Communities Date to 1850
BLACKFOOT -- Weeds and plum bushes almost obscure the metal cotton gin building, long converted into a hay ham, beside FM 860 near the "Blackfoot" road sign.
Mrs. Ernest Douglas and Mrs. G. H. Williams compiled a history of the W.B.S. Community, composed of Ward, Blackfoot and Springfield.
Blackfoot was named for the Blackfoot Indian tribe. Ward was named for one of its pioneer families. Springfield first was known as Price's Chapel, "because a majority of the people in that area, down through the years, were named Price, and the voting box was called Price's."
The eastern portion of the Springfield area became Bradford. There was at one time a Bradford Post Office. Price's Chapel became Springfield when the Springfield School in 1908 came into existence. There was a spring at the school site and the school was built in an old field, hence the name -- Springfield.
The three communities had individual schools until about 1942, when consolidation became necessary to meet state educational requirements. Springfield had an eight-room school. This building was moved to a new site in the Blackfoot district near the center of the three communities and the new school was named W.B.S. The Blackfoot school house also was moved and became the school lunchroom.
The consolidated school did much to draw the three communities together through school activities, community growth programs and family socials, also Saturday night picture shows. W.B.S. School began as a seven-teacher elementary school with high school students going to Cayuga.
In 1953, the W.B.S. and Tennessee Colony school districts were merged and the W.B.S. school house, lunchroom and teacherage were moved to the new location, named Stafford Springs, at the intersection of U.S. 287 and FM 860, six miles southwest of Blackfoot.
That cut the tie of the W.B.S. communities, which reverted to their own smaller areas of Ward, Blackfoot and Springfield.
First church in the area was established about 1850, a Primitive Baptist congregation with Elder Ben Parker of the Cynthia Ann Parker family as preacher. It was located on the far northwest side of the Blackfoot community in a wooded area. Several pioneers are buried in that isolated site. The small church later became a Negro place of worship named Boseman Chapel.
First school in the area was the Still House School in the Ward community -- a log house used also for a grist mill and named for the whiskey still it housed. Still House Branch runs past the site where the Three R's were taught, corn was ground and hard liquor distilled, more than 100 years ago.
In those pioneer days there were at least three small schools in the Springfield area, one called Tucker School, another Price's Chapel School and the third, Hallum Grove School. An early school in Blackfoot was the Isabel School.
In pioneer days, each community had its own gin. Obe Childress and A. M. Kay built the first Blackfoot gin about 1880. Josh Taylor owned it for a while. Then Elisha Gatewood operated the gin, bought by his son, J. L. Gatewood, about 1907.
About 1930, Gatewood moved to Palestine. His brother Jess and a nephew, L. R. Gatewood, continued the Blackfoot gin.
The old building still stands -- a monument to years when cotton was king.
The gin in the Springfield community was built by John Tucker, who after 30 years sold it to Cal Price and Jessie Carlisle. After a few years it ceased business and the building long since has been razed.
Montalba Route 1 into the W.B.S. area was established in 1904. Prior to that, the area had its own post office to which citizens went for their mail once a week. It was on the Alton Paris place; Mrs. Jinnie Calvin was postmaster. Later the Post office was moved, to the James Edmond Fitzgerald store at Blackfoot with Wylie Jenkins as postmaster. Later, it was moved a mile north to the home of Theodore McDonald; then later to the Elisha Gatewood store with his son, Lonnie, as postmaster.
There was a Bradford post office in the Springfield area, and a Price's Chapel post office with Mrs. Newton Price as postmaster.
The area had its own doctors in pioneer days -- Dr. Davis in the latter part of the 19th Century, then Dr. Linder, who moved to Tennessee Colony; Dr. Frank Hill, who moved to Houston, and Dr. Tucker, who moved to Cayuga. In 1917, a Dr. Elray McRay Outlaw came to Blackfoot and boarded with Jim Ritchey. A short time later, he joined the Army.
Citizens, in an effort to keep a doctor, borrowed money and built a house for a doctor to live in. A Dr. McDonald came and practiced two years, then left.
In 1934, J. W. Isabell invited Dr. Linard Lunsford to live in Blackfoot and built a house for him. Dr. Lunsford practiced medicine here until 1940.
The Blackfoot Oil Field has provided needed royalty income to many citizens. There still are several producing wells in the old field.
The New Era Electric Co-op, organized in 1941, has provided electricity for the area since, and in 1957, telephones were installed, reaching Blackfoot in 1959.
The W.B.S. Community Improvement Association has accomplished many improvements. A modern three-room Community Center was built on the Springfield school site.
Friendship Baptist Church at Blackfoot was organized in 1860 and met in homes for 10 years. In 1870, members, after meeting in a one-room log house owned by Bill Nix, erected a church on the present site, one acre for which in 1903 the church paid John Gage $6. No deed, however, was made until 1953, when Lee Fraim deeded the site to the church, which paid Gage $6.25 for a cemetery plot.
After moving into their first building, a name for the church was decided. Newton Lawhorn suggested "Friendship, because the people are friendly." It had been called "Rock Church" because of many large rocks around the building.
Four different church edifices have sheltered the congregation. The Rev. J. W. Jackson was pastor in 1870 when the church was named.
Mrs. Ernest (Velma) Douglas wrote a brief history of the church in its 100th year (1960).
Mr. and Mrs. Douglas have lived on the same place in the Blackfoot community since their marriage in 1923.
Douglas was born one mile north of his present home in 1902, the son of F. D. L. (Uncle Doc) Douglas, who was born near Palestine Jan. 3, 1856, and lived to be 97. F. D. L.'s father, Alsey Douglas, came from Mississippi about 1850 to Anderson County, and moved to Blackfoot when his son was about 6 years old.
Ernest Douglas has lived at his present home since age 2. He is a retired former member and chairman of the Anderson County ASCS Committee.
The Methodist Church in the Springfield community was organized in 1865 near Price's Chapel Cemetery. In 1925 a new church was built near Springfield School and became Springfield Methodist Church.
The Christian Church is located near the line of the Blackfoot and Ward communities.
Gray's Chapel Church of Christ was located in the eastern portion of the W.B.S. area, and is the latest of the four churches to be organized.
Long Time Blackfoot Couple
Ernest and Velma Douglas have lived in this (remodeled) home at Blackfoot since they were married in 1923. He has lived there 74 years and in the neighborhood since birth in 1902. Douglas is a former chairman of the Anderson County ASCS Committee. Mrs. Douglas has compiled community and church histories. (Staff Photo)
Blackfoot TX Cotton Gin
Old Blackfoot Gin
Obe Childress and A.M. Kay built the first cotton gin on this site at Blackfoot in 1880, later owned by Josh Taylor, Elisha Gatewood, J.L. Gatewood, Jess Gatewood and L.R. Gatewood. This old gin building stands beside FM 860. (Staff Photo)