Marking the Bullard community on the road and in the museum

Posted 10/20/20

This Musings covers two purposes. I think you’ll get my drift and be able to keep up.

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Marking the Bullard community on the road and in the museum


This Musings covers two purposes. I think you’ll get my drift and be able to keep up.

2020 has been a difficult year in many ways. I’ve often said that when our conversations include the names and stories of precious folks who have passed on, they don’t seem too far gone. Our community has lost some good people this year, two of whom I’ve written about before. So…

Pete Hunter went to his Heavenly reward on Sept. 22. He served our community any time or way he could. Besides being very active in First United Methodist Church and all of its endeavors, he served was a member of Madisonville Fire Department for many years, serving as its chief for a long time.

Once Mr. Hunter shared his memories of the 1967 Courthouse fire. He was the local assistant fire marshal at the time. Arriving at the fire as quickly as possible that Sunday afternoon, he fought fire all night, leaving about 7 a.m. Monday morning. Then Pete went home, cleaned up, and went to his regular job for Mr. Rayford Hardy, the Sinclair distributor. For the 13½ hours of fighting that fire, he received 50 cents.

M.C. Burns, of Midway, went to his Heavenly home on Oct. 18. He was a Church of Christ minister, but I came to know him because his wife Nardell and I often talked politics before her death in June, 2016. The February before her death, I included the following paragraph in a Musings.

“Nardell Burns, of the Antioch community just this side of the Trinity River, shared a story about her grandparents, Edgar and Marietta Adams, who also lived in Antioch years ago. Marietta, usually called Mama, had a habit of often advising folks to “Trust in the Lord.” When Nardell was a child and staying with those two, she and her brothers and sisters would play with friends down the road. Their grandfather constantly encouraged them to be home by dark. One evening it was just about dark when he sent Mama to get them to come home. Near the road stood a low fence, and the group was aware that there had been an old sack lying in the ditch there. As they got near, that barely-visible and light-colored sack silently rose up and went under the fence. Everyone took off running, but one thought to say, “Mama, you always say trust in the Lord.” Mama did not slow down one bit, but answered back, “Trust in the Lord nothing, you’d better come on!” When they arrived home, they learned that their grandfather had played a prank on them. Everyone got a good laugh, especially about what Mama had uncharacteristically said. Now, well over 50 years later, Nardell still can’t tell that story without laughing.”

Recently I wrote about some of our local historical markers, and I’m returning to cover some more of them now. Be forewarned. I won’t finish them all today.

The marker commemorating the site of the Bullard Community stands at the intersection of State Highway 90 and County Highway 106, facing 106 since 90 is too busy for drivers dawdling and reading. You don’t have to go there to read it, however. Since the original one was put in place in 2001, it was broken. When it was replaced, the damaged one was put on a stand in the Museum, so you can see it there. It reads:

“Alabama native Calvin Cullen Bullard (1824-1882) brought his family to this area from Hunt County, Texas, in 1867 and settled on 160 acres of land between Bedias Creek and Caney Creek. In their new home, he and his second wife, Zillah (Woodbury), reared three of Bullard's children from his first marriage and six of their own.

Calvin Bullard had a blacksmith shop in the community that bears his name, and several of his descendants followed in his footsteps. The Bullards were also farmers, as were other families in the area, raising cotton as their primary cash crop.

Active beyond their community, Calvin E. Bullard served a term as County Tax Assessor-Collector and Rube Bullard was a Justice of the Peace and five-term Madison County Commissioner. A one-room schoolhouse was built in the Bullard Community to address the educational needs of the neighboring children. It operated from 1890 until 1923. Worship services were held in the schoolhouse, as well as in an outdoor brush arbor when the weather permitted.

Calvin and Zillah Bullard and many of their descendants are buried in the Bethel Cemetery in nearby Grimes County. Their contributions to Madison county history as early settlers and the founders of a community reflect the settlement patterns in this part of Texas and remain an important part of the area's history.”

At one time, this area had many Bullards. Not all our dead lie in Bethel, 39 headstones bear that last name here in Madisonville Cemetery. Also, there are still living-and-breathing Bullards residing here, plus many more of us carrying Bullard blood, including me.

In 1994, Wilson Chapel Methodist Church was recognized with a marker on the east side of State Highway 21 a bit east of North Casey, on the right when traveling east. The church was organized in 1873 by the Rev. W. A. Parks and ten charter members. First called the Methodist Episcopal Church, it was the second African American church in Madisonville. Early worship services were held in members' homes and brush arbors. In the absence of a minister, sermons were given by a member called an exhorter. Land was donated by Ed and Mary Burrell in 1888, and the first sanctuary was erected here in 1891. A white frame building replaced it in 1923. A brick structure was built in the 1960s. The church has served the area for more than 120 years. It appears as if Ed Burrell is buried here in West End Cemetery, with the years 1858-1908 on his headstone. I have not been able to find any more information than that about him, and nothing about Mary.

The Shapira Hotel received a state historical marker in 1982, thought it was listed on the National Registry of Historical Places in 1980. Located at 209 North Madison, its sign no longer says “Shapira” but “Woodbine” instead, so named when Randy Parten restored it in 1980. The structure dates back to Russian-born Jewish immigrants Jake Shapira (1847-1904) and his wife, Sarah (1857-1925). They first owned a boarding house at the site, but it burned in 1903. The following year Mrs. Shapira had the Victorian hotel built. The structure is one of the most lavish buildings of the region and reflects Eastlake styling, featuring diamond shingling and purportedly 12,000 pieces of fish scale cedar siding! It was an early center of business and social activity. Later it was operated by Clara Wills as the Wills Hotel.

The Rogers Prairie marker is different from the above. It stands in Madison County on the south side of OSR, but the Rogers Prairie community straddled the Old San Antonio Road, so was also in Leon County. None of that was a consideration at the beginning, because Madison County and the county boundary didn’t exist before 1853. The Rogers Prairie area was settled in 1835 by Robert Rogers (1799-1870), who had received a land grant from the Mexican government. A settlement grew up around his property as he was joined by his brother Stephen Rogers and others. The community post office was established in 1874, and later included a church, school, Masonic Lodge, and several stores. In 1884, the population was 130, and there was a cotton gin and a steam gristmill. In 1890 the school had two teachers and 24 students. The population peaked at 216 in 1904. In 1906 the Trinity and Brazos Valley Railway was built two miles west of the community, and as a result the post office was moved to Normangee, which grew around the tracks. The school closed in 1907, and the town and people moved to Normangee too. By the 1940s, Rogers prairie had dwindled to scattered dwellings and a cemetery. Only the community cemetery remains. It is a tenth of a mile north of the marker, in Leon County.

There is also a historical marker two miles west of Midway on State Highway 21. It honors James (1795-1870) and Calpernia (Franklin) (1805-1865) Mitchell, who came to Texas in 1833 and received a Mexican land grant. Though the marker says they came here from Virginia, family information in Volume 1 of local history says he was born in Tennessee. The same also says Mitchell knew Sam Houston while in Tennessee, and that after moving to Texas, General Houston often visited in the couple’s home. Mitchell was a cooper by trade, meaning he made buckets and churns from cedar wood. Since Indians were still a problem, he established a fort in which homes were built, and he also ran a tavern. The area became known as Mitchell Prairie. After the Texas Revolution, Mitchell built an inn for folks traveling the Old San Antonio Road, and it served as a post office during the years of the Texas Republic. In 1837, he served as a member of the commission to locate the seat of the newly formed Montgomery County (remember, this was before Madison County was even a pipe dream). In 1846, Walker County was formed and he became one of the first county commissioners (still before Madison County). James and Calpernia were buried in their family cemetery on private property near the marker. Descendants Joel Fraley and Elizabeth Ward shared facts about the Mitchells in our first county history book.

Our county has a plenty of fascinating history. I’ll be back with facts about other historical makers at a later time.

THE MUSEUM HAS BEEN OPEN FOR A FEW WEEKS and we plan to keep it that way! We sure would appreciate your visit! It is open to the public Wednesday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and it is located at 201 N. Madison Street. The mailing address is P.O. Box 61, Madisonville, TX 77864. You also might enjoy the Madison County Museum Facebook page, which has been full of fascinating photos and facts lately.