|John & Allie
Madden, 1940, at the Miles' Place in Pennington
Photo courtesy Jerry Davis, Hot Springs, AR
a Pecan Shell
Tyler's Prairie or Tyler, Texas, the community dates
to a Mexican Land Grant in 1835. In 1855 the land was purchased by
A. F. Westall and Daniel Daily (also spelled Dailey) with Dailey buying
out his partner in 1859. A Baptist church was built in 1860, first
named Salem and later becoming the Pennington Baptist Church.
Daley platted the townsite in 1866 and named it after the town's first
storekeeper, Hugh (or Hill) Pennington. A coeducational school (Pennington
College) opened its doors in 1866 and stayed in operation through
1882, changing its name to the Steele Academy sometime between those
dates. (Daniel Webster Steele was a teacher who became the school's
The town was granted a post office in 1873 and became the Trinity
County seat shortly thereafter, taking it from Trinity,
Texas, a railroad hub and timber center in the southern end of
The population has been estimated between 1,000 and 1,500 residents
in the late 1870s / early 1880s. Pennington had no railroad and when
the county seat was changed to Groveton
in 1882 (coinciding with the closing of the Steele Academy) the writing
was on the wall. By 1904 the population had dropped to less than 300
and as late as 1990 maintained 100 residents which has since declined
(2000) to a mere 67 people.
Allie Madden, Earline, Honor, Johnnie Faye, and Wyatt Dean as baby,
taken in 1940 at the Old Miles' Place in Pennington, Texas. I suppose
Lois Madden Davis is taking the picture. The house was so high off
of the ground that Wyatt Dean and I played under it with wooden toys
made from scrap lumber from the sawmill that was across the road.
The only remains of the sawmill now is just the old mill pond."
- Jerry Davis, Hot Springs, AR
Life in Pennington,
by Bruce A.
According to the “Texas State Historical Association”, Pennington,
TX, once known as Tyler’s Prairie, within the 1835 Mexican Texas
Land Grant, is near the Davy Crockett National Forest. The community
was incorporated in 1901, but became unincorporated by 1904. A likely
reason that growth diminished was due to the lack of a railroad
and the movement of government to Groveton.
In the 1920’s, grandparents John and Allie Madden share-cropped
on the “old Mile’s Place”, on US Hwy 287 towards Crockett
from Pennington. Children Lois, Honor, Earline, Johnnie Faye, and
Wyatt Dean attended school in Pennington. When Earline completed
school in 1940, there were about a dozen in her graduation class.
The community had a post office, feed store, café, and several other
small businesses. Nearby is the Pennington Baptist Church and the
Pennington Cemetery. A number of the Madden family members have
In later years, John and Allie moved east of Pennington on FM 358
and bought forty acres on which to farm. Nearby, the Reynolds operated
a gas station and a store selling basic food necessities. Farther
down the road lies the Possum Walk Cemetery, where a number of Allie’s
relatives, the Mabry line, have gravesites.
John had two horses that were used to pull the hand plow for tilling
the land for planting. He and Allie grew corn, peanuts, and potatoes
as major crops and vegetables for table use and canning. A few cows
provided milk, a few hogs were raised for slaughter, and chickens
provided meat and eggs. A pond provided an occasional fish or two.
Neighbors would often barter and trade to supplement their stores
of goods throughout the year.
When we went for visits, the route usually taken was through Trinity
and Groveton to reach Hwy 287.
Traveling in the direction of Crockett,
we would turn off on the “old red road” (don’t know that I ever
knew its proper name) which led to the corner of the Madden property
on FM 358.
One Thanksgiving, with family gathered, a turkey was placed in the
oven on low heat and cooked overnight. The next morning, the house
was filled with the aroma of baked turkey. What a delight! We can
picture John, sitting in his rocking chair on the front porch, waving
at passers-by in their cars. Allie always had smile and a cheerful
greeting for guests. Those are lasting, pleasurable memories.
© Bruce A. Martin
by Jason E. Stringer
My mother grew up in the small community of Flat Prairie, Texas. For
those who don't know Flat Prairie is a suburb of that urban metropolis
Pennington, Texas, located near the Trinity County and Houston County
Line. My grandparents, Frank and Ruby (Smith) Tidwell operated a sawmill
in Flat Prairie for many years, as well as being cotton farmers and
cattle ranchers. Later on, after my grandfather's death in 1966, my
grandmother operated a small Gulf Station and grocery store in Pennington.
By the time I came along in 1970 the gas station was long closed,
and Pennington and Flat Prairie were barely map dots, but one thing
that remained in Pennington was the neatest store I ever had the pleasure
to visit. Brannen and Walker's located on FM 358 in "downtown" Pennington...
by Bob Bowman
Some of the most delectable historical desserts of East Texas are
found in the yellowed documents of the thirty-plus county courthouses
scattered across the pineywoods. One such morsel is the little-known
story of two courthouse fires in Trinity County, one of the rowdiest
of our early counties... more
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