Adoptee -- Jorita Hagins


I found this picture today for the first time in years. The lady on the end with the dark haired little girl is my Mom and me. There is writing on the back saying something about Reverend W. A. Nicholas. I think the children were all placed by the West Texas Children's Aid and Welfare agency. I know a couple of the children in the photo, I hope this can help someone.

Mother, Who Was My Father?

by Jorita Hagins

I once asked my mother who my father was. She replied, "Who do you want him to be?" Since she didn’t answer my question directly, I sensed that there was a lot to tell… Eventually I pieced together the story she didn’t tell me that day, and perhaps its time I tried to write it down. Its long and complicated, but since it includes my birth story I want to tell it for my family as best I can…

My mother’s name was Rine Ruie Rebecca Ewing Watts. She died in 1982 at the age of 80—or there bouts. Her first husband she just called “Mr. Bob” and there is not much to recommend him. One of the stories she told me was coming with him to Texas from an Indian reservation in Arkansas when she was barely a teenager: "I was very young—and dumb, when I took up with Mr. Bob. He was a lot older than me and I was just someone to care for children he already had. No, I got no records; we got married the old fashioned way—we had children together. He brought me with him to Texas and by the time I was 15 I had three sets of twins to care for, including my own babies. All died, or so I was told. (Those kids are none of your business!). My husband was a boozer and a chaser of women; he had more children than beer bottles. He was mean to all of us—his kids, mine, and me. By the time I was 18 I knew more about life and heart ache than any of my Ewing family, but they wanted nothing to do with me. So, I ran away to the Mexican border. And honey, I knew some mighty fine men there…"

Ruie told me several hazy tales of her life on the border, and spending nights in the hidden camp of a Mexican outlaw. She said that he helped her to regain a more normal life for a young woman. I don’t know much about the years that followed, up until she met and married my birth father.

She did finally tell me about her marriage to my father, Robert Watts, although there really wasn’t a lot to tell. They probably married in the late 30’s. According to various hints (from those that would say, "I know all about you!"), this couple didn’t have much of a chance for a good marriage. Two children were born to them before I came along: a sister, 12 years older and a brother, 6 years older than I. Mother told me tearfully of them being taken from her because they were so dirt poor they could not feed them. They grew up in the Buckner Home for Children in Waco. Texas.

Mother said that my older siblings had been gone for some time when she found out she was pregnant with me. She and Bob Watts were not living together at the time and she had no way to care for another baby. Someone told her about a man that would provide a doctor to deliver her baby (and place it in an orphanage), and she could get money for herself in the bargain. Mother said she did this to survive, and she didn’t want her new baby to suffer as her first two did.

Some of you reading this story will know about Reverend Nicholas and the orphanage he ran for many years, the West Texas Children’s Aide Society in Abilene, Texas. Over a period of almost 40 years, he placed many children like me for adoption. He was called the “Basket Doctor” because he often carried babies with him to help raise money for his orphanage. Mother contacted Reverend Nicholas and he made arrangements with a doctor for my birth. Mother told me that she got to know the family that would adopt me and agreed to give me up, but I was not to be told about her until I asked. I was conceived in the early fall of 1940 (by a poor mother and absent father) and born into a cold wet world on April 23, 1941. I was delivered in the home of a Dr. Smith in Anson, Jones County, Texas. My aunt Liz Ewing once told me she walked a mile in the rain to see me, before I was whisked away. (In the midst of many Ewing family members, she seemed to be the only one that had any interest in me. I never got to hear more of this story, because I saw her only that one time, in 1979. They had a big birthday party for her once, but no once invited me.)

My adoptive parents were Joseph Owen Hagins and Ruby Odea (Ellis) Hagins. I was to be delivered to them from Anson, but because of a death in their family I was left first at the Hendricks Home for Children in Abilene. When my new parents returned from the funeral they picked me up and took me home. I was named JoRude, which was later changed to Jorita. I was happy, growing up, I guess, because I didn’t know of the sadness of my birth family. However, as a child there were whispers that the Hagins were not my real parents, and I remember well the first time anything was said about it by my parents. My father worked for Humble Oil Co., and in the summer of 1950 (I was about 9 years old) we were living in a nice apartment in a Humble camp near Pampa, Texas. I remember going into the bedroom where mother was combing her hair and she was crying. I asked her why and she "Mother, if it is about being adopted, I don’t care. You and daddy are my parents!" I had no interest in knowing about my birth family, and left the room skipping and humming a song! I never pressed the subject again, but on Thanksgiving Day in 1978, my father, Joe Hagins, told me that he wanted me to try and find my birth family, but he said he wanted to meet them first. I was in tears—my own father, wanting to share me with strangers! But he said I needed to know the truth; he knew their names and gave them to me that day, and I began my search. I placed a small ad in the personal section of the Abilene Reporter News. (A reporter at the ARN saw a “story” in my little ad and published an article about my search.) The mother of my sister’s husband read the ad and sent it to my sister, who wrote to the address I has published (I told you this was complicated!). When I read the letter about how to contact her I was excited but nervous, so I called the ARN reporter and she was with me when I placed the call to my newfound sister. I talked to her for the first time on New Year’s Eve, 1978. She told me her name, Juanice, the name of a brother, Donald, and that my birth mother, Ruie, was there also! I was so happy my adoptive father had insisted that I search for them…

(This is when I found out that my siblings had grown up in the Buckner Home in Waco. When Juanice was 18, she left the home and got custody of Donald as well. What is really strange, they lived in Abilene—just around the corner from me! They knew my grandparents (the Ellis’s) and saw me several times while living there! Remember my Aunt Liz Ewing? She died at 101 in a nursing and was buried in Anson, Texas, about a 20-minute drive for me. Juanice told me that she went to the funeral, but she never let me know. Donald lived with Juanice until he was old enough to be on his own and then went into military service. When Juanice married, in1954, she, her husband and Ruie moved to California.)

My sister told me that Ruie lived next door to her, and a short time later I called and talked to her for the first time. Then, on January 10th, I flew out to visit my birth family. A close friend, Dale Acers (owner of KRBC TV in Abilene), paid all my expenses. My adoptive parents Joe and Adena Hagins (Ruby, died in 1958 and my dad remarried) came to the airport to see me off. I flew for the second time in my life and was scared to death! When we landed, I waited till everyone got off the plane. Finally the stewardess came and told me she could see some one looking for me. I looked out to see my sister—would we look alike? Nope, not even close, I thought, as I slowly got off the plane. Juanice had her daughter with her and we hugged and then hugged some more. She took me to her home and I was soon overwhelmed with “family.” She has five grown children and a house full of grandkids. Of course, I also met Donald and Ruie and we talked and talked. Everyone was curious about me, of course. They seemed overjoyed to see me and were very kind to me. It was on this visit that I got up the courage to ask Ruie, "Mother, who was my father?"

Well, things didn’t work out with my newfound birth family as I had hoped. After that visit, I never heard from them on a regular basis, although I longed for contact. Then, in April 2000—out of the blue—Donald showed up wanting to live with me! I was shocked that he would expect me to take him in, after ignoring me for many years. However, I did everything I could to help him. I learned that he was a disabled Korean Vet and helped him get his VA and social security benefits going. Suddenly one day another shock—a call from Juanice, still living in California. She wanted Donald with her so she could be paid for taking care of him! At this point I was so unhappy with my two siblings that I gave up trying to help. I put my brother on a bus to California, and, to this day I have no idea what is going on in their lives… Maybe some other New Year’s day I will overcome my disappointment and call them…

I have also tried to locate some of the Robert Watts family. I’ve place ads and searched everywhere, but to date no one has acknowledged my birth father or his children.

I feel sorry for my disconnected siblings, my missing father, and the hard life of my birthmother, but I guess I feel they are the ones choosing to still be lost, not me. Thanks to Reverend Nicholas, I was raised by Christian parents, have a husband and two wonderful children, three grandchildren, and a new great great grandson!

Since finding my own birth family, I’ve helped numerous other adopted children in their search, and shared in both successes and failures. These days I have a special connection with others adopted from the West Texas Children’s Aide Society via our web page at:
If you know of anyone adopted from WTCAS, please tell them about this website—we are waiting to welcome them!

Jorita Hagins
Abilene, Texas


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