Wood County historians, Bill Jones and Sue Hamm, presented the program at Thursday night's Hopkins
County Genealogical Society Meeting, on the Ghost Town of Webster.
Genealogical Society Hears Program on
Ghost Town of Webster, Thursday Night
by: Bobby McDonald
Sue Hamm, the "self-proclaimed" Mayor of Webster, and Historian Bill Jones told the story
of Webster, that was by-passed by the railroad, but once was one of the major towns in
19th Century Northeast Texas.
It was a very informative program on the "Ghost Town" of Webster, located 4 miles southeast of Winnsboro, that was presented at Thursday night's Hopkins County Genealogical Society meeting. Some 50 members and guests heard the story about the small village that once boasted warehouses to store goods that were brought over the Jefferson Road to consumers in Northeast Texas area. Sue Hamm, who continues to live in the Webster community, where here family has lived for well over 100 years, and Wood County Historian and columnist for the Winnsboro News, Bill Jones, told how the town of Webster was once larger than Dallas and boasted cotton gins, warehouses, churches, the Mathews & Bradshaw General Store, as well as the Wood County #28 School.
"I was fortunate to have my father tell me stories about growing-up in the Webster Community, and then to be reared in the community myself," advised Sue Hamm. "Now, back in the 1950's and 1960's, when I was a child, I really didn't understand, like probably many of you, how fortunate I was to live out in the country! But, the older I get and the more I'm acquainted with the distinct history of the community of Webster, I realize how very fortunate I am to have the continuity of family and the 'roots' of this small piece of ground, on the earth!"
Hamm and her husband have dedicated themselves to helping preserve the history of the community and take care of the small community cemetery, that is located on their property.
This display of artifacts, including Caddo Indian pottery,
gave additional information on the Webster Community.
"One of the more notable people buried in the Webster Cemetery is Mary Ann Clements Mathews," related Bill Jones. "She is the niece of Samuel Clements or Mark Twain, that we all know as a famous writer!"
"Webster is located 12.5 miles north of Quitman, the county seat of Wood County, and was once a premier camping and trading village, on the Jefferson Road," continued Jones. "From Webster you traveled north to Clarksville and went south to the Belzora Landing, on the Sabine River, where many goods were delivered to pioneers in Northeast Texas."
Jones told the crowd that the Goldman and Ferguson families had large wholesale warehouses in Webster, where they stored goods, and began a thriving business, that eventually made them major wholesalers and retailers in Dallas and the U.S.
"The decline of the Webster Community began when the railroad came to Winnsboro and Cornersville in 1878 and by-passed Webster," denoted Jones. "Without a railroad outlet, the community residents began locating business where they had access to the railroad."
However, Hamm denoted that farmers in the community continued to raise first cotton, and later coastal bermuda grass to maintain the rich soils around the community, and when oil was discovered in the area in 1945, it offered more promise to the residents who lived in Webster. "Today, you'll find a few families who continue to raise cattle and hay on their property in what was once a thriving community," expressed Hamm. "We've moved my grandparent's house, the Craddock house, to our property and restored it much as it was when it was built in 1915!"
Following more presentations on the Caddo Indian connections to the community and even some pottery samples that have been "uncovered" in the area, a number of questions were asked by those present, on Thursday night.
One interesting note was that the Cornersville area of Hopkins County, north of Webster, at one time had a distinct "white clay" that pottery was made from, in Northeast Texas. The clay pits are still located in the area, where this clay was dug and made into vessels.
From a "bustling" community prior to and after the Civil War, Genealogical Society members learned about the almost forgotten community of Webster, on Thursday night, and were challenged to learn even more about the Eastern part of Hopkins County.
Genealogical Society President, Ronny Glossup, conducted additional business, at Thursday night's
monthly Society meeting.
Other business attended at the Thursday night meeting of the Hopkins County Genealogical Society included a plea from Jim Thompson, with the Hopkins County Veteran's Memorial Committee, to solicit stories about veterans from Hopkins County to be included in the memorial. Thompson also told members that the plans now are to have the Hopkins County Veteran's Memorial completed by July 4, 2012 or by Veteran's Day 2012 for a dedication ceremony. They have already collected over 6000 names to go on the memorial and are asking for everyone to submit names that are not on the data base, as quickly as the can. The data base can be viewed at www.hcvm.org.
Hopkins County Genealogical Society President, Ronny Glossup, also conducted the officers election for 2012, after hearing the recommendations from the nominating committee. New officers will be installed at the December meeting of the Society, when they conduct their annual Christmas Party and fun auction!