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Corsicana, Navarro County, Texas


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7/15/2002 ALMOST FAMOUS: Memorabilia from local sports past at Pioneer Village

By RUTH THOMPSON/Daily Sun Staff

A "Blast from the Past," couldn't be a more appropriate movie to watch after taking a tour of the Navarro County Hall of Fame at the Pioneer Village.

This Hall of Fame is filled with pictures and trophies from the old glory days of baseball and football when Babe Ruth and Crazy Legs Hirsch played. Although the pictures aren't of the nationally-known sports' heroes, but local ones.

The Navarro County Hall of Fame, the newest addition of Pioneer Village, features some Corsicana's finest football and baseball moments.

Pictures of the Corsicana Tigers 1932 football State Champions and the 1928 and 1929 football squads line the walls. Football memorabilia (an old football sweater, paintings, photos, old footballs, and football trophies) is found almost every where you turn. Most of the football-oriented objects and pictures were donated by Nelson Ross.

Pictures of the Corsicana Oilers and Corsicana Cotton Mill, semi-professional baseball teams, are shown predominately along left wall (from entry) with the football photographs. James Strum, who played on the Cotton Mill team, donated all of the baseball memorabilia, including the old pictures featuring the Corsicana teams, and the old newspaper clippings, bats, and gloves found in the glass cabinet.

Strum is an avid baseball collector and played baseball for the Texas professional league from 1927 to 1935. During the Great Depression he moved from Corsicana to Dallas to look for a job.

"I lived for quite awhile in Dallas," he said. "My cousin told me about a baseball team and I signed up. I played with that team until my uncle's brother-in-law's textile company was looking for baseball players. So I moved to Waco and played baseball for them. I love baseball probably because it was my job for so long."

Pioneer Village preserves and teaches the history of Corsicana. Strum believes that baseball played an important part in Corsicana's history. He noticed that the Pioneer Village didn't have any baseball-related objects, so he donated.

"But the main reason I donated is I'm ninety one years old."

However, the Navarro County Hall of Fame doesn't just cater to sport heroes, but the leaders and historians of Navarro County too. Pictures of people like Drew Gillen, the Blooming Grove Civic leader, Annie Carpenter Love, author of "History of Navarro County," G. W. Jackson, local educator and principal, and Lyman T. Davis, the founder of Wolf Brand Chili, are found on the Wall of Fame.

Every year the historical society selects several people who they feel have made outstanding contributions to the city or the county. During Derrick Days, now Derrick Days Corsicana Heritage Festival Day, the Historic Society presents the person with their award and hang their picture on the wall, honoring the people who shaped Navarro County's history.

Come to Pioneer Village and enjoy the Navarro County Hall of Fame and see some of the heroes of Navarro County. You might even recognize the people in photographs as family or friends.

Ruth Thompson may be contacted via e-mail at dailysun@airmail.net


Would you like to help preserve a piece of local history?

By Bill Young

About one year ago, the Navarro County Historical Society purchased a small one-room building which was the original scale house for the cotton gin located at Corbet. It took forever to get the building moved to Pioneer Village, but last week the structure finally made its way to the village and is now located inside the east fence. At the moment it isnít much to look at because part of the roof had to be removed before the structure was low enough to pass below power and telephone lines but eventually we hope to get it restored back to what it looked like originally.

On the east end of the structure is a large overhang where the cotton wagons were pulled onto a large set of beam scales. Once the wagon was located on the scales, the combined weight of the load of cotton and the wagon was noted. Then when the cotton had been removed from the wagon, it was pulled once more on to the scales to get the tare (empty) weight. After the tare weight was established, the gin operator and the farmer knew exactly how much cotton the farmer had delivered to the gin for ginning. At some of the gins, the scale house also doubled as the office while other gins had a separate office structure. Either way, the scale played an integral part in each ginís operation.

Currently we want to restore the building and for the moment there arenít any plans to try to acquire a complete set of weighing beams simply because the metal beams and drive plate are extremely heavy and very difficult to handle. However, we do have at the village all of the inside weight apparatus for a set of cotton scales which we will move into the new building once the restoration is complete.

The production of cotton beginning in the 1850s and still continuing today is one of the most important industries established in Navarro County. In fact it was the number one industry up until oil was discovered in Corsicana in 1894. But even after the discovery of oil, cotton was still grown on a grand scale up until the 1950s when much of the cultivated land started to be converted into pastures for the cattle industry. Farming along with the major swings in our annual rainfall brought about both good and hard times. Diversification of crops helped to extend the use of land for a long time allowing for some tracts to be set aside in the land bank while others were planted in some other type of cash crop. There were years when there was entirely too much cotton production which drastically drove down the price for cotton. This brought about the practice of planting part of a farmerís acreage in one of several other crops instead of putting everything into one crop.

However, if you look back at early Corsicana and the other communities in the county, cotton ruled the roost. Here in town we had several gins, an oil mill for handling the seeds plus the cotton mill. According to an archeology report written for the Tennessee Colony Lake Project, there were 50 cotton gins in Navarro County in the year of 1950. Today I think there are only a couple of gins, the Williams Gin at Frost and the Bancroft Gin at Powell, but those two gins still handle a lot of cotton.

Now back to our original problem. We need donations to help restore this piece of cotton history. When we first acquired the structure, we were told the roof would not have to be partially removed for moving. Then the price of moving went up and the extra cost of taking off part of the roof plus a tarp to cover the open area until we can get a new roof put back has strained our available finances which we had set aside originally to do the restoration. We will take anything from a handful of pennies to a handful of dollars. Whatever money we can get will go towards the restoration of this cotton scale house. We have a number of photos depicting various things associated with the cotton industry and once this structure is restored it will be an ideal place for displaying the photos.

Last year at the Texas Historical Commissionís annual preservation conference, Dan Utley, who was the chairman for the historical marker division, and I were discussing historical markers. He made the remark about the fact Navarro County needed more things honoring the cotton industry and education locally. Well, this little cotton scale house is one step in the right direction. It would be nice to have a complete cotton gin on display but there are several factors which might affect this idea. One is the amount of space needed to display a complete gin and secondly is the fact walking around in a cotton gin is not adventitious for the general touring public. Lots of metal objects sticking out in the wrong place! An old style gin was never meant to be toured on a regular basis by the general public. It was an industrial facility meant to process cotton after harvesting from the farms. I have read descriptions or seen photographs of people who had lost a limb to one of the pieces of machinery associated with a working gin. Early on bales of cotton weighed 400 pounds but today the weight has been increased to 500. It took dedication on the part of gin workers to show up every day and work extremely long hours during the ginning season, and not get hurt on the job. But on the brighter side, the cotton industry put groceries on a lot of family tables.

For anyone who wishes to help with this worthwhile project, send your donations in to the Navarro County Historical Society; 912 W. Park Ave., Corsicana, TX 75110. And remember these donations are tax deductible!

 


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