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 Texas : Features : Columns : All Things Historical

A Centenarian's Life

by Bob Bowman
Bob Bowman
A long, long time ago, Clara Davis stopped trying to remember the names of her grandchildren.

But there's a good reason.

At the age of 106, she has 218 of them--34 grandchildren, 91 great-grandchildren, and 93 great-great grandkids.

Only one of her grandchildren calls her grandma; the rest know her best as "Dumpy," a nickname created because of her shortness.

But, if her memory fails her on names, Clara remains glued to the importance of character and Christian values.

Her small country church stands less than a quarter-mile from her daughter's home near Shelbyville, where she lives. When her health permits, she still attends services at the church.

Born in the Broaddus community in 1900, one of ten children of Manny and Henrietta Garrett, Clara spent most of her life "way back in the woods" where her family grew all of the food they consumed.

During her life, Clara has lived under nineteen presidents, beginning with William McKinley.

She endured the Great Depression, saw two World Wars, the Korean, Vietnam and Iraq conflicts, saw the evolution of the airplane, the telephone, television, the internet, and watched men walk on the moon.

The earliest thing she remembers was at the age of three when her uncle Charlie Garrett gave her a ride in his wagon, scaring her. "I cried a little and my uncle called me womanish," she laughed.

In those days, farm families in East Texas ground their own coffee, churned milk to produce butter, baked their own bread, made lye soap and washed their clothes with a rub board.

She credits her long life to eating natural foods, "the kind we raised on the farm," and adds "the food people are eating today is killing them."

In her early years, she says life was simpler and "there was none of that bad stuff going on."

She and her husband, Lewis Davis, met in Broaddus and lived in Attoyac, Lufkin, Shelby County, and Nacogdoches, where Lewis helped build some of first buildings for Stephen F. Austin State University.

They had six children--five daughters and a son. Only the daughters are still living, and they stay in touch with Clara, recognizing the important link she has become to the Davis past.

When Clara celebrated her 106th birthday last November 28, congratulations came from everywhere. County Judge Doc Watson of Shelby County sent her a special proclamation congratulating her on outliving almost all other East Texans born in 1900.
All Things Historical
February 18, 2007 Column.
Published with permission
A weekly column syndicated in 70 East Texas newspapers

Distributed by the East Texas Historical Association. Bob Bowman of Lufkin is a past president of the Association and the author of more than 30 books about East Texas.


Bob Bowman's East Texas
A timely gift for any East Texan. Sample a little of East Texas here, a little there--and come away with a good helping of stories you might not know if you didnít read this book.
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