Blackjack Grove - Cumby History


Hopkins County TXGenWeb

History of Blackjack Grove (Cumby)

From the historical files of June E. Tuck who does not validate or dispute any historical facts in the article.


By Chauncey Brown - Staff Correspondent of the Dallas Morning News

Cumby, Hopkins Co., Texas, April 12, 1926

Fifty years ago the two Texas points that were best known in adjoining States were Jefferson and Blackjack Grove. With passing of time, Blackjack Grove disappeared from the map under that nomenclature and reappeared as Cumby. But Blackjack Grove which had a tune named after it, still played by old-time fiddlers, did not flourish so well under its new name and has been outstripped by scores of towns and cities on every side.

It seems as it if Cumby elected to be a Rip Van Winkle of municipalities. Living largely in the past the pioneers talked of the time Gen Sam Houston was a frequent visitor and when the wagons labored through the town westward in an almost steady stream. Just a few years ago some of the younger men began to make their influence felt. They did not hope to make Cumby the largest city in Texas, although she once was a rival of Dallas, but they do plan to bring all modern conveniences into their homes and to keep progress with the times.

According to the census of 1920, Cumby had a population of 1100. That is what is claimed at the present time, but the Chamber of Commerce is waging a active campaign and is confident that a gradual growth will be shown from now on. Cumby adopted a commission form of government some time ago, elected three young men as City Commissioners in 1924, and re-elected this spring. Mayor W. C. Edmonds, familiarly referred to by his fellow-towns men as Todd, is also secretary of the Chamber of Commerce. He handles fine insurance and is admittedly one of the busiest men in the community. He was 27 years of age when first elected. C. A. Brewer, Finance Commissioner, and B. F. Lewis, Street and Water Commissioner, are also young men.

It is important to remember that the present regime started in 1924. Cumby now has a city water system, a sewer system and an electric light plant, all of which have been installed in the last two years. There are two banks, the Cumby State Bank and the First National Bank. Each of these institutions report more money on deposit today than on the same date a year ago.

The business street is on the road which extends from Greenville to Sulphur Springs. Cumby being about midway between. Practically all business houses are of brick and the downtown sidewalks are kept in good condition. Most of the homes are of frame construction, although a few of them also are of brick.

In August, 1924, Cumby voted $40,000 in bonds to install a waterworks systems. As the well was being drilled, bystanders observed signs of oil. There was much excitement, for many of the pioneers had always insisted that there were oil in the vicinity. Samples were taken by various outside companies, but one day an inquisitive small boy with a stick spoiled all the fun. This lad was prodding around the mud drawn to the surface and his stick brought a bottle to the top of the heap.. As investigation proved it still half full of a very fine grade of crude oil and traces of the liquid gold ceased to appear from that time on.

By the early part of 1925, the well had been completed at a depth of 721 feet and the waterworks municipally owned, was in operation. There is a water tower of 50,000 gallons capacity, reservoir of 60,000 capacity, the well has a pumping capacity of 90 gallons a minute and water is furnished to 300 customers. This water analyzed 98 percent pure and some claim it is beneficial for rheumatism and kidney trouble.

The sewer system, which cost $15,000, was installed late in 1925. Cumby is proud of it for there are many much large towns in East Texas which have as yet not taken this forward step.

While the city does not own the electric light plant, which was in installed in 1924, it is getting current at a reasonable rate and has twenty-four hour service. A high line also furnishes electricity to Campbell, a small town a few miles away in Hunt County.

City and country sic) are both sharers in the benefit of the Cumby Rural Telephone Company; owned by the patrons, which extends its line out over a radius of ten miles. The lines are in good shape, there is money in the treasury and the dues are $1.50 a quarter - considerably less than city folks have to pay for the privileges of getting wrong numbers and busy signals.

Protection against conflagrations is assured by the abundant water supply and a volunteer fire department of 18 men. This organization, however, is considerably younger than the Masonic Lodge No. 180, which was chartered Jan. 24, 1855.

Cumby is in the center of a rich farming community. The soil is mostly chocolate loam and crops include cotton, corn, oats, potatoes, onions and fruits. The two cotton gins turned out 3,500 bales last year.

Grade dirt roads extend into all rural communities, a forty foot road, five miles long, has been built to the Sulphur Springs, Commerce pike and in 1924, Cumby voted bonds for its part of the new Sulphur Springs-Greenville road now under construction . The town is on both the Jefferson Highway and State Highway No. 1

To show that it is abreast of the times, Cumby boasts an eight teacher school, conducted in a brick fireproof building, along the line of education. There is a good weekly paper, the "Cumby Rustler" of which Hal S. Milam is editor. There are five churches, Baptist, Methodist, Progressive Christian, Church of Christ, and Presbyterian. The last named congregation having erected a $12,000. brick edifice last year.

Keeping pace with the men, the women have a Parent-Teacher Association, of which Mrs. Will Mercer is president, and the Twentieth Century Club of which Miss Pearl Green is president, Miss Bessie Callan, recording secretary, and Mrs. Nita Edmonds, treasurer.

The women of Cumby want a city park. Judging from an historic event in the town’s life, they are pretty apt to get what they want, especially since the "city dads" are looking forward.

It was back in 1896, that the women of Cumby showed what they would do if occasion demanded. Cumby had voted out the saloons in August, 1894, being one of the first towns in the State to take such action. Some of the Cumbians were inclined to oppose prohibition and two blind tigers crept into the community. They did not last long, for in 1896, the good women of town and county went on the rampage. Both places were sacked and the chocolate loam soil got a good jag from the whisky, gin, and beer which splashed out from breaking bottles. Since that time, so it is claimed, Cumby has been bone-dry except for the rains from Heaven and the aqua pure from the new waterworks.

At the present time the Humble Co. is drilling for oil, six miles north of Cumby. Another company sank a well seven miles south year before last, but it proved a dry hole. The community is not a whit excited over the present enterprise, although there are those who insist that there is oil in the neighborhood.

There were two hotels in Cumby fifty years ago when the ox wagons kept the dust rising from the long road. It was not Cumby then, however, but Blackjack Grove, and early inhabitants tell of an old couplet, "Blackjack Grove, just one street - two hotels and nothing to eat."

Whether or not that was true then, it is not at all true concerning the present hotel in Cumby which sets a mighty good table. There are also two well-equipped garage and the present day autos keep them as busy as the wagons of old did the blacksmith shops.

Reference to the blacksmith shops reminds of the citizen of Cumby who has brought renown to his home town in modern years. His name is R. R. Williams. His fellow townsmen speak of him as Uncle Bob, but there was a time when he was known all over Texas as "The Cumby Blacksmith."

Bob Williams was born in Arkansas, May 1, 1839, so, if he lives until May 1st, he will be 87 years old. He is now a candidate for the Legislature. Once he ran for Governor, received 125,000 votes and made Cumby a political Mecca.

Here is a man who has had an interesting life. He commanded a troop of cavalry in the Confederate Army and was captured and sentenced to be shot as a spy. Only through the Masonic sign of distress was he able to escape. In the late ‘60s he came to Cumby and was a farmer, a carpenter and a blacksmith. Always he was active in politics. He was elected Constable, then Justice of the Peace, then County Commissioner, and then was sent to the Legislature. In 1908, he announced his candidacy for Governor against Tom Campbell.

Every one laughed at first. Then people began talking about "the Cumby Blacksmith." Mail poured in to Uncle Bob. He put up a big flag over his little blacksmith shop and received callers from every section of the state. He had to get a campaign manager, Levi I. Mercer, assuming that position, and it was necessary to hire several stenographers. Tom Campbell won - but more people had heard of Cumby through her blacksmith than ever knew of Blackjack Grove in her palmist days. Uncle Bob is still hale and hearty despite his four score years and more.

Some interesting data regarding the early history of the town was furnished by R. W. Harris, Pioneer hardware man, who has lived in Cumby 36 years. In fact, he is the town historian, and has collected a wealth of information regarding his home.

Blackjack Grove was quite a settlement in 1854. One of the earliest merchants was Capt. M. Brenom (Branom) a friend of Sam Houston and the latter frequently stopped at Brenom’s (Branom) while campaigning. Incidentally the present Mayor of Cumby married the granddaughter of Capt. Brenom(Branom.)

In the early days Tarrant was the county seat of Hopkins County. It was located four miles north of Sulphur Springs and there is little left to show that it once was a thriving town. Tom Cate came from Tarrant to Blackjack Grove and entered business in 1854, being the second postmaster.

Pioneers claim that Blackjack Grove and Cumby have always had good school teachers. A number of years ago, they say, there was quite a fine educator in charge of their school. His name was Campbell. One of his pupils was his nephew, Morris Sheppard, now United States Senator from Texas, but Morris went to the Blackjack Grove schools only for a year or so.

The railroad was built through Blackjack Grove in 1889 and the first church, Cumberland Presbyterian, was built in 1884. The name of the station was shortened to Blackjack and, as there was another post office in Texas by this name, confusion resulted.

Things rocked along for a time, but the people of Blackjack Grove were not satisfied to live in plain Blackjack. It was in 1895, that the name was changed, the Hon. Dave Culberson making the arrangements and suggesting that the town be called Cumby in honor of one of his war comrades. So Blackjack Grove vanished. The tune which took its name, on the character of "Turkey in the Straw," has lived, and residents of Cumby were delighted, a few nights ago to hear an old fiddler play it over the radio.

Some wanted to call it Normal City, for the Independent Normal was founded in 1895, and was conducted for several years. The Government, however, was averse to two-word names, so refused the request.

When the Civil War broke out, Blackjack Grove raised a military force, Co. F, 9th Texas Infantry, which did valiant service for the Confederacy. It was mustered in on Jan. 5, 1861, and its flag was presented by Miss Texana Trimble. Reunions were held for years, but now there is only one survivor, Capt. Trevillian of Miller Grove.

Many of the Cumby boys joined the colors when the United States entered the World War. Mayor Edmonds was then in a business college in Dallas. He enlisted in the navy and served two years and eight months, mostly in Far Eastern waters, came back in 1930 and opened up his fire insurance business. But where the boys of the Civil War specialized on reunions, the veterans of the late war are striving to build up their home town. They are determined that Cumby shall keep pace with the times. They insist that the long sleep is over. (Dallas Morning News, Ap. 13, 1926)


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