Mystery Corner Building: Canton TX

former-first-national-bank-of-cantonI know what you might be thinking, or at least, what I would be thinking if I saw this building on a historic downtown square….huh?  But, since I love history in its many forms, and I really do love mid-century modern, I felt inclined to not only take the photo, but also to ferret out the history of this corner building.  And there is the clue for me, since I have become a Preservation in Mississippi aficionado–it is on a corner…and it kind of does not match anything else on either side of the block.fnb-1953

So, yeah, all ya’ll folks from Canton already know the answer to this riddle, but it took me more time than I want to admit to figure out the history of this block, once I started trying in earnest.  I confess to a love for corner buildings–any era or genre.  Give me a canted corner entrance, and I am in chamfered corner heaven.  Truth be told, it took me quite a bit of searching to move from 2016 backwards through time…to 1920.My first assumption, correctly, was that it was a bank.  Banks tended to be located on corners due to prominence of location–at least in my limited experience.  Tax records told me the building was 1920, two story, with a canopy.  That meant that underneath this facade was something that looked nothing like this building.

The Canton Herald, October 1953 congratulated the First National Bank for its newly remodeled building, the building you see in 2016.  Going back further in the newspaper archives, I learned two more tidbits:

  • In January 1927, Texas State Bank of Canton and First National Bank of Canton merged.
  • Later that year, FNB installed electric lights and switches.

The current location appears to be the same as the 1927 location…and here is what it looked like then:



Of interest was that from 1920 (apparently when First National Bank first located on this corner of the square) Texas State Bank and First National Bank ran parallel ads on the front page of the newspaper–each countering the other’s claims, or professing newer benefits. (I thought it of interest that also on the front page advertisements for the year 1920 were numerous rat killing products…is it just me?)  Clearly, we see who won the battle of the front page.





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J. T. Hodges, 1893, Canton TX


From It Is Reported–

That J. T. Hodges’ stock of drugs, &c, at Canton, Texas, was damaged by fire on the 9th inst.  The loss is nearly covered by insurance. (Pharmaceutical Record and Weekly Market Review: A Technical and Business Journal for Druggists. Vol. XIV, June to December, 1892.

The Fort Worth Gazette, September 10, 1892,  reported a “disastrous fire comes near wiping the little city of Canton out of existence” on September 9th.  The fire burned the west side of the square, which contained Hodges store and the D. F. Clark Drug store among several others.  “Canton is a plucky town and where these frame buildings stood, brick ones will be immediately erected” (p. 1).

Hodges erected a brick storefront, with wood and glass windows, and complemented with metal cornice, columns, and his name emblazoned on the pediment.

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Gibtown Store


As previously discussed, I was in Gibtown, Jack County, Texas while in Texas during Thanksgiving week.  The store above was one of several in the community during its early years.  The store was located on the left end, toward the highway, and the residence was at the far end–although presumably it had a roof on it during the time it was occupied.  Due to the large double door in the center portion, I surmise that might have been part of the storage area, or at least the entrance for unloading merchandise for the store.

Mother said the post office was also located in the store, although I am not certain if it was in this particular building or one of the other stores.  In 1884, the postmaster was B. L. Gibbons according to the Official Register of the United States Post Office Department and Postal Service of 1884, Volume II.

According to the Era Druggists Directory, vol. 19, 1921, Mrs. J. C. Sartain ran the Gibtown Drug Store.  I was mightily surprised last year to be researching my mother’s great-grandfather and discover he married a woman from Yalobusha County, Martha Ann Sartain.  After they moved to Texas, many of her family joined them there and are also buried in the Gibtown Cemetery.  While I could locate a John Calvin Sartain who was a sibling to my great-great-grandmother Martha Ann, and who died in Jack County in 1919, the record indicates his wife died prior in 1902.  His obituary in the Jacksboro news reported he was survived by a wife and child, so I am surmising the possibility he remarried after the death of his first wife and that she was the Mrs. J. C. Sartain of the grocery store.

I am still checking out leads, but, yep one more time, I am a dog with a bone and will spend way too much time trying to solve this mystery.  It is far more satisfying than cleaning house.

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Jacksboro Tourist Court


Leaving Jacksboro for Graham, I passed the remains of an old tourist court on the edge of town (  Once common sites across the Texas in which I grew up, I was always especially fascinated by those rock buildings with the aqua glass rocks embedded within the walls.


Heated sands and clays were used for glass manufacturing, and hardened into the glass chunks you see in this structure.  This building also featured petrified wood and brick quoins and door/window sills.  Tourist courts, or motor courts, were common in the mid-1920s-1950s as the motoring public emerged.  Simple cabins, often with an accompanying garage or carport for your automobile sprang up in the towns along major state highways.

Due diligence has failed to turn up anything specific about this tourist court, but the house directly across the road (highway 380) appears to have been built at the same time, and has brick quoins and trim on the corners and windows as does the remains of the lodge.


Image via Google maps


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Gibtown TX Tabernacle


I was down in Texas last week helping out the folks.  Monday, Mom and I had planned to drive over to the Gibtown cemetery, where two sides of her family settled when they moved to Texas after the Civil War.  Mom awoke not feeling well, but I went on at her insistence, and primarily because if I did not go Monday, I knew the likelihood of getting there would diminish, even it is is only 45 miles.

tabernacle-gate After my traipse through the cemetery recording names, and birth and death dates for the family members–I had interviewed mother the evening before and had a list of names, married names, and children to locate–I drove down the road past the church.  I spotted the tabernacle in the junipers behind the fence next to the church.  Spent a few Sunday afternoons in that tabernacle as a young girl.  Nowadays, it–like the rest of the country–is listing to the right.  It seemed rather symbolic to me that I was concerned it might come crashing down on me while I was inside, noting its slow descent toward the ground.

Gibtown, in the southeast corner of Jack County, Texas, was surveyed for a townsite in 1883.  Prior to then, the area farmers who had begun to settle there called the country around the settlement New Hope City.  The new townsite grew, and by 1896, had 3 churches, several stores, a school, hotel, cotton gin, gristmill and post office.  The highest number of folks living there was identified as 400 at its peak.  The post office closed in 1927.  The demise of the town was related to both land erosion (from the type of farming common in that time) and the railroad location in Jacksboro, 19 miles to the north west.

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Rexie and Puppy Stan teach class

Several years ago right after I got my first iPhone, I walked into the living room to see Rex lying contentedly on the sofa with Mr. Pumpkin–his favorite squeaky toy.  I snapped a photo, and then a second one.  Rex did not like having his picture made–he did not like the black box in front of your face as you took it, and he did not like the flash.  He was not expecting that the little rectangle I was holding in my hand was a camera–until the flash.

Rex was a rescue dog, and there was little known about his history before he came to us.  With much unconditional love, and a very healthy respect for his boundaries, Rex, and we, adjusted to our family and he became a beloved and devoted member of our pack.learning-about-engagement-from-rex

The second I saw his body language shift, I knew I had failed to respect that boundary he needed, and as I had learned to do, backed out of his space and put the phone away.  He went from high alert back to his contented position.  A bit later, I sat down in the chair and watched him, thinking to myself how important it is to respect others’ boundaries, and when we see another in distress, adjust our own behavior.


A few months ago, Jean on Social Bridges posted a video of Puppy Stan, called “Sussin’ the Scene.”  I told Puppy Stan it was a perfect illustration of data collection and assessment and asked if he wanted to be a guest speaker in my social work practice class.  Puppy Stan asked if when I did, would I have the class write him and tell him what they thought of his “lecture.”  If you watch the video (and you should to get the full impact!), for 2 minutes and 43 seconds, Puppy Stan sits, listening to all the delicious sounds in the woods–different species of birds calling, the sound of whirring wings as a bird takes flight, snapping of twigs, and what finally sounds like the sound of ocean waves.  Through it all, Puppy Stan sits, yet ever attuned to what he is hearing: he looks around, towards sounds, but he never wildly charges off in search of any of that deliciousness.  (I learned that is what sussin’ is).

It struck me as an apt metaphor for what I had been trying to help students see as we moved into engagement, data collection, and assessment: The importance of being able to “be” with the client, and not get distracted with rushing off to start problem solving.

I often use photographs of “unrelated” things to illustrate concepts when I want students to think critically instead of what they think they already know.  It is about generating learning, not just regurgitating facts.  It is about considering that which you do not know, and what that might mean, as it relates to the work that we do.

I began the class with an introduction that today we were going to consider an alternative perspective for thinking about the helping process.  Cue the first slide, of Rex.  The animation was set so that the only thing they saw initially was the first photograph.

This is your new client, Rex.  He is coming in for his first visit with you.  Tell me what you are observing.


They tend to be fairly concrete initially, with responses like “He is on a sofa; he has a toy next to him, etc.”  Then I animated the second photograph, and asked:

What does your observation of your client, Rex, tell you now about engagement, and what should you do?


They can get the changes fairly easily: his ears are back, he has moved his toy, he seems alerted, he is looking at you.

So, what does that tell you?  What do you think it means?

They get a little unsure here: maybe he thought you were going to take away his toy.  I responded “Maybe.”  But what else?  And what should you do?  Some answered what they would say to Rex, or ask Rex.  I allowed as how that might be okay, but he is not going to answer you, so that will not be useful.  He is a dog, and he does not talk, and he might not even hear what you said, or understand it.

What is the purpose of engagement?  What are the tasks, and the desired outcome?

The light bulb comes on:  establish a relationship; build rapport; help the client feel comfortable.  So now, some of them began to get it: he is anxious, something has disturbed his sense of content or comfort, and he is on high alert.  Behavioral response?  Get out of his space so he feels safe again.  Then we discussed how that applies to people in the situations in which we might encounter them when they are vulnerable or afraid, and don’t know what the “black box or shiny rectangle” means for them.  We applied it to the current case study we are analyzing of a person who is homeless, and role played it in an unscripted role play of engaging the new client who has just joined the street group of homeless people with whom our agency works.

I always have participants process afterwards, reflecting on what the experience was like, and what they observed and learned about themselves and others.  Then, I introduced the next segment of the helping process.

We have a guest lecturer from Ireland with us next, to demonstrate data collection and assessment.  Please let me introduce you to Puppy Stan.

After they watched the video and we discussed what it might mean for us as social workers, we again role played an unscripted role play of our street scene.  Some individuals chose to include some “distractors” even though I had not asked them to do so.  I have learned over some 26 years of practicing and teaching social work practice that experiential learning is an effective tool.  It enables us to step outside of our heads when we experience doing, and then when we reflect upon it, we sometimes see things from a different perspective.  I asked them to reflect (in writing) what they had learned from Puppy Stan, and what the most important “take-away” was from today’s class.

Dear Puppy Stan,

  • I learned how important it is to be patient and still in working with clients, even when various stimuli in the environment attempted to distract you.  Through the data collection and assessment process, social workers need to work with their clients at the client’s pace and sometimes this occurs at a slow pace, but by taking their time, social workers learn a lot about their client’s problems.  Thus, taking this information into account, the most important concept I learned from observing you is that by observing other stimuli in one’s social setting, and by being patient, you are able to gain more information about your surroundings than if you rush into finding out every small detail you encounter.
  • You taught me patience when gathering data.  You showed me how to stay calm, and have self-control.  Today, the most important piece of information I learned was that I do enjoy hearing feedback about my work/actions.
  • I learned to be more attentive and aware of my surroundings from watching you.  You also taught me how to be present and patient.  I learned I need to be listening instead of reacting within an environment.  Thanks to you, I will focus more on grasping an overall picture instead of jumping to conclusions and attempting to find the problems of a client/circumstance. Most importantly, the need to be silent, calm is the big take away I will apply to social work practice.  I can use it for both probing and emotional reaction regulation when conversing with clients.
  • You taught me patience and how to be more observant and aware of my surroundings without actually reacting to those surroundings.  I learned that no matter what is going on around you, we have to be in touch and stay focused on what we are doing or supposed to do.  The one thing that I feel is the most important thing I took from class today is the lesson of being aware of our own feelings and knowing when to react and when not to.  Never take your eye off what you are doing.
  • You taught me what it looks like to be and observe with our clients.  Even though there are plenty of distractions, as a social worker, I should remain calm, listen, and be attentive to those around me.  You taught me that it is okay to be attentive and not bombard your clients with questions but letting them come to you.  The most important thing I learned from today was that Puppy Stan was waiting for the sound to come to him and he wanted to know what the sound was.  But he didn’t walk around to try to find it, he was content with letting the sound be, and in return, he was “being” too.  Thanks, cute dog!

With appreciation from SW 602 Social Work Practice with Individuals, University of Mississippi MSW Program

Dr. Suz acknowledges Dr. Jean Tubridy and Puppy Stan for the gracious permission to use their work.



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Architectural Iron Work on the Canton TX Square


Nothing stops me in my tracks quite so quickly as seeing architectural iron work on buildings.  There is just something impressive about those communities who recognize these beautiful pieces of past architecture, and the store owners who prize them enough to keep them.


Fort Worth iron Works was established and the board of directors elected in 1890 (San Antonio Daily Light, 1890).


Granted, this door and these windows are total “preservation fails” in any one’s book, but the iron architectural columns are at least still there.


The first advertisement I could find for the Mosher Manufacturing Company was in 1904, and in only a few years, they were forced into involuntary bankruptcy.


D. D. Thames and R. Jarvis were in the mercantile business, although I could not find a specific range of dates.  A Jarvis Department store was listed in Grand Saline, Van Zandt county and D. D. Thames of Canton purchased a lot in Grand Saline in 1901.  The Sherman Iron Works foundry was established in Bricktown district of Oklahoma City in 1899.

…the foundry employed 35 people who molded, cast, and formed metal fittings and machine parts on request. (B. L. Blackburn, 1983, nomination form for National Register of Historic Places)

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Wasena Bridge – Roanoke


The Wasena Bridge, carrying traffic over the Roanoke River, train tracks, and Wasena Park between Old Southwest/downtown Roanoke and the Wasena neigbhorhood, was constructed 1938-1939.  It was funded by a Public Works Administration (PWA) grant of $149,265 grant toward the total cost of $336,254.


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The contractor for the project was M. S. Hudgins, builder was the Wisconsin Bridges & Iron Company, and consulting engineers were Barrington & Cortelyou.  The Wisconsin Bridge & Iron Company, Milwaukee, was established 1888  At least 16 projects–including several bridges in Mississippi–are attributed to the Wisconsin Bridge & Iron Company (Historic American Engineering Record), who manufactured structural steel for buildings, bridges, coal mining and handling structures and metal mining structures (Milwaukee Public Library/Wisconsin Bridge & Iron Company Photo Albums).

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Easton’s Route 611 Retaining Walls


The story behind the stone retaining walls that help protect the town of Easton, Pennsylvania from flooding of the Lehigh and Delaware rivers–which meet just to the left of this wall–have eluded me in terms of detail.  According to The Morning Call (Nerl, 1999), the stone retaining walls along Route 611 in Easton were WPA projects.  A search of Pennsylvania newspapers between 1934-1942 located many references to retaining walls constructed by the WPA throughout the area along the Delaware and Lehigh rivers, and Bushkill creek, although none clearly specified the exact location here at Easton.  It is highly probable that the walls at the confluence of the Lehigh and Delaware where Northampton Street ends at the Delaware were built by the WPA.  The area has been prone to flooding since the town was first constructed there, with the first recorded flood occurring in 1747 (Northampton County Guide, written and compiled by the Federal Writers’ Project, Works Progress Administration, 1939, p. 33).  Other floods occurred in 1840, 1841, 1862, 1902, 1935, 1936, and 1938–prior to the date the book was published.  Flooding again occurred in 1940 and 1941.

Since 1936 the United States Engineering Corps has completed a flood prevention plan, which includes the widening of river channels, and retaining walls have been built along the Delaware River and Bushkill Creek at Easton, as well as on the Lehigh River, and Monocacy Creeks, at Bethlehem. (Northampton County Guide, p. 34)

Retaining walls at the Lehigh and Monocacy in Bethlehem are documented to have been constructed by the WPA between 1936-1939.  Following the Great Depression, and the New Deal Administration programs that built resources and put unemployed to work, flood control in Pennsylvania dominated news.

Destructive floods of the past few days in Northeastern Pennsylvania impelled members of the State’s Congressional delegation today to press for federal action on flood control projects for the Delaware and Susquehanna Rivers and their tributaries.  

Representative Walter of Pennsylvania announced he had requested the War Department to make ‘immediate application’ for public works funds to eliminate the flood menace on the Upper Delaware, near Easton. (Wilkes-Barre Record, July 12, 1935, p. 16)

The 1936 flood waters of the Lehigh and Delaware paralyzed Easton, closing Route 611, and inundating the business district under 6 feet of water (Danville Morning News, March 13, 1936, p. 5). In 1937, the Army Corps of Engineers recommended construction of flood control walls (Reading Times, August 19, 1937, p. 11).  However, by 1939, Army Engineers decided following a survey of the Delaware River at Easton that

…flood control works necessary to keep out all high water would be ‘too expensive for the benefits received.’ (Lebanon Daily News, February 10, 1939, p. 8)

Public works funds were proposed again in April 1940, after streets were closed in Easton following flooding (Philadelphia Inquirer, April 2, 1940, p. 3).  Finally, in 1942, there was an allocation of funds to repair the Lehigh River dam at Easton, following “disastrous floods last spring” (Wilkes-Barre Record, September 25, 1942, p. 16).


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