Henry Benjamin Gaines
Note:  From a tape recording by Maggie Louise Gaines Connaway, made in 1977 for a student of history at Howard Payne College of Brownwood, Texas.

Henry Benjamin GainesMy father [Henry Benjamin Gaines] came from the northern part of Alabama. He was born in 1853.  He came to Texas when he was 11 years old.  He said he re­membered the Civil War.  My mother came to Texas from Talladega County in Alabama in the early 1880's.  She was born in 1871.  Both my father and my mother came to the northern part of Brown County.  My father came to Brown County with a group of six or eight different families from either Grayson County or Wise County, next to what was then Indian Territory.  I remember him mentioning both counties.  They settled in the Cross Cut and Grosvena area of Brown County.

My father was married when he came to Brown County.  His wife later died and he later married my mother, Miss. Mary Jane Moore.  (editor's note: Henry Benjamin Gaines married Minerva (Evans) Thomas as his second wife, the "wife in the middle")

They met in the Blake Community of Brown County, which is between the Cross Cut area and what was later known as the Williams area. 

This is northeast of May, Texas.  Both the Blake area and the Williams area are now consolidated into the May school district.  My father lived about 2 miles south of Cross Cut.  I was born in January, 1896 at Cross Cut while we were living there.  We moved from there, when I was two years old, to McCullough County, lived there two years, then moved to Winkler County in West Texas near New Mexico.  We lived there one year, and left there because there were not any schools close for us to attend, and moved back to the Jordan Springs community of Brown County in 1904.  This was about 11 miles south of Brownwood, Texas.  I have been in Brown County most of the times since then.  There were 5 children in that family and all of us are living at this time.  There is now only one half-brother, Lee Gaines, living from my father's prior marriage.  He is living in El Paso, Texas now.  He is a retired minister who started preaching when he was 16 years old.  He is now 86 years old and is still preaching.  He is very active preaching, as much as if not more than he did earlier in his life.

When we were young, we lived in a weatherboard, 5 room house in Jordan Springs. The rooms were good sized.  In the room that had my bed in it, there was room for two beds and an organ between the beds with other furniture also in the room.  I took music lessons for three months when I was ten years old.  After my father died, I would chop or pick cotton all day and practice an hour or more at night.  I was able to read music notes and I practiced by trial and error.  I learned this mostly by myself.  I played because I liked to do it.  I played for churches and the singing they
had in various communities on Sunday evenings.  I played the organ for the last revival in 1937.

We had 640 acres there in Jordan Springs.  Much it was in farmland on which we planted crops.  I remember that the first mechanical cotton-picker in the county was demonstrated on our farm in December of 1908.  We made 50 bales
of cotton that year.  Cotton was still in the field in January.

I went to country schools all except the last two years that I went to Brownwood High School where I graduated.  When we moved to Jordan Springs, my father and three or four other men went through a process to get a school
district set up in our area.  The school district was number 64 of Brown County and was called the Coggin School District.  It was named after the Coggin brothers who owned the largest ranch in the area.  This ranch was partially cut into 160 acre parcels and sold to families.  It just so happened that I was the first student to be registered at the Coggin School and I was also the last teacher there before the school was consol­id­at­ed with the Indian Creek School District. I later went to Jordan Springs School for two years, which is about three miles away to the north, for two years because they had three teachers and had higher grades.  Then I went to Brownwood High School.  After I graduated from high school, I started teaching at Mount Zion School in 1917.  I was issued a permanent teachers
certificate after I had taken a state teachers examination.  When the Coggin school was consolidated into the Indian Creek school, I became the teacher of the Jordan Springs school that was under the Indian Creek School District, which was less than a quarter of a mile from our home at that time.  This was in l931.  I taught there two years then it was also consolidated into the Indian Creek School District and they moved the school students and me there where I taught for another five years there, for a total of seven years in the Indian Creek District.  I did not teach anymore for ten years. 

My son, Charles Lee, went to school through the fifth grade along with me. We went on the school bus to Indian Creek.  My daughter, Adelle, also started at Indian Creek while I was teaching there.

My mother kept the farm after my father died.  Later, after he grew up, my brother, Carey Gaines, bought out the heirs of the place and he and his family lived there until the army took over 1600 acres from him consisting of that place and additional land across the road that he had bought from Judge Muse.  He later bought 1400 acres in San Saba County where he still ranches.

I went to Howard Payne College for three summers and one summer I went to Daniel Baker College.  Both of these colleges were in Brownwood.  Daniel Baker is no longer in existence now.  The museum on Austin & Coggin avenues is now located where Daniel Baker College was.  Most of the country schools at that time had one teacher.  A few had two teachers and a very few had three.

At Jordan Springs we had a small general store with a gasoline pump that sold staples, such as: candy, canned goods, kerosene, sugar, flour, coffee, etc.  In Brownwood, there were not many big stores.  I remember father talking about the Rainie Smith store, but I do not remember anything about it.

I do remember the Weakley-Watson store at that time.  When we were in Winkler County, my father raised mules, cattle, horses, and sheep and also farmed.  When we came back from Winkler County, he did not bring any
furniture back.  He bought a bedroom suit from Mr. Weakley.  Mr. Weakley said that his wife wanted a new bedroom suit and he would sell their own set cheap. My father looked at it and bought it.  The dresser and the wash stand had marble tops.  I still have the wash stand with the marble top.  This was in 1904 when we moved to Jordan Springs.  This was the first major store that I remember.  I also remember the Hallum Drug Store. This was a family
owned drug store until about 1967 when Mr. Winn bought it.  The E. B. Henley store started in 1887.  I went to Brownwood High School with E. B. Henley, Jr.

There was also a Peerless Drug Store that was started in 1888.  It has been in the Camp family all these years.  The Camp son, David Camp, was a senior when I was a sophomore in Brownwood High School in 1917 and is the
grandfather of the Camp person who is there now. It was across the street from where the First National Bank was.  Mr. Tom Yantis was the founder of the First National Bank.  My dad knew him when we lived at Cross Cut.  Mr.
Yantis owned and ran a mill somewhere between Cross Cut and Comanche before he came to Brownwood and started the First National Bank.  There have been three generations of Yantis at the bank.

The J C Penny store was on another one of the corners where the bank was. Penny's was the congregating place of the country people when we were little and when our children were little.  Everyone would come to buy a little and
shop a little and to talk a lot.

Most of the people living in the country took the weekly Brownwood Banner newspaper that came out on Wednesday.  It had all the country notes in it.  Local community writers wrote the news of that community that was sent to and published by the paper.  This was the way everyone was able to keep up with what was going on throughout the county.  There was no need to get the daily paper because the news was old when it was delivered to us by the mailman.

In the late 1930s the cattle auction barn was started at 1800 block of Center Ave.  Most of the people in the southern part of the county used it. Before it was started, buyers would come around to the farmers and the ranchers to buy the cattle and horses.  Grown calves were selling for about $10.00.

Every time anyone went to town, everyone had to go to Kenisters Ice Cream Parlor to get some of that "g-o-o-o-o-d" Country Ice Cream.  It was located between the Court House and the First National Bank.  Most of us in the southern part of the county could not leave town without first having some.

One of the buildings that is still standing that was there in 1880 is the Methodist Church.  It is across from Howard Payne and was also across from the First Baptist Church where Weatherby Ford Motor Company is now located.
When I was a junior in High School, there was a special service at this Methodist Church for the junior class.  Fisk Ave. used to be called "Church St." because of all the churches on it.

I can remember the first Pigley Wigley store in Brownwood and I remember when the fire company engine was pulled by horses.  There was a Barsen Meat Market operated by Mr. Barsen Sr.  Once while Barsen Sr. was in the hospital, one of his sons lost his hand in one of the saws.

Brownwood was very small in those days with only a few scattered houses. Fifth Street was named Taylor Street then.  The Martin's lived out on this street.  Martin's sister owned 1,000 acres across from our place eleven
miles south of Brownwood.

For transportation we went by horse and buggy.  Some people went by a wagon drawn by a pair of horses or mules or by a "Hack."  A Hack is a buggy but has two or three seats and is drawn by two horses.  These usually had a
fringe on the top of it.  My father bought a hack and kept one for years. It was the Spalding type that had a covering on the sides and on the top. We would leave home to go to Cross Cut at sun-up and get there at sun-down. We would stop at the Pecan Bayou to let the team rest a while and also for us to rest.  This was before the Brownwood Lake was built.

When I was growing up, there were not many phones.  There was one on the Martin Ranch, it was a cranking type and was the only phone between Brownwood and Milburn in 1904 when we moved to the Jordan Springs area.  We
still had no phone in 1911 when my father [Henry Benjamin Gaines] died.

There was no electricity in the area until after World War II.  When we bought our farm in 1950, which was about three miles further south from where we lived in 1911, electricity was put in this area.  It was REA out of McCullough County.  There is now electricity throughout that area.

We were married in June and bought our home and the land in October of 1925. The place was located at the cross roads in Jordan Springs which is eight miles south of Brownwood.  The land was rented and we moved in on January 1, 1926.  My husband farmed and raised some livestock.  We lived there until the children were in high school.

In 1941 Camp Bowie was built south of Brownwood.  They took in parts of Brown and Mills counties and moved 275 families out of the area.  We were one of the families.  We got a letter from the government saying that we had
to be out by a certain day.  They told us what price they would give us per acre for our place.  This price was entirely too low and we could not replace our place for what was given to us.  We were one of several who went to court to contest the valuation and received more that they initially offered us.  The appraiser who had appraised our land for the government was one of the best witnesses for us.  He said that he did not know anything about the black-humus type of land which we had in our area.  He only knew sandy land and not the black land.  We looked for another place in Coleman, Comanche, McCullough Counties and other places but we could not find anything that we wanted.  We finally rented a house across the Brady Highway from Jordan Springs from Walter Thompson who was a member of the Jordan Springs Church community.

My husband, Charlie Connaway, and I both went to work at Camp Bowie.  My husband worked in the navy shoe department in California when he was in the Navy in World War I, so he worked in the clothing and shoe repair department at Camp Bowie.  There were a lot of German prisoners who also worked there to help out.  I worked in the laundry where at various times I folded clothing, inspected clothing, ran a mangle where I fed flat sheets into it.

I worked at the mangle for about two years.  I liked this work.  After this I was asked to fold and count sheets in sections of 10.

Later I bundled the sheets.  Then my daughter had an appendicitis operation and I took off two months.  When I came back to work, I then went to the C & E department where I inspected clothing, then to the sewing room where I
worked on the sewing machines.  Then I went into an area where we worked on the officers clothing.  I could block in holes or burns on an officer's coat or clothing where you could not tell it had been repaired.

In 1945 when my daughter, Adelle, graduated from high school on Tuesday she enrolled in Howard Payne College on Wednesday.  Then in December she got married.  I then went back to teaching.

Camp Bowie started disbanding about that time.  My husband worked at Camp Bowie for about two years as a watchman after the camp disbanded. 

In 1950 we bought a farm south of Brownwood, about six miles farther south from where our place was located that the Camp took from us.  We lived there for twelve years.  In 1962 we moved to Brownwood to 2907 Coggin Ave.  We lived there almost six years.  This was just outside the city limits. Charlie got very ill and we moved closer into town to 1405 Ave. E.  We moved Charlie there as a bed patient.  We were there only about six months before he had to go the hospital.  He was later transferred to the Veterans Hospital in Temple, Texas.  He had serious surgery there and I was with him there for seven weeks.  He never came home again.  When he left that hospital, he was put in the Cross-County Care Center on Indian Creek Road in Brownwood.  On April 17th (three years ago, 1973) he passed away, after six years and three months as a bed patient.

Also see William Martin Gaines

Permission to post this on the Brown County, TX web site was given by Mr. Lynn Wright of Scottsdale, AZ.
Return to History Web Sites