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NORRIS & 5 Descending Bloodlines Reunion, 2008

In my mind from this day forward the Norris Family Reunion 2008 will be known as The Great Gathering. It's hard to pick a starting place to begin so I'll just dive in and start with the Thursday night trip to BLACK JACK's PIZZA in Dallas for dinner. The restaurant is family owned. We went as a caravan from the hotel and were met there by other family members. Within a matter of moments we overflowed the restaurant and it was filled entirely by family! We are still tasting those delicious hamburgers and pizza that we gourged ourselves on there. Believe me it's true when they say EVERYTHING in Texas is BIG! One family member who I will NOT out here turned to me and said "my goodness, I don't think I have ever eaten an entire pizza by myself in my life. That was delicious. I left one piece so I can say I didn't eat the whole thing" and we both laughed! Another big hit with the family was Black Jack's homemade famous Carolina Gold Tea. To which I heard over and over "that's the way we like it here in Texas, real sweet, like our Mama's made when we was kids." It was quite a while after dark when we left because everyone was having such a good time seeing family again and catching up.

Friday morning was the Bus Trip to Marshall, the home place of our Texas roots.

We arrived just in time at 7am to see this regal burgandy and silver bus straddling the best part of the hotel parking lot. Many family members had already boarded beginning at 6:30am but there were still several others standing nearby taking last minute photos and grabbing bottles of water before boarding.

The ride up was so much fun. We ranged from age 8 to 75. The Snack & Convenience Break in Longview, Texas provided us with more photo opportunities before reboarding and heading to Marshall. When we arrived at Taylor Cemetery in Marshall we were greeted by eager arms of more family members who lived in Marshall. As we piled off the bus to hugs and kisses we took the dirt path down the road to the actual gravesites. People split up into small groups to make their way around as it seemed that most had specific graves they were hoping to find. Others slowly made their way around in awe at the family history at our feet they'd only heard of before. One family member was even moved near tears as he repeated to us "no, you don't understand, I knew these people when they were alive".

What most felt I honestly can't say because I msyelf had my own agenda. I headed in one direction with my digital camera and my boyfriend headed in another with the video camera. I was looking new graves I had missed when I visited in 2006. Who I really hoped to find was either Eliza or Buck Norris, my GrGrGr Grandparents as I had been told by a 97 yr. old cousin in 2006 "Grandma Liza and Buck Norris is buried at Taylor". My heart drops again as I reveal to you that I did not find them. The majority of the older graves are at the bottom of that hill and that part of the graveyard has yet to be cleared of trees however, a much larger portion of the rear of the cemetery had been cleared since I visited 2 years ago.

The Ancestors did not disappoint though because not long after I entered the graveyard a little bird pointed my eyes to the left side of the graveyard and whispered "you didn't see that part last time, go there now" and I was rewarded beyond my wildest dreams! It was a tight gathering of three graves and already three or four other family members were gathered around them trying to read the names on the headstones. As I approached closer to the largest of these trying to read the name I couldn't believe my eyes and before I knew it I was on my hands and knees trying to rub some of the dirt off of the stone. Someone said "what about some water to clean it with?" Immediately I started calling for water and turned to find our driver with a bottled water. I think I took it out of his hands before I actually asked for it (smile) telling him "I'll get you another one when we get back to the bus". I started at the top of the stone and poured the water slowly and right before our eyes most of the dirt started to dissolve and the name revealed was what I thought it was "NANCY PINTER, aged 67, Died June or July 1882".

I turned to the crowd gathered and said "do you guys know who this woman is? She is our Great Great Great Great Grandmother, Nancy Pinter, she was Eliza Norris' mother! I never dreamed I'd find her. I just really found out about her about six months ago. Everything about her told me she was Eliza's mother but, I need some real proof. This is my proof her being buried here at the family cemetery." Just as I thought the trip couldn't become any better if I lived 100 years I turned to the other two stones nearby and discovered that the most elegant of them, a gray stone pillar with a flowing blanket of fabric draped over the pillar held the name "SUSAN SMITH" and right beside Susan was the headstone of "J.S. SMITH". Susan Smith was also the daughter of Nancy Pinter and therefore the sister of our Eliza NORRIS and J.S. Smith, I believe is JAMES SMITH, the son of SUSAN and HARRISON SMITH! You could have knocked me over with a feather and laid me to rest in that very spot. That made the day my best geneaology research day of the year! I took pictures like some fool with his finger stuck on GO! This discovery sent me off like a pinwheel spun by the Tasmanian Devil. Couldn't much concentrate after that but, I continued to take pictures of stones I hadn't found the first time in 2006.

I hope to return there in the winter when the trees will be bare and the snakes will be sleep so that I can make the trek down that hill in search of Eliza, Buck and hopefully their oldest son, my Great Great Grandpa Sonnie Norris.

Our next stop was Canaan Cemetery. Canaan is connected to Canaan Baptist Church and is a much better kept graveyard. It was so beautiful and easy to see everyone there. So many of the names I found there on headstones were old friends to me through my research. I've watched them grow up through the Census reports over the years. I marveled as I ran my hand across the headstone of Millie Norris COLLIER and that of Asberry COLLIER. Millie was my GrGrGrandpa's baby sister. I saw all of four of Millie's daughters there. My biggest regret at Canaan is that I was unable to find the gravesites of Dina NORRIS, another of Sonnie's sisters.

However, I am hopeful because that was the New Canaan Cemetery and there is an Old Cemetery which I plan to visist also in the winter. Mid way through my memory card filled up and the battery on the video camera went on a lunch break. Luckily enough my cousin Sam from Los Angeles' camera was still going strong! Oh, the photos we took that day will be in our family for generations to come.

I think the bus trip was a total success because so many of us had no idea of how many relatives lay in eternal slumber in those back country woods. Our bus then took us to the Golden Corral in Marshall where we put a serious and I do mean serious DENT in the noonday buffet served there. We overflowed the room that had been reserved for us out into the larger part of the restaurant but, we had a great lunch there. It was also another opportunity for family photographs and a chance to chat with new found and well known family members.

Our next stop was Wiley College where we took more photographs and heard stories of the school and neighborhood from older family members who had attended Wiley. What a beautiful campus. It may be a small campus but to me it was more regal than anything I've seen because I knew from my research that it was a school started by african americans for african americans. Even then our ancestors knew that they wanted higher education for their children and they had sacrificed so much to make it happen. On that spacious green lawn the students of yesterday called out to me with their laughter. I could see them in my mind's eye walking the campus grounds on their way from and to classes that made brighter futures for them and for us. Wiley College came to life for me that afternoon and I delighted in having my picture taken in front of the sign that read "Wiley College, Established in 1872".

After a quick nap and a costume change from the Bus Trip we all met up again that evening at the DeSoto home of another relative for the Fish Fry Meet & Mingle. There had to be atleast 100 - 125 in attendance. The food was fabulous, the company even better but the highlight of the evening for me was the loving reception with which the Norris Family Heirloom Book - 2nd Edition was met. Everyone loved the book and there were many Texas sized howls during the DVD Movie that was shown showcasing my favorite family photographs. Every nook and cranny of the large home and yard were filled with family members either hugging, laughing, kissing, crying, exchanging contact information and picture taking every where!

Saturday began with the Picnic at CEDAR CANYON DUDE RANCH where 280 relatives gathered together! We looked simply beautiful in our Reunion T-shirts with matching handkerchiefs. There were three highlights of the day to me: The first was the Family Portrait that was taken on the lawn of the Dude Ranch; the 2nd was the speech given by a 21 year old Norris Descendant who expressed her love of family and her desire and determination to get more of the younger generation to the next Family Reunion and the third was the singing of Amazing Grace by one of my favorite cousins from California. She sang acapello from her heart and could be heard throughout the entire their mother would have been to know that five of her six children made the trip from California to Texas to meet her side of the family for the first time. There mother was my fellow detective in my family research for the first two years. She had a remarkable memory for people and places. She passed last summer so this was especially touching for me. There was also a beautiful Family Portrait taken of the senior family members inside the Ranch for the benefit fo the AC (smiel).

Spaghetti Dinner & Dance at the Lion's Club Saturday evening was attended in smaller numbers but we made up for it in spirit. It was a great opportunity to let down our hair, catch up, wet our whistles and learn how to do the Cupid Shuffle from our Dallas counterparts. The food was very good and the music was perfect. The DJ played a little something for everyone. I was introduced to Mel Waters who sang a song with a lyric of "I've got my money and I've got my whiskey" which I requested over and over that night. The highlight of the night for me was the dancing and no one will ever forget the 83 year young Dova coming down the Soul Train line minus her cane to loud calls of "Go, Dova, Go Dova!" Priceless, simply priceless.

Sunday morning we went as a family with another relative to her home church to worship, Hopewell Baptist Church in Dallas. I'm proud to say that our small contingent filled seven pews, with each pew holding a minimum of 15 - 18 people. The service was magnificent and the message preached that day was the most moving service I've had the pleasure of hearing since I was a child. The two choirs that sang that day did so from their hearts and the spirit was truly in the Lord's Temple that morning. The Norris Family was warmly greeted by the Minister. We were asked to stand and be acknowledged and the entire church filed by to shake our hands and we received just as many hugs from the congregation as well. I had the good fortune to have another new cousin from St. Louis sitting to my right and she gratefully shared her tissues with me as I practically cried throughout the entire service. Tears of joy and recognition. I was blessed to be present and hear such a moving and heartfelt message that day and I had a good number of my family members there with me. Truly it was a blessed morning in my life that I will remember forever.

Immediately after Church services we made our way about 6 blocks away to have Dinner at the home of another family member. You talk about good home cooking! There was Turkey, Fried Chicken, Greens, Pinto Beans w/ Ham Hocks, Yellow Squash, Potato Salad, Tossed Green Salad, and Corn Bread along with a variety of homemade baked goods. Three relatives from California started asking about the infamous Blue Bell Ice Cream and before you could say Jack Robinson someone was sent lickety split to make an Ice Cream Run. They came back with enough ice cream for the entire household. So we had our first chance to taste the Strawberry, Vanilla and Butter Pecan flavors. My favorite was the Vanilla by a long run and I must admit that 'No' they don't have ice cream like it in California!

I hated to leave Dallas when the time came. I had such a wonderful time.

I'll end with my tagline from the family website: "If you have ever wondered if the dead talk to the living I want to let you know that they do because they have been talking to me."

I LOVE GENEAOLOGY, it's transformed my life!

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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