My Story of My Father,
Dwight Alfred Sharpe
By D. A. Sharpe, his son
DWIGHT ALFRED SHARPE was born on 04 Sep 1901 in Georgetown, Williamson County, Texas. He died on 02 Aug 1981 in Alamo Heights, Bexar County, Texas. He married Martha Dixon Chapman (daughter of James Herschell Chapman and Margaret Lavina Abney) on 31 May 1926 in Lufkin, Angelina County, Texas. She was born on 05 Apr 1904 in Lufkin, Angelina County, Texas. She died on 02 Aug 1979 in Alamo Heights, Bexar County, Texas.
Dwight Alfred Sharpe was born the year that George Gallup (11/18/1901- 7/26/1984), the American statistician and pioneering opinion researcher, was born. They died just less than three years apart.
My father lived through some of the turbulent times of racial strife in this nation. January 1901 was a stormy time in the South of the United States. On January 15, 1901, the Alabama Democratic Party called for a convention to write a new state constitution that would prohibit African-Americans from voting. Despite vocal opposition from Booker T. Washington and other Republican civil rights activists, the Democrat strategy succeeded. Democrats dominated Alabama's 1901 constitutional convention, and its chairman was a Democrat. In his opening address, he said: "If we would have white supremacy, we must establish it by law -- not by force or fraud... The negro is descended from a race lowest in intelligence and moral precepts of all the races of men."
Alabama's African-American citizens would not vote in appreciable numbers again until the 1950s. It was a Republican federal judge, Frank Johnson, who in 1956 ruled in favor of Rosa Parks. It was that same judge who in1965 ordered the Democrat governor, George Wallace, to permit Martin Luther King's voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery. At the 2000 Republican National Convention, Condoleezza Rice, destined to become the United States Secretary of State, said: "The first Republican I knew was my father and he is still the Republican I most admire. He joined our party because the Democrats in Jim Crow Alabama of 1952 would not register him to vote. The Republicans did. My father has never forgotten that day, and neither have I."
Democrats do not want Americans to remember that Republicans supported the 1964 Civil Rights Act much more than did the Democrats. It was passed in the U. S. Senate only after an 83-day filibuster led by the Democratic Party leadership in the Senate.
This is the story of my father:
The guiding spiritual light in the family for Dwight's early years was his Mother, who saw to it that he had an involved and effective life in the First Presbyterian Church there in Georgetown. The Williamson County Sun newspaper issue of June 7, 1979, published an extensive full-page article and pictures on page 11 about the 125th recognition of the church's anniversary. Dwight was cited as being one of only three members of that church who went into the pastoral ministry over the 125-year time of its existence at that time.
Dwight's approval for candidacy for the Gospel Ministry was given by the Session of that church in 1922. I have a photocopy of the Minutes of the Session meeting. This was just after the retirement of Rev. M. C. Hutton, who was cited as one of the most effective pastors in that church's history, serving some 35 years from 1886 till 1921. He was the pastor whom we understand had influence and encouragement on Dwight in his thinking and feeling a call to the ministry. The Session minutes were much more descriptive about the praiseworthy characteristics of Dwight than typical minutes are in today's world of just recording that the action was approved. Those details are a little later in this narrative.
Dwight was born in the year (in fact, just two days before) that President William McKinley was assassinated by an anarchist and was succeeded by Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt, is the uncle of the wife of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Dwight's half seventh cousin, once removed. President William McKinley's assassin, Leon Czolgosz, was electrocuted October 29, 1901, just 55 days after the terrible event! WOW! Is that not justice faster than we see today?
It was the same year (1901) the Social Revolutionary Party was founded in Russia, later to be what we came to know as Communism. Film producer Walt Disney was born this year. Industrialist J. P. Morgan organized the U. S Steel Corporation, who was Dwight's fifth cousin, once removed. The first American Bowing Club tournament was held in Chicago in 1901 as well.
(Source: "The Timetables of History" 3rd Revised Edition, Bernard Grun, Simon & Schuster, New York1991, pages 454-455) And he was born a few months after England’s Queen Victoria died in January.
The famous Jazz player, Louis Armstrong was born the year of Dwight's birth. Two days before Dwight was born, Vice President Theodore Roosevelt's famous advice, ''Speak softly and carry a big stick,'' was offered in a speech at the Minnesota State Fair. That was the same day as the assassination of President McKinley.
On Dwight's 17th birthday, the beginning of his senior year in High School, September 4, 1918, there was the birth of Paul Harvey, who later would become a world-wide known radio commentator, even still broadcasting as recently as 2007. He graduated to heaven in 2009.
Dwight was President of his 1918 High School graduating class in Georgetown, Texas. He also was Business Manager of the School Annual, Salutatorian of his class, Vice President of the Literary Society, had a role in the Senior Play and lettered two years on the track team. In the yearbook, the Senior Class prophesy about him to become a famous Texas lawyer!
He created a life-long bond of friendship with fellow student Walter Johnson, a neighbor in Georgetown who was physically disabled (wheel chair bound) and required personal tutoring during junior high and high school years. Dwight gave generously of his time. Walter married a woman who taught school, and they lived a wonderful life in the Hill Country of Texas on one of those clear spring-fed creeks. We visited them several times over the years while I was a young boy, shown in this photograph.
The high school data was made available to me when Mr. Tass Waterston, a member of Highland Park Presbyterian Church, visited me soon after my 1982 arrival on the staff of that church. He brought the 1918 High School Yearbook of his, and I could photo copy relevant pages. Tass was a "best friend" and the same age as my father's younger brother, Harry Simons Sharpe, as they all grew up in Georgetown. Harry was known as "Dede." Tass has now passed on to graduation to heaven, but I was able to get to know his son, Tom Lee Waterston, and his grandsons, Tass Waterston II and Ted Waterston. Ted and his family have continued as members of Highland Park Presbyterian Church, whereas the rest of the family has moved out of town by now. Ted served that church as a Deacon. That’s the church where I served as Administrative Executive to the Senior Pastor 1982-2004.
Dwight worked during high school in a combination general store and grocery store. The many migrant workers patronizing it created the environment in which he learned to converse in Spanish pretty well. This enabled him in later years to preach occasionally for Hispanic Presbyterian congregations.
He attended for one school year (1918-19) the University of Kentucky, the state that had been his mother's family's home from where they migrated to Texas. While attending The University of Kentucky, he stayed with a relative of his mother's, in a sense, a man called Uncle Tom Vance. Next, he attended for a year Southwestern University, a Methodist institution located in his hometown of Georgetown. Dwight's photograph is in the 1921 Southwestern University yearbook that my niece, Nancy Lea Ehlers Reeves, now has from materials she received after her Mom, Martha deNoailles Sharpe Ehlers, died. Martha is a daughter of Dwight's and is my eldest of two sisters. Southwestern began in 1840, during the days of the Republic of Texas. I understand it is the oldest continuously operating institution of higher education in Texas.
The 1920 U. S. Census for Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky has Dwight living with the family of John T. Vance, age 62, whose wife's name was Glenna (legibility question), also age 62, and a 26-year-old daughter named Mary. Possibly, the middle initial of "T" is for the Tom that we have understood was the home where Dwight resided while at school. This Mr. Vance would have been born in 1858. The Census entry shows Mr. Vance was born in Texas, but that his father and mother were born in Kentucky. The 1860 Census of Lexington, Burleson County, Texas shows him in the house of Charles Vance, with Tom being age three.
It is curious to know that a Mr. Charles P. Vance moved from Kentucky to Texas at around 1854, settling initially in Circleville, where the Alfred Simons family settled, coming from Kentucky. James A. Simons, born in Kentucky in 1852, and whose family came to Circleville in 1852, later, as an adult, went into mercantile business with Mr. Vance, both in Circleville and later in Taylor. Both of these towns are in Williamson County, Texas.
Since Mr. John T. Vance, with whom Dwight lived in Kentucky in 1920, was born in 1858 in Texas, it can be assumed that John T. Vance was a son of Charles P. Vance, and a brother to the Vance daughter, Sarah. If that kind of family connection does not exist, we do not have any other logical reason that Dwight went to Kentucky and lodged with the Vance’s in Lexington. I think the set of relationships conjectured are likely, and I am recording them in my records until and unless other proof surfaces. It is interesting that the Vance families had connections to towns named Lexington, both in Kentucky and in Texas. Since their move to Texas in the early 1850's was when so many communities were just being established, one wonders if one name influenced the other.
The Minutes of the Session, July 26, 1922, record the declarations of his presence before them, seeking endorsement for his candidacy:
"Mr. D. A. Sharpe, a communing member of this, the Georgetown Presbyterian Church (as it was called then), presented himself before the Session and communicated the fact that he felt a call from the Holy Spirit to enter the Gospel Ministry, and to devote his whole time, first to the preparation for such work, and then to the active ministry in the Presbyterian Church in the United States. After an examination of Brother Sharpe, touching his determination to enter the ministry, the sureness of his call by the Holy Spirit, and his need of financial aid in prosecuting his studies and receiving the Seminary courses, the Session, by a unanimous vote, gives unanimous testimony to his good, moral character, to the fact that he is a faithful, consecrated and active communicating member of the Georgetown Presbyterian Church in good standing and we recommend him to the Presbytery of Central Texas for reception under its care as a fit candidate for the Gospel Ministry, and ask the Presbytery to furnish and secure for him such financial aid as may be required for the prosecution of his studies in the University of Texas and the Presbyterian Seminary."
Dwight graduated from the University of Texas in 1926 and from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in 1926. I often wonder how he managed graduation dates from both institutions in the same year, though I do not know the months. Part of the time, if not much of it, that Dwight lodged in the Austin Presbyterian Seminary dormitory was with a roommate by the name of Will Morriss. Will was from a solid Presbyterian family in San Antonio, but he was in Austin as a student at the University of Texas Law School when they were roommates. Later in life, Will had a son name Ed who was a Drake Fraternity brother of mine in 1957-1959 in my days as a student at the Presbyterian school in Sherman, Texas, Austin College. Ed graduated. However, he met a tragic death in the Air Force during the Viet Nam era when the aircraft in which he was being transported disappeared into the depths of the Pacific Ocean, never to be found again. His sister, Molly, also became an Austin College graduate whom I knew there. She later married a Fraternity Brother of mine, David Duncan. David subsequently graduated from Austin Theological Seminary and served a career as a Presbyterian pastor, including the church at Georgetown, Texas, my father's home church.
Dwight spent his career continuously serving, mostly in Texas, as pastor of churches in this order: Laredo (1926), Little Rock (Arkansas 1929), Ballinger (1935), Houston (1941), Sweetwater (1951), Dallas (1954), San Antonio (1958), Ruidoso (New Mexico (1963), and finally at Houston (1965) for a new church development. In several of these cities, he was a member of Rotary International, a community service organization of business and professional people associated across the world. From my memory, they included Dallas (Fair Park Club), Sweetwater and San Antonio (nearby to Ballinger), and probably included other communities without my recollection or knowledge. In Laredo, it was the First Presbyterian Church. In Little Rock, it was the Pulaski Heights Presbyterian Church.
The Arkansas Gazette, Little Rock, Arkansas, Texas on February 8, 1929, page 8, reported that the Rev. Dwight A. Sharpe, age 27, accepted the pastorate of the Pulaski Heights Presbyterian Church as of March 1. His first sermon was to be preached on Sunday, March 3, 1929. The article said that Rev. Sharpe accepted the church's call by telegram! It said his pastoring had been for three years in Laredo, Texas after graduating from the Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Austin, Texas. It also cited his graduation from the University of Texas, including one year each at the University of Kentucky and at Southwestern University of Georgetown, Texas. Rev. Sharpe succeeds the pastorate of the Rev. Mr. C. A. Harper, who'd resigned in the Fall of 1928 to take a pastorate in Louisiana.
His pastoral activities appeared in the newspapers occasionally. In the Arkansas Gazette, Saturday, June 1, 1929, page 14, an article cited the expected sermons for the following Sunday. One of the pastors was Dwight Sharpe, Pastor of the Pulaski Heights Presbyterian Church, located at Woodlawn Avenue and Walnut Street. The Sunday 11:00 AM sermon was to be "The First Breakfast," and the 8:00 PM sermon was to be "An Honest Doubter." The same newspaper had an article about his sermons to be October 4, 1930 at 11:00 AM, "To Serve or Not to Serve," and at 7:30 PM, "Not Your Battle, But God's." (Saturday, October 2, 1930, page 22)
In Ballinger, it was the First Presbyterian Church. This was a special place for our family and his ministry. I was born there and baptized there! The family had an old Chevrolet automobile of about a 1931 vintage. When it came time for Dwight to respond to a pastoral call to move the family to Houston, Texas, the Ballinger congregation generously responded by providing the funds from among its members to purchase a brand new 1941 Chevrolet sedan! That was quite Providential, as 1941 was the last year that American automobiles were produced, due to the constraints of World War II starting. It is doubtful that the old 1931 Chevy would have made it through the War years of 1942-46. God's Provision is perfect, isn't it? Our family drove that car till 1948!
The photograph was taken to create the Sharpe’s Christmas Card greeting for the Christmas of 1938. I would have been a developing fetus in my Mother’s tummy at this time, being born the following June. Daddy’s hobby developing in that era was photography. Not only did he take photographs, he also constructed a “dark room” to develop from film his own photographs. This 1938 Christmas Card was the first of a series of traditional card he produced every Christmas up to 1980! Here’s another Christmas, 1944, wherein I was present as a 3½ year old boy!
In Houston, it was the Central Park Presbyterian Church that changed its name to Trinity Presbyterian Church when it changed location in 1950. In Sweetwater, it was the First Presbyterian Church. In Dallas, it was the John Knox Presbyterian Church. This was the church where many of my fond memories reside, as it was during my high school years, and my experiences of growing up emotionally and having dating experiences were strong. In San Antonio, it was the Highland Park Presbyterian Church. In Ruidoso, it was the Ruidoso Presbyterian Church. In Houston again, it was the Garden Oaks Presbyterian Church. It was a new church development of the Presbytery. Unfortunately, it did not survive long after his 1968 retirement.
Over the years, sometimes during the family’s vacations times, Dwight studied toward earning a Theological Master’s degree from the Austin Theological Seminary, Austin, Texas. This was achieved and recognized at the graduation commencement services in Austin, May 18-21, 1952. He was one of five ordained Presbyterian Pastors awarded Master’s degrees that year. Here is the program. He had TWO theses produced and approved. The first one was “The idea of God in the Old Testament.” The second thesis was “Arthur Gray Jones: Nobleman of God.”
After my arriving in Dallas, Texas as a staff member at Highland Park Presbyterian Church in 1982, I was visited by an Elder of the church, Mr. Austin B. Watson. He gave me a telephone directory page, complete with photographs of those listed, of the 1955 Fair Park Rotary Club of Dallas. Austin, still a member of that club, had been there when my father was a member. It was so nice of him to give me the page where my Dad was listed, along with his photograph. Austin went on to join Dwight in heaven in 2003.
Dwight was a reconciler and a rebuilder of churches. Many of his calls were to churches that had experienced some sort of setback in the immediate past, and his coming helped things get mended in the church's ministries.
A married couple at Trinity Church in Houston went to the mission field in the Belgium Congo 1951-1968. Eric S. Bolton was an architect and his wife, Ruth Lomig Bolton, was an administration worker. Missions was a strong emphasis for Dwight's ministry and for Texas Presbyterian Churches.
Retired missionary Winnifred K. Vass compiled a roster in 1986 of all 427 Presbyterian missionaries who had served over the years in the Presbyterian Congo Mission. Texas was represented by 65 (15%) of all who had gone from 30 states. This certainly is a disproportionately large share from Texas, representing more than twice what would be the average.
Winney, spent her retired life as a member of Highland Park Presbyterian Church and she, along with her missionary husband, Lachlin Vass, lived at Presbyterian Village North in Dallas, a retirement community that many of the people of Highland Park Presbyterian Church were included in its development. Lach Vass, Winnie's husband, was on the HPPC Business Office staff when I arrived, then he retired in 1983. I selected his son-in-law, Mr. Todd W. Rutenbar, to take Lach's place, working with me as my Assistant Business Manager. Todd was still working with there when I retired in2004, and still is there in 2012 as this is written.
My Father's last call in the ministry was to be the establishing evangelist for a new church development in Houston, Texas under what then was known as Brazos Presbytery (now known as New Covenant Presbytery). "Brazos," his Presbytery in Houston, means "arms" or "hugs" in Spanish, as my niece Frances Barton Boggess tells me. He assumed the position of Evangelist and organizing pastor for the Presbytery for the church to be Gulf Meadows Presbyterian Church at 8000 Fuqua Street at Ballantine in distant southwest Houston. He assumed the post on April 3, 1966 and got a good start, even having a handful of members who formerly were at Central and Trinity Presbyterian Church at 7000 Lawndale in earlier years (1941-51) when he pastored there. Unfortunately, the pastor following him experienced problems that ultimately resulted in the church disbanding. The church had had a good start, but was not yet strong enough to survive such a bump in the road. I think that pastor got too organized. Though I never met that pastor, he was the brother of a young lady I dated a few times while we were students at Austin College in Sherman, Texas. Both she and her husband became good, productive members of a prominent church in Houston and assumed leadership roles. Actually, her husband was my freshman and sophomore year roommate at Austin College in Sherman, Texas.
The invitation letter for Dwight's retirement services, dated April 8,1968, was received by various members of our family. It came from Reuben Meeks, Committee Chairman at the Gulf Meadows Presbytery Church and a former member of our Trinity Presbyterian Church. His retirement reception was the afternoon of April 28, 1968 at the church. It was a wonderful occasion for our family to attend. This was the conclusion of forty-two years as a Presbyterian pastor. Suzanne and I, along with our two children (Todd wasn't born yet), were there.
Dwight and Martha had purchased a home for retirement in San Antonio (Alamo Heights). It was at 201 Normandy, just a couple blocks west of Broadway, a major north-south street. Since it was purchased more than a year prior to planned retirement, it was leased to tenants. Unfortunately, when they finally retired, the renters, for some reason not acceptable to Dwight and Martha, were unable to vacate the house on time. Dwight and Martha had to make temporary digs do till they could get over this frustration.
This was their last home and a lovely home it was in a lovely neighborhood of San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas. Actually it was in a suburb named Alamo Heights, a city surrounded by San Antonio. They were just two blocks from the Alamo Heights Presbyterian Church, which they made as their church home. He was used to teach an Adult Sunday School Class up until about six months prior to his death at age 80, which gave him good outlets to use his pastoral gifts. The pastoral staff also used him for visitation and other duties useful for the ministry of the church. This was volunteer work, to my knowledge, and a labor of love for him.
His primary hobby through many of the years of his life was photography. It manifested itself to most people through the hundreds of unique Christmas cards with family members that he created for over 30 years. He used the typewriter for much for his correspondence, Bible study and sermon preparation. It was an ancient Underwood manual typewriter, on which he typed using what we laughingly called the Bible Method .... he would seek and find! He may have been one of the fastest typists using only the index fingers of his two hands that I have ever witnessed. Finally, around the mid 1970's, he acquired a portable electric typewriter from Sears!
He was a prolific reader, both of periodicals and of books. He held his children to high standards for academic achievement, and that was successful for his daughters. My academic records were far over shadowed by those of my two sisters.
Dwight involved himself in the communities where the family lived. He would join civic organizations and do joint ministries with other churches. He often became known in the public media, as evidenced by this delightful column by Renwick Cary in the "San Antonio Light" newspaper issue of August 4, 1963:
"Back to the word 'breeches' (pounced britches by many Texans) and its use in several places in different versions of the Bible. Rev. Dwight A. Sharpe, pastor of the Highland Park Presbyterian Church, notes there was one edition of the Geneva Bible (1560) that became popularly known as the 'breeches Bible." This because 'breeches' appeared in Genesis 3:7. The verse concluded: 'And they (Adam and Eve) sewed fig tree leaves together and made them breeches as a matter of fact, however, Sharpe says, the same rendering of the verse was found in the Wycliffe Bible (1380).
"Still on the subject of Bibles of the centuries past, we are reminded that the first printed copy of the whole Bible was the Coverdale Bible of 1535. Sharpe says: 'It's a credit to the printers that there were few typographical errors in the early Bibles.' Even so, he reports, in the second edition of the Geneva Bible (1562), Matthew 5:9 was made to read: 'Blessed are the placemakers, instead of peacemakers.' As a consequence, collectors designated this as the 'Placemaker Bible.' Sharpe also tells of a 'Printer's Bible,' explaining: 'This was the name applied to the King James edition of 1653, because in Psalms119:161, King David was made to say: 'Printers have persecuted me without cause.' It should have read, 'princes,' of course."
Both Dwight and Martha were very quiet regarding the subject of politics. They felt that whatever political views they held should not become known to the public of their congregation, since ministry was still to be given to people of all political persuasions. They did not even allow me to know how they voted or what political party they supported until well into my adult life, after I became an active Republican and Dad had retired from the ministry. Dad told me that they had always voted Republican, and living in what was virtually an all Democratic Party state in Texas most of their lives, it was best for his ministry to keep that to themselves. I recall that many of our close family friends were active Democrats and Labor Union members (particularly in the Houston years of the 1940's) and that did not affect our opportunity to have close Christian relationships with them.
When Dwight died, he was found in bed on August 8, 1981. That has been the official published date of his death, as that is when he was found and the public officials proclaimed him deceased. However, judging from when it was reported he was last seen by neighbors, and by the dates on accumulated newspapers and mail at his home, he apparently passed away in his sleep on the night of Sunday, August 2nd, two years to the day that Martha also went to be with our Lord in her sleep. He lacked a month of reaching his 80th birthday.
Dwight's funeral was conducted by the Rev. Mr. Newton Cox, pastor of the Alamo Heights Presbyterian Church of San Antonio, Texas, and assisted by an old friend of Dwight's, a retired minister, the Rev. Mr. John Parse. Two of my friends from high school days attended, Jewell (Judy) Linn Shoup Shannon and Dr. Richard (Dick) Hall White. The funeral was at the church at 10:00 AM on August 12, and the graveside service was later in the day in Georgetown, Williamson County, Texas, some 110 miles away. He rested next to his wife, and near his parents and other relatives at the Odd Fellows Cemetery, near the campus of Southwestern University. This is the college where he attended his sophomore year and where his great grand daughter, Victoria (Vicky) Lea Reeves attended, having entered as a freshman in 2003.
On October 20, 1981, the Session of Trinity Presbyterian Church, Houston, Texas, passed a resolution that on Sunday, November 15, Dwight would be honored and memorialized for his faithful decade of service there with the dedication of a pew. His daughter, Martha, and her husband, Vic, attended the dedication service on November 15,1981 at the church to represent the family. During his ministry there, according to the Sessional Resolution, Dwight received 312 members by transfer of church membership, 164 members by profession of faith in Jesus Christ (I was one of those on Palm Sunday, March 18, 1951!), baptizing 91 of those, baptizing 99 infants and receiving 11 of their parents on profession of faith at the same time. Under his ministry, three young men made commitments to the Gospel Ministry and one couple went to the mission field in the Congo. He administered infant baptism to all nine of his grandchildren.
Dwight lived to see one of his great grandchildren, Matthew, son of Kevin and Nancy Reeves. Nancy is the daughter of Dwight's daughter, Martha. We are proud of Matthew in the family sense, as he married Libby and they went on to give issue to the first eighth generation Texan member of our family in 2005, Benjamin Thomas Reeves. He now has a second son, Zachary, and now Grace has joined their family. Nancy is the Pastor of the Grace Presbyterian Church of Round Rock, Williamson County, Texas. Matthew's younger brother, Christopher Thomas Reeves, now is married to Jessica Robyn Radachy Reeves.
Dwight Alfred Sharpe was a man of unquestioned integrity and was known as a man with a pastor's heart. He provided well for his family, raising children who were a credit to their parents' Christian values. My regret is not spending more time with him, especially in our adult years. Physical distances of living kept us from enjoying that as much as we should have.
Notes for Martha Dixon Chapman:
My mother, Martha, was born in 1904, the year that Theodore Roosevelt had his first election to the Presidency of the United States, after having succeeding William McKinley who was assassinated while President. This was the year that author Jack London published The Sea-Wolf. Puccini's Madame Butterfly opera opened in Milan, Italy. Work began on the Panama Canal. The Rolls-Royce Company was founded in England. Helen Keller graduated from Radcliffe College and the Broadway subway opened in New York City.
(Source: "The Timetables of History" 3rd Revised Edition, Bernard Grun, Simon & Schuster, New York 1991, pages 456-457)
Martha was born in her Lufkin home at 419 Abney Avenue. Living on a street with your family name is a hint as to the place the family held in the eye of the community. Her mother's maiden name was Abney. Her church life was in the First Methodist Church. Martha was ages five and 21 when her parents died, which was a hardship. She and her younger brother, Herschell Albert Chapman, were raised after Mother's 1909 death (Maggie was her nickname from Margaret Lavina Abney) by their grandmother and grandfather, Martha Jane Dixon Abney and James William Abney. Dr. James Herschell Chapman, their father, resided with them in the Abney home for a while.
Martha Jane Dixon Abney, Martha's grandmother, was widowed in 1913, and Dr. Chapman soon moved out from the house. He had been much older than his wife, Maggie, actually being only one year younger than his mother-in-law, Martha Jane Dixon Abney. Family oral tradition reported that he felt it was more appropriate to move out, as it did not reflect the proper appearances for an unmarried man and woman so close in age to be domiciled together.
Maggie continued to raise his children, Herschell and Martha, in her home. After Dr. Chapman married the third and last time, to a woman named Josephine, his contacts with the Abney family apparently became somewhat detached, or at least the recording of continuing relationship has not been identified by me.
Martha had a high school teacher of science named Mr. Blevins. It is of interest to know that he also taught me in Dallas, Dallas County, Texas during my ninth grade in 1954, at Alex W. Spence Junior High School. There is also a Miss Bess Wood of Lufkin who taught at that same Dallas school at the time, and who remembers my being there. She is Lillian's Aunt, Tempy Wood Abney's sister. Bess was born March 17,1897. In 1987, Bess resided at the Angelina Nursing Home.
Martha attended the University of Texas at Austin, graduating in June of 1925. On the certified copy I have of the information she completed with her application to college, on the blank requesting her home address, said No Street Address. When you live on the street bearing your family name (Abney) and you are the only "mansion" on it, apparently there is no need for an address back then. You could just address a letter to them in Lufkin! Such were the days!
She was elected a member of the honor society, Phi Beta Kappa, according to the certified college transcript copy, the first scholastic fraternity in America. Phi Beta Kappa was organized at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia on December 5,1776.
She had a double major in Latin and Greek. She was then engaged to fellow University of Texas student and Austin Theological Presbyterian Seminary student, Dwight Alfred Sharpe. She taught in the Lufkin Public Schools the ensuing year after graduation.
Martha's education was in the classics, which was the usual major for the very few women of that day who were privileged to attend college. Martha and her husband-to-be would be the first generation of our family to graduate from the University of Texas. Now, three generations have graduated from there and a fourth maybe is on his way!
Growing out of that refined education was her skill in writing. I cherish the one "love letter" that came into my possession only in recent years that my Mother sent to my Father during the year that she taught school in Lufkin and he completed his Seminary studies in Austin before they married. Here is how the letter of October 20,1925 went:
"Please forgive me for writing on this paper. I'm in a powerful big hurry and can't hunt for any more. Last night I had so many papers to grade that I got sleepy and went to bed without ever writing to the sweetest person on earth. I thought about you, dearest, between papers and the last thing before I went to sleep, and the first thing this morning. Honey, you're in my heart all the time. I'm going to scribble this off just so it can be mailed this morning, and it won't be late. Tell me if you get it tomorrow morning.
"I'm the happiest thing, because I had a sweet letter waiting for me from your mother yesterday when I came in from school. Dwight, already I just love her to death. Don't tell your father, but she said when he read my first letter, he said "Well, I'm kinda left out on this deal." She said he was a little jealous, but said she was to send his love anyway. Now I just believe I will write him a little note or letter all to himself. I may enclose it with your next letter and you can give it to him when you pass through Georgetown Saturday. Is that all right? You know how easy it is for women to talk to each other, but because I'd never met him, I just felt a timidity in writing.
"The funny thing about it is that I was writing to your mother the same time she was writing to me. Guess she received mine yesterday too.
"Sweetheart, love me lots and don't blame me for writing like this. I just had so much work. I'll promise never to let it happen again. I'll write again tomorrow night.
"Must hurry up and eat breakfast now. Want to eat with me? I built the fire this morning.
Lovingly, Your own Martha"
Well, how's that for good romantic narrative?! Wonderful!
Serving as wife of the Pastor suited Martha well. She loved living the role and the people loved her doing it. After marriage, her only gainful employment was as a public school teacher in Houston, Harris County, Texas during the 1940's World War II years when there were such shortages of people to teach. During her daughters' high school years, she served as adult sponsor for the High School Youth Fellowship at the Central Park Presbyterian Church, located in the 6900 block of Sherman, a couple of blocks east of 75th Street, near Wayside Boulevard. Fondly remembered by me are the summer trips on the weekends when the whole Sharpe family and the Youth Fellowship spent all day Saturdays at Stuart's Beach in Galveston on the Gulf of Mexico. One of my favorite memories were the many times when we went riding on the old fashioned wooden roller coaster near the beach!
Reading was also an avocation for Martha. She "screened" much material for Dwight, marking articles and books she though it would be good for him to read. She truly was a helpmate for her husband in all of the best senses of that concept. She was a lady of the South in all of its good senses of culture and heritage. And she was a wonderful mother to me, always holding up the bar for me to climb higher for better things, and to know God and our role with Him.
Her remains left behind when she graduated to heaven are deposited in the grave site adjacent to her husband in the Georgetown Cemetery, near Southwestern University, Georgetown, Williamson County, Texas.
Dwight Alfred Sharpe and Martha Dixon Chapman had the following children:
MARTHA DE NOAILLES2 SHARPE (daughter of Dwight Alfred Sharpe and Martha Dixon Chapman) was born on 07 Sep 1927 in Laredo, Webb County, Texas. She died on 17 Jan 2002 in Round Rock, Williamson County, Texas. She married Victor Marcus Ehlers (son of Victor Marcus Ehlers and Edith A. Amberg) on 06 Sep 1947 in Central Park Presbyterian Church, Houston, Harris County, Texas. It later became Trinity Presbyterian Church. He was born on 25 May 1923. He died on 26 Apr 1985 in Austin, Travis County, Texas.
ELIZABETH ANNE SHARPE (daughter of Dwight Alfred Sharpe and Martha Dixon Chapman) was born on 09 Aug 1929 in Little Rock, Pulaski County, Arkansas. She died on 28 Dec 1973 in Saint Louis, Missouri. She married Andrew Albert Jumper (son of William David Jumper and Irma Belle Nason) on 14 Aug 1948 in Central Park Presbyterian Church, Houston, Harris County, Texas. He was born on 11 Sep 1927 in Marks Quitman County, Mississippi. He died on 28 May 1992 in Chesterfield, Saint Louis County, Missouri.
DWIGHT ALBERT SHARPE (son of Dwight Alfred Sharpe and Martha Dixon Chapman) was born on 24 Jun 1939 in Ballinger, Runnels County, Texas. He married Suzanne Margaret Boggess Sharpe (daughter of Thomas Shelton Boggess and Alice Loraine McElroy) on 30 Sep 1962 in New Orleans, Orleans Parish, Louisiana. She was born on 02 Apr 1938 in Griffin, Spaulding County, Georgia.
Compiled by his son,
Dwight Albert (D. A.) Sharpe
805 Derting Road, Aurora, TX 76078-3712