On Saturday, Sept. 17, friends, and family joined Bernice McDonald Hemphill to celebrate her 100th birthday at Rancher’s Steak House in Gatesville.
Bernice was born at home near Red Rock, in Bastrop County. Her dad Cecil had to “fetch” a doctor in a pouring rain. The family lived on and worked several farms along the Colorado River while Bernice was growing up. The middle of five children, she attended Red Rock, Webberville, and Elgin schools. In order to graduate from high school, Bernice roomed with and worked for a family in Bastrop. She graduated at 16 and then married William Lenon Hemphill on Nov. 11, 1939. They moved to Austin and had their first child (Jerry) there in 1941. Later they moved to the Luling area, where Lenon worked in the oil field and trained and competed on calf roping horses and Bernice worked at Dismukes Pharmacy. In 1947 they had their second child, Linda Sue, after Lenon competed in calf roping that evening.
In the spring of 1952, Lenon approached Louis Crouch in Lockhart. Louis’ wife Mary Elizabeth Brahman Crouch had inherited a 4,500-acre ranch on the Colorado River in Matagorda County, and they needed a ranch foreman. That turned out to be the most fortuitous meeting of the young couple’s lives. Lenon, Bernice and little Sue rode to the ranch with Mr. Crouch; they made a deal, and the Hemphills moved onto the ranch seven miles from Markham in March 1952.
Danny was born that December. That property had never been used as a separate entity — a working cattle ranch. It had been part of a much larger estate and was “wild and untamed” — complete with water moccasins, alligators, nutria, wild hogs, huge mosquitoes, wolves, deer, blow flies, screw worms, and cats that screamed in the night.
Lennon managed the Crouch Ranch for 33 years. Jerry, Sue, and Danny graduated from Tidehaven High School and from Sam Houston, Texas, and Texas A&M University, respectively. Bernice helped put the kids through college by working at the First National Bank in Bay City and then working at and retiring from Production Credit Association there.
While in Matagorda County, the Hemphills began building their own cattle herd on leased properties. At age 67, Lenon (in dire need of a hip replacement) retired from the Crouch Ranch, and he and Bernice bought 200 acres near Purmela. The second fortuitous decision the Hemphills made was to submit a sealed bid for the more than 800-acre Brooks Ranch near Purmela. As the successful bidders, they then owned over a thousand acres in Coryell County and leased a good deal more as they again built their cattle herd. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in November 1989 with a catered bar-be-cue for family and friends.
In August of 1995, after battling colon cancer for five years, Lenon died at age 77. Bernice remained in their home near Purmela until May 2021, when she became a resident at The Oaks in Gatesville, where she now resides. Besides her three kids, Bernice has one remaining daughter-in-law, seven grandkids and 15 great-grandkids. (Danny’s wife Susan passed away earlier this year).
Bernice’s family members say that her longevity can be attributed to a lifetime of hard work, abstinence from tobacco and any over-indulgences, raising and eating good food, exercise, and good Christian living. She’s been an active member of the Church of Christ her entire life and loves God, Jesus, the Church, her family, and friends. All enjoyed celebrating and sharing memories and her momentous occasion with her.