Volume 31, Number 3 - Spring 1992

Aunt Vergie Remembers
By Clark Layton Jeffries


The attached document is from a discussion between Virginia Grant (Jeffries) Jackson and me. Aunt Virgie was a daughter of John James and Julia Ellen (Layton) Jeffries. Grandmother Jeffries was the daughter of Thomas Foster Layton.

The discussion was taped in the early part of the 1960s at Riverside, California where Aunt Virgie lived. Therefore, when reading this document please remember that her location reference point is California—not Springfield, Missouri. Also, please remember that Aunt Virgie, about 80 years old, was talking from memory, thus while still having a keen mind, she might have unintentionally mistaken some names and dates.

I am Clark Layton Jeffries the son, and only child, of Bert Clark and Jo Ann (Ezell) Jeffries. In turn, my father is a son of John James and Julia Ellen (Layton) Jeffries. The Clark is from Professor Isaac Ashberry Clarke, mentioned in the document. I wish the "e" were still in my given name.

Clark Layton Jeffries
7521 RR 2222
Austin, Texas 78730
(512) 345-6199

Aunt Virgie, please tell me about Granddad Jeffries.

Well, he had six brothers, Uncle Thomas, Uncle William, Uncle Nat, Uncle Bob, Dad and then Uncle George. That was the six boys, and I think there were six girls. I know there was Aunt Mary, Aunt Martha, Aunt Elizabeth, Aunt Lou and Aunt Bell. And, it seems to me there was another, but I don’t think of it right now.

And, then dad’s father died in Oroville. California. He and Uncle Thomas were coming across the plains in 1849. And grandfather developed yellow jaundice and died just after they reached Oroville and he’s buried in Oroville, California.

You mean, my great, great, great...?

That would be your...

My great, great grandfather is buried in Oroville, Oroville, California?

It would be your Great grandfather Jeffries, your dad’s grandfather.

Yes, your great grandfather is buried up here at Oroville, California, having developed jaundice coming across the plains. And Uncle Thomas stayed out here in California 45 years before he ever went back. He left a wife back in Missouri. And she was pregnant and didn’t want to come with him. And then she gave birth to a son, and that son went to Texas, Horace was his name. Went to Texas and was an officer, police officer of some kind and was killed in some sort of a raid.

Then, after 45 years Uncle Thomas came back to Springfield, and his wife (who was a sister to my Grandfather Layton, your Great grandfather Thomas Foster Layton) she stayed back there in Missouri. She didn’t know Uncle Thomas was in Springfield. But my mother and father went up to Springfield and they took Aunt Sarah. They took her to a hotel where uncle Thomas was. She hadn’t seen him for 45 years. But, she wouldn’t go back to California with him. She was getting... they were getting older and she decided she better stay in Missouri. I don’t know how long Uncle Thomas lived.

You said that granddad was born in 1843. What day and month was this?

May the 8th, 1843.

Do you remember his father’s full name?

No, I don’t.

Do you know anything about his mother and father?

No, his mother, her name was Harper, but I don’t remember her given name and I don’t know grandfather’s name. And, grandfather died when my father was 6 years old. And, grandmother died the next year. And, Uncle William who was the second son and was married, had some children. He took those 4 little boys.


Uncle George and he was 2 years younger than my father; and my father was 6 years old and Uncle Bob was 8 years old and Uncle Nat was 10 years old. And Uncle William took these little boys and raised them for quite some time. They kept father until he was 13 and he started out to make a living for himself. And, Aunt Mary, then took Uncle George and raised him.

Where was this, Aunt Virgie?

On a farm up north of Springfield, (I believe this was near Fair Grove, Missouri. C.L.J.) that’s where grandfather’s farm was. Springfield, Missouri.

Was granddad born in Missouri?

Yes, he was born up in Springfield, and mother was born in Springfield. And, then, I think father was 18 when he went into the service.

That would be for the Civil War?


I understand he went and fought for the North.

He did, he and Uncle Nat fought for the North. Uncle Bob and Uncle George fought for the South. My father said he went out under the flag. He said, had the South gone out under the flag he would have gone with them. He didn’t go out to free the Negroes, he went out to hold the Union together.

Where did he see service?

Well, around, he was around Springfield and in that part of the country. But I don’t know just exactly where he was when he was discharged from the office, from the service. I used to have, I had his discharge papers. He had his own horse. He was in the cavalry, and he had his own horse and he sold it and I did have the receipt of that, but the cyclone blew it and all my papers away, so I don’t have it. All I have is just what I can remember of what mother and dad told me about.

That was after the Civil War when granddad came home that he married grandmother (This was Julia Ellen Layton -- a daughter of Thomas Foster and Julia Ann (Foster) Layton. C.L.J.).

Yes, Mother’s folks of course hated him like a snake, because he was on the North and they were such radical Southerner’s. And they were married, in July the 29th 1866. And you want me to tell you about that?

Yes, tell me about that.

Well, anyway, mother’s father, before the Civil War, was in business, general merchandise business in Springfield, Missouri on the corner of the square and South Street.

What was their name?

Layton, Thomas Foster Layton.

And then mother, when grandfather was going into the service he felt that the family would be better off if they were on the farm, rather then moving them right in town. So he moved the family to the farm and he went into the service. I don’t know the year.

But, after the war, why mother and dad had planned to get married. Mother had gone back up to Springfield to visit some of the folks for a while and father came back and went up there to see her.

And, grandfather and grandmother came up to Springfield to buy some new furniture. And, while my grandfather was loading it, my father came along and helped him. And, after he finished, why, my father, said, "Uncle Thomas, you know what I ask for my days’ work." And grandfather said, "By jinx I didn’t expect you’d charge me anything." And, so pa said, "Well, I want Julia". And grandpa said, "She’s not fit for a poor man’s wife." Of course she’d been raised with slaves and didn’t know the first about doing anything. She didn’t even comb her own hair or anything. But she did beautiful fancy work, needle work, but she never washed a dish, never turned a hand for a thing. And my father said, "Well I’ll take just as good a care of her as you ever have." When they married, my father had a thousand dollars in cash and a span of good mules and one of the best saddle horses you could find in the country. I think he was in some pretty good circumstances.

Anyway, they started home with the furniture loaded in the wagon, and out on the road someplace, why my father called to him—my grandfather. And, grandfather thought that something had happened to the wagon. He stopped and jumped down and said "What’s the matter y’all?, What’s the matter y’all? You stopped so quick." And pa road up by the side and said, "Julia, we’ll be married here, this is the justice of the peace’s home." Well, grandmother and grandfather wouldn’t go up to see them married. At that time you didn’t have to have a licensee to be married. So, they went up and were married.


Then they put my father’s horse in with my grandfather’s, and grandmother took her horse and went on ahead. Mother thought that her mother had gone on ahead to have a nice dinner for them. But, mother said it was the poorest meal they’d ever sat down to in their life.

The next day, one of the Negro women had always loved the a cello that mother had. So mama, told her the next day, "You fix me a good dinner, today, Sally, and I’ll give you my cello." So, she fixed her up a real wedding dinner. Mother dressed up in her gray taffeta and her gray slippers and looked just like a real bride and all.

But oh, they were so bitter, they were so bitter they could just hardly take it at all. But it wasn’t six months until they found out that my father never hadn’t crossed them in any way about the South or the North. Never in all the years that I remember, my mother and father never had one word against the war. They talked about it all right, but there never was any feelings, any ill feelings between them. Of course mother’s folks were always strong Southerners. Her aunts and uncles and the like.

Now, my grandfather on my mother’s side, my great grandfather, on my mother’s side they were still living in Virginia, Fredericksburg, Virginia and had a plantation of 1600 acres. I don’t know how many slaves they had, but they had quite a lot of slaves. But when my Grandfather Layton came to Missouri from Virginia his slaves came with him. But I don’t think he had more than 8 or 10 slaves. But, they came with him to Missouri.

Why did they come to Missouri?

Well, I really don’t remember, them really saying just why, but some others of the family had come. They went through some hardships while my grandfather was in the service.

You’re talking about grandfather...?

My Grandfather Layton. He was taken prisoner, I don’t know what year now, was taken to the Alton penitentiary or the Anderson penitentiary at Alton, Illinois. Anyway it was at Alton, Illinois where he was in prison.

My grandmother was a very refined quiet sort of person. She got word that he was ill, that he was very ill. She went through some Northern officers and got

permission to drive to Alton to pick him up and bring him home. She took Uncle Tom, who was just 10 years old. They drove though to Alton and picked up grandfather and took him back to Missouri and she nursed him back to health. I don’t know what year it was, but she had a lot to contend with while he was in the service.

They were on this farm in Missouri and a group of the Northern men came along and camped at the big spring they had. She cooked for them. She was just as nice as she could be to them in every way. They took her hams, and took her flour and took her sugar. They always bought their sugar by 100 pounds and coffee by the barrel, like that. They never bought things in small quantities at all. My mother said once, the first time she bought a $1 worth of sugar she thought the people felt sorry for her because she was poverty stricken.

Grandmother, had a prize saddle horse, mare that she had raised. These Northern soldiers took the horse, went into the pasture and took it. She went to some of the officers, Northern Officers, and told them that these men, these soldiers, had taken her saddle horse and they told her that if she could really identify the mare that she could have her back. So they went out to the corral where the horses were and she called to her, "Kit come and suck my hand". That mare raised up her head and just loped over to the deal, the fence and took hold of grandmother’s fingers. The officers said, "She’s yours, you can have her." So she took her home and they were kind to her, nice to her.

Oh, she had aunts and uncles that were bitter. She had one aunt that was so bitter, but one reason she was so bitter was that her husband was to die of small pox. She just had one child, (Aunt Molly Hughes).

Her husband was working for, doing some carpenter work one day for a Northern soldier. But, he was accused of committing some crime I don’t what it was, and they threw him into jail. He was just in jail overnight, just a little while anyway. They had small pox in the jail and he took small pox and died and the little girl took small pox and died.

Aunt Molly was just as bitter as she could be always after that. But this man, that he was working for that day found our about it. He cleared, he got him cleared because he proved that my uncle had worked for him all day, that day. So that was what got him out of, taken out of jail.

They had a big 2 story house, a brick house in Spring-


field on South Street in Springfield, Missouri. When Lincoln was assassinated. Aunt Molly sent word out to the farm to my grandfather to send in all the candles they had. She wanted to illuminate her house, rejoice of the assassination

But, grandmother was quiet and lady like. She wouldn’t have done a thing like that. After Clarke, my Clarke was, oh, he was ten or 12 years old we had a night in Springfield an elderly man told me that he was in prison with a number of other Southern men in Springfield, Missouri and Aunt Molly Hughes went to the outside of the stockade for night after night and dug around a number of the boards getting them loose so the men could get out. Then, she baked a cake with a note in it and told them where the boards were. He told me many prisoners got out. She was a dare devil but grandmother was everything else in world but that.

Then, my mother and father when they married, they were married July the 29th, 1866. My father and grandfather - my mother’s father, had gone on a note for a man for $3200.00 and the man couldn’t pay it. So, my grandfather and father had to pay that note. But, this man had a lease or some ownership of some land. I’ve forgotten, a lot of pine timber in Taney County, Missouri. I’ve forgotten how many acres but a lot of it. He turned that all over to grandpa and my father. They put in a saw mill and sawed all that pine timber up. They had a lumber yard in Springfield, Missouri and then they took the timber up there and sold it, most of it.

Mother and father moved to the mill ground. Father helped to build 15 small houses and employed married men to work for them so mother would have company. Mother had a housekeeper, she never did any thing; she still continued to be the lady, to be waited on for, oh, several years. But first though, she had a housekeeper that had been with them for 2 years and who wanted a vacation. Another woman was supposed to come and take over the house. But, the woman didn’t get there for a little while.

Mother couldn’t do a thing, she was just as helpless as a little kitten, to do anything in the kitchen. But father had helped Aunt Elmira who had took him after grandmother died and he could go into the kitchen and do a lot of things. So he told her he’d take over the kitchen. He took it over until this woman came. Mother just cried and cried and cried. So first trip she made to Springfield, she bought a cookbook. She said if she had daughters she was going to teach them to cook whether... it made no difference if they had a million dollars, they were going to learn to cook. So they lived at that mill.

Then, they moved from there down into north, northwest Arkansas and bought up a lot of land and timber and all and put in another mill there. Mountain Home, Arkansas was where their Post Office was that was, oh, a few miles from Harrison. And father furnished all the lumber that build all the best homes in Harrison.

There was a well known doctor, Dr. Kerby and a Dr. Grew, then there was two lawyers, Crumpton brothers who were criminal lawyers. Then two other lawyers bought this lumber. They had the nice big homes that they built from father’s lumber.

I don’t know what year they went there, went up to Berryville and father started to farming. But, that was before I was born. I was born in September of 1882. He was a farmer then, from then on. He was badly ruptured during the war. He had a double hernia. They never could fit him with a truss that would hold him. The government had him go to Washington and tried to fit him with a truss but they never did get one that would hold that hernia back.

But he farmed, he was a good farmer. We didn’t have any money but we had lots to eat and a comfortable home.

Tell me about the children now...

Ah, children, well let’s see, I think there were ten of us. Pretty sure there were ten. Brother John; Sister Ida; then Sister Belle; the I think there was James, he died when he was just 13; Sister Bessy; and Brother Will; and me and Bert, (Bert Clark Jeff’ries, my father. C.L.J.); Vasco and Joe. I think there were ten of us.

Let’s see, Brother John was born in 1868, mother lost 2 premature babies, sister Ida was born in 1870 —Brother John was born in July, I forgot the date in 1868. Sister Ida was born on March the fifth, 1870. Sister Belle was born March 27, 1872. Then, Sister Bessy was born September 22, I’ve forgotten the year. Brother Will was born November the 6th... he’s nearly 3 years older than I... I was born in 1882. He must have been born in 18—79. Then I was born September 21, 1882, Bert was born March 20, March the 20th I think was Bert’s birthday 1885. And Vasco was born June the 20th, 1889. Joe was born July 8th, 1892.

Then James was the first of these to die except the


premature babies. He died February 1887. I think it was Sister Bessy died December 7, 1894. Vasco, April 13, 1913. Joe before that _____ died. Julia died, Vasco died April 13, 1913, then Sister Belle died November, 1939. Brother John died March the 17th, 1940. Bert died July 29th, was in 184... 1946. Sister Ida died March the... February the 28th, 1959. She was almost 89 years old. Then I guess Will was the next one that died on October 6th, 1962. I’m the last one in a family often.

Family all scattered out...?

Yes, all scattered out, all scattered out.

Where does the Clarke come from...?

Clarke comes in, Professor I.A. Clarke married Aunt Virgie, Aunt Virginia Layton, mother’s sister Virginia that’s where the Clarke comes in. He was a very fine man, had a wonderful reputation, very intelligent man. His name was Isaac Ashberry Clarke and he always said that he had such an ugly name that no one ever going to name a child after him.

So when, when Clarke, my son, came along I named him Clarke. I was the only one in a whole generation who called him Uncle Isaac. All the others said Professor Clarke. I was the only one to call him Uncle Isaac. When I was born, he had come, he had come to see mother, he came to see me. He asked mother to let him name me. So he named me for Aunt Virgie. He named me for Aunt Virgie, Virginia Grant. I don’t know where the Grant came from, I don’t know why the Grant... I don’t know any Grant in the family.

This here Uncle Isaac who had the academy?

Yes, that’s where your dad went to school. Yes, he went to school there, we all went to school there. Your dad did not go very long. I went there 5 years. Uncle Isaac had a wonderful school.

I’ve got an extra picture of him if you’d like to have it. Fine looking man. His wife, Aunt Virginia, they called her Virgie all the time. They had 3 children. A son and 2 daughters. The youngest one was, ah, she was a little over a year old.

They went to this place, Eureka Springs, it was just being founded. They had just discovered the properties of the water and the value of them, the medical value of them. So Uncle Isaac and Aunt Virgie and the 3 children went over to Eureka Springs and camped for

their vacation.

They were getting ready to go back over to Berryville to open school. They had pulled up all the stakes at the camp and everything, and had spread their table cloth on the ground and were eating their dinner on the ground. Aunt Virgie had Fanny, her youngest girl in her arms and had sat down by a tree that had, had a fire against it. When she sat, started to set down there, she said to Uncle Isaac, "That tree looks like it is burned so near through that it might fall!" Uncle Isaac, he said, "Oh, that tree would stand for years."

Well shortly after she had sat down there, when she, they heard it crack and it fell. She threw the baby to Uncle Isaac and she was caught on another tree and this one crushed her. She lived a few hours.

Uncle Isaac he never married. He had housekeepers that helped raise, helped raise the children.

Then in 18— in 1932. This daughter, who was a baby when the tree killed her mother, why she was going over to Eureka Springs to see an old lady who had helped raise the children. And she and her other sister had kept up this old lady’s taxes and everything for her and it was winter time and she was going over to Eureka with one of the men from Berryville she knew. Her husband was president, Fanny’s husband was president of the bank in Berryville.

Going over they ran into a storm, sleet and rain and everything. Going up a winding hill they, why they met a bus and the bus driver’s brakes didn’t hold and he hit their car and drove it right into the mountain side and she was killed. That was a few miles from Eureka Springs where her mother was killed so many years before.

There the one, her sister, Fanny’s sister, Minnie, Uncle Isaac’s daughter is still living in Denver. She’s, she was 87 years old last March. Comfort died from taking, by mistake, he took Oltolic Acid. He thought he was taking oh, salts. They look a lot alike you know. He was bookkeeper for a mining company in Cripple Creek, Colorado. His stomach was bothering him so he went to the medicine cabinet. Instead of getting hold of the salt’s bottle he got hold of the Oltolic Acid and took a tablespoon full of that. He lived 7 years but he died of starvation. It just ate his stomach out.

Aunt Virgie, you told me a story several times about when you were a little girl, this doctor came by the house.., tell me about that again.


Well, I had a time with a fever. I had, oh, blond hair as a little baby and curly hair. I was pretty badly spoiled because there was so much difference in my age and the older children. Especially my Brother John. He is 15 years older than I.

Mother was gone some place and I wouldn’t let sister comb my hair so Brother John tied me up on the high chair and cut my hair all off. Well, it came in blond and curly again. Then I had a very hard spell of typhoid fever when I was 7 hers old and my hair all come out. It came back in just as red as fire and straight as a string... freckles, you just couldn’t put a pin point down that you couldn’t hit a freckle.

The old doctor who had been our family doctor. Brought me into the world. He treated me during that typhoid fever. He called me sorrel top. Oh, I hated him. One morning Brother Will and I were out playing by the wood yard behind the house and he come by, going to see some of his patients. He’d say "Good morning Willie. Hello there Sorrel-top." Oh, how I hated him. You want me to tell you more?

Yes, please.

Well anyway, I told mother, I said, "Some of these days I’m going to call him something." She told me if I did she’d skin me. So, he went by one morning, "Good morning Willie, Hello Sorrel-top. "1 said, "You old Bluster." Mother liked to skin me, too. Why you could have heard that doctor laughing for a mile. We had lots of experiences and all.

Bert and I one day during harvest time my father had two fields on, one on each side of the road that lead down to the creek... The men were in the harvest field cutting the grain. Bert and I decided we’d go down to the creek and play awhile. It was a good size stream and just before you got to the stream there was 2 high banks, oh, they were 15-20 feet high on each side. Just as we turned in that, oh, to that road between the banks, why on the opposite side of the creek we saw, what would be a red fox going down there. Oh, it would like to have scared us to death.

We just ran as hard as we could back up to the house. The harvest men were resting at that time under a big walnut tree that was in the wheat field. We were just so scared and they told is then, when we’d described that it was a red fox. We used to have an awful lot of experiences.

Do you know anything about, beyond in history

about the Layton’s? Would be at one time settlers of Harper’s Ferry, Virginia?

Well, that was where grandfather, my father’s mother was a Harper. She was related to the Harpers of Harper Ferry.

Your father of grand...?

Your Grand dad Jeffries, his mother was a Harper and I think her name was Sarah. I think it was Sarah, anyway it was Harper. I know she was from Harper’s, Harper’s Ferry. I don’t know just exactly the place she was born.

Well, somewhere I heard there was the name Mitchell in the background ...

Yes, that was on the Foster side, on mother’s grandmother’s side. Mother was a Layton and her mother was a Foster. Julia Ann Foster and then just how, whether, the Mitchell was just the generation before the Fosters I don’t know.

But they came over from Scotland. The Fosters did, came across from Scotland and oh, the Mitchell’s I mean, who came across from Scotland. King James gave them a grant of land. 1600 acres of land at, in Fredericksburg, Virginia in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. That was how it come down to the Fosters that 1600 acres of land. Came to the Fosters who was my mothers grandparents. Robert and Elizabeth Foster and they had a son John who was a Colonel and was wounded in the battle of Wilson’s Creek out from Springfield and he died the next day.


Foster, Uncle John Foster was a colonel, Then grandmother had a son that was killed in service, Uncle, my Uncle Horace. Horace Layton. He was killed in Hartville, Missouri and when grandmother got the word about him being killed. Why she had a box made and took sheets with her and took a neighbor lady and drove from the farm out from Springfield out to Hartville and took up Uncle Horace. He’d only been in just about 2 feet of ground in water.

She lifted him, they lifted him up and took him back to their home there on the farm. They had a family burying ground. So many families did. He was buried there but was later taken up and moved to the national cemetery at Springfield, Missouri. That’s where he and Uncle John Foster are both buried.


American National Cemetery there?

Yes, he’s at the national cemetery there at Springfield. So is Uncle Horace. But, Uncle Horace was only just 18 years old and gone into the service. He was the only one old enough to go into the service.

There were, I think there were 12 children in my mothers side. She had 12 brothers and sisters. She was next to the oldest. Aunt Betty was the oldest one and then Robert and he died as a baby. Then Aunt Laurel was next. Then Uncle Thomas was next then Aunt Belle, Aunt Alice and Aunt Alma and Uncle Carl then Aunt Ann. Grandmother my mother’s mother, died when she was 25 years old. No she was, no mother was 25 years old when her mother died.

But.. . grandpa still loved on that farm out in Taney County after, oh . . ., well when he moved on 1932. Harvey and I went up to Berryville for a visit and we drove up to the old farm and grandfathers, one of grandfathers nieces and her son was living (she was past 80 years old) and it’s still in the Layton family, but the old house has been torn away. Did I give you a picture of that old house?

I don’t know Aunt Virgie...

I think I had a copy of it, I ought to still have it.

Are there any of the Jeffries remaining around Berryville?

No, no not any around, they were up around Springfield, I don’t think there’s any of them living at all. Because you see, they would be pretty old. I never knew any of them except Uncle Nat, Uncle Bob and Uncle George. Uncle Nat was tall and slender and very dignified and very quiet. Uncle Bob was just like a grizzly bear. Rough looking and he’d come to town, I’d rather seen Satan coming on. Uncle George was a farmer, he was always, Uncle Bob a farmer. Uncle George was always neat and clean. We got a kick out of him. He was just as full of life as he could be, we always loved him, to have him come. Uncle Nat he wasn’t so bad to have him come.

Uncle William he’d stay out there on that farm 6 months at a time and never touch a drop of liquor. If you let him come into Springfield he’d get drunk every time.


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