On December 17, 1902, Minnie Belle Bass was born to Henry Isom and Mary Evaline Bass in Birthright, Hopkins Co., TX. Minnie was the fourth of thirteen children (7 boys and 6 girls) born to that union. Their names were Melvin, Johnie, Luteenie, Minnie, Lomie and Donie (twins), Jesse, Jimmie, Luthishia, Henry, Mary, Arthur, and Harvey.
Minnie's papa came from Arkansas; her mama was from Alabama. They married in Arkansas in 1895 then moved to Delta Co., Texas; then to Hopkins Co. In 1903, Minnie, her parents and 3 older siblings moved to Brown Co. where they rented land for farming. On an average, there was an addition to their family every 2 years from 1897 to 1918. The family also lived in Jones and Crosby Counties in Texas.
The Basses were a hard-working farm family who believed in working 6 days a week and keeping the Sabbath holy. Minnie's father was a deacon in the Primitive Baptist Church. His wife and all 13 children also became members. Some were baptized in dirt-stock tanks on a neighbor's farm and some in the Fork of the Brazos River near Truby. Minnie has been a member for 85 years, having joined at the age of 15. She still attends church almost every Sunday.
Minnie's childhood consisted of much hard work. She was the baby tender to her younger siblings. She and her sisters milked cows and worked in the fields along with the boys. They did the washing on a rub board and often had to "break" or soften the jippy water in order to get the lye soap to lather. Lye water would eat your hands, according to Minnie. She says, "We'd have to put vinegar on our hands to kill the lye and boy, it would burn! We mixed up quart bottles of lemon juice and glycerin for lotion to bathe our hands."
Their evenings were filled by singing, prayer, and Bible reading around the fireplace. Papa taught them the rudiments of music and how to sing by shape notes. The Basses entertained many visiting preachers and families in their home. Minnie relates, "Papa never did know when to quit asking people home with us and we girls often had to sneak a mattress under the table so we'd have a place to sleep."
Telling stories about her childhood are a favorite pastime of Minnie's. She has a remarkable memory in recalling names and happenings in her past.
Minnie finished the 5th grade in school. Her mama didn't think it necessary for a girl to have much education, but a boy needed enough education so as not to be cheated out of a bale of cotton. The children missed a lot of schooling because of being held out for fieldwork. One of Minnie's regrets, to this day, is not being able to obtain a better education.
Minnie loved to piece and quilt quilts. She had quite a collection. Over a period of a few years, she pieced quilt tops for each of her 18 grandchildren and some for her children. She also enjoyed crocheting, sewing and embroidery work.
A young man of 32 years of age met Minnie at the church one day and declared that she was the one for him. They courted through letters and dated at church meetings for a few months. On December 7, 1929, Sylvester Bernard Gowens and Minnie Bass were wed at the home of her parents in Crosby Co., Texas. Sylvester was from Spur. They spent their honeymoon in the cotton patch. Minnie said they would spread their cotton sacks on the ground and sit on them and talk. They sure weren't going to work very much on their honeymoon!
Farming was their livelihood in Crosby and Young counties. Sylvester was later employed by the Lubbock school system. Six children were born to this happy couple by the names of Bernard, Gwendolyn, Norman, Geraldine, Clifford, and Jimmie. Minnie has 18 grandchildren, 43 great-grandchildren, and many more on the way. The great-grands include a set of triplets and two sets of twins.
Minnie's husband, Sylvester, was an ordained minister in the Primitive Baptist faith, as are two sons and a grandson. One son is a deacon. Sylvester died August 3, 1984, and left a big void in Minnie's life. She lived alone for 10 years and because of health reasons, she moved in with a daughter for a few years before entering a nursing home. Minnie's wonderful Christian attitude and sense of humor have contributed to her long life. She was the guest of honor at a big celebration for her 100th birthday in 2002. All of her extended family, with a few exceptions, hosted and attended the party for close to 200 guests.
Minnie is esteemed very highly by most everyone who knows her. She is often asked to recite her ABC's backwards, which she does to our delight. She has some favorite scripture verses that she quotes often and is quick to give all praise and glory to her Lord and Savior for her good health and many blessings.
Her favorite sayings are "Iím as mean as ever" (when asked how she is) and "Hurry back but take your time" when someone leaves after visiting her.
A daughter says, "We, her family, love and adore her and we hope we will have her for a long time to come. We still value her advice and need her humor to lighten and gladden our hearts."