Lillie Davenport: Pioneer Mother
by Mary Lou Midkiff

Oleo Publishing, 2008. ISBN 978-0-9763955-1-5.
Reviewed by Trilla Pando
Posted on 08/03/2008

Nonfiction: Biography; Nonfiction: History/Current Events; Nonfiction: Relationships

The Texas frontier in the early twentieth century was a "rootin,'tootin" place with rough, tough cowboys heading for the round-up. Their stories filled the pages of many books, from stuffy histories to steamy paperback novels. And let's not forget the television programs and movies. But some important chapters and scenes are missing from these stories.

To a large extent, women are not there. The young brides heading west into the unknown with hearts full of love and spines straight with courage, where are they? We don't read much about the long, lonely months on the prairie with a houseful of children and only an occasional visitor. We miss the stories of taking out the rifle to shoot a rabbit or antelope for the dinner table.

Take Lillie Davenport, who was born in Georgia, after the Civil War, in 1877. While a young girl, she traveled in a covered wagon to the Indian Territory where she met and married Oscar Midkiff. The young couple moved to the Texas frontier near Midland, where Oscar worked as a cowboy and later a rancher. Lillie mothered twelve children while she lived that lonely prairie existence. (She was a mighty good shot; she could bring down an antelope from her buggy seat!) This long-lived pioneer woman spent her later years looking forward to watching Perry Mason on Saturday night.

Lillie's fascinating story will not be lost, thanks to the efforts of her granddaughter-in-law, Mary Lou Davis Midkiff. Using a variety of sources, Midkiff presents a vital picture not only of this brave woman, but also of the Midkiff family, and twentieth century West Texas from frontier times to the oil boom. This book will be greatly valuable to historians of the region.

The author's use of local and oral histories, newspapers, family photographs, and interviews with family members, especially grandchildren and great grandchildren, should serve as a model for anyone who plans to put together her own family's history.

Born in California, Mary Lou Davis Midkiff spent her teen years in Rankin, Texas during the oil boom years. There she met John Midkiff; whom she married shortly after her high school graduation in 1955. The couple lives and ranches in Midland County, Texas. Her previous book, Midkiff: A Texas Family, Town, and Way of Life, was published in 2005. She is working on a book about her own family. Visit her website.

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