Celia Elizabeth Horton was born January 4, 1902 at Ivan in Stephens County, Texas. She was the eldest child and only daughter of William Lee and Selena Elizabeth Bradford Horton. She had two brothers, one of whom [James Alford Horton] died in childhood. She was named for her maternal grandmother, Cecilia A. Wadley Bradford.
Her father was Cherokee, though whether he was actually full blood or half blood depends on whether his father was full blood or white, married to a Cherokee women and a member of the Cherokee Nation (His eyes were gray, so it’s open to discussion). Selena was a blue-eyed blonde. [editors note: One grandchild of Celia E Horton has had DNA testing done. The results were European heritage for both X and Y with no indication of Native American heritage.]
Her mother, Selena died on December 11, 1913 leaving her to be raised by her Bradford grandparents in Palo Pinto County, Texas. It is possible that she spent some part of her childhood on the reservation in Oklahoma, although there is no evidence Will or his parents were of the Reservation.
In any event, her facial structure and coloring were clearly [similar to?] Cherokee. She was a pretty girl with a wealth of beautiful hair as evidenced in her wedding photograph. She was about 5’5” tall and probably never weighed more than 110 pounds. She had extremely long, graceful fingers; a princess’ hands.
She married David Marvin Hargrave on October 13, 1920 at Eliasville in Young County, Texas. They produced two daughters and one son before his death on August 21, 1931. Martha Lena was born May 9, 1922, James William was born April 14, 1924 and Betty Lyndell was born December 2, 1926, all in Young County, Texas. It was said that Jim was so small that his bed was a shoebox for the first weeks of his life.
They lived and farmed near the Hargrave farm. The Hargrave family (according to Marvin’s youngest sister Mattie Bell) opposed the marriage. Marvin, who was fifteen years older than his bride, ignored them and married her anyway. We can speculate about the reasons why. Based on the wedding photo, neither appears to be the sharpest knife in the drawer. That may have had something to do with their opposition. And, of course, she was Indian [see editors note above].
Marvin died suddenly. It is said that one day he was strong and healthy, the next day he came in from the fields deathly pale and ill. He passed away within the following twenty-four hours. The family was further horrified when Celia promptly piled all his possessions outside in the yard and set it on fire. Now, in a white world, this does sound bizarre. But think how often Indian people caught white man’s diseases and died swiftly. The Cherokee learned early that fire could stop the contagion. She had no way of knowing what caused his death. She acted in a way consistent with Cherokee teaching. This does give some credence to the idea that she might have spent some time on the Reservation during her childhood.
The family accused her of poisoning him then and stuck to the story as long as they lived. Not long after, Marvin’s brothers and mother took away her children and turned her out. She walked the long miles to Graham and went about making a life for herself.
During the next ten years, based on Young County records, she married twice more - the second time without having divorced the first [editors note: no divorce decree extant]. At some point there was a quarrel with number three about his allowing his dogs the run of the house. During the quarrel he advised her that he liked his dogs better than he liked her. She left and it would seem that was the end of that part of her life. It is said the local “law” visited and asked her to come see him before she decided to get married again. End of discussion of bigamy. Thus was life in Graham, Texas in the early 1940s.
By the mid-1940s, the lustrous swath of dark hair had become thin, lank and colorless. Her body was ridden with arthritis. Fingers that had once been long, straight and graceful were gnarled and twisted. She made her living for a long time as a dishwasher at Frankie and Johnny’s cafe down by the stockyards in Graham. Other years she took care of old sick people.
She had a best friend, a woman named Jessie, from girlhood until Jessie’s death.
Celia was not a popular mother-in-law. We don’t know what Darwin Bray (Betty’s husband) thought of her but it was very clear, even to the children, that Martha Lena’s husband and Jim’s wife had no affection for her. However it must be said that, when an extra pair of hands was needed, she was there to help and she stayed as long as she was needed.
Her father died in [6 May] 1952. A suspicious fire claimed the lives of her eldest daughter and three granddaughters in 1957. She lost her brother, Brad, sometime between 1964 and 1968 [11 Dec 1965]. Her youngest daughter, ill with what we now call bi-polar disorder, was often hospitalized for long periods of time. Her son was, most often, thousands of miles away at sea.
At some point between 1955 and 1970, she developed rectal cancer. She made the journey – alone – to Houston – on a bus. After the surgery she made the return trip to Graham - alone - on a bus. In 1968, she got an airplane and flew for the first time. Her escort (Carolyn Fields) has reported that it was an ‘interesting’ trip and she wasn’t at all sure that Grandma was not going to get off the plane at 30,000 feet.
Within a few years, Jim had moved her from Graham to Belfair, Washington where he had made his home. There she dwelled for some years in his home in mutual antagonism with Jim’s wife. She made the occasional, unsuccessful, bid for freedom during those years. It must have been unbelievably hard to give up her freedom just because the years had accumulated.
Eventually, after his retirement, Jim moved her into her own small home on the property and cared for her there until her death from pancreatic cancer on December 5, 1989, a month before her 88 th birthday. She is buried beside Marvin at Medlan Chapel Cemetary in Young County, Texas. Smack in the middle of a group people who despised her in life. Life is full of ironies. So is death, it would seem.
Did she love Marvin? How and where did they meet? How long did they court before they married? How did she feel when he died too soon? How did she survive the loss of her children? All the questions we didn’t ask because she wasn’t important to our parents so she wasn’t important enough to us.
Some observations: Wouldn’t it be the ultimate irony if our Mayflower ancestry (assuming there is one) came through our Indian grandmother?
Dying of a particularly painful cancer, she never once asked for pain medication. Yet, if her feet got cold, her gums hurt viciously enough to make her cry.
Grandma Celia could always recognize a Hargrave. It was the ears, she said.
She had a wicked, if quiet, sense of humor. And a great giggle. She was ditzy. She smoked and continued to sneak smokes long after her son decreed she should no longer do so. She loved dogs and always had one or more when she had a home of her own. They loved her back. She adored men. She was, beginning to end, a prodigious flirt.
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