Editor’s note: This is the second of two parts in Laura Ann Cannon’s Museum Musings reflecting on Madison County history through the books that tell the stories of the area.
My recent Musings, about the not-so-good old parts of life long ago, related pain, loss, and heartache. February is a sad month to me, so I’m going to try to lift my spirits and yours with the opposite type of Musings now. Our county’s historical books tell about good times too, so I am sharing some of such below.
Willowhole community received its name because of a spring-fed water hole that was situated south and east of the present Willowhole Cemetery, which is 3 miles south of North Zulch on FM 1372. For years the folks traveling through the area camped by the water hole.
Early settlers in Willowhole went by the last names of Dowell, McWhorter, McNair, Jackson, Payne, Cheatham, Hill, Shannon, and Prater. James Dowell and wife, Emma (Jackson) brought their family to Willlowhole about 1861.
Willowhole’s earliest school was a rustic 1-room wooden building, with benches and desks made by local citizens. There was one teacher. Mrs. Ruby Dowell Magness told of being taught reading, writing, arithmetic, history, and geography, and said, “We walked…and I remember those times being especially fun. All the children would walk together to and from school. I never saw a fight nor did I hear an angry word. The only time we needed assistance was when water rose in Turkey Creek. Then my father would meet us and carry each of us, one at a time, across the creek on his horse. I remember that spankings were given with a switch…We all took sack lunches and had an hour for lunch plus recess time. There was no playground equipment but we did not lack for fun things to do. One fun game we played was ‘Stealing the Wood.’ It was our free time where natural leaders evolved.”
Tanyard community was and is located 6 miles northeast of Madisonville on FM 1119, near the boundary of Leon and Madison Counties. Early settlers included families by the names of Sueing, Nealey, Proctor, Washington, and McDaniel. Most families there attended the Methodist Church, because that was the only denomination represented there. Baptisms were done in Cobbs Creek.
Teachers at the Tanyard School included Isabell Greene and Eliza Washington. There was a one-room school taught by one teacher. At recess, young students enjoyed Hide and Seek and other games, while older ones played volleyball, basketball, and baseball. Young people looked forward to school plays, county meets (contests), and box suppers).
Mount Tabor community is located 9 miles north of Madisonville, on a high hill for which folks gave it that name. There is a cemetery by the same name, and for years there was a school there too. Some of Mount Tabor’s first settlers were Tinsley, Andrews, Scott, Nance, and Humberson families. Freemans came in 1887. Long ago Bill Scott owned the land there and grazed goats there, so some old timers began calling it Goat Hill sometimes.
The first school was, like everywhere, a one-room affair. It stood on land owned by Mrs. Willie Duncan Hawks, and it must have been there before the cemetery, because there are 2 graves near the location of the old school. During school months, smaller students enjoyed playing marbles, hopscotch, drop-the-handkerchief, and jump rope at free time. Older boys and girls played basketball or baseball.
Church services were also held in the school building. Members took their kerosene lanterns for light. During summer months there was always a revival held on top of Goat Hill or in Grandma Sara Tinsley Andrews’ pasture.
I hope you enjoyed this simple column from information about less complicated times. The Madison County Historical Commission’s 2 volumes of local history contain a wealth of such stories and information. Volume 1 is available only on computer disk, but there are hard copies of Volume 2 available.
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.