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Russett, Oklahoma

Mary Ann Hays-Bridges-Pierce

From Bobby Payne & Cecil Gene Underwood


Source of information:

 Last Will & Testament of Joseph D. Hays, 1887 Cooke Co. records

1860 Cooke Co. TX Census, Prec 3 # 221, #201

1870 Cooke Co. TX Census, Prec 3 # 195

1880 Cooke Co. TX Census, Prec 3 # 404
1880 Wise Co. TX Census, Prec 6 #166, Prec 7 #88

1900 Cooke Co. TX Census, Prec 3 #157, 201, 202


Mary Ann Hays was the second child of Joseph and Anna Hays and their only daughter. Her father called her Polly Ann. She was born 25 Oct 1836 in Tennessee, most probably in Henderson County.


She grew up to be a big woman with a large frame. She married in Tennessee to a Mr. Bridges, first name unknown, who was also born in Tennessee. They had four children, the first three born in Tennessee before they moved to Cooke County Texas.


The children were: Isaac (Ike) W. Bridges; John (Duck) Bradford Bridges; Mary D. Bridges (a twin to Duck); and Sarah Ellen Bridges. Mary Ann was about 23 years old when they came to Cooke County Texas. They hadn't been in their new home for more than a couple of years when the Civil War broke out. Mr. Bridges was called to duty during the Civil War. He died between 1861 and 1865 possibly in a battle in Mississippi. No official records of his service have been located.


About 1865 or 1866 Mary Ann re-married to Wesley Pierce, a widower 20 years her senior with four children. Wesley Pierce had been married to Mrs. Margaret Caroline (McKay) Smart. They had lived in Missouri along with his brother John Pierce and his wife Mary and family before both  families came to Cooke County during the early 1850s. Wesley and John descended from the five Pierce brothers who came to the U.S. from Ireland, some of them settling in Kentucky where both Wes and John were born.


Wesley and Margaret Caroline's children were:
  • Martha J. Pierce who married Jim Mitchell;
  • George Washington Pierce who married Margaret L. Mitchell (a sister to Jim);
  • Margaret Linda Pierce who first married a Johnson and second married an Ozment (Margaret Linda was the mother of Nora Ozment who was the mother of Orvin Grover Autry or Gene Autry, the singing cowboy actor as we know him);
  • and William Thomas Pierce who married Martha (Patsy) Jane Hays.
Mary Ann and Wesley Pierce had five children of their own:
James Marion; Elizabeth (called Lizzie); Nancy Paralee; Fanny; and Dora L. Pierce (Noggon). Wes and Mary Ann's farm was quite close to the Joseph Hays homestead. The four Bridges children lived with their grandparents, Joseph and Anna Hays, after Wes and Mary Ann married. Ike Bridges grew up and became a cowboy in northern Texas. It is believed he died while at this occupation when he was in his 20s.

In 1887 the other three Bridges children, all now married, were listed in the will of their grandfather Joseph Hays as the recipients of his possessions.

Wesley Pierce owned 1000 acres of land when he died which was divided among his children and his wife. By the early 1890s, several of Wes and Mary Ann's children had sold out and moved to the Indian Territory near a settlement called Russett.

Shortly after 1900, George Washington Pierce and members of his family, including his granddaughter Carrie Waggoner, daughter of Tomp and Martha E. (Pierce) Waggoner, went back down to Texas in a big covered wagon and moved Mary and the rest of the family to Indian Territory.

It was in the fall of the year. They crossed the Red River on a ferry at Willis. When they got across, they found the ground covered with pecans. Carrie and her step-great-grandmother got out of the wagons and filled Mary Ann's big apron full of all the pecans that the apron would hold.

Mary Ann took turns living with her daughters. Sometimes she would live with Dora who had married Tip Waggoner, a store owner in Russett and who was a brother to Tomp Waggoner. Other times she would live with Nancy Paralee who had married Will Craig, a half-brother of Mary's nephew, Samuel D. Hays. Sam Hays and Will Craig built a huge mercantile store in Russett, that included store goods that ranged from taffeta petticoats to horse collars.

Willie Bell Hays, cousin to Sam Hays came and helped with the store, keeping the books for a while. Later, Willie Bell Hays' nephews, Cortez Stubblefield Hays and Jack Henry Hays, both worked in the store for a while. Jack Henry Hays later became manager of Williams-Eubanks Wholesale Grocery Company and sold goods to Sam Hays' and Will Craig's store.

Mary Ann was very happy in Indian Territory. She was busy every day, cleaning and scrubbing. She was very particular about cleanliness. She always wore a bandana on her head. Once she borrowed a churn dash from her neighbor. Not realizing the paddles were made from walnut wood, Mary spent considerable time scrubbing them with ashes trying her best to make them white. She only gave up scrubbing when the neighbor lady came by and told her the paddles were made from dark wood and all the scrubbing in the world would never make them white. Mary Ann was a very pleasant lady to be around. She loved to sing. She sang while she did her work and she was a real hard worker.

Mary Ann Hays-Bridges-Pierce died at the home of her daughter Nancy Paralee Craig west of Ravia on 29 April 1916. She died of cancer of the stomach. The same weekend that she lay as a corpse in the big white two-story house, her nephew's son, Skeet Hays, was gunned down in a restaurant in Ravia, and the old schoolhouse in Ravia burned to the ground. Mary was 79 years old when she died. She is buried in the Russett Cemetery in Johnston County, Oklahoma. A fine tombstone marks her grave up on a hill, "Gone but not forgotton".

Wesley was buried in 1880 in southeast Cooke County, Texas.


Updated by Bobby Payne 12/25/2007

Mary Ann Hays (MAH) was the step-grandma to Gene Autry, the second wife of Wesley Pierce.  Wesley's daughter (of 1st wife) was Margaret Linda Pierce, who married Delbert Ozment, and begat Nora (Elnora?) Ozment.   Nora married a Johnson, then an Autry, and begat Gene.  Confusing, ain't it. 
Ozment was Nora's maiden name.
The biggest selling country & western singer of the middle of the 20th century was born Orvon Gene Autry on September 29, 1907, in the tiny Texas town of Tioga, the son of Delbert and Elnora Ozmont Autry. He was first taught to sing at age five by his grandfather, William T. Autry, a Baptist preacher and descendant of some of the earliest settlers in Texas, contemporaries of the Houstons and the Crocketts (an Autry had died at the Alamo). The boy's interest in music was encouraged by his mother, who taught him hymns and folk songs and read psalms to him at night. Autry got his first guitar at age 12, bought from the Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog for eight dollars (saved from his work as a hired hand on his uncle's farm baling and stacking hay). By the time he was 15, he had played anyplace there was to perform in Tioga, including school plays and the local cafe, but made most of his living working for the railroad as an apprentice at $35 a month. Later on, as a proper telegraph operator, he was making $150 a month, which those days was a comfortable income in that part of Texas.


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Last modified: 05/27/07