I quickly learned that the diary was written in Texas. The woman mentioned Cooper, Cleburne, and Wichita Falls. Then came the names of Burkburnett and Iowa Park. Now that I had discovered the where of the diary, I was determined to find the who. Who was writing daily with such meticulous detail? Who was recording the amount of money paid out for groceries and how many rows of corn her husband had planted?
Note: This image is from the Perry-Castenada Library Map Collection of the 1940 Census-Enumeration District Map for Burkburnett, Texas.
The author wrote daily about Pete; she often wrote about going to see Pete’s mother, “Mother Rogers”. So now I knew that Pete Rogers was probably the author’s husband, but I still had no idea who was writing. The author often visited and spent time with a person named Phil who had two daughters. I imagined Phil was probably living alone, and Mr. and Mrs. Rogers were helping support or take care of the two girls. On the very first page of the diary, the author writes, “Pete took Betty and Lucile to Sunday School, but I did not go.” Who were these children that the couple took care of?
After a few hours of reading, I put the diary down. In the 1940 US Census, there was no mention of anyone living on the farm with Pete Rogers, but I did discover that his Pete's wife was named Lucile. I started addressing the author of the diary as Lucile; it just made sense. A few bits of paper fluttered out of the diary: a pink piece of paper was a receipt from the Farmer's Co-Operative Gin in Burkburnett meal made out to a W.P. Rogers, part of a check from a bank in Wichita Falls, a receipt from an unknown store. I flipped through the diary and found that last several pages were an address book. With a few names, a few addresses, and a few towns, I started hunting for more information on Ancestry.com. I started with the last released census from 1940.
Clues that fell out of the diary.
But I was still confused; who were the two girls that Pete took to church? Who were Betty and Lucile?
The 1940 US Census from Iowa Park, Wichita County, Texas.
I primarily used US census records to get my information up to this point. I need now to send a special thank you to Louise from the Burkburnett Historical Society. She reached out to her friends and discovered the exact location of the Rogers farm. Her friend Cecilia Mae wrote, “There is a Rogers Road that runs between 1177 and 101 that was named for a Pete and Lucile Rogers. The road is about 1.5 miles east of Friberg-Cooper United Methodist Church and meets Shepherd Road at 1177. They had a farm that was on the east side of the road, about .75 of a mile from 1177. They occasionally attended the church there.”
The Friberg-Cooper United Methodist Church.
Here are some of my first discoveries:
William Pete Rogers was born in 1885 in Parkstown, Polk County, Tennessee
He was married to a Lucile Gertrude Campbell, originally from St. Louis, Missouri.
The couple lived on a farm in Iowa Park, Wichita County, Texas.They had no children.
My burning questions:
When did Pete come to Texas? When did Lucile come to Texas? When did they get married? Who was Phil? What relation were the girls to Pete and Lucile Rogers?
I was just there to look around; after cleaning my house and organizing mountains of books, the last thing that I needed was another book. All I wanted to do was spend time with my oldest and dearest friend, Ina. We had gone to high school and college together and we had been friends for over 32 years. I did not want to buy a book, or anything else that I would have to find a place in the house to store it. We really just wanted to spend time together.
But then I saw the diary. It was dark red and worn, but not worn enough to be called battered. 1930 was in gold gilding on the cover. The book that I bought on June 6, 2019 was a diary from 1939. When I saw the diary on the shelf at the antique shop, I picked it up and flipped through the pages. Every page had an entry, cursive pencil notes on some farm wife’s day. At the top of each page was a note on the weather. At the bottom, the woman had jotted down notes on how many chickens and roosters she had, as well as how many eggs she had collected. As a fourth grade teacher responsible for teaching Texas history and writing, the diary intrigued me as an artifact that I could use in the classroom. For twelve dollars, I could have a primary historical document to add authenticity to my teaching. But remember, I just cleaned the house; I put the diary down in the name of simplicity.
My friend and I continued poking around the store. We saw strange things; a wig, a taxidermied jackalope, a child’s ukulele. So after laughing about many of the odder things that we had seen, we started to head out of the store. I asked Ina to wait a minute and I went back one more time to look at the diary. Call me weak. Or spontaneous. Or crazy. I bought the diary. I even remember telling the clerk that I was a teacher in Round Rock and I was going to use the diary in my Texas history and writing curriculum. Ina and I continued just hanging out fr a few more hours. How naive I was. That afternoon was my last truly carefree afternoon for most of the summer. And it was all because of that diary. The next day, I started casually flipping through the diary. As a teacher with the summer off, I lounged on the couch in my pajamas with a third (!) cup of coffee and the diary. I noticed that in the back of the book, there was a section for addresses: Texas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and New Mexico. I kept turning the cream colored pages, looking to see if whoever wrote these entries had written down some note to tell me in which part of the country the author had lived. There was no information in the front pages or backpages of the book. I decided just to start reading.