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Blankenship, Mary Alma Perritt (1878–1955)

Jo Ella Powell Exley Biography Entry

Mary Alma (Allie) Blankenship, pioneer and writer, the daughter of William Wallace and Mary Ann (Richards) Perritt, was born on May 4, 1878, in Meridian, Texas. In 1883 her mother died; two years later her father died. Allie and her younger brother and sister were reared by grandparents, Hampton and Elander Caroline Richards. The Richardses had lost their plantation after the Civil War, so Hampton became a traveling Baptist minister, and Elander worked as a midwife and pharmacist.

On December 15, 1895, Allie married Andrew Wesley Blankenship at the Alarm Creek community in Erath County. They eventually had a son and daughter. For a time the Blankenships were sharecroppers near Stephenville. In 1901 James W. Jarrott, a lawyer, land agent, and friend of Allie's, told them about some land in the Panhandle that would soon be available for homesteaders. The Blankenships traveled by wagon to an uninhabited prairie on the border of Hockley and Terry counties about twenty miles southwest of Lubbock. Allie, her infant son, and an eight-year-old boy named Brock Gist stayed on the land alone while Andrew went to Lubbock to file a claim on four sections of land. At first the ranchers were hostile to the homesteaders. On August 28, 1902, James Jarrott was murdered at a lonely windmill in the pasture of the Lake Tomb Cattle Company.

The Blankenships' first permanent home in the Panhandle was a half dugout (see DUGOUT). They had a herd of cattle and some land under cultivation. With their prairie neighbors, they built a one-room schoolhouse on their land around 1907 or 1908. In 1909 this school became Lubbock School District 13. The Blankenships also built an interdenominational church that Allie, a Baptist, attended.

In 1917 Andrew and Allie rented a house in Lubbock, and Allie and the children subsequently lived in town during the school years. In the Great Depression the Blankenships were forced to convert their 2,560-acre combination farm and ranch into a cotton farm. As automobiles became more common they stopped raising horses. They traded the last of their horses and mules for forty acres of land two miles from Lubbock (see HORSE BREEDING AND MULE RAISING). After Texas Tech University was built on the adjacent land, the Blankenships built the Town and Country Shopping Center.

After Blankenship died on December 8, 1952, Allie moved in with her daughter, Doyle, and her husband, James Goodwin Thornhill. Allie and Doyle began compiling Allie's memoirs for a special exhibit called Saga of the South Plains, which was to be mounted at the Museum of Texas Tech University. Allie died suddenly in Lubbock on September 11, 1955, a few days before the exhibition opened. In 1958 her memoirs were published as The West Is for Us by the West Texas Museum Association.

Jo Ella Powell Exley, ed., Texas Tears and Texas Sunshine: Voices of Frontier Women (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1985).

Categories:

  • Women
  • Writers, Authors, Publications, and Literature
  • Literature
  • Memoirs, Diaries, Letters, and Travel

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Jo Ella Powell Exley, “Blankenship, Mary Alma Perritt,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed February 25, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/blankenship-mary-alma-perritt.

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