Fife natives meet again

Noblesse oblige is a French phrase meaning noble obligations. When applied more broadly, it simply means that benevolent, honorable behavior is considered to be the responsibility of persons who are capable of helping and providing for others. Two of the earliest citizens in this area practiced this concept: William Edward Lohn in Lohn and Robert Kay Finlay in Fife. Although both had limited schooling, they were staunch advocates of education. They built or helped build the first schools in their communities so the children of pioneer families would have a greater opportunity for education than they did. Not only did they provide a building, they encouraged students to do their best. Robert K. Finlay arrived in Fife in 1882, having married a Canadian lady, Margaret Mitchell, in Austin four years previously. Her family had already settled in the Fife area. They financed the building of a school and hired a teacher for 11 months. He hauled water and wood for the school and later built another school a short distance from the small settlement, paying the teacher’s wages. Students with the best grades were rewarded by Finlay, and graduates always received special gifts. Encouraging teachers and students was a lifelong endeavor for the ‘father of Fife.’ We have all heard the old adage, “You can take the boy out of the country, but you can`t take the country out of the boy.” We might paraphrase that as ‘you can take Fife folks out of Fife but you can’t take Fife out of Fife folks. As long as there is one person left who grew up in the town, there will be memories of it kept alive. The number grows smaller with each passing year. The majority attending the 2007 Mitchell-Bradley-Finlay reunion in Brady June 30 have never lived there or may never have set foot inside the old store with its outside stairway leading up to the Fife Masonic Lodge meeting hall. It is too bad that this unique building is forever gone. Two of the attendees at the reunion were the Bradley sisters, Nellie Faye and Gladys Bell, daughters of Henry and Winnie Walker Bradley and granddaughters of H.D. and Elizabeth Mitchell Bradley. Elizabeth and Margaret were sisters. Elizabeth Mitchell and H.D. (Bud) Bradley married in 1882. They had four sons. Their union was short-lived; only 12 years when Bud died, leaving the young widow to raise the four young boys. Lizzie, as she was known, had the grit of the pioneer woman. She had 120 acres of land, and she and her sons, Ben, Frank, Henry and Tom, worked the land, made a living and prospered. She provided room and board for teachers in the Fife school and donated some of her land for the Fife Cemetery where she and two of her sons are buried. Lizzie’s granddaughter, Nellie Faye (Bradley) Davies, recently celebrated her 90th birthday which was duly noted at this years reunion. She was born at Fife and attended the small school there until her senior year when she transferred to Brady, graduating in 1934. After graduation, she attended John Tarleton in Stephenville and received her two-year teaching certificate. Back in McCulloch County, she was hired to teach language arts in the upper grades at Salt Gap. To add to her education, she chose to attend Texas Tech to complete work for a Bachelor of Arts degree. Over the next two years, she taught high school English at McAdoo High School in Dickens County. While at Texas Tech, she met John Lennox Davies. Theirs was a long courtship; they dated for four years. He went into the service and was stationed at Valdosta, Ga. They married there in 1942. After living in Georgia, Arkansas and Indiana, they returned to Fife to Nellie’s home where their first child was born in Brady. Lennox was stationed in Austin where they lived until his retirement from the service. Lubbock became their home for the next 32 years, and two more children were added to the family. After the move to Lubbock, Nellie went back to teaching in 1944 and also received her masters degree. She continued to teach until 1976 when the family moved to Del Rio. In the Valley, she taught until retiring in 1980. Not content to leave the academic world entirely, she did substitute teaching for the next 10 years. San Antonio became home after Lennox became ill with cancer. He passed away in 1990. Rather than sit on the sidelines and watch the world go by, Nellie opted to move to Patriot Heights Community to be with people and be involved in activities. During her life she has sung in a choir, played the piano, directed three-act plays and belonged to and was active in PTA, Delta Kappa Gamma Society, Texas State Teachers Association, Del Rio Music Club, Etude Music Club, Silver Bucket Singers, Prime Chimers, bridge clubs and dance clubs. In her spare time, she has traveled to many states, Mexico and the Bahamas and traveled abroad to Spain, England and Scotland. She enjoys her children and grandchildren, her relatives, is a fan of the San Antonio Spurs basketball team and likes to read. Nellie admits that what she does best is visit. Attending this year were Willie Ruth Isaacs of Eldorado; Nelda Breazeala of Lubbock; Maggie Pearce Francks, J.B. and Lori Francks, Jim Bob and Sterling Roddie, Jaye, Journey and Jameson of San Angelo; Steve and Dorothy Bradley of Brownwood; Nellie Faye Bradley Davies, Brad and Cathy Davies and Tom Finlay of San Antonio; Linda Finlay Wallace, Gene Finlay of Denton; Jeff and Caelyn Bradley, Gerry, Avelina and David Bradley of Round Rock; Elizabeth Bradley Asciutto, Vincent, Kathleen, Thomas Ascuitto, Joyce, Manny, Jarek and Robles of Hutto; Manuel and Joyce Robles of Killeen, Jim and Margaret Tedder Draycott, Dawson and Sara, David and Ouita Bratton of Rochelle; Pam Sirmons of Brownfield; Fran Finlay Mills of Double Oak; David Finlay, Chris and Ian of Tyler; Paxton and Teri Ariana and Adalar Davies of Burleson; Shawn, Samantha and Ryan Ruff, Chris Kent of Rockwall; Gladys Bradley Ruff, Walter and Carla Ruff of Mesquite; Charles and Patsy Hubbard of Fredonia; Barbara Finlay of Bryan; Charles Bradley of Burlingame, Calif.; Marguerite Cornils Bratton, Mary Lou Mitchell Byrd, Mary Frances Finlay Craft, Pam, Billy and Amber Polk, Johnnie Tedder, Wynell Mitchell and Billie Mitchell Shaffer of Brady; and Bobby and Terri Pearce and Mike Finlay of Fife. The mantle of ‘ reunion planner’ seems to have fallen on the shoulders of Billie Mitchell Shaffer. She has been very successful in getting the Fife folks back each year for visiting, swapping old photos and partaking of a bountiful noon meal.

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