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Celeste Centennial
History of the Town of Celeste

Celeste is located in the northwest corner of Hunt County and is rich in history, but records are scarce. Because of the meager written material, the story of Celeste has been passed down by word of mouth for many years, and consequently, many errors have crept in. Yet, poor and inaccurate as the oral source may be, it is necessary to lean heavily upon it, for from it comes the bulk of the information of the study.

The space occupied by Celeste was once open prairie. When white people first began to drift in, they found a few Indians, and these Indians were friendly.

Celeste was established in 1886, when most of the land was purchased by the railroad from Mr. W. L. STEWARD. The town was divided into blocks and the streets were named by the railroad engineers. (A land sale, according to the poster now at First Bank, was on Tuesday, April 19, 1887.)

In July of 1888, a Methodist Church was organized under the pastorate of the Reverend H. S. GORSLINE, with a membership of forty-two. In 1889, a parsonage was built adjoining the church property. In 1902, the first building was sold and a new building erected.

During the first year of service of the First Methodist Church, the Baptists were allowed to preach in it one Sunday of the month until they built a building of their own. The Presbyterian also used it occasionally. The Baptist Church was erected in 1888. In 1907, that building burned, and shortly after that a another building was erected.

In 1888, the Church of Christ was built on the east side of town. Later a division occurred in the church, and part of the membership bought a church building from the Presbyterians and became the Central Christian Church.

The town felt that a college was needed. In 1890, the first school in Celeste was organized, and the school community had an area of about seven miles. A three-story building was erected. This college was founded by Professor C. C. PERRIN and known as Perrin School. In a few years the school changed owners and became known as Gladstone College.

In 1899, the people of Celeste decided to abandon the idea of a college and established an academy. Professor B. A. STAFFORD, principal, and C. F. GIBSON were operators of the new school, which they named Elmwood Institute. This school was not a success; so, in 1912, it was changed to Celeste Public High School, with Mr. J. C. PYLE as superintendent. In 1913, the first brick school building burned, but a much larger building was erected the following year. Mr. GADEN followed Mr. Pyle as superintendent, and after him in succession came many fine men up to this date in 1987.

An auditorium was built in 1923, and a gymnasium in 1938.

In 1955, the Celeste High school burned and another was erected.

In January of 1986, the old Celeste gymnasium and elementary school burned and also lost in the fire were decades of irreplaceable school annuals and sports trophies. A new elementary and elementary-junior high gym combination was erected shortly after the fire.

The people have always been very athletic minded and have had many outstanding teams in football, basketball, and baseball, with many of their boys becoming members of professional teams.

The volunteer fire department was first organized in 1902. In 1938, a fire truck was purchased and Monroe PASSONS was made fire chief. Today the fire department is still active and meets regularly.

In 1901, the first women's club was organized. It was called the Mutual Improvement Club; it was disbanded in 1908. In 1911, the Thursday Club was organized. This is still the leading woman's club in town. Celeste has also had a K. P. Lodge, Grand Orient, Oddfellows, Woodmen of the World, Eastern Star, and Lions Club. The Masons are still active.

Celeste is still a striving town; there are many businesses in Celeste still going strong.

Celeste supports two convenient stores, beauty shops, of which Lenna's is the second oldest business in town, insurance office, video shop, feed store, gasoline stations, ceramic shop, and others.

Celeste, a growing town with a future, has a splendid past.

(Picture: This aerial view of modern-day Celeste was taken from the west side of town looking east. On the far right-hand side, the old and new high schools are visible.) (Picture: First National Bank employees about 1958. Albert Granberry, Imogene Ross, June Floyd, Frances Armstrong, and seated Georgann Babers.) (Picture: 1920 - 1935 Post Office in Celeste, left to right, John Byers, Chilton Evans, Aubry Brown, and Postmaster Lewis Jones.) (Picture: Elmwood Institute, on site of the present school grounds, first was Hawthorne College, the late Beaulah Norris Barnard, a 1887 graduate. It changed in 1899 to Elmwood Institute. "In 1912, the school, (Elmwood), wash changed to Celeste Public High School, with Mr. J. C. Pyle, superintendent. In 1913, the building burned, a much larger building was built" quotes from "Tom West's History of Celeste," 1950.)

Celeste Postmasters
Celeste Postmasters have been:

Edward C. Croft............. November 26, 1886
William A. Nelson............February 26, 1889
Ulysses Grant Roach......June 11, 1889
John J. Attebery..............July 12, 1893
Frances B. Norris............November 22, 1894
Ulysses Grant Roach.......March 10, 1898
S. T. Blackwell................. February 6, 1911
W. E. Thompson............. February 11, 1914
Robert L. Jones...............March 12, 1920
Nettie Duncan................. August 16, 1935
Samuel M. Compton.......March 4, 1937
Harbert S. Byers.............September 30,1961
Guy Shields.................... March 1, 1975
Sarah Roach Swindell...October 1, 1983
Bill Johnson.....................
Kerry Kearney.................

On February 2, 1903, the first rural mail carriers in Hunt County went out from Celeste.

In 1987, other postal career employees living in Celeste were Theda Lacy (clerk), Carl Lacy (rural carrier), Myrtle Stapleton (clerk), and Paula Lanier (clerk). Theda, Carl, and Myrtle were retired. On the Celeste rural route were rural route carriers Robert Holloway and Bob Card.

(Advertisements: Celeste Insurance and Ron Douglas Real Estate, Woody's Discount Food and Family Center, Lenna's Beauty Shop, Celeste Feed and Hardware {new owner Gary Giles}). (September 3, 1987, The Wolfe City Mirror, p. 4)

(Picture: Ellon Jackson and Albert Granberry with Celeste's oldest citizen, ninety-three year old Gertie McMichael.) (Picture: Donna Blackstock led the Community Choir in a patriotic songfest.) (Picture: Ruby Warren models her "Most Original" winning entry in a dress over eighty years old.)

(Undated clippings (1987), The Wolfe City Mirror)

*(From researching the census, I found a William L. Stewart {spelled with an "t" in our area in 1880 and 1900. He was from Alabama as was his father. His wife was Mary and she came from Alabama as well. Her parents were born in Tennessee. They had a son Fleetwood who was one in 1880. Their neighbors was Francis B. Norris. William L. Stewart was born in August of 1855. He was a widower in 1900. Sons Fleetwood was born in April of 1879, Oscar was born in June of 1883, and Thomas was born in December of 1886. John Keith was a neighbor. Could this be the Steward (Stewart) who sold land to the railroad?

Also from census searches, a Robert S. Gorsline was a minister in Fannin County, Precinct 8, on June 14, 1900. He was born in February of 1851, was 49, and was born in Ohio. Both his parents were born in New York. His wife was named Mary. She was the same age of her husband, but was born in West Virginia. Her father was born in Virginia and her mother in Connecticut. They had one child, William M., born in Texas 1886, and was fourteen. It is possible that William was born in Celeste! If this is the "right" Gorsline preacher, he was still preaching in 1910, in Jack County, Texas. I suspect the "R" was misread or mistyped as an "H."

Richard Jackson has researched his relative, Christopher C. Perrin who brought learning to our town. On the 1910 census, he was sixty-one and living on Locust Street at household 198 - 199. He had been married for nineteen years and was born in Texas. His father was born in Kentucky and his mother was from Tennessee. He supported himself, his wife Ella C., who had no children, and his cousin May Perrin with his own income. May Perrin, 26, and single was teaching school. In 1930, Ella Perrin was living on Locust Street with her sister Sarah Braly.

Professor Benjamin A. Stafford, was thirty-nine in 1900, living on Fourth Street in Celeste. The middle initial appears to be a "W." He was from Georgia as was his mother. His father's birth state was North Carolina. It shows that he was a teacher. He was born in November of 1861. His wife was Octavia. Their children were Florence, Ruth, Benjamin A., Jr., born in November of 1893, and Ara. Neighbors were George Barnard and Duncan Kennedy.

I could not find anything on a C. F. Gibson (Gipson). Does anyone know anything about this early school teacher? Ditto for J. C. Pyle, although there are several Pyle families in and around Celeste. I had the similar results searching for Gaden. I suspect that his name is misspelled. I tried several variations though.

I believe Edward C. Croft is actually Edward D. Croft who was twenty-eight in 1870. The census reports show his place of birth to be Arkansas and Alabama. His wife was Sophia, an "older" woman. They had Edward P., Ada E., and G. M. On a later census, G. M.'s name appears to be "Guey" who was born in August of 1874 (if that is the same person?!). Edward was born in August of 1842 and in 1900 he had been married thirty-three years. He and Sophia were living on Locust Street in 1900. In 1910 they were living with grandchildren. Edward said both his parents were from Ireland and Sophia said both her parents were from Scotland. This is different from previous records. It appears that the last name is Franklin and they are on Saint John Street in Greenville. A "E. D. Croft" is living with his father-in-law in 1880. The name appears to be "Roberson."

Could the William A. Nelson who was appointed Celeste Postmaster on February 26, 1889 be the Dr. William A. Nelson, one of our few doctors who practiced in Celeste? There was a William A. Nelson in 1880 who was thirty-four. He was born in Mississippi. At that time, he was living with his brother and his brother's wife, Samuel R. and Amanda Nelson. For William's occupation it read, "Making a physician." In 1910, William A. Nelson's wife had died. He was sixty-three and living on Kingston Street. This shows his place of birth as Mississippi; his father's, Alabama; his mother's, Mississippi. He was living off "his own income."

Ulysses Grant Roach was born on April 28, 1864, in Morris Chapel, Tennessee, the son of William Thadius and Eliza Morrow Roach. He was married to Mary Ide Reisor. She was an assistant postmaster. Grant served twice as Celeste Postmaster, both times under Republican US Presidents. I will have to check the list to see who they were. Grant died in 1941 in Terrell, Kaufman Co., Texas, after working at the Terrell State Hospital for many years.

John J. Attebery (Atteberry, as it is spelled both way on the census), was the son of Joseph J. Atteberry who was from Kentucky. Joseph's father was from South Carolina; the mother, Kentucky. Joseph and family were living in White Rock in 1870 at household 168 - 169. Nancy was Joseph's wife and was from Tennessee. Their children were Elizabeth, Nancy, William H., James P., and John J., aged four. John J. Attebery is shown as thirteen, living in Precinct 2, Hunt County, in 1880. Did sister Nancy marry a Ewing? Was there a Thirteenth Street in Celeste in 1900? Following a John J. Atteberry to later census reports, there was one who might fit, living in Dallas, but this one appears to be a little too old. A James P. Atteberry (Attebery) continued to live in Greenville throughout several census reports.

S. T. Blackwell is probably Starling T. Blackwell who was living near Celeste on the Leonard Road in 1910. He was thirty-four at the time. He was born in Georgia as was his mother. His father's birth place was South Carolina. I could not read the place, but it started with a "K...." and ended with a "ry" as to where he was teaching school. His wife was Jane. Their children were Louise, Donald L., Dean S., Warren G., and Kyle T. I found them in 1920 on the Waco, McLennan County census. There he lists his father and mother born in Georgia. He was a merchant.

W. E. Thompson is no doubt W. Edward Thompson, living at 155 - 156 Cockrell Street in Celeste in 1910. He had been married for six years to Elizabeth. He was a proprietor of a meat market. Their three children were Cecil, Fannie, and Nellie. Next door were John A. Stone, Sr., and Daniel Turney--so apparently Mr. Stone lived on Cockrell Street before moving to South Fifth Street. I did not try to research him with a possible "William" as his first name. I did try to locate his son Cecil...with no results.

Robert L. Jones was thirty-four in 1930. He was born in Georgia. His father was born in Tennessee and his mother was born in Georgia. He had been married for ten years to Bertha, who was born in Texas--as were her parents. She was working as a postal clerk. Their children were Frances, Dorrace (?), and Ouida. Robert was listed as Postmaster. We know him from later reports as he worked for senior citizens' causes from Houston-area residence.

I will have to ask Theda, but Nettie Duncan may be Elsie Duncan who was a Celeste graduate in 1932. I can remember Theda telling me about the only female Celeste Postmaster until I came along, but I need to find my notes or talk to Theda again.

Theda's father, Samuel M. Compton was appointed in 1937. He continued to serve until 1961. There probably won't be anyone to hold the office for that many years ever again. In fact, I doubt that it will happen anywhere ever again. He was a Celeste graduate.

Harbert Saxon Byers was born on September 25, 1897, in Hunt County. He died on February 2, 1991. A Celeste graduate, he was the last politically appointed Celeste Postmaster.

Guy Shields who was appointed in 1975 was the first Celeste Postmaster to be named without political connections. He was also a 1940 Celeste graduate.

Sarah Roach Swindell was the first non-political female appointment. Another Celeste High School graduate, she was named on October 1, 1983.

Following Sarah was Bill Johnson who had been Postmaster at Whitewright. He transferred to Ivanhoe before retirement from the USPS there.

When Bill Johnson transferred, Kerry Kearney, from the Bonham Post Office was appointed to the Celeste Post Office in ___. He remains head of the office in 2007.

I did at one time have pictures of Ulysses Grant, Monroe Compton, Harbert Byers, Guy Shields, and Sarah Swindell in post office history files.)

Submitted by Sarah Swindell

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