Athens Review July 31, 1924 Tribute to the New York Community By B. C. Hall
In the summer of 1879, and before the writer was 10 years old, my father, Dr. Thos. Hunt Hall, a local minister of the M. E. Church South, who resided at old Jamestown, 19 miles east of Tyler, Smith county, had been invited to attend an old-time camp meeting to be held at old New York, 11 miles north of LaRue. In company with his cousin, J. T. Jackson, father of Mrs. J. M. Luker of Athens, after packing their old-time saddle bags, rode through the thinly settled country to New York and attended one of the greatest camp meetings in all of East Texas, were perhaps 500 to 1000 conversions were made at one meeting. This was under the hill near the big gum spring, where the whole ground was covered with tents and sheds and a tabernacle to seat 2000 people, well built and covered with boards. The church, a very ordinary school building which was used for a preachers tent usually occupied by 6 to 12 ministers, for they had meeting all day from a sunrise prayer meeting to services at 9 and 11 a. m. and 3 and 7:30 p. m., besides the old grove prayer meetings and souls saved at nearly every service, and they had camp meetings at Brushy Creek some 20 miles south, Red Hill and Edom and Meredith camp meeting every summer, where all were so busy interested in the salvation of souls they had no time to quarrel over doctrinal points, but as a community, Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, and Christians all came, united their forces and worshiped God together. Father and his cousin came back home delighted, sold their home and moved to Henderson county in November, 1879, father buying out Dr. G. H. Neill, who moved to Cedar Grove, in Van Zandt county. Uncle Tom Jackson bought four miles south of Brownsboro and helped to build the New Hope community. These camp meetings continued for years under a successful ministry; we were on Athens circuit before Athens had full time. Among our big preachers who helped to make our camp meetings a success were Uncle Caleb Smith, Jno. Adams, R. S. Rinley, Littleton Fowler, Tom P. Smith, U. B. Phillips, Albert Little, W. H. Ardis and others. My grandfather, Rev. Jas. B. Hall, was a frequent visitor at these camp meetings. he was a member of the East Texas Conference. Some of the leading members of the M. E. church were Rev. J. C. Walker, father of Mrs. Maggie Bradshaw of Athens; Jim Otts, Geo. C. Keys, David W. Neill, Paul Gauntt's grandfather; Mrs. J. B. Gauntt, J. B. Curtis and family. Parents of Mrs. J. M. Pinkerton; Mrs. Bob Gauntt and Mrs. Boley Tindel and about 150 others. Rev. Rafe Goore was pastor of the Baptist church with a good membership. Jno. H. Reynolds, Little Johnny and Davis Reynolds, Rubin and Wood Forester, Jno. R. Forester and mother, Aunt Eliza Forester and family, the Atwoods and Richardsons and Mrs. Lewis and the Crossleys, Jno. Browning and mother's family (Dan Browning's father), the Splawns, Jacob Miller and family and a host of others. Among the Presbyterian congregation was Jno. D. Morrison, Bob and John Hodge; the Shelbys, Tom Dunklin, Uncle Billy Clanahan A. S. Robbins and family, Mrs. Bill Morris and father, Uncle Jimmy, and many others, with a Bro. J. M. Brooks as their pastor. The Presbyterians later built Morrison's Chapel church at LaRue, which grew into a successful school community. The Christian people also had a small congregation there with a Rev. Bro. Swinney as their pastor. At this time, 1879, Henderson county had no railroad, Athens was a village, New York was a prosperous community with three to half a dozen stores and a Masonic lodge, New York Lodge No. 445, now located at LaRue, and a wood shop run by Jacob Miller, father of Sam Miller, prominent citizen of Stockard. Among the most prosperous stores was that of S. M. Richardson, who I remember sold one Saturday $600 in one day. S. M. was the father of J. H. Richardson, Poynor, Dr. Wm. and Misses Fannie and Della and Bud Richardson of Athens and R. F. D. still at New York. His widow, Mrs. Keiey Richardson, still lives in Athens. At this time the woods was full of hogs, dressed pork 2 1-2 to 3c pound, cattle cheap, you could shoot squirrels off your yard fence, kill a deer and have venison any day, woods full of wild turkeys and other game. We had mail once a week at New York--later twice and three times and daily, on route from Athens to Fincastle, which was also a thriving little village. Jno. McRea was on of the old mail carriers. Fincastle is where the Woffords, Adams and Millers came from. Theo Turner's father was also in business there. Fincastle merchants did much to make Athens a success after the Cotton Belt railroad here in 1880. Among the old postmasters at New York were J. H. Reynolds, deceased; P. C. Coleman, Deceased; J. O. Hunt, father of Mrs. Joe Mat Curlee and Ab Hunt of Eustace, R. J. Liston, J. B. Curtis, deceased, Father of Mrs. J. M. Pinkerton. B. P. Curtis, Miss Rena Jones, deceased Miss Lela Jones, Dr. T. H. Hall, deceased, T. H. Hall, Jr., B. C. Hall. After the T. & N. O. railroad came LaRue grew to a prosperous railroad town and rural routes took the place of the only namesake postoffice of the "Madison Square Garden; Convention City of N. Y." in the wide world. Precinct No. 5 extended from Baxter to the county line south and east, and they sold whiskey at Fincastle. Dr. T. H. Hall drew up a petition, divided the line, crossing by old Myrtle Springs, making justice precinct No. 7 out of it, which was granted and Jno. Dickey Morrison was our first justice peace and Wm. (Billy) Gauntt, now a merchant in Athens, the first constable. Father then drew the first local option petition and had it fully signed, election granted by commissioners court and New York had the first local option precinct in Henderson county. I attended the first funeral, that of Uncle Enoch Tunnell, that was buried in the New York cemetery. Now the whole hill is white with monuments and are long perhaps the writer will be lieing (sic) there besides his father and grandfather. I could write a book about these same events, but hurriedly spent about three hours on this article and forgot many things.
Typed as written by Bunny Freeman Nov. 2002