By Seventh and Eighth Grades April 24, 1957
FARMS AND RANCHES OF YESTERYEAR
In 1838, a small stone was dropped on the northeast Texas Prairie to start a new settlement. The land was blocked off and was given to Nathaniel Rudder by the Texas Land Board. This land was transferred to several other men down through the years. They were Ayers, Pissberey, Tucky, and then to Hernage.
In 1853, the State relinquished its claim to the land. In 1886, the Santa Fe Railroad bought land from W. S. Herndon for the railroad right-of-way, and people began settling in what is now Ponder because of the opportunities afforded by the railroad.
Originally called Gerald, the town’s name was changed to Ponder in 1898 when citizens applied for a post office and were notified by officials in Washington that there already was one post office in Texas by the name of Gerald. The town then was named for W. A. Ponder of Denton who had land interests on the west side of the town site.
In the days when the town was called Gerald, all of the land was pasture land and cattle roamed at will. Wakefield, who had purchased all the land north and west of the town site, was the first person to raise wheat, corn, oats, and cotton in this section of the county. Wakefield built a number of small rent houses in Gerald; then he purchased land on the east side of the railroad for his home site, which is called "Wakefield Hill”.
Wakefield came to Denton county in 1852 when he was seven years old. He inherited the old home of about forty acres. After he was married the ranch enlarged till it covered region around where Ponder now stands. His first purchase was 1700 acres. He married Miss Alice Cowan. She died in 1897. Jerry Burnet was one of the few ranchers in the Ponder section long ago. He owned land on both sides of Denton Creek. On the east side of Denton there were seven different farms after the land was cut up. The seven farms on the east side are John Freeman, Charlie Bishop, Marvin Swafford, W. M. Thomason, Charlie Bryson, Fred Mize, and Joe Seaborn. The farms on the west side are Roy Thomas, Brent Jackson, Chester January, and C. H. Owens. Ponder‟s first settlers were Charley Wakefield, Em. Brown, J. A. Baker, S. D. Law, George Harshaw, C. N. Skaggs, M. L. Simmons, George Owens, J. L. Gamndell, and G. U. Gann. 73
J. Helton's place south of Ponder was the old A. J. Snider place. Snider came to this community in about l880. Ray Swafford's home was the Tom Drumman place. He came here before the railroads in about l885. Drumman sold his land to the Seaborn boys. They sold to Mr. Marror in 1912 and T. W. Swafford got it in about 1916.
About sixty years ago Bub Williams came to the Ponder community. His son, J. N. Williams now lives on his father's place west of Ponder.
Frank Crowby owned a ranch that Chester January owned part of now west of Ponder. About sixty-five years ago Tom Swafford and his brother drilled water wells around this county. Mr. Bob Cope came to Ponder in about 1898. He paid 3 dollars an acre for the Geenter place. It sold recently for two hundred dollars an acre.
Indians played a part in Ponder's early history. The story of the east said in these parts is a well-known story. Some Indians came off the reservation in Oklahoma and came down to Denton Creek. They killed two girls at the Corton's old home place. Then came across the creek and stole some horses from W. P. Green better known as “Uncle Billy Green”. Billy Green and other men chased them into a cemetery in Slidell where the Indians were captured.
BUSINESSES OF PONDER
The first business in early Ponder was a gin moved from Stony in about l885. Mr. C. N. Skaggs built the first store in l893. The 14 ft. by 20 ft. structure built of planks served as post office as well as general store. The second place of business was a blacksmith shop owned and operated by 0. H. Sheppard. Dr. Robinson bought the general store from Skaggs and made it into a drug store. Jim Lee had the first workshop in Ponder and J. B. Wilson had the first lumber yard. Skaggs operated the first post office in Ponder in 1893. The post office was moved several times before the present building was built in 1932. Lonnie Riggs is the present postmaster. The Bank building and Jackson's Grocery were built in 1910 and Skaggs owned them. The building that is now Knox's Grocery was built in 1912. The building that is now the well-known “Ranchman's Café” was built in Stony in 1905 and moved to Ponder later.
ROADS AND RAILROADS
The railroad came to Ponder in about 1886-87. The Santa Fe Railroad bought land from W. S. Herndon in 1886 for the railroad right of way. Mr. J. R. Schoolfield came here working for the section crew and a young lady came cooking for the section crew. The young couple married and settled down here. The farm is still in the family today and Mrs. Ruth Schoolfield, a daughter-in-law lives there today.
Before 1921 or 1922, citizens of Ponder couldn’t go anywhere in wet weather, especially in the spring and winter. The black prairie roads became impassable. Wagon wheels would bury up to the axle and the horses would walk belly deep in the muddy road around the general store. In 1921 and 1922, Scott Tobby and son contracted Farm Road 156 when it was first graveled. In 1941 and 1942, Snoby Allen contracted Farm Road 156 when it 74
was first paved, and it helped the people even more. It has been blacktopped several times since then. Snoby Allen also built all the concrete bridges in Ponder. Between the 1920‟s and 1940‟s all county roads were graveled. In 1955, all the roads in the town were blacktopped
In 1897, Ponder‟s first school was established. A land grant from Wakefield‟s Ranch paved the way. The school was located three miles south of Ponder. It was a one room building called the Shady Grove School. Charles Vodwin was the first school master and he was paid the salary of $35 a month. Later, another room was added to the building and it was also used by the denominations for church services.
Some years later, the people of Ponder built a school in town, but the school was struck by lightning and burned the same year. Some of the early teachers were Mr. Profer, Mrs. Maxie, Mr. House, Mrs. Twimalt, Mr. Drigger, and Mr. Barns.
In 1942, the W. P. A. built the ten room school building with a gymnasium and a lunch room that Ponder has now. The superintendent at that time was James Cox and the members of the school board were A. L. Williams, Jesse Earles, Ray Swafford, Emmett Riney, Cecil McSpadden, Hoke Smith, C. P. Owens, and Charles Ashcraft, This building was dedicated in 1943.
After superintendent James Cox left, Mr. Raymond Banks became superintendent. He was superintendent for several years. Then Ben D. Smith became superintendent for three years.
Ponder‟s present superintendent is A. E. Greer and he came to Ponder in 1955. Other teachers of Ponder High School are Mrs. Crosby, Business, Mrs. Houston, English, Mr. Hall, Math, History, and P. E. Grade school teachers are Mrs. Betty Foster, seventh and eighth grade – Mrs. Verda Koiner, fifth and sixth grade – Mrs. Charles Stewart, third and fourth grade – and Mrs. Dorris Witherspoon, first and second grade. Ponder‟s present enrollment of pupils is 139.
The members of the school board are Jim Vaughan, Troy Webster, Pres., Woodrow Jones, Whit Cullum. J. D. Roberts, Secretary, Otis Yarbrough, Vice President, and Oscar Schluter.
The Baptist Church was the first church built in Ponder. It was built in 1901; until 1901 the people held services in the Shady Grove schoolhouse. The Baptist Church was the only church in Denton County to have a parsonage. The Baptist Church has a woman‟s organization under different names since 1915, and a young people‟s organization, without a break since 1922, the beginning of the county-wide organization.
Some charter members are T. F. Cole and wife, T. D. Stallings and wife, Mrs. Kit High, David McWharter and wife, John Willis and wife. So far as we know, there are only seven charter members alive. Some people going to the Baptist Church are Mr. And Mrs. Jim Vaughn, Mrs. Troy Webster, Mrs. Bill Coulter, Mrs. and Mrs. Horton Louis, Mr. and Mrs. Owens, and Mr. and Mrs. Curtis Page.
In 1937, the second church was built in Ponder. It was the Methodist. Rev. White was the first preacher. A parsonage was built, but later burned and never was rebuilt. 76
Some of the charter members are Mr. and Mrs. L. A. Cox, Mr. and Mrs. George Owens, and Mr. and Mrs. H. F. Wakefield. The preacher today is Dr. Ashburn and the church has 76 members. Some of the members today are, Mr. and Mrs. Elmo Anderson, Mrs. Hugh Swafford, Mrs. Charlie Bryson, Mr. and Mrs. John Swafford, Mrs. Pearl Law, Mrs. Maggie Cope and Mr. and Mrs. Stanford.
The church helps sponsor the Golden Cross, Methodist Home in Waco, Church School Day, and World Mission. The church has started a woman's W. S. C. S.
Church of Christ
In 1923, the third church in Ponder was built. It was the Church of Christ. The first preacher was Billy Wulfrum. The church started with 13 members. The Church of Christ held its first services in the upstairs of Jackson's store. The charter members are Marvin Yarbrough, Oscar Yarbrough, Mark Knox, and Bill Robertson. The preacher today is W. T. Hall, Jr. The song leader is Otis Yarbrough.
The church has 67 members. The church today helps the following organizations: Boles Orphan‟s Home, Tipton's Orphan‟s Home, the Home for the Aged at Gunter, and the Herald of Truth, a television program.
THE EAKIN CEMETERY
The exact date of the origin of the Eakin Cemetery is unknown, but from information received from various ones, it has been estimated that it was about one hundred years ago. The first grave that was put there did not have a date marker. The first person to be interred there was Mrs. Katie Angelina Rayburn. That was in pioneer days and Indians roamed the prairies. As we know from history, the ladies all wore long dresses; and cook stoves were unknown, which necessitated cooking on fireplaces.
On that fateful day Mrs. Rayburn had arisen early to get her husband off to work; and after he had left the house she went about preparing breakfast for her small son. In the process her skirt and her entire body was soon inflamed. In her excitement she ran from the house screaming. Some men heard her screams, and started to her aid; but when they came in sight of the house they saw her with her clothes completely burned off, and her body so blackened by the flames, they thought she was an Indian and were afraid to go to her. She was blinded from the burns and couldn't see them but she 77
began to hear their voices and called to them to come to her. She only lived a few hours after being burned. Mrs. Rayburn was buried on a rolling sandy knoll, at the edge of post oak grove, about three hundred yards from the site of her home.
The spot became a family burial plot; and later the surrounding ground was donated for a cemetery by her sister and brother-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Thomason, who named it Eakin Cemetery, in honor of the sisters' father, Mr. William F. Eakin, who lived in Kentucky and never came to Texas.
Since that time, Mr. and Mrs. Thomason, with four of their children, and several grand children have been laid to rest there. As the grave had no marker, it has had to be pointed out to different parties by a colored man, Lue McCarty, who lived in and around the community through a long lifetime. In fact he owned a farm just a few miles away. He helped dig many graves in the cemetery and was often known to remark on the completion of a new grave. “Well, I helped dig the first one and have helped dig the last one." He and his family have been laid to rest in a section of the cemetery set apart for the burial of colored people.
In later years the cemetery grew up in weeds and Johnson grass and was over run by briars. In 1921, the citizens of Ponder and surrounding communities met and cleaned and worked the ground. Also the ladies contributed their part by preparing lunch and spreading it picnic style during the working period. At that time an organization was formed known as the Eakin Cemetery Association.
The officers elected were: President, S. Bishop, Vice President, C. H. Scaggs, Secretary, T. A. Gale, Assistant Secretary, H. P. Simmons and Manager, Bob Cope. Since that time, Mr. Scaggs, Mr. Cope, and Mr. Simmons have passed on to their reward; and the two first mentioned are peacefully resting where they so faithfully worked in memory of their departed loved ones and friends. Chester January was elected as Vice President to succeed Mr. Scaggs; and M. L. Swafford as Manager to succeed Mr. Cope.
Prior to the time the organization was formed, Mr. J. F. Yarbrough, long since deceased, took the sole responsibility of keeping a record of the lots and helping those who wanted a lot to select one. Since the time of organization there is a memorial service held annually to honor our loved dead and to place flowers on their graves; also to hold a business session, the main purpose of which is to elect new officers. Up until 1955 there has always been a motion made and carried to retain the old officers. At that time Chester January was elected President and Homor Cope, Vice President. The regular day set aside for this occasion is the second Sunday in May.
A few years after the Association was organized, there was a committee appointed to raise funds to build a tabernacle to hold services under; Mrs. Maud Blair, now of Vernon, Texas, being chairman of that committee. At that time there was a number of graveside services held, but in later years almost all of the services were held in churches or funeral chapels. Also the funeral directors always furnished a tent for those services. Therefore, it was decided to use the money that had been raised for the tabernacle to buy more land for the cemetery, as almost all of the land of the original plot had been taken.
The lots are free to anyone who wants to put their loved ones there. The upkeep of the cemetery is strictly donations. However, in the past, there have been ice cream suppers held to raise funds, the ladies making the ice cream and baking the cakes.
About four years ago there was a marker placed at the grave of Mrs. Rayburn by the Cemetery Association. The inscription reads: Mrs. Katie Angelina Rayburn No Dates Since that first lone grave was put there, there are some 345 known graves, not counting the colored section. Down through the century this spot has become hollowed ground, as the babes in arms, the toddlers, the adolescents, the budding youths, the middle aged, and the hoary heads have all been brought to this plot for their last long resting place.
Written by Katie Bishop May 13, 1956
A history of Ponder is not complete without something about the Ponder Rodeo. The first Rodeo that Ponder had was in 1940. It was located southeast of the Railroad. The share owners were Mr. Ira Harrison, Chester January, Boone Riney, and Dr. M.L. Holland. The rodeo had to be closed down during the war, but it was resumed two years after the war ended. Then the owners sold out. After about two or three years the Ponder citizens built a new rodeo where Mr. Cleber Wilkerson lives now. The share owners of this rodeo were Charles Duessen, Boone Riney, Emmett Riney, Chester January, and Dr. M. L. Holland. The rodeo helped the school very much. The P. T. A. had the concession stand and the money from it helped to pay an extra teacher.
Ponder's oldest citizen today is Mr. C. S. Bishop, who is 89 years old. He moved to Ponder in 1907 from Ellis County and lives with his daughter Miss Katy Bishop.
Another pioneer of Ponder is Mrs. G. G. Thomason, who is 86 years old. Mrs. Thomason was Ona Gann and came to Ponder when she was fifteen years old. She remembers seeing Sam Bass ride past her home. She lives with her brother 0. M. Gann and Mrs. Thomason does her cooking and housework.
Ponder's oldest citizen until his recent death was Henry A. Williams, who was 16 years at the close of the Civil War. He remembered being sold twice 79
as a slave but progressed from a slave to the owner of over 200 acres of land north of Ponder. Mr. George Owens who passed away in March 1957 had spent more years in Ponder than any other person. He came to Ponder in 1894 working as a hired man on the Wakefield Ranch. Later he married Mrs. Nannie Wakefield.
Ponder today still consists of large ranches and fertile farms. The population is about 150. The town boasts the popular Ranchman's Cafe, two grocery stores, a gin and elevator, two filling stations, a trucking business, and one of the few blacksmith shops that still shoes horses. Prominent ranches in Ponder today are Chester January, Alexander Duessen, Bert McKamey, and Hobson Dunn. Ponder today is some larger and many new citizens have moved in, but a deep community spirit remains and Ponder is proud of its community