All families come with stories and the Basinger family is no exception. There are good stories and there are bad stories and unfortunately most of the good stories cannot be proven and many of the bad stories have definite proof! One of the best "stories" comes from Ray Baysinger in a 1971 letter
"While serving with the Medical Corps in Paris during World War II, I spent a great deal of time in an old monastery. An old priest there became my friend. In an old history book he found a strange reference to our name. In brief, it read that the early Besingers had been Vikings. By 1492 the family had controlling interest in all the big shipping centers of the world. A Sir Henry Besinger, head of the Besinger clan, operated out of Portugal and furnished the three ships for Columbus. His family and fortune later became part of the Fugger Family, named the King Makers of Europe. Today the Fugger family of Germany is one of the ten wealthiest families of the world."
By the mid 18th century a branch of the Besinger family lived in the German Elsass region. Elsass was in essence the upper Rhine River Valley and a good part of the Vosges Mountains in what is now France. The Vosges mountains were the western border, the Swiss Alps the southern border, and the Rhine River the eastern border.
The region was a site of political and religious conflict between predominantly Protestant Germany and Catholic France and was fought over for centuries. In the 1700's as European powers continued to compete for power there were four more devastating wars, which had as their counterparts the French and Indian Wars fought by American Colonists.
"In this unsettled state of affairs serious economic dislocations and continual outbreaks of religious persecution led great numbers of harassed people of every religious affiliation to seek haven in America. Anabaptists (Mennonite and Amish) and other sectarian groups had come earlier --they had been persecuted by everybody --but now they were joined by others Reformed, Lutheran, and in much small numbers, Roman Catholics."
By 1767 Jacob (born in Hermersweiler) and Margaret Laemmer Basinger had (at least) four sons and (at least) one daughter. Philip Jacob married Maria Dorothea Dreher at Kutzenhausen Lutheran Church in Hermersweiler on October 27, 1767. Catharina Barbara was born the following July. Shortly after the birth, Philip Jacob and Dorothea, Johann Peter (and possibly a wife and/or children), and Michael (most likely the youngest) began the long trip to America.
In October 1770 the ship Minerva landed in Philadelphia Harbor and the ship master listed three of his passengers as Johann Peter Bossinger, Phi Jacob (b) Bessinger, Michael (x) Pessinger. The disembarkation fees for the three brothers were "purchased" by Mr. Thomas Willing, Esquire, of Willing and Morris's Store, Philadelphia, a mercantile house engaged in trade with the West Indies. The brothers quickly paid their debts and trundled by wagon west to Lancaster.
Within a year of his arrival in Philadelphia, Johann Peter married Barbara Schneider at the First Reformed Church in Lancaster. Philip Jacob and Dorothea had a second child, Peter, in November of 1772 and Michael married Magdalene in Lancaster in 1782.
When the brothers arrived in Lancaster, there was already a Besinger family living in the county who may have been related. Andreas Besinger arrived in Philadelphia on the ship Hope in 1733. Andreas was born in 1709 in Baden, Germany. His wife was Mary and they had at least four sons, Andrew, Abraham, Joseph, and Peter. All of the sons fought in the American Revolution and Joseph also served in the War of 1812. The Maria Magdalene Basinger who married Andreas Shaefer in 1788 in Lancaster may have been part of this family.
Johann Peter's family and Philip Jacob's family worshipped at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Holy Trinity in the city of Lancaster. In 1771 the now historic brick building was only ten years old. With the help of the Rev. Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, the Patriarch of the Lutheran Church in America, the council called the Rev. Justus Henrich Helmuth to be their pastor in 1769.
Dr. Helmuth began his career as an instructor at Halle, Germany, the center for Pietism. He ended his career as professor of German at the University of Pennsylvania. During his ten years at Trinity he baptized four Besinger children, probably in their homes or in the parsonage. He baptized Jacob and Dorothea's second child, Peter, in 1773 and three of Peter and Barbara's children, including our ancestor Juliana Elizabeth. She was born September 20, 1777 and baptized in April of 1778.
During Dr. Helmuth's ten years at Trinity he appointed a committee to superintend the building of an organ. The committee turned to the nearby Moravian village of Lititz to find a skillful organ builder by the name of David Tanneberger (later shortened to Tannenberg). Peter Frick was commissioned to make the highly ornamental cabinet, and on the Sunday after Christmas in 1774 the organ was consecrated with members of the Lititz Trombone Choir assisting with the music.
Besides the excitement of a new organ, Lancaster was experiencing the excitement of becoming a new nation and members of Trinity enthusiastically participated in military drills. The Rev. Helmuth wrote home to Germany that he was wholeheartedly in sympathy with the colonists. One of Pastor Helmuth's successors wrote this summation of Dr. Helmuth's ten years at Trinity. Catharina, Jacob and Dorothea's first child born in Germany, may have been involved in the children's activities
"The labors of this man of God were simply marvelous. He preached forenoon and afternoon, every Sunday, the latter service being followed by Kinderlehre to which children flocked by the hundreds. After Kinderlehre, at five o'clock, he invited the children to the schoolhouse, where he read them short stories, extracts from good books, and the like; and then he preached the third sermon in the evening.....In Middletown he revived the parish school there and appointed the schoolmaster to read a chapter of Arndt's 'True Christianity' every Sunday morning and to catechize the children in the afternoon. In all his pastorate, Dr. Helmuth maintained a strict discipline, which subjected him to harsh criticism and at times bitter opposition, but he lived courageously through it all and in 1773, though the church could comfortable seat 1500 people, it had fifty seats less than were necessary for the membership."
In 1780 the War for American Independence was still front-page news but the battles had moved to the southern colonies. Trinity called Dr. Gotthilf Heinrich Ernest Muhlenberg, the youngest son of the patriarch, to be the new minister. Because of an extremely severe winter he did not arrive in Lancaster until March. On August 1st of that year he baptized our ancestor George, his brother Michael, and infant sister Anna Maria. The baptism most likely took place on the occasion of Pastor Muhlenberg's first visit to Philip Jacob and Dorothea's home. Pastor Muhlenberg wrote a letter to his father saying
"...As usual, I preach twice each Lord's day. I cannot visit as much as I wish, because I have no time. But I do not neglect to visit the sick, as soon as their sickness is make known; and the baptism of children, which in this congregation almost always takes place at the residence of the parent, or at the parsonage."
In a letter to his father after completing his first year of ministry in Lancaster, he reported that he took on sixty young people for instruction during the day, as well as instructing a number of adults and married people in the evening. The instruction, always in German, continued for more than a year. On Good Friday 1781, after they were "firmly grounded in Christian doctrine," Pastor Muhlenberg confirmed 75 young people and 11 adults. Catharina Barbara would have been eligible for the classes for young people.
In 1785 Pastor Muhlenberg baptized the month old daughter of Johann Peter and Barbara, Maria Margaret. She was the baby sister of our ancestor Juliana Elizabeth. In 1787 Princeton College conferred on him the degree of Doctor of Divinity. Dr. Muhlenberg, later to become a professor at Princeton, expressed his concern for Christian Education in this letter
"Toward the close of our course of instruction, I, at each meeting, examine about ten or twelve, one by one, asking them some thirty indispensable questions. In this way I feel sure that each one has been sufficiently instructed, and also gain this additional advantage, that my catechumens approach me unreservedly, and, I must say, love me with a filial and fraternal affection, instead of fearing me. As for me, the instruction of the young is my most delightful labor. "
In 1779 Peter and Barbara bought 7 acres of land in Warwick Township (northern part of Lancaster County), north of Lititz, from Adam Bender. Mr. Bender bought the land referred to as 'ribbon' from Thomas and John Penn. They attended the Emanuel Lutheran Church in Brickerville. Tax Records indicate he owned one horse, one cow, and no servants. He also served in the 3rd Battalion and 6th Battalion of the Lancaster County Militia. A Peter, Jr., also served in the Battalion, but he is most likely the son of Andreas Basinger. The designation Junior referred to age. During the 1780's Michael and Magdelene lived in Middletown, a town along the Susquehanna River just north of Lancaster County. Some of Michaels's children were baptized in the Mt. Zion Lutheran Church in Middletown. It is not clear where in Lancaster County Jacob and Dorothea lived.
Around 1788 the Basingers began the long journey west. Michael and his family traveled across the Allegheny mountains to western Pennsylvania and settled in Fayette County. They had at least three more children; Nancy, Barbara, and Dorothy. Barbara and Dorothy were probably named after Michael's sister-in-laws. Johannes was born to Peter and Barbara on December 6, 1787. He was baptized on February 10, 1788 by the minister of the Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Brickerville and two days later Peter sold his property in Pennsylvania in preparation to move his family to the German community in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Jacob and Dorothea also moved to Virginia about the same time and left behind their daughter Barbara who had married Heinrich Kessler, and a grandson Ludwig.
It was common for German families to leave Lancaster and settle in Shenandoah and Rockingham Counties of Virginia. Dr. Muhlenberg's brother, Peter, had been a Lutheran minister in the Valley before the Revolutionary War and his father helped to establish a number of Lutheran congregations in the Valley, including the one our ancestors later joined.
Jacob, Peter, and Michael may have traveled in the popular Conestoga Wagon, made nearby in the Conestoga Valley of Lancaster County. Certainly the wagon was a familiar sight on their journey. The Conestoga had a curved bottom with the rear end sloping up higher than the front end. This design cut down on the shifting of the weight inside because the center of gravity was always leaning toward the center. These heavy-duty freight wagons weighed about 3,000 pounds and could carry up to four tons! The four to six horses that pulled them were of a breed now extinct, similar to the Belgian workhorse. The driver walked beside the wagon on the left-hand side. Under the back flooring was a board that could be pulled out. When the driver became tired of walking he could sit on this and it became known as the "lazy board" . Large wheels in the back were for greater traction and smaller wheels in the front permitted sharper turns. On the left side where the driver walked was a patch or toolbox, and attached to the back was a feed box for the horses. A long break handle pressed a stone covered with leather against the rear wheel. Homespun canvas was stretched over hoops as a covering and a common sight was a Conestoga Wagon mired in mud up to the hubs of the wheels! These wagons were different than flat bed (lighter) prairie schooners that were used after the traveler reached Missouri.
Basingers Travel Southwest to Virginia
Peter and Jacob settled in Rockingham County, Virginia and attended the Freidens Church, Lutheran and Reformed, east of the village of Mt. Crawford at the foot of Massanuten Mountain. The Rev. Peter Ahl was the first pastor and began his ministry in 1786. The Rev. John Brown succeeded him. Jacob and Peter can be found on the tax lists of Shenandoah County. Peter owned at least 200 acres of land and built a large tobacco barn that he shared with family and neighbors. We can assume that the Basingers grew tobacco and that all the children were involved in growing and transporting this cash crop to a tobacco warehouse quite a distance away.
Our ancestors and first cousins to each other, George and Elizabeth, probably saw a great deal of each other. They were married in 1795. George was 21 and Elizabeth was 18. It was not uncommon for first cousins to marry.
Elizabeth's parents had more children after she was married and it is likely that she and her mother were "expecting" and "nursing" babies at the same time. A younger brother, Valentine, was born five months after her wedding and her first child was born ten months after the wedding. A descendant of Valentine, Lola Corene Wagner, has a picture of him, a well used Bible, and some letters. He refers to himself as a "Felty German who learned to talk English good enough." He died in Girard, Kansas at the age of 93.
According to Lola Corene Basinger a fatal accident caused Johann Peter's death in 1801. He is listed on the Rockingham County, Virginia personal tax lists from 1791-1801. Those same lists declare him deceased in 1801. Peter's widow Barbara, her younger children, and her married children continued the migration west about 1802. There is some evidence and oral tradition that they joined Daniel Boone on his second trip to Kentucky. Valentine states "we lived in the country from Wheeling, West Virginia then to Tennessee and Kentucky and then to Illinois just across the Indiana line." According to Larry Payne, a descendant of Johann Michael b. 1772, Johann Peter's "descendants went to Greenbrier County, West Virginia and from there ten years later to Breckinridge County, Kentucky." Caspar and Michael left for Greenbrier County, West Virginia by 1802. In 1810 the land records of Rockingham County, Virginia tell us that Peter's heirs of law sold undivided 2/10 of the their father's land. By 1830 Valentine, Caspar, and Peter had purchased land in Kentucky. "Johann Michael's line spread through Breckinridge and Meade Counties in Kentucky and two of his sons (John and Michael) went to Perry County, Indiana."
Juliana Elizabeth and George had a son Michael about 1800 in Virginia and probably traveled with Elizabeth's family to Kentucky. The fact that George is mentioned in Greene County, Tennessee records in early 1804 and in Greenbrier County, West Virginia Records later in 1804 may reflect the path of travel that Valentine reported. Elizabeth died in 1810. Her mother may have died as well and that would account for the sale of 2/10 of land in Rockingham County by the other heirs to Peters estate. Records show that George then bought land in Greene County, Tennessee in 1811 indicating that he decided to join his brothers in Tennessee. It wasn't long before he acquired 120 acres north of the Nolachucky River near Pigeon Creek. In 1812 Peggy Crutzinger became George's second wife.
Basingers Move West Within the State of Tennessee
The Peters family owned land near the family of George and Peggy (Crutzinger) Basinger in Greene County, Tennessee. George's nephew (George) married a Jane Peters and a Martin Crutzinger and Annie Bennett witnessed the marriage vows of Landon Carter Peters and Amie Bennett in 1807. George's son Michael married Cynthia Peters, the daughter of Landon and Amie, before 1824, the year that their first child Landon Peters Basinger was born.
1824 was also the year that Cynthia's parents were granted 160 acres of land near the Federal Road in McMinn County, Tennessee. They cleared the farm that was known as the Bradford Place at the beginning of the Civil War. Cynthia's older brother Christian married Sarah and became the sheriff of McMinn County.
By 1829 the name of Michael Basinger appeared on the tax lists in McMinn County. It seems that he acquired some land in Greene County in 1828 (120 acres north of the Nolachucky) that his father once owned, immediately sold a part of it, and purchased land in McMinn County. A record of Michael and Cynthia's marriage has not been found. The Peters and Basingers were members of the newly formed Mars Hill Presbyterian Church in Athens, Tennessee and the records of the Mars Hill Presbyterian Church in Athens, Tennessee (county seat of McMinn County) from its beginning in 1823 until September 1832 are lost. If Michael and Cynthia were married there in 1823 or 1824 we can understand why no record has been found. On the microfilm of the baptismal records (not in the book by Boyer and Duncan) three of Michael and Cynthia's children and three Peters children are baptized on the same day in September 1832. Barcillus, NATHANIAL J.S. and Newton Peters, Cynthias younger brothers succeed Landon P., Elwood C. and Fielding P. Basinger, children of Michael and Cynthia. The names are recorded together. (Boyer and Duncan omit Landon's name.)
The connection between the Basingers and the Popes is very interesting. The Rev. Fielding Pope came to Mars Hill in 1826. He was evidently an excellent minister for a newborn church because the number of communicants grew from 15 in 1826 to 165 when he resigned in 1833. Among the new communicants were the Basingers and the Peters. The Basingers and the Popes appear to have been close friends. Not only was Michael the same age as Fielding, they were also born in Virginia. Fielding got married the second time (his first wife, Eliza Craig, probably died in 1828 after the birth of a child baptized at Mars Hill) while he was pastoring the Mars Hill Church. He then married Theresa C. Meigs on March 24, 1829. It appears that Cynthia and Theresa were close friends or even related because Theresa named her daughter Cynthia (b.1830) and Cynthia named her daughter Theresa! Michael and Cynthia also named a son Fielding Pope.
In 1830 the Synod of Tennessee met at the Mars Hill Presbyterian Church in Athens, a major event for the new congregation. Fielding and Theresa Pope moved to Maryville in 1833. He taught at the Maryville College, his alma mater, and pastored the Eusebia and New Providence Churches at the same time. Maryville is half way between Athens and the area in Greene County where the Basingers and Peters owned farms.
In 1838 there was a major split between the Old Church and New Church General Assemblies. This caused division in every church, including Mars Hill Presbyterian Church in Athens. She chose to side with the New Church. Some wealthy members left the church at this time protesting that emotion, rather than reason was dominant in the worship services.
The next major division occurred over the slavery issue in the late 1850's and early 1860's. Michael and Cynthia's family left the church before 1850. They may have moved to Bradley County about that time because they and the Peters were in Bradley County when the 1860 Census was taken. Another Presbyterian Church began in Riceville and they may have attended there.
In 1844 Landon married Rosamond Bunch in McMinn County, Tennessee. In July of 1860 Landon P. Basinger, Michael and Cynthia's son, and his wife, Rosamond Bunch Basinger were received by certificate into membership, indicating that both had been members of a different church, although Landon had been baptized at Mars Hill. Our Ancestor, Landon Hillery, was born in 1861. He was brought up in the Mars Hill Presbyterian Church in Athens.
Basingers Move West to Texas in the 19th Century and
West to Alaska in the 20th Century
My grandfather, Landon Peters (named after his mother's father), died before my father was ten years old and my father died when I was 10 years old. On August 10, 1882 my father, Landon Hillery Basinger, married Emma Armstrong in McMinn County, Tennessee. My father taught school for a while although his real desire was to become a minister. He grew up at the Mars Hill Presbyterian Church in Athens, Tennessee but as a teenager decided to ride his horse quite a distance to attend a Baptist Church.
The most popular and gifted preacher during my father's lifetime was Charles H. Spurgeon, the Victorian Baptist preacher. Every Sunday Spurgeon preached to a congregation of 6,000 in London, England, and on Monday his sermons were cabled to New York and reprinted in every leading newspaper in the country. Because he named me Charles Spurgeon and gave me a book titled BAPTIST PRINCIPLES LETTERS TO MY SON by Edgar Folk with the Rev. Charles Spurgeon's name underlined everywhere it appears, I assume I am named after the famous preacher whose sermons he could read each week in the newspaper. Edgar Folk was the editor of the "Baptist and Reflector", the publication of the Baptists of Tennessee from 1889. My father may have known him or at least read his articles. I distinctly remember my father reading his Bible every day.
Lillie Lee was born ten months after my mother and father married in the summer of 1882. Muncye was born in 1888, Horace Lawson in 1891, James Edgar in 1893, Mintie in 1897, and John Bolin in 1900. While teaching school, Landon Hillery was impressed with one of his students, Archie Coleman Bookout. He was the son of Robert Wesley Massengale Bookout and Emma Melton and the Bookout farm was "halfway between Knoxville and Chattanooga." The Bookouts moved to McMinn County from Rutherford County, North Carolina sometime after 1840. Coleman had attended McMinn County Public Schools and a private school conducted by his grandmother when the public schools were not in session. He also attended Grant's University in Athens that was more like a high school than a university. My father thought Coleman would make a good husband for his oldest daughter, Lee. He made sure they got better acquainted and in 1902 Coleman and Lee were married.
In 1892 Coleman saw a telephone for the first time in the Railroad Depot in Athens, Tennessee. Passengers could talk with people in neighboring towns. A major sleet and ice storm hit East Tennessee and Kentucky the winter of 1900. The local telephone companies hired all available men to fix the lines and Coleman, a member of a local construction gang, began his first job of any importance. In January of 1902, L. C. Griffiths hired him to work at the Cumberland Telephone Company located in Athens. He swept and mopped the floor, carried coal, installed and repaired telephones, and operated the switchboards. At night he slept on a cot in front of the switchboard. Mr. Griffiths paid Coleman $15 a month for working around the clock! This was the beginning of Coleman's long career with Southwestern Bell and I suppose the beginning of my career as well!
By 1902 telephone companies had established plants in every major city in the country and telephone lines went up coast to coast. Coleman was transferred to Southwestern Bell in Dallas. Shortly after their June wedding, Lee and Coleman traveled by train to Dallas, Texas. I believe he already had family living in Sherman, Texas, not far from Gainesville.
Sometime after 1902, my parents moved their growing family to Cooke County, Texas and farmed on the outskirts of Gainesville. The first farm was east of town. I was born March 7, 1909 and a month later my older sister, Muncye, married Walter Jones. Truman Jones, Walter's brother, wrote this account;
"One Sunday evening, I was walking out to visit my older sister, Ianna, and along came Walter in his fine rig. He was dressed for sparking. He told me he was going to see his sweetheart who lived east of town. I had a visit with my sister where he left me off and behold, Monday morning, I found out Walter and Muncie Basinger got married on Sunday, the day before. She worked in a department store in Gainesville. Walter took her home to a Mrs. Dan Sidder's house where he lived. He took me to meet his new wife, Muncie. She was from God. She was an angel, pure, beautiful, lovely, and pretty. She was always the same angel, mother and wife."
The summer of 1912 was hot and dry and everyone in my family came down with typhoid fever. My father was too weak to harvest his crop. Men from all around came to help. I was so sick that I was not expected to live, but I finally pulled through. Mintie did not pull through and died that summer at the age of 15. She is buried in the Cooke County Cemetery in the northeast section of Gainesville.
We then moved to the Whaley Farm, west of town, across from the Girls' Training School. I wanted to help my brothers and sisters when it was time to pick cotton. My mother sewed a sack just my size to put over my head and drape on my shoulder. Two years after Mintie died, my mother died of typhoid fever. She was pregnant with her eighth child and the baby is buried in the same grave. I was five and remember the funeral service at our home. Everyone was in the house and I was outside on the big lawn under the oaks when I saw some men carry my father out of the house because he was spitting up blood. He was ill with tuberculosis but I was too young to understand what was going on.
Not long after my mother died my father gave up the farm because of poor health. We moved in with my sister and her husband (Muncye and Walter Jones) and two children (Ross Edwards and Gertrude). Muncye was the prettiest of my sisters, although she had a hard time keeping her weight down. We lived in Oklahoma and moved a few times. Changing schools was hard on me because each school had different expectations. I moved during first grade and was held back. When we moved to the next school I was accelerated!
During the First World War Edgar and Lawson checked the newspapers every day to see if their numbers "came up". They were both old enough to be drafted into the war. At the end of World War I there was a major influenza outbreak. Muncies daughter, Gertrude, was four when Muncye became a victim of the Spanish Flu in 1918 that spread from Europe to our 46 states. She was one of the 500,000 Americans who died.
My father and I moved again when I was eight, this time to Fort Worth. We rented a house on the corner of Carter and Ward Streets. The house had a large porch and I can still see my father sitting on the porch every day reading his Bible. My oldest brother, Lawson (1891-1944), worked in west Texas. Edgar (1893-1960) lived in Oklahoma. He graduated from a Normal School (a school that trains school teachers) in Oklahoma and became a teacher and basketball coach at the school. About this time I remember President Wilson traveling around talking about the League of Nations and I remember the day Woodrow Wilson died in 1921.
I also remember the personal hygiene habits that my father taught me. He taught me how to brush my teeth each day and that I should go to the bathroom every morning. He also taught me how to make cornbread. Every night for dinner we had cornbread and buttermilk. He gave me six cents each day to buy lunch at the store across from the school. I remember buying delicious fried fruit pies. One day I used some of the money to buy candy instead and he told me NEVER to do that again.
Lawson got married on Christmas Eve of 1918 to Girlie Hastings and moved to Fort Worth to live with us for a while. Girlie was a good cook. She made delicious chocolate layer cakes. Sometimes I got to eat a slice for breakfast. Lawson later owned a few businesses, a battery repair shop in Abilene and a Bar B Q restaurant in Fort Worth.
I had lots of friends in the neighborhood and I remember loving MOTORS and AIRPLANES. Lawson brought motors home for me and I hung them on the wall and connected them with rubber bands. I hooked up a switch so you could turn the switch and make them all move. One time Girlie walked into the room and started to look at one of the motors on the floor. I flipped the switch and everything in the room began to move. Girlie jumped sky high!
I remember the thrill of seeing an airplane in the sky for the first time! My friends and I soon found some wood in the attic of the house we rented and decided to build an airplane that we could really fly. It was a large version of a toy plane with a rubber band propelled propeller. We got an old truck inner tube to use as the rubber band and carefully shaped the wood propeller. We climbed into a big box and "flew" for hours. I'm sad to say we never left the ground! About this time I also made a radio out of an oatmeal box.
One night a friend of my father's came to visit. When he walked home he was hit by a train and died. The next night my father died. I was ten, Charles' age today! That's the year that I knew I would attend Texas A&M! My father requested in his will that the insurance money pay for his burial and any money left over be used to send me to Texas A&M in College Station. He is buried in Gainesville next to my mother and $2,000 was set aside for my college education.
When my father died, Lee and Coleman came from Dallas to our home in Fort Worth. By this time Coleman had earned his Electrical Engineering Degree by correspondence school and had achieved the position of Division Plant Manager at Southwestern Bell. They had two children about my age, Amy (Emma Fay) and Alton. I sat on the porch while Lawson, Girlie, Lee, and Coleman held a conversation inside the house about what to do with me. Finally, Lee came out and said, "Spurgeon, how would you like to come to Dallas and live with Coleman and me?" I was thrilled! Their son, Alton, was my age and I loved going to Dallas to play with him.
It was March and I was in 5th grade. I moved in with the Bookouts at 4702 Live Oak Street in Dallas and didn't go back to school until the next September. When Alton came home from school we played in the backyard, made parallel bars, and practiced daring feats. In September Lee talked to the principal to make sure I would not have to repeat 5th grade. The principal offered extra help. The math was especially hard for me because I had missed so much. In 6th grade I came home from school each day and studied for hours. Alton didn't study at all! I also remember Lee sending me to the butcher with fifty cents to buy T-bone steaks for a family of five. Steak was quite a treat after years of cornbread and buttermilk!
Coleman told us that we would have to pay him a half-dollar for each low grade. But if we got good grades he would pay US a half-dollar! The first marking period I had to pay Coleman. But finally I got my grades up and Coleman started paying me! I soon was at the top of my class. Amy and Alton continued to pay their father long after he began paying me. Finally Coleman dropped that incentive when he realized it was not helping HIS children.
Coleman, Lee, Alton, Amy, and I attended Gaston Road Baptist Church every Sunday. Occasionally Coleman worked on Sundays. Coleman was still working for the telephone company and Lee bought AT&T stock as often as she could. She was frugal and smart when it came to money. Later Lee attended the First Baptist Church of Dallas. She and Coleman always belonged to the finest Country Club in the city where they lived.
In 1921 Edgar moved to Dallas so I moved in with him for a short time. In March of 1923, shortly after I entered high school, Coleman was transferred to St. Louis, Missouri as a Plant Superintendent. I moved with them and distinctly remember taking Latin twice in high school and failing both times. Finally, Coleman allowed me to take geometry and I did very well.
I entered Texas A&M in the fall of 1927. Back then every student was male and every student was in the Corps of Cadets. My goal was to be an electrical engineer. To earn money for college I worked at Walter Jones' cotton gin in Elk City, Oklahoma. Ross worked there as well. In my sophomore year of Texas A&M I got a D in Calculus and got discouraged enough not to go back for my junior year. Coleman and Lee were still in St. Louis and Edgar had moved to Oklahoma City where he owned a laundry equipment company. I lived with Edgar that summer and part of the next year and worked for him.
Alton was also discouraged with school. He attended Stephens College in __________ . Coleman wanted him to be an Electrical Engineer but Alton hated the courses and was failing. I encouraged him to be a doctor or a lawyer. He changed his major to pre-Med.
The next winter I realized that I really wanted to be back at A&M. I took extra courses to graduate with my class in 1931. The Depression was on. My first job was in Kansas City planting telephone poles and stringing lines for Southwestern Bell. I made fifty cents an hour.
In 1930 Coleman became a State Superintendent for Southwestern Bell and moved to Oklahoma City. He and Lee lived at 125 Northwest Tenth Street. It was the peak of the Depression and there weren't many jobs available. Coleman encouraged me to get my Masters in Electrical Engineering at the University of Oklahoma. (Later AT&T paid my way to do some graduate work at Stanford University.) The only cost was room and board and that was $3.50 a week. I lived with Herbert Bonney.
Some people wanted me in their fraternity house. I joined, moved into the frat house, but didn't like getting dressed up in a coat and tie for meals...so I quit. I moved back in with Bonney who had already moved into a less expensive house, one that he could afford WITHOUT a roommate. He invited me to move back with him and we shared cramped quarters.
Lee's daughter, Amy Starr, died in an automobile crash in the 30's. Lee, Amy, and Amy's friend were driving east from California when the crash happened. Amy and her friend crashed through the front windshield. Lee must have been in the back seat. She was the only survivor.
Alton took my advice, became a doctor, and did very well. He married Peggy Clare Eberhart of Mankato, Minnesota and they had a daughter named Bonnie. When World War II began he decided to enlist with the Navy and wanted to get as far away from the action as possible. Ironically, he died in the Battle of the Coral Sea three months after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was a medical officer on the Navy's destroyer U.S.S. Pillsbury when it was lost at sea. I went to Europe where all the fighting was taking place and SURVIVED.
Alton and Coleman were always at odds when Alton was growing up. By World War II they had reconciled. Because Alton was declared MISSING, Coleman made great efforts to find out from the Navy what happened to him. It was a very hard time for Lee and Coleman, but especially for Coleman. The U. S. S. Pillsbury was reported missing in the same battle in which the cruiser Houston was sunk. The U.S.S. Pillsbury was last seen as a companion ship to the Edsall, as the two fought their way to Australia on February 18, 1942. Cards from survivors of the Edsall were received by some of their next of kin. The survivors reported that they were Japanese prisoners of war. One newspaper carried a story that a member of the crew of the Pillsbury received a similar card. That small rumor was all that Lee and Coleman needed to convince them that Alton's ship had run aground on one of the shallows of the Bali strait and that their second child was not DEAD! From that moment on his total energy was focused on finding Alton. He requested early retirement from Southwestern Bell and accepted a position as Expert Safety Consultant in the Army Air Forces. As superintendent of the Southwestern Bell plant in Oklahoma City, Coleman achieved national fame for Safety Engineering. The headlines in the Oklahoma City Times for December 28, 1943 read "War Job Taken to Press Hunt for Lost Son". Alton was never found.
I served five years in Omar Bradley's headquarters' group that landed at Normandy Beach on D-Day plus ONE in June of 1944. The carnage of D-day made an enormous impression on me and I can not talk about it today without breaking down. I never undressed to sleep the first thirty days in France! As a Signal Corps officer, I established communications throughout France and then into Germany. For my efforts I was awarded the Legion of Merit. My brother Lawson shot himself June 11, 1944 about the time I was preparing to invade France. The word I got, whether or not it was true, was that he was worried sick about my safety.
While working for Southwestern Bell Telephone Company in St. Louis I met and married Mildred Mills. The ceremony was on October 9, 1937 in Annie Miller's home in Braymer, Missouri. On May 27th, 1939 our first daughter was born, Ann Starr. I was the construction foreman working out of Overland, Missouri. But it wasn't long before I was organizing the pole line construction course for the Signal Corps Training Center at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. Ann was just a toddler when I left for the War and was six when she saw me again. I came to the door and Ann thought I was a salesman. She said to me, "I'll get my mother." I said to her, "BUT I'M YOUR FATHER!"
After the war a job was waiting for me with the Telephone Company. We lived in St. Louis and on July 8,1946 James Alton was born. I then served in the Korean War, primarily training others. On October 24, 1951 John Spurgeon was born. I remained in the Army Reserves and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel.
Occasionally we traveled to Dallas to visit Lee and Coleman and to Oklahoma City to visit Edgar and Irene. Every summer Bonnie, Alton's daughter, stayed with Lee in Dallas. Lee and Bonnie were very close but we've lost all contact with her as an adult.
We moved to Short Hills, New Jersey in January of 1956 and I commuted by train to AT&T Headquarters in Manhattan. I was in charge of all the outdoor equipment for the nation. Everyone in Short Hills who was Protestant attended Christ Church, an Episcopal Church in the center of Short Hills. Mid, Jim, and I attended confirmation classes and were confirmed on the same day.
Two years after we moved to New Jersey, Coleman died at the age of 78. Irene and Edgar separated and Irene chose to live and work in Dallas. When Coleman died Edgar decided to leave Oklahoma City, move into a home that Lee owned at 4710 Live Oak, and mend his relationship with Irene. Unfortunately, Edgar died mowing Lee's lawn on June 20, 1960, before the relationship was mended. Herbert Bonney, my apartment mate, was a pallbearer at Ed's funeral.
A year later Ann graduated from the University of Missouri. She taught school for a year in Kansas City and for a year in New Jersey. In August of 1963 Ann married John Wilkins, a '61 graduate of Dartmouth. They moved to Rutgers so John could complete his Ph.D. in Economics. Ann continued her teaching career.
It was a proud moment when I sent Jim off to Texas A&M in 1964. I loved returning for the football games. Jim played his saxophone in the Aggie Band. He graduated in 1968 with a degree in Journalism and went right in to the army. He was one of the few officers that never went to Vietnam.
In 1973 I retired from Bell Telephone and AT&T after 40 good years, just before the telephone business became computerized. Mid and I moved back 'home' to Dallas and then Fort Worth where my only relatives lived. Lee still lived in one of her homes on Live Oak St. and rented rooms to Alonzo Greer, her ex husband. Gertrude Jones Smith, Muncye's daughter, lived in Fort Worth and sold real estate. Ross also lived in Texas and sold real estate, specializing in appraisals.
Ann and John settled in Falls Church, Virginia, a block from Lake Barcroft. Mid's closest friend and former roommate, Norma Cheney, and her family lived on the lake. When Jim left the army and graduate school he attended Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia and was able to spend a lot of time with Ann and John and James and Amy. John attended college in Michigan and then Texas so we saw a good bit of him. At least twice a year we drove to Ann's and enjoyed visiting Rex and Norma Cheney as well as Jim and the Wilkins.
Jim was ordained to the Priesthood in the Episcopal Church in May of 1975. He was a curate at Church of the Ascension in Silver Spring, Maryland. Because the Bishop of Washington refused to ordain any to the priesthood until women could be ordained, Jim was ordained by Bishop Rath at the Cathedral in Newark, New Jersey. (Bishop Rath was the Bishop that sent Jim to Seminary.) My father was never able to realize his dream of entering the ministry but his grandson became a minister one hundred years later!
On November 15, 1975 Jim and Donna Null were married at Church of the Ascension in Silver Spring, Maryland. Donna's parents attended the ordination in Newark in May, driving to New Jersey from their Long Island home. Alonzo Greer took advantage of our week away from Texas to remarry Lee who was suffering from dementia at the age of 92. Her real estate holdings and AT&T stock made her a wealthy woman. Alonzo cared for her at home until she died on October 31, 1983 at 100 years of age.
Mid and I decided it was time to relocate to the east coast. John was a Captain in the Army and lived in Augusta, Georgia. Jim was the rector of Christ Church, Chaptico, Maryland and Ann still lived in Virginia. We decided to build a house in Pinehurst, North Carolina. I drew the plans and was involved in the construction. To find relief from the summer heat and humidity we spent time in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. We made a few trips to London to go to the theater and see the sights. In 1984 I returned to Normandy, France with Mid for the 40th anniversary of D-Day.
In 1991 Jim accepted a call to be rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Anchorage, Alaska and Mid and I began plans to visit his family. Those plans changed in 1992 when my failing health required that we move to a Retirement Center, The Fairfax , in Fort Belvoir, Virginia. That was the first move of my life that I could not MANAGE. Ann and John Wilkins graciously took care of the details and the move.
I have slowed down physically but I remain Command Central for the BASINGER FAMILY!
Charles Spurgeon Basinger died in October of 1993 and his remains are interred in Arlington Cemetery.
Donna Null Basinger, daughter-in-law of Charles Basinger, wrote this essay. The information came from many 'interviews' with Charlie as well as material sent to Donna by Gertrude Jones Smith. When Lee Bookout died Charlie was not interested in a box of Coleman's memorabilia. Gertrude took the box and mailed the contents as well as many things that she had saved to Donna in 1999.
wrote this essay. The information came from many 'interviews' with Charlie as well as material sent to Donna by Gertrude Jones Smith. When Lee Bookout died Charlie was not interested in a box of Coleman's memorabilia. Gertrude took the box and mailed the contents as well as many things that she had saved to Donna in 1999.