Tidbits of Shelby County History
First, I want to let everyone know the museum is having some technical issues. Yesterday the electrical company replaced an electrical pole between the museum and First Baptist Fellowship Hall. The power was off several hours. Somehow during the repair of the pole, the phone service to the museum were disconnected. This meant no internet service. Repairs to the phone and internet service should be completed by 6pm today. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have cause. Hopefully, the museum will be in full operation soon. The museum is open to anyone wishing to view the new exhibit.
This week’s article will feature the community of Paxton. According to the Handbook of Texas, Paxton is located on highway 84 and FM 699 twelve miles north of Center in northern Shelby County. The community was named for Sam Paxton, an early pioneer, and may have been first established in 1855. It continued to grow once the railroad was constructed through the county in 1885. Post office was established January 22, 1890, under the name of Spivey with Isaac W. Spivey. The name was changed to Paxton, January 26, 1903, with David D. Mims as postmaster. The office was discontinued September 30, 1954, with the mail ordered sent to Joaquin.
The town reached its high-water mark (estimated at 300) just as the Great Depression was beginning and between exhausted timber and low cotton prices, the populace abandoned the town in favor of greener pastures. It did, however, drain population from the nearby Spivey, creating a ghost town from that community.
The post war population was back to 100 residents which has slowly grown to the 161 people counted by the 2000 census.
According to an article written by Pat McCoy, the HE&WT railroad became an important part in the establishment of the Paxton community and other small communities along its line. In those days, farmers simply waited by the tracks at any convenient location, flagged the train down when it arrived, and climbed aboard. Conductors collected the fare, and stopped the train whenever passengers wished to get off. Mrs. Cynthia Whiddon told of her first railroad trip with her father and seven-year-old brother when she was five. Her brother was so frightened by the screeching, steaming locomotive he pulled his hand from his father’s and ran. The entire crew and train waited patiently on the tracks until the boy was found, sometime later.
The following information was taken from newspaper articles published by Mildren Cariker Pinkston “People, Places, Happenings Shelby County, Texas”.
Reprinted from The Champion dated June 24, 1925, by Clara R. Ramsey.
At Paxton we first visited Jesse Hooper, the real wide awake and progressive merchant of that little city. He also has the post office, has his job work in mortgages, notes, etc., done in $50 and $75 lots. Here also I met a charming young lady, Clytie Mae Womack, just home from Huntsville college where she graduated, has been assisting Mr. Hooper ever summer for past three years and helping defray her school expenses. You see summer is big money season at Paxton on account of the tomato industry and extra help is needed whereas in our town business is dull.
C.A. Wilson, living near old Willow Grove, was interviewed and enthusiastic over his success with tomatoes. From 1700 plants received cash $151.50 sold to Jesse Hooper. Merchants buy all the tomatoes and pepper and send to Shreveport by truck loads, 900 crates one day, never less than 300. Pepper 25 to 50 bushels a day. Tomato season soon to be over. Pepper will last till frost. Ship as long as there’s a market.
We were referred to E.B. or Uncle Buck Samford as the man who could give us all the information to be thought of about this great industry and we were not misinformed. He, it seems, is the father of the tomato business at Paxton. He sells all the plants and crates. When the business went dead and others grew discouraged and quit, Uncle Buck stayed with it. He says, “I never have come under $200 clean and some years $700. Handle crates in carload lots, next year we expect to have five to where we have one man engaged in the business. The few this year are delighted with results. I am proud of our merchants they are our friends, co-operate with us with no view to speculation and their business remains fine through the summer. Men can pay their bills and some their old debts. There is more fruit and vegetables shipped from Paxton than any town between Houston and Shreveport, so the railroad men say. Joaquin and Logansport should join in with us. The Whiddon estate adjoining Crystal Lake and Henry Holiday farm are ideal for tomato growing,then we would have enough to ship in carloads.” It would take up more space than I am allotted to tell the wondrous story as Uncle Buck told it, but I must press on. We had dinner and enjoyed their hospitality, they raise everything at home, lots of canned fruits and vegetables, nicely cooked and well served. Their son and wife and baby boy, the idol of his grandparents, are living with them and added cordially and pleasure to our stay.
M.E. Stanfield and wife have had charge of the school for the past several years and have built it up to a six-teacher school, consolidating with Bermuda. The superintendent and wife get a salary of $250 per month and the four assistants, $90. Harry Rushing of Joaquin has secured a position this fall.
Another article posted in The Champion dated November 17, 1926, written by Mrs. Clara R. Ramsey titled “East Texas Orphanage Under Construcion at Paxton”.
An interview with Mr. Jesse Hooper of Paxton was accomplished through the courtesy of Miss Ina May Paxton, who accompanied us over Friday morning.
The orphanage now under construction is to be called “The East Texas Orphanage.” This has been a dream of the promoter for years, and would have been fulfilled long ago, but for lack of a suitable site. Mr. Hooper finally found the ideal place, when the home of Mr. and Mrs. Tom Paxton burned down, and he purchased this location of something over two hundred acres of land. The building, the plan of which was drawn by an architect of Dallas: containing forty rooms and with accommodations for one hundred children. The situation is beautiful, right on the highway leading from Shreveport to Houston. The building will cost $10,000 without any equipment. “Good crops and collections,” say Mr. Hooper will enable me to do this much and we expect to open by spring at the latest. Inquiries have been pouring in from many East Texas town, and the matter has already been made public with no effort on Mr. Hooper’s part, and this will be the first news printed, no doubt, but not the last, the facts as definitely known, will be heralded to other sections that East Texas will be able to take care of her own orphan children, and not be compelled to send them abroad as heretofore.
Mr. Hooper means to put his all into the enterprise unreservedly, he declares, but is trusting that he will receive co-operation and assistance from all East Texas, and the opening is now. The home will be self-sustaining as far as possible as soon as possible. A chicken ranch, truck patches, farming, all under capable management. The children assisting in the work when numbers are large enough.
Now we are all to have an opportunity to do a lot of homemission work. And with the prospect of needy children to succor right in our midst. What a glorious privilege to those of us in this immediate section, we will rally as true patriots, ready to do our best.
Note: Everything is up and running at the museum!!