Coke County, Texas

Hayley-McMullan Store in Edith, TX - 1912

From the "Memoirs of William Larkin Hayley"

My sister, Lottie, had married J.P.H. McMullan, and they had been running a store at Fort Chadbourne for the Farmers Union. In 1910, he had a chance to get hold of a little store at Edith, Texas, the western part of Coke County. They had saved up $500.00 and I put up $500.00, and they moved up to Edith and took charge of the store there in the early part of 1910. Credit was easy to get, and we put in a good stock of general merchandise, buying it all on time and started into run the people on credit for the year. McMullan was a very fine man and a good mixer and ambitious to do things, so he reached out and got the trade, but nearly all we sold was on credit. It was a bad year, and no crops were made at all. It looked like it was going to be a good year to start with, but it did not rain any at all after the crops came up. We were soon in debt pretty deep. We had done perhaps a $25,000.00 business on a $1,000.00 capital. We could not collect anything, and perhaps owed $15,000.00 for merchandise. I had some bank stock, which I put into a clothing company that we owed $12,500.00 for that amount. We got the others to carry us over and run us another year. This made $1,750.00 I put into the business, which was all I ever put in, but I never drew any dividends.

In 1911, they made an average crop and we collected up enough to pay us. 1912 was just an average year, but the business did well. McMullan built a new store building and built a hall above and organized an Odd Fellows Lodge. They had no preaching. NcMullan vas a Presbyterian, but they had no members there, so he got the Methodist to organize a church there and send them a preacher and he joined the church; they built a nice little parsonage for the preacher. McMullan was a great asset to the community, which shows how much a man can sometimes do with a small beginning. In 1913, there was a fair crop, and the price was about 12 to 13 cents, the best price it had brought in a long time, so we did well this year and we bought the 320 acre farm that went with the store. We bought it all on time. We gave our note for $4,000.00 due some years later and planted a big cotton crop, something over 100 acres in cotton and this was a bumper crop year. We picked 105 bales of cotton off of about that many acres, everything we planted made good. McMullan was great for watermelons, and he had that cotton field full of them. If we could have sold them at the price they brought last year, 1944, they would have easily paid for the farm. Well, it looked like we were going places. Cotton was a good price, and everything was lovely, except World War I started in Europe. Cotton was gradually going up, some of the boys had bought some futures, and had some $2,500.00 made and the Germans announced they were going to sink all the neutral ships that carried cotton to the enemy. Then the price of cotton dropped the limit in one day and wiped out the $2,500.00 the boys had made. The next day, it did the same thing. If we couldn't ship cotton, we had no market. They had a lovely fall to gather cotton, and it was the best grade of cotton we ever made, most of it Rowden. With an inch or better staple and graded No. 1, cotton went to 4 1/2 to 5 cents a pound, low grade would hardly sell at all. Lots of renters claimed after they paid the ginning and picking and rent, they would not get over $2.50 a bale for raising it. We took what cotton we could get on account and bought 1500 bales more. Most of it we shipped to Houston, Texas, and borrowed what we could on it. Finally, we had 600 bales left in Houston that we had not sold along in the spring of 1915. We sold it then and only had a little over $1,800.00 in the cotton, but cotton had started up and in less than four months, it was selling for 15 cents a pound. We could have made $30,000.00 by holding it for this four months. We sold it too soon. 1915 was a fairly good year; McMullan had done well with the store. I think he had accumulated about $l5,000.00 in the store.

He decided that so many years were dry that he could make more money by going to a good town and buying a second hand stock of dry goods at a discount. He closed out the busiess at Edith and went to Abilene and bought a $30,000.00 stock of dry goods at 65 cents on the dollar. I think he paid out about $l5,000.00 on the stock and borrowed $3,000.00 from the bank to pay the balance. I had never drawn anything out of the store, and he had only drawn what it cost them to live. The times were pretty hard and expenses in town were heavy. He had bought quite a lot of new goods, and we put a store in Blackwell and one in Bronte, and had the one in Abilene.

1916 was a short crop. In 1917, hardly anything was made and nothing in 1918. We had too many stores and too little business. It would have taken a super business man to have pulled it through. So in 1918, we had to close. I had seen the thing coming and had retired from the business. McMullan struggled on with it for nearly a year before he had the give up. I had not been out long enough to get away from debts, and I joined with him in making a settlement. I did not take the bankrupt law, but we did make a settlement at a discount. However, I paid the bank $2,500.00 and paid $750.00 to an individual, we had borrowed in full not counting anything we at one time had made. I figured I had lost a little over $5,000.00 of my own money. McMullan put in everything he had. He even deeded his little home to one of the creditors.

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