Let’s Talk Clovis: Growing up in Clovis by Mary Grace Heiskell Martin, Pt. 1

Mary Grace Heiskell Martin’s Clovis High School senior photo. Photo taken in 1928. (Clovis Museum)

In 1869, Mary Grace’s grandfather, John Mitchell Heiskell, born in Knoxville, TN in 1848, homesteaded land that was called, Old Coppermine Ranch. Numerous Copper mines (some were profitable since gold was a side product) were located near the Big Dry Creek/Academy area.

John donated land for the Mississippi School, which was located a quarter mile from Little Dry Creek (between Behymer and Perrin Avenues). In 1903, the schoolhouse was moved to Clovis (304 Harvard) and became a home. Mary Grace was born and raised there. The historic building remains a residence.

John’s oldest son (William J.) married Emma Cole (one of the ten daughters of pioneer William T. Cole of Academy) in 1893. William was a grain farmer in the Clovis area. Of their three children: Harriet, Jack and Mary Grace, only Mary Grace survived. 

The Clovis Historic book “Images of an Age Clovis,” was published by the Clovis Community Bank and the Clovis Unified School District in 1984. We are quoting Mary Grace’s published article since it captures the essence of early Clovis.

“I was born in Clovis in 1910, two years before the city was incorporated. I lived in the same house until the first part of 1977; the house is located in what is now called “old town”. Our home was wired for electricity when I was very young. The main portion of the building where I was born was moved into Clovis from approximately seven miles out in the country. It had been used as the Mississippi schoolhouse.

The community had a number of small water district; most homes had a well and a pump. There was no sewage, so everyone had an outhouse. And not too many conveniences. Most people had a barn and kept a cow; most families also raised their own chickens and had a garden patch.

We were not an unhappy or dissatisfied people. We accepted this way of life. As I look back now, I think it consisted mostly of a lot of hard work. It was interesting and we were all more or less in the same boat.

Summers here were spent harvesting, and we canned a lot of fruits and vegetables. Wood was cut during the summer because we cooked and heated with it. Clothing was handmade; women produced quilting for both bedding and comforters.

Recreation centered on the churches and the family outings. We had lots of picnics. We would go to the rivers and canals and ditches, as we called them then, for swimming. It was a wonderful treat but, of course, very dangerous. Some of us didn’t learn to swim properly, but we did get cooled off.

Shopping was done locally, mostly in our general stores.

Anyway, recreation was what we made. Our social life centered around the church. I was raised in a Protestant home and it just seemed to me like, as I grew older, if I could attend Sunday school and church, I could do almost anything from then on and get away with it. Everybody took their picnic baskets on Sundays, and Lane’s Bridge was a favorite spot. 

We took watermelon and friend chicken.

Back then, children played in the streets on Saturday evenings. We had bicycles and tore around because there was no traffic. Our families were closer together—we knew what was going on in the neighborhood, that sort of thing. And it was all very closely-knit. 

Saturday evenings, we got to walk downtown and do the main block. The farmers came to town and did their Saturday shopping. It was just a jolly time and a visiting time and we stayed until dark; it was just the thing to do.”

We will conclude Mary Grace’s article in the following issue.

Peg Bos is the president of the Clovis Museum on 4th and Pollasky avenues in Old Town Clovis. She not only manages the museum but she also writes her Let's Talk Clovis column in our publication which features and highlight the amazing history of our city and culture. One fun fact about Peg Bos, she was the first female mayor of Clovis from 1984-86.