Monthly Archives: December 2011

Christmas Bananas

I recently had the opportunity to partake in the madness known as Black Friday at Walmart.  My pregnant daughter really wanted to go and I couldn’t send her into the abyss alone.  While I did score a vacuum cleaner for $8.88 and really enjoyed watching the mayhem, I could help but wonder how this became Christmas.

My father, Charles Don Castle, was born in Illinois Bend in 1932.  To say times were tough would be a gross understatement.  But when you ask him about his childhood, his memories are nothing but fond.

He was raised on the old home place that had been in his mother’s family since about 1897.  Arrowhead and squirrel hunting were his favorite past times.  His home was a typical  shotgun house, meaning you could stand at the front door and shoot out the back door without hitting any walls.  Three rooms in total.  The living room, that doubled as his parents bedroom, the kitchen, and the kids’ room. The remnants of which still lay in the pasture.  There was no outdoor plumbing, but the well and the outhouse were just a few yards from the house, so he never thought this was an inconvenience.

I recently asked him about what Christmas was like when he was a little boy.  I asked if they had a Christmas tree, he said no.  I asked if he hung a stocking, he said no.  I asked if Santa came to visit, again he said no.  It made me sad to think of my Daddy, who always made my Christmas’ very special events, as a little boy with nothing for Christmas.

“So, ya’ll just didn’t celebrate Christmas at all?”, I asked.  He looked at me like I had lost my mind.  “I didn’t say that”, he replied.  He told me that Christmas was one of his favorite childhood memories.   I reiterated his list:  no Santa, no tree, no presents.  He smiled, his blue eyes twinkled.  “Ah, but there were bananas!”, he said.

“Pap would ride into town (St Jo) and take the train to Gainesville every year right before Christmas.  He would bring back the biggest bunch of bananas you have ever seen.”, he explained.  He held his arms wide, indicating the bunch of bananas was at least three feet long.  He went on to describe how my grandfather would hand this large, yellow, bunch of bananas from the rafters in the kitchen of their home.  “You know what the best part was kid?”, he asked,  “I could get a banana anytime I wanted it.”

It was a very important lesson my Daddy taught me that day.  Christmas isn’t about the hustle and bustle, or the decorations, or the gifts.  It is a time to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas, to spend it with true friends and family.  It is a time to really appreciate what is important in your life.

Merry Christmas!

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Hardware Stores and Undertakers: The Scott Brothers

Riley Wiltshire Scott was a lawyer, a judge and an entrepreneur.  With a tent as a store front, he established a thriving business at Red River Station, TX.  He supplied the cowboys traveling the long, hot, dusty Chisholm Trail with gear and supplies.  In 1873, he moved his business to Saint Jo, where he erected a building and continued to prosper.  R W Scott had four children. One daughter and three sons.  His daughter, Ida Evangeline married well-known Saint Jo business man, John Davidson Bellah.  His son Austin, followed in his father’s footsteps and served as a Montague County judge for several years.  But it was his other two sons, Wiltshire Leander and Walter Eldridge that together established a business that continued in the family for almost a century.

W L Scott. Photo courtesy of Tales N Trails Museum

R W Scott sold his business to his son-in-law in 1875 and moved to Denison, Texas were he remained until his death in 1890.  His sons Wiltshire and Walter quickly filled the void left by his father and established the Scott Brothers Hardware Store in Saint Jo.

Walter E Scott. Photo courtesy of Tales N Trailstext goes here W L Scott. Photo courtesy of Tales N Trails Museum

The original building was built on the square in Saint Jo where the bank is currently located.  A fire destroyed the building in November of 1911.  They rebuilt a two-story structure across the street and were opened for business again by September of 1912.
Wiltshire and his wife, Victoria Smith Scott,never had children.  Walter and his wife, Eula Hoover Scott, had seven children.  Two of their sons, W L and W E, continued the legacy begun by their grandfather, so many years before.

W L Scott. Photo courtesy of Tales N Trails Museum

W E Scott. Photo courtesy of Tales N Trails

After attending Austin College and working for Humble Oil, W E returned to Saint Jo in 1926 to join the family business.    His brother, W L returned in 1927.  W L had also attend Austin College and Mortuary school.  Both took an active role in the hardware business.  After the death of Wiltshire in 1936 and Walter in 1944, they took full control of Scott Brothers.

Scott Brothers Hardware Store in Saint Jo, Texas built in 1912. Photo courtesy of Tales N Trails Museum

In 1941, they expanded their business by purchasing J H Cone’s hardware and funeral home business in Nocona, Texas.  W L moved his family to Nocona in order to run that sector of their enterprise.  In 1944, they purchased the A A Croxton estate and remodeled the two-story home into a funeral parlor, which is still in use today.  In the late 1940s they opened a funeral parlor in Saint Jo as well.
Scott Brothers Hardware store in Nocona, Texas. Built in 1965. Photo courtesy of Tales N Trails Museum

In 1965, they built a modern brick building to house the hardware operation in Nocona.  In 1950 J Howard Morris joined the business in Nocona.  Morris took full control of the Nocona firm after W L’s death in 1985.  The name was changed to Scott Morris, and is still run by the Morris family today.

Scott Brothers Funeral Home in Nocona, Texas. Photo courtesy of Tales N Trails Museum

In 1979, W E Scott sold his funeral business in Saint Jo to J M “Mac” McCoy.  McCoy still runs the funeral home today.  W E continued to run his hardware business until 1983 when he sold it to Sue Yetter.  W E passed away in 1984.

The Scott family members were pillars of the community for close to one hundred years, their  graciousness in a family’s greatest time of need was appreciated by several generations in Montague County.  The tradition is continued by the kind folks the Scott Brothers handpicked to carry on their legacy.

Frontiersman and Indian Fighter – Levi Perryman

From the day he was born, Levi Perryman’s life was never easy.  On March 29, 1839, Levi entered this world, on the same day his mother, Elizabeth Farmer Perryman,  left her earthly home.  Less than nine months later, his father, Alex G Perryman was called to heaven as well, leaving Levi an orphan before the age of one. 

Levi Perryman. Photo courtesy of Montague County Historical Commission

His father’s brother, Jack Perryman, took Levi into his home and raised him as his own. Uncle Jack taught young Levi all the things a boy needed to know  to become a man on the Texas Frontier.   Levi attended school in Paris, Texas for a few short months, but the call of the wild west was too strong not to answer.  In 1859, he decided to head west where land was plentiful and fertile.   He chose Montague County as his home,  building a modest log cabin near Forestburg.

His Uncle Jack proposed a business venture, a cattle raising 50-50 partnership.  Jack followed Levi to Montague County with a hundred head of cattle. Under an oak tree, on the acreage Levi called home three miles west of Forestburg, his uncle presented him with “fifty head of cattle, a saddle horse equipped and a ten-dollar gold piece and said to him, “Now my son, root hog or die.””  The partnership worked well for both men until the War Between the States encroached on the business venture.

Levi joined the Confederate Army at Gainesville, Texas in Captain Gilbert’s company.  He also served in Marshall’s squadron and Company I, 31st Texas Dismounted Cavalry.  He participated in the Battles of Prairie Grove, Pleasant Hill and Mansfield.  According to B B Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co, 1906) Vol 1 pp 701-704, “In the spring of 1865, he was ordered to report at Galveston, but at Houston, he applied for and received a furlough home and before he reached his destination Lee had surrendered and the war was over.  During those three years of army life, no Yankee prison cell knew him and no federal bullet ever bruised his body.  No absence without leave and no hospital record were charged against him.  Mr Perryman was ever subject to duty’s call.”

Upon returning home after the war, he returned to his ranching endeavors with his uncle Jack.  In 1866, he married Mrs Josephine (Milam) Price, widow of Pleasant Price.  The new Mrs Perryman had a son, Pleas Milam, from her first marriage.  Together Levi and Josephine had eight children. These children were Napoleon, William J, Elbert, Kate, Lennie, Charley, Sarah and Bob.  Both Charley and Sarah died as infants and Napoleon died as a young child.  Josephine died in 1884, leaving Levi with a houseful of young mouths to feed.  He employed a gentleman named Pedro Videll to help tend to the children and home.

Levi Perryman seated, behind left to right are daughter Lennie Perryman Stallworth, stepson Pleas Price, son Elbert Perryman and daughter Kate Perryman Caddell. Photo courtesy of Montague County Historical Commission.

His cattle business was very successful.  He managed to acquire about twenty five hundred acres of land in Montague County.  Levi was well-respected in the Forestburg community and when the town was in need of a sheriff, Levi accepted the role.  He was sheriff from 1873-1878.  After his first term, he had no intention of running again.  The townspeople got together a petition urging his re-election.  He accepted, and served a second term in office.  During his tenure as sheriff, he had several run ins with the ever-present outlaws that disrupted the Texas Frontier.  He accompanied many criminals from the Montague County jail cells to their new home at the State Penitentiary in Huntsville.  The Paddock book states, “His heavy and avenging hand was laid on Wild Bill McPherson and it brought Bob Simmons back from Kansas and lodged him in prison and it reached out after Ike Stowe and made him suffer for his crimes.”

While widely known through north central Texas as a soldier, rancher and lawman, his greatest claim to fame was his prowess as an Indian fighter.  He was engaged in dozens of encounters with the raiding tribes that reeked havoc along the mighty Red River.  Later in his life he wrote his first hand recollections of these Indian fights.  In 1987, the Montague County Historical Commission received permission from Levi’s heirs to publish these accounts.  A copy can be obtained from the Montague County Historical Commission or at the Tales N Trails Museum.

First hand accounts of Indian Fighter Levi Perryman.

Levi purchased the cemetery that was used by the families in and around the Forestburg area in 1883.  He deeded the cemetery to the county.  The Perryman Cemetery  is located 1.5 miles from Forestburg on FM 455.  The Texas Historical Commission erected a marker that states, “The first marked grave in this burial ground is that of an infant who died in 1862. Other burials include those of a Mr Jones, a well-digger, killed by Indians in 1863 and Dory Booher and Ben Steadham former Confederate soldiers who had been captured at Lookout Mountain, Tenn. during the Civil War.  In 1883, the cemetery was purchased by Levi Perryman (1839-1921) and deeded to Montague County.  A Forestburg community leader, Perryman had been a Confederate soldier and Indian fighter and sheriff.  Still used, this cemetery serves as a reminder of the area’s pioneers.”  There are twenty-nine Perryman graves in the cemetery, all related in some fashion to Levi.

Perryman Cemetery. Photo courtesy of findagrave.com

Levi was involved in many community affairs.  He was a founding member of the Forestburg Methodist Church.  He was a member of the Odd Fellows Lodge in Saint Jo and later a member of the Masonic Lodge in Forestburg and Gainesville.

Levi Perryman died 22 March 1921, just a few short days before his 82nd birthday.  He is buried in the cemetery that bears his name.  An area newspaper, The Bowie Blade, printed a very fitting obituary.

“Levi Perryman, aged 82, died at this home two miles west of Forestburg March 22, 1921 and was buried at the Old Perryman Cemetery at Forestburg Wednesday afternoon, March 23, the Masonic lodge of Forestburg, assisted by the Methodist pastor, conducting the services.  Mr Perryman was one of the rugged pioneers of the county who came here when the west was young and who blazed the way for civilization.  He was born in Lamar County, March 29, 1839 and was left an orphan when only a few months old, and was raised by an uncle, Jack Perryman.  In 1859, he moved to Montague County and settled on the place where he died.  In 1866, he was married to Mrs Josephine Price and of this union, three children are now living.  E W Perryman, ex-county sherrif, Mrs H Caldwell of Denton, and Mrs Ed Stallworth of Forestburg.  Mr Perryman was elected sheriff of Montague County in 1873 and served one term, in 1878 he was petitioned to run again for sheriff and was elected a second term.  It is stated he made an enviable record as an officer and run to earth many horse thieves, a class of criminals that he hated worse than any other.  He was an old Confederate veteran, and a life long member of the Methodist Church.”

Pioneers Lost and Found: The Boggess Cemetery

Boggess Cemetery located north of Saint Jo, Texas. Photo copyrighted material of Shannon Gillette

If you have ever spent any time in Saint Jo, Texas and wondered why the streets were named  Meigs, Boggess, Crump, Howell or Williams, a leisurely stroll through the Boggess Cemetery will ease your curiosity.  Many of the major movers and shakers of early day Saint Jo are laid to rest in this cemetery.  Including the town founders, Irby Holt Boggess and Joseph Anderson Howell.

Back row: Dr John G Crump, Capt Blevins, Sam Rowe, Professor Hughes. Front Row: W M Ross, Henry Ira Chancey, Frank Warren Sr, Irby Holt Boggess. Photo courtesy of Eddie Yetter

Both Boggess and Howell served with the Confederate Army during the Civil War.  Moving to Montague County around 1869, they formed a business partnership and plotted out the town of Saint Jo around 1872.  Boggess was originally from Meigs County, Tennessee.

Boggess, his wife and several other family members are buried in the Boggess family plot.  This plot is located just beyond where the original entrance gate was located.  It is rumored that after moving to Montague County, Boggess survived an Indian attack by taking refuge behind a cabin door made of Bois d’Arc wood.  This strong and dense wood stopped the bullets, saving his life.  As the story goes, he kept the door  as a memento and it was used as the lid to his casket.

Irby Holt Boggess tombstone seen through the footstones of the original gate

Not too far from the Boggess plot is the double tombstone of Joseph Anderson Howell.  He is buried next to his infant son. 

Joseph Anderson Howell's gravestone. Photo copyrighted material of Shannon Gillette

Tombstones throughout the cemetery represent several well know families of the area.  Carrie L Crump, young wife of Dr John G Crump.  Dr Crump, remarried after his wife’s death and is buried in the Mountain Park Cemetery.

Grave of Carrie L Crump, wife of Dr John G Crump. Photo copyrighted material of Shannon Gillette

There are a few fenced plots in the cemetery.  Two of which belong to the Hale and Fulton families.       These ornate fences have,    for the most part, withstood the test of time and the elements.    One of which is large enough to hold six to eight gravesites, but only two markers are present.  It is believed that the other graves were never marked or the stones have been lost or damaged over time.

The cemetery contains old graceful tombstones that are inscribed with a wealth of information.  Some relay only the names of the souls they protect, others give clues into the family history. 

One of the fenced plots at Boggess Cemetery. Photo copyrighted material of Shannon Gillette

Others still, give hints to how harsh live could be, such as the double marker for the infant twins, Effie and Everett Hurd.  The earliest marked graves that can be found in the cemetery are that of Florence M Gann, a baby  girl not even three months of age.  A transcription of those buried in the Boggess Cemetery can be found here.  This list was compiled in 2004.  There have been a few graves that have been added in the last few years, since the list was put together.

Grave of infant Hurd twins. Photo copyrighted material of Shannon Gillette

Along with the traditional tombstones, there are several markers made of sandstone.  If they were ever engraved with the name of the interred, the message has long been erased by decades of sweltering Texas heat, torrential spring storms, and freezing snow and ice as the seasons relentlessly changed over the years.  Other markers have  succumbed to vandalism or old age.

Example of broken headstones. Photo copyrighted material of Shannon Gillette

The Boggess Cemetery is located about a mile north of Saint Jo on FM 677.  It is easy to spot on the right hand side of the road, but this has not always been the case.  As the families of the pioneers of Saint Jo died off, the cemetery was not in high demand.  The Mountain Park cemetery located within the city limits of Saint Jo, became the central cemetery. 

Jorden Crump Boggess, son of Irby Holt Boggess died in Oklahoma 1949 and his body was brought home for burial.  It was a cold, bitter December afternoon when the family laid him to rest.    The seasons came and went, native grasses crept in and over the worn tombstones until this historic resting  place was all but lost.  In 1963, a brave grave-digger took his chances among the briars, weeds and snakes in order to bury Jorden’s brother, A A Boggess.  Again, mother nature took its course, trying to recover this sacred patch of earth. 

Broken tombstone at Boggess Cemetery. Photo copyrighted material of Shannon Gillette

Most people who passed the cemetery on daily basis traveling on FM 677, did not know the cemetery existed, those who did hardly took notice.   Everyone that is except an eighty year young spitfire named Kate Harris.  She along with the help of her niece, Janis Sneed, cleaned up the cemetery and continued to maintain it until her health would not allow it.  It was not an unusal sight to drive by the cemetery on a hot summer day and see Aunt Kate out on her riding mower tending the resting place of the town’s fallen pioneers.  Kate’s younger sister, Clara Bell Trice joined the effort when her sister could no longer hold up to the physical task of being the care taker.  Today, Aunt Kate’s niece, Clara Bell’s daughter, Janis Sneed still stands guard over the small patch of ground that was the final Earthly resting place of some of Saint Jo’s pioneer families.

Old gated plot at the Boggess Cemetery. Photo copyrighted material of Shannon Gillette