Charles Edward Niswanger 1939-2011

It is with great regret we report the death of Charles Niswanger, husband of member Mary Ann Niswanger. Our prayers and memories are with Mary Ann and her family at this time.

Charles Edward Niswanger, age 72,died Saturday, December 3, 2011 in Mineola, Texas. He was born on Thursday, February 16, 1939 in McLennan County, Texas to the late Lee Franklin and Mattie Niswanger. He was a business owner and the Mayor

Charles Edward Niswanger, Mineola, Texas

Charles Niswanger

of Prosper, Texas in Collin County for seven years.
He is preceded in death by his parents; and two brothers Bill and Ted Niswanger.
He is survived by his wife, Mary Ann Niswanger of Mineola; a son, William Niswanger of Mineola; a daughter, Sherry Ragsdale and husband Hugh of Alba, Texas; an adopted son Chief Kirk McFarlin and wife Desiree; a brother Fred Niswanger of Teague, Texas; a brother in law, Jim Koerth; a sister, Betty Fletcher of Burleson, Texas; and six grandchildren, Ethen Ragsdale, Charles Ragsdale, Koerth Ragsdale, Natalyn Niswanger and friend Joseph, Jaylyn Niswanger and Greer Niswanger.
Visitation for Charles will be held on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at Beaty Funeral Home in Mineola from 6 – 8 p.m.
Funeral services will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday, December 7, 2011 at Beaty Funeral Home Memorial Chapel with Bro. Larry Mitchell, the Rev. Arlon Ragsdale officiating.

Black Gold in Wood County

This is the oil essay Kristen Witt of Mineola, Texas, wrote that helped her win the T.C. Chadick $2,000 scholarship available to seniors in Wood and Franklin Counties. The essay had to be written on some historical event that occurred in Wood or Franklin Counties prior to 1945.

Black Gold
Suppose you are a farmer in Hawkins, Texas in 1940. Your land sits on rolling hills and valleys, forested in spots by piney woods atop sandy soil. You have no air conditioning or telephone, and your mode of transportation is a horse and wagon driven over dirt roads. There is no internet service or cell phone. Your only livelihood is the crops you slave over every day and night. But one day, all this changes with a simple knock on the door. Bobby Manziel stands on your doorstep with a proposal, “Let us drill for oil on your land.” With a charming smile, he convinces you to sign the required papers; and in an instant, your life is destined to change.

A few weeks later, you find time to relax in the evening by listening to “You are My Sunshine” on your battery-powered radio, the life-line for news, music and entertainment for your family. You have a hard day’s work ahead of you, slaving over the plow in the deadly sun. Times are hard, but you must provide for your family. You turn off the radio, walk a few yards from your house to the outhouse, and return home to turn off kerosene lamps and settle under your handmade quilts. You lie awake for a few moments listening to the “chirp-chirp” of crickets and the occasional “hoot” of an owl. Your curtains blow gracefully as the cool night air pours through open windows into your humble home.

Just as your eyes close and your breathing slows, you are jarred awake by a terrifying sound. The earth begins to shake tremendously; and, fearfully, you leap out of bed. Running outside, you have no idea what to expect. The sight you witness is one you will never forget. Spewing wildly from a 40-foot wooden oil derrick is black, rich oil. As the oil pours onto the ground and drillers rush to contain it, you suddenly realize a shocking fact. Overnight, you have become very rich.

This was a common scene experienced by many families in the 1940’s, in Hawkins, TX. Beginning in October, 1940, Wood County experienced its first oil boom. Bobby Manziel drilled the first oil well 3.5 miles north of town; and, overnight, Hawkins became the talk of East Texas. People poured in from miles away hoping to take part in the wealth pouring from the city. The sudden fame also brought in con-men, prostitutes, criminals, and many other troublesome people. Police officers and Texas Rangers struggled to keep up with the nonsense that occurred. The boom brought in drillers and oil producers placing bids on land in hopes of also striking oil. Within the same year, Steve Rotundi and F. R. Jackson struck oil. However, this time it was within the Hawkins city limits. Residents sold their land to multiple producers who eventually sold out to large corporations such as the Humble Oil and Refining Company.
Drilling oil was not an easy job. More often than not it was a gamble. Technology had not advanced enough to determine where to drill for oil nor was the machinery equipped to easily drill into the ground.

Drillers had to be strong and in good condition. Some put their lives on the line for the sake of oil production. The crew needed the strength, skill, and discipline of a football team and the precision of a woman threading a needle. These men would spend weeks, even months, drilling the same well. Long periods of time would pass before they knew whether or not oil was even present under their derrick. As each day passed, every crew member had the same question on his mind, “Will we strike oil?”

On the occasion that oil was found, quite a celebration was thrown. After months of hoping, wishing, and almost giving up, it all became worth it. Each time black gold poured from the ground, the residents of Hawkins, TX, men, women, and children, shouted for joy! The town was booming, business was thriving, the population was growing; and Hawkins had found its claim to fame.

The discovery of oil not only benefited Hawkins and Wood County but the entire country as well. The Humble Oil and Refining Company, now Exxon, provided oil for the Allies during World War II and helped contribute to the building of the pipeline that extended to Pennsylvania.

Over time, the oil pools did begin to dry up. Oil production is no longer as prosperous as it once was; however, it still plays a huge part in Hawkins’ economy. Every year, Hawkins holds an Oil Festival to honor those who so bravely risked their lives for the gamble of finding the precious black gold.

The discovery of oil changed Hawkins and the residents of Wood County forever. I am one of those residents. In the 1940’s, my great-grandfather, Orville Goolsby, lived in Wood County and worked as a driller for many oil companies. Because of his labor and investment in the oil industry of Wood County, my family continues to reside in this county and benefit from it. I am grateful for the oil boom because it positioned my great-grandfather to participate in mapping out my destiny and has provided the opportunity for me to be raised in a tranquil community rich in family history.

Sources:
Discovery of Oil in Hawkins – The first oil well in Wood Co., Tx
The Handbook of Texas online by Texas State Historical Association.

Vertical Files: Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Adele W. Vickery, “A Transcript of Centennial Edition, 1850-1950 Wood County Democrat” (Mineola, Texas, 1974)

“Wood County, 1850-1900” (Quitman, Texas: Wood County Historical Society, 1976).

Internet source: “All Things Historical” Dec. 19, 2005

Personal interviews with:
Larry Lewis (a family friend), son of Irvin C.”Shorty” Lewis, who worked for Roger Lacy Oil Company in the 1940’s in Hawkins, Tx.

Lucy Carr (my grandmother), daughter of Orville Otis Goolsby, who worked for various oil companies throughout Wood County during the 1940’s.

Database of Wood County Names

Member Mark Reid shared with us his response to an email from another member, Vi Shirey, asking if her John T. Potter was on the CD of 17,000 Wood County, Texas surnames.

No. John T. Potter does not exist on this database. I see a John L Potter b. 1843 from GA.
The CD has been given to both the Quitman and Mineola libraries. I have up-dated the database somewhat since the creation of those CDs but I have not updated the CDs. You are welcome to the database just by asking. You must use Personal Ancestry File (PAF) to read it. That program is free from the LDS web site.

Mark’s reference to the database of names being free for the asking is a repeat of an offer he made in October 2009 and which is still available.

Mark wrote this in a comment (in part) on the Wood County Genealogical Society Coffee Klatch at Genealogywise:

For several years, I have been compiling a database of Wood County people.
A couple of years (maybe more) ago I put a CD in the Quitman and Mineola libraries containing this database, at that time a bit over 17000 people.
The Society also offered the CD for sale, but with zero response.
I keep putting people in the database and I am now up to a bit over 18,700 people. I want other people to have access to this material although I must
retain the ability to keep plugging away at additions, etc.
One possible thing to do: I would be willing to email a compacted data file to any member/researcher. Just ask at woodco@suddenlink.net.

This is a valuable resource for any researcher of Wood County. If you are interested, please contact Mark at woodco@suddenlink.net.

Query: Smith (from Hertfordshire, England)

Hopefully, one or more of our members can help this English researcher who sent the following query. Any and all ideas would be appreciated.

Hello

I do not want to put anybody to any trouble but I was wondering if you can give me any idea how I can obtain information about Deaths in Mineola, Texas in 1883. If indeed there are any remaining records. My Great Grandfather, David Smith (Yes, I know, a very common name) is listed in our English 1881 Census as living in Hatfield, Hertfordshire, England. I also live in Hertfordshire.

The family story is that he went to Texas to grow Onions! The only other information I have is a copy of a Memorial Card stating that he died in Mineola, Texas on the 16th October 1883, at the age of 38. There could be a querie on his age as it also says he was 38 in 1881 in the Census.

I find it quite sad that he went to Texas leaving a wife and seven children in ‘The Robin Hood’ Public House in Hatfield where he had been the Publican & Dealer to go, as many did, no doubt, to try and find a better life. I hope that it was his intention to send for his family when he
was established. Sadly this was not to be, my Grandmother was his youngest child and only 6 when he died.

I would be so grateful is you could point me in the right direction regarding Death Records for this area as I seem to have drawn a blank so far with my research.

Very best wishes
Sue Waller
s.waller01@btinternet.com

If you contact Sue directly, please also send us a copy of what you are able to find to share with others with an interest in Wood County research.

John Potter Dedication in August

Through the efforts of member Violet Shirey of Rockport, there will be a commemoration of the Civil War service of veteran John T. Potter August 14 at the Shady Grove Cemetery at Winnsboro. Violet has written with several requests for assistance concerning John Potter and family.
1) She is wondering if there is any member has “any ideas what a memorial program would contain.”
2) “I am looking for Kathryn Browning. She is a g granddaughter of John T. Potter. I don’t know what her married name is, but the last I knew of her she lived in Quitman. Her parents were Ambrose and Sis Browning. They are buried in the cemetery just North of Mineola. Is there any way to locate her?”
3) “Also is there a map in your possesion that would show where John T. Potter lived? He lived in Pct 4, Wood Co.”

If you can offer any observations, ideas, or help for her, you can send an email to her at v.shirey@sbcglobal.net. Also, please consider sharing your response as a comment here on our web page. Violet’s mailing address is available on the member contact list on the Members Only Pages which you can access with the link at the top right of this page.

October’s Family History Month Activities

October has become the recognized “Family History Month” in the U. S., and the Wood County Genealogical Society has several events planned for this month.

October 11 (also Columbus Day) is our remodel, rearrangement, and freshen up event for the genealogy research center at the Quitman Public Library. This kicks off at 8 a.m. when we begin to moved books and other parts of our collections so that we can get our shelving, work tables, and equipment relocated in the center. While some members will be around much of the time, others are going to come when they can. We hope to finish by that afternoon so that the center can be used when the library opens the next day.

October 16 is our garage sale fundraiser in front of the Mineola Community Bank during the Highway 80 Garage Sale fall weekend. We are looking forward to a large number of our local members to show up with their garage sale items (already priced and marked) to start selling about 8 a.m. We will start the setup about 7 a.m., and the sooner the better on getting items out and ready for sale.

October 18 is our regular monthly meeting at 7 p.m. at the Shamburger Room of the Quitman Public Library.

At 6 p.m. we are starting a “Getting Started” or “Help with Research Brickwalls” individual sessions for the general public or members at the library preceding to our meeting time. We need any members willing to come offer consultation or suggestions to come help out. This is a new idea, and we p-lan to alter it as necessary as we go. Also, this is an excellent opportunity to discuss your research/families with another member for ideas on how to get to the next level of research. Because of this we are moving the unofficial “eating meeting” at Peralta’s up to 5 p.m. from last year’s time.

“SOUNDING” AT FORD-GREEN CEMETERY This Friday

Thanks to society member and Wood County Historical Commission Chair Person Lou Mallory for sending the following email which we are passing on to all members:

“Next Friday, May 21, a “sounding” will take place at the Ford-Green Cemetery.
“For your information, a “sounding” is a process where by using a metal detector or other means unknown graves may be found.
Ford-Green Cemetery, long abandoned and forgotten, was adopted by the Junior Historians and the Landmark Commission several years ago.
Today, it is a cemetery association with both State and Federal tax exemption, and organized and approved by the District Court in 2009.
The cemetery association now has ownership and has agreed with the Texas Funeral Commission to do the following:
1. Erect a new fence.
2. Locate unknown graves and mark same.
3. Provide needed maintenance and care.
Anyone who would like to observe the “sounding” is welcome to attend as well as anyone who might be interested in learning the procedure.
“The “sounding” will begin at 9:30 a.m. at the Ford-Green Cemetery which is located at the intersection of Country Club Drive and Green Road (County Road 2205).

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