Shelby County Historical Society
September-October, 2019 Newsletter
|Dr. Jody Ginn||Dr. Jody Ginn|
ďEast Texas Troubles Ė Dr. Jody Ginn
Dr. Jody Ginn is a former Texas Ranger, and is the Executive Director of the Former Texas Ranger Foundation in Frederickburk, Texas. Today the topic will be ďEast Texas TroublesĒ how the Rangers did a clean-up of San Augustine. It is the story of a rural communityís extraction from a vicious criminal gain.
ďI was first here when I was starting to research a number of aspects of one individual in this book who happened to be my grandmotherís brother, his name was Dan Hines; he was one of the East Texas Rangers, you will see him right here on the cover of the book, which by the way I didnít pick this cover, it was done by the publisher recognizing the significance of this picture which we will talk about.
Dan Hines is standing there holding a rifle, a pistol in his belt and he is smiling over here at this young man, an African American man, also wearing a pistol belt in 1935.
Governor James E. Alred comes into office in 1935, replacing Ma Ferguson. One of the errors that people say is that she disbanded the Rangers In the recent movie, the Highwayman. They said that, but she didnít disband the Rangers. But what she did was desecrate their reputation.
Ma and Pa Fergusonwere known for taking bribes, corruption, selling pardons and thatís a big part of their legacy. But there was another part and that was demoralizing and diminishing state law enforcement in particularly the Texas Rangers by running off reputable and experienced lawmen and replacing them with political cronies. S
She was also notorious for giving out in her last term, thousands, for what is called Special Ranger Commissions. This is not a Texas Ranger. There are those who think that anyone who has ďRangerĒ in their name is a Texas Ranger, but that just represents a lack of knowledge or expertise of how these officers, where they get their authority. They are based on separate laws and based on a separate entity by a totally different chain of command. We have Special Rangers to this day.
A Southwestern Cattle Raisers Investigator are likely to be carrying on with a Special Ranger's commission. They will be the first to tell you they are not a Texas Ranger, they are a special ranger. They do have legal law enforcement authority, and thatís the root of the problem.
So, sheís giving out these commissions to people with no experience and no supervision, because what Special Rangers are supposed to be is something like that, a cattle association investigator, a railroad investigator, and we still have those. Today, a modern one is the National Insurance Crime Bureau. If they work in Texas they can get a special ranger commission. It comes with state law enforcement authority to pack a gun.
Back in 1935, the only people legally authorized to carry a handgun were law enforcement officers, or special rangers. They could also make arrests. They would get what is called a warrant of authority. It looks very similar, the core document looks like a Texas Ranger document, like other state law enforcement. The difference is that they mark out the company name and then instead of it saying Texas Ranger, instead it would say Cattle Investigator, or Railroad Investigator. But when Ma Ferguson handed them out it was to anyone without any law enforcement experience. People who would get a Ma Ferguson commission were to support her campaign.
There are thousands of letters in her papers of people that wrote in and demanding a commission. If they could demonstrate they were part of her campaign, they would get one. They were not being paid by anybody, and so they were not being supervised by anybody. They were running around in the community with that law enforcement authority. Some of them kept them and didnít do anything wrong with it, they just liked to show it to their friends, ďIsnít that cool?Ē But some of them, like in San Augustine, used them to oppress the community, and and build their power to help them engage in wider criminal activities.
The actual Special Texas Ranger law enforcement officers actually took over a still and arrested the guys and ended up actually running the still themselves. So there was a real problem in law enforcement and thatís the connection to the Highwaymen (the movie). Bonnie and Clyde were running rampart for two years. Thatís what that movie was about. But itís not about Bonnie and Clyde itís about Frank Hammer, Manny Gault, and other law enforcement officers that tracked them down and finally killed them. You donít see Bonnie and Clyde except for a little tidbit, you will see the side or the back until the last scene right as they are facing their inevitability.
Under the Ferguson's, state law enforcement was so decimated and so demoralized that Bonnie and Clyde are running all over the country, but definitely throughout the state of Texas. These criminals in San Augustine had taken over completely. They canít get these people prosecuted and they are murdering people in the streets, in broad daylight, on the town square. Youíve heard about the infamous Hardware store shootout, and thatís when people there today know about the shootout, but until the book came out they didnít know a lot of the details. There are a few myths that built up around it, and there are a variety of directions but still today the hardware shootout is well known in San Augustine, especially for anyone that is 60 or above, but even the younger people know about it. And thatís what I first learned about was the hardware store shootout, and then some other murders, again right on the town square.
Then, there was the beating of a
Secret Service Agent on the fairgrounds
in broad daylight in front of hundreds
of people . It was like a story out of a
bad western movie, ďwe donít allow the
feds in our townÖ. ď Iím paraphrasing
but they told him that. And two, three,
or four of them had Ferguson Special
Ranger commissions, and the sheriff was
involved in it, the sheriff at that time
was one of them.
I was in law enforcement and that was my first career, but it was this story that led me into my second career, as historian. As I was researching, I was actually reading the records. Most criminal cases 90 95 percent plead out. The prosecution and the defense come to some kind of agreement and they plead out, and the person pleads no contest they are guilty and they take their punishment. And it has to be because if we were to try every case we would need a thousand times the manpower to try every case.
The bad thing about that for historyís sake is that when there is a plea there is no trial and when there is no trial there is no records of testimony. That court recorder sits up there and records their testimonies. Even if there is a trial, a small percentage of those who go to trial get an appeal and an appeal is the only way for those cases because the court reporter does (the records) in a special code Ė and I donít pretend to know that because in my area it is not my specialty. Itís like another language. And they donít transcribe that in English unless someone pays them to translate them. They get paid for going to court, but where they make their real money is during those transcriptions. They only get paid for that when an attorney uses it for his trial in the defense of their client.
Itís a very tiny percentage of those cases that go to trial. So in the case of San Augustine there were like 44 that were indicted during that clean-up. Hundreds of years of prison sentences were given out. I found 6 trial transcripts from it that survived in a court of criminal appeals that went all the way up . In Texas we have two separate top courts, the Texas Supreme Court only hears civil, lawsuits not like the US. Supreme Court which hears criminal and civil.
The Texas Supreme Court only hears civil and it usually is over money and that kind of thing, and Court of Criminal Appeals hears criminal cases and those records go into the state archives. Thatís all that was appealed that made it all the way up and survived the courtrooms, the criminal appeals. Thatís actually relatively a high percentage when you look at it the averages, maybe 90 to 95 percent of cases just plea out. And thatís what you find in these cases, the majority plead out, so there was never a trial, they didnít ask for one, it was their prerogative and so we donít get the record, unfortunately. The big case, and that is what was disappointing, over ostensibly was the ring leader of this gang. He got 99 years for the assassination of a man driving into town about the time he got across the bayou bridge and he shoots him from the bushes. And he got 99 years for that, he got away with it for half a decade, but the prosecutors at the time were smart and they had gotten the case dismissed without prejudice which means it can be tried again, and he could be charged again later.
Nobody was willing to serve on grand jury, much less jury, or testify; the witnesses were leaving town when they found they were going to be called to witness against one of these guys. A man that I got to meet who was an eyewitness to the hardware store shootout and he was still alive when I was working on this until a few years ago when he had found out I was working on this. He was an eyewitness. He had never told anybody.
His adult son, who was older than me, had never heard about it until after he told me, and then he called him up and said hey Iíve met this man working on his book and I told him something about this. His dad had been on one of those grand juries who had refused to indict this guy previously and he was twelve at the time and his dad told him donít you ever tell a soul because you wonít survive it. He moved on with life and kept it a secret, until he finally shared it because of a lot of details debunked some myths on both sides. His name was Sidney Lister. He had moved away from San Augustine, had gone into the navy during world war two. When he got back from the navy he went to college and ended up in San Marcos College and got a job he worked at for 30-40 years and then retired in Austin living around his family. But he got the San Augustine paper his whole life every week. A lot of his brothers are here and are in their mid 90ís and are all as sharp as a tack.
People were in fear and wouldnít testify. We had this one lady who was a child when all of this was going on and they lived way outside of town, and their house was way back on their own land, and her parents, in their own home, in the evening, with nobody around would whisper when they talked about the troubles and all that was going around. Perpetual fear.
The grandson from one of the victims told me from the earliest time he could remember, his dad kept a 45 revolver in the glove compartment of their car. He thought that those came standard with a Ford v-8. It was always there.
That is the thing that this book is about because a lot of times these folks get forgotten, but it shaped these families for generations. We had the grandson here with us back at the end of July in San Augustine, and he got interviewed by the Lufkin News Channel , I had actually talked to his cousin because they had actually not had contact for 50 years. She lived in California. And now they are back in contact. She reached to me because she had seen my dissertation. My book is based on my dissertation, and she was wanting to do some work and research into her familyís history. Youíll read about her mother. She got out of the car as they were driving across the bridge. Her mother had said because they always knew there was a problem, and they said they would do anything if there was a woman with them. So she went one day and got out of the car to visit some friends, and she lived with that guilt the rest of her life. Her daughter had reached to me and gave me the exact same story, the exact same family story and all the details as the gentleman who had told me years ago. This shaped that family and there were other families who were affected too.
When somebody is killed, this reverberates across time. It shapes everything. The Bonnie and Clyde victims, their families are out there. They were really pleased about the Highwayman because a film of that level finally were able to show Bonnie and Clyde as they really were, and doesnít romanticize and glorify them. Having been an investigator and having to work with victims, that's the kind of stuff of my focus. I try to let their voices come through and let them tell their stories in their own words as much as possible here including the African American victims because thatís the key. Thereís three cases from 1935; white juries convicted white men solely on the testimonies of the black victims and witnesses. They further testified that it was the Alred Rangers they fought in their day in court.
Their stuff about highway robbery. And then there were stuff about going to peopleís homes and loading up their livestock or implements or whatever and driving away with them. Thatís been passed down as their tradition in San Augustine to this day. Using their authority to scam people saying they owed them money, or pseudo law enforcement officers who told them they owed a fine and if they didnít pay the money they were going to arrest them.
So these three cases represented each one of those type of events. One was a middle aged black woman who was the victim in this case and she testified and thatís what they had done. They had backed up a trailer to her house one day and loaded up her hogs, and drove away. She said I never told anybody because blacks donít have access to the courts, against whites; they were not able to testify against white victims, much less themselves as a victim. They knew these guys, these special rangers who were running all of this and the local sheriff was in cahoots with them at the time. They were beating up and killing white people, so what chance did they have? So they kept their mouths shut and never told anybody.
And thatís where I came in. I interviewed many other members of the African American community. I talked with a lot of people in their 90s and some in their 100ís. They told me one thing, and it makes total sense, in that place and time if some strange white lawman showed up at their house and told them they heard something about them, how did all these Alred Rangers even find out about them? They did not tell their stories to anyone except another African American, and they would not be telling their stories because they were afraid they would be set up. They had to have a liaison from the community and they believe it was this young man. They told me who they think this young man was. Unfortunately I could not begin to verify it so I donít give his name. Its clearly evident that he is wearing a gun and hanging out with this thoroughly well known Texas Ranger. The picture itself is immensely significant for the period.
I told a colleague a couple of years ago right after I turned in the initial manuscript to the publisher for review, I was at a Texas State Historical Association for an event. The chief historian who was head of their publication walked by and heís a Jim Crow era, KKK, specialist, this is his period. He was a senior scholar, chair of Texas University department, and now heís chief of History affiliated with UT, a very traditional and academic type. He heard me give that description about the cases with the white juries convicting white men and not giving testimonies because they were black, and he just about got whiplash turning around, and said, do you have a publisher? Thank you but I do. That's how meaningful it is and how it goes against common misconceptions between academics who are supposedly studying this.
A lot went on. Itís a lot more complicated and there were a lot more people working together. Thereís collaboration between the white community and the black community and the authorities who finally bring this community justice and peace. I found two copies of that photo. One was in the paper, the Dan Hines family had one in their scrapbook his wife at the time had put together for his daughter and she had kept throughout her life and is now in possession of her granddaughter.
Then there was another one in the paper with a guy named Leo Bishop. Heís better known because he came back later and stayed there. So a lot of people in that community who live there now seem to know about him. They knew him when they were kids and went to school with his kids. Leoís papers had the exact same photo. There were more photos with this one too. There was a photo of Leo and the young man and then there was another picture with Dan by himself by the front of the car. On the bottom of that copy somebody had handwritten in, two ladies. Think about this. Officially, the common understanding of the first African American ranger was appointed in the 1970ís. Was he really appointed rangers? A lot of the records were disposed of years ago unfortunately, so we canít say that he wasnít without a name for sure on the records we donít know. He may have been an honorary thing because he worked with them. Maybe they gave him a special ranger commission. Maybe this pistol was one of theirs and he was just wearing it that time for the picture. Clearly they had a very close and trusting relationship which was unique for which the times they lived.
Thatís the overview of this story in San Augustine. While Dan Hines was there he also worked some other cases. He actually became acting captain of Company A. So whatís happening during this time is that Alred sends in all the active rangers , gets rid of the Ferguson rangers, reappoints respected and experienced lawmen like the one s he sends in to San Augustine, but then he sets about with the 44 Texas legislatures to create the Texas Department of Public Safety. Takes the rangers out from under the edge of the generalís arm, which is the state military forces.
They didnít start out as law enforcement. Texas Rangers originally were frontier defenders . They were a mounted military unit for frontier defense, mostly volunteer in the beginning not institutionalized until 1874, but then they started evolving because the frontier closes and so they start pursuing fugitives on the frontier because thatís where they were at and that's where fugitives go to evade justice. Thatís a rough process. In 1901 they make them full peace officers and they start doing more and more of that kind of work. But then the governor started abusing the appointment process and taking direct control of it.
Traditionally, the governor only appointed the adjunct general who would be an experienced military administrator. Then the adjunct general would appoint experienced men as ranger captains and those captains would appoint the members of their company. But, these governors starting around 1910 started taking direct power and the law is kind of vague, so they reorganize once again for the final time into the department of public safety. They put the rangers together with the highway patrol which had been under the highway department. They create some new bureaus, and then on August 10th of 1935, the Texas DPS comes into being.
I talk a good bit about that in the book, and Iíve got some quotes from the first chairman of the DPS Commission on that first day and Iíve got some quotes from the first director of the DPS. When you get a creative new agency you get some growing pains. The first major reorganization, Captain McCormick, which was the commander over this region in the beginning of this reorganization becomes the acting chief of the Rangers and so he has to go to Austin and based out of there they make Dan Hines the acting Captain in this region.
So in addition of serving San Augustine, heís going out and working cases as far away as Athens, but he works a particular case here which I hope I will eventually publish. Thatís what I talked to Ms. Mattie about because she knew the individual personally.
Anybody ever heard of the murder of Marly Childs? It was a conspiracy of his young wife and her even younger lover from the local civilian corps camp. What I heard was that Marly was a pretty well to do citizen of Shelby County, perhaps elected as the tax collector according to one account. He was worth about 35,000 during the depression, and he had this younger wife. He had had polio infantile paralysis. My father had it as a child. But he recovered from it. Marly had it really bad in the 30ís and had a life-long affliction from it. It seems that his wife, a young lady named Rebal, she was from Timpson. Rebal was a very pretty and talented lady. But, she apparently got frustrated living with this older invalid man, and started an affair with a 19 year old boy from CCC Camp.
He would go away but sometimes he would come back if it was early, but somebody told me that they tore this house down some years later not too far off the Square. They told me that the young man had written love letters on the boards all over the attic. She was probably about 6-10 years older than him, something like that. Basically she led him around by the nose. He would hide up there in the hot attic, there was no ac in the thirties, for hours until nighttime when he could finally sneak out once Marly went to sleep. She got tired of that and it says that needed to take further action. He waits outside the kitchen window, and at a predesignated time, she sends Marly to get her a glass of water or something, and as soon as he in view of the kitchen window, the boy outside shoots him.
This was a nationally publicized case. District Attorney, Wardlow Lane gave a detailed (met one of his descendants in San Augustine recently) he gave a detailed account which was published in True Detective Mysteries, which was the big crime magazine at the time. It was before TV and this was extremely popular. He talked about how he brought in Dan Hines and Pat McCormick to work and solve the case, and Rebol and the boy go to prison. The boy spends decades in prison and Rebol only spends about five years, and itís a pretty easy stint because she becomes one of the Glor E Girls the singers at the prison,and then it started getting so popular that they started singing in other places traveling around. So while she is technically incarcerated, she and her small girl group are traveling around even out of state as the Glor-E Girls. John Lee Hancock, the director of the Highwaymen is actually involved with a possible movie project. There is a script written that is dormant right now, so I donít know if it will ever get made or not; he knew very little about the background and how she got into prison, but she is the lead character in this movie script, and sheís from here. Focused on her time as a Glor-E Girls.
Iíve been working on this since about 2000. Whatís my connection, am I from San Augustine? No, Dan Hines is my great grandmotherís brother and I grew up hearing stories about him. She lived to be 96, passed away when I was not quite 21. I grew up hearing stories about her baby brother who became a ranger and had gone into towns in East Texas and cleaned it up and was given a set of engraved pistols. I ran into a local Texas Ranger when I worked in Hayes County and I asked him about searching about my ranger ancestry, and how did I know that would turn into a whole new career, but here I am.
The perpetrators are all long dead. There are a handful of children of some of them. Dan Hines youngest daughter passed away, but his middle daughter still lives in Bossier and was on the city counsel. A lot of people there and elsewhere have read my book. I put names in there. A lot of my colleagues will get caught up in their books and they ignore what the average people want. This is about history, this is about our family lives. Thatís really what will grab our interest, so a lot of times they donít make that effort to name all the people involved. Iíve made a concentrated effort to name all those people, so Iíve had people come to me and say, I had no idea it was my uncle involvement as holding the man who was shot to death or who was a prosecutor for these cases. These are people they knew but they never knew that. They knew about these stories in general, but they never knew how personal these stories are to them.
And that turned the story around, because some of the things Iíve heard vaguely, in the oral histories in San Augustine turned out to have strong elements of truth. Certain details, especially who were the common victims, that had been lost. But they had stories about highway robbery thatís what you will hear if you ask people in San Augustine about ďthe troublesĒ and that is why the title, is what it is, it was very carefully selected. Thatís what people at the time people refer to before all the Red Rangers came in. The Alred rangers is what the people referred to them as because at the time they were very distinguishing, because there were Texas rangers under Ma Ferguson, and there were Texas rangers under James Alred.
|Mrs. Fannie Watson||Mrs. Fannie Watson|
History of the Shelby County Historic Courthouse,
Mrs. Fannie Watson, wife of former County Judge Dock Watson, was the guest speaker at the Shelby County Historical Museum on October 21, 2019. Mrs. Watson began her teaching career in the Timpson ISD in 1952. After a couple of years at home raising her daughters, she returned to teaching in Center ISD, for forty-seven years, retiring in 2004. She was gracious to share her knowledge and participation regarding the history of our Shelby County Courthouse.
On June 1, 1882, someone set fire to the Shelby County Courthouse, destroying the building which burned the courthouse records. Although a $1,000 reward was posted for the arrest and conviction of the arsonist, the reward was never claimed.
Following the fire, a new county clerkís office was built on the square where the womenís restroom is located today. The county was able to duplicate some of the records by using copies of deeds brought in by landowners.
On November 16, 1882, the Commissionerís Court ordered that a new courthouse be built with specific dimensions, and building materials. It was at this time that John Joseph Emmett Gibson became involved. He was the son of William Richard and Bridget Rutherford Gibson, born in Dublin, Ireland. His family immigrated to America when John Joseph Emmett was only two years old because of religious persecution in Ireland. John Joseph Emmett, or J.J.E., as he was known, was left behind with an aunt because he had measles. It wasnít until he graduated from high school, and he studied and became a trained architect, that J.J.E. joined his family in St. Louis, Missouri where they had established a business named Gibson and Sons Brick Mason.
At the age of twenty-one, J.J.E. and one of his cousins moved to New Orleans where they were commissioned to build fine homes. But, the ďwild and wooly westĒ of Texas appealed to his adventurous spirit, and he followed the call and ended up settling down in Panola County, Texas, where he married Miss Elizabeth Anne Twomey.
The Shelby County Commissioners Court decided to take bids on the building of the new courthouse. On April 7, 1884, J.J.E. Gibson received the contract with the low bid of $26,725.00. The courthouse project was to be completed by August 1, 1885, but there were problems with the labor. J.J.E requested that the commissioners allow him to stop work during extremely cold weather because he knew the mortar was likely to crack. They would not agree and insisted that he continue. When a ďblue northerĒ came in the winter of 1884, a wall cracked. The commissioners told him to ignore the damage but he felt responsible and would not leave the unsound wall standing. He spent $2,700.00 of his own money to rebuild the wall. He was never reimbursed.
Other local area buildings that J.J.E. Gibson built were N.J. Carawayís in Logansport, Louisiana, a three-story structure in Tenaha known as the Tenaha Academy (which later burned down), and a two-story building which was S. A. McDanielís Furniture Store in Tenaha. The McDaniel building later became the bank building for several years, the Tenaha City Hall, and is now the present home for the Tenaha Youth Center. In addition, he built a courthouse like the Shelby County Courthouse, in Panola County. The Panola County Courthouse was used for sixty-eight years and then torn down to make room for a more modern building.
Mr. Gibson died September 4, 1931 before his eighty-second birthday. He was buried in the City Cemetery in Tenaha, while his wife, Elizabeth, was buried in the Woods Cemetery. It is uncertain why they were buried in two different locations.
The Shelby County Courthouse is one of five of the oldest courthouses in Texas remaining in its near original condition. It holds the distinction of being the only courthouse in the country that was built after the style of an Irish castle. It is made from handmade bricks, made by J.J.E. himself, in five different shapes and sizes. Some of its oddities include a build-in ventilation system throughout the twelve chimneys, crawl spaces and arches over the windows, and had a layer of dirt between the first and second floor. In the event of a fire on the first floor, the dirt would fall from the ceiling and extinguish the flames. Another bonus was the secret stairway behind the judgeís desk for the judge to escape in case he ordered an unpopular decision.
Another unique feature was the construction of the ďhiddenĒ shutters that could be folded back into the walls, something that could be found in old European buildings. The cupolasí louvers added a picturesque look to the building, however, that was not his reason for adding them. He realized that these, combined with the ceiling vents in the courtroom below, were a clever early-day air-conditioning system.
It is interesting to note that the debt for the courthouse was not completely paid off until ninety-one years later due to a $20,000 bond issued by the Shelby County School Board, to help build the new courthouse following the fire that destroyed the old courthouse. A lawsuit was filed by the School Board in 1937 for this expense plus interest, bringing the amount owed to $35,000. Shortly thereafter, a second suit was filed by the Federal Government for $90,000. Finally, in 1976, the old courthouse debt was paid off. It was declared as a Texas Landmark in 1969, and then in March of 1971, it was included in the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1976, Mr. John Reagan Harris, President of the Shelby County Historical Commission, and Mr. Bill Mountz, President of the Historical Society, planned and held a fair and a parade to celebrate the historic value of the courthouse. Using funds from the donations of the various booths, repairs were made, but it was not enough to restore the courthouse to its original state. J.J.E.ís building functioned with a minimum of alterations until 1992 when a new courthouse was purchased. Between grants and fundraisers, further restoration came, making repairs and changes which included the installation of an elevator, replicated benches, and a portable stage and sound system. Part of the funds were raised through the purchase of individuals or groups purchasing memorial bricks that are now part of a beautiful walkway of the Courthouse Square.
The Courthouse was officially re-opened in July of 2000. According to Mr. Joe Louis Jones, (the official Courthouse guide), registered guests came from all over Texas, almost all other states, and some from foreign countries. There is an 1885 silver dollar marking the exact center of Shelby County in the hallway of the first floor in the Courthouse.
Through Mrs. Watsonís classrooms, she had a group of students from 1998-99 school year work on a community problem solving project. The students, along with the help of Mrs. Fannie, wrote a childrenís book entitled, Who Built the Irish Castle on the Courthouse Square? The students did the illustrations, and Mrs. Tommie Morrison helped get the book ready for printing at Center Printing. Originally, five hundred books were ordered, and later there was a second printing of seven hundred more books. Copies of the book were sent to some of Mr. Gibsonís relatives, and they were received with gratitude and pride as they read about their ancestor's achievements.
ďYou receive my gratitude. I am disabled and wish I had money to send but that is impossible, but you have filled me with such hope for tomorrow. Students, before reading the book I was at an all time low. J.J.E. has always been such a source of pride, but he is a well-kept secret no more. I can only give you my words. But seriously, yíall are making history.Ē (taken from a letter from Mr. R. E. Berwick, great-grandson of Mr. J. J. Gibson)
A book signing and sale was presented at the Fannie Brown Booth Library book sale, along with the unveiling of a painting of Mr. Gibson by local artist, Woodrow Foster. The portrait can be found in the Gibson Room of the Courthouse today. Later, Mrs. Fannieís students collected the old slate that had been replaced on the Courthouse, and painted pictures of the Courthouse. Mrs. Debbie Leggettís art classes of Joaquin helped with many of the courthouse paintings. A Center studentís father made holders for the slates, and they were sold for $5.00 each to raise money for the Historical Commission. Mr. John Doggett restored Mr. Gibsonís desk, which can also be found in the Gibson Room.
Another project, headed up by Mrs. Watson and her students was called ďItís a Family AffairĒ, which encouraged family members to work together. Megan Loftice and family went around Shelby County and took pictures of all the historical markers, which the Chamber of Commerce used the information and pictures in an updated brochure.
Mrs. Watsonís class project was so successful that they were invited and attended the Future Problem Solving Conference in Austin, and in Athens, Georgia. It was decided that the project would extend on into the 1999-2000 school year. They introduced their project at the East Texas Poultry Festival. They used Mr. Woodrow Fosterís painting of the Courthouse and Mrs. Alda Yarbroughís slate painting of the Center Water Tower to make stationery for sale to begin raising funds for the continued needs of the Historical Commission. Mr. Fosterís Courthouse picture was made into a jigsaw puzzle, which are available from the Museum today. The students continued to pursue the process of securing a historical maker to be placed at the Courthouse in remembrance of J.J.E. Gibson.
On January 9, 2000, the dedication took place. Students from the 1998-1999 classes participated in the ceremony, and unveiled the historical marker that still stands today on the Courthouse Square. The sixth graders recited from memory their entire book, ďWho Built the Irish Castle on the Courthouse Square?Ē, and shared their original poem about J.J.E. The Honorable Wayne Christian, our State Representative spoke, and the third, fourth, and fifth-grade students sang an original song written by Mrs. Peggy Hutcherson and recorded by Mr. James Paul Wilson.
Through the efforts of the Center ISD Historical Trackers of the 1998-2000 school years they were able to raise much more money than the original monies totaling $2,700.00 that was still owed to Mr. Gibson. The students made footprints in the sands of time as they helped to preserve the legacy of J.J.E. Gibson and the history of Shelby County.
Woodmen of the World, Lodge 250