Betty Settle is a lifelong family friend and Tennessee relative. We grew up together in the rural Standing Rock Creek community and are cousins from both sides of our families. As we age, Betty gains prominence, since most of my other relatives have passed on ahead of me. This is a problem with being the baby of your family and living to a ripe old age. Your siblings and peers die off, leaving you as everybody else’s great aunt or distant elderly cousin. What follows traces just enough lineage of the Sexton and McHood family trees in the hills of western Tennessee to show why Betty and I are cousins twice, once removed both times, but not double.  

Betty is my cousin once through my father’s mother, Vickie Sexton’s, side and again through my mother’s father, J. R. McHood’s side. So, she is my cousin twice, but not double. Double cousins are off-springs of two siblings who marry two siblings, which is not so in our case. Betty is one generation later than me, therefore “once removed.”

Let’s begin with the Civil War. Elbert and Monroe Sexton were brothers. Elbert Sexton was a Captain in the Confederate Army. His descendants are justifiably proud of his rank and leadership during that conflict. Captain Sexton’s brother, Monroe, has the opposite reputation, that of a deserter, or conscientious objector. He was a kind and honorable man, but definitely not a war hero. Betty descended from Elbert, the hero, and I, Pattie, descended from Monroe, the deserter.  

In 1858, Elbert Sexton begat Martha, who became Martha Parker, who begat Muriel, who became Muriel Jobe, who begat Elberta, who became Elberta Settle, who begat Betty. Elbert’s brother, Monroe, begat Vickie, who became Vickie Martin, who begat Stanley Martin, who begat me. That makes Betty’s mother, Elberta, and me third cousins and Betty and me third cousins, once removed. I expect to hear arguments and disagreements about how this is calculated.

 I am also Betty’s cousin through my mother’s father’s side. J. R. McHood had two wives – not at the same time. Betty descends from J. R.’s first wife, Nora Jane (Janie), who died young. J.R. McHood and Janie begat my Aunt Ada, who begat Raymond Settle, who begat Betty. I descend from J.R. McHood and his second wife, Sarah Ellen, who is my mother’s mother. J. R. and Sarah Ellen begat Hattie, who became Hattie Martin, who begat me.  

Betty’s father, Raymond Settle, and I might be called step or half-cousins since we share only a grandfather, not a grandmother. His mother, Ada, and my mother, Hattie, were step or half-sisters. Since that is the case, then Betty and I may be step or half-cousins, once removed! Still with me? There’s more.

Betty has a brother, Gray Settle, to whom I am related, of course, in all the same convoluted ways. A recent article in the Clarksville, Tennessee Leaf Chronicle describes Gray’s long career as an engineer with NASA in Huntsville, Alabama. I am proud to claim kinship with Gray, who after fifty-five years in the space industry is now retired and serving as docent of the space museum in Huntsville. You can visit there and enjoy a tour led by Gray who knows the place better than most.  I went there many years ago with my sister, Imogene, when her husband, Benny Jobe, also worked there. Benny and Gray showed us around. On display were some of the actual satellites they had helped design and build, then successfully sent into space, and returned to earth. Gray has since had a hand in all the historic space missions of his time.

I love my cousins, Betty and Gray. They make me very proud. Also, Gray is kind enough to have published several of my family stories in his Sexton reunion newsletter, Pieces of String, which comes out every two years at reunion time. It is beautifully done and valuable as family history.

Betty had a long administrative career at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee and a long retirement in a house she built at their old home place on Standing Rock Creek. She currently resides in an assisted living facility in Paris, Tennessee. We like to think she is in a good place, receiving the help she deserves after living a very capable and self-reliant life.

Besides being my cousins, Betty and Gray are also connected in various other ways. My sister, Dot, was their elementary school teacher in Standing Rock’s one-room country school at Mulberry Hill. Their Aunt Ruby was my Sunday school teacher in our one-room Methodist church. My sister, Imogene, married their Uncle Benny, so Imogene’s and Benny’s son, my nephew, Martin Jobe, is Betty’s and Gray’s first cousin. Since my sister was married to their uncle, they called her Aunt Imogene. We all saw each other frequently at church and school events, neighborhood baseball games, all-day singings and dinners on the ground, and many family reunions.

Life was primitive on Standing Rock Creek where we grew up. It was before rural electrification by the Tennessee Valley Authority. There was no electricity, no indoor plumbing, no paved roads, and no telephone service, but we had decency, honesty, neighborliness, a strong work ethic, and pride. I was surrounded by aunts, uncles, and cousins, like Betty and Gray, who continue to give me a sense of belonging to a very proud, salt-of-the-earth community.

Our neighborhood was a remote, but wholesome place, solid as the Standing Rock which still juts from the hillside near the head of the creek. My roots are there. I would like to climb that hill and walk out on top that rock again, like I did on so many Sunday afternoon drives in my earlier life. I salute the old Standing Rock Creek community and my remaining cousins, Betty and Gray, who continue to be, in their later years, as steady as The Rock.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s