Limestone County Historical Commission
Limestone County Historical Commission

Avis Willis

Conducted by Logan Wilson

April 19, 2012


Mr. Wilson: Today is April 19, 2012. I’m in the home of Mrs. Avis Willis and she is going to contribute to our oral history. The next voice you hear will be hers.

Mrs. Willis: I’m sending a couple pictures. This picture is my great-grandmother, Mary Ellen Wells Daniel.  She was married to Leonard Daniel. They lived at Springfield and had a wood building and sold goods there. They were one of the first merchants at Springfield. When Mexia became a town, they moved the wood building to Mexia and were one of the first merchants in Mexia. Later he built a brick building on Commerce Street, then later it became the Gafford Furniture Company. The four ladies with Mary Ellen Daniel were her four daughters. Top row is Ellen Daniel Gore, my grandmother. Her husband was William Gore. They had, their children were, two boys. Hughie Gore, Claude Gore, five girls, Aida Bea Winsatt, Mary Lou Terry, Iola Ross, Susie Barger and Hattie Mae ??? Next was Mae Daniels. The bottom row, Mattie Daniel Brazil and she was the first girl born in Mexia. Have a picture of that. Then Ruth Daniel Bowden. I am Avis Willis, daughter of Hughey and Aubrey Jones Gore. I was married to John Karner Willis of Tehuacana. John went to Westminster College before and after the war. And that’s when he met Avis at Westminster. They were married in September 1946. He went to Baylor and then became a Texas Highway Patrolman, stationed in Greenville, Texas. Our three were children born there. Our children are Hugh Douglas, John Karner Jr. and Janet Kay. We raised our children in Mexia and they all attended Mexia schools as we did. That alright?

Mr. Wilson: Uh huh

Mrs. Willis: Ok. This one is a little longer. Let’s get this shorter one over with (laughs). Ok now this is a picture, ok do you want to take this along or can you remember the person.

 Mr. Wilson: I can, I can take it along.

Mrs. Willis: Ok. That’s the first one in the pictures and here’s a picture of my brother. Can you read the handwritten; well it’s on the thing. In the summer he came home and I had a chance to go to Florida and see my grandmother’s brother and his family. Their son was my mother’s first cousin and he was discharged here in Texas.

Mrs. Willis: You cut that off didn’t you (laughing).

Mr. Wilson: No, you’ll get a chance to edit it.

Mrs. Willis: So anyway I went to Florida and stayed two weeks. Well my brother was supposed to go back the same day I did and he didn’t. My grandfather got sick so he stayed another week and I missed seeing him that other week. And the next time I saw him was when they brought the casket home. It was horrible thing to see, but I didn’t need to put that on there. This is the bench next to the memorial and here’s a picture of my brother.

Mr. Wilson: Tell us a little bit about his service and where he was killed.

Mrs. Willis: Ok, I’ve got that all written down. The history of Limestone County cannot be complete without remembering the honor, courage, and sacrifice of the veterans in all the wars since Limestone County began. My brother gave his life when he was 19 years of age in World War II. This is the words of General Anthony McAuliffe; he’s the man-general- that said “Nuts” to the Germans when they asked for surrender. The Battle of the Bulge erupted from sudden fury. Then a week before Christmas, the Germans struck with massive force and drove a wedge 50 miles into the U.S. line. For America it was the bitterest since Valley Forge. The Allied Armies victorious, though the ??? was suddenly hurled back at our defense and for a time it seemed as if the whole tide of the war might change. But the battle cost us, the U.S., 77,000 casualties and became the turning point of the war. In snow so deep it hid the wounded from the medics. With dwindling supplies, outnumbered 8 to 1 and the 101st Airborne of the 9th and 10th Army divisions still held the key city of Bastogne. Help arrived the day after Christmas and broke the back of the German offense. It was the last German effort of the war. Four and a half months later the struggle was over. The whole Allied forces will remember the General whom said “Nuts” to the Germans when they called for surrender. He tells his own story about that fateful Christmas. Lloyd Alford Gore, son of Mr.& Mrs. H.T. Gore of Mexia, Texas entered the service, US Army, on January 4, 1944 to serve his country in the time of crisis. Alford, as he was known to his family and friends, received basic training at Fort Benning Georgia. While there he was receiving his infantry training. He earned the paraglider patch and his Army Air Corp Wings, his Master Parachute Badge, and became an expert rifleman. He became a member of the 101st Airborne, the Screaming Eagles, and was assigned to the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, the Widow Makers Company C in the summer of 1944. Before being deployed overseas in September of ’44, Alford was sent to Fort Blanda, Florida for advanced individual training. While overseas Private Gore earned the Combat Infantry Badge for the European African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal. He was killed on December 25th, 1944 in the Ardennes Offense in Belgium, which was known as the Battle of the Bulge. Alford was awarded the Purple Heart in World War II and the Victory Medal posthumously. Let me go get that other page. Here’s that first page that you wanted to read.

Mr. Wilson: Ok. Thank you.

Mrs. Willis: This is about the Unfried family who lived in rural Germany.  Petrus Mathias Unfried and Anna Marie Schultz. They have 9 children Henry Unfried; I’m going to skip down to our part of the family. Henry Unfried, who was Henrus but anyway they called him Henry, Henry Unfried married Anna Margarita Byrd. Lena, whose was born 3-21-1865 in rural Germany was Lena. Peter Unfried married Anna Marie Byrd, I’m sorry, brothers married sisters, so they had double first cousins. In the 1870’s they sailed to America, to New York. They were not farmers in Germany because it was a wine country. They had heard Texas had good farm land. They came to Texas by way of New Orleans to Limestone County by Old Union east of Groesbeck in 1872. They only spoke German so they lost hundreds of the acres they had bought not knowing how to take care of legal business. Four died of sickness or broken hearts over losing their land. They are buried at Cox Cemetery. Henry died and Peter’s wife died so Peter married Henry’s wife Anna Margaret Schultz and they raised all the children. ??? Lena, who was still young, as she was two years old when they left German.  Henry and Margaret had one child named Henry who was the one born in-route from Germany. This Henry lived in Limestone County. He and his wife lived in Tehuacana and buried in Tehuacana Cemetery. This is a picture of rural Germany and this is a wine label and then this is the house they live in. And this is the ship they came across on. And Nathan Porter Willis married Magdalena Unfried December 23, 1877 in Limestone County. Their parents were Napoleon Bonaparte Willis and Mary Katherine ???.  Magdalena Unfried’s parents were Henry born in rural Germany May 2, 1832 and died October 18, 1872 and was buried in Cox Cemetery south of Groesbeck. Mary Anna Margarita Byrd was born in rural Germany in 1832 and died February 1873 and is buried in Cox Cemetery. Nathan Porter and Magdalena farmed around the Groesbeck area of Ben Hur and ??? Later moved to Munger and there a son was borned ???  Mr. & Mrs. Willis wanted their children to go to college so they moved to Tehuacana to attend Westminster. They moved into the Forrest home, 2 story Forrest home, in the north part of Tehuacana in 1909. Lena and Nathan had five sons and two daughters. James Gill-1889, Marshall Porter-1894, Robert Love-1890, Karner Douglas-1899, John Henry Joe-1904, Edna-1896, and Addie Mae-1906. They all went to Westminster. James, Marshall, and Robert all received a Masters Degree the same day at ??? College. They were all superintendents. Karner Douglas married Nettie ??? Watts 3-9-23. Oh I’ve got the papers mixed up.

Mr. Wilson: Don’t you worry about it.

Mrs. Willis: Karner Douglas and Nettie had a home in Tehuacana. They had a son, John Karner, and a daughter, Annie Blanche. Blanche married Frank Kramer and they had a daughter, Sondra Anne, and lived in Odessa. John attended Westminster before he went into service and came out in’46 to finish. He attended Baylor University and then became a Highway Patrolman. I’ve already said that. We later moved to Marlin and built a big drive-in. In 1960 we moved back to Mexia. Our children graduated from Mexia, as John and I did. Avis was a florist for 50 years and still living in Mexia at the age of 84. John passed away in September of ’96. He was buried in Tehuacana Cemetery. I’ve got two pages here I’m supposed to say. Just a minute, let me find them. I left this page out but I’m going to put it back in the Unfried stuff. The other members of the Unfried family moved to parts of Limestone County and other parts of Texas. Each daughter married Limestone County farmers. Margaret married Mr. Heck. He died, and then she married Mr. Peterson. She was mother of John Heck who farmed near Groesbeck and was a merchant in Mexia until moving to Wise County. Kate married John Nichols who was a farmer and a merchant in Ben Hur. The Coker family are descendants of the Nichols family. ??? Unfried married Mr. John Schultz, who came to Limestone County from Erie, Pennsylvania. They farmed on Horn Hill. They had three children Ferdinand, John, and Maggie. John never married. Ferdinand married ??? Boyd and had two sons, Hoyt and Joe ??? Maggie married Sam Atkins, both of whom are well known in Groesbeck. Gertrude Schultz came to live with them after her husband died and she lived to celebrate her 110th birthday. The Atkins had two sons, Raymond and Willard. Steve Unfried married Lois ??? of Mexico and Steve farmed and served as county clerk from 1938 to 1942 in Limestone County. But that page goes in between that other one. And this is the last page I think. Ok, this picture ??? looks just like them. Yeah this is from Unfried and this is a Willis, M.P. Willis. This is his wife and this is the oldest son. My son Johnny has this done in a book so it helped me find some of this stuff. And this is Nathan Quarter’s mother, Katherine Beale. And this was Lena’s dad, Henry Unfried. This is a picture of Westminster.  And this is the Lena Willis children. This is Edna and Amy Rose, Vic-that’s what we called him or Henry, Uncle Jim and Robert Love and Marshall. Then this is a picture of the two story house. This is John and his sister, Annie Blanche. Did you ever know her? She was a pretty girl. And this is John and his mother when she was, I don’t know what birthday, it’s only got one candle on it so no telling what (laughs).

Mr. Wilson: I recall, and you can tell me if I’m wrong or not, K. D. Willis’s            nickname was “toofer”?

Mrs. Willis: Yep.

Mr. Wilson: Ok.

Mrs. Willis: He wouldn’t wear his false teeth. And he could eat anything.

Mr. Wilson: Without the teeth?

Mrs. Willis: Yeah

Mr. Wilson: And that’s how he got the name “toofer”?

Mrs. Willis: Yep that’s where they got it.

Mr. Wilson: I never knew that.

Mrs. Willis: Well they called him “toofer” because he didn’t have any teeth.          

Mr. Wilson: Well I remember that he was called “toofer”. But I never knew how he got the name.

Mrs. Willis: This is the picture of the house that I’m currently living in. It’s a picture of the Lela and George Peyton home at 308 East Rusk in Mexia, Texas. George Peyton and his brother Will Peyton had an oil company here during the Mexia oil boom. This house was built in the 1920’s. I was one of the lucky people to know the beautiful and lovely Lela Peyton. I worked at Jenkins Florist before and after school when I was attending Mexia High School and I delivered flowers to her at this house. Well she came into the shop real often. Her brother Kelly Stephens was a great artist so when the house was built he painted murals on the glass and the walls with fish-silver, aqua, and brown, pink and coral and shells.  The painting is still on the wall. He also painted a dog mural at the Methodist Church. They are all buried in the Mexia Cemetery. I have lived in this house for 42 years. John and I moved, raised our three children here. Remember George and Lela Peyton? Their names are over there (laughs). That’s all of my things. Oh this one, I never did do anything with this I just thought you might put it in because I didn’t know there was an English Motor Company in Mexia.

Mr. Wilson: A picture of English Motor Company Mexia, Texas.

Mrs. Willis: Yeah so it had to be. Here’s a real old something if you want to put it in there or not. It’s something from 1928 from the Baccalaureate service at Westminster.

Mr. Wilson: Westminster College.

Mrs. Willis: Yeah

Mr. Wilson: Yeah

Mrs. Willis: Well I think I’m done.

Mr. Wilson: You done?

Mrs. Willis: (laughing) Yeah I’m done.

Mr. Wilson: Mrs. Willis we sure do appreciate you taking the time

Mrs. Willis: Well if I messed up on the Willis’s maybe she can find it all together.

Mr. Wilson: Yeah. When at the conclusion of these interviews, I always ask the same question and pretty much I have got, in different words, the same answer. I’m going to ask you the question and see what you say. If you had one bit of advice for the young people of today what would it be?

Mrs. Willis: To enjoy life everyday-don’t wish for tomorrow. I was raised in the depression and there was not a day that I wasn’t happy. I was always happy with what I had whether it was a lot or not much. So be happy with what you have.

Mr. Wilson: Be happy every day.

Mrs. Willis: Don’t wish for something so long it makes you sick.

Mr. Wilson: Be happy with what you’ve got.

Mrs. Willis: Yeah I was married, in September would have been 66 years, but we didn’t have 50 years before he passed away but I was always happy. I don’t care if we had a little bit or a whole lot or whatever, I was happy every day.

Mr. Wilson: That’s good advice. That’s good advice.  Some people will hear that long after you and are gone.

Mrs. Willis: Oh my word (laughing) I thought you’d cut it off.

Mrs. Willis: And I have family. You need to be close to all your family.

Mr. Wilson: And be close to your family. We thank you very much.



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