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Across the Fence was a weekly feature from the Hamilton Herald News written by Arvord Abernethy. This is a compilation of several Christmas pieces by Abernethy. — DH

Memories are wonderful things to possess, if they are pleasant ones. It seems that the farther we travel down this life way, the more we look into our rear view mirror.

The memories of Christmas season probably stay with a person more than any others, as it was at that time of the year we would have our fondest dreams. Not only would there be thoughts of the toys we wished Santa would bring, but there would be school and church programs, and most of all a family Christmas dinner at Grandmother’s.

Some time before Christmas, out teacher would make the outlines of holly leaves and berries and Santa Clauses with her jelly pan, and we would get to color them during drawing class. We would then glue all the leaves and berries together to make a wreath to put in each of the classroom windows. The Santas found a place along the top of the blackboard.

The first Christmas tree I remember was when I was in the second grade. Out in western Oklahoma you hardly got to see a tree, much less a Christmas tree. The teachers found a dead peach tree and covered all of the limbs with cotton, and to me it was beautiful. We had drawn names in class and all of us had put in a nickel to buy the teacher a present, so the last day before the holidays was a high day in our lives.

Christmas at home was also a time of anticipation and good times. It had been a year since any of us had received a toy of any kind, so anything we received found a glad welcome. No one out there had a fireplace, as there were no trees for wood, so we would imagine that the sewing machine looked like a fireplace and would hang our stockings on it. The next morning they would be filled with an apple, an orange and candy and nuts.

One year one of my brothers received a fire truck and one of the ladders was missing. Dad suggested that Santa might have lost when he came through the yard gate. We ran out there and sure enough it was there, and the reality of a Santa was strongly fixed in our minds.

There is a lot of difference in toys then and now. A rubber ball or a top was about as mechanical as anything you got. A little red wagon would have wheels that would turn. If a girl got a doll that would close her eyes when she was laid down, she got the latest in mechanical development.

Have you noticed what kind of toys and games they are advertising this year? Many of them have little computer units in them. They say those units are about the size of your thumb nail, but can do nearly as much as a human brain can do. The units are called chips. We had chips when I was a kid, but it was something you got out in the cow pasture to burn in the stove.  Them wuz the good ole days.

My sincere wish for each of you is that you will find the true peace and joy that Christ came to bring on that first Christmas Day.

If you need something to get you into the true mood for Christmas, attend the singing of the cantata “The Glory of Christmas” at the First Baptist Church on Wednesday, December 17, and Sunday, December 21, at 7 p.m.

Over 40 adult singers from different churches are in the choir along with a children’s choir.

This is a very spirited piece of music that you will enjoy and get your Christmas off to a good start.

If you happened to look to the eastern sky after five o’clock last Tuesday evening, the fourth, you saw a sight that seldom occurs–three stars (I should say planets were real close together with the old man in the moon standing nearby.

At the top was Jupiter, the largest of the planets, large enough to swallow 1,300 earths.  Next in line was Saturn, the one that wears the hula hoops around its waist, the largest one being 170,000 miles in diameter. Next was Venus, brightest of all planets due to the reflective quality of its surface.  Since Venus was named after the goddess of love and beauty, why shouldn’t she be the brightest?

The waining moon stood nearby, but had his back turned to the beauties as though eh was a little embarrassed to be in such famous company.

Wish I had time to drop by and wish to each of you the merriest of Merry Christmases. Remember that feeling of happiness we had at Christmas time when we were kids? May you find it again this year.

We often measure the happiness of Christmas by the number of gifts we receive. Some of the dearest gifts we receive are not always wrapped in colorful paper and fancy bows which will soon be tossed in the wastebasket, but may be wrapped in a warm, friendly smile and greeting or a sincere handclasp.

A small gift you may receive, and you can also give, yet is measureless in value, will be those three little words, “I Love You”, when wrapped in the arms of the giver. Another gift suggestion: a few “Thank Yous” all wrapped and tied with sincerity will let others know of your appreciation of kindnesses and favors of the past year. It might be appropriate to wrap an “I’m sorry” in a package of love and give to someone. The joy could be boundless.

Many of you have had a cloud of sorrow to darken your blue skies during the past year, but may it have passed away to where you can feel the warmth and brightness of the Son-the Son of God, whose birthday we are celebrating.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

ACROSS THE FENCE

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There will be a business meeting and a memorial service at the Murphree Cemetery on Sunday, April 26 at 2 p.m. Yearly dues are $6 per grave or empty space.

For more information about dues and memorial or endowment contributions leave a comment.

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An historical marker will be unveiled and dedicated on Sunday, April 19, at 2 p.m. at the home built by Col. George R. Freeman on the corner of Main and College streets–immediately west of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Hamilton.

The marker will commemorate the builder of the house, Col. George R. Freeman (1830-1910), who was a Confederate officer during the Civil War.

The Texas Historical Commission places historical markers and designations as tools to be used to interpret, promote and protect historic and cultural resources that are worthy of preservation.

On June 11, 1865, in Austin, Col. Freeman interrupted the robbery of the Texas State Treasury preventing bankruptcy of Texas.

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Pictured are brothers Danny and Mikel Craig installing the steeple.

Pictured are brothers Danny and Mikel Craig installing the steeple.

This Sunday April 5th, Providence Baptist Church will dedicate their new steeple during the 11 am worship service. The church is also providing a fellowship lunch after the morning services. The steeple was installed in January. Funds for the steeple were provided by an anonymous donor.

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Dry Fork  School
Dry Fork School

Dry Fork Community was about a mile northeast  of Olin Baptist Church between Turkey Branch and Dry Fork Creek.   Dry Fork of Honey Creek was a small branch of Honey Creek northeast of Olin.  Dry Fork Creek begins east of Olin and is parallel to US281 until it reaches Honey Creek north of CR 207.  It is near what is now County Road 239 and between CR206 and CR207. It is about thirteen miles north of Hamilton.

Dry Fork was one of the earliest schools in Hamilton County being organized in 1880 by the people of the community who built a log building to house the school and donated money to employ a teacher. Dry Fork was northeast of Olin on the Dry Fork of Honey Creek. near what is now County Road 239 and between CR206 and CR207.. It is about thirteen miles north of Hamilton.

Citizens of the Dry Fork School Community have included: Garland and Minnie Ables, Murrell and Daphna Ables, T. J. and Minnie Box, Elmer and Myrtle Bullard, D. C. and Alice Bullard, James P. Columbus, Lewis and Sarah Columbus, Jesse J. and Mattie Douglas, Giles and Emma Driver, Henry Giles and Mary Driver, B. W. Greer, M. R. Hedgpeth, Mr. and Mrs. Alvin Hicks, G. W. and Ila Hicks, Mr. and Mrs. Tom Johns, John and Susan Latham, Ed and Maybell Lively, O. D. and Emma Montgomery, W. E. and Virgie Needham, Mr. and Mrs. J. J. Seago, John and Mattie A. Smith, W. C. and Vienna Stark, Reuben Anthony and Sophia Jean Bullard Trantham, Robert Erwin and Rosa Ann Gallagher Gordon, Sr., and M. A. Vann. Jim Columbus, with his parents, came to the Dry Fork Community in 1880.

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HAMILTON, the county seat of Hamilton County, is the oldest town in the county. The legislation which created Hamilton County

also specified that the site of the countyseat must be located near the center of the county. The Legislature named the county for General James Hamilton, a former governor of South Carolina. Gen. James Hamilton died before the county was created.

Hamilton County, located in Central Texas, is actually the second county named Hamilton in Texas; however, it is the only Hamilton County to be organized as such. Both counties were named to honor Gen. James Hamilton for his participation in the financial support of the Republic of Texas. The first Hamilton County was created 2 February, 1842, by the Sixth Congress of the Republic of Texas. The Sixth Congress passed an act to divide Montgomery and Houston Counties in southeast Texas so that two additional counties would be created for “judicial and other purposes.”   “It included the north half of what is now Walker County, the east portion of Madison County, and parts of Houston, Trinity, and Polk counties; Cincinnati was made the county seat. Hamilton County was abolished by the Spring Session of the Texas Supreme Court in the Stockton v. Montgomery decision which declared judicial counties created by the Texas Congress were unconstitutional.”- -Oran Jo Pool, Nov. 19, 1954

Sixteen years later, on January 22, 1858, what is now Hamilton County was sliced from Comanche, Bosque, and Lampasas Counties by the Legislature of the State of Texas. The county was organized August 2, 1858, and the county seat of Hamilton was soon surveyed. Only one family, the Ezekiel “Zeke” Manning family, lived at the site selected for the town of Hamilton. Mrs. Manning was the first white woman ever to spend a night in Hamilton. The Mannings from Perry County, MO, had arrived in 1855 in an ox cart and initially camped at the site now occupied by St. Mary’s Episcopal Church. Mr. Manning built a “tavern” on the southwest corner of the square (now the at the intersection of HWY 281 and HWY 36. The square had not been laid off, and there was a big chaparral thicket where the courthouse now stands. Mr. Manning helped organize the county of which he was the first sheriff being appointed by Governor Sam Houston. Also appointed were

  • Chief Justice (County Judge)–James Monroe Rice
  • County Commissioner–Henry C. Standefer, and
  • County Clerk–Isaac Skelton Standefer.

The first elected county officials on 2 August, 1858, were:

  • Chief Justice (County Judge)–James Monroe Rice
  • Sheriff–Ezekiel Manning
  • County Treasurer–Jesse J. Griffith
  • Assessor and Collector–R. B. Griffith
  • County Clerk–Isaac Skelton Standefer.
  • County Commissioners–Henry C. Standefer and Noah Crisco

Isaac Standefer issued the first marriage license in Hamilton County to Joel Baggett and Emily J. Ferrell.

Most of the inhabitants of the new county lived on the Leon River near what is now known as the Evergreen community and they wanted the county seat to be located at the site of the future Rock House near the Leon River. Fear of losing Priddy, Center City, and the western part of the county contributed to the acceptance of a more centrally located site. In creating Hamilton County, the Texas Legislature had stipulated that both the county and the county seat would be named Hamilton, and that the town of Hamilton would be within five miles of the geographic center of the county.  Many of these people lived near Pulltight, which was also called Old Hamilton.

M. McIlhaney offered sixty acres of land “beginning at a point where the Burch hotel now stands and extending to the F. C. Williams home, and from the Presbyterian Church street [College Street–across the street from and south of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church] to where the railroad tract now runs on the east [Railroad Street.] This was the edge of the timberland, and the beginning of the prairie.”

Severe droughts in 1856 and in 1858 increased the hardships and dangers faced by the first brave souls who ventured into the soon-to-be Hamilton County. In 1877 frosts occurred every month with the exception of July and August.  The frost on 10 June, 1877, killed all of the corn crops.  There was no rain in Hamilton County in 1886, and none in 1887 until August. The years of 1917,  1918, and 1950 also brought a drought to Hamilton County. The drought of the 1950’s was broken with the flood in Hamilton on May, 1957.

By 1871 residents on the Leon River were pressing for the county seat to be moved to the Leon River. On 31 January, 1871, a petition was sent to the state legislature on behalf of both the county and the town of Hamilton to leave the county seat where it was. If the county seat were moved, it would have been ten miles from the center of the county instead of four miles north of the county’s midpoint.

Also in 1871–July 17, that the first District Court was organized in Hamilton County. J. P. Ousterhout, was the first Judge of the 34th Judicial District. James B. Boyd was district attorney; Isaac Hollingsworth Steen was district clerk, and Capt. Frederick Browder Gentry was foreman of the grand jury.

Dangers from Indian attacks prevailed through the 1870’s.

In 1881 the residents of Hamilton County learned that the State Legislature was considering forming a new county from the counties of Hamilton, Lampasas, Comanche, and Brown. Both the Commissioners Court and the citizens of the county sent petitions opposing the loss of any Hamilton County land to a new county. Despite the protests Mills County was organized 15 March, 1887, from the above named counties. Before Mills County was formed, the citizens of the southern portion of Hamilton County had become disgruntled with being so far from the countyseat. After the courthouse burned 2 February, 1886, these citizens petitioned for an election to consider relocating the county seat to “Pegtown,” a proposed town eight miles south of Hamilton near Shive. To preserve Hamilton as the countyseat of Hamilton County, the Commissioners Court negotiated with the residents along the southern border of the county to move the Hamilton County line north seven miles from Sims Creek south of Center City to McGirk.

Following the flood in Hamilton in May, 1957, a series of reservoirs were built around Hamilton to control future flood situations. — ECW

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Circa 2003 by Rev. David Keith

Circa 2003 by Rev. David Keith

On Saturday before the fourth Sunday in March, 1878, Carlton Baptist Church was organized. T. M. Byers was the moderator and J. M. Evans was church clerk. The first pastor was Rev. R. M. Cumbie and the first deacons were Dewey Pierce, J. A. Rowland, Martin Jones, and Joe Hicks. J. A. Rowland was the first Sunday School superintendent.

Charter members were F. M. and Mary Carlton, R. M. and Mollie Cumbie, W. J. and Nancy Hicks, J. M. and S. J. Evans, J. R. and Martha J. Nix, J. P. Nix, C. A. Miller, James Nix, Callie Center, William Miller, Bettie Smith, James S. Carlton, Cynthia Pierce, Drewry Pierce, Nancy Pierce, Napoleon Pierce, Penelope McCarty, and James S. McCarty.

R. M. Cumbie was born 1 January, 1849, in Barber County, AL.  Converted at the age of 20, he was baptized by D. B. Burt into the Damascus Church.  He came to Texas in 1870 and was licensed by Concord Church of Henderson County.  Cumbie was ordained by Carlton Baptist Church on the third Sunday of November, 1881.

Carlton Baptist Church was admitted to the Comanche Baptist Association prior to 2 September, 1881, when Carlton hosted the Comanche Baptist Annual meeting.

No rain fell in Hamilton County from January, 1886, until August 31, 1887; hence severe drought conditions prevailed.  The Saturday morning session of the Comanche Association  in September, 1887 adjourned to the river bank for a baptismal service.  Sixteen of those baptized were from Carlton.

On 3 December, 1885, R. M. Cumbie, Drewry Pierce, H. L. Lynch, J. E. Stringer, J. H. Everett, and J. T. Cumbie, Trustees of Carlton Baptist Church purchased for ten dollars from W. C. Murphree and wife, D. A. Murphree, a tract of land on which to build a church house.

The first church was a one room structure. Carlton Baptist Church was admitted into the Hamilton County Baptist Association on 14 August, 1891.

Interior of the auditorun taken around 1997.

Interior of the worship center taken around 1997.

Early pastors were:

  • J. H. Vinson, 1891–1895
  • J. H. Cunningham, 1896–1897
  • J. T. Beam, 1898–1899
  • T. P. Speakman, 1901

Early church clerks were:

  • J. C. Finley, 1891-1900
  • W. McKenzie–1901

Early messengers to the annual association meeting were:

  • 1891–W. Graham, F. M. Richburg
  • 1892–W. Graham, J. W. Porter, F. M. Richburg, James Wilson McKenzie
  • 1893–J. H. Vinson, A. Boatwright, F. M. Richburg
  • 1894–J. N. Adams, J. W. Richburg
  • 1895–Warren Graham, James Wilson McKenzie, J. N. Adams, B. G. Richbourg, J. H. Vinson, J. W. Porter, Randolph Hunter “Randall” Gibson
  • 1896–F. M. Richbourg, J. C. Finley, Warren Graham, J. W. Porter, Randolph Hunter “Randall” Gibson
  • 1897–A. L. Fisher, James Wilson McKenzie, A. G. Bingham, Rev. Warren Graham
  • 1898–James Wilson McKenzie, R. Adams, V. B. Mitchell, J. M. Adams, Sisters Lou Mitchell and Orelia McKenzie
  • 1899–Revs. Randolph Hunter “Randall” Gibson, J. T. Beam, Warren Graham, and Brethren J. M. Adams, James Wilson McKenzie, F. M. Richbourg, W. S. Fisher
  • 1900–James Wilson McKenzie, Rev. Warren Graham, J. A. Rowland, Sister Orelia McKenzie
  • 1901–J. T. Gibson, James Wilson McKenzie, J. A. Rowland, J. W. Richbourg, Randolph Hunter “Randall” Gibson, M. L. Gibson

A new church building was completed in September, 1917 by J. L. Thompson. This was the last building Mr Thompson built before his death. The first couple married in the new church were Rev. Clarence Allen Morton and Miss Hallie Adams. The baptistry was added in 1945. On 25 October, 1953, an educational building was dedicated. The parsonage was remodeled in 1977.

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