a book about mindfulness. About becoming aware of oneself in the current moment and concentrating on it. This moment is the only moment I’m living in. The ones before have come and gone and the ones to come are never guaranteed. My niece joined me quietly, sat on the ground beside me, and began reading a book of her own. We didn’t talk. We just sat and enjoyed that moment in time, in the peaceful companionship of those tall pines. The moment struck me and I became acutely aware of what was most important.
Texas, my 35th state… I really enjoyed my time with you. Withers clan, you are generous and amazing people. I’m so very pleased to have met you and honored to become one of you!
Until we meet again,
Be kind and live purposely,