The Journey Continues:
My journey this week takes me to Ollie W. Hargis Giles, a “BISM” – Born In San Marcos – and only child, she was raised on Valley Street. Her grandmother was a go-getter in business, operating/owning her own laundry. Her grandfather worked for the Southern Grocery Company and had a popular local coffee brand named for him, “Old Mose.”
When she was eight years old, the family moved to Oakland, California. Giles was the only African-American student enrolled in her public school.
“I was not bashful, making many friends and graduated from high school in Oakland,” she said.
Years later, she returned with her four children to live with her mother in San Marcos.
“However, because the integration patterns were different between San Marcos and California, my youngest son returned to California to live with his father and attend school there.”
Giles is the mother of seven children.
Giles is a recognized historian, genealogist and archivist founding her own business, ACTORS (Ancestor Chart Tracer Ollie’s Research Service).
I quote from a column I wrote Oct 9, 2016: “My research on Martha Benny Lawshe was made easier with the capable assistance of Mrs. Ollie Giles, an archivist and genealogist, who has commanding knowledge of local African-American history.”
She knows her way around national and state archives and county records. Her forte is local history. She is familiar with African-American settlement patterns in the San Marcos area – including Ranch Road 12, Blanco and Hunter Roads, Valley, Center, Comal and MLK streets. Shelves filled with loose-leaf notebooks of primary-source histories cover her living room walls.
Giles has in-depth knowledge of the Dunbar Center, the Calaboose and of schools, churches and businesses that have served the African-American community. Attentive to issues concerning people of color, she is a diligent letter writer to this newspaper’s editorial page. She is a past member of Hays County Historical Commission, the Heritage Association of San Marco, and the National Trust Historical Association with whom she made many field trips, including Africa. She served on Board of Directors of the Calaboose and is also a member of the San Marcos-Hays County Genealogical Society.
In 1988-89, she was inducted into the Women’s Hall of Fame by the city of San Marcos. Invited by the LBJ Museum to contribute to the oral history project of the museum.
She loves history and she is careful to point out that not all Africans came as slaves to Texas; some came as free men and women. “It is not the color of one’s skin that matters, because we are all made in God’s image and should love each other,” Giles said.
As her life verse, she claims Psalms 23.
Giles is a member of United Methodist Church, Jackson Chapel, where she serves as usher.
She laughingly tells me, “I have slowed down at age 85 – I have the ‘sometimes disease.’ I can remember sometimes and sometimes I can’t.”