Conducted by Logan Wilson
February 9, 2012
Mr. Wilson: My name is Logan Wilson. It is February 9th. We are in the home of Margie Jones for the purposes of taking her oral history. The next voice you hear will be hers.
Mrs. Jones: I was born in 1923 in the little town of Personville, Texas in Limestone County. My grandfather on the Easterling side lived in Personville, my grandmother and grandfather Baker had a farm and my mother was raised in Personville and she had 7 sisters and 1 brother and went to school in the Personville School and she said she liked to play basketball. At that time they had only 10 grades. She didn’t get to finish school because at that time her father had what we now call Lugerans disease and her and the girls had to help their mother make a living off of that farm. When the school, as I said, it only had 10 grades and I’m not exactly sure when, but it was in the early 30’s, they transferred the high school to Donie, Texas and it was there for a few years and they built the high school at Fair Oaks and then they transferred the people at Donie to Fair Oaks and the first year of that school at Fair Oaks where the Personville Grammar School children went when they entered high school was 1936. That was the year I entered high school. Well, Personville was founded in 1853 by D.B. Persons and he settled there with his family and more and more families began moving in and by 1910 they had about 16 businesses. They had 4 stores and a bank, a lumber yard, a telephone exchange, a hotel, a tin shop, drug stores, blacksmith shop, a tin café, a barber shop, a pool hall, and a post office. In 1916, one of the buildings caught fire and it burned the entire town. The next morning, nothing was left standing. Most of the people didn’t have insurance, so part of them didn’t rebuild and it was really something to remember. But the things I remember in Personville the time that I grew up and I lived there for the first 25 years of my lifetime, I can remember the bank, the post office, the depot, and grocery stores. I remember the ladies club, the gin, the grist mill, the barber shop, the blacksmith shop, and at one time we even had a dance hall. It didn’t last very long, but it was there for a while. And the church, that was the thing that the people of the community attended. Just about everyone went to church. And you didn’t have church just on Sundays; you had it Saturday nights, Sunday morning, and Sunday night. And Mr. Hill Glass and Mrs. Maggie Glass sold the Methodist and the Baptist church and acre of land to build a church in 1913 and that church stood for a number of years and it was blown away and torn up by a storm. They rebuilt a church and it stood for many years until it burned. It was then replaced by the church that is standing there at this time and the church is a very nice looking building and everyone is very proud of it.
Mr. Wilson: Is that the church that is there now?
Mrs. Jones: That is the church that is there now.
Mr. Wilson: What is the name of that church?
Mrs. Jones: Personville Community Church. We have homecoming the Saturday before third Sunday in ever year in October.
Mr. Wilson: Did they ever determine what started that fire?
Mrs. Jones: No, it was never determined.
Mr. Wilson: But it pretty much destroyed the community.
Mrs. Jones: It destroyed the church, yeah, and it completely destroyed it because it’s so far from the fire station, no one could get down there. But, it was rebuilt and then Vida Rodgers Maddox and I, this church was getting older and needed work. We made up money, we accepted donations for a new roof, and we received enough money for a new roof, new siding, and for new inside walls and the church is in very good condition at this time. Anyhow, Personville had some very good people. The only thing that’s left there was the names of some of the residents on a Historical Marker but not any of the older residents, such as names of the Persons, who founded the town, and then there was the Kennedys and the Easterlings. My maiden name was Easterling and the Oaks, and the Criders, and the Greers, the Wilburns, the Hudsons, and the Lansfords, and many more people that maybe someday, someone will erect another marker with more names on it but at that time, I assumed that a lot of people didn’t know about it and have their names put on it. I graduated in 1940 and then I got married in December of 1940 but I still lived in Personville for several years and it’s a very nice town, a very good place to live.
Mr. Wilson: You told me something last time we talked about an area known as “Spunky.” Tell us about that.
Mrs. Jones: The area where you went by the school on over about 2 miles probably, there was an area. It was still in Personville but everyone called it Spunky. Why? I don’t know, but it was Spunky. The Burlesons and the Hardisons and the Moores and the Haringtons and the Browns, the Webbs all lived over in that area and it was Spunky. As I say, I don’t know why.
Mr. Wilson: You told me about the men taking their mules and muddy in the water.
Mrs. Jones: Yes.
Mr. Wilson: Was that Brown’s Lake? Tell us about that also.
Mrs. Jones: On the weekends, during the summer, the hot summer, after you had laid your crops by, the majority of the people in Personville would take their wagons and their mules and their team and they would load that wagon, they always carried a wash pot because that’s what they always used to cook in and you’re bedding and cooking utensils and food to spend usually 2 days over there and when you got over there, each person got to fix their camp and the men would take their mules and put them in Sellers Lake. We went to Sellers Lake and if I’m not mistaken, that was on Mr. Crider’s property. They would get in that lake and what they would call “muddy” it. They would run those mules up and down the lake until it was muddy and then the fish would come up to the top for air and the men would catch them and we had a huge fish fry and the younger people could go on up the lake a little ways and swim and there was a stump out there in the middle of the lake that we jumped off the bank and swam over to that stump and I was small. I was smaller than everyone else my age, but I wasn’t gonna let them out do me, so I swam out and I gave out and my uncle pulled me out of the water and from that day forward, I’ve never cared about swimming. We had lots of fish to fry and everyone had such a good time on those outings. It was something everyone looked forward to every year.
Mr. Wilson: I know things are much different now than they were during the depression. How would you describe those differences and how in the world did y’all make it through the depression?
Mrs. Jones: How did we make it through the depression? We made it through the depression raising our own food. My mother would can as many as 200 jars, quart jars too and half gallons of food, green beans, corn, she canned corn and pickles. We had pickles, beet pickles, and any kind of vegetable that you could can. She would can and we would pick peas, black eyed peas, and the way we thrashed them was she took them on a sheet and beat the peas and when the wind would blow we would hold them up and let those leaves blow out of them and when we would get all the leaves out of them, she would put them in gallon syrup buckets and seal them for the winter. And my father always had gallons of sorghum syrup and we had syrup and of course we always had butter, usually 2 cows to milk and we had chickens so we had our eggs and we raised the corn to feed the chickens. You didn’t buy chicken feed and you fed the chickens and when you had friend chicken, it was what you had raised, fried, and that is how we made it through the depression. I did hear my mother say that at one time, she had to sell her fryers to buy flour, but it was the only time she had to sell her frying sized chickens to buy flour. There were other people that weren’t nearly so fortunate as we were, though.
Mr. Wilson: So the people in the country had it better than the people in the city?
Mrs. Jones: Oh yes, I don’t see how the people in the city made it because even a lot of the people in our community didn’t. Some of the people didn’t have enough; I can remember my father taking boxes of food to certain people.
Mr. Wilson: Yeah, I’ve heard that before. If we took people from today, Mrs. Jones, and we took them back to the 1930’s, do you think they would make it?
Mrs. Jones: They would have starved to death. We had no electricity during that time and also we had an ice man that would come around every other day and if you had the money, you bought 25 pounds of ice and you wrapped that ice in quilts and sometimes you would put them in the fire place to keep it from melting. And then finally, we got an ice box. Well that icebox, you could your ice in the top and your milk and stuff in the bottom and it wouldn’t ruin.
Mr. Wilson: But that was before electricity.
Mrs. Jones: Oh yeah, that was before electricity. We didn’t have electricity until probably 1937, probably somewhere in that there. It didn’t come through the town of Personville through a rural area until then and the thing I liked about the electricity was not the light, it was the electric iron because when you iron, you put those flat irons on the stove, you heated one while you ironed with the other and when it got a little cold, you put the other one back, or if it was winter time, you would put them in the fire place and got the sut of and it was a pain.
Mr. Wilson: You know, I’ve never thought about it before, that means if you were going to iron something in the middle of summer, you had to heat the stove up.
Mrs. Jones: Oh yes!
Mr. Wilson: Oh my goodness! I bet you did like that electric iron then, didn’t you?
Mrs. Jones: Yeah, and wash day, you went to the, our well was very hard water, you couldn’t wash in it, you couldn’t even wash dishes in it, we had to carry water about a city block from the house across the road. (That was not the same house but another house was where me and 3 of my brothers were all born at home). We went across the road and carried water and it was my job to carry 2 buckets of water every afternoon so we would have water to wash the dishes the next morning or that night.
Mr. Wilson: Because y’all’s water was too hard?
Mrs. Jones: Our water was too hard. It wouldn’t lather; you didn’t have soap like you do now. With soap that would lather in the water that we have now, we didn’t make then. We did use Ivory and lye soap. Momma made her own lye soap.
Mr. Wilson: You remember how she did that?
Mrs. Jones: Yes, I certainly do.
Mr. Wilson: How did y’all make soap?
Mrs. Jones: We took the cracking from the hog and cooked them out, cooked the grease out of them and you poured the grease off of them. You took those, what we called cracklings, and you used, I don’t know how much, I guess it was according to how much cracklings you had, but you would use lye and some water. You would put lye in there and you would build a fire under the wash pot and you kept stirring that until that lye ate those cracklings up somehow. The soap was made, when it was smooth.
Mr. Wilson: Well I have to air my ignorance. What is a crackling?
Mrs. Jones: A crackling? It is the skin that comes of the fat of a hog and the skin and how you cut it up into little chunks and that is cracklings. That’s after its cooked out. Now, we call that lard. Daddy always killed hogs. We had pork in the winter and he killed hogs and you would take the fat from those hogs and you would cook the fat out and you used that lard like we use Crisco now. And then that fat that was cook out was for cracklings.
Mr. Wilson: That homemade soap, would it get you pretty clean?
Mrs. Jones: Yes, it will. It was lye soap. You didn’t bathe with that; you would use it for washing clothes. You would cut it up in the pot, you boil your white clothes in a wash pot and you would cut that lye up in that pot that you were going to boil your clothes in and stirred it around.
Mr. Wilson: What didn’t you use the lye soap to bathe in?
Mrs. Jones: I don’t know, we just didn’t, we used ivory soap for that. I assume if that all you had, you could.
Mr. Wilson: Probably would have been too powerful, huh?
Mrs. Jones: Probably too powerful.
Mr. Wilson: You were telling me about the railroad, I was asking you about when they changed to a Hwy. Tell us about that railroad.
Mrs. Jones: Oh, I forgot all about the railroad. The railroad was from Mexia to Navasota in 1904 and I can remember when they would put bales of cotton on the depots. On the depot, they had a loading place and people would take the bales of cotton and put there for them to load onto the train. Well, it also had a passenger car and people rode on that train from you know, Mexia to wherever. Sometimes they would come to Personville, sometimes they would go further. And it was, oh, it took quite a while, I can remember. When I went to school, we always had to cross the railroad tracks and if you ever got a penny, you would put that penny on the railroad track and when you would come in from school, you would pick it up so it would be flattened. The railroad, our pasture joined the railroad right of way and I could sit out on the wood pile while they were taking, they took the railroad up in about 1933 or 1934, they took it up and I sat on the wood pile and watched them take that railroad up and that is where highway 39 is now. They used that as the bed for highway 39.
Mr. Wilson: Of course, it was a number of years before they ever paved it though, wasn’t it?
Mrs. Jones: Yes, it stayed as a rock road. People would travel it, but it was just a rock bed where the railroad was. I don’t even remember when they paved it. I don’t remember.
Mr. Wilson: It was rock for a good period of time, wasn’t it?
Mrs. Jones: Yes, it was rock for a long time.
Mr. Wilson: How did the WWII change the in Personville?
Mrs. Jones: Oh, it changed, so many of the young people went to the service and joined the army and others, quite a few, went to the Houston area to work in the ship yards and it really changed Personville terribly because like I say, so many people left the town and during that time Mr. Artie Oaks had the drugstore and the post office and there was a barber chair in the back and there was an old soda fountain there, but I don’t ever remember it being in use, myself. Then, Bill Kennedy had a post store and Wes Oaks had a grocery store in the old depot after the trains quit running and we had a grist mill and we still had the ladies club, the blacksmith shop, and that was just about all that was left in Personville.
Mr. Wilson: So it was about the time of WWII that Personville was in the decline that determined the number of people?
Mrs. Jones: Yes.
Mr. Wilson: And that because they went elsewhere.
Mrs. Jones: And when houses would delapitate, fall down, no one was there to fix them up. There are still quite a few houses in the community of Personville, but there is nothing except the church and the marker now. No business.
Mr. Wilson: I’m trying to think, where is that church? I’m trying to figure out where it is.
Mrs. Jones: It’s just off of 39, on LCR 449.
Mr. Wilson: Oh, okay. That why I’ve never seen it.
Mrs. Jones: Do you know where the school was?
Mr. Wilson: No ma’am. Where is it from the north?
Mrs. Jones: Turn left off Hwy 39 onto LCR449. There was one house, then the school building and grounds with their outside bathrooms.
Mr. Wilson: I see, okay.
Mrs. Jones: And then the church was exactly the opposite way.
Mr. Wilson: You turn to the left?
Mrs. Jones: Yes, you turn to the left and it’s just a little ways and we lived right behind the church where I was raised.
Mr. Wilson: Now, that area called Spunky is probably the area where Mr. Crider owns land now?
Mrs. Jones: I don’t know who owns that. Yes, Mr. Crider owns that land.
Mr. Wilson: In that area out there?
Mrs. Jones: Yes, and I don’t know who owned it but he probably owns the land.
Mr. Wilson: Well, I sure do appreciate this. Do you have anything else you want to share with us, or is that about it?
Mrs. Jones: Well at one point, I know I could, but right now I’m blank.
Mr. Wilson: Well, if that the case, then I’m gonna ask you something. I ask this question to everybody at the end of an interview and believe it or now, I get the same answer from everybody. Well, pretty much the same answer. Mrs. Jones, from your experiences, if you were to tell the young people of today something, some advice, what would you tell them? Think about it.
Mrs. Jones: Be honest, and have compassion and thing about the fellow man.
Mr. Wilson: Yeah, well that makes it unanimous.
Mrs. Jones: Young people need to stay busy, they need something to do at all time.
Mr. Wilson: You’re mighty right about that.
Mrs. Jones: I think that it is a shame that they won’t let 14 year olds get out and work at a grocery store. You can’t do that nowadays. That would give them something to do and it’s not degrading.
Mr. Wilson: No, I sacked groceries when I was 14 or 15 years old, you can’t do that now.
Mrs. Jones: No, you sure can’t.
Mr. Wilson: So, they’re missing a lesson they ought to have learned then.
Mrs. Jones: Absolutely, absolutely.
Mr. Wilson: We thank you much and there will be people that not even born yet that will get a lot out of what you said.
Mrs. Jones: I didn’t do it, somehow, I didn’t say it how I intended to.
Mr. Wilson: You’d be surprised how meaningful this is going to be to people after we’re gone. And again, I want to thank you very much. We appreciate what you’ve done.