Harris County Jail
1915: Harris County Jail once stood at the west terminus of Capitol Avenue, Gracing the grounds was the infamous "Hanging Oak" where relatives of condemned men held vigil as hangings took place inside the jail. [See Houston Press article.]
24 April 2013: The jail has been demolished, replaced by another, and finally demolished altogether as incarceration facilities were moved closer to the Court House. The "Hanging Oak" remains, having grown larger in the intervening century. Capitol Avenue now extends past where the jail once stood to form the entry to Memorial Drive. The building behind the site contains the offices of SoftLayer, a data storage firm that holds information in "the cloud," a concept that would have been almost unimaginable in 1915. Merrill Coptoration specializes in secure transmission of data, another riddle for last century dwellers. The flags are half-mast to honor the dead and wounded from the Boston Marathon Bombings on 15 April 2013.
Postmarked: [Month] 29, 1915 Houston, [Tex.] R. P. O.
Stamp: 1c. Green George Washington #405
To: Mrs. Edna Stauffer
1515 Moffet Ave
Message: Fri. Morn.
Landed here in Houston just a few min. ago I was sick the first night but am all right now. Thanking you again for your kindness I am Fay
Edna Stauffer was Edna Viola Lett, the eldest daughter of Beverly Ward Lett and Laura Alpharetta Benschoter. Edna was born 10 March1883 in Diamond, Newton County, MO, but the family moved to Butler, Douglas County, KS when she was young. After 1884 they moved back to Joplin. In 1897 when she was 14 her father was crushed to death when moving mining machinery, leaving the family in difficult straits. Just three months later her little brother Donovan died. The family consisted of Edna and her sister Belva Lenora, their mother Laura having lost her husband and sons Ivan (1884-1891) and Donovan (1897-1898).
Edna Viola Lett graduated high school and to help support the family she became a teacher at Alcott Elementary. She and her mother Laura and sister Belva lived at 1515 Moffet, and just down the street at 1503 lived the Stauffer family, including Charles Adolphus, just a couple of years younger than Edna. Charlie was an apprentice broom-maker, and an industrious young fellow. They married in 1908 and after some on-the-job training in Kansas, Charlie and Edna moved into her family home.
Fay did not give her last name, but of the 11 Fay’s on the 1914 Joplin city directory, she is most likely Fay (Viola Faith) Ryker, who lived at 1729 Moffat only a couple of blocks from Edna in 1914. In 1920 Fay was in the next block with her parents at their house at 516 West 16th Street, but Edna and Charles had already moved to Neosho, a smaller town about 25 miles south. Edna was nearly 12 years older than Fay, and already a mother to Beverly Jack (1910) and Elizabeth “Bettie” Hope (1911). Edna was a mother and a teacher and a helpful person, but wherever “kindness” she rendered to Fay is lost to History. Her origins were from a largely rural family. Her father was William E. Ryker (b. 1855) and her mother was Viola Gertrude Thompson (1861-1944).
Fay had taken the train to Houston [R.P.O. (Railway Post Office) cancels are rendered only at train stations], and apparently travel did not altogether agree with her since she reveals that she had been sick the night before. She was about 20 years old, and had worked in Joplin as a phone operator, a bookkeeper in a wholesale fruit business, and an assistant auditor at a hotel, so she may have been traveling to Houston to test her fate there. She did not stay long enough to become an entry in the Houston City Directory, and it is not clear how long she stayed.
She married Morris Doty Opperman 22 July 1922 in Jackson County, MO (Kansas City). Online marriage license records do not contain the “female affidavit” so no comparison to Fay’s handwriting can be made. They moved around pretty often. Baxter Springs, Cherokee County, KS (1930), Kansas City (1935), Pettis, Platte County, MO (1940) with her widowed mother Viola G. Ryker (72). Morris died August 4, 1989, and Fay died three months later on November 25th. They had no children. They are buried at Osborne Memorial Cemetery in Joplin.
Edna retired from teaching and supplemented the family income with sales of greeting cards and embellished papers. Charlie and his brother in law formed a broom-making company, Stauffer & Dobbins, and manufactured brooms there at the house. Eventually they outgrew the home and moved their home and manufacturing operations to Neosho, MO, and there they raised their family of four children. Charles died 5 November 1962 at the age of 78, and Edna died 18 January 1971. They are buried in Stone Cemetery, Diamond, Jasper County. MO.