Conducted by Logan Wilson
March 31, 2011
This is Logan Wilson; it’s March 31, 2011; I’m in the home of Mr. Jack Yeldell and he’s been kind enough to give us some of his time; his going to tell you a little bit about early days in Limestone County. The next voice you hear is going to be Mr. Yeldell. There we go.
Mr. Yeldell: I built this home out here seven years and then they come in and built Spanish Hill all around me by the new high school. But the old Yeldell home was across the street from the old high school. The Ross people, like Ross Avenue, they came in here in the 1850s with a group of people from Cotton Gin. The Reynolds and Millers and Pattons and Means, all them came in from Alabama.
Mr. Wilson: Did you go to school here?
Mr. Yeldell: I started to school out at New Hope. There was seven grades in one room and four grades in the other room. And I said, oh Aunt Lucretia, I went to a two-room school house out there. She said “it was one room when I went.” I think she might have went to the church. But then Mexia had the oil boom and Wortham and they got real big then. That’s all I went. Then Groesbeck done the same thing Mexia did. Built all these schools and streets. Then Mexia, Groesbeck built a big school down there. Just like Mexia did. One thing about history; it always repeats itself.
Mr. Wilson: It does, doesn’t it. It sure does. You remember the oil boom?
Mr. Yeldell: No, I was born in ’27. I worked in the oil fields around here. Roustabout. And my grandmother had three gushers, my grandmother Callam? had three gushers on her seven acres up there at Wortham.
Mr. Wilson: Do you remember the depression?
Mr. Yeldell: Oh, I really remember and the depression here didn’t let up till 1939 when they built this overpass in Wortham between Mexia. First work people could get was pushing a wheelbarrow building that. And now they really built a nice overpass there.
Mr. Wilson: What was it like getting through that depression?
Mr. Yeldell: Boy, hungry. I swore, we lost our farm. Bank come there and took our farms. My aunt saved it. She paid, it was mortgaged two or three times more it was worth. And we moved down to Kirvin and I swore I’d never eat another sweet potato or black eyed pea. We ate ‘em three times a day during that. I believe I had a sister born during that depression, six people in the family and we went to pay our grocery bill, I think, it could have been when we got the first bale of cotton but for the year fifty something dollars, six people, grocery bill, think of that. And I never, never, never want to see another depression.
Mr. Wilson: No, sir.
Mr. Yeldell: Not like that.
Mr. Wilson: How do you feel about sweet potatoes and black-eyed peas now?
Mr. Yeldell: I like ‘em. I raise ‘em now and I like ‘em. But if you ate T-bone steak only three times day.
Mr. Wilson: You’d get tired of it.
Mr. Yeldell: Oh, I guarantee you would. And things here were tough until 1939, world war II is what broke the depression.
Mr. Wilson: Yeah, it sure was, it sure was.
Mr. Yeldell: And these young people, I tell ‘em they may get to see another depression, too, around here. And on work, they would tell us that eight people standing outside that gate wanting your job; these jobs at McDonalds and stuff, they’ll be standing in line trying to get one of ‘em, too. That’s bad.
Mr. Wilson: I always ask everybody, if you had one thing to say to the young people today what would it be.
Mr. Yeldell: Get a good education and learn you a good trade. Get an education and serve the Lord. Go to church.
Mr. Wilson: Get a good education, serve the Lord and work.
Mr. Yeldell: And work, work. And don’t be too good to do any type of work. I’m talking about in these oil patches or working on any, you’re not too good to do any type.
Mr. Wilson: You know, everybody I ask has given me the same answer. Mr. Plummer, Mr. York, everybody has given me that same answer when I ask then that question. That’s amazing.
Mr. Yeldell: Yep, I, Edwin and I graduated together and his daughter and I graduated. There still friends; still visit.
Mr. Wilson: Yeah, there’re good people, aren’t they?
Mr. Yeldell: Good, wonderful people, wonderful people. Now my Longbotham people were up here at Wortham when the Plummer’s were out here at the fort. And those Plummers, people in that fort out there were ‘ole foot-washing, primitive Baptist—primitive.
Mr. Wilson: Primitive Baptist. How did the, in your recollection, how did World War II affect the people
in Limestone County.
Mr. Yeldell: The greatest thing that ever happened. The greatest. Put people to work.
Mr. Wilson: Put ‘em to work.
Mr. Yeldell: Put people, put ‘em to work. I worked in the textile mill, the Mexia textile mill made these tents and stuff until they caught ‘em doctoring it, using west Texas cotton instead the good cotton here and then they … And the state school is the finest thing that ever came to help this town. And I wonder how many people think to thank Jimmy Blair, who was in with the politicians and Raymond Dillard who helped them get that state school out there.
Mr. Wilson: That was a prisoner of war camp before it was a state school, wasn’t it? Do you remember that?
Mr. Yeldell: Yep. My dad worked out there.
Mr. Wilson: Did he?
Mr. Yeldell: For a little while. Yeah. Carpenter out there. Daddy and them, Harold Wootan, had the farms leased, had a little better than a thousand acres but this was the old Means place, poor, poor place where the school is, and he farmed it. Right here.
Mr. Wilson: Was he a cotton farmer?
Mr. Yeldell: Cotton farmer, yeah. And then my uncle loved to raise _____________________ and we moved out to farms.
Mr. Wilson: Lot of people were involved in farming in
Mr. Yeldell: Oh, that’s the only thing you could do; only thing here. Nearly everybody. Where all these mesquite trees are growing now, all farms row crops. Ever bit of it.
Mr. Wilson: There’s not much of that anymore.
Mr. Yeldell: Not anymore. You’ll get to see it come back especially if Yellowstone National Park goes up like they think it will, it’ll take the great bread basket of the world out up there and they’ll start farming, row cropping down here. My prediction only.
Mr. Wilson: Have to get rid of a bunch of mesquite trees.
Mr. Yeldell: They’ll have to clean the mesquites out back again.
Mr. Wilson: When you were a young fellow were there that many mesquites here?
Mr. Yeldell: No, all this was farming. All this was farming. Mesquites came back in. That’s why it hurts me so, so very much to see them let this ground grow up. The black people won’t grow, sell these trees like the Mexicans do because that’s what they had them slaves doing. Cleaning all this land and you don’t see them grubbing any trees. Oh they can’t do that grubbing. Because, you know, they were slaves.
Mr. Wilson: Well, your family came to this part of the world early.
Mr. Yeldell: Early. Back in 1850 and then the Longbotham’s came on a Mexican land grant up here at Wortham in three counties, edge of Navarro, Freestone and Limestone counties. And then when they built the railroad through here they changed the name to Groesbeck and Mexia and Wortham and from Brewer’s Prairie to Teague, Woodland to Kirvin. When they built it.
Mr. Wilson: I don’t remember how it was built and either one burned down before.
Mr. Yeldell: I think that was helped to get rid of a bunch of records.
Mr. Wilson: You do?
Mr. Yeldell: I think it was.
Mr. Wilson: Tell me about that.
Mr. Yeldell: That’s what I heard. As a boy they said, “you see that courthouse at Groesbeck, that’s the most corrupt courthouse in the world.” At Groesbeck. See that one at Fairfield; it’s just a little dead water.
Mr. Wilson: (laughter) It might have burned down to get rid of some bad documents.
Mr. Yeldell: Records. Get rid of some records. That’s what they said. Uh, Matt Herring _____________ so he helped us get one at Fairfield and Groesbeck county, these two counties made out of Robertson county, split, in fact he went over there and was spokesman over around Hill county and got it split because they couldn’t get past these outlaws down here, they’d take their money down here at Springfield.
Mr. Wilson: You think that’s what had something to do with Freestone County breaking out or breaking away from Limestone?
Mr. Yeldell: They couldn’t get down there to pay their taxes. They couldn’t get down…
Mr. Wilson: I think that was 1858 when that happened.
Mr. Yeldell: ’45, I believe.
Mr. Wilson: It was? Yeah, could have been.
Mr. Yeldell: I was thinking…
Mr. Wilson: Long time ago.
Mr. Yeldell: I can’t think anymore. I got Alzheimer’s; I got the next thing to it.
Mr. Wilson: (laughter) Seem pretty sharp to me.
Mr. Yeldell: But, ah, this is one of the best part of the country to work and to live is right around here.
Mr. Wilson: I think so.
Mr. Yeldell: It sure…it’s great.
Mr. Wilson: Good people.
Mr. Yeldell: Good people. Good climate. Good…get more rain in through here and…
Mr. Wilson: We could use some rain now.
Mr. Yeldell: Driest it’s been…at least since 1925.
Mr. Wilson: At this point in time.
Mr. Yeldell: At this point in time. Use to have an old saying. My daddy died in ’98 and I’m 80 or 90 something now and the first words I ever heard my daddy say, “son, we sure do need a rain in this country.” And the last thing him lying on the death bed, I heard my daddy, “son, we sure need a rain.” How true; we always need, we can always use rain. But the oil boom, there was 18 people stayed in my granddaddy’s house over there during the oil…you know slept on the couch and stuff. You know everybody came in here to work oil boom.
Mr. Wilson: Somebody told me that the population of Mexia at one time was approaching 50,000 people. Is that right?
Mr. Yeldell: That’s right. Forty something thousand.
Mr. Wilson: Really? I can’t imagine that.
Mr. Yeldell: But they had to go where the work like we did. We had to go to Houston or the east coast or the west coast to work. You know when we got out of school; had to go where the work was.
Mr. Wilson: Yeah. Well, that oil boom was a good deal.
Mr. Yeldell: The greatest thing, the greatest. And had they prorated, they still had good oil production. Left a whole lot more oil down there than they ever got, you know, bringing it up so quick. Look like they like got a big gas boom here. These people didn’t have a cost of production in, one company, sixteen drilling rigs pulled up and they had to have a location to put ‘em on and they rented locations around these old oil derricks to put.
Mr. Wilson: Still a lot of oil out there.
Mr. Yeldell: Oooo down deep and one of these days they’re going to find, they’re going down really deep, really deep and get that and I still say they’re gonna ah…..during World War II Gabriel Heater or one of the New York commentators said that had a great oil boom around the Mexia area, so we’re predicting thay have an even greater one, you know the next one. And I still think they’re gonna….People I knew said it’s probably west, a little further west from here, but I don’t think so…
Mr. Wilson: It’s just deeper.
Mr. Yeldell: That’s what I think.
Mr. Wilson: Technology’s gonna have to allow them to drill deeper. Then they’ll find it.
Mr. Yeldell: That’s what…Yes, sir. So perhaps in your lifetime you’re going to get to see them have some…They like to have the gas; they pulled off the rigs down here, big boom with the gas but they stopped it. But you’re going to see it one of these days…big boom right through here.
Mr. Wilson: Deeper oil.
Mr. Yeldell: Deeper. Really Deeper.
Mr. Wilson: You told me ya’ll still have a ranch here?
Mr. Yeldell: Yes, outside of town here.
Mr. Wilson: Yeah, okay good.
Mr. Yeldell: I was going to drive you out and let you see the cattle…my boy raises show cattle.
Mr. Wilson: Ya’ll still raise cattle out there?
Mr. Yeldell: He likes it…he got fifty horses.
Mr. Wilson: Good gracious.
Mr. Yeldell: And three hundred head of mother cows.
Mr. Wilson: You hadn’t got a barn you need cleaned out, do you?
Mr. Yeldell: He got big barns out there.
Mr. Wilson: I was looking for some manure for my garden.
Mr. Yeldell: You sure need to see him.
Mr. Wilson: He’s got it, huh?
Mr. Yeldell: He’s got it.
Mr. Wilson: Have ya’ll been in the cattle business for a long time?
Mr. Yeldell: Um hum. My Ross ancestors brought the first registered, probably a registered short horn. Now they’re going back to long horn. But the beef, oooo, I wish you could see the beef they’ve got bred on them long horns. All from one bull, big, go through that fence…wish I could find that pad. Bit anyhow, he sells show calves that these school children…
Mr. Wilson: Short horn cattle? Hereford?
Mr. Yeldell: No, he’s got his bred with red Brahma and Simmental which I give _______ and Maine-Anjou because a Maine-Anjou beef wnet down their leg and they put about 15 more pounds on the cow’s leg.
Mr. Wilson: There you go.
Mr. Yeldell: The Maine-Anjou. They were dark, dark red.
Mr. Wilson: And that’s the kind he’s got now?
Mr. Yeldell: Out here on the highway. I’ll show you. Well he’s got some fine show stuff.
Mr. Wilson: That’s good.
Mr. Yeldell: Fine prime Brahma.
Mr. Wilson: Well, this has always been good cattle country, hadn’t it?
Mr. Yeldell: Always. In fact much better than the farm land.
Mr. Wilson: Yeah, yeah.
Mr. Yeldell: You get more rain fall right in through here. Right time for cattle.
Mr. Wilson: my grandmother, Mrs. Mary Wilson, raised cattle on around Groesbeck for years and years and years. At the Hard Hill Ranch…
Mr. Yeldell: I’m a double first cousin to Jim Longbotham.
Mr. Wilson: Is that tight?
Mr. Yeldell: Ya’ll’s mayor down there. Yeah, Longbotham.
Mr. Wilson: That’s funny. They came to this part of the country about the same time.
Mr. Yeldell: Then the Rosses came here in 1850. Ah, Longbotham’s came here in ’34 or ’36.
Mr. Wilson: Well, they were here before Ft. Parker was…
Mr. Yeldell: Then they got caught up in that rebellion.
Mr. Wilson: What have you heard about that Ft. Parker from your relatives?
Mr. Yeldell: The Indians came through there and they put it to ‘em good. On a horse trade to those Indians. And they come back down here and then wiped that fort out. For them getting to ‘em on that horse trade. But you wouldn’t hear that, that’s exactly what it was.
Mr. Wilson: I’ve heard that before; that may be true, too, ‘cause I hear it from different people.
Mr. Yeldell: That’s what my folks said.
Mr. Wilson: They cheated ‘em on a horse deal…
Mr. Yeldell: A horse trade; yep; bad; pretty bad.
Mr. Wilson: (laughter) Indians took offense to that, huh?
Mr. Yeldell: Yep, and see they ____________ we give our daughters of which I’ve done to marry and Indians sold theirs; three horses, a pretty Indian, not a squaw, but a pretty Indian, bring probably three horses. And a guy like my people could marry and an American wife would die in childbirth, but that Indian wife could go out behind one of these bushes and deliver that baby and work that evening. They say.
Mr. Wilson: (laughter) Tough. Tougher.
Mr. Yeldell: Yep.
Mr. Wilson: You remember when the state school was a POW camp?
Mr. Yeldell: Yes, sir, I sure do. I remember going out there, they give us scrap lumber, going out there getting that scrap lumber and you could piece it together and build chicken pens, build stuff. Yeah, I went up there with my uncle. In fact John Yeldell who had the hardware store here, Eubanks Hardware was the old Yeldell Hardware.
Mr. Wilson: I didn’t know that.
Mr. Yeldell: They bought that they were hardware store people.
Mr. Wilson: So what use to be Eubanks before that was Yeldell.
Mr. Yeldell: I got a picture here…
Mr. Wilson: I’ll be doggone, I didn’t know that. Those Eubanks are pretty nice people.
Mr. Yeldell: Oh, wonderful, good people. Sound as a dollar. Good people. Yeldell had a buggy shop, sold buggies and made Yeldell riding saddles, riding saddles.
Mr. Wilson: Where was that? Here in town?
Mr. Yeldell: Uh hum. Yep.
Mr. Wilson: I didn’t know that. A buggy shop.
Mr. Yeldell: Buggy shop. They sold buggies. Mr. Conn told me his folks bought one of ‘em Yeldell buggies.
Mr. Wilson: That’s an enterprising bunch of people, weren’t they?
Mr. Yeldell: Oh, yeah. Too bad we couldn’t chlorated the oil and you know, kept it here good production.
Mr. Wilson: Went right through it, didn’t it.
Mr. Yeldell: And people thought that money would never run out. And my people, my Callam, but most people you know blew that money, blew it. I had an uncle and aunt….Anyhow they that orphans home built that orphans home out of Fairfield here. Had seventy-two…And can you believe it one guy a rich oil man over in East Texas bought them kids seventy-two pairs of shoes; boy, think about that. Bought them kids seventy-two pair of shoes. Bought all them orphans a new pair of shoes.
Mr. Wilson: You remember that fellow by the name of Hughes that was involved in that a Mexia oil boom?
Mr. Yeldell: He came in here with a little red-headed crippled leg girl, broken leg and a $100 diamond ring and the gamblers ________, the gamblers.
Mr. Wilson: There was a guy by the name of Humphrey, too.
Mr. Yeldell: Humphrey was down at Galveston going, leaving the state broke and leaving with, and hey, come back here Connie, you hit a gag.
Mr. Wilson: (laughter) He’d given up.
Mr. Yeldell: Yeah, ah, he was going to leave the country. Leave it with ‘em.
Mr. Wilson: Really.
Mr. Yeldell: Said, hey, you done hit a big oil well. There was one of those wells out there was the leading oil-producing well in the world at one time. It built the Magnolia Oil Building. Magnolia…Magnolia was going to build a big refinery in Corsicana and the people of Jewish descent said give us a tax break and we’ll come in here and they said no way. We own the stores in town said we had to pay, ya’ll going to have to pay ya’ll’s tax. And so they moved it up to Corsicana.
Mr. Wilson: So Corsicana probably gave ‘em a tax break.
Mr. Yeldell: Wouldn’t give ‘em a tax break; they wouldn’t give ‘em.
Mr. Wilson: I’ll be doggone.
Mr. Yeldell: The people, the people the businessmen wouldn’t give ‘em a tax break. And they gave it up yonder.
Mr. Wilson: That’s what I’m saying.
Mr. Yeldell: And that’s the reason they went up there. They could’ve had that right here. Think of what that would’ve done for this part, the jobs, o my soul the jobs.
Mr. Wilson: Yeah. What do you think about the way the country’s going now?
Mr. Yeldell: I think the President’s gonna, he may not be the anti-Christ, but he’s sure a forerunner for him. I think our country is going go under financially. I think we’re going to be bankrupt, completely bankrupt. We owe 16 trillion a minute; mean there’s no way you can pay that 16; now they can start over with new currency. And a person that’s getting a pay check to pay check, they won’t hurt. But these people that worked and saved, saved, that’s the one it’ll hurt.
Mr. Wilson: Yeah, it sure will.
Mr. Yeldell: Just think about the money we paid Social Security; now we get a Social Security check now. But think about what that…cars or acres around and then you take your Social Security and go see what it’ll buy now.
Mr. Wilson: Everybody I talk to, Mr. Yeldell, says the same thing.
Mr. Yeldell: And you goin’ to wake up one morning, one of these mornings and they say it can’t happen, you watch it, our money is going to go under. Maybe you take the Eurodollar come in with something a gazillion dollars or something, but our money….. And we’re not intelligent enough to see that. And the President, this President, I don’t think he’s _________.
Mr. Wilson: A lot of people do. A lot of people think that.
Mr. Wilson: Do you know any people other than the Callam’s up in Tehuacana?
Mr. Yeldell: Yeah, I just know of ‘em.
Mr. Wilson: Hiram Fitzgerald ran a store up there.
Mr. Yeldell: I don’t remember.
Mr. Wilson: In your estimation, what’s the single biggest thing that ever happened to Limestone County?
Mr. Yeldell: That oil boom. That was the greatest thing. And if it been chlorated, it they just had just any least, think of what it would’ve done.
Mr. Wilson: How long did that thing last?
Mr. Yeldell: My grandmother had three gushers up there. She got one of the best ‘ole pumpers up there now. It’d pump about twenty, twenty something barrels a day. But was special.
Mr. Wilson: That’d be pretty good today; what’s it $105.00 a barrel?
Mr. Yeldell: Oooooo, yeah, yeah, they plugged it. My Uncle Brian Daniel, he took my grandmother’s money and hit big with it over in East Texas, you know, Daniel Oil Company. Built an home out there. You’re going to get to see, perhaps in you lifetime you’re going to get to see row crop back to raising food stuffs. I’m talking about corn and stuff to eat—beans.
Mr. Wilson: We got two gardens, two orchards and a vineyard where we live out at Forest Glade.
Mr. Yeldell: That’s good, good.
Mr. Wilson: We raise a bunch of stuff out there. That’s some good country out at Forest Glade.
Mr. Yeldell: Ooooo, wonderful country. Reason people come out here and got that. Got that sand, yes sirree. But now when fertilizer, gasoline goes to $5.00 a gallon and think what fertilizer gonna, it may go back to stronger land. See the sand won’t produce. But when you put that fertilizer on it, then it’ll go.
Mr. Wilson: Yeah, yeah. I clean out people’s barns to get my fertilizer.
Mr. Yeldell: That’s five years. That’ll last five years. Chicken houses is better than that.
Mr. Wilson: Yeah.
Mr. Wilson: What else do you remember about Limestone County, the early days, how about when you were going to school.
Mr. Yeldell: Boy, it was hard getting to school. We left it was still dark, we caught a milk run, got to sit on the back of them milk cream cans, went to New Hope school, got a chicken coop bus and come in, well when you leave, it’d be dark. People at Tehuacana had a chicken coop bus and we would get us, you know, a good bus, we had to bend over, you know, they burnt the seat; they still had to go ride the old bus. (laughter) They didn’t give up. They just got the old bus with burnt seats.
Mr. Wilson: New Hope is still there, isn’t it?
Mr. Yeldell: It’s a cemetery out there.
Mr. Wilson: That’s about all that’s left, isn’t it?
Mr. Yeldell: That’s all that’s left. Use to have a store to out there.
Mr. Wilson: That’s close to Kirvin, isn’t it?
Mr. Yeldell: Ah, between here and Kirvin back in there.
Mr. Wilson: You remember Cotton Gin?
Mr. Yeldell: Oh, yes, take cotton out there to get it ginned.
Mr. Wilson: That’s how it got it’s name.
Mr. Yeldell: Yep, had a big cotton gin. In fact they was supposed to been a town. Got these railroads in here that’s reason.
Mr. Wilson: Cotton Gin is where, ah, what’s that outlaw that? The toughest outlaw…..
Mr. Yeldell: John Wes Hardin was out….Pisgah Ridge and…..The man he supposed to have shot for snoring was tall and standing up instead of laying down. He shot high and killed him.