Railroads. Horse thieves. Hangings. Hidden Treasure. Bonnie & Clyde. The James Brothers (Jessie and Frank). It is amazing the stories you hear while slapping down a bone or two. Last night, as we played Mexican Train with Alona and Charles, the Country Boy and I were regaled with stories from a Village of Hall Summit and surrounding area long passed. Some I had heard, but many I had not.
Although primarily from the Midwest, stories are told around here that at some point Jessie and Frank James spent some time with relatives in Hall Summit. One or two of those relatives’ ancestors are still hanging around to tell the story. Their visit may or may not have coincided with their travels to St. Joseph, where they had a hideout. Could they have been ‘casing’ Hall Summit, to see if it was a safe hideout, or just stopping in for food and much needed supplies on their journey? There is truly no way to really know, but it does make for a fun portion of the story.
Most residents in Red River Parish ‘back in the time’ were literally Dirt Poor. Feeding themselves was a challenge, much more so trying to feed an entire family. Since their only means of travel was by foot or horseback, anyone having a horse held it at a premium. To have that horse stolen meant to lose a way to work, shop or get medical attention, if that was even available. If discovered, those who stole horses were quickly dealt with – usually by a rope thrown over a tree. Hints of a few still existing graves are whispered in quiet conversation, although I am not sure any can truly be found.
Rumor has it that just about a mile down the road on which we live, Bonnie and Clyde, the notorious outlaw couple, found a comfortable place to hide out. Because of the money they ‘dropped’ along the way, the neighbors were more than willing to keep quiet about the couples’ whereabouts. I knew they were shot down in Arcadia, about a 30-minute ride from here, but it never occurred to me that they would frequent this area, much less use it as a place to avoid the law. Rumor also has it that it was one of the neighbors whose loose lips aided in the eventual shoot out in Arcadia. Hmm….makes you wonder if he was one who never benefited from Bonnie and Clyde’s stolen largesse.
In those days, banks were either not easily accessible or just flat out not trusted. Many people used the ‘posthole’ bank. This is where they would did a hole using post hole diggers and dig down far enough to completely bury a mason jar filled with money. PhD’s (as we call them) made a small round hole just big enough and deep enough to drop in a quart jar, then cover it back up. Most times that money was silver, but on rare occasion, you might find a bill or two of paper money. Unfortunately for us, any ‘forgotten’ jars have long since been unburied, so for you treasure hunters, it’s a waste of time to come search. Generations of relatives who inherited the property have found every last jar and silver coin long since. They didn’t even save a penny or two for us. Trust me. We’ve looked on our own property. (We did, however, find an old still site back by the creek. Just wish they’d left the copper – we could probably fix all the fence around one of the pastures with the money that would have brought.)
Moving a bit forward, but still back in time, a railroad spur was located in Hall Summit. At one time, Alona painted a mural on the side of one of the buildings, of which part of the artwork depicted the train. A man stopped by and told her that it was incorrect. Mercy! All I can say is that man had to be brave. The calm tongue lashing that man got from her (with copies of photos of said ‘mythical’ railroad hand delivered shortly thereafter), would have scalded the paint right off every shop on First Street. This railroad afforded easy travel between Hall Summit and Ringgold. Even though it was only twelve miles ‘up the road’, it was cheap travel for those who didn’t have other means of transportation.
Is it all true history? Is it part history, part embellishment? Or is it all just a grand story that the residents of Red River Parish like to tell to raise the eyebrows of strangers? I do know the stories of the railroad are true, but as for the rest, I haven’t got a time machine tucked away in the barn. Regardless, I love listening to the stories and history of my home. It makes for a lot of laughs, and even for a few distractions that keeps Charles from playing the domino that could help him win the game. Oh yeah. I’ll be questioning a lot of those accounts during the next Mexican Train game. It just may be a way for me to finally win!