Compiled by Jean Caddel
Avalon is a farming and cattle raising community located between Ennis and Italy on State Highway 34 at the crossroad of Highway 55. The U.S. Census Bureau has no record of Avalon on its web site, but residents think there must be somewhere between 150 and 300. Judging from the up to date school at the crossroads, this is a modest guess; however, the school serves a large portion of the farming community of south Ellis County so many Avalon citizens live a some distance from the school. It is located in the very midst of some of the oldest and most historical areas of the county.
William R. Howe, an early settler in this little community, arrived in July, 1843 and settled just south of Forreston. This settlement, first called Freeze Out, was located about 5 miles northwest of Avalon. His home is thought by some to have been just across what is now US Highway 77 from the Forreston Cemetery. Others who followed him to the area were Gen. E. H. Tarrant, Capt. Thomas I. Smith, and C. M. Winkler, who lived near what is now Corsicana. At that time, this area was still a part of Robertson County. Navarro County, formed in 1846, (from Robertson) included present Ellis County, four years before its official formation in 1850. [See Forreston History]
Col. Ben Watson was a well known figure of this area during the Civil War. His farm was located to the west about two or three miles where you will find the Watson Family Cemetery that has been restored in the past few years. Other private cemeteries in the area include the Collier Farm, between Watson and Avalon, and the Dean Cemetery in the eastern outskirts of Avalon, where Dr. Wallace is buried.
Thomas Alston came in 1857 and settled to the southeast about four miles, establishing the community of Astonia (Austonia). His closest neighbor was about two miles to the east at Rankin. The Rankin family came to Texas with Austin's Colony and moved to Ellis County in 1851. Only the cemetery is left there today as evidence of a community. (See Astonia and Rankin Histories)
Hughes Cemetery, located approximately two and one half miles to the northwest of Avalon, is still in use and many Avalon citizens are buried in this beautiful old cemetery. According to the survey map, it appears to be in the very southern part of the Thomas I Smith survey, but it could be in the adjoining survey of Benjamin Smith. Early settlers buried here include William and Nancy John, two of their sons, Robert J. and Harvey, and J. P. and J. H. Giles. Other early family names found are: Bilbrey, Hughes, Youngblood, Feaster, Watson, Jenkins, Mitchell and Keiningham. and Solomon Kirby. Hughes Cemetery was inventoried and published by the Ellis County Genealogical Society a number of years ago. The book Preface states that William R. Howe gave 66 acres of land for this cemetery near Avalon and Chambers Creek. [Could this be the .6 acres of Hughes land located a little farther north which is mentioned in his estate settlement? Perhaps someone can correctly identify this cemetery - see Forreston history]. Tradition has it that Howe is buried in Hughes Cemetery though his grave has never been found. Mrs. Mark Hughes Moses gave the fence and entry to one section "in memory of her father, James M. Hughes, and other loved ones," evidently the family for whom it is named.
William John, called "Billy Johns," and his family were among the early settlers of the Avalon area and he gave the beautiful name "Avalon" to the community. He was born in McMinn County, Tennessee, April 7, 1836, the oldest of six children of Robert and Sallie John. The John family moved to Crawford County, Missouri, when William was young boy, and his brother, Robert, was born there in 1841. "Billy Johns" married Miss Nancy L. Martin, who was born in Missouri in 1842, a daughter of J. I. and Clemantine Martin, natives of North Carolina. Clemantine died in Missouri in 1863, but in 1892 the father was living in the Indian Nation.
In the spring of 1860, William and Robert Johns came to Ellis County, where William first ran a mill on Chambers Creek for Ben Watson. In 1862, he enlisted in the Confederate service under Captain Forrest and Watson, serving mostly in Arkansas, Louisiana and Missouri. He was at Hempstead, Texas, when Lee surrendered.
After returning home, he was employed in threshing wheat and farming before buying a seventy-three acre farm of raw land. In 1892, he owned 386 acres, raising cotton, corn and alfalfa. He and Mrs. John had seven children, five of whom were living in 1892: Clemantine, (born 1866, married Walter B. Hale); Robert J.,( born 1868, still at home); Harvey, (born 1870); Sallie (born 1873) and Robert, (born 1877). Mr. John served as a road overseer and school trustee, was a member of the Alliance, and of the Baptist Church.
Robert John served as a private in Co. E., Parson's 19th Cavalry. He married Mattie Frances Hardeman December 27, 1868, at Chambers Creek Church in Ellis County. She was the daughter of another early family, Dr. John Marr Hardeman and Sarah Marr, who, with other family members, had moved from Hardeman County, Tennessee to Texas in late 1835. Between 1850-60, the Hardeman family settled about five miles west of Avalon on the south bank of Chambers Creek. [See Hardeman Family under "Pioneer Families" and Robert John's memorial and war records in Winnie Davis UCV membership].
Two of Nancy Martin John's brothers, George W. and J. D., also moved to Texas. J. D. Martin and his wife, Rebecca J., are buried in Hughes Cemetery. A more detailed family history of George Martin's family is included in the Family Album of Avalon.
Other early settlers in the Avalon area were J. M. Taylor and family whose daughter, Mary, was born near Hughes Cemetery; Alfred Loyd, who settled north toward Nash; the J. P. Snyder family; J. P. Martin, who came from Missouri and Walter Hall. Samuel Cato Hallam came to Texas shortly after the Civil War and settled at Palmer before moving to Avalon. Other pioneer families were: A. L. Groves; Bud Manning; Jim Manning; Doug Keiningham; George Bilbry; W. M. Bilbry; Will Davis; Henry Smith; the Feaster family, the Youngbloods, the Swaffords and the Jenkins family, who settled northwest in the old Fort Farm area between Forreston and Avalon.
The J. O. Wilson family came in 1879, settling southeast of Avalon near the old community of Austonia. His son, Robert O. Wilson, built his home in Avalon in 1922 on land where "Billy Johns" once lived. Mr. J. K. Wilson, Robert 's son, still lives in the house his father built. His maternal grandfather, W. L. Pierce, was a charter member and minister of the Avalon Baptist Church. Robert O. Wilson served on the Avalon Board of Education for years, dating back to 1919 or before, followed by his son, J. K. Wilson, for some seventeen years. J. K. Wilson's son is a member of the present school board.
Solomon Kirby, another early settler, was a Civil War Veteran and lived to be almost 100, spending his last days in a veterans' home, where he died Oct. 6, 1937. Mr. Wilson told us that when Mr. Kirby went to the home, " when Dixie was played he stood and saluted." Solomon, his wife, Nellie, son, Samuel N., and grandson, Robert Lee, as well as other family members, are buried in Hughes Cemetery. His first wife died in Arkansas, and he married Nettie Nanny, an aunt of Mrs. Ruth Goodwyn. Sam Kirby was the president of the Avalon School Board in the 1930's and Robert Lee Kirby served in the Air Force, during World War II and the Korean War.
J. M. Parker, another influential citizen in the community, was born at Avalon, graduated from the old Normal College at Tehuacana and became a teacher.
In 1878 - 1879, the Chambers Creek Masonic Lodge No. 499 was established with twenty members. They first met on the upper floor of the school at what was then known as Austonia - later to be a separate community called Rankin. It served the citizens of Austonia, Rankin, and Avalon. By 1890, there were some thirty-two members. At that time, the post office was Avalon, and G. T. Southard was listed as Worshipful Master. They still met as late as 1963 in the same location. [See "Community News Briefs" for a complete 1890 roster].
A post office was established in Avalon on August 3, 1881, with Patrick M. Alderman postmaster. Other early postmasters and time of appointment were: William H. Davis, May 10, 1887; Theodore A. Page, July 18, 1898; David O. Swafford, April 17, 1899; James W. Reynolds, February 8, 1901; office discontinued Jan. 2, 1907 and mail sent to Italy. The post office was reestablished January 16, 1937, and has continued until the present, with a nice brick building located across the road from the school.
Avalon has been active also in various county activities. On September 21, 1917, the Avalon Branch of the Waxahachie Chapter American Red Cross was organized with Mrs. L. P. Martin, Chairman. Mrs. Will Grent was Chairman of the War Savings & Thrift Stamp Campaign.
Among numerous early businesses was the Avalon Warehouse Company.( a copy of the charter, dated July 1913, is recorded in Ellis County Deeds). Another deed from J. P. Giles et al to Avalon Gin Company was recorded June 30, 1920. F. A. & Edna Smith gave permission to Avalon Road Works to use a gravel pit on their property (recorded March 16, 1934). We feel sure a thorough search of the deeds, probates, and other records of the older families would reveal many forgotten businesses.
In 1972, Avalon had several very active business establishments, including a gin; farm and seed store (owned and operated by H. L. Southard and Bilbrey Wakeland); a service station; the J. B. Reed Grocery; Southard Grocery and Cecil Jenkins' Barber Shop. The population at the time was two hundred thirty-seven.
The churches have always been an important part of life in this community. The Avalon Missionary Baptist Church is located at the corner of Kirby and Giles Streets.. It bears a historical marker as follows:
"Originally known as Mt. Nebo Baptist Church, this congregation was organized on July 6, 1879,
by Elders Josiah Leake and S. C. Talley and 16 charter members, J. C., Isabel and Sarah Martin; W. L. Pierce; J. P. And M. F. Giles; William Hendricks; William and N. L. John; M. E. Lattner; M. C. Steward; Alice Godfrey; and Melvina Killey. Early worship services were held in the Muscat School and under an arbor. A sanctuary was built in 1924-25. Sunday School facilities and a parsonage was added later. This church has served Avalon for over 100 years." 
[Note: Does anyone know which school was called the Muscat School? Could it have been the first school house one half mile north of present day Avalon?]
Ellen Nichol, W. L. Nichol, Lee Nichol, Wilson Maloney and Nellie Maloney, heirs of Alex Nichol, sold for $140.00 17/64 acre of land to the deacons of the church. (Date of deed was December 2, 1921). The deacons were G. T. Southard, H. M. Reynolds, S. N. Kirby, Polk Kirby, F. M. Duncan, and Allen Caudle.
From the History of Ellis County Baptist: "In the summer of 1873, various brethren from different churches in a part of Dallas, Hill, all of Ellis, and a part of Johnson, Tarrant and Navarro counties agreed to form an Association for their greater convenience etc......" A large number of the messengers were from congregations in Ellis County. Josiah Leake preached at this first annual meeting. Josiah Leake moved to Ellis County near Maypearl in 1861
At the Seventh Session: "On Friday, twelfth of September, in 1879. The Waxahachie church met with Five Mile church in Dallas county pursuant to adjournment the one before at Houston Creek. Letters and Messengers from twenty-two churches present at Organization, and afterwards four others came in, viz: Mount Bethel, Mount Nebo (Avalon), South Fork and Bethany.......Josiah Leake was again chosen Moderator................"
Some of the pastors of the church: W. L. Pierce, (ca 1880 - ?); Loyd Harper, 1941; Elder J. S. Sheppard, 1960; Rev. L. M. Naney 1971; Rev. Mike Gott, 1972.
There was once a Methodist Church, pastored by Reverend John H. McDaniel, and a Catholic Church which met on one of the farms in the area. Members of these churches now attend services in nearby communities.
The Union Church (then located on the corner where the new gymnasium - community building now stands), was, according to some of the long time area residents, for the use of any denomination not having a place to worship. Although not used in quite some time, it stood in that location until a short while before the new gymnasium was constructed in 2001. Deacons of the Avalon Missionary Baptist Church, G. T. Southard, S. N. Kirby, Polk Kirby, F. M. Duncan, and J. P. Giles sold one and one half acres for $600.00 to trustees of the Union Church, October 17, 1924. The trustees were Walter Wiles, T. F. Smith, T. R. Pond, and T. A. Sissom. The deed stipulated that "the Baptist Church shall have the same privileges to hold Church or any other services under the Tabernacle located on these Premises, as any other religious denomination." [Should someone have more history or pictures of this church, please share.]
The funeral for W. F. "Bill" Youngblood, who died January 9, 1929, at his home in Avalon, was held in the Union Church. According to his obituary, the Revs. J. F. McClung and Steve Harwell officiated and he was buried in the Bethany Cemetery near Bardwell.
A bell, once located in the second school building built on the current Griffith Gym location, was moved to the church tower. This bell has been found in a storage building on the school grounds, but the clangor is missing. It is hoped that the clangor can be foound to use the bell to call the community together for special occasions as was done many years ago.
When the bank closed, many of the businesses closed or moved to other locations.Presently, (2004) there is the school, the Baptist Church, a post office, Avalon Water Department building, grocery and service station with a garage next door, a farm store, gin, and PSC Services industry and a volunteer fire department.
A colorful poster is mounted on the office wall of the High School Principal.
We are a School
This describes Avalon schools in a nutshell, but how did they reach this point? Some history helps one understand how this goal was attained while higher goals are always in the future.
On checking the survey map, we find that the original Avalon School was built on Ellis County School Land, and still remains within a half mile of the original location. In 1887, the one room school house was located about one-half mile north of the present town. Professor A. B. Foster was principal and Miss Allie Park was teacher. The school house served as a meeting place for all gatherings. The Farmers "Alliance" held regular meetings there. At times a politician would speak, which was considered a big occasion.
A new school building was built in 1895 where the J. P. Griffith gymnasium is now located. County School #62 was listed in the Ellis County School Records as follows -
Scholastic Population 194.
1897-98 - Trustees: T. F. Smith, W. H. Davis, J. M. Taylor.
Teachers: Mr. & Mrs. H. S. Crawford, Miss Lula Satterfield, J. B. Hemphill, Lottie Richardson.
1898-99 - Trustees: W. B. Hale, W. H. Davis; Census: J. B. Hemphill
Teachers: Mary Taylor, Anna Fuston, Daniel Johnson, Jim & Jodie Brooks.
1899-1900 - Teachers: Anna Fuston, Daniel Johns, Mary Taylor, W. H. Davis, L. E. Bates.
Tax Refunded: G. L. Green, Ira Green.
According to the County School Records (Feb. - April, 1915), the teachers were Mr. L. R. Coker, Superintendent, Mrs. Lon R. Coker, Clara Nowlen, Gella Easter, Pauline Dietrich
We have been told that this building burned and was replaced sometime before 1916.
At the 1979 Avalon Home Coming, a picture of the second school was presented by Maurine Baker Venable for Mrs. Ina B. Lumpkins, who took the picture with a Kodak camera while a teacher there in the year 1919-20 . The Superintendent was Professor Gladney. Teachers were Dorothy Bowden (Mrs. Landis Giles), Audie H. Fleeman (Mrs. Charlie Odom), Mrs. Glenn Smith, and Ina Bess Harvey (Mrs. Rush E. Lumpkins). Trustees were Mr. Kirby (?), Mr. Smith and Mr. Wilson.
Ina Bess Harvey graduated from Avalon High School in 1916. Her classmates included: Milton Deavers, Clyde Deavers, Glenn Smith, Anne McKinney and Ruth Giles. L. R. Coker was Superintendent and Ralph Nowlin, his Assistant. Ina Harvey later attended North Texas State Teachers' College, now North Texas University, Denton, Texas, and taught Primary Grades. She married Rush Lumpkins in October, 1920, and they had two sons and a daughter.
The class of 1929 presented a clock to the school, which is now displayed in one of the trophy cases. Seniors that year were Dorothy Hickman, Gertrude Conner, Docie Mae Jett, Clemmie Gillispie, Herschel Smith, Vernon Roberts, Lonnie Hadaway, Dave Gutherie.
On Sept. 30, 1929, R. O. Wilson, president of the Board of Trustees, paid "One ($1.00) Dollar" and signed a deed of trust for $300 at 8% interest per annum to purchase land south of the then existing school, now the location of the old gym. Grantors were A. W. And Ida D. Miller.
Construction on a modern school building began in 1835-36 under the Works Progress Administration program. A few interesting points about the original specifications: all exterior walls were to be backed with a firewall of hollow clay tile; thresholds were 4 1/4 inch interlocking solid brass and thresholds between rooms were to be of red oak. The Home Economics department was to be enameled and all other interior wood stained and varnished. Black boards, doors, windows, two original trophy cases, wide bases and trim, along with the beautiful hardwood floors have all been preserved. The basic exterior also has very few changes. The building was restored a few years ago and kept intact in so far as possible, with only minor changes. One of the teachers of the Elementary School told me that the walls appeared to be of concrete (the firewall mentioned) and all of them were plastered by hand as they were originally.
The gymnasium was built soon after the school by the WPA. The old school building was torn down and the wood was used in so far as possible according to the architect's specifications.. A bronze plaque has been found that had been on the school with Works Progress Administration 1938-39, which must have been the year the gym was finished.
Other known school superindendents have been: J. P. Griffith, 1926(?)-1961; James E. Elms, 1961-1962; James R. Clark, 1962-1965; J. D. Chaney, 1965-1968: James R. Worsham, 1968-1988.
From 1887 to the present time, Avalon schools have been under the supervision of dedicated school men. J. P. Griffith retired in 1961 after thirty-five years of service.
Parent Teacher Association
First records found thus far were in a yearbook printed for the year 1938-39. At that time, they were founded as a local unit of the Texas Branch of the National Congress of Parents and Teachers, and a member of the Ellis County Council. There is still an active PTA, which continues to support the school in every way possible.
"Push College" or Center School
"Push College," located about three miles south east of Avalon, was a good community school, but in no way did it make claim to being a college. There are several opinions as to the name's origin, one being that the building was blown over by a strong wind and the neighbors got together and "pushed it" back into place, thus the name "Push College."
The building also doubled as a church for various denominations. Cleve Youngblood of Dallas and Waxahachie, along with his nine brothers and sisters were among the graduates. Some of the teachers were Professors Jim Brooks, Sebe Newman, Jodie Brooks, and his brother, Dr. D. J. R. Youngblood. His first teachers were Newman and Miss Jackson. In later years, Mr. Youngblood was a Push trustee for a number of years. Mrs. Robert Farmer of Dallas, the former Eva Williams of Avalon, and Fred Jackson, of Lubbock, formerly of Avalon, who married Wilma Smith of Avalon, taught at "the college."
The Youngbloods, children of the late W. F. And Cynthia Youngblood, who attended Push, included Harper, now the chicken man of Waco, Herman of Corsicana, and Cleve, the sausage man. The W. F. Youngblood children were C. C. (Charlie), Jim, Frank, John, Lizzie, who became Mrs. Oscar Brown, Annie, who became Mrs. C. C. Southard, and Raymond. Other Push students included children of the late Mr. And Mrs. Rob Wilson, the Pierces, several families of Swaffords, the Newmans, the Anthonys, the Rankins, the Lucases, the Feasters, and the Creeches. Like most other rural schools, old Push was abandoned and the students were transferred to Avalon and Rankin.
A visit with Mrs. Jack "Ruth" Goodwyn, who attended this school, revealed the real identity and location of "Push College," which has been a mystery to most until now. She did not know where the name came from but said that it was never used until after the turn of the century and was located about half way between Avalon and Rankin. Mrs. Goodwyn's mother and siblings, the J. M. Nanny children, also attended this school. When members of the family were going through her aunt's papers, they found a report card from Center School, which served to verify the name. [See Section 7 of the 1901-7 Ellis County Map on this page.] About half way between Avalon and Rankin, you will find Central Church & "Dee's School" across the road. These were both listed on the 1901 map. Since other histories said it was used for a church, too, this appears to be the right location for "Push College" or Center School and then they went to Avalon. Mrs. Goodwyn was kind enough to share two pictures of this school, and has identified some of the students. She was not sure when it was built, but before 1900, and remained open until about 1930.
Her teachers were Mrs. Maud Lee Rogers, 1st & 2nd Grades; Miss Flora B. Ganough, 3rd Grade, 1922-23; Miss Gertrude Johnston, 4th Grade, 1923-24; Mrs. Lorin Deering Brown, 5th Grade, 1924-25; Mrs. Rogers (again), 6th Grade, 1925-26; Miss Velma Kirkpatrick, 7th Grade, 1926-27.
The school is the center of the community. There are only a few businesses, but all of them and parents are very supportive, according to the High School Principal. To quote Mr. Wilson, a long time resident, "We have no city limits. We're just a spread-out community, but we pay attention."
Because Avalon is so small, rural and unincorporated, not much has been recorded about the community and what can be found concerns schools that date back to the 1880's.
If you wish to visit a friendly, rural community that still revolves around its school, with modern, up to date facilities and a dedicated faculty who go the extra mile to help their students, then you should drive from Ennis to Italy on Hwy 34 and stop by Avalon on the way.
Avalon may not be on most maps or listed by the United States census, but it's definitely there!
1. History of Ellis County, Texas by the Ellis County History Workshop; Article by Edna Davis Hawkins, Ruth Stone, Ida M. Brookside, Lille Teleostan; pub 1972.
(1) Part of the early history was prepared by Miss Helen Goodliest for the Texas Historical Hand Book. (Note: This is not included in the more recent publication.)
(2) School data furnished by James R. Worsham, Superintendent of Avalon school.
(3) U. S. Postal Service, Washington, D. C.
(4) Ennis Daily News, January 13, 1969.
(5) Ennis Daily News, April 24, 1969.
2. Waxahachie Daily Light, Monday, July 1, 1951; "William Howe, First County Resident" by W. A. Spalding.
3. Ellis County Survey Map of Original Land Grants.
4. Memorial and Biographical History of Ellis County, Texas; Lewis Publishing Co., Chicago, Ill.; pub. 1892.
5. Navarro County History, compiled by Wyvonne Putman; Nortex Press, Quanah, Texas; pub. 1975.
6. Cemetery Records, Vol. 11; pub. by Ellis County Genealogical Society.
7. Hughes Cemetery Inventory; Recorded by Jean Caddel, Fall, 2001.
8. Ellis County Deeds, Book C, p. 553; Wm. R. Howe Property Settlement, 1857.
9. John Marr Hardeman Family History & Cemetery; Compiled by Jean Caddel, Sims Library, Waxahachie, Texas.
10. Winnie Davis Confederate Veteran Records; Stored at Sims Library, Waxahachie, Texas.
11. Ellis County School Records, 1897 -1900.
12. "Covering Ellis County with the County Editor," by Elizabeth Parsons; Waxahachie Daily Light Staff Writer; Date Unknown. (Article found in vertical files at Sims Library.)
13. ECGS, Searchers & Researchers, Vol. XI, Issue 2, 1989.
14. Midlothian Library, Spirit of 17, Ellis Co. U.S.A., "History of the Waxahachie, Texas, Chapter American Red Cross."
15. Brooks, A. D.; History of Ellis County Baptist Association; pub., 1907, pp. 6-7, 20-23, 183.
16. Avalon Baptist Church Texas Historical Marker.
17. Ellis County Deed Records; Ellis County Clerk's Office, Waxahachie, Texas.
18. Obituaries of Mr. & Mrs. B. F. Youngblood; Waxahachie Daily Light, Dec. 27, 1915 & Jan. 26, 1929.
19. Ellis County Pres, Article by Sharolyn Dawn; pub. 2003.
20. Avalon ISD School Records.
22. Monolithic Dome Institute , Italy, Texas; Article by Freda Parker.
23. Vinson Farm Picture, Courtesy Ellis County Museum, Waxahachie, Texas.
24. Center School (Push College) pictures, Courtesy Mrs. Ruth Goodwyn.
25. Ellis County Auditor's Book - School Records, 1915.
26. Information from Teachers and Staff, Avalon ISD.
27. WPA Drawings & Specifications for the present Elementary School and J. P. Griffith Gym.
28. Interviews with local citizens and descendants of early settlers, viz: Mr. J. K. Wilson, H. L. "Sonny" Southard, Mrs. Jack "Ruth" Goodwyn, Mrs. Clarene Feaster Youngblood and others.
Copyright © 2004-2016, Ellis County TXGenWeb. All Rights Reserved.
This page was last modified: Monday, 10-Sep-2018 10:23:33 MDT