Tag Archive for roy stevens

That Ol’ Time Preachin’ Man

Since you knew your grandmother Nancy, what stories did she tell or make sure you knew regarding your grandfather, Texas Hulan Stevens?

 

My granny’s stories about my grandfather were basically the same ones I had heard from my father, his brothers, and his sisters.

He had the pioneer man’s work ethic to provide for his family, whom he loved deeply.  He referred to his wife as Nan, and he was known for his hard work as a farmer to provide for Nan and the kids. They had five kids: Hugh, Laura, Roy, Paul, and Myrtle.  Granddad’s father was named Sam Stevens.  Sam also was a farmer/preacher who was known for his booming voice. Through him, we also trace our ancestry to those early pioneers who came to Texas and that part of the new state (namely DeWitt and Lavaca Counties).

Many of them were Baptists, but they began to embrace the pleas of Alexander Campbell and Barton Stone, who were pleading with the pioneers that, rather than being divided into all different denominations, the cause of Christ would be better served if they adopted their plea to just call themselves disciples or Christians and to drop all (what they called) sectarian names. 

Eventually, toward the close of the 1800s, the ‘issues’ of instrumental music and whether churches could support the missionary society produced a division in the Stone / Campbell movement that resulted in some calling themselves The Christian Church and others Churches of Christ.

Grandad was so persuaded over those issues that, in 1916, he sent his 17 year-old son Roy to a college called Thorpe Springs Christian College.  It was founded by a man named Joseph Clark (ancestor of Madisonviile’s Clarks) to train young men to preach.

When home from school, Roy would travel via train (the old Rock Island Line) with his dad to lead singing for his preaching appointments up and down that line, and it was at Beasley, Texas that a beautiful young 14 year-old girl named Hallie Benton caught his eye. Within a year they were married. He was 20, and she was 15.

An interesting side-note:  Joseph Clark’s sons, Addison & Randolph Clark, brought a harpsichord into one of the worship services (against their father’s wishes). Joseph Clark got up and walked out. The brothers continued the school known as Add/Ran college, which eventually became TCU, identified with what we know as the Christian Church (which, back in the 1960s, added this to their name: Christian Church – Disciples of Christ).

Enough of that–added just so you’d know what drove my dad and his dad to be so committed to what they viewed as  ‘non-denominational’ preaching. Grandad was known for his love for God’s Word, his booming voice, and his conservative preaching.

When I traveled with the Sounds of Glory quartet, I can’t tell you how many people came up to me saying, “You know, Brother Tex baptized me,” or “Brother Roy baptized me.”. That was pretty cool!

Granny Was the Spitting Image

Were your grandparents alive when you were small?

 

I only had one grandparent living during my childhood, and that was my Daddy’s mom, Nancy Stevens.

Mom’s parents died when she was a little girl.   Her mom passed away before the family came to Texas from Kentucky. She died in 1908, when little Hallie was just 4 years old.  Her daddy, William Benton, died in 1914 when mom was just 10.  He never got over the death of his wife when she was giving birth to their 12th child, William, who we all called him Uncle Bill.

My dad’s father, Texas Hulan Stevens passed away in 1932 at about the age of 60, if memory serves me well.

So my one grandparent was Granny, as we called her.  Aunt Myrt, Pawpaw’s sister, wanted us to call her Grance….but you’d have to have known Aunt Myrtle….she always tried to fancy everything up…but she was always just plain ol’ Granny to Nancy and me.

The thing I remember about her more than anything else was that she had this funny smell whenever she would kiss you. I didn’t know until I got older that the smell was because she dipped Garrett Snuff. When Daddy was aware that Nancy and I had figured it put, He started gift wrapping snuff bottles or tins for us to give her at Christmas or her birthday. She would have a fit when he would do it and oh, he’d get the biggest kick out of that!

I remember going to see her in San Antonio shortly before her death when I was a freshman at SFA in 1959.   It was a very sweet and special visit, and she assured me that she’d be waiting for me in Heaven!

I Get it Honest

How old were you when you started driving, and who taught you?

 

 I started driving when I was 13 years old when we lived in Orange, Texas and I was in the eighth grade. My dad was my teacher…and he was not famous for being the greatest driver in the world! We had a 1952 model Dodge, which was one of the first Dodges with an automatic transmission.   Up until 1952, you had to shift through the first two gears using the clutch with your left foot, and then the third gear was your running gear.  

The next year, Dad bought a 1953 model, which was Dodge’s first V-8 which also had an automatic transmission.  You would put your gearshift in the drive position, then accelerate to about 30 mph, then let up on the accelerator and the transmission would go ‘click’ and automatically shift into high gear, or your running gear.   (By the way, the reason we had a 1953 model so soon was because Daddy had wrecked the ’52 on the way to preach in a gospel meeting at Kirbyville, Texas. A cow stepped out on the highway and, when he swerved to miss her, he hit a tree and even turned over a couple of times… Oh, and by the way, he caught a ride on in to Kirbyville and still preached that night!)

So….I really had a great teacher!  And Uncle Bubba taught me how to drive a standard gearshift in his 1950 model 6 cylinder Ford pickup.

That’s why I’m so versatile, and such a good driver!….in spite of what your mother says!   :))

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My Sunday Drives Aren’t in the Fairway

How did you decide to preach?

 

From my junior high years all the way through my sophomore year in college, all I had ever dreamed of doing was to be a professional golfer. Growing up as the ‘baby brother’ with three older brothers–and being very competitive by my nature already–my most exciting times emotionally were those times (starting at age 14) when I would beat, out-putt, and out-drive my three brothers and my Daddy. Thus, I felt sure I could make it as professional golfer.   When I was a senior in high school, I was offered an apprenticeship by the Spalding sporting goods company, which was quite an honor.  That was back in 1958, when many athletes the company thought might be successful were lured into such programs in order to “have the right to their autographs and endorsements” when they did succeed.  It was a pretty heady experience for a very competitive 17 year-old kid. When my dad was taking me to college at SFA in Nacogdoches in 1959 (I’d been offered a book & tuition scholarship there to pursue my 2nd passion which was football, another story by itself), we were talking about my golf plans, and Daddy teared up. When I pressed him about why he was crying, he said, “Son, golf pros make their living on events which culminate on Sunday afternoons, and I can’t imagine one of my sons doing that instead of being in the Lord’s house on the Lord’s day.”

That was probably one strong contributing factor (along with several others) in my decision to give my life to preaching….I’d never seen my dad cry before. Without going into all the details of the next two years, we come to 1961. My brother, RJ, who preached in Madisonville, came to visit Mom and Dad in August of that year.   I don’t know if my folks were in on it or not, but after a great visit (including some golf), RJ said, “Nier, why don’t you come to Madisonville and live with us, go to college at Sam Houston in Huntsville, and maybe you could help me preach at a little church called Mt. Tabor north of town….and…..he threw in the real bait, “There’s a couple of real precious girls I’d like for you to meet–one’s a blonde, and the other a brunette”. That pretty much ‘sealed the deal’.

I came to Madisonville on Aug. 20, 1961, preached my first sermon that morning at Mt. Tabor, then back to North Madison where I met a beautiful young lady in a red dress with beautiful long black hair. I made it my mission to get her to marry me…..and…..I’ve been preaching ever since!  :)).  

I believe God was in it all the way! One precious daughter, three precious sons, and twelve glorious grandchildren are all proof that God called me to Madisonville.

 

Music to My Ears

What’s your favorite memory of your mother when you were a child?

 

My earliest memories of my mother as a child are how she would hold Nancy and I in her lap as she rocked in her rocking chair.   She would sing spiritual songs and hymns very sweetly right into our ear.  She’d read to us from the Bible or a Bible story book and then The Houston Chronicle newspaper, especially the funnies.

I believe all of that was what enabled Nancy and me both to be early readers and able to recognize and want to sing the songs our mother had put into our hearts through her singing.

Her fried chicken, roast beef, fried salmon croquettes, pecan pies, and her red beans and cornbread were all our dietary staples.   When I was about 13 years old, she started making a dessert from shredded coconut and pineapple which our whole family loved.

Another memory I have is of Daddy teaching her to drive when we got a 1953 Dodge automobile with an automatic transmission.   She never felt safe driving a car with a standard transmission where she to manually shift gears.   She was usually so scared riding with Daddy that he often teased her about putting dents in the floorboard on her side, trying to “put on the brakes”.

Another memory that is special is that she never cut her hair, but always wore it in a bun.  I used to love standing behind her when she was brushing it, because it hung down below her waist.   No one ever saw that but her husband and her children.

She loved The Lord and her husband and her children with all her heart!

God Bless the Workin’ Man

You mentioned your Dad worked for the railroad in Wharton.  What jobs did he have when you were growing up?

 

beasley_txWhen Nancy & I were born (1941&42), Dad owned and operated a little drugstore with a soda fountain in the little town of Beasley, Texas.  Back in those days, pharmacists didn’t have to go to college to be certified to open up a pharmacy.   Dad had worked under the supervision of an old guy by the name of Slataper who owned a drug store in Rosenberg.   I think that’s where he was working when your Uncle Bubba and Uncle RJ were born. He moved out to Beasley and started his own business there, primarily because that’s where Mama’s sister (Aunt Sally) & her husband (Uncle Henry Ellison) lived.

Mamaw’s family all stated coming to Texas from Kentucky around 1910 and by 1914 at the death of her daddy, William Benton. Her mother had died in 1908 giving birth to her 12th child, uncle Bill. Mamaw was born in 1904, Aunt Tamar in 1906 and then Uncle Bill in 1908. 
     

My daddy’s dad, known to everyone as Brother Tex (Texas Hulan Stevens), was a circuit riding farmer/ preacher in the late 1800s until his death in 1932.   Instead of a horse, he would ride from town to town on a train called the Rock Island Line…..and his middle child, Roy Stevens (1899-1969), would travel with him and lead singing for him.   It was at one of their stops at Beasley or Rosenberg that a young lady named Hallie Mae Benton caught Roy’s eye (she was 14, he was 19), and in 1919 they got married.  He was 20 and she was 15.

They lived on a farm in a little community called Fordtran down between Halletsville and Victoria. Their first baby boy was born when she was 16 and only lived a few days…. Eldred was born when she was 17, Texas Hulan (Uncle Bubba) when she was 19, and Uncle RJ when she was 23.   I, Benton Lanier,  came along when mom was 37.  When I questioned her at her 75th birthday if I was kind of an accident or a surprise, she demurely replied that I was more of a disappointment:)) She then said, “Nancy (born not quite a year later in 1942) was the surprise. I would have never had another on purpose….you were my last shot at a little girl.”

When Granddaddy (Bro. Tex) died in 1932, my daddy began preaching at some of his daddy’s appointments in places like Beasley, Rosenberg, Wharton, and Rock Island.   Many said that he truly felt a calling, not only to preach, but to try to fill his father’s shoes. In 1942 after Nancy’s birth, the 26th & North Shepherd Church of Christ in Houston called Dad to be their preacher, and he became a “full-time preacher” for the rest  of his life.
    

He taught all of his children the value of hard work and I can’t tell you how many times I heard him quote the apostle Paul, “if any won’t work, neither shall he eat!”   I often heard him say, “Always remember who you are.  Number one, you’re a Christian and number two, you’re a Stevens–in that order, and don’t you ever forget that!”

He was good at anything (as far as work was concerned ) that he tried to do.  Businessman, construction work, and one thing that sticks in my memory is his typing.   He used his 2 huge forefingers to literally make his old Underwood (desktop) typewriter sing!   He used to say, “I’m a hunt and pecker, but I want you to learn to type the right way!”   …and he made sure that Nancy and I took all the typing courses that we could in school.