A Story of the McQuary Family
by Reca McQuary Hardy
Written in 1986

Contributed by:

Willard Lee McQuary


Acquisition of the childhood memoirs of Reca Elizabeth McQuary Hardy (1903-1996) was something of a fluke. I’d borrowed some family history documents from my cousin, Pamela Kay McQuary Oden. They included family correspondence written in the 1980s to her brother, Timothy Warren McQuary. Included in that correspondence was a letter to Tim written on July 24th, 1984 by Broyles Sumner McQuary, Reca’s brother. I made a copy of that letter and sent it to one of my genealogy contacts, Marjorie McQueary of Toledo, Ohio. Receipt of the letter jogged her memory and resulted in her sending me a copy of Reca’s “My Early Childhood,” a document that she recalled having only after reading Broyles letter to Tim.

Reca’s father was the oldest brother of James Otis McQuary (1890–1960). She was born and raised in Macon County, Missouri, but her childhood memories include an account of an abortive attempt by her parents at homesteading in New Mexico when she was about five years old . That adventure was something of a McQuary expedition for it involved not only Reca’s immediate family, but her McQueary grandparents and four of their other sons, including James Otis.

There is a postscript to the New Mexico aspect of Reca’s childhood memories. James Otis paid the property taxes on his homestead for many years before eventually selling it. However, he retained the property’s mineral rights, later selling them to his son, Warren Harding McQuary, Pam’s father. When Warren died in 1981, those mineral rights were divided into five equal shares: two shares to his widow, Irma Lorene McDonald McQuary, and one each to Pam, Tim and their younger brother , John McDonald McQuary. Each receives a modest monthly check as a result of extraction operations that have been in progress for the past several decades on James Otis’s old New Mexico homestead.

There’s another noteworthy aspect to Reca’s account of her childhood. She mentions that after returning to Macon County from New Mexico, her parents rented a place that was known as the “Richardson farm.” James Otis McQuary married Vergie Elizabeth Varns on 11 Dec 1910 in Macon County - where all their children were born. Vergie’s mother was Sarah Frances “Fannie” Richardson. The Richardsons were a large and well established Macon County family. General Land Office Records of the Bureau of Land Management list 42 land patents issued to individuals with the Richardson surname between 1838 and 1882 for Macon County parcels totalling 3,214.7 acres. Odds are that the Richardson farm Reca’s parents rented was owned by one of Vergie’s ancestors or relatives.

Willard L. (Bill) McQuary
December 15th, 2001


I have decided to write a few things about my early life since I have never told you much about it, the early days of my family. So here is some of it, Dorothy Jean, Ruth Evelyn, Mary Frances, Juanita Elizabeth and James Sumner.
I have a family tree of my family that begins in about 1765. Some earlier data is not complete. I may get into that later. My father, Hiram Sumner McQueary (the spelling has somehow been later changed) was born on March 30, 1882. There were eleven children in his family. His father was Christopher “Kit” Green McQueary and his wife was Louise “Lou” Catron McQueary. Their birthplace was in Kentucky near Plato, a small town near Somerset.
I have some data on my mother's family, named Broyles, back to 1680. I will include some of that. Irene Broyles, who lives near Somerset, is working on the history of the Broyles family, and I hope to get a copy of that later.
Here I will list members of both families:
My father's brothers and sisters are: (All of these are deceased).

Hattie McQueary Miller
Dean McQueary Gragg
Hiram Sumner McQueary (McQuary)
John McQueary
Mary McQueary
William P. McQuary
Orland McQuary
Charles McQuary
Otis McQuary
Tom McQuary
Wayne McQuary

These are my mother’s half brothers and sisters:

Edgar Lee Broyles
Lena May Broyles Snyder
George Burnette Broyles
Cordelia (Delia) Broyles Bloomer
Hiram Polk Broyles, Jr.
William Osborne Broyles
Swannie R. Broyles
Edith Broyles Preston*
Edna Broyles Robison* (Twins)

My mother was Lula Frances Broyles. Her parents were Hiram Polk Broyles and Mary Frances Burnette Broyles. Hiram was on old Johnson name (his mother’s family name) and Polk was for President Polk. Her father first married Martha McQueary, grandpa Christopher “Kit” McQueary's sister. She died during their earlier married life. They had no children. Then he married Mary Frances Burnette and their only child was my mother. I am told that Mary Frances was very beautiful, a very talented woman. She made all my mother’s baby clothes by hand, and they were lovely. She died when my mother was a year old because of a severe cold after hanging the laundry outside on a very cold day. This developed into pneumonia. My mother’s grandparents, Felix and Emaline Johnson Broyles took her and raised her as their own. They had 10 children of their own.
My McQuary grandparents moved from Kentucky to Iowa, then to Missouri. I always knew them well as they lived close to us in Missouri.

I suppose it is about time I brought myself into the picture. I will start by saying that the McQueary, Catron and Broyles families were a very close-knit group. In the year 1902 Hiram Sumner McQueary (the Hiram was for my grandpa Broyles who was first married to grandpa McOuary’s sister) and Lula Frances Broyles had decided that they loved each other enough to spend the rest of their lives together, and their wedding date was set for June 18, 1902. Sumner was 21 and Lula 16. At that time Sumner was a fireman on the railroad. My mother was not too pleased with his job, I am told, and that is why they decided to move to Missouri.

On Jun 30, 1903 Sumner and Lula became the parents of a baby girl, me. Doctor Raines, from nearby Macon, came to the farm home for the delivery which was a very difficult one. My mother was only 17, but we both finally made it. I am sue she experienced many more difficult times in her life. She had chosen Ruth for my name. However, she had a dear friend, Lizzie Wheeler, who wanted to name me. She had several pregnancies but never could have a child. She named me Reka from Rebecca. Later someone changed it to Reca. I added the Elizabeth myself. This was for one of my mother’s aunts, Sarah Elizabeth Broyles Burton.

Following my grandmother Broyles’ death my grandfather married Mary Jane Burnette. Their family then had nine children. The last two were twins. Grandfather was a carpenter, a school teacher and a farmer. He was also a music teacher.

My dad’s brothers, Tom and Wayne were young teenagers when I was born. They were very good to help my mother, and I’ve been told they enjoyed taking care of me. We all lived on farms near Ten Mile, a little town in Macon County, Missouri.

On August 13, 1904 Doctor Raines was called back to our home again, and he delivered a baby boy, Broyles Sumner. We became real pals. My mother had outside chores and couldn’t take us with her, so she had a large wooden box which she padded (one of the first playpens, ha!). She put us in there to play until she got back.
Again on June 5, 1906 the doctor was called, and this time he brought a baby girl, Beula Frances. By this time Broyles and I had quite a thing going, and we were not too interested in Beula. As she got older she wanted to play with us, but we seemed to get great fun out of teasing her. For one thing, she was afraid of a feather, so of course we delighted in finding a chicken feather and chasing her. One big problem was that she fainted easily, so we were told to be more gentle with her. She was a beautiful chubby child with long banana curls, everyone’s darling and she was smart, intelligent. She enjoyed sitting on her chair with her books. Broyles and I were always otherwise busy, and we liked to be outside.
I did enjoy memorizing long poems, and when we had company I remember being asked to recite. I was told to stand on a chair so I could be seen. I am sure I was loud enough to be heard.

It seems that there are not too many things that I remember up to this time. When I was three Dad went to Macon, and when he came back home he had a new wedding band for Mother and a new small gold band for me. That made us both vert happy. By that time I was trying to be helpful. I loved washing dishes and Dad (we called him Papa until we were older) made me a stool so I could reach the dishpan. I sewed buttons on Dad’s shirts, and it pleased him. He came home from town one day with the most beautiful blue glass beads for me. Mother sewed a lot, in fact made everything we wore. Mother was also a very good cook, and I liked helping her with that. She taught me how to sew and cook and keep house.

On February 17, 1908 I got another baby sister. She was named Emma Lou for her great-grandmother, Emaline Broyles and grandmother Louise “Lou” Catron McQuary. I remember the new baby very well. She had big blue eyes and no hair. Also, she was a cry baby. Mother had so much to do, and she wanted Broyles and me to entertain her, but of course, we wanted to do other things. But she grew out of that crying stage and became a very sweet little sister.
Now there are four of us children, and I am five years old. Don’t you know that our mother had fun?

When Emma Lou was about a year old my parents and some of my uncles, John and wife Mae Belle “Mabel” and little daughter Vera (who died very young), Otis, Tom and Wayne all decided to move to New Mexico to the northeastern part near Nara Visa. There they staked claims. If you lived on the land for a year it was yours. Papa, grandpa and the uncles all made the necessary arrangements and built houses near each other. After the houses were built they came back to Missouri for us. But before we got started back a cyclone blew our houses away. The men all went out there and built a large one-room house and Mother divided it into rooms with heavy curtains.

It was exciting getting ready to move. I was very disturbed, but still wanted to go. There were no trees there. I would cry when I went to bed at night thinking about no trees, no shade, no birds and no breezed. Mother was very good to always make things seem wonderful. So finally, I was ready for the long train ride out there to our new home. It was a new experience and wonderful. Part of the trip was at night. The grandparents and uncles were there ahead of us. They met us at Nara Visa with a team and wagon. I don’t remember how they got our furniture there, but I remember that I loved the big house. We also had a barn, chicken house and an outdoor toilet, a cellar and a big garden. In back of the house and within walking distance was a high bluff with trees and rocks and a clear stream where we went for water until our well was drilled. It was called “the breaks.”

The drilling of the well was exciting. Men came with a big machine. This was my first knowledge of a diamond drill. You can just know that Broyles and I watched it all. After that the uncles helped Papa dig a cellar. That was even more fun for us two lively youngsters. We enjoyed playing in the big hole. One day at noon we left ahead of the men and rushed out to play there before the digging was resumed. But there was a big snake, and we started screaming. The men rushed out and killed the big rattler. The snakes were plentiful in our area. When the cellar was completed we began storing our fruits and vegetables in it.

Now it is 1910, January 29. I am six and a half years old. Broyles is five years and two months, Beula is three and a half, Emma almost two, and we get another baby sister, Hattie Lena, named for Papa’s sister Hattie and Mama’s half-sister Lena. Our new baby was delivered by a midwife. Mother was 24 and had five children to care for (I had my first child when I was 24). Those early days were just wonderful for me. It must have been hard for mother. I am sure Dad worked hard too, but he was always outside, and we didn’t realize what his work was like.

Emma Lou was walking and talking by the time we got Lena. She had become a very loved little sister and always wanted to help us. One day she carried Lena from one bed to another. We were shocked. How could she lift her little sister, and what if she had dropped her? Lena used to wonder why all the rest were delivered at birth by a doctor, and was she a Mexican because she was born in New Mexico? Also we had a family portrait made before leaving Missouri, but none after that so again, she was puzzled. I think all that just made her special. She was always full of fun.
At Christmas time in New Mexico Mama thought that Santa might not find us, so she made dolls, balls and new clothes for us, doing it all after we were in bed asleep. Papa and the uncles would go to Nara Visa — a two-day trip — for flour, sugar, salt and other supplies we needed. They got some fruit, nuts and candy. Everyone hung up their stockings on Christmas Eve, and the next morning was indeed a happy time. Then all the clan would get together for a Christmas dinner and more gift exchanging. The uncles made Broyles and me each a bow and arrow and taught us how to use them. We shot at cans on the fence posts.

I would always spend the night with my grandmother when the men went to Nara Visa. She had nightmares, and she would wake me yelling for me to call Grandpa and the boys. Finally I said, “Grandma, they couldn’t hear me if I did.”
Uncles Tom, Wayne and Otis would buy young horses and train them to use in the fields and to ride. We children enjoyed watching that. Some of the time the horses would really buck.

Broyles and I went to school at a small one-room building with benches for seats. We had no desks. Uncle Otis was the teacher, and we all loved him. We walked to school. Goes’ store was nearby. We also had Sunday School in the school building. All the families around went there. When it snowed everyone had large sleds. Each family took turns picking everyone up. The horses even seemed to enjoy the trips as much as the people. I had such a pretty Sunday School teacher and got some lovely colored pictures and the lesson on the back. We all enjoyed the singing. My grandpa’s favorite song was “I’ll Go Where You Want Me To Go, Dear Lord.” Grandmother’s was “Pass Me Not, Oh Gentle Savior.” Papa’s was “In the Sweet Bye and Bye.” Mama’s was “God Will Take Care of You.” I liked all of them and still do.

Mama helped Broyles and me with our school work. I think Beula learned as much as we did because she was always listening and always had a book. One day she was reading “A Goose is a Fool.” The word was “fowl.”
There were lots of cactus plants in New Mexico. They were beautiful when they were in bloom, but sometimes we tried to stay away from them because they had sharp needles. We and the neighbor children liked to play hide and seek in the evenings. Once Broyles hid in a cactus bed. It was dark, and he didn’t see it. We had no trouble finding him, of course. He screamed loud and long. The game was over, and we picked thorns out of his chubby little seat.
I forgot to tell you that some of our neighbors lived in adobe houses. The dirt floor was hard and always clean. Part of our time at play was making adobe houses, each one trying to make a better one.

Broyles and I would walk to Uncle John and Aunt Mabel’s house. She always had something good for us as a snack, One day her supply was low and the bread was hard. She made us a jelly sandwich and Broyles said, “Aunt Mabel, this bread is so good and so hard.” She had a good laugh at that. She has always been a dear aunt and is living in California at this time.

We had sandstorms occasionally, and one day one came while we were at school. Uncle Otis said we should start home. Uncle Tom came for us with the team and wagon. The storm was so bad that the horses became frightened and ran away before we could get in the wagon. Uncle Otis told us all to hold hands and keep walking. The sand was blinding, but we made it home safely.

Mexicans would drive past in covered wagons and stop for a drink or food. They were very hard to understand. Cowboys also rode by and some would stop.

There are so many things I remember about our stay there. Papa decided to come back to Missouri, and the rest decided to leave also. Dad traded his land to Mr. Simmons who lived in Missouri, for a heard of cattle.
I must tell you that your father (Herschel) and I recently drove through Nara Visa and had lunch on a trip west. We asked about the area where we had lived. We were told that it was now known as the McQueary Ranch but that there were no houses there now. ***

Now we are back in Missouri and living on a rented place, the Richardson farm. Broyles and I started school. It was called the Moody School. We were in the second grade. We walked, and it seemed a long way. Somehow I got the idea it was a mile and four quarters. When the weather was bad Papa took us, all three on one horse. We always took our lunches in those days.

Papa took Broyles and me to Macon one day. What a day! I had never eaten in a restaurant before. The food was served family style, and since I was always a big eater I was really full. Then they served us apricot pie, and I sure made room for that. It was delicious. Then Papa got me new patent leather slippers. I felt like a Queen for a Day. I road home with my feet on the dashboard so I could see my new slippers. But I was so full and so sleepy that I feel asleep before we got home.

Later we moved again to a rented place called the Wisdom Place. We liked it so much. Broyles and I had experiences there. I remember more about that move. The grandparents, Uncle Tom and Aunt Ethel and Bessie, their adopted daughter, Uncle Orland, Aunt Carrie and their four children moved near us also. We had close neighbors that we enjoyed, and we had children to walk with to school. We were near a little store. Broyles and I could walk there. One day Mama sent us there, and we saw some lovely apples in a box. We just reached out and got one apiece. When we got home we were still eating them, and Mama questioned us about them as she had not given us any extra money. Well, we had another trip back to the store with money to pay and also to apologize. The store was [in] Axtel, and Mr. & Mrs. C. F. Smiley were the owners. Several families lived near the store and the railroad track ran through the middle of the little town. Some of the trains stopped there. The store was a general store and post office.

Mr. Smiley didn’t go to church, but his wife was a very good church worker. She would come for Broyles, Beula and me on Sunday mornings for Sunday School. She was the organist, and we had a good choir.

By this time Mama was home with Emma Lou, Lena and Millard dean. The Dean was for Papa’s sister, Dean McQueary Gragg. Millard had arrived April 1, 1913. I am 10 years old now and can help Mama with lots of things. We almost always had live-in hired hands and that made much extra work. I remember one, Jim Snodgrass. He was so hard to get awake mornings. Papa would put the alarm in a big pan right nest to his bed and such a noise you never heard. Sometimes we would have breakfast ready and the other hired man and Papa would have the chores done and Snodgrass would still be asleep. Papa would go to his door and yell, “Are you dead, Snodgrass?”

Broyles and I would now and then ride the pigs and calves. We also had a very gentle horse named Old Matt that we rode. One day we decided we would wear our big straw hats and ride without a bridle. We were doing fine until we started hitting the horse with our hats to make him go faster. He did and so did we, but not for long. We fell to the ground, and it was hard. The horse went on home, and we had to walk.

This episode happened to us at an earlier time when I was about four, Broyles three. We were playing in the yard and Mama was inside cooking for threshers. It had rained, so we decided to go down to a little stream and play in the water. We took all of our clothes off and waded out. Soon we were covered with mud. About all you could see of us was our eyes. When we went back to the house Mama saw us and she had to laugh. She told us to get into a closet; she wanted Papa to see us that way too. Of course he laughed too, but somehow we got the idea that we should not do that any more.

I only remember one time that my Dad whipped me. I was late getting home from a friend’s house. He met me with a little switch, and I got a few licks on my legs. After that I always knew that I’d better do my best.
I remember our first phonograph, We all liked music, and Mr. Smiley had a great deal that when you had traded a certain amount at his store you could get a phonograph. With our big family plus the hired hands and lots of company you soon had bought a lot. We had a charge account with Mr. Smiley, so Broyles and I could go there and not have to take money. Then Papa would pay him at the end of the month. The phonograph played cylinder records and had a big bell horn. We had lots of records.

Mama’s Aunt Cordie Davis lived in Iowa, and she had two daughters, Juanita and Cordelia. They would drive to visit us. One summer Aunt Cordie and Cordelia came. Juanita had married, but she only lived a short time after her marriage. She had a cerebral hemorrhage.

Aunt Cordie was on her way to their old home in Kentucky and wanted Mama and Broyles to go with them. Papa wasn’t much in favor of it for it was too hard for him to get along without Mama. Grandma said, “Lula, you get ready to go. We will take your place while you are gone.” They did too. We had harvest hands to cook for, but the aunts and Grandma helped. We made it fine. Grandma said it was about time that Lula got a rest. They all seemed to love her, and I don’t believe it was hard to do. I thought she was beautiful in every way and have always wished that I could be like her.

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Ernie Miles