[A few weeks ago, Ruth's daughter contacted me asking if I would be willing to post this article written by her mother. Although Kelsey is a little ways from Tennessee, many of the settlers at Kelsey came from Tennessee. In addition the obvious skill Ruth had with words just compelled me to agree. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.]
Ruth Mary Torrens was born in England on April 21, 1903 to LDS parents William Torrens and Ellen Ada Barrow. Her father had joined the LDS Church before she was born, and her mother shortly after, so she was raised in the church all her life. In the mid 1920's she met Elder Alex "Reed" Moss, from Utah, while he was still serving a mission in England. After he returned home they began writting each other and eventually he proposed marriage. Ruth joined Reed in Utah where they were married on June 29, 1928 in the Salt Lake Temple. The following year, she and her husband were called on a teaching mission to Kelsey, Texas. In 1929, she wrote an article for the Gilmer News which described "East Texas as seen through the eyes of an Englishwoman". The two were in Kelsey for years.
In 1980, during a brief stay in NYC visiting her daughter, she revisited her first impressions of Kelsey. As originally presented to me, there were several notes in the text, which I have left off. Rather I would like your thoughts on what peaks your interest, and what needs clarification.
A few days ago walking up Broadway in New York City above the malodorous smells of the city I suddenly caught a whiff of pine and cedar – no, it could not be, not here on Broadway! And then I noticed a man selling pine and cedar Christmas trees on the sidewalks of New York. I paused to inhale again that fragrance so dear to me, and in a flash my mind traveled back through fifty years of time to a September night when I first smelled the pines and cedars of East Texas. We had arrived at Big Sandy at 3 AM on our way to Kelsey, Texas, where we were to fill a teaching mission. It was a warm dark night, There was little to see but the scent of fragrant trees not only filled my sense of smell but my whole being was overjoyed anticipating the scene that daylight might bring – nor was I disappointed – the next morning I was almost overcome with emotion at the scenes before me – of gently rolling hills, and woods and streams—a green and pleasant place. The scenery recalled so vividly many similar areas in my native land. However, there was little else other than landscape that was similar. Homes, peoples, customs, even food, so different , yet basically people were the same. Warm and so friendly. I not only fell in love with the land but with the people and the very, very warm affection remains with me even now and will always be part of me.
What a year of learning! What a year of experience that was—I had never seen frame homes. I had never seen a kerosene lamp. So many memories crowd my mind (as I sit here in a lovely apartment on Broadway) of the long ago and faraway days of Kelsey in the days when we were young and mostly carefree.
I remember so well teaching in the old brick schoolhouse on the hill. One of the first things that struck my attention in the classroom was the fact that there were no lights hanging. I did not realize that in winter, darkness did not fall at 3:30 PM (official lighting time) as it did in the far north of England. I did realize that the boys and girls I taught, although highly intelligent, were very easy-going and happy. Few of them were seriously interested in learning. Upon reflection it was probably adolescence because many of them did pursue the path of learning after high school.
Those were the days of poverty in East Texas and of depression all over the land. Many people left Kelsey to earn a living, or attempt to do so in other parts of the country. But those who left, I think I am safe in saying still love Kelsey and have fond memories of the Old Red [brick] School House.
In 1929 a magnificent gymnasium was [built] largely through volunteer labor. That gym was for years the pride of the county.
I think I remember where every house stood, and I remember all the lovely girls and boys I taught. It would take too long to recall all their names and incidents in which they were involved. I think the wildest incident, in those days of innocence, was the painting of a horse—green—one Halloween, belonging to [blank in original] and watching the old gentleman who owned it, leading it along the dusty lane one day.
Those were the days when going into Gilmer on Saturday was the highlight of the week. Seven long dusty miles in summer heat and often in cold spells of winter weather. One walked, generally carrying shoes in hand to don in town, riding in a wagon, occasionally, or even more rare, catching a ride with some fortunate soul who owned a car.
How thoughtful and kind people were to one another and especially so to those of us who were teaching in their midst. Garden produce and chicken, pies were frequently brought to us.
I recall that I did not always understand expressions used by the boys and girls. Some time later I recognized that some of the words were pure Elizabethan English, originally old English. Most of the students themselves were of English ancestry via the old Southern States.
I still smile at the memory of one lady asking me if I had a “hard time” learning to speak English.
Which is the most beautiful season of the year in Kelsey? Is it when all things are springing into life anew, when yellow flowers cover the meadows and wild flowers bloom along the roadsides and birds songs fill the air. The red bird flits through the tall pines. Dogwood and Redbud so delicately reach their exquisite blossoms Heavenward. Is it Autumn with its changing beauty of trees or is it winter when pine and cedar stand proudly tall and alive strong and green around the bare branches of other trees that sleep for a little while.
Time has brought many changes to Kelsey. Many of the old familiar places and faces have gone. New homes, cars, prosperity—gas wells are changing the face of the land, but fond memory remains and spring easily to mind as I stood at a street vendors stall on Broadway New York City and smelled cedar and pine trees at Christmas time, 1980.
God bless you all my dear friends of Kelsey.
Ruth passed away September 7, 1995, sixteen years after her husband.
2 months ago