Hash musings and mysteries solved

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Other folks have authored Museum Musings before, but my own first Museum Musings appeared on June 24 last year.  If you’ve been with me from the start, you’ve suffered through more than 26 of my Musings so far. That first column, titled “Museum Hosts Hunting Exhibit”, and that exhibit were both inspired by a story in Madison County Memories Vol. 1, a little blue book priced at $10. In one chapter, Jerry Reed shared how he and his son Matt had killed a ringtail cat years ago, and he also told of another youthful escapade.  I highly recommend that book, and quantities are limited.    

After I cover a topic in Musings, often someone relates more information, which often bears sharing.  That is the purpose of this Musing. I’d call it “hash,” like my mother’s hash made with leftover roast beef.  I’m betting that you get served Hash Musings every so often now. 

My Oct. 16 Musings related some local cotton information and incidents, including facts about a gin explosion in 1907. Two young men, Merritt Kent and Joe Halliday, were killed in the blast. Researching the incident was difficult, because the old Meteor I had in hand was in poor shape.  It said the men had been friends since the cradle, and I quoted “Loving hands bore the mangled remains to the cemetery …” and “Together the coffins were placed…”  

I often use www.findagrave.com for research, and there I found information on the Joe Halliday’s grave but nothing for Merritt Kent. I ended that Musing with “However, none (grave) can be found for Merritt Kent nor any Kent being buried in 1907 locally, made strange because the Meteor reported that ‘together the coffins….’  Merritt’s parents, J.M. and Lucy, can be found, in later years, but not Merritt.  A mystery….”

With time, that mystery was solved, and I learned a lesson. Computers and websites are great time savers, but nothing beats legwork. Several weeks after that Musing was printed, Mrs. Margie Prescott called me, saying, “Can you meet me at the City Cemetery in a few minutes?” I agreed and got there as fast as I could.  She led me straight to Merritt Kent’s grave, which she had located.  It was not far from his family members’ graves AND that of his friend, Joe Halliday. The site www.findagrave is only good if someone enters information, and that information had not been entered.  I’m working on having that remedied.

I felt terribly guilty about the work that Mrs. Prescott had done in locating that grave.  In the South we don’t give ladies’ ages publicly, but I know she’s somewhere near my mother’s age. She wore sandals showing me that grave, and I feared she’d suffer fire ant bites. Mrs. Prescott is a wonderful person, full of energy, curiosity, and determination. I owe her for solving that mystery. She recently moved to Marathon to be near her daughter, Arlene, so someone else will have to keep me in line. Volunteers?

I learned some Halliday family facts recently, from Carolyn Whitmire Kendrick.  Her grandmother, Mary Evelyn Bowden Halliday (1870-1970), lived in our county’s Mount Tabor community and was a midwife for many years. She worked closely with Dr. John E. Morris. Since we had Dr. John Elijah Morris practicing here 1877 to 1913 and his son, Dr. John Ethel, “doctoring” here 1893 to 1949, I’m figuring Mrs. Halliday probably worked with father and son both. At one time Mrs. Halliday had a book in which she had recorded the names of at least 125 babies whom she had delivered, but that book was destroyed in a house fire. She was mother of Joe Halliday, mentioned above and who died in that gin explosion. He suffered a huge splinter in his chest and lived several hours. His mother sat with him all that time. Personally, I’d think that her having some medical knowledge might have made that even harder for her. 

Recently I received a call from Arlene Mize Kuta, now of New Waverly, who told me that she was born south of Brushy Creek, not far from where I now live, in 1934.  Her parents were Leo and Linnie (Talley) Mize, and her grandfathers were Austin Benjamin Mize and Thomas Jefferson Talley.  When her mother went into labor to have her, her Grandpa Talley rode a horse to town to fetch Dr. John Ethel Morris, who arrived by buggy.  

A while back, I wrote about when Madisonville had a train station.  After that came out in print, Arnold Foster share a bit of information that I didn’t want to neglect.  When he was a child, his family lived south of Madisonville, across the county line in Grimes County, near Bedias Creek. When either of his parents needed to go “to town”, they listened for the train’s whistle, waited by the tracks for the train, and flagged down the engineer.  He recalls many times that his mother brought him and his sister to town, paying 10 cents apiece each way.  The only problem was they had to make sure their business was finished by the time the train left town in the afternoon so they could go home, or else they were stranded overnight in Madisonville. Young folks may be surprised that the family could hear the train whistle, but that happened before air conditioning became the norm.

In about 1925, two Haston sisters from the Leona area were about to get married.  When the grooms talked to the chosen preacher, he told them he was about to leave town, but if the couples would meet him at Madisonville’s train station he would perform the weddings before he got on the train.  That’s what happened, two excited young couples were married at the depot here.

Now, another loose end.  I have a cousin, Beth Cannon Gibbens, who graduated from Madisonville High School in 1957. She has lived near Washington, D.C., since the 1960s.  Recently when she read what I’d written about early MSCA celebrations, she emailed me, saying, “I attended all of the barbecues at the Dusty Rhodes Ranch. My dad was in charge of cooking the whole steer on the pit.  The pit was the size of a grave and the oak logs had to burn for several days until they were white hot. Then wire was stretched over the pit and secured, and a halved steer was put on, mopped with sauce and turned often.  It was delicious.  You forgot to mention that your dad was a very elegant pick-up man at the rodeo. He was very elegant and I was quite proud of him being my uncle.”   

In another email, she shared, “Bebe Shoppe, Miss America, drew my name out of a hat and I won a cow which was given away by raffle ticket.  Very exciting… I rode in a quadrille with Billy Bob Forrest and rode one of their (Forrest Ranch) horses called Yellow Gal.  The Trinity River flooded that year and Yellow Gal was called back to the Forrest Ranch for work duty. We had a wonderful time. It was thrilling.” 

Beth’s father was D.C. Cannon, Jr., and I had never heard that he ever cooked for any MSCA event.  I’m not surprised, though I did not have the chance to attend any of those early MSCA events.   Later I ate his barbecue and squirrel chowder, and he was an excellent cook.  I would love to have his squirrel chowder recipe, and I recall often seeing a sauce pot of his barbecue sauce, with lemon slices floating on top, cooking on my Mama Cannon’s stovetop.  It pleased me that Beth remember that my father was pick-up man for many early MSCA rodeos, but if Harvey Cannon were here today, he’d laugh at her calling him “elegant.” I especially loved the fact that Beth remembered Yellow Gal’s name after more than 50 years.

When I was dwelling on doctors, it was news to me that we had a chiropractor here as far back as the 1920s. Dr. George Washington Knox (1896-1969), born in Houston County, attended the Texas Chiropractic College in San Antonio. After graduating, he began practicing in Madisonville, at some time before 1929.  He treated patients here until 1953, when he moved to Bryan and then Hearne. He returned to Madisonville in February 1968 and was semi-retired, with an office in his home on West Trinity Street until his death March 4, 1969.

I recently saw Civil War records etc. for my great-grandfather Abner Stout Wilson (1828-1909), and somewhere it said that a Dr. J.D. Jordan, M.D., of Madison County, performed an operation on Wilson for cataract of right eye.  I’ve been unable to find anything more about Dr. J.D. Jordan, but I’d love to know more.  If anyone can help me, the Museum’s telephone number and e-mail address are below. 

I gather information for Musings from several sources. I read countless old newspapers, but many local ones are not in good shape or order, with many issues are not even in existence.  I study “A History of Madison County, Texas,” Volumes 1 and 2.  I locate information in Museum files. Many interesting facts from 100 years ago or more are hard to find, sometimes impossible.  Perhaps you have an old story to tell, or maybe you recall information that relatives shared from family history.  I enjoy talking to people and getting information “from the horse’s mouth.” If you’d like to share stories/info, call the Museum at (936) 348-5230 and leave a message so I can get back with you. 

I hope you liked my “hash.” I wish I could have served it with a slice of hot cornbread! 

Madison County Museum, at 201 N. Madison St., Madisonville, is open to the public Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  We are winding down accepting recipes for the cookbook being compiled, but we will still accept them. They can be hand-delivered, mailed, or emailed to madcomuseum@hotmail.com

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