THE CLASS OF '41
Dawson High School
Navarro Co. Texas
The 1930 Dawson, Texas First Grade Class picture presented the 1941 Dawson High School
Graduating Class. Forty-one students were pictured and there were several absent
that day. Mrs. Mae Agee from Mount Pleasant, Texas was the teacher, but she was,
apparently, too tired to stand for the class picture. Imagine....fifty first
grade pupils for a single teacher.
1930 was the first year that Texas schools permitted six year olds to enter First Grade
and Mrs. Agee's pupils included all seven year olds who would have begun First Grade on
the old system, all six year olds under the new system...plus...several pupils who had not
been promoted to the second grade the year before, most of whom were eight before
September 1, 1930, and some who became nine soon after that date. Derral
Moore and William Lynn Matthews (born Feb. 1923) were placed in the Second Grade soon
after the picture was made.
Two pupils, brothers whose names are not remembered, offer a faint smile for the
picture. The other pupils have grim expressions. The Stock Market had crashed
the previous Fall and the grim looks may have been the result of pupils readying for The
Great Depression, problems of growing up in Dawson, participating in World War II, and
finding a place in the outside world.
Mrs. Mae Agee was a tall, stately lady who dressed nicely, always had her hair arranged
properly, drove a four door 1928 Chevrolet, loved children, and must have been well
organized to keep fifty pupils occupied each day from eight am to two-thirty
pm. Class began each day with a pledge to the Flag of the United States,
the singing of "My Country Tis of Thee," and recitation of "The Lord's
Prayer." Pupils memorized and learned to write the alphabet,
learned to count and write numbers, were introduced to social skills, taught to respect
our elders and government officials. and made to realize that discipline was an important
virtue in life.
The logistics of having fifty children needing a drink of water or having to go to the
school toilets must have been a full time job in itself. Toilets were
low wooden structures located to the rear and on each side of the three story school
building....girls on the east, boys on the west. The carpenters who built the
structures had sawn holes of various sizes into the wood seat...small, medium,
large. There were no doors, but a wooden fence in front gave a degree of
privacy. High school age boys used the area for smoking cigarettes and kept a
close watch for Mr. Head or Mr. Herring through knot-holes in the boards.
Once, probably my first or second day at school, my Mother had dressed me in short pants
buttoned to my shirt. The buttons were, apparently, easy to undo, but I was
experiencing difficulty re-attaching the two garments. Someone must have
informed Mrs. Agee that Tubby Matthews was in the toilet, crying and unable to button his
pants up. She came to the rescue in Motherly fashion. I always
wore overalls after that...no buttons.
J. Manley Head was principal, wore spats, had a mustache, slicked his hair in place, and
sang "Old Man River." He became aware that some pupils
were not being provided with milk at home. V T Matthews had a dairy and
could supply milk to school children, but funds were not available. Mr. Head
organized a "Milk at School" Fund Raiser...an operetta with real costumes that
utilized local talent. Mr. Head, of course, sang the male lead role, and Mrs.
Robert Hill sang the lead female role. I was dressed in a Robin Red Breast
costume with wings, etc. and stood by Mrs. Hill as she sang "The Finale"...
"Robin Red Breast, we two alone, will build a love nest all of our own. And then our
dreams will all come true, for Robin Red Breast...I...Love...You."
There must have been some hugging and kissing as the production came to an end and that
gave me the idea to carry the idea to the First Grade. Mary Louise Lowrimore was the
cutest little girl in the class and sat across the aisle from me. I stood up,
crossed the aisle, and gave Mary Louise her first kiss...outside of family...and returned
to my seat. She must have liked it for she didn't slap me. Or...she may have
been surprised and shocked! Later, after Mrs. Agee had reported the incident
to my Mother, I was informed that little boys did not kiss their cousins. Mary
Louise was off limits from then on.
Audrey Lancaster, my giggling cousin and my best buddy, and I were staying after school
one day to rehearse for something. Mrs. Agee kept "Study Hall" after the
First Grade was dismissed at two-thirty and had seated Audrey and me near the front of the
huge room on the third floor. We occupied the time by drawing pictures of each
other on our Indian Chief tablets. Back and forth the pictures went across the
aisle. I was in awe of the principal and of Mr. Herring, the
superintendent. I had just completed drawing a really scary picture of Audrey
and noticed someone peering over my shoulder. It was Mr. Herring. I was
so frightened that I completely lost control of my bladder. Mr. Herring complimented
me on the drawing, smiled, and went on his way as I sat there in soaked overalls.
Years later, 1943, I stood with another member of that First Grade, Claude L Holt, when he
married Audrey in Fort Worth. Claude L. left the next day to return to his
Army duty station.
Travis Tekell and I would swing together on the playground in a shortened swing that we
called our "Little Hot Chocolate Car." Travis died in
1939 from some illness. It was on that set that Felix "Teedum"
Lawrence was headed head first...a daring thing...down the metal slide. A
piece of metal had come loose and caught Teedum in the chin and caused an ugly, bloody
gash. Teedum, later, apparently was a victim of polio that left
one leg shortened. He never married and died in Fort Worth.
Several in the picture, Jimmy Graham, Lorraine
McGregor, Douglas Berry, Dewey Baker, and I represented Dawson Grammar School at the 1937
County Meet held at the State Orphans Home in Corsicana and won 2nd Place in
Math. Hoyt Harris was math teacher and Principal.
My family moved from Dawson in 1939, but I stayed in touch with many of those who were in
that First Grade. Audrey Lancaster and Lorraine McGregor went to
nursing school in Fort Worth. Derrel and Joyce Lynn Moore moved to Brownwood,
Texas. Duward Burns and J W Reedy moved away.
Most of the boys were in service in World War II. Joe Jr. Freeland was killed in
Europe when his plane was shot down. Jimmy Graham became an Army First Sergeant in
Europe. Others served at Anzio, the Battle of the Bulge, Normandy, Iwo Jima, aboard ships
at sea and on planes in the air.
W T Berry, Billy Ruth Lawrence, and I were with the Marines during the invasion of The
Marshall Islands and Saipan in The Marianas. W T was wounded on The Marshalls,
I was wounded on Saipan, Billy Ruth was wounded at Iwo Jima. Billy Ruth and I
met in Maui, Hawaii after the Marshall invasion and over several 2 oz bottles of medicinal
brandy I confessed that I had been frightened and inquired if he had the same
experience. He replied, "Hell yea...never been so scared in all of my
life." I was comforted.
Bubba Pitts and Tedum Lawrence became accountants. Douglas Ray Berry was with
a large corporation in Pennsylvania and died there. Jimmy Graham returned from
service, never married, worked in Dallas, and died early in Dawson. Hugh Louis
Womack retired from the Air Force and lives in Waco. Weldon "Puddin"
Wells came home, became a pharmacist, owned drug stores in San Angelo. Claude
L Holt had a career with a chemical company near Houston. J Olin Lawler became
a Baptist preacher. David Allard had a career with the railroad.
William Lynn Matthews retired from the Army and died in an automobile
accident. J R Hoge was in the Navy, (we spent Christmas Day 1942
together in San Diego), came home after the war, became a policeman in Waco, died
early. Billy Ruth Lawrence had a teaching career with the Irving, Texas schools.
Sixty-nine years have passed since that First Grade Class began in Dawson.
Their lives were influenced by teachers.....Eula Lockwood, Miss Mixon, Bertha Guggolz from
Brownwood, Gaston T Gooch, Hoyt Harris, H C Filgo, Coach Granthan, Coach Nichols, Lola
Bills Head, and others. They would not have been ashamed of the
accomplishment of their students whose combined lives would make quite a story.
in the Class Picture 1930
Zola Grubbs H C Pitts Magdalene Milligan
J Olin Lawler Charles Lynch Bufford Davis
Felix Lawrence R B Hardy Derral Moore
Jimmy Graham Lorraine McGregor Douglas Ray Berry
Duward Burns Audrey Lancaster Joe Bruce Martin
Mary Louise Lowrimore J W Reedy Carl W Matthews Jr.
Joe Freeland Jr. Joyce Lynn Moore Douglas Bankston
Dorothy Bankston Hugh Louis Womack Claude L Holt
Billy Ruth Lawrence Travis Tekell David Allard
Ike Fralik Wm Lynn Matthews J R Hoge
Joe Garner Jr. W T Berry GeorgiaKendrick
Dewey Baker Seven Unknowns
OTHERS NOT IN THE PICTURE
Weldon Earl Wells Earl Douglas Graves Dorothy Matthews
Dawson Class of 1941
THE COAL OIL LAMP
The marvel of Electricity had arrived at Dawson, Texas and workmen were struggling with
the demands to install the bright copper wire encased with a "gooey" black
covering said to be insulating material. The wires inside buildings were
supported by a series of white porcelain keepers which were securely nailed to wooden
boards that lay beneath the wall paper which covered the ceilings of most homes and
businesses. A connection inside the round porcelain fixture permitted
two smaller copper wires covered with golden colored cord to hang a foot or two down into
the room. It was at the end of the golden colored cord that a bulb was screwed into
another white porcelain fixture that included a switch to turn the bulb off and on.
F. H. Meier had arrived in Dawson in the Spring of 1915 and had begun installing an
electric generator in a yellow painted building just south of the Tabernacle.
Meier may have come to Dawson from Mexia where he had married one of the Robinson
daughters who lived in that community. Meier hired local men and older boys to
dig deep holes in the ground near the edges of the streets. Long handled
shovels that resembled large spoons reached deep into Dawson soil to create holes into
which long wooden posts were placed. The posts came from pine trees in East
Texas. After the posts had been stripped of bark by hand held sharp drawknives they
were treated with creosote preservative.
The posts arrived at the Dawson Railroad Depot on freight cars. J M Mims
served as Agent. It was there the posts were off loaded from the railroad
freight cars, probably by McElroy Transfer Co., which was located across the wagon yard
just south of the Depot. Single posts were distributed where holes had been dug and
workmen attached and braced wood cross arms to the posts with heavy bolts positioned in
drilled holes. The poles with cross arms attached were placed on a special
wagon and secured to a large swivel that extended over the rear. The wagon
drove over the dug hole and stopped when the rear of the wagon was over the
hole. Ropes, attached to the top of the posts, were pulled by several men as
several more began to lift the post. When the post was vertical and over the dug
hold, the post was gradually released and permitted to slide into the hole.
After the post was plumbed, the hole was carefully filled part way and tamped with heavy
iron rams. The filling and tamping were repeated until the hole was completely
filled and the post secure.
"Post-climbers" were the "elite" workmen who had come to Dawson from
Dallas. They wore calf high leather lace up boots and twill riding
britches. Steel "Climbers" with sharp spikes attached below the
ankles were strapped around each boot. Heavy leather safety belts hung
from each waists and supported pliers, wrenches, hammers, and bags for bolts, etc.
Strong brass rings protruded from the heavy leather belt and when climbers were in place
at the top of the post, heavy web straps were placed around the post, and snapped to the
brass rings to hold the climber in place. "Post-climbers" were the
envy of every young boy in Dawson and it was sheer joy to watch as the steel spikes dug
into the pine posts to permit the "Post-climber" to lift himself to the heights
of the wooden cross arms.
It was the "Pole-climbers" who lifted heavy copper wire to the cross arms and
held it in place as men on the ground pulled it taunt to permit it to be attached to large
green glass insulators. Individual lines ran from the poles into residential
and business structures.
Local physician were among the first to have the "electric lights" installed in
their offices and workmen were busy installing them in the offices of Dr. H L Matthews on
a jot July day. Mamie Slater, who had married James Nesmith, lived on a
farm near Spring Hill. She had come to town and to the office of Dr. Matthews seeking
relief from a medical problem. She had watched as the workmen worked
installing the lines in the outer office as she waited her turn to see the doctor.
She was leaving when she questioned, "Dr. Matthews, now that you have electricity
what are you going to do with that old coal oil lamp?" She
was referring to the kerosene lamp that hung above a massive roll top desk. The lamp,
suspended by a brass chain attached to a spring-loaded mechanism, could be pulled down for
igniting or to provide a closer light, and reposition as high or as low as desired.
The base was a one-gallon reservoir that fed two wick holders, each surrounded by a clear
glass bowl. An ornate hand blown white milk glass chimney was fitted into each of
the clear glass bowls. The double lamp was attached to the brass chain by a heavy
brass harp. The lamp had been beautiful in its day, but the paint was
beginning to peal and the brass has long since lost its shine and polish. Chances
are that the lamp had been purchased when Dr. Matthews began his practice in 1887 after
graduation from Vanderbilt Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee.
Dr. Matthews confessed that he had not thought about what to do with the lamp and inquired
if Mrs. Nesmith would like to have it. Mrs. Nesmith lived thirty years away
from REA and the lamp would serve a useful purpose in her rural home. Yes, she would
very much like to have the lamp.
And with that, according to Mrs. Nesmith, Dr. Matthews stood on his desk, removed the lamp
and the spring mechanism from the iron hook mounted to the ceiling, and presented the lamp
to Mrs. Nesmith.
Forty-two years later, I was invited to participate in a revival meeting at Dawson Baptist
Church and had finished lunch with the host family and several others in the house
formerly occupied by one of the McCulloch boys. Those who had been at lunch
were saying their good-byes when I observed a lady sitting on the porch of the house where
Jim and Lena Bell Cathey Lawrence had raised their family. The lady appeared
lonely and I walked over to say a word to her.
She had experienced a stroke and was partially paralyzed, but she brightened as we began
to talk. I was prepared to leave when she asked, "What did you say your
name was?" I responded and she questioned, "Are you related to Dr.
Matthews?" When I mentioned that he was my Grandfather, she began to
extol his virtues...to related how he had delivered all her babies, treated her family for
all their illnesses ... and that his death was like a death in her immediate family.
Then....she related the details concerning the lamp. The lady was Mrs.
Jim Nesmith. She told how she had taken the lamp to her rural home and raised
her family by its light until REA arrived in Western Navarro Co. Afterward, she
said, she had packed the lamp away in a cardboard box.
Then she said, "I want you to have that lamp when I die." I thanked
her and we parted.
Two years later, I received a call from a relative who was responsible for the
estate. The caller related that one of the last words Mr. Nesmith spoke was,
"Be sure to get that lamp to that young man."
The box was covered with an accumulation of several years dust and the heavy twine that
had bound the box years earlier was still secure. The experience of opening
the box was like Christmas Morning when I was a child. Each piece of the lamp
was carefully unpacked. One of the hand blown milk glass chimneys was missing, but,
otherwise, the lamp was in perfect shape. I obtained a reproduction milk
glass chimney, but it would not fit the hand blown clear glass bowl.
After more than a year of searching antique shops a hand blown original was found.
My family and I lived in Connecticut when the lamp was finally cleaned, new wicks
installed, and the reservoir filled with "coal oil." It was
with great pride that we hung the lamp to the left of our fireplace. It
was pulled down and lighted on special occasions and, of course, its story was
always related to guests.
We were away in December 1974 when four local boys broke into our home, stole several
items, and used gasoline to begin a fire in the basement. I flew back to
Connecticut the next morning to inspect the still smoldering shell of our
home. The intense head of the fire had melted the solder that held the lamp
together and when I walked into the living room the lamp was in pieces on the heavy
carpet. I was near tears when I began to clear away the rubble, but the tears
were of joy as I found piece after piece...and not one piece of glass had been broken.
The pieces were carefully packed, again...just as Mrs. Nesmith had packed them in the late
1930s. Last year (1996) I presented the box to our son, Michael Alan Matthews,
who lives in Houston, Texas. He carried the lamp "Back to Texas"
with a promise to have it professionally restored. Someday, the lamp will hang
in his home. He will tell its story.
BIRTHIN'" of ROBERT HARVE MATTHEWS - 1814
Mary Ann Stewart Matthews and her small children were alone in the tiny cabin Robert
Matthews had built in the canebrakes of Southern Middle Tennessee. November 18l4 had
come with a chill in the air, but the cabin was made warm by the crackling fire that
burned in the large stone fireplace.
Mary Ann had been expecting the arrival of her sixth child for several days and had spent
the time making preparation for what was about to happen. The large oak barrel
had been filled with fresh water from the spring and a generous supply of wood had been
stacked near the fireplace. A large pot of beans and ham hock simmered in the heavy
iron pot that hung over the fire and she had baked several large skillets of corn bread
the night before. Mary Ann had milked the cow soon after the sun rose and had
strained the rich milk through a white cotton cloth into the large crock pot her mother
had given her when she and Robert left North Carolina. The milk and two large molds of
butter sat in the "cooler box" that Robert had ingeniously created on the north
wall of the cabin.
The cabin and its contents were a constant reminder to Mary Ann that she was fortunate to
have her Robert. They had been married almost fourteen years and Mary Ann often thanked
the "Good Lord" for every minute of the relationship. Robert had learned
woodwork from an old cabinet maker in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina and had made Mary
Ann a beautiful bed as a wedding present. And..just before their "Patty"
was born, he made a combination cradle and rocking chair that was the marvel of the
Robert had said that Mary Ann could work on her
embroidery and rock the new baby at the same time, her two favorite pastimes.
Robert had constructed the cabin with the same "keeness of design" that had been
employed on the bed and the cradle. The cabin was small but other wives in the
settlement were constantly commenting about the little details that were present. No
other cabin had a "Cooler Box" where milk and butter could be stored in winter
months. Most cabins were drafty, but Robert had taken care to position each log
tightly against the other. He had shown Mary Ann and Patty how to mix grass and
moistened clay..."chinkin'" that was used to "chink" openings where
the logs did not meet.
Robert had taken great pains to make the heavy door weather tight and the wood hinges
permitted it to be opened with ease. It was a "Dutch" door that some of the
German families in North Carolina had made for their cabins. The top could be opened
for light and ventilation. The bottom would remain closed to keep children
"in" and varmits "out."
Mary Ann's fireplace was the envy of every wife in the settlement. Robert had
carefully selected every stone and joined the stones with clay mortar. There was an
oven for baking and a large iron swing supported pots that were hung over the fire.
Robert made the mantel from the wood of a maple tree that he had felled nearby and
carefully sawed into heavy boards. The mantel looked like fine furniture when Robert
was finished with it. He had hung his musket there and there he hung the powder horn
that her father, Sampson
Stewart, had carried in the American Revolution and had given to Robert. Both were
now absent from their places of honor on the mantel.
The musket and powder horn were with Robert and Robert was somewhere to the South serving
his country in the War of 1812. Someone had said that he was with Andrew Jackson
down in New Orleans protecting the mouth of the Mississippi from the British.
Robert had been home for several weeks in the summer to help gather the crops, but he had
returned to his militia unit the last of August. He was reluctant to leave, knowing
that the birth of another child was expected in the fall, but Robert Matthews had given
his word to his country and, to Robert Matthews,...it was important..to keep one's
word. Keeping one's word was one of many Christian duties that had been instilled
into the mind of Robert Matthews by his parents, James and Mary Doak Matthews.
Robert did, however, have some comfort in the fact that Mary Ann's sister, Martha
Patricia..."Aunt Patty"...would come when the "time was near."
"Aunt Patsy" had married Edward Gullet and they had made the move from North
Carolina with Robert and Mary Ann. Patsy and Edward Gullett had cleared some land
and built a cabin several miles north of where Robert and Mary Ann had settled.
Mary Ann had planned well for the "birthin'" of the new baby. The cabin
was clean. Water, firewood, and food were in good supply. And..Patsy would
arrive on the fifteenth..just one day away.
Sampson placed another log on the fire and while Patsy worked with Jane and Sampson on
their "learnin'" Mary Ann took opportunity to relax with her
embroidery...sitting in the rocker-chair. Minerva Catherine and William Newton were
playing on the furry rug made from the skin of a bear Robert had killed the year
before. Mary Ann was almost finished with a "sampler" that she planned to
give her sister Patsy. Embroidery had been Mary Ann's specialty since early childhood and
she had received high praise from her elders. The "sampler" she was
creating for Patsy spelled out "The Lord is My Shepherd." She knew that
Patsy would appreciate it.
Mary Ann was thinking of Robert..wondering where he was, when he would come home.
She was proud of Robert and of the children she had borne him. She smiled as Minerva
Catherine played on the rug. She was almost two. Martha Patricia..her Patsy
who was named for Mary Ann's sister...was ten and what a mature young lady for her
age. Mary Ann had taught Patsy to read and how to do numbers. Now Patsy was
teaching Jane and Sampson. Sampson was eight and such a handsome boy. He had assumed
responsibility for many of the outside chores. Jane was now nine and wanted to learn
to cook just like Mary Ann. William Newton was four. He was still her chubby
"baby boy", but he was growing fast.
Mary Ann was rocking comfortably as she watched her children, her fingers moving the
threaded needle quickly and artistically through the cloth she had woven the previous
summer. Suddenly, Mary Ann experience a pain that had become familiar...a contraction that
was a signal that the birth of a child was approaching. Patsy would not arrive until
the following day and it was too late to send her Patsy to a neighbor for help. Mary
Ann would have to depend upon Mary Ann.
Mary Ann Stewart Matthews remained calm as she moved about the cabin without alarming the
children, gathering items she knew would be need for "Birthin'." Labor
pains were occurring in much faster succession than she had remembered in previous
births. She gave instruction to her Patsy and was comforted in the knowledge that
her children would be safe in the cabin. She could depend on Patsy.
The labor pains were coming closer as she made fast the heavy wooden door of the
cabin. The day was cold, but the sun was shining brightly and the wind was
calm. Mary Ann gathered her long skirts as she made her way passed the shed where
the milk cow and her new calf were penned...passed the haystacks Robert had created when
he was home for the few days in the summer. She remembered how hard Robert had
worked while he was home and how lucky she was to have Robert for her husband.
Soon she was on the edge of the dense canebrake...tall hollow canes with sharp
leaves..some as high as a man. Canebrakes had covered the area when they arrived,
but Robert had cleared almost fifty acres to plant crops, but there were many acres of
The pains were even closer as she found a clearing in the cane that was covered with tall
prairie grass. The first frost had killed the tall grass. It had been
washed clean by the fall rains and bleached by the sun...a perfect straw colored
Mary Ann was experienced at "birthin'" babies, but this was the first time she
had faced the experienced alone. She remembered how frightened she had been when Patsy was
born despite the presence of her Mother, Catherine Stewart, and the old Slave Woman who
had been in her family for as long as Mary Ann could remember. The Old Slave
Woman had told Mary Ann that her "birthin'" would be "gist fine"...and
it was. Subsequent "birthin'" experiences had become almost routine and
when her Catherine was born two years before Mary Ann barely interrupted her daily
The pains were arriving in quick succession, but Mary Ann remained calm. She had
made preparation. She knew what to expect. More..she knew what to do.
She recalled the processes of past births, made mental notes, and each contraction made
her happy as she gave thought to having another precious baby when her Robert was able to
Mary Ann was settled comfortably on the soft grasses when the final pain was
experienced. The baby was now coming fast. Suddenly, Mary Ann was holding the
baby in her hands. It was a boy! Mary Ann held him by his feet and gave him a
loving "whack" on the backside..just like the Old Slave Woman had done to Patsy.
There followed a cry that shattered the silence of the canebrake and Mary Ann laughed
aloud..shocked that such a tiny body would produce such sound. Next, there was the tying
of the umbilical cord. Then Mary Ann reached into her apron pocket for the embroidery
scissors she had remembered to bring to sever the cord.
Mary Ann smiled as she dried the tiny body with clean, soft, cotton cloths she had brought
from the cabin. She noted the perfect little body and the full head of dark
hair. Mary Ann remarked to herself, "This is a beautiful baby."
But..Mary Ann thought all babies were pretty.
The sun was shining brightly on Mary Ann's primitive "birthin'" bed and the
canebrake broke the little breeze that blew in with the cold. Mary Ann was exhausted
and she took advantage of the opportunity to rest awhile...to enjoy God's newest blessing
in her life. She thought of Robert and the day they were married at the Almance
Presbyterian Church in North Carolina. She thought of her parents, Sampson and Mary
Wiley Stewart...four hundred miles away. How glad they would be to know they had another
His name? That was important. She would call him Robert Harvey Matthews after
It was then that Mary Ann realized what day it was. It was November 3, 1814.
It was the birthday of Robert Harvey Matthews. It was..as well..the Fourteenth Anniversary
of the wedding of Robert Matthews and Mary Ann Stewart. Mary Ann had presented a
fitting anniversary present to her Robert who was far away serving his country.
(Note: The powder horn mentioned above was given to Robert Harve Matthews prior to his
leaving for Texas in 1835 and was in his possession when he died at his large home in
Dawson in 1894. It was, probably, in the large home when Bettie Prddy Matthews
lived, but disappeared after her death. No picture of Robert Harve has been
located at this date.)
BRO. BUTRELL'S HALLOWEEN
Dawson provided little entertainment for young people in the Depression Days of the 1930s,
but teenagers had a way of creating their own entertainment, especially on holidays.
I( was nine years old when I was introduced to Halloween as practiced in Dawson, Texas by
I had been to a children's Halloween Party at the two story house where Evelyn Ann Flint
lived. Bubba Pitts had lived there when I was in Second Grade, but that is
another story in itself. We had all had a great time with the usual Halloween
children's games of "Pin the Tail on the Donkey," "Ghost Stories,"
"Go Walking," etc. When refreshment of Poly Pop and cake were
served the party began to break up.
My Dad was working nights at the Cotton Oil Mill and I had walked to the
party. Dawson society was such that any child was everybody's child and
children were often corrected and directed by adults they scarcely knew, but who knew them
and their parents. It was common for children to walk to town, even in the early
evening. Besides, few people still had automobiles to drive.
When the party broke up I headed for Main Street to check out what was
happening. If action was taking place anywhere in Dawson it would be on Main
Street. Of course, the businesses had long since closed, but
"Central," the telephone operator, viewed Main Street from her perch on the
second floor above the bank and kept tabs on what happened below. She would
call City Marshal Claude Putman the moment any disturbance occurred.
Sure enough, fifteen or twenty older boys had gathered on the curb in front of Benny
Matthews's Drug Store, laughing, smoking cigarettes, and plotting just what to for
Halloween. I stood for a time on the edge of the crowd, listening to the
leaders outlining where to go and what to do. It seemed that it had been a
Halloween custom in Dawson to overturn outhouses. Most residential
neighborhoods had "back alleys" and outhouses were always found on the edge of
the alley to facilitate cleaning from time to time and to keep the aroma as far from the
house as possible.
One of the favorite sites was at Morter's Boarding House where several school teachers
always has rooms and they had two out houses, one for men, one for women. Mr.
Morter had grown tired of having to repair the outhouses after each Halloween and had
learned to brace his units with heavy posts. He had, also, given notice that
he had loaded his shotgun with rock salt just in case someone attempted to upset his
The group decided that the Morter outhouses would be last on their list and with that they
headed north through the alley between Lawlers Grocery and Walkup's Tin Shop. Small
outhouses were easy to push over, but larger ones required the strength of everyone
present in the "push over" crowd.
That year the group was thwarted by a new development in outhouse construction. The
WPA, The Works Progress Administration..... sometimes known at "We Piddle
Around"...had a program of constructing fancy outhouses with concrete pits and with
new wooden outhouses bolted to the concrete. They would not
budge. Leonard Frazier operated the Ice House. His younger brother
was in the crowd. Someone suggested that Harvey get the Ice Truck and a tow chain to
provide some assistance, but that idea never materialized.
The north part of Dawson had been competed by ten thirty and it was on to Frog Level for
more excitement. I never got close enough to do any
pushing, but I was enjoying the "fun."
Through the evening I had discovered that there was a real technique in overturning an
outhouse. First, everyone had to be very quiet. Homeowners
were expecting their outhouses to be overturned and kept one ear tuned to any unusual
noise at the back of the house. Second, all available hands were placed on the
back side of the outhouse and when the leader said "GO!" the crew would begin to
rock the unit until sufficient momentum was achieved to overturn it. It
was great fun to watch as an outhouse "Teeter Tottered" until it finally
We had progressed to the Methodist Parsonage and everyone was a quiet as a field
mouse. One by one the "Pushers" moved into position.
"GO!" And the Two Holy Outhouse at the Methodist Church
Parsonage had begun its initial rock when the outhouse door opened and blocked the
procedure. Inside was Bro. Butrell with his pants down and yelling at the top
of his ministerial voice...."Boys, Boys....Please, Please!"
I was almost run down by the stampede. The crowd was at the cotton platform next to
the railroad in sixty seconds flat. Some boys were rolling on the platform
with uncontrollable laughter while others mimicked Bro. Buttrell. One boy
pulled his pants down and his voice was a dead ringer for Bro. Buttrell.
It was eleven o'clock when I came walking across our yard. I didn't see Mother
until I was on the first step. She was sitting in the
swing....waiting. She didn't say a word....then. But I knew
from her expression that a condition existed sometimes referred to as "Hair in the
And...I want you to know that I walked softly and sat
gently...for several days.
JENNIE FOLLIS l869-1888
A Love Story
Two gravestones near the gate of The Spring Hill Cemetery two miles northeast of Dawson,
Texas have remained undisturbed for more than a century. The information chiseled on
the stone markers is simple and states:
JENNIE M. Infant Son of
Wife of Dr. H L Matthews
H L & J M Matthews
b. 16 Aug 1869
d. 28 Aug 1888
The stone markers reveal that Jennie M. Matthews was born one hundred twenty five years
ago and died at Spring Hill, Navarro Co., Texas nineteen years later. She had
married Dr. Harvie Lee Matthews On November 20, 1887 at Spring Hill, Texas after his
graduation from Vanderbilt Medical College in 1887. The marriage ceremony was
solemnized by Rev. J H Smith.
Mary Jane Marshall Dempsey, a widow, was present at the wedding with her daughter, Mattie
Belle. Mattie Belle was born in Tennessee August 1, 1973 and would have been in her
fourteenth year in 1887. Mattie Belle married Dr. H L Matthews November 8, 1889.
She bore five children and died August 27, 1901. She spoke of the
wedding of Dr. H L Matthews and Jennie Follis to her daughter, Willie Margie Matthews, and
commented that she had been present at the wedding and that Jennie had been a beautiful
Jennie Follis Matthews gave birth to a little boy on August 15, 1888. That
little boy lived but one week. Jennie died six days later.
People who knew Jennie M Matthews personally have long since passed away and, for many
years, questions concerning Jennie were responded with very few answers beyond what was
provided from the markers. Someone said she was from Tennessee and had married Dr.
Matthews near the time he graduated from Vanderbilt Medical School in Nashville.
Someone else thought her maiden name had been Follis. No...no one seemed to know
who her parents were, where she had lived in Tennessee, or if she had brothers and
A 1993 search of U. S. Census records for the year 1870 found the Stephen Follis family
listed in Giles County, Tennessee, a county immediately south of Maury County where the
Matthews family had lived before coming to Texas. The Census had recorded the
following data on September 5, 1870:
FOLLIS, Stephen 45 Born:
41 Born: Tennessee
Martha l9 Tennessee
m. John Hogan
Drowned Sabine River, Texas 1873
Daniel l7 Tennessee
David James 17 Tennessee
m. Inex Abernathy
Steven l3 Tennessee
m. Ida Jane Warren
1880 Jimmy Dee Follis
1882 Rose Mae Follis
1884 John Walter Follis
1887 Willie Stephen Follis
1888 Robert Lee Follis
1892 Grady Warren Follis
1895 Gwen Cayce Follis
Clerine Copland Follis
1898 Mary Elizabeth Follis
1900 Raymond Follis
1901 Marvin Allen Follis
1904 Ida Lacy Follis
Susan ll Tennessee
Sallie 4 Tennessee
Virginia 7 Months Tennessee
m. Dr. H L Matthews
Here was "Our Jennie," and her given name was Virginia. She probably
was named Virginia Mae Follis and called "Jennie." A recently discovered
"Book of Remembrance" given to Dr. H L Matthews by his Mother in 1883, contains
two items that connect "Our Jennie" to the Stephen Follis Family.
One, signed by "J M Follis" and without a date or place, was written in numeric
code and stated,
"Leaves may wither and flowers may die.
Friends may forsake thee, but never shall I."
The second, bears the signature of Sallie Follis. The date is July 7, 1886.
The Place....Spring Hill. Texas
Another "Numeric" code was used in the Book of Remembrance by "M H C,"
"Soap is slick, but grease is slicker,
My love for you shall never flicker."
No date or place was included. "M H C" could have been named Coffey or Caskey,
both names found in Giles County, Tennessee and, later, in Spring
The Book of Remembrance, Census records, and information from Latter Day Saints indicate
that the Follis, Coffey, Caskey,and, perhaps, the Evans families were close friends, if
not related by marriage. Several Follis names were found in the Silver City,
Texas Cemetery, located a few miles East of Spring Hill...across Richland Creek.
Virginia "Jennie" Follis may met Harvey Lee Matthews while he was a student at
Vanderbilt Medical College in Nashville and during a visit to his many relatives who
continued to reside in Maury County. Harvey Lee graduated from Medical
School in 1887, a fact confirmed by the Department of Archives, Vanderbilt University,
Nashville, Tennessee. The two young people fell in love.
Thomas Follis was born in Ireland 1658
George Follis b. 1690 Philadelphia PA
m. Mary Lemone
Richard Thomas Follis b. c1715
m. Elizabeth Jane Cheldon
Abraham Follis 1745
William Follis 1770
William Porter Follis 1790
m. Nancy Mayes
Sally Follis Moody
William Porter Follis b. 1770 Surrey Co. North Carolina, was thirty eight when he
migrated toTennessee in 1808 and settled at Lynnville, Robertson Fork, Giles Co. .
His Giles Co. neighbors included Richard and Martin Flynt and a family
whose name was Moody. His will was probated in Crockett Co. Tenn.
Sally Follis b. 1780 had married 1804 to Alexander Moody in Stokes Co. NC. Her
family was, probably, the Moody family mentioned above. One Alexander Moody
had lived in Guilford Co North Carolina, had a son, Nathaniel, and a son William b. c1785.
Alexander settled, later, in Bedford Co. Tenn., one county north of
William Porter Follis b. 1790 married Nancy Mayes in Giles Co. Their children
of record were Goodwin Mayes Follis, James H Follis, William R Follis, and Miles H Follis
The Mayes Family lived in Ireland, migrated to Pennsylvania, to North Carolina, to
Alabama, to Tennessee...and some to Texas. Stephen Mayes b. 1804 NC married
Vina b. 1810 NC. They lived DeKalb Co AL in 1850. Stephen Mayes
had a brother whose name was Fletcher Mayes. Goodwin Mayes Follis and his brother,
James H Follis settled in Texas prior to the Civil War. Some members of
the Mayes Family lived at Waco, McLennon Co., Texas.
Son Goodwin Mayes Follis Migrated to Texas prior to Civil War
Son James H Follis b.1826 Migrated to Texas prior to Civil War
1859 Asbury W Follis b. Tenn m. Ada Richards
1878 William Harvey Follis b. Crockett Co Tenn
d. 1960, Weatherford, Texas
1903 Connie Alice Follis Lamar Co TX
died 1985 Weatherford Parker Co TX
Son William R Follis m.1849 Elizabeth Mayes Giles Co. Tenn
Son Miles H Follis. Last child born
FOLLIS FAMILY IN TEXAS
Some Relationships are Unknown
Follis Family members married Navarro Co. Texas
1873 J E Follis
1874 J J Follis
for J J Cleghorn
1876 Minnie Follis
1885 William D Follis
J J Cleghorn b. 1830 and his brother,
A Cleghorn b.1834 lived Spring Hill
to 1870. Elizabeth Cleghorn b.
buried Spring Hill Cemetery
The Cleghorns were
from Tennessee, had lived in Arkansas. J J Cleghorn served
as Grand Master of the Spring Hill Masonic Lodge 1869-1871
1874 J J (m) m. N J Fuller
probable son of J E and Angeline
1884 Fannie Follis Free Black Female
1885 William D Follis Julia Hadley
1887 J J Follis Mrs. E E McKee
1892 J J Follis Annie Brunson
1894 Mrs. Jennie Follis D J Brunson
1896 J J Follis Maggie Brunson
Follis Family buried at Younger Cemetery - Navarro Co Texas
Hiway 31 between Dawson and Corsicana, Texas
1879-1940 John Follis
probable son of J E & Angeline Cleghorn
1880-1963 Maggie Follis (Brunson??)
wife of John Follis (J J ??)
1899-1948 J L Follis
son of John and Maggie Follis
b/d 1903 Ola Follis
infant of John and Maggie Follis
Oscar Mayes Follis b. 1886 Gonzales, Texas
Lived at Linden, Texas
m. 1907 Lona Lee Brooks Hunt Co Texas
1908 Weldon Coe Follis
1911 Laura Adell Follis
1915 James Darwin Follis
Abraham and Elizabeth Follis lived in Alabama, migrated to Giles Co c1830...or...they had
lived in Giles Co. , moved to Alabama, possibly Limestone Co. and returned to Giles
Co. Abraham was listed on Giles Co. Tenn tax roll 1812.
1827 Stephen Clayton Follis b. Alabama
m. Mary Elizabeth Judith Williamson
dau Samuel & Judith Woodfin Williamson
Stephen Clayton Follis was a blacksmith
1828 Sally Follis b. Alabama
1830 Martha Follis b. Alabama m. Thomas C Shoemaker Limestone Co Alabama
1833 Thomas Follis b. Giles Co
1836 Marion Follis
1837 Elizabeth Follis
1840 Joseph Follis
THE STEPHEN CLAYTON FOLLIS FAMILY
The 1870 Giles Co. Tenn Census recorded
1827 Steven Clayton Follis b. Alabama
1829 Judith Follis b. Tennessee
(Mary Elizabeth Judith Williamson)
(1848 Emiline V Follis..listed in 1860...with Judith's parents..may have died)
1851 Martha Follis b. Tennessee
m John Hogan c1878 Maury Co Tenn
John & Martha Follis Hogan drowned in Sabine River, TX 1887
1853 Daniel Follis - died before 1860
1853 David James Follis
(died 1935 Giles Co Tenn)
1855 Stephen Follis
(m. Ida Warren)
1859 Susan Follis
1859 was when Judith finally left Stephen. She had left him once before in 1854.The
lived apart for approximately
six years, then remarried c.1867.
1868 Sally Follis
1869 Virginia M Jennie Follis
(m. Dr. H L Matthews)
Stephen Clayton Follis married Judith Williamson c1850 and lived together until 1859 when
Judith left Stephen and took her children to live with her parents. A Giles
Co. Tenn. Divorce Bill Final Decree dated 1870 reveals that Judith A E Follis had sued
Stephen C Follis for divorce, had married him in 1847, and lived together until 1859, and
that she had left him in 1864. Judith stated in the divorce proceedings that
Stephen was a drunkard and abusive. They had seven children at the time of the
1870 divorce. David and Stephen, sons, were the only children named.
The 1860 Giles Co Census shows Judith and her children living with her parents.
Children living in the household included Emiline V b.1848, Mary A b.1850 Martha A
b.1851, David J b.1853, Stephen C b. 1855, and Susan b. 1869.
Daniel Follis b. 1853 and a twin to David Follis has,apparently, died.
Stephen C Follis, listed as a blacksmith, was living at the time of the 1960 Giles
Co Census with Gustavas Angus and his wife, Susannah Mays, both born 1807.
Frances Mays, b 1775 in Virginia, lives with them and is blind.
She was, probably, the mother of Susannah and of Nancy Mayes who had married
William Porter Follis in Giles Co.
Stephen C Follis and Judith remained apart for several years..perhaps, six...and remarried
near 1867. Sallie Follis was born in 1868, Jennie Follis a year later.
Stephen Follis had, apparently, turned his life around, possibly as a
result of a religious conversion. Stephen Jr. Follis and David Follis were
staunch members of churches in Giles Co in their adult years. They may have
been influenced in some manner by their father after his remarriage to Judith.
Stephen Clayton Follis and his family were found in Giles Co. Tenn in the 1860, 1870,
and 1880 census and, apparently, migrated to Texas at some point after 1880.
The fact that in July 1876 Sally and Jennie Follis wrote in a Book of Remembrance
owned by Harvie Lee Matthews of Spring Hill places the two girls in Texas at that time.
Jennie was there in November the following year for her wedding to Dr. H L
Matthews. It is unlikely that the girls would have returned to Giles Co Tenn
after a summer visit to Texas and return the following year and it may be assumed that
they were residing in the area at that time.
Stephen C Follis would have had no difficulty making a livelihood anywhere in Texas.
Blacksmiths were in demand in almost every community. Some members of
the Follis Family lived in East Texas and Stephen Follis may have stopped there.
More than likely, he had located in Dresden where J H Follis was shown in the
1850 Navarro Co Census.
Martha Follis married John Hogan 1878 in Maury Co. Tenn. Nine
years later, 1887, John and Martha Follis Hogan had arrived in Texas after journeying from
Giles Co. The Sabine River had flooded its banks and John and Martha were
drowned. Were they visiting relatives? William Follis was recorded
in Rusk Co. Texas in 1850 Census. Later, Oscar Mayes Follis was living at
Linden, Texas. Both areas were near the Sabine River. Were they
traveling by wagon and attempting to cross the river when John and Martha Follis Hogan
drowned? Their children were taken by a Trice or Tice family who continued the
H L Matthews graduated from Vanderbilt Medical School in May 1887. He had
become acquainted with Jennie Follis in 1886 when she and her sister, Sallie Follis, had
been at Spring Hill, Texas and when Jennie had written in his Book of Remembrances in
numerical code. Dr. H L Matthews was busy setting up his practice in the area,
but he must have reserved some time for some serious courting of Jennie Follis.
It was in the Fall of 1887, November 16, 1887 to be exact, that Dr. H L Matthews and
Jennie Follis were issued a marriage license at Waco, McLennon Co., Texas. Their
marriage was solemnized at Spring Hill on November 20, 1887 by Rev. J H Smith. Jennie
became pregnant almost immediately and bore a son on August 16, 1888.
The infant son lived six days. Jennie died six days
DATE WITH MISS ELSIE
Living in Dawson, Texas during the depression could become depressing for some,
but there were those who fought the boredom and sameness of each day with
unusual and low budget recreational activities. Playing
practical jokes on unsuspecting newcomers had traditionally been part of the
recreational fabric of early Texas communities. There were
"Snipe Hunts," and orders for "Sky Hooks," but there was
one community practical joke that appears to have been unique to Dawson.
When an older teenage boy moved to Dawson he was immediately briefed on one of
the "local girls" whose name was "Elsie," who lived in the
country not far from town. "Elsie" was a
pretty young lady, but was not known...according to several of the older and
wiser boys.....for her outstanding moral virtues. Each of the boys who had
been with "Elsie" would relate....in great detail....the experiences
he had with "Elsie" and the stories grew bolder as the newcomer
The newcomer was cautioned that "Elsie's" father had a violent temper
and had threatened several boys who had called for his daughter, but that he
went to bed at dark and slept so soundly that he was never disturbed by a light
knock on the porch post or by a soft call for Elsie. A
"Friend" would volunteer to "Fix Up" the newcomer and take
him to the farmhouse where Elsie lived.
There were always vacant houses in the country and, Homer, one of the younger
single men of the community would position himself in such a house with a
lantern and shotgun on the night when a "Friend" was to take the
newcomer to see "Elsie."
The "Friend" would instruct the newcomer to go to the steps of the
farmhouse...knock softly on the porch post and call softly for Elsie.
Elsie would be listening and would respond immediately.
But...instead of Elsie, it would be Homer who would bound through the door,
yelling and screaming about "city boys" violating his daughter for the
last time and firing both barrels of the shotgun in the air.
The "Friend" would fall to the ground yelling that he was shot.
The spectators, gathered in the shadows nearby to watch the reaction of the
newcomer, usually, a pretty good show and produced sufficient laughter to carry
the teenage male community until another newcomer could arrive.
It was 1937 or 1938 when a new family moved to Dawson from southeast of Waco.
One of the older boys, large for his age and strong as an ox, was so slow that
he had to think twice before one foot would move beyond the other.
His lack of accelerated movement on the football field earned him the nickname
Speedy was quickly indoctrinated on the subject of Miss Elsie as the older boys
gathered on the Beasley Corner in the early evenings during the Fall. Speedy's
hormone level elevated higher and higher and when he demanded to go see Elsie,
the stage was set.
It was a good hour after dark when Speedy and his "Friend," in a
Model A Coupe coasted silently down the dirt road to the wire gate that led to
the house where "Elsie" lived. Together, they walked
quietly toward the house that gave signs of occupancy by the light of Homer's
All was quiet as Speedy approached the porch. He rapped on the
porch post five times and called softly, "Elsie....Elsie..."
His heart was beating furiously as he contemplated what was about to happen.
His male passions had waited years for this magic hour and Speedy was
absolutely overcome with the excitement of the moment.
He was totally unprepared for what did happen. Homer bounded out the
door...yelling and screaming like a wild Indian on the warpath.
Speedy's instinct turned him around just in time to hear the reports of the
and to watch his "Friend" shout that he had been shot and fall to the
Speedy was supposed to run to the road and race back to town at breakneck speeds
as all the other had done. Instead, Speedy reached down and grabbed
his "Friend" from the ground as if the "Friend" weighed
nothing. The night was dark and Speedy was disoriented, but he
was determined to get away from that place and was running hard, carrying the
"Friend" in his arms.
Speedy ran not toward the car, but toward the woods where the audience was
positioned behind a barbed wire fence. Speedy could not see
the fence in the dark and he raced into the fence with such force that the
rebound of the fence threw Speedy and the "Friend" to the ground.
Undaunted, Speedy picked up the fallen "Friend" and plunged into the
fence a second time...this time with less vigor.
Both boys were bleeding profusely when Speedy realized that the car was waiting
at the road and began to race in that direction. When the two
arrived at the Model A Speedy threw his "Friend" into the rumble seat,
started the car and drove at top speed to Loveless Drug Store where he had seen
Dr. Worsham earlier in the evening.
It was said that the new edition of "A Date with Miss Elsie" was never
mentioned on the streets of Dawson. No one ever told Speedy that the
entire evening had been a practical joke that had been harmless all the times
before. And that joke was never played again in Dawson.
A few years later those boys became men who were serving their country in the
Armed Forces. They were scattered all over the world.
Some died. Many were wounded. But there were nights in a
foxhole in the Pacific, or on a lonely guard post in France, or in a tail gun
position on a bomber, when some Dawson boy had a good laugh as he
remembered... Speedy...and his date with Miss Elsie.
Were not always in the Schoolhouse
It was Springtime and a beautiful Sunday afternoon. I had driven with my
Dad to the farm of Tom Meredeth located on the Black Land southeast of Dawson,
Texas. World War II had ended and I had returned home from the Marines,
completed high school at Hubbard, and was a freshman at Baylor. My Dad operated
a small slaughterhouse in Hubbard and needed some cattle. Tom Meredeth had sent
word that he was ready to sell several head.
My Dad had known Tom Meredeth all of his life. In fact, there was some
talk that the two families had been related years earlier in Tennessee and as
early as 1770 when the Meredeth Family settled in Surry Co NC, north of the
We stood together in the well kept pasture where fifty white faced steers
munched away at the rich grass. My Dad commented that the cattle were, indeed,
prime beef and that he would take the entire herd if Mr. Meredith could deliver
them to the holding pen in Hubbard as they were needed. Mr. Meredith and my Dad
shook hands and….it was a”Deal.” The price was sixteen cents per pound.
A few days later, Mr. Meredith loaded several of the steers; drove to the
Cotton Oil Mill in Hubbard where the truck and steers were weighed; placed the
steers in the holding pen at the slaughterhouse, returned to the Cotton Oil
Mill, weighed the empty truck, and received a weigh slip; and came to the market
to be paid.
My Dad looked at the weight slip and the poundage appeared correct. Dad
had learned over years to estimate the weight of cattle and not be far from
the correct weight. And, he had purchased cattle from Tom Meredith for
years and knew him to be an honest man. Dad computed the poundage at sixteen
cents per pound and wrote a check to Mr. Meredith for the total amount.
A few weeks later Mr. Meredith delivered another load of steers to the
holding pen and came to the market to be paid. I was home from Baylor and
helping Dad in the market. Dad looked at the weigh slip and it appeared correct.
Then he said to Mr. Meredith that cattle prices had increased to twenty-two
cents per pound and he felt he should pay him the market price.
Mr. Meredith looked Dad in the eye and said, “Carl, you and I stood in my
pasture last Spring and we made a deal that I would sell these steers to you for
sixteen cents a pound, and by damn you’re not paying me one cent more.” I had
been exposed to good teachers at Baylor, but that day I listened as two
outstanding teachers….neither of whom finished high school…taught lessons about
life…...fairness, rightness, honesty, commitment respect for others. No written
contract was involved, but the two had shaken hand and made a “deal.” They had
given their word…and that was more binding than any written contract.
The experience was a valuable lesson, one not to be forgotten despite the
almost sixty years that have passed.
THE SCHWARTZ FAMILY
“I remember my mom taking me to Schwartz Dry Goods for my $1.98 Mohawk
tennis shoes…none of this “sneakers” hogwash then…..in preparation for each
school year. The visit wasn’t necessary until Thanksgiving, that being the
accepted “end of going bare foot” date. We, also, made an early Spring visit in
preparation for the upcoming season that stretched from “cotton choppin” to
“bole pullin….”….a period of time roughly equal to the time the Jews spent
wandering in the wilderness. The visit was to purchase a Roy Rogers straw hat
with a red string and yellow bead. Jim Sawyer of Lewisville, Texas
I remember that store because it had a Mother Goose sign and picture on
the street south side. Uncle Jim Beasley ran that store when I lived and visited
in Dawson. He had sewing machine drawers on one wall where he kept safety
razors, sewing machine needles and parts….all sorts of nails..square cast
tapered nails, horseshoe nail.
Charles A “Sonny”Hearn Jr., Texas
I remember them well. I thought so much of them. Our whole family thought
so much of them. I am so thankful to have known them because they caused me to
have good feelings toward all Jews…just as good friends, good neighbors.
I remember that my Mother went to the funeral of either Mr. or Mrs.
Schwartz in Waco. It was her first Jewish funeral, and she was impressed. We
were fortunate to have had them in Dawson. This is one of the reasons I continue
to say that it was good to grow up in a little town.
Margaret Berry, Austin
J B Schwartz…DRY GOODS STORE…was located on the west corner of Main Street
and the “Old” Waco-Corsicana hiway. The family came to Dawson between 1907-1911
as a part of The Galveston Project, a resettlement effort which
sought to relieve the pressure of Jewish families spilling from Middle
Europe into the large cities of the East. The Project maintained offices both in
Europe and at Galveston.
When the Jewish families arrived at Galveston they were met by staff
members of The Galveston Project who provided temporary housing, guided the
family to the small towns of Texas where they could establish some type of
business. Many, many Jewish families choose to become merchants of Dry Goods.
Waco was, apparently, a hub for one group of Jewish merchants in Waco and
in the small towns nearby. The group formed a co-op type relationship whereby a
single Jewish merchant would travel to New York to buy merchandise for all
stores. The father of Mrs. Simon Florsheim, who currently (2003) lives in Waco,
was, for many years, the leader of the group and the one who journey annually to
New York to make purchased for the group. The stores became an asset for the
little towns and Jewish families were always quick to contribute to needy
causes. However, there were times when harsh words were spoken about the Jewish
The Schwartz home was on the west side of Main Street between 3rd & 4th
Streets and was always well maintained. Mrs. Schwartz kept geese in a small pen
next to the alley…the only geese in all of Dawson.
The Schwartz family stayed in contact with relatives in Germany and once,
in the 1930’s, a relative came to Dawson for a visit. She, like Mr & Mrs.
Schwartz, spoke very broken English. The relative was a lovely lady, very well
dressed, and smoked cigarettes, a practice that was not exhibited by most ladies
of Dawson. Her conversations were interesting as she related experiences on the
ship that brought her to America, of life in Germany, of her concern for what
Hitler was doing in Europe.
Frances Schwartz and Jack Schwartz were the only children remembered, but
there may have been more. Both children mixed well with other children and
established many close friendships. The Schwartz family was always well liked
and highly respected in Dawson.
Once, a “Flaming Evangelist,” conducting a “Protracted” meeting in a
Dawson church, was “waxing eloquently” about the account of the Jews killing
One small boy in the congregation was disturbed by what had been said. He
knew the Schwartz family and was positive that they could not have had anything
to with it.
Schwartz Dry Goods in Dawson closed before World War II and son Jack
Schwartz opened a store in Hubbard. The family lived in nice home on North Main
Street and had a son whose name was Tommy. Frances Schwartz worked in Waco, but
came to Hubbard most weekends.
Frances Schwartz never married. Instead, she became owner of a successful
insurance business, lived frugally, and amassed a considerable estate which, at
her death, was, for the most part, given to The Scottish Rite Crippled
Children’s Hospital. America had been kind to her family. Frances, apparently,
wanted to give back. John Schwartz, Dallas. The Hubbard store closed at some
point after World War II and the family moved to Waco. Several Schwartz families
still live in Waco, but none have been located who are close relatives of the
Did you remember this Family? Can you add something?
The Great Depression had reached Dawson, Texas by the Fall of 1932 and the
community was experiencing "hard times." Money was scarce. No Thanksgiving
family gathering was scheduled at our home and, not having a car to drive, there
would be no trip to "Grand Mother's House."
Uncle Fred and Aunt Ennis Matthews and their family had planned to have
Thanksgiving on the banks of Richland Creek where Fred Jr. and several other
older boys had constructed a Log Cabin. Jack Matthews, my age, had been talking
about the plan for days and had invited me to go with his family.
I was seven....Marilyn was one and one-half, Jean LaMerle was three and
one-half. Spending Thanksgiving Day cooped up with two babies would not hold a
candle to Thanksgiving on the banks of Richland Creek. Mother, at last, decided
that I could accept the invitation and, on Thanksgiving Day morning I was up
early, dressed, and on my way to Uncle Fred's house.
There was a chill in the air, but the sun was shining as I walked through
the back yard toward the Dawson water tower and turned north to Uncle's Fred's
house. It was under the shade of the water tower that Jack and I, during the
heat of the previous summer, had been introduced to King Edward cigars purchased
at Lawler's Grocery...two for a nickel...including matches. I was grown before I
permitted another cigar in my mouth.
Uncle's Fred's house was buzzing with activity when I arrived. All the
children were home....Vestal Lee was home from Mary Hardin Baylor...Buck, Fred
Jr., Doris, Dewey, Bette Belle, Jack, June, and Joe Kenneth. Most had invited a
friend. The cows were milked, horses fed their oats, hay spread for the
cattle....breakfast at the long table was completed, the table cleared, dishes
washed and put away.
Hay had been placed on the open bed of Uncle Fred's 1926 Model-T Ford
truck to provide a hint of comfort for those of us who were to ride there.
Quilts and tarps were added to protect us against the cold wind.
Boxes and boxes of food were brought from the kitchen and loaded on the
truck. A ten gallon milk can was filled with water from the well. and secured to
the wooden cab of the truck with a cow rope. Aunt Ennis, the consummate
organizer and planner had thought of everything and her trademark smile and soft
words made everyone have a warm and fuzzy feeling.
Dawson's streets were still quiet as Uncle Fred pulled the spark and gas
handles down on the steering wheel post and when Fred Jr. turned the crank under
the radiator the four pistons of the engine responded....with a backfire or
two...and then it began to run smoothly. Uncle Fred paused to make sure that
everyone was safely aboard, then we were off to Spring Hill and the log cabin on
Uncle Fred turned north and moved past Nate Wrights house, passed the
school and up the street passed the homes of the Walkups, the Martins, the
Womacks, Winfred Berry, Jim Lee, Cousin Will Matthews, Mose Roberts, Houston
Akers, J B Teer. He turned right at the Berry house, passed the McCullochs and
to the Spring Hill Road. The Tyree's lived on the right. I always appreciated
how the goats and sheep kept their front pasture so picture perfect.
On the left lived Buck and Jeffie Hagle.....Floyd Hagle lived in the next
house. When we got to Skeeter Anderson's house we turned right. Squeals,
giggles, and laughter erupted from the bed of the truck and made Aunt Ennis
happy. Her only concern was that someone might fall from the truck bed. Uncle
Fred kept his eye on the road.
When we reached The Spring Hill Store we knew we were getting near our
destination. The Store was closed as was Pete Bill's garage. We moved down the
hill, across the small branch where Robert Parrish built a house in later
years...by the "Old Spring Hill Store" that blew down the next year...and by the
Old Home Place where Uncle Virgle and Aunt Oddie still lived.
We turned left. Uncle Charlie Matthews lived in the house on the right.
Several of the old Spring Hill houses were on the left, one that my Father
had inherited was rented to someone for not much per month. Soon we reached the
point where the Spring Hill road began to drop sharply and we could see the iron
bridge that spanned Richland Creek. On the left was an overgrown trail that led
to the Spring Hill Quarry.
Just before reaching the bridge Uncle Fred turned right into Uncle
Virgle's field and continued parallel to Richland Creek and into a thick wooded
Presently, the log cabin came into view in a cleared area right on the
banks of Richland Creek. When Uncle Fred brought the truck to a stop the
occupants who had been riding on the truck bed bailed off with shrieks of
delight. The older children helped Uncle Fred and Aunt Ennis unload the boxes of
food and the 10 gallon milk can filled with well water.
Younger children scouted for wood and soon a roaring open fire burned
brightly, warming hands and hearts. The Thanksgiving sun began to dissipate the
chill of the early morning and most of the children were off to hunt native
pecans and wild persimmons. Some of the older boys had brought cane fishing
poles and were trying their luck for fresh fish from The Blue Hole and other
favorite fishing spots up and down Richland Creek.
Some of the trees produced pecans so small that it was not worth our while
to bother with them. Now and then we would find a tree with large pecans filled
with meats that were tasty and worth working for.When the wheezy old horn of the
Model-T Truck sounded we knew it was time for Thanksgiving Dinner. Those of us
who had been afield for a couple of hours must have resembled the Indians that
arrived at the Plymouth Colony for that First Thanksgiving. Did we have turkey?
I can't remember, but I do remember that someone dropped a chocolate cake that
broke into several pieces. I thought it was the best cake I ever ate.
Aunt Ennis had baked scores of sweet potatoes at home and while the
children were out searching for pecans and persimmons, had placed them in the
ashes around the edge of the bonfire. "Baked Sweet Potatoes," of course. We
would search through ashes until we found a sweet potato....then in a piping hot
condition...ready for a liberal slathering of fresh cow butter. I did not know
that sweet potatoes could be so tasty.
Thanksgiving Dinner completed....it was back to the woods. We found that
when several small persimmon tree tops were pulled to the ground, a small boy
could sit on the branches and pretend to be riding a bucking horse. We learned
that wild persimmons had to experience the first frost of the season before
being eaten, otherwise the juices of the orange colored fruit had a disagreeable
taste and made lips pucker. We found that ripe pecans roasted in ashes and hot
coals presented a delicious taste.
As the sun begin to sink in the west the chill of the morning began to
return and it was time to begin the trip home. We snuggled together on the hay,
covered with quilts and the heavy tarps as Uncle Fred and Fred Jr. started the
Model-T Truck and we began to retrace our route back to Dawson.
I am sure that I was asleep before we reach the top of the first hill.
Thanksgiving had presented a busy day and the little boys were bone tired.
My Thanksgiving Days have been celebrated in many places since 1932. Most
Thanksgiving Dinners had succulent turkey as a centerpiece with fancy dressings,
vegetables, pies, and cakes and all the other trimmings. But when someone brags
about the delicious meal...the moist turkey...the pecan pie...the oyster
dressing, etc., I just smile...and remember baked sweet potatoes...fresh from
the ashes of a fire on the banks of Richland Creek...slathered in fresh cow
- Nov 2003
DAWSON IN WORLD WAR I
Dawson, Texas was thirty-six years old when the
United States entered World War I. Many young men of Dawson enlisted and the
Draft Board for the Dawson area, located at Blooming Grove, Texas, inducted
others into the American Expeditionary Force under General John J Perishing.
Patriotism was always evident in Dawson.
Survivors of the Civil War were still donning their uniforms and marching
proudly in parades. They had answered the call to serve when it appeared that
the Federal Government was interfering with their life style
Dawson was a small town, perhaps 1100 people.
Everyone knew every body! The population was heavy with Scotch-Irish who had
spilled out of Middle Tennessee into Mexican Texas in the 1830’s and in to the
State of Texas after the Civil War. These were families whose roots went back
to Scotland, Wales, and England, but who had migrated to North Ireland in the
late 1600’s when England deposed the Irish Lords, took their land, and
When conditions became intolerable in Ireland they
began their migration to America. When the call came to serve in the cause of
The American Revolution they responded quickly and in great numbers. They
were called “Billy Boys” because of their continued allegiance to William of
Orange. Many had lived in the hills on either side of the Shenandoa Valley…and
the new titile…”Hillbilly” was coined.
These Scotch-Irish “Hillbillies” poured from the
hills with their Kentucky Long Guns…deerskin uniforms & coonskin caps…and turned
the tide of the American Revolution at Kings Mountain. George Washington once
stated that the war could not have been a victory had it not been for the
These Scotch-Irish were a people who were proud of
their heritage and proud of those who had answered when duty called. Now,
there was a new call for a new generation.
Dawson, also, had a sizable number of blacks whose
ancestors had been removed from their African homes, sold as slaves, and
remained so until June 19, 1865 when the Emancipation Proclamation was read at
And…..there were the…..“foreigners.” Some were
of German descent and World War I was all about fighting Germans. One family
of German descent in Dawson had two sons of draft age, but, for some reason,
they were not drafted. Perhaps, they had made the draft board aware of their
feeling with regard to fighting their “kin.” Feelings ran high in the little
town that the two sons should serve and, it was said, that the two sons were
isolated in the family home during the war and for several years following.
One morning the family arose to find their side
porch had received a paint job during the night hours. It was…BRIGHT YELLOW!
Dawson was just another Texas town……..their “could
have been” sign…
Welcome to Dawson, Texas
Home to about 1000 Wonderful People
And..a few Old Soreheads
- Jan 2004
Washington Hill had purchased one third league ( 1480 acres ) from William C
Hill in 1847. The property was centered around what became later…the
Spring Hill Trading Post located just south of the present Spring Hill
Cemetery. Five years later, September 25, 1852. he sold approximately five
hundred acres to his brother-in-law, Robert Harve Matthews, for $500. It
appears that Dr. Hill retained the property south of Treadwell Branch and
sold property to the north.
Early roads in
the area followed long establish buffalo or Indian trails that made use of
the most favorable stream crossings, points where the water was most shallow
and oftentimes over a rock base. There was such a crossing over Treadwell
Branch that provided Robert Harve access to his property to the north. The
trail went north through the property to Richland Creek where the wide
crossing over a rock ledge may yet be seen. The banks were cut down over
the centuries by the hoofs of buffalo and the wheels of countless wagons.
The clearing on the north side of the creek was used for many years as a
popular gathering place for picnics and other outings. The rock base formed
a dam that created a nice swimming hole and large trees nearby provided
R H Matthews and
Francis Slaughter had operated a General Store at Franklin. Slaughter's
will provides a detailed account of the credit extended to customers in the
early 1840's. Matthews, no doubt, saw the need for another such
establishment and created a new store on the old Indian Trail on the hill
between Treadwell Branch and Richland Creek.
Matthews must have built his General Merchandise store on the trail soon
after the purchase. The "R H Matthews Storehouse" was there by November
29, 1855, the date Robert Harve sold three acres to R A Younger. The
Younger property was located forty feet north of the Northwest corner of "R
H Matthews Storehouse at Spring Hill." "The Store" was located on what
became Broadway when the Spring Hill Plat was filed at the courthouse in
Corsicana and, probably on land later owned by Clint Fort. Matthews sold
the three acres to R A Younger for Fifteen Dollars.
Robert A Younger
had married Louise Slaughter, a niece of R H Matthews, and a step-daughter
of Dr. Hill. Robert Younger died while serving in the Army of the CSA
during the Civil War.
surveyor, drew a plat for a New Spring Hill at some point prior to 1870.
The plat was filed on the fly leaf of Book "U" County Clerks Book at
Corsicana, but the date is missing. The date may have been as early as
1855 or 1860, but no record exists of lots being sold until March 24, 1870
when James M Ferguson sold four lots (3-4-5-10) to J L Dean for $500. .
Dr. J L Dean,
apparently, was impressed with the future of Spring Hill and on January 10,
1872, purchased Lots 6-7-9 in Block One, and Lots 1-2 in Block Eleven. The
price was $112.50. R H Matthews was the seller. Dr. Dean, apparently lived
at Spring Hill until 1882 when he moved to the new town of Dawson
Lot Three had
been deeded to Johnson & Company and was located "168 feet North and 60
degrees East from the Southeast corner of Lot 1."
The Spring Hill
plat included town lots and business lots and Farm lots. Town and business
lots were fifty-six feet wide and one hundred twelve feet deep. Farm lots
were larger than the town lots and permitted a cow lot and a large garden
area in addition to a house.
R H Matthews
sold Farm Lots 3 and 4 to Joseph Calvin Matthews on December 24, 1871.
Joseph Calvin and his family were said to have come to Texas in covered
wagons in 1869, but some claim the date to be 1875. This deed establishes
the fact Joseph Calvin Matthews was in Spring Hill in 1871. Joseph Calvin
lived there until his death in 1914.
The lots began
to be bought and sold. January 29, 1873 W H Dawson and C B Carter sold R
H Matthews "South One Half of Lot 2 Block One" for $1.00 and other
valuables. W H Dawson was, probably, William Henry Dawson, son of Brit
Dawson. Henry had married Susan Fullerton. C B Carter is unknown.
R H Matthews
sold the same "One Half Lot"
to J J
Stancil on April 8, 1873 for $300.
J J Stancil
sold in Dec 28 1874 to W P Bishop for $300.
W P Bishop & wife, Cora E., sold the "One Half Lot"
Lots 2 thru
10 of Block Two to Robert Stockard for $300.
R H Matthews, on
the same date, sold Lot 5 Block Ten to J M Polk for "$900. Coin." This lot
fronted 56 feet on Commercial Street and went back 112 feet on Mechanic
Street. This lot probably had some improvement to command such a large
price. Polk sold the property back to R H Matthews March 5, 1875 for
"$8,000. Gold coin." The deed stated, "together with all and singular the
rights, members, hereditaments and appurtenances." Which, being
interpreted, means the Polk had improved the property.
It was on
Christmas Day 1873 that R H Matthews was in a charitable mood and sold R B
Marsh Lots 2-3-7-8 of Block Ten....for $100.
Marsh may have
been a physician and storekeeper. He made some money and when he moved to
Dawson in the 1880's he built a two story home north and across the street
from where Miss Kathleen Edwards lived until her death. The house had a
metal roof installed in 1919 which is still in place and the house remains
in remarkable condition for its age.
Four days later,
December 29, 1873 R H Matthews sold Lot 6 Block Ten to W P Bishop for $25.
The following year, Feb 27, 1874, W P Bishop and his wife, Cora E., sold the
property to R B Marsh for $700. The sale, also, included Lots 1-6 -9-10 in
It was on April
26, 1874 that R H Matthews sold fractions of Lots 3-4-5-6 of Block One to J
M Johnson. The deed included clarification that stated, "Lot 3 in Block One
fronts 56 feet on Broadway and runs 112 feet. Fractional lots divided by SE
line of Thomas Wright league that runs 60 degrees SW." Johnson, apparently,
constructed his home on the property. The stones of his fireplace are in
the pasture located 1998 across the road from the Joe Kyle residence.
Smith had arrived at Spring Hill and on March 13, 1879 T F Sparks and wife
sold him "Lot on which stands a large brick store house, built and formerly
occupied by R A Younger...ref. to a deed made by R H Matthews to R A Younger
1860." The price was $3,500., payable $2550 and three notes of $333.33
payable in 1879, 1880, 1881. The devastation of Spring Hill by the
creation of Dawson is reflected by the sale of this property by J R Smith to
R H Matthews March 1, 1883 for $500. "40 feet N from NW corner of R H
Matthews store house. distinguished as the lot on which stands a large
brick store house built and formerly owned and occupied by R A Younger."
Smith, a son of Dr. William Austin & Lucy Bedford Rucker Smith, apparently
moved from Spring Hill to Dawson where he opened another General Merchandise
store. His Dawson store must have been a success. Twenty years later,
he purchased the large two story home on the west side of Dawson’s Main
Street across from the present Methodist Church. He died there in 1910.
His widow was the former Annette Wheelock, sister of John Ripley Wheelock.
Dr. J L Dean has
accumulated seven lots in Spring Hill by December 11, 1882, but Dawson had
been created and he would be among the numbers moving to the new town. He
sold Lots 4 thru 10 of Block One to R H Matthews Sr. for $150. The"Sr" was
used to distinguish R H Matthews from his nephew by the same name.
Dec 10, 1895, P
B Bennet and wife Anna sold Lots 4& 5 Block Ten to Dr. H L Matthews for
$75. This property included a house and well and was located south of the J
M Johnson property. It was inherited by Carl Matthews and rented until the
of property values at Spring Hill are reflected in the sale of the entire
Block One for $135. by Bettie Matthews, widow of Robert Harve. . The sale
was to R C McCurdy. This Block fronted on Broadway and Waco. The sale was
Oct 29, 1898. Bettie Priddy, age 27, had married R H Matthews age 70 in
1884. R H Had died in 1894.
R C McCurdy and
his wife, Ida S., sold Lots 1 thru 4 to T C (Theo) Matthews December 6,
1898. Theo was a son of Joseph Calvin Matthews and a brother of Dr. H L
Matthews. The price was $200. plus $50. note at 10% interest. Theo
operated a country store there until Sept 20, 1906 when he sold the lots to
his brother, Walter Matthews for $100. cash, $100. in 1907, $100. in 1908.
Matthews began acquiring Spring Hill property in 1900. Robert Harvey
Matthews, a brother of J C Matthews, had died and left Farm Lot #5. J N
Barron and wife Margaret Agnes Matthews; Cab Cunningham and wife, Laura
Matthews, and Robert Matthews sold Uncle Walter the Farm Lot for $40.
W H Hardy bought
3 4/10 acres from Bettie Matthews Oct 11, 1902. Reference is made to Block
13. This may have been an area surveyed off the original town lots.
Barber had married Lena Doyle Dempsey and had purchase Block Ten at some
point. They had died in 1902 and 1903 and the property went their minor
heirs, Zelma and Willie D Barber. Their older brother, J. Doyle Barber
purchased the property for $75. in 1913. Uncle Walter bought it in 1916
A 1925 deed
involved a purchase of portions Lots 1 thru 8...the West end of the Marsh
lots from the Whitner Estate. Virgil Matthews paid $25. to Obe Vest &
Mollie Whitner; J G Whitner, W H McCulloch and Zellia Whitner; J H & Lizzie
Whitner; H H Slater and Lizzie Whitner; E E and Lizzie` Whitner
A Christmas Tradition
South Carolina was the
first state to secede from the union as a prologue to the Civil War.
Jacob Elliott was born 1802 in
New York, moved to Kentucky with his parents, married, came to Texas in
1849, and settled in Corsicana. He became a land trader. His first
purchase was 3605 acres located on Richland Creek south of Corsicana which
were bought at a court house tax sale…..for….$12.81. Jacob maintained a
journal and wrote:
“On Friday, December 28,
1860, news reached Corsicana, Navarro Co, that South Carolina, by a formal
ordinance of their State Convention, had withdrawn from the federal
union. Corsicana was pleased with the news and for want of a cannon,
celebrated the event by firing anvils.”
“Firing Anvils?” The
practice became a Christmas Tradition at the community of Spring Hill.
Spring Hill boasted several blacksmith shops…each with at least a single
anvil. The 180 pound anvils, when turned upside down, reveal a large
hollowed area. The hollowed area was filled with gunpowder, and a second
anvil placed on top. A trail of gunpowder lead to the filled area,
My Dad lived at Spring Hill
until 1911 and recalled that Pete Bills and other blacksmiths would “Shoot
the Anvil” at Spring Hill at midnight on December 24 and that the noise
would alert the entire countryside that….IT WAS CHRISTMAS!
Sorry… I have no
anvils…but…MERRY CHRISTMAS…without the bang!
Carl W Matthews
MAURY CO TENNESSEE...and
Maury County,Tennessee rises again and
again when the early history of Western Navarro Co. is carefully
researched. Many of the early Maury County residents were veterans of
the American Revolution and had settled earlier in Kentucky where bounty
lands were offered to veterans. When more land on the Duck River became
available, many of the veterans moved again. A study of the list of
Veterans of the American Revolution who lived in Maury Co. Tennessee
revealed many names later found in Western Navarro Co Texas.
Descendents of many of these individuals listed have actually been traced to
Western Navarro Co Texas.*
Other descendents from this group who
migrated to Western Navarro Co Texas may be discovered in the days to come.
NAMES NAME ASSOCIATION
Akers * Related to Akers in
Douglas Bankston First Grade 1930
Bills * Related to Pet Bill
Family of Spring Hill
Blackburn * Early Grand Master Spring Hill Lodge
Butler The Dawson Herald
Caruthers Pelham Family
Chunn Family lived Frog Level 1929
Davidson Lived on Cowhead Road, Spring Hill
Name figured prominently early Dawson
* Dickson boys married daughters of Brit
Freeland * Related to Freelands of Dawson
Gordon David McCandless married Polly
Many Hills settled this area
Hillis still reside in Dawson
Houston Related to Bills, Mose Berry married a Houston
Long One of the Lawrence girls
married a Long
* Could our Lawrences be related?
Matthews Matthews still found in Dawson
McCandless Macca Orange McCandless married Joseph Lawrence
Moody John Moody married one of the Hill
Moore Carlos Moore married Hester McCulloch
Patterson Pattersons in Dawson 1920s
* Related to Savage and Jarvis families
Pullin * This family traces to
* Ramseys buried Spring Hil
Reece * Sarah Reece married Sampson Stewart
Renfro Settled on the Blackland
* Wilkes Co NC…to Tenn…to IL..to Blackland
Sims * Down to Lowrimores, Lancasters
Sowell * Jim Sowell married one of the Lawrence
Stockard Stockards married Matthews
Turner * S C…to Union Co IL..to Dawson
Weaver * Charles Weaver married one of the Wilkes girls
Webb Several Webb Families…some related to Dr. G W Hill
Willis Charles Albert Willis graduated Dawson High
Winn * Daughter Mary Winn married Col. Thomas Sims
Wilson Intermarried with Grahams
The Williams Eldorado Ranch
“The Blackland,” as the area south of Dawson, Texas was…and is… often called,
was home to many farm and ranch families from the 1880s until the end of WWII.
Farm houses, filled with growing families, dotted the landscapes of communities
known as Eldorado, Patterson, Union High, Shady Grove, Stansell, and
Headquarters. And there was a “Resting Place” called The Boardtree Cemetery.
Families who lived on “The Blackland” were not the average…run of the mill…poor
dirt farmers found in some areas of early Texas. They were families of substance
….who valued education,….were skilled in the craft of farming the rich soil….and
instilled the qualities of character and moral values into the lives of their
children….not by what they said, but by how they lived.
When Rural Free Delivery…RFD…arrived, family names of Bowman, Champion, Comer,
Evans, Graham, Grice, McKinzie, Meredith, Moore, Onstott, Perkins, Roloff,
Sawyer, Vinson, Spence, Ward, Wilson…. were to be found on mail boxes erected on
“The Blackland” roads.
Winifred Berry began delivering mail on The Blackland in 1909, first by buggy,
many times on horseback, later by a Ford Model T. He recalled the goodness and
generosity of the families on his route. But, he did more than deliver mail. One
older lady would meet him at the mail box to have him thread her needle. And
more than once, as a personal favor, he would deliver a bottle of fluid
spirits….for medicinal purposes, of course.
Neil Clark took over the route after WWII….first with army surplus jeeps…then by
car as the road were improved. Oftimes, his jeep would be filled with grocery
orders being delivered to families who had no means to go to town over the muddy
Many of the families who settled communities of Western Navarro Co. Texas known
as Spring Hill, Brushie Prairie, Navarro Mills, Liberty Hill, Purdon….all
located north of The Blackland…had migrated from Tennessee, Alabama,
Mississippi, Georgia, and Arkansas.
However, a large number of “The Blackland” families, had migrated from Illinois,
Indiana, Missouri, and Wisconsin. This fact creates a question……
“What brought these families to ‘The Blackland?’ area? “
The railroad had sliced its way across Western Navarro Co Texas in 1881 and had
brought substantial change. A new town….Dawson…would be created. Cattle, crops,
hides, cotton, etc. could be shipped to waiting markets. New families began
arriving in the area to purchase inexpensive land…to open businesses in the new
town….to serve professional needs..
B J Williams of Whitewater, Wisconsin and John D Patterson of Geneva, New York
purchased 14,000 acres on “The Blackland” in 1881 and 1882….at a cost of near
$50,000. Their intentions were to establish “The Williams Eldorado Ranch”…. a
sheep ranch….on the rich black soil.
NOTE: It appears that many investors from more settled areas invested in
properties in Texas. Texas and Pacific Railroad…1884…sold twenty-four sections
of land (15,360 acres) at the site of present day Odessa, Texas to a group of
investors from Zanesville, Ohio. The price: $53,476.
J F Williams arrived at Eldorado from Wisconsin in 1882 to become Ranch Foreman.
The relationship between the two Williams men is not known, but it may be
assumed that they were related in some manner since they had the same last name
and both were from Wisconsin.
J F Williams would be responsible for the total development of the ranch…
directing the effort of constructing housing for the employees….barns for the
animals. The ranch would have need for stock ponds to be dug and miles of
fencing to be installed. Ranch hands would be needed to prepare the facilities
and, later, to operate the ranch.
Logic would assume that J F Williams placed advertisements in newspapers
covering the Midwestern states that he was hiring ranch hands for the new
operation in Texas.
William L Roloff was twenty-one in 1882. He had migrated from Germany four years
earlier to Wisconsin with an uncle and his family who had secured passage on a
ship bound for Wisconsin. William L Roloff’s father could not afford the fare
for his son so William L Roloff became a stowaway on the ship and arrived in
Wisconsin in 1878. He, apparently, lost no time finding and courting a young
lady …..but he needed employment before they could marry. The advertisement in
the Milwaukee paper promised, not only a job…but excitement and adventure as
well. More…the young couple could marry and begin a new life in Texas. Their
first son of record, Rudolph, was born in 1887.
Two graves at the Boardtree Cemetery list:
William L Roloff 1861-1932
M L Roloff 1863-1961
The two were married December 26, 1885 at Whitewater, Jackson Co., Wisconsin.
The marriage license listed their names as William Ludwig Roloff and Louise
Monita Friedel. Whitewater, Wisconsin is located inland from Milwaukee one
hundred miles to the southwest, and…..was the home of B J Williams, one of the
owners of The Williams Eldorado Ranch in Navarro Co. Texas.
Could William Ludwic Roloff and Louise Monita Friedel have known each other in
Germany…possibly have fallen in love there?
Ludwig Roloff 1833-1918 and Frederich Friedel 1833-1882…were both born in the
same year, both born in Germany, both had migrated to American, both lived at
The “Social Democracy” organization had been outlawed in Germany in 1878. One
can imagine these two men…. at age fifty-five…unhappy with the political unrest
in Germany…. deciding to come to America and begin a new life. Louise Monita
Friedel is fifteen…..William Ludwic/Ludwig Roloff is seventeen. They are “sweet”
on each other. When William learned that the Friedel family was leaving for
America he wanted to go…but had no money for the passage fare.
So…when the ship sailed, William was well hidden aboard the ship…a “stowaway.”
Once at sea, William, probably, emerged from hiding and went un-noticed on the
crowded ship. He had the support of two families and time to really court Louise
Ludwig Roloff 1833-1918 is buried at Whitewater…possibly the uncle with whom
Uncle Billy sailed from Germany in 1878. His wife was Johanna.
Frederich Friedel 1833-1882 is buried at Whitewater…possibly the father of
Louise Monita Friedel. His wife was Christina 1833-1908. Jefferson Co Marriage
files reveal that John Friedel c1868 married there in 1888. He is quite possibly
a brother of Louise Monita Friedel. Descendents of William Ludwig Roloff recall
that Grandma Roloff had a brother who lived in Chicago and who came to Texas for
Meanwhile, the Sawyer, Spence, Scroggin, Vinson, Ward families of Macoupin Co.
Illinois may have been reading the same advertisement in a Chicago newspaper.
These families had migrated north from the Carolinas after the War of 1812. The
winters in Macoupin Co. Illinois had grown, perhaps, more severe over the
years….the allure of a warmer climate was appealing.
Jesse Sawyer, born about 1790, married Ruthie. They lived in Tyrell Co.
North Carolina until the 1830s when they migrated to Illinois with several
neighbor families….Spence, Sikes, Best, & Scroggins.
J F Williams, probably, hired many ranch hands from the Midwest and the new
employees of The Williams Eldorado Ranch…some with families….gathered their
belongings, boarded the train in Chicago, and began their journey to Texas.
The migration of these families to The Blackland was, probably, middle to late
1880s rather than the early 1880s. This probability is based on the fact that
the Vermont Ranch near San Angelo was not begun until 1890 and it was there that
the sheep from the Eldorado Ranch in Navarro Co. were, probably, moved.
Housing for the employee families was, probably, located in close proximity to
each other and someone suggested a name for the community. The name “Williams”
had been used for the ranch name in honor of B J Williams, one of the owners. It
would seem appropriate that something should be named for John D Patterson, the
other owner. The community was given that name…Patterson.
The Patterson Community….may…have been located between Eldorado and Four
Lester Leo Roloff…grandson
of William Ludwig & Mary Louise Roloff, and a well known gospel preacher…made it
known many times that he was born at Patterson, Texas. According to a taped
interview with Ruth Sawyer Lawrence in the 1990s, her father, D D Sawyer
operated a cotton gin at Patterson in the late 1800s. “Uncle Ed” Grice was said
to have worked at that gin.
The Eldorado Ranch had brought expensive sheep from California, but the
operation was a disaster. The ranch recorded a $50,000. loss in 1884 and the
surviving sheep were moved at some point to a 12,000 acre ranch which B J
Williams had purchased near San Angelo, Texas.
From Navarro Co USGen Web: Eldorado Center….located on Farm Road 638, twenty
miles southeast of Corsicana in Navarro Co. Texas, began as a settlement for
workers on the large Eldorado Ranch. The area was first settled before the Civil
War, but the first business, a grocery store, was not established until about
1910. A School was in operation at Eldorado by the early 1900s, and in 1906 it
had an enrollment of forty-eight. At its height around the time of World War I,
Eldorado Center had a number of houses, a church, a school, a cotton gin, and a
store. By the mid-1930s only a store and a number of houses remained there. Th
community’s estimated population in 1936 was fifty. The store closed after World
War II, and in the mid-1960s, only a few widely scattered houses remained. In
the early 1990s Eldorado Center was a dispersed rural community.
Today, a community by the name of Eldorado is located forty-two miles west of
San Angelo, Texas in Schliecher Co. and has a population nearing two thousand.
Schliecher Co. history states that The Vermont Ranch was established in the
community of Verand in the early 1890s and the town of Eldorado created in 1895.
County history, also, records that when the Eldorado Community was established
in 1895, most of the residents of Vermont Ranch moved to Eldorado. Could it have
been that the sheep from Navarro County were moved, first to Vermont
Ranch….possibly later, to Eldorado?
The community of Verand was said to have been established in the mid-1880s when
thousands of acres of land were purchased by Vermont investors who established
the Vermont Ranch. Approximately twenty families moved to Verand. Could some of
those twenty families have been from the Eldorado Ranch in Navarro County?
The move from Verand to Eldorado was due to the fact that clear title to lots in
Verand could not be obtained. Free lots were offered five miles distant at
Eldorado and the residents and businesses were relocated there.
The following year the ranch was stocked with draft horses that were to be sold
to local farmers. That, too, became a financial disaster. Eventually, the ranch
was broken up into small plots and sold for farm land. Some of the employee
families purchased the small farms. Some worked the farms for a time as
sharecroppers and, later, purchased the land. The Smiths and Deans and several
other families migrated from Tishomingo Co. Mississippi, purchased the land, and
began to farm.
Schools were created in each of the communities. Later, Patterson, Rodney, and
Shady Grove schools consolidated and became known as….Union High School. Four
Corners, _______, and ________became known as Headquartrs.
Many descendents of those early families who lived on “The Blackland” continue
to own the land…now rented to huge farming operators. Most of the houses that
dotted the area in the 1930s are gone. Patterson has disappeared completely and
the Eldorado Store has closed. The school at Headquarters consolidated with
Dawson and the building site is bare. The churches disbanded after WWII.
Harmony Methodist Church and Shiloh Baptist stood side by side on the corner
south of the Dean Home on the Old Corsicana Highway for many years. The fenced
area remains, but contains nothing but the rubble of one of the churches that
burned several years ago.
Only the Boardtree Cemetery remains….a silent sentinel and testimony of a once
thriving community of hardy American stock whose descendents have scattered
across this great country and beyond. They have left “The Blackland” behind, but
they have carried with them the history of a bygone day and the moral and social
values for living given them by example.
Names found at The Boardtree Cemetery
Anderson Barrington Bell Black Bridges Brooks Brewster Bridwell Brown Bruce
Burns Cantrell Carter Clark Cooper Cope Cox Craig Creasy Davis Demoney Derden
Dodd Dykes Duke Evans Farley Floyd Forsyth Freeze Gardner Goodwin Green Greenlee
Grice Gullett Haygood Haley Hardy Horton Johnson Jones Jordan Keel King Kirkland
Lane Lewis Lummus Mann Marrs McKenzie McMahan Miles Perry Pearson Perteet
Pickett Prater Read Roloff Reno Sawyer Sexton Smith Smitherman Talbott Tantzen
Tapp Tatum Thomas Vandyke Walker Wallace Ward Warren Watson Wilson Wooley Wylie
Some early burials shown on the Boardtree Cemetery census:
Jonathan Grice 1787-1864
M F Grice 1840-1918
Elbert A Grice 1847-1924
Mary R Haley 1878-1879 dau W C & M F
Halla Sexton 1875-1880 dau T J & M A
Mary Thomas 1801-1881 wife J
M L Barrington 1852-1882 wife of J H
Sawyer names at Boardtree Cem.
J R 1835-1908 m. wife 1847-1906
“Our Father” “Our Mother”
John Ruthie Sawyer Clarisa Clementine Walker
J R Sawter, Jr. m. Tabitha 1877-1903
D B 1861-1929 m. Drucilla C 1871-1961
M O 1892-1959 m. Madie Ann 1897-1970
Paul Glenn 1913 m. Lometa Marie 1915-1957