Baylor University Poage Library

How We Lived

How We Lived CoverThe Book
How We Lived

In this book the author (with the help of a number of residents of Central Texas) has tried to recall some of the practices of the past three quarters of a century. The book does not try to pass judgment on these life styles. It uses a number of pictures to enable this and future generations to better understand how their forefathers lived. It also presents word pictures of life in specific families and at specific periods. Mr. Poage believes that there has always been a great deal of diversity among the living practices of individual families, as well as between regional and ethnic groups.
This book falls into three parts. The first eight chapters reflect what Mr. Poage views as the general practice of the era and the area. The photographs show a few of the living conditions of the times. The personal stories (including that of the Poage family) reflect the aspirations and the struggles of specific families.

The Author
W. R. "Bob" Poage

Bob Poage was born in Waco, Texas, December 28, 1899, son of William A. and Helen Conger Poage. Mr. Poage's childhood was spent on a ranch in Throckmorton County, Texas. He graduated from Waco High School. He attended Baylor University, University of Colorado and the University of Texas receiving his A.B. and L.L.B. degrees from Baylor (L.L.D. from Baylor in 1967).
Bob Poage was admitted to the Bar in 1924. He was a member of the Texas House of Representatives, 1925-1929 and of the Texas State Senate, 1931-1937. He was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1936 and served in that body 42 years until his retirement in 1978. He was Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture in the 90th through 93rd Congress.
Congressman Poage was instrumental in the establishment of the Poage Congressional Library at Baylor University. He is the author of several other books dealing with central Texas and its people including McLennan County Before 1890.

Frances C. PoageDedication

As a girl, my wife lived in a two room house on a rented farm. She walked two miles to school. She knew the hardships of rural poverty. She attended "business school" and worked as a stenographer.
Like thousands of others, she lifted her living conditions. She very well personified the spirit of Central Texas in the first three quarters of this century.
To the memory of Frances Cotton Poage, I lovingly dedicate this book.


"How We Lived" could mean "How everyone lived," and this book is an attempt to give some idea of how all people lived in Central Texas during the first four-fifths of the Twentieth Century-Roughly my life­time-although this book certainly tries to reflect the way the Poage family lived, primarily because I know more about the everyday life of that family. I hope that the personal experiences of my life are sufficiently typical to justify this assumption.
In the term "Central Texas" as used herein can be included every­thing from Austin and Bryan on the South to Abilene and Wichita Falls on the north and west. The Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex has been deliberately omitted in as much as its life style has been so different from the less urbanized areas to the south and west. Frankly, this work centers around, but is not confined to, Waco because that has been the center of my experiences.
I was born in the city of Waco just three days before the beginning of the Twentieth Century. I lived in Albany, a small county seat, at two different times and on a ranch in Throckmorton County. I went to High School and to College in Waco and have made it my home during all my adult life. I have spent much time in Austin and in Washington, D.C., but Waco has been my home for 70 years, although I have always maintained my interest in rural areas both as an investor in livestock and as a member of the Congressional Committee on Agriculture.
My family was neither rich nor poor. As a boy, my friends included the sons of day laborers and of the oldest and richest families. As a politician, my life has of necessity (and I hope sincerely) included people in all walks of life. I have tried to observe how they lived. I hope I have been able to correctly record their modes of life, but realizing that no one individual could experience every situation of Central Texas life, I have asked several representatives of various backgrounds to record their peculiar life styles. Since we are all prone to best remember events of our childhood most of these have written of that period in their own lives. Recognizing that one picture is often "worth a thousand words," I have used a number of pictures. Some will seem very common place, but I find that many practices and implements of fifty or sixty years ago are even now difficult for younger people to understand. I am sure that in the Twenty-first Century the homes, tools, and machines which are commonplace today will be of great interest to the people of that generation.
Obviously, there have been great changes in our life styles. To some these changes have been seen as forerunners of doom. They deplore the increase in crime, the fatherless children, the loss of pride in one's work, the widespread willingness to incur debt, and the reluctance to save for the proverbial "rainy day." They predict the breakdown of the home and the collapse of organized government.
Others emphasize the tremendous transfer of burdens from men to machines and foresee a brilliant tomorrow. They believe that democracy and education will solve all our problems.
I am sure that each group can find much in a study of our past to substantiate its views. This work will not undertake to read the future. It makes no claim to do more than to present a few pictures of the past as a possible guide to what may be expected in the future. We can only be certain that changes will continue in the future and to hope that these changes will result in a better life for future generations.

W. R. Poage

McLennan Cabin
Neil McLennan's Cabin

The first home in the county, built in 1847-1848. Site now in flood area of Lake Waco. This picture was made after the cabin had been "boarded up."

Walker House
James Walker's House

Built in 1851 or 1852; then five miles west of Waco. Now in city limits and is the oldest house still occupied in Waco.


Part One

  1. 3
    Chapter I
    Where We Lived

  2. 24
    Chapter II
    What We Wore

  3. 32
    Chapter III
    What We Ate

  4. 38
    Chapter IV
    How We Worked

  5. 46
    Chapter V
    When We Played

  6. 54
    Chapter VI
    Where We Learned

  7. 64
    Chapter VII
    How We Traveled

  8. 80
    Chapter VIII
    How We Differed

Part Two

  1. 93
    How We Lived
    1910-1930; In the Home of a Country Doctor by Mrs. Maurice Barns

  2. 105
    How We Lived
    1905-1920; On A McLennan County Farm by Homer Warren

  3. 111
    How We Lived
    1900-1940; In A Developing Czech Community by Ed and George Smajstrla

  4. 115
    How We Lived
    1900-1920; In the Black Community of Marlin by Mrs. Mary Long Armstead

  5. 117
    How We Lived
    1925-1930; On "The Last Plantation" by James M. Warner

  6. 122
    How We Lived
    1910-1930; In the German Community of Westphalia by Ray Rabroker

  7. 125
    How We Lived
    1932; During a Drought in Fisher County by Dr. B. A. Freeman

  8. 131
    How We Lived
    1935-1945; In the Biggest House in Waco by Walter Dossett, Jr.

  9. 138
    How We Lived
    1947-1957; In an Old House in Bosqueville by Hon. Fowler C. West

  10. 151
    How We Lived
    1920-1940; As Minority Citizens in Mexia by Dr. Emma Louise McDonald Harrison

  11. 153
    How We Lived
    1900-1930; In a Jewish Family in Waco by Gus Levy

  12. 156
    How We Lived
    1960-1970;On the Edge of the Cedarbrakes by Hon. John Hastings

  13. 160
    How We Lived
    1972-1982; In a Latin-American Family near China Spring by Kathy Domingus

  14. 163
    How We Lived
    1902-1912; On a Throckmorton County Ranch by W. R. Poage