“I Am the Father”


    The second family in the Red House, where I still live, was the Hopes, and the second person, starting in 1991, to help me live back Mulberry’s story was Jesse Hope. After the cyclone, her father “Loss” decided he might be able to make a better living on Duckworth Flat, but the land there couldn’t compare with the “rich, river-made soil” of Mulberry bottom. So the family moved back on the day after Christmas, 1925. “Tenant farmers always moved at Christmas,” Jesse said. “We moved to the house where the Marshalls had been. The walls weren’t papered, but by the end of that first day my mother had everything looking beautiful. We were so glad to get back to Mulberry. I worshiped the ground my mother walked on.” Mother was Hattie May, born Davidson.

    J. F. Hall brought the Hopes a shoulder of beef. The Marshalls left with a field north of the house a “snow bank” of cotton. “Mother looked at it and asked Mr. Hall who would get it in.” Her family did. They lived five years at the Red House. “After the age of six,” Jesse said, “I grew up with a hoe in my hands.” She and Lelia Hall remained friends for another sixty-four years.

    1903 April 20: Fannin County Commissioners’ Court approved the application of E. T. Davidson to operate “a public ferry across Red River where the Bonham, Ravenna, and Mulberry Road (the public road which runs from Ravenna to Red River by the way of Mulberry running directly north from Mulberry to Red River) crosses the same.” It would be an “exclusive privilege and license” for one year to provide a “public convenience.” Davidson owned the land “on this side of the river at the point where it is proposed to establish said ferry.” The required bond was set at $1,000 and Davidson would construct a “landing.”  The court determined the rates of ferriage to be “for wagon and team with occupants, 25 cents each way; for horse and rider, 15 cents each way; for footman, 10 cents each way; for buggy and horse with occupants, 25 cents each way; for cattle, 3 cents per head; for horses, 10 cents.”


    E T. “Tom” Davidson was born in Cedar County, Missouri, on December 16, 1846. He fought in the Civil War and received a small pension. His wife “M. L.” died in 1902 and was buried at Mulberry beside William, a son, who was sixteen when he died in ‘98. Other Davidson children were George A. (born 1874),  John M. (1878); and Hattie May (1885).

    photos: George and Alie (Parks) Davidson. with baby Ida

                                                 (about 1900)

    (below) Hattie May Davidson 


    Hattie May Davidson and James

on “Loss” Hope (1881-1949) were married on December 10, 1905. They had seven children, four girls and three boys, born in Mulberry from 1906 to 1925. First Jesse (1906-92). One of Jesse’s sisters, Georgie, married Pete Crumby. A brother, Robert Lee (1910-23), was buried at Mulberry.

Mulberry Gun Battle described

in Copy Feb. 17, 1898

of “Bonham Daily Favorite”

    No copy of the newspaper appears to have survived, but the report of “Finding a Copy” waited in the Davidson family Bible. Jesse said the Davidsons had lived on the “Messenger Place” near the site of the shoot-out....

    From Lightfoot family records: Nancy Ann Lightfoot (1812-82) married Asa Messenger (1802-66) of Simsbury, Connecticut, in 1835. One of their five children was Asa Mattison Messenger; he married Astina Bright in 1866, and one of their four children was Bright Messenger. Jesse recalled that Bright Messenger was her mother’s sweetheart for a time, then she married Lawson “Loss” Hope.

    The Davidson House: A small store near the house served also as Mulberry’s post offic
e till 1904.

    George Davidson married Alie Parks in 1897.

    John, aged 22, became postmaster in 1900. He was disappointed when Texia Province married Tom Roach in 1904.

    Hattie May and Loss Hope lived here after the Great Flood of 1908.

    Ira Wisely married Mamie Parks. They were here in 1919  when a “cyclone” destroyed the house and killed Mamie. And Fred Wisely across the road, Ira’s father.

    Walking from the south on the Parks place, toward school, Jessie was afraid to pass Fount Oliphant’s place. “He was a thin, rawboned black man with a long white beard. I made excuses not to go to school. On the second day my daddy took me to see Uncle Fount. He said his grandsons wouldn’t bother me. He’d use his long ‘snake whip’ on them if they did. They only wanted to play with my brothers.

    “We had a bulldog named Bob. As the school year ended I had a part on the program. My mother made me a white organdy dress. We were to come out on the school porch. We tried to make Bob stay at home, but he followed secretly. When I came out, with everybody sitting on benches in front, Bob came round and got up on the porch too. He just looked at me. It was hard to start like that. I glanced at my mother and at Bob again. The audience laughed. When I completed my part, I was about to cry, but the principal put his arm around me. How he wished for his kodak!”

    Another day (in 1916), Jesse’s teacher, Vera Spearman, went home with her, as she promised, and made a picture of the family, including their mules, Hulda and Rhoda. (Jesse, left)

10 March 21: State of Texas vs. John Davidson...a complaint in writing and under oath charging John Davidson with being a Lunatic....

    Whereupon it is adjudged that the said John Davidson [pictured]...conveyed to the Lunatic Asylum at Terrell...for restraint and treatment, and that the costs of this proceeding be adjudged against Fannin County. Sworn testimony:

    Testimony of E. T. Davidson. I am the father of defendant...began to go down about 4 months ago. He seems to be sullen and will not talk. I do not know whether he is dangerous or not, but I am very uneasy about him, and fearful that he will harm some one. Last Saturday he got a butcher knife and put it in a pistol scabbard and would not give it up. He drew a stick on me while I was trying to take the knife away from him. He has [had] several attacks. Dr. Knight at Ravenna has been treating him.... There is no insanity in defendant’s family....   

    Before the cyclone Alie and George Davidson lived across the river, returning to Mulberry on the ferry. The severely damaged Parks house was moved and made into three smaller houses. Mr. Parks built a new house for Alie and George. It was where Caywood Baker had lived, where Lena Pendergrass died, in the old two-story house with a ladder instead of stairs, and a ‘dug’ well in the yard.

    But Miss Alie and George Davidson didn’t stay, complaining of “the way the sand blows. It hurts his eyes.” Alie and George may have “lived for a while in the smoke house behind the Parks house.”

Years before he died, George became blind

and was led by Miss Alie

from place to place along the roads of Mulberry.

Their daughter Ida spoke fragments

of Lena Pendergrass’ story.

They also had a son named Henry.

...a light on...

early that morning

at Henry Davidson’s house.

from a statement in May 1982

    We proceeded back west [from Sowell’s Bluff]...toward “Mulberry” where we turned south on the Caney Creek road toward the old iron bridge or Caney Creek bridge. The road was muddy but we made it up to the bridge in some deep ruts. Once on the bridge the road ahead looked muddy so I decided to try and back up the road until I could turn around... became stuck...I dozed and was sick...decided to go into that pasture and park...man who was coon hunting came up to the car and knocked on the window...we decided to leave the area and start toward California.

    Ralph Kirkham was questioned in court:

    Q  How old are you?

    A:  31.

    Q:  ...could you tell the jury what you were doing that night?

    A:  I was out running some hounds up on Caney Creek.

    Q:  What do you mean by “running some hounds”?

    A:  Just working my dogs, seeing if they would tree any raccoons.

    Q:  And where were you doing that?

    A:  Out on Caney Creek. It’s a road out by Mulberry. It’s on the other side of Mrs. Donaldson’s house back behind right before the creek runs into the river.


    Q:  Did anything unusual happen while you were out running your dogs?

    A:  Nothing other than seeing—out off the road there at Caney Creek, seeing a Cadillac back off the road in the clump of little trees there on the road what went off the road to a barn.  There is a barn down there about a half a mile.

    Q:  Would the Cadillac have had to pass through a gate?

    A:  Yes, sir.


    Q:  And they were both asleep when you first approached the car?

    A:  Yes, sir.

    Q:  Did the defendant appear to be nervous or agitated when you talked to him?

    A:  No, sir.

    Q:  How would you describe his demeanor at the time?

    A:  I don’t understand the question.

    Q:  What did he act like when you talked to him?

    A:  Sleepy....

    C. W. and Hattie Park’s grandson, George and Alie Davidson’s son, Henry, was murdered. At Sandy
Cemetery, then at Mulberry’s, two people talked about it in the night. One of Henry’s grandsons was seriously implicated. Mulberry will hear this news and re-live Ralph Kirkham’s close encounter inside my pasture gate.