Local family relied on both soil and soul

Posted 4/15/20

Madison County Historical Commission’s two volumes of history contain a wealth of information. Today’s information was gleaned from the 1984 edition. In it, Ottie Terrell Gooden submitted history for her parents, Joe Hickman and Fessie Tucker Terrell, thus enabling me to share here. Ottie also submitted an essay about her and her husband, and I included facts from it near the end below.

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Local family relied on both soil and soul

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Madison County Historical Commission’s two volumes of history contain a wealth of information. Today’s information was gleaned from the 1984 edition. In it, Ottie Terrell Gooden submitted history for her parents, Joe Hickman and Fessie Tucker Terrell, thus enabling me to share here. Ottie also submitted an essay about her and her husband, and I included facts from it near the end below.

Joe Hickman Terrell (1889-1980) was the youngest son of Phil and Winnie Hawkins Terrell. The latter were previously slaves. Winnie was from Mississippi but was sold to a plantation owner in Texas when she was 15. She met Phi Terrell and they lived near Midway in a community known as The Island. They had 18 children, with the first born in 1865, the year the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. Of the 18, two sets of twins died as infants plus two others died young. The 12 that survived were Alicia, Phil Jr., William, Tom, James, Rachel, Celia, Charlotte, Sophia, Eliza, Isaiah, and Joe.

Joe’s father died when Joe was a small boy. His mother raised him and the other younger ones with the help of her older sons and faith in God. She was a Baptist and lived to be nearly 100 years old.

Joe attended school in The Island community, where his first teacher as Isabelle Green. He finished fourth grade. He was good in common math and could read, write, and transact his own business affairs. He grew up on the farm and could do all kinds of farm labor.

Fessie Tucker (1890-1969) was the youngest child of John and Louise Dancer Tucker. Only eleven when her mother died, she was reared by her older brother, Van Tucker. He, his wife, and their children lived in Leon County in Copeland Glade, near Flynn. Van made sure Fessie got as much education as possible. Back then, people had to purchase their children’s schoolbooks. Van traveled miles by horse and buggy to buy books shipped by rail. Often there weren’t enough books and he had to wait on another shipment. There was no school chalkboard, so Fessie’s teacher wrote the alphabet on a piece of cardboard. Fessie and other students learned it from that. She finished fifth grade and could read and write very well.

Fessie’s family belonged to the Baptist Church. Joe and Fessie met in Leon County at the Baptist New Home District Association meeting. Joe was living near Madisonville but would ride to Copeland Glade to visit Fessie. After about a year of courtship, they married.

Joe and Fessie lived on a farm about four miles northwest of Madisonville where they were sharecroppers. Known to be a good farmer, he raised lots of cotton, maize, peas, potatoes, and sugar cane for making syrup. He also raised lots of good hogs. Joe as among the first to terrace his farmland to fight erosion, under the supervision under the supervision of Benny Prince, the first Black Agricultural Extension agent of Madison County

Joe and Fessie had five children: Lamar, Ottie Lee, Naomi, J.H., and Rogers. They were proud that three of their children completed high school.

Both Joe and Fessie were members of the Shiloh Baptist Church. He was an ordained deacon. They both taught Sunday School classes for many years. Now they share tombstone in West End Cemetery.

The couple’s daughter, Ottie (1912-2015) could not obtain a high school diploma in Madisonville, because black schools here didn’t offer one then. After getting all the education available to her here, she boarded in Huntsville where she attended and graduated as valedictorian from Galilee High School.

Ottie married her high school sweetheart, Walter L. Gooden, Jr. (1910-1976). For about 25 years, she worked in health care here at different times at the local hospital, at Dr. Heath’s Clinic, and at Madisonville Nursing Home. Walter worked 40 years as janitor at Madisonville High School. They ultimately were blessed with five children. While Walter was school janitor, news reached the school that they were being blessed with twins. Faculty and the student body gave them many items they needed for the babies. Ultimately, they had five children. Despite meager paychecks, the couple sent all five of to college. As adults, none of the five returned to Madisonville to work or raise families.

Ottie and Walter were active members of Shiloh Baptist Church. They served their church in leadership and teaching positions. In her essay that is included in the local history book, Ottie included “Walter and I realized and acknowledged it was faith and dependence on God that brought us through those hard times and kept joy in our hearts and smiles on our faces.” Like her parents, Ottie and Walter Gooden are buried side by side in West End Cemetery and share a tombstone.

Madison County has been blessed with quite a few Gooden family members. Soon I plan to write about more of them.

Madison County Museum is located at 201 N. Madison St., and the mailing address is P.O. Box 61, Madisonville, TX 77864. Normally it is open to the public Wednesday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Currently, it is closed due to the Coronavirus Quarantine. Call ahead when things open back up, 936.348.5230. Trying to keep folks interested in local history, Madison County Museum’s Facebook page is including daily entries and facts about local history. Hopefully you will see fit to enjoy that.

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