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Quilt maker,folkartist,writer, from Freestone County, Tx.

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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Wilbur T.(Bill) Bonner-Titus: Official Titus Family Researcher and Historian.


Wilbur Thirkield (Bill ) Bonner-Titus
Born: February 9,1919 - Died: June 10,2012


Bill at work recording family history. He learned  how to use the 

computer in his 80's.

The Governor and Amanda Titus Family

Bill Titus and his mother Amanda Marie Hunter-Titus
who insisted he help her record the family's history.



Today I am going to write about a person who has made a great impact on my life and many others from the Edward "Ned" Titus family lineage and from the county of Freestone in Texas.His name is Wilbur Thirkield  (aka "Bill") Bonner-Titus who recently died on June 10, 2012.........

The slave Edward "Ned" Titus, who was brought to Freestone County , Texas
in 1852 by the Simeon and Nancy Lake Family from South Carolina.


There is always at least one person/s in every family lineage who is concerned about researching, recovering and chronicling that family's history and lineage so as to save it for future generations. For the Edward "Ned" Titus family of Freestone County, Texas that person/s would have to be Mr. Wilbur T.(aka Bill) Bonner-Titus, ( and his sister Loreta Titus-Phillips). This post will introduce you  to both of these two most amazing and respected person/s....not only are they admired  in the family, but in the Freestone County Community as a whole. It is with great pleasure that I present to you their story. This article commerates their HARD WORK and PERSERVERANCE in preserving this family's history.....ENJOY!!!!! 

In His Own Words

A Condensed Autobiography of Wilbur Thirkield "Bill" Bonner-Titus
Reading Specialist, Family Historian, Poet, and Author

My parents were Amanda Elmira Hunter and James Isaac Bonner. I was born on February 9, 1919, in Young's Mill, Freestone County, Texas, which no longer exists. I was given the name Wilbur Patterson Thirkield, in honor of a white Methodist Episcopal Bishop, who was popular among African Americans, during the period of my birth. During the early part of my life, I was called Thirkield, which often to my disgust, was mispronounced.

I was raised by my mother and her devoted husband, Governor R. Titus, in the community called Titus Farm and/or Brown's Creek Community. This community was composed predominately of African Americans,ex-slaves and their progeny and was located in "the flat woods," ten or eleven miles northeast of Fairfield, Texas, in Freestone county.

We were poor. There were six of us children: Catherine, Cornelius, Joe Pierce, Loreta Yvonne, and me, who grew up on the little farm that had been given to Daddy by his father (Willie Titus). We were poor, but in retrospection, I find that we had dignity and self respect, and the seeds of independence, responsibility, the value of cleanliness of person and character, and of education, obedience to the laws of God and constituted authority were instilled within us as being essential if one were to enjoy the good and fulfilling life.

Home Background


My life seems to have been typical of the farm boys of the era and locale. I was the cowboy, as such I attended to the cows. I drove them home from the woods where they fed, if they did not come home of their accord. I milked them, and fed them during the winter. I slopped hogs, fed chickens, chopped wood, and helped with all of the work of the fields.



I carried water from the tank for washing and bathing, and from the well, some distance away, for cooking and drinking. I was the first one to get up in the mornings. In winter, I would light the fires, one in the heater and the other in the cook stove, so that it would be ready for Mother and later my sister Catherine, to prepare breakfast for the family. 

Some of the pleasant things that I enjoyed during my childhood was picking berries, and other fruit, fishing, hunting rabbits, reading, cooking, singing, and playing with friends.

Religious Background 


With my mother and siblings, I attended Sunday School and "church" at Hope Well Methodist Episcopal Church, regularly. I participated in all of the children's and youths' activities of the church. We also attended the services of Mt. Zion Baptist Church, which was our neighboring church. Daddy seldom attended any church, except for funerals, but he saw that we attended church and respected its teachings.

Education

My elementary education was received from Titus Farm School, from the first through the seventh grade, which I completed in 1933 as valedictorian. The school was a one teacher institution which held classes in Hope Well Methodist Church from nine o'clock in the morning until four o'clock in the afternoon.

In order to continue my education, I went to Mexia, Texas, lived with Aunt Susie Roberts and attended Dunbar High School. I was diligent about my studies; I remembered how Mother and I had planned for me to win a scholarship and for me to go to college. There was no other way. I worked before and after school to help support myself and completed my high school studies in 1937 with second highest honors.

Even though I worked after school, I was active in extracurricular activities. I was the leading tenor in the male and mixed quartets which represented Dunbar High School in the Interscholastic league competition in Prairie View College. I also represented the school in spelling and as a member of a debating team. One year I had an important role in high school drama. 

In 1937, I entered Tillotson College, now Houston-Tillotson College, Austin,Texas on a scholastic scholarship. This scholarship paid my tuition that first year. I had to find work in order to pay for room and board. It took me five years to receive my degree, because I worked and attended classes alternately during my last two years. 

I received an A. B. Degree in History, with a double minor of Education and English. After a stint in the Us Army, I returned to Tillotson College and took enough courses in English to qualify for an English major.

The extracurricular activities in which I participated during my college years include the college choir, glee club, and Crescent Club Male Quartet, the debate team, and Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. I was active in the social life of the college, and was voted the " most popular man" one year.

As a reward for my making good grades and being an asset to the college, the college gave me jobs in the kitchen and dining room, where I moved from dishwasher to head waiter. My first job, during my freshman year, was as reader for a junior student who was technically blind. For him, I would read his course assignments that were not written in Braille. This proved to be a valuable experience. 

During my junior and senior years, I was editor of the college newspaper. When I left the dormitory and found lodging in the city, I found employment at the La Conga Night Club, where I progressed from dishwasher to cook, to head waiter, and finally cashier.

Military Experience

In November of 1942, I was drafted into the United States Army and served until September 22, 1944. I did my basic training in Camp Wolters, Texas, where I was trained to use the 30mm rifle, mortar, and 30mm caliber machine gun. My highest rank achieved was corporal, and clerk, serving on both the company and the regimental levels in the states and overseas.

I served in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater, including New Zealand, Australia, and New Guinea.
I was awarded the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with Bronze Star for New Guinea Campaign, and the Good Conduct Medal. 

Political Involvement

Ever since African Americans in Texas were permitted to vote, I have been a member of the Republican Party and have participated in its activities. I was chosen Precinct Chairman of the Fairfield, Texas Republican Party in 1978, and have worked the polls several times.

Work Experiences

My work experiences include those of a farm hand, dishwasher, cook, waiter, yardman, soldier, mail orderly, clerk, cafe owner and operator, manager of a barber college for a year, public school and college teacher, assistant principal, director of a reading department, director of summer concentrated reading programs, director of musical groups, director of activities, reading consultant, and much volunteer work in the communities in which I have lived.

Memberships

Listed here are some of the  names of organizations of which I am or have been a member:

  • AARP
  • National Retired Teachers Association
  • State Retired Teachers Association
  • Advisory Board of Retired Senior Volunteer Program of the Heart of Texas Agency on Aging, Waco, Texas
  • Freestone County War on Drugs
  • Jones Chapel United Methodist Church, Reunion Center Advisory Council of Fairfield, Texas
  • Mexia, Texas Public Library Board
  • National Reading Conference
  • Western Reading Conference
  • International Reading Association
  • Texas Association for The Improvement of Reading
  • National Association For The Improvement of Colored People
  • YMCA , Board of Directors
  • Boy Scouts Of America Circle Ten Council Mustang District
  • The Voices of Sigma
  • Veteran Of Foreign Wars ,W. H. Bailey Post ,Fairfield, Texas
  • Dogan High School Alumni Association
  •  Life membership in Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. 

Publications

My published works are limited to poems and articles published in the Tillotson College newspaper, the Stars and Stripes, an U. S. A. newspaper of the World War II era, and entry in The Anthology of College Poetry, 1948, and as editor of the St. Paul United Methodist Church, Dallas, Texas during the nineteen sixties and seventies. I have published three books. Two of them are collections of poems and the other is a historical account of the accomplishments of contemporary members of the Bailey Hunter, Sr., and Edward Titus Families.

My first book of poems, Poetic Reflections of Wilbur Thirkield Titus, is a collection of poems written during the period of 1942-2003. The poems depict my experiences, memories, impressions, beliefs, and convictions.

The second books of poems, Give Me America !!!, is a collection of patriotic poems in which I sing the praises of America and dedicate it to survival of America.

The third book is Who Is Who In Hunter And Titus Families.

The first two books are published by myself. Who Is Who In Hunter and Titus Families is published by the Hunter And Titus Family Reunion.

Honors And Awards

  • Humanitarian Award, January 24, 1990 by RSVP of Waco, Texas
  • Certificates of Appreciation for 1983 to 2002 from RSVP
  • Outstanding Service Award, July 18, 1995, Hunter And Titus Family Reunion
  • Civil Defense Award, Texas Education Agency
  • Appreciation Award for Outstanding Achievement And Unselfish Service by Rho Chapter, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.
  • Man of the Year Award, 1973, Omicron Sigma Chapter, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. Dallas, Texas
  • Education Award, in recognition of Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Education
  • The Good feather Award For The Most Outstanding Performance By A Human Being, by Radio Station, WRR, Dallas, Texas 1973
  • Certificate Of Appreciation, April 23, 1998, by Freestone County, Texas for outstanding personal service to the Fairfield Senior Center and the community
  • Certificate of National Service, 2001, Senior Corps of RSVP
  • Certificate of Appreciation, 2002, by Central Texas Senior Ministries, for participation in the Legacies writing contest
  • Nomination for induction into Marquis Who's Who 2004, March 2003
Hobbies and Interests

My interests and hobbies include singing, listening to classical piano, jazz, and sacred music, reading,creative writing, playing bridge and television, sports, using the computer, genealogy, and interacting with people.


Personal Life

Miss Virgie Lee Tucker married me on December 31, 1947. We had no children. Our divorce was granted on January 22, 1974. I have foster children whom I love dearly.

At this writing, I live alone at 946 South Bateman, Fairfield, Texas. I am busily enjoying my retirement, and continuing my writing, which includes the writing of a history of the Hunters and Titus's, (See How Far We Have Come!), in which I discuss the beginnings of the families and summarize their accomplishments. The Complete Poems of Wilbur Thirkield Titus is being compiled, and a collection of my love poems, From The Depths of My Heart, is nearing completion.

I am enjoying the adoration of my foster children, the blessings of God, the benefits of freedom, and the respect of friends. I am content, and I shall ..."Live until I die!"

By Wilbur T. Titus
August 14,2003

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Bill Titus loved recording his family's historical background and until his recent  death in June 2012, he lived up to his faithful motto.....I shall "Live until I die". He left tons of historical documentation and memorabilia that attests to the firm roots that the Titus family planted in Freestone County, Texas.

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Loreta and Louie T. Phillips





His sister Loreta Earnestine Titus-Phillips was in harmony with her older brothers' mindset on cherishing family history and roots. Her efforts to save it are recorded below in a quote from her cousin Odis Rich in "A Tribute to Loreta Titus-Phillips" which was presented during the Hunter and Titus family reunion, on July, 26, 2003, Fairfield, Texas. It reads:

"Ladies and gentlemen, family and friends, 

In order to fully understand and appreciate the significance of the next acknowledgment, I must first give you some background.

In January of 1863 slavery officially ended in the US through the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln. However, it was not until two and a half years later that slavery ended in Texas in June 1865.

Only fourteen years later on March 4, 1879, Ned Titus with two of his sons and a son-in-law purchased 320 acres of land here in Freestone County, TX, from Willie Lane and her husband C.B.Lane. In case you are wondering from where I got detailed  information, I have a copy of the deed which is still available here in the county court house.

What is important to understand is that these men, after spending their entire lives as slaves, in only 4 years after freedom, were able to buy a large area of land for their family. The ancestry of many of us in this room today, and many who are not, can be traced to these men and their wives. During the years later, the sons purchased additional land that expanded the initial acreage.  

Upon that land a community was built. There were houses for shelter, farms that provided work and food. There was a church which was also used as a school...( Some here today attended that school.) Also, a cemetery was created, the land having been donated by Henry Titus whose son was the first internee. 

On June 19, 1928, 49 years after Ned Titus and his sons bought the first 320 acres, Loreta Yvonne Titus was born. She is now known as Loreta Phillips. 

Loreta is a great-grand daughter of Ned Titus. The significance of my telling you about Loreta's birth will come later. For now, let us go to 1968 and the few years leading up to 1968.

Most of the 60s were tumultuous years. The Vietnam war was fought throughout the period. 

In 1963, President Kennedy was assassinated.

In 1965, the US Congress passed the Voting Rights Act which was enacted to force southern states to allow black Americans to vote. Texas was one of the states that had to be forced.

In 1968, Martin Luther King was assassinated. Also in 1968, Loreta's sister Catherine died...This was undoubtedly, a very stressful time (for her). 1968 was also a year that the Texas Utility was forcing our family members to sell land which had been divided and passed down to them.

Coal had been discovered on and around the Titus Farm community in the 60s, and the Texas Utility Co. wanted it for generating electricity, to mine, and to build a power plant. The Texas Utility Co. needed the land. Of course, some family members resisted selling. But in the end, they all were persuaded to sell or risk seizure.

Concerned about the family getting an unfair price for the land, and more importantly, concerned about protecting the cemetery, Loreta (Titus) Phillips took action.

This cemetery is the burial place for Ned Titus, his wife Clora, their children, and many other of our descendants. As well, many Hunters are buried in this cemetery. After realizing that the fight with the TU to save the land would be lost eventually, Loreta persisted in the fight to save the cemetery.

The TU had a plan, too, for saving the cemetery which was not acceptable to Loreta. Under the TU plan, they would dig-up the graves and rebury them someplace else. If they could move a whole coffin, they would. Otherwise they would collect the bones in barrels....."

Neither of these solutions were acceptable to Mrs. Phillips whose great uncle, Henry Edward Titus, had begun the cemetery and where her father and other relatives and friends were buried. So Loreta,  with  only her husband Louie T. Phillips, for support......went before the Water Commission of the State of Texas, in Austin, Texas and received assurance that Hopewell Cemetery would not be disturbed. 

SHE FOUGHT TO SAVE HER HERITAGE!!! ....and that is why Hopewell Cemetery , to date, is the only surviving  landmark to a once vibrant and active African American Community called Titus Farms. 

Loreta and her brother "Bill" never ceased to hold on to the amazing history of their ancestors.

Area where Titus Farms once existed. Only Hopewell Cemetery
continues to exist right next door to the Big Brown Electrical Plant.
To enter the cemetery, one has to ask for a key at the Plant's Guard House
 to gain entry to the cemetery access road.




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Bill Titus's Accounts of the Demise and history of Titus Farms.
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The End......ENJOY!!!!





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