Museum and history truly worth preserving


I’m a big fan of the printed word. Folks who have read Musings often know that I love history and am concerned that some fascinating stories are getting lost daily.

A local genealogical society once existed, but it is now defunct. I worry that the Museum and Madison County Historical Commission will follow suit due to lack of community participation and interest.

The historical commission meets once a month January through October, usually at the Museum at 10 a.m. on the third Wednesday each month. Membership costs $25 for an individual or a couple. When I get on my soapbox, we usually sell more memberships. That’s a great thing but not the purpose here today. It takes more than money to keep a community group afloat. It requires interest and activity, definitely more than an hour a month.

Madison County Museum works under the guidance of the above-referenced historical commission, and sells a few items that have been published. “A History of Madison County, Texas” was published in 1984, after hard work by members of the Madison County History Book Committee. It’s now only available on computer disc for $50. “Volume 1” was published in 1997 and a hardback copy is sold for $75. “Madison County Memories, Vol. 1,” a small blue paperback of folks’ short stories, came out in 2004 and sells for $10. I love “A Pictorial History of Madison County,” which sells for $35 and is chockful of magnificent old photos.

That all being said, it’s been almost 15 years since any local history has been published except via the Meteor in Musings. When the 2 large hardbacks came out, some folks were too busy to contribute, and some weren’t even here yet! Local history certainly did not stop happening in 1997.

I’d love to see another history-gathering committee established. To do it right, we’d need folks of all colors and ages, representing the different parts of the Madison County. If you have not read the blue paperback I mentioned, that might inspire you! A particular football game or team, the night you proposed marriage, what story would you like to share? Students might participate. Submission wouldn’t require current residence. I’ll help, but I know my limits.

The next local historical commission meeting will be January 16. 10 in the morning is not possible for lots of you, but if some of you expressed interest, we could work on a date/time for an auxiliary group or even a couple of groups. All we need is you. If you are interested, please email me, , or call the Museum and leave a message at (936) 348-5320.

•In past Musings, I’ve worked at staying impersonal. Today I’m switching, in hope that my own musings will inspire you. Remember, we all see things from different viewpoints. My memories won’t exactly match those of my siblings or classmates. In an effort to inspire and perhaps entertain you, below I relate my memories of my maternal grandmother.

Buna Bullard Wilson was born in 1905 in Madison County’s Bullard Community (which is now on Ranch Road, south of town off Highway 90). As typical for those days, her family was involved in agriculture. She never told us about that, though I’ve found an old photo taken of her and siblings after working cattle.

In 1924, Buna married Edward Wilson, also born here. He had learned barbering at Houston Barber College. He and Buna moved to Anderson and Iola at different times. They had four children, the two oldest born in Madison County, the younger two in Grimes County. On Dec. 17, 1944, Edward died suddenly there in Grimes County, having suffered a heart attack. Buna was 39. Their son was in the Navy; the youngest daughter was not yet 4.

Buna’s world turned upside down. Edward had paid all the bills and always done most of the shopping, even for Christmas that year. The family did not open those gifts on Christmas that year, knowing they were the last he’d ever buy.

Freshly widowed Buna moved home to Madison County to be near her brothers and sisters. Buna had never been anything but a housewife and mother. I’m not aware of the timeline, but by the time I remember in the later 1950s, Buna worked as a nurse.

She lived right across from the hospital, I’m sure by design. In my memories she’s usually wearing her white uniform. She wore slacks at home in later years, but I don’t think her uniforms ever included slacks.

When we grandchildren visited, Buna often greeted us on her front porch. When we departed, she’d dance an Irish jig on that porch. Now I wonder if sometimes she danced with relief at our departure!

Buna was an excellent cook. I know she and co-workers traded recipes, because I have some written in unfamiliar handwriting on the back of nurses’ note forms. She made the most delicious chicken and dumplings! When we’d arrive to visit, she’d say, “I wish I had something to offer you to eat. There is a dab of potato salad in the refrigerator. Oh, there are cream peas and leftover cornbread too, and a little fried chicken.” The words might change, but the fact remained. Her refrigerator magically held a feast fit for kings.

She was at work at our hospital here on Halloween evening in1964. A pencil lead had stuck in my thigh when I accidentally sat on my purse. My parents couldn’t get it out; it kept slipping in deeper. They took me to the local hospital where Dr. Paul Heaton tried to remove that lead. Buna was the emergency room nurse. He’d worked with her plenty, he had faith she’d be fine, and she was for a while. The lead kept slipping deeper until 2 of his entire fingers were hidden as he dug. Suddenly Buna fainted! She was embarrassed when she regained consciousness, and she kept saying, “I was there when you were born, and that was natural. Seeing his fingers in your leg so deep, that was NOT natural!” The lead continued to slip out of Heaton’s reach, and he never got it out.

Not long after that, Buna went to work at the then-new nursing home on Collard Street. In the 70s, another change came. One of Edward’s cousins asked her to supper, and that relationship grew. They were soon married. Her life had a bit more plenty and ease, but that happiness did not last.

Soon, Buna was struck by rapidly progressing confusion, what would now be called senile dementia. She entered the same nursing home where she had worked, which was a blessing. She never realized she was a patient; she thought she was still on duty as a nurse. When we visited, she’d say, “I can’t talk long. In just a minute, I’ve got to go down the hall and pass out meds.” She faded gradually, leaving this world July 28, 1989.

Buna was a fun-loving grandmother, though my siblings and I did not call her that title. My siblings and I were her oldest grandchildren, and we called by her given name, Buna. I never knew why, and we meant no disrespect. Younger grandchildren called her Granny or Granny Buna, and sometimes I referred to her as My Buna, because to me, Buna meant grandmother.

I hope my words about Buna made you want to write something similar. I’ll be delighted if you express interest in joining in writing more history about our county!

Madison County Museum, at 201 N. Madison St., opens to the public Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Museum curator Jane Day Reynolds and volunteers welcome your visits. Memorials or donations may be mailed to the Museum at P.O. Box 61, Madisonville, TX 77864. The telephone number is (936) 348-5230.