Limestone County Historical Commission
Limestone County Historical Commission

John Judah

Conducted by William Reagan

August 7, 2017

This is William Reagan. Today is August 7, 2017.

I’m visiting today with John Judah here at the Limestone County Museum. Mr. Judah is going to talk to us today about cowboys in Limestone County during the mid-20th Century, especially the Stroud Ranch owned by Franklin Jackson. Mr. Judah, nice that you’re here with us today.

Mr. Judah: Thank you very much. My name is John Judah and I was born on 24 September 1937 very close to the old Stroud Ranch and my Dad’s name was Dudley Judah. We lived on the Stroud Ranch for a number of years, I don’t really remember how many.  It was owned by Franklin Jackson and was approximately 1200 to 1500 acres of land.  It was mostly all Yaupons and trees.  Mainly, all the cattle were Brahma.   Every year we would have a cattle round up.  All Mr. Jackson’s cowboys would help round up cattle and bring them into the pens to work them. We had a dipping vat and ran all the cattle through in order to kill fever ticks.  They would  walk down these concrete steps and eventually fall off in it, submerge for a moment, come back up to walk out on the other side of the vat.  I learned later that arsenic was mixed with water just strong enough to kill fever ticks, but not hurt cattle or humans.  We would de-horn the ones that needed it and castrate the male calves.  De-horning was done to lessen injuries among pen mates and lessen injuries to workers.  In the spring time, when the little calves were born, back then what we called blow flies would plant their eggs in the navel of the baby calves and first thing you know they would get infected, eggs would hatch into screwworms.  My Dad and I would have to go out on our horses and rope those calves and bulldog them and use what we called Smear 66 screwworm medicine on the little calves. My Dad would have to watch for the calves’ mother while I doctored. The mothers did not like us fooling around with their babies.  Times have really changed and nowadays I understand they don’t have to doctor for screwworms.  In the late 50’s all male blowflies were castrated by what was known as “sterile male technology” ,  therefore no more screwworms.

Mr. Judah: Franklin Jackson had a lot of cattle ranches in different locations and employed a number of cowboys. I know this because my dad was one of the cowboys. I would like to see another chapter added to the CHC document called “Cowboys of Limestone County” or “Cowboys of Groesbeck”. Time frame I’m talking about is the 30’s through the 50’s. The cowboys that worked for Franklin Jackson were real cowboys and that included Mr. Jackson as well. I hope this will get off the ground because the sons and daughters are now in their 70’s and maybe 80’s and who knows how much longer we will be around to provide information. The cowboys have a lot of relatives around Groesbeck and probably be glad to provide information, as I would. I am a little biased since I lived this life with my dad in the 40’s and 50’s.   These cowboys had round-ups, worked cattle and drove cattle just like earlier Texas cowboys. I know this to be true because I was one along with my Dad and many others I list at the end of this memo.   I have been thinking about trying to get Roy Blacknall, Will Blacknall, Zellie Gray placed in the Texas Black Cowboy Hall of Fame but I don’t have any pictures or documentation. They were great cowboys and I would put them up against any cowboy anywhere.  They were hard working people and taught me a lot. When it comes to being a cowboy, those guys did it all.

Mr. Reagan: So how old were you when you were helping your dad out on the ranch?

Mr. Judah: I probably started helping him when I was 10 years old I guess and we lived on the Stroud place until I was about 16 or 17. After that then we moved away to another one of Mr. Jackson’s places called “The Hickman Place.”

Mr. Reagan: So how long did your dad work for Franklin Jackson?

Mr. Judah: He worked for Franklin Jackson probably for 15 to 20 years I imagine until  his health got bad and he went to work at the state school in Mexia.  I believe the old Stroud Ranch originally was owned by Logan Stroud. When we moved there we lived in the old Plantation home.   About 200-300 yards north of the ranch house were many old slave cabins. I can still see those slave cabins in my mind today. I don’t remember how long they stayed there after we moved before being torn down. One of the slave’s sons still lived on the old Stroud place and I’d go visit him quite a bit and talk with him. He was a hard working person, his name was Doak and that’s all we ever called him. Back then everybody called him the N-word Doak and never thought anything about it.  The old ranch house had between 3 and 5 fire places and several bedrooms. Franklin Jackson owned the place when we moved there. He had about 200 head of Brahma cattle at any one time. My Dad, Dudley Judah, looked after the cattle, fed and doctored them for a number of years. In my recollection of the old Stroud place, a group of gypsies came to the ranch every year to shear goats. Mr. Jackson had about 500 head to start with and the gypsies set up a tent with about 6-8 shearing positions and they would shear goats until they were all done. After the shearing was over my dad would kill a goat and bar-b-que it for all the gypsies. I remember that being a lot of fun. Bar-b-qued goat was really great. Then wolves came in and pretty much wiped out all the goats. A lot of the goats left the ranch and found shelter on the south side of Ft. Parker Lake. I used to go down and watch them. They were hold up on a hill south of the lake with a lot of trees and underbrush. 

Mr. Reagan: Do you have any stories or memories of any of these gentlemen that you can share with us?

Mr. Judah: Yes, I have a lotta memories of my dad naturally. His horse Butch was one of the best cow horses I have ever seen. Butch was dun colored with a black mane and tail.   It took my Dad a few years to totally break him because of his wild, wonderful spirit.  When my Dad would saddle him every morning, Butch had to go through his routine of trying to throw my Dad off.  Finally, Butch settled down and was considered broke for my Dad but not anyone else.  Butch had a nervous personality.  As my Dad would ride him, when they stopped for any reason, Butch would stand still but had a nervous twitch about him, as if saying, “Come on lets go”.  You could see his muscles nervously twitching.  My Dad taught Butch the art of following calves by roping goats.  Goats were very quick to turn and Butch would follow right behind them.  My Dad was about the only one that could stay on Butch while roping.  Will Blacknall, one of Mr. Jackson’s cowboys’ would come out to the house every June 19th to use Butch to rope a goat for the June 19th BBQ.  Will would leave the house on Butch and sometime later, Butch would come back to the house without Will. He said Butch was following a goat for Will to rope but Will could not stay on.  Will accused Butch as being crazy.  My Dad said, “Just because you can’t ride him don’t make him crazy”.  Butch really loved sugar.  When he was difficult to catch, my Dad would get some sugar and that’s all it took to catch him.  He would lick the sugar out of my Dad’s hand, then shake his head wanting more.  He had the smoothest gait while running of any horse I have ever seen.  None of this up and down motion, just very smooth as if in a vehicle.   It was an art watching Butch and my Dad rope and doctor calves.  When roping a calf, the loop went over the calves head, Butch would stop on all fours and my Dad would jump off and work the calf.   Butch kept the rope tight until my Dad was through working the calf then he would step forward allowing my Dad to remove the rope. I wish I had some pictures of him and my dad but when the house burned, everything we had burned-and I mean everything. All evidence of history was gone. What a terrible loss. 

 Dip Crowson I just remember him helping us round-up cattle a lot and his brother Walter Crowson, he helped us round-up cattle and he also had a Sinclair station in Groesbeck.  Jimbo Popejoy was one of my favorites. He ran one of Mr. Jackson’s ranches out on 164 towards Buffalo on the right before the river.   I can just see these guys now just running and heading the cattle off and roping those calves and bulldogging them, you know, and that’s just something you just don’t see anymore. Sterling Justice, he was a guy that I worked at the auction barn with and he did participate some.  Mr. Jackson, that’s a story in itself.  Anyway he was about 6’6” and he weighed 345 lbs. He sent all his horses out for my dad to break. And of course my dad didn’t use spurs to break them and when he was getting them ready to turn them over to Mr. Jackson as being broke, Mr. Jackson got on ‘em and used his spurs and that horse pitched him off. He was close to his pick-up and when he pitched him off, Mr. Jackson’s head hit the drawbar or the tailgate of the pick-up and it knocked him out. He could not be moved.  Somebody went into town to get an ambulance.  When it arrived, Mr. Jackson was awake and would not ride to the hospital in the ambulance, instead, he rode in one of the pickups.  He was quite a guy. In these pens where we worked the cattle, we had a working post right in the middle and what we would do is rope the calves/cows and tie them to this post and bulldog ‘em and do what was needed.  Well, Mr. Jackson would stand out there and rope the calves or the cows and would wrap that rope around himself instead of the post while the cowboys did what was needed.  On this particular day there was a few women watching through the fence and when the calf hit the end of the rope it jerked Mr. Jackson’s pants down-all the way-while everybody was watching. Anyway that’s one I definitely remember.  Mr. Roy Blacknall was a black man and he was one of the best people I ever met in my life. He taught me a lot and I think he was a WW ll vet and he was one heck of a cowboy. His brother Will was also a good cowboy. I remember Will had arthritis in his hands and his hands were just crooked and he couldn’t move them very well. He was in pain most of the time with his hands.   Zellie Gray (nickname Rabbit), was another black guy and he was a really good cowboy. He was also a WW ll vet I believe. Of Course you knew Dick Long, Sue’s Dad. He would go and help round-up some also. He had his own cattle but he just went along to help out. Ell Gibson was another black guy and he had a nickname of ‘Radio’ because he was talking all the time. He was also a great cowboy.  And you know I think all those guys are dead now-I’m sure they are.  Oscar Ward who looked after a ranch in the Navasota River bottom, I’m sure he’s dead too. He had a daughter name of Charlsie Ward that went to high school in Groesbeck. Seems like I met her on Facebook.  I’m sure James and Robert Fewell, all have some stories to tell.

Mr. Reagan: You mentioned working at the sale barn. Could you tell me a little about the sale barn?

Mr. Judah: On Thursdays I was supposed to go to school but instead I’d go to work at the sale barn.

Mrs. Judah: How old were you?

Mr. Judah: I was old enough to be in school.  On Thursday, not every Thursday but most of them my dad and me would work at the Sale Barn. When I first started working there, I worked between the office and the ring and picked up the tickets from the buyers that had already bought and took them back for processing in the office. Do you remember Nina Sealy?

Mr. Reagan: Heard the name.

Mr. Judah:  Her Dad’s name was Ray Sealy and he was an auctioneer at the Sale Barn.  That was fun working at the Sale Barn, going back and forth to the ring listening to Ray Sealy auction off the cattle.  I graduated from that job to work back where all the cattle were.  My Dad and I both worked on the chutes that ran the cattle in the ring. They would open the gate and we would make sure the cattle ran in the ring.  We would use hotshot’s if the cattle didn’t want to move fast enough.  My Dad made the hotshots by using Model T coils.   We did that untill all the cattle were sold that day.  After the sale was over you had to start separating all the cattle by buyers. I don’t know why but Mr. Jackson would always pick me to help him out.  I really didn’t like working with him because he wouldn’t take any breaks, ha ha.  But he was a good guy. He was dead serious about his cattle business. When Mr. Jackson was through with me, I would work with somebody else until all the cattle were processed and on the trucks.

Mr. Reagan: On a good day, about how may head would yall have go through there?

Mr. Judah: 600-1200. I remember 2,000 a time or two.  When 2,000 were processed that was an all nighter. One night, after the sale was over, there was a truck driver named Lloyd Sanders, he had a truck that ran on butane or propane.  And he would always take a load of cows somewhere after the sale. One night he loaded his cattle in the trailer and he took off towards Dallas. Lloyd was traveling north out of Groesbeck, by Gaylan and Melvin Henry’s house on north Highway 14.   The propane truck blew up, threw cattle and pigs all over people’s porches and yards. Some of them lived through it, but others didn’t. Melvin and Gaylan Henry, they remember that to this day. Some cows and pigs were in their yard.

Mr. Reagan: Did Mr. Sanders survive?

Mr. Judah: Oh yes he survived. I don’t see how but he did. Probably there’s a lot of folks that remember.  This took place when the auction barn was right down town Groesbeck across the street from the Courthouse. I guess when Mr. Jackson and Mr. De Cordova sold it and moved out on the Buffalo Highway.

Mr. Reagan: Is there anything you want to tell me about growing up here in Groesbeck or that you remember about this area in Limestone County?

Mr. Judah: Yes! It was really a great life.  Back then, all I wanted to do was go to work at Zeph’s Gulf station, go fishing, hunting and work cattle with my Dad. Finally my Dad said “Nick, why don’t you just quit school? You are not doing good at all.”  He said “Quit and see if you can join the service.” That’s exactly what I did. I joined the service in 1957 and retired in ’97. Spent about 40 years. Retired as an E-9, Chief Master Sergeant from the United States Air Force, Texas Army National Guard and Texas Air National Guard.

Mrs. Judah: I had 20 years and came out a Master Sergeant.

Mr. Judah: We did well.

Mr. Reagan: So is that when you left this area?

Mr. Judah:  Yes, 1957.  I worked for Zeph’s filling station a few years before that.

Mr. Reagan: Was that the Humble station or Exxon?

Mr. Judah: Mr. Harvey Burleson’s Humble station was across the street.  I would go to work at 6 o’clock in the morning and open the station, work til 8, then Zeph would come to work and then I’d go to school.  At noon time I would come back to the station and let him go to lunch and then he would come back and I would go back to school. At 3:30 or 4 pm, I would come back to the station and close it up at 9pm. So there wasn’t a whole lot of time for studying. I might have made the wrong choice by quitting school but at least I worked all the time. 

Mr. Reagan: Yeah

Mr. Judah: I guess you’d say I was a worker.  Had a lot a fun around here-lot of fun.

Mr. Judah: But my old Mother and Dad were poor as they could be. I remember Dad had an old ’36 Chevrolet, wasn’t too good, he would go to town and that thing would break down and it would stop in the middle of the street and that’s where he got his tools out and he’d fix it right there. He’d work on it until he got it done.   But back then my Mother and Dad could survive on nothing.

Mrs. Judah: They grew their own food.

Mr. Judah: Yeah, they had their vegetable garden on Mr. Jackson’s place, they had a huge garden and every year, I mean, they raised everything in a garden that you could raise just about.

Mrs. Judah: A lot of canning I’m sure.

Mr. Judah: Yeah and they did all the canning of soups, vegetables, jellies, jams and everything that we used in the wintertime. I remember they made a “scare crow” and stood it up in the middle of the garden to make it look like a human was working in the garden.  For the most part the “scare crow” worked.  Then comes springtime, we’d start all over again.  September was hog-killing month. My Dad had a 55 gallon barrel for scalding water, after the hog was killed, my Dad dipped the hog in the scalding water in order to easily scrape the hair from the hog.  We had an old smokehouse that was still standing until a few years ago and he would process all that meat.  We had crackling bread and big ole hams hanging down and I guess it was smoked cured, he had some kind of smoke that he cured the meat with.  Some parts were sugar cured. I remember in the wintertime when we didn’t have any electricity or propane, it was all wood stoves, and fireplaces.  I remember Dad would tell me “Boy, go out to the smokehouse and get a slab of bacon or ham.”  Best food I ever I ate in my life.  This was on the old Stroud place too, Dad would go off sometimes and stay 4 or 5 days at a time rounding up cows for Mr. Jackson on his other places and we’d stay home by ourselves. My Brother and I would be bare footed most of the time. Once my brother was running across the yard, stepped on this old broken jar and cut his foot really bad. I remember seeing him running and that thing was just flopping. So my mother got him- I don’t know how she did it.  She wrapped it up real tight and then she poured kerosene all over it. I guess that supposedly killed bacteria and then she had to hitch up the wagon with a pair of mules and then we had to bring him into town to the doctor. Taking care of family didn’t happen in a hurry back then and happened too often.

Mr. Reagan: What was your brother’s name?

Mr. Judah: Glen.

Mr. Reagan: Glen?

Mr. Judah: Yeah. He died of prostate cancer in what 2003.

Mrs. Judah: What about your Dad and the snake.

Mr. Judah:  Every night my Dad would go out to the barn and feed the pigs. He would rake the corn in a number 3 washtub and then feed the pigs.  As he was raking corn in the tub, a copperhead snake bit him on the hand. He came in the house just as calm as he could be and said “Pearl”, that was my mother’s name, “Pearl, we need to go to town.” She said “What for?” He said “Well, a copperhead bit me right here.” She said “Oh My God”! My Brother and I stayed home, we had an uncle, James D Holliday that was there with us. Mother took him on into town to Cox’s Hospital and he was treated there. On the way home he got sick, vomiting, and mother stopped right on top of the darn railroad track and he got out and vomited. When he got home, he discovered he didn’t have his teeth in his mouth, he was just numb all over from the snake bite I guess. Mother had to go back into town to find his teeth.  I remember a while after that his hand and arm was smaller than the other one-I guess because of the snake bite.

Mr. Reagan: Yeah

Mr. Judah: Back then, medicine wasn’t too great but at least it saved his life.

Mrs. Judah: Did you tell the story about yall’s house burning down?

Mr. Judah: Well, that wasn’t the Stroud place. That was where we moved to after the old Stroud place.

Mr. Reagan: Is there anything you can tell me about the other gentlemen that worked on the ranch?

Mr. Judah: I don’t have any particular stories about them.

Mr. Reagan: Ok.

Mr. Judah: I just remember them. You know, I worked with them every summer. We’d build fence, work cattle and they were hard working people and mostly black folks. Real hard working people. I’m surprised that the black folks got treated as bad as they did in this county back then. These folks, it didn’t seem to bother them, they were just hard working people.  They were really good to me and my family.

Mrs. Judah: But your mother rode horses and cooked for all them too didn’t she?

Mr. Judah: Oh yeah. Every year they’d have the round-up on the Stroud place.  Approximately 10 other cowboys were helping out. Mr. Jackson would buy all the food, bring it to mother. She would cook and have it ready for lunch or dinner as we called it back then, when they’d come in. She was a cowgirl also but her main job was cooking for them cowboys. She did a heck of a job feeding everybody.

Mr. Reagan: Did she help with the cattle?

Mr. Judah: Oh yeah. It was kind of funny. She’d be out there on one horse and my Dad would be on the other one.  I would see her slow down a little bit and she would get that Bull Durham package out of her shirt and roll herself a Bull Durham on that horse while she was out there working cattle.

Mrs. Judah: She was a big woman.

Mr. Judah: Yeah. Every Monday was washday. We washed clothes in these big old black wash pots. One of them was for putting lye soap in and soaking-washing- clothes. After they would soak in there a while, Mother had a broom stick and would stir those clothes in that lye soap. Then after that process, she’d take them out of there and put them in this other pot of clean water for rinsing - then wring them out and hang them on the clothes line. Every Monday, that was what we did.   All we had were fireplaces and wood stoves. No gas or electricity for years. We kept the fireplaces and woodstoves going. Mother and other women would quilt quilts and make blankets. We slept under a lot of quilts in the winter. At night Mother and Dad’s feet got really cold so she had some old irons, used for ironing. She would put them on hot coals, wrap them in a towel and put the irons against their feet. And it worked well except my brother and I didn’t get to use them because we didn’t need them-we were young. In the summertime when my Dad had extra time, we would cut firewood for the coming winter. When vegetables in the garden were ready, Mother and Dad would can every kind of food you could think of for the winter-corn, green beans, pinto beans, tomatoes, potatoes, black eyed peas, onions, cabbage, water melons, cantaloupe and vegetable soup. Made jams and jellies from wild grapes. They had a huge garden and hogs so we had hams, bacon, slabs, pork sausage, and cracklings. All smoke cured in the old smokehouse. It was about 75 feet from our back door.  My mother made lye soap from part of the hog. We called it lye soap. She also used lye to help make it. It would get the clothes clean. September was the month for hog killing. Back then it got cooler in September. Never will I forget those times. My parents could live on nothing because they raised the hogs, made the garden work and knew how to can vegetables and process any kind of food. We had a battery radio to listen to the news, Chuck Wagon Gang on WBAP radio at 6 AM. Also listened to the Lone Ranger but kept it off most of the time to save the battery. This was not a re-chargeable battery like they have now.   Before we had a motorized vehicle, a wagon pulled by a pair of mules was the main mode of transportation. Saturday was the day to go into Groesbeck and buy or charge needed items. We would leave out probably around 10 AM going into town with the wagon and pair of mules. Mother and dad would go around and buy or charge needed items like flour, big sacks. Big Sacks were needed for mother to make her flour sack dresses and shirts for us. My dad would go behind the grocery stores and pick up fruit the store had thrown out. He would bring home apples, might have one little spot on ‘em you know, oranges, same thing. Bananas-some black spots. Didn’t bother us any back then. Also they bought pressed ham and Velveeta cheese. When we got home that night, Mother made pressed ham and Velveeta cheese sandwiches and any fruit we might want. Anyway, the trip home on the wagon was something I’ll always remember. It was always at night. You could see stars, the Milky Way and no airplanes. There were planes but not that plentiful. Looking off to the North you could see lights dancing around. My parents said they were the Northern Lights. Another thing I remember were the wolves howling in the distance or in some cases they’d follow us in the wagon probably hoping we would throw them some food. Going from a wagon to a motor vehicle was quite an accomplishment. For many years we went everywhere in a wagon pulled by a pair of mules. My dad could finally afford to buy a Model A Ford. I remember the day we went to get it. Naturally we went in the wagon. I drove the wagon and mules home while my Dad drove the Model A. I beat him home because he kept having flats. We’d have to stop and repair the flats. Since the war was going on, the tire tubes were not natural rubber. Synthetic rubber was used for tubes and they were not very reliable. Sleeping outside in the summer. In the summertime we had no air conditioners and the heat was really bad. My Dad built a platform out by the back fence big enough for two mattresses. Mother and Dad on one, Pete and I on the other one. Lots of pleasant memories from sleeping outside. Best thing was it was cool enough. I remember laying on my back and looking straight up at the stars and the Milky Way. What a beautiful sight. Falling stars every now and then you could see a plane once in a while but they were not high flying jets. You could hear packs of wolves howling at a distance. Sometimes they would come up to the house and look around but our dogs would alert us that they were around and they would run away. This is about from the Old Stroud Plantation to the new house via the barn we lived in while they were building that house. Can you believe we lived in the same plantation home that Logan Stroud built in 1846? Here is link to the pictures of the home: 

The plantation home was torn down in 1946 and another home built in the same spot. We moved into an old barn close by until the new house was built. Living in the barn was an experience to say the least. Cleaning it out was a chore. Everywhere, many snakes-both good and bad. Windows missing. No water or electricity. We were already used to no water or electricity. Cattle must have been using it for shelter because cow crap piles on the floor. I believe there was a well. I do remember the outhouse being moved from the old house to the barn, a necessary facility. Must have been spring and summer when we lived there because there were no ways to heat the place. That time in my life must not have been great because not many memories of the inside of this place exist. I mean after all it was clean the hay out, snakes everywhere had to be gotten rid of and every insect you could think of.

Mrs. Judah: What about mosquitoes when you slept outside? What did yall do about that-just cover up?

Mr. Judah: Just cover up. I don’t guess it bothered us as much back then.

Mrs. Judah: I don’t guess you had as many mosquitoes’ as now.

Mr. Judah:  I remember outside activities as fun times but living inside must not have been great. We had a Model A when we lived there. My Dad was getting ready to go to town. For some reason he must have made me mad because I let the air out of all four of the Model A tires just before he left. You talk about one mad human, my Dad was worse than mad. I can remember him pumping up those tires with a hand pump, at least we had one, and saying some unkind words. Actually, I think my Mother thought it was funny. Not many relatives came to stay with us during those times. I wonder why. Ha ha. As a matter of fact we always had relatives come to stay in the old plantation home. In the new house-funny I don’t remember much about moving into the new house-probably because I spent most of my time outside. New house did not have running water, indoor plumbing or electricity. For a good while we had wood stove for cooking and heat with the fireplace in the living room. I think it was a 3 bedroom, no bath. We had a room with a number 3 washtub and a wash pan to wash your hands. Later we got a butane tank-(getting up in this world)-for some heating and cooking. Still used the living room fireplace for heat. No butane heater. I remember a small heater in the washroom. Still use the old battery radio. Oh yeah, slop jars. Not much to say about slop jars except I’ll be damned if I was gonna use ‘em. I went outside. Slop jars were women things and if any of yall ask me what they were, my response would be “Google it!” My mother’s last words to me and Pete at night were “Boys go to the porch” and we’d go out there and pee.  Memory from the old plantation home. I was pretty little when this happened. My Dad worked on the windmill the day before and a big pipe wrench fell on his toe and mashed it pretty good. The next morning he was in the kitchen helping Mother with breakfast. I was crawling around on the floor saying “Toe Daddy”. He didn’t pay any attention to me so I said it again, “Toe Daddy”. He still didn’t pay any attention to me so I picked up a stick of stove wood and hit him right on that mashed toe. Mother had to actually grab him to keep him from beating the crap out of me. Mother said she remembered me saying that but no one paid attention. Ha ha.  Mother and Dad singing and playing. Mother was a great singer. I can remember her voice over everyone in the First Baptist Church in Groesbeck. Dad played acoustic guitar and Mother would sing. I remember him with a guitar across his lap playing. They were really good. Don’t remember why they did not entertain us more than they did-probably because they were working all the time. Probably tired from working. We would attend singing conventions at New Baden. Also dinner on the ground. Mother would get up and sing with the visiting quartets. Really enjoyed that. Don’t know what happened to the acoustic guitar-probably burned in the house fire. Next is about Fort Parker School. I don’t know if you want to hear anything about that or not.

Mr. Reagan: Yes, if you don’t mind.

Mr. Judah:  Fort Parker School was a country school about 5 miles north of Groesbeck. I went there 1st through the 4th grades. The teachers I remember were Mrs. Callum and Mrs. Barfield. Have you ever heard of J.J. Barfield? 

Mr. Reagan: Yes, I have.

Mr. Judah: That was his wife. Lots of days Mrs. Barfield would have to walk a good ways to get to school because the roads were black land muddy after rains. During the winter a different student would be assigned to get to school early and get the coal heater going to heat the two school rooms. Grades 1 through 4 would be taught in one room and the higher grades would be taught in the other room. Lots of days my brother and I would ride a horse to school. We would board him at Beaver’s across the road then ride him home after school. We would walk to school on many days-probably 3 or 4 miles. On the way home we would pick blackberries and put them in our pockets and take them home to mother. Berries were not in very good shape when we got home and neither were our pants. The school had outhouses for restrooms-snakes and all. I remember having recess at Ft. Parker School.  Mrs. Callum was showing a snake during one recess. I thought I’d be a hero so I picked up a big rock, threw it on the snake and killed it and that was not what Mrs. Callum wanted me to do. During WW ll many things were rationed like sugar and other items. People would come to school to issue adults ration books so they could get sugar and other items that were rationed. Rubber goods were rationed. For example tires, nylon hose, inner tubes for tires were fake rubber. I forgot the proper name for the material used to make inner tubes, some kind of synthetic rubber. The Fort Parker school was where the Groesbeck iceman would leave our one hundred-pound block of ice. By the way, we lived at the old Stroud place when all this was going on. My dad and I would go over to the schoolhouse in the wagon, pulled by a pair of mules, pick up the ice block wrapped in burlap and take it home. My dad would split the block into fifty pound blocks. Some of it he would put in the top of what we called a cooler since we probably didn’t have electricity. It kept things cool-not really cold-but cold enough not to let things spoil. I don’t remember where the other ice was stored for use making ice cream and for iced tea. I think what he did was,  wrap the ice in a burlap bag and put it under the house. Believe it or not it would stay frozen for a good while, in other words, it melted slowly.  After the 4th grade, we were transferred to the Groesbeck schools. The schoolhouse was no longer needed. Wish I could find some history about the place but haven’t been able to. The next thing is about my bouts with asthma. I had asthma from early childhood until I was thirty years old.  When I had an asthma attack as a child, I would start turning blue.  My Dad had gotten up in the middle of the night, rode his horse to town to get the Doctor.  Doctor Cox or Doctor Strode would come out and get me to breathing right again.  What a terrible way to try and take care of your family.  Finally, we got a Model A Ford to get around in

Mr. Reagan: Did you say awhile ago that you had some photos of the Stroud house?

Mrs. Judah: It’s on a link I think he found.

Mr. Reagan: Oh. So he found an image on-line?

Mr. Judah: yeah, there’s link in here of it.

Mr. Reagan: Ok. Alright.

Mr. Judah: And shows just like it did when we lived there you know.

Mrs. Judah: Does he have a copy of that? Did you give him the link?

Mr. Judah: Yeah. You want this right? A copy of this?

Mr. Reagan: I’d appreciate it.

Mr. Judah: I have it on a computer at the house so you can have this.

Mr. Reagan: All right.

Mrs. Judah: It’s down there in blue on the bottom of a page (looking for link).

Mrs. Judah; It was on one of those other pages. It was down there on the bottom.

Mr. Judah: Yeah. Here-you find it. She’s been my driver for 32 years.

Mrs. Judah: Almost 32. Here it is. That’s it down there at the bottom.

Mr. Reagan: Ok. I can see that.

Mr. Judah: Alright. Here is a link for the pictures of the home right there. I had one picture of Mr. Jackson right before they were fixing to have a round-up I guess, with all the cowboys circled around him. Unfortunately most of them had their backs to him but I know who they are. Most of them. I’ll either have to bring it back or mail it to you. It was taken down here at the old auction barn and I guess he was telling everybody what they was fixin to do. But it was interesting.

Mr. Reagan: I’d like to see that.

Mr. Judah: But some folks around here, somebody’s got some pictures and Bob Fewell’s has some.

Mrs. Judah: There’s a lot of pictures in here.

Mr. Judah: Yean there are. Yeah ole Bob, I hated to keep bothering him but he said yeah “John, I’ve got ‘em upstairs in the attic” but he never did say I could go on up on there and get them you know. And I wasn’t gonna ask him to so one of these days I might. But I don’t know who else you contacted or anything.

Mr. Reagan: I haven’t. I’ve talked to James Fewell a little bit about maybe interviewing him at some point. His wife passed away recently so I didn’t-haven’t-wanted to bother him.

Mr. Judah: Yeah.

Mr. Reagan: But he called me a couple of weeks ago and had some things he wanted to donate to the museum but he hasn’t brought them in yet.

Mrs. Judah: Are there any pictures in here of the old sale barn or Stroud place?

Mr. Judah: You’ll just have to look around I guess.

Mr. Reagan: I don’t think we have anything up- I think we may have a photo of the sale barn scanned that we may have gotten from one of the DeCordovas but I don’t think we got it put up yet.

Mrs. Judah: You could bring that picture down of the cowboys.

Mr. Judah: You want me to try again and talk to these black families?

Mr. Reagan: Well if you want to.

Mr. Judah: Ok.

Mr. Reagan: Mr. Fewell sent me list of people and their kids but I have not had time.

Mr. Judah: Well I got them right here. The ones I could think of anyway.

Mr. Reagan: I didn’t think to bring that with me today. It’s at the house.

Mr. Judah: If you wanted to keep all this stuff I’ve got copies of it at home.

Mr. Reagan: Well I’d appreciate it.

Mr. Judah: Ok.

Mr. Reagan: I appreciate you taking the time to do this today. Coming down.

Mr. Judah: Yes. I sure hope that the end result will come fast, you know. That all these people will be included in the history of this county because as far as I know that was the only bunch of cowboys that ever was round here. They got some now I’m sure but not like there was then.

Mr. Reagan: Things are different now. The way they do things.

Mr. Judah: Yeah

Mr. Judah; I don’t know if James has got anymore cattle or not. I guess he has. He lives out at the old Stroud Ranch. It’s kinda funny. He’s right on the spot where I lived. And it made me sick when I drove out there and the cedar trees, they cut ‘em down. I mean they were huge and very, very old.  

Mr. Reagan: Well thank you so much.

Mr. Judah: Yes, thank you.


Tragic Incidents I remember around Groesbeck In Early Years


  1. I was working at Zeph’s Gulf filling station on a Sunday afternoon May 15th 1955 when all of a sudden a 1955 Oldsmobile came to a screeching halt in the driveway.A lawman jumped out and yelled for me to fill it with Gulf No Nox.I said what’s going on?He said Sheriff Harry Dunlap was killed by a deranged person out in the country from town and they were here to help arrest him.When he signed his fuel invoice, the Texas Ranger was Clint Peoples who later became Captain of the Texas Rangers.Anyway, an armored personnel carrier (APC) from Fort Hood was called in to remove the man.If I remember right, the APC moved in close to the house and showered the inside with gas.The man come running out still shooting.The man was filled full of holes.Don’t see how he lived as long as he did.Cox’s hospital was a couple of blocks east of the filling station and you could see all the activity going on there when they brought the deranged man in.


  1. If my memory serves me correctly, there was another incident on the Limestone County Courthouse lawn, I don’t remember what year.There was a custody hearing or a divorce hearing scheduled to be held at the Courthouse.The woman’s husband arrived by himself.The woman and her Mother and Father arrived in another vehicle.When the woman and her Mother and Father got out of the vehicle to go in the Courthouse, the husband got out of his vehicle and killed the woman and her parents with a shotgun.That’s all I remember about the incident.I’ll try and find out more.



Print | Sitemap
© Limestone County Historical Commission