Interviewed by Logan Wilson
May 8, 2014
WILSON: My name is Logan Wilson. Today is the eighth of May, 2014. I’m interviewing Mrs. Ensminger. This interview is sponsored by the Limestone County Historical Commission and is part of the Footprints of Times Past project. We appreciate Mrs. Ensminger’s contribution to this project. The next voice you hear will be hers. (moves recorder)
ENSMINGER: My name is Nora Ingram Ensminger, and I was born and raised in the Moss Springs community, which is about four miles east of Kosse. The Moss Springs community got its name from the Moss family who settled in Limestone County in the early 1800s about a mile and a half east of Kosse, on what is now Highway 7. Moss Springs is a creek that starts on the Moss property about half a mile north from Highway 7 and runs all the way northeast to Steele’s Creek. It’s a spring-fed creek with freshwater springs all the way from the beginning to the end, and it’s about the only creek in this part of the country that runs north.
That area had two schools at one time. There were twenty-five or thirty or more families that lived in the Moss Springs area. One of the schools was on Moss Springs Creek itself, about probably a mile from the original Moss property. There was another school which was on what is now Limestone County Road 707, and it was there until about 1945 or 1946. That building was basically cut half in two. Part of it is now the west annex of the First Methodist Church here in Kosse. The other part of it was moved into town and became a small church here in town. That school was probably three miles from Kosse. There’s a marker on 707 if you go all the way toward the end of 707 where it branches back to the north. There’s a marker there that says that was the site of the school, but that is incorrect. That is not where the school was. There were probably fifteen to twenty families that lived right in that area of what we called the Gunter Bottom, and that belonged to Mr. Macon Gunter who owned probably seven or eight hundred acres of land back in there.
Most of the families raised cotton and cattle and tomatoes and watermelons—those sort of crops. It was a very active community up until the war. And when the war came, everybody—the men all left and went to the military, and the rest of the people went to Houston or Dallas and went to work. That’s what really caused the community to kind of just die away. It didn’t have very many families left after that.
WILSON: The people moved away to work in defense plants and shipyards and that sort of thing?
ENSMINGER: Yes, most of them worked at the waterfronts down around Baytown and Texas City. We had several people—or two families here lost people in the explosion at Texas City when that happened. So there were just a lot of people left here without men to help, and the women left and had to find jobs other places. We lived in the Moss Springs community probably until the late 1950s, and we left from down there.
WILSON: Well, that’s interesting. When you first told me about that, I thought it was moss like grows on [the] side of a creek, but it was named after a family.
ENSMINGER: It was named after a family, the Moss family. They were basically one of the first families that settled in this area. They had hundreds of acres of land. The log cabin that they used to live in was still on the property up until a few years ago. I don’t know if it’s still there now. There was also—on their property was the Kosse brick plant. The first brick-making place in this area was on that land. They made brick and pottery and stuff like that out there.
WILSON: That was before the Groesbeck brick plant then, wasn’t it.
ENSMINGER: Yes, it was one of the first brick plants in this part of the country. When the railroad—Theodore Kosse was the engineer that built the railroad to here. This was the central turnaround for the railroad. When he built the railroad down here, then the communities out that way [Ensminger note: east of Kosse] basically died because people moved into town. All of the brick here in this area came from out there off of the Moss property.
WILSON: Well, I’ve heard that same story about many small communities. They grew up by the railroad or if the railroad happened to miss them, then they died away and people moved to where the railroad was.
ENSMINGER: Moss Springs community is also where Bob Wills was born. My great- grandmother had property that backed up to the Moss property, and my grandfather was about sixteen years old when Bob Wills was just four or five years old. His family—Bob Wills’s family, they were sharecroppers also and they lived about a half a mile from my grandfather. Back then, people would help each other with their crops. When Papaw’s family would be helping the Wills family with their crop, then he would babysit Bob Wills. And then years later, when Bob Wills used to come to Geneva Hall in Waco, Papaw and Michael Foshee, who was a musician—you know, a really good fiddle player from here in town—they would go to Waco and see him. So Bob Wills was born in the Moss Springs area.
WILSON: I did not know that. That’s pretty cool. You was talking about people helping each other. They don’t do much of that anymore, do they?
ENSMINGER: No. No, when we would get through—we were all raised in, you know, working in the fields and cotton and tomatoes and watermelons, corn, all that kind of stuff. When we would get our work done in our part of the field, we would go help other people get theirs and they’d do the same with us.
WILSON: That’s pretty good.
ENSMINGER: They just—they helped each other.
WILSON: Did you ever pick cotton?
ENSMINGER: I picked cotton, chopped cotton, (laughs) pulled cotton. Did everything you could do to cotton. (laughs)
WILSON: How many pounds could you pick a day?
ENSMINGER: Not much. I wasn’t a very good cotton picker. I could get up to about two hundred, but one of our neighbors, the Wrights, they had four boys. One of them, Ben— he was a twin. Ben and Bill. Bill Wright lives in Mexia right now. His twin, Ben, his daddy would tell him, “When you get four hundred, you can go home for the day.” About three o’clock we’d see Ben going toward home, and all the rest of us just working like heck to try to get a little bit of cotton. (laughs)
WILSON: Well, I forget the term. There’s two ways to harvest cotton. There was picking it and then what?
ENSMINGER: Pulling it. When you pick it, you take the cotton out of the burr. When you pull it, you pull the burr and all.
WILSON: Well, you could pull a lot more than you can pick, then, couldn’t you?
ENSMINGER: Yes. Yes, you sure could.
WILSON: And then you were a two-hundred-pound-a-day person?
ENSMINGER: Picker. (both laugh)
WILSON: Well, you said y’all had a garden and raised your own stuff. I guess you put it up too?
ENSMINGER: Oh yes, we raised all of our vegetables. When the garden came in, that’s what my mother and my grandmother and all of us did, was can our food for the rest of the year.
WILSON: That was a busy time of year, wasn’t it?
ENSMINGER: Yes, it was. Everything comes in at the same time, so we were busy.
WILSON: Nowadays, people freeze it if they do anything.
ENSMINGER: Yes, uh-huh. But we didn’t have freezers, so we had to can it in jars, you know.
WILSON: Yeah. Well, there was a time when they actually did it in cans, wasn’t it?
ENSMINGER: We never did cans.
WILSON: Put it in jars?
ENSMINGER: We never did cans. That’s a whole different process.
WILSON: What kind of animals did you have?
ENSMINGER: Animals? Oh, we had pigs and chickens and cattle, horses.
WILSON: Y’all were about self-sufficient, weren’t you?
ENSMINGER: Yes. Everybody was back then.
WILSON: Nowadays, a lot of people opt not to work.
ENSMINGER: That’s right.
WILSON: That’s a shame. That’s a shame. Times are different now, aren’t they?
ENSMINGER: Sure are. But there’s quite a few people that have moved back into that part of the country down there. The last five or six years, people from other places—you know, Houston, places like that—have come in and bought property back in there and live back there now. So it’s grown a little bit in the last few years.
WILSON: Is there anything left of Moss Springs that was there then that—(ed. note: Ensminger seems to shake her head no) it’s all gone now?
ENSMINGER: It’s all gone except—everything is gone that I know of, except maybe the old house that my grandmother and grandfather lived in. It’s still standing barely. But the schools—both those schools are gone. There’s nothing that was there back then.
WILSON: You mentioned a log cabin that the Moss family lived in, and I think you said you didn’t know [whether] it was still standing or not.
ENSMINGER: I don’t know if it’s still standing or not, but it’s right out here on Highway 7 right across from where the Kosse Corral Steakhouse used to be. It’s on the left side of the road and it belongs to Mrs. Lee Weihrich, and she has—she lives in a brick house and the log house was back behind that. I don’t know if it’s still on that property or not.
WILSON: You remember anything else about Moss Springs that you might tell us, or is that about it?
ENSMINGER: That’s about all I can remember, you know.
WILSON: Well, that happened to a lot of small communities. In this case it was the war that was—pull the people away. Better jobs—
ENSMINGER: Yeah, Kosse sent more men to World War II than any town in the United States per capita. That’s a matter of congressional record.
WILSON: I have heard that. I have heard that.
ENSMINGER: Our cemeteries here are full of military.
WILSON: That’s something to be proud of. We’d like to avoid it, but that’s something to be proud of. Well, I’m going to ask you a question, and you’ve been here long enough to answer it, I know. Mrs. Ensminger, if you had one thing to tell the young people of today—one thing—what would that be?
ENSMINGER: That would be to learn how to be self-sufficient like we were, to learn how to work, to learn how to feed yourself, how to grow food, how to take care of your family. You know, we didn’t have—we didn’t go to the doctor every time we got sick or something. My grandmother or somebody in the community would come give you a home remedy or take care of you or something, and people need to learn how to do that again.
WILSON: You’d be surprised how many people give that same answer. Or maybe you wouldn’t be.
ENSMINGER: One of these days, these electric grids that we have are going to go down, and people are going to need to know how to get by.
WILSON: Well, ma’am, I think we’d be back in the Stone Age if that happened because people have lost the knowledge of that time.
ENSMINGER: That’s right.
WILSON: I’m one of the few people I know that even raise a garden. And people that haven’t done that, they don’t know how to do it.
ENSMINGER: But you’re of the older generation. The younger generation, they don’t know how to do any of that. If they can’t go to the store and buy it, or get it off the computer or off the telephone, then they don’t know how to do it.
WILSON: It wouldn’t take a war; it would just take the grid going down.
ENSMINGER: That’s right.
end of interview