The following are some excerts from the autobiographical accounts of Major General John Hightower told from his war diaries, journal entries and personal reflections; compiled by his daughter, Jane Hightower, she adds her own thoughts and memories along with those of her mother, Lois Hightower.
I was born in Coleman County, Texas, on July 19, 1916, the son of John Milton Hightower, Jr., and Mamie Laura Robin. Mamie was a pretty brunette born in Lt. Louis, Missouri, October 22, 1897. She could play the piano and organ, had a beautiful contralto voice which made her welcome to Baptist Church Choirs and solos throughout her lifetime, and was an excellent cook and housekeeper which made her even more attractive to John and other young swains in the community. Her father, Marius Robin, was born in Lyon, France on January 17, 1861, and died in St. Louis November 3, 1900. Her mother, Mary Etta Johnson, was born in Missouri in 1873 and died in Amarillo, TX on October 10, 1940. Shortly after the death of Marius, Mary Etta moved with Mamie and her infant son Joe Marius, to Hill County, Texas to join her brother, Joe Johnson. There she met William Harvey Jarrell, a farmer and widower with five children. On February 8, 1901 they married. Three years later, they moved from Hill County to Coleman County, Texas. Mamie and her brother, Joe, took the name Jarrell for all practical purposes. Etta and Harvey were a devoted couple and had two sons of their own and were Grandpa and Granny to all of us grandchildren from whatever source.
John, Jr., was a nice looking young man with blond, wavy hair. His strong points were his honesty, his ability to make friends, and his willingness to work hard at any task without complaint or hesitation. Unlike Mamie, he could not carry any semblance of a tune, so the choirs avoided him. His father, John, Sr., was born October 19, 1867 in Yazoo County Mississippi and died September 9, 1958 in Electra, TX. His mother Laura Elizabeth Stovall (Betty), was born January 19, 1868 in Pontotoc County Mississippi, and́
andpa Jarrell until sometime in 1918 when he helped move the Jarrells to Parmer County, Texas. He and Mamie then packed their meager belongings and me and moved to Ferris where the rest of the Hightower family still lived. In the meantime, Grandpa Hightower moved his family into Ferris and went to work for one of the several brickyards for which Ferris was then well known.
As strange as it might seem, my memory kicks in sometime during my fourth and fifth birthdays. We were as poor as Jobs Turkey, and Dad worked for a Mr. McKay on the McKay farm a few miles from Ferris. We lived in the old McKay house, which had not been lived in for several years. Mr. McKay had built a new house for his son, Will, and his family a hundred yards or so down the road and another one somewhere not on the farm for himself. Ours was a two story house with a one story front porch, a screened back porch the size of a room, two front rooms with a hall between and a kitchen. A front room and porch were on the right side of the house as one faced it. The room was a bedroom/sitting room for Mother and Dad. I slept in a small bed in the hall. There was a cistern in the center of the back porch, and the kitchen was beside the porch. The other front room was a shambles and used for storage for cottonseed, etc. As a matter of fact, I think now that the whole downstairs probably had been storage and was emptied for us to live in.
Thee were two rooms upstairs in front which were so bad that we NEVER even went up there. The toilet, of course, was behind the house, and along a path extending from the rear of the house were two or three small houses for seasonal migrant workers families. There was a better house on the side opposite the Will McKay house where a regularly employed Black family lived. I can remember only one name -- a son, James. There were lots and sheds behind the house and a huge (or so it seemed to me as a boy) covered storage for hay. A Black teenage boy, Named Willy Morgan, worked there, lived in the hay storage, and ate with the Black family. We had no cow or chickens but the Black woman who milked the cows and gathered the eggs took care of us on that count. It was always dark when she finished her evening chores and she would come by our house on her way home and leave milk and eggs for us. Mother managed an occasional cake or pie for her. When a storm was brewing, we would have to go to what served as a storm shelter, but really wasnt. It was a hole of some sort with a top over it, and we would huddle in it while the black woman wailed, and I suppose I did too.
Somewhere behind our house a creek made its way across the McKay property. A levee had been built along side it as a guard against flooding. There is a possibility that there were levees on both sides, but I can visualize only one. Mother would take me for walks along the levee from time to time and so would Willy Morgan. That boy was a Gods blessing for Mother. She was little more than a girl and had always been in a big family. Hers was a lonely life and he brought some comfort to it. His part was gofer and fetchit, and he managed visits with us and watched after me quite a bit. Mother spent most of her time spoiling me and she was extremely successful at it. She taught me every song in the Baptist Hymnal, patriotic songs, such as: The Star Spangled Banner, Columbia the Gem of the Ocean, etc.; all of the better known WWI songs, such as Over There, Keep the Home Fires Burning; and tragic ones about people dying, such as Babes in the Woods, and Mamas in Heaven. The most me memorable of events there was the burning of the hay barn. I dont know how it started -- lightening perhaps. I remember hearing a lot of noise, running out on the back porch, and seeing the terrible blaze. Mother, of course, wouldnt let me go outdoors, so she and I watched it from the safety of the porch. I do not remember a pump of any kind though people were running back and forth with buckets and whatever else would hold water. Somehow the fire was stopped; maybe it burned itself out. I have no idea. It was then that I saw the first furious man that I had ever seen -- Mr. McKay! He had Dad and Will cringing in fear and shame. I can remember his yelling its a pretty come off! Two worthless grown men letting all my hay burn!