James Bowman James & Ida Pearl Swan(n)

Dorothy's parents

by Dan Reddell

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Photos from Dorothy Reddell, Guy Jack James, and Dolores Olsen

MomLoreneCottonbest.jpg (68934 bytes)  J.B. & Ida found love after suffering some of the cruelest blows life can deliver. J.B. James loved music. He wrote gospel songs. We know of one that was published. He fell in love with Margie Ann Dunn and they married November 10th, 1899 in Hill County Texas. She gave birth to six children: Leonial Artie (1900), Rosa, "Little Birdie", Otha Carl, Ruby Ovalo, and Lorene Edith. J.B. had a "vision" about the baby he called "Little Birdie." He dreamed of "Little Birdie" and in the dream a small white coffin appeared. His dream turned into a real life nightmare when "Little Birdie" died.

J.B. and his brother-in-law, Leo Dunn, would travel to small towns on the plains of Texas and hold "music schools," often in conjunction with revival meetings. For two weeks, they would teach nearly everyone in the community how to read music and on the last day they would hold a graduation party. The women of the community would bake pies and cakes and the whole town would hold a celebration. 

Then the music died. Margie Ann was giving birth to their seventh child when something went terribly wrong. She died during the childbirth. Her baby, named Margie, only lived two years. In later life, J.B. said that the worst thing that can happen to a man was to lose his wife. 

With six children and a baby to care for, J.B. turned to his wife's family for help. Margie's sister, Vangie, took in the children, even though she had several of her own.

Ida Pearl Swann was born in 1892 and was no stranger to hardship. Her family had felt the sting of fighting on the losing side of the Civil War. Two grandfathers had been killed. As a baby, Ida fell from her cradle onto the hearth of the fireplace. Her hand fell into the coals and it was injured so severely that she was never able to use it again. 

Ida's mother, Martha Shelton Swann, died of pneumonia when she was twelve and her father, Jesse Hillard Swann, died of "Brights Disease" when she was nineteen. Her uncle was murdered trying to collect a $5.00 debt. Ida moved in with her sister, Lula Bell Swann Coble. For a while, she worked for a chiropractor. The wife became jealous and demanded that she be fired. She then worked at an inn known as the Eppler House.

Lula Bell happened to be best friends with Vangie Dunn and it was here that Ida met J.B. James. 

J.B. courted Ida and they were married in Quana, Texas, on July 15, 1915. J.B. wanted a new start in life. He had heard about a place in New Mexico where a man could get free land just by homesteading it. He moved his family to Clayton, NM and built a dugout home on his new farm. He had hoped to grow cotton, but the weather was too cold. He tried growing broom straw. 

While living in the dugout, Ida gave birth to Dorothy Mae and a baby named Harold, who died soon after birth. Lorene told the story of how the baby's body was washed and placed on a table in the dugout until it could be buried. Harold's little headstone was still there when family members visited the site a few years ago. The owner of the farm promised to take care of it. 

J.B. quit New Mexico and returned to family in Childress, Texas, but by 1933, the dust storms were making it nearly impossible to share-farm and pick cotton. By now, J.B. and Ida had two more children, Esta Lee and Leatrice Joy. His children by Margie Dunn had grown up and left home and only Dorothy, Esta and Leatrice were left.

J.B. became friends with Jim Gallian and his wife Rudine. They talked of a new life in California or Oregon. J.B. desperately wanted to leave Texas but did not own a car and could hardly make enough money to feed his family. Jim owned a Chevy coupe but his only income was a small Social Security check for a disability. 

One day, Jim traded his coupe for a Chevy flatbed truck and invited J.B. to load up his family and go to Oregon with him and Rudine. There was no hesitation. Two families with what belongings they had struck out on a journey to Oregon and then California during the dustbowl migration that is the stuff of novels.

While camped along the Willamette river near Eugene Oregon with other migrant families, a young mother heard her child screaming for help. The tide was coming in and the rising water level caught two little girls who had waded out to a sand bar off guard. The mother rushed out to the girls and grabbed one of them. It wasn't her daughter. She tossed her back and tried to find her daughter but before she could, she slipped under the water and drowned. A man rushed out and saved both girls but it was too late for the mother. 

J.B. and Ida wanted to go to California. Cotton was a way of life and J.B. wanted to get back to a place that had cotton fields. A family who was traveling with two cars wanted to take him and his family because one of the men "had his eye" on Dorothy. Sixteen year old daughter Dorothy was not pleased and told her dad she did not want to go with them. Since she always did what her dad said to do, she figured she was "sunk."

When Jim and Rudine Gallian found out J.B. was going to Sacramento with the other family, they decided to go to. Once again, the James family and the Gallians journeyed together looking for a better life. However, J.B. was sorry the Gallians stopped in Sacramento because there wasn't any cotton fields.

Dorothy thought of the trip from Texas as an adventure of a lifetime but feels it must have been an unbelievable hardship for her mother.

Life in Sacramento California was good. Work in the canneries was seasonal, but available. J.B. heard about a motel that was going to be razed to be replaced with a service station. He bought one of the cottages for $50 and moved it to a lot in Gardenland, a small community near Sacramento.

 J.B & Ida finished raising their daughters and lived out their rest of their days peacefully and comfortably in that cottage. J.B. died in 1955 at the age of 80. Ida lived to the age of 90.

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Click photos to enlarge them

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1. Margie Ann Dunn and James Bowman James. 2. Back row-Will Alten, Albert Steven, Leo Dunn, Paul Arthur. Front row- Will Johnson, Jim "J.B." James, Al---- Clouson, & Jack Dunn 3. Margie Dunn and her sister Vangie. The headstones are in the cemetery of Kirkland, Texas--now a ghost town.

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1. Lena Dunn, Leo's wife, with twins Coy and Connie. 2.Two of Vangie Dunn's children. 3. J.B.'s first son, Artie

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1. Two of J.B.'s brothers--Green and Ben. 2. J.B.'s brother Henry with daughter Rosa, during WWI. 3. Brother Henry with wife Olia(?)

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1. Margie's brother, Jack Dunn. 2. One of J.B. and Leo Dunn's music schools. 3. J.B. and Margie at their home in Kirkland Texas. Daughter Lorene is peeking through the front door.

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1. Niece Mintie (in chair) with J.B.'s sister Emma. 2. Daughter Lorene with a cousin. 3. Another music school.

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1. J.B.'s daughter Rosa with Margie's sister, Tavy Dunn. 2 J.B.'s best friend, partner, and brother-in-law, Leo Dunn. Later in life, Leo moved to a new community known as Amherst Texas where he became friends with his neighbors, William Harve and Novella Reddell. His son Joe became best friends with their son Les and later Joe introduced Les to his "Uncle Jim's" daughter Dorothy--my parents. 3. J.B.'s brother Ben at age 21.

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1. Ida Pearl Swann. 2. The Eppler House where Ida worked. She is at the far left. 3. Ida's sister Lula Bell Swann Coble

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These are photos that belonged to Ida.  We do not know who the people are and how they fit into Ida's life.

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1. Unknown. 2-3. A love letter to Ida from an admirer in 1910.

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1. Ida and her brother Henry. 2. Henry Swann during WWI. 3. Henry with friend.

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1. Henry Swann. 2. Henry's baby. 3. Ida with "Brother Mac." We have no idea who Brother Mac is.  J.B. is in the background.

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1. James Bowman James and Walter Self, 1918.. 2. J.B. in middle. Artie at far right. 3. J.B. in New Mexico.

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1. J.B. and Leo at a music school. 2. J.B. and Leo at another music school. Check out the ribbons each person has pinned on. 3. Unknown and J.B. James.

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One of J.B.'s songbooks. He wrote one of the songs and the melody to the other. In an amazing coincidence, I was telling a friend about this book and J.B.'s song writing. He said his family was from the same part of the country and that his grandfather had also written gospel songs. We looked through the book and found four songs written by his grandfather.

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J.B. and Ida with daughter Dorothy in front of the rock face of their New Mexico dugout home. Circa 1919

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1, J.B. trying out rifle. 2, Ida, Dorothy, Henry, Lorene, Ruby, and Rosie. 3, J.B., Dorothy, and Ida. Dorothy still has the cap she is wearing in this photo.

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1-2, The James and Conaway families picking cotton for the Culbertsons, Childress, Texas, circa 1919. 3. Ida holding Dorothy. Mrs. Culbertson, Rosa, Uncle Henry, and Lorene.

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1-2. Dorothy and Fern Lee (?)
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1. Dorothy as infant. 2. Dorothy. 3. Dorothy and Esta Lee at a fair.
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1. Dorothy and cousin Herman Self. 2. Herman and Dorothy with dolls received at Christmas. 3. A house in New Mexico owned by J.A. Allen

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1. Ida and Mrs. Conaway. 2, The James family with the Gallian family who brought them to Oregon. 3, Dorothy on bridge, Klamath Falls, OR. just after arriving from their "Grapes of Wrath" journey from the Texas dustbowl. See Dorothy's Story.

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1. Rudine Gallian's sister, Rose. 2. Dorothy's friend, Madge Conaway (right), hugging another friend. 3. Rudine Gallian and friend.

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1. Rudine Gallian. 2, Ida and Dorothy. 3. Dorothy's second grade teacher, Miss Littlejohn. Childress, Texas, circa 1922.

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1. Ida Swan(n)  2, Ida, J.B. and daughter Lea. 3, J.B. and Ida

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1. After arriving in Sacramento, CA, J.B. and Les Reddell bought two lots in nearby Gardenland. They purchased two motel cottages that were being torn down and moved them to the lots. This is where J.B. and Ida lived out their lives. 2, Ida and J.B. 3, Ida and Dorothy's daughter, Sheril, circa 1959, at house in Gardenland.

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1. Ida James.  2, Ida and J.B. 3, Ida and J.B. on their visit to the Reddell farm, circa 1953 near Porterville, CA.

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1. Leatrice James, youngest daughter of J.B. and Ida. She was named after J.B.'s favorite movie star. 2. The remains of the New Mexico dugout home of the James family. 3. Artie, J.B. and Otha.

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1. J.B.'s son Otha James. 2. His wife Elizabeth. 3. J.B.'s brother Ben and his family. Front row: Miley May James Angel, Nancy Ann Shalaby Henderson James, Benjamin Asberry James, Mildred Olene James Shaw. Back Row: Cecil B. James, Hollie Loyd James, Elbert Lee James, Alonzo Bolden James, Elmer J. James, and Kelsey V. James. 


This note from Guy Jack James, grandson of Ben James: "My grandfather Benjamin Asberry James and his wife Nancy Ann [Henderson] lived in Taylor Co., outside of Abiline doing farm work around 1903 to 1910. My Father, Cecil B James was born there August 5, 1910. Three uncles were also born in Taylor Co. They are Sammie Milton James [male] June 21, 1904 , Elmer J James June 25, 1906 , Alonzo Bolden James, May 27, 1908.  All of them about two years apart. My great uncle, James Bowman James, and his wife, Margie [Dunn] James, and his brother-in law, Leo Dunn, had a singing school at Colony Hill In 1904."

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1. Rosa James and her friend Molly Printes. 2. Bobby Lee Pryor, son of Ruby James and Oscar Pryor. Bobby was killed shortly after this photo was taken. 3. Doris. I don't know her story yet.
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1. Emma James and friends. 2. Rosa's daughter Jolene. 3. Lorene, J.B., Ida, Dorothy, and Esta Lee.

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1. Ruby James 2. Left side of tailgate: J.B.'s father, Jonathan J. James. right side: Jonathan's son Benjamin Asberry James. Driver: unknown. Ben's son Elmer J. James is waving hat. 3. J.B.'s oldest brother William, known as Uncle B with his mother, Sarah Ann Self James.

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1. Lula Bell Coble, Ida's sister. 2. Ruby, Lorene, and Otha in 1986. 3. Otha (middle) and his daughter Billie Jean and her husband, Bob Hyde.

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August, 1956--the funeral of James Bowman James. His children honor his life and say goodbye. Back row--Dorothy, Esta, Lorene, Leatrice, Ruby, Rosa. Front row, Artie, Ida, and Otha. I believe this was the last time the whole family was together.

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Email Dan Reddell: bayshoredan@aol.com