Saturday, September 17, 2011

STRANGERS IN A STRANGE LAND -- From West Texas to Central China, new book on Maudie and Wilson Fielder

A Miles, Texas Sweetheart and a Comanche County Cowboy

The first time I stopped in Miles there was an excellent homemade pie store in what was once a gasoline filling station. For those new to West Texas, Miles, Texas, is a pleasant little town halfway between Ballinger and San Angelo on Hwy 67.

My purpose this visit was not for pie. I wanted to search out some local history. I wanted to see the area of town where Maudie Ethel Albritton lived.

The historical marker in front of the First United Methodist Church on Fourth and Broadway had just the facts I needed. The original 1901 wood frame Methodist Church was where Maudie attended Sunday school and church as a teenager.

Maudie was born in Navarro County in East Texas. Due to her mother’s poor health the family doctor recommended they move to a drier climate. They moved to Miles. Why Miles? The historical marker helped here too. The founder of the Miles Methodist Church was a Methodist circuit rider from Navarro County. It is quite possible that Maudie’s parents Tennessee and William Albritton knew him before he came west. Miles had a dry climate and good preaching.

Miles was home to Maudie until her 22nd birthday. The love of her life, Wilson Fielder, a cowboy from Comanche County, Texas, left the Concho River for China’s Yellow River. The fledging Republic of China was just emerging from the ruins of the Qing Dynasty.

The mail service from Central China to West Texas and back was slower than the Pony Express. With the patience of Job, Maudie accepted Wilson’s “far flung” proposal. So, in the summer of 1914, Maudie waved goodbye to friends and family at the Miles Santa Fe Railroad Depot and began the journey of her life.

A few months later Maudie married her teenage sweetheart, Wilson Fielder, in Shanghai, China. A honeymoon on the Yangzi River was but a beginning. Maudie and Wilson spent the next forty years sharing their faith in Central China, the birthplace of the Chinese people. They lived through some of the most hectic, action-packed years of China’s modern history.

The story of Maudie and Wilson Fielder has been in the works for twenty years. This columnist knew them well. The two youngest children of Maudie and Wilson made the book possible: Florence Ann McKinney and he late L. Gerald Fielder.

The title of the new publication of The Tao Foundation is “Strangers in a Strange Land.” Available in bookstores from October 10 –- Double Ten –- which is the one hundred year anniversary of the revolution that brirthed the Republic of China. (Based on the island of Taiwan since 1948.)

When Maudie’s train left Miles the town had a population of 1,500 and was served by two railroads. There were five churches, a beautiful brick school, two lumber yards and one of the strongest banks in Texas. (According to the Miles Messenger and Enterprize newspaper account.)

The Star Barber Shop advertised sharp razors, clean towels, hot and cold baths for a reasonable price. Tennis shoes (white) were selling for seventy-five cents a pair. The Central Hotel and Café offered a Sunday Chicken Dinner for thirty-five cents.

Maudie became a Baptist before going to join her Comanche County cowboy Baptist missionary Wilson Fielder. She was baptized in our very own Concho River the Summer of 1914 by Pastor Isaac Newton. The book is filled with such nuggets and items of inspiration; dozens of photos; a China map; an update on China Christianity after the Fielder’s retirement in 1950.



No comments: