I remembered Mama Willingham. I remember her laughter and her zest for life and her love of God, family and friends. I remember the tales she told me of her life as a tomboy in Airmont, Mississippi and her move to Collin County as a young lady via train. I remember the day she became 100 years of age. She was quite a gal. I remember all three of the daughters:
I. MA YE WILLINGHAM HICKS born July 18, 1894 and died Nov. 1, 1982.
II. DELLA WILLINGHAM HUDDLESTON born Jan. 29, 1896 and died 1969.
III. CORA WILLINGHAM MOORE born Nov. 16, 1898.
I remember the grandchildren-Corrine Hicks Greer, Cornell Hicks, Inabeth Moore Thompson, Harroun Fay Moore and the twins, Harvey Glen and Delbert Lyn Moore … and their children, but I do not remember Papa. How I wish I had known him for I would have loved him as did everyone else in town.
Papa was the unforgettable William Edward Willingham, and Mama was Elizabeth Kelly Willingham. “Papa” and “Shorty” were the two most common names used by William. He was born September 15, 1861 in McKinney, just three blocks from the County Square. As a young lad his father, William, had come with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Buck Willingham, and three sisters, Deliah (Board), Lou (Newsom) and a Mrs. White from Clinton, Missouri.
Young William (the first) married Anna Berry, also from Missouri. They had two children, William and Mollie (Donihoo). Anna took over the job of raising the children by herself after William I died in the Civil War. She did quite well, raising them in the Christian Church where she was a charter member. Little did she realize that in years to come one of her great grandsons would become an architect (Harvey Moore) and design the present beautiful sanctuary for the present First Christian Church at McKinney and also of Wylie as well as the new Collin County Courthouse in McKinney. It was Papa Willingham who carried the rocks to be placed by rock masons for the old courthouse.
Papa never lived any place except Collin County. He remembered the first train ride to come to Wylie and also the first which arrived in McKinney. People would meet the trains just outside the town, ride the train in by jumping on it, but at a steep grade, they would all get off and push the train until it could run on its own steam. This was quite a sport.
On August 31, 1892 in Farmersville wedding bells pealed for William Willingham and Elizabeth Kelly. Into this happy home came three daughters (mentioned above) and the mother of Elizabeth, Mrs. Leuvine Kelly of Mississippi. Her deceased husband was William Kelley of Mississippi and Ireland. To finish filling the home were the four orphan children of Mama’s sister-Andrew, Henry, Tom and Lou Jordon. No partiality was shown among the children. All were given the best care and material blessings that could be afforded.
In McKinney Papa met the Burns brothers – Darl and Andrew-who persuaded him to come to the little burgh of Wylie in the southern part of the county. After a few years of farming, which were not prosperous, Papa listened as they asked him to open a meat market. The prospects were good, but Papa could find no home for his growing family in this wild young town. After four weeks he did find a two-room house which he moved his family of nine into. Two months later he purchased a home at West Elliott and Keefer. The date was December 2,1900. Today his daughter, Cora Moore, still lives there.
In 1900 there were only a few homes here, a hotel, a meat market, a Baptist Church, Methodist Church, Primitive Baptist Church, Christian Church and a few other businesses. The school was a two-story frame which was used by all grades. The weekly paper was called “The Rustler” and was published by J.B. Baskette, whose wife was Mama’s best friend.
Everyone enjoyed life at the Willingham home. The home was always crowded, especially at Christmas. This was the most wonderful time of all. After the Community Tree on Christmas Eve the family would return home to await St. Nick as they hung up their stockings. On Christmas morn all were up early. The children played with new toys while adults and children alike exchanged happy thoughts over the festive turkey and trimmings.
Papa died June 17, 1951, several months after celebrating his and Mama’s 59th Wedding Anniversary. Mama, who was born in Mississippi November 12, 1871, lived to be past 100 years old and the oldest citizen of Collin County. She was present at the Golden Wedding Anniversary of each of her daughters, which were all held in Wylie. She passed to her reward May 18, 1972. One of her favorite sayings exemplifies this dear lady. It goes:
Love the truth and shun the wrong, And then no day will seem too long.