In this article the brief story of “twenty years a resident of Wise county” is told, and it reflects the experiences of one of Chico’s worthy citizens, James F. Strange, the subject of this sketch. It is a story of simple success through systematic and earnest endeavor as a tiller of the soil, and his rather sudden transition from the dawning to the full sunlight of perfect day serves to indicate the possibilities of achievement, when in supreme command of a Texas farm. Twenty years ago he was dependent upon the results of his yearly toil upon the farm, while today Mr. Strange occupies his homestead retreat adjoining the town of Chico, in semi-retirement and in the enjoyment of the fruits of his rural victories.
While the state of Mississippi gave him birth the state of Alabama nurtured him in childhood and started him on his civil career w hen the years of his majority had been reached. The family is believed to have been originally Portuguese and its American founder located in Virginia, and then moved to South Carolina, where, in Chester district, Daniel Strange, grandfather of our worthy subject, was born and married and accumulated, as a planter, much of the fortune of his active and vigorous life. Daniel Strange was a large slave owner, fought the British in our second war with England in 1812 and moved into St. Clair county, Alabama, where he died an old man. He married a Miss Charlotte Raual, and in 1833 they established themselves in Alabama, where their few children assumed their respective stations in life. Of their issue, Benjamin was the oldest; John R. and Edward, twins, and Herbert H., Patsy and Mary, complete the family circle.
John R. Strange, the father of James F. of this review, was born in Chester district, South Carolina, March 16, 1811, and married Rachel Forman in that state. His wife was a daughter of William Forman, a farmer and a soldier in the war of 1812, and she passed away in Tippah county, Mississippi, in 1878. While Mr. Strange resided in Alabama for thirty years subsequent to the advent of the family to Mississippi, he passed one year in Mississippi a few years after his marriage and it was during this temporary sojourn in Itawamba county that his son, our subject, was born. When he settled, finally, in the state it was in Tippah county and there he passed away October 13, 1888, aged seventy- seven years. A family of seven children came to bless his home, namely: Louisa, who married William Laster and died in Indian Territory; Catherine, wife of Robert Mann, of Indian Territory; James F., of Chico, Texas; Thomas L., of near Boonesville, Mississippi; Martha E., who passed away unmarried; Cynthia P., died in Tippah county, Mississippi, as the wife of Mr. White; Eliza married Frank Roberts and resides at Lee county, Mississippi, near Baldwyn.
As stated above, James F. Strange knew Alabama during the whole period of his childhood and removed to Mississippi immediately after the Civil war. His advantages were those of the other country youth as he grew up, and when twenty years old he enlisted in the Confederate army, responding to an early call of the government of the seceded states. His company was A, and his regiment the Tenth Infantry, Colonel John A. Forney. The regiment was sent to Virginia at once and arrived at Manassas just after t he fight on the 21st of July and immediately went into Lee’s army. The Peninsular campaign was hatching and when spring opened the next year there was plenty of fighting for everybody. Williamsburg and Seven Pines were fought among the preliminaries and then the seven days’ battle opened, in which, at Gaines’ Mill, Mr. Strange had his right arm shattered just below the elbow, on the 27th of June, by a minie ball, and it sent him to the hospital for some time. He was discharged and sent home January 20, 1863, but when sufficiently recovered he returned to duty and was detailed as a commissary officer for the remainder of the war.
Mr. Strange was born September 25, 1841, and his most effective months in school were those immediately following the war. He dominated the schoolroom himself for a time as a teacher in Mississippi, and upon the heels of his marriage engaged in the work of the farm. He was married in St. Clair county, Alabama, February 23, 1868, and passed some time as a renter in Prentiss county, Mississippi. While starting most humbly he became, eventually, able to possess a farm, and upon it his efforts were directed until his removal to Texas in 1885.
Upon coming into Wise county Mr. Strange bought a small farm near Crafton, improved it comfortably and cultivated it successfully nineteen years and then improved his forty-acre tract at Chico and settled down to a retired life. As a farmer he has been content with the income of a small farm. Without children the burden of farm work has fallen upon himself, and only such acres as he could properly handle has he added to his estate. He was known as a trader as well as a farmer, and the two combined were responsible for his ever healthy financial condition. Mr. Strange has now one hundred and twenty-two acres of good land.
Mr. Strange married Miss Mary Phillips, a daughter of Jackson Phillips and Cynthia E. (Ash) Phillips. Mrs. Strange was one of twelve children in her father’s family and was born January 20, 1850. Childless, she has been ever the constant companion and steadfast friend of her husband and loyally has she done her part in their modest work of home development in their Texas retreat. Mr. Strange practices the principles of Democracy in politics, is a Master Mason, and his household joins with the Methodists in religious worship.
Source: B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), Vol. II, pp. 29-30.