Museum Musings: Cookbooks, aprons now at museum


The new cookbooks are selling well.  If you have trouble getting to the museum between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, call 936.348.5230 and leave a message.  We’ll get back with you about it. Heads up! The museum will be closed Thanksgiving Day and Friday, Nov. 25. 

In line with the cookbooks, we now have an exhibit of antique or old cookbooks and aprons. If you have one or more you’d like to donate, we’d sure enjoy!  I loaned one of mine, a yellow-covered, black-ring-bound one from North Zulch and put together in the 1970s, but part of the cover is gone. We could sure use one of those! There are also some old kitchen tools items displayed, and some of you younger folks will not be able to tell what they are.

Also displayed is a hand-carved wooden chain, done by Bill Culp. He lives here now but was a Houston resident 50 years ago when he carved the unique chain. He made it all of one piece, from a six-foot dowel rod. A few years ago, the last link broke and has been glued back together, but only that one. Also on display is a keychain piece he made, with moving parts, carved from one solid piece of redwood, which is very hard. Culp is a very talented man, and the display case holds photos of him with some of his other works.

We have some oil field relics on display too, and I will go into more detail on that later. If you have things that would fit with such, we’d appreciate your gift or loan of them to the museum. If you have some oilfield experiences you’d share with me, I’d love to hear from you.

Recently we were contacted about a very old photo from the Oak Grove School, and soon we will have it on display. If you ever come upon such and think the Museum should have it, PLEASE contact us! If you want to keep the original, we would sure copy it if allowed. Maybe not a photo, but anything! We are not big enough to keep everything on display all of the time, but we rotate things in and out. One of the best things to me is the fact that we will keep things!

Today I’m sharing pieces from a newspaper clipping marked in pen “Oct. 30, 1929,” but it was about an earlier article. The 1929 piece began saying that Mr. Lew Morgan, of some three miles east of Madisonville, brought to the Meteor office the other day a newspaper that was printed in “The Texas Watchman” in Madisonville April 19, 1888, when J.P. Nall was the editor and Henry E. Nall the publisher.

I won’t share all of that article, it’s pretty long and it has info about a murder trial in nearby Anderson, with Judge Kittrell passing a death penalty. There might be some of the convicted man’s descendants that would see and I strive not to hurt people. 

If you’ve read many Musings, you know I often use I checked there about Lew Morgan and learned that he was born in Madison County in 1881, died in Madisonville in 1954, and his mother was a Whitten, born in Tennessee.  His father, Augusta James “Gus,” was born in Alabama and served in the CSA Army Cavalry from 1862 to 1865. He married Lola Bledsoe Morgan (1893-1929), and they had one son, Augustus “Gus” Bledsoe Morgan (1920-1983). That last Gus married Thyra Howard and they blessed us with Randall Morgan (MHS class of 1963, not the younger Randy some of you know), Toni Morgan Hardy and Mark Morgan, who are/were classmates and friends of many of us.  The Lew that took in that old newspaper was their grandfather. 

That old article told about the 1888 announcement column containing ads for the Honorable E.L. Byers being a candidate for County Judge, F.M. Black a candidate for sheriff, and James B. Lee up for re-election for District and County Clerk. The E.L. in Byers’s name was for Edward Leonidas, and we don’t see his middle name much now. Online I learned that as young man, he was a sergeant in Co. 1, 35th Texas Cavalry. Our county history book says that he was our county judge 1887-1888, so that ad must not have gotten him reelected. He was succeeded by J.C. Morris.

There was lots of mention of The Farmers Alliance. Research showed that the organization was started in Lampasas County in 1877, when cotton prices got so low, and at one time it was one of the largest protest organizations in American history, with membership exceeding 3 million. Madison County grew lots of cotton at the time of the article I’m referencing, so low cotton prices impacted our community for sure. The old article says the group was strong here at the time, with many community sub-groups. All of the groups met twice a month. J.T. Carter and J.A. Jones were president and secretary, respectively, of the local Union Alliance. 

A.S. Wilson was one of the officers of the High Prairie Alliance. He came here from Alabama when he was 12, and he is buried at High Prairie Cemetery. His is a common ancestor for me and all of my Cannon cousins and also Mandy Lindsey, Miriam Lindsey, as well as some Norwoods and Tomlinsons.

At Greenbrier, the Alliance President was J.R. Hightower. He had served in the Confederate army, was wounded and thought dead until a fellow soldier saw that he could blink his eyes. He recovered and came to Texas, stopping first in the northern part of the state. The first winter was so cold that he headed south. He wound up in Madison County in 1876, bringing 36 head of cattle with one other rider, and Hightower bought land and stayed here. I’m sure glad he did, because he became grandfather of Ruth Parker and great-grandfather of Ray Mosley. If J.R. Hightower had not stopped and settled here, we’d not have Clyde Parker and his sisters, or Russell Mosley, Steve Mosley, and more.


At Willowhole, the Alliance officers were S.M. Casey and W.H. May.  Findagrave shows a Walter May buried now at Willowhole with no date, but it does show that his descendants and/or relatives include Drakes and Mays, which are plentiful in the western part of our county. I could not tie the Casey to our schoolmate and MHS graduate James Casey, but maybe they were related. They both were involved in agriculture, too.

There was a report of a Rogers Prairie Alliance, being signed by A.J. Bledsoe.  Rogers Prairie was a bit east of Normangee, and at one time we had many Bledsoe citizens. Theresa Bledsoe, working at Prosperity Bank, is one of the few here now. 

That article’s shared news that in Cottonwood, Mr. J.M. McMillain (not spelled McMillian) had opened up another new stock of goods.  Elsewhere it said the “Corn is beautiful.” Remember, the article was dated April 19, so it had been a good spring already. Another place declared, “The train ain’t come yet.” I’m not sure to what that last referred, so I did research and found that the track to Madisonville from Navasota (to the south) was not completed until 1903 and then was being taken up in 1944.  As far as the tracks through North Zulch, according to the Texas Historical Association, in 1907 the Trinity and Brazos Valley Railway was newly established and had bypassed the original town of Zulch. Citizens moved north to relocate along the tracks, and North Zulch was born.  The current tracks most likely follow the same track route. When the referenced news was printed, my research showed me that train travel wasn’t offered in Madison County, but that about it “ain’t here yet” was an expression of wishes. I’m betting there were all kinds of rumors and desires as to where the tracks would ultimately be laid.

Advertisers included Parten Brothers, J.R. Burtis Drugs, T.&A.Viser for grocers and hardware, and Viser & Westmoreland for drugs.  Mrs. Bolling owned a millinery (hat) store and John T. Wyse was a jeweler with a jewelry store. J.R. McIver was proprietor of the City Saloon, all of them having ads in the paper. The last 2 had their ads on the front page.  Madisonville boasted many McIvers through the years, and Don “Sonny” Dean is McIver-bred. 

J. Shapira’s advertisement for dry goods was the largest ad in that 1888 newspaper, two full columns. Jake Shapira (1847-1904) and his wife, Sarah (1857-1925), were Jewish Russian immigrants who came to Madisonville in the 1870s, obviously as a young couple. His store was located on the Town Square, and he ran a saloon in a building behind the store. In 1904 he built the Shapira Hotel, and he died that same year.  Today that structure is our beautiful and unique Woodbine Hotel. Findagrave does not reveal where he died, but Sarah Abrams Shapira died in Crockett. They are both buried at Houston’s Beth Israel Cemetery, which I learned is the oldest Jewish burial ground in Texas. The Shapiras must have been unique in our little town, because when I checked on Findagrave to find a Shapira buried in Texas and born before 1870, they were the only ones that I found! I would love to learn much more about them and their experiences!

A short piece said the Madison County Institute was called to order by President J.H. Allen. A motion for R.R. Boyd to write an article for the Watchman urging teachers to attend promptly the meetings of the Institute was unanimously carried.  Madison County Institute (school) was here in Madisonville for a while, later moved to Bryan, and evolved into Allen Academy, which is still there now. That’s another topic I should cover. I’m also open to suggestions from the public, BUT I have to be able to find facts about a topic, plus time! 

Barring holidays, 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.