Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Wilbar Brick Company of Gordon, Texas

John T.O. Wilbar owned and operated the Wilbar Brick Plant in Gordon, Texas (located in Southern Palo Pinto County) from approximately 1888 to 1906. His operation predated all area brick making, occurring well before nearby Thurber started making their famous bricks.

John Thomas Octavius Wilbar was born on May 28, 1853 in Wilkes, NC to Isaac Russell and Rachel Colvard Wilbar. The family migrated to Texas in about 1879 and to Gordon by the mid 1880s. John initially settled in Duffau, TX (north of Hico) and served for a brief time as a school teacher there. Upon arriving in the Gordon area he initially took a job as postmaster for Coalville. During this time Mr. Wilbar either purchased or built a cotton gin and successfully took advantage of Gordon’s booming crop of the day.

Around 1888, as the need for solid (fire proof) building products increased, John built a brick making outfit next door to his gin. The brick plant and kilns (a total of seven) would have been located a couple of blocks south of the current Methodist Church to the east of the present day highway. The shale used for the bricks came from a hill due west of the plant (across the current road). A pulley rail car system was used to bring the shale down the mountain. When a full car went down the hill it pulled the empty car back up. At that time the only road leaving town to the south was what is now known as Mitchell Hill road, so crossing a road wasn't an issue for the shale cars.

The kilns used were roughly 10 to 20 feet high and about 70 feet long and were wood burning. The bricks made at the Wilbar plant were of the dry pressed variety and were most suitable for use in building construction. It has been documented that Wilbar Bricks have been found in various cities in north Texas over the years. Some of Gordon’s buildings downtown and underpinnings on various old homes are made of these bricks as well.
When gas became available in 1906, Mr. Wilbar made the decision to switch to the more modern fuel. The kilns were all fitted for the new fuel and an initial batch was fired. Unfortunately the bricks became too hot and fused together in massive blocks, rendering all of the kilns ruined. This disaster spelled the end of Wilbar Brick production. Mr. Wilbar continued to gin cotton until a fire destroyed his gin in January of 1907. He left Gordon in 1918 and relocated to San Antonio where he died on October 24, 1923.

NOTE: John Wilbar's brother Alexander P. Wilbar founded the First National Bank of Gordon in 1901, helping to make the Wilbar family one of the most influential families on early day Gordon.

The Three Bills of Thurber, Texas

Left to Right: J.W. Ivey, J.W. Gailey Sr, and W.T. Fulfer in downtown Thurber (ca 1917)

The T&P Coal Company that owned and operated Thurber generally strove to run a self sufficient town but sometimes it had to lean on area farmers and ranchers to meet its needs. This was the case when the need arose for a new source of beef cattle in about 1900.

T&P Coal awarded a cattle supply contract to a partnership consisting of three local cattlemen, John William Gailey, John William Ivey, and William Thomas Fulfer. The three men became known as “The Three Bills” to their customers. The contract indicated that they needed to supply 50 head of cattle by each Friday for slaughter. This demand required the partnership to travel great distances at times to purchase cattle.

The Three Bills would become very popular with their customers for maintaining a reputation of fairness and honesty. They had a policy of not making a profit from widowed women and if a rancher quoted a price that was too low they would give them a more reasonable price for their stock. J.W. Gailey, who essentially lead the group, became known as “Uncle Bill” to many of his clients due to his fair dealings.

This business venture proved to be very profitable for the three men. All three were able to live well supporting their large families and expand their ranches considerably. JW Gailey was able to expand his ranch into Erath County stretching from the road south of Thurber westward to present day Highway 16. After purchasing his Erath County land he build his family a larger home, which still stands 110 years later.

NOTE: This photo started my interest into family history. I was looking through a Palo Pinto County history book back in 1992 (as a high school freshman) and ran across the image. Noticing the name J.W. Gailey below the photo I figured that the man must be related. I sent a copy of the photo to my grandmother, Dovie Gailey Hunt, and she was elated to see it. She shared with me that he was indeed her grandfather and sent copies of the photo to several relatives in the family. This of course led to more questions from me and over time I wanted to find out everything I could about J.W. Gailey and his family. For years we only had a grainy copy of this photo from the book and it wasn’t until I started working on the Gailey book that I was sent a much clearer copy from the MC and Edna Fry collection, which is the source of this version of the photo.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Eva Eula (Gailey) Fry's Final Letter

This is the final letter written by JW Gailey's youngest daughter Eva Eula (Gailey) Fry before her tragic passing on August, 6th 1930 following childbirth. This letter was written to Eva's sister Cordelia, who owned and operated a tourist camp (early day motel) with her husband Dee Lee in Merkel, Texas. Eva, huband Bert, and five year old son MC Fry were in Tom Green County near the community of Harriett at this time. Eva was seven or eight months pregnant when she wrote the letter.

Eva was born at her parents, John William and Mary Ann Ada (Bigham) Gailey's, home near where Eastland and Erath counties meet on January 6, 1903. She was the ninth and final child of JW and Mary. Sadly Mary would die July 14, 1904, when Eva was just a year and a half old. Eva's sister Mary dropped out of school to care for Eva and would continue to look after her until adulthood. In 1914 JW remarried and would eventually move to San Angelo, Texas due to health reasons in 1918. Much of the family stayed at or near the Eastland and Erath County ranch land but Eva moved to San Angelo with her father and sister Mary and her new family. JW passed away just days after Eva's 19th birthday. By 20 years of age Eva married Bert Monroe Fry and they would make their home near San Angelo on land she inherited from her father's estate.

The letter reads as follows:


San Angelo, Texas
June 1930

Dear Cordelia and Dee,

I have not heard from you in ages what are you doing for your self?  I am getting fatter and fatter each day. Do you hear from Selma and Pernia? I have not heard from them in a long time.

Our crop looks fine but late. Our old hens are laying good and I sell from eight to ten lbs of butter per week. We still have chickens to eat. Come over we are going to have red beans today.

The B. Meeting is going on at Harriett. I have not seen Mary in two weeks.

Are you doing good with your camp now? What is Nick and C.F. doing for a living? Do they have a crop or cows or working for wages or what? I do not hear from them.

M.C. is sure growing and getting so big and mean. I do not know one thing to write so I guess you are tired of questions.

Route 2 Box 208


In the letter Eva asks questions about her brother Nick (and wife Selma) and sister Pernia (and husband C.F. Jones). She also mentions not seeing her sister Mary Gailey Eubank in two weeks and they did not live far from each other. It is safe to assume that Eva had her questions answered either via a return letter or by a visit Cordelia and Dee had with her on July 3rd and 4th 1930.

It was a very rainy day on August 6, 1930. At 27 years of age Eva Eula went into labor while at her sister Mary's home and the doctor was notified and headed to the Fry household. Eva wanted to give birth to her second child in the same bed she birthed her son, so she was driven to her house. The rain made travel very difficult but they made the short journey however, the doctor got stuck in the mud on the way. Eva delivered a healthy baby girl that would later be named Eva Louise Fry. Eva Eula got to enjoy her new baby for a brief time but her body went into shock, likely from blood loss. With no doctor on site to assist Eva Eula sadly passed away. She was the first of J.W. Gailey's children to die.

This source of the letter is the MC and Edna Fry Collection. 

Friday, March 7, 2014

William Tuder: A Patentee

A few months ago I ran across an index that indicated a William Tuder from Texas had filed a patent with United States Patent Office in 1871 titled "Improvment in Current-Wheels". After a bit of digging I unearthed the actual patent documentation complete with illustrations and definitions. The document indicated that the William Tuder that filed the patent was indeed William Tuder, Grandfather of J.W. Gailey Sr.

William Tuder was responsible for relocating his family from Kentucky to Bell County Texas in the late 1850s and then later on to northeastern Eastland County in 1872. In Bell County the family settled between the communities of Aiken and Moffett on the banks of the Leon River. William was a master carpenter with early work as a wheel right and later as a cabinet and furniture maker. It is safe to that that he knew a thing or two about geometry and the math behind creating objects from wood and metal. Due to the nature of the patent he filed, it is also safe to say that he knew a thing or two about the use of hydraulics in running river mills, which were very popular at the time for use in grinding food items such as corn.

William Tuder's U.S. Patent for "Improvement in Current-Wheels" was filed June 6, 1871. He was listed as "William Tuder, of Moffettown, Texas". This was not an original patent on current-wheel design but rather a helpful modification to existing designs. The description states that it is an improved arrangement of  feathering-buckets and gate operating devices.

This patent has been cited in subsequent patent applications, even some as late as the last decade. It is unclear whether his invented enhancements are still in use in modern day current-wheels but evidently it was an important enough of an advancement that it warranted a patent.

At the time of the patent, William Tuder had already purchased land in Eastland County. Within a year he and his family would migrate up the Leon to their new property on the banks of Palo Pinto Creek. It has been passed down that a grist mill was once located on the east bank of the Palo Pinto on the original Tuder land in Eastland county. William's patent likely was put to use on that once flowing stream.

Below are the two documents involved with the patent.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Tuder Letters - Part Three

In order by date, the third letter we have from the Tuder's back to their homeland of Muhlenberg County, Kentucky was written September 10, 1885 by Nicholas Francis Marion (N.F.M.) Tuder to his dad's brother Hezekiah Tuder. NFM was J.W. Gailey's oldest Tuder uncle. He enlisted and served with J.W.'s father Asa Lomax Gailey in the Civil War. NFM was discharged early due to illness. He always lived near his family and no records indicate that he ever married. NFM was a skilled carpenter like his father. 
The following is my transcription of the letter complete with his exact spelling of words. I believe it helps to paint a picture of maybe how they might have sounded when speaking as some words are spelled more like they sounded to the writer than the actual spelling.
Things were a bit on the dire side considering the tone of his letter. A lot of deaths in the few years the family had lived in Eastland County. There was continuing talk in this letter about property that NFM's father had inherited from his father that was apparently sold off by another member of the family with no money sent to the Texas branch of the family. 
The letter below also mentions William, which was a common name for J.W. Gailey. You can tell that the family was close enough that they all knew each other's business. At this time J.W. likely lived within a quarter mile of N.F.M. at his mothers house on Rush Creek (eastern Eastland County, east of the Tudor Cemetery).  J.W. Would have been married five years at this point with two small children at home.
Eastland Co Strawn PO Palo Pinto Co Texas
Sept 10th A.D. 1885
Deare uncle in answer to yours of Sept 3rd to hand was glad to heare from you all to heare that you was well. This leaves us all well that is alive. Our sisters is both dead Jane has bin dead about 5 years. Rosey has been dead a little over 1 yeare. Both left heirs. Jimey's wife is dead. She died one month after Rosey died. Father died in Dec 31, 1877 his business heare has bin wound up and I do not know how to inquire in on that matter there. I do not know the law there. I do not know wother the estate is worth enough to justify one of us to come there or not. I wish you would write the poticlars. What right Abe Reno had to sell that land and what father was due him for and all about it. See him and find out. He had better be shore he is right in his proceedings. I do not think he had any law for that. I think limitation would settle a debt 30 years old is he had of course owed him when he left there.
You wrote you had wrote several times to us. This is the first letter we have got form any of you since before father died. We heard through J.S. Biard that Grandmother was dead. You wrote that the land fell to Daniel's heirs. Did you mean to Grandfathers or uncle Daniel's? Some things one way and some another.
So no more. But a little more. William has been running a thrusher this season. Wheat and oats is very good. Cotton is sorrow it will take about 6 acres to make a bale of cotton. Corn is tolerably good. It is worth 50 cents per bushel. Wheat is 60, oats 25 cents per bushel, bacon 10 cents a lb. No sale hardly for any thing.
It is getting late and I must close for this time. Write soon as you get this. So no more but remain your nephew until death.
N.F.M Tuder
NOTE: This letter was among several uncovered by Hezekiah Tuder's granddaughter Willa Dean Noffsinger, who still lives near the old Tuder land in Muhlenburg County, Kentucky. A special thank you goes to Mrs. Noffsinger and her generosity in sharing these letters.

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Tuder Letters - Part Two

In continuing the series on the "Tuder Letters" we will look at another undated letter from  the Texas Tuders back home to Kentucky. This one, like the first one shared, is from  William Henry (W.H.) Tuder (son of William and brother to Permelia Jane (Tuder) Gailey Smith) to his uncle Hezekiah Tuder.
In an attempt to date this letter we know that it had to be prior to W.H. Tuder's death in 1910 and after 1880, the time period that Strawn was established. Mr. Tuder mentions a horrible drought in his letter, which gives us big clue. The Handbook of Texas website says this about the drought... "One of the worst droughts in Texas history occurred in 1884–86, causing most of the farmers to fail and to return to the East."  That statement coincides with statements made in the letter. There is also mention of a new Texas silver mining operation, which would match the 1884 opening of the big Shafter Silver Mine in Presidio County. With those clues in mind plus a few others, this letter was likely written in mid 1885.

The following is a transcript of the letter complete with spelling/grammar errors. The underlined spaces were illegible.
Palo Pinto Co
Mr. H. Tuder. Dear Uncle I take the present opportunity to write you a few lines to let you know the present circumstances of west Texas. We have had a terable drought in this country covering fifty-two counties which is now calling for help.

There are many families that is out of bread now and others nearly out and very few have enough to do until Christmas and all or nearly all in debt. I have 3 bushels of corn, 8 bushels of wheat, and about 70 lbs of bacon and the hogs are starving for something to eat. It has been 13 or 14 months and it is dry from here to Arizona and the southern and eastern portions of the state. Portions of the same are short consequently they will be bound to suffer if not assisted in some way.

I am $75.00 dollars in debt all due now and this fall and not a dollar to pay with and we can not sell anything for money does not pay debts with it for stock will all die thats if it dos not rain soon.

The people have crowded the eastern portion of this state and are begging for work for bread for their families. Two years ago stock cattle was _______  but now they can be baught for $3.00 cows and calves for $6.00. Men are offering their stock for this and cannot get it. I haven you the facts of the worst of it. I will give you the ruhmors of the other. The governor says he will help us and there is and excitement about mineral gold and silver bing found in Texas. I reckon there is no doubt about the silver being in paying quantities.

I will have to close my letter for my neighbor is waiting on me to take to town so write soon and tell me all about your country.

Your nephew until death.
W.H. Tuder

This letter was among several uncovered by Hezekiah Tuder's granddaughter Willa Dean Noffsinger, who still lives near the old Tuder land in Muhlenburg County, Kentucky. A special thank you goes to Mrs. Noffsinger and her generosity in sharing these letters.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Tuder Letters - Part One

The Tuder Letters - Part One : The First Letter

Last winter I visited one of our Gailey cousins, Eva Louise (Fry) Stork, and she was kind enough to let me look through her family folders for any information that I might not have in my records. After looking through countless articles I came across a folder labled "Tuder Letters". Could it really be? Could this folder contain letters from our Tuder ancestors back home, describing their hardships, what their life was like? Surely they are not the letters I had come to the realization that just didn't make it out of that era? To my surprise, what I found in that folder covered all of the above and then some. I found the folder to contain six letters ranging from the late 1870s to the early 1900's from each of the three Tuder brothers, N.F.M., W.H., and J.E.D., who were brothers of J.W. Gailey's mother Permelia Jane Tuder.
To set the stage the Tuder family migrated to Texas from Muhlenberg County, Kentucky in the mid to late 1850s. The patriarch of the family was William Tuder, the father of Permelia Jane, Nicholas Francis Marion (NFM), William Henry, James Edward Daniel, and Rosannah Millianna. Along with them was William's second wife Sarah (who was the mother to Rosannah), Sarah's son Etson Campbell from her late husband, and Permelia's new husband Asa Lomax Gailey (whom she met along the way). William's first wife was Jemima Brown and based on new findings in the letters, she may have actually died after the family left Kentucky. 
When the family left Kentucky, William's parents (William and Permelia) were still very much alive along with roughly 8 siblings. William was the oldest, and his closest in age brother was Hezekiah, who was four years younger. Hezekiah who stayed in Muhlenberg County was the recipient of the mentioned "Tuder Letters". 
A lady by the name of Willa Dean Noffsinger, a descendant of Hezekiah, discovered the letters from Texas when going through an old cabinet years ago. Sometime in the 1970s or 1980s one of the early Gailey historians (either Edna Smith Fry or Zina Gailey Betsill) made contact with Mrs. Noffsinger and she was gracious enough to share copies of the letters.  
I will share the oldest letter first and share the other letters in subsequent parts. From reading the letters we know there was prior communication between the Texas Tuders and their Kentucky relatives. While there is no date on this first letter, it can be derived that it was written around 1874-76 based on a couple of clues in the letter. This would have been within the first five years of the family living in Eastland County, Texas, after their ten year stay in Bell County. Below is my transcription of the letter complete with all of its misspellings. Being that the letter has a couple of illegible words I tried my best to fill in the blanks. The underlined words are left to be determined. The actual letter will appear below the transcription.
Address W.H. Tuder of
Erath County
I forgot to tell you what killed mother, it was the measels. She all ways said if she ever got them they would kill her. Rosannah has got them now Permealia Jayne's oldest daughter has them and I am losing every day when I will take them. There is three families of us, 14 in  all and three out of the 14 that has had them. We are looking for all to be down with them. I don't expect that Father will be there soon for he continues  ill nor gets well, as a _______ in some way. We have a late spring cold weather is lastin well, I will close again,
W.H. Tuder

We learn in a later letter that Hezekiah likely asked William to return to Kentucky to help settle his share of their father's estate.
More letters are coming soon. Check back for The Tuder Letters Part 2.