Side by Side-A Texas Tale Based on a Real Event

Introduction:

 

James T. Wilson was a prominent Texas attorney in the early 1900’s who was born to a family with land, cattle and oil, the essentials to be among the rich and elite in Texas.  Although he was an extremely handsome man, he didn’t have time for marriage or a family; not that women didn’t try to snag him because he was quite a catch.  He courted a few ladies, but he took his education very seriously and graduated with his law degree, not thinking about taking a mate at the time.  He was quickly climbing the ladder of success, first serving as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Texas and a few years later, opening a private practice with two other partners.  They were a quite successful team.  At the ripe old age of 38 years, his family had given up hope that the eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. John W. Wilson would ever find the right girl, settle down and raise a family.  What a shame – grandchildren would have been a welcome addition to the family’s Texas ranch.

 

The Meeting:

 

James (“J.T.”) Wilson traveled via train from Texas to Indiana for a business meeting with his old friend and former mentor, George H. Smyth.  When he entered the offices of Smyth, Nelson & Nelson, L.L.P., his eyes met those of the receptionist, Miss Allison Jane Davidson.  She looked like a mere child.  “James, or uh J.T., Wilson here to see Mr. Smyth.”  Miss Davidson shyly responded “I’ll let him know you’re here, Mr. Wilson.  May I get you something while you wait?”  “Nothing, thank you.”  This was the first time in his life he stumbled for words.  He was quite taken with Miss Allison Jane Davidson, especially when she walked out of the room to inform Mr. Smyth his appointment had arrived. He liked what he saw.  He had never felt this way about any woman, not ever.  He paced nervously, smoking his pipe, until Smyth appeared.

 

“J.T., how the hell are you? It’s been too long.”

“Smyth, I’m well, tired, long trip, hoping we can get this matter wrapped up so I can go back to Texas.”

“J.T. what do you find so great about Texas?”

“It’s home, Smyth.  Shall we talk about this case?”

“J.T., you haven’t changed a bit. Still all work and no play. Let’s have some whiskey over this meeting.”

 

They walked in to Smyth’s office and closed the door after the “hellos” and small talk in the front office where Miss Allison Jane greeted clients.  They proceeded with their meeting, cussing and discussing the matters at hand. 

 

At the end of the meeting, J.T. asked Smyth – “Who’s the young lady working for you?”

“That is Miss Allison Jane Davidson.  Don’t get any ideas about her coming to work for you, J.T.”

“No, Smyth; you know me well enough to know I wouldn’t do that. She’s pretty, though.  She looks too young for me and I’m too set in my ways. No time for a wife. I’ll just die a lonely old man – at least, according to my mother.”

“J.T., how is your mother, anyway? Your father? Are they in good health?”

“Both are in good health. Ranch keeps them busy. Tell me about Miss Allison Jane. Is she just a kid?”

“J.T., she’s older than she looks.  I believe she’s around 25 or 26, never been married; not even engaged; an old spinster,” Smyth said with a grin and a laugh.

“I think I will ask her to join me for dinner.”

“It’s your funeral, J.T.,” Smyth said laughing again.

 

J.T. asked Miss Davidson to accompany him to dinner and to his surprise, she did.  He couldn’t stop looking at her.  He decided this trip would take longer than anticipated so he sent word to his office that he was delayed.

 

Married?:

 

It was a whirlwind courtship.  Within a month of meeting, they were married in a private ceremony before a Judge.  J.T. had not told his mother or his father about his new bride.  They packed up the few belongings Allison Jane owned and traveled by train back to Texas where she would make her home with her husband, J.T. Wilson. She loved calling herself Mrs. James T. Wilson, even though she’d only been Mrs. James T. Wilson for a day.   Little did she know that J.T. came from a very wealthy family in Texas.  Oh, she knew he was comfortable, but she had no idea just how comfortable.  She would live on a lush and beautiful  sprawling Texas ranch overlooking a river.  This would be her new home and she thought she was in heaven. 

 

When J.T. and his new bride arrived at the train depot in Texas, he put his one leather suitcase and her lifetime of belongings into his new 1915 Ford Model T and drove straight to his parents’ ranch, which was where his home was also located.  Mr. and Mrs. John W. Wilson lived in the big ranch house and J.T. lived in the smaller cottage built from Austin Stone.  He never needed a bigger place until now, but this would suffice until he and his bride could build a grand home and he could give her the life she deserved.

 

“Mother? Father? I’m back from my trip to Indiana and I have something to share with you.”

 

J.T.’s parents made their way to the door where J.T. stood with his bride.  For a brief moment, there was utter silence. J.T.’s father, WW as he was nicknamed so many years ago, asked J.T. who the lovely young woman with the silky black hair and emerald green eyes might be.  J.T. dove right in and introduced his parents to Allison Jane Wilson, formerly Allison Jane Davidson.  Again, utter silence.

 

“Oh hell, J.T., what have you done?” the obnoxious voice yelled out as J.T.’s baby brother, Edward, entered the room.

“Hello to you too, Edward.” J.T. responded.

 

There was some sibling rivalry between J.T. and Edward.  Edward was young, greedy and very jealous of everything J.T. had earned.   

Edward wasn’t as ambitious as his older brother.  Edward preferred drinking whiskey and chasing women over business and employment.  It was only natural since he hadn’t found his niche in life that his father would have him, the baby of the family, help run the ranch.  Edward didn’t command the respect that W.W. and J.T. had earned in the State of Texas.  People thought of him as the greedy bastard who would run the ranch right into the ground if J.T. and W.W. were not around to pull in the reins.  Some said Edward was as shady as the Live Oak trees that covered the southeast hundred acres of the ranch.

J.T. and Edward’s sisters certainly wouldn’t be of any help running the ranch.  Edward liked it this way. It was his insurance that one day he would rule the ranch.

 

The elder Mrs. Wilson put her hand out to Allison Jane and said, “You must be very special to have won a place in my son’s heart.  I never thought he would bring a bride home.  Welcome to our home, and please do not pay attention to my younger son, Edward.  He will warm up to you; he has quite a way with the ladies.”  Allison Jane had her doubts that he would ever warm up to her and she was pretty sure she’d never warm up to him.  But, she was a lady and she would be cordial.

 

The Two Mrs. Wilsons:

 

“Allison, may I call you Allison?”

“Yes, Mrs. Wilson.”

“Oh no, you can’t call me Mrs. Wilson, because you’re also Mrs. Wilson.  You must call me Mother.”

 

This would be awkward for Allison because she was so close to her own mother; the mother who raised her alone when Allison’s father died suddenly thirteen years earlier. 

 

“Allison, we must plan a Texas feast, complete with wedding cake.  We’ll invite your mother and father and brothers and sisters to Texas so we may all get to know each other.”

 

Here it came, the part where Allison would have to talk about her past; a past she was sure Edward would never approve of.

 

“Mother Wilson, my father died thirteen years ago when I was only thirteen.  My mother never remarried.  I believe her heart was truly broken when my father died.  My mother concentrated on taking care of my needs because I was the only person she had left.  I have no brothers or sisters.  Only my mother. ” She paused. “I would love for her to meet all of you.” 

 

“Oh dear, I am so sorry.”

 

It was suddenly very quiet.  Neither woman knew what to say. 

 

Allison broke the silence with “I know your family must have a lot of questions about a perfect stranger being brought into your home so I’ll tell you about myself.  My father and mother were married for several years before my brother was born.”  The elder Mrs. Wilson looked puzzled.

 

Allison went on to explain. “My brother was born on a Tuesday and died on the Friday after his birth.  I was born two years later and my parents were never to be blessed with any other children.  My father was the undertaker in Whitley County, Indiana.  He conducted his business from the basement of our home and mother and I were not allowed to visit the basement.  I think father wanted to shelter us from death.”

 

“Go on, dear.”

 

“My father went down to the basement to prepare for the funeral of the owner of the mercantile, and when he didn’t come back up for dinner, my mother knocked on the door. She didn’t hear any noise, so against my father’s instructions, she opened the door.” She gulped. “My father lay on the floor, lifeless and pale.  Mother knew he was gone.”

 

“Oh dear, how tragic for you and your mother. Can I get you some tea and we can talk some more?  I do want to know more about you.”

 

“Yes, Mother Wilson; tea would be lovely.” 

Allison realized very quickly death wasn’t a subject the elder Mrs. Wilson wanted to discuss. The two ladies sipped their tea and Allison told the elder Mrs. Wilson all about her life in Indiana; growing up without her father; her mother’s struggles to raise her alone, and her hunger for knowledge and a career, so that she would never be in the financial position her mother was left in after the death of her father.  Allison told Mother Wilson about the school she attended to learn secretarial skills, and how Mr. Smyth had taken her under his wing like his own daughter and had given her the job at his law firm.

 

“Ahh yes, old Smyth.  He is a dear old friend of the family and he mentored J.T.  How is he?”

 

“Mr. Smyth is doing well.  His practice is doing very well, although I think he works much too hard.  He was disappointed when I left, but I could tell he knew I was marrying a good man. Mrs. – I mean Mother Wilson, James is a very good man. He really is, and we love each other.  I will be a good wife to him; you’ll see.”

 

“Allison, if you won my son’s heart, I know you will be good to him. He looks at you like his father looked at me when we were younger. Our home  is your home.”

 

Edward:

Edward listened in on the conversation between his mother and his new sister-in-law.  She’s a gold digger and mother is just too naïve to figure that out, he thought to himself.  I have three sisters; I don’t need another.  Something needs to be done before she brings a child into this family and we are stuck with yet another heir. This is my family’s land, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let some gold-digging harlot come into MY family’s home and take what’s MINE. 

The more he thought about all of this, the angrier he got.  But he knew he had to be crafty because she was winning his family over for some odd reason.  This was a con if he ever saw one, and of course he’d know a con since he had played this game with more than one person on more than one occasion in his life. 

 

Edward was the “baby” of the family and spoiled like none of the other siblings.  If Edward asked for it, he got it.  If it wasn’t given to him, he took it; didn’t matter what “it” was. Edward WOULD break this marriage up before there was any more damage to his family.

 

The First Year:

J.T. went about working at his law practice, making an even bigger name for himself and his firm. Allison Jane grew closer and closer to Mother Wilson, and she grew to dislike Edward more and more.  Edward never had a kind word to say to her in private, away from the family, so she avoided solitary confrontations with him. Very smart on her part.  Edward was a different man in his father and brother’s presence.  He was nice to Allison, even giving her a forced hug and smile on occasion. 

Allison Jane Wilson and J.T. Wilson were coming up on one year of marital bliss.  J.T. told her he was taking her to a grand ball at the Country Club in San Antonio where they would celebrate their first year together.  Allison Jane had a surprise of her own for J.T.  She would share that secret with him on the night of their first year as husband and wife.

Edward was happy the couple would be leaving the ranch for a short time.  This would give him time to think of a way to break up this happy little union.

The couple arrived in San Antonio at the Country Club where they were shown to their room.  “Dinner is served promptly at 6 p.m., Mr. Wilson. Please come to the dining room at that time,” the bellman instructed.  They rested in their room before dinner.  On their way to the dining room, Allison Jane stopped J.T.; she looked at him and told him he’d made her the happiest woman in the world, and soon there would be an addition to their family.  J.T. couldn’t have been happier.  He was glowing almost as much as his bride.  And he couldn’t wait to share this news with his mother.  She would be ecstatic.

The couple enjoyed their dinner, gazing at each other like star-struck lovers.  They danced until the ballroom area of the Club closed. Both were exhausted and retired to their room.

 

Side by Side:

Nobody knew why the fire broke out but the elegant San Antonio Country Club went up in flames, killing several people, including the couple celebrating their first year of marriage; the successful San Antonio attorney and his wife, the girl from Indiana, who carried the unborn grandchild of the elder Mrs. Wilson.  They were found side by side in the room that housed them at the Country Club.  They were buried side by side in a cemetery in San Antonio.  Edward filed papers one week after their death so that he would inherit one-half of the fine silver the couple received as wedding gifts from friends, family, and clients of J.T. Wilson’s. The judge awarded the silver to Edward.  The elder Mrs. Wilson was never the same after she lost her son and his wife, who was like another daughter to her.  None of the Wilson clan knew about the baby.  It seemed Edward’s wishes were granted.  There was speculation the fire was intentionally set, but in a time when there was no forensic technology, the cause of fire was reported to be started accidentally in the basement of the Country Club.[1]

[1]This story is fictional, although based on some events in Texas in the early 1900’s. 

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