Lillie Kate Thomason Lenamon



Submitted by Frank Butcher, updated May 11, 2007

Kate was born in Box Church, Texas.  She was named after her aunts, Lillie and Kate Rutherford, wives of Bob and Will Rutherford. As a toddler, she lived for three years with her grandmother Lizzie when her mom (Allie) separated from her father (Wal) in the emotional fallout resulting from the gunfight in which Wal shot and killed Allie's brothers (Bob and Will Rutherford).  Kate attended the Box Church schools, and went through the ninth grade twice because she loved school so much and had no transportation to Groesbeck where there were upper grades.  In her late teens she went to "Summer Normal" at the University of Texas in Austin, came back to Box Church and briefly taught elementary school at Old Union.   
Kate was a good friend to Deanie Lenamon Clancy who lived in Rocky Point (3 miles south of Box Church), resulting eventually in an  introduction to  Deanie’s  brother, Bart Lenamon.    During their courtship, they dated in groups and walked almost everywhere since cars were rare.   Sunday was the big social day, with church and then after-church 'sings', and visits to friends and relatives.  Kate and Bart married on October 6, 1926 and lived for about a year in a 2-story log house which had gun ports left over from the days when Comanche Indians were a constant threat.   This house was one of the oldest buildings in Limestone County, built with wooden pegs and the second roof was made using homemade nails.  Shortly after being married, both Kate and Bart came down with typhoid fever, incapacitating them for almost two months.  Dr. Holton said that every person who had lived in their house and drank from the cistern, contacted typhoid.  Bart filled in the cistern and later dug a deep well.  13 months after being married, Kate and Bart's first child (Mary Beth) was born, followed by Joe, Frances, and John.       
The house Kate and Bart eventually called home was a simple two-bedroom frame house.  There were no closets in the bedrooms, so clothes were hung on nails and wooden orange crates were stacked to provide shelving.  One of the bedrooms had two double beds with room for very little else.  The other bedroom had a single double bed.  A typical sleeping arrangement might have Kate sleeping with Frances, Bart sleeping with Joe, and Mary Beth sharing a bed with John.  Everyone bathed in a #3 washtub, and towels were the cloth from fertilizer sacks.  In the winter when heating water was more difficult, family members bathed only when absolutely necessary.  In the summer, tubs of water were left outside to warm for an evening bath.  Monday was washday and the work was done outside.  Clothes were rubbed on a washboard using lye soap in a first tub, and then transferred to a pot of boiling water.  From the boiling water the clothes were put in a rinse tub, then to a final rinse tub, then wrung and hung out to dry on the clothesline and any available barbed wire fence.  Whatever the job, Kate is remembered as a hard worker and perfectionist, whether it was sewing, cooking, cleaning, or working in the fields.    
Life was hard on the farm, but Kate never complained and constantly encouraged the children as they worked (while longing to live in town).  She also encouraged her children to go to college, sensing that an education would allow them to escape the rigors of farm life.  Kate was an exceptionally strong Christian and prayer warrior with a very real faith that was obvious to everyone.  She taught her children to trust God in everything, and follow His guidance in their lives.  She told children and grandchildren to pray about everything. “Even if you just drop a needle, ask God to help you find it” was Grannie’s advice to granddaughter, Linda Fife Butcher.
 Kate’s daughter, Mary Beth, wrote that “Mother and Grannie (Allie Thomason) were both excellent seamstresses, making all the clothes we girls wore.  They made lovely quilts, crocheted, tatted, and read a lot to us.  Each read the Bible and Bible Story Book to us ‘a million times’ I guess.”
Kate and Bart were baptized in the Church of Christ, but mostly attended the Church of God.  During World War II, the Church of God disbanded as many of its leaders left Box Church for good paying defense work in the cities.  After that time, the couple attended a newly formed Baptist Church and were eventually baptized into the Groesbeck Baptist Church.  Apparently there were some spirited religious discussions between Kate and Bart, as indicated by a letter written by their daughter, Mary Beth.  Mary Beth wrote (with some exaggeration) that as a girl she did not need an alarm clock because she was “wakened every morning of my life by an argument at the breakfast table – usually about religion.”
According to daughter Mary Beth, entertainment was simple and family oriented--singing around the piano, playing games, going to church and “singings” and visiting grandparents.   According to her World War II ration book, at the age of 41 Kate was 5’, 2” tall, weighed 112 pounds, and had gray eyes and brown hair.
Kate’s niece, Marvis Engram Sherrod, in a letter to Kate’s children after her death, remembered that “when we were kids we used to spend the night; we would sit at the dining table and talk, laugh, eat, and have a good time until midnight.  We would jump up and say that we had to wash the dishes but NO, Aunt Kate would make us go to bed and the next morning there would be a GOOD, BIG breakfast ready on the table (with all the dirty supper dishes washed) and we would eat and be off to school, leaving behind another table of dirty dishes.”   Marvis also wrote that “Aunt Kate gave of herself to all of us all of her life.  She was truly a lady in my books.  I had never heard of a ‘white tablecloth’ until Aunt Kate and Uncle Bart had one on their table---I thought I was in New York!!!”
Grandson Mickey Lenamon wrote to Kate, expressing his appreciation for the love she gave to her grandchildren.  “You have always been willing to listen when I wanted to talk.  You have taught me to put my life in God’s hands and let him direct my life. I’ll never forget the Bible stories you used to read to us, teaching us to love the Bible at an early age.”
Nephew Staton Thomason, a family jokester, recorded a phone conversation with Kate in which he teased his aunt about Hinduism having similarities to Christianity.  Still recording after their conversation, Staton reminisced, “You can see that Aunt Kate was a fantastic preacher.  She knew the Bible well and had a great attitude when it came to discussing it, because she did it with humor and with an attitude of love.  She would listen, but still admonish you for the error of your ways in a cordial manner. Firmly grounded in what she believed, she spoke to you with a great deal of conviction and love, and was sincere in what she said.... and was a lot of fun to discuss things with.  I loved her deeply, and still love her today deeply.”
While Kate will be mostly remembered for her kindness and Christian disposition, she also had a spirited and even fiery side.  A favorite family story that shows off Kate’s strong personality occurred when she was a young girl and encountered her father beating her brother unmercifully with a buggy whip.  Kate, who was very protective of her younger siblings, grabbed a nearby pitchfork, and in all seriousness threatened Wal with her makeshift weapon, promising to “run him through” if he did not stop the whipping.  As far as the children know, Bart never hit Kate. However, the story is told that in a fit of anger, Bart started to strike his wife.  Kate told him, “Go right ahead and hit me.  But you’d better not go to sleep, because I will take a bat and break both of your legs.”  Addressing the topic of his mother’s feisty nature, John Lenamon said, “My mother got sweeter every day of her life, but on the day she died, she would have fought a bull”.   “Kate was a real pistol” is the phrase her children and grandchildren most often use to describe the spirited side of her personality.   When Kate’s children challenged her authority, they were quickly granted the indignity of selecting the branch from the nearest peach tree that Kate would then use as a switch to further their education.
In 1951, Kate was in Groesbeck to watch the high school King and Queen Coronation, in which her daughter Frances was the freshman class representative in the court.  She was standing in the street next to a parked car talking to her sister, when the car was sideswiped by a drunk driver. Kate was rolled beneath the car and bent almost double, suffering injuries that were nearly fatal. She was taken to the Groesbeck hospital and received poor care (not even an x-ray was taken).  Several years later, x-rays revealed that Kate's back had been broken in the accident. At the time of the accident, Kate was greatly concerned that she would be paralyzed, and prayed intensely to be spared from that fate.  Her prayers were answered, but she lived with pain from this injury for the rest of her life, and had a "hunchback" appearance afterwards.
After Bart died in 1958, and with her children gone, Kate moved to Groesbeck to escape the loneliness of the farm.   Kate did not know how to drive at that time, and was taught this skill by her children. In Groesbeck Kate worked as a home nurse, a waitress, and she sewed and took in a boarder to make ends meet. She also served in the 'grandparents' program at the Mexia State School for mentally retarded children.  Kate's grandchildren loved to visit her in Groesbeck, where she lived in a house on Navasota Street with a large yard.  Kate would drive the kids down country roads to collect soda bottles (grocers gave a 2 cent deposit refund on each one) so they would have spending money for trips downtown.  
Kate began to travel with her friends Ollie and Normie Wilson of Box Church, and greatly enjoyed this activity.  In her previous years, Kate had gone not much farther from home than Dallas, but with Ollie and other friends she traveled coast to coast, eating just one restaurant meal a day and staying in budget motels to conserve funds. In 1978, natural gas was discovered on her land near Box Church, and the royalties from the well allowed Kate to quit work, buy a new car, and even take a Caribbean cruise with her daughter, Frances, and grandchildren.
Kate' health began to deteriorate in 1981.  She felt bad, but was able to carry on with her daily activities.   Even in illness, Kate had a positive effect on others as reported by her daughter, Frances.  During a visit to her daughter’s home in 1982, Kate had been hospitalized in Houston for a blood clot in her leg, and turned this misfortune into an opportunity to be a Christian witness to the lady who was her roommate.   Afterwards, Frances received letters from both the lady and Kate’s doctor expressing admiration and appreciation for her mother.  The serious illness (blood clot and mild stroke) that lead to her death was brief (another answered prayer) and Kate died a little more than one month short of her 82nd birthday in a Waco hospital.
Upon her death, a friend penned the following poem:
A voice on earth is stilled.
No more its earnest prayers are heard,
Or its infectious, joyous laughter.
Her road of life never held a stranger.
Adored by family; loved by all—
A pied-piper
Urging friends to hear God’s call.
Abundant inward beauty o’erflowed
Upon this loving, compassionate
Christian soul.

Like her grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Clancy Rutherford, Kate had a repertoire of sayings that she used to admonish or encourage her children and grandchildren:

*    “A half-done Polly isn’t worth doing.” -- Kate’s reaction to a mediocre job.

*    “If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride-- Her comment when her child / grand-child wished for something unreasonable.

*     You’re as good as the“ best, and better than the rest.” -- Kate’s way of instilling confidence in her loved ones.
*     “Fools’ names and fools’ faces are always seen in public places.” -- Kate’s reaction to graffiti.
*     “That’s layovers to catch meddlers, and you just got caught” -- Her comment to children being nosey about an adult conversation topic.
*     A long little is better than a short heap.” -- Kate’s way of saying that slow and steady beats flashy and sporadic.
(From the Lenamon Family Cookbook – contributed by Mary Beth Lenamon Fife)
Mix 3 cups of sugar and a "well rounded" 1/2 cup of flour.  Then add 1 large can of crushed pineapple in heavy syrup and 1/3 can of water.  Put in a bottom crust and dot well with butter.  Cover with a top crust, making slits to let the steam escape. Brush on a mix of beaten egg and milk to make it brown nicely.  Bake in a 350-degree oven until brown as desired.
This pie freezes as well as a pecan pie.  Good cold, but especially good slightly warm with Blue Bell ice cream.  Back in the 20's and 30's, this was a good and inexpensive pie that went a long way.  Mother canned her own pineapple and she added more water and made thinner pies than we kids do - it went further that way.  I can remember Daddy bringing in pineapples after a day of selling produce and Joe and I would help her peel and cut the eyes out of the pineapple, and "chew on the core and scraps as best we could".  Daddy traded lots of produce for nice things for Mother's pantry and I don't ever remember it not having lots of things, including "luxury" items.  There was no money spent.  Today they call it bartering.