Community Life in Arnett, Texas

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Drive nine miles west of Gatesville on Highway 84 and you will find the small community of Arnett. The site was settled in the 1880s which was about 30 years after Ft. Gates was established.

The name Arnett was submitted for a family that lived in the area. An Arnett post office, with John T. Taylor as postmaster, was in operation from 1903 until 1906, when mail was rerouted to Gatesville.

Arnett school was called the Hammack Grove School District and was established in 1881-1905. It was located in several different places near Arnett.  In 1905 Mr. Voss gave land which was to become the Arnett School District #9 according to Coryell County Families 1854-1985.

Mr. L.V. Arnett recalls that his boyhood home was about 5 miles from Arnett on the Cowhouse Creek. His family is related to the Arnetts the town is named after, back several generations.  His mother, Emma Jeffries, attended this school when she was a little girl about 1910. This was a good school and went thru the 8th grade. Coryell Museum has a photograph of the Arnett School in the Schoolroom Exhibit along with about 30-40 other delightful school photographs. I have enjoyed looking at these photographs of the Coryell County schools many times.

In the reprint of the Gatesville Messenger of 1909, near the back, is an article which includes photographs of the Arnett gin, and two small stores. The writing style of that time was very different from today, but to say that he was optimistic is an extreme understatement. One quote reads, “There is no community in Texas that offers the home seeker greater opportunities than is offered here. (Arnett has) a fine soil, good pure water in never failing abundance, plenty of fire wood near at hand, a good school, good Christian people, the best of health—in fact, it has every essential element that the most exacting home seeker could desire.”

Mr. Arnett recalls that when he was a boy, the main street was gravel and of course dusty or muddy. He remembers Arnett was a good neighborhood type town with a school, post office, gin and grocery store and two general merchandise stores.

In 1940 local businesses dealt mainly in farm implements and general merchandise and served an estimated population of 100. J.W. Johnson ran a general merchandise store for about 5 years in Arnett. In his store he carried farm implements and was the agent for the New Royal Cabinet sewing machine, “one of the most handsome sewing machines we ever saw.”

By the mid-1950s the number of residents had dwindled to fifty, and the Arnett school district had been consolidated with that of Gatesville.

Also in the 1950’s my grandparents, H.B. (Bonnie) and Fannie Bradford had a farm near Cowhouse Creek. It was between Arnett and King.   Early on Sunday morning my grandmother would catch a chicken, and chop the poor things head off with a hatchet. Then she plucked it, and cut it up ready to fry, all before we went to the Arnett Baptist Church. My grandfather would sit in the car and impatiently honk for her to come out so they could go early.  There was always a big crowd at Arnett Church and the singing was excellent.

The farm near Arnett holds many delightful memories for me. My grandmother helped me catch my first fish in Cowhouse Creek, which I then put in my overall pocket. I rode my first horse on their farm, saw her milk Tiny the cow. I picked a little cotton, and fed a lamb from a bottle. I saw a huge hog butchered and ran from black racer snakes in the tops of the dry corn stalks. I also had many walks barefooted in the chicken pen which was a “free educational experience” in watching where you put your feet. In 1959 Mr. and Mrs. Raby Alford bought the farm from my grandparents and their children still live there. My cousins and I have enjoyed being invited back to see the farm many times.

Coryell Museum and Historical Center is open Tuesday thru Saturday as is our gift shop. Yearly Coryell Museum memberships are $20 for singles, $30 for families, and $40 for businesses and include free admission to the museum plus 4 newsletters.  Of course, large and small donations are welcome at all times.

Coryell Museum offers area schools and tour groups a delightful guided tour thru the museum with docents at many exhibits. Call the museum at 865-5007 to plan a visit.

For sale in our Coryell Gift Shop is the Gatesville Messenger Reprint June 25, 1909.