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Audrey Parker Brooks'

"Baling Wire & Memories"


    For over twenty years, Audrey Parker Brooks, noted Moran historian, has written columns and news stories for "The Albany News" as the Moran correspondent.  Her news stories describe the week to week happenings in the small town of Moran.  But the "Moran News" portion of the newspaper would not be complete without her column, "Baling Wire and Memories", being included.  She writes about a variety of subjects each week, but some of her most interesting and enjoyable columns are the ones in which she writes about the history of Moran and the surrounding area.  I'm happy to include them on the Shackelford County TXGenWeb Site. 


This column was published in "The Albany News" Thursday, June 10, 1999:

I am looking at a picture of early day Moran's north side. There in the background is the house, its steep roof reaching skyward. Although not visible in the picture, I know it is of Victorian styling --- somewhat subdued but Victorian nonetheless. I know too that the house was built by a Tennessee native, a man named M. D. Bray.

Bray was the third man who once owned the Moran townsite. Swope Hull and Bem Scott preceded him in ownership. In December 1890 Bray received a Quit-Claim Deed from Scott for the remaining acreage in Quarter Section No. 60 and the townsite of Hicks, formerly Hulltown.

M. Day Bray was born in Tennessee in 1845, one of eight children of Ike and Nancy Bray. Bray had five brothers --- Elijah, Coe, Frank, John, and Jim. Jim was killed in the Civil War. There were two sisters --- Fannie Bray Latham and Hilda Bray Rooks. The father of the family, Ike Bray, died in 1849 when his son Day was only four years old. Nancy Bray survived her husband and lived until 1870. Both parents are buried in Tennessee.

M. D. Bray came to Texas about 1885 and settled in Lamar County. A few years later in 1889 or 1890, he moved to southeast Shackelford County. Bray was married to Mary Brown Edwards, a daughter of James Edwards.

The Edwards family also lived in Lamar County and in about 1900 they too moved to Shackelford County. J. J. (Jim) Edwards, brother to Mary Brown Bray, settled on a Battle Creek farm three miles southeast of present day Moran. Bray's sister Hulda was married to J. M. Rooks and soon they migrated to Shackelford County.

Soon after acquiring the townsite from Bem Scott, M. D. Bray bought additional land adjoining Quarter Section No. 60. This part of Moran is still identified as Bray's First, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Additions. For the third time, the town on Deep Creek gained a new name. On March 2, 1892 the pioneer settlement officially became Moran. According to the Handbook of Texas, the town was named for a John J. Moran, once president of the Texas Central Railway. The name became permanent.

Bray soon became a prominent citizen in Moran. He built a substantial home (the Victorian) on Block No. 8, at the intersection of Ground and Post Oak Streets. Bray and his brother-in-law J. W. Rooks became partners in a general merchandise store and later they owned a lumber yard in Moran.

In 1892 M. D. and Mary Brown Bray became parents of their first daughter, Willie. In 1894 a second daughter, Clara, was born. In 1901 seven-year-old Clara was a victim of the dreaded childhood disease diphtheria. Willie Bray grew to young womanhood and married Claude Davis, son of Dr. and Mrs. Jesse 0. Davis. Willie Bray Davis died during the influenza epidemic of 1918.

In spite of tragedy, Bray continued to prosper in the town he had purchased in 1890. The Moran State Bank was established in 1902 and Bray served as its first president. In 1912 he was president of the Moran School Board. At this time a new red brick, two-story school building was erected, a building that stood for 40 years.

In 1925 the Moran State Bank received its charter and became the Moran National Bank. Bray, now 80 years old, retired following the change over. A year later, on May 9, 1926, M. Day Bray died at his home in Moran. His wife, Mary Brown Edwards Bray, lived until January 5, 1935. Mr. and Mrs. Bray and their two daughters are buried in the Moran Cemetery. Although Mr. and Mrs. Bray left no descendants, they were survived by a number of nieces and nephews. They described "Uncle Bray" as a conservative, serious-minded, dignified and moderately friendly man. Oue nephew laughingly suggested that "Uncle Bray was as friendly as he could afford to be. Running a bank, you can't be too friendly."

Bray was a staunch Baptist who regularly attended all church services. He had an excellent voice and participated in all singing activities. One niece thought he probably taught singing schools in Moran.

In physical appearance Bray was a tall, bearded, rather thin man. His kin said he had a fondness for brown hats and in one of his photographs he is wearing such a hat. His long gray beard reminded one nephew of patent medicine's "Dr. Caldwell", pictured on all Syrup Pepsin boxes.

All in all, M. Day Bray apparently was a "salt of the earth" gentleman from Tennessee who "volunteered" to become a Texan. The name will exist in Moran records as long as the town with Bray's Additions One through Five exists.

The Bray house was the property of Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Brewster for many years. Frances Crews owned the house for a number of years prior to her death. It is now occupied by Mrs. Crews' daughter Carolyn Hill and her family. It appears to be in good condition.

A massive gray granite monument marks the burial sites of the four Brays. Mrs. Bray is on her husband's right and daughters Clara and Willie on his left. Granite blocks with the letter "B" mark each corner of the 20 by 40 foot lot on the north end of the Moran Cemetery.  


This column was published in "The Albany News" Thursday, June 24, 1999:

When Shackelford County is mentioned, the average person immediately thinks of Albany and/or Fort Griffin. Hardly anyone thinks of Moran --- natives excepted, of course. But there it was on August 29, 1883 and here it is 117 years later, right where a man named Swope Hull established it in southeast Shackelford County.

How Hull and his wife Mary happened to come to the area is anybody's guess. The couple rode the Texas Central in Shackelford County in 1883. Perhaps they were looking for success in sparsely populated Texas and noted the need for a settlement between Cisco and Albany. No doubt the new railroad influenced their decision. On December 16, 1881, Houston & Texas Central Engine No. 49 headed the first train ever to cross the area that would be the site for Swope Hull's settlement --- Hulltown. At the time, more than 50 families had settled in the area surrounding the planned townsite. The Hulltown post office was established August 29, 1883 with Hull as its first postmaster.

Something not generally known is that Hulltown was not this area's first post office. That claim belongs to the Battle Creek post office established November 24, 1879. William Hawkins served as postmaster from December 9, 1879 until the office closed June 15, 1881. The exact site of this post office has not been identified. Hawkins and his family are listed on the 1880 census for Shackelford County, Precinct 3. Apparently their home was near that of William Hamilton, who at the time was located on Battle Creek four miles southeast of present day Moran. Other families listed on the census are known to have been living nearby where water and wild game were plentiful. The post office probably closed in anticipation of the railroad then under construction. Swope Hull's business failed less than a year after its opening. Drought and failed crops left the mostly farming population without money to pay their accounts. But most of the pioneer settlers stayed and the little village hung on. In 1890 its name was changed to Hicks for unknown reasons. Two years later, in 1892, the name again was changed to Moran. The Handbook of Texas says the town was named for Texas Central Railroad president John J. Moran and it was accepted for the official Texas historical marker located within the Moran city limits at the intersection of State Highway #6 and FM #576. I have done considerable research on the Texas Central and I have never found mention of John J. Moran in any capacity. At one time the Texas Central was owned by Cornelius 0. Gold, Henry K. McHarg, and Charles Moran.

The cattle trails preceded the railroads. For many years the Fort Griffin-Fort Dodge Cattle Trail, a branch of the Great Western Trail, passed near the present site of Moran. This was in the days of open range and the scattered settlers had trouble keeping their small herds from joining the thousands of cattle moving up the trail to the Fort Dodge market.

Young Sam Jackson, father of pioneer Church of Christ minister Cole Jackson, was assigned the task of keeping the local cattle from joining the trail herds. Within a few years large acreages of prairie land were enclosed with barbed wire fences. Close behind were shining rails stretching into the future. The frontier was vanishing.

Living on a small Battle Creek farm three miles southeast of Hulltown was the Squire Leander Barker family. The Barkers left Virginia in about 1870 and settled in Burnet county in Central Texas. In 1882 the family moved to the Battle Creek farm where they lived until 1889. According to family memoirs, Squire Barker erected a windmill near a deep hole of water in Battle Creek and built a water storage tank out of native stone. (The remains of the square shaped tank have survived for 118 years.) He set out a large orchard, which was irrigated from the creek as was a vegetable garden. The surplus garden produce was hauled by wagon to Albany and sold or traded for other foods. Three Barker children were born in Shackelford County, including son Elliott who became a forest ranger in New Mexico.

Elliott Barker was the ranger who rescued the singed bear cub that became Smokey the Bear. He also became a well known writer of Western articles. His younger brother, Omar, born in New Mexico, was equally well known for his Western articles and poems. Their father was a Church of Christ preacher who regularly preached at Moran, Putnam, and several other places. One of Barker's daughters said her father earned a total of $1.60 during his preaching years in the area. The Barkers abandoned their Battle Creek farm in August 1889 and headed for New Mexico where they lived for the remainder of their lives.

The years 1900 - 1910 were the most formative of Moran's almost 12 decades.  A trio of Ohio natives: Granville E. Waters, Jim Cottle, and Cyrus B. Snyder guided the town's first financial institution into the reality of the Moran State Bank in 1902. A large school building was erected and Miss Ollie Clark was the 1909-1910 superintendent. Her fellow teachers were Misses Dera Plummer and Lula Gill.

In the early 1900's Rube Brooks drilled for water in his back yard and struck oil ---- the first in Shackelford County. A sample of the shallow crude was sent to Pennsylvania and --- as they say --- the rest is history.

The old Texas Company latched onto the information and began leasing Moran area land for oil exploration. On November 10, 1910, an event occurred two miles east of Moran that would forever change the economy of Shackelford County and all of West Texas. On that date the Texas Company's test well, the Jim Cottle No. 1, blew in for 2,000,000 cubic feet of per day. This discovery opened the Moran Field and was the first commercial gas well completed in this vast West Texas area.

In the spring of 1911, gas was piped to Moran for residence and business use. Within two years the cities of Albany, Cisco, and Abilene were supplied for the first time with natural gas.  Moran's first 50 years ended with the birth of the petroleum industry.


This column was published in "The Albany News" Thursday, July 18, 1996:

“Time changes everything”, say the words of an old adage. We might reply with another elderly maxim, “Truer words were never spoken.” For abundant proof that time does indeed “play whaley” with just about anything one might mention, we might take a backward look at an old newspaper or two.

In 1939 Moran had a newspaper, The Moran Enterprise. Beneath the title readers were told the paper was the “Successor To The Moran News.” Directly above the title was this advice: “Be Loyal To Moran, Trade At Home, Sell At Home, and Buy At Home.” Good advice if it had worked. But that was 57 years ago.

The particular issue I’m looking at is dated November 4, 1939. Lots of news about citizens of Moran as well as the Pueblo and Deep Creek communities. Lots of advertisements, too. A half century ago Moran had many businesses.

Quite a few familiar names in the Deep Creek news: Mr. and Mrs. Lum Morris; Mr. and Mrs. Jim Parrish; Mr. and Mrs. C. N. Bynum; Mr. and Mrs. Albert Morris; Maurine McCollum and Ladelle Marchbanks.

Pueblo citizens mentioned were LaFord Green; Mrs. E. Green and Frances Jean Green; Mr. and Mrs. Enoch McCollum; Clovis McCollum; Mrs. T. J. Odell; Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Booth; Chester Allen; J. H. Owens; Mr. and Mrs. C. E. Hardwick.

Mrs. Herschel Roberts had hosted the Moran Study Club. Mrs. R. E. Forrester, club president, reported on her trip to the State Federation Convention at Wichita Falls. Mrs. Jack Taylor introduced Mrs. J. M. Townsend for a talk and Mrs. Ben Hubbert for a book review. Mrs. Floyd C. Pool and Mrs. R. C. Black were guests. Mrs. Oscar Wise would be the December 5,1939 hostess.

Mrs. Wise had been hostess for the Moran Bridge Club the same week. Sixteen women were present. Evelyn Dennis, Mrs. W. E. Hammett, Mrs. Homer McDonald, Mrs. Cole Black, Mrs. Floyd Pool, Mrs. Jack Taylor, Mrs. R. A. Elliott, Mrs. Bertram Elliott, Mrs. Will Townsend, Mrs. Herschel Roberts, Mrs. Jay Terry and Mrs. Johnnie Bates of Breckenridge.

One front page headline announced “Bulldogs Fall To Strong May Team To Finish Season”. The story, written by the late Howard Weber, related Moran’s loss to the May Tigers 14-7. “Bulldog fans should not feel so bad over the defeat,” comforted Weber. “After all the only football teams to beat Moran in conference play this year were May and Baird, the co-leaders of the conference.”

The Bulldogs’ 1939 schedule with scores also made the front page: September 15 --- Albany 17, Moran 0; September 22 --- Moran 25, Scranton 0; September 29 --- Moran 6, Olden 2; October 6 --- Moran 19, Woodson 0; October 13 --- Moran 7, Putnam 6; October 27 --- Baird 12, Moran 6; November 16 --- Moran 6, Strawn 0; November 17 --- May 14, Moran 7.

In 1939 Moran High School had a column in the Enterprise called “The Bow-Wow.” Maurice Cottle was Editor-in-Chief; Helen June Terry, Ass’t Editor; Otha Lee Grisham, Sports Editor; Roy Lee Steen, Society Editor; Laury Taylor, Humor Editor; Mary Weber, Editorial Writer; Leonard Midkiff, Feature Editor; Glen Pool, Exchange Editor; C. J. Watson, Sponsor.

These were the halcyon days of the old Moran Luncheon Club. This was nearly ten years before my years and years spent cooking on out-moded gas stoves for the Luncheon Club. The ladies of the Moran Cemetery Association served gargantuan amounts of food to members and visitors of the Luncheon Club, Moran’s Chamber of Commerce.

The November 23, 1939 Enterprise reported “Good Attendance Noted At Session of Luncheon Club.” Albanyites present included R. Y. Black, Mrs. Mildred Beaty and Miss El Fleda Harrison.

According to the article, “Plans were discussed at the meeting for assisting in raising money for the high school athletic fund to be used in buying sweaters for members of the Bulldog football team.

At this meeting Lloyd Walker, local West Texas Utilities Co. manager, explained where Christmas lights would be strung this year over the business section.

The meeting was held in the basement of the Methodist Church with no mention of the group serving the meal. The article did announce that “Mrs. Cole Jackson’s group of the Cemetery Association, will have charge of serving the meal next Wednesday, which is the day before Thanksgiving.” They announced that a fine Thanksgiving turkey dinner is to be prepared and urged a large attendance.

There were several businesses in Moran nearly six decades ago. Freeman’s Grocery offered Bright 7 Early coffee for 21 cents per pound. Palmolive soap, three cakes for 20 cents; Super Suds, large box 19 cents. Mr. Freeman paid 30 cents per dozen eggs (in trade).

F. N. Hassen Dry Goods had a “For Men Only” ad in the paper. The store offered shirts for 75 cents to $1.50; Jackets $1.98 to $4.95; Ties 25 cents to $1.50; Pajamas $1.50 to $2.50.

Lee Weir, Plymouth dealer, offered a 1935 Dodge 4-door sedan (looks good and runs good) for $275. Also a Studebaker 4-door sedan could be had for $50.

Martin Drug Co. reminded its readers that “Martin’s will be headquarters for gifts at Christmas time as well as other seasons of the year.

Carroll Loudder advised would-be tire customers, “Let us figure with you on a set of Star tires which carry the most liberal tire guarantee ever written.”

This is a brief backward glance at Depression era Moran. At that time there seemed to be a closeness in the community; the school was an integral part of the town and community.


This column was published in "The Albany News" Thursday, October 28, 1999:

He was a simple man -- as simple and unpretentious as his tombstone in the Moran Cemetery. Chiseled into the gray granite monument is the barest outline of one man's 76 years of living: DAN COLE JACKSON, Sept. 29, 1882 -Nov. 21, 1958. Cole Jackson was an old-time preacher man. A devout member of the Church of Christ, he began his ministry when he was in his early twenties. For 50 years he expounded the gospel from pulpits in three states and dozens of Texas counties. His preaching and teaching touched the lives of literally hundreds of people.

Dan Cole Jackson came of pioneer stock. He was the only living child born to Sam and Nancy Catherine McCullough Jackson. Sam Jackson was born May 9, 1856 in Falls County, Texas. Nancy McCullough was born October 12, 1856 in Lee County, Mississippi.

The McCullough family moved to Falls County and there Sam and Nancy were married in 1874. The couple moved to Shackelford County in 1875 and settled near the site of the Ibex Community. They homesteaded 200 acres of land on this place where Cole Jackson was born.

During these early years a branch of the Great Western Cattle Trail went through the Moran area. In those days of open grazing the local ranchers found it very difficult to keep their cattle from joining the trail herds. Sam Jackson was given the job of cutting these cattle from the herds moving up the trail. Young Cole Jackson assisted his parents with the work on the small ranch, but a rancher he was not to be.

In 1904 Dan Cole Jackson and Laura Elizabeth Webb, daughter of Kendall D. and Millie Webb, were married.  For the first few years of their married life, the young couple lived on the Jackson place. They regularly attended services at Moran Church of Christ. This meant a long drive in a buggy across dusty pasture roads, but the Jacksons seldom missed a Sunday service. In 1920, Cole and Laura moved to Moran. Now he would devote full time to the ministry at the Moran Church of Christ.

Jackson was a meticulous man who kept complete records of his ministerial work. These records tell much about this man's integrity,compassion, and his faith in the Almighty. He carefully noted the titles of the sermons he preached and the names of the communities where he preached them.  Always listed was his means of conveyance to each community. Through the years his travelling was done on horseback, in buggies, hacks, trains, buses, and finally in automobiles.

The young minister’s first preaching was done at Lueders when he was 22 years old. In a journal entry dated August 20 - 28, 1904, he noted: “Bro. S. Scarborough and I in protracted effort. Nine services. I preached six. I baptized two. In buggy.”

In the ensuing years Jackson preached in Oklahoma, New Mexico and in at least 25 counties in Texas. Much of his preaching was done in rural communities no longer in existence - communities with names like Indian Mountain, Yellow Mound, Cedar Grove, Newcomb, Friendship, Rowden, Union Hill, Oliver Springs, Battle Axe, Center Ridge, Duster, Boogsburg, Titus, Bear Springs, and dozens more.

During the 50 years of his ministry, Cole Jackson performed many marriage ceremonies and conducted many funerals. Most of these are recorded in his journal. He officiated at funerals for many of Moran’s pioneer settlers: Compton, Merritt, McCanlies, Plummer, Dennis, Witty, Pritchard, Kirkpatrick, McCollum, Huskey, Cottle, Morris, Waters, Pinnell, Garrett, Brooks, Snyder, Rodgers, Bills, DeWitt, and many more.

Jackson had a marvelous sense of humor. His wit was keen and dry. Occasionally he related some the amusing incidents of his early day preaching. One had to do with bedbugs, an insect that apparently was common in the early 1900's. When Brother Jackson traveled by horseback or buggy to a distant rural community to hold a protracted meeting, he roomed with church members. One of the calculated risks of such rooming was bedbug infestation. On this particular occasion another preacher was rooming with Jackson and the two had discussed the possibility of the miserable little bugs. Hoping for the best, they blew out the kerosene lamp and climbed into bed. They had barely dozed off when uncomfortable ankle chomping began. Ruefully, Jackson announced to his fellow roomer, “Well Brother, they’re here.”

A history of Brother Cole Jackson would not be complete without mention of his beloved wife.  Laura Webb Jackson was her husband’s helpmate and partner for 54 years. Occasionally, she traveled with him, but more often she stayed behind to maintain their home. The Jacksons were the parents of one son, Lathan, now deceased, and an adopted daughter, Pauline (Mrs. Truett) Jones, also now deceased.

This was Cole Jackson --- husband, father, minister of the gospel, neighbor, and friend. He was a devout Christian in every sense of the word, but one who did not consider a sour-pickle visage a necessary part of a Christian's appearance. On all counts, he was a good man --- one who truly practiced what he preached.

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