Clay, third side of Ed and Mani Beaver, was born February 3, 1895, in the Millerville community of Erath County, Texas. He was a frail, asthmatic child, never able to take part in boisterous play, but was mama’s helper with the smaller children. His asthma worsened, and after all remedies failed, a change of climate was recommended. He went to West Texas, on the train, in 1911, where he lived for a year with Minnie and Zeal Taylor and family. He showed signs of improvement all along, and was soon able to work in the fields. His remarkable recovery caused our parents to make the difficult decision to sell out and relocate to Kent County.
About 1916 and 1917, the winds of war began blowing across the Atlantic and spreading fears over our land. Clay was the only one of the Beaver boys who was of draft age, and this was a disturbing time for the family. Patriotism was abounding in the little town of Girard. People were urged to join the Red Cross, and women were sewing and knitting for the war-torn people of Belgium. Parodies were being composed and sung by young men and women. One that I remember went like this:
Gosh, I wish I was a Belgian,
People sewing for me everywhere.
With all those clothes and a brand new shirt,
I’d be a regular doggone flirt.
Gosh, I wish I was a Belgium.
When Woodrow Wilson declared war on Germany, Clay was drafted straightaway. He was inducted at Jayton, Texas, May 29, 1918. He was sent to Camp Cody, Deming, New Mexico for basic training. From there he went to Camp Dix, New Jersey. That seemed so far from home, and Mama cried and said she had no hopes of ever seeing him alive. I was nine years old, and it hurt me to see Mama so sad and worried. She blamed the war on President Wilson, and her only feeling for him was one of contempt. I remember a letter Clay wrote from Camp Dix, saying, “I will be going overseas soon, but I will not be allowed to tell you when. So when we are ready to sail, I will mail you a letter with the postage stamp turned upside down, and when you get it you’ll know that I am somewhere on the high seas.” Oh, what devastated feelings permeated our home when that letter with the upside down stamp arrived. Mama was so afraid that his asthma would recur if he were to be stationed in a damp, humid country.
Clay was with Co. F, 59th Infantry, 4th Division, which left from New York October 13, 1918, and landed at the Le Havre, France October 24, 1918. The whole infantry was forced to hike all the way from Le Havre to Coblenz, Germany, and there is where he was stationed for the duration. His rank was Mechanic, and his work with making identification tags, metal strappings for ordinance packaging, and other duties as specified. Clay never saw any combat, but his group had advanced far enough that he heard the last shot that was fired in their vicinity before the armistice was signed. He remained in Germany with the army of occupation, until the American Expeditionary Forces were demobilized. They left Le Havre on the transport ship, Mt. Vernon, on July 24, 1919. They arrived in New York August 1, 1919, and went to Camp Merritt, New Jersey. After 10 days there, he was sent to Camp Travis, Texas, where he was honorably discharged August 12, 1919, with travel pay by train to Girard.
Clay married a local girl, Myrtle Stephens, we had known and loved, at school and at church. They had two sons, Merle, and a stillborn baby, unnamed. Clay ran for the office of public cotton weigher and won the race. On Armistice Day, 1926, Myrtle prepared a special lunch, as she usually did Armistice Day, and took it to the cotton yard. It was a cold November day, and she waited for him in the small office shack, while he finished weighing a bale of cotton. She accidentally stepped on a match, and it ignited, catching fire to the lint Cotton that was scattered on the floor, and to her skirt. In a fit of panic, she opened the door and ran all across the cotton yard to where Clay was, completely enveloped in flames. She died in less than 24 hours. I was in school at Denton, Texas, and Lee Ella was teaching school in Cook County not far away. We didn’t get to go to the funeral, but Lee came to Denton, and we spent the time together. Our niece, Lolette, and her husband, Gradus Partain, came and lived with Clay and little four-year-old Merle for several months. After they moved away from Girard, Clay and Merle moved into the house with Mama and Dad.
Clay and his father-in-law bought a grocery store in Girard. Merle went to school there, and when he was in the fourth grade, Clay married Merle’s schoolteacher, Bernice Parks. Bernice will continue with the story of Clay’s life after their marriage. But I want to say that she was a wonderful wife and stepmother, and is and always has been, one of my best friends. We spent a night with her, in Abilene, last October, after a tour visiting relatives in the Dallas area. And we had stopped by Glen Rose to visit my cousin, Novella Wilson, then on to Abilene. That night Bernice showed me a box of old postcards that Clay had kept since he was a little boy. To my surprise there was one from Novella’s mother, Dora Ramfield. Bernice gave me the card, and I have inserted a copy of it in my book.
Clay was a good Christian, an elder in the church until his death. I miss him very much. Buddy and I were in the room with him when he drew his last breath. He died November 28, 1959 and is buried in Abilene, Texas.