Madison County hit 100 in 1954


Madison County celebrated its centennial June 4 and 5, 1954, at the annual Madisonville Sidewalk Cattlemen’s Association events. That June 3 Madisonville Meteor is a treasure of history, because it contains numerous recollections of the older citizens.  Some things are included below and some you will see later. 

Mrs. C.N. Heath had shared a copy of the commencement program for the 1910-1911 school term, and it contained interesting tidbits. The first graded school here was taught in 1881-1882, with Miss Julia Smither as principal and Miss Sue Smither and Miss Ula Robinson as teachers. It was maintained by private subscription and in a building built by private means.  Madisonville was “considering an electric light plant, a water works system, and an oil mill.”   Madison County school enrollment for all races was 370 in 1907, 458 in 1911, and 920 in 1954. 

For some reason, Mrs. Heath’s program contained the information that the first-ever local county officials were County Judge Dr. J.L. Duke, County Clerk J. Wash Park, District Clerk James E. Mitchell, Tax Assessor and Collector J.R. McIver, Sheriff Jim Clark, and Treasurer S.T. Allphin. I wanted to check to see if the timing was right, for those men to have been officials in 1854. I could find no J.L. Duke buried locally, but did find Dr. John Lafayette Duke (1827-1884) buried at Alvarado, and his wife was a Byers whose father is buried at Bethel Cemetery, just across our county line.  I figure he was our county judge here at one time. Also, Samuel Taylor Allphin (1823-1890) is buried in our City Cemetery.  I could not find much about the other men, but Duke’s and Allphin’s lifespans make it appear that they could have served as county officials in 1954. 

Joe E. Webb had loaned the Meteor a souvenir edition of the Madisonville Meteor published August 27, 1897. J.A. Palmer was editor then and the edition was published at the time of the annual reunion of Camp John G. Walker, members of which were Confederate veterans. Mr. Palmer described our county as “The home par excellence of the farmer… nearly every square mile of her territory is good farming land … No county in the state possesses a more enterprising, ambitious population than Madison … Madisonville, the county seat, is a prosperous town of about 500 population …”

Another headline declared “Miss Loula Malone Began Teaching In 1890.” When interviewed by the Meteor in 1954, she was 82 and the oldest former Madisonville school teacher still living here then.  Her teaching assignments included Greenbrier first, then Bedias, Cottonwood, and finally Madisonville.  While at Greenbrier, she left her boarding place at 7 a.m. to walk the half mile to the school and get there in time to have a fire built to “knock the chill off the room before the students got there.”  She had about 60 students and was the only teacher for the several grades.  The first year she was paid $35 per month. She taught until 1912, and later she served as county school superintendent for four years. 

In Malone’s own school days, she went to school at Jenkins in a small log hut five miles east of Madisonville.  In the room’s center was a place to build a fire, but there was no stove and no windows.  There were 10 or 12 students.  She said she believed the teacher had a chair but she wasn’t sure.  Students sat on planks stuck in the walls and running the length of the room. 

An article headlined “History of North Zulch School” stated that in 1908 progressive citizens banded together to organize their first public school.  The first classes were held in the Freewill Baptist Church, with the faculty consisting of W.S. Barron and Miss Irene Morgan.  Soon a two-story frame structure was built, with four classrooms on the first floor and an auditorium on the second.  In 1924, a modern two-story brick building was erected, with 8 classrooms, a library, and an office, and later two modern restrooms were added.  Many teachers were named, including Sybil Windham, Carlie Gibbs, Violet Donaho (Ware), Effie Hibbetts, Minnie McCormick, Bertha Shannon (Rumfield), Texas Lee, Florence Campbell, Ruth Fisher, C.O. Windsor, Florence McMahan, and many teachers who later moved to Madisonville for long careers. 

Another article contained information about the Magee Expedition, which crossed the Trinity River and Madison County in 1813. An army of about 800 filibusterers trying to claim land for the United States camped near Midway before proceeding to take San Antonio.  Then a Spanish army numbering in the thousands defeated and pursued them along what we now call OSR.  The last 80 men were captured, shot, and perhaps buried at a place called Spanish Bluff a couple of miles north of Midway, on what later became one of Dr. Hayes’s farms.  There was also a Mexican/Spanish settlement known as Trinidad in the area.   The Spanish army accused the residents with aiding the Magee expedition, and they took the entire population to Loma del Toro (Bull’s Hill), 1 ½ miles south of where Clapp’s Ferry later stood.  To save ammunition, they cut the people’s throats or otherwise butchered them.  Major Young (Uncle Billy) came to Texas in the 1830s, and he later said that when he first arrived, many of the bones of those victims were still scattered and visible.  The Spaniards did not bury them. 

In 1954 and for many years afterward, the John R. Burtis Drug Store was the oldest business in town. The store was founded by Burtis, who came here in 1872 and bought the drug store for $500 in 1886. 

It occupied the building on the northeast corner of The Square.  It became our first brick building other than the Courthouse to be constructed, and was built from bricks leftover when our “old” courthouse was erected in 1897.  Madisonville’s first telephone switchboard was also located in Burtis’s building.  News of the Spanish-American War was telephoned there from Navasota, and Burtis posted the dramatic facts on a bulletin board outside the store. 

The issue also contained a photo of the first train to arrive here and facts about that event in September 1903.  The first station agent was C.D. Donaldson, and Joe E. Webb started working for the Illinois & Great Northern line in February 1904.  The newspaper photo showed the new depot, with the large Farmers and Bankers Cotton Warehouse in the background.  Another photo from 1901 shows a big group of men who worked on the railroad tracks or depot, including Bob Allphin, Jim Wells, Ed Viser, Elbert Day, Curtis Kelton, Dr. Corley, M.J. Chambless, Rube Connor, and others.  They were standing in front of Burtis Brothers and Day Furniture Store. 

The Centennial Issue contained a photo of the 16th car in Madison County, according to Harvey Turner,

who was at the wheel in the photo, with his parents in the back seat.  The Studebaker, bought in 1916, succeeded the family’s Model T Ford bought in 1914.  Tom Clapp told of taking the head of a Brown Mule tobacco box, painting it white with “No. 16” on it, and putting it on the front of the Turner’s Studebaker.  The photo also contained a Model T belonging to Dr. O Patton and, some thought, the first car at Midway, where the photo was taken in front of Herring- Gibson Hardware Company.

Lizzie Parten Leonard’s essay about her family told that her father, Wayne Parten, and brothers Oscar and Reuben were ages 8, 6, and 12, respectively, when they lost both parents during the Civil War and were brought from Alabama to Texas by an uncle, Dr. James A. Law.  Most of their uncles had died in that war.  Another brother, Joseph R., went by the nickname Doc and worked to pay off his fare to Texas, and all became local merchants, stockmen, and farmers. That J.R. Parten was uncle of the late Jubal Richard “J.R.” Parten (1896-1992) that was involved heavily in oil, politics, and ranching.  The Parten family was prolific. shows 52 graves in Madison County for Partens, and that does not include women who married and were buried having other last names. 

The oldest woman in the county, Mrs. Alice Brassell Finney, was interviewed for the Centennial issue of the Meteor.  She had lived most of her 96 years on the same farm one mile southeast of Midway.  She had moved to that farm as a small child with her parents, J.T. and Emma Westmoreland Brassell, and after that, she lived there all but ten years when she lived 2 miles west of Midway.  She told of attending school about a mile east of her home, just after the Civil War, with a teacher named Sue Wingard who later married Wayne Mitchell.  The school was on her father’s farm. 

James Hephner Mize, also 96 and our county’s then-oldest man, was also featured in the Meteor.  He was born in Louisiana, where he lost his right arm in a sorghum mill accident when he was only six years old.   While watching cane being ground, the lad grabbed at a juicy stalk, and his arm was pulled into the machinery.  After that accident, someone rode 30 miles horseback for a doctor who rode horseback those 30 miles back.  Without an anesthetic, Mize was laid on a table and the arm was sawed off at his shoulder. 

Mize moved to Madisonville from Louisiana when he was 9. He overcame his handicap, learning to plow, hoe, draw water, and do things with one good hand and arm.  His family first lived on Town Branch, the waterway running through Madisonville.   Then (1867) all of Madisonville was not cleared but mostly in the brush.  There were only two stores but four saloons and plenty of whiskey. Mize attended school then in the home of the teachers, Major W.W. Viser and his wife. 

He taught school for two years at Greenbrier, made his first crop when he was 19, and became a successful farmer and rancher.  His granddaughter, Laverne Mize Waldrip, often said he could do things one-handed as well or better than most folks with two.   At one time he owned 1100 acres but sold some when he retired, and he was left with 167 acres at the time of the newspaper interview. 

The First National Bank of Madisonville’s advertisement in the 1954 Meteor listed resources and liabilities both being $2,247,024.91.  Directors included J.L. Cooper, Datus Sharp, J.W. Mathis, Julian Wakefield, Milton Brownlee Morris Seay, Mrs. D.C. Cannon, and J.H. Howard. 

Farmers State Bank’s ad stated $2,432,362.48 in resources and liabilities.  Directors were J.M. Day, Mrs. J.E. Viser, J.W. Viser, and T.B. Viser. Officers included Cashier Joe A. Bullard and Assistant Cashier Mrs. Freddie Fannin. 

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 would welcome your visit.  Call 936.348.5230 and make arrangements to meet with me to share your own stories, or e-mail them to