Tidbits of Shelby County History
Community of Short
This week’s article is about the community of Short and was written by Mrs. Lorene Foster dated September 1989. Short is a rural residential community located about five miles south of Center, Texas on Hwy 96 South. The Settlement began in the area in 1870. Tragedy struck the area in 1889 when a dysentery epidemic claimed the lives of many children. This event prompted the establishment of a community cemetery.
My father, Herbert Hughes, gave me the information I have on Short, including things he remembered and things his parents and brothers told him. Even though the tiny East Texas community was in existence since 1870, The name of Short was not decided upon until the Post Office was built around 1879 and a name was needed. Since there was a crossroads in the locality, the people sent in the name “Crossroads” to the postal department. Their lawyer, Dan Short, informed them the name was already used in another locality. They could think of no other name for their community, so they chose “Short” in honor of the attorney.
In the year of 1870, my grandfather, Elkanah Hughes, filed on 160 acres of land in the Short area before it was a community center. Later, as development of the community began, he let a portion of the land go to Short to become a community center.
The roads were here at that time, but no cleared land. There were only tall trees of pine and hardwood, and no underbrush. Grandfather had to walk two miles to reach land to farm the first year or two. Gradually the large timber was cut and “log rolling” were given to pile the logs and burn them.
In its heyday, Short was a quiet and industrious little place. The post office was run for many years by my great grandfather, Robert Trammell Hughes. There was a large General Store selling dry goods, groceries, and notions. Vinegar was sold out of a large wooden barrel that had a faucet attached.
For a long time around the turn of the century, the store was run by an unforgettable character, Eph Fultz, who caused many humorous and exciting events in the community.
For instance, Eph Fultz gave my uncle, Joe Covington, a dollar a night to tie a wire to the old bell in the belfry of the old church, run it through a window and out into the woods behind the church. There Joe would go each night at 12 o’clock, ring the bell, and go home.
All the community thought the church had a ghost and wondered and wondered. The trick was never revealed until after Eph’s death year later, when Joe told my father about it.
Short also had a cotton gin, a shingle mill, and a millinery shop where beautiful women’s hats were made and sold. To my knowledge there were six doctors who practiced here at different times. The first was Dr. Burton Doggett. Others were Dr. M.L. O’Banion, Dr. Davis, Dr. Adams, Dr. Few and Dr. John B. Simms.
Within distance of two and a half miles there were four watermills on Mill Creek that runs near Short. The first two were run by Lum and Matt Estes. The others were the Graham Mill and the Fambro Mill. Corn was grounded for meal and limber was planed into lumber for building.
Short also had a blacksmith shop, a school and church combined, a cotton warehouse and about six private dwellings.
The first church was built sometimes in the early part of the 1880’s. It was used by all denominations and was called a Union Church. School was also taught there, and the Woodmen of the World held meetings there. It had an attic and a belfry. One of the pastors of the church was the Rev. Mr. Edwin Burke, who was said to have ridden with the outlaw Quantrill Gang before he was converted. He was a very strong character.
One night at revival, Charley Dorsett came in on the women’s side and sat down by his girlfriend, SudieRobarbs, Burke looked at Charlie and said, “Young man, move over on your side”. Charley did not move. Again, Burke told him to move. Speaking a third time, the preacher said. “Young man, I’ll give you one minute to move to your side.” Charley gotup and walked out. In a few minutes pistol shots were heard and bullet holes filled the wall behind Burke’s head.
Burke continued to preach as if nothing had happened and told the people to be calm, as nothing would come of it. Dad said he had sat looking at those old bullet holes for years after.
Short is located in a valley, and one of the neighbor children, Mr. Bill Owens, had a very good sand spring of water on his land on the northwest hill. He engineered a water trough from the spring down the hill about three-fourths of a mile to the cotton gin that was run by steam. This lasted for years.
Mr. Owens’s daughter, Mrs. Vilva Monk, told me the old water trough that carried the water to the gin was sometimes located in the limbs of white oak trees in places to ensure a gradual fall of water. In winter huge icicles would hang on the trough.
Coffee was sold in the whole bean and ground in a coffee mill. One of my dad’s little sisters, Cornelia, found a bean in the coffee grinder one day and said, “I’m going to take it and give it to grandma to plant”
That grandma was Dorothy Hughes, who was called “Dollie”. She lived about 100 yards away. She planted the bean, and it was a bunch bean plant that became loaded with crisp green beans. Dollie saved the seed, and to this day the bean is grown in Shelby County, and is known as the “Dollie Bean”. It is delicious and bears better than any I’ve ever seen.
Cornelia died in 1889 at the age of 9 in the Flux epidemic. Her bean has been in the family about 95 years and had never mixed.
Short will never again be as it was. Its time have passed. Now and then in eroded places we find old plows, horseshoes, a buggy wrench, and iron parts from old wagons.
On August 17, 1972, a bulldozer came through to smooth an embankment, thus erasing a deep-cut trail that formerly led up the hill to the old General Store. Losing that trail wiped out on eof the last vestiges of history.
A memory I have of the old General Store at Short is of the beautiful piece goods, bright plaids, ginghams, calicos, and percales. My aunt, who clerked there, kept me supplied with bright new dresses made of those material.
Freight wagons brought supplies to the store, mostly from Logansport. Orders were saved and sent with the freighters from one time to the next.
The old road that runs east and west past my home originally came from Myrick’s Ferry on the Sabine River and led to Nacogdoches. It is a very old road and was probably used as an Indian trail in the beginning.
Among the family names in the community, beside my own Hughes family, were Holt, Hayes, Stack, Murphy, Owens, Mills and Johnson.
Note: If anyone is interested in reading past articles of “Tidbits of Shelby County History” they can be found on the museum website www.shelbycountytexashistory.net. Tidbits is listed under the picture of the courthouse in the second section on the right side.