The Christman/Chrisman/Crismon bible
by Bob Crismon
The year was 1964. I don't remember the exact date, it was probably in the early fall. My brother-in-law, Jimmy Brinker and I flew from Houston to Pocahontas, Arkansas in Jimmy's new twin engine airplane. We went there for an afternoon visit with my grandfather, Austin Milroy "Catt" Crismon who lived in Maynard, Arkansas. Jimmy sold fixed airbase insurance and knew the airport operator where we landed, who loaned us a car. After our visit with Grandpa we flew to St. Louis where Jimmy lived. I took a commercial flight back to Houston,
Catt and his third wife, Ina, lived in town. Interestingly, his first two wives passed away and all three wives had the same middle name of Jane. At the time of my visit Grandpa read two newspapers daily and enjoyed watching the evening news on television. His house in town was heated by a wood burning blue sheet metal stove. Each spring the stove was discarded and replaced with a new one in the fall. Grandpa chewed tobacco and the aroma was present throughout the house. A short time after our arrival Grandma scurried to the kitchen and began making biscuits. I suggested that Jimmy come watch Grandma make the biscuit dough, it was an interesting method. She poured buttermilk into the flower barrel and then mixed the dough right in the barrel with flour up to her elbows. Her oven was also wood burning. Bessie's mother had passed away years earlier and Ina was the only Grandmother we knew. She was a kind and caring person who adored Catt. In 1957 Mary's and my family visited Grandpa at the same house in the summer time. Of course, Grandma also then immediately went into the kitchen to make up a batch of biscuits. Bob Leatherwood, Mary's husband, was watching Grandma perform her magic in the flour barrel and she said, "You're going to have biscuits with us, aren't you dear?" Grandma was perspiring because it was hot in the kitchen even with the back door open. Bob replied, "Well Grandma, it all depends where that bead of sweat on the end of your nose lands!" Leatherwood had a wonderful personality and enjoyable sense of humor. We all miss him today.
As Jimmy and I visited with Catt he peered out several windows from time to time. Finally his curiosity got the best of him and he said, "Where's your flying machine? I want you to take me for a ride." He was 95 at the time and quite active. He didn't use a cane and still chopped the kindling wood. I don't know how he supported himself. I suspect that he did not qualify for Social Security as he had been self employed for many years past. I told Grandpa I was interested in learning as much as I can about our ancestors. I had asked him some family history questions years earlier but did not remember what he had said. I began by asking him what our family nationality was. He thought for a moment or two and replied, "Why, American, of course!"
Grandpa produced a well worn bible and we gathered around the kitchen table to examine it. The title of the bible was "Book of Scriptures"; it had a black leather cover. I could tell that the book either had been around a long time or was used frequently. Perhaps both? In the front was about four or five blank pages, the first page heading was "My Family". In the back was another four or five blank pages with no heading. The front pages were quite full of names, dates and other notes. Some were in pen and black ink, some were in pencil. I recall some entries were in script, some were printed. What a different live we live today. It seems like all of the pencil entries were made with a very dull pencil point. Of course they didn't have electric pencil sharpeners nor ball point pens back then. Pencils were probably used right down to the wood before being sharpened and then down to the nub before they were discarded. I was more interested in the back section. It was a family tree that began with my grandfather, Austin and went backwards to Colonel Wilheim Christman. A note mentioned the Colonel's three sons but I don't recall exactly what was written. However, Grandpa was quite explicit in his story about the Colonel, his three sons, and the Colonel's mission. Almost all of the back page notes were in script black ink; the flowing handwriting was very impressive. Grandpa said he was sure that the entries had been written by his grandfather, William Wayne, Sr. I made notes on sheets of a small lined tablet provided by Grandpa, the type frequently used for letter writing by folks in those days. I used those notes many years later to begin my version of our family genealogy.
I wouldn't characterize Catt as a teller of stories, but he did have interesting things to say once prompted. Some of his exploits are discussed on other pages within this web site. After our visit I did not see nor speak to Catt again; he died suddenly in the fall of the next year. Unfortunately I didn't think about the whereabouts of the bible for many years. In the early 1980's I spoke with Ina's daughter by phone. She told me that Ina had lived with her until Ina passed away. I asked the daughter if she knew of the bible and she said she did remember it as a child. I asked her what might have happened to it and she had no idea but was positive it was not part of Ina's possessions. We speculated that perhaps it was given to a relative in Maynard. Of course I wish that I had taken better notes as Catt related his stories. When I seriously began to chronicle our heritage I referred to my notes and quite frankly, had to make a number of assumptions. For example, very few birth and death dates were identified in the bible. Many of the dates I use today were taken from documents created by others. Additionally, I have not seen any document that confirms Jacob's middle name of "Andrew" or that he even had a middle name. Questions about the middle name of Isaac Frederick (Jacob's son) have also been raised. I presume that Isaac's middle name was given in honor of the Prussian King, William Frederick II. William Frederick was known to favor military men and since he chose the Colonel for such an important New World mission, there must have been a strong mutual admiration. The photo of the portrait painting of the Colonel has also been a topic of discussion. Many years ago this grainy image was mailed to me on a floppy diskette (yes, a real floppy) by a fellow genealogist in Missouri. Where he got it I don't know. Don Chapman told me he scanned a copy of the photo using a 4" hand scanner (state of art at the time). Incidentally, Don owned and shared with me an original and very rare copy of George Washington's "My Journey Over the Mountain" that spoke of Washington's visit with the Jost Hyte clan in the Shenandoah Valley in the 1740s.
In conclusion, I will appreciate receiving any original sources that you will share.