Joyce Willingham submitter
Written in 1945 by G H Baird
No Copyright ; Thanks to Avon Willingham for permission to post this to this website. Avon is the great grandson of G.H. Baird. On the inside of the book is an advertisement:
"WINTON E. SMITH
Groceries, Feed, Dry Goods,
Shoes, Gasoline, Oil, Car Parts
Big Sandy, Texas"
A Brief History
A Brief History of Shady Grove
Upshur County, Texas
By G.H. Baird
Every old settled community has a peculiar history which is of special interest to its present day citizens. It is interesting to know who the first settlers were, where they settled, and something of the early adventures and experiences.
Shady Grove, situated in the western part of Upshur County, is one of the oldest settled communities in the eastern part of Texas. A few pioneers began to settle here about the time Texas became a State of the Union, or a very short time after. Back in those early days of Texas, a number of the settlers were merely "Squatters." That is they would come from sone of the older states to avail themselves of the liberal opportunities Texas was offering to settlers. They would stop at a place for a while, then move on to some more desirable location. This part of the state was well watered and timbered, and was well stocked with wild game, so the early settler found little trouble in building his home and procuring food for his family. Log houses were first built near some bubbling spring, where abundance of water could be had. Big Sandy Creek, Glade creek and Blue Branch in the Shady Grove area, were well stocked with fish, which offered an opportunity for sport as well as a means for supplying the settler's family with food.
As there was a lot of fine pine timber here, the early log
cabins gave way to larger and better homes. Crude saw mills were
soon built which converted this fine timber into lumber for building purposes.
The living conditions of early Shady Grove were very simple, with few luxuries,
as, indeed, was the condition in all parts of Texas at that time.
Yet these pioneers were contented and happy. They knew nothing of
our modern conveniences, but made the best of
what they had. Every home was a miniature manufacturing plant. They made their own cloth and shoes, and almost everything else that the family used. The spinning wheel and the loom were kept busy in every home. In those days, large families of children were common, and these youngsters were taught to work. It was the efforts of these pioneer boys and girls that has made Texas the fine state that it is. The first settlers of the Shady Grove community were few and far apart, but they united their efforts in building a community that would be a pleasant place for their children and their children's children to live.
It is not known at this time, just who made the first settlement in the present Shady Grove area. The community was well established before the war between the United States and Mexico, in 1846. The early settlers of Shady Grove were of a high moral class of people. A very old man, now living at Gilmer, Texas, in speaking of Shady Grove, said that he never had lived there, but remembered that back in the early days up to the Civil War, Shady Grove had the reputation of being a highly civilized comunity. It seems that the rough, lawless characters that we hear so much of, back in the early days of Texas, were absent in the Shady Grove settlement. The first settlers were of a high moral class, and they induced others of the same class to settle near them. Texas was at this time a state with its boundless resources undeveloped. She was offering unusual inducements to settlers, and all roads leading to Texas were crowded with emigrants to the Lone Star State.
When Texas joined the Union, in 1846, Mexico declared war on
the United States. Tom Ellison, then a young man came on horseback
from Tennessee to join forces against Mexico. He came through the
Shady Grove country and stopped awhile with some of the settlers.
When the war was over, he returned to Tennessee and married a Miss Davis.
He liked Texas so well, however, that he returned with his young wife and
two children and a brother-in-law, Bill Davis, in 1855. He homesteaded
a tract of land
on Big Sandy Creek and built a house where his son Jim Ellison, now lives. Buck, Jim and Dave were his boys. They have all remained on the original homestead. Tom Ellison was of a jovial disposition and a great story teller. He had had many exciting experiences in fighting Mexicans and Indians, and enjoyed relating them. He would go to church, or other public gatherings, and sit out under a shade tree and relate witty stories. He would often have as large an audience as the preacher would.
The Snows came to Texas in 1849. Sam Snow built a little house and cleared a little plot of ground. The first year he made one bale of cotton. He carried the cotton to Shreveport and sold it for a little over a hundred dollars. He was paid the hundred dollars in gold. He still had that hundred dollars in gold when he died in 1903. Sam Snow later settled where Wes Williams now lives, and raised a large family. His children were: John, William (Bill), Larkin, Owen, Sarah and Emma. They are all dead now, 1944. Larkin Snow, settled where his daughter Mary and her husband, C.E. McWhorter, now lives. He was a useful man in the community, serving as teacher, justice of the peace, and in other public capacities. His children are: Carrie, Patrick, Mary, Emma, Ida and William. Mary, William and Ida all live on parts of the old homestead. They are all useful citizes in the community.
Bill Snow's children were: Sam, Abb, Jim, Emma, and Betty. Owen Snow's children were: Hubert, Frank, Stella, Flora, Ola, Margaret, and Katie. Owen Snow was an influential leader in the church and school. Hubert Snow now lives at the Weldon place. He, like his father was, is a leader in the community affairs.
Jim Snow, brother to Sam Snow, settled east of Shady Grove. His children were: John, Sam, Will, Adolphus, Mary, Virgil, Hattie and Park.
The Mayfield's, McWhorters, Calhouns and Wilsons all came together
in wagons from South Carolina, in 1848. Charlie Calhoun had come
to Texas some time before, and was somewhere near Fort Worth. Fort
Worth was, at that time, only a pioneer
Indian fort, with a few scattered settlements near by. These new comers went to Fort Worth in search of Charlie. Failing to locate him, and being in danger of hostile Indians, they returned to East texas and settled near Shady Grove.
The black lands of Texas were not very attractive to settlers at that time. Water was scarce, and there was no timber for fencing. Barbed wire had not come into use at that time, so the black land seemed worthless to these South Carolinans.
The Mayfields settled North of Shady Grove, at what is now known as the Jot Walker place, where the Carlocks live. Isiah Mayfield later settled south of Shady Grove, where Charlie Orr now lives. His son, J.F. Mayfield, built a nice home at Shady Grove, and became a music teacher and a social leader. He was known as the Father of Music in East Texas. He had two sons, Rufus and Burt. Rufus now lives at his father's old home and is a minister in the Church of Christ and retired school teacher. Burt lives in Oklahoma.
Billie Calhoun settled up near old Calloway. Charlie Calhoun came from the Fort Worth country a little later, and settled where Park McWhorter now lives.
Dave McWhorter settled up on Blue Branch, but later bought the place where Park now lives. His children were: Tom, John, Rufus, Park, Marietta, Sallie and Minnie.
The Whites came to Texas just after the close of the Civil War, and settled at old Chilton, near where the town of Big Sandy now stands. They later came and settled just east of Shady Grove. Robert White became a social leader and merchant at Shady Grove.
John Wilson settled near Sam Snow, west of Shady Grove.
He was a blacksmith and gunsmith by trade. He made guns for the Confederate
Soldiers during the Civil War. His children were: Robert, Andrew,
Millie, Lizzie, Lettie, Dempsie, Jane and [Sarah] Malinda. They are
all dead now except Malinda. Johnnie Wilson, a music teacher, retired
merchant and deacon in the Church of Christ, is a son of Andrew Wilson.
He now lives near his father's old home.
Artie Wilson, now living at Big Sandy, is a son of Robert Wilson. Lieut. Lucy Iris Wilson, an Army nurse of national fame, is the daughter of Artie Wilson.
The Crows and Stephensons and Prices all came from Tennessee,
back in 1851. The Stephensons settled up on Blue Branch, while the
Crows settled up north of Shady Grove at what is known as the Dennis Sansom
place. Rufus Crow settled where Robert Irons now lives and ran a
country store before the Civil War. Wash Crow settled at the Elder
place, where Guy Weldon now lives. His boys were: John, George, William,
Rufus, Uriah and Lon. The Crow's are all gone from Shady Grove.
John and George Crow went to Hawkins and engaged in the mercantile business
back in the 1880's.
A Mr. Mann settled where Hubert Snow now lives at an early date. He sold out to a Mr. Humphreys, who in turn sold out to Green Weldon, just after the close of the Civil War, and moved down on the Brazos. Green Weldon raised a fine family of five girls and one boy. They were: Nannie, Ada, Ella, Emma, Dorothy and William. They are all dead now. Grady, now living on part of the Weldon place; Guy living at the Elder place, and Mercer living in Oklahoma, are sons of William Weldon.
The Prices settled north of Shady Grove in 1851. Tom Price taught school at Shady Grove in the early days. Charlie (Poney) Price settled northeast of Shady Grove and raised a large family. His children were: Jim, John, Nancy, Rebecca, Rosa, Charlie and Margaret.
Grand Pa Cox settled south of Shady Grove, near where the old Paint Rock Church stood. He sold out to Jeff Stringer, a Primitive Baptist preacher, who moved from Harrison County, just after the Civil War. The Coxes all moved down to Brazos County. Jeff Stringer raised a large family. They are all dead now, except a daughter, Emma, who lives with her niece, Mrs. Hubert Snow.
William Baird settled near the Stringers, where Julius Murphy
now lives. He ran a water mill down on Big Sandy Creek. He
died during the Civil War. His children were: Jeff, Tom, Ben, George,
Nancy and Madison. George Baird married Jeffie Stringer and lived on his father's old place at Paint Rock. He ran a country store at his home in the 1880's. He and Jim Davis also ran a saw mill and shingle mill on Gin Creek, near where Horace Barber now lives. George Baird's children were: Madison, Williamson, Emma, Beulah, Essie, Orrie, Verbie, Ethel and Kay. Henry Baird, a retired school teacher and elder in the Church of Christ, is the son of Jeff Baird, and was partly raised by his Uncle George.
In about 1845, Owen Davis settled where John Mooney now lives. John, Jim and Fred Davis were his sons. Frank and Tom Davis, living west of Shady Grove, are sons of Jim Davis. Tom and Press Davis living at Pleasant Grove, are sons of John Davis.
James Blackstone came to this country back in the early days, and Married Willie Stringer and settled near old Paint Rock and raised a fine family of boys and girls. They had a beautiful home and took pride in making it attractive. His boys were: Billie, Jeff, Tommie, Goode, Abb, Mart and Harvey. The boys were all leaders in the community and in the school and church. Goode became a minister in the Church of Christ. He and Jeff now live at Big Sandy, while Abb still lives at Shady Grove and is an elder in the church.
Tom Cannon came from some of the western counties in the early 1880's and exchanged his western home with Charlie Calhoun for the place where Park McWhorter now lives. His youngest son, Lee, now lives on part of the old place.
Elias Hail came in here when a young man and married one of the Price girls and settled up north of Shady Grove. He had been serving with the Texas Rangers on the frontier of Texas. John Hail, a retired merchant and mechanic, living at Shady Grove, is one of his sons.
Ed Elder came from Comanche County in 1883 and exchanged his
place there with William Crow for the place where Guy Welden now lives.
They exchanged everything except their wives and children. They exchanged
their land, stock, utensils and all their household goods, even to the
knives and forks in the kitchen. Ed Elder was a good leader in the
community, and raised a fine family of children, who also became useful citizens. They were: Frank, who died shortly after they came here, Burton, Eddie, Parker, Media, Ella, Leona, Effie and Genie. Burton became one of the leading educators of the county and a minister of the gospel. He now lives at West Mountain. Park lives at Greenville, a retired railway mail clerk. Ella lives at Dallas with one of her daughters, and Genie lives at Big Sandy.
Uncle Amos Willingham settled east of Shady Grove, at the Pridgeon place. His sons were: Amos, John and Joe. Amos, Jr. later settled where Martin Gage now lives, and raised a large family. His children were: Martha, Mary, Robert, Fannie, Alvin, Laura, Ella, Cecil and Ida. There is none of them at Shady Grove now. Joe Willingham's children are: Park, Frank, Dennis and Exa.
Bob Read settled where A.T. Hill now lives. His children were: George, John, and Lou. They are all dead except Lou, who lives at Pritchett.
Francis Satterwhite settled near Bob Read, at what is known as the Lowe place. He became a minister in the Primitive Baptist Church. He raised two boys, Marion and J.C. They have all left Shady Grove.
These family names, together with many others, are woven, inseparably, into the history of Shady Grove.
The early settlers of Shady Grove were engaged in the primitive
occupation of farming. A few public enterprises were later developed,
however, as they were needed. The Crows operated a horse power cotton
gin and grist mill back in the early days. It was later run by steam
power. This was continued by Ed Elder, who also put in a saw mill,
just north of Shady Grove. George Baird put in a store at his home
near Paint Rock, back in 1883. He and Jim Davis also ran a saw mill and
shingle mill on Gin Creek. John Wilson ran a blacksmith shop at his
home. Bob Wilson ran a cotton gin and grist mill on Gin Creek operated
by water power. Saw mills and shingle mills were common and building
material was cheap.
The first church at Shady Grove was established back in its very beginning as a settlement, by a congregation of Missionary Baptists. They erected a building and continued to meet for a while. Later on, some evangelists of the Church of Christ, Ed Sturman and Joh T. Holloway, held revival meetings here and established a church. The Baptist congregation was absorbed and the leaders sold their building to the elders of the Church of Christ. The Church of Christ has continued to meet regularly since that tiem. A new building was erected in 1889, which was used both for church and for school. An independent school building was later erected, however. Some of the ministers who worked witht the church from time to time were: Ed Sturman, John T. Holloway, Billie Holloway, John T. Pee, Alton Livsey, L.M. Owen, Foy E. Wallace, C.D. Record and many more.
From the beginning of the church at Shady Grove, the fourth
Sunday was regular preaching day. Up to the World War, the fourth
Sunday in each month was an important day. The whole community for
miles around would come together for singing and preaching. Great
crowds would gather in wagons and buggies, till the whole grove surrounding
the building was covered with them. The morning was spent in singing
and preaching. A lunch was spread at noon, and the afternoon was
spent in singing. The Shady Grove singing class was known far and
wide as one of the best classes in the whole country. J.F. Mayfield
taught the class and trained them in sight singing. The fourth Sunday
was a great social occasion for the whole community. The rule in
school forbidding the boys and girls to associate together, was usually
suspended on the fourth Sunday, and the young people especially enjoyed
the occasion. During the war, as we could not get flour, sugar, and
such like, the fourth Sunday gathering was discontinued. Then, after
the war closed, cars began to be common, and people could go places so
easily, and conditions had changed so much, it was impossible to re-establish
the old custom. One Sunday in each year was set aside as a reunion
and homecoming day. That was the fourth
Sunday in June. It is still observed.
The church at the present time is moving on nicely. A number of its members have been called into the service, which has greatly reduced the attendance. They have a well organized Bible school with from 60-70 in regular attendance. R.A. Mayfield and Clifton Rogers are preaching for the congregation at present.
A Primitive Baptist Church was established at Paint Rock back in the early days, with Jeff Stringer, and later F.M. Satterwhite as ministers. It has long been discontinued, however, and the building moved away.
A Missionary Baptist Church was organized and a meeting house was built at Myrtle Springs, just west of Shady Grove. They have an interesting church and Sunday school at the present time.
The people of Shady Grove have always been interested in education,
and have, at all times, had as good schools as it was possible to have
at he time. Little one-room, one-teacher, log schools houses were
common back in the early days, and the teachers, as a rule, were not very
efficient. Some of the early teachers at Shady Grove were: Prof.
DuBose, who taught just after the close of the Civil War; Tom Price and
a Mr. Hargrove taught back in the early days. The term of school
was short on account of not having funds to pay the teachers. The
length of term were from three to four months in the year. There
was a high school at Gilmer, just after the Civil War, taught by Morgan
H. Looney. Some of the boys and girls from Shady Grove attended this
school. In the latter part of the 1880's, some of the citizens of
Shady Grove were sending their boys off to school. This was inconvenient
and expensive, so they decided that it would be better and cheaper to build
a high school at home. Accordingly, in 1889 a number of the leading
citizens organized a Board of Directors, erected a school building, hired
a competent teacher, and opened up a high school to run eight months in
the year. The first teacher was C.B. Reader, from Add-Ran Chris-
tian University, then located at Thorp Springs. He put in one month before the opening of the school in advertising the school in the surrounding communityies. When the school opened in the fall of 1889, there was a number of boarding pupils as well as a large number of local boys and girls in attendance. Prof. Reader only taught one year. He was succeeded by Prof. A.F. Shepperd, who also held a degree from the Christian University. The Board of Directors made all rules and regulations governing the school. They employed and paid the teachers, and looked after the interest of the school in general. They had regular meetings with the principal, where they discussed matters of interest to the school. The rules were strict and well enforced. The larger boys and girls were not allowed to associate together, even on Sundays or holidays, without permission from the principal. The principals were usually good, however, and suspended the rule on special occasions. When a fellow could get to talk to his girl, he appreciated it. The boys and girls had seperate playgrounds, and were not allowed to trespass on each other's grounds. Pupils were not permitted to attend social parties at night, visit, or go 'possum hunting at night during school days, without permission from the principal.
The student body of the Shady Grove school was made up of a fine bunch of young people. They enjoyed all kinds of sports and fun. The school had a mail sack, and one boy was appointed each week to bring the mail from the post office to the school building. One day, a mischievous young fellow by the name of Joe Ray, was bringing the mail. He caught a pig on the way and put it in the mail sack and addressed it to one of the timid girls in school.
Miss Mittie Warren, from Gilmer, taught piano music in connection with the school, and while A.F. Shepperd was principal, the school had a brass band. The Shady Grove school did a fine work and sent out a number of young teachers. In a few years, however, the Board of Directors disbanded and turned the management of the school over to the local trustees.
Shortly after the year 1900, a law was passed in Texas, authroizing
common school districts to vote bonds for the purpose of erecting modern
building and equipping them. Shady Grove voted bonds and erected a nice, two-story building with class rooms, auditorium and stage, library room and modern equipment. The school grew so that very soon the auditoruim had to be divided for class rooms and more teachers employed. As the building could no longer accommodate the school and community, in the summer of 1935, a new and larger building was erected. It had five class rooms, a large auditorium and stage, two halls, cloak rooms, library and store rooms. The school had electric lights and running water. It was destroyed by fire in the winter of 1941. The loss was estimated at $10,000 dollars. A new building was put up, ready for use by the latter part of 1943.
Business Activities of Shady Grove
Immediately after the organization of the high school at Shady Grove, people began to move in from the surrounding country to take advantage of the school. Residence lots were laid off and sold and a number of new houses were built. Some of these families boarded pupils from a distance who were attending school.
R.D. White first opented up a little store at his residence.
The business grew till he soon put up a larger building and increased his
stock. S.B. Davis put up a store at his residence north of Shady
Grove, at the old Elder gin. He now moved his business down to Shady
Grove. He built a nice residence and a large stor building where
he did a good business. Hohn Hammock built a home here and put in
a blacksmith shop. W.E. Lott came from Tennessee and built a house
just north of the school house, where Clint Seals now lives. He put
in a blacksmith and general work shop. Park Davis ran a shoe and
harness hop. A post office was established at Shady Grove at this
time, with a star route from Gilmer, which delivered mail twice a week.
This was considered quite a convenience, since up to this time, the people
had to go to Big Sandy to get their mail. In advertising the
school, this mail service was given as an inducement to boarding pupils
and to home seekers. S.B. Davis
and R.D. White both did a large supply business. They both bought cotton and had an extensive trade. Shady Grove became quite a trading center. At one time, there were two general supply stores, two blacksmith shops, a drug store, post office, a barber shop, a shoe shop, a cotton gin, and grist mill. Shady Grove had one or two doctors all the time. Dr. Sorrells bought the Weldon place and moved there. Dr. Duke bought the W.E. Lott place where Clint Seals lives and had an extensive practiece. Dr. Walker, a young doctor just from college, came in here to practice medicine. He later moved to Big Sandy, however, where he died.
In 1891 a telephone system was put in operation at Shady Grove.
A line was put in from Big Sandy and everbody was enthusiastic over it.
When the line was first finished, the citizens of Shady Grove gathered
at R.D. White's residence, where the receiver was installed, to listen
to friends talking at Big Sandy. Soon a general telephone system
was established and party lines were extended to every home that wanted
the service. For a number of years, John P. Mooney operated a switchboard
at his residence which served the whole country.
The people of Shady Grove, back in the early days, were interested
in all kinds of social activities. The neighbors would assist each
other in log-rollings, house raisings, corn shuckings, quiltings, and all
such helpful work, which were sources of social enjoyment as well as being
a great help to each other. On special occasions, picnics and fish
fries were held, with bountiful feasts and good cheer. Often, through
the spring and summer, several families would go together to Big Sandy
Creek for an outing and fish fry. They would spend the night on the
creek. The men and boys would put out the hooks and visit them through
the night. They always caught plenty of fish. The women and
girls enjoyed these sports as well as the men and boys did.
There were literary societies, debating clubs, spell-
ing matches, and all such literary activities. Plays, drills and entereainments were given by the school under the direction of the teachers. Community singings were common back before the World War. The Union Singing Convention often met at Shady Grove in a three-day session. Singers from different parts of the state were entertained by the citizens. These occasions were looked forward to with great pleasure. Such noted singers as J.F. Mayfield, of Shady Grove, the Morgans, Phillips, and Mackeys from West Mountain, and many others, were leaders in this convention. Later the Upshur County Singing Convention was organized at Shady Grove. This convention has never met outside the county. For a number of years, it has met at Gilmer, the county seat. It meets regularly on the first Sunday in May and October of every year. The ladies of Shady Grove have organized a Community Club. This club sees after the civic and social affairs of the community. They see that the cemetery is kept clean and beautified, see after the church and school buildings, and give public entertainments and receptions in the school auditorium. These ladies sponsor a show at the auditorium every Halloween night with various games and performances by characters dressed in spooky costumes.
During the early settlement of this country, there were great
numbers of wild deer, turkey, and other game. Wolves were plentiful
and a few bears were found in the bottoms. On one occasion, while
returning from a fruitless bear hunt, Will Cox, with his father, spied
a buzzard sitting on the top of an old dead tree standing out in a marshy
glade. It probably was the old Meeks glade, where Tom Davis now lives.
Will shot the buzzard for sport. As it fell to the foot of the tree,
they heard the cries of young bears. They found a little opening
in the thicket, and made their way to the foot of the tree. They
caught the cubs and started out with them, when they met the mother bear
coming to the rescue of her babies. William was in the lead in the
trail with one of the cubs in his arms and an empty rifle. He managed
to fight the bear off with his empty gun till his father could shoot her
over his shoulder.
Shady Grove's Decline
As good schools were being built in almost every community, Shady Grove lost her prestige as an educational center. Free rural delivery of mail was established and Shady Grove lost her post office. This, however, was a great advantage, for instead of receiving mail twice a week, it was delivered at you door every day.
About the year 1905 the M&ET Railroad was built a few miles north of Shady Grove, and the town of Rhonesboro was laid off. Most of the business at Shady Grove moved to Rhonesboro. S.B. Davis died about this time, and his business was discontinued. So Shady Grove gradually declined. It is a good gusiness location yet, however. At present it has only one store, operated by B.F. Stegall, who is doing a nice business.
The citizenship of almost any community will make a complete change in fifty or sixty years. It is interesting to note that very few people who were here fifty years ago, are here now. The old people have passed away and the young ones have become old. The cemetery has grown from a few scattered graves to a thickly populated "City of the Dead."
Shady Grove has had its periods of prosperity and its adversities,
but she has survived them all. She still has a fine lot of citizens
who work together to keep this a pleasant place in which to live.
The creator of all things, and dispenser of all human activities, has at all times, favored Shady Grove, for-----
Here he makes the birds to sing
Sweeter each returning spring,
And the dew-drops linger on the rose.
Here the moon beam's silver light
Drives away the gloom of night,
And His children dream in sweet repose.
Here the sweetest flowers grow,
Scented zephyrs softly blow,
And spring remains throughout the year;
Here the women are the fairest,
And their charms, by far, the rarest
You can find by searching far and near.
Here the maidens, sweet and fair,
Carry sunshine in their hair,
And the stars are dimmer than their eyes;
Here the children are the neatest,
And the babies coo the sweetest,
And the rainbow spans the summer skies!
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