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The Families Who Helped Build A Legacy: The Taylor/Murray and Thomas Families

Friday, April 24, 2020

This is a continuation of a blog series on the families who lived and worked alongside the Jones, Ryon, Davis and George families here at the George Ranch.
Click here for part oneClick here for part two. Click here for part three.

When Mamie George built a new home in the late 1800s, she began a new life with her husband Albert. She chose to build her new home on the site of her great-grandfather Henry’s original plantation home. The Georges spent the next 40 years creating a thriving, successful ranch with the families below by their side:

The Taylor/Murray Family

Marion and Artilla Taylor — The Taylors worked for the Georges for many decades. Marion was the lot man and Artilla was the family’s cook, catering to Mr. George’s unique preference for crispy/burned food. She was also known for her biscuits.

Artilla Taylor

In 1928, their nephew Vern moved in with the couple. At about 16, he also started working for the Georges by running errands, waiting tables, building fires and lending a helping hand wherever needed. Vern stayed with the family until 1943 when he moved to Houston.

“One thing, I’ll say this: this created a great part of my life. And I was so glad when I come out here to live, you know. I learned something about life. I learned people lived better out here than they did in town, because everybody, you know, helped one another. That’s what I liked so much, helping them,” Vern recalled.

The Thomas Family

Johnnie & Josephine Thomas — Johnnie Thomas was born in 1899 and was hired by the Georges in 1923 to pull corn. He was later promoted to the yard/house man, and his duties included landscaping, gardening, keeping the smokehouse operational, driving Mrs. George around town and a variety of other tasks to keep the busy ranch house up and running.

In 1935, his wife Josephine also moved to Richmond and became the Georges’ housekeeper. They had four children: Johnnie Mae, James, Willie and Lottie. In total, Johnnie worked 67 years for the Georges while Josephine worked 49 years for the family. When the couple retired, the Georges gave them a home in Richmond which is still owned by the family today.

James and Josephine Thomas

As the oldest Thomas child, Johnnie Mae grew up at the Ranch and, when she reached adulthood, began actively training to be the housekeeper. Johnnie Mae’s future husband, Robert Lee Greenwood, also worked for the family as a general hand. The couple raised 10 children in Richmond.

James and Willie Thomas also grew up at the Ranch and worked for the Georges as ranch hands in their youth. They later made names for themselves in the rodeo circuit, with James competing as a bareback rider while Willie became known as one of the best bull riders of his generation.

This information originated as a pop-up Juneteenth exhibit at the George Ranch Historical Park. Most of the research came from Michael R. Moore’s thesis titled, “Settlers, Slaves, Sharecroppers, and Stockhands: A Texas Plantation-Ranch, 1824-1896.” Moore is a former executive director of the Fort Bend History Association; his thesis can be found at the Houston Public Library.