IN YELLOW PRAIRIE AND HOSKINS SPRING
I N T R O D U C T I O N
The undertaking here is to provide some information on early settlers, in the Yellow Prairie and Hoskins Spring Communities focusing on those living in the first decade of the twentieth century. Exhibits present detailed information on families and the map shows where they lived. In the text that follows, the first number in parentheses refers to the Exhibit providing pertinent information and the second number shows location on the map. The village of Chriesman did not develop until after arrival of the railroad in the early 1880s. Before that time the community was called “Yellow Prairie”. Its center was on the East Side of the Thompson Branch in the area adjacent to the present cemetery (Five-111). In addition to the cemetery there was a schoolhouse (Five-1) located on the branch north of the cemetery and the Methodist Church (Five 11) at the east entrance to the cemetery. The schoolhouse was moved to Chriesman around the turn of the century and the Methodist Church in 1919. Two of Yellow Prairie’s earliest settlers lived nearby. Thomson (Five-A) lived north of the “center” and Johnson (Five-B) lived upstream. The farm of a later settler, Love (Five-C) was next to the shool- house plot. The community had another schoolhouse not far away. It was the Johnston School (Five-V). It was located on the Johnston Farm but was moved to the Hoskins Spring site about the time the Yellow Prairie School was moved to Chriesman.
EARLY YELLOW PRAIRIE SETTLERS
To the northwest of Chriesman was the Holt mansion (Two-D) buttressed by woods but facing the prairie. Across the present railroad on the north rim of the prairie is the site of the old Hill home (Two-E) occu- pied in my boyhood days by Bob Hill, then commissioner. Tom Johnston later lived in a new house on prairie land adjacent to the old Johnston house. Proceeding east through a strand of trees you passed the old Johnston homesite and reached open land which may be considered a part of “Greater Yellow Prairie”. Nestled in the edge of the woods was the large two-story, southern style, Philip Mansion (Two-F). I used to see it when I accompanied my father on his periodic trips to tend the grave of his father (my grandfather) who at his death in 1869 was buried in the old cemetery back of the Philip home. In the late teens the house was converted to a one-story residence when it was modernized by James Philip’s daughter Maude, and her husband Ollie Hill. Earlier the Sims lived in the house and worked the farm. At one time the Gizzard family lived in a nearby rent house. The Philip farm was one of the three with homes located in the edge of the woods on the northern rim of “Greater Yellow Prairie” and utilizing the prairie land for farming. Adjoining the Philip farm on the east was the Boyd home (Two-G). After the Boyds moved to Chriesman in the early 1880s others lived there until the Baumanns took over the farm in 1904 and built a new house. The old unpainted house was still I standing when I first visited the place. I remember the successive occupants of the farm (Two- H) just east of the Baumanns as the Woods (who moved to Runnels County), the Lovelady family, the Joe Richardsons who shared the place with Arthur Hill, Foster James, and Herman Wilhelm. Of these families the James stand out in my memory. Sam was a daily companion and I was impressed with Foster’s accomplishments. He could cut two cords of wood in a day and crack hickory nuts with his teeth. When figs were ripe I enjoyed visiting the place regardless of who happened to live there. To the east across the road was Love’s Hill, (Two-I) the sandy post oak farm where I spent my boyhood. Except for a few acres in our southwest pasture, none of the prairie extended eastward across the road to our farm. However, following the road through the woods towards the building which housed the Hoskins Spring School (Five-VII) for its last stand (and now used as a church), you come to another out-cropping of prairie clay. At the time of my first visits a part of an earlier hewn log house (Two-J) made up a portion of the residence then in use. People living there during my time included Foster James (before he moved), Jim Philip (who I believed inherited it from his mother) and the Etheridge family. I am not certain who was the first homesteader on this plot, or when he settled there. I have an idea that it was known as “the Crane place”. Two considerations prompt my belief that the decision on location of the house was not made in early times. First, the house was on prairie clay, not on sandy soil. Secondly, the well was deep, bored (not dug), and required long metal buckets not available in early times. The sour water (unpotable to me) made me believe that whoever took advantage of new fangled equipment to obtain water from a prairie well instead of dipping it from a spring or drawing it from a shallow well dug in the sand, were punished for abandoning the wisdom demonstrated by the early settlers. A small portion of the Prairie spilled over to the Varner farm (Two-K) to the north. Proceeding north from the Varner farm you went through a wooded strip and crossed Hoskins Branch to reach another prairie outcropping. Off the road to the left was a prairie land farm (Two-L) that I believe was originally the Storm home. The earliest residents I remember were the Strainers followed by Jim Sullivan. The Dulin farm (Two-M) utilized the northwest portion of the prairie land. Hoskins Branch ran through the southern end of what remained of the Webb plantation (Two-N). A small rent house (Two-O) appeared on the right after crossing the stream. At one time it was occupied by Wash Johnson and then by Tom Dulin. Year’s later Lee Arnold of Chries- man’s Tidwell & Arnold store lived there. Son Jasper, who married Lillie Keller, was my baseball catcher in Chriesman. The road north passed the second Hoskins Spring Schoolhouse (Five-VII). Nearby the plantation displayed one of the few hay meadows in the entire area. It was once used as a place to hide Easter eggs. A plum thicket was located on Dulin land across the road from the Schoolhouse. True to prevailing practice the Webb mansion on the north end of the plantation had been built on the dividing line between prairie clay and sandy post oak land. The splendor that had been was impressed upon me when I first visited the Webb home at about age 5. The Lowrys had just moved into the two-story southern mansion and Mrs. Lawry kindly relieved my mother of the task of taking care of me while I recovered from sticking a nail in my foot. The plantation had a reincarnation when Mr. Lowry sold it to the Sullivans, who had farmed black land near Sanger, Texas. They brought their advanced farm equipment-cultivators, reapers, etc. along with their fine mules. Also, sons Jim, John, Frank and Lonnie and talented daughter Betty, (who played the piano) augmented the community’s social life. Frank married Sally Downing and Jim married Annie May Holt. In describing conditions on the rims of Greater Yellow Prairie we proceeded clockwise from Chriesman northwest (to Holt), around the north rim to the northeast corner of Greater Yellow Prairie with a side excursion to the prairie and the Webb plantation farther north. We will now return to Greater Yellow Prairie to view the eastern and southern rims of the prairie. Across the road south of the Baumann and Wilhelm farms was the Dave Black farm (Two-P), where Joe Adamek later lived, Across the yard was the Malcolm Black residence, (Two-Q) and the Prairie Land farm to the south. Arthur Hill lived there at the time of my first memory later; Henry Speckman bought the place. The Ievated area on which the Dave and Malcolm Black residences stood was known as the “Mound”. The road to the Geick home was labeled “rabbit lane” because of the prevalence of Jackrabbits. After the coming of the automobile a driver could expect one or more Jack rab- bits to show up ahead and challenge the driver to a race. I never heard of one of the Jack rabbits being involved in a highway accident. To the east, the prairie extended across Black Haw Branch (named for the bush with black berries that were mostly seed). The Geick (Two-R) and Speckman (Two-S) homes were at the southeast corner of the Prairie land. A second house on the Geick farm (Two-T) was near the church. If was important. I was born there. Completing the circle to the south of Chriesman we reached the old Boedecker (Two-U) and Winkler (Two-V) farms. Gus Walker was a confederate veteran.
EARLY POST OAK SETTLERS
Residents now to be listed lived in the post oaks back of the prairie residents already listed. The Sewell’s (Three-a) lived back of the Hill residence too far to the northwest to be included in the Hoskins Spring community. The Hoskins Spring community may be considered as starting with the homes on the north rim of the prairie, extending north to Cedar Creek and east to the road from Hix through Denton Valley. North of the Johnston-Baumann prairie homesites were several woodland farms whose successive residents belonged in the Hoskins Spring community. This included: the Gaspers (Three-b); Mrs. Richardson (Three- c) with her three sons; 1. H. Tabor (Three-d); Tom Tabor (Three-e); Lovelady (Three-f); and Mrs. Johnson (Three- g). Joining Love’s Hill on the north was a farm (Three-h) where Fritz Eberhardt and later Mrs. Dawson livedo The road north from the Webb homesite reached Cedar Creek bottom farms, On the right was the Keller home (Three-i) and then on the left the Andrews home (Three- po Side roads to the left led to the homes of the Stracener boys, each of whom left the old homestead (Two-L) to chop out his own farm in the woods: Will (Three-k); Tom (Three-1); and Jim (Three-m) My cotton-pickinc hands found employment in the fields of Jim Stracener and John Keller. A winding trail running southeast from the Webb homesite (Two-N) went through the woods to a rich bottom land field on the bank of Hoskins Branch one year Tony Dulin left me the job of picking his cotton crop there. I rode horseback to and from and worked alone over day light hours except for a few minutes to eat a cold lunch. I told stories to myself to keep myself from listening to the weird, haunting sounds made by birds and beasts inhabiting the tall trees and thick underbrush that lined the branch at the end of the cotton row. You had to negotiate a steep crossing to reach the other side of the stream and the high ground on which stood the home of Mrs. Downing (Three-n). Tom Eberhard lived there after Mrs. Downing moved to Chriesman. Strangely enough, a yellow clay prairie field surface in the midst of the wooded area. Before I was navigating a saddle horse I stayed with the Eberhardt picked cotton? The picking was not as good as the which I later found in the Dulin field across the stream; but Hattie James Eberhardt’s hot biscuits an fried chicken for breakfast got top rating. The Wash Wood home (Three-o) could be reached b following the eastbound roads starting at the Phil homestead (Two-J). Wood’s house was near the interse tion with the road from Hix. This completes the Iisting of Hoskins Spring residents. People living in the woodlands to the west o the prairie must be considered as residents of Chriesman community. A left turn off of the northbound road out of Chriesman moves west towards Frog Joy. A left turn off o this road led to the John Boedecker farm (Three-p). 0 the right of the road to Frog Joy was the home o another Boedecker brother, Fred (Three-q). Two well-known Negro families lived near the westbound road: Terril Deere (Three-r) and Bud Whi (Three-s). Sam Reed (Three-t) lived west of Chriesman but further south. He had the important function of operating a molasses mill.
In discussing early settlers I thought it appropriate to leave village residents to the last because, so far as I have learned, the houses I first knew in Chriesman were not built until after the railroad arrived. Location of the school and church as well as businesses will be included. The list of early prairie settlers concluded with Reference to the Winkler and Boedecker homesteads. Northward in the outskirts of Chriesman were two homes located just south of the road to Midway (or Hookerville): Geckos (Four-1) and Boedecker (Four-2). The Brymer home (Four-3) was at the southern end of the village’s main street. Whenever I saw Jeff Brymer he was on horseback sitting straight in the saddle Remind me of pictures of General Robert E. Lee. Houses to the north were Rosky (Four-4), who was foreman of the railroad section gang, and Mayson (Four 5). North of these houses was the business section. The depot (Four-VIII) was on the East Side of the wide main thoroughfare, which ran parallel to the railroad. Going north on the West Side of the street you passed the stores of C.R. Mayson (Five-IX), W.E. Matejowsky (Five X) and James Philip (Five-XI). Next to the Philip store was a residence (Five-6). I gathered that this house, along with the well, barns, lots and stables at the back, were all part of the original establishment of Doctor McGregor and Bill Boyd’s father when they started this, Chriesman’s firs store. Doctor McClean the community’s last physician before Dr. Aikens’ arrival occupied the residence in 1906. The brick building of Chriesman’s first last and only bank was built on the plot after Mr. Philip moved the house in 1913 to lots east of the is Later occupied by the Methodist Church. My family moves into the house in January 1914. In the early 1920 After the Loves had moved away) the house was destroyed by fire. Just north of the Philip’s store and residence was a rambling one-story house occupied by Jesse Moscow Love (Four-7)-my Uncle Mock. He was the blacksmith in the shop (Five-XII) back of his house. He and Aunt Annie Over their six boys to Goldthwaite and Mrs. Arnold oved into the house. I can report that each of her Five boys were a good baseball player and that Jim owned the first bicycle I ever saw. He sold nickel rides. Uncle Mock soon returned to work in his shop. Until he built a house in northeast Chriesman he lived in the house (Fourl3) later occupied by Phil Reed. Just north of the Love-Arnold home was the Ed Arnold store (Five-XIII) and then the Rundzhier cotton gin (Five-XIV). After this gin burned Simon Philip built a home on the site. Leonard Kornegay later occupied it. As the main street narrowed into a road it passed the home of Alex Hensley (Four-9) and on the outskirts of the village north of the Frog Joy turnoff it passed the Eanes homestead (Four-10). The schoolhouse (Five-XVI) was located at the south end of Chriesman’s West Street. Houses were on the West Side of this street and facing to the east. A Negro family, Mose and Mandy, lived near the schoolhouse. They had a daughter known only as Snowball and a son, Logan, who was a cotton-picking companion of mine until he began working on the section gang. To the north were the homes of Ed Arnold (Four-11); Bill Johnston (Four-12) and the Love-Reed home (Four- 13) already mentioned. North was the Presbyterian Church (Five-XVII). Set back to the west was a house (Four-14) into which Widow Downing and daughter Sally moved from their farm in the Hoskins Spring area. (Later Sally and her husband, Frank Sullivan, returned to rebuild the house and live there). Late in the period Gray Philip, who had married Sarah Boedecker, built a house (Four-15) south of the Downing residence. Further north was the residence of W. E. Matejowsky (Four-16). After the Matejowsky moved to West Texas the Bensons lived there until John Speckman bought the place. The house (four-17) that became the home of Ben and MaryLyda Baumann was built and first occupied by Jeff Holt and children. Mr. Holt moved in from his farm on Davison Creek after his wife, daughter Gladys and son Jeffie all died from typhoid fever within the span of a few days in 1909. Lee Arnold lived there before Ben Baumann bought the place. The Gehrels home (Four-18) was perched on a hill in the western outskirts of the village. Following the eastbound road across the railroad you passed the Traylor home (Four-19) on the right. The Ray Sewell’s home is now on this site. Mr. Traylor was called Peg because of a wooden peg replacing one leg. I understood the leg was lost in a railroad accident. A short distance south was the home of Mr. and Mrs. William Henry (Four-20). Mr. Henry was a Civil War veteran who served in the U.S. Navy. His commercial peach orchard bordered the railroad. Space north of the Traylor home was the location chosen by Simon Philip for his gin (Five-XV) and des- tined to be the site of the Improvement League’s Center. In the decade under consideration there were four houses on the street in east Chriesman. The first house Reached after turning left off the eastbound road to the cemetery was the Ewell home (Four-21). Like other old-timers, Mr. Ewell was a Civil War veteran but his background was unusual. He was from Illinois and he fought as a Union soldier. A monument in Gettysburg memorializes an Ewell relative who served as general in the Union Army. Doctor Aiken (Four-22) He arrived in 1906 and lost little time in marrying Eula Black built the next house. Down the street was the Clinton home (Four-23). Son “Bud” (who married Dolly Holt) followed politics, serving as local commissioner and then moving to Caldwell as county -tax assessor before he moved to Tohoka in 1916. A short distance north stood the George Boedecker home (Four-24). At the northwest end of Grandma Love’s farm Uncle Mock Love built a new home (Four-25). It was later destroyed by fire. The Boyd home (Three-26) was built in 1883. The farm bounded Chriesman’s East Street. Across the road to the south was a farm known as the “Etzel place” (Three-27) but I never knew anybody by that name. The first occupants I remember were the McLeods followed by the Will Speckmans. After crossing the gully on the trail from the Ewell house to the depot there were two small houses more aptly described as shacks in which two Negro families lived. West of George Boedecker’s home was a one-room structure serving as a church and as a schoolhouse for the then-segregated Negroes? The church is now known as White Chapel (Five-XVIII). Of course desegregation has ended the need for a separate school, and no schools are now maintained in the community anyway. I think I have covered most of the people who lived in the immediate neighborhoods of Hoskins Spring and Chriesman. On the outskirts, however, were others who deserve mention. If you followed the road from the Wash Woods place down through Denton Valley, you passed through a neighborhood inhabited by Negro people. There was Phil Smothers in Denton Valley, and as you came out on the road running between Caldwell and Chriesman you saw the rather nice home of Peter Womack, a Negro entrepreneur who owned most of the land from there to Davison Creek. Going north on the road to Chriesman you saw the church maintained by the neighborhood’s Negroes and off to the left was the home of Dan Wilson, the engineer at the Chriesman gin. West of Chriesman there were two people whom I knew only from they’re bringing in cotton. One was Mr. Thomas and another known only as Mexican Frank. Both were very successful Davidson Creek cotton farmers in the twenty-bale-per year category. Off toward Frog Joy there were the Keys, the Tarwaters and other estab- lished families. Near by on the road from Chriesman to Midway, there were well-known families including the Kornegay, the Robert Cox family, the Smalls and the Watsons. Further on in the Porter Prairie community there were the Dunaways, the Albrechts. and the Turners. Except for the Dunaways I knew the others mostly because family representatives played on the Porter Prairie and Midway baseball teams. Archie Turner’s baseball pitching was of major league quality. Charlie Turner could sing.