Kenneth Evans grew up in Gustine, Texas, and 88 years later, that area of Texas is still embedded in his heart. A few days ago, he and I took a little ride through the countryside as we visited Creamer, Pettit, Swann Hill, Union, and Gustine. I didn’t know it at the time, but he purposely timed our visit to Gustine so that we could sit down and discuss our findings over one of Zelma’s chicken fried steaks!
We started out with Creamer. As you will remember, Missy Jones and I did the Creamer run a few weeks back, and I wanted to see if both of their memories coincided. For the most part, they did, with just a few variations.
First of all, Missy mentioned a depot in Creamer and its location. She knew where it was because her parents told her all about it. Kenneth agreed with the exact location, the only difference being that he says it wasn’t actually a depot, but a section house. This does seem to make sense because those wanting to go into Comanche had to flag the train the northbound train so that it would stop for them.
The location of the Hebron school was also a little different; however, Missy told me on our trip that she was not sure on just which side of Salt Branch the schoolhouse sat.
Kenneth placed the Hebron school about 100 yards south (closer to Gustine, after crossing Salt Branch on 36 going toward Gustine) and further back off of the road, right behind the Ruben McCullough’s (Kenneth’s great-grandfather) place and where Salt Branch twists and runs through the old place.
According to Evans, he has stood right where the remains of the hand pump are located. Students used the pump to get a drink with water pumping out of 3-4 pipe ends. “Wasn’t that sanitary?” he laughed.
For the most part, everything else, according to Evans, was just as Missy described, with the church being farther back off of Highway 36 than what I told you. Of course, the octogenarian was quick to tell me that although it seemed like yesterday, 80 years had passed and things “have really grown up.”
Continuing on south down Highway 36 toward Gustine from Comanche, we took a right on FM 1476, just across from Union Cemetery. On the right hand side of the road, directly across from a mailbox with the address 7681 on it, there is a fence with a gate in it.
According to Kenneth, walking through that gate about 100 yards will bring you to the site of the Union school, which I have always assumed sat beside the cemetery!
“The last time I walked out there, the rock foundation could still be seen. I never saw the school, but I would assume it was a log schoolhouse on a rock foundation, wouldn’t you?”
Continuing on toward Pettit, within a mile or so, we stopped and looked to our left long enough for me to take one photo of the chimney still standing from the old Charlie Isham home that both Charlie and son, Sterling, once owned.
From there, we continued on down 1476 until we literally ran onto the old Pettit school grounds. Located there today is the Pettit Baptist Church and the building that was once used to house the superintendent of the school, at least Kenneth “thought” he remembered that. Of course, the actual school building was moved into Gustine and used there for years.
“Paul Patton drove a bus, and he would drop the little kids off in Pettit and take the older ones into Comanche.” Of course, he was talking about the years after Pettit high school no longer existed. At one time, all Pettit kids went all of their school years in Pettit.
“During and even after WWII, the mothers would come to school everyday and prepare lunches for the kids. There was a little building that sat on the property, and they would fix lunch there.”
The Eric Seay home still sits on the school complex today. “Eric Seay had a store there by his house. It had groceries and things along with a gas pump and coal oil. A lot of people only had a team and wagon, and it was hard for them to get into Gustine when they needed something. Earl Seay had the Newburg store.” (Of course, the Newburg store is the gorgeous home of Betty Herbert today.)
Where the road Ts at the Pettit school site, we turned right on 1476 toward Newburg, driving on down through Pettit and the site of the Pettit place where Boss Greene was murdered. Of course, Pettit and Fleming run together, and we drove just far enough for me to take CR 216 to the right. Just a few yards up on the left, I was able to take a photo of the old Fleming ice house. Of course, it was a snaky day, and I didn’t take my sandals into the weeds and brush! Across the road a up the hill from the ice house once stood a Poor Farm according to Evans.
From the ice house, we retraced our steps on 1476 and passing the Pettit school site on our right. At that point, 1476 turns into FM 2486 toward Energy. The drive was absolutely beautiful and in no time, we were crossing the South Leon and looking to our right for the Swann Hill historical marker.
We then retraced our steps back to Highway 36 and headed into Gustine. After our lunch at Zelma’s City Café, we did quite a bit of driving up and down the streets of Evan’s boyhood. I ended up with way more info than I can fit into this article or my brain so I’m only going to include some tidbits that I think a lot of you may not know.
First of all, we went to the school, where Kenneth pointed out the location of Mrs. Chambers’ (daughter of D.S. Davis) store that Missy Jones described in depth for us. Then, we talked about the gym that I can tell is still a sore subject over 60 years later!
“The Gustine gym was built about 1939. In 1948, when the WPA and CCC were building, the school had the choice of the rock fence around the property or a new gym. They took the fence.”
The depot and section houses (that we discussed with Betty Kirkland and Carol Teich) stood about where Zelma’s City Café is today, and a windmill and water tank used for the trains stood in the lot next to the church.
Kenneth also remembers when two windmills and tanks provided the town with its water supply.
“A windmill with a big cypress tank stood between the mercantile and Dr. Brown’s office, and it furnished the north side of town with water.”
I didn’t understand where the other windmill and tank were located, but apparently somewhere on the other side of the road, servicing the south side with water.
The Gustine calaboose caught me off guard, I must admit. As many times as I have been in Gustine, I had never even seen the pitiful little rock 12 x 12 that once held those poor souls who needed locking up, mostly for drunk and disorderly. Although I was given a few names, I have chosen to omit those.
Continuing to the corner of the calaboose property, we found the overgrown site where once stood a men’s public restroom.
“Men’s? What about the women?” I asked.
Unable to contain his laughter, my dear friend sputtered, “Well, I guess women didn’t really come to town all that much…” making me join him in laughter even in my indignation!
We ended our day at the Union Cemetery where lie his parents as well as the wife that he still openly misses daily, the cemetery that he was once so active in maintaining.
And as for the rest of my notes, I’ll hold onto them for now since we’ve crossed too many trails already in this article.The bottom line is that we had a great day, and we’ve saved a bit more of days gone by for those who come after us.