I do not think that there can ever be enough books about anything and I say that knowing that some of them are going to be about Pilates.The more knowledge the better seems like a solid rule of thumb, even though I have watched enough science fiction films to accept that humanity’s unchecked pursuit of learning will end with robots taking over the world.-Sarah Vowell

Monday, November 28, 2016

Tomlinson Hill: The Remarkable Story of Two Families Who Share the Thomlinson Name--One White, One Black by Chris Tomlinson

I have put off writing this review for about two weeks now.  Its difficult to write a review about a book that covers 150 years of Falls County, Texas history in a few paragraphs.  This book, only 379 pages, contains so many nuggets of information you want to write about them all.  To set this book, I feel I must explain my feelings about Texas.  Texas is a unique state that is slightly crazy, and I'm not saying that just because I have relatives who live all over the state who are, but because Texas has flown under six flags, one of which was its own as a country.  Also, a county over is Waco where David Koresh had his compound and the sniper killer who used students at a college in Texas as shooting targets in the 1960s.  I rest my case.

James Tomlinson left Alabama in the late 1850s during the land rush after the Mexican-American war.  His sister had moved there with her husband and was making money hand over fist.  He built his house on Tomlinson Hill in Falls County, with the county seat of Marlin.  He would have eight children, one of which died during the Civil War, of which Texas saw little action.  Robert Edward Lee Tomlinson was but a small child during this time and he would become the author's great great grandfather.  R.E.L, as he was known, would go to Texas A and M, as his brothers did, but he would also seek further education in order to become a teacher.  He and his brothers, however still grew cotton and cattle.  Their main source of income was the cattle.
After the war, the Tomlinson's would keep blacks on as share croppers.  They would let them work the land, charge what they needed at only specific stores, where the owners were in collusion with the plantation owners, to charge as much as possible for goods and clothes.  By the time the crop came in, the share-cropper would not have a cent to his name, after he paid off the plantation owner.  Some, however, worked for small wages in the fields as laborers.  Peter Tomlinson and Josephine, born slaves, would work as share-croppers on the Tomlinson land.  Chris Tomlinson was told as a  child that the slaves on the plantation loved their masters so much that they had taken their name.  LaDamian, a decedent of Peter's , a young man today, grew up believing that Tomlinson's Hill was named after his family.

In Texas, times were turbulent for many years after the war.  Texas would not re-enter the Union until 1870, the last state to do so because they did not want to give the slaves their freedom or the right to vote.  During the 1890s there would be the emergence of the Ku Klux Klan that would cause all kinds of problems.  Though he has no proof, Chris believes that his relatives were involved in some of the terrorization of the blacks in Falls County at this time, as nearly everyone was.  When they put dynamite under the house of a share cropper, killing nearly everyone in it, including women and small children, the county became enraged and searched, in vain for the killers, and the Klan slowly died down.  But the blacks of Falls County knew not to rock the boat.  The first school to be set up in western Falls County would be one for the blacks, as white children were taught at home.  The Tomlinson family would set it up on their land.  High ranking blacks, such as George Washington Carver believed in not asking for Civil Rights, but instead, try to get an education so they could go further than the fields for a living.

R.E.L's son, Tommy, would move to Dallas to look for work, as he wasn't interested in farming.  He would marry and have a son named Bob, whose only interest was bowling and who had no ambition.  He was Chris's father and he would raise him to be without prejudice.  Chris recounts growing up in a Texas that was fighting desegregation and would end up going to many schools, some mostly black.  The whites would flee to the suburbs to avoid sending their children to school with blacks.  So, in the end, you still ended up with a lot of schools that were mostly black or mostly white.

On the black side of the Tomlinson's Peter would have a grandson, Vincent Jr., who would make a small success out of his life.  His son, O.T., first married Jewel and had four children by her.  Then when Jewel wanted to leave Tomlinson Hill for Waco, he would divorce her and marry Loreane and have three children by her, one of which is LaDamian, who would go on to become one of the most famous wide receivers in NFL history, while he played for the Chargers (you might have seen him in the Campbell's Chunky Soup commercials with his mom).  He didn't have much of a relationship with his dad, as when his dad fell off a ladder twelve feet and landed on his back, damaging it, he would become hooked on pain pills and later other stuff as well.  Loreane left him and moved the family to Waco.  LaDamian worked hard and made a success of his life.  His brother, LaVar, not so much.  He was blessed with a modicum of talent, but not enough to be a success at it and the black school he attended had left him woefully unprepared for college.

The author, stumbled into journalism, while in Africa.  He covered all the horrors of Africa in the 1990s and then the Middle East after 9-11.  When one too many of the people he worked with died, he quit and went home and began to become curious about his family history and thus this book was born.  There is so much to learn about a small microcosm of American history here and it is truly incredibly fascinating.  From the 1850s to the 1980s a Tomlinson, white or black, has always lived on Tomlinson Hill.  This book shows how their lives interact with each other and the land that came to mean so much to them.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Tomlinson-Hill-Remarkable-Story-Families/dp/1250005477/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1480347396&sr=8-1&keywords=tomlinson+hill

No comments:

Post a Comment