Lela Williams

September 30, 1909 - August 18, 2009
Role: Cowhand Family
Maiden name: Edwards

Lela was born and raised on the O'Connor Duke Ranch. In those days childhood often included “doing everything you could do in the field”. Her father was Alonso "Lonze" Edwards"!, a well-known, well-liked, ranch employee and her mother was Narcissus Mitchell Edwards. Her mother died in childbirth delivering her ninth child. Lonze couldn’t read or write, but his cattle knowledge was legendary. “He could look at a cow and tell what it was thinking. He knew more than the bosses”. Lonze was practically raised in the O’Connor household after his mother was accidentally killed one Christmas morning. It was well-known that he was the son of Dennis O'Connor [I] making him the grandson of the original O'Connor, Tom, [I]. Lonze lived and worked on the O'Connor Ranches his entire life and was often referred to "as the real boss around the ranch".

Introduction to Lela Williams

Louise S. O'Connor
Voice of Lela Williams
Lela Williams – born Duke Ranch. I1909, September 21. That's where I was born because my children was born down here to this ranch down here. Down at that…where Papa was... mama was killed in that yard. Down there where we all worked on. You know where that old cistern was sittin'? Do you know anythin' about that?

Louise O'Connor - Behind the house?

Lela Williams – Yeah. Where Papa used to stay up stairs there in the…well, she was killed Christmas morning out there in that yard. And he was four years old. They said her brother was fooling with a gun on Christmas morning and accidentally shot her. And after she was killed, Miss Jenny and Mr. Tom O'Connor took Papa and they raised him. And they raised him because he told me he was baptized in the Catholic Church. And he said he used to drive Miss Jenny to church, he said, with two oxen when he was a small boy. And he never did go to school. But you couldn't beat him out of a nan-nickel. And he learnt that countin' sheeps, he said, cattle, and stuff like that. That's the way he learnt to count.

Louise O'Connor – So what was living down there on that ranch like, Lela, as a kid?

Lela Williams – Well, when I was down there on the kid, we did all kind of work on that ranch. And the way that we made money; me and my two sisters, outside of gettin' a bale of cotton out, it was a gate down there. And we would see a car comin', we'd run out and open the gate for the cars and they'd throw us a nickel. It was nine of us when Mama died. And the youngest one was five days old. Died from child birth.


“We will never forget. Its been a long time, but we remember those places where we spent our childhood. Most all of us grew up on the San’tone River."

Milam's Revelation Cookbook: A Legacy of Food and Knowledge from the Black Culture of the Texas Coastal Bend