Families give county colorful past


Editor’s note: This is the first of two columns detailing the history of some of the families in Madison County.

The first county history book contains several submissions about the May families in the North Zulch area, and the second volume contains a single submission. Several Mays came here from England between 1850 and 1875. The first appears to have been Henry May (1833-1933), who came from England about 1850, on the same boat that brought the first Zulch, Julius A. Zulch, from Germany. Henry’s brother, Thomas May (1839-1930) was also born in England and served in the British army before coming to Zulch (the original settlement before it moved and became North Zulch), in Madison County, in 1873. Thomas stayed in Madison County for about a year and made many friends, including brothers George, Jack and Marion Rumfield. He fell in love with their younger sister, Sallie Ann, who was only 13 and too young to marry. Thomas then went to West Texas and worked as a cowboy for about 5 years, probably near San Antonio where those 3 Rumfield friends had settled. When Sallie Ann turned 18, Thomas returned to Zulch and the two married. She roasted a pig for their wedding supper. The couple owned and operated a general mercantile store in North Zulch from the early 1900’s until 1930. Thomas May’s moving west to be a cowboy makes me think of a good western novel.

Joe Gibson (1878-1842) was our county sheriff for 8 years, 1927-1934, during the Bonnie Parker – Clyde Barrow era. One of their gang members, Floyd Hamilton, was a prisoner at our local Ferguson Farm prison. The gang engineered an escape for Hamilton, and prison officials alerted Sheriff Gibson that the heavily-armed group was in a car headed towards Madisonville and then to go to Navasota. Sheriff Gibson had only one deputy, Jay Bozeman, then, so he immediately deputized several men. They set up an ambush south of town in the Jozye community. When the lawmen tried to stop the outlaws, a gun battle ensued. The gang abandoned their vehicle and took refuge behind the Mormon Church then in Jozye. Ultimately, they were captured and neither Parker nor Barrow were with them.

In those days, there was usually little serious crime in Madison County. Once Sheriff Gibson received a tip about a planned robbery of First National Bank, then located on the corner of the square where Rancho Viejo now is. Gibson deputized several local citizens, and they set up a stakeout in the second-story corner room of the Courthouse overlooking the bank. News of the added security must have gotten out, because no robbery was attempted.

The above Joe Gibson was father of Melba Gibson Andrews Frossard (1929-1992), to whom we history lovers owe a big debt. She was quite a historian and gathered MANY local photos and a great deal of history which wound up in the Museum. Melba was mother of Kenneth Andrews, Joe Harold Andrews, John Frossard, and Gus Woodrow “Woody” Frossard, and therefore grandmother of Steve Andrews and Gus Andrews.

Ida Alma Viser (1892-1970) was born in Madison County, and grew up to marry Isaac Newton Brown. The couple had 3 sons, Wilborn, Virgil, and Percy, and Wilborn was father of Jane Colwell, the local teacher who retired in May. Mrs. Brown was known throughout the county as one of the best cooks around. For a while, she and Virgil ran The White Kitchen Café on the north side of the square, and she also offered family-style dining in her home. She was dietician at our hospital 1952-1956, and she operated a family-style dining room at The Madison Hotel 1959-1969. Her buttermilk pie is still remembered fondly.

Not only was Ida Brown a good cook, she was a smart mother. When son Virgil was a second grader, several times he tried pretending to be too sick to attend school. Later she told friends how she cured him, with big doses of castor oil. He soon decided school was not so bad. With school starting soon, some readers may keep this in mind.

These are a few stories I’ve enjoyed in our county history books which can be bought at the Museum. Some of you know some fascinating ones that should be put down on paper. Please share some with me soon.

Madison County Museum, at 201 N. Madison St., Madisonville, TX, is open to the public Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Museum curator Jane Day Reynolds welcomes your visits. Memorials or donations may be mailed to the Museum at P.O. Box 60.