Museum Musings: How Tanyard got its name

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Madison County has quite a few communities scattered around.  Periodically I will share information about such.  One of my resolutions for 2017 is to quit being so long-winded, or at least I’ll try. 

Tanyard community lies about six miles northeast of Madisonville, near the boundary between Madison and Leon Counties. For the most part, it runs along Farm to Market Road 1119. 

There are at least two stories told as to how Tanyard got its name. In one, animal hides were cured or tanned there. Another version says that the neighborhood had a good supply of clay, which was mixed with water and moss and baked or “tanned” into bricks for chimneys in early days. 

Early settlers in Tanyard were the Sueing, Nealey, Proctor, Washington, and McDaniel families, many of who were laid to rest in Tanyard Cemetery. The graveyard is located north of F.M. 1119, on the east side of the road. It is fenced and is about a city block into a pasture, amid a small grove of trees. Different sources disagree as to the numbers of graves there, and I’d bet some are unmarked.  It appears that there are probably somewhere between 90 and 140 graves. 

Tanyard Cemetery’s earliest burial date shown on a tombstone appears to be that of Artincie Cain, who was born July 8, 1884 and died Jan. 16, 1902. Records show that she was the daughter of Dick and Cathrine Washington. According to marriage records, she had married Noah Cain (1880-1957) on Dec. 24, 1900. She died January 16, 1902, not even 13 months after she and Noah had celebrated a

year of marriage, and almost 6 months shy of turning 18.

One tombstone at Tanyard reads “Simpson Matkins Chambers, Sally Ann Ada Ida Lucy Stella Della ‘Ada.” She was born June 21, 1884, and died June 4, 1968. The “Ada” must have been what she was regularly called.  I assume she was born a Simpson and then married a Matkins and a Chambers, but I could be wrong.  There are no other Matkins or Chambers listed as buried there. Someone did not skimp on paying for the lettering on her tombstone, and I’m thinking that some families would have left out several of those names and just put Ada Simpson Matkins Chambers. If someone knows the story of all of her names, I’d sure love to hear from you.

The first Madison County history book, published in 1984, states that the first car in Tanyard was owned by Edgar Sueing. It also says that in 1984 the home of Edgar and Cora Nealey was still standing and was the oldest home still standing in the community.  Edgar and Cora’s daughter, Edgar Mae Sueing, submitted that information, and I hate that I can’t talk to her now, but she died in 2012. I’ll bet she’d have been a wealth of information. I can’t help but wonder if she had meant the first car was owned by her father, whose life spanned 1888-1924. That seems about right for the first auto to me. 

Pee Dee is another local community. It lies south of Madisonville and is now accessed from Highway 75.  Pee Dee Road is the first blacktop road to the right after leaving town. 

Pee Dee was named for Mr. and Mrs. W.M. Pee Dee. According to Orie Stewart’s submission to the first Madison County history book, that couple settled there about 1830, having immigrated from Georgia. Another source said they came from South Carolina, which did have a Pee Dee Indian tribe, a Pee Dee River, and a Pee Dee region.   

The Pee Dee family built a home on property that later was owned by C.M. Wells, then J.C. Wells, and more recently brothers Jimmy Wells and Steve Wells.  The family had an underground cistern for water and a spring in a branch which ran nearby.  One source says that someone poisoned the water in that spring, resulting in the death of all 8 family members, and I’ve found no record of who did it or why.  According to another story, the family all succumbed to a fatal disease, perhaps smallpox.  Whatever the case, all 8 were buried nearby in what was called Pee Dee Cemetery, and later families by the name of White and Landers were buried there too.  As years passed, the graveyard location was lost.  Steve Wells says no one has known its whereabouts in his lifetime. 

In 1868, John Park built a cotton gin about a mile from what is now Highway 75, in the southwest corner of what was later owned by Virgil Wells.  Park also operated a gristmill and a syrup mill until about 1885, when he sold them to a Baptist minister named Allen.  The gin was later moved to Madisonville, to the site of what was later Hardy Lumber Company, and it operated there until the late 1940s. 

James Stewart (1831-1882) was born in Mississippi, where he ran away from home at the age of 12.  He joined a wagon train to Madison County, settling first in the Cottonwood community.  Then he went to California for a while, but returned to Texas before going to Mississippi to fight in the Civil War.   He was captured, held prisoner, and paroled after the war, after which he came back to Texas and married.  He and his family lived near the west end of the Solen Glover place.  In 1868. James Stewart became first Star Route mail carrier in Madison County, carrying mail between Huntsville and Madisonville. He transported mail to Huntsville one day and then to Madisonville the next, for $300 a year.  The roads were poor, and the only transportation was horseback, wagon, or buggy.  You can bet Bedias Creek made that mail route hard. 

By the 1870s, more families began moving into Pee Dee and building homes.  It is said that about 63 families lived in the area by then.  There is a Pee Dee Lake.  Property around the lake later belonged to Jim Baker, and now to Mary Martha and Kevin Parrack.  There was a Pee Dee Baptist Church, and its baptisms took place in Pee Dee Lake.  Families helped one another build homes and clear land.  The men became cotton farmers and cattle raisers.

Soon school was held in the same building as the church.  For some reason, it was called Brick Flat.  First it was one room with a single teacher, and later two rooms with a pair of teachers.  Early teachers included Mary Crabb Morgan, Mrs. Ethyl Park Farris, Ophelia Thornton Wells, Wilda Mae Hensarling Milling, Mrs. Asa Speer, Birdie McNair Andrews, and Nell Fuhlberg Park.  According to Volume 1 of the Madison County history book, teacher Mrs. Asa Speer was wife of Dr. Asa Speer.  In those days, he set a speed record in a Model T ford, driving from Houston to Pee Dee schoolhouse in eight and a half hours!  Lots of those family names remained in the community for generations.  Pee Dee consolidated with Madisonville in 1938 or 1939. 

On weekend evenings, “Singing” was held in the school-church building for musical entertainment once a month all year long.  Folks simply gathered and sang, performing individually for others, in pairs, trios, quartets, or in groups.  In those early days, singing schools were quite popular for young and old alike, and were often held in the late spring and early summer.   At Pee Dee they were held in a brush arbor erected near the school-church building.  Some of the early music teachers were Grady Lindsey, Tom Shine, W.M. Manning, and Bert Phillips, who brought the organ which was the musical instrument.  Lindsey family members were quite musical.  I wonder how a person took an organ anywhere very easily. 

Electrical power did not get to Pee Dee by power lines until 1942, when the REA, Navasota Electric, laid the lines.  Most of the farmers gave the cooperative right of way through their farms in order to get the electricity. 

Telephone service reached the community in 1945, though of course then, folks shared party lines.  For you younger folks, there were several homes on one line, and each had a different ring, like one long, one long 1 short, 1 short and one long, etc.  Folks sharing a party line could listen to others’ conversations if they were so inclined, but of course that wasn’t a kind thing to do.

The Redden Page family settled in Pee Dee early, living about where David Culbreth now lives.  Page was born in 1838 and died in 1887, hung from an oak tree or black jack tree, some said each.  According to some, Texas Rangers hung him for horse stealing and by mistake, and another story is that the Ku Klux Klan hung him.  Like many others from Pee Dee, he is buried in Park Cemetery, which is not far from Pee Dee.  Supposedly Page was rich and had money buried all around his property, because in those days people did not use banks.  After he was hung, his widow and two sons left the area.  For years, people dug holes around that property, searching for money, but as far as anyone knows, nothing was ever found. 

Andy Baker (1867-1959), another early resident of Pee Dee, raised sons Lee Baker (1893-1980) and Jim Baker (1908-1993).  Lee had 3 sons, Donald, Vernon, and Jesse, plus 2 daughters, and Jim Baker had 4 daughters, Linda, Martha, Sara, and Ola.  If you’ve lived here long, you know descendants. 

Theodore Culbreth (1881-1956) and wife, Ela Stewart (1889-1977), moved to Pee Dee from the nearby community of Bullard in 1912, because they wanted to raise their children near a school. Those children included Terry, Ples, Andrew, Harlon, Windel, Thurman, Lilla Mary, Truman, and Amos.  he children married around Madison and surrounding counties, and most raised large families.  Theodore was a farmer, and loved his land. When five of his sons served in World War II, he was left shorthanded at the farm, and moved to town for the duration, though almost every day he made a trip to the farm. 

The Wells family has a great deal of Madison County history in Pee Dee and elsewhere.  I will not share that now, because I have so much information.  I prefer to tell about them in depth at a later date. 

Other families who lived in Pee Dee in early days were those of Ed Evans (grandfather of the late grocer, Snooky Evans), Ellis Parten, Fred Cannon, John Bradbury, George Sheeler, and more.  Some members of fourth and fifth generations of early families continue to own property in Pee Dee today. 

Madison County stories are being lost constantly, with every death of people who know of such.  I hate that loss, which is why I strive to record all I can in these Musings. If you know of information that should be saved, please contact me! 

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 will welcome your visit.  The cookbooks have been selling well and we will probably reorder soon.  If you’d like to share a story, call the Museum, 936.348.5230.  If the answering machine picks up, leave your name, number, and message, and we’ll call you back.   

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