"Shackelford County Memories"

Dedicated to those who remember Shackelford County as "home"

Thanks to the wonderful people listed below
who shared their memories with us.

MEMORIES FROM  Willie DeWitt Hightower

Willie as a school girl in the 1920s.

My name is Willie DeWitt Hightower. I was born January 10, 1910, on the DeWitt homeplace (more recently Weir) just east of Moran, TX. My father, George DeWitt, died of typhoid fever a few months before I was born and my mother, Martha Ella, was left with seven daughters to raise. My sisters were Maude, Loraine, Jessie, Mary, Georgia and Thelma. When I was about 10 years old, my grandfather, Charles, came to live with us for awhile. He like to fish and read a lot. I didn't know until 1998 that he had served in the Confederate Army, he never spoke of it.

We had a fruit and vegetable garden. Part of the land was in cultivation. Cotton was the main crop and one portion was in grain for the cattle. Someone would come in with a binder and cut the row crops. In our case, a widow with seven children, people just did it as a neighborly gesture. They would come by and do some plowing for my mother. My sisters and I would work those crops until harvest time, hoeing and such.

Our neighbors were the Garlitz family, the Brooks family, the Cannons, the Harrises, the Cottles, and the Chaneys. We had such good neighbors then and everyone visited on a regular basis. When someone came to visit, they always brought a jar of jelly or maybe a cake recipe. It was always a special occasion when someone came to visit with us or when we visited with someone else. That was our main entertainment in those days. We all stuck together and helped each other out any way we could.

We didn't go to town often because we had to walk. We did have a horse and buggy but it was only used on special occasions. We did walk to school though. When we went to town, we would buy a few staple groceries. Gene Oyler and Mrs. Townsend had the store. I remember the Publix Cafe and imagine a lot of "deals" were transacted over those good home cooked meals. At one time, there was Edwards Bakery and an ice house (Mr. Freeman). Earl Goodman had a blacksmith shop. We would pass there on our way to school and we liked to watch him beating on the horseshoes. Mote Freeman had a small grocery store and he would buy eggs, butter and other produce from local folks and re-sell it.

We had Dr. Leech and Dr. Brittain. They were the doctors who made the house calls and they came in a horse and buggy to the house. Lots of times doctors were so busy making housecalls that people called on Aunt Lou Harris to come. She delivered babies and was really good when anyone had sickness. It seemed like she always knew what to do. But people back then weren't always sick as they are now. We didn't have all of the stomach viruses and such.

We had a telephone operator in Moran named Slim. I never knew her real name. She lived in an apartment over the bank. When there was a fire, everyone called her to see what was going on. She was a real bureau of information.

There was a gentleman named Mr. Brewster who would kill a beef in the fall and he would let everyne know ahead of time. He would come around in his little wagon with the beef covered up with a white sheet. He sold it quickly so it didn't go bad.

Derah Ward had the hardware store. They had nearly everything if you could find it (laugh).

I remember the oil boom in Ibex very well. Sometimes the roads were so muddy that they had to come through our place to get to Ibex. They had huge wagons pulled by draft horses, I believe they call them Percheons. The wagons were loaded with pipe and supplies for the wells. That's when they were drilling deep wells. I don't know how they ever got the wagons out when they were stuck since they were so full of heavy equipment and supplies.

There was a train that came through Moran. I believe it was the MK&T (Missouri, Kansas and Texas). It came through about 4 in the evening and everyone who was in town would go to meet the train to see who got off and who got on. Sometimes there were businessmen coming and they carried attache cases. It was a real social event.




A Great Granny's Story of the Depression Years

My name is Willie DeWitt Hightower. I was born January 10, 1910, in Moran, Shackelford County, Texas. Matt Whitmire, my great-grandson, was asked to do a school project in order to learn more about the Great Depression of the 1930's. He decided to interview me, his "Great Granny", since I lived through those years. 

<Matt> Where did you live during the Depression?

<Willie> I lived in Moran, Tx, a small farming community.  I was also born there.

<Matt> Were you married in the beginning of the depression?

<Willie> No, not in the beginning.

<Matt> Tell me something about how it was then.

<Willie> Well, it was different in Texas than it was in the industrial areas. People lived on their farms, there was no industry. Everyone worked on the farm, no one had a job as we know it today. We raised cotton and feed for our cows, milk cows, and work horses.

<Matt> What did you do for fun?

<Willie> People would come to visit and spend the afternoon, they would bring their crochet and we would visit. Women didn't work then. There were a few jobs in town, like the bank and the post office. There was no place for women to work.

<Matt> What did men do for fun?

<Willie> They would meet once in a while and talk. They had a town baseball team. There were a lot of church socials, there were no school buses; if you lived in the country, you either walked or rode in a buggy.

<Matt> Where did you live in the depression?

<Willie> In Moran. I met my husband during the depression.

<Matt> What did you do for food?

<Willie> We just really went on as usual. We raised our own fruit and vegetables. If there was something that we did not have, we would trade something with the neighbors. If company came, they would bring something, maybe a jar of jelly. The Cannon family would walk to our house through the field, and usually bring dress patterns.

<Matt> Tell me more.

<Willie> My sister's husband was a deputy sheriff. We cooked for the prisoners in the Albany jail and sent the food up on a dumb waiter.

<Matt> How long did you live in Albany?

<Willie> We didn't live there too long after we got married, we then went to Odessa, Tx. It was about 1937 or before. We went to Odessa because there was an oil boom. A lot of people were going there to work. My husband went to work in a small grocery store. There was no place to live, no houses, nothing.  People put up tents, they were all around in town. They had no city laws at that time. They were almost downtown, but then Odessa was no city. They had wooden floors in them and were walled up with screen flaps. It was awful when the wind and sand got to blowing. I had a gas range and it was partitioned off. I had a little dining room table with four chairs. I had a nice radio, real pretty. We had no running water; we went to Odessa to get our water. We had a car, it was a Chevrolet. Things were usually high in a oil town. We got a bag of potatoes for 19 cents. The grocery stores were fighting each other. A lot of families were in the same town with us. We had friends who lived in a tent, we made some good friends from Mena, Arkansas. So for fun, we just socialized, that's all there was to do. We lived in a tent city for less than a year. We moved into an apartment, then I went home to have my daughter.

<Matt> How did the people in town survive?

<Willie> Only the people who had jobs in town, lived in town. Banks went broke, some businesses went out. We hardly ever got candy until we took a bale of cotton to town. The place to be during the depression was on the farm. The oil business helped pull us out of the Depression; that was the best thing that ever happened to Texas.

<Matt> Did you ever go hungry?

<Willie> Never went hungry, we never had money, but no one did, so you didn't feel bad about it. The people in town who had grocery stores let you have groceries on credit until you sold a calf, cotton, or wheat. If you sold any grain or anything else, you paid off your grocery bill first. Sometimes we would trade eggs for something else. Until the oil business came along, there was no big money. There were lots of ranches. We never went hungry and I didn't know of anyone who did. I remember when people killed their cattle and buried them because the cattle weren't bringing any prices. That was a government regulation to bring prices up. When the depression started, my family consisted of my mother and seven daughters. We had no tractors, so we would hitch up a mule and do the work. President Roosevelt started theWPA and the CC camps. They built rock fences and made improvements in communities, parks, and places like that. That gave the young people something to do for employment. It really wasn't that bad for us although things were pretty tight. We got along fine and I guess it didn't take much to make us happy then. We were really never aware of the magnitude of what was going on until there was a "passing," that is to say, someone coming from the great cities to tell the stories.

Memories from William Arthur Burns, Jr.

 I was born in Albany in the corner house, southwest corner of the intersection of South 2nd Street and South Jacobs Street, the northeast corner of that block, on September 1, 1920. I was delivered by a Dr Murrie. My father, Dr William Arthur Burns, was also a Medical Doctor who had graduated from Anson High School as valdictorian and got his medical education at Baylor Medical School, two years in Dallas and the University of Louisville in Kentucky, two years, graduating from Medical School in 1913. After graduating in 1913, he worked for the State of Kentucky in a sanitorium for children, since his older brother had contracted tuberculosis at "A and M" College and was still alive in Post, Texas. He volunteered his medical services in 1917 when the US entered WWI, coming home to Texas to volunteer for the 36th Division, A Texas and Oklahoma Division.

My father's name was William Arthur Burns (1890-1929), as I have stated, and my name is William Arthur Burns, II (1920-?). My father was born in Temple, Texas and moved to a Jones County ranch at a higher altitude when his brother was found to have TB. After WWI, my father interned at Riverside Hospital in pediatrics in New York City where one of his duties was to teach a class of nurses in Queen's Hospital. There he met my mother, Edith Blanche Jennings, RN (1892-1971). They married in October, 1919 at the "Little Church Around the Corner" in New York City.

In the meantime, my father's older brother, Hayden Burns and his wife, Lorena Webb Burns, died in November, 1918, in the same week in Post, Texas in the great influenza epidemic of 1918. Hayden and Lorena left three orphan children, Mary Elva, 7, Robert Webb, 5 and Dorris, 1. My grandfather, Robert Emmett Burns (1863-1953), in his fifties feared that he and my grandmother, Mary Lee (Mollie) O'Keeffe Burns (1867-1937) wouldn't live long enough to raise the three orphans, requested that my father, called Arthur, give up his study of pediatric medicine and move back to Texas to be backup caretaker for the three orphans.

My grandfather had moved from a ranch in Jones County, Texas to a small ranch in Shackelford County in 1914. The ranch is located about eight miles southeast of Albany on Highway 6. The ranch is on the east side of the highway and runs almost to Sedwick, five miles northwest of Moran. My grandfather's ranch had two flowing creeks on it, on the west end was the South Hubbard and on the east end was Deep Creek, in section 18, BOAL. Section 19 was dry but had a tank for water and a buffalo wallow on the eastern half of the section. Section 19 was divided in half by a north-south road we called the Sedwick Lane, now called Rice Lane. The Rice ranch was south of my grandfather's Sections 18 and 19. The "Sedwick Lane" ended at the south end of the Poindexter ranch, at a gate in the ranch's gate in their south fence.

Section 18 was homesteaded by the Pritchards and I could show you the dugout in which they first lived, that is, if I ever get back to Moran or Albany. My grandfather showed me the location of the dugout on the high, west bank of Deep Creek. Unfortunately, their dugout was used to dump trash by the subsequent owners of Section 18.

My father and mother moved from Albany in 1921 and from next door to Judge Dyess and his children, Edwin and Elizabeth Nell. We have a picture of Edwin and Elizabeth Nell Dyess with me learning to walk, in Albany. They moved to Webb Street in Moran, a half a block south the school complex on a one block long street. My father's office was above the Black Drug Store on the main street in Moran. My father had a two room office above the drug store and a laboratory farther back in the building. My father practiced medicine in Moran until he died in 1929, of peritonitis. Moran had a population of about 600 people and supported two doctors, the other being a Dr. Forrester. The town also supported a cotton gin, an oil field supply business and an ice making plant owned by I. Nicholson, and who also owned a short order cafe in the front of his ice plant. My father used to take me with him when he went to the cafe and had coffee. I used to spin around and around on the rounded top stools while my father drank his coffee. The ice plant/cafe was located about half way to the depot but on the north side of the main street. The railroad depot was on the south side of the main street and my father used to take me to the depot to watch the steam engines. When my father died in 1929, we buried him in the Moran Cemetery. My grandparents Burns and my mother are also buried there. My younger brother, Robert Emmett Burns, named for his grandfather, is buried in Baytown, Texas, and has a memorial stone in our burial plot in Moran.

Moran also had two drugstores, a hardware store owned by Herbie Ward, two or three dry goods store, owned by Oyler, one by Oscar Wise who at one time owned a grocery store, two feed stores, four or five grocery stores, one car dealer, Luttrel Chevrolet, two blacksmith shops, a weigh station for the cotton gin, a dairy and there was a Texaco pump station just off the Albany road and just north of Deep Creek. It was run by a German immigrant by the name of Weber.

Mr Weber used to take his son, Howard, and me seining in Deep Creek for red horse minnows, then to Moran Lake where we caught crappies until we ran out of bait.

Above the bank on main street there was the telephone office that had lines of operators and switchboards adjoining my father's offices to the east. Our home phone was on a party line and you had to turn a crank to get an operator and ask her to get you the number you wanted to call. It was embarrassing for people to call my father when they were ill.


Last Update Saturday, 19-Jan-2013 15:20:31 EST

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