Some things we’ve learned by roaming around East Texas.
The log gym:
In the 1940s, Newton had a gymnasium made of logs--probably the last such structure of its kind in East Texas. Those who remember the gym say it was cold during the winters and hot as blazes during the summers.
The building was torn down and replaced in the mid-fifties, but the gym’s floor, which had a beautiful Eagle painted in the center of the court, was installed in the new gym.
A Bullard landmark, the town’s old well, has been awarded a state historical marker. Inside a building at the corner of Houston and Main, is the old well, which once stood in the middle of the street. Local folks believe the well tapped into an underground water source.
Ghost riders started haunting Texas in the 1870s when a cattleman driving his cattle to market came across a new homestead blocking his route near the Neches River. He was so angry that he stampeded his cattle right through the farmhouse, crushing everyone inside. The screams are still heard whenever the phantom longhorns are sighted on the plains. The legend inspired the song, “Ghost Riders in the Sky.”
In Bowie County, they say if you drive to a bridge outside DeKalb, you can hear the cries of an infant. The story goes that a mother driving a car plunged into the creek and the baby drowned in the near-freezing waters.
Why in the world do people deliberately tear down or steal Texas State Historical markers? Some recent examples are a marker marking a river crossing on the Angelina River between Lufkin and Nacogdoches and a marker that tells the story of the Fodice community school in Houston County.
Bonnie and Clyde:
When Bonnie and Clyde were tearing across East Texas in the 1930s, they hid out near Redland in Angelina County. As a child, Pauline Haney remembered that the outlaws hid in the woods behind her house. Her mother cooked and did laundry for the outlaws. When they left, they stowed a shotgun in a hollow tree. Pauline’s father retrieved the weapon and sold it to a man in Nacogdoches.
The Bonnie and Clyde Festival:
Each May, the town of Gibsland, Louisiana, holds a celebration known as the Bonnie and Clyde Festival. The events include a reenactment of the ambush that killed the outlaws near Gibsland. The town also has a Bonnie and Clyde Museum.
(Bob Bowman of Lufkin is the author of more than 50 books about East Texas. He can be reached at bob-bowman.com)