Dawson Stories
Page 5
Dawson, Navarro County, Texas


Community of Dawson

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Dawson High School
Navarro Co. Texas

The 1930 Dawson, Texas First Grade Class picture presented the 1941 Dawson High School Graduating Class.  Forty-one students were pictured and there were several absent that day.  Mrs. Mae Agee from Mount Pleasant, Texas was the teacher, but she was, apparently, too tired to stand for the class picture.   Imagine....fifty first grade pupils for a single teacher.

1930 was the first year that Texas schools permitted six year olds to enter First Grade and Mrs. Agee's pupils included all seven year olds who would have begun First Grade on the old system, all six year olds under the new system...plus...several pupils who had not been promoted to the second grade the year before, most of whom were eight before September 1, 1930, and some who became nine soon after that date.    Derral Moore and William Lynn Matthews (born Feb. 1923) were placed in the Second Grade soon after the picture was made.

Two pupils, brothers whose names are not remembered, offer a faint smile for the picture.  The other pupils have grim expressions.  The Stock Market had crashed the previous Fall and the grim looks may have been the result of pupils readying for The Great Depression, problems of growing up in Dawson, participating in World War II, and finding a place in the outside world.

Mrs. Mae Agee was a tall, stately lady who dressed nicely, always had her hair arranged properly, drove a four door 1928 Chevrolet, loved children, and must have been well organized to keep fifty pupils occupied each day from eight am to two-thirty pm.    Class began each day with a pledge to the Flag of the United States, the singing of "My Country Tis of Thee," and recitation of "The Lord's Prayer."    Pupils memorized and learned to write the alphabet, learned to count and write numbers, were introduced to social skills, taught to respect our elders and government officials. and made to realize that discipline was an important virtue in life.

The logistics of having fifty children needing a drink of water or having to go to the school toilets must have been a full time job in itself.    Toilets were low wooden structures located to the rear and on each side of the three story school building....girls on the east, boys on the west.  The carpenters who built the structures had sawn holes of various sizes into the wood seat...small, medium, large.  There were no doors, but a wooden fence in front gave a degree of privacy.   High school age boys used the area for smoking cigarettes and kept a close watch for Mr. Head or Mr. Herring through knot-holes in the boards.

Once, probably my first or second day at school, my Mother had dressed me in short pants buttoned to my shirt.   The buttons were, apparently, easy to undo, but I was experiencing difficulty re-attaching the two garments.  Someone must have informed Mrs. Agee that Tubby Matthews was in the toilet, crying and unable to button his pants up.  She came to the rescue in Motherly fashion.    I always wore overalls after that...no buttons.

J. Manley Head was principal, wore spats, had a mustache, slicked his hair in place, and sang "Old Man River."     He became aware that some pupils were not being provided with milk at home.   V T Matthews  had a dairy and could supply milk to school children, but funds were not available.   Mr. Head organized a "Milk at School" Fund Raiser...an operetta with real costumes that utilized local talent.   Mr. Head, of course, sang the male lead role, and Mrs. Robert Hill sang the lead female role.   I was dressed in a Robin Red Breast costume with wings, etc. and stood by Mrs. Hill as she sang "The Finale"...

"Robin Red Breast, we two alone, will build a love nest all of our own. And then our dreams will all come true, for Robin Red Breast...I...Love...You."

There must have been some hugging and kissing as the production came to an end and that gave me the idea to carry the idea to the First Grade.  Mary Louise Lowrimore was the cutest little girl in the class and sat across the aisle from me.  I stood up, crossed the aisle, and gave Mary Louise her first kiss...outside of family...and returned to my seat.  She must have liked it for she didn't slap me.  Or...she may have been surprised and shocked!   Later, after Mrs. Agee had reported the incident to my Mother, I was informed that little boys did not kiss their cousins.   Mary Louise was off limits from then on.

Audrey Lancaster, my giggling cousin and my best buddy, and I were staying after school one day to rehearse for something.  Mrs. Agee kept "Study Hall" after the First Grade was dismissed at two-thirty and had seated Audrey and me near the front of the huge room on the third floor.   We occupied the time by drawing pictures of each other on our Indian Chief tablets.  Back and forth the pictures went across the aisle.   I was in awe of the principal and of Mr. Herring, the superintendent.   I had just completed drawing a really scary picture of Audrey and noticed someone peering over my shoulder.  It was Mr. Herring.   I was so frightened that I completely lost control of my bladder.  Mr. Herring complimented me on the drawing, smiled, and went on his way as I sat there in soaked overalls.

Years later, 1943, I stood with another member of that First Grade, Claude L Holt, when he married Audrey in Fort Worth.   Claude L. left the next day to return to his Army duty station.

Travis Tekell and I would swing together on the playground in a shortened swing that we called our "Little Hot Chocolate Car."     Travis died in 1939 from some illness.   It was on that set that Felix "Teedum" Lawrence was headed head first...a daring thing...down the metal slide.   A piece of metal had come loose and caught Teedum in the chin and caused an ugly, bloody gash.    Teedum, later, apparently was a victim of polio that left
one leg shortened.    He never married and died in Fort Worth.

Several in the picture, Jimmy Graham, Lorraine McGregor, Douglas Berry, Dewey Baker, and I represented Dawson Grammar School at the 1937 County Meet   held at the State Orphans Home in Corsicana and won 2nd Place in Math. Hoyt Harris was math teacher and Principal.

My family moved from Dawson in 1939, but I stayed in touch with many of those who were in that First Grade.     Audrey Lancaster and Lorraine McGregor went to nursing school in Fort Worth.   Derrel and Joyce Lynn Moore moved to Brownwood, Texas.   Duward Burns and J W Reedy moved away.

Most of the boys were in service in World War II.  Joe Jr. Freeland was killed in Europe when his plane was shot down.  Jimmy Graham became an Army First Sergeant in Europe. Others served at Anzio, the Battle of the Bulge, Normandy, Iwo Jima, aboard ships at sea and on planes in the air.

W T Berry, Billy Ruth Lawrence, and I were with the Marines during the invasion of The Marshall Islands and Saipan in The Marianas.   W T was wounded on The Marshalls, I was wounded on Saipan, Billy Ruth was wounded at Iwo Jima.   Billy Ruth and I met in Maui, Hawaii after the Marshall invasion and over several 2 oz bottles of medicinal brandy I confessed that I had been frightened and inquired if he had the same experience.  He replied, "Hell yea...never been so scared in all of my life."  I was comforted.

Bubba Pitts and Tedum Lawrence became accountants.   Douglas Ray Berry was with a large corporation in Pennsylvania and died there.   Jimmy Graham returned from service, never married, worked in Dallas, and died early in Dawson.   Hugh Louis Womack retired from the Air Force and lives in Waco.  Weldon "Puddin" Wells came home, became a pharmacist, owned drug stores in San Angelo.   Claude L Holt had a career with a chemical company near Houston.   J Olin Lawler became a Baptist preacher.   David Allard had a career with the railroad.   William Lynn Matthews retired from the Army and died in an automobile accident.    J R Hoge was in the Navy, (we spent Christmas Day 1942 together in San Diego), came home after the war, became a policeman in Waco, died early.  Billy Ruth Lawrence had a teaching career with the Irving, Texas schools.

Sixty-nine years have passed since that First Grade Class began in Dawson.   Their lives were influenced by teachers.....Eula Lockwood, Miss Mixon, Bertha Guggolz from Brownwood, Gaston T Gooch, Hoyt Harris, H C Filgo, Coach Granthan, Coach Nichols, Lola Bills Head, and others.     They would not have been ashamed of the accomplishment of their students whose combined lives would make quite a story.

in the Class Picture 1930

Zola Grubbs H C Pitts Magdalene Milligan
J Olin Lawler Charles Lynch Bufford Davis
Felix Lawrence R B Hardy Derral Moore
Jimmy Graham Lorraine McGregor Douglas Ray Berry
Duward Burns Audrey Lancaster Joe Bruce Martin
Mary Louise Lowrimore J W Reedy Carl W Matthews Jr.
Joe Freeland Jr. Joyce Lynn Moore Douglas Bankston
Dorothy Bankston Hugh Louis Womack Claude L Holt
Billy Ruth Lawrence Travis Tekell David Allard
Ike Fralik Wm Lynn Matthews J R Hoge
Joe Garner Jr. W T Berry GeorgiaKendrick
Dewey Baker Seven Unknowns


Weldon Earl Wells Earl Douglas Graves Dorothy Matthews

See Also: Dawson Class of 1941


The marvel of Electricity had arrived at Dawson, Texas and workmen were struggling with the demands to install the bright copper wire encased with a "gooey" black covering said to be insulating material.   The wires inside buildings were supported by a series of white porcelain keepers which were securely nailed to wooden boards that lay beneath the wall paper which covered the ceilings of most homes and businesses.    A connection inside the round porcelain fixture permitted two smaller copper wires covered with golden colored cord to hang a foot or two down into the room.  It was at the end of the golden colored cord that a bulb was screwed into another white porcelain fixture that included a switch to turn the bulb off and on.

F. H. Meier had arrived in Dawson in the Spring of 1915 and had begun installing an electric generator in a yellow painted building just south of the Tabernacle.   Meier may have come to Dawson from Mexia where he had married one of the Robinson daughters who lived in that community.   Meier hired local men and older boys to dig deep holes in the ground near the edges of the streets.   Long handled shovels that resembled large spoons reached deep into Dawson soil to create holes into which long wooden posts were placed.   The posts came from pine trees in East Texas.  After the posts had been stripped of bark by hand held sharp drawknives they were treated with creosote preservative.

The posts arrived at the Dawson Railroad Depot on freight cars.   J M Mims served as Agent.   It was there the posts were off loaded from the railroad freight cars, probably by McElroy Transfer Co., which was located across the wagon yard just south of the Depot.  Single posts were distributed where holes had been dug and workmen attached and braced wood cross arms to the posts with heavy bolts positioned in drilled holes.   The poles with cross arms attached were placed on a special wagon and secured to a large swivel that extended over the rear.   The wagon drove over the dug hole and stopped when the rear of the wagon was over the hole.   Ropes, attached to the top of the posts, were pulled by several men as several more began to lift the post.  When the post was vertical and over the dug hold, the post was gradually released and permitted to slide into the hole.

After the post was plumbed, the hole was carefully filled part way and tamped with heavy iron rams.  The filling and tamping were repeated until the hole was completely filled and  the post  secure.

"Post-climbers" were the "elite" workmen who had come to Dawson from Dallas.   They wore calf high leather lace up boots and twill riding britches.   Steel "Climbers" with sharp spikes attached below the ankles were strapped around each boot.   Heavy leather  safety belts hung from each waists and supported pliers, wrenches, hammers, and bags for bolts, etc.  Strong brass rings protruded from the heavy leather belt and when climbers were in place at the top of the post, heavy web straps were placed around the post, and snapped to the brass rings to hold the climber in place.   "Post-climbers" were the envy of every young boy in Dawson and it was sheer joy to watch as the steel spikes dug into the pine posts to permit the "Post-climber" to lift himself to the heights of the wooden cross arms.

It was the "Pole-climbers" who lifted heavy copper wire to the cross arms and held it in place as men on the ground pulled it taunt to permit it to be attached to large green glass insulators.   Individual lines ran from the poles into residential and business structures.

Local physician were among the first to have the "electric lights" installed in their offices and workmen were busy installing them in the offices of Dr. H L Matthews on a jot July day.    Mamie Slater, who had married James Nesmith, lived on a farm near Spring Hill. She had come to town and to the office of Dr. Matthews seeking relief from a medical problem.    She had watched as the workmen worked installing the lines in the outer office as she waited her turn to see the doctor.

She was leaving when she questioned, "Dr. Matthews, now that you have electricity what are you going to do with that old coal oil lamp?"     She was referring to the kerosene lamp that hung above a massive roll top desk. The lamp, suspended by a brass chain attached to a spring-loaded mechanism, could be pulled down for igniting or to provide a closer light, and reposition as high or as low as desired.  The base was a one-gallon reservoir that fed two wick holders, each surrounded by a clear glass bowl.  An ornate hand blown white milk glass chimney was fitted into each of the clear glass bowls.  The double lamp was attached to the brass chain by a heavy brass harp.   The lamp had been beautiful in its day, but the paint was beginning to peal and the brass has long since lost its shine and polish.  Chances are that the lamp had been purchased when Dr. Matthews began his practice in 1887 after graduation from Vanderbilt Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee.

Dr. Matthews confessed that he had not thought about what to do with the lamp and inquired if Mrs. Nesmith would like to have it.   Mrs. Nesmith lived thirty years away from REA and the lamp would serve a useful purpose in her rural home.  Yes, she would very much like to have the lamp.

And with that, according to Mrs. Nesmith, Dr. Matthews stood on his desk, removed the lamp and the spring mechanism from the iron hook mounted to the ceiling, and presented the lamp to Mrs. Nesmith.

Forty-two years later, I was invited to participate in a revival meeting at Dawson Baptist Church and had finished lunch with the host family and several others in the house formerly occupied by one of the McCulloch boys.   Those who had been at lunch were saying their good-byes when I observed a lady sitting on the porch of the house where Jim and Lena Bell Cathey Lawrence had raised their family.   The lady appeared lonely and I walked over to say a word to her.

She had experienced a stroke and was partially paralyzed, but she brightened as we began to talk.   I was prepared to leave when she asked, "What did you say your name was?"  I responded and she questioned, "Are you related to Dr. Matthews?"   When I mentioned that he was my Grandfather, she began to extol his virtues...to related how he had delivered all her babies, treated her family for all their illnesses ... and that his death was like a death in her immediate family.

Then....she related the details concerning the lamp.    The lady was Mrs. Jim Nesmith.   She told how she had taken the lamp to her rural home and raised her family by its light until REA arrived in Western Navarro Co.  Afterward, she said, she had packed the lamp away in a cardboard box.   
Then she said,  "I want you to have that lamp when I die."  I thanked her and we parted.

Two years later, I received a call from a relative who was responsible for the estate.  The caller related that one of the last words Mr. Nesmith spoke was,  "Be sure to get that lamp to that young man."

The box was covered with an accumulation of several years dust and the heavy twine that had bound the box years earlier was still secure.   The experience of opening the box was like Christmas Morning when I was a child.   Each piece of the lamp was carefully unpacked.  One of the hand blown milk glass chimneys was missing, but, otherwise, the lamp was in perfect shape.    I obtained a reproduction milk glass chimney, but it would not fit the hand blown clear glass bowl.    After more than a year of searching antique shops a hand blown original was found.

My family and I lived in Connecticut when the lamp was finally cleaned, new wicks installed, and the reservoir filled with "coal oil."    It was with great pride that we hung the lamp to the left of our fireplace.    It was pulled down and lighted on special occasions and, of course, its story was
always related to guests.

We were away in December 1974 when four local boys broke into our home, stole several items, and used gasoline to begin a fire in the basement.   I flew back to Connecticut the next morning to inspect the still smoldering shell of our home.   The intense head of the fire had melted the solder that held the lamp together and when I walked into the living room the lamp was in pieces on the heavy carpet.   I was near tears when I began to clear away the rubble, but the tears were of joy as I found piece after piece...and not one piece of glass had been broken.

The pieces were carefully packed, again...just as Mrs. Nesmith had packed them in the late 1930s.   Last year (1996) I presented the box to our son, Michael Alan Matthews, who lives in Houston, Texas.   He carried the lamp "Back to Texas" with a promise to have it professionally restored.  Someday, the lamp will hang in his home.   He will tell its story


Mary Ann Stewart Matthews and her small children were alone in the tiny cabin Robert Matthews had built in the canebrakes of Southern Middle Tennessee.  November 18l4 had come with a chill in the air, but the cabin was made warm by the crackling fire that burned in the large stone fireplace.

Mary Ann had been expecting the arrival of her sixth child for several days and had spent the time making preparation for what was about to happen.  The large oak barrel had been filled with fresh water from the spring and a generous supply of wood had been stacked near the fireplace.  A large pot of beans and ham hock simmered in the heavy iron pot that hung over the fire and she had baked several large skillets of corn bread the night before.  Mary Ann had milked the cow soon after the sun rose and had strained the rich milk through a white cotton cloth into the large crock pot her mother had given her when she and Robert left North Carolina. The milk and two large molds of butter sat in the "cooler box" that Robert had ingeniously created on the north wall of the cabin.

The cabin and its contents were a constant reminder to Mary Ann that she was fortunate to have her Robert. They had been married almost fourteen years and Mary Ann often thanked the "Good Lord" for every minute of the relationship.  Robert had learned woodwork from an old cabinet maker in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina and had made Mary Ann a beautiful bed as a wedding present.  And..just before their "Patty" was born, he made a combination cradle and rocking chair that was the marvel of the community. 

Robert had said that Mary Ann could work on her embroidery and rock the new baby at the same time, her two favorite pastimes. 
Robert had constructed the cabin with the same "keeness of design" that had been employed on the bed and the cradle.  The cabin was small but other wives in the settlement were constantly commenting about the little details that were present.  No other cabin had a "Cooler Box" where milk and butter could be stored in winter months.  Most cabins were drafty, but Robert had taken care to position each log tightly against the other.  He had shown Mary Ann and Patty how to mix grass and moistened clay..."chinkin'" that was used to "chink" openings where the logs did not meet.

Robert had taken great pains to make the heavy door weather tight and the wood hinges permitted it to be opened with ease. It was a "Dutch" door that some of the German families in North Carolina had made for their cabins.  The top could be opened for light and ventilation.   The bottom would remain closed to keep children "in" and varmits "out."

Mary Ann's fireplace was the envy of every wife in the settlement.  Robert had carefully selected every stone and joined the stones with clay mortar. There was an oven for baking and a large iron swing supported pots that were hung over the fire.  Robert made the mantel from the wood of a maple tree that he had felled nearby and carefully sawed into heavy boards.  The mantel looked like fine furniture when Robert was finished with it.  He had hung his musket there and there he hung the powder horn that her father, Sampson
Stewart, had carried in the American Revolution and had given to Robert.  Both were now absent from their places of honor on the mantel.

The musket and powder horn were with Robert and Robert was somewhere to the South serving his country in the War of 1812.  Someone had said that he was with Andrew Jackson down in New Orleans protecting the mouth of the Mississippi from the British.

Robert had been home for several weeks in the summer to help gather the crops, but he had returned to his militia unit the last of August.  He was reluctant to leave, knowing that the birth of another child was expected in the fall, but Robert Matthews had given his word to his country and, to Robert Matthews,...it was important..to keep one's word.  Keeping one's word was one of many Christian duties that had been instilled into the mind of Robert Matthews by his parents, James and Mary Doak Matthews.

Robert did, however, have some comfort in the fact that Mary Ann's sister, Martha Patricia..."Aunt Patty"...would come when the "time was near."  "Aunt Patsy" had married Edward Gullet and they had made the move from North Carolina with Robert and Mary Ann.  Patsy and Edward Gullett had cleared some land and built a cabin several miles north of where Robert and Mary Ann had settled.

Mary Ann had planned well for the "birthin'" of the new baby.  The cabin was clean.  Water, firewood, and food were in good supply.  And..Patsy would arrive on the fifteenth..just one day away.

Sampson placed another log on the fire and while Patsy worked with Jane and Sampson on their "learnin'" Mary Ann took opportunity to relax with her embroidery...sitting in the rocker-chair.  Minerva Catherine and William Newton were playing on the furry rug made from the skin of a bear Robert had killed the year before.  Mary Ann was almost finished with a "sampler" that she planned to give her sister Patsy. Embroidery had been Mary Ann's specialty since early childhood and she had received high praise from her elders.  The "sampler" she was creating for Patsy spelled out "The Lord is My Shepherd."  She knew that Patsy would appreciate it.

Mary Ann was thinking of Robert..wondering where he was, when he would come home.  She was proud of Robert and of the children she had borne him. She smiled as Minerva Catherine played on the rug.  She was almost two.  Martha Patricia..her Patsy who was named for Mary Ann's sister...was ten and what a mature young lady for her age.  Mary Ann had taught Patsy to read and how to do numbers.  Now Patsy was teaching Jane and Sampson. Sampson was eight and such a handsome boy.  He had assumed responsibility for many of the outside chores.  Jane was now nine and wanted to learn to cook just like Mary Ann. William Newton was four.  He was still her chubby "baby boy", but he was growing fast.

Mary Ann was rocking comfortably as she watched her children, her fingers moving the threaded needle quickly and artistically through the cloth she had woven the previous summer. Suddenly, Mary Ann experience a pain that had become familiar...a contraction that was a signal that the birth of a child was approaching.  Patsy would not arrive until the following day and it was too late to send her Patsy to a neighbor for help.  Mary Ann would have to depend upon Mary Ann.

Mary Ann Stewart Matthews remained calm as she moved about the cabin without alarming the children, gathering items she knew would be need for "Birthin'."  Labor pains were occurring in much faster succession than she had remembered in previous births.  She gave instruction to her Patsy and was comforted in the knowledge that her children would be safe in the cabin.   She could depend on Patsy.

The labor pains were coming closer as she made fast the heavy wooden door of the cabin.  The day was cold, but the sun was shining brightly and the wind was calm.  Mary Ann gathered her long skirts as she made her way passed the shed where the milk cow and her new calf were penned...passed the haystacks Robert had created when he was home for the few days in the summer.  She remembered how hard Robert had worked while he was home and how lucky she was to have Robert for her husband.

Soon she was on the edge of the dense canebrake...tall hollow canes with sharp leaves..some as high as a man.  Canebrakes had covered the area when they arrived, but Robert had cleared almost fifty acres to plant crops, but there were many acres of canebrake remaining.

The pains were even closer as she found a clearing in the cane that was covered with tall prairie grass.  The first frost had killed the tall grass.   It had been washed clean by the fall rains and bleached by the sun...a perfect straw colored "birthin'" bed.

Mary Ann was experienced at "birthin'" babies, but this was the first time she had faced the experienced alone. She remembered how frightened she had been when Patsy was born despite the presence of her Mother, Catherine Stewart, and the old Slave Woman who had been  in her family for as long as Mary Ann could remember.  The Old Slave Woman had told Mary Ann that her "birthin'" would be "gist fine"...and it was.  Subsequent "birthin'" experiences had become almost routine and when her Catherine was born two years before Mary Ann barely interrupted her daily routine.

The pains were arriving in quick succession, but Mary Ann remained calm.  She had made preparation.  She knew what to expect.  More..she knew what to do.  She recalled the processes of past births, made mental notes, and each contraction made her happy as she gave thought to having another precious baby when her Robert was able to return home.

Mary Ann was settled comfortably on the soft grasses when the final pain was experienced.  The baby was now coming fast.  Suddenly, Mary Ann was holding the baby in her hands.  It was a boy!  Mary Ann held him by his feet and gave him a loving "whack" on the backside..just like the Old Slave Woman had done to Patsy. There followed a cry that shattered the silence of the canebrake and Mary Ann laughed aloud..shocked that such a tiny body would produce such sound. Next, there was the tying of the umbilical cord. Then Mary Ann reached into her apron pocket for the embroidery scissors she had remembered to bring to sever the cord.

Mary Ann smiled as she dried the tiny body with clean, soft, cotton cloths she had brought from the cabin.  She noted the perfect little body and the full head of dark hair.  Mary Ann remarked to herself, "This is a beautiful baby."  But..Mary Ann thought all babies were pretty.

The sun was shining brightly on Mary Ann's primitive "birthin'" bed and the canebrake broke the little breeze that blew in with the cold.  Mary Ann was exhausted and she took advantage of the opportunity to rest awhile...to enjoy God's newest blessing in her life.  She thought of Robert and the day they were married at the Almance Presbyterian Church in North Carolina.  She thought of her parents, Sampson and Mary Wiley Stewart...four hundred miles away. How glad they would be to know they had another fine grandson.

His name?  That was important.  She would call him Robert Harvey Matthews after his father.

It was then that Mary Ann realized what day it was.  It was November 3, 1814.  It was the birthday of Robert Harvey Matthews. It was..as well..the Fourteenth Anniversary of the wedding of Robert Matthews and Mary Ann Stewart.  Mary Ann had presented a fitting anniversary present to her Robert who was far away serving his country.

(Note: The powder horn mentioned above was given to Robert Harve Matthews prior to his leaving for Texas in 1835 and was in his possession when he died at his large home in Dawson in 1894.   It was, probably, in the large home when Bettie Prddy Matthews lived, but disappeared after her death.   No picture of Robert Harve has been located at this date.)


Dawson provided little entertainment for young people in the Depression Days of the 1930s, but teenagers had a way of creating their own entertainment, especially on holidays.  I( was nine years old when I was introduced to Halloween as practiced in Dawson, Texas by older teenagers.

I had been to a children's Halloween Party at the two story house where Evelyn Ann Flint lived.   Bubba Pitts had lived there when I was in Second Grade, but that is another story in itself.   We had all had a great time with the usual Halloween children's games of "Pin the Tail on the Donkey," "Ghost Stories," "Go Walking," etc.    When refreshment of Poly Pop and cake were served the party began to break up.

My Dad was working nights at the Cotton Oil Mill and I had walked to the party.   Dawson society was such that any child was everybody's child and children were often corrected and directed by adults they scarcely knew, but who knew them and their parents.  It was common for children to walk to town, even in the early evening.  Besides, few people still had automobiles to drive.

When the party broke up I headed for Main Street to check out what was happening.   If action was taking place anywhere in Dawson it would be on Main Street.   Of course, the businesses had long since closed, but "Central," the telephone operator, viewed Main Street from her perch on the second floor above the bank and kept tabs on what happened below.   She would call City Marshal Claude Putman the moment any disturbance occurred.

Sure enough, fifteen or twenty older boys had gathered on the curb in front of Benny Matthews's Drug Store, laughing, smoking cigarettes, and plotting just what to for Halloween.   I stood for a time on the edge of the crowd, listening to the leaders outlining where to go and what to do.   It seemed that it had been a Halloween custom in Dawson to overturn outhouses.    Most residential neighborhoods had "back alleys" and outhouses were always found on the edge of the alley to facilitate cleaning from time to time and to keep the aroma as far from the house as possible.

One of the favorite sites was at Morter's Boarding House where several school teachers always has rooms and they had two out houses, one for men, one for women.   Mr. Morter had grown tired of having to repair the outhouses after each Halloween and had learned to brace his units with heavy posts.   He had, also, given notice that he had loaded his shotgun with rock salt just in case someone attempted to upset his outhouses.

The group decided that the Morter outhouses would be last on their list and with that they headed north through the alley between Lawlers Grocery and Walkup's Tin Shop.  Small outhouses were easy to push over, but larger ones required the strength of everyone present in the "push over" crowd.

That year the group was thwarted by a new development in outhouse construction.  The WPA, The Works Progress Administration..... sometimes known at "We Piddle Around"...had a program of constructing fancy outhouses with concrete pits and with new wooden outhouses bolted to the concrete.  They would not budge.    Leonard Frazier operated the Ice House.  His younger brother was in the crowd.  Someone suggested that Harvey get the Ice Truck and a tow chain to provide some assistance, but that idea never materialized.

The north part of Dawson had been competed by ten thirty and it was on to Frog Level for more excitement.   I never got close enough to do any
pushing, but I was enjoying the "fun."

Through the evening I had discovered that there was a real technique in overturning an outhouse.   First, everyone had to be very quiet.   Homeowners were expecting their outhouses to be overturned and kept one ear tuned to any unusual noise at the back of the house.   Second, all available hands were placed on the back side of the outhouse and when the leader said "GO!" the crew would begin to rock the unit until sufficient momentum was achieved to overturn it.    It was great fun to watch as an outhouse "Teeter Tottered" until it finally overturned.

We had progressed to the  Methodist Parsonage and everyone was a quiet as a field mouse. One by one the "Pushers" moved into position.   "GO!"    And the Two Holy Outhouse at the Methodist Church Parsonage had begun its initial rock when the outhouse door opened and blocked the procedure.  Inside was Bro. Butrell with his pants down and yelling at the top of his ministerial voice...."Boys, Boys....Please, Please!"

I was almost run down by the stampede.  The crowd was at the cotton platform next to the railroad in sixty seconds flat.   Some boys were rolling on the platform with uncontrollable laughter  while others mimicked Bro. Buttrell.  One boy pulled his pants down and his voice was a dead ringer for Bro. Buttrell.

It was eleven o'clock when I came walking across our yard.   I didn't see Mother until I was on the first step.   She was sitting in the swing....waiting.    She didn't say a word....then.   But I knew from her expression that a condition existed sometimes referred to as "Hair in the Butter."

And...I want you to know that I walked softly and sat gently...for several days.


JENNIE FOLLIS     l869-1888
A Love Story

Two gravestones near the gate of The Spring Hill Cemetery two miles northeast of Dawson, Texas have remained undisturbed for more than a century.  The information chiseled on the stone markers is simple and states:

JENNIE M. Infant Son of
Wife of Dr. H L Matthews             H L & J M Matthews
b. 16 Aug 1869                     b.15 Aug 1888
d. 28 Aug 1888                   d.22 Aug 1888

The stone markers reveal that Jennie M. Matthews was born one hundred twenty five years ago and died at Spring Hill, Navarro Co., Texas nineteen years later.  She had married Dr. Harvie Lee Matthews On November 20, 1887 at Spring Hill, Texas after his graduation from Vanderbilt Medical College in 1887.  The marriage ceremony was solemnized by Rev. J H Smith.

Mary Jane Marshall Dempsey, a widow, was present at the wedding with her daughter, Mattie Belle.  Mattie Belle was born in Tennessee August 1, 1973 and would have been in her fourteenth year in 1887.  Mattie Belle married Dr. H L Matthews November 8, 1889.    She bore five children and died August 27, 1901.   She spoke of the wedding of Dr. H L Matthews and Jennie Follis to her daughter, Willie Margie Matthews, and commented that she had been present at the wedding and that Jennie had been a beautiful bride.

Jennie Follis Matthews gave birth to a little boy on August 15, 1888.   That little boy lived but one week.  Jennie died six days later.

People who knew Jennie M Matthews personally have long since passed away and, for many years, questions concerning Jennie were responded with very few answers beyond what was provided from the markers.  Someone said she was from Tennessee and had married Dr. Matthews near the time he graduated from Vanderbilt Medical School in Nashville.   Someone else thought her maiden name had been Follis. No...no one seemed to know who her parents were, where she had lived in Tennessee, or if she had brothers and sisters.

A 1993 search of U. S. Census records for the year 1870 found the Stephen Follis family listed in Giles County, Tennessee, a county immediately south of Maury County where the Matthews family had lived before coming to Texas.  The Census had recorded the following data on September 5, 1870:

FOLLIS, Stephen     45        Born: Alabama
             Elizabeth    41        Born: Tennessee

Martha l9 Tennessee
m. John Hogan
Drowned Sabine River, Texas  1873
Daniel l7 Tennessee
David James 17 Tennessee
m. Inex Abernathy
Steven l3 Tennessee
m. Ida Jane Warren
1880 Jimmy Dee Follis
1882 Rose Mae Follis
1884 John Walter Follis
1887 Willie Stephen Follis
1888 Robert Lee Follis
1892 Grady Warren Follis
1895 Gwen Cayce Follis
Clerine Copland Follis
1898 Mary Elizabeth Follis
1900 Raymond Follis
1901 Marvin Allen Follis
1904 Ida Lacy Follis
Susan ll Tennessee
Sallie 4 Tennessee
m. Jedson
Virginia 7 Months      Tennessee
m. Dr. H L Matthews

Here was "Our Jennie,"  and her given name was Virginia.  She probably was named Virginia Mae Follis and called "Jennie."  A recently discovered "Book of Remembrance" given to Dr. H L Matthews by his Mother in 1883, contains two items that connect "Our Jennie" to the Stephen Follis Family.

One, signed by "J M Follis" and without a date or place, was written in numeric code and stated,
"Leaves may wither and flowers may die.
  Friends may forsake thee, but never shall I."

The second, bears the signature of Sallie Follis.  The date is July 7, 1886.
  The Place....Spring Hill. Texas

Another "Numeric" code was used in the Book of Remembrance by "M H C," who stated,
"Soap is slick, but grease is slicker,
  My love for you shall never flicker."

No date or place was included. "M H C" could have been named Coffey or Caskey, both names found in Giles County, Tennessee and, later, in Spring
Hill, Texas

The Book of Remembrance, Census records, and information from Latter Day Saints indicate that the Follis, Coffey, Caskey,and, perhaps, the Evans families were close friends, if not related by marriage.   Several Follis names were found in the Silver City, Texas Cemetery,  located a few miles East of Spring Hill...across Richland Creek.

Virginia "Jennie" Follis may met Harvey Lee Matthews while he was a student at Vanderbilt Medical College in Nashville and during a visit to his many relatives who continued to reside in Maury County.    Harvey Lee graduated from Medical School in 1887, a fact confirmed by the Department of Archives, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee. The two young people fell in love.




Thomas Follis was born in Ireland   1658
George Follis b. 1690  Philadelphia PA
m. Mary Lemone
Richard Thomas Follis  b. c1715
m. Elizabeth Jane Cheldon
Abraham Follis   1745
m. Elizabeth
William Follis   1770
William Porter Follis  1790
m. Nancy Mayes
Abraham Follis
m. Elizabeth
Sally Follis Moody

William Porter Follis b. 1770 Surrey Co. North Carolina, was thirty eight  when he migrated toTennessee in 1808 and settled at Lynnville, Robertson Fork, Giles Co.  .    His  Giles Co. neighbors included Richard and Martin Flynt and a family whose name was Moody. His will was probated in Crockett Co. Tenn.

Sally Follis b. 1780 had married 1804 to Alexander Moody in Stokes Co. NC.  Her family was, probably, the Moody family mentioned above.   One Alexander Moody had lived in Guilford Co North Carolina, had a son, Nathaniel, and a son William b. c1785.     Alexander settled, later, in Bedford Co. Tenn., one county north of Giles Co.

William Porter Follis b. 1790 married  Nancy Mayes in Giles Co.  Their children of record were Goodwin Mayes Follis, James H Follis, William R Follis, and Miles H Follis

The Mayes Family lived in Ireland, migrated to Pennsylvania, to North Carolina, to Alabama, to Tennessee...and some to Texas.   Stephen Mayes b. 1804 NC married Vina b. 1810 NC.   They lived DeKalb Co AL in 1850.   Stephen Mayes had a brother whose name was Fletcher Mayes.  Goodwin Mayes Follis and his brother, James H Follis settled in Texas prior to the Civil War.    Some members of the Mayes Family lived at Waco, McLennon Co., Texas.

Son  Goodwin Mayes Follis Migrated to Texas prior to Civil War
Son James H Follis b.1826 Migrated to Texas prior to Civil War
1859 Asbury W Follis b. Tenn m. Ada Richards
1878 William Harvey Follis b. Crockett Co Tenn
d. 1960, Weatherford, Texas
1903 Connie Alice Follis Lamar Co TX
died  1985 Weatherford Parker Co TX
Son William R Follis m.1849 Elizabeth Mayes   Giles Co. Tenn
Son Miles H Follis. Last child born

Some Relationships  are Unknown

Follis Family members married Navarro Co. Texas
1873 J E Follis
                                 m. Angeline Cleghorn
probable children
1874 J J Follis
                                    named for J J Cleghorn
1876 Minnie Follis
1885 William D Follis
J J Cleghorn b. 1830 and his brother,
                                W A Cleghorn b.1834 lived Spring Hill
                                prior to 1870.  Elizabeth Cleghorn b.
                                1847,was buried Spring Hill Cemetery
                                1873.   The Cleghorns were
from Tennessee, had lived in Arkansas. J J Cleghorn served
as Grand Master of the Spring Hill Masonic Lodge 1869-1871
1874 J J (m) m. N J Fuller
probable son of J E and Angeline
1884 Fannie Follis  Free Black Female
1885 William D Follis Julia Hadley
1887 J J Follis Mrs. E E McKee
1892 J J Follis Annie Brunson
1894 Mrs. Jennie Follis D J Brunson
1896 J J Follis Maggie Brunson

Follis Family  buried at Younger Cemetery -   Navarro Co Texas
Hiway 31 between Dawson and Corsicana, Texas
1879-1940 John Follis
probable son of J E & Angeline Cleghorn
1880-1963 Maggie Follis  (Brunson??)
wife of John Follis    (J J ??)
1899-1948 J L Follis
son of John and Maggie Follis
b/d 1903 Ola Follis
infant of John and Maggie Follis

Oscar Mayes Follis b. 1886  Gonzales, Texas
Lived at Linden, Texas
m.  1907 Lona Lee Brooks    Hunt Co Texas
1908 Weldon Coe Follis
1911 Laura Adell Follis
1915 James Darwin Follis


Abraham and Elizabeth Follis lived in Alabama, migrated to Giles Co c1830...or...they had lived in Giles Co. , moved to Alabama, possibly Limestone Co.  and returned to Giles Co.  Abraham was listed on Giles Co. Tenn tax roll  1812.       Children were:

1827 Stephen Clayton Follis b. Alabama
m. Mary Elizabeth Judith Williamson
dau Samuel & Judith Woodfin Williamson
Stephen Clayton  Follis was a blacksmith
1828 Sally Follis b. Alabama
1830 Martha Follis b. Alabama  m. Thomas C Shoemaker Limestone Co Alabama
1833 Thomas Follis b. Giles Co
1836 Marion Follis
1837 Elizabeth Follis
1840 Joseph Follis


The 1870 Giles Co. Tenn Census recorded

1827 Steven Clayton Follis b. Alabama
1829 Judith Follis b. Tennessee
(Mary Elizabeth Judith Williamson)
(1848 Emiline V Follis..listed in 1860...with Judith's parents..may have died)
1851 Martha Follis b. Tennessee
m John Hogan c1878 Maury Co Tenn
John & Martha Follis Hogan  drowned in Sabine River, TX  1887
1853 Daniel Follis   - died before 1860
1853 David James Follis
(died 1935 Giles Co Tenn)
1855 Stephen Follis
(m. Ida Warren)
1859 Susan Follis

1859 was when Judith finally left Stephen.  She had left him once before in 1854.The lived apart for           approximately six years, then remarried c.1867.

1868 Sally Follis
(m. Jetton)
1869 Virginia M Jennie Follis
(m. Dr. H L Matthews)

Stephen Clayton Follis married Judith Williamson c1850 and lived together until 1859 when Judith left Stephen and took her children to live with her parents.   A Giles Co. Tenn. Divorce Bill Final Decree dated 1870 reveals that Judith A E Follis had sued Stephen C Follis for divorce, had married him in 1847, and lived together until 1859, and that she had left him in 1864.   Judith stated in the divorce proceedings that Stephen was a drunkard and abusive.   They had seven children at the time of the 1870 divorce.   David and Stephen, sons, were the only children named.

The 1860 Giles Co Census shows Judith and her children living with her parents.   Children living in the household included Emiline V b.1848, Mary A b.1850 Martha A b.1851, David  J b.1853,  Stephen C b. 1855, and Susan b. 1869.     Daniel Follis b. 1853 and a twin to David Follis has,apparently, died.

Stephen C Follis, listed as a blacksmith, was living at the time of the  1960 Giles Co  Census with Gustavas Angus and his wife, Susannah Mays, both born 1807.    Frances Mays, b 1775 in Virginia, lives with them and is blind.    She was, probably, the mother of Susannah and of Nancy Mayes who had married William Porter Follis in Giles Co.

Stephen C Follis and Judith remained apart for several years..perhaps, six...and remarried near 1867.   Sallie Follis was born in 1868, Jennie Follis a year later.     Stephen Follis had, apparently, turned his life around, possibly as a result of a religious conversion.   Stephen Jr. Follis and David Follis were staunch members of churches in Giles Co in their adult years.   They may have been influenced in some manner by their father after his remarriage to Judith.

Stephen Clayton Follis and his family were found in Giles Co. Tenn in the 1860, 1870,   and 1880 census and, apparently, migrated to Texas at some point after 1880.   The fact that in July 1876 Sally and Jennie Follis wrote in a Book of Remembrance owned by Harvie Lee Matthews of Spring Hill places the two girls in Texas at that time.    Jennie was there in November the following year for her wedding to Dr. H L Matthews.   It is unlikely that the girls would have returned to Giles Co Tenn after a summer visit to Texas and return the following year and it may be assumed that they were residing in the area at that time.

Stephen C Follis would have had no difficulty making a livelihood anywhere in Texas.   Blacksmiths were in demand in almost every community.   Some members of the Follis Family lived in East Texas and Stephen Follis may have stopped there.    More than likely, he had located in Dresden where J H Follis was shown in the 1850 Navarro Co Census.

Martha Follis married John Hogan 1878 in Maury Co. Tenn.     Nine years later, 1887, John and Martha Follis Hogan had arrived in Texas after journeying from Giles Co.   The Sabine River had flooded its banks and John and Martha were drowned.   Were they visiting relatives?   William Follis was recorded in Rusk Co. Texas in 1850 Census.   Later, Oscar Mayes Follis was living at Linden, Texas.  Both areas were near the Sabine River.   Were they traveling by wagon and attempting to cross the river when John and Martha Follis Hogan drowned?   Their children were taken by a Trice or Tice family who continued the Westward journey.

H L Matthews graduated from Vanderbilt Medical School in May 1887.   He had become acquainted with Jennie Follis in 1886 when she and her sister, Sallie Follis, had been at Spring Hill, Texas and when Jennie had written in his Book of Remembrances in numerical code.   Dr. H L Matthews was busy setting up his practice in the area, but he must have reserved some time for some serious courting of Jennie Follis.

It was in the Fall of 1887, November 16, 1887 to be exact, that Dr. H L Matthews and Jennie Follis were issued a marriage license at Waco, McLennon Co., Texas.  Their marriage was solemnized at Spring Hill on November 20, 1887 by Rev. J H Smith. Jennie became pregnant almost immediately and bore a son on August 16, 1888.     The infant son lived six days.    Jennie died six days later.

July 2000


Living in Dawson, Texas during the depression could become depressing for some, but there were those who fought the boredom and sameness of each day with unusual and low budget recreational activities.    Playing practical jokes on unsuspecting newcomers had traditionally been part of the recreational fabric of early Texas communities.   There were "Snipe Hunts," and orders for "Sky Hooks," but there was  one community practical joke that appears to have been unique to Dawson.

When an older teenage boy moved to Dawson he was immediately briefed on one of the "local girls" whose name was "Elsie," who lived in the country not far from town.      "Elsie" was a pretty young lady, but was not known...according to several of the older and wiser boys.....for her outstanding moral virtues.  Each of the boys who had been with "Elsie" would relate....in great detail....the experiences he had with "Elsie" and the stories grew bolder as the newcomer listened.

The newcomer was cautioned that "Elsie's" father had a violent temper and had threatened several boys who had called for his daughter, but that he went to bed at dark and slept so soundly that he was never disturbed by a light knock on the porch post or by a soft call for Elsie.    A "Friend" would volunteer to "Fix Up" the newcomer and take him to the farmhouse where Elsie lived.

There were always vacant houses in the country and, Homer, one of the younger single men of  the community would position himself in such a house with a lantern and shotgun on the night when a "Friend" was to take the
newcomer to see "Elsie."

The "Friend" would instruct the newcomer to go to the steps of the farmhouse...knock softly on the porch post and call softly for Elsie.   Elsie would be listening and would respond immediately.

But...instead of Elsie, it would be Homer who would bound through the door, yelling and screaming about "city boys" violating his daughter for the last time and firing both barrels of the shotgun in the air.    The "Friend" would fall to the ground yelling that he was shot.

The spectators, gathered in the shadows nearby to watch the reaction of the newcomer, usually, a pretty good show and produced sufficient laughter to carry the teenage male community until another newcomer could arrive.

It was 1937 or 1938 when a new family moved to Dawson from southeast of Waco.  One of the older boys, large for his age and strong as an ox, was so slow that he had to think twice before one foot would move beyond the other.    His lack of accelerated movement on the football field earned him the nickname of "Speedy."

Speedy was quickly indoctrinated on the subject of Miss Elsie as the older boys gathered on the Beasley Corner in the early evenings during the Fall.  Speedy's hormone level elevated higher and higher and when he demanded to go see Elsie, the stage was set.

It was a good hour after dark when Speedy and his "Friend,"  in a Model A Coupe coasted silently down the dirt road to the wire gate that led to the house where "Elsie" lived.    Together, they walked quietly toward the house that gave signs of occupancy by the light of Homer's lantern.

All was quiet as Speedy approached the porch.    He rapped on the porch post five times and called softly, "Elsie....Elsie..."     His heart was beating furiously as he contemplated what was about to happen.   His male passions had waited years for this magic hour and  Speedy was absolutely overcome with the excitement of the moment.

He was totally unprepared for what did happen.   Homer bounded out the door...yelling and screaming like a wild Indian on the warpath.    Speedy's instinct turned him around just in time to hear the reports of the shotgun
and to watch his "Friend" shout that he had been shot and fall to the ground.

Speedy was supposed to run to the road and race back to town at breakneck speeds as all the other had done.   Instead, Speedy reached down and grabbed his "Friend" from the ground as if the "Friend" weighed nothing.    The night was dark and Speedy was disoriented, but he was determined to get away from that place and was running hard, carrying the "Friend" in his arms.

Speedy ran not toward the car, but toward the woods where the audience was positioned behind a barbed wire fence.    Speedy could not see the fence in the dark and he raced into the fence with such force that the rebound of the fence threw Speedy and the "Friend" to the ground.   Undaunted, Speedy picked up the fallen "Friend" and plunged into the fence a second time...this time with less vigor.

Both boys were bleeding profusely when Speedy realized that the car was waiting at the road and began to race in that direction.    When the two arrived at the Model A Speedy threw his "Friend" into the rumble seat,
started the car and drove at top speed to Loveless Drug Store where he had seen Dr. Worsham earlier in the evening.

It was said that the new edition of "A Date with Miss Elsie" was never mentioned on the streets of Dawson.  No one ever told Speedy that the entire evening had been a practical joke that had been harmless all the times
before.    And that joke was never played again in Dawson.

A few years later those boys became men who were serving their country in the Armed Forces.   They were scattered all over the world.   Some died. Many were wounded.   But there were nights in a foxhole in the Pacific, or on a lonely guard post in France, or in a tail gun position on a bomber, when some Dawson boy had a good laugh as he remembered... Speedy...and his date with Miss Elsie.


Were not always in the Schoolhouse

It was Springtime and a beautiful Sunday afternoon. I had driven with my Dad to the farm of Tom Meredeth located on the Black Land southeast of Dawson, Texas. World War II had ended and I had returned home from the Marines, completed high school at Hubbard, and was a freshman at Baylor. My Dad operated a small slaughterhouse in Hubbard and needed some cattle. Tom Meredeth had sent word that he was ready to sell several head.

My Dad had known Tom Meredeth all of his life. In fact, there was some talk that the two families had been related years earlier in Tennessee and as early as 1770 when the Meredeth Family settled in Surry Co NC, north of the Yadkin River.

We stood together in the well kept pasture where fifty white faced steers munched away at the rich grass. My Dad commented that the cattle were, indeed, prime beef and that he would take the entire herd if Mr. Meredith could deliver them to the holding pen in Hubbard as they were needed. Mr. Meredith and my Dad shook hands and….it was a”Deal.” The price was sixteen cents per pound.

A few days later, Mr. Meredith loaded several of the steers; drove to the Cotton Oil Mill in Hubbard where the truck and steers were weighed; placed the steers in the holding pen at the slaughterhouse, returned to the Cotton Oil Mill, weighed the empty truck, and received a weigh slip; and came to the market to be paid.

My Dad looked at the weight slip and the poundage appeared correct. Dad had learned over years to estimate the weight of cattle and not be far from

the correct weight. And, he had purchased cattle from Tom Meredith for years and knew him to be an honest man. Dad computed the poundage at sixteen cents per pound and wrote a check to Mr. Meredith for the total amount.

A few weeks later Mr. Meredith delivered another load of steers to the holding pen and came to the market to be paid. I was home from Baylor and helping Dad in the market. Dad looked at the weigh slip and it appeared correct. Then he said to Mr. Meredith that cattle prices had increased to twenty-two cents per pound and he felt he should pay him the market price.

Mr. Meredith looked Dad in the eye and said, “Carl, you and I stood in my pasture last Spring and we made a deal that I would sell these steers to you for sixteen cents a pound, and by damn you’re not paying me one cent more.” I had been exposed to good teachers at Baylor, but that day I listened as two outstanding teachers….neither of whom finished high school…taught lessons about life…...fairness, rightness, honesty, commitment respect for others. No written contract was involved, but the two had shaken hand and made a “deal.” They had given their word…and that was more binding than any written contract.

The experience was a valuable lesson, one not to be forgotten despite the almost sixty years that have passed.

Submitted by: Carl W. Matthews


“I remember my mom taking me to Schwartz Dry Goods for my $1.98 Mohawk tennis shoes…none of this “sneakers” hogwash then…..in preparation for each school year. The visit wasn’t necessary until Thanksgiving, that being the accepted “end of going bare foot” date. We, also, made an early Spring visit in preparation for the upcoming season that stretched from “cotton choppin” to “bole pullin….”….a period of time roughly equal to the time the Jews spent wandering in the wilderness. The visit was to purchase a Roy Rogers straw hat with a red string and yellow bead. Jim Sawyer of Lewisville, Texas

I remember that store because it had a Mother Goose sign and picture on the street south side. Uncle Jim Beasley ran that store when I lived and visited in Dawson. He had sewing machine drawers on one wall where he kept safety razors, sewing machine needles and parts….all sorts of nails..square cast tapered nails, horseshoe nail.

Charles A “Sonny”Hearn Jr., Texas


I remember them well. I thought so much of them. Our whole family thought so much of them. I am so thankful to have known them because they caused me to have good feelings toward all Jews…just as good friends, good neighbors.

I remember that my Mother went to the funeral of either Mr. or Mrs. Schwartz in Waco. It was her first Jewish funeral, and she was impressed. We were fortunate to have had them in Dawson. This is one of the reasons I continue to say that it was good to grow up in a little town.

Margaret Berry, Austin


J B Schwartz…DRY GOODS STORE…was located on the west corner of Main Street and the “Old” Waco-Corsicana hiway. The family came to Dawson between 1907-1911 as a part of The Galveston Project, a resettlement effort which

sought to relieve the pressure of Jewish families spilling from Middle Europe into the large cities of the East. The Project maintained offices both in Europe and at Galveston.

When the Jewish families arrived at Galveston they were met by staff members of The Galveston Project who provided temporary housing, guided the family to the small towns of Texas where they could establish some type of business. Many, many Jewish families choose to become merchants of Dry Goods.

Waco was, apparently, a hub for one group of Jewish merchants in Waco and in the small towns nearby. The group formed a co-op type relationship whereby a single Jewish merchant would travel to New York to buy merchandise for all stores. The father of Mrs. Simon Florsheim, who currently (2003) lives in Waco, was, for many years, the leader of the group and the one who journey annually to New York to make purchased for the group. The stores became an asset for the little towns and Jewish families were always quick to contribute to needy causes. However, there were times when harsh words were spoken about the Jewish merchant’s competitiveness.

The Schwartz home was on the west side of Main Street between 3rd & 4th Streets and was always well maintained. Mrs. Schwartz kept geese in a small pen next to the alley…the only geese in all of Dawson.

The Schwartz family stayed in contact with relatives in Germany and once, in the 1930’s, a relative came to Dawson for a visit. She, like Mr & Mrs. Schwartz, spoke very broken English. The relative was a lovely lady, very well dressed, and smoked cigarettes, a practice that was not exhibited by most ladies of Dawson. Her conversations were interesting as she related experiences on the ship that brought her to America, of life in Germany, of her concern for what Hitler was doing in Europe.

Frances Schwartz and Jack Schwartz were the only children remembered, but there may have been more. Both children mixed well with other children and established many close friendships. The Schwartz family was always well liked and highly respected in Dawson.

Once, a “Flaming Evangelist,” conducting a “Protracted” meeting in a Dawson church, was “waxing eloquently” about the account of the Jews killing Jesus.

One small boy in the congregation was disturbed by what had been said. He knew the Schwartz family and was positive that they could not have had anything to with it.

Schwartz Dry Goods in Dawson closed before World War II and son Jack Schwartz opened a store in Hubbard. The family lived in nice home on North Main Street and had a son whose name was Tommy. Frances Schwartz worked in Waco, but came to Hubbard most weekends.

Frances Schwartz never married. Instead, she became owner of a successful insurance business, lived frugally, and amassed a considerable estate which, at her death, was, for the most part, given to The Scottish Rite Crippled Children’s Hospital. America had been kind to her family. Frances, apparently, wanted to give back. John Schwartz, Dallas. The Hubbard store closed at some point after World War II and the family moved to Waco. Several Schwartz families still live in Waco, but none have been located who are close relatives of the Dawson-Hubbard group.

Did you remember this Family? Can you add something?

Submitted by: Carl W. Matthews


The Great Depression had reached Dawson, Texas by the Fall of 1932 and the community was experiencing "hard times." Money was scarce. No Thanksgiving family gathering was scheduled at our home and, not having a car to drive, there would be no trip to "Grand Mother's House."

Uncle Fred and Aunt Ennis Matthews and their family had planned to have Thanksgiving on the banks of Richland Creek where Fred Jr. and several other older boys had constructed a Log Cabin. Jack Matthews, my age, had been talking about the plan for days and had invited me to go with his family.

I was seven....Marilyn was one and one-half, Jean LaMerle was three and one-half. Spending Thanksgiving Day cooped up with two babies would not hold a candle to Thanksgiving on the banks of Richland Creek. Mother, at last, decided that I could accept the invitation and, on Thanksgiving Day morning I was up early, dressed, and on my way to Uncle Fred's house.

There was a chill in the air, but the sun was shining as I walked through the back yard toward the Dawson water tower and turned north to Uncle's Fred's house. It was under the shade of the water tower that Jack and I, during the heat of the previous summer, had been introduced to King Edward cigars purchased at Lawler's Grocery...two for a nickel...including matches. I was grown before I permitted another cigar in my mouth.

Uncle's Fred's house was buzzing with activity when I arrived. All the children were home....Vestal Lee was home from Mary Hardin Baylor...Buck, Fred Jr., Doris, Dewey, Bette Belle, Jack, June, and Joe Kenneth. Most had invited a friend. The cows were milked, horses fed their oats, hay spread for the cattle....breakfast at the long table was completed, the table cleared, dishes washed and put away.

Hay had been placed on the open bed of Uncle Fred's 1926 Model-T Ford truck to provide a hint of comfort for those of us who were to ride there. Quilts and tarps were added to protect us against the cold wind.

Boxes and boxes of food were brought from the kitchen and loaded on the truck. A ten gallon milk can was filled with water from the well. and secured to the wooden cab of the truck with a cow rope. Aunt Ennis, the consummate organizer and planner had thought of everything and her trademark smile and soft words made everyone have a warm and fuzzy feeling.

Dawson's streets were still quiet as Uncle Fred pulled the spark and gas handles down on the steering wheel post and when Fred Jr. turned the crank under the radiator the four pistons of the engine responded....with a backfire or two...and then it began to run smoothly. Uncle Fred paused to make sure that everyone was safely aboard, then we were off to Spring Hill and the log cabin on Richland Creek.

Uncle Fred turned north and moved past Nate Wrights house, passed the school and up the street passed the homes of the Walkups, the Martins, the Womacks, Winfred Berry, Jim Lee, Cousin Will Matthews, Mose Roberts, Houston Akers, J B Teer. He turned right at the Berry house, passed the McCullochs and to the Spring Hill Road. The Tyree's lived on the right. I always appreciated how the goats and sheep kept their front pasture so picture perfect.

On the left lived Buck and Jeffie Hagle.....Floyd Hagle lived in the next house. When we got to Skeeter Anderson's house we turned right. Squeals, giggles, and laughter erupted from the bed of the truck and made Aunt Ennis happy. Her only concern was that someone might fall from the truck bed. Uncle Fred kept his eye on the road.

When we reached The Spring Hill Store we knew we were getting near our destination. The Store was closed as was Pete Bill's garage. We moved down the hill, across the small branch where Robert Parrish built a house in later years...by the "Old Spring Hill Store" that blew down the next year...and by the Old Home Place where Uncle Virgle and Aunt Oddie still lived.

We turned left. Uncle Charlie Matthews lived in the house on the right.

Several of the old Spring Hill houses were on the left, one that my Father had inherited was rented to someone for not much per month. Soon we reached the point where the Spring Hill road began to drop sharply and we could see the iron bridge that spanned Richland Creek. On the left was an overgrown trail that led to the Spring Hill Quarry.

Just before reaching the bridge Uncle Fred turned right into Uncle Virgle's field and continued parallel to Richland Creek and into a thick wooded area.

Presently, the log cabin came into view in a cleared area right on the banks of Richland Creek. When Uncle Fred brought the truck to a stop the occupants who had been riding on the truck bed bailed off with shrieks of delight. The older children helped Uncle Fred and Aunt Ennis unload the boxes of food and the 10 gallon milk can filled with well water.

Younger children scouted for wood and soon a roaring open fire burned brightly, warming hands and hearts. The Thanksgiving sun began to dissipate the chill of the early morning and most of the children were off to hunt native pecans and wild persimmons. Some of the older boys had brought cane fishing poles and were trying their luck for fresh fish from The Blue Hole and other favorite fishing spots up and down Richland Creek.

Some of the trees produced pecans so small that it was not worth our while to bother with them. Now and then we would find a tree with large pecans filled with meats that were tasty and worth working for.When the wheezy old horn of the Model-T Truck sounded we knew it was time for Thanksgiving Dinner. Those of us who had been afield for a couple of hours must have resembled the Indians that arrived at the Plymouth Colony for that First Thanksgiving. Did we have turkey? I can't remember, but I do remember that someone dropped a chocolate cake that broke into several pieces. I thought it was the best cake I ever ate.

Aunt Ennis had baked scores of sweet potatoes at home and while the children were out searching for pecans and persimmons, had placed them in the ashes around the edge of the bonfire. "Baked Sweet Potatoes," of course. We would search through ashes until we found a sweet potato....then in a piping hot condition...ready for a liberal slathering of fresh cow butter. I did not know that sweet potatoes could be so tasty.

Thanksgiving Dinner completed....it was back to the woods. We found that when several small persimmon tree tops were pulled to the ground, a small boy could sit on the branches and pretend to be riding a bucking horse. We learned that wild persimmons had to experience the first frost of the season before being eaten, otherwise the juices of the orange colored fruit had a disagreeable taste and made lips pucker. We found that ripe pecans roasted in ashes and hot coals presented a delicious taste.

As the sun begin to sink in the west the chill of the morning began to return and it was time to begin the trip home. We snuggled together on the hay, covered with quilts and the heavy tarps as Uncle Fred and Fred Jr. started the Model-T Truck and we began to retrace our route back to Dawson.

I am sure that I was asleep before we reach the top of the first hill.

Thanksgiving had presented a busy day and the little boys were bone tired.

My Thanksgiving Days have been celebrated in many places since 1932. Most Thanksgiving Dinners had succulent turkey as a centerpiece with fancy dressings, vegetables, pies, and cakes and all the other trimmings. But when someone brags about the delicious meal...the moist turkey...the pecan pie...the oyster dressing, etc., I just smile...and remember baked sweet potatoes...fresh from the ashes of a fire on the banks of Richland Creek...slathered in fresh cow butter.

Submitted by: Carl W. Matthews - Nov 2003



Dawson, Texas was thirty-six years old when the United States entered World War I.     Many young men of Dawson enlisted and the Draft Board for the Dawson area, located at Blooming Grove, Texas, inducted others into the American Expeditionary Force under General John J Perishing.


Patriotism was always evident in Dawson.    Survivors of  the Civil War were still donning their uniforms and marching proudly in parades.  They had answered the call to serve when it appeared that the Federal Government was interfering with their life style


Dawson was a small town, perhaps 1100 people.   Everyone knew every body! The population was heavy with Scotch-Irish who had spilled out of Middle Tennessee into Mexican Texas in the 1830’s and in to the State of Texas after the Civil War.  These were families whose roots went back to Scotland, Wales, and England, but who had migrated to North Ireland in the late 1600’s when England deposed the Irish Lords, took their land, and established Plantations.


When conditions became intolerable in Ireland they began their migration to America.   When the call came to serve in the cause of The American Revolution they responded quickly and in great numbers.    They were called “Billy Boys” because of their continued allegiance to William of Orange.  Many had lived in the hills on either side of the Shenandoa Valley…and the new titile…”Hillbilly” was coined. 


These Scotch-Irish “Hillbillies” poured from the hills with their Kentucky Long Guns…deerskin uniforms & coonskin caps…and turned the tide of the American Revolution at Kings Mountain.   George Washington once stated that the war could not have been a victory had it not been for the Scotch-Irish.


These Scotch-Irish were a people who were proud of their heritage and proud of those who had answered when duty called.    Now, there was a new call for a new generation.


Dawson, also, had a sizable number of blacks whose ancestors had been removed from their African homes,  sold as slaves, and remained so until June 19, 1865 when the Emancipation Proclamation was read at Galveston.


And…..there were the…..“foreigners.”    Some were of German descent and World War I was all about fighting Germans.   One family of German descent  in Dawson had two sons of draft age, but, for some reason, they were not drafted.   Perhaps, they had made the draft board aware of their feeling with regard to fighting their “kin.”   Feelings ran high in the little town that the two sons should serve and, it was said, that the two sons were isolated in the family home during the war and for several years following.


One morning the family arose to find their side porch had received a paint job during the night hours.   It was…BRIGHT YELLOW!


Dawson was just another Texas town……..their “could have been” sign…



Welcome to Dawson, Texas

Home to about 1000 Wonderful People

And..a few Old Soreheads

Submitted by: Carl W. Matthews - Jan  2004

LAND TRANSACTIONS At Spring Hill, Navarro Co. Texas



George Washington Hill had purchased one third league ( 1480 acres ) from William C Hill in 1847.   The property was centered around what became later…the Spring Hill Trading Post located just south of the present Spring Hill Cemetery.  Five years later, September 25, 1852. he sold approximately five hundred acres to his brother-in-law, Robert Harve Matthews, for $500. It appears that Dr. Hill retained the property south of Treadwell Branch and sold property to the north.


Early roads in the area followed long establish buffalo or Indian trails that made use of the most favorable stream crossings, points where the water was most shallow and oftentimes over a rock base.    There was such a crossing over Treadwell Branch that provided Robert Harve access to his property to the north.   The trail went north through the property to Richland Creek where the wide crossing over a rock ledge may yet be seen.   The banks were cut down over the centuries by the hoofs of buffalo and the wheels of countless wagons.    The clearing on the north side of the creek was used for many years as a popular gathering place for picnics and other outings.  The rock base formed a dam that created a nice swimming hole and large trees nearby provided ample shade.


R H Matthews and Francis Slaughter had operated a General Store at Franklin.   Slaughter's will provides a detailed account of the credit extended to customers in the early 1840's.  Matthews, no doubt, saw the need for another such establishment and created a new store on the old Indian Trail on the hill between Treadwell Branch and Richland Creek.


 Robert Harve Matthews must have built his General Merchandise store on the trail soon after the purchase.     The "R H Matthews Storehouse" was there by November 29, 1855, the date Robert Harve sold three acres to R A Younger.  The Younger property was located forty feet north of the Northwest corner of "R H Matthews Storehouse at Spring Hill."  "The Store" was located on what became Broadway when the Spring Hill Plat was filed at the courthouse in Corsicana and, probably on land later owned by Clint Fort.   Matthews sold the three acres to R A Younger for Fifteen Dollars.


Robert A Younger had married Louise Slaughter, a niece of R H Matthews, and a step-daughter of Dr. Hill.    Robert Younger died while serving in the Army of the CSA during the Civil War.


Matthews, a surveyor, drew a plat for a New Spring Hill at some point prior to 1870.  The plat was filed on the fly leaf of Book "U" County Clerks Book at Corsicana, but the date is missing.   The date may have been as early as 1855 or 1860, but no record exists of lots being sold until March 24, 1870 when James M Ferguson sold four lots (3-4-5-10) to J L Dean for $500.   .


Dr. J L Dean, apparently, was impressed with the future of Spring Hill and on January 10, 1872, purchased Lots 6-7-9 in Block One, and Lots 1-2 in Block Eleven.   The price was $112.50.  R H Matthews was the seller. Dr. Dean, apparently lived at Spring Hill until 1882 when he moved to the new town of Dawson


Lot Three had been deeded to Johnson & Company and was located "168 feet North and 60 degrees East from the Southeast corner of Lot 1."


The Spring Hill plat included town lots and business lots and Farm lots.   Town and business lots were fifty-six feet wide and one hundred twelve feet deep.  Farm lots were larger than the town lots and permitted a cow lot and a large garden area in addition to a house.      


R H Matthews sold Farm Lots 3 and 4 to Joseph Calvin Matthews on December 24, 1871.   Joseph Calvin and his family were said to have come to Texas in covered wagons in 1869, but some claim the date to be 1875.  This deed establishes the fact Joseph Calvin Matthews was in Spring Hill in 1871.   Joseph Calvin lived there until his death in 1914.


The lots began to be bought and sold.     January 29, 1873 W H Dawson and C B Carter sold R H Matthews "South One Half of Lot 2 Block One" for $1.00 and other valuables.   W H Dawson was, probably, William Henry Dawson, son of Brit Dawson.  Henry had married Susan Fullerton.    C B Carter is unknown.


R H Matthews sold the same "One Half Lot"

to J J Stancil  on April 8, 1873 for $300.

J J Stancil sold in Dec 28 1874 to W P Bishop for $300.

W P Bishop & wife, Cora E., sold the "One Half Lot" 


Lots 2 thru 10 of Block Two to Robert Stockard for $300.


R H Matthews, on the same date, sold Lot 5 Block Ten to J M Polk for "$900. Coin."  This lot fronted 56 feet on Commercial Street and went back 112 feet on Mechanic Street.    This lot probably had some improvement to command such a large price.    Polk sold the property back to R H Matthews March 5, 1875 for "$8,000. Gold coin."    The deed stated, "together with all and singular the rights, members, hereditaments and appurtenances."    Which, being interpreted, means the Polk had improved the property.


It was on Christmas Day 1873 that R H Matthews was in a charitable mood and sold R B Marsh Lots 2-3-7-8 of Block Ten....for $100.    


Marsh may have been a physician and storekeeper.  He made some money and when he moved to Dawson in the 1880's he built a two story home north and across the street from where Miss Kathleen Edwards lived until her death.  The house had a metal roof installed in 1919 which is still in place and the house remains in remarkable condition for its age.


Four days later, December 29, 1873 R H Matthews sold Lot 6 Block Ten to W P Bishop for $25.   The following year, Feb 27, 1874, W P Bishop and his wife, Cora E., sold the property to R B Marsh for $700.  The sale, also, included Lots 1-6 -9-10 in Block Ten


It was on April 26, 1874 that R H Matthews sold fractions of Lots 3-4-5-6 of Block One to J M Johnson.  The deed included clarification that stated, "Lot 3 in Block One fronts 56 feet on Broadway and runs 112 feet.  Fractional lots divided by SE line of Thomas Wright league that runs 60 degrees SW."  Johnson, apparently, constructed his home on the property.   The stones of his fireplace are in the pasture located 1998 across the road from the Joe Kyle residence.


James Rucker Smith had arrived at Spring Hill and on March 13, 1879 T F Sparks and wife sold him "Lot on which stands a large brick store house, built and formerly occupied by R A Younger...ref. to a deed made by R H Matthews to R A Younger 1860."    The price was $3,500., payable $2550 and three notes of $333.33 payable in 1879, 1880, 1881.   The devastation of Spring Hill by the creation of Dawson is reflected by the sale of this property by J R Smith to R H Matthews March 1, 1883 for $500.  "40 feet N from NW corner of R H Matthews store house.   distinguished as the lot on which stands a large brick store house built and formerly owned and occupied by R A Younger."


James Rucker Smith, a son of Dr. William Austin & Lucy Bedford Rucker Smith, apparently moved from Spring Hill to Dawson where he opened another General Merchandise store.     His Dawson store must  have been a success.   Twenty years later, he purchased the large two story home on the west side of Dawson’s Main Street across from the present Methodist Church.   He died there in 1910.   His widow was the former Annette Wheelock, sister of John Ripley Wheelock.


Dr. J L Dean has accumulated seven lots in Spring Hill by December 11, 1882, but Dawson had been created and he would be among the numbers moving to the new town.  He sold Lots 4 thru 10 of Block One to R H Matthews Sr. for $150.   The"Sr" was used to distinguish R H Matthews from his nephew by the same name.


Dec 10, 1895, P B Bennet and wife Anna sold Lots 4& 5 Block Ten to Dr. H L Matthews for $75.  This property included a house and well and was located south of the J M Johnson property.   It was inherited by Carl Matthews and rented until the late 1930s.


Further decline of property values at Spring Hill are reflected in the sale of the entire Block One for $135. by Bettie Matthews, widow of Robert Harve. .   The sale was to R C McCurdy. This Block fronted on Broadway and Waco.  The sale was Oct 29, 1898.   Bettie Priddy, age 27, had married R H Matthews age 70 in 1884.    R H Had died in 1894.


R C McCurdy and his wife, Ida S., sold Lots 1 thru 4 to T C (Theo) Matthews December 6, 1898.  Theo was a son of Joseph Calvin Matthews and a brother of Dr. H L Matthews.   The price was $200. plus $50. note at 10% interest.  Theo operated a country store there until Sept 20, 1906 when he sold the lots to his brother, Walter Matthews for $100. cash, $100. in 1907, $100. in 1908.


Uncle Walter Matthews began acquiring Spring Hill property in 1900.  Robert Harvey Matthews, a brother of J C Matthews, had died and left Farm Lot #5.    J N Barron and wife Margaret Agnes Matthews; Cab Cunningham and wife, Laura Matthews, and Robert Matthews sold Uncle Walter the Farm Lot for $40.


W H Hardy bought 3 4/10 acres from Bettie Matthews Oct 11, 1902.  Reference is made to Block 13.  This may have been an area surveyed off the original town lots.


William Sam Barber had married Lena Doyle Dempsey and had purchase Block Ten at some point.  They had died in 1902 and 1903 and the property went their minor heirs, Zelma and Willie D Barber.  Their older brother, J. Doyle Barber purchased the property for $75. in 1913.   Uncle Walter bought it in 1916 for $350.


A 1925 deed involved a purchase of portions Lots 1 thru 8...the West end of the Marsh lots from the Whitner Estate.   Virgil Matthews paid $25. to Obe Vest & Mollie Whitner; J G Whitner, W H McCulloch and Zellia Whitner; J H & Lizzie Whitner; H H Slater and Lizzie Whitner; E E and Lizzie` Whitner



A Christmas Tradition


South Carolina was the first state to secede from the union as a prologue to the Civil War. 


Jacob Elliott was born 1802 in New York, moved to Kentucky with his parents, married, came to Texas in 1849, and settled in Corsicana.   He became a land trader.   His first purchase was 3605 acres located on Richland Creek south of Corsicana which were bought at a court house tax sale…..for….$12.81.   Jacob maintained a journal and wrote:


“On Friday, December 28, 1860, news reached Corsicana, Navarro Co, that South Carolina, by a formal ordinance of their State Convention, had withdrawn from the federal union.    Corsicana was pleased with the news and for want of a cannon, celebrated the event by firing anvils.”


“Firing Anvils?”     The practice became a Christmas Tradition at the community of Spring Hill.     Spring Hill boasted several blacksmith shops…each with at least a single anvil.  The 180 pound anvils, when turned upside down, reveal a large hollowed area.   The hollowed area was filled with gunpowder, and a second anvil placed on top.   A trail of gunpowder lead to the filled area, ignited…and…BOOM!


My Dad lived at Spring Hill until 1911 and recalled that Pete Bills and other blacksmiths would “Shoot the Anvil” at Spring Hill at midnight on December 24 and that the noise would alert the entire countryside that….IT WAS CHRISTMAS!


Sorry… I have no anvils…but…MERRY CHRISTMAS…without the bang!


Carl W Matthews

MAURY CO TENNESSEE...and Dawson, Texas


Maury County,Tennessee rises again and again when the early history of Western Navarro Co. is carefully researched.      Many of the early Maury County residents were veterans of the American Revolution and had settled earlier in Kentucky where bounty lands were offered to veterans.    When more land on the Duck River became available, many of the veterans moved again.    A study of the list of Veterans of the American Revolution who lived in Maury Co. Tennessee revealed many names later found in Western Navarro Co Texas.       Descendents of many of these individuals listed have actually been traced to Western Navarro Co Texas.*


Other descendents from this group who migrated to Western Navarro Co Texas may be discovered in the days to come.




Peter Akers            *                                  Related to Akers in Dawson

Abner Bankston                                Douglas Bankston First Grade 1930

Daniel Bills            *                                  Related to Pet Bill Family of Spring Hill

Ambrose Blackburn       *                      Early Grand Master Spring Hill Lodge

Zachariah Butler                          The Dawson Herald

Pugh Cannon                                      Younger Cannon

Robert Caruthers                               Pelham Family

Sylvestor Chunn                         Family lived Frog Level 1929

John Davidson                                Lived on Cowhead Road, Spring Hill

Asa Davis                                           Name figured prominently early Dawson history

George Dixon    *                                  Dickson boys married daughters of Brit Dawson

James Freeland    *                             Related to Freelands of  Dawson

William Gordon                                    David McCandless married Polly Gordon

Francis Hill                                         Many Hills settled this area

Samuel  Hillis                                     Hillis still reside in Dawson

Christopher Houston                      Related to Bills, Mose Berry married a Houston

James Hutcherson    

David Long                                           One of the Lawrence girls married a Long

Jacob Lowrance   *                           Could our Lawrences be related?

David Matthews                               Matthews still found in Dawson

James Matthews

Maj. John Matthews

John McCandless            Macca Orange McCandless married  Joseph Lawrence

Francis Moody                                    John Moody married one of the Hill girls

Samuel Moore                         Carlos Moore married Hester McCulloch

James Patterson                                Pattersons in Dawson 1920s

Charles Pistol   *                                  Related to Savage and Jarvis families

Elisha Pullin            *                                  This family traces to Dawson

William Ramsey  *                              Ramseys buried Spring Hil

James Reece            *               Sarah Reece married Sampson Stewart Matthews

William Renfro                                    Settled on the Blackland

Isaac Roberts     *                           Wilkes Co NC…to Tenn…to IL..to Blackland

Col. William Sims    *                      Down to Lowrimores, Lancasters

John Sowell            *                 Jim Sowell married one of the Lawrence daughters

James Stockard                                 Stockards married Matthews

James Turner      *                                  S C…to Union Co IL..to Dawson

Shadrach Weaver            *           Charles Weaver married one of the Wilkes girls

Samuel Webb                     Several Webb Families…some related to Dr. G W Hill

Francis Willis                       Charles Albert Willis graduated Dawson High School,

Gen. Richard Winn   *                Daughter Mary Winn married Col. Thomas Sims

Cornelius Wilson                         Intermarried with Grahams

The Williams Eldorado Ranch

Dawson, Texas


“The Blackland,” as the area south of Dawson, Texas was…and is… often called, was home to many farm and ranch families from the 1880s until the end of WWII. Farm houses, filled with growing families, dotted the landscapes of communities known as Eldorado, Patterson, Union High, Shady Grove, Stansell, and Headquarters. And there was a “Resting Place” called The Boardtree Cemetery.

Families who lived on “The Blackland” were not the average…run of the mill…poor dirt farmers found in some areas of early Texas. They were families of substance ….who valued education,….were skilled in the craft of farming the rich soil….and instilled the qualities of character and moral values into the lives of their children….not by what they said, but by how they lived.

When Rural Free Delivery…RFD…arrived, family names of Bowman, Champion, Comer, Evans, Graham, Grice, McKinzie, Meredith, Moore, Onstott, Perkins, Roloff, Sawyer, Vinson, Spence, Ward, Wilson…. were to be found on mail boxes erected on “The Blackland” roads.

Winifred Berry began delivering mail on The Blackland in 1909, first by buggy, many times on horseback, later by a Ford Model T. He recalled the goodness and generosity of the families on his route. But, he did more than deliver mail. One older lady would meet him at the mail box to have him thread her needle. And more than once, as a personal favor, he would deliver a bottle of fluid spirits….for medicinal purposes, of course.

Neil Clark took over the route after WWII….first with army surplus jeeps…then by car as the road were improved. Oftimes, his jeep would be filled with grocery orders being delivered to families who had no means to go to town over the muddy roads.

Many of the families who settled communities of Western Navarro Co. Texas known as Spring Hill, Brushie Prairie, Navarro Mills, Liberty Hill, Purdon….all located north of The Blackland…had migrated from Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and Arkansas.

However, a large number of “The Blackland” families, had migrated from Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, and Wisconsin. This fact creates a question……

“What brought these families to ‘The Blackland?’ area? “

The railroad had sliced its way across Western Navarro Co Texas in 1881 and had brought substantial change. A new town….Dawson…would be created. Cattle, crops, hides, cotton, etc. could be shipped to waiting markets. New families began arriving in the area to purchase inexpensive land…to open businesses in the new town….to serve professional needs..

B J Williams of Whitewater, Wisconsin and John D Patterson of Geneva, New York purchased 14,000 acres on “The Blackland” in 1881 and 1882….at a cost of near $50,000. Their intentions were to establish “The Williams Eldorado Ranch”…. a sheep ranch….on the rich black soil.

NOTE: It appears that many investors from more settled areas invested in properties in Texas. Texas and Pacific Railroad…1884…sold twenty-four sections of land (15,360 acres) at the site of present day Odessa, Texas to a group of investors from Zanesville, Ohio. The price: $53,476.

J F Williams arrived at Eldorado from Wisconsin in 1882 to become Ranch Foreman. The relationship between the two Williams men is not known, but it may be assumed that they were related in some manner since they had the same last name and both were from Wisconsin.

J F Williams would be responsible for the total development of the ranch… directing the effort of constructing housing for the employees….barns for the animals. The ranch would have need for stock ponds to be dug and miles of fencing to be installed. Ranch hands would be needed to prepare the facilities and, later, to operate the ranch.

Logic would assume that J F Williams placed advertisements in newspapers covering the Midwestern states that he was hiring ranch hands for the new operation in Texas.

William L Roloff was twenty-one in 1882. He had migrated from Germany four years earlier to Wisconsin with an uncle and his family who had secured passage on a ship bound for Wisconsin. William L Roloff’s father could not afford the fare for his son so William L Roloff became a stowaway on the ship and arrived in Wisconsin in 1878. He, apparently, lost no time finding and courting a young lady …..but he needed employment before they could marry. The advertisement in the Milwaukee paper promised, not only a job…but excitement and adventure as well. More…the young couple could marry and begin a new life in Texas. Their first son of record, Rudolph, was born in 1887.

Two graves at the Boardtree Cemetery list:

William L Roloff 1861-1932
M L Roloff 1863-1961

The two were married December 26, 1885 at Whitewater, Jackson Co., Wisconsin. The marriage license listed their names as William Ludwig Roloff and Louise Monita Friedel. Whitewater, Wisconsin is located inland from Milwaukee one hundred miles to the southwest, and…..was the home of B J Williams, one of the owners of The Williams Eldorado Ranch in Navarro Co. Texas.

Could William Ludwic Roloff and Louise Monita Friedel have known each other in Germany…possibly have fallen in love there?


Ludwig Roloff 1833-1918 and Frederich Friedel 1833-1882…were both born in the same year, both born in Germany, both had migrated to American, both lived at Whitewater,Wisconsin.

The “Social Democracy” organization had been outlawed in Germany in 1878. One can imagine these two men…. at age fifty-five…unhappy with the political unrest in Germany…. deciding to come to America and begin a new life. Louise Monita Friedel is fifteen…..William Ludwic/Ludwig Roloff is seventeen. They are “sweet” on each other. When William learned that the Friedel family was leaving for America he wanted to go…but had no money for the passage fare.

So…when the ship sailed, William was well hidden aboard the ship…a “stowaway.” Once at sea, William, probably, emerged from hiding and went un-noticed on the crowded ship. He had the support of two families and time to really court Louise Monita Friedel.

Ludwig Roloff 1833-1918 is buried at Whitewater…possibly the uncle with whom Uncle Billy sailed from Germany in 1878. His wife was Johanna.

Frederich Friedel 1833-1882 is buried at Whitewater…possibly the father of Louise Monita Friedel. His wife was Christina 1833-1908. Jefferson Co Marriage files reveal that John Friedel c1868 married there in 1888. He is quite possibly a brother of Louise Monita Friedel. Descendents of William Ludwig Roloff recall that Grandma Roloff had a brother who lived in Chicago and who came to Texas for a visit.

Meanwhile, the Sawyer, Spence, Scroggin, Vinson, Ward families of Macoupin Co. Illinois may have been reading the same advertisement in a Chicago newspaper. These families had migrated north from the Carolinas after the War of 1812. The winters in Macoupin Co. Illinois had grown, perhaps, more severe over the years….the allure of a warmer climate was appealing.

Jesse Sawyer, born about 1790, married Ruthie. They lived in Tyrell Co.
North Carolina until the 1830s when they migrated to Illinois with several neighbor families….Spence, Sikes, Best, & Scroggins.

J F Williams, probably, hired many ranch hands from the Midwest and the new employees of The Williams Eldorado Ranch…some with families….gathered their belongings, boarded the train in Chicago, and began their journey to Texas.

The migration of these families to The Blackland was, probably, middle to late 1880s rather than the early 1880s. This probability is based on the fact that the Vermont Ranch near San Angelo was not begun until 1890 and it was there that the sheep from the Eldorado Ranch in Navarro Co. were, probably, moved.

Housing for the employee families was, probably, located in close proximity to each other and someone suggested a name for the community. The name “Williams” had been used for the ranch name in honor of B J Williams, one of the owners. It would seem appropriate that something should be named for John D Patterson, the other owner. The community was given that name…Patterson.

The Patterson Community….may…have been located between Eldorado and Four Corners.

Lester Leo Roloff…grandson of William Ludwig & Mary Louise Roloff, and a well known gospel preacher…made it known many times that he was born at Patterson, Texas. According to a taped interview with Ruth Sawyer Lawrence in the 1990s, her father, D D Sawyer operated a cotton gin at Patterson in the late 1800s. “Uncle Ed” Grice was said to have worked at that gin.

The Eldorado Ranch had brought expensive sheep from California, but the operation was a disaster. The ranch recorded a $50,000. loss in 1884 and the surviving sheep were moved at some point to a 12,000 acre ranch which B J Williams had purchased near San Angelo, Texas.

From Navarro Co USGen Web: Eldorado Center….located on Farm Road 638, twenty miles southeast of Corsicana in Navarro Co. Texas, began as a settlement for workers on the large Eldorado Ranch. The area was first settled before the Civil War, but the first business, a grocery store, was not established until about 1910. A School was in operation at Eldorado by the early 1900s, and in 1906 it had an enrollment of forty-eight. At its height around the time of World War I, Eldorado Center had a number of houses, a church, a school, a cotton gin, and a store. By the mid-1930s only a store and a number of houses remained there. Th community’s estimated population in 1936 was fifty. The store closed after World War II, and in the mid-1960s, only a few widely scattered houses remained. In the early 1990s Eldorado Center was a dispersed rural community.

Today, a community by the name of Eldorado is located forty-two miles west of San Angelo, Texas in Schliecher Co. and has a population nearing two thousand. Schliecher Co. history states that The Vermont Ranch was established in the community of Verand in the early 1890s and the town of Eldorado created in 1895. County history, also, records that when the Eldorado Community was established in 1895, most of the residents of Vermont Ranch moved to Eldorado. Could it have been that the sheep from Navarro County were moved, first to Vermont Ranch….possibly later, to Eldorado?

The community of Verand was said to have been established in the mid-1880s when thousands of acres of land were purchased by Vermont investors who established the Vermont Ranch. Approximately twenty families moved to Verand. Could some of those twenty families have been from the Eldorado Ranch in Navarro County?

The move from Verand to Eldorado was due to the fact that clear title to lots in Verand could not be obtained. Free lots were offered five miles distant at Eldorado and the residents and businesses were relocated there.

The following year the ranch was stocked with draft horses that were to be sold to local farmers. That, too, became a financial disaster. Eventually, the ranch was broken up into small plots and sold for farm land. Some of the employee families purchased the small farms. Some worked the farms for a time as sharecroppers and, later, purchased the land. The Smiths and Deans and several other families migrated from Tishomingo Co. Mississippi, purchased the land, and began to farm.

Schools were created in each of the communities. Later, Patterson, Rodney, and Shady Grove schools consolidated and became known as….Union High School. Four Corners, _______, and ________became known as Headquartrs.

Many descendents of those early families who lived on “The Blackland” continue to own the land…now rented to huge farming operators. Most of the houses that dotted the area in the 1930s are gone. Patterson has disappeared completely and the Eldorado Store has closed. The school at Headquarters consolidated with Dawson and the building site is bare. The churches disbanded after WWII.

Harmony Methodist Church and Shiloh Baptist stood side by side on the corner south of the Dean Home on the Old Corsicana Highway for many years. The fenced area remains, but contains nothing but the rubble of one of the churches that burned several years ago.

Only the Boardtree Cemetery remains….a silent sentinel and testimony of a once thriving community of hardy American stock whose descendents have scattered across this great country and beyond. They have left “The Blackland” behind, but they have carried with them the history of a bygone day and the moral and social values for living given them by example.



Names found at The Boardtree Cemetery

Anderson Barrington Bell Black Bridges Brooks Brewster Bridwell Brown Bruce Burns Cantrell Carter Clark Cooper Cope Cox Craig Creasy Davis Demoney Derden Dodd Dykes Duke Evans Farley Floyd Forsyth Freeze Gardner Goodwin Green Greenlee Grice Gullett Haygood Haley Hardy Horton Johnson Jones Jordan Keel King Kirkland Lane Lewis Lummus Mann Marrs McKenzie McMahan Miles Perry Pearson Perteet Pickett Prater Read Roloff Reno Sawyer Sexton Smith Smitherman Talbott Tantzen Tapp Tatum Thomas Vandyke Walker Wallace Ward Warren Watson Wilson Wooley Wylie

Some early burials shown on the Boardtree Cemetery census:

Jonathan Grice 1787-1864
M F Grice 1840-1918
Elbert A Grice 1847-1924
Mary R Haley 1878-1879 dau W C & M F
Halla Sexton 1875-1880 dau T J & M A
Mary Thomas 1801-1881 wife J
M L Barrington 1852-1882 wife of J H

Sawyer names at Boardtree Cem.

J R 1835-1908 m. wife 1847-1906
“Our Father” “Our Mother”
John Ruthie Sawyer Clarisa Clementine Walker

J R Sawter, Jr. m. Tabitha 1877-1903
Tabitha Grice

D B 1861-1929 m. Drucilla C 1871-1961
M O 1892-1959 m. Madie Ann 1897-1970
Paul Glenn 1913 m. Lometa Marie 1915-1957


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