First car in Madison County arrived in 1913

Posted 7/28/20

This is the second of two reprints of a Musings that first came out over four years ago, as I’ve taken some time off. It is not intended to tie into a neat package like I often attempt. Instead, I’ll call it a buffet piece, made of bits and pieces of local history.

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First car in Madison County arrived in 1913


This is the second of two reprints of a Musings that first came out over four years ago, as I’ve taken some time off. It is not intended to tie into a neat package like I often attempt. Instead, I’ll call it a buffet piece, made of bits and pieces of local history.

The Texas Watchman was Madisonville’s first newspaper (according to the Centennial edition), established in 1890 by J.P. Nall, a Baptist preacher. It was short-lived, and T.J. Stephens opened The Messenger in 1895, and then sold it to W.W. Sharp. Later on, the name was changed to The Madisonville Meteor. (I found in a January 20, 1941, Meteor that J.H. James, a 90-year-old former resident then, stated that the first Madison County newspaper was The Plain Dealer, followed by The Phonograph, established by Tom Ware, and then The Watchman and The Meteor, the latter of which he said was established in 1893). I sure don’t know the facts on that all! If any readers have copies of any of those earlier newspapers, I’d sure like to know and see!)

Mrs. Lewis Gibbs wrote the “History of North Zulch School” for the special newspaper edition, telling that a group of more progressive citizens banded together in 1908 to organize their first public school there. Until an adequate building was built, classes were held in the Free Will Baptist Church and were taught by W.S. Barron and Miss Irene Morgan. A photo of that first school, teachers, and students, accompanied the article, with names for everyone. Last names included Donaho, Keefer, Shannon, McGill, Rumfield, and more.

The first automobile came to Madison County more than 100 years ago. The first two in Madisonville were owned by Dr. Acie Spear and Mr. Sherman McAfee, in 1913, and the first in Midway was thought to be a Model T owned by D. O. Patton. The Centennial special issue contains a photo of that vehicle and a Studebaker, bought by Mr. and Mrs. Harvey Turner in 1916, succeeding the Model T Ford that the Turners bought in 1914.

Another essay was entitled “Baseball Was First Competitive Sport for Youth in Early Madison County,” written by L.A. (Buddy) Wakefield. In it, he said that only baseball was played for years, and was the only competitive sport enjoyed here except horse racing or wild horse riding. Just about every community had a baseball team, and most boys were proficient. Family names included McGinty, Corley, Prescott, Winters, McVey, Steele, Parten, Marsh, Wakefield, Starns, and more, and “A few of these old-timers played as many as five years without striking out.” The big years for baseball here were 1910-1930, and “possibly the most joking about baseball in good old Madison County is due to the fact the nine Wakefields played in Midway, and two brothers-in-law, Pres and Jim Kittleband, did most of the umpiring.” The caption of a photo of the Midway team in 1900 states that they defeated the Hollis team, “one of the hottest, toughest teams in this community.” Midway players named were Sam Starns,

Robert Wakefield, Brown Melvin, J.A. Knight, John Rogers, Wilson Wakefield, Oran Wakefield, Fred Riley, and one unidentified.

The old newspaper included two photos of “The Hick Band of Madisonville.” Captions stated that the band was in popular demand for local entertainment in the early 1920s. Members performed comedy skits along with their music, and they always played at the Old Soldiers Reunions. Some of the players appear to be dressed in baseball uniforms, and Julian Burtis “remembered the ball team got clownist [sic] costumes for some ‘tacky party’ benefit ballgames.” Among the players named were Lewis Gibbs, Joe Cooper, Dal Evans, Nath Colwell, Robbie Burtis, W.E. Boney, Thurston Dean, Jewel Thompson, and Virgil Ford.

Mrs. Allen H. Menefee wrote “Women’s Reading Club Organized in Jan. 1922”. She was also one of the original members, and explained that twelve women assembled for the “purpose of discussing the advisability of organizing some kind of club which would have for its goal the intellectual and cultural advancement of women of Madisonville.” By the time the club was organized, thirteen became charter members, including Mrs. Erin Burtis, Mrs. Ottie E. Parten, Mrs. R.A. Parten, Mrs. A.H. Menefee, Mrs. W.D. Evans, Miss Jewel Evans, Mrs. J.O Thompson, Miss Mary Lucy Cleere, Miss Lettie Cleere, Miss Ray Wiley, Mrs. Herman Lynch, and Mrs. J.A. Byers. By the end of the first year, membership grew to twenty. Members were civic-minded. They secured a room in the Courthouse, bought furniture for it, and placed a sign thereon, “for the convenience of people over the county who might want to rest, eat lunch, etc., while shopping.” They also planted trees on the Courthouse lawn, sponsored a general clean-up, petitioned county officials for a home demonstration agent, and assisted a young lady to attend college.

Once a friend of mine commented that it doesn’t make any difference what I write as long as it brings to his mind some pleasant memories. I hope to have accomplished that here for some of you readers

Madison County Museum is closed at this time due to the pandemic, but we eagerly anticipate opening back up as soon as possible. Our mailing address is P.O. Box 61, but our street address is 201 North Madison, Madisonville, TX 77864.