Photos submitted by Carl W. Matthews
Carl W. Matthews
The small structure on the corner south of the
Methodist Church has stood on Main Street, Dawson, Texas for more than eighty
years. It remains in remarkable condition as does a large concrete “storm
cellar” located just north of the structure.
During the 1920s the
Absolem Dickson was born
in Dawson in1885 . son of James Dickson and Amanda Dawson. Amanda Dawson was the
youngest child of Brit and Susannah Cannon Dawson. James Dickson was a son of
Milton and Jane Graham Dickson who had migrated from Tennessee to Western
Navarro Co. Texas in the 1870s. Other children were daughter, Jimmy, who
married Ray French, and Etta who married Robert Franks.
James Dickson died c1890
and Amanda married John Thomas “Uncle Tom: Fread whose family had migrated to
Texas from Illinois. Uncle Tom and Aunt Mandy lived for many years directly
across Main Street from The Methodist Church. ….the present residence of Sue
Comer. Their children were Homer who married Nina Coleman, Don, Jack who
married Mrs. C J Loveless,, and Emma who married Tim Roundtree.
Automobiles had begun to
be seen in the Dawson area by 1910, but demand for gasoline was not great. Old
area pictures often show fifty-five gallon barrels on the porches.of General
Merchandise stores….one for gasoline, one for “Coal Oil.” Gasoline from the
barrels was pumped by hand into measured cans and poured into the gas tanks of
automobiles. When the demand for gasoline increased, “The Filling Station” was
constructed. The solidly built brick structure had a small room at the
rear…well lighted with windows..and..with a fireplace to keep the place warm in
winter. A front canopy accommodated a single automobile.
A large underground tank,
installed at the side of the building, was filled from time to time from a
Magnolia Oil Co. truck driven by Charlie Lowrimore. A heavy chain always
dangled from the truck to the ground….a precaution against lightening strikes.
Ab Dickson had installed a
new gasoline pump that stood, perhaps, seven feet tall. A glass container was
located at the top and on its side were numbers one through ten. Midway down
the pump was a steel door…behind which was a large hand lever that pumped
gasoline from the underground tank into the glass container that contained
exactly ten gallons and was always filled before gasoline was dispensed.
Customers who ordered three gallons watched as the level in the glass container
dropped to the mark indicated by the number three. Gasoline was moved by
gravity flow from the glass container…through the hose and nozzle…into the
automobile gas tan….without benefit to an electric pump.
The gasoline tank on Model
T Fords, the most popular automobile in Dawson, was located immediately under
the front seat and the gas cap was located at the center. Drivers and any
front seat passengers were required to exit the automobile to permit Ab Dickson
to remove the seat cushion…open the cap…insert the nozzle of the gas hose…and
drain the glass container down to the amount of gasoline ordered. When more
than ten gallons were ordered, the container would be drained of the first ten
gallons….refilled..and drained down to what had been ordered.
Ab Dickson was a congenial
person…a “Hail Fellow well met” type. A stop at The Filling Station provided
a time of social interaction…exchanging community news. Everyone liked Ab
Dickson and he liked everyone.
Ab Dickson died one winter
in the late 1920s of pneumonia and the station was closed. Several attempts
were made in the 1930s and 1940s…None were successful until the 1950s when
Billy Kendall opened the station and continued operation for many years.
The property….probably the
entire block…. was owned in the 1890s by Robert Harve Matthews 1814-1894. He
had married Elizabeth “Bettie” Priddy 1856-1921 in 1884. Their only child, a
son, was born and died in 1886 and is buried with Robert Harve at the Spring
Robert Harve had a large
house constructed in the middle of the block and a huge barn at the rear of the
house. The date was, probably, the late 1880s or early 1890s. Bettie remained
a widow for at least sixteen years after Robert Harve’s death. She was
remembered as a beautiful and astute businesswoman and may have had the
structure built on the corner of her property and leased it to Ab Dickson.
Bettie was remarried at
some point after 1910 to Dan Simms, eight years her junior. Dan Simms had been
previously been married to Mary Jane “Puss” Slaughter Wheelock, widow of George
Ripley Wheelock. Mary Jane…born 1839 was twenty-five years older than Dan
Simms. She was, also, a daughter of Robert Harve’s sister, Minerva Kathrine
Matthews who had first married Francis Slaugher, then Dr. George Washington
Bettie Priddy Matthews
Simms died in 1921 and left her considerable estate to Dan Simms. The property
now occupied by The Methodist Church may have been purchased from Dan Simms.
Dan Simms lived until 1946 and the estate passed to a third and younger wife who
lived in Dallas, Texas. It is assumed that the surviving wife began to
dispose of the Navarro County properties at that time.
The property on Main
Street….the large house that sat next to the Methodist Church, the barn, the
storm cellar, and the “Filling Station,” were sold at some point after WWII to
Elmer Hagle who had resided for many years in the Brushie Prairie Community.
It was near that time that Billy Kendall opened for business and continued
operation into the 1960s.
More recently, the
structure housed “The Hair Station,” a beauty salon operated by Arlene Bell.
“The Hair Station” was incorporated into a new structure on Hiway 31 that housed
the Rogers Hardware.
Once, during the early
1930s, the body of an unidentified black man was found dead in an abandoned
automobile near the Jimmy Graham home west of Dawson. The man had been
murdered. W W Wolf picked up and embalmed the body. Several days passed
without any identification and the body lay in the unused Filling Station.
Black residents sat with the body…day and night….until it was discovered that
the man was a black undertaker from Austin. He had picked up a white hitch
hiker who murdered him…took his wallet and his car.
The murderer abandoned the
car at the Graham corner when it ran into a ditch…walked to Dawson….threw the
murdered man’s wallet…sans money…into a well across the street from The Green
Hut and continued to Corsicana. The man was, later, apprehended.
Today, the structure
but it remains a Dawson
perhaps, deserving of a
Carl W Matthews