The Sands of Kathy Benson

Note: Kathy presented this article at a recent Standefer/Howton reunion in Stanton, TX,  and would like to share it 
with other descendants of Samuel J. and Ellen Hicks Standifer.  The chart was prepared by Bill Hamm for the reunion.  
Thanks, Bill & Kathy!

The Sands of Time …


            As we gather here, at the beginning of the 21st century, to rekindle, reminisce and honor the Howton and Standefer families, both past and present, let us take a stroll down memory lane and a step back in time. 

Here is the tale of the very sand you now hold…

            Around the end of the civil war on November 2, 1865, Samuel J. Standefer married Ellen Hicks and they moved to land known as the Standefer Gap Community just east of Chattanooga, Tennessee.  The land had originally been purchased by his father, LeeRoy Standefer, from the state of Tennessee at a cost of fifty cents to one dollar per acre, where he had amassed a total of four hundred acres.

            Sam and Ellen built a small one-room log cabin on the land and lived there for four years.  While there, Ellen gave birth to two children.  Their first child was Mary Anne, and their second child LeeRoy, named after his grandfather, was born October 19, 1868.

            This story is about LeeRoy Standefer, whose good fortune, hard work and willingness to follow his dreams afforded him the opportunity to embark upon a teaching career, which lasted over a quarter century.

            When LeeRoy was two years old, parents Sam and Ellen, and Ellen’s sister and her husband built two flatboats and traveled down the Chattanooga River to Spadra, Arkansas.  The foursome joined Sam’s sister, Jane Standefer Spicer and her husband Benjamin, who had been there for a year or so.

            Four years later, Sam took the family to Hot Springs, Arkansas, where he spent the next eight years working in the building industry there, and in the gold-mining communities of Bear and Crystal Springs some 15 miles to the west.

            It was during this time that LeeRoy, at the age of 12, began to learn the way of hard work, as he helped his dad make bricks by hand, to supply the steady growth of buildings in Hot Springs.

            In 1891, Sam and Ellen moved their family, which had grown to include seven children, to  east Texas to join Sam’s brother and sister and their families.  LeeRoy was now 23 years old and was ready to follow his dreams…  and get married.

            Now, the Standefers were among the early settlers of America, as their lineage went back to the 1600’s.  LeeRoy fell in love with Miss LuElla Howton, whose family was also amongst the pioneers who founded this country.  However, he had met LuElla in Arkansas and did return there to take her hand in marriage.

            The newlyweds returned to Texas where they raised a generous crop of cotton.  After the fall harvest and sale of the cotton, the couple, along with LeeRoy’s family, including Sam and Ellen and their other children, moved back to Arkansas. 

Upon returning to Crystal Springs, the family found housing in the now-dormant gold-mining community.  However, the gold prospectors had discovered large deposits of quartz crystal in the mountains nearby, so Sam and LeeRoy spent the lean winter months making the six-mile trip in a wagon to search for valuable quartz crystals.

 One day they came across a stunning crystal, the likes of which had never been seen before, or since.  The electrifying specimen was “eight inches, and a perfect octagon one inch in diameter”.  The breathtaking crystal had a “two-inch long cavity that contained a drop of water for all the world like a carpenter’s spirit level”, as it was described.

The men were ecstatic, they knew this quartz was special, and indeed, it was.  The crystal brought them $600, an extraordinary amount of money in those days.  The father and son split the bonanza, which had once again began a fever-pitched effort by prospectors to mine the area for her riches.  In fact, to this day, there are over a dozen of these quartz deposits being mined and Montgomery County has been called the “Quartz Crystal Capital of the World” for many years.

LeeRoy took his $300 and moved LuElla and the family to Mt. Ida, Arkansas, where he attended the recently established Mt. Ida Normal Academy.  At the academy, LeeRoy was trained to teach in the rural mountain schools.  He dedicated two years of his life to this endeavor before taking the Arkansas State Examination.  LeeRoy secured his teaching license and began teaching at the Ouachita Mountain Rural School, where he remained for almost three decades.

It was in Arkansas where Sam and Ellen both passed away, Sam in 1918, and Ellen in 1929.   The couple is buried in Howton Cemetery, 20 miles west of Hot Springs, a plot of land originally donated by Martin Howton, and now the final resting place for hundreds of the area’s residents.

This small sample of sand is from the original quartz mine from which LeeRoy and his father extracted the once-in-a-lifetime find, and holds traces of the sweat and labor of these men.  More importantly, perhaps, these grains of earth connect you with your past, with those who were there and with the land on which they toiled.

So keep this trinket, this simple collection of the ages, as a reminder of the family’s rich history, the quest for your dreams and, as a window into the sands of time….

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