Ira Merton England
Ira Merton England, one of Celeste’s pioneer community builders, celebrated
his 90th birthday and his 80th year in Hunt County last Sunday, September 30,
1951, at the home of a daughter, Mrs. J. E. Surratt, 5336 Willis, Dallas.
More than fifty members of the family and a host of friends were present for
Born September 30, 1861, at Sardis, Tennessee, Merton England left Tennessee
soon thereafter to live in Illinois as his parents moved there to live with
his grandparents during the Civil War.
After the end of the war, Merton England and his parents again lived for a
while in Tennessee, but like many families of that day, decided to pioneer it
to Texas. Mr. England remembers that they started on the steam ferry, their
wagons pulled by oxen. These slow animals, however, were traded off in Kansas
for faster horses for the move down through Indian Territory into Texas.
From the age of ten until now, Merton England has been near the tracks of the
Katy Railroad. He remember that they followed the right-of-way of the MKT then
under construction through what is now Oklahoma, so they could camp near the
construction camps each night because even in 1871, Indians were known to
occasionally molest white people.
Down into Hunt County, Merton England joined his uncle, Lem Kennedy, in his
big general store in the White Rock community. Uncle Lem had gone to Texas
before the rest of the family—prior to the Civil War—and had established what
became a tremendous mercantile undertaking in those days, which Mr. England
remembers as furnished in hand-carved oak.
All this was before Celeste was born. In those days, Hunt County’s prairies
were still covered in native grasses, so Merton England got to participate in
the cattle drives to New Orleans and Saint Louis. But the Katy followed young
Merton down into Hunt County and with the coming of the Santa Fe, Celeste was
born in 1887. Today Mr. England lives in the first house ever built within the
city limits of Celeste, family property since it was constructed.
In 1880, Merton England though a youth of nineteen years, was already a man
through the necessities of pioneer life. It was in that year that he and Flora
Kennedy ran off to the Indian Territory to be married. Their happy union
continued for sixty-seven years until Mrs. England’s death in 1948.
Eight of their nine children are alive today and include Mrs. Albert Norris of
Celeste; Mrs. Leon Puckett, Mrs. John E. Surratt, Mrs. Calanthe Bowman and
Kennedy England, all of Dallas; Mrs. R. F. Lewis of Hillsboro; Willard D.
England of Detroit, Michigan; and Mrs. Frances Mires of Houston.
A brother and a sister, Arthur England and Mrs. J. Riley Green live in
Ira Merton England has served Celeste and Hunt County as farmer, landowner,
dry goods merchant, oil mill manager, county road commissioner, and steward in
the Methodist Church, of which he is a life-long member.
He was appointed to the Commissioners Court during the first highway
construction days and helped supervise a $2,000,000.00 road program. His
conscientious service brought him a second elected term by the people of the
area. US Highway 69 today is laid on the foundation, which was built under his
Mr. England has seen Hunt County go from a cattle country to a grain, corn,
and cotton land and in recent years back to cattle land again.
He is part of Celeste and Hunt County. He was here before Celeste was born. He
and his family helped build Celeste and Merton England has chosen to make this
community his home ever since.
(October 5, 1951, The Celeste Courier)
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