Oma Jane and the Two Emily’s

“Clouds” painted in oil by Wendy Harty 2010

Oma Jane reclined on her cloud. She was the only one about above a clear bluebonnet Texas sky. Oma had asked her baby sister, Emily, to come and watch the birthday party but she was a tad late. Oma Jane also had requested and been approved to bottle her happy tears for the occasion.

There were fourteen years between Oma and Emily. Oma had always felt responsible and a little protective of this youngest sibling in the family of six, especially with both parents dying by the time Emily was eleven. Back in Wilmington, North Carolina, the plantation was between Sloop Point and Topsail Sound, two isolated communities in Pendor County, along the Atlantic Ocean coast. Oma and Emily’s father was Samuel Atkinson. They’d heard the tales of the Atkinsons living along the Scottish border in England. At that time all the land was inherited by the oldest son. A younger brother, George Atkinson, saw no future and ran away. He stowed away on a British ship bound for North America. Young George found himself involved in the Battle of New Orleans 1812. He ran away again and made his way to Brownsville, Texas. George married a Spanish girl from Mexico. He lost all his possessions and his wife died in the hurricane that struck Brownsville. The older brother back in England divided his inheritance between the other brothers and sisters and they all came and settled around San Antonio, Texas. That’s how some of the Atkinson’s came to be in Texas. Our Atkinson tree came to North Carolina and owned a plantation found on 1840 Census which enumerated 7 slaves.

Census for Samuel Atkinson, 1840

On the 1850 Census Samuel Atkinson is listed as 50 years old, at New Hanover, North Carolina farmer with real estate worth $1000, living alone. Sophia had taken the 6 children and was living in Texas.

Estate Sale of Samuel Atkinson, probated by Stokely Atkinson

On her mother’s side, Oma Jane and Emily, had Sidbury and Stockley relatives, that dated back to the first settlements of America at Assawoman, Accomack, Virginia in the 1600’s. To Samuel and Sophia Sidbury Atkinson were born:, Jeremiah, Oma Jane, Francis, Edward, Ellen and Emily, all born at Wilmington, North Carolina. Young Emily was an orphan in 1860 when her mother Sophia died at Nueces, Texas as her father Samuel had died three years previously December 22, 1857 in New Hanover, N.C.

Oma Jane, Sophia Sidbury Atkinson, their mother and Emily before 1860 at Nueces, Texas

Emily at age 17 married her Civil War Vet Josiah Miller in 1868, who fought for the Union. Oma Jane married Andrew Jackson Somerville on December 11, 1875 when she was 40 years old. As a young man Andrew Jackson had served in the Texas forces as a medic in the War with Mexico. He received his discharge at Fort Inge, the frontier garrison located a few miles from the town of Uvalde, Texas. Emily’s husband Josiah had been with the 4th Wisconsin Calvary and passed through Fort Inge, while on patrol along the Rio Grande. It was here in Uvalde, that Andrew Jackson Somerville, decided to make his permanent home and here he and Oma Jane lived out their lives.

Emily Jane named after Oma’s sister Emily (my great grandmother) was born at Uvalde, Texas, November 24, 1877, their only child. She weighed less than two pounds at birth. She was the source of unbounded pride and they firmly resolved that Emily would receive the best education available in this remote outpost. Consequently, as she grew older and completed her elementary study at Miss Ella Vaughn’s private school, she enrolled for courses at Teachers Institute which was being conducted by Professor Eugene Shropshire of San Antonio. Within a few years her teaching career began in one-room schools in Uvalde and neighboring communities.

As a teenager she was well acquainted with the young country lawyer who became Vice President under Franklin D. Roosevelt, John Nance Garner. He and his wife Ellie Rinerson spent much time at their home in Uvalde after their years in Washington, but it was before he was elected to Congress that Emily Jane knew him best.

After she married and migrated to the Territory of New Mexico in 1906, with her husband and boys she taught several terms at Prairieview. Emily Jane Sommerville and Benjamin Carroll Johnson were married in 1899, at Prairie Lee, a settlement near Lockhart, Texas. Four children, blessed this union who called Oma Jane grandmother: Elmer Vernon, Evan Phalan, Bernadine who died at the age of three, and the youngest Anna Mae.

Emily Jane now Mrs. Johnson, her husband and two little boys came to new Mexico with a covered wagon, three horses and twenty five dollars and filed on land northwest of Prairieview. To help make a living Benjamin worked for cattle companies and was away from home, much of the time. Emily Jane kept her gun handy in the kitchen for unwelcome guests. Benjamin died in 1913 and was buried in the King Cemetery a few miles north of the homestead tract. Emily remained a year, then rented the land and with her children returned to South Texas. Relatives in Wilson County helped her and she then lived in Lake Charles, Louisiana. In 1917, Emily Jane married Robert Lee Johnson, a brother of her deceased husband. She inherited his eight children along with hers. They farmed and ranched in the vicinity of Floresville, until Robert Lee’s death in 1936.

Oma Jane jolted out of her reverie. Her sister Emily had been gathering family and they had arrived just on time. Bless her sister, Emily, she had found the two Johnson brothers, Benjamin and Robert Lee, baby Bernadine, Oma Jane’s husband Andrew Jackson Somerville and a whole passel of Texan Atkinsons. There was a birthday party about to begin down below. Her daughter, Emily, her memory sharp and clear, her vision and hearing near perfect. was turning 103. On her hundredth, the delightful event was celebrated at the home of her son in South Texas. Future generations would enjoy the pictures in full color taken on this memorable occasion, the early day documents, Bible records, pictures and old letters, and interesting correspondence from various prominent people. Emily Jane had observed with special pleasure Old Folks Day, meeting each June for the past 50 years at the Prairieview School house. Since she was living in that community with her daughter, she seldom had missed a meeting. A devout Christian, each summer she’d attended the annual meeting of her beloved religious order, the Non-Denomination Church in Beaumont, Texas. On that November Emily Somerville, Johnson, Johnson looked up and saw the clouds gathering. It meant that on her birthday, Prairieview, New Mexico would soon have a rain. Little did she know it was from her mother’s gathered happy tears and that the people she loved the most were gathering for a greater reunion planned for her soon.

November 12, 1980 Emily Johnson of Lovington, New Mexico: Services were held for Emily Johnson, 103 held Friday in Lovington. She is survived by two sons, one daughter, six grandchildren, great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren. The Galveston Daily News, page 7.

information from “Then and Now, Lea County Families” published by Lea County Genealogical Society in 1979, pages 462-463 by Cathey A. Cline, daughter of William Edward Weldy and Vera Pauline Coggin Weldy and great niece of Anna Mae Johnson Coggin and husband Roy Coggin.

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