Volume 1, Number 5
Mrs. Lula Riley Bruce was born October 1, 1881, and departed this life June 26, 1962. She was the eldest daughter of Alexander Lee Riley and Pricilla Jane (Reeves) Riley. She taught school near Marshfield and Halfway, Missouri, before her marriage to James E. Bruce. Soon after her husband's death, she became afflicted with arthritis and was an invalid for about twenty-five years.
Although she moved away from southwest Missouri at the turn of the century, she was always interested in the people and places of this area and was a Charter Member of the White River Valley Historical Society.
Her survivors include her daughter, Mrs. Lucille Friesen with whom she made her home
in Medora, Kansas, and a brother, the Reverend Walter H. Riley, Minister Emeritus
of the First Congregational Church in Texarkana, Texas.
In response to a request from the Society, the Reverend Riley has written the following account which stands as a fine tribute to his sister:
"The people of Forsyth and vicinity knew Mrs. J. E. Bruce as Lula Riley, oldest child of Mr. and Mrs. A. L. Riley. She was born in North Carolina (father's home state) in 1881, but was brought to Laclede County, Missouri, in the same year. She and I were the oldest of a family of six children growing to maturity, and when she was eleven years of age and I eight, we came from the village of Competition, near the southern line of Laclede County, to Forsyth. The trip, which required four long, weary days, was made in a covered wagon, and we camped out every night but one. Since the month was November, we were not altogether comfortable even during the day and were more uncomfortable at night. The third night it was raining when camping time came, and as we were near a nice looking farm home, inquiry was made as to the chances of driving under a shed of some kind in order to be "out of the wet." I was too young and it was too long ago (exactly seventy years) for me to remember many details of that night, but I do remember that our hosts were Mr. and Mrs. Johnson (I think the initials were J. C.); he was at that time, or later became, Circuit Clerk of the county, and his daughter, Laura, was his secretary or assistant and later was in school with my sister and me. Instead of a shed, they took us into their house and we spent a very comfortable night, our last on the road.
"In our Laclede County home we were about one and a half miles from the village and school, and since the path led through the deep woods, my mother was afraid for Lula to go alone, and so when I had reached the ripe age of four, we started in together. (I judge I was supposed to 'take care' of my sister!) We were too poor to buy books for one, let alone two, so when we got one set of books, I sat with her on 'the girls' side,' so that we could use the same books. That continued through our entire schooling through the eighth grade.
"After some years we were away from Taney County for a short time and when we returned, instead of moving to the place where we had lived about a mile and a half east of Forsyth, we lived for some time farther out, and attended school at Dickens and Kissee Mills. The teachers I remember in the Forsyth school (we entered early in the first year of use of the 'new' school building, which most of the Forsyth readers will remember as the 'old' stone building near the old ferry landing) include Mr. and Mrs. Jack Hicks, a Miss Wood, two Truman brothers, and J. C. L. McKnight. Henry Lawrence was the teacher at Dickens, and Ellis Humphrey (brother of 'Doe' Humphrey) was our teacher when living at Kissee Mills, though the school was called Wilson Spring, and was located some distance from the village, and we had quite a trip over rugged hills and through deep woods to get to it."In the year 1900, we went for a three-year stay in Colorado and when we returned to Missouri, we located farther north, and both Lula and I and two younger sisters taught school in Polk County. Lula was married in 1906 to James E. Bruce, at the time living in Marshfield, and after some months there, they came to this city (Texarkana). Her husband died in 1928, and most of the time after that she lived with her daughter, Mrs. Abe Friesen, at Hutchinson. Kansas, and Medora, a village a few miles out of that city.
"At the time we were at Forsyth, I am sure there was no high school between Springfield and Harrison, Arkansas. That was also before the days of The School of the Ozarks, so a high school education was out of the question. Shortly before Lula's marriage, I, at the age of twenty-two, went to Kansas City and began the laborious climb through high school, a college course, and degrees from two professional graduate schools, and to fifty-four years in the Christian ministry.
"Lula was never in Forsyth or any of that part of the country after the beginning of the century, but I have spent several vacations there and am always gloriously glad to get back 'home.' However, more recently I find so very, very few of the friends of long ago that I am more content to stay away. After a visit there I always wrote Mrs. Bruce a detailed account of my doings and the people I met and she was always thrilled to have the information about old places and familiar names.
"In conclusion may I say that for the seventy-four years that I remember her, I have always thought of her as one of the finest persons I have ever known, and have been highly pleased to know that that characterization has followed her wherever she has been. I have a fine photograph of her on my dresser where I can see it every day and be reminded of the treasure I have had in her companionship-the picture was made in 1905 and exhibits a personality hard to match anywhere."
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