Purdon History
Navarro County, Texas


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Purdon Community


 

Purdon History
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 cities.

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 the routes.

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 impossible.

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 family land.

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 pasture.

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 families.

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.

 


Navarro County TXGenWeb
Copyright March, 2009
Edward L. Williams & Barbara Knox