KEEPERS FROM PREVIOUS NEWSLETTERS
Below, you will find a number of articles that tell of life in Franklin County in times gone by - people and places whose stories you may find interesting, informative, and entertaining. Also, at the very bottom on this web page, there are a number heritage recipes which have appeared in past newsletters and which you might want to try out.
THE COTTON BELT DEPOT MUSEUM
Mt. Vernon's historic Cotton Belt Depot Museum has undergone a major face lift during the past year. It is the goal of the Historical Association for the museum to be a history museum of Mt. Vernon so that our young people have the opportunity to learn about and to appreciate their legacy.
Using vintage photographs, Tad Dowdy, master model train designer and builder, has recreated downtown Mt. Vernon in the 1950's (1958 was the final year of passenger service by rail offered in Mt. Vernon). Because there are two train tracks running around the town, the exhibit is not historically accurate; however, one will recognize such landmark buildings as the Tiger Grill and the Joy Theater. A drive-in theater has been included and will show the movie "Banjo Hackett," starring Don Meredith. The masterpiece is the Franklin County Courthouse.
Click on the link below to see a video produced by Liz Etheridge which gives an exciting preview of the model train exhibit.
Otherwise, the depot freight room houses photographs of Mt. Vernon's history beginning as early as the 1900's with an emphasis on the impact the rail road had on the agricultural industry of Franklin County. Complementing these vintage photographs is a 1896 Studebaker covered wagon. It has a new cover and is decorated with items that would have been necessary for the long trip from Gasden, Alabama, to Mt. Vernon in 1903. This trip was made by B. F. Hicks' great grandmother, Eugenia Ivy and her 11 children.
Other new features are a mannequin family in period dress and a collection of antique railroad lanterns. The railroad committee members are Sandee Casey, Cynthia Loftis, Robert Sterling Long, Linda Philhower, Mary Lou and Jerald Mowery. Please join us for the ribbon cutting and grand opening at 10:00 on October 8, 2016, during Country Fest. We are so excited to have this new exhibit; it will be an educational tour for our young people and a nostalgic trip back in time for the child in all of us.
Please become an employee of the Cotton Belt Railroad and your name will be placed on a plaque in the museum.
$250 Ticket Master
Your tax deductible donation will make it possible for us to maintain this wonderful exhibit and enable us to expand our collection of historic artifacts in our Depot Museum. Send your donation, noting your level of “employment,” to P.O. Box 289, Mt. Vernon, TX 75457.
MORE ON THE COTTON BELT DEPOT MUSEUM
By Cynthia Loftis
The restored Mount Vernon 1894 Cotton Belt Railroad Depot is a real gem that has been carefully restored pursuant to National Register standards with original colors and decor. Waiting rooms, designed to serve the separate races under the law of the land at that time, today house exhibits. The central office is furnished with antiques suitable to an office at the turn of the 20th century including working telegraphy and railroading exhibits. A model train exhibit in the white waiting room will delight children. The large freight room houses an 1899 Studebaker covered wagon in excellent condition and offers students a chance to reflect on the real change in transportation in America after the advent of the automobile. There is also a small 1880 log cabin that was moved onto the property, a syrup press and mill, period mule-drawn farm machinery, and a blacksmith shop.
Commercial Buildings occupied the area where the Post Office now stands and the public wagon yard occupied the area where the water tower now stands. The depot stood on the west side of Kaufman Street facing the railroad tracks. After passenger and freight service was discontinued, the 1894 depot was given to the Historical Association with the requirement that it be moved off railroad right-of-way and the restored facility now faces Kaufman, about 150 feet north of the tracks.
Although the East Line and Red River Railroad had been constructed across the southeastern corner of the county in 1876, Mount Vernon did not obtain a railroad until 1887, when the St. Louis, Arkansas and Texas Railway was built across the center of the county. During the years between the organization of the county and the coming of the railroad, Mount Vernon grew slowly. With rail connections the town grew more rapidly, and by 1890 the population had reached an estimated 700. Mount Vernon had become the major supply and shipping center for the county's farmers, as well as the site of a planing mill that served the county's lumbering interests.
VIGNETTES OF CHILDHOOD IN MT. VERNON
By Dr. Dorothy Lynn Brooks
My mother (Lois Penn Brooks), brother (Charles Brooks), and I (Dorothy Lynn Brooks) lived in Mount Vernon, off and on for about three years during WWII, when my father (Russell Brooks) was stationed in the Pacific or even outside of Texas. We chose to come there because this is where my grandparents lived and where my parents grew up.
My mother's parents were Ruby (Gist) and Frank Penn; my father's parents were Lucia (Flagg) and Albert Brooks. I never knew my grandfather Brooks, who died before I was born. Although Charles and I were born in Trinidad, Texas, Mount Vernon feels like my ancestral home because, besides living there as a child, we visited family there over many years. I have many fond memories of times in Mount Vernon.
I promised B.F. Hicks to try to recall and relate some vignettes from my Mount Vernon childhood.
Vignette Number One: The Joy Theater
My mother, brother and I lived in Mt. Vernon several times during WW II whenever my father was stationed outside Texas. We would go "home", where my grandparents and other relatives lived, when he was in Georgia or Michigan or the South Pacific or wherever. The longest interval (the South Pacific time) was spent in a house on Yates Street across from the now vanished elementary school.
Next door there lived the McCluskey family with four girls and a boy. Their father was away in the military, too. as were so many men in those days. The boy, Buddy, was near my brother, Charles's age; Joyce and Maxine were near my age. The five of us enjoyed hours and hours of fun of our own making, as children will, all together or by two's and three's. Rosalind and Martha were a bit older and generally had more important matters to attend to than play with younger siblings.
Saturday afternoons were special. The five of us would walk to town—plenty safe in those days—for an afternoon at the Joy Theater. For seven cents each we could see a cowboy movie, newsreel, continued piece, cartoon and previews of coming attractions. I think popcorn was a nickel, but we did not usually have that kind of money. We looked forward to these afternoons of entertainment and went home to re-enact some of
the exciting episodes.
I can well imagine that our mothers saw this quiet afternoon as a real "baby-sitting" bargain!
Vignette Number Two: Wartime Mt. Vernon
My mother (Lois Penn Brooks), brother (Charles Brooks), and I (Dorothy Lynn Brooks) lived in Mount Vernon off and on for about three years during WW II when my father (Russell Brooks) was stationed in the Pacific or even outside of Texas. We chose to come there because this is where my grandparents lived and where my parents grew up. My mother's parents were Ruby (Gist) and Frank Penn; my father's parents were Lucia (Flagg) and Albert Brooks. I never knew my grandfather Brooks, who died before I was born. Although Charles and I were born in Trinidad, Texas, Mount Vernon feels like my ancestral home because, besides living there as a child, we visited family there over many years.
I have many fond memories of times in Mount Vernon and other times not so much. I promised B. F. Hicks to try to recall and relate some vignettes from my Mount Vernon childhood. I'll begin with a winter story from the "not so much" category.
My uncle, Glenn Penn, my mother's brother, was very good to his nieces and nephews and planned adventures of one type or another to entertain and to teach us. One cold day Glenn, Charles and I bundled up to go to explore the Town Branch. I was about eight and Charles, four.
We walked from where my Penn grandparents lived to the creek where Charles and I had fun "chunking" rocks, sticks, whatever, at the ice that had formed at the edges. After a time, Charles and Glenn went down the way to investigate something of interest. I lagged behind, continuing my rock chunking. I must have forgotten to let go of a rock, for I fell in with a splash that got their attention.
They came running back to find me yelling and splashing with my tan wool coat floating out like a lily pad around me. Glenn pulled me out cold and dripping. Charles did his part by wailing in distress.
On the trek back to the house we talked about how my mother would probably be mad because I had fallen in the creek.
After thinking it over, Charles decided he would tell Mother, "Well, the good thing about it is she didn't drown." That settled the matter in his mind.
Vignette Number Three: Learning to Ride a Bicycle
Nearly 75 years ago in Mt. Vernon I learned to ride a bicycle.
That fact is not remarkable to me, for I never doubted that I could learn. The amazing thing was the generosity of my friend, Barbara Ann Majors, who let me learn on her bike.
I wanted a bicycle more than I have ever wanted any material thing. My parents resisted for fear that I would get hurt. Then during World War II there were no new bicycles available, so no bicycle for me.
Barbara Ann was a classmate of mine who lived not far away, and we played together sometimes. One fine day I must have asked to learn to ride, and lucky for me the answer was, "Yes." So, on Kaufman Street near the Methodist Church the struggles began. You know that no one teaches you to ride a bicycle, really.
Through many trials and errors your body finally learns. Of the numerous falls I experienced, one resulted in a rather badly skinned knee. Nannie Lu Mann, another classmate, took me to her house, the Methodist parsonage, for "medical care." Mrs. Mann applied coal oil and a bandage, and I was back at the task of learning to ride.
Though my house was not far away, I did not want to go home and have to stay because I was hurt. Before the day was over I had managed to conquer the challenge of upright forward motion. I could ride a bicycle! O happy day! Happy, happy day! Santa Claus saw to it that I got a bicycle the Christmas after the war was over - another happy, happy day! Of my memories of Mt. Vernon - this is one of the very best - a dream come true through the kindness of a generous friend.
DIPPING VATS - FROM A LETTER TO B. F. HICKS
By Robert Cowser, September 5, 2015
For some unknown reason the other day the remembrance of the site of a dipping vat on the Franklin-Hopkins County Line came to my mind. This site is located less than a mile from the house where I lived as a child. It is near a bridge across the main tributary of Big Creek. My parents and our neighbors referred to the dipping vat site as a landmark when giving directions, even to newcomers who could not have known where stockmen drove their cattle so they could be dipped. By the time I can remember (circa 1935) that particular vat was no longer in use. In fact the excavation was hardly visible. Saplings, bushes, and weeds covered the area. I remember the space as being much shallower than it would have had to be when the cows were herded one by one down the chute into the arsenic solution. The solution killed the ticks that caused splenetic fever among the cattle.
I read that the Federal government specified that there needed to be a dipping vat within three miles of each farmer who owned livestock. There must have been dozens of dipping vats in Franklin County. According to an article by Robert Pasquill*, a forest archeologist in Alabama, some archeologists have marked the sites of the vats at various places in the South.
*Robert Pasquill, "History of the Cattle Tick Eradication Program in the South" 2012
* Webmaster’s additional note: This is a 397-page digest of published information on the problem of cattle tick fever and the attempts of many different agencies to eliminate it. An extensive bibliography is given as an addendum to the document. Online, a PDF file of the complete article, Robert G. Pasquill, Jr., Forest Archeologist, National Forests in Alabama, “Arsenic and Old Bovine Lace - History of the Cattle Tick Eradication Program in the South,” September 2012, can be found at the following URL:
BASEBALL IN MT. VERNON IN THE THIRTIES
By Jabez Galt, M.D.
During the “great depression” baseball thrived in the league made up of Mt. Vernon, Winnsboro, Lindale, and Avinger. I forget whether or not Mt. Pleasant was in it, but as a vigorous young man from Mt. Pleasant named Gus Hoffman played for Mt. Vernon, I assume no.
The teams were all made up of valid amateurs. The Mt. Vernon Lions did wear sew-on patches identical with those of the International Lion’s Club.
The games were played in the afternoons - on weekdays or on Saturdays, but never on Sunday. Some players that I recall were L. D. Lowry, Sam Lowry, “Chiney” Majors, Pete Gill, _ Alcorn, Earnest Aikin, Pat Kneiff, Twister Hester, Glen Penn, and Ben Hill. The umpire was usually Will White and Mabern Roach was the manager.
The pitcher Chiney Majors, when Mt. Vernon was at bat, sat on the bench with his throwing arm in a sweater. It was uncritically accepted that he was most inadequate at running, so a vicarious runner stood nearby in event that Chiney hit one. Pete Gill, the catcher, was applauded for his ability to “peg second” from his squatting position to prevent double plays. It was probably in 1934 that Earnest Aikin was recruited by the Dallas Steers where he was known as “the Mt. Vernon Marvel.”
The games were played in our nine acre meadow where we grazed milk cows. It is on the west side of English Street, about one-fourth mile north of the Lowry Store Building (West Main). We yet refer to it as “the Ball Park” The north one-fourth of the meadow was heavy with oaks, and there was an open shed where I milked the cows. A significant grand stand was built bordering the oaks; it was of sturdy two by eight planking, maybe forty feet long. There were four or five rows for seating. The front was faced with poultry wire from roof to ground to stop foul balls. The players started leaning against the wire to rest and gradually their buttocks made such indentations in the wire that the sites were akin the bucket seats.
Admission charge to a game was well under a dollar. Cars could drive in and park in the trees or almost nose up to the home plate-first base line. Probably most people walked to the game so a stile was built over the barbed wire fence on English Street. It was soon destroyed by vandals, for then as now, there are those in any community who are given to destruction of community or privately owned niceties.
Far out in left field was a cluster of oaks and consistently a group of spectators would get in free and watch from the shade. The game could be seen from the road on the west side and numerous cars parked there filled with non-civic-minded people. They had enough money for cokes but would not pay admission. Accordingly, a visual barrier made up of tow sacks like sheets hung out to dry was erected.
On the day of the game the ever-pleasant Hill brothers, who lived east of town, with mule drawn graders, would smooth the diamond.
The game began by the umpire addressing the fans in the grandstand by calling out “the batteries of the day.” This was the naming of the starting pitchers and catchers of each team. The umpire stood behind the pitcher rather than behind the catcher.
The fans were vociferous in expressing their approval or criticism of players or umpires. The late Field Scovell, who rose to earned prominence in Dallas, got two tickets to the World Series that was being played in St. Louis, in joyful anticipation of taking his father-in-law, Mr. Norman Dupree of Mt. Vernon, with him. Field told me of his lifetime disappointment of Mr. Dupree declining the offer as the date was in conflict with Mt. Vernon playing Winnsboro.
My father charged ten dollars for a season's rent of the meadow. I had a “stand” from which I sold cold drinks and home roasted peanuts. Coca Cola and Dr. Pepper cost me eighty cents per case which was three and one-third cents per bottle. “Soda water” with fruit flavors and Creme Soda were sixty cents per case but the demand was small. For each event I bought one hundred pounds of ice. How a skinny kid lifted and handled this I do not remember, but I vividly remember that I had a topless Model T Ford that I sold for seven dollars when I left for college in 1935. The one and two-third cents “profit” was inadequate to buy the ice so I began charging six cents per bottle. When contested, I told them that a local couple that had been to Galveston told of a coke costing twenty-five cents in a prominent night club.
I usually had an assistant whom I paid twenty-five cents to work the crowd with iced drinks in a large milk bucket. I could do no cost accounting on peanuts as I pulled them from vines that had been uprooted for livestock food.
Under the trees in far left field were two indistinguishable brothers named Jimmie and Wimmie. I let one of them have two cokes on credit and I never collected the debt as they kept me confused.
I close by repeating that these really were “hard times.” Mr. Mal Moore of the First National Bank said that I was the only Mt. Vernon businessman making weekly deposits. They were usually between two-fifty and four dollars, but on one 4th of July, Mt. Vernon and Winnsboro played a double header, and with my medical student brother as assistant I made ten dollars!
August 15, 2001
P.S. I had noted that certain men repeatedly walked the hundred yards or so across the dirt road to our barn. I hid in the corn crib that shared a wall with the barn, and through a knothole saw the leader reach deep into a sack of cotton seed and bring out a flask of bootleg whiskey. The three each took a swig and returned the bottle. I kept my vigil and on their return the deprived owner was so demonstrative in postulating what violent revenge he was going to inflict on “some no good SOB” that I deemed it unwise to steal their whiskey again.
Note: Dr. Jabez Galt was the son of Dr. And Mrs. Sid Galt of Mt. Vernon. He passed from life in 2002 at the age of 83 and is buried at the Mt. Vernon City Cemetery. Dr. Galt graduated from Baylor Medical School and began his practice in internal medicine in 1948 after serving 3 years in the Armed Forces.
Committed and passionate about many things in life, he was proud of his pecan orchard in Mt. Vernon and shared it with the world through his website. Dr. Galt received many honors in his lifetime, but one of the greatest was The Texas Laureate Award by the American College of Physicians, awarded to him by his peers for a lifetime of innovation and excellence.
SPOTLIGHT: THE TOM BRILEY GOSPEL QUARTET
By Lou Briley Daniel (reprinted with permission from the Old Saltillo Cemetery Association Newsletter of June 13, 2012)
Wolfe City, Texas in the early 1900s was a bustling railroad town with a public school, opera house, the Melville Hotel, churches, Wolfe City Cotton Seed Oil Mills, the Cotton Belt Railroad Station and the Santa Fe Railroad Station.
Thomas Byron Briley was born August 31, 1906, the sixth of nine children born to Charles and Albertine Henry Briley. Tom was born in Wolfe City, Texas, but by 1909 the growing Briley family was living in Paducah, Cottle County, Texas where Charles Briley was working on the Matador Ranch.
Albertine’s parents, Melvin N. and Irene (Wilbanks) Henry also lived in Paducah, but by early 1910 both families were making plans to move to Saltillo, Hopkins County, Texas.
The Brileys arrived in Saltillo in December, 1910 by train with Elzie age 13, Will 11, Melvin 8, twins Ray and Ross 6, Tom 4 and baby Irene 18 months, but it was 1912 before Irene and Melvin moved to Saltillo, where Mr. Henry was a shoe cobbler. Grace was born in Saltillo in 1915, Gladys in 1917.
All the Briley children were musically talented. Mr. Frank Hicks would tell the story to Larry (Lou’s husband), “you just don’t know what you missed by not being at the Briley home and singing with the whole family with Ray playing the piano” and Mr. Hicks was so touched by this, he would become emotional each time he told the story. In 1930, Tom was sent to Wills Point to the Stamps Quartet School of Music for six weeks. But, after all, this was the 30’s and every family had difficult times. Mr. Briley died in 1931. For a while Tom worked in Fort Worth for an oil company, but by the mid-30’s, he was back in East Texas. Ray and Ross travelled some in Northeast Texas singing as the Briley Brothers, and one or both of them would teach singing school with Tom during the summer in rural East Texas.
At a 1938 Union Singing School, Tom met the love of his life, Virginia Grace Adams. In the 1938 Union Singing School class picture are many of the Adams/Davis cousins including 8-year old Betty Adams and siblings, Mary Jo, Norva Gay, Zach Adams and cousins Neil Solomon and Virginia Grace. Betty (Adams) Cason said of the Union Singing School, “We loved it, loved it, because if not for that singing school, we had nothing else to do!!”
Virginia Grace Adams was born January 23, 1921 to May and Grover Adams in Mount Vernon, Texas. She grew up in the Union Community, finished high school in Mount Vernon and received college degrees from East Texas State University in Commerce. Virginia Grace started teaching elementary school and she and Tom were married April 11, 1944. They lived in Mount Vernon.
Bobby Conley, son of Raymond and Ovetta Conley of Saltillo, became a permanent part of the Tom Briley Quartet in 1955 after he returned from the Navy. The quartet continued to grow in popularity and they became well-known headliners at the Autumn Trails annual Wood-Franklin County Songfest, along with the Stamps Quartet, the Pine Forest Quartet and a host of others who travelled across several states each October and May to perform at the two-day event. Advertised in 1960 as “good old time singing with dinner on the grounds will be featured Saturday night and Sunday at the 65th annual Wood County Singing held again in conjunction with the Franklin County Society, at City Park Auditorium – held since 1926 in Winnsboro, the convention was organized way back in 1895 and has grown to be one of the largest in the state.” Mayor Arthur Nichols said, “If this auditorium is not large enough for the crowds that will attend, the walls of the building will be raised and loud speakers set up so that everyone can hear and take part.” He also requested that “women attending bring extra cups, bowls and spoons for the free stew and coffee that will be served at noon Sunday by the convention.”
The Wood County singing was one of the oldest and largest in the state and drew an average of 3,000 persons at each of the two conventions held every year with “old time religious songs popular a half-century ago, as well as the largest gospel selections being rendered by singers from 4 states.”
The Briley family would gather at Thanksgiving and Christmas and as often as possible and singing around the piano was a normal event. Tom and Gracie were as pleased to be singing with us as with the Stamps Quartet. Tom was a natural comedian, and more than once had us doubled over with laughter or surprise. He and Virginia Grace LOVED children and made each of us feel special and that we were their favorite and that feeling was certainly returned.
Tom died July 30, 1965. About 30 singers who had been associated with him over the years formed a choir and provided music for the services. A special section was reserved for ministers who had been his friends for many years. An estimated crowd of 600 persons filled all the rooms of McCrary-Waggoner-Edwards funeral home and many persons could not get into the building.
In addition to her full-time musical career with the quartet, Virginia Grace taught school for thirty-seven years in Hagensport, Mount Vernon, Saltillo and Winnsboro before retiring from teaching in 1977. At one time, she was secretary of a county, district and national gospel singing convention. Virginia Grace’s life was always filled with gospel music, along with teaching. Virginia Grace died February 13, 2009. Tom and Gracie Briley are buried in the Old Saltillo Cemetery.
EDITOR'S COMMENT ON THE FOREGOING ARTICLE: Lou Briley Daniel is the daughter of Ray Briley. One of the Briley children mentioned in the foregoing article and the brother of Tom Briley. Ray Briley owned and operated a service station at the corner of the town square just across Kaufman St. from the courthouse; a vacant lot today. The article is of especial interest in giving insight to the importance of music and community participation before television and electronic entertainment.
OUR SHARED HISTORY (FROM JULY-AUGUST 2012)
In May, Robert G. Cowser wrote B.F. Hicks and the FCHA:
May 9, 2012
Mr. Hicks and the FCHA:
Enclosed is a brief article reprinted in a newsletter printed by the Wardrup-Beasley family in 1990. I suspect it was first printed in the Optic-Herald. Victoria Wardrup Griffith, wife of the honoree featured, was my great aunt.
The article mentioned above came from the Wardrup Family Newsletter, Editor, Glenda Wardrup, Spring, Texas, Vol. II, No. 3, October 1990, page 2. It was an excerpt from an article written around 1900 on the occasion of the fiftieth birthday of John Griffith, husband of Victoria (Wardrup) Griffith (1858-1935) :
A Day with Our Friends
It was our good fortune to pass last Sunday with our friends in Hopkins County [Texas] . Mr. and Mrs." John T. Griffith and many others who 'had gathered there to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Mr. Griffith's natal day. Fifty years ago, back in the historic and aristocratic hills of old Virginia our friend John first saw the light; - when a little 'tot' of four years [he] emigrated with his parents to Texas who settled in what is now Franklin county and near the Hopkins county eastern border; here they lived and enjoyed the pioneer fruits of the land, and their memories are cherished as the early promoters of the present civilization. Time changes and we change with it. Fifty years finds our friend in possession of the greatest blessings this life can bestow; a home, a good wife and affectionate children. This triple blessing should indeed make his heart glad; surrounded by the evidences of thrift, a comfortable home, a well filled barn, the best of stock and living on a pay as you go basis . . . Our friend has reason to hail his 50th milestone with pleasure and delight . . . The day was a pleasant one . . . It brings us together, reunites and strengthens the bonds of friendship and love. There we met prized friends we had not seen for a long time and interchanged those pleasantries that render such occasions enjoyable. Those above the age of fifty participating in this conversational oasis were Mrs. John Arthur, Mrs. Nancy Holbert, Mrs. James Wardrup, Mrs. Lizzie Brem, Mr. Marlve Holbert and Uncle Jim Wardrup. The young people in the parlor were having things their own way and a good time in the Griffith home was on hand when dinner was announced. To give a synopsis of the elegant and sumptuous spread is beyond the stroke of our pen; from the savory turkey, the delicious home grown hams, the salads and sauces, the cakes and jellies arose an aroma that would have made the eating Caesars of all time turn green with envy. The evening passed pleasantly as it invariably does after such refreshing encounters. About 5 o'clock the guests, some forty in number began to disperse . . . The day will long be remembered and herein express the wish that to our host and hostess and those gathered there the blessings of life may always follow.
Biographical sketch of Mr. Cowser:
Robert G. Cowser was born in Saltillo, Texas, and attended school there. He says that he and Darwin McGill were in the same class through the fifth grade; so he would have been born around 1931. He received his Ph.D. in English at Texas Christian University in 1965. He now lives in Martin, Tennessee, where he is a professor of English at the University of Tennessee – Martin. Additionally, Cowser teaches college-level English courses at the state prison. He is a member of the Robert Penn Warren Circle, and his correspondence with Warren can be found in Warren's papers at Emory University. His son, Bob Cowser, Jr., has followed in his footsteps as a University English teacher and a writer of several award-winning nonfiction books.
A Bibliography of his writings, with a link to an interesting collection of stories and essays:
A Biographical and Critical Interpretation of George Sessions Perry (1910-1956) (Doctoral Dissertation, Texas Christian University, 1965)
Quintessence: An Anthology of Creative Writing (editor, 1985)
Backtrailing: The Old Saltillo Poetry of Robert G. Cowser (edited by his son Robert D. Cowser, 1990)
And visit www.texasescapes.com/RobertGCowser/Robert-G-Cowser.htm
for many guest columns posted on Texas Escapes:
Among these interesting reflections are
A Young Man Who Went West 12-30-11
The Surprising Effects of Henna 12-10-11
An East Texas Psychic 9-20-11
The Power We Longed For 8-23-11
Cotton Production As It Once Was 7-23-11
Our Time with Zophar 7-12-11
A Cameo From Inside 6-24-11
Defending Popular Music of the 1940s 5-17-11
The Caudles: A Family of Entertainers 3-29-11
Saltillo's First and Only Football Team 2-21-11
Childhood Explorations: Wordsworth's and Mine 1-6-11
Selling the Calves 11-22-10
An Unsolved Mystery from the World War II Years 7-16- 10
Sunday Jaunts with the Family 6-18-10
World War II Musings 5-7-10
Special Delivery 3-15-10
Red Wing 2-9-10
She'll Be Comin' by Greyhound 1-16-10
When Hollywood Came to Wharton 12-13-09
Reflections on Jefferson, a Historic Town 10-5-09
A Clerk's Tale of Murder 8-29-09
Segregation in Two Texas Towns 5-28-09
The Claims of the Wilderness 5-9-09
Memorial Day Services at Old Saltillo Church 2-10-08
Remembering Claire Perry 1-15-08
A Few Degrees of Separation from John F. Kennedy's Death 12-1-07
Competing with Elvis in the Classroom 11-15-07
Entertaining the Rotary Club in Mount Vernon 10-8-07
Familiar Ground 9-6-07
Plumbing the Past 8-3-07
The Sounds of Home 6-30-07
An Influential Visit 5-28-07
Gram and Daffodils 2-1-07
Recollections of Talco during the Oil Boom 8-18-06
PURLEY AS I REMEMBER IT
By Carl Newsome
(The following narrative was written by the late Carl Newsome in 1988. The author was a charter member of the FCHA, a good historian, and a good citizen.)
Waymon Carl Newsome was born January 20, 1911, the son of Thomas Arch and Elvira Elizabeth (Betty) Hildreth Newsome. My objective is to record the families of Purley during my early years, say 1915 to 1930. But first, the history of Purley.
Purley was established in the early 1850s. William Henry Cannaday named it for his former town in Tennessee, Puryear. Purley is on the crossroads of Mount Vernon and Winnsboro and Greenwood, Lone Star roads. Lone Star was just west of where Panther Creek entered Cypress Creek. This was a thriving community until about 1915 or 1920. Lone Star was about eight or nine miles east of Greenwood, about nine miles due south of Mount Vernon, three miles south of Majors.
Purley had neither church nor school until about 1885 or 1886. The Methodists went either to Liberty, one mile east, or to Pleasant Hill, two miles west, to church. The Baptists went either north to Glade Springs, established in 1858, or south to Cypress church, established in 1851. 1 don't know where the children went to school prior to 1885. A post office was established in 1879, and William Henry Cannaday was appointed postmaster. Uncle Caleb Jordan became postmaster in 1883, and William W. Long in 1891. He served until 1906, when the post office was closed.
Squire Mann was the first justice of the peace in Purley, followed by Jim King, next Uncle J. S. (Stant) Davis. Others followed in this order: W. S. Beavers, W. W. Long, R. J. Beau, J. W. Day, B. F. (Tobe) Majors, D. M. Garner, W. H. Spence, W. R. Irby, A. S. Bradley, K. M. Furguson, Jim King, Uncle Cale Jordan, D. M. (Hose) Holley, Baker Stinson, John Blackman, C. L. Jones, C. F. Newsome, J. L. Williams, Mack King, Weaver Morris, T. E. Cannaday, and W. W. Hightower.
The Baptist Church was organized in 1886 and has had a successful and prosperous history on the same spot of ground for these 102 years.
The Methodist Church was moved from Liberty to Purley in 1904 or 1905. The church disbanded in 1952, and the bulk of the members moved their membership to Mount Vernon Methodist Church.
My first recollections of Purley are these: there was a large blacksmith shop on the southeast side facing the west, facing south on the Greenwood Lone Star road, also having an opening on the Mount Vernon Winnsboro road. Moving north and still on the east side of the Mount Vernon Winnsboro road we had a large grocery and dry goods store. I think it was Uncle Cale Jordan's store. Next we had another grocery and dry goods and implement store run by M. L. Davis. In about 1924 or 1925 Jim Davis built an automobile service station north of the Davis general store. The Jordan's store contained a drug store in the back. On the west side of the road, and next to the Greenwood Lone Star road was the telephone office. Going toward the north we have the barber shop, built and run by Roy Hightower in 1927 or 1928. Next was a grocery store run by Mr. Lee Hightower, then a dry goods store run by Mr. Will McBryer, then on north was another grocery store run by W. W. Long. Next was a small cafe, run at times by John Newsome. Next was the public water well. This is Purley, 1915 to 1920.
On the south side of the Greenwood road some 100 steps west is the Baptist Church and the schoolhouse of 1885. The cemetery is west of the school. The oldest grave marker is 1889. Going on toward the west we come to the gin, owned by Uncle Ector Meek. In about 1905 the school was moved from the cemetery to west of the gin about 1/4 mile west of Purley. That is where I went to school. My first teacher was Alice Davis Newsome, Claud Newsome's wife. Years later she and I taught together at the Purley school.
This is Purley as I remember it in my youth.
Going north on the Mount Vernon Winnsboro road, starting from the Greenwood Lone Star road, the first house was that of William Hardy (Bill) Newsome, my granddad. Grandpa bought this two story house and four acres of land in 1899 from Mr. Ben Roundtree. He owned some 400 acres of land on Panther Creek a mile or two east of Purley, and about two hundred acres north of Purley. Grandpa was born in Pike County, Alabama, in 1852. He came to Titus County, Texas, in 1870 with his parents, Alford and Sarah Elizabeth Newsome. They bought a home in the Majors community. Grandpa had these children: Charlie, Albert, Elizabeth, Alice, Will, Arch, John, and Bob. Grandpa was a small, handsome man of strict morals, a staunch Democrat and prohibitionist, a member of the Methodist Church. He died in 1940 and is buried at Liberty Cemetery.
The next house was that of Dr. P. N. (Perry Nixon) Davis. His father was Nixon Davis, who came to Texas in 1857 from Tennessee. Dr. Davis had six brothers and three sisters. They were prominent members of Purley and Union communities. Dr. Davis was a good and respected doctor and honored citizen of Purley. He and Mrs. Ella had these children: Tennyson, Shelley, Alice, Chilton (Jim), and Snow. He owned the first car in Purley and about one hundred acres of land. His son Shelley was the best athlete in the south part of the county.
Mr. M. M. Barrett came here from Tennessee in 1875, give or take a year or two. He owned a good farm in Panther Creek bottom, about one mile east of Purley, but lived in Purley. He held the office of justice of the peace for several years. He and his wife, Aunt Tennie, had three girls. Sudie married Mr. Will McBrewer, who ran a dry goods store in Purley and later moved to Mount Pleasant. Daisy married Mr. R. B. Hightower. Mr. R. B. was the smartest carpenter in Franklin County. He used algebra and geometry to figure his building. Willie married Mr. Tommy Coe. He was a farmer who died at a young age.
Across the road, on the west side, lived Mr. W. W. Long. His house was two story, with a fancy iron fence around it. He was very influential in the community, having held the office of justice of the peace. He was the last postmaster in Purley, and owned a grocery store.
On the east side of the road lived Uncle Miles (M. L.) Davis. Uncle Miles was born in 1850 in Tennessee. His father Nixon Davis came to Texas in 1857. Miles married Addle Black, and they had these children: Rosie Lee, who married Guy Ward; Oma, who married Walter Day; C. C. (Claud); Cious Nixon; Cleave, and Cecil. Addle died, and Uncle Miles married Mary Acker (Aunt Mollie). They had these children: Roy, Ella, Cleo, Park, and Coy. Uncle Miles was a successful farmer and owned several hundred acres of land north and west of Purley. Our farm is made up of some of his land. He also ran a store in Purley. He is buried in Providence Cemetery.
The next home on north was that of Guy Ward. He sold it to Norman Campbell, who sold it to my dad, T. A. Newsome, who sold it to Dean Peterson.
Lucian Long, son of Warren W. Long, lived across the road from Papa, T. A. Newsome. Lucian Long ran the Purley telephone system. I think he moved to Como, Texas, around 1917.
Next house north was the Methodist Protestant Church parsonage. Brother Jim Parnell, Brother Dimp Patterson, Brother Gill, Brother Smith, Brother Elmore, Brother Branch, Brother Boman, Brother Land, Brother Aaron, Brother Lively, Brother Banks, and several more recent preachers have lived there.
The next house on the west side of the road belonged to Mr. Tommy Coe, and the following one to Mr. Jeff Caudle.
On the east side of the road lived Uncle John Newsome. Uncle Albert Newsome lived there in 1910 and 1911. Mr. Jack Clinton also lived there for a few years.
The next house north was the walnut tree house owned by Dr. Davis. "Shack" Shelley Davis lived there part of the time.
Next we come to the home of Uncle Colonel Davis. Nixon Davis bought this place in 1866, and it became his homestead. Uncle Colonel had five girls and two boys. Toby and Mary were his youngest children. Toby married Brooks Horton, and Mary married "Lefty" Milton Newsome, my first cousin.
The survey next to John Middleton was bought by Mr. Haynes, east of Mount Vernon. He did not develop this land. It remained in timber until 1901, when Mr. Tom Draper bought it. Tom Draper sold his son Acie Draper ninety acres in the southeast corner. Tom also sold Mr. Douglass, Acie's father in law, sixty acres in the southwest corner. Mr. Douglass sold out to Mr. Cleave Davis, who lived there several years before selling to Dennis Payne. Mr. Payne was a pretty good farmer. He had six girls and no boys. The girls were: Lois, who never married; Alice, who married Jess Goodman; Audie, who married Ralph Cannaday; Faye, who married Horace Cauley. Horace had a 1930 model Ford car. He and my sister, Alice Newsome, carried me and Sybil Davis to Texarkana to get married. Sybil Payne married Ray Cannaday. Bessie Lee Payne married A. M. Cockrell. Mr. Payne became cotton weigher for Franklin County.
Across the road lived Mr. Acie Draper. His dad, Tom Draper, came to Texas with Alford Newsome in 1870. Acie's children were Earnest, Allie, Eunice, and Irvin. Earnest married Sybil Wall, and they had a son Melvin and a daughter Pauline. Irvin Draper married Willie Gay Newsome. They had a girl and a boy.
The next house on the north was that of Mr. Lee King. His sons were Jess, Floyd, Hubert, Herman, and Cecil. His daughters were Gertrude and Myrtle.
Mr. Kitt Hester is next. He married Willie Draper, daughter of Mr. Tom Draper. Mrs. Tom Draper lived with them in the old home place. Mr. Kitt and Willie had these children: Gertie, Earl, Deacon, Byron, Tinsey, and Christine. Deacon was tall and handsome and liked to dance.
Mr. Stanford Gandy, who had married Maggie Draper, lived in the next house. They had three children.
Across the road lived Uncle Will Newsome. He and Aunt Mary Peterson had five boys and four girls. Canton was the eldest. The others were Milton "Lefty," Willie Gay, Earl "Karo," Gladys, Dee Wright "Deacon," Robbie Nell, A.C. and Fern. Carlton became county judge around the age of thirty. He is probably the most outstanding of all the Newsomes.
Next up the road north is the Hegler place. They had four girls and one boy. Later we, the Arch Newsome family, lived here. Arch and Betty Newsome had five Sons and five daughters--five were blond and five were brunette. Five called Arch "Papa" and five called him "Daddy" At this writing, in 1988, all ten are living. The oldest is seventy eight, and the youngest is sixty one. Eight of the ten taught school. Nine have degrees; three--Alice, T. C. and Virginia, have master's degrees. Our names are Alice Newsome Banks, Waymon Carl Newsome, T. C. Newsome, Virginia Newsome Rutledge, Rex Newsome, Sibyl Newsome Miller, Dorothy Newsome Peugh, Jack Newsome, Bob Newsome, and Nell Newsome King. Mama and Papa both lived to be about ninety years old. They are buried in the Liberty Cemetery east of Purley.
Mr. Wilson Hightower lived next. He and Mrs. Nettie had two daughters, Essie and Jewel. Essie taught school and played the piano. Mr. Wilson lived to be about ninety nine years old.
In the next house lived Mrs. Oma Day, M. L. Davis' daughter. She bad four sons. One of them, Lovice, could walk on his hands. Mrs. Oma lived her religion and was a fine Christian.
Mathew Cannaday patented two hundred acres in 1854. His youngest son, Troy, was living on it when I was growing up. Troy had four sons: Guy, Ralph, Ray, and Klein. Mr. Troy, Mrs. Eunie, and all four boys were singers. Mr. Troy's mother was Mary Ann Hightower. She had eight sons. Mr. Troy was a carpenter and a good entertainer.
Charley and Johnnie Newsome had four boys and one girl. Uncle Charley was in a class by himself. He became a hermit with a wife and five children. Later he enjoyed going places. He always enjoyed company. He grew what they ate. Their grocery bill would not exceed one hundred dollars a year. He was probably the most truthful person I ever knew.
Now let us go west from Purley. Mr. Jeff Williams and Mrs. Birdie Ward Williams had one son, Earl, and two daughters, Opal and Jewel. Jewel was my sweetheart when she was twenty and I was five. Mrs. Birdie and Jewel were two of the kindest women I ever knew. Mr. Jeff was a horse trader and kept eight or ten horses and mules around all the time. He was fair in his trading. Papa traded with him several times. He loved all sports and was a good athlete.
On west we have Mr. Dean Peterson. He bad three boys and one girl, and was a good guy. Across the road lived Mr. Cye Davis. He was my father in law. He was the most ambitious man in Purley, a deacon in the church and an all around good fellow. He was a cow trader and made good money.
Across the road from him was Mr. Dave Garner. Mr. Garner was a blacksmith and a Methodist preacher. He had several children. His oldest son, Fontaine, also became a Methodist preacher. Dave's wife was Minnie Stinson, from one of the fine families in Stringtown.
John Benton Meek came here from Tennessee in the 1840s and patented eighty one acres one mile west of Purley. His father and one brother came to Texas with him. All three of them went back to visit the old friends, and the father and brother stayed back in Tennessee. John fought in the Civil War. Bill, Loyd, T. C. and I played with his Civil War rifle. John married a Huggins and had three daughters and four sons. He is buried in Pleasant Hill Cemetery.
Turning north on the Stringtown road, we find the Thompson family. One of the Thompson boys married Captain Hastings' daughter Anna.
Next we find the Jim King family. He was a pillar of the Pleasant Hill church and school, and raised nine children. His wife, Lou, was Captain Hastings' half sister. Mr. J. J. Chaffin bought the place later, and raised his big family there.
Across on the west side of the road lived Baker Stinson, who married Sarah Elizabeth King. They raised a family of eight children.
In 1853 J. B. Cannaday patented 314 acres. In 1869 Nixon Davis bought this land and gave it to his two oldest sons, James Stanton and Miles Leroy Davis. Stanton got the west half, and Miles got the east half. The next year, 1870, Stanton Davis married Amanda Newsome. They raised a large family. One of their sons, Will, made a Baptist preacher. These are their children: Oscar, who married PearlLawson; Ada, who married Syl King; Dolph, who married Cartie Ward; Maude, who married C. T. Vinyard; Dess, who married Ben Campbell; and Ethel, who married Jim Bob Giddens. Across the road on the east side was Miles Davis' house. Miles married Addie Black. They had two daughters, Lee and Oma. Oma married Walter Day. Walter died, and Oma and their four sons moved to Florida. Lee married Guy Ward. Miles and Addie also had four sons: Claud, Cye, Cleave, and Cecil. Cye married Lela Yinyard and had four children: Bunk; Seple, who married Cap Newsome; Sybil, my wife; and Rex Davis.
Addie died, and Miles married Mary Acker. They had these children: Roy, Ella, Cleo, Park, and Coy. In 1899 Miles moved to Purley and opened a store. In about 1900, A. A. Cowser bought Miles Davis' home place in Stringtown. Albert Cowser had these children: Lois, Nealy, Milton, Joe, Loyd Ennis, and Ned.
The next house up the road was that of Claud Davis. He had four sons: Alton, Howard, C. C. and Elmo. Alice Hindman Davis, died, and Claud married Myrtie Holcomb. They had a son M. L. and a daughter Ludene.
Going on west from the J. B. Meek place, we have Jack King, a son of Jim and Lou King. Jack and Bessie Chaffin King had four children, including a daughter Bob King and three sons. The oldest boy, Son, was a carpenter who lived in Tyler. Milton was a teacher. He taught at Purley before going to Troup, where he lived out his teaching days. fix was a big time carpenter, still living in 1988.
The next place is the Mint Huggins place. Jim Pitts, who later bought this place, had three sons. Next was Bill Hughes. Two of his younger children were Sussie and West.
In the Possum Flat area was George Shoat, who married John Meek's daughter. They had several children, the youngest of whom were Lucille, Jobnnie, and Joe. Joe is still living in Bogata, Texas.
Mr. Charley White is still living at the age of 101 years. His two youngest children are Mary Lou and Harold White.
South another one fourth mile we have Riley Pitts, who married Ommie Cannaday, daughter of Curtis Cannaday. They had a large family, mostly girls. Ommie died, and Riley moved to Lamar County.
South of Purley we have several families. Mr. Wiley's place passed to Ector Meek, who married Alice Newsome Meek and had three boys and two girls: Bill Benton, Loyd, Pearl, Clovis, and Glenn. Later Mr. Stout lived on that place.
Mr. Jack Furguson married W. H. Cannaday's daughter, and they had a large family. Abbie married Mr. Malcolm Peterson, and they had a large family. Willie Dean Peterson became a Baptist preacher.
Mr. Raney, a close neighbor, had several children. The next place was that of H. E. Solomon, a Baptist preacher and father of a large family. The McGees lived nearby.
East from this area lived B. F. Morris. Ben Morris came to Purley in the early 1850s. His two brothers, Joseph and Marion, came in the 1840s. Uncle Ben had upwards of 2000 acres south of Purley. His son Garrett carried on after Uncle Ben died. Brother Garrett had three sons, Lisbon, R. B. and Lige; and three daughters, DoIlie Ann, Emma Jane, and Lucy.
On east we find J. C. Carroll, a Methodist Protestant preacher. The Beavers family lived east and south of Liberty. Mr. Tittle raised a large family about one mile east of Liberty. The Brannon family lived on Cypress Creek. Lone Star was the name of the school.
Back towards Purley we find J. J. Morris, whose second wife was J. B. Meek's daughter. He built the two story house that Papa tore down in 1936.
The next place was owned by Mr. Tullis. Going on west, we have Uncle Cale and Aunt Kissie Jordan. Their son was Holby, a cripple.
On the Majors road we have Uncle Frank Newsome's place. Frank was Grandpa's brother. Frank's children were Stella, Sam, Bert, Ivy, Inez, Cap, Elton, and Tob.
Albert Newsome, son of W. H. Newsome, married Gussie Hindman and had Leon, R. A. and Orra Lee. Leon is dead, R. A. lives in Tyler, and Orra Lee is dead.
Uncle Joe Hightower had these children: Claudie, Weda, Graves, Blanche, Tom, and Ethel.
North of here we find the Barrons, Uncle Lee's sons Ben and Make. This wraps up Purley pretty well from 1915 to 1930.
I should have named these families:
Aunt Huldy Self and her four sons came to Franklin County in about 1892 or 1893. She was a widow with the sons Tom, Fee, Jim, and Hose. Mr. Tom and his wife Vicie bad these children: Hugh, Ivy, Perry, Essie, Ertis, Merle, Joe, and Pat. They lived in various places, all north of Purley. He was the best farmer in the community of Purley and had the best team of mules in Purley. Hugh was born in about 1906. Mr. Felix and Mrs. Ruthie Beavers Self had these children: J. B. Marie, Neva Gay, Robbie Ruth, and Odessa. Mr. Jim and his wife Addie had several children, including Addie. Mr. Hose and Mrs. Claudia Hightower Self had Irene, Hollie, Virlie, and others. They moved to Mount Pleasant, and we did not see them much.
Mr. Wes Blaylock and Ida moved here from Daphne in about 1923. Their children were Raymond and Fay. Mr. and Mrs. Blaylock lived together for about fifty years and never had a quarrel or fuss.
The Connelly family lived mostly at Cypress, but Mr. Walter was at Purley about half the time. His two children made quite a place for themselves. Hermon became our banker, and Barbara's husband Neal Solomon was our State Legislator.
Brother H. C. Solomon was an early day Baptist minister. He was a successful farmer and father of a large family. One of his grandsons, Neal Solomon, was a successful legislator for several terms.
Mr. Taylor Sustaire raised a large family in the Greenwood area of Purley. His grandchildren have continued to carry on in our area as school teachers, bankers, and police officers.
Mr. Jim Parker lived in the Possum Flat part of Purley. He was clerk of Purley Baptist Church for about fifty years.
Mr. Knotts lived in Possum Flat. He had several sons and daughters.
Mr. Bob Hunt came to our community in the 1890s. He had three Sons and one daughter. His Sons and grandsons were large men. Bruce weighed over 300 pounds. They were hard working folks.
Mr. Peterson came to Purley in the 1890s. Aunt Mary Newsome was one of his daughters. Willie Dean, a grandson, became a good Baptist preacher.
The Wiley family came to Purley in the 1860s. One became a doctor; all were fine people.
Mr. Pitts lived in the Pleasant Hill area. He had several sons. They left Purley in the 1930s. His sons were Riley, who married a Cannaday girl, Shelly, and Edgar, who married a Cowser girl.
Captain Hastings came to Purley in 1865 and settled in the western part of Purley. He was County Judge and County Commissioner, quite a leader of his time.
Mr. John Chaffin lived in Stringtown, on the Jim King farm. He bad a large and interesting family. Jack and Mack King married two of his daughters. Owen became a lumberman in Oklahoma City and got rich. David ran a store in Purley.
The Hough family came to Purley in the mid 1880s and settled in the south and west of Purley. They began leaving the community around 1900, and there are none here now.
The Irby family came to Pleasant Hill in the 1850s and were numerous and fine folks.
The Baileys came in the 1860s but are all gone now.
These families lived at Purley for a few years: Mr. Stout, Brother Turner, Mr. Stilman, Mr. Bullard, Mr. Anders, Mr. O. T. Davis, Mr. Hoover, Mr. Vick, Mr. Tom Davis, Mr. Pickett, Pop King, John Nelson, Mr. Jim Castle, Mr. Scott, Mr. Joyner, Uncle Burt Gandy, U. S. Lee, Alf Houghs, Judge Williamson, Mr. Giddens, Chess Rogers, Weaver Morris, Mr. Clark, Mr. Brakebill, Tobe Majors, Hose Holly, Mr. Sid Bradley, Mr. Dave Skidmore, the Weatherfords, Mr. Hugh Inmon, Walter Hildreth, Boots Banister, Mr. Carley, Mr. McBrewer, Roger Larence, Mr. Ingram, Larence Carter, Irby Penn, Alvie Lee, C. T. Vinyard, Buddy Pierce, and others who have slipped my mind at this time. Some lived here for only a short time.
Some of my boyhood friends were Coy Davis (dead), Ross Newsome, C. C. Davis (dead), Boyd and Loyd Joyner (dead), Lisbon Morris (dead), Rex Davis, Glenn Pitts (dead), Joe Choats, Bruce Hunt (dead), Milton Newsome (dead), Earl Newsome, Ray Cannaday (dead), Irvin Draper (dead), Joe Cowser, C. T. Vinyard (dead). This is as of 1988.
The girls were Pauline Rogers Rose, Sybil Paine Cannaday, Mavie King Smith, Effie Lively, Hester (dead), Lottie King, Romie King, Beatrice Parker (dead), Maggie Lee Peterson Davis (dead), Willie Gay Newsome Draper, Bobbie Corley Davis, Essie Self Jones, Dollie Ann Morris Thompson, Alice Newsome Banks, Ora Lee Newsome Carter (dead), Marie Self, and Gay Davis Joyner (dead).
Some of our schoolteachers: Mr. and Mrs. Charley Proctor, Mr. and Mrs. Charley Agee, Miss Cleo Bass, S. O. Loving, Mr. Joe Holbert, Mr. Lester Martin, Mr. and Mrs. Claud Cox, Leon Chandler, Miss Odessa Lominack, Vera Lamb, Mrs. Claud Newsom, Mildred Weatberford, Gertrude Smith, and Mrs. Heart.
Regarding the farming in Franklin County north of Mount Vernon, 95% of the tillable land was in cotton. Some did not plant one acre other than cotton. South of Mount Vernon, probably 75% was in cotton. Papa worked about sixty acres in total, about forty acres in cotton, fifteen acres in corn and peas two rows corn and one row peas--three acres watermelons, and two acres sweet potatoes. We ran three teams a few years. Shelley "Shack" Davis had about thirty acres of cotton and about three acres of watermelons, one team, hired all hoeing done, some plowing, and all his picking. We made around fifteen to twenty bales, and Shack made around twelve to fifteen bales. We made one wagon load of corn per acre, or less. We had two to four cows to milk. Shack had one some of the time and none some of the time. Living was hard, clothes very limited. Papa would have two dress shirts that would last two years, and one or two pairs of dress pants that would last five years; one pair of shoes that would last three years and a pair of "stronger than the law" work shoes that would last one year; two pairs of blue overalls and two blue shirts that would last one year. Papa went barefoot some in the summer. Uncle Chancy Newsome never did. Uncle Will shed his shoes in May, and in November he would put them back on. He did this until he was eighty years old. Men would buy surplus army coats for four or five dollars that would last five years. Every man wore patched overalls, and some wore patched dress pants. Men and boys wore no underclothes in the summertime. We wore straw hats in the summer and caps in the winter. There were no more than two or three overcoats in Purley. I bought my first and only overcoat in 1956 to wear to Boston.
Until 1923 or 1924 all women wore long hair. Alice got hers cut while we lived on the Lowe place. Bobbed hair was "of the devil."
About Purley's social and religious life: there were two churches, one Baptist and one Methodist. About one third of the people were Methodist and about two thirds were Baptist. There was very little strife between them. Purley had very high morals. We never had a bootlegger, no feuds, and very little sex offense. The people were truthful and honest, no thieves, no locks. Most of our outings were to church, and a party on Friday night, where we played Snapp. We never had an outstanding singer, and only one lawyer, John Beavers. We never had one to go to the pen. No killings, and almost no divorces. Pretty good athletes, good basketball players. People loved one another.
We have a few SWEET HERITAGE COOKBOOKS still left - 142 pages of history and dessert recipes. Call 903-537-4760 to ask about the book or see the page of this website with information on books to order.
1. FIG PRESERVES
“This recipe is courtesy of my neighbor, Mrs. Jerry (Wanda) Johnson. It was her mother-in-law’s, Mrs. Linnie Lee White Johnson. Mrs. Wanda’s friend, Mrs. Annie Cowser, had told her to add butter to the recipe to help control foam on the sop of the preserves during the boiling process.”
12 C figs -cut into halves or quarters
9 C sugar
½ C water
1 T lemon juice
1 tsp butter
Rinse and prepare figs. Mix all in large pot, add butter and bring to a slow boil. Boil until jelled, about 45 minutes. Put into hot jars and seal. Makes about 5 pints.
2. SQUASH PICKLES
“This recipe was found in the 1991 issue of “Manna from Mt. Olive” cookbook, page 136, submitted by Minnie Lee Rowden. The cookbook was published as a fundraiser for the fellowship hall of Mt. Olive Baptist Church, Hagansport, TX I found this recipe easier the second time I used it. The recipe is easily doubled when there is abundance of squash and works best with a smaller, tender vegetable. I did modify the brine process, and this is my version of the recipe.”
8 C squash -thinly sliced
1 C white onion, sliced in small, thin strips
2 C green bell pepper, sliced in small, thin strips
1 4-oz jar pimento, drained and diced
½ C canning salt
Sprinkle vegetables with canning salt, adding 3 or 4 cups of ice, and soak at least 3 hours. Stir frequently to keep vegetables cool. Drain liquid brine, rinse one time and drain well. Put vegetables in a large pot and add sauce ingredients. Bring to a boil, and quickly put into hot jars and seal.
Sauce for the Squash Pickles
3 C sugar
2 C white Heinz Vinegar
2 T celery seed
2 T mustard seed
3. MELTING MOMENTS SHORTBREAD COOKIES
B. F. Hicks found this one and included it in our "Sweet Heritage" cookbook.
1 C unsifted flour
1/2 C cornstarch
1/2 C confectioner's sugar
3/4 C butter
1 tsp vanilla
In a medium bowl, stir together flour, corn-starch and confectioner's sugar. In a large bowl with mixer at medium speed, beat butter until smooth and creamy. Add flour mixture and vanilla. Beat until well blended. If necessary, refrigerate one hour, or until easy to handle. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place about 1 1/2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet; flatten with lightly floured fork. Bake in 300-degree oven 20 to 25 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned. Remove and cool completely on wire racks. Store in tightly-covered container. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.
4. PEAR TREE MINCE PIE
Donna Dyer McFarland:
1/2 cup seedless raisins
1 cup chopped tart apples
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup slivered blanched almonds
1/4 cup orange marmalade
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons enriched flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pastry for 2-crust 9-inch pie
3 fresh pears, pared and sliced (2 1/2 to 3 cups)
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
Directions: Simmer raisins in water to cover, about 5 minutes; drain. Combine raisins, apples, broken sugar, nuts, marmalade, lemon juice, flour, spices, and salt.
Line 9-inch pie plate with pastry; top with half the pear slices. Cover with mincemeat mixture; top with remaining pears. Dot with butter.
Add top crust, crimping edges. With cookie cutter or knife, make cut out in center of top crust to let out steam. Bake in hot oven (400 degrees) 45 minutes or until done.
5. DANDELION WINE
Josie Teel Bowers (Mrs. E. M. Bowers, 1861-1941) and
Margaret Bowers Milan (Mrs. Clyde Milan, 1890-1980)
2 quarts dandelion blossoms
4 quarts boiling water
Pour over blossoms, set in warm place. Let it set for 24 hours.
Slice 3 lemons and 3 oranges, take out seeds—sprinkle over this four pounds sugar (white), let it stand for 24 hours.
Add yeast cake to the oranges, lemons, and sugar. Strain liquid over the fruit and sugar. Skim and let stand one day. Strain and bottle. Do not cork for a few days.
Susan Hughston contributed her grandmother's and great-grandmother's recipe.
6. SWEET POTATO CUSTARD
Swan Cheatham VanDyke (Mrs. J. E. VanDyke, 1850-1944)
Pint mashed sweet potatos, half pint sweet milk, cup butter, cup sugar, yolks of four eggs, one nutmeg, half teaspoon vanilla. Pour into pan lined with crust; bake. Beat whites of eggs well, one cup sugar, spread over top and brown.
Mrs. Van Dyke's Sweet Potato Custard recipe is in Selected Recipes published by the Ladies Episcopal Guild, Clarksville, Texas, in 1911. She was Georgia Swan VanDyke Fowler's grand-mother.
7. JAM CAKE
Note that this and the salt-rising bread seen elsewhere on this page come from a larger collection by Jim Clark of the Red River County Historical Society. The heritage recipes in that collection seem not only to have historical interest but to be adaptable for modern-day cooks. One of the Red River members, Anne Evetts, reports having baked salt-rising bread and says that it was pretty heavy and had a strong yeast flavor. If you want information on the complete collection, contact Jim (firstname.lastname@example.org).
1 1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup butter
1 tsp. each cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg
1 cup blackberry jam
1 cup sour milk (buttermilk)
3 cups flour
1 round tsp. soda in water; add last (or put in buttermilk)
1 cup raisins may be added
Cream sugar and butter together. Add eggs and jam. Sift spices with flour. Add flour and milk alternately to the creamed mixture. Makes 2 layers.
Caramel Filling or Icing.
8. CARAMEL FILLING
Betty Belle White Yarbrough (Mrs. Will Yarbrough, 1878-1931) and
Nannie Bess Yarbrough Raulston (Mrs. Clarence M. Raulston, Sr., 1897-1962)
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
Blend sugar and flour in a heavy skillet. Add the milk and bring it to a boil.
In a separate skillet melt and brown 1/4 cup sugar, taking care not to let it burn. Combine with milk and flour mixture. Cook until thickens.
Spread between cake layers.
This recipe was contributed by Cora Sue Raulston Boone and her brother C. M. Raulston, Jr. of the Dimple community north of Clarksville. It was their mother's and their grandmother's recipe.
9. MRS. ELLA PARK'S SALT RISING BREAD
Ella Latimer Parks (Mrs. W. N. Parks, 1861-1956)
1/2 lb. rusty potatoes sliced thin and put into glass jar (1/2 gal.) with 2 heaping tablsp corn meal, 1 heaping tablsp sugar, 1 teasp (scant) salt. Pour over this mixture 2 1/2 cups boiling water. Stir well. Keep warm. Set this yeast around 2 or 3 o'clock in the afternoon.
Next A.M. about 6:30 or 7:00, add 3 tablsp sugar, 1 teasp (scant) salt, and 1 level teasp soda. Stir into potato mixture and stir well. Then drain liquid from the potatoes into mixing bowl Next add 3/4 cup water to the potatoes and shake the jar well, raising up the potatoes. Then drain this liquid into the other potato water in mixing bowl. Now add flour to make stiff batter (about like baking powder biscuits, or thick batter cakes). Let rise over pan of warm water until light. After dough has risen, add 1/2 cup melted shortening, 2/3 cup hot milk. Again add flour for stiff batter and put into greased pans. Let rise till light and bake 1 hour (at 375°).
Mrs. Parks was a daughter of Albert H. Latimer, a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence, who was from Red River County. Her recipe was contributed by Mrs. J. P. Goodman of Clarksville.
10. SYRUP-OATMEAL PIE
Evie Pitts (via Nicki Armstrong)
2/3 cup of sugar
2/3 cup butter
2/3 cup syrup (red Karo)
2/3 cup of 2 minute oatmeal
¼ teaspoon salt
Cream eggs and sugar. Add butter and continue creaming. Then add syrup, oats, salt & vanilla. Cook in pie crust until a knife will come out clean.
11. PEAR RELISH
1 Peck Pears
1 Dozen onions
1 pint vinegar
1 pint prepared mustard
1 dozen sweet peppers
1 dozen hot peppers
1 cup water
3 cups sugar
1 Tbsp. salt
1 Tbsp. celery seed
Use all juices; Grind all peppers, onions and pears. Save juice from pears and
mix with vinegar. Bring to a boil; add sugar, water, salt, mustard, celery seed,
ground peppers, onions and pears. Boil 30 minutes, stirring often to prevent
sticking. Dip into pint jars. Seal. Makes about 11 pints.
12. MOM’S DRESSING
This comes to Sue from her mother-in-law Blanche Bolin (1911-2000), who originally got it from her mother-in-law, Maud Barrett Bolin (1892-1971).
About 6 biscuits
3 or 4 onions
½ cup celery
Salt to taste
(stick of butter if not fat enough)
Mix cornbread and biscuits together and pour hot broth over. Let it soak a
little and then mix well. Beat 6 eggs and pour into dressing and mix well. It will be kinda thin. Cook real slow. When eggs and onions cook then it’s done.
When it looks brown and don’t shake in pan it’s done.
Additional instructions: Mash up cornbread, biscuits and one egg together.
Pour hot chicken broth over it. Stir in raw eggs, raw onions and black pepper. Bake at 350. Use 5 or 6 raw eggs. Use 2 or 3 times more cornbread than biscuits. 3 or 4 onions. Bake until the onion is done. As it dries out while
baking, you can add boiling water and stir then continue cooking.
13. AUNT BARBARA'S COOKIES
1 cup brown sugar, packed
¾ cup butter flavored shortening
2 cups green label Brer Rabbit Molasses
1 cup buttermilk
2 Tbsp baking soda
1 teaspoon ginger
5 cups of flour (or more)
In a large mixer bowl on low speed, cream together shortening and sugar. Add molasses and beat on medium speed until smooth. Sift together two cups flour, baking soda and ginger. Add dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk. Add flour until stiff. Cover and refrigerate at least four hours or overnight. Heat oven to 375. Roll dough ¼ inch thick on well-floured board. Cut with well-floured cutter, place 1 inch apart on well-greased cookie sheet. Bake until no indentions remain when touched, about 8 minutes. Cool. Good cookie to dunk in your milk.
14. FIG PRESERVES
3 quarts figs
1 ½ quarts water
3 quarts boiling water
2 lemons, thinly sliced (optional)
4 cups sugar
Pour 3 quarts boiling water over figs. Let stand 15 minutes. Drain and discard liquid. Rinse figs in cold water and drain. Prepare syrup by mixing sugar, 1½ quarts water and lemon. Boil rapidly 10 minutes. Skim syrup, remove and discard lemon slices. Drop figs into syrup, a few at a time. Cook rapidly until figs are transparent. Remove figs and place in a shallow pan. Boil syrup until thick, pour over figs and let stand 6-8 hours. Sterilize canning jars. Reheat figs and syrup to boiling. Pour hot preserves into hot jars, leaving ¼ inch head space. Wipe jar rims and adjust lids. Process 5 minutes in a Boiling Water Bath. Makes about 10 half-pint jars.
15. CREAM CHEESE POUND CAKE
(Mary frequently made this for potluck dinners.)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan.
Cream together until light and fluffy:
3 sticks margarine
8 oz cream cheese
3 cups sugar
¼ tsp. salt
1 ½ tsp. vanilla
Then add 6 eggs; one at a time.
Beat well after each.
Stir in 3 cups sifted flour.
Spread mixture into tube pan and bake 1 ½ hours.
Cool in pan for 10 minutes.
16. RHUBARB PIE
(Mrs. George Lunsford – from the 1950 Mt. Pleasant B&P W Cookbook)
1 1/4 C sugar
2 C finely chopped rhubarb
Cook until sugar dissolves and rhubarb is soft.
2 eggs (separated – save whites for meringue)
1/4 C sugar
Pinch of salt
3 T flour
¼ C cream
Beat the yolks and add to the above mixture. Add this mixture to the cooked rhubarb and cook until it thickens. Pour into baked pie shell. Top with meringue and bake in slow oven for 15-20 minutes.
17. SUNDAY LUNCH EASY BEEF STEW
1 lb. stew meat, cut in small cubes
1 large onion
1/2 green bell pepper
1 C chopped celery
6 medium Irish potatoes (cut into small chunks just before adding to stew)
1 large can sliced tomatoes
1 can cream corn
Medium stew pot:
Put 2 teaspoons salt in stew pot with beef and 2-1/2 quarts water.
Bring to a boil; lower to simmer.
Add green pepper and onion. Cover pot. Let this simmer – below boiling – for 1 to 2 hours
Come home from church; bring up temperature. Add potatoes (cut into small chunks). Boil until potatoes are fork tender.
Stir in tomatoes and corn.
Season with salt and black pepper to taste. (may need more salt; pepper to taste)
Watch and do not let it stick to bottom of the pan. Leave it simmering and then watch after you bring up the heat for final cooking.
(May lightly flour and then brown the meat in vegetable oil in frying pan before adding to stew)
According to liquid; may need to adjust; may also add 1 C of elbow macaroni with potatoes.
18. MOTHER'S CHESS PIE
3 whole eggs beaten
1-1/2 C. sugar
2 T. milk
1 T. vinegar
1 stick butter or oleo, melted
juice of 1/2 lemon
Mix together and bake in unbaked pie crust at 350
degrees for approximately 45 minutes or until
19. DONNA'S ROLLS
2 Tablespoons active dry yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1 Cup sugar
3/4 Cup butter (softened)
1 Cup instant potatoes
7-1/2 Cups flour (preferable - bread flour)
2 eggs (lightly beaten)
2 Cups warm milk
Kosher salt for sprinkling on baked rolls (optional
Mix 1/2 Cup warm water with yeast and mix in mixing bowl until yeast is dissolved (2 minutes)
Warm milk, sugar salt and butter - to 115 degrees F - pour into bowl; mix with yeast. Add eggs. Add instant potatoes into mix.
Pour into large mixing bowl; add flour. Knead (may need little more milk or water - tepid temperature - to make a dough (tacky but not runny). Let sit 1 hour in warm room.
Make into rolls; place in oiled pan; let sit 30 minutes in warm room. (Does not require rolling out on floured board).
Bake at 375 degrees. Use top rack of oven; rotate pan every 10 minutes. Bake until golden brown (oven temperatures vary; baking process will take 20-30 minutes). Optional: light sprinkling of coarse kosher salt.
20. DATE LOAF CANDY
3 C. sugar
1 C. milk
5 T Karo
1 package pitted dates
1 t. vanilla
1 C. chopped pecans
Lump of butter
Mix sugar, milk. Karo and butter together and cook until forms a soft ball in cold water. Beat until creamy. Add the chopped dates, nuts and vanilla. Pour into greased platter and cut into squares or a damp cloth and roll.
21. FIVE MINUTE FUDGE
2 t. cocoa
1/2 C. cold milk
2 C. imperial sugar
1/3 C. white syrup or Karo
Lump butter size of a walnut
1 t. vanilla
Mix all ingredients except vanilla. Cook slowly. When it actually boils, cook only five minutes remove from fire. Add vanilla and beat until creamy and pour into buttered pans. Cut while warm.
Boil I cup milk and 2 cups imperial sugar; and, while this is boiling, melt another cup of sugar by itself (the sugar will be brown when melted).
Pour the melted sugar into the boiling milk and sugar and let cook until it forms a firm ball, not hard, when tried in cold water. Before taking from fire put in a piece of butter and vanilla flavoring.
Remove from fire and add 1 cup of nuts and beat well. It must be creamy and stiff enough so that you will be sure it will get hard before pouring in buttered dishes.
23. FRUIT COCKTAIL CAKE
Agnes Wilkinson Burns
2 C flour
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 2/2 C sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick butter
#303 can fruit cocktail
Cream together first 4 ingredients, with the butter. Add juice from fruit cocktail and 2 well-beaten eggs. Finally, stir in the fruit and bake in 2 cake pans or 1 loaf pan.
Topping: Combine 1 1/2 C brown sugar and 1 or 1/2 C pecans sprinkled over the cake while in the pan.
3/4 C white sugar
1/2 C canned milk
1 stick butter
1 can angel coconut
Melt butter and add sugar and milk. Cook 2-3 minutes. Add coconut. Pour on cake while both are hot.
24. COLONIAL HOLIDAY RING CAKE
Exerdine Clampitt Elliott (1880-1968)
Among the recipes in our FCHA Sweet Heritage Cookbook is this one from Fannie Stretcher's great-grandmother: Exerdine Clampitt Elliott (1880-1968). Grannie Dee was the daughter of James and Jane Keith Clampitt. Grannie Dee is a descendant of the family that gave the land for the formal town site of Mt. Vernon in 1849 and the ancestor of Dyers, Stretchers, Elliotts and a host of other families in the county. The Stretcher family gave the funds to erect the pavilion protecting farm equipment at our depot site in memory of Frank Stretcher, Fannie's husband and the father of Kelly, Keith and Gary Stretcher. Here is the recipe for Grannie Dee's Holiday Ring Cake:
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
4 cups sifted flour
1 t soda
1/2 t salt
1-1/2 cups buttermilk
1 T grated orange rind
1 cup chopped pecans
1 8-oz. pkg. chopped dates
1 cup orange juice
2 cups sugar
2 t grated orange rind
Cream together sugar and butter. Beat eggs and add to butter and sugar. Beat together. Sift together flour, soda and salt. Add to cream mixture alternating with buttermilk. Add orange rind, dates and pecans. Pour into greased and floured tube pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 1-1/2 hours or until it tests done. When cake is done and before removing from pan (while still hot), punch many holes in cake all the way to bottom with ice pick or skewer.
For the Glaze: Dissolve sugar and orange juice in small saucepan over low fire. Do not boil. Add orange rind and pour hot glaze over cake. Let glaze drip into holes in cake. If cake has not pulled away from sides, loosen with knife so that some of the glaze runs down sides and center of cake. Let cake stand overnight in pan.
25. TUNNEL OF FUDGE CAKE
Virgie Beth Hughes (1915-2000)
1.5 C soft butter
1 pkg double dutch fudge buttercream frosting mix
2 C chopped walnuts
1.5 C sugar
2 C flour
Cream butter. Add eggs, one at time, beating well after each. Gradually add sugar, continue creaming until light and fluffy. By hand, stir in flour and frosting mix and nuts, until well blended. Pour batter into greased Bundt pan or 10-inch angel food tube pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 60 to 65 minutes. Cool 2 hours. Remove from pan. Cool completely before serving.