By Elizabeth Farmer McCrory
The earliest named settlement near what
later became Purdon was most likely Belle Point which is about 2 miles northeast
of town. This area was settled by Capt. J. A. Harrison who built a
home and established a school called Belle Point. We know from church
records that a Baptist church named Rehobeth was near by in 1881.
When the railroad was built two miles
south in 1881, most of the community moved to this area. Travel was very
difficult because of the condition of the roads and with the coming of the
railroad it made it possible to transport needed supplies into the area as well
as shipping produce to marker.
A large community soon developed when
the railroad platted the town and it was named Purdon. It was a thriving
community with most of the good black land in the area used to raise cotton,
corn, and other feed grains. Enough cotton was raised in the
surrounding area that as many as four different cotton gins were operating at
different times through the years. In 1914 the local newspaper "The
Purdon Enterprise" shows the Warden and Dowdle gins offering 10 cents per
pound for a bale of cotton. There were hardware stores, dry goods stores,
drugstores, doctors, a dentist, grocery stores, barber shops, and two banks.
There were four churches; Baptist,
Methodist, Presbyterian, and Church of Christ. The Baptist and Methodist
congregations could not afford a full time preacher, therefore each church had
Sunday School every Sunday and on alternate Sundays everyone would attend the
church that had a preacher scheduled. The Presbyterian church was
noted for their Sunday afternoon singing service when most of the community
attended. Howe French who now resides in Corsicana says it was his job as
a young lad to ring the bell at the church for the singing service. The
churches were the center of the social life of the community.
In the early years when cotton was
"king" most of the families were large because all help possible was
needed to gather the crops which were so necessary for survival. Most of
the farming was done by teams of mules and horse pulling walking planters and
cultivators. Many times three generations would be living together with
the grandparents and at times great-grandparents serving as role models for the
younger children. On long, cold winter nights many stories were told of
how earlier generations had traveled many days by wagon to come where land was
good and plentiful.
Being raised on a farm was very hard
work and a great incentive for young people to take advantage of a free
education so they cold leave the farm and find good paying jobs in the larger
Guy and Evelyn Butler Farmer, who were
married in 1929, tell of trading in 8 teams of mules and equipment on the
purchase of a new 1935 John Deere tractor. Of course, the next year they
were unable to make the payment and it was repossessed, but they were able to
get it back the next year. This tractor still runs today and at the age of
84 Guy still enjoys cranking "Poppin Johnny" and driving it around.
In 1912 Purdon completed a new 2 story
brick school. With the coming of school buses in 1928, Belle Point,
Jester, and Silver City schools consolidated with Purdon. The roads
were still dirt and many times after a big rain the buses were unable to make
After World War II when so many young
men from the area were called to serve their country, the young ladies moved to
the larger cities to get jobs that were plentiful. When the war was over
these men had to move to the larger metropolitan areas because Corsicana had
very few industries. The decline of Purdon began about this time and in
1959 the last class of students graduated from Purdon High School. In the
fall of 1959 the school was consolidated with Dawson and now a long twice a day
bus ride is faced by Purdon, Jester, and Silver City students.
During the last years of the Purdon
school system, we were very fortunate to have Mr. Leamon Phillips as
Superintendent. For about the last 3 years he made yearly trips to Austin
to plead with the State Board of Education to allow us another year as an
independent school district. Of course, best of all for those of us in
high school, he was coach of the boys and girls basketball teams. Mr.
Phillips was raised in Purdon and because of this size and ability was
"drafted" in high school to come to Corsicana and play football.
He went on to SMU and was on the team that played in the Rose Bowl in 1936.
Mr. Phillips was a big man physically
and all it took was one of his looks and maybe a point of his finger and
discipline was quickly restored. We had one outstanding player on the
girl's team who Mr. Phillips discovered had neglected to memorize her
multiplication tables by the time she entered the 9th grade. He said she
could not play in the Friday night game if she did not know them. Well,
talk about teamwork, we girls took turns working with her and by Friday she
could recite them perfectly and was able to play in that night's game.
This was the same year the girls needed
new basketball uniforms and as a fund raiser to pay for them, we sold vanilla
extract. I would not be surprised to find some of these bottles in the
pantries of the older ladies of the community today because they purchased so
many bottles of it.
The boys teams in 1955, 1956, and 1957
were able, under Mr. Phillips coaching, to win several tournaments and a
District Championship. Mr. Phillips along with several other
teachers went with the school to Dawson and continued their careers, Mr.
Phillips as Principal until his retirement. Mr. Phillips passed away in
1994 but the impact he had on a group of young people will long be remembered.
Mrs. Loretta Bennett Putman was another
of those teachers that taught years in Purdon and continued until her retirement
in the Dawson Elementary School. She can still be found teaching, only now
it is in the First Baptist Church of Purdon where she has taught various Sunday
School classes for at least 60 years.
The decline of Purdon continued until
the only sign of the once large community proper is the Post Office and the
First Baptist Church. The church celebrated its 100th anniversary in
1994. Because the people have to travel to Dawson or Corsicana for
banking, doctors, and jobs, they also buy their groceries and a grocery store is
unable to survive. In Silver City the C. E. Thomas family operate a gas
station and sell feed and snack type items.
There is still a bench in front of the
old bank building which was Bittner's grocery store for many years on which men
still gather as they have always done to catch up on the latest happenings in
town. One of the regulars is Austry French who at 92 years of age still
raises cattle and attends two cattle auctions per week.
The Purdon Post Office is one of the
oldest of the original post offices established in the area. The first
postmaster was O.E. Highsmith in 1881 and now this position is held by Frank
Proctor with Jo Alice Johnson Clemons as assistant. Jody's
great-grandfather, James M. Butler, was a part-time rural carrier before his
death in 1912. As time and population changes came in later years the
Purdon Rural Route began to encompass many of the other post offices in the
area; Jester, Pansy, Pursley, Navarro Mills, and now covers a total route of 89
miles. Mrs. Sandy Perryman now makes this route over blacktop and
gravel roads, which in the early years of horseback and buggy, would have been
There are two cemeteries in the area:
Curry Cemetery is located about 2 miles northeast of Purdon with the first
marked burial dated 1857 and the last in 1972. The cemetery has been
unused and neglected for many years. Many of the descendents have moved
away, but a plan has been undertaken by some of the people in the area to have a
major clean-up and hopefully maintain this cemetery in such a way that it will
be a memorial to those early settlers buried there.
Younger Cemetery is located a few miles
northwest of Purdon and was established in 1854 on land donated by Judge
Alexander Younger. It is beautifully maintained by donations of
descendents of those buried there. Each spring invitations are mailed to
people all over Texas and other states and a Memorial Service is held. In
1982, a Historical Marker was dedicated. Since 1971, Peggy Thomas
McCullough has served as treasurer of the association. She and her husband
Billy Joe have taken care of the grounds since 1974 and it is always a pleasure
to see how beautiful the grounds are kept.
After a number of years of decline, with
just a few of the original people left in the community, those of the younger
generations started retiring from those city jobs and returning to the slower
life of Purdon.
One of the first to return were Billy
Joe and Peggy Thomas McCullough. Billy Joe is a descendent of the Almon
family who came to Purdon from Alabama in 1901. Peggy is descended from
some of the earliest of the pioneers, the Thomas and Farmer families.
James and Carol Ann Orler moved back to
the area in 1978 and built their home on land that had been in James' family
since 1884. His mother, Irene Dycus Orler, still resides on a portion of
the land that belonged to her parents, Walter and Avis Dycus.
Warren and Edith Ivie Stephenson
purchased the land where the school sat and when they built their home, they
incorporated one of the porches where many of the young girls at one time played
"Jacks". You can still see the three sidewalks leading into the
school. Their place is called "Dragon Acres" in memory of the
Purdon Dragons ball teams. Edith descended from the Ivie and Woodard
families that were so numerous in the Jester community. As a matter of
fact, so many of the Ivies still live on a particular road in the area that the
entire country refers to it as "Ivie Ridge". Found along this
road are the older generations of Wards and Ivies; W.D. and Louise Ward Ivie,
Jesse and Alma Ward Keele, and Armetice and Hazel Ward Ivie, along with the next
generations; David and Jonie Ivie, John and Diane Ivie, and Mike and Connie Ivie
along with their children.
Edith Stephenson's father, Sim Ivie, was
a well known organ player in the Purdon-Jester area, may times loading the
family organ in a wagon and taking it to church or another location where he was
to play. The story is told of young people of Purdon riding in a wagon
pulled by a team to Jester to [hear] Mr. Ivie play the organ. Edith says
that he taught none of his 17 children to play the instrument. This organ,
even after all the wagon trips, stands in the home of Edith and Warren today, in
near perfect condition.
Reuben Rulcher, son of Reuben and Tennie
Fulcher, retired from the U.S. Army in 1982 and built his home on land near the
original sight of the black community church. He also built his mother a
small home close to his, but home to her was on her land in the country near
Richland creek. She was a familiar sight in Purdon at least once a week
when she would come in her wagon and team to town to pick up mail and supplies.
Ben's daughter Tonja attends Corsicana High School.
As more industry came into Corsicana in
the 60's and 70's, many of the young people were able to remain in the area and
commute to jobs in Corsicana. Johnny and Janet Priddy Covington live on the land
that originally belonged to Janet's grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Allen Bennett.
Johnny's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Tucker Covington moved from the Jester homeplace
several years ago into Purdon.
Ricky Tomas and daughter Crystal and
Kipp and Ginger Thomas and sons Zackery and Zeb, children of C.E. and Mildred
Curry Thomas, still live in the Silver City area. Jackie and Lurene
Crawford Thomas also make their home in Silver City. All are descendents
of the early settlers of Purdon..
Dicky and Nancy Johnson Phillips along
with children Terri and Richard, descendents of the Almons, Butlers, Phillips,
Anderson, and McGehee families teach in Corsicana and raise cattle and hay on
David and Doris Williams Kennemore have
returned to Purdon to make their home. David's Great-Grandparents, Mr. and
Mrs. Will Darden were charter members of the First Baptist Church in 1884.
David's mother Fannie York Kennemore, who has always lived in Purdon, can still
be found each Sunday morning in her pew at the church.
Robert and Melanie Reed, along with
their two young sons Joe and Michael make their home where his grandparents
Louis and Hattie Wilcox Owens lived for many years. Hattie now resides in
the Friendship Towers in Corsicana. Robert is a descendent of the early Owens,
Kennemore, and Wilcox families.
Oscar and Elizabeth Farmer McCrory moved
back in 1992 on their land adjoining Elizabeth's parents, Guy and Evelyn Butler
Farmer. Guy's father, L.L. purchased the land on which he and Evelyn
live in 1928 and when they married in 1929, they moved there and have lived on
this land almost all of their 66 years of marriage. Elizabeth is descended
from some of the earliest settlers; Farmer, Almon, and Butler families.
Oscar's parents, Johnny and Elzie McCrory, grandparents O.L. and Lina McCrory
and uncle Hollie and Bertie McCrory all moved into the area in the early 1950's
and have played a major role in keeping the First Baptist Church active.
Oscar and Elizabeth's children have
chosen Purdon as the place to raise their families. Michael and Pamela
along with children, Brett and Morgan, live in the Cora Ellis homeplace in
Purdon, next door to Mike's grandmother Elzie McCrory. Kevin chose one of
the Ivie clan as his wife, Gala, and along with their son Jason live on land
adjoining Oscar and Elizabeth.
The land adjoining Oscar and Elizabeth
still belongs to the Palmer family. It was purchased in 1902 by Ernest
David and Daisey Palmer and now belong to their grandson Stanley D. Palmer, who
even though he lives with his wife Doris in Grand Prairie, still enjoys visiting
when his health permits. His sons Dale and Gary find time to come down and
look after the place, spend the night in a week-end cabin, and enjoy mowing
There are still a few of those older
citizens who have always called Purdon home and were so active in all the
activities of the school and church and have many memories of the days when
Purdon was such a thriving community: Letha Farmer Davis, Marguerite Butler
Boldin, Lorene Griffin Peden [wife of Preston Carl Peden], Jewel Turner, Denver
and Vestal Turner Boulware, Eddie and Sula Ivie Ward, Kelly and Elsie Bennight
Ward, Annie Belle Turner Stephens, Dan Moody Ellis.
Ralph and Juanita Ward make their home
in the Purdon area, Ralph being descended from the Woodard, Ivie, and Ward
Most of these young families have jobs
in Corsicana or nearby area, but many also raise cattle and have a love of the
land as their forefathers did before them. It is not economically possible
for families to live off the land as they did when the area was settled.
You won't find the big fields of cotton
and corn that were everywhere, now you will find cattle quietly grazing and hay
fields waiting to be bailed for cattle feed.
Jimmy and Sandra McCarter moved on land
owned by his parents, Jim and Patti Ford McCarter and are operating an organic
fertilizer and gardening farm. After so many years of depending on
commercial fertilizer, this is a "new" industry and possibly a sign of
the way of the future production of food.
After working many years away from the
area, Clifford and Debra Hall and daughter Jessica returned to be near his
mother Myrtle Hall and have opened a repair business.
With the exception of the church, the
center of social activity in the communities of Purdon and Silver City are the
Volunteer Fire Departments. Twice each year, each department has a fund
raiser as a means of support and everyone looks forward to an evening of good
food and fellowship. An auction is held each time of baked goods, crafts,
and other items made by the ladies of the community. Inez and Lorena Peden,
who still live on the place purchased by their parents, James Thomas and Quinnie
Peden in 1905, have donated many of their beautiful handmade quilts to the
Silver City auctions.
These departments are a vital need in a
rural area when the largest fire department is in Corsicana which is 15 miles
away. Ricky Boulwae, Fire Chief in Purdon, has completed training in
"First Response" and is qualified to respond to medical emergencies
until the EMS ambulance arrives on the scene. This is critical when
mere minutes can mean the difference between life and death.
New families are finding that country
living is preferable to the larger cities and it is very encouraging to see new
homes being built in the area. With a good four lane highway and new
industry in Corsicana and Waco, combined with excellent school system in Dawson,
maybe more families will choose this area for their homes.
Purdon was built as a railroad town and
even though it had been some years since trains had come through, there were
still the roadbed and rails. But two years ago, all signs of that era came
to an end when the rails and tires were removed.
A once thriving town consisting of at
one time, two banks, numerous grocery, mercantile stores, drug stores, cafes,
school, doctors, four churches, and occasional medicine show, people arriving
and leaving by train, several cotton gins, even a newspaper, has now become a
place without even a sign saying "Entering Purdon", but it will always
remain in the memories and stories told to the next generation of youngsters.